Sunday, April 16, 2006

Bunnies, Baseball, and Bonds

It's Sunday morning, and Jesus must be pissed off about all this egg hunting stuff, because it's pouring rain here in California. I'm celebrating Easter in a pretty traditional fashion- by playing no-limit hold 'em online while my wife is at church. I'm at table "Hellbound Heathens" if you want to look me up.

I do appreciate that this is a day for reflection. So today, I'll look back on these first two weeks of the baseball season. Granted, the baseball season isn't even a tenth of the way completed yet, so it's foolish to attribute too much meaning to what's transpired thus far. For example, at this point in the season last year, the Dodgers had the best the record in the majors. By the end of the season, Jim Tracy and Paul DePodesta were out of a job. With that in mind, there are a few early season trends that I think should continue through the remainder of the year.

$200 million doesn't buy what it used to. Despite assembling one of the most potent lineups in recent memory, the Yankees are a game under .500- and that's after having had the luxury of playing a series with the Royals. I don't really expect this team to hover around .500 all season, but it's clear that their pitching is going to be a giant question mark all season long. Mike Mussina still has enough stuff and savvy to be effective, but he's at a stage in his career where you can only count on him for six innings. Randy Johnson has Yankees' fans holding their breath after leaving his last start after five innings with tightness in his shoulder. He should be fine for his next start, but it looks inevitable that he'll take a hiatus on the DL at some point. Jaret Wright minus Leo Mazzone equals...well Jaret Wright, and that's not a good result. Carl Pavano looks like he's just trying to hide on the DL until retirement. That leaves Chien-Ming Wang and Shawn Chacon to close out the rotation for now. If you're a Pirates or DBacks fan, then these guys are acceptable #4 and #5 guys. But when you've spent 200 mil for your team, you want more reliable pitchers than those. The good news for Yankees fans is that their bats should be able to carry them to plenty of 10-7 victories. The Yankees can also take solace in the fact that they've set a precedent for winning it all with an incomplete pitching rotation. In their last championship in 2000, their rotation included David Cone (4-14, 6.91 ERA), a nerve-wracked Denny Neagle who was so broken down by the Bronx crowd that later in life, he was happy to find anyone (click at own risk) that was willing to give him comfort, and a suprisingly effective Dwight Gooden, who showed more control between the lines than hovering over one.

The 2006 Royals might be a historic team
. It was only three seasons ago that the Detroit Tigers set the AL record with 119 losses, but their mark in the record books may already be in jeopardy. Thus far, Kansas City has only won 20% of its games, and that does not seem to be an aberration. This team is just really bad. It's no wonder that Zach Greinke didn't feel like showing up to spring training- this team has no hope for success at all. I really feel for Kansas City fans, if there are any still remaining. This is a once proud franchise that seems to have resigned itself to being a perennial cellar dwellar.

The sports' media is going to suck all the joy out of booing Barry Bonds. Actually, this has already happened. As someone that has watched Bonds hit countless homers out of Qualcomm back in the day, Barry Bonds was a natural enemy to any NL West fan. Actually with his boorish behavior, he was pretty much a natural enemy to any non-Giants' fan. He's been the most reviled player amongst Padres and Dodgers fans for a decade. But the key to that statement is that it was the fan's choice to booo Bonds mercilessly. Now that the media outlets have decided to pile on with article upon article, feature upon feature, the Bonds' experience has been stolen from the fans and put in the control of network executives and sports editors (oh and bloggers too- my bad). Just like the Red Sox championship, the Favre lovefest, or the NFL draft (trust me), the avalanche of hate thrust upon Bonds will soon reach a saturation point, at which time there will be a strong backlash amongst fans. By the time this is all said and done, Bonds may actually be transformed by an unwitting media into a sympathetic figure. Still a jerk. Still a cheater (tho' corporate baseball has to realize that it's not going to have a free pass much longer for being complicit in the steroid era). But by season's end, he'll be a cheating jerk that I feel sorry for.

Open up a Coors in October. The best team in the NL West this year may very well be the Colorado Rockies. Ok, I know being the best in the NL West is like being the best tv show on Friday night- there really isn't much to choose from. But, the Rockies' strategy of starting a triple A team last year may actually be paying dividends this season. The trio of Cory Sullivan, Matt Holliday and Brad Hawpe is one of the most underrated outfields in baseball. Garrett Atkins, a late bloomer out of UCLA, is developing into one of the better 3rd basemen in the National League. Todd Helton may not be the dominant force he once was, but he still has something left in the tank. After Jason Jennings, the pitching is a question mark, but the same can be said for every team in the NL West once you remove their ace. This is a division in which a few games over .500 may once again be good enough for first place. The Rockies look more than capable of that achievement.

If my fantasy baseball team is any indicator, you shouldn't trust a word I say about baseball. I'm currently in 10th out of 12 teams, and there really isn't much optimism around the Lounge for any movement up in the standings. Here's all you need to know about my team: Adrian Beltre is my starting 3rd baseman. As anyone in Seattle can tell you, that is a recipe for disaster. Unfortunately, much like the Mariners organization, I don't really have any options other than just to keep throwing him out there and hoping the ball hits his bat on one of his wild swings.

It's going to be a long year.


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