Triple Play: Nelson Cruz, Justin Verlander, Mike Trout

Pete Rose

Welcome to the newest edition of the Triple Play. This week, we look at the leader of the potent Mariners offense (how long has it been since anyone wrote that?), a Tiger with no bite, and another milestone for the best player in the game. Off we go:

Who’s Hot?

Nelson Cruz, Seattle Mariners

For the past several years, if Seattle faced a five-run deficit, it was a near-certain loss. They just didn’t have the offense to mount a rally. So far, 2015 is proving to be a different story for the Mariners. Exhibit A happened Sunday. Despite trailing 7-2 and 10-5, the Mariners battled back and won 11-10, thanks to a game-winning single by Cruz. It was his fifth RBI of the game. He smacked homers in the first and third innings, giving him 8 long balls and 14 RBI in the young season. He is the first player to hit 8 homers in his team’s first 12 games since Alex Rodriguez in 2007. Incidentally, Rodriguez finished that season with 54 homers and a career-high 156 RBI. Now, no one is saying that Cruz is going to repeat those numbers. He may not even match his total of 40 from last season, especially considering that he now plays in pitcher-friendly Safeco Field. What does seem clear, though, is that the Mariners’ lineup is more formidable than it has been in many years, which has got to be a welcome sight for their pitchers. Time will tell how long he can keep up this pace, but fantasy owners who banked on Cruz continuing his 2014 success are reaping the benefits so far.

Who’s Not?

Justin Verlander, Detroit Tigers

It isn’t that Verlander is pitching poorly….it’s that he hasn’t even taken the mound yet. The Tigers were counting on their one-time ace to be a solid member of their rotation, what with Max Scherzer gone and their bullpen still shaky. Unfortunately, his throwing program has been paused again because the “soreness” in his throwing arm hasn’t abated. Oddly, the Tigers are not planning to do any further medical tests to determine the cause of Verlander’s pain. It seems a strange form of caution on Detroit’s part. Makes me wonder if they will regret their hesitation if a more serious problem than “soreness” is found later. For now, though, the unfortunately-named Kyle Lobstein will hold down Verlander’s spot in the rotation.

Playing the Name Game

We’re going to take the Name Game in a slightly different direction today. There has been a lot written the past couple weeks about how despicably the Angels are treating Josh Hamilton in the wake of his drug and alcohol relapse earlier this season. To me, what is even more appalling is how Rob Manfred, the new commissioner, is enabling the Angels in this behavior. The team is making lots of noise about trying to get out from under the remainder of Hamilton’s monstrous contract (to which the Angels voluntarily gave him, by the way), but their conduct is violating the Joint Drug Agreement the owners and players signed years ago. Why is Manfred allowing this? Issues like this are going to cause a problem when the collective bargaining agreement comes due.

However, they aren’t the only team treating an established star shabbily. As Alex Rodriguez nears 660 home runs in his career, the Yankees are blatantly ignoring his climb in the record books. They appear to be preparing for a battle over the sizable bonus due Rodriguez once he passes Willie Mays in the record books. Yet most in the media seem to think this is okay or even amusing. Why? Obviously, Rodriguez used steroids and then lied about it for years. That part is inexcusable and I’m not justifying any of that. But I wonder how much of it is also because he has been an unlikable, me-first player? While there’s no telling how long his strong start to the season (4 HR, 11 RBI, .314/.429/.714 slash line entering Sunday) will last, his comeback after missing the 2014 season is certainly more compelling than the Yankees are making it out to be. If he were as popular as someone like, say, Paul O’Neill, would there be more celebration of his statistics? Just wondering.

Clearing the Bases

  • At 23 years, 259 days, Mike Trout because the youngest player in baseball history to hit 100 home runs and steal 100 bases. That’s no surprise, of course, but I found it fascinating who the previous record holder was: Alex Rodriguez, at 23 years, 309 days.
  • I wonder what we will be saying about Trout when he is nearing 40.
  • All the wheeling and dealing the Padres did in the offseason certainly made them a fascinating team to watch on the field, but they still have the blandest, most boring uniforms in baseball. When people think your old brown-and-yellow uniforms would be an improvement, you know your current set is pretty awful.
  • Two weeks into the season and the Royals and A’s are in late August dog days form, exchanging beanballs over the weekend. Still waiting for an explanation why Scott Kazmir wasn’t ejected from Sunday’s game for drilling Lorenzo Cain, but five Royals were.
  • That Jon Lester-Anthony Rizzo play in the 2nd inning of Sunday’s game against the Padres is gonna be on highlight reels for decades. Give Rizzo credit for smartly dropping his glove so he could catch Lester’s glove cleanly.
  • Imagine if Lester had flipped that ball to Kris Bryant. His legend would have tripled instantly.
  • Another thing I had never seen in a ballgame before: Robinson Cano’s inexplicable blunder last week when he started trotting home from 3rd, thinking the bases were loaded when Logan Morrison drew a walk. The bases weren’t loaded, so the Dodgers promptly threw him out when he tried to scramble back to the base. Are you familiar with the term “TOOTBLAN”? It means “Thrown Out On The Bases Like A Nincompoop”. We might have to rename it “Thrown Out Like A Cano.” Wow.
  • Hey, GMC, nobody refers to a pitcher who can “paint the corners” as a “Rembrandt.” If you could fix that asinine commercial of yours, that would be great. Thanks.
  • News: Pete Rose is hired as a studio analyst by Fox Sports. Views: if he doesn’t have anything more intelligent to say there than he did in his disastrous, short-lived reality show, then this TV gig won’t last long either. And all the people who think this is the start of him being reinstated to baseball and made eligible for the Hall of Fame need to reacquaint themselves with reality. First of all, those are two completely separate issues. The Hall of Fame is its own entity and the commissioner’s office has no say in what the Hall does. And nothing is imminent as far as Rose being reinstated by Manfred, so all this talk is just sound and fury, signifying nothing. Then again, that’s Rose’s modus operandi for many years now.

Follow me on Twitter: @ccaylor10

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