Hi all. Here’s how I see baseball today.
The famed news commentator Paul Harvey spent decades telling us “The rest of the Story,” the unknown facts behind famous inventors, authors and celebs. He would have had a party with present-day Rockies sortstop Trevor Story. His first 4 MLB hits have been home runs. Rockies’ fans have been waiting for him since the trade of Troy Tulowitzki last year. Jose Reyes was only a stopgap even before his arrest on domestic abuse charges in Hawaii. (By the by, if Hawaii is such a tropical paradise why would a guy smack his wife around on a trip there? And he’s not the only miserable soul I’ve heard of there, but that’s another story.)
So who is Rockies’ shortstop number 27? Trevor John Story is 23, and calls home Irving, Texas-the scene of Cowboys’ home football games. He was set to go to LSU to play for their vaunted baseball program, but that plan went by the wayside when the Rockies took him in round 1 of the 2011 draft. Even a first-round choice has a long road to travel if he’s a high school boy. My thumbnail sketch of the minors yesterday didn’t mention the short-season leagues that open in mid-June. That’s where Story’s road began, in Casper Wyoming of the Pioneer League in 2011. Next it was Asheville in the South Atlantic League, playing at historic McCormick Field, a brick-fronted stadium built in 1923. His first bump in the road was in Modesto, of the California League. In that hitting-happy league he hit but .233. A year’s maturity brought him a .332 average for the same Modesto Nuts team where he drove opposition pitchers nuts. Again trouble came when he reached AA in mid-June 2014 and hit .205. The Rockies moved their AA team from Tulsa to New Britain, CT for 2015, all unknowing that the team was about to alienate local fans by announcing a move to Hartford. Amidst this controversy Story hit .281 in a notorious pitcher’s park in New Britain. In July he reached AAA, a heartbeat away from the bigs, and the word came down that Tulowitzki had been traded. Up until then the powers that be had instructed Story’s managers to teach him to play second and third as a Tulowitzki trade seemed unlikely. With Troy in Toronto Story could return to his natural position of shortstop. Reyes’ legal woes left an opening and Story bulldozed through it with a .340 spring training average. On his second and third atbats of the regular season he hit two home runs off Zak Greinke. Only 7 men have hit 2 dingers in a game off Greinke. Only 6 men have ever hit two home runs in their first game. The other 5 were in the American League, and the only memorable name among them is Bert Campaneris. Today his home fans get to see Story for the first time, as the Rockies host the Padres. Until things settle down, as they will because of the marathon nature of baseball, Story will be the headliner at Coors Canaveral.
Six teams hold their home openers today if weather permits. In Detroit, the forecast is for weather as cold as a landlord’s heart. Jordan Zimmerman, a Wisconsin native takes the hill for the Tigers and told the media he’s pitched in every kind of weather you can imagine. Luis Severino on the other hand comes from where the only ice is in a glass and the only snow is when your TV goes on the blink. The Arctic temperatures will be a challenge to him and to any fans brave enough to show up. Cold weather is a concern in Chicago and Denver, as it always is in April. The Indians, who had another game cancelled by foul weather in their home city head to Chicago where the weather isn’t any more conducive to baseball at this time of year. In Denver, Rockies’ Jordan Lyles faces Padres’ Colin Rea (not the country singer,) and the headline there will be the headliner of this piece, Trevor Story. Another frozen nightmare is the game tonight in Milwaukee when the Astros come to town. While the Mets’ weather should be OK today the talk is of snow tomorrow and a high of 28 degrees Sunday. Hey Ernie, let’s play 3 while the weather’s good!
In Toronto, mercifully they have a roof on Rogers Center. When Boston plays there tonight the Jays’ can count their blessings that Josh Donaldson wasn’t hurt as badly as they feared in yesterday’s game. He is expected to play.
The Mets’ opener at Citi Field will carry an extra ounce of drama. The starting pitcher is scheduled to be Jacob DeGrom. Mets’ fans are paying New York prices to see Jacob DeGrom. Some have jerseys with his name on them. He’s the only Met my 6-year-old niece can name without extra time to think on it. But his wife Stacey is past due to have their first child. By the contract the players have, if she should go into labor he can head to her side as fast as the team can get him there and the fans, even his supporters willl watch Bartolo Colon face the Phillies. The Mets were here twice last year. Both Jonathan Niese and Jeurys Familia’s wives gave birth while their husbands were with the team. The least dramatic home opener takes place late tonight when Oakland faces Seattle at Safeco Field. As Jean Shepherd once wrote of a White Sox doubleheader with the St. Louis Browns, “Futility meeting hopelessness halfway.”
Yesterday’s Cubs’ win over the D-Backs came at a price. Kyle Schwarber sprained an ankle colliding with Dexter Fowler in the outfield as Jean Segura rounded the bases for an inside-the-park home run. Some time today Schwarber will have an MRI on his ankle to tell just how bad the injury is. For the Cubs’ Anthony Rizzo missed hitting for the cycle. He put up a single, tripple and home run accounting for 6 RBIS. The D-Backs didn’t help their cause by issuing 10 walks.
The Yankees won 8-5 in spite of a poor start from Nathan Eovaldi. While Carlos Correa didn’t hit a home run, Tyler White and Preston Tucker did as the Astros built a 5-2 lead in the fourth inning. But like Wednesday night the Yankees rallied behind home runs by Brian McCann and Starlin Castro. A’Rod tied the game with a single in the 5th and Mark Teixeira unleashed a 3-run home run in the 7th for the win.
A number of pitchers have birthdays today. Jeremy Hellickson is 29 and, knowing he’s on the Phillies probably uses the old Sam Kinison expression “I live in hell, I live in hell!” He’s got a 49-48 record since 2010 but he has to know it will take a dive with the 100-loss bound Phillies. He’s been with the Rays and the D-Backs before joining the Phillies. He was Rookie of the Year in 2011 with the Rays. They took him in round 4 in 2005 from high school in Iowa. He was traded from Arizona to Philadelphia for a minor leaguer and signed a one-year contract so he can flee if he does anything close to good on the sinking ship.
On the opposite pole, future Hall of Famer Felix Hernandez is 30 today. The only thing that can keep this Venezuelan out of Cooperstown is himself. Since 2005 he’s built a 143-102 record on a string of awful Mariners’ teams but if Ernie Banks made the Hall as a Cub the rottenness of the Mariners shouldn’t slow down Felix’s charge to glory. He’s already edging 2200 strikeouts, has been an All-star 6 times and threw a perfecto in 2012. He got the name “King Felix” by a fan blog during his minor league years. He named one of his two dogs King, and as it happens Seattle is in King County. Reaching the show at 19, in 2005 he was the youngest pitcher to make it in 21 years. After a couple of ordinary years he broke out in 2007 and hasn’t looked back.
Hall of Famer Gary Carter was born this day in 1954 and died at 57 early in 2012. A third-round Expos’ draft choice in 1972 he was the catcher for the 1986 Mets and a broadcaster with the Marlins for 4 seasons. Had the Expos not drafted him, he meant to play quarterback at UCLA. As dangerous as the catcher’s trade is, he played from 1974 to 1992 and was an All-Star 11 times between 1975 and 1988. He made Cooperstown in 2003. I met him in 1994, and my personal memory is that my Seeing Eye dog Gizmo chewed up Carter’s pencil he was using to score the game. OOPS!
Jim Catfish Hunter, Hall of Famer was born this day in 1946. He died at 53 on sept. 9, 1999. My ex-wife and I were at her parents’ house preparing for her cousin’s wedding when her mother told us the news. It wasn’t the worst news my former mother-in-law ever gave me but it was up in the top 2 or 3. He had a 224-166 record between 1965 and 1979. He broke in at 19 with the Kansas City A’s. Even then they were owned by the eccentric Charles O. Finley. One of his more harmless oddities was randomly giving his men nicknames. Only two have stuck-John Blue Moon Odom, and Jim Catfish Hunter. He was an All-Star 8 times over between 1966 and 1976. His teams won 5 World Series-3 with Oakland 1972-74 and the 1977-78 Yankees. The 1976 Yankees lost the World Series in 4. He pitched a perfecto on May 8, 1968 against the Twins. The American League hadn’t seen a perfecto since 1922. The sad irony is barely 6000 people saw it. He won 200 games before turning 31, which no pitcher had done since 1915. He won 20 or more 5 years running, 1971-75. That hasn’t happened since. The only 3 to do so before were all Hall of Famers-Walter Johnson, Lefty Grove and Bob Feller. Both diabetes and arm trouble struck Hunter in 1978, and ended his career a year later. Like Sandy Koufax he was done way too soon. Like Koufax also, he saw Cooperstown a few years later. I heard him do an interview concerning his diabetes, but although both my grandpa and Dad had it I paid no heed, and I was struck with it in 2008. Hunter was diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease,) in 1997 and lost his life 2 years later.0