While the sports world braces for the Baylor/Gonzaga showdown, baseball has just rolled through its first weekend. Here are a couple subtle storylines to follow through the summer of 2021.
#1. No sport is more transfixed on its statistical history than baseball, so here’s a little bit of trivia. With his opening day bomb, Tiger’s legend Miguel Cabrera now has 488 home runs to go with 581 doubles for his career. As long as he avoids major injury, the 500-600 plateau seems like a lock.
So the question is, how many other players have hit 500 home runs and 600 doubles for their career? The answer is…only three. Hank Aaron, David Ortiz and Albert Pujols. Somewhere around late August, Cabrera should find himself in a very elite class.
#2. In 2013, Matt Harvey burst onto the scene. In fact, the then New York Mets pitcher was so dominant in his first full season that he made the All-Star Team and earned the nickname The Dark Night. However, injuries derailed his career. In 2018 the Mets traded Harvey away and from there he would bounce through four teams in three seasons.
In 2020, as a member of the Kansas City Royals, to say Harvey couldn’t get anyone out is an exaggeration…but not by much. His 11.57 ERA and 2.74 WHIP are unspeakably bad in baseball terms, and it appeared his career was finished.
But in 2021, desperate for pitching, the Orioles invited Harvey for a spring training tryout. Still only 32 years old, the Orioles hoped Harvey could regain his old form. While he hasn’t exactly found lightning in a bottle, there has been a flicker of hope.
During the spring, Harvey hit 96 miles per hour on the radar gun. A new-found focus on mechanics and a belief that he’s finally healthy showed the Orioles enough to give Harvey a spot in the starting rotation.
On Saturday, Harvey pitched the Orioles second game of the season, and while not being dominant, he was solid, giving up two runs on six hits over four and two-thirds innings.
In fact, Saturday was the perfect day for Harvey to make his 2021 debut. It was the day between Good Friday and Easter, that biblical netherworld between death and resurrection. Will this season prove to be the end of Harvey’s career or the rebirth? Time will tell. And while a Harvey comeback won’t be as dramatic as that of, say, Tiger Woods winning the 2019 Masters, in baseball circles it’s close.
You can probably count on one hand how many people thought Harvey would find success again at the big league level. And while he hasn’t actually had success yet, it seems he has a chance. Ninety-six on the radar gun is still ninety-six on the radar gun. While he certainly won’t live at 96 all season, if he can stay between 92 and 94, that’s certainly enough to get hitters out, which will not only make Harvey an interesting guy to watch as the season takes shape, but also an easy guy to root for.