Ten moments from June that reminded us why baseball is so great
As June draws to a close, marking the halfway point of the baseball season, it also marks the end of anything resembling cool, comfortable weather. Fortunately, we'll be too caught up in the pennant races, what with every single team within 10 games of a playoff spot, to notice the sweat dripping through our clothes and ruining our furniture.
But before we forge ahead, forgetting everything that came before, it's time to remember all of the crazy, wonderful insanity from the month that was.
However, June saw tragedy as well. On June 16th, Tony Gwynn passed away at the age of 54. Arguably the greatest pure hitter since Ted Williams, Gwynn always had a smile on his face and a single to shoot through the gap. The world is a bit darker without him in it. Rest in peace, Tony.
Now on to the list:
10. Your Yasiel Puig for the month
It's hard to distill Yasiel Puig down to a single bullet point. I mean, do we celebrate his bat flip on a walk:
His diving catches?
Or his reaction to playing in snow for the first time?
Just imagine if Yasiel Puig was a book. You'd have to describe him as pulpy action mixed with sci-fi drama and Victorian romance with a dash of slapstick comedy set in a fantasy world.
I was a library page in high school, so you can trust me when I tell you: There is no Dewey Decimal category for that.
9. Bartolo Colon's Hitting Streak
We've all loved watching the portly Mets hurler take gargantuan swings at the ball. It's the way we'd imagine that we'd look if we were somehow fortunate enough to take a few hacks against an MLB pitcher. (Ignoring the fact that if we were able to bat against an MLB pitcher, we would likely cower in fear for our lives.)
But Colon, proving that he's 1,000 times more athletic than any of us desk jockeys, put together a two-game hitting streak. He started by rapping a double against the Cardinals:
And continued it with a hard-hit single in front of Yoenis Cespedes:
But just while we were preparing for an eventual run at Joe DiMaggio, Colon went hitless in his start against the Pirates to end the month. Not that it was a total loss. Colon managed to look great while swinging the stick, his helmet coming off in a burst of baseball exuberance.
His June batting line: a sterling .143/.143/.214. Keep on swinging, Bartolo.
8. Jose Abreu's homer barrage
In April, Jose Abreu hit .270/.336/.617 with 10 HR. While it was obvious that he had plenty of raw power, people wondered how he would hit when pitchers made adjustments.
Well, here's June:
.313/.355/.677 with 10 HR.
Yeah, I think that will do nicely.
So go ahead and towel off, Jose. You've earned it.
Of course, like all rookies, there are some growing pains. Abreu's 71/17 K/BB rate indicates a few holes in his swing, but if a pitcher makes a mistake, watch out, because Abreu is going to launch it.
7. Munenori Kawasaki is back
You may have noticed a trend in this list: enthusiasm. Because as much as we love baseball, we want the players on the field to express that joy back to us. And no one does so quite like Munenori Kawasaki.
From his interviews and songs:
Fortunately for everyone, he was called back to the big leagues by the Blue Jays and the effects are already being felt. From accepting his 2013 GIBBY from the head Cut4 honcho to his superlative appearance on Intentional Talk:
Honestly, if Kawasaki doesn't wind up with his own variety show after his career is done a la Wayne Brady, I'll be shocked and disappointed. I mean, if Yahoo can pick up Community for a sixth season, surely someone will give Kawasaki a chance.
6. Jose Altuve steals everything
When Jose Altuve was first called up by the Astros, the story was mostly about his height.
Three years later and we're no longer measuring things in Altuves*. Because when that player leads the American League in hits (116), average (.344) and steals (37), the story is about what he does on the field, not how tall he is on it.
Already having a good year entering June, Altuve stepped it up by hitting .411/.447/.495 with 17 stolen bases. Along the way, Altuve tied a 97-year-old record held by Ray Chapman by stealing multiple bases in four straight games.
Of course, even that doesn't stop people from picking him up from time to time:
*Okay, maybe sometimes we still measure things in Altuves. Like when ordering furniture or telling people how many miles we jogged.
5. Matt Joyce's good aim
Matt Joyce closed out June quite nicely, going 5-for-6 with two home runs on June 29th, tying a Rays record for hits and total bases in a game. Which is all well and nice, but it's nowhere near the most impressive thing he did.
No, that particular honor belongs to his batting practice display when he hit the ball straight back into the pitching machine. You could try and duplicate that 1,000 times and never replicate the result.
For all of the people who claim that existence may simply be a computer simulation, this should be proof that it's not. Because no computer simulation would allow for this.
4. Brock Holt makes you believe a man can fly
Brock Holt was supposed to be a good depth option for the Red Sox. Instead, Holt has found himself hitting .315/.362/.440 with the third highest OPS for the defending World Series champions while playing all over the field. And instead of simply playing merely serviceable defense, Holt has been hurling himself through the air, making catches that no mere mortal could make.
Or this one:
Or this one.
I wouldn't be shocked to learn that in nine months time, the most popular baby name in New England is "Brockholt." One word.
3. Yoenis Cespedes' rocket arm
For the 200,000 or so years that human beings have been on earth, our bodies have primarily consisted of muscle, fat, bone and skin. For a select few, their body composition is a little different.
Like how Beast from the X-Men is coated in hair. Or how Yoenis Cespedes' arm is actually a rocket cannon.
You may have missed what actually happened, so let me enhance the Truth-O-Vision on that one. Here we go:
Of course, this wasn't Cespedes' first time throwing out Angels at the plate. Just 10 days earlier he gunned down two at the plate ... in the same inning:
The Marlins apparently didn't get the memo though, letting Cespedes pick up his 10th assist with this laser:
I wouldn't be shocked if Cespedes is soon able to manipulate time, throwing batters out before they even step to the plate.
2. Mike Trout is the strongest man on earth
I'm saddened that we don't have a strongman competition over the All-Star break. While it makes a lot of sense because of the desire for spleens to not explode from within the body, I sure would like to watch the best in the sport try to hurl enormous boulders over fences.
But even though I'll never have my sick desire to see ballplayers wear wrestling onesies and back braces fulfilled, we did get a taste of just how strong Mike Trout is.
I mean, we already know he's fast. And he can play defense. And he can hit home runs. But now we know just how far he can hit home runs when he hit this 489-foot blast on June 27th:
For those wondering, that's the farthest home run this year. And last year. In fact, we have to go back to Giancarlo Stanton's August 2012 dinger for a longer shot.
So while Trout may not be stealing as often (only 10 stolen bases this year, though he's yet to be caught stealing), this may be the best season of his career with the Fish God hitting .314/.407/.610 with 18 home runs and a league-leading 1.017 OPS.
After leading the league in WAR two years in a row, the fact that he's somehow only getting better is terrifying. Perhaps there will need to be a handicap system put in place where Trout has to come to the plate with a souvenir mini-bat to preserve the fairness of the game.
1. The no-hitters
The NL West has been a powerhouse for top-flight pitching over the last half-decade with Tim Lincecum and Clayton Kershaw winning four of the last six Cy Young awards. And in June, they both decided to toss no-hitters in the same week.
On June 19th, Kershaw baffled the Rockies, striking out a career-high 15 batters (though it wasn't the first time he pulled that feat off) with only a Hanley Ramirez error marring his scorecard. Naturally, there were bubbles. And like, not champagne bubbles (though there were those too), but like, bubbles bubbles.
The no-hitter was only part of Kershaw's dominant month, as the lefty went an absurd 6-0 with an 0.82 ERA and 61 strikeouts in 44 innings. That's the baseball equivalent of not hitting the snooze button on your alarm -- it should be impossible.
One week later, Tim Lincecum showed off his mustache power, no-hitting the Padres for the second time in his career, almost one year to the date after his first. This one was much less gut-wrenching, as he needed only 113 pitches to mow through the order (he threw 148 in his first no-no).
With the World Cup going on and plenty of windmills to battle, Lincecum wore this outfit in the clubhouse afterwards:
While it would seem impossible for July to top this month of baseball action, somehow it will. Because that's the way baseball go.