I thought it'd be peachy keen and a whole lot of good ol' fashioned fun to look back on the first two weeks of the 2008 season, so let's do it!
The biggest surprise of the young season isn't the 8-6 Orioles, 8-6 Royals, or 10-4 Cardinals. No, those things happen. Poor teams, or at least teams that aren't expected by many to contend, get off to good starts for one reason or another all the time. Sometimes, they sustain it. Most times, they do not.
The biggest surprise is the 4-10 Detroit Tigers. I'll admit it -- I bought into the hype. While I wasn't overly impressed with their pitching (in particular the awful Dontrelle Willis), that lineup looked scary. I was talking with a friend during their Opening Day game, a loss to the Royals, and we were going on and on about how deadly that lineup really was. They were dangerous 1-through-9, even without Curtis Granderson. Brandon Inge is not a special hitter by any means, but that guy hit 27 homers a couple years ago. And he was hitting ninth that day.
Edgar Renteria went 1-for-5, Placido Polanco went 0-for-6, Miguel Cabrera was 1-for-5...and they lost. And then they kept losing. Only a couple of consecutive wins over the Twins (11-9 and 6-5) have them at 4-10.
All those 1,000 run season predictions are looking awful. And kind of foolish, the more you think about it. Gary Sheffield is 39 years old. 34-year old Magglio Ordonez is coming off of a total career season, and the same probably goes for the 32-year old Placido Polanco. 36-year old Pudge Rodriguez is an offensive zero at this point; not that Jim Leyland has noticed. And Edgar Renteria's only other year in the American League was a flop.
And that pitching staff? Goodness gracious, great balls of fire. Look at the ERA/WHIPs on their starters: Bonderman 4.58/1.64, Verlander 6.52/1.19, Rogers 6.75/1.91, Willis 7.20/2.00, Robertson 7.84/1.84.
They are sporting a 5.95 team ERA right now. Nobody can overcome that, I don't care if they DO score a thousand runs.
I've watched them play plenty. They look awful. They have been outscored 87 to 46. I don't think they can make the playoffs as they're currently built. This is a Titanic team.
The Chicago White Sox would scare the hell out of me if I were any of the AL big dogs.
Sure, Jim Thome looks like toast so far (.156/.240/.333 in 45 ABs). But a lot of these guys are killing the ball, and as bad as Jose Contreras is (6.17/1.97), they have a pitching staff that could cause trouble. Buehrle, Floyd and Vazquez are a fine front three, especially for a team that could hit like this one just might.
Nick Swisher was Kenny Williams' best move ever, probably. He's absolutely perfect for the Ozzie Guillen White Sox. Not only is he loud, noticeable, energetic and a real go-getter in every facet of the game, but he's also good. He is fast becoming the face of the White Sox. This was a guy that was born to be loved by modern day White Sox fans.
As for Joe Crede, just when you think he's out, he pulls you back in.
The Arizona Diamondbacks are good. While they made the playoffs in 2007 with a lot of young dudes and a whole truck load of luck, they made the very smart decision to not rest on their laurels. Sure, that team was bound to probably get a little bit legitimately better anyway, but they went out and got Dan Haren (2-0, 2.50/1.00) to add to Brandon Webb (3-0, 2.14/0.86), and now they have Randy Johnson back in the fold. Johnson is older than dirt and still uglier than boiled sin, but what if you get five-to-six innings a night out of him and then save him for the postseason? That could be a deadly front three.
What's more than that, they've got some hitters. Justin Upton is swinging at a .388/.429/.712 clip so far, and Mark Reynolds is crushing the ball (.612 SLG, 5 HR). When you add in Eric Byrnes, Conor Jackson, Stephen Drew and Orlando Hudson, you could be looking at a pretty damn good lineup.
If you ask me, right now, at this moment, they are the best team in baseball.
- The Chicago Cubs are not going to be a lot better than they were last year. Call it a hunch. Their rotation puts me off. I'd be way behind the Milwaukee Brewers to take that division in a surprising cakewalk, but I still recall the Brewers and Cubs locked in that deathmatch last summer to see who would decide to lose the division first. Kerry Wood -- oh, man. What you could have been.
- The Mariners are not contending for anything. Maybe it's because I watched us -- the ORIOLES, for God's sake -- sweep a four-game series against them, or maybe it's because I know Erik Bedard, and him being on the 15-day DL not only doesn't surprise me, but I have the sneaking suspicion it'll last a lot longer than 15 days. Maybe it's because their lineup lacks plenty. Maybe it's because I read Lookout Landing and those guys seem to have realistic expectations.
- If I were the rest of the AL Central, I reckon I'd keep my eye on the Kansas City Royals. Of the two legitimately midwest teams, they're the surprising above .500 club that I think has the much better shot at staying in that vicinity. Meche and Bannister are bona fide.
- The really notable thing about David Ortiz starting the season on a horrific schneid (.104/.246/.167) is that it makes Manny Ramirez worse, too. With Ortiz struggling so mightily, Ramirez has a 17-to-4 strikeout-to-walk ratio, which is way out of wack for him. He's crushing the ball, to be sure, and JD Drew is helping to pick up the slack, but the Red Sox are no unstoppable force right now.
- On the topic of last year's World Series participants, I hate to say it, but Rockies fans might want to get used to what they're seeing. That team was a miracle.
- The Yankees are run by a loud-mouth moron who recalls the golden age of "Mr." Steinbrenner himself. How long before this jackass gets himself fined or suspended by Major League Baseball? If you were ever thinking that the Red Sox had overtaken the Yankees as baseball's most hateable team, Hank Steinbrenner has come to ensure that no one ever tops the Bronx Bombs.
- Miguel Tejada went from one crappy orange team to another. Hope he's having a blast. Wait until mid-June, when he starts complaining.
- The Pirates are at .500. Thought I'd make note of that now. They're trying to tie a record for consecutive ineptness, going for their 16th straight losing campaign. The record is held by the 1933-48 Philadelphia Phillies. Part of me identifies with modern day Pittsburgh baseball fans, but the majority of me wants to see them tie that record. Go, Pirates, go!
- One thing I have learned about the Oakland Athletics, despite every TV commentator in the land and their smug sense of superiority over the fact that they never won the World Series and appear unlikely to do it any time soon: Never count a Billy Beane team out. Never.
- Cristian Guzman leads the poor Washington Expos in almost everything. Welcome to the new park. Same crummy team.