MLB: Oakland Athletics at Detroit Tigers

There was a time, not even one year ago, that it appeared Victor Martinez might be on his way down. For the better part of three months in 2013, VMart was terrible. He had no power and no position, a DH unable to produce much offense.

And then, suddenly, he was fine. Better than fine, really. Victor Martinez started the second half of the season and was good as new.

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MLB: New York Mets at Washington Nationals

There was a time when Ryan Zimmerman was one of the best, up-and-coming third basemen in baseball. He hit the ground running his rookie year, posting above-average offensive numbers in his age-21 season. He improved offensively every year, though injury robbed him of some time in 2008. He responded with back-to-back superstar level seasons, asserting himself as one of the game’s premier third baseman.

His early production at the hot corner placed him among the best in baseball history across the first five years of his career.

Third Baseman by WAR (through age-25 season)

Rk Player WAR/pos Age PA HR BA OBP SLG OPS
1 Eddie Mathews 38.9 20-25 3807 222 .281 .388 .556 .943
2 Dick Allen 28.0 21-25 2580 112 .311 .387 .558 .945
3 George Brett 27.5 20-25 3114 51 .305 .351 .455 .807
4 Evan Longoria 27.4 22-25 2414 113 .274 .360 .515 .874
5 Ron Santo 27.0 20-25 3793 137 .278 .351 .471 .822
6 David Wright 26.1 21-25 3048 130 .309 .389 .533 .921
7 Ryan Zimmerman 24.4 20-25 3229 116 .288 .355 .484 .839
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 4/9/2014.

Unfortunately for Zimmerman, he toiled away for the perennially terrible Washington Nationals, the worst team in baseball in both 2008 and 2009. But Zimmerman was an island of greatness amid the fetid mess that eventually netted the Nats Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg. He provided one rare highlight in those dark days, hitting a walkoff home run to end the first game in Nationals Park history.

Then the Nationals got good! They won the National League East division in 2012, their first playoff berth since moving to the nation’s capital. It would be Zim’s coming out party on a big stage!

Except shoulder injuries already started taking their toll on Zimmerman. After his left, non-throwing, shoulder cut him down in 2008, it was his throwing shoulder that dogged him in 2012. What has now been dubbed an “degenerative condition” in his throwing shoulder, the eventual migration of Zimmerman across the diamond is well under way.

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You have to give the man credit – he knows how to make an impression. In fact, the video above recalling his three-homer day at Citizen’s Bank Park in Philadelphia contains several moments that are too good to be true.

Before he launches his first homer of the day, the on-field cameras pick up a leather-lunged Phillies fan screaming “CHEEEEDURRR!” right before Braun takes Kyle Kendrick deep. Then, later in the highlight pack, the lucky recipient of Braun’s third home run ball refuses to throw it back onto the field, stuffing it into the pocket of his hoody as those around demand the ball go back from whence it came. You can see the guy in the Phillies sweater matter-of-factly state his reasoning for keeping the ball as “it’s RYAN BRAUN!” No further explanation needed.

Tuesday marked Braun’s second trip outside the friendly confines of Miller Park, and Phillies’ fans greeted him with a steady stream of boos, voicing their displeasure with his choice of nutritional supplements and subsequent suspension.

As a totally unrelated aside: Phillies outfielder Marlon Byrd was greeted warmly in each of his five plate appearances on the day.

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Yankees Jeter turns a double play over Blue Jays Reyes during their MLB baseball game in Toronto

This isn’t news. Derek Jeter‘s defense has long been a flashpoint. There is no right answer to the “is Derek Jeter a good defender” question but there is a wrong answer: “it won’t matter to the Yankees.”

It will matter to the Yankees. It already matters to the 2014 Yankees.

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MLB: Oakland Athletics at Kansas City Royals

Despite all the rainouts and postponements, the baseball season is a week old. Most teams have six games under their belt, some seven, and the poor old Tigers have played just five.

It is obviously way too soon to draw any grand or sweeping conclusions about the year. There are hot starts and cold April slumps well under way, but nothing one good day at the dish can’t fix. Any time a couple base hits can raise your batting average by 50 or 100 points, you know it’s early.

It is not a time for making bold pronouncements about the season but there is no reason we cannot shine a light on some of the early season quirks and oddities.

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MLB: Cleveland Indians at Oakland Athletics

Plenty of words and pixels have been devoted to Major League Baseball’s new instant replay system. Whether you think of it as the game’s savior or as merely another stepping stone to a dull, anti-septic, technocratic future, it is here to stay, and debating its worthiness is pretty played out already one week into the season.

Instead, let’s talk about an overlooked and perhaps even unexpected aspect of the replay system: the strategic knowledge of managers will be tested in a big way.

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MLB: New York Yankees at Toronto Blue Jays

Roy Halladay returned to Toronto, just for one night, to deliver the first pitch before the Jays’ home opener on Friday. The smitten crowd showered the former Jays ace with a rousing, heartfelt ovation as he rushed out to the mound, acknowledged the roars, tipped his cap to the visiting Yankees, and threw a cutter to Mark Buehrle, the ceremonial catcher and Halladay’s opposite number for many a beat writer’s dream – the two hour pitchers duel.

It was sort of surreal to watch from a distance, in the auxiliary press box furiously trying to find highlights of this monster home run Giancarlo Stanton pounded at nearly the same moment as the speakers boomed Halladay’s name in Toronto. The Blue Jays best player for a decade then did what he always did – he wasted no time. To blink was to miss it, a hacky analog for his brilliant career.

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