There are some talents that are tailor-made for the game of baseball – acute hand-eye coordination, superior bat-head speed, 100 MPH arms and quick legs.
Some of these talents have names that are destined to be eponymous with the National Pastime. Satchel Paige, Babe Ruth, Pee Wee Reese, Vida Blue, Rollie Fingers and, of course, Yogi Berra come to mind.
Is it contrived coinage or some kind of Grand Design when an elite talent is given such an earthy baseball name? All I know is this: we can now enjoy this rare combination in a player dubbed Mookie Betts.
Amidst the logjam that is the Red Sox outfield, it became apparent in Spring Training that Betts had to be an everyday player in center field. This is no small feat when you consider who has to share the rightfield position, with Hanley Ramirez occupying left. He beat out Shane Victorino, Allan Craig, Rusney Castillo and Daniel Nava – all potential starters with most other clubs.
On Monday Mookie proved why he is quickly becoming the most esteemed player in the offensive powerhouse Sox. After he robbed Bryce Harper of a home run with a leaping grab, Betts singled in the bottom of the first. And he then displayed incredible presence of mind in his subsequent steal.
I’d “bet” most spectators (I was one of them) must have thought he was making an inexperienced base-running gaffe. After he narrowly missed getting tagged out, he just kept on going as if he thought the ball was somehow missed and on its way out to center field. But the shift was on for Ortiz and Mookie knew exactly what he was doing. He was stealing his second base of the play. There was no one covering third base.
He then went on to hit a 3-run blast off Jordan Zimmermann, who allowed just 13 HR total last year. The legacy and future eponym has just begun and he’s going to be fun to watch. The Fenway Faithful must already be thinking, ‘Jacoby who?’
- Gerritt Cole – ( 6IP / 3H / 1R / 1ER / 2BB / 8K) Dominated one of the top offenses in the league (Detroit). Durability is the big unknown with Cole.
- Jake Odorizzi - ( 8IP / 2H / 1R / 1ER / 3BB / 3K) Made pretenders of another of the league’s top lineups (Toronto). His poise in a stadium full of frustrated Maple Leaf fans, hungry to see any kind of victory, was remarkable.
- Andrew Miller – (1.2 IP / 0H / 0BB / 3K) Yanks really wanted this one as they put Betances in in the 7th, while Miller came in with one out in the 8th. And, he was lights out against the always tough Orioles lineup.
- Scott Kazmir – ( 6IP / 3H / 1R / 1ER / 3BB / 8K ) Continues to get it done as another Billy Beane resurrection. Kazmir still seems like he hales from a different era, but in actual fact he is only 31 yrs. old. Continue to use him in all formats.
- Jacob deGrom – ( 6.1IP / 7H / 0R / 1BB / 3K ) Scattered 7 singles (2 were of the infield variety) over this start against the maligned/rebuilding Phillies.
- Danny Duffy – ( 6.1IP / 6H / 3R / 3ER / 1BB / 3K ) Wow, the Royals look to have a unity that’s even stronger than last year. Duffy was about the only Royal that didn’t have a 2 in his stats. 6 players had 2 hits and 10 had at least 1 run for K.C., giving Duffy the easy W.
- Brad Boxberger – Faced the mighty 3,4 and 5 hitters for the Blue Jays, and with a tremendous throw from his catcher, Rivera, all 3 went down. Boxberger continues to look good, and will fill in nicely for McGee, Doolittle or Jansen… at worst.
- Jon Lester – ( 6IP / 10H / 6R / 6ER / 0BB / 4K ) Horrible start for he of the huge new contract. Hopefully just a glitch, but Cubs fans have to be a little concerned at this point. That’s two poor starts from their new “ace”.
- Jordan Zimmermann – ( 2.1IP / 9H / 8R / 7ER / 1BB / 0K ) As can happen for many pitchers at Fenway, nothing went right for one of the games most consistent performers. It was almost as if his fielders were playing some kind of cruel joke on him. This was just a one-off fluke. Look for Zimmermann to rebound
- Andrew Cashner – ( 6IP / 7H / 4R / 0ER / 1BB / 9K ) This line is worth a second look. Cashner was the victim of a bunch of garbage singles and 1 very costly error. All 4 runs against Cashner were scored in the woeful 2nd inning, and he was otherwise on top of his game.
- Mookie Betts – 2/4 with 2 runs, 4 RBI, a 3-run HR and 2 SB. It was Mookie’s day. He will claim more as the season progresses.
- Jorge Soler – 3/5 with 3 runs (including the game-winner) and two 2-run HRs. This guy’s bat-head speed is like Aroldis Chapman’s arm – elite and rare. Love to see him and Stanton go at it in the Home Run Derby.
- Nelson Cruz – 2/4 with 2 HR and 3 RBI. Okay, I busted him back in February, but will give credit where credit is due. I’m just not convinced he can continue the home run pace at Safeco. Cano had a measly 14 with the M’s last year.
- Adam Jones - 3/4 with 2 runs, and a 2-run HR. Still lots of doubters out there, but Jones remains top tier talent.
- Josh Harrison – hit the first pitch from Anibal Sanchez over the centerfield fence increasing the voltage in an already electric PNC crowd. Gotta say, there’s something special about the passion in small-market towns. And man, what a cool atmosphere with the (aztec gold) Roberto Clemente Bridge in the backdrop. Oh, and J-Hay wasn’t quite finished there. He went on to score Pittsburgh’s second run after stinging a single in his next at bat, as well. So, when it comes to Harrison, it’s time for the baseball world to take notice, and to shake the stigma of “utility man”.
- Jose Altuve – 3/4 with a solo shot. Did his best to wake up a club that is still in hibernation.
- Ben Zobrist – 3/5 with 2 runs and 1 RBI. He’s the new anchor man for the A’s, and he’s up to the job. Whoever doubted Billy Beane again (me) should know better. This club is clobbering.
- Kendrys Morales – 2/4 with 2 runs and a solo HR. Tough to pick one Royal out of this well-balanced lineup, but Morales is adding to the home run total that the Royals were craving last season. He could be the missing piece.
- Collin Cowgill – 2/5 with a 2-run shot. Filling in for the injured Kole Calhoun, Cowgill came through for the Angels nicely.
- Jay Bruce – 2/4 with a 2B, a run and 2RBI. All against Lester the lefty. That’s a particularly good sign for a comeback.
Home Run Watch
- J. D. Martinez – (Projected:32 HR) 4 down/28 to go. Hmm 28 rings a bell. Oh yeah, that’s where we have him ranked, 28th overall, unlike most other sites who had him somewhere outside the Top 100 (Best Home Run Increases)
- Pedro Alvarez – hit his 3rd of this early season. Would’ve been fun to have a projected total for Pedro, but he was one of our 2 Sleepers at third. Ah heck, why not start: Projected: 34 HR.