By: Norman Yallen
I started this year saying I would not follow baseball. It was too predictable and boring year after year. The games dragged on too long. Well, in the past week, I have watched more than I have watched all of last season. Four compelling stories have developed that I am very interested in following; they all take place in the American League East. It’s quite simply the most important division in sports. The New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox are the two most profitable and recently successful baseball teams. Can they make the playoffs and fulfill their fans massive expectations? The Tampa Bay Rays emergence has stood as a model of what small market teams can accomplish. Can they repeat this seeming miracle yet again? The Toronto Blue Jays are my hometown team, and the Orioles have a very nice stadium. Can either team make any noise? In 2008 the Democratic Party had a primary election that captivated America and ultimately pulled in a record number of voters, in what most would agree, was the most exciting primary in election history. Thankfully, you have me here to explain how these two things relate and handicap the AL East.
Dennis Kucinich-Baltimore Orioles: When I told my mom I thought Dennis Kucinich looked like an elf, she said, “I don’t know who that is.” I doubt most baseball fans know who these Baltimore Orioles are. They made a splash signing Mark Reynolds, announcing they intend to win the AL East. In 2007 Dennis Kucinich announced he was running for President. Watching this five foot five, elf eared man, run for President made me say, “That’s cute that he thinks he can be President.” Watching the Orioles take the field (a figure of speech, I don’t watch their games), I thought, “That’s cute that they think they can win the division.” On the bright side, Dennis’s wife is very attractive and the Orioles stadium is very attractive.
John Edwards-Tampa Bay Rays: John Edwards deciding to sleep with his campaign videographer (what does that job title even mean? My spell check says it isn’t even a word.) Rielle Hunter was a disastrous decision. He had a child out of wedlock, destroyed his campaign, and his marriage to a woman who was dying of breast cancer. In 2004 he was the Vice-Presidential Nominee but after the story broke in 2008 his political career was finished. The Rays signed Manny Ramirez this year, which I would argue is the baseball equivalent of sleeping with your campaign videographer. It may be thrilling at first, but it will end with you saying, “Why did I do that? And what the hell is the campaign videographer anyway?” The Rays were counting on Manny to produce this season to be successful, and his steroid suspension and subsequent retirement, have, I believe, doomed their hopes for this season. Also, how quickly will Manny go broke? Has there ever been a more fascinating athlete? Would it surprise anyone to see him dead within five years or running for political office within five years? Either way, he has a more promising future than the Rays who are seeing their title window dwindle. To recap, this team lost Carl Crawford, Carlos Pena, Matt Garza, and five relievers. They tried to replace them with Manny, and we know how that worked out. With an 0-6 record, I don’t see a bright light at the end of the tunnel. Hunter alleges that while Edwards’ wife was undergoing treatment for cancer, he took her to his house and said, “when she’s gone, this will all be ours.” He then tried to get his aide, also married, to take the blame. While the Tampa Bay Rays may have removed the Devil, John Edwards really is one.
Hillary Clinton-Boston Red Sox: Before the campaign started Hillary Clinton and the political world was sure she would be the nominee. Then came Iowa, where Barack Obama and John Edwards routed her. Although she competed hard after, her frontrunner status was never restored. The Boston Red Sox signed Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez. Gonzalez, freed from the deep grounds of Petco Park, would hammer the ball all around Fenway, while Crawford would tear up the base paths. They were presumptive champions; that is until they actually had to play. With their victory over the Yankees today they are 1-6. While many say this is a mere aberration, I believe it has exposed fatal flaws in this Red Sox team. The starting rotation has more questions than answers. Josh Beckett, Daisuke Matsuzaka, and John Lackey have yet to prove they still have the stuff to be elite starters. While Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz show promise, neither has been proven as an elite starter on a consistent basis. To win in the Major Leagues in the past few years, you need elite starting pitching. The Red Sox are trying to win with a great lineup and suspect pitching. In a post-steroid era, that is not a recipe for success. After George W. Bush and the failures of government in the early 21st century, touting her experience in government came back to haunt Hillary Clinton. Today in baseball, you need good pitching just as you needed to show change in 2008. Hillary Clinton and the Boston Red Sox were too good at the wrong things and not good enough at the right things.
Joe Biden-Toronto Blue Jays: I know you’re probably thinking I’m making this pick as a fan, but hear me out. This lineup from top to bottom has the potential to be playoff worthy. Jose Bautista has the potential to lead the league in home runs yet again. He has the patience to wait for a pitch he wants and pull it out of the park. With a Major League leading home runs last year, even with down years from Aaron Hill and Adam Lind, there is no question this team can hit. Led by Ricky Romero, the Blue Jays rotation has potential to be very good. Realistically, this is not a logical pick; this is a pick from my gut. I went to the Blue Jays game Tuesday night as they fell behind 5-0 then tied it; then blew it in extra innings, then hit a walk off homerun to win. With Vernon Wells on the team, he set a tone of lackadaisical effort and a losing attitude. With him finally gone, this group really seems to have the effort and attitude to win. Will they make the playoffs? A logical observer says probably not. However, in July 2008 you would have said Joe Biden would not be chosen as Vice-Presidential Nominee. The Blue Jays need a fifth starter and third basemen, but then again, some people said Biden needed to filter his words more carefully. In America and baseball sometimes surprises happen. The Blue Jays have the talent to make the playoffs, and the Rays and Red Sox recent struggles have opened the door. The only question is whether Bautista and the gang can crash their way through.
Barack Obama-New York Yankees: I have always loathed the Yankees, I was a Red Sox fans for years. One thing I have noticed from the Yankees in recent years is that they struggle under the pressure from being overwhelming favourites. Well, this season, the Yankees aren’t being picked to win by anyone. The experience of being expected not to win the division can be oddly liberating. We’ll see how the Red Sox struggle as favourites and the Yankees get to play the role of underdogs. Their lineup is as good as anyone, C.C. Sabathia is an unquestioned ace, Ivan Nova and Phil Hughes have shown promise. A.J. Burnett is a wild card, but has in the recent past proven himself as a starter. Freddy Garcia is also a wild card, and I don’t know if I would gamble on this rotation holding up. However, every single team has questions with their pitching. Barack Obama got an entire generation of Americans to believe in his promises of hope and change. What people said could not succeed turned into a revolutionary campaign which as we know led to him becoming president An unfamiliar development happened today as the Yankees fell in a close game to Boston. I found myself cheering for the Yankees.