*Editors Note. This was sent special to me from our baseball specialist David Wieland on May 18th. Clearly its taking me a while to put it up. The reason being… Rapture. I’m sorry that I made some questionable investments before that day and have been busy trying to recoup my money. I just wanted to make sure I got into heaven and that my pets would be taking care of. Also if the massage parlor offers you the super deluxe package. Don’t do it! Its not worth it. I don’t care if the world is ending. Ok back on topic. Enjoy the article! -Drew
300 miles to go. 200 miles to go. Each mile marker brought me closer to my favorite spring break to date. Did I go to Cancun, and party with fine latinas? No. Did I go to Vegas and demolish my wallet on drinks, and sports betting? No. I had the honor of feeling the warm sun on my back in Peoria, Arizona. Spring Training!
Ok, was it Tampa spring training, and seeing the Yankees play each day? No, but it shed some light on some teams that are doing incredible thus far. I would say a large part is due to how they managed in Arizona this Spring Training. I would also say that some of these teams are not shocking to me that they are succeeding. They may be shocking to you though.
1) Cleveland Indians. What can I say? Too bad the people of Cleveland are too consumed burning their LeBron jerseys to realize they have a special ball club. The Indians are without Grady Sizemore (shocker), but the revival of Travis “The Pronk” Hafner has them looking great.
When I saw them I noticed their rotation and bullpen was surprising excellent. A pitcher from the college I am about to say I am an alumni to (SDSU), Justin Masterson, is scary. He has an ERA under 3, and is a very calm pitcher at a young 25.
The final components to the Indians success is their role players. Milton Bradley’s role definitely had to step up when Sizemore did what he does best, break himself. Thus far, Bradley has answered the call. Asdrubal Cabrera is another one of those players. Imagine a 25 year old Derek Jeter with good power…That’s Carbera in a nutshell. Another key guy is Chris Perez. Their closer. He isn’t Rick “The Wild Thing” Vaughn, but he’s confident in the closing role (10 saves in 11 opp.).
They’re shocking the world, but not me. They are good. Can they endure a full season of success? I think so, but this is a young group. They are like the Tampa Bay Rays of the last couple seasons. If they keep it up, though, they could win a round in the playoffs. That is all I see for the Indians. One and done. Veteran knowledge prevails.
2) Kansas City Royals. Ok… Stop laughing, and listen. I know that the Royals have been as relevant to baseball as like Michael Jordan has been to baseball, but the times are a changing. Slowly, but changing. The Royals were responsible, recently, of starting my Yanks 6 game losing streak. Now I know they are 7 games behind Cleveland, but Kansas City is one game away from being a .500 ball club. That’s a really big deal in the world of baseball. Over the last decade it’s safe to say that the Royals would do cartwheels to be a .500 team. This year is slightly different. They seem like they want to do better than .500. My weekend in Arizona I saw the Royals play the World Series Champs, the Giants. They played the Giants twice that weekend and beat the defending champs both times. They outscored them 22-7 in the two games. They are the definition of team baseball. There are no All Stars. They each do their jobs and keep their heads down. The arrogant Yankee fan in me would like to contribute their success to our ex- players: Melky Cabrera and Wilson Betemit. Cabrera is the lighter on the gas tank (I didn’t want to say spark plug… seemed cliché), he carries his team with his attitude and hustle. It’s paying off as he leads his team in RBI’s.
Their pitching is nothing special. There isn’t a guy on the team I would put money on that will end the season with 15+ wins. However, I see a difference to years past. The Royals seem to give up “the big inning” less. Their losses are by a far smaller margin than years past, and that’s a testament to smart, developing pitching from guys like the 21 year old, Tim Collins. Collins seems to be the best lefty out of the bullpen for the Royals, and a good southpaw could make all the difference.
I do not see the Royals as a playoff team, but watch out for them in a year or two.
Now how about the rest of the league?
I must say now that I hate making assumptions about teams this early in the season. It really takes till mid to late June to truly assess teams, and players, in my opinion.
Best Division: AL East. These are five teams that are tough! Boston and Tampa may be two of the hottest teams in baseball right now, and even with the drama in NY; NY still holds onto second place in the division.
Let me address all the Yankee drama right now. Derek Jeter is getting old. We know. However, he is still one of the greatest shortstops in the game still, and brings constant defense. He has always been a career .300+ batting average guy. Which is insanely good. People need to pump the breaks. He is going to be around .275-.280, and maybe get 70-80 RBI’s. Remember how Ripken’s last five seasons went? Cal was ranging between .240-.280 towards the end of his career. I say Jeter does about the same. It’s okay.
Posada may be sitting permanently if he doesn’t get his act together, but would it be so bad if he didn’t? I love Jorge, but I give him to the All Star break before he either gets his swing going, or he may as well be a morale coach. There is a kid in AAA that New York is getting awfully excited about. Jesus Montero is what people are calling “The Latin Buster Posey.” He has power. He hits for average, and he learns everyday on the defensive end. If Jorge fails then I guess it’s time to pass the torch.
As for the Yanks pitching. It’s still under speculation. CC is not as beast mode as we have seen him in recent years to start, but he will get his. Bartolo Colon is a question mark to the rotation. Colon is insanely skinnier and has a revamped slider. I see a revival in his future.
The Yanks bullpen fuels on offensive production and strength in the rotation. Once the Yanks find stability from Burnett and Nova, guys like Robertson and Chamberlain will have an easier workload.
Needless to say, in this division, if they don’t get that by the All Star break, it may be too late.
I think Tampa will fall and Baltimore will succeed. Buck Showalter is one of the best managers in the game and I see them getting a wild card bid behind pitching from Zach Britton and Jake Arrieta.
Either New York or Boston wins the division. The other team watches the playoffs from their couches.
Two biggest disappointments: Chicago Cubs and the Minnesota Twins.
Chicago is a team that always looks good on paper. Every year I think it may be the year they snap a curse that made Boston’s curse look mild. This year Chicago has nothing to be happy about. They picked up Carlos Pena in hopes he would be the left handed power hitter Chicago has been waiting for. He has been anything but that. He is batting .231 and is batting below .200 at home.
Minnesota always finds a way to win the division behind stellar manager, Ron Gardenhire. Unfortunately, injuries plagued this team too much to give them a fighting chance. Cleveland is not looking back at the slumping Twins. Predictions:
Playoffs East: Boston Central: Cleveland West: Texas Wild Card: Baltimore
NL East: Atlanta Central: Cincinnati West: Colorado Wild Card: Florida
Note: Ohio… Stop buring your LeBron jerseys, you are going to have two teams in the playoffs!!