Has hell officially frozen over? One might think so with the Dodgers, Nationals and Mets boasting the first, third and fourth best records in all of baseball, respectively. Making some sense at least are the Rangers with the second-best record in the league, but with the Orioles leading the AL East, something is definitely fishy in the majors right now.
I know it’s hard for some of you east coasters to keep your cool right now, but seriously Yankees and Red Sox fans, we’re not even 10 games into the season so please wait at least another month before you completely lose it.
Most season previews and Power Rankings I viewed at the conclusion of spring training predicted the Dodgers would be down in the dumps this year (yet again) but I disagreed and said as much in my own MLB season preview. Luckily, the boys in blue are making me look good as Los Angeles not only has the best record in baseball at 8-1, but that number is good for the Dodgers best start since starting the 1981 season at 9-1…a season that resulted in a World Series championship for L.A.
While the broke (see: Frank McCourt) and seemingly broke down Dodgers appeared to be devoid of any expectations from the national media or the public, that other team across the 405 freeway. with all its glitz and glam, was facing the exact opposite situation with the addition of bazillion-dollar off-season acquisitions Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson.
In a bizarre reversal of fortune, the Dodgers are getting all of the praise while the now Pujols-led Angels (3-5) are bringing up the rear in not only their own division but the Halos are also near the bottom of the entire American League as well.
There is no real battle for L.A. at the moment - the Angels don’t even play in Los Angeles County, much less L.A. city proper, so, there’s that - as this isn’t a fair fight based on the Dodgers early dominance.
Matt Kemp picked up right where he left off as the NL-MVP runner up leads the majors with five home runs, 15 RBI and a .457 batting average. The center fielder isn’t the only hot hand at Chavez Ravine as right fielder Andre Ethier is close on Kemp’s heels with three home runs and 14 RBI, good for second-best in the league.
Now, to the downside. Yes, there is a downside. It’s called the Padres and Pirates.
That’s who the Dodgers have amassed an 8-1 record against. The Padres and the Pirates. Yikes.
It’s hard to take anyone seriously as a contender after the first nine of 162 games in a regular season but it’s also harder to give a team props when their “strong start” comes against two of the worst teams in baseball (thus far).
As for the new-look Angels, the boo-birds are already out making a stink about signing Pujols to a 10-year, $240M contract. Along with the three-time NL MVP came Wilson, the lefty who carried a hefty $77.5M price tag of his own.
The 31-year-old Pujols is off to to a S-L-O-W start, hitting an underwhelming .250 with only three RBI and not a hint of a home run in his repertoire . Fear not though Angels fans because the team is strong without Pujols, as proven by Anaheim’s 7-1 spanking of the Yankees in the Bronx on Saturday.
Remember how Boston’s big bat David Ortiz was hammered by the media during his slow start over the last few seasons? The Red Sox slugger routinely struggled for the first month of the season before warming up and regaining his typical good form in the batter’s box.
Pujols said after the Angels’ Friday loss to the Yankees, “I’m a human. Sometimes you want to press a little bit and try to do too much.” Slumps are often times mental and have nothing to do with physical pain or problems. Signing a contract of this magnitude surely put enormous pressure on Pujols’ shoulders and it’s showing early.
This wouldn’t be the first time Pujols found himself in a pickle. In the final year of his contract with the Cardinals - without an extension in sight - Pujols was hitting .143 through the first 30 at bats last season. How did that wind up for St. Louis? Exactly.
Much like the role reversal of the Mets and Yankees in New York for the time being, L.A. has the potential to be the baseball capital of the country this season.
It’s too early to crown anyone king of anything, so lets regroup after 30 games to reexamine Kemp and Kershaw vs. Pujols and Wilson. After all, what purpose would either team serve in SoCal without any Hollywood drama? Sit back, and enjoy the show.
I’m looking at the National League leaders from last season where names like Matt Kemp, Ryan Braun, Ryan Howard, Prince Fielder and Albert Pujols pop up in the top five nearly every offensive statistic. Fielder and Pujols are about to find themselves in a different column all together after a wild off-season sent the heavy hitters to the American League, changing the MLB landscape.
Aside from the money (both Fielder and Pujols signed multi-year contracts worth over $200 million… yes, 200 MILLION DOLLARS), it shouldn’t come as a shock that guys hitting 37 and 38 home runs (Pujols and Fielder, respectively) are leaving the NL for the AL, home of the designated hitter. Between Fielder’s weight (275 lbs. on a 5’11 frame) and Pujols’ age (32), it would make sense for both guys to make the switch to full-time batter within the next few years.
I don’t understand why baseball has allowed each league to have different rules, especially considering it was not always that way. I love to see pitchers at the plate. Even though most pitchers stink at hitting, I think there is something to be said for every single man on the roster being responsible for throwing and hitting the ball at some point in every game. I find it fascinating watching a pitcher pitch to his fellow hurler, and when a pitcher does get a hit (or a home run, which I watched my hometown Dodgers fall victim to four times last season), the reaction of his teammates and fans is usually priceless.
On the other hand, I get that a guy hitting 30-something home runs in a season is much more exciting. Despite his struggles in the first few months of the last few seasons, the roar of the Fenway Park crowd each time David Ortiz takes the plate is something special. Sure, Big Papi was instrumental in Boston’s World Series titles, but there’s just something about a big guy like that at bat. No need to worry about him trying to catch a runner in the outfield, or make a big play at third, just enjoy him doing what he does best.
The designated hitter position has required the AL to stack the deck with the best pitchers in the game, although the top five guys in each league were all spectacular last season.
If Justin Verlander, CC Sabathia , Jered Weaver and James Shields thought they had their work cut out for them last season staring down the likes of Miguel Cabrera, Jose Bautista, Adrian Gonzalez, Curtis Granderson and a slew of others, now they get to add Fielder and Pujols to that list. YIKES.
The AL West alone looks ridiculous! The two-time World Series runner-up Texas Rangers added Yu Darvish to the lineup and the the new-look Pujols-infused Anaheim Angeles should improve mightily on top of already owning a fantastic pitching staff.
In the AL Central, the division-winning Detroit Tigers will only get better, now with Fielder, Cabrera and Peralta in the same lineup.
As further evidence of a power swing, I just typed an entire blog about the AL without mentioning the Yankees or Red Sox. Saying nothing about New York or Boston says a lot about the direction in which the American League is heading.
The Southern California sun is shinning brightly in Dallas Thursday as Orange County is now the belle of the ball at Major League Baseball’s annual winter meetings.
In stark contrast to Frank McCourt and his bankrupt Los Angeles Dodgers, business must be great for cross-county rival Arte Moreno as the L.A. Angels of Anaheim owner dropped just under $330M to sign slugger Albert Pujols and pitcher CJ Wilson on Thursday.
For a bit of context, check out the following tweet from Yahoo Sports writer Jeff Passan:
@JeffPassan: Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson will cost Arte Moreno $147.5 million more than the entire Los Angeles Angels franchise did.
Anyway, the Angels have only one World Series title (2002) and haven’t made the playoffs in two seasons, yet Angel Stadium ranked fifth in the league in fan attendance last season. Let’s take a quick look at the facts and you can decide for yourself whether or not you like the signings.
Pujols, 10 years, $250M: At 31 years old, the former St. Louis Cardinals first baseman has 10 seasons of batting at least .300 with at least 100 RBIs and has 445 home runs under his belt.
Wilson, 5 years, $77.5M: Also 31, the lefty went 16-7 with a 2.94 ERA with the Texas Rangers in 2011. According to the LA Times, “In 10 playoff games, nine of them starts, Wilson is 1-5 with a 4.82 ERA, allowing 46 hits, including 10 home runs, striking out 43 and walking 29 in 52 1/3 innings.”
By the way, huge props to the LA Times for reporting, “Albert Pujols being aggressively pursued by Angels” at 11:19pm EST on Wednesday. I’m not sure if they were the first, but this story seemingly came out of nowhere Thursday morning, didn’t it?
What do you guys think of the Angels new acquisitions? Obviously, time will tell but it certainly is fun to pull out the crystal ball and make predictions. My friend Lee wrote me saying, “Pujols is not a good long term decision, and Wilson has had…1 good year…we’ll see. I’d much rather have Prince Fielder for 6 yrs and Mark Buerhle for 3 yrs.”
Wilson is joining an already outstanding pitching staff and Pujols is one of the best players of all time, so barring serious injuries or a catastrophic collapse (a la the 2011 Boston Red Sox) the Angels should be in good shape, at bare minimum. Whether they win or lose on the field, the organization has won big, at least in the short term as fans will flock to Angel Stadium.
Despite the outstanding seasons of Clayton Kershaw and Matt Kemp at Chavez Ravine last year, the disarray of the Dodgers organization coupled with a strong hispanic fan base and their desire to see Pujols will finally be the catalyst the Angels needed to get some of the Dodger faithful to make the drive to Anaheim.