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Sound the Alarms! Send out the trucks! We have a (potential) fire here!

Monday, June 21, 2004

With the Cubs win yesterday, most of Cubdom is reveling in a mid-June surge that has some writers decreeing the end of the annual June Swoon (Cub Reporter: Day of Rest). However, here at the official home of Cubdom, the proprietor is beginning to fear a dark and growing cloud on the horizon. Before making flat footed claims of the end of the annual June anomaly, theCubdom is concerned about another recurrent phenomena in Cubs history: the oft-injured pitching phenom.

Kerry Wood's injury has me really concerned because they can't find a physical cause for his pain, which probably means they're not looking in the right spot. (Of course the other potential cause would be psychological... and that's worse.)

Since I have no first hand knowlege of Woody's condition, I am left to read the written accounts of Wood's comeback, and they have me worried. When you read the articles, there are no quotes about him being pain-free. In the recently finished Mark Prior-achilles-a-thon, every time he threw there was a quote about him being pain-free. With Wood, all we keep hearing are vague statements about progress, an even fuzzier timetable for his return, and about how Rothschild is taking "extra precaution." All of this I think adds up to the conclusion that Kerry's pitching pain is not subsiding, and the Cubs are trying to decide whether he should pitch through the pain.

Thats enough negativity for a winning ball club: I voted for the all-star squad again this morning, and here is who I voted for.

Position:American LeagueNational League
First Base: F. Thomas, CWS J. Thome, PHI
Second Base: A. Soriano, TEX Todd Walker
Third Base: M. Mora, BAL S. Rolen, STL
Shortstop: M. Young, TEX J. Wilson, PIT
Catcher: I. Rodriguez, DET M. Piazza, NYM
Outfielder: V. Guerrero, ANA L. Berkman, HOU
Outfielder:I. Suzuki, SEAD. Roberts, LA
Outfielder:M. Ramirez, BOSB. Bonds, SF

Big Frank is one of the more notable votes, because I'm not a huge fan of the Big Hurt, being a southsider and all. However, his numbers at first are the best in the AL, and also being underreported.

The only "homer" vote on this ballot was Todd Walker, who I actually had to write-in. The second basemen in the NL are particularly weak this year. Walker, who would probably be in about third place if he weren't a write-in, is tied with Jeff Kent in HRs at 10, has a comparable batting average, but fewer RBIs. A lot of this is due to Walker being a lead-off hitter/bench player, and Kent hitting down in the order. Mainly, I voted for Walker because Jeff Kent is one of my least favorite players... probably due to a case of the Joe Morgan's on my behalf. I don't like Kent because he draws comparisons to Ryno, and I don't think he's half the ball player that Ryno was.

Melvin Mora got his first All-Star vote off my ballot because he is having a better statistical season than A-Rod, and this needs to be highlighted. On the NL side, I badly wanted to vote for Aramis, but I can't call myself an intelligent fan if I ignore Scott Rolen's MVP quality season.

In the outfield, I selected two masher's from each league, and they were pretty easy picks. Vlad the impaler is lighting up the AL, and may be en route to an MVP. In Boston, Manny is reminding Theo Epstein that his bat is better than A-Rod's. In the NL, Barry Bonds and his nearly .370 AVG with unreal power, and incredible OBP make him a no-brainer, and will probably rob Rolen of the MVP. Lance Berkman is playing very well, and has gotten some votes from me already this season, but isn't a lock.

Also in the outfield, I have selected a lead-off speedster for each league. Now that the all-star game matters (pause for laughter), it is important to pick players who will form a well-rounded lineup, not just win the home run derby. As a result, my most exciting player in baseball, Ichiro gets the nod in the Junior Circuit. His offense has been very good again, and the defense still makes me drool over him. In the NL, Dodger's line-up igniter Dave Roberts gets the nod. He has 22 steals so far, and missed about a month due to injury. He has the best offensive numbers of the lead-off guys I considered, with a plus OBP. I'd love to see him selected in the NL, and watch him tear up the basepaths... after Pudge leaves the game.

Around the League: Another Cubs off-day gives me time to pause and remark about some of the interesting things I see in the standings.

First up, its almost criminal that I haven't mentioned the Devil Ray's resurgence yet; but I am concerned about the quickly developing Cubdom.com jinx. The D-Rays, one of the most exciting young teams in baseball, have won 11 consecutive games and climbed out of the AL East cellar past the Blue Jays and Orioles. More impressively, they are 2 games below .500 and have already played 14 games against the Yanks and BoSox.

The worst record in baseball still belongs to the Expos, and rightly so. I read the other day that there is a fair amount of tension between the players and Frank Robinson... yeah, that makes sense. There's gonna be a fair amount of tension on any team playing .328 ball.

The Phillies are still strugling to take over a very winnable NL East. They are in first place by percentage points over the Marlins, and the Mets are 2.5 back with a .500 record. Both the Marlins and the Phils would be in 4th place in the NL Central.

After a horrid start, the Giants are back in contention in the NL West, 1.5 games back of the Dodgers. The difference is that the Giants are gaining fast, while LA is strugling to put runs on the board. As of today, I am officially changing my prediction, and expect that the Giants will win the NL West.

The AL West is shaping up into a nice 3 team race, with the A's on top and the Rangers (-.5) and Angels (-1.5) close behind. Although the top three teams in the AL West have a lower collective winning percentage than the top three in the NL Central, I think the AL West is the toughest division at this point, mainly because they have to play the Yanks and BoSox, while the NL lacks dominant teams in the East and West.

If the season ended today: The Yankees, Twins, and A's win their divisions with the Red Sox as the wild card. The first round matchups would be Yankees vs. Twins and A's vs. Red Sox... sound familiar?

In the NL, the Phillies, Cardinals, and Dodgers win their divisions with the Cubs as wild card entrants. The first round matchups would pit the Cardinals and Phillies against eachother, leaving the Cubs to do battle with the Dodgers. Now that would be an exciting post-season, all four teams are charter franchises from the NL.

Posted by Byron at June 21, 2004 1:12 PM | Bookmark and Share | BallHype: hype it up!
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