We all love talking baseball in the springtime. Even better when you're talkin' with your friends. Page 2's Eric Neel discusses the season so far with his buddy, Page 3 contributor Andy Behrens.
Eric Neel: Hey Andy,
Your White Sox are 16-6. How you feeling?
I know how you're feeling. You're sick.
Because you know it's all going to come crashing down. You know they sport a team on-base percentage about as low as the dusty underside of a sidewinder (forgive me, I was inhabited by the spirit of Dan Rather there for a second). And you realize, after Mark Buehrle (3.89 ERA/1.03 WHIP), their pitching staff just ain't anywhere near this good.
I was going to try to cheer you up with some rah-rah talk about "SmartBall" and the fire in Ozzie Guillen's belly, but we've known each other a long time and I don't want to insult you.
Instead I'll go the other way: You're doomed, brother. This ship may be at full sail now, but it's sinking soon.
My over/under on games won: 79.
Am I wrong about you? About your boys?
Andy Behrens: Dude, who cares if the ship is sinking? It's a damn fun ship.
The Sox have Carl Everett, A.J. Pierzynski and a profane manager who's obsessed with an injured Tiger. If there's a more entertaining team in baseball, you just let me know. I'll watch them, too. Am I on the ship? No. But I'm a curious onlooker.
You know who else interests me? The Nationals.
You just can't get Brad Wilkerson out. Same goes for Jose Vidro. And if the season ended today, John Patterson and his 0.98 ERA would win the NL Cy Young Award. As I write these words, Esteban Loaiza is carrying a one-hitter into the eighth against the Phillies. (I'm not talking about the way Rex Hudler used to carry one-hitters, either. I mean that Loaiza has only surrendered one hit to Phillies batters. Just so we're clear.)
So are the Nats for real? That is, are they really a better-than-.500 team?
Neel: Ignoring, for the moment, your weeeeeeeeak "curious onlooker" stance, here are five reasons the Nationals are not for real:
1. They are (and a lot of folks seem to forget this) really just the Expos. And worse than that, they're freakin' Expos without Youppi!, whose Value Over Replacement Mascot (VORM) is, like, 53.7.
2. Frank Robinson is, literally, asleep at the wheel.
3. They're 21st in the league in runs scored right now, and I expect that trend to curve downward in the coming weeks.
4. They're renting out a football stadium. The last team to have any success doing that was the '59 Dodgers, and these ain't the '59 Dodgers.
5. Ask Brian Cashman about promising looks from Esteban Loaiza.
All right, now this: Last night on the Dodgers' broadcast, Vin Scully said Frank Robinson was the most aggressive, go-hard baserunner he ever saw (which could explain why he's so tired now). Who makes your active-player short list of the most bulldog players in the game?
Behrens: First of all, Youppi! is really the Tim Raines of mascots. When he was active, we all thought he was OK. Not great, not special. Just OK. But as soon as he left the game, all the sabermetric guys started raving about him.