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We’re now two weeks into the 2011 Major League Baseball season. Here are your my top 5 story lines.
1. The Royals don’t suck. At least not yet. Before Thursday’s games Kansas City is 7-4 and just a half game out of first behind the also surprising Cleveland Indians. The rookie relievers have been nothing short of excellent, and the offense has far exceeded expectations. The Royals tied their own record early this season recording 4 straight walk-off victories. I already reserved my playoff tickets for Kauffman Stadium.
The Kila Monster celebrates his walkoff home run
2. Albert Pujols has been abducted by aliens. Through Wednesday night he is hitting .229 with just 1 home run, 6 RBIs and an OPS of .609. To put into perspective how un-Pujols-like that is, his career OPS is 1.047. Keep this up Albert and you’re going to wish you’d signed that offer from the Cardinals. Or better yet, his stock will fall so far even the Royals could afford him.
Read more early 2011 MLB season thoughts >>
Who says women don’t have opinions on sports? Certainly not me. And certainly not New York sports fans, who helped vote Derek Jeter to the tops of the “Best New York Athlete Ever” list.
Yes, I mean ever. Babe Ruth’s legacy couldn’t even hold a candle to Jeter’s beautiful caramel skin and green eyes… oops I mean sports skills.
Jeter received “received 14 percent of the vote, including 17 percent of the female vote and 10 percent of the male vote. Ruth, the Hall of Fame home run hitter and one-time pitcher who retired in 1935, received 11 percent of the overall vote and topped Jeter among New York men with 14 percent.”
Not surprisingly, younger voters tended toward Jeter, while the older ones voted in Ruth. Jeter had the lock on the 18 to 34 year old range, while Ruth was voted in by 50-64 year hold fans. Makes sense, since Jeter is the current Yank and Ruth is long gone. What surprised me the most was the Jeter topped even Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, and Joe Namath. Wha…?
There is a reason Jeter has the coin to build a city-like mansion: he’s a great player and the Yankees pay him well. But better than Babe Ruth? Well, sure. Jeter is inching his way to get 3,000 career hits as a Yankee. If he does, he’ll be the first player to do it. So I guess that should give him some credit. The thing is, I just can’t help thinking that those green eyes had something to do with it too. Of course, if looks meant anything A-Rod would be on the list, and he didn’t crack the top five. So maybe New York fans do know what they’re talking about.
Have you seen the 30,000 square foot home that Derek Jeter just built in Tampa, Florida? Folks in the area are calling it the “House That Derek Jeter Built” or even “St. Jetersburg” because it is the “biggest home in Hillsborough County.” Heck, it’s one of the biggest homes in any county.
The house has seven – count ‘em – seven bedrooms. So if you want to visit Mr. Jeter, I’m sure he’d be happy to let you stay in an extra room. (Or not. Probably not.)
The place also has nine bathrooms, which makes me wonder…. only seven bedrooms but nine bathrooms? Wouldn’t you normally have equal to or lesser than the number of bedrooms? Who is using all these bathrooms? Apparently he has a lot of company over that need to use the facilities.
Like the smart celeb he is, Jeter also bought the adjacent homes. (It’s that whole celeb thing where people who aren’t celebs may try to go to the adjacent house and take pictures. Not that that’s why I do, but some people have problems like that.)
I tried to think of a good housewarming present, and really the only thing I could come up with a bunch of toilet paper to go in those nine bathrooms.
The phrase, “Expectations Have Never Been Higher” is starting to become cliché around these parts.
The season that culminated in the Philadelphia Phillies World Series Championship in 2008 was magical. Cole Hamels was rock steady. Brad Lidge pitched the closer role with the precision of a diamond cutter. The offensive explosion was thunderous. Millions of fans showed up at the parade in Philadelphia to celebrate a brutally long championship drought.
2009 saw the Philadelphia Phillies first flirtation with Roy Halladay, only to scoop up Cliff Lee at the deadline instead. From there, the Phillies sailed into their second World Series in as many years. Though Brad Lidge plummeted back to earth with a resounding thud that year, along with most of the rest of the bullpen, those expectations were a second-in-a-row World Series Championship. It was not to be as the New York Yankees played strong, the Phillies suffered a power-outage (except for Chase Utley), and it didn’t happen the way the Phillies’ fans nor the organization expected. Adding insult to injury, Cliff Lee was allowed to depart Philadelphia after that season over the agonizing screams of fans everywhere.
2011 Philadelphia Phillies Predictions after the jump >>
Strengths: While the Diamondbacks welcome back the power numbers of 1B Adam LaRoche (25 HR, 100 RBI) and OF Chris Young (27 HR, 91 RBI), they will need to improve their sub .265 AVGs. Closer J.J. Putz is a great addition to the bullpen, and SP Armando Galarraga, along with youngster SP Daniel Hudson, look to improve a starting rotation that struggled last year.
Weaknesses: 3B Mark Reynolds is gone. He took with him his 32 HRs from last season but also a .198 AVG. Veteran Melvin Mora will try to fill Reynolds’s shoes, but his career has been in decline for a few years now. This young team needs a leader and will remain at the bottom of the NL until someone emerges.
Analysis: Manager Kirk Gibson will begin his first year as a manager and will need to take control from the start. It’s going to be another long year in Arizona for a team that has a lot of talent but are not too sure how to use it.
Prediction: 5th in NL West
More 2011 NL West Predictions after the jump >>
On the surface, fans of football and baseball are entirely different. But when you’re in a small market like Milwaukee, you take anything you can get. The entire state is feeling the first signs of Spring and still feeling confident about after the Packers Super Bowl win a few weeks ago. The win left a high level of expectation in all areas of sports, including the Brewers.
New Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said it best, “With the moves we made over the winter, we’ve put ourselves in position to win. My expectation for this team is very high, it’s very deep into the playoffs.”
He’s not the only one. Brewers fans are confident their team can make the playoffs, if not the World Series. Too confident? Maybe. But the Brewers have been “almost” a well-rounded team, so great in some areas and then slightly lacking in others. Add to that the overall high that the area has with the Packers win in the Super Bowl, and you’ve got a set of fairly confident fans and players. Even general manager Doug Melvin acknowledges the expectations, saying “I think people are energized about this club. Coming off the Packers’ Super Bowl win, I think our fans will get behind our team now. That’s what you want to do. You want to increase your franchise value and level of interest.”
Outfielder Ryan Braun no doubt heard an earful from his buddy Aaron Rodgers about the Super Bowl win. Braun admitted that there is “definitely a buzz around the Packers” but that “there’s a buzz around this baseball team, too. People are genuinely excited, probably more so than they’ve been in years.”
We won’t have long to wait. Pitchers and catchers report to camp today. Let the games begin.
2011 is finally the year the Royals are going to start winning! Wait…what’s that? That’s still a couple years away? Oh.
Experts and non-experts alike all agree that the Royals minor league system is the best in baseball this year. Here’s the problem though…the major league team is among the worst. As Royals fans we can, however, see the light at the end of the tunnel. The new wave of talent is on the horizon, with some players such as 3B Mike Moustakas expected to join the big league club by midseason, if not sooner. The bad news is the Royals are going to be dependent almost entirely on this influx of young talent. As the Indians’ exec in Major League said, “I haven’t heard of half these guys, and the ones I do know are way past their prime.” Say hello to your 2011 Kansas City Royals.
More Kansas City Royals season preview >>
Strengths: Everyone on this team is young and a work in progress. 2B Neil Walker, 3B Pedro Alvarez, and OF Garrett Jones all have shown promise, but as long as they are playing in Pittsburgh, they won’t get much recognition. The addition of 1B Lyle Overbay will give the offense a much-needed boost.
Weaknesses: Pitching. They had a team ERA of 5.00 and lost 105 games last season. Need I say more?
Analysis: Hang on Pittsburgh fans, you are in for another long season. It probably won’t be as bad as last year, but you can expect another bottom-of-the-barrel performance. You have to give them credit for trying.
Prediction: 6th in NL Central
More 2011 NL Central Predictions after the jump >>