The Yankees and the Red Sox are battling to stay out of the cellar, the Nationals are number one in their division, and Josh Hamilton hit four home runs in a game.
Every week, our panel of sports fans discusses a topic of the moment. For today's conversation, Jake Simpson (writer, The Atlantic), Hampton Stevens (writer, ESPN and The Atlantic), and Patrick Hruby (writer, ESPN and The Atlantic), discuss the MLB season so far.
Between the NBA playoffs, the NHL playoffs, and once-in-a-lifetime endings in English Premier League soccer, the start of the baseball season has largely been off the radar (four-homerun games notwithstanding, more on that in a minute). But there's been enough wackiness so far to fill an entire season.
Where to start? How about the up-to-date MLB standings? Texas and St. Louis, last year's World Series participants, are holding serve at the top of the AL West and NL Central, respectively. But the other four divisions all have surprises at the top, none more so than the AL East, where the Baltimore Orioles are tied with the Tampa Bay Rays for first place while the Yankees and Red Sox fight to avoid the cellar. The Orioles are the latest example of Buck Showalter's magic touch—the veteran manager previously brought the Yankees and Diamondbacks from the doldrums to the brink of a World Series title. Tragically, Buck left the Yanks and D-Backs a year before they won the World Series, so I guess Baltimore owner Peter Angelos' plan is to give Buck a couple more years to prime the team for a postseason run before bringing in a managerial closer.
In other divisions, the Cleveland Indians, Washington Nationals, and Los Angeles Dodgers hold the top spot. The Dodgers have raced out to the best record in the National League behind the sizzling start of outfielder Matt Kemp, who finished second in the MVP race last year to Milwaukee's Ryan Braun. Through Monday, Kemp was posting .359/.446/.726 splits (batting average/on-base percentage/slugging percentage) with 12 home runs and 28 RBIs. Barring a midseason swoon, Kemp will have a chance at the elusive Triple Crown, which no NL player has won since the Cardinals' Joe "Ducky" Medwick in 1937.
Amazingly, Kemp is not having the best season in the bigs so far this year. That's because Texas outfielder Josh Hamilton has become the second coming of Barry Bonds (hopefully without the steroids). On May 8, Hamilton became just the 16th player in MLB history to hit four home runs in one game, and his 18 total bases in the game were an all-time AL record. Hamilton's story is an inspiring one, from drug and alcohol abuse that derailed his career from 2001-2006 to his 2010 AL MVP season for Texas to his multiple public relapses. Currently, Hamilton is hitting .404/.458/.838 with 18 homers and 45 RBIs, which puts him on pace for 81 homers and 198 RBIs. It's a safe bet that Hamilton won't reach those lofty numbers, both of which would be MLB single-season records. But 60 longballs and 160 RBIs is not out of the question.
What's caught your eye so far this season, Hampton?