Boston Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz is off to a thunderous start, trying to keep his team afloat in the standings. Credit: Mike DiNovo-US PRESSWIRE

Angels Biggest Underachievers

Here we are at the end of April and the biggest conclusion to be drawn is that none of us knows what we are talking about. The prediction business is dead, kaput. It’s been just about a month since the Major League season began and for so many teams it appears we have been living in a parallel universe. A whole bunch of teams that seemed like a lock to be good in 2012 have been mediocre or just plain bad.

Then there are the teams that if someone told you when spring training camp was breaking that so-so would be in first place you would have laughed so hard you would have broken a rib. (Hello there Washington, Baltimore and Cleveland.)

So here’s baseball as we head into May: Little seems as if it should be and who knows whether it’s all a fluke and by the end of May everything we thought might play out this season will be reality, after all.

Take the Los Angeles Angels. What the heck? The Angels figured to be battling it out all season with the Texas Rangers for pre-eminence in the American League West. Instead, the Rangers are one of those rare teams living up to anticipated form and the Angels are bottom feeders at 7-14. Pretty soon the LA fan base will see if Albert Pujols can be traded back to St. Louis for Dal Maxvill. He was hitting .216 through Sunday with no home runs. Al, baby, you ain’t gonna catch Barry Bonds at this rate.

Compared to a week ago the Red Sox look like a juggernaut. Given all of the wounded warriors littering their 40-man roster, it’s a wonder they are around .500. It helps that 500-year-old designated hitter David Ortiz is hitting about .400. At least given the casualty list the Red Sox have an excuse to be underachievers.

There are good surprises and bad surprises. Someone please explain the 14-8 Baltimore Orioles to me. The last time the Orioles played like that Cal Ripken Jr. still had a streak going and Jim Palmer hadn’t yet branched into the underwear selling business.

Everyone expected the Washington Nationals to be better, but not first-place-threatening better. All of the young-uns are starting to pay dividends. Mickey Vernon is with them in spirit.

And how about those Cardinals? They are playing as if no one noticed they have a rookie manager in Mike Matheny and that one of the best players in franchise history fled without big-league compensation. David Freese arrived as a playoff monster last fall and he is playing as if he doesn’t know an entire winter passed between games that counted. And the starting pitching is unreal. Front-line starters get hurt, the Cards plug in a bullpen guy, and the entire rotation throws like Dizzy Dean times five. Half of the nation’s baseball fans can’t even name St. Louis’ rotation, but 4/5ths of them are on pace to be chosen for the All-Star game.

Some of the biggest losers (Minnesota, Kansas City, the Astros, the Cubs) are doing exactly what their talent level indicated, but crowding them for one of the worst records in the game besides the inept Angels are the Miami Marlins. Remember that the Marlins paid out major bucks for the 2011 National League batting champ, Jose Reyes, and he commanded Pujols money. He is also in Pujols hitting territory, with a .205 average.

There are many teams playing in the .500 range. For some (Cleveland) that represents a thumbs-up showing. For others, (Philadelphia, Cincinnati), that is a thumbs-down bummer. The Phillies are challenging the Red Sox for first place in the most-hurt players sweepstakes, and the hitting is reminiscent of the Phils hitting of yesteryear, like the 1940s. On the bright side, closer Jonathan Papelbon has been worth the gold they paid for to snag him in free agency.

The Yankees’ starting pitching has been shaky (it’s probably bye-bye to Freddy Garcia soon), but New York is starting to rumble anyway, partially because no one figured Derek Jeter for a .400 hitter as he closes in on 40. It he plays like this all season the Yanks won’t wait to put up a statue of him when he retires. They’ll bronze him for Christmas.

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Tags: Albert Pujols Baltimore Orioles Barry Bonds Boston Red Sox Cal Ripken Jr. Chicago Cubs Cincinnati Reds Cleveland Indians Dal Maxvill David Ortiz Derek Jeter Dizzy Dean Freddy Garcia Houston Astros Jim Palmer Jonathan Papelbon Jose Reyes Kansas City Royals Los Angeles Angels Miami Marlins Mike Matheny Minnesota Twins New York Yankees Philadelphia Phillies St Louis Cardinals Texas Rangers Washington Nationals

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