College baseball has been a welcome diversion for the last couple of weeks, during which the Baltimore Orioles and Detroit Tigers had losing streaks of 10 and seven games and the Mets had two meltdowns -- one in the clubhouse and one on the field.
Michigan's march, which got the Wolverines to within one game of the College World Series championship, was fun to watch. Michigan was the only unranked team of the eight who made it to Omaha, Neb., for the CWS.
Left-hander Tommy Henry, a second-round draft choice of the Diamondbacks, had two sensational games, including the first game of the three-game finale against Vanderbilt. But the Commodores had Kumar Rocker, a 19-year-old freshman sensation, who was the best pitcher in the tournament and won the middle game before Michigan's Cinderella story came to an end.
It's more than a little scary to the purists, already alarmed watching players pulling their defensive "crib sheets" out of pant pockets in the big leagues, but Michigan became more than a curiosity during the CWS.
Erik Bakich, the Wolverines' young coach, seems destined to fit right in to baseball's analytical and innovative ways. He does not relay signs to players via hand signals, but rather flashes memos to individuals via some kind of contraption players loop through their belt.
Kinda like texting to the extreme -- pouches for everyone. Don't leave the clubhouse without it!
Kind of hard not to notice that baseball is headed to an all-time record in home runs -- it would be hard to be following the Orioles and not be up to date on that one. The rate Orioles hurlers are surrendering the "four-ply-pokes" (as
The Baltimore Sun's legendary Lou Hatter occasionally called home runs) is even running ahead of the pace set by MLB hitters.
This despite the fact that the Yankees' homer-heavy lineup has been depleted by injuries. The Bronx Bombardiers set the one team record with 267 last year but aren't even in the picture this year. Somehow or other I can't fathom the Minnesota Twins, the current leader, the Seattle Mariners, in second place, or the Milwaukee Brewers, in the trifecta slot, setting an all-time record, though all are on pace to threaten the 300 mark.
On the other hand, it's not difficult at all to picture the Orioles giving up more homers than any team has ever allowed before.
Intriguing note of interest: the Pittsburgh Pirates, in fourth place in the National League Central, outscored the Houston Astros, the comfortable leaders in the American League West, 24-2 in capturing the last two games of their recently completed three-game series.
Ouch. The AL-NL worm has turned, my friends.
Nice note of interest: The New York Mets announced that Tom Seaver will be honored with a statue outside Citi Field and that their new address will be 41 Seaver Way.
Sad note of interest: Seaver has been suffering from dementia for a couple of years now and will not be able to attend the ceremonies.
Giancarlo Stanton is not expected to return from his latest trip to the injured list until August. That sort of puts new perspective on the last nine years of the 13-year contract he got from the Miami Marlins. New ownership headed by Derek Jeter turned it over to The Captain's old team.
The contract, which peaks at $32 million, contains an opt-out clause after next year. And, oh yeah, just in case Stanton doesn't opt out, the New York Yankees will get $30 million in relief from the Marlins. Only in baseball.
Now that they've got Craig Kimbrel, the big question is whether the addition is enough to get the Chicago Cubs back to the World Series.
The second biggest question is whether it will be enough to salvage manager Joe Maddon's contract, currently in the final year at a price ($5 million) managers won't be commanding anymore.
It went generally unnoticed, but June 26 was something of a red-letter day for the Orioles' minor league system.
Seven of the eight teams, including both in the Dominican Summer League and the one in the rookie Gulf Coast League, were winners. Only short-season Aberdeen came away on the short end -- and that was in extra innings.
The next day was almost a duplicate, except only one DSL team played. Aberdeen, again in extra innings, was the only loser of the seven teams in action.
Jim Henneman can be reached at JimH@pressboxonline.com
Photo Credit: Kenya Allen/PressBox