Considering we’re looking mostly at ESPN, that question may seem rhetorical, but even some guys at the venerable MLB Network (a fantastic channel) were picking the Milwaukee Brewers, St. Louis Cardinals, Oakland Athletics, Anaheim Angels and others to unseat the defending NL Central and AL West champs.
It’s still quite early, and I don’t gamble nor predict — especially in baseball where nothing is guaranteed and parity reigns supreme — but I’m pretty confident Cincinnati and Texas will be “just fine” in 2011.
The teams have opened a combined 9-0.
The Reds return basically the same team from last year, which was a solid one that happened to run into two unhittable Philly pitchers (Roy Halladay was literally unhittable n Game 1, and Cole Hamels was close in Game 3, and Cincy gave away Game 2 with errors). Cincinnati simply is not the “one year playoff wonder” that perhaps the 2008 Brewers have proven to be.
The Rangers are solid, especially offensively, which should cover up any bullpen mishaps or back-end rotation holes. Former all-star and one of the best pitchers in baseball through 2009, Brandon Webb, is another great pickup by Texas that could work out very well.
Exchanging Vlad Guerrero for Adrian Beltre (9th in AL MVP voting) is a wash, at worse. Cliff Lee did win three playoff games, but also was disastrous in the World Series, losing two times when it mattered most. I love Clifton Phifer, but we forget he was 4-6 with an ERA of 4 during the 2010 regular season for Texas. Lee didn’t hurt the Rangers, but he also didn’t get Texas into the playoffs; the other pitchers and the bats did.
So the Rangers already swept the Red Sox, while Cincy swept trendy Milwaukee; therefore let’s wait and see about them, okay capricious New York and Philadelphia Media? Perhaps focus on your teams, like you normally do.
(I recently chronicled how the east coast media, especially in NY, is allergic to facts, humility, and reality. New Yorker Joel Sherman said the 2010 “Phillies Yankees World Series battle was inevitable” last October, while arrogant Yankee broadcaster Michael Kay declared “the series is over” after New York beat Texas in Game 1 of the ALCS. Texas demolished the Yanks in 4 of next 5, yet Kay, like Sherman, were not reprimanded and kept their jobs.)
With the AL East being the best division in baseball, and the NL West being highly competitive, the Reds and Rangers could easily utilize the unbalanced schedule to their advantage — and to other teams’ disadvantages.
*After Cole Hamels horrific performance last night, Philadelphia’s “Fab Four” have a combined ERA of around 5. Yes, Hamels hurt that, but despite what the obsequious Philly media (which is as arrogant as the NY media now, it seems) pontificates, the other three guys weren’t exactly brilliant versus a winless Houston team over the weekend.