4.12.2005

Week 2 Questions

Well, the season is officially underway and this writer couldn't be happier. Less than ten games into the season, about half the commentators and sportswriters already look foolish in their predictions, which is fine, because in a month the other half will look just as wrong. There is a reason baseball was called the best conversation topic ever invented. However, some specific questions come to mind.

1) Is there an opening day jinx?

Zito, Smoltz, Vasquez, Wells and Radke, had attrocious to poor outings, Zambrano was lifted early in a game (for walking in a run, slightly more forgivable than Wells balking in a run) where the Cubs offense (for a change) spotted him a glut of runs. Plenty of starters had fine days to open the season, and there is a reasonable explanation (for the most part) for all of these starts. Zito is coping with the pressure of leading the A's and still has either problems with his mechanics or psychology. Smoltz had not started regularly since 1999, Vasquez has had all sorts of problems throughout his career, and Wells may simply be getting old. Beer and brats eventually catch up to a man. Radke is harder to explain, but even solid pitchers lose 4 to 8 games a season. And Zambrano still has problems with control, especially when he is excited. I still found it odd how many starters were shelled on opening day.

2 & 3) Are the White Sox this good / Are the Cubs this bad?

The Sox are on top in the Central and would have swept the Twins if they hadn't ran into Johan the Barbarian. Quite simply, at this point, the White Sox are doing the one thing right so far that they've managed to fail at almost every other season. They are pitching competently as a staff. They've always had sluggers, but thus far a solid rotation and a better closer in Takatsu has helped them to look like a team that knows how to win games. Every other year, they've look like a team that found a way to lose them. Takatsu did have one bad game, but in three other chances he has yet to surrender a hit (or even a baserunner). The answer here, is a frightening maybe, and if the Twins lose Silva for the season, there could be baseball in October on the South Side for the first time since 2000.

The Cubs are sputtering along near the bottom of the Central. It has been almost impossible to diagnose this team the last few years. Thier biggest challenge now it to transition from a homerun offense anchored by Alou and Sosa to a hit-and-run singles-and-doubles machine. Whether Dusty Baker will help the team in this regard remains to be seen, but after presiding over the Giants for so many years,(a team anchored by Barry Bonds) his history suggests no. If the Cubs can accomplish this, (which makes the Sosa for Hairston trade make some sense) then their pitching should be able to turn them into a dangerous team. Burnitz may be the key, and if his strikeouts are as high as in previous years (110 to 150 fo a full season), it may be a long summer in Wrigleyville. He alerady has 9 in 32 AB, which is on par with his career rate of a SO every 4 ABs. The X-factors for the Cubs is are Prior and Wood. If they are as healthy as the Cubs would have us believe, they could be great. They do desperately need a new arm (or two or three) in the pen if they want to compete with the other top teams. The Cubs are better than their record, with Wood and Prior. Without them, this looks about right.

(Side note: what is most troubling about the Cubs is how they've won, and lost. the opening day blowout, came from the revamped D'backs, and then they took two from the Berwers. However, the loss that came in their home opener, with a lead in the ninth could become common place if Hawkins continues to struggle. The 1-0 loss to the Padre's may also be a sign of things to come.)

4) What the hell happened to Sammy Sosa?

The other man in the fabled chase for 61, who brought baseball back from the dead after the strike. The Dominican Daddy. The man who, for so long, seemed to bring a rare joy to the game, has six total bases for the season, five hits, no RBI or HR, an AVG of .200 and an SLG of .240. Worst of all, this move was supposed to revitalize him. How could anyone could hit that poorly in a lineup that includes Melvin Mora (who, despite hitting only .115, has at least 1 RBI), Miguel Tejada, Javy Lopez and Rafael Palmeiro is beyond me. His plate discipline has always been lacking, and it may be that pitchers have finally figured out how to sit him down. Sosa used to be the most dependable power hitter in the majors(10 straight seasons with 35+ HR, and 5 straight with 49+), and now he just looks old and tired. He's said he'll retire at 40, no matter what, so maybe he is. Maybe he only has so many hops.

5) The AL East ????

Toronto leads the division by two games over New York and Boston and one and a half over Tampa Bay and Baltimore. How did this happen? Firstly, Toronto looks good, pounded the A's last night, and took two of three from both the Rays and Red Sox. The O's took two from the Yankees, and dropped two to Oakland to even up, and the Rays won two against the A's and one against Toronto. The Yankees and Red Sox have been too busy worrying about each other to worry about teams like Toronto and Baltimore. Furthermore, like the red last year, this lead won't last long for the Blue Jays. $120 million plus payrolls eventually take their toll.

So there you have it, the first official Friendly Confines article of the season. Get out and watch some games. We've all been waiting for this.

1 comment :

Kitty said...

Got any recommendations for good matchups to see on the South Side here? I'd like to go see the Sox, and I'm hoping for something exciting.