In sweeping the Minnesota Twins this weekend, the Cleveland Indians definitely made a statement in the American League Central.
At 6’7″, 282 lbs., New York Yankees outfielder Aaron Judge is a very imposing figure. And with the starting of training camps in the National Football League more than a month away from beginning, Judge has the physical stature to be a defensive end for the New York Giants. However Judge’s first love is baseball in spite of the fact that he was able to excel at the high school level in football and basketball. But it was Judge’s baseball talents that took him to Fresno State University. There Judge would catch the eye of Major League Baseball scouts as his mammoth home runs were difficult to ignore. In 2013, the Yankees would select Judge 32nd overall in the MLB Draft as he was expected to be a building block for the the future.
Judge would develop in the Yankees minor-league system, but he began to earn a reputation of having power at the plate and not being able to hit for average.
Judge would get his chance to show what he could do at the Major League level when he made his debut with the Yanks last August. In Judge’s first career at-bat, he hit a home run off of Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Matt Andriese. In 27 games with the Yankees in 2016, Judge would hit .179 with 4 home runs and 10 runs batted in. However the fact that he hit a home run in his first at-bat would be a harbinger of things to come here in 2017.
In just 60 games in 2017, Judge has gone from being a guy who only had power to a player that is the front runner to be the American League’s MVP.
Judge’s 22 home runs lead the American League, and the same can be said about his .341 batting average, while his 49 runs batted in as he also finds himself in contention to win the Triple Crown. But it is not that Judge is simply hitting home runs as they are seismic. This past Sunday, Judge launched a home run against the Baltimore Orioles that was measured at 496 feet as it cleared the bleachers at Yankee Stadium, while it was marked as the longest home run hit since Major League Baseball began to measure homers in 2009. Like catcher Gary Sanchez who made his debut with the Yankees last year and created a buzz for himself due to his power, Judge is doing the same for himself as he has become a household name rather quickly. And Judge is also making Yankees general manager Brian Cashman look like a genius as he stuck to his guns as far as not trading the team’s young prospects in favor of established veterans.
Since 1995, the Yankees have 18 playoff appearances which has produced five World Series Championships. However in the last four seasons the Yankees only have one trip to the postseason. This has put Cashman under fire as he has not been spending money like we’ve seen him do in the past with the Yankees focusing on developing young talent such as Judge. And it is paying off in a big way.
The emergence of Judge has now given the Yankees an opportunity to create a new core of players who could potentially win another World Series Championship, and there might not have been a better team for him to have been drafted into Major League Baseball by.
The Yankees have a long history of having some of the game’s best sluggers suit up for them. The names are iconic in baseball such as Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Mickey Mantle, Joe DiMaggio, and Reggie Jackson just to name a few as they were known to hit powerful homers, and in the words of former Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, “they put meat in the seats”.
This is exactly what Judge is doing as he now has his own section in the right field bleachers at Yankee Stadium which are known as “The Judge’s Chambers”. Fans in the section will dress up in judicial robes with white wigs to show their support of the youngster, while his batting practice sessions are an event of its very own. And now with the emergence of Judge, the Yankees marketing machine can go to work in promoting their phenom.
As the Yankees are currently sitting atop the American League East with Judge having a big hand, or in this case a huge bat in the the equation, it has resparked their fan base. And with the retirement of shortstop Derek Jeter in 2014, New York City needs a clean-cut baseball player that is wearing the Yankee pinstripes as Madison Avenue and the Bronx Bombers go hand in hand. But aside from the marketing aspect, Judge’s emergence can help New York in other ways as well.
All-Star caliber players such as Washington Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper and Baltimore Orioles third baseman Manny Machado are set become free agents in 2019 and the Yanks have long been rumored to have them on their radar. And as the backdrop of playing in the Big Apple for the Yankees is extremely enticing, being in a lineup with a player such as Judge could be the icing on the cake.
Judge has really turned heads around baseball during the first two months of the season and at the very least Judge is going to be the American League’s Rookie of the Year, while the thumb injury to Los Angeles Angels outfielder Mike Trout has opened the door for to possibly be the A.L. MVP. And the scary thing about Judge is that he is only going to get better.
When you think about life in the National League West, the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants come to mind rather quickly as they are two of the most iconic franchises in Major League Baseball. Both the Giants and Dodgers have been playing baseball now for more than 130 years as their rivalry has spanned from the Big Apple to the Golden State. The Dodgers and Giants are typically the teams to beat in the N.L. West which is evident by their combined 11 division titles since 2000. However 2017 is shaping up to be a different year in the N.L.West.
Whereas the Dodgers and Giants were expected to be postseason contenders here in 2017, the same could not be said about either the Colorado Rockies or Arizona Diamondbacks. The Diamondbacks have not made the postseason since they last won the National League West in 2011, while you have to go back to 2009 to find the last time in which the Rockies made the playoffs, and they’ve never won the the division.
But as of today there is a battle going on to see who is going to be the new sheriff in town as it is the Rockies who are sitting in first place in the National League West with a record of 41-23, while the D-backs are three games behind them in third place. The Dodgers are right in the mix in second place as they are 2.5 games, while the wheels have fallen off of the Giants express as they’re currently struggling in fourth place and 15 games out. And for the first time in the history of the National League West, there is a strong possibility that three teams could reach the postseason from this division.
The Rockies have always been known for their offense as the high altitude and the thin air of the Rocky Mountains is always an advantage for them. But this year pitching is defining the Rockies as their team earned run average of 4.01 is fifth in the National League which is a far cry from last season when Colorado’s team earned run average of 4.91 was 13th. Led by rookie starting pitcher Antonio Senzatela who has 8 wins, the Rockies have three starting pitchers that already have at least 6 victories to their credit this season.
Relief pitcher Greg Holland is in his first season with the Rockies and he has quickly regained the form that made him one of the top closers in baseball a few years ago. In September 2015, Holland had to undergo the dreaded Tommy John surgery and he had to watch from the sidelines as the Kansas City Royals won the World Series without him. Holland would sit out all of 2016 as he was recovering and when he became a free agent this past winter, the Rockies took a flyer on him for a one-year deal for $6 million. And this season Holland’s presence is shortening the game for the Rockies pitching staff as his 23 saves are by far the best in Major League Baseball.
But even as improved as the Rockies pitching staff has been, you still cannot overlook their Murderers Row like lineup. The Rockies are maintaining their status as one of the best hitting lineups in Major League Baseball as only their 328 runs scored are second in the National League only to the 329 of the Washington Nationals. It’s the usual suspects in the Rockies lineup leading the way such as outfielder Charlie Blackmon and third baseman Nolan Arenado are each having solid campaigns, but they are also receiving a surprisingly positive contribution from first baseman Mark Reynolds.
The Rockies are the seventh Major League Baseball franchise that Reynolds has played for and with a .304 batting average to go along with 17 homers and 53 runs batted in, he is on pace for one of the best seasons of his career.
The Rockies were a team that flew under the radar when the season began, but after they finished the month of April with a record of 16-10, they began to turn some heads. And by the end of May, Colorado had the look of a club that could hang around in the playoff race. However now that we’re in June and the Rockies are still in first place in the National League West which has seen them secure series wins over the Milwaukee Brewers who are in first place in the National League Central, the Dodgers, Diamondbacks, and both World Series participants from last October in the Cleveland Indians and Chicago Cubs, they are exuding confidence with a ton of that credit going to their first-year manager Bud Black.
After nine seasons as the manager of the San Diego Padres with only two winning campaigns and no playoff appearances, Black has found new life in Denver. Black appears to be on the same path of another former Padres manager in Bruce Bochy who has gone on to win three World Series Champions with the Giants as both are making the most of their new opportunities in Major League Baseball.
Like the Rockies, there weren’t high expectations for the Diamondbacks outside of their organization. Two of the last three seasons saw Arizona lose at least 93 games, while their was a shakeup within their front office last year. General manager Dave Stewart and manager Chip Hale were each relieved of their duties with the Diamondbacks, while the same fate appeared to be awaiting Tony La Russa who is the team’s chief baseball officer. La Russa was able to survive the chopping block as Mike Hazen would become the Diamondbacks new general manager and Torey Luvollo would become their new skipper. And this combination has been a breath of fresh air for Arizona as they are on pace for their first winning season since 2011.
A big reason for Arizona’s turnaround begins with starting pitcher Zack Greinke. After Greinke went 19-3 with an earned run average of 1.66 in 2015 with the Los Angeles Dodgers, he opted to become a free agent. Greinke would join the D-backs after both sides agreed on a six-year deal for $205 million. But Greinke’s first season with the Diamondbacks was not a memorable one as he battled through injuries, while also attempting to over pitch. And in the end Greinke was 13.7 with an earned run average of 4.37.
However Greinke didn’t develop a reputation of being one of the best pitchers in baseball of this era by accident and he has regained his form here in 2017. Through 13 starts Greinke is 8-3 with an earned run average of 3.20.
Offensively Arizona is third in the National League in runs scored with 321 as they have one of the most potent lineups on the Senior Circuit. For the seven-year Major League Baseball career of Diamondbacks first baseman Paul Goldschmidt, he has been the All-Star caliber player that not too many people know about. Goldschmidt is a lifetime .300 hitter that has averaged 29 homers per season while he has also finished second in the N.L. MVP voting twice. Goldschmidt is once again having a solid campaign as he is currently batting .314 with 13 home runs and 47 runs batted in while his on-base percentage of .441 is the best in the N.L.
Diamondbacks third baseman Jake Lamb is only in his fourth season and after making huge strides last year by hitting 29 homers and 91 runs batted in. Lamb is building off of that here in 2017 as he is leading Arizona in homers with 16 and runs batted in as well with 56. And it is not that far-fetched to see Lamb go yard 40 times this year.
Like Black with the Padres, Luvollo has pushed all of the right buttons in his first season with the Diamondbacks. However the Diamondbacks have benefited from an easy schedule as their only marquee series win to the point of this year came against the Indians. Arizona has come up short in their meeting with the National League East leading Washington Nationals as well as versus the Rockies. And as the Diamondbacks schedule will get more difficult as the season progresses, they are going to need to find statement victories against quality teams if they expect to be a serious contender.
Then there is the case of the Dodgers who are the four-time defending National League West Champs. The Dodgers fell two victories short of reaching the World Series last year and they are poised for another run. Pitching wise the Dodgers are leaning on starting pitcher Clayton Kershaw who is arguably the best hurler in the game. Kershaw has already taken home the National League’s Cy Young Award three times and he is once again in the running to take home the hardware. Kershaw is 8-2, while his 2.20 earned run average is leading the way in the N.L. Kershaw already has 101 strikeouts to his credit here in 2017 which includes a season-high 14 against the Brewers on June 2 as he is well on his way to striking out at least 200 batters in a season for the seventh time in his career.
The Dodgers were expected to be thin in their starting rotation behind Kershaw this season, but starting pitcher Alex Wood is 6-0 with an earned average of 1.69, while starting pitcher Brandon McCarthy is 5-3 with an earned run average of 3.28. And after relief Kenley Jansen saved 47 games last year for the Dodgers, he has picked up right where he left off from as he’s already closed out 10 games this year for Los Angeles and they’ll be plenty more to come.
The Dodgers lineup has been a middle of the pact unit so far this season, but they recently received a boost when third baseman Justin Turner returned from the disabled list. Shortstop Corey Seager is the reigning National League Rookie of the Year and he’s off to a solid start this season as he is batting with .271 with 8 home runs and 25 runs batted in, while outfielder Cody Bellinger could be this seasons’s Rookie of the Year as he currently leads the club in home runs (12), as well as runs batted in (31).
Like the Diamondbacks, the Dodgers have not had too many marquee series wins so far as once you get past their sweep of the Cubs last weekend, it has been pedestrian like for them.
But what we are setting up for over the last three-plus months of the regular season is an interesting race in the National League West between these three teams. And it will be interesting to see which club will be the first to make a move to upgrade their respective teams.
The Rockies lineup is set, but it wouldn’t hurt them to get another starting pitcher for the postseason push. The Diamondbacks could use some more depth in their lineup, and you can never have enough pitching and the same could be said in regards to the Dodgers. And as the Giants and Padres appear to be watchers on at this party, it will be an interesting battle between these three clubs.
With the overall struggles of the National League East and Central, the possibility of the Dodgers, Rockies, and Diamondbacks all making the playoffs is pretty good. And with plenty of games remaining between these three teams along with the fact that these clubs want to avoid having to participate in the N.L. Wild Card Game if they don’t have to, then it should be game on in regards of the battle to capture this crown.
Since 2002, the Giants are the only team that calls the National League West home to make the World Series, but things could be different here in 2017.
The New York Mets franchise has been around now for 56 years and in that time they’ve had more lows than highs. The Mets do have a pair of World Series Championships to their credit, but they have not won it all since 1986. And each time that the Mets appear ready to turn the corner, they have failed to get out of their own way. After the 1991 Major League Baseball season, the Mets went out and spent money on what was expected to be a “super team” as they acquired the likes of Bret Saberhagen, Bobby Bonilla, and Eddie Murray. But in the words of Bob Klapisch, the Mets got “the worst team that money can buy”. The late 1990’s saw the Mets become a contender once again which paved the way for them to win the National League Pennant in 2000. However in the World Series, base running blunders and the experience of the New York Yankees was too much for them. The Mets would once again make the playoffs in 2006, but they fell short against the St. Louis Cardinals. And who could forget the collapses of the Mets in 2007 and 2008 when they were in first place in the N.L. East at the start of September only to end up watching the postseason from home. The Mets would come out of nowhere in 2015 to win the N.L. East which paved the way for their first World Series appearance since 2000. The Mets had every chance win it all as they held a lead after the seventh inning in four of the five games versus the Kansas City Royals, but they simply fell apart. Injuries hindered New York last year, but they were still able to make the playoffs as a wild card team. However the optimism that the Mets had to begin 2017 is quickly fading into the New York night.
Through 55 games the Mets find themselves with a record of 24-31 which has them tied for second place in the National League East. The Mets are 11.5 games behind the first-place Washington Nationals, and 8 games behind the Arizona Diamondbacks s for the final wild card spot in the N.L. The Mets haven’t been above .500 since April 16 with the lowest of their low points this season coming in late May when they lost two out of three games at home against the San Diego Padres who are one of the worst teams in Major League Baseball. In both losses to the Padres, the Mets had the potential game-tying runs at the plate in the ninth inning, but they were unable to execute as things are only going from bad to worse in Queens.
All season long the Mets have been dealing the injury bug at a very alarming rate. The Mets currently have seven players on the disabled list which includes some of their key players. Outfielder Yoenis Cespedes has been out of the Mets lineup since April 27 with a hamstring injury. The Cespedes injury has really hurt the Mets offense as he is one of the big bats in the middle of their lineup and he sets the tone. Relief pitcher Jeurys Familia began the season by serving a suspension by Major League Baseball due to an altercation with his wife last year. Familia returned to action the Mets on April 21 and was beginning to get into a groove until he was placed on the disabled list on May 11 after it was discovered that he had a blood clot in his right shoulder. And what the Mets are losing in not having Familia available for the ninth inning is a player who set a single-season club record for saves last year with 51. In April, starting pitcher Noah Syndergaard felt tightness in his biceps. Syndergaard refused to have an MRI and for some strange reason the Mets obliged. Syndergaard would then take the mound for the Mets against the Nationals on April 30 as he couldn’t make it out the second inning. The Mets would then place Syndergaard on the disabled list with what was diagnosed as a torn lat muscle in his right arm which will see him miss the majority of the season. And all that the Mets have been left with is a team that keeps finding ways to lose games while hindering their chances of making the postseason for the third consecutive year which would be the first time in franchise history if that were to occur. But aside from all of the injuries and the handling of it, the Mets simply have been their own worst enemy.
Starting pitcher Matt Harvey is attempting to make his way back from dealing with thoracic outlet syndrome in 2016. In 11 starts for the Mets here in 2017, Harvey is 4-3 with an earned run average of 5.43 as he is learning to pitch instead of relying on his fastball which has lost some zip. And unfortunately for Harvey this season, he has only completed seven innings once as teams to get to him the second time around in the batting order.
Overall the Mets starting rotation has been kept together with spit and glue and none of their starting pitchers have an earned run average under 3.25. Pitching was supposed to be a strength for the Mets coming into 2017, but instead New York’s team earned run average of 4.91 is 14th in the National League, while their 22 quality starts is tied for tenth. The Mets lack of quality pitching has put a strain on their bullpen which only has 12 saves, while tallying a league worst 11 blown saves.
Through Terry Collins’ time as the manager of the Mets, his management of his pitching staff has come under scrutiny from fans and media alike, and it’s once again the case this year as his bullpen is being run into the ground being that if a starting pitcher can give him five quality innings, it is deemed as a good thing.
The Mets offense hasn’t fared much better as they’ve been up and down. The Mets are fifth in the National League in home runs with 75, but they are 11th in batting average (.244), and 12th in on-base percentage (.317). The bright spots of the Mets lineup have been first baseman Lucas Duda, along with outfielders Michael Conforto and Jay Bruce. In 35 games for the Mets, Duda is batting .269 with 10 homers and 21 runs batted in. Conforto is emerging as a star as he is leading the Mets in batting average (.308), home runs (14), runs batted in (36), and on-base percentage (.410). Bruce is only batting .248, but he has plenty of thunder in his bat as he has 13 long balls and 36 runs batted in. However aside from this trio, it has been pretty pedestrian like for the Mets.
Age is catching up to Mets outfielder Curtis Granderson as the 36-year old is gutting it out through his worst season in Major League Baseball. Granderson is only batting .201 with 4 homers and 19 runs batted in, while striking out 46 times as his timing at the plate has simply not been there. The same can be said in regards to veteran infielder Jose Reyes who is only batting .190 with an on-base percentage of .263. And once you add up the struggles of Granderson and Reyes, to go along with stints on the disabled list for catcher Travis d’Arnaud and shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera, as well as Cespedes who is currently in witness protection, you get a lineup that is either outhouse or penthouse; with the majority of the games seeing them in the crapper.
The past few years have seen the Mets be one the better second half teams in baseball, however this time around there isn’t as much optimism. The Mets keep blowing games and there isn’t one part of their team that is dominant, along with the fact that other teams in the National League have improved which makes a third consecutive trip to the postseason highly unlikely. Mets general manager Sandy Alderson isn’t yet ready to wave the white flag as he would like to see what this squad can do if and when they healthy. However with so many players such as Bruce and second baseman Neil Walker whose contracts are set to expire at the end of the season, the Mets could become sellers real soon which would be a far cry from a team that had postseason aspirations not that long ago. But if you’ve followed the Mets throughout their history, you’ve learned to accept heartache.
In recent years when you hear the name Adam Jones thrown around in the sports world, it’s typically for all of the wrong reasons. Jones is a talented defensive back in the National Football League who has played for multiple teams with his current team being the Cincinnati Bengals. However Jones has been unable to stay out of trouble with the law which is why he has played for several teams. But on the other side of this equation is Baltimore Orioles outfielder Adam Jones who has kept his nose clean, while also becoming the face of a franchise.
Jones was a first-round pick of the Seattle Mariners in 2003, and by 2006 he was ready to show his stuff with the big club. As a rookie Jones appeared in 32 games for the Mariners where he batted .216 with a homer and 8 runs batted in. Jones would appear in 41 games for the M’s in 2007 and he once again had pedestrian like numbers as he batted .246 with a pair of home runs and 4 runs batted in. Seattle was coming off of an 88-win season that saw them miss a postseason berth by six games. And as the Mariners were in win-now mode, the young Jones became expendable.
That off-season Jones would be traded to the Orioles in a deal that centered around starting pitcher Erik Bedard who had recorded 221 strikeouts in 2007 heading to Seattle. But in Baltimore, Jones would have a new life.
The O’s were a rebuilding team which meant that the young Jones was going to have the opportunity to play every day. In Jones’ first year with the Orioles, he batted .270 with 9 homers and 57 runs batted in. Jones’ numbers would continue to improve and by 2012, he was recognized as one of Major League Baseball’s best players. That year Jones batted .287 with 32 homers and 82 runs batted in. Jones would finish sixth in the American League MVP voting, while it would also mark his second All-Star Game nod. And along with the emergence of Jones, the Orioles have been one of the better teams in MLB as they have not recorded a losing season in the last five years, while making three trips to the playoffs. In Jones’ decade in Baltimore, he has batted .277, while belting 233 home runs and driving in 763 runs. Jones is a six-time All-Star, while also winning four Gold Glove Awards, and taking home a Silver Slugger Award as well. However aside from what Jones has been able to do on the baseball diamond, it is his lasting impression off of the field which is providing the biggest impact.
Jones has been a staunch supporter of the Boys and Girls Club of America in both Baltimore and the City of San Diego. Jones is also involved in Major League Baseball’s RBI program which is focused on reviving youth baseball in the inner cities of the United States as well as the Jackie Robinson Foundation. Jones also recently donated $20k to the Negro League Museum in Kansas City, Missouri. Jones isn’t just a celebrity who donates money, as it is also about him donating his time to be active with youngsters, while providing them with a positive role model as he has always been a person who has taken the high road.
On a recent trip to Fenway Park to face the Boston Red Sox, Jones complained of racial slurs that were hurled at him by fans as well as a bag of peanuts. Jones didn’t take the incident sitting down and proceeded to speak out against it. Jones’ stance caught the attention of the likes of Red Sox principal owner John Henry who personally met with Orioles outfielder to apologize for the incident and assure him that his organization was taking measures to eliminate such behavior from fans at Fenway. The following night would see Jones receive a standing ovation from the fans at Fenway which is typically only reserved for former Red Sox players who are making the return to Boston. But it just shows you how people can respect courage regardless of what uniform that a player wears.
Jones isn’t the first professional athlete who has had to be on the receiving end of ignorant behavior from unruly fans as trail blazer Jackie Robinson had to look into the face of racism and segregation each time that he put his Brooklyn Dodgers uniform on. We see what black soccer players have to deal with sometimes on the pitch in Europe where fans have been known to produce disgusting acts which includes spitting on them and throwing bananas. But at the end of the day enough is enough.
Ignorance is always going to be a part of our society, but people cannot always simply turn a blind eye to it. Athletes are taught to channel out the white noise, but there is a fine line where you have to take a stand which is what Jones did.
Jones who is currently dealing with a sore ankle that has prevented him from playing in Baltimore’s past few games might not have the stats to one day be enshrined into the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, but he is a hall of fame person with the right attitude. Jones has used his platform as a professional athlete to enrich the lives of others while being a leader for his Orioles team along with being a role model and an inspiration to young people. And the world would be a player place if there were more people like the man who has held down center field for the O’s for the past decade.
When the 2016 Major League Baseball season concluded, the Chicago Cubs were able to do something that no one in their current fan base had previously been able to enjoy. The Cubs World Series Championship marked the first time that they had won it all since 1908 and thus they became rock stars within the Windy City. Every place that the Cubs went they were adored and given the red carpet treatment. The love affair with the Cubs would continue this year in spring training as they were selling out the majority of their exhibition games. And when the regular season began last month, the Cubs were able to raise their World Series banner, while also receiving exquisite World Series rings. But one of the questions that I posed in my baseball preview for this year was whether or not that the Cubs would have a World Series hangover here in 2017; and right now it appears that they just might.
Through 43 games the Cubs find themselves with a record of 22-21 which is good for third place in the National League Central. And after the Cubs won a combined 200 games over the last two regular seasons, they are going to have to put in some work this time around.
The talent is still in place for the Cubs to be successful as they have the likes of starting pitcher Jake Arrieta, first baseman Anthony Rizzo, and third baseman Kris Bryant who is the reigning National League MVP, while Joe Maddon is still the manager of this team. But after the Cubs spent this past winter hearing how good that they were from passers by along with the media constantly discussing them, they must now accept the fact that they’re going to play 162 World Series games this season just to make it back to the postseason.
In winning 103 games last year, the Cubs won the National League Central by 17.5 games, while they also went 50-25 within the division. This season the Cubs are 15-11 versus the N.L. Central and it appears that they’re going to be in for a dog fight as the teams within the division have improved in the hopes of overtaking Chicago.
The Cubs were able to win their series last week against the Cincinnati Reds whom they swept, but the same could not be said about their previous three series. The Cubs were swept at home by the New York Yankees, while they also dropped series’ versus the Colorado Rockies and St. Louis Cardinals. And when you peel back the surface and take a look into the organs and infrastructure of the 2017 version of the Cubs, the key ingredient that is missing for them is hunger.
When Maddon joined the Cubs in 2015 after nine years as the manager of the Tampa Bay Rays, he was the perfect person to lead this team that was young, hungry, and playing with house money as they all were attempting to establish themselves.The Cubs were the sweethearts in 2015 as they secured a wild card berth and made it to the National League Championship Series before being swept by the New York Mets. The Cubs would use the loss to the Mets as hunger for last year, but where will that extra desire come from this year?
The Cubs team earned run average of 3.94 is fourth in the National League, but that number is deceiving. Arrieta is 5-3, but his earned run average is 4.80, and he has been unable to get past the sixth inning in any start since April 9 as this is a far cry from a man who won the N.L. Cy Young Award in 2015. Starting pitcher Jon Lester was 19-5 last year with an earned run average of 2.44, but this time around he is 2-2 with an ERA of 3.57. In allowing relief pitcher Aroldis Chapman to leave as a free agent to re-join the Yankees, the Cubs didn’t skip a beat as they acquired relief pitcher Wade Davis from the Kansas City Royals. Davis already has 9 saves, but he could have more if the Cubs starters were handing him the ball with a lead in the ninth inning.
The Cubs offense is surprisingly a middle of the pack unit in spite all of their firepower. Last year the Cubs were the modern day Murderers’ Row as they decimated opposing pitching staffs. Bryant is off to another solid start as he is batting .296 with 10 home runs and 22 runs batted in. Rizzo has 8 homers and his 24 runs batted in lead the team. However Rizzo has not been consistent at the plate which is illustrated in his .222 batting average. Outfielder Kyle Schwarber is a power threat, but his batting average is south of .200. The Cubs are not getting quality production from youngsters such as infielder Addison Russell who is only batting .216, while even a dependable veteran in utility man Ben Zobrist has yet to get it going as he is only batting .252. And after the Cubs gave outfielder Jason Heyward $184 million over eight years, his signing could be one of the worst free agency deals in the franchise’s history as the oft-injured right fielder is only batting .255 with 3 homers and 17 runs batted in this season.
But little did we know of the impact that outfielder Dexter Fowler had on the Cubs lineup over the last two years. Fowler was the Cubs table setter over the last two seasons, however Chicago allowed him to hit free agency and he joined the rival Cardinals, while leaving Chicago without a guy to generate some life for their offense which is showing up this season.
The Cubs are in third place in the National League Central, but they aren’t far off of the pace as they’re only 2.5 games behind the first-place Milwaukee Brewers. The Cubs definitely have a run in them due to the fact that at some point their offense should be able to get clicking and the same is true in regards to their starting pitching staff. And even if the Cubs can’t get it going, I expect their president of baseball operations in Theo Epstein to use all of his resources to make deals in order to get this team back to the postseason.
The taste of victory was very sweet for the Cubs last year, but now that their appetite has been satisfied, will they have enough left for another helping of success this season?
It’s getting very hard to find new adjectives to describe what Los Angeles Angels outfielder Mike Trout is doing on the baseball diamond. Trout is only 25-years of age, but he is already a two-time American League MVP, while he won the A.L. Rookie of the Year in 2012. Trout has a career batting average of .308, while he is on pace to hit at least 25 home runs for the sixth consecutive year. Trout continues to amaze in the field as well as his wizardry in the outfield has not been consistently seen like this since the days of Ken Griffey Jr. And although that Trout is only 25, his numbers already are putting him in line to one day be enshrined into Cooperstown and the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Trout is off to another solid start here in 2017 as he is batting .348 which is third in the American League, while he also has 13 home runs and 30 runs batted in. Trout continues to be in that rare air of player as he has gone yard in five of the Angels last six games, and when you show up to park to see him perform (whether it is batting practice or the game) you’re typically in for a treat.
Trout calls Orange County home, but right now he finds himself on the big stage as his Angels are visiting the New York Mets. Trout is originally from Melville, New Jersey which is less than three hours away from Flushing. Trout grew up as a fan of the Philadelphia Phillies who happen to be one of the Mets biggest rivals, and he has the ability to turn Citi Field into his own playground.
Trout possesses all of the tools in his arsenal to succeed as there is nothing that he cannot do on the baseball diamond. And after Trout’s last two seasons flew under the radar due to the fact that the Angels simply didn’t have a good team around him, his 2017 campaign could be magnified since the Halos currently possess a winning record.
The past few years have seen Trout consistently compared to Washington Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper in regards to who is the best player in Major League Baseball, but for my money Trout has the edge. As good as Harper is and can be, he has not been consistent from year-to-year like Trout has. Trout was able to burst onto the scene in 2012 and he has never looked back as comparisons to himself and Hall of Famer Mickey Mantle are pretty accurate being that he is the face of Major League Baseball.
Another American League MVP Award for Trout would make him the first, three-time winner since Alex Rodriguez. But unlike Rodriguez, Trout’s reputation is squeaky clean as he does not have a steroid cloud hovering over him which makes him a marketing goldmine; especially in Southern California.
There is absolutely nothing that Trout can’t do on the baseball diamond which is further magnified by the fact that he typically leads Major League Baseball in WAR (wins above replacement) each year. It’s also scary good that Trout is only 25-years of age as I do believe that he has yet to reach his ceiling.