Around The Bases- Vol. V: Manny Hits 500; Jay Bruce Just Keeps Hitting

Manny!Manny finally joins the 500-Club while Cincinnati Reds phenom Jay Bruce puts on a 6 game offensive show the likes of which most have never witnessed, culminating in his first career HR, which happened to also be a walk-off HR.

This is where we begin our look Around the Bases this week:

• Manny Ramirez, outfielder for the Boston Red Sox, has definitively answered the question of whether or not he is a Hall of Famer. And the answer is, absolutely. Of course, he did that long before he belted HR number 500 into the bleachers of Camden Yard on Saturday night, but it certainly helped sway some people who may have still been on the fence. It was, after all, just another example of Manny being Manny. A great hitter doing what he does best.

He is the 24th player in MLB history to reach this great milestone and the 3rd to do it in a Red Sox uniform (following Jimmie Foxx and Ted Williams). Manny’s .313 career batting average is 4th highest of any member of the 500-homer club behind .344-Ted Williams; .342-Babe Ruth; and .325-Jimmie Foxx. This doesn’t happen by accident. By all accounts, Manny is one of the hardest working players on the Red Sox staff, often arriving to the stadium as early as 10:00 AM for his first workout, only to go home for a few hours before returning a few hours before gametime for his 2nd workout of the day.

He studies film and watches pitchers and how they pitch. When he sees a pitcher throw something at him in the first inning, he has that guy down pat for the third inning when he sees him again. Manny is rarely fooled twice. His batting average the first time he sees a pitcher in a game is .303. The 2nd time he sees that same pitcher his average jumps to .324, and the 3rd time it jumps again to .335. Manny wants to play for four or five more years. 600 HR should be well within his reach. Just Manny being Manny.

• Is it wrong to name the Rookie of the Year after you see him in just 6 games? Who the hell is this Jay Bruce guy anyway? And where have the Reds been hiding him? The 21 year old was recalled on Tues and including Sunday’s game, has now hit safely in 5 of 6 games (13-for-21, .591 avg., 3 doubles, 2 HR, 6 RBI, 6 BB, 10 runs), including 2 3-hit games and a 4-hit game, and a walk-off HR. Not a bad first week in the bigs. He became the first player with at least 10 hits and a game-ending HR in his first 5 Major League appearances since Bill Bruton did it for the 1953 Milwaukee Braves. Bruce’s six consecutive times reaching base to start his career (3-3, 3BB) was the longest streak of its kind since Boston Red Sox Ted Cox reached base in his first 7 PAs in ’77 (6-6, 1BB).

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• Perhaps the Chicago Cubs have decided that this would be the year, the 100 year anniversary since their last World Series title, where they would make a pact with the Devil. The same guy who’s name ironically no longer appears on Tampa Bay’s team uniform in the same season. Maybe he took that old goat from Chicago as his sacrifice and with the promise of the always ominous “player to be named later”, he went on his merry way. What he left behind was a lot of confusion and many of us scratching our heads in amazement as we look at the Chicago Cubs and Tampa Bay RAYS (please note the new name) with the two best records in all of baseball.

• As of a couple of days ago, the Chicago Cubs and Tampa Bay Rays were tied with the best record in baseball (34-21), but a Cubs win coupled with a Rays loss changed that and now the Cubs stand on top alone. According to Elias Sports Bureau, this is only the 2nd time in the last 60 years the Cubs have had the best record in the Majors 50 games into the season. The last time was in 1977. That year they finished the season 81-81. As a team, the Cubs are first in the NL in runs (324), hits (575), RBI, (306), doubles (131), batting average (.286), OBP (.367), and OPS (.808). In most of these categories, they are tops in the Major Leagues. Unfortunately, they are only 5th in HR (63), or they could have run the table. I think it’s safe to use the word “Domination” here.

How is their pitching? You ask. Good question. How about 3rd in the NL in ERA (3.61), 4th in Ks (428) and 3rd in batters’ avg against (.243). And their relievers have 16 saves (T-3rd in NL). The team has an NL best 3.18 ERA for the month of May with a 2nd best 8 saves for the month.

And how are they doing it? You ask. Yet another great question. With players that have always done it, like Derrek Lee (13 HR, 1st on team, 37 RBI T-2nd on team, .852 OPS, 295 avg), Aramis Ramirez (9 HR, 39 RBI, 1st on team, .313 avg, .966 OPS). With players that have been around that are stepping up to the plate, like Ryan Theroit (.319 average), and Mark DeRosa (.303 average). And rookies who are living up to their hype, like Geovany Soto (9 HR, 38 RBI, .299 average, .942 OPS) and Kosuke Fukudome (.303 average). By the way, the last time the Cubs went into June with the best record in baseball…1908.

Trivia Question:

Over the past 162 games, (since June 6, 2007) the Chicago Cubs have the 2nd BEST Won-Loss Record in all of baseball (96-66). Who has the BEST Won-Loss record in baseball during that same time-span? (Hint: It’s not the Rays.)

(Please don’t check the internet, that’s just too easy).

Fill out the form below to submit your answer. The winner will be drawn at random from all correct entries. First prize is the Semi-Pro DVD, starring Will Ferrell – courtesy of New Line Home Entertainment.

Answer to last week’s Trivia Question:
Of Mike Piazza’s 1,335 career RBIs, 1,205 came as a catcher. That ranks 3rd on the All-Time RBI list for Catchers. What two former New York Yankees Hall of Fame catchers are ahead of Piazza on the list?

Yogi Berra – 1,280
Bill Dickey – 1,209

Congrats to Ken Jones, who was only one of a few entrants to answer last week’s question correctly. Ken will receive American Pie presents Beta House on DVD.


• The other crazy story that makes us wonder if we’re living in another dimension is the Rays. The last time they were in first place in either their division or the AL this late in the season? How about…never. In fact, the latest in a season the Rays were ever in first place in the AL East was in 2005, and that was on April 9th. Yet here we are, on June 1st, and the Rays are 35-22, sitting in first place both in the AL East (1 game over Boston) and the entire AL. After completing the only winning April in the history of the franchise (14-12), the Rays have just completed the only winning May in the history of the franchise, which also happens to be their 2nd best month in franchise history (19-10).

This is the 6th consecutive day the Rays have been in first place, yet another franchise record. The Rays have been in first place or tied for first 18 days this season, three more than their COMBINED total for their first 10 seasons. Which dimension is this, anyway?

Let’s take a look at how they’re doing it. Actually, it’s a mystery how they’re doing it. Statistically, they are ranked 4th through 7th in every major category. They are ranked 4th in runs (249), avg. (.265), RBI (240), OBP (.337), 5th in hits (483), and OPS (.739). Their pitching stats are no better. They’re ranked 5th in ERA (3.78), 4th in WHIP (1.28), batters avg against (.243), and saves (16).

So how the hell do they have the best record in the AL? With players like B.J. Upton (3 HR, 34 RBI, 60 hits, 32 runs, .305 avg, .847OBP), leading nearly every statistical category, and Carlos Pena (10 HR, .733 OPS)). And rookie Evan Longoria (7 HR, 28 RBI, .314 OBP, .748 OPS) playing way over his head. Meanwhile, pitchers James Shields (ERA 3.24, WHIP 1.15, K 58, BB 17), Andy Sonnanstine (6-3, 43 K), and Scott Kazmir (5-1, ERA 1.22) are having career seasons so far.

• Congratulations to Philadelphia Phillies 2B Chase Utley. Utley is the first person this season to reach 20 HR and he did it while hitting a HR in his 4th straight game for the 2nd time this season. He is the first 2B to be the first one in the season to hit the 20 HR mark since the greatest hitting second baseman ever to play the game, Rogers Hornsby, did it for St. Louis almost 80 years ago.

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