Current Major League Baseball Storylines Nobody Is Talking About
The Boston Red Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers completed one of the biggest trades in major league history, a nine-player deal which saw LA take on more than $270 million in salary.
Roger Clemens, fresh off a not guilty verdict at his perjury trial, pitched for the Sugar Land Skeeters at the age of 50. He was very good, allowing one hit in 3.1 innings in what many think could be a precursor to a major league comeback with the Houston Astros.
But what are the big stories being dwarfed by these ones, the stories no one is talking about?
Jacoby Ellsbury Has Been Terrible
One season after a monster year saw him finish runner-up in the AL MVP ballot, Red Sox center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury has come crashing back down to earth. After hitting below .200 with no home runs or stolen bases in the first week, Ells stumbled over the second base bag, injuring his shoulder and putting him on the DL until after the All-Star Game.
He struggled to raise his average after his return, and before a great series against Kansas City, in which he hit .444 with two steals and a home run, it was still languishing below the .250 mark. Even now, his OPS is 220 points below the .928 he posted in 2012.
Vin Scully Will Be Back
On the same day the baseball world was talking about that trade between the Los Angeles Dodgers and Boston Red Sox, there was some other big news from LA that got largely lost in the shuffle. Legendary play-by-play announcer Vin Scully revealed he would be back for 2013, his 64th season of calling Dodgers games.
Mike Trout Is Slipping in the AL MVP Race
Los Angeles Angels phenom Mike Trout has had the AL Rookie of the Year award sewn up since the end of May, but as his historic season has continued, the discussion about whether he could also win the MVP has gathered steam.
However, he's slipped a little in August, having by far his worst month of the season. After hitting a blistering .392 in July, Trout's average has fallen by over 100 points to .286. He's tied his longest hitless streak this season (though it was still only a paltry nine at-bats) and is one strikeout short of his single-month-high 28.
He still leads the batting race, but Detroit's Miguel Cabrera has cut it to 13 points.
Winning both in the same year has been done just twice before, by Boston's Fred Lynn in 1975 and Seattle's Ichiro Suzuki in 2001.
Joe Girardi Could Be Manager of the Year
The Manager of the Year award tends to go to the guy at the helm of a team which did better than expected.
Going by that logic, Baltimore's Buck Showalter would be the front-runner. His Orioles finished last in the AL East in 2012 with a 69-93 record, but have turned it all around this year. At 70-57, they are now just 3.5 games back of the New York Yankees for the division lead.
Oakland A's manager Bob Melvin has had a similarly good season, turning a 74-88 team into a playoff contender.
But no one should forget about Yankees skipper Joe Girardi. Of course, you are expected to win when you have a payroll exceeding $210 million, but Girardi has had to put up with a lot. Mariano Rivera, Alex Rodriguez, Brett Gardner, David Robertson, CC Sabathia, Andy Pettitte, Ivan Nova and now perhaps Mark Teixeira have all missed significant amounts of time with injury, yet the Yanks still own baseball's fourth-best record.
Baltimore Has Dominated Close Games
The Baltimore Orioles are either clutch or lucky. Or perhaps a bit of both. But whatever it is, if the game is close, they're probably going to win it.
With a 4-3 victory over the Chicago White Sox on Monday, the O's are 45-18 in games decided by one or two runs. That's a .714 winning percentage, the second-best record in such games in major league history, according to baseball-reference.com.
In one-run games, they have the best-ever record at 24-6, good for .800 winning percentage. That might explain how the O's are in the playoff hunt despite a minus-45 run differential, fourth worst in the American League and eighth-worst overall.
The Pittsburgh Pirates Are Reverting to Form
For the first time in almost two decades, the Pittsburgh Pirates were on course to finish above .500, and perhaps even make the playoffs. They led the NL Central at the All-Star break and were just two games back of Cincinnati on August 1.
However, they have won just five of their last 18 games, falling nine games behind and now out of a wild-card spot. In that stretch, they have been outscored 81-38 in their 15 losses and have been held to two or fewer runs six times.
St. Louis Is Going on Another Run
In a similar way they did in 2011, the St. Louis Cardinals are playing their best baseball down the stretch. As late as August 24 last year, they were just four games above .500. On September 1, they were 8.5 games behind the Atlanta Braves in the wild-card race. Yet they turned it around and won the World Series.
Now they have won seven of nine and are 16-9 in August, outscoring their opponents 48-25 in the last week.
Felix Hernandez Is Dominating
Felix Hernandez is making a serious push for his second Cy Young Award. The 2010 winner five-hit the Minnesota Twins on Monday night, his fifth shutout of the season. He is 4-0 with a 1.08 ERA, 31 strikeouts and just five walks in August. He also has three shutouts in his last five games, including a perfect game against the Tampa Bay Rays on August 15.
One more shutout would tie him for most in the major leagues since Tim Belcher recorded eight in 1989. Cliff Lee (2011) and Randy Johnson (1998) also had six.
Japan Might Boycott 2013 WBC
The 2013 World Baseball Classic, the third in the series of tournaments to replicate the success and appeal of soccer's World Cup, has been thrown into controversy already with the report from ESPN that Japan might boycott the event.
The country has won the 2006 and 2009 tournaments, but NPB players apparently have voted to skip the tournament because of a dispute about revenue and sponsorship rights. Now, NPB commissioner Ryozo Kato has insisted they are duty-bound to compete, according to a Reuters report on Yahoo! Sports.
Boston Could Try to Steal Toronto's Manager
In the aftermath of the Red Sox-Dodgers trade, the attention in Boston turned to the future, as its 2012 campaign was now pretty much over.
One burning question is whether manager Bobby Valentine will return in 2013. He has a contract, but has overseen the worst Sox season in 15 years. One possibility is that the Sox pursue former pitching coach and current Toronto Blue Jays manager John Farrell.
ESPN even had a report and poll about the possibility of the Red Sox trading reliever-turned-starter Daniel Bard if it meant the Blue Jays would trade Farrell in return.