Possibly the best part of opening week in baseball is watching people jump on bandwagons and hit panic buttons with equal prematurity (side note: I use the term “panic button” way too frequently not to have one on my office desk. I could just imagine getting 200 words into a post, drawing a blank, and quickly reaching for the panic button). The first week is a time, long before the doldrums of August, that players and fans are excited at the possibilities of what may lie ahead.
Every season has early surprises, both good and bad, and this season is no exception. As a result fans tend to extrapolate the first week stats over the entire season, which we know makes no sense in a 162 game season, but we just can’t help ourselves. Most of the time we’re wrong (Albert Pujols last season), but sometimes we’re right (Adam Dunn last season).
In case you missed the action thus far, here’s a quick list of which bandwagons to jump on, and which ones to jump off, based on less than a week of baseball.
Jump On: Baltimore Orioles, New York Mets
Both teams were expected to be mediocre at best this season, but right now (each 3-0) they would be your World Series matchup. Given the Orioles’ division, it will be drastically difficult to continue their success throughout the season. The Mets, on the other hand, have a wide-open NL East to take by storm. If you’re going to start buying into a team, the Mets might not be a bad choice. That is, if David Wright hits .667 all season, Johan Santana‘s shoulder doesn’t fall off, and Jon Niese continues to throw six hitless innings every time out. Pretty likely.
Jump Off: Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees
The Yankees and Red Sox are so 2000s. Both teams started 0-3 for the first time since 1966 (which happens to be the year of the current Mad Men season…gratuitous Don Draper shot), and people aren’t wasting any time hitting the beloved panic button. Yes chances are the two perennial powerhouses will straighten it out by September, but for now we can dream of a world where the two-headed snake—with two separate annoying accents—has been decapitated.
Jump On: Zack Cozart, Cincinnati Reds
A much-heralded prospect, Cozart won the Reds’ shortstop position to start the season, and boy has it paid off. Think his .545 average and 1.765 OPS are a fluke? His totals from last season (.324 BA, .810 OPS) are nearly as impressive. 14 games is a big enough sample size, right?
Jump Off: Alex Gordon, Kansas City Royals
Gordon finally started to live up to his #1-overall pick status last season when he was named to his first All-Star team. It appears that Gordon spent most of the winter reading his own press clippings, as this season he has limped out of the gates by going 0-13 with six strikeouts. I mean, if he can’t get hits off of Jered Weaver, Dan Haren, and Ervin Santana, he can’t get hits off of anyone. It certainly won’t get any easier in his upcoming series against the Oakland A’s, where he’ll face proven aces Tommy Milone and Graham Godfrey.
Jump On: Fernando Rodney, Tampa Bay Rays
The journeyman sometimes-closer has picked up a win and two saves for the first place Rays in their first three games without allowing a baserunner. Considering his ERA has been above 4.00 for each of the past five seasons, this comes as quite a shock. At this point, completing the season with a 0.00 WHIP is looking likely to quite likely.
Jump Off: Mariano Rivera, New York Yankees
Rivera blew his only save opportunity in the Yankees’ Opening Day loss to the Rays. He surrendered three hits and two earned runs while only recording one out, so it’s pretty safe to say that the 42-year-old is finally over the hill. Sure, Rivera’s had the four best seasons of his career in the last four years, but that means nothing now that he blew one save. You didn’t hear it from me, but word is that Joe Girardi is looking to replace Rivera as the Yankees closer as soon as they can trade for Fernando Rodney.
So there you have the players and teams that have surprised us during the first week. Like I said, chances are that at least one of these starts will continue for the rest of the season; the tough part is figuring out which one. So, like any good sports journalist, I will leave that job to you.