May 30, 2023

Rays win streak or Jordan Walker’s hit streak?

The best team in baseball has one of the hottest hitters of this young season, but there’s a young hot hitter also on his own 12-game streak, so I thought it’d be fun to debate over whose accomplishment is more impressive: The Tampa Bay Rays’ 12-game winning streak, or St. Louis Cardinals rookie Jordan Walker’s 12-game hitting streak?

The 2023 MLB season has featured a few constants, and while shortened games are surely here to stay, we’ll soon get a game in which the Rays lose or Walker goes hitless. This feels like a question the announcer would serve up to Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon on PTI, so I’ll argue it as such. (My apologies if they’ve already done this. I haven’t watched much of that program in the past decade, and last I saw was when Wilbon went full fanboy over Patrick Kane’s departure from his beloved Blackhawks.)

OK, let’s begin, and allow me to apologize now if this sucks, but it feels like it could be funny.

Here’s how it may play out on PTI

MW: Tony, this isn’t even a question. It’s Tampa. I hate the Cardinals, so I was never going to pick Jordan Walker in the first place. However, we’re 12 games into the season, and the Rays have a run differential of +65.

That’s better than four playoff teams from a year ago, including the Phillies, who went to the World Series. I know that has no bearing on what we’re arguing, but it sounds impressive when I yell it. TAMPA IS BETTER THAN LAST YEAR’S WORLD SERIES RUNNER-UP!

TK: First, I applaud you for acknowledging your bias even though last time you went to Wrigley you were met with chants of “Akron hates you.” Second, you failed to mention that we’ve seen teams get off to hot starts like this with our own eyes. We’re now decrepit, but we were still considered old when Milwaukee and Atlanta started 13-0 in 1987 and ’82, respectively.

Neither of us was alive — well maybe you were — the last time a rookie recorded a hit in the first 12 games of a season-slash-his big league career. ::Puts on glasses to read stat:: The last player to do it was Eddie Murphy of the Philadelphia Athletics in 1912.

Mike, that tells me it’s an extremely difficult thing to do, and definitely harder than beating the teams Tampa has played.

MW: OK, let me read you two stat lines, and you tell me which is better: .340/.377/.720 with 17 hits, four home runs, and 12 RBI, or .319/.360/.489 including 15 hits, two homers, and eight RBI. The second one is Walker. The first is Wander Franco. So not only does Tampa have the better record — St. Louis is 4-7 and Walker is one of the few players hitting for that team — they also have the hotter bat.

TK: We’re not comparing teams, but if you’d like to compare competition we can. Tampa has swept Detroit (2-9), Washington (4-9), Oakland (3-9), and Boston (5-7). That’s a total record of 14-34. They’re crushing minor league teams and pitching that Walker was crushing a year ago.

The Cardinals’ right fielder has faced Atlanta, Milwaukee, Toronto, and Colorado. They’re 30-20 combined, and three of those clubs are projected to be playoff teams. I just don’t know if I can sound any more annoyed, so I’ll kick it to you and await the next topic to complain about.

MW: Umm, I’m out of points. Can we get the bell? Stat boy, err, Reali? Are you there? How about you, narrator? No, just an internet writer in charge of my functions. Oh my god, it’s only a matter of time before he makes me say something dum—

“Hi, I’m Michael Wilbon, and I love the Cubs and Northwestern, and everything from Chicago, including Patrick Kane. My favorite player ever. I’m not going to mention his off-ice problems or how problematic that franchise is. I just want to talk about Stanley Cups and parades.”

Annndddddd, I think I’ve taken this as far as I want to.