Wednesday, December 22, 2010

PTWSW #73: The 1976 Cincinnati Reds

Manager: Sparky Anderson
Record: 102-60
Ballpark: Riverfront Stadium
Owner: Louis Nippert
GM: Bob Howsam
Coaches: Ted Kluszewski, Russ Nixon, George Scherger, Larry Shepard

Future Hall of Famers: Johnny Bench, Joe Morgan, Tony Perez

All-Stars: Johnny Bench, Dave Concepcion, George Foster, Ken Griffey, Joe Morgan, Tony Perez, Pete Rose

Team Leaders, Batting

BA: Ken Griffey, .336
OBP: Joe Morgan, .444 (NL leader)
SLG: Joe Morgan, .576 (NL leader)
OPS: Joe Morgan, 1.020 (NL leader)
2B: Pete Rose, 42 (NL leader)
3B: Cesar Geronimo, 11
HR: George Foster, 29
RBI: George Foster, 121 (NL leader)
BB: Joe Morgan, 114
SB: Joe Morgan, 60

Team Leaders, Pitching

W: Gary Nolan, 15
SO: Pat Zachry, 143
ERA: Pat Zachry, 2.74
IP: Gary Nolan, 239.1
CG: Fred Norman, 8
SHO: Fred Norman, 3
K/BB: Gary Nolan, 4.19 (NL leader)
SV: Rawly Eastwick, 26 (NL leader)


Oldest Player: Pete Rose (b. April 14, 1941)

Youngest Player: Manny Sarmiento (b. February 2, 1956)

First to Leave Us: Pedro Borbon (d. June 4, 2012). Incidentally, this team holds the record among World Series Champions for the longest gap between the day they won the Series and the first death of a player, at 35 years, 7 months and 14 days (second-best is the 1952 New York Yankees).

Last Survivor: Most are still living as of the date of this post.

First in Majors: Bob Bailey (debut September 14, 1962)

Last in Majors: Ken Griffey (final game May 31, 1991)

First to Play For the Franchise: Pete Rose (April 8, 1963)

Last to Play For the Franchise: Ken Griffey (August 17, 1990)

Pre-union Team: The 1969-71 Astros had three: Jack Billingham, Cesar Geronimo and Joe Morgan.

Reunion Team: The 1977 Expos (Santo Alcala, Will McEnaney, Tony Perez), 1977-82 Mets (Doug Flynn (1977-81), George Foster (1982), Joel Youngblood, Pat Zachry), 1983 Phillies (Joe Morgan, Tony Perez, Pete Rose) and 1984 Expos (Dan Driessen, Doug Flynn, Pete Rose) each had three.


Joe Morgan, NL MVP
Pat Zachry, NL Co-Rookie of the Year
Johnny Bench, NL Catcher Gold Glove
Joe Morgan, NL Second Base Gold Glove
Dave Concepcion, NL Shortstop Gold Glove
Cesar Geronimo, NL Outfield Gold Glove

Season Summary

After finally winning the World Series the previous year, the Big Red Machine continued to roll. As great as the Reds' offense had been in 1975, in 1976 it was even better. Cincinnati led the NL in everything: runs, hits, doubles, triples, homers, stolen bases, walks, all the slash stats, and even strikeouts. Their pitching and defense fell to middle-of-the-pack, which meant they allowed more runs, but their lineup was so dominant that they still managed to win 102 games and finish ten games ahead in their division. For the second year in a row, Joe Morgan was named National League MVP, leading the team offensively and playing a solid second base.

In the postseason the Reds were flat-out unstoppable. For their first act, they swept the Philadelphia Phillies, winners of 101 games, in the NLCS. They won the first two games easily, and just when the Phillies looked to make it a series the Reds snatched away another victory. In Game 3 Philly held a 6-4 lead going into the bottom of the ninth, but Cincy led off the inning with back-to-back homers from George Foster and Johnny Bench. The Reds then loaded the bases for Ken Griffey, whose chopper deflected off first baseman Bobby Tolan's glove, scoring Dave Concepcion with the winning run. For the second straight season the Reds were National League Champions.

The Reds' World Series opponent was the New York Yankees, who were playing in the Fall Classic for the first time in 12 years. Unlike their archrivals the year before, the Yankees didn't put up much of a fight. After an easy Red win in Game 1, Game 2 was the only one where New York even came close. With two out and the bases empty in the bottom of the ninth, the game was tied. Griffey hit a grounder that resulted in a throwing error on Yankee shortstop Fred Stanley, and suddenly the winning run was on second. After an intentional walk to Morgan, Tony Perez struck the walkoff blow, singling to left and scoring Griffey. The Series shifted to Yankee Stadium, but even at home the Bombers looked helpless against the Reds; Cincinnati won the final two games by a combined score of 13-4, completing a sweep of the entire postseason and winning their second title in as many years.

Cincinnati's team OPS over the four games was an incredible .887, and their ERA was a dominant 2.00. For his two homers, six RBI and .533 batting average, Johnny Bench was named World Series MVP.


Baseball Reference
Baseball Almanac
Google News Archives

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

PTWSW #72: The 1975 Cincinnati Reds

Manager: Sparky Anderson
Record: 108-54
Ballpark: Riverfront Stadium
Owner: Louis Nippert
GM: Bob Howsam
Coaches: Alex Grammas, Ted Kluszewski, George Scherger, Larry Shepard

Future Hall of Famers: Johnny Bench, Joe Morgan, Tony Perez

All-Stars: Johnny Bench, Dave Concepcion, Joe Morgan, Tony Perez, Pete Rose

Team Leaders, Batting

BA: Joe Morgan, .327
OBP: Joe Morgan, .466 (NL leader)
SLG: Johnny Bench, .519
OPS: Joe Morgan, .974 (NL leader)
2B: Pete Rose, 47 (NL leader)
3B: Ken Griffey, 9
HR: Johnny Bench, 28
RBI: Johnny Bench, 110
BB: Joe Morgan, 132 (NL leader)
SB: Joe Morgan, 67

Team Leaders, Pitching

W: Jack Billingham, Don Gullett, Gary Nolan, 15
SO: Fred Norman, 119
ERA: Gary Nolan, 3.16
IP: Gary Nolan, 210.2
CG: Don Gullett, 8
SHO: Don Gullett, 3
K/BB: Gary Nolan, 2.55
SV: Rawly Eastwick, 22


Oldest Player: Pete Rose (b. April 14, 1941)

Youngest Player: Don Werner (b. March 8, 1953)

First to Leave Us: Clay Kirby (d. October 11, 1991)

Last Survivor: Most are still living as of the date of this post.

First in Majors: Fred Norman (debut September 21, 1962)

Last in Majors: Ken Griffey (final game May 31, 1991)

First to Play For the Franchise: Pete Rose (April 8, 1963)

Last to Play For the Franchise: Ken Griffey (August 17, 1990). The Reds won the World Series that year, but Griffey never got a champagne shower, as he was released down the stretch. The season was a memorable one for Griffey though; he joined the Mariners for the final month, and with his son Ken Jr. became the first father-son duo to hit back-to-back homers.

Pre-union Team: The 1969-71 Astros had three: Jack Billingham, Cesar Geronimo and Joe Morgan. This trio was acquired by the Reds in one blockbuster trade before the 1972 season.

Reunion Team: The 1979 Phillies (Rawly Eastwick, Pete Rose, John Vukovich), 1983 Phillies (Joe Morgan, Tony Perez, Pete Rose) and 1984 Expos (Dan Driessen, Doug Flynn, Pete Rose) each had three.


Joe Morgan, NL MVP
Johnny Bench, NL Catcher Gold Glove
Joe Morgan, NL Second Base Gold Glove
Dave Concepcion, NL Shortstop Gold Glove
Cesar Geronimo, NL Outfield Gold Glove

Season Summary

Since their pennant-winning season in 1970 the Reds had been widely known as the "Big Red Machine" for their offensive firepower. That machine, however, had always sputtered to a stop just short of a World Series title. In 1975 the Machine had its finest season ever, winning 108 games behind a lineup that scored 105 more runs than the next-best team. They led the NL in stolen bases (as well as success rate), walks and on-base percentage, and were second in batting average and third in homers. They also had the run preventive abilities to complement their offense; their defense was second in DER and TotalZone, and their staff of mostly finesse pitchers posted the league's third-best ERA+.

The 1975 season didn't exactly get off to a rip-roaring start. On May 2 the Reds were 12-12, and third baseman John Vukovich, named starter over 1974's defensively-challenged Dan Driessen, was a gaping hole in their batting order. The solution came through a radical change: left fielder Pete Rose would move to third, a position he'd only briefly played nine years earlier, and slugger George Foster would take over in left. There were some initial struggles, but once the players settled into their new roles the team became virtually unstoppable. On May 16 the Reds were 18-19; their record for the remainder of the season would be 90-35. They took over first place in early June, and a month later they'd built up a double-digit lead. They left the second-place Dodgers in their dust, winning the NL West by an astounding 20 games.

The Reds made quick work of the Pirates in the NLCS, sweeping them in three straight to meet the Boston Red Sox in the World Series. Boston wasn't nearly the powerhouse Cincinnati was, but they wouldn't go down without a fight. Red Sox ace Luis Tiant pitched a shutout in Game 1, and it took a ninth-inning rally for Cincinnati to win Game 2. The Reds won Game 3 on Joe Morgan's tenth-inning single (after a controversial non-interference call on pinch-hitter Ed Armbrister), but Tiant pitched the BoSox to another victory in Game 4. The Reds bounced back to win Game 5, leaving them one win away headed back to Boston. Game 6 was a see-saw affair. The Red Sox went up 3-0 early, only to have the Reds storm back for a 6-3 lead. With two out in the eighth, Boston pinch-hitter Bernie Carbo tied it with a three-run homer, and the Red Sox would win in the twelfth on a walkoff blast from Carlton Fisk.

The Red Sox took another early 3-0 lead in Game 7, but those runs were the last they'd score for the season. The Reds chipped away for the next few innings before finally taking the lead in the ninth on another Joe Morgan single. Boston went down in order in the bottom half, and for the first time since 1940 (before any of their players were born) the Cincinnati Reds were World Series Champions. After years of coming up short, the famous "Big Red Machine" had finally reached the pinnacle. Pete Rose, the man whose position change had sparked their dominant run, was named World Series MVP.


Baseball Reference
Baseball Almanac
Google News Archives

Saturday, December 4, 2010

PTWSW #71: The 1974 Oakland A's

Manager: Alvin Dark
Record: 90-72
Ballpark: Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum
Owner: Charles O. Finley
Coaches: Jerry Adair, Bobby Hofman, Wes Stock, Bobby Winkles

Future Hall of Famers: Rollie Fingers, Catfish Hunter, Reggie Jackson

All-Stars: Sal Bando, Bert Campaneris, Rollie Fingers, Catfish Hunter, Reggie Jackson, Joe Rudi

Team Leaders, Batting

BA: Joe Rudi, .293
OBP: Reggie Jackson, .391
SLG: Reggie Jackson, .514
OPS: Reggie Jackson, .905
2B: Joe Rudi, 39
3B: Bert Campaneris, 8
HR: Reggie Jackson, 29
RBI: Sal Bando, 103
BB: Gene Tenace, 110
SB: Bill North, 54

Team Leaders, Pitching

W: Catfish Hunter, 25
SO: Vida Blue, 174
ERA: Catfish Hunter, 2.49
IP: Catfish Hunter, 318.1
CG: Catfish Hunter, 23
SHO: Catfish Hunter, 6
K/BB: Catfish Hunter, 3.11
SV: Rollie Fingers, 18


Oldest Player: Vic Davalillo (b. July 31, 1936)

Youngest Player: Claudell Washington (b. August 31, 1954)

First to Leave Us: Deron Johnson (d. April 23, 1992)

Last Survivor: Most are still living as of the date of this post.

First in Majors: Deron Johnson (debut September 20, 1960)

Last in Majors: Claudell Washington (final game June 18, 1990)

First to Play For the Franchise: Deron Johnson (June 15, 1961)

Last to Play For the Franchise: Reggie Jackson (October 4, 1987)

Pre-union Team: The 1971 Chicago Cubs had three: Pat Bourque, Ken Holtzman and Bill North.

Reunion Team: The 1975-76 Cubs (Tim Hosley, Darold Knowles, Champ Summers, Manny Trillo), 1977 Rangers (Bert Campaneris, Darold Knowles, Paul Lindblad, Claudell Washington) and 1978 Yankees (Ken Holtzman, Catfish Hunter, Reggie Jackson, Paul Lindblad) each had four.


Catfish Hunter, AL Cy Young
Joe Rudi, AL Outfield Gold Glove

Season Summary

After two straight World Series titles the A's were battle-tested old pros in 1974. They were never out of first place after May 19, and they maintained a consistent pace once they got there to win the division by five games. Working in their favor was an incredibly balanced roster. Their batting and on-base averages were among the lowest in the AL, but when adjusted for pitcher-friendly Oakland Coliseum their team OPS+ was second in the league. They were also tops in stolen bases and a close second in home runs. On the pitching side they led the way with a 113 ERA+, and their strong defense once again allowed their pitchers to pitch to contact. Their staff exhibited fine control, posting the lowest walk rate, fewest hit batsmen, and the second-fewest wild pitches.

Oakland's ALCS opponent was the Baltimore Orioles for the second year in a row. Though the O's won one more game than the A's, their Pythagorean records gave Oakland an 11-game advantage. Baltimore won Game 1, but the A's proceeded to rattle off three straight wins and take the AL pennant. Incredibly, Oakland only got one hit in the clincher, that being Reggie Jackson's RBI double. They made up for their paucity of punch by drawing 11 walks, one from Gene Tenace with the bases loaded. It was all they needed for a 2-1 win.

These A's faced perhaps their toughest opponent yet in their third World Series. The Dodgers had won 102 games during the season behind a balanced attack that was remarkably similar to Oakland's, and the Blue Crew was seen as the favorite going into the Fall Classic. The A's extended their World Series winning streak to three though, by taking Game 1 3-2. The Dodgers won Game 2 by the same score, but the A's almost came back in the ninth. Pinch-runner Herb Washington (a sprinter with no baseball experience signed specifically to pinch-run) was picked off first for the second out, taking the wind out of Oakland's sails. The A's were unfazed, as they bounced right back to win Game 3 by (again) a 3-2 score. In the fourth contest the score was finally something different, but the result was again an A's win. Pitcher Ken Holtzman hit an unlikely home run in the third, and pinch-hitter Jim Holt's bases-loaded single broke a 2-2 tie in the sixth as Oakland won it 5-2.

For the first time since their run began, the A's didn't require a Game 7 to close out the World Series. Joe Rudi's seventh-inning homer in Game 5 gave the A's their final lead and they went on to win (appropriately) by a score of 3-2. Rollie Fingers was named MVP for his 9.1 innings of ace relief work and two saves. Second baseman Dick Green, though hitless in the Series, was the star on defense, participating in six double plays.


Baseball Reference
Baseball Almanac
Google News Archives

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Award Pages Updated

An early wish for a Happy Thanksgiving! I'm just checking in to announce a few updates to some older posts:

The Second Place Award Winners, Rookie of the Year Facts and Which Team Had the Most Cy Young Winners? have all undergone some changes. Now that the major award winners have been announced, the first two come complete with 2010 information. The last one didn't require any data updates, but it was originally constructed as a standalone post, so I made some edits in order that it might be updated more easily should any future staff be laden with Cy Young winners.

If you've read them already, go ahead, enjoy 'em again! If you haven't read them yet, what are you waiting for?

Saturday, November 20, 2010

PTWSW #70: The 1973 Oakland A's

Manager: Dick Williams
Record: 94-68
Ballpark: Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum
Owner: Charles O. Finley
Coaches: Jerry Adair, Vern Hoscheit, Irv Noren, Wes Stock

Future Hall of Famers: Rollie Fingers, Catfish Hunter, Reggie Jackson

All-Stars: Sal Bando, Bert Campaneris, Rollie Fingers, Ken Holtzman, Catfish Hunter, Reggie Jackson

Team Leaders, Batting

BA: Reggie Jackson, .293
OBP: Gene Tenace, .387
SLG: Reggie Jackson, .531 (AL leader)
OPS: Reggie Jackson, .914 (AL leader)
2B: Sal Bando, 32 (AL leader)
3B: Bert Campaneris, 6
HR: Reggie Jackson, 32 (AL leader)
RBI: Reggie Jackson, 117 (AL leader)
BB: Gene Tenace, 101
SB: Bill North, 53

Team Leaders, Pitching

W: Ken Holtzman, Catfish Hunter, 21
SO: Vida Blue, 158
ERA: Ken Holtzman, 2.97
IP: Ken Holtzman, 297.1
CG: Ken Holtzman, 16
SHO: Vida Blue, Ken Holtzman, 4
K/BB: Ken Holtzman, 2.38
SV: Rollie Fingers, 22


Oldest Player: Vic Davalillo (b. July 31, 1936)

Youngest Player: Glenn Abbott (b. February 16, 1951)

First to Leave Us: Gonzalo Marquez (d. December 20, 1984)

Last Survivor: Most are still living as of the date of this post.

First in Majors: Deron Johnson (debut September 20, 1960)

Last in Majors: Manny Trillo (final game May 20, 1989)

First to Play For the Franchise: Deron Johnson (June 15, 1961)

Last to Play For the Franchise: Reggie Jackson (October 4, 1987)

Pre-union Team: The 1968 Cleveland Indians had four: Vic Davalillo, Ray Fosse, Rob Gardner and Horacio Pina.

Reunion Team: The 1978 New York Yankees had five: Ken Holtzman, Catfish Hunter, Reggie Jackson, Jay Johnstone and Paul Lindblad. Perhaps George Steinbrenner targeted these guys because he knew they could win under a meddlesome, overbearing owner.


Reggie Jackson, AL MVP

Season Summary

Like the previous season, the A's were a top offensive team. They tied for the AL lead in OPS+, were third in homers and second in steals. They were great at avoiding double plays, grounding into the second-fewest twin killings despite frequently being on base, and it may have been what allowed them to score the most runs per game despite playing in a heavy pitcher's park. Their defense was once again fantastic, finishing second in TotalZone and DER, which helped their contact-oriented pitching staff post the fourth-best ERA+ in the Junior Circuit.

After winning the 1972 World Championship, the A's added some new faces to their lineup in hopes of a repeat. Former Cub outfielder Bill North took over in center, allowing Reggie Jackson to shift to right. First baseman Mike Epstein and catcher Dave Duncan were shipped out, allowing defensively-challenged catcher Gene Tenace's bat to stay in the lineup at first and new acquisition Ray Fosse to take over catching duties. Fosse wasn't the hitter Duncan or Tenace was, but his defense was superb, with 56% of opposing baserunners getting nabbed.

The AL West was a tightly-packed division for the first half of the season. The A's were as low as fifth place in June, but they were never more than six games back. On June 10 Oakland pulled above .500 for good, and before the month was out they'd worked their way into first. The second half was when the standings loosened up, and from August onward it was a two-team race between Oakland and Kansas City. On August 11 the Royals held a two-game lead, but the A's went on a 13-1 run to go up by five. By mid-September the A's had the division all but wrapped up, and they would win the West by six games.

Just as in 1972, the A's were shorthanded during the playoffs; Bill North injured his ankle at the end of September and was sidelined for October. Despite missing their leading base thief, the A's were able to defeat the Baltimore Orioles in the maximum five games in the ALCS. Catfish Hunter was the pitching star of the series, earning a win in Game 2, then tossing a shutout in the clincher. Bert Campaneris was the offensive star, batting .333 and hitting two homers (after clouting only four dingers during the season).

The surprising New York Mets were all that stood in the way of back-to-back Oakland titles. The Amazins had won the weak NL East with an 82-79 record, then upset the 99-win Reds in the NLCS. The A's won a Game 1 pitching duel, but the Mets showed the same mettle they had in reaching the Series by winning Game 2 in twelve innings. Oakland second baseman Mike Andrews allowed Game 2's deciding runs to score on two consecutive errors, and owner Charlie O. Finley was so incensed that he tried to get Andrews replaced on the roster by rookie Manny Trillo. It took an overruling by Commissioner Bowie Kuhn to prevent the move. The two teams split the next four to send the Series to Game 7, and the final match was decided in the third inning, when Campaneris and Reggie Jackson each hit two-run homers (the only Oakland round-trippers of the Series). The A's would hold onto the lead for a 5-2 win.

The A's became the first team to win back-to-back World Series since the 1961-62 Yankees. The victory was bittersweet though, as manager Dick Williams resigned immediately after Game 7, citing "personal reasons." Jackson was named MVP of the Series for his six RBI and five extra-base hits.


Baseball Reference
Baseball Almanac
Google News Archives

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Best Baseball-Reference Sponsorships, 2010 Edition

Welcome, ladies and gentlemen! Last year my humble little blog received national attention for a post I made called "The Best of Baseball-Reference's Sponsorship Comments." It was linked by Big League Stew, Rob Neyer, Baseball Think Factory...shoot, the sucker went viral! It was one of my proudest moments, because after several quiet months of independent blogging I suddenly had readers as well as commenters! I'm eternally grateful to those who linked it, and to the sponsors whose cleverness I was privileged to spotlight.

That post went up exactly one year ago today, so I decided it was time for Part 2. Some of the sponsorships from last year's list are still around, while others have expired, but either way, none of them will be eligible this time. Reruns are boring, and besides, there were a ton of great new ones this year.

Since my "honorable mentions" post didn't get as much attention as I'd hoped, I thought I'd include the ones that barely missed the cut here. Though there are many more I could've listed, in the interest of space I'll limit it to my favorite eight. Here's the Just-Short Crew:

Eric Gagne
Review WCW Anonymous Sponsor sponsor(s) this page.

It is time to give Chris Sabo back his goggles Eric. CAREER OVER
Nice. Pro wrestling-style trash-talk and an old-school ballplayer reference. Two early-30's flameouts for the price of one.

Bobby Keppel
kcchia80 sponsor(s) this page.

If nothing else, he will always be remembered for winning Game 163 against the Tigers. Sure, he probably hit Brandon Inge, and sure, the pitch he got Gerald Laird to swing at for strike 3 was a mile out of the strike zone. But, hey, you won the game.
Sheesh. Talk about damned by faint praise!

Steve Adkins
I have no recollection of your existence. sponsor(s) this page.

Questions: Why was I so devoted to a team this terrible? Why do I have no memory of this guy at all? And why did he think the best use of his Ivy League degree was walking more than a batter per inning?
In the 20 years since Adkins stunk it up for the Yankees we're still waiting for a good pitcher to come out of the University of Pennsylvania.

Jeff Liefer
A broken door handle sponsor(s) this page.

"I don't want to be remembered as the guy who got stuck in the bathroom."
It would appear to be pure nepotism for me to include this one in the top ten, as Mr. Door Handle commented on last year's post to tell me I'd inspired him. Still, you can't deny that it's pretty funny.

John Lackey
Benedict Arnold sponsor(s) this page.

John Lackey won game 7 of the World Series as a rookie, and game one of the 2009 ALDS to begin a 3 game sweep. Then he betrayed the Angels for an 82 million dollar payout.
When even America's most infamous traitor thinks you're a dirty double-crosser, you know you're in bad company.

Corey Patterson
Walkoff Walk sponsor(s) this page.

Corey Patterson does a lot of things well. Batting leadoff is not one of them.
As adult narrator Kevin on The Wonder Years would say: "And there you have it."

Jason Schmidt
Darryl Abbate sponsor(s) this page.

The guy was an ace for the Giants, then signed with the Dodgers and got paid $45 million for just 3 wins. What's not to love?
Come to think of it, that did work out pretty well!

Rheal Cormier
Nofe sponsor(s) this page.

[To the tune of “King of Pain”] I grew up playing hockey but I changed my game I came south of the border to pursue my fame I’m the French-speaking lefty with the circle change And it is my destiny to be Rheal Cormier... Cormier... I will always be Cormier....
And now it's in your head. I couldn't resist mentioning this one because, well, who comes up with a Police song parody for a journeyman reliever? This Nofe person must be a true original.

So bravo, guys (or girls, for all I know). Maybe next year you'll find your way into the top ten! Speaking of the top ten, let's get to them now!

10. Willie Keeler
Phil Dellio sponsor(s) this page.

My whole problem when I used to play: I hit it where they were, if at all.
As a fellow terrible athlete, I know exactly how Mr. Dellio feels. How clever though, to take Keeler's famous quote ("Hit it where they ain't") and present the flipside so many more of us are familiar with. Hey, some of us were born to play the game, and some of us were born to pass on our appreciation of the game to others. It's not so bad on this end.

9. Brian Wilson
Mitch Williams sponsor(s) this page.

I'm still picking the Phillies to win in 5 games
I've noticed something in recent years: The San Francisco Giants just might have the funniest fans in baseball. I'm serious. It seems like every time I come across a Giant blog, website, BB-Ref sponsor, etc. I find myself chuckling. I hope they don't lose their edge now that their team finally has a World Series trophy. Self-deprecating pessimism can go a long way.

This message brings back memories of 2005, when we Sox fans fed off much of the same media disrespect. We also got Steve Perry to sing "Don't Stop Believin'" at the victory rally and busted a substantial drought, so the whole experience must've been déjà vu for Aaron Rowand and Juan Uribe.

8. Ryan Doumit
An Anonymous Supporter sponsor(s) this page.

Even though it's his position, let's be real; calling Doumit a "catcher" is like calling diarrhea "constipation"
Doumit's never had much credibility as a backstop, and it looks like he'll have to change positions before too long if he hopes to remain in the majors. This anonymous fan, employing a colorful simile, takes it a step further by claiming that Doumit is the exact opposite of a catcher. What is our friend Ryan then, if he's the acid to catching's base? Let's means he can't call pitches, handle balls thrown his way, guard the plate, throw out baserunners...I guess he's either a designated hitter or a pinch-runner, then?

7. Joe McGinnity
Breckerplace sponsor(s) this page.

There's no Iron Man 2
Ideally, we'd have a unique appreciation for each of our Hall of Famers. It's more special when a player represents something extraordinary, whether it be a superlative achievement or a rare attribute that makes him induplicable. Joe McGinnity may be a lower-tier Hall of Famer, but be does have one thing that distinguishes him from the pack: the nickname "Iron Man." Why, it conjures up the image of a superhuman stalwart whose arm could be pushed far beyond the limits of realistic expectation! Indeed, McGinnity was a workhorse, pitching over 40 games and 300 innings all but one season of his ten-year career, exceeding 50 and 400 twice.

Cal Ripken may share the nickname, but in this era of pitch counts we look back on a hurler who could wear the "Iron Man" moniker with awe. McGinnity's place in baseball history is secure because unlike his cinematic nicknamesake, there is no much-hyped sequel.

6. Eugenio Velez
The McCoven sponsor(s) this page.

When sponsoring a profile, I have to be focused. I was focused. The thing is, it happened.
Confused? So was I at first. Seeing as how this message linked to the legendary McCovey Chronicles though (sponsors of last year's #1), I knew there had to be a really funny joke in there somewhere.

Fortunately, I got to the bottom of it: Back in April, Velez misplayed a Shane Victorino fly ball in extra innings which allowed a crucial insurance run to score. When discussing it with reporters afterwards, Velez's comment was: “In that situation, I have to be focused. I was focused. The thing is, it happened.”

It all makes sense now. To lose is one thing, but to lose because of such an embarrassing miscue? Maddening. There's not much a fan can do about it, except...sentence the player to a year of humiliation by posting a variation of his inarticulate, borderline-nonsensical postgame remark on his BB-Ref page! Like I said above: Giant fans are a witty bunch.

5. 1903 New York Highlanders
Burlin White sponsor(s) this page.

What could be worse than stealing another city's team? Fitting start for such a "classy" organization.
Before you say anything, yes, I know there's some debate over whether the New York Highlanders were in fact connected with the old Baltimore Orioles. I'm also aware that the Baltimore franchise was a mess and that moving it to New York made financial sense for the American League. Still, we non-Yankee fans have been beaten over the head with this notion that the Yankees epitomize "class" for such a long time that you can't blame us for wanting to puke every time we hear it. Sometimes a questionable-but-not-completely-meritless accusation is a small counterargument we can cling to. To this sponsorship message I say: Ich bin ein Burliner!

4. Gustavo Molina
Howard Megdal sponsor(s) this page.

WARNING: This is not an authentic Catching Molina Brother.
It's brilliant because it provides a necessary service. I still remember the first time I became aware of this player's existence. I was following a White Sox game on MLB Gameday and a name in the live box score caught my eye. "Molina? Catcher? Could it be?" I thought. Excited, I immediately scoured the internet until I received the disappointing confirmation that there wasn't a fourth Molina sibling in the big leagues. In the event of any future misplaced excitement, one need only visit Gustavo's BB-Ref page to see the distinctive yellow certificate of inauthenticity.

3. Brad Mills
A Friend in the Bronx sponsor(s) this page.

General Mills and Minute Maid Park. First in cereal, first in juice and fifth in the NL Central.
I love it. Clearly it's a play on the old Washington Senators vaudeville joke: "First in war, first in peace and last in the American League." It's a shame the Astros finished in fourth place, or it would've fit perfectly. We have to rank the Central teams by their Pythag if we want Houston to come in fifth. Perhaps "General" Mills is on his way to becoming the new Mike Scioscia.

2. Kevin Joseph
James Kunz sponsor(s) this page.

Without your clutch hold on 8/15/02 (2 runs in 0.2 innings of a 11-5 STL victory) we may well not have won the division. Go Kevin Joseph!
Just drips with sarcasm, doesn't it? This long-forgotten middle reliever, with only eleven big league appearances to his name, earned his one career "hold" in what ironically may have been his worst outing for the 2002 Cards. Is it any wonder no one really gives a crap about that superfluous statistic? Oh, and in case you were curious, the Cardinals had a four-game division lead that day and went on to win the NL Central by 13 games. With this sponsorship message, Kevin Joseph's little-viewed page becomes a shrine to his inconsequentiality.

1. Pat Bourque
Grant Sbrocco sponsor(s) this page.

In 1972 at the tender age of 9 I heard Jack Brickhouse say "and Pat Bourque is looking for a bat" to which I shouted at the television "I hope he doesn't find one" to this day I still get tickled when I remember this great moment in Cubs History
Oh, the joys of self-amusement. I know many a joke I've told can now be found in the "ones only I laughed at" file. Judging by the description here, little Grant's joke was of the same variety. No matter. I don't blame him for being proud to this day of that spontaneous rejoinder (and elevating it to the level of a landmark moment for the Chicago Cubs franchise) because, well...I'm still proud of my own wisecracks too. Even when no one else laughs, deep down you know that if someone with the right sense of humor had been present there would've been guffaws all around. I know I laughed when I first read this message, so Grant, if you're reading this: You're not alone, buddy.

It was a lot of work putting this post together, but it was worth clicking through an endless number of pages to uncover these various gems. Think you can come up with something better? Sponsor a page on Baseball-Reference and you just might see it here this time next year!

Friday, November 5, 2010

PTWSW #69: The 1972 Oakland A's

Manager: Dick Williams
Record: 93-62
Ballpark: Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum
Owner: Charles O. Finley
Coaches: Jerry Adair, Vern Hoscheit, Irv Noren, Bill Posedel

Future Hall of Famers: Orlando Cepeda, Rollie Fingers, Catfish Hunter, Reggie Jackson,

All-Stars: Sal Bando, Bert Campaneris, Ken Holtzman, Catfish Hunter, Reggie Jackson, Joe Rudi

Team Leaders, Batting

BA: Joe Rudi, .305
OBP: Mike Epstein, .376
SLG: Mike Epstein, .490
OPS: Mike Epstein, .866
2B: Joe Rudi, 32
3B: Joe Rudi, 9 (AL leader)
HR: Mike Epstein, 26
RBI: Sal Bando, 77
BB: Sal Bando, 78
SB: Bert Campaneris, 52 (AL leader)

Team Leaders, Pitching

W: Catfish Hunter, 21
SO: Catfish Hunter, 191
ERA: Catfish Hunter, 2.04
IP: Catfish Hunter, 295.1
CG: Ken Holtzman, Catfish Hunter, 16
SHO: Catfish Hunter, 5
K/BB: Catfish Hunter, 2.73
SV: Rollie Fingers, 21


Oldest Player: Joe Horlen (b. August 14, 1937). Horlen was just three days older than teammate Diego Segui.

Youngest Player: George Hendrick (b. October 18, 1949)

First to Leave Us: Gonzalo Marquez (d. December 20, 1984). Marquez, then a player-coach for the Caracas Leones of the Venezuelan Winter League, was killed by a drunk driver while on his way home from a game.

Last Survivor: Most are still living as of the date of this post.

First in Majors: Orlando Cepeda (debut April 15, 1958)

Last in Majors: George Hendrick (final game October 2, 1988)

First to Play For the Franchise: Diego Segui (April 12, 1962). Segui was traded to the Cardinals in June, so he unfortunately didn't get to be a part of the victory celebration.

Last to Play For the Franchise: Reggie Jackson (October 4, 1987)

Pre-union Team: The 1969 Seattle Pilots had six: Ron Clark, Larry Haney, Mike Hegan, Bob Locker, Don Mincher and Diego Segui.

Reunion Team: The 1973 St. Louis Cardinals had four: Matty Alou, Dwain Anderson, Larry Haney and Diego Segui.

Season Summary

The A's were one of the most colorful teams to come along in years. They wore flashy green and gold uniforms, sported moustaches and long hair, and were constantly making headlines thanks to controversial and outspoken owner Charlie O. Finley. Their owner and look weren't the only thing that set them apart; they were also the best team in the American League. The "Swingin' A's" led the AL in OPS+ and home runs, and were second in slugging, though their batting and on-base averages were only middle-of-the-road. They finished third in steals thanks mostly to shortstop Bert Campaneris' league-leading 52 swipes. They were also strong on the other side of the ball, with a third-ranked TotalZone and ERA+. Their staff exhibited good control, with a low walk rate and the second-fewest hit batsmen and wild pitches.

After the brief strike that delayed Opening Day by a week, the biggest early-season story was the holdout of 1971 Cy Young winner and MVP Vida Blue. Blue eventually agreed to terms in early May and made his debut at the end of the month, but he never shook off the rust, as he didn't live up to the standard he'd set the year before. It was OK though, as Catfish Hunter, Blue Moon Odom and offseason addition Ken Holtzman picked up the slack in the starting rotation. Oakland spent most of the year leading the AL West, though the White Sox briefly pulled ahead with a hot August. The A's responded by tinkering with their starting lineup, putting Gene Tenace at catcher and new acquisition Matty Alou in right field. The A's quickly jumped back into first, and they went on to win the division by 5.5 games.

The ALCS against the Tigers was a dramatic affair, going the full five games, two being decided on extra-inning comebacks. The A's won the first two in Oakland, and in Game 2 Campaneris got himself suspended for the rest of the series for throwing his bat at Detroit reliever Lerrin LaGrow. The Tigers took the next two at home to even things up, their Game 4 victory coming on a three-run rally in the tenth inning. Missing their leadoff man and coming off a crushing defeat, the A's had to win Game 5 in Detroit the very next day. They ended up being successful, as Odom and Blue allowed only one run between them. The only bad news to come out of the final game was that center fielder Reggie Jackson was injured stealing home and had to miss the World Series.

The World Series matchup provided a distinct contrast between the shaggy, stylish A's and the conservative, clean-cut Cincinnati Reds. Cincinnati was favored to win it, especially so with Jackson sidelined. The A's quickly erased any doubts that they could compete with Cincy by winning the first two games on the road. Tenace's two homers provided the margin of victory in Game 1, and left fielder Joe Rudi saved Game 2 by robbing the Reds' Denis Menke of an extra-base hit in the ninth. The Reds bounced back with a 1-0 victory in Game 3, but the A's took a 3-1 series lead by scoring two runs on four straight singles in the ninth inning of Game 4. The Reds weren't done yet, winning the next two to force Game 7 in Cincinnati. Like they had in the ALCS, the A's won the sudden death game on the road. Tenace was again the hero, driving in two runs in Oakland's 3-2 victory. It was the franchise's first World Series title since 1930, when it was based in Philadelphia and Connie Mack was the owner. Tenace was named Series MVP for his .348 average, four homers and nine RBI.


Baseball Reference
Baseball Almanac
Google News Archives

Thursday, November 4, 2010

A Chapter Worth Highlighting

It was a long time coming (53 years, to be exact), but the Giants have finally brought a championship to their fans in the Bay Area. Even though I was slightly rooting for the Rangers (and remain disappointed that the Series didn't go at least six games), this is a grand moment for the game of baseball, one that should never be forgotten. Unlike last year, I don't have to write a lament about a predictable, anti-climactic ending. Instead, 2010 proved to be a season worthy of celebration. Legacies have been written and rewritten, and posterity will view several franchises and figures in a different light than we did before Opening Day.

The San Francisco Giants, while not always a marquee franchise, have always been one of the most noted. As descendants of the New York Giants, they headed west in 1957 surely expecting to continue the proud winning tradition they built in the Big Apple. Instead, the San Francisco legacy became one of great players, a miserable ballpark and a frustrating inability to capture that elusive World Series title. While they don't quite have a national following, their pessimistic-yet-loyal fans are an abundant group.

On Monday everything changed. No longer are fans tormented by years of failure, the type that weighs on the mind until it feels like cosmic destiny. Just as the Giants' miserable old ballpark has been out of the picture for eleven years, so now is the monkey on the backs of Giant fans. 2010 represents the beginning of a new era, one where the fans believe, because they once saw it with their own eyes. Boston Red Sox fans were in the same boat six years ago, and they went from pessimistic to empowered almost overnight. Not only does this win reshape the franchise's image, the halo effect may trickle down to the individuals within the organization.

Bruce Bochy has long been viewed as a good manager, but you'd have a hard time finding anyone who rates him among the best in the game. He's now a member of the select "pennants with two franchises" club and has a World Series title to his name. While he's not (yet) a Tony LaRussa-like superstar, he may have reached the level of a Lou Piniella-like star.

Brian Sabean has developed a reputation among baseball's intelligentsia as one of the worst general managers in the game, mainly due to his poor spending decisions. In spite of it all, he's now the big name in a championship-winning front office, which is what he'll be associated with from now on. That Barry Zito signing? Yep, a big mistake. That World Series title? Hey, he must be doing something right!

Tim Lincecum's career is only four years old, and with two Cy Young Awards on his mantel no one would deny that he's one of baseball's best young pitchers. The only thing is, before this year he was most famous for being "The Freak," that long-haired guy with the quirky mechanics and a free-spirited personality. For all his greatness, he still seemed more like a fun character than a potential Hall of Famer. Yes, it was partly due to his youth and relative newness, but I imagine if he were a more conventional guy he'd have inspired a greater sense of awe. With a World Series-clinching win on his resume at the age of 26, he's finally acquired that air of a legend. We can be sure that wherever his career goes from here, whether he flames out or ends up in the Hall of Fame, his memory will be spoken of with reverence by Giant fans. Mere greatness is one thing; using it to lead your team to a title is another.

Then you have the Texas Rangers, perhaps baseball's most overlooked franchise. Before this season they'd made only three postseason appearances, all quick first-round exits. With no postseason accomplishments to speak of, they were a franchise without much of a legacy past their traditional homer-bashing and a long list of steroid suspects. If your rooting interest was in the American League, the Rangers were a team you played a few series with during the regular season and then forgot about. No longer is that the case. The Rangers won their first two playoff series in the same year, and they did it not just with home run power, but with pitching and speed. Nope, these aren't your father's Rangers; these guys have a year of glory in the books, and the tapestry of baseball is only woven with a brighter thread for it.

Texas' season was also special for many individual players. Michael Young, "Mr. Ranger" himself, got to be part of the franchise's first pennant. Vladimir Guerrero, whose Hall of Fame career is nearing the end, won't have to go down in history as one of those greats who never got to play in the World Series. Josh Hamilton, the inspirational story of 2008, suffered through injuries and poor production last year, only to bounce back as the favorite for AL MVP. None of this would've been possible without the acclaimed Texas front office, which is the talk of baseball for the first time I can remember. Whenever the Rangers finally do win a World Series, this season may be the turning point they trace it back to.

The great stories, however, go beyond our World Series participants.

The San Diego Padres were a nearly-unanimous pick for last place in the NL West during Spring Training. To the surprise of just about everyone, they spent most of the season in first place behind a pitching-defense-speed roster construction. Their luck ran out in September, but they still finished with 90 wins and just barely missed the playoffs, nothing to be ashamed of. If San Diego fans aren't too disappointed about the way it ended, this year will be fondly remembered as one where they defied all odds.

Cito Gaston managed the Blue Jays to their only two pennants (and World Series titles) in the early '90s, but that tenure ended with him being fired during the last week of the 1997 season. He never found another managerial job until the Jays brought him back in 2008, and while he didn't reinstitute an era of postseason glory, it gave Gaston the chance to go out on his own terms. He announced at the end of last season that 2010 would be his final year in the dugout, and he was able to walk away to a standing ovation in the Rogers Centre. The fans in Toronto can now remember their only championship manager leaving with dignity, not with an unceremonious dumping.

Scott Rolen, widely considered to be a future Hall of Fame snub, is one of those guys you always think is going to be done soon. I mean, you know he's coming off another good season, but with age and durability issues creeping up on him, you figure the guy can't do it forever, right? This year, at the age of 35, he not only proved the naysayers wrong yet again, he made his first All-Star team in four years while helping the Reds to a playoff appearance. Will Hall of Fame voters take note?

Though his spot in the Hall of Fame seems more secure, Jim Thome was a similar story. After two straight down years that suggested he was nearing the end, Thome managed to put up a 178 OPS+ as a part-time DH for the Twins in a season where he turned 40. It may have been a last hurrah, or it may have been a sign that he's got a few more useful seasons left in the tank. Either way, you couldn't help but feel happy for the guy, even when he was beating your team with home runs.

Roy Halladay has been one of the most respected aces in baseball for some time now, but he was buried in Toronto, away from the daily consciousness of the American media. With his move to the spotlight of Philadelphia, he's more famous now than he ever was. This year he added a perfect game to his legend, and then, if you can believe it possible, found a way to top that performance: In the first playoff start of his career he threw a no-hitter against a heavy-hitting Reds lineup, allowing only one baserunner in the process. He's a near lock to win the Cy Young Award, and if there were ever any doubt about his future in Cooperstown, it's probably gone now.

All in all, 2010 has been a season of redemption for MLB. For me personally, 2009 will be filed under "Forgettable," while 2010 will be a season of cherished memories. I can only hope 2011 will follow in the footsteps of its immediate predecessor.

In other news, baseball season may be over, but it's something of a busy season for Baseball Junk Drawer. First of all, I plan to put up part two of my most popular post to date on November 16, so be on the lookout for that. We also have award winners being announced later this month. I won't offer any predictions, but I do have some lists that can be updated once the winners are released, and I'll be sure to let you know when they are. Will this year give us the third instance of both leagues' Rookies of the Year facing off in the World Series? I know I'm hoping so. I also haven't posted a World Series winner profile in over a month, and I plan to resume production on them soon.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

The First World Series Home Run in Franchise History

When Mitch Moreland went deep in the second inning of yesterday's game it was more than just the Rangers' first home run in this World Series. In fact, it was the first home run in World Series history for the Rangers franchise. On a team with plenty of established sluggers who could've hit it, it ended up being the unheralded rookie who's plugged the Rangers' first base hole admirably since late July.

I got to wondering: who hit the first World Series homer for each franchise? To Baseball Reference I went for the answers, and here they are:

Some of you might not like George McQuinn of the Browns being listed for the Orioles or Goose Goslin of the Senators being listed for the Twins, but hey, they are the same franchises. If you consider a team in a new city with a new name completely separate from its ancestor though, the first "Twins" homer was hit by Don Mincher off Don Drysdale in 1965, and the first "Orioles" homer was hit by Frank Robinson off Drysdale the very next year.

As long as we're here though, I thought it'd be fun to classify each of these batters by how "fitting" he was for the part. For instance, Babe Ruth seems perfect as the first guy who homered for the Yankees in World Series play. What about guys like Craig Counsell? In some ways, it's cooler to see one of the "little guys" earn the distinction. I think the best method here would be to sort them in tiers, from most to least likely.

First up is the Franchise Stars. These are power hitters who were best remembered as core members of the franchises they homered for. Not all of them were big threats in the years they hit that homer, but their memorable associations with the club made it poetic that they got to hit it.

Joe Tinker
Danny Murphy
Larry Doyle
Fred Luderus
Happy Felsch
Babe Ruth
Goose Goslin
George McQuinn
Amos Otis
Joe Carter
Troy Glaus
Matt Holliday
Carl Crawford

Perhaps it's only right that this is the most populated group of them all. I suppose Happy Felsch is more famous as a member of the "Black Sox" than as the power threat he was, but he never played for any other team in his brief career. Amos Otis and Carl Crawford both had down years homer-wise, but both had established their power in previous seasons. Babe Ruth holds an interesting distinction: He's the only player who both allowed and hit a franchise's first World Series homer.

Next up is the Power Stars. These are guys who were among their teams' most homer-prone hitters, but who didn't have the longtime associations with the franchise that the above group did.

Elmer Smith
Billy Southworth
Donn Clendenon
Ted Simmons
Moises Alou
Mitch Moreland

As you can see, I put Mitch Moreland here for now. If he goes on to have a long career with the Rangers replete with round-trippers, he may be moved up to the "Franchise Stars" tier. I realize Billy Southworth is closely associated with the Cardinals, but I'm only looking at playing careers, not managerial ones.

This next group I simply call the Good Players. These are the guys I couldn't really place in any of the other groups. Essentially they're solid players who were neither stars nor big-time home run hitters.

Jimmy Sebring
Patsy Dougherty
Hi Myers

Sebring was a journeyman whose four homers were fifth on the team, only three behind the leader, but his .383 slugging average doesn't suggest he was much of a power threat. Dougherty was actually second on his team in OPS+, but he was far behind the team lead in homers, and he spent only two and a half seasons with the club. Myers could be considered a longtime core member of his franchise, but the fact that he wasn't much of a slugger (except for a brief period in the middle of his career), keeps him out of the "Franchise Stars." I guess I could sum up this group as the guys who were fairly unlikely to be the first, though not completely out of the question.

Next is the Postseason Heroes. These guys weren't great power hitters or franchise icons, but they came up notably better than usual in October.

Hank Gowdy
Jimmy Ripple
Kurt Bevacqua
Craig Counsell
Mike Lamb

So many great stories here. Gowdy unquestionably would've been World Series MVP in 1914 had the award existed at the time. Ripple had a career OPS of .738, but in three career World Series it was .913. Bevacqua batted .412 with two homers in the World Series after hitting .200 with one homer in the regular season. Counsell didn't have a great World Series, but he was fresh off being named NLCS MVP when he hit that homer. Lamb homered in all three rounds of the playoffs for the Astros in 2005, despite hitting only 12 during the regular season.

Finally, I call this last one-man tier Completely Unexpected.

Davy Jones

I suppose there should be a semi-disclaimer here. Back in the Deadball Era, as most of us know, home runs were almost a random occurrence. In fact, there were several World Series back then where neither team homered. Still, if you were to predict the first player to homer from the 1909 Tigers, I highly doubt you'd pick Davy Jones, who hadn't hit one all season.

The beauty of October is that players of every caliber have the opportunity to go down in history, from the Davy Joneses to the Babe Ruths. The Kurt Bevacquas and Mike Lambs of this world may not be stars, but they hold distinctions no one can ever take away.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

The Pre-Pennant Bobby Cox

Every so often I'm inspired to examine some random item from baseball's past, and today I became curious about Bobby Cox's tenure as Atlanta GM. If you know the history, Cox resigned as Blue Jay manager after the 1985 season in order to take control of the Braves' player personnel. He held the GM position for four and a half seasons before assuming his familiar dugout role in June of 1990. Since he had come over from Toronto, I wondered how frequently he traded with his former club. It's fairly common for general managers to deal extensively with organizations that previously employed them, and off the top of my head I could think of a few trades the two teams made during that era. Might Cox have been particularly notable for trading with the Jays?

Thanks to Baseball Reference, I learned that the answer is yes. Check out these transactions:

July 6, 1986: Traded Duane Ward to the Toronto Blue Jays for Doyle Alexander.

July 6, 1986: Traded Joe Johnson to the Toronto Blue Jays for Jim Acker.

(Yep, they made two one-for-one swaps of right-handed pitchers on the same day.)

February 2, 1987: Traded Craig McMurtry to the Toronto Blue Jays for Damaso Garcia and Luis Leal.

(If ever there were a trade where both sides ended up with nothing, this was it. All three players were veteran Major Leaguers, though Leal hadn't played in the bigs in over a year. McMurtry got injured in Spring Training, spent the season in the minors rehabbing and never pitched a game for Toronto. Former All-Star Garcia also got injured and only made it into one minor league game that season. His total output for Atlanta was 21 games in 1988, where his OPS+ was a dreadful -3. Leal was returned to Toronto before the season began, and he never made it back to the Majors.)

December 5, 1988: Drafted Geronimo Berroa from the Toronto Blue Jays in the rule 5 draft.

December 5, 1988: Drafted Matt Stark from the Toronto Blue Jays in the rule 5 draft.

March 29, 1989: Purchased Mark Eichhorn from the Toronto Blue Jays.

August 24, 1989: Traded Jim Acker to the Toronto Blue Jays for Francisco Cabrera and Tony Castillo.

(Just three years after trading for Acker he sent him back, and in return he got a player who'd deliver one of the most memorable hits in postseason history. Not a bad deal.)

November 20, 1989: Purchased Alexis Infante from the Toronto Blue Jays.

December 17, 1989: Traded Ricky Trlicek to the Toronto Blue Jays for Kevin Batiste and Ernie Whitt.

Each of these players acquired from Toronto was in the organization while Cox was manager, though some were only in the minors at the time. It's clear though, that Cox' familiarity with the Blue Jays' system and front office shaped his decision-making.

For more on the subject of Cox the GM, I'd recommend this excellent piece. It not only demonstrates how much bigger a role Cox had in building the Braves than most people realize, it challenges the commonly-accepted truism that John Schuerholz was one of the greatest GM's of all time. Did you know that Schuerholz was reviled in Kansas City before he came to Atlanta? I certainly didn't.

Of course, Schuerholz wasn't the only one whose reputation was rehabilitated by the Braves' turnaround in 1991; the other was Cox himself. In 1990 the Braves were still a losing team, and as far as fans were concerned, he wasn't getting the job done. It's funny to think about it today, but when Cox took over as manager many people saw him as a placeholder. In August 1990 Atlanta Journal-Constitution columnist Terence Moore suggested that the Braves hire Joe Morgan as their new manager (the Hall of Fame second baseman, not the guy managing the Red Sox). In response to that suggestion a fan wrote this amusing letter to the editor (which is actually what inspired me to write this piece):

Hiring Joe Morgan to run the Braves would be about a [sic] big a mistake as hiring Bobby Cox or trading Dale Murphy. If one were to listen to Morgan announce on ESPN, he or she would realize Morgan's level of knowledge of the game. Just because a person has the God-given talent to play doesn't mean he has the ability to manage. Look at our Henry Aaron.

Chris Small, Atlanta

Amazing, isn't it? 20 years later, Cox has a future in the Hall of Fame, the Murphy trade is recognized as the right move (yep, Cox managed Dale Murphy in Atlanta) and fans are still annoyed by Morgan's announcing. Long-term positives can enhance our view of an unpopular situation, but some things never change.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Bigger Isn't Best For Baseball

I was originally going to include this little rant as part of my last post, but I decided it was important enough that it deserved a post of its own. Last time I discussed a breed of fan which is unfortunately all-too-common in today's sporting culture that I dubbed the "bigger is better" fan (henceforth abbreviated as BIB). This type is fascinated more by powerhouse teams, star players and glamorous franchises than a good underdog story. The media usually have the BIB's eating out of their hands, and it's a source of unending annoyance for those of us on the other end of the spectrum.

What I'd like to address is the ridiculous yet prevalent idea (usually parroted by the BIB's) that low TV ratings for the World Series are somehow "bad for baseball," and that the National Pastime's very survival depends on whether the big-ticket franchises are playing in the Fall Classic. First, let's take a little ride in Doc Brown's DeLorean. Anyone remember the 2008 World Series? It was the lowest-rated to date, perhaps in part because before it even began the matchup was dismissed as "boring" by many a casual fan. Which two teams were playing again? Let's see...the Rays and...the Phillies. Wait, the Phillies? The same Phillies baseball so desperately needed in the World Series this year because of the audience they brought? Those Phillies? Yep, the very same! But wait a minute! How is it that no one wanted the Phillies in the Series two years ago but today everybody does? Welcome to the world of the BIB, where all interest is dictated by the hype of the day.

If you recall, the matchup being touted during the League Championship Series in 2008 was Dodgers vs. Red Sox. Why, it was a ratings dream! Two franchises with national followings, and hey! You'd also have the storyline of Manny Ramirez facing his old teammates! After all, who doesn't love that dreadlocked lout? You know, I'll bet a World Series like that would be enough to resurrect the dying sport of baseball! It was such an exciting prospect but...doggone it, those spoilsports from Tampa Bay and Philly had to ruin everyone's fun by winning their respective LCSes. Rats!

While the BIB's were busy grousing about that snoozer of a matchup, the Phillies were beating the favored Rays and establishing themselves as a power in the National League. The next year they returned to the World Series, and before anyone even realized it, the Phillies were one of baseball's marquee teams! And to think, it all started when no one was watching!

Some "fans" might not watch this year's Series because they're unable to see past the fact that the Rangers and Giants aren't considered the most talented teams in their respective leagues, but what happens if this is the beginning of a multi-year championship-level run for one of them? You can bet that that team will be generating more interest and ratings down the road than it is now. They'll develop an aura of greatness, and within a year or two the BIB's will be complaining when they get upset in the playoffs by an underdog that most of us "humanist" fans are pulling for. They can't get to that level though, until they get a foot in the door.

What's the point of going through that growth process though? We already have sure-fire ratings-grabbers like the Yankees, don't we? Wouldn't it be best if a team like the Yankees were in the World Series every year? More fans would be interested and baseball wouldn't decline into irrelevance!

First of all, baseball is most certainly not declining into irrelevance. Just because it no longer rules the sporting roost like it once did doesn't mean it isn't wildly successful. Just three years ago baseball set an attendance record, and while the figure has seen a slight decrease since the recession, baseball is still the clear #2 sport in the U.S., and nothing else looks to supplant it anytime soon. Despite that fact, the ratings for the World Series have been on a downward trend over the past 15 years. That should be a sign that TV ratings are no longer a good gauge of a sport's relevance. In this era of the internet and smartphones, people don't have to have the TV on anymore to follow the game, so it shouldn't be much of a surprise that fewer people are watching the broadcasts in question.

Second, long-term dominance by one team kills interest in the game. What? No way! Big-ticket teams bring increased interest! Yes, in the short term. In the long term, fans in other cities lose hope and stop caring about baseball, and the only ones left are the big dogs' fanbases. Don't believe me? Let's hop in the DeLorean again, and this time set the time circuits to 2002. Back then the Yankees had won five of the last six AL pennants, and four of the last six World Series. Boy, baseball must've been at the top of its game then, right? Not quite. Attendance took a significant dip that year, to its lowest point in five years. There was also a work stoppage looming and contraction was being discussed by the higher-ups. Fortunately, they avoided both of those calamitous possibilities, and since then, what's happened? Well, the Yankees have declined to a mere playoff regular, rather than World Series regular, and we've had an era of parity. The World Series has featured new and exciting teams almost every year, and fanbases all over the country now have cherished memories they could only dream of ten years ago. Not surprisingly, interest and attendance have gone up throughout baseball. Oh, and by the way, have you heard any serious talk of contraction lately?

So I have a message for all you BIB's: Stop complaining and enjoy Game 1 of the World Series tonight. Are the two best teams in baseball playing? Perhaps not. On the other hand, perhaps they are and it just isn't readily apparent. Will the TV ratings be huge? Probably not, but who cares? When it's all over you're going to see a huge moment in the history of one of these franchises, and that is without question good for baseball. If you can't find that worth tuning in for, you're probably not cut out to be a fan of this great game.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Now That's What I Call a World Series Matchup

I'm going to be totally honest here: I didn't really like the 2009 baseball season. Mark Buehrle's perfect game and the Twins-Tigers tiebreaker were pretty cool, but that's about it. The regular season (and hence the playoff picture) was dominated by teams I either didn't like or was simply tired of seeing. In the American League you had the Angels (boring old playoff standby), Red Sox (obnoxious) and Yankees (evil). In the National League you had the Cardinals (hate 'em), Phillies (last year's champs) and Dodgers (enough historical success that they don't interest me). Oh sure, you had the Rockies and Twins in there too, but neither one was a serious contender, and they both proved it by folding in the first round.

To top it off, the last team standing was the Yankees, who got there mainly because they'd signed two potential Hall of Famers in their primes during the offseason. Anytime the Yankees win it, their story plays out with all the drama of a trip to the grocery store. Who wants to get emotionally invested in that?

2010 though, was a season of redemption. We saw some great pennant races and ended up with a pretty exciting playoff picture. In the National League you had the Giants (fun core of players in a city without a World Series title), Reds (new blood) and Braves (Bobby Cox's last season). In the American League you had the Rangers (oft-overlooked franchise having a magical year), Twins (overcame key injuries and still looking for their first title under Ron Gardenhire) and Rays (small-payroll team keeping pace with the big dogs).

But Wait...

Like 2009, each league had one certifiable exception to the rule, in this case the Phillies and Yankees. Neither team had any story to speak of. The Yankees were the same old rich bullies they'd been the year before, and the Phillies were shooting for their third pennant in a row. True, the Phillies had brought several ringless veterans into the fold since 2008 (Raul Ibanez, Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt, Placido Polanco, Mike Sweeney), but with many of the same core players in place they could hardly be considered a team with something to prove. Any of those other teams winning the World Series was fine, but the Yankees or Phillies? That would be a waste.

The first round results were bittersweet. On the bitter side, both the Phillies and the Yankees advanced. On the sweet side, the two teams I most wanted to see in the World Series also advanced. This left me with a few possibilities:

1. Both teams I'm rooting for face off in the World Series and I have a matchup I can sit back and enjoy.

2. Only one of the two makes it, meaning I have someone to pull for, as well as the constant stress of knowing that a team I don't like could take the title.

3. Neither one makes it and the 2010 season goes down in history as a sick joke.

Obviously I wanted #1, but the pessimist in me feared it would be #3. Hey, it's a rough life being a sports fan when you feel vicariously represented by every underdog. In spite of my doubts, we got #1, a Texas-San Fran World Series!

The Storylines Abound

If you're a hardcore baseball fan you probably know all the great storylines surrounding these teams. Heck, you can skip these next two paragraphs if you've heard them rehashed enough times already. First, the Giants. They haven't won a World Series since 1954, and never since moving to San Francisco in 1958. They're a collection of castoffs from other teams, including their NLCS MVP, who was picked up on waivers in August. They traded catcher Bengie Molina to make room for top prospect Buster Posey, who responded by making a strong case for Rookie of the Year. Their slogan for the season has been "Torture," due to their habit of winnin' games while cuttin' 'em close.

The Rangers have their own compelling story to tell. They have a potential MVP in Josh Hamilton, who worked his way back to baseball stardom after nearly destroying his life with drugs and alcohol. They advanced past the first round of the playoffs for the first time in franchise history, and beat the Yankees, the team they'd lost to in each of their previous postseason appearances, in the ALCS. Owner Tom Hicks filed for bankruptcy in May and sold the team to a group led by Chuck Greenberg and former Ranger ace Nolan Ryan in August. During Spring Training manager Ron Washington was revealed to have tested positive for cocaine last year, and he's looking for redemption. They've adopted hand signals such as "the claw" and "the antlers" in a show of camaraderie. They've gotten this far with one of the league's lowest payrolls. Oh yeah, they're also the team that picked up Bengie Molina from the Giants.

Who To Root For?

Whichever team wins this thing, it's sure to be one of our more memorable World Series champions. The only question I have is who I should throw my support behind. Let's try to analyze this thing:

Championship drought by franchise:

Giants: 56 years
Rangers: 50 years (since inception)

Championship drought by city:

Giants: 53 years
Rangers: 39 years

Well, it seems to be favoring the Giants so far. Then again, there are other factors that come into play. For instance, how likely is each of these teams to return to the World Series in the near future? Let's look at their situations:


Pros: Decent-sized payroll, play in the weaker league, good core of young pitchers

Cons: Seem to have caught lightning in a bottle with some of these players, GM doesn't always spend wisely


Pros: New ownership, massive new television deal which will allow them to expand payroll and possibly grow their fanbase, front office has a good reputation

Cons: Might lose Cliff Lee this offseason, have to compete with big spenders like the Yankees and Red Sox for the pennant

Hmmmmmmmm. My gut says the Giants are in a better position to return to the World Series next year than the Rangers. Of course, back in 2008 I also thought the Rays were in a better position to return than the Phillies, so what do I know?

The biggest factor of them all though, is the emotional side. The sight of which team hoisting the World Series Trophy would warm my heart more? I have to say...sorry, Giants. You're a fun collection of personalities, but the Rangers have affected me more emotionally. When I see them flashing their signals and tumbling over each other in victory celebrations, I see an esprit de corps that's truly special. Heck, I'll even admit that when Josh Hamilton was named ALCS MVP I teared up a little. Also, the Giants have several guys who have won it already (Pat Burrell, Juan Uribe, Aaron Rowand, Edgar Renteria, Javier Lopez), while the Rangers only have Molina. I'd be totally happy with a Giant victory, but if I had to choose a side I'd pick the Rangers.

All I Really Want

Since one of these teams unfortunately has to lose, my biggest hope for this World Series is that it goes seven games. I would love nothing more than a super-close one that gets remembered alongside 1991. The 1991 World Series isn't best remembered for the Twins winning it, it's remembered for the epic battle with the Braves that came down to the tenth inning of Game 7. When it's that tight, the team that loses almost seems like a co-winner. And hey, the Braves went back to the World Series the next year and became the National League's team of the 1990's, so everybody won in the end.

The worst thing would be a series that goes less than six games, because then the "bigger is better" types* would use it to justify their complaints about two non-marquee teams participating ("See? The Yankees weren't in it and it was completely boring and one-sided!"). We're already hearing some of them say what a "ratings disaster" this series going to be, as if any real baseball fan should care about such things. This matchup may not appeal to casual fans, but for us true baseball fans, this is heaven.

*I recently discovered a blog whose author coined a term I strongly identify with: baseball humanist. This term refers to us fans who love baseball for the human stories it provides. We view the season as a narrative, and the action on the field as a chapter in the story of each team and player. As such, when playoff time rolls around we tend to root for the teams that have something to prove. When a franchise has a championship drought or a great player is searching for his first ring, every game is potentially part of a defining postseason. Few things are more exciting than history in the making.

I asked myself what the flipside to the baseball humanist was, and I came up with the "bigger is better" fan. You know the type. They don't care about stories or people, they just want to see the biggest stars and the most glamorous teams. That outlook seems rather shallow, in my opinion, but to each his own.

Final Words

Anyway, I don't have a real prediction for you, since my predictions are usually wrong, and it's such a close match that it could go either way. If you care though, my hunch says the Giants are going to win. If it goes seven close games (and the "Torturous" Giants could very well make it happen), I'll be able to look back on the 2010 season with the utmost satisfaction.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Hey, You Want Some Eggs?

Congratulations to the Texas Rangers on advancing to the first ALCS in franchise history! It's been a special year down in Texas, and if they can exorcise the demons of playoffs past by beating the Yankees, would raise their season to storybook levels.

Unfortunately, sometimes a likable team has to lose in order for a likable team to win. In this case, that losing team was the Tampa Bay Rays. They too had a great season, but this won't be the year where they take home their first title. On the bright side, I've discovered a way to commit one of their players' faces to memory. Tonight I noticed that Ben Zobrist, versatile infielder-outfielder, bears a striking resemblance to the most loathsome character ever created in the universe of LOST, Martin Keamy:

As long as Zobrist doesn't bare too many teeth I'm afraid he's going to take someone's daughter hostage.

(Thanks to Getty Images and Lostpedia for the photos.)

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Oldest Ringless Players: 2010

The ring. It's the thing every ballplayer strives for, a symbol of solidarity with a group that's been to the top. Every year there are several players who get their first one, sometimes veterans who've been waiting for a long time. With today being the first day of the Playoffs (I'm watching Texas-Tampa Bay as I write this) I thought it was time to figure out each team's oldest player in line for his first piece of championship jewelry.

I'm not sure what the exact criteria for receiving a ring are (I've heard they differ from team to team), but I think it's a safe assumption that a guy who's on the 40-Man Roster at the end of the season and has played at the Major League level for the organization is going to get one. Using those standards, here are the oldest players on each team without a World Series ring (birth date in parentheses):

Atlanta Braves: Takashi Saito (February 14, 1970)
Cincinnati Reds: Arthur Rhodes (October 24, 1969)
Minnesota Twins: Jim Thome (August 27, 1970)
New York Yankees: Lance Berkman (February 10, 1976)
Philadelphia Phillies: Raul Ibanez (June 2, 1972)
San Francisco Giants: Guillermo Mota (July 25, 1973)
Tampa Bay Rays: Joaquin Benoit (July 26, 1977)
Texas Rangers: Darren Oliver (October 6, 1970)

  • Saito won a Japan Series in 1998. If you think he shouldn't count, the second-oldest ringless player on the Braves is Billy Wagner, who's about a year younger.
  • The Reds' Russ Springer is older than Rhodes and has never played in a World Series for the winning side, but I counted him as having a ring because he was on the 2001 Diamondbacks' injured list.
  • Darren Oliver's 40th birthday is today! His Rangers are currently up 5-1, so perhaps his gift will be a playoff win.
  • The Yankees and Rays both have an O.R.P. under 35, which I'd call a strike against both their backabilities this postseason. Of course, there are so many more strikes against the Yankees' backability that I don't have time to list them all here.
  • Five of these guys are relief pitchers.

Knowing that one of these eight will join the Adorned Finger Club this year is pretty cool. Whoever wins the World Series, this list gives you a good idea of which guy you can be happiest for.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

The Waist Band

When we look back on the uniforms of the 1970's and 80's the word that comes to mind is "dated." The pullover-shirt-and-elastic-waistband look clearly belongs to a bygone era, but unlike the classic flannel look it comes across as a cheesy fad rather than an icon of baseball's glory years. Nevertheless, their mere association with the National Pastime gives those Bowie Kuhn-era threads a certain nostalgic value.

The waistbands have always been more interesting to me than the shirts. They seem so...un-baseball when you consider that belts were standard in the century that preceded their introduction and in the two decades or so since they've gone out of style. However, only five teams never had elastic waistbands at any point: the Expos, Phillies, Mets, Dodgers and Yankees. The Tigers are also notable in that they had one on their road uniform for a while, but never on their home.

I recently got to wondering what those ever-belted teams would look like if they'd adopted waistbands back in the day. The best way I could think of to do it was to edit some old photos in order to approximate the look. Of course, given that I'm not a graphic designer and that the only photo editing program I have is MS Paint, it should go without saying that my doctored photos would never be mistaken for the real thing. I do think though, that I got the colors close enough that it doesn't require much imagination to see the intent behind each edit. Therefore, share them I shall.

New York Yankees

For some reason when I think of the "Bronx Zoo"-era Yankees the player that comes to my mind is Graig Nettles. That's why I chose him to model both the home and road uniforms for the new waistbanded Bombers.

I won't lie, I'm much happier with the way the home uniform came out than the road. The home is based on the Cubs' basic home design from 1972-89, and I think it works pretty well.

(Thanks to and for the photos.)

Detroit Tigers

Who better to represent the Tigers of the 1970's than Mark "The Bird" Fidrych?

This was a unique case where I took out the buttons and piping on the top to make it a pullover. It looks like something they realistically might have worn back then, and it'd certainly match their road uniform.

(Thanks to for the photo.)

Montreal Expos

I ended up with Rusty Staub for the home and Ellis Valentine for the road. That Staub photo was probably from his original stint with Montreal, 1969-71, as the background setting looks a lot more like Jarry Park than Olympic Stadium. It's a bit earlier than my preferred timeframe, but it'll do.

Though the Astros did it for a while, uniforms with waistbands generally don't have piping on the shoulders and sides of the shirt. The Expos added that stuff to their uniforms in 1980, so I had to look for some Expo photos from before then. The pre-piping road uniform was much easier to find than the home. I can only presume it's because Canadian photographers don't get their photos as widely distributed as their American counterparts do.

(Thanks to Flickr and Random Forgotten Player of the Day for the photos.)

New York Mets

Here we have John Stearns for the home and Tim Foli for the road.

The Mets adopted a pullover in 1978 and added piping in 1982, so I figured editing the uniforms they had from 1978-81 would give the most authentic look for a waistbander. I'm fairly pleased with the way they turned out.

(A big thanks to centerfield maz for the photos. Mets photos from that era are surprisingly hard to find.)

Philadelphia Phillies

Mike Schmidt and Steve Carlton, the Phillies' two greatest players from the waistband era, were perfect for this exercise.

The home was pretty simple, since the collar was obscured. With single-color piping and pinstripes, a solid maroon waistband seemed to be the right choice. For the road one I had to add an elastic collar and make the waistband multi-colored. I originally tried a white-maroon-white pattern to match the piping, but it didn't look right, so I reversed the colors. It looks much better, I think.

(Thanks to Pine Crest Baseball and Defending Broad Street for the photos.)

Los Angeles Dodgers

Steve Garvey is probably the best-known Dodger of the 1970's, so he was my choice here.

I like the way this one turned out too. It kind of reminds me of the Reds' home uniform from that era. I originally tried to add piping to the pants, but it didn't look right, so I abandoned it. Since the Dodgers' home and road uniforms were nearly identical I didn't bother to do one for both.

(Thanks to iOffer for the photo.)

Once again, I apologize for the crudity of my editing, but I'm sure it gave you a good idea of what these uniforms would've looked like had their teams followed the vestiary trends of the day. We can only wonder what the current uniform landscape would look like if each of these designs had been implemented. Perhaps if it hadn't been for these traditionalist holdouts the waistband would be alive and well today.