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.
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.
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.