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Around The League: May 1


-It comes as no surprise that the Athletics are three games under .500 at this point. Those who thought they had a shot this year predicted it would take a late season run. Young pitching takes time to develop. What does come as a surprise is pitching has not been the only problem; the offense has been non-existent.

Matt Holliday is hitting .240 with one home run and only 12-RBI. Oakland has only one regular hitting above .265, catcher Kurt Suzuki is batting .343.

With that said Oakland’s pitching hasn’t been any less of an eye-sore. Only one starter has posted an April ERA under 5.01. The sad part is even without Joey Devine, the bullpen has been among the league’s best.

The starting pitching should start coming together in the coming months but if the A’s have any thoughts of October baseball, they have to get their bats going. Period.

-The Angels are doing what they need to do sans Kelvim Escobar, John Lackey, and Ervin Santana; just hang around. Meanwhile Bobby Abreu has nine stolen bases this month and is tied for the team lead. NINE! Didn’t he turn like 50 years old this offseason? True he is pulling a Matt Holliday in terms of power, but he is also hitting .357. I’ll take that.

-The Rangers have shown plenty of pop, but Josh Hamilton has not. His ribcage injury appears to be healing though and may avoid a trip to the DL. Ian Kinsler has been nothing shot of phenomenal and well worth the hefty price tag auction league owners had to pony up to draft him. Kinlser will likely win AL Player of the Month for his .322-AVG, 1.040-OPS, 7-HR, 7-SB, and 20-RBI.

-How are the Mariners in first place when their three-four hitters are playing so poorly? Is the AL West that bad? Has their pitching been that good? Can I stop asking questions?

Adrian Beltre had to go 4-for-4 Wednesday just to pull his average up to .207. Ken Griffey Jr. has hit just .200. So much for the homecoming.

-The Indians have played .500 ball since opening the season 7-7.  Remember when Victor Martinez hit just two home runs in 2008? Well his five homers and .386 average in April says he is rebounding nicely in 2009.

Zach Greinke has been outstanding for the Royals. First pitcher to five wins this year, only two runs allowed in 36 innings pitched and 44 strike outs equals AL Pitcher of the Month. Without a doubt.

-Count me as one fantasy owner who would love to see a little more consistency from Justin Verlander. His strikeout rate has been excellent (10.93-K/9) and he hasn’t issued many walks (nine in 28 innings) but has been raked all over the yard. From what I’ve seen, I still think the Tigers will take the Central, but to do so, they need to continue getting strong starts from Armando Galarraga and Edwin Jackson, in addition to a more under-control Verlander.

Joe Mauer is coming back to save the day. The Twins expect their all-star catcher to be in the lineup Friday against Kansas City. As expected, the AL Central is as wide-open as ever, and with Mauer returning to a team only one game out of first, Minnesota is very much in this thing.

-The White Sox have the best set-up men in the league in Matt Thornton (2.25-ERA), Scott Linebrink (1.13-ERA) and Octavio Dotel (0.00-ERA). If closer, Bobby Jenks (2.25-ERA), ever breaks down or is sidelined they should be in good hands.

-My bet is the hot streak that has propelled the Blue Jays to the top of the AL East won’t last much longer. They have seven players on the DL, with four of them being starting pitchers. The East hits too well for mediocre starting pitching to do the trick over an extended duration.

-Maybe this merits a full-length blog and maybe it doesn’t, but I’ve been talking with Dan Miller about the A-Rod situation the last couple of days and we have come up with a couple of points that merit mentioning.

A) A-Rod tipping pitches in Texas is akin to to Pete Rose gambling on baseball or the 1919 Black Sox throwing the World Series; on a slightly smaller scale of course. But if it is proven that A-Rod actually did tip pitches, instead of talking about how these new steroid allegations will affect his hitting upon his return from the DL, we’ll be talking about whether or not he deserves to be thrown out of baseball.

Tipping pitches could effectively change the outcome of games, which is one of the main arguments against Rose and the Black Sox.

B) Fans, writers, and talking heads have essentially vilified Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens for cheating and being brash with the media. Until now A-Rod, while completely suffocated with attention and critique, has largely received a free pass due to the positive front he puts on once the cameras are rolling. Think of Kobe Bryant, and how insincere he always appeared post-Shaq.

If Selena Roberts’ allegations are valid, A-Rod will finally surpass Bonds and Clemens in terms of villainy, and rightfully so.

Athletes seldom are the trash we make them out to be, but Rodriguez is a out-and-out scum bucket. And that’s no exaggeration.

The Yankees just can’t seem to shed the A-Rod stench. Each time they think they’re in the clear, another story breaks. Serves them right for re-signing the guy.

-Stop the press! Is Adam Jones finally turning the corner in his young and thus far uninspired career? The Orioles sure hope so.

Evan Longoria is a beast. He has not so quietly become one of the most exciting players in MLB. Even if the Rays weren’t a contender, I would tune in just to watch Egore play.

Tampa Bay is in last place, but perhaps their winds are changing, they shelled Boston 13-0 Thursday.

Jacoby Ellsbury stealing home against New York was flat-out impressive. On the other hand, David Ortiz has been putrid. He may be (gulp) slumping his way into early free agency. The Sox have a club option on his 2011 season, and if they could send Manny Ramirez packing for his antics, they won’t flinch at pushing an unproductive, aging Ortiz out the door as well.

-Mission accomplished catching and passing San Diego atop the NL West, now the Dodgers are attempting to gain some separation.

Manny is great. He really is. Chad Billingsley has been quite the ace, and Clayton Kershaw is young and exciting. But my favorite Dodger? It has to be Andre Ethier. I’d love to tell you that Ethier’s jump in production comes as a surprise, but I drafted the young right fielder in every fantasy league I am playing in this year. Still, the quality of his at-bats have been something to behold.

Can Ethier keep up this torrid pace? Of course not. But the more he hits clean-up behind Manny, the better his chances will be to top 100 RBI for the first time in his career, besting his career high by 23.

Heath Bell is really really good. Nine appearances, eight saves and zero runs allowed. Man, the Padres haven’t missed Trevor Hoffman one bit.

-After a rough start to the year, everyone’s favorite string bean, Tim Lincecum, is back to pitching like a super hero.

Which begs the question. If the ace of the Giants was a super hero, what would his name and power be? What do you think? Here are a few I quickly came up with.

-Electro Spark: He would have the ability to shoot lightning from his finger tips.

-The Grinner: He lulls his villains to sleep with his boyish charm to the point of total muscle relaxation.

-Little Giant: No idea what the power would be, but the name is too good to pass up.

Ok, so I’m not the greatest with super heroes, come up with your own and send them to me. Lince deserves a super hero name.

-Watching Manuel Corpas and Huston Street try in vain to nail down the closer role is pathetic. I don’t envy the Rockies.

Speaking of which, I’ve come up with the perfect analogy for owning and putting your fantasy hopes and dreams on the line with these two Dagwoods.

Attempting to choose between the two is like playing a game of Russian roulette, only with no empty chambers. You’re screwed regardless.

-Would you look at that, the Diamondbacks manned up and actually won Dan Haren a couple games in a row. His ERA is 1.54. If the D-Backs weren’t so atrocious Haren would have a shot at the Cy Young. But they are. So he doesn’t.

-Rehashing another Dan Miller conversation (this one took place roughly 45 seconds ago), for a somewhat talented, albeit underachieving, team, the Cubs are incredibly boring.

Derrek Lee is the captain of the sleep inducers, and Aramis Ramirez isn’t exactly a spit fire himself.

Alfonso Soriano is ok, and when healthy, Rich Harden is fairly intriguing but that’s about it.

Oh, and the back and forth between Kevin Gregg and Carlos Marmol is pretty laughable. Their stats are appalling. Watching them makes me queezy. It’s actually insulting.

Albert Pujols may be the greatest ballplayer of my time. It’s likely going to end up being him or Ken Griffey Jr. The Cardinals absolutely need to extend his contract before it expires in 2011.

Losing a hitter like Pujols would maim the club.

-The Brewers lost C.C. Sabathia and Ben Sheets and yet somehow find themselves in second place at the end of April. Need an idea why? Ryan Bruan is an animal.

-Still anxiously awaiting Pedro Alvarez’s debut with the Pirates. Still four-five months away would be the best case scenario, but even that isn’t quick enough for me.

Miguel Tejada has defied logic as well as gravity. I don’t even know what that means, but the Astros wish his lack of steroids didn’t leave him with a lack of power.

Man, even my Astros quips are lame. This division is so yawn inspiring. Other than Pujols and…

-I love watching Joey Votto play. If Adrian Gonzalez is the poor man’s Mark Teixeira, than Votto has the potential to end up the rich man’s Gonzalez.

What does that even mean? All this poor man, rich man talk is making my head spin.

-Former GM, Jim Bowden, says Stephen Strasburg to the Nationals is a done deal? Good enough for me.

Why would anyone listen to Bowden? That would be as asinine as a major network expecting its viewers to take former New York GM, Steve Phillips seriously. Wait a minute…

-While we’re on the subject, the Mets are really getting themselves into trouble. They have won only three of their last ten games. They lost an very winnable Johan Santana start. They have Philly next, and I’m betting they don’t make up any ground.

-The Phillies are rolling and so is Chase Utley. Second only to Albert Pujols in home runs, while hitting .342, and an OPS of 1.105.

-The Braves have had some sensational starts from Derek Lowe, Jair Jurrjens and Javier Vasquez. If I was Bobby Cox, and obviously I’m not, I would put a stop to the closer by committee approach, and not because fantasy owners have been irately pulling out their hair, but because Rafael Soriano is way better than Mike Gonzalez. It really is that simple. Way better.

I’m very descriptive tonight.

-I saved the Marlins for last because they have been the story of the first month. Josh Johnson has pitched like an ace, as has Chris Volstad. The real reason Florida has started the season hot has largely been how productive Jorge Cantu has been. He is tied with Utley for the league lead in homers and is hitting .365.

On the flip side, Hanley Ramirez hasn’t yet tapped into his potential. He isn’t playing poorly, but not even close to his lofty standards. Dan Uggla is trying to convince us that last year was a flash in the pan. It’s working.

The Marlins have a very talented team, but by the next writing of Around the League, I doubt they will still be in first. That honor will likely go to Philadelphia.

Categories: Around the League, MLB
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