A look at what’s trending around Major League Baseball:
Aaron Judge: It’s not unusual for New York Yankees fans to assert themselves in Anaheim; ask anyone who was an Angels fan before 2002. But it is odd to hear Angel Stadium rocking with “M-V-P” chants for anyone other than Mike Trout. They were chanting last week for Judge, who has personified the phrase “speak softly and carry a big stick.” Judge leads the major leagues in home runs — including one that traveled an estimated 495 feet — and jersey sales. He’s batting .339. The Yankees already have dubbed a section of their stadium as “The Judge’s Chambers,” complete with gavels and robes for their fans. They’ll surely be out in force for the rookie at the home run derby.
Mike Moustakas: The Angels are celebrating “Christmas in June” at Angel Stadium this weekend, and they ought to make a wish to find the opposing third baseman under their tree come December. Moustakas, a free agent this fall, would be a perfect fit — strong on defense, as General Manager Billy Eppler emphasizes, a left-handed power bat to join Kole Calhoun in balancing the right-handed Trout and Albert Pujols, a modest strikeout rate, and a hometown guy from Chatsworth High. He’ll be 29 in September, and he’s batting .282. When his Kansas City Royals arrived in Anaheim this week, he had 18 home runs, tied for third in the majors and four shy of his career high.
Graham slam: That’s a flavor of ice cream — basically, s’mores in a cone. It’s a beloved staple of Philadelphia Phillies games. So, when Turkey Hill Dairy tweeted that its Graham Slam flavor would be “discontinued due to a lack of sales,” there was an uproar at Citizens Bank Park. No more Chase Utley, no more Jimmy Rollins or Ryan Howard, no more Cole Hamels or Roy Halladay or Cliff Lee — and now, no more Graham Slam? What next, no more cheesesteaks? Fortunately, Turkey Hill clarified that, although supermarket sales of the flavor were being halted, Graham Slam would remain available at the ballpark. The Phillies have the worst record in the majors, on pace for a third consecutive 90-loss season. There is only so much indignity that a loyal fan base can be asked to endure.
AL West call to arms: The Houston Astros are threatening to run away with the division, but now four of their top five starters are on the DL: Dallas Keuchel and Lance McCullers, who rank first and fourth in the league in earned-run average, Collin McHugh and Charlie Morton. The Seattle Mariners last month had their top four on the DL; James Paxton is back, but Felix Hernandez, Hisashi Iwakuma and Drew Smyly still are there. Garrett Richards and Tyler Skaggs are on the DL in Anaheim, as is Cole Hamels in Texas. The lesson is there for the Oakland Athletics to learn: Hurry, trade ace Sonny Gray (three DL trips in last 13 months) before he gets hurt again.
Blame game: The Golden State Warriors were parading down the streets of Oakland on Thursday, about the same time the Athletics took to Twitter to announce they had fired pitching coach Curt Young. The A’s entered play Thursday ranked 25th among the 30 teams in earned-run average. So the pitching hasn’t been good. Where did the A’s rank in runs scored? Um … 25th. The A’s are on pace to lose 90 games for a third consecutive season. On Thursday, they also called up power-hitting prospect Matt Chapman, 24, a third baseman from Cal State Fullerton. Franklin Barreto, 21, the shortstop who was the prize return in the Josh Donaldson trade, could be the next prospect up. Consolation? They have a better record than the cross-Bay San Francisco Giants, who were supposed to be good.
Revisionist history: The Washington Nationals last week saluted first baseman Ryan Zimmerman for tying Vladimir Guerrero for the most home runs in franchise history, with 234. Congratulations to Zimmerman, but sacre bleu! Yes, the Montreal Expos moved to Washington and became the Nationals. But, if the Nats really are about honoring that franchise history, they would retire Gary Carter’s No. 8, not slap it on the back of rookie outfielder Brian Goodwin. Zimmerman needs three home runs to tie Frank Howard’s mark for most home runs by a player in a Washington uniform. That comes across as a more organic milestone, even if Howard’s teams were called the Senators.
SERIES OF THE WEEK
Tuesday through Thursday at Coors Field
The two teams trying to dethrone the Dodgers atop the NL West meet six times in the next two weeks — three games this week in Colorado, three more next week in Arizona. Could all three make the playoffs? At this rate, sure, because through Friday only five NL teams have winning records — the East-leading Nationals, Central-leading Milwaukee Brewers, and the Dodgers, Diamondbacks and Rockies. The next-closest team is eight games back in the wild-card race. Arizona’s Paul Goldschmidt leads the league in runs scored; teammate Jake Lamb leads in RBIs. Colorado’s Charlie Blackmon and Nolan Arenado rank 1-2 in extra-base hits. And, if you buy the Baseball Reference version of wins above replacement (WAR), Arizona’s Robbie Ray (7-3, 2.62 ERA) has been more valuable this season than Clayton Kershaw (9-2, 2.23). Rockies rookie Antonio Senzatela’s ERA has risen from 2.81 in April and 4.11 in May to 6.61 in June, but he’s tied with Kershaw for the league lead in victories.