April 3, 2011

Taking My Talents to the Back Page

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Every time I sit down to write one of these columns I often spend hours trying to come up with a subject that will be either entertaining or serious enough to make the reader think about something that he or she ordinarily would not consider. For lack of a better idea, I have decided to try and accomplish neither of those two objectives this week, and instead do my best Taking My Talents to C-Town impersonation — which ironically is also running in today’s paper — by ranting about whatever comes to mind (read: the first three games of the baseball season) in bullet point form.

• As one might expect I watch a lot of ESPN in my spare time, probably too much. If you turned on ESPN last week, odds are you saw 10 different prognosticators try to predict how the Major League Baseball season will unfold. When I was younger I used to hang on every word, and would inevitably have to turn off the TV in disgust after seeing not one person take the Mets as division champs. This time around it seems like anyone who’s anyone is taking the Red Sox to win it all, but now after three straight blowout losses it is hard to find anyone quite so bold. Bottom line is predictions do not mean anything, especially when they are coming from guys who could never hit their weight — that would be you, John Kruk.

As for what actually happened on the diamond, here are a few quick thoughts:

• The Orioles are 3-0. I am not going to go out on a limb and predict that they will even finish better than fifth place in the division, but I will admit that I am really impressed by how they manhandled the Rays this weekend.

• Ditto about the Royals. They took three of four from the Angels over the weekend, but that is probably more a reflection on how many holes Los Angeles of Anaheim of Orange County of California has on its roster. I was baffled in January when the Angels acquired Vernon Wells after missing out on basically every free agent, and after four games I am still pretty sure I will not be changing my mind on that one.

• The team that miraculously unloaded Wells, the Toronto Blue Jays, might very well be the most exciting team to watch in baseball this year. Jose Bautista seems like he has not lost much from last year’s 54-homer campaign, knocking two out of the park in the team’s first three games. Equally impressive were youngsters J.P. Arencibia and Kyle Drabek. If you do not have them on your fantasy team yet, pick them up before it is too late.

• Getting back to Baltimore, like most I have been very impressed with what Buck Schowalter has done over his first few months on the job, but I was shocked that he pulled Chris Tillman after six innings of no-hit ball due to a high pitch count. This, my friends, is the wussification of America at its finest. Rest assured, Nolan Ryan would never leave a no-hitter because he threw too many pitches. Hopefully Ryan can put an end to this nonsense in Texas and other teams will follow suit.

• Speaking of Texas, the Rangers shut up just about everybody on the Boston bandwagon this weekend. Things got so bad in Beantown that Terry Francona pushed $142-million outfielder Carl Crawford down to No. 7 in Sunday’s lineup. It might be a little bit too early to be giving Crawford the A-Rod 2006 postseason Joe Torre treatment only three games in, but I have enough faith in Francona to figure things out sooner rather than later.

• I am now beginning to appreciate how ridiculous the Philadelphia rotation actually is going to be this year. The Phillies are 3-0 already with Chase Utley, Domonic Brown and Brad Lidge nowhere to be found, and I am dreading the Mets’ three-game set with Philly, which begins tomorrow night.

• Having said that, the Amazins’ were impressive this weekend, bouncing back from nearly being no-hit on opening day to win 2-of-3 from a Florida team that most pundits thought to be superior. New York might not be able to compete with the Phillies this year, but the Mets are certainly better than Washington if that is any consolation.

• Across town the Yankees hit what felt like a home run every inning. It will be interesting to see what happens when they face teams with good pitching on the road, throwing the likes of Ivan Nova and Freddy Garcia out there supported by an offense that does not have the luxury of right field in Yankee Stadium.

Now that I have completed my obligatory Yankee bashing, I will get to the bottom line. Much like the guys on Baseball Tonight who like to fancy themselves as professional odds makers, even the best of us fall into this trap. While it is certainly fun to act as if any certainty exists after this first weekend of the season, the truth is that little has been resolved. Having said all that, here are a few more bullets of bold predictions for your reading pleasure:

•The Astros, Nationals and Indians are as bad as they looked. They will not be playing against legitimate postseason contenders every night, but if this weekend was any indication it will be a long season for all three.

•The Brewers, Twins and Red Sox are not nearly as bad as they looked. Expect all three to be in pennant races in late September.

•Is there anyone still left on the Rays these days? Tampa Bay certainly is not as bad as the Orioles made them look in the three-game set, but these certainly are not your older brother’s Rays, so to speak.

Upon review, I will say that this experiment in randomness did not go exactly as I had planned. Was it funny at times? Probably not. Did it make you think? Doubtful. But did you have a chance to read two bullet point columns tightly packed into one paper? Heck yeah, you did. Well that, my friends, is an achievement in and of itself.

Original Author: Evan Rich