Sunday, April 6, 2008

Thoughts on the First Week

Baseball came back in a big way this week, and it's safe for me to say I couldn't be happier about it after the long winter. Fans were treated so some excellent contests as the week came to a close, including some terrific comebacks, pitching excellence, offensive displays and defensive wizardry. In short, it's been great to get the tumult of the 2007-2008 offseason behind us and get down to the real games.

The Red Sox faced serious difficulty this weekend in Toronto, but don't count me amongst the surprised about how these three games turned out. This club is definitely tired, and when they arrive in Boston tonight they will have traveled roughly 19,000 miles since I last wrote. It's hard to blame these guys for playing this series like they were on Dramamine, because they probably were. It's obvious Julio Lugo was in dire need of a nap this afternoon given his listless and idiotic defensive performance. Over the last few weeks, these guys were asked to do things few, if any big league teams have ever been asked (for a sample, you MUST check out this video of Jon Papelbon talking to Tanguay and Felger about the Japan trip. I'm sure Larry Lucchino loved this). Just before they finally get to go home, they have to go play a Blue Jays club that I think we can all agree might be just a bit better than we all thought. I'm not giving the Sox a pass; they're pros and they should have gone out and taken at least one from the Jays this weekend. But overall, I can't say I'm terribly disappointed the Sox went 3-4 over this long excursion. Now they get to come home, get their rings, and get on with their season.

Waiting for the Red Sox on Tuesday afternoon (which also happens to be my 22nd birthday) will be the Detroit Tigers, who have begun this young season with an 0-6 record. I've been able to watch three of the six losses so far, and I think the Tigers' problems are almost entirely a result of their ineptitude on offense, which is something nobody could have predicted. Miguel Cabrera and Gary Sheffield have both been hampered by injuries, and it's very apparent this team misses the energy and spark of their catalyst, Curtis Granderson. But that doesn't excuse other guys like Magglio Ordonez, Carlos Guillen and Edgar Renteria from not picking up the necessary slack to win a single game thus far. Despite some of the moronic statistics about how "no team has ever gotten to the playoffs after losing X number of games to start a season," this Tigers team is simply too good to not be a factor this year. Last time I checked there were still 156 games on their schedule, and 156 more opportunities for the best offense in baseball to explode. That said, I hope that explosion doesn't come during the next three games. I do expect a tough series in Boston that should be highly enjoyable. I will be in attendance for Wednesday night's contest between Jeremy Bonderman and Jon Lester.

Elsewhere, the Yankees have enjoyed some close victories but also lackluster starting efforts by Ian Kennedy and Andy Pettitte this weekend versus the Rays. Today Joba Chamberlain earned a two-inning hold with Mo Rivera earning a save in a 2-0 victory. I really can't imagine the Yankees taking Chamberlain out of that role this season, he's just too good at it and the Yankees don't have anyone else this side of LaTroy Hawkins they can rely on in the 7th and 8th innings. Unless their starting pitching implodes entirely (which could happen), I'm not seeing any reasonable scenario under which Joe Girardi makes Chamberlain a starter. Of course, if they did, I wouldn't shed any tears over it.

One of my favorite stories to watch this year will be that of Royals closer Joakim Soria. The Mexican fireballer already has three saves on the young season, and Buster Olney and other have already begun comparing him to a young Rivera. This is certainly high praise, but the easy-going right-hander with pinpoint control has done nothing to deter those who believe Soria is on the fast track to stardom. I highly doubt you'd find him on your league waiver wire, but if he is you need to pick him up immediately. Random side note: A couple weeks ago I had a dream the Red Sox traded Dustin Pedroia for Soria. As a friend told me, "That's when you know you're obsessed." Yeah, I know.

I am extremely excited to inevitably see Johnny Cueto get lit by the Brewers on Tuesday so every fantasy owner that picked him up after one dominant start. Fantasy owners: Don't expect a 22-year-old starter to be the savior of your team. It's just not a wise move. I'd personally rather have Micah Owings or Joe Saunders, both of whom are being added to many teams this weekend. They are older and can be relied on much more.

One final, random, totally unrelated note: Ryan Martin has the strength of 10 men. That is all.