Category Archives: MLB

It’s a numbers game

After eight years of waiting, and some 3,710 minor league at-bats, Rich Thompson made his way back to the majors. What a long, strange trip it’s been.

McGILLIGAN: Baseball is a game of numbers.

Often times it’s the numbers we look to for an explanation as to why a play happened or who is best suited to pitch or hit in a given scenario.

We use numbers to determine greatness, justify rooting for one player over another or as a way to delve even deeper into a game we love and will never stop calculating.

Sometimes the numbers reveal something you never thought they could. Take for instance 2,944 and 3,710.

Heading into play on Wednesday night, those numbers were a representation of the perseverance and dedication it took Rich Thompson of the Tampa Bay Rays to get back to the major leagues after his first and only plate appearance on April 20, 2004 with the Kansas City Royals.

2,944 was the numbers days between his major league appearances which officially ended when Thompson pinch ran for Luke Scott in the Rays 2-1 win against the Boston Red Sox.

3,710 was the number of minor league at-bats he took before returning to MLB.

A great story to be sure, but one that got even better Thursday with two smaller numbers – 1 and 2. In Thursday’s 5-3 loss to the Red Sox, Thompson was in the starting lineup and hit ninth for the Rays. In his second plate appearance in the fourth inning, Thompson singled for his first major league hit and RBI as Sean Rodriguez scored on the play. But Thompson wasn’t done, he made the most of his time on the base paths by stealing both second and third base in the inning.

Of all the numbers used in baseball, it’s hard to imagine any combination could have summed up Thompson’s effort on Thursday.

Now he’s got a new number to worry about, extending his major league hitting streak to two games.

(NOTE: the numbers 2,944 and 3,710 are courtesy of an article on Yahoo! Sports by Kevin Kaduk)

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The Trade Market

Albert Pujols certainly doesn’t look like the Albert of the past – but maybe it’s turning around for him. Fantasy buyers and sellers beware of the risk of picking up or trading the greatest hitter of the last decade.

McGILLIGAN:What exactly is Albert Pujols worth today?

It’s not a question many fantasy owners have asked over the years. Having been a perennial top three fantasy producer, Pujols was seen as off limits in trade talks and if he was in the discussion, the price was sky high.

That was until he struggled to find his American League stroke early this season.

What used to be a no-brainer – you can’t trade Pujols – is legitimately up for debate. The question becomes what is he worth and of course that depends on the team you’re dealing with. Does his terribly slow start mean you can offer less than premium players and expect the deal to happen? Or maybe he still commands a ridiculous, and therefore, prohibitive price.

Trading in fantasy baseball is always a fun, but risky proposition.

Trading one of the most consistent players in the history of fantasy baseball is even riskier. So which is the real Pujols? The guy who consistently puts up career averages of .326 with 42 homeruns and 125 RBI or the one hitting .213 with two homers and 17 RBI through 37 games in a new league.

If I had to bet, I would bet on the 32-year-old slugger figuring it out sooner rather than later.  Heading into play Thursday, he has a .310 average (9 for 29) and eight RBI over his past seven games.

If anyone can turn it around, it’s Pujols.

So now might be the time to roll the dice try and buy him at a discounted price. If it works out, you can call yourself a shrewd fantasy manager. If not, you can always blame Pujols for your miserable place in the standings.

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Youkilis, Middlebrooks and New England Royalty

Will MIddlebrooks has been off to a hot start – but what’s going to happen when Kevin Youkilis returns from the DL? Middlebrooks’ hot start will push The King of Walks to be the King of mashing the ball more.

LIVINGSTONE McGILLIGAN: Will Middlebrooks could be hitting .400 when Kevin Youkilis comes of the disabled list and I’m not sure that would be enough to keep him at third base for the Boston Red Sox.

Middlebrooks isn’t simply up against the incumbent at Fenway’s hot corner; he’s competing with a member of New England royalty.

Here’s a quick overview of New England Royalty:

1.       Any member of the Kennedy family.

2.       Tom Brady

3.       Red Sox players (LIVINGSTONE: Even Billy Buckner??)

4.       Larry Bird

5.       Any other Celtics

6.    Bill Belichick

7.       Patriot players

8.       Bobby Orr

9.    Bruins players

10.   Matt Damon (he was wicked smart) and Ben Affleck

Youkilis is elevated slightly above the average Red Sox player because he married Tom Brady’s sister. This essentially makes him an honorary Kennedy.

In addition to this, Youkilis has been one of the most consistent hitters in Major League Baseball for several years. However, injuries have limited him the past two season and 2011 was the first time he hit under .280 since 2007. Add to this the rocky start with manager Bobby Valentine – for the record, completely Bobby V’s fault – and Youkilis seems to be in decline.

Middlebrooks success since his call up has been a bright spot in an otherwise terrible start to the season for the Red Sox. Middlebrooks is hitting .409 with seven extra-base hits and nine RBIs in four games. According to boston.com, Middlebrooks is the first player since Enos Slaughter in 1938 to have at least one extra-base hit in each of his first five games in the majors. However, he’s not without some injury concerns of his own. Middlebrooks was taken out of Tuesday’s game in the second inning after feeling some tightness in his left hamstring. It’s the second time since his call up he’s been taken out of a game because of the issue.

Once Youkilis returns from the DL, Valentine will have to decide between the two. Given Youkilis history, it’s hard to imagine him not being reinserted into the lineup.

The only way this doesn’t happen is if Middlebrooks marries a Kennedy in the next week and helps the Celtics win a playoff game. The only way for Youk to top that is to announce he and Brady’s sister are having a boy and Belichik declares he’s going to trade up to get him in the first-round to be Tom’s eventual replacement.

Random Note:

A few weeks ago I wrote about how the Red Sox season had a chance to turn around because of the Ben Affleck Movie Release Date Theory. Essentially, any time Affleck has a movie released in October, the Sox win the World Series. Well the trailer for Argo is out with Affleck directing and starring. The movie is set for an October release. In Ben, Red Sox Nation trusts.

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The Sensational Six

Brett Lawrie capped off an epic, rollercoaster game on Tuesday night against the Texas Rangers with a ninth inning walk-off home run. The Sensational Six loved it.
John E. Sokolowski-US PRESSWIRE

LIVINGSTONE: They heckled the drunk frat boys in our section. They gambled on who would get the first hit. They mused about whether or not the bunt Colby Rasmus laid down was a call from the dugout or his own decision.

They are the Sensational Six.

Sitting in two groups of three, one row in front of the other, the six elderly women – and if I’m guessing all in their early sixties – make it out to a dozen games a year as a group. During the early innings of Tuesday’s game  against the Texas Rangers – somewhere in the inning when pitcher Drew Hutchison gave up five runs, I noticed the woman sitting in front of me keeping an official score sheet, marking down every hit, out, walk, run and strikeout. The fact she was keeping the card made me smile. It’s always nice to see people coming out to enjoy the game rather than drink beer and take their shirts off in the seventh inning during the stretch (more on that later).

When Kelly Johnson hit the three-run shot in the bottom of three, followed by a towering shot from a struggling Jose Bautista, I noticed another sheet two rows down with the other trio of women, who I later found out are all from the area and have been coming to games since the early days of professional baseball in Toronto. The sheet, with The Sensational Six neatly scrawled along the top of the page – had a series of columns with players names penciled in for first hit of the game, first homerun, first double, etc. The sensational six was betting on game stats to make it a game within a game. The betting wasn’t for money, but for large gummies they had in a container with them. Sure, minor in nature, but the fact it brought a feeling of competitiveness and excitement to their experience – one of what is about a dozen a year.

While the game was surely one of the most exciting of the season – Lawrie’s laser beam walk-off in the bottom of nine was incredible to watch – it was watching these women analyze the game, talk about the sloppy play of Yunel Escobar as of late, Kelly Johnson’s love-hate relationship at the plate and in the field – at times – and the inability of the Jays bullpen to close out games (blown save number 56 last night). They truly loved the game and were there to take in the beauty of the sport.

Oh, the frat party. Speckled in the crowd – I swear we somehow got every drunk 19-year-old in the stadium in our section – groups of guys, and one lone idiot with his embarrassed girlfriend, were loud, obnoxious and obscene. It takes a lot to offend me, but these guys and the language used toward the Rangers players could have easily spoiled the night. I understand people come to the games to have fun, drink beers, experience the game the way they want to, but sometimes it goes too far.

Last night reminded me of opening night and the debauchery that went on, especially when a group of five guys sitting three rows in front of us to the right took off their shirts and began waving them like towels. I could smell them from my seat, no joke. It wasn’t pleasant. When the game was getting on into the ninth, one of the ladies started telling a couple extremely loud fans to shut up. I admired the women for their love of the game. Young and old alike, the game makes us all feel like a kid in the school yard, playing for the World Series championship. They wanted to enjoy the game and not put up with the sauced fans. Fair enough.

When Francisco Cordero blew the game with two outs in the ninth by giving up three straight singles to centerfield, I asked the women who bet on the Jays blowing the save opportunity. One of the sensational six chimed in and said, ‘hell we all would’ve picked it’. When Lind hit into a double play with none out early in the game, a sense of frustration bellowed from the women, one yelling ‘why didn’t you bunt? You can’t hit the ball!’ She wasn’t saying anything we already didn’t know, but it sure made me laugh.

So, Brett Lawrie. Kid has energy. You could sense it all over the stadium after he made the last out in the ninth to take it to the bottom, you could feel it. He wanted to end the game. And he did it in the classic, soon-to-be legendary Brett Lawrie way. When the ball hit the top of the outfield wall to end the game, the ladies were jumping for joy. It was like the World Series trophy was coming back to Canada for the first time in two decades. While the drunken buffoons jumped for joy – more likely because they were hammered – the ladies reveled in an exciting, likely to be one of the best games of the young Jays season.

I hope I’m lucky enough to have the sensational six sitting in front of me at a future game. Maybe I’ll get in on the betting with them. I do love gummies.

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On the plus side, some young closers are strutting their stuff

Baltimore Orioles closer Jim Johnson has been perfect in the save situation, going seven-for-seven to start the season, closing out games with a high nineties fastball in his pitching arsenal.

McGILLIGAN: One of the early story lines this season was the poor performance of closers.

Teams were struggling to shut the door in the ninth inning and seal the win. Veteran guys – solid performers in seasons past – just weren’t getting the job done. Things have settled somewhat since then – injuries are still wreaking havoc in some cities – and part of the reason is new faces seizing their opportunities.

The two best examples of this are Jim Johnson of the Baltimore Orioles and Henry Rodriguez of the Washington Nationals.

Johnson has been perfect in his save opportunities this season (7-7), has yet to allow a run and has hitters off balance as evidenced by opponents mustering a measly.214 batting average.

The Orioles have struggled to find consistency the closer role, only once in the past five seasons has a player recorded two-straight seasons of 20 or more saves (George Sherrill in 2008 and 2009).

Heading into the year, Johnson had racked up 21 saves over the course of three seasons. Baltimore is a bit of a revolving door for closers, but early signs are positive for Johnson and the O’s.

The most intriguing closer-related story is in the National League. After the Nationals watched Brad Lidge blow a few saves, the job was given to Henry Rodriguez who had a grand total of two saves before this year. This season he’s recorded five saves in five chances, has not allowed an earned run and has opponents hitting a paltry .038.

What makes the Nationals situation so intriguing is the eventual return of Drew Storen. In 2011, Storen racked up 43 saves, tied for sixth best in all of baseball. He had minor elbow surgery earlier this month and could return sometime around the all-star break. If he can return to form, and Rodriguez continues his early dominance, the Nationals could have the makings of a great one-two punch for the eighth and ninth innings – in what order might be anyone’s guess.

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Superstitions and Turk Wendell

The oddest of them all, former MLB pitcher Turk Wendell set the standard of weirdness in baseball with his interesting antics and superstitions.

LIVINGSTONE: I love vinyl. No, not what you’ll find on the side of the house – although it does appeal to me as my siding of choice when I become a homeowner – but what the needle drops on. Listening to records helps me relax – or boogie, or blow of steam, depending on the mood – and I happened to be listening to Stevie Wonder’s 1972 release Talking Book tonight when the song Superstitious began blaring from my older-than-my-grandmother record player (it’s not, but it’s sure close).

The song got me thinking about the superstitions of athletes. Jumping over the baselines, tying cleats or skates a certain way, putting on equipment in a specific order, eating a certain piece of fruit before a game, wearing the same pair of underwear in games you pitch (I hope no one actually does the last one), but whatever it is, athletes have them. Hell, baseball in general has a number of superstitions (see: Top 50 Superstitions and rituals in baseball on Bleacherreport.com), followed by players and fans alike.

This brings me the ultimate man of superstition. So ultimate he was named the most superstitious athlete in professional sports by Men’s Fitness magazine. He did a kangaroo-like jump over the baseline every time he ran on and off the field, he brushed his teeth in between innings, he wore number 99 in honour of Rick ‘The Wild Thing’ Vaughan from Major League.

Hell – his contract with the New York Mets was signed for $9,999,999.99 – in honour of his number.

Ladies and Gentlemen: Turk Wendell.

Quirky, outspoken and full of out-there antics, Wendell was a fan favourite wherever he played. Drafted in 1988 by the Atlanta Braves, the eccentric reliever got his major league debut in 1993 with the Chicago Cubs (he was traded in 1991 and pitched two years in the minors). It wasn’t a great start to his career – he pitched in only a handful of games in 1993 and 1994 before coming into his own in 1995. In three years with the Cubs he pitched in 187 games and posted a 3.88 ERA with the club before a late-season trade in 1997 to the New York Mets.

With the Mets, he lead the team in 1999 and 2000 in appearances and in five seasons posted a 3.34 ERA and a 22014 record over 285 appearances.He never did get the elusive championship ring, but came close with the Mets when the team played its crosstown rivals The Yankees in the subway series of 2000. his career began to decline after that series. He landed with the Phillies the following season, was on the DL in 2002 after elbow surgery, pitched for the Phillies in 2003 and then made some short stops with the Colorado Rockies before being cut.

In many ways, Wendell’s antics on the field inspired many young baseball players – well, maybe just me, but who really knows – to pick up some of those superstitious antics and make them their own. Now, I don’t think I would let a baseball thrown by the umpire hit me in the chest – Wendell requested the ump roll the ball to him on the mound, and if he didn’t he would let it go past him, or hit him in the chest.

Yeah, it’s strange, but hey, we’ve got our quirks. Waving to the center fielder waiting for him to wave back before you pitched the start of an inning, yeah, it’s strange, but if I was the center fielder and the game was close, I wouldn’t be messing with Wendell’s routine.

Stats aside, Wendell was a weird dude. Sure, rituals and superstitions are commonplace in the game of baseball, but it seems not as openly strange or visible like the days of Turk. In thinking about what Turk-esque like players are out there in the game today, none really come to mind. Giants closer Brian Wilson might be the closest thing to the Turk – but wearing a Onesie suit to the ESPY and just talking like you’ve been drunk you’re entire life, I don’t think that necessarily counts. He’s just strange.

So to Turk, thank you for making superstitions known to the baseball world. And thanks for making knee-high socks an acceptable thing.

Check out The Bleacher Report’s Top 10 list on Wendell’s antics.

Arencibia shouldn’t apologise for Twitter-spat – and here is why

Blue Jays catcher JP Arencibia called out a sports journalist on Twitter last week. Matthew Strader has his take on the situation.


STRADER:
With the mini-twitter gate that surrounded JP Arencibia last week, and the articles I’m still reading about it, I suddenly began to wonder, why is my industry filled with a bunch of wimps?

A radio reporter from New York called Arencibia out for his low batting average.

Arencibia tweeted back, have another donut, and sports reporters of the world unite! I’ve read column after column about how Arencibia shouldn’t have done it. He went too far.

My colleague Livingstone and I discussed that day whether Arencibia, and his fellow twitter-addicted Blue Jays (Romero, Lawrie…etc.) would be asked by the organization to shut down their accounts.

It seemed plausible at the time. Organizations don’t like negative press. And athletes’ seem to get into trouble on social media all the time, so were we going to lose the insight into these players’ lives?

We haven’t, and I don’t know if anything was said to Arencibia behind closed doors, but I listen to what I’ve listened to on the radio in the past week, and read what I’ve read in the papers, and I wonder who is in the wrong here? Because every sports writer and broadcaster I’ve heard think Arencibia is, and I can’t help but think…are you kidding me? What did he do wrong?

How is it any different then what sports reporters do, and why should he be held to a different standard? Because he makes millions? Oh, yeah, right. If my paper decided to suddenly pay me $4-million a season, and Major League baseball suddenly changed the structure so that catchers made $60,000 a year, things would be completely different…..pfffft….

I don’t need to mention any names here, but here are the quotes I’ve read this week.

“They’re chokers….”

“He should be fired…”

“He’s lazy…”

“He sucks…”

“He’s fat, and out of shape, and it’s embarrassing….”

Okay, so let’s turn to the radio for some insightful and classy analysis.

“They don’t know how to play the game…”

“He sucks, and he knows it, his family knows it, I bet when he was born his parents looked at him and thought he’s gonna suck…”

“The guy should lose his job…”

“It was the worst performance I’ve ever seen and it’s what you get from this guy all the time…the worst…”

“Off with his head…Off with all their heads…”

“They are the biggest chokers in sport…”

I don’t need to continue. Everyone knows what I’m talking about.

Now, let me qualify this by saying I’m happy with all of these comments. I love the soap opera. We don’t ever find out anything great. The dressing room doors are like iron curtains, and we dig and dig and dig for insight. Players are trained to give media savvy answers, clichés really, about 110 per cent and it’s all about the team…blah blah blah. We die for an honest comment.

So if some dude decides to call Arencibia out, and Arencibia decides to call him out, then good, set up the ring, and let them go.

But Arencibia should apologize? He went too far? It was personal?

Give me a break.

It’s personal to say a guy sucks at his job. It’s personal to say a guy should lose his job.

If I write that somebody sucks, which I might, ‘cause really, the Red Sox suck, then they have every right to call me a skinny wuss who couldn’t make it past tee ball. ‘Cause I couldn’t. And I don’t need a bunch of dudes behind their keyboards to get their backs up and come to my defence. It’s okay guys. I can handle it.

I’m not a p—y.

If I were Arencibia, the next time I hit a jack, I’d make sure to have a box of donuts in the dugout, I’d grab one, look right into the camera, and chow down while holding up my Major League jersey.

That would be TV I would love to watch.

Can Ben Affleck predict the World Series?

Ben Affleck + movie release dates + Red Sox = A World Series title.

Who knew rock bottom would look this way.

I didn’t think David Ortiz wouldn’t be among the AL batting leaders at rock bottom.

I wouldn’t have imagined a pitching staff with Jon Lester, Josh Beckett and Clay Buchholz would be part of rock bottom.

As for the bullpen, that’s what a rock bottom pen looks like.

Bobby Valentine as the manager of a team hitting rock bottom? That seems to be more and more likely each time he talks or has Ortiz and Kelly Shoppach try and steal bases.

Despite the doom and gloom of the early 2012 Red Sox season, there is a slight sliver of hope.

I present the ‘Ben Affleck movie release date theory (BAMRDT).

When Affleck has a movie scheduled for release in Oct., rest assured the Red Sox are going to the World Series.

Surviving Christmas – Starring Ben Affleck. Release date Oct. 22, 2004.

Gone Baby Gone – Directed by Ben Affleck. Release date Oct. 10, 2007.

I will admit Gone Baby Gone is a far superior movie to Surviving Christmas and gets points for double Affleck action as Ben’s brother Casey stars in the film. However, quality of films has no bearing on the BAMRDT.

As you may have noticed, in one film Ben is an actor and the other a director. A singular focus in each.

This brings me to 2012 and…..

Argo – Starring and Directed by Ben Affleck. Tentative release date Oct. 12, 2012.

This fits the BAMRDT criteria, but that release date is not set in stone. Warner Bros. could wreak havoc on the theory, but for now everything seems to be in place. Here’s what imdb.com says about the plot: “As the Iranian revolution reaches a boiling point, a CIA ‘exfiltration’ specialist concocts a risky plan to free six Americans who have found shelter at the home of the Canadian ambassador.”

I have no idea if that sounds good or not, but the BAMRDT does not require the movie be good, just released in October. However, with this year off to such a poor start surely not even the BAMRDT could possibly save it. This may very well prove to be true, but Affleck sensed this and thus ratcheted things up on his end. He’s an actor/director in Argo – a double focus. Ben knew the lack of off-season signings and hiring of Valentine would require some extra magic on his part to reverse the trend and selflessly decided to pull double duty.

If this theory pans out, I’m nominating Affleck for all-time president of Red Sox Nation.  If the BAMRDT doesn’t pan out, I know what movie I’ll be going to see rather than watching the World Series in October.

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A power bat? Where? I’m guessin’ left…

Subs outfielder Alfonso Soriano would be a good power bat addition to the Jays roster - however, the salary he is owed could be an issue.

STRADER: Does anybody get the feeling the Blue Jays aren’t happy with either left fielder?

I am.

One, because AA doesn’t make anything public, and his desire for an impact bat just became public. Two, because it’s not JP Arencibia that’s going to lose his job, I don’t care how many people want to focus on the low batting average.

How would the Baltimore Orioles feel if they’d given up on Matt Wieters?

Pretty dumb, I would imagine.

There’s way more to being a catcher than hitting and I don’t think the organization is as frustrated with Arencibia as some of the fans are.

(That damn debut is going to haunt this kid until he hits….)

No, there is a position on the field that doesn’t seem to be filled by that reliable, crushing, middle of the order bat, just yet.

So, with Anthopolous reportedly telling MLB network radio’s Jim Bowden that a middle of the order bat is his true desire, to “wear down” other teams, it appears that a trial run with a kid for a couple seasons is not what Anthopolous wants. And look around the diamond.

Do you move Rasmus? Nope. He’s looking confident and skilled again, and there’s a speedster in the wings.

Is it Escobar? Nope. Once again, not the power development that has been hyped, but there’s talent waiting on the depth chart there too in a young Cuban who’s looking all world.

No, left field, which I believe in two to three years will be occupied by Jake Marisnick could use a dominant, power-hitting, veteran.

So for fun, ‘cause speculation with the Blue Jays brass is always wrong, let’s take a look at Major League outfields and see if we can find a power-hitting veteran, that would come cheap, is on a team that wants to move him, and also a squad looking to add to their young talent.

Melky….I don’t know….Delmon….would Detroit trade anything right now?….Logan Morrison….is he proven enough?….Brennan Boesch…certainly a lot of talk about his ceiling….Jason Bay…I could only dream he becomes reliable again and lands in Canada….

Nope, I think I found the perfect hole filler. His team will absorb a lot of his contract. He would hit the snot out of the ball in Rogers Centre. And in a couple years, he would happily be replaced by a young outfielder, because he’s in his mid-30s.

Yep, I never thought I would say it, but I want to see Alfonso Soriano in a Blue Jay uniform.

Because of his critics, price tag, and lack of a market, I believe he would only require a couple mid-level prospects to get him.

His OPS is always above .700, this guy can simply hit the ball.

And without having to be the go-to guy in a lineup, he would be an unreal complement bat.

As I’ve said before, I’m patient. I’d rather see Travis Snider for a full season, leave him alone, let him play.

But if we’re going to see 24 and 25 year olds platooned with Rajai, replaced for defensive reasons, not playing against left-handed pitchers, then bring the vet, and wait for Marisnick and Gose.

Maybe Thames and a mid-level pitching prospect would get us Soriano?

And how wicked would he look sandwiched in there with Edwin, Brett, Adam and that dude in right field?

I’m thinking pretty good.

Of course, it looks like my Jenkins prediction was a little out of left field too….

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Angels aren’t lookin’ so heavenly – are they a bust?

Are the Angels already a bust? The 6-10 record isn't a sign of any sort of success considering they spent $300 million in the off-season to bring in a premium bat in Pujols, who hasn't hit a home run for his new club yet and has a mere four runs batted in.

LIVINGSTONE: If the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim don’t start getting it together, that $300-million off-season spending spree is going to look like one of the biggest busts in the history of the game.

I know – we all know – Albert Pujols won’t under perform all season. In a couple of months we will be looking back at the start of the season, the first 16 games that have netted the Angels a 6-10 record good for last place in the division and seven games back of the juggernaut that is the Texas Rangers, and all will be forgotten.

Question is, will it be forgotten?

The Angels went out and landed the biggest free agent slugger in Pujols and the best pitching free agent in former Rangers starter C.J. Wilson with the hopes of putting the team, finally, into a good position to challenge for a World Series title after years of missing the mark. If you look at what the Angels have been doing in the first 16 games of the season, you have to wonder if the team is just too bloated with talent and can’t find a way for all that all-star power to gel together.

Outside of Wilson and Jered Weaver, who both post sub-2.50 ERAs in just a handful of starts into the season (they’re a combined 5-1), the starting rotation has looked anything but lights out.

Dan Haren and Ervin Santana have been appallingly bad. Haren (0-1) has an ERA above 4.00 in his first four starts, and is averaging 65 pitches a game. Santana (0-3) in three awful starts, giving up seven home runs  while putting up a 6.75 ERA. Anything but dominate. Fifth starter Jerome Williams has an ERA of 7.71 and a WHIP around 1.70 and Haren and Santana are both over 1.40

Then there is the bullpen. They’ve been pegged with four losses and have only one save to show for the dismal start. Closer Jordan Walden, who was expected to be a dominate guy in the ninth, has an ERA of 4.15 and a WHIP of 1.62 – on the flip, he’s got a K-per-9 innings of 12.36, which is what should be expected of him. But one save, yeesh. He isn’t getting the opportunity to close games because the bullpen is blowing them before he even gets the chance to warm-up in the bullpen.

Collectively, the pitching staff has an ERA of 4.47, a WHIP of 1.26 and has given up 18 home runs while putting together only eight quality starts. Things need to improve on this front or the bats waking up won’t matter.

Yes, Pujols is putting up underwhelming numbers so far this year. No home runs, four RBI, an OPS of .654 and a batting average of .283. He’s a career .328 hitter. He’ll come around, he started slow last season and came on late to post a solid year for the eventual World Series champs St. Louis. However, when you’re RBI leader after 16 games is your catcher (Chris Iannetta has 8 ribbies) and your home run leader is Vernon ‘I am very much overpaid for what I do’ Wells, things aren’t looking good.

Guys like Peter Bourjos, Alberto Callaspo are hitting in the .200 zone after 16 games, something that needs to improve vastly to bring some stability and fear back into the line-up. These guys were pegged to be integral parts of the batting order and are so far not proving that. I don’t think it will be too long before we see Mike Trout in the line-up (he’s hitting a near-.400 in Triple-A).

No matter what – something needs to be done to get the team ignited.

Are they a bust? For all the hype surrounding this team coming into the season – in some ways, yes they certainly are a bust. Besides Mark Trumbo, who is batting .350-ish, this club isn’t putting together any solid performances a the plate – on the mound, Weaver and Wilson look good, but it’s downhill after those two.

It’s going to be interesting to see how the teams pulls itself together and gets onto a winning road, because the fans won’t patiently wait while this supposed-elite team continues to flounder.