By Anthony McClean, Editor In Chief Emeritus NEW HAVEN (BASN) —...
From the Bottom to the Top!
GLEN BURNIE, MARYLAND — Well, there is almost a full month of baseball behind us in this 2001 season, and the best record in baseball belongs to…the Minnesota Twins? That’s right The Twins have bolted out of the box this season with a 14-3 record, with all three losses coming to the Kansas City Royals. Last year, the Twins ended the season at a dismal 69-93 and ranked 30th in all of MLB. So what can the Twins credit to the success of this incredible start this season? Great play, hard work, and the play of their shortstop, Christian Guzman.
Through the first 18 games this season, Guzman has played in 17 of them, during which he has managed to hit 3 home runs and 5 triples, steal 4 bases, and hit for a .324 average. Guzman’s talents and speed make him a classic leadoff hitter, with a potential to surpass Rickey Henderson as the best leadoff hitter of all- time, but his power could eventually move him down in the line-up in order to drive in more runs. At this point, he only has 6 runs batted in, but, as he learns to be more patient at the plate, his numbers should rise again as they have done so far this season.
The Twins’ recent found success is not all because of Guzman. Brad Radke, a pitcher who has only 1 winning season in the last 6 years, has started the season with a 4-0 record and a 2.23 earned run average. On Wednesday, Radke will be going up against also undefeated pitcher Pedro Martinez (2-0), in what could be the best pitching duel of the week. Going up against Martinez will put pressure on Radke to have one of his better performances of the year since there is a good chance Martinez will not let up more than 2-earned runs during this contest.
Also on the offensive leader board of the Twins is David Ortiz. Ortiz, who hit the game-winning home run on Sunday to beat the Chicago White Sox 4-2 and gave them the second straight series sweep against the Sox this year, is off to an incredible start for the Twins. Ortiz is leading the Twins in HR’s (5), RBI’s (15) and batting average (.389). Last year was Ortiz’s first full season in the majors. He played in 130 games, and finished with just 10 HR’s, 63 RBI’s and a .282 batting average. In the first month of 2001, he is already on a pace to kill his career-high records in each category. The Twins will see how far they have actually come along this season, with the next few games at Boston, and then when the Yankees come to Minnesota for a 3-game series.
Switching from the top of the league to the bottom, the Tampa Bay Devil Rays have been anything but a ray of light in the “Sunshine State” of Florida. Starting the season with a 5-14 record, the Devil Rays are already 8 games behind the division-leading Red Sox. After winning the season-opener 8-1 over the Toronto Blue Jays, the Devil Rays went on a 7-game losing streak, during which time they were outscored by a margin of 53-17. They also had another 5-game losing streak later in the month, outscored a total of 39-9. Hopefully, having their next three series against sub-par .500 teams, Tampa Bay may be able to make a run at the .500 mark, which, at this point, could be seasons away.
This past week also included one of the biggest and toughest milestones in baseball to accomplish. Barry Bonds, son of Bobby Bonds and godson of Willie Mays, hit his 500th home run on Tuesday, April 17th, to become only the 17th player in league history to reach the mark. Bonds, who said, “It seemed like everything was moving in slow motion,” as he hit the game-winning shot on Tuesday night, threw both hands in the air and clapped his hands as he rounded the bases. His 500th home run came during the best National League home run streak in 15 years, during which Bonds hit a home run in 6-straight games, falling short of the league record by just two games. At 37 years of age, Bonds will not make the 755 total that “Hammering” Hank Aaron holds, but if he plays 3 more seasons, 600 career home runs is definitely attainable and you can write it in stone that Bonds will be a first ballot inductee into the Hall of Fame once he retires.
The offensive firepower of the league has been nothing less than spectacular this year and leading the way in each league have been Carlos Delgado of the Toronto Blue Jays (10 HR’s, 19 RBI’s) and Luis Gonzalez of the Arizona Diamondbacks (11 HR’s, 21 RBI’s). Manny Ramirez of the Boston Red Sox is keeping his name in the running for MVP voting early, batting a league-leading .417 with 21 RBI’s and 6 home runs. Ramirez signed the 2nd highest contract in league history behind Alex Rodriguez of the Texas Rangers.
Also topping the .400 benchmark for batting is Jason Giambi of the Oakland A’s. Giambi, the 2000 AL MVP, is batting .413 with 5 HR’s and 13 RBI’s so far this year and he would have more RBI’s if the rest of the A’s were getting on base. Right now, the A’s are just 6-13 and in last place in the Western Conference, 9 games behind the Seattle Mariners.
Please continue to check back for weekly updates, as well as spotlights on the best and worst of the 2001 Major League Baseball season.