This was indeed a interesting month for Major League Baseball. Actually, the month really got underway in Japan with the defending World Champions Boston Red Sox and Oakland Athletics going to Japan to play two games. That game almost did not see the light of day until MLB ponied up some huge bucks for the Red Sox support crew to go to the land of the Rising Sun.
Then, the Washington Nationals opened their new digs to a national audience against the Atlanta Braves, a team that is looking to reclaim the National League East. The Braves have some injury problems that they are trying to deal with (John Smoltz - shoulder, Mike Hampton - pectoral muscle, Peter Moylan - bone spur) and are thankful that April has gone away.
Speaking of new stadiums, the New York Yankees unearthed (or uncemented) a plot by one of their rivals to slap a curse that hung over the heads of the Boston Red Sox like the sword of Damocles. They found a David Ortiz jersey encased in a pillar in the new Yankee Stadium, placed by a construction worker that hates the Yankees. There was some good to come out of that fiasco. The jersey earned the Jimmy Fund, a cancer research charity supported by the Red Sox, over $90 thousand to find a cure. They aren't the only New York team that will be getting new digs come 2009. Their crosstown interleague foes, the New York Mets, will be calling Citi Field home. From what I've seen of the new park, it sort of reminds me of Ebbets Field. While not a Mets fan, I am impressed. The Florida Marlins are also turning dirt for a new ball yard that will be built (or slated to be built) on the site that was once the Orange Bowl. There's also talk that the Tampa Bay (Devil) Rays are getting new digs as well.
Four of the six teams that went to the playoffs in 2007 are in first place as of 30 April 2008; the defending World Champs Boston Red Sox, Chicago Cubs, Los Angeles Angels, and Arizona Diamondbacks. The San Diego Padres, who almost knocked the Colorado Rockies out of the post-season in '07, have played a bunch of extra-inning games this season, including a game that has lasted longer than most history lectures I've had at U of H (22 innings! That's a hell of a lot of baseball!)
Then we have a suprise. The Tampa Bay (Devil) Rays, who have never finished above the .500 mark in any season, let alone a month in any season that they have played in since they came into being, ended April with a 15-12 mark, good enough for second place in the American League East behind Boston and ahead of Baltimore and the Yankees. Speaking of good months, the Cubs finished this month with 17 wins, their best in their 100 year history. Could a Cubs-Rays World Series take place in '08?
We've seen players lie about their ages (Miguel Tejada of the Houston Astros), teams that right now are not playing to their full potential (Atlanta, Houston, Texas, Minneosta, Detroit, Colorado and the Los Angeles Dodgers), the Yankees ban candy from the locker room and a former Major Leaguer and almost Hall of Famer (Roger Clemens) in the middle of an affair scandal that is even bigger than the Mitchell Report. We've also seen a ledgend in John Smoltz reach the 3,000 strikeout mark and futher seal his place in the HOF. May is almost upon us in the Pacific, Mountain, Alaskan and Hawaiian Time Zones at the time of this writing. Ken Griffey Jr. is at the door for 600 homers and may punch his ticket to Cooperstown. It is possible that he could do it in Atlanta this weekend when the Reds come to 755 Hank Aaron Drive (Turner Field). Who knows how many homers he would have had had he not spent so much time on the injured list in his great career...
Some teams have to turn it around in May and they can do it. They need to. It's a long summer if they don't. There are some teams that need to stay hot (and as injury free as possible) to be successful in the second month of the season. What will May hold? Only the baseball gods know... and they're not talking.