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by Bryan Leonard - 06/01/2007
The season is two months old but already there have been some surprises and some busts this baseball season. Here's a look at some of baseball's disappointments.
Cardinals: Did this team really win the World Series? Most thought the Cardinals underachieved during their 83-win regular season a year ago and then played up to their capabilities in October. Maybe they only overachieved in October. They are an aging club, because thatâ€™s the way they are playing in 2007. The defending champs have a LOSING record as a favorite, talk about money-burners!
Cardinals infielders Scott Rolen and David Eckstein have been battling injuries. Rolen has been diagnosed with a mild concussion and had "fuzzy" and "nauseous" feelings after a collision with Dimitri Young last week. Last season, both Eckstein and Edmonds missed time with post-concussion syndrome, an elusive ailment that took almost a month away from Edmonds.
The pitching staff has been devastated by injuries, with ace Chris Carpenter missing much of the season and lefty Marc Mulder on the shelf for the second year in a row. St. Louis has the third worst staff ERA in the National League and the second fewest strikeouts.
Cubs: Arenâ€™t they always? They spent all that money over the off-season, bringing in Alfonso Soriano to help the offense, Ted Lilly and Jason Marquis to help the staff, and fiery Lou Piniella to bring in a new attitude. Piniella said he wanted to see a â€œCubbie Swagger.â€쳌 Thus far itâ€™s been â€œCubbie Staggerâ€쳌, especially in close games.
As a team, the Cubs are hitting a respectable .268, but they aren't getting the job done when scoring opportunities arise. The pitching is also a respectable 6th in the NL, but the bullpen meltdowns have been numerous. Piniella continues to shuffle things and donâ€™t be surprised if the Cubs pursue a reliable closer before the trade deadline. Said Piniella, â€œWe've got to start winning with a little more consistency. And if we don't, what the hell's the sense of looking at the standings?â€쳌
Blue Jays: After finishing second in the AL East last season, hopes were high for 2007. But the Blue Jays have been snake bitten, losing Roy Halladay (a freak appendectomy) for several weeks and ace closer B.J. Ryan for the year. Keep in mind this team started 9-11 as a dog, about the same winning percentage they had as a favorite.
Yankees: It appears that EVERYTHING is going to be tied to Roger Clemensâ€™ return. The pitching staff has been decimated by injuries, losing Wang, young phenom Phillip Hughes, Carl Pavano (done for the year) and Mike Mussina at various times. The number of Triple A pitchers theyâ€™ve been forced to use is staggering. All of that has put too much pressure on the bullpen, which has been shredded.
So, in theory anyway, when Clemens returns it could have a domino effect. A rotation of Clemens, Andy Pettitte, Wang, Mussina, and Hughes looks like 6-7 reliable innings each night. That would give the bullpen rest and make them more effective. On the down side, Clemens will be 45 in a few months. He hasnâ€™t pitched in the AL since 2002 and 2003, when his ERAs were 4.32 and 3.91. He was â€œonlyâ€쳌 39 and 40 years old then. Heâ€™s closer to 50 than 39. Mussina is 38 and Pettite turns 35 in June. The offense has also been up and down, with injuries to Johnny Damon and Jason Giambi, and expensive Bobby Abreu slumping and losing confidence. Will the bullpen really recover? And can the soon to be 45-year old Clemens really influence things that much?