April standings report

Something I did in 2005 with the ttrwc website was from time to time go through the baseball standings of my favorite teams. I’m continuing this practice with monoblogue, so this will be the first of this year’s standings reports. It’s a good time to check in as we are a month into the season. (Oh, and just wait until the All-Star break, you sports haters are going to just love that post. Hehehehehehehehehe.)

I’ll start with the local heroes, the Delmarva Shorebirds. Tonight they sit with an 11-10 record, good for third place in the South Atlantic League’s North Division behind the Lexington Legends (a Houston Astros farm club) and the Lake County Captains (affiliate of the nearby Cleveland Indians.) Both of those teams are 14-10 so the Shorebirds are trailing due to games not played as opposed to being behind in the loss column. This is because of the two rainouts last weekend. One thing that could hurt the Shorebirds later is not making up a rainout against Hickory since the Crawdads don’t visit Delmarva again this season.

Coming up for the Shorebirds, they continue the stretch they began last Sunday of playing 34 straight games against three teams: Lakewood, Hagerstown, and Lake County. We see a lot of these opponents as the SAL tries to eliminate travel as much as they can by grouping teams, and those three teams make up the rest of our group. (Unfortunately we get stuck with the frequent 8 hour trips to Lake County this way, as do they to come here.) We don’t see a team other than those three until May 27, when the Shorebirds wrap up the month by traveling to Lexington to face the Legends.

My old hometown Toledo Mud Hens are off to a slow start in defending their IL pennant, as they’re just 11-13 after a rainout today at Louisville. They are tied for second in the International League West standings with the Louisville Bats (Cincinnati’s top farm club) and the Tigers affiliate resides 2 games out of first. They’re trailing the IL runners-up from 2005, the Indianapolis Indians (Pittsburgh’s top farm team), who have started out 13-11.

The month of May will see the Mud Hens make their first trip to Virginia this season. After 2 games to start the month in Indianapolis, they’ll host the two Virginia teams (Richmond and Norfolk) before traveling south to end a 16 game stretch against these IL South foes. In addition to the games in Virginia, they tangle with instate rival Columbus in the state capital for a pair of contests before wrapping up the month back in Toledo with 4 game sets against IL East challengers Buffalo and Rochester.

Then, of course, there’s my Detroit Tigers. After simply annihilating the Twins this weekend (sweeping the series 9-0, 18-1, and 6-0) they stand second in the American League Central division with a 16-9 record. It’s their best April start since their last world champion team in 1984 – the “Bless You Boys” team started 18-2 in April on their way to a 35-5 record after the first 40 games. The only AL team with a better record is the defending World Series champion Chicago White Sox, who stand 1 1/2 games ahead of the Tigers with a 17-7 record. The Tigers are 2 games clear of the Boston nine (and possibly Cleveland if they win tonight) for the wild card lead.

On the May schedule for the Tigers, they wrap up their current homestand with a pair each against the Royals and Angels before going on their second three-city roadtrip in 2 1/2 weeks. That trip takes them to Minnesota, Baltimore (a midweek series, darn it!) and Cleveland. A midmonth homestand brings the Twins back to Detroit along with the first interleague series against the surprising Cincinnati Reds. Then, after a brief 4 game roadtrip to Kansas City, the Tigers close out May with a key homestand against the Indians and Yankees.

Gee, maybe if they keep up this start, ESPN just might carry one of the Tigers vs. Yankees games. I know, it’s not a Red Sox-Yankees matchup that they can hype for a week beforehand nor is Barry Bonds involved, but at some point the national media’s gotta show the Olde English D a little love.

Baseball tonight!

I’m ready for the 2006 season to start as tonight an AL Central battle is slated for the lidlifter, the White Sox host the Indians. (Unfortunately, there’s an 80% change of strong thunderstorms in the Chicago area tonight.) Went up to Perdue Stadium yesterday and fought off the mob of Easter egg-hunting kids to pick out some seats for the home opener next Monday. (I’ll save the office tix for someone else, heaven knows I’ll get enough of them once things get underway.)

So this morning I’ve been perusing the sports pages trying to get a fix on how things look in 2006. I’ll start with the local major league teams, Nats and Orioles.

The Nationals were a last place team in 2005 despite also being a .500 team at 81-81. The good news for Nats fans is that they’re not picked to be a last place team this year by 8 of 9 predictions I saw, including all of the “national” (no pun intended) predictors. The bad news is that they’re likely to finish a few games short of the .500 mark this season and probably a dozen-and-a-half games out of the division title. Most experts are picking the Braves for a fifteenth straight division crown, but the Mets have gotten some respect (2 of the 9 pick the Mets to break the Atlanta streak.) What saves the Nats from the basement is the dismantling of the Florida Marlins and their continuing rags-to-riches-to-rags-to-riches-to rags again story. Go ahead and contract that sorry franchise, and put a restraining order on Jeffrey Lurie ever owning another ballteam.

Speaking of restraining orders, perhaps the same should be done for Peter Angelos and the Orioles. I’m only going to make two actual predictions in this post, and here they are: in the Orioles’ next-to-last homestand, September 8-14 against Boston and New York, the attendance by people wearing Red Sox or Yankees colors will be higher than those supporting the hometown team, and you’ll hear more cheering for Big Papi or Derek Jeter than for Miguel Tejada. For the last home series against Minnesota, the total attendance won’t break 60,000. You guessed it, a second-division finish is in the cards for the O’s if the experts are correct. Most have them trailing the D-Rays and inhabiting the AL East cellar, while a few pick them just ahead of Tampa Bay. The very first series for Baltimore is home against the Devil Rays so they’ll be stacked up right off the bat.

So the AL East dynasty of the Yankees winning the division and the Red Sox finishing second is expected again, for the most part (a few see Toronto as the #2 team.) It’s in the 2007-2008 seasons that the change of the AL East guard is expected to occur with the rapid ascension of Tampa Bay and their great young talent. The Orioles don’t even get placed on the radar.

Now I can talk about the important division, the AL Central. Just like the Eastern divisions of both leagues, it’s been a dynastic division where one team generally runs a string of division titles (Cleveland ’95-’99 and ’01, Minnesota ’02-’04). That’s good news for White Sox fans who hope to make their success in 2005 into their own dynasty. The bad news is that Chicago was the odd team who won in 2000 and pretty much became the placeholder between the Cleveland and Minnesota runs. Some are predicting that same placeholder scenario for the Sox and returning the dynasty label back to Cleveland. The experts are almost evenly split on this year’s winner, with a bare majority picking the White Sox.

Of course, to me all other AL Central teams are the “enemy” since I’m a Tigers fan. This spring, they’ve been making some noise and it’s possible this accursed streak of losing seasons could finally end before it hits 13. They did suffer a blow in their final spring training game as free agent signee and annointed closer Todd Jones got hurt, but that could mean highly-regarded prospect Joel Zumaya gets an opportunity to apprentice as a setup man for interim closer Fernando Rodney. One thing I think the Tigers did well in working Zumaya through the minors is that he’s been a starter so he’s had to develop several good pitches. If he’s destined for the closer’s spot, it will serve him very well.

So who do the experts think will be standing at the end? It’s a wide-open race, with eight experts I got six possibilities. The White Sox and Cardinals were picked by two each, others mentioned the Braves, A’s, Yankees, and Blue Jays. St. Louis is a very popular NL pick (7 of 8, the other being Atlanta), but few thought they could handle the AL winner. I’d love to see my Tigers upset that apple cart though. Restore the roar and place the Olde English D back into the prominence it deserves. My Mud Hens washed away a 38-year title drought last year, maybe this year the Tigers can end a 22 year hex.

Warm summer thoughts

This is the last of my three posts for tonight (so read on below, there’s lots of new stuff.)

But I happened across an article by Dayn Perry that put a smile on my face about my ballteam, the Detroit Tigers. So I thought it was worth sharing after two political posts. The warm thoughts are especially needed after reading this about Detroit. (Hopefully my New Fallujah friends are snuggled by the fire. Tell me again why I miss Ohio?)

Premonition or coincidence?

On September 29, the Chicago White Sox beat the Detroit Tigers 4-2 on Detroit’s home field of Comerica Park to wrap up the AL Central title. Less than a month later, they celebrated a World Series championship.

Earlier today, the Cincinnati Bengals routed the Detroit Lions 41-17 to clinch the AFC North title at Detroit’s Ford Field. Will there be a repeat performance? I’m not sure I could stand that.

It’s truly odd how a city with four professional sports teams could have two that are so good (Red Wings and Pistons, who have 6 championships between them in the last 16 years) and two that are so wretchedly horrible. And of course, the bad ones are in the sports I like (baseball and football.)

I guess there’s no way I could be called a fair-weather fan, can I?