A yearly tradition on the MLB Network is the revealing of the top 100 players in MLB today. This is unveiled on the network right at the beginning of spring training. MLB revealed its newest installment this week, and three players from the Commonwealth of Virginia made the list.
Coming in at #84 on the list was Braves OF Justin Upton (Chesapeake). Upton signed with Motown after 9 years in the National League with Arizona, Atlanta, and San Diego, and was a big boost to the Tigers lineup, tying his career high with 31 HR for a Tigers team that fell just short of a Wild Card birth.
Coming in at #73 on the list was a player who broke through in a big way last year, Red Sox OF Jackie Bradley, Jr. (Prince George). After a very rocky first 3 years in the big leagues, constantly shuttling back and forth between Boston and Triple-A Pawtucket, and with his future in the major leagues very much in jeopardy, Bradley spent the off-season after 2015 working on his game with coaches in Florida. It showed in 2016. JBJ hit 26 HRs, drove in 87 runs, batted .267, and posted his first career 100-hit season (149). All were career highs, and for good measure, he played in his first All-Star game. The dynamo defensive player broke through with his hitting big time, and will be counted on by a Red Sox team that many expect to be a playoff contender in 2017.
After an extremely rocky 2015 season, the #43 player on this list, Tigers P Justin Verlander (Goochland/ODU) got back on track nicely in ’16. Verlander won 16 games and posted a 3.04 ERA. His .640 winning percentage was his highest since 2012, and his 254 strikeouts, which led the AL, were his highest since 2009. Besides his LL SO total, he finished in the Top 10 in the AL in just about every pitching category. It would appear that the Justin Verlander of old is back to his old ways. A Tigers team that expects to contend in 2017 is certainly hoping so.
Michael Cuddyer (Chesapeake) played 11 of his 15 years in the major leagues in the Twin-Cities after being drafted in the first round by Minnesota in 1997. He was a part of 5 AL Central title championships and batted .272 in 1100+ games with 141 HRs and a .343 OB% and a .794 OPS. He was also known for numerous offensive rarities. He would go on to play 3 years in Colorado and 1 year with the Mets before retiring to spend more time with his wife and kids.
Now, the Twins will honor this franchise great for all he gave to the Twins. Cuddyer has been selected to the Twins Hall of Fame and will be so honored in August.
“To be a Virginian is a tremendous responsibility. So much is expected of us.”
-Nancy Astor, first woman seated to British House of Commons
In the last 15 years or so, the Commonwealth of Virginia has emerged as a goldmine of baseball talent, and while it is impressive what they have done on the field, it is also noteworthy that they have given tremendously off the field as well. The Roberto Clemente award is given every year to a player who demonstrates tremendous civic support with charitable causes.
This year’s award finalists includes 2 from our state.
Nationals 1B Ryan Zimmerman (Virginia Beach/UVA) is up for this award for his Zimm foundation, which is dedicated to finding a cure for Multiple sclerosis, which has stricken his mother.
A’s closer Sean Dolittle (UVA) is a leading figure in supporting military families and plays a leading role in working with MLB as LGBT allies. In addition, he and his girlfriend have hosted Syrian refugees for Thanksgiving dinner at their home in Chicago.
Winner will be announced this fall.
As the world just finished remembering the tragedy of Sept 11, 2001, numerous stories of twists of fate are out there involving people who could have been on one of the doomed flights. Family Guy creator Seth McFarlane was supposed to be on AA 11, but was given the wrong departure time by his travel agent. Actor Mark Wahlberg changed his plans a week before, otherwise he was supposed to be on one of the flights.
And then there is the story of former ML outfielder Michael Cuddyer (Chesapeake), who was in the minor leagues in 2001, and how his late inning heroics prevented a teammate from being on AA 11.
Arguable around baseball, and definitely in the confines of Boston and Red Sox nation, the talk of the season so far has been the emergence of Red Sox OF Jackie Bradley Jr. (Prince George). His season so far has been a career year, to say the least.
Now, he has more to add to it, thanks to the events that happened on June 2.
JBJ, as he is now affectionately known in Red Sox nation, was named the AL Player of the Month for the month of May. He is the first Red Sox player in 5 years to get such an honor. For the month, he batted .381 with a .474 OB%, 7 doubles, 8 homeruns, 24 RBIs, and 17 walks, and that includes his hitting streak that reached 29 games before ending. He recorded a hit in 25 of the Red Sox 27 games, and the team went 17-10 in those games.
However, his accomplishments on the field might be considered an afterthought to what happened off the field on 6/2.
His wife Erin gave birth to a healthy baby girl, the first child for the couple. Mom and daughter are doing fine.
Bradley is currently batting .331 on the season, tied for 4th in the AL, and when first voting totals were released for the all-star game, Bradley was a close 4th among OFers.
Things are clearly looking up for the 26-yr from Prince George.
In recent years, the Commonwealth of Virginia has truly emerged as a goldmine of baseball talent, and certainly the 2016 Major League Baseball season is adding credence to that. A number of the state’s MLB heroes are keying surging teams.
In Detroit, the Tigers had high expectations going into the season. They added free agent SP Jordan Zimmermann and slugging OF Justin Upton (Chesapeake). But the Motor City faithful will certainly tell you that the key to any hopes of a pennant in ’16 rest on the work of incumbent ace SP Justin Verlander (Goochland Co./ODU). When Verlander allowed 7 earned runs on May 3, raising his ERA to a very bloated 6.49, it appeared to be a lost season for the Tigers already.
Boy, has Verlander rebounded!
In 4 starts since, he has a 1.20 ERA, and his mark for the season has gone down in each of his last 4 starts, from 6.49 down to a much better 4.02. In addition, on May 18th, a Wednesday afternoon game against the Twins, Verlander added to his legend, with a 4th inning strikeout of Twins OF Eddie Rosario, the 2000th strikeout of his career. He joins Mickey Lolich as the only Tigers hurlers to ever accomplish that mark, and is less than 700 Ks from matching Lolich.
In Colorado, the Rockies sit at 23-24, 5 1/2 games out of first place in the NL West. While no team is truly out of the playoff picture on Memorial Day weekend, the Rockies have the offense to carry them. The emergence of rookie SS Trevor Story may be the talk of baseball, but one of the keys to any playoff games coming to Denver this year is slugging 1B Mark Reynolds (Va Beach/UVA). Reynolds, who is the only batter in history to post 3 200+ strikeout seasons, has found his discipline at the plate in recent years, and so far in 2016, he is 2nd in the NL among 1B with a .317 BA.
Perhaps the biggest shocker in baseball, certainly in Boston so far, has been the emergence of CF Jackie Bradley, Jr. (Prince George). Bradley, at one time a top prospect in the Red Sox organization, was struggling to hold down an OF job at Fenway due to hitting, lackluster at best. His glovework was the only thing keeping him with the Red Sox. But JBJ, has he is affectionately known as by Red Sox Nation, persevered, working with a hitting coach in Florida during the winter months.
In 2016, that has paid off, and big time!
As of May 27, Bradley is 2nd in the AL with a .341 Batting Average, tied for 4th with 35 RBIs, and tied for the league lead with 4 triples, and has garnered a Player of the Week honor during the month of May. And from April 24th to May 25th, he was unstoppable, literally!
JBJ put together a 29-game hitting streak, during which time his batting average skyrocketed 117 points! His streak included 11 multi-hit games, including, at one point, six straight!
Justin Verlander. Mark Reynolds. Jackie Bradley Jr. Proving that the Virginia-MLB pipeline is alive. And strong!
At the 2004 MLB player draft, the Padres had the first pick, and choose P Matt Bush, who got into all kinds of legal trouble and has served prison time. The Detroit Tigers had the second pick, and chose a flame-throwing hurler out of Old Dominion University in Virginia. To this day, do you think the Padres are regretting not choosing Justin Verlander (Goochland Co.)?
Verlander made his major league debut on Independence Day, 2005, and 11 years later, his mantle is filled to the brim with accomplishments, awards, and accolades. 6-time all-star, ROY, Cy Young Award, MVP, 2 no-hitters, established himself as one of the greatest Tigers pitchers of all-time, in the Top 10 in just about every pitching category in Detroit history.
Yesterday, he accomplished another major career milestone.
On a warm afternoon at Comerica Park in Detroit, the Tigers faced the Minnesota Twins. Verlander threw 7 1/3 innings with 10 strikeouts in a win for the home club. However, its what happened in the fourth inning that was the milestone. He struck out Twins LF Eddie Rosario for his 2000th career K.
Verlander became the 76th pitcher in ML history to reach that mark, and joined the great Mickey Lolich as the only Tigers hurlers to do so.