Early Stories and Surprises: Reader’s Choice

Since today’s an off-day for both our clubs, and since we’re dimly aware that baseball teams exist outside of Boston and the Bronx, it’s a good opportunity to take a look around MLB to check out the "stories" of this young season. During the first five weeks of the 2006 campaign we’ve seen quite a few surprises, incredible or "Pujolesque" (the new Kafkaesque word coined this April) individual performances, and notable off-the-field activities. Off the top of my head I can think of some that I’ll list below. What else stands out to you as the biggest events/stories of the spring so far? Feel free to share your observations and add to the list :

  • The Tigers are not just good…they’re great! Sorry about that, but it’s true. The team with the best Pythagorean record (SF’s favorite stat) plays in Detroit. Will it continue or will they be the Orioles of 2005.
  • The Reds are competing for the division. How is this happening?
  • Albert Pujols is a better version of Albert Pujols and might make a drug-free run at the homer record.
  • Old finesse pitchers rule the day. Mike Mussina might win 20 for the first time. Imagine that.
  • Josh Beckett struggles, Hanley Ramirez is a star in the making, Mark Loretta stinks, AGon is renamed ‘Bathroom Break", Wily Mo Pena strikes out more than a drunken frat boy at a SoHo art gallery, Rudy Seanez and Julian Tavarez are awful, and Coco Crisp is made of glass. Theo’s a genius! It’s all part of his master plan.
  • Damon looks every bit as valuable as his rich contract. His transition to the Bronx has been smooth. Farnsworth, Villone and Mike Myers have all improved the bullpen, the team is scoring at a 1000-run clip. Cashman is a mediocrity.
  • The Twins stink.
  • Kenny Williams is looking very smart right about now. Adding Thome and Vazquez has made the ChiSox scary good.
  • The Mets are aiming to clinch the NL East by mid-June. It could happen.
  • Barry Bonds has a new reality TV show and the result is a little akward.


42 comments… add one
  • Even the most biased Yanks fan would be a fool to omit PAPELBON’S HANDLING OF THE CLOSER ROLE. Still perfect in save opportunities – a late inning loss vs. the Jays the only blemish.
    Also, DEREK JETER’S MINIBALLS! Not really a surprise, but a hiliarious story.

    Sean May 8, 2006, 4:24 pm
  • Josh Beckett struggles, Hanley Ramirez is a star in the making, Mark Loretta stinks, AGon is renamed ‘Bathroom Break”, Wily Mo Pena strikes out more than a drunken frat boy at a SoHo art gallery, Rudy Seanez and Julian Tavarez are awful, and Coco Crisp is made of glass. Theo’s a genius! It’s all part of his master plan.
    thanks, nick. best laugh i’ve had all day.

    beth May 8, 2006, 4:52 pm
  • With so many problems the Sox should be down there with the Rays, and a quick check at the standings here… and, wait! Whats this?! It looks like the Sox are tied for first place!
    Nick, always the comedian.
    Bathroom Break! (MM, always the comedian…)

    mattymatty May 8, 2006, 4:52 pm
  • Josh Beckett struggles, Hanley Ramirez is a star in the making, Mark Loretta stinks, AGon is renamed ‘Bathroom Break”, Wily Mo Pena strikes out more than a drunken frat boy at a SoHo art gallery, Rudy Seanez and Julian Tavarez are awful, and Coco Crisp is made of glass. Theo’s a genius! It’s all part of his master plan.
    thanks, nick. best laugh i’ve had all day.

    beth May 8, 2006, 4:53 pm
  • fuck! double post. *slinks off in shame*

    beth May 8, 2006, 4:53 pm
  • come on nick. you shouldn’t flame throw on a day with no baseball.
    -hanely is a star in april. you know first hand what josh does in october.
    -loretta is a pro’s pro who just might need a month to get adjusted to a new league.
    -anything you say about wily mo could be said about ortiz 4 years ago. and he now owns you. let papa jack work his magic.
    -you say tavarez and seanez, i say wright and pavano.
    -if coco’s made of glass, what’s sheff made of? the clear glass.

    sf rod May 8, 2006, 5:29 pm
  • I know this isn’t in keeping with the theme of baseball outside of New York and its shitty neighbor to the north, but in response to mattymattymattymattymatty, the Sox have been pretty lucky so far–is their run differential still negative?

    tom yf May 8, 2006, 5:31 pm
  • i almost forogt:
    – a-gonz gets to balls jeter has only read about. we’ll take his posada like production at the plate.

    sf rod May 8, 2006, 5:33 pm
  • I put in a little bullet about the Sox and now that’s all anyone wants to talk about. C’mon ladies and gents, the Twins really are bad. Isn’t that mystifying to anyone else?

    NickYF May 8, 2006, 6:08 pm
  • Sox are now +12 in run differential since there offense came alive this week.

    Travis May 8, 2006, 6:29 pm
  • Nick, don’t say the Twins stink: they are a cornerstone of the famed “Yankees have played a tough schedule” argument. Oh, and don’t look at the Angels’ record, either. Or the A’s.
    Oh, an Wily Mo’s OPS and SLG% are better than A-Rod’s, Sheffield’s. But, yeah, he strikes out more than we’d like. He also makes $24 million less than A-Rod.

    airk May 8, 2006, 6:55 pm
  • Nick was just poking the hornet’s nest. Don’t oblige him.

    SF May 8, 2006, 6:56 pm
  • I dunno Tom, is Randy Johnson’s ERA still above 5?

    mattymatty May 8, 2006, 7:14 pm
  • a 5.00 ERA cuts the mustard as long as they keep scoring 10+ runs in each of the ugly bastard’s starts.

    airk May 8, 2006, 7:23 pm
  • If Sheff is made of the clear glass, does that mean Giambi is made of the creamy glass?
    Just asking…

    Tom sf May 8, 2006, 7:32 pm
  • Here’s some things that I have been wondering about:
    – Why does Tejada’s name come up so seldomly when pundits talk about the best hitters in the AL?
    – With Houston contending and actually producing runs at a slightly above avearge clip, why would Rocket want to come back to Boston or NY?
    – How long does Giarardi have with the Marlins before he gets downsized?
    – When will Kansas City be eligible for FEMA relief?
    – What’s up with Ichiro?
    – Bonds passing Ruth is the biggest story that no one cares about.
    – How did Giambi’s discipline at the plate get even better, and why can’t he hit the ball to the left side? And don’t answer creamy glass.
    – When will MLB address the fact that there are 6 teams in the NL central and 4 in the AL west? Hey MLB, Portland Oregon wants a team! (Or at least attackgerbil does)
    – Ain’t no team cursed like the Cubs, ain’t never been.

    attackgerbil May 8, 2006, 8:53 pm
  • attackgerbil:
    – Tejada plays in Baltimore.
    – Money. But I still think if he returns, it’ll be Houston.
    – Hopefully before Giraldi looks at his team and slits his wrist.
    – Aren’t things bad enough in Kansas City without bring FEMA into the mess. (Seriously, Kansas City is a great baseball city, and it’s depressing what has gone on there.)
    – lead-off hitters who don’t like taking walks can have long streaks, good or bad.
    – I blame ESPN.
    – Giambi’s got a great eye, and sometimes as hitters get older, they get a little more knowledge. I don’t know why he can’t hit it to the left side, maybe he should give a phone call to Mike Lowell.
    – Any town that’s given us Superchunk deserves an MLB town, it makes more sense than having two freaking teams down here in South Florida where nobody cares about any teams that aren’t the Yankees or Red Sox.
    – Seriously, when the White Sox won last year, I thought that was the final straw to show that the Cubs were doomed, and then the next year Wood, Prior, AND Derek Lee on the DL. Man, that’s rough.

    Hunter May 8, 2006, 10:10 pm
  • I can think of a reason why people Tejada’s name doesn’t come up more often as one of the best hitters in the AL: Because he’s not. Don’t get me wrong, for a shortstop, he’s a great hitter. But in his best season he hit .311 / .360 / .534, which is good and all, but it doesn’t stack up with what the best hitters in the AL (A-Rod, Ortiz, Sheff, Hafner, Teixiera, Guerrero, and — apparently — Giambi, to name a few) do on a year-in, year-out basis.

    C. Joseph May 8, 2006, 10:12 pm
  • Er, I now realize that Superchunk is not from Portland, so replace that with Sleater-Kinney.

    Hunter May 8, 2006, 10:18 pm
  • The way Atlanta and New York are playing I definitely wouldn’t be surprised if the Mets stole the division title in the end. As a Yankee fan I definitely have to give props to Papelbon. He’s one of the Red Sox players I hate because he actually has talent.

    Ally May 8, 2006, 10:24 pm
  • Okay, if we’re gonna play it like that:
    * Tejada. See above.
    * Clemens. Probably money, but in all honesty, I think if he was going anywhere other than Houston, he would have come back before now. The only reason to wait this long is the restriction on his resigning with Houston.
    *Girardi? I think they went into this season knowing they were going to suck balls. I’d bet he’s got a long leash, and will probably make it into next year.
    *Kansas City. Can you imagine FEMA doing anything but making it worse? Would you really want a decomissioned trailer out in center field?
    *Ichiro. It’s nothing he hasn’t done at various times before. He doesn’t walk, and it’s possible that, at 32, he’s lost just a touch of speed, though I suspect it’s just the luck of the draw.
    *Bonds. No one gives a crap because Ruth’s “record” hasn’t been the record in thirty-odd years, and more than half the population grew up with Aaron’s record. Unfortunately, none of those people are in charge of ESPN, or MLB, or anything else, yet, so we have to hear about it a lot more than we’d like.
    *I don’t think anything is different with Giambi. A lot of guys walk more when they get older, but I wouldn’t be shocked if it just turned out to be an aberration.
    *The dumbass divisions. I could see this was stupid when they debuted it when I was, what, 14? I think the real solution would be to shift Arizona to the AL West and Milwaukee to the NL West, thereby giving each division 5 teams. (Right? Is that math right?) Despite the fact that I have lived in or near Portland, Oregon, for most of my life, I think a MLB team there would be an unmitigated disaster. Right now, Oregon’s broke, Portland’s broke, the market is small, and everybody’s already a Mariners or Giants fan. San Antonio and Las Vegas come with similar caveats.
    *Cubs suck!

    C. Joseph May 8, 2006, 10:26 pm
  • I don’t think Sleater-Kinney’s from Portland, either. Eliot Smith was, though.

    C. Joseph May 8, 2006, 10:27 pm
  • Yeah, I looked it up. Sleater-Kinney’s totally from Olympia.
    Portland also gave us Everclear and the Decemberists, for what it’s worth.

    C. Joseph May 8, 2006, 10:31 pm
  • Tejada is a pretty dynamic player though. I think he’d the starting shortstop for Mattymatty’s AL All-Star team, although I reserve the right to change my mind in favor of Jhonny Peralta at any time.

    mattymatty May 8, 2006, 10:32 pm
  • mattymattymattymattymatty, re: Randy Johnson, what a completely irrelevant and incompetent answer. And now you’re referring to yourself in the third person? You’re an amazing guy.

    tom yf May 8, 2006, 10:45 pm
  • tom, i have no intention of getting into flame war with you. this isn’t the forum. if you want to randomly attack me, click on my name, send me an email. other than that shut up.

    mattymatty May 8, 2006, 10:58 pm
  • I just had a delicious dinner with the lady, and came back to find some fabulous posts in response to my queries. She’s watching 24 on the Tivo, and I have to write back to a couple of you because it was so much fun reading your comments.
    Hunter: Spot on and interesting in all your responses, except for the Ice Cream. We do have Tillamook – good stuff, that.
    C. Joseph: Awesome. Laughed out loud at your writing. Yes, Sleater-Kinney is from Olympia. When you are on I-5 heading through WA, it’s a street name that you read on an exit ramp shortly after passing the capitol dome. A couple of Portland’s offerings: incredible beer (I mean seriously good beer, if you don’t know, you don’t even know), Elliott Smith, Jim Jarmusch (Drugstore Cowboy!), and more parks than you can shake a stick at. Not that you want to go around shaking sticks at parks. My good friend from Chi-Town will take umbrage with your dismissal of his dear cubbies, but man are they cursed.
    Also, C.J., regarding your unmitigated disaester, that’s a train wreck I am willing to watch, purely because I am selfish and will take out another mortgage to be able to watch major league baseball in my home town. There are many other masochists like me here. Doesn’t mean it would be a successful team, but there will be fans here. As an aside, Seattle estimates that 15% of its attending fan base is from Portland. That’s a 3+ hour drive. I wonder what would happen if it were here? I agree it would likely have a rough road, but I want to be on that trail.
    Tejada is better than anyone likes to admit. The “He plays for Baltimore” is the most accurate answer I think, which you can %s/Baltimore/Oakland/ and it’s the same thing. The guy is a freaking MVP who gets slighted _all the time_.

    attackgerbil May 9, 2006, 12:21 am
  • No flaming here, just honesty. The Sox recently had a negative run differential, and were thus lucky to even have a winning record, nevermind being in first place. Had nothing to do with RJ, and your response was as I described it.

    tom yf May 9, 2006, 1:09 am
  • I have shaken sticks at many parks in Portland. Well, I’ve shaken sticks in many parks in Portland, but you get the idea. And I once had a flame war (that I think I won) about whether P-town beer was better than midwest beer. On the other side of the mountains, you don’t get quite the same selection (where’s the Hair of the Dog, dawg?), but I still drink it every time I can get my hands on it. (Like, say, for the last couple of hours. Don’t judge me.)
    And, not to go around correcting people all the time, but by Jim Jarmusch I think you mean Gus Van Zandt, who directed “Drugstore Cowboy”, as well as several other almost-as-good movies (“My Own Private Idaho”) and some not-nearly-as-good movies (“Good Will Hunting”, which, its Red Sox content notwithstanding, I did not like at all). My brother was once an extra in his movie, “Elephant”, which was shot at Grant HS.
    Portland also gave us Chuck Palaniuk (spelling probably wrong), author of the novel upon which the good half of “Fight Club” was based.

    C. Joseph May 9, 2006, 1:17 am
  • Except it wasn’t. You don’t know the meaning of the word incompetent. Kind of ironic actually.
    If you want to talk baseball I’m all for it. But you prefer to throw around insults. One of the aspects of this site that I like is that even though there is give and take between opposite sides of a heated rivalry, its still civil. The few times I’ve ever seen anyone attack anyone else personally is when you get involved, tom. its uncalled for, and I don’t appreciate it. where I come from you can get into trouble talking to someone like that.
    It takes a big man to make fun of someone else on a message board. We’re all in awe of your bigness, tom.

    mattymatty May 9, 2006, 1:22 am
  • Correct correction, C.J., Jarmusch is what came out when I was typing too fast for my own brain. Van Zandt was what was supposed to have happened. I think it is because I was listening to Neil Young today, who did the soundtrack to Dead Man. Anyway, the beer is good here, maybe too good.
    I have done a couple of bottling sessions at Hair of the Dog, where they used to let local yokels hang out and bottle beer when a batch was coming out. I live 13 blocks from Grant HS.

    attackgerbil May 9, 2006, 1:24 am
  • Stephen Malkmus, formerly of Pavement fame, lives in Portland. The members of Sleater-Kinney live there as well and I once did battle against them at a famous trivia night at a local bar the name of which I cannot remember (do you know it attackgerbil?). Their team crushed everyone else’s. I believe my buddies and I came in third to last. This was the most competitive trivia night I’ve ever competed in.
    But I think the best part of Portland, besides the amazingly affordable housing and the roses everywhere, is Powell’s bookstore. What a collection!

    NickYF May 9, 2006, 1:26 am
  • In a testament to misplaced priorities, I have set myself up to be off work at 3:30pm Pacific time Tuesday through Thursday (extra 35 minutes to get a good seat at the bar) just to watch games 3-5 of 18 in the regular season. What is wrong with me? And should I want to fix it?

    attackgerbil May 9, 2006, 1:35 am
  • Okay, all that I care about is that Sleater-Kinney can be called a Portland rock band, right? I mean, I used to review CDs for PopMatters, I have a certain amount (meaning: very little) of hipster cred that I can’t afford to lose! Especially after confusing Chapel Hill with Portland!
    Oh well, anybody’s who’s trying to be a winner on the internet is automatically a loser… ho hum. Er, go Sox?

    Hunter May 9, 2006, 1:35 am
  • Nick: The secret is out; housing is doing as best as it can to become non-affordable.
    Powell’s is a place that defies description; it is truly a singular experience for anyone inclined to enjoy books, but you know this. Dear readers, if you find yourself in Portland, give yourself a day for Powell’s. You will love it.
    The big places for trivia that I am aware of are: Beulah Land, just north of East Burnisde on NE 26th (i think), the Basement Pub on SE 12th ave., and until recently, the Belmont pub on SE Belmont @ 45th.

    attackgerbil May 9, 2006, 1:40 am
  • Hunter, at least as far as travel times/philosophies go, Olympia is close enough to Portland in distance/spirit to Portland that people will not fuss. You won’t lose cred. It rains the same, the beer is the same, the scenery is similar, same mix of agriculture and tech, but at least they get to pump their own gas.

    attackgerbil May 9, 2006, 1:44 am
  • to Portland, to Portland, I am redundantly repeating myself.

    attackgerbil May 9, 2006, 2:06 am
  • Not to take umberage to things to which one should not take umberage, but if Olympia is close enough in spirit, that’s putting Portland at risk of being classified as part of Seattle, which is something I’ve been resenting since the days of Kurt Cobain and Courtney “I Suck at Life” Love.
    Okay, anyway. The point is that Powell’s City of Books is the best bookstore on the face of the earth, to the point that I included it (in my as-yet-not-nearly-finished) Great American Novel that will Change Your Life.

    C. Joseph May 9, 2006, 2:20 am
  • I only say that it is close enough in spirit that anyone east of the Mississippi isn’t going to care, and anyone living on the west coast won’t think twice about driving it.

    attackgerbil May 9, 2006, 2:28 am
  • BTW, great Cobain reference.

    attackgerbil May 9, 2006, 2:30 am
  • Three other Portland bands: Quasi (Janet Weiss from SK and her ex-husband), the semi-Pixiesish Sunset Valley (though Sunset Valley is always on-again/off-again as their LV now lives in Bozeman MT), and the alt-country Richmond Fontaine, though I am not sure they still exist or if band guru/LV Willy Vlautin is even from Portland.
    My sis and BIL lived there for years (my aunt/uncle/cousins hail from Portland) and I loved visiting the place. Great town.

    SF May 9, 2006, 12:30 pm
  • Four hours after anyone else has posted, I just thought I’d say – I love Sleater-Kinney. Thank you. Go Sox.

    Jeremiah May 9, 2006, 4:21 pm

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