Who’s On Base?: The World Of Baseball

By John A. Poole
Updated: November 20, 2007

GLEN BURNIE, MARYLAND — April is normally a month where baseball takes a backseat to other sports in the ratings department. You have the Masters, which was again dominated by a man named Tiger. There are the NBA playoffs, which should be starting next week, and the NHL playoffs, which have already begun.

So how would a sport that most people call boring to watch be able to keep pace with the other sports? Well, how about over 200 home runs in the first full week of play? Or maybe a no-hit performance on the 2nd day the league took the field, or having the best pitcher in baseball being upset on opening day by a team picked to finish dead last in their division? Basically, they are keeping their viewers because of good play on the baseball diamond.

Before the 2001 baseball season started this year, there was a huge controversy over the strike zone. Over the years, the strike zone that was written in the rulebook had shrunk to a point where a pitcher had to be almost perfect to get a called strike from an umpire. So, the solution was to expand the strike zone to its original size. The thought was that the larger strike zone would cut back on the amount of home runs being hit and make life easier on the pitchers. Commissioner of Baseball Bud Selig and company definitely had a good idea, but it just hasn’t worked yet. The number of home runs hit this past week has been nothing less than incredible.

Leading the way in the NL home run race is Luis Gonzalez of the Arizona Diamondbacks and Mark Grudzielanek of the Los Angeles Dodgers, who have both hit 5 HR’s apiece. Sammy Sosa and Mark McGuire, who had maybe the 2nd best home run race in history behind that of Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle, are both looking up at the top of the list, Sosa having 3 HR’s and McGuire having zero. McGuire normally has a slow start and has only played in 3 games. Expect a lot more production from that slugger in weeks to come. Because of its pitching, the AL normally lags behind the NL in the HR category. There are more finesse pitchers in the AL, making it harder for AL hitters to match the number of NL HR’s. However, that has not stopped Carlos Delgado of the Toronto Blue Jays. Delgado has 5 HR’s and 12 RBI’s, leading the AL in both categories. He is hoping to improve on his All-Star-type numbers from one year ago when he blasted 41 HR’s, drove in 137 RBI’s, and held onto an astounding .344 batting average. If the Blue Jays plan to make any kind of run at a title this year, they’d better hope that their slugger stays healthy throughout the entire year.

Although it has seemed like the power of the swing has dominated the game, there are still a few pitchers around the league who have held their own on the mound. There are a few pitchers whose names pop up in most conversations. Mike Mussina of the Yankees, Greg Maddux of the Braves, and Randy Johnson of the Arizona Diamondbacks all are great pitchers in their own right, but there is ONE name nobody will ever dispute.

Pedro Martinez is arguably one of the greatest pitchers of all time. Martinez may not have been around as long as the Nolan Ryan’s and Bob Gibson’s of the game, but over the last three or four years he has been the very best every year. Last year, he ended his season with a 1.74 earned run average (ERA), which was 1.96 points lower than the next player on the list. He continues to lead the league in strikeouts and, on Sunday, his game was no different. He pitched 8 full innings with 16 strikeouts. Sunday’s outing gives Pedro a 0.60 ERA for the season and there is a good chance it will not get too much higher than that during the entire season.

Sticking with the Boston Red Sox, Hideo Nomo threw the first no-hitter of the 2001 season against the Baltimore Orioles on April 3rd. It was Nomo’s 2nd no-hitter of his career and the first no-hitter thrown by a Red Sox pitcher since 1965. In his next start after the no-hitter, Nomo pitched against the Orioles again and gave up 4 hits in 6 innings and beat Baltimore 10-1 . As expected, the Yankees have built a 6-2 record but the best news that came from the New York clubhouse was the return of Orlando Hernandez and Derek Jeter. Hernandez, who has the taken the label of Mr. October from Hall of Fame hitter Reggie Jackson, returned to the starting rotation on Saturday, April 7th, with a loss to the Toronto Blue Jays. The good part was that Hernandez felt strong upon his return and, therefore, hopes to return to the top of his game within the next few starts.

Jeter’s return was a little better than that of Hernandez. In 3 games since coming back, Jeter has 8 hits and, during that span, the Yankees are 3-1 and have outscored their opponents 40-16.

On a sad note, the world of baseball mourns loss of one of its father figures, Willie Stargell. The only man to win the MVP during the regular season, NLCS, and the World Series passed away on Monday from a stroke after a long sickness. “Pops”, as he was known around the league – and the world, will be greatly missed, but his spirit will reside in the hearts of both Pittsburgh fans and baseball fans around the world.

Please continue to check back for continued updates on the World of Baseball.