The Cubs, you have to admit, are one funky team. They have their blemishes, and in the light of day, those faults (Alfonso Soriano's defense, Kerry Wood's shakiness, Ted Lilly's lilliness, a mild case of road rash) can sometimes be pretty darn ugly. But they've scored almost 100 more runs than they've given up. Their lineup has maybe one weak spot, in center field. And, honestly, who's around to challenge them?
I almost elevated the Rays to the top spot because, 1.) I could make a real good argument that they deserve it and, 2.) It makes for a better headline. Instead, the Rays will have to make do with No. 2. It's not a bad place, and given the fact that they're killing the teams in their division (21-12), they're awesome at home (21-9), they're young, they're exciting and they're without any demonic representation, they really do deserve it.
Despite the record, I just don't like the way the Angels are playing right now. This team should be all about running and challenging defenses and taking the extra base. Problem is, the Angels can't get on base in the first place. They've scored 23 runs in their last nine games. Vladimir Guerrero, a .322 career hitter, is at .241. "The offense has to get back on track at some point," Mike Scioscia says. You'd have to think.
The Cubs notwithstanding, the Phillies may well have the best team in the National League right now. They should at least be in the discussion. We'll learn a little more about them this weekend when they take on the East-leading Marlins in Philly. Consider, though, how good the Phillies -- who have won four straight -- would be if they were getting anything at all from Brett Myers. In five May starts, he's 0-4 with a 6.67 ERA.
I have made my skepticism of the long-term prospects for the Cardinals clear enough here in the PRs, but after a trip to St. Louis this week, where the Redbirds took two of three from the Astros, with Kyle Lohse winning the rubber game ... well, I'm still not convinced. In the lesser-known Scrappiness Ratings, though, for getting the most of what they have, the Cards are challenging for the top spot. Congrats.
Well, that ride was a little short-lived, wasn't it? The formerly top-ranked Sox got away from Fenway, where they rock, and hit the road, where they always seem to get rolled. They've lost five of six on this 10-game swing. And dropping a series in Seattle? To the Mariners? Really? Jacoby Ellsbury hits .202 on the road. Big Papi comes in at a robust .212. This is gonna kill them if they don't get this worked out.
Fans of the men who wear the stars should be thankful that they are where they are. The Astros were three games under at the start of May, and they've pulled out of that, thanks to Lance Berkman, Carlos Lee and some others. Maybe the most amazing part of their resurgence is that they've done it without Roy Oswalt, who went into Thursday's start in St. Louis with a 5.61 ERA. He pitched OK. He still took another L.
I'm not sure how something so dysfunctional can be so ... functional. But that's the Sox. Shortstop Orlando Cabrera is scrapping with official scorers and falling on the wrong side of skipper Ozzie Guillen. Reliever Octavio Dotel tussled with a trainer. But the Sox win (11 of their last 14), and they win big games, too (six of their last seven against the Indians). Give this to these guys: They're un-boring.
I was a little worried for the Jays when they left Kansas City. Nothing like a sweep of the Royals to plant a little false hope in a team. But the Jays responded with a series win in Oakland. It's an amazing feat, considering the amazing lack of punch in this lineup. (Whatever happened to Alex Rios, by the way? He was 0-for-6 Thursday and has just three homers this year.) Man, this team would be dangerous with a hitter or two.
After a nice 8-3 homestand, the Braves hit the road this week and did their best imitation of the Red Sox, stumbling in their first two games in Milwaukee. The Braves did it in their own inimitable fashion, though, dropping two one-run games, making their record in such contests a gagging 2-14. They're 7-18 on the road overall and, if you're counting, exactly 0.0 of those road wins are one-run jobs. That's gotta change.
The bloom is off the desert rose. And I don't even know what a desert rose is. Whatever, the D'backs were just swept by the Giants. At home. They've lost four straight. The Snakes have dropped nine of their last 12. They'll have a losing May. Eric Byrnes is hitting way under .200 this month. This is getting serious.
Got an e-mail from a Marlins fan last week -- I'm assuming there's more than one of them out there -- ripping me for my placement of the Fish in the PRs. First off, they're the PRs, for heaven's sake. Let's not make these the RPIs or something. Secondly, they're the Marlins. And they won't be in first place much longer.
I'm going to have to go digging through some media guides for Greg Smith, because I don't have the faintest idea what he looks like. The reason I'm looking is that it's guys like him (2.84 ERA), Dana Eveland, Chad Gaudin and Justin Duchscherer -- he was noticeable after that gem against Boston last Saturday -- that make this team.
What happens if the Twins ever get Delmon Young going (.118 in his last nine games)? Or, you know, just get him to stop screwing up in the field (three errors in two games last week)? Or maybe coax a little home run power from him (not a single one yet)? Nobody knows for sure. The Twins would like to find out.
The O's fell back to .500 with a loss to the Yankees on Wednesday and now get the Red Sox at Camden Yards (which is infinitely better than the Sox elsewhere). Say what you will about the near-term future of the Orioles. I have, and it hasn't been nice. But .500 near the end of May is a Chaminade-like upset.
Jeff Kent sat out some last week for just being creaky, which happens when you're a 40-year-old ballplayer. What's the news? "He's getting older, but he's pretty honest and if he doesn't think he can still hit, he certainly would own up to that fact," Joe Torre said. Kent? Owning up? Where has Torre been? Washing his truck?
A-Rod is back, and that's helped, and Joba is stretching his arm out, which is good, too, but LaTroy Hawkins has had a couple of gawdawful outings, and we all know about Kyle Farnsworth's reliability, so the question is louder now than ever, especially with Ian Kennedy's injury: Who's going to take Joba's old job?
Histrionics about race and job security aside, the Mets are not in terrible shape. I mean, I'm not expecting y'all to listen to simple reason (that's how we talk in the South). But if Carlos Delgado ever wakes up, and if someone can put some fear into Mike Pelfrey (0-5, 6.08 ERA in May), I reckon the Mets can still rise again.
I just figured this out: Mathematically speaking, if you take the best pitching in the American League, and the worst hitting, and you kind of average them out, you get kind of an average team. Which is exactly what the Rangers (27-28) are. Move over, Einstein. I think I'm going to go program some servers or something.
Back safely at home, the Brewers returned to winning some games, two of three against the Braves. That hasn't necessarily quieted the critics. But it has cooled them off, at least until the next road trip. Ned Yost benched Bill Hall, which didn't sit well with Hall. But, then again, Hall's performance wasn't sitting well with fans.
Skipper John Russell pulled his starting pitcher, Tom Gorzelanny, after just 2/3 of an inning Wednesday (and six runs). With the pitcher coming up. The Bucs have their problems. Starting pitching (5.83 ERA AGS -- after Gorzelanny's start) is a big one.
We're all hoping, after his wonderful debut and all that ridiculous fanfare, that Jay Bruce turns out to be the next coming of, say, Junior Griffey and not the next incarnation of -- oh, I don't know -- say, Johnny Cueto.
I'm really starting to wonder if the Indians are gonna make it back. Really. They're won two of their last 12. Travis Hafner is broken. They're heading on their longest road trip of the year, after which we?ll know a lot more about where they?re headed.
Barry Zito pitched OK again as the Giants swept the Diamondbacks. But get this: Tim Lincecum is 7-1, with a 2.33 ERA, in 10 starts. On this team. On THIS team. A good June and he could be an All-Star starter. From THIS team.
When you look at scoring, and you realize that the only team the Nats can see in their rear-view mirror is the Padres, that's bad. I will say this: Cristian Guzman is having a decent year. And decent is way better than that for him.
This is depressing. Eleven losses in a row. New skipper Trey Hillman is getting battered -- not entirely unfairly -- for bullpen decisions that contributed to blowing a five-run lead in the ninth Wednesday. This stinks. I'm going back to bed.
The only hope for the Kitty-Cats is that the Indians continue to rot, the Twins realize they're the Twins and the ChiSox turn into a cult and move to Texas. (All hail Ozzie!) Only then can Detroit survive a 'pen with a 5.05 ERA in May, worst in the AL.
Nationals starter Odalis Perez had an emergency root canal Wednesday morning and still gave up only a run to the Padres going into the seventh. This, I'm afraid, says a lot more about San Diego's toughness than it does Perez's.
On the streets around Coors Field these days -- and, of course, on those internets -- you can, for a stupidly inflated price, get your very own souvenir of last season's pennant run. Yes, "Fluke-tober" t-shirts are on sale now!
Ichiro made a real nice catch the other day in center. Erik Bedard looked like a true ace in a win over Boston. When it's not raining, Seattle is a beautiful city. I'm trying to be positive, you know. Come on people, work with me here!
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