First: Has Shawn Green been going postal this week, or what?
From his six-hit, four-homer game against the Brewers, to having about 700 total bases in four games, Green has abolished the memory of the .230 batting average he carried until his offensive explosion. The Dodgers had been waiting all season for Green to get off the schneid, and he finally made their patience pay off.
The Dodgers have been hanging close in the NL West so far. They're only four games behind the Diamondbacks in the loss column, playing very well on the road, and have been getting good pitching. Their offense has been the question mark, but with Green's resurgence, look for the rest of the offense to follow suit. There really isn't a bad team in the NL West (San Diego is in last place, but even they're only nine back in the loss column), which could lead to a very interesting playoff race as the teams jockey for position.
Second: The Bronx Bombers live again.
In past seasons, the Yankees built their success on good pitching combined with patient and timely hitting. Their offensive numbers were never gaudy, but they were good enough to get the team into the playoffs, and we all know what happened from there. This year, though, the Yanks are flat-out clubbing the ball. The patient approach has yielded to an explosive power game, led by the surprisingly good Alfonso Soriano.
Everyone knew Soriano would be a great player; he's drawn comparisons to Vladimir Guerrero for years. No one expected it to happen quite this soon, though. Soriano is on pave for a 40-40 season, after hitting 18 homers as a rookie last year. His batting average has been consistently above .300 all year, and the only negative aspect to his game is his league-leading strikeout total. Still, Soriano's combination of power and speed has the Yankees position within easy striking distance of the Res Sox.
Also helping in leading the power charge has been Robin Ventura. Given up for dead by a lot of baseball folks, Ventura has shown he still has some good baseball left in him. If he's just a one or two-year answer until Drew Henson is ready, Ventura is making the most of that time. Jason Giambi has only recently started to get comfortable at the plate, and the possibility that the Yankees' offense may not have peaked is not a comfortable one for the rest of the AL.
Their pitching could be in trouble, though. Andy Pettitte has been slow to recover from what was supposed to be a mild elbow injury. Orlando Hernandez in on the DL. David Wells is having intermittent back problems, amidst allegations his weight is up and his conditioning program is down. Mike Mussina has looked very hittable at times this season, and his velocity has been down in several starts. Ramiro Mendoza is always a candidate for an arm injury, and even the invincible Mariano Rivera has battled groin problems. The offense is nice, but Joe Torre knows that pitching wins championships. If Pettitte's injury becomes a long-term concern, look for the Yankees to go after someone like Scott Erickson, Jeff Weaver, or even Bartolo Colon when the end of July approaches.
Third: It looks like Oakland's small market success train has been derailed.
They lost Johnny Damon, who has been amazing for the Red Sox this season. Damon did a lot for Oakland, especially defensively, since he was able to keep Terrence Long out of centerfield. Jason Giambi's bat has proven harder to replace than the A's realized, especially with the disappointing start posted by Carlos Pena. Billy Koch has not been an adequate replacement for Jason Isringhausen thus far, especially considering the A's had to give up Eric Hinske to get him. He'd look good in their lineup right now, either at first base or replacing the departed Jeremy Giambi in the outfield.
Speaking of the younger Giambi, what was the point of that trade? I understand Billy Beane wanted to shake the team up, but trading a solid young player like Giambi for a never-has-been retread like Mabry is just farcical. If the A's really wanted a guy to play corner infield and outfield while not doing anything particularly well, they needed to look no further than Olmedo Saenz, who's already on their roster. It looks like the A's could be dealing some veterans to help sign the bazillion draft picks they have this year, but getting nothing for Jeremy Giambi does not put that process off to an encouraging start.
The success the A's have enjoyed recently has been lost in the reality that it really does take money to compete in baseball, and when your team salary is one-third that of the Yankees, you can't be expected to enjoy their level of success. I liked Oakland's run the past couple years, since it looked like they were debunking the money theory. Time and finances have caught up with them, though, and while they might still be able to salvage a decent season, it's more likely they'll try to retool for the future.
Home: John Rocker reported to AAA ball and threw a scoreless inning in his Oklahoma City debut Saturday.
In other news, grass grew, paint dried, and flies got freaky.
I'm sure the Rangers are disappointed with what they got out of Rocker, but what were they expecting? It was clear the guy was a head case. Since being a closer is at least as much mental as it is physical, why would any team entrust their bullpen to such a wacko? The Rangers deserved what they got with this one.
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