Take opening week trends in MLB lightly

Opening Day this year was an especially welcome reprieve for me. Winters are never easy for baseball fans, but this one was especially brutal.

p. I always feel a nagging sense of emptiness after the season ends, but the heartache following the collapse of my Cleveland Indians in last fall’s American League Championship Series was almost too much to bear.

p. Then, in December, Major League Baseball released the Mitchell Report on performance-enhancing drug use. A couple of public apologies and congressional hearings later, and I think I speak for all baseball fans when I say we are tired of the steroids/HGH saga.
Fast forward four months, and it’s strange to think that we’re already nearly two weeks into the season. What’s even stranger is that it took the Detroit Tigers nearly that long to win a single game. I couldn’t watch ESPN prior to Wednesday night without hearing the ubiquitous question: “Is it too early to start worrying about the Tigers?”

p. As an Indians fan, I relished the thought of the Tigers losing 162 games this season. Alas, it wasn’t to be.

p. The point is that it’s April. Making predictions on a small sample of games is utterly pointless.

p. Case in point: Last year, the New York Yankees went 10-14 in April. By the end of May, they were six games under .500 and 12.5 games behind the Boston Red Sox in the AL East. Experts began to write the team off, saying 2007 would feature the first Yankee-less October since 1993, but the team rallied to make the post-season.

p. I would have paid money to see the look on George Steinbrenner’s face had that come to pass.

p. April isn’t a month for panic if your team starts poorly. Nor is it a month for jubilation if it plays strongly out of the gate.

p. Every year there are surprises. If you thought the Baltimore Orioles would have the best record in baseball after seven games, you sure know how to pick ’em.

p. But Orioles fans should enjoy the success while they can. April is a month to celebrate the fact that your team is still legitimately in the race. It’s nice to be able to claim the best record in the majors, but the team can’t play so far over its head for a full 162-game season.

p. And just as Orioles fans should celebrate their team’s good fortune, Indians fans should enjoy the Tigers’ futility while it lasts. Both Baltimore and Detroit are having surprising starts, but it seems very likely that their positions in the standings will switch within a matter of weeks.

p. So, as much as I’d like to bank on the fact that no team has ever started the season 0-7 and made the playoffs, I have to accept that the Tigers don’t have anything to worry about. Yet.
Their hitters have proven track records. They will score runs by the dozen, and they’ll probably have to consider the questionable pitching staff. But the Tigers still have a very good shot at making the playoffs.

p. Of course, they’ll have to do it by winning the wild card, because the Tribe will win the AL Central. And the World Series. In six.

p. That’s a prediction you can take to the bank.

__E-mail Chase Johnson at cgjohn@wm.edu__


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