If you don’t know Moses Walker, you probably should

By Jimmie Searfoss

Moses Fleetwood Walker is mostly unknown, yet his accomplishment may be one of the most significant in baseball history. Though it is commonly believed that Jackie Robinson broke the MLB’s color barrier in 1947, that achievement belongs to Walker, who became the first black man to play professional baseball in 1884. Now to be clear, what Robinson accomplished for the sport is indescribable. However, Walker’s story does not get the same attention Robinsons does. Walker’s life of baseball, entrepreneurship, crime, and invention deserves to be known.

Walker was born in Ohio on October 7, 1856. He was the third child of seven. His brother, Weldy Walker, would go on to be the second black man to play in the MLB. Walker enrolled in Oberlin College in 1877 where he would begin his baseball career on their prep team. He quickly became their starting catcher and leadoff hitter. In 1881, Oberlin College upgraded their prep team to a varsity one. Walker continued his role on the now varsity team. He was a key component of their team. Oberlin finished their season with a 9-2 win over the Michigan Wolverines. Michigan was so impressed with Walker’s play that he was offered to transfer and play for the Wolverines. He accepted their offer.

Before he began his play at Michigan, he spent his summer playing for the White Sewing Machine Company of Cleveland, a semi pro team. This is where prejudice and racism began to interfere with his career. Although he was their starting catcher, there were instances where he was purposefully left out of the line up due to the other team threatening to not take the field if he were to play. This happened in a game against the Eclipse Nine, a baseball team out of Louisville, Kentucky. 

“Players of the Eclipse Club objected to Walker playing on account of his color,” said the Louisville Courier-Journal.

However during the game, the backup catcher used as Walker’s replacement had gotten injured, forcing him into the game. Upon his entry several members of the Eclipse had left the field in protest. The objections from the Eclipse had caused the game to derail, leaving Walker compelled to leave the game. Cleveland’s third baseman went on to catch behind the plate.

Despite the bigotry he had experienced in the summer, he shined as a member of the Michigan Wolverines in 1882. He batted .308 on a Michigan team that would go 10-3 on the season. His 1882 season was his last at the collegiate level. In 1883 he signed a contract with the Toledo Blue Stockings, a minor league team in the Northwestern League.

In the 1883 season he hit .251 and played in 60 of the teams 84 games. He was proven to be durable and a strong defensive player. 

At the time, the position of catcher was more stressful on the body, than it is now. Walker was known to wear only a mask and occasionally lambskin gloves with little padding to catch the ball. Toledo went on to win the pennant that season. This led to lots of praise from the local media as Walker became a known figure of the town of Toledo. 

Despite his accomplishments on the field, many were still strongly opposed to a black man playing professional baseball. The wheels to not include African Americans in the game were set in motion during an in-season expedition game where the Chicago White Stockings played Toledo. Cap Anson, a future Hall of Famer and outspoken racist, famously was opposed to playing against a team with a black man on it. Toledo’s manager, as well as the town rallied behind Walker in response. “Walker has a very sore hand, and it had not been intended to play him in yesterday’s game.” Not content with this, the visitors declared that they would play ball ‘with no damned (racial slur).’ The order was given, then and there, to play Walker and the beefy bluffer was informed that he could play or go, just as he pleased. Anson hauled in his horns somewhat and ‘consented’ to play, remarking, ‘We’ll play this here game, but won’t play never no more with the (racial slur) in,’’’ said the Toledo Daily Blade.

Suddenly, because of how big of a name Anson was, the matter of black players in professional baseball became a topic of discussion. This eventually led to the banning of black players across the country.

In 1884, Toledo was promoted into the American Association after the success of their 1883 season. The American Association was the MLB equivalent at the time.

Walker would make this transition into professional baseball with the team, and in doing so, became the first black man to play professional baseball.

However, the move into professional baseball only further raised the tensions around Walker’s play. Slurs and death threats coming from the fans and opposing team created a hostile environment for Walker, and in his debut, he returned to Louisville. He went hitless in four at bats and committed four errors. 

He eventually found some success as Toledo’s starting catcher, hitting .264 and scoring 23 runs in a period of baseball where offense was hard to come by. Regardless of his play, the racial bias against him had a serious effect on his performance. 

“[Walker] was the best catcher I ever worked with, but I disliked a Negro and whenever I had to pitch to him I used to pitch anything I wanted without looking at his signals,” said pitcher and teammate of Walker, Tony Mullane.

With many of his own teammates sharing this view, Walker would commonly get credited for negative stats like passed balls that were undeserved. This also caused many injuries, which had an even greater impact on Walker. In some games he was left too battered to even catch and would be forced to play in the outfield. Eventually, the injuries became too much leading to his professional career ending in 1884 after only 42 games.

He would spend time bouncing around minor league teams, hoping to get back to the majors until 1889, when the American Association and National League unofficially banned African American players from playing.

Life would get even harder for Walker in 1891, where he would be attacked by a group of men which led to him fatally stabbing one of them. Walker was charged with second degree murder, but he pleaded self-defense, and was acquitted. His trouble with the law didn’t end there though, in 1898 he was charged with mail robbery. He was found guilty and spent a year in jail.

Later in life, Walker published Our Home Colony: A Treatise on the Past, Present, and Future of the Negro Race in America, a book that described his grim views on race relations in America at the time. He then went on to become an editor for The Equator, a black-issues newspaper. His endeavors did not end there. He also managed a hotel, and a local theater called the Opera House in Cadiz, Ohio. While he managed the opera house, he embraced the new medium of movies. He felt he could make improvements to the technology, and found ways to improve film reel loading and changing. He was even awarded three patents in the field. This wasn’t even his first invention though. In 1891, he received a patent for an artillery shell that would explode only at its target. 

Moses Fleetwood Walker died in 1924, and is buried in Steubenville, Ohio. For many, he would be forgotten. His story would not be taught in schools, and there would not be movies made in his honor. Instead, Walker is barely a footnote in the history books.

Yet for what he accomplished, it is truly a tragedy he is not given the recognition he deserves.

Daly Doses 07-27-21: Thoughts, reflections, and derision from the Mile High City

I got all excited today, when I realized that fans can attend Denver Broncos training camp in just 20 days!

Then I remembered that the Green Bay Packers are mending fences with Aaron Rodgers, so it looks like we will be watching a Drew Lock versus Teddy Bridgewater competition.

That should result in a combined 3 for 47 third down conversions, zero touchdowns, and 14 turnovers.

By the way, 13 of those turnovers will be Lock fumbles.

I know that the narrative among those with the orange and blue tinted glasses, is that Lock is going to eventually show his true colors, and be a top notch NFL quarterback.

I just don’t have any reason to think that is going to happen.

Going back in NFL history, there have been numerous young quarterbacks that made a ton of mistakes early in their careers, but they did also show flashes of greatness.

Point to the game, series, or even singular play where we have seen anything resembling a flash of greatness from Drew Lock.

I’ll wait.

You’d have better luck finding video evidence of the Denver Nuggets greatest NBA Finals moments.

I do think the Denver defense can at least make them competitive at times, but below average quarterback play will be tough to overcome, and is this team truly stout in the trenches?

I have my doubts.

Speaking of those Denver Nuggets, please keep in mind that Jrue Holiday was available back in November, but the Nuggets didn’t want to spend that much money.

The Milwaukee Bucks did, and we all know what they did this year.

I realize that no one could have predicted the Jamal Murray injury, but we all could have predicted that the Nuggets would need a perimeter defender in the playoffs.

Their inability to limit anything Phoenix Suns point guard Chris Paul was doing in the postseason was their demise.

Holiday would have changed that.

But at least they saved a few bucks, right?

Hey, but at least the Colorado Rockies are no longer in last place, right?

Surely after giving away Nolan Arenado, the worst for that franchise is now behind us, and the rebuilding can begin.

Except that I fully expect the Rox to eat some more money, and give players like Jon Gray and Trevor Story away, later this week at the trade deadline.

And don’t think Charlie Blackmon or German Marquez are untouchable.

These are the results of living under horrible ownership.

Between the Bowlen Trust, the Kroenke’s, and the Montfort’s the Mile High City is getting this bad ownership thing down pat.

Mile High mediocrity, baby.

Daly Dose 07-21-21 The NFL is making changes

This week on the Daly Dose YouTube video, we are discussing some sports news from the past week.

MLB had a very scary story take place over the weekend, and we discuss some of the reactions from around the league.

Plus Richard Sherman had a very rough week, and the NFL is making some changes that might not be that popular with all of their fans!

Daly Dose 07-14-21 Winners and losers from the world of sports

This week on the Daly Dose, we discuss how disappointing National Nude Day will be this year.

Major League Baseball makes an announcement about their rules, but we are noticing some insincerity!

Then, we look at some winners and losers from the world of sports recently. We find winners and losers from college sports, the NFL, MLB, the NBA, UFC, the NHL, and even some Olympic athletes!

Finally, with the Supreme Court ruling that NCAA athletes can now begin to profit off of their name, image, and likeness, we reflect on some athletes from previous eras that could have made some serious money! 

Which former NCAA superstars could have done well in this new era? Our Daly Dose Top 5 counts down some very interesting possibilities!

MLB’s biggest disappointments at the All Star break

By Jimmie Searfoss

All-Star festivities are wrapping up as the MLB is looking to begin the second half of its season coming off a very eventful first few months. While there have been many positive events happening thus far in the season, the MLB’s disappointing handling of certain aspects of the game have created a shadow over them. Controversial changes to the rules as well as their handling of the illegal use of sticky substances has given baseball a bad look this year. With the MLB itself underperforming, it was only right to look into who within the league was also underperforming.  

The Minnesota Twins 

What exactly happened here? Coming into the season the Twins were expected to be neck and neck with the Chicago White Sox to compete for the title of that division. Currently they sit in fourth place with a record of 39-50, 15 games behind first place. Although they bolstered their pitching staff this offseason with names like J.A. Happ, Randy Dobnak, and Alex Colome it has been a major weakness. Their team ERA of 4.98 is good for 27th in the league as they have given up the 4th most runs in the league at 432. 

The injury bug has also bitten their offense as Nelson Cruz, Josh Donaldson, and Byron Buxton have all seen their playing time cut short. Buxton’s injury especially hurt the team as he was putting up MVP numbers in April. 

Based on the trajectory of the team it doesn’t look good for their playoff chances. This is an older team with a very promising farm system. If things get any worse don’t be surprised if they begin to sell as the trade deadline in preparation for another run in the coming years.

The New York Yankees

The Yankees are a mess right now. So far, they had a very mixed season full spurts of winning and long losing streaks. Their biggest concern thus far is their hitting. They have a +1 run differential and have seen hitters like DJ Lemahieu regress a bit. With Lemahieu’s reliable hitting, the team has been missing someone to be consistently on base, leaving them to rely on the home run ball. Their team his hitting a mere .263 which puts them 17th in the league. The one bright spot in their line up has been Aaron Judge, but unfortunately for Yankees fans he cannot hit nine times in the lineup. 

Their largest story however has been pitchers Gerrit Cole and Aroldis Chapman, who each struggled after the MLB began its crackdown on illegal substances. Cole saw major drops in his spin rate and his ERA climb to 4.65 in the month of June. Chapman’s ERA was 2.18 in the month of May. In June, when the substance crackdown had come into effect, his ERA was 11.42 and teams allowed a batting average of .368. This has led to multiple blown saves leading to the Yankees losing games they’re going to need later on to get into the postseason. Every game counts. A blown game now keeps them out of the playoffs later, but if they can’t score the runs needed then they won’t even be in a position to make a run. The Yankees play in a very tough pitching division. If they can’t begin to hit the ball, or make a move to get someone who can, they can kiss this season goodbye. It doesn’t matter though, they still have 27 rings.

The Atlanta Braves

At one-point last postseason the Braves looked like they could be going to the World Series. Now they’d be lucky to make the playoffs. Their pitching has been incredibly mediocre this season. They lack a dominant starter to lead their staff. Their big signing over the offseason, Charlie Morton, was supposed to fill that role and has not. After he had success in his final year in Tampa Bay, he hasn’t returned to form in Atlanta. He has posted a 3.64 ERA and failed to be a consistent Pitchers like Ian Anderson, who pitched exceptionally in last years playoffs, have not taken that next step to build off that previous success. 

Their face of the franchise Ronald Acuna Jr has recently been diagnosed with a right ACL tear, which he suffered while going after a fly ball during a game. This injury really hurts the Brave’s offense which at times really relies on Acuna’s bat to win games.  An injury on this level could be the nail in the coffin for Atlanta’s season.

Chicago White Sox manager Tony La Russa

White Sox Manager Tony La Russa has arguably one of the most talented rosters in the league. Although his team is leading the division, he hasn’t been able to get out of his own teams’ way. No one knows this more than Yermin Mercedes, a rookie for the organization who began the year red hot at the plate. 

The young hitter famously hit a home run in a ballgame against the Twins that found him up in the count 3-0 in a game where the White Sox ahead by nine. Many criticized Mercedes for hitting the homerun as his team was already up  by a lot and was going to win regardless. La Russa then went on to not defend him from critics but join them against his own player. This caused a stir inside the locker room as well as in the sports world where many were quick to judge La Russa for not backing his own player. A few weeks later Mercedes found himself in a slump, then quickly was optioned to the minors. Mercedes was hitting .182 in his last seven games before being sent down. When it comes to players who have gone through slumps, bigger stars have hit worse and not been sent down. 

Earlier in the year La Russa also found himself confused on the new extra inning rules the MLB had instated. He had not known the rules when it came to the free runner on second base in extra innings and had used reliever Liam Hendricks to run instead of Jose Abreu. 

“I’m guessing you know the rules better. Now I know,” he said when pressed on it in a post-game interview.

A large amount of the fanbase was already not a fan of the White Sox hiring La Russa at the start of the year. He has only fanned those flames since being there. If he doesn’t bring a ring to Chicago, he ought to count his days there.

Regardless of the disappointments, baseball has still been very fun this year. The rise of players like Shohei Ohtani and Fernando Tatis Jr have brought more eyes to the game than in recent years. Hopefully in the second half of the season those same eyes see less disappointments and controversy throughout the league. With the way the MLB is run, I wouldn’t get my hopes up.

Daly Dose 06-30-21 The best of the Daly Dose

This week on the Daly Dose, we are flashing back to a throwback episode of the Daly Dose! 

It was August of 2015 and NFL training camps were opening, Hard Knocks was covering the Houston Texans, and we discussed our love/hate relationship with the NFL preseason. 

We talked about why people either loved or hated Tim Tebow so much, and how much of an impact that the media had on his playing career. 

NFL linebacker James Harrison had a major problem with participation awards, we looked at some teams to watch down the stretch in the MLB regular season, and Notre Dame was looking for more ways to make money. 

Then in honor of National Senior Citizen Day, we counted down the Top 5 Senior Citizen athletes of all time!

Who are the best umpires in MLB?

By Jimmie Searfoss

Getty images

Umpires have been on the hotseat more than ever these days. With many networks implementing a live strike zone in their broadcasts, baseball fans are getting to see firsthand the accuracy of who is calling balls and strikes, and many aren’t liking what they’re seeing. Yet despite the implementation of a live strike zone, there has not been a convenient way for fans to judge how good umpires really are at calling balls and strikes, until Ethan Singer and Ethan Schwartz created just that.

Singer and Schwartz, both undergraduates at Boston University and the University of Pennsylvania respectively, run the website www.umpscorecards.com, as well as the @umpscorecards twitter page which has amassed 87,000 followers since its creation in August 2020. Their page brings umpiring to the Statcast era by breaking down an umpire’s performance behind the plate using advanced metrics, some even created by Singer, based on information from baseballsavant.com or even the MLB itself.

The morning after a game, their twitter page will release a tweet featuring a scorecard for each game. Each scorecard features the accuracy, consistency, favor, missed calls, worst missed calls, outside the strike zone accuracy, and inside the zone accuracy of the umpire behind the plate for that game. The statistics are organized and explained in such a way that is easily digestible for fans.

Their website, www.umpscorecards.com goes into even more depth. The site features a complete catalog of all the games they have logged, every specific umpire’s statistic, and statistics on how much of an impact umpires have had on each MLB team this season. Just as important as everything else, however, is their glossary page, which breaks down any statistic or word the average fan might not be familiar with.

The information on the umpires statistics lays out every umpire that has called a game from behind the plate this season. Every stat is featured on this page the same way a stat sheet would be displayed on a site like baseball-reference.com. Although the umpires are organized alphabetically, the viewing can be customized by clicking on a specific stat to see who the best in that specific category is. This can change the way fans watch the game. For example, fans who partake in sports betting might especially pay attention to the page. Especially if they are betting on a game where an umpire has been consistently shown to favor one team over another or been particularly inconsistent when calling balls and strikes.

For even more information, the site provides a link to Singer’s personal website https://ethan-singer.com/projects.html. This website features his personal work both in relation to the umpscorecard page as well as outside of it. His work in relation to the umpscorecard features multiple papers explaining how he put together the statistics found on his page. Singer explains in depth how he came about his equations used on the stats page, what they mean, and why they are important on the outcome of the game. 

He also updates his statistics to make them as accurate as possible. In his project “Umpire Miss Probability”, Singer explains his change to how he interoperates what is considered a strike. While he originally had his stat as whether the umpire got the call correct based on if the ball touched the strike zone, he discovered the MLB’s tracking system was off on average about .25 inches both horizontally and vertically. 

“Instead of determining the designation of a pitch simply based on its measured location, I assign each pitch a probability that it was a strike and a probability that it was a ball. And from there, I can easily derive the probability that a specific call was incorrect. Finally, only if the incorrect call probability is greater than 95% do I consider the call to truly be incorrect,” said Singer.

While they are not the first to break down how well an umpire does their job behind the plate, they are one of the first to make it easily accessible to fans through their twitter page. Player’s stats are constantly fed to fans on every medium, and in a sport where the umpire plays such a vital role on the outcome of a game, it was overdue for baseball to have a page with a large reach that holds umpires accountable the same way a player would be. 

Major League Baseball gets no respect

By Jimmie Searfoss

There is a lack of respect when it comes to Major League Baseball. A lack of respect from the young fans, who don’t find it exciting enough to watch. There is a lack of respect from the diehard fans, who have lost their interest in the game due to the new rule changes. Most importantly, there is a lack of respect from the players themselves, who have been outspoken, even mocked, the direction the game is headed, and the only people to blame is the MLB front office.

The MLB’s latest headline is its crackdown on pitchers doctoring baseballs with foreign substances. Beginning June 21st pitchers will now be inspected after every inning, or after coming out of the bullpen for substances by umpires who will check their hat and glove. 

This is a rule change that needed to happen. However, the way the MLB implemented the rule, and the backlash from pitchers around the league has created chaos around the league.

Oakland Athletics pitcher Sergio Romo walked off the mound in Wednesday’s game against the Texas Rangers and before he got to the dugout, he was stopped by an umpire for an inspection. Romo, who had just given up a run that inning, was visibly not pleased with the new requirement. He proceeded to throw his hat, belt, and glove onto the turf, then pulled his pants down in mockery to the new rule umpires must now enforce. Washington Nationals ace Max Scherzer pulled a similar stunt in his start on Wednesday by undoing his belt to prove he was clean.

Tampa Bay Rays’ pitcher Tyler Glasnow and Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Trevor Bauer have particularly been outspoken against the rule change. 

“I just threw 80 something innings & you just told me I can’t use anything. I have to change everything. I truly believe 100% that’s why I got hurt. I’m frustrated MLB doesn’t understand. You can’t just tell us to use nothing. It’s crazy,” said Glasnow in a postgame interview. 

Bauer also reflects these views.

“They didn’t get a whole lot of this right,” said Bauer in an interview with Sportsnet LA.

To implement a rule that will change the way the sport is played three months into the season is rash and unprofessional from a league that is supposed to represent ‘Americas Pastime’. The league did not even need to wait until next season to implement this rule. The All-Star break, or even another set date a month or two down the line to give pitchers the opportunity to adjust would have sufficed. Instead, they felt the pressure and made a rushed and vague rule to throw into the game.

In the same interview with Sportsnet LA, Bauer demonstrated the sticky results of a mix of sweat and rosin by holding his hand in the air while a ball stuck to it. If a player is sweatier in one inning than another, causing the ball to stick more when mixed with the legal substance of rosin, how is an umpire going to determine if it was sweat or another substance? 

“Umpires haven’t been trained to know what is sticky and what isn’t. And like, if I can hold a ball like this obviously it’s illegal right, except it’s not,” said Bauer, “It’s a mess.”

The mess the MLB is currently in is a case of history repeating itself. In the early 2000s the MLB was infamously tarnished by the use of performance enhancing drugs (PEDs) which led to an increase in home runs. Players like Barry Bonds who began their careers lean ended up becoming a massive hulk of a player at the turn of the century. With home runs on the rise and players becoming unnaturally large unnaturally fast, it was obvious something wasn’t right. When the scandal finally broke on the amount of PED users within the MLB, the league became forever linked to cheating. It’s biggest athletes, like Bonds, who had been linked to PED’s lost all respect they had gained through their career.

The same signs had been there when it came to pitchers doctoring the ball. It is inexcusable for the MLB to claim more pitchers had been cheating than expected when the statistics had been there for it all along. The MLB sent a memo to all 30 teams at the beginning of the season announcing it would be tracking spin rates closely to crack down on cheating this year. Why did they start monitoring closely this year? These stats have been available for years. In the Statcast era of baseball there is a number for every aspect of the game. When players such as Gerrit Cole, Brandon Woodruff, and Tyler Glasnow along with many other pitchers had managed to drastically increase the spin rates on their pitches around the same time of each other, it should have caught the MLB’s attention. Yet the MLB ignored it, like a high schooler putting off a paper, and much like a high schooler, rushed something together and turned in at the last minute. 

The NBA experienced something similar in its 2021 season. Its players had found a loophole in the rules and had exploited it. Players began to lurch forward unnaturally after a jump shot to draw contact from the defender thus causing a foul on the defense. It had created a lot of controversy around the league and with its fans. However, after the season, the NBA announced it was going to revise the rules in the offseason in a way to prohibit the unnatural movements of players during a jump shot. The NBA gave itself time to figure out their new rules and train their referees on how to call them. 

It’s time the MLB took a page out of its fellow sports leagues book, because a player pulling his pants down is not a good look.

Why you need to watch the College Baseball World Series

By Jimmie Searfoss

Why you need to watch the College World Series

All eyes look to Omaha, Nebraska as the 2021 College Baseball World Series is set to take place. Since 1950, teams have made the trek to Nebraska to play for the NCAA Baseball Championship. In 2021 the tradition will continue, as eight teams will make their trip to Nebraska to play for the Division 1 NCAA Title. 

The 64-team tournament began on June 4th, and has been narrowed down to North Carolina State, Stanford, Arizona, Vanderbilt, Texas, Tennessee, Virginia, and Mississippi State to play each other in three game series for the title.

The site of the games, TD Ameritrade Park, will soon be rocking with 24,000 fans to watch their team battle it out on the diamond. Millions more will tune in across the country, here’s why you should be one of them:

An Underdog Story

Baseball is a game of skill not a game of size. The size of the player largely does not determine the outcome of play. This is why 5 foot 6 Jose Altuve can play at an all-star level amongst the likes of 6 foot 7 Aaron Judge. The same goes for baseball programs. The smaller NC State Wolfpack is making their trip alongside schools like Vanderbilt, Mississippi State, and Stanford, and they earned it.

After a 1-8 start in ACC play, NC State fought their way to a 35-18 record, and to the No 2 seed in the tournament. After winning their first series, they then upset the No 1 seeded Arkansas Razorbacks, a team many picked to win the entire tournament, in the second round which punched their ticket to Omaha. 

NC State will be headed to Nebraska for the first time since 2013, and will be playing for its first NCAA Baseball title. Standing ahead of them, however, is the Stanford Cardinal. Stanford has only lost one game all tournament, and is coming of a sweep of No 1 seed Texas Tech. They are ranked 9th on the power rankings from USA Today. NC State was not even ranked in the top 25. The Wolfpack looks to cool the red-hot Cardinal in the first game of the College World Series on June 19th at 2 p.m. ET.

A Tale of Two Pitchers

The Vanderbilt Commodores have must see baseball from their pitchers Kumar Rocker and Jack Leiter. The potential first and second picks in the 2021 MLB Draft have steamrolled their competition this season, and do not look to let up under the pressure of the College World Series. 

Kumar Rocker has already proved he can perform under the bright lights of Omaha after his stellar performance in the 2019 College World Series finals where he went 6.1 innings and struck out 11 batters, tying the second most by a pitcher in a College World Series finals game. Since then, he’s only gotten better. In 2021, he has tossed more innings than anyone in the SEC, and has been efficient while doing it. The 6 foot 5 righty has posted a 2.46 ERA this season and has held batters to a .157 batting average. 

Jack Leiter, son of former MLB pitcher AL Leiter, has arguably been better. The sophomore leads the SEC in strikeouts with 156 in 96 innings pitched, followed closely by Rocker who has sat down 155. Leiter’s best pitch is his fastball. What sets his apart from the rest is not simply that it can reach 97 mph, but according to a scouting report done in 2020, averages 18.1 inches of vertical break with 8.1 inches of run. Since the report, he has only gained more control over the pitch. Leiter is no stranger to pressure either, although this will be his first College World Series appearance, he has proven he can handle the heat after he no-hit the South Carolina Gamecocks in March. 

More Cowbell

Mississippi State fans favorite noise maker is not limited to football. Their baseball games are filled with the ringing sounds of hundreds or possibly thousands of cowbells. Every strike, out, hit, walk, or run warrants a cowbell from Bulldog fans. It is as if they have a fever, and the only prescription is more cowbell.

Crowd antics are a large part of college baseball, especially in a setting like the College World Series. Whether it is the excessive use of a cowbell, or fans simply getting under the skin of an opposing pitcher, they have a factor on the play happening on the field. This was on full display in the Super Regional Series where Tennessee was playing Louisiana State University. With Tennessee firmly in the lead, their fans, who had been especially loud all game, began to see a trip to Omaha in their future, and cranked up their cheers. This made its way under LSU pitcher Trent Vietmeier’s skin. The crowd got to Vietmeier enough to prompt him to flip them off on his way back to the dugout after he was pulled. 

Every team’s fan will pack the streets and stands in Omaha. Chants will be yelled, crowds will be loud, and emotions will run high. 

A Personal Look at Baseball

Major League Baseball is not the same as the NFL and NBA because the fans do not always get to get to know their players while they develop. College football and basketball are rich in recognizable players that fans can see grow into the professional players they will cheer for in the future. Yet the development of MLB players is largely unknown, as not many fans follow prospects through the minor leagues. The College World Series gives a spotlight into what the future of baseball looks like in a high energy, and highly televised environment where fans can develop connections to certain players.

A large issue with following the development of baseball players is they end up spending years in the lowly viewed minor leagues, where it is difficult to gain recognition. College baseball, however, is gaining in popularity, and the talent level is increasing as well. More players are opting to play in college, then go straight to the minor leagues and it has led to MLB talent clashing against MLB talent. It is what baseball has been missing for a long time, a memorable place where fans can see future stars face off, and gain excitement for the players future. 

In the end, these are a bunch of kids playing their hearts out on the biggest stage the NCAA has. How could baseball fans not watch?

MLB in May: The month in review

By Jimmie Searfoss

Major League Baseball has been exciting thus far. It opened its season to record breaking TV ratings in April, a surprise for many fans, and has continued to deliver surprises throughout the month of May. These surprises include four no-hitters in a single month, tying June of 1990 for the most in one month in MLB history. Yet the lack of hitting wasn’t the only story, some other headlines in May included…

A Sticky Situation

It is not a surprise that pitchers doctor baseballs. While it is illegal for a pitcher to artificially enhance their grip on the ball by using substances like pine tar, it has not stopped pitchers from trying in the past. 

As the fictional Eddie Harris in the movie Major League once said, “I’ve got to put anything on it I can find, and someday you will too.” 

In a normal situation, a caught player would be receive a suspension, and would have to face the sports world as punishment. This would happen on occasion. 

However more pitchers could be cheating than Major League Baseball knows.

Minnesota Twins third baseman Josh Donaldson spoke out, claiming to have a list of pitchers that use substances to alter their grip on the ball. Shortly thereafter, rumors began to fly around the league about possible suspects. MLB sent a memo to all teams saying it will be analyzing spin rate as well as inspecting baseballs to crack down on potential cheating around the league.

New York Yankees ace Gerrit Cole specifically was called out by Donaldson that he had allegedly doctored baseballs in the past. Since Donaldson spoke on Cole’s alleged cheating, his spin rate has dropped significantly in his last two starts and has struggled on the mound. Yankee’s manager Aaron Boone simply wrote this off as a coincidence.

Sho-Time

Los Angeles Angels designated hitter and pitcher Shohei Ohtani finally gave the world what they were all expecting to see out of him since he debuted in 2018. Although injuries kept him from fulfilling his potential on the field in past years, the fans got to see a healthy, dominant Ohtani on the mound and in the batter’s box in May.

On the mound, he held hitters to a .171 average, while sporting a 2.38 era with 27 strikeouts in 22.2 innings pitched.

In the box, he belted 7 home runs in the month of May and had the most home runs in the AL for a period of time. On May 25th, Ohtani blasted his 15th home run of the season 117 mph, the hardest home run any Angel has hit since the Statcast era began in 2015.

The modern-day Babe Ruth was been electrifying during the month of May. Just don’t look at the Angels losing record.

A New Ranger in Town

Remember the name Adolis Garcia, because he could be the 2021 AL MVP. The 28-year-old outfielder of the Texas Rangers put up a slash line of .312/348/.633 with 11 homeruns and 27 RBI in May, yet had been widely unknown by the sports world.

Although Garcia made his MLB debut with the St. Louis Cardinals in 2018, his story is a lot deeper. He had defected from Cuba in 2016 and found himself playing for the Yomiuri Giants, a baseball team based in Tokyo, Japan in the Central League of Nippon Professional Baseball. However, he only played four games with the team and did not tally a single hit in seven at-bats. He was then invited to spring training by the Cardinals the next year. After his debut in 2018 he spent all of 2019 in the minors, where he was eventually designated for assignment, and ended up on the Rangers roster, where he was designated for assignment again in 2020. He did however earn a non-roster invite to spring training from the Rangers who eventually picked up his contract and since then he hasn’t looked back.

He is currently battling for the American League home run lead and is a dark horse candidate for the AL Most Valuable Player.

Odd Years

It is true it is only June. It is also true the San Francisco Giants are currently in the lead in the NL West, and they have earned it. The Giants went 18-10 in a month that included one series with the San Diego Padres, and two against their rival the Los Angeles Dodgers. 

The Giants have surged to a 2.5 game lead over the Padres in the NL West, on the backs of a resurging Buster Posey and Brandon Crawford, who both had months that would make one guess it was the early 2010’s again. 

Posey blasted 12 home runs and slashed .288/.405/.500 during the month, a surprise for the aging star as the 34-year-old catcher opted out of the 2020 season and had showed signs of decline in recent years. Crawford wrapped up May by leading all shortstops in on-base percentage (OBP), slugging percentage (SLG), and runs batted in (RBI). While Crawford had always been defensively valuable, hitting numbers like this are not common.

Kevin Gausman has led the Giants pitching staff with a month that second behind that of only New York Mets ace Jacob deGrom. Gausman went undefeated in May, winning all five of his starts. In those five starts, he allowed only three earned runs leading to an earned run average (ERA) under 1. He averaged over one strikeout an inning and held batters to a .165 batting average. Unfortunately for him, his performances have been largely overshadowed by those of deGrom. 

The Giants opened up the 2010’s with World Series wins in the even years of 2010, 2012, and 2014. Is it time for odd years in the 2020’s? Probably not, but that might be fun.

What to Expect

With baseball reaching its summer months, this is where the real teams begin to separate from those who just got off to a hot start. For some teams, like the Atlanta Braves, June will be an important month for them to begin to reach mid-season form, and shake off their slow start. 

June will also be another important month for New York. Both the Yankees and Mets fate can be heavily influenced with the trade deadline steadily approaching in July. A bad June for the Yankees possibly means they could sell at the deadline, while the month can also give Mets fans a real look on the legitimacy of their team, which had an underwhelming May.

June will also be big for the MLB. Although the year began with strong viewership, past years have shown a decline in ratings. The summertime is where baseball shines as one of the only major sports on TV. Although the MLB is hoping for a continuation of their early success, only time will tell how many people tune in, I know I sure will.