I’m just going to come right out and say it…if you didn’t find last night’s baseball drama to be one of the most exciting things you’ve seen since discount warehouse liquor stores, you either don’t like baseball or you have no pulse.
I’m such an old codger that I can remember first-hand the days of Charlie O. Finley, the chain-link outfield fence at Candlestick Park, and Bucky F–king Dent, and I would be lying if I didn’t say that last night was the single-most exciting four hours of baseball I’ve ever personally witnessed. Being that old geezer, you have to understand this includes Game 6 of the ’75 World Series, Reggie Jackson hitting three homers on three swings against the Dodgers, the ’78 Red Sox-Yankees playoff (hence Bucky F–king Dent), Game 6 of the ’86 World Series, the 1987 World Series (preceded by the August weekend in Milwaukee in which Kirby Puckett supplanted Rod Carew as my lord and personal savior), Game 7 of the 1991 World Series, and all things Bartman-esque.
But none of those things – not a single damn one of them – involved four games occurring simultaneously which held the structure of the post-season in the balance. The Cards took their game out of the mix early by drubbing the Astros, and it seemed the Yankees had done the same on the grand slam by Mark Teixiera. When Dustin Pedroia put the Red Sox in front of the Orioles with his homer, I don’t think anybody in America saw what was coming in the next few hours.
If you are a follow of @Dubsism on Twitter, you saw the prophecy in action.
9:30 P.M. ET
Okay, so I missed on the playoff thing, but after Jon Lester somehow managed to get out of the 6th inning without giving away the ball game despite his complete inability to throw a strike, all you had to do was look into the Sawwwx dugout to see they knew they had just used up their miracle.
Again, the Orioles just won’t go away, and here comes Jonathan “I can blow that save, Terry” Papelbon. But just moments before Papelbon has his soon-to-be-infamous meltdown, Dan Johnson has his moment in Tampa.
That’s right, the hero of the moment is a guy who was hitting south of .130 and hadn’t had a major league hit since April. Toss in the fact that he looked completely overmatched on pitches prior to that home run, and one couldn’t help but be reminded of Bernie Carbo.
Next comes the Papelbon catastrophe (raise your hand if you didn’t see it coming…by now it was painfully apparent). This left the only hope for the Sawwwx in a Rays extra-inning loss.
Then it happened.
12:00 A.M. ET
Evan Longoria stroked the Red Sox into the off-season, all while propelling us into what promises to be an incredible post-season. But it also will push us into a discussion about just what happened.
While the Braves collapse is just as embarrassing as that of Boston’s, it simply is more fun to rub some salt in the collective wounds of the Sawwwx nation. See, as an Angels fan, I’ve hated the Red Sox ever since the Dave Henderson homer in the ’86 ALCS.
You should understand that for the rest of us, those of us not fans of the Yankees or Red Yankees, those of us whose teams have spent a decade playing the Washington Generals to east-of-the-Hudson, bloated-payroll Globetrotters…when either team fails, it is the same sort of soul-filling pablum that makes people watch soap operas. We all love to watch the rich and famous stumble.
And after all that, here we are; another October full of post-season baseball. Let’s be honest, most of the crap I said about these teams six months ago was wrong, so why not go for month number seven proving I have no idea what I’m talking about.
Indeed, how many of those things turned out true? Remember when I said the Yankees and the Red Sox were mirror images of each other, and it would be a race between the two to see which collapsed first? Well, the Red Sox waited until September before they folded faster than Superman on laundry day, allowing themselves to get run down by a Rays team that could be this years answer to the San Francisco Giants.
But enough of looking back…let’s look ahead to the post-season. Here are your eight participants and their odds of coming home with a title.
1) Philadelphia Phillies – (Pre-season Rank #1, 102-60, NL East Champs) – Odds of Winning World Series: 2.5-1
This team is all about the pitching staff, with just enough offense to make it work. It worked to the tune of 100+ wins, and this is the proverbial “team to beat” until somebody does just that. The biggest concern is that in the National League, the team to finish with the best record hasn’t won the World Series since the 1986 Mets, and since the Phillies obviously won’t have the luxury of facing the Red Sawwwx…
2) New York Yankees (Pre-season Rank #4, 97-65, AL East Champs) – Odds of Winning World Series: 4-1
The Yankees are the photo-negative of the Phillies; they sport a monstrous line-up and a pitching staff made up of CC Sa-fat-tia and a lot of “not much else.”
Now, it’s time for some equal-opportunity hating: Are you now, or have you ever been a Yankees fan? Are you under the age of 45? Have you ever said “The Yankees sucked when I was a kid, so I’m not of one these new Yankee fans that came along when we started winning again”? If you answered “Yes” to these questions, you are pretentious douche-nozzle and you would be doing the world a favor if you stuck a shotgun in your mouth.
There’s soooooooooo many reasons to hate the Yankees. First, there’s the aforementioned loyalty-less assloafs who think just because the Yankees sucked in the 80′s means they aren’t some dickhead who needs to be on the winning side. But least there is one less reason to hate them, since that piece of deep-fried monkey nuts known as George Steinbrenner is dead. At least he has a burn-in-hell worthy legacy, like sodomizing New York City out of a billion dollars to build a replica of a 90-year old mausoleum of decency, then filling it with insufferable dickweeds who are now actually proud of their Ruthian douche-baggery.
Oh, and I haven’t mentioned this yet, but you have no idea how much it pissed me off that after Steinbrenner assumed room temperature that I kept being told “You didn’t have to like him, but you had to respect him.” Eat me. The same people who said this are the same people responsible for the impending death of America. George Steinbrenner was a criminal who deserves the same respect a dog pays to a fire hydrant.
3) Tampa Bay Rays (Pre-season Rank #18, 91-71, AL Wild Card) – Odds of Winning World Series: 5.5-1
This is clearly a reactionary pick. Last year I picked the Giants as the least likely team to win, and I’m not making that mistake again. This team plays just like last years champions. They get big hits when they need them, and they get enough pitching to make those hits stand up. Not to mention, if you believe in momentum AT ALL, you can’t bet against this club.
4) Milwaukee Brewers (Pre-season Rank #12, 96-66, NL Central Champs) – Odds of Winning World Series: 7-1
This is the first appearance the Brew Crew has made in the post-season since Harvey’s Wallbangers in 1982. The Brewers finished with a 57-24 record at home, which was both best in the major leagues and a franchise record. Since they will host the Diamondbacks in the first round, that should bode well for the boys from Beer City.
5) Arizona Diamondbacks (Pre-Season Rank #11, 94-67, NL West Champs) – Odds of Winning World Series: 8-1
Don’t look now, but this is a franchise that wins with pitching. They won the 2001 World Series with Curt Schilling and Randy Johnson, and Arizona moundsmen have earned five Cy Young Awards in 13 seasons. This year, the D-backs sport right-handers Ian Kennedy and Daniel Hudson, as well as left-hander Joe Saunders who have all racked up 200 innings.
With all those innings-eaters at the top of the rotation, the D-Backs always more often than not have a fresh bullpen, which means manager Kirk Gibson often can get desirable individual late-game matchups. This also means Arizona tends not to get far behind in ball games, which is part of the reason for the team’s big-league-high 48 comeback victories.
Oh, and as a life-long Dodger-hater, I’m obliged to bring up the quintessential Kirk Gibson post-season moment…I may need a bucket…
6) St. Louis Cardinals (Pre-Season Rank #16, 90-72, NL Wild Card) – Odds of Winning World Series: 9-1
Only the Yankees have won more World Series titles than the Cardinals, and both have won in the last five years. This means the Cardinals are a team with plenty of post-season experience.
They also have that momentum factor I mentioned with the Rays. The Cardinals got hot in September after being 10 1/2 games behind the Braves on Aug. 25. This means they won 23 of their last 32 games.
7) Texas Rangers (Pre-Season Rank #13, 95-66, AL West Champs) – Odds of Winning World Series: 12-1
Texas hit .320 in September, the highest batting average after September 1st, which is the best since this statistic has been kept beginning in 1946. We all know this team can hit, and even though the Ranger pitching staff has the fifth best ERA in the American League, I’m not sure a Cliff Lee-less rotation scares anybody.
8 ) Detroit Tigers (Pre-Season Rank #14, 91-71, AL Central Champs) - Odds of Winning World Series: 14-1
Like the Brewers, the Tigers are another team showing up in October after a long absence. The last time the Motor City Kitties graced October with their was 1987. Of all the great moments in my own personal baseball history I listed earlier, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Game 4 of the ALCS, when Tiger third baseman Darrell Evans became the goat to end all goats.
As far as this year’s Tigers are concerned, you can’t argue that Justin Verlander is the most dominating pitcher in the league, and Miguel Cabrera is the most potent offensive weapon, but the Tigers have some thump in the lineup beyond that. They have a supporting cast to go along with Verlander. The trouble is I simply don’t think they can beat the Yankees.
Whether it’s stocks, fantasy baseball, or the real thing, trading can be a dangerous proposition. There’s no guarantee that the deal will work; only time will tell whether your investment pays off or whether you get to sell you blood to make the rent this month.
But, one thing that is certain; where there’s trading there’s bleeding, and nothing draws the sharks like blood in the water. Since we here at Dubsism are at the same time not willing to wait for two years to see who the bleeders are and stuck in the middle of the Discovery Channel’s “Shark Week,” we’ve decided to give the rating of winners and losers a bit of a “swim with the sharks” twist.
Great White Shark: San Francisco Giants
Key additions: SS Orlando Cabrera, 2B Jeff Keppinger, OF Carlos Beltran
Last season, the Giants were the Remora on this list. It is only fitting that a team makes such a jump up considering the city is located on a peninsula the Spanish named “Tiburon;” their word for “shark.” The Giants pitching staff is so dominant that any addition of offense makes them the apex predator in a seven-game series.
Tiger Shark: Texas Rangers
Key Additions: RHP Kohji Uehara, RHP Mike Adams
The one thing the Rangers needed was pitching. Since there really wasn’t a big-time starter available, the Rangers seriously upgraded their bullpen. This team now matches up favorably against anybody in the American League.
Bull Shark: Pittsburgh Pirates
Key Additions: 1B Derrek Lee, OF Ryan Ludwick
Yeah, I know, I can’t believe I’m writing about the Pirates in August. Bull sharks are notorious for conducting the most attacks on humans; the Pirates in recent history have committed the most atrocities against baseball. The Bucs have been a bottom-feeder for nearly two decades, and even if they swim into a gill net and finish the season as baseball’s equivalent of waste at the tuna cannery, it won’t be because they didn’t give an honest effort.
Mako Shark: Atlanta Braves
Key Additions: OF Michael Bourn
This is a case of a shark that is the fastest in the sea, and a seriously feared predator. If the Braves can stay healthy, the addition of a serious speed threat on the base paths mean Atlanta could easily blow past somebody.
Hammerhead Shark: Philadelphia Phillies
Key Additions: OF Hunter Pence
For the second year in a row, the Phillies are this odd, flat-headed creature. Just looking at a hammerhead, one gets the idea they are completely bereft of the ability to see either forward or backward. With some foresight, they might have seen that losing Jayson Werth would leave their line-up both far too-left-handed and with no protection for Ryan Howard. However, this move solves a part of that problem; another rightie bat in the Phils’ line-up and/or a good bullpen guy would make them the most complete team in baseball.
Blacktip Reef Shark: Arizona Diamondbacks
Key Additions: RHP Brad Ziegler, RHP Jason Marquis
Timid and skittish, the blacktip reef shark seldom poses a danger in the National League West. And yet, this is the second time the D-Backs find themselves in this spot. They find themselves here largely because two trades they made last year, and one they didn’t make this year.
This team entered 2011 looking like they needed to swim into a gill net and hope for a better lot in the next life. But in last year’s Dan Haren deal alone, they unloaded $30 million in salary while getting four pitchers in return, including Joe Saunders, a not-that-long-ago former All-Star. When you add how they fleeced the White Sux for the perenially shaky Edwin Jackson (whose since been dealt twice), the D-backs boast an organization with nine of the top 80 picks from the 2009 draft. After all that, stop and think where this team might be if they had traded Justin Upton.
Stingray: Cleveland Indians
Key Additions: OF Kosuke Fukudome, RHP Ubaldo Jimenez
Much like nobody expected a guy who wrestled crocodiles and handled deadly snakes to meet his maker via a swimming carpet, anybody who saw the Indians as a buyer at the deadline is either a visionary or full of shit. Not to mention, the Indians should get a mention for bringing up Jason Kipnis, who it seems hit about sixty home runs last week.
Nurse Shark: Boston Red Sox
Key Additions: LHP Erik Bedard, RHP Josh Fields
Much like a nurse shark is a large fearsome looking creature that actually has the aggression level of Mickey Mouse on valium, the Red Sox look like a contender until you take a hard look at them. Seriously, once you look past that gawdy offense, you see right away this team has a pitching staff that is smoke and mirrors show in an intensive care unit. Granted, Josh Beckett seems to finally found a way to not suck, Lester is trying his hardest not to suck, but there’s a big drop-off after that…Tim Wakefield? John Lackey? Could somebody in Red Sawwwx nation be sure to let me know when the funerals for Daisuke Matsuzaka, Rich Hill, Bobby Jenks, and Clay Buchholz will be?
To that train wreck, the BoSox only add a questionable big-league starter who had given up 11 earned runs in his last 13 innings pitched before the trade, and a guy who is sporting an ERA over 6.00 in Triple-A.
At least the Yankees can’t pitch either.
Skate: Cincinnati Reds
Key Additions: OF Bill Rhinehart, LHP Chris Manno
Much like the skate is hardly a shark, the Reds are hardly a contender. Granted, they have the reigning MVP in Joey Votto, and they have a Cy Young contender in Johnny Cueto (yeah, I can’t believe I just wrote that either). The problem is that’s only a pair in a poker hand that need three-of-a-kind at best to win.
The Reds really could have addressed some needs; every other team trying to win this shit heap of a division did so. Instead, the played the role of bottom feeder by trading an under-performer in Jonny Gomes for two serious “maybe in a few years” types. This is just another reason why the Reds in their current configuration never should be taken seriously.
Dogfish: Detroit Tigers
Key Additions: RHP Doug Fister, RHP David Pauley, 3B Wilson Betemit
Yeah, I get the pseudo-irony of a team with a decidedly feline mascot being slapped with the Dogfish, but let’s be honest…two of the three guys they acquired are dogs. Doug Fister might be a serviceable #3-#4 guy in a rotation, but who knows what Pauley is, and Betemit just plain sucks.
Remora: St. Louis Cardinals
Key Additions: RHP Octavio Dotel, RHP Edwin Jackson, LHP Marc Rzepczynski, SS Rafael Furcal, OF Corey Patterson
Yeah, we know a remora isn’t a shark, but you can’t watch Shark Week without seeing one. If you aren’t familiar, a remora is one of those little fish that just hangs around, cleaning up whatever bits the big sharks leave behind. Lots of other sharks had a major feeding, and the Cards sucked up a lot of remnants.
Bathtub Toy Shark: Milwaukee Brewers
Key Additions: IF/OF Jerry Hairston, Jr., RHP Francisco Rodriguez
A 35-year old utility player who hits .250 with no power, and an over-priced and possibly washed-up reliever. At least these type decisions are right at home in the NL Central.
The Chum Bucket: Los Angeles Angels & New York Yankees
Just as you would expect, this would a a mish-mash of the assorted pieces left over from those who really didn’t figure out what the trade game is all about. For example, the Los Angeles Angels did NOTHING despite the fact they desperately need another bat.
As far as New York is concerned, re-read the above paragraph and replace the word “Angels” with “Yankees,” and replace the word “bat” with the phrase “solid starting pitcher.”
The Idiot Who Gets Bitten Because He’s an Idiot:
Again, this is something that no Shark Week would be complete without. You’ve all seen this guy, usually a fisherman who while trying to retrieve a 40-cent hook somehow forgets that even small sharks have mouths full of razor-sharp teeth that make an exceptionally efficient finger-removal tool.
Welcome to the world of the Houston Astros, a team who last year actually gave the Yankees, a.k.a. the richest team in baseball $4 million to put Lance Berkman in pinstripes, and this year proceeded to have a fire sale of such proportions that the Astros may lose 100 games a season for the next half-decade.
Whether it’s stocks, fantasy baseball, or the real thing, trading can be a dangerous proposition. There’s no guarantee that the deal will work; only time will tell whether your investment pays off or whether you get to sell you blood to make the rent this month.
But, one thing that is certain; where there’s trading there’s bleeding, and nothing draws the sharks like blood in the water. Since we here at Dubsism are at the same time not willing to wait for two years to see who the bleeders are and stuck in the middle of the Discovery Channel’s “Shark Week,” we’ve decided to give the rating of winners and losers a bit of a Swim With The Sharks twist.
Great White Shark: The Texas Rangers
Clearly, The Texas Rangers are going to need a bigger boat. Rangers’ General manager Jon Daniels played the role of Chief Brody to a tee. Not only did Daniels figure out he’s got a team ready to reel in winning now, he set sail to bag the fish he needed to make this team complete. The Rangers have been playing fur seal to the Angels’ Great White for nearly a decade now, but the additions of of ace Cliff Lee, catcher Bengie Molina, infielder Cristian Guzman, and slugger Jorge Cantu make a frankly scary roster when mixed with the likes of Josh Hamilton, Michael Young, Elvis Andrus and ironically enough Vladimir Guerrero, who was acquired in the off-season from the Angels.
Not only does this make the Ranges likely to seal up the American League West sometime in August, barring an unforeseen collapse, the Rangers become an honest-to-goodness World Series contender. If that weren’t good enough, the Rangers, who are awash in bankruptcy even managed to get the Nationals and the Marlins to toss in cash in their respective deals. Could this finally be the year where a good-looking Ranger team doesn’t get grilled into oblivion in the broiling Texas summer?
Tiger Shark: San Diego Padres
The Padres have spent eons being the bottom feeder of the NL West, so much so they gained a reputation for eating anything that would come their way; they were so desperate a few years ago they were the only team that showed interest in a clearly-finished Mark Prior. However, even a creature that eats everything occasionally gets a gourmet meal. Gaining the services of both infielder Miguel Tejada and outfielder Ryan Ludwick while not giving away anything useful cement the Padres as a legitimate force come October.
Ludwick’s big bat finally provides some protection for Adrian Gonzalez, while his glove complements a stellar pitching staff. As long as they manage Tejada correctly, meaning they play him at shortstop as long as David Eckstein is on the disabled list. Once Eckstein returns, it will be necessary to platoon him with Jerry Hairston Jr. at shortstop. Otherwise, the Padres run the risk of seeing Tejada’s age and lack of range cost them in the long run.
Bull Shark: New York Yankees
Bull sharks are notorious for conducting the most attacks on humans; the Yankees commit the most atrocities against humanity. The Bronx Bombers were likely the best team in baseball before the trade deadline, however, that didn’t stop them from adding Lance Berkman to shore up the DH slot, Austin Kearns to make them even better against left-handed pitching, and (if he stays healthy) Kerry Wood to add the consistency to the setup role Joba Chamberlain seems completely incapable of doing.
Hammerhead Shark: Philadelphia Phillies
Just looking at a hammerhead, one gets the idea they are completely bereft of the ability to see either forward or backward. With some foresight, they might have seen the combination of Cliff Lee and Roy Halladay could’ve dominated National League lineups. Instead, they must give up a good bullpen guy to get Roy Oswalt.
With some hindsight, they might have seen that Greg Dobbs alone isn’t a good enough insurance policy against injury. In the absence of Ryan Howard, imagine how that line-up would look now had they dealt Jayson Werth for the obligatory bag of magic beans. In other words, they easily could be the bottom-feeder that didn’t find the good meal.
Nurse Shark: Los Angeles Dodgers
Much like a nurse shark is a large fearsome looking creature that actually has the aggression level of Mickey Mouse on valium, the Dodgers looked like a contender until the calendar read August. Honestly (and I can’t believe I’m saying this), it really isn’t general manager Ned Colletti’s fault for once. Coletti is suffering the Malachi Crunch of being pinned in between the ugly divorce of owing junta Frank and Jamie McCourt and the over-priced, under-performing Manny Ramirez who is rapidly becoming the millstone around the neck of this franchise.
In other words, Colletti is trying to do his job, but he is in a swimming race in a shark tank with a bleeding side of beef chained around his neck. Somehow, he has manged to make deals for effective B-list players like Ted Lilly, Scott Podsednik, Ryan Theriot, and Octavio Dotel; the trouble is this team needed a couple of A-listers to make the difference.
Mako Shark: Minnesota Twins
This is a case of a shark that is the fastest in the sea, and a seriously feared predator. Just look at that thing; I shit my pants just uploading that picture. But the problem is the Mako wastes that fearsome nature chasing Charlie the Tuna. This is the perfect analogy for the Twins; a franchise that can grow some seriously scary talent, yet has no idea how to get full value on a trade.
It was no secret that even though the Twins uber-catching prospect Wilson Ramos was never going to do more at Target Field than sell hot dogs to the “ya, you betcha” Minnesota crowd as long as God in a Mask Joe Mauer is a Twin uniform. Sure it was obvious Ramos was the chum to catalyze any deal, but with high-quality bait you expect a high-quality catch.
To be blunt, Ramos should have got the Twins Miss Universe, but Matt Capps is Miss Iowa. Now don’t misunderstand us here, while Iowa may be an acronym for “Individuals Out Watering Animals,” Miss Iowa is a hottie in her own right. But unless she becomes Miss Universe, she’s a decked-out Cadillac Seville in a world of Rolls-Royce Silver Shadows. In other words, Capps is a fully-loaded, brand new Cadillac for which the Twins paid $750,000.
Blacktip Reef Shark: Arizona Diamondbacks
Timid and skittish, the blacktip reef shark seldom poses a danger in the National League West. However, teams wading through Arizona do occassionally run the risk of having their legs mistakenly bitten. However, this timid nature leads some to believe that this shark may be an endangered species when in fact they may have put a screwing to a couple of larger sharks in the Baseball ocean.
Frankly, I’m amazed to hear people who think the Diamondbacks got screwed in the Dan Haren trade. Keep in mind this is a franchise in need of swimming into a gill net and hoping for a better lot in the next life. Just in the deal with Angels alone, they unloaded $30 million in salary while getting four pitchers in return, including Joe Saunders, a not-that-long-ago former All-Star. When you add how they fleeced the White Sux for the perenially shaky Edwin Jackson, the D-backs now boast a farm system stocked with nine of the top 80 picks from last year’s draft.
Remora: San Francisco Giants
Yeah, we know a remora isn’t a shark, but you can’t watch Shark Week without seeing one. If you aren’t familiar, a remora is one of those little fish that just hangs around, cleaning up whatever bits the big sharks leave behind. Lots of other sharks had a major feeding, and the Giants got a few nice bits in relievers Ramon Ramirez and Javier Lopez. Plus, the bit of “addition by subtraction” that happened by shipping Bengie Molina to Texas, thus opening the way Buster Posey to look like a right-handed coming of God In a Mask Joe Mauer could easily move the Giants up the food chain.
The Chum Bucket:
Just as you would expect, this would a a mish-mash of the assorted pieces left over from those who really didn’t figure out what the trade game is all about. For example, the Los Angeles Angels did net a nice catch in Dan Haren, but this team really needed a big bat at a corner infield position/designated hitter position (Adam Dunn, anyone?). When you combine that with the price of the Haren deal, it’s pretty hard to say the Halos helped themselves for the long term. Another team that needed offensive firepower and didn’t get it were the White Sux. Not only they not get Adam Dunn, Lance Berkman shot down the Sux with his no-trade clause. They still can make this worse by engineering one of those Kenny Williams “waiver wire” specials by grabbing Manny Ramirez. Plus, Ken Griffey, Jr. is still out there – oh wait, Williams has already made that mistake before.
Then there’s the teams who added nothing. The Cincinnati Reds find themselves in a neck-in-neck race with the Cardinals, but just couldn’t get that extra horse they need. Roy Oswalt cost too much, Dan Haren pulled out the no-trade clause, and they came up empty looking for bullpen help. In the end, they are pinning their hopes on a couple of senior citizens they have stashed in Triple-A Louisville, Russ Springer and Jason Isringhausen (yeah, I can’t believe they are still alive either!) But at least the Cardinals’ swim in the shark tank came out as a net zero. Sure, Jake Westbrook helps the rotation, but giving up Ryan Ludwick when the Cards were already offensively challenged… this team better plan on winning a lot of 2-1 games. The Mets literally did nothing, Jarrod Saltalamacchia likely can’t replace the injured Kevin Youkilis (except as a Scrabble word) for the Red Sox, much like Jhonny Peralta won’t come close to replacing Magglio Ordonez and Carlos Guillen for the increasingly toothless Tigers.
The Idiot Who Gets Bitten Because He’s an Idiot:
Again, this is something that no Shark Week would be complete without. You’ve all seen this guy, usually a fisherman who while trying to retrieve a 40-cent hook somehow forgets that even small sharks have mouths full of razor-sharp teeth that make an exceptionally efficient finger-removal tool. Welcome to the world of the Houston Astros, a team that actually gave the Yankees, a.k.a. the richest team in baseball $4 million to put Lance Berkman in pinstripes.
But worry not sports and shark fans; while Shark Week is just a week, there still the waiver wire deals for which August is notorious. In fact, I hear Adam Dunn may still be available…
Rankings By Division:
1) New York Yankees
Upside: The Bombers easily could have turned on the money-hose and flooded out free-agents like Jason Bay or Matt Holliday, or they could have wasted some serious dough by resigning an over-valued Johnny Damon. But, instead of having their usual explosive cash-gasm, they realized their in-house options are just fine. They finally seem to understand that you don’t necessarily need a 30-homer guy in the ninth spot in the batting order. Rather, the Pinstripes traded away a bunch of Grade B prospects for the more budget-friendly likes of Curtis Granderson and Javier Vazquez. After all, what do you really need to do when you are the defending World Series champs yet another goddamn time…
Downside: Yankee Stadium is getting suspiciously close to looking like an assisted-living facility. The Yankees roster contains so many “seasoned veterans” that it’s a good bet there will be more than one pair of support hose under those pinstripes. Oh and somebody really needs to find a way to keep A.J. Burnett from having the “Hindenburg” inning that tends to flame out his starts.
2) Boston Red Sox
Upside: The Red Sox will field a very complete and deep squad, one that will be better than everybody except the one team they desperately want to beat. The Sawwwx offer three starters who would be aces on more rotations than not, their defense doesn’t have it’s usual Bahhh-ston Hahhh-bahhh sized hole in it, and despite what Sawwwx fans want to believe, the offense should be just fine. Of course, math doesn’t rank high in the skill sets of most Sawwwx fans, which explains why last year’s allegedly non-steroid-enhanced lineup accounted for a mere 10 homers less than allegedly juiced 2004 edition.
Downside: The astonishing lack of obvious holes on which their inevitable August slide can be attributed. Sure, the line-up still contains the light-bending sucking black hole known as the un-Ramirez-protected David Ortiz and nearly every pitching staff gets as shaky as Haitian construction techniques at the fifth spot in the rotation, which means we just have to wait to see what will bring this year’s “Bucky Dent” moment.
3) Tampa Bay Rays
Upside: They are the anti-Yankees, meaning they have a shitload of young talent and they have a payroll more suggestive migrant farm workers than the caviar-encrusted platinum jock straps of the Bronx Bombers. Whether or not the Rays sucker-punch their way past the Yanks or the Sawwwx for the promised land of October baseball, this team will give fits of apoplexy to veteran-fueled opponents with their raw athleticism. The odds of this increase significantly if the Rays next wave of prospects (particularly Desmond Jennings and Jeremy Hellickson) pan out as some “experts” expect.
Downside: If this team hits the trade deadline looking like it is out of reach to throw that October sucker-punch, the Rays could be parted out like a Chinese prisoner “volunteered” for organ donation. Case in point: the pending free agency of Carl Crawford who is already rumored to be on Yankee manager Joe Girardi’s line-up card for Opening Day 2011.
4) Baltimore Orioles
Upside: The O’s are another AL East squad resplendent with young talent, especially catcher Matt Wieters, who could prove to be a discount-store version of Joe Mauer at the plate (maybe not average wise, but Wieters does have 25 -homer potential). Plus, the trio of Adam Jones, Nolan Reimold and Nick Markakis may very well be the best young outfield in the league.
Downside: The youth of the pitching staff, which is stocked with a talented stable of potential, most notably Brian Matusz, Chris Tillman, and Brad Bergesen. But with that youth comes inexperience and the ever-present threat they don’t develop.
5) Toronto Blue Jays
Upside: A well-spring of young arms; hill-wise all the Blue Jays need is for two of the cruise-ship full of pitchers they brought to camp to show the potential to toss 200 innings. Behind those young hurlers, the Blue Jays will field a defensively solid squad, with the glaring exception of third baseman Edwin “Hands of Stone” Encarnacion. This should allow those young moundsmen to put the pill over the plate with a reasonable expectation their ERA’s won’t rocket toward the stratosphere.
Downside: This team is at least a few years away from contention, and even then they likely will need the Red Sox to get back to their historic “shooting themselves in both feet” tendencies and for the Yankees to set the Wayback Machine to 1984.
1-Tie) Chicago White Sox
Upside: The quartet of Mark Buerhle, Jake “No, Really, I’m Pretty Sure I’m OK…this time” Peavy, John Danks, and Gavin Floyd forms the backbone of the best starting rotation in the division. The South Siders should be able to stay in front of the Twins if there is they can squeeze the last bit of toothpaste out of the tubes that are the careers of Paul Konerko, Andruw Jones, and A.J. Pierzynski. Forgive me now for saying I will believe that when I see it.
Downside: The amazing number of shitty hitters the Whiteys will field. Granted, Juan Pierre and Alex Rios should allow the White Sox to play in their usual Ozzie Guillen-influenced style; in other words, swinging wildly and generally running amok, then wringing just enough out of an aging bat or two. As a recipe, it is clearly riskier than a good, old-fashioned game of Russian Roulette, but don’t forget the White Sox managed somehow not to blow their brains out in 2005.
1-Tie) Minnesota Twins
Upside: Carl “Scrooge McDuck” Pohlad is dead, and along with the anticipated revenue from the new ball park, the Twins have managed to jam a crowbar into their change purse. With the expected signing of Joe Mauer to a hefty-yet-deserved contract extension and the signing bonus that likely will accompany it, the Twins just might finally hurdle the $100 million salary threshold. The Pohlad family still owns the team, but at least the new billionaire-in-charge seems willing to spend when needed.
Downside: The pitching staff, which was suspect before the loss of Joe Nathan, is now officially mediocre. Scott Baker may need to hire a stand-in if he is to convince anybody he is an ace and Carl Pavano is, well, Carl Pavano. Not to mention the Twins are drawing to an inside straight on whether Francisco Liriano can be effective after the “Tommy John” surgery and the loss of confidence he put on display last season.
3) Detroit Tigers
Upside: Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, and Rick Porcello might be the most interesting trio from Michigan since Grand Funk Railroad.
Downside: The front office, which embarked on a cost-cutting exercise until they were reminded that they have a slough of veterans being hampered in their duties by their walkers. Their solution to this? Signing the 68-year old Johnny Damon. This means if you want to see elderly DH’s with more chins than a Shanghai phone book (Is Greg Luzinski still in the league?) chug home from second on one-hop singles, just wait for Damon in left field.
4) Kansas City Royals
Upside: Fuck everything else, to find something in print that says the Royals don’t finish last in this division may require an archealogical expedition. If for no other reason, the elevation from the cellar is due largely to the fact that no matter what else happens, Zach Grienke and Joakin Soria will pitch the Royals past the unbelievably fetid Indians.
Downside: The shockingly large number of at-bats that will be twirled unproductively into the Twilight Zone at the hands of Scott Podsednik, Jason Kendall, Jose Guillen, Brayan Pena and Yuniesky Betancourt.
5) Cleveland Indians
Upside: As soon as we here at Dubsism find one, we’ll let you know. Wait, we’ve got one: Shin-Soo Choo hasn’t been inducted into the South Korean army…yet.
Downside: This is likely the first of many seasons to come with the Indians making reservations for the bottom of the standings.
1) Seattle Mariners
Upside: How can you not love a one-two punch of Felix Hernandez and Cliff Lee in front of a team that shits horseshoes? Seriously, this team personifies luck, as was demonstrated by the 2009 campaign that saw the M’s win 85 games even though they were outscored by 52 runs. Luck isn’t a strategy, but luckily it probably won’t take much to win this division.
Downside: The festival of mediocrity the starting rotation becomes after the aforementioned one-two punch. Plus, the wheel of karma spun by the baseball gods will not look favorably on lead-pipe cinch Hall-of-Famer, greatest player ever in the history of the franchise, and deliciously banned-substance-free Ken Griffey, Jr. being exiled from the lineup for the final time by ‘roid-rage expert and colossal asshole Milton Bradley.
2) Texas Rangers
Upside: Don’t look now, but for the first time in EVER, the Rangers have pitching depth…I’ll wait for a minute so you can let that sink in. Seriously, they’ve got eight legitimate contenders for the five rotation spots, which means they have eight more than than they’ve ever had before. It goes without saying this assumes Rich Harden doesn’t rack up seven bazillion more frequent-flyer miles on MRI Airlines.
Downside: And now for your Bizzaro world moment of the day: the Rangers can pitch and play defense, but they can’t hit! Again, I’ll wait for a minute so you can let that sink in. With suspects like Chris Davis, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Taylor Teagarden, and/or Elvis Andrus likely populating the bottom of the order, you can expect the Rangers’ team on-base percentage to hurtle over the cliff faster than Thelma and Louise. The wild-card in all of this: Josh Hamilton and his ever-present overcoming of his “obstacle du jour.” This time it is rumored to be hangnails and a persistent fear of sock puppets.
3) Los Angeles Angels
Upside: Even though he Dodger Blue during his playing days, and even though he looks more and more like Rush Limbaugh every day, you have to love Mike Scioscia. He is one of a rare breed of managers who understand tactics, strategy and how to develop and handle people.
Downside: Will the last one left in Anaheim please turn out the lights? The Halos wont miss Vladimir Guerrero, but the departures of John Lackey and Chone Figgins significantly downgrades the rotation and the lineup. This is really a concern for the pitching staff, which needs to prove itself more durable, especially Scott “Opening Soon at a Disabled List Near You” Kazmir.
Upside: The performance of A’s bullpen has historically fluctuated more than Oprah’s weight, but now they boast a rare mix of quantity and quality. Andrew Bailey, Brad Ziegler, Michael Wuertz, Joey Devine, Jerry Blevins, Craig Breslow and Brad Kilby together compose a solid group of young relievers who collectively will earn about $482 in 2010.
Downside: The $10 million pipe-dream known as Ben Sheets, and the crumbled Greek column once known as Eric Chavez’ spine. If Sheets actually manages to stay out of intensive care come the trade deadline, the A’s will likely deal him for yet another cavalcade of prospects. More likely is that Sheets’ arm falls completely off and Oakland gets to watch $10 million swirl down the shitter. Plus, the A’s may be holding open tryouts in May to find anybody who can actually hit the damn ball.
1) Philadelphia Phillies
Upside: Flash to the scene in “Bull Durham” is teaching Nuke Laloosh about the importance of clichés. The Phillies have no need of this lesson; they are a veritable textbook. They’re “gamers.” They “play ‘em one game at a time.” They’ve “been there before.” They “know how to finish.” Of course, the only way to get such a string of positive verbal fossils is to be the best team in baseball. Yes, you read that right, especially you Yankee fans whose blood-pressure just took a geyser-like upshot. In fact I will say it again: As of right now, the Philadelphia Phillies are the best team in baseball; fuck you, New York. Man, that felt good.
Downside: I’ll never understand what the rationale was behind the Cliff Lee/Roy Halladay swap meet. The Phillies revenue has sky-rocketed in the past five years, given their success and the resultant boost in attendance, TV ratings, jersey sales and everything else associated with the Phillies. Hell, even the Jamie Moyer Geritol is flying off the shelves. The point is the Phils easily have the dough to have kept both aces, then restocked the farm with the compensatory picks when Lee signed elsewhere this year. Speaking of pitchers, which version of Brad “Sybil” Lidge shows up this year? Is it the lights-out, shutdown closer or do we get another episode of “Meltdown Man?”
2) Atlanta Braves
Upside: While the Bravos may be lacking after dealing away its pitching depth for a prospect and a case of urinal cakes, they also don’t really show an Achilles heel. Not to mention, this is finally the last year of the Bobby Cox regime, and Jason Heyward might be the first guy to hit a home run that crosses and entire time zone.
Downside: All the bullshit we will have to live through on what will prove to be the Bobby Cox’s farewell tour. For one, I can’t wait for next year when Cox is getting kicked out of bingo games at the senior center. Here’s a little known fact: Did you know that “Jair Jurrjens” is actually an old Dutch term meaning “he who is destined to spend as much time in an MRI machine as Rich Harden?” That can’t be good.
3) Florida Marlins
Upside: The Players’ Union and how they forced world-class skinflint Jeffrey Loria to actually pony up some cash for a long-term deal for ace Josh Johnson and getting second baseman Dan Uggla to return. Stop and think about what kind of an asshole you would have to be to make the gravy-sucking pigs from the Players’ Union look like a bastion of righteousness and moral certainty; Loria is every bit that cretin.
Downside: The aforementioned pinch-those-pennies-so-hard-Abe-Lincoln-bleeds-internally mentality of Loria. Follow that up with all the bullshit going on over the new-stadium, the 40 inches of rain that comes from the heavens in ten minutes like God’s doped-up racehorse pissing on your head every afternoon at 4 p.m. sharp, and the scatter-shot approach to the bullpen, and it isn’t hard to see this franchise is literally 50 bucks away from being the Pirates.
4) New York Mets
Upside: Manager Jerry Manuel’s sense of humor will come in handy sometime right around Memorial Day when he will be joking about “having time to play some golf” the day before the press conference announcing his firing.
Downside: The Mets’ are like the rich family on a daytime soap opera. Their front office is furnished with, amongst other amenities, hot and cold running cash. But, if you are the Mets, with wealth comes a Dr. Phil level of dysfunction. In this past off-season, the Mets couldn’t seem to figure out if they actually had an operating budget; nobody in the organization seemed to know if anybody actually knew about the star center fielder’s knees (which are dissolving like an Alka-Seltzer as we speak) and nobody can say if the team futzed with Citi Field’s dimensions in response to the whining that the park suppresses offense. Want to know a secret, Mets fans? It ain’t the ball park…
5) Washington Nationals
Upside: How can you not have a man-crush on a heart of the order featuring Ryan Zimmerman, Adam Dunn, Josh Willingham, and Elijah Dukes? So what if the Nats’ occasionally misspell their own uniforms (the photo below is not the only example of the Gnats Nats need of “spell check. “? Don’t look know, but the Mets can easily see this team in their rear-view mirror, and if they aren’t careful, they may just start seeing the Nats’ tail-lights.
Downside: Is there something in the water in the greater Baltimore-Washington metroplex that makes sports franchise owners unconscionable assholes? An area that features Redskins’ owner and probable live-puppy eater Daniel Snyder and the Orioles’ Peter Angelos, who as a child must have wanted to be Snidely Whiplash form a vortex of ownership evil that threatens to suck in the Nats’ Theodore Lerner.
1) St. Louis Cardinals
Upside: Every other team in this division sucks. If the Redbirds can stay healthy, they should be on cruise control by mid-August. The cash-flooded Cubs and Astros have spent stupidly, and the Reds and Pirates can’t find anybody that still takes S&H Green Stamps, and the Brewers only have three players.
Downside: The supporting cast beneath their dwindling number of star players is dangerously thin. However, a lot of this can be cured if Colby Rasmus finally emerges.
2) Cincinnati Reds
Upside: Pure balls. What are the odds that a prospect who happens to be a left-handed pitcher toting a 100-mph fastball ends up in Cincinnati? Of course, this assumes Dusty Baker method of handling pitchers doesn’t have Aroldis Chapman’s elbow in pieces by August.
Downside: In five years, most of their roster won’t be in baseball. The cast of Scott Rolen, Orlando Cabrera, Bronson Arroyo, Aaron Harang, Francisco Cordero are all in the sunset years of thier careers. Oh, and Dusty Baker is an idiot.
3) Milwaukee Brewers
Upside: They have Ryan Braun, Prince Fielder, and Yovani Gallardo.
Downside: Ryan and Fielder can’t take all the at-bats, and Gallardo can’t pitch every inning.
4) Chicago Cubs
Upside: The inevitable Lou Pinella meltdown. It generally happens when Lou has heard enough questions about (insert reason du jour why the Cubs suck here). This usually happens around August 1st, and treats us all to a profanity-filled tirade as only Lou can do.
Downside: All the money the Cubs have tied up in flame-outs like Alfonso Soriano and pitcher-turned-planet Carlos Zambrano.
5) Houston Astros
Upside: They have a deeper roster than the Brewers.
Downside: That isn’t saying much. The Astros field three great players and the three other solid ones. The other 19 could barely impact a Triple-A Roster. Owner Drayton McLane gives all the signs of a billionaire preparing to back away from this investment by selling the team.
6) Pittsburgh Pirates
Upside: Steve Pearce certainly shows all the signs of being the real deal.
Downside: Even when they trade Pearce, they’ll get another bag of magic beans (I’m looking at you, Lastings Milledge). What does it says about you when you get screwed in a trade with the Natinals Nationals? It says you are the kind of organization that can have neartly twenty years of top ten draft picks and nothing to show for it.
1) Colorado Rockies
Upside: The Rockies are the only team in the West with decent depth. With the everyday players including Seth Smith, Ryan Spilborghs, and Melvin Mora and a bullpen including Matt Daley, and Esmil Rogers.
Downside: The alarmingly high number of at-bats that will be sacrificed in the belief that Clint Barmes is anything more than a utility player.
2) Los Angeles Dodgers
Upside: Despite the facts that every left-handed pitcher in the world is issued a Certificate of Ownerhship at birth for Andre Ethier, and Manny Ramirez plays left field like he is in a bar-league softball tournament, the trio of Ethier, Ramirez and Matt Kemp are the best outfield in baseball.
Downside: The shaky, flaky nature of the pitching staff. Letting Randy Wolf leave means the Dodgers are dependent on the inconsistent Clayton Kershaw and a Chad Billingsley who spent the end of last season crying in the fetal position.
3) Arizona Diamondbacks
Upside: Justin Upton, who just makes you want to believe.
Downside: Trading Max Scherzer for another shot at Edwin Jackson, who is due for another good month any day now…after all, in his seven years in the league, he’s already had two of them. Their next best pitcher is the post-aneurysm surgery slop artist Ian Kennedy has become.
4) San Francisco Giants
Upside: The starting rotation: Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, the catastrophe formerly known as Barry Zito, and Jonathan Sanchez. Is there a better foursome out there?
Downside: The Giants hit like a T-ball team. This team was batting Bengie Molina (20 HR, 80 RBI .265 avg.) in the four-spot last year in an attempt to protect Pablo Sandoval, the only respectable bat they have. To improve on that, the Giants are turning to the suspiciously-close-to-finished Aubrey Huff (15 HR, 85 RBI, and .241 avg).
5) San Diego Padres
Upside: GM Kevin Towers always seems to find players whose skills play well in that airport spacious park they have.
Downside: Towers is lucky he has this ability, otherwise the trade deadline would be no fun for him. Look for Adrian Gonzalez, Heath Bell, and Jon Garland to all be on a plane by July 31st.
Overall Team-by-Team Ranking
- Philadelphia Phillies
- New York Yankees
- Boston Red Sox
- Tampa Bay Rays
- Colorado Rockies
- St. Louis Cardinals
- Seattle Mariners
- Atlanta Braves
- Chicago White Sox
- Minnesota Twins
- Texas Rangers
- Florida Marlins
- Los Angeles Dodgers
- Detroit Tigers
- Los Angeles Angels
- Arizona Diamondbacks
- San Francisco Giants
- Cincinnati Reds
- Baltimore Orioles
- Milwaukee Brewers
- Oakland A’s
- Chicago Cubs
- New York Mets
- Washington Nationals
- San Diego Padres
- Houston Astros
- Pittsburgh Pirates
- Toronto Blue Jays
- Kansas City Royals
- Cleveland Indians