Bandwagoning Baseball’s Finality

Has your favorite baseball team been eliminated from post-season play? Do you remain reluctant to dive headfirst into football 24/7? Are you willing to set aside your normal allegiance for the next month and a half and bandwagon a contender for the sake of shit-talking and a possible faux championship?

If you answered yes to any of the above questions, or preferably to all three, then it’s time for you to hop on the shoulders of a more successful fanbase a la Carlos Mencia’s “comedy” routine (yes, I just Mencia’d a Mencia joke). EJSIC is here to rank the possible teams on a scale of 1 to 10; 10 being fully bandwagon-worthy, 1 meaning we’d rather root for Hitler.

Let’s start with the American League and work our way through the pennant chasers there before exploring the National League.

Note: the author of this post is anti-DH, but in the interest of fairness will attempt to reasonably grade the AL teams instead of giving all of them the 1 they so deserve.

American League

1. New York Yankees: THE EVIL EMPIRE! That should be enough for you to realize that only intolerable douches and fans of the Dallas Cowboys, Los Angeles Lakers, and Duke Blue Devils (sorry, repetitive) “root” for these guys. Seriously, they’ve won more Fall Classics in baseball history than any other team. They also possess the deepest wallet, the NY superiority belief, and include Cleveland native LeBron James as a fan. Do NOT bandwagon under any circumstance. Score – 1

2. Boston Red Sox: The Sox are 2.5 games behind the Yankees for the East crown, but with a comfy 6.5 games up in the Wild Card they’re virtually in. This is the same franchise that defeated an eight-decade curse with two World Series titles since 2004. And when the core of that team aged too much, they went out and splashed Yankee-esque money this off-season. While I find them more root-worthy than their arch-rivals, there’s no need to really bandwagon them for their fans have been treated to championships in all four major sports this decade. Score – 2

Smoke 'Em If You Got 'Em

3. Detroit Tigers: Detroit has slowly put the AL Central away over the second half of the season. Aside from playing in a collapsing shit-hole of a city, what’s not to like? They have a chain-smoking manager who puffs during games, an ace pitcher who could seemingly throw a no-hitter each time out, and an alcoholic first baseman. Sounds like a recipe for bandwagon awesomeness to me. The only downside? They’re in the same league as the Yankees and Red Sox so a championship is unlikely to come this season. Regardless, you’ll have a good time. Score – 8

4. Texas Rangers: The defending AL Champs refueled after losing ace Cliff Lee to free agency, and yet they’re right here again. If you like offensive baseball, the Rangers are your team. They’ve crossed home 737 times this season, third best in baseball behind the Yankees and Sox. They also maintain a relatively unknown squad. Some guys (like Michael Young and Josh Hamilton) are known nationally, but many of their better players have yet to receive a lot of national pub (Ian Kinsler and Nelson Cruz). So if your choice is the Rangers, it would help to do some research and not unveil yourself as a bandwagoner within the first five minutes. Score – 7

5. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim: Really, these guys should get a one for having the worst name in baseball. Pick a damn city. I could also give them a one for the owner complaining after whiffing on free agent Carl Crawford this season despite the fact that the Angels have plenty of money themselves. You lost out to a better organization, STFU and get over it. However, the Angels assumed an underdog role this season winning ball games with great pitching. Their offensively challenged team has scored 586 runs to date, the worst of any AL challengers. They’re also 2.5 games back of the Rangers so they have some work to do. Score – 4 Continue reading

MLB Round-Up 6/14 edition

The weekly MLB Round-Up post is back amidst World Cup phenomenon. In case you forgot, we will detail a team of the week, position player of the week, and pitcher of the week in each league. Let’s begin.

Team of the Week

American League – Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Los Angeles’ other team swept the Dodgers over the weekend Interleague series and, in the process, have reached a season-high 6 games over .500. The Angels have also closed their AL West deficit to a .5 game. The Angels seem to lose key players and replace them with less than high profile free agents, yet they always start playing great baseball around the end of May. Watch our for them.

National League – New York Mets. Has there been a more up-and-down team in the majors this season? One week, the Mets look like serious division and pennant contenders only to look like a team competing for a high draft pick the next? A patchwork rotation has allowed the Mets to close Atlanta’s division lead to 1.5 games.

Position Player of the Week

American League – Johnny Damon (Detroit). The Tigers off-season acquisition played in 6 games in the past week posting a .476 batting average. Damon was the catalyst for a Tigers offense that helped them sweep the Pirates over the weekend.

National League – Brandon Phillips (Cincinnati). The Reds are just 5-5 in their last 10 games, but Brandon Phillips cannot be blamed for the mediocrity. He batted .538 and slugged .808. Phillips added 3 RBIs and 6 runs scored.

Pitcher of the Week

American League – Colby Lewis (Texas). Despite a shrinking division lead, Lewis kept his Rangers in first place with 2 wins in the past 7 days. His 1.80 ERA and 15 strikeouts in 15 innings was as impressive as anyone in the same time span.

National League – Matt Cain (San Francisco). When a hugely-hyped phenom gets 2 wins in his first 2 starts in the majors while giving up 3 runs, they usually get Pitcher of the Week honors. Unfortunately for Stephen Strasburg, Matt Cain was just better. Cain posted a 0.56 ERA in 16 innings helping the Giants gain ground on the first place Padres.

Series of the Week – Tampa Bay Rays vs Atlanta Braves. It doesn’t get any better than a 3 game, mid-week series between 2 first place teams. The Rays take a 22-8 road record to Turner Field where the Braves 19-6, which is the fewest losses at home by any team in the majors. Something has to give in Hotlanta.

MLB Round-Up and Look Ahead 4/19 edition

Major League Baseball is entering the third week of the long regular season and we begin this week’s post by looking back over the first two weeks as well as looking forward to the next 7 days.

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Ubaldo Jimenez

Looking back

1. Ubaldo Jimenez threw the first no-hitter in Rockies history Saturday night against the Atlanta Braves (I called Jimenez a Cy Young candidate in the NL West preview, so I now pat myself on the back). The Dominican native is a long, lanky pitcher who throws hard. His fastball can top 100 while he consistently hits above 95. He even throws an off-speed breaking ball at 89. That’s faster than a lot of fastballs. Kudos to Jimenez on his historic night. He should be in line to pitch again Thursday against the Nationals.

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Nelson Cruz

2. Jason Heyward was named the number one prospect in all of baseball by numerous publications this off-season. He has not disappointed after two weeks either. Through twelve games his stat line is as follows: .302 avg, .423 OBP, .581 SLG, 1.004 OPS, 3 HRs, 15 RBIs, and 9 walks. His only bad stat is 16 strike outs, but what else can you expect from a 20 year old in the majors?

3. Nelson Cruz is off to a great start for the Texas Rangers. An All-Star from last season, Cruz is still gaining notoriety around the nation. He leads MLB with 7 homers and is tied for second with 15 RBIs (one behind the leader). Texas will be, once again, relying on the offense to carry the team and Cruz playing this well makes them even more dangerous.

Looking Forward

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Terry Francona needs to turn his team around

1. The NL East leading Phillies travel to Atlanta for a 3 game series beginning on Tuesday. It’s very early to talk about divisional races, but one of the reasons Atlanta’s hot second half in 2009 did not produce a playoff spot was the fact that they found themselves so far back of Philadelphia. The Braves will be pitching three of their best in Tommy Hanson, Tim Hudson, and then Derek Lowe while the Phils counter with Kyle Kendrick, undetermined, and (most likely) Roy Halladay.

2. The Boston Red Sox are in the midst of a horrible start to the season. Boston is 4-9 and all ready find themselves 6 games back of the division leading Rays after 13 games. Jon Lester has yet to pitch effectively. In 16 innings pitched, he has an ERA of 8.44. The Sox host the Rangers beginning on Tuesday.

3. Two series look promising for the weekend games. In the American League, a rematch of last season’s ALCS will take place with the Bronx Bombers visiting the Angels. In the National League, St. Louis travels to the left coast to play the Giants. The four teams have all gotten off to relatively good starts, some better than others.

Baseball quote of the week: “That’s the true harbinger of spring, not crocuses or swallows returning to Capistrano, but the sound of a bat on a ball.” – Bill Veeck, 1976.

Two Questions: AL West

Today, EJSIC takes you to the West division of the American League. The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim have strangled the division in recent years, but it appears very open in 2010.

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
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1. Who replaces departed ace John Lackey? The Angels lost Lackey because, according to his words, he wanted to play for a winning team (and that “winning team” was defeated by the Angels in the first round of the playoffs last season, ironically). The Angels signed free agent Joel Pineiro to take up some of the void, but they will also rely on returning starters Jered Weaver and Joe Saunders.

2. Can World Series MVP Hideki Matsui replace Vladimir Guerrero? Matsui is identical to Guerrero in that both players are declining defensively, but still provide a good enough bat to warrant a spot as the designated hitter. Matsui will bring a more disciplined approach to the plate, but who wants that when you can see Guerrero hit a home run that bounces ten feet shy of the plate (Sabermetrics need not answer)?

Oakland Athletics
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1. Is Ben Sheets healthy? For most of the 2000s, Sheets was one of the best pitchers in all of baseball. Arm injuries kept him out of action last season, but he’s returned this year, claiming to be fully healthy. If he is as healthy as he says, then Sheets can provide a relatively young rotation with valuable experience. Guys like Justin Duchscherer, Trevor Cahill, and Dallas Braden can learn from the veteran.

2. Do they have the offense to compete? The A’s have the pitching, at least they do on paper, to compete in a wide open division. But do they have the offense? They will not be relying on the long ball, instead GM Billy Beane has built a team based around speed and getting on base. Perhaps if the oft-injured Eric Chavez can stay healthy and provide some power in the middle of the lineup, the A’s could find themselves in the race late into the season.

Seattle Mariners
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1. Do they finally challenge the Angels for the division crown? The Mariners seemingly win the off-season every year only to find themselves behind the Angels once again. The Mariners improved tremendously from 2008 to 2009 and now they’ve added All-Star 3B Chone Figgins (former Angel), former Cy Young winner Cliff Lee, and a cantankerous, but good player in Milton Bradley.

2. Can the Mariners have the best rotation in the American League? They have two aces on staff in “King” Felix Hernandez and Cliff Lee. Plus, they are looking forward to the return of Erik Bedard by mid-season. That’s three top of the rotation pitchers if they all stay healthy.

Texas Rangers
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1. Do they have enough pitching? Every season pundits across the nation ask the same question of the Rangers. And each season, they fall short. Now, they’ve traded away or waived their two veteran pitchers from last season in Kevin Millwood and Vicente Padilla. They did trade for Rich Harden who can be outstanding at times, but has struggled with injuries in the past. They will rely on some relative unknowns in Scott Feldman, Derek Holland, and Tommy Hunter.

2. How will the combo of Vlad Guerrero and Josh Hamilton perform? Both players are quality offensive guys when healthy. However, Guerrero has reached his mid-30s and is basically limited to being a DH. Hamilton is still a five tool talent, but he could not remain healthy for most of 2009 after his breakout season in 2008. If the Rangers want to win the division, both guys will need to deliver solid production throughout.