The rush to judgment: separating early-season fact from fiction
We're just over three weeks into the MLB season, and the baseball universe is clamoring to weigh in on huge, earth-shattering trends. Amid all this teeth-gnashing, nail-biting and name-cursing, perspective gets tossed out the window. A team's preseason expectations are trashed. A player's track record is discarded. Events that might otherwise be considered simple anomalies suddenly take on the weight of the world.
Putting too much credence into 20 games' worth of results is a great way to be proven spectacularly wrong later. In that short a time span, a team with cellar-dwelling talent can look like a world-beater, and vice versa. A .200 hitter can easily hit .350. A perennial MVP candidate might resemble
One of the most popular themes heading into the 2009 season was "Who are this year's Rays?" The first team out of the gate to earn the comparison was the Marlins. The Fish surged to an 11-1 start, earning accolades from some of the
Stepping into the breach are the Toronto Blue Jays, holders of first place in the AL East and owners of the biggest positive run differential (40 more runs scored than allowed) in the junior circuit heading into Wednesday's games. Writing for NBC Sports,
You'll find few bigger advocates for Blyleven's candidacy than yours truly (
Another strange occurrence has been the serenading by Mets fans of David Wright to start the season. It would make sense for Citi Field denizens to shower applause and appreciation on their star third baseman, given that he's one of the best all-around players in the game. But the noise coming from Citi has actually been
There are all kinds of reasons why fans in Queens might jeer a player who may go down as the best Met of all time when he hangs 'em up. For one thing, people are probably just sick of losing. Also, fans and media alike tend to blame the misfortunes of a team, fairly or unfairly, on its best player. Wright shouldered a lion's share of blame when the Mets collapsed in September of the past two seasons; booing him for the club's sub-.500 start is just an extension of that misdirected bile. But New York is also wildly overreacting to Wright's slow start: After socking 63 homers in the past two seasons, Wright has just one so far this year and ranks second in the league in strikeouts (25). If he ends the season with the eight homers and 203 strikeouts he's on pace to amass, I'll kidnap Mr. Met, drive to Montpelier, and tie the knot.
(On the other hand, maybe Wright should be thankful he's not
Maybe the biggest cause for freakouts in the early going has been the new Yankee Stadium. In the first six games in the Bronx, the Bombers and their opponents combined to bash 26 homers.
All of this safely ignored the fact that while rare, other stadiums had seen similar home run binges. During one stretch in the summer of 2007, one park yielded 26 bombs in just four games. That park?
Above all, the rush to judgment might simply be caused by our collective impulse to attach meaning to all of life's events -- doubly so on the baseball field. When weird stuff started happening last April, similar panic ensued. At this time last year the Orioles and A's led their divisions, and the Diamondbacks were on pace to win 118 games.
Sometimes there's nothing wrong with a pitcher's mechanics, nothing noteworthy about a hitter's power outage, nothing revolutionary about a ballpark, and nothing special about a hot-starting team. As unsatisfying as it is to say it, sometimes stuff just happens.