The Cardinals’ offense was sputtering in a big way last week, with some asking if impending free agent Albert Pujols was pressing after getting off to the worst start of his career.
What a difference a week makes.
Pujols and Lance Berkman both homered twice in last night’s 11-2 drubbing of the Dodgers. Pujols has three home runs in the past two games and three multi-hit games in his past four. Can’t keep that guy down for long. Meanwhile, the suddenly resurgent Berkman has six home runs in last 19 at-bats. Only Troy Tulowitzki has hit more home runs so far this season.
And then we get to the Cardinals’ offense as a whole, which is currently producing at a historic level. Including their 19-hit performance against the Dodgers last night, they’ve collected at least 14 hits in each of their last five games. According to the Associated Press via NBCSports.com, the Cardinals haven’t done that since Aug. 31-Sept. 7, 1930, when they had 14 hits or more in six straight.
The Cardinals have won three in a row and five out of six, reaching the .500 mark (7-7) for the first time this season. They’ll try to stay hot tonight against left-hander Clayton Kershaw, who has a 1.37 ERA and 24/4 K/BB ratio over his first three starts this season. And that’s no easy task.
Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant was one of the most prominent examples of service time manipulation in recent memory. He was ranked as the No. 1 prospect in baseball going into the 2015 season by Baseball America. He then had an incredible spring, batting .425 with a spring-high nine home runs and 15 RBI. The Cubs, however, didn’t add him to the Opening Day roster, instead keeping him in Triple-A for the first two weeks of the season, ensuring the club would get another year of control over Bryant because he wouldn’t accrue enough service time. He made his debut on April 17 and the rest was history. Bryant won the 2015 NL Rookie of the Year Award.
While the MLB Players Association filed a grievance on his behalf, Bryant didn’t say anything. But it was a learning moment for him. The same is true of the past offseason, which Bryant says “opened my eyes,” as Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times reports. He now considers labor issues a priority, saying, “I need to study up, have my voice heard, continue to learn, because this is going to affect us for years to come. And I’d be foolish not to kind of offer myself out there.”
As Wittenmyer notes, Bryant hopes to replace Jake Arrieta as the Cubs’ player reprensentative. The players make that decision later this month. Bryant also vowed to fight for the next collective bargaining agreement. He said, “Maybe the focus was on other things rather than some of the more important things. But I think with this next one things are definitely going to change, and there’ll definitely be more fight on our side just because we’re going to get the chance to experience the effects of some of the things we agreed to. The only way to get what you want here is to fight for it. And I think you’re going to see a lot of that.”
It’s good to see Bryant motivated by recent economic developments in baseball. Hopefully more players take his lead and become more informed, arming themselves with all of the tools they need to create a better situation for themselves when the current CBA expires.