Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Strange But True Tidbits

Hey trivia buffs. I thought that this week I would share a few items I've come across in my readings (in books not websites – I am a bit old fashioned) of late.

Denton True Young, who threw the first pitch in a World Series game, threw so hard in the minor leagues that the fences behind the plate looked like they had been hit by a cyclone. The nickname Cyclone was shortened to Cy. In 1890 the Cleveland Spiders acquired Cy from the Canton club – for a tailored suit. Good deal.

The 1930's Cardinals, a.k.a. the Gas House gang, had some tough customers. Pepper Martin, their fiery third basemen, hated to field bunts and he punished clubs that used the tactic. Before a 1938 game against the Boston Braves Martin approached their manager, Casey Stengal, and warned him not to let his players bunt. Casey, of course, immediately instructed his players to bunt on Martin as often as possible.

In response, Martin began throwing not to his first baseman, but at the runners' heads. Eventually the tactic took a toll. Elbie Fletcher came to the plate for the Braves and laid down a bunt. As soon as the seething Martin moved to field it Fletcher bolted, fearing for his life – towards his dugout.

Golden Glove Awards are intended to recognize outstanding defensive prowess. But voters continually allow a player's offensive production to influence their choices.

Perhaps the most glaring example was the 1999 American League Gold Glove winner at first base, Rafael Palmeiro. Palmeiro blasted 47 home runs that year and he hit .324. He didn't embarrass himself at first base, but then again he didn't get much chance to. He played only 28 games at first and another 134 at his primary position – designated hitter!

Ever wonder why left-handed pitchers are called southpaws? Well the explanation is quite simple. In its first several decades baseball was played in the afternoon. and because it was imperative that the hitters not be staring into the setting afternoon sun, diamonds were constructed so that the hitters faced east. This meant that the pitchers faced west and left handers' arms were on the south side.

Why are strikeouts recorded as K's? In baseball's infancy in the 1860's newspaper writer Henry Chadwick wanted an elaborate system of scoring to record what had happened so he could write detailed accounts of what each 'side' did. He had already used S for sacrifice so when a player struck – the term strikeout wasn't popular yet – he used the word's last letter instead of its first.

You may have read one of my very first blogs about the various names that teams have used. But who was the first team to sport a logo? The first team to add a logo to its uniforms was the Detroit Tigers. They had a small red tiger stitched onto their caps in 1901.

How about the Major League baseball logo? Ever look at it and wonder who it's modeled after? Well it may surprise you because he hardly seems like the male model type, but it was actually Twins' slugger Harmon Killebrew. Take a look for yourself.

Wrigley Field almost got lights a long time ago, long before it did. Lights for Wrigley were ordered and delivered well in time for use for the 1942 season. In the interim, however, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor and William Wrigley decided to donate the lights to a Chicago shipyard to help the war effort. Day baseball became an entrenched and beloved tradition at Wrigley – until Major League Baseball finally threatened to force the Cubs to play home games in St. Louis. They relented in 1988. The baseball gods intervened, however. The first night game at Wrigley was called due to rain after three innings.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

The late-season doldrums

Being a long-time Jays fan, I’ve gotten used to seasons seeming awfully long. This year’s edition of the team leaves me with much the same feeling. There is reason for hope this year. The Jays’ GM, Alex Anthopoulos, has a plan to improve the team, seems to be working and he’s sticking to it. It now seems realistic to think the Jays might truly be competitive next year – and that’s something that Toronto fans haven’t had in many a year. Some other major league teams are also rounding into this position. “Maybe next year” is realistic for some of them.

Also, just having a good team on paper can mean little if there are injuries to key members of the team, players have bad seasons, or even there’s poor chemistry in the clubhouse.

So, my team is clearly going nowhere this season, something that’s been true since 1993. What if I were a Cubs fan? That must be truly depressing.

At this point, for the bottom-level teams, the only thing we have to look forward to between now and the end of the season other than a chance to look at the kids from the farm team are the teams in your division. The schedule is such that if you’re in a strong division (as the Jays are), you can look forward to watching the Yankees, Red Sox and Tampa further beating up on your team. The AL East is a truly tough place to rise to the top, but the NL East and West are tough, too. So being a fan in September can become like having sand repeatedly kicked in your face by a bunch of bullies.

To every fan that’s in the same position as I am, I can say this: at least you can go to the ballpark and see some good baseball – even if it isn’t your team playing it.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Best Team, Best Pitcher?

I read in the paper the other day that if Justin Verlander wins the Cy Young Award the Tigers will likely win the World Series. The writer argued that it had happened every time the Tigers won the World Series, namely 1935, '45, '68, and '84.

Well, that is a cute idea and it's close to the truth. In 1968 Denny McLain (31-4) won the Cy Young. And in 1984 Willie Hernandez (9-3 with 32 saves) did. That must give some hope to Tiger fans.
But there was no Cy Young Award in '35 or '45. The award was not created until the year after Cy Young's death in 1955.

In '35 Boston's Wes Ferrell led the league in wins and Lefty Grove had the best ERA. But the Tigers' big three led in shutouts (Schoolboy Rowe), strikeouts (Tommy Bridges), and winning percentage (Elden Auker). Ferrell was 25-14, 3.52 and Grove was 20-12 with a 2.70 ERA. For the World Series champs Rowe was 19-13, 3.69, Bridges was 21-10, 3.51, and Auker was 18-7, 3.83. I think Bridges might have won the Cy Young if they'd had it - but it might have gone to Ferrell.

In '45 Hal Newhouser, who had been exempted from military service, got to feast on the hitters who weren't fighting in Japan and racked up a league-leading 25 wins and posted a 1.81 ERA. 'Prince Hal' led the AL in every pitching category except saves, so I guess he would have won the award if it had existed.

It all got me to thinking how often the game's top team (arguably the World Series champs) won it all because they had the league's best pitcher. So here is how often it has happened since they started handing out the Cy Young. Keep in mind that there was only one award given out from '56 to '66, since then there has been a recipient in each league.

1957 - Warren Spahn of the Milwaukee Braves
1958 - Bob Turley of the New York Yankees
1960 - Vernon Law of the Pittsburgh Pirates
1961 - Whitey Ford of the New York Yankees
1963 - Sandy Koufax of the Los Angeles Dodgers
1965 - Sandy Koufax of the Los Angeles Dodgers
1968 - Denny McLain of the Detroit Tigers
1969 - Tom Seaver of the New York Mets
1974 - Catfish Hunter of the Oakland A's
1977 - Sparky Lyle of the New York Yankees
1978 - Ron Guidry of the New York Yankees
1980 - Steve Carlton of the Philadelphia Phillies
1981 - Fernando Valenzuela of the Los Angeles Dodgers
1984 - Willie Hernandez of the Detroit Tigers
1985 - Bret Saberhagen of the Kansas City Royals
1988 - Orel Hershiser of the Los Angeles Dodgers
1995 - Greg Maddux of the Atlanta Braves
2001 - Randy Johnson of the Arizona Diamondbacks

So, it used to happen regularly – 16 times in the first 32 years – or once every two years. But only twice in the past 23. Why? It's quite simple. Let's all say it together, "There are too many bloody teams now !!!"
Will it happen for the Tigers this year? Probably not. How come? Cuz' their number two guy so far this year, Max Scherzer, is no Schoolboy Rowe (1935), Dizzy Trout ('45), Mickey Lolich ('68), or Jack Morris ('84). Sorry Motown.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Under the Radar No Longer

On a historical Monday night (Aug.15, 2011), while the Milwaukee Brewers superior defense turned a dazzling triple play, at Detroit’s Comerica Park, 36,211 fans witnessed a very special and significant game. Jim Thome, designated hitter of the Minnesota Twins, joined a very elite group, becoming only the eighth player in major league history to hit 600 career home runs. As an added bonus, he became the only player in history to belt both his 599th and 600th homers in the same game.

Now, let’s get this out of the way right from the get-go. The big affable slugger has never been linked to performance-enhancing drugs in any way, shape or form. Of course, the inevitable discussions will now rear their ugly heads yet again, regarding his possible use of PEDs. Let’s pour cold water on the hot coals, and finally give the great Jim Thome the recognition and respect that he so rightly deserves. He has flown under everyone’s radar for many years, and that should now be silenced.

Drafted by the Cleveland Indians in the 13th round of the 1989 amateur draft, Thome made his major league debut on Sept. 4, 1991. In that game, the (then) third baseman went 2-4, with an RBI and run scored. The Indians defeated the Twins 8-4. Thome enjoyed 12 productive years in Cleveland, while amassing 334 home runs. In his final year with the Tribe (2002), he set a career high with 52 round trippers.

In 2003, the slugger made the move to the National League and spent three seasons with the Philadelphia Phillies. The first two years were very productive for Thome, as he pounded 47 and 42 home runs respectively. His next, and last, year in Philly did not go as planned, as elbow surgery limited him to 59 games and seven long balls.

With 430 dingers under his belt, he took his talents back to the American League and began the 2006 season as a member of the Chicago White Sox. Over the next four years, Thome played 529 games while combining for 134 home runs and 369 RBI. At 38 years of age, Thome continued to deliver solid and consistent production.

On Aug. 31, 2009 the Chicago White Sox sent Thome, and cash, to the Los Angeles Dodgers for minor-leaguer Justin Fuller. His tenure with LA lasted just 17 games. The Dodgers swept (3-0) the St. Louis Cardinals in the NL Division Series, before bowing out 4-1 to the Philadelphia Phillies in the NL Championship Series.

After becoming a free agent on Nov. 6, 2009, Thome signed with the Minnesota Twins on Jan. 26, 2010. On Jan. 14, 2011, Thome once again became a free agent and re-signed with the Twins. So far in his current run with the Twinkies, he has produced 36 homers and 97 RBI.

At age 40, Jim Thome remains a dangerous and productive hitter. The exclusive company he now keeps in the 600+ club includes Barry Bonds (762) Hank Aaron (755) Babe Ruth (714) Willie Mays (660) Ken Griffey Jr. (630) Sammy Sosa (609) and Alex Rodriquez (626 and counting). And of those eight, three of them, Bonds, Sosa and A-Rod, have had their image tainted as a result of PED admission, or suspicion. At age 40, Thome is the oldest to hit 600 bombs, and needed the second-fewest at-bats to do it.

In an illustrious career now in its 21st season, the burly slugger has collected 600 home runs and 1662 RBI. Is he worthy of a trip to Cooperstown? I have no doubt in my mind. A true gentleman who plays the game with respect, Jim Thome deserves to be a Hall of Famer.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

What If?

In this first of two entries on this topic I am going to discuss some might have beens, how would things have been different if only ...

What if they had used brand new baseballs throughout a game in the old days? Ray Chapman, a shortstop his whole career planned to retire after the 1920 season. He didn't make it that far. Yankee pitcher Carl Mays had a reputation for throwing inside to hitters. A couple of seasons earlier Chapman had set a record that still stands - 67 sacrifice bunts in one season. Mays figured he would bunt when he came to bat late in the afternoon on August 16, 1920.

Mays threw a fastball toward Chapman's head that he never saw in the afternoon gloom. When it hit him, the sound resembled that of a ball being struck by a bat. Mays fielded it and threw to first and the infielders threw the dirty grey ball around the infield. Chapman dropped to the ground and died twelve hours later.

If it had not rained the day before in Cleveland Dimaggio's 56-game hitting streak might have been even longer - a lot longer. Most fans know that Ken Keltner, the best defensive third baseman in the league in 1941, robbed the Yankee Clipper of two sure doubles and ended his streak by playing deep and diving to snag shots off Dimaggio's bat. Each time Joe D almost beat out Keltner's throws to first. He claimed the base paths were soggy though and slowed him down. What's the interesting thing about this? Dimaggio went on to get hits in his next 16 straight games! By the way, to this day, no one has ever hit in 72 out of 73 games.

What if, ten years later, Dimaggio had not been resentful and jealous of Mickey Mantle's talent? Joe had painful bone spurs in his legs and he knew he was close to the end of the line. He wanted to retire as a Yankee legend and the young phenom was stealing the spotlight from him. In the second game of the 1951 World Series Mantle, the fastest runner in baseball, should clearly have been playing center in the cavernous Yankee Stadium outfield. But the proud Dimaggio was in center and Mick was in left.

A flyball was hit between them that Mantle was able to reach easily. He called Dimaggio off, but he stubbornly kept coming and called for it himself. Mantle tried to jam on the brakes. But when he did, he caught one of his spikes in a sprinkler cover. His Series was over. He underwent surgery on his knee and never again ran like he had before Dimaggio hogged that flyball. We will never know how much better Mick would have been.

What if Gil McDougald had laid off that low, outside pitch? It's May 7, 1957 and we're at Cleveland's Municipal Stadium. The count is 2-2 on McDougald, Yankee's second batter and a former Rookie of the Year. On the mound is the man who'd won the award just two years earlier. On his twelfth pitch of the game Cleveland ace Herb Score lets go one of the fastballs that had helped him amass 508 strikeouts in his first two seasons. McDougald lines the pitch up the middle.

"I was in my follow-through," Score said later. "All I ever saw as my head came up was a white blur. I snapped my glove but the blur blasted through the fingertips and into my right eye. I clutched at my face and thought, 'My God, the eye has popped right of of my head!'" The career of baseball's best young pitcher, the fireballing Herb Score was over. He'd gone 36-19 for the Indians and was destined for Cooperstown.

Afterwards Score, who went on to become a much-loved Indians' broadcaster, joked to a teammate, "They say I didn't keep my eye on that one." A sympathetic reporter told him he would see him at the hospital later and Score said, "I hope I can see you."

“I came back in ’58 throwing as hard as ever. I had 48 strikeouts in 41 innings. I was never better. Then we had about a week of rainouts, and I was pitching in Washington on a cold, rainy night. I felt a pain in my elbow and then one of my pitches didn't make it to the plate. The next one didn't either. My pitches were never the same, I had no snap. It's possible the cortisone I had to take for 10 months to reduce the swelling on the side of my head might have altered my muscle tone and affected my windup somehow." Herb Score would win just 19 games in the remaining six seasons of his career.

What if Dizzy Dean hadn't ignored an injury he suffered in a somewhat similar fashion? After Babe Ruth's retirement, Cardinal ace Dizzy Dean was easily the most colorful figure in baseball and its biggest drawing card. He claimed to have developed his strong arm knocking squirrels out of trees.

An infield out ended the bottom of the third inning in the 1937 All-Star Game. It was a spectacular play and it marked the beginning of the end of Dizzy Dean's spectacular career. With two out, Earl Averill cracked a low line drive that hit Dean on the foot. Averill was thrown out at first and Dean headed for the clubhouse, his three-inning stint over. In the clubhouse, it was discovered that Dean's toe was broken.

It was considered a minor injury and Dean and the Cardinals management decided he would return to the mound before the toe was fully healed. The injury affected his delivery though, which eventually wrecked his arm and ended Dizzy's glory days at the age of twenty-six.

I'll try to conclude this blog about sad events in baseball that might have been avoided on a light note. After his retirement Dean became a popular Cardinal broadcaster. (He later did NBC's Saturday afternoon games.) His backwoods grammar was pretty bad. After a close play at third Dean would say that the feller slud into the bag. Horrified St. Louis schoolteachers complained to the radio station that Dizzy was a bad influence on children. When asked for a comment a bewildered Dean answered, "What am I saposed to say? He slidded into third?"

Saturday, August 13, 2011

A little fun

I’m out of town this weekend and don’t have a lot of time to write something up. Then something good fell into my lap courtesy of a good friend and Late Innings reader, Johnson Attong. Thanks for sharing this, Johnson!

The clip is from a recent game between the Mariners (who finally won after losing heaven knows how many games in a row) and the Athletics. I’m sure you’ll look at this and think like I did, “Gee, haven’t seen something like that since Little League.”

Now, the big question is: if you were the official scorer, how would you have scored the play? The game’s scorer gave the hitter a single and two bases on a fielder’s choice. Hmmm... Is it just Johnson and me, or do you have a problem with that, too?

What do you think? How should it have been scored?

Regardless, every time I look at this, I just have to chuckle.

Here's a link to an account of the play: CLICK ME!

NOTE: The included video above seems to not work on occasion. If that happens, the link just above also includes the video clip.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

The Dog Days of August: Predictions and Observations

This is that glorious time of the season when baseball fanatics are in seventh heaven, basking in the glory of the pennant races. The clarity of the picture is more sharply focused, as the contenders, pretenders and also-rans distance themselves from each other. The teams vying for a playoff berth will all be dealing with injuries, consistency, sustainability and durability. To add to the mix, September call-ups, quality of opponents and home versus away games takes the chess match to another level. Some observations are rather straight forward, while others are bathed in fog. Let’s get right to the nitty-gritty and dive into the steeplechase in progress.


The toughest, and arguably most exciting, division in baseball has the two big thoroughbreds going neck-and-neck. The Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees are deep in the trenches, gearing up for all-out warfare. Despite both teams’ erratic and (at times) questionable starting rotations, these two behemoths always find ways to gut it out and grind through the mayhem.

PREDICTION: The Beantowners and the Bronx Bombers will top the list, with one winning the division and the other taking the wild card. That may not be decided until the last weekend of the regular season.

OBSERVATIONS: The Tampa Bay Rays are in a scratch-your-head-and-wonder quagmire. The Toronto Blue Jays continue to progress forward with more pieces to the puzzle being filled. The Baltimore Orioles are the hapless birds who have flown the coup.


This is an interesting three-team horse race between the Detroit Tigers, Cleveland Indians and the Chicago White Sox. All three teams are probably breathing a collective sigh of relief, considering they are all finished with Boston and New York. Detroit and Cleveland will go head-to-head twelve more times, giving the Indians a chance to gain ground on the team they’re chasing. Chicago face more quality opponents than both the Tigers and the Indians and trails both of them in the standings. The problem here is that only one of these three teams will advance to the playoffs. Expect a down-and-out dogfight to the finish line.

PREDICTION: The Detroit Tigers will prevail, when all is said and done. They are better positioned with starting pitching and an All-Star closer. Cleveland and Chicago will make a run, but will just fall short.

OBSERVATIONS: Everything that could have possibly gone wrong for the Minnesota Twins did, and then some. They’ve had a disastrous season and were the biggest disappointment in the American League. The Kansas City Royals remain the perennial cellar dwellers in this division.


This is the wildest, perhaps most unpredictable race in the derby, as the Texas Rangers hold a slight lead over the Los Angeles Angels heading into the stretch run. Statistically, the Rangers outshine the Angels in almost every offensive category. Texas’ schedule is far more grueling than the Angels, having two more series’ against both Boston and Tampa Bay. And if that’s not enough, the Rangers go head-to-head with the Angels 10 more times – including the final series of the season – with seven of those games being played in California.

PREDICTION: The dominant starting pitching of Weaver, Haren and Santana, coupled with Scott Downs and flamethrowing rookie closer Jordan Walden, will propel the Angels to the division title. It will be a wild and crazy ride down the stretch.

OBSERVATIONS: The Seattle Mariners and the Oakland Athletics have both had seasons they would like to forget about and probably wish was over. Neither team posed any kind of a threat this season.

We may well have to wait until the very end of the regular season to see who moves on and who doesn’t. That’s part of the excitement and unpredictability of the pennant races. The dog days of August and beyond provide us with quite a thrill ride. Welcome aboard and enjoy the journey.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

They'll Never be Broken

When Icharo Suzuki broke George Sisler's record of 257 hits set in 1920 he broke a record that I thought was going to be pretty tough to beat. Of course it had really been something when Rose beat Cobb's 4,197 hits lifetime. And no one ever thought Gehrig's 2,130 consecutive games record would ever be equaled until Ripken Jr. smashed the heck out of it.

What records will NEVER be broken? I often read that Dimaggio's 56-game hitting streak can never be matched. Maybe not, 44 is as close as anybody's got. But I think it could be. There are some, however, that really never will be broken. Here they are and why.

Most triples, 309 by Sam Crawford. Among active players Carl Crawford (29 years old) leads with 110. He's a third of the way there. Explanation: Current centre field fences range from 380 to 435 feet (Houston's Minute Maid Park). There used to be several major league parks with center field fences 500 feet deep. Even if you hit a ball into the power alleys in parks like the old Yankee Stadium you could round a lot of bases.

Most inside the park home runs, 55 by Jesse Burkett. Explanation: See above.

Most stolen bases, 1,406 by Rickey Henderson. 33-year old Juan Pierre of the White Sox has 545 – again, he's a third of the way there. (Crawford's next with 422.) Explanation: Henderson was not only talented, but extraordinary like Hank Aaron, Rose and Ripken Jr. – in that he played for a long time. Otherwise he wouldn't have passed guys like Cobb and Brock. It's pretty doubtful anyone else will be that fast for that long.

Most steals of home, 54 by Ty Cobb. I remember watching Rod Carew pull this off once in a while (he did it 17 times). And we've all seen pictures of Jackie Robinson doing it. You almost never see one attempted anymore. I believe three (by B.J. Upton, Tori Hunter, Alex Rodriguez, Gary Sheffield and Omar Vizquel) is the most among active players. A ways to go here. Explanation: It's a different game today. Fellow blogger Rick laments the loss of the triple as an exciting play to watch, well here's another one that has virtually disappeared. Back in the day there were guys who stole home twice in a game, not a career.

Highest batting average .440, by Hugh Duffy in 1894. Explanation: Seeing as even Suzuki can't hit .400 (and Carew, Brett and Gywnn couldn't either) it's tough to think anyone will reach .440.

Fewest strikeouts in a season, 4 by Joe Sewell (see photo). Explanation: The game sure has changed. Nobody chokes up on the bat and tries to poke the ball through holes anymore (except maybe Suzuki). Babe Ruth, who swung for the fences like no other player never struck out 100 times in a season. Now lots of guys do. Dimaggio struck out just 13 times in 541 at bats in '41 (the streak year). This year Nationals' catcher Jesus Flores has 13 strikeouts – in 34 at bats! Jeff Keppinger of the Giants is doin' okay though, just 12 strikeouts in 231 at bats.

Most wins, 511 by Cy Young. Number two is Walter Johnson and he fell almost 100 short (417). Explanation: The four- and five-man rotation has ended any chance of this one being matched, unless somebody pitches into his eighties. In baseball's early days a team would have two starters. (And they were also finishers.) Among recent pitchers Greg Maddux (355) and Roger Clemens (354) came closest. Jamie Moyer, who is today's Phil Niekro, leads active pitchers with 267. Then it's Roy Halladay (184), Tim Hudson (176), C.C. Sabathia (173), and Livian Hernandez (172). Lotta work to do.

Most shutouts, 110 by Walter Johnson. Warren Spahn had 63. Nolan Ryan topped 50. Roy Halladay leads current pitchers with 19. Again, a ways to go. Explanation: See above.

Most complete games, 749 by Cy Young. Halladay has 64, Livian Hernandez has 50. I don't think they'll reach 749. Explanation: Sure modern owners are often corporations with shareholders who don't want their valuable young arms overused as Billy Martin did with the Athletics thirty years ago, so there is a pitch counter on every bench now, but there is more to it than that.

Back before Ruth made the home run so popular and profitable pitchers could pace themselves, especially when they got near the bottom of the order. You didn't have to throw hard all the time. So what if the sixth and seventh hitters walked or got hits? Even if one of them was for extra bases you're still only down a run. Walter Johnson didn't have to throw his 100 mile an hour (probable not verified) fastball on every pitch so he could go nine or twelve or fourteen innings and still pitch three days later.

Now almost every hitter except the pitcher could hit a ball out. You can't really let up for long. You walk a guy, another guy gets a scratch single and the next guy could cost you three runs with one swing.

I know other analysts have suggested other records, but for me, these are the ones that'll last forever.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Instant replay

I’m going to stay on my hobby horse for a second posting based on tonight’s Jays game against Baltimore.

In the bottom of the seventh inning, with Cesar Izturis on first following a single, Robert Andino placed a ball down the first base line. On his way to the bag, he definitely did not stay within the 45-foot double lines. Not only that, he veered inward, almost stepping on the ball and Perez the pitcher, who subsequently picked up the ball poorly and missed Lind at the bag. He was charged with an error.

Will, our resident umpire, will tell you that Andino did two illegal things on this one play: running outside the double chalk lines and interfering with the pitcher trying to field the ball.

Here’s the tagline to all this: both the home plate umpire and the first base umpire missed the two transgressions of the rules. Andino was called safe. At first the official scorer even awarded him a hit!

Jays manager John Ferrell came out to argue. Replays clearly showed that he was in the right. Eventually, he argued too long and too forcefully and was tossed from the game.

This was the perfect time for the umpires to huddle, decide to review the play on screen and come up with the correct call. As the rules are currently, they can’t do that – except in the case of home runs.

Clearly, with the Jays ahead by only one run and runners now on first and second with no outs, the botched call could easily have affected the outcome of the game. Fortunately, in this case, it didn’t, but it was a very close thing.

When is MLB going to get their collective heads out of the sand and realize that standing in the way of replays for their umpiring crews will actually help baseball? Even though they would have taken it, I can’t think that Baltimore wouldn’t have wanted a replay to show Andino should have been called out for interference if they knew that another botched call might be reversed in their favour farther down the line.

Ultimately, this game probably means very little in the way the season will play out, but it’s only a matter of time before yet another botched call will screw up a really important game, and once again MLB will shuffle their feet, look down at the ground and tell us there’s nothing they can do about it.

There is and they should! If they make the proper rule change and allow replays for umpires on close and especially clearly-botched plays, they can always fine tune it as they go along. To hear them speak, you’d think there is the chance that the game will be ruined, especially if they get the rule change wrong. That’s bullshit and they know it.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

The Brooklyn Cyclones

Larry Toman, guest baseball blogger extraordinaire, is filling in for The Tomahawk again this week. Sounds like he had a good time in the Big Apple. Thanks, Larry!

Last Wednesday, July 27, I went with family to watch professional baseball at Coney Island. MCU Park (Municipal Credit Union) is the home of the Brooklyn Cyclones of the New York-Penn League. The league consists of fourteen teams in three divisions – McNamara, Pinckney and Stedler. The Cyclones are in the McNamara division with Staten Island, Hudson Valley and Aberdeen. Brooklyn is a Class-A affiliate of the New York Mets, which is known as Short Season Class-A. It is only fitting that their arch rivals are the New York Yankees affiliate from Staten Island.

It was on September 22, 1999 that the Brooklyn Baseball Company announced that it would purchase the St. Catharines Blue Jays, a Toronto Blue Jays affiliate in the NY-Penn League. It would then relocate the team to Brooklyn for the 2001 season. The team was named after the historic roller coaster The Cyclone, which made its debut on June 26, 1927.

MCU Park has an intimacy not found in the big league parks, because of its size and design. It has a capacity of 7,500. The night we were there saw a boisterous crowd of about 5,000 fans taking in the action. It is fan friendly, family orientated and boosts the atmosphere and amenities of the amusement park that resides behind the stadium. From Nathan's Famous hot dogs to burgers, pretzels, pizza, peanuts, popcorn and Brooklyn’s own micro-brewed Brooklyn Lager, it has something for everyone. Souvenirs abound everywhere. We had great seats in Row 12 looking directly down the first base line from home plate. The tickets were $16.00 each.

The game we saw had a little bit of everything, as the Cyclones hosted the Connecticut Tigers who are an affiliate of the Detroit Tigers. Pitchers for both teams were throwing from the high 80’s to the low 90’s. After a scoreless first inning, Brooklyn would take a short lived 2-1 lead into the third. The Tigers would put up runs in each of the next three innings and the Cyclones were now facing an 8-2 deficit heading into the bottom of the seventh inning. Then Brooklyn came alive and rallied for four runs, which was the most scored by either team in one inning. The gap was now narrowed to 8-6, but the Tigers would add an insurance run in their eighth inning, and the Cyclones would run out of gas. Connecticut would prevail for a 9-6 victory, in a game which featured four home runs.

Since their inception in 2001, the Cyclones have been the recipients of several prominent former major league players including Howard Johnson and Bobby Ojeda on the coaching staff. This year the team has former Cy Young Award winner and Minnesota Twins great Frank “Sweet Music” Viola as their pitching coach.

There are seven current members of the New York Mets who played for the Brooklyn Cyclones between 2001 and 2007. They are: Angel Pagan,OF, Nick Evans, 1B/OF, Daniel Murphy, 3B/OF, Bobby Parnell, RHP, Ike Davis, 1B, Lucas Duda, 1B/OF, and Dillon Gee, RHP.

As of August 2, 2011 the Brooklyn Cyclones have a record of 24-20 for a .545 winning percentage. The club is currently in second place, 8.5 games behind division and league-leading Staten Island. Overall, in the fourteen-team league, the Cyclones are tied for fourth with Jamestown and Williamsport. They conclude their regular season schedule on September 4, 2011 hosting the Staten Island Yankees.

MCU Park is the first professional baseball stadium in the borough of Brooklyn since Ebbets Field was torn down in 1960. In 2007 the park hosted its two millionth fan, with the Cyclones reaching the attendance mark faster than any club in Short-Season history. On July 27,2011 the three millionth fan was welcomed to the park. Pro baseball in Brooklyn is thriving with a competitive ball club and a strong and loyal fan base.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The All-Time Canadian Team

In looking at where (other than the U.S.) major leaguers have been born, I started to wonder if Canada could put together a decent team of players. And we could, we'd have fair pitching, an excellent outfield, one Hall of Famer, a future Hall of Famer, a couple of MVP winners, and a fair amount of power. But we wouldn't be turning any double plays and there will be a lot of hits up the middle 'cuz we've got no middle infielders.

Here is my All-Time Top Canadian Team

The Pitching Staff:
Our 'horse' would be Ferguson Jenkins, the pride of Chatham, Ontario. Fergie won 20 or more games six years straight ('67 to '72) for the Cubs and later went 25-12 and 18-7 with Rangers. Jenkins ended up in the Hall of Fame with 284 wins and a 3.34 ERA.

The Other Starters:
Reggie Cleveland from Swift Current, Saskatchewan pitched for the Cardinals and Red Sox. For his 13-year career he was 105-106, 4.01, his best year being 1973 (14-10, 3.01).
Kirk McKaskill from Kapuskasing, Ontario played mostly with the Angels and Chisox winning 106 games over 12 years. His best year, 1986, was his second in the majors when he showed great promise with a 17-10 record and a 3.36 ERA.
John Hiller was born in Toronto and played his whole career four hours from home - with the Tigers. His 'career year' was 1973 when he was 10-5, with a 1.34 ERA and 38 saves. As a starter the next year he went 17-14. Lifetime he was 87-76 with an impressive 2.83 ERA.
Paul Quantrill from London, Ontario was 11-2, 3.04 in 2001, his last year with the Jays and 7-3 in 2004 with the Yankees.
Erik Bedard from Navan, Ontario went 15-11 and 13-5 (with 10.9 strikeouts per 9 innings) for the Orioles in 2007 and 2008. He's 4-7 with the lowly Mariners this year though.
Ryan Dempster of Sechelt, British Columbia had 17 wins in 2008, and 15 in 2010. This year he's 8-8 and leads Cub hurlers in strikeouts.
Jeff Francis, who was born in Vancouver, B.C., was 14-11, 13-11 and 17-8 from 2005 to 2007 with the Rockies. He's 4-11 with the Royals this year.

In the Bullpen:
Eric Gagne from Montreal had more than 50 saves a year for the Dodgers from2002 to 2004. He later admitted to using HDH though and was one of the worst quick fadeouts among baseball's top relievers.
Claude Raymond of St. Jean, Quebec had 23 saves for the Expos in 1970, still a big number for those days.

The Position Players:
Catcher Russell Martin of the Yankees was born in East York, a suburb of Toronto ('Trawna' as locals call it). He hit over .280 his first three years with the Dodgers but is respected mostly for his terrific work behind the plate. He has a great glove and one of the hottest girlfriends in the game. See photo.

1B Justin Morneau from New Westminster, B.C. has hit 30+ homers three times, knocked in 100+ runs four times, hit over .300 three times and won an MVP award in his first seven years, all with with the Twins. He may surpass Ferguson Jenkins and Canada's all-time best.
1B Joey Votto, from Toronto, in his first two years with the Reds hit 24 and then 25 home runs and batted .297 and .322. But last year was his best so far (37, 135, . 324) when he won the NL MVP award. So far this year he's at .320 with 17 homers.
3B Pete Ward from Montreal twice hit more than 20 homers for the White Sox in the mid-sixties.
OF Larry Walker of Tay Creek, B.C. starred for the Expos and Rockies in the 90s. He hit 20+ homers eight times and ended up with 383 homers lifetime. In '97 he had 49 homers, 130 ribbies and a .366 average and was the NL's MVP and the next two years he hit .363 and .379! He won seven Gold Gloves, was an All-Star five times, and ended up with one of the best career averages (.313) among modern players.
OF "Twinkletoes" George Selkirk from Huntsville, Ontario took over in right field for Babe Ruth in ;34. (Few observers drew comparisons between the two.) Lifetime Selkirk had 108 home runs and batted . 290 over a 9-year career. His best year was 1939 (21, 101, .306).
OF Tip O'Neill from Springfield, Ontario played for the St. Louis Browns in the 1880s In his best season he hit 52 doubles, 19 triples, 14 HR's and hit .485 in 567 at bats! He hit over .300 in eight of his ten years and wound up with a .334 career average.
OF Terry Puhl of Melville, Saskatchewan was twice an all-star and had a .280 average and over 1.300 hits with the Astros over a long and steady career. He was great with the glove and owns the ninth best fielding percentage in major league history (.993).
OF Jason Bay from Trail, B.C. has averaged 29, 93, .279 over his last six healthy seasons with the Mets.
DH Matt Stairs from St. John, New Brunswick holds the MLB record for most jerseys 12. His best years were 1997 to 2000 with the Athletics when he hit more than 20 homers each year, the best being his 38 dingers in '99.

Top Prospects:
The top Canadian prospects right now are probably third baseman Brett Lawrie from Burnaby, B.C. and pitcher Scott Richmond (3-0 and Rookie of the month in April 2009) from Vancouver, both Blue Jays. If the majors let girls play I would include Lauren Bay, Jason's sister. See photo.

Not a bad squad. Believe me I searched the ages for even decent middle infielders and there have been none. Unless one of you readers can find any. Sadly, the vast majority of the players born in Canada played less than two seasons in 'the bigs', many getting just a quick cup of coffee and a "Thanks for comin' out".