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Wednesday marked the 62nd anniversary of Jackie Robinson becoming the first African-American player to wear a major league uniform, and to honor his memory, every single player, coach and umpire wore Robinson's No. 42. But while Jackie's cultural and social impact is common knowledge, even among non-sports fans, the fact is that he was also an incredibly talented ballplayer. Now, Jackie Robinson retired after the 1956 season, long before fantasy baseball came on the scene, but I wondered which of the major league players wearing the No. 42 today was the most deserving to do so. Let's take a look at the stats, shall we?
How good was Jackie? Well, if we took the average year for his career, we see a .311 batting average, 16 home runs, 86 RBIs, 111 runs scored and 23 steals. Of all players currently on major league rosters, few have registered a season even close to that average. In fact, in the past two decades, there have been only 45 occasions in which a player has hit better than .300, with 13 or more home runs, 100-plus runs, 80-plus RBIs and 20-plus steals.
Last year, there were only two players with such statistical output: Matt Holliday and Dustin Pedroia. Holliday has certainly had some successful seasons, but last year's stolen base total (28) seemed to come out of left field, and many of his critics feel that his gaudy stats were more a product of Coors Field than merely his talent. Pedroia, on the other hand, won the Rookie of the Year Award, just like Jackie did. He also won his league's MVP Award in his sophomore season, whereas Robinson won his only MVP in his third major league campaign.
Now we're not saying Pedroia is as good as Jackie was. After all, we're comparing his numbers to the average season by Robinson. The only players to truly compare to Robinson's MVP season (.342, 16 HR, 124 RBI, 122 runs and 37 SB) in the past half-century were Roberto Alomar in 1999 and Coors-aided seasons from Larry Walker (1997) and Ellis Burks (1996) -- that's it. However, Pedroia should have a long, successful career ahead of him, and maybe, just maybe, we'll be talking about him in the same sentence as Robinson five years after he retires and joins him in Cooperstown.
If anyone looked "right" wearing No. 42, it was Pedroia.
• Dustin Pedroia ruined the fairy-tale ending to the story by going 0-for-5 on Wednesday against the A's. But the real story of the game was his teammate, Tim Wakefield. The knuckleballer took a no-hitter into the eighth inning before Kurt Suzuki singled with one out to ruin the effort. Although Oakland scored a run that inning, and added another in the ninth, Wakefield had no problem finishing off his first complete game in three years, earning his first victory of the season.
• Ichiro Suzuki is back -- and he's badder than ever! In his return to the Mariners' lineup, Suzuki made up for lost time, going 2-for-5 with a grand slam and a stolen base. His performance even overshadowed Ken Griffey Jr.'s 400th career home run as a Mariner. However, the game wasn't a complete celebration for Seattle, as Kenji Johjima had to leave the game after experiencing tightness in his hamstring. Rob Johnson will start in his stead, though an extended absence could see the return of Jeff Clement from the minors. Stay tuned.
• Scott Baker also returned from injury, but his 2009 debut was not nearly as successful. Baker allowed six runs -- and four home runs -- in a blowout loss to Toronto. All an exasperated Ron Gardenhire could offer was the obvious. "The pitching wasn't there for us," Gardenhire told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. "Bake was up. They put the ball into the seats." Baker's next start will probably come against the Red Sox.
• Wednesday's scheduled game between the Phillies and the Nationals was rained out, with no makeup date yet announced. Wednesday's scheduled starters were Joe Blanton and Shairon Martis. Both will now take the hill on Thursday. Phillies Charlie Manuel wasn't necessarily happy to give Cole Hamels an extra day of rest, moving his next start to Friday. As he said on the team's Web site, "Right at this moment, I don't know if the extra rest is good for him or not. It won't hurt him, but getting him back out there and keeping him regular ... that's when people tell me he's going to come around. But I kind of want to keep things [in order]. It's early and we want to see where we're at."
• Huston Street didn't blow the save on Wednesday, but that was only because he had a four-run lead when he came into the game. After he gave up a home run, a single and a walk in the ninth inning, there was a need for a closer, and Jason Grilli came in to bail out Street. Street nearly cost Jason Marquis the victory. Marquis had pitched seven innings of one-hit ball and is now 2-0 with a 1.93 ERA after an awful spring (10.08 ERA). Looks like it might not be too long before Manny Corpas reclaims his job in Colorado.
• Rich Harden looked like he was headed for history, striking out the first four Rockies hitters he faced. In fact, he finished the game with eight K's. That's the good news. The bad news is he only lasted three innings, running his pitch count all the way to 92 and giving up four runs before leaving the game. Harden told the Chicago Tribune that he lost his concentration following a 14-pitch at-bat by Garrett Atkins in the second inning. "After that point, I was rushing a bit instead of slowing things down," Harden said. We'll give him a pass on this one, but we'll be watching his next start carefully.
• Chipper Jones and "day-to-day" go together like peanut butter and jelly, don't they? Jones missed Wednesday's game with a bruised left thumb, and Omar Infante got the start, going 1-for-3 with two RBIs. As for when Jones will be back? He told reporters, "I'll have to sit out until I get better." Par for the course for Larry.
• The Tigers may be hitting well as a team, soaring past the .280 mark, but Carlos Guillen isn't joining in their reindeer games. While the Tigers were dancing around the bases, Bugs Bunny-style, in a 9-0 shutout against the White Sox, Guillen went 0-for-5, leaving four men on base. He is now hitting only .167 this season. Perhaps he needs a few days off.
• Meanwhile, the man the Tigers let go -- Gary Sheffield -- made his first start for the Mets on Wednesday. Playing in right for Ryan Church, Sheffield went 0-for-2 with a strikeout before being removed for defensive purposes in the eighth inning. Nothing to see here folks ... move it along.
Ian Kinsler, Rangers
Texas' second baseman shined Wednesday, becoming the fourth Ranger to hit for the cycle, with a 6-for-6 night. He also had four RBIs, scored a team-record five runs and even stole a base to make his fantasy owners euphoric. Kinsler raised his average to .474 for the season, and becomes only the third player in major league history to hit for the cycle with a six-hit game.
Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers
On a day honoring a Dodgers legend, Kershaw took huge steps toward making himself one. The young southpaw struck out 13 Giants and allowed only one hit over seven innings, a Bengie Molina home run in the second inning. Given the nostalgia of the night, it's no wonder he is generating comparisons with Sandy Koufax, who struck out 13 Cubs in 1957, when he was 21, just like Kershaw.
42: Mariano Rivera, the last major leaguer to wear No. 42 on a regular basis, shone brightly on Jackie Robinson Day. Rivera needed only eight pitches to preserve the Yankees' 4-3 win over Tampa Bay and earn his second save of the season, retiring Pat Burrell, Carlos Pena and Willy Aybar in the ninth inning.
• Chris Carpenter also went on the 15-day disabled list with a strained muscle in his left rib cage. Although early reports have Carpenter missing anywhere from four to eight weeks, at least this injury was the result of a plate appearance and not related to his history of arm troubles. The Cardinals also optioned pitcher Brad Thompson to Triple-A Memphis, recalling pitchers Mitchell Boggs and Chris Perez.
• The injury news continues as Xavier Nady's MRI was not good. Nady told the New York Daily News that his right elbow is bad enough that he is likely headed for season-ending surgery. Nady will be examined by team doctors on Thursday at which time the other shoe is expected to drop. The injury, though, does open up regular playing time for the hot starting Nick Swisher.
• Ryan Rowland-Smith, the Mariners' expected starter Thursday, won't be keeping that appointment. He was placed on the 15-day disabled list with "triceps tendinitis" in his left arm. Manager Don Wakamatsu told the Seattle Times that the move was precautionary: "We think it's strictly muscular, so we don't think it's a long-term deal. But to be on the safe side, we think this is the right move to make at this point." Chris Jakubauskas will face the Angels, where Rowland-Smith fears to tread.
• The Pittsburgh Pirates acquired a fresh-off-rehab Delwyn Young from the Dodgers for ye olde "players to be named later." The team is eyeballing Young as a potential replacement for Freddy Sanchez at second base, as the veteran is in his walk year.
• Click here for all of the latest MLB transactions.
Tristan H. Cockcroft: See: Cliff Lee's 2005. Eighteen wins, 3.79 ERA, 1.22 WHIP. So "never done it before" does not apply. I do think those stats are closer to the real Cliff Lee than his 2008 numbers, but that does say he's more likely to retain value than Loaiza was. I'd be patient.
-- Full chat transcript
Eric Karabell: Well, anyone can be sold high if there is another owner who just has wild expectations. While I am a big fan of Bonifacio and have him on many teams, I still take the under on him hitting .300 for the season. I could see 30 steals though, and 90 runs if he hits enough and remains leading off. Top-10 2B? Probably close to it.
-- Full chat transcript
Thursday's fantasy chat schedule:
AJ Mass, 11 a.m.
Jason Grey, 3 p.m.
• Lastings Milledge is on his way to Triple-A Syracuse, and that's good news for outfielder Roger Bernadina, who will be leaving the Salt City for the show. The move is a bit surprising, considering Bernandina is hitting only 3-for-18 to open the season. However, he apparently impressed manager Manny Acta this spring. "Roger is a guy that we could put in any of those three outfield positions and be an above-average defensive player," Acta said on the Nationals' Web site. "I think he has earned this. He might not get much playing time, you never know. He is very valuable." In other words, fantasy players, steer clear.
• Shortstop Jason Donald, playing for Triple-A Lehigh Valley, recovered nicely from Monday's 0-for-5 outing, reaching base four times on two walks, a double and a triple, scoring three times, as the Phillies farm team won 11-4.
• Russ Ortiz is 8-1 in his career against the Pirates, including 3-0 at PNC Park. Meanwhile, his opposition, Jeff Karstens has never won there (0-5 with a 5.60 ERA in Pittsburgh).
• Matt Kemp is off to a hot start for the Dodgers, and still could get hotter against Barry Zito. Kemp is 13-for-25 lifetime against the Giants pitcher.
• With Evan Longoria taking care of personal matters, Willy Aybar should start at third for the Rays. He has two doubles in five career at-bats against John Danks.
• Check out Daily Notes for more on Thursday's games.