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The winless club and the undefeated club

So we're in one series into the 2011 season, which means that no team has played more than 2.5 percent of the schedule. You know the drill - we're so excited that there are finally games that mean something, yet we have to find a way to place the early results in context.

I know that, when I'm writing columns off April games, I wind up using the phrase "For now" a lot. As in: "Of course we can't say that this series means the Mets will be good throughout the season. But for now, the Mets are happy."

Speaking of which, off yesterday's Mets game, I wrote about the increasingly remarkable R.A. Dickey.

This morning, however, let's take a back at all of MLB and perform one of my favorite annual exercises: The winless club and the undefeated club (did the headline give it away?). There were four sweeps - two in the American League, two in the National League - which leaves us with four 3-0 teams and four 0-3 teams. Here are the standings.

Of course, a three-game winning or losing streak out of the gate feels so much more powerful than such a streak in, say, June. You want to put that first win in the books so badly, and the anxiety grows with each loss. And the undefeated teams get a nice boost of energy.

Rather than conduct serious analysis of what has transpired - because what has transpired, again, are a few mere three-game winning and losing streak, let's make a parlor game out of it and try to guess which teams will stay undefeated the longest and which will stay winless the longest.

Since the media is by law required to focus on the negative, let's start with the winless group. We'll start with the teams most likely to stay in the zero column and move our way down to the clubs that will probably get off the schneid first.

 1. Houston. The Astros "won" this contest last year, starting off 0-8, although I don't think that'll factor into this year's results. No, it's simply a matter of the schedule. Houston visits undefeated Cincinnati for three games starting tomorrow.

2. Tampa Bay. The Rays should defeat the Angels - who look terrible so far (yes, yes, small sample, of course) - sometime this week, but Evan Longoria's injury obviously weakens them.

3. Milwaukee. This is a logisitcal call and nothing more. The Brewers play this afternoon against Atlanta. Therefore they have the first opportunity to pick up a victory.

4. Boston. Sure, like many of my other media brethren, I think the Red Sox are going to wind up pretty good. I also think that Texas, which swept the Red Sox, has an awesome offensive team and deserves credit (as much as or more than Boston deserves blame) for the sweep. I also think that the Indians, whom the Red Sox visit starting tomorrow night, aren't very good.

OK, now let's move over to the undefeated group. Same deal - we'll start with the team most likely to progress into the season without a loss and go toward the club that will probably lose first.

1. Cincinnati. You might have heard that the Reds are playing the winless Astros at home this week.

2. Philadelphia. A tough call between the Phillies and Rangers for this spot, but as WhyNot noted in his comment yesterday, I don't see the Mets' Chris Young being a good fit for Citizens Bank Park tomorrow night. Wednesday will be interesting for the Mets and Phillies, as Philadelphia's one pedestrian starter Joe Blanton takes the mound.

3. Texas. Really, the Reds, Phillies and Rangers could all cruise through the week, as Texas has Seattle at home. We're just splitting hairs with the rankings because that's what the exercise requires.

4. Baltimore. Because the Orioles are the only team of the undefeated quartet to play today, opening their home schedule against Detroit. Because the Tigers can be pretty good, as the Yankees saw yesterday. And because, you know, they are the Orioles. Even with Buck Showalter roaming the dugout and an improved roster, it's going to be a tough hike for them in the American League East.

--Speaking of the Yankees, Anthony Rieber offers what we've learned and what we haven't so far.

--Bartolo Colon didn't pitch well in his Yankees debut. I still wonder whether the Yankees would've been better off letting Colon start, with which he's far more experienced, and just riding him as long as he stays healthy, be it two starts or 20.

--Back over to the Mets, Willie Harris had a good weekend. 

--Speaking of Dickey and tough hikes, the knuckleballer told David Waldstein of The New York Times that he wants to climb Mount Kilimanjaro.

--Speaking of The New York Times, good piece by Tyler Kepner on Gerrit Cole, the Yankees' unsigned 2008 first-round draft pick.

--All right, stop by later today (but not too late) for a giveaway contest, and tonight, I'll be at Twins-Yankees.




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