Opening Week: Random Baseball Musings

KP WeeSenior Writer IApril 10, 2009

BALTIMORE - APRIL 09:  A.J. Burnett #34 of the New York Yankees celebrates after striking out Aubrey Huff #17 with the bases loaded in the third inning against the Baltimore Orioles at Camden Yards on April 9, 2009 in Baltimore, Maryland.  (Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images)

The baseball season has started, and when every team begins 0-0, it seems all clubs feel they have a shot at a magical year, if they have a good start.

And it's funny how people react when they do get off to say, a perfect start.

Take the Texas Rangers, for example.

They're off to a 3-0 start, and it's the first time they've begun a season with three-straight wins since 1996.

Now, they are in the same division as the favored L.A. Angels, who are expected to win the AL West. (The tragic death of rookie pitcher Nick Adenhart isn't going to send the Angels off to a bad year.)

And with 159 games still to play, obviously it's way too early to know.

Yet, it doesn't stop Marlon Byrd from saying the following to the press after the Rangers' 12-8 win over the Cleveland Indians on Thursday: "This team has a different feel. We go out there and we're expecting to win now."


Looking at Texas' last two games, however, shows the Rangers are still having the same problem as always: they can't pitch. In those two games, they allowed 13 runs against the Indians (while scoring 20).

That's not going to carry them to the playoffs, especially if the pitching continues to be mediocre.

The Rangers were almost a .500 team last season (ending up with 79 wins), so is Byrd trying to say they're "expecting to win" more games now this year, and thus the division and go to the World Series?

"The team chemistry in here is second to none, and right now it's a special team to be part of," said pitcher Brandon McCarthy.

I wonder if McCarthy has been in the clubhouses of all the other big-league clubs to know that their team chemistry is the best. Hmm—and "special", huh? Remember, we're only three games in. You can only wonder what adjective he'll use when—inevitably—the Rangers don't outslug the opposition every day and go on a losing streak of some sort.

And McCarthy didn't exactly pitch that well on Thursday, going only five innings and giving up four walks and three runs. Oh, he gave up two home runs too. You wouldn't exactly call that a great start by any means. And I haven't even mentioned that he threw over a hundred pitches (105, to be exact) in only five frames.

Oh, by the way, I wouldn't be that impressed with the Rangers' win on Thursday. A big part of that Texas victory was due to the fact Cleveland started Carl Pavano. Yeah, THAT Pavano, the one who stole all that money from the Yankees after having one big year with Florida.

Nine of Texas' 12 runs came off Pavano in the first two innings, before the Rangers bats cooled off the rest of the way.

Alas, the Rangers won't go 162-0 this season; they were blown out 15-2 in Detroit on early Friday afternoon.

Speaking of the Yankees, again, it's only the first few games of the season, and I'm sure a lot of Yankee haters were having fun with CC Sabathia and Mark Teixeira's lackluster performances against Baltimore in the season opener.

Even the papers in New York said it all: In the Daily News, "Money for Nothing" was displayed prominently as a headline, and Bill Madden sort of took shots at Sabathia by suggesting—albeit sarcastically—Darrell Rasner could have done better on the mound.

If pitching is supposed to win championships, then Sabathia and Chien-Ming Wang's outings didn't really inspire any confidence for New York fans. Then again, it's still early.

Fast forward to Thursday, when A.J. Burnett, making his first start for the pinstripers, came through with a decent start, and the bats woke up in an 11-2 romp over the Baltimore Orioles.

Burnett gave up two runs and pitched into the sixth inning, and fanned six.

And thus, the former Marlin and Blue Jay hurler is the hero, for now. The one knock against Burnett though, is that he never stays healthy. Will he be able to avoid the disabled list with the Yankees?

With the Yankees, Burnett is sure to get tons of run support, and should win a lot of ballgames should he be able to last the entire season.

Ultimately in New York, it's all about wins and losses, so if A.J. gets 15 wins and the Yankees make the postseason, he's going to be fine.

But if Burnett's mound opponent had been, say, Chris Carpenter (who pitched one-hit ball for St. Louis against the Pirates), then people and the New York papers would talk about A.J. being a bum too.

We'll see how A.J. does during a pennant race and pitching in places like Boston when the games are more meaningful. After all, this isn't Toronto or Florida anymore. We'll see.

But for now, A.J. is a hero, while CC is a bust—according to what you see in the papers.

Surely that will change later on as the season progresses...