Tag Archives: American league

Baseball’s Beasts are in the East

This week the Baltimore Orioles and the Tampa Bay Rays faced off in an American League East battle.

Before that it was the New York Yankees and the Rays facing off.

After all of the inter division dust settled the margin between the first place Orioles and the last place Rays was a mere three and a half games.

The Baltimore Orioles currently sit atop the American League East standings where only three games separate first from fifth place. Photo R. Anderson
The Baltimore Orioles currently sit atop the American League East standings where only three games separate first from fifth place.
Photo R. Anderson

The order of teams in the division is likely to change many times between now and the end of the regular season with the Rays, Red Sox, Orioles, Yankees and Blue Jays each having a legitimate shot to win the division when all is said and done.

The same can be said in the National League East where only three games separate the tied for first place Miami Marlins and Washington Nationals from the last place Philadelphia Phillies.

As is the case in the American League East, each of the five National League East teams, Marlins, Nationals, Phillies, Braves, and Mets should feel pretty good about their postseason chances at this point in the season.

While the beasts in the east are all within striking distance of each other things get a little more spread out for teams west of the Mighty Mississippi.

The American League Central has a 6.5 game spread between the first place Detroit Tigers and fifth place Minnesota Twins. In fact the Tigers have a 4.5 game cushion over the second place Chicago White Sox.

The Washington Nationals are currently tied for first place in the National League East with the Miami Marlins in a division that also has three games separating the top from the bottom of the standings. Photo R. Anderson
The Washington Nationals are currently tied for first place in the National League East with the Miami Marlins in a division that also has three games separating the top from the bottom of the standings.
Photo R. Anderson

Out in the American League West the margin stretches to nine games from the first place Oakland Athletics to the fifth place Houston Astros.

In the National League, both the Central and West Divisions have a 9.5 game margin between first and fifth place.

This snapshot of the standings shows once again how the most competitive divisions in baseball reside along the Atlantic coast. But the question remains what is it about those 10 teams that makes them so good year after year?

One could make the argument that much of baseball started with the east coast teams and the fact that they are still competitive could be in direct result of their longevity as franchises.

While it is true that the bulk of the teams in the East Divisions have long histories that does not account for the three World Series appearances by the relatively young Florida based teams.

Despite one of the lowest payrolls in baseball the Tampa Bay Rays manage to stay competitive year after year in one of the toughest divisions in Major League Baseball proving that money cannot always buy wins. Photo R. Anderson
Despite one of the lowest payrolls in baseball the Tampa Bay Rays manage to stay competitive year after year in one of the toughest divisions in Major League Baseball proving that money cannot always buy wins.
Photo R. Anderson

The Rays have one World Series appearance ending in a loss and the Marlins won their two trips to the October Classic proving that age is not the only driving factor when it comes to success in the east.

With length of franchise existence ruled out as the driving factor behind the success in the East one might be tempted to say payroll is the key to what makes baseball on the East coast so much more competitive than the western counterparts.

While it is certainly true that the New York Yankees and Philadelphia Phillies are not shy about spending money to sign players, the current teams atop the National League East and American League East, the Marlins and Orioles respectively, have some of the lowest payrolls in baseball.

Additionally the Tampa Bay Rays have shown year after year that they can be competitive despite a payroll that is a fraction of the size of some of the big spenders in the division.

So one cannot use history or finances to point to as reasons behind the competitive balance in the Eastern Divisions of Major League Baseball.

A third possible reason behind the success of the Eastern Division franchises that could be pointed to by some is the proximity of the teams to each other that leads to heated rivalries.

While it is true that the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees have proximity as well as a heated rivalry that has spanned over a century there are rivalries in all divisions in Major League Baseball so the Eastern Division teams cannot claim a monopoly on that reason either.

In the final analysis one cannot really point to why the 10 Eastern Division teams seem so much more evenly matched than the other 20 teams in baseball.

Sometimes there are not simple answers for things.

One does not need to know how exactly it is that the Earth spins down to the molecular level to appreciate that it prevents people from floating off into outer space any more than one needs to know the complete formula for the success the teams in the Eastern Divisions.

Sometimes in life it is just best to enjoy the resulting sausage without having to see how it was made, and right now there is some very tasty sausage being made in the American and National League East Divisions.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I am suddenly craving some bratwurst for some reason.

Copyright 2014 R. Anderson

Championships are Not Won in April but They Can be Lost in April

It has been said that championships are not won in April but that they can certainly be lost.

That is to say that a team’s early success does not always carry over throughout the course of a full season as many things can happen between Opening Day and Game One of the World Series to shape a team’s fortunes and in some cases misfortunes.

While a team winning the bulk of their games early in a season does not guarantee continued success, a team that loses most of their games early on will in most cases continue that trend throughout the season.

While it is certainly neither the time nor place for celebration or despair in any of the 30 Major League Ballparks this early in the season it is certainly worth looking at some early trends in terms of expectations met and expectations that have not been met.

In the American League East few should be surprised that the New York Yankees are leading the standings during the Derek Jeter Swan Song Tour.

With the  New York Yankees in first place in the American League East very few people are likely to bet against them going deep into the postseason during Derek Jeter's Farewell Tour. Photo R. Anderson
With the New York Yankees in first place in the American League East very few people are likely to bet against them going deep into the postseason during Derek Jeter’s Farewell Tour.
Photo R. Anderson

Some may go so far as to suggest that the baseball stars will align so that Jeter’s last game occurs as a World Series Champion. That is not to say that baseball is rigged but there are certainly odd occurrences now and then. I am looking at you Boston Red Sox.

The rest of the American League East offers a few surprises.

Few would have thought that the defending World Series Champion Boston Red Sox who famously healed an entire region last year with a title following a terrorist attack at a marathon would be in last place in the division.

The Tampa Bay Rays who many predicted as a World Series bound team are also struggling a bit due to injuries to their starting rotation but it is likely that they will bounce back from the early season struggles and become the playoff team that many predicted them to be.

While the New York Yankees may be the current frontrunners in the East, one cannot discount Joe Maddon's Tampa Bay Rays since no team has done more with less over the past five seasons. Photo R. Anderson
While the New York Yankees may be the current frontrunners in the East, one cannot discount Joe Maddon’s Tampa Bay Rays since no team has done more with less over the past five seasons.
Photo R. Anderson

The Toronto Blue Jays and Baltimore Orioles certainly cannot be ruled out as well in what is often the most hotly contested division in all of baseball.

Traveling further down the geographic standings brings the focus on the American League Central where the usual suspects seem to be doing the usual things early on.

The Detroit Tigers will likely continue their reign atop the division while fighting off the advances of the Kansas City Royals who continue to improve each season.

The Chicago White Sox, Minnesota Twins and Cleveland Indians will likely string together some impressive victories throughout the season but it is unlikely that they will rise to the top of the standings based on their early sample of work.

Out in the American League West the Oakland Athletics are in first place and the Houston Astros are in last place.

No real surprises there.

While the Texas Rangers will look to return to postseason play in the post Nolan Ryan era a more intriguing thing to watch in the division will be whether the Astros can break their streak of consecutive 100 loss seasons.

Early indications point to another long season for the Houston Astros. Fans can take comfort in the return of the view of the skyline however. Photo R. Anderson
Early indications point to another long season for the Houston Astros. Fans can take comfort in the return of the view of the skyline however.
Photo R. Anderson

Early indications certainly point to it being another very long season in Minute Maid Park but at least fans have a view of downtown again to entertain them during lopsided losses by the home team.

The Seattle Mariners and Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim will look to get some bang from their hefty payroll bucks and should easily finish higher than the Astros but it is doubtful that they will break the grasp the Rangers and Athletics have atop the division.

With the American League shaping up with few surprises it is time to look at the National League and any potential surprises or unexpected trends from the early parts of the season.

The National League East has the Atlanta Braves in cruise control atop the standings. With their days in Turner Field numbered it would be nice to see the Braves give the Ballpark a final taste of postseason play before it is reduced to a pile of rubble.

The Atlanta Braves look like the team to beat so far in the National League East. Photo R. Anderson
The Atlanta Braves look like the team to beat so far in the National League East.
Photo R. Anderson

The Washington Nationals, New York Mets, and Philadelphia Phillies will try to keep things interesting but the division does seem to have a heavy “tomahawk chop” feel to it with the Braves going the distance.

The Miami Marlins hold their familiar spot at the bottom of the standings showing that a Ballpark without payroll can lead to a very long couple of seasons.

The National League Central is shaping up to look like the division normally looks with the Milwaukee Brewers and St. Louis Cardinals near the top and the Pittsburgh Pirates and Chicago Cubs near the bottom.

It is likely that the 100th Anniversary season at Wrigley Field will end like many of the previous years with the Cubs shut out of the postseason.

The Cincinnati Reds will likely hold their familiar spot in third place in the division although Billy Hamilton will certainly give the Reds’ fans something exciting to watch as he scorches the base path with his base stealing speed.

Current Cincinnati Red Billy Hamilton stole a record number of bases in the Minor Leagues  and became immortalized as a bobble head. The real life version is likely to entertain Reds fans for years to come. Photo R. Anderson
Current Cincinnati Red Billy Hamilton stole a record number of bases in the Minor Leagues and became immortalized as a bobble head. The real life version is likely to entertain Reds fans for years to come.
Photo R. Anderson

As for the National League West the Los Angeles Dodgers are leading the pack with the Arizona Diamondbacks currently having the worst record in all of baseball.

The Colorado Rockies, San Francisco Giants and San Diego Padres will keep things competitive but the West has a feel of Dodger Blue as long as they don’t implode down the stretch.

While the standings in all six divisions are likely to change through the course of the season early indications do seem to point to a postseason filled with the usual suspects.

Of course there are no guarantees in baseball. Teams will need to battle through injuries and other factors as they approach October.

The only peak the Astros are likely to see this season will come in the form of Tal's Hill in center field. Photo R. Anderson
The only peak the Astros are likely to see this season will come in the form of Tal’s Hill in center field.
Photo R. Anderson

The teams that peak at the right time are the ones that win it all in the end. For some teams that peak occurs on Opening Day and lasts the whole season long. Other teams are more slow burners and need to build up to their peak.

Then there are the teams who are stuck in the valley where the only peak they see is the pitcher’s mound or in the case of the Houston Astros, Tal’s Hill.

Now if you’ll excuse me, all of this talk about peaks and valleys has me craving a mountain view.

Copyright 2014 R. Anderson

October Classic Starts Tonight

Tonight marks the start of the 2013 World Series pitting the National League Champion St. Louis Cardinals against the American League Champion Boston Red Sox.

With the American League winning this year’s All-Star Game, home field advantage falls to the Red Sox which means that Fenway Park will be host to yet another Opening Game of the Fall Classic.

The fact that the Red Sox made it to the World Series and have home field advantage should not be that big of a surprise to anyone who paid attention to the standings this year.

For most of the season the Red Sox were the most dominant team in the American League. And as champions of the American League East they played one of the toughest schedules in all of baseball with numerous games against the Baltimore Orioles, Tampa Bay Rays, and New York Yankees.

It should almost be a given that the winner of the American League East goes directly to the World Series each year since the competition in the division is that tough year after year.

After winning the East the Red Sox still had to defeat the Tampa Bay Rays in the American League Division Series.

While the Red Sox were the best team in the American League for most of the season the Cardinals were setting the pace in the National League.

So while many times the best teams do not always make it to the World Series few could argue that the most dominant teams from the past season made it to the ultimate championship round this year.

And while I pretty much gave up watching baseball this season when the Rays lost in the Playoffs, I will likely tune into the World Series.

That is the magic of the World Series where people watch the games for the history and the excitement regardless of what teams they follow during the regular season.

And while I will watch the World Series I have yet to decide who I will be rooting for.

Nothing against either the Cardinals or the Red Sox but they really just are not teams that I can get excited over. I do not have ties to the New England region or the Midwest so there is no geographical link that would pull me one way or the other.

Also, can I in good faith root for the team that eliminated my team from the Playoffs? There are some that say that rooting for the team that eliminates your team allows you to say that your team lost to the eventual champion so that is a good thing.

There is another school of thought that says to root for the team that did not beat your team since one doesn’t want the team that knocked out their team to be crowned champion.

Of course there are other factors at play that would have some conspiracy theorists saying that the fact that the Red Sox are in the World Series has less to do with them playing better than the other 14 teams in the American League and more to do with the Hollywood element of what happened in Boston a few months back and the need to wrap things up with a pretty little bow.

For those who may have forgotten there was an attack during the Boston Marathon this year.

Following the attacks, the Boston Red Sox became a symbol of the region’s resolve and determination to fight back against senseless attacks.

Throughout Major League Baseball teams showed their solidarity for the people of Boston by among other things playing Sweet Caroline, a Fenway Park eighth inning staple in their ballparks as well.

As if that weren’t enough, there were even live performances by Neil Diamond pretty much everywhere you looked.

And of course there was David “Big Papi” Ortiz standing on the field at Fenway reminding people whose town it was with colorful language that any other time would have garnered a fine from the FCC for obscenity but was deemed okay as heat of the moment impassioned speech.

So with all of the factors listed above some would have just said then and there that the other American League teams were foolish if they thought that anyone other than the Red Sox would be in the World Series.

In fact I mentioned to several friends at the time how I figured that the perfect ending to the season in most people’s minds would be a Boston Red Sox Championship.

The only question remaining was which parts would Mark Wahlberg and Ben Affleck play in the inevitable movie about the Red Sox bringing the people of Boston together.

Of course the last time the Hollywood ending was put in play during the World Series it did not really go to plan.

Following the 2001 terrorist attacks in New York, the Yankees made it to the World Series with even the biggest of anti-Yankees fans pulling for them since they represented the region and carried the memories of both those who had perished as well as those who were trying to rebuild their lives. The Yankees were even given permission from Major League Baseball to wear special caps honoring the fallen police and fire fighters.

In the Hollywood version of the 2001 World Series the Yankees would win in four games and the nation would rejoice and start the healing as Major Rudy Giuliani declared it Yankees day.

In the actual World Series of 2001 however the Arizona Diamondbacks were victorious in seven games proving that the Hollywood ending does not always happen the way people expect it to.

Fast forward to this year and the stage is once again set for a Tinsel Town take on the Classic. Of course there is still the whole matter of needing to play the games first to see who comes out on top.

So, time will tell whether the 2013 World Series ends with a Red Sox victory and ensuing Hollywood treatment or if it is another example of the underdog team winning against the will of all of those proponents of fate.

The only thing that is certain is that there will likely be mentions of the Boston Marathon attack tonight and there will be Neil Diamond; lots and lots of Neil Diamond.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some baseball to get ready for.

Copyright 2013 R. Anderson

Where Getting it Wrong has no Consequences

There are few professions where one can be consistently wrong and still keep their jobs.

An accountant who messes up the numbers time and time again will soon find that their employer is none too pleased.

A chef that consistently under cooks food and makes his diners sick will soon find that no one wants to eat his food offerings.

The list goes on and on regarding professions where failure really is not an option for keeping their jobs.

Of course, as is the case with every rule, there are exceptions.

Two examples of professions where routine failures and miscalculations do not usually lead to job loss are weather forecasting professionals and sports prognosticators.

History is full of examples where both meteorologists and prognosticators have missed the mark on their “forecasts.” This failure is usually attributed to the fluid nature of what they are trying to predict.

It is true that weather and sports teams do not always follow the forecast models and predicted paths so as the 2013 Major League Baseball season ends its first month it is a good time to look at what preseason predictions were spot on and which ones clearly missed the mark altogether.

Big spending in the offseason as not worked out the way the Toronto Blue Jays hoped as they are dead last in the American League East standings. Photo R. Anderson
Big spending in the off-season has not worked out the way the Toronto Blue Jays hoped as they are dead last in the American League East standings.
Photo R. Anderson

Let’s start with the American League East standings. As mentioned before, it is the division that I have spent most of my life rooting for so it is both familiar and near and dear to my heart. It is also considered one of the toughest divisions in baseball year in and year out.

As of April 30, the Boston Red Sox were leading the division with the Toronto Blue Jays six games back in last place. The Tampa Bay Rays were in second to last place 2.5 games out of first.

Many preseason predictions showed the Toronto Blue Jays, who spent heavily on free agents in the off-season, running the table and battling the Rays for the Division title. In reality R.A. Dickey, the National League CY Young Award winner last year with the Mets, has failed to capture that same form this year with the Blue Jays. And other off-season acquisitions have also failed to show the sparks of greatness they were brought in for.

With the other four teams in the division within 2.5 games of each other a six-game hole does seem like a tough mountain to climb for the Jays’ new manager and let’s make a deal roster.

History has shown time and time again that the approach of “buying titles” by making big splashy off-season acquisitions rarely works. The Miami Marlins won two World Series titles using that formula when they were still called the Florida Marlins but the success was fleeting and each title was followed by a fire sale where all of the talent was sent packing in a payroll dumping measure.

The Marlins tried that approach again last year and sent most of their talent to the Blue Jays before the start of this season when their attempt to buy the series last year failed.

But despite this cautionary tale the Blue Jays will not be the last team to try the free agent quick fix route to a World Championship.

So with the American League East returning to a more familiar formula of the Red Sox and Yankees battling at the top with the Rays and Orioles trying to crash the party let us turn our sights to the newest kid on the American League block.

The Houston Astros face an uphill climb in their first season in the American League. I think everyone can agree on that fact. What people cannot seem to agree on is just how bad, or how good they will be this year.

Former Nationals turned Astros Bo Porter and Rick Ankiel hope to bring some of the winning ways from Washington with them to Houston. Photo R. Anderson
Former Nationals turned Astros Bo Porter and Rick Ankiel hope to bring some of the winning ways from Washington with them to Houston.
Photo R. Anderson

Before the season many sports prediction experts tapped the Astros as being the worst team in baseball for the third straight year with at best 50 wins over the course of the 161 game season.

Of course a funny thing happened during the first month of the season with the Astros winning 8 games or roughly 10 percent of the total number of wins most people thought they would have all year.

And yes, there have been some really one sided games and pitching issues in the first inning that have led to insurmountable leads for the opponents and really ugly losses for the Astros.

There have also been some quality wins over some tough opponents in the Rangers, Yankees and Angels. As well as four wins over their American League West division foe Seattle Mariners. And one more thing, The Miami Marlins have a worse record than the Astros and several teams have only one more win than Houston.

Does this mean that the Astros will go on a tear and win 60 or 70 games this year? Not necessarily. But, it does show that at this point in the season the team everybody wrote off in Spring Training has shown they have a little more fight and spirit than they were given credit for.

While things in the American League seem to be bucking many of the preseason trends, things in the National League are going a little more to plan at the completion of the first month of the season.

Just kidding, the National League is equally as crazy as the American league at this point in the season.

Currently trailing the Atlanta Braves the Washington Nationals are hoping to take manager Davey Johnson to the World Series in his last season at the helm. Photo R. Anderson
Currently trailing the Atlanta Braves the Washington Nationals are hoping to take manager Davey Johnson to the World Series in his last season at the helm.
Photo R. Anderson

I mean did anyone really expect that the Colorado Rockies would be leading the National League West and be two games ahead of the World Champion San Francisco Giants?

And back east did anyone expect the Atlanta Braves to be 3.5 games ahead of the Washington Nationals who had the best record in the regular season last year?

While there is still time for the forecasts to turn more in favor of the preseason numbers after the first month of the season there are certainly trends to support that many people just missed the mark on their predictions.

Personally I like when the predictions don’t go as planned since that shows that the game is unpredictable and anyone can win on any given day.

If all of the outcomes were known in advance it would make for a very boring season. So I salute the men and women whose preseason predictions missed the mark and say “let’s play ball for the next five months or so.”

Now if you’ll excuse me it is time to watch the weather forecast to see if I do or do not need an umbrella. Of course, they have a 50/50 chance of being both right and wrong.

Copyright 2013 R Anderson