2016 Major League Baseball Week Two - A Look Back
Week Two is drawing to a close and we only have twenty-something weeks of baseball left to enjoy this year. Oh, how the time flies! Each week brings new highs, new lows, and more for both the casual and fervent fan to embrace as memories are made one pitch at a time.
Now, where to begin?
Jackie Robinson Day
We'll start by recognizing that today, April 15 is the day we stop and recognize what Jackie Robinson meant to this game. Every player will wear number 42 out of respect for what this man meant to the game. Many younger players still know who he was and are thankful for his breaking the color barrier. His number is retired forever in Baseball with the final player wearing it during his career being the immortal Mariano Rivera.
Incidentally, I just watched PBS' four hour show on Jackie Robinson. I thought I knew his story but boy was I wrong. I never knew he was the first African American to be Vice President of a major company; never knew he was so involved in politics; and never knew he was so deeply involved with the Civil Rights movement. I sat spellbound for those two nights, watching learning and enjoying the well written and researched show PBS put on. Well done Ken Burns and PBS!
The Amazing Jeremy Hazelbaker
This 27 year old rookie for the Cardinals named Jeremy Hazelbaker: who is he? We looked at him briefly last week and determined he was a washed up career minor leaguer with some 751 games under his belt who had played in multiple cities and countries before being left unprotected by the Dodgers. The Cardinals swooped in and offered him a contract and buddy, and has he ever taken full advantage of it. To date he leads the team in steals, hits, batting average, home runs and RBI's, batting a smooth .481 in nine game with 27 at bats. By the way, that average leads all of MLB as of Friday 2:00 PM CDT. Not a huge sample size but still, he's doing what he needs to do to stick in the big leagues. Way to go Jeremy!!
Staying on the Cardinals, how about Jaime Garcia?!
Left handed pitcher Jaime Garcia nearly made history Thursday afternoon when he spun a truly masterful performance against the Milwaukee Brewers. Thirteen strikeouts, one walk, one hit in a complete game shutout. The Brew Crew were complaining that EVERYTHING this guy threw was moving. Left, right, up, down, inside, outside, fastball, curve, change up, slider, cutter; 75 MPH change up to 92 MPH fastball nothing was straight. This is what Garcia brings to the game: a most unusual combination of a crafty lefty who makes the ball dance like a puppeteer makes a puppet dance with a man who still has the capability of low to mid 90's heat. When he is healthy he has perhaps the best stuff on this team and has to rank among the best in the game. Don't believe me? Take a look at what he did last year when he returned from the DL.
20 games started, 10 wins against 6 losses (in each loss the Cardinals failed to score a single run). 97 K's and 30 walks. ERA 2.43 spanning 129 innings. If you don't already have him on your Fantasy Team look him up. He is dynamite.
Poor Zack Grienke
After his awful first start we expected an improvement - and we got one (to a degree). His first game covered 4 innings of 9 hit 7 run ball with only 2 strikeouts. His second outing saw him make it through 6 innings of 7 hit 4 run ball with 8 strikeouts. Better, but still not what we're used to from the 2015 Cy Young runner up who had a 19 - 3 record, 1.66 ERA and 200 K's. I still believe he will improve: maybe not to where he was last year but better than where he currently resides.
Bryce Harper hits #100 (and 101!)
Washington Senators phenom Bryce Harper hit his 100th career home run Thursday... on his mother's birthday no less. Yes, this cocky, arrogant and brash young man who plays a game with which I am not familiar crushes his 100th career home run then follows it up with number 101 the following night. I've heard it said it ain't braggin' if you can back it up, and after what he did last year, he's backin' it up for sure. This kid can play. I may not like his excessive style, braggadocio mouth and funny looking hair but he most definitely can play the game of baseball. I wonder: what if those pundits of baseball were a mite early in awarding those Washington players the title of Best Team In Baseball last year? What if they coalesce into a true team filled with offensive stars like Harper and pitching wizzes like Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg?
Will the Braves win a game this year?
Lo! The poor Indian, whose untutored mind sees God in the clouds, or hears Him in the wind.
Perhaps Pope did not mean this to represent the 2016 Atlanta Braves but these poor Indians are seeking God anywhere they can find Him right now. After they've started the year 0 for 9 they need help, perhaps even divine help just to win a single game. It doesn't matter what they do they are losing game after game. At least until tonight: they finally won their first game of the year! Congratulations Braves!
Is this the year of the Orioles?
Baltimore has started out hot this year, going 8 and 2 for their first ten games. Their pitching has done a good job and their hitting has too. Mark Trumbo hit not one but two home runs in one inning Friday night to help turn the game around as they scored 9 runs in one inning. That kind of run support goes a long way in securing a win for a pitcher. Trumbo now has 5 home runs on the year to lead the team.
I thought someone was talking about the dearth of power in baseball now. The Cardinals are hitting long balls like there's no tomorrow, Colorado has a kid with a ton of them and everywhere one looks the ball is flying out of the stadium.
And in closing, there was a Sale on Friday night
But not everywhere does the ball fly out. Garcia had a 1 hitter Thursday, and Friday Chris Sale nearly matched him with a 2 hit shutout in which he struck out 9. He now has 23 K's in 23 innings pitched. And he's another lefty who makes the ball dance on the wind. Seems like just about every pitcher in Baseball who is hot is left handed sometimes, when you add Kershaw and Bumgarner to the list.