We’ve turned the pages on two months of baseball. The month of May gave us some memorable performances and muddled up the playoff races (it’s never too early). Colin and Dan return to talk about some of May’s storylines and best moments.
DAN: The Jekyll-and-Hyde performances (or Francisco-Liriano-and-Francisco-Liriano) by a few contending teams have been remarkable. The Marlins turned around a potential disaster, a glitzy, expensive shipwreck of a season saved by Giancarlo Stanton’s titanic power. The Cardinals can’t stop scoring runs, but they can’t stop losing ball games either, and their stranglehold on a mediocre division vanished in a hurry. But an exciting race suddenly appears in the AL west, where the table could be set for a thrilling pennant chase.
The Texas Rangers spent most of the young season leaving both their opponents and your Bullpen writers in awe. But their run prevention has gone to shit thanks to a month of butchering defense, and the Angels have stormed their way back into the conversation. Neither team will be going anywhere: their rotations are too good, their lineups are too potent, and their relievers are lights out. Texas is still an incredible team, but this is not going to be the laugher it appeared to be, especially if the Rangers don’t get out of the Free Outs business (et tu, Beltre?).
One bit of clarity we got this month came from our nation’s capital, where it turns out that Bryce Harper is, in fact, good at baseball. He’s been the Nationals best hitter since he joined the team. His outfield defense is a work in progress, and he has some at bats that remind you he’s still a teenager, but: he rakes. His rate stats (.288/.380/.542) are mind-blowing for a guy who should be a college freshman, his plate approach is stunningly advanced, and he digs on the basepaths like his life depends on every 90 feet possible. He’s been a major catalyst of a Nationals offense that has shown some respectability of late.
COLIN: I’m bummed that the Rangers aren’t walking on water anymore. Their hitting has slowed down a bit and the starting pitching has re-entered Earth’s atmosphere. So Josh Hamilton won’t hit 80 taters this year, so what? They field the best 25 in baseball and should be the favorite wire-to-wire in 2012. I’m still also very much behind the Rangers taking Francisco Rodriguez off of the Brewers’ hands. Don’t think I am being pushy; I am simply reminding folks of this great idea. In about a month though I will likely begin to flood Twitter with hashtags promoting this suggestion plus maybe a few thousand tweets at Nolan Ryan.
The Rangers will need all the help they can get because of what has awoken in Anaheim. Did anyone actually believe the Halos would keep losing? The Angels are off the mat and I’m totally in love with Mike Trout. He’s already in the top 20 most valuable players in baseball according to FanGraphs’ WAR stat and still doesn’t even qualify by a long shot. Trout might end up being the best 20 year old we have seen since Alex Rodriguez’s historic 1996 season.
The Angels were further bolstered as May saw the return of The Machine, Mr. Albert Pujols. Okay, so perhaps this is not The Machine we have become accustomed to. He’s still a machine, just more like a really crappy machine that you overpaid for on Craigslist. Remember the long-ball goose egg that Pujols put up in April? He has eight dingers since his first on May 6th. I’m not exactly willing to say Pujols has caught fire, but there is evidence that the block of ice he was stuck in has begun to thaw.
Perhaps my favorite baseball moment of May did not occur in Major League Baseball. It featured the return to professional ball of 47-year-old Jose Canseco. That’s right, you can go see the 1989 AL MVP take swings for the Independent League’s Worcester Tornados. Maybe he will even have lunch with you haters at one of the many fine establishments Worcester has to offer. Canseco is only slated to make $1000 per month for the Tornados, a mere fraction of what I make for writing at The Hamsterdam. He will also live chat with you for $1.50 per month. Trust me, the world is a better place with more Jose.
DAN: Jose Canseco is an amazing human being. Everything about him is just incredible. This tweet is comic genius, and I truly believe he should have his own television show where he has creative carte blanche, just like Louis CK.
My favorite moment happened on June 1st, but I don’t care: Johan Santana’s no-hitter. Santana has been one of my favorite players of the past decade, and his resurgent 2012 has made me very happy. That heartbreaking changeup is back. Even if we all fear that every pitch might be his last — a fear made even more real once he takes the mound again after his 130+ pitch effort — this season has been a blast, and now he has a defining moment.
Santana had that statistically insane run in Minnesota: 22.6 fWAR in three seasons, ERAs in the 2s, WHIPs too small to belong to a starter. But that dominance never had one shining, brilliant performance; he didn’t have a game to match Kerry Wood’s or Curt Schilling’s or Roy Halladay’s, not to mention some of the less luminary no-nos, like Braden or Buchholz or Buerhle. His dominance was always a kind of overwhelming slow crawl. He wasn’t a hurricane’s 100 mph winds, but instead its storm surge. He wasn’t a clap of thunder and a bolt of lightning, he was The Bloop. Now, he has his moment.
And as a bonus, we also got one of the all-time great city hick moments.