Sunday, April 15, 2012

Observations of the first step of the marathon

Has hell officially frozen over? One might think so with the Dodgers, Nationals and Mets boasting the first, third and fourth best records in all of baseball, respectively. Making some sense at least are the Rangers with the second-best record in the league, but with the Orioles leading the AL East, something is definitely fishy in the majors right now.

I know it's hard for some of you east coasters to keep your cool right now, but seriously Yankees and Red Sox fans, we're not even 10 games into the season so please wait at least another month before you completely lose it.

Most season previews and Power Rankings I viewed at the conclusion of spring training predicted the Dodgers would be down in the dumps this year (yet again) but I disagreed and said as much in my own MLB season preview. Luckily, the boys in blue are making me look good as Los Angeles not only has the best record in baseball at 8-1, but that number is good for the Dodgers best start since starting the 1981 season at 9-1…a season that resulted in a World Series championship for L.A.

While the broke (see: Frank McCourt) and seemingly broke down Dodgers appeared to be devoid of any expectations from the national media or the public, that other team across the 405 freeway. with all its glitz and glam, was facing the exact opposite situation with the addition of bazillion-dollar off-season acquisitions Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson.

In a bizarre reversal of fortune, the Dodgers are getting all of the praise while the now Pujols-led Angels (3-5) are bringing up the rear in not only their own division but the Halos are also near the bottom of the entire American League as well.

There is no real battle for L.A. at the moment - the Angels don't even play in Los Angeles County, much less L.A. city proper, so, there's that - as this isn't a fair fight based on the Dodgers early dominance.

Matt Kemp picked up right where he left off as the NL-MVP runner up leads the majors with five home runs, 15 RBI and a .457 batting average. The center fielder isn't the only hot hand at Chavez Ravine as right fielder Andre Ethier is close on Kemp's heels with three home runs and 14 RBI, good for second-best in the league.

Now, to the downside. Yes, there is a downside. It's called the Padres and Pirates.

That's who the Dodgers have amassed an 8-1 record against. The Padres and the Pirates. Yikes.

It's hard to take anyone seriously as a contender after the first nine of 162 games in a regular season but it's also harder to give a team props when their "strong start" comes against two of the worst teams in baseball (thus far).

As for the new-look Angels, the boo-birds are already out making a stink about signing Pujols to a 10-year, $240M contract. Along with the three-time NL MVP came Wilson, the lefty who carried a hefty $77.5M price tag of his own.

The 31-year-old Pujols is off to to a S-L-O-W start, hitting an underwhelming .250 with only three RBI and not a hint of a home run in his repertoire . Fear not though Angels fans because the team is strong without Pujols, as proven by Anaheim's 7-1 spanking of the Yankees in the Bronx on Saturday.

Remember how Boston's big bat David Ortiz was hammered by the media during his slow start over the last few seasons? The Red Sox slugger routinely struggled for the first month of the season before warming up and regaining his typical good form in the batter's box.

Pujols said after the Angels' Friday loss to the Yankees, "I'm a human. Sometimes you want to press a little bit and try to do too much." Slumps are often times mental and have nothing to do with physical pain or problems. Signing a contract of this magnitude surely put enormous pressure on Pujols' shoulders and it's showing early.

This wouldn't be the first time Pujols found himself in a pickle. In the final year of his contract with the Cardinals - without an extension in sight - Pujols was hitting .143 through the first 30 at bats last season. How did that wind up for St. Louis? Exactly.

Much like the role reversal of the Mets and Yankees in New York for the time being, L.A. has the potential to be the baseball capital of the country this season.

It's too early to crown anyone king of anything, so lets regroup after 30 games to reexamine Kemp and Kershaw vs. Pujols and Wilson. After all, what purpose would either team serve in SoCal without any Hollywood drama? Sit back, and enjoy the show.

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