As we move past April and into May, I feel it's necessary to take a quick glance back on a month that has witnessed the expected and unexpected, devastating offense and superb pitching. Albeit April is not necessarily representative of the course of the entire season, it looks at this point that my predictions for the NL are right on, and those for the AL completely missed.
Atlanta, as most knowledgeable sources predicted, is leading the NL East. The story here is not so much the Braves' success or twelve-game winning streak, but Andres Galarraga and John Rocker.
After being diagnosed with lymphoma in his back prior to the start of spring training last season, Galarraga, the Braves' first baseman, returned in 2000 swinging the wood as if he never left the game (10 HR, 24 RBI, .312).
Rocker, the other interesting saga in Atlanta, was greeted to cheers from home fans in his first relief outing following his suspension. However, last Friday, in his first road appearance, San Diego fans mercilessly booed the reliever whenever he showed his face, but Rocker managed to record his first road save after a string of four at home. The eyes of the nation will turn to New York on June 29 when Rocker makes his first appearance in the Big Apple since "the incident."
The NL West seems to be shaping up as predicted, with the Diamondbacks leading the division. Randy Johnson is the story out West with a perfect April. With six wins in six starts, Johnson joins two other pitchers in the history of the game to record six wins in the first month of play. Vida Blue and Dave Stewart were the other two to do so, but Johnson did it with a superior ERA (0.91). Johnson not only leads the majors in ERA and wins, but also in strikeouts (64), opponents batting average (.156), shutouts (2), and complete games (3).
Now to the mighty NL Central, which was supposed to be dominated by Cincinnati and Houston, but the Cards have put together a record setting April to lead the division. St. Louis' 55 home runs in April ties the National League record for most dingers in one month. Jim Edmonds is tied with McGwire for the team lead for homers and leads the team in average (.382). Fernando Vina, Fernando Tatis, and J.D. Drew are all cranking out homers while hitting above .300. Rookie pitcher Rick Ankiel is not only 3-1 with a 2.16 ERA, but is also batting .500 with 2 long balls.
The Yanks barely lead Baltimore in the AL East, with Boston a close third despite missing a weekend of games due to rain. I find it irritating and unnecessary to talk about the Yankees, so I'll avoid them and concentrate on the O's and Sox. Mike Bordick leads Baltimore in average (.361), home runs (7), RBI (29), and runs (18). The 34-year-old has constantly been relegated to the middle of the pack among major league shortstops, but has broken out offensively.
Boston centerfielder Carl Everett is being hailed as one of the best off-season acquisitions, as he leads the Sox in home runs (7) and RBIs (23). On the mound Pedro Martinez is beginning another Cy Young season with five wins and a 1.59 ERA.
The focus of the AL right now, though, is the Chicago White Sox. Unexpectedly leading the AL Central, the ChiSox are an offensive powerhouse with the likes of Paul Konerko (.330, 6 HR) and a surging Frank Thomas (.368, 5 HR). However, the question is whether the offense can sustain a weak pitching staff throughout the season.
Seattle seems to have overcome the loss of Griffey as they lead the AL West. Not surprisingly, shortstop Alex Rodriguez leads the team in homers and RBIs, but first baseman John Olerud is the focus of the Mariners. Returning to his hometown of Seattle this year, Olerud has flourished with a .405 average. However, having already placed number one starter Jamie Moyer on the disabled list, Seattle put number two starter Freddy Garcia on the DL with a hairline fracture in his right tibia.
Having taken a look throughout the major league at the winners and losers of the month of April, it is now time to focus on Hanover, New Hampshire. The obvious winner here is the Dartmouth Baseball team. Dartmouth clinched the Red Rolfe division title on Saturday in Cambridge, moving to 26-12 overall and 15-3 in Ivy League play. The fifteen conference wins were the most in Dartmouth history, and with two wins Sunday in Hanover, the Big Green completed an outstanding Ivy regular season.
Another baseball success story here in Hanover, is that of freshman Michael Larocca, whose baseball/softball skills were on display Sunday afternoon in an intramural softball game. Though the least talented of any player on the field, Larocca put his heart and soul into the game, and chased after balls in the outfield all day long. With spring finally breaking through the clouds up here, it's nice to see some young kids out in the sun giving it all they have for the sake of the great game of baseball (or softball).