The first week of the MLB season is in the books.
So now is therefore the year’s prime period for speculation and overreaction. When a season is 162 games long, hot takes based on roughly seven games are incredibly misleading, but due to the irrational overexcitement or, in some cases, sort of masochistic negativity that a young season cultivates among fan bases, such knee-jerk reactions are part of baseball’s natural progression each year. So, without further ado, here are some of baseball’s early stories.
For the first time since 1987, the Minnesota Twins began the year 4-0, and they currently sit atop the American League (AL) Central. The Twins, who finished last season 59-103 en route to securing the league’s worst record, were not expected to find any sort of success in 2017.
On Monday, the team’s flight encountered severe turbulence and their All-Star second baseman Brian Dozier allegedly made a tongue-in-cheek announcement to the flight, stating, “Boys, if we go down, we go down the best team in the league.”
It is safe to predict that the Twins will eventually “go down” this season, but at least the people of Minnesota get to enjoy their moment with the league’s best record.
The Mariners, who entered the year with hopes of winning the AL West, are off to a rocky 2-6 start. Their struggles can largely be blamed on the bullpen as Mariners relief pitchers have posted a 6.75 ERA thus far in the young season.
Of course, the Mariners should recover from their early setbacks, as they still have one of baseball’s most intimidating 3-4 lineup combos in Robinson Cano and Nelson Cruz.
One of the Mariners’ most frustrating losses this season came against their division rivals, the Los Angeles Angels. The Mariners held a 9-3 lead at the start of the bottom of the ninth inning and the game’s result appeared to be a foregone conclusion as teams down by six or more runs to start the ninth inning were 1-2529 since 2011. The Angels lineup did not blink at the task that beset them and veteran Albert Pujols started their rally with a 405-foot homer to center field. Following his blast, the floodgates opened and the Seattle bullpen collapsed.
The comeback was completed by Cliff Pennington, who drove in Mike Trout to give the Angels a 10-9 walk-off victory.
On Monday, Michael Pineda of the New York Yankees made the season’s first formidable no-hitter attempt as he had a perfect game to begin the seventh inning of his start against the Rays. Pineda will likely continue to be one of baseball’s most perplexing and frustrating players. While he at times showcases an unhittable slider and a fastball that touches the high 90s, he more often struggles with pitch location and gets shelled by opposing lineups.
Many of baseball’s usual suspects on the pitching side are off to predictably impressive starts. Chris Sale, Jake Arrieta, Madison Bumgarner and Noah Syndergaard have all struck out at least 17 batters through their first two starts. Bumgarner also provided himself with some run support in his first outing by clobbering two home runs and becoming the first pitcher in MLB history to hit two homers in an opening day start.
In Chicago, the Cubs raised their 2016 World Series banner at Wrigley Field after a lengthy rain delay before facing the Dodgers. The ballgame was tied 2-2 in the bottom of the ninth before Cubs hero Anthony Rizzo served a walk-off single down the left field line to give the Cubs a victory in their home opener.
On the injury front, a few of baseball’s big names have already made their way onto the disabled list. On Tuesday, Giants catcher Buster Posey took a 94 mph fastball to the helmet while facing Diamondbacks pitcher Taijuan Walker and though Posey did not suffer a severe injury, he has been placed on the seven-day concussion DL. Nationals shortstop Trea Turner has been placed on the 10-day DL after tweaking his hamstring while running the bases against the Phillies and the Nationals will now have to alter their lineup to replace their speedy leadoff hitter. The Yankees lost Gary Sanchez for at least one month on Saturday after he suffered a Grade 1 muscle strain in his right biceps during an awkward swing. Sanchez hit 20 home runs in just 53 games last season as a rookie.
The 2017 MLB season is still very young, so putting too much value in these early results would be foolish; however thus far, there is no reason to doubt that this baseball season will be as exciting as the last.