In the latest instalment of Curveballs and Sliders, Herts Baseball Club’s Joe Gray takes a look at the players who are currently making the headlines in Major League Baseball.
Deciding who the best players are in a sport at a particular moment in its history is inevitably going to have an element of subjectivity to it.
For baseball, though, there is a rich enough collection of data cataloguing every act of every player on the field to make reasonably sound statements in this regard.
As far as pitchers go, it is hard to look past the Detroit Tigers’ Justin Verlander when trying to single out the cream of the crop.
Back in 2011, he achieved the rare feat of being presented with both the Cy Young Award for best pitcher and the Most Valuable Player award for best overall player in the American League.
This, and a number of other outstanding seasons for the Tigers, earned him a seven-season $180 million deal - with a conditional $22 million option for 2020 - making him the highest-paid pitcher in the history of Major League Baseball.
A less-established, but perhaps equally headline-grabbing pitcher is the Washington Nationals’ Stephen Strasburg.
He is still only 24 but has been closely followed by the mainstream media all the way back to his high-school days. Indeed, he is arguably the most-talked-about pitching prospect in the history of the game.
Will Strasburg one day gain an even more lucrative contract than Justin Verlander? Only time will tell.
When it comes to batters, Alex Rodriguez of the New York Yankees and Albert Pujols of the Los Angeles Angles are two veterans of the game who earn continuing major coverage in the press because of their trajectories toward breaking some of the game’s most famous all-time records.
Rodriguez, for instance, has 647 home runs to his name. The all-time leader is the now-retired Barry Bonds, who hit 762. Pujols, who is a few years younger than Rodriguez, sits back on 485.
Among young hitters, Mike Trout - Pujols’ team-mate in Los Angeles - must be considered the game’s best prospect.
In 2012, he not only won the Rookie of the Year award in the American League but also claimed runner-up honours in the full Most Valuable Player vote – and all at the age of 21. A more raw, but no less exciting, prospect is Bryce Harper of the Washington Nationals.
> Joe Gray is the founder and co-ordinator of Project COBB, the home of the chronicling of British Baseball. To visit the website click here
Next week, Curveballs and Sliders will look at famous ballparks in America.