Good. Among the top 10 active winners, all except Wells, who has been limited
to one start this season because of a right knee injury, are healthy.
After homers fell by 12.6% last year from 2004, balls are flying out of parks
at a near record rate. According to Stats Inc., April home runs were up 27.5%
from last year to 845 (the most in the month since 1961, excluding the height
of the Steroid Era in 2000 and '01). Albert Pujols of the Cardinals set a
record with 14 homers in April, and Kevin Mench of the Rangers (above) became
the first righthanded hitter to homer in seven straight games.
"I don't know
what, but something's going on," says Giants pitching coach Dave Righetti.
"It's unusual to see home runs go up by that much." Major League
Baseball said recently that it is testing the composition of baseballs for any
increased liveliness. (No timetable for results was announced.) Players and
executives have also speculated that the increase could be attributed to some
pitchers' getting off steroids because of the tougher drug policy this season,
which mandates a 50-game suspension for a first offense. (The common view among
baseball people is that a pitcher losing a few miles per hour off his fastball
is hurt more than a batter who loses 10 feet off his long ball.)
Excellent. The homer rate may lessen somewhat, but the jump is too big to
ignore. And Pujols might make a run at the untainted single-season record:
Roger Maris's 61.