December 6, 2019

Taking Stock of the First Month of Play

May 3, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

With the first month of the season in the books it’s almost time for teams and players to panic. Batters such as David Ortiz, Mark Teixeira and A.J. Pierzynski have to wonder how long it will take them to get over the Mendoza line, while teams such as the Orioles have to wonder where it all went wrong (look no further than the owner’s box). Who would have predicted that Kelly Johnson would hit more home runs in April than he did all of last season, that the Padres and Mets would be in first place or that Roy Halladay would be unhittable against National League lineups? OK, maybe the last one is not such a surprise.

Don’t look now but as I write this those lovable losers the Nationals are 13-10 and tied with the Phillies for second place in the NL East. Perhaps the Nats think they are grandfathered into the top spot in the Amateur Draft.

I don’t know about you, but I was shocked to see the Nationals send Stephen Strasburg down to the minors. Evidently he was rushing his delivery from the stretch, which was causing him to strike out batters with 96 MPH fastballs instead of 99 MPH fastballs. I’m guessing he will have this problem corrected in early June, just long enough to postpone his free agency by one full year.

Commissioner Selig’s study group has come up with the brilliant idea of floating realignment. Teams would be assigned to divisions based on payroll, geography and whether they planned to contend that year. The Red Sox think this is a terrific idea. They have announced they have no intention of competing in 2011 and would like to be placed in the AL Central with Kansas City, Cleveland and Toronto. The Pirates, on the other hand, have informed the commissioner their current plan is to contend in 2062 after their farm system has had a chance to mature.

The Pirates are sending a scout to the Hall of Fame Classic Game in Cooperstown in June to see if Bob Feller still has enough life on his fastball to help out their beleaguered staff. At this point, I’d say he sure couldn’t hurt them.

Let’s see how that roster makeover is working out for the Yankees. Curtis Granderson is batting .225 and doing even worse against lefties than he was last year, Nick Johnson is batting .138 with 8 hits in 20 games while Randy Winn has just one hit the entire season in 13 at bats. Reliever Chan Ho Park has spent most of the season on the disabled list. As for the players they replaced, Johnny Damon is batting .344 with a .431 OBP, future star Austin Jackson is batting .356 and leading the AL with 37 hits in the leadoff spot and reliever Phil Coke is 3-0 with a 1.93 ERA out of the bullpen for the Tigers. Then there’s Hideki Matsui, who is hitting a respectable .272 with 4 homers for the Angels. Hey, at least the Yanks were able to steal Javier Vazquez from the Braves to play the role of the pitcher most likely to be run out of the Bronx this season. He is 1-3 with a 9.78 ERA and making Yankee fans long for the days of Jaret Wright. The team will undoubtedly have to cough up some dough and prospects at the trading deadline to correct these blunders.

I don’t understand why people are complaining about the length of games when the Yankees play the Red Sox. I was able to watch the first inning of one game, take my family on a nice vacation and return in time to catch the end of the game. What’s wrong with that? I mean, you’ve got time to go to the bathroom and make a sandwich in between pitches of a Nick Swisher at bat.

The NCAA decided not to expand the men’s basketball tournament to 96 teams, but evidently Major League Baseball thinks the number has a nice ring to it. That’s approximately how many players will be named to the All-Star team this year. If you think I’m exaggerating, keep in mind that 71 players earned All-Star designation last year counting all those who begged off with injuries. Now the rosters have been expanded to 34 players for each league and players who pitched the Sunday before will be replaced on the roster. Next there will be exceptions made for players who played extra innings the previous week, spent time on the disabled list this decade or have a last name starting with R. If Yao Ming gets voted into the starting lineup, then I’m boycotting the game.

How about those wacky Dodgers? GM Ned Colletti recently blasted star Matt Kemp for his poor defense and base running, but I bet he’s more bothered by the fact his big-market team’s payroll keeps getting slashed. Since he can’t say how embarrassed he is to be employed by the divorcing McCourts, he is forced to turn on the hired help. At least Kemp is contributing more than Manny Ramirez, and for one-fifth the money, too.

Yankees Assistant GM Jean Afterman better get used to Greyhound. She probably got herself added to the federal no-fly list after trash-talking and insulting President Obama during the team’s recent trip to the White House.

Speaking of the Yankees, a new study published in the Wall Street Journal shows they are not the most hated team in baseball. Instead, it’s the…drum roll please—Cleveland Indians! The Red Sox are the second most hated team and the Yankees came in fifth, also trailing the Reds and the Astros. Somehow I don’t think the “Damn Indians” musical will have a very long run on Broadway. Doesn’t a team have to be relevant to be hated? People in Cleveland are going to ignore the Indians until Lebron James retires.  Obviously no members of the Obama administration were included in the polling. I’ve done my own informal study over the years, and the Yankees are the unanimous winner as most hated team. When I bring up the subject of baseball with people, they invariably mention how much they hate the Yankees—and those are unsolicited comments before I even bring up the team’s name.

Maybe money can’t buy happiness or championships, but it looks like it can buy off pollsters.

Chris Jensen is a lifelong fan of the Yankees who otherwise roots for underdogs such as the Butler Bulldogs. He welcomes your hate mail, but will simply forward it to Cleveland.

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