Pepper Power ~ Week 10ishPosted 6 June 2011 by Pony Boy
I don’t like things I am supposed to like. Also, I am cheap. I’m the Andy Rooney of baseball fans. So the odds of me enjoying an afternoon in the box seats at our local minor league park — provided gratis by my employer — were pretty low. But I had hopes of free beer, and where there is beer, there is happiness. To a point. Then you wake up in your front yard and your wife is throwing your clothes on top of you as she cries and yells embarrassing things about you to the neighborh … I digress.
Box seats at the local park cost $27. It said so right on my ticket. You get to take a fancy elevator up to the not-so-fancy concourse that leads around the very top of the stadium. Because we work at a newspaper, or because we, too, are cheap, our box is the last one on the third base line. You couldn’t get a worse view of the field. There are people sitting 10 feet from us who paid $7 for their seats (if they paid full price for a general admission spot). Strike One.
But there’s free food in the box and a 21-inch TV showing the Red Sox. That’s not nothing. Let’s be clear: I’m pretty sure the luxury boxes at a Class AA game aren’t as good as those in the majors. But come on. Bags of chips? BAGS of chips? Warm sodas in the fridge? Hot dogs? The ice cream sandwiches were awesome, but they’re also $3 at the concession stand (and sold in the local grocery stores). Also, there was no free beer. Strike Two.
That’s not to say there’s no value to be found at the minor league park. We went to an afternoon game dubbed a Businessman’s Special in late April at the same park. A reserved seat behind home plate cost $9 and came with a free soda, hot dog and ice cream sandwich. A better seat than the “luxury” box with about the same free food. Strike Three. Stay out of the luxury boxes. For 60 Minutes, I’m Pony Boy.
1. Phillies (35-24): Your Phillies pitching stat of the week: Cole Hamels has a WHIP under 1.00 for the season, thanks to his eight innings of one-hit ball against Pittsburgh on Friday. The kicker: Philadelphia lost that game 2-1 and Hamels took a no decision. Not that it matters. The Phillies lead the majors in strikeouts and have the least walks.
2. Cardinals (36-25): Slowly but surely. It’s a terrible team motto, but it’s working out for St. Louis, which is grinding its way to the top of the MLB standings. The Cardinals have gone 16-10 in their last 26 games. Not spectacular, to be sure, but good enough for a .590 win percentage, the second-best mark in baseball. It helps that Albert Pujols is Teh Man again, hitting .275 with 12 home runs. Did anyone doubt he would come around?
3. Rangers (34-26): Do you remember the bullshit story on Texas pitchers, and how they throw the ball more often than most pitchers, so they’re less likely to be injured? Sounded great last year, when the Rangers didn’t have anybody on the DL. There were four Texas pitchers on the DL earlier this week. Big picture, gentlemen. Big picture. They don’t need pitching, anyway, with Josh Hamilton starting to hit the cover off the ball again.
4. Yankees (33-24): I would love the opportunity to re-do this ranking with No. 5 Boston after their early-week series in New York. C’est la vie. The Yankees have been consistent winners this season, the kind of thing you expect from a potential World Series champ.
5. Red Sox (33-26): Let me get this straight. Boston gets swept by the White Sox, then comes back to knock off Oakland three straight times? Fact: Jonathan Papelbon blew a four-run lead in the ninth inning Saturday, then got ejected from the game along with catcher Jason Varitek. Then the Red Sox went on to win, anyway. Go figure.
6. Brewers (33-26): Milwaukee has won 19 of its last 25 games. The Brewers were too good to be 14-20, as they were in early May. They’re also not 19-6 good, obviously, for the remainder of the season. But they’re hot now. Just like …
7. Diamondbacks (33-27): What are the Diamondbacks doing this high? I honestly don’t know. I stopped paying attention to them after they stunk it up in April. But then Arizona went and took 18 wins in 23 games (actually, 22 games, discounting Sunday’s loss). How are they doing it? I’m not exactly sure. The pitching and batting are both in the bottom half of all MLB teams. Somebody send me a media guide.
8. Giants ( 33-26): They’re actually playing better without Buster Posey. Or at least the same. That won’t last. Posey is a linchpin guy. Maybe a little like the Yankees and Jeter. Oh God. I just peed a little. Sorry.
9. Braves (32-28): A few weeks ago, the Braves were four games above .500. Now they’re five games above .500. That’s definition of mediocre, but it’s also a definition of consistency, which is something pretty rare this season.
10. Indians (33-24): Sub.-500 ball over the last month isn’t going to get it done. Well, they are in the atrocious AL Central, so maybe it will get it done, but it’s just poor form.
11. Marlins (31-26): My parents are from Florida. I lived there for a year. I actually kind of like Pro Player/Joe Robbie/Sun Life/Jimmy Buffet Sucks Donkey Balls Land Shark Stadium. In the summer. I should be biased toward the Marlins. And yet, I don’t believe it. I love their pitching. I hate their unenthusiastic fans (present company excluded) and their cheap ownership.
12. Reds (30-30): Travis Wood has the staff-best ERA at 5.05. So, they can only get better?
13. Mariners (31-28): Welcome to the highest point the Mariners will occupy in these rankings this season. Have a look around up here. Yeah, it’s not the penthouse, but this is a nicer place than you would have hoped for two months ago. Oh, look, there is the Mariners’ MLB-worst .228 batting average plummeting past the windows. Sure, that 3.27 ERA is sparkly, but arms get tired and injured. Look out below.
14. Angels (30-31): Is there a weirder six-game winless streak than the one Jered Weaver just endured? He pitched a nine-inning, two-hit shutout and took a no decision. Weaver finally got a reprieve last week when the lowly Yankees were beaten 3-2 by the Angels. After the “slump,” Weaver still has a 2.14 ERA.
15. Tigers (31-27): Justin Verlander and Miguel Cabrera would like to drag Detroit into the postseason. In the AL Central, they just might. Cabrera leads the Tigers in both RBI and runs scored, a tricky combo for power hitter. And Verlander is, of course, a stud. Thing is, there’s 23 other guys on the active roster.
16. Blue Jays (30-29): What would the Blue Jays’ record be if they played in any other division? I’ve wondered that for years. Perhaps, 1,000 years from now when teleporting is the norm, baseball will go to some kind of relegation system, wherein the top five teams play in the AL East, the next five in the NL East, and so on.
17. Rays (30-29): That’s Tampa, rocketing down the AL East standings. The Rays are the antidote to the Red Sox’s surge. They are batting a pretty-bad .243 as a team, though the bullpen isn’t killing them as it seemed it might, with a mostly new cast.
18. Rockies (27-31): Are they biding their time for a dramatic late-season run? Of course not. No team sits around and says, “Meh, let’s not be in a rush to get to 100 wins. Let’s just chill and see if 85 or 86 gets us into the playoffs.” Their 2-9 run at the end of May was brutal. They’re just not that good.
19. White Sox (28-33): The first of two Central teams climbing out of a deep early season hole. How great is Ozzie Guillen, calling out Chicago fans that want him gone? Easy, Ozzie (oh, I like that combo), you’re not quite Joe Torre and Chicago ain’t New York. But I like the point. Still, you’ve gotta be worried about injury-prone Jake Peavy’s strained groin, Sunday. Massage that groin, Ozzie. Make sure it’s healthy.
20. Pirates (28-30): I hate to call a team with a losing record a pleasant surprise. Their ownership is still cheap. Horribly cheap. Unfairly cheap. I hope their fans are enjoying being moderately competitive again. Here’s my favorite Pittsburgh note of the week: Pitcher James McDonald threw 12 consecutive balls before getting pulled in the fifth inning last week. That’s Major League material.
21. Athletics (27-33): Oakland was floating around at .500 before getting swept by Boston and New York. I still cannot figure out why preseason analysts, including some on this website, thought Oakland might be a postseason team. Preseason giddyness? Billy Beane love? Somebody help me out.
21. Mets (28-31): Nate Silver over at fivethirtyeight.com did an interesting statistical analysis. No, not of the Mets’ pitching. He looked at their attendance and its decline this season as bad news keeps pouring in about the Mets. Having your name attached with Bernie Madoff and being forced to sell part of your team by MLB will do that. Go read it. It’s not light reading, but you’re a baseball fan. You can handle it.
23. Dodgers (28-32): Dodgers pitchers aren’t very good — their staff ERA is 3.91, in the bottom half of the MLB rankings — but their 449 strikeouts rank fifth in baseball. They’re the Dave Kingmans of pitching. Whoops. Just dated myself. They’re the … Adam Dunns of pitching. Adam Dunn is terrible now, but you get the point. I hope.
24. Orioles (26-31): Who was that bold preseason predictor who told you to ignore the Orioles hype? Hmmm. Somebody pointed out that their best-record-in-baseball streak to finish the season last year was smoke and mirrors. I can’t remember. He’s probably too humble (and handsome) to mention it. Baltimore has the 25th-best ERA in baseball. Shocking, with four starters nobody’s heard of.
25. Nationals (26-33): I’m not sure they actually are any better than previous seasons.
26. Padres (27-33): I have to go to the bathroom now, so these next two are going to be short. The Padres have the fourth-best ERA in baseball but are hitting .231, the second-worst mark in the majors.
27. Astros (23-37): The Astros, conversely, have the seventh-best batting average but fourth-worst ERA.
28. Twins (21-37): It took them a long time to slide to the bottom of these standings. It’s going to take more than a four-game sweep of the Royals to move them back up where they belong — even if they did take four in a row without Joe Mauer, Jason Kubel, Denard Span, Justin Morneau or Jim Thome. But they’re in the AL Central. My God. You, me, and seven of our friends could go .333 in the Central. Make that seven of your friends, even. They are assholes. Admit it.
29. Royals (25-34): Kansas City has won seven games and lost 18 in the last month. It was bound to happen. I watched Minnesota pick up a fourth-straight win at Kauffman Stadium on Sunday. Is it always hot and shitty in Kansas City in the summer? I swear, they should require you take off your shirt (male or female, doesn’t matter) when you enter the stadium.
30. Cubs (23-34): Carlos Zambrano is fiery. Sometimes you can say that in a good way. Sometimes you can paint it as a bad thing. Here’s the thing about Zambrano blowing up Sunday: Can you blame him? He’s a winner playing on *this* team. At least he’s not smoking Cuban cigars and humming “Baby Got Back” while the ship goes down.