I don’t know if you watched the induction of U2 into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame last week, but Edge was wearing what had to be the weirdest Yankees t-shirt ever. Featuring an arm and hand with a Yankee logo and wings, it tread a delicate balance between biblical imagery, some sort of ‘60s protest movement, and Queer Eye for the Straight Guy.
An apt segue into my first set of Junior Circuit predix…
1. New York Yankees – The above sighting was quite ironic, in that the near-religious love of Yankee fans could turn into a protest movement if Steinbrenner’s millions can’t win back their birthright soon. (I also had an A-Rod/Carson Kressley quip, but it was probably in poor taste.)
It’s also ironic that since 2001 the Yankees have been built more for the fall than the summer, yet they’ve come up short in October. And 2005 is no exception, although there’s an interesting side plot where Da Boss continues his attempt to reunite the 1995 Mariners in pinstripes.
I know I’m actually going to be in the minority picking the Bombers to take the division, but I think the “you can’t beat our Johnson” banners at Yankee Stadium will sufficiently intimidate foes.
2. Boston Red Sox – However, if there’s been a World Champion in the past five years who has a great chance to repeat, it’s the Sox. Yes, this is the Team O’ Harmony, which still freaks out a lot of people. Not having an openly antagonistic GM (hi, Dan Duquette! How’s retirement?) has certainly helped.
Yes, they lost Pedro to that ‘80s-Yankees-tribute team in Queens, but they also lost Derek Lowe to LA (where they mistakenly believed he was related to Rob and Chad), so it balances out somewhat. Replacing Martinez, Matt Clement is the guy the Yankees are going to wish they’d signed around July. Replacing Lowe, David Wells is the guy Bostonians will be cursing at around July.
If Trot Nixon manages to stay healthy, Curt Schilling’s feet stay on and he doesn’t get intrigued by those steroid things everyone’s been asking him about, and the entire bullpen doesn’t hit The Cliff, I like the Sox’ chances come October.
3. Baltimore Orioles – This season continues the 21st century tradition of The Great AL East Divide. You know who the haves are and who the have-nots are by now, and you should also know that what the have-nots don’t have: common sense. The O’s acquired Sammy Sosa this winter, and nestled next to Rafael Palmeiro and Miguel Tejada, the capability is there to drive in a number of runs roughly equal to the US GDP, which is also about what they’ll be paid.
But in compiling this prolific power posse, the O’s apparently forgot that the other team gets to hit for half the game. We pause now for a tribute to the late Johnny Carson:
JOHNNY: The Orioles’ pitching staff is so bad…
AUDIENCE: How bad are they??
JOHNNY: …Do you folks do bar mitzvahs? (Audience laughter.) The Orioles’ pitching staff is so bad, Sidney Ponson is their number-one starter. (More laughter.)
4. Toronto Blue Jays – The Jays and O’s are really making the East a haves/sorta-haves/have-nots division. Whereas Balto has an extremely unbalanced team, the Great White North’s remaining squad is well-rounded but just a bit young. It doesn’t help that Carlos Delgado is gone, either.
The Jays can put in a respectable appearance if Roy Halladay can stay healthy at the top of the rotation, and Vernon Wells can do the same in the lineup. It’s a team of guys who are good, but could be great. As Palmeiro told the government, all it’ll take is some hard work.
5. Tampa Bay Devil Rays – How does Tampa even keep their team? Oh yeah, it’s because the rest of MLB stands to profit handsomely by moving the Expos instead. I mean, if the Rays hadn’t put together a winning streak for the ages, they’d have lost 100 games.
Like the Mariners of the 1980s, the Rays basically consist of a few potential stars (Scott Kazmir, Carl Crawford) who will be traded before they fully flower (that is, before they start earning a star’s salary) surrounded by flotsam and jetsam (that would be Alex “Flotsam” Gonzalez and Toby “Jetsam” Hall). You know it’s truly bad when your team’s owner tells you that a 91-loss season met his expectations.
There’s still a reason to go to the games, though: you never know which one will give Lou Piniella that tantrum-induced, career-ending heart attack. Lou: retire with some dignity while you still can.
about the author
Michael Cox always has trouble calling someone flotsam or jetsam, but offers that he himself gets picked last for darts. Suggest he avoid tossing them underhand when you e-mail him from our Contact Us page.