Tails You Lose

We interrupt this important message about Robinson Cano and how the limousine riding him to Cooperstown just blew a couple of tires for an important message to all of you youngsters out there playing ball: DON’T SLIDE HEAD FIRST,ESPECIALLY INTO FIRST BASE. Thank you. Yeah, I know about Rickey Henderson, the all time best base runner.Henderson had a titanium rib cage, however, and instincts that mere mortals lack. My feeling has always been that I would much rather step on the fielder’s toes at first than have him step on mine. Spikes hurt. Also, you don’t get there any faster. On the rest of the bases, again, feet versus hands. Now go work on your launch angle so that you never have to slide at all.

Last week the Supreme Court, which has lost a lot of prestige ever since Diana Ross retired, ruled that it is okay now for states to regulate and tax sports betting. A full century after the Black Sox scandal that helped an inferior Cincinnati team to win the World Series, the filthy pukes that make large sums of money from hapless working stiffs who are desperate to make a quick buck are now legitimized all over this great land of ours. Hold on, you say. It was hypocritical, you say, to ban gambling because everybody does it anyway. Well, not everyone. Some people have brains. Well, come on, Mr. Holier Than Yins, I guess you never joined the office pool during March Madness. There is a large difference between small friendly wagers and what we are experiencing with nationwide betting, sanctioned or not. It all started when states began replacing actual taxes with lotteries, where millions of suckers occasionally help one lucky fool get rich. It’s not really a gamble, folks. The house always wins. And many people have had their lives ruined by addiction to gambling, just like with booze, tobacco, and other drugs. As with most of the clothing worn at a royal wedding, it ain’t pretty underneath.

What was so bad about what happened in 1919? Why did Pete Rose get banned for life? Tightwad Charles Comiskey paid his Chicago White Sox players so poorly that some of them, notably Ed Cicotte, Lefty Williams, and maybe Joe Jackson, made a deal with gambling pros to throw the Series in exchange for some of those dollars Comiskey didn’t want to pay. Therefore, all of the players not involved, all baseball fans, and everyone involved in professional baseball took a severe stomach punch. That’s how the modern game of long ball got its start, but that’s another story. If the ticket buyer can’t have faith that it’s a legitimate contest, why participate? There are always exceptions, as with the severely brain challenged folks who enjoy Donald Trump’s wrestling bouts.

So I take it as yet another sign that the tired old empire is in decline. No one cares where your money comes from, but if you want to borrow some, take off all your clothes and fill out this 18 page form.

Can’t Get My Fix

I admit it, I’m very lucky. For one thing, I was born in the United States, where everyone can have bananas even though none are grown here. Those Guatemalans are pretty nice folks, and so are all of the many others who do things just for us. And there is so much leisure time! Even if I can’t afford to travel very much or to go to see a Broadway musical about cats or slavery, there is always television, where I can sit and watch uplifting shows about criminal investigations or hysterical situation comedies with people of almost every ethnicity who never seem to have money problems and stuff. Plus television brings us live sports, like major league baseball, and it’s all free as long as I pay the cable bill and the electric company and am willing to watch commercials about cars and beer and insurance and the right poisons to buy for my lawn so that I never have to put up with weeds and things.

Except for today, when the Giants were playing in Philadelphia and the game was “free” on Facebook. Am I not smart and with it enough to have joined Facebook? Yes, I’m there. What do you think, I’m not hip? Data collection companies do us all a great service, providing the means to see what people we don’t even know had for lunch. It was a bit unnerving to realize that having a day off and paid for cable service wasn’t going to be enough for me to enjoy watching Ty Blach, Brandon Belt, Pablo Sandoval and company go down to their fourth consecutive defeat at the hands of Odubel Herrera, Carlos Santana, and the rest of the new improved Phillies. The Giants have caught on to the trendiness of not worrying about strikeouts very well, but they still have some catching up to do with the hitting home runs that is supposed to go with it, and I wanted to witness another day of double figure fanning because that’s even more exciting than reruns of The Big Bang Theory.

So I brought up Facebook on my computer. Now, admittedly, my setup is not what they call state of the art, which never refers to sculpture. My machine is more than two years old, the operating system is older than that, and my provider is hundreds if not thousands of miles away. So it’s probably the equivalent, all things considered, of a 1948 Hudson. That was a pretty good automobile in its day but modern electronic equipment has a life expectancy more in line with a cold mosquito. Nevertheless, my team of legal experts and I agree that, if you are going to squeeze all competition off the map and be the only possible option a person has to obtain a product, you have an obligation to actually provide that product for all of those who have been denied any other option, especially if they didn’t previously require your venue. Boy, are we suckers!

First off, I had to search on Faceschnook before a button was found to click on to get this “free TV”. By the time I received a picture the Giants had a 1-0 lead. There was no sound, even though Duane Kuiper promised me yesterday that he would be there. No sound, and the “picture” reminded me of the early days of consumer television, when brave adults were risking falling off their rooftops while “adjusting” the antenna. It was choppy at best. Oh,but there was something working quite well. To the right of the “action” was a column containing lame comments from viewers all over the world. Great! Then it quit streaming altogether. After 18 minutes of being as patient as I could be, I gave up. Maybe Suckenburger will make another cynical apology. Maybe he can kiss my ass.

MY ACHING ELBOW!

Back when I was studying Anthropology, which was just before museums were discovered, the instructor asked that any of us in the class who had ever had surgery please raise a hand. Despite the fact that most of us were either in our twenties or younger, about a third of us raised a hand. He then gave us, or at least me, a shock. Back in the prehistoric time that we were studying, he said, that would mean that we were dead. Left behind for the good of the many, and perhaps a predator, our time would be over.

These times are anything but prehistoric, unless you live in a place like Albania or Nevada. Even though we may often seriously desire to leave some people behind, we don’t do that now, at least not officially. We just say that they can’t afford health care, most likely because they were stupid enough to be born poor. Nowadays, professional athletes and their employers can most definitely afford health care, the best that money can buy.By the looks of major league baseball rosters, it appears that they are getting a lot of it. Is it doing much good? Good question. Baseball Anarchy, in its never ending desire to get to the bottom of things, perused the rosters of the 1200 or so players in the National and American Leagues and came up with some interesting if disturbing numbers.

On May 3’2018, there were 172 injuries listed among the thirty teams. The injuries were serious enough that players were placed on either the  ten or sixty day disabled list in 157 instances. There were many famous names on those lists, such as Troy Tulowitzki, Adam Wainwright, Yasiel Puig, and Madison Bumgarner. Some of the injuries were what we could call workplace accidents, such as Bumgarner getting a broken finger from a ball drilled back to the box that he instinctively stopped with his hand or Puig  sliding into Joe Panik at second base resulting in thumb surgery for Panik. Somewhat startling, however, is the fact that the vast majority of the injuries  appear to have resulted from simple wear and tear, Lots of sprained this and strained that. Now, one would expect those hurts in a weekend slow pitch softball league, which was where yours truly discovered what a hamstring was, as well as lower back strains.The big leagues, however, are full time for prime specimens.

Are these training issues? Should more time be spent on the yoga mat and less time be spent in the weight room? Are nachos, pizza, and beer still the favored diet of ballplayers even after they become millionaires? Do players really truly believe that Gatorade is superior to clean water? One thing that changed for the better in sports is that the investment in players and the corresponding requirement for bottom line efficiency means that more concern for the welfare of those investments, I mean players, exists, both on the part of management and on the part of the players themselves. Back in the day, pitchers disappeared because they had “sore arms”..Players retired at 31 or 32 because they didn’t want to go through it all anymore for maybe fifteen to twenty five thousand dollars a year.

Now that half of the rosters consist of pitchers, I suppose that it is not surprising that 110 of the 172 players injured that day were pitchers. That’s 64 per cent for those of you who need calculators. Maybe it should not be, but it is surprising as well that 27 of the 172 injured have had or are expecting to have what is called Tommy John surgery. My snide joke used to be that, if you want your young child to be assured a good income for life, teach him or her to pitch left handed. Now I will amend that to advise teaching them to perform surgery on the various body parts that are ravaged by throwing breaking balls. It’s become a real problem for teams like the Giants, whose starting rotation now consists of Who, What , When, Where, and Why.

The Texas Rangers lead the majors with 11 injured players, all on the disabled lists. That includes three fourths of their infield plus our old friend Tim Lincecum, who is on the 60 day list with blisters. The Washington Nationals are next with ten, including half of their infield. The Giants and Yankees are tied for third with nine each, and then come the Dodgers and Mets with eight each. So wealth can’t buy you health, but it can help out with your depth.

Now that gambling has become so mainstream, perhaps there will be a new way to do that too. Let’s set the over/under line on roster moves.

How Will the West Be Won?

There are at least four good teams in the National League West division this season and there is consequently very little doubt that the Los Angeles Dodgers will not waltz to another title.

The Dodgers had an incredible run in 2017, winning 104 games to finish 11 games in front of the Arizona Diamondbacks and make it to the seventh game of the World Series. This year, in addition to enhanced competition, they will face a few dents in the armor that never seemed to appear last season. Early on there is the broken left wrist of Justin Turner, who burst through at age 33 to hit .322 with 53 extra base hits and to establish himself as a fine defensive third base man after a previous career of many ups and downs. They don’t know when he’ll be back. Center fielder Chris Taylor came from out of nowhere to put up similar offensive numbers to Turner’s while taking over that position from the erratic Joc Pederson. It will be uncomfortable for manager Dave Roberts if that proves to be a one year surprise. The most reliable Dodgers asset has been the pitching, but now Rich Hill is at least temporarily on the shelf and Kenley Jansen, the best “closer” in baseball, has been ineffective early. The calm, stoic presence of Adrian Gonzalez has moved strangely to Atlanta and then New York.

Nevertheless, the Dodgers remain the strongest team in the division, and we can expect to see them in the playoffs again. Switch hitting catcher Yasmani Grandal is a potent offensive weapon while Austin Barnes is the superior receiver, so L.A. is in good shape at that critical position. Cody Bellinger plays first base nearly as well as Gonzalez did and is the best current advertisement for the launch angle trendiness. Corey Seager at 24 years of age looks like a star for years to come at shortstop and when Logan Forsythe returns the infield defense will improve. Chase Utley is 88 years old now but he continues to provide winning baseball whenever he plays. Yasiel Puig continues to piss off the opposition but he has become a first class outfielder with ferocious power. It seems weird to say it but Matt Kemp is a Dodger again and, for now at least, he is looking good again. Clayton Kershaw remains the rock solid leader of the pitching staff. Beyond that strong lefthander, everything is iffy unless Jansen regains his form.

The team that could give the Dodgers the most trouble in this division is the Colorado Rockies. There are three very good managers in the N.L. West. Dave Roberts showed his stuff last year, Bruce Bochy has become legendary, and Bud Black might be the best. Everyone knows that the Rockies have a devastating lineup, with Charlie Blackmon  as one of the most absurd leadoff batters in baseball, accomplishing a .331 batting average with 37 home runs and 104 runs batted in with 14 steals at that position in 2017. Then there is Nolan Arenado, who mimics Mike Schmidt in Denver. Add D.J. LeMahieu, Trevor Story, and Ian Desmond and you have a group of bashers who also happen to play very good defense. Where Black’s magic comes into play is with a group of young pitchers who have been dealing with pitching in Denver. Jon Gray, Chad Bettis, Tyler Anderson, German Marquez, and Kyle Freeland are not nearly as well publicized as the starting pitchers in New York or Washington, but if they continue to get the job done we will all know about them. Plus, the bullpen is well stocked with guys like Mike Dunn, Bryan Shaw, and Wade Davis.

 

Arizona  slithered into contention last season, winning 93 games to instill hope into Diamondbacks followers. The secret was the Big Three of starting pitchers in Zack Greinke (17-7, 3.20 ERA), lefty Robbie Ray (15-5,2.89) and Patrick Corbin (14-13, 4.03). Young righty Taijuan Walker made it a fourth but he is out for the season in 2018 facing Tommy John surgery. Remember Shelby Miller? He is due back in mid season and will be welcomed . Fortunately for the Diamondbacks, they have assembled a pretty good crew of relievers who will no doubt be getting lots of work. Archie Bradley and Brad Boxberger have been impressive in late relief but we’ll see how that goes as the season progresses. Paul Goldschmidt anchors the offense and plays a great first base. If shortstop Nick Ahmed, second baseman Ketel Marte, and center fielder A. J. Pollock all play 150 games the pitchers will be glad. Third baseman Jake Lamb is out on the disabled list at the moment and will provide powerful offensive support when he returns, especially against left handed pitchers. Alex Avila and Jeff Mathis are a solid combo behind the plate.

As much as the Diamondbacks improved in 2017, the San Francisco Giants plummeted. Whereas many teams in that position would have been tempted to clean house and start over, the Giants were in a bit of a fix. A solid core of performers were under contract and still potentially capable of winning lots of games: Buster Posey, Joe Panik, and Brandon Crawford at catcher, second base, and shortstop. Hunter Pence, Denard Span and a vast contingent of third basemen and left fielders were not, however. The Giants were seemingly flummoxed at the managerial level last year. Auditions for journeymen took place for a good part of the season as Aaron Hill, Tim Federowicz, Ryder Jones, Drew Stubbs, and Justin Ruggiano among others all wore Giants uniforms during that process. Next thing they knew, they were 64-98. In addition to the core named above, the Giants also still had Madison Bumgarner, Johnny Cueto, and Jeff Samardzija as starting pitchers. They  rolled the dice and came up with Andrew McCutchen and Evan Longoria for right field  and third base. Those are very good players who have established fine credentials over the past decade. So it looks like one last shot at greatness, but it is bound to fall short. It’s a much more interesting team though.

San Diego became a team that was cleaning house a couple of years ago. and they might be getting somewhere. A youth movement brought them  catcher Austin Hedges, second baseman Carlos Asuaje, third baseman Christian Villanueva, and outfielder Jose Pirela. They each show good potential. To this they have added All Star first baseman Eric Hosmer and former Padre Chase Headley as a spare corner infielder. Will Myers, who played first but is now scheduled for right field, provides veteran leadership once he returns from the disabled list. Where the Padres still look weak is in the starting rotation of pitchers. Tyson Ross is back after a stint in Texas and could be the best. Joey Lucchesi is a rookie lefty who has been outstanding in the minors. However, Clayton Richard, Bryan Mitchell, and Matt Strahm have been erratic at best so far in their careers. Therefore, more patience will be needed in San Diego.

Will the Yankees Clinch by Flag Day?

You people all have a life but I don’t. While everyone else spent the winter celebrating holidays, visiting warm climates that weren’t devastated by tropical storms, binge watching sensational Netflix shows, and chatting on social media about the coming fall of the Empire and Russian conspiracies, here I sat shivering in the cold slurping lukewarm tofu soup and reading about how the New York Yankees were going to hit 312 home runs after the 2018 season started while running away with the World Series championship by the time the next Halloween arrived. It was dull. It all is because the Yanks not only traded for Giancarlo Stanton but also replaced sullen manager Joe Girardi with the irrepressible Aaron Boone, which prompted clueless executives at ESPN to replace Boone on Sunday night telecasts with Alex Rodriguez and his girlfriend. What hath Steinbrenner wrought?

However, now that the birds are nesting and the flowers are blooming and the ashes of winter are being hauled, things look a little better. Perhaps the Yankees will actually have competition. Three of their divisional rivals have apparently thrown in the towel already, but the defending East champions, the Boston Red Sox, threaten to keep things interesting.

For one thing, the trade for Stanton created a bit of a hole at second base. Starlin Castro was not the second coming of Joe Gordon but he did play adequately on defense while hitting .300 with 16 home runs. By the way, the Marlins also received minor league prospects Jose Devers and Jorge Guzman, and we could be hearing from them before too long. In our financial system the future is now, however, and Stanton, despite a history of injuries, shines brightly today. The current replacement at second base for New York is Neil Walker, who is a step or two slower and has a bit less range than in his Pittsburgh Pirates days. Walker can also hit the ball over the wall at the Yankees’ P.O.N.Y. league yard.

The powerful Stanton joins Aaron Judge in the lineup, and like their predecessors Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris, they are both good outfielders as well. Brett Gardner and Aaron Hicks are good outfielders too, so Boone has depth and can play around with the designated sitter position.

First base could prove to be a problem area as Greg Bird continues to spend more time on the disabled list than on the field. Shortstop will not be a problem so long as Didi Gregorius can play. He may be the best all around player on the team. Miguel Andujar is projected to be the answer at third, and Gary Sanchez will keep them solid at catcher along with Austin Romine. The pitching staff is not so hot. The bullpen is deep but Aroldis Chapman no longer has that invincible aura. C.C. Sabathia was  a good comeback story last year but he is injured now and his age is a factor. Luis Severino is gathering credentials but after that there is inconsistency.

Boston missed David Ortiz last season and they are thinking that home run machine J.D. Martinez will keep their offense rolling. He certainly did that in Detroit and Arizona. Injury problems are currently worrying the Sox with Dustin Pedroia and Xander Bogaerts ailing but they have a very solid lineup of gloves and bats. Eduardo Nunez is a good player to have around because he is versatile and he can hit. They are excited about young third baseman Rafael Devers and we all have seen the work of outfielders Andrew Benintendi, Jackie Bradley, and Mookie Betts by now. Perhaps the best addition to this team will be new manager Alex Cora. Mitch Moreland is as good a first baseman as Hanley Ramirez is not.

As with most teams, pitching will be the make or break factor for the Red Sox. In particular, Rick Porcello and David Price have to do better than  last season while Craig Kimbrel  needs to remain strong.

Take your pick among the also rans in the race for third place. Toronto, which looked so good not so long ago, is fading fast. Troy Tulowitzki is perhaps finished, and that is sad. Josh Donaldson‘s injury is perhaps not as devastating, but it must be troubling to John Gibbons. Russell Martin is not what he once was, so Kevin Pillar is now the the brightest star for the Blue Jays. J.A.Happ and Marcus Stroman lead a just above mediocre starting pitching staff, and a good crew of relievers  leads to closer Roberto Osuna, who often holds the lead. Pillar will be busy in center field,as he is currently flanked by 37 year old Curtis Granderson in left and occasionally effective Randall Grichuk in right. Aledmys Diaz will try to be the answer at shortstop. Justin Smoak, frustrated offensively while in Seattle, likes the hitter friendly artificial yard in Canada while he continues to play a stellar first base.

Tampa Bay has a pretty good lineup featuring Kevin Kiermaier in center field, Adeiny Hechavarria at shortstop, and Wilson Ramos at catcher, but the pitching looks weird. The Rays list three starters, which would be a little like 1910 except for the fact that there are apparently ten relievers. We’ll be keeping an eye on manager Kevin Cash and pitching coach Kyle Snider for further developments. Matt Duffy is a good third baseman but he hasn’t played for the past season and a half so we’ll see how his heel heals playing on that turf. Former La Habra Angel C.J. Cron  is the first baseman. They will miss Evan Longoria in Tampa but what they need more than anything else is a major, or at least minor, league field.

Buck Showalter‘s Orioles have been “sleeper” picks a couple of times in Baltimore in recent seasons but, alas, they are putting their fans to sleep lately. It’s a tough yard to be a pitcher in but some hurlers have been successful in the past. Dylan Bundy seems to have good potential but it doesn’t look like Chris Tillman or Kevin Gausman  are ever going to start reminding folks of Jim Palmer or Mike Mussina. Manny Machado is still young and still All World but he’s not getting much help. Adam Jones is very good and Trey Mancini can hit. Jonathan Schoop, now on the disabled list, has become very solid at second base and at the plate. Adding Alex Cobb to the mound staff was good, but these Orioles need help.

 

The Beer League

Our friend Ralph Rolph has a problem that is familiar to many of us. He periodically goes on a bender and makes himself sick behind alcohol and tobacco. Never again, he tells himself. This pain is too awful compared to whatever pleasure I had last night, he moans. Never again. Then, after some time passes and his body begins to heal, he is able to consider having just one drink or one puff. The next thing he knows, he is swearing off it all over again.  So it must be with people who are followers of many major league baseball teams. I am thinking specifically of the Pittsburgh Pirates, but there are other examples.

In what some day may very well be termed the McCutchen Era, seasons 2013 through 2015, Pittsburgh finished second in the National League Central division, reaching the playoffs each time and winning 280 games for a winning percentage of .576, which was pretty good considering some excellent competition was involved. The Prates had a fine combination of good young pitchers and crafty veterans for starting pitchers, a bullpen that was excellent, power, some speed, and defense, at least in the outfield and at catcher. Nowadays, it looks as though fans of that team will have to be content with their memories for a while. There is talent on the roster for sure. Felipe Vazquez, known as Felipe Rivero when the Bucs  obtained him in exchange for Mark Melancon, has been very good in relief. Josh Bell is a budding star at first base. Starling Marte missed a lot of time last season after being foolish but appears to be as good as ever now, and that’s very good, while right fielder Gregory Polanco  at age 26 is fulfilling his great potential. The heart of the team was Andrew McCutchen, though, and he is gone. Yes, his skills diminished somewhat as he reached his thirties, but it was cruel to the fans for management to trade this man. Sure, move him to left field or whatever, but there is more to be considered than coldhearted metrics  when it comes to maintaining a winning atmosphere. Players like Mazeroski, Clemente, McCutchen—it’s a good idea to hang on to them while you work in younger talent. The Pirates will be lucky to finish higher than fourth or win more than 70 games in what is still a tough division. They have some good young players on the rise, especially among the pitchers, but I think they are lacking veteran leadership that knows how to win.

It’s still odd to say it, but the Chicago Cubs know how to win. They faltered a bit in ’17 after the championship season of 2016, but it would not be surprising to see them go all the way again. At the moment, the back injury to stalwart first sacker Anthony Rizzo is disconcerting, and they will be without Jake Arrieta this time around, but perhaps Yu Darvish will live up to the hype eventually, and there is just too much talent there along with a versatility on the roster that few teams approach. If Brandon Morrow does not adequately replace  Wade Davis, they will think of something.

National League Central is the beer league, with Busch in St. Louis, Iron City in Pittsburgh, and the Brewers in Milwaukee, even if Schlitz hasn’t been making it famous for years now.. Do they brew anything there these days? Perhaps someone will brew Selig, a beer that you can drink gallons of without ever copping a buzz. Craig Counsell‘s troops still include the pouting Ryan Braun, who is now joined by a couple of real outfielders in Lorenzo Cain and now injured Christian Yelich. With Domingo Santana displaying a powerful bat and strong arm in right field. Braun can get more days off at age 34. This is a team that can score runs, and their no-name pitching staff may only need to be average for them to contend. The Brewers surprised people last season, but we all know that they are for real this season.

St. Louis finished just four games over .500 in 2017 but they look like an improved flock of Cardinals for the new season. Yadier Molina is still producing behind the plate and at bat, and he insists on winning. For some reason, they seem to want a new shortstop every year, and last year Paul DeJong showed enough to keep his job. He’s not among the current crop of great fielding shortstops in baseball, but he hit .285 with power and they like that in St. Louie. Matt Carpenter is back at third base after Jose Martinez emerged as a force  at first, and for variety they have the excellent fielder Kolten Wong at second base. Having Marcell Ozuna in left field improves the outfield all the way around, and Tommy Pham is great in center. It’s the pitching that presents a potential problem for the Cardinals once they get beyond Carlos Martinez,

They also drink beer in Cincinnati, but the AA pitching will doom the Reds despite Joey Votto, Billy Hamilton, and a fairly good offensive lineup. They need to get Eugenio Suarez back in there. Jose Peraza has the difficult challenge of replacing Zach Cozart at short. Unless Bryan Price can work miracles with the hurlers, it will be last place again for the once proud Reds.

 

Back to the Fifties For Cleveland

It will be a major upset if any team other than Cleveland wins the American League Central Division this season.  Terry Francona and his troops finished 17 games ahead of the pack last year and it would not be surprising if they did that well again. They have speed, defense, power, and, most of all, pitching. This is a pitching staff that brings to mind some of the all time best. Like the Indians team that won the pennant in 1954 and challenged the dominant Yankees for most of that decade, this version lacks only a left handed starter.  Back then, Herb Score came along to provide a southpaw presence for two years before his tragic accident but Bob Lemon, Mike Garcia, Early Wynn and Bob Feller did most of the work on one of the best staffs ever assembled. Now, with the help of standout lefty reliever Andrew Miller, Cleveland sends tough starters Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, Trevor Bauer, Mike Clevinger, and Josh Tomlin to the mound with confidence every game.

They have more weapons than that, of course. Shortstop Francisco Lindor  and third baseman Jose Ramirez will see Houston’s Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa and then raise them with first baseman Yonder Alonso and second sacker Jason Kipnis. They will no doubt miss the veteran leadership that Carlos Santana took to Philadelphia but all of the youngsters are veterans now. They have two fine defensive catchers in Roberto Perez and Yan Gomes. That’s a real plus as the season wears on. Outfielders Bradley Zimmer, Tyler Naquin, and Lonnie Chisenhall will get by well enough until Michael Brantley once again returns from injury, and the highlight of their season so far has been strong designated sitter Edwin Encarnacion‘s inside the park home run versus the Huntington Beach Angels.

The Minnesota Twins became America’s sweethearts in 2017 as they surprised most folks by improving by 34 wins from their last place finish the year before. They could be even better this year. They have added a quality starting pitcher in Lance Lynn, who was 11-8 with a 3.43 earned run average for St. Louis last year, and a slugging DH and backup first baseman in Logan Morrison. New (old) relief pitcher Fernando Rodney is sometimes effective and always entertaining. The Minneapolis- St. Paul team has good speed and defense all around. Joe Mauer is 34 and doesn’t play catcher anymore but is a premier first baseman and still hits well. Jorge Polanco is suspended for half a season but may not be missed, although Eduardo Escobar does better at third or second than at shortstop. Byron Buxton is exciting at center field and an offensive threat leading off and stealing bases. Brian Dozier hits for power and steals bases too. Jose Berrios is likely the new ace of the staff after going 14-8 with a 3.89 E.R.A last year. Paul Molitor got this team far last year and the natural assumption is that they can go farther now. With that Cleveland pitching, I don’t think so.

Ever since that 2005 World Championship, the White Sox seemed to be proceeding without a discernible plan. It now appears that they do but, once again, their pitching doesn’t  add up to success. It’s a solid lineup, though, with powerful run producers like first baseman Jose Abreu, right fielder Avisail Garcia, and new catcher Wellington Castillo, who produced 20 home runs and 53 runs batted in playing in hitter friendly Baltimore last year. They have youth that could develop further rather quickly as well, with shortstop Tim Anderson, third baseman Yolmer Sanchez, and the intriguing second baseman Yoan Moncada, obtained from the Other Sox for Chris Sale. Lucas Giolito leads a promising group of young hurlers but veteran James Shields, who was acquired to be the ace, has continued to disappoint. The South side of Chicago has hope for the future.

Kansas City won it all in 2015 and 1985. Royals fans may be wishing now that it won’t be another thirty years before they have a chance. The loss of stalwart catcher Salvador Perez for the next month and a half is only the capper to a bummer of an off season after an 80-82 campaign last year. They signed Mike Moustakas and shortstop Alcides Escobar but Lorenzo Cain and Eric Hosmer went bye bye. Alex Gordon switched to center field and is still a capable outfielder, but his offensive skills seemed to have vanished in 2017 as he plunged to .208 with 9 homers. The pitching staff, very good in the World Series seasons of ’14 and ’15, is mediocre at best this time.

What do the Detroit Tigers have in common with the San Francisco Giants. The good thing was that they met in the World Series not so long ago. The bad thing was that they both lost 98 games in 2017. Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez are both still there being their amiable selves, but they were shadows of their former selves last season, at ages 34 and 39 respectively. There is a a bit of talent on the roster, and new manager Ron Gardenhire is saying all the right things, but this is going to take a while.

Take the Phillies Seriously, But…

Dusty Baker got fired after his Washington Nationals won their Eastern Division by 20 games last season. They were knocked out by the Chicago Cubs in the playoffs , hardly a thing to be ashamed of, but now Dave Martinez takes the helm and more will continue to be expected of the Nationals. Realistically, they should repeat as divisional champs but to expect more than that, as former Yankees blowhard George Steinbrenner always did, reveals that one is more of a corporate know nothing executive than one who understands baseball, or life.

The players on the Washington roster are good enough. Do you doubt Stephen Strasburg, Bryce Harper, and company? That’s a clown question, bro. Anthony Rendon doesn’t get all of the ink and air time that those guys do but he is a great third baseman and a consistent offensive threat. There is no pitcher in baseball to make  you feel more confident when he starts than Max Scherzer. Before he is through, Trea Turner at shortstop may be their most valuable player over all of those guys, so the Nationals are in good shape.  What about the competition?

Last year the New York Mets took a tumble to fourth place, 27 games behind Washington. Some are predicting that, with a new manager who used to be a pitching coach, and with all those starting pitchers with clever nicknames together and healthy, the Mets are bound for contention again. After all, it’s only three years  since they were in the World Series. I will venture to say that even if Yoenis Cespedes plays 162 games and the insurance companies shell out less than a billion dollars to keep those guys pitching, the Mets are out of the money. Can you name their infield? That’s what I thought. Well, they have acquired Adrian Gonzalez to play first base after he Wally Pipped himself out of a job in Los Angeles, and he can still do it after all these years but we’ll see how it goes. Todd Frazier took his swing as hard as you can bat across town to play third, journeyman Asdrubal Cabrera is at second, and Amed Rosario, who played in 46 games last season, is the shortstop. Now are we excited? That’s what I thought.

Atlanta and Philadelphia should continue to improve but I doubt that they are scaring Washington yet. It’s considered a cinch that Ronald Acuna will be tearing up the league as left fielder for the Braves some day, and when he does the lineup could be solid. That’s because Ender Inciarte and Freddie Freeman, who are both good defenders, are already producing runs and a healthy mix of veterans like Nick Markakis and Tyler Flowers with youngsters like second sacker Ozzie Albies  and third baseman Johan Camargo exists right now. Pitching, always the key, should improve as Julio Teheran, Mike Foltynewicz and Sean Newcomb gain experience. The Phillies made excellent additions in Carlos Santana and Jake Arrieta so their progress may accelerate more than Atlanta’s now.

As for the Marlins, well, it’s understandable that fans would be grousing with the departure of Giancarlo Stanton, Christian Yelich, and Dee Gordon. However, they won just 77 games with those guys last year, so maybe give the new owners a break for a year or so.. Let’s look at the positive. Jeffrey Loria is also gone.

 

 

Astros Have the Weapons

Last season the Houston Astros drove a jalopy with two hubcaps missing to the World Series and won it. In 2018, they will be riding in a limousine the way champions do these days. Will it make a difference? In the day of zillionaire ownership and multi-millionaire hired help, will these guys be hungry again?

 

The La Mirada Angels just completed an off season that has scouts, pundits, and ordinary average guys thinking they might give the champs a real challenge in their own American League West division.Every other team in this division looks like wankers in comparison. One thing is certain: the Oakland Athletics with Billy Beane will once again lead the league in unabashed bullshit.

Jose Altuve, who will turn 28 in May, is the kind of baseball player that every player, every scout, every manager, and every fan who works in the yard every Saturday wants on their team. Does he remind people of Joe Morgan? Yes, except he’s a nicer guy. He’s plenty mean on the field, and he just signed a contract that will keep him from worrying about losing his Green Card and getting separated from his family and deported to Venezuela. Maybe, if he keeps it up, he can buy Venezuela.

With Carlos Correa , who is 23, at shortstop and George Springer , who is 28, in center field, Houston appears to be strong up the middle for some time to come. Brian McCann and Evan Gattis are serviceable at catcher, and most of the Astros hit well now that Marwin Gonzalez has joined the party as the left fielder. They missed Jake Marisnick‘s outfield defense in the playoffs last fall, and Yuli Gurriel will need to continue to hit well to make up for his defense at first  and offensive dugout behavior.

It was not a great show of confidence last summer when Dallas Keuchel whined about the bosses not getting help, but he pitches better than he talks. Of course, the bosses did come through with obtaining Justin Verlander, so the whole staff is better. So it all looks good, but let’s remember that a year ago everyone seemed to agree that the Chicago Cubs were the new dynasty. Stuff happens. Injuries occur, some players slump, others come from out of nowhere to become the next big thing. That’s why they make the schedule.

As for those Knotts Berry Farm Angels, it looks from here as though they just got a new batch of familiar names to become disappointed about. Yes, we have good new defense with Ian Kinsler at second base and Zach  Cozart at third, and Mike Trout has definite help up the middle with catcher Martin Maldonado and shortstop Andrelton Simmons, but who is going to pitch? Shohei Otani could be the next Frank Tanana or maybe the next Ricky Nolasco or Tyler Skaggs. We don’t know yet. They’ll finish fewer than 20 games out.

The Seattle Mariners are trying to get by again with some fairly good veterans like Robinson Cano, Nelson Cruz, and Jean Segura and they have added an interesting player for the top of the lineup in Dee Gordon, who is making strides at a new position in center field. They have been flirting with contention in recent seasons but it is looking as though age and inconsistency are relegating them to a .500 record at best. They used to have pitching but little offense but now it’s more like the opposite and, in that yard, defense should rule. They are deep at catcher but should consider signing Jarrod Saltalamacchia since they have Marc Rzepczynski in the bullpen.

The once fearsome Texas Rangers are gathering rust on their stars and  the jeeps are losing tread on the tires. They have once impressive lefties on the mound like Cole Hamels and Matt Moore and the admirable but aging Adrian Beltre at third base but boy howdy they sure strike out a lot. Manager Jeff Banister gets a lot out of them but everyone should keep their bags packed.

The Oakland Athletics have some good young players but fans who have followed them the past decade or so have to be wondering , “For how long?”  The baseball fans of Oakland are being conned by the management into thinking that these promising players are going to be ready to win it all when that new stadium gets built but guess what? They don’t even have a site to build on yet and the revenue sharing dough seems to be enough to keep ownership content. It’s a sad tale to tell for the once proud franchise.

 

Sometimes I’m Wrong

Despite what the Tweeter-In-Chief says, most reporters who don’t work for Breitbart really do try to get the facts as correctly as possible. This is especially true when it comes to something highly important to national security, like baseball. However, no one, including Dan Rather and yours truly, is perfect. That’s why it is vital to have  zealous fact checkers out there to set us straight. Today, we will salute these people who have relatively unimportant jobs like heart surgery and jet engine repair and present to our readers some of the issues that they have helped us with to our everlasting delight.

 

First, we have Lester from Salem Oregon:Say, Mr. Anarchy, you were really kind of a dork when you were complaining about the commissioner of MLB. His name is actually Rob Manfred, not Manfred Mann.  Thanks, Lester.  I think I was blinded by the light.

Carolyn from Zelienople, Pennsylvania was also helpful. You dismissed the idea of starting an extra inning with a runner on at second base as though it was ridiculous. Now the smart people in charge of the minor leagues are going to do just that. Now, say if if Aaron Judge makes the last out of the ninth inning he can be at second with Gary Sanchez leading off the tenth. That makes a lot of sense to those of us who have to be up at 5 AM the next morning to drive a bus.  Gosh, Carolyn, I hadn’t thought of that. Back when I was a bus driver, if I had been out late drinking the night before, I would just stay up all night, at least until I punched the time clock. You’re right. The integrity of the game means nothing compared to having alert, sober drivers on our roads.

Hector from Chicago, Illinois made a very important point.  Your disdain for the use of designated hitters and closers reveals more about you being set in your ways and inflexible about change, which is a natural occurrence as we age, than it does about the needs of the baseball consuming public. Get with it! If MLB was run by old fogies like you, we’d probably still have spitballs and no batting helmets. Not all change is bad, Gramps.  That is so perfectly correct, Hector. For instance, now, whenever I see Alex Rodriguez an my immobile device, I change the channel.

Finally, Ivanka from Moscow, Idaho was refreshingly honest.  So there you were saying that Barry Bonds ought to be in the Hall of Fame after all but many of us think these criminals should pay back everything they made while they were cheating and be banned from  working in baseball ever again. At least Pete Rose never cheated.  Ivanka, I think that’s a safe bet.