5 Biggest Storylines from This Week's MLB Action
As if the 2013 MLB season weren't already lathered with juicy storylines, this past week of action gave baseball fans five more reasons to pay close attention.
There were individual and league-wide developments that may have altered our perceptions of the sport's rules and ongoing playoff races.
Following are the biggest events and most important trends from June 7-13. All were chosen for their current impact as well as the influence they will continue to have in the coming months.
From rookies to over-the-hill veterans and pretenders to contenders, here is the baseball-related news from the past week that you cannot afford to ignore.
Dodger Stadium Brawl
There's a growing correlation between Zack Greinke being getting hit by pitches and epic brawls breaking out.
For the second time this season, the Los Angeles Dodgers sprinted from the dugout in his defense and got physical with an NL West rival.
We're still waiting on Major League Baseball to announce suspensions from the latest melee, which took place on Tuesday, June 11, in Los Angeles that even involved members of the Dodgers' and Arizona Diamondbacks' coaching staffs. That's Alan Trammell and Don Mattingly pictured above.
Nobody shattered a collarbone in this one, so Carlos Quentin-type discipline isn't expected.
Still, this provides additional incentive to watch the two NL West rivals match up later this summer. Bleacher Report's Adam Wells explores the possibility of developing stricter punishments to deter more of these incidents in the future.
Gerrit Cole's MLB Debut
As Molly Fitzpatrick of MLB.com details, Pittsburgh's Gerrit Cole's first taste of the majors wasn't akin to Stephen Strasburg's historic debut in Washington.
Nevertheless, Cole still did "really, really well" in an 8-2 victory for the Pittsburgh Pirates.
PNC Park hosted 30,614 hyped fans on Tuesday, June 11, for its highest official attendance for a mid-week game since Opening Day, according to ESPN.com.
The powerful right-hander began to entertain immediately, as Cole hit 99 mph with his fastball on a strikeout of Gregor Blanco in the first inning.
He maintained his great velocity throughout the night and even contributed with the bat, stroking an opposite-field single to break a scoreless tie.
Cole allowed just two runs in 6.1 innings. Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review noted that Cole was the first Pirates pitcher to win his MLB debut since Paul Maholm in 2005.
It couldn't have come at a better time. Pittsburgh needs starting rotation assistance while A.J. Burnett (strained calf) and Wandy Rodriguez (inflamed forearm) recover from their respective injuries.
Struggles from Shutdown Closers
Beyond the near-perfect Jason Grilli of the Pirates, there hasn't been another closer in the majors for teams to trust unconditionally. This past week around the league emphasized that.
Mariano Rivera made three appearances and allowed an uncharacteristic eight baserunners in two-plus innings.
While the Sandman didn't technically blow a save opportunity on June 13, he failed to douse an Oakland Athletics' rally in the 18th inning. Nate Freiman's walk-off single sent the New York Yankees to one of their most demoralizing losses of the season.
Everything ended well for Edward Mujica and the St. Louis Cardinals in their rubber game against the New York Mets. However, the 29-year-old closer served up a home run to Marlon Byrd and needed a climactic strikeout to strand the tying run on third base.
After a see-saw affair on June 10, neither the Boston Red Sox nor Tampa Bay Rays went home pleased with the back end of their bullpens. Both Andrew Bailey and Fernando Rodney—the majors' 2012 ERA leader—were charged with multiple runs as the game dragged on for 14 innings before Boston finaly prevailed.
Just like the rest of these playoff contenders, the Detroit Tigers had a frustrating time in clinching tight contests. Jose Valverde failed to pitch a clean inning in four attempts. He threw 85 pitches, three of which were deposited into the crowd by Lorenzo Cain, Jason Giambi and Drew Stubbs (not exactly MVP candidates).
Oh yeah, and Mark Saxon of ESPNLosAngeles.com reported that Brandon League has been removed from the closer's role.
All clips from MLB.com
Legitimate Trade Rumors
With fewer than seven weeks to go until the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline, it's becoming increasingly clear which teams will be shopping veteran players.
Jayson Stark of ESPN.com touched on the lowly Miami Marlins in his "Rumbings & Grumblings" column. He writes that they have shown "no interest" in moving Giancarlo Stanton this summer, but believes "it's feasible that [Ricky] Nolasco could be dealt weeks before the trading deadline."
The Fish will soon get Henderson Alvarez and Nathan Eovaldi back from season-long stints on the disabled list. Nolasco earns a team-high $11.5 million in salary.
Now that draft preparations are no longer draining time from MLB general managers, Nick Cafardo of The Boston Globe suspects that the Houston Astros will deal right-hander Bud Norris. After yet another quality start this past week, Norris is 5-6 with a 3.47 ERA, 1.42 WHIP and 57/28 K/BB in 83.0 IP.
Cafardo has also learned that several teams have considered acquiring Andre Ethier from the Los Angeles Dodgers. He has posted a disappointing .681 OPS at age 31 and his contract is guaranteed through 2017 with a vesting option for 2018.
Not surprisingly, Danny Knobler of CBSSports.com writes that the San Francisco Giants seek an upgrade for their shaky starting rotation. They have been linked to Nolasco and Norris, according to Knobler.
Overachievers Coming Back to Earth
The New York Yankees aren't quite as detestable as usual in 2013. Riddled by injuries in spring training, they had to complete their team with several last-minute, unexciting acquisitions such as Travis Hafner, Lyle Overbay and Vernon Wells. That actually panned out beautifully for a couple of months.
Lately, however, the above trio is putting up brutal numbers. Hafner's batting average plummeted from .253 to .220 as he went hitless in 22 at-bats during the week. He only reached base three times—all by walks.
In a reserve role, Overbay also had zero offensive impact, as his OPS sits at .736, the lowest it has been since May 9.
Wells' drop-off is the most unfortunate considering that he boasted All-Star-caliber numbers through the season's opening month-and-a-half. Now, he's exactly where he was in 2012 when the Los Angeles Angels couldn't wait to unload him.
Meanwhile, James Loney of the Tampa Bay Rays once held the American League lead in batting average. He has suffered noticeable drops in all of his stat-line categories.
On the pitching side, the Arizona Diamondbacks remained perfect in Patrick Corbin's starts. That said, he lasted a season-low five innings against the anemic Los Angeles Dodgers on Wednesday.
The southpaw also lucked out at AT&T Park on June 7, as the San Francisco Giants tagged him for a dozen line drives, according to Baseball-Reference.com, but only scored one run.
Not all feel-good stories are eventual victims of the regression monster, but it seemed most of them were this past week.