Saturday

4-28-12: Looking For Stories During A Rain Delay

So what does one do while it's raining at Target Field? Look around the Majors for another story. That's the beauty of baseball: there's always something interesting going on.

Two kids... two franchises... two wildly different sets of circumstances, neither of which would've been predicted heading into the season.

The Los Angeles Angels signed two of the biggest free agent names available this past off-season: three-time MVP Albert Pujols and starting pitcher C.J. Wilson - fresh off two consecutive appearances in the World Series with the Texas Rangers. Combined with a lineup that already featured speed and power along with a starting rotation that had two All-Star pitchers in it, and the Angels were expected to contend not only for their division, but for the American League pennant and perhaps a World Championship.

So far it hasn't worked out that way.

Sunday

Jackie Robinson Day

[Ed.'s Note: Originally published for the Twins Blog at WCCO.com]

Have you ever been to Target Field and were asked by a youngster, “who was number 42 and why is it a different color than the rest of the Twins retired numbers?”

If so, you understand why in 2004, Commissioner Bud Selig retired Robinson's number 42 across Major League Baseball, and named April 15th “Jackie Robinson Day” making it an annual tradition.

On April 15th, 1947 Jack Roosevelt Robinson became the first African-American to appear in a Major League baseball game. He'd go on to appear in 1382 games, collect 1518 hits, score 947 runs, and drive in 734 more. He won the MVP in 1949, and was named to the All-Star team six times.

But no game in his career was more important than when he manned first base at Ebbets Field as the Brooklyn Dodgers hosted the Boston Braves back in April of '47. His final line read: 0-for-3 with a run scored, but by merely stepping on the field, he changed the game - and in a sense American society - forever.

Dodgers owner Branch Rickey had been interested in integrating the game for a while, but wanted to make sure he found the right player - in both skill and temperament - before attempting it. When he met Jackie Robinson, he knew he had his man.

Robinson dealt with slurs and epithets from fans, and even worse from opposing players. But he never retaliated, and never allowed people to think that they'd gotten to him. To have slipped up, even for a moment, wouldn't have stopped the integration of baseball, but it would've set it back by years, if not decade or more.

It's difficult for people today to fully understand the kind of pressure he was under, and that's one of many reasons it's so important to celebrate this day. The grace and class he displayed paved the way for players like Larry Doby, Dan Bankhead, Satchel Paige and the hundreds and hundreds of African-American players who followed him.

So on Sunday, the 65th anniversary of that historic day in baseball, players and coaches from both the Twins and Rangers all wore number 42. Sure it was a pain for broadcasters and statisticians, but for every youngster in the stands who asked why everyone was wearing 42, and got to hear the story of Jackie Robinson, it was one-hundred percent worth the trouble.


More Jackie Robinson info:

You can see the boxscore to Jackie's first game in the Major Leagues here

MLB.com's coverage of Jackie Robinson Day can be found here

The Jackie Robinson Foundation's website with more information on the inner-city programs it sponsors can be found here

Saturday

Who Are Yu?

[Ed.'s Note: Blog written for the WCCO.com Twins Blog]

Japanese sensation Yu Darvish made only his second Major League appearance on Saturday, pitching against the Twins for the first time in his brief Rangers career.

The 25-year-old right-hander had plenty of firsts: his first regular-season road start, his first day game, and his first “no decision” after leaving the game in the 6th with the score tied at 2.

He's the second-youngest Japanese native (25 years, 237 days) to ever make his Major League debut as a starter, behind only Tomo Ohka (23 years, 123 days) on July 19, 1999. By comparison, the last Japanese pitcher to receive this much attention - Boston's Daisuke Matsuzaka - was 26 years old (and 204 days) when he debuted with the Red Sox back in 2007.

But 2012 isn't the first time Darvish has made an impact in America. Back in 2009 during the inaugural World Baseball Classic, Yu went 2-0 with a 2.08 ERA, appearing in 5 games for the championship-winning Japanese team, including earning the win and recording the last out in the finals against Korea.

Darvish displayed an impressive array of pitches mixing his fastball and splitter with a slider, curveball and super-slo-mo curveball that registered several times in the low 60's. Some in baseball wonder if he wouldn't be better served by shrinking his repertoire, focusing on three or four of them and making them Major League quality. But when you watch him spin a 67 mph eephus-looking pitch up there against Justin Morenau, and follow that up by blowing a 93 mph fastball by him, it's tough to say he should change up his approach this early in his Major League career.