Hectic April may shower some truths

By Se Young Lee

April usually can’t make a season for a team, given the number of games left to be played. But it can break one or at least set it back for a long, hard climb, which is why what happened in the past month matters. While a slow start can be overcome, a record below .500 will certainly make things difficult for any team aspiring for the playoffs, save for those competing in the cesspool that is the NL Central.

While there are plenty of things that have happened in April worthy of discussion, the following storylines stand out.

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Boston the early favorite

Yes, it is early and probably premature to crown the Red Sox. But they seem to have the best chance among the elite teams to win their respective division because of the strength of their starting rotation.

In addition to Curt Schilling, the Red Sox currently have two pitchers who would be staff aces on any other teams in Josh Beckett and Daisuke Matsuzaka. Beckett has finally understood that he can make his life a lot easier by changing speeds and not trying to blow away every hitter with a fastball. Matsuzaka has actually been better than what I expected. Hitters will have a hard time figuring him out once he gets used to playing in the U.S; Matsuzaka has eight different pitches he can throw for strikes with distinct pattern. And he’s no junkballer; he can reach back and throw one by at 97 mph.

Struggles of the Yankees

The Yankees are 10-14 and tied for last in the AL East. This is not an insurmountable hole, but they need to get right and start winning games quickly; they’ll need to win at least 90 games to come anywhere close to playoffs. The cause for the Yankees’ slow start is nothing new: dearth of starting pitching. This year, though, it seems that there has been an unusual amount of injuries that have forced the team to constantly juggle and rely on a bullpen that has not quite delivered. Chien-Ming Wang’s return should help restore some order, but securing the services of Roger Clemens has now become a must for the $190 million team to play ball in October.

The surging Brewers

It’s hard to believe that a franchise commonly associated with futility has the biggest lead among all division leaders. But this might be the year that Milwaukee gets swept up by playoffs fever. With a good mix of young players like Prince Fielder and J.J. Hardy and seasoned vets like Geoff Jenkins and Ben Sheets, this team looks better overall than most teams in the National League.

Oh, and the one-two punch of Derrick Turnbow and closer Francisco Cordero might be the best endgame plan in the league right now.

This development is important because I think we will begin seeing the traditionally bad teams break out of the cellars and become legitimately competitive squads. These teams can afford to hold on to their best prospects now, and at some point all the high draft picks have to start panning out.

It just so happens that the Brewers put it together more quickly.

Cubs’ outfield logjam

Why Lou Piniella planned on Alfonso Soriano playing center, I do not understand. After the injury scare, Soriano’s going back to left field, adding to what was already a glut of corner outfielders in Matt Murton, Cliff Floyd and Jacque Jones with no room on their 25-man roster for Felix Pie, the only outfielder capable of playing center field.

It makes no sense for the Cubs to sit Murton for Jones; Murton’s a younger player who gets on base, something they sorely need. Murton is a better overall player than Jones and will only get better in the future.

The starting rotation has looked surprisingly good and seems capable of pitching deeper into games, so the value of having a good defense becomes especially high – especially with the wretched bullpen.

If the Cubs were smart, they’d find a way to deal Jones for something of value and would keep Soriano in left field.

He’s a lot better there defensively than he ever was at second base, where rumors say he might end up, and the Cubs could use another good bat in Mark DeRosa getting regular playing time.

Se Young Lee is a senior in Communications. He is ecstatic that he is finished with the last class of college. He can be reached at [email protected]