Thursday, June 19, 2008

Some MLB thoughts in the Quiet Before the Storm

Well I haven't posted anything here in awhile, but really what is there to say these days? Traditionally, the most boring part of the sporting year is upon us. We have just wrapped up the NBA Finals, the Summer Olympics and football seem like a glimmer on a far off horizon. My interest in the College World Series has been nearly obliterated now that Miami, one of the most talented teams of the last 20 years and my personal favorite were shockingly eliminated last night by Stanford. The great U.S. Open has come to an end and with it the drama in golf the rest of the way has died with Tiger Woods' season ending knee surgery. Wimbledon may pacify some for moments in these "dog days". I will occupy a few Saturday nights in the upcoming weeks with some UFC and other MMA samplings. Does anyone care about this soccer stuff going on in Europe? Seriously if anyone pays even moderate attention to it I would love to here about it. So that leaves baseball. Being here in the summer is just one of the reasons "America's pastime" is the greatest sport. It sustains us when our only other sporting activities might be preparing for fantasy football drafts that will happen in the late, late summer. Here are some small thoughts on the season so far to occupy some of your time.

1. John McLaren Fired
For the manager of the MLB's worst team record wise it looks as if this was long overdue. The reason why of course is while they are record wise the worst their talent had the prognosticators saying an AL West title in 2008. I think the major problem was keeping McLaren as the permanent manager after last season. He replaced a burned out but successful Mike Hargrove last year and finished out to some acclaim. Still, the Mariners made little effort to go outside of the organization and mix things up with any of the numerous qualified candidates. Jim Riggleman will take over for McLaren as interim manager. Now despite Riggleman having prior managerial experience, the road won't be easy with a possible fire sale coming for the Mariners near the July 31st trade deadline. While Riggleman may be a fine baseball man, I rarely agree with interim guys getting the permanent job or in-house candidates getting promotion. If the team didn't do well under a coaches' boss, why would you keep the status-quo. Here is hoping the Mariners learn from prior experience and look outside the organization this off season.

2. The Cardinals are sliding
The St. Louis Cardinals just got swept by the Kansas City Royals. THE KANSAS CITY ROYALS! This certainly isn't 1987. Even with a five game winning streak the Royals are still 31-42 and 10.5 games out of a underpreforming AL Central. I fear the end of a great early season start may be ending for the Cardinals. With Albert Pujols and Adam Wainwright on the DL along with a host of others it would be unreasonable to expect anything from this team. You can only get by on relievers who were converted to starters for so long. The out of nowhere Ryan Ludwick can only do so much. All that talk of a possible early return for pitchers Mark Mulder and Chris Carpenter seem like a cruel joke to Cards fans right now. The truth is this team has ridden some hot players for a great start and with these players now either injured or simply cooled down, I feel the end is near. You may try to tell me they lead the NL wild card and are only 4 games back of the Cubs but I simply say it is not enough consolation. The Cubs started the season out far more talented than the Cardinals and they remain so. Also getting hot and nipping at the Cardinals heals are the Brewers, winners of their last four. They had problems putting the pieces together the first two months of the season, but now they are firing. I would hope this is just cynical pessimism from one doubtful Cardinals fan, but I am too logical to actually buy into that hope.

3. The Rays are impressive and so are the Marlins
It was just a matter of time. I alerted all the doubters that one day this franchise would rise from being a blip of Vince Naimoli's financial holdings. I brag about this team quite a bit and many may be getting sick of it, but this franchise is constructed better than any of have seen. The pool of talent for both today and the future is unparalleled in baseball. They continue to lead in the wild card and hang in the discussion for the AL East division. The Yankees are closing fast, but you have to think no matter how many teams enter the fray of contention, the Rays will be there all year long. Tonight, in a matter of minutes, the Rays will be looking to grab the sweep at home against the Cubs, possibly the best team from the NL. The attendance for this series and last weekend has been phenomenal. We are at the beginning of the monster attendance I have stalwartly predicted since day 1. We are in the first of what I hope will be many seasons watching baseball succeed in St. Pete, Tampa, or wherever they choose to plant their baseball cathedral along the bay. I couldn't be more proud to be able to say that this is the first team I was able to cover professionally. And talk about the Marlins. This is a team I wrote off on this blog a couple of weeks ago and perhaps that is good news for the Cardinals. They have hung in there with a tremendous Phillies team and lie two games back of the division lead. They have had injuries and not always the best pitching and defense but somehow they win. I won't try to act like I know why, I simply do not. I will say while I doubt the long term viability of major league baseball in South Florida, this team needs to receive more attention.

4. Rogers Hournsby must be rolling over in his grave watching second basemen Chase Utley and Dan Uggla placing 1-2 in home runs for the National League

5. I think the off season trade of Josh Hamilton for Edison Volquez is one of the better trades and finest stories we have seen in the last five years in baseball. How amazing would it be if Josh Hamilton would win the AL Triple Crown and Volquez would tackle the NL Pitching Triple Crown. Don't scoff friends, it just might happen.

In due time, I will have my AL and NL All-Star Teams posted on here and of course other ramblings on the MLB as we work through this sports desert together.

No comments: