Earlier this season, Padres closer
I certainly hope that last part is true, Tim, but the truth of this matter is that the Red Sox and Yankees are two of the most popular -- if not the two
Still, Tim raises an interesting point. So instead of just answering questions here, I'm going to ask one to all you readers out there: If you're not a fan of the Yankees or Red Sox, do you find yourself watching games that they play and/or reading stories about them anyway? Or do you consider them overhyped and try at all costs to ignore them? I'll try and print some of the responses in next week's Mailbag, so keep them brief and keep them civil.
As for the matter of the two teams on the field ...
I don't think the Yankees and Red Sox will ever be less relevant any time in the near future. Putting aside for a moment the overwhelming popularity both teams enjoy (which we've already touched on above), the Red Sox are not only the most successful franchise of the past five seasons, but they're the hottest team in baseball this year. The Yankees, like any team that is successful, will get plenty of ink, but because of their humongous payroll, their brand new stadium and their immense history, they're almost as big a story when they don't win as when they do.
And let's take a look at the AL East's
After 20 games, the Rays are 8-12, three games worse than the Tigers were at a similar point in 2007. Here's a statistical breakdown of those clubs through 20 games:
This year's Rays clearly have a better offense, but they're being doomed by a worse pitching staff. As brutal as the AL East is likely to be this year, the Rays have actually fared better against division foes (4-5) than against the rest of the AL (4-7). And even though it's early, the Rays would be wise not to wait much longer to turn things around. The Tigers won 88 games that year, finishing eight games behind the Indians in the Central and six games behind the Yankees in the Wild Card race. Yet they were in first place as late as mid-August, before a 6-11 swoon dropped them seven games out.
The Rays started almost as poorly last season, getting off to a 9-11 start that left them in last place, 5 1/2 games out. This year, they've been even worse, currently holding an 8-13 mark and sitting 6 1/2 games out. They'd have to play .567 ball the rest of the way to reach 88 wins and .631 ball to match last year's total of 97 wins.
They should at least be able to keep it going for a couple more weeks because they only play one team that currently ranks in the top 10 in runs scored in the National League between now and May 12. That team? The woeful Nationals, which sit at ninth with 85 runs, but also have easily the worst record in baseball. In addition to three games with Washington, the Dodgers will also face the Giants five times, Padres four times and Diamondbacks three times. What's more, all of those games -- save the last two of their current set in San Francisco -- will be at home.
Perhaps the biggest key will be getting
Doumit's injury is the first major adversity the Pirates have encountered during a surprising 11-8 start that has them in second place in the NL Central. It's not so much that his .244 average will be missed as his handling of the Pirates pitching staff and his knowledge of opposing hitters. Doumit requested that he still be allowed to travel with the team after surgery, and even though he's out for the next two months, he'll still be sitting in on team meetings and available to go over scouting reports. But that's not the same as having him on the field calling pitches and working with pitchers during the game.
There will surely be other bumps in the road, but the pitching and defense is demonstrably better than it was a year ago, when the Pirates finished last in the National League in runs allowed. This year, the Bucs are first in that same category. Improving run prevention is a critical, if often overlooked, component of success, and so far no team has had a bigger turnaround in that area than the Pirates.
There are 16 catchers in the Hall of Fame and 13 third basemen. The catchers are:
Those two positions are likely to remain the most exclusive in Cooperstown.
The first two players in that table, Traynor and Kell, are Hall of Famers, while the other three are not. But their numbers are awfully similar. I don't think any of those three will be elected to Cooperstown (even Santo, the beloved former Cub who has been turned down by the Veterans Committee the last few years), but it's interesting to see that their numbers are so close to one another.
I'm not ready to call Evan Longoria a future Hall of Famer just yet, but I think he has an excellent chance to at least match Chipper's MVP award, his six All-Star Game appearances and two Silver Sluggers and do something Chipper has never done: win a Gold Glove. Entering Tuesday, Longoria had played 140 games in the majors, the same number as Jones played in his 1995 rookie season (he played eight in a cup-of-coffee callup in 1993 before missing all of 1994 with an injury). Here's how they stack up:
The players under contract would move with the team from one city to the next. It is not at all uncommon for teams to switch minor league affiliates; last year, eight teams swapped Triple-A clubs alone (the Blue Jays, Indians, Mets, Braves, Marlins, Nationals, Dodgers and Diamondbacks).