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."