Big Hits + Big Flies = Mixed Results: 6/18

The Halos took 2 of three from the Yanks early this week after dropping the opening game of the series to the Bronx Bombers 5-3 when the usually reliable Bud Norris gave up a massive, tie breaking, eighth inning home run to rookie sensation, Aaron Judge. At 6’7”, 282 pounds, Judge bears no resemblance to Hank Aaron other than their shared name. Then again, Judge has emerged as a prolific home run hitter who hits the ball harder and farther than almost all who play baseball today.

In the 70 years since Major League baseball started handing out awards for rookie of the year, the very first going to Jackie Robinson, only two players have won both the Rookie of the Year Award and a League MVP in a single season. The first was Fred Lynn of the Red Sox who led the AL in 1975 in runs scored, doubles, slugging percentage, and OPS while hitting 21 home runs and knocking in 105 to lead the Sox to an unexpected World Series birth and a near upset of the formidable Big Red Machine. Angels fans will long remember Lynn as a three time Halo all-star, for hitting the first ever grand slam in an All Star game, and for teaming with Rod Carew, Bobbie Grich, and Reggie Jackson to help them lead the 1982 California Angels within one game of their first World Series appearance ever. The second was Ichiro Suzuki, who though a rookie in 2001, had played a substantial number of years in the Japanese “Major League,” and for all practical purposes, was not a rookie. If there is to be a third, it could well be Aaron Judge who with Mike Trout sidelined, has now taken over the Major League home run lead, with 22 round-trippers. Judge also currently leads the AL in OBP, OPS, and Slugging Average. If he is able to maintain the pace he is on, he will truly have a historical year. Of course, in the history of baseball, there have been many players who were dominant in the first half of the season, only to face a dramatic drop-off in the second. So, the final judgment on Aaron Judge will come at season’s end. All of baseball will be watching.

With Trout out ‘til at least the All Star game, his seeming replacement has stepped up big time. Affectionately known as EYJ, Eric Young Jr., followed the Judge game with one that he will long be remembered for in his own right. Not only did he drive a ball into the right field stands at Angels Stadium to tie up a game against the Yanks in the eighth, his single in the bottom of the 11th, walked off the 38-24 Eastern Division leading New York Yankees. The next night, EYJ helped beat the Yankees back to back with his arm as well as his glove. Young threw out Judge at the plate to keep the Angels in the lead at one point, and later robbed Judge once more with a spectacular diving catch to help keep a nail biter game tied. His heroics also paved the way and and made it possible for Andrelton Simmons to be the night’s big hero with a three-run late inning homer, hit with one knee planted firmly on the ground.

Unfortunately, the rest of the week turned out to be a bust for LA. The Angels dropped 3 of 4 to the Royals at the Big A though Valbuena, Maybin, Pennington, and Pujols hit some mighty home runs in the process….Pujols’ 2 run shot gave him a career RBI total of 1865, pushing him past Mel Ott on the all-time RBI list. The next man to pass on this highly significant register is Willie Mays whose 1,903 RBI’s places him either 9th or 11th in the record books…depending on which record book one may choose to follow.

At week’s end, the Angels again found themselves one game below the .500 mark. Given the unprecedented number of significant injuries that have decimated the pitching,the offense, and the defense, this record may be regarded as a sensational achievement.