Spring exhibition games have begun and that means we finally have some fresh baseball highlights at our disposal. Let’s kick things off with one of the longer home runs you’ll see this spring.
The Mets hosted the Nationals at Tradition Field in Port St. Lucie, Florida on Saturday afternoon. Lefty Sean Gilmartin started for the Mets and worked a perfect first inning. Nats outfielder Bryce Harper led off the top of the second and swung at a first-pitch fastball from Gilmartin. It was absolutely crushed to right-center field, nearly clearing the berm beyond the fence.
Harper, 24, is trying to show that his 2015 NL MVP Award-winning season was no fluke, as he had what was by his standards a down year last season. He finished batting .243/.373/.441 with 24 home runs, 86 RBI, 84 runs scored, and 21 stolen bases in 627 plate appearances.
The Nationals will be many people’s favorites in the NL East this season. Not everything is looking great, however. For example, their ace — defending NL Cy Young winner Max Scherzer — can’t even throw fastballs right now.
The reason: the stress fracture he suffered last August is still causing him problems and Scherzer is unable to use his fastball grip without feeling pain in his right ring finger. He will throw a bullpen session tomorrow, but will only use his secondary stuff.
Scherzer has not been ruled out for Opening Day — the fact that he is throwing some means that his timetable isn’t totally on hold — but you have to figure, at some point, not being able to air things out and use his heater will lead to some problems in his spring training routine.
MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart reports that umpires Bob Davidson, John Hirschbeck, Jim Joyce, and Tim Welke have retired.
Davidson, 64, was known as “Balkin’ Bob” for his tendency to call pitchers for balks. Davidson has also made a name for himself picking fights with players and managers, as well as unnecessarily escalating situations.
Hirschbeck, 62, didn’t quite have the reputation Davidson had, but he had a couple of notable incidents on his profile as well. Last year, when ejecting Twins slugger Miguel Sano, Hirschbeck said, “Get the [expletive] out of here.” In 2013, he threw a drum of oil on a fire that very easily could’ve been snuffed out with Bryce Harper.
Joyce, 61, was a well-liked and well-respected umpire who will go down in history for one mistake. On June 2, 2010, Tigers starter Armando Galarraga was one out away from a perfect game. Indians second baseman Jason Donald hit a weak grounder about halfway between first and second base. Miguel Cabrera went to his right to field it and flipped to Galarraga covering first base. It was a close call, but Joyce incorrectly ruled Donald safe, ruining Galarraga’s perfect game. To both Joyce’s and Galarraga’s credit, both handled the mistake with the utmost class.
Craig also wrote in detail about Joyce a few years ago. It’s worth a re-read.
Tim Welke, 59, actually announced his retirement last year, but I guess it wasn’t made official until recently. He underwent a left knee replacement procedure in January last year and then had his right knee replaced five months later.