Apparently, I’ve been away for way too long. Last time I posted, Jackie Bradley Jr. was the red hot hitter on the Red Sox everyone was talking about and, the next thing I know, he’s yesterday’s newspaper and everyone had moved on to Xander Bogaerts and Mookie Betts. And then seemingly overnight, after one long home run, all of the baseball talking heads have deemed that Madison Bumgarner is the next Babe Ruth. So let’s get caught up on what’s going on around the league. I know I needed to.
We know that the Red Sox can hit. I’ve already talked about it too much. But their horrific pitching has been the main reason why I still don’t think this team should be the favorite in the division, let alone the league. Sure, they can try to get another arm, but it’s not like there’s an abundance of available guys out there on the trade market. And who knows if the 40-year-old, Big Papi, can keep up his maddening pace. Like, is this team really the ’27 Murderers Row Yankees? Also, if you look at their own division, the Sawx have losing records against both the Orioles and the Blue Jays.
I’ve already cast aside the Yankees and Rays, but if you look at the Orioles, they’re pretty much in the same boat as the Red Sox. Except they’re currently playing better baseball. And you have to assume that, at some point, the Blue Jays (who have the best pitching in the division) are going to start hitting. Michael Saunders should probably not be the best hitter on that loaded team. I do think the Red Sox, Orioles and Blue Jays will be battling it out in the end. And the big problem for the Red Sox is that any one of those teams can expose their 4-man disaster of a rotation. They don’t stop anybody now. So I don’t see how they’ll stop the Jays or Orioles down the stretch. You know, either that or they’ll just keep scoring 15 runs a game. Whichever sounds more logical to you.
Also, I could spend time talking about Manny Machado and the Orioles-Royals brawl, but I guess I’m sick of pitchers who don’t have to hit throwing 99 miles-per-hour at essentially defenseless dudes at the plate. I don’t know why any kid thinking of playing baseball would look at that and think, “Yeah. Sign me up for that shit.” All that being said, I still want to see Jays-Rangers in the playoffs because I’m still totally okay with fisticuffs between position players. Moving on…
When Mike Moustakas went down for the season and the White Sox decided to absolutely tank their season (James Shields?!), the door finally opened for the Indians. That four-game sweep of the Royals was a real momentum changer. And if the Indians can get a big bat in July, it should be their division for the taking. Then again, who knows if they’re in a position to go after anybody on the market. And then this division could just keep on shuffling around aimlessly.
Ken Giles thinks the Astros have a more talented team than the Rangers. Uh, no. Right now, the Rangers have the best record in the American League and their biggest problem is where to put all of their young talent. Look at Nomar Mazara replacing Shin-Soo Choo in the outfield. Look at Jurickson Profar replacing Rougned Odor in the infield. Look at how they’ve absolutely pounded the Astros. Other than Prince Fielder sucking and a few injury scares, there’s really no reason not to think this one is coming down to the Rangers and Mariners.
I gotta say, I think the Mets might be screwed. Only the Phillies and Braves have scored fewer runs this season, and their string of injuries isn’t going to help. The pitching staff is still really good (especially since Matt Harvey decided he was done being lousy), but they might have to pray they hang on to that Wild Card spot, because the Nationals are going to win the division and the Cardinals and/or Dodgers seem poised to pass them by. Oh, and remember when the Phillies were above .500? Yeah. That didn’t last long.
This is where I get to talk about the Cubs. They have five guys leading in All-Star Game balloting. And they have the best team ERA in the Majors. How many of those five guys deserve to start the All-Star Game? I’d say probably three or four. Ben Zobrist was Mr. May and has exceeded all expectations from when he signed with the club. I’d also say he’s having the second-best all-around season of any National League position player, after Dexter Fowler. And then no third baseman is more worthy of a start than Kris Bryant. That includes Nolan Arenado. You could also argue for Anthony Rizzo at first, if not for what Wil Myers and Paul Goldschmidt are doing. But Addison Russell at short is a bit of a stretch.
And just for a full disclosure, I did a write-in vote for David Ross at catcher even though I know full well it should be given to Jonathan Lucroy. It’s Ross’ swan song in the big leagues and he’s never been selected to the Midsummer Classic before. I don’t know if I got more joy out of watching Grandpa Rossy hit his 100th career home run, or seeing video of him hitting his first in 2002 off of Mark Grace.
As far as the Cubs’ staff goes, just take a look at a few ERAs.
2. Jake Arrieta 1.80
5. Jon Lester 2.06
6. Jason Hammel 2.14
10. John Lackey 2.63
19. Kyle Hendricks 2.90
If you’re keeping score at home, that’s all five starters with a sub-three ERA. I know Arrieta’s winning streak just ended at 20. But he’s still Jake Fucking Arrieta. And Lester is pitching the best games he’s had since coming to Chicago, a month ahead of when he usually heats up. Plus, he also has those sick NBA-style tracksuits. The bullpen might become an issue for the team down the road, but the starters might be the main reason why the Cubs are the fastest team to 40 wins since the 2001 Mariners, are still on pace for 114 wins and are up 10 games on the Cardinals and Pirates.
Well, everybody wants Madison Bumgarner in the Home Run Derby. And I’m fine with that. But I’d actually love a pitchers-only derby with MadBum, Noah Syndergaard, Adam Wainwright, Jake Arrieta, Gerrit Cole, Robbie Ray, Kenta Maeda and (obviously) Bartolo Colon. You could probably also throw in Mike Leake, Zack Greinke and Travis Wood, just for old times sake. I know MadBum would win easily, but I’d still enjoy the freak show.
Actually, Bumgarner is about the only player on the Giants hitting anything right now. Even though they have the best record in the Majors since May 11. I just don’t know if they can maintain that pace with all their mounting injuries. Not that the Dodgers (other than Corey Seager) are hitting much either. And I’m sad that the Julio Urias project wasn’t ready for prime time. As an LA resident, part of me wanted to see Fernandomania Part Dos. And I’d talk about the Rockies, D-Backs and Padres, but I don’t want to MadBum you out. That pun was worth it.
Okay. See you in the next Angelino in the Outfield. If you need more, you can always check me out on the MLB recap episodes on Comedians Talking Sports with Joe Kilgallon. Until next time, Ichiro needs 29 hits. And the Cubs’ Magic Number is 94.