Throughout the season, Charlie will be looking into five of the biggest stories of the week. This week, Rob Manfred comments on the use of relievers, Joe Mauer makes history, the Mets are amazing, the latest news on Shohtime and the Yankees and Red Sox get a little bit wild.
1. Rob Manfred comments on the use of relievers
In comments made early in the week, the commissioner of Baseball, Rob Manfred, was quoted as saying the following: I’ve got nothing against relief pitchers, but they do two things to the game: They slow the game down and our relievers have become so dominant at the back end that they actually rob action out of the end of the game. He then went on to suggest there would be a limit placed on the amount of pitchers that could be used in one inning.
Whilst, I can understand parts of what he is saying here, i.e. slowing the game down, I just believe limiting the use of relievers would do more harm than good. Part of the greatness of baseball lies in managerial strategy, and taking advantage (or what advantage you can) of the potential match-ups in terms of hitter vs pitcher that are presented to you. By limiting a managers options in terms of how he can use his relievers, Manfred would be changing a significant part of in-game strategy, especially late in games.
Baseball is a game with no clock and the average game is over three hours long. However let’s put that into context. NFL games can seemingly run into almost four hours, due to all the commercial breaks. NBA games seem to also go on for close to three to three and a half hours with the last two minutes of every game seemingly taking 30 minutes due to advertisement breaks and time outs.
As I asked in my offseason highlights column, could the commissioner be taking too many risks here, by trying to change the game too much? In the chase for new fans, is he at risk of alienating the fans baseball already has?
2. Joe Mauer makes history with his 2,000th hit.
On the 12th April Joe Mauer made history becoming only the third Minnesota Twin in history (the other two being Kirby Puckett and Rod Carew) to get to the 2000 hit milestone. In complete franchise history (The Twins played in Washington as the Senators before being moved to the twin cities) Mauer is the seventh player to accomplish the feat. Overall he is the 288th player in MLB history.
Joe Mauer has been in the league for 15 years making his debut in 2004 for the Twins. He is also the rarity of a hometown boy playing for his hometown team, having been born and grown up in Minnesota. He is also a five time all-star, three time gold glove award winner (as a catcher) and a five time silver slugger award winner (as a catcher). He also won the MVP in 2009, in which he put up career numbers across the board in hits (191), home runs (26), RBI (98) and runs scored (94). He also had a career best slash line of .365/.444/.587 for a 1.031 OPS and 171 OPS+ producing a 7.8 WAR for the year.
Between 2004 -2013, Mauer played as a catcher, but unfortunate repeated concussions meant a change of position to first base in 2014. As a catcher, Mauer only posted an OPS below .800 twice, and in seven of those years he posted an OPS+ of 130 or better.
In contrast as a first basemen, he has only posted an OPS of over .800 once, and his best OPS+ is 115.
On his accomplishment, Mauer was quoted as saying “Leading up to it, I didn’t try to make a big deal of it to be honest. When I got up there the at-bat before, the fans started to get into it. It put some more adrenaline in my system there. It was a special moment, especially coming off a tough lefty and driving in a couple runs, too. That was a special moment.”
3. The Mets Amazing Nine Game Winning Streak
Coming into the season, the question about the New York Mets, was simple, can they stay healthy? At full strength, the New York Mets rotation is one of the best in the league. Anchored by co-aces Noah Syndergaard and Jacob DeGrom who are ably supported by Matt Harvey, Steven Matz and Zack Wheeler. Unfortunately for the Mets, up till this past week they had never been able to start all five through one turn in the rotation.
The streak started with back to back wins against the Phillies, and then in a possibly significant series for early momentum, a three game sweep of the defending NL East champion Washington Nationals, the brooms were out again for a four-game sweep of the cellar-dwelling Marlins, before a win against the Milwaukee Brewers.
In the streak the Mets outscored their opponents 45 to 25. In six of their nine wins the Mets held their opponents to three runs or less. The bullpen put up a sub-2.00 ERA, DeGrom, Syndergaard, Matz and Wheeler also all collected wins along the way.
They became the first New York team since the 1955 Brooklyn Dodgers to post a 11-1 win/loss record at the start of a season. Teams based in New York have only accomplished this feat six other times. They are also the 22nd MLB team to put up this record since 1903.
It was a great statement of intent for what the Mets are capable of when healthy. Last season out of the aforementioned starting pitchers, only DeGrom managed to pitch 120+ innings.
The Mets also have great rotation depth with the likes of Robert Gsellman or Seth Lugo ready to step in, should any injuries occur. The free agent signing Jason Vargas will be returning from the Disabled List soon giving the Mets a tough choice between Vargas and Wheeler for the fifth starters spot. Should the Mets be able to keep their rotation at least relatively intact, through the season, the Nationals may face a tough battle to retain the NL East division title.
4. Shohtime Gets Offensive
It was always going to be tough for Ohtani to follow up from his week one accomplishments. He has not yet had his chance to pitch in week two, due to off days and weather postponed games but he has had the chance to hit. Suffice to say he’s made the most of it.
On 11th April, Ohtani went one for three, with a walk, RBI and a strikeout. On 12th April, he made history with his first career triple which also drove in three runs. It was his only hit on the night as he went one for four, with a walk and a strikeout.
On 13th April, Shohei had two hits in four at bats, with one being a double, with a strikeout and a run scored.
In total, this means Shohei has a slash line of .367/,424/.767 with an OPS of 1.191 and an outstanding OPS+ of 233. In 30 at bats he has driven in 11 RBI while scoring five runs, walking three times whilst striking out seven times.
The Angels have been amongst the hottest teams in Baseball starting the season at 12-4, being driven by one of the most in-form offenses in the game. The one cause for concern for the Angels is there is not much backup in the rotation behind Garrett Richards and Ohtani. Should either one fall to injury for any significant amount of time, it could be a long season for the Halos.
5. The Red Sox and Yankees Benches Clear
Some say it’s the best rivalry in baseball, some say it’s overrated, but it is without a doubt the most well known rivalry in baseball. I think it’s fair to say we all enjoy a bit of edginess in baseball. Especially in the storied rivalries such as Red Sox vs Yankees, Dodgers vs Giants, Cubs vs White Sox etc.
On Wednesday in Boston things went over the edge. In the top of the third inning with men on base, Tyler Austin of the Yankees slid hard into second base trying to beat a fielder’s choice bunt grounder and ended up spiking Brock Holt. Holt who was covering second base, was not too happy, and words were exchanged between the two. Although the benches did clear, the situation was calmed down relatively quickly.
This was not to be the end of it. In the top of the seventh inning, Boston reliever Joe Kelly hit Austin with a 98mph fast ball. As one could imagine, Austin was incensed and charged the mound going after Kelly. A brawl then ensued between the two, with both benches emptying to try and relax the situation. Ejections followed with Austin, Kelly, Yankees third base coach Phil Nevin and Yankees reliever Tommy Kahnle all being removed from the game.
After the game, suspensions were given to both Tyler Austin and Joe Kelly for five games. Red Sox manager Alex Cora and the previously mentioned Phil Nevin both received fines. CC Sabathia, Xander Bogaerts, Marco Hernandez and Dustin Pedroia were also fined for entering the field of play while being on the disabled list.
There were no further incidents in the following game of that particular series, although can expect more potential fireworks throughout the season from these two teams as they look to win what is likely to be a very hard fought AL East.