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MLB - Early Season News and Notes

By Peter Friberg
Monday, April 15th, 2002

Just some news and notes on the NL West particularly, and the rest of the goings-on in Major League Baseball ...

The Padres opened on the road getting Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling to start the season. They did manage to win the third game of the series, but looked like 12-year-olds facing Danny Almonte against Johnson and Schilling.

After escaping Arizona, San Diego limped into San Francisco to face the Giants in their home-opener. After nine innings proved insufficient to settle matters, Barry Bonds hit his fifth homerun in four games to win the game for the home crowd in the 10th.

The Padres managed to drop the next two to the Giants, as well. In doing so, the Padres looked more like my slow-pitch softball team than an MLB club; running out of innings, misplaying routine plays, etc.

On Monday, April 8th, the Padres were back in San Diego for their home-opener. Media giants such as ESPN and CBS ranked the Padres among the bottom third, and D'Backs among the top five. Naturally, the Padres swept Arizona.

After sweeping San Diego in San Francisco, which followed a three-game road sweep of the Dodgers, the Giants hosted Los Angeles in their house. Bonds, who had hit 4 HR off Dodger pitching in Los Angeles, went 2-10 in the series and the Giants fell twice in three games.

The Rockies' offensive struggles on the road are well chronicled. But usually, their pitchers enjoy the thicker air. Going to Los Angeles after winning two of three in St. Louis (oft-regarded best team in the NL), seemed like a chance for some sun, a nice SoCal vacation, and three pitching-friendly contests with the seemingly offensively challenged Dodgers. Again, naturally, the Dodgers crossed home plate 24 times to the Rockies 6 in the three-game sweep.

In the rest of the Majors, as of Friday night, the NL East is spread across two games. The Mets, who are in first place, have scored 41 runs, only one more than the Marlins who have scored the fewest (40). It's still early, but where are those runs that their revamped lineup was supposed to produce?

That Eric Chavez is a co-leader in HR with 4 is not surprising (as of Friday night). That he's tied with a Yankee is also not surprising. That the Yankee is Robin Ventura, is. Eric and Robin are also tied with two other players and both of them are not players you'd expect to see on the HR leader board. OF Jacque Jones of Minnesota and rookie 1B Carlos Pena, who has taken over for Jason Giambi in Oakland, also have 4.

What's more surprising? That Barry has 6 HR already? Or that Barry only has 6 so far? When Barry hit 5 HR in his first four games, NL West pitchers could be heard mumbling, "Here we go again ..." But after just one more in the next six games, it looked like Superman had shed his super powers. In case you're wondering, and I know you are, Barry is on pace for 97 HR. Isn't this guy supposed to be over the hill?

Not to pick on the Brewers or any of their fans, but how fulfilling is it that Bud Selig's team is in last place? What's that saying? "Sometimes life really does imitate art."

Many of the prognosticators said that the Cubs could challenge St. Louis (nevermind my NL Central pick, Houston) for first in the division. With the Cubbies at 3-6, do we need to be on the "Baylor Watch?"

Cleveland has the best record in baseball? Well, I still don't think it will last, but giving them this much of jump on their AL Central competition will make the race either that much more interesting, or like the last two years, that much more impossible to predict.

Atlanta is following the San Diego model, currently second in walks. The Braves are in the middle of the pack in runs scored despite batting a meager .223. The Padres, who led the league in BB last year, are second to last this year. Tellingly, they've scored the fewest in NL so far. It is early, but if that doesn't turn around, San Diego could be in for a long year.

Baltimore has learned that it can't afford to walk people. They walked the fewest in the AL and have the second best ERA (3.62) in the AL. Unfortunately for O's fans, they've had to face the best the AL East has to offer, and haven't been able to capitalize on the good pitching.

As we've already stated, it is early, but has anyone noticed that San Francisco has a team ERA under 1.50?

With Schilling and Johnson, it's no surprise that Arizona leads the league in Ks (119). But only two other teams have more than 100; Atlanta (106) and Philadelphia (104).

Atlanta leads the league in BB issued (64). They've still managed a 3.57 ERA (7th). I can't help but wonder how their record and ERA would look if they had a more average 40-something walk total.

Last, but not least, (okay, maybe they are least), Detroit hosts Tampa starting Tuesday. The Tigers should finally be able to get into the win column.

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