A View from Studio 3: Kick back and enjoy season
If you're already tired of hearing about teams that are underachieving and overachieving less than two weeks into the season, you're not alone. It's borderline nonsense to project October matchups while there is still snow on the ground in Minneapolis and before the National Cherry Blossom Festival concludes in Washington, D.C.
While some are shedding tears over the Blue Jays' and Angels' slow starts to the season, others were planning another Octoberfest for the Orioles and Athletics. Put away the Kleenex. Hold off on the beer ball and guacamole. The marathon has just begun, and it started with a number of historic achievements and anniversaries worth acknowledging.
First, some history. And the following does not qualify as breaking news.
Hall of Famer Rickey Henderson was the best leadoff hitter in the history of the game. In a brilliant 25-year career spent primarily with the Athletics, he set all-time records for runs scored, stolen bases and homers from the leadoff spot. But even Rickey didn't do what Coco accomplished this week. Crisp became just the 16th man since 1916 to homer in four consecutive games while batting in the leadoff spot. Quoting the great American philosopher Larry David, Crisp is "pretty, pretty, pretty good."
As is the Royals 6-4 start to the season. Wednesday marked the 40th anniversary of the first game played at beautiful Kauffman Stadium. Think about this: In the first 13 years at the ballpark once known as Royals Stadium, the team reached the playoffs seven times. Since then: nada.
Since the 1985 Royals reached the pinnacle by winning their only World Championship, MLB has expanded twice, realigned a few times, expanded the playoff format twice and celebrated the 15-year anniversary of Interleague Play. Should I go on? OK. Four different Commissioners have been in office and 10 current Royals were born.
To put it another way, you have to be at least 35 years old to have any memory of the Royals in the postseason. So forgive wary Royals fans if they curb their enthusiasm two weeks into the season.
|Ted Williams||6, 745|
While we're on the topic of long memories, only fans in their late 60s and older can recall at time when a player recorded 1,000 career extra-base hits in fewer at-bats than Albert Pujols. Pujols reached that mark on April 11 in his 6,944 career at-bat.
One, as Pujols has fallen out of many "best hitters in the game" conversations, we're reminded that while his body is not fully healthy, his body of work is comparable to the all-time greats. Two, there's a six-decade gap between Ted Williams and Pujols. Think of the tens of thousands of players to kick the dirt in a batter's box over the years.
For a period of time, every mention of Pujols was joined by a conversation about Miguel Cabrera. Miggy was the obvious choice to carry the "best hitter in the game" torch, and he wears that crown (and the Triple Crown quite comfortably). If you're in the group that devalues Cabrera because of his physique and lack of speed, shame on you. On April 11, he silenced his critics by recording a triple and a stolen base in the same game. Sure, it took him a decade, but what's the rush? He's still 29 years old for another few days. He'll celebrate the big 3-0 on Thursday.
Cabrera is a once in a generation talent.
Mets pitcher Matt Harvey is a once in a generation pitcher (in Queens, New York, that is.) He not only represents hope for a franchise that's gone the wrong way since Carlos Beltran got bowel-locked by Adam Wainwright in the 2006 National League Championship Series, but Harvey also symbolizes the end of a nasty drought. The last pitcher drafted and developed by the Mets with a ceiling this high was Dwight Gooden. More than 30 years ago. Harvey's record and ERA in his first dozen Major League games are comparable to Doc, Tom Seaver and Nolan Ryan.
And finally, there's the curious case of Chris Davis -- a hulking figure with a common name but uncommon ability. His accomplishments in the Orioles' first 10 games of the season have him mentioned in the same breath as a few former MVPs.
The burly Texan had 19 RBIs in Baltimore's first nine games, and in doing so, he surpassed Dale Murphy and Manny Ramirez, who held the previous record of 18.
This is the same Davis who was traded by the Rangers, as he struggled to make proper offensive adjustments. A few seasons later, Peter Gammons compared Davis to former Baltimore slugger Boog Powell.
What does this all mean?
Like trying to predict World Series winners in April, forecasting which players will make headlines or history is often a waste of time. It's a long and crazy ride. Kick back and enjoy it.
Matt Yallof is the co-host of The Rundown on MLB Network from 2-4 p.m. ET. Follow him on twitter @mattyallofmlb. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.