By Brad Thompson–
With playoff contenders struggling, predicted bottom-feeders achieving and two appendectomies in the first week, it’s sure been a strange start to the season.
Teams like Cleveland, Baltimore and Kansas City are atop their divisions while Boston, Tampa Bay and San Francisco are all in the cellar. I know the season’s long and you can’t read too much into the first week, but who’s won and lost has been perplexing. I’m not here to suggest that the Red Sox can’t make the playoffs or that Kansas City is headed to the World Series. It’s just been an unusual start to the season.
The Royals are the third team in past 20 years to have its first four wins come in its last at-bat. Usually a week into the season Kansas City is resting comfortably in the basement of the AL Central and already thinking about how they can dump some payroll before the trade deadline. Instead, the Royals are 4-2 and have won in dramatic fashion.
The lowly Cleveland Indians, with a $48 million payroll, just swept the $160 million Boston Red Sox lineup right out of town. Even though Boston’s ace Jon Lester pitched brilliantly against Cleveland on Thursday, the Red Sox haven’t won in his two starts. As a team the Red Sox are batting .190. They are 0-6 heading into their home opener versus the Yankees.
Speaking of surprises, how about the Baltimore Orioles? They started 4-0. Some will point out that Manager Buck Showalter turned the team around late last season, so this kind of start should not be surprising. Still, it’s hard to believe anyone predicted the O’s to be in first place in the mighty AL East for any stretch of the season.
Pittsburgh is another team that has opened the season playing well. The Pirates began the season with six road games and went 4-2. On the other hand, Tampa Bay is winless at 0-6, losing five home games, and has only scored more than one run in a game once this season.
Two ballclubs with World Series aspirations, San Francisco and Minnesota, are also off to terrible starts. The defending champs are 2-4, as are the Twins.
The fact that two sluggers, Matt Holliday and Adam Dunn, had to have appendectomies within a week of each other makes the beginning of the season even more unusual. Neither player went on the DL and both hope to return soon, but how bizarre is it that two players are missing time because of this surgery?
All this wackiness has added up to an entertaining start to the season. A beginning filled with stories and headlines about teams heading in the opposite direction than they were predicted to go.
It’s only a week into the season and certainly things will change, but so far it feels a little too much like the NCAA basketball tournament. Parity isn’t supposed to exist in baseball. The payrolls are too far apart.
Do you agree with Brad? Post your comments below.
Brad M. Thompson, a former college football player and coach, made his return to the Midwest in 2009 after fighting wildfires out West. He earned his master’s degree from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University and covers the Big Ten Conference and Chicago sports. Follow him on Twitter at @Brad_M_Thompson. Find more of Brad’s blogs here.