Approaching the quarter pole

Hope springs eternal for all baseball fans, as their favorite team jockeys for position during the season’s first six weeks.  As the season has past  the Memorial Day holiday, some fans can already begin to see whether their team will be in the marathon season for the long haul, or whether it will be another long winter ahead in waiting for next year.  At this point though, few teams are out of their respective races.

Thanks to the MASN family of networks, we have the opportunity to root for our two home teams to the north.  With their abundance of pitching, a coming of age of several young stars and a nice mix of veterans, the Nationals start has not been totally surprising.  Most thought the Nats would improve on last year’s .500 season and contend for a possible wild card berth.  The Nationals have been terrific, in spite of what seems to be almost daily additions to the disabled list.  Injuries have jettisoned Bryce Harper to the big leagues and his debut has been electric.  The Orioles on the other hand have caught everyone by surprise.  Sporting the best record in the American League, the O’s have confidently pieced together timely hitting, a strong bullpen and a newfound swagger.   Buck Showalter is again proving that he is one of the best managers in all of baseball.

The Tigers are baseball’s big disappointed so far.  After signing Prince Fielder, many were ready to give them a pass directly to the World Series.  There was even talk of a record number of wins, as Detroit would surely march through the hapless AL Central.  Pennants are a tough thing to purchase, and as of this writing the near unbeatable Tigers are limping along at 20-24.  A sidebar is that the Tigers released former VCU star Brandon Inge last month.  Picked up by Billy Beane’s A’s in the ultimate MONEYBALL move, Inge immediately responded with a walk-off grandslam.  With about a tenth of the payroll, the A’s are a couple games ahead of the Tigers in the standings.

Interleague play was instituted a number of years ago to increase fan interest.  It was never sold, as I think it cheapens the World Series a bit.  Last week I saw the first round of interleague games though, and the numbers just don’t lie.  The Nationals and Orioles drew over 120,000 fans last weekend.   We witnessed the excitement of a full-house on Friday night, and I may be ready to concede that in a limited form, interleague play is probably good for baseball.  The Nationals return the visit as they head to Camden Yard in mid-July.  It is sure to be a hot ticket.

Is the best player in baseball Matt Kemp or Andrew McCutchen?  The nature of the media prevents us from seeing much of either player.  I look forward to seeing Kemp in person as the Dodgers visit D.C. in September.  We’ve now watched McCutchen’s Pirates play four times.  He is a gazelle in center field and shows unbelievable power for a little guy.  He has hit some Ruthian shots in our presence.

Squirrels baseball continues to be fun!  But how much more fun would this be if we could swing a working agreement with the Nationals?  What a joy it would be to follow young talent up I-95.  The simple truth is that Richmond will never be a Giant town.  Gradually we will become a National’s town with the retirement of Chipper Jones and the disappearance of the Braves from TBS.

Hope you had a special Memorial Day and that your summer will include lots of baseball!

Fore!

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