People assumed that when Albert Pujols put the silent treatment on his contract situation in the Spring that it would no longer be an issue...ahh, nothing but a slow start by Albert, and then the sports talking-heads were all over the subject again -- "is this (contract situation) still a distraction?" "Is this what is causing Albert's slump?" Well those concerns have certainly been laid to rest the past couple of weeks, as Albert is back to being "the Machine"...looking more like the best player in baseball. His bat has come alive with multiple hits for his St. Louis Cardinals...and many of those have been home runs. It doesn't hurt that Matt Holiday and resurgent newcomer Lance Berkman have been hitting like Mays and Mantle so far this year. The bigger question was what would the Cards do without 20-game winner Adam Wainright? He and Chris Carpenter have been their one-two punch for several years now. With Wainright gone and Carpenter struggling, the young Cardinals rotation with Jaime Garcia, Kyle Lohse, Jake Westbrook and Kyle McClellan has had to pick up the slack...they have done an excellent job ot this point. Another issue for the Cards has been the bullpen, which has blown more saves than any other in the majors this year. It seems to be getting better...and still, the Cardinals are a game-and-a-half up in the N.L. Central. I guess we have known for awhile that Tony LaRussa is one of the best managers of all-time and a sure fire hall of famer...this is further confirmation of that fact.
I am not certain how many had the surprising Florida Marlins in second behind the Phillies in the N.L. East at this point in the season...but then again, this is their m.o. isn't it? Nobody ever expects them to do well, and yet, they...like their small market brothers, the Twins, and A's...always seem to be respectable. They have been hitting well, and their pitching, while not stellar, has been very effective. I say, not stellar, but starter Josh Johnson and closer Leo Nunez are about as good as you can get.
The defending champion Giants have struggled out of the gate this year, and yet, they are playing .500 baseball. If they can really get healthy...with their pitching, they will certainly make some noise in the N.L. West as the summer comes. It is tragic to see what has happened with the beloved and respected Los Angeles Dodgers. Owner Frank McCourt's personal and financial struggles have created something of a circus for the once-proud franchise. Bud Selig has appointed M.L.B. to run the team until such a time as when McCourt can work through his struggles...or, more likely, until he sells the team. I just hope that the Dodgers can get the ship righted so that they can get back to simply focusing on baseball. At least Andre Ethier...he of the 30-game hitting streak...doesn't seem to be bothered by much right now. It would be great if Ethier can keep it up for awhile, but with each hit and each passing day past 30 games, the media and other pressure will ratchet up significantly. Go Andre...keep it up!