All-Star Game Musings

MLB needs more George Steinbrenners!

The All-Star Game is baseball’s traditional halfway mark, so it’s time for a few midseason thoughts:

Nobody except Bud Selig really cares about the All-Star Game, nor should they. Its allure was long ago destroyed by interleague play, an experiment that can’t end too soon for my taste. H
ow can one even pick “All-Stars” based on a half year’s performance?

Can somebody explain to me how Seattle Manager Don Wakamatsu or General Manager Jack Zduriencik still have jobs? The sexy pick to win the AL West (including mine) is on a pace to lose 100 games and Cliff Lee has been sent packing to Texas, a team in Seattle’s division, a no-no for a GM with half a brain. You look at this roster and there’s no way the Mariners should be this bad.

Forget the Stephen Strasburg hype—the Nationals still stink and DC still doesn’t deserve an MLB franchise. While I’m on the subject, can we also agree that Kansas City, Pittsburgh, Miami, Tampa, and Milwaukee are burgs more appropriate for a tractor pull than MLB? Anybody who pays money to see the Pirates or Royals needs to get an EEG to check for brainwave activity. Get back to me in three years on Strasburg.

The Giants are proof that all the pitching in the world won’t matter if your everyday roster can’t hit a fat woman’s tush with a cello. The Blue Jays confirm the opposite—they lead MLB in homers but their pitching staff gets hammered like a lumberyard’s inventory.

I said that the only way the Phillies could lose the NL East is to implode. That’s exactly what’s happening. I still think they’ll right the ship, but they seem to be baking from scratch what should have been a ready-to-eat championship pie. The Braves will be tough—they’re giving Bobby Cox a fitting tribute in his swan-song managerial season.

I picked the Padres to lose a hundred games. They’re in first, but I still think it shows how awful the NL West is, not how surprisingly good the Padres are. And I still don’t think it will last. Gotta love the breakout season of the Rockies Ubaldo Jimenez, who may single handedly help the Rocks take the NL West.

The AL West is equally putrid, so much so that the Angels could still win it with a roster of has-beens and never-will-bes. Texas is favored, especially now that they’ve rented Lee for a half year, but Arlington in late summer is the graveyard of pitching staffs and the Rangers may still have to bash rather than finesse their way to the title.

Close behind in the weak sister race is the AL Central. It’s hard to see the ChiSox remaining atop the heap now that Jake Peavy has been lost for the season and Ozzie Guillen is still at the helm. But the Twins remain as cheap as ever and simply won’t spend what is necessary to upgrade their cramped ranch house roster to a comfortable split-level even though they’re swimming in revenue from the opening of Target Field. The urban blight Tigers have a decent shot of redeeming last year’s collapse and stealing the crown from suburban Minnesotans.

Three more for the spend-what-it-takes or sell-the-damn-club category: Oakland, Houston, and Arizona. My solution for the horrendous D’backs is to float a rumor that there’s a plan afoot to relocate the team to Hamilton, Ontario.

It’s a shame about Cleveland—first they lose LeBron and then they get the 2010 Indians. Even sadder is the continuing ineptitude of the Orioles, who I actually thought would be competitive this year. Boy was I wrong! I was never an O’s fan, but it’s painful to see such a storied franchise become such a joke.

The Cubs would still rot no matter who managed them, but would somebody please fire Lou Pinella and put him out of his misery?

Did any general managers have a worse off-season than Theo Epstein and Brian Cashman? The supposedly defensive-minded Red Sox have booted more balls this year than last, and Adrian “Crash” Beltre has taken out two-thirds of the starting outfield. I predicted that John Lackey would be more like a four of clubs than an ace in the AL East and so far I’m right on the money. Lackey’s inflated career numbers reflect the AL West weakness, not his pitching prowess. Theo’s big plan to get Matsuzaka (Japanese for “mediocre”) back on course hasn’t exactly dazzled either.

But Theo’s had a better year than Cashman. None—as in zero—of his pre-April moves have worked and the fact that the Yankees have the best record in MLB at the break is commentary on how good the rest of the team is. Nick Johnson? More likely to be in a salvage yard than in the lineup. Curtis Granderson? His All-Star year was a fluke; the dude is a .230 hitter with less chance of hitting left-handed pitching than Bin Laden has of becoming pope. Randy Winn? Released. Javier Vasquez? Spotted filling out applications for Basket(case)ville. Chan Ho Park? Revealed to be 60.39 years-old, which coincidentally is also his ERA. When your best off-season move is signing Marcus Thames…

For all of this, I still think the Red Sox and Yankees will finish 1-2 in the AL East and that the Rays will come up a dime short. The Yankees need a better bench and relief pitching, a task they might accomplish by unloading Joba Chamberlain while he still has any value whatsoever. The Red Sox need relief pitching as well, and could really use another bat. The Rays, however, need an entirely new bullpen short of Rafael Soriano, and hitters with an on-base percentage roughly double what it is currently. Corey Hart is rumored to be on his way to Tampa, but he’s not a high OBP guy either. The Rays are talented, but the holes in their lineup strike me as bigger than those of the Sox or Yankees.

As I was preparing this, the news hit that George Steinbrenner has just died at the age of 80. He’s the guy everyone says ruined baseball. What a crock! If every owner in the game cared as much about their play toys as The Boss did, some of the league’s pathetic franchises would fare much better. To be sure, few could spend as much as Steinbrenner, but take a look at the percentage of team revenue they spend on players and get back to me. Steinbrenner always put his money where his mouth was, whereas clowns in Pittsburgh, KC, Miami, and elsewhere are content to put Yankees’ revenue-sharing checks in their personal bank accounts. MLB needs more Steinbrenners.

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