Monday, September 23, 2019

Marco's Baseball Blog-O-Roonie 2019: Law of Averages


MARCO’S BASEBALL BLOG-O-ROONIE 2019: LAW OF AVERAGES

It always happens sooner or later. A freak hurricane stalls over one place for 2 days, dumping rain by the yard on one cursed spot until inundation is complete.

Remember that damned Hurricane Harvey that clobbered Houston a couple of years ago? 50 some odd inches it deposited upon the freeways and reservoirs of the Bayou City over a few days...and it’s happening again as I write this.

But that wasn’t even the worst deluge in this state’s history. No, that would be the famous rainstorm in Thrall, Texas, just north of Austin, in 1921, when a hurricane parked over Williamson county and proceeded to obliterate the little farming town under a record 38 inch waterfall in one 24 hour period, still the all-time record rainfall for one day in the history of the continental United States. (It supposedly rained almost 50 inches in one 24 hour period on the island of Kauai in the state of Hawaii in 2018.) Drowned 215 people when there weren’t that many people available to drown. Wiped out everything...houses, stores, livestock, roads...almost erased that little town from the Earth. Estimated damage of 19 million in 1921 dollars...don’t even ask me how much that would be today.

I was reminded of Thrall when I saw the pictures of the Bahamas on TV during the attack of Hurricane Dorian. Appalling, frightening devastation. But the Bahamas took the punch that was aimed at Florida and milked the life out of that Category 5 until it finally meandered away to the north, hopefully sparing the southern U.S. from the worst of its weapons.

I hope our country offers some help to the ruined islands that absorbed that punishment. It would be a good way to honor Roberto Clemente (his Day...Sept. 20) who died trying to bring emergency supplies to earthquake victims in Central America.

COMEBACKS: Baseball seems like a slightly unseemly sideshow compared to the suffering of a whole nation, but that’s the way of the world. There’s always a disaster somewhere and humanity needs something exciting and epic to remind us that we must celebrate when and whatever we can in the interludes between apocalypses.

And so I give thanks that I can occasionally turn to my favorite sport to give me surcease. So thank you Washington Nationals for coming back from a 6 run deficit in the ninth inning of your game with the Mets and winning, 11-10, overcoming such a margin for the first time in 275 baseball games played in the major leagues this year.
It’s especially notable because the Nats gave up 5 runs in the top of the ninth when their shortstop, the normally excellent Trea Turner, forgot how many outs there were in the inning and didn’t feed his second baseman for a made to order double play that would have ended the frame. Something you almost never see from a major league shortstop.

Usually when a team makes a boner like that, psychological paralysis occurs and the offending Bozos lie down and die. But not the Nats. They got collectively Smoking Hot and rattled off 7 hits, culminating in a mythic 3 run homer by Kurt Suzuki that flushed the Mets. The New Yorkers themselves have had quite a few walk-off moments this second half of the season, as they have come back from total irrelevancy, but none like this.

PHENOMS: Perhaps the most compelling event in baseball the last couple of years is the sudden arrival of the young adult ball players who look like future superstars… if they’re not superstars already. I’m talking about the under-21 set: Ronald Acuna, Juan Soto and Fernando Tatis in the National League and Vlad Guerrero, Raphael Devers and Gleyber Torres in the American. This is not including some more youngsters who are definite stars in the making. Players like Yordan Alvarez in Houston (22 years old) and Bo Bichette in Toronto (21) and a whole bunch of players aged from 20-22 who are looking awfully good. And that’s just the everyday players! Not even counting the young pitchers!

So what’s going on? In the history of baseball, there have always been stars who made it to the bigs early. Mickey Mantle was 19 but it still took him about 3 years to get hot. Same with Willie Mays, who came up as a 20-year old in 1951 and didn’t really get it going until he had spent a year and a half in the army and came back to lead the league in several hitting categories in 1954.

The ultimate teenage Hall of Famer was Mel Ott of the old New York Giants. Manager John McGraw saw him as a 16 year old and kept him on the major league roster so some minor league hitting instructor wouldn’t try to change his batting style... which was revolutionary at the time.

I’m talking about the timing step that Ott developed on his own where he balanced on his back leg (he hit leftie) as the pitch was delivered and raised his right leg in the air before launching himself at the pitch. Saduhara Oh had a very similar style. It’s something you see everyday in the majors these days but Ott was the first to do it, and by the time he was 20 he was a triple crown threat and went on to lead the league in home runs 6 times as a 170 pounder!

So teenage Phenoms have always been with us, but this new crop is not only impressive….they are already leading the league in hitting categories! Kind of extraordinary, but there’s a reason.

The reason is that scouting in the information age has gotten really good at identifying future stars. The reason is that coaching at every level is taking advantage of major league norms like pitching machines, weight training and nutrition. High School teams have whirlpools and video. Players aren’t taking 5 or 6 years to learn the game and they are becoming major league ready at an earlier age.

Also, there is room for them on major league rosters with the new trend of moving middle-grade veterans off of rosters and out of the game as soon as they hit the edge of their decline phase and are earning more money. There’s a constant vacuum on 40 man rosters that can be filled with young and hungry ball players from the Caribbean, Japan, Central America and other baseball crazy cultures.
These players are well-trained and fresh and healthy and play the game well enough to insert them into starting roles right away. No more waiting til they’re seasoned 25 year olds before moving them up.

And it’s going to stay that way. MLB teams are going to keep young, controllable players on their rosters and get rid of the old Pros. Pay super stars like Torres and Guerrero the minimum as they start leading the league in various stats. When they are eligible for arbitration and free agency, let them go and pick up the draft choices and draft some more Wunderkinds. Churn the roster. Turn it over to a new generation of players every five years. Don’t wind up with a 42 year old former hero like Albert Pujols that’s collecting 30 million a year. Just keep paying Ronald Acuna $560,000 to become a 40-40 man at age 21.

Of course Acuna is pretty good so maybe dangle a long-term contract in front of him like the Braves just did...and the new Willie Mays will be a Brave until he’s 30 at least (with team options to buy him out or get rid of him if he gets hurt). What’s Ronald going to be making at age 30? 17 million a year folks. Yes, I know... sounds good. Not exactly a pitiful amount. But 17 million is chicken feed compared to the contracts older stars have regularly commanded...stars that have never come close to Acuna’s performance.

It’s the new paradigm.

FOR YOUR INFORMATION: 11 MLB franchises have set their all time record for most homers in a season this year. SO FAR!
Of the 138 MLB players who qualify for batting awards based on 3.1 plate appearances per team game...98 of them have 20 homers or more. SO FAR! That’s 2/3 of the the regular players in all of the major leagues! 28 guys have hit at least 35 taters. SO FAR!

I never thought I’d see a season where somebody who hits 25 homers would be considered anemic.



This will go down with the 1930 NL rabbit ball year and a couple of the big steroid eras seasons as the most out of the norm years in baseball history. (See last blog on the rabbit ball currently being used now that MLB owns Rawlings.)

PENNANT RACES: The Cubbies just got flatten-ated by the Cardinals in four straight 1-run defeats at Wrigley Field. First time St. Louis has swept a four game series at Wrigley since 1921. And these were ugly, bitter losses. In the game Saturday closer Craig Kimbrel came in for the Adorables and gave up two consecutive dingers. Then, on Sunday, with the relief squad depleted, Joe Maddon let Yu Darivsh start the ninth inning after throwing 100 pitches and giving up only one run. Guess who lost?

That means the Brewers are tied with Washington for the wild cards even after losing their MVP Yelich. I don’t think anybody will catch the Cardinals but baseball is whacky this year.

Look out for the Nationals in the Playoffs. Those three starters they have...all Aces...look pretty formidable in a short series. Of course their bullpen is filled with the ghosts of relievers past. But Scherzer, Strasburg and Corbin are all firing the ball. That’s one more Ace than any other team has. I guess the Dodgers are close with Kershaw, Buehler and Ryu.

The Braves are fun to watch with all those great everyday players but I don’t think their starters are in the same class as the Dodgers or the Nationals.

Over in the American League the Astros have Verlander, Cole and Greinke. Those first two are the most dominant pitchers in baseball right now. That makes the Astros sort of a better hitting version of a two-headed starter- monster rotation than the Arizona Diamondbacks of 2001 had with Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling.

The Yankees are super in the bullpen. Good thing because none of their starters except perhaps james Paxton can seem to pitch more than 5 innings per start. If it comes down to the Yanks vs. the Stros for the AL pennant I pick the Astros... but I’m watching that series!

And don’t forget about the Twins and the Oakland Athletics. Very similar teams made up of .250 hitting power boys who mash the long ball. Short on pitching, both of them...but they can crush in a short series.

October is just around the corner. It’s been a long summer and I’m ready for autumn baseball.

Best to you all!

Marco


Thursday, August 8, 2019

MARCO'S BASEBAL BLOG-O-ROONIE 2019: THE SMOKING BASEBALL GUN


MARCO’S BASEBALL BLOG-O-ROONIE 2019: THE SMOKING BASEBALL GUN

1/ Pardon me while I rant.

The Cubs were playing somebody at Wrigley...the only place the Cubs can seem to win a game. This is a big game for Kyle Schwarber, an affable, popular player for the Cubs who has settled in as perhaps the prototypical 21st century ball player. He’s a six footer playing at a stocky 235 pounds and is plenty strong. He has a beautiful leftie uppercut swing. He’s had 420 plate appearances this year and has 24 round trippers. Good...right? Baseball doesn’t want you to focus on anything other than that...look at all those glorious, photogenic home runs sailing over the ballyard fences of our national game!

Screw you MLB...I’m looking at more than taters.

Don’t get me wrong...I like Kyle Schwarber. But he’s struck out 108 times in those 420 plate appearances, batted at a sizzling .229 clip and has an OPS+ (that’s on base plus slugging tweaked to reflect and normalize ballpark effects and general hitting climate) of exactly 100, which means he’s perfectly balanced as the absolute average hitter in baseball today.

In this game left-handed hitter Kyle gets hold of one in an early at bat and blasts it about 450 feet to right center for a long, long home run. A true no-doubter. Credit where credit is due. But in a later at bat, Kyle gets badly fooled on a slider outside. And I mean badly fooled...flailing one handed in a pathetic attempt just to foul it off and save the at bat fooled. His back hand is totally off the bat and he stabs at the pitch with no stride, no follow through, no nothing...and the ball flies out of the ballpark to left field. He hits a 350 foot homer with a mistake swing to the opposite field.

Either Kyle is loading his bat with silly putty or there is something up with the baseballs.

MLB just recently purchased the Rawlings Company, which makes major league baseballs. And this year, for the first time, they also make the baseballs used in Triple A baseball. MLB has wanted to uniformalize(?) the baseballs used in the various levels of professional ball...Rookie, A-ball, Double A, Triple A and the majors...for a while now, but the lower leagues haven’t been able to afford the top brand. This year is the first year that Triple A leagues have gone with Rawlings. The lower leagues are still using cheaper baseballs like “Franklin” and other not so resplendent brands made in the Caribbean or Taiwan or God knows where.

So what you ask? Well, home run totals are about the same or a little bit lower this year than the last few years in the lower levels (A and Double A) of pro ball. (Those leagues that are still using the same balls they used in recent years.) Triple A is where the new balls can be statistically evaluated and in Triple A, 2019, there have already been some 700 MORE home runs hit than in all of 2018, when they still used different baseballs. That’s a new home run record in only two thirds of a season! That’s got to be absolute proof that Rawlings baseballs are juiced compared to what used to be standard in our game.

It’s also proof that Rob Manfred and all the other mealy mouthed apologists for the freakish boom in long ball hitting are lying pieces of excrement. Whether it be tighter lacing on the seams, slippery cow hide, more tightly wrapped cores inside the ball or whatever, these baseballs are JUICED! And that’s why we’re setting new home run records every season and why the major leagues are on track to shatter the record just set in 2018.

Yes, I’ve been the first to point out that other factors, like weight training and recruitment of beefy hitters and the uppercut swing and fresh baseballs constantly being put into the games so the hitters are smacking a brand new baseball on every lousy foul ball they touch and better lighting and shorter fences and warmer weather throughout the continent and blah blah blah are all major factors in the increase of power hitting, but Hey!...the majors are going to break the all time home run record by about 600-800 this year!

No wonder hitting coaches are preaching the uppercut swing! We’re in the golden days of the pop-up tater. Fly ball pitchers are getting creamed. Justin Verlander of the Astros leads the league in ERA and WHIP and led the league in strikeouts last year (290). Well, he’s still leading the league in ERA and WHIP but he’s given up 29 home runs. His previous all time high was 30 surrendered over a whole season for Detroit in 2016. He’s headed for about 40 four baggers surrendered this season. That’s a lot. Justin is absolutely sure that the balls are juiced, by the way. And who can argue with him?

But you can understand it if you realize that fly balls are going about 10% farther on average. So a routine 300 foot fly ball is now going an extra 30 feet, and that gets you to the wall and over it down the lines in most parks.

They’re turning this sport into a video game.

2/ Yet another Pirates/Reds beanball war. Pittsburgh has been teaching their pitchers to throw inside for years now, so they wind up in these blood feuds with a bunch of teams. The thing I object to is throwing head high fastballs at the hitters. Any pitcher who throws a pitch head high on purpose (in the opinion of the umpires because who else have we got who can decide?) should be ejected, suspended and fined. Not for a week or two weeks but for a month or so and for $50,000 or ten per cent of their salary or something. If they hurt somebody make them stay out until that injured batter gets well. I’m not talking about a breaking pitch that gets away a little high. I’m talking about a bullet behind the head. People can get killed or injured for life. If you think you have to “stand up for your hitters”, hit somebody in the butt and then have your fun when they charge the mound. But don’t throw head high. It’s a life and death proposition.

However, there was one moment of sportsmanship and de-escalation in the ongoing Tit for Tat beanball debate.

Jake Marisnick of the Humpin Houstonians came barreling into the plate trying to score on a sac fly to right against the Lost Angels of Anaheim the other day. Being a bearded Hustle-Meister, Jake was going full out and as he approached the plate, right fielder Cole Calhoun’s strong throw was coming into catcher Jonathon Lucroy. What transpired next is debatable in its intention but only too stark in its reality. Lucroy was straddling the line and made a sudden move toward the inside to catch the ball just as Marisnick seemed to swerve inside also...resulting in a train wreck which Lucroy definitely got the worst of. (Every body knows that MLB changed the rules a few years ago after Golden Boy catcher Buster Posey got Laid Out and Leg Broke in a similar turkey shoot at home. No more lost careers for expensive catchers who are sitting turkeys for runners coming home hard and itching to score, ala Pete Rose and the famous All Star Debacle where he launched himself like a cruise missile at Ray Fosse and ended his career. (By the way, they were great friends and had just had dinner together the previous night! But that was Pete Rose!)

Lucroy got his bell rung and broke his nose. Marisnick was declared out for not avoiding the collision when there was a clear path to the base. (Lucroy’s inside move DID clear a path to home on the outside, but I really think Marisnick was going too fast to make that last minute adjustment after committing to his inside path. After all, Lucroy was blocking the outside of the plate just before he made that inside stab for the throw and Jake Marisnick was right on top of him by then. The League didn’t buy it and suspended Marisnick for two games. Lucroy went to the hospital and is probably out for awhile with a concussion along with that busted nose.

My Sportsmanship commendation was Marisnick’s reaction after the play. After touching the plate, he immediately knelt by Lucroy and tried to check him for damage. (Which is why I don’t think he was trying to run over the catcher, it was just a freak play. ) But all the Angels came running in and the manager (Ausmus) berated the umps and got the call of out on Marisnick.

But Marisnick has to have another at bat later in the game. The Angels pitcher of course nails him to even the score on behalf of his wounded catcher. And this was a dangerous, high fastball in that clipped Marisnick on the shoulder and came close to his face. To his credit, Jake never even glances at the Angel pitcher...he just trots down to first. He knows what’s going on but he never complained about that pitch. The Astros dugout makes some squawk about it though, and first baseman Albert Pujols makes his mean face and walks over to their first base dugout to see if anybody wants to continue the conversation. (No takers from the Astros’ bench...very little back talking when you’re dealing with Albert Pujols!) the bullpens spill out of the outfield and come running into the infield for the usual melee but who is that out there being the number one peacemaker? Jake Marisnick! He gets between Pujols and the rest of his teammates and waves his ‘Stros back into their dugout and defuses the escalation right away. He accepts that he was bound to get hit after laying the catcher out like that so why continue the fight? Classy move Jake...and I hope Lucroy recovers quickly.

3/ Big surprises. The Dodgers and the Yankees didn’t make any moves to bolster their pitching staffs for the stretch run. The Dodgers are going to cruise into the playoffs and why should they give up their young talent when they can just bring them up in late August and qualify them for the playoffs ?
They’ve got right-handers Dustin May and Dennis Santana ready and Tony Gonsolin coming next year. Pay the rookies the minimum and forget signing a high-priced free agent- to- be for one season. The rookies are going to be almost as good usually anyway.

The Yankees are probably going to get Betances and Severino back in September. And who are they worried about ? Tampa? Hah! Boston? Double Hah-Hah!

The Yankees are making the Red Sox pitching staff do a good impression of a hog strung up by its back feet with its throat cut, being quickly bled out in preparation for butchering. Only in Fenway can the poor Soxies survive their arsonist pitching staff and score enough runs to beat down the Yanks. Anywhere else, they’re toast.

4/ Remember the Giants? Used to win the World Series every other year. Got a great clutch pitcher Madison Bumgarner, the North Carolina Mountain MadBum? Ready to fight any hitter who admires a home run hit off of him​? Or ready to fight Yasiel Puig anytime Puig steps out of the dugout? They went on a winning streak recently and actually got to second place in the division. Then they lost a few games, but they are still at .500 only 3.5 games out of a wild card spot. (Along with...gulp...seven more teams) they’re only 17.5 games in back of the Dodgers for the division title! Cancel all trades for younger players! Cancel retirement plans for Longoria, Posey and the Panda! We’re 21-9 in our last 30 games! Start printing those World Series tickets!

The Giants are like the cancer patient who temporarily rallies three days before he drops in his tracks. But it’s still nice to watch Yaz’s grandson Mike play well.

5/ For Numero Cinco let’s acknowledge that the previously chronicled Houston Astros have dynamited the levees down in Petrochemical Paradise and have flooded their roster with fresh talent. They picked up Zack Greinke for some top prospects and acquired former ERA champ Aaron Sanchez and reliever Joe Biagini from the Blue Jays. They got catcher Martin Maldonado as well.

The Petros are going for it this year. They want to win another Series before the inevitable free agent losses and player decline sets in with this bunch of Jefes. Springer, Altuve, Correa and Bregman are in their primes. Verlander is having a late career epiphany and Gerrit Cole is under contract for the rest of this year. Yuli Gurriel has turned into a power hitting monster. Michael Brantley is having a career year after leaving Cleveland and rookie Yordan Alvarez has an OPS+ (remember that?) of 189 over his first 41 games. That’s Willie McCovey territory.

Houston has the best record in the game (along with the Dodgers) and has to be the favorite to go all the way in the AL this year and maybe more. Hell, I even picked them to win it this year, and that’s before they got Greinke and Alvarez.

6/ Pennant races to watch:

NL East because Atlanta is looking solid as a Division winner but the Nats and Phils are shaky and somehow the Mets have come alive after NOT trading Syndergaard and are steamrolling the competition.

NL Central because nobody is playing better than anybody else. Pittsburgh appears out of it now but Cincinnati is still fighting and the Cubs, Cards and Brewers are just beating each other up. I keep waiting for one Cubs hitter and one Cubs pitcher (Darvish?) to get real hot and get them over the finish line. Or one Cards hitter and one Cardinal pitcher. So far no takers even though Goldschmidt is stirring. The only guy looking to play Jedai with the Force is Yellich. But do the Brewers have a stopper on that weak pitching staff? To be determined…

In the AL it’s looking doubtful that the Red Sox can catch Cleveland, Tampa Bay or even Oakland for a wild card. The mystery is how the Boston pitching staff has gotten so mediocre so fast. Sale (ERA 4.68), Price, Porcello (ERA 5.64), and Cashner (ERA 7.53 and I hope you didn’t purchase a Boston residence just yet) are all coughing up hairballs every start. Only Eduardo Rodriguez has pitched at all well and his WHIP is a very bad 1.340. their bullpen gets lit up every night in the late innings so the hitters don’t feel like they can ever score enough runs to win. It’s a crappy situation.

My money is now on Oakland to win the second wild card and face Cleveland in the play-in game. But I expect Houston to make the Series.

Happy August...stay frosty.

Marco

Monday, July 8, 2019

MARCO'S BASEBALL BLOG-O-ROONIE 2019: THE BEACHMASTER


MARCO’S BASEBALL BLOG-O-ROONIE 2019:

THE BEACHMASTER

Having had two knee replacements this year, I have had an inordinate amount of time to lie on my butt in my big bed (equipped with one of those remotes that you can raise and lower your head and feet with) watching all kinds of cable TV and movies and baseball games and documentaries and such. I also got addicted to all those animal planet type shows. “Cannibal Lions of the Savannah”, “Killer Baboons of the Southern Veldt”, “What? Giraffe Again?! (a Hyena’s Journey)”...You know the kind.

One of my favorites is called African Murder Mysteries or something like that where it starts with a dead animal lying in the dirt and then makes you guess among four suspects who the killer was. There’s a dead lion cub...he either screwed up on a buffalo hunt, ate porcupine quills by mistake, pissed off a solitary male lion who killed him so as to bring his mother into breeding heat again, (lions are kind of funky fathers) or succumbed to Climate Change. (Everything gets blamed on Climate Change these days. It turns out the cub was helping the pride bring down a cape buffalo and got his head stomped by a buffalo hoof...but the buffalo was driven mad by Climate Change!)

In one episode, they featured a dead male hippo lying in the shallow water of the waterhole (shockingly shallow water because of Climate Change!..okay I’ll stop.) The murderer wasn’t a lion, wasn’t a crocodile, wasn’t a confused elephant in rut...it was ...THE BEACHMASTER!

The Beachmaster is what they call the Alpha Hippo male who runs the herd (a harem of female hippo beauties and their many offspring who are off limits to all other male hippos). The Beachmaster is one big ass hippo with enormous canine tusks about a foot and a half long who can literally chomp a crocodile in half. The dead hippo was trying to put his humongous hippo hingus into one of the girl-hippos (they do it under water) and so the Beachmaster bit his head and drowned him.

Instant metaphor! The BEACHMASTER is the New York Yankees, the dead hippo is the Boston Red Sox and I guess that would make the girl-hippo the American League pennant.

The Yankees are traditionally strong enough every year to at least contend...but this year they have outdone themselves. They have somehow transitioned from a bunch of old players with great last decade resumes but what-have-you-done-for-me-lately recent stats into a young team with 1 to 9 home run threats, batting champs, rookies of the year and multiple MVP candidates. Not to mention the world’s best bullpen. They have been so good that they lost almost their entire starting lineup and half their starting rotation and a couple of phenomenal relievers and GOT BETTER. That’s because they have one of the deepest farm systems in the game and a general manager who knows how to pick players and could give a shit how much money he spends to get whoever he wants to bolster the roster.

Really...when has this ever happened? Within the first few weeks of the season the Yanks had lost their starting shortstop (Gregorius), back up shortstop (Tulowitzki), third baseman (Andujar), first baseman (Bird), catcher (Sanchez), centerfielder (Hicks), right fielder (Judge) and DH (Stanton). Half of those guys were All Stars last year. They also lost their number one starter (Severino), their two and three starters for a month or so (Sabathia and Paxton) and number two reliever (Betances) plus a whole lot of other players. And they’ve won 57 out of 86 games in the first half.

I know I’ve been talking about this a lot lately but it’s really kind of astounding when you stop and think about it. I think the Yankees have exploited the prevailing paradigm...if you have a roster that has...say...three guys in a row hit singles you score one run. If you have three guys come to the plate and two of them strike out but one gets a home run you still score one run...but if anybody else is on base you get two or three. And because everybody in your lineup can hit homers, they also tend to get walked a lot by gun-shy pitchers. That means a lot of guys on base for the frequent home runs.

The Yankees...featuring a lineup of mostly cast-offs (Luke Voit), semi-rookies (Gleyber Torres) and converted journeymen (Gio Ursela) have hit 147 home runs in the first half...that’s on a record-breaking pace. The record was set last year by the Yankees with 267 homers. This year 7 teams have at least 140 home runs already, putting all of them on a pace to break the record. 7 teams! The Minnesota Twins have hit 165 4 baggers, on a pace for about 310-320 for the season. That record for most homers/season/team has gone up by 2 or 5 homers or so whenever it has been reset. Now we’re going to see a jump of 50 in one year? The thirty Major League baseball teams hit an all-time record of 5585 round trippers last season, 2018. That record is probably going to be beat by over 1000 home runs. We’re going to have at least 25-30 men with at least 40 home runs and probably over 50 hit at least 30 home runs for the year.

This is a freakish reinvention of our national game. Just thought you’d like to know.

So here’s the Major League Dangerous Animal rundown:

BEACHMASTER: New York Yankees (Yes, I know...hippos can’t be the very top of the dangerous animal list as long as elephants are still around, but in my opinion no current team is so strong as to qualify for the “Bull Elephant” metaphorical designation. That would be reserved for all time strong teams like the ‘26-’28 Yankees, the ‘29-31 Athletics, the ‘36-’39 Yankees, the ‘54 Indians, the ‘55 Dodgers, the ‘61 Yankees, ‘68 Tigers, ‘70-’72 Athletics, ‘75-’76 Reds, ‘98 Yankees, ‘01 Mariners, and maybe the ‘18 Red Sox.)

APEX PREDATORS: (Lion) Houston Astros. They may even be able to knock off the hippo. Their starting pitching is even better and if Altuve and Springer can stay healthy and Correa come back sometime, we may see the ‘Stros triumphant once again.

(Crocodile) Los Angeles Dodgers. They’ve won 60 games but they seem stronger than they really are because the National League is much weaker than the competition in the AL where the Yanks and Astros operate. The NL West is especially weak this year and that’s where the Dodgers make hay. Still, 5 walkoffs in a row? Bellinger hitting .341 with 30 dings? You’ve got to notice things like that. They need to get some help for Kenley Jansen in their bullpen.

SECOND TIER PREDATORS: (Leopard) Minnesota Twins. They had an awesome first half and will probably break the record for most homers by one team in a season. They are being led by their young stars Buxton in center, Polanco at shortstop and Max Kepler in right. Their pitching staff strikes out 3 times more batters than they walk.

(African Wild Dog) Atlanta Braves. They piddled around early in the season but now they’ve taken over the NL East. Led by Freeman, Acuna and their Keystone Combo of Dansby Swanson and Ozzie Albies, the Braves are hitting. Josh Donaldson and Austin Riley are lengthening that lineup and Mike Soroka is the surprise Ace.

LURKERS IN THE BUSH: (Cape Buffalo. Don’t wake them up!) Washington Nationals. They’ve been tearing up the league lately after a miserable start. The main reason to beware of this team? Those three starting pitchers Scherzer, Strassburg and Corbin. Who wants to face that trio in the Playoffs?
(Rhino) Boston Red Sox. Yeah, I know, they got disemboweled by the Beachmaster in London. What a slaughter! They’ve exhausted their bullpen. The starters are only good for 5 innings...even Sale and Price. If they’re serious about contending this year, they have to do something radical...like trade for help. They have the offense clicking again, but you can’t win if your offense has to come up with 8 runs every game just to stay in it.

(Cheetah) Oakland A’s. Once they get started, they’re fast enough to run anybody down. And every year about this time, the A’s wake up and start bashing the ball all over the creaky old Coliseum and moving up the standings. They seem to make the Wild Card every year. They might win that play-in game one of these seasons.

A BITE IN THE NIGHT: (Black Mamba) Tampa Rays. You don’t see them in the tall grass, but you step on them at your peril. They’ve got the best rotation in the AL East and they keep winning at a good clip. If one of the powerful teams slumps, the Rays will slip in there and do their thing.

(Honey Badger) Cleveland Indians. No matter how many times you beat them down, they’re always ready to fight. Honey Badger don’t care! The strength of their team was their pitching staff and this year it’s been hit hard by injuries. Kluber, Carrasco and Clevinger have all had health concerns. Their offensive leader has been Carlos Santana. He’s an All Star! Who would have guessed? Lindor is playing well after his early season stint on the IL, but Jose Ramirez has been in a slump all year. He’s hitting .217 at the break. That’s a phenomenal drop in production. And still, the Indians have won 50 games and are a solid second in the AL Central. They are ahead of the A’s, Rangers and Red Sox for a Wild Card.

SCAVENGERS: (Hyenas, Jackals, Vultures, Storks etc.) Philadelphia Phillies. The Harper Hype has been embarrassing. This player is talented and hustles, but he can’t seem to learn that he’s not going to get fastballs in the zone, so he invariably gets two strikes on him and then swings at some funky slider two feet outside. Who is the batting coach on the Phillies?

Arizona Diamondbacks. Another team living on scraps that the real killers leave lying around. Most of us are surprised they’ve been doing as well as they have, with a winning record and all, but to what can they reasonably aspire this season? I would say keeping their fan base, and that’s more than a lot of these rebuilding teams are doing.
The entire NL Central. You know when the lions leave the dead carcass of the zebra lying there and go lie under an acacia tree with distended bellies and all the scavengers start ripping at the zebra and each other? That’s what’s happening in the Central. It’s really interesting in a baseball sense because one of these teams has to win the division and go to the Playoffs. We used to think the Cubs were the class of this division until the Brewers embarrassed them last year. This club has had strong offense from Rizzo, Bryant, Baez and Contreras, but their pitching has cratered. They’re hoping that picking up Craig Kimbrel will have a positive ripple effect, but without Cole Hamels and an effective John Lester and , the Cubs are just chewing the bones.

The St. Louis Cardinals were supposed to come back strong after a few wretched seasons but it looks like they’ve got a long term problem with the pitching staff. Constant injuries have worn down their famous depth and they just don’t have the horses any more. Their closer, Jordan Hicks...he of the 105 mph fastball...has succumbed to the same fate of so many other young fireballers...the dreaded Tommy John elbow. Goldschmidt, Ozuna and Carpenter were supposed to carry the offense, but even though the first two started well, Goldy has gone cold and Ozuna is out for a long spell with two broken fingers. (He was their only player with an .800 plus OPS.) Their future Hall of Fame catcher Yadier Molina has a bad thumb. And now Carpenter has a bad back. It’s really very sad.

Carpenter was responsible for one of my favorite moments of the season so far. Facing a heavy shift against his lefty bat, Matt...who is only batting .216 this year...bunted for a double down the third base line. It wasn’t even a close play! They should beam that replay into every locker room in baseball.

Milwaukee Brewers. The offense is Grandal, Moustakas and Yelich. Period. Nobody else is functioning and former worthies Jesus Aguilar and Cain have been ineffective for long stretches. Travis Shaw, who has been a dependable 30 homer/100 rbi bat and good infielder for them, has hit .164 for the Brewskies this year and has been banished to the minors. And the pitching? It’s Woodruff, Hader...and Later!

Pittsburgh Pirates. Wouldn’t it be unexpected and marvelous if the much-despised Pirates rose up and took control of this division? Well it could happen. They’re in fourth place but only 2.5 games back. They’ve had more than their share of major injuries to starters...Polanco, Cervelli, Taillon...and the starting staff, which was supposed to be their strength, has under-performed by quite a lot. So how have they stayed in the hunt? Offense! This team leads the NL with a .270 average...that includes all those feeble pitchers who have to hit in the senior circuit. And Josh Bell. He’s having an epic season (27 homers/87 rbi’s!) and with a little help from young hitters like LF Bryan Reynolds (.339), SS Kevin Newman (.324), and 3B Colin Moran (.290), Bell is launching this team into the race like one of his long blasts into the Allegheny River. Willie Stargell….where are you Pops?

Cincinnati Reds. Wouldn’t it be unexpected and marvelous if the much-despised Reds...Oh. Wait a minute while I come up with a new line...The Redlegs are only 4.5 games back despite hitting .236 this season. They have the best starters in this division. What if they start to hit? Well Dietrich has 18 dings, Suarez and Puig have 20 each and Votto is up to .271 after enduring the worst slump of his life. What if?…

GAME ANIMALS: (Kudu, Eland, Sable ) Chicago White Sox, Texas, Los Angeles Angels, San Diego Padres, Colorado Rockies. They can run a little bit and they have big horns but unless you’re in the NL Central a .500 record won’t get it done this year.

MEAT ON THE HOOF: (Zebra, Wildebeest, Warthogs) Toronto, Baltimore, Detroit, Kansas City, Seattle, New York Mets, Miami, San Francisco. Basically, they’re just running around waiting to get eaten.

A BASEBALL STORY:
If you want to make some money, bet your Baseball Pals on this question: Who was the only player ever to hit a walk-off home run to win a pennant in the regular season? (Bobby Thompson, Chris Chambliss, Aaron Boone and Maglio Ordonez did it in the Playoffs,)

Here’s THE ANSWER: (borrowed from Baseball Egg)

Milwaukee is a great baseball city, their fans love the game even though their Brewers have never won a World Series and only once have advanced to the Fall Classic. But there was a great team in “Suds City” long before the Brewers ever took the field, a team that would have made “The Fonz” proud. The golden era of big league baseball in Milwaukee was the 1950s, a decade that many experts feel is the best in baseball history. Milwaukee boasted the Braves, one of the NL’s most exciting teams with sluggers Henry Aaron and Eddie Mathews, not to mention Joe Adcock, one of the strongest players in the game.
Even though the Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Giants got most of the headlines (and pennants) in the NL in the ’50s, the Braves gave them a run for their money. With their formidable offense and great pitching staff led by Warren Spahn, Lew Burdette, and Johnny Sain, Milwaukee finished in second place in 1953, 1955, and again in 1956, each time losing out to the Dodgers. In ’56 they blew a 3 1/2 game September lead and were eliminated on the final day of the season. They were determined to win the flag in 1957. On September 23, the Braves had a five-game lead with less than a week left in the season and were at home facing the Cardinals. A victory would clinch the pennant. The teams battled to a tie into extra innings, Burdette tossing 10 innings and allowing just a pair of runs. It was 2-2 in the bottom of the 11th and Billy Muffett was on the mound for St. Louis. After getting an out, Muffett surrendered a single to Johnny Logan. Mathews followed with a fly ball to center for the second out. That brought up Aaron who had hit 42 homers already and was on his way to winning his first MVP award. Aaron swung at a Muffett fastball and belted it to center field, deep beyond the wall. The crowd of more than 40,000 erupted as Hammerin’ Hank circled the bases for a 4-2, game-ending home run. The Braves had clinched their first pennant in Milwaukee in just their fifth season in the city. Aaron’s homer remains the only walkoff homer to clinch a pennant in a regular season game, as opposed to a postseason contest.


Sunday, May 19, 2019

MARCO'S BASEBALL BLOG-O-ROONIE 2019: QUARTER POLE


MARCO’S BASEBALL BLOG-O-ROONIE 2019: QUARTER POLE

Hello intrepid Warriors of Baseball Fandom. After 40 some games of the 2019 season you might need an explanation. This I shall attempt.

1/COME ON BABY LET’S GO DOWNTOWN: Stat of the First Quarter… we have 32...that’s right, thirty two...players in the Bigs who are already double figures in home runs. (*as of May 16) That means if they repeat their success in the First Quarter of this season in the next 3 quarters we’ll have over 30 players who hit 40+ home runs this season! That’s a shocking number...way higher than anything we’ve seen before.

For instance, in 2001, the year when Barry Bonds hit his 73 tainted taters, the Majors had 11 players go over 40 in the four bagger department. That was in the days of Chemical Enhancement. (31 players hit at least 34 bombs). Now the players are mostly (I think) just strong. They’ve all learned how to hit drives to all fields and all the pitches are coming in at 93-98 mph and when they connect, the baseball just flies out of all these small ballparks. The batters get a crisp new baseball to hit every time a pitch even touches the dirt. The pattern is: strike out 3 or 4 times a game but hit a homer, bat .240 and go collect your check. Baseball wanted offense and this is what we get.

So the trend of ever more strikeouts, walks and homers (the so-called 3 “natural outcomes”) shows no sign of ebbing.

2/GREAT EXPECTATIONS: I keep picking the Washington Nationals to surprise everybody and play like the team they look like on paper but once they get on the field it’s Les Miserables. This year they can’t score. The usual guys got hurt...Trea Turner, Ryan Zimmerman, Anthony Rendon...add Juan Soto this season. Only Anthony Rendon, catcher Kurt Suzuki and Howie Kendricks have an OPS over .800. Gerrardo Parra has been the only bright spot lately with game-winning hits. The young heroes Soto and Robles are pressing and underachieving at the plate.

Brian Dozier has been a free agent disaster offensively. As recently as 2016 the Dozer hit .268/42 homers/99 rbi’s/.886 OPS for the Twinkies. Right now he’s at .187/5/7/.606 with 44 strike outs already. This after he was offensively non-existent for the Dodgers in half a season last year. I think Brian misses the American League. Hope he comes back ‘cause he’s been a scrappy, interesting player and he’s only 32. I wonder how much longer the Nats can go with him at second base?

You should expect mass firings for the Washington Nationals if this horrible losing keeps up. What a waste of good starting pitching. Scherzer, Strassburg and Corbin starting games for them and the Nats are way under .500? Cursed are the Damned!

Actually, all the contenders in the NL East turn out to be flawed. Harper has proved that he can go into just as deep a slump in Philadelphia as he used to in DC. Even though the Phils are in first place in the division, they don’t look that strong. Atlanta has good hitting but not enough pitching. The Mets look like the Mets usually look...teasing with dramatic come- from- behind wins and then falling flatter than cow patties.

3/ PARITY IN THE NL CENTRAL: Wow! Hold on there! The expected 3-way race for a division title among Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Louis in the NL Central is under attack from Pittsburgh! The much-maligned Piraticals (especially by me because their owner is a cheapskate who has ruined the reputation of one of the original stalwarts of the league by refusing to pay his stars and trading them off incessantly before the team can ever win something) have come to life and, even though they’re only at .500, are pounding the opposition with young pitchers and their new hitting star, Josh Bell. The big first baseman has switch-hit the pill at a .325/12/35/1.070 rate. He’s getting a little help from Melky Cabrera and Gregory Polanco (for a change!) and even though they are hardly a juggernaut, the Buccos are respectable and dangerous. SOGA! (that’s new-age tech speak for Sound of Grateful Applause)

And even the ever-irrelevant Reds have won 20 games! Their infielders Suarez (3B), Dietrich (2B) and Jose Iglesisias (SS) have been stellar and if Joey Votto and Yasiel Puig ever get going they might be almost average offensively! Meanwhile Ace Luis Castillo has an ERA of 1.90 and is on pace for about 250 Ks with a 3 to 1 K/BB ratio. He may be the best pitcher in the National League!

Arise from the Dead, Red!

Meanwhile, my pick to click, the St. Louis Cardinals, haven’t. Bad starting pitching! Unless Carlos Martinez comes back from the IL with a healthy shoulder, things look grim. The offense has a few bright spots...Ozuna has 38 ribs and Goldschmidt has been steady. Matt Carpenter is in another early season slump but when he rallies, he rallies big. (Last year’s hot streak was amazing!)

But as currently constituted, the Redbirds are not a Playoff team.

The Brewers are, even with an undergunned pitching staff now consisting of Zach Davies, Josh Hader and some spare change. The Crew is being carried offensively by Mike Moustakis, Ryan Braun, Yasmani Grandal and especially Christian Yelich (aka Ichabod!) who has this line: .342/18/40/1.218!

In first place, the Cubbies Abide. The Adorables have finally crystallized around 4 scary hitters...Baez, Bryant, Rizzo and Contreras...all well over .900 in OPS. These guys are the guts of that lineup. They have some good help from the supporting cast as well.

The Ursines are so much stronger than the rest of the division in starting pitching (except for maybe Pittsburgh!) that I expect them to pull away eventually. Quintana, Hendricks, Lester, Hamels. Nuff said. Veteran pros at or near the peak of their games. If Yu Darvish ever rediscovers his control you’ve got a Blue Chip rotation.

At this point Hoyer and Epstein need to go out and get some relief pitchers to help that bad bullpen, but the Cubs are going to be OKAY.

4/CARE AND FEEDING OF THE UNICORN: For just the second time in all of history, a player has arisen who can potentially dominate the league by being an “A” player both as a pitcher and as a hitter. I’m speaking of course about Shohei Ohtani-san of the Los Angeles Angels.

Ohtani just came off the IL after Tommy John-ing his elbow. He’s good to go as a hitter but won’t try pitching again until next season. But he is a quality hitter with tremendous power and is already a huge star who fascinates the public. But every time the guy hustles for an extra base or slides into home (feet first at least) I hear the Faint of Heart in the baseball media groaning that the Angels shouldn’t be risking the future Ace of their pitching staff by letting him run bases and other scary, dangerous, wreckless behavior like that. What if some other mean old pitcher hit him in the finger? What if he Stwained his Wittle Hamstwing Wunning down to first base? (On a Gwounder!)

Ohtani is the Long Promised, Newly Arisen, Hero of Heroes, ‘Last of the Dragons’. Baseball has NEVER had a two way player like him... except for Babe Ruth. And Babe Ruth was like the Atom Bomb for baseball. He changed the game for all time and cemented its popularity for generations.

From 1915 to 1918 when he played for his original team, the Boston Red Sox, Ruth was the top left-handed pitcher in the league. He won 23 games in 1916 and led the league with an ERA of 1.75. The Babe threw 9 shutouts. If there had been a Cy Young Award back then, Ruth would have won it.

But by 1919, Ruth was only starting 15 games. He was just as good a pitcher, but his hitting had taken off to unprecedented levels. Ruth led the league with a record homer total of 29 and led the league in RBIs, Runs, Slugging, On-Base, and OPS (1.114), all while playing the outfield on days he wasn’t pitching. He was only in 130 games and a lot of those were as a pinch hitter.

Back then there was no such thing as a DH slot. It was imperative that Ruth play everyday so they could get his bat into the lineup more. Even back then they knew they had to give pitchers a little time to rest their arms after all the complete game pitching they had to do. But Ruth was reinventing the whole game of baseball with his power. The fans were filling ballparks just to watch him hit balls into the fens. The Babe himself wanted to hit more than he wanted to pitch.

So they traded him to the Yankees (O Foul and Bitter Day!) and Ruth became a full-time outfielder and the greatest baseball attraction of all time. But for a few tantalizing seasons he was close to being the unimaginable UNICORN...THE BEST PITCHER AND THE BEST HITTER IN BASEBALL SIMULTANEOUSLY! I mean...God Loves Baseball and he sent the Babe.

Nowadays the American League has the DH (controversial as that may be for purists) and Ohtani doesn’t have to play the field when he doesn’t pitch. The Angels were pitching him every sixth day just to protect him. He doesn’t even DH the day before or the day after his starts except maybe for a pinch hit or two. Before he got hurt he was pitching on a high level (ERA 3.31 plus a 3-1 K/BB rate) and hitting much better than expected. He had 22 homers, 61 RBIs and an OPS of .925 in only 367 plate appearances!

Mind you, this in his first year in MLB and his first year out of Japan and in the hot spotlight of LA media at the tender age of 23. He was instantly popular with the fans and especially with his teammates. He gets to learn from Trout and Pujols how to cope with Super Stardom.

My point? LET THE KID PLAY BALL! Let’s see what the Unicorn can do! Hell, he could have gone to the National League and have to bat when he pitches anyway! You mean he can’t get hurt that way just as easily? But here he is in the DH friendly American League in the Show Biz capital of America with a team that can’t win anything anytime soon, especially if Ohtani doesn’t play.

DH it this year...work on your timing. Come back nice and slow as a pitcher next year. Be conservative for 2020. Ease into a routine. Grow that beautiful spiral horn out of your handsome head and bring glory to your Ancestors! Then you’ll be Shohei “Shogun” Ohtani! The One and Only UNICORN!

5/QUICK FLASHES:
The Houston Astros are the best team in baseball and are trying to become the first team ever to achieve a .500 + slugging average for an entire team over an entire season.

The Yankees current savior is third baseman Gio Urshela who is hitting .353. In about 500 previous major league plate appearances he was hitting in the .220s. So it probably can’t last but I’m glad to see the kid get his day in the sun.

The Red Sox have a phenom too...Michael Chavis who has hit some balls out of sight including a truly memorable high fly that cleared the foul pole and the Monster and landed out on the Massachusetts turnpike somewhere. (Against Colorado.) He’s the Baby Beast from Georgia and he’s really saved Boston at second base while Holt and Pedroia are out. I like his aggression but he has a lot to learn.
He didn’t catch up with two 98 mph fastballs from the Astros’ Garrett Cole the other night and you could see Mike ruffle his feathers in determination to catch up with the heat on the next pitch. 90 mph slider in the dirt...swing and miss by a yard. Ooops...this lesson brought to you by Major League Baseball!

6/LOWEST ERA IN A SEASON: A CAUTIONARY TALE BROUGHT TO YOU BY WALTER JOHNSON AND BOB GIBSON
(from BASEBALL EGG...a real good website )

When he retired in the late 1920s, Johnson thought his 1.09 ERA in 1913 was the lowest ever recorded. It was, but the mark shouldn't have been 1.09, it should have been higher.

In the final game of the 1913 season, the Senators played a meaningless contest against the Red Sox. As was the custom of the day, the teams treated the game as a farce. A coach went into the game to catch, the manager pitched an inning, and others played out of position. Johnson started the game in center field, having recorded his 36th victory a few days earlier. But in the ninth, Johnson trotted in from center and pitched to two batters with a seven-run lead. The move was a stunt, it was designed to give the fans something to cheer about. Johnson "lobbed" his pitches to the plate and allowed a pair of singles, then he retreated to center field. A Washington D.C. newspaper reported that Johnson was "laughing and pointing to the crowd" as he delivered his pitches. A relief pitcher allowed both of the runners to score, runs that should have been charged to Johnson. But they weren't. The official scorer witnessed the mockery and didn't count the performance against Johnson in his final totals. That decision went unnoticed for decades.

In 1968, Bob Gibson had a 1.12 ERA in one of the greatest seasons ever by a hurler. But, his 1.12 ERA was just a smidge too high to be the lowest in history. Gibson's was second to Johnson. Or so everyone thought. About fifteen years later, a researcher came across the scoring decision from 1913 and notified the league about it. The figures were changed and Johnson's official 1913 earned run average was raised from 1.09 to 1.14, second behind Gibson.’

Friday, April 26, 2019

Marco's Baseball Blog-O-Roonie 2019: WELCOME TO THE NEW AGE


MARCO’S BASEBALL BLOG-O-ROONIE 2019: WELCOME TO THE NEW AGE


1/ TRENDING...TRENDING...TRENDING…”THE 80% PREDICTION”
*By 2030 80% of all major league pitchers will be able to throw a fastball at least 95mph.
*By 2030 80% of major league clubs will have at least 7 players who hit 20 or more homers in a season.
*By 2030 80% of players with at least 500 plate appearances will strike out over 100 times a season.
*By 2030 80% of major league teams will have a roster made up of 80% players of Hispanic descent.
And...
*By 2030 at least one pitcher will have struck out 300+ batters while pitching less than 200 innings.

2/ CATFISH HUNTER ONCE SAID…
The sun don’t shine on the same dog’s ass all the time.”
Those words were of course written about the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees of 2019.

The Red Sox are the starkest example. Management very sagely decided to save the weary arms of their starting staff after the grueling marathon of the 2018 playoffs where all hands were on deck and all arms were pushed to the Tommy John-ing point. So Sale, Price, Eovaldi, Petrocelli and Rodriguez pitched 18,24,21,17,and 20 innings respectively and called it a Spring. Rest is good. But so is practice. Especially to get your control zeroed in.

The Sox are now the proud owners of the worst ERA in baseball. After almost a full month, they are 7 games back of the Rays and pretty much recent dogmeat for several modest clubs, including the Orioles and the Tigers. The Yanks carved them up pretty good too. If they hadn’t swept the Rays we’d be hearing sirens.

What happened was a perfect storm of dampening factors:
1/ World Championship Hangover...(yes, it’s a real thing...hard to get it up again after you’ve had the ultimate orgasm)
2/ an 11 game season opening road trip out West, where the Sox never do very good anyway.
3/ the loss of comfort-animal Sandy Leon to settle the pitching staff. Like I said last month, Sandy hits .175 but is a great receiver and somehow soothes those high strung thoroughbred pitchers. He comes out to the mound and hugs them and he’s so warm and cuddly they get all sentimental and start throwing nasty sliders in the dirt so they can watch Sandy block them and record another whiff. They love the Big Goof. Sometimes you just need your Mommy. Like Yogi Berra before him and David Ross most recently, Sandy is a Bell Cow- catcher. The Sox starters just pitch better to Sandy Leon.

Well, this Spring young catcher Blake Swihart, who’s been waiting for his chance all these years, finally stayed healthy and started hitting in the clutch and management thought they’d keep him on the roster and farm Sandy out to the minors. Instant Disaster. The Slaughter in Seattle, The Outrage in Oakland, the Agony in Arizona etc. Hello 2019...how do you like 3-8 to start your championship defense? Back from the minors comes Leon...pitching instantly improves.

4/ Mookie Betts stops twitching. The Mookster is the straw that stirs the drink up in Bo-town. If he’s hitting, his smile lights up the team and morale is high. Well last year Mook won the MVP with his fast hands. He was constantly rocking the bat back and forth on his shoulder and twitching all over to stay loose and triggered and READY for those pitches. This year he’s already won everything in sight and is looking forward to a $400 million free agent payday and he got relaxed and was just standing there with the bat motionless on his shoulder while pitchers busted inside fastballs right by him. He looked bad. And Except for J.D.Martinez, Xander- Bear Bogaerts and one or two others, the rest of the Sox hitters followed Mookie into the Tank.

The Yankee’s disaster really hasn’t been of their own making. The sun went behind a Big Cloud and their little Doggy Ass got really chilly. Injuries. Freaky, constant, weekly horrors of an indescribable nature. It’s no use going over who got hurt how and when, it’s pretty much the whole roster. 12 or 15 guys on the IL all the time. A whole team of stars...gone! The thing is….this surfeit of pain may have ultimately helped the New York club!

What insanity is this, you ask?

The Yankees have had to bring up every minor league player of any quality that they have just to fill up the bench. The 2nd line heroes (LeMahieu, Gardner, Frazier, Voit) and “Who Dat?” rookies
have come through in a big way and saved the Yankee season so far. New York has a winning record and is only just behind the Tampa Bay Rays for the lead in the AL East. It remains to be seen if the “C” team can keep on keeping on, especially in the pitching department, while Stanton, Judge, Tulowitzki, Andujar, Bird, Sanchez, Severino, Betances etc.etc.etc. heal up.

The Yanks have shown inspiring character and all those young players will be the better for it. Congratulations Yankees, I doff my admittedly partisan Red Sox hat to you.

3/ KNOW YOUR SANTANAS
We are suddenly inundated with Santanas. We used to have Johann from Venezuela who won the AL Cy Young in 2004 and 2006. Great pitcher. Terry Collins left him in to finish off a no hitter for the Mets in 2012 and he threw 134 pitches on a cold, wet night. He got his no-no over the Cardinals but never had a good arm again. We also had Andres, Edgar, Julio, Marino, Pedro and Rafael in and out of baseball from the 90’s on into this century. All from Dominican Republic.

Now the Dominican Dandies have Santana-ed all of baseball. Let me help you keep them straight:

Carlos Santana is the switch hitter who played first for Cleveland until he went to Philly last year. While in Philly he distinguished himself with 24 homers and 86 rbis in 2018 and got famous for destroying a television set in the locker room where the young tech-heads of the team were addicted to ‘FORTNIGHT’ while in the midst of a 6-20 slump. Now Carlos is back in Cleveland hitting .338. They should play ‘Evil Ways’ when he comes to the plate.

Ervin Santana is the quirky pitcher of the Angels, Royals, Twins, Braves and White Sox who is so emotional. He also got suspended for 80 games for PED use in 2015 and threw a no hitter for the Angels. (Have any brothers with the same surname both thrown no-hitters? Yes...the Forsch Brothers Bob and Ken for St. Louis and Houston respectively back in 78 and 83 for Bob... yep...two of ‘em... and 1979 for Ken.)

Ever heard of Dennis Santana? Neither had I but he’s a relief pitcher for the Dodgers. Weighs 160 pounds and they hope he’s another Pedro Martinez. (He’s not.)

Danny Santana is a utility player for the Rangers. Hit .319 for the Twins in 2014 but had 98 K’s in 430 plate appearances. Yikes. Hitting .325 this season and playing a lot of second base.

Having a big year playing for the Seattle Mariners is right fielder Domingo Santana.
He’s hitting .306 with a league leading 27 ribbies. He used to play for the Brewers and hit 30 bombs for them in 2017.

So now you know your Santanas. I’m not sure why, but it seemed important somehow.

4/ AHEAD OF RUTH’S PACE! (MARIS’ PACE, MCGWIRE’S PACE, BOND’S PACE etc.)
I always laugh when pundits trumpet …
‘so and so is ahead of Ruth’s home run pace!...
Christian Yelich has 13 home runs in April...on pace for 84 this season!’ …
Cody Bellinger’s 12 home runs this month give him a shot at Bonds’ record!’

It’s hardly relevant when you get hot...it’s how long you stay hot, and how much hotness you generate when the fire is glowing.

Ruth only had 16 homers at the end of May in 1927. But in September he sizzled for 17 dingers and that gave him that magical 60 for the season. (That 154 game season lest we forget!)

Roger Maris had only 12 4-baggers through May 31, 1961 but rallied for 15 in June, 13 in July, 11 in August and 9 in September. He hit 1 on Oct. 1 to break the tie with Ruth.

Mark McGwire had 37 homers through June and hit another 33 the rest of the way. Of course, McGwire was essentially playing with a Transformer physique thanks to his PED intake (he insisted it was just for health reasons. Yep ...everybody needs 25 inch biceps to be truly healthy.)

In 2003 Barry Bonds blasted 11 taters in April, 17 in May, 11 in June, only 6 in July but 12 in August and 12 in September. 4 more in October gave him that fantastic, chemically enhanced 73 homers which will probably besmirch the record books for many a long year.

So, for instance, if Christian Yelich were to hit 10 homers a month from here on out...a great, great performance by any measure, he would still ‘only’ have 63. Christian would essentially have to repeat his April for five more months...at least 12 a month for the rest of the year...to tie Bonds.

But I give him points for predicting he’d hit 50 in that commercial. If he stays healthy he just might.
As far as punditry goes...the pace at which you hit your homers is pretty meaningless.

5/ WHERE DID YOU GO ELLIS VALENTINE?

Take a minute and paste this youtuber into your browser and watch this guy throw. (coincidence: you’ll even get a glimpse of previously mentioned Ken Forsch!)

Expert Baseball Witnesses Say: list all the greatest outfield arms in baseball history...Mays, Furillo, Clemente, Dave Parker, Dwight Evans, Vlad Guerrero, Bo Jackson, Jesse Barfield, Larry Walker, Rick Ankiel, Yasiel Puig, Yoenis Cespedes... and then there’s Ellis Valentine. Ellis played right field for the Montreal Expos way back when. In 1978 he won the gold glove with 25 outfield assists.

Ellis was famous for throwing the ball waist high from the greatest depths of right field to any base on a laser line in the air. Watch him gun that ball to catcher Gary Carter ... in the air...to get Davey Conception (an extremely fast runner expecting to score from second on a double to the extreme corner of the right field warning track...maybe 315 feet away where Ellis had to dig it out from the base of the wall) at the plate.

All those other great players listed above could get it to the plate from great distance, but they used an arc on their throws. Look at these…
Just about the only throw that can compare with Valentine’s in my opinion is Jose Guillen’s so-called mutant throw from the warning track in Colorado’s Coors right field to nail the runner at third during a game between the Rocks and Guillen’s Pirates. 335 feet in 3 seconds. But even that throw had a little arc on it. Look here…

This season a newcomer has shown up to give these guys a run for their guns. I’m speaking of Oakland’s center fielder Ramon Laureano. He just made 3 incredible plays to throw out 3 Red Sox baserunners, crushing the spirits of the early season Bostonians. But none of those were his best throw. Watch this…

From the warning track 321 feet away to first base to double up the runner after a fine catch? You got to be kidding me. Arc or no arc, that’s some throw, and Ramon has made about ten more startling rifle throws this season already.
A great throw from the outfield is one of the most exciting plays in baseball. Laureano’s throws are thrilling, and it reminds me of Ellis Valentine...’The Human Howitzer’.

6/ WELCOME TO THE NEW AGE
I grit my teeth when I hear the shameless hype surrounding Vlad Guerrero Jr.’s major league debut.
Give the kid a break why don’t you? What’s he supposed to do to live up to all this? It’s not fair, man.
Trout got to sneak up on us as a 25th draft pick or whatever it was. Harper had to endure impossibly inflated expectations and it made him testy and reckless, leading to ejections and injuries. I appreciate that MLB is trying to pump up the volume on its new stars...and they are exciting. But let them have some breathing room to make the inevitable mistakes and golden sombrero performances that all young players must endure. We got some pretty good pitchers up here in the Bigs, and they can let the air out of your bubble damn effectively.

I hope Vladdy hits .379 like he did in the minors. I mean, God he looks good. But how good will be good enough if he doesn’t quite make the stadium spontaneously combust? I hope he keeps a level head like Aaron Judge did when he started tearing it up two years ago. Aaron still wears shoes with his rookie batting average (.179) written on them to maintain his humility.

Willie Mays was batting .477 (100 points higher than anybody in the league) when the Giants brought him up from AAA Minneapolis in 1951. He was 20 years old and a shy kid from Alabama. The buzz on Willie was justifiably insane. He promptly went 1 for 26 and manager Leo Durocher found him crying in the dugout after a fruitless performance. Leo very wisely told him this: “Willie, I don’ t care if you don’t get a hit all year...you’re still my centerfielder.”

That was the right medicine for Mays. He homered off Warren Spahn and started scorching the ball. Spahnny always joked that it was his fault...”If I hadn’t given up that homer to him, we wouldn’t have had to deal with Willie all these years.” Leo also had another legendary quote about his star which I’ve mentioned before in these essays:
I don’t care if Jesus Christ came down from heaven to play center field, I’d still look you in the eye and tell you Willie Mays was better.” That’s kind of a compliment, wouldn’t you say?

Mickey Mantle got sent down to Kansas City from the Yankees in his rookie year, also 1951. He was slumping so bad he called his Dad and said he was quitting. Father Mutt Mantle drove up from Oklahoma and started packing Mickey’s suitcase. He told Mick, “I thought I raised a man. I see now I raised a coward. Come on back to Oklahoma and work in the mines with me.”

Mickey batted .361 for the rest of his minor league stay and soon was back in New York.

I hope that some wise old Geezer will have the right thing to say to Vladdy if he doesn’t live up to the hype right away.

Vlad Guerrero Jr. , Ronald Acuna Jr. , Juan Soto, Andrew Benintendi, Victor Robles, Fernando Tatis Jr., Eloy Jimenez, Yordan Alvarez, Shohei Ohtani… ...baseball needs these young stars to shine if the game is going to continue to prosper. I hope these guys are the new Willies, Mickeys, Henrys, Robertos, Franks and Sandys.
And then maybe a New Golden Age of Baseball will be upon us.

7/ Google-Free Challenge
Before you click answer me this: 18 players have hit 4 home runs in one game. The first one to do it was second baseman Bobby Lowe of the National League Boston Beaneaters in 1894. The most recent was right fielder J.D.Martinez of the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2017.

Only 5 of these 18 heroes are in the Hall of Fame. Can you name them? (Hints: 2 first basemen, 2 outfielders, 1 third baseman. 3 Phillies)

Thanks for reading and stay tuned for more baseball talk coming soon!
--Marco