By Andrew Kahn
There were some records set this past week, some more impressive than others. Plus, with a couple of suspensions handed out, will MLB ease up on foreign substance violations?
Two pitchers were ejected and subsequently suspended this past week for using a foreign substance on the mound. The reaction around MLB suggests the policy should be reviewed. Milwaukee reliever Will Smith was suspended for eight games on Friday after getting caught with what he said was sunscreen and rosin on his arm in the previous day’s game against Atlanta. He said he uses the substance for a better grip on the ball. The Braves’ Freddie Freeman told reporters after the game, “Every pitcher does it. As a hitter, you want them to do it so they’ll have a better grip so we won’t get hit in the head.” He must not have shared his opinion with his manager, who asked the umpire to check on Smith. On Saturday, Baltimore reliever Brian Matusz was ejected for a sticky substance on his arm. More managers and players weighed in, with most of them saying substances are solely for added grip and don’t make the ball move or go any faster than usual. If that’s the case, what’s the harm? Both players will have the appeals of their eight-game suspensions heard next week.
Jon Lester has had 59 major league at-bats and has never gotten a hit. If that sounds like an awful lot, it is: When Lester flied out against Max Scherzer on Wednesday, he set an MLB record for most at-bats to start a career without a hit (58). He has struck out 35 times; when he does make contact, it’s almost always a groundout. He did draw a walk in one of his 66 plate appearances. His record-setter, against the 2013 Cy Young winner Scherzer, was perhaps his best contact ever, a fly ball to the warning track in center. Having been in the American League his entire career until this season, Lester typically only had four or five at-bats each season. While his more frequent at-bats with the Cubs haven’t helped so far (0 for 23 this season), sometime this year Lester will almost certainly get a long overdue souvenir.
As good as Gold
Paul Goldschmidt has had a good week—he’s got a .552 on-base percentage with two homers in his last six games, including a game-tying, two-run shot with two outs in the tenth of an eventual win last Friday—but he’s mentioned here for his body of work. The Diamondbacks first baseman debuted in 2011, was the runner-up to Andrew McCutchen for MVP in 2013, when he won a Gold Glove, and is off to a hot start this season: 12 homers, .328 average, .440 OBP. After a key homer on Sunday, his teammate Jeremy Hellickson called him the best player in the game. Mike Trout and Miguel Cabrera might have something to say about that, but Goldschmidt is an underrated superstar.
Rocket from Jones
Another not-as-heralded-as-he-should-be star? Baltimore’s Adam Jones. He excels at all phases of the game, and showed off his arm on Thursday, gunning down Adam LaRoche at third on a fly ball to deep center field. Jones barely had enough time to stop backpedaling and set himself for the throw, which was strong and accurate:
[mlbvideo id=”135204783″ width=”400″ height=”224″ /]
Outdoing The Babe
Though he’s been dead for more than 65 years, Friday wasn’t a great day for Babe Ruth. He was passed on the all-time hit list by Ichiro Suzuki and Alex Rodriguez tied him for career runs batted in. Ruth’s 2,873 hits now rank 43rd all time. The RBI total is debatable. Major League Baseball does not count RBI before 1920, when it became an official statistic, and therefore only has Ruth for 1,992 (as opposed to, say, 2,214). Rodriguez’s three-run homer on Wednesday moved him past Lou Gehrig for most all-time in the American League, and after yesterday’s sac fly he is tied with Barry Bonds for second all-time, trailing only Hank Aaron.
Andrew Kahn is a regular contributor to CBS Local who also writes for Newsday and The Wall Street Journal. He writes about baseball and other sports at http://andrewjkahn.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter at @AndrewKahn