Remember What Chuck D Said
Well isn’t this fun. The Yankees are still hovering at 6-6, while the two best records in the baseball belong to the Mets and the Red Sox. The Sox pulled off yet another miracle today at Fenway. Two, actually. A miracle that Loretta hit a walk-off job, and of course the standing miracle of science injected into Mr. Ortiz that has allowed his home run totals to grow in unison with his hat size. And win they did, extending their lead over the Yanks in this ludicrously young season. But in the stat book it doesn’t make any sense. The Yanks are averaging more runs per game than any other team in the league. By far. So what is it? Pitching? Defense? Let’s examine it.
Let’s start with the Red Sox, since they’re the ones that matter for now. The Yankees are averaging more than two full two runs per game better than the Red Sox, 6.67 to 4.62. So it must be the pitching. Oops. The Yankees team ERA is lower than the Red Sox team ERA. The Yanks have given up fewer runs, fewer bombs, fewer hits, and have more strikeouts. So what gives? The Red Sox are 9-4, 2 ½ games in front. Well, let’s start with the simple reason. The Red Sox play 10 of their first 16 games at home. Let’s go to the next simple reason. They’ve played Texas, Baltimore, Toronto, and Seattle. And Tampa Bay is up next. Let’s play “name the contender” in that group. I know. That’s a hard game.
And the Amazing Mets. As I’ve said it over the last few weeks, I think they’re legit. I thought they were legit last year, too, but the injuries got them. And this year how the bandwagon has overflowed. The Baseball Tonight guys have already anointed them the NL East winners. Premature? Perhaps, but I don’t necessarily disagree. It looks to me like they’re going to run away with it. But I just don’t think that tells you how good they are. Or aren’t. Now, you can start with the same argument we made about the Red Sox. They’re starting with 12 of their first 15 games at home. The Mets home record was phenomenal last year. And let’s play “name the contender” again. Washington, Florida, and Milwaukee. Of course, they beat the Braves tonight. Pedro vs. Jorge Sosa. At Shea. By one run. Not exactly domination. It’s nice, I guess. The Braves are a perennial contender. But you know what? They su*k too. Here’s the real story. The National League is awful and getting worse. I know National League fans might not love that statement, but the truth is the truth. It’s a cyclical thing. Fifteen years ago you could have argued that the AL was a joke. Check the All-Star games and World Series over the last two years. The NL is 0-10. And that’s when the all-star games counted…. The putrid Padres made the playoffs last year, lucky to have a late surge to get them over .500. The Cardinals and Astros never even gave you the impression they were going to win a game in the last two World Series. The NL East was lauded for its parity last year. At various points late in the season, all five teams were within a game and a-half of each other. Here’s what you didn’t hear too often. They were all equally terrible.
So the Mets and Red Sox have played to favorable schedules thus far. What about the Yanks? Well, they play 11 of their first 14 on the road, including a west coast trip and nine of their first 12 against teams that have been to the playoffs in the last two years, all of whom had winning records last year. Oh, and one three-game vacation against the Royals tucked in the middle. Funny how that works out isn’t it? Does MLB do that on purpose? I have no idea. You always hear that they start on the West Coast because the weather’s better. Okay. Meanwhile, the Mets and Red Sox are loaded with home games in the first two weeks. So why would MLB care? I’ll tell you what – I would care if I was making the schedule. Think about it. Major League Baseball needs the Yankees to be strong. But they don’t really have to worry about that. The Yankees have too much talent not to be right in the middle of it. But if the Yankees shoot right out of the box and go wire to wire…..bor-ing. If MLB can get the Red Sox started off with a bang, they can prolong the race and keep things interesting longer. Go check how many times in the last ten years the Yankees have been ahead of the Red Sox in the standings at the end of April (I’m guessing two). Now go look how many times the Red Sox have finished ahead of the Yanks in the AL East over the last ten years. Zero. Last year they started against the Red Sox at the Stadium, but that was for the sake of ESPN’s opening Sunday Night game. And then they bolted right out on the road, including a trip to Fenway. This happens every single year. I don’t know; maybe it’s the biggest coincidence ever. So let’s look at the NL East. An NL East race would be huge for MLB, particularly if it included the big-market Mets. We know the Mets start with 12 of 15 at home. Against my cousin Finola’s pee-wee soccer team. So if this crazy conspiracy theory were to hold, one would think that the Braves would have a tougher, road-heavy schedule to start out. How about 16 of their first 22 on the road, including a west coast trip against just about every contender they could scrape together outside of St. Louis. The Giants, Dodgers, and Padres (yes, as embarrassing as it was, they did win the NL West last year). And their first matchup with the Mets is, of course, on the road.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying it’s the Mets or the Red Sox’ fault. They’re beating the teams they should be beating. My point is that we need to wait and see how good any of these teams are. Very rarely do you get statistical anomalies in which teams that lead the league in certain categories don’t make the playoffs. The top two run producing teams in baseball over the last three years were Yankees/Red Sox, Angels/Red Sox, and Red Sox/Braves. Anyone want to guess what all of those teams had in common? The 2006 Red Sox are not scoring enough runs. That will hurt them. The Mets have an excellent offense, but their pitching staff is very thin. And it is dependent on Pedro, who hasn’t been worth anything after August 1st for the last five years, and Glavine, who has been up and down (mostly down) since he came to New York.
Either way, MLB got what it wanted. Hype.