|Tue, May 22, 2018 07:17 AM
|Wednesday, March 8, 2017 issue
Chicago right fielder Sammy Sosa continued his climb up history's home run ladder Friday night by joining baseball's all powerful 500 career longball club.
|The Baseball Buzz|
Home run business getting serious
With a seventh-inning solo shot off Scott Sullivan Friday night in Cincinnati, Sosa became the 18th player in Major League Baseball history to reach the 500 homer club.
Sosa, who made his major league debut as a Texas Ranger before coming to the Cubs via the Chicago White Sox, also became the third youngest player to reach the vaulted milestone.
At just 34 years of age, Sosa was beaten to 500 home runs by only Jimmy Foxx and Willie Mays. With just three more longballs, he will tie former first baseman Eddie Murray at No. 17 on the all-time list.
Sosa, once thought by his former teams as too much of a free swinger to be an effective major-league hitter, is also the only player to ever hit 60 or more home runs in four different seasons. He also owns close to a .300 career batting average.
Junior lands on DL after crashing attempt at fly ball
Ken Griffey Jr. was expectedly ready to return to his customary superstar ways after battling two years of hamstring problems and an intense off-season training effort that reportedly had the Cincinnati center fielder ready and able for a full season.
But after opening the season with four hits, including a homerun, in his first four games, Junior took an unexpected exit from the new campaign Saturday when he dislocated his right shoulder while diving for a fly ball near the warning track Saturday night against the Chicago Cubs.
Junior, son of former Big Red Machine outfielder Ken Griffey, enjoyed a tremendous beginning in Seattle to what was on track to become one of the most prolific careers ever before being traded to the Reds in 2000.
Griffey, who enjoyed four consecutive years of at least 48 homers, has struggled since going to Cincinnati, mostly because of a re-occurring hamstring problem, and hit just a combined 30 homers over the past two years.
Junior, 31 home runs away from the fabled 500 career mark, will miss from six to 10 weeks. A career .295 hitter, he will turn 32 in November.
Reggie Taylor, a highly regarded outfield prospect, will receive the bulk of playing time in Junior's absence.
For whom the Beltran tolls? KC perfect without Carlos
Despite having their best all-around player, center fielder Carlos Beltran, on the disabled list, the Kansas City Royals continue to be Major League Baseball's biggest early success story.
Beltran, one home run shy of a 30-30 season in 2002, has yet to see regular season action this year after injuring a shoulder in late March. He could return to the everyday lineup late next week.
Meanwhile, the Royals used rookie left fielder Dee Brown's grand slam and a three run shot from Brett Mayne Wednesday to defeat Detroit 9-6. The win improved Kansas City to 6-0, the best start in franchise history, and moved the Royals three games up on second placed Chicago, which fell 5-2 to Cleveland Wednesday, in the American League's Central division. They are baseball's lone undefeated team.
The Royals, after spending recent seasons battling the Tigers to avoid a cellar dwelling finish, were again expected to struggle near mediocrity, especially after losing the 25-year-old Beltran, who is seen as the team's foundation for which to build upon.
Detroit lost for the seventh straight time and is baseball's lone winless team. The Tigers are the first team since the New York Mets of the early 1960s to start consecutive seasons with at least seven straight losses.
Giant retooling decision taking on good early look
That much-questioned, off-season decision to dismantle a team that came just a few innings shy of winning a World Series last October is quickly becoming a special San Francisco treat.
After being blindsided by a late seventh game Anaheim rally, the Giants decided to make a few changes, which included exits by high value talent such as Jeff Kent, Russ Ortiz, Reggie Sanders, David Bell, and even manager Dusty Baker.
Replacement players included the likes of Ray Durham, Jose Cruz, Jr., Edguardo Alfonzo, and new boss Felipe Alou, all of which were once high value talent but of a lower performing recent nature.
Not to worry. Durham has adequately replaced Kent's offensive pop at second, Cruz has started the season with bat ablaze, and Alou seems to have everything else on cruise control.
After beating San Diego 15-11 Wednesday, the Giants improved to a National League best 8-1 despite closer Rob Nen still a disabled list spectator and with Barry Bonds barely hitting above .200.
But this new look San Francisco squad played six of those first nine games against San Diego and the other three with Milwaukee as the opponent.
A truer test to the team's strong start began last night with a four game series against Los Angeles with three more games against Houston to follow.