SPORTS

  /  

March 11, 2003

Maroon Sports: American League Preview

AL East

New York Yankees

Are there any original ways to say that the Yankees always win and are obviously war criminals? Please write a letter to the Maroon if you think there are. Here's a personal anecdote: Once when I was working at a radio station in New York a guy called in and said that Paul O'Neill was better than Barry Bonds because he was "clutch," or something along those lines. Then the radio host said something like, "Actually, Bonds is better," and then I had to screen lots and lots of calls all morning from people who were trying to convince the host that Paul O'Neill was a great guy and that he, the host, was evil and inflammatory. This proves that everyone who likes the Yankees is stupid, and also that Paul O'Neill probably really likes the Yankees. Zing!

The Story: 96-66

Baltimore Orioles

Hoping to make a run for third place in the AL East, the O's have been shopping around for a high-profile power hitter, after the "Marty Cordova" experiment failed to pan out, generating a similar level of run support as the "Jamie Kennedy" experiment would have. There are rumors about picking up Carlos Beltran and particularly Ken Griffey, Jr., who might complete a Junior trifecta for the Orioles, along with Jerry Hairston, Jr. and Gary Matthews, Jr. They're not bad enough to consider Ted Williams, Jr., but how about Honus Wagner, Jr.? Or one of Babe Ruth's illegitimate great-grandchildren? The well is not tapped, Mr. Angelos. On the defensive side, once-upon-a-time future Hall of Famer Scott Erickson is injured yet again, stretching his soon-to-be comeback into almost a decade. Keep at it, Scott. You can do it!

The Story: 72-90, although it may come down after appeal

Boston Red Sox

Everyone knows about the whole Pedro-Nomar-Manny triumvirate, and it is a triumvirate. But there are some things everyone doesn't know. Everyone doesn't know, for instance, that Shea Hillenbrand is not going to take it anymore. Or that local playboy Trot Nixon is actually made out of metal and will not ever be destroyed. And all of this to say nothing of Casey Fossum's space-age fastball, which, it has been noted, can and will use its technological edge to run up on you. The you-can't-win-with-closers-by-committee doomsayers will be hiding behind their egos when Theo Epstein's legion starts tearing up the nation. The Red Sox are bulletproof. Maybe you can roll that up and smoke it.

The Story: 97-65, or, exactly better than the Yankees.

Tampa Bay Devil Rays

Lou Piniella comes home to Tampa Bay, presumably because he now cares more about his family and going fishing than he does about baseball. Otherwise he wouldn't have turned down enticing offers from bigger, more successful teams (all of them) than the Devil Rays. It's nice for his wife and everything, but from a baseball perspective, you have to wonder about Sweet Lou's decision to give up furthering his relatively storied managerial career. The Devil Rays aren't the most talent-heavy organization in all of sports, really. I mean, Michelangelo was a great architect and everything, but the David wouldn't have been nearly as good if it were made out of oatmeal or pick-up sticks or something, if you see what I'm saying.

The Story: 61-101.

Toronto Blue Jays

Did that thing where the Blue Jays had to fire their manager because he gave a motivational speech in which he claimed he was in the Vietnam War but was actually lying, did that business actually happen? Well, regardless of that event's historical truthitude, that remains the only interesting thing to happen to the Blue Jays since they won the first recorded Holographic World Series in 1993. There is a goblin next to me screeching about Pat Hentgen and his Cy Young Trophy. Hey, wait a minute Pat. Let me see that trophy. This is made out of Popsicle sticks and wire cleaners...and it doesn't even say "Cy Young Award." There's just a ribbon that says "Participant, Southeast Ontario Elementary Schools ArtFest'97." So either you've been entering (and losing) children's art competitions, or you stole this from a little kid who sucks at art, which is the meanest thing this goblin has ever heard.

The Score: 65-97, pending retroactive Canadian ArtFest Association sanctions for Hentgen's ArtFest shenanigans.

AL Central

Chicago White Sox

Did anyone notice what the White Sox did to Comiskey Park this winter? We're not talking about the sorry corporate name change. We're talking about how all the white steel beams in the park are now painted black. This is extremely dope, and certainly bodes well for the South Side's chances. This bigger, meaner, fatter Chi-Sox team features the Buddha known as Bartolo Colon, the shameless power of Magglio OrdoƱez and Paul Konerko, and the mesmerizing sidearm pitching of Kelly Wunsch. Mark Buehrle will be even better than last year and will emerge as one of the AL's aces. The Sox even have a potential superstar in their young third-baseman Joe Crede. To top things off, Tom "Flash" Gordon and closer Billy Koch bring the kind of depth to the bullpen that could finally put the Sox over the edge. This is a team that is waiting to explode and will certainly be worth the short red line trip.

The Story: 92-70, 2003 AL Central Champs

Cleveland Indians

They (Bob Eucker in Major League) say you can tell how the season will go based on the first batter. Well, the first batter in the Indians' lineup is Milton Bradley. I'll spare everybody the trouble here and just say this: Unless Rodrigo Lopez beans the first four batters of the season and Ellis Burks then hits some sort of weird 10-run homer that blows up a Nazi Zeppelin, thus saving Baltimore from invasion, it is painfully unlikely that the yammering of the fictional Harry Doyle will prove applicable to the 2003 Tribe.

The worst part about these Indians is that they're not even going to surprise anyone when they threaten to contend in 2005 and then implode over the next two seasons in a patootie-storm of contract squabbles, weird knee injuries, culminating with Josh Bard having his shoulder broken in seven places by Pete Rose III in the 2007 All-Star Game.

Lest we forget, Josh Bard : Hamlet :: Hamlet : Hamlet.

The Story: 70-92

Detroit Tigers

The city of Brotherly Hate [clever name officially copyrighted by Maroon Sports] may be all rioted out, but they may have a little left in them after viewing the follies at Comerica Park this year. Former Tiger great Alan Trammell takes over as manager, with former winners Kirk Gibson and Darrell Evans backing him up as coaches. They might not get the CURRENT team to play well, but may be a welcome presence at weekly Tiglet campfires when little Bobby Higginson comes up and asks Uncle Kirk what winning feels like. Ask Jeff Weaver, he'll say. Ask Jeff Weaver.

The Story: 68-94

Kansas City Royals

Owner David Glass = Mr. Burns. GM Allard Baird = Smithers. The team = a bunch of sorry players, who are equal to the Simpsons only in that their glory years are far in the past. The humor quotient is roughly similar, I suppose. Charles Montgomery Glass' unwillingness to open up his pocketbook has led the Royals to front a rotation that had a combined...four or so wins last year. That sounds right. Four. George Brett must be turning over in his grave. And he's not even dead yet! Royals players with funny names: Runelvys. Bukvich. Miguel Asencio is also funny, even if his name isn't. Nothing says funny like starting your major league career by throwing 16 consecutive balls, breaking Rick"Wild Thing" Vaughn's rookie record.

The Story: 59--103

Minnesota Twins

Carl Pohlad: grinch. Minnesota: Weird state full of snow and people with inferiority complexes that cause them to cling to their professional sports teams because it gives them a somewhat steady guide they can depend on in this topsy-turvy world of ours. Towel-waving fans can hope for a lot of run production this year, if only to witness again and again the rhythmic jiggling of Al Newman's belly as he exuberantly waves runners around third base. With a little luck, the Twins will make the playoffs again and we will all get to watch more things that happen in a dome, something this country needs very badly. Twins players with ks in their names (abbreviated): Doug Mientkiewicz (sort of decent at baseball), A.J. Pierzysnki (allegedly a real jerk), Brad Radke (usually injured), Bobby Kielty (a jerk), Denny Hocking (a third baseman).

The Story: 89--73

AL West

Anaheim Angels

Not that I'm on the cutting edge of fads, or much of anything really, but I'm predicting an end to the whole K-Rod (is this nickname some kind of in-joke that no one is telling me about? It's not all that clever, is it?) phase pretty soon. After Barry Bonds jacked that enormous blast out of Edison Field and young Francisco actually broke his neck trying to follow it, I think the scouts have started to do some figuring. Anyway, the Angels are the odds-on favorite, in this office at least, to not win the World Series this year, again. My thesis, distilled from letter to spirit: I do not like the Anaheim Angels. Like all kitsch, the Rally Monkey is overplayed. Get him some leafy greens and a monkey-couch because HE IS SPENT. I don't know where that positions this assessment of the Angel's chances in 2003. It seems unfair to condemn a team on the played-out nature of their celebratory monkey. But then again, the monkey is very, very stupid. There, I said it.

The Story: 92-70

Oakland Athletics

Step inside, all you cats, as Barry Zito gets his groooooove on for a sasstacular follow-up to last year's notably overrated holographic Cy Young campaign. Get over the fact that he looks like he's in the fourth grade, ladies, and this hip cat will croon his way into your personal strike zone. Backing up on guitar, Most Valuable Poser Miguel Tejada. On drums, a guy named Erubiel, who came over in a seven-way trade involving Arizona, Cincinnati, and the Brian Setzer Orchestra. Rounding out the troupe is Jermaine...Dye unfortunately, not Jackson! The Scott Hatteberg brass section has been missing more than a few notes in the Rocky theme song during pep band practice. He seems to be that guy who gets to sit first chair even though no one sits with him at the lunch table. The man behind the band is Billy Beane, whose streak on effective team management should continue unabated lest he repeats predecessor Phil Spector's mistake and, I don't know, kill someone. Although that would solve the center field problem, but you didn't hear that here. Off the record, on the QT, and very hush-hush.

The Story: 98--64

Seattle Mariners

It's been a long year in the Great Northwest. Ichiro-mania has given way to Bob Melvin-appreciation, Bret Boone has refused to prove his fluke season was not a fluke (therefore making him a fluking tease), and the team as a whole has fallen behind the uppity Angels and the stylish A's in the public spotlight. It may take a soothing guidance on the level of Frasier (or even Dr. Phil) to get this team to believe in themselves again, but we can do out part: Mike Cameron, you don't have to hit four home runs every game. No one is expecting that. But one in a game, at least once in a while, would be super. Arthur Rhodes: Don't let Omar Vizquel get you down. Your earrings are a part of you. They don't glare. They sparkle, just like your winning spirit. Charles Gipson: Well, you suck. But you can go out there and suck with verve. You are a maestro. You know sucking the way your team knows being ignored by America.

As for the rest of the team, the folks will have to be content to shuffle around anonymously and try to enjoy glib praise from critics who very clearly don't care about them. Not that we are those kinds of critics. The whole Mariners cast is pretty nice and we can't complain about them in any specific way. Seattle is supposed to be nice this time of year.

The Story: 116--46, two years ago.

Texas Rangers

Ex-Cleveland heartthrob Ryan Drese anchors a star-studded cast that makes this slam-bang thriller the blockbuster hit of the summer. New director Buck Showalter sheds the demons of past editions, jettisoning the once-glorious Kenny Rogers (known for his work as The Gambler) to clear space for a snappier, frostier-tipped Chris Michalak. Showalter also tried to increase the international flavor of his product in an attempt to capture a developing market, and though he wasn't able to attract any of the top-flight talent, Richard Roeper has already called this lovable bunch "a crew of underestimated misfits!" Advance ticket sales are already underway. Get yours now! Daily Variety has reported some trouble during test audience showings of the 2003 Rangers, and producer John Hart has refused to address rumors that studio head Tom Hicks had demanded that the film's running time be cut down, after Texas' pitching squad failed to throw a single strike in the first two weeks of spring training games.

The Story: 74-88