Topsy-Turvy Major Leagues

By on July 7, 2012

Ozzie Guillen riled things up to get the year started in South Beach with his Fidel Castro comments . (Photo US Presswire/Kim Klement)

2012 has been a weird year in baseball. Left is right, up is down: nothing makes sense anymore! The first half has certainly thrilled baseball fans everywhere. AT RSEN we’ve already covered the brutality of the game of baseball, but check out the five things I would’ve never expected coming into the year.

5. Same Faces, New Places

It’s something that is almost assured to happen each year, but I can never seem to get used to it. Trades, free agency and the unstable nature of baseball move guys around every season.

Jose Reyes playing for the Miami Marlins just doesn’t seem right. In nine seasons with the New York Mets, Reyes was the sparkplug and one of the best hitters in the lineup. After becoming the first ever Met to win the NL batting title (hit .337 in 2011) Reyes took his talents to South Beach where he now is a division rival of his former club.

Another shocking move was that of Kevin Youkilis, who bleached his sox from red to white. The “Youka” (as they call him in Boston) was traded from the Boston Red Sox to the Chicago White Sox in the second to last year of his contract with Boston. The 33-year-old had decreasing numbers and the Red Sox wanted to dump his contract, sending the passionate Youkilis to Chicago.

Some other interesting moves include manager Ozzie Guillen, Mark Buerhle (free agency) and Carlos Lee (trade) to the Marlins, Prince Fielder to the Detroit Tigers, and  Albert Pujols to the Angels.

4. No “D” in the Trop

What the Devil Ray is going on in St. Pete? The former Devil Rays re-established themselves in 2008 as the Rays and made a run all the way to the World Series based on pitching and defense. The pitching has been average this season, but the Rays went from one of the best defensive teams in 2011 to one of the worst in 2012. The Rays have committed 68 errors as of Saturday morning, second most behind the Baltimore Orioles. Combine lackluster defense with below average hitting and tons of injuries and you should have a team 15 games out of first place: miraculously the Rays (44-40) are only seven games behind the first-place Yankees.

3. Struggling Superstars

Big money, but little performance: it’s always tough to live up to a huge contract.

Tim Lincecum has had his worst year in the majors. In 17 starts he has an ERA of 6.08 and a 3-9 record, both career worsts. Lincecum, due to make $18 million this year and $22 million in 2013 from the San Francisco Giants, is 28 years old with two Cy Young Awards under his belt already.

The Machine, Albert Pujols, has had a few errors in his software this season. Pujols will be paid $240 million dollars between now and 2021, making $30 million in the final year of his contract. Pujols, a career .326 hitter who averaged around 40 homers and more than 110 RBI his first 10 seasons, is hitting .270 with 13 homers and 49 RBI in his first season out west.

Phils to Lee: Thanks for showing up the first half. (Photo by Eddie Michels)

Finally: Cliff Lee. 5 seasons and a total of $120 million into Lee’s pocket. However, with all the money spent for him, Lee and the Philadelphia Phillies can’t seem to buy a win. He began the season 0-5 in his first 13 starts before finally winning his first game on the Fourth of July against the Mets. Despite his dismal record, Lee has an ERA of 3.98.

2. Worst to first

Nationals, Orioles, Pirates: oh, my! If there was ever going to be a contraction of MLB teams, a couple of years ago it would’ve only made sense to eliminate these three franchises.

The Nationals finished below .500 each season since 2005, when they finished 81-81. This season they are 48-33 and in first place in the NL East. Talented young players like Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper have sparked a baseball revival in the nation’s capital.

Right up the beltway in Baltimore there’s another team that has drastically improved in the Orioles. At 45-38 the O’s are in second place in the AL East behind the mighty New York Yankees. The Orioles finished no better than in fourth place each season since 2004 (the only reason they didn’t finish in last 2004-2007 is because the Devil Rays were losing nearly 100 games a year each season). The Buck Showalter show has drastically improved Baltimore baseball and players like Adam Jones and Jason Hammel are having career years.

How about the Steel City Buccaneers? The Pittsburgh Pirates are 46-37 and in first place in the NL Central. The Pirates haven’t finished better than 20 games out of first place since 2007, when they finished 17 games out in last place. But this season, the past is exactly that. Andrew McCutchen leads the majors, hitting .360 this season. Pedro Alvarez is also having a good season with 16 home runs and 49 RBI.

Watch out for the Pirates and Nationals to each make a serious run at the postseason in the second half.

1. Moneyball

Teams like the Oakland A’s and Tampa Bay Rays proved you don’t need money to win. The Yankees proved lots of money spent wisely virtually guarantees a championship. The Detroit Tigers, Phillies and Red Sox are in another category: money wasted for a below average season.

The Red Sox were 8.5 games out of first coming into June 7. The Red Sox, with the third highest payroll in baseball, have suffered from injuries and underwhelming performance and the $173,186,617 going into 2012 isn’t paying off.

The Phillies have gone from the upstart “Fightin’ Phills” to established veterans to a team of old has-beens all in the matter of five years. $174,538,938 spent on salary in 2012 has only produced 37 wins and has the Phillies sitting in last place in the NL East, 13 games behind the considerably lower budgeted Nationals. More than half of that salary has spent time on the DL for the Phillies, but with the second highest payroll in baseball behind the Yankees you expect so much more from the Phillies.

With the fifth highest MLB salary at $132,300,000 the Tigers can’t seem to get it going. Playing .500 ball is not what the Tigers expected when they signed Prince Fielder to complement Miguel Cabrera in the lineup and Justin Verlander in Detroit. At 42-42, the Tigers are only 4.5 games behind the first-place White Sox in the AL Central. Despite their struggles the Tigers have a realistic shot to win their division.

2012 has been an interesting season thus far. With the All-Star break upon us, there’s still plenty of great baseball left in the days to come.

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