Friday, July 27, 2012

This stupendous baseball season

After sitting here for a little while wondering what to write about this morning, there were so many stories rolling around the brain that it was quite overwhelming. This has been one stupendous baseball season with stories everywhere to amaze and thrill us. What a joy ride this has been thus far. Unless your favorite team is abominable--and if so, we truly feel for you--being a baseball fan has never been more fun than this season. Last year's amazing finish and the best final day of the baseball season ever seemed to be the pinnacle of the sport. But that was just a precursor to all the fun we are having this season.

So this post was going to be some sort of countdown of the best stories of the season. But how can you rank them? There are so many that are so cool, that ranking would be mind boggling. So here is just a list of some of the stories that have thrilled this particular baseball Fan. Feel free to add more in the comments for those that were missed:

Mike Trout has to be the story of the season. When was the last time a player burst on the scene so dramatically, so artfully, so joyfully and so completely? The admission here is that the Angels have always been this observer's most hated team, but they are must watch baseball now. Mark Trumbo is not far behind as his maturing game has been remarkable.

Ben Sheets is 2-0 with no runs allowed in his first two starts. Even if he crashes and burns the rest of the season and the hope is he does not, his resurrection story is remarkable. We all love comeback stories and his is so improbable that it can't help but make you smile.

Derek Jeter's assault on the all time hit list. Jeter is no longer an elite player, but he is still good enough and lucky enough to be healthy and producing hit after hit. He has passed a remarkable list of Hall of Fame players this year alone and he is going to pass a lot more. And little mention has been made of how many HOF players he is passing on the all time runs scored list too.

The Washington Nationals. Davey Johnson is the best manager in baseball. Of that, there is no doubt. He made Joe Maddon look like a high school coach. We all love when traditional powers get turned on their ear and a new team bursts into greatness. We are witnessing that with the struggle of the Phillies and the dominance of the Nats.

Along with that goes two other stories. Stephen Strasburg has been everything we hoped he would be. His offense just adds to the joy of watching him pitch every fifth day. And the big decision comes soon. That will be fascinating to watch.

Bryce Harper is the other story for the Nats. He has not played as large as his hype, but he has played pretty darn well for a nineteen year old. And the fact that he busts his butt on every play has been a true pleasure.

The Pittsburgh Pirates. The stories abound there. A.J. Burnett resurrecting his career after bottoming out with the Yankees. Andrew McCutchen becoming the best player in the game. That bullpen! It is so good to see a winner in Pittsburgh. And to see the crowds there and the excitement is so much fun to watch.

R.A. Dickey. He climbed the mountain and wrote his book. But no fictional story would have been able to top what has been a magical season for a knuckleball pitcher. Very cool.

David Price. One of the most enjoyable personalities on Twitter was somewhat of a mystery on the mound until this year. Oh he was good. He was very good. But he never seemed to be over-the-top good. Well, he is now. A new pitch, a new focus, and he has become the most dominant pitcher in the American League.

Crash and burn stories are fascinating too. The Red Sox' first season with Bobby Valentine has been fascinating. Who is to blame, Valentine or his players? This observer goes with the players as they seem to refuse to support their manager.

The Rockies have seemingly done everything wrong a team can do. If a guy could write a book on the series of blunders this organization has made, he would get kind of rich. What a fascinating train wreck.

The Mariners trade Ichiro Suzuki. The player and the team have been so synonymous that the trade was a shock is putting it mildly. The Mariners were going to have a PR nightmare facing them in the off season on whether to re-sign him and they have effectively avoided that. Genius.

Josh Reddick. Did anyone see Reddick's season coming? The Red Sox traded what appeared to be a fourth or fifth outfielder. And instead, they traded a star. His homer total considering his home park is astounding. His defense has been sparkling and his arm has been magnificent. Very cool.

Alex Rios. Rios has been on a even year / odd year thing for a while now and this even year has been remarkable at how much better it has been than last year.

Catchers hitting. Joe Mauer is back and fighting again for the batting title. He doesn't catch as often, but that is still cool. Carlos Ruiz has had an amazing season for the Phillies. Yadier Molina has gone from a great defensive catcher to an all around force. And Miguel Montero has been awesome again this season. And Buster Posey is back after last year's calamitous injury.

Matt Harvey's first start for the Mets has to be one of the coolest moments this season. That's one way to burst on the scene, eh?

Austin Jackson has become a star. For two seasons, he has been a disappointment and a head-scratcher that his manager would continue to bat him lead-off with all those strikeouts and lack of on-base skills. Nobody is talking like that now. The kid is flying and sure seems to be enjoying himself. His success is infectious to watch.

Jake Peavy. We all hoped he wouldn't crash but admit it, we all expected it. Not only has he stayed healthy, he has pitched very well.

Robinson Cano. He is still too undisciplined at the plate, but he is finally having an MVP- caliber season we all expected. And you can see him gradually taking over as the team leader on and off the field.

The return-to-form of Jason Heyward. Last year was so disappointing and such a let down. People were so low on him after it that the joy of his first season was gone. But he is back and producing and though still not as good as he can be, he is again one of the most promising stars in the game.

The fall of the Marlins. They had a new everything and before the season looked to be able to take over the NL East. But they have...uhh...forgive the pun...floundered and the Ozzie Guillen show has already worn very thin. And now we get to have a reality show chronicling the entire mess.

Josh Hamilton. His season is playing out like the movie, The Natural.  At first, he is hitting everything and everyone adores him. Then he stops hitting in July and the world turns against him. Will it all end on a happy note? It will be fascinating to find out.

Chris Sale. The guy looks like a strong gust of wind could blow him right back into the dugout. A reliever turned starter? Uh oh, that can't work, can it? Uh, like yeah, it can.

David Wright's season with the Mets. The dude has been amazing. Absolutely freakin' amazing. What a season he is having.

Edwin Encarnacion. Wow! Does his burst to stardom look familiar? Yeah, just like his teammate. The guy has become a beast with one of the most violent swings in America. And when he hits them...holy cow...

Brendan Ryan's defense. The guy is a wizard. How else can you explain him batting under the Mendoza line and still having a rWAR of 2.9? The guy is the best shortstop in the game with the glove.

Fernando Rodney. While not fond of that arrow-shooting, self-aggrandizement stuff, his season for the Rays has been remarkable in its unexpected success. Everyone joked when the Rays picked him up except the Rays.

Melky Cabrera. Holy Giants, Batman. Cabrera was the worst player in baseball when he played for the Braves. But he has remade himself and worked hard and had a great season last year for the Royals and is remarkable this season. Wow. Just wow.

Aroldis Chapman. Need more be said? 90 strikeouts in 47+ innings. A 17 K/9 rate. A WHIP of 0.713. What an amazing array of talent. Amazing. Breathtaking.

There are others. Lance Lynn, Jordan Zimmermann. Ryan Zimmerman and many, many more. This writer has been a Fan of Major League Baseball for over fifty years and can never remember having so much fun watching a baseball season. Hope you are having just as much fun.

1 comment:

Grubby Glove said...

I enjoyed this post, William, as I do so many. So far, for 2012, my highlights are going to Wrigley Field for the first time in my life, going to AT+T Park the game BEFORE Matt Cain's perfecto, seeing King Felix in Oakland and enjoyed all of the unfolding stories you mentioned. Yes, it is a great season!