Now that it’s two months into the baseball season, let’s check in on the how everyone is doing. My plan is to post one entry every day in the month of June. Minus weekends, the 24th, any other day I have nothing to say or lack any sort of motivation. How's that for commitment?
Let’s rundown the American League today.
NEW YORK YANKEES (30-21)
Bright Spots: The starters are pitching much better lately; Teixiera has a man crush on A-Rod; Cano back in a groove after a below average 2008; Damon racking up home runs.
Causes for Concern: Their friggin’ ridiculous new ball park giving up homers left and right; Wang’s status; Pettitte’s recent back injury; Rivera finally showing his age; being unable to beat the Red Sox (had to throw that in).
Bottom Line: While they’ll be in contention all season, this isn’t a particularly scary team. Methodical and bland and deadly and a pain in the ass. They’re ball park is more intimidating to pitchers (including their own) than this actual team.
BOSTON RED SOX (29-22)
Bright Spots: Ellsbury finally emerging as a legitimate lead off hitter; Pedroia, Youkilis, and Bay doing their things; Lowell apparently healed from his hip injury, Varitek healed from his marriage; Beckett and Lester rounding into shape; killer bullpen.
Causes for Concern: Do I need to say it? Big Papi (who should have the label ‘Big’ stripped from his nickname if this shit keeps up); Baldelli injuring himself every time he steps on grass; Dice K and his 8+ ERA.
Bottom Line: Other than Ortiz, this team looks to be in great shape for the long run. Depth with the starters (Buchholz and Smoltz are already waiting in the wings) and hitters (Kottaras is opening eyes with his spot duty). Expect a trade for another bat very soon. Maybe someone to replace a certain sub .200 DH with 1 home run? My dream scenario involves the last team on this list, by the way.
TORONTO BLUE JAYS (29-24)
Bright Spots: Halladay (as always); an over achieving lineup consisting of Rios, Hill, Scutaro, Barajas, Overbay and – can you believe it – Scott Rolen; Richmond and Tallet supporting Halladay very nicely indeed.
Causes for Concern: BJ Ryan’s 8+ ERA and lost closer’s job to Scott Downs; the impending Rolen injury (any day now); inevitable fall off from the surprising start.
Bottom Line: Much better than I thought they would be. Cito Gaston deserves all the credit for getting the most out of this roster of cast offs, but I can’t see this lasting past June.
TAMPA BAY RAYS (25-28)
Bright Spots: Longoria (duh!); Crawford; the surprisingly potent Jason Bartlett; Shields, Garza, David Price.
Causes for Concern: Kazmir and Sonnenstine not only not matching last year’s success, but being down right dreadful; losing Iwamura for the season; Pena’s .230 something batting average.
Bottom Line: They seem to be suffering from the dreaded World Series Hangover the first part of this season. Way too much talent for that to last. If Sonnenstine or Kazmir figure it out, they’ll be where Toronto is now.
BALTIMORE ORIOLES (24-28)
Bright Spots: 23 year old Adam Jones; Nick Markakis; Brian Roberts, the entire defensive infield; Huff doing what I knew he would and should be doing in a Red Sox uniform in place of our current DH. Don’t get me started.
Causes for Concern: Well, basically every starting pitcher they have. Guthrie leads them all with a nearly 5 ERA; Adam Eaton is proving once again NL pitchers should stay in the NL; Hendrickson and Hill blah blah blah. You get the idea. They need pitching.
Bottom Line: At least Baltimore fans will enjoy watching their new stud, Jones, play for the Orioles for the next few years. Then they can enjoy him when he comes back in a Yankee uniform in 5 years. On the bright side, the tickets should still be reasonable for games by the Inner Harbor.
DETROIT TIGERS (28-21)
Bright Spots: Basically their entire lineup starting with Cabrera and running through Ordonez, Inge, Granderson and Adam Everett; starters Porcello, Verlander, Jackson and their 3 something ERAs; Fernando Rodney.
Causes for Concern: Dontrelle Willis still not figuring things out (what the hell happened to that dude?); Brandon Lyon adjusting back to the AL.
Bottom Line: Considering they’re first in ERA, first in saves, AND first in OPS for the entire league we can assume there aren’t too many worries for the Tigers. They’re playing like we all expected them to play last season. That’s bad for every other team.
CHICAGO WHITE SOX (25-25)
Bright Spots: The incredible consistency of Mark Buehrle; Konerko, Dye, Thome still blasting them; the shocking return of Bartolo Colon.
Causes for Concern: Yeah, that would be basically every other pitcher in their bullpen besides Bobby Jenks; Carlos Quentin’s lingering foot injury and his .229 batting average. They should be hoping they’re related.
Bottom Line: Pitching is a disaster for the Chi-Sox. They’ll need to make something happen soon if they hope to keep pace with the Twins and Tigers.
MINNESOTA TWINS (25-27)
Bright Spots: Mauer, Morneau (can we come up with a nickname for these two? ‘M&M’? ‘The Killer Twins’? 'The Twin Terrors'? ‘Pitcher’s Abyss’? Something!), Kubel, Cuddyer; Joe Nathan; Nick Blackburn; the immortal Kevin Slowey (7-1???!!!!)
Causes for Concern: Liriano; Joe Crede and Delmon Young being virtually useless; Punto and Gomez having barely better averages than the entire bullpen.
Bottom Line: Liriano is too talented for this trend to continue. If they can get any sort of production out of the bottom of the lineup, they’ll be in the hunt. Just watch. They’ll bring up some no name out fielder who will go on an absolute tear and push them into the playoffs. Watch!!!
KANSAS CITY ROYALS (23-27)
Bright Spots: Story of the year (so far) Zach Greinke; Alberto Callaspo (remember that name); Mike Jacobs; Billy Butler; Mark Teahen; Joakim Soria.
Causes for Concern: Having Sidney Ponson and Kyle Farnsworth prominently involved in your pitching staff, Gil Meche struggling to get wins; Coco Crisp still not hitting above .250.
Bottom Line: Much more competitive this year, but don’t expect them to be more than a feel good story. Impressive foundation, but need more pieces and seasoning before we can take them seriously.
CLEVELAND INDIANS (22-31)
Bright Spots: Martinez, Cabrera, and Shin Soo Choo providing some speed and pop; Hafner’s bat returning; Cliff Lee getting it together; Carl Pavano not being a total disaster; Aaron Laffey.
Causes for Concern: Hafner’s shoulder injury; Grady Sizemore’s .223 average; Carmona’s big time struggles; Kerry Wood being their closer.
Bottom Line: That Pavano not sucking is listed in your bright spots you know there are issues here. Carmona NEEDS to get into form or this team has no chance of getting very far. Still, anything goes in this division. If they can get healthy and their stars figure things out, they could be dangerous.
Bright Spots: How about the entire season so far? How about Nelson Cruz? How ‘bout having an Black Elvis on the team? How about Kinsler, Byrd, Young and Blalock? How about them doing all this with Josh Hamilton hurt most of the year? How about Millwood, McCarthy and Padilla keeping their ERAs under 5 (which for this team should get you 15-20 wins)?
Causes for Concerns: The Hamilton injury; David Murphy disappearing after a promising 2008; having Kris Benson on your roster.
Bottom Line: Already exceeding all expectations. If they can pick up another reliable starter, I would place them in the contender category. Considering the shape the rest of the AL West teams are in, this division may already be wrapped up.
LOS ANGLES ANGELS OF ANAHEIM (25-24)
Bright Spots: Torii Hunter; Abreau; hell, basically the entire top two thirds of the lineup; Joe Saunders and Jered Weaver; and…yeah…that’s about it.
Causes for Concern: Replacing K-Rod with Brian Fuentes and his 5+ ERA; John Lackey, Ervin Santana, anyone else they start besides Saunders and Weaver; Vlad’s injury.
Bottom Line: Of all the teams this is the one that should have a big, bold IF next to them in the standings. IF Vlad can return to form, IF their starters can get healthy and be effective, IF Fuentes can acclimate to the AL, IF they can pick up another reliever before the trade deadline. Too many IFs for my liking.
SEATTLE MARINERS (24-28)
Bright Spots: Ichiro (as always); Russell Branyan putting up MVP numbers; Eric Bedard rising from the dead; King Felix (as always); old friend David Aardsma becoming closer by default and doing very well, thank you very much.
Causes for Concern: Griffey Jr’s not so triumphant return; Adrian Beltre sporting a cool .227 average; everyone in their lineup not named Ichiro, Russell, or Endy.
Bottom Line: Believe it or not, this team is in good shape. If they can find a way to get a couple of bats in the lineup they could do some damage. Maybe Beltre comes around? Or some farm phenom is brought up. They need to do something to get runs, that’s for sure.
OAKLAND ATHLETICS (19-30)
Bright Spots: Suzuki and Holliday; Adam Kennedy (no kidding); Josh Outman (perfect pitcher’s name or what?) and Dallas Braden.
Causes for Concern: Nearly everyone not on the list above. Their starting rotation is becoming an open casting call; Orlando Cabrera and Jason Giambi are shells of their former selves and Bobby Crosby is only a tad better than letting your pitcher hit.
Bottom Line: Everyone is assuming this is a rebuilding year, which begs the question on when and if the Red Sox (or some other team, but I refuse to think like that) will try to pry Holliday loose in a trade and get him to play in the park that may as well have been built with his swing in mind. C’mon, Matt. You know you want to come to Boston. We’d love you here.
There you go, friends. The American League standings as June unfolds into full fledged summer. I’ll get to the National League either tomorrow or Thursday.
Today’s distraction: Fascinating – and slightly creepy – photo essay on random abandoned movie houses and theaters.