Monday, September 20, 2010

"Triple Threat."

OK, let's add to my list of interesting stories about out national pastime. The 2010 season is winding down, so many interesting things about this season are still going on, to include tight races for the division titles and wild card spots in the AL East, NL East, and especially the NL West.

There are a lot of possible achievements on the side of the best players, especially the hitters, that go on the line as well, most of which are watched carefully in order to determine the winners of the league MVP awards in both leagues, like the batting titles and leading the league in other major offensive categories.

So, on that note, let's refer to the possibility of a "Triple Crown" winner, this one on the side of the hitters, who could potentially lead their leagues in all three of the major offensive categories, they being batting average, home runs and RBI's respectively.

Triple Crown winners in baseball's modern time have been very few and far between. The last one was Boston Red Sox hall of famer Carl Yazstremski in 1967. You'd have to go back to the late thirties to find another one.

The 2010 season has a showcase of possible triple crown winners in both leagues. The most likely one in the National League would have to be Colorado Rockies outfielder Carlos Gonzalez, who is likely to take the batting title and is in the top five in home runs and RBI's.

St. Loius Cardinal first baseman Albert Pujols, a likely hall of famer, is leading the NL in home runs and RBI's at the time of this post and also stands in the top ten in batting average. Pujols already has a batting title to his credit and has lead the league in home runs before but as odd as it may be, no RBI title to his credit. Cincinnati Red first baseman Joey Votto is a close third in all three of the offensive catagories.

Over in the American League Texas Ranger leftfielder Josh Hamilton is, like Carlos Gonzalez, literally running away with the batting title. Hamilton is in the top five in home runs and the top ten in RBI's. Then there's Detroit Tiger's first baseman Miguel Cabrera, who's pretty much in the same position in the American League as Joey Votto is in the National League.

To see a triple crown winner in baseball would be quite interesting, but by today's standards just isn't as possible as some people think it is. There's always those big sluggers, like Pujols, for the category of home runs and RBI's in bunches, some of whom are likely to strike out quite often, keeping their batting averages down, then there's those players, like Ichiro Suzuki, who are "hitting machines,' literally running away with the batting title.

The game of baseball has a lot of achievements that seem out of reach by today's standards, one of which, we all know, is Joe Dimaggio's 56 game hitting streak. The game has changed in many ways during the course of the last 60 years, and no, I don't mean just player salaries. Who knows, maybe something interesting, even spectacular is in store for us fans in the course of our lifetimes. There may be a triple crown winner, a hitting streak of more than 56 games, perhaps even the Chicago Cubs will win a World Series, their first since 1908. We'll just have to do the right thing, that's wait and see.

Thursday, September 2, 2010


Oh well, ho hum, another story about another phenomenal young professional baseball player. Is that as good as it gets? Yes, no, maybe so? Hey, who knows, only time will really tell.

So, Aroldis Chapman, the Cincinnati Reds left handed fireballer, a Cuban defector all set to go the route of one Fernando Valenzuela before him. Ah yes, "Fernandomania," what a time that was for the Los Angeles Dodgers and their fans,(yours truly included), what a time for the game of baseball in the City of Angels and the huge Mexican community it possesed then and now.

That was also a great time for me, having taken my first lesson in the Spanish language, enjoying the opportunity to test personal skills on the interpereted interviews of the (then) non english speaking young pitcher. As for Fernando, maybe not the hall of fame career that most were expecting, but a nice one indeed. He's back with the Dodger organization as a Spanish language broadcaster.

As is the case with most of the up and coming young ballplayers, I got to photograph Chapman in action, starting back in the 2008 Arizona Fall League, continuing through the 2010 Spring Training campaign. Chapman's ride through the minor leagues was a smooth and quick one. No surprise for a pitcher who was clocked on the radar gun with pitches in excess of 100 miles an hour, both in Triple-A (Louisville) as well as in his Major League start debut recently.

Young pitchers of the highly touted category are great to watch, but always in question in more ways than anyone inside or outside the game can even name. Stephen Strasburg, who got off to a great start at the Major League level, recently tore a ligament in his pitching elbow, will have to undergo Tommy John surgery and may be out of action up to 18 months.

Tommy John, the sensational pitcher for whom that surgery was named, I remember as an integral part of the Los Angeles Dodger pitching staff of the mid to late 1970's timeframe. When he tore his elbow ligament during the 1974 season, it was thought that his career may be over, but team physician, Doctor Frank Jobe, performed the first of what would be many successful Ulnar Collateral Ligament reconstruction procedures. With a 10-10 comeback in 1976 and a 20 game win season the next year John would go on to pitch twelve more seasons. Not a hall of fame caliber career but a superb one all the same.

Well, the rookie class in Major League Baseball in the 2010 season has been an impressive one. It will be a tight race for the National League Rookie of the Year award but Jayson Heyward and Ike Davis remain the top candidates, followed closely by Buster Posey. Again, the best is yet to come.