Monday, September 16, 2019

My Top 5 Favorite Current Baseball Stadiums That I've Visited 9/16/19

Hey baseball fans!

We are two weeks away from the postseason, but we are also two weeks away from the Rangers' last home game at their current stadium, Globe Life Park in Arlington. Now, I've never been to this stadium, but I certainly wish I had visited! One of the items on my life's bucket list is to visit every baseball team's home stadium at least once. I've already been to 13 different stadiums (not counting the Old Yankee Stadium) and, because I'm almost halfway there, I figured I'd give you guys my opinion on my favorite ballparks I've visited.

But first, numbers thirteen to six:
#13: Guaranteed Rate Field, Chicago (White Sox)
#12: Angels Stadium, Los Angeles (Angels)
#11: Fenway Park, Boston
#10: Yankee Stadium, New York City (Yankees)
#9: Kauffman Stadium, Kansas City
#8: Nationals Park, Washington DC
#7: Citizen's Bank Park, Philadelphia
#6: Rogers Centre, Toronto

#5: Citi Field, New York City (Mets)
Yes, Citi Field trumps Yankee Stadium. Don't get me wrong, I love watching my Yankees in the Bronx, but Citi Field has a much better vibe and better attractions. The apple that pops up for Mets homers is always endearing and the blue and orange coloring, representing the flag of New York City and the Mets' uniforms, is a cool aesthetic.

#4: Oracle Park, San Francisco (then AT&T Park)
The home of the Giants will always be AT&T Park to me, but I'm sure older baseball fans will say it will always be Pacific Bell Park. Either way, I loved walking around the concourse, seeing McCovey Cove in right field and the giant glove/slide in left field. But I think what really makes this stadium great is the fans. Look at the yearly MLB attendance rankings. San Fran always gets huge crowds, even when they aren't the best team.

#3: Wrigley Field, Chicago (Cubs)
The most classic of National League parks sure does live up to its reputation in real life. The ivy along the outfield is awesome, along with the stands on the buildings across the street. Knowing its history made it even better, though, as it's the oldest park still standing in the NL. Here's something cool: while at Wrigley, I saw my very first inside-the-park home run by Tony Campana of the Cubs.

#2: PNC Park, Pittsburgh
PNC Park is objectively one of the best stadiums in Major League Baseball, as it seems to be towards the top of everyone's "Favorite Stadiums" list. Walking along the Roberto Clemente Bridge was awesome and the feel within the ballpark was too. I happened to go when the Pirates were doing really well, so the environment was also insane, as MVP candidate Josh Harrison was a key part in the Pirates' tight win against the Reds that day.

#1: Camden Yards, Baltimore
The architecture really makes Camden Yards the best ballpark. It's got Wrigley's ivy, Ebbets Field's iconic right field scoreboard, and has plenty of other landmarks too, like the warehouse just outside the stadium. It's got the overall best atmosphere out of any park I've been to and, if you don't believe me, go to Baltimore and see the O's play here. It's truly mesmerizing.

What do you think of this list? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below. Thanks for reading this post and I hope you enjoyed it. Check back soon for more of "all the buzz on what wuzz."

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Nolan Ryan Never Pitched a Perfect Game 9/4/19

Hey baseball fans!

Yes, Nolan Ryan pitched seven no-hitters during his Hall of Fame career, but you, along with around 7 billion people, have as many perfect games pitched as Nolan Ryan has at zero! This post is inspired by a recurring joke I have with my baseball fan friends, so it's time I share it with you in the form of some fun facts!

Same amount of World Series rings as Ted Williams: Williams may be "the greatest hitter that ever lived" (according to people who are wrong), but he played for the Red Sox in the middle of the Curse of the Bambino. Thus, no rings. He can, however, hold his 1946 World Series appearance over all of our heads, but his Sox lost the '46 Fall Classic to the Cardinals in seven.

Same amount of MVPs as Derek Jeter: Derek Jeter is one of my all-time favorite hitters. He's sixth on the all-time hits list and brought the Yankees five rings. However, Jeter never won an MVP Award during his entire 20-year career. He came close, though, placing in the top five three times.

Same amount of Cy Young Awards as Phil Niekro: Phil Niekro was one of the most durable pitchers in all of baseball. The knuckleballer and Hall of Famer pitched for 24 years in the majors, yet he never won a Cy Young Award, despite finishing in the top six for the award in five seasons.

Same amount of batting titles as Craig Biggio, Cal Ripken, Jr. and Rickey Henderson: All three are members of the 3,000 Hits Club. All three are Hall of Famers. All three are baseball legends. But, all three never won a batting title.

Same amount of home run titles as Frank Thomas: Frank Thomas was one of the most prolific hitters of the 1990s, slugging his way to five straight All Star Games from 1993-1997 as a member of the White Sox. His 521 home runs are tied for 20th-most on the all-time list, yet somehow, The Big Hurt never led either the AL or the MLB in home runs in any season.

See? You put up Hall of Fame numbers just by being a human being. You just have to look at Hall of Fame benchmarks a little bit differently. Thanks for reading this post and I hope you enjoyed it. Check back soon for more of "all the buzz on what wuzz."

Sunday, August 25, 2019

The 2011 AL "Wild" Wild Card Race 8/25/19

Hey baseball fans!

We're coming down to the final month of the 2019 MLB regular season and playoff seedings are starting to shape. However, as the great Yogi Berra said, "it ain't over 'til it's over." About eight years ago, a comeback in historically one of the most competitive divisions in MLB history shocked the sports world, making the 2011 AL Wild Card race one to remember.

It was September 1, 2011. The Red Sox were nine games up on the Rays in the American League Wild Card race, with the Yankees leading the AL East. The Sox were expected to do well in 2011, having acquired veteran All Stars Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford (from Tampa) in the offseason. The Rays were three years removed from their first AL pennant in team history, with much of the same core still on the roster, including all-time great member of the Rays, Evan Longoria, and the since-added 2010 AL Cy Young runner-up, David Price. Boston had actually led the AL East for much of the year, only to relinquish it to the Yankees late in the season. But as I said before, by September 1, they had the only AL Wild Card spot pretty much locked up. Remember: the Wild Card Game wouldn't debut until 2012, so there was one Wild Card team per division at this point in the history of baseball.

But the Red Sox caught the injury bug and had massive pitching issues during baseball's final month. Meanwhile, the Rays soared into autumn, with the help of hitters such as the versatile 2015 World Series MVP, Ben Zobrist, Melvin Upton Jr., Casey Kotchman, and Matt Joyce, among others. Their pitching was also incredible. Price, James Shields, and Jeremy Hellickson all had ERAs south of 3.5. By the time the final series of the season arrived, the Sox still controlled their own destiny, but would need to come up clutch against the Orioles to seal the deal. Elsewhere, the Rays would have to take down the division-winning Yankees if they wanted a chance at the World Series for the second time in franchise history.

It came down to Game 162, with both teams tied at 90 wins. The Yankees looked to be ending the Rays season, leading 7-0 entering the bottom of the eighth at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg. The Red Sox, playing in Baltimore, also had a lead entering the later innings at 3-2. In Tampa, the Rays magically scored seven runs in the final two innings, thanks to a three-run shot by Longoria in a six-run eighth and a game-tying solo shot by Dan Johnson in the ninth. In extras, Longoria finished off the game with a walk-off homer in the twelfth that just snuck over the left field wall, giving the Rays 91 regular season wins. The Sox and O's had been in a rain delay, so whatever happened in Camden Yards was out of the Rays' control. But miraculously, the Orioles scored two in the ninth, the second one on a botched sliding attempt by Crawford in left, giving the Orioles the win and the Rays the AL Wild Card spot.

So, what does this show you? Anything can happen when the playoffs are on the line. Thanks for reading this post and I hope you enjoyed it. Check back soon for more of "all the buzz on what wuzz."

Monday, August 12, 2019

Commerce Comet Comin' In Hot! 8/9/19

Hey baseball fans!

Mike Trout just celebrated his 28th birthday! I know I'm the one guy who doesn't want to include him in the conversation for "Best Hitter Ever," but it's only because he hasn't played that long. But if he continues at his current pace, he will surely have a better career than the hitter who is always compared to him, Mickey Mantle!

Hall of Fame centerfielder Mickey Charles Mantle played from 1951-1968, all with the Yankees. In fact, he's on the Yankees' Mount Rushmore, along with Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, and Joe DiMaggio. Not only is he good enough to be alongside those greats, but his career overlaps DiMaggio's (1951), whose career overlaps Gehrig's (1936-1939), whose career overlaps Ruth's (1923-1934). Mantle and DiMaggio played in the outfield together during the 1951 World Series, when Mantle injured his knee while moving away from a Willie Mays fly ball that DiMaggio was ready to catch. It was the start of a string of injuries that prevented Mantle from becoming one of the all-time greats. He actually played his entire career with a torn ACL! But let's get to the numbers he did put up.

During his prime from 1951-1964, Mantle had a .309 batting average, along with 32 homers, 93 RBIs, and 144 hits per season. His career batting average dipped to .298 by the end of the '60s, but Mantle still finished his career with 536 homers and 1,733 RBIs. He was the sixth member of the 500 Home Runs Club and that home run mark currently sits as the 18th-highest mark for an individual hitter in baseball history. Mantle was also a master of OBP, leading the league in walks five times and on-base percentage three times. His .421 career on-base percentage is good for 18th on the all-time list.

But Mantle was all about the dingers. He hit 30 or more homers in eight straight seasons from 1955-1962, with a couple of milestones along the way. In 1956, Mantle led the league with 52 homers, 130 RBIs, and a .353 batting average, his only career batting title. In other words, Mantle hit for the Triple Crown in '56, winning his first of three AL MVP Awards and his fourth of seven World Series championships with the Bronx Bombers. In 1961, Mantle and teammate Roger Maris took part in a historic race to catch Babe Ruth's record of 60 single-season home runs. Mantle finished with 54 out-of-the-parkers, while Maris topped the record, hitting 61 homers. Mantle still finished second in MVP voting that year, also leading the league in slugging at an astounding .687 mark. In fact, Mantle is 18th (again with the "18!") on the all-time slugging percentage list with a lifetime slugging percentage of .557.

Mantle got his nickname, "The Commerce Comet," from his fiery bat and his hometown of Commerce, Oklahoma. Mike Trout is from Millville, New Jersey, which explains his celestial nickname, "The Millville Meteor." I'm excited to see what Trout can do for the next several years, but for now, let's admire the statistics of the greatest guy to wear the #7 in Yankees history. Thanks for reading this post and I hope you enjoyed it. Check back soon for more of "all the buzz on what wuzz."

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

The Logic of the Trade Deadline 7/31/19

Hey baseball fans!

The MLB Trade Deadline is here, making it the final couple of hours that teams can conduct trades for the rest of the season! It's also the last moments of the season that we'll really get to see how teams value their players and prospects for the future, so let's talk about that.

Baseball is all about the future. Unlike other sports, once you get drafted onto an MLB team, you do not automatically go straight to the MLB; you have to go to the minors first. Yes, I'm aware of the G-League in basketball and minor league hockey, but most greats in those sports go straight to the highest leagues, while even Derek Jeter spent time in the minors.

Most teams aspire to have a great minor league system, otherwise known as a farm system. There is, however, the free agency approach, but not every team has the money to keep on buying replacements for their departing free agents. Teams with a young championship team and a promising farm system have the most trade leverage out of any team. Take the Braves and Astros, for example. Both teams are leading their divisions, with plenty of star power in their minor league affiliates. They're set for a long time.

Every year, at the deadline, certain teams designate themselves as buyers or sellers. Buyers are generally teams that are on the edge of playoff contention and are looking for one final piece to propel themselves into October. Sellers, on the other hand, are underperforming teams with a couple of All Stars that have no chance of competing for the rest of the season. Sellers trade their All Stars for prospects in order to improve their long-term future.

At the writing of this post, the only major trade of the 2019 Trade Deadline that has happened is the Trevor Bauer trade, so let's break it down a little bit. Trevor Bauer got traded from the Indians to the Reds, Yasiel Puig and Franmil Reyes went to Cleveland from Cincinnati and San Diego, respectively, and Taylor Trammell went from the Reds' Double-A affiliate to the Padres organization. Cleveland was looking to add some power to their lineup and Bauer is a free agent at the end of the season who was rumored to be traded ever since the beginning of 2019. Hypothetically, if Cleveland really wanted to, they could sign Bauer during free agency. Cincinnati's pitching is one of the best in baseball, making one of their strongest areas stronger, and, because Puig's behavior is so erratic, he was expendable. In addition, the Padres have a LOADED farm system, so Franmil Reyes was also expendable, especially for one of the top prospects in baseball in Trammell.

I will admit that the Trevor Bauer trade is a complicated example of buyers, sellers, and trade value, but it's most definitely topical. Who knows what Puig and Reyes will do on the other side of Ohio, especially considering the Indians' aspirations to catch the Twins in the AL Central. All we know, as baseball fans who understand trade value, is that, in the minds of the GMs of the Indians, Reds, and Padres, this trade was fair. It might not be objectively fair (there's usually a winner and a loser in all trades), but it was fair to the teams involved, which is what made the trade happen.

What trades do you think should be made? Who should be buyers and who should be sellers? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below. Thanks for reading this post and I hope you enjoyed it. Check back soon for more of "all the buzz on what wuzz."

Friday, July 26, 2019

The Meikyukai: A Baseball Hall of Fame Benchmarker's Dream 7/28/19

Hey baseball fans!

I'm all for Hall of Fame benchmarks when it comes to baseball. The National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown isn't always so, but the Golden Players Club in Japan is. What's the Golden Players Club, you ask? Let me tell you about it!

Created by Japanese Hall of Fame pitcher Masaichi Kaneda in 1978, along with several others, the Meikyukai (or the Golden Players Club, which is how I will refer to it) is not the same as the Japanese Baseball Hall of Fame. While the Japanese Baseball Hall of Fame inducts players for a multitude of reasons, much like the National Baseball Hall of Fame does, the Golden Players Club has a couple of restrictions for its inductees. Each club member has to have been born during the reign of Emperor Hirohito, which was from 1926-1988. Additionally, they have to achieve one of these three career statistics: 2,000 hits, 200 wins, or 250 saves.

The Golden Players Club is exactly that: a club. Members of this club participate in offseason events, like charity golf tournaments and volunteering for the Red Cross. However, some former Japanese players have declined membership, like Hiromitsu Ochiai, who didn't want to be part of the organization because Kaneda and other founders criticized him throughout his career. That being said, it is still an honor to become a member, much like it is to be a member of the MLB's 500 home runs or 300 wins clubs.

Should the MLB have something like this? If so, what would be your benchmarks? Would guys with the initials BB, SS, MM, or RC be welcomed into your club with open arms? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below. Thanks for reading this post and I hope you enjoyed it. Congrats to all of the 2019 Hall of Fame inductees, by the way, and check back soon for more of "all the buzz on what wuzz."

Saturday, July 20, 2019

The History of the Shift 7/20/19

Hey baseball fans!

I've recently talked a lot about the Rays' analytical intelligence and implementation, so I thought that it would be a good time to discuss how their baseball savvy really got started: the infield shift.

Most hitters pull the ball, meaning that they hit the ball to the same side of the field towards which they swing. Righties hit the ball to the left side of the field, while lefties hit the ball to the right side. Some hitters, like Derek Jeter, are known for their ability to hit the ball across the field, but these hitters are few and far between. That's why implementing a fielding shift might be advantageous depending on the hitter, which is exactly what former Rays manager Joe Maddon thought in 2006.

The then-named Devil Rays were about to go up against David Ortiz and the Red Sox. Ortiz was a dead pull hitter who batted lefty and was coincidentally the most powerful hitter in the Red Sox lineup at the time. Maddon noticed Ortiz's pulling tendencies and told his fielders to shift to the right side of the field when Ortiz was batting. Other teams took notice of this tactic and Ortiz's batting average slowly descended through the rest of the '06 season. The Rays continued to implement the shift for other dead pull hitters and the rest of the league soon followed Tampa's ways. Nowadays, shifting has become such a popular style of play that many baseball fans have complained that it should be made illegal.

But this wasn't actually the first time a team shifted its fielders in a specific direction in order to limit a batter's potential damage. Player-manager and Hall of Fame shortstop Lou Boudreau (pictured below) tried to shift his Cleveland Indians infield in July of 1946 against Hall of Famer and lefty pull hitter, Ted Williams. Boudreau later stated that the shift was meant to be more psychological than tactical, but the results were similar to Maddon shifting against Ortiz. The Boudreau shift was later used by the Cardinals in the 1946 World Series against Williams, again as a psychological ploy, and Williams batted just .200 in the Series, helping the Cardinals win the championship. But again, this wasn't actually the first implementation of a shift. Another lefty outfielder named "Williams," Cy Williams, was shifted against in the 1920s. Cy Williams was one of the first real power hitters of the National League and is second only to Babe Ruth in home runs from 1923-1928.

Should baseball ban the shift? Let me know in the comments section below. Thanks for reading this post and I hope you enjoyed it. Check back soon for more of "all the buzz on what wuzz."