For a while now I've been very encouraged by the actions taken by current African-American major leaguers such as C.C. Sabathia, Torii Hunter, and many others who have taken a personal interest in the issue. This can be accomplished by simply providing a strong presence and role model as an African-American representing baseball, but it's also accomplished by working in African-American communities (often their old neighborhoods) to make a real difference. There was an interesting article in this week's ESPN The Magazine interviewing Sabathia, Carl Crawford, and Jimmy Rollins about the issue, its causes, and possible solutions.
I'm saying this because I didn't want my only comments about Jackie Robinson Day to be negative. I'm very passionate about baseball and very passionate about social justice, and here's where the two come together.
Other thoughts about the first two weeks of baseball action:
- The snow blanket engulfing most of the eastern United States has caused games to be cancelled at an alarming rate. Many people have proposed changing the schedule to accomodate this, such as scheduling fewer home games in northern cities in April. But the most practical solution I've heard so far is from Rob Neyer. He suggests that we shorten the season, not by subtracting games, but by reintroducing double-headers on Sundays. Scheduled double-headers are a thing of the past, but if they were scheduled once a week or on alternate weeks, that would shorten the season's duration by several cold April days. And yes, they could be day-night double-headers so the Lords could still get two games' worth of money.
- Mike Hampton suffered yet another injury; he's almost completed a full belt of medical merit badges. He'll miss the rest of this season. While the Braves do need starting pitching, the odds that Hampton would have really helped are dismally remote. At least this way, Hampton contributes nothing and the insurance company picks up part of his giant salary. If he had pitched, then he just would have contributed nothing for the full price.
- Yankee ace-by-default Chien-Ming Wang is progressing with his rehab starts and could be back in a couple weeks. This is great news, becuase the Yankees placed both Carl Pavano and Mike Mussina on the 15-day DL yesterday. Neither injury seems serious, both are described under the umbrella of "stiffness and discomfort," but it still hurts the Yanks. For two weeks, their rotation will consist of Andy Pettitte, Kei Igawa, Darrel Rasner, somebody else, and somebody else (if they need a 5th starter). I still think the Yankees are a heck of a team, and they can slug their way to the postseason. But this starting rotation is going to have to find some good luck to counteract all the awful luck they've had so far.
- As has been discussed with much enthusiasm, Felix Hernandez stole the show in Daisuke Matsuzaka's Fenway Park debut. Daisuke was good, but Felix was terrific. I didn't see the game, but I did see the highlights, and Felix's pitches looked just as nasty as I'd heard. Considering how overhyped he was coming into 2006, Hernandez has been positively underrated by the mainstream media this spring, all of whom are Daisuke-crazy. But King Felix is the real thing.
- About a week into the season, the Astros moved Brad Lidge out of the closer's role and replaced him with Dan Wheeler. I think this is enormously rash, but it is understandable since Lidge struggled so much last year. But now I'm hearing that the Astros are talking to the Devil Rays as a possible trade (as if Lidge hasn't suffered enough). I've always said that the Astros would be crazy to trade Lidge when his stock was at its lowest; there's still a good pitcher in there somewhere, and it's not like the Astros can replace him from within. There is some optimism in that they're dealing with Tampa Bay, a team loaded with prospects. But I doubt that Lidge would get an A-level prospect in return. And if you can't get Rocco Baldelli and have to settle for Wes Bankston, then it's just not worth the trouble.
- I don't really have much to say about win-loss records or individual stats since it's a bit early in the season for those to be very meaningful. But that doesn't mean they're inaccurate. The Nationals and Royals are tied for the worst record in baseball (3-9).
Sounds about right to me.