Why are the Cardinals America's team? Because they have an old Busch and a new Busch.
If there's one thing I learned from reading Sports Illustrated cover to cover every week in my youth, it's that you can't write an article about an early-season surprise team without focusing on that team's Young Breakout Star. But who is that star for the Rockies? Jim Armstrong: Cory Sullivan. If you look quickly, SI.com has Matt Holliday on their MLB front page (and the Rockies 9th in their power rankings). For MLB.com, Clint Hurdle and his love affair with deliberately creating outs is the story. Somehow they managed to get through the story without quoting Phil Garner.
I watched the entirety of the Devil Rays-Mariners game last night, a real East-West bottom feeder summit. How do you like your bad teams, all pitching, no hitting, or vice versa? Tampa Bay has some guys who can hit, including Jonny Gomes and my old TTO fave from Milwaukee, Russell Branyan, currently masquerading as a right fielder. I have not one but two new favorite Rays after the contest last night. First of all, Casey Fossum. I have an established thing for lefties without fastballs, but Fossum takes things beyond logical extremes. Casey's out pitch, which he has modestly dubbed the "Fossum flip," is a marvel that travels slower than fifty miles an hour and yet breaks like a batting cage curveball. I don't know how it's physically possible to throw the thing. Anyway, Fossum outpitched Gil Meche last night but was hung out to dry by Chad Orvella and the Tampa Bay bullpen. My other new favorite guy is Damon Hollins, because he bats right, throws left. I love guys who bat right, throw left. The Mariners broadcasters went on for a whole half-inning talking about how it's rare for outfielders to to demonstrate the Rickey split because it exposes their throwing arm to being hit by pitches. Not once did it come up that there are scads of guys, including outfielders, who throw right, hit left. In fact, three of the four outfielders on the Seattle roster throw right, hit left. (Ichiro, Raul Ibañez, and Matt Lawton.) The level of common sense being demonstrated by our baseball TV broadcasters could well be at an all-time low.
Seattle's pitching has been very good of late, although it's been Jor-El Pineiro and not Felix Hernandez who's been leading the way. However, the Mariners' lineup is, well, crappy. Kenji Johjima has been as advertised, Ibañez has been solid, and they've gotten a surprising amount of offense from team RBI leader Jose Lopez, but after that, yuck. Ichiro, Adrian Beltre, and Richie Sexson are producing very little for a lot of money. Willie Bloomquist and Yuniesky Betancourt are non-hitters. Mike Hargrove seems to have given up on Jeremy Reed. Combine a weak hitting attack with end-of-the-bullpen issues and you've got a recipe for a long season. As of last night, J.J. Putz is in and Eddie Guardado is out as closer, but Seattle's core problems go beyond what depth chart shuffles can repair. They've got a lot of untradeable contracts, the farm system is Yankees-dry, and with that very game last night, they set a record low for atttendance at Safeco. On the other hand, those dark blue-green jerseys they wear are really nice-looking.
The Cubs' collapse is proceeding ahead of schedule this year. Apparently they've got yet another plan for second base now, rookie Ryan Theriot, continuing one of the strangest ongoing position battle stories in MLB. Why won't the Cubs play Todd Walker, a good-hitting, lefty-swinging second baseman, at second base? I realize Walker is now starting at first in Derrek Lee's absence, but Chicago really ought to be able to find an immobile slugging first baseman somewhere in organized baseball. I would suggest they make a deal for Ryan Shealy, but I don't think the Cubs have anything the Rockies want, and also, what would they do with him after Lee comes back? Well, I'm sure there are teams besides the Rockies who have a good-hitting, positionally blocked first baseman in AAA. Rotating through an endless cycle of no-hit second basemen isn't really helping matters. Ah, confusing motion for progress -- must be springtime in Wrigleyville.
I'm not sure what to make of the Dodgers' current struggles. On one hand, I'm mad at the franchise for unjustly firing Paul DePodesta after an injury plague of biblical proportions scuttled L.A.'s 2005 campaign. Is it poetic justice that the same fate is now befalling Ned Colletti? However the season ends up for the Dodgers, I think Colletti did a pretty good job this offseason given the illogical and often contradictory orders imposed upon him by HQ. Rafael Furcal's awfulness defies explanation. The trade for Danys Baez looks smarter now that Eric Gagne has gone down again. I ridiculed the Dodgers for starting Aaron Sele yesterday, but in the long run, it makes sense for them not to needlessly rush their blue-chip arms. Things look worse than they actually are now, but the franchise is still structurally sound. Other than the crazy owner, I mean. As I noted in my preseason previews, most of the veterans the Dodgers have under contract have very reasonable, very movable deals. If the Rockies run away with the NL West (sorry, couldn't help myself), Los Angeles could improve their future prospects even further by selling high on some guys who aren't in the long-term plans. There's already discussion of pawning Odalis Perez off to the Mets.
Carpenter and Fogg tonight in St. Louis, which doesn't bode well for the Rockies' winning streak. That's OK, so long as a Rockies loss doesn't start a streak in the other direction.