Baseball Toaster Bad Altitude
2005-07-04 07:13
by Mark T.R. Donohue

Happy 4th of July. This is a pretty good country and I'm glad I live in it. Except for those kids who were setting off fireworks behind my apartment all night last night, I hope they all lose an eye.

I'm not a big fan of the Seattle MLB franchise, thanks to my longtime affiliation with their divisional rivals in the East Bay and the Mariners' avowed policy of not improving their playoff-bound teams in midseason. That said, it was very difficult to watch the press conference announcing Bret Boone's release. Being essentially turfed out by the franchise with whom he secured his place in history had Boone choking back tears. Boone's not a great player, just a good one who had a freaky great year for a freaky great team, but it's hard to see why the Mariners, in the midst of a second consecutive lost season, couldn't let him play out the string and retire with dignity.

An example of how my brain works: Since it's America's birthday, I chose this morning to conduct an in-depth survey on how things are progressing with Canada's team, the Toronto Blue Jays. Toronto is a well-run team with a lot of likable, under-the-radar players. One of these guys, Shea Hillenbrand, is an All-Star in a selection that the Toronto Star's Geoff Baker writes is an example of the flaws of the multi-tiered voting system. No one will argue with the selection of Roy Halladay, who beat the Red Sox yesterday to improve the Jays' record against the leaders of their division to 8-3. Two games over .500 just past the season's halfway mark, Toronto could go either way when it comes to the trade market. The Blue Jays are 22-13 in the AL East (15-11 if you don't count the Devil Rays, which you shouldn't). They've struggled with teams outside the division (except for Kansas City) and in interleague play. Reading between the lines of GM J.P. Ricciardi's recent comments, this is a team looking two or three years ahead. Any further success they may have this year will come as a pleasant surprise. Maybe they're not as far away as they think -- despite a pedestrian offense, Toronto's Pythagorean record wou ld place them first in the division.

The White Sox probably didn't expect to have the best record in baseball at the halfway point. That's no excuse for them not making improvements, Jay Mariotti of the Chicago Sun-Times writes. He's right. The White Sox aren't particularly young and they're getting career years from a number of pitchers (Garland, Cotts, Politte, Hermanson). Plus they have to deal with the constant specter of The World's Cubbiest 24-Hour Beer Garden over on the other side of the Red Line's y-axis. Were Chicago's unloved team to pull off the unthinkable and bring a World Series home, it'd be a dramatic reversal for the worst intracity inferiority complex in sports. (OK, well, yeah, the Clippers. But Clippers aren't even trying. The White Sox have always tried to win. Except for that one time.) The ChiSox lineup seems to somehow be productive beyond its individual stat lines, and besides maybe light-hitting third baseman Joe Crede, who are you going to send out? You can never have enough pitching, though, and the White Sox owe it to their 18,000 devoted fans to be in hard on Jason Schmidt, Brad Lidge, A.J. Burnett, Jose Mesa, and even Kenny Rogers, as Mariotti suggests. Kenny Williams needs to start scouting Boston and Los Angeles de Los Angeles now and go get exactly what it is going to take to beat them in a 5- or 7-game series. Legitimate championship shots come to Chicago about as often as mild summers.

Back to the Rockies (long sigh) later today. Oh, that reminds me, here's an interesting item courtesy of ESPN's Old Man AL East, Peter Gammons: the Rockies had the best record in their division (12-15) in June. Did you know that? I didn't know that.

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