Will 2008 be the year of Florida baseball? Not if Boston or the Cubs have anything to say about it. The Rays, Marlins, and Red Sox are about as close as four teams can be at the top of the rankings this week.
1. Boston Red Sox (LW: 3): I just have to go with experience here. Remember, these guys are the current World Series Champions. The road to the AL Pennant runs through Fenway Park. Sure, Tampa has some great young pitchers, but who would you rather have your rotation: Scott Kazmir and Andy Sonnanstine, or DiceK and Josh Beckett? Thats what I thought.
2. Tampa Bay Rays (LW: 5): They may be currently ahead of the Sox in the standings, but they are mere decimal points behind the Sox in these rankings. However, I am a believer. Tampa’s rotation is completely stocked with young talent. I predict that this team will win the AL Wild Card, if not, the division. The AL Wild Card will almost certainly come out of the East. Sure, its possible that the Rays or the Sox will collapse, but its highly unlikely that both will.
3. Florida Marlins (LW: 7): Dan Uggla. What else is there to say, really. A lot, the rotation seems to be improving, the bullpen is one of the best in the game, they just SWEPT the Dbacks (take that you nay-sayers)… but all of that pales in comparison to the awesomeness that is Dan Uggla’s month of May. But with series upcomming against the Phillies and the Braves, the Marlins will be facing their biggest test of the first half of the season. If they play poorly this week, they could find themselves out of first. Although they battled hard, that series loss at Shea was not helpful. However, if they bounce back this weekend, they will create some much needed breathing room on top of the NL East. The playoffs will become that much more likely. This is one of the most important road trips in franchise history. Stay tuned, fish fans…
4. Chicago Cubs (LW: 2): They also present a strong case to be #1. They do have a better record than the Marlins, for example. But, they cannot escape from one simple fact… they are the Cubs! Haha… in all seriousness, they do play in the NL Central, which, in this writer’s opinion, is a weaker division than both the NL and AL East.
5. St. Louis Cardinals (LW: 4): Yes, they have been relatively hot as of late, and yes, they do have a better record than Florida, but there is something missing here. The lineup is great, and the pitching staff on the whole is one of the best in the NL, but they do lack two important pieces: a true ace in the rotation (which Florida also lacks, this is true), and a legitimate closer (something that Florida doesn’t lack, last night’s result notwithstadning). Jason Isringhausen is not the answer. Look for this team to make a move to bolster their bullpen before the deadline.
6. Chicago White Sox (LW: 13): It has now become obvious to me why they are cruising along in first place. It’s not because of Carlos Quentin (who may be the best pickup of the offseason), nor does it have to do with Ozzie’s unorthodox (to say the least…) but strong leadership, nor does it have to do with the weak starts of the Tigers and Indians. The reason is the rotation. This is largely the same young rotation that lead these Pale Hosers to the title in 2005. They currently are fourth in the AL with a 3.43 ERA. If they can keep it up, it is very likely that they can go on to win this division.
7. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (LW: 6): They still are a hot team, but they did drop one point in the rankings. That fall has more to do with the improvement of other teams. Still, the Angels play in a weak division. The pundits on the bigger sites like to point at the Marlins and say that they are unproven because they haven’t faced many tough teams, but the Angels play in a four team division with the likes of the Mariners, baseball’s biggest dissapointment. Still, good teams should be beating up on bad teams, which is exactly what the Halos are doing. Hence, they are #7 out of #30, which is nothing to be ashamed of at all.
8. Philadelphia Phillies (LW: 14): Maybe I was a little harsh when I dropped them to 14th last week. It is starting to become clear that at this point, they are the biggest challengers to the Marlins for first place in the NL East. I must admit… the only team in the NL with the offensive firepower to match Florida plays their home games in Philly. However, Florida’s bullpen is far superior. The Marlins can almost guarantee that if they are leading after the 6th by more than a run that they will win the game. The Phillies… not really. The Philadelphia pitching staff will have all it can handle this weekend against the Marlins. This is the most important series for both teams so far this season.
9. Houston Astros (LW: 9): Ok, fine, they are legit. Their main problem has nothing to do with them, it’s the fact that the Cardinals and the Cubs are just marginally better.
10. Arizona Diamondbacks (LW: 1): I was going to drop them to around fifth after the sweep in Florida, then I was going to move them up to around third after their solid performance in Atlanta… but losing three in a row against the lowly Giants? Oy vey. I’m not going to go as far as to say that this team has been exposed as a fraud, but they have had a very weak May. It is still early, but like i said about the Angels, you have to beat the crappy teams along with the good teams. The Dbacks haven’t beaten either. Despite all of this, I do see this team returning to the top five at least at some point this season; remember, they do play in the NL West.
11. Oakland Athletics (LW: 15): Ok, maybe I was a little harsh on these guys too. It is only fair that I recognize that they have far exceeded expectations to this point in the season. But c’mon. You just can’t take these guys seriously. The Wild Card is almost out of the question now, Tampa and Boston just have too much talent, leaving the division as the only real possible way to make the playoffs. But can you say with any certainty that this team can run with the Angels? I cannot.
12. Toronto Blue Jays (LW: 17): Probably a case of too little, too late… even though it is the end of May… but the Blue Jays have made a solid run in recent weeks and are just waiting in the wings for either Tampa or Boston to fall off.
13. Atlanta Braves (LW: 16): Ok, sure, on the whole they have been playing well recently. Their home record has been excellent, and they do remain in the hunt in the NL East. I also have to say that they are in better shape than the New York Mess. But, they lost two out of three to a team that the Marlins swept the series before, and they have lost 17 straight one run games headed into their series finale against Milwaukee. Let me repeat that because this is very telling: they have lost 17 straight one run games. That is precisely why they will not win this division on their own talent, they need a monumental collapse by both the Marlins and the Phillies.
14. Minnesota Twins (LW: 20): They effectively killed the small chance that Kansas City had, so for that, I’ll show them some love with a six-point boost.
15. New York Mets (LW: 11): They were lucky to take the series the Marlins. It’s not very often that a team blows two saves in a game… especially a team with a bullpen like Florida’s. That being said, I have lost all confidence in Willie Randolph’s ability to manage this team. Unless a miracle occurs, this is a lost year for the Mets, and they would be wise to fire Willie and rebuild around Johan, Wright, and Reyes. Trade the rest of the veterans for whatever they can get. It makes no sense to blow $100 million plus on a .500 at best team. Omar Minaya should take a page out of the Marlins playbook and build around young guys.
16. Los Angeles Dodgers (LW: 12): They are extremely lucky that they play in the NL West. They would have been road kill this year if they had never moved from Brooklyn and eventually were placed in the East. That being said, if they can go on a run against the weaker sides in their division, and if Arizona’s May woes continue, they could find themselves in first. This season is far from over for the Dodgers.
17. Milwaukee Brewers (LW: 23): Milwaukee has had a decent run as of late, and they are giving the Braves all they can handle in Atlanta. But make no mistake, this team isnt even in the same stratosphere as the Cubs, Cards, and Stros. Ben Sheets and Jeff Suppan can use a little help in that rotation… another team that should go out and get themselves a real ace.
18. Baltimore Orioles (LW: 10): Finally starting to play back to their level. This division is just too tough for a team like Baltimore.
19. Texas Rangers (LW: 24): They certainly can hit the ball out there in Arlington, and they will give the A’s and Angels some headaches, but without any pitching this team will go nowhere.
20. New York Yankees (LW: 21): I’ll move them up one because they have been playing slightly better recently. But they still remain in last place. I know, I know, every Yankees fan rattles off like a broken record that this happens every year with them; that they are a second half team. But if they do, would it even matter? They always collapse once the playoffs arrive.
21. Cleveland Indians (LW: 8): Just when you think they are going to snap out of their season long funk, they play like crap for another week. I still believe that they will turn it around pretty soon, but this doesn’t look good.
22. Cincinnati Reds (LW: 19): Say hello to Jay Bruce. Say goodbye to either Adam Dunn or Ken Griffey Jr…
23. Pittsburgh Pirates (LW: 22): If I were a Pirates fan, I would not be paying attention to wins and losses this year. For the first time in a long time, this team has shown signs of eventually breaking out of it’s decade-and-a-half long slump with the development of some key players. Instead, I would be focusing on individual performances and key confidence-building wins. These guys remind me of the 2000 Marlins. All they need to do now is find that young ace, and in a few years, they could make a suprise run to the playoffs. Pittsburgh would go insane if the Pirates started winning again.
24. San Francisco Giants (LW: 29): Barry Zito had to come all the way to Miami to find his first win of the season. Thats a huge monkey off his back; now he can start the long road back to respectability. They also have been giving the Dbacks all they can handle this week. Make no mistake, this is a horrible team, but right now they aren’t playing that bad.
25. Washington Nationals (LW: 28): It must be tough to play in the NL East if you have no talent.
26. Detroit Tigers (LW: 25): Still horrible…
27. Kansas City Royals (LW: 18): Sorry, Royals fans, I hope you don’t think I jinxed you last week… that was a really hard stumble. I’m sure you guys are sick of hearing this, but there is always next year.
28. Colorado Rockies (LW: 26): Normally I come up with a theory as to why a team like Colorado has collapsed, but I’m at a loss here. They have almost the same team… they just aren’t hitting or pitching. Everything has gone wrong for them. I almost feel bad…
29. San Diego Padres (LW: 30): They have to find hitting from somewhere, or else this putrid stretch will last multiple seasons.
30. Seattle Marliners (LW: 27): Ladies and Gentelmen, your biggest dissapointment so far of 2008!