The Tenth Inning
 The Tenth Inning Blog
Periodically, I will post new entries about current baseball topics.  The posts will typically be a mixture of commentary, history, facts, and stats.  Hopefully, they will provoke some  of your thoughts or emotions. Clicking on the word "Comments" associated with each post below will open a new dialog box to enter or retrieve any feedback.
Monday's Miscellaneous Musings

I didn’t pick a single topic to write about this week.  Instead, I thought I’d touch on a few assorted subjects of interest in major-league baseball.  The month of September usually offers the most drama of the long regular season for several reasons.  For example, we get to see the second-tier teams scrambling for a wild-card berth, a chance to get into the post-season playoffs, and possibly a shot at a World Series ring.  We get to see how the players who were acquired at the trade deadline fare with their new teams.  And the last month of the season always seems to bring out the best in team and individual player performances.

So, here’s a rundown of some of the recent topics that have caught my attention.

Tim Tebow didn’t get a late-season call-up to the New York Mets as we thought he might when he got a promotion to High-A classification a couple of months ago.  I figured the Mets would bring him up to the big-league club when the rosters were expanded in September, even if it was for just a promotional appearance.  The Mets took a low-risk gamble on him last fall and again during spring training.  He hadn’t played baseball since high school, so he was really rough around the edges for a professional baseball player.  He demonstrated occasional flashes of promise this season, but it became apparent he wouldn’t have gotten the chance to play in the minors if it were not for his earlier popularity as a football player.  I can’t see him coming back to baseball next year.  So long, Tim.  Good try.

Justin Verlander appears to be just what the Astros ordered in making the trade for him on September 1.  They needed another top-of-the-line starting pitcher in their rotation if they are going to advance in the upcoming playoffs.  Verlander appears to still have a lot of gas in the tank and brings experience in post-season play.  Perhaps more than anything, the veteran’s mere presence will provide the rest of the ball club with confidence and swagger going into the post-season, after experiencing a fall-off (11 wins, 17 losses) during August.

I wrote about Miami Marlin slugger Giancarlo Stanton’s “home run watch” in last week’s blog post, and he currently sits at 54, with still a good chance to pass Roger Maris’s record of 61 set in 1961.  The final days of Maris’s quest to break Babe Ruth’s record in 1961 were well-documented as being an extremely harried time for the Yankee slugger, including having his hair fall out.  I suspect the closer Stanton gets to the milestone, he’ll face similar stressful moments.

Detroit outfielder Mikie Mahtook pulled a “Jose Canseco-like blunder” about a week ago.  LSU baseball fans know Mahtook as one of the best outfielders in the school’s history.  However, he had an embarrassing moment in a game with the Cleveland Indians on September 3, when a fly ball hit toward him in the outfield bounced off the top of the fence, back in play; and in his attempt to catch it, he accidentally bobbled it over the fence into the bullpen for a home run.  Mahtook’s unfortunate play was reminiscent of outfielder Jose Canseco, infamous for his aiding an opponent’s home run, when a batted ball bounced off his head into the stands for a home run.  Ironically, a few days after Mahtook’s “assist,” he was robbed of a home run by Kansas City Royals outfielder Alex Gordon in practically the same spot on the field at Detroit’s Comerica Park.

Philadelphia Phillies outfielder Rhys Hoskins is the latest unexpected player to put on a home run show.  During a 15-game stretch in mid-to-late August, the rookie accumulated 11 HR, 24 RBI and OPS of 1.453.  Through last Saturday, he now has a total of 14 home runs in only 127 at-bats.  Trevor Story of the Colorado Rockies and Gary Sanchez of the New York Yankees had momentous stretches of home run success last year.  Early this season, the Milwaukee Brewers’ Eric Thames had a similar run.

Veteran J.D. Martinez tied a major-league record on September 4, by hitting four home runs in a game.  He is only the 18th player in history to accomplish this and joins the likes of Lou Gehrig, Willie Mays, Gil Hodges, and Mike Schmidt as members of the elite club.  In 2015 Martinez came close to accomplishing this feat with a 3-homer game.  He has been a huge addition to the Arizona Diamondbacks (19 HR, 43 RBI, .669 SLG, and 1.008 OPS in 44 games) this year, who acquired him on July 19 from the Detroit Tigers. 

The latest “scandal” in Major League Baseball involves the New York Yankees catching rival Boston Red Sox using an electronic device (an Apple watch) to steal signals of the Yankee catcher.  Red Sox management and players are scoffing at the accusation as “just a part of the game.”  But the MLB Commissioner’s Office will likely be taking a more serious attitude toward the cheating offense which is prohibited by MLB rules.  Significant fines or loss of draft picks could likely be the reparation paid by the Red Sox organization.  Some critics are asking, tongue in cheek, if Red Sox president Dave Dombrowski has been hanging out with football coach Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots, who’s been previously caught and punished for NFL cheating offenses.

New York Mets pitcher Matt Harvey looks like he’s done as far as being a top-fight pitcher.  Just a few years ago, he was being touted as the best pitcher since Cy Young.  He was the toast of New York City for a while, packing the ballpark in each of his outings.  But multiple injuries have now affected his ability to get batters out.  To complicate matters further, he and Mets management had an off-the-field fallout earlier in the season.  The Mets are likely to dump him after this season.  This just goes to show us that stardom can sometimes be fleeting.

The Cleveland Indians and Arizona Diamondbacks have each had incredible winning streaks at an opportune time in the season.  The Indians are currently on an 18-game winning straight and are now in a tight race with Houston for the best record in the American League, while the D’backs captured 13 consecutive wins and seem to be locking in a wild card spot in the National League.  It’s the first time in history two major-league teams have had simultaneous winning streaks of 13 or more games.  The Indians’ streak is the second longest in the expansion era of MLB which began in 1961.

Three weeks ago the Los Angeles Dodgers were being touted as one of the best teams ever, with a record of 91-36 as of August 25.  It looked like this would finally be the year they would go for all the marbles, a World Series ring (see my blog post on August 13).  However, they have now lost 15 of their last 16 games through Sunday.  They will still likely win the NL West Division, but they seem to have lost their focus.  Can they turn it around in the next three weeks, or have they already peaked?  Are they now fighting a sense of panic in living up to earlier expectations?  The Washington Nationals, who clinched the East Division on Sunday, are now in contention with the Dodgers for the best record going into the playoffs.

If I had a vote for Most Valuable Player, Houston’s Jose Altuve would get mine in the American League.  This mighty-mite of a player, at 5-foot-6 and 165 pounds, actually stands pretty tall in the league when it comes to Batting Average (1st in the league), OBP (2nd), and OPS (3rd).  Plus he’s leading the league in Stolen Bases and Wins Above Replacement.  A key cog in the Astros’ impressive resurgence as a franchise since 2015, it’s difficult to argue there is a better all-around player than Altuve in 2017.  He exemplifies one of the great things about the game of baseball—a little guy can be as impactful as the larger, more muscular players.

Add a Comment

(Enter the numbers shown in the above image)