We’ve completed an entire month of Major League Baseball and from Ozzie Guillen angering his entire fan base and Bryce Harper’s debut, to a perfect game and many walk-off homers, April certainly had its memorable moments. Here are nine things we will remember from the first month of the big league season.
1. Manager’s mouths
In the American League, Bobby Valentine publicly questioned Kevin Youkilis’ emotional and physical commitment, which only stirred up a hornet’s nest in Boston’s clubhouse. The Red Sox players have been resistant to embrace Valentine since he was hired, and this situation did not help. Dustin Pedroia immediately jumped to Youkilis’ defense and said this about Valentine: “That’s really not the way we go about our stuff here. I’m sure he’ll figure that out soon.”
The Red Sox players are definitely having trouble adjusting to their new authority and it has coincided with a slow start (just 11-11 and last in the AL East). Valentine should temper his criticism in the media concerning his player’s work ethic, especially this early in the season. That’s definitely something that can be kept behind closed doors.
But if there is anyone to blame for Boston’s slow start, the players need to look at themselves. Boston is not losing games because of questionable managerial decisions, they are losing because they have played poorly. And the main culprit has been their pitching, which has produced a 5.54 ERA (13th of 14 in the American League). With pitching like that, the Red Sox would need to average more than six runs a game to have the chance to win. And really, can a manager who is willing to disguise himself so that he can re-enter the dugout after being ejected be that hard to play for?
And in the National League, Ozzie Guillen decided that he would find a way to insult the very fan base that the Marlins are trying to fill their new stadium with when he said, “I love Fidel Castro.” You are certainly within your constitutional rights to voice your opinion on politics, but that doesn’t mean you always should. Especially when it’s in favor of a man who all Cubans collectively hate. Many Cubans risked their lives just to reach America and have freedom from the tyrannic dictator, and many of them live in Miami. Guillen caused unnecessary PR damage to the Marlins and it may be costing them at the turnstiles.
I hope something positive comes out of this situation, though, and that it brings awareness to the plight of many people in a country just to the south of us. And I hope that Ozzie can learn from his ignorance or arrogance, whichever it is, and that the community in Miami will forgive him.
Hopefully, both Valentine and Guillen can learn from their mistakes and be successful in their positions. And it wouldn’t hurt them to read James 3 once or twice…
2. Pujols’ slump
Albert Pujols signed a $250 million contract with the Los Angeles Angels, and he did not hit a home run in the entire month of April. Say it ain’t so Albert! Maybe that’s why he did not want to be called “El Hombre.”
I’m sure the main reason for Pujols’ slump is mental. He’s probably putting a lot of pressure on himself to perform after signing a big deal. Couple that with playing for a new team, a new owner, new manager, and breaking in a new hitting coach, and it has to be tough for him to have a clear head right now. Even though that big contract doesn’t look so good from the Angels perspective right now, I bet by the end of May or June Pujols will be back to the power-hitting machine he is.
3. Bryce Harper’s debut
This month could be remembered for watching the debut of a once-in-a-generation-type player, or it could be remembered for one of the most overhyped players in history. Bryce Harper certainly has all of the physical tools to be a great player like Ken Griffey Jr. or Willie Mays, but, assuming Harper remains healthy, it will be the mental side of his game that will make or break his career. Can he make adjustments throughout a game and season? Can he hit major league off-speed pitches? Can he transition to the outfield (he was a catcher in high school)? Can he deal with the constant media attention?
Time will tell on whether or not the 19-year-old phenom will be a Hall of Fame talent, but one thing is for sure, he may be the first player to get mooned while recording his first career hit. (Not going to link to that here, but it’s out there somewhere.)
4. The old guys still have it
Jamie Moyer (49) – After missing last season because of Tommy John surgery, Moyer made history by becoming baseball’s oldest man to win a game. He pitched quite well in April, recording a 3.14 ERA.
Chipper Jones (40) – Larry Wayne Jones, Jr. announced in spring training that this will be his final year, and it looks like he will be going out strong. Despite missing the first week and a half of the season and getting scheduled days of rest a couple of games each week, Jones has driven in 12 runs, and hit three homers in just 15 games.
Todd Helton (38) – Helton has hit four home runs and driven in 16 runs, and he’s already had some clutch hits this season, with a walk-off homer and a game-tying grand slam (with former Vols teammate Peyton Manning in attendance).
Also, two more veterans (Andy Pettitte and Johnny Damon) are poised to make impacts in the coming weeks.
Pettitte, 39, is working his way back to the Yankees after a year of retirement. Given the state of the Yankees rotation, he will be leaned on as an ace. And Damon, 38, will join the struggling Cleveland Indians lineup (the team hasn’t hit a home run in 11 games) on May 1st.
5. Brian Wilson out for season
Sports Spectrum’s most interesting man in baseball will be out for the season and have Tommy John surgery. The entertainment value of Giants baseball fell down a notch.
6. Matt Kemp’s hot start
Kemp turned a lot of heads in spring training by saying he wanted to be the first 50-50 (HRs-steals) player in baseball. Given his torrid start (.417, 12 HRs, 25 RBIs) he has a chance to get to 50 home runs, but he’s hitting so many extra base hits, it’s hard to see him getting enough chances to steal bases (only 2 steals this month).
7. David Wright is back
The New York Mets moved Citi Field’s fences in this offseason and David Wright is benefitting big time. Since the Mets new ballpark opened in 2009, Wright has not been the .300 hitter that he was at Shea Stadium. The past two seasons, Wright has seen his average dip below .300, bottoming out at .254 last season. With the shorter field, Wright seems much more comfortable at the plate and is second in the National League in hitting, with a .389 average.
8. D.C. Area in first place
On April 30, both Baltimore and Washington were in first place in their divisions. Fans should remember April 2012 well, because it’s hard to see either team being there at the end of September.
Baseball had its first perfect game of the season, and its 21st in Major League Baseball history, when the White Sox’ Philip Humber retired all 27 Seattle Mariners hitters. And considering that this is Humber’s fourth major league team since 2007, this may be the only thing he will ever be known for.
Here’s a tweet from Mr. Perfect about perfection:
Throwing a perfect game is an awesome moment in a ballplayer’s life.But it pales in comparison to knowing a truly perfect God. Jer 9:23-24
— Philip Humber (@Philip_Humber) April 23, 2012