The readers of LynchyRightNow.Com are calling me out: I've shown middle child-like neglect toward Major League Baseball. Yes, it's true, I'm a middle child and I should show better judgment than the rest of the sports world. Yet I ask you to cut me some slack. The Celtics just won the championship, Tiger won the U.S. Open on one leg, and a British tennis player actually flexed for the crowds of people eating strawberries and cream at Wimbledon (and then was promptly dismissed by the number two player in the world).
Sorry if the first place Rays take a back seat. Okay, I'll make it up to you, and like your parents after a divorce, I'll try and buy you with this article.
The ball clubs we give a crap about:
The Red Sox are putting along, currently sitting in the drivers seat for the Wild Card. Wait, what?!?!?! Yes, it's true. The World Champs have remained one of the top teams in baseball despite injuries to Beckett, Lowell, Ortiz, Dice-K, and a career ender from Schill. However, don't worry, they'll be there in October. I know it's a jinx, but I live in New England, and after three Super Bowls, two World Series, and a golden basketball (all since 2001) I'm that confident. Even after the sweep by the D-Rays in Tampa.
As for our pals in the Bronx, like I said back in April, until they are sitting home in September, I don't count them out. Sure they have a pitching staff as reliable as a ripped condom but they're still the New York Yankees. They still have two future Hall of Famers in the field, Jeter and A-Fraud; a future Hall of Famer in the bullpen, Mariano Rivera; a veteran team leader behind the dish, Jorge Posada; and a very young, exciting starter in Joba Chamberlain. Currently they sit 7 1/2 games back of the first place Rays with a 4-game set against the Red Sox this weekend in the Bronx. The Yanks would be a good bet to trade for a C.C. Sabathia-type starter and above all, were only half way through the season.
Meteor strikes Wrigley and the Cubs are forced to play all of their games on the road. That is the type of thing that happens to the Chicago Cubs and their legions of fans. While they are sitting atop the National League Central and widely considered as the National League's best, they are the lovable losers. The Cubs' 19-24 record while away from the friendly confines of Wrigley Field is anything but impressive. However, the Cubs don't lose at home (33-10... okay so they lost ten times) and like the Red Sox, D-Rays, and White Sox, which are all teams that spent significant time in first place. They dominate at home and shoot for .500 on the road. I like the Cubs to win the Central and then do what they normally do: disappoint. A wise man once said, "You are what you are. Lovable losers."
Fire your manager, go 7-8 since, and remain under .500 as one of the most underachieving group of players in the league. You got it, we're talking about the 41-43 New York Mets. How many teams could add one of the premier pitchers in the world and still remain in the basement? ONE! The Mets. I could continue to tell you how not even Johan Santana and a new skipper could right this ship, but when the Marlins and their $28, yes, $28 dollar payroll are 4 games ahead of you in the loss column. I'm not wasting any more time.
OPENLY OMITTING THE PHILLIES & ANGELS Any time I can take a dump on the Philadelphia faithful and the inventor of said Rally Monkey, I must. It's the 11Th commandment.
The sarcastic "good call" picks:
I'll give you the good before the bad. The Arizona Diamondbacks, my pre-season pick to win the World Series, are 85 games into the season and boast a 42-43 record as of July 3rd. Normally I'd be ashamed to tell you I picked them to win the Fall Classic, but if the playoffs started today this sub .500 ball club would be in. If you're scratching your head or your a**, chew on this one. First of all, while the Diamondbacks are playing a game below .500, the Dodgers are four games under par and only a game and a half out of first place in the awful National League West. The Diamondbacks' two aces, Haren and Webb, are a combined 20-8, which is why they will be in this thing all year long. When the playoffs come, you're marching out two of the National Leagues top 10 pitchers.
I should have known better than to fall for the Seattle Mariners. Everything from Seattle isn't flying so high these days. Starbucks is set to close 600 U.S. based stores, and the Sonics figured a move to Oklahoma was better for them. News to citizens of Seattle. Any time Oklahoma seems better and we're not talking about Big 12 football, is a bad sign. I couldn't (and should) have seen the Mariners and their worst record in the majors -- 33-51 -- coming right at me. But nope, I couldn't resist, and look what it got me. The doormat of the American League West, an embarrassment to all things Mariner, and constant ridicule from my readers. Great. King Felix has turned out 6-5, and former Oriole Erik Bedard is 5-4 with a 3.79 ERA. Not exactly what I was looking for from a potential playoff team. My bad.
The 2009 ESPY Winner; BEST TEAM
WELCOME TO THE TROP a.k.a. Tropicana Field. Normally this article would have included destroying the Tampa Bay Rays, however I think they are three weeks away from being ten games back. Troy Percival's injury will derail the season, and Carl Crawford will hopefully end up in prison. But they just swept the defending World Champs and are playing with more confidence than any ball club that has never had a winning season.
Scott Kazmir, the one guy from the team you know, is 7-3. Matt Garza is 7-4, and Andy Sonnanstine is 9-3. Something missing? Oh yea, James Shields is 6-5 with a team-leading 88 strikeouts. That kind of production from your top starters is nothing to sneeze at. With the Rays it isn't just the starters. Back end of the bullpen guys, like Troy Percival and J.P. Howell, have struck out a combined 77 batters in just 79 innings. Eight-year veteran and Astro castoff, Dan Wheeler, has an era of 1.82 after forty innings pitched.
Back to "The Trop," where the Rays are 33-13. The home of the Rays used to be the place where Sox fans went to relax and get away from the seats built for men the size of horse jockeys. Now it's a place of bandwagon baseball fans, the retired, people who missed the early bird special, and the home of rookie sensation, Evan Longoria. The Rays' third basemen, Longoria, has slammed 15 homers and knocked in 50 RBI's in just 80 games, on pace for a monster rookie year. Carl Crawford, Eric Hinske, and B.J. Upton all have more than 40 RBI's and are hitting better than .250.
I can't tell you that all the numbers in the world and six wins at home against the Red Sox convince me that the Rays have made up for years of horrible play. What I can tell you is that I'm on board with the Rays as a serious contender.
If the middle child in you baseball fans isn't satisfied, I'll be at the Wareham Gatemen Cape Cod League baseball game on Saturday night, and we've got a 4-game rivalry series with the Bombers in the Bronx this weekend. I'm getting there. Trust me.