I was on the road last Friday, so I missed my usual MLB review. That meant no commentary on the previous week, including the Cardinals / Mets 20 inning marathon game. Here’s all I’m going to say about that game: we scored our run off their closer; they scored off our 4th outfielder. At that point, you’re just playing with house money.
Surveying the MLB landscape, there are a couple of surprise teams atop the standings at the end of Month #1. Everybody expected Tampa Bay, St. Louis, Minnesota, and Philadelphia to be competitive, but the Padres? The Mets? Oakland? It’s certainly early, but these clubs couldn’t ask for better starts. I doubt the Pads fast start will be enough to keep Adrian Gonzalez out of a BoSox uniform this season, but it’s nice to see. And Jerry Manuel deserves some credit here for using smoke and mirrors and Johan Santana to navigate the Mets to first place. I still think he’s a fairly lousy manager, but credit where credit is due. You shouldn’t be this competitive when you’re giving regular at bats to Gary Matthews Jr. and Angel Pagan.
As for disappointing teams, things certainly look to be in disarray in Bobby Cox’s last season at the helm in Atlanta. They look old and sluggish and lacking in motivation. The one bright spot has been mega-hype rookie Jason Heyward. Legend has it that after swatting his Opening Day home run, he also helped a little old lady carry her groceries across the street, saved an orphan from a burning building, and volunteered to be the situational lefty out of the bullpen. It’s looking like it’ll take a Messianic performance to get this team back in the hunt.
Red Sox Nation has to be up in arms, too, about their pedestrian 11-11 mark here at the end of the month. Beckett and Lester have been bad (although Lester’s seven-inning, one-hit performance this week gives promise), David Ortiz doesn’t have a clue at the plate, and the outfield has been crippled by injury. With the way the Rays and Yankees are playing, the Sox can’t afford to dig themselves too great a hole. They need a good two week stretch (with home series vs. the Yanks and Angels) to stay afloat.
On an individual level, how about Kelly Johnson? We all know Chase Field increases left-handed power numbers by 20% or so, but this is crazy. With six home runs in the past week, Johnson has vaulted to the top of the NL leaderboard. Think the Braves wish they hadn’t given up on him now? We all laughed at the guy who put in an $11 claim on Johnson in the reserve draft of my fantasy league; now that guy looks like a genius. So does the Diamondbacks GM.
It’s always tough when you see a former great player struggle in his twilight years. I’m afraid we’re seeing that with Trevor Hoffman. With 6 HR allowed in 9 innings, he’s gotten old right before our eyes. No way will he be yanked from the 9th inning role anytime soon; 594 saves earns you a little slack in the rope. But at 42 years old, how much longer can he do this?