MLB: The Top Five Stories from April | FOX Sports
Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports
April has been an interesting month. The Toronto Blue Jay’s are deep in last place in the AL East and the Arizona Diamondbacks boast the third highest run differential. MLB news in April has been just as interesting.
Baseball’s first month ends on Sunday. Roughly 27 days ago, we were calling out from work to watch MLB opening games and drink in elation that our favorite team’s season began on a high note. Or, we drank in despair as our favorite team began yet another season with yet another loss.
A lot of the news that comes in usually reports transactions teams have made. “X Team Calls Up Y Player,” or “X Team Trades With Y Team For Players and Cash.” These stories are “run of the mill”. Day to day, those transactions – and the inevitable hot takes that follow – start to sound like noise.
However, in the span of a month, some really good stories (or downright bummers) make their way to the top. Who is Gift Ngoepe? What’s up with the Mets? What do you get when a former governor and former All-Star do business? This is the #content you should be reading.
While we focus on the numbers streaming in and the tallies in the win-loss columns, it is easy to miss out on the meaty stories that surround baseball. How does one manage to sift through the hot takes and find the gems?
Fear not! I have you covered, dear reader. Here are April’s Top Five Stories In Baseball!
Next: Maddux In Boston
5. Masahiro Tanaka Throws a Maddux Against the Boston Red Sox
What the hell is a Maddux? It is when a pitcher throws a complete game shutout with 99 pitches or less. Why is it called a Maddux? It is a tribute to Greg Maddux, one of the game’s most cerebral and efficient pitchers.
It’s not as rare as a perfect game or no-hitter, but it is a measure of a pitcher’s composure and efficiency on the mound. It’s even more impressive of a feat considering starting pitchers rarely throw complete games these days. Only 36 pitchers threw complete games in 2016. Only three pitchers have thrown complete games so far this season.
Thursday, April 27, Masahiro Tanaka threw a complete game shutout against the Boston Red Sox, hurling only 97 pitches. It was the first Maddux of the season.
In addition to pitching the full nine innings, Tanaka allowed only three hits and struck out three batters. It was the second shutout of his career.
Tanaka has been off to a mediocre start. He has a 4.20 ERA and his walk rate increased from 4.5 percent in 2016 to 7.9 percent in 2017. Simultaneously, his strikeout rate has decreased to 17.3 percent, a three percent drop from last season.
The 28-year-old right-hander is in his fourth season with the Yankees. Originally from Japan, Tanaka signed with the Yankees in 2014 for $155 million over seven years. Tanaka may opt out of his contract at the end of this season, according to FanGraphs.
Next: Only in Miami
4. Derek Jeter and Jeb Bush Bid on Miami Marlins
The year is 2017. You have been in cryostasis for 20 years, you know, for science and such. But before you took your ice nap, Jeb Bush was campaigning for Governor of Florida. Derek Jeter was in his third year in the majors. The Cubs still had not won a World Series and finished the 1997 season 64-98 and interleague play was in its inaugural year. Oh, and Donald Trump’s second marriage was ending.
Time’s have changed, friend. You might want to sit down. First, Donald Trump is the 45th President of the United States. Second, the Cubs won the World Series. Calm down, I know it sounds like Back to the Future II, but I assure you this is real life! Jeb Bush was Florida’s governor and lost the 2016 election to Trump. Derek Jeter retired from baseball in 2014 and everyone wept. Oh, and interleague play happens daily – it’s okay if you’re silently screaming.
Derek Jeter and Jeb Bush – yes that Derek Jeter and that Jeb Bush – reportedly have the winning bid for the Miami Marlins, states Scott Soshnick at Bloomberg News. The group led by Jeter and Bush placed a bid of $1.3 billion for the team.
This year could play out like the plot to a B-rate movie of a dystopian future.
Next: He Was Called ‘God’ In Korea
3. Eric Thames’ Return Makes Baseball Fun Again
Hananim is how you say God in Korean. It’s also what you would call Eric Thames if you saw him in the KBO, Korea’s professional baseball league. He earned his nickname due to his massive frame and unearthly power. It is said he can launch baseballs into orbit. It’s also said he makes his own baseball bats with his fists by pummeling trees into the shape of one.
Eric Thames is having a renaissance of a season. Prior to 2017, Thames’ last season in MLB was in 2012 with the Seattle Mariners. He had power back then, but he lacked the plate discipline to make his power consistent. In 86 games, Thames hit .232/.273/.399 and knocked in nine home runs in his last season in the majors.
Currently, Thames is hitting .370/.489/.904 and leads the majors with 11 home runs. His patience at the plate is showing as well. His walk rate has jumped up to 17.8 percent, compared to 5.2 percent in 2012. Meanwhile, his O-swing%, how often he swings at pitches outside of the zone has been cut in half – dropping from 33.6 percent in 2012 to 16.8 percent in 2017.
Unfortunately, for Thames and for baseball, his resurgence has been questioned. Conspiracy theories abound accuse Eric Thames of PED use. These are unfounded and baseless accusations. He was tested regularly in Korea and he has been “randomly” (wink, nudge) tested three times this year.
That hasn’t bothered Hananim. The 30-year-old first baseman told reporters that MLB could test him every day: “If people keep thinking I’m on stuff, I’ll be here every day. I have a lot of blood and urine.”
Next: Yu With the Save
2. Yu Darvish Saves Pup on Twitter
It started with a plea for help.
This sweet girl goes to the pound tomorrow if she’s not adopted. Anyone wanna adopt? Helping out a friend. RT if you can. pic.twitter.com/OgxsqnkGFI
— Larry Skywalker (@badkaratemovie) April 28, 2017
Danny Balis, who goes by Larry Skywalker on Twitter, reached out to the internet to help get Sage adopted. She was hours away from being sent to the pound.
Texas Rangers reporter, Emily Jones, obliged to Danny’s request and retweeted. It wasn’t long before Sage found her forever home.
Rangers pitcher Yu Darvish jumped in and rescued Sage. “She’s doing really good right now,” Darvish told Star-Telegram.
Sage was a mess when she was found on the streets of Lakewood, Texas. She had a ruptured mass that was removed by veterinarians but still needed a forever home, according to her GoFundMe page. Darvish, who already owned five dogs, kept wondering “what’s going to happen to her if nobody picks her up?”
Is someone chopping onions?
Next: Playing in the Majors is a Gift
Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
1. Gift Ngoepe Becomes First Player in MLB From Africa
More from Call to the Pen
On Wednesday, April 26, Gift Ngoepe made history by being the first African-born player to reach the majors. In his first MLB at-bat, Ngoepe lined a single up the middle. The 27-year-old was called up from Triple-A earlier that day though he was not sure if he would enter the game, according to Lindsey Foltin at Fox Sports.
Ngoepe spent over eight years in the minors before his promotion. The struggle to get through the minors made his appearance in Pittsburgh more impactful. “I told myself not to cry, because I’m in the big leagues and I’m a big guy,” Ngoepe told ESPN.
Ngoepe’s rise to the majors is being celebrated in South Africa, his home country. “He is front-page news here in South Africa,” said Thabiso Mosia, a radio sports journalist in Johannesburg.
Next: Bogaerts says Red Sox miss Papi
Mosia continued, “For the black community, for people like us, we’re only used to soccer in our townships where we grow up, and that’s the only sport we play, and sometimes the only chance for our people to get out of poverty, to have a chance to make a living and support the rest of their families. So to find a black guy that plays baseball in South Africa, it is totally unheard of.”
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Play Now! April has been an interesting month. The Toronto Blue Jay’s are deep in last place in the AL East and the Arizona Diamondbacks boast the third highest run differential. MLBnews in April has been just as interesting.Baseball’s first month ends on Sunday. Roughly 27 days ago, we were calli…