Usually, as the weather starts to warm up around the country, so does baseball season. Division races become a little more solid, and the cream of the crop is starting to rise above the bottom of the barrel.
In the Bay Area, the situation is as it always is.
The American and National League West divisions are bunched together, with all of the teams seemingly within a nice winning streak of first place (except for last-place Arizona, who recently rattled off a 10-game losing streak and now stands 11.5 back of first place San Diego).
In the AL West, it's even more bunched together, with only 7.5 games separating first-place Texas with last-place Seattle. The Mariners have the best winning percentage of any last-place team in the American League at .404.
But I'm not in the Bay Area anymore. For the summer I've relocated to our nation's capital.
And, since I happened to arrive on the first day of June, I've come down smack in the middle of the circus that is Stephen Strasburg.
Today's debut will be the most anticipated debut of a draft pick that I can remember. Even Buster Posey, the supposed savior of the Giants position player future, doesn't measure up.
Maybe its because he has a tendency to throw 100 MPH multiple times while still going six or seven innings. Or maybe because he put up Tim Lincecum (aka Cy Young) numbers while in the minors.
But the cheapest tickets for tomorrow's game, between the Nationals and the Pirates, not exactly Red Sox-Yankees, are $47 on StubHub. Those are in the farthest away section, down the left-field corner, in the top deck.
The city is buzzing. And it's not just the cicadas.
The Orioles continue to fail at impressing anyone, and with them well out of first place and with no real promise at a change on the horizon, the Nationals and their youth movement continue to be the talk of the town.
Although they are also in last place, the Nats are a much more manageable six games out of first than the O's, who are a miserable 21 games out of first place.
Yet even while Strasburg-mania reaches fever pitch, I'm still finding the opportunity to catch up with Giants baseball.
Sure, it takes me staying up until one in the morning on work nights to see the end of games, but this road trip to the East Coast has made watching the games possible without jeopardizing my tardiness.
In fact, it has almost helped. I've been able to finish a day's work, eat dinner, get some reading done, and still turn on my computer in time to watch the first pitch at 10:05 on the East Coast.
Lastly, with their first round pick in the draft last night, the Giants chose Cal St. Fullerton outfielder Gary Brown. I know absolutely nothing about the baseball draft, as compared to the NFL or NBA versions, but I do know that the Giants have a glut of pitching in their minor league system (surprised?).
The AAA Grizzlies are 38-20, in first place, and have the sixth-best ERA (3.79), and are tied for most shutouts (5). The AA Flying Squirrels may be scuffling a bit at 28-29, but have the fourth-best ERA (3.45), the most shutouts (7), and actually give up the fourth-least runs.
Even in the low minors, the Giants pitching prospects look good. The San Jose Giants are also in first place behind the second-best ERA (3.96), the second-least amount of hits, and the best WHIP (1.32). In Low-A, the first place Green Jackets have a fourth-place ERA (3.35), a league-high nine shutouts, and a WHIP of 1.27.
What this all translates to is a bevy of pitchers that can shut offenses down at all levels. Eventually, some of them will make the majors. But the Giants continue to have trouble developing pure hitters out of their farm system.
Yes, they've had success with Pablo Sandoval and Buster Posey, but aside from that, the best-hitting prospects are all the way down at San Jose.
By picking Brown, they pick a player that has tools (mostly speed) to get him on base. If there's anything the Giants DO need, it's more guys like that. We've seen these past few weeks how invaluable a good contact hitter is in Freddy Sanchez.
Brown makes good contact and his speed will always put pressure on the defense. That's something that could make him invaluable to the Giants minor league teams and the majors, if he makes it.
Anyway, I'll be keeping up with the Giants the best I can from here in DC, especially when rocking my Rich Aurilia away jersey to the Nationals-Giants series, July 9-11. You'll catch me at the yard.