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Travis begins the quest to watch every team every month, and starts by getting confused as to how Boston hasn’t already run away with the AL East.
I’ve always been a baseball fan. In fact, I’m still fascinated by the sport. I don’t know what it is that drives me to watch early season baseball over the NBA playoffs (though that trend has been challenged a couple of times this spring), but I keep coming back. This year, however, I’m attempting to cover one weakness in my baseball fandom: My knowledge of all 30 teams is nowhere near complete. I’ve figured that I could at least slightly remedy this by making sure that I watch each team at least once every month. It’ll give me a look at all playoff contenders, and even let me see some guys that fly consistently under the radar. The one-month time span is also long enough to allow me to make sure that, when I do have to watch, say, the Washington Nationals, I can make sure that they’re against the Mets or the Phillies and assure the least horrifying pitching matchup possible.
So, how did the plan go in April? It was a total flop. I watched a grand total of about six teams, and even those six are all pretty bad thus far. This past Monday (yes, the 12 th of the month), I finally got to work on May, watching the first half of a Blue Jays/Indians double header. It enforced two beliefs:
1) The Blue Jays are, indeed, not very good at hitting the baseball; and
2) Cleveland’s probably gonna win the AL Central when that all meshes out.
So, today, with a free afternoon, I tuned in the Red Sox and the Orioles. The pitching matchup? A not-so-special Jon Lester-Daniel Cabrera faceoff. At least, with two decent teams, this one had more potential than the Seattle-Texas game that started an hour earlier. Without further ado, here we go.
Red Sox (24-18, Jon Lester 2-2 4.06) @ Orioles (20-1 9, Daniel Cabrera 3-1 3.54)
· The Red Sox were passed yesterday by the Tampa Bay Rays for 1 st in the AL East. In other words, there’s nothing to worry about (I’m still allowed to make fun of Tampa Bay until I’m certain they’re legitimately good. At least let me take advantage of that for the rest of this month.
· Baltimore’s been better than expected this year, ahead of the Yankees and Blue Jays in the standings. How? That’s what I’m here to figure out today.
· I’m still fascinated by the inconsistent control of Daniel Cabrera, who today makes the first start of another tenure on my fantasy team, Team Travis (Yes, I’m aware that this is a bad idea)
· Fun injury news for the Red Sox: JD Drew’s not feeling well and Clay Buchholz hurt a fingernail, so Jacoby Ellsbury moves to right field and call-up Jonathan Van Every makes his big league debut in center (He goes on to have a run-of-the-mill game, as most Major League debuts are, with a nice fifth-inning single for his first big-league hit).
· Jim Palmer and Gary Thorne note before the game that Daniel Cabrera doesn’t walk guys anymore. First off, judging by his April 28 th start, I don’t think that’s true. Regardless, he allows back-to-back singles by Ellsbury (who also steals a base) and Dustin Pedroia to put Boston up 1-0 before any outs are recorded.
· In the past few years, I listened to Jim Hunter and Jim Palmer call Orioles games, and thought they were fantastic. They were two guys who were well-informed and had plenty of fun calling the game. Hunter’s not calling this afternoon’s contest, but I’m pretty sure that Palmer has slipped a bit. He’s mispronouncing guys’ names and not adding much to the telecast whatsoever.
· As good of an interview as Dave Trembley is (possibly one of the better ones I’ve seen of a baseball manager), should any team subject their manager to a full half-inning of every local telecast? I imagine this takes away from managing the game, as Trembley seemed greatly distracted and was especially happy when the inning ended quick (more so than a manager usually is at the end of a quick frame).
· The Trembley interview is part of Wired Wednesday on MASN Orioles Baseball, which includes a much better innovation: Adam Jones wearing a mic. Already, he’s been shown asking Manny Ramirez during the pre-game how he hits so well (Manny literally ran from that question), and bragging to Kevin Youkilis after a bunt single how it was his first of the year. When Youkilis expressed surprise, Jones replied, “I don’t bunt”. This is something I could see myself constantly enjoying.
· Sure, the Orioles have played quite well thus far, but the Red Sox are showing why they should be the class of the American League already. Case in point: Bottom of the 5 th, 1 out, runners on 1 st and 2 nd. Manny Ramirez sprints back to rob Kevin Millar of a likely 2-run double. Manny then vaults of the wall, high-fives a Red Sox fan in the left field bleachers (in Baltimore), and THEN throws back and doubles up Aubrey Huff at first base, ending the inning. I’m pretty sure he’s the only guy in the majors who has both the mind and the actual physical capabilities to pull that off.
· Jason Varitek gets his 4 th homer of the year in the top of the 5 th, 2-0 Boston. The differential between these teams seems like much more than 2 ½ games.
· Mike Lowell hits homer #4 in the top of the 6 th. Even when things seem to be going well against Boston, they get you. This inning, Markakis makes a diving catch to rob Ortiz of extra bases, then Manny grounds out, before Lowell goes yard and Youkilis doubles.
· Another Adam Jones highlight: Asks Youkilis if the “Youuuuuuuuuuuk” chants bother him because he thinks they’re booing, and then makes a generalization about Boston fans with that chant, before mentioning that he’s never even been to Boston before.
· The game becomes interesting in the bottom of the 6 th. A Guillermo Quiroz single and Brian Roberts double set up for a Jay Payton RBI groundout and Nick Markakis RBI single. Lead cut to 3-2 Boston. I actually like Markakis as a franchise guy. A great seven-pitch at-bat against Jon Lester (who’s had a good afternoon) to get in Roberts. Imagine the hype that Markakis guy would be getting if he didn’t play for Baltimore (or any AL East team outside of the Big Two)
· Jon Lester’s done after 6 innings. 5 hits, 2 earned runs, 4:2 K/BB, 86 pitches. I absolutely have to commend Boston for how deep their system is. Lester pulls out a quality start, Ellsbury’s the best player on the field today, Pedroia gets the first RBI. As much as I hate to say it, I don’t have much of a problem with them being the class of the majors for years to come.
· As Baltimore loads the bases in the bottom of the 7 th with two outs against the Boston bullpen, I can honestly say I’m happy for the Baltimore fans. What I’ve seen of their fanbase to this point doesn’t make me think that they’re one of the best groups of fans in the majors, but they’ve been such a bad team for so many years, and their ownership hasn’t exactly been fan-friendly, to see them get excited that they’re (even somewhat) still in the AL East picture midway through May is a good feeling.
· And as I type that, Jay Payton hits a grand slam. 6-3 Orioles. Daniel Cabrera’s dancing in the dugout, continuously hugging and high-fiving Payton. I don’t think Baltimore’s got a shot at contending this year, but it’s great to see chemistry in that clubhouse. Maybe the rest of the AL East is finally getting close to catching up to Boston and New York. Actually, let’s just say Boston. The Yankees have practically fallen back to the pack.
· Final line on Cabrera: 7IP, 10 hits, 3 ER, 3:0 K/BB, 2 HR, 103 pitches. A strange start for him, relying on the batted ball for his outs, and not walking anybody (Though I refuse to believe that this broadcast team was right on that one).
· Final Score: 6-3 Orioles. W: Cabrera, 4-1, 3.58. L: Craig Hansen, 0-2, 8.44. S: Sherrill, 15, 3.79. BAL: Jay Payton, 1-4, HR, 5 RBI. BOS: Lowell and Varitek (both) 2-4, HR, RBI.
· The verdicts: Boston’s still the team to beat in this division. Though their bullpen blew it today, I’m not even worrying about them too much. Hideki Okajima even put it together after giving up the Payton grand slam. As for Baltimore, I’m happy to see them playing well, but I can’t see them holding on much longer. Boston had lost three in a row coming into today, and Baltimore took advantage. If the Orioles keep this up through June, I’ll take note, but I legitimately think Tampa Bay’s the bigger surprise AL East threat to this point.
Teams I Still Haven’t Watched in May: NY Yankees, Tampa Bay, Chicago White Sox, Detroit, Kansas City, Minnesota, LA Angels, Oakland, Seattle, Texas, Atlanta, Florida, NY Mets, Philadelphia, Washington, Chicago Cubs, Cincinnati, Houston, Milwaukee, Pittsburgh, St. Louis, Arizona, Colorado, LA Dodgers, San Diego, San Francisco
All of Travis MacKenzie’s work can be found on his site, Travis Time . He also covers sports for the Brock Press . Any questions or comments directed towards Travis can be placed in comments on Travis Time, on any of his Armchair GM posts, or e-mailed to TravisTime@gmail.com.