Sunday, March 28, 2010

30 Teams, 30 Cheap Trick Songs

Baseball: America's National Pastime. Cheap Trick: America's Greatest Rock 'N Roll Band. Both baseball and Cheap Trick have brought me much joy over the years, so putting the two of them together basically amounts to an unbeatable joyfest. With the new season set to arrive any day now, what could be a more appropriate use of my time (and my blog) than to give each team in baseball a theme song from Rick Nielsen and Co.?

NL West

Arizona Diamondbacks: "Standing on the Edge," Standing on the Edge, 1985.

With Brandon Webb returning and an upgraded infield, the Diamondbacks should be improved over last season. In a strong divison where no team is a sure thing though, it's unclear if it'll be enough to make them a contender. This is a season where the D-Backs could challenge for the Playoffs or end up doing nothing of note.

Colorado Rockies: "Walk Away," Busted, 1990.

The Rockies led the National League in walks last season, and their leading free pass-drawers are all returning. Looking strong after last year's Wild Card, they could walk away with the division title this time around.

Los Angeles Dodgers: "Scent of a Woman," Special One, 2003.

The biggest story surrounding the Dodgers this offseason wasn't about any roster move they made, but about owner Frank McCourt's acrimonious split with his wife Jamie. Thanks to the ongoing legal battle, the Dodgers had to cut back on their spending. They still have enough talent to contend, but the team's less-solid state has Jamie McCourt's essence all over it.

San Diego Padres: "Say Goodbye," Cheap Trick, 1997.

The Padres currently have a grand total of one major star: Adrian Gonzalez. It's apparent by now that they won't be able to keep the him much longer, so Padre fans had better enjoy him while he's still in the hometown colors.

San Francisco Giants: "Didn't Know I Had It," Woke Up With a Monster, 1994.

Not many people expected the Giants to be good last year, but their strong pitching proved to be enough to carry the team. With increased success comes increased expectations, and the Giants right now are hoping that their improved offense can carry the team to the next level.

NL Central

Chicago Cubs: "If It Takes a Lifetime," Rockford, 2006.

This won't be "the year." Most realistic Cub fans know that 2010 is almost certainly Season #102 of the World Series drought. Wrigley Field won't be hurting for attendance though. Despite the mediocrity those Cub fans will show up, and they'll be doing it for as long as it takes to get that Commissioner's Trophy.

Cincinnati Reds: "Everything Works If You Let It," Roadie soundtrack, 1980.

The Reds have a lot of talented pieces, pieces that could elevate them into contention. Their manager, however, is Dusty Baker, not exactly a renowned forward-thinker. Will he let his players win for him, or will he find a way to screw things up?

Houston Astros: "Rearview Mirror Romance," The Doctor, 1986.

Just a few short years ago the Astros were a perennial contender. These days they have a weak minor league system, an inept GM and a poor on-field product. The fans in Houston can only look directly behind them and fondly recall the glory days.

Milwaukee Brewers: "Can't Stop It But I'm Gonna Try," All Shook Up, 1980.

The Brewers' top two catchers as of right now are Gregg Zaun and George Kottaras, both of whom are below-average thief-nabbers (24% in the majors and 22% combining BB-Ref's major and minor league data, respectively). They won't be able to halt the running game in Milwaukee, but doggone it, they'll give it their best shot.

Pittsburgh Pirates: "Elo Kiddies," Cheap Trick, 1977.

With sophomore Andrew McCutchen currently their best player and top prospects Pedro Alvarez and Jose Tabata expected to make their Major League debuts this summer, the young 'uns are about the only thing Pirate fans have to smile about right now.

St. Louis Cardinals: "It's Up to You," The Doctor, 1986.

The Cardinals invested a lot of money in Matt Holliday, so much in fact, that their financial flexibility may be severely limited in future seasons. You'd better deliver, Matt. Cardinal fans are counting on you.

NL East

Atlanta Braves: "Auf Wiedersehen," Heaven Tonight, 1978.

After over 20 years on the job, Bobby Cox is stepping down as manager at season's end. He's meant a lot to the organization during his time in Atlanta, and his departure will surely be met with a fond farewell this fall.

Florida Marlins: "Ghost Town," Lap of Luxury, 1988.

The Marlins have put together some good teams in recent years, but their ballpark crowds have been sparse through it all. They've finished last in attendance each of the last four seasons, and have never finished higher than 13th in any of the last twelve. Expect Sun Life Stadium to have the look of a deserted metropolis once again in 2010.

New York Mets: "The House is Rockin' (With Domestic Problems)," Dream Police, 1979.

The last year has been pretty rough for the Mets' front office. Between the Tony Bernazard incident, the poor media relations and Omar Minaya's general ineptitude, things haven't been pretty. It seems likely that the current administration isn't long for the organization.

Philadelphia Phillies: "The Doctor," The Doctor, 1986.

With the acquisition of Roy "Doc" Halladay, the Phillies appear primed for a third straight pennant. The Phillies made some other moves too, but none nearly as significant as adding Toronto's former ace.

Washington Nationals: "Can't Hold On," Found All the Parts, 1980.

According to Fangraphs, the Nationals were 20.8 error runs below average last season, worst in the game by far. The big question going into this season is whether the National glovemen will be able to hold onto the ball.

AL West

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim: "Time is Runnin'," One on One, 1982.

The Angels have pretty much owned this division for the last decade. While they're still a solid team, the rest of the division is gaining ground. Their time at the top may be coming to a close soon.

Oakland Athletics: "Never Had a Lot to Lose," Lap of Luxury, 1988.

In Billy Beane's time as GM the A's have never been more than a mid-level team in payroll or attendance, and more often than not they've been near the bottom in those categories. When you don't have a ton of resources at your disposal, it helps to have a GM versed in the art of smart spending.

Seattle Mariners: "Can't Stop Fallin' Into Love," Busted, 1990.

Remember back in December and January, when you couldn't turn around without seeing a new article about Jack Zduriencik? After barely more than a year on the job he's become one of the most respected GM's in the game, making a fan out of everyone he meets. If his offseason moves prove fruitful, he could take the Mariners from 100 losses to the Playoffs in just two years.

Texas Rangers: "Takin' Me Back," Heaven Tonight, 1978.

If there's one thing you can count on with the Rangers, it's that they'll hit a lot of home runs. Their offense-friendly ballpark pretty much assures it. The Rangers have an up-and-coming team, and they'll no doubt be sending opposing outfielders toward the wall for years to come.

AL Central

Chicago White Sox: "Miss Tomorrow," The Latest, 2009.

Last decade was pretty good for the White Sox. Kenny Williams has kept them respectable through smart trades, but their farm system right now is pretty weak, giving them fewer trade chips to work with. The Sox look like possible contenders this year, but without those prospects, it may be a case of having a hit today and...well, you know the rest.

Cleveland Indians: "Surrender," Heaven Tonight, 1978.

With the trades of Victor Martinez and Cliff Lee last season, the Indians essentially forfeited any chance they had of contending this year. Cleveland fans shouldn't kid themselves: the Tribe is in rebuilding mode, so don't expect to win a whole lot.

Detroit Tigers: "You Let a Lotta People Down," Cheap Trick, 1997.

They were in first place most of last season and lost a one-game playoff for the division title. Then they traded away Curtis Granderson, their most popular player, to the hated Yankees. There's still hope for this year and the near future, but the events that transpired since last October have to be stinging the Motor City rooters.

Kansas City Royals: "You're All Talk," In Color, 1977.

Dayton Moore claims to value on-base percentage and other Sabermetric ideas...don't believe a word of it. His track record speaks for itself.

Minnesota Twins: "This Time You Got It," Rockford, 2006.

The Twins had no choice but to trade Johan Santana after the 2007 season; they simply couldn't afford to keep him. With Joe Mauer coming off an MVP season they weren't going to let it happen again. Thanks to the impending revenue leap from the opening of Target Field, Minnesota was able to lock up their popular hometown star with an eight-year extension. Hey, one out of two ain't bad.

AL East

Baltimore Orioles: "Lookin' Out For Number One," One on One, 1982.

Brian Roberts, the veteran second baseman, led the Orioles in WAR last season. The Birds' crop of promising youngsters may surpass him soon (perhaps even this year), but for now opposing teams know they need to watch out for the guy wearing that lone vertical digit.

Boston Red Sox: "High Roller," Heaven Tonight, 1978.

With the signings of John Lackey, Adrian Beltre, Mike Cameron and Marco Scutaro, plus the re-signings of Jason Varitek, Tim Wakefield and Victor Martinez, the Red Sox spent more money on free agents this offseason than any other team. Will it work out for them as well as it did for the Yankees last year? It just might.

New York Yankees: "On Top of the World," Heaven Tonight, 1978.

Hey, when you're the reigning World Champs, life is pretty dang good (unless, of course, it's some sort of 1998 Marlins-type situation, but we all know that was the exception, not the rule).

Tampa Bay Rays: "Stiff Competition," Heaven Tonight, 1978.

The Rays are a team loaded with talent. In most other divisions they'd be favored to win, but alas, they have to compete with the two-headed monster known as the Yankees and Red Sox. The Rays might make some noise this year, but they have a tough road ahead of them if they want to make the Playoffs.

Toronto Blue Jays: "Next Position Please," Next Position Please, 1983.

The Blue Jays finished second in 2006, third in 2007 and fourth the past two years. With Roy Halladay now gone, their roster is mainly populated by inexperienced players and mediocrities. Their journey toward the next sequential position in the standings seems to be moving along right on schedule.

Ahhh...I can't wait for Opening Day. There's nothing like baseball season...nothing. Truthfully, if I hadn't gone to that Cheap Trick concert in December, this offseason might've been even harder to bear. Say, as long as you're here, why don't you check out Cheap Trick's website, or to buy a copy of their most recent album, The Latest? You won't regret the decision!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

PTWSW #47: The 1950 New York Yankees

Manager: Casey Stengel
Record: 98-56
Ballpark: Yankee Stadium
Owner: Dan Topping and Del Webb
GM: George Weiss
Coaches: Frankie Crosetti, Bill Dickey, Jim Turner

Future Hall of Famers: Yogi Berra, Joe DiMaggio, Whitey Ford, Johnny Mize, Phil Rizzuto

All-Stars: Yogi Berra, Tommy Byrne, Jerry Coleman, Joe DiMaggio, Tommy Henrich, Vic Raschi, Allie Reynolds, Phil Rizzuto

Team Leaders, Batting

BA:
Phil Rizzuto, .324
OBP: Phil Rizzuto, .418
SLG: Joe DiMaggio, .585 (AL leader)
OPS: Joe DiMaggio, .979
2B: Phil Rizzuto, 36
3B: Joe DiMaggio, Gene Woodling, 10
HR: Joe DiMaggio, 32
RBI: Yogi Berra, 124
BB: Phil Rizzuto, 92
SB: Phil Rizzuto, 12

Team Leaders, Pitching

W:
Vic Raschi, 21
SO: Allie Reynolds, 160
ERA: Ed Lopat, 3.47
IP: Vic Raschi, 256.2
CG: Vic Raschi, 17
SHO: Ed Lopat, 3
K/BB: Vic Raschi, 1.34
SV: Joe Page, 13

Tidbits

Oldest Player: Johnny Mize (b. January 7, 1913)

Youngest Player: Billy Martin (b. May 16, 1928)

First to Leave Us: Snuffy Stirnweiss (d. September 15, 1958)

Last Survivor: Four are still living as of September 30, 2015: Bobby Brown, Whitey Ford, Charlie Silvera and Hank Workman.

First in Majors: Johnny Mize (debut April 16, 1936)

Last in Majors: Lew Burdette (final game July 16, 1967)

First to Play For the Franchise: Joe DiMaggio (May 3, 1936)

Last to Play For the Franchise: Whitey Ford (May 21, 1967)

Pre-union Team: The 1946 Indians had three: Tom Ferrick, Allie Reynolds and Gene Woodling.

Reunion Team: The 1951 Browns had six: Tommy Byrne, Jim Delsing, Don Johnson, Cliff Mapes, Duane Pillette and Fred Sanford. The Browns under Bill Veeck did a lot of dealing with the Yankees.

Accomplishments

Phil Rizzuto, AL MVP

Season Summary

The Yankees tied for the best team OPS+, were third in homers and stolen bases, and averaged the second-most runs per game. Their run prevention was strong too, with their ERA+ third-best and their DER tied for second in the league. Their staff of fireballers was below average in walk rate, but they balanced it with a league-best strikeout rate. All in all, they allowed the second-fewest runs per game.

Their main rival in the pennant race was the Tigers. It was a back-and-forth battle between the two teams all year. On July 1 the slumping Yankees debuted a young rookie named Ed "Whitey" Ford in relief. While the Yanks would lose that game, Ford proved to be a star over the course of the season, going 9-1 with a 2.81 ERA on the year. On September 21 the Yankees and Tigers were tied with ten games left. Six of Detroit's final ten were against the Indians, who beat them in five of those matches, while the Yankees went 7-3 over the same stretch. Once again, the Yankees had pulled out the pennant.

The World Series matched the Yankees up with the surprising "Whiz Kid" Philadelphia Phillies. The Yankees were a heavy favorite on paper, but the Phillies were frustratingly close for most of the Series. The Yanks won in four games, but the first three were all low-scoring one-run victories. Game 4 would've been a 5-0 shutout had Gene Woodling's error not allowed two runs to score with two out in the ninth. In the end, Philly only scored five runs in the Series, and the Yankees had their 13th title.


Acknowledgements:

Baseball Reference
Google News Archives

Note to loyal reader David: I apologize for my recent lack of posts. My internet went down a few days ago, and it's harder to put these things together when you have to use a public computer. Hopefully my internet will be working again soon and I'll be updating regularly!