The youth, speed, and grit of the 2023 Birds have won me over. No more Woerioles but increasingly Wowrioles. I'm posting on the Monday off-day before they come into Yankee Stadium for three night games against the resurgent Yankees.
There are 115 games left in regular season so a lot can happen, good and bad, but a 31-16 record, to use Phil Rizzuto's term, is not too shabby.
RHP Kyle Gibson is at 35 the oldest member of the team and the veteran has become the leader of the pitching staff.
The title of this post comes from an interview he gave last week to sportswriter Steve Melewski of masnsports.com
In addition to urging his young teammates to avoid the madness of social media, Gibson shared some of the quiet advice he has given rookie teammate Grayson Rodriguez, billed as the best pitching prospect in the majors but who is yet to establish consistency.
Among Gibson's words of wisdom:
**Triple-A hitters face you as an individual. They are not meeting beforehand as a team to help the team win by exposing your weaknesses. In the majors, "Your bad stuff at this level gets exposed."
He ended with this sage observation: "Here it's trying to figure out how to limit the damage when you are bad, how to maximize when you are average, and how not to mess it up when you are having a really good day."
These almost fatalistic comments reminds me of the sub-title to Joe Maddon's fine new book, "The Book of Joe", written with Tom Verducci: "Trying Not To Suck At Baseball and Life."
Gibson was once a number one draft pick himself, in 2009 by the Twins out of the University of Missouri, the alma mater BTW of Max Scherzer who turned pro in 2006. Gibson doesn't have the stuff or the reputation of a Scherzer, but there is nothing like veteran leadership behind the scenes - it is maybe the key contribution to a winning culture.
Here are some other impressions about the MLB season as we are past the quarter-pole of the regular season.
**The AL East could be the first division ever to finish with every team having a winning record. Now in the basement, the Blue Jays, losers of 9 out of 10 recent games to Orioles, Yankees, and Red Sox, would be near the top in the AL and NL Central.
Toronto might take solace in the old baseball adage, "You're never as good as you look when you are winning or as bad as you look when you are losing." But pessimists say: "You could be as bad as you look when you are losing."
Certainly Vlad Guerrero Jr. will certainly start to hit again and with George Springer and Bo Bichette ahead of him in lineup and Matt Chapman looming below that's an impressive group. Catchers Alejandro Kirk and Danny Jarsen are good bats,
too - Jansen's extra-inning home run against the Yankees won the only game Toronto picked up in this horrendous stretch.
(A wonderful detail I heard on an Oriole broadcast some years ago is that Jansen's parents housed retired Oriole star Adam Jones when he was starting out on his career as a Seattle minor leaguer.)
Fans are filling Toronto's Rogers Center for a team that also looks pretty good on the pitching side. They are dying to forget another hockey collapse in the playoffs that gave life to the old saying" "Toronto is the only city where the Leafs fall in April." (Sorry, couldn't resist a good joke.) Toronto plays four in Tampa Bay starting tonight and they need a good showing against the top team in the division.
**As for the other MLB teams, Oakland is an embarrassment with only 10 wins after games of April 21. For
Colorado, Kansas City, and White Sox, the playoffs already look out of sight. At least Kansas City has some promising young players led by shortstop Bobby Witt Jr., drafted 2nd after Adley Rutschman in the 2019 draft.
Speaking of my favorite subject and their star catcher, Adley has now played a full season from late May 2022 to late May 2023. The Birds are 90-60 since his arrival, not a coincidence.
Mets fans will be surprised to learn that new backup catcher James McCann has played very well, too. His good hitting seasons are probably in the past, but his skilled receving has added another effective piece to this year's team.
Not enough can be said about the emergence of center fielder Cedric Mullins on both sides of the ball. More on his achievements in later posts.
On the college scene, Columbia lost to Penn and Princeton in the first-ever four team double elimination Ivy League playoff. At home on Tommy Lasorda Field at Meiklejohn Stadium, Penn pounded its way to the title and will ride a huge winning streak and 33-14 overall record (16-5 in the Ivies) into the regional tourney. Seedings announced on Memorial Day Monday leading to the mid-June College World Series in Omaha.
After a slow start to season, Rutgers finished strong and will open Big Ten Tournament as #5 seed against #4 Nebraska on Wed May 24 at 2p. Top-seeded Maryland plays #8 Michigan State at 6p on Tues May 23. All games will be televised on Big
Ten Network and available on Fox Sports app. Games will be played in same stadium as the CWS final round.
Finally on the NYC high school scene, the PSAL Triple AAA playoffs - representing the largest schools - open play on Wed afternoon May 24 after 330p. The final will be on Mon June 12 at Yankee Stadium. More on that in future blogs.
For now, take it easy but take it, and more and more these days, stay positive, test negative.