The Cowboy Keeps Riding

Major League umpires do not get every call right. They are not perfect, but they are better at making calls than the fans booing from the stands. Umpires never want to draw attention to themselves. They want to work the game and move on. However, many argue this is not the case for Joe West. We cannot read his mind, but West continues working games partly because he gets the calls right. Whether he seeks the spotlight is open for debate, but this summer the spotlight will seek out Joe West for his longevity. On Opening Day he was just 59 games short of equaling Hall of Famer Bill Klem for most Major League games umpired. 

Umpiring the most games in Major League history is no small feat. Bill Klem set the benchmark by working 5,369 games in his 35 season career. Unlike the modern game, Klem had to negotiate more than balls and strikes, as fans and players would physically assault umpires. He also did not have the protective umpiring equipment used today. Klem began his career with the National League in 1905. It took just four seasons before he worked the first of his record 18 World Series and 103 World Series games. The next closest umpire worked 10 World Series. The Old Arbitrator called five No Hitters, was among the first to use an inside chest protector, to move with the play, call balls and strikes from the slot, and use arm signals when making calls. His work on the field gave dignity and respect to umpiring during the rough and tumble early years of baseball. 

Baseball has changed since Klem worked his final game. He was the last umpire to work exclusively behind the plate. Umpires now rotate each game. Klem retired in 1940, but still worked a few games in 1941 as the National League experimented with the four man crew. He demanded and gave respect, but he was not afraid to literally draw a line in the dirt and eject anyone who crossed it. He ejected a record 251 players and coaches, a nearly untouchable record. He set the tone with 25 ejections his first season and averaged nine ejections in his first seven seasons. Klem worked 88.8% of his games behind the plate from 1905 to 1920. Ultimately calling balls and strikes in 66% of his games, second most behind Hank O’Day’s 68%. After his retirement, Klem worked as the head of National League umpires until his death in 1951. The honor of working the first All Star game in 1933 went to Klem, as was being the first umpire inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, with Tom Connolly, in 1953. Bill Klem created the standard for all umpires to follow. 

Joe West will set an unbreakable record when he passes Bill Klem for most games umpired in Major League history. (Patrick Semansky/ Associated Press)

Comparing umpires is difficult as historical statistics are not available. The easiest way to compare is listening to players, coaches, and other umpires. Speaking candidly, they will tell you how well an umpire does their job. Who has a small strike zone, who is the most consistent, who you can talk with, who you can grab a beer with after the game. 

Joe West has stories to tell. How can you not after working more than 5,300 Major League games. He is in his record setting 44th season as a Major League umpire. He is fiery, does not let players run over him, and some believe he seeks the spotlight. West is never afraid of the big stage, having called his first League Championship Series at 28 years old. He has worked the Wild Card game three times, the Divisional Series eight times, the Championship Series 10 times, and the World Series six times. West’s career has not been without controversy. Manhandling players during fights, ejecting Andre Dawson after which Dawson wrote his $1,000 fine as a “donation to the blind”, and his run in with Jonathan Papelbon have all drawn unwanted attention to West. He began his career with the National League in 1976, but lost two seasons (2000-2001) after resigning as part of the umpires failed negotiating tactics with MLB. His West Vest is a staple for umpires from little league to the Majors. It is the only equipment endorsement deal for any umpire. Not to mention West is known to sing a few country western songs along the way. 

Joe West has had a career like no other. While he has plenty of detractors, West’s experience has helped shape baseball and umpiring in the last four decades. When he surpasses Klem’s record for most games umpired, West will almost certainly possess the title forever. Changes to umpiring and mandatory retirement will prevent others from even approaching Klem or West. Almost no one goes to a baseball game to watch the umpires. Some believe Joe West thinks the fans come to watch him work. Even those of us who do umpire, and enjoy it, pay more attention to the play on the field than the umpires. Umpires are rarely the center of attention for good reasons. As this season progresses and West draws closer to Klem, pay attention to the umpires. They are extremely talented and are some of the best in the world at their chosen profession. No one will ever be like Joe West and baseball is about to have an unbreakable record set by a man who would rather be singing in a bar.

DJ  

United States of Baseball- Idaho

There is more to Idaho than potatoes. The Gem State is full of unspoiled beauty that everyone who enjoys the outdoors should experience. Idaho has also produced 30 Major League players. The greatest pitcher born in the Gem State is Larry Jackson. His 52.56 career WAR ranks him 26th among state and territory pitching leaders. Harmon Killebrew is the greatest position player born in Idaho. His 60.42 career WAR ranks him 33rd among position players. Killebrew is the only Idahoan in the Hall of Fame. Jackson and Killebrew combined to give Idaho 112.98 WAR, 34th most among all states and territories.

Larry Jackson was born in Nampa. The Right Hander pitched 14 seasons in the Majors for three teams: St. Louis Cardinals (1955-1962), Chicago Cubs (1963-1966), and Philadelphia Phillies (1966-1968). In 558 career Games, Jackson made 429 Starts, threw 149 Complete Games, including 37 Shutouts, pitching 3,262.2 Innings, allowing 3,206 Hits, 1,405 Runs, 1,233 Earned Runs, 259 Home Runs, 824 Walks, 1,709 Strikeouts, posting a 194-183 record, 3.40 ERA, 1.235 WHIP, and 113 ERA+. Jackson was a five time All Star and the first from Idaho. 

Jackson’s best season was in 1964 with the Chicago Cubs. In 40 Games, he made 38 Starts, throwing 19 Complete Games, including 3 Shutouts, pitching 297.2 Innings, allowing 265 Hits, 114 Runs, 104 Earned Runs, 17 Home Runs, 58 Walks, 148 Strikeouts, posting a 24-11 record, 3.14 ERA, 1.085 WHIP, and 118 ERA+. He led the National League in Wins. Jackson finished 12th in the MVP voting. He also finished 2nd for the Cy Young award, then given to a single pitcher, not one per league. 

Larry Jackson was just short of elite during his career before turning to politics in retirement. (Belleville News-Democrat)

In Philadelphia, Jackson is most remembered for being part of the trade that sent future Hall of Famer Ferguson Jenkins to the Cubs. Later, the Montreal Expos selected Jackson in their expansion draft. He knew he was close to the end of his career, Jackson wanted to play for a west coast team closer to home. Instead of reporting to Montreal, he retired and returned to Idaho. Jackson served four terms in the Idaho House of Representatives and as the Executive Director of the Idaho Republican Party. He ran for Governor, finishing fourth in the Republican Primary despite campaigning by fellow Idaho players Harmon Killebrew and Vern Law.

Harmon Killebrew struck fear in the hearts of opposing pitchers. The Payette native played 22 seasons for the Washington Senators/ Minnesota Twins (1954-1974) and Kansas City Royals (1975). In his career, Killebrew played in 2,435 Games, collected 2,086 Hits, 290 Doubles, 24 Triples, 573 Home Runs, 1,584 RBI, scored 1,283 Runs, 19 Stolen Bases, 1,559 Walks, 1,699 Strikeouts, .256 BA, .376 OBP, .509 SLG, .884 OPS, and 143 OPS+. Killebrew was a great hitter who opted to forgo hitting for average and use his power to help his team.

The best season of Killebrew’s career was his 1969 MVP season with the Twins. In 162 Games, he collected 153 Hits, 20 Doubles, 2 Triples, 49 Home Runs, 140 RBI, scored 106 Runs, 8 Stolen Bases, 145 Walks, 20 Intentional Walks, 84 Strikeouts, .276 BA, .427 OBP, .584 SLG, 1.011 OPS, and 177 OPS+. He led the American League in Games played, Home Runs, RBI, Walks, OBP, and Intentional Walks. Killebrew season was a terror at the plate. His MVP came in the middle of Killebrew’s five year run where he finished in the top five for the MVP four times. 

Harmon Killebrew terrorized the American League with every swing. (Associated Press)

Killebrew was a 13 time All Star, finished in the top 10 for the MVP six times, won the 1969 American League MVP award, the 10th player to join the 500 Home Run Club, and the first Twins player elected to the Hall of Fame in 1984. He was the first player elected as an All Star at three different positions (Third Base, First Base, and Left Field). Killebrew posted eight 40 Home Runs seasons, second only to Babe Ruth’s 11. Killer had nine 100 RBI seasons and seven 100 walk seasons, leading the Junior Circuit four times in free passes. When he retired Killebrew had the fifth most Home Runs. The legendary slugger became a beloved broadcaster for several teams in retirement. 

Idaho has given baseball several solid players and a Hall of Famer. The Gem State continues building its baseball legacy and hopes to send more players to Cooperstown. Next week the United States of Baseball heads east across the plains to the Land of Lincoln. Illinois is next.

DJ

Yadier Molina Marches On

The Opening Week of the baseball season was full of stories. The All Star Game being pulled from Atlanta, Miguel Cabrera’s Home Run in the snow, Yermin Mercedes going 8 for 8, benches clearing in Cincinnati, Joe Musgrove’s No Hitter, and so much more. What was lost in the excitement is Yadier Molina continues to catch for the Cardinals. 

Molina has made 17 consecutive Opening Day starts for St. Louis, the most for one team. He tails only Ivan Rodriguez and his 20 consecutive Opening Day starts, but Rodriguez started for multiple teams during his Hall of Fame career. Making 17 consecutive Opening Day starts is an impressive feat, as only a select few players remain in the Majors for close to two decades. Every position has its own demands, but none demand more than catcher. The toll from squatting alone is enough to shorten plenty of careers. Then add in the abuse from blocking balls in the dirt, getting hit by foul balls, and rocked by bats on the follow through. Baseball did change the rules about running into the catcher, but Molina survived the first half of his career before Rule 7.13, the Buster Posey Rule, was instituted. Beyond the physical abuse, catchers also have the added responsibility of calling pitches. Catchers are a different breed. 

Yadier Molina is on a one way trip to Cooperstown. (Orlando Ramirez- USA TODAY Sports)

Surviving the abuse has not made Molina timid. He never shies away from confrontation when he feels it is necessary. Molina came to the aid of his pitcher as Cincinnati’s Nick Castellanos stood over Jake Woodford after scoring on a Wild Pitch. It is not the first time Molina has defended his team against the Reds. He confronted Brandon Phillips after the Cincinnati second baseman had some less than flattering things to say about the Cardinals. That confrontation sparked an all out brawl. Molina is willing to fight anyone who disrespects him or his team, including Diamondbacks Manager Torey Lovullo. The St. Louis catcher never backs down. 

There are numerous other examples of Molina standing up for himself and his team. He may not be loved across baseball, but every team wishes he had spent his career wearing their uniform. He remains a master of his craft in what could be his final season. Yadier Molina’s record setting Opening Day start did not garner all the headlines, but it is another line on his Hall of Fame resume.

DJ

United States of Baseball- Hawaii

Baseball may not be the top priority for visitors to Hawaii. However, the game is alive and well on the islands. The Aloha State has produced 47 Major League players, but it is still waiting for its first Hall of Famer. Despite no representation in Cooperstown, Hawaii has produced several great players. Charlie Hough is the greatest pitcher born in Hawaii. His 39.03 career WAR ranks as the 40th highest among all state and territory leaders. Shane Victorino is the greatest position player born in Hawaii. His 31.46 career WAR is the 46th highest among position player leaders. Their combined 70.49 WAR ranks Hawaii 43rd among all states and territories. 

Charlie Hough was born in Honolulu and pitched for 25 seasons in the Majors. The Right Handed knuckleballer pitched for four teams: Los Angeles Dodgers (1970-1980), Texas Rangers (1980-1990), Chicago White Sox (1991-1992), and Florida Marlins (1993-1994). In his quarter century on a Major League mound, Hough pitched in 858 Games, made 440 Starts, Finished 240 Games, threw 107 Complete Games, including 13 Shutouts, 61 Saves, pitched 3,801.1 Innings, allowed 3,282 Hits, 1,807 Runs, 1,582 Earned Runs, 383 Home Runs, 1,665 Walks, 2,362 Strikeouts, posting a 216-216 record, 3.75 ERA, 1.302 WHIP, and 106 ERA+. His lone All Star selection was in 1986. 

1984 was the best season of Hough’s career. In 36 Starts for the Rangers, he threw 17 Complete Games, including 1 Shutout, pitching 266 Innings, allowing 260 Hits, 127 Runs, 111 Earned Runs, 26 Home Runs, 94 Walks, 164 Strikeouts, posting a 16-14 record, 3.76 ERA, 1.331 WHIP, and 110 ERA+.  He led the American League in Starts, Complete Games, and Hits allowed. While his season was not eye popping, Hough’s knuckleball kept batting guessing every time he took the mound. 

Charlie Hough’s knuckleball could confuse batters and catcher alike. (Fpcus on Sports/ Getty Images)

Catching a knuckleball can be impossible on certain days. It flutters, dips, and dives. Geno Petralli can attest to his own personal disdain for Charlie Hough’s knuckleball. Hough’s career was prolonged by throwing the knuckleball and expansion. His final two seasons were spent in south Florida, a climate not all too different from his native Hawaii. Hough took the mound for the inaugural game in Marlins history on April 5, 1993 in a 6-3 win over the Dodgers. The Marlins began their history as Hough wound down his career as baseball’s last active player born in the 1940’s. 

Not every career lasts a quarter century. Shane Victorino played 12 seasons for five teams: San Diego Padres (2003), Philadelphia Phillies (2005-2012), Los Angeles Dodgers (2012), Boston Red Sox (2013-2015), and Los Angeles Angels (2015). The Wailuku born outfielder was a switch hitter until injuries forced him to bat only from the right side in the last few seasons of his career. Victorino was twice a Rule 5 Draft pick. The Padres took him in the Rule 5 Draft from the Dodgers in 2002. He made his debut with San Diego, but was returned to Los Angeles in late May as he struggled with the Padres. Two years later the Phillies took Victorino in the Rule 5 Draft. He did not make the Philadelphia roster and was offered back to Los Angeles. The Dodgers declined, so he reported to the Phillies’ Triple A team. Philadelphia would love the results. 

In his career, Victorino played in 1,299 Games, collected 1,274 Hits, 231 Doubles, 70 Triples, 108 Home Runs, 489 RBI, scored 731 Runs, 231 Stolen Bases, 381 Walks, 626 Strikeouts, .275 BA, .340 OBP, .425 SLG, .765 OPS, and 102 OPS+. Victorino primarily patrolled Centerfield. In 1,219 Games, he played 10,026.1 Innings, had 2,704 Chances, 2,613 Putouts, 76 Assists, committed 15 Errors, and turned 23 Double Plays. His .994 FLD% was well above the league average .986 FLD%, which combined with his above average Range (2.41 RF9 vs 2.20 lgRF9), resulted in a 34 Rtot. Victorino helped his team score and prevented the opposition from scoring. His relentless effort on the diamond earned him two All Star games (2009 and 2011), two World Series rings (2008 Phillies and 2013 Red Sox), and four Gold Gloves (2008-2010, 2013).

Shane Victorino was a key part of the Phillies 2008 World Series victory. (Ron Cortes/ Staff Photographer- Philadelphia Inquirer)

Victorino’s best season was his 2009 campaign with the Phillies. In 156 Games, he collected 181 Hits, 39 Doubles, 13 Triples, 10 Home Runs, 62 RBI, scored 102 Runs, 25 Stolen Bases, 60 Walks, 71 Strikeouts, .292 BA, .358 OBP, .445 SLG, .803 OPS, and 110 OPS+. He led the National League in Triples, was an All Star, won his second Gold Glove, and finished 18th in MVP voting. 

Victorino was a great player on and off the field. He won the 2008 Lou Gehrig Memorial Award. The annual award is given by the Phi Delta Theta Fraternity to honor the MLB player who best exemplifies the spirit and character of Lou Gehrig on and off the field. Victorino also won the 2011 Branch Rickey Award, which was given annually to a member of a MLB organization in recognition of their exceptional community service. Victorino appeared on the 2021 Hall of Fame ballot. While he did not receive any votes, it is still an honor to have your name on the ballot. 

Hawaii is more than a tropical paradise, it produces solid Major League players. The Aloha State is critical to baseball’s success. Next week the United States of Baseball returns to the mainland. The Gem State is next, Idaho. 

DJ

Predictions Sure To Go Wrong 7.0

Baseball is back. The 162 game Regular Season grind is back. So too is the unpredictability of the season. No single player can dominate so completely that they carry their team to a World Series title. Baseball is different, the best player does not always come to bat with the game on the line. The Angels would love to send Mike Trout to the plate in every big moment, but that is not how baseball works. The game is back to normal and if we know anything our predictions will foretell what will not happen this season. Your guess is as good as ours for the 2021 season.

American League East

DerekJesseJohn Moving Co.KevinBernieThe Winning Run
YankeesGod’s Waiting RoomYankeesYankeesYankeesYankees
RaysSpankiesDudein JaysRaysPoutineRays
Snow BirdsSorrysDevil RaysFlorida BirdsRaysBlue Jays
Red SoxBaltimoreSad BirdsRed SuxRacistsRed Sox
Dead BirdSoxFenwaysBmoreOh DearOrioles

The American League East is the Yankees to lose. Gerrit Cole makes any team better, but New York signed him to be the workhorse in October. If the training staff can keep the pinstripes healthy the rest of the division is in trouble. The Tampa Bay Rays seemed to get worse by trading away Blake Snell. However, it is hard to count the Rays out as they seem to find underrated players who exceed expectations and put Tampa in the thick of the Postseason race. The biggest question for Tampa is will they have a World Series hangover. The Toronto Blue Jays could be snow birds for the entire season. There has been no official word on when the team can return to Canada. They will play their home games in Dunedin, Florida for the foreseeable future. Cavan Biggio, Bo Bichette, and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. will provide plenty of excitement wherever they play. The Red Sox traded away Andrew Benintendi and lost Jackie Bradley Jr. to the Brewers in free agency to complete the teardown of one of the most exciting outfields in recent memory. Boston fans are still excited about the financial flexibility the Mookie Betts trade gave them. Baltimore is a great baseball town. The Orioles are in the middle of a painful rebuild. They will not contend this season, but Baltimore is on the rise…finally.

American League Central

DerekJesseJohn Moving Co.KevinBernieThe Winning Run
Black SoxTwinkiesChiSoxChiSoxTwinsWhite Sox
TwinkiesSouth SidersTwinkletittesTwinklesWhite SoxTwins
MonarchsTeam to be named laterQuarter PoundersClevelandRoyalsRoyals
SpidersTigersCleveland Footbal teamRoyalsSpidersSpiders
Motor City KittiesMonarchsDetroit Why Am I HeresTigersTigersTigers

The South Side of Chicago will have plenty of fireworks. The reigning American League MVP in Jose Abreu. The always exciting Tim Anderson. A pitching staff that can compete with any team in baseball. Can Tony La Russa harness Chicago’s potential or will a clash between old school and new school derail the White Sox. The Minnesota Twins continue to be a great Regular Season team. Their signing of Andrelton Simmons might be the most underrated free agent move of the offseason. Can they figure out a winning formula in October? Kansas City has quietly built a solid team on a budget. Signing and trading for Mike Minor, Andrew Benintendi, and Carlos Santana with Whit Merrifield and Salvador Perez already on the roster will create plenty of wins for the Royals. Is it enough to compete with the White Sox and Twins for the division? Cleveland could be a very good team, but in a tough division good is not good enough. They still have Jose Ramirez and Shane Bieber, but the team needs more if they want to contend. The Detroit Tigers continue rebuilding. Miguel Cabrera’s continued ascent up the record books will draw fans. Wins will be difficult to come by, but the Tigers have a bright future ahead, but Detroit should not expect a trip to the Postseason in 2021.

Tim Anderson is never boring on the diamond. (www.si.com)

American League West

DerekJesseJohn Moving Co.KevinBernieThe Winning Run
MoneyballWhite ElephantsLA’s other teamA’sBeane BallersAthletics
TroutHouston Astr-hosMoneyballTrash CansAngelsAngels
Trash CansAngelsCheatersAngelsCheatersAstros
Ranger DangerNolan Ryan Hot DogsSea hagsStarbucksMarinersMariners
MarinersGriffey Used to Play HereAgent ZerosChuck NorrisRangersRangers

Could this be the year the Astros lose their grip on the division? George Springer is gone and Justin Verlander is out with Tommy John surgery. Houston is still a competitive team, but the division is catching up. Bang the trash can slowly. Oakland has a dynamic duo in Matt Olson and Matt Chapman. The young and hungry A’s are built to compete and the team is posed to deliver. Mike Trout deserves better. The best player in baseball for almost a decade has been stuck in Los Angeles as the Angels keep turning potential into disappointment. Shohei Ohtani is healthy and Albert Pujols can still hit. The Angels owe it to Mike Trout to finally deliver him to the Postseason, but he cannot do it alone. This was not the offseason Seattle wanted. The ire of an entire sport focused on the stupidity spewed by their now former President and CEO about the team’s young talent has not set the team up for success. The Mariners have not played in October since 2001. Seattle has drafted and signed prospects that appear set to be the future stars for the Mariners. The Robinson Cano signing told Seattle it cannot rely on a single player with a monster contract. Lesson learned, they are a few seasons away from winning. It will be a long hot summer in Texas. The Rangers have some good pieces, but not enough to matter. At least their new stadium has a roof so the players and fans do not cook in the Texas heat. 

National League East

DerekJesseJohn Moving Co.KevinBernieThe Winning Run
BravesBravosAtlanta BallclubBravesBravosBravos
MetsGnatsCohensMarlinsMetsMets
NatsFishFlorida FishMetsMarlinsMarlins
MarlinsAmazins2019 ChampsNatsNationalsNats
PhanaticsPholliesSad HarpersPhilliesPhilliesPhillies

The National League East is the toughest division in baseball. Atlanta was 1 game away from the World Series last year. Instead of hoping for better results the Braves got better by signing Charlie Morton and will get Mike Soroka back from his torn Achilles. Their offense is led by reigning National League MVP Freddie Freeman and future MVP Ronald Acuna Jr. The Amazin’s are a force to reckon with, especially after adding Francisco Lindor, Marcus Stroman, Carlos Carrasco, and Taijuan Walker. The question is can the Mets win enough. The Marlins have finally built a team internally. Miami bought two World Series championships but those were short term successes followed by fire sales and long rebuilds. The young Marlins will be fun to watch and are building towards October. The Nationals may have the best rotation in baseball. The keys for Washington are keeping everyone healthy and can the offense, besides Juan Soto, keep up with the pitching. Philadelphia has Bryce Harper, but one player cannot put an entire team on his back. The Phillies will be good, but in a deep division they could be the best last place team in baseball. 

National League Central

DerekJesseJohn Moving Co.KevinBernieThe Winning Run
Red BirdsCincy…..why not?ArenadosMiller TimeCardinalsCardinals
Red LegsCardsDrink pretty goodCardinalsBrewersBrewers
Brew CrewBrewcroodsShitcagoRedsCubsReds
Teddy BearsBuccarooniesCincincincin…..CubbiesRedsCubs
Burn the ShipsNorthsidersNice stadiumsBonds’ ex-gfJack SparrowsPirates

Yadier Molina is an ageless wonder. 17 seasons behind the plate for the Cardinals and he is still among the best catchers in baseball. St. Louis is set at the corners with Paul Goldschmidt and the nearly acquired Nolan Arenado. The Central crown runs through St. Louis. Milwaukee got better by signing Kolten Wong away from their divisional rival Cardinals. The Brewers are one of the more underrated teams in baseball and have a real chance at the Postseason in an already tight division. Cincinnati made it back to the Postseason in the shortened 2020 season. The Reds have the pitching and offense to return this season. The division may be too difficult to win, but the Wild Card is within reach. This could be the final season of Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant, and Javier Baez at Wrigley. Looming free agency makes it nearly impossible for Chicago to retain all three players long term. The Cubs will be good, but change is coming. The Pirates are barely a Major League team. It was a little surprising MLB did not cull them with the other Minor League teams this winter. They have a projected team payroll of $46 million, with nearly a quarter of it tied to Gregory Polanco. Ke’Bryan Hayes provides hope for the future but the Postseason is out of the question.

Traded to St. Louis with $50 million, Nolan Arenado will finally play for a winning team. (Getty Images)

National League West

DerekJesseJohn Moving Co.KevinBernieThe Winning Run
DodgersYou want a hot apple pie with that?BettsDodgersPadresDodgers
DaddyThe over hyped LA teamPadresPadresScullysPadres
SnakesSILVER BULLET!!!!!!!!GentsGiantsRattlersGiants
Jolly GreensScam Fram BricsoQuarterbacksDbacksGiantsDiamonbacks
Rockie Mt HighI’m a snakeIt Smoke Pretty GoodRockiesRock BottomsRockies

The reigning and defending World Series champions will return to October, but can they fend off the Padres. The championship team is back and will continue racking up wins. Clayton Kershaw is no longer the only pitcher Los Angeles can depend on in the Postseason, the Dodgers should make a deep run to defend their crown. San Diego is built for success now and in the future. Fernando Tatis Jr., Eric Hosmer, Manny Machado, and Chris Paddack are tough to beat every time they take the field. The race for the West will be fun to watch. The gap between the top and bottom of the division is huge. Few teams were as high as the Giants a decade ago, but that is the past now. The rebuild continues in the back end of Buster Posey’s career. How long will he continue playing is unknown, but he is already a San Francisco legend. Arizona is not a bad team, but can they compete with the titans on the coast? The Diamondbacks have plenty of good players, including an underrated Ketel Marte, but they lack a superstar to compete in October. The Rockies managed to enrage their entire fanbase with a single move, trading away Nolan Arenado. Every team makes tough roster decisions, but Colorado decided it was best to rid themselves of the best Third Baseman in baseball and keep a General Manager that has not shown any ability to put a winning team on the field. Yes Trevor Story is still on the team, but his impending free agency will see him shipped out before the season is over. Once Story is gone what is left to build around? Get ready for a long and brutal rebuild Colorado fans.  

Postseason

The Poseseason is a roll of the dice. A team can come in hot and suddenly turn cold and be gone. A team struggling can suddenly find their footing and go on a tear. The beauty of October baseball is that it is more unpredictable than the Regular Season.

American League Wild Card

DerekJesseJohn Moving Co.KevinBernieThe Winning Run
AL Wild CardRaysYankeesJaysRaysWhite SoxTwins
TwinsSouthsidersRaysTwinklesBlue JaysRays

National League Wild Card

DerekJesseJohn Moving Co.KevinBernieThe Winning Run
MetsGnatsPadresMarlinsDodgersPadres
PadresThe over hyped LA teamMetsPadresMetsBrewers

American League Divisional Series 

DerekJesseJohn Moving Co.KevinBernieThe Winning Run
RaysWhite ElephantsYankeesYankeesAthleticsYankees
Black SoxSouthsidersSoxRaysWhite SoxRays
YankeesTwinkiesAsA’sYankeesA’s
MoneyballGod’s Waiting RoomJaysChiSoxTwinsWhite Sox

National League Divisional Series

DerekJesseJohn Moving Co.KevinBernieThe Winning Run
DodgersBravosDodgersDodgersBravosDodgers
PadresGnatsCincyPadresDodgersPadres
BravesCincy…..why not?PadresBravesCardinalsBraves
CardinalsYou want a hot apple pie with that?CardsMiller TimePadresCardinals

American League Championship Series

DerekJesseJohn Moving Co.KevinBernieThe Winning Run
Black SoxWhite ElephantsYankeesYankeesYankeesYankees
RaysTwinkiesChiSoxChiSoxWhite SoxWhite Sox

National League Championship Series

DerekJesseJohn Moving Co.KevinBernieThe Winning Run
BravesBravosDodgersBravesCardinalsBraves
PadresYou want a hot apple pie with that?PadresPadresBravesPadres

World Series

DerekJesseJohn Moving Co.KevinBernieThe Winning Run
Black SoxBravosYankeesYankeesCardinalsBraves
BravesTwinkiesDodgersBravesYankeesYankees
BravesBravosYankeesYankeesCardinalsBraves

Congratulations to the 2021 World Series Champions, the Atlanta Braves. We will find out just how wrong our predictions were in October. None of us have high hopes that we were right. Happy Opening Day!

Ronald Acuna Jr. and Ozzie Albies will lead the Braves to the World Series. (New York Times)

DJ, JJ, JB, BL, and KB

United States of Baseball- Guam

Guam sits 4,000 miles west of Hawaii and 2,500 miles east of the Philippines. It is an unlikely place to produce MLB players, yet the island has sent two players to the Majors. Sean Reid-Foley is the greatest and only pitcher born in Guam. His 0.0 WAR ranks 55th and last among all state and territory leaders. John Hattig is the best and only position player born in Guam. His 0.3 WAR is 55th and last among all leaders. Their combined 0.3 WAR ranks Guam 55th and last for among all states and territories. 

Sean Reid-Foley is the only Major League pitcher born in Guam. The Agana Heights native debuted on August 13, 2018 along with his catcher Danny Jansen. They were the first battery mates to debut in the same game since 1967. He pitched three seasons for the Toronto Blue Jays (2018-2020) before he was traded to the New York Mets in January. In his career, Reid-Foley has appeared in 21 Games, making 13 Starts, pitching 71.2 Innings, allowing 67 Hits, 46 Runs, 35 Earned Runs, 11 Home Runs, 48 Walks, 76 Strikeouts, posting a 5-8 record, 4.40 ERA, 1.605 WHIP, and 101 ERA+. Reid-Foley’s best season with Toronto was 2019. He appeared in 9 Games, making 6 Starts, pitching 31.2 Innings, allowing 33 Hits, 20 Runs, 15 Earned Runs, 5 Home Runs, 21 Walks, 28 Strikeouts, posting a 2-4 record, 4.26 ERA, 1.705 WHIP, and 107 ERA+. Hopefully Reid-Foley enjoys a long and successful career pitching in Queens. 

Sean Reid-Foley could emerge as a solid Major League pitcher in Queens after an off season trade. (The Toronto Star)

John Hattig is the only Major League position player born in Guam. The Third Baseman was born in Tamuning and was the first Guamanian to play in MLB. Hattig played one season with the Toronto Blue Jays. He debuted on August 19, 2006. In his lone season in the Majors, he played in 13 Games, collecting 8 Hits, 1 Double, 3 RBI, 2 Runs scored, 5 Walks, 8 Strikeouts, .333 BA, .448 OBP, .375 SLG, .823 OPS, and 117 OPS+. Defensively Hattig appeared in 10 Games, making 7 Starts, playing 2 Complete Games, 63 Innings, with 18 Chances, 4 Putouts, 14 Assists, 0 Errors, and turning 1 Double Play.

John Hattig had a brief, but success career with the Blue Jays. (www.bleacherreport.com)

Despite his short career, Hattig had a day to remember on September 13. The Blue Jays were in Seattle to play the Mariners. Playing Third and batting eighth, Hattig helped bulldoze the Mariners in a 10-0 Toronto win. In his first At Bat in the 2nd Inning Hattig Walked. In the 4th he came up with the bases loaded and laced a bases clearing Double scoring Gregg Zaun, Adam Lind, and Aaron Hill. These were the only 3 RBI of his career. He later scored on a Reed Johnson Single. In the 5th he drew another Walk. In the 7th he Singled. In his final At Bat in the 9th he Struck Out swinging. Hattig went 2 for 3, 1 Double, 3 RBI, 1 Run scored, 2 Walks, and 1 Strikeout. A great day for any player.

No member of the Hall of Fame is from Guam. The island may continue producing MLB players, but the journey to the Majors is long and difficult. Next week, the United States of Baseball heads east to the Aloha State, Hawaii.

DJ

United States of Baseball- Georgia

Major League Baseball continues to see a steady stream of players from Georgia. The warm weather for much of the year combined with the Braves dynasty in the 1990’s and early 2000’s created a generation of baseball crazed players and fans. The Peach State has sent 390 players to MLB. The Hall of Fame has welcomed six Georgia natives: Ty Cobb, Josh Gibson, Johnny Mize, Jackie Robinson, Bill Terry, and Frank Thomas. Kevin Brown is the greatest pitcher from the Peach State. His career 68.21 WAR ranks 20th among all state and territory leaders. Ty Cobb is the greatest position player. His career 151.02 WAR is the 4th highest among position players. Brown and Cobb’s combined 219.23 WAR ranks Georgia 9th highest among all states and territories.

Kevin Brown was born in Milledgeville. He played 19 seasons in the Majors for six teams: Texas Rangers (1986, 1988-1994), Baltimore Orioles (1995), Florida Marlins (1996-1997), San Diego Padres (1998), Los Angeles Dodgers (1999-2003), and New York Yankees (2004-2005). On the mound, Brown pitched in 486 Games, making 476 Starts, throwing 72 Complete Games, 17 Shutouts, pitching 3,256.1 Innings, allowing 3,079 Hits, 1,357 Runs, 1,185 Earned Runs, 208 Home Runs, 901 Walks, 2,397 Strikeouts, posting a 211-144 record, 3.28 ERA, 1.222 WHIP, and 127 ERA+. Opposing hitters knew they were in for a rough day with Brown pitching. 

Kevin Brown throws the ball to San Francisco batter William VanLandingham during his No Hitter against the Giants. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

Brown’s elite pitching earned him six All Star selections, the 1997 World Series, and two ERA titles (1996 and 2000). He finished sixth in the 1989 National League Rookie of the Year voting. He finished in the top six for Cy Young voting five times (1992- 6th, 1996- 2nd, 1998- 3rd, 1999- 6th, and 2000- 6th). He threw a No Hitter against the Giants in 1997. A year later, Brown’s success on the mound saw him rewarded with the then largest contract in MLB history. He signed a seven year free agent contract with the Dodgers for $105 million. It was baseball’s first $100+ million contract. He appeared on the Hall of Fame ballot in 2011. He received 2.1% of the vote, failing to reach the minimum 5% to remain on the ballot. 

Unquestionably, Brown’s best season was in 1996 with the Florida Marlins. In 32 Starts, he threw 5 Complete Games, including 3 Shutouts, pitched 233 Innings, allowed 187 Hits, 60 Runs, 49 Earned Runs, 8 Home Runs, 33 Walks, 159 Strikeouts, posted a 17-11 record, 1.89 ERA, 0.944 WHIP, and 215 ERA+.  Brown led the National League in ERA, WHIP, and ERA+. He was an All Star, finished second for the Cy Young award, and 22nd for the MVP. Kevin Brown was outstanding and was among the National League’s best in 1996. 

No player was ever more fanatical about baseball than Ty Cobb. He was born in Narrows and played 24 seasons for the Detroit Tigers (1905-1926) and Philadelphia Athletics (1927-1928). In 3,034 career Games he collected 4,189 Hits, 724 Doubles, 295 Triples, 117 Home Runs, 1,944 RBI, scored 2,245 Runs, 897 Stolen Bases, 1,249 Walks, 680 Strikeouts, .366 BA, .433 OBP, .512 SLG, .944 OPS, 168 OPS+, and 5,854 Total Bases. When he retired, Cobb held the record for most Hits, Stolen Bases, and BA. Both Hits and Stolen Bases have since been surpassed, but his record .366 BA seems untouchable.

Ty Cobb was a ferocious competitor, who would do anything to win. (National Baseball Hall of Fame)

Cobb is perhaps the greatest hitter of all time. He hit over .400 three times. He won 12 Batting Titles in 13 seasons, including nine straight. He led the American League in Hits eight times and collected at least 200 Hits nine times. He led the league in Doubles three times. He hit at least 30 Doubles in 15 seasons and at least 40 Doubles in four seasons. Cobb led the league in Triples four times, legging out at least 10 Triples in 17 seasons, and at least 20 in four seasons. He had seven 100 RBI seasons, leading the American League four times. He led the Junior Circuit in Stolen Bases six times with nine seasons of at least 50 Steals. Cobb was the premier player of his era, winning the 1909 Triple Crown (9 HR, 107 RBI, .377 BA). In 1936, the Baseball Hall of Fame announced its first class: Babe Ruth, Honus Wagner, Christy Mathewson, Walter Johnson, and Ty Cobb. It was Cobb, not Ruth, who received the most votes, with 98.2% for induction into Cooperstown.

Selecting the greatest individual season of Cobb’s career is nearly impossible. He was consistently brilliant. Examining his MVP 1911 season with the Tigers seems the most appropriate. In 146 Games, he collected 248 Hits, 47 Doubles, 24 Triples, 8 Home Runs, 127 RBI, scored 148 Runs, 83 Stolen Bases, 44 Walks, 42 Strikeouts, .419 BA, .466 OBP, .620 SLG, 1.086 OPS, 196 OPS+, and 367 Total Bases. Cobb led the league in Runs scored, Hits, Doubles, Triples, RBI, Stolen Bases, BA, SLG, OPS, OPS+, and Total Bases. He won the first American League MVP award. He finished 7th in 1912, 20th in 1913, and 14th in 1914 after which the award was discontinued. The MVP returned to the Junior Circuit in 1922, but previous winners were ineligible to win again. It is not difficult to imagine the Georgia Peach winning at least five MVP awards if he was eligible. 

Georgia continues to send great players to the Majors every year. The state shows no sign of slowing down. Next week the United States of Baseball goes west, really far west to the  Land of the Chamorro. Guam is next. 

DJ

Roberto Clemente- A Career on the Diamond

Few players possess the skill and grace on a baseball field like Roberto Clemente. His cannon for an arm in Right Field combined with his ability to hit the ball place him among baseball’s elite. There are players with better stats, although not many. However the numbers Clemente produced during his 18 seasons with the Pittsburgh Pirates are impressive. 

Clemente struck fear in the hearts of opposing teams every time he stepped in the batter’s box. They knew their only hope was to limit the damage. In 2,433 career Games, Clemente came to the plate 10,212 times, collected 3,000 Hits, including 440 Doubles, 166 Triples, 240 Home Runs, 1,305 RBI, scored 1,416 Runs, 83 Stolen Bases, drew 621 Walks, 167 Intentional Walks, 1,230 Strikeouts, .317 BA, .359 OBP, .475 SLG, .834 OPS, 130 OPS+, and 4,492 Total Bases. He produced a 71.5 oWAR. Baseball is a difficult game, and Clemente with a bat only made it harder for pitchers.  

There are plenty of players who play half the game. They excel at the plate, but are a liability in the field. Clemente is not among them. In 2,373 Games, primarily in Right Field, he played 20,514.1 Innings, had 5,108 Chances, made 4,697 Putouts, 269 Assists, 142 Errors, 42 Double Plays, with .972 FLD%,  2.18 RF/9, and 205 Rtot. His FLD% was below the .976 league average, however his Range was above the 2.12 league average. While he did commit a few more errors, Clemente reached more balls than other Right Fielders, turning hits into outs. His skill in the outfield resulted in a career 12.2 dWAR. Clemente was an asset, not a liability in the field.

It is difficult to summarize an entire career in a few stats. There is so much more to Clemente’s career than numbers. Watching him throw out runners from the outfield and launch baseballs with his bat was awe inspiring. He won plenty of awards for his elite play. Clemente, like every player, went through hot streaks. He won the National League Player of the Month award three times (May 1960- .336 BA, May 1967- .400 BA, and July 1969- .418 BA). He was a 15 time All Star (1960-1967, 1969-1972), playing in both All Star games in both 1960 and 1961. Clemente helped the Pirates win the 1971 World Series, hitting .414 in the Series. He was named World Series MVP and won the National League Babe Ruth award for the best Postseason performance. He won 12 consecutive Gold Gloves from 1961 to 1972. He won four Batting Titles: 1961, 1964, 1965, and 1967. He finished in the top 10 in MVP voting eight times, winning in 1966. After his tragic death, the Hall of Fame waived the five year waiting period and inducted him in 1973 in a Special Election. Clemente was a giant among his contemporaries. Few players reach the same rarified air. 

Roberto Clemente was an all time great on the diamond. A skilled batter with a cannon for an arm. (www.pbslearningmedia.org)

Baseball has changed in the nearly 50 years since Clemente last graced the diamond. He was great in his era, but does he stack up against players from every era? Simply put, yes. Clemente still ranks 30th in career Singles, 27th in Triples, and 91st in Extra Base Hits. He drew the 37th most Intentional Walks. He collected the 51st most Total Bases and has the 83rd most Times on Base. Collectively this gives Clemente the 58th highest oWAR. The offensive explosion in recent decades has not ousted Clemente from near the top of the offensive record book. He also remains near the top on defense. He turned the 58th most Double Plays by an Outfielder, made the 38th most Putouts, and 17th most Outfield Assists. Clemente is one of the greatest defensive Right Fielders ever. He turned the 10th most Double Plays by a Right Fielder and is second in both Putouts and Assists. Combining Clemente’s elite bat and glove gives him the 25th highest career WAR

It is impossible to properly explain how great Roberto Clemente was as a player. His stats stand up to the test of time. He remains among the greatest players ever a half century after his death. He is a Hall of Famer and deserved to have his #21 retired by the Pirates. MLB should highlight his accomplishments whenever possible, yet for all of his greatness on the field he was a better man off of it. It is time to retire #21 across baseball.

DJ

Drafting In The Ether

Life is better with friends. Covid has reinforced that humans are social creatures. Technology allows us to stay connected through phone calls and video, but there is no replacement for in person interactions. It appears the 2021 season is on track to return the baseball world to normal. Part of our baseball season is fantasy baseball. As I have said before, fantasy is what you make of it and we use it to broaden our knowledge and love of the game. 

We cancelled our 2020 in person draft hosted by our distinguished reigning champion Bernie at the last minute. He will host our next in person draft, hopefully in 2022. We did a traditional online draft again this year. Like so much during the Pandemic everyone joined a video call to talk and make fun of each other’s picks. Unfortunately with the online draft Jesse could only select each player once, definitely a flaw in the system. Despite this we carried on. Our stance on PEDs has not changed. Any player suspended for using PEDs is ineligible for our league and there are penalties if they play in a game. We had three dirty players selected this year which was met with laughter and then cursing by the person who drafted them. It is always great to see your opponent waste a draft pick. This is the beauty of social events like a fantasy baseball draft, any mistake and you are instantly mocked. The same is true when within an hour of the draft a player, Austin Nola, breaks a finger. Baseball is brutal. 

Fantasy baseball is a social event. Your team could win or be terrible. Regardless it is still a fun way to follow baseball with friends. We decided to make our fantasy league ridiculous in 2020, because we were not sure if the real season would last. This season we returned to a more normal points system. However we did keep the craziness in our upside down league so chaos can continue to run wild. Hopefully the chaos is confined to fantasy this year and not the actual season. 

I love fantasy baseball. I am excited for baseball, in all forms, to return to our daily lives. Covid has changed so much, something as meaningless as fantasy baseball can go a long way in getting you through the final stretch, hopefully, of this pandemic. I just need my team to stay healthy and not suck.

DJ

United States of Baseball- Florida

Few states can rival Florida in producing baseball players. Warm weather year round allows players to continuously play and improve. The Sunshine State has sent 576 players to the Major Leagues. It has also produced eight Hall of Famers: Steve Carlton, Andre Dawson, Chipper Jones, Tony La Russa, Pop Lloyd, Al Lopez, Alex Pompez, and Tim Raines. Two of those players in Cooperstown represent the best of Florida on the diamond. Steve Carlton is the greatest pitcher born in Florida. His 90.18 career WAR is the 12th highest among pitching leaders. Chipper Jones is the greatest position player. His 85.27 WAR is the 16th highest among state and territory leaders. Their Combined 175.45 WAR ranks Florida 14th highest among all states and territories. 

Steve Carlton was born in Miami and became one of the most dominant pitchers in baseball history. Lefty pitched 24 seasons in the Majors for six teams: St. Louis Cardinals (1965-1971), Philadelphia Phillies (1972-1986), San Francisco Giants (1986), Chicago White Sox (1986), Cleveland Indians (1987), and Minnesota Twins (1987-1988). In his career, Carlton pitched in 741 Games, made 709 Starts, threw 254 Complete Games, including 55 Shutouts, in 5,217.2 Innings, allowing 4,672 Hits, 2,130 Runs, 1,864 Earned Runs, 414 Home Runs, 1,833 Walks, 4,136 Strikeouts, posting a 329-244 record, 3.22 ERA, 1.247 WHIP, and 115 ERA+. He led the National League in Wins four times and won 20 Games five times. Carlton’s 329 Wins are the second most by a left handed pitcher, trailing only Warren Spahn. He was a 10 time All Star, won four Cy Young awards (1972, 1977, 1980, and 1982), two World Series (1967, 1980), a Gold Glove, an ERA Title, the 1972 pitching Triple Crown, briefly held the record foremost career Strikeouts, and was a first ballot Hall of Famer. 

Steve Carlton willed himself to dominant with the 1972 Phillies. (www.thatballsouttahere.com)

After beginning his career with the Cardinals, Carlton was traded to the basement dwelling Phillies after a salary dispute in the wake of Curt Flood’s refusal to accept a trade to Philadelphia. The Cardinals saved a few dollars, but the anger propelled Carlton to his best season in 1972, his first with the Phillies. Philadelphia finished the season 59-97. Carlton carried the team every time he took the mound. He made 41 Starts, threw 30 Complete Games, including 8 Shutouts, pitched 346.1 Innings, allowed 257 Hits, 84 Runs, 76 Earned Runs, 17 Home Runs, 87 Walks, 310 Strikeouts, posted a 27-10 record, 1.97 ERA, 0.993 WHIP, and 182 ERA+. He accounted for 46% of Philadelphia’s wins and led the league in Starts, Complete Games, Wins, ERA, Strikeouts, Innings Pitched, Hits allowed, and ERA+. He was an All Star, the unanimous pick for the Cy Young, and finished fifth in MVP voting. True greatness is apparent, even on terrible teams.

The worst team in baseball receives the first overall pick in each year’s draft. It is designed to help the team be competitive again. Nothing is guaranteed, but every year teams hope to find the next superstar. In 1990 the Atlanta Braves landed the face of their franchise for the next two decades. Larry Wayne “Chipper” Jones was born in DeLand. He was the top pick in the 1990 MLB Draft after Todd Van Poppel made it clear he wanted to play for the University of Texas instead of the Braves. 

Jones helped create and sustain the Braves dynasty. In 19 seasons with Atlanta (1993, 1995-2012), he played in 2,499 Games, collected 2,726 Hits, 549 Doubles, 38 Triples, 468 Home Runs, 1,623 RBI, 1,619 Runs scored, 150 Stolen Bases, 1,512 Walks, 1,409 Strikeouts, .303 BA, .401 OBP, .529 SLG, .930 OPS, and 141 OPS+. Jones was an eight time All Star, 1995 World Series champion, won two Silver Slugger awards (1999-2000), a Batting Title (2008), and the 1999 National League MVP. He finished in the top ten for the National League MVP five times, slugged the most Home Runs by a switch hitter in National League history, and collected the most RBI by a Third Baseman ever. His resume at the hot corner made him a first ballot Hall of Famer in 2018.

Chipper Jones led the Braves through an unmatched stretch of success thanks in large part to his hitting abilities. (Photo by Pouya Dianat/Atlanta Braves/Getty Images)

Pressure can reveal greatness. In 1999, the Braves were Chipper’s team. Atlanta’s dynasty, that would win 14 consecutive division titles, was going strong and it was up to him to continue the dynasty. In 157 Games, Jones collected 181 Hits, 41 Doubles, 1 Triple, 45 Home Runs, scored 116 Runs, 110 RBI, 25 Stolen Bases, 126 Walks, 94 Strikeouts, .319 BA, .441 OBP, .633 SLG, 1.074 OPS, and 169 OPS+. By any measure an outstanding season, yet he did not lead the National League in any offensive category nor was he an All Star. It did not matter, Jones was named the National League MVP, receiving 29 of 32 first place votes. Opposing teams knew they were in trouble when Ozzy Osbourne’s Crazy Train began to play. Jones’ walk up music remains fixated in the minds of fans nearly a decade after his final At Bat. 

The Sunshine State has given baseball some of the game’s greatest players. Florida remains a talent hotbed and shows no sign of slowing down. Next week the United States of Baseball crosses the state line to Florida’s neighbor, the Peach State. Georgia is next. 

DJ