The Best of Baseball And the Jano AwardsBy Phil Janowicz
What is up with the Sox? They steal six of seven from the Yankees just to lose to the Rangers and Indians? Maybe the real issue here isn’t the losing of the Sox but the winning of the Rangers and Tribe.
Something the Rangers have always lacked is quality pitching. They tried grabbing hot commodities like Chan Ho “Bag” Park and focusing on home-grown talent. This year, GM John Hart “Attack” has given the Rangers their long-awaited arms. Kenny “Bad Chicken!” Rogers is back with more fervor. Relative newbies Ryan Drese “Lightning” and Joaquin “Phoenix” Benoit outpitched the top Beantown hurlers. Closer Francisco “49er” Cordero has racked up the saves and has shot down opponents with his fastball. With their offense running on all cylinders of this pick-up, Texas should have a good reason to smile for years to come.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: the Indians are a good team. Stop laughing because they are good, and here’s why: pitching. With one of the lowest starter ERAs in the majors, the Tribe has the ability to get into every game they play because the starters are holding opponents to three runs a game. Jake “Jerry” Westbrook had a string of 22 innings during which he only gave up 2 runs, 8 hits, 5 walks, 1 home run, and 13 strike outs. Included in that stretch was a string of seven perfect innings in one rain-logged game against the Tigers. In that game, Jeff “Unleaded” D’Amico started the game, gave up four runs, and recorded no outs. Then, the rains came and washed him out of the game. When the game resumed, Westbrook was brought in to pitch, and the rest is history. Because of his stellar pitching and AL Pitcher of the Week honor, Westbrook has finally earned a spot in the Indians’ rotation. Congrats, Jake.
Not only is the pitching stellar, but the hitting is coming together. Offseason acquisition Ronnie “Ring My” Belliard has set the table for the Tribe’s offense all year. Belliard has shown once again that he is a solid hitter with his .385 average. Up and down the line-up, everyone can hit, and hitting coach Eddie “Axel Foley” Murray has shown them how. Look for the Tribe to continue producing runs but blowing leads in late innings.
Hitting: Michael “Neil” Young of the Texas Rangers. Judged by many to be a “sleeper” this year (damn you, dad), Young has exploded in the heat of Texas. So far this season, Young has 26 runs, 4 home runs, 20 runs batted in, 3 stolen bases, and a .356 hitting average. Having been moved to shortstop by the acquisition of Soriano, Young can now play two positions for your fantasy team. Young hits before Blalock, so pitchers who originally feared Blalock decided to pitch to Young, trying to get the easier out. Now that Young is producing, Blalock is seeing more pitches to hit and is producing as well. Only a work stoppage can stop this radical chain reaction in Texas.
Honorable Mention: Ronnie Belliard of the Cleveland Indians. See above section.
Pitching: Jake Westbrook of the Cleveland Indians. See above section.
Honorable Mention: Jake “The Snake” Peavy of the San Diego Padres. Following his promising trend from last season, Peavy is ripping up the competition. So far, Peavy has racked up 2 wins, 31 Ks, and a 1.80 earned run average. The only problem with Peavy’s starts is that the bullpen tends to blow them. Three of Peavy’s leads have been erased by errant bullpen pitching. The thing I like most about Peavy is the way he handled one of the no decisions. He said to the press after one of the games that the wins would have been nice but that no blame should be given to the bullpen. That’s how the game is played. Kudos to you, Jake.
Utility: Mike “And the Mechanics” Matheny of the St. Louis Cardinals. On Tuesday, it was Matheny who saved the game for the Cardinals and not Izzy. Here’s the stage: Cards up 6-5, bottom 9, 2-2 count, bases loaded, Izzy on the mound, and Burrell at the plate. Izzy throws some high cheese and gets Burrell to chase it. Strike three was called, but the ball got away from Matheny. The runners immediately took off in an effort to tie the game, but Matheny raced to the back wall and fired it to Pujols at first, who himself made an excellent stretch to nail the out. Game over. Cardinals win. It takes a smart catcher to act that quickly on his feet to save the game for his team.
Honorable Mention: Brian “Speedy” Roberts of the Baltimore Orioles. This kid can fly. On Tuesday alone, he stole four bases and scored four times for the O’s. He has been the spark plug for the Orioles’ offense and is impossible to double-up. This season alone, Roberts has 24 runs, 1 HR, 8 RBIs, 13 SBs, and a .327 average. He and another Roberts will run away with the stolen base titles this season.
Trojan-Enz Boner of the Week: David Riske “Business” of the Cleveland Indians. Sigh. You have lost the job you won last season and have had only one good outing all year. Maybe your new son is the bad luck charm you joked about?
Honorable Mention: Jimmy “Dinner” Rollins of the Philadelphia Phillies. Much like the rest of Philadelphia’s sports teams, you have done terribly this season. Sporting a Mendoza-esque .188 average with only 7 runs, 4 RBIs, and 2 SBs, you embody all that is wrong with the Phillies: inconsistency. Luckily for Pat Burrell, his slump has been passed along to you.
Hot Fantasy Pick-ups:
Robby Hammock, Jake Westbrook, Cliff Lee, Matt Holliday, Rafael Betancourt, Gerald Laird, Chone Figgins, Chad Tracy
Cold Fantasy Dumps:
Jimmy Rollins, David Riske, Mike Mussina, Alex Cintron, the Toronto Blue Jays, Mike Lieberthal, Jason Phillips, Derek Jeter, Henry Blanco