Take six days of games from early June, or mid-August, and you would never see the kind of sweeping conclusions or panic or euphoria that you see extracted from the first week of every season. It's one small slice, only a touch of frosting on a cake, and not enough for condemnation or congratulation.
But that doesn't mean the results from the first six days should be completely ignored, either.
NEED MORE INFORMATION ON: Attendance. There are lows being reported from Yankee Stadium to Cleveland to Wrigley Field, rows and rows of empty seats; it's clear that the economy is having an enormous impact on the Indians. But keep in mind that some of the worst turnstile numbers are always posted in April, when kids are in school and it's still cold and the idea of sitting with your fingers numb for three hours isn't exactly the most attractive thing.
But I would love to know if the life habits of would-be patrons have changed significantly to the point that a 25-year-old who might have gone to the ballpark on a Tuesday night 10 years ago would rather sit in his apartment and watch the game on television, while tweeting and texting. (And local TV ratings in the past couple of years have been strong.)
Five years ago, if you were struggling to find a consistent cell signal in a ballpark during a game, that was a nuisance. But now I wonder if it is slowly becoming a deal-breaker for some fans, as some friends have mentioned to me. Maybe those teams that can find and install the technology that allows fans to continue tweeting and texting at the park -- rather than having their phones' signals interrupted -- will have a greater appeal to their target audiences. It's a problem worth exploring, because those things are a new umbilical cord.
For the readers, an open-ended question: What are your theories for the declines in attendance we're seeing?
As far as the empty seats in Wrigley Field are concerned: Rick Morrissey hopes it is a sign that Cubs fans are sick of losing.
Getty ImagesBeckett should see plenty of support, even if he struggles.
NOT BUYING: Boston's slow start. Look, it may be that Josh Beckett is more of a back-end-of-the-rotation type of pitcher, now that he works in the 90-93 mph range, and John Lackey's best days appear to be behind him. But the team is loaded with offense and eventually, it will hit, and as with the Rangers, the back end of the Boston rotation is going to work with a lot of runs.
On Tuesday, the Red Sox took another hit in Cleveland, writes Peter Abraham. From Vincent Masi of ESPN Stats & Information, a more negative take on the Red Sox: "Fold up shop, Boston Red Sox fans, the season is over on April 5. At least, that's what history tells us. The Red Sox fell to 0-4 with a 3-1 loss to the Cleveland Indians on Tuesday. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, no team in MLB history has rebounded from an 0-4 start to win the World Series. In fact, only the 1985 St. Louis Cardinals reached the World Series after starting the year with four straight defeats, and they lost to the Kansas City Royals in seven games. Elias also reports that under the current eight-team playoff format, which began in 1995, only two out of 128 playoff teams reached the postseason after an 0-4 start -- the 1999 Arizona Diamondbacks and 1995 Cincinnati Reds. Boston is off to its first 0-4 start since 1996 when it began the season with five straight losses. The four straight losses match its longest losing streak from its last World Series-winning team (2007). This season, all prognostications pointed to a World Series berth. Accuscore, which runs 10,000 simulations of seasons, projected the Red Sox to win 95 games, with only the Philadelphia Phillies projected with a higher total at 97.2 in all of baseball."
The Red Sox are holding on to their optimism, writes Nick Cafardo.
AM BUYING: Aaron Harang, who allowed one run over six innings in his first start of the season Tuesday. He feels good, he feels like he found a mechanical problem, and he is intent on going back to being aggressive in his first season with the Padres. He looks poised for a bounce-back season.
AM BUYING: The Reds, who are 4-0. Only the Rangers can match Cincinnati's run differential of plus-18 for these first games of the season, and there really is every reason to think that the Reds' lineup will continue to evolve. Unlike the Cubs or the Cardinals, Cincinnati's core is young and still reaching for its ceiling. Drew Stubbs is good and getting better, and so are Jay Bruce and Brandon Phillips, and Joey Votto is great and still just 27 years old; the production from the Reds' catchers is among the best in the majors.
And, as noted before, the Reds have an incredibly soft early-season schedule, with only six of their first 37 games against teams that had records over .500 last year, so this early burst of run production might continue for a while. (Their schedule will start to get much more challenging in mid-May, by the way.)
Mike Leake was The Man, in his first start of the year.
NEED MORE INFORMATION ON: The Mets, who are 3-1. Look, I don't think they have the pitching to contend through September, but with a respectable lineup and with R.A. Dickey and Chris Young and Mike Pelfrey, they should compete most nights. Young threw out a few hits Tuesday and pitched well.
Terry Collins' bold message is rubbing off on the Mets, writes Bob Klapisch.
AM BUYING: That the Houston Astros (0-4) are in for a really tough year. Rival scouts walked away from seeing the Astros this spring searching to identify good major leaguers. "Three guys in their every-day lineup -- [Hunter] Pence, [Michael] Bourn, and Carlos Lee, and Lee should be a DH," said one evaluator. The over/under number on wins for the Astros, that evaluator believes, should be 60. J.A. Happ had a tough night Tuesday.
NEED MORE INFORMATION ON: The Cardinals. They have scored 14 runs in five games, but should get Matt Holliday back in their lineup in the next week, if he continues to progress from his appendectomy. And quietly, Colby Rasmus -- maybe the key to the St. Louis lineup, because he's capable of transforming this offense into something dangerous -- is off to a good start, having reached base 11 times in his first 20 plate appearances.
NEED MORE INFORMATION ON: The Rays, who are winless in four games. Johnny Damon is not hitting, Manny Ramirez is not hitting, Evan Longoria is on the disabled list. They knew going into the year that their equation for success was very fragile, and we're seeing that. Fans booed Ramirez, writes Marc Topkin, and some Rays were upset about that.
NEED MORE INFORMATION ON: The Angels. Mike Scioscia is strong in his beliefs and can stubbornly cling to personnel (see Brandon Wood), but it's evident that his patience is being overrun by a need for results. This is why the team's pricey relievers will work in middle relief and Jordan Walden -- who still hasn't seen his 20th inning in the big leagues -- is going to be the closer, and Walden got the save Tuesday night. Scott Kazmir's job may be on the line in the very near future.
AM BUYING: Starlin Castro. Cubs GM Jim Hendry described him, a couple of years ago, as someone who would remind us of Edgar Renteria -- and now that Castro is into his second season, that comparison seems so apt. He's got shortstop tools, but he's physical at the plate, with the ability to drive the ball, and right now he is hitting with extraordinary confidence; Castro almost looks surprised when he doesn't dent a fence with a line drive. He's off to a great start, and by season's end he could be regarded as the National League's best shortstop.
From ESPN Stats & Information: Castro has swung 34 times this season and has not missed the ball. He's one of just three players in the majors (min. 10 PA) that hasn't swung and missed this season: Castro (34), Alberto Callaspo (23), Erick Aybar (22) and Marco Scutaro (19). Castro is now 10-21 (.476) with two doubles and two triples in the Cubs' first five games. Since 1919, only two other Cubs have hit at least two doubles and two triples in the team's first five games: Ron Santo in 1964 (2 2B, 2 3B) and Charlie Neal (3 2B, 2 3B).
• Frank McCourt's representatives are presenting a plan by which he would preserve his ownership, as Bill Shaikin writes. I'd bet they'll be met with a great deal of skepticism. By the way: The Dodgers' payroll has gone down by more than 20 percent from 2008 ($118 million) to this year ($92 million). The Dodgers are also paying out some deferred money.
• Watched the Cubs' game Tuesday, and early, Andrew Cashner looked great, mixing his mid-90s fastball with well-placed sliders. So it was a bummer to see him leave the game with shoulder tightness; hopefully, it's nothing serious.
By the way: Cashner's velocity dropped markedly during the course of his start. His velocity by inning Tuesday:
1st inning: 94.9
2nd inning: 94.6
3rd inning: 94.2
4th inning: 92.6
5th inning: 93.3
6th inning: 92.3
• Rafael Soriano had a bad inning, and then left it to teammates to explain why. Not the best decision, for sure; the culture in the Yankees' clubhouse, for years, has been for players to be accountable and to deal with the media after a bad performance.
He came here on a bribe, writes Joel Sherman.
Dings and dents
1. Grady Sizemore
continues to make progress in his rehab
2. Chase Utley is progressing in baby steps.
3. A couple of Reds pitchers should be back soon.
4. Adam LaRoche is playing at less than 100 percent.
5. Mat Latos says he's ready to go, as John Maffei writes.
6. The Rockies are being cautious with Ubaldo Jimenez.
7. Jeremy Guthrie was to spend another night in the hospital.
Moves, deals and decisions
1. Miguel Cabrera
could lose his driving privileges
2. Troy Tulowitzki has Bieber Fever.
3. A street is being named for Dave Niehaus.
4. The NCAA is reconsidering a murky rule on advisors/agents.
5. Michael Young made his first start at first base.
6. Gaby Sanchez handed over his No. 14 to a teammate, as Clark Spencer writes.
7. Tyler Colvin started in place of Carlos Pena.
1. Jhoulys Chacin
was The Man
for the Rockies.
2. Cole Hamels got pounded, as Matt Gelb writes.
3. The Royals got to frolic, again. From Mark Simon of ESPN Stats & Information, a rundown of the Kansas City bullpen work so far in 2011:
Inherited runners: 8
Inherited runners scored: 1
4. Kirk Gibson is in no mood for moral victories.
5. The Pirates wasted opportunities.
6. Michael Pineda had a nice debut for the Mariners, but Seattle still lost, as Geoff Baker writes.
7. Oakland kicked the ball around, again.
8. The Giants have struggled in Southern California, again, as Henry Schulman writes.
9. Albert Pujols drove in a couple of runs.
10. The Indians' Josh Tomlin is impressive, and he shut down the Red Sox.
11. The Twins' offense came to life late against the Yankees, as Joe Christensen writes. The victory was a testament to the randomness of baseball, writes Jim Souhan.
12. Yovani Gallardo picked up the Brewers. Ron Roenicke got an icy salute. How Gallardo won:
A) He kept the ball on the ground: Gallardo let his defense work, recording 18 ground-ball outs, the highest of his career.
B) Pitched to contact: Gallardo recorded only seven misses on 47 swings (14.9 percent), well below his 23.5 miss percentage last year. Gallardo finished with only two strikeouts, the third-lowest of his career.
C) Battled hitters' counts: Gallardo often fell behind Braves hitters, going to nine 2-0 and five 3-1 counts. But he was able to make good pitches when he was behind, retiring 10 of 11 hitters, eight of which came on the ground.
More on Gallardo's night: Gallardo is the first Brewers pitcher to throw a shutout within the team's first five games of the season since Chris Bosio in 1989. He's also the first pitcher to throw a shutout, allowing two hits or fewer, within his team's first five games since Felix Hernandez did it for the 2007 Mariners. From Elias: Gallardo threw a 1-0 shutout for the Brewers and scored the only run of the game. He is the first Brewers pitcher in team history to throw a shutout and score the only run of the game.
13. Donnie Murphy got a big hit.
14. Derek Lowe was good, but the other guy was just a little better.
15. The White Sox blew a lead.
16. Yunel Escobar and the Jays got to frolic.
17. Alexi Ogando looks great. The Rangers' young pitchers look good, as Gil LeBreton writes. From Jacob Nitzberg of ESPN Stats & information, how Ogando won:
A) He attacked with his fastball: Ogando worked primarily up in the zone with his mid-90s fastball, throwing 28 of his 56 fastballs (50.0 percent) in the upper third of the strike zone. Mariners hitters finished 0-for-7 against fastballs up in the zone and 1-for-14 overall against his fastball.
B) He commanded his slider: Ogando threw 21 of his 30 sliders down in the strike zone. Two of his four strikeouts were on sliders down in the zone.
C) He finished hitters off: Ogando took 13 of the 22 hitters he faced to a two-strike count, retiring 11 of those 13 (1 2B, 1 BB). He commanded his fastball well with two strikes, throwing eight of 14 fastballs up in the zone, retiring five Mariners hitters on those eight pitches, including two by strikeout.
The Patience Index
Rumors.Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
The Chicago White Sox will need a temporary fix at designated hitter after Adam Dunn underwent an appendectomy late Tuesday night.
Doug Padilla of ESPNChicago.com says Dunn will miss at least five days. Dunn will stay with the team in Kansas City and travel back to Chicago on the team charter Wednesday night.
Mark Teahen, who has had all of two at-bats this season, is a likely replacement at DH. When the White Sox are facing a left-hander, it could mean more at-bats for backup outfielder Lastings Milledge.
- Doug Mittler
Florida Marlins fans got a glimpse of Mike Stanton Tuesday night, but it will be at least a few more days before the right fielder is back in the starting lineup.
MLB.com?s Joe Frisaro reports that the tightness in Stanton's hamstring will get him out of the lineup until at least this weekend. Stanton did appear as a pinch-hitter Tuesday against Washington and was removed for a pinch-runner after drawing a walk.
Manager Edwin Rodriguez has tried Scott Cousins and Emilio Bonifacio in right field in Stanton's absence.
- Doug Mittler
A 4-0 start is not the only reason for continued optimism in Cincinnati.
Reds right-handers Johnny Cueto and Homer Bailey, both of whom started the season on the disabled list due to shoulder problems, are getting close to returning, reports John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer.
Both starters resumed throwing after a week off and "have progressed nicely." Fay says Bailey is likely to return sooner because he was further along in spring training when he was shut down.
Sam LeCure has moved into the rotation temporarily and will start Thursday against Houston.
- Doug Mittler
After shopping Michael Young for months, the Texas Rangers have found enough at-bats for the face of the franchise during the season's first week.
Young, the man without a full-time position following the signing of Adrian Beltre, has started each of the first five games, with the first four at second base or DH.
Young even made his first career start at first base Tuesday night with Mitch Moreland moving to right field. Manager Ron Washington tells the Star Telegram he is unsure how many starts Young will get at first base, but has no reservations putting him there.
GM Jon Daniels has been trying to mend the fences with Young, but Nick Cafardo wrote in Boston Globe Rangers haven't closed the door on a trade, with the Phillies and Mets remaining possibilities as they consider second base options.
Daniels countered in a Monday interview with MLB Network Radio on Sirius XM that the Rangers have no current conversations about trading any of their players, Young included.
- Doug Mittler
New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi, like most skippers, puts a premium on clubhouse harmony, so a red flag might have gone up Tuesday regarding Rafael Soriano.
The Yankees enriched Soriano with a $35 million contract, but the right-hander was unable to protect a four-run lead in Tuesday's 10-inning loss to Minnesota. No one is perfect, but when the clubhouse opened afterward, Ben Shpigel of the New York Times reports Soriano had already departed, leaving his manager and teammates to address the failure.
ESPN The Magazine's Buster Olney writes in Wednesday's blog that Soriano's quick exit might not go over well in the Bronx:
- Doug Mittler
Soriano's vacant locker
"Not the best decision, for sure; the culture in the Yankees' clubhouse, for years, has been for players to be accountable and to deal with the media after a bad performance."
The Colorado Rockies have every reason to be extra cautious with Ubaldo Jimenez, whose scheduled start Friday in Pittsburgh could be in jeopardy due to a cut in his right thumb cuticle.
Jimenez is scheduled to throw a bullpen session Tuesday. If the results are not positive, Jorge De La Rosa could move into his spot. Troy Renck of the Denver Post says a plausible scenario is for the Rockies to give Jimenez an extra day of rest and move him back until Saturday.
- Doug Mittler
The San Francisco Giants will have to make room for closer Brian Wilson, who will be activated from the disabled list. The Giants did not have a save opportunity in the five games Wilson was out with a strained oblique.
Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle writes that the Giants could clear space by disabling Santiago Casilla, who has a sore elbow.
Another candidate for demotion could be Dan Runzler, but MLB.com?s Chris Haft says the left-hander could stick around if the Giants feel Runzler's development would be helped by staying in the majors.
- Doug Mittler
Carlos Santana remains the Cleveland Indians' catcher, but he may also be getting some extra use out of his first baseman's glove.
The Indians want to do everything they can to keep Santana's bat in the lineup and manager Manny Acta said that could mean more games at first base, reports Jordan Bastian of MLB.com.
Santana made his big league debut at first base Sunday against the White Sox before moving back behind the plate Tuesday night against the Red Sox. With Santana in the field, Lou Marson starts behind the plate and Matt LaPorta, the regular first baseman, takes a seat on the bench.
Manager Manny Acta wouldn't say exactly how many games Santana would play first base. That could depend on how well LaPorta is swinging the bat.
- Doug Mittler
Grady Sizemore moved a step closer to returning to the Cleveland Indians outfield Tuesday, going 0-for-4 for Triple-A Columbus in a game against Ohio State.
Sizemore began the season on the DL as he recovers from microfracture surgery on his left knee that ended his 2010 season last May. He will take Wednesday off and suit up for Double-A Akron on Thursday night.
The goal is to gradually build Sizemore up to nine innings and then test him in consecutive games. Jordan Bastian of MLB.com says Cleveland is hopeful that Sizemore will be ready to be activated before the end of the month.
Michael Brantley has started in center field in Sizemore's absence. ESPN The Magazine's Buster Olney says the eventual return of Sizemore will open up plenty of questions in Cleveland:
- Doug Mittler
Questions with Sizemore
"If Sizemore comes back and is a star again, a whole lot of logical questions will follow: Because Sizemore's current contract has a 2012 option for $8.5 million, would it make sense for the Indians to pick up the option? Would it make sense for them to trade him, in their effort to rebuild their pitching? But none of that matters until he gets back on the field and plays, and plays well."
Buck Showalter has the Baltimore Orioles off to its first 4-0 start since 1997, even with a thinned-out starting rotation.
The Orioles already have starters Brian Matusz and Justin Duchscherer on the disabled list. To make matters worse, Jeremy Guthrie has a viral infection that will force him to miss Wednesday's start against Detroit.
As a result, Ken Rosenthal of FoxSports.com tweeted Tuesday night that the Orioles are "poking around for fifth-starter types."
The Orioles could take a look at Carlos Silva, who was recently released by the Cubs, but he brings excess baggage and it remains to be seen if he would be a fit with Showalter. The Twins are shopping Kevin Slowey while free agent Jeremy Bonderman is still looking for work.
If Guthrie is not ready by Sunday, Rosenthal tweets Tuesday morning that the O's options will include minor leaguers Ryan Drese, Mike Ballard and Chris Jakubauskas.
- Doug Mittler
There has been no shortage of speculation regarding the future of Heath Bell, the San Diego Padres closer who is eligible for free agency next winter. Bell has hinted that he wouldn't mind staying in the land of Fish Tacos, but whether the fiscally conscious Padres have enough to keep him is another matter.
With the season under way, the normally talkative Bell is taking a less loquacious approach. Bell tells Tom Krasovic of InsideThePadres.com he won't be talking to the press about any ongoing or upcoming contractual talks between him and the Padres.
Bell said he doesn't want to detract from what the team is trying to accomplish, but Krasovic is among those skeptical whether Bell can keep quiet. Even if Bell wants to stay, his name will undoubtedly pop up in July trade speculation, particulary if the team struggles to stay in contention.
- Doug Mittler
Jason Bay's expectations of a quick return from the disabled list seemed to end when Mets general manager Sandy Alderson said it is "unlikely" the outfielder will return from the disabled list when eligible this weekend against Washington.
Bay, who has missed the first four games of the season with a strained muscle in his left rib cage, is eligible to come off the DL as soon as Saturday. He played catch Tuesday but has yet to swing a bat.
Manager Terry Collins has already started three different left fielders -- Willie Harris, Lucas Duda and Scott Hairston -- in the first four games. The lefty-swinging Harris is swinging the hottest bat right now and is expected to get the start over Duda Wednesday night against the Phillies' Joe Blanton.
If the injury persists, look for Hairston to get his share of starts against the tougher left-handers.
- Doug Mittler
The Chicago Cubs are holding their collective breath over the status of right-hander Andrew Cashner, was escorted off the mound in the sixth inning Tuesday against Arizona.
As of now, the injury is being described as shoulder tightness, although the top prospect was scheduled to undergo an MRI. Cubs fans can be forgiven for having flashbacks to Mark Prior, but as of now there are no confirmed reports of a serious injury.
ESPNChicago.com ireported that Cashner responded well to pressure tests from team trainers before leaving Wrigley Field for Northwestern Memorial Hospital.
If Cashner misses his next start, which is scheduled for next Monday at Houston, Sean Marshall or James Russell could step in and fill the role. But if Cashner has to hit the disabled list and miss multiple starts, Marshall and Russell may stay in the bullpen in favor of Casey Coleman or Thomas Diamond.
- Doug Mittler
The San Diego Padres could end up having ace right-hander Mat Latos back in the rotation sooner than later.
The Padres got more encouraging news when Latos looked sharp in a 70-pitch simulated game Monday night, reports Bill Center of the Union Tribune.
Corey Brock of MLB.com writes that the simulated game went so well that it appears Latos will be activated this weekend versus the Cincinnati Reds. Latos is eligible to come off the DL on Friday.
The Padres have two off days this week and will bring back Opening Day starter Tim Stauffer to pitch Wednesday. Should the club use a No. 5 starter before Latos returns, right-hander Samuel Deduno, who is slated to be the club's long reliever, could get the ball.