In case you blinked twice and missed it, baseball season is already one-sixth complete. While many Northwest fans have spent the past month celebrating their basketball team’s ill-fated playoff run, a multitude of exciting headlines have developed highlighting Major League Baseball. Luckily, The Linfield Review is here to catch you up on some of the events you may have missed.
A record performance: Last Sunday, the Rays’ Carl Crawford tied a Major League record by stealing six bases in one game. He swiped second base five times and third once, all at the expense of the Red Sox and its catcher, Jason Varitek. The performance provided further evidence that Crawford is one of the fastest players in the game and that there is no place for 37-year-old catchers in baseball.
Masterful pitching: There is a clear-cut best pitcher in baseball right now, and he is far from a household name. He plays for the Kansas City Royals and his last name rhymes with stinky. Zach Greinke has won all six of his starts, turned three of them into complete games and averaged nine strikeouts per game with a 0.40 ERA. His mid-nineties fastball, filthy curveball and ridiculous slider have given hitters fits. More astounding is the fact that just three years ago, he was given a leave of absence from baseball to deal with a complex social anxiety disorder. It is great to see him back in the game and dominating.
Surprise teams: Greinke’s Royals certainly fit the bill as a surprise team, leading the American League Central after most sportswriters picked them to finish last in the division (that goes to show how much attention you should pay to what sportswriters think). While the Royals are doing it with pitching, the Toronto Blue Jays, another astonishing division leader, are winning with offense. They currently lead the majors in offensive categories across the board, including batting average, runs, hits and doubles. They are going to have to keep it up yearlong if they want to stay atop the tough American League East.
The St. Louis Cardinals are surprisingly leading the National League Central after their fourth-place finish last year. Their pitching and hitting have been excellent, but the biggest surprise about them is their defense.
At the start of the year, they moved career outfielder Skip Schumaker to second base in an effort to boost their offense. Moving someone who has spent their entire professional career in the outfield to second base would be like taking a professor who has spent his life teaching math and developing him into a creative writing professor. Sure, he will still be instructing students, but that is the only thing that will be familiar. Schumaker has somehow managed to flourish at second, and the move has paid big dividends for the Cardinals, who have the second-best record in the National League.
The Seattle Mariners: Of course, no surprising teams’ list would be complete without mentioning the Mariners, who went from 101 losses a year ago to a division lead as of May 6. The team brought in a new manager, Don Wakamatsu, who, with the help of veterans Ken Griffey Jr. and Mike Sweeney, has instilled a much stronger brand of leadership than what existed on the team last year. Now, the team believes it can win every game, and in the wide-open American League West, anything is possible. Come to think of it, the same can be said about baseball in general, so far this season so stay tuned.