Athletics

Oakland's Khris Davis pacing MLB strikeout record

khris-davis.jpg
USATSI

Oakland's Khris Davis pacing MLB strikeout record

NEW YORK — Major League Baseball is set to smash through a previously untouched barrier Sunday: Some batter likely will walk back to his dugout after becoming the 40,000 strikeout of the season.

There were 30,801 strikeouts in 2005. At the current rate, this year’s total will be about 40,060.

“It kills me. I can’t watch the game. It’s not baseball,” Hall of Fame pitcher Goose Gossage said Thursday. “The only thing that’s the same in the game is the bases are 90 feet and the mound is 60 feet, 6 inches. That’s it.”

The strikeout record has been broken for 10 consecutive seasons, and this year’s total will be well above the 38,982 who whiffed in 2016. There were 39,334 through Thursday, with three full days remaining.

More batters are swinging for the fences, part of the computer revolution that transformed nearly every aspect of the game, from defensive shifts to shorter outings by starting pitchers, to more relief pitchers on each team’s roster. The season home run record of 5,694, which had stood since 2000 at the height of the Steroids Era, was shattered with nearly two weeks left. Cleveland’s Roberto Perez hit No. 6,000 on Thursday as the total rose to 6,022.

“If you’re striking out, you’re not hitting into a lot of double plays. It was like 10 years ago when I think the analytical people started saying that strikeouts aren’t really that bad,” Kansas City Royals manager Ned Yost said. “They would much rather have one out than the chance for two.”

Boston’s Chris Sale has 308 strikeouts, the most by a big league pitcher since Arizona’s Randy Johnson had 334 in 2002 and Diamondbacks teammate Curt Schilling fanned 316. Indians pitchers have reached double digits in strikeouts 90 times, the most since at least 1913.

In earlier eras, strikeouts were a smear on a slugger’s baseball card. Babe Ruth never struck out more than 93 times in a season. Joe DiMaggio fanned 369 times in his career, to go along with 361 home runs.

The Yankees’ Aaron Judge may have set a big league rookie record for home runs with 51 through Thursday, but he’s also fanned 205 times. Oakland’s Khris Davis was at 194 and Texas’ Joey Gallo at 193.

[RELATED: Khris Davis on The A's Insider Podcast]

“They have determined the importance of hitting the ball in the air, the importance of hitting home runs, and I think players have bought into it,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. “I think you can be extremely productive striking out 150 times a year. If you can drive 100 and you can score 100, there’s a lot of things that you can do. So I think the game has shifted gears a little bit.”

Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred and his staff are concerned about the decrease in action, especially in an era that had professional sports competing with screen time for the attention of youth.

Teams averaged 3 strikeouts per game when the Yankees’ Murderer’s Row ruled baseball in 1927. The average didn’t top 4 until 1952, 5 until 1959 and 6 until 1994. It passed 7 in 2010 and 8 last year.

“Everybody digs the long ball. If you struck out that many times back in the day, your (butt) would be back in the minor leagues,” said Gossage, who advocates small ball as a way of defeating both power pitchers and infield shifts. “I think these computers got these kids — they’re all like robots. You’re telling me that a guy, a professional hitter, can’t hit a ball the whole left or right side of an infield that’s gone? How about laying down five or six or 10 bunts, like Boog Powell would have done?”

 

Maxwell speaks about anthem protest, but stays mum on legal issues

maxwell.jpg
USATSI

Maxwell speaks about anthem protest, but stays mum on legal issues

When A's catcher Bruce Maxwell knelt during the anthem last season, he was the first MLB player to do so. He knelt before each of each of Oakland's final nine games, in order to protest racial inequality and in response to President Trump's incendiary comments about NFL players kneeling, but ended the season as the only MLB player to kneel during the anthem. 

This season, he won't kneel at all, he told reporters in a statement on the first day of spring training. 

“Obviously, I didn’t take that lightly,” Maxwell told the San Francisco Chronicle prior to the release of his statement.  “That was to bring awareness to a problem and the face we do see it, we do experience and we have empathy for what’s going on. This year I don’t plan on kneeling. … And we’ll move on forward.”

While Maxwell did address his protest during the anthem, he largely did not address his offseason legal issues.

“It’s ongoing, I can’t really discuss details,” he said. “It’s something me and my lawyers are handling.”

On Oct. 28, Maxwell was arrested in Scottsdale after allegedly pointing a gun at a food-delivery person. He pleaded not guilty to felony charges of aggravated assault and disorderly conduct in November, and is set for a settlement conference on April 13 after failing to reach a plea agreement on Monday, according to the Chronicle. 

If an agreement cannot be reached, Maxwell's trial is set to begin on Aug. 9. 

Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson traded to... the Yankees

russell-us.jpg
USATSI

Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson traded to... the Yankees

The New York Yankees Wednesday announced that they have acquired infielder Russell Wilson from the Texas Rangers in exchange for future considerations.

Wilson, 29, led the Seattle Seahawks to the 2014 Super Bowl championship, defeating the Denver Broncos, 43-8. At age 25, Wilson became the third-youngest quarterback to lead a team to a Super Bowl victory.

He has played the past six seasons (2012-17) with Seattle. A four-time Pro-Bowler, Wilson has completed 1,815-of-2,834 pass attempts (64.0 percent) for 22,176 yards and 161 touchdowns. He has compiled a career starting record of 65-30-1. In 2017, Wilson led the NFL with 34 touchdown passes.

"We've admired Russell's career from afar for quite some time," Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman said. "This is a unique opportunity for us to learn from an extraordinary athlete who has reached the pinnacle of his profession. 

"After talking to a number of our players, there is a genuine excitement in having Russell join us for a short time in camp. We are all looking forward to gaining insight into how he leads teammates toward a common goal, prepares on a daily basis for the rigors of his sport, and navigates the successes and failures of a season."

The Richmond, Va., native was originally selected by the Colorado Rockies in the fourth round of the 2010 First-Year Player Draft, and was acquired by Texas in the minor league phase of the 2013 Rule 5 Draft. In 2014 and '15, Wilson participated in team workouts at Rangers spring training camp.

In 93 career minor league games between Rookie-level Tri-City (2010) and Single-A Asheville (2011) in Colorado's system, Wilson hit .229/.354/.356 (72-for-315) with 58R, 9 doubles, 8 triples, 5HR, 26RBI and 19SB. In his last 15 games with Asheville in 2011, Wilson hit .302 (16-for-53) with 13R, 5 extra-base hits, 9RBI and 5SB.

A two-sport athlete in college, Wilson graduated from North Carolina State University in 2010. Using his last year of amateur eligibility, Wilson enrolled at the University of Wisconsin and quarterbacked the Badgers to a co-Big Ten Championship and a Rose Bowl appearance following the 2011 season. 

Wilson is expected to be in Major League camp in March. While he is in Tampa, Wilson will participate in pregame workouts with the club and watch games from the Yankees' dugout.

He will be assigned to the Double-A Trenton roster.

Yankees media services