Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Separating baseball's haves & have-nots---maybe

Here we are, three weeks removed from the All-Star Game. Based on the standings in each of Major League Baseball's six divisions, the pre-season preview guides have proven to be a waste of time and consumer dollars.

Let's take the American League East, for example. Seemingly everyone and his brother picked Boston to win the division. I might've been one of the few that didn't buy into it, as I picked Toronto. Everyone had the Yankees in either 3rd, 4th, or 5th, nowhere near a wild card, much less a division title. Instead, the Bronx Bombers sit atop the division after blowing away the White Sox on Sunday. You can make more of a case for Mark Teixiera winning comeback player of the year in the AL, as opposed to teammate Alex Rodriguez, but if they give it to A-Roid, well, it will come off in some circles as hollow, shallow, and more about keeping A-Roid's name in the papers.

But what could doom the Yankees is a lack of depth in pitching. They never should've let David Robertson go to the ChiSox as a free agent. Michael Pineda is hurt, and on the DL. CC Sabathia isn't a front-line starter anymore. All it will take is Baltimore and/or Toronto making a late run, especially the Blue Jays after picking up David Price last week, and the Yankees could plunge out of the playoffs after all.

Boston? Let's just say that if they don't escape the cellar, John Farrell's 2nd run in Beantown, this time as manager, is over.

Robin Ventura's White Sox were picked by certain scribes to win the AL Central. No one but me picked defending AL champ Kansas City, who are now threatening to run away with the division. The Royals haven't made repeat trips to the playoffs since the glory years of the late 70's, when they played the Yankees in the ALCS four times in five years (1976-8, 1980). The Royals are for real. Detroit's run at the top is over.

Over in the National League, don't dismiss the Washington Nationals, just because they were swept out of Flushing by the Mets over the weekend, and now have to do the chasing again. The Mets, after the soap opera of nearly dealing away Wilmer Flores & Zack Wheeler last week, blew into Miami, and in the words of a certain movie star, laid the smack down on the Marlins' collective candyasses on Monday, to the tune of a 12-1 beatdown. The addition of Yoenis Cespedes from Detroit has energized the offense, which had been slumbering like a bunch of bears hibernating in the winter. Not anymore.

Is it possible that the Mets could have back-to-back Rookies of the Year? Noah Syndergaard shared Player of the Week honors last week with teammate Lucas Duda, and his numbers vs. San Diego & Washington were just flat ridiculous. Pre-season, everyone assumed the Nationals had the best pitching staff in the division. The Mets, with their young guns (Syndergaard, Matt Harvey, Jacob DeGrom, and the injured Wheeler & Steven Matz), are basically pulling a Lee Corso and telling folks, not so fast, my friends. Bear in mind that Syndergaard out-pitched Jordan Zimmermann on Sunday. The two teams will play six more times, with 3 in Washington next month, and the season finale at Citi Field in October.

Of course, the Nats have been beset with injuries, just like the Mets, but before he was put on the DL, Stephen Strasburg proved he was mortal after all, anyway.

For all the moves the San Diego Padres made in the off-season, it hasn't translated the way folks thought it might, and the Pads are in a familiar spot, chasing the Dodgers, and trying to get back above .500.

The lesson learned? What happens during Hot Stove season (off-season) gives sports writers a rose colored view of things, but when the season starts, the hype gives way to pressure, and, well, if you're in Boston, Miami, San Diego, or Chicago, you might want to start getting rid of those pre-season magazines.

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