Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Philly Phour vs the Giant Beards

This season, as usual, will have a tremendous focus on pitching. Many have said the Phillies have the best rotation in baseball. Lets add the Giants to the mix and see who is really the best and if will it make a difference to the NL outcome. When I starting looking at this, I thought that the Phil’s had the whole thing sewed up, hands down. Well, what I have uncovered is pretty amazing.

I have chosen stats I think reflect how a pitching staff will do over the year. All pitchers can have a bad outing and also have exceptional ones. So, over the season what are the important numbers? I have based my stats on ERA. SO, BB, Hits and BAA (batting average against) and IP are the most important. Wins and losses are important but they really refer to many other factors that occur including errors and offensive strength on any given day. (I remember how Dave Steib could pitch a great game and not have any lumber behind him. His great game did not produce the desired W).

The aces for both the Phillies and the Giants are remarkably close in stats. Both have two Cy Young Awards. Roy Halliday won his with a higher number of wins in each of his two years (22/7, 21/10) and Tim Lincecum with 18/5 and 16/10. Halliday, over his 13-year career has an average of 17/9 and Lincecum 16/7. Very close.

Again, all top four starters on each team have some very close stats. Wins and losses: Phillies at .741 and Giants at .735. With strikeouts the Giants have it with 93 fewer innings pitched 770.1. vs 882.1. The Phillies have fewer bases on balls with 41 vs 65 for the Giants. The starters have combined for a BAA of 2.87 for the Phillies and .222 for the Giants. Roy Halliday’s legendary stamina was in evidence last season with 259.2 innings pitched, his most since 2006 at 266. The Phillies averaged 220.4 IP while the Giants (with Bumgarner out of the mix, too few starts) averaged 219.4 IP. So the Giants had great stamina as well.

What about ERA? Halliday has a lifetime at ERA 3.32 while Lincecum has an average of 3.64. For the four starters it’s an average of 3.47 for the Philly’s and the Giants came up with 3.56.

All these numbers have led to a very close match up of these two very tough rotations. What will make the difference?

The Philly Phour: Roy Halliday will be able to give his very standard year of around 18 to 19 wins and lots of innings to save the bullpen. Roy Oswalt, with ten years in and a late spring training neck injury may just be showing the sign of decline. Cliff Lee is on the downside of his career with many inconsistent outings. He will be lucky to maintain his record especially if injuries are a factor this season. Cole Hammels is young but has not finished a game in the major leagues after a five-year career.

The Giant Beards: Tim Lincecum in his four short years has shown the tremendous poise of the very best on the mound. Jonathan Sanchez has a great SO to BB ratio 205 to 96. He is starting to come into his own. The same for Matt Cain, 26, has been solid. Now for Madison Bumgarner, 21, is very young and hot. He has been outstanding in his whole career in the lower levels of ball. A top prospect and draft pick. Because of this, he has been brought up very fast. He had his most starts last year at 18 with 111.1 innings pitched. Also don’t forget that he scored a W on his first ever World Series start and went 8 innings against the Rangers.

While the Phillies are my favorite to return to the postseason because of Roy Halliday, I am giving the pitching nod to the Beards. They are on the up sides of their careers and as far as pitching is concerned, have put together the best rotation in baseball. Now for the beard himself, Brain Wilson should be back for April 5.This loss should not be too bad, but until then Sergio Romo will do the job. For the Phillies, Brad Lidge is out for several weeks and it will be Jose Contreras. The Giant Beards should play through again to the World Series.

All these stats make it a very close call for who’s the best. I thought the Philly Phour would prove to be on top but the Giant Beards are just as good and maybe a slight bit better. Will either team win 100? It looks like the National League will wind up just like last year: Phillies in the East, Cincinnati in the Central and the Giants in the West.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

What Are The Odds?

On June 12, 1880 Lee Richmond, a 23-year old lefthander for the Worcester Ruby Legs threw baseball's first perfect game. His opponents were pitcher/manager Jim McCormick and his Cleveland Blues. McCormick would have a pretty good season in 1880. He pitched 657 innings and was 45 -28, much better than Richmond, who finished 32-32 and pitched a measly 590 innings.

Richmond had graduated from Brown University the year before after pitching his team to the college championship. His biggest asset was a curveball, a pitch which had been invented a few years before by Candy Cummings. (Candy was a superlative from the Civil War that meant the best of anything.) As a teenager Cummings threw clamshells into the water at a Brooklyn beach. The flat, circular shells could easily be made to curve in the air and the boy became interested in the mechanics of it. Later he would say, "All of a sudden it came to me that it would make quite a joke if I could make a baseball curve the same way."

Richmond had pitched Worcester to victory on Thursday, June 10 and then headed back to Providence for his graduation ceremony. After it he and his friends celebrated at length. He and his classmates apparently played baseball at 4:30 a.m. (must have been a full moon). Richmond caught a train back to Worcester in the morning and, without eating breakfast or lunch, got ready to pitch the Saturday game against Cleveland.

He allowed only three balls out of the infield in the game, which took an hour and twenty-six minutes to play, and one of them was a close call. Cleveland's Bill Phillips slashed a ball through the right side but the Worcester right fielder raced in and threw to first. The umpire was Foghorn Bradley. Foghorn was a good name in an age before P.A. systems when the umpires had to yell out lineup changes to the crowd. The play was close, but Bradley called Phillips out. The only other thing that stood in Richmond's way was a brief thunderstorm after which he pitched from a pile of sawdust.

Remarkably, just five days later June 17, 1880 John Montgomery Ward pitched a perfect game for the Providence Grays. Ward had led the National Association (the NL's predecessor) in strikeouts in 1872, with 14. It was pretty tough to strikeout in those days, the pitching rectangle (no mound yet) was just 50 feet from home plate but pitchers still had to throw underhand and batters were able to tell them where in the strike zone they wanted them to pitch. Ward made nation-wide headlines two years later though when he struck out six Chicago White Stockings in a row.

So, two perfect games in just five days. How long would it be until the National league would see another perfect game? How about 84 years!

Jim Bunning of the Phillies tossed one, in 1964. Mind you it should hardly have counted — his opposition was the lowly New York Mets.

But the very next year, Sandy Koufax, another lefthander with a pretty good curveball, would throw his one and only perfect game.

The most recent almost back-to-back perfect games were pitched last year. They were just twenty days apart, on May 9 and 29, 2010, by Oakland's Dallas Braden and Roy Halladay of the Phillies.

But baseball's oddest perfect game took place on June 23, 1917. The Red Sox starter was the American League's top hurler, 24-13 that year. Umpire Brick Owens called the first three borderline pitches to Washington's Ray Morgan balls. When Owens called the fourth pitch a ball the pitcher, who had been yelling obscenities after each call, punched Owens in the face, earning an ejection, a $100 fine, and a 10-game suspension. Ernie Shore was called on to come in and take over. Shore promptly picked Morgan off first and then retired the next 26 men. And who was the starter, league's top hurler, that Shore replaced that hot June afternoon ... that'd be Babe Ruth.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Those magic moments

No, I’m not channeling old music. I’m talking about those experiences you’ve had that somehow get engraved on your memory. Baseball, because it’s a much more leisurely game (as opposed to, say, tennis or hockey), lends itself to allowing one to savor moments, allowing them get stored forever in the depths of your cranium.

I’d like to share a few of mine with you. In the comments section at the bottom of this posting, please feel free to add some of your own. I’m sure they’ll be enlightening.

Here are five of mine in no particular order:

Reggie Jackson’s three home runs against The Dodgers in the 1977 World Series. We didn’t own a TV, so I was at someone’s house to watch this, but I still remember the camera angle on that amazing third home run. It was from low and behind the plate and I just sat there watching the ball disappear into the night. Magical. (Sidebar: Who was the person who dubbed Reggie Jackson “Mr. October”? Do you know the answer?)

The Giants win the pennant! The Giants win the pennant! No, I don’t remember being there for “The Shot Heard 'Round the World”, since I was all of 4 months old, but I did read a book on it (sorry, I can’t remember the name of it. Anyone?), and I’ve listened to the call by Russ Hodges’ numerous times, but that had to be one of the most exciting ends to a season in any sport in the past century.

Joe Carter’s home run that ended the 1993 World Series. We had dinner guests over that evening, but I had our usually unconnected TV on upstairs so our boys could watch the game. I snuck up there whenever I could and happened to see this towering home run. Tom Cheek’s call of it still sends shivers down my back.

George Brett and the pine tar bat incident. This memory also includes John because I’d gone over to his place with my wife (who also was a damn fine ball player) to kick the old pill around a little and walked into his place. The Yankees vs. The Royals was on the box and we sat there in total amazement as George Brett went completely berserk when his home run was nullified and he was called out. I believe to this day that if he’d had a gun he would have shot Tim McClelland. Actually, it’s amazing he didn’t try to strangle him, he was that angry.

The Hogtown Bombers win the championship! Okay, it’s not major leagues but I still clearly remember the first of our team's two league championships in 1994. The game was at Lion’s Park down near the Humber River in west end Toronto, a fairly warm September Sunday. I was catching and the final out was a called strike. I remember it was a bit high and yanked my glove as far down as I could so we’d be sure to get the call. I needn’t have bothered. I was so excited I didn’t even notice that the batter had swung right through it.

The Professor

Thursday, March 24, 2011

So sad

Barry Bonds is now on trial for perjury. Roger Clemens will soon be on trial also. Two great players of baseball. Perjury is serious legal trouble and if convicted could mean prison time. Both of these individuals made their choices in front of a legally constituted congressional body. They were in this situation because they might have used substances now banned in baseball. But why lie to congress and face any charges at all. Because…

We all know of the careers of these players. Bonds has the most home runs (762) and most walks (2558). Clemens is first in Cy Young Awards (has seven), ninth on games won (354) and oldest pitcher when he retired. Pretty impressive stuff.

So, what has caused this problem for pro-baseball and why are such great players and others involved in such trouble with the law? Steroids and HGH, that’s what, to name a couple. From the nineties and onward athletes found an edge to the game by taking performance enhancing drugs. They did this to be better, hit more home runs and last longer, win more games, steal more bases, etc. They did to not want to be sent down to he minors or lose their edge. They did it because most of the other players were doing the same thing and one had to keep up or be left behind. As more players used, more records started to be challenged, the more other players started enhancement regimes. A catch 22.

Barry Bonds going for the home run record was the final straw on the back of a foot-dragging Commissioner of baseball. I feel, in baseball, the owners overlooked the use of enhancement drugs because they needed more people in the stands, especially after the Selig strike. The owners needed more action and more excitement and the players played with increased use and eventually more physical problems. It is no wonder that baseball owners turned a blind eye, letting the game itself become suspect. Players like Bonds and Clemens (and many players like them) had huge careers with many broken records. Their winning ways helped put baseball back in the limelight and bums in the seats.

After all the exposes and the Mitchell Report (which focused on players and not on teams and their trainers), 89 players were named. Anyone on that list looks very bad for being accused of having taken performance-enhancing drugs. It has made their whole career suspect. The top-level players have done everything all their life to be their best, to excel, to remain on top as long as possible. Having done so, they are now tainted with the specter of having taken drugs. Some have admitted to doing so and others have not. Will those who have admitted to using be stripped of all their awards and accolades and be forever excluded from the Hall of Fame? Of the ones who did not admit to using, will they be painted with the same brush? Who will decide their veracity?

So some try their best to prevaricate their way out of the problem. What benefit has there been to admitting one took drugs? We do not know how the voters for the HOF for example will react when these players are eligible for the Hall. I suggest that the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA) will not voted in these because of this stigma.

Bug Selig and the owner’s are to blame. I see most of today’s problem with baseball as their fault and at Selig’s instigation. He got rid of Fay Vincent, restructured the leagues, had the strike of 1994 and for his efforts is vaulted from “acting” to Commissioner of Baseball (don’t forget that he was sued successfully by the MLPA for $280 million for rigging free-agent agreements). The “drug scandal” should have been taken more seriously and not left to Mitchell to put in clear terms for the commissioner. Baseball did not help these men; it did not acknowledge that theirs’ was a problem for the whole of the baseball community in a timely fashion. They should have been dealt with up front and sooner rather than later.

In most sports, before baseball decided to implement them, clearly defined rules were put in place for enhancement drugs and athletes and trainers that did not adhere to the rules were dealt with. The idea took a long time to percolate in the minds of the players. Eventually, when they feel the playing field is indeed level, it is hoped they will adhere to the rules to each other’s benefit and physical well-being.
Now, in self-righteous indignation with the easy perceptions from both the public and the BBWAA, the scandal can destroy the work these players have built across their careers. Just today an columnist, Terence Moore, states he will not vote into the HOF Bonds or Clemens because of their integrity. I have already mentioned Ty Cobb in these blogs. Mr. Moore has already condemned these players before due process. Who is he upset with? I think he’s not upset at Bud Selig. Place the blame for this problem where it lies.

For some players, it is impossible for them to let it go or admit they took something when their ego won’t allow it. I am not suborning perjury, but these men made choices and it’s now hard for them to face the facts about the drugs they used. If convicted they will lose all their credibility. But they still played with great skill and talent and should have all their records stand for all to see and be accepted by the MLB and the BBWAA. The MLB and Bud Selig did not do their part for the good of the game. It makes them and everyone else look bad.

John the Tomahawk

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Baseball Has Just About Everything

The more I read about baseball the more I am amazed by the variety of things it has featured over its history — from amazing talent, to greed, to wisdom, to lunacy, to ... well — you name it.

In researching for a blog I am writing on the best and the strangest outfields of all time I came across the backup outfielder for the 1911 to 1917 Boston Red Sox. He had lots of talent but had the misfortune to be on a team that had perhaps the greatest defensive outfield of all time, namely Tris Speaker, Harry Hooper, and Duffy Lewis.

In his first season he hit .366 in 108 pate appearances with an on-base percentage of .449, which is among the best ever for a rookie. In his second season he played even less but hit .321 with an OBP of .457.

The remarkable thing about this outfielder, whose name was Olaf Henriksen, was his birthplace - the Danish village of Kirkerup. Anyone who is familiar with baseball in the early days will know that almost all players were given nicknames then — often crude ones, like 'Dummy' for players who were deaf and mute — and can probably guess Olaf's. Inevitably it was 'Swede'.

A 1912 baseball card produced by a cigar company called Henriksen the "viking descended outfielder". Olaf was strictly a singles hitter, hitting only one home run in his career. By his third season he was down to just 47 plate appearances but still managed to hit .375. In a little more action (119 PA) he batted .263 in his fourth year but the writing was on the wall when he dipped to a paltry .196 in 1915 and .202 the next year. In 1917 he was all the way down to 12 at bats and an .083 average. And that was it for Olaf. It's unfortunate that his decline was so rapid because by then Speaker and Lewis were gone and their replacements weren't doing much.

(Note: If you're thinking that by 1917 Olaf would have had to compete with Babe Ruth for outfield playing time on the Red Sox you're right and wrong. Ruth was the best pitcher in the American League, but he batted .300 in limited plate appearances and hit 11 home runs in a year when the entire Pittsburgh Pirates TEAM hit just 9. So they started to have the Babe in the lineup on days he wasn't pitching, but they usually played him at first base, not the outfield.)

The highlights of Henriksen's career were a pinch hit RBI double off Christy Mathewson in the 1912 World Series and a grab of one of teammate Babe Ruth's tremendous shots in a Spring Training game — which Olaf caught by running right through the field's wooden outfield fence.

Sadly, for you Danish readers out there, Olaf was baseball's only player from Denmark. But getting to play with Speaker and Ruth and being on three World Championship clubs, not bad.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

The case against Brett Lawrie

John came out that history may be on the side of bringing Brett Lawrie to Toronto when the Blue Jays break camp at the end of spring training. I certainly can see his point, and I can concede that he may well be right in what he believes.

But I also think he’s really wrong. Here’s why:

First and foremost, it wouldn’t be a wise business move for the Jays. If Brett Lawrie is indeed the real deal (and all indications at the present indicate he is), they have to leave him in the farm system for at least part of the season. Why? Because it would give the Jays an extra year before he’s eligible for arbitration and his eventual free agency. That could be worth several million dollars right there.

Second, he obviously has a lot of ability and baseball savvy, but he’s only been playing third base for a few months. That position isn’t called The Hot Corner for nothing. Yes, I’m sure he’ll do a much better job than Encarnacion did last year. Lawrie is blessed with better instincts and a way better throwing arm. But he could certainly use more games at the position in order to get more comfortable.

(Sidebar: I believe Encarnacion will prove to be a decent first baseman. He does field the ball pretty well and he seems to be able to pick a ball out of the dirt. It’s always been his throwing that’s too much of an adventure.)

Third, as I mentioned in my comment to John’s Thursday posting, jumping two levels and winding up in the major leagues is a big distance. Lawrie’s not assured of being an instant success. What if he bombs out and the Jays decide to send him down? What then? Will he suck it up the way Doc Halliday did, get his work in and be ready to go when the next call comes? Or will he go down and pout? Elite athletes don’t tend to take failure very well. Indications are that Lawrie could fall into the latter camp and that would not be a good thing for him or for his future with the Jays.

So my bottom line conclusion is that (barring injuries) we won’t see Brett Lawrie with the Jays on opening day. However, I don’t think it will be too many months before he’s at third base, Bautista is in right field where he wants to be, and the Jays will be better for it.

The Professor

Thursday, March 17, 2011

I don’t know...third base.

The corner infield positions for the Jays should be looked at closely. Third base is what I will look at today. Jose Bautista is slated to be the everyday bagman with Johnny Mac as backup. So, ok, that sounds good. But is that the best choice for this season? If this happens you don’t have Bautista’s arm in right and have only Johnny Mac’s glove when the regulars are out.

Johnny Mac is hitting .292 with an OBP of .320, this spring and last season he had an AVG .250 and an OBP of .273. MacDonald is one of the best gloves in the infield. No doubt, but at bat he has been consistently weak. Jose Bautista needs to be utilized where he is best suited, in right.

So where does that leave us with bat and glove in the needed hot corner? It seems that Alex Anthopoulos has decided that the most obvious choice is moving Aaron Hill to the corner. Hill should be back in his normal fine form this year. His recovery from concussion should not affect him further, either at bat or on second. No real need for him to be moved. He should stay at second.

I will go out on a limb here and suggest that Brett Lawrie should be assigned to a spot at third base. He is very young and might be better served in the minors but I think he is ready. He has playing time in the minors and has had one of the best springs for the Jays this year. In his 28 at bats, his AVG is .357 with an OBP of .400. Great stuff. In A and AA ball for Milwaukee he had an AVG .280 and an OBP of .343. He has also made terrific defensive plays with the glove this spring. The Jays got him in a trade that sent Marcum to Milwaukee. We traded well, I thought, for such a prospect. Brett Lawrie is 21 years old with two years experience in the minors. Maybe it’s time to let the standard model for development be put aside.

You might remember names such as Cal Ripken, debuted at 21 years old and played for 20 years with the Orioles. Al Kaline debuted at 21 years and played 21 years with the Tigers. Mickey Mantle debuted at 20 years and played 18 with the Yankees. Maybe it’s time for Lawrie to be assigned the third base spot and put right into the show. I don’t know if he is in this league but if you don’t put him in you will not find out. Let’s move faster to get more competitive. The Jays need to and the fans want it.

John the Tomahawk

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

What's In A Name?

Ever heard of the Cleveland Broncos, the Boston Doves, the St. Louis Perfectos, or the Pittsburgh Alleghenys?

Well, they are all former names of current Major League franchises. A lot of teams have played in more than one city. Several have been in two places. The Giants have been in New York and San Francisco. The Twins have been in Washington (as the Senators) and Minnesota. The Brewers started as the Seattle pilots. The Rangers were the Washington Senators. The Capitals were in Montreal as the Expos before Washington.

Some teams have been in three cities. There are the Athletics - Philadelphia, Kansas City, and Oakland, and the Braves - in Boston, Milwaukee, and Atlanta. And the Orioles have been all over. In earlier forms they were the Brooklyn Dodgers, the New York Highlanders/Yankees, the Milwaukee Brewers, and finally the St. Louis Browns, before staying put in Baltimore the past several years.

Sports franchises often relocate due to poor attendance or stadium or ownership problems. Some moves have been very interesting, such as the case of the Cleveland Spiders. Four years after an 1895 championship the Robison brothers, the Spiders' owners, bought the St. Louis Browns out of bankruptcy and changed their name to the Perfectos.

Believing the Perfectos would draw greater attendance in St. Louis, the Robisons transferred most of the Cleveland stars, including future Hall of Famers Cy Young and Jesse Burkett, to St. Louis. In 1900, the St. Louis Perfectos changed their name to the Cardinals, the name they have used ever since.

With a decimated roster, the Spiders made a wretched showing. Due to terrible attendance, other NL teams refused to travel to League Park. The team was forced to play almost all of its home games on the road. The Spiders finished 20-134, the worst record in baseball history. They finished 84 games behind the pennant-winning Brooklyn Superbas and 35 games behind the next-to-last Washington Senators! The 1962 New York Mets, 40-120, and the 2003 Detroit Tigers, 43-119, own the modern records for the most losses, and thus draw frequent comparisons to the 1899 Spiders for futility.

After the season the Spiders were one of four teams the National League disbanded, leaving Cleveland without a Big League ball club. In 1900 Ban Johnson, president of the Western Baseball League decided to make his league a major league and changed the name to the American League. Feeling strongly that a team in Cleveland would help boost the league's reputation as a major league, he moved the Grand Rapids franchise to the shores of Lake Erie. However, their first season would not be a success, the Blues finished in seventh place with a 55-82 record.

After moving, a sports franchise often changes the team's nickname because the old name wouldn't suit the new location. An example is hockey's Kansas City Scouts, who moved to Denver in 1976 and became the Colorado Rockies. The Ottawa Senators moved to St. Louis in 1934 and became the St. Louis Eagles. There is no senate in St. Louis.

Some move but don't change their name and the old name doesn't fit the new location. The most well-known example is the NBA's Minneapolis Lakers. Minnesota is known as the “Land of 10,000 Lakes.” It would make sense that they would have a basketball team named the Minneapolis Lakers. And it did make sense - up until 1960 when the team moved to Los Angeles.

Likewise, the New Orleans NBA team was called the New Orleans Jazz for obvious reasons. But the name doesn't suit so well now that they are the Utah Jazz, though I'm sure there are a few jazz fans in Utah. What about the Utah Mormons? In 1980 the NHL's Atlanta Flames (named for the fire General Grant inflicted on the city during the Civil War) moved to Calgary, which kept the name even though they have had no famous fire.

In baseball, team nicknames were rather fluid in the early days of the National League and its forerunner, the American Association. Reporters often called the local team different names to spice up their columns, such as the (Brooklyn) 'Bums'. Eventually though, names stuck and became the official franchise names.

How many baseball teams that have been around for more than 40 years - so the San Diego Padres and the Kansas City Royals, who started up in 1969, and the Seattle Mariners and the Toronto Blue Jays who've been around since 1977, wouldn't count - have had the same name throughout their history? You will be surprised by the answer.

Think about it... what about the Cubs, the Phillies, the Giants, the Yankees? Nope … they have all had different names and of course the Giants were in New York before 1958. I was amazed to discover how few teams have never moved or changed their name. It's just two! Can you name them?

Well, the only two teams whose names have never changed are: the Detroit Tigers and the Chicago White Sox. Mind you there are a couple of others who are pretty darn close, like the Phillies who have had their name since 1890 - they were the Quakers before that, and the Pirates who were the Alleghenys of the American Association before 1890.

The Cincinnati team name hasn't changed much either - Red Stockings, to Reds, to Redlegs, and to back to Reds. And, the Angels have always been Angels. They've just fiddled with the rest of their name - Anaheim, California, Los Angeles.

Here are all the different names by which the franchises have been known over the years.

The National League (The “Senior Circuit”)

The Giants: New York Gothams NL 1883 - 1884 NY Giants NL 1885 - 1957 San Francisco Giants NL 1958 -

The Dodgers: (they were the Baltimore Orioles until 1889) Brooklyn Atlantics AA 1884 Grays AA 1885 to 1887 Bridegrooms AA/ NL 1888 - 1890 (Seven of the players got married around the same time in 1888.) Brooklyn Grooms NL 1890 - 1895Bridegrooms NL 1896 - 1898 Superbas NL 1899 - 1910 Trolleydodgers NL 1911 - 1912. Superbas NL 1913 Robins NL 1914 - 1931 (named after manager Wilbert Robinson) Dodgers NL 1932 - 1957 Los Angeles Dodgers NL 1958 -

The Phillies: Philadelphia Quakers NL 1883- 1889 Philadelphia Phillies NL 1890 -

The Pirates: Pittsburgh Alleghenys AA/NL 1882 - 1890 Pittsburgh Pirates NL 1891 -

The Cubs: Chicago White Stockings NL 1876 - 1889 Colts NL 1890 - 1897 Orphans NL 1898 - 1902 Cubs NL 1903 -

The Reds: Cincinnati Red Stockings AA 1882 – 1889 Reds NL 1890 - 1953 Redlegs NL 1954 - 1959 Reds NL 1960 -

The Cardinals: St. Louis Brown Stockings AA 1882 Browns AA/NL 1882 - 1898 Perfectos NL 1899 Cardinals NL 1900 -

The Braves: Boston Red Caps NL 1876 - 1882 Beaneaters NL 1883 - 1906 Doves NL 1907 - 1910 Rustlers NL 1911 Braves NL 1912 - 1935 Bees NL 1936 - 1940 Braves 1941 - 1952 Milwaukee Braves 1953 - 1965 Atlanta Braves NL 1966 -

The Astros: Houston Colt .45's NL, 1962 - 1964 Houston Astros NL 1965 -

The Nationals: Montreal Expos NL 1969 - 2004 Washington Nationals NL 2005 -

The American League (The Junior Circuit)

The Tigers: Detroit Tigers AL 1901 -

The White Sox: Chicago White Sox AL 1901 - (nicknamed the 'Black Sox' after eight of them threw the 1919 World Series)

The A's: Philadelphia Athletics AL 1901 - 1954 Kansas City Athletics AL 1954 - 1967 Oakland Athletics AL 1968

The Yankees: Baltimore Orioles AL 1901 - 1902 New York Highlanders AL 1903 - 1912 Yankees AL 1913 -

The Red Sox: Boston Americans AL 1901 - 1907 Boston Red Sox AL 1908 -

The Orioles: Milwaukee Brewers AL 1901 St. Louis Browns AL 1902 - 1953 Baltimore Orioles AL 1954 -

The 'Tribe': Cleveland Spiders 1889 - 1899 Blues AL 1901 Bronchos AL 1902 - 1904 Naps AL 1905 - 1914 (in honor of Napoleon Lajoie, their best player.) Indians AL 1915 -

The Twins: Washington Senators AL 1901 – 1960 Minnesota Twins AL 1961 -

The Rangers: The Senators/Rangers Washington Statesmen AA/NL 1891 - 1899 Senators AL 1961 – 1971 Texas Rangers AL 1971 -

The Angels: Los Angeles Angels AL 1961 – 1964 California Angels AL 1965 - 1996 Anaheim Angels AL 1997 - 2004 Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim AL 2005 -

The Brewers: Seattle Pilots AL 1969 Milwaukee Brewers AL 1970 - 1993 Brewers NL 1994 -

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Great baseball quotes for a miserable & wet Friday*

Blechta here and I’m currently working to deadline on a large job and feeling more than a little braindead. With that in mind, I thought a few good baseball quotes would be quick for me and fun for Late Innings readers.

Please feel free to chip in with your own! (Just click on “comments” to the right of my name and posting information at the bottom of this blog entry.)

“Throwing a knuckleball for a strike is like throwing a butterfly with hiccups across the street into your neighbor's mailbox.” — Willie Stargell

“Good pitching will always stop good hitting and vice-versa.” — Casey Stengel

“I feel greatly honored to have a ballpark named after me, especially since I’ve been thrown out of so many.” — Casey Stengel

“People are too hung up on winning. I can get off on a really good helmet throw.” — Bill “Spaceman” Lee

“I found a delivery in my flaw.” — Dan Quisenberry (the Royals’ 1980s closer who had a very unorthodox submarine delivery)

“I know (Sandy) Koufax’s weakness. He can’t hit.” — Whitey Ford

“Kids should practice autographing baseballs. This is a skill that’s often overlooked in Little League.” — Tug McGraw

“One night in Pittsburgh, thirty-thousand fans gave me a standing ovation when I caught a hot dog wrapper on the fly.” — Dick Stuart, a great slugger who had the (deserved) reputation of not being too good with the glove.

“He (Jamie Quirk) looks like a greyhound, but he runs like a bus.” — George Brett

“Slump ? I ain’t in no slump. I just ain’t hittin.” — Yogi Berra

“Baseball players are smarter than football players.  How often do you see a baseball team penalized for too many men on the field?” — Jim Bouton

“Aw, how could he (Jorge Orta) lose the ball in the sun? He’s from Mexico.” — Harry Caray

“He fakes a bluff.” — Ron Fairly, former major leaguer as a baseball play-by-play man

“Bruce Sutter has been around for a while and he’s pretty old. He’s thirty-five years old, that will give you some idea of how old he is.” — Ron Fairly (and who said Yogi Berra was the only guy in baseball who could make you scratch your head?)

And Yogi wasn’t the only funny Berra...

“You can’t compare me to my father. Our similarities are different.” — Dale Berra

And even though A League of Their Own is just a made-up baseball movie, I think it's a great scene and contains a great quote: “There’s no crying in baseball!”

*Incidentally, I wrote this on the above-mentioned miserable & wet Friday. Today, it's actually rather lovely here in downtown Hogtown. Only problem is, John forgot to reorder the peanuts and now we’re plum out...

Professor Blechta

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Pete Rose for Hall of Fame

Pete Rose, is a name synonymous with baseball. There is a growing campaign to get “Charlie Hustle” into the Hall of Fame. Well, there should be. His career stats are awesome and the “4256” hits speaks for itself. He has a first in at bats -14053, lots of singles -3215, and a great batting average -.303. With pure numbers, MVP awards, hitting and championships he would be in the HOF. What a career!

With the “Big Red Machine”, Peter Rose was a force to be reckoned with. The team with future Hall of Famer's Johnny Bench, Joe Morgan and Tony Pérez, also supported by George Foster, César Gerónimo, Ken Griffey, Sr., Dave Concepción and of course Sparky Anderson. What a team! They dominated the MLB in the 70s with a record of 953 wins and 657 losses and the only National League team since expansion to win back to back World Series (1975/76).

In 1989 Rose voluntarily accepted permanent ineligibility from baseball in an agreement with Bart Giamatti for gambling on baseball. So what of these gambling charges. They are all true. So says Rose in My Prison Without Bars. However, nobody has found any time when Rose bet against himself or the Reds. That would be unthinkable. As a player with the personality of a five year old towards winning, failure is not an option. He knew he could win and put all his effort into winning.

Baseball players have had difficulties on the field and off in the past. Fergie Jenkins was suspended in 1980 on drug issues of cocaine, marijuana and hash at customs in Toronto. Jenkins got reinstated. He’s in the Hall. Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays were suspended for working at a casino (albeit in a stupid charge). They got reinstated. They are in the HOF. Do I need mention Ty Cobb? One of the best ever to play the game and one of most contentious on and off the field. He was suspended by the league for beating a fan. Cobb was lucky not to be in jail. He once beat up an umpire. Ty Cobb was elected to the inaugural class of the HOF with the highest number of votes. Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis, first commissioner of baseball held hearings on Cobb and Tris Speaker who were accused of betting on a game they were both playing (Detroit vs Cleveland). They got out of it by Speaker refusing to testify. Cobb and Speaker are in the Hall for play on the field.

Pete Rose should be found eligible again for his actions on the field. He never hurt the game. He should be in the Hall of Fame like the others. It’s the right thing to do. According to the agreement for ineligibility, Rose can apply for reinstatement every year. He has been denied so far. Pete Rose should be accepted for his work between the lines. Pete Rose should be in the Hall of Fame.

John the Tomahawk

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Tales from Spring Training

I thought it would be appropriate, given the time of year, to tell a few tales from baseball's past about Spring Training.

A lot of things in baseball used to be more relaxed in 'simpler times'. When an inning ended in the old days, for example, the fielders sometimes just left their gloves in the grass along the foul lines instead of taking them to the dugout. Can you imagine anyone doing that now?

When a team arrived (by train) for a series, they would often walk to the ballpark if it was within a few blocks of the station. Of course it would be pretty tough nowadays to walk from an airport to a stadium in another suburb, but can you imagine asking modern ballplayers to walk even a couple of blocks through downtown today?
Read my future blogs to see how other things such as travel have changed.
It seems that teams take Spring Training pretty seriously these days. But it wasn't always that way.

Here are some tales from Grapefruit League history from one of baseball's great story tellers – Ron Luciano, the pro football player turned entertaining umpire who loved to make fun of everything and everybody, especially himself.

In his hilarious book The Umpire Strikes Back he tells how he spent the entire winter getting prepared for his rookie season as a Major League umpire. “I watched my diet and only gained fifteen pounds. I exercised my legs a lot, and my mouth.”

He wrote that even arch-enemy Earl Weaver, the obnoxious Baltimore manager, was nice to him during Spring Training. Why is that so surprising? Well, Weaver made a lot of umpires want to get out of the game, but he had a particular hate on for Luciano.

Luciano once threw Weaver out of the first two games of a four-game series for arguing. In the third game, Weaver started getting on Luciano in the third inning. Luciano asked Weaver how loud he could yell. Weaver asked why. Luciano said, “Cuz you're gonna be yelling from the clubhouse the rest of the game.”

In the fourth and final game of the series Weaver brought out the lineup card and asked Luciano if he was going to be as bad tonight as he had been in the first three games. Luciano said, “Earl you're not going to be around to find out.” And he tossed him – before the game even started!

Luciano was always talking to fans and to players – anyone who'd listen to him. Batters in slumps would get outraged when Luciano would chat away while they were trying to bear down. Rod Carew was such a talented hitter, that he could answer Luciano while swinging, “No, it's a curve, Ron, so I'm gonna talk it to right,” and do just as he said!

One time during Spring Training Cleveland third baseman Buddy Bell was really fighting the ball. Luciano told Bell that he was having an awful day. When Bell committed his second error Luciano laughed at him. (Imagine an ump doing that today. “Watch your step Luciano, Bell told him. “If I blow another one you're gonna have to play third and I'll ump.”

Sure enough Bell booted another one and then tossed his glove to Luciano. They exchanged caps and Luciano took third – praying that the next batter wouldn't hit the ball anywhere near him. He didn't – he lined the third pitch to right. But there was a play at third and Luciano caught the ball and then threw to second to get the batter who had gone for second on the throw to third.

Luciano threw it way over second base, pulling Jack Brohamer well off the bag. But Joe Brinkman called the runner out anyway!

When the runner started to scream his disbelief Brinkman pointed at third and shrugged, “Look who threw it.” (Luciano, Brinkman, and the two teams were not fined – but they were instructed never to try a stunt like that again.)

In one spring training game veteran umpire Tom Gorman was working the plate and called a strike on Brooks Robinson when he had tried to check his swing on a low pitch. Robinson rarely argued, but he stepped out of the box and insisted that Gorman check with the first base ump, Emmett Ashford, who was Major League baseball's first Afro-American umpire. Gorman sighed and then pointed to Ashford, who immediately threw his arm up into the air. “There you are,” said Gorman, “you've got it in black AND white.”

But the best line comes from comedian Bob Uecker. When Johnny Carson asked the light hitting former Cardinal catcher what he considered the highlight of his baseball career, Uecker replied, “I once got a bases loaded walk in an exhibition game.”

Enjoy Spring Training. But don't take it TOO seriously.

Will The Quill

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Baseball and the arrival of spring

It’s Saturday, so I must be Blechta. Just a minute; let me check…(gets up, looks in mirror)…okay. Yeah, I was right.

Wow. We’ve finally gotten our baseball blog off the ground. I hope you’re enjoying it. I’ve noticed not many people have been joining in the conversation. In case you don’t know, you can comment on any of the blog postings by clicking on the word “comment” underneath the post. We seek and encourage your involvement in this blog. I speak for all three of us (well, maybe not for John) when I say that we just don’t want to pontificate about baseball. As stated elsewhere on the page, we want this to be like the between-the-pitches chatter in the stands that happens at any ballgame. So don’t be shy. Jump in with both feet if you feel the urge.

Enough editorializing...

My most definite harbinger of spring showed up last week and it felt wonderful. I turned on my radio and listened to a Jays spring training game. You could hear some of the chatter in the stands and on the field, the Press Box PA announcements in the background, the stadium announcements and of course the crack of the bat and slap of a fastball hitting the catcher’s mitt. With barely any imagination, I could also see that emerald-green field and feel the warm breeze. Ah, spring!

Baseball is one of those games that doesn’t have a clock, and I think that’s its greatest strength. It has moments of leisureness (that’s not a really a word, but what the hell) and it has moments where it moves at the speed of light. One moment, you’re looking around, relaxed, cracking open a few peanuts, chatting with the folks around you in the stands, and the next, you can’t possibly follow everything that’s going on out on the field.

(Sidebar: This is one place where TV could be great, except that all they show you is the same play from 10 different angles. Somewhere along the line, some brainiac decided that every camera’s job is to follow the ball in play. If you really love the game, sometimes you want to do something like watch what the left fielder does when the ball is hit to right field. Can’t do that on TV, can you?)

With spring training everything is even more relaxed, and because of the size of spring training stadiums, the experience is more intimate and casual. Players will more readily talk to the fans, sign autographs. You can not only watch them warm-up, but also warm-down. As a fan, you feel more part of the game in a way you never can in a major league stadium.

For those of us in climes where winter is really harsh, listening to a spring training game is the most definite and permanent sign that spring is on the horizon. It’s not like one of those slightly warmer days that end with the door slamming shut in your face as the temperature plummets again.

So get out your radio and tune in to hear what spring sounds like — a spring that doesn’t go away. You’ll feel a lot better.

Rick “The Professor” Blechta

Thursday, March 3, 2011

The Jays in 2011: Who’s on first?

I will concentrate on current aspects of the Blue Jays and shenanigans surrounding players, trades, other teams and other timely topics.

So, the season begins and our hopes sprout just like the new names on the roster. The old is out and the new in. Grapefruit always means there’s still a chance, a glimmer of hope, that the boys will once again exceed our great expectations and make us proud. It takes a long time for my spirit to be dashed by reality.

The Jay’s, this year, are making big changes. Not that they haven’t in the past but with new people at the helm the bat is swinging for the outfield if not the fences. The pitching staff is young and inexperienced for the long hall and the veteran of the bunch Romero is only a third year man. The rest? No one knows for sure. A full season will tell the tale.

The outfield is also, of diminished capacity. Hopefully, speed will prevail with Davies in centre. (He will steal more bases than the whole team last year.) As for the infield, ouch!! In baseball you throw the ball hit the ball and catch the ball. Well, I guess for Encarnacion, one out of three ain’t bad. He is not an Overbay who can dig it out from practically any throw from third (Encarnacion’s previous incarnation). Who’s on first? I don’t know. Third base. From third to first and DH. Yikes!!

Now, with one of the best arms from right filed going to third base, I am concerned. Bautista can throw a strike from left. He sure put pressure on runs at home. I know he likes and can play third but... Who’s in right now, or left. Questions questions. This is a make or break year for Snider. All is up in the air.

Now for manager. Farrell has lots of top level expertise and a penchant for small ball. About time. I love big ball but you can’t expect to bash your way to the playoffs. You often need to dig out a win with small ball. So we have chance to put most of the pieces together for a good season.

I can’t wait to hear “play ball.”

John "The Tomahawk" Trembath

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The Yankee Killer

First of all, Welcome to Late Innings! We hope you’ll enjoy your visit here and want to return several times every week.

Now that the 2011 season is getting close, there’s going to be lots of action, great information and we hope a lot of banter between our bloggers and all of our readers. If you have any suggestions for topics, we’re all ears. If you have any likes or dislikes, please let us know. We want this to be as much your blog as ours! —Rick

And now...batting lead-off for Late Innings...the third baseman...Will Braund...
(for Will, you have to imagine this announcement being made in the late Bob Sheppard's voice and with the echo of old Yankee Stadium behind it).

Though I will sometimes discuss current events most of my blogs will be about great teams and individuals from the past.

I have been a Yankee fan since the late 50s but I am going to cite some amazing facts about an enemy of the Yankees in my first blog. 

Here are some fascinating facts about Teddy Ballgame...

• Ted Williams was a six-time league leader in batting, and a two-time TripleCrown winner.
• He finished with a .344 average.
• He hit .388 at the age of 39 and won a batting title at 40.
• And ... he may have had the best eyesight in baseball history.

Williams always denied the rumors that he could count the seams on an incoming fastball and watch it hit the bat but he said  “in the last 20 feet [he] could see which way it was spinning.”

When he entered the Marines as a pilot in World War 2, they tested his vision and announced that he had 20/10 eyesight — meaning if something was 20 feet away, he could see it as well as a “normal” person could from 10 feet. The ophthalmologist performing Williams' entry examination said his vision was on the order of a “1-in-100,000 occurrence.”

Williams benefited from his reputation. Everyone knew that he refused to swing at pitches out of the strike zone and umpires were reluctant to call a borderline pitch on him as they assumed that if it had been over the plate he'd have swung.
Vision wasn't Williams' only extraordinary sense. One time, he felt the batter's box in Kansas City was slanted slightly from front to back.

“I felt as if I were hitting uphill,” he wrote in The Science of Hitting (1970, Simon & Schuster). “I told the groundskeeper about it, and the next time we came into Kansas City, it was level. I hit two home runs that day, and when the Kansas City manager learned what had happened, he almost fired the groundskeeper.”

Another time, shortly after coming back from Korea in 1953, Williams was taking batting practice at Fenway Park. He said he thought the plate was slightly off line from the mound. The Red Sox wanted to humor him so they brought in a transit to measure. Sure enough, it was off a fraction. 

Baseball players speak of the Louisville Slugger bat the same way violinists dote over the Stradivarius or pianists praise the Steinway. Of course ballplayers tend to use more colorful language than their concert colleagues. In David Cataneo's book I Remember Ted Williams, former Boston Red Sox pitcher Charlie Wagner recalls, “One day I came into the hotel room — we were in St. Louis — and Ted had just gotten some new bats. The minute I got in, he said, ‘Feel these goddamn bats.' You know, he swore a lot.
“He said, ‘Damn, these are the best bats. Look at them. Feel that son of a bitch.’ I looked at the bats and I sat on the bed and watched him. He was shaving some of the handles on them. The wood shavings were going all over my bed. That didn't bother him.

“Then he looked in the mirror. ... He's looking in the mirror and saying, ‘Jesus Christ... Jesus Christ. Boy, oh boy, give me that bat. Boy.’ Then he swung the bat at the knob of my bedpost and knocked my bed down. He knocked the post off my bed. He said, ‘Hey, call ’em up and have them send up another bed.’ It was that simple.”

Williams was very fussy about his Louisville Slugger bats. After receiving a new shipment from Hillerich & Bradsby he once complained about the way the handle tapered.  He sent them back, saying their grips didn't feel right. They weren't. Hillerich & Bradsby staff members measured the grip with calibrators against the models he had been using. They discovered that Williams' new bats were 5/1000ths of an inch off.

He also could tell differences in the weight of his bats. J.A. Hillerich Jr., a late president of the company, once tested Williams. He gave him six bats, five weighing exactly the same, the sixth weighing one-half ounce more. Williams easily picked out the one with the minute difference.

“Ted used different models for different pitchers and different times of the year,” says chairman of the board John A. ‘Jack’ Hillerich III. “The difference between the models was almost nothing. It was like a 64th of an inch difference in the knob.”

Keep swinging for the fences,
Will ‘The Quill’ Braund