Friday, June 28, 2019

The 1987 Minnesota Twins 6/27/19

Hey baseball fans!

As some of you might know, I've grown up in New Jersey for about 95% of my life. Because of this, I've been a New Jersey/Brooklyn Nets fan since I was around 8, so you can imagine how excited I was this past NBA season to see my Nets make the playoffs for the first time in what seemed like forever. Every time I describe the current Nets to other people, I always call them a collection of "cult players," not to say that they all take part in pagan rituals, but rather that following the team is very niche and esoteric, in a way.

The very best example of this phenomenon in baseball right now is the Minnesota Twins, who, thanks to some insane seasons from many not-generally-insane players, have vaulted to the top of the AL Central and are tied for the best record in the American League as of the writing of this post. That being said, however, this isn't the first time that a Twins team has unexpectedly been great. Let's jump back to 1987 to talk about the first team to bring a World Series trophy to the Land of 10,000 Lakes.

For starters, the 1987 Twins weren't actually great; they only finished with a record of 85-77, which somehow beat the rest of the AL West. If they were in the AL East, they would've come in a distant fifth. That being said, though, their lineup that year was pretty interesting. Kirby Puckett, the only Hall of Famer in the batting order, collected a league-leading 207 hits to go along with his .332 batting average, 28 home runs, and 99 RBIs; first baseman and lifelong Twin Kent Hrbek contributed 34 homers and 90 RBIs of his own; third baseman Gary Gaetti topped 30 homers and 100 RBIs; and right fielder Tom Brunansky hit 32 bombs and knocked in 85 runs. Besides Puckett, I'm sure that most of you younger folk don't recognize the other three names I just mentioned. On defense, the pitching staff wasn't exceptional, but did feature Hall of Famer Bert Blyleven and All Star Frank Viola, along with should-be Hall-of-Fame closer Jeff Reardon.

But the best explanation for why the Twins were so good in 1987 was their home stadium. The Twins went an astounding 56-25 while playing in the homer-happy, boisterous Metrodome, but only won 29 of 81 contests outside of the Gopher State. After a five-game drubbing of the Tigers in the ALCS, home-field advantage was all the rage in the World Series against the Cardinals. The 1987 World Series was the first seven-game Fall Classic in which the home team won every game. The fact that the Twins had home-field advantage in the series was the only reason that they won, but they won nonetheless, bringing the franchise its first championship since 1924 (the Washington Senators moved to Minnesota and became the Twins in 1961).

Much like the 2018-2019 Nets, the 1987 Twins had absolutely no business being in the playoffs, but unlike the Nets, made the most of their opportunity. The '87 Twins (and the 1991 Twins, for that matter) prove that not every winner in sports needs to be a dynasty. Sometimes, it just helps to have a Cinderella season. Thanks for reading this post and I hope you enjoyed it. Check back soon for more of "all the buzz on what wuzz."

Friday, June 21, 2019

Explaining the Rays in Montreal 6/21/19

Hey baseball fans!

Some major news just came out yesterday about how the Rays might play some of their regular season games in Montreal. There is no further information about how many games the Rays will play in the province of Quebec or how soon this move could happen, but I'm here, as always, to give a historical breakdown on this huge MLB development.

The Rays have only attracted over 20,000 fans per game in their home stadium, Tropicana Field, for four years in the club's 20-year history. In the year they went to the World Series (2008), they averaged 22,370 fans per game at the Trop. To put that into perspective, the Cardinals haven't dipped below 30,000 fans per game in a season since 1995. In other words, the Rays have a huge attendance problem and have not been able to shake this problem since their inception.

Meanwhile, the Montreal baseball fans that are still left have been yearning for a new team ever since the Expos moved from Canada to our nation's capital and renamed themselves the Washington Nationals. However, it should be noted at this point that the Expos, leading up to their move to D.C. before the 2005 season, had some of the worst attendance numbers anyone could imagine, even worse than Tampa's now.

Nonetheless, the Expos' attendance woes of the 1990s and early 2000s had a lot to do with how the team performed and how the front office dealt with that poor performance. The Nationals, with the help of their excellent teams of the past, have posted pretty good attendance numbers over the last several years, even before the Bryce Harper years. So, the real issue that the Rays face right now is a bad market because they are one of baseball's best teams now and can't seem to bring fans to St. Petersburg. No offense, Rays fans.

The Rays are notably one of the most creatively-managed teams in baseball. Joe Maddon famously popularized fielding shifts, while Kevin Cash has implemented the opener rather successfully. The only reason they have to be so savvy is because they don't have the money to bring in big-name stars. With the analytical attitude that they already possess, the good lineups they put out every day over the last year-and-a-half, and the excited Montreal baseball fans, the Montreal Rays (or Expos 2.0) would be a great idea and, personally, I think they should permanently move to Montreal.

What are your thoughts on this news out of Tampa? Is the Trop really as bad as people make it out to be? 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."

Thursday, June 13, 2019

A Milestone for the Hall 6/13/19

Hey baseball fans!

June 12th marks a very important anniversary for a specific event in baseball history, an event that happened 80 years ago yesterday: the opening of the Baseball Hall of Fame!

Yes, you read that correctly. On June 12, 1939, Cooperstown, New York got a lot more popular, as along with the opening of the physical Hall of Fame museum, was the inaugural Hall of Fame induction ceremony. The ceremony featured some of the greatest names in baseball history, like Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, and Cy Young. But what's more interesting about the opening of the Hall of Fame is why and how it opened.

1939 was towards the end of the Great Depression in the United States and two years before the US entered World War II, even though Europe would be engulfed by war just a couple of months after the Hall's dedication. The Great Depression had hit the upstate town of Cooperstown hard and many businesses lost a lot of money due to this financial crisis. That's when local hotel owner Stephen Carlton Clark, a former World War I Lieutenant-Colonel, had the great idea to found (and pay for) what ended up becoming the Baseball Hall of Fame. How did he attract customers to this new New York State landmark, you ask? By relying on the findings of the 1907 Mills Commission report on the history of baseball.

While the origins of baseball continue to be debated today and while their may be many people who had a hand in it, the person who received the credit from Mr. Clark was Abner Doubleday, a Civil War general and former resident of Cooperstown, based on the Mills Commission report's statement that the "first scheme for playing baseball, according to the best evidence obtainable to date, was devised by Abner Doubleday at Cooperstown, NY in 1839."

The Hall of Fame is a wonderful place that has inspired some of my best blogging. So thank you Mr. Clark for founding it. And a very happy birthday, HoF! Thanks for reading this post and I hope you enjoyed it. Check back soon for more of "all the buzz on what wuzz."

Sunday, June 2, 2019

The Warrior: Paul O'Neill 6/2/19

Hey baseball fans!

As you should know, I love the New York Yankees, so I've naturally seen a lot of their games on TV. The play-by-play announcer for YES Network, the television home of the Yankees, is Michael Kay, and he is joined by a gaggle of color commentators, all with some connection to the Yankee franchise. But by far, my favorite YES Network color commentator is Paul "The Warrior" O'Neill.

Paul was drafted in the fourth round of the 1981 MLB Draft by his favorite team growing up, the Cincinnati Reds. He became a regular in the Reds lineup in 1988, three years after making his major league debut in 1985. O'Neill was a hitter who got better as he got older, as he made his first All Star Game in 1991, hitting 28 home runs and collecting 91 RBIs. After the 1992 season, O'Neill was traded to the Yankees and that's when he became a household name. From 1993-2001, all with New York, Paul averaged 21 homers and 95 RBIs a season and batted .303 over that span.

O'Neill never batted under .280 with the Yanks until 2001, the last year of his career. He also went six straight years of 90 or more RBIs per season, which took place from 1995-2000. There are two years worth mentioning in particular regarding O'Neill's time in the Bronx. First, in the strike-shortened 1994 season, O'Neill led the American League with a career-high .359 batting average and 83 RBIs in only 103 games, leading him to a fifth-place finish in the MVP voting of that season. But O'Neill's best season came in 1998. In a year in which the Yanks won 114 games, Paul made his fifth and final career All Star Game by batting .317 with 24 homers and 116 RBIs, helping the Yankees to the World Series. Speaking of which, O'Neill didn't put on a huge showing in the World Series (even though he's a five-time champ), except in 2000 against the Mets, when he batted .474 with nine hits in the five-game set.

I have two pieces of information for you before I finish this post. First of all, click here to see Paul O'Neill's coolest career play. Second, did you know that the Warrior is the only hitter in baseball history to be on the winning side of three perfect games? He even made the final out of David Wells' perfecto in 1998. Well, as they say, the more you know... Thanks for reading this post and I hope you enjoyed it. Check back soon for more of "all the buzz on what wuzz."