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April 20, 2012

Texas Rangers (stats from Thursday afternoon before the Tigers game)

What can I say, the team inArlingtonright now is unequivocally the best team in baseball. They have two players among the five best batting averages in the AL (Hamilton, Young), the AL leader in HRs (Hamilton), two players among the five best ERAs in the AL (Harrison, Lewis), the best record in baseball (10-2), and the best run differential in baseball (+39-which is more than double every team except the Cardinals). They have all the stats you could ask for and a perfect 12-0 start seems to have been very possible if only Joe Nathan was pitching better yet what excites me the most is their attitude. They look like a team that has gone to back to back World Series as they expect to win, have not a trace of doubt when their down in a game, and seem to have an aura about them right now. In Chris Fleming’s words they’re playing “boring baseball” because they’re looking so much more dominant than other teams that they quickly wrestle the game away from their opponent and don’t give them a chance. They’re also doing it despite poor starts from Joe Nathan (2 blown saves, shaky in others), Mike Napoli (.100 avg in first 20 ABs), Elvis Andrus (.643 OPS), and Nelson Cruz (3rd in MLB with 17 strikeouts) making it likely that this Rangers team has yet to play it’s best ball. I know the Mavs are nearing the playoffs and the NFL Draft is just a week away but I’m watching my fair share of April Rangers baseball which doesn’t tend to be my MO. It’s fun to have your home team be the best in a sport and the Rangers are a pretty fun team to watch right now. Maybe Ross Batko will freakin get off his butt and go to a game soon.

Dallas Mavericks

With 3 games left in the regular season the Mavs have officially made the playoffs which is good considering it was starting to get a little dicey there for a moment. Now the real season can begin as this team all along was built for this summer’s free agency period with Cuban leaving the veteran core of Dirk, Terry, and Kidd intact to have one more chance to steal an NBA Championship. Steal is the right word by the way as this season the Mavs can’t be considered one of the 5 most talented teams in the NBA and have often played like the 6th seed that they are. It’s been interesting to watch them this year as Kidd has regressed this season more than he did the previous two seasons combined (his lack of quickness is more apparent by the day), the Lamar Odom experiment went up in a burst of flames, Vince Carter’s good first half seems like a distant memory, and Jason Terry has openly called out Mark Cuban for not extending him. Yet through it all the Mavs are still a very dangerous team and are up there with the Memphis Grizzlies as two teams the top 4 seeds are scared to play. They continue to have lapses on defense and at times struggle on offense (something I almost never saw in the Dirk era) yet if they’re hanging around with 5 minutes left it’s a whole new ballgame. The Dirk and Terry show has been nothing short of spectacular these past few weeks as they’ve had to bail out their team so many times (Lakers, Jazz, Rockets game just in the past 7 days all are good examples) that I no longer even am surprised. Unfortunately I don’t see how they can beat the Lakers (0-4 this season) as they lost to them when Kobe was shooting his team out of the game (7 for 22 on 1/16), when Kobe was efficient (11 for 18 on 3/21), and even when Kobe missed the game (DNP on 4/15). The Lakers clearly have taken their sweep from last year’s playoffs personally and don’t just want to beat the Mavs but destroy them. It’s both personal for the Lakers and a bad matchup for the Mavs as no one can stop Bynum and Dirk has trouble with Gasol allowing both of Kobe’s sidekicks to have good games on a regular basis. Somehow the Mavs need to avoid the Lakers and unless the Lakers lose 2 out of 3 (could happen as they face the Spurs, Thunder, and Kings to end the season) and the Clippers win their final 3 (could happen as they face the Hornets, Hawks, Knicks) the Mavs would need to drop down in the standings to avoid them. It will be an interesting call to make for Carlisle as he has a veteran team that could use the rest and if he also gets to avoid the Lakers then why not sit everyone and drop to 7th or 8th guaranteeing a matchup vs. the Spurs or Thunder. No matter who the Mavs play they’ll be underdogs (maybe not vs. the Clips) but I do think the Dirk-Terry 4th quarter show could play spoiler this season and who knows what will happen in this year’s playoffs due to the lockout condensed season. I’m not expecting anything beyond possibly the 2nd round at this point but weirder things have happened and I still would argue that this Mavs team is the most clutch team in the NBA which, in a sport that always comes down to the final minutes, might take the team farther than most expect.

Angels

So how about those Angels huh? The team quite a few experts picked to win the AL West and even the AL Pennant has looked nothing short of dysfunctional. They’re 4-9 but a look deeper into their numbers makes it even scarier as they’re 0-4 in their first 4 series (Rangers by the way are 4-0), they’re 0-7 in games not started by Jered Weaver or CJ Wilson, they’re only 1/126th of the way through the gargantuan Albert Pujols contract and people around baseball are already wondering if he’s worth $24 million a year (not talking the next 9 years folks we’re talking just this year’s $24 mil compared to this year’s production), they’re 4-9 despite half their games being against the Royals and A’s (expected to be cellar dwellers this year), the team doesn’t have one player with at least 30 at bats (starter) batting .300, and the team isn’t likely to have extra money at the trade deadline to add pieces as they spent it all on their two prized acquisitions in Wilson and Pujols. It’s early but the Angels look just like the Red Sox did last year and I heard the “it’s early, give them time” clique about them too. The Angels are playing terrible ball right now and, with the Rangers looking stellar right out of the chute, the 7 game lead the Rangers have over them easily could balloon to double digits before May 1st! If that happens I think there will be a lot more people sounding the alarm and the pressure on them will only mount. 

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