So much for Mannywood. The LA Dodgers are 7-3 in their last 10 games, all of which have been without their allegedly juicing slugger and are sporting the best record in MLB at 30-15. As baffling as some of his bullpen management moves are, Joe Torre is a master at managing people.
Which team has the best record in the AL? The Texas Rangers. Who would've guessed that? Yesterday, Brandon McCarthy went the distance in a 5-0 shutout over the Astros. I've liked McCarthy since he was with the White Sox. He has great stuff, he's just taking some time to harness it and be consistent.
Speaking of Rangers pitchers, how is Kris Benson still in baseball? He's made a career out of being an underachieving stiff since he was the first pick in the draft back in 1996. One thing he does have going: his wife ain't too shabby to look at.
I'm hoping the Red Sox aren't in a big hurry to trade Brad Penny. He's improved as the season has progressed and considering the state of MLB pitching, the Sox could get a ransom for him come the July 31st trade deadline. While I love the idea of John Smoltz in the Red Sox rotation, a little extra time for him to get that 42 year old arm in shape isn't the worst thing in the world. Also, despite their success at Pawtucket, both Clay Buchholz and Michael Bowden, will benefit from not being rushed too quickly.
Bet you didn't know this: My favorite Yankee, Johnny Damon, is on pace for 3,000 hits. Damon won't be 35 until November. He's off to a terrific start this season and currently has 2,321 hits. All he needs to do is average 155-160 hits for this year and the next four seasons and he'll have 3,000. If he gets there, he's a shoo in for the Hall of Fame. For his career, Johnny's averaged 185 hits a season. I never begrudged Johnny for taking the Yankee money. NY offered him $13 million more than the Red Sox. Who wouldn't have taken that?
Other than Craig Breslow, Dan Giese, and Russ Springer, I do not recognize any other name on the 16-25 Oakland A's pitching staff.
The San Diego Padres have a team batting average of .232. Inexplicably, they have a .500 record and are in second place in the NL West. They've also won nine games in a row.
My favorite NL team, the Arizona Diamondbacks, are having a tough season. Their pitching has been serviceable (4.45 ERA), but offensively, they have a few key contributors off to very slow starts. Stephen Drew, who had 21 HR and batted .291 last season, is currently hitting .195. Usually sweet swinging 1B Conor Jackson is batting a woeful .182, and the solid when healthy Eric Byrnes is hitting .211. They've also been without star pitcher Brandon Webb since early April with a bad shoulder.
The reason the Diamondbacks are my favorite NL team is because of the heartbreaking way they beat the Yankees in the 2001 World Series on a Luis Gonzalez bleeder over a drawn in infield. They also occupy a warm place in my heart due to them trading Curt Schilling to the Red Sox for Brandon Lyon and three stiffs.
I'm not ready to throw a parade for him (it's still early), but I've been very pleased with Jason Varitek's production at the plate this season. His hits have been timely and he's been a productive part of the offense. My concern is Sox manager Terry Francona is still playing Varitek too much; Tek's played in 33 of 44 games. The Captain has a history of wearing down as the season progresses. I'd like to see more of George Kottaras in the lineup now in order to keep the 37 year old Varitek fresh for August and September. In fact, after Kottaras had three hits yesterday, Tito should play him again today to see if he stays hot.
Coco Crisp for Ramon Ramirez looks like a steal so far, huh? In 22.2 innings, Ramirez has an ERA of 0.79. Ramirez isn't the only member of the Red Sox bullpen to be posting a miniscule ERA. Manny Delcarmen is also having an excellent season and his ERA is 0.86. This is easily the best Red Sox bullpen they've ever had. Long gone are the days when the likes of Rudy Seanez, Kyle Snyder, and Julian Tavarez were occupying spots in the pen.