Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Baseball this 'n' that

It's early, I know. Not even two full weeks into the season, and fans in different parts of the country are geeking out over their teams' early successes.

For example, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim have stolen the headlines from the Dodgers, thanks in a very large part to Japan's Shohei Ohtani, and all he's done is live up to the hype after a subpar preseason. On the mound, he was 2/3 of the way to a perfect game vs. Oakland on Sunday before it was broken up with 1 out in the 7th. At the plate, he hit three home runs in as many games, and became the first two-way player in baseball history to be named AL Player of the Week. Small wonder, then, that the Angels are challenging defending World Series champ Houston for the top spot in the AL West.

As for the Dodgers, they're chasing Arizona in the NL West, but don't worry. If last year was any indication, the Diamondbacks may not have enough staying power to keep the Dodgers away from the division title.

Back in the Northeast, first-year managers Mickey Calloway (Mets) & Alex Cora (Boston) have their teams in first place with identical records. The Red Sox open a series with the Yankees tonight, and we'll see if the Yanks' Giancarlo Stanton can handle the added pressure of this ancient rivalry. Two five strikeout games last week reminded everyone that he's just another all-or-nothing slugger, and the fickle, spoiled fans in the Bronx are reminding him that they expect the same kind of production out of him that he gave Miami the last few years. At the same time, they need to remember, as I've noted before, that that's just the way he is. Part of the reason a lot of pitchers have flopped in the Bronx was because of too much pressure from the fan base, which thinks the championship is a birthright, not a luxury to be earned.

Across town, in Flushing, the Mets have served notice that they are, so far, to be taken seriously in the NL East. They swept defending division champ Washington over the weekend, and that was after the Nationals' ace, Max Scherzer, had pitched the night before the series began in Atlanta. Scherzer defeated the Braves Monday night, and his next start figures to be on Saturday, which means he'll miss the next round of Nationals-Mets next week in Flushing.

Calloway is making sure to keep his players happy. He has Michael Conforto & Juan Lagares sharing center field, and Lagares is back to being a Gold Glove caliber player on defense, as the Nats found out on Sunday. Brandon Nimmo is getting most of his at bats off the bench, but sooner or later Jay Bruce and/or Yoenis Cespedes are going to get a day off to allow him to play the outfield.

Consider, too, that with Zack Wheeler being called back from Las Vegas to pitch tomorrow vs. Miami, plus having Seth Lugo & Robert Gsellman in the bullpen, the Mets really have an embarrassment of riches in the starting rotation with seven potentially lethal starters.

But will any of these teams be contending in September? Stay tuned.
In reporting on Saturday's Albany Academy-Lansingburgh game, I referenced the fact that the Colonial Council opted against implementing a mercy rule for regular season games, and that the Cadets' 18-3 thumping of the Knights was evidence that maybe the league should change their collective minds.

Meanwhile, there is a mercy rule in softball. Loudonville Christian Academy needed it Monday to spare themselves further humiliation after getting pancaked by Emma Willard, 25-6. Ouch, babe!

Albany Academy's Ben Seiler, son of Albany Times-Union reporter Casey Seiler, fanned 13 in hurling a no-hitter vs. Ichabod Crane on Monday afternoon, as the Cadets ran their record to 2-0 in Section 2.

However, today's Times-Union only has box scores for both games, as no sports reporters were assigned to either contest. As with other papers in the market, the T-U is hampered by manpower constraints, else the no-hitter could've bumped its way to the front page of the sports section.

LaSalle, meanwhile, dispatched Cohoes in their first league game of the season. They'll make the first of two trips to North Troy on Friday when they play Lansingburgh.

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