Major League Baseball is full of great stories this season.
From Tampa to Milwaukee, playoff hopes are running high for franchises that have had a lack of any kind of success.
Even the Cubs and White Sox are riding higher than they thought they would be with one month remaining.
But for each of these surprises, there are one or two monster disappointments across the league. My goal is to determine the greatest disappointment of this 2008 MLB season.
I'm taking the most disappointing team from each division and a wild card disappointment to make up a four-team bracket in each league, much like the playoff format.
I'll outline why each team deserves to move on in the disappointment bracket and the winners from each league will play in my World Series of Futility. First, the American League.
Seattle (AL West chump) vs. Cleveland (AL Wild Card)
Boy. Where to start?
Seattle made waves during the off season when they brought in Erik Bedard from Baltimore, the league's leader in strikeouts last season. Other off season additions, most notably Carlos Silva from Minnesota, had Seattle feeling good in April.
They also felt that JJ Putz at the back of the bullpen was the lock down closer that's necessary for a successful postseason run.
Richie Sexson, the first baseman they brought in to be the offense's centerpiece, batted only .205 in 2007, and Seattle figured that there would be nowhere to go but up for Big Sexsy in 2008.
Mariner ownership also handed out big contracts to several players (most noticeably, Kenji Johjima) they felt would be important components to success in 2008. They had plenty of bats in the lineup, led by the incomparable Ichiro, power hitting Adrian Beltre, and the consistent Raul Ibanez.
Many pundits felt that the Mariners were poised for a (good) World Series appearance this season.
Unfortunately, they actually had to play the games this year.
Bedard played decently under the circumstances with a 6-4 record and a 3.67 ERA, but is currently on the disabled list. Silva is also on the disabled list, but he contributed to the circumstances.
His record stands at 4-14 and he has a 6.36 ERA. Putz only has ten saves and holds a 5-4 record. Any time a closer has as many decisions as saves, it's not a good sign.
The team waived Sexson because he hadn't gotten any better. Johjima is batting .211 on the season. Beltre has hit 21 home runs but is only batting .252. Ichiro and Ibanez have both played well, but two solid players do not a team make.
Instead of jockeying with the Angels, Seattle is in dead last with a 51-83 record and already assured of a losing season.
The Indians started the season with one of the best perceived starting pitching rotations in all of Major League Baseball. CC Sabathia, Fausto Carmona, Cliff Lee, and Paul Byrd were the best first four and it wasn't even close.
Grady Sizemore, Travis Hafner, Victor Martinez, and Jhonny Peralta were poised to lead one of the better offenses to a lot of high run totals in games.
The optimism didn't last in Cleveland. They went 24-30 in April and May and quickly fell behind the White Sox. In June and July they found themselves battling with the Royals to stay out of last place.
As a result of their faltering, Cleveland traded Sabathia to the Brewers, Carmona has posted a 4.50 ERA, and Byrd now plays for Boston. The only person who has lived up to expectations has been Lee, who is in the running for the Cy Young Award.
The offensive problems start with Martinez. He still hasn't hit a home run this season after hitting 25 out last season. Hafner has only four home runs and a .217 average. Sizemore and Peralta have met expectations, but overall, the Indians have let their fans down after an exciting 2007 campaign.
In this match-up, the disappointment edge goes to Seattle. Mariners fans have been waiting a long time for a team they can cling on to and thought that 2008 might be the year.
New York (AL East chump) vs. Detroit (AL Central chump)
The Yankees are nine games over .500, which, to other mortal teams that don't have the payroll of a small nation, isn't all that disappointing. But these are the Yankees. And they're behind the Rays, a team that has a payroll smaller than some households in this country.
At the start of the season, as with many others, the Yankees were expected to battle for a World Series berth. They were expected to have another explosive yet aging offense and a pitching rotation that got younger and more effective compared to that of last season.
Stalwarts like Jeter, Rodriguez, Matsui, Rivera, and Posada were expected to lead the team once again at the dish while newcomers like Ian Kennedy, Phil Hughes, and Joba Chamberlain kept the score close enough to give the Bombers a chance to win.
It all sounded good in theory, but the execution was sorely lacking this season. Of the eight players named above, six of them have missed time this season with injuries including all three of the young pitchers.
This forced Young Steinbrenner to bring in Sidney Ponson and rely on oft not pitching pitcher Carl Pavano down the stretch. With the patchwork line up and the other-worldly play of the Red Sox and Rays ahead of them, it'll be a miracle for the Yankees to make the playoffs this season.
Even though they will probably finish with a winning record, that's just not good enough for the Yankees, and that's why they're the AL East chump this season.
Detroit is a team that has been on the rise for the past few seasons. The plateau for this particular group of Tigers is the World Series appearance in 2006. The Tigers were poised for a return visit this October before the start of this season.
Magglio Ordonez, Curtis Granderson, Ivan Rodriguez, Gary Sheffield, Placido Polanco, and Edgar Renteria are all formidable enough, but then the Tigers added Miguel Cabrera from Florida. This sent the Detroit fan base in to a tizzy. Everyone was calling for 1,000 runs and nothing less than a World Series championship.
They seemed to forget that pitching was an important part of a baseball team too, but they felt that also adding Dontrelle Willis was enough to get the pitching over the championship hump.
Now, Willis has been pitching in the minor leagues for most of this season. Jeremy Bonderman, Joel Zumaya, and former closer Todd Jones are all on the disabled list. This leaves Jim Leyland relying on old man Kenny Rogers as his second starter after Justin Verlander.
The offense has been far less than advertised as well. Renteria and Sheffield have been struggling the most, but the rest of the lineup hasn't played up to its potential either.
All of this has added up to a 65-69 record up to this point and a fourth place standing in the AL Central smack dab between Cleveland and Kansas City.
Between these two teams, I like the Tigers to advance as the bigger disappointment. Before any games were played, Tigers fans were counting on deliverance from Cabrera and Willis, but they haven't been over .500 all season.
The Yankees have a respectable record but just can't seem to catch the teams ahead of them. For these reasons, Detroit has been more disappointing than the Yankees.
AL Pennant: Seattle (AL West chump) vs. Detroit (AL Central chump)
Seattle offers an intriguing case as to why they're the most disappointing team in the AL this season, but Detroit's inability to put together all the offensive potential of this team this year is one of the epic failures of our times. Detroit moves on to the World Series of Futility.
Check back tomorrow to see the National League's most worthless teams, find out which two teams will face off in the World Series of Futility, and learn who is the most disappointing team of 2008.
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