Black players poised to make an impact in the MLB playoffs
Jaime C. Harris | 10/4/2018, 2:30 p.m. | Updated on 10/4/2018, 2:30 p.m.
With Major League Baseball rosters comprised of only 8.4 percent Black players on opening day this past season, the postseason, which began this Tuesday, will have a noticeable lack of African-Americans on the field. Yet those that will be representing their respective teams could be driving forces in leading them deep into the playoffs.
At the forefront of the group is the Boston Red Sox’s Mookie Betts. The 26-year right fielder is near the top of candidates for the American League MVP. Betts led all of baseball with a .346 batting average, in addition to hitting 32 home runs and plating 80 RBI from the leadoff spot. He also became the rare player to have at least 30 homers and 30 stolen bases in a season for a Red Sox club that had the highest win total (108) in MLB.
Betts’ teammate, pitcher David Price, had a bounce back season going 16-7 with a 3.58 earned run average in 30 starts following an injury-filled 2017 campaign in which he made only 11 starts. Price, one of the best pitchers in baseball over the past two decades, has a dubious playoff resume playing for the Tampa Bay Rays, Detroit Tigers, Toronto Blue Jays and now Red Sox. The 33-year-old lefty is 2-8 with a 5.03 ERA. If he can reverse that trend this postseason and help pitch the Sox to another World Series title, his name will be etched alongside other Boston sports heroes.
Milwaukee Brewers center fielder Lorenzo Cain was a prominent member of the Kansas City Royals 2015 World Series winner. Now he hopes he can earn another ring with the underrated Brewers, which at 96-67 had the best record in the National League and secured home field advantage. The 33-year-old Cain batted .308 this season, and while his power numbers were meager—10 home runs and 38 RBI—Cain’s exceptional play in the center and leadership in the clubhouse highlighted his value to the Brewers.
Many followers of baseball believed Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp’s career was on the permanent downside in 2013 when he appeared in only 73 games and hit six home runs. But a resurgent 2016 season in which he hit 35 home runs and knocked in 108 RBI for the San Diego Padres and Atlanta Braves proved Kemp had a lot left to offer.
This season Kemp was one of the best players in baseball heading into the All-Star break, earning him a spot on the National League squad. The 34-year-old Kemp ended the regular season with a .290 average, 21 home runs, 85 RBI and an OPS of .819 in 146 games.