The Say Hey Division

By Jonah Keri


Last season the National West nearly made history for being the first division ever to be won by an under-.500 team. The San Diego Padres squeaked above the breakeven point by year’s end, but the division will still go down as one of the worst in MLB history.


Two months into the 2006 BrassWorld season, the Mays division is shaping up as the anti-NL West—one of the best collections of top teams in league history. All six teams ended the monthly of May comfortably over .500, a feat made more remarkable given that many of these squads have battled each other.


Rob Foulke’s Mansfield Mounties lead the pack with an eye-popping 38-17 record (.691), the third-best mark in the league. Throw in Mansfield’s strength of schedule and this is arguably the most impressive record in BrassWorld. Mansfield sports a balanced roster with several key contributors. Moises Alou has led the offense with a sky-high 1.020 OPS (on-base percentage plus slugging average). Placido Polanco (.915), J.D. Drew (.886), Cliff Floyd (.845) and Michael Cuddyer (.811) have also fared well. The Mounties have surged to the top of the division despite the slow start of Mark Teixeira, hitting just .248 AVG/.324 OBP/.472 SLG so far, well off his 2005 MLB numbers. Mansfield’s strength has been its starting pitching, led by Mark Prior (6-2, 1.74 ERA), Andy Pettitte (10-1, 2.08) and Jake Peavy (7-0, 2.26), the best trio in the league. No-name relievers Jay Witasick (0.59 ERA), Dan Wheeler (2.93) and Aaron Fultz (3.24) have provided smooth sailing for closer Jason Isringhausen (16 saves).


One game out of first sits Corey Weisser’s Northwoods Moose (37-18, .673). Resembling the Blake Street Bombers Colorado Rockies edition of 1995, the Moose have relied on a powerful offense and stout bullpen to carry the load. Northwoods offers the counterpoint to Mansfield’s top pitching trio, with the big bats of Travis Hafner (1.117 OPS), Miguel Cabrera (.962) and Jason Bay (.917). Billy Wagner, Francisco Rodriguez, Akinori Otsuka and Rudy Seanez have combined for 10 wins and 15 saves, with the Moose using frequent late-game heroics to win games.


The Aspen Rainmakers have been one of the league’s biggest pleasant surprises (33-22, .600). Though lacking the power hitting of some of their division rivals (61 team homers, vs. 66 allowed), the Rainmakers have outhit their opponents, with a .265 batting average to rivals’ .253. The cavalcade of .300 hitters includes Sean Casey (.315), Jason Phillips (.329), Omar Vizquel (.329) and Marlon Byrd (.341). Erik Bedard has led a blistering start by several pitchers, with a 3-1 record, 2.34 ERA and just home run allowed in 35 innings pitched. Bobby Howry (1.59 ERA), Scott Eye (1.66), Bob Wickman (2.08), Ryan Franklin (2.40), Shigetoshi Hasegawa (2.61) have fared better in BrassWorld than you’d expect on paper. But slow starts by David Dellucci, Chris Reitsma, Ryan Freel and others figure to even out as well.


The Montreal McGaffigans and Maryland Mounders own identical 32-23 records (.582), good enough to lead two of the three other divisions, but incredibly tied for just fourth place in the Mays division. Montreal’s struggles on the road have curtailed a strong start north of the border. Vladimir Guerrero has relived some fond Montreal memories so far this year, ranking among the Triple Crown leaders with a .354 average, 19 homers and 45 RBI—he’s also put up a 1.070 OPS. Tony Clark (14 homers) and Jhonny Peralta (11) have fueled one of the biggest power surges of the early season. Roger Clemens, as expected, has been the ace of an up-and-down pitching staff, with a 6-2 mark and a 3.08 ERA. Bronson Arroyo (5-3, 3.84) and Giovanni Carrara (2.17 ERA, 37 IP) have been the biggest pitching surprises. Adam Dunn is in the running for biggest bust of the year for Jonah Keri’s squad, hitting a miserable .185 with just five homers.


Bill Galanis’ Maryland team has relied on one superstar to lead the team so far: Sandy Alomar Jr. OK, not really. But the team has few weaknesses, with Victor Martinez providing the best offensive punch of any BrassWorld catcher (.318/.374/.488), Scott Podsednik running wild on the bases (19 steals), Todd Helton hitting .332 with an astounding 25 doubles, and Reggie Sanders playing at an MVP level (.349/.407/.689). Cory Lidle (3.24 ERA), Jon Lieber (3.33) and Josh Beckett (3.41) lead a deep starting staff. Early “Where did THAT come from” leader Tony Graffanino is hitting .407, and Joe Borowski’s 1.78 ERA is nearly 3 runs lower than his ’05 MLB number.


Rounding out the Mays, the West Oakland Wolverines have to be the toughest last-place team ever. The Ziem Team’s 30-25 record would be tied for first in the Cobb division. There’s star talent here, with John Patterson off to a 5-3, 3.11 ERA start, Richie Sexson terrorizing opposing pitchers to the tune of .306/.435/.653 and Huston Street throwing in 12 saves and an amazing 42 punchouts in 30 innings of relief ace work. Todd Walker (1.038 OPS) and Kevin Mench (1.021) have been masterfully handled, the former staying away from lefty pitchers, the latter crushing them. John Smoltz has been the biggest hard-luck pitcher in the division, amassing a lowly 2-7 record despite a sharp 3.87 ERA.


The Mays division will see plenty of action outside its own division in June. Will the rest of the league defend its honor, or will the Say Hey division keep up its dominant play?