Tagged: Astros

United States of Baseball-Massachusetts

There is more to baseball in Massachusetts than Fenway Park. The iconic ball park has played a major role in the game’s history, but it is not the Bay State’s only contribution. Massachusetts has sent 667 players to the Major Leagues. The greatest pitcher born in Massachusetts is Tim Keefe. His 89.13 career WAR ranks him 12th among pitching state and territory leaders. Jeff Bagwell is the greatest position player born in the Bay State. His 79.88 career WAR ranks 20th among position player leaders. Massachusetts has a combined 169.01 WAR, ranking the Bay State 16th among states and territories. 

Tim Keefe made the most of his opportunities in baseball. The Cambridge native pitched for 14 seasons with five teams: Troy Trojans (1880-1882), New York Metropolitans (1883-1884), New York Giants (1885-1889, 1891), New York Giants of the Players League (1890), and Philadelphia Phillies (1891-1893). The inspiration for the pitcher in Casey At The Bat, Keefe pitched in 600 career Games, made 594 Starts, threw 554 Complete Games, including 39 Shutouts, Pitched 5,049.2 Innings, allowed 4,438 Hits, 2,470 Runs, 1,474 Earned Runs, 75 Home Runs, 1,233 Walks, 2,564 Strikeouts, posted a 342-225 record, 2.63 ERA, 1.123 WHIP, and 126 ERA+. He won three ERA Titles (1880, 1885, and 1888) and became the second member of the 300 Win Club, joining Pud Galvin. Keefe was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1964 by the Veterans Committee. 

The World Series was a postseason exhibition during Keefe’s career, but he still shined. He pitched in three series (1884, 1888, and 1889), helping the Giants win the latter two. Keefe pitched in 8 Games, made 7 Starts, threw 7 Complete Games, Pitched 61.0 Innings, allowed 45 Hits, 36 Runs, 18 Earned Runs, 2 Home Runs, 14 Walks, 46 Strikeouts, posted a 4-3 record, 2.66 ERA, and 0.967 WHIP. He was terrific regardless of the stakes. 

Tim Keefe was one of baseball’s earliest dominant pitchers. (National Baseball Hall of Fame)

The best season of Keefe’s career was 1888 with the Giants. He pitched in and Started 51 Games, threw 48 Complete Games, including 8 Shutouts, Pitched 434.1 Innings, allowed 317 Hits, 143 Runs, 84 Earned Runs, 5 Home Runs, 90 Walks, 335 Strikeouts, posted a 35-12 record, 1.74 ERA, 0.937 WHIP, and 156 ERA+. He led the National League in Wins, Winning Percentage, Shutouts, Strikeouts, ERA, WHIP, and ERA+ to win the Pitching Triple Crown. Keefe established the Major League record, later equaled by Rube Marquard, with 19 consecutive victories from June 23 to August 10. 

Away from the diamond, Keefe stayed busy. In 1885, he helped form the Brotherhood of Professional Base Ball Players, an early attempt at a player’s association. Keefe worked to end the Reserve Clause. In his ongoing efforts to break the hold of owners, Keefe helped establish the Players League in 1890. While the league collapsed after one season, Keefe continued fighting for player’s rights. 

Houston’s Killer B’s revolved around Jeff Bagwell. The Boston Native played First Base for 15 seasons with the Astros (1991-2005). In 2,150 career Games, Bagwell collected 2,314 Hits, 488 Doubles, 32 Triples, 449 Home Runs, 1,529 RBI, scored 1,517 Runs, 202 Stolen Bases, 1,401 Walks, 1,558 Strikeouts, .297 BA, .408 OBP, .540 SLG, .948 OPS, and 149 OPS+. Originally drafted by his hometown Red Sox, Bagwell was traded to Houston for Larry Anderson. The Minor Leaguer was heartbroken. However, the Astros gave him the opportunity to win the First Base spot in Spring Training. Bagwell played Third Base throughout his Minor League career, but Ken Caminiti was entrenched at the Hot Corner. Bagwell responded by winning the 1991 National League Rookie of the Year Award, receiving 23 of 24 first place votes. He was named to four All Star teams and won three Silver Slugger awards. Bagwell was a terror at the plate, collecting at least 30 Doubles 10 times and scored 100 Runs nine times. He hit 30 Home Runs with 100 RBI eight times. Despite his ferocious approach, Bagwell drew 100 Walks seven times. He hit over .300 six times and posted a 1.000 OPS five times. He twice produced 30 Home Run 30 Stolen Base seasons. Bagwell appeared in the 2005 World Series, collecting his final career Hit in eight At Bats as shoulder injuries ended his career. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2017. 

Jeff Bagwell’s unique batting stance only draw more attention to his At Bats while he terrorized opposing pitchers. (Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Unquestionably the best season of Bagwell’s career was 1994. In the Strike Shortened season, he played in 110 Games, collected 147 Hits, 32 Doubles, 2 Triples, 39 Home Runs, 116 RBI, scored 104 Runs, 15 Stolen Bases, 65 Walks, 65 Strikeouts, .368 BA, .451 OBP, .750 SLG, 1.201 OPS, and 213 OPS+. He led the National League in RBI, Runs scored, SLG, OPS, OPS+, and Total Bases (300). Bagwell won his first Silver Slugger, the Gold Glove, and was the unanimous National League MVP.  

Massachusetts continues to play an important role in the game. The Bay State’s rich baseball history has seen 15 native sons enshrined in Cooperstown: Jeff Bagwell, Jack Chesbro, John Clarkson, Mickey Cochrane, Candy Cummings (Executive), Leo Durocher (Manager), Tom Glavine, Frank Grant, Tim Keefe, Joe Kelley, Connie Mack (Manager), Rabbit Maranville, Tommy McCarthy, Wilbert Robinson (Manager), and Pie Traynor. Fenway is not Massachusetts’ only baseball legacy. Next week the United States of Baseball heads for the Great Lakes. The Wolverine State is next, Michigan. 

DJ

The 30 in 30 Schedule

The baseball schedule is a grind. Day after day, game after game. 162 games is no easy feat. Neither is 30 games in 30 days. We have our schedule for seeing all 30 teams in 30 days. It is not for the faint of heart. 

After much time and research, here is the schedule we will follow for our 30 in 30 baseball road trip. 

SundayMondayTuesdayWednesdayThursdayFridaySaturday
July 16July 17
St. Louis
Cardinals
Cincinnati
Reds
July 18July 19July 20July 21July 22July 23July 24
Philadelphia PhilliesWashington NationalsAtlanta
Braves
Tampa Bay RaysMiami
Marlins
Houston
Astros
Kansas City Royals
July 25July 26July 27July 28July 29July 30July 31
Minnesota
Twins
Chicago
Cubs
Cleveland SpidersBaltimore OriolesBoston
Red Sox
Buffalo
Blue Jays
Pittsburgh
Pirates
August 1August 2August 3August 4August 5August 6August 7
New York
Mets
New York YankeesDetroit
Tigers
Milwaukee BrewersChicago White SoxColorado
Rockies
Los Angeles Dodgers
August 8August 9August 10August 11August 12August 13August 14
Oakland AthleticsSan Diego
Padres
Los Angeles AngelsSeattle
Mariners
San Francisco GiantsArizona DiamondbacksTexas
Rangers

In 30 days we will drive 15,611 miles and roughly 237 hours. We have 11 drives over 500 miles. This includes three drives over 500 miles, three over 700 miles, and five over 1,000 miles. We will be driving a rental car, no sense destroying our own cars. There will be long days where we do not want to drive. However, it will be worth it in the end. 

This is one of the truly great baseball road trips. The most common reaction from people has been shock at the enormity of the trip and the amount of driving. Kevin and I both understand and are thankful Bernie will be joining us later in the trip to be our third driver. Hopefully knowing the end is in sight energizes us. 

There are two types of challenging drives. Difficulty because of game start time and distance. The two drives that are difficult because of start times are early in the journey. Our third game is the Phillies with a 1:05 PM start time. It is 576 miles and almost 9 hours from Cincinnati and Philadelphia. The easy solution would be to drive some after the Reds game. However, I live in Cincinnati so it makes more sense to sleep in my own bed before leaving. This means we will hit the road around 3 AM. Rise and drive. The second challenging start time is in Tampa. We will be coming from Atlanta, 493 miles and almost 8 hours away. The Rays game starts at 12:10 PM. Again the easy solution is to start driving the night before, but finances play a role. I am from Atlanta so we will stay with my family, plus hang out with Jesse and John. You cannot pass up free lodging. Kevin and I will have another 3 AM departure. Great for beating traffic, but no one wants to wake up that early. 

We are hoping for nothing but blue skies, green grass, and baseball. (Photo by Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

The second category of difficult drives is the distance between teams. Try as we might, some teams are isolated or at dead ends. The Marlins and Rays present a problem. The Braves are the only close team so we knew there would be a long drive to or from Florida. We will have a mostly free day in Miami, and free lodging thanks to our friend Jason, so we should be rested for the drive to Houston. The Astros are 1,186 miles and 17 hours away. Unfortunately Miami has a night game, so another short night before setting off around 2 AM. The change from Eastern to Central Time helps, but a 17 hour drive is tough. Miami to Houston is our longest drive of the trip. 

The West Coast could make or break the trip. Our limited window and the schedule gave us limited options. The trip west begins after seeing the White Sox. We will drive 1,004 miles and 14 and a half hours to Denver. The time zones again help. After the Rockies game we have to keep moving, our next game is in Los Angeles. Dodger Stadium is 1,022 miles and almost 15 hours away. Back to back 1,000 mile days will be brutal, but our baseball guardian angel, Bernie, joins us at the perfect time. After a few days driving up and down California we face a drive from Anaheim to Seattle. The Mariners are 1,163 miles and 18 hours north. While it is a few miles shorter than Miami to Houston, California traffic can be a nightmare. The key is simply getting out of Los Angeles.  The final long drive is to our final game. We head 1,047 miles and 15 hours east from Phoenix to Arlington for the Rangers game. The time zones will work against us. The final leg will either have us completely spent or we will be hyped as we complete the most ridiculous trip of our lives. The only thing that will matter is watching our 30th game in 30 days. 

There will be plenty of difficult drives along the way, but we know these are the ones that will test our commitment to completing 30 in 30. Having an off day in Miami and New York should reenergize us. The short drives between Milwaukee and Chicago as well as San Diego and Los Angeles will give one of us a day off. This is our schedule to see 30 games in 30 days. Hopefully we hit minimal traffic and avoid rain delays and rain outs. 

DJ

United States of Baseball- Illinois

The Land of Lincoln is one of the most fertile states for producing Major League players. Illinois has sent 1,069 players to MLB. There are great players born in Illinois. Robin Roberts is the greatest pitcher born in Illinois. His 86.05 career WAR ranks him the 14th among all state and territory leaders. Rickey Henderson is the greatest position player born in Illinois. His 111.20 WAR ranks him 8th among state and territory leaders. Combined Roberts and Henderson give Illinois 197.25 WAR, ranking the Land of Lincoln 11th among all states and territories. 

Robin Roberts was born in Springfield. The Right Handed Pitcher spent 19 seasons in the Majors, pitching for four teams: Philadelphia Phillies (1948-1961), Baltimore Orioles (1962-1965), Houston Astros (1965-1966), and Chicago Cubs (1966). Roberts was dominant during his time in Philadelphia and continued pitching for several more seasons as a crafty veteran. In his career, Roberts appeared in 676 Games, made 609 Starts, threw 305 Complete Games, including 45 Shutouts, pitched 4,688.2 Innings, allowed 4,582 Hits, 1,962 Runs, 1,774 Earned Runs, 505 Home Runs, 902 Walks, 2,357 Strikeouts, posted a 286-245 record, 3.41 ERA, 1.170 WHIP, and 113 ERA+. Roberts was an All Star in seven consecutive seasons, 1950-1956. He finished in the top seven for the National League MVP in five of the seven All Star seasons. Roberts was the only pitcher to win against the Braves in their three home cities: Boston, Milwaukee, and Atlanta. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1976. 

Robin Roberts’ easy motion hide the fierce competitor on the mound. (www.mlb.com)

There are plenty of great seasons in Robin Roberts career, but 1952 was the most consequential. Pitching for the Phillies, Roberts appeared in 39 Games, made 37 Starts, threw 30 Complete Games, including 3 Shutouts, pitched 330 Innings, allowed 292 Hits, 104 Runs, 95 Earned Runs, 22 Home Runs, 45 Walks, 148 Strikeouts, posted a 28-7 record, 2.59 ERA, 1.021 WHIP, and 141 ERA+. He led the National League in Wins, Games Started, Complete Games, Innings Pitched, and Hits allowed. Roberts won 20 of last 22 Starts and 17 of his last 18. He also began a streak of 28 straight Complete Games from July 20, 1952 to June 14, 1953. Roberts was named an All Star and finished a close second to Hank Sauer for National League MVP. Commissioner Ford Frick later told Roberts he wanted to create an award, the Cy Young award, to honor pitchers, in part due to Roberts’ 1952 MVP snub. 

Robin Roberts was a terrific player on the field and served as the Phillies player representative during negotiations with the owners. He fought for higher pay, better pensions, and benefits. Roberts later served at the head of the National League players representatives. He, along with fellow future Hall of Famer Jim Bunning, approached Marvin Miller about serving as the first Executive Director of the Players Association. They knew the players needed a full time advocate. This choice of Miller led to greater benefits, free agency, and higher salaries, among other areas of progress for the players. 

The Man of Steal never lacked self confidence. Everyone in the stadium knew Rickey Henderson was going to steal, yet the opposing team could rarely stop him. The Chicago native played 25 seasons with nine teams: Oakland Athletics (1979-1984, 1989-1993, 1994-1995, 1998), New York Yankees (1985-1989), Toronto Blue Jays (1993), San Diego Padres (1996-1997, 2001), Anaheim Angels (1997), New York Mets (1999-2000), Seattle Mariners (2000), Boston Red Sox (2002), and Los Angeles Dodgers (2003). Henderson was a one man wrecking crew. In 3,081 career Games, he collected 3,055 Hits, 510 Doubles, 66 Triples, 297 Home Runs, 1,115 RBI, scored 2,295 Runs, 1,406 Stolen Bases, 335 Caught Stealing, 2,190 Walks, 1,694 Strikeouts, .279 BA, .401 OBP, .419 SLG, .820 OPS, and 127 OPS+. He is the All Time leader in Runs scored, Stolen Bases, and Caught Stealing. Henderson was a 10 time All Star, won a Gold Glove in 1981, three Silver Slugger awards, the 1989 American League Championship Series MVP, won two World Series (1989- Athletics and 1993- Blue Jays), and the 1990 American League MVP. He led the league in Stolen Bases 12 times and stole at least 50 Bases 14 times. Henderson led the league in Runs scored five times and scored at least 100 Runs 13 times. He led the league in Walks four times and drew at least 100 Walks seven times. He struck out more than 100 times just once, at age 39, but also drew 118 Walks that season. Henderson hit over .300 eight times. His unequalled resume earned him induction into the Hall of Fame in 2007. 

No player in baseball history was as feared on the bases as Rickey Henderson (www.mlb.com)

Rickey Henderson’s MVP season may not be his greatest season, but it is still worth examining. Playing for the Oakland Athletics in 1990, he appeared in 136 Games, collected 159 Hits, 33 Doubles, 3 Triples, 28 Home Runs, 61 RBI, scored 119 Runs, 65 Stolen Bases, 10 Caught Stealing, 97 Waks, 60 Strikeouts, .325 BA, .439 OBP, .577 SLG, 1.016 OPS, and 189 OPS+. He led the American League in Runs scored, Stolen Bases, OBP, OPS, and OPS+. He was eight seasons removed from his record 130 Steal campaign, and was combining his otherworldly speed with power. In his 12th Major League season, many assumed Henderson was at his peak. Few imagined his career would continue for more than a decade after his MVP season.

Illinois has been critical in the development of baseball. Cooperstown is filled with 23 natives from the Land of Lincoln: Al Barlick (Umpire), Ed Barrow (Executive), Jim Bottomley, Lou Boudreau, Charles Comiskey (Executive), Jocko Conlan (Umpire),  Billy Evans (Umpire), Warren Giles (Executive), Will Harridge (Executive), Rickey Henderson, Whitey Herzog (Manager), Freddie Lindstrom, Joe McGinnity, Hank O’Day (Umpire), Kirby Puckett, Robin Roberts, Red Ruffing, Ray Schalk, Red Schoendienst, Al Spalding (Executive), Jim Thome, Bill Veeck (Executive), and Robin Yount. Growing the game happens on and off the diamond. Next week the United States of Baseball visits Illinois’ neighbor. The Hoosier State is next, Indiana. 

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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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AL Wild CardRaysYankeesJaysRaysWhite SoxTwins
TwinsSouthsidersRaysTwinklesBlue JaysRays

National League Wild Card

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MetsGnatsPadresMarlinsDodgersPadres
PadresThe over hyped LA teamMetsPadresMetsBrewers

American League Divisional Series 

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RaysWhite ElephantsYankeesYankeesAthleticsYankees
Black SoxSouthsidersSoxRaysWhite SoxRays
YankeesTwinkiesAsA’sYankeesA’s
MoneyballGod’s Waiting RoomJaysChiSoxTwinsWhite Sox

National League Divisional Series

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DodgersBravosDodgersDodgersBravosDodgers
PadresGnatsCincyPadresDodgersPadres
BravesCincy…..why not?PadresBravesCardinalsBraves
CardinalsYou want a hot apple pie with that?CardsMiller TimePadresCardinals

American League Championship Series

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Black SoxWhite ElephantsYankeesYankeesYankeesYankees
RaysTwinkiesChiSoxChiSoxWhite SoxWhite Sox

National League Championship Series

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BravesBravosDodgersBravesCardinalsBraves
PadresYou want a hot apple pie with that?PadresPadresBravesPadres

World Series

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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

The United States of Baseball- Alabama

United States of Baseball

After an abbreviated 2020 season, hopefully a normal 2021 season lies ahead of us. The loss of normalcy due to Covid has made us all appreciate the good in our lives and what brings us together. In this effort The Winning Run will examine the greatest players from every state of the United States. Each Wednesday we will examine each state’s best pitcher and position player based on career WAR. 

This is not to diminish the contributions of non-American born players. They will have their own spotlight later. We hope you enjoy this journey through the United States of Baseball.

Alabama

Alabama does not have a Major League team, but it has produced 341 Major League players. Success on the field has led 11 players from the Yellowhammer state to Cooperstown. The greatest Alabama pitcher is Don Sutton and the greatest position player is Willie Mays. Both players are enshrined in the Hall of Fame. Their combined 224.51 WAR, gives Alabama the sixth highest WAR. 

Born in Clio, Alabama, Don Sutton is the town’s only Major Leaguer. He compiled 68.29 career WAR in 23 seasons pitching primarily for the Los Angeles Dodgers. He has the 18th highest WAR among pitching state leaders. Sutton made at least 31 starts in 20 seasons, with his best season coming in 1972. In 33 Starts, he went 19-9 with 18 Complete Games, 9 Shutouts, throwing 272.2 Innings, with a 2.08 ERA, 0.913 WHIP, and 162 ERA+. He was an All Star and finished fifth in National League Cy Young voting.

The 1972 season began five seasons of dominance. Sutton went 93-51, with a 2.73 ERA, 1.054 WHIP, and 125 ERA+ during his peak. He finished in the top five of Cy Young voting in each season. 

Don Sutton was both dominant and had a long healthy career on the way to Cooperstown. (Focus on Sport/Getty Image)

The five seasons of dominance coupled with a long and healthy career enabled Sutton to join the illustrious 300 Win club. His 324 Wins are tied with Nolan Ryan for 14th most. He started 756 Games, threw 178 Complete Games, 58 Shutouts, in 5,282.1 Innings, with a 3.26 ERA, 1.142 WHIP, and 108 ERA+. Sutton won the 1980 National League ERA title with a 2.20 ERA. 

Sutton retired after the 1988 season. He finished his career with the Dodgers following stints with the Angels, Brewers, Astros, and Athletics. He was elected to Cooperstown in 1998 with 81.6% of the vote in his fifth year of eligibility. 

Westfield, Alabama has one Major Leaguer, the legendary Willie Mays. In 22 seasons, Mays compiled 156.22 career WAR for the Giants and Mets. He has the third highest WAR among position player state leaders. Nearly 50 years after his final game, Mays is still considered by many the greatest player ever.

Choosing the greatest season of Willie Mays’ career is impossible. His two MVP seasons are the easy choices, but 1955 was equally impressive. Mays’ first MVP season was 1954. In 151 Games, he collected 195 Hits, including 33 Doubles, 13 Triples, 41 Home Runs, 110 RBI, 119 Runs scored, with 8 Stolen Bases, 66 Walks, 57 Strikeouts, .345 BA, .411 OBP, .667 SLG, 1.078 OPS, and 175 OPS+. He led the league in Triples, BA, SLG, OBP, OPS, and OPS+. In 1955, Mays played 152 Games, collected 185 Hits, including 18 Doubles, 13 Triples, 51 Home Runs, 127 RBI, 123 Runs scored, 24 Stolen Bases, 79 Walks, 60 Strikeouts, .319 BA, .400 OBP, .659 SLG, 1.059 OPS, and 174 OPS+. He led the league in Triples, Home Runs, SLG, OPS, and OPS+ to finish fourth in MVP voting. A decade later, with the Giants now in San Francisco, Mays won his second MVP. He dominated in 1965, playing 157 Games, collecting 177 Hits, 21 Doubles, 3 Triples, 52 Home Runs, 112 RBI, 118 Runs scored, 9 Stolen Bases, 76 Walks, 71 Strikeouts, .317 BA, .398 OBP, .645 SLG, 1.043 OPS, and 185 OPS+. He led the league in Home Runs, OBP, SLG, OPS, and OPS+. In the ten seasons between MVPs, Mays finished outside of the top six in MVP voting once. 

Few, if any, players have ever played baseball better than Willie Mays. (AP Photo)

A Hall of Fame career is not built in a few good seasons, it requires consistent and sustained success. In 22 seasons, Mays collected 3,283 Hits, 523 Doubles, 140 Triples, 660 Home Runs, 1,903 RBI, 2,062 Runs scored, 338 Stolen Bases, 1,464 Walks, 1,526 Strikeouts, .304 BA, .384 OBP, .557 SLG, .941 OPS, and 156 OPS+. In addition to his MVPs, Mays won the 1951 National League Rookie of the Year, the 1954 World Series, the 1954 National League Batting title, 12 consecutive Gold Gloves, and was a 24 time All Star. In 1979, Mays was elected to Cooperstown in his first year of eligibility with 94.7% of the vote

Beyond Sutton and Mays, 10 more Hall of Famers were born in Alabama: Hank Aaron, Monte Irvin, Heinie Manush, Willie McCovey, Satchel Paige, Joe Sewell, Ozzie Smith, Mule Suttles, Billy Williams, and Early Wynn. Alabama’s rich baseball history continues. 

The next stop for the United States of Baseball is The Last Frontier, Alaska.

DJ

The Sixth Lousy Day of Baseball Christmas

On the Sixth Lousy Day of Baseball Christmas the baseball gods sent to me: the most times Caught Stealing without a Stolen Base, the most Hits without an RBI, the most Innings Pitched without a Win or Save, the most Games Managed without finishing first, the most Home Runs without a Triple, and the most Complete Games without a Shutout.

If at first you don’t succeed, try try try again. Failure is part of baseball. Successful batters fail seven out of ten times. Pitchers do not always throw strikes. Umpires miss calls. It is part of the game. When a runner fails on the bases, they can kill a rally. The undisputed Stolen Base king, Rickey Henderson, is also the Caught Stealing king. Success comes with risk. Unfortunately for Oscar Robles, he took the risk without any reward. He was Caught Stealing the most times without a successful Stolen Base, 0 for 8. 

Robles split his time between Shortstop and Third Base in three seasons for the Los Angeles Dodgers (2005-2006) and San Diego Padres (2007). 2005 was his best season, playing 110 Games, hitting .272, collecting 99 Hits, including his 5 career Home Runs, and 8 Stolen Base attempts. 

Oscar Robles tried to help the Dodgers by stealing a base, but was out every time. (Jae C. Hong/AP)

Success comes to those who try and Robles tried. On June 4th against the Milwaukee Brewers, Robles Singled off Victor Santos. The Dodgers tried to hit and run with Antonio Perez, but Perez struckout and Damian Miller threw Robles out at Second. Two weeks later in Chicago against the White Sox, Robles walked in the 2nd Inning. He then tried to steal Second against Freddy Garcia, but A.J. Pierzynski’s arm was faster than Robles’ legs. Out at Second. In the 9th Inning Cliff Politte walked Robles, who tried to steal again. Pierzynski’s throw beat Robles. Tadahito Iguchi caught the ball and ran Robles back to First, tossing the ball to Paul Konerko for the tag. 0 for 2 on the day. 

Robles was not deterred. On July 10th in Houston Brad Ausmus threw Robles out. In his final three Stolen Base attempts his teammates failed to protect him. Robles was part of a Strike Out Throw Out Double Play on July 15th against the Giants with Mike Matheny catching. On August 12th against the Mets, Jeff Kent struckout and Mike Piazza completed the Double Play. Danny Ardoin threw Robles out on August 23rd after Hee-Seop Choi whiffed against Colorado’s Jamey Wright. Oscar Robles’ final attempt was on September 5th against the Giants. Mike Edwards struckout and Yamid Haad threw Robles out. 

Half of Robles’ Caught Stealings were part of Strike Out Throw Out Double Plays. His teammates failed him. Unfortunately, Oscar Robles is saddled with the record for most Stolen Base attempts without success. His futility on the bases demonstrates how difficult baseball is to play. Some players are just dealt bad hands.

Happy Sixth Lousy Day of Baseball Christmas.

DJ

East Meets West

MLB expanded the Postseason from 10 to 16 teams this season. Gone, temporarily, is the one game Wild Card Playoff. Winning the World Series in 2020 requires teams to win four series, 14 games total. The longer Postseason is beginning to mimic the playoffs for the NBA and NHL, which seem to last as long as their regular seasons. October this season feels like a tournament not a playoff. March Madness has come to the Fall. 

After a protracted fight over how and if to play the 2020 season, MLB had no choice but to change the Postseason. Separating the pretenders from the contenders in just 60 games is nearly impossible. In a normal 162 game schedule every team expects to win 40 games and lose 40 games. What happens in the other 82 games separates the pretenders from the contenders. 

The Tampa Bay Rays once again are defying all expectations in October. (Mary Holt, USA TODAY Sports)

The Wild Card and Divisional rounds of the Postseason should allow the best rise to the top. MLB does not need a repeat of 2006 when the St. Louis Cardinals squeaked into October with a 83-78 record. The National League Central was a truly terrible division, as the Cardinals and Astros, 82-80, were the only teams above .500. Only division winners and one Wild Card team made the Postseason in 2006, meaning the 85 win Philadelphia Phillies watched October from home because the 88 win Dodgers won the Wild Card. The 2006 Cardinals have the worst Regular Season record for a World Series Champion in the Expansion Era. No one wants a terrible team to squeak into the Postseason, get hot, and win the World Series. The Houston Astros and their below .500 record would fit the bill this season, not to mention their lack of humility in the aftermath of their cheating scandal and avoidance of any punishment, but I digress. 

The divide between the haves and have nots in baseball can be monumental. On paper the National League Central looked strong in 2020, sending four teams to the Postseason. However, reality soon set in as the Cubs, Brewers, Cardinals, and Reds were all knocked out in the Wild Card round. Likewise, the American League Central saw all three of its teams head home early after the White Sox, Twins, and Spiders all lost. 2020 is a battle for baseball supremacy between the coasts. The love affair with teams on either coast is another iteration of coastal bias in America, yet this year there is no bias as there is no other option. Eight teams remain in the hunt for the World Series. The crowning achievement will happen at a neutral site in Texas to conclude a historically strange season. Hopefully we can return to normal in 2021.

DJ

Collision Course

Hunter Pence’s retirement closes an incredible career with the Astros, Phillies, Rangers, and Giants. Pence had many amazing hits, catches, and throws in his own unique style. He did not move like other players on the diamond. There are more beautiful swings and throws, but it would be difficult to find someone who brought more passion and love to the ballpark every day.

On occasion I have had brief encounters with players. My encounter with Hunter Pence was brief, had nothing to do with baseball, and was thankfully not painful. My wife and I were in the middle of our honeymoon, a three week cross country road trip in 2017. We were staying on a sailboat just outside of AT&T Park in San Francisco. We watched the Giants lose to Cleveland on a cold San Francisco summer night. The game was messy, but the stadium was beautiful. The game also ended the 530 consecutive sellout streak for the Giants, a National League record. After the game we were walking around the outside the park, slowly making our way back to the sailboat. Suddenly a guy on a segway whips around a corner heading down The Embarcadero. We literally jumped out of the way to avoid a collision. The guy turns his head and apologizes as he rides away. The street light caught his face just right. It was Hunter Pence. We almost got run over by Hunter Pence on a segway during our honeymoon. 

Hunter Pence brought passion and joy to the ballpark everyday. (Getty Images)

This encounter with Hunter Pence was a singular moment. No photos, no hellos, no autograph, just an apology. I have had more enjoyable experiences with professional athletes, however the image of Hunter Pence riding off into the San Francisco night on his segway after nearly running us over will forever be etched in my memory. We went from WATCH OUT to that’s ok to Hey that was Hunter Pence, in the blink of an eye. Pence was hitless in four trips to the plate with three strikeouts that night. It would be understandable if he was distracted after a tough day at the office, but the simple apology was greatly appreciated.

Thank you for sharing your passion for the game with everyone who saw you play. Enjoy your retirement and thank you for not running us down on our honeymoon.

DJ

Back to Baseball

After an off season of scandal, on again off again blockbuster trades, gigantic free agent signings, possible Minor League Baseball contraction, and the Mets being the Mets it is time to return to the diamond. Pitchers and Catchers report to Spring Training, the journey to October begins. 

Expectations are high in the Bronx after signing Gerrit Cole. Houston is out to prove they can win without stealing signs, while the rest of baseball is out for revenge. The on again off again trade of Mookie Betts to the Dodgers showed how far Boston has fallen while searching for financial flexibility. The Red Sox continue searching for a permanent manager to replace Alex Cora after he was swept up in the fallout from Houston. Major League Baseball proposed eliminating 42 minor league teams, which immediately angered the communities potentially impacted, baseball fans, and even Congress.

The Mets once again managed to stay in the headlines for all the wrong reasons. Yoenis Cespedes reworked his contract after the revelation that his injury was the result of a run in with a wild boar. The Amazin’s General Manager Brodie Van Wagenen, Cespedes’ former agent, now had to alter the contract he negotiated, but from the other side of the table. Carlos Beltran never made it to his first workout of Spring Training as Mets Manager. His involvement in the Astros scandal followed him to Queens. The Wilpons were unable to sell the Mets because they wanted to continue making team decisions once they no longer wrote the checks. 

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The Cincinnati Reds are poised to climb out of the cellar and into contention after an active Winter. (Kareem Elgazzar)

Anthony Rendon got paid by leaving Washington, Stephen Strasburg got paid to stay with the Nationals. Zack Wheeler left Queens for Philadelphia for a chance to win and a large paycheck. Madison Bumgarner left the Bay for the desert, while Hyun-Jin Ryu left sunny Southern California and moved north of the border. Josh Donaldson added his name to the slugging Twins lineup, a new age Murderers’ Row. The White Sox and Reds loaded up on free agents, vaulting themselves into contention. Hundreds of other moves happened. Time will tell which moves helped teams, and which teams will come to regret. 

Baseball lost the legendary writer Roger Kahn. Few, if any, possess his ability to write about the game. He was baseball’s writer. His ability to put the passion and beauty of the game into print will be missed.

It was an odd and harrowing off season, but now Pitchers and Catchers are reporting to Spring Training. The world is a little more perfect because we are getting back to baseball. 

DJ

Crime and Punishment

The Houston Astros got busted. They used cameras to steal signs and relay the information to their batters, gaining an unfair advantage over opposing pitchers. Their technological operation was undone by their $5 implementation. Come on, if you are using technology to steal signs, why bang a trash can to signal the batter. Do better.

MLB and Commissioner Rob Manfred punished those involved in the sign stealing scheme. General Manager Jeff Luhnow and Manager A.J. Hinch were suspended for the 2020 season. Unsurprisingly, both were immediately fired by Astros owner Jim Crane. Houston forfeitedtheir 1st and 2nd round picks in 2020 and 2021 drafts, and must pay a $5 million fine. The wait continues for former Astros Bench Coach and now former Red Sox Manager Alex Cora’s punishment. Cora was the mastermind of the scheme, so his punishment will certainly be stiffer as he brought his scheme to Boston. MLB will not punish active players, but this does not include former players such as new and now former Mets Manager Carlos Beltran. It is highly doubtful the Astros, and Red Sox, were the only ones stealing signs, they just got caught.

Opinions vary on the appropriate punishment. Sign stealing is not a big deal, move along. Give the Astros the death penalty and strip them of the 2017 World Series. The most idiotic assertion is this is worse than Pete Rose and his gambling. Rose controlled the Reds while betting on them. Yes he always bet on Cincinnati to win, but there is a problem. Rose had an additional vested interest in winning. If he over used a pitcher in a game he bet on, his actions influenced the next day’s game which he may not bet on. Managing a team should not be based on daily wagers. The Astros gained an advantage knowing a certain pitch was coming. This altered the outcome of games. Both Rose and the Astros are guilty of stupidity, among other things. However their baseball crimes are not the same. 

astrostrashcan
The Astros MVP, complete with the wounds from getting hit to signal Houston batters. (ww.theathletic.com)

No perfect punishment exists. People will view the penalty as too lenient or too harsh. The teams Houston defeated have legitimate arguments that their opportunity to win was tainted. No one can change the past, but here is how to punish the Astros and dissuade future teams from creating sign stealing operations. First, Houston cannot hire a new General Manager or Manager until after the 2020 World Series. Obviously someone will assume both roles, but the Astros would have one less member of the front off and coaching staff. Second, Houston must host two home games which are not opened to the public. The Astros will pay game day staff for these days off. The games will be weekend games in June or July, not throw away games at the end of the season. Houston made millions winning, make them lose two games worth of income. Third, no regular season prime time games for two years. No Sunday Night Baseball. No special location games. No special attention. Fourth, make opposing players who had difficulty against the Astros and were subsequently sent down or released whole. If said player is within one year of reaching the 10 years necessary to receive an MLB pension, Houston must pay the player league minimum for the extra season and then cover their MLB pension for 10 years. If the player would not qualify for the MLB pension, Houston owes that player their highest one season salary each year for the next 10 years. These punishments are in addition to what was already handed down. Make the punishment long and annoying. 

Obviously none of these additional punishments will occur, but you can dream. Houston did not just steal signs, they literally cost players and coaches jobs. Hopefully their cameras can see that too.

DJ