Manny, Players of the Week, Panic in Boston? And More...
Around the Horn
Catalyst in the Middle
With an injury to second baseman Chase Utley keeping the All-Star out of the lineup for Philadelphia, the Philles have had to improvise a little. Manager Charlie Manuel inserted Jimmy Rollins, primarily a leadoff hitter his entire career, into the No. 3 hole, formerly occupied by Utley. While many experts thought this would severely weaken the lineup, Rollins remains the catalyst. He has yet to drive in a run, but is hitting .324 with an OBP of .390. He is the only Phillie regular without at least five RBIs.
The Arizona Diamondbacks have the 25th-highest payroll in baseball this season. Manager Kirk Gibson, who never made as much as $2 million during his playing days, leads 10 players who will make more this season than the fiery outfielder did in any one season.
Durability Behind the Plate
Over the last three seasons, the Yankees haven’t had a catcher start as many as 100 games in a season. Since Jorge Posada signed a four-year, $52.4 million contract prior to the 2008 season, he’s started less than 40 percent of the Yankees’ games behind the plate. That trend is likely to change. This season, Russell Martin has caught every inning, the only catcher in baseball that can make that claim.
AL Player of the Week
Alex Gordon, Royals
The Royals have been patiently waiting for Gordon, the 2005 first-round draft pick, to realize his full potential. They were rewarded with a week in which Gordon was 12-for-24 with a homer and four RBIs. He scored eight runs and had an OPS of 1.347.
AL Pitcher of the Week
Jered Weaver, Angels
If the Angels are to challenge the Rangers in the AL West, it will be because of stellar starting pitching. Weaver responded with two excellent starts, winning both. In 14.1 innings, he allowed just seven walks and seven hits while striking out 21. His effort resulted in a 1.26 ERA and a 0.98 WHIP.
NL Player of the Week
Prince Fielder, Brewers
Prince, playing for a big contract, swung a royal bat this week, driving in 11 runs with two homers and four doubles. He batted .440 (11-for-25) and scored four times. His OPS was 1.346.
NL Pitcher of the Week
Chris Narveson, Brewers
The Brewers’ search for a pitcher to fill the gap until ace Zack Greinke returns yielded two stingy starts by Narveson this week. He tossed 13 scoreless innings allowing nine hits and four walks while whiffing 14. A lack of offense left the lefty with just one win to show for his performance.
Mike Trout, OF, Angels
Considered by many to be the top prospect in all of baseball, Trout will spend the 2011 summer in Little Rock, Ark., playing center field for the Arkansas Travelers (AA). The 19-year-old speedster hit better than .300 at both stops at Single-A last season.
Julio Teheran, SP, Braves
With just seven starts at the Double-A level last season, the Braves had originally ticketed their prize 20-year-old to begin 2011 at the same level he ended last season. But Atlanta saw enough during the spring to give Teheran an opportunity to prove himself at Triple-A Gwinnett. He may get the call to make the drive into the city before the summer is over.
Jameson Taillon, SP, Pirates
Pittsburgh’s first-round pick in 2010 carries the hope for a franchise suffering through 18 straight losing seasons. The 6'7" righthander, who was drafted out of high school, signed too late to make his debut last season. The Pirates will not rush Taillon to the big leagues.
Manny was Just Too Manny
We’ve all seen the video clips of Manny Being Manny: His first major hit, which was a ground-rule double that he thought was a home run causing him to jog to third before being told to go back to second base; tossing the ball into the stands and jogging off the field, only to find out there were actually two outs; and there was the inexplicable cutoff from fellow Red Sox outfielder Johnny Damon.
We watched the clips and we laughed at Manny Ramirez. Comical, carefree, perhaps even a bit defiant. But it was usually playful, and not malicious in any way. But his playful defiance grew into disrespect for the game, his teammates, opponents and fans.
With 555 home runs, 1,831 RBIs and 1,544 runs with a .312 career batting average, Manny has put together a Hall of Fame career from a stats perspective. The 12-time All-Star owns a batting title, as well as titles in RBIs and home runs.
But has Manny, who retired over the weekend amid further PED allegations, completed a Hall of Fame career? The issue is certain to be debated over the next five years as he waits to become eligible for election in 2017. Will voters have forgotten the positive test for PEDs and his 50-game suspension in 2009? The latest allegation suggests that Manny has chosen to retire rather than face another suspension, which would have been 100 games since it’s his second offense.
Given that Hall of Fame voters seemingly have not yet forgiven Mark McGwire, who has received less than 25 percent of votes for the Hall of Fame in his three years on the ballot, and Rafael Palmeiro (less than 20 percent), it doesn’t appear that voters are sympathetic to the poster children of the Steroid Era.
And making Manny’s case worse, McGwire, Sammy Sosa, et al didn’t technically break any baseball PED rules as they existed at the time. Manny did. Evidently twice.
It’s one thing to disrespect the game in the 1980s and ’90s when baseball rules regarding PEDs resembled something of the Wild West. But it’s another issue altogether to be so brazen in 2011, especially after being busted two years prior. Yet Manny Ramirez was caught once again with his hand in the PED jar. Whether it’s stupidity or arrogance, this type of disrespect to the league, players and fans should keep Ramirez out of baseball — and the Hall of Fame — for good.
Three-time MVP Albert Pujols, coming off one of the greatest decades in baseball history, is also entering the first contract year of his career. After failing to reach an agreement with the Cardinals over the winter, Pujols declared last fall that he would not negotiate once he reported to spring training, because he “didn’t want the contract to become a distraction to the team.”
Now Pujols is mired in a slump foreign to the nine-time All-Star. Through Sunday Pujols was hitting .143 with just one extra-base hit. The season began on a disastrous note with Pujols grounding into three double-plays, the first ever to do that on Opening Day.
His struggles continued over the weekend at San Francisco, culminating with an 0-for-5 afternoon on Sunday. At several points during the game, fans were chanting one-five-six, which was the slugger’s batting average at the time.
Accustomed to leading the National League in home runs, RBIs or slugging, by grounding into his fifth double play of the season, that’s the only category he leads this season. Perhaps, his contract situation has become a distraction — for Pujols.
No Panic in Boston
In case you haven’t heard, the Boston Red Sox are 2-7 on the season, after opening 2011 by getting swept at Texas — projected as one of the pennant contenders in the American League this season — and at Cleveland — projected to be one of the worst teams in the league — to start the season.
You may have heard all the woeful stats that no team ever started 0-6 and made the playoffs, or won the World Series after being as bad as 0-5. Blah, blah, blah.
The Sox ended the week four games behind Baltimore, and just three games behind New York. Time to panic? I think not.
If the Red Sox were six games behind the Yankees on Aug. 18, there would be no panic. So a four-game deficit in April is no reason to panic.
Last September in the heat of the National League West division race, Giants centerfielder Andres Torres underwent an appendectomy. He had the procedure on Sept. 12, and the original prognosis was that he would miss 2-3 weeks. With 19 games to play, that would have meant missing the remainder of the season. He returned on Sept. 24, missing only 10 games.
This season, appendicitis seems to be the ailment of the season. Matt Holliday of the Cardinals, after a tremendous Opening Day, had an appendectomy on April 1. He returned to the St. Louis lineup on April 10. Adam Dunn of the White Sox had the surgery on April 6 and should return some time this week.
This obviously is not your father’s appendicitis.
3 Number of home runs and errors by Milwaukee second baseman Rickie Weeks.
6 Colorado’s Huston Street’s appearances in the Rockies’ first eight games. He has logged eight innings and four saves.
555 Number of career home runs by Manny Ramirez, who retired over the weekend amid more allegations of the use of PEDs.
.454 Albert Pujols’ OPS after eight games this season. His career OPS going into the season was 1.050.
18 Millions of dollars the New York Mets owe to released players Oliver Perez and Luis Castillo this season.