Thursday, December 24, 2020

The Negro Leagues and Hall of Fame Standards 12/24/20

 Hey baseball fans!

Big news came out recently about the Negro Leagues being elevated to Major League status. A lot of people had a lot to say about the racial sensitivity that went into this move (which was called "correcting a longtime oversight" by the MLB), but I'm going to tackle the story from a different angle  and discuss the ramifications it has for the Hall of Fame. 

As I've said time and time again, Jackie Robinson and Larry Doby are not Hall of Famers solely because they're black. Sure, they broke the color barriers in the NL and AL, respectively, but because the National Baseball Hall of Fame is the most benchmarked of all the American sports halls of fame, I can't justify their induction by the color of their skins because, indeed, they were both insanely good. You can argue that Doby got propped up by his resilient status a little bit more than Robinson (Jackie is objectively the better player), but it's impossible to ignore Larry Doby's power surge of the 1950s in Cleveland. In other words, the dominant reason that Jackie Robinson and Larry Doby have permanent residencies in Cooperstown is because they could hit a baseball, plain and simple. 

With the Negro Leagues finally getting the major league label after last week's MLB super-announcement, it got me thinking about a couple of things regarding judging players who played either most or all of their wonderful careers in the Negro Leagues. First of all, the move is going to motivate intense fact-checking and stats verification (which, as a future auditor, I am excited about on a reconciliation basis) to ensure that the stats from the time period elevated, 1920-1948, are correct. Statistical historians could uncover and/or verify a whole bunch of stats that were lost to Father Time, excavating the careers of forgotten Negro Leagues stars onto Hall of Fame ballots, which brings me to a second point. We're finally going to hear more about Negro Leagues players that already do have verifiable stats, like Oscar Charleston or "Cool Papa" Bell. In addition, Satchel Paige and Josh Gibson's numbers are going to be beefed up, along with other names of Hall of Famers that I can't even name off the top of my head because the league they played in was considered secondary until this year!

What I'm trying to say is that I'm tired of the talk of putting Negro League players in the Hall because they're black. It's not fair to the hard work that they put in on the field, the same work that's been put in by black players after the breaking of the color barrier. This move is going to motivate voters to put them in because they're good, which they are, and that fact is proven by Robinson and Doby, who made the transition from the Negro Leagues to Major League Baseball without much of a learning curve. There is more to this move than just recognizing the Negro Leagues as being legitimate. It's about acknowledging that the players, too, were the top ballplayers of a generation. Thanks for reading this post and I hope you enjoyed it. Check back soon for more of "all the buzz on what wuzz."

Friday, December 11, 2020

The Case for Todd Helton 12/11/20

 Hey baseball fans!

With 2020 coming to an end, the 2021 Hall of Fame class is the only thing on my mind. So, let's talk about some of the potential members of the class and why they should get in, starting with the guy who I think is the most underrated on the ballot: Todd Helton. I think the lifelong member of the Colorado Rockies from 1997-2013 and friend of Peyton Manning (they both went to Tennessee) deserves a spot in Cooperstown, but his sub-30% performance on last year's ballot doesn't bode well for the first baseman. Still, there's a lot to learn about how I view Hall of Fame candidates when looking at Helton, so if anything, his career will be a nice case study for any Hall of Fame voter hopeful, such as myself. 

He could beat anyone at the plate in a multitude of different ways. Todd Helton's .316 lifetime batting average looks a lot more impressive, now that the stat has been deflated in priority by batters over the past five years. He batted over .330 in four seasons and even batted a league-leading .372 in 2000. He also had a career slugging percentage of .539, which is actually 36th on the all-time list. To top it all off, his career OPS (on-base plus slugging percentages) is an astounding .955, which equates to an OPS+ of 133. Carl Yastrzemski and Dave Winfield both had a 130 career OPS+, just to provide some context for how good Helton was comparatively to plenty of guys who cheated. 

His cumulative stats are on the cusp. Hall of Fame legitimacy relies on consistency and longevity. Helton's excellent lifetime percentages give him an edge in the first category, while in the second, Helton is good, but not great. His 2,519 hits and 369 home runs over 17 years is 148 hits and 22 homers a season. For any hitter to be on pace for 3,000 hits and/or 500 home runs in a career, they would need 150 hits and 25 home runs a season over 20 years. For hitters who play less than 20 years, those expected averages go up. Vlad Guerrero's numbers are a perfect example of this desire by Hall of Fame voters. So, even though Helton's per-season stats are close to being very good, they're not past the mark, which is why I think he hasn't gotten his deserving share of votes on the ballot. Still, the fact that he's almost on pace for both 3,000 hits and 500 home runs, the two biggest and most clear Hall of Fame benchmarks for any eligible player, boosts his legitimacy a lot. 

He's a fan favorite. Yes, I can talk about his Gold Gloves and All Star Games, but Helton doesn't have enough of either to boost his case. And yes, this is a controversial and taboo topic, but a topic that deserves to be taken into consideration. Like I said before, Helton played his entire career a mile above sea level, which might make him a subject of the Coors Effect, but that's a debate for a different day. My point is that the fans loved him. I loved him when I watched him play in his late 30s. And because the Rockies are such a young franchise, he is literally one of the best players in the history of the Colorado Rockies. His #17 is retired by the club, for goodness sake. The Bicentennial State worships him. The Hall of Fame is looked at as this heralded and hallowed sanctuary that honors god-like men, but in reality, the meaning behind the Hall is to teach baseball history to the masses, so shouldn't a player who represents a franchise be included in that lesson plan?

Do I think Helton will get in this year? No. Do I think he will ever get in? Yes. Does he deserve it? Absolutely. Should he have been a first-ballot Hall of Famer? In theory, no, but everyone (or at least 75% of the voters) should realize the greatness that resides in Todd Helton. Thanks for reading this post and I hope you enjoyed it. Check back soon for more of "all the buzz on what wuzz."

Thursday, November 26, 2020

2021 Hall of Fame Ballot: The First-Timers with a Connection to Me 11/26/20

 Hey baseball fans!

We are about two months away from the 2021 Hall of Fame class announcement, but it's never too early to talk about the Hall, especially when the 2021 official ballot was just released! I'll get into my actual predictions as we approach late January, but for this post, I'd like to talk about some of the guys who I grew up watching who are eligible for the Hall of Fame for the first time. 

In more ways than one, the 2021 Hall of Fame ballot first-timers shows how long I've been a baseball fan. The first season I really remember was 2009, when my Yankees won their 27th World Series championship. For the Yankees to make it to the Fall Classic, however, they needed some offseason help. Before the '09 season, they signed AJ Burnett and traded for Nick Swisher, two players who are appearing on their first Hall of Fame ballots this year. I remember AJ Burnett as the runt of the Yankees pitching staff litter because they also had fan favorite Andy Pettitte and CC Sabathia. In other words, AJ was good, but nothing compared to the rest of the starters in the Bronx. As for Nick Swisher, the outfielder/first baseman had a wild personality and a switch-hitting bat that could smack lasers out of the ballpark. His crazy antics on and off the field, as well as his All Star power, were big reasons for the Yankees' 103 wins. But I can't skip over Mark Buehrle, who pitched the first perfect game I ever watched, which occurred during the 2009 season. He is also making his debut on the ballot after posting a career ERA+ of 117. Not too shabby for the White Sox legend. 

In the 2009 ALDS, the Yanks faced off against the Twins and another first-timer on the ballot, Michael Cuddyer. Cuddyer was great in seasons that occurred before, during, and after 2009, so I remember him at many different points in his career. And as someone who grew up in New York, not only did I see him a lot because the Yankees and Twins played each other in plenty of playoff series, but Cuddyer also made a lot of noise when he signed with the Mets in 2015. All of my Mets fan friends were so excited for him, but he barely batted over .250 and was no help in the Mets' 2015 World Series run. But going back to 2009, the Yankees faced off against a very formidable Philadelphia Phillies team in the World Series, a team which featured Shane Victorino, yet another player making his debut on the 2021 Hall of Fame ballot. "The Flyin' Hawaiian" was never the best player on the field for any of his championship teams, but was disruptive enough on the base paths to certainly earn a cult status among fans. His most prominent moment in the MLB, in my opinion, came with the Red Sox in 2013, when he hit a clutch Game Six grand slam that helped lift the Sox over the Tigers in the ALCS. 

What's funny about me describing these players is that, although I remember them vividly from my youth, I don't think any of them belong in the Hall of Fame. It's just exciting for me that I've now seen Hall of Fame candidates in action. I guess I'm getting older. Anyway, thanks for reading this post and I hope you enjoyed it. Check back soon for more of "all the buzz on what wuzz." 

Sunday, November 15, 2020

My Thoughts on Kim Ng 11/15/20

 Hey baseball fans!

The Miami Marlins have made history, a sentence that isn't so common, but when it's uttered, is monumental. Two days ago, they hired Kim Ng to be their new general manager, making her the first woman and East Asian to hold that position in Major League Baseball. But what does this hiring mean for all sports, and more importantly, what does it mean for us as fans?

I've been thinking a lot about why I follow baseball, beyond the enjoyment I get out of it, and have come to the conclusion that baseball isn't just a game. If any professional sport was just a game, then how can it be professional when games, by definition, are recreational? I know that not all sports players participate in athletics for monetary gains, but the figureheads of the world of sports certainly do. With this being the case, how come we are so driven to watch these games, to follow these players, and to root incessantly for outcomes that benefit one side over the other? Subconsciously, I think it has to do with the life lessons we garner from sports. I say that these lessons are subconscious because when I argue about Hall of Fame legitimacy, I don't judge players based on the lessons they taught me, but this very judgement teaches me how to argue and how to believe in those arguments. And when I played baseball in high school, learning to take pitches outside the strike zone taught me patience, while crafting pick-off plays and practicing run-down helped me understand how to plan methodically. 

Then, there are the times when lessons are a little more on the surface, like integration and treating everyone equally. Baseball was the first sport to break the color barrier, the biggest sport in the US when the biggest immigration waves came to Ellis Island, and is the sport that is the most shaped by American history, so it's fair to say that baseball is a sport of resiliency. It's not a sport that's defined by the people trying to segregate it. It's a sport that's defined by perseverance and trail-blazing. So, when I see the Marlins hiring Kim Ng, not only do I see the emphasis of baseball's metaphorical mission statement. I also see a woman of East Asian descent, who has been in the game for so long, finally getting the chance to show the world what she's made of.

It's no coincidence that Derek Jeter hired Ng. After all, Ng was an assistant general manager under Brian Cashman during the Yankees dynasty of the late '90s, a period that saw Jeter go from prodigy to superstar in the Yankees organization, not to mention the fact that Jeter was born to biracial parents just seven years after the landmark Supreme Court case, Loving vs. Virginia. But what I love the most about this hiring is that this wasn't the Marlins trying to prove that they're "up with the times" or even that they are "the most woke team ever." Kim Ng is getting her shot because she deserves it, not because the Marlins are trying to meet a quota. After all, the Marlins are a baseball team trying to win ballgames, so they just needed to hire the best general managing candidate on the market. It was as simple as that. 

Thanks for reading this post and I hope you enjoyed it. Check back soon for more of "all the buzz on what wuzz."

Monday, November 2, 2020

Gibby, Orel, and the '88 Dodgers 11/2/20

 Hey baseball fans!

The 2020 season is officially over and the Dodgers are world champions! This is their first championship since 1988, a championship I'd like to discuss this, because of how interesting a team it was. 

The 1988 Dodgers didn't have a star-studded lineup. Only three hitters in their lineup had double-digit home runs that year and only one hitter had more than 20. One might call it a coincidence, however, that the hitter with 20+ homers for the '88 Dodgers was the National League MVP, Kirk Gibson. It was his first of three years in LA after spending the first nine years of his professional baseball career with the Tigers, where he won a ring in 1984. Now on the West Coast, Gibson basically carried the Dodgers to first place in the NL West, at least on the batting side of things. In 1988, Kirk Gibson hit 25 homers, batted .290, stole 31 bases and had an OPS of .860. It wasn't even Gibson's best year, but I can't emphasize enough how depleted this Dodgers lineup was, especially compared to the franchise's great lineups of the late 1970s and early 1980s. 

As for the pitching? Well, it was electric. Orel Hershiser was the ace, at one point going 59 straight innings without allowing a single run. That record-setting stretch helped his seasonal ERA reach a miniscule 2.26 and was probably the main reason for his '88 NL Cy Young Award. Tim Leary and Tim Belcher each posted ERAs below three, while veterans Fernando Valenzuela and Don Sutton (a Hall of Famer) performed excellently, too. The squad also had a great bullpen, which included All Star Jay Howell and the all-time leader in appearances, Jesse Orosco. All in all, the 1988 Dodgers had an ERA of 2.96, a miraculous mark by today's standards, but a mark that was actually higher than the champions of the NL East, the New York Mets. In a hard-fought National League Championship Series, the underdog Dodgers actually outlasted the Mets in seven games, pitting them against the Oakland A's for a chance at their first title in seven years. 

It was no secret that the A's were favored in this World Series, which makes the Dodgers' winning it in five games one of the biggest series upsets in history. But the big play that everyone talks about is in Game One, when MVP Kirk Gibson, who injured himself badly multiple times in the NLCS, got the chance to win the game for LA with the Dodgers down by one in the bottom of the ninth with a runner on first and facing future Hall of Fame closer, Dennis Eckersley. Gibson, barely able to move, was used as a pinch-hitter in this situation. After working the count to 3-2, he waited for Eck's backdoor slider and crushed it over the right field wall in Dodger Stadium for an improbable home run. The dinger is one of the greatest moments in baseball history, and a moment from which the A's never recovered. It was Gibson's only at-bat of the World Series.

Thanks for reading this post and I hope you enjoyed it. Check back soon for more of "all the buzz on what wuzz." 

Friday, October 23, 2020

A Historical Look at the 2020 World Series 10/23/20

 Hey baseball fans!

The 2020 World Series is here, which means that it's time for me to give you a historical look on the matchup, which pits the Rays against the Dodgers!

The Tampa Bay Rays are making their second World Series appearance in franchise history and their first since 2008. This marks the second time that a 1990s expansion team is making its second World Series appearance, joining only the Marlins. Having lost that 2008 World Series to the Phillies, the Rays are one of six teams to never win a World Series title. They will be facing the Los Angeles Dodgers, who are looking to win the franchise's seventh ring in its storied history, having not won a World Series since 1988, but making it in 2017 and 2018. If the Dodgers lose the 2020 World Series, they will join the 1911-1913 Giants and the 1907-1909 Tigers as the only teams to lose the Fall Classic in three out of four years. Also, it should be noted that the Dodgers have one of the worst World Series championship percentages out of the teams that have rings. With only six championships in 20 tries, the Dodgers have the third-worst success rate on baseball's biggest stage, behind the Phillies (an original NL team that didn't win its first World Series until 1980) and the Cubs (who didn't even appear in a World Series from 1946-2015). 

This marks the fourth time in the Wild Card era that the top two teams in each league have made the World Series, joining the 1995, 1999, and 2013 editions of the Fall Classic. What's even more interesting is that the 2020 World Series has the highest combined regular season winning percentage of all time. The Rays and Dodgers had a combined winning percentage of .692 during the shortened 2020 campaign, surpassing the 1906 World Series combined regular season winning percentage of .690 between the Cubs and White Sox. In other words, this World Series is supposed to be one of the most competitive World Series ever and I'm excited to see how it all plays out. If you want to know who I think will win the World Series, click here to listen to the newest episode of my baseball podcast, Baseball for Breakfast, where me and my friends talk all about the 2020 World Series!

Thanks for reading this post and I hope you enjoyed it. Check back soon for more of "all the buzz on what wuzz."

Friday, October 9, 2020

My Top 5 World Series Walk-Off Home Runs Of All Time 10/9/20

 Hey baseball fans!

The World Series is only about a series away, so it's time to start imagining how the 2020 edition of the Fall Classic will be entered into the history books! Personally, I'm a big fan of the walk-off home run and hope we see some crazy game-winning dingers during the final stage of the MLB postseason. To honor this, let's run through my top five World Series walk-off home runs of all time. 

Number Five: Derek Jeter, Game Four, 2001

The game-tying home run by Tino Martinez in the bottom of the ninth was amazing, too, but the walk-off by Derek Jeter off of Arizona Diamondbacks reliever Byung-Hyun Kim in the tenth is legendary for Yankees fans. Because the World Series was delayed due to the September 11th attacks, Jeter's home run came during the first moments the MLB has ever had games during the month of November, hence Jeter's nickname, "Mr. November." I like this home run a lot because Jeter was my favorite player growing up and this is one of his best moments and certainly one of his best home runs. 

Number Four: Bill Mazeroski, Game Seven, 1960

See? This isn't a Yankees blog! Maz's shot in Game Seven of 1960 ended a back-and-forth affair between the Yanks and champion Pittsburgh Pirates with the first ever walk-off Series-winning home run (and the only one in a Game Seven). Personally, I think Mazeroski is an overrated Hall of Famer, but I have to give credit where credit is due. He made history against a franchise that hadn't been sent such a crushing blow in their 40-year dynasty prior to that homer. It's a big deal, for sure. 

Number Three: Joe Carter, Game Six, 1993

To put it simply, this used to be my favorite moment in baseball history, let alone my favorite World Series walk-off home run. While Mazeroski's home run came in Game Seven with the game tied, this walk-off Series-ending home run that Carter hit with the Blue Jays against the Phillies came with his team trailing in the ninth in Game Six. The reasons why Carter's homer is so good is the crazy pitching motion by Phillies reliever Mitch "Wild Thing" Williams that Carter read well, the Hall of Famers on base (Paul Molitor on second and Rickey Henderson on first), and the impact that the homer had on the city of Toronto. A lot of Canadians are baseball fans because of this moment.

Number Two: Kirby Puckett, Game Six, 1991

"And we'll see you tomorrow night." One of the best home run calls I've ever heard (it was by Jack Buck, Joe Buck's dad and longtime MLB announcer), and it was made during arguably the best World Series of all time. Kirby Puckett is one of my favorite players ever, and the fact that it was him, the star of the Twins championship teams in 1987 and 1991, that hit this home run against the Braves makes it that much sweeter.

Number One: David Freese, Game Six, 2011

All Nelson Cruz had to do was run a little bit faster, and he would've caught Freese's game-tying triple in the ninth, which would've ended the game and the Series for the Rangers. But instead, we were left with one of the greatest couple of innings that the World Series has ever seen, which ended with Freese's walk-off that sent the St. Louis Cardinals faithful into a frenzy. I remember watching this home run live and realizing that because I was watching it, I was part of history. That's why this homer takes the top spot on my list (even though Joe Buck stole his dad's signature line from the Puckett homer for Freese's homer).  

I'm going to get ahead of some of you and address the missing Carlton Fisk homer that the Hall of Fame catcher hit in Game Six of the 1975 World Series to send it to Game Seven. The Red Sox didn't win Game Seven against the Reds! The home run was meaningless in the grand scheme of things! Sure, Derek Jeter's homer didn't amount to much for the 2001 Yankees in the long run, but that homer doesn't need to be carried by magnitude because it was a Game Four and not a Game Six! But anyway, what do you think of the rest 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."

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Worst To First: A 1991 Baseball Story 9/30/20

Hey baseball fans!

The 2020 playoffs are officially here, with a few notable curse-breakers in the bracket. The Marlins, White Sox, and Padres all snapped massive playoff droughts when they clinched playoff berths this season, with the Marlins and Padres going from last place in their respective divisions in 2019 to the postseason in 2020. Worst-to-first teams have become more common in baseball with the popularity of free agency and the rise of analytics, but I want to talk about the first worst-to-first teams in baseball history, the 1991 Atlanta Braves and Minnesota Twins. That's right: they did it in the same year and, get this, both made the World Series that year.

Before the Braves won 14 straight division titles from 1991-2005, they were a struggling franchise in the National League West. They finished the 1990 season with a 65-97 record, good for last place. They had pieces, like star pitchers Tom Glavine and Steve Avery, but Greg Maddux was still in Chicago at this time and John Smoltz wasn't the Hall of Famer we all know and love. So, the Bravos went to free agency. Terry Pendleton, a third baseman for the Cardinals, happened to be available, so Atlanta signed him. Boy, what a move, that was. Pendleton would go on to win the 1991 NL MVP by leading the Senior Circuit in hits (187) and batting average (.319). Hall of Famer Tom Glavine made his first All Star Game, won 20 games, and grabbed the 1991 NL Cy Young Award. The rest of the Braves did really well, too, winning 94 games and the NL West by a single game over the Dodgers. They then beat the Pirates in the NLCS to advance to the franchise's first World Series since 1958, where they would face the Minnesota Twins. 

The 1990 Twins, three years removed from a World Series title, disappointed the Land of 10,000 Lakes, only winning 74 games and finishing in the basement of the AL West. Then, in the offseason, they signed slugger Chili Davis and the winningest pitcher of the 1980s and St. Paul native, Jack Morris. They also brought up speedy second base prospect Chuck Knoblauch. Alongside Hall of Famer Kirby Puckett and Twins legend Kent Hrbek, these new stars flourished. Davis hit 29 homers and drove in 93 runs, Morris won 18 games, and Knoblauch stole 25 bases and won AL Rookie of the Year. Couple those stats with solid seasons from Puckett and Hrbek, and the '91 Twins were in business from the get-go. They won 95 games, the AL West, and the AL pennant, setting up the first all-worst-to-first World Series. 

The 1991 World Series is ranked by many, including myself, as the top edition of the World Series in baseball history. Five games were decided by one run, four were decided in the final at-bat, and three went to extras. Was this World Series primed to be this good because of the way the teams got to it? I certainly think so. Thanks for reading this post and I hope you enjoyed it. Check back soon for more of "all the buzz on what wuzz."

Sunday, September 20, 2020

Baseball for Breakfast: My New Podcast! 9/20/20

 Hey baseball fans!

Myself and two of my college friends have started a baseball podcast. It's called "Baseball for Breakfast," with new episodes releasing every Monday morning for the foreseeable future. Click here to access all our episodes so far. We're really excited for you to listen!

So, why did we start a podcast? Well, me and my friends, Brendan and Logan, love baseball, but as you could probably guess, have different opinions going across all topics relating to America's Pastime. We figured it would be quality entertainment to listen to us bicker for an hour about who knows what in the world of baseball. What you could also probably guess is that I'm the historical perspective on "Baseball for Breakfast," using my knowledge of baseball history to win arguments spanning generations of baseball fans. So, I figured for this post, I would go into greater detail about our last podcast topic from a historical point of view. If you want to hear the full episode before reading this post, click the hyperlinked words in the first paragraph of this blog post. 

So the topic of the most recent episode of "Baseball for Breakfast" was the rule changes for the 2020 season. We discussed things like the seven-inning double-headers, the universal DH, the expanded playoff format, and the hastened extra innings. For the most part, we as a trio like the changes for this season alone and don't want to see these same rule changes in future seasons. The only rule we all like for the rest of the MLB's existence is the universal DH. The designated hitter has been a position in a baseball lineup going as far back as 1973, when Ron Blomberg of the Yankees became the first DH in baseball history. The DH, solely a rule in the American League, was originally implemented because of the crazy pitching years of the late 1960s, a la Bob Gibson posting a 1.12 ERA in an absurd 1968 year for pitchers across Major League Baseball. The situation is much different today, as home runs have exploded in recent years, but the DH rule for the National League would, as I said in the podcast, homogenize the league. Baseball is the only American professional sport with a noticeable rule differentiation that alters the play between conferences. There's no four-point field goal in the NFC, nor is there s two-point foul shot in the NBA's Eastern Conference. Giving the NL the DH would stabilize lineups across the Senior Circuit and will even out claims that the NL is the "better pitching league," but only in theory. 

The only other rule change I'll go into for this post is the expanded playoff format. For the 2020 season, eight teams from each league will make the postseason, by far the most for a single postseason in MLB history. I don't like the rule going forward, but commissioner Rob Manfred has said that the expanded playoffs are here to stay, so I might as well criticize the decision. Baseball has probably the least equality among its teams out of the over 120 teams in America's four biggest sports. What I mean by that is big-market and small-market teams are much more pronounced in baseball. In addition, the MLB is the Big Four sport where the one seed is least likely to make the championship round. So, having an expanded route to the World Series would give teams that don't generally compete a chance to wreck the league's powerhouses. A perfect example of this is seeing the Marlins in the postseason picture this year. For all we know, they could win their third World Series in franchise history this year. This move would make the World Series trophy a true dogfight, which I personally don't want to see, but will try to accept when the rule change becomes permanent and official. 

Again, make sure to check out our podcast, "Baseball for Breakfast." You can get it anywhere you normally listen to podcasts. And while you're at it, let me know what you think of the 2020 MLB rule changes. Thanks for reading this post and I hope you enjoyed it. Check back soon for more of "all the buzz on what wuzz." 

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Cubbies? 9/8/20

Hey baseball fans!

From 1946-2015, the Chicago Cubs failed to win the National League pennant. We can blame their struggles on a plethora of factors, but the Cubs actually sported some great players during that span. Here are my top five Chicago Cubs Hall of Famers during their grueling World Series appearance drought. 

Honorable Mentions: Greg Maddux and Andre Dawson

The one major rule for this post is that the player has to go into the Hall as a member of the Cubs. Maddux and Dawson each won awards in the Windy City, but the Braves and Expos logos on their Hall of Fame plaques means they are disqualified from this list. 

Number Five: Ron Santo

Ron Santo was a staple at third base in Wrigley Field throughout the 1960s and early 1970s. Santo played his entire career in Chicago (his last year was with the White Sox), making nine All Star Games in his 14-year Hall of Fame career. Although his .277 batting average is subpar for Hall of Fame standards, his on-base percentage of .362 certainly isn't. In fact, Santo led the NL in walks in four seasons and regularly posted over 90 walks a season. If he wasn't hampered by the strains of Type 1 Diabetes, who knows what this Cubs legend could've additionally accomplished?

Number Four: Billy Williams

It's hard to separate Santo and Williams apart, considering their primes with the Cubs coincided almost perfectly. But Williams gets the edge in several ways, all of which have to do with his seasonal averages. From his Rookie of the Year season in 1961 to his last All Star Game in 1973, Billy Williams averaged 183 hits, 29 homers, and 98 RBIs a season. To put up that kind of consistency definitely gets a hitter on this type of list. The fact that Billy was a fan favorite only solidifies his spot at #4. 

Number Three: Ryne Sandberg

After the days of Santo, Williams, and the next two guys on my list, the Cubs needed a player to rally around. Besides Andre Dawson and Greg Maddux, that player was Ryne Sandberg. The 1984 MVP and ten-time All Star (all of them consecutive), Ryno was the typical five-tool player. Throughout his career, he had seasons with at least 180 hits, 25 home runs, 30 stolen bases, and/or 100 RBIs. He was also a a Gold Glove second baseman, winning the award nine times in nine years.

Number Two: Fergie Jenkins

The only pitcher on my list, Fergie Jenkins certainly had a career to remember in Chicago. In his twelve years with the Cubs, he posted a win-loss record of 167-132, an ERA of 3.20, and 2,038 strikeouts. For his career, the first Canadian-born Cooperstown resident and 1971 NL Cy Young recipient sits in twelfth place on the all-time strikeouts list, with 3,192 career K's.

Number One: Ernie Banks

Was it going to be anyone else? Mr. Cub was the Cubs from 1953-1971. He won back-to-back MVPs in 1958 and 1959, averaging 46 home runs for those two years. He topped 40 homers in a season three other times, finishing his career with 512 of them, currently good for 23rd on the all-time list. One of the greatest shortstops of all time, the positive attitude of Ernie Banks never failed to cast a smile on Cubs fans. As he used to say, let's play two!

Do you agree with my list? 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."

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

A Historical Perspective on Baseball's Legal Larceny 8/25/20

 Hey baseball fans!

Even in a shortened 2020 season, we are sure to see some crazy home run numbers across Major League Baseball, a trend that will only continue to pick up as we advance deeper into the 21st century. But with an emphasis on power comes the slow demise of one of baseball's most underrated and exciting statistics: the stolen base. 

Most baseball fans like to think that base-stealing was always as common as it was right before the new millennium, but that's actually incorrect. Maury Wills and Lou Brock were the first consistently excellent base-stealers, regularly crushing the rest of the league in the category throughout the 1960s. But it was "Larcenous Lou" who oversaw the true rise of the stolen base in the 1970s. In 1975, Jerry Remy of the Angels and Jose Cardenal of the Cubs tied for tenth place in baseball in steals with 34 each. In 1976, Freddie Patek of the Royals came in tenth in steals with 51 of them. From 1976-1998, there were only two seasons (besides strike-shortened ones) in which the tenth-best stealer had less than 40 steals, a phenomenon that hasn't happened in baseball since 2006 (Alfonso Soriano, 41, Nationals). What's also important to note is that from 1976-1998, four hitters made it to the 500 Home Run Club (Hall of Famers Willie McCovey, Reggie Jackson, Mike Schmidt, and Eddie Murray) but from 1999-2015, twelve hitters accomplished the feat. 

With this information, I wouldn't go as far to say that homers and stealing bases are antitheses of each other, but it is certainly fair to say that the long ball and small-ball aren't not opposites. That's why it makes sense that hitters are stealing less bases and hitting more home runs in modern baseball, but is this good? Does it make sense? Analytically, at least, yes. Hitting a home run is the quickest way to score a run in a baseball game, and sure, a team is more likely to score if there is a runner on second versus one on first, but having more players involved in a run-scoring opportunity makes a team less efficient statistically. But why is base-stealing still important? To answer that question, I'm going to drop some business vocabulary, so hold on to your briefcases. 

A competitive advantage is a proportionate advantage of one entity over another. In the business world, a company that can manufacture a product in a cheaper way than other companies has a competitive advantage in that market. That company isn't unstoppable in that market necessarily, they're just better-equipped. The same thing goes for teams with more base-stealers. As baseball moves more and more into the power department, pitchers and catchers will be trained to be less and less worried about steals. It might be purely psychological, but it'll happen. This would let base-stealers feel more comfortable on the base paths and will collect stolen bases exponentially. Based on WAR, stolen bases might still be inferior to home runs in this future speedy utopia I'm describing, but always remember Syndrome's quote from The Incredibles: "If everyone's super, no one's super." In other words, if every team is trying to win in the same way, the team that will prevail is the team that's winning differently, the team that emphasizes batting average and OBP to reach base, the team that drives pitch counts through the roof, the team with a competitive advantage.

Thanks for reading this post and I hope you enjoyed it. Check back soon for more of "all the buzz on what wuzz."

Thursday, August 13, 2020

The Coors Effect 8/13/20

Hey baseball fans!

Thus far into the abridged 2020 MLB season, it seems that former and present members of the Colorado Rockies (DJ LeMahieu and Charlie Blackmon) are some of the best hitters in baseball in terms of batting average. DJ is now on the Yankees, but when he played a mile above sea level, he did, in fact, win a batting title. But why are hitters on the Rockies so good? The answer is simple, and I kind of already hinted at it when I said "a mile above sea level." That's right: it's the Coors Effect. 

Denver, Colorado is one of the highest cities in the United States and is also where the Colorado Rockies home ballpark, Coors Field, is situated. This high altitude means that balls hit within the confines of the field travel farther, due to less air density. When Coors Field opened in 1995, the builders were aware of this natural phenomenon, so the field was made with some wide dimensions. But if anything, this just keeps the caverns in between the outfielders open for business. In 2019, Coors Field had the highest park factors in terms of hits, runs, and home runs, meaning that when pitchers pitch there, the ballpark has more to do with their failures than at any other stadium. This works both for and against the Rockies, and here's how. The Rockies lineup has always been full of All Stars. LeMahieu and Blackmon are just the tips of the iceberg, because the current lineup also has hitters like Trevor Story, David Dahl, and my favorite player in baseball, Nolan Arenado. Historically, it doesn't stop there. Todd Helton was a longtime great first baseman in Denver; recently-elected Hall of Fame outfielder Larry Walker made a name for himself in a Rockies uniform; and Andres Galarraga was one of the best hitters in baseball at the turn of the millennium. 

But what about the pitching? Well, while the Rockies rank as one of the best-hitting teams in the modern era, they have had some astronomically terrible pitching seasons. Last season, the Rox ranked dead last in the National League in terms of team ERA (5.56) and have never had a seasonal ERA below 4 in the team's entire history. That's why the Rockies have never won a division title in their 28-year existence. Sure, they've been a Wild Card team a couple of times and even made a World Series in 2007 (which was a sweep by the Red Sox), but they can't keep up in the pitching department because of their ballpark. So, in order for the Rockies to win a World Series, they will have to have one of the best run-producing seasons ever to compensate for the Coors Effect. I, for one, can't wait to see Nolan Arenado hit 60 bombs on the way to the Fall Classic, if it ever happens. 

Thanks for reading this post and I hope you enjoyed it. Check back soon for more of "all the buzz on what wuzz."

Saturday, August 1, 2020

The Bronx Fireman Not in the FDNY 8/1/20

Hey baseball fans!

Relievers are sometimes called firemen because, well, they put out fires, "relieving" the starters they replace on the mound by getting out of jams. This didn't come from nowhere, however, because it was actually the nickname of one of the first modern-day relievers baseball ever saw, Johnny "Fireman" Murphy. So, let's talk about him!

When I started blogging about baseball history eight years ago, my grandfather, who grew up in the Bronx, told me about how he used to work in a store near Yankee Stadium. Sometimes, members of the Yankees would come in to shop in the store and one of the Yanks that visited often was Johnny Murphy. I had never heard of him, so I did some research and found out some very interesting stuff on him. Murphy was not a Hall of Fame closer, but he was one of the first closers in MLB history. From 1937-1942, Murphy led the league in saves in four out of six years, making All Star Games in the first three years of that span. His highest saves total came in 1939, when he had 19 of them, which was the second-highest amount of single-season saves at the time. Murphy collected 107 saves during his 13-year career in the 30's and 40's (with some of those years eaten up by military service during World War II), which was actually a record that stood all the way until 1961, the same year he joined the front office of the newest MLB expansion team, the New York Mets. 

That's right, Mets fans. Your 1969 Miracle Mets team was built up by one of baseball's first relievers. Murphy, along with former Yankee executive George Weiss, helped construct the Mets farm system throughout the 60's that would eventually sprout great names like Tom Seaver, Nolan Ryan, and Jerry Koosman. Murphy was also responsible for the trade that brought legendary manager and should-be Hall of Famer Gil Hodges to the Amazins', a move that helped the Mets win an improbable World Series title in 1969. Sadly, "Fireman" died of a heart attack three months after the team from Flushing won their first Fall Classic. Had he lived, who knows how good the Mets could've been. 

Thanks for reading this post and I hope you enjoyed it. Check back soon for more of "all the buzz on what wuzz."

Saturday, July 18, 2020

The Story of "The Bird" 7/18/20

Hey baseball fans!

The Detroit Tigers are one of the most storied franchises of the American League, originating as a part of the AL's inaugural season in 1901. With this history comes many Hall of Famers, but no Detroit legend, whether it be Hank Greenberg or Al Kaline, can compete with the meteoric rise and fall of "The Bird," Mark Fidrych. 

Mark Fidrych was a non-roster invitee for the Tigers in 1976, officially joining Detroit's MLB roster in late April. He was lanky and curly-haired, which is how he got his nickname from Big Bird from Sesame Street. "The Bird" made his mark on the baseball world on May 15, when he allowed a single run in a complete game against the Indians at Tigers Stadium in Detroit. Throughout the game, Fidrych would talk to the ball and pat down the mound repeatedly, idiosyncrasies that elevated his celebrity status to levels that you could say have never been seen since. Fidrych continued to dominate the American League with his weird tendencies and masterful pitching. By the All Star break, his seasonal ERA was under 2 and was elected to start, the second rookie in MLB history to be named an ASG starting pitcher. Fidrych would finish the season with a 19-9 win-loss record with a league-leading 24 complete games and 2.34 ERA. He obviously finished in first place for AL Rookie of the Year voting, but also came in second for the Cy Young Award behind the Hall of Famer pitcher for the Orioles, Jim Palmer. Throughout this amazing year, Fidrych was asked for curtain call after curtain call, as fans fell in love with the quirky future of the American League. To this day, he is the only baseball player to appear on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine. 

Sadly, Fidrych suffered an injury before the 1977 season and was never the same pitcher again. It was diagnosed in 1985 as a torn rotator cuff, a surgery that could've saved Fidrych's career from imploding the way it did, had the injury been dealt with sooner. "The Bird" only pitched professionally for another four years after that amazing 1976 season, but lived a quiet, fulfilling life at his Massachusetts farm until his untimely death in 2009. So, this begs the question: what if "The Bird" continued flying after '76? Well, he would've had a lot of fun with 1984 Cy Young Award and AL MVP recipient, Willie Hernandez, who helped the Tigers win the World Series that year, but overall, he would've been a superstar pitcher, mesmerizing fans with his precise control, until he was elected into the Hall of Fame. Thanks for reading this post and I hope you enjoyed it. Check back soon for more of "all the buzz on what wuzz."

Saturday, July 4, 2020

Five Alternative Team Names for the Indians and Braves 7/4/20

Hey baseball fans!

The NFL recently opened discussions about changing the name of the Washington Redskins to something more appropriate. This has prompted the MLB to consider the Cleveland Indians, who got rid of their red-faced Native American mascot and logo, Chief Wahoo, in 2018 (on Columbus Day, of all days). The Redskins moniker is definitely worse than Cleveland's, but it still begs the question: if the Indians change their name, to what will it be changed? I'll be proposing five of these potential names, three for Cleveland and two for the Atlanta Braves, a team that also has a questionable name, thanks more in part to the culture of the team (the Tomahawk Chop and their defunct mascot, Chief Knockahoma) rather than the team's actual name.

The Cleveland...

Cleveland is known as a blue-collar city with a vibrant industrial life that made it inviting for immigrants during the 20th century. Blow-up hammers at games for children might get a little annoying, but this also makes for some potentially excellent home run puns. 

There's a better name to epitomize the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's home in Cleveland, but I can't think of it right now. Still though, with music's soulful connection to baseball that dates back decades, this name seems like a great fit. 

A random name to some, sure, but there used to be a team called the Cleveland Spiders that played in the 19th century. The team was absolutely putrid, posting the worst win-loss record in baseball history in 1899 (20-134), but used to have a lesser-known pitcher named Cy Young in their rotation. The name is original, fearsome, and a merchandising goldmine. 

The Atlanta...

Atlanta's history with music is extremely vast, with artists of all different genres calling Atlanta home. The same logic that makes the Rockers name logical applies here. Musicians just love singing about baseball. 

I'm stealing another former baseball team name, this time from Seattle in 1969 (the Seattle Pilots moved to Milwaukee and became the Brewers just a year into their existence), to honor the world's busiest airport. Yes, sports names involving flying vehicles, whether it be birds or airplanes, are seen across the sporting landscape, but Atlanta's airport is the king of air traffic. 

What other names should the Indians and Braves consider? 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 have a great July 4th!

Friday, June 26, 2020

A Look at Mr. Tiger, Al Kaline 6/26/20

Hey baseball fans!

It's Derek Jeter's birthday! However, because I'm sure some of you think I love him a little too much, we're not going to discuss the Captain today. Instead, let's talk about one of the best players who played in the state in which Jeter grew up. Yes, Mr. November is from New Jersey and rooted for the Yankees, but he attended and was drafted out of Central High School in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Let's see: who's an awesome player who played for the Tigers? Oh, of course! It's Mr. Tiger, Al Kaline!

One of the premier contact hitters of the 1950s and 1960s, Kaline bridged the gap between Tigers eras that were ruled by Hank Greenberg in the 1930s and 1940s and the double play duo of Alan Trammell and Lou Whitaker in the 1970s and 1980s. But Kaline wasn't just a bridge. He could really hit, too! Al Kaline is the youngest hitter in American League history to win a batting title, for starters. In 1955, at the age of 20, Kaline led the Junior Circuit with a .340 batting average. It would end up being the only season in which he led the league in average, but he batted over .280 in all but five of his remaining seasons in the MLB. That 1955 season for Kaline also saw him win his only hits title, totaling 200 for the season, but would average 137 hits a season for his entire career. Yes, that number is lower than average for a contact specialist, but because he played for 22 seasons, 1953-1974, he made it to 3,007 hits, good for 31st on the all-time list. But Kaline wasn't just a great hitter. He was also an exemplary outfielder. He won ten career Gold Gloves (in an eleven-year span) and was revered by the rest of the league for his prowess in right field. All in all, he made 18 All Star Games and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility, 1980, with 88.3% of the vote. 

But arguably his most shining achievement in a Tigers uniform came during 1968, when he put up a World Series performance for the ages. 1968 was the first year he hadn't made an All Star Game since that amazing year in 1955, so many people around the league thought he was nearing the end of his career. But boy,did Kaline rebound in the World Series. Sure, the '68 Series is known for amazing pitching from Tigers legend Mickey Lolich, but Kaline's hitting in the Fall Classic against the Cardinals was historic. In the seven-game set, Kaline collected 11 hits, which was good for a .379 batting clip, with two homers and eight RBIs. Detroit ended up winning the franchise's third World Series that year, as Al Kaline cemented himself as Mr. Tiger. 

After retiring in 1974, Kaline worked in the Tigers broadcast booth until 2002, at which time he switched to the front office until his death in April of this year. Kaline epitomized consistency and all-around play, which is why he is known as one of the best to ever lace up cleats at a professional level. Thanks for reading this post and I hope you enjoyed it. Check back soon for more of "all the buzz on what wuzz."

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

The Tragic Story of Tony Conigliaro 6/17/20

Hey baseball fans!

Carl Yastrzemski is one of the greatest hitters in Red Sox history, but he was not the only star outfielder that graced the grass of Fenway in the 1960s. The Red Sox used to have a right-handed hitter by the name of Tony Conigliaro. Conigliaro was a great hitter for the first few years of his career, and looked to continue that trend deep into that 1967 "Impossible Dream" season for the BoSox. Then, in August of that season, tragedy struck. 

Tony Conigliaro debuted in Boston in 1964 at the ripe age of 19. He didn't place for Rookie of the Year voting, but he did hit 24 home runs that year and batted .290. Those 24 home runs are a record among teenage hitters in baseball history, getting Red Sox fans excited for a possible World Series championship in the coming years, something they hadn't experienced since 1918. Conigliaro continued his power at the plate in subsequent years, hitting a league-leading 32 homers in 1965 and a respectable 28 home runs in 1966. In 1967, the Red Sox right fielder made his first All Star Game, reaching 20 homers by mid-August, and became the second-youngest hitter ever to 100 career home runs (only behind Mel Ott). Then, on August 18, 1967, in a home game against Angels pitcher Jack Hamilton, Conigliaro was struck by a pitch on his left cheekbone, which left him with a broken jaw and a damaged retina. Conigliaro wasn't wearing a helmet with an ear-flap that we see often today, but it's this specific incident that actually made that flap so encouraged for hitters. Conigliaro was forced to sit out the entire 1968 season. Although he returned in 1969, winning Comeback Player of the Year with 20 homers and 82 RBIs, he was not the same hitter as before. 1970 was his last great year, when he collected career highs in home runs (36) and RBIs (116). After that, he fizzled out due to his deteriorating sight. He died in 1990 at 45 years old. 

Not only was Conigliaro not in the Red Sox lineup for the 1967 World Series, but had he played a full career, he would've most likely been with the Sox for the 1975 World Series. Both the '67 and '75 Fall Classics went seven games, so it's justifiable to say that had Conigliaro not gotten so tragically injured, the Red Sox would've broken the Curse of the Bambino long before events involving Mookie Wilson or David Ortiz. 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 5, 2020

My History with Baseball 6/5/20

Hey baseball fans!

It's a somber time to be a baseball fan for plenty of reasons, so I wanted share my story of how I fell in love with America's pastime. I don't think I really talk about how I got involved with the game much, but it's a story worth telling.

Back in 2007, Hall of Fame manager Joe Torre and the New York Yankees were in the American League Division Series against the Cleveland Indians. The Yanks had stars like Derek Jeter and Johnny Damon, while the Indians had recognizable names such as CC Sabathia and Victor Martinez, among others, on their roster. The Indians would go on to win the series, then lose to the Red Sox in the ALCS. I was eight years old at the time, beginning the third grade. I remember liking one of my third grade teachers, Mrs. Nathan, a lot. We  were learning where to put commas in numbers with more than three digits, and I taught the class a trick my mom taught me. 1, 2, 3 kick, 1, 2, 3, kick, which is to say that after every three digits, you put a comma. Mrs. Nathan liked that trick so much, that she invited me to the front of the class to do a kick line with her. I was embarrassed at the time, but it's certainly funny looking back. The mantra would help me remember how to correctly write down the multimillion-dollar contracts that MLB players would soon receive.

One school night, my dad was watching one of the games of the 2007 ALDS in his bedroom. I can't recall how I ended up watching the game with him, or whether it was the "Joba Chamberlain Gnats Game" in particular, but I remember being absolutely hypnotized by the game of baseball, jumping up and down on my parents' bed like a monkey. Soon after the Yankees got eliminated from the postseason that year, I got my first baseball video game, MLB Power Pros 2007 for the Wii. It was an amazing game, a game I still play to this day, despite the unrealistic home run robbery animations or the lack of difficulty, and a game that helped shape my love of baseball even further. The next year, I switched schools because my old one closed down. So, I had to make some friends in the new one through the only way I knew how: baseball. We were fourth-graders, so it wasn't like we were talking about sabermetrics, but the conversations were definitely complex for a non-baseball fan. That was also the time I started researching more into baseball's past, solidifying my stance as a Yankees fan.

The Yankees moved into a new stadium in 2009. I went to the first Spring Training, regular season, and World Series game at the new Yankee Stadium, and all three were a blast (even though the Yanks lost the two games that counted). 2009 was the Year of the Walk-Off in the Bronx, so I used to stay up late, switching to reruns of the George Lopez Show on Nick at Nite during YES Network commercials, as I watched the Yankees win in the clutch night after night. As I walked into the House That the Boss Built for Game One of the 2009 World Series, I saw that the Yankees had played in the Fall Classic against the Phillies once before '09. This I was unfamiliar with, and immediately asked my grandpa, who grew up in the Bronx, what that was about. He vaguely remembered the 1950 Phillies, who were called "The Whiz Kids" because they were so young, but he more so remembered the teams from his younger days, teams with Ruth, Gehrig, and DiMaggio. He told me all about those winners of the 1920s and 1930s, as my other grandpa told me about how he used to listen to the Dodgers while growing up in Cuba. It was a whole lot of information for a fledgling fifth-grader to grasp, but I knew I wanted more.

I started Baseball with Matt three years later, on April 2, 2012, about a month after my bar mitzvah. I became an MLB pro blogger that October and a published author three years after that. Baseball has become my life, my anchor, and my passion in my 13 years of fandom, and it means so much for so many other people. In these confusing times, I encourage you to ask people about how they fell in love with baseball, or about any hobby or interest that has a unifying sense, because if there's one thing that we all need right now, it's a little bit of unity.

Thanks for reading this post and I hope you enjoyed hearing my story. Check back soon for more of "all the buzz on what wuzz."

Stay safe, keep yourselves educated on what's going on, and just keep swinging.

Monday, May 25, 2020

The Contact Hitters that Shaped Baseball Since the 60's 5/25/20

Hey baseball fans!

Although batting averages have decreased on average ever since Hall of Famers like Ted Williams and Stan Musial retired, there are a number of notable contact hitters of the last 60 years that I'd like to point out. Yes, I am aware of the "Chicks Dig the Long Ball" philosophy, which states that homers are the quickest and easiest way to score runs and win games (which is exactly how I manage my franchises on MLB The Show 20) but, as I've said before, batting averages keep innings going. So, let's look at some of the best hit collectors since the 1960's.

Tony Gwynn
Mr. Padre and Captain Video, two of the most underwhelming nicknames for a Hall of Famer, but nicknames that are well-deserved by the 15-time All Star. Gwynn is the best hitter the San Diego Padres franchise has ever seen, contributing immensely to both of the Friars' NL pennant-winning seasons of 1984 and 1998. But to get statistical, Gwynn was the king of watching tapes of opposing pitchers and ball placement, giving him a career batting average of .338, the highest lifetime batting average of the latter half of the 20th century. Gwynn won eight batting titles (four of them consecutive when he was ages 34-37) and finished his career from 1982-2001 with 3,141 hits.

Wade Boggs
One of the greatest hitters in Red Sox history, which is certainly saying something, Boggs began his career in Fenway with five batting titles in his first seven years. He would go on to post a .328 lifetime batting average with 3,010 hits. He was a 12-time All Star who was so feared as a contact hitter that he led the AL in intentional walks for six consecutive seasons from 1987-1992. In his 18 Major League seasons, Boggs only batted under .300 in a season three times.

Rod Carew
Carew is one of my favorite hitters and Hall of Famers in baseball history because he's the greatest contact hitter in the history of two different franchises. From 1967-1978 with the Twins, he averaged 174 hits a season and never missed an All Star Game. With the Angels from 1979-1985, despite injuries, he posted a batting average of .314. One of the greatest hitters to never win a World Series, Carew finished his career with 18 All Star years, a .328 batting average, and 3,053 hits.

George Brett
You can't talk about the 1980s in baseball without mentioning Mike Schmidt's third baseman AL counterpart, along with Wade Boggs, of course, but Brett and Schmidt each won the MVP in 1980 and faced off in the 1980 World Series, so the two are pretty comparable. The best hitter in Royals history, Brett collected 3,154 career hits in 21 years from 1973-1993 and posted a .305 batting average during the span. That 1980 year in particular was his best, batting an astounding .390 while leading the AL in OPS (1.118). He couldn't help Kansas City vanquish the Phillies in 1980, but he did help the Royals win the franchise's first World Series five years later.

Kirby Puckett
Easily the most underrated hitter in this post, Puckett was an unstoppable force in the hitting department from 1984-1995, averaging a staggering 192 hits in his tenure with the Twins. He posted a .318 batting average that could've been better had he not retired early due to health concerns. Ironically, though, it's his walk-off home run in Game Six of the 1991 World Series that is his most memorable moment, a moment that only heightens the status of the '91 Series as one of the greatest ever.

Derek Jeter
A lot of people would say that Jeter is the best contact hitter I'm including in this post, even though I think it's Gwynn just based off of career batting average, but Jeter was the man. He's sixth all time in career hits at 3,465, while his .310 lifetime batting clip ain't too shabby, either. The reason why Jeter is so highly-regarded is his leadership of five World Series championship teams and 14 All Star appearances. He never won a batting title, but he led the AL in hits twice (in 1999 with 219 and in 2012 with 216).

Before I end this post, I'd like to give a quick shout-out to Vladimir Guerrero, who batted .318 lifetime, but wasn't included in this post because he had some pop in his bat, too. Still, though, what a batting average! Anyway, thanks for reading this post and I hope you enjoyed it. Check back soon for more of "all the buzz on what wuzz."

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Jackie Robinson: Barrier-Breaker AND Great Baseball Player 5/12/20

Hey baseball fans!

There are four particular Hall of Famers that are often known more for their resilience (sociopolitically and physically) than their abilities at playing baseball. Today, I shall attempt to correct these beliefs by talking about how Jackie Robinson, Larry Doby, Cal Ripken Jr., and Lou Gehrig were so great at hitting baseballs, in addition to their other accolades.

Jackie Robinson
It feels fitting to talk about Robinson first, not just because Jackie Robinson Day, April 15, saw no baseball this year, but also because Robinson's achievement is the most important. On April 15, 1947, Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier, becoming the first black player in MLB history. His number 42 was retired across baseball in 1997 to honor such an amazing feat, but I'd hate to talk about Jackie without mentioning his stats. Robinson actually won Rookie of the Year in 1947 (an award that later was named after him) and the National League MVP two years later. For his career, which was played entirely in Dodger blue, the six-time All Star batted .311 with with an average of 151 hits and 20 steals a season. He only played from 1947-1956, but was elected to the Hall in his first year of eligibility, 1962, with 77.5% of the vote.

Larry Doby
About two months after Robinson made history in Brooklyn, it was the American League's turn to integrate. On July 5, 1947, Larry Doby became the first black player in American League history, when he pinch hit for the pitcher in the top of the seventh in an Indians-White Sox game in Chicago. Sure, he struck out during that at-bat, but Doby would go on to become one of the AL's most feared hitters of the '50s. The seven-time All Star hit 20 or more homers in eight straight seasons from 1949-1956, and came in second in the 1954 AL MVP voting to Yankees catcher Yogi Berra. Doby batted .283 during his 13-year career, making the Hall of Fame via the Veteran's Committee in 1998.

Cal Ripken, Jr.
The man who holds the record for most consecutive games played at 2,632 had all the chances in the world to be great, so thank goodness he capitalized. I'm of course kidding, but Ripken was really one of the best hitters of the last fifth of the 20th century. He made 19 straight All Star Games from 1983-2001, winning MVPs in 1983 and 1991 along the way. He collected 3,184 hits during his career, all in Baltimore, and even smacked 431 career homers out of the yard. The moment when he broke Lou Gehrig's record for consecutive games played is considered one of baseball's best moments, but never forget how grand of a shortstop Ripken was. He was, truly, the Jeter before Jeter.

Lou Gehrig
And last but certainly not least, we have the greatest first baseman in baseball history. No, I don't dub him this because of his 2,130 consecutive games played record that stood for almost 60 years or the disease that is named after him. Gehrig was a machine. Sure, Ruth was better, but the Yankees don't win championships in 1927, 1932, or 1936-1938 without "Larrupin' Lou." Gehrig played for 17 years, but if you look at the 14 years in which he played more than just a handful of games in a season, he averaged 193 hits, 35 homers, and 142 RBIs a season, along with a .340 batting average! His 1.0798 career OPS is third all time, only to Ted Williams and the Bambino, while his 1,995 RBIs are seventh all time. Could you imagine if he didn't have ALS? He might've turned into the best player ever, and that's coming from a guy who thinks George Herman Ruth is the best hitter the MLB has ever seen.

Thanks for reading this post and I hope you enjoyed it. Check back soon for more of "all the buzz on what wuzz."

Sunday, May 3, 2020

Senators, Robins, and Pilots (Oh My!) 5/3/20

Hey baseball fans!

Throughout my blogging career, I've written about some old teams, teams that are so old that they had different names than they do currently. So, to make up for all of that confusion, let's talk about what some teams used to be called. I'm not going to go through every MLB team, but I will touch on some of the big name changes.

Boston Americans = Boston Red Sox
The first ever World Series was won by the Boston Red Sox. Eh, well, technically it was the Boston Americans, but it was the Red Sox franchise. The Sox officially became the Sox in 1908, after being the Americans from their inception in 1901-1907.

Brooklyn Robins = Los Angeles Dodgers
Ok, so it's common knowledge that the Dodgers used to be in Brooklyn, but did you also know that the 1917 NL pennant-winning team was called the Brooklyn Robins? Yeah, like the bird. The Dodgers were also called the Trolley Dodgers, the Superbas, and the Bridegrooms (because so many of the players were married).

Washington Senators = Minnesota Twins AND Texas Rangers
Ok, this one is a little trickier than the others. The original Washington Senators, aka the 1924 World Series winners, moved to the Land of 10,000 Lakes before the 1961 season and became the Twins. That same season, a new team in Washington named the Senators started playing in the American League. They move to Texas in 1972 and became the Rangers.

Seattle Pilots = Milwaukee Brewers
The Pilots were one of four expansion teams in 1969, along with the Padres, Royals, and Expos (who we will get to shortly). They spent one season in the Pacific Northwest before getting bought by eventual MLB commissioner Bud Selig in bankruptcy court. In 1970, the Milwaukee Brewers were officially born.

Montreal Expos = Washington Nationals
Ah, yes, the hottest topic when it comes to MLB expansion. The Expos, led by terrible management, were forced to move to DC following the 2004 season, much to the dismay of Quebec. However, with the Rays possibly playing some of their home games north of the border, the Expos could return sooner than one might think.

Bonus: Cincinnati Redlegs = Cincinnati Reds
From 1954-1958, the Reds temporarily changed their name to the Redlegs. Why? Communism! Well, not necessarily, but there were speculations that the word 'red' associated with the franchise with the Soviets. The word was even taken out of their "C" logo, but was brought back in 1961.

Thanks for reading this post and I hope you enjoyed it. Check back soon for more of "all the buzz on what wuzz," and make sure to keep Vladimir Putin away from Joey Votto at all times.

Saturday, April 25, 2020

Defensive Runs Saved: What is it? 4/25/20

Hey baseball fans!

Kevin Kiermaier is the center fielder for the Tampa Bay Rays. A couple of years ago, Kiermaier got a massive contract extension to stay in Florida. Well, the extension itself wouldn't be big to Mike Trout, but for a guy who only hits in the low .200s with barely 10 home runs a season, it was a massive contract extension. Yes, he's a three-time Gold Glover and someone who's known for robbing homers like it's his job, but why did the Rays give their outfielder a spanking new contract just for being an above-average fielder? The answer? Defensive runs saved.

Defensive runs saved is a statistic used to determine, well, how many runs on defense a player saves by making a play. There's a lot of averaging out and conversion that goes into the formula, but at its core, DRS is calculated in the following way. Say an outfielder makes a play that was 35% possible. That would mean that the fielder gets .65 points added into the DRS formula. Again, there's a lot more math that happens with that .65, but basically, if a fielder makes hard plays that prevent lots of runs, they have a high DRS. The same thing goes in the opposite direction. Let's say a shortstop boots an easy grounder that has an 80% success rate. Well, for his DRS metric, he gets .8 points deducted from his score.

Kevin Kiermaier saved a whopping 42 runs in 2015 according to his DRS calculation, a number that the Rays thought was quite valuable to their winning ways. The all-time leader in DRS is Adrian Beltre at 212, but keep in mind that this statistic is very new, and that if data was calculated for it going back into the 1800s, you'd probably see Ozzie Smith or Brooks Robinson at the top of the all-time DRS rankings. But you know who has the lowest all-time DRS? Derek Jeter at -152! I guess "The Flip" was really an anomaly, especially for the Captain.

Thanks for reading this post and I hope you enjoyed it. Check back soon for more of "all the buzz on what wuzz."

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

The Case (or Lack Of One) for Dennis Martinez 4/14/20

Hey baseball fans!

In a time of uncertainty, all eyes lie on the President to see what he does next. But for right now, let's talk about El Presidente. That's right: it's a Dennis Martinez post!

Dennis Martinez pitched for a number of teams, most notably the Orioles, Expos, and Indians, during a 23-year career from 1976-1998. An overall chipper guy, Martinez was the first ever Nicaraguan to pitch in the majors, a feat that hasn't been accomplished as much as you'd think since his retirement. Martinez had a 3.70 ERA during his years in baseball with a record of 245-193 and 2,149 strikeouts. He posted at least ten wins in a season 15 times, nine of those years consecutively, and twice finished in the top five for the Cy Young vote. Martinez got less than the 5% required to stay on the Hall of Fame ballot after his first year of eligibility in 2004, but that doesn't mean that the four-time All Star deserves zero praise. Even though he went 7-16 in 1983 with an ERA towards six, he still was on the '83 Orioles when they beat the Phillies in that year's World Series. His best year in Baltimore was arguably 1981, when he won 14 games in a strike-shortened season with a 3.32 ERA, his best seasonal ERA in Charm City. Only after his trade to Montreal did Martinez really become El Presidente.

From 1987-1993, you could argue that Martinez was in the same elite tier as Greg Maddux. I mean, you would lose the argument, but not by much! Martinez's years in Montreal were a sort of renaissance for him, as he posted a 2.96 ERA, 96 wins, and a 1.14 WHIP during the span. But his greatest achievement north of the border actually came in a game in Los Angeles. On Sunday, July 28, 1991, El President was el perfecto, pitching a perfect game against the Dodgers, thereby becoming the first pitcher born outside the United States to pitch a perfect game. It came in the midst of Martinez's best yearly ERA (2.39, which led the league) and his second of three consecutive All Star nods. The game itself was notable for a few reasons. Dodger Stadium became the first stadium to witness two perfect games (Sandy Koufax in 1965 was the first) and the Dodgers became the first team to lose consecutive perfect games (Tom Browning's perfecto against LA in 1988 was the one immediately before Martinez's).

Despite his resurgence with the Expos, Martinez was too inefficient earlier in his career to be considered a Hall of Famer in my book, but he'll always be one in the hearts of Expos fans. Thanks for reading this post and I hope you enjoyed it. Check back soon for more of "all the buzz on what wuzz."

Thursday, April 2, 2020

600 Homers For My 600th Post 4/2/20

Hey baseball fans!

Today is the eight-year anniversary of my very first blog post AND my 600th post! Thank you so much to everyone who has read my stuff over these past eight wonderful years, whether you're a day one fan or are just stumbling upon my posts this year. Now, onto the baseball history!

It only makes sense to talk about the 600 Home Run Club for my 600th post, one of the most exclusive clubs throughout the history of America's pastime. Let's break down the numbers. 600 home runs would take an average of 30 homers for 20 years. Considering the 500 Home Run Club is about three times as plentiful, you can understand how truly hard it is to hit 600 career home runs. Besides the steroid-users, every member of the 600 Home Run Club is in the Hall of Fame, so let's talk about some of those MLB legends.

Jim Thome
The king of the walk-off home run totaled 612 home runs during his 22-year career with mainly the Indians. What's interesting to look at with Thome is his lack of recognition as a power hitter throughout his career; he only made five All Star Games, the least amount of ASGs amongst the guys with 600+ homers (not including Babe Ruth, who played a majority of his career without an All Star Game). However, Jim was an integral part of the Cleveland teams of the 1990s, one of the greatest dynasties that wasn't a dynasty.

Ken Griffey, Jr.
The Kid is undeniably the best player in the history of the Seattle Mariners. If only he didn't beg for a trade to his hometown Cincinnati Reds. Anyway, Griffey's 630 homers rank seventh on the all-time list, helped out by league-leading years in home runs in 1994 (40 in only 111 games) and 1997-1999 (56, 56, and 48, respectively). He had 40 or more home runs in a season seven times and won the Home Run Derby a record three times.

Albert Pujols
Similar situation to Griffey, except his big drop-off in power came with free agency and not a trade. Nonetheless, Pujols is one of the greatest hitters of my generation. Besides having 656 career home runs, he also has 3,202 career hits, making him one of four hitters in history with 600+ homers and 3,000+ hits. Pujols's 35 homers a season is the highest average homers per year among members of the 600 Home Run Club, and is also the active leader in career home runs.

Willie Mays
We move into the Top Five! The Say Hey Kid smacked 660 career homers during his 22-year run with the Giants and Mets, cementing himself as one of the candidates for baseball's Mount Rushmore. Mays was a four-time home run champ and is the only military veteran of the 600 Home Run Club. He is also the fastest member of the club, with 338 career stolen bases.

Babe Ruth
THE BEST HITTER IN BASEBALL HISTORY (sorry, I just had to reiterate that statement) was the first member of the 200, 300, 400, 500, 600, and 700 Home Run Clubs. His 714 home runs were the highest in baseball history for 39 years, and the metric currently ranks third all-time. He is the only member of the club who played in the first half of the 20th century, but is also the club member with the most single-season home run titles (12).

Hank Aaron
The second member of the 700 Home Run Club ended his career with 756 home runs, which currently ranks second on the all-time list. However, among members of the 600 Home Run Club, he ranks first in hits (third all-time with 3,771) RBIs, and All Star Game appearances (his 2,297 careers runs batted in and 25 All Star Games are both first all-time). Aaron was a four-time home run champ, and is another candidate for baseball's Mount Rushmore.

Thanks again to everyone for supporting me through 600 posts, and I hope you enjoyed this particular post. Check back soon for more of "all the buzz on what wuzz."

Friday, March 27, 2020

My Idea for a Shortened Season 3/27/20

Hey baseball fans!

With the MLB officially starting late as of yesterday, it's time for the league, the fans, and anyone else who cares about America's pastime to come up with alternative scenarios regarding how the season should play out. So, here's mine. Note: I am assuming that the 2020 season will happen, and am keeping information in mind regarding the recent MLB-MLBPA agreement.

Even if it's without fans, it looks like the MLB season could start as early as June, but I'm going to say that it starts on July 1st. I think it's a terrible idea to do scheduled double-headers in this day and age, unlike in years past (I'm talking before WW2). I mean, you thought the Yankees were so injured before? Just wait until they have to start playing 14 games in seven days. However, I do think that a four-month season is acceptable and adaptable to service time, contracts, and any other time-related factors that go into a baseball season. Why do I say four months, you ask? Well, the 1981 MLB strike caused a stoppage of play, shortening the season to, you guessed it, four months. Obviously, this stoppage is much different than the one now, but we've seen a four-month MLB season in the past, and at the current moment with the information we have, I think it makes the most sense.

So, July 1st to October 31st would be the MLB regular season. The All Star Game would be moved to late August and the trade deadline to mid-September. The postseason would stay in the exact same format, but with less off-days if the matchups allow for it. A Yankees-Red Sox playoff series can be played across seven days, but a Mariners-Rays series might take nine or ten days (barring both series going to seven games). If the weather is closer to winter weather than Thanksgiving weather by late November, the World Series would be held at a neutral site, whether that site be domed (like Miller Park in Milwaukee) or in a hot location (like Dodger Stadium in LA).

I don't think it's a secret that this upcoming season is going to be one for the history books for all the wrong reasons, but it shouldn't be delegitimized, if it's played. The Dodgers' 1981 World Series championship over the Yankees is completely valid, as are the 1994 MVPs won by Frank Thomas and Jeff Bagwell, even without the '94 playoffs (and Albert Belle's 50 homers in 1995 are just iconic). It's just up to us to make the best of it. Stay strong and safe, baseball fans.

Thanks for reading this post and I hope you enjoyed it. Check back soon for more of "all the buzz on what wuzz."

Friday, March 13, 2020

The 1944 MLB Season: How Another World Conflict Affected Baseball 3/13/20

Hey baseball fans!

With the recent delay of Opening Day by Major League Baseball because of the spreading coronavirus, it got me thinking about how the MLB season has been changed in the past. 9/11 paused the 2001 MLB season for about a week, while the strikes of 1981 and 1994/1995 erased games and even introduced new playoff formats. But another historic event, World War II, didn't stop the MLB from playing its games, creating a wild race for the World Series, specifically in 1944, the penultimate year of the war.

President Franklin Roosevelt issued something called the "Green Light Letter," which asked baseball to continue operations amidst the global conflict known as World War II. The United States entered the war in December of 1941, after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. So, to help the war effort, the US military issued a draft for males ranging from 18-37 years old. Well, even though the MLB didn't stop for World War II, the age of the eligible draftees made it so plenty of MLB players were drafted into the military. In total, over a period of five years, 500 major league and over 2,000 minor league players were drafted into the deadliest war in human history. For reference, the MLB was only 16 teams at the time, and major league roster sizes were 24 players, meaning that a massive, incomprehensible percentage of the MLB rosters at the time went to serve overseas. Some of the more famous MLB and WW2 veterans include Joe DiMaggio, Ted Williams, Yogi Berra, Hank Greenberg, and Stan Musial (pictured below in his sailor's uniform).

But Stan the Man didn't serve until 1945, meaning he was still on the Cardinals roster in 1944 to help lead them to the top of the National League. The 1944 St. Louis Cardinals were without future Hall of Famers Red Schoendienst (which is harder to spell than Yastrzemski, by the way) and Enos Slaughter, but still managed to win 105 games and the NL pennant on the back of baseball's best pitching staff, which allowed only 3.1 runs per game, and 1944 MVP and slick-fielding shortstop, Marty Marion. Those 105 wins (and 49 losses because of the 154-game season back then) actually proved to be baseball's best record, only because the rest of the league did absolutely nothing! After the Cardinals, the Pirates finished in second among the 16 teams in '44 with only 90 wins. And the AL was even worse! No team finished above 89 wins because of the shortage of talent, meaning that at the end of the season, it was the rest of the AL looking up at the St. Louis Browns.

Yeah, that's right: the St. Louis Browns, the present-day Baltimore Orioles! The AL, especially, was so dry of the talent that made baseball so beloved, that one of the worst teams in baseball history up to that point made their first World Series appearance. Of course, the Cardinals won the Series in six games, giving them their second of three titles in a five-year span from 1942-1946, but at least the Browns got to call themselves the best of the worst, you know?

Eventually, the MLB and the United States rejoiced in an Allied victory, and baseball returned to normal. The Browns moved to Baltimore for the '54 season and won the franchise's first championship in 1966. Thanks for reading this post and I hope you enjoyed it. Check back soon for more of "all the buzz on what wuzz."

Saturday, February 29, 2020

A Study on Teams in the Spring Training States 2/29/20

Hey baseball fans!

2020 Spring Training is officially upon us, which means we don't care about the American and National Leagues right now. It's all about Grapefruit and Cactus Leagues! During Spring Training, the eastern MLB teams head to Florida, while the teams in the west head to Arizona. What's interesting about this is that Florida and Arizona were some of the last states to get baseball teams. Why is that important? Read on to find out!

It's no coincidence that the Rays, Marlins, and Diamondbacks are three teams that could look to relocation in the coming future. Just this week, it was released that the D-Backs have talked about moving to Vancouver, having visited the Canadian city and hometown of Seth Rogen twice in the last two years. I actually really like the Diamondbacks stadium and their attendance is only so-so, not dwindling like the Rays and Marlins. So, why the potential move? Well, in 1946, when Bill Veeck convinced the Indians and Giants (then in New York) to play some Spring Training games in Phoenix, wanting to rid his franchise (he had just bought the Indians) of the African-American discrimination of Florida, he inadvertently created the Cactus League. The Grapefruit League was formed years before, some claiming as early as 1913. So, by the time the Marlins (1993), Rays, and Diamondbacks (both 1998) came into existence, for four to six weeks of every February and March, Floridians and Arizonans got front row seats to their favorite teams outside their state.

The Yankees and Dodgers have well-known fan bases in Florida, dating back to when the Dodgers were in Brooklyn. "Dodgertown" in Vero Beach, Florida became a hub for Dodger fans in the eastern part of the country as early as 1948. Meanwhile, the Yankees have been playing in George M. Steinbrenner Field since 1996, two years before the Rays moved into the exact same metropolitan area. As for the Diamondbacks? Well, the Cactus League had as many as nine teams playing Spring Training games in Arizona in 1989, also the year when two western teams, the Giants and A's, were in the World Series. My point here is that the MLB placed expansion teams in cities where a lot of fans rooted for other teams. Now, all three teams have made the World Series in the 20+ years of their respective existences, but their current success is satisfactory at best (and even worse for the Marlins).

So, I raise the point again, just like I have so many times before: relocation and expansion is how to keep a sport from going stale. Arizona to Las Vegas, Tampa to Montreal, and Miami to Charlotte or Nashville (not to mention Oakland to Portland). Leave the Sunshine and Grand Canyon States for baseball in the winter. Thanks for reading this post and I hope you enjoyed it. Check back soon for more of "all the buzz on what wuzz."