“Randymania” has broken out in Tampa. At Tropicana Field, the home of the Rays, the organization inaugurated a space named “Randy Land” in the left field stands, just where the Cuban Randy Arozarena he plays most of his matches. Fans who buy their tickets for that section —#141— in the duels on Fridays, are entitled to an exclusive T-shirt from Pinar del Río and a free beer in case he hits a home run on that day.
And guess what? This same Friday, Arozarena gave a beer to all the faithful who bought their tickets for “Randy Land”, after hitting a huge 422-foot drive through central forest. In the same opening inning against the Yankees, the West Indian swung cleanly and sent the ball 108.2 miles to blow the fences for the ninth time this season and unleash the madness in the Rays home arena.
“It makes me happy to see that the fans get excited when I go out on the field, and I like that happiness is reciprocated. So if I go out and they know I’m having fun, I want them to have the same experience. They help me play, they get their energy out. So I just want to do the same for them, have an impact on each of those fans,” Randy told MLB.
So far, the Tampa fans are very pleased with the staging of the Cuban in 2023, a season that is on the way to becoming a consecration. Arozarena has left elite defense passages in left field, a position in which he will be nominated, for sure, for the first Gold Glove of his career. In addition, he presents an offensive line (Average / On-base average / Sluugging) of .328 / .401 / .613, with 9 homers, 15 extra-base hits, 30 RBIs and 24 runs scored, among the first in the Major Leagues in each of those paragraphs.
As surprising as this performance may seem, it’s in the line of ascendancy that Randy has shown since he came to Tampa three years ago in a trade with the Cardinals. In 2020 he became the unexpected postseason record holder; in 2021 he won Rookie of the Year; in 2022 he made the select 20-man roster with a 20+ home run, 30+ stolen base and 40+ double season.
All this was the prelude to his great performance in the fifth World Classic with Mexico, which in turn served as a preamble for the 2023 season, in which Arozarena has definitely exploded as one of the main stars of the Rays, the best major league team right now.
In fact, with its victory this Friday over the Yankees, Tampa reached 27 wins in the course, 18 playing at home. According to Sarah Langs’ data, from 1900 to the present, no major league squad has achieved a better record than the Rays (18-2) as a home club through the first 20 games of a season. They are rewriting history.
Randy Arozarena is a cornerstone of the project led by Kevin Cash, which also has the contribution of another Cuban, Yandy Díaz, perhaps the greatest revelation among all the island’s players in this season. The man from Villa Clara is playing at the level of an All Star, with numbers that place him among the top ten hitters in MLB today.
Yandy ranks in the Top-5 in runs scored (27-3), slugging percentage (.620-4) and OPS (1.046-4), is seventh in on-base percentage (.426) and tenth in batting average (.328). Plus, he has 9 home runs (sixth), the most by him in any 30-game period since he made his major league debut in 2017.
The thing about Villa Clara is absolutely crazy. Although he does not have the same media impact as other stars such as Yordan Álvarez, José Abreu, Luis Robert, Adolis García or Arozarena himself, so far Yandy Díaz could be considered the Cuban MVP of the first month of the season.
By the way, we do not want to miss the opportunity to show you some relevant Cuban notes from the first month of 2023.
* Adolis García is the second Cuban in history to end the months of March-April with at least 30 RBIs. Before, only José Abreu (32 in 2014) had achieved it.
* Yandy Díaz is only the third Cuban with an OPS greater than 1,000 (at least 100 appearances) in the first month of the season after Rafael Palmeiro (1,134 in 1994) and José Canseco (1,023 in 1999).
* Adolis García established record of scored (24) for the first month of the season among Cubans. The previous brand was held by José Canseco (23 in 1988).
* For the first time in history, three Cubans finish as MLB pushing leaders in the months of March-April. Adolis García (30), Randy Arozarena (28) and Yordan Álvarez (27) were the protagonists of this unprecedented story.
Quick of the week
* Shohei Ohtani never ceases to amaze us. Last Wednesday, he pitched as a starter against the Cardinals and had 13 strikeouts, while hitting 3 hits and driving in 1 run with the wood. In that same game, he reached 500 strikes in his MLB career, in which he has also hit 134 home runs. The only human being with 500+ strikeouts and 100+ home runs in Major League history was Babe Ruth, but now he has company with the Japanese, who knows no limits. As a sample, we bring you what he has achieved this year with the wood and from the box:
As a pitcher: Has faced 153 hitters, averaging .125, with a .526 OPS, 4 home runs and 59 strikeouts.
As a hitter: Has consumed 139 appearances, with a .295 average, .885 OPS, 7 home runs and 27 strikeouts.
* Miguel Vargas has hit 2 home runs and has driven in 9 runs in his last 7 games. In that span, he had a 3-double duel last Tuesday, something only 13 Dodgers players had done this century. The man from the capital became the fourth youngest Cuban (23 years and 166 days) with a match of 3 tubeyes, only surpassed by Yordan Álvarez (22-073), José Canseco (23-049) and Zoilo Versalles (23-165). . If we go to the history of the Los Angeles franchise, only 4 men got 3 doubles in the same match younger than Vargas: Zack Wheat, Corey Seager, Mike Scioscia and Pete Reiser.
* A week ago White Sox manager Pedro Grifol sat Cuban Luis Robert out for not running in a routine rolling. Later the player argued physical discomfort and did not return to ownership until Tuesday. From that moment on, Robert has been another. He has reached base in 9 of his last 18 plate appearances, with 2 home runs, 1 double, 5 RBIs and an .867 slugging percentage in the 4 games he has played in May. As if that were not enough, this Friday he billed a double play in the ninth inning against Cincinnati, showing the full potential of his arm. The White Sox need this to be the permanent version of the West Indian and not just a flash.
* One of the negative notes since the week came from Chicago, as the White Sox decided to send Cuban talent Oscar Luis Colás to Triple-A. The Santiago native showed credentials in his first 11 games of the season, with an on-base average of .359 and a slugging percentage of .417, but then he fizzled out. In the next 14 games he had just 5 hits, 44 plate appearances, he was thrown out a dozen times via strikeouts, and his OPS plummeted to .332.
* Yennier Cano had inherited 9 runners on base in his first 10 relief appearances and none scored on him. Unfortunately for the Orioles from Ciego de Avila, that streak was broken this week, when he scored on 1 of the 2 men he found in circulation during the game against Kansas last Thursday. Despite this, he notched up his second MLB victory and left his 0.00 ERA intact in 14 innings of work this season, in which opponents have posted a ridiculous .117 OPS against him.
* If we are talking about Cuban pitching, the other card in the deck in 2023 has been Cionel Pérez from Matanzas. The Orioles left-hander is hitting .389 with a .987 OPS in 15 starts in center diamond. His ERA is 5.25 after allowing 3 hits and 1 run last Thursday. In that same clash, the Cuban firefighter Aroldis Chapman (Royals) was also defeated and on fire, with a lousy line of action:
– Stolen base
– Stolen base
– Simple 2-stroke impeller
– Stolen base
– Stolen base
In total, Chapman threw 21 pitches and only 8 were strikes, a version very similar to that of his previous season, in which he was shipwrecked before saying goodbye to the Yankees. He had a spectacular start with Kansas (8 shutout starts, with 15 strikeouts and only 2 walks), but in his last 5 appearances everything has gone wrong: he has allowed 5 runs in 3.2 innings, has given away 4 bases and has the same amount of structured, with a lousy ERA of 9.82. These are the two faces of Aroldis Chapman. We will see which prevails in 2023.
* Luis Arraez, the American League batting champion last year with the Twins, has shown he can swing his bat anywhere. He now plays in Miami and has had an impressive start to the season, posting a mammoth .437/.491/.544 offensive line in his first 29 games. Going through the records, in the last 65 years only 4 men have managed to hit over .430 in their first 29 games (with at least 115 appearances) of a season: Stan Musial (.476 in 1958), Hank Aaron (.483 in 1959), Iván Rodríguez (.453 in 1998) and Dee Strange-Gordon (.437 in 2015). That puts Arraez on a very exclusive list, with three Cooperstown Hall of Famers. Now the big question is whether the Venezuelan will be able to keep up and become the first batting champion with an average over .400 since Ted Williams in 1941.
* We already had a glimpse of the Marlins with Luis Arraez, but we don’t want to miss out on a brutal piece of information from the franchise located in Miami. Skip Schumaker’s boys have 10 wins without losses in games defined by 1 run. That’s by far the best record in MLB this season, and one of the reasons the Marlins keep competing in the NL East with two all-powerful organizations in the Mets and Phillies. We will see how long they can sustain this step.