While honoring MLK, also remember Robinson

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JackieRobinson_v.standard[1].jpgAs everyone takes the time to honor Martin Luther King today, let’s also take a moment to remember Jackie Robinson, was breaking down racial barriers before King sparked the Civil Rights movement.

Robinson played for the Kansas City Monarchs of the Negro Leagues in 1945. Two years later, he would break the Major League’s color barrier with the Brooklyn Dodgers, go on to build a 10-year Hall of Fame career and inspire countless others to follow in his footsteps.

But his impact went beyond baseball. Bob Kendrick of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City tries to put it all into perspective in an interview with MLB.com.

At its core, it was a Civil Rights story because the Negro Leagues would give us Jackie Robinson, who was obviously one of America’s greatest heroes,” Kendrick said. “What the museum does is somewhat boldly make the assertion that Robinson’s breaking of the color barrier wasn’t just an important part of the Civil Rights movement, but [it] actually signaled the beginning of what we believe to be the modern Civil Rights movement in this country.”

Robinson was signed by the Brooklyn Dodgers’ Branch Rickey in 1945 and soon made history in the Majors.

“We’re talking 1947, and this was before Brown v. Board of Education and before Rosa Park’s refusal to move to the back of the bus and, as we relate to Dr. King, he was only a sophomore at Morehouse when Robinson signed his contract to play with Brooklyn in 1945,” Kendrick said.

We won’t give a complete recap of Robinson’s history, though this isn’t a bad place to start if you’re not familiar with his story.

He didn’t just break baseball’s color barrier, he did it with dignity and class, and Martin Luther King carried himself in a similar manner while sparking the Civil Rights movement. Both men have stood as a golden standard for others to follow. (Just ask Hall of Famer Dave Winfield)

So when pondering the impact of King, don’t forget Jackie Robinson, whose impact carried far beyond sports.

Mike Trout has yet to strike out this spring

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Everyone is well aware of how good Angels outfielder Mike Trout is at the game of baseball. The 26-year-old is already an all-time great, having won two MVP awards — and arguably deserving of two others — and the 2012 Rookie of the Year Award. He has accrued 54.2 WAR, per Baseball Reference, which is right around the threshold for a Hall of Fame career. Trout does it all: he draws walks, he hits for average, he hits for power, he steals bases, he plays good defense.

But here’s an achievement that is amazing even for a player like Trout: he has yet to strike out this spring. In 41 Cactus League plate appearances, he has 10 hits (including a triple and two homers) and six walks with zero strikeouts. Across his career, Trout has a 21.5 percent strikeout rate, right around the league average. He isn’t usually such a stickler for avoiding the punch-out, but this spring he is.

To put this in perspective, 134 players this spring have struck out at least 10 times, according to MLB.com. 938 players have struck out at least once. The only other players to have taken at least 10 at-bats without striking out this spring are Humberto Arteaga (Royals, 23 AB), Tony Cruz (Reds, 18 AB), Oscar Hernandez (Red Sox, 10 AB), and Jacob Stallings (Pirates, 18 AB).

According to Angels assistant hitting coach Paul Sorrento, the lack of strikeouts hasn’t been a conscious effort from Trout, Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register reports. Ho hum. The best player in baseball is apparently getting even better.