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.
Baltimore Orioles Strengths: Manager Buck Showalter joined the team late in the season last year and turned the Orioles into a respectable team. The additions of 1B Derrek Lee and 3B Mark Reynolds will add some much needed run producers to a team that had zero players with at least 80 RBIs.
Weaknesses: There are plenty to choose from, but the Orioles are very young. The pitching staff gave up runs in bunches last year and will need to improve if they hope to penetrate the .500 mark this season. If 2B Brian Roberts returns to form after an injury-plagued 2010, things will be looking good. If he struggles, a suitable replacement is nowhere in site.
Analysis: The AL East is arguably the best division in baseball; jumping over the Rays, Yankees and Red Sox is a monumental task. The leadership of Showalter will help, but the Orioles are a young team with few genuine stars. Look for them to improve over 2010 but struggle due to their weak pitching staff.
While on his All Star Game furlong, Boston Red Sox slugger Jason Bay kept a blog for the WEEI Sports Radio station, and during his All Star wrap-up, Bay discussed his affection for the snipers that were guarding President Obama and his opening pitch “conspiracy.” (Wow, reaching much?) Quoth Bay:
What in the blue hell is that monstrosity? A scratch-and-sniff baseball cap? What the hell for? Are things like this really, really in demand from an economy-starved public? Watermelons on a baseball cap? Granted, the thing was designed and is being marketed at children young ladies, but do parents really want their fledgling Red Sox fan to look like a dork? Wouldn’t they rather have them look like real fans instead of a reject from the Strawberry Shortcake factory?
Furthermore, I thought the whole “female sports fans wear pink” fad was over.
It’s a hard knock life being a New York Yankees fan right now, something A.J. Daulerio does a good job of documenting. Adding a flying-kick insult to the injuries of being dominated by Boston and all the other crap they’ve had to deal with — Joba Chamberlain’s surreal, 12-strikeout, 5-plus inning start, for instance — are Yankees fans attempting flying kicks on other Yankees fans. No wonder folks can’t stop talking about the new digs; although, the tune being currently sung is a lot different from the initial responses.
First, it was all about the opulence, with some smattering of ticket price complaints to boot. Fast forward to today, and all of the talk about the new baseball palace is, well, bad.
I’m not the biggest baseball person, but even I understand the significance of someone stealing home — especially when Mark Harmon, Jodie Foster, the Boston Red Sox, the New York Yankees and Jacoby Ellsbury are involved. It was also significant for the Red Sox, who, while sweeping the Yankees, stole home for the first time since 1994. Granted, it was Big Papi who knocked what wound up being the go-ahead runs in, but Ellsbury’s theft was the highlight of the game, if not the first series between these two stalwart teams this season.
This is our first (annual?) Hot Chicks look at the upcoming baseball season. In it, we’ll feature a small, best case/worst case blurb for each team, followed by the very eye candy that drives the sports blogosphere. As you can see, we’ll be starting with the league no one ever, ever talks about, the AL East. Is this the year the Yankees (and their payroll) return from being merely “good” to dominant World Series team, or will the Red Sox, et al, be able to overtake them.
Oh, one more thing: we’re doing this in alphabetical order, so don’t think this is the predicted order of finish, because it’s not.