Monday, June 19, 2006

Spring has come again, which means another great season of America’s jacked-up pastime! With increased salary caps and new products from the finest minds in sports science, even the most down-in-the-dumps dogs of the league have a shot at glory in the World Series. So while all the pundits sit around scratching their heads about which of the top guns of the league will be setting their sights for a championship ring, here are my top four teams to look out for, those puny guys who are just one booster away from becoming true contenders.

Houston Hypos: By now everyone’s heard about the “shot heard ‘round the world,” and I’m not just talking about the locker room! When Todd Rickenshaw smacked the first pitch of the exhibition game out into the bleachers, even the fellas working the scoreboard were ready to tally one run for the visiting Cincinnati Cycles. Of course, that was before the ball careened straight into one unlucky fan’s head, knocking it back off the neck like a broken Pez dispenser, and then bounced back onto the field of play. To their credit, the outfield grasped the situation right away and scrambled to contain Rickenshaw at third before officials ruled the fluke a ground-rule double. Needless to say, everyone in Houston breathed a sigh of relief, and the Hypos rallied, sealing the fate of the Cycles in the eighth inning with an insurmountable 87-run lead. This is the kind of team that’s sure to leave its fans sitting white-knuckled throughout the game, but their composure in these kinds of circumstances is what wins championships.

Tallahassee Juicers: This young team of underachievers has always been known throughout the league as a bevy of wasting talent, but something seems to have jumped up and bit the Juicers in the ass. With the way Pedro Ferrer’s been swinging during batting practice, I wouldn’t be surprised if Tallahassee holds court for the new homerun king. And honestly, with a mere 164 as the number to beat this year, it’s only a matter of time before the runners of another homerun race emerge. Now, if Ferrer can keep the domestic violence charges down to an even baker’s dozen, the Juicers have a real shot as the dominating force in their division.

Raleigh Roid-Ragers: While there are no superstars to speak of on this team, this is where dynamics comes in to play in a huge way. Sure, they had absolutely no post-season last year, but a look at the stats will show their true strength (and weakness). The majority of so-called aggressive plays (i.e. brandishing a bat during base-running, head butts at the plate, etc.) and record hit-by-pitches among the bullpen certainly crippled them in 2005, but there’s a silver lining here. These pitchers have certified real estate on the plate, and at least a third of the batters on the opposing bench have drained team funds with MRIs and medical treatment. Mark my words on these sleepers: you will be hearing the primal screams of their fans (and sitting behind their trademark “bacne”) come October.

New York Nut-less Wonders: Don’t let the name and high-pitched voices fool you. These guys may have testes the size of garbanzo beans, but they’ve got a lot of the one muscle that steroids have yet to metastasize: heart.

Eric Silver is a freelance writer living in Brooklyn. His work has been published in McSweeney’s, Eyeshot, and If you have a problem and no one else can help, and if you can find him, maybe you can hire him.

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