We’re now two weeks into the 2011 Major League Baseball season. Here are your my top 5 story lines.
1. The Royals don’t suck. At least not yet. Before Thursday’s games Kansas City is 7-4 and just a half game out of first behind the also surprising Cleveland Indians. The rookie relievers have been nothing short of excellent, and the offense has far exceeded expectations. The Royals tied their own record early this season recording 4 straight walk-off victories. I already reserved my playoff tickets for Kauffman Stadium.
The Kila Monster celebrates his walkoff home run
2. Albert Pujols has been abducted by aliens. Through Wednesday night he is hitting .229 with just 1 home run, 6 RBIs and an OPS of .609. To put into perspective how un-Pujols-like that is, his career OPS is 1.047. Keep this up Albert and you’re going to wish you’d signed that offer from the Cardinals. Or better yet, his stock will fall so far even the Royals could afford him.
While a lot of this morning’s Home Run Derby analysis is either focusing on Nelson Cruz’ welcome-to-the-public-eye performance, or Chris Berman’s incredibly-aged shtick, perhaps a little bit more love should be given to the new Prince King of the home runs. Keep in mind Fielder beat out overwhelming crowd favorite Albert Pujols, 2006 Derby champ Ryan Howard and the hot-swinging Cruz to capture the crown. In the final round, Fielder hit six bombs to Cruz’ five, and demonstrated a swing that’s capable of hitting the ball a country mile — provided a country mile measures 503 feet (we checked, it does).
Just in case you missed any of Fielder’s performance, there’s video; although, I don’t expect it to last that long. Who knows? Maybe MLB will turn a blind eye to the free advertising. Doubtful, but you never know.
No, the Texas slugger isn’t participating in tonight’s Home Run Derby, but that doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy his incredible 28-homer round from last year. The funny thing is, because totals don’t carry over to the final round, and because Hamilton couldn’t reproduce his first round magic, he wound up losing to Justin Morneau.
The MLB’s All Star celebration is about a week away, and with that comes the obligatory marketing push. Commercials, print ads, ESPN spots; you name it, advertising-wise, and the MLB is probably using it to get the word out about the baseball party in St. Louis. One such method — the Fox commercial — is being met with some less-than-enthusiastic response, especially from our friends at Major League Jerk. Hef thinks the above commercial is perhaps the Worst Commercial Ever; and while I can see the reason for this sentiment, I’m leaning more towards “this is just silly” side.
I’m not sure, but I think I even like the magnet idea, although, the cheese factor is certainly there. In light of all the steroid crap, do baseball fans still get this excited over an exhibition game with unnecessary meaning tacked on?
But is he the MOST valuable? It depends on your definition of “value” is. If it calls for ignoring stats like home runs and RBI in favor of batting average, then no, Howard is not the most valuable. However, with the Phillies leading the NL East — for now — and his MLB-leading 45 home runs and 136 RBI contribution to said lead, he certainly deserves some consideration. Yes, Howard’s batting average has been lower than you’d want during the season grind, but in the last week or so, Philadelphia’s hammer is hitting .455 with four dingers and 11 runs knocked in.
Howard’s recent tear has helped push his batting average to the .250 area for the first time this season. On the other hand, Howard is again threatening to exceed 200 strikeouts with only 74 walks. Obviously, you’d like to see his patience at the plate improve — as well as his eye — but consider this: if you knew every time you made contact with the ball, it had a chance to leave the yard, patience and plate discipline may not be your biggest virtues either.