Each Week I recap the top 10 story-lines from the week, whether they are about a team, player, owner, fan, equipment, or whatever else is impacting the game. Now that the first impressions have been made, it’s time for teams and players to show us what they’re really about. From free t-shirts to free baseball teams, with a pinch of Canadian streaking, here is your week 3 recap:
10. Mike Leake – SP – Cincinnati Reds
In a story that sounds like a dare gone wrong, Mike Leake was caught attempting to shoplift $60 worth of shirts from a Macy’s. Leake was given a $2.27 million signing bonus in 2009, but judging by Bronson Arroyo’s haircut, it’s entirely possible that the Reds are withholding paychecks.
Leake still made his next scheduled start on Thursday, earning the win in a 7-4 victory over the Diamondbacks. He is now awaiting trial, where his “story will be told.” I have a feeling that this story will only get better.
9. April Showers
The rain continued to fall this week, as 5 more games were postponed due to rain. This could very well be the year of the make-up game. Take the Nationals for instance. After playing a doubleheader on Sunday, the Nationals had the day off on Monday. Then Tuesday’s game got rained out, so they had to play another doubleheader on Wednesday. As if that wasn’t enough, Friday’s game between the Nationals and Pirates was rained out. This game will be made up Monday night, as both teams had the day off. There is currently a 50% chance of rain at first pitch. Even the weather gods can’t stand to watch Nationals baseball.
8. Detroit Tigers
The AL Central is finally beginning to take shape. After a hot start, the Indians still lead the division, but the Tigers have caught fire, and are just a game and a half back. This week, the Tigers scored more runs than any other AL team, taking 5 of 6 from the Mariners and White Sox.
Outside of Tuesday’s loss, the pitching was solid as well. They scored 2 shutouts, and allowed no more than 3 runs. Over the weekend, Brad Penny and Max Scherzer combined to pitch 15 shutout innings, allowing a total of just 5 hits.
7. Chicago White Sox
On the other end of the AL Central spectrum, this week was a struggle for the White Sox. They simply could not generate runs. They were shut out 3 times this week, and only managed 1 run twice. The 14 runs they managed to score were the fewest in the AL for the week.
The Sox were able to take the final game of the series from the Rays to avoid a 4-game sweep at Tropicana Field. They couldn’t, however, avoid the sweep against the rival Tigers. Over the weekend, the Tigers outscored the White Sox 21-3.
The White Sox were a pre-season favorite to win the Central, but now, after going 1-5 for the week, they sit in last place, 5 and a half games behind the Indians. Luckily, it’s still early in the season, but the fans were certainly hoping for bigger things so far.
6. Daisuke Matsuzaka – SP – Boston Red Sox
After pitching a combined 7 innings in his first two outings, Daisuke began the week by pitching 7 innings of shutout baseball, earning his first win of the season. He finished the week on Saturday, but pitching 8 more shutout innings against the Angels.
What’s more is that he allowed just 1 hit in each of those games. He dropped his ERA from 12.86 to 4.09, and helped bring the Red Sox out of the cellar, to just 3 and a half games behind the Yankees.
5. Josh Johnson – SP – Florida Marlins
Josh Johnson might be the best pitcher in baseball right now. He’s posted a stellar ERA of 1.06, and has earned a quality start in each of his 5 starts. This week, he pitched two 7 inning games, allowing a total of 1 run on 5 hits and 4 walks. Adding the curveball back to his arsenal of pitches this year has been nothing short of malicious, as it seems nearly inevitable that he will throw a no-hitter at some point this season.
The Marlins rode Johnson’s back to a 5-1 record, allowing only 12 runs, the least of any team in the majors. They now sit just one and half games behind the MLB leading Phillies.
4. Jose Bautista – OF – Toronto Blue Jays
The Blue Jays were rolled over at home by the streaking Yankees and Rays, and getting rolled over by a streaker in Canada is never fun. One Blue Jay who isn’t to blame, however, is Jose Bautista. Perhaps he really did just happen to figure things out later in his career than most. Bautista hit .474 and launched 4 bombs this past week. He is now tied with 5 other players for the most home runs in baseball, with 7, and he’s done it in the fewest at bats.
At 30 years old, Bautista is sending his doubters a big “fluke you.”
3. James Shields – SP – Tampa Bay Rays
Since the 2009 season began, James Shields has pitched 2 complete games. Both of them were this past week. Shields followed up Tuesday’s 4 hit, 1 run, 9 strikeout performance with a complete game 4-hit shutout on Sunday. With a combined ERA of 0.5, and a WHIP of 0.61, Shields was a big reason why the Rays went 5-2 on the week, and now sit in 2nd place in the AL East.
Shields is off to a terrific start with an ERA of 2.35, and a WHIP just under 1. He’s controlling the strike zone with a K:BB ratio of 6.3:1.9. He hasn’t faced his stiffest competition yet, though. It should get a little tougher for him in the near future, as two of his next four starts will be against the Angels and the Yankees.
2. Ryan Braun Extension
At the beginning of the week, Ryan Braun was signed through 2015 on one of the most team friendly contracts in the game. On Wednesday, the Brewers rewarded him by tacking on 5 years and $105 Million dollars to that deal.
Many are calling this a risky deal for the Brewers. You never know what could happen to a player’s health in the next 10 years, and a small market team like the Brewers (market size is based on media market size, not payroll) could have a tough time building a solid team around such a big contract.
Others will say that the move was made to keep up with the Tulowitzki’s, as Troy Tulowitzki just received a similar extension. In order to keep Braun happy in Milwaukee, they needed to extend him.
And then there is a group that says that the Brewers are getting another value deal with their superstar. Who knows what the best players will be making in 5 years? Who knows exactly how good Ryan Braun will be in 5 years? The Brewers may have just saved themselves $5 Million per year by locking him up so early.
Either way, Ryan Braun looks as if he will spend his entire career playing for the Milwaukee Brewers, and that’s a great story for the city of Milwaukee, as well as the game of baseball.
Oh, yeah, and he capped off this week by hitting .480 with 3 HR and 9 RBI.
1. Los Angeles Dodgers
Just days after FOX agreed to loan the Dodgers $30 million, Bud Selig exercised MLB’s ability to take over the team. There are now many questions to answer. How long will MLB maintain control? Who, specifically, will be in control? Will Wendy Selig-Prieb take the helm? How much flexibility will there be to make personnel moves? Will the Dodgers be put up for sale to the highest bidder? Will Frank McCourt be given the opportunity to bid?
It’s possible that McCourt will sue, but unlikely, given his bleak financial situation. If there’s one positive that Frank can take away from this, it’s that his wife, Jamie, isn’t the one stealing the team from him.
Come back next week for more MLB talk in our Week 6 round-up.