If you are a fan of baseball, then you are clearly a fan of oddities and surprises. Baseball is a sport that can be extremely unpredictable, and this can be both frustrating and entertaining. Everyday, I’m sure that as long as a Major League Baseball game is played, something weird will happen. Whether on the field or off, here are a few things I’ve found strange about the 2013 MLB season to this point. (In no particular order)
- LA Dodgers LHP Clayton Kershaw is still without a contract extension. MLB owners and general managers have become much smarter over the last few years. Instead of allowing their control over homegrown players to expire, making them free agents, they have begun to give long-term extensions to players well before they hit free agency, and sometimes, even arbitration. Pitchers Matt Moore, Wade Davis and Ubaldo Jimenez, and position players Paul Goldschmidt, Jose Altuve and Carlos Santana were all extended by their respective teams before reaching two years of service in the bigs. Chicago Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro and first baseman Anthony Rizzo also received lengthy extensions early in their career. So how did we go from June to the trade deadline, with no extension in sight for Kershaw? Could someone explain why the Dodgers would take on so many large salaries and not “take care of” undoubtedly, their best and most important player? I don’t know. The LA Times reported over a month ago that Kershaw was upset that talks about his potential extension were leaked. That makes sense, I guess. All I know is that every team in baseball would do whatever it takes to acquire a pitcher of Kershaw’s caliber. He won’t be a free agent until after the 2015 season, giving the Dodgers plenty of time to work something out, but I guarantee others are already plotting. It’s not often that a 25 year-old southpaw coming off 3 straight seasons of a sub-3 ERA, 30+ starts/200+ innings and an ERA+ of at least 133 are even remotely available. Weird, but it will probably change soon.
- Milwaukee Brewers CF Carlos Gomez has become a real baseball player, and a pretty good one, at that. One of my favorite baseball teams to watch just a few years ago was the Minnesota Twins. I am a fan of fundamentally sound baseball and while I’m not naive enough to believe that fundamentals begin and end with the Twins, I suppose their emphasis on it during games is what won me over. A player that seemingly never fit their scheme was CF Carlos Gomez. The 6’3″, 215-lb speedster always seemed to be in his own world whenever I saw the Twins play. It wasn’t very difficult to tell that Gomez was not without talent, but it also wasn’t very difficult to see that apparently, Gomez was still learning how to play baseball. He was traded to the Brewers in November, 2009 for SS JJ Hardy and struggled pretty badly his first two seasons in Milwaukee. After a solid 2012, Gomez has been one of the best centerfielders in all of baseball in 2013 as well as an All-Star. Through 100 games, Gomez has a triple slash of .303/.350/.550 to go with 17 HR and 52 RBI and is playing the best defense of his young career. It’s good to see Gomez finally seem to put it together, even if it sometimes comes at the expense of the Cubs.
- Jean Segura’s adventures on the basepaths. I was fortunate to have been watching this game live, and my head damn near exploded when this happened. That, is baseball.
- The Pittsburgh Pirates are on track for 82. 82 wins, that is, which would give them their first winning record since 1992, also the last year they made the postseason. With closer Jason Grilli on the shelf and their offense in need of a bat, as well as lefty starter Francisco Liriano taking almost everyone by surprise, some are simply waiting for the other shoe to drop and the Bucs to somehow find a way to miss the playoffs, similar to the 2011 and 2012 season. Currently at 64-42 and atop the National League Central, the Pirates could finish 18-38 and still finish 2013 with a winning record. I don’t see this team playing under .333 baseball the rest of the way, at all. While I’m not sure that they’ll hold up down the stretch against the St. Louis Cardinals (1.5 games back) and the Cincinnati Reds (6 games back), it is absolutely wonderful to see a franchise filled with so much ineptitude over the last two decades play this well, this late into the regular season.
- The Chicago Cubs are employing a strategy. A REAL STRATEGY. I’m well aware that even though the Cubs have played surprisingly well in 2013, they’re still 10 games under .500. I understand that most of the team’s brightest prospects are at the lower levels and probably won’t make an impact at the big league level until 2015, at the earliest. In spite of $500 million in renovations to Wrigley soon to come, I do realize that renovations don’t translate to wins on the field. Still, dammit, it’s so much less stressful to watch the Cubs go through 162 games of a lost season and know that a plan is in place. Hell, a viable plan, if I can be so generous. Theoyer decided that with 2013 (and possibly 2014, too) being a lost cause, the plan would be to stockpile as much young talent as possible. How? By signing veterans to cheap, team-friendly deals in the offseason, hoping they pan out, and jettisoning any talent on the Major League roster that isn’t relatively young. So far, Scott Hairston, Carlos Marmol, Scott Feldman, Matt Garza and Alfonso Soriano have been moved, and the youth the Cubs received in return has been mostly praised. An already-strong farm system is now unequivocally one of the entire league’s best. There are definitely still kinks to be ironed out in regards to the ML roster, but with a few interesting free agents on the horizon as well as plenty of pieces on the farm to promote or include in a blockbuster deal, things ain’t too bad for the Cubs right now, all things fairly considered.