The Changing of the Guard: May 2013

The King is dead—long live the King.
No, I’m not talking about the late Hugo Chavez’s straw boss, Nicolas Maduro.
The race is run for Johan Santana, the workhorse lefty who dominated early to mid 90’s baseball with a low-to-mid 90’s fastball. He gave the Mets as much as he could, including the team’s first ever no-hit game, but his surgically-repaired shoulder gave out a second time, and his Flushing career is over; maybe the whole darn shootin’ match for the mighty man from Tovar is done.
But for King Felix Hernandez, the hits keep on comin’. Well, not literally, since he pitches for the Mariners, but even they got him enough support the first six weeks of the campaign to run his record to 5-2. (For the record, and to enhance this article’s theme, Felix got his first and only major league home run, a grand slam no less, off Santana in a 2008 interleague game).
At age 27, the 2010 Cy Young winner may be entering his prime, during which he’ll be handsomely rewarded—about 25 mil a season until 2019. He fanned 12 of the Venezuelan-heavy Tigers lineup already this season, and in 6 of 8 starts has given up 1 or fewer runs. He won his 100th game in April. Today, against Pirates #1 A.J. Burnett, a pitcher the Yankees perhaps wish they had never required, he got a homer from compatriot Jesus Montero, a catcher the Bronx Bombers maybe wish they hadn’t traded away so quickly. Also playing in the game was the ubiquitous Endy Chavez, another Venezuelan who’s made the rounds since his outfield heroics nearly brought the Mets the N.L. pennant in 2006. Endy, a .270 career hitter, is on his second go-round in the Emerald City.
The Mets, alas (my team) lost some more criollo mojo to the Houston Astros, who picked up utility man Ronny Cedeno in the off-season. A sure sign the Metropolitans are cost-cutting when they can’t keep a valuable old hand like Cedeno, who’s just a classic middle infielder, a consummate pro. Cedeno joins an infield with rising Venezuelan star Jose Altuve, known to many as ‘the smallest man in baseball.’ Altuve stands about 5’5” but plays second base well and seems to tattoo the ball every time he’s up. National League, American League—put the Astros wherever you want and the mighty mite will continue to produce. He was an All Star his first full season in 2012 at age 22 and seems to have not yet reached his full potential. Young Venezuelan Marwyn Gonzalez, whose first name merited a lengthy discussion among Yankee announcers last week, shores up a baby-faced infield in Houston. The Astros will take on AL-West leading Texas next week and their Maracay-born shortstop Elvis Andrus, he of the mighty facial hair, next week.
Another criollo-heavy infield is the champion Giants’, featuring Marco Scutaro at second and The Panda, Pablo Sandoval, at third. Scutaro continues his late-career renaissance in the City by the Bay and the Panda, like Altuve, defies the stereotype of what a baseball player should look like by pounding pitches, good, bad or indifferent, to all sectors of the ballpark.
Overall, a great month for MLB’s Venezuelan contingent, including a team-record single-game 17 strikeouts for Tiger Anibal Sanchez, who makes about 17 million dollars less than the King (we weep in pity). His teammate, mighty MVP and Triple Crown man Miguel Cabrera, leads the world in RBIs with 37, and Colorado’s Carlos Gonzalez, possessor of one of the game’s most majestic swings, is second in runs scored with 27-and that’s with Colorado playing most of its games in conditions more favorable to the hometown Denver Broncos. Wait ‘til it gets hot.
Next edition we talk about Asdrubal, Maicer, Alcides, and other cool Venezuelan names.


About vzbaseball

Writer, Musician, Baseball Fanatic. Lonely Planet, Fodor's, scouring the nation and globe for stories. Big fish, small pond.
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