Thursday, December 11, 2014

Alan Trammell and Lou Whitaker Can Now Breathe Easier

1994 Fleer #709
Alan Trammell and Lou Whitaker can now breathe a sigh of relief after Tuesday, if they were worried at all to begin with.  Longtime baseball fans know that Tramm and Sweet Lou are the longest tenured double play combination in MLB history.  They were a combo from Sept of 1977 to all the through the 1995 season (18 years).
The Los Angeles Dodgers made sure that this record will stand for the time being with a couple trades on Tuesday.  The Dodgers first picked up shortstop Jimmy Rollins from the Philadelphia Phillies.  Rollins and second baseman Chase Utley had been the active leader in this category-playing together since 2004.

2006 Topps Allen & Ginter
Next on the list is Los Angeles Angels teammates Erick Aybar and Howie Kendrick, who have been turning double plays since 2008.  Well, the Dodgers decided they wanted second baseman Kendrick too.

2007 Topps Heritage
After Tuesday, Trammell and Whitaker's place in MLB history is safe for what looks like many more years.  If you are curious who currently holds the distinction of having turning double plays the longest.  It is Brandon Phillips and Zach Cozart of the Cincinnati Reds.  They have been teammates since the end of the 2011 season.  Since Phillips is 33 years old and Cozart is 28, I don't think they are a threat to the Tigers duo.

And as for Trammell and Whitaker's permanent place in MLB history, i.e. Cooperstown.  Trammell's is in his last year on the ballot and Whitaker has been long off the ballot due to lack of votes.  In my opinion(probably a bit biased), I do believe both belong in the Hall of Fame.  I have a feeling that the veteran's committee will elect them together at some point in the future.  Just as they did in 1946 with Joe Tinker, Johnny Evers and Frank Chance thanks to a famous poem .

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

In Memoriam: Oscar Taveras

While watching Game 5 of the World Series, I just like every other baseball fan learned of the tragic death of Cardinals outfielder Oscar Taveras.  He passed away in a car accident along with his girlfriend in his native Dominican Republic.  Taveras was only 22 years old.

Taveras was considered Cardinals' top prospects and one of MLB's overall.  Taveras was one major reason why the Cardinals decided not to resign Carlos Beltran during the off season. Taveras made his big league debut on May 31, 2014 and made it a memorable one-hitting a home run.  He later struggled some at the plate during the year and was subsequently sent back down to the minor leagues.  Taveras was back up with St. Louis for the pennant race and playoffs. One of his final at bats was a pinch hit game tying pinch hit home run versus San Francisco in the NLCS.

Whenever I see the tragic death of one baseball's young stars or prospects, I can't help but think of two others who had a similar fate- Nick Adenhart and Ken Hubbs.,
Adenhart made the Angels starting rotation out of spring training in 2009 after debuting with the team in 2008.  Hours after making his 2009 debut where he pitched six shutout innings, Adenhart was killed by a drunk driver on his way home.

Ken Hubbs was the Cubs 2nd baseman and won the Rookie of the Year and Gold Glove awards in 1962.  Even at a young age, he was well respected in the dugout but had a fear of flying.  He decided to face his fear head on and get a pilot's license. He was successful.  During February of 1964, he and a friend tried to beat a winter storm in Utah, but tragically failed.

Coincidentally all three players were 22 years old.  Each with a bright futures in baseball and whole lives in front of them.  

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Card of Week: 2001 Fleer Tradition Stitches in Time John Henry "Pop' Lloyd

The Kansas City Royals and San Francisco Giants are in the World Series.  I usually try to write something about the two teams and the history between them or some players who are linked to both.  Well, the two teams here really don't have much in previous games to recall in significance and in terms of players who played for both, only a hand full came to mind.  None really warrant a discussion.  By the way, here is who I came up with off the top of head who has played for both franchises : Carlos Beltran, Gaylord Perry, Vida Blue and Bud Black.

2001 Fleer Tradition Stitches in Time #23
Then it occurred to me that there is an old Negro League team that share a name with both teams.  The Brooklyn Royal Giants.  So I will talk about the team and specifically one of it's star players.
The ball club was one of the top negro professional teams in the early 20th century.  Brooklyn was mostly an independent team before any establishment of a professional negro league.  Much like many negro pro teams, the Royal Giants didn't last long.  Many players moved from team to team in order to make a decent living and subsequently, teams formed and folded often.
As for the Brooklyn Royal Giants, they did a field some star players.  They included OF Charles "Chino" Smith, pitchers Frank Wickware, Dick "Cannonball" Redding and Hall of Famer "Smokey" Joe Williams.  But the most well known player who suited up for the Royal Giants was John Henry "Pop" Lloyd, when he was the team's player/manager from 1918-1920.
Lloyd is considered by many as the greatest shortstop in Negro League history.  He is often referred to as the "Black Honus Wagner".  Wagner, himself, was honored to be compared Lloyd.   Babe Ruth once said Lloyd was best player he ever saw no matter the skin color.  He was a very good fielder at shortstop and could scoop up many ground balls. Because of this he was nicknamed "The Shovel".  He proved he could hit MLB pitching when he .500 in a five game exhibition against Ty Cobb and the Detroit Tigers.  Lloyd is credited with a career .368 batting avg.  He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1977.

The trading card is part of the Stitches in Time set inserted randomly in the 2001 Fleer Tradition packs.  This set consists of 24 of the more popular Negro League stars.  I am personally working on completing this set.  Luckily for this blog, Lloyd is one of them I do have. 

Friday, October 17, 2014

KC Royals: One Year Wonder or Not?

The Kansas City Royals made the playoffs (and World Series) for the first time since 1985.  But are they built for long term success or just a one and done team?  Obviously, I can't predict the future, but lets look at the roster and see if we can make an educated guess.
First of all, Royals GM Dayton Moore did a masterful job in constructing the roster.  Drafting or signing players and staying patient with them as they develop such as Alex Gordon, Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas and Salvador Perez.  He also picked up James Shields, Wade Davis, Lorenzo Cain and Alcides Escobar in trades.
As for the team moving forward, the key free agent this off season is James Shields.  Shields is pricey and likely gone.  One interesting free agent is pitcher Luke Hochevar. He was once the Royals #1 overall pick, but failed as a big league starter and found a home as the 8th inning guy in 2013. He was basically Wade Davis before Wade Davis for KC.  Hochevar, however, missed all of 2014 due to Tommy John surgery.  Will KC resign him and hope to have him back to his old form by the end of 2015 season or let someone else take a chance on him?  Other free agents include OFs Raul Ibanez, Josh Willingham and Nori Aoki.  DH Billy Butler and pitcher Wade Davis have club options and likely will be picked up.

Here are the key position players, current age and contract status
C   Salvador Perez(24 yrs old) signed with club options thru 2019
1B  Eric Hosmer(24) signed thru 2017
2B  Omar Infante(32) signed with 2017 with club option in 2018
3B  Mike Moustakas(25) thru 2017
SS  Alcides Escobar(27) signed with club options thru 2017
OF Alex Gordon(30) signed thru 2015 with club option 2016
OF Lorenzo Cain(28) signed thru 2017

The Royals own the rights to the players for several yrs and the lineup should stay intact.  Key here is will the players continue to develop.  Will Hosmer become the power hitter he was projected to be when drafted? Will Moustakas hit on a regular basis to stay in the lineup? Will Cain become the player that looks like an emerging star in the ALCS?
I believe the most valuable player for the franchise is Perez.  I consider him the Yadier Molina of the AL.  He is already regarded one of the best defensive catchers in the league. Perez also works well with the pitching staff and could stabilize the KC pitching much like Molina does with St. Louis

Here are the pitchers:
SP  Jason Vargas(31) signed thru 2017
SP  Jeremy Guthrie(35) thru 2015
SP  Yordanno Ventura (23) and Danny Duffy(25) are rookies with club control for several yrs
RP  Wade Davis(28) club options thru 2017
RP  Greg Holland(28) thru 2016
RP  Kelvin Herrera (24) thru 2018

Shields and Guthrie are the immediate starters who will be up for free agency.  KC has to be smart who to sign as a veteran starter.  Their margin of error is lower due to a smaller overall budget.  I think Ventura and Duffy are keys to the future. Will they develop into solid starters and team can build around? or will KC have to constantly find options for their rotation?
KC's strength, of course, is their bullpen.  The three headed monster of Herrera, Davis and Holland figures to be a mainstay for KC.  This will allow the Royals have some  flexibility in signing starters as they don't necessarily need guys who have to pitch a lot of innings.  KC is also hoping for no injuries here. It could hurt them tremendously.  Other KC relievers of note with good arms and bright futures are Brandon Finnegan(21 years old), Aaron Crow(27) and Tim Collins(24).

As for top prospects in the farm system.  The top two are starting pitcher Kyle Zimmer and SS Raul Mondesi Jr.  Both considered to be several years away with Zimmer being the closest.

As you can see, the Royals can maintain success.  But GM Dayton Moore has to be smart in who to sign in free agency and trade for to compliment the core.  He has to have some luck in stay relatively injury free also.  KC doesn't have the budget to get veteran help whenever the need arises.  Moore also must draft and sign amateurs from the international market well.  The above players will eventually need to be replaced and must have players ready at the time.  Some of these minor leaguers could also be great tradebait just as Will Myers was for Shields.
Two other factors aid in KC's bright future.  One is that they play in the central division.  No New Yorks, No Bostons, No LAs to consistenly compete against.  Which is a good thing for a small market club.  The other is that the Royals are built around speed not power.  Players with speed tend to be less expensive than traditional home run hitters.  This will allow KC to get players and keep them longer.

I think the Kansas City Royals can be around as a playoff contender for some years to come.  But some smarts have to be used and luck has to be on their side.  I personally would like to see it.  Kansas City is a good baseball town and with some history too. 

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Random Playoff Observations and Thoughts

The 2014 regular season is over and the playoffs are in full swing.  While watching the playoffs, some random thoughts have crossed my mind.  I thought I would share some with the fellow baseball fans in cyberspace. Here they are:

-This is 2nd year in row that the mighty New York Yankees have missed the playoffs.  We are officially beyond the steroid era, where the Yankees could outspend for veteran bats and bash the ball all over the place.  Game has gone to a more athletic, younger, small ball version.  They really need to change their philosophy. Yankees have won only one World Series championship in last 14 years.

-With Kansas City making the playoffs, every MLB has made the postseason during Bud Selig's tenure as commissioner. If you been watching MLB over last a few years, there is more parity in MLB than NFL and the NFL has always preached parity.  Longest playoff drought now belongs to Toronto (1993)

-Selig isn't well liked among baseball fans, but in the future, we will look back and see how successful Selig has been.  New commish will have tough shoes to follow.

-World Series favorites Tigers and Nationals hired new managers with no prior managerial experience in 2014.  Both made no impact whatsoever in postseason.  Will this deter other General Managers with World Series aspirations in doing the same?

-Detroit is so toploaded in roster talent and salary wise, did the lack of overall depth hurt the Tigers the most? wonder what kind of impact a healthy Rajai Davis would have had.  Will be an interesting off season in Detroit with free agents Max Scherzer, Victor Martinez and Torii Hunter along with tweaking a roster in a win now mode.

-Oakland went in a total freefall since the Yeonis Cespedes trade.  Cespedes isnt high on the sabermetric radar as other A's hitters.  The lack of Cespedes' presence was felt big time.  Will this cause teams take a less emphasis on sabermetrics in future? Go back to some old school philosophies? Maybe, I am hoping some here.

-I believe A's GM Billy Beane would never have pulled the Jeff Samardzija/Jon Lester trades if the Tigers didnt sweep them in Detroit in July.  Losing Cespedes and Addison Russell could come back and haunt the A's

-I find it ironic that if we get a KC/St Louis World Series in 2014, the same year instant replay is fully introduced.  The last time these teams faced each other in a World Series, Royals won it largely aided by a blown call by umpire Don Dekinger.  And if we have the matchup, how many times will hear Dekinger's name during the series?

-For the younger fans, KC was a playoff mainstay years ago. 6 divisional titles, 2 pennants and a World Series title from 1976-1985.

-KC is on the brink of a World Series appearance. Their manager, Ned Yost was a longtime coach with the Braves under Bobby Cox during the great 1990s run.  Yost making the Series the same year as Cox, Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine gets inducted in the Hall of Fame.  A good year for former Braves, not so much for current ones.

-Yadier Molina strained his oblique muscle and missed his first playoff start for Cardinals in 83 games. Last Cardinal catcher to start a playoff game prior to Molina? Current Cardinal manager Mike Matheny.

-With the likely elimination of Baltimore, we will have a World Series of teams near the bottom of total home runs hit.  Small ball is back.

-Wonder what kind of ALCS we would have if Baltimore was not missing a third of their regular day lineup. Not playing: 1B Chris Davis, 3B Manny Machado and C Matt Weiters.  three pretty good players

-Will the Giants continue their trend in winning the World Series every two years? 2010. 2012. 2014?  Buster Posey is taking over as Derek Jeter's "winner" status?

-We will have no big market teams in the World Series this year. So you might read that the series will result in low TV ratings.  First thought maybe that baseball is lacking among fans interests.  It is quite the opposite. The last Saturday of 2014, the minimum attendance of all 15 games was 30,000.  The 2013 MLB attendance was the 6th highest in MLB history.   MLB is doing quite well.


Thursday, July 3, 2014

Greatest Speech in Sports History

Today, of course, is the Fourth of July.  Most Americans will be celebrating USA's birthday with barbecues, fireworks and maybe even a trip to a ballgame.  As for baseball fans, today is also an anniversary of another special event.  Lou Gehrig's farewell speech.
Last year, on this day I gave you the actual speech.   This year I will with the help of ESPN's Keith Olbermann put the speech in some perspective.  Here is Olbermann's opening monologue from his show last night regarding Gehrig's Speech:

He puts in good perspective how young Gehrig was on that day and at his eventual passing.  I was thinking as I was listening to Olbermann, I bet if this horrible disease was obtained by another ball player besides Lou Gehrig it would be only referred to as ALS.  Even if the ball player was a fellow Hall of Famer of his era such as Hank Greenberg, Jimmie Foxx or Carl Hubbell.  But Gehrig was such an honorable man and revered by many, ALS is now known as Lou Gehrig's disease.  Yes, being a New York Yankee helps also.
As for the speech itself, Gehrig was intended to be honored between games of a doubleheader against the Washington Senators.  Gehrig initially did not want to say anything, but was urged to do so by the fans of New York and manager Joe McCarthy.   In his speech, Gehrig did not speak of his sickness or the end of his career,  but how fortunate he has been with the people he had around him throughout his life and career he did have.   For that, I believe why this speech still resonates 75 years later.  Being strong and positive as he faces death teaches all a lesson in how to carry ourselves to the end.  For that, Gehrig should be celebrated as much or even more than his Hall of Fame numbers and records.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

How to Handle a Heckler

If you have played any sort of organized sport, you have more than likely been a target of hecklers.  Most professional athletes have learned how to block them out, but they are still humans and do hear them on occasion.
Athletes also on occasion do have a little fun with the overexuberant fan.  Cincinnati Reds All Star second baseman Brandon Phillips just did that this week.   Phillips who is known to be very fan friendly was getting heckled in a game at Pittsburgh.  Phillips decided he had enough and tossed the fan an autographed baseball with a special note on it:

Phillips also posed with the fan with no ill feelings:

Nice job Brandon. I am sure you just gained a fan from a rival team.
Another great response by a ballplayer was from Tony Gwynn Jr from a couple years back:
These are two great examples of baseball players having fun with the fans and in turn made the ballpark experience more enjoyable for everyone.

Monday, June 16, 2014

In Memoriam: Tony Gwynn

Today we have learned of the passing of Tony Gwynn at the age of 54.  He lost his battle with cancer in which he believed was due to many years of using chewing tobacco.
1983 Fleer rookie card

Gwynn was one of the greatest hitters ever to play the game.  The San Diego Padre legend won a total of eight batting titles, accumulated over 3,000 career hits, won five Gold Glove awards and made 15 All Star teams in twenty big league seasons.
If you look deeper into his career stats, you will see how great of hitter Tony Gwynn was.  His career .338 batting average is highest by anyone since Ted Williams.  He just did not feast on the weaker pitchers, he hit everyone.  Gwynn had a career average of .381 against Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and John Smoltz combined.
From 1993-1997, he finished the season with an average of at least .350 including .394 for the strike shortened 1994 season.  Gwynn rarely struck out too. From 1991-96, he never fanned more than 20 times for an entire season.  And for his career, Gwynn only struck out 434 times in career in over 10,000 plate appearances.  He is only a handful of players to hit over a 500 doubles and strike out less than 500 times.
All this did not come naturally.  He was a tireless worker and one of the first, if not the first to use video to study his swing and do homework on opposing pitchers.

As much as Gwynn was a great hitter, he was an even better person.  He always had a smile on face and able spend time with everyone including teammates, fans and children.  Gwynn was loyal to San Diego and wanted dearly to bring a winner to the city.  He was never able to win a World Series, but did play on two pennant winners.
After his Hall of Fame playing career, Gwynn did not live off his laurels.  He wanted stay in the game and give back to it.  He became the head coach of his alma mater, San Diego St, in 2002 and was the coach until his passing.
Gwynn will be sorely missed as an ambassador to the game and as a teacher.  RIP Mr. Padre. 

Friday, June 13, 2014

In Memoriam: Bob Welch

1991 Topps

Former big league pitcher Bob Welch passed away this week at the age of 57 of an apparent heart attack.  Welch became a household name as a 21 year old rookie in 1978 World Series when he struck out Reggie Jackson in the 9th inning of game 2.
Welch pitched for the Dodgers through the 1987 season and was a part of four divisional winners and made an All Star team in 1980.   He then went on to pitch for the Oakland A's from 1988 until 1995.   Welch pitched on four more divisional winners.  He won one World Series with Oakland in 1989 just has he did with Los Angeles in 1981.
Welch's crowning season was in 1990.  He won the Cy Young with a 27-6 record and an ERA of 2.95.  To this date, Welch is the last pitcher to win 25 games in one season.
He finished his career with a 211-146 record with an ERA of 3.47 and 1,969 strikeouts.  Post retirement, Welch was the pitching coach for 2001 World Series champion Arizona Diamondbacks and later a minor league pitching instructor for Oakland.  Welch also wrote a book, "Five O'Clock Comes Early: A Cy Young Winner Recounts His Greatest Victory".  In it he chronicled his battle with alcoholism.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

In Case You Missed It: Eephus Pitch

This past week Japanese pitcher and one time Cleveland Indian Kazuhito Tadano threw a eephus pitch in a game.  If you are unfamiliar with this pitch, it is a high slow arching pitch that is similar to what you would see in a slow pitch softball
Here is Tadano throwing it:

The Eephus pitch has been used before in MLB history with mixed results. One of the most famous is Cleveland's Rip Sewell tossing it vs Ted Williams in the 1946 All Star game:

Then there is former Yankee (and father of current Washington 1B Adam) Dave LaRoche using it the "LaLob" to strike out slugger Gorman Thomas:

Friday, June 6, 2014

In Memoriam: Don Zimmer

Don Zimmer passed away at the age of 83 on Tuesday.  Simply put, Zimmer was a baseball lifer and what a life he led.  He experienced the highest of highs and the lowest of lows, but it almost ended before it started.  As a minor league player, Zimmer was hit by a pitch in the temple. He was unconscious for 13 days after the surgery where they drilled holes in his skull to relieve the pressure.  He would recover and his career resumed.
1958 Topps

As a player, he made his major league debut with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1954.  He was mentored by Hall of Famer Pee Wee Reese and was a part of Brooklyn's only World Series championship in 1955.  He again won a World Series with the Dodgers in 1959, this time after the franchise moved to Los Angeles.
Zimmer later became an All Star in 1961 as a Chicago Cub and year later played on the MLB worst 120 loss New York Mets team.  His playing career ended after playing one year in Japan in 1966.
1981 Fleer

Zimmer, however, was best known for being a coach and manager.  His managerial career started in 1972 with the San Diego Padres.  His tenure with San Diego lasted just two years before he was hired as the third base coach for the Boston Red Sox.  While in Boston, he took part in the 1975 World Series against the Big Red Machine of the Cincinnati Reds and as a manager from 1976-1980.
His 1978 Boston club is best known for his late season collapse to their archrival New York Yankees.  Boston had as much as a 14 game lead but the Yankees forced a one game playoff for the division crown.  The game was won by a home run by light hitting Yankee shortstop Bucky Dent.
Zimmer's next stint as a manager was with Texas Rangers from 1981-82 before going back to coaching.  One of his stays as a coach was with New York Yankees and coincidentally, he rented Bucky Dent's apartment while in New York.  Zimmer noticed that on just about every wall, Dent had a picture of his home run that ended Zimmer's 1978 Boston season.  Zimmer decided to flip each and every picture over to have them the wall so he not be reminded of constantly.
His last managerial job was with the Chicago Cubs.  He was named NL Manager of the Year in 1989 when he lead the Cubs to the division crown.  Zimmer then finished his big league career as a bench coach for the New York Yankees, winning four World Series championships from 1996-2000 and as a Tampa Bay Ray.
All in all, Zimmer spent a total of 66 years in the game.  He began as a teammate of Jackie Robinson and later coached Derek Jeter.  Quite a career. 

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

My Top 9 Must See Hitters in the Game Now

There is some hitters that are so captivating that you wait for his plate appearance to finish before you go to the kitchen or restroom.  Simply put, a joy to watch. 
There is a good number of great and exciting hitters in the game right now.  So, I thought I will give you my top nine must see hitters right now and the various reasons why.
I apologize to the players and their fans of the players omitted, but I can't name them all.  Without further ado, here is my list of players I put off grabbing a bite to eat until they have hit:

9. Jose Abreu, Chicago White Sox 1B/DH.  Even though he has only been in the big leagues for a short period of time, he has shown what a slugger should be.  Someone who can hit the ball to all fields with major power and willing to do it.  Not just be so pull happy and hit the ball into shifts each time.  I hope he continues to do well.

8. Bryce Harper, Washington Nationals OF.   The much hyped young star is known to play the game with such reckless abandon.  Add his power and speed, then you get you excitement.  Lets just hope he stays healthy.

7. Derek Jeter, New York Yankees SS.  This is his final season of his Hall of Fame career.  So, the number of times you can watch him is diminishing.  And each time he is up to bat, there is a chance he will pass another milestone.

6.Victor Martinez, Detroit Tigers DH.   I don't think there is a more disciplined hitter in the game right now.  He works on every pitch and has the same swing each time. As of June 1, he has as many home runs as strikeout-13.  Astonishing!

5. Billy Hamilton, Cincinnati Reds OF.  If you like pure speed, he is your guy.  The rookie is still a work in progress, but he has so much speed that he can manufacture runs with just his legs.

4. Yasiel Puig, Los Angeles Dodgers OF.  He came in the big leagues with such a bang and with such raw skills a year ago.  Puig is becoming more of a refined player each month that passes by.  Not too far away, he will be included in MVP discussions and best player in the game debates.  He is the epitome of a 5 tool player.

3. Giancarlo Stanton Miami Marlins OF.  Pure power.  He is a bit older and now has some protection in the lineup, so his game has reached the next level.  Each time he steps in the batter's box, he has a chance to hit a home run and at a very long distance.  I mean a long distance!!!

2. Mike Trout Los Angeles Angels OF.  Probably the best all around player in the game. Finished 2nd to Miguel Cabrera the last two seasons in the AL MVP voting.  Fun to watch, but as much as Puig is becoming more disciplined at the plate, Trout is strking out more. He is on a pace to strikeout over 200 times this year.  Lets work on that Mr. Trout, Los Angeles may become Puig's town instead.

1. Miguel Cabrera. Detroit Tigers 1B.  Yep, once again Trout finishes second to Cabrera.  Miggy  is simply the best and one of the greatest of all time.   I have never seen a player that has an approach at the plate of a singles hitter and has the ability to hit the ball out of the park in any direction.  If anyone wants to learn how to hit, watch Cabrera. How he approaches each pitch from each pitcher in all game situations.  A student of the game who is always looking to get better.  And Cabrera does it with a team first mentality and a smile on a face at all times.   Add it all up, Cabrera is a future Hall of Famer and my favorite player in the game right now.  Miguel Cabreras don't come around often. So watch him hit everytime you can, I certainly do.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Thoughts on Tommy John Surgeries, Scoring, Strikeouts and Shifts

If you have been watching baseball this season, you may have noticed a couple trends.  One is the increase in number of pitchers who are having Tommy John surgery and the other is the amount of defensive shifts.  More unnoticed is the fact overall scoring continues to be down and strikeouts, up.
I am going to give some random thoughts on these topics and give a factor that is never discussed that may also be a reason in all the surgeries and strikeouts.  And shifting may be a good thing.  Like I said some thoughts only. I could be way off,  Just thinking out loud.

In the first two months of 2014 MLB season, there was been as many pitchers who are having Tommy John surgery as all of last season.  What is the cause of this epidemic?  No one really has the one right answer.  But experts believe the increase number of pitchers throwing harder at a younger age and them pitching year around are the biggest factors. Added weightlifting is also a factor. The more muscle tends to strain the ligaments more.  I don't know what can be done about preventing future surgeries.  MLB is studying this problem and hope to find a possible solution(s),  Logically, if we can make a mandate on number of pitches thrown a week and year and number of teams a pitcher plays on a year for the youth sounds like a good start.  But. what about Latin American kids? Hard to regulate there.  Speaking of international pitchers, there have been very few Japanese pitchers getting the surgery done.  Is the problem in Japan also? If not, should MLB look into their throwing programs?

MLB scoring is down to the lowest in almost 40 years.  That is before the designated hitter became a part of the league.  One reason, of course, is the number of specialized pitchers.  More relief pitchers are coming in for one inning at a time with harder and nastier stuff than ever before.  Thus making the job of the hitters much more difficult.   End result is more strikeouts, less scoring and pitchers give max effort all the time, which means Tommy John surgery is more likely.
Another factor in the high number of strikeouts is that we are coming out of the steroid era.  During this era, hitters no longer became embarrassed by striking out and went for home runs even on 2 strike counts.  Also, just about every batter now has a stance that can produce a home run more.  If you look at games from the early 80s and earlier, you will see many more opened, closed and crouched stances which results in more singles than home runs.
One possible factor that is never mentioned for these trends is that the ballparks are smaller than they were decades ago.  In present day baseball, just about every lineup has seven of the starting nine that are home run threats.  So, more hitters are going for home runs, striking out more and pitchers are using maximum effort more often.  What if the fences were moved back so far where only three or four hitters per lineup would be home run hitters?  Would the batters go for more single base hits? which could cut down on strikeouts and pitchers going under the knife.  Moving fences back and reducing home runs could hurt the game's popularity and it is not really feasible in actually getting done physically.

But one possible solution is being used already, the defensive shift.  Shifts are so common now that is used not only for the big sluggers but for everyone  Shifts are being used even with runners on base and changes from pitch to pitch.  Frankly, I think they have gotten out of hand, but if the numbers tell you something, it would probably be bad not to follow them.  It is now up to the batters to adjust to the shifts.   The hitters need to use all parts of the field and not just blindly hit into the shift every time.  When the hitters try use more of the field, they will become more disciplined.  This will likely reduce the number of strikeouts and scoring could possibly go up also.   I don't think it will have any affect on number of Tommy John surgeries. Two out of three ain't bad though.

It would be interesting to see how this shifting will play out.  At the end of the day, the ridiculous number of defensive shifts could be a good for the game.  Forcing the players to become better overall hitters and bringing some fundamentals back in the game.
I hope MLB finds some good data in the epidemic of Tommy John surgeries.  Even though most of the surgeries are deemed successful, it is never a good thing when a player has a surgery of any kind, especially the stars of the game.  Along with all the other baseball fans, I will be watching.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

The Martinezes of Baseball

One of the more recently acquired Detroit Tigers is outfielder J.D. Martinez.  When Martinez joined the Tigers he became a teammate of Victor Martinez(no relation).  It got me thinking of the number of MLB players in the past and present with a surname of Martinez.  And how a good number of them turned out to be very good players.
So,  I will take some time and mention some of the more notable Martinezes in MLB history.  There has been a total of 44 players in MLB history with a last name of Martinez and here are my top nine:

9) Dave : Outfielder(1986-2001). He played for several teams, most notably with the Cubs, Expos and Giants. He once played for four different teams in one season(Devil Rays, Cubs, Rangers and Blue Jays in 2000). He has been the bench coach for Tampa Bay since 2008 and could be a future manager.

8)Buck: Catcher(1969-1986). He had a very average big league career as a backup catcher mostly for the Royals and Blue Jays.  He did become a manager for the Blue Jays for a brief time.  Buck has had most success as a broadcaster. He has worked for ESPN, TBS and does Blue Jays game full time now.

7)Tippy: Pitcher(1974-1988). He spent most of his career with Baltimore. Was an All Star and World Series Champion in 1983.  He is once picked off three runners off at first base in one inning.

6)Ramon: Pitcher(1988-2001). One time ace of the Los Angeles Dodgers. He was an All Star in 1990 and pitched a no hitter in 1995.

5)Victor: Catcher/DH(2002-present) The current Detroit Tiger and former Indian and Red Sox has developed into one of the finer hitters in the game. He is 4x All Star and has won a Silver Slugger in 2004

4)Tino: First Base(1990-2005). Former World Series hero of the Yankees also played for Mariners and Cardinals.  Tino won four World Series championships while in New York and has been named to two All Star games. He also won a Silver Slugger and won the HR Derby in 1997.

3)Dennis: Pitcher (1976-1998). Most notably with Orioles, Expos and Indians. He is the all time winningest pitcher in MLB history for Latin Americans.  He was a four time All Star, a World Series Champion and pitched a perfect game during his career.

2)Edgar: DH(1987-2004) Spent his entire career with Seattle and mostly as a DH, He is regarded as one of the all time best designated hitters. The DH of the year award is named on his behalf.  Edgar's accolades include: 7x All Star, 5x Silver Slugger and 2x Batting champion. He also won the Roberto Clemente award in 2004.

1)Pedro Pitcher(1992-2009) younger brother of Ramon is a sure fire future Hall of Famer. Pitched for Expos and Red Sox most notably. He was a 8x All Star including an MVP in 1999 game. 3x Cy Young Award winner,  Led league in wins once, ERA-five times and strikeouts, three times.  He won a World Series with Red Sox in 2004.

One honorable mention to the list is Reginald Martinez Jackson.  That is the full name of none other than Mr. October himself, Reggie Jackson. 
Couple sidenotes on my list of Martinezes.  Pedro and Ramon are the only ones above who are related to each other.  Also several of the above players were teammates with each other: Pedro and Ramon both with Dodgers and Red Sox, Tippy and Dennis with the Orioles and Tino and Edgar with the Mariners.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

60 Ways Baseball is Better than Football

It is that time of year that the NFL draft is upon us.  It always reminds me why baseball is a better game.  It also makes me recall an article  by Thomas Boswell in the Washington Post from back in the mid 80s where he gives his reasons why baseball is better than football.  Since his Post item is roughly 30 years old, I thought I would give a more up to date version.
My 60 ways why baseball is better:
1) Baseball has no halftimes
2) Baseball has no halftime performances by bands or anybody else.
3) Baseball has innings vs. time clock.  You have to get all the outs no matter the lead.  No milking of clock to ensure a victory and comebacks are always possible.
4)In football a coin flip decides who gets ball first, in baseball home team always has last chance. True home field advantage
5)Each baseball stadium has it's own unique dimensions.  Another home field advantage. Plus the different ballparks allows each team to be built differently.  Unlike in NFL, everyone runs the seem to run the same offense because all the fields are the same size.
6)Baseball has the near elimination of domes and astroturf.  Much more common in NFL.
7)Baseball fans are closer to the field, easier to interact with players and not be 10-20 yards away from the field of play.
8) You can get a baseball as a souvenir from the game, in football they put a net up so you can't get to the ball after extra point and field goal attempts.
9)Baseball stadiums are appealing to the eye and have history to them, football stadiums all look the same.
10) If you go early you can watch batting practice at a baseball game, in football you get to see the stretching and warmups.
11) Baseball has free giveaways and promotions at games and post game fireworks.
12)Baseball is more enjoyable to watch at the ballpark where football, the tv is a better option.
13)Almost on any given day, you can decide midday if you want to go to a ballgame, you have to wait a week for each game.
14)Because it is played daily, you only have 24 hours of hype and second guessing opposed to a week or more of senseless talk
15)In baseball, you have an option to keep score of the game.
16)The next day you can see the boxscore of a baseball game and fully understand what happened during the game. you can't do that in football.
17)Baseball is easier to follow by everyone even the manager/coach. Ask the manager what happened on a play after the game, he would say pitcher hung a pitch or outfielder missed the cut off guy.  Ask a football head coach, he says he has to check the game film before knowing what exactly happened.
18)Baseball games are not decided by kickers while rest of game is played by some of the best athletes in the world.
19)Football players are too specialized. There is very little amount of players playing multiple positions.
20)In baseball every batter has a turn at bat no matter what, you can't feed your star running back or wide receiver the ball every play.
21)In baseball, umpires are full time employees and in the NFL, the referees are part time employees while they have normal full time jobs.
22)Baseball allows individualism in uniforms: high socks, flatbilled caps,etc. In football, players get fined for not abiding by the strict dress codes.
23)In NFL, you have parity scheduling. The bad teams get an easy schedule to increase competitiveness.  Unheard of in baseball.
24)In the NFL draft, a player is picked heavily on the combine and individual workouts. 40 yard dash, strength and agility drills.  Baseball draft is decided more on what the player does on the field.
25)In baseball, you don't have to be a certain size to play a position. If you can hit or pitch you will have an opportunity. In football it is much more about measureables.
26)A player doesn't have to fit in a certain scheme of a football coach. Like an offense who doesn't utilize the fullback or tight end. Imagine a baseball team without a second baseman?
27)Once drafted, the pay scale is more aligned to way it should be. Unproven draft pick makes as much or more than Super Bowl winning quarterbacks in the NFL.  Rookies are least paid in baseball.
28)In baseball you have longer careers and guaranteed contracts.  Players have better opportunity to make a living and fans get follow their favorite players more.
29)In baseball, you don't have players quitting midcareer and in their prime because of fear of injuries like concussions.
30)MLB takes care of former players with pensions much better than NFL
31)You have less protective gear like helmets, it allows fans to see the individual player more like Max Scherzer's dual colored eyes or Rollie Finger's handlebar mustache. Football players are covered in helmets and pads and look almost unhuman.
32)The crime and drug rate in baseball is more comparable to society where as in football, it is more comparable to the inner city gangs and Hells Angels.
33) Baseball has been virtually unchanged over it's history which makes it easier to make comparisons between players from different eras.
34) Baseball celebrates all parts of it's history.  NFL seems to only talk about the Super Bowl era. 1972 Dolphins are not the only team to finish season undefeated(see 1948 Cleveland Browns). Why isn't Willie_Thrower a household name among football fans?
35)The baseball Hall of Fame is in a small village in upper New York and the local economy is dependent on. While the NFL Hall of Fame is just two buildings and a field right off the highway in middle America.
36)The World Series is differentiated by the year its played not by Roman numerals. Easier to remember who won the 1984 World Series more than Super Bowl XXIV.
37) The World Series is played on the homefields of the participants thus rewarding the teams and fans. Not a rotating group of neutral sites.
38) The MLB All Star is played on rotating MLB parks which rewards the fans and not played in a far off warm weather locale after the season is done.
39)As a part of All Star activities, MLB has the Home Run Derby, football has nothing comparable.
40)Even though baseball is "America's Pastime", it is played internationally and players come from all over to play in the majors.
41) There are international tournaments in baseball such as the Little League World Series and World Baseball Classic.
42)Baseball has Take Me Out to the Ballgame during the 7th inning stretch, NFL has?
43)Baseball has Who's on First? and Casey At the Bat. Football has ..Super Bowl Shuffle?
44)Baseball means spring is here, football... winter is coming.
45)Baseball looks easy yet it is very difficult. The best hitters fail roughly 7 out of 10 times.
46)Because the game has much more failure, it humbles the players more. See Adam Jones of Baltimore Orioles vs NFL's Adam "Pacman" Jones.
47)In baseball you have an option of finesse(knuckleball, slow curve, bunt, etc). football is all harder and faster.
48)Baseball is so unique, no matter how many times you have watched. A play can still make you say "I've never seen that before", football is much more limited.
49)Baseball has the minor league farm system, it allows players to become better players over more time, chase their dreams longer, mature later.  Not every player is ready right out of college to play among games best.
50)In the NFL, if your favorite team struggles, you are stuck with the players all year. In baseball, you can make a trade midseason to improve your favorite team in the now or future.
51)Baseball's ceremonial first pitch is better than the honorary coin flip.
52)Baseball allows players to use their own individual batting stances and pitching motions.  Football teaches one way to play.
53)Baseball stats and records are more cherished and remembered than in football.
54)There is many more rule changes in football vs baseball
55)If you collect the sport's trading cards, In baseball if a player reaches the majors he is almost guaranteed to be on a MLB baseball card. A player in the NFL can play 5+ years and still have no trading cards.
56)Overall, baseball make better movies
57)Quarterbacks ask the crowd to quiet down, pitchers never do.
58)Baseball is more enjoyable on the radio if you can't make it to the game or a television.
59)There is no penalty flags that disallow plays. No touchdown called back because of an unnecessary illegal block 40 yards away. Or even worse, a player getting hurt on a play that officially never happened.
60) Baseball's audience is not largely based on gambling habits like in football where weekly bets are made and fans hang on to every game just because of their fantasy team. 

Monday, May 5, 2014

Baseball Lexicon: Can of Corn

I haven't done a baseball term or phrase in a long time, so I feel I should do one.  Recently, I have been hearing baseball announcers use "can of corn" several times.  It is a old term and I don't really know how many baseball fans actually know what it means.

Can of corn means an easy fly ball out to an outfielder.  It was first used by longtime Brooklyn Dodger radio announcer Red Barber.  How did this grocery item become a part of the baseball lexicon?  In grocery stores of many years ago, cans of corn were placed at or near the top shelf .  In order to get a can, a grocery clerk had to use a stick or pole and knock it off gently.  It would then softly fall into the hands of the clerk.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

This Just In: Billy Hamilton is fast

If you haven't seen Reds rookie outfielder play yet.  Well, he is fast:
He is really fast:

He is one of the fastest players I have ever seen since I started watching, maybe the fastest.  I always thought of Bo Jackson as the fastest since the early 80s. Former Royal Willie Wilson should be mentioned also.  I wonder how Hamilton will compare to Negro League legend James "Cool Papa" Bell.  The story goes Bell was so fast he can turn off the lights and be in bed by the time the room would go dark.
Hamilton can be considered the most exciting player in baseball:

I hope he is able to hit on a consistent basis and use his speed for an advantage.  Love to see him have a long MLB career.

Monday, April 28, 2014

In Case You Missed It: In the Front Row

This past weekend the Milwaukee Brewers unveiled a new statue in honor of longtime broadcaster Bob Uecker.  It is placed not in front of Miller Park but in the last row of the upper deck behind home plate.
Newer generation of baseball fans know Uecker as Harry Doyle in the Major League movie franchise, but he has been doing Brewer games on the radio since 1971.  As a player he was a backup catcher in the 1960s with a career batting average of .200. But he has been a very popular tv personality over last 30 years ago.
But why is this statue of Uecker placed there?  Because of the very popular Miller Lite commercials in the 1980s that he was a part of:

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Meet Former Reds Owner Marge Schott

NBA's Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling has allegedly made racist remarks towards African-Americans during a conversation with his girlfriend.  He believed she should not socialize and be out publicly with blacks.  Baseball, of course, is not immune to having racist owners in it's history.  The most notorious of which is former Cincinnati Reds owner Marge Schott.
Schott was the majority owner of the team in 1985 and through 1999.  Instead of me explaining her racism and overall selfishness, I will let her do it do it herself.  The following are some of the quotes she made herself over her tenure as Reds owner:
"Only fruits wear earrings" -- explaining the club's ban on wearing earrings on the field

"I feel cheated. This isn't supposed to happen to us, not in Cincinnati.  This is our history, our tradition, our team. Nobody feels worse than me."  -- on April 1, 1996 when the season opener was called off because home plate umpire John McSherry collapsed on the field and died.

"Why do they care about one game when they're watching another?" -- after fans complained that her cost cutting moves resulted in elimination of out of town scoreboard.

"Well, I don't like it when they come here, honey, and stay so long and then they outdo our kids. Thats not right." --On Asian Americans

"Some of the biggest problems in this city come from women wanting to leave the home and work.  Why do these girl reporters have to come in the locker room? Why can't they wait outside?  I don't really think baseball is a woman's place, honey.  I really don't. I think it should be left to the boys."

"Everybody knows he was good at the beginning, but he just went too far." -- on Adolf Hitler.

In addition to the above quotes, he referred to of her star players, Eric Davis and Dave Parker as "million dollar n****rs".
Schott was suspended on numerous occasions and finally was forced out of baseball.
Sports and society has no place for people like Schott and Sterling. I am hoping that each generation that passes, that racism is dwindling.  Hoping! This ignorance shouldn't be tolerated.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Baseball 101: Keeping Score

Well, another season of baseball has started.  As you are watching games, the announcers may reference scoring results on plays if you are keeping score.  But how many fans are keeping score or actually know how to? So I will take you all to school and teach you.
You will need a scorebook and a blank sheet looks like this:

It is pretty easy to do. First all each player in the field is represented by a number according what position he plays:
1: pitcher
2: catcher
3: 1b
5: 3b
6: ss
7: LF
8: cf
9: rf
Each column on the scoresheet represents an inning. when you begin a new inning, a new column is started. each square is a player's at bat. Some sheets have little squares for balls and strikes. some don't. If you want to keep track of it is up to you.
Each play has a way of scoring:
A flyout or line drive out caught would be F-(to the position number. e.g. F-8-for flyball to CF or F-5 for pop up to 3b)
Groundout would be pos # to pos #. for example groundout to SS would be 6-3. each fielder who touches the ball is recorded in the scorebook. e.g doubleplay could look like 6-4-3 or pitcher deflecting a ball to second basemean and he throws ball to first for an out would look like 1-4-3.
Strikeout would be shown by a K. a K like this is one is for a swing and miss and if batter strikes out looking. a backwards K would be made.
If  batter reaches base on a walk, BB( intentional walk-IBB) hit by pitch, HBP, and on error by fielder, E-(guilty position number-E-8(for a flyball dropped by CF)
Of course for a hits are represented as 1b, 2b, 3b or HR.
When a player reaches the base, a line is drawn to each base he reaches and diamond is colored in when he  scores after all the lines are drawn on base paths.
A player advances on a wild pitch(wp), passed ball(pb), a balk(bk) or stolen base(sb) is written between the bases he advanced to and from. 
When are down with an inning. runs, hits,errors and players left on base(LOB) are tallied up on the bottom
and you are ready to start the new inning in the next column.
When a sub comes in for a player, he is listed in the spot in order of the player he is replacing and what inning the substitution is made is also usually noted.
The pitchers stats are kept individually at the bottom of the page.
 It should look something like this:
Of course, the scoring is done by you and is for you.  You can make it as personal as you want. You will be the one reading it and referencing back to it in the future.  Some scorekeepers may put a star next to an out where a spectacular play was made in the field.  Some may put a line to what direction the hits were made. Did he pull the ball or hit the ball up the middle? It is all up to you.
I hope you understand how to score a game, it can be a fun way to keep track of the game and the players.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Recalling the Federal League

Today marks the 100th anniversary of the first game ever played at Wrigley Field.  For this honor, the Chicago Cubs will be wearing the uniforms from Chicago's team of 1914.  The modern day Cub players will not be wearing the Cub uniforms from 100 years ago, but of the Chicago Whales of the old Federal League. Not many baseball fans know of the Federal League, so I will tell the story of it.

Mordecai Brown 1914 Cracker Jack
The Federal League was only around for two years, but it did have an impact on baseball beyond just the friendly confines of Wrigley Field.  The Federal League was established in 1913 and called itself as the "third major league", although the owners of the American and National Leagues dubbed it as the "outlaw league".
In order to compete with other two major leagues, the Federal League tried to lure players away by not having the reserve clause that was used in the AL and NL.  The reserve clause restricted players signing with other teams freely.  The new league's free agency rules did lure some stars such as Joe Tinker, Hal Chase, Mordecai "Three Finger" Brown and Eddie Plank.
The Indianapolis Hoosiers won the inaugural title in 1914 over the Chicago team with decent attendance.  After the season, the Federal League filed an antitrust suit over organized baseball.  The presiding judge was Kenesaw Mountain Landis.  Landis, who also was a baseball fan, stalled in making any decisions in hoping the two sides would resolve the issue on their own.  The delay by Landis also led to more financial strain on the new league and because of, it folded after the 1915 season.
Two of the Federal League teams merged with the established leagues.  The Chicago Whales, with the Cubs of the NL and the St. Louis Terriers with the St. Louis Browns of the AL.  The rest of the team received cash settlements.  However, the Baltimore ownership in a last ditch effort to keep a pro baseball team in Baltimore filed a separate anti-trust suit.  Ultimately, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled baseball was exempt from the Sherman Antitrust Act because it was not an interstate commerce.
A few other sidenotes of the Fed League:  1) MLB owners became aware of Judge Landis from the lawsuit and named him the first commissioner of baseball after the Black Sox scandal of 1919.  2) The reserve clause was used in baseball until 1975 and modern day free agency began.  3) MLB never considered the Federal League as a major league and ignored all of the players' individual statistics until 1968.  and 4) the Federal League was the last league to field teams in competition with the American and National leagues.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Card of the week: 1988 Topps Bill Madlock

1988 Topps
If you are watching baseball during this season, you may hear Bill Madlock's name on numerous occasions.  Detroit's star slugger Miguel Cabrera is going for his fourth consecutive batting title in 2014.   The last right handed hitter to win four batting crowns at any point in his career was Madlock. 
"Mad Dog" led the league in 1975 and 1976 as a Chicago Cub and 1981 and 1983 as a Pittsburgh Pirate.  He ended his career as a .305 hitter and racked up a total of 2,008 hits from 1973-87.
I also would like to mention about Madlock is that he has been lost a bit in amount of impact he had on the 1987 Tigers team.   Long time Tiger fans remember Doyle Alexander as the key acquisition that lead to Detroit's division crown in 1987.  Madlock was also a key pickup midseason.  After being released by Los Angeles Dodgers in May, Tigers signed Madlock.  In 326 at bats, Madlock hit 14 HRs and knocked in 50 runs while hitting .279.
This wasn't the first time Madlock was acquired midseason and the team the benefited from.  In 1979, the Pirates traded for Madlock at the end of June from the San Francisco Giants.  Madlock batted .328 for rest of season and the Pirates ended the season as World Series champions. 
Then in 1985, Pittsburgh traded him to the Dodgers for a playoff push.  It worked.  Madlock hit a robust .360 in 114 at bats and the Dodgers won the NL west. 

Thursday, April 3, 2014

AL Predictions

In my last edition, I gave you my National League predictions for the 2014 season.  Now it is time for the American League.

East: (Is a total crapshoot of a division. I think any team could win outside of Toronto)
Rays : They seem to have the best pitching staff and arguably the best manager, Joe Madden, in the business. So, I will take my chances and pick them as division winners.
Orioles: Key pick ups of Ubaldo Jiminez and Nelson Cruz are nice additions. Biggest question mark is who is the closer?  Wild Card winner.
Red Sox:  They were carried by great pitching, timely hitting and that Boston Strong attitude. Should contend for another division title. Could fall short and take a wild card spot into the playoffs.
Yankees:  Had a great winter of acquisitions: catcher Brian McCann, OFs Jacoby Ellsbury and Carlos Beltran and pitcher Masahiro Tanaka.  The whole infield is a question mark of reliability and perfomance.  They could easily win division, but a few injuries away from not making playoffs at all for second year in row. Will be interesting to see how Yankees do without Mariano Rivera as the closer and not have the Alex Rodriguez circus around.  Sleeper Impact player is pitcher Michael Pineda. He could solidify starting rotation.
Blue Jays:  Has a potent batting order but pitching is too suspect to contend.  Might be another rough year north of the border.

Tigers:  Still the team to beat in division. Even with the addition of closer Joe Nathan, it is hard for me to say this team is better than a year ago.  But a division crown is still very likely
Royals:  Legitimate contenders for division title. KC has one of the best bullpens in AL and best catcher also in Salvador Perez.  Back end of rotation and 3B Mike Moustakous will likely dictate if KC will be pretenders or contenders.
Indians:  Will contend for division title. Terry Francona will prove once again he is one of the best managers in all of MLB.  The losses of Ubaldo Jimenez and Scott Kazmir could hurt them this year. If Danny Salazar performs well all year, Indians will be there until the end.
White Sox: Through several trades. the southsiders have gotten younger and more athletic. But the pitching beyond Chris Sale is mediocre at best.  Cuban import Jose Abreu is Rookie of Year candidate.
Twins:   Has made improvements from a year ago.  Still a ways to go. Minnesota does own the number one prospect in baseball in Byron Buxton.  He could make his debut in the bigs in 2014.

A's:  The two time division champ is still my favorites to win division. They have been hit by a rash of injuries to the starting pitcher already in spring, but should have enough to make up for around them.  Prospect to look out for is SS Addison Russell.
Rangers:  They also have been hit hard by injuries to the pitching staff. Yu Darvish has to be a Cy Young candidate in order to for Rangers to contend for division.   Otherwise, they will have to outbash everyone on a daily basis.
Angels:  The back end of rotation and bullpen are questionable.  Will Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton recover from bad 2013s.  More bashing than pitching here also.
Mariners:  Can big free agent Robinson Cano bring some winning ways to Seattle? Will the young prospects around him finally become legit big leaguers?  They have decent pitching that will keep in games, but will they score enough runs? Best case scenerio is seeing Rangers and Angles pitching falter and Seattle sneak into into 2nd place.  Not sure how likely though.
Astros:  Much like the Marlins in NL, they look like more of a big league team this year. But still many holes in lineup.  OF prospect George Springer is knocking on door to make an impact on team.  Their biggest prospect is former No.1 overall pick, SS Carlos Correia. He is a future superstar.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

NL Predictions

Opening day is Monday for the 2014 MLB season.  I will now make predictions for the upcoming season.  I waited to the end of spring training in order view all the player movements and injuries. So here goes, my fearless predictions for the National League:
Washington Nationals: I believe will win the division this year. After an underwhelming year in 2013, I think they will bounce back and play better as a team.  The addition of Doug Fister(once he is off the DL) will benefit them also.
Atlanta Braves:  The defending division champs have suffered a rash of injuries to the pitching staff this spring.  The Braves still have a strong nucleus of players around them and should be able to win a wild card spot especially if B.J. Upton and Dan Uggla have bounce back years.
Philadelphia Phillies:  The oldest team in the NL.  They seem to be stuck in the middle of having veterans players and trying to win now with a few mix of younger stars in an attempt to rebuild.  Because of the lack of direction, they will be stuck in the middle of the division
New York Mets:  They have improved over the last season with additions of Curtis Granderson and Bartolo Colon.  They still have a holes in the lineup and the loss of Matt Harvey for the season will hurt. Still a year away from contending or in consideration of contending.
Miami Marlins:  They have added some legitimate MLB talent with their young talented stars and prospects.  Still a lot of work needs to be done.  But are heading in right direction.

St. Louis Cardinals:  The defending NL pennant winners still have alot of talent.  Addition of Peter Bourjos and Jhonny Peralta should offset the loss of Carlos Beltran and are still loaded in pitching.  I don't see them not winning the division again this year.
Pittsburgh Pirates,  They finally broke through last year and made the playoffs after suffering 20 years of losing seasons.  They had a quiet off season even after losing AJ Burnett, Justin Morneau and Marlon Byrd to free agency.  Gregory Polanco is name to keep an eye in Pittsburgh.
Cincinnati Reds:  They lost Bronson Arroyo and Shin Soo Choo to free agency.  Plus we don't know how long Aroldis Chapman will be out after suffering a line drive to the face this spring.  Not sure they will have enough to make playoffs, but will field a pretty good team all year.
Milwaukee Brewers:  Should have a better team than last year just having a full season of Ryan Braun in the field-provided he is not suspended again.  The Brew Crew has some nice talent on the team, but not enough to compete in my opinion.
Chicago Cubs:  Some of their big time prospects could make their debuts at the friendly confines of  Wrigley Field in 2014.  There is still work that needs to be done in Chicago before a division is within reach.

Los Angeles Dodgers:  The highest payroll in MLB and all the talent should lead them to another division crown in 2014. 
San Francisco Giants:  Many of the core players from their two World Series championships are still there. The addition of proven winner Tim Hudson in the rotation should help.  A believe a wild card spot is in order here.
Arizona Diamondbacks:  The addition of Mark Trumbo gives them another big bat in the lineup and pitching staff is quite young.  Manager Kirk Gibson will have them play hard but not enough wins will happen.
San Diego Padres:  A good group of hard nosed players who will compete on a daily basis.  Similar to Oakland A's of the AL.  But I don't they have as much talent as Oakland so they will not win a division.
Colorado Rockies:  They have Tony Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez.  Couple other decent young hitters, but pitching is lacking.  It will be a long season in Colorado.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Card of Week: 1991 Topps Archives '53 Joe Garagiola

First of all, I would like to apologize for my little hiatus.  I had a death in the family, so I have not been a writing mood.  The cause of the death was basically due to a lifetime of smoking cigarettes.  I am going to get a little preachy here today.

This week's card is of Joe Garagiola from the 1991 Topps Archives set.  This set was a reprint of the 1953 Topps set. This set had a couple differences from the original set.  The newer version was produced in the standard baseball card size as opposed to the larger version of the original set.  The 1991 set also included an additional 57 cards of players who was not a part of the 1953 set.  The Garagiola is one of them.

Garagiola was a career backup catcher from 1946-1954, in which included winning a World Series with St. Louis Cardinals in 1946.  After his playing days, he began a very successful career in broadcasting.  Most notably working for NBC on their game of the week with fellow Ford Frick Award winner Vin Scully.  Garagiola also had a co hosting stint on NBC's Today show and spelled Johnny Carson on the Tonight Show on occasion.  Garagiola is also the recipient of 2014 Buck O'Neil Lifetime Achievement Award.
After Garagiola's broadcasting days at NBC was over, he visited many spring training camps and preached the health risks of smokeless tobacco.  Garagiola had lost several of his former teammates and friends because of and wanted to eliminate the use of the tobacco product from the game. So the moral of today's post is....smoking. bad.  smokeless tobacco....also bad.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

In Case You Missed It: What Are the Odds?

Wednesday's opening day of spring training games likely produced the best defensive play we are going to see this spring.  Josh Reddick of the Oakland A's climbed the right field wall and robbed San Francisco Giant's Mike Morse of a home run.
Later in the same game, Morse tried again for a homer opposite field.  Yet again, Reddick came through and robbed Morse of a roundtripper. Here is the video of the catches:

I have no idea how often this has happened in a regular season game.  Has one player ever robbed another of two home runs in one game?  I am guessing it has happened less than a perfect game(23 times), 4-HR game(16 times) or an unassisted triple play(15 times).
Regardless, it is cool and nice to show new baseball highlights.  This also falls in the category of "If you think you saw everything in baseball, there is always something new."   One of the beauties of baseball, you will never know what can happen.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Voice of the Turtle by Ernie Harwell

Every year prior to the Detroit Tigers' first spring training game, Ernie Harwell opened up his broadcast by reciting the poem, Voice of the Turtle.
Since spring training games are beginning this week, I will carry on the tradition.  No, I will not be reciting it.  Thanks to YouTube, Ernie Harwell will do it himself:

Saturday, February 22, 2014

A Heartwarming Story of Lost Friendship, New Friendship and Recognition

As a lifelong baseball fan, card collector and consumer of any information baseball related, I have acquired a fondness of the old Negro Leagues.  Maybe because it is largely a part of baseball history that is forgotten and under appreciated.  Or just learning about a part of the game that a lot of people don't know about. It is kind of like rooting for the underdog I guess.
One of my proudest collecting memories was when I attended a Negro League autograph show/fundraiser back in college.  A friend and I went to the show, got some autographs and listened to some of the old ballplayers tell some stories.  Ted "Double Duty" Radcliffe was especially enjoyable, I might add.
About this same time, Ken Burns made his documentary, "Baseball".  In it, he told stories and history of the Negro Leagues.  Over the almost twenty years since the release of "Baseball", the Negro Leagues and it's players has been appreciated much more.  There has been museums opened, Negro League appreciation days at MLB games and MLB has set up pensions for the players also.  But there is so much more that can be done to help out the old players and learn about the Negro Leagues itself.
Here is a story about a teenager, through his hobby, has picked up on this cause:

I was a bit like him as a kid. I wish I had the thought and wherewithal to do something like that as a youngster.  I suppose growing up in the internet age sure does help.
Regardless, I hope for many more successes for Mr. Perron.  I would like to see some the old players being helped out financially or just have some joy and recognition brought in their lives before it is too late.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Andrelton Simmons Signing is Biggest Steal This Offseason

On Thursday, Atlanta Braves shortstop Andrelton Simmons signed a 7 yr/58 million contract extension with his team.  I believe this is biggest steal in terms of long term( 4 yr+) contracts for the 2013-14 off season.
2014 Topps

If you are unfamiliar with Simmons, the 2013 season was his first full season in MLB at the age of 23.  He hit 17 HRs and knocked in 59 RBIs while batting .248.  He also had an on base percentage of .296 and slugging of .396.  But Simmons' fielding is his best attribute.  For the 2013 he won his first Gold Glove award and is already considered one of the best defensive shortstops in all of baseball.
This contract extension locks up Simmons for the Braves until his age 30 season with average of over 8 million per.  This will enable the Braves to have one of the best players up the middle throughout his prime years and before age starts to catch up to him.  Simmons' detractors will mention his low .248/.296/.396 offensive splits.  But, I believe he will improve on them as his career moves along.  Probably not by a huge margin, but an improvement nonetheless.  Even if these numbers are his average during his career, it isn't terrible if you include his glove also.  Simmons did wind up with a WAR of 6.8 last season, which was 8th best for hitters in MLB last season.  I think the Braves will take that on a yearly basis for 8 million/yr in a free agent market that becomes more expensive each year.
Lets see how Simmons' contract compares with the others from this off season.  Here are the other contract extensions:
Craig Kimbrel(25 yrs old)   Closer       Braves   4 yr/42 million
Julio Teheran (22 yrs old)   Pitcher       Braves   6 yr/32.4 million
Freddie Freeman(23)         1st base     Braves   8 yr/135 million
Homer Bailey (27)              Pitcher      Reds      6 yr/105 million
Clayton Kershaw(25)         Pitcher      Dodgers 7 yr/215 million
Michael Brantley (25)         OF           Indians    4 yr/25 million

It appears that the Kimbrel and Freeman deals could end up very well.  As for Kimbrel and all the pitchers, one can never predict if and when he will get injured.  Because pitchers are more prone to injuries, their contracts have more risk.
Freeman's deal is good also. He a solid middle of the order bat and has a good glove also.  His contract is longer and more expensive, so there is more risk here also.  In addition, with all things being equal, I will take a shortstop over a 1st baseman because every successful team is solid up the middle of the diamond.  And as for Brantley, he is a nice player, but not in Simmons' class and his contract mirrors that.

Here are the big long term free agent signings this off season:
Masahiro Tanaka (25)      Pitcher      Yankees   7 yr/255 million
Robinson Cano (31)         2nd Base  Mariners  10 yr/240 million
Shin Soo Choo (30)         OF           Rangers    7 yr/130 million
Brian McCann (30)          Catcher    Yankees    5 yr/85 million
Jacoby Ellsbury(30)         OF           Yankees   7 yr/153 million
Curtis Granderson(32)     OF           Mets        4 yr/60 million
Jose Abreu (27)             1B            White Sox  6 yr/68 million
Ubaldo Jiminez (30)         Pitcher     Orioles     4 yr/50 million
Matt Garza (30)               Pitcher     Brewers    4 yr/50 million
Jhonny Peralta (32)          SS           Cardinals   4 yr/52 million
Ricky Nolasco (31)         Pitcher     Twins        4 yr/49 million
Jason Vargas (31)            Pitcher     Royals       4 yr/32 million

As you can see, all but two of these players are in the 30-32 age range. Which means at some point in their respected contract there is likelihood that the player's production will show decline. The other two, Tanaka and Abreu will be playing in the USA for the very first time.  They are unknown commodities and will have more risk attached to them.
After comparing Simmons' contract with all the others this season, it looks like a bargain.  8 million a year for one of the best young shortstops in the big leagues and to have it last through his prime years.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Trivia: Who is the All Time Winningest Latino Pitcher in MLB History?

On this day, I thought I will have a little fun and do a trivia question.  Who has the most all time wins in MLB history among Latin American pitchers?
I will give the answer at the end here in order to give you all a time to think.

Got an idea?
Is it the only Latino pitcher in the Hall of Fame, Juan Marichal?   Nope. The Dominican Dandy won 243 big league games in his career.
How about a sure fire Hall of Famer when he becomes eligible next year?  Pedro Martinez is also the wrong answer.   He won 219 career games.
Luis Tiant?  Also wrong.   The 3x time All Star and Red Sox World Series hero finished his career with 229 wins.
Fernando Valenzuela? Nope. The 6x time Dodger All Star won 173 games.
What about the active leader in this category? Bartolo Colon has 189 career wins and his 40 years old so he is unlikely to break the record.

The answer? It is none other than El Presidente, Dennis Martinez.  The Nicaraguan born righthander won a total of 245 games.
His career spanned from 1976 to 1998 pitching primarily for the Baltimore Orioles, Montreal Expos and Cleveland Indians.  The 4x time All Star also pitched a perfect game on July 28, 1991 against the Dodgers while pitching for the Expos and a World Series title in 1983 as an Oriole.

By the way, did you see what I did there?  Having El Presidente as an answer to a trivia question today.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

In Memoriam: Jim Fregosi

1991 Topps

The younger generation of baseball fans will remember Jim Fregosi mostly as a manager, but he was a very good player also.  His managerial career began in 1978 with the Angels and ended with Toronto after the 2000 season.  His biggest success was with the Philadelphia Phillies as he led them to the National League pennant in 1993.
1965 Topps
As a player, his accomplishments are unfortunately overshadowed by a trade he was involved in.  The New York Mets, who were in need of an infield bat, traded for Fregosi.  They shipped four players to the Angels including a young hard throwing right hander by the name of Nolan Ryan.  Ryan, of course, blossomed into a Hall of Fame pitcher while Fregosi was hampered by injuries and became a part time player.  He finished his career in 1978 after playing with the Rangers and Pirates also.  An ironic footnote to the Fregosi/Ryan trade is that Fregosi later managed Ryan for his last two seasons with Angels.
Prior to this trade, Fregosi was one of the first stars of the expansion Los Angeles Angels.  He was a six time All Star and a Gold Glove winner.  For his accomplishments his uniform number 11 was retired by the team in 1998.

Friday, February 14, 2014

In Case You Missed It: Olbermann's Commentary on Jeter's Retirement

New York Yankee shortstop Derek Jeter announced on Wednesday that the 2014 season will be his last.  There has been numerous commentaries and tributes on Jeter's career and the actual announcement.   ESPN's Keith Olbermann did one of his own on his show.  I think he did a nice job, so I will share it:

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

1991 Card of Week: 1991 BBM Hideo Nomo

1991 BBM #379
For the latest edition of my card of the week, I will showcase my only Japanese card.  It is the 1991 BBM card of Hideo Nomo.  He has several cards from this set, but this is his base rookie card.  Of course, Nomo was the initial player to succeed in MLB from Japan since 1965 and started the trend of others coming over here to compete when did so in 1995.
The former Dodger All Star is now a Hall of Famer too.  No, he was not elected in with Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Frank Thomas into Cooperstown's Hall of Fame, but was chosen for Japan's hall of fame in their 2014 class.  Also a part of this group includes former Seattle Mariner closer Kazuhiro Sazaki and Koji Akiyama.
An oddity of having Nomo in Japan's hall of fame is that he only played five years in Japan and a total of twelve in MLB.   His combined stats from the two major leagues puts him over 200 career wins and 3,000 strikeouts, but his impact reaches beyond just numbers.  Congratulations Nomo san.