Rumblings and Grumblings (May 25)
The Arizona Diamondbacks continue to be the biggest surprise of the summer that doesn't involve Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes. Behind the pitching of the resurgent tandem of Brandon Webb and Javier Vazquez, as well as the slugging of Troy Glaus and Luis Gonzalez, the DBacks are sizzling in the Arizona heat and are in the thick of the NL West pennant race. What caused their spectacular turnaround? Compared to 2004, they're scoring more runs, allowing fewer runs to score, and have clamped down on allowing runners to reach first base due to catcher's interference. Last year, only the Brewers allowed more runners to reach base due to catcher's interference than the Diamondbacks did. And this season?
Thus far in 2005, zero runners have reached first base against the Diamondbacks due to catcher's interference. That's zero as in nada. Nil. No one. And which was the last team to win the World Series without allowing a single runner to reach first base due to catcher's intereference?
You don't have to look back very far -- that's right, it was the 2004 World Champion Boston Red Sox. Could this be a favorable omen for the Diamondbacks playoff hopes this season? We'll see.
Barry Bonds Rumblings
The Giants continue to struggle through the season in fourth place, and everybody in San Francisco wants to know only one thing: when is Barry Bonds returning to the lineup?
Rumours have been swirling around the baseball world. Bonds won't play this season. Bonds will have to retire. The Giants front office doesn't keep in touch with Bonds, as per the latters' request. Giants President Peter Magowan even appeared in the booth on Sunday Night Baseball and attempted to dispel these rumours.
But even rumours about a secret tryst between Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie haven't had the staying power of the latest rumours surrounding Barry Bonds. What's more, they aren't going away anytime soon.
This is a loaded issue, featuring more conspiracy theories and political double-speak than a season of "24". The Giants management is saying all the right words, but their stance is too slick, too polished. It's just not believable.
Remember, Ronnie Cedeno, Terry Tiffee and Terrmel Sledge have collectively hit more home runs in 2005 (three) than Barry Bonds (zero). As long as this trend continues, the rumours will persist.
Shannon Stewart Rumblings
Through Tuesday night's games, Shannon Stewart is hitting .307 in May, which happens to be exactly the same batting average he had for his 2003 season. Of course, Stewart finished fourth in MVP voting that year, so is this a sign of things to come for the Twins' star outfielder?
Blue Jays third baseman/DH Aaron Hill was called up last week to replace the injured Corey Koskie. Toronto's #1 draft pick in 2003, Hill's debut in the major leagues has been anything but a steep climb to respectability. He's been tearing up major league pitching to the tune of a .438 batting average (through Tuesday's games). He already has more RBI's this season (five) than high-priced megastars such as Nomar Garciaparra and Tim Hudson, the same number of doubles (one) as respected veterans Carlos Baerga and Jose Offerman, and only one fewer triple (two) than the entire 32-14 White Sox team.
"Hill is the real deal" says one AL front office executive. "He'll be a huge star, no doubt. Hill's head is in the clouds, but this kid is grounded. Without question, Hill has lots of upside. It's anything but lonely at the top for this Hill. Hill is showing no signs of leveling off. The view from this Hill-top is very bright. The Blue Jays are glad to be running up that Hill".
Thus far, Aaron Hill's major league career is full of nothing but peaks. But for how long can this Hill avoid the valleys?