Marcus Semien came into the 2021 season with one goal.
After a disappointing 2020 ended with the Oakland A’s declining to tender Semien a new contract, the nine-year MLB vet signed a one-year, $18 million deal with the Toronto Blue Jays looking to prove that his 2019 top-3 MVP finish was no fluke.
So far, Semien has met and exceeded expectations for the Blue Jays. He shook off an early slump and started raking from the lead off spot, earning the opportunity to represent Toronto in this year’s All-Star game.
The quick adjustment combined with his return to 2019 form at the plate, all while learning a new position, has provided the steady hand a young Blue Jays team needs if it wants to compete in a loaded NL East.
It’s particularly impressive when you consider Marcus has been able to accomplish all of this despite the Blue Jays being banned from their home ballpark.
Baseball players are big on their routines. Those who have been around the game for years would even go as far as to categorize it as ritualistic. From pregame meals to the route they take to the ballpark, for many athletes this set routine plays a part in their everyday success.
Unfortunately for Semien and the Blue Jays, the Canadian Government enacted a strict travel ban that forced the team to find a temporary home. In one of the most ridiculous solutions in recent memory, the Blue Jays have split time between two minor league ballparks in completely different states.
The Blue Jays began the season at their spring training ballpark in Dunedin, Florida before transitioning to Sahlen Field in Buffalo, NY. Neither of these ballparks is fit to host Major League Baseball, and the players have noticed the difference between their “home” ballpark and the road.
“I’ve enjoyed being on the road this year, just because we’re playing in big league stadiums,” Semien told Toronto media. “It’s a little different here … I do enjoy living here off the field but I think a lot of us wish we were in a big league ballpark. So yes, when you go on the road you may get boo’d or no one cheers for you, but that’s how it is here in Dunedin too.”
The fan experience in Buffalo was much better than in Dunedin, but you still had the same issue; a Major League ball club in a minor league park.
Fortunately for Semien and the Blue Jays, the Canadian Government has finally allowed them to return home to the fan (and hitter) friendly Rogers Centre beginning July 30th. The question now is how much will Semien benefit from the change?
After what has already been a phenomenal season, a strong finish to the 2021 campaign will finally land him the long-term contract he’s proven he deserves.
Jerry Hairston Jr comes from one of the most prominent baseball families ever. His grandfather, father, uncle, and brother all played in the big leagues.
After a 16-year career that included a World Series championship with the New York Yankees, Jerry joined the broadcast team for the Los Angeles Dodgers, where he has been the past eight years.
He discusses his playing career and transitioning from the field to the booth as an analyst for Spectrum Sportsnet LA in this edition of Brutha Broadcasters with David Grubb.
It is not “Angels in the Outfield” helping the San Diego Padres (29-17) to a first-place record in a loaded National League West Division. It’s two Brothas in the outfield, sorry Kevin Costner.
Those MLBbros are centerfielder Trent Grisham and left fielder Tommy Pham who are leading the Padres to the top of their division, making key contributions that might be going under the radar.
The N.L West is one of the best divisions in baseball with three teams at the top of the entire league; the Padres, Giants, and 2020 World Season Champion Dodgers. The Padres are getting it done on the mound as well, ranking first in strikeouts per nine innings. If all three teams stay the course, they will have their sub-regional in the playoffs.
“Offense wins games and defense wins championships” is one very popular expression. Trenton “Gresh” Grisham 24, from Burleson, TX is one of the leaders in defense for the Padres and in 2020 was one of the 12 best defenders in all of baseball, obtaining a Gold Glove for his defensive efforts.
He has continued that trend into 2021 and combined with Tommy Pham and right-fielder Will Myers, the Padres outfield is another defensive lock. Grish is also batting .301 and is giving the Padres enough firepower offensively.
Thomas “Phamtastic” Pham 33, from Las Vegas, NV is the other anchor in the Padres outfield and is playing well despite coming back from injuries suffered in 2020 that still somewhat hinder him to this day. In October, Pham was stabbed in the back after leaving a club.
That injury coupled with a wrist injury might be impeding his ability to hit the ball well at this moment and his batting average is .195, but the MLB season is long and he has plenty of time to improve upon that statistic. His veteran leadership is going to be something that the young, ambitious Padres will need if they want to make a deeper postseason run this season.
The outfield superheroes were not affected by the recent Covid-19 outbreak that hit the Padres and they were spared from catching the virus. The only downside to the Padres defense is that they lead MLB with over 22 errors and they will need to shore that up if they want to make a serious run at a World Series title.
In baseball, you need a strong infield and an even stronger outfield because you have more ground to cover and you have to turn on the jets with regularity. The Padres have some burners in the outfield.
Manager Jayce Tingler noted that Pham is “special” and “competitive in everything that he does.” Pham is also always looking to improve at any opportunity. The steady veteran is looking for a shot at a title.
The second-year Grisham is not only an amazing defender, he’s a strong on-base weapon atop San Diego’s lineup. He’s clearly a long-term solution and future superstar of the Padres outfield. Together they make up an outfield that’s as stingy as Scrooge on Christmas.
Keep your eye out on these players because it’s going to be a shootout in the wild wild west come playoffs.
Baseball is a game of streaks. Over the course of the season, each player is hoping to put together more good ones than bad ones.
And the bad ones do come, even for the best of the best. Who’s hot and who’s not across MLB? Let’s take a closer look.
Aaron Judge, OF, New York Yankees
Ever since our own Rob Parker called out Aaron Judge, the Yankees’ behemoth has been ripping the cover off of the baseball.
Judge entered Monday night’s game with the Texas Rangers hitting a ridiculous .571, with 12 hits in his previous 21 at-bats. Over his last six games, he hit five home runs and pushed the Yankees to a 4-2 record. Judge sent four fans home with souvenirs during New York’s most recent three-game series against the Baltimore Orioles and secured AL Player of the Week honors.
— Today in MLB (@Todayin_MLB) May 16, 2021
The rest of his numbers are just as impressive. The Judge laid down the law, scoring eight runs and driving in six while striking out only once. His 1.973 OPS topped all hitters in that time.
With these breakout performances, Judge raised his season batting average from .245 to .298, his slugging percentage from .352 to .399, and his OPS from .824 to 1.009. HE also garnered
The Rangers silenced him in a 5-2 win, but if this is the Aaron Judge that the Yankees get for the rest of the regular season, he could be in real contention for the AL Most Valuable Player award for the first time since 2017.
Tim Anderson, SS, Chicago White Sox
No one in Major League Baseball is hitting the ball better than Tim Anderson. Anderson extended his hitting streak to 12 games as the ChiSox battered the Minnesota Twins 16-4 on Monday. After going 2-for-5 with two runs scored, Anderson is hitting .448 during his streak. He’s had multiple hits in seven of those games.
It’s no coincidence that the White Sox began winning games once Anderson got back to playing like the Silver Slugger award winner he was in 2020.
Chicago is 17-7 over its last 24 games and sits on top of the AL Central standings. Anderson has 34 hits in those games, with four home runs, 14 RBIs, and 20 runs scored. Only Yordan Alveraz and Josh Rojas have higher batting averages over the last month. Tim also ranks third in MLB in hits and stolen bases in that span.
His cleats are even on fire these days.
— MLBbro.com (@MLBbrodotcom) May 16, 2021
Jackie Bradley Jr., OF, Milwaukee Brewers
What happened to Jackie Bradley Jr.? It seemed like he was beginning to turn his career around last season in Boston. He set career highs in batting average (.283) and OBP (.364). His slugging percentage was its highest since 2016 when Jackie made his only All-Star Game appearance.
However, this season his stick has fallen off a cliff.
His batting average has done a complete 180. Actually, Jackie’s looking up at 180. His .153 mark at the plate is the worst of his career, as is his .229 on base percentage. He did hit one offensive milestone in May.
— MLBbro.com (@MLBbrodotcom) May 1, 2021
The rest of the month has been a disaster with Bradley posting just two hits. He’s gone hitless in each of his last six games. The two hits this month also equals the total number of multi-hit games he has this season. And over the last 30 days, his batting average has fallen nearly 100 points.
Whatever your faith is, light a candle for Jackie Bradley Jr.
Willie Calhoun, OF, Texas Rangers
With parts of five seasons under his belt, Willie Calhoun is trying to stick with the Rangers this year. He hasn’t played in more than 83 games in any season since making his debut in 2017. Nothing has been a bigger factor in that than his inconsistent hitting.
Calhoun has been better in 2021, hitting .278 entering Monday’s games. He seems to have broken out of a slump with a homer and two hits on Monday, but this past week, as Texas ran off six straight losses, Calhoun once again hit a rut.
In five games since May 10, he was 1-for-18 with three strikeouts. His only hit was a solo home run in a one-run loss to the Houston Astros.
Considering his play earlier this season, however, he seems to be trending in the right direction overall. It certainly looked that way when he took Gerritt Cole deep over the centerfield wall to help the Rangers snap that losing streak.
— June Calhoun (@11WillieCalhoun) May 18, 2021
Expect Calhoun to find his way once again, sooner rather than later.