Extra Baggs: Baseball's best can be found out west

Extra Baggs: Baseball's best can be found out west
May 12, 2014, 12:15 pm
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We on the West Coast can continue to appreciate watching two of the most talented shortstops the Bay Area has ever produced. And we can watch the A’s in a bad stadium but at bargain-basement prices.
Andrew Baggarly

Through 37 games Troy Tulowitzki is hitting .395 with 11 home runs and 33 RBI. He also has a .497 OBP. (USATI)

Programming note: Braves-Giants coverage starts tonight at 6:30 p.m. on Comcast SportsNet Bay Area with Giants Pregame Live. (Channel Locations)

SAN FRANCISCO – We here on the West Coast understand certain realities.

We get why Sunday Night Baseball is usually the Yankees and Red Sox from Yankee Stadium, unless it happens to be the Red Sox and Yankees from Fenway Park. We understand that population equals eyeballs, which equal ratings, which equal higher ad rates, which equal money, and if any for-profit venture has enough of it to stuff their pockets, then it’s time to sew some new pockets.

It’s not like California is Guam. But there are more eyeballs in the Eastern Time Zone.

So we know why most of the country is unfamiliar with defensive artistry of Giants shortstop Brandon Crawford. We know why they aren’t fully appreciating the two-way dynamism of Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, who is by far the game’s most valuable player as we near the quarter pole. And we know how the A’s could have the best team in baseball when the average fan probably couldn’t name three players on their roster.

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Well, guess what? Remember that mighty, might AL East we’ve heard about for years? Remember how, for longer than anyone can remember, it has laid claim to the title of “Baseball’s Best Division?”

It might be too quick to say the empire has fallen. But it’s showing signs of crumbling.

Things look normal on the surface. The Baltimore Orioles lead the AL East with a 20-15 record, with the Yankees and Red Sox both a game over .500. But only one team in the division has a positive run differential – and that’s the Melky Cabrera-led Blue Jays, at plus-11.

Compare that to the AL West, where the A’s are 23-15 with a plus-63 differential. The Angels are 19-17, but their plus-32 differential hints that they’re better than that. And they’re shooting for a four-game sweep in Toronto on Monday, by the way.

In fairness, the AL West also has the two clubs with the worst run differential in the league. The Houston Astros are at minus-60 and the Texas Rangers, surprisingly, at minus-28. And besides, it’s early. So temper your Pythagorean enthusiasm for now.

Point is, if you had to name the best division in the AL, it wouldn’t be the East.

Same is true in the National League. The best and worst can be found out West.

The Giants, who couldn’t beat anybody outside the NL West last season, are 7-2 outside the division and are tied for Milwaukee with the best record in the National League. The Rockies’ plus-55 differential is two times better than anyone else in the NL. (It’s the Giants, at plus-26.) And while Charlie Blackmon has been a massive surprise in Colorado, the Rockies are just now receiving Jhoulys Chacin, their underrated ace, back into the rotation.

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If there’s one West Coast team that gets plenty of attention, it’s the Dodgers. Baseball’s richest payroll and Magic Johnson and Yasiel Puig bat flips all have a way of standing out. At a game over .500 and plus-6 on the runs ledger, they are the epitome of treading water. But Clayton Kershaw is back after missing the first month, and in three starts, he looks every bit the same Cy Young pitcher.

The Giants are off to a great start in this rivalry, winning seven of 10. But the Dodgers will be there in the end.

And if they’re playing for the division in September, there’s a good chance Sunday Night Baseball will pick up the game.

Until then, we on the West Coast can continue to appreciate watching two of the most talented shortstops the Bay Area has ever produced. And we can watch the A’s in a bad stadium but at bargain-basement prices.

We don’t need those 5 p.m. starts on Sundays, anyway. Hitters hate the shadows.

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