I heart baseball. And the Masters. And nice weather. Truly, this was a glorious weekend.
WHO WAS AWESOME
1. The Twins. A 5-2 road trip to start the season, with the two opponents being the Angels and White Sox? Hell yes, great start to the season. Rauch looks like the next Mariano Rivera but white and a foot taller. Delmon Young has improved his patience (decreased swing %) while at the same time increasing his aggressiveness (anecdotal, but it seems like he puts it all into every swing and has mostly eliminated those weak "make contact" swings he got into the habit of doing last year). The starters have been solid save the first time out from Baker, and the bullpen has been nails in front of Rauch, except for Mijares who has been brutal so far. The new guys, Hudson and Hardy, have been solid, Mauer and Morneau have picked back up as MVP candidates, and even this year's slow starters - Kubel and Span - have found ways to contribute. Assuming Hardy and Delmon are really this good and Kubel and Span are the same as last year, this lineup is absolutely loaded. With a good bullpen and above average starters, they have a very good look about them through week 1. Needless to say, I like what I'm seeing. I'm going to stop now because I'm pissing myself off with my pollyanna optimisim and I don't want to have to kick my own ass.
2. The Masters. We didn't get the drama of a playoff, but there was still plenty to enjoy at Augusta. Tiger came back and played well, only to melt down on the back 9 on Sunday with both the driver and the putter, Anthony Kim went on an Anthony Kim-like run of birdies to become a factor, Lee Westwood did what the 54-hole leader seems to do in every major and shoot right around par, and Tom Watson and Fred Couples hung around long enough to give the old-timers some hope. In the end though, Phil Mickelson managed to out last his own hitting the ball in the woodsness to play an overall brilliant back 9 at -4 while everyone else was making mistakes, including Tiger's 3-putt from 6 feet on 14 and a few makeable birdies Westwood burned by the cup. I'm not a huge Phil fan, but I'm not an anti-fan either, so overall this result pleases me. Plus that jackass Cink missed the cut, which is always a positive.
3. Matt Garza. Oh hell. Damn hell. Garza pitched the kind of game aces pitch, going 8 innings against the Orioles giving up just four hits and an earned run while striking out 9. Don't dismiss the Orioles, either, they have a pretty good lineup this year, so perhaps the Garza we were waiting for has arrived - only he's wearing a different uniform. At least Delmon is sort of starting come around. In any case, I picked Garza for runner-up in the Cy Young race, and this start shows he's got the stuff. At least we still have Scott Baker, who has the same kind of stuff and mental make up and could also end up being a shut down ace, right? Blackburn? Slowey? Crap.
4. C.C. Sabathia. Well I don't like him or the Yankees, but tossing a near no-hitter against a pretty good Rays squad is impressive so he probably deserves some credit. But instead of doing that, I'll just tell you how brutally homerishly awful the Yankee radio announcers are. I douwnloaded the MLB At-Bat app for Blackberry, which is awesome, and was listening to it and my god, the chick announcer on there is so rah-rah she's probably humping most of the roster. There was a play where Carl Crawford overslid second on a force play and was tagged out by Robinson Cano, and she couldn't stop talking about "what a great heads up play" and "how alert Cano is" and "how it's just instinctive." In case that wasn't enough, she drops this one, "You know who else makes plays like that? Derek Jeter. Stand next to Jeter long enough and you start making those kind of plays." Good lord, lady, he tagged a guy out, pull your dress down. Also, after a strike out looking she said that "Cervelli framed that so beautifully without moving his glove, that's why Sabathia got that call." Basically the entire time I was listening she was auditorially servicing each player - worse even than Gladden. For reals.
5. Blue Jays. The Jays are a bit surprising at 5-1 to start the year, but even more surprising has been the quality of starting pitching they have been getting. Going into the year, nobody was really worried about their lineup, but they had something like 10-12 pitchers, any of whom could have won a rotation spot and nobody was guaranteed to be there. Sounds like a recipe for disaster, but they have been pretty lights out so far, holding their opponent to four runs or less four times, and never allowing more than six in a game to this point. Shaun Marcum nearly tossed a no-hitter on opening day and then followed that up with a 7 inning, 2 hit performance against the Rangers on Sunday, while Dana Eveland threw a shutout and Ricky Romero and Brian Tallet chipped in with quality starts. If this pitching is for real, and it's almost certainly not, Toronto could actually contend in the East.
1. Matt Howard. OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOFFFFFFFFFFFFFf. There isn't an OOF oofy enough to quantify this oof. I swear the entire first ten minutes of the championship game was nothing more than Butler constantly dumping the ball into Howard on the block against Zoubek or a Plumlee, whereupon Howard would use some truly nifty footwork to go under/around his man and get himself in good position to score around the goal. Of course, then he would just miss. And miss. And miss. I swear he missed five shots in the first four minutes, and then decided instead of missing he would just spend the rest of the game in foul trouble. He played better in the second half, but that slow beginning really set the tone and if he had hit a few more shots Butler spends most the game ahead instead of behind. But don't cry for Butler, because they lose only one contributor and he's not all that significant - Mack, Howard, and Hayward are all back - so they have a good chance at making it here again; at which point no doubt a bunch of morons will try pegging them as a Cinderella again. God you people are dumb.
2. Jim Furyk. The good news is that Furyk shot four shots better on the second day than the first at the Masters. The bad news is that the first day was an 80. 80! A freaking 80. You know who else shot an 80 in either of the first two rounds? Michael Campbell, Ian Woosnam, Anders Hansen, Sandy Lyle, Ben Martin, and Henrik Stenson. One good player, two 100-year-olds, a flash in the pan, and two never-will-bes. Jim Furyk doesn't belong in that group (neither does Stenson, but I don't think he was considered as having a good shot to win this thing like Furyk was). This is just mind-boggling. Furyk officially finishes 91st out of 96 golfers, although one of the guys withdrew even though he had a better score, so really he was more like 92nd. Not that that distinction really matters. Just an absolute stinker by Furyk, reminiscent of watching Drew Butera try to bat. Although pretend Butera was a mult-time all-star and was still in his prime, but suddenly looked lost like he did the other night. Yuck.
3. Houston Astros. There is just one winless team remaining in MLB, and it's the lowly Astros. More impressive than the 0-6 record, however, is how they've managed to lose. Here are their run totals for the six games: 2-0-4-0-6-1. Yes, that's two shut outs mixed in there, by Barry Zito and J.A. Happ of all people. And the games where they scored 4 and 6 they actually had late leads but lost due to bullpen meltdowns, which I guess is to be expected when you sign Brandon Lyon to be your closer.
4. Mike Gonzalez. And speaking of closers, it looks like we might have the first closer demotion of the year thanks to the Orioles' Gonzalez, who blew two saves this week in three tries and blew them spectacularly, giving up two runs in each outing to not just blow the save, but lose the game as well. Even in the one game he managed to not blow he still walked two and gave up a hit in his one inning of work, and is currently rocking a 18.00 ERA and 4.50 WHIP. He's basically a pretty good set-up man, but really just not a good closer. Very LaTroy Hawkins-ish, only left-handed and less black.
5. Taylor Teagarden. With Rangers' starting catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia on the DL, Teagarden was elevated to every day catcher for Texas. He has responded by going 0-12 with 7 strikeouts. He's a semi-well regarded prospect type, although not considered an offensive force, so he'll probably be fine, but that is not a great start to your season.
If you are going to the opener today I hate you.