From intentional walks to rising stars in the league, this has been an eventful beginning to the return of Major League Baseball (MLB) after an extensive lockout. With players and owners able to agree (at least to some degree) on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement, the actual playing aspect of ‘America’s National Pastime,’ can resume. And after returning to the field, the world’s best and most talented baseball players did not disappoint. After just over a week of play, let’s break down some of the top storylines from the start of the 2022 MLB season.
Kershaw Pulled in Perfect Game Chance
Clayton Kershaw made his season debut this past Wednesday, April 13, for the 15th time in a Los Angeles Dodgers uniform. In the seventh inning, Kershaw was on track for a perfect game as he was carving a Minnesota Twins offense with 13 strikeouts. He had thrown only 80 pitches in the game, yet skipper Dave Roberts made a puzzling decision and decided to pull the lefty veteran out of the game with just two innings left. As a rule of thumb, you never pull a guy who is throwing a perfect game. Whether he has 100 pitches or 120, you’re not supposed to pull that guy, especially in Kershaw’s case where he had only thrown 80 pitches. There have only been 23 perfect games in MLB history, the last being Felix Hernandez in 2012. Kershaw, who was on the verge of making history, was yanked in a shameful decision by Roberts.
“I don’t want to say a no-brainer, but it was actually pretty easy,” Roberts said after the game, reflecting on his decision. Roberts, who backed his decision with concerns around health, and it being Kershaw’s first start of the season, robbed us of history being made.
Vladdy Jr. May Be Next Best Player in Baseball
Vladdy Guerrero Jr. had himself a season last year. He led the majors in home runs, runs scored and total bases; led the American League (AL) in slugging, on-base percentage and wins above replacement; and earned a second place finish in the AL MVP voting race. This year, he’s showing no signs of slowing down. He already leads the league in home runs with five, including a three home run performance against the New York Yankees, two of which came off of ‘ace’ Gerrit Cole. It is incredibly fun to watch the 23 year-old phenom hit bombs, and he’s going to be doing it all year long up in Toronto. He may just be the next best player in baseball, and I think he’s going to win himself an MVP this year and hit even more home runs than he did in the last, carrying this talented Blue Jays squad deep into October.
Corey Seager Walked with Bases Loaded
The Los Angeles Angels trailed the Texas Rangers 3-2 in the fourth inning on Friday April 15. Newly acquired Rangers star Corey Seager, who was at bat with the bases loaded, was intentionally walked, bringing in the runner from third to make it a 4-2 Rangers lead. My immediate response to this is: What are you doing Joe Maddon? This isn’t Barry Bonds, the all-time home runs leader; this is Corey Seager. While Seager may have gotten himself a $325 million 10-year deal this offseason, there is no way he warrants the intentional walk with the bases loaded treatment. Only two players have had this treatment in the league’s history: Barry Bonds and former Rangers slugger Josh Hamilton. Interestingly enough, Angels skipper Joe Maddon made the decision to walk Hamilton with the bases loaded back in 2008. So I guess this is a Joe Maddon thing. The Angels ended up coming up with the win, so it kind of worked, but really Joe Maddon? Face the guy and get him out; he’s no Barry Bonds.
New York Yankees’ Horrid Start
Talk about a disappointment. While most contenders were very active this offseason, the New York Yankees stayed quiet. Many Yankees fans wanted former Astros star and free agent Carlos Correa, but they had to settle for 36 year-old Josh Donaldson instead. The Yankees are off to a 5-5 start this year, including losing two out of three to the Baltimore Orioles, the worst team in the league. They haven’t been able to hit this year, as most of their hitting metrics are in the bottom half of the league. The Yankees haven’t been able to capitalize on what should be one of the best lineups in baseball, which features Giancarlo Stanton, Aaron Judge, DJ Lemahieu, Anthony Rizzo and Joey Gallo. Everything came furiously crashing down on the Yankees when closer Aroldis Chapman walked in a run in extra innings that gave the Orioles a walk-off victory. The Yankees haven’t won a title since 2009, and it looks pretty dismal in the Bronx.
Emergence of Hunter Greene
Get to know the name Hunter Greene. I didn’t before this week, but here’s why you should. He was the number two pick in the 2017 draft, and he made his MLB debut in 2022. The kid can throw gas. His fastball averages 100 miles per hour, and he set a record for most pitches over 100 MPH in a game with 39 against the Dodgers. His pitches stifle batters, and he ranks top five in the league in contact percentage and swinging strike percentage. He’s been making hitters miss with his heat. Greene has allowed nine hits, five earned runs and three home runs in 10.1 innings pitched, so there’s room for improvement, but he’s also struck out 13 men in that same time frame. Keep an eye out for the rookie this year.