Each year, April breathes the warmth of life among inhabitants of the United States of America. Drab hues of brown and grey give way to a rebirth of greens, reds, whites, and pastels, signaling an end to frost-laden hibernation and a return of sprawling natural vibrancy. Ancient pagans believed this rebirth was due to the return of the Green Man from his winter’s slumber, when trees and flowers begin bloom.
In modern America, the promise of spring has evolved into visions of fire-spewing barbecue grills with sizzling meats alongside friends and families begin to fill the hollow void in our souls after enduring what seems to be an eternity of frozen misery–all of which was compounded by Award Season on TV and political stalemate resulting in Democrats transforming into Republicans.
Most importantly, baseball is back.
Two weeks have passed in this year’s six-month slog to the World Series and the Gods of Baseball have treated us to a delightful assortment of springtime sunshine that gives one hope that things may really be alright with the world. My favorite stories so far? Angelic Aces on the mound in Anaheim, the Red Sox mightily struggling out of the gates, and the ceremonious exit of Manny Ramirez from the game of baseball.
Pocket Aces for the Angels
As an unabashed fan of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Spring Training offered nothing more than a dozen reasons to be skeptical about this team. Worse, the Texas Rangers look like they’re so over losing Cliff Lee and may have the ability to conjure the spirit of General Sherman and ruthlessly blaze a trail through the AL West with impressive firepower on offense to return to post-season play (as much as it pains me to type that).
All that aside, the House of Anaheim won’t fall so easy. Jered Weaver and Dan Haren have already served notice to American League batters that torching Angel Stadium will not be so easy. Having already combined for 6 wins (both 3-0) and ERAs under 1.00, the duo gives Halos fans hope that they might be able to keep the team within striking distance of division-favorites, the Rangers, while allowing their young hitters to develop and their ancient outfielders to perform at league-average levels.
At best, the Pocket Aces keep the Angels in the hunt while broad strokes of good luck propel them back to the post-season. At worst, we (I) get to watch these two potentially battle each other for the Cy Young award while the team battles for second place in the AL West.
Bahstin Massacah of April 2011
The Boston Red Sox–Major League Baseball’s once bastard step-child now spoiled rich little brother of the Yankees–were picked by many to win the World Series. They began their march to inevitable glory with a five-game losing streak to open the season and currently sit in last place of the AL East at 2-9. Sure, the grueling season is still in its infancy, but it has been extremely satisfying to watch the panic button frantically pressed by Red Sox Nation and ESPN. We can only hope Boston’s pitching and offense continue to struggle and fans at Fenway redirect their disdain toward opposing fans toward the hometown multi-million dollar athletes and welcome them with flying slices of pizza.
The Spontaneous and Ceremonious Retirement of Manny Ramirez
When it comes to doping in sports, there are three categories of offenders:
1) Sneaky, Savvy, Sorry:
These guys use caution while maintaining a steady regimen, keeping their secret recipe for success hidden from the public eye for most of their career. After being accused and/or indicted, they out themselves, employ a sleek publicist who lands them a prime time interview with famous sports journalists, and offer half-hearted apologies for hurting their fans and teammates in front of a national audience. Americans — accustomed to being lied to throughout the majority of transactions in the arenas of career, personal life and politics — appreciate the admission and immediately forgive and forget. Examples: Alex Rodriguez, Mark McGwire, Andy Pettitte.
2) Sneaky, Stubborn, Supreme Court Indictments:
These guys are similar to their counterparts above. However, upon being discovered or merely accused, they play hardball and begin to throw punches. In acts of apparent ‘roid-rage flashbacks, their instincts lead them on a delusional path of maintaining innocence while obviously guilty, resulting in Congressional investigations and Supreme Court cases, and a subsequent waste of lawmakers’ time and taxpayers’ money to keep living the lie. Examples: Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds, and coming soon: Lance Armstrong.
3) Stupid, Stupid, Stupid:
Only one ‘Man’ carries the distinction of qualifying for this unprecedented level of sheer idiocy when it comes to performance enhancing drug scandal. Manny Ramirez. “ManRam,” as he is/was fondly called by Sox and Dodger fans alike, surpassed all Major League Baseball dopers by testing positive for PEDs twice — under new testing mandates put in place in 2008 — thus becoming the first player to receive a 100 game suspension. Rather than miss nearly two-thirds of the season, Manny chose to retire on the spot and flee to Spain for an early summer vacation–presumably to buy more steroids.
Thanks for the memories, Manny, and thank you for sparing us a classy retirement ceremony and speech along the lines of Lou Gehrig, Cal Ripken, Willie Mays, Jackie Robinson, Hank Aaron, and the thousands of other players who played the game with honor.
Barry Bonds Guilty for Obstructing Justice
Just yesterday, the most infamous accused ‘roider of them all was found guilty of obstructing justice in the investigation of his alleged steroid use. Three other counts were dropped due to a deadlocked jury, who should probably be put on trial for obstructing justice themselves.
A tired story at this point, the Barry Bonds scandal draws attention only because we can safely assume no true punishment will be handed down from the bench. In all likelihood, the judge will declare a mistrial and begin this pointless charade from scratch.
In a country where untold numbers of Wall Street conspirators bled the nation’s pockets dry — and not only escaped prosecution, but received exorbitant multi-billion dollar handouts from the pockets of Middle Class Americans (those who actually pay taxes, and many of whom watch baseball) — the prosecution of Barry Bonds is almost insulting. The bottom line: we don’t care.
Even with the benefit of having a two-week lag on normal predictions, I will offer my predicted finishes for the 2011 season:
AL East: New York Yankees (because the Orioles are a fluke, Rays and Jays mediocre, and I dislike Boston more than New York)
AL Central: Chicago White Sox
AL West: Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (homer pick)
AL Wildcard: Texas Rangers (due to homer pick, have to slate them here instead of AL West champs)
AL MVP: Miguel Cabrera — DET: will once again bury the booze demons and torch AL pitching
AL Cy Young: Jered Weaver — LAA: actually not a homer pick; Weaver led the league in Ks last year and has the early lead. For a guy who does not have an overpowering fastball, this says one thing: he has become a very smart pitcher.
NL East: Philadelphia Phillies (rotation will steamroll)
NL Central: Cincinnati Reds (best collection of young players in MLB)
NL West: Los Angeles Dodgers (just a hunch; Colorado looks good, but I’m not buying)
NL Wildcard: San Francisco Giants (could probably flip them with the Dodgers)
NL MVP: Troy Tulowitzki — COL: though I don’t have them making the playoffs, I’ll hedge my bet with Tulo as MVP
NL Cy Young: Roy Halladay — PHI: the award is basically his to lose, as writers already have him penciled in on their ballots
AL Champs: Texas Rangers
NL Champs: Philadelphia Phillies
World Series Champs: Philadelphia Phillies
Other Predictions and Wagers:
- Number of Roger Clemens steroid stories on ESPN when trial begins: 113
- Percentage of information offered by Baseball Tonight’s John Kruk that is useful: 27%
- Percentage of baseball fans who think Baseball Tonight’s Bobby Valentine is a cocky annoyance: 79%
- Chances of TBS television coverage of MLB playoffs being ‘turrible’: 88%
- Percentage of ESPN and Fox regular season TV coverage that includes games featuring either the Yankees, Red Sox, Phillies or Mets: 97%