2018 American League Wrap Up:

Appropriate Global Proverbs For Every AL Team

With two weeks remaining in the 2018 Major League Baseball season, some teams are desperately in need of closure, while others anticipate deep postseason runs. Focusing on the American Let’s start at the bottom and work our way up.

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photo via VisualHunt

Baltimore Orioles (42–106)

“Fall seven times, stand up eight.” -Japanese Proverb

The Orioles have fallen 104 times. Only 14 teams since 1900 have finished with a lower winning percentage than Baltimore’s current .284. Something tells me Buck Showalter won’t be around by the time they reach .500 again. Climbing the AL East over the next few seasons may seem like scaling Everest.

Kansas City Royals (52–96)

“The night rinses what the day has soaped.” -Swiss Proverb

At least Jakob Junis has shown the Royals he can be a legit starter. That’s something. The Royals have finished under .500 in 19 of the last 24 seasons, but when they made it into October in 2014 and 2015, they rode a wave into the World Series, winning the title in 2015. Now things are back to normal as Kansas City attempts to rebuild. They’ll need a lot of soap heading into 2019.

Chicago White Sox (59–89)

“The most beautiful fig may contain a worm.” -Zulu Proverb

Michael Kopech throws 100 miles per hour. Michael Kopech will be out until 2020. Yoan Moncada is leading the American League in strikeouts, with 196 in his age 23 season. Chris Sale is attempting to ramp back up for the Red Sox, after missing a month. The White Sox still have powerful prospect Eloy Jimenez waiting in the wings, but it’s tough to remain optimistic when you keep finding worms in your figs.

Detroit Tigers (60–88)

“Beauty lies in the eye of the beholder.” -English Proverb

The Tigers need only win four more games to escape a 100-loss season. Kudos to them. Entering the season, Detroit knew Victor Martinez was 39, and pretty much done. Over nearly 500 plate appearances, a .643 OPS has done nothing but confirm this. Cabrera’s injuries torpedoed any hopes of a decent season. Motown’s baseball crew move forward with a young lefty named Matt Boyd (no relation to Oil Can). Will Boyd become the ace they need? Seemed like Michael Fulmer was on his way after a great rookie season in 2016, but not so much after a uninspiring but decent third year. Maybe By 2020 maybe pitching prospects Casey Mize, Franklin Perez and Matt Manning will have arrived in Detroit, beginning to fulfill their potential. Tigers fans need reasons for optimism. In the meantime, 2019 is unlikely to be the turnaround year. The lineup badly needs a cleanup hitter.

Texas Rangers (63–84)

“Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.” | -Chinese Proverb

Bartolo Colon has been fishing, and eating those fish, for a lifetime indeed. In August, the 45-year-old Rangers pitcher set the record for wins by a Latin American major leaguer, with his 246th. Though wins have fallen out of fashion over the last decade, Bartolo certainly hasn’t. Colon, in all of his glorious roundness, has outlasted many a slender hurler.

Toronto Blue Jays (66–82)

“There is no shame in not knowing; the shame lies in not finding out.” -Russian Proverb

Jays fans were salivating over Vladimir Guerrero Jr at the end of the 2017 season. They were hoping he might burst onto the scene as a modern version of Ken Griffey Jr. Instead, Vlad’s dominance of the minors ended up teasing the impatient and frustrated Ontarians. The front office may have been planning an August call-up, but a mid-season injury kept that from happening. Now, the fans wait until April to find out. Will the Jays keep him back until June to save another year of team control? The shame lies in not finding out…what he might do if given a full rookie season in 2019.

Minnesota Twins (67–81)

“Good advice is often annoying, bad advice never is.” -French Proverb

A few words of good, yet annoying, advice, for most American League teams outside of Boston, New York, Cleveland, and Houston: Build your team for 2022.

Perhaps by then the mighty foursome at the top of the AL will have peaked, with players who are now in their prime aging out of it, and some eventually becoming free-agents. The Twins have several very talented young position players working their way through the minors. Royce Lewis, one of the top prospects in the game, will cover shortstop, Nick Gordon will man second base, and Alex Kiriloff will eventually play one of the corner outfield spots next to the speedy Byron Buxton.

Los Angeles Angels (73–75)

“Do not rejoice at my grief, for when mine is old, yours will be new.” -Spanish Proverb

The Angels have been the most injured team in the majors this year. A whopping 32 DL stints, including all of their impact players. Shohei Ohtani’s first year in Los Angeles will conclude with Tommy John surgery, though it isn’t certain if he’ll be able to DH next year or not. Mike Trout slid into second base and ended up missing most of August. Justin Upton and Andrelton Simmons both spent time recuperating from ailments. The pitching staff has been built, rebuilt, torn down and rebuilt again. Thirty-five different men have taken the mound in Anaheim. Tyler Skaggs is still only 26 and has the most upside of the group other than Ohtani. A healthy Angels team will likely compete for a wild-card spot in 2019.

Seattle Mariners (81–66)

“A man does not seek his luck; luck seeks its man.” -Turkish Proverb

The Mariners won so many one-run games in the first three-months that their record (55–31) turned some baseball heads early on. A closer look reveals that they fattened up on the AL’s weakest opponents. The Mariners needed all they could get from near-ace James Paxton this year. When he went down in mid-July, the season looks to have deflated with him. Winning by one-run is exciting, yet usually unsustainable. Maybe next year, Seattle can bottle the mojo they have in Oakland and Tampa.

Tampa Bay Rays (81–66)

“It’s better to light a candle than curse the darkness.” -Chinese Proverb

Tampa always seems to fly under the radar in the AL East. Ugly stadium. Smaller market. Not exactly a desirable city. But they surprise. Over and over. Shedding the old Rays meant bidding adieu to Evan Longoria in the winter, and trading top talent Chris Archer in the summer. If you like Sabermetrics, Blake Snell’s 6.2 WAR puts him second to Chris Sale (6.6) in the AL, but he’s allowed only 105 hits in 164 innings. His 2.03 ERA is nice, but it’s his insane 1.24 home ERA that illuminates his importance to Tampa’s future.

Oakland A’s (90–59)

“Everyone is kneaded out of the same dough, but not baked in the same oven.” — Yiddish Proverb

There’s something about the kitchen in Oakland. Like the Rays, most years, the A’s seem to exceed expectations. This year, they were pegged to win 78–83 games. A true .500 team. Instead, Oakland is within shouting distance of 100 wins. There is no middle class in the AL this year. You’re either at the poverty line or living luxuriously. When the Mariners began to stumble, the A’s hit the gas, winning 29 of 35 after the All-Star break. Now the only question is if they will host the Yankees or head to New York for a long-awaited wild-card game. The A’s staff has taken major hits in the last couple weeks, losing Sean Manaea for the remainder of 2018 and likely 2019. Ah, the mortal pitcher. The A’s traded for half a dozen relievers at the trade deadline. My guess is the wild-card game will be all bullpen for Oakland.

New York Yankees (91–57)

“A beautiful thing is never perfect.” -Egyptian Proverb

Aaron Judge finally returned to the field after missing seven weeks recovering from a broken wrist. Wrists are kind of important to hitters. How will Judge look upon returning? The Yankees have had an expectedly good regular season, needing to win 10 of their final 16 to reach 100 wins. The lineup depth, especially with Judge and Gary Sanchez, is ridiculous. The team is closing in on 250 homers. Will rookie manager Aaron Boone choose the high-upside of Luis Severino, or the quietly powerful Masahiro Tanaka as his wild-card starter? Severino has been hit hard in two starts against the A’s this year, and Tanaka has been on fire since July. Perhaps Severino gets the nod and the early hook.

Cleveland Indians (83–65)

“Change yourself and fortune will change.” -Portuguese Proverb

The Cleveland Indians have a 15-game lead in the abysmal AL Central, despite the fact they’re only 18-games over .500. Cleveland’s pitching staff has been impressive yet again, with Trevor Bauer making the leap many expected a few years ago. Kluber, Carrasco and Bauer form a tough trio, but they’ll face an even more dangerous threesome in Houston. Boston, New York and Houston are all a bit peeved at how Josh Donaldson seemed to slip through the DL cracks at the waiver deadline and land in Cleveland’s lap. Donaldson’s bat has been fearsome over the last few years, and adds punch to an already deep lineup. Speaking of which, Jose Ramirez has been an absolute force, turning in a .963 OPS with 38 HRs, 32 SBs and nearly 100 walks.

Houston Astros (93–55)

“Do good and throw it in the sea.” -Arab Proverb

The Astros helped Houstonians move on after surviving Hurricane Harvey. They took out the Red Sox in the ALDS and then came back from a 3–2 series deficit against the Yankees, advancing to the World Series. Game 5 provided the drama, with Houston edging the Dodgers 13–12 in a wild 10-inning affair. They lost Game 6 at home, but went on to beat Los Angeles at Chavez Ravine, 5–1. Cue the champagne and the euphoria. The Arab proverb, “Do good and throw it in the sea,” is fitting for all of baseball. The season stretches on. Individual players have hot and cold streaks. The next at-bat is always the most important. Houston overcame the first-half hangover that often comes with a deep run into the previous October. They’re positioned to give the Red Sox an epic fight in the ALCS, as they showed last weekend, taking two of three at Fenway.

Boston Red Sox (102–47)

“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

-African Proverb

When the Red Sox hired Alex Cora, nobody was quite sure how to respond. This was Cora’s first managing job. He’d spent four years as a commentator at ESPN and one year, 2017, in the role of bench coach with the Astros. Cora was a utility infielder for most of his 13-year MLB career. Cora immediately seemed to hit it off with the players. At age 42, he’s fourteen years younger than former manager John Farrell. Analytics-aware and bilingual were thought to be two important qualities Cora possessed. My goodness, have these Red Sox enjoyed playing for him. If you followed the winter meetings, and the glacial pace of free-agency last January, you know that J.D. Martinez was rumored to be signing with the Red Sox for most of the winter. It wasn’t until the end of February that he finally signed. As of this writing, his 1.035 OPS is third in the AL, behind Mike Trout, who is being walked like late-90s Barry Bonds (100–130 times per year), and teammate Mookie Betts. Martinez and Betts have been neck-and-neck in batting average (.330 and up) and slugging percentage (.620 and up) all year. The dynamism of Betts and the unflappable Martinez have broken up too many games to count in this sensational season for Boston. Xander Bogaerts has bounced back emphatically from an uneven, injury-hampered 2017 season. Andrew Benintendi has produced steadily throughout the season. Both continue to grow into their power, each of them likely to finish with 40+ doubles and 20+ homers with quality glovework. Jackie Bradley’s center field continues to be Gold-Glove-worthy. Still, there are causes for concern. Chris Sale’s second-half letdown has been a career trend. This year, with the AL East race wrapped up early, the Sox have rested Sale for much of August. It may end up costing him the Cy Young, but they’re hopeful it brings a World Series ring. In his place, David Price has been spectacular and Eduardo Rodriguez who came back at the end of August, is finding his groove again. There are questions in the bullpen as well. Who gets the call in front of Kimbrel? Who is the go-to lefty? If Sale is right, the Red Sox are primed and ready for October. In the meantime, they’ll continue their march toward 110 wins. The franchise mark is 105.

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