With next Tuesday night’s All-Star game set for Cincinnati, we are at the end of the first half of the season. And while, the opening three plus months has given us the usual assortment of highs and lows, I’m holding on to some of the more positive occurrences in my memory bank.
For me, these are the Top-5:
Max Scherzer no-hitter – Mad Max conceivably could’ve had back-to-back no-no’s, with one of them being a perfecto! Yeah, I know, coulda, woulda, shoulda. But his presence atop the Nats rotation is crystal clear. There’s something about him that reminds me of Curt Schilling. And the way he’s pitched this season, he may now have overtaken Clayton Kershaw as the best pitcher in the game.
Alex Rodriguez 661st HR / 3,000th hit – I never imagined for a second that I’d root for the guy, or feel some sort of empathy for him. Seeing him pass Willie Mays on the all-time HR list was a bit of a charade for a couple of reasons. First and foremost, because of his cheating and lying all of these years. And also because of the shoddy manner in which the Yankee organization chose to virtually ignore the achievement and thus not dole out bonus money to A-Rod, even though the team was contractually obligated to do so. The Steinbrenner brass handled things much better when Rodriguez cracked his long ball to join the 3,000 hit club, but it nonetheless was still tainted because of… well, you all know why.
Joe Maddon The Magnificent – Just because he moved to Chicago from Tampa Bay didn’t mean that the quirky Cubs skipper would alter his unique style of managing. Known for bringing animals into the clubhouse to lighten the mood when he was with the Rays, Maddon couldn’t turn the trick while on the road in New York and his team was in the midst of a five game losing streak. So Maddon sought out a different approach to reach his struggling team: Magic. No, not Earvin Johnson. A real magician named Simon. And the hocus pocus maneuver worked, as the Cubbies proceeded to end their skid and reel off three straight wins and take seven of their last 10 games since.
New Faces – I saw where 19 of the players in next week’s MLB All-Star game are 25 years old or younger, and youth has certainly been a major theme in the first half of the season with the debuts of a number of kids who’ve been ticketed for baseball’s fast lane to success. And the list seems endless with the likes of Dodgers CF Joc Pederson, LA teammate Alex Guerrero, Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant, Astros shortstop Carlos Correa, Rangers first baseman Joey Gallo, Rays pitcher Steven Souza and Giants hurler Chris Heston all displaying immense abilities. And speaking of which…
Steven Matz debut – With his mother, father, grandfather and other family members on hand at Citi Field, the hometown kid made an electric major league debut for the Mets against the Reds by hurling 7-2/3 innings with six strikeouts… and also going 3-for-3 at the dish with 4 RBIs, to singlehandedly deliver his first big league victory. All in all, very reminiscent of what Jeff Francoeur did with the Braves that magical July evening back in 2005. Unfortunately for Matz, his family affair showing may end up being the highlight of his rookie season. He suffered a torn lat muscle last week, and it’s uncertain when he’ll be able to return to the mound.