What are the big news items as we head for Memorial Day? Once upon a time it was set aside as a day to honor those who were killed in wars before it became the opening day of barbecue season and what the retailers, especially automobile dealers, call the beginning of the Summer season. Scientists say that Summer is almost a month away, but what the hell do they know?
One item that has Major League Baseball followers somewhat excited is the effect of all of those new rules on the game. Games are faster, no doubt about it. Pitchers who were once labelled “deliberate”, like Camilo Doval, have been making their catchers and managers nervous as they yin with high speed fastballs and yang with syrupy deliveries. Left sided batters have much less trouble keeping their batting averages above the Mendoza line without the vaunted/hated infield shifts. Base stealers dig the diminishing number of tosses that are meant to keep them closer to the bag. Beer guzzlers watching at home have less time to run to the bathroom as batters stay in the box. One thing that hasn’t changed for the better is the number of strikeouts. As of May 21,there have been 12,063 strikeouts for an average of 25.6 per game whereas last season the average was 25.2 per game. So the average hurler is still Sandy Koufax. The “automatic” runner at second base is , to this observer, about as useful as hoop earrings on a basset hound but the rest of the stuff is okay. If the shifts were not enough incentive to get more batters to learn to put the ball in play somewhere then I guess we should just give up.
Noteworthy items in the first quarter of the season include strong starts by the Tampa Bay Rays and the Baltimore orioles and surprisingly slow starts by the St. Louis cardinals, Philadelphia Phillies, and San Diego Padres. The Cardinals seem to have snapped out of their funk (where’s Yadi?) and look ready to contend in that mysterious National League Central except that Adam Wainwright has been looking more like Donovan Osborne this season so far. Paul DeJong is hitting again, though. Pittsburgh lost their promising young shortstop, Oneil Cruz, to injury but they have become interesting with old man Andrew McCutchen helping the youngsters along with another old man, Carlos Santana.
Luis Arraez is having fun reminding everybody of Tony Gwynn and helping Miami Marlins fans stay awake. The Houston Astros appear to have some competition this year, perhaps even including the Santa Ana Angels, but we have said that before. Texas has to be taken seriously, especially if Jacob degrom actually pitches. Atlanta has become a strong favorite to win their division but rumor has it that Steve Cohen is in negotiations to purchase half of the tampa Bay Rays roster, which might help the Mets. It has been delightful to see the Arizona Diamondbacks in the chase in the National league West with their new brand of old school baseball. Zac Gallen and Merill Kelly help them not miss Madison Bumgarner on the mound and Geraldo Perdomo and Corbin Carroll have talent,youth, and speed. Were the Padres better without Fernando Tatis, Jr.? Probably not, but something is wrong and it’s not Bob Melvin.
Since we have no stock in pharmaceuticals and venture capitalists are not feeding bloggers the way middle class folks are instructed to feed their lawns by that pushy Scot guy, we can’t afford to attend games in person much. Consequently, we have become more and more dependent on the television to see games and are thankful for the opportunity to see many games at a pretty low cost. it also affords us the opportunity to see and hear the work of the best comedy writers in the land who have, more and more in the last few years, worked for the various insurance companies that help us all in our times of need. After all, if you are in the loathsome business of extracting wealth from folks fearful of losing everything they have and thus becoming a passive observer of commercials, it helps to have an emu or duck or gecko comic character to get people grinning. Also, we’ve been able to keep our weight down by looking at large images of greasy fast food items as they jump or are dumped onto a sturdy paper plate that holds large portions. Plus we get to see all of the smiling faces of people taking drugs for their often serious health issues . They all seem to be thriving despite the possibilities of serious side effects. After Memorial Day, it’s never too soon to get ready for the 4th of July. Have fun!