The Cardinals played their first game of the year one week ago today; they close out the opening road trip today at an irritatingly early hour then head home for the first time in 2012. There are plenty of things we could talk about regarding the Cardinals, from the starting rotation to the bullpen worries to the noticeable lack of sacrifice bunting in the Mike Matheny era. But, I'm kind of planning to do a first impressions article tomorrow at my other gig, so I won't just repeat myself.
Instead, here are four non-Cardinal impressions I get from around baseball through this first week of the season.
- The Tigers are most definitely for real. I actually picked Detroit to win the World Series in my preseason picks (beating our own Redbirds, no less), and I'm feeling pretty good about that pick after seeing the Tigers play in the early going. The defense sucks -- having Miguel Cabrera's rather large posterior parked at third base will do that to you -- but their offense is so good it might not matter. I do worry about pitchers like Fister and Porcello, groundball guys, pitching in front of that infield, but the Tigers are absolutely loaded, and I think they're going to just absolutely demolish that division this season.
- The Phillies are in trouble. When I was picking teams, I thought the Phillies would win their division this season, but also added that I might say differently if you asked me next year. Well, I may have been off by a year. Their starting rotation is still great, but the offense is much worse than I expected it to be. We all knew the Phils were getting old; it looks like it may have already caught up with them.
- I don't think the NL West is a very good division this year. The Diamondbacks are a very solid team, capable of winning in a variety of ways, but every other team in that division looks to be extremely flawed -- possibly even fatally so -- right out of the gate. The Giants have no offense, the Rockies have no pitching, the Dodgers have Magic, but will need actual magic to compete this year, and the Padres look like a team still a couple years away.
- Walt Jocketty clearly didn't learn anything about not signing players to big contracts that will take them well into the declining years of their careers. I understand that the Brandon Phillips/Joey Votto signings were more than just contract extensions. Both were supposed to serve as statement contracts, statements that the Reds could keep their players and compete with anyone. Considering the direction the Reds' farm system is heading in,though, I'm thinking the message they end up sending may be a cautionary tale, focusing on how easy it is for mid-market teams to spend themselves into a corner.