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The Sunday Brief: Top Storylines to Follow This Week

All the stories you need to follow this week in the MLB.

Now we’ve got nearly ten games in the books for the 2022 MLB season. Guess what that means? Our first near-perfecto! One of the great storylines from 2021the immense number of early-season no-hittersseems to be threatening a 2022 re-appearance. We’ve got a couple of good stories for everybody this week.

 

No perfecto, no problemo

 

Clayton Kershawarguably the face of the Los Angeles Dodgerswent 7 innings deep into a perfect game on Wednesday. Kershaw, who struggled through forearm tightness in 2021 and was a free agent going into the 2022 Collective Bargaining Agreement, struck out thirteen Minnesota Twins before leaving the game.

The weather in Minnesota was cold and blusteryin fact, a blizzard tore through North Dakota and northern Minnesota the night beforeand many people in the social media sphere voiced opposition to the Dodgers lifting Kershaw in the middle of a perfect game bid. The combined perfecto opportunity ended in the 8th inning when Twins catcher Gary Sanchez got a single, which aggravated many fans who wanted to see Kershaw go more than 80 pitches. Kershaw himself indicated that he approved of leaving the gamehe had been injured in 2021 and he rested in the off-season rather than working out non-stop.

 

 

Readers with a long memory will remember back to the plethora of 2021 no-hitters and how some of the pitchers who went the distance ended up missing significant stretches later in the year, including Carlos Rodon, Corey Kluber, and Spencer Turnbull. Kershaw’s previous injury history and the cold weather played a major factor in ending his perfecto bid, and that’s probably for the best. Kershaw is playing on a one-year contract and at the age of 34, he could still have 1 or 2 multi-year contracts left in his career. If he had Tommy John surgery at this point in his career, he would likely not play until age 36, thus vastly reducing his earning potential.

So there may be no perfecto, but that seems to be no problem for Clayton Kershaw.

 

I…Hate this Place

 

Philadelphia Phillies infielder Alec Bohm was caught on mic saying “I [expletive] hate this place,” referring to Philadelphia. Bohm, the runner-up for the NL Rookie of the Year award in 2020, has struggled in 2021 and early in 2022. Bohm found himself nearly replaced in Philadelphia when rookie Bryson Stott began taking reps at third base, Bohm’s natural position. Bohm didn’t help his case for fan support when he made three errors in half a game earlier this week.

Yet, Bohm’s dramatic and frank statement might contextualize why he struggled in the field and at the plate: he’s not happy. Bohm later apologized for his statement. However, with multi-error games and ineffective batting, Bohm might find himself playing the role of Yermin Mercedes, the young White Sox catcher who verbally crossed Tony LaRussa in 2021 and found himself ostracized from the team and demoted to the minors for the rest of the year.

 

 

K-ing Kwan

 

Cleveland Guardians rookie Steven Kwan lit up MLB over the first week of the 2022 season, batting .500 over his first 30 at-bats while taking only two walks…and no strike-outs. Given that an excellent strikeout rate for a hitter is 10%, Kwan was expected to strike out at least three times in that thirty at-bat span. More likely, he should have had six or even nine strikeouts. So it was a news-making moment when Cincinnati Reds rookie Nick Lodolo became the first major league pitcher to strike out Steven Kwan on Wednesday.

 

 

Brett Phillips is a Treasure 

 

Brett Phillips has a way of keeping the game entertaining even when it’s out of hand. Phillips has made these lists before, often for his entertaining persona when filling in as a reliever for the Tampa Bay Rays during blow-outs. Phillips already made his 2022 pitching debut, and once again it was a dramatic play that brings him to the storyline highlights:

 

 

Although he plays a relatively minor role on his team, Brett Phillips has become must-watch TV whenever he shows up for the Rays. Later in the week, Phillips made news again when he became emotional during a post-game interview, inspired by the survival story of a girl named Chloe, who was battling cancer for a second time. While Chloe was being interviewed and saying her favorite player was Brett Phillips, Phillips was at-bat and hit a home run. This is the kind of story that melts your heart:

 

 

Lazer Beam! 

 

Ichiro Suzukiformer MLB and NPB outfielder, who will likely be a first-ballot Hall of Famer when he’s eligible to enterwowed social media and Seattle Mariners fans when he tossed out a 94 mph first-pitch fastball at the age of 48. When I taught in Japan, the easiest way to make friends with a kid was to imitate Ichiro’s famed batting stance or make a throwing motion while shouting “Lazer Beam!” Ichiro has a solid 10 MPH advantage on current MLB starting pitcher Kyle Hendricks, by the way.

 

 

Two weeks down — think we’ll see a no-hitter or perfecto bid in week 3? If 2021 is an example, we could have a couple of no-nos under our belt before the month is done. I’ll see you next week for more storylines to follow!

 

Featured image by Justin Paradis (@JustParaDesigns on Twitter)

Blair Williams

Blair holds a PhD in Japanese history and is the author of "Making Japan's National Game: A Cultural History of Baseball." He's a fan of sci-fi, prog metal, and sipping rums.

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