April 13, 2004

Animals Provide Baseball Knowledge

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If there is one thing that is lacking today in America, it’s a general knowledge of animals. Conveniently, several baseball teams have animal nicknames, giving us the opportunity to take a look at the 2004 MLB season and learn some new and completely factual information about animals. Here’s a breakdown, division by division:

American League

AL East: There is nothing more frightening than a devil ray. These fearsome beasts feed on helpless plankton and have been known to swallow up small fish in a single gulp. This ferociousness is exemplified by the 2004 Tampa Bay Devil Rays and their skipper Lou Piniella. Last season, Piniella resorted to drastic measures to inspire his team to win, proposing that if the D-Rays won three games in a row, then the team could dye his hair. Tampa finally won three in a row by early July, and Lou’s hair changed from gray to a radiant blond. Will Piniella make another crazy proposition to his team this season? Hopefully, as it will give us something to talk about other than steroids and the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry.

AL Central: The solitary tiger roams the jungle, snacking on termites but avoiding its rival, the elephant. If there is one team in baseball this season that is most similar to the tiger, it must be the Detroit Tigers. If the season ended today, the Tigers would be in — that’s right, say it with me — first place. As of yesterday, the Tigers have already won five games. Compare that to last season when it took Detroit over a month to get five wins, and you know the Tigers are the real deal. I mean they’d have to be, right? Why else would Pudge Rodriguez leave the sunny confines of south Florida? For the money? Do you think he’s that selfish? I mean, c’mon. This division is the equivalent of the NBA’s Atlantic Division, so the Tigers might be able to finish under .500 and still make the playoffs. Take that, 1962 New York Mets!

AL West: The elephant is very stingy. It will not spend money on overvalued players, preferring instead to buy lots and lots of peanuts. It also has an excellent memory. However, when it comes to remembering what team dominates this division, people seem to forget that the Oakland Athletics have made the postseason four straight seasons and that the team’s mascot is the elephant (three out of four Sun editors polled failed to make this identification). Sure, they’ve yet to win a postseason series, but they’re getting closer and this could be the year that the A’s break through to the World Series. Billy Beane’s book, Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game, created quite a stir last season (actually, he didn’t even write the book, people like Joe Morgan seem to have a hard time remembering this). With the losses of shortstop Miguel Tejada and overrated closer, Keith Foulke, the A’s have once again have given up their big-name talent. If Theo Epstein had been paying attention while reading Moneyball, then maybe he would have known that Beane’s strategy is to hype and overvalue a closer, and then sell him off for a draft pick.

National League

NL East: The blue marlin is a graceful beast, using its bill to stun fish and then eat them. It is envious of its cousin, the striped marlin, which impales fish and boats alike with its spear. The Florida Marlins are not envious of any fish because they recently received the largest championship rings in baseball history. These eyesores include 229 diamonds and weigh 3.5 ounces. Marlins owner Jeff Loria got a $20,000 per ring price break because he bought so many for the team. Loria spent the offseason meticulously designing these rings, coming up with 100 prototypes. Maybe this is why he was too busy to cough up the extra money to resign Pudge.

NL Central: The cardinal is the idiot of the bird kingdom. If it sees its reflection, it will try to fight itself for hours. The St. Louis Cardinals are not that stupid, signing their superstar, Albert Pujols, to a seven-year, $100 million contract. Other than that, there is nothing more to say about the Cardinals, except that they were completely overshadowed by their division rivals — the Houston Astros and the Chicago Cubs in the offseason. The over-under for the number of times that phrases Pettitte-Clemens and a Cubs-Red Sox World Series have been mentioned since November is somewhere around five million. It’s nauseating. Can’t the media come up with something else to talk about in baseball? Well, there’s A-Rod going to the Yankees…

NL West: The diamondback rattlesnake is the largest venomous snake in North America, so beware! They are known to eat small mammals, but do enjoy a good steroid injection once in a while. The Arizona Diamondbacks let their ace Curt Schilling sign with the Red Sox, and then proceeded to trade six players (including “Worst Swing in Baseball” nominee Craig Counsell) to the Brewers for Richie Sexson. Will Arizona regret giving up Junior Spivey? Only time will tell. The remaining ace, Randy Johnson, is back from playing dodgeball with Jim Breuer, and should help the D-Backs contend for the division again. But they’d better look out for the Padres. Thanks to the new cavernous Petco Park, the Padres will effectively shut down all the power hitters in this division. Their own players, meanwhile, need some Prozac after their homerun totals will plummet. What season preview column would be complete without some postseason picks? Thanks to my amazing accuracy in my NHL season preview column (I told you the Mighty Ducks were going to win the Stanley Cup), I’m going to try it again.

Oakland over New York, and Boston over Detroit.

Oakland over Boston.

St. Louis over New York, and Philadelphia over Arizona.

Philadelphia over St. Louis.

World Series:
A’s over Phillies.

Jonathan Auerbach is a Sun staff writer. I Never Kid will appear every other Tuesday this semester. Jonathan can be contacted at [email protected]

Archived article by Jonathan Auerbach