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Around the League – May 15


I think most of us owe Nationals third baseman, Ryan Zimmerman, an apology.

In 2006? Top prospect. Future star. Potential 30/20 guy.

Fast forward to the winter or 2008. He was a bust. A flash in the pan. Probable 15/6 guy.

Now? The 24-year-old is lighting up the National League, playing at the level many predicted two and a half years ago. He hasn’t run yet, but hitting .364 with eight home runs, 33 games into the season tends to make fans overlook the lack of aggression on the base paths.

People called Washington crazy for rewarding Zimmerman’s mediocrity with a five-year, $45-million contract extension in the offseason. It was said, they were not paying for one of the game’s great young talents, but rather the best young player on their own team.

People have egg on their faces, and for once Washington isn’t among the crowd.

Oh, and by the way, Zimmerman had hit safely in 30 consecutive games before going 0-for-3  on Wednesday. That’s not bad.

-Citizens Bank Park has not been good to the Phillies thus far. They are 8-4 on the road as opposed to 8-10 at home.

On the plus side, outfielder Jason Werth, delighted fans by making Russell Martin look like a little girl, by stealing home against Los Angeles, on Martins’ lackadaisical soft-toss back to the pitcher last night.

-So far so good for the Mets. Well, except for Jose Reyes hitting .286 and Carlos Delgado not being able to coax his hip into good health. Johan Santana looks unbelievable right now.

Brian McCann wears glasses, Chipper Jones is in the lineup (for now) and Jair Jurrjens is pitching like E.T. reached out and touched his pitching hand with a flash of laser-electricity.

The Braves are in fourth place, but within three games of the East leading Mets.

And Bobby Cox thinks you put egg nog in his goat milk.

-The Marlins want you to watch the construction of their new ballpark as it rises from the ground up. Florida thinks that idea sounds like more fun than watching their club actually play ball.

No kidding.

-What would it take to win the Triple Crown? Would 48 home runs do it? A .350 average? Would 150 RBI be enough? I always get a chuckle when someone throws out the “on pace for” card this early in the season, but Albert Pujols may be able to accomplish the feat this year.

A recent 4-for-25 slump, has kicked his average down to .323, but he’s hit above .350 over the course of a season in the past and is more than capable of the small tear it would take to get him back over that hump. He is hitting home runs at an alarming pace, leading the NL with 13 long ones. Pujols hasn’t ever knocked in 150 runs, but he’s come close and he’s bringing just over one home per game less than a fifth into 2009.

I’m not saying it will happen, but I am saying the Cardinals wouldn’t be surprised and neither should you.

Brewers outfielder, Ryan Braun, has a ridiculously high career ceiling. I’m prepared for pretty much anything. Baseball-reference.com likens the young stud to Hall of Fame Pittsburgh outfielder, Ralph Kiner.

Bar none, my favorite baseball website for statistics. If you haven’t checked it out, do so.

Pedro Alvarez has hit six home runs to go along with his 20 walks and 26 RBI in 32 games played for the Lynchburg Hillcats (Class A Advanced). Pretty good for a first year minor leaguer right? Well his .200 batting average may have a thing or two to do with his ascension to Pittsburgh. As may his skyrocketing wiff total. He’s struck out 36 times. The Pirates are going to have to see a lot more out of their 22-year-old third base prospect if he is to get that much sought after September call-up.

-I still have yet to visit Wrigley Field.

Does that count as an interesting Cubs quip?


-Don’t look now (Cincinnati fans are anxiously holding their breath, hoping I don’t jinx them) but could Johnny Cueto (Don’t you do it Bates, don’t you dare talk about it out loud) actually be in the process (We know it’s coming, just pull the plug quick doc, quick and painless) of putting together the kind of season the Reds expected out of him last year?

(**%*^&*#$ YOU BATES!)

The righty has a 1.93-ERA, 1.01-WHIP and 6.94-K/9 to go along with his 4-1 record.

Roy Oswalt has had a lot to say of late regarding the use of performance enhancing drugs in his era. The Astros think maybe he and his 4.50 ERA, would be better served worrying about enhancing his own performance.

-It comes as no surprise that the Dodgers have struggled to find an identity in the wake of the Manny Ramirez saga. They have gone 1-4 since he began serving his 50-game suspension on May 7. Though it was the slot Man-Ram occupied, the three-hole hasn’t seen near the effect of his absence as the clean-up spot.

Andre Ethier has really missed hitting forth with Manny on base in front of him. Sans Manny, Ethier has been mired in a horrendous slump, going 4-for-30 while seeing his batting average drop 45 points (.317 on May 7 to .272 as of May 15

B.J. Upton thinks Ethier is struggling. It’s that bad.

-Do you remember that one time, when Scott Hairston was leading the Padres in hitting? Yeah I know, I still can’t wrap my brain around it either. What surprises me most is that he’s actually above .300 (He has somehow managed to hit .337 through 35 games). As a career .253 hitter, Pad’s fans should enjoy it while it lasts. It’s coming to an end soon.

-Is Todd Helton in the midst of a bounce-back year? The Rockies first baseman is seeing the ball better than he has since the 2004 season. I’d say those of you who drafted Helton struck gold, but it hasn’t yet been proven that anyone actually took him in a fantasy draft.

-I can’t believe my fingers are about to type what you will read next – Barry Zito has been throwing pretty well. Unbelievable, but nonetheless true. The Giants are relieved. They were prepared to take his $126-million contract behind the barn and shoot it.

Timmy (Lincecum): “Yeller’s Zito’s my dog Ma. I’ll shoot him.”

Chris Young has been a disaster in Arizona’s outfield. On the plus side for the Diamondbacks, Justin Upton has played, well, very decent. For the first time in his career. Or at least so it seems.


That is the general gist of the kind of radio garbage I have to put up with in the Northwest. I miss Southern California, you know, where they discuss things in sports that matter.

But seriously, now that Seattle is no longer flying on the euphoric wave of a distorted reality — where fans for some reason expected the M’s to keep winning — and Texas and L.A./Anaheim have started to perk up, fans (and sports talk hosts) have started noticing a few of the team’s many holes.

Junior and Adrian Beltre are both hitting under .230. Yuniesky Betancourt has to be one of the most unintelligent, incapable starting shortstops in baseball. Maybe I should say was, as it appears from a distance as though Seattle has finally had enough of his act.

-The Rangers are first in the West and are trying to prove that starting pitching is over-rated. Do you realize Andruw Jones has hit as many home runs in 18 games with Texas (three) this year as he did in 75 games with L.A. last year? I just can’t believe he has a semi-regular gig again. I thought it would never happen.

Generally speaking, guys with a little league swing don’t get P.T. in the bigs.

-The A’s need a better team doctor. An honorable one would have pronounced them dead two weeks ago. Oakland rookie Brett Anderson has had two problems:

A) He has a blister that won’t seem to go away.


B) He has sucked.

I think problem (B) has been the larger issue at hand.

-As Teddy KGB would say, the Angels keep, “Hhhhhanging around. Hhhhhanging around.” That’s all they need to do. Despite their best attempt to prove otherwise, Texas doesn’t have the pitching to withstand the Halos charge once they get John Lackey and Kelvim  Escobar back. Ervin Santana was activated from the DL to pitch Thursday against Boston. Lackey should be back within the week. There isn’t a timetable for Escobar as of yet, as he is in an extended spring training and is eligible to be activated from the DL on June 4.

Zach Greinke continues to impress the rest of the American League. He has been dynamite. Former first overall pick Luke Hochevar was lit up upon his call-up from Triple-A by the A’s. It wasn’t a pretty first outing in ’09 for the young pitcher, but he has too much talent to continue getting worked by the lower tiered offensive teams in the AL.

The Royals are tied for the Central lead with Detroit.

-Speaking of the Tigers, Miguel Cabrera may be an animal, but Curtis Granderson leads the team in home runs with nine. Cabrera may end up in an epic battle for the league MVP with a certain second year player in Tampa Bay, but we’ll get to him later.

-The Twins are two back and Joe Mauer has been hotter than a Chicago pizza oven. He’s hit .455 since returning from the DL two weeks ago.

That’s a Manny Ramirez like streak. Minnesota fans just hope he isn’t using fertility drugs.

-The Indians can’t help Cliff Lee catch a break. He has given up seven runs over his last six starts and only collected two wins. Perhaps that helps tell the tale of his 2-5 record.

-While the White Sox expect MVP candidate, Carlos Quentin to be back in action possibly as soon as tomorrow, the outfielder has been receiving cortisone shots for his bum left heel. Not a welcome sign for the Windy City. Think of a cortisone shot as a Band-aid of sorts; they certainly won’t make the injury worse, but they also won’t help it heal. They just make the wound more tolerable.

A-Rod is BACK! (And hitting .143.) Mark Teixeira is hitting just over .200. The Yankees are floundering and I think I speak for all red-blooded MLB fans when I say – I couldn’t be happier.

It’s a great time to be a baseball fan.

Daisuke Matsuzaka has completed two of three minor league rehab starts for the Red Sox and should be back with the big club in the next two weeks. The Sox have been phenomenal in Fenway, with a 13-4 record at home. They are one back of the Blue Jays and will likely have taken over the division lead by the time the next ‘Around the League’ blog is published.

-Maybe it’s a little too soon to crown Matt Wieters as the chosen one in Baltimore. The Orioles’ young buck has been continuously humbled in Triple-A this year, hitting just .270 with three home runs. Mike Piazza? Let’s just see Mike Matheny first. He did homer twice on Thursday though, so all hope may not be lost yet. Stay tuned.

-How are the Blue Jays still the pace-setters in the East? True, the Sox have cut their lead to just one game, but still.

I’m going to name as many Jays as I can off the top of my head. You have my word that I won’t cheat…

Roy Halladay, Adam Lind, Scott Downs, B.J. Ryan, Travis Snider, Alex Rios, Vernon Wells, and Lyle Overbay.

Wow, I did better than I thought I would. I’m going to take those eight correct guesses and count that as a victory.

-We’ve come to the end of the blog. You know what’s coming. You are expecting me to gush almost uncontrollably about Evan Longoria. You anticipate an almost never-ending slough of ball-washing (*phrase used courtesy of PMS*) and stat quoting.

Well I’m sorry to disappoint all the Egore and Rays fans reading this, patiently waiting for the compliments to flow like wine, but I’m not going to do it. Not this time. I refuse to ramble on and on, propagandizing his merits and qualifications for the eventual summer battle of endurance he will engage in with Miguel Cabrera for the AL MVP.

But it is going to happen. The two gladiators will wage a battle so glorious and outstanding it will be as if Hercules (not the dog from the Sandlot) and Superman came to Earth to fight to the death.

(I’m not sure where that analogy came from but I’m standing by it.)

(Egore is really great. There. I said it. You were right. Good for you.)

Categories: Around the League, MLB
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