"Everyone wants a villain," A.J. Pierzynski said. "Look at what LeBron James has gone through the past few years. My teammates get the best kick of it. When we go to Oakland, Anaheim, San Francisco, Minnesota, Cleveland, I get loud boos. Guys on my team can't wait to see that and to hear that."
Black crepe paper hangs over the column this morning. Garrett Reid, Andy Reid's oft-troubled 29-year-old son, was found dead in his Lehigh University dorm room at Eagles' training camp Sunday morning.
The surprises began with the very first pick of the 2012 MLB draft -- when the Astros selected Puerto Rican shortstop Carlos Correa instead of the widely expected choice, Stanford righthanded pitcher Mark Appel -- and didn't stop there. Here's a quick look at the winners and losers from the first round and the compensation round.
This weekend saw the White Sox continue their hot streak, four series played among the tightly bunched teams in the two Eastern divisions, and the ascendant Angels take two of three from the first-place Rangers, but the most compelling series was the one still going on in New York between the Mets and Cardinals. That series announced itself when Johan Santana threw the first no-hitter in Mets history on Friday night, and has become more compelling with each successive dominant Mets pitching performance. Meanwhile, with their loss on Sunday, the defending world champions saw their record fall to an even .500 and slipped a half-game behind the Pirates into third place in the National League Central.
This story appears in the June 4, 2012 issue of Sports Illustrated. Buy the digital version of the magazine here.
Five Cuts from the first weekend of interleague play:
Another month, another no-hitter. In the fresh spike marks of Philip Humber, Jered Weaver of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim threw the second no-hitter of the season Wednesday night. It was the 10th no-hitter inside of two calendar years. Since Opening Day 2010, you are more likely to see a no-hitter (11 of them) than a cycle (seven) or a 130-pitch game (nine). And in these past three years no-hitters are occurring more than three times more often than they did in the previous decade.
Thursday brought the first multi-game slate of the 2012 baseball season and Opening Day for 13 teams. It was a day dominated by starting pitching, which was occasionally undermined by shaky relief pitching, and also brought us the longest Opening Day game in major league history, just to remind us that baseball will always show you something you've never seen before.
The 2012 baseball season had its third Opening Day on Thursday with six pitching-dominated games and one, between the Indians and Blue Jays, that rolled on for an Opening Day-record 16 innings before finally concluding. On Friday, the 13 teams that still haven't launched their seasons will at long last get their uniforms dirty amid a nine-game slate.
SI.com will be live-blogging today's season openers. Check back all day long for updates on Thursday afternoon's games from Cliff Corcoran (Red Sox vs. Tigers, Marlins vs. Reds), Joe Lemire (Mets vs. Braves), Ben Reiter (Phillies vs. Pirates) , Gary Gramling (Nationals vs. Cubs) and Ted Keith (Blue Jays vs. Indians). All times Eastern.
The 2012 Major League Baseball season officially opened last week in Japan, where the A's and Mariners played a mostly forgettable two-game series, and starts Stateside on Wednesday night when the Marlins face the defending World Series champion Cardinals. Thursday, though, is when the season really begins.
In 2011, the Tigers were the only team in the American League Central to post a winning record, they won the division by 15 games -- the largest margin by any first-place club in baseball -- boasted the league's dual MVP and Cy Young winner in Justin Verlander, and added to their division-leading payroll by making the division's most prominent offseason acquisition in free-agent slugger Prince Fielder. Perhaps that's why, when he was asked this spring if he was in favor of MLB adding a second wild-card team to each league, White Sox general manager Ken Williams said, "Hell yeah I want it."
Spring training statistics may seem meaningless, but while they pale in comparison to the numbers produced when games start to matter, they can sometimes give a hint of what is to come in the season ahead. This can be especially true when they are viewed in the larger context of a player's health and recent performance.
LAKELAND, Fla. -- The day his manager called, January 22, was the day Miguel Cabrera officially swore off arepas, the traditional Venezuelan patties made of ground corn dough or cooked flour. Cabrera had been working with a trainer through the winter with an emphasis on improving flexibility and agility, but the call from Tigers manager Jim Leyland brought a new urgency.
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Robin Ventura arrived for his first day as a major league manager a couple of weeks ago to find the door to his office at the team's spring training facility locked. He jokingly imagined it to be a message from the White Sox front office that had made him the most surprising managerial hire in years, telling him, "We've decided it's over."
For most of human existence we've dreamed of flight, carving winged sphinxes onto Babylonian brickwork, imagining Icarus and all manner of flying machines -- many sketched by Leonardo da Vinci -- until somehow over the centuries these miracles came to be: The magnificent Montgolfier Brothers and their hot air balloon, the Wright Brothers, the Spirit of St. Louis, the Golden Age of Travel, Pan Am, TWA, the jet set and all the while Sinatra singing, "Come fly with me, we'll float down to Peru ..."
Thanks to what seems like a never-ending battle with a foggy brain, outfielder Denard Span breaks away from his routine winter workouts one day a week for special treatments that he hopes fix concussion symptoms.
Three weeks ago, when the news broke that Tigers' DH Victor Martinez had injured his knee and could be out for the season, it created a window. The Tigers' offense, so reliant on just a few hitters in 2011 when Detroit won the AL Central, would be down a big piece in 2012. There was an opportunity for an up-and-coming team like the Royals, set on offense but with a questionable rotation, to step into the vacuum and close the gap on the top of the division by signing an available free-agent starter such as Edwin Jackson or Roy Oswalt. That kind of aggressive move could have turned the division race into a coin flip.
You have to admire the gusto of 82-year-old Tigers owner Mike Ilitch. When Ilitch wasn't happy with patchwork contingency plans about replacing Victor Martinez, he said he turned to GM Dave Dombrowski and said, "You know, I think we should go after Prince."
At Thursday's press conference announcing the Prince Fielder signing, Tigers manager Jim Leyland confirmed that incumbent first baseman Miguel Cabrera would be moving across the diamond to third base this spring to make room for Detroit's new $214 million man. It's a risky move, one that seems unnecessary given the makeup of the 2012 Tigers roster.
Prince Fielder has reportedly agreed to a $214 million, nine-year deal with the Tigers, making him just the third player in major league history to receive a contract worth $200 million or more. He joins Alex Rodriguez, who has done so twice, and Albert Pujols, who signed with the Angels for $240 million over 10 years in early December.
Five thoughts on Tuesday's news that former Brewers first baseman Prince Fielder had agreed to a nine-year, $214-million contract with the Detroit Tigers:
I had the chance to be part of the Frozen Diamond Faceoff on Jan. 15 in Cleveland as the Michigan Wolverines beat the Ohio State Buckeyes 4-1. I was there covering the game for FS Detroit and it was my first opportunity to witness first hand the phenomenon that has grown during the decade since the original CCHA event in 2001 -- dubbed the Cold War -- at Spartan Stadium between the Wolverines and Michigan State.
Five reactions to Tuesday's news that Tigers designated hitter Victor Martinez is likely to miss the 2012 season after tearing the ACL in his left knee during offseason workouts:
The White Sox send mixed messages, the Blue Jays, Red Sox and Reds fortify their bullpens, and the best available centerfielder (not counting Yoenis Cespedes) and two of the best platoon outfielders in the game all re-sign with their 2011 teams in this week's edition of Hot Stove Roundup.
The big transaction news of the last week was the five-player trade that landed the Reds Mat Latos, Jimmy Rollins re-signing with the Phillies for three years, and the Rangers winning the right to negotiate with Japanese ace Yu Darvish. However, Joe Lemire nailed the first two in his column on Saturday, and the Darvish news won't have any real impact unless (or until) the Rangers actually ink the right-hander, something which might not happen until mid-January. Still, there were a few other noteworthy moves from the past week, including the coming and going of three Twins outfielders, a trade between the Red Sox and Astros, and a handful of smaller signings by teams looking to flesh out their bench and bullpen.
Hot Stove Roundup is a weekly column during the offseason that will offer quick takes on a selection of mid- and low-level transactions. This being the first edition of this offseason, we have a lot to cover, so let's get to it.
Bruce Chen will be staying with the Royals. Kansas City and the veteran lefthander have an agreement on a two-year, $9 million, plus a $1 million roster bonus and $1 million in incentives.
Baseball got it right in deciding on one-game knockouts between two wild card teams in each league in the coming expanded postseason. Well, it's not officially done, but when Bud Selig gives it his public endorsement ("Dramatic," he called it), he knows the votes are there for it.
For almost a decade the Twins were an unsurpassingly efficient baseball institution, churning out players and playoff appearances, without a huge payroll or a star-laden roster. From 2002 to '10 they won six American League Central titles, finished as low as third in the division just twice and had a losing record only once.
This week, SI.com will analyze the offseason plans for each team in a division-by-division format. Teams are listed in order of finish in 2011.
Four days into their unexpected celebration of a World Series title, the St. Louis Cardinals are searching for a manager to replace the retiring Tony La Russa, a predicament they haven't had for 16 seasons.
ARLINGTON, Tex. -- Maybe the biggest games the Brewers won this season were the final two games against Pittsburgh. With those wins, Milwaukee secured homefield advantage in the Division Series -- a key factor, as the Brewers won Game 5 in a walkoff at Miller Park to advance to the NLCS.
Rangers starting pitcher Derek Holland had a seven-run lead when he took the mound for the fourth inning in Game 6 of the ALCS. This being the Postseason in Which Starting Pitching Doesn't Matter, Holland would not even qualify for the win.
The American League Championship Series returns to Arlington Saturday night for its final act, in which the Rangers need to win just one of the next two games to claim their second consecutive American League pennant, while the Tigers continue their quest to become just the 12th of the 76 teams in baseball history to fall behind 3-1 in a best-of-seven series to comeback to win that series.
DETROIT -- The very name of the sport is baseball, a juxtaposition of two of its most important ingredients. Early writings of the sport first referred to it as "base ball" -- with a space -- and rarely does the nine-inch-round cowhide ball collide with a 15-inch-square base except in the modernized spelling of the word.
Following their 11-inning loss on Wednesday night, the Tigers are the first team in this year's League Championship Series to face elimination. On Thursday afternoon, they'll send Justin Verlander to the Comerica Park mound to try to stave off the gloomy history of teams that have fallen behind 3-games-to-1 in a best-of-seven series.
Shortly after 8 p.m. ET on Tuesday night, the Tigers, already trailing the American League Championship Series 2-games-to-0, fell behind the Rangers in the first inning at Comerica Park. Just twenty-four hours later, Detroit could be tied at two-games each in the ALCS. Tuesday night's 5-2 win gives the Tigers a chance in Wednesday's afternoon affair to knot the series and turn it into a best-of-three with ace Justin Verlander slated to pitch Game 5 on Thursday.
DETROIT -- Doug Fister hails from a law enforcement family in Merced, Calif. -- his father has been a policeman and then fire captain for more than 30 years, and his uncle was on the S.W.A.T. team -- and as a child he used to hang around as they practiced. From that experience he gleaned a guiding mantra of "One Shot, One Kill."
1. It was either a huge breakdown in communication or in execution, but the Texas Rangers lost ALCS Game 3 on an inexcusable mistake, one so bad they had trouble getting their story straight after a 5-2 loss to Detroit Tuesday.
MILWAUKEE -- Postseason baseball has been in session for more than a century, yet not before Monday had a player ended a game with a walk-off grand slam. That came courtesy of the Rangers' Nelson Cruz, who hit an 11th inning slam to win Game 2 of the American League Championship Series.
Having lost their travel day to Sunday's rainout, the Rangers and Tigers head to Detroit for Game 3 of the American League Championship Series with the Rangers leading two games to none. How significant is that edge? Of the 21 teams to go up 2-0 in a best-of-seven LCS, only three failed to win the pennant: the 1985 Blue Jays, the 1985 Dodgers and the 2004 Yankees, the only team to blow a 3-0 lead in baseball history.
The big news out of Chicago this weekend was that Theo Epstein might have been spotted at a Lincoln Park Starbucks. Not kidding. That came via a Cubs fan who said he was "99.9 percent'' sure it was the celebrated, elusive longtime Red Sox general manager, and it shows how secretive the Cubs' GM search is being kept by relatively new owner Tom Ricketts. If Ricketts is as good at building a successful team as he is at keeping a secret, maybe the Cubs will break out of their century of general futility.
Rain postponed Game 2 of the American League Championship Series on Saturday, but it was still an eventful day for the LCSs. The Brewers did Harvey's Wallbangers proud by out-slugging the Cardinals, 9-6, to take a 1-game-to-0 lead in the National League Championship Series, and the Tigers lost yet another outfielder to injury.
Taking a look at Sunday's playoff action ...
It's hard to imagine that the League Championship Series could live up to the excitement provided by this year's Division Series, but then we didn't think the Division Series could live up to the final few days of the regular season, and they totally did. That's only one reason, and the weakest to be sure, that I expect both series to go a full seven games. So, I hope you all had a restful morning, because this year, the postseason doesn't believe in off-days.
The Texas Rangers' defense of their American League title continues on Saturday with the first game of the American League Championship Series against the Detroit Tigers. The Tigers, it should be noted, just eliminated the team with the American League's best regular-season record in the Division Series without the benefit of a quality start from their ace, Justin Verlander, and they represent a significant hurdle for the Rangers. Detroit went 38-16 (.704) over the final two months of the regular season, 20-6 (.769) in September, and 6-3 against Texas on the year, with the Rangers' three wins all coming in games started by Alexi Ogando, who has been moved to the bullpen and won't start a single game in this series.
Five thoughts on the Division Series:
NEW YORK -- All around him was chaos. Small boys -- and grown men acting like small boys -- were bouncing around the room, spraying what had to be the cheapest alcohol-free wine in New York City, and old men were turning the hallway outside the Detroit Tigers clubhouse into their personal cigar bar and yet no one was calmer than Delmon Young -- not counting the sleeping infant being held in his mother's arms.
Thanksgiving Day 2008 shows where Detroit has been.
Now that they've dispatched the Yankees in five games, is it enough for the Tigers to take the same approach to the ALCS matchup against the Texas Rangers that they used in beating up the AL East champs? What issues came up in the Division Series that they need to address, and what changes are necessitated by their new opponent? Here's some changes the Tigers should make for the series against Texas.
In the middle of July, Ivan Nova was pitching for Scranton-Wilkes Barre, a Triple-A team, and Doug Fister was pitching for the last-place Seattle Mariners, an approximation of a Triple-A team. Tonight they get the ball in Game 5 of the ALDS with the entire seasons of the Yankees and Tigers reduced to how well they handle a sudden death game.
For only the second time in the wild card era, and the first time since 2001, there will by three Game 5s in the Division Series. The first comes Thursday night in the Bronx, where the Yankees will play in their first double-elimination game since losing Game 5 of the ALDS to the Angles in 2005, and the Tigers will play their first since losing Game 5 of the 1972 ALCS to the A's.
DETROIT -- And then ... A.J. Burnett successfully saved the Yankees' season.
Five cuts on the Division Series:
DETROIT -- There's no script in postseason baseball. So why do we keep trying to write one?
Cliff Corcoran will preview each day's games at SI.com throughout the postseason.
NEW YORK -- Game time was fast approaching, and it was difficult not to look at the sprawling expanse of Yankee Stadium in all its vivid colors and see black-and-white. It was 61 degrees early on an early October afternoon before a postseason game, with bunting ringing the decks of the three-tiered ballpark and a living, breathing Yankees legend striding to the mound to throw the first pitch of the day.
Cliff Corcoran will preview each day's postseason games on SI.com.
NEW YORK -- The denizens on the D train, fueled by enough beer but not enough baseball as it rumbled away from a soggy Yankee Stadium, didn't seem to mind. Neither did the two managers, one of whom, the Yankees' Joe Girardi, did almost as much giggling as talking in his post-"game" press conference and the other of whom, the Tigers' Jim Leyland, opened his remarks with a joke of his own ("Heck of a game. It was great."). And, if the grinning faces and shrugging shoulders of Ivan Nova and Justin Verlander, two of the players most affected by the bizarre developments Friday night at Yankee Stadium, were any indication, the players weren't the slightest bit fazed.
While everyone was watching the Cardinals, Rays, Red Sox and Braves, the Tigers were quietly staging a late surge of their own, going 38-16 (.704) over the season's final two months and 20-6 (.769) in September to win the American League central by a whopping 15 games over the course-corrected Indians, the biggest division lead in baseball this season. Still, that wasn't enough to give them homefield advantage in the playoffs, so they travel to the Bronx to face the Yankees in the postseason for just the second time in franchise history and a rematch of their last Division Series in 2006. The Yankees, meanwhile, posted the American League's best record this season, going 97-65 on the strength of the second-best offense in baseball and, surprisingly, the third-best pitching staff in the AL according to runs scored and allowed.
The Detroit Tigers won their 11th straight game Tuesday night behind yet another gem from likely American League Cy Young award winner Justin Verlander, who pushed his record to 23-5 with seven scoreless innings against the White Sox.
You don't need me to tell you that Jacoby Ellsbury is important to the Red Sox or that the Brewers need Ryan Braun to hit if they're going to have a big October. Every team in the postseason -- and the remaining wannabes -- have guys who don't get quite as much pub as those stars, but who will be critical to their success or failure. Here's an X factor for each of the 10 teams still alive in the races.
The start of September should be the time of year that the pennant races are heating up, but with an average of just 25 games left on each team's schedule, only one playoff spot is currently being decided by less than 5 ½ games, leaving the pennant races lukewarm at best. For all intents and purposes, the Red Sox, Yankees, Phillies, Braves and Brewers have their postseason spots locked up, each exceeding a 98 percent chance of a playoff berth per Baseball Prospectus's playoff odds.
Blue Jays star Jose Bautista deserves strong consideration for the American League MVP award, and if someone thinks he's the MVP because he's been the best player in the league, that's understandable.
(AP) -- Jim Thome is back in a Cleveland Indians uniform.
It is too late to rescue the lost season of Joe Mauer. The former MVP and three-time batting champion of the Minnesota Twins is a shell of himself. He doesn't catch nearly as often as he did before, doesn't hit with the same authority and continues to see his power compromised by the transition from the Metrodome to Target Field.
Five Cuts on American League happenings ...
The Tigers acquired outfielder Delmon Young from the Twins on Monday to displace a has-been for a maybe-never-will-be.
On Sunday, you could have flown from Los Angeles to Washington, D.C., and watched all of Gone With the Wind and quite a bit of Gandhi en route, while simultaneously undergoing -- start to finish -- an in-flight sex-change operation before landing, 4 hours and 15 minutes after takeoff, in an altogether different climate, as an altogether different gender.
The Moneyball movie is coming out soon and with a trailer that makes the story seem like a cross between Seabiscuit and Hoosiers, a whole population of people who haven't read the book, seen the term used and misused for the better part of a decade, and don't know much about the Oakland A's during the Billy Beane era will learn.
KANSAS CITY, Kan. -- On a glorious summer day not long ago, Sporting Kansas City president Robb Heineman stopped the tour he was giving me of his jaw-dropping new soccer stadium, Livestrong Sporting Park, and picked up his handheld radio.
Insult me once, shame on you. Insult me twice, duck and cover.
Five thoughts recapping a surprising and sometimes wild trade deadline week:
There may be a bit of debate whether talented right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez is a bona fide ace or a No. 2 starter, but he appears to be the No. 1 pitcher out on the trade market.
CLEVELAND (AP) -- Spurned by Carlos Beltran, the Cleveland Indians traded for Kosuke Fukudome and hope to keep upgrading their sagging offense.
The 2011 trading deadline went from zero to sixty on Wednesday with a pair of blockbuster deals. The Giants and Cardinals loaded up for the stretch run, and the Mets and Blue Jays capitalized on the desperation of those two contenders by acquiring a pair of young players with star potential.
Only by the grace of the woebegone AL Central could a team that lost 93 games last year, has gone 22-33 in its last 55 games and outscored its opponents this season by exactly two runs consider itself a division title contender. But look over there, shopping the aisles of the trade market as a most unlikely buyer, and you'll find the Cleveland Indians, the accidental contender.
Baseball commissioner Bud Selig, who tries to watch every game on TV, says he first checks out the Indians every night, then the Pirates. Or is it the Pirates, then the Indians?
It was 70 years ago, on a mild and misty night in Cleveland, before the largest crowd of the 1941 baseball season -- 67,463 in Municipal Stadium -- that Joe DiMaggio's 56-game hitting streak came to an end. The game became, in today's parlance, an "instant classic." It would have been destined for countless airings on many sports channels had only there been footage to air.
"To sell, or not to sell, that is the question: Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of angry season-ticket holders or to acquire arms against a sea of contenders and by opposing end them? To buy, to keep, no more; and by keep to say we end the heartache, and the thousand natural shocks that baseball teams are heir to."
PHOENIX -- Thank God for baseball. It's the dead of summer, two major sports are locked out, and baseball is the only thing we have to satisfy our sports appetite.
Now that the possibility of the great Felix Hernandez being traded has been all but expunged, thanks to Seattle's surprisingly nice start to the season, it's time to consider the pitchers with a real chance to go somewhere else via trade this summer. And without King Felix (or any other No. 1-type starter, for that matter) available, the list isn't exactly looking like the Philadelphia Phillies' rotation, or even anything even close.
Home runs have been the story as the Most Valuable Player races in both leagues have begun to tighten up. Jose Bautista's power outage has kept the door open a crack in the American League, while a pair of National Leaguers have ridden the long ball to the top two spots on the senior circuit list, bumping the leader from three weeks ago down to third. Meanwhile, members of the exceptional 2005 draft class dominate the down-ballot candidates. Looking at the bottom six men on each list, six of those 12 were drafted in 2005, five of them in the first round, and four of them in the first dozen picks of that draft, and that's without Troy Tulowitzki (seventh overall) or Ryan Zimmerman (fourth), the former of whom made the NL list three weeks ago, and the latter of whom was a regular presence on the list last year.
As if reaching the College World Series wasn't incentive enough, there was an added element for team's competing in last year's Super Regionals: playing at historic, 63-year-old Rosenblatt Stadium in its last turn as host of the CWS. This year it's about being among the eight teams to christen new TD Ameritrade Park in downtown Omaha, Neb. There are plenty of other intriguing storylines across the country as the best-of-three Regionals begin this weekend, highlighted by South Carolina's quest to return to defend its title; the Dallas Baptist vs. Cal matchup assuring that a No. 3 seed advances; and the Texas vs. Arizona State series assuring that a program steeped in tradition makes it back once again.
To borrow a phrase from the suddenly talkative Mets owner Fred Wilpon, plenty of teams seem "snakebitten'' this year. There have been so many injuries this year, particularly to star players (Buster Posey, Joe Mauer, David Wright), that the Snakebitten Six teams, listed below, have to feel something's just not right.
The Twins are toast and the baseball season in Chicago is virtually over. Harsh as that may sound before summer has even arrived, history tells us nothing short of historic comebacks can save the seasons of the Twins, Cubs and White Sox.
CLEVELAND -- Day after day this spring, one ball after another would soar over the fence at the Indians' training facility in Goodyear, Ariz., propelled from the bat of Asdrubal Cabrera. Watching from the close proximity of the same batting practice group, Orlando Cabrera would watch his new teammate and unrelated though similarly surnamed double-play partner demonstrate power he rarely displayed in games.
CLEVELAND -- There's a new type of diversity gaining steam on the banks of Lake Erie. Cleveland has long been known for its influx of Eastern European immigrants who came to work more than a century ago in the city's thriving industries, but now its baseball team is seeking all-comers from around America, hired hands who as often cut their teeth in cities like Huntsville, Ala., and Tacoma, Wash., as they did in Boston and St. Louis.
Nobody had more wrong names than Harmon Killebrew, whose nickname --Killer -- always seemed ironic, in the way huge bikers are called Tiny, or sweet puppies are called Mad Dog. When Killebrew retired from baseball in 1975, having circled more bases with his head down than any player in baseball history, he became the first Killer on record to sell insurance in Boise, Idaho.
NEW YORK -- Eric Hosmer grew up in Florida but he was a Yankees fan thanks to his grandparents who live up the Hudson River in Cold Spring, N.Y. So when a cheer arose from the Yankee Stadium crowd as his home-run trot approached second base last Wednesday night, it was unexpected, though not unwelcome, for the rookie Royals first baseman.
Five thoughts on the Twins' Francisco Liriano's no-hitter:
In any small stretch of the season, a team's strength of schedule can lead us to over- or underrate its short-term performance. This is one of the many reasons to rein in evaluations in April, as hot starts and cold streaks are often as much about the guys in the other dugout as how well you're playing. The canonical example in recent seasons is the 2009 Blue Jays, who opened with a baby-soft slate that featured none of their AL East rivals until the middle of May. A 22-12 start included just six games against eventual postseason teams, and when the Jays began facing the Yankees, Red Sox and Rays, things turned quickly. Toronto finished the year 75-87, playing .414 ball after that strong start. The Jays were fundamentally a .500 or so team that got to beat up on inferior ones for a month.
NEW YORK -- The White Sox entered this week's four-game series at Yankee Stadium having lost 10 of 11 games and with their bullpen in tatters. They had the majors' worst save percentage (14.3), the fewest saves (one) and the most blown saves (six). What they didn't have was a certified closer.
Wednesday, Joe Posnanski reminded us that the most important thing about a team's performance through 16 games is...that it's through 16 games. That may be a full NFL season -- you remember the NFL, right? -- but it's a drop in the bucket for a baseball team: two weeks, three starts for pitchers, 50 at-bats for the hitters, a couple of save opportunities for the closers.
Royals first baseman Kila Ka'aihue has waited an entire career for this opportunity to be an everyday player in the major leagues. But what has taken him his 27 years to build, could be ruined in a matter of a few short weeks. That is how it is in this what-have-you-done-for-me-lately business.
When MLS insiders discuss various clubs' operational ways, they tend to categorize teams in one of two ways: those still running the sluggish, old MLS 1.0 (figuratively speaking, of course) and those having graduated to the higher-capacity 2.0.
Though they haven't been the best team in the American League -- the Rangers have a better record by a game -- the Indians have certainly been baseball's most pleasant surprise in the season's first two weeks. Picked to finish fourth in the AL Central and as one of the half-dozen worst teams in the game, the Tribe has gotten off to an 8-4 start thanks to some surprising hitting and a significant improvement in their pitching staff.