Who’s On Base?: The Best of May 2001

By John A. Poole
Updated: February 21, 2008

Pedro Martinez Barry Bonds Sammy SosaGLEN BURNIE, MARYLAND — The month of May is behind us and gone with it are old records that have been broken and personal milestones that have been reached. It was a month with the surprise of teams expected to fail who have excelled and teams expected to succeed who have plummeted. There was a 26-game hit streak; a player joined the 400 home run club; and one player joined the 500 home run club and broke the home run mark for the month all at the same time. May was very good for MLB and it seems like it will only get better in June.

Barry Bonds may have been the talk of the town with his 17 home runs in May, and 30 overall, but there were many other players who made their mark this past month. Suzuki Ichiro, Sammy Sosa and Ryan Klesko were all dominant players for their respective teams, as were Manny Ramirez, Randy Johnson and Pedro Martinez.

Bonds’ 31 home runs were hit faster than any other player, ever, in the game of baseball. When May ended, many people felt his streak would fizzle, but in the first five days of June, Bonds has hit 4 home runs. It is speculated that Bonds will break Mark McGuire’s home run record of 70 home runs this year. He is on pace to hit an astounding 86 home runs, but it is very unlikely that will happen as a slump is surely in the near future for the powerful slugger.

Suzuki Ichiro has exploded on the majors this year, leading the league in hits at 94 through 56 games. He may not make it to the .400 mark this year, but his .366 average is currently 3rd in the majors behind Boston’s Manny Ramirez’s .386 average and Rich Aurilla’s .371 average with the San Francisco Giants. He is tied for the league’s least-stolen bases at 20 with Luis Castillo of the Florida Marlins and is currently 4th in triples with 5. Ichiro has shown he can play well in the majors, which will, hopefully, open doors for more Japanese players to make the transition to the major leagues.

Sammy Sosa has not had an outstanding year, but he did manage to get the 400th home run of his career during May. Although Sosa is batting .294 with 16 home runs so far this year, he has normally been associated with slow starters. Sosa should get moving around June and July. He still holds the record for home runs in a month, at 20, reached in June of 1998.

Ryan Klesko had a month he never wants to forget. He tied the major league record with 40 RBI’s this month, a record held by Sammy Sosa, who did it in June of 1998. Klesko is a big, strong first baseman, who somehow has managed to steal 13 bases this year, too. He has never driven in more than 93 runs in his 7-year career and it looks like that could change in a big way in 2001. Klesko has raised his average to above .300 and is having a very balanced year with 14 home runs and 51 RBI’s. During the streak, the Padres were able to make up serious ground after their tough 7-14 start this season.

Despite the losses of key players over the past few seasons, the Seattle Mariners have continued their hot play through May, also. With a 44-12 record, the Mariners have the best record in baseball, followed closely by the Minnesota Twins. The Twins are 37-18 and are refusing to die, just like the Mariners. The Mariners have built an incredible 16.5 game lead over the 2nd place Oakland A’s and Anaheim Angels. What makes this lead seem so astonishing is that no other first place team has more than a 5 game lead over the 2nd place team in each division.

Now, it could be said that bias is supporting this next statement, but the Baltimore Orioles have been a huge surprise this year. Picked to finish last, the Orioles have managed a 28-29 record. They dismantled the defending World Series Champion Yankees and former Orioles pitcher Mike Musina last night, 10-3. The Orioles have stayed afloat with numerous wins over the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, but wins over the Twins, Mariners, Red Sox and Yankees have definitely helped their confidence. With strong play from pitcher Jason Johson (5-3, 3.33 ERA) and Jerry Hairston (.312 through May), the Orioles have secured third place in the AL East, and are just 5 games behind the leading Red Sox. The Orioles may not have the key to success this year but a step in a positive direction after losing Mike Musina and Albert Belle will definitely help their team ego.

Please check back next week as we look at the All Star outlook for the American League.