It has been a remarkably emotional week for Major League Baseball, both positive and negative:
· The Oakland Athletics have officially announced their transition to Las Vegas, ending their streak of over 50 years in the Bay Area, including 17 division titles, six American League pennants and four World Series victories in that span.
- Drew Maggi, a 33-year-old infielder, made his first career plate appearance in the big leagues for the Pittsburgh Pirates after 1,155 minor league games in the last 13 years. He pinch-hit for Andrew McCutchen late in an 8-1 blowout and struck out, but received a standing ovation as well as lifelong health insurance benefits thanks to MLB policy.
- Madison Bumgarner, a three-time World Series champion and four-time all-star with the San Francisco Giants, was released by the Arizona Diamondbacks following a horrid first four starts where he allowed 20 runs in 16.2 innings.
- Three-time all-star Liam Hendriks, who established himself as a top closer of the 2010s with the Oakland Athletics, finally announced that he was cancer-free after a battle with non-Hodgkins’ lymphoma that began back in January.
However, the baseball season rarely takes pause to celebrate or mourn moments like these, as the Mariners have continued with their battle against themselves to reach a .500 record. They inched ever-closer when the St. Louis Cardinals came to town, taking two of three against the perennial NL Central frontrunners. However, their week evened out when they lost two of three against the reigning NL Champion: the Philadelphia Phillies.
The Mariners are definitely punching above their record, taking games off good teams and slowly piecing together some of the early issues they have had. Unfortunately, Robbie Ray had to have surgery done on his flexor, rendering him out for the rest of the season and giving Chris Flexen a sure start every five days barring any interesting moves from Seattle management. Kolten Wong has somewhat improved his bat, hopefully kickstarting a return to form for the veteran who was a mainstay of the 2010s-era Cardinals. What’s more, rookie shortstop Jose Caballero has helped take some of the heat off him, demonstrating excellent bat-to-ball skills and giving Wong a break against left-handed pitching.
J.P. Crawford is quietly establishing himself as one of the league’s premiere shortstops, even if he hasn’t been as exciting at the plate. He is second among MLB shortstops with a .407 on-base percentage, and is top five among MLB shortstops in OPS. His true talent was put on display in game two against the Phillies, where he took former Mariner Taijuan Walker deep for a grand slam to put Seattle up 4-0 in the second inning.
Of course, it would be remiss of me to talk about the Mariners without mentioning the absolutely scorching breakout of Jarred Kelenic. He now has seven home runs on the season on separate four-and three-game streaks of going deep. His 1.064 OPS is fourth in baseball and second in the American League behind Matt Chapman. In fact, he is absolutely everywhere on the American League leaderboards entering Apr. 27:
- 7th in WAR (1.2)
- 4th in batting average (.342)
- 1st in slugging (.726)
- 2nd in home runs (7)
Sample size is still a discussion point, but it’s hard to imagine that he isn’t the real deal now. He has emerged as one of the elite baseball players and early MVP candidates for the American League, alongside Chapman and the Yankees’ Gerrit Cole. He is spraying the ball all over the field with authority. He is what Seattle fans wanted to see two years ago when he was a top-five prospect.