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Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bryce Harper, Manny Machado ... And A Glance Around MLB

May 14, 2019
Spring cleaning is never fun but notebooks are like closets and tend to clutter easily, so it's a good idea to clean them out before the monsoon season makes them unreadable. Also, like closets, they demand attention, so here we go again ...


At this way-too-early date to jump to any conclusions, we'd have to say that Vladimir Guerrerro Jr.'s MLB debut might have been ever so slightly over-hyped. Baseball's "next big thing" was hitting below the Mendoza line (.200) through Mother's Day -- with a power outage for good measure.

His coming-out party on April 26 made such a splash that those phones equipped with an MLB app got an alert noting that VGJ had hit a long home run -- in batting practice. The one announcing his first official "dinger" was still on hold.

Fear not -- there will be many more, mostly positive, updates to come.


Speaking of hyped-up debuts, Bryce Harper and Manny Machado are undoubtedly elated that they have been overshadowed by their new teams -- the Philadelphia Phillies and San Diego Padres. 

Both have enjoyed reasonable, but hardly spectacular, starts in their new hometowns. Philadelphia has a token lead in the National League's lethargic eastern division, while San Diego got out of the gate good in the NL West. 

But Harper's been in a funk since the second week of the season, was called out by teammate Jake Arrieta for getting thrown out of a game and is now in a 22-for-120 slump. Meanwhile, Machado was hitting home runs (eight) and striking out (35) at a furious pace, but rookie shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. had been a better player before going on the injured list (which allowed Machado to move back to shortstop temporarily).

At least Harper and Machado won't be stealing each other's thunder any more. It's now I-95 vs. I-5 -- coast-to-coast as opposed to the Battle of the Beltways. Both figure to hit enough bumps in the road to make the B-W Parkway seem like a smooth ride, if you can imagine (you have to ride it to understand).


Modern schedules in the age of computers and interleague play is always a mystery for those who have to play it, and this year is no different. The Orioles scheduled to play the New York Yankees 13 times during the first 50 games of the season, and none after Aug. 14, certainly qualifies and drives some conspiracy theories.

The absence of both the Yankees and Boston Red Sox from the schedule in September will be another blow to what figures to be the lowest attendance ever at Camden Yards, but it would be a mistake to read too much into quirks in the schedule. They show up every year -- and the next team to get a perfect schedule will be the first.


Some casual glances:

The Houston Astros look like a runaway in the "lone winner takes all" AL West, where the other four teams are under .500. The Seattle Mariners are this week's poster team for inconsistency -- most wins, and losses, by 10 runs or more (courtesy of late-night MLB TV).

Which begs the question: Will Mike Trout be another Ernie Banks? Or will the Los Angeles Angels ever get him to serious Fall Ball?

The Minnesota Twins don't appear to be flukes. Might they be on the verge of supplanting the Cleveland Indians as the AL Central Division's dominant team? 

Every time you might be ready to classify Pittsburgh a pretender rather than contender in the NL Central, the Pirates manage to win three or more in a row while first baseman Josh Bell is establishing himself as a legitimate headliner.

The Kansas City Royals appear to be lagging, but because of a strong minor league system, are ahead of schedule in their rebuild. The same can't be said for the Chicago White Sox, who look to be a year behind despite the presence of legitimate five-tooler Tim Anderson at shortstop.

Count me among those who can't ever seem to figure out the Colorado Rockies or Arizona Diamondbacks. 
It's been a nice run, but the Tampa Bay Rays are looking over their shoulder for good reason. The Yankees might not ever get healthy (they still have Jacoby Ellsbury), but they will eventually get healthier.

The Red Sox are not complete just yet, but the back end of that bullpen might not be as vulnerable as we thought. Orioles fans could care less, but it would be good to see if Dustin Pedroia had a comeback in him.


When the Orioles reached the 40-game mark, or roughly 4.5 innings shy of the first quarter of the season, a good bit (too much?) of the conversation was about this year's record being two games better than 2018 at the same stage.

Given that the won-lost record was long ago dismissed as a barometer for the first year of this much heralded rebuild, it was moot conversation to say the least. I'm not sure how a "rebuild" should be rated, but I'm pretty sure a projected two-game improvement over a team that lost 115 games hardly qualifies as a measuring stick.

On an associated note, the one area of improvement I've heard most often has been better discipline at the plate, where hitters have generally been credited with doing a better job of "working the count." I'm not sure how that plays out however, because even though strikeouts are down, the Orioles are last in the American League in walks, as they were a year ago, and the on-base percentage had improved by only the slimmest of margins (.299-.298).


The Yankees have had so many players on the disabled list it's impossible to determine their collective WAR since they have so many replacement players on the active roster. 

In fact, the team hurt the most by the Yankees so far has been their Triple-A farm club, the Scranton-Wilkes Barre RailRiders.

Jim Henneman can be reached at