The 2011 Major League Baseball season turns three weeks old on Thursday, which means it's about time to start putting together a weekly notebook and column, which SB Nation New York has put me in charge of. (Actually, I begged and pleaded for them to put me in charge of it. Luckily, for me they said "you can do it, but just don't mention anything involving the Boston Red Sox.")
The plan is to post a weekly notebook article that will cover my top stories of the week, a few nuggets that may or may not impress you, a fantasy baseball tip that promises to make your team better and possibly answer a question from a few readers, tweeters or facebookers (you can reach me at: JaredSmith16@gmail.com or Jared_E_Smith) that have something to say.
Now, this weekly notebook (which normally will be published on Monday) will be very broad in its coverage of the MLB and will target the casual baseball fan who would like to know what's going on, but doesn't have time to watch and research baseball as much as I do (luckily, I am engaged to a woman who also loves baseball and allows me to watch as much of it as I like). It will also provide a forum for New York-area baseball fans who want to talk about other baseball-related news that doesn't revolve around the Yankees or Mets.
So, without further delay let's get to my top stories of the MLB in the past three weeks:
Los Angeles Dodger Chaos: While, New York Mets fans are dealing with the worst record in baseball and a possible financial mess, which stems from the Bernie Madoff ponzi scheme, the former New York-based franchise, the Dodgers, are quickly becoming the laughing stock of the West Coast.
Not only are the Dodgers and owner Frank McCourt having their fiances babysat by the MLB, but the struggle for the life of San Francisco Giants fan, Bryan Stow, is still hanging in the balance.
If you're unaware of the story, Stow, 42, is a lifelong Giants fan who visited Dodgers Stadium, March 31, for the season opener. Upon leaving the stadium, Stow was jumped and then beaten by some Dodger thugs, who put the father of two in a coma.
The incident forced McCourt to enhance the security at Chavez Ravine and prompted newspaper columnist John Steigerwald to write this terrible column on April 10th -- Steigerwald wrote an apology column seven days later.
For me, the story of Stow is one of disappointment. As a sports fan, I've had my moments of friendly banter between opposing fans, but never thought of getting into a fight with someone over a game. Let's please all remember that sports aren't real life, which is why most of us enjoy it so much because we use it as an escape -- not as a fight club.
As for the decline of the Dodgers' legendary mystic, it's saddening because a) I'm a Brooklyn Dodgers fanatic who understand the history that goes with this franchise; and b) Don Mattingly, who's in the midst of his first season as a manager, needs to deal with all of this.
As of Thursday, the Dodgers (9-10) are the second-worst team in the NL West.
Cleveland (Indians) Rocks!: The Indians have, so far, been the most surprising story of the season. Some credit the success to designated hitter Travis Hafner, who is hitting .351, slugging .632 with four home runs, and starting pitcher Justin Masterson, who's 4-0 with a 1.71 ERA. However, I think it's the new sharp looking uniforms -- NFL Hall-of-Famer Jerry Rice always said that if you look good, you play good.
Right now the Indians (13-5) are tied with the Colorado Rockies for the league's best record, lead the AL Central by two games and have earned three-game sweeps over Boston, Seattle and Baltimore.
Can Cleveland keep up this pace? Well, it's too soon to tell, but the rough starts by the Detroit Tigers (9-10), Chicago White Sox (7-11) and Minnesota Twins (6-12) definitely help its cause.
Boston (Red Sox) Stinks!: The only way, I was able to talk Red Sox (6-11) on a New York blog was to remind readers that everyone's preseason pick to win the AL East was in last place.
As of Thursday, Boston, which began the season 0-6 before beating the Yankees, 9-6, April 8, has been struggling. Newly-acquired stars Carl Crawford (.174 batting average) and Adrian Gonzalez (one home run) are in a rut, while starting pitcher John Lackey (9.68 ERA in three starts) has quickly become Boston's most wanted man.
I am confident that Boston, which sits just four and a half games back in the AL East, will slowly each its way back to .500 and into the playoff race by the All-Star break. However, there are glaring issues with the Red Sox starting rotation, which has been so-so at best.
The 'New' West Coast Pitching Duo: Before the start of the season, most baseball fans would have expected a dominant pitching duo to come from either the Giants or the Oakland Athletics. That hasn't been the case as the Los Angeles Angels Of Anaheim's Jered Weaver and Dan Haren have been downright filthy.
So far, Weaver is 5-0 with a 1.23 ERA, 0.76 WHIP with a MLB best 39 strike outs, while teammate Haren is 4-0 with a 1.16 ERA, 0.65 WHIP and 27 Ks. The duo rank second and third, respectively, in ERA for pitchers with 25-plus innings -- Florida Marlins Josh Johnson is ranked first (1.00 ERA).
The Halos (12-6) are currently in first place in the AL West and are 8-2 in their last 10 games.
Who's Sam Fuld: One of the most non-talked about storylines of the 2011 season has been the highlight real diving catches that Tampa Bay Rays outfielder Sam Fuld has been pulling off (because of the MLB's terrible copyright rules I can't provide video, so here's catch No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3). It seems as if Fuld, who's currently hitting .344 and has already stolen seven bases, is doing something spectacular each night.
If you get a chance, check out the new South Florida heartthrob and the Rays (9-9), who are currently 8-2 in their last 10 games.
Weekly Nugget No. 1: Just a few days after being arrested for allegedly trying to shoplift $60 worth of t-shirts from a department story, Cincinnati Reds pitcher Mike Leake earned a 'W' in a 7-4 victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks on Thursday.I guess, you could say that Leake stole the show.
SB Nation NY Fantasy Baseball Advice: Keep your finger off that trade button!
Relax! I know that your team is struggling early on in the season, but that doesn't mean you need to hit the panic button just yet. It's a long season and you drafted your players to perform at a certain level, which they will if they don't run into a DL stint.
My strategy, which produces a lot of quality results, is to wait until at least the All-Star break to look for trades that may help my team get better. To me that's enough time to evaluate each player on your roster, know which MLB teams are for good, bad or are in the best position to make a second-half run (which will produce better stats for your struggling players). So, do yourself a favor. Relax and let things Play out before you get trade happy.
(For more coverage of the MLB, visit SB Nation's baseball hub. Also, make sure to check out Pinstripe Alley (Yankees) and Amazin' Avenue (Mets) for all your New York baseball action.)