United States of Baseball- Oregon

Portland should be on the short list for an MLB franchise during the next MLB expansion. Until then, Oregon will continue with Minor League and Independent League Baseball. The Beaver State is no stranger to baseball despite not having an  MLB team. Oregon has sent 137 players to the Majors. The greatest pitcher born in the Beaver State is Mickey Lolich. His 48.01 career WAR ranks as the 31st highest among state and territory pitching leaders. The greatest position player born in Oregon is Dale Murphy. His 46.54 career WAR is the 39th highest among state and territory position player leaders. The Beaver State has a combined 94.55 WAR, ranking Oregon 36th highest among all states and territories in the United States of Baseball. 

Mickey Lolich might not have made the Major Leagues if not for a childhood accident. An injury to his right arm, caused Lolich to begin pitching Southpaw. The Portland native signed with the Detroit Tigers for $30,000 out of high school. The unnatural Lefty pitched for 16 seasons with three teams: Detroit Tigers (1963-1975), New York Mets (1976), and San Diego Padres (1978-1979). Sticking in the Majors in 1964, Lolich laid the foundation for his career by pitching a 30 ⅔ scoreless innings streak. It was a sign of things to come. Lolich pitched in 586 career Games, made 496 Starts, Finished 40 Games, threw 195 Complete Games, including 41 Shutouts, in 3,638.1 Innings Pitched, allowed 3,366 Hits, 1,537 Runs, 1,390 Earned Runs, 347 Home Runs, 2,832 Strikeouts, 1,099 Walks, posted a 217-191 record, 3.44 ERA, 1.227 WHIP, and 104 ERA+. His numbers could have been even better had Lolich not retired following the 1977 season rather than pitching another season for the Mets. He returned a year later with the Padres.

Lolich was a disciple of pitching coach Johnny Sain. Sain transformed numerous pitchers from good to great during his long coaching career. He worked magic as Lolich won an American League strikeout title and finished second four times. Lolich held the American League strikeout record with 2,679 until 2007. Unlike the strikeout artists of today, Lolich was also an innings eater, throwing Complete Games in 40% of his Starts. 

Lolich was named to three All Star teams. He appeared on the Hall of Fame ballot for 15 years from 1985 to 1999, peaking with 25.5% of the vote in 1988. Lolich also appeared on the Veterans Committee Ballot three times, but failed to receive the necessary votes for induction. 

Mickey Lolich pitched the Tigers to a World Series victory in 1968. (Focus on Sport/Getty Images)

The best season of Mickey Lolich’s career came with the 1971 Detroit Tigers. He made 45 Starts, threw 29 Complete Games, including 4 Shutouts, in 376 Innings Pitched, he allowed 336 Hits, 133 Runs, 122 Earned Runs, 36 Home Runs, 308 Strikeouts, 92 Walks, posted a 25-14 record, 2.92 ERA, 1.138 WHIP, and 124 ERA+. Lolich led the American League in Wins, Starts, Complete Games, Innings Pitched, Hits allowed, Strikeouts, and Batters Faced. He was an All Star and finished second to Vida Blue for the Cy Young Award and fifth for the American League MVP award. 

The Fall Classic allowed Lolich to shine. He pitched in two World Series, making 5 Starts, throwing 3 Complete Games, in 46 Innings Pitched, allowing 34 Hits, 9 Runs, 8 Earned Runs, 3 Home Runs, 31 Strikeouts, 11 Walks, posted a 3-1 record, 1.57 ERA, and 0.978 WHIP. Lolich shined brightest in the 1968 Fall Classic, outdueling Bob Gibson and the Cardinals. He made 3 Starts, threw 3 Complete Games, in 27 Innings Pitched, allowed 20 Hits, 5 Runs, 5 Earned Runs, 2 Home Runs, 21 Strikeouts, 6 Walks, posted a 3-0 record, 1.67 ERA, and 0.963 WHIP. He also hit a Home Run in Detroit’s Game 2 victory. Lolich became the 12th pitcher with three victories in the same World Series. He remains the most recent pitcher to win three Complete Games in the same World Series. The Tigers won the 1968 World Series with Lolich winning the World Series MVP. 

Dale Murphy is a superstar and a quiet family man. The Portland native was selected fifth overall in the 1974 MLB Draft by the Braves who convinced him to sign instead of attending Arizona State University. The highly touted Murphy began his professional career as a Catcher. However, throwing problems soon necessitated a move to First Base and eventually the Outfield. Murphy shined in the Outfield, becoming one of the best players in baseball. He played 18 Major League seasons with three teams: Atlanta Braves (1976-1990), Philadelphia Phillies (1990-1992), and Colorado Rockies (1993). In 2,180 career Games, Murphy scored 1,197 Runs, collected 2,111 Hits, including 350 Doubles, 39 Triples, 398 Home Runs, with 1,266 RBI, 161 Stolen Bases, drew 986 Walks, 1,748 Strikeouts, while posting a .265 BA, .346 OBP, .469 SLG, .815 OPS, and 121 OPS+. 

The confidence the Braves had in Murphy coming out of high school was well placed. He became a seven time All Star, won five Gold Gloves, and four Silver Sluggers. Murphy won back to back National League MVPs in 1982 and 1983. He is the youngest player to win back to back MVPs. Murphy remains the only Braves player to win multiple MVPs. He was traded to the Phillies in 1990. Murphy missed out on the 1991 and 1992 Braves Pennants and the Phillies 1993 Pennant after moving on to Colorado. Ultimately Murphy is best remembered in Atlanta where he was the fifth Braves player to have his number retired after Warren Spahn, Eddie Mathews, Henry Aaron, and Phil Niekro. He is often heralded as the best player not in Cooperstown. He appeared on the Hall of Fame ballot from 1999 to 2013, peaking at 23.2% in 2000. Perhaps he will get in some day. 

Dale Murphy led the Braves throughout the 1980’s, when many Atlanta teams were no where close to contention. (Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)

The best season of Murphy’s career came with the 1983 Braves. He played in 162 Games, scored 131 Runs, collected 178 Hits, including 24 Doubles, 4 Triples, 36 Home Runs, 121 RBI, 30 Stolen Bases, drew 90 Walks, 110 Strikeouts, posting a .302 BA, .393 OBP, .540 SLG, .933 OPS, and 149 OPS+. He led the National League in Games Played, RBI, SLG, and OPS. Murphy was named to his third All Star team, won his second consecutive Gold Glove, Silver Slugger, and MVP awards. He was unstoppable. 

The Postseason was elusive, as Murphy played on bad Braves teams. His lone October appearance was the 1982 NLCS, as the Cardinals swept the Braves. Murphy played in all 3 Games, scored 1 Run, collected 3 Hits, with 1 Stolen Base, 2 Strikeouts, posting a .273 BA, .273 OBP, .273 SLG, and .545 OPS. Murphy was a great player on a bad team, like so many in baseball.  

Dale Murphy could be Oregon’s first Hall of Famer. Hopefully a future Veterans Committee elects him. In the meantime, Cooperstown continues to wait for its first member from the Beaver State. Next week the United States of Baseball heads across the country to the Keystone State. Pennsylvania is next. 

DJ

Annual Pilgrimage

Our yearly baseball road trip was much calmer this year. Instead of a month long road trip, we spent a weekend in Toronto. Covid restrictions prevented us from entering Canada to watch the Blue Jays last summer, so it was fitting that our annual baseball pilgrimage was to the one MLB ballpark we missed. The Blue Jays “home game” from last summer was in Anaheim against the Angels. The biggest differences this year was watching Shohei Ohtani pitch and a healthy Mike Trout play. Trout was the best player in baseball that I had not seen play in person. His recent back injury appeared to once again dash my hopes of seeing him play, but he recovered before the Toronto series. 

View from the Cheap Seats with the Right Field corner missing. (The Winning Run/ DJ)

The Angels dominated the Blue Jays all weekend. Friday night was a blowout, with Los Angeles cruising to a 12-0 victory. Toronto even used Whit Merrifield on the mound. He was throwing 60 MPH gas. Saturday was a great pitching matchup between Alek Manoah and Shohei Ohtani. It did not disappoint as the Angels pulled out a 2-0 victory. Both Manoah and Ohtani pitched great, with Manoah taking a tough loss. Sunday the Blue Jays finally got on the board, but it did not matter, they still lost 8-3. The Angels completed the sweep. I am bad luck for the Blue Jays. The only other time I watched them play in Toronto they were destroyed by the Oakland Athletics 14-2 with Josh Reddick hitting three Home Runs. 

We went to Toronto to check off the ballpark and see Ohtani pitch. (The Winning Run/DJ)

The annual baseball road trip is more about watching baseball in a new place than the actual game on the field. We enjoy watching baseball, but rarely does the matchup play a large part in our decision of where to travel. This year it was just Bernie and myself in Toronto. Kevin was supposed to join us but had to backout at the last minute. Life sometimes gets in the way of baseball. The Rogers Centre is a solid ballpark. It is not the nicest MLB stadium, but it is also 35 years old. While the team has worked to keep up the ballpark, age is undefeated. The way ballparks are built now has changed, so a ballpark cannot be penalized for not having something that was not the norm when it was built. I will admit, the Rogers Centre grew on me as the weekend progressed. On Friday I was critical of the ballpark. In the upper levels you cannot see the field while walking the concourse. There was a blind spot in the Right Field corner from our seats. It was annoying, but definitely not the worst. 

Better seats to watch Ohtani pitch. (The Winning Run/DJ)

On Saturday and Sunday, I found the Rogers Centre more to my liking. The lower concourse was better for seeing the field, there was more room to walk around, and just an overall better baseball watching experience. The Rogers Centre has among the best jumbotrons in baseball. It is large enough to display plenty of information and the team does not bombard fans with sensory overload. Attending one game at a ballpark can be the best or worst experience of that stadium. It is generally accepted that attending a game in St. Louis is one of the best baseball experiences. However, I have been to just one Cardinals home game and it was awful. The crowd, the best fans in baseball, seemed to not care, there was no energy in the stadium. Getting in and out of the park was a pain. The ballpark itself was nice, but I left highly disappointed. The Rogers Centre does a great job of having the kids zone in one central location. The lower concourses is what modern ballparks strive for, while the upper levels are still stuck in the 1980’s and early 1990’s.  

Ultimately there is not a bad place to watch a Major League game. Some ballparks are more enjoyable than others. While the Rogers Centre is nice, it definitely falls in the lower half among MLB parks. It is a victim of age and being built just before the stadium revolution that positively changed the fan experience. The Blue Jays are preparing for an extensive renovation this coming offseason. Perhaps these upgrades will propel the Toronto ballpark into the top half of stadiums. Regardless, next summer we will visit yet another ballpark and enjoy more baseball. 

DJ

Support Your Local Baseball Team

MLB gets the lion’s share of attention. The best players are on these teams, thus the best baseball to watch is at an MLB game. Below this top level is the Minor Leagues, Independent Leagues, College, High School, and youth amatuer baseball. There is no wrong way to consume baseball, but expanding your horizons allows for more consumption. 

The experience of going to an MLB game is different from a local little league game. The play on the field and the facilities are vastly different, yet the entertainment can be equal. Baseball is a game, and games entertain. 

Is there anything better than a baseball game at dusk? (The Winning Run/DJ)

College Summer Leagues are fantastic. The Cape Cod League is the dominant league, drawing the best players from around college baseball. A who’s who of college baseball. The Northwoods League is another terrific College Summer League. These types of leagues are spread out across the country, it only takes little effort to find the schedule for your local team. The Great Lakes Summer Collegiate League is my local league. The teams run from southern Ohio up Interstate 75 into Michigan. The players mostly come from local colleges, but some play their college ball far away. All of these players are working on their craft and competing at a high level. 

A few weeks ago, my brother in law, daughter, and I watched the Cincinnati Steam host the Xenia Scouts at the Cincinnati Reds Urban Youth Academy. There was nothing grand about the facilities, just a turf field under the lights. A Public Address Announcer playing music as batters walked to the plate, but otherwise it was a no frills operation. The play on the field was great. Solid pitching, hitting, and fielding. College baseball looks and feels different than even the best high school games. There are no easy outs. No watching a pitcher warm up and knowing the batters are about the feast. You get an honest baseball game as the players compete and use their skills to win. 

Some times you catch a foul ball. (The Winning Run/DJ)

Some of the players on the Steam and Scouts will play professionally. A handful of alumni from the Great Lakes Summer Collegiate League have reached the Majors. For others, this is the highest they will go. Regardless how far a player goes, a lifetime of dedication to baseball is on display. You can sit right on the fence and watch them ply their craft. It was a great night of baseball. The Steam emerged victorious. I do not remember the score, but what I enjoyed most was watching good baseball and enjoying the company. Baseball is a game and it is supposed to entertain. Instead of giving MLB all of your time and money, spread your love for baseball around to those working towards the highest level. It will give you a greater love for the game. Baseball gives you what you give it. 

DJ

30 for 30 One Year Later

One year later. This time last year we were just beginning the 30 ballparks in 30 days road trip. Beginning in St. Louis we would drive 16,000 miles from coast to coast and seemingly all points in between before reaching Arlington. It took a year to plan. The logistics took hours everyday to sort through. Planning the route that was the least insane took even longer. Most importantly I had a wonderful friend to do the entire thing with me and the support of so many people who let us stay with them along the way. Was the trip perfect? No. There were torrential rainstorms, landslides, traffic, late nights followed by early mornings, and closed international borders. Despite all of the difficulties, it was wonderful. Kevin and I were able to accomplish something that few baseball fans ever have the opportunity to attempt. Would I do it again? Absolutely, in a heartbeat. A year since the ultimate baseball road trip and the memories are still fresh. Baseball is what you make it, and last summer Kevin and I drove head first into the ridiculous end of the baseball pool. Nothing could be better.  

Is there anything better than an evening spent watching baseball. (The Winning Run/DJ)

DJ

Doubles Machine

Yeah we all know chicks dig the long ball, but what about Doubles. The Braves’ Matt Olson is laying the foundation for a potentially historic season. Atlanta’s First Baseman has 23 Doubles through the first 55 games of the season. He is on pace to finish with 68 Doubles, one more than the single season record. Everyone loves dingers, but Doubles could be the biggest headline in Atlanta this summer. 

The 1931 Red Sox were not a good team. Boston finished 62-90-1 and in sixth place in the eight team American League. The Red Sox finished 45 games behind the pennant winning Philadelphia Athletics. However, Boston’s Earl Webb had a career year. The Left Handed hitting Webb played in 151 of Boton’s 153 games and posted a career best .333 BA. The previous season Webb hit 30 Doubles, but in 1931 he more than doubled that total by hitting 67 two baggers. He broke George Burns’ five year old single season record of 64 Doubles. Webb was a hitting machine, collecting 0.44 Doubles per game played and 0.101 Doubles per Plate Appearance.  He was not a power hitter, but he found the gaps. 

Matt Olson is on pace to break the 90 year old single season Doubles record. (Dave O’Brien/ The Athletic)

Earl Webb’s Doubles record had several early challenges. There have been 100 seasons in which a player has hit 50 Doubles. There have been six 60 Double seasons. Webb’s record setting 1931 season and George Burns’ then record 1926 season. Hall of Famers Joe Medwick, Hank Greenberg, Paul Waner, and Charlie Gehringer hit 60 Doubles in a season during the 1930’s, but none topped Webb’s 67. Since integration in 1947, only three players have threatened the record. Todd Helton hit 59 Doubles in 2000 for the Rockies. Nick Castellanos hit 58 Doubles in 2019 with the Detroit Tigers and Chicago Cubs. Carlos Delgado hit 57 Doubles in 2000 with the Toronto Blue Jays. That is it. In the 90 seasons since Webb set the Doubles record only a few Hall of Famers from his era and three modern All Stars have come remotely close to breaking the single season Doubles record. 

Matt Olson is on pace to break Webb’s long standing record. There is still more than half of the season left to play. Olson has to stay healthy and productive to have a chance. He is hitting 0.42 Doubles per game played and 0.094 Doubles per Plate Appearance. Both are slightly lower than Webb’s pace, but Olson has the opportunity to play 11 more games due to the longer season. Olson is playing within the rules set by MLB. Much like Roger Maris’ Home Run record there will be no asterisks. 

Injury or bad luck could derail Matt Olson’s assault on a nine decade old record. This Doubles chase will not garner national attention like a Home Run race. However, it does show how despite player improvement, a record set by a player who spent just seven seasons in the Majors and was out of baseball three years after setting the record has stood the test of time. Baseball is a funny game. No player, Hall of Famer or All Star, has matched Earl Webb’s 1931 season. Perhaps Matt Olson can stamp his name in the record books one Double at a time. 

DJ

The Good and the Bad of Umpiring 

Umpiring can be hard. It is even harder when you stop calling the game from the bleachers and step on the diamond. My skills as a player ran out before high school. I can run, catch, and throw. What I cannot do is hit a pitch that curves. I am helpless against Curveballs, sliders, slurves, anything that bends. Calling games as an umpire is how I stay close to baseball. I show up, hustle, make calls, and go home. I never care who wins, despite what coaches and fans assume. There are good days and bad days and I have had both experiences lately. 

The bad. I will spare most of the details as the state association has the report my partner and I filed. While umpiring a high school game, there were several sportsmanship issues that needed addressing. The final incident resulted in the Head Coach being restricted to his dugout due to the behavior of his team. The coach vigorously protested, which riled up the fans. When he refused to help calm the situation and his fans, my partner and I halted the game until the fans were removed. He again refused to help calm his fans and was ejected. The fans became belligerent. So many F bombs were hurled at us, including threats, that we suspended the game. The fans continued their verbal assault and the only path back to our cars was through the fans. Obviously we were not looking to be physically assaulted and based on their actions this was a very real possibility. We had a coach call the police. We were eventually able to leave without any physical violence, but the police escort did not stop the verbal abuse. The responding police handled these geniuses accordingly. Hopefully this is the only time I ever need a police escort to leave a baseball game. However, judging by the nonchalant attitude from the school’s Athletic Director, other umpires will face a similar situation when they dare make a call against this school. 

This sort of ridiculous behavior is why officiating across all sports is seeing a precipitous decline. The money is not great and the amount of abuse officials receive is not worth it. There are far too many examples of officials being verbally and physically assaulted. Youth sports used to be about competing and learning life lessons. Now if a call goes against a 9 year old the parents behave like it will irreparably harm their chance at a college scholarship. Adults are ruining kids’ sports.

Sometimes you get to umpire on professional fields, like at the Dayton Dragons. (The Winning Run/ DJ)

The good. A few days after my police escort I was the home plate umpire for another high school Varsity game. It was Senior Day. The Head Coach tells me during the plate meeting that the starting pitcher is coming out after one pitch. The kid blew out his elbow last summer and has not played all year. He finally got cleared to begin soft tossing last week. He was going to throw one pitch and then come out of the game so he could play his Senior season. The pitcher got on the mound and threw a 40 mph Fast Ball. The batter took the pitch. The pitch was in the strike zone. I made the loudest and most authoritative strike call I could. The home team and their fans erupted. The Head Coach came out to get the pitcher. Walking off the mound his emotions got the best of him and the tears began flowing. What an awesome moment. The Head Coach then walks down and tells me he wants to restart the count, no reason to take the At Bat away from the batter. I relay the message to the visiting Head Coach who agrees. It was a wonderful gesture by the Head Coach to give his player one last moment on the mound and not take away an At Bat from the opponent. This is what youth sports should be all about. 

I will remember both games for very different reasons. The first game for all the wrong reasons and the second for all the right reasons. I have seen the behavior of players, coaches, and fans decline in the seven years I have umpired. The decline in umpires will come to a head in the near future. Games are already being canceled because of the lack of officials. While I do not plan to stop umpiring, I am reducing the number of games I work to spend more time at home. The crisis is only beginning. A lot of the problems can be solved by adults taking a breath and recognizing that umpires are human, mistakes happen, and the result of today’s game will not have a long term impact on their child. What can impact their child is how the adults behave. Are they demonstrating good behavior or raising the next generation who goes crazy at a 9 year old baseball game?

DJ

Dr. Lopez

The doctor will see you in a few more years. Pablo Lopez of the Miami Marlins is off to the best start of his career. He is in the early conversations for the Cy Young. Whether he can continue or not, Lopez has an unique back up plan. He graduated from high school at 16 years old and was accepted to medical school. Instead of pursuing medicine, he followed his baseball dreams. So far things are working out for the Seattle Mariners signee out of Venezuela. 

After one season in the Veneuzelan Summer League, Lopez underwent Tommy John Surgery. His career has taken off since the surgery and being traded to the Marlins with several other Minor Leaguers for David Phelps. Entering his fifth Major League season, Lopez had made 62 Starts, logging 330 Innings, allowing 306 Hits, 156 Runs, 148 Earned Runs, 38 Home Runs, 89 Walks, 315 Strikeouts, posting a 18-21 record, 4.04 ERA, 1.197 WHIP, and 105 ERA+. He is a serviceable starter for a team on the verge of turning around its losing ways. The highlight of his career before 2022 was his July 11, 2021 start against the Atlanta Braves. He set a Major League record by striking out the first nine Braves batters, doing so on just 35 pitches. 

There is nothing wrong with a serviceable career. In the era of free agency, a player can have a pedestrian career and still earn generationally changing money. The best season of Lopez’s career is happening at an opportunistic time. While he has not reached free agency, Lopez will reach Arbitration this coming offseason. He will be making more money next season, especially if his season continues on its current trajectory. 

Pablo Lopez is off to the best start of his career. (The Athletic)

The Marlins are sitting tied for third place in the National League East, four games under .500. The talent flowing through Miami should have made the Marlins a contender by now, instead there is a perpetual talent exodus out of South Florida. Thus far into the 2022 season, Lopez has made 6 Starts, pitched 36 Innings, allowed 24 Hits, 5 Runs, 4 Earned Runs, 1 Home Run, 8 Walks, 35 Strikeouts, posted a 4-1 record, 1.00 ERA, 0.889 WHIP, and 400 ERA+. His 4 Wins are tied for the best in baseball. Opposing batters are having no fun, hitting just .186, with a .234 OBP, and .248 SLG. Hitters are connecting with a 31.9% Hard Hit rate, the lowest of Lopez’s career. He currently is second in MLB in ERA and ERA+. Not bad for a guy pitching for a team hoping to finish at .500. 

Pablo Lopez has been what the Marlins needed in the first month of the season. Miami is 5-1 in his 6 Starts. He has wins within the National League East against the Phillies and Nationals. His other wins came against the Cardinals and Padres. He pitched to a No Decision against the Giants. Only Washington appears unlikely to contend in October. Lopez has pitched well against good teams and taken care of business against a bad team. A Manager cannot ask for more from their Starter. Lopez is averaging 6 Innings per Start. His lone loss to Arizona is the only game he failed to reach the 5th Inning. The game also saw him surrender 3 of his 4 Earned Runs on the season. By current standards Lopez is an innings eater, saving the Marlins Bullpen every fifth day. He has pitched efficiently, reaching 100 pitches only once. Lopez is giving himself the opportunity to have a successful season from beginning to end. 

Pablo Lopez is off to a terrific start for the Marlins. The Miami fanbase deserves something to cheer for again. Season after season fans have seen young players beginning their rise to stardom traded away for prospects and the team begin again. Hopefully Lopez stays in a Marlins uniform and South Florida can once again have a winning team on the field. 

DJ

Only The Ball Was White

Statistical record keeping was not a high priority for those running the Negor Leagues. Despite the lack of verifiable numbers, the legends have received the respect they deserve. Only The Ball Was White: A History of Legendary Black Players and All-Black Professional Teams by Robert Peterson provides a history beyond the headlines, replacing the missing statistics with stories. Peterson dives into the heart of the Negro Leagues, beyond the legends like Satchel Paige, Josh Gibson, and Rube Foster. He examines the players, teams, and leagues that created the Negro Leagues. Many of the non-legends have not received the credit they deserve for their contributions to baseball and the Negro Leagues. 

Baseball requires toughness like few other endeavors. The long season pounds players, mentally and physically, every day for months. Dealing with a slump? There is no escape. The Negro Leagues required even greater toughness. The legal racism existing throughout the United States made the season even more difficult. Hotels and restaurants could deny players service. Stopping for gas or the restroom could be equally hazardous. The diamond was a sanctuary from hate. 

The Negro Leagues existed in large part because of the unwritten rule excluding African-Americans from Major League Baseball. The leagues and teams were a product of an America focused on keeping the races apart. The Negro Leagues were not all doom and gloom. There was plenty of joy in baseball. League games were competitive and the barnstorming between games brought excitement to the small towns as teams played the best local teams. Baseball was a social experience that made communities buzz for weeks. 

Only The Ball Was White by Robert Peterson

The downfall of the Negro Leagues came from one of America’s greatest triumphs. Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in 1947. Behind him came numerous other African-Americans into the Major Leagues. They all faced abuse, but Robinson took the hardest shots as the first through the door. The excitement of the Major Leagues opening to any player, regardless of race, was the beginning of the swift end of the Negro Leagues. Major League teams began signing the best Negro Leagues players, often without compensation. The talent pool of the Negro Leagues was weakened by this poaching. Teams had trouble surviving financially and within a decade the Negro Leagues were a shell of their former glory and came crashing down. 

Only The Ball Was White was published in 1970. The half century since has seen nearly all of the surviving players pass away. We have lost a lot of the history in the personal stories of players, fans, umpires, owners, and vendors who made the Negro Leagues. Peterson gives an honest account of the Negro Leagues, the good and the bad. He does not sugar coat anything, pretending it was heaven on earth, nor does he write solely about the struggles. 

The book can be slow going and is thick at times. Peterson packs a lot of information into the pages. As one of the most in-depth books on the Negro Leagues, the reader is exposed to a ton of new information. The density takes time to wade through for all the best reasons. The breakdown of the best at each position at the end of the book is wonderful. The names and their accomplishments are great information, which become more approachable when presented in a hierarchy of talents. Peterson’s writing also illustrates how well the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum has preserved this history. Even with the passing of time and the loss of those involved, Peterson and the NLBM continue to bring the challenges and triumphs of the Negro Leagues to life. 

Only The Ball Was White: A History of Legendary Black Players and All-Black Professional Teams by Robert Peterson is a must read for every baseball fan. It exposes readers to the Negro Leagues like no other book. The Winning Run gives the Only The Ball Was White a 9 out of 10, a Grand Slam. It is worth a read and a future reread. 

DJ

Mr. 3,000

The 3,000 Hit Club has a new member. Miguel Cabrera is among the greatest Right Handed hitters ever. Reaching 3,000 hits is the culmination of a career spent consistently putting the ball in play. Even in the early years of his career with the Florida Marlins, Cabrera did not possess blazing speed. Few of his hits were him legging out an infield hit. Cabrera is a pure hitter. Perhaps his swing is natural, if not as elegant as Ken Griffey Jr. or Barry Bonds. 

Miguel Cabrera is an all time Detroit Tiger great. The Motor City faithful have welcomed him into the inner circle that includes Ty Cobb, Charlie Gehringer, Hank Greenberg, and Al Kaline. In addition to 3,000 hits, Cabrera has launched 500 Home Runs. He is just the seventh player to join the 3,000 Hit and 500 Home Run Club. He joins three Hall of Famers (Henry Aaron, Willie Mays, and Eddie Murray), two players caught up in the Steroid Era (Alex Rodriguez and Rafael Palmeiro), and one active, future Hall of Famer (Albert Pujols). Rodriguez and Palmeiro had Hall of Fame talents but are paying the price for foolish mistakes. Cabrera will enter Cooperstown five years after he retires. He is a clear cut first ballot Hall of Famer. 

Getting on base helps a team win. Miguel Cabrera reached 3,000 hits by collecting 1,882 Singles, 599 Doubles, 17 Triples, and 502 Home Runs. He is a feared slugger who takes what the defense gives him, dropping in a Single or a Double in the gap. Cabrera is Venezuela’s all time leader in Runs, Hits, Doubles, Home Runs, RBI, Batting Average, and WAR. He will be the second Venezuelan elected to the Hall of Fame after Luis Aparicio

A common sight as Miguel Cabrera annihilates another pitch with his Hall of Fame swing. (Al Tielemans/ Sports Illustrated)

Miguel Cabrera always exudes joy when he is on the diamond. The smile never leaves his face as he torments pitchers while climbing the baseball record book. Reaching 3,000 hits is the culmination of a career spent hitting any and everything. Pure hitters are rare, as is the ability to stay healthy. Miguel Cabrera has stayed consistent with the bat and healthy. 

The next member of the 3,000 Hit Club will take awhile. No player has the hits and age in their favor to reach 3,000 in the next several seasons.  Cabrera has kept the joy of the game alive in Detroit through many tough seasons. His talents are undeniable. 3,000 hits, 500 Home Runs, a Triple Crown, two MVPs, and four Batting Titles. Cabrera will waltz into the Hall of Fame. 

Congratulations on 3,000 Hits Miggy!!!

DJ

Predictions Sure To Go Wrong 8.0

We are getting a 162 game season after all. Despite the offseason drama, baseball is settling back into normalcy. The new CBA is in place and medical science is catching up with the pandemic, allowing baseball to continue uninterrupted. The offseason lockout meant the free agent and trade markets were condensed. This created a buzz around certain teams. Were these off season moves enough to bring them a World Series championship? Time will tell. 

American League East

DerekJesseJohnKevinBernieThe Winning Run
Blue JaysPoutine Commandos *YankeesJaysRaysBlue Jays
RaysSteve Irwin Hates This TeamJaysRaysYankeesRays
YankeesEvil EmpireSoxYankeesRed SoxYankees
Red SoxThe Team With the Truest FansRaysRed SuxBlue JaysRed Sox
OriolesBean Town BrosOriolesOriolesOriolesOrioles
Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and the Blue Jays will make a deep run in October. (Dan Hamilton- USA TODAY Sports)

Easily the toughest division in baseball. At least one of the Wild Card teams will come out of the American League East. Besides the Orioles, the other four teams all have a legitimate chance at the Postseason. Is there a more talented team than the Blue Jays? Vladimir Guerrero Jr. is a legitimate MVP candidate for the next decade. Bo Bichette, Cavan Biggio, and George Springer with the additions of Hyun Jin-Ryu, Matt Chapman, and Raimel Tapia add the firepower that could bring the World Series back to Canada. The American League East runs through Toronto. Only a fool would count out the Rays. Tampa Bay always finds a way to win on a budget. The Rays have Wander Franco under contract for the next decade. Can they attract talent at the Major League level, not just what they have stockpiled in the Minors? As always the expectations are sky high for the Yankees. The free spending days of George Steinbrenner are gone. Aaron Judge remains unsigned long term. He is the logical face of the franchise moving forward. Will Brian Cashman lock up Judge or face the wrath of the fanbase that is eager to make a serious run at a World Series? The other questions in the Bronx is can the pitching staff and Giancarlo Stanton stay healthy? The Red Sox added Trevor Story, moving him to Second Base as insurance if Xander Bogaerts leaves in free agency. Chris Sale is out with a stress fracture in his ribs. As great as Boston could be, they are in baseball’s toughest division. The expanded Postseason could help them reach October in a deep AL East, but we doubt it. Can the Orioles be eliminated before Opening Day? 

American League Central

DerekJesseJohnKevinBernieThe Winning Run
White SoxDaniel TigersSoxWhite SoxWhite SoxWhite Sox
TigersSpidersTwinsTigersTigersTigers
TwinsSouth SideTigersTwinsTwinsTwins
RoyalsMonarchsOf The GalaxyGuardiansGuardiansGuardians
GuardiansTwinkiesRoyalsRoyalsRoyalsRoyals

The White Sox did not mutiny against Tony La Russa last season. Perhaps the clash of old and new school was overblown. Chicago returns all of their stars including Jose Abreu and Tim Anderson. You can have all the style you want when you are winning, and the White Sox will do plenty of that. The Tigers have a chance to make a World Series push with Miguel Cabrera. The signing of Javy Baez and trading for Austin Meadows. The pieces are there. The question is can Detroit rise to its potential? The Twins look to bounce back from a last place finish. They added Carlos Correa and Chris Paddack, with the hopes of Byron Buxton staying healthy. Some pieces are in place, but climbing to the top of the Central is getting tougher. New name, but Cleveland will be a sad place to watch baseball in 2022. The Guardians have little to offer their fans beyond Jose Ramierez and Shane Bieber. This was not the beginning of the Guardians’ name Cleveland wanted. Kansas City has the old and the young. Zack Grienke is back and Salvador Perez never left. Bobby Witt Jr. is the next great Royal, it is assumed. Whit Merrifield continues to be quietly great. Things are turning around in Kansas City, but there is a long way to go.  

American League West

DerekJesseJohnKevinBernieThe Winning Run
MarinersTrouts *AstrosAstrosAngelsAstros
AstrosTrashtrosHalosAngelsMarinersAngels
AngelsElephantsRangersMarinesAstrosMariners
RangersCaptain AhabsKrakenRangersRangersRangers
AthleticsDangersLas VegasAthleticsAthleticsA’s
Julio Rodríguez could help return the Seattle Mariners to the Postseason for the first time in decades. (Abbie Parr/Getty Images)

Have the Astros finally come to the end of their incredible, but controversial, run. George Springer, Carlos Correa, and Zack Greinke are gone. Only Jose Altuve remains. Justin Verlander is back and Kyle Tucker continues to impress. Despite the departures, Houston is still in the hunt for the AL West crown. The Angels are the most difficult team to win team MVP. If Mike Trout stays healthy, he and Shohei Ohtani could be first and second for the American League MVP. The biggest question in Anaheim is can these two talents propel the Angels to the Postseason. 90 wins was not enough for the second Wild Card last season. Despite Seattle’s disappointment and Kyle Seager’s retirement, the young team gained valuable experience. Top prospect Julio Rodriguez will begin the season in Seattle. The Mariners traded for Adam Frazier, Eugenio Suarez, and Jesse Winker. The reigning American League Cy Young winner, Robbie Ray, signed with Seattle. Put these newcomers together with the core already in place and the Postseason drought could finally end. Texas has a beautiful new ballpark and a brand new Double Play combination in Marcus Semien and Corey Seager. The Rangers are still missing almost everything else to be a contender. Texas will be better this season, but will not even contend in the division. The foundation has been laid. Ranger fans need patience, winning will come soon. The Athletics are barely a Major League team. Can you actually name a player left in Oakland? 

National League East

DerekJesseJohnKevinBernieThe Winning Run
BravesBravos *ReigningPhilliesBravesBraves
PhilliesAmazinsPhilliesBravesMetsPhillies
MetsFishMetsMarlinsPhilliesMets
MarlinsPholliesMarlinsMetsMarlinsMarlins
NationalsGnatsNationalsNationalsNationalsNationals
The only thing harder than winning the World Series is repeating, will Ronald Acuna Jr. back can Atlanta return to the Fall Classic. (Kevin C. Cox/ Getty Images)

The Braves will try to repeat after losing Freddie Freeman to the Dodgers. Losing the face of the franchise usually kills any World Series hopes. However, the return of Ronald Acuna Jr, and the best infield in baseball of Ozzie Albies, Dansby Swanson, and Austin Riley should help Matt Olson settle in as Atlanta attempts to defend. The City of Brotherly Love is ready to win. The additions of Kyle Schwarber and Nick Castellanos creates a high powered Phillies offense. They already have a good rotation. If all the pieces click, Philadelphia will be a serious contender. If they do not, it could be a long, ugly season. The Mets are gonna Mets. Despite having Jacob deGrom and Max Scherzer as baseball’s best one two starting pitching punch, the summer boils down to the health of the two aces. Scherzer has a small tweak, while deGrom could miss several months. The season is already hanging in the balance. Derek Jeter is gone. It seems like he walked away after it became clear Miami was not trying to win. The Marlins have their annual roster of good, young players. Year after year Miami has future stars, and this year is no different. The question is will this group, including Sandy Alcantara, mesh together before they are all traded away. The Nationals are rebuilding. They sold off almost everything for prospects. The biggest question in Washington is can the Nationals rebuild fast enough to convince Juan Soto to stay long term. 

National League Central

DerekJesseJohnKevinBernieThe Winning Run
BrewersLittle Red MachineMillerBrewersCardinalsBrewers
CardinalsEt Tu Brew Crew?CardsCardinalsBrewersCardinals
RedsBuccosReds?RedsCubsReds
CubsHarry Caray’sCubsCubsRedsCubs
PiratesThe only one I know is VottoRoster spotPiratesPiratesPirates

The National League Central is the weakest division in baseball. The Pirates, Cubs, and Reds are all rebuilding. The Cardinals are about to begin rebuilding. Only the Brewers are set up for success now and long term. Andrew McCutchen continues playing at a high level and adds more fire power to the Brewers lineup. Milwaukee has the best pitching staff from the rotation through the bullpen in baseball. If Christian Yelich bounces back there may not be a National League team that can stop the Brewers. Cardinals fans have one last season with Albert Pujols, Yadier Molina, and Adam Wainwright. It is more than a goodbye tour. St. Louis can contend for the National League Central crown and make a deep run in October. In baseball’s weakest division, the Reds can still contend. Cincinnati gutted itself. Eugenio Suarez, Jesse Winker, Sonny Gray, Tucker Barnhardt, and Amir Garrett are all gone. Spring Training for Joey Votto was full of new faces, like he was traded to a new team. He has been stuck on bad team after bad team, yet continues to build a possible Hall of Fame resume. The Cubs are at ground zero of their rebuild. The hope of keeping one or two of their championship pieces in Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant, and Javy Baez is dead. They are all gone. The biggest draw on the northside of Chicago will be Wrigley Field. The Cubs are hoping it does not take 108 years to win their next World Series. Maybe the Pirates are rebuilding, but rebuilding means trying to win. 

National League West

DerekJesseJohnKevinBernieThe Winning Run
DodgersMcDoubles *DodgersDodgersDodgersDodgers
GiantsBiggunsPadresGiantsPadresPadres
PadresL7 WeeniesGiantsPadresGiantsGiants
RockiesJohn DenversDiamondsRockiesRockiesRockies
DiamondbacksWhy bother showing upSadnessDiamondbacksDiamondbacksDiamondbacks
Will the San Diego Padres rise to their talents or fall under the pressure again? (Jeff Curry/ Getty Images)

The Dodgers are the George Steinbrenner Yankees without the outspoken owner. They are willing to spend big money to win. They have been one of the best teams over the last several seasons before signing Freddie Freeman. They replaced Kenley Jansen with Craig Kimbrel. Los Angeles is an early World Series favorite for sure. San Diego is easily the team with the most talent in the National League. Fernando Tatis Jr. should be in the MVP conversation every year. Manny Machado is a veteran but has plenty of great years ahead of him. Last season the Padres wilted under the pressure. Can they play with the best teams this season or will they wilt again? Carlos Rodon adds more firepower to the Giants rotation that outpaced the Dodgers in the Regular Season in 2021. Buster Posey’s retirement and Kris Bryant’s departure in free agency hurts, but San Francisco remains dangerous. The New York and now California rivalry is as hot as ever. Kris Bryant should sell tickets. The Rockies are hoping his draw lasts all season, as there is little hope for October in Colorado this season. Rocktober is the shortest month of the year, but it will not happen this year. The puzzling moves by the Rockies Front Office continue. If only Nolan Arenado and Trevor Story still played at Coors Field. Improving is relative in Arizona. If the Diamondbacks can avoid 100 losses in 2022 the season should be considered a success. They locked up Ketel Marte long term, but the Diamondbacks need much more to even reach .500. 

Postseason

The Postseason is the Wild West. The expanded Wild Card means a team can play average all season and then get hot in the last month of the Regular Season. They then carry that hot streak through October to the World Series parade. The beauty of October baseball is its unpredictability. Chaos reigns supreme. 

Can Shohei Ohtani help the Angels make the Postseason? (Wally Skalij/ Los Angeles Times)

American League Wild Card

DerekJesseJohnKevinBernieThe Winning Run
AL Wild Card 1YankeesDaniel TigersChisoxWhite SoxWhite SoxRays
Blue JaysTrashtrosBoSoxTigersTigersAngels
AL Wild Card 2RaysSteve Irwin Hates This TeamJaysRaysYankeesTigers
AstrosEvil EmpireTwinsYankessMarinersAstros

National League Wild Card

DerekJesseJohnKevinBernieThe Winning Run
NL Wild Card 1BravesLittle Red MachineCardsBrewersCardinalsBraves
CardinalsEt Tu Brew CrewPadresPadresGiantsPadres
NL Wild Card 2PhilliesBiggunsBrewersGiantsMetsCardinals
GiantsL7 WeeniesPhilliesBravesPadresPhillies

American League Divisional Series

DerekJesseJohnKevinBernieThe Winning Run
ALDS 1Blue JaysPoutine CommandosYankeesJaysRaysBlue Jays
MarinersTrashtrosJaysRaysTigersRays
ALDS 2RaysTroutsAstrosWhite SoxAngelsWhite Sox
White SoxSteve Irwin Hates This TeamChisoxAstrosYankeesAstros

National League Divisional Series

NLDS 1DerekJesseJohnKevinBernieThe Winning Run
BrewersBravosDodgersDodgersDodgersDodgers
BravesBiggunsBrewersGiantsPadresCardinals
NLDS 2DodgersMcDoublesBravesPhilliesBravesBrewers
GiantsEt Tu Brew CrewCardsBrewersCardinalsBraves

American League Championship Series

DerekJesseJohnKevinBernieThe Winning Run
ALCSBlue JaysPoutine CommandosYankeesRaysRaysWhite Sox
White SoxSteve Irwin Hates This TeamAstrosWhite SoxAngelsRays

National League Championship Series

DerekJesseJohnKevinBernieThe Winning Run
NLCSBrewersBravosBravesDodgersDodgersDodgers
GiantsMcDoublesDodgersPhilliesCardinalsBraves

World Series

World SeriesDerekJesseJohnKevinBernieThe Winning Run
Blue JaysBravosYankessDodgersDodgersWhite Sox
BrewersSteve Irwin Hates This TeamBravesRaysAngelsDodgers
ChampionBlue JaysBravosYankees in 7Dodgers in 6AngelsWhite Sox
Tim Anderson and the White Sox don’t care what you think, they are here to win. (Ron Vesely/MLB Photos via Getty Images)

Congratulations to your 2022 World Series champions, the Chicago White Sox. We are for sure wrong with these predictions. Sure we nailed the Braves winning the 2021 World Series, but that was luck. Time will tell if our luck holds out in 2022. 

Happy Baseball. 

DJ, JJ, JB, BL, and KB