Following are highlights from this week’s Major League Baseball coverage on ESPN (note: Sunday and Monday Night Baseball games were rained out)
Hitting the Knuckleball
With Boston’s Tim Wakefield tossing a no-hitter through seven innings against Oakland, ESPN analyst John Kruk provided a demonstration of the fundamental approach to hitting a knuckleball, Wakefield’s signature pitch.
Sheffield for Hall of Fame
On the night New York Mets outfielder Gary Sheffield hit his 500th career home run, ESPN analyst Tim Kurkjian said Sheffield deserves to be in the Hall of Fame. Coverage of the milestone also included an essay by Kurkjian, along with a live phone interview with Sheffield (see below).
Live Phone Interviews with MLB Newsmakers
Baseball Tonight featured a series of live phone interviews with MLB standouts including San Diego Padres closer Heath Bell (after notching his second save in the series against the New York Mets); New York Mets outfielder Gary Sheffield (post-game after 500th career home run); Texas Rangers second baseman Ian Kinsler and Minnesota Twins designated hitter Jason Kubel (when both hit for the cycle); Washington Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman (on the night he went 2-for-4 to lead the team to its first win of the season); and San Diego Padres third baseman Kevin Kouzmanoff (after hitting a three-run home run to defeat the Phillies).
Tracking the Gems
Fans can now track “Web Gems” via the Baseball Tonight Clubhouse page on ESPN.com. The page will be updated each Monday throughout the season with the latest information including leaderboards for the most Web Gems by team and individual. There will also be a points-based system, in which the most points are awarded for the best Web Gems each night. Detroit Tigers third baseman currently leads the majors with five Web Gems and 14 accumulated points, while the Tampa Bay Rays lead all teams with eight Web Gems.
ESPN Radio’s Mike & Mike Receive Over/Under Analysis
ESPN Radio’s Mike & Mike in the Morning presented a unique way to elicit opinion from a quartet of ESPN MLB experts — Buster Olney, Jayson Stark, Steve Phillips and Tim Kurkjian — giving their “over” or “under” analysis on 10 questions.
Additional Baseball Tonight Outtakes:
Gammons, on his April surprise team – Toronto: “They couldn’t score at all last year. They lost 37 games in which their starters allowed three runs or less. They really hit with Adam Lind and the rest of those kids, but what’s really surprising is their starting pitching has been terrific. They lost A.J. Burnett to the Yankees and they had four starters go out with injuries…Ricky Romero, three quality starts…it is absolutely amazing what this kid has done.”
Kruk, on his April surprise team – Kansas City: “The Kansas City Royals, with that great starting pitching…Zack Greinke and Gil Meche have been absolutely outstanding…if they continue to pitch well and they start getting some offensive output from some of the guys that are struggling, this team could be there at the end.”
Gammons, on the more difficult feat — hitting for the cycle vs. pitching a no-hitter: “A no hitter, because you have to depend so much on your teammates. You can’t always have Robin Yount diving through the air to get the final out of a no-hitter. It depends so much on your teammates. It can be something of a fluke.”