If you sat down with a notepad and pen the day before the baseball season started and tried to guess which teams would be in last place five weeks into the season, would you put the Los Angeles Dodgers and Toronto Blue Jays on the list?
Sure, you'd write down the Miami Marlins and Houston Astros. Probably the Chicago Cubs too. They're supposed to lose this season. And they have. But the Dodgers and Blue Jays? They were the offseason darlings, the "super teams." Yet the Blue Jays (12-21) have been cellar dwelling since April 20 and the Dodgers (13-18) fell there after Monday's loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Sure, both teams have been body-slammed by injuries — namely Zack Greinke's shoulder and Jose Reyes' ankle — but last place, even in May, is a huge letdown. These are two organizations whose power-grabs showed they weren't just hoping to win a division, but a World Series.
The Dodgers, after losing five straight, are five-and-a-half games back in the tight NL West. So while this definitely isn't a death knell for Magic Johnson's bunch, their prospects won't improve if they keep leaving runners stranded on the base and can't keep starting pitchers healthy.
The Blue Jays, meanwhile, are already nine-and-a-half behind in a brutally competitive AL East. Their starting pitching is as up-and-down as Taylor Swift's relationship status. They've got the third-worst team ERA in baseball. Their bats aren't helping, as the Jays also own the fifth-worst batting average.
Another of baseball's offseason darlings, the Los Angeles Angels, aren't in last place in the AL West, but only because they have the special fortune of being in a division with the 8-24 Astros.
In fact, the Angels' 11-20 record would be last place in every other division in baseball except for the NL East, where the Miami Marlins reside. Worse, in fact, than both the Dodgers and Blue Jays.
Again, it's only May, so there's plenty of time for teams to gel and players to start living up to their $125-million contracts — we're looking at you, Josh Hamilton. But doesn't it also say that we should temper expectations when we see "super teams" assembled via wheeling-and-dealing and big-buck free-agent contracts. (I say this as someone who picked the Blue Jays to win the AL East).
Recent history has shown us these super teams aren't, in fact, as super as they seem when we dream about them in the preseason. Let's look even beyond baseball here: this year's Los Angeles Lakers or the 2011 Philadelphia Eagles "dream team" are prime examples. Yet, you can look around pro sports and see teams like the St. Louis Cardinals and San Antonio Spurs who don't make the sexiest offseason moves, but often turn out more super than the "super teams."
Of course, here's another reality of the "super team" — it's hard to count them out. Even when the under-achieving Los Angeles Lakers limped into the NBA Playoffs this season, there were some experts who believed they could still go on a run. So here we are, five weeks into the baseball season. There are still many, many games ahead. We can't count anyone out — well, expect the Marlins, Astros and Cubs.
The Dodgers, Angels and Blue Jays aren't "super." And they've got ways to go before even being "good." It could happen, though. They could go on a run and impress us all. Or they could continue to fall on their faces. Guess that's why we watch the games each day.