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.
Cloudy With A Chance Of Laughs: World Series Pitcher Crashes Local News Broadcast
We are used to seeing athletes make the transition from sports star to media member after retirement, but rarely do we meet current players who came into the pros already equipped with a journalism or broadcast background.
Derrick Holland is the Chupacabra of athletes. The Texas Rangers pitcher is great at his day job, studied journalism and broadcasting in college and has a fantastic sense of humor. Covering a guy like him in a baseball clubhouse must provide some comic relief for reports since American’s pasttime might be the toughest sport to cover for a variety of reasons (clubhouse culture, number of games, seemingly endless hours of media availability, etc).
The national audience got its first peek at the lefty’s wacky personality during game five of the World Series last season when Holland broke out his impressions of Harry Caray and Arnold Schwarzenegger on air.
A few months after the Rangers gut-wrenching game seven loss to the St. Louis Cardinals, Holland was back on television laughing and having a good time as he crashed the weather set at WFAA Channel 8 in Dallas. Check out Holland as he relived his college news channel glory days in front of the WFAA cameras. As someone who once attempted to do weather on the morning show at my old station (KIDK, CBS in Idaho Falls, ID), I can confirm what Holland makes quite clear…it isn’t as easy as it looks! Enjoy.
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.
Game On In Texas: Rangers Purposely Built Visitors Bullpen To Be A Pain In The…?
The World Series has played out like a soap opera thus far, with Monday’s game five win by the Texas Rangers serving up the strangest script yet. A series of blunders by the St. Louis Cardinals certainly helped lead the home team to a 4-2 victory and a 3-2 series lead, leaving many wondering how such an experienced skipper like Tony La Russa could allow so many miscues when the stakes were so high.
A bit of inside information from one of TV’s more notable sports writers might help explain part of the snafu, as well as lend some credibility to La Russa’s seemingly silly explanation.
La Russa explained his mismatches on the mound as bullpen bloopers of sorts, citing poor communication between the dugout and the bullpen. The Cards manager said that the bullpen coach misheard his instructions over the phone, probably due to the high volume of the crowd noise.
Shout out to Tony Reali, host of ESPN’s Around The Horn for posting an outtake from Tuesday’s show (posted above) where guest Tim Cowlishaw of The Dallas Morning News said that the visitors bullpen’s sketchy placement and set-up was purposely built that way, putting the away team at a disadvantage. Rangers Ballpark in Arlington was built in 1994 and has often been criticized for not having been built with a retractable roof, considering the sweltering Texas summers.
From multiple camera angles on the TV broadcast, it looks like you can’t see inside the bullpen from the dugout, which, I’d bet, the visiting team finds slightly annoying. In an ABC News article, La Russa addressed previous bullpen incidences at other ball parks, saying, “Yeah, smoke signals from the dugout. There are times, like what happened in Philadelphia (during the first round of the playoffs). The phone went out, and so we used cell phones. And then the Phillies brought down walkie talkies, and they fixed the phone.”
I’ve heard of stadiums and arenas undergoing renovations and purposely leaving the visitors locker room untouched for that same reason; to keep a bunch of big, strong, tough athletes in a small, confined and uncomfortable space before games. Within reason, I say it’s a pretty solid display of gamesmanship on the part of home team management and ownership. This kind of stuff shouldn’t affect great teams anyway. Rangers Ballpark in Arlington did undergo renovations heading into the 2011 baseball season, clearly, none of which included the visitors bullpen. I fully expect the Busch Squirrel to exact revenge on the Rangers in St. Louis, completely chewing through the Texas dugout-to-bullpen phone line all together!
Click here for ABC News’ story on Bullpen-gate. http://abcnews.go.com/Sports/wireStory/cardinals-bullpen-relief-game-14807061
Have you ever set foot in an MLB dugout? I would rather lick a city sidewalk then walk barefoot in a dugout. I’m not kidding. The dirt, water, Gatorade and sunflower seeds aren’t so bad, but puddles of brown chew spit with floating pieces of tobacco, mucus, and bits of food that only one’s dental floss should see is what really gets me.
The truth is that disgusting dugouts doesn’t even make the list of important reasons why a group of senators and health officials from St. Louis and Dallas are asking the players union to agree to toss the tins and play a tobacco-free World Series.
In April of this year the U.S. Congress held hearings on banning smokeless tobacco in Major League Baseball and even MLB commissioner Bug Selig supports the idea. With the players not on board (we’ll get to that in a minute), all that a group of senators could do was send letters to the players union urging them to consider the impact that chewing tobacco and dipping during the nationally televised World Series, which begins Wednesday, could have on millions of children.
The Associated Press obtained the letters sent by Democrat senators from Illinois, New Jersey, Connecticut and Iowa to union head Michael Weiner, which read, in part, “when players use smokeless tobacco, they endanger not only their own health, but also the health of millions of children who follow their example.”
Baseball’s current collective bargaining agreement expires in December of this year so putting the pressure on at this time is a strategic move in hopes of implementing a ban through the next CBA. In June, Weiner said the union would make an effort to address the issue in negotiations, but a few months earlier when the issue came up on Capitol Hill in April, the Major League Players Association said it discourages players from using smokeless tobacco but would not encourage a ban on the practice. David Prouty of the Players Association said at the time, “We will educate players as to why they should not use it. There is a tension here, because many players do not think they should be banned from using a product which congress has so far, deemed to be legal.”
Flawed logic my friend. Alcohol is legal, yet not allowed to be consumed on the baseball diamond (don’t feel bad for these guys, as we now know, some are drinking during the games inside the clubhouse instead of on the bench, so no biggie there). Cigarettes are also banned from stadiums, and are even outlawed from being smoked on city streets in places like Calabasas and Santa Monica, California, yet are still legal to purchase and use elsewhere. In fact, smokeless tobacco has been banned in both collegiate and minor league baseball for decades.
A few months ago, HBO’s Real Sports with Bryant Gumble did a story on smokeless tobacco in baseball, claiming nearly one third of MLB players use it. Ike Davis of the New York Mets, who started the habit at age 16 said, “why would you want to start that? It dissent make sense.” Reporter Jon Frankel followed up asking, “so why do you keep doing it?” Davis replied, “it’s called addiction.”
Many baseball players who dip or chew will tell you it’s a disgusting habit they wish they never picked up. So why would you want to expose others to that same fate? In his piece, Frankel interviewed a dentist and professor of public health at Harvard University who studied the topic. The New England native conducted a study using the 2004 World Series featuring his hometown Boston Red Sox and St. Louis Cardinals. The study found nine whole minutes worth of public use, as in, noticeably seeing tobacco on screen (chewing, spitting, bulge in the mouth, etc), and that five million children between the ages of 12 and 17 years old were watching.
While many players feel like an official ban is too much policing for their liking, I would argue that they are already policed in just about everything from daily schedules to the uniforms they wear. The AP article about the tobacco-free World Series plea says that some players are open to the ban on smokeless tobacco, which is great.
Athletes and entertainers alike often say that they shouldn’t be our children’s role models, but that we, as parents should be the ones setting examples for our kids. I agree, in large part, which is all the more reason why I think smokeless tobacco, which is a proven cause of several cancers, should be banned from major league ballparks.
As a reporter covering the Boston Red Sox, not one day went by where I didn’t see several canisters of chewing tobacco in almost every locker in the clubhouse. Those shiny tins were always the first things on the shelves to grab my attention for some reason. I wonder if the same was true for now 7-year-olds D’Angelo Ortiz and little Victor Martinez, both of whom would come to work with their daddies, David and Victor, donning little uniforms and all, nearly every single home game. I hope Cardinals and Rangers players consider their own children before scooping some dip into their mouths on Wednesday night.
For the Associated Press article with all of the details of the senators’ efforts to have a tobacco-free World Series, click here http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5ivlkZ-nWu3Um7FF-xOcWDxhf91Jw?docId=833af3149044498e8e6a6d05a26974f7
To watch the Real Sports with Bryant Gumble story on tobacco in baseball , click here http://tobaccofreeaz.wordpress.com/2011/05/23/hbo-real-sports-looks-at-potential-smokeless-tobacco-ban-in-baseball/