Too Good to be True?

It’s basic self-defense that when we meet someone who seems not to have an obnoxious bone in their body, that we refer to them as being “too good to be true”. So rather than accept we may have slightly overestimated them, that maybe they’re merely ‘very nice’, that there is something dodgy or nefarious about them.

“Someone THAT good must be hiding something” (such as a machete up their sleeve and a bloody past), or “What do they want?” (your heart/trust in order to dash them both, or maybe simply all your money).

At the halfway point of the Major League Baseball season we have a number of candidates for “Too good to be true” status – let’s cast our ceaselessly cynical gaze over a few of them:

1. Baltimore Orioles
In their defence…well, not really their defence but you know what I mean, they’re still not that good. They got off to a fast start, leading the AL East for large parts of the early season, and currently lie in second place behind the Yankees. But at only 5 games over .500 they’re not good so much as the Red Sox and Rays are poor. The Orioles’ run differential of -36 almost mirrors that of a Kansas City team that finds itself wallowing 10 games under .500. By season’s end – more probably by the end of July – Baltimore will find themselves in the more familiar waters of 4th/5th place in the AL East.

Verdict: Bye bye Baltimore

2. Pittsburgh Pirates
Only 2.5 games separate the Pirates from the third-place Cardinals, yet their run differential of +32 seems to indicate that they’re no fluke. Certainly the pitching is as good as it’s been since the early 1990’s and in Andrew McCutcheon they have the league’s leading hitter and a genuine MVP candidate. They’re going to need to get serious about upgrading their lineup though – as we get closer to the business end of the season and Pittsburgh still leads the NL Central, McCutcheon is going to get pitched around and they just don’t have enough hitting to cope with that right now.

I don’t really see their pitching holding up either, and I’ve dissed this team way too often to back down now…

Verdict: The Candyman’s waiting for them…any time now…

3. Jose Bautista (outfielder, Blue Jays)
We’re 3 years in to Bautista’s ongoing status as a too-good-to-be-truism waiting to happen, and yet here he is with a 5-year contract for $65m that now looks like a steal. Bautista’s a dead-red pull hitter with a swing so violent I’m afraid his back might just come apart at any time. In parts of six seasons from ’04-’09 he hit 59 home runs…and then hit 97 in the following two seasons. This season he’s on pace for 53 because he’s still being fed a generous diet of fastballs by opposing pitching staffs confident that whatever Jose does, they’ll score heavily on the woeful Blue Jays pitching staff.

Verdict: as long as he plays for a non-contender with no pitching, he’ll do just fine.

4. RA Dickey (pitcher, NY Mets)
Before cracking the Mets’ starting rotation in 2010, Dickey was lugging around season ERA’s over 6. Intelligent nice guy, but couldn’t really throw a baseball too well…until he retrained himself as a knuckleballer and, at age 37, is now an elite pitcher half-way through his second season of not embarrassing himself. Now he just embarrasses hitters with his break-dancing knucklers and floaty fastballs. Surely it can’t last?

Verdict: The story is highly unlikely and one-in-a-generation rare…but Dickey combines a personal history almost too traumatic to be true with a comeback so profound and so hard-won that it’s too good to be false. Much as I dislike the Mets, I’m rooting for this guy…

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