Friday, June 24, 2011

Get to know your Interleague Foils

I’ve been a bit of a naughty blogger over the last 2 weeks. Not only have my columns been sparse (and misleading), but I’ve neglected to inform my faithful readers about the odd opponents your Boston Red Sox have had of late. In this latest round of interleague play, the Sox have played a lot teams that we don’t usually see against our crimson footed ballers. Even though some of the teams we’ve played and are about to play have been pretty bad, there are some interesting stories surrounding most of them. Here is a quick rundown of the 2 most recent and 3 future NL teams to square off against Boston.

Milwaukee Brewers: One of Alice Cooper’s favorite cities to visit (as the natives call it, Mill-E-Wah-Kay) is home to one of the better teams in the National League. While their chief competitors in the NL Central (Reds and Cardinals) boast deep lineups and pitching staffs, the Brewers are so top heavy they would make Dolly Parton jealous. Prince Fielder and Ryan Braun are possibly the best hitting duo in the NL and Rickie Weeks the top second baseman. After that, the hitters range from average to Yuniesky (a common baseball slang for terrible). The rotation is similarly top heavy, or at least should be. The club acquired Cy Young candidates Zack Greinke and Shaun Marcum in the offseason to join fellow Cy contender Yovani Gallardo in a menacing front three. Marcum has come up aces, but to this point the G-men have disappointed (though Greinke  has an 8.89 SO/BB ratio so I’m 88.9% positive his 4.77 ERA is a fluke). If this team could make a couple upgrades, especially at short, they could challenge the Phillies for best in the NL. Unfortunately they already made their upgrades in the offseason bringing in Greinke and Marcum so there is nothing left to trade away.

San Diego Padres: The current home of Westboro’s favorite Swede has very little going for it in the way of on field talent. Anthony Rizzo, acquired from Boston in the Adrian Gonzalez trade, looks like he could be the next great Padre to play for 5 years and then be traded away. Cameron Maybin is an interesting case study in fallen prospect trying to make good on his past promise. And that’s about it. Basically when your closer is your best player, you are going to have some issues winning ball games (just ask the Royals from the last 3 seasons). Gun to my head though, I’m pretty sure I’d rather live in San Diego and root for the Padres than live in Boston and root for the Red Sox, so really, what is all this for?

Pittsburgh Pirates: What an exciting up and coming team (can you tell I’m about to suck up to fellow UMass alum and Pirates GM Neil Huntington?)! The team has valiantly clawed back to .500 in a winnable NL Central behind budding superstar Andrew McCutcheon (one story I read compared McCutcheon’s first three years in Pitt to Barry Bonds’ and McCutcheon came out on top!). The team is a bit of a Motley Crue, but they are finding ways to get the job done. McCutcheon stars as Tommy Lee, swinging the biggest stick. Joel Hanrahan is Nikki Sixx in the closers role, as he was given up for dead by the Washington Nationals but is now one of the best in baseball. Kevin Correia is enigmatic lead guitarist Mick Mars, the leader of the pitching staff with 9 wins but oddly only 4.3 strikeouts per nine. And second baseman Neil Walker is singer Vince Neil because, hey, same name (they don't need cuff links to spark a conversation). They will probably experience a fall from grace this season, but the farm has been expertly stacked with high upside arms and if you look at it just right you can envision a contending Pirates team in 2 or 3 years. Also, make sure you marvel at their ball park; possibly the best of all the new ones besides maybe San Francisco.

Philadelphia Phillies: The Phillies are the Red Sox/Yankees of the NL. There's been enough said about them so let's move on.

Houston Astros: As I mentioned in my previous post, there are some serious issues in Houston right now (Must. Resist. Obvious. Apollo. 13. Joke.) The team that once laid claim to the Killer Bees now runs out a lineup that would be generously nicknamed the Mildly Annoying Fruit Flies. Sadly, the team has been led by a micromanaging owner that clung to the past too long, wasted money on an outfielder called “The Horse” (not because of his speed), and over the last decade neglected to spend money on the draft or internationally where the great Astros of the early 2000’s found the majority of their talent. Luckily, there should be a new owner approved soon by Bud Selig and his boys club that will hopefully bring a new philosophy to this depressed franchise. Until then there is even less to care about with this team than with the Padres.

I hope this little NL primer (a word I just found out rhymes with "Jimmer" and not "Rhymer") was helpful. The 9 game road trip begins tonight and I fully expect the Sox to continue their dominance of the weaker league. Now if they could only figure out what the h to do with Adrian Gonzalez and David Ortiz...

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