Rob Parker recaps the past week’s coverage of Black and Brown players on MLBbro.com.
We are through the first month of the 2021 MLB season and have seen the Bro’s impact the game with their bats, glove work, and on the mound. Players have juggled being in the #HIGHFIVE top spot week after week. In Week 4, the original owner of the highest position reclaims his throne after having one of the best performances we have seen this season.
1. Byron Buxton
Byron Buxton has been the MVP of all of baseball when he’s in the lineup. The only thing that can stop this five-tool player is injury –which is the reason why he was left off the list last week.
Since coming back, it’s like he never left, as he capped off his week with a 5-for-5 showing at the plate in Wednesday’s game against the Indians, becoming the first Twins leadoff hitter to accomplish the feat since MLBbro Denard Span did it in 2009.
Buxton had two doubles, two singles and led off the game with a second pitch home run. In his last 3 games, Buxton is 7 for 13 with 4 runs, 3 RBI’s, and a stolen base.
His power game is also doing damage as he is currently tied for the MLB lead in home runs. It is important for him to stay healthy as the Twins are already one of the worst teams in baseball even when he’s doing his human highlight thing on the field.
2. Cedric Mullins
Cedric Mullins has completely changed the trajectory of his career this season as his bat has finally caught up with his defense. He leads the Majors in hits and his .340 Batting Average is good for 9th in the league and is tops for all MLB Bros.
On Monday, Mullins had a career game at the plate against one of the most historic franchises, their rival New York Yankees. Mullins went 3-for-4 with two home runs.
Mullins had a hit in six straight games this week including two three-hit games. It was noted on MLB Network that Harold Reynolds had a talk with Mullins after his first game of the season.
Whatever they discussed has played a part in Mullins quickly becoming one of the best centerfielders in MLB.
3. Jack Flaherty
Jack Flaherty has been known as a stud in St. Louis for the past few years, and it seems like he’s finally beginning to show the rest of the world.
The 25-year-old has been on fire to begin the season.
He currently leads MLB with a 4-0 record and his last start was his best performance of the year. The early NL Cy Young candidate threw 7 innings striking out 6 and allowing 1 run against a Cincinnati Reds team that’s ranked 5th in MLB Team Batting.
Flaherty currently has a strikeout to walk ratio of 27:8. His next start will be Saturday against the Pirates as looks to stay undefeated.
4. Tim Anderson
Tim Anderson takes the 4th spot in this week’s High Five. In his last seven games, Anderson has 12 hits two homers and a .414 batting average. He missed a few games with a hamstring injury but has hit in 8 of 9 games since his return.
The RBI Baseball cover boy will surely be in the running for a batting title this season as he and his White Sox look to bring some hardware to the South Side of Chicago.
5. Mookie Betts
Mookie Betts rounds out our High Five list, but he may have had more fun than any of our other Bro’s as he played a role in a trailer for the new season of Call of Duty Warzone.
On the field, Betts continues to impact the game in a variety of ways. He’s always in the middle of Dodger rallies and has scored 14 runs this year.
He was hit by a pitch in the 9th inning of a game against Seattle which led to him developing a bruise on his forearm, which seemed to hamper his swing a bit before he broke out for his first multi-RBI game of the season on Wednesday.
We are watching something special every time he takes the field. He ranks 5th behind Babe Ruth, Mike Trout, Rogers Hornsby and Barry Bonds for the highest WAR rating per 162 games in Major League history.
The King is down and maybe out for a minute or two for the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Mookie Betts took one for the team as any leader would do as the defending World Champions were trying to rally in the ninth inning against the Seattle Mariners at T-Mobile Park.
In the Dodgers’ 4-3 loss on Monday, Betts was facing Rafael Montero who was clearly looking to pitch him inside and broke him off with a 95 mph fastball that rode inside, nailing the MVP and two-time champion on the inside of his right forearm. The only good news for Dodger fans at that moment was that Betts ate it like a Lunchable and went to first base representing the tying run.
However, it was clear from the outside that the injury was going to affect Betts for some time at least. He struggled to get his protective base running glove over the area on his forearm that was hit. It became clear that this was not a rub-some-dirt-on-it type injury because there was no faking the pain on the grill of one of the game’s great poker faces. As fate would have it, Betts was retired when Seager grounded out into a game-ending double play that killed the rally.
Betts was not in Tuesday’s starting lineup for LA’s series finale with the Mariners (a 1-0 win) and they are off until Thursday. It’s still not clear whether or not the 2018 AL MVP will miss significant time.
Betts is the irreversible force in L.A.’s lineup and they are already missing his presence after mustering just one run on Tuesday. The Dodgers are loaded, but any extended absence by Betts definitely weakens them on offense and defense.
Some highly-accomplished MLBbro’s are expressing their distaste for certain aspects of the current state of baseball.
Former MLB shortstop Jimmy Rollins, who played in an era when Black players were a bit more plentiful, is the last Black shortstop to win an MVP. When J-Roll entered the league at the turn of the millennium, 12.8 percent of the players were Black and Brown. By the time he finished his illustrious career in 2016, the number had dwindled to a 60-year-low of 6.7 percent.
Despite some signs of life, Rollins is very disappointed in the current percentage (7.6 %) of African-American players in MLB. He thinks the number is too low. As Jackie Robinson Day came and went, Rollins, who should be Cooperstown bound, just couldn’t hold his tongue anymore.
“It’s more than just one thing,” the four-time Gold Glover from Oaktown told The Associated Press. “Marketing. The NBA and the NFL, those guys’ faces are plastered all over the screen. Baseball, there isn’t really a great deal of marketing. Obviously, everyone knows about Mike Trout and rightfully so, but there are some young Black players that deserve some light, too.”
Rollins listed Ken Griffey Jr. and Barry Bonds as popular players who freaked the marketing game and captivated him when he was a kid with MLB dreams.
“But when you start going outside of that select few, the sport itself isn’t marketing anyone else in a major way where kids from the inner cities are attracted to it,” said Rollins, who along with his teammate Ryan Howard won consecutive NL Most Valuable Player awards with the Phillies in 2006 and 2007.
Black Knights Ryan Howard & Jimmy Rollins led Phillies to the 2008 World Series
Rollins was the multi-skilled leadoff hitter and a crazy clutch 20-20 guy with a golden web. Howard was the big bopper who batted cleanup, flexing 50-homer potential for a team that won five straight NL East titles, two NL pennants and the 2008 World Series.
But How come these Black Knights didn’t flip their MVPs and World Series success into some major endorsements?
“I remember we…a lot of Black players, had a phone call with Spike Lee years ago,” Rollins said. “We flew out to Chicago. We were with MLB and the union and Spike Lee. We talked about doing commercials. Nothing ever came of that. It was like a one-time thing. Not to knock MLB, but they’re going to do things that, at face value, look great. But the impact is minimal because there’s generally never any true follow-through. That’s not just baseball. A lot of organizations do that.”
Let’s face it. As far as visibility and marketability, kids see the NBA player as the fastest route to celebrity superstardom. We haven’t had a transcending Black or Brown superstar in baseball since Derek Jeter and Ken Griffey Jr. We have some contenders, but no player has captured the masses and the casual fan like The Kid — who’s Dad was a damn good major leaguer who introduced him to the game.
Speaking of Dads, Rollins also attributed the decline of Black players in baseball to socioeconomic factors.
“You need space to play baseball,” he said. “You don’t have that in a lot of places. In the country, you can find a field. In the city, kids aren’t playing stickball. A basketball, you could pick up and dribble. It’s easier to find a court. You don’t have to field nine guys to play basketball. You can play one-on-one. The expense, you need the tools, you’ve got to pay for travel teams. In other sports, we know it’s been well documented. They get sponsored and those things don’t happen in baseball.
Also, you look at how baseball’s traditionally passed down from the dad to son. If your father isn’t around, the chances of you being exposed to baseball because it’s more of a team sport, it’s probably less likely to happen.”
Gary Sheffield Can’t Stand To Watch
While Rollins is critical of the limited access to quality baseball and all of the internal and external factors that keep participation numbers down for African-American athletes, former MLB player Gary Sheffield is not even interested in watching the game anymore.
“I don’t watch baseball at all,” he told CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney show.
Sheffield, a nine-time All-Star and 1997 World Series champion, was working as a TBS studio analyst during the 2020 postseason, but he doesn’t even do that anymore.
The game has gone stale for the former shortstop turned All-Star outfielder, who says it’s almost unrecognizable.
“I was kind of forced to watch baseball because I was working with TBS,” he said. “And so I had to remember, really find out who these players were. I’ll tell you the secret now: I never watched the games during the season. I would get educated on it when I got there. … It’s not something that I could watch, based on what I’m seeing, because I’ll be a complainer. … This is the first time I’ve ever said that out loud, but I’m just truly disappointed with what I watch.”
Sheffield ranks 26th all-time with 509 home runs. And get this kids…he swung hard enough to pull his own shoulder out of the socket, but he never struck out more than 83 times in any of his 22 seasons.
“(It was exciting) when I was playing. They implemented all these rules now and they’ve changed the game so much, they’re making it more hitter-friendly — even without having success. These guys can go out there and strike out 180, 190 times, and it’s OK. And then all of a sudden they show a home run. Now, a home run is less appealing, when a home run was a big deal and more appealing (when I played) because it wasn’t happening as often as it is now…
“When I see a pop-up player that everybody gravitates to — he’s the face of the team, the face of the city — and he has 100 strikeouts in April. When I see stuff like that, I’m not one of those older players that scoffs at the game and then talks about the game in a negative light. I just speak on facts. But what I do is meet these kids where they are at. That’s the way the game is played today, that doesn’t mean I have to watch it.”