Wednesday, March 30, 2016

The Mexican Babe Ruth 3/30/16

Hey baseball fans!

Obviously you've heard of Babe Ruth, possibly the best hitter in MLB history. You may have also heard of Josh Gibson, who is considered by many to be the best hitter in Negro Leagues history. However, have you heard of Hector Espino, arguably the best hitter in Mexico's baseball history? Neither did I until I did some research, and boy he put up some stats that Ruth would applaud.

Espino started his baseball career in Mexico in the Mexican League in 1962 with Monterrey, when he hit 23 homers and batted .358 en route to winning Rookie of the Year. He also played winter ball in the Mexican Pacific League and, that winter, batted .402, a record that stood until he broke it ten years later. He took home the league's MVP honors that year and the year after. Espino won his first summer league batting title in '64, when he batted .371 while homering 46 times and driving in 117 earned runs. He was so feared throughout the league that he was intentionally walked a record 30 times and his 332 total bases that year were second in league history. All of these accolades made him a target for the MLB's St. Louis Cardinals, who signed him later that year and sent him to the Triple A team. He did just fine there, but that was the last time he played professional baseball outside of Mexico.

Espino continued to hit the ball at an alarming pace, batting over .330 in each summer season from 1965-1968, but had an "off" year in '69 when he "only" batted .304. 1970 was one of his least productive years in the summer, but Espino had a killer winter, winning his eighth Mexican Pacific League batting title and third MPL MVP, becoming the first player in league history to win more than two MVPs (and he would go on to win three more MPL MVPs in his career). Espino only batted under .300 in the 1970s once and finished his career in 1984.

Espino was eventually inducted into the Caribbean Hall of Fame, Salon de la Fama (Hall of Fame in Spanish) and was part of the first class of Latino Baseball Hall of Fame inductees in 2010. In total, the Mexican slugger hit over 453 home runs during his career in the Mexican League and is one of two players in the Mexican Pacific League to have a lifetime batting average of .300 or better. It would have been great to see him play in the Majors (maybe even team up with Lou Brock in St. Louis), but it was also great that he got to play in front of him home fans. Thanks so much for reading this and I hope you enjoyed it. Check back soon for more of "all the buzz on what wuzz."

Thursday, March 24, 2016

My Top Five Favorite Cubans in Baseball History 3/24/16

Hey baseball fans!

The Tampa Bay Rays took on the Cuban national baseball team the other day in an exhibition game, the first MLB game in Cuba since 1999. In honor of such a momentous occasion, here are my top five favorite Cubans in baseball history:

Number Five: Yoenis Céspedes
Why? Although he gets traded a lot, this power-hitting outfielder was the sole reason for the Mets' 2015 NL pennant run. He has averaged 26.5 homers and 91.75 RBIs per season in four years in the MLB. He's also got a very impressive collection of cars.

Number Four: Luis Tiant
Why? The man with the crazy windup was one of the best foreign pitchers of his era, with 229 wins from 1964-1982. The three-time All Star won 20 or more games four times and struck out 200+ batters three times.

Number Three: Minnie Minoso
Why? He may be more known for his five appearances at 50+ years old, but Minoso is much more than that. One of my grandpa's favorite players ever, the seven-time All Star was the first big Latin MLB star and appeared in the MLB for the first time right after Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier. The speedster led the league in stolen bases and triples three times apiece and batted an astounding .298 lifetime.

Number Two: Bert Campaneris
Why? One of the catalysts for the A's three championships from 1972-1974, Campaneris made a name for himself on the base paths, leading the league in steals in six seasons (four of them were consecutive). His 649 reported acts of larceny are 14th on the all-time list and he always seemed to be in the MVP race.

Number One: Tony Pérez
Why? It's very simple: he's the only Cuban-born MLB Hall of Famer. The seven-time All Star was the first baseman for Cincinnati's "Big Red Machine" of the 1970s and Philadelphia's "Wheeze Kids" of 1983. From 1964-1986, Pérez batted .279 lifetime with 379 homers and 1,652 RBIs. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2000. And I even interviewed him! Here's the link to my interview with Tony Perez.

Do you agree or disagree with my picks? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below. Anyway, thanks for reading this post and I hope you enjoyed it. Check back soon for more of "all the buzz on what wuzz."

Thursday, March 17, 2016

The New York Yankees March Madness Bracket and Results 3/17/16

Hey baseball fans!

March Madness is this Thursday! NCAA Basketball fans (including myself) are salivating over the start of the biggest and most exciting collegiate sporting tournament of the year! In honor of that, I'm going to do my own version of March Madness, but with the best Yankee teams in the franchise's history. I'm only going to do four teams from four different eras in this tournament and try to predict the winner of each game. If you would like to see more of these types of posts throughout March Madness, write a comment in the comments section below with suggestions on which teams to use.

The Seeding:
#1 Seed: 1927 New York Yankees
Why? The team's nickname is "Murderers' Row," which is pretty self-explanatory.

#2 Seed: 1998 New York Yankees
Why? They have the most combined single-season wins in the regular season and postseason in baseball history: 125

#3 Seed: 1961 New York Yankees
Why? How does a team with two of the best home run hitters of the era in Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris and a gaggle of other stars across the diamond not make this tournament?

#4 Seed: 2009 New York Yankees
Why? This team could hit for average, smack the ball out of the ballpark, and, most importantly, come up in the clutch.

The Games:
Game One: 2009 Yankees vs. 1927 Yankees
Winner: 1927 Yankees
Why? CC Sabathia was awesome in '09, but there is no way he would be able to handle the bats of Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig and company. Derek Jeter and the gang would put up a fight, but they wouldn't be able to defeat Hall of Famer Waite Hoyt.
Final Score: The 27 team wins 9-6.

Game Two: 1961 Yankees vs. 1998 Yankees
Winner: 1961 Yankees
Why? Whitey Ford isn't a Hall of Famer for his friendship with the Mick; he was a pretty darn good pitcher. Yes, the '98 squad could've put up a fight, but they would rely too much on just getting on base instead of focusing on the long ball like the '61 team.
Final Score: The 61 team wins 5-1.

The Championship: 1961 Yankees vs. 1927 Yankees
Winner: 1927 Yankees
Why? It's very simple: "Murderers' Row" would pretty much destroy Ralph Terry and I'm sure Herb Pennock would survive the critical start against the M&M Boys. Ruth and Gehrig might not hit home runs, but hitters like Tony Lazzeri and Earl Combs would definitely help when it came down to the final innings.
Final Score: The 27 Yankees win it all 6-3!!

Do you think I'm right or am I completely off? 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."

And if you want to read up more on the Yankees of the past, please check out my book, Amazing Aaron to Zero Zippers: An Introduction to Baseball History, which is still a top 20 bestseller in its category on Amazon a year after its initial release.

Friday, March 11, 2016

My Top Five Favorite Canadians in Baseball History 3/11/16

Hey baseball fans!

North American countries are represented throughout baseball, but a lot of people forget that Canada has produced some pretty amazing players. With that, here are my top five favorite Canadians in baseball history:

Number Five: Eric Gagne
Why? Gagne became the NL single-season leader in saves in 2003 when he saved 57 games. The three-time All Star also won the Cy Young Award that year, becoming just the fifth NL reliever to win the award. He finished his career with 187 saves.

Number Four: Russell Martin
Why? One of the best catchers of his generation, Martin is a four-time All Star and placed second in the MLB in 2015 in home runs by a catcher with 23. In ten years in the league he has hit 142 home runs and is projected to have a very decent 2016 season.

Number Three: Larry Walker
Why? This five-time All Star, seven-time Gold Glover in right field, and three-time Silver Slugger was one of the first great players of the Colorado Rockies franchise. He batted .313 lifetime while also homering 383 times in his career.

Number Two: Joey Votto
Why? The 2010 NL MVP and four-time All Star always seems to be in the Most Valuable Player conversation. He's led the league in walks in four of the last five seasons and has batted .311 in his career. Oh, and his 192 career home runs aren't too shabby, either.

Number One: Ferguson Jenkins
Why? Was there really any doubt that Jenkins would be #1? The Canadian-born pitcher is the only Canadian in the Baseball Hall of Fame and for good reason: 284 career wins, a lifetime 3.34 ERA, and 3,192 career strikeouts (12th all time). What a career!

What do you think of my 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."

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Boggs's (Tampa) Bay Blast 3/5/16

Hey baseball fans!

Spring Training is here, which means it's time to discuss the history of baseball in Florida and Arizona! Today, I want to talk about a beloved former member of the Tampa Bay Rays and his 3,000th hit, which was a unique "first" in baseball history.

Wade Boggs was perhaps the best contact hitter in the American League in the 1980s. The third baseman won Gold Gloves and batting titles left and right for the Boston Red Sox from 1982-1992, but didn't achieve arguably baseball's most wanted award: a World Series ring. So, he took his talents to another AL East team, the New York Yankees. There, he was just a role player, but ended up winning his only World Series ring in 1996, when his Yankees beat the Braves in the Fall Classic. But the man known as the Chicken Man still hadn't accomplished the goal for any contact hitter in baseball history: 3,000 hits. Naturally, one would think that the best team to be a part of when collecting hit number 3,000 is the Yankees, a historical juggernaut where the drama is bumped up by a ton. Well, that is exactly what Boggs did not do. Instead, during the offseason before the 1998 MLB season, he signed with the expansion Tampa Bay Devil Rays.

The Chicken Man wasn't his old self in Tampa Bay, but he still was an exciting piece to the Floridian expansion franchise. He played with the team for two years to culminate his career and in the last year of his amazing career, 1999, he made history. The date was August 7, 1999 at Tampa Bay's Tropicana Field, where the struggling Rays hosted the superpower known as the Cleveland Indians. The game was a slugfest, as Cleveland won the game, 15-10, but Devil Rays fans didn't care because their star reached the milestone of 3,000 hits.  Boggs went 3-4 that day with four RBIs and two of those RBIs were part of history. In the bottom of the sixth with Terrell Lowery on first base and Indians reliever Chris Haney on the mound, Boggs stepped up to plate with 2,999 career base hits. On a 2-2 count, he smacked a pitch to deep right field for his 3,000 career hit, becoming the first hitter in baseball history to achieve the feat on a home run!

Since then, two Yankees have reached 3,000 hits on home runs: Derek Jeter in 2011 and Alex Rodriguez in 2015. However, it was Wade Boggs who was the first to do it. Thanks for reading this post and I hope you enjoyed it. Check back soon for more of "all the buzz on what wuzz."