A look at who’s hot and who’s not in Major League Baseball:
Son of Vlad: The top prospect in baseball might be Vladimir Guerrero’s son, Vladimir Jr., who is making a mockery of double-A on behalf of the Blue Jays’ organization. He is only 19, yet he is batting .435 with 10 home runs and 48 RBIs in 43 games. He has walked 18 times, struck out 17. He hits for power, and he rarely strikes out. What’s not to like? His father is getting inducted into the Hall of Fame on July 29 — representing the Angels — and we trust the Blue Jays would be kind enough to give the son the weekend off so he could attend the ceremony. By that time, however, the Blue Jays might have called him up. The son is a third baseman, but he wouldn’t displace one-time MVP Josh Donaldson, so Toronto could try him ahead of their .180-hitting DH, Kendrys Morales, his father’s former teammate in Anaheim.
Safe(co) at home: No threats. No taxpayer robbery. No pretense that a ballpark open for two decades is too old. No, just this understated announcement on Wednesday: The Seattle Mariners have agreed to a 25-year lease extension at Safeco Field, which opened in 1999 and is still a sparkling gem. From the same era, Arizona’s Chase Field opened in 1998, and the Diamondbacks want out; Turner Field in Atlanta opened in 1997, and the Braves are already out. Of course, Chase Field is an airplane hangar, and Turner Field was a downsized Olympic stadium. But when teams ask for public money for a new ballpark so soon after moving in to them, local officials should laugh, not pay up. Said Mariners chairman John Stanton: “Safeco Field should be to Seattle and to the Mariners what Wrigley Field is to Chicago and the Cubs and Fenway Park is to Boston and the Red Sox.”
All in the (Bruin) family: The Giants’ Brandon Crawford played at UCLA, where he met — and later married — one of the Bruin gymnasts, Jalynne Dantzscher. Crawford’s sister Amy played softball at UCLA, where she met — and later married — one of the Bruin baseball players, pitcher Gerrit Cole. With Crawford and the Giants in Houston last week to play Cole and the Astros, both families enjoyed a visit to Houston’s aquarium on Monday’s off day. On Tuesday, for the first time in his 20 at-bats against his brother-in-law, Crawford hit a home run off Cole. So Cole signed his cleats and sent them to the Giants’ clubhouse as a memento for Crawford. One read “Adios Pelota” and the other “Outta Here,” the home run calls of Giants announcers Jon Miller and Duane Kuiper, respectively.
Opener vs. Angels: The Rays deployed right-handed reliever Sergio Romo as an “opener” twice last weekend in Anaheim, starting him in an attempt to spare a middling starter a turn against the top batters in the Angels’ righty-heavy lineup. Romo faced nine batters in the two games: no runs, six strikeouts. Perhaps those inventive Rays have started a trend, or not. But should the Angels be worried? The “opener” would not be as useful if left-handed batter Shohei Ohtani were in the lineup — in those two games, he wasn’t — or if left-handed batter Kole Calhoun (.160) had not fallen to the bottom of the lineup. To counter such a strategy, the Angels could get Royals infielder Mike Moustakas (.300 vs. RHP) or, if they believe two months are not a mirage, Padres outfielder Travis Jankowski (.338 vs. RHP).
Bullpen blues: The Indians led the AL with 102 victories last season, so why is their record under .500 this season? The most glaring reason: their bullpen, which led the majors with a 2.89 ERA in 2017 but ranks last with a 6.23 ERA this year. The Indians let workhorse Bryan Shaw leave in free agency, and they lost star reliever Andrew Miller to a hamstring injury in late April. Miller is back, but his post-injury performance has been abysmal: 25 batters faced, seven hits, six walks. He and closer Cody Allen are the only relievers with an ERA under 6.00. On Friday, after Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber took a shutout into the seventh inning against the World Series champion Astros, Miller, Allen and the rest of the Indians’ bullpen gave up four runs in the eighth and seven in the ninth.
Bullpen heartbreak: It’s fun to be a fan? Apparently not for two people at Citizens Bank Park on Friday. Philadelphia fans can be loud, but these two were so intense that the relievers in the visiting Blue Jays’ bullpen could not help but be aware of what was happening. It was, well, awkward. Jays reliever John Axford took it from there, announcing on Twitter: “Dear couple that clearly broke up while standing near our bullpen in the 5th inning today, Lovely entertainment for a few minutes, but we hope you’re ok. Feel free to come back tomorrow and discuss with us. We can provide the third party point of view! Love, The Jays bullpen!”
Follow Bill Shaikin on Twitter @BillShaikin