1. HITTER OF THE WEEK
1. HITTER OF THE WEEK
Yahoo! Sports' MLB analyst Ryne Sandberg answers four questions about the latest happenings in the major leagues.
1. Who deserves credit for the Los Angeles Dodgers having the best record in baseball?
I think Jim Tracy deserves a lot of credit. He's one of the more well-respected managers in the game today. He gets a lot out of the talent on the Dodgers roster, and the players play hard for him. He gets the most out of everybody.
If J.D. Drew and Hee Seop Choi begin to hit – and Eric Gagne gets healthy – that'll only make this team better. The Dodgers are on a roll, and winning is something you get used to. I still think they'll have plenty of competition from the San Francisco Giants, Arizona Diamondbacks and possibly the San Diego Padres, but L.A. seems to have the upper hand on the NL West for now.
I thought it'd be hard for the Dodgers to replace Shawn Green and Adrian Beltre. But they've gotten some surprisingly good pitching, Odalis Perez and Jeff Weaver in particular, and they've gotten run production from Jeff Kent, Milton Bradley, Jose Valentin, Ricky Ledee and Cesar Izturis. Those guys are really picking up the slack. And the Dodgers are finding a way to win ball games.
2. How much heat is Joe Torre feeling from the Yankees' slow start?
In a lot of ways, Torre might be facing the most pressure ever, believe it or not. With a New York Yankees team as talented as that – and with the expectations of winning the World Series right out of spring training – Torre is almost in a no-win situation. Not only does he have to get the Yankees to the World Series, but he also has to win it. After last year's collapse vs. the Boston Red Sox, there's no question that there's added pressure to win it all this year.
History shows that this is a team that responds positively to a tongue lashing by The Boss. George Steinbrenner had every right to publicly criticize the Yankees, too. He put the team together and he's paying the players big bucks. He expects top performances from every one of them.
It's a long season. We're only in our third week, and the Yankees' slow start just shows you how crazy baseball is. Any given week, a team can get cold. But the whole season is what counts, and the Yankees have a lot of talented players to get them through rough patches like this over the long haul. They're stacked at every position, and they have the best closer in the game in Mariano Rivera and two of the best players in Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez. I still favor the Yankees to win the World Series.
3. What are the Nationals' chances of contending in the NL East?
They've been surprising and they've been a big story. A lot of people are watching what they've been doing and watching their games to see what baseball at RFK Stadium looks like. I think this has something to do with their early-season success. But once this wears off, reality will set in over how much talent the Washington Nationals actually do have.
I think a .500 season would be a big accomplishment for them. That would be a success. It would be something that they can build on with a couple of big signings in the offseason to keep the excitement going in D.C. next year.
Even with the Nats' fast start, Frank Robinson got upset over a certain TV network's coverage, or lack of it. It's kind of surprising he would make comments about that to anybody in the media. The Nationals have gotten a lot of recognition and coverage in the media in general over baseball's return to the nation's capital. I think he needs to be realistic and understand that this is only the third week of the season. He was just trying to get everybody to recognize how well his team has been playing.
4. Did Ozzie Guillen overreact to Frank Thomas' comment that his return will move Carl Everett to the outfield?
Guillen had every right in the world to criticize Thomas. One of the biggest parts of a manager's job is making out the lineup card every day. If that lineup succeeds, nobody says anything. If that lineup fails, it all falls on him.
Thomas, who has been out all season recovering from ankle surgery, was out of line to say he'll take over the DH spot from Carl Everett, who's had a hot bat and been a big part of the Chicago White Sox's success up to this point. Sometimes you don't want to make a change like that if a team is playing well – even if Frank Thomas is back and healthy.
But Guillen and Thomas will need each other. A good relationship between those two is important for the White Sox. And the bottom line is that Guillen can't wait for Thomas to get back into the lineup and Thomas can't wait to get back and play. They need to get along for this team to progress. Otherwise, it'll be a long season, like last year.
THE FINAL THOUGHT
He was one of my favorite guys to play against because of his hard-nosed play, and he was one of the toughest guys for me to turn a double play. When he first got to the big leagues, he was an All-Star catcher with great speed, and he also made the All-Star team after switching to second base. He's now an outfielder who'll soon get his 1,000th RBI and has a shot at 3,000 hits.
Craig Biggio, in my book, is making a strong case for the Hall of Fame.