Scott on the first month of the Major League Baseball Season
SAME OLD, SAME OLD IN THE A.L. EAST
The first month of the Major League Baseball season is just about in the books and anyone looking at the top of the American League East could be excused for expressing suprise. The race to the top has a very familiar look to it. With the Blue Jays spending like congressman on a junket and the Orioles showing their first signs of life in a decade last season, the over-aged and undertalented Red Sox and Yankees would be relegated to also-ran status while the Jays and O’s assumed their new birthrights. A look at the bottom of the division is likely to generate surprised looks as well. The Jays have taken up residence in the cellar and, three and a half games behind the Tampa Bay Rays, they’re just a half game from a double digit defit and dangerously close to playing their way out of it early. This has turned into an old fashioned Boston-New York donneybrook because the Sox and Yanks are doing all the things the experts were sure they couldn’t do. The Sox were deficient defensively and hadn’t proven they could string together a potent lineup that would sustain itself one through nine. At last check they led the majors in runs scored over runs allowed. By today’s diminished standards, six innings, three earned runs or less equaling a quality start, any starting pitcher with an ERA of 4.50 or less just about automatically enters the Cy Young discussion. With John Lackey turning in a solid six innings in his return from the disabled list yesterday all five boston starters have ERA’s under 4.50, their top three, Clay Buchholz, Jon Lester and Lackey, all under three, Buchholz with a 1.19. The Yankees would be able to pitch and, so far, they’ve lived up to the prognostication, also with three starters with ERA’s under three, the ageless Andy Pettitte at 2.22, while their fourth starter, who, even with four straight 20 win seasons, would always be known as the “inconsistent” Phil Hughes, is still in spring training mode after having missed most of camp, but has turned in some consistently solid efforts. The Yankees may have been the only team in baseball that had a sixth starter standing by, ready to plug in at a moments notice, which they did, with David Phelps, when Ivan Nova went to the D.L., and they have another starter, Michael Pena, possibly as close as six weeks from the rotation. Pitching depth can take a team a long way, and they have one of the best bullpens in the game, hands down the best closer, but that was where the strength of this club ended, particularly with four of their everyday eight starters on the disabled list, down to the third string at at least one position, third base. Eduardo Nunez will never, strong emphasis on “never”, said the prognosticators, be anything better than a horrible defensive player. He spent the month of April flashing enough leather to saddle a Bengal Lancer regiment. Nor would these Yankees be able to bail themselves out with the longball as they have in the past. Behind the resurgent careers of Vernon Wells and Lyle Overbay, at last check, they were leading the majors in home runs, and they’re the one team in the majors that, month by month, are already guaranteed of getting better. The Blue Jays and Orioles are learning the hard way, while they may eventually take command of this division, nobody’s standing by to hand it to them. Certainly not the two teams that have owned if for the last two decades. With a comment from the sports world, I’m Scott Gray.