The dawn of a new day or back to the trouble and strife that we have seen in recent years ?
Three weeks into the MLB season and several teams around the league are off to promising starts , where, others are simply struggling to find some semblance of consistency and rhythm to their games. Now while the watch is on, as Los Angeles Angels’ slugger and two-time NL MVP , Albert Pujols veers towards hitting his five hundredth home run in Major League Baseball , a feat managed by a select few within it game . It is easy to understand, why this particular achievement is still revered within baseball. Granted, in recent years, with the advent of the steroid era, hitting home runs at a pace not often seen in baseball has actually not only stymied the game but also has the fans now wondering which players are “said to be clean” and which are or can be viewed as “cheats” . Pujols, I believe will be considered to be among the former of the two categories mentioned , but that is not to say, that there have not been doubters out there concerning his achievements , with their being speculation, because of the recent injuries suffered by the player , often viewed in some circles as a precursor in the rampant use of steroids. The player has never tested positive at any point in his career to date and hopefully, he never will.
If Pujols and his Angels’ teammates are to succeed this season, then the team will have to put up a much more spirited effort, than has been seen over the past two seasons. Mike Scioscia and his staff are under a great deal of pressure to show that they are capable of making it a contest within the AL West in particular , where the Oakland Athletics have been the dominant team within the division over the past two years as the two-time defending champions . For Angels’ team owner, Arte Moreno , these past four years, have been particularly frustrating, unnerving, having spent capriciously in assembling a roster , that simply has not lived up to expectations. Moreno and GM Jerry Dipoto , will certainly have to assess the setup within the franchise at the end of this season, starting off with the managerial staff and the player personnel in particular , which has not gelled and played as a cohesive unit.
With a record of 8-8 (.500) as of the 19th April , the Los Angeles Angels currently sit third within the AL West behind divisional leaders the Oakland A’s (11-5) , second placed Texas Rangers (10-7) , beneath them the Seattle Mariners (7-9) and the last placed Houston Astros (5-12) firmly entrenched at the bottom of the divisional standings. I would like to think that the Astros in particular can avoid another sub-par season , but having gone three years of consecutive 100 game losses . It does beg the question , why should this year, be any different from the three of the past , covering 2011 , 2012 and 2013 ?
Coming off an 11-3 loss to the Oakland A’s would suggest that the season will be a long and arduous one for Bo Porter and his Astros’ managerial staff , as they look to overcome their problems of the past. The team , has continued to play poorly and the results, have simply mirrored that fact . Things are unlikely to change, when the two teams meet again on Saturday afternoon at the O Coliseum, in Oakland, California , the second of their triumvirate of contests of this weekend schedule of games in the Majors. In the case of the Los Angeles Angels , they are the guests of the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park in Detroit , Michigan , where they will look to follow-up their 11-6 victory over the Tigers in Friday’s game .
Undoubtedly, Albert Pujols’ career will merit, his being inducted into Baseball’s Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York. Seen as one of the most prolific and productive players of his generation , Pujols has not left anyone in doubt that since his entry into the Majors , his talents cannot be doubted. In some circles the belief now seems to be , that mantle has now been passed to the Tigers’ Miguel Cabrera , and a case for that can definitely be made. However, Cabrera has yet to reach the plateau of having been a World Series’ winner , unlike his Angels’ compatriot , who has tasted that success twice with the St Louis Cardinals .
Cabrera and the Detroit Tigers, have a great deal to prove this season, after recent postseason failures , had many questioning the toughness of the team. With Jim Leyland having stepped down from his position as manager if the team , his successor, Brad Ausmus has been entrusted by GM Dave Dombrowski and owner , Michael Ilitch to make another attempt at securing a world championship for one of baseball’s most venerable franchises . While I believe the Tigers to be a very good team during the regular season , and Cabrera’s exploits have been well chronicled , about have the exploits also of pitcher Justin Verlander . However, with the recent rise in the profile of Max Scherzer and his winning of the AL Cy Young in 2013 , there seems to be the common belief that the Tigers cannot be discounted this season. That may well be the case, with their dominance of the AL Central , but I believe that Terry Francona and the Cleveland Indians could make that premise all the more interesting this within the division and when these two combatants meet.
The AL East this season , is liable to be as competitive as ever , with the Boston Red Sox looking to make a successful defense of their divisional title that they won with ease in 2013, under newly installed manager John Farrell . The noticeable difference between Farrell and his predecessor Bobby Valentine , was the professionalism and attention to detail, because, with Valentine , the attention to detail , was sorely lacking , with the then incumbent manager, choosing to apportion blame elsewhere for his and that of the team’s failings in 2012 , that led to a last place finish within the division and their missing the postseason altogether.
Red Sox GM Ben Cherington during the off-season, made a number of changes to last season’s team adding and subtracting as he saw fit , while not seeking to over commit the ball-club financially by tying up too much money , solely in one player. That may well have been the primary reason why Cherington saw fit not to re-sign Jacoby Ellsbury to a long-term contract . Granted, Ellsbury was able to secure a deal , by signing with the New York Yankees for what now seems an extraordinarily exuberant contract , that to my mind overvalued a player , who over the past two seasons has spent a great deal of time on the disabled list. One might be able to suggest that Jacoby Ellsbury played a major role in last season’s playoff success for the Red Sox , as they went on to win their third World Series’ title in the past eight years. Yet, the feeling now seems to be, the Yankees’ gain, is not seen as a major loss to the current world champions. That could well prove to come back and haunt the team, should Ellsbury rebound and have a very productive season for his new team . So far, the player is off to a somewhat slow start, but manager Joe Girardi believes that his All Star will be able to provide a great deal of productivity for the team from an offensive and defensive standpoint throughout much of the season.
It is my own personal opinion that Ellsbury was brought in to supply the New York with the leadership sought upon Derek Jeter’s retirement ! That trait, certainly was not shown player by Mark Teixeira, Curtis Granderson, CC Sabathia , Alex Rodriguez and now belatedly by Alfonso Soriano . Granted, Teixeira’s popularity among the fans , makes him a natural, but his repeated bouts on the team’s disabled list in recent years , makes it suspect that he could be an ever-present feature on the team for an entire season ,while remaining productive to that end. Jacoby Ellsbury does possess some of the traits shown by Jeter , but he lacks the all-round appeal, that one believes would have the fans convincingly believe that he can assume the role of leader on this team . GM Brian Cashman and the Yankees’ organization , simply did not prepare for this day , Jeter’s impending retirement and at the same time , it should be noted, that there has been little faith shown by the managerial or front office staff in the farm system in seeking the development of the players at the AAA or AA levels within the organization. Anyone who seeks to state that to be the contrary , should simply look at the makeup of the team’s present roster and their active players .
It remains to be seen how Girardi and his staff handle this season and the expectations from this team, by way of the fans , who undoubtedly are hoping that the Yankees may the postseason and excel , making their way to another World Series’ triumph, which would in fact be their twenty-eighth overall .
I am not so sure that having a $220 million plus payroll , can always place you, in a position, to be an outright success ! Clearly, that was not the case last season for the Los Angeles Dodgers and their manager Don Mattingly. In what was said to be an expectantly dominant season ended with a whimper as they succumbed to the St Louis Cardinals in a rather lopsided and way too uninteresting NLCS Pennant series . The only real excitement provided by the Dodgers in 2013 beyond the play of their now troubled rookie Yasiel Puig , was the team’s mid-season run , where they went 42-8 during a fifty-game stretch , the longest such streak in the Majors last season. One would have expected a great deal more from a team, where almost at every position , there was an All Star caliber player on the Dodgers’ payroll for their everyday lineup ? I believe however , complacency within the front office , became contagious on the field of play , as well as among the managerial staff , which ultimately led to the Dodgers’ eventual demise during the postseason .
In 2014, Mattingly and his staff will be under a great deal of pressure to succeed and should he prove to be unsuccessful , then it is my belief that team President Stan Kasten will likely be given the go ahead by lead owners , Mark Walter , Todd Boehly and Magic Johnson to let go of the team’s likeable and well-respected manager ! This organization is need of success now and winning the World Series remains their ultimate goal, but simply playing at being winners , with certain members of the ownership group making bold statements , that plainly were unattainable , only continues to make the organization , one of ridicule ! . Bear in mind , it has been over twenty-five years since the Dodgers won the last of their World Series , with the intervening years their having failed miserably to add to that legacy . As likeable as Tommy Lasorda remains , his time has come and gone , and simply hanging unto his anecdotes about the Dodgers’ once mighty greatness, means absolutely nothing today , where the attention span of some fans, barely lasts more than five minutes, if that , at all .
A team ERA , of 2.40 and the Atlanta Braves , lead baseball in that specific category , rather surprising, when you consider, there were some suggesting, that the Tampa Bay Rays , St Louis Cardinals, New York Yankees , Boston Red Sox, Los Angeles Dodgers and Detroit Tigers were all said to have better starting rotations. The loss of Brandon Beachy and Kris Medlen to what seem to be long-term injuries , has the Braves’ DL looking like a triage unit. However, Braves’ pitching coach Roger McDowell has been able to work miracles , using a patch-work rotation to start the season , much to the surprise of the Braves’ fans and the general onlookers who are keenly interested in the game of baseball . Whether or not, the NL East division leading Atlanta Braves (12-6) can keep up that momentum, with the pitchers leading the way, remains to be seen. Yet, certainly, through the month of April thus far , this team has been the most impressive in the Majors by far in terms of their pitching , and the stats certainly do bear this out in terms of the statistics that really count , Fredi Gonzalez’s pitchers have excelled, while his hitters have been almost as productive .
Having taken two out of three in their recent series , a triumvirate of games played against the New York Mets played at Citi-Field , in Flushing, New York. Fredi Gonzalez and his team had to have been impressed with the performances, in many of the contests in question, as well as in the 4-3 loss to their divisional counterparts. Next up for the Braves , will be a three-game home series at Turner Field in Atlanta , Georgia , where their opponents will be the Miami Marlins (9-10) , whose season so far can be best described as understated and uninspiring . The first of those games will be played on Monday afternoon , with Tom Koehler taking the mound for the Marlins against Julio Teheran of the Braves , in what is likely to be a very good pitching contest , between these two starting pitchers.
Picture gallery .
What do you hope to see unfold, over the coming months of the schedule within baseball? Which teams and players, have impressed you the most, with the season still in its infancy? Leave a comment as you see fit on this and anything else you believe pertinent to the subject .
Picture and slideshow gallery details below .
(1) Albert Pujols (5) of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim gets ready to field the ball during the sixth inning of the game against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park on April 20, 2014 in Detroit, Michigan. The Tigers defeated the Angels 2-1 . Also pictured , is the Tigers’ Torii Hunter . Pujols sits two home runs away, from reaching the plateau of five hundred career home runs , with a select few players having achieved that milestone. Getty Images North America / Leon Halip ….
(2) Los Angeles’ GM Jerry Dipoto is seen here with team owner Arte Moreno at Angels’ Ballpark , in Anaheim, California . The duo will have a number of decisions to make during the season and offs-season as it relates to the lineup , should the team not be doing well during the season. At the same time , there are likely to be rumblings , as many might now believe it time for the organization to actually dismiss manager , Mike Sciocsia and several members of his managerial staff . AP Photo / Adam Ross ……..
(3) Detroit Tigers’ GM Dave Dombrowski is seen here with the team’s newly installed manager Brad Ausmus , who succeeded the now retired Jim Leyland . Ausmus takes over a team that has been dominant in the regular season over the past five years , but has failed to win a World Series’ title in spite of two appearances in baseball’s postseason finale over the past six years , first in 2006 and then again in 2012 . AP Photo/ Mark Patterson ……
(4) Seen here from left to right, are the Boston Red Sox’s team President Larry Lucchino , GM Ben Cherington , Bobby Valentine and team owner, John W Henry . Valentine’s tenure with the ball-club lasted merely a year , with the then beleaguered manager apportioning blame elsewhere for his own managerial incompetency and also stating that he was never truly given the backing of the front office to make changes as he saw fit with regard to the team’s lineup in 2012, with the club failing to make the postseason ending up with a last place finish in the AL East , that season. Getty Images North America / Mark Hughes ……
(5) Boston Red Sox manager , John Farrell is seen here with 2013 World Series’ MVP , David Ortiz , having signed a contract extension with the Red Sox, that will the DH now become a fixture with the team over the next several seasons . Ortiz was the ball-club’s top offensive performer in the postseason and was simply explosive in the World Series itself against the St Louis Cardinals . Also pictured far right is GM Ben Cherington . Getty Images North America / Phil Robinson …..
(6) Yasiel Puig of the Los Angeles Dodgers is seen here with team manager Don Mattingly . After a stellar season in 2013 for the team , the manager and organization are hoping that the player can reproduce the productivity shown during the season . AP Photo / Paul Mercer …..
(7) Aaron Harang of the Atlanta Braves who leads the team and the league with season low ERA of < .70 has gotten the the Braves off to a very good start , with the team leading the NL and the Majors with a team low 2.40 ERA . This has been one of the contributing factors in the team having one of the best records in all of baseball at this point of the season . AP Photo/ Ian Mitchell …..
This week in MLB history
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