April 27, 2009
Given the April date on the calendar, the above qualifies as the stupidest question I've ever asked in a headline. With over 140 games still to be played, you know it's stupid, I know it's stupid and there remains a good chance I could be penning a MLB-a-Culpa to the Padres if they somehow lead the division in July.
But here's why I issue such a dumb eyeball-attracting query (apart from this being a blog, where I can ask whatever foolish question I want): If someone walked up to you today with a suitcase containing a million dollars and said you could have it in October so long as you correctly predicted just one of baseball's division winners, you'd have to pick the Dodgers right now ... right?
Really, I don't see a better pick out there. Three weeks into the season, the Men of Mannywood are currently 13-6 and hold a 2.5-game lead over second-place San Diego. They're 12-4 against NL West opponents, a perfect 6-0 at Dodger Stadium and own the largest runs
earned scored/allowed differential (+36) in the National League. Our own Tim Brown has them ranked atop the Yahoo! Sports power rankings and they're drawing rave reviews from their own beat reporters, even after a 10-4 loss to the Rockies on Sunday.
Could you make a case for the Cardinals, Blue Jays or Red Sox getting off to better starts than the Dodgers? Sure.
But when you look at the rest of Los Angeles' division, it's hard to imagine any of them are really going to mount a campaign. The Padres have gotten off to a surprising start, but we still need to see a few more weeks from them. The Giants pitching still makes them the biggest threat, but the offense has been awful. Brandon Webb's injury handicaps the D'backs and I'm not sure his presence would even make a difference considering Arizona's woeful offense (Just ask Dan Haren). Despite Sunday's result, I remain unconvinced that the Rockies are still a member of Major League Baseball.
There are plenty of caveats here, of course. The biggest comes by taking a look at the NL West standings on April 27, 2008. Arizona was a MLB-best 18-7 and led the Dodgers by six games. They looked good, but ended up going 64-73 from that point forward to finish two games behind LA for a playoff spot.
So, yeah, so much for that hot April.
Among the additional issues for the Dodgers: Clayton Kershaw hasn't pitched well, the fifth starter's spot might be bouncing between James McDonald and Eric Milton (remember him?) and injuries could always catch up to some of the older members of the squad.
Still, with the Dodgers looking as crisp as their home whites, I'd be putting my chances for that cool mil on the team that has quickly maneuvered its way to the inside rail. Could they be boxed out and fade late? Sure. But for now, my smart money is being put on LA.