Tagged: Atlanta Braves

Game 5- Atlanta Braves

Game 5 brought us to Atlanta with the Braves hosting the San Diego Padres at Truist Park. We have driven 2,189 miles so far. The weather was touch and go, but it was a beautiful night for baseball. It was great to catch up with family and friends before heading further south. 30 Games in 30 Days continues.

DJ

United States of Baseball- Michigan

The Great Lakes dominate the landscape of Michigan. The Wolverine State is an outdoor playground in every season. While the snow piles up in Winter, it has not prevented Michigan from sending 444 players to the Majors. The greatest pitcher born in Michigan is John Smoltz. His 68.96 career WAR ranks 17th highest among state and territory leaders. The greatest Michigan born position player is Charlie Gehringer. His 83.75 career WAR ranks 19th highest among state and territory leaders. The Wolverine State has a combined 152.71 WAR, ranking Michigan 18th highest. 

John Smoltz is forever tied to Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine as they led the Atlanta Braves to an unprecedented stretch of dominance in the 1990’s. The Detroit native pitched 21 seasons with three teams: Atlanta Braves (1988-2008), Boston Red Sox (2009), and St. Louis Cardinals (2009). Despite missing all of 2000 due to Tommy John Surgery, Smoltz pitched in 723 career Games, made 481 Starts, Finished 204 Games, threw 53 Complete Games, including 16 Shutouts, 154 Saves, Pitched 3,473 Innings, allowed 3,074 Hits, 1,391 Runs, 1,284 Earned Runs, 288 Home Runs, 1,010 Walks, 3,084 Strikeouts, posted a 210-147 record, 3.33 ERA, 1.176 WHIP, and 125 ERA+. Originally drafted in the 22nd Round by his hometown Detroit Tigers in 1985, he was traded to Atlanta for Doyle Alexander two years later. Smotz’s skills on the mound allowed him to lead the National League in Wins at age 29 and 39, and Saves at age 35. He was an eight time All Star. He was named the 1992 National League Championship Series MVP and won the 1995 World Series with the Braves. Smoltz won the Cy Young award in 1996 and the Silver Slugger award in 1997. After transitioning to the Closer role, he won the 2002 Rolaids Relief award. Smoltz received the 2005 Roberto Clemente Award. In 2015, Smoltz was elected to the Hall of Fame, becoming the then lowest drafted Hall of Famer.

John Smoltz helped the Braves win 14 consecutive division titles. (www.georgiasportshalloffame.com)

Smoltz helped Atlanta reach the Postseason and continued his success in October. In 41 career Postseason Games, he made 27 Starts, Finished 11 Games, threw 2 Complete Games, including 1 Shutout, 4 Saves, Pitched 209 Innings, allowed 172 Hits, 67 Runs, 62 Earned Runs, 17 Home Runs, 67 Walks, 199 Strikeouts, posted a 15-4 record, 2.67 ERA, and 1.144 WHIP. Smoltz gave the Braves an opportunity to win every time he took the mound. 

Smoltz’s best season was 1996. He made 35 Starts, threw 6 Complete Games, including 2 Shutouts, Pitched 253.2 Innings, allowed 199 Hits, 93 Runs, 83 Earned Runs, 19 Home Runs, 55 Walks, 276 Strikeouts, posted a 24-8 record, 2.94 ERA, 1.001 WHIP, and 149 ERA+. He led the National League in Wins, Winning Percentage, Innings Pitched, and Strikeouts. He was named an All Star, finished 11th in MVP voting, and won the Cy Young. Pure dominance. 

Detroit fans voted Charlie Gehringer as the greatest second baseman in the storied history of the Tigers. Fan chose Gehringer over the beloved Lou Whitaker. Gehringer played 19 seasons for the Detroit Tigers (1924-1942). The Fowlerville native played in 2,323 Games, collected 2,839 Hits, 574 Doubles, 146 Triples, 184 Home Runs, 1,427 RBI, scored 1,775 Runs, 181 Stolen Bases, 1,186 Walks, 372 Strikeouts, .320 BA, .404 OBP, .480 SLG, .884 OPS, and 125 OPS+. Gehringer hit over .300 13 times in 14 seasons, with his .298 BA in 1932 as the lone exception. He was named to the first six All Star games, helped the Tigers win the 1935 World Series, and won both the American League Batting Title and MVP in 1937. Gehringer was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1949 in a special runoff election, but was unable to attend as the ceremony coincided with his own wedding. He served on the Hall of Fame’s Veterans Committee from 1953 to 1990. The Tigers retired his #2 in 1983.

The Mechanical Man was consistently brilliant for the Tigers. (Getty Images)

Gehringer’s success helped the Tigers reach the World Series three times (1934, 1935, and 1940), winning in 1935. In the World Series, Gehringer played in 20 Games, collected 26 Hits, 4 Doubles, 1 Home Runs, 7 RBI, scored 12 Runs, 2 Stolen Bases, 7 Walks, 1 Strikeout, .321 BA, .375 OBP, .407 SLG, and .782 OPS. Detroit twice lost Game 7, the Tigers were close to dominating all of baseball not just the American League. 

The best season of Gehringer’s career was 1934. He played in 154 Games, collected 214 Hits, 50 Doubles, 7 Triples, 11 Home Runs, 127 RBI, scored 135 Runs, 11 Stolen Bases, 99 Walks, 25 Strikeouts, .356 BA, .450 OBP, .517 SLG, .967 OPS, and 149 OPS+. He led the Junior Circuit in Games played, Hits, and Runs scored. Gehringer finished second in MVP voting while leading the Tigers to the American League Pennant.  

Michigan’s proud baseball legacy continues to grow. The Wolverine State has sent seven native sons to Cooperstown: Kiki Cuyler, Charlie Gehringer, Larry MacPhail (Executive), Hal Newhouser, Ted Simmons, John Smoltz, and Tom Yawkey (Executive). More will surely follow. Next week the United States of Baseball continues it’s exploration of the water in the Land of 10,000 Lakes. Minnesota is next. 

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

Planning 30 in 30

I love traveling and planning trips. However, planning 30 teams in 30 days was on a different level. It is not easy to carve out 30 days to undertake such an adventure. The biggest scheduling obstacles were the All Star Break, my daughter’s birthday in the middle of June, and the beginning of the school year in the middle of August. Each was spaced out just enough to limit our options on the timing of the trip. 

We found our window from July 16th to August 14th. Our road trip begins on the first full day of games after the All Star Break and ends the Saturday before the start of the upcoming school year. We literally had one 30 day window to make this happen. 30 days of baseball, the first day of school could be a challenge. 

Time is your friend in the planning process. The more time you have to plan, the more solutions you can find to problems that present themselves. We needed to find a successful route, but more time meant we could find better routes. After waiting seemingly all Winter, MLB finally released the 2021 schedule. There was one tiny detail missing, game times. We could guess that most games will be in the evening, except for Sunday and get away games. We muddled through the schedule, taking educated guesses, waiting for official game times. 

Such a large undertaking becomes overwhelming if it is not broken into smaller pieces. After creating a visual to understand the schedule and determining which teams are within a single day’s drive of one another, it was time to create our route. The first goal was simple, find a route, any route. After several failed attempts we had a route. 30 games in 30 days was possible. This spurred us to find the perfect route. 

View like this await us at all 30 MLB stadiums (TheWinningRun/ DJ)

The perfect route exists, but the schedule did not align perfectly this year. The shortest route is 11,192 miles and 173 hours of driving. This is 373 miles and 5:46 of driving every day for a month. Even in the best case scenario, 30 in 30 is a lot of driving. Our focus was on minimizing the miles and drive time. The hope was to keep the drive under 16,000 miles, average less than 8 hours per drive, and minimize the drives over 500 miles. We wanted to utilize Los Angeles, New York, and/or Chicago to create a break in our schedule. A day without driving would reinvigorate us. Day games would allow us to make any necessary long drives between games. My personal wish was to drive from my home to the first game the day of. One last sleep in my bed before starting the grand adventure, and save a few dollars. The cost of the trip was always something we were mindful of during planning. An increase in cost for one game would probably mean an increase for others, if not all. An extra $5 becomes $150 at the end of the trip. 

Reality of how to construct the trip set in quickly. We could not make more than two cross country crossings due to a lack of teams in the middle of the country. We would need to start and finish on the West Coast or do it all at one time. Endless tinkering slowly took us to our route. 

There were two best routes. We selected these routes from the 86 we successfully created. The final scheduling challenge was where would the Blue Jays play their home games. They are not playing in Toronto, so we knew we were going to Dunedin or Buffalo. The city the Blue Jays called home dictated our schedule. Our two schedules were similar to minimize changes as the Nationals, Braves, and Blue Jays would be the only games impacted. The other games would remain in place, allowing us to buy tickets as they became available. Amid all the uncertainty, it was good to have a mostly set schedule. 

The schedule coming together hit hard as to just how large of an undertaking this trip truly is. Driving between games will be more than a full time job. We will need plenty of entertainment. Books, music, podcasts, and random pit stops along the way. Piece by piece 30 in 30 is coming together. The most important pieces are in place, now we are working on the finer details that will impact us day to day. Everything is critically important when we are constantly on the go. One missed detail can have painful ramifications. 

DJ

30 Teams in 30 Days

There will be moments where we question why we are doing this. Why would two people subject themselves to endless hours of driving just to watch baseball? The goal is simple, see all 30 MLB teams, in their home ballparks, in 30 days. All done by driving, no flying. It is crazy and I have wanted to do it for years. Others have done the ultimate baseball road trip, but I wanted my own adventure. 

The first task was to find someone to go with me. It is physically impossible to do this trip solo. Everyone needs a break from driving. If I could not convince someone to join me, the trip was over before it began. I began talking about the trip with friends. Most were shocked by the idea and several wanted to join, but could not take 30 days off work. I am a teacher, so my summers are relatively free, other than umpiring baseball. Success came when I talked to Kevin. He has the ability to work from the road and can take some time off. Copilot secured, now the real nightmare begins. 

Pulling off 30 teams in 30 days is a logistical nightmare. First you have to figure out the schedule so you can hit every team within a 30 day window. If one team is not at home or has an off day the entire schedule is ruined. The east coast is fairly easy, teams are close enough together to skip around and still hit every stadium without too much hassle. Florida presents a challenge as Atlanta is the only team close enough to reach Tampa or Miami without a long drive. The west coast is the most difficult portion of the trip to plan. Seattle is off by itself and Colorado is in a no man’s land between teams. The trip requires the ability to string together isolated cities. If one team is not home on a certain day, the chain is broken and the entire schedule must be reworked.

Bernie will be joining Kevin and Derek for different sections of their journey to all 30 ball parks in 30 days. (The Winning Run/ BL)

Connecting teams creates the second challenge of the trip. What teams can you feasibly drive to each day and still arrive in time for first pitch? The grind of a month on the road will wear down even the most excited baseball fan. Planning has to account for the realities of exhaustion and the desire to not drive all day, every day. Connecting two teams with a short drive is critical for maintaining energy and sanity. Even better is if both teams in Los Angeles, Chicago, and/or New York are home at the same time. A glorious day out of the car. Your body and mind will thank you. 

The logistical nightmares are not confined to the baseball schedule. You have to plan where you will sleep each night. Always staying in a hotel is financially impossible. Creativity and personal relationships are key. We will stay in a hotel some nights. However, the majority of the nights will be spent crashing with friends and family or camping under the stars. Sleep is critical to safely pulling this off. 

Doing 30 in 30 this year is made a little more difficult because of limited tickets due to Covid protocols. Normally we would have bought tickets to every game by now. Instead we are left waiting. Everything is falling into place, yet so far we only have tickets to the Cincinnati Reds. We have also had to create two routes as it is unclear where the Blue Jays’s home will be during our trip. 

There are many moving parts to this trip. The logistical nightmares will continue throughout the trip. The best plans rarely hold up once they meet reality. Traffic, weather, exhaustion, and other unknown factors could derail or alter the trip. Time will tell how 30 in 30 comes together. We have already put months of work into the trip. We will start the trip the Friday after the All Star game. The summer heat will follow us around the country as we watch baseball in all 30 MLB ballparks. I have long dreamed of this trip. There is still work to be done. At times I question why I ever wanted to do this, but in the end it will be something that will always bring a smile to my face. 

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

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

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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

Frank Robinson- Integrating the Managers Office

It is both a great honor for Frank Robinson, and a failure for baseball, that he was the first African-American manager in the American League AND the National League. His leading the way for fellow African-American managers is a testament to the relentlessness that made Robinson a Hall of Fame player. African-Americans, and all minorities, deserve more opportunities to demonstrate their leadership abilities. Too often they do not receive a second opportunity if they are unsuccessful. While Robinson did not enjoy overwhelming success, he was critical in furthering racial equality in baseball.

Frank Robinson’s desire to become baseball’s first African-American manager was not a secret. He was nearing the end of his playing career, when the California Angels traded him to Cleveland. Robinson was named player/manager, playing sparingly for the next two seasons and retiring following the 1976 season. Robinson, now just the manager, lasted just 57 games into the 1977 season on the shores of Lake Erie. In Cleveland, he led the team to back to back fourth place finishes and a 186-189 record. Robinson’s next opportunity to manage was a few years away. 

The 1981 Players Strike interrupted the season, with no Regular Season games between mid June and mid August. The tumultuous season also featured the first African-American manager in the National League. Robinson again broke the managerial color barrier. His tenure with the San Francisco Giants was more successful than in Cleveland. He guided the Giants to a 56-55 Strike shortened record, finishing fourth in the National League West. San Francisco followed with a 87-75 season in 1982, finishing third, just 2 games behind the division winning Atlanta Braves. The Bay Area was hopeful the Giants would finally bring a World Series championship to San Francisco. Unfortunately, the Giants regressed to a 79-83 campaign in 1983 before Robinson was fired with a 42-64 record in 1984. Robinson guided the Giants to a 264-277 record in four seasons, but October remained elusive. 

Frank Robinson was the first African-American manager in both the AL and NL. (Diamond Iages/ Getty Images)

Robinson served as a coach and worked in the Baltimore Orioles’ Front Office while waiting for another opportunity. The Orioles fired Cal Ripken Sr. following an 0-6 start in 1988, naming Robinson as his replacement. Baltimore finally won its first game of the season on April 29. Their 0-22 start remains the worst in Major League history. The Orioles finished 54-101, last in the American League East, a mere 23.5 behind sixth place Cleveland. 1989 was better for everyone in Baltimore. Robinson guided the team to a 87-75 record. A dramatic turn around, which earned him the American League Manager of the Year award. Once again Robinson’s team was two games short of October. The Orioles finished fifth in 1990 and Robinson was fired after a 13-24 start in 1991. He led Baltimore for four seasons, posting a 230-285 record in what appeared to be his final managerial stop. However, Robinson would return to the dugout one more time. 

The 1994 Players Strike helped kill the Montreal Expos. The star studded team was 74-40, six games ahead of the Braves, with the best record in baseball when the season came to a crashing halt. After the Strike, the Montreal ownership had a fire sale from which the franchise never recovered. MLB took over ownership of the team after a failed contraction attempt. The Expos began playing some home games in Puerto Rico before moving to Washington and becoming the Nationals in 2005. Amid the turmoil MLB named Robinson manager, giving him the near impossible task of producing wins while the team was uncertain season to season where they would play or if they would exist. The Expos won 83 games in each of Robinson’s first two seasons before a 67 win season on the way out of Montreal. He managed the Nationals in their first two seasons in Washington, winning 81 and 71 games, before he was fired. In five seasons with the Expos and Nationals, Robinson went 385-425 in his final managerial stop.

Frank Robinson is not the greatest Manager, but the pain of pulling Matt LeCroy in the middle of an inning sums up the man. LeCroy was catching for the Nationals in Robinson’s last season in Washington. Despite some injuries LeCroy went behind the plate to help the team. Seven stolen bases and two throwing errors later, Robinson made the painful decision to pull LeCroy in the middle of an inning. His body could not meet the demands of the game. Pulling a position player in the middle of an inning virtually never happens. The story could have been about embarrassing LeCroy, instead it was about the anguish and torment Robinson felt for doing what was best for his team and player. Baseball is a tough game played by tough people, but humanity does exist within the game.

The abilities that sent Frank Robinson to Cooperstown did not translate to managing. He was not a terrible leader, but his accomplishments playing baseball far outpace those managing. Robinson managed four teams: Cleveland Indians, San Francisco Giants, Baltimore Orioles, and Montreal Expos/ Washington Nationals. In 16 seasons he posted a 1,065-1,176 record. No Robinson led team ever won the division or made the postseason. His teams stole Third, laid down Sacrifice Bunts, issued Intentionally Walks, and Substituted players more than other teams. Ultimately Robinson’s legacy is breaking the managerial color barrier in both leagues. It was long overdue and Robinson paved the way for other African-Americans to follow. Baseball still has work to do, but Frank Robinson helped move the game forward.  

DJ

Mr. Aaron

People say he was less than a god but more than a man.” 

-Benny “The Jet” Rodriguez, The Sandlot

Benny was talking about Babe Ruth, but the same sentiment applies to Ruth’s successor. The passing of Henry Aaron hit home like the loss of a family member. Mr. Aaron was revered across baseball, but in Atlanta it went further. He spoke and the city stopped. He was the President, Pope, and Movie Star rolled into one. The reflections on his life have barely focused on his baseball achievements, rather focusing on his humanity. 

The stories around Aaron’s pursuit of Babe Ruth’s Home Run record are harrowing. The constant pressure as he surpassed an American icon was infinitely compounded by the horrific and vile racism that remains in America. The hatred and threats were directed at him and his family simply because he was African-American. Through it all Mr. Aaron maintained his dignity as a man, refusing to allow the hate to embitter him. No one should ever experience the worst of his fellow man because of a game. Few could have withstood the onslaught Aaron faced.

Henry Aaron was one of the greatest baseball players ever. He is remembered for his work on and off the diamond. (Neil Leifer/ Sports Illustrated)

Henry Aaron eventually passed Babe Ruth, retiring with 755 Home Runs. He has since lost the record, yet remains the king to many. Mr. Aaron traveled to Korea to help the young KBO grow. He went to Japan to duel Sadaharu Oh in a Home Run Derby. He played in the Negro Leagues at the beginning of his career. He returned to Milwaukee with the Brewers to finish his career after leaving with the Braves for Atlanta. He worked in the Braves’ Front Office, not in a ceremonial position. He had private security because the color of his skin was seen as a threat to baseball history by the ignorant. Henry Aaron saw everything baseball could offer, good and bad. 

Mr. Aaron’s grace on the field was no match for his grace off. He gave generously of his time, simply writing a check was out of the question. His name carried significance and he knew it. Mr. Aaron’s final act of service was receiving the Covid vaccine in public. He sought to cut through the distrust of the vaccine in the current polarized political climate and the mistrust, especially among African-Americans following their long history of mistreatment in the name of medical science. Henry Aaron never stopped working for the betterment of people. I never met him and do not have anything new to add to the outpouring of love. All I know is we should emulate people like Henry Aaron who spend their lives working for the betterment of their fellow man.

Rest In Peace Mr. Aaron.

DJ

Awards Season

The 2020 season was undoubtedly the most unusual in MLB history. The regular season was played in empty stadiums. Several teams had games postponed due to positive Covid tests, forcing them to play numerous makeup doubleheaders. The sense that games could be postponed at any moment always lurked around the corner. Even the Dodgers celebrating their World Series victory was not seamless, as Justin Turner returned to the field despite a positive Covid test. Despite all of these hurdles, plus the usual injury issues, the 2020 season was a success. 

Completing the season and entering the offseason means recognizing the season’s best players. The awards voters are not always right, however this season the best players won. The condensed season allowed the elite players, enjoying long hot streaks to rise to the top. These players have built solid careers and are reaching their peaks.

Manager of the Year

The Manager of the Year award often goes to the managers who make deep runs in October. Despite Dave Roberts leading the Dodgers to their first World Series title since 1988, he did not win his second Manager of the Year award (2016). Instead, Don Mattingly won the 2020 National League Manager of the Year award after guiding the Marlins to the National League Divisional Series. Coming off back to back 98+ lose seasons Mattingly guided Miami to a 31-29 record. The Marlins dealt with a Covid outbreak, which required them to play multiple double headers. Despite the challenges, Mattingly guided his young team through trials and tribulations no other team has faced before.

Don Mattingly has seen it all as the Marlins manager. From the death of Jose Fernandez to Covid Mattingly has led Miami through the storms (Jeff Roberson/ AP)

Kevin Cash led the Tampa Bay Rays to the American League pennant and the best record in the Junior Circuit, 40-20. Tampa easily won the American League East by seven games over the Yankees with baseball’s fourth lowest payroll. People will focus on Cash’s handling of Blake Snell in the World Series, but he pushed all the right buttons to set Tampa up for October success. The Rays responded to Cash and excelled throughout the shortened 2020 season.

Rookie of the Year

Devin Williams won the National League Rookie of the Year award. He is the first pitcher to win the award without making a start or recording a save. Williams appeared in 22 Games for the Brewers, 4-1 record, pitched 27 innings, allowed 8 Hits, 1 Earned Run (solo Home Run to Colin Moran), 9 Walks, 53 Strikeouts, 0.33 ERA, 0.630 WHIP, and 1,375 ERA+ (not a typo). He allowed more than one hit in an appearance once, his last appearance of the season. Williams pitched two innings and both hits were erased by double plays. Devin Williams was simply dominated. 

Devin Williams was nearly unhittable out of the Brewers bullpen all season. (Jeff Haynes/ Associated Press)

Kyle Lewis was the unanimous American League Rookie of the Year. He hit .262, .364 OBP, .437 SLG, .801 OPS, and 126 OPS+. Lewis had 54 Hits, 3 Doubles, 11 Home Runs, 28 RBI, scored 37 Runs, 5 Stolen Bases, 34 Walks, and 71 Strikeouts. He skipped AAA going straight to Seattle in 2019, appearing in 18 Games for the Mariners. In 2020, Lewis saw 4.06 pitches per plate appearance, higher than the 3.94 league average. Lewis’ talent will show through at the plate as he sees more pitches and he solidifies Centerfield in Seattle for the foreseeable future. 

Cy Young Award

Trevor Bauer is not afraid to operate outside the box. He only cares about being the best pitcher he can possibly be, as chronicled in The MVP Machine. Bauer enters free agency winning his first Cy Young Award (27 of 30 first place votes). He went 5-4 with a league leading 1.73 ERA. In 11 starts, Bauer threw 2 Complete Games, 2 Shutouts in 73 innings, allowing 41 Hits, 14 Earned Runs, 9 Home Runs, 17 Walks, 100 Strikeouts, 0.795 WHIP (led league), and 276 ERA+. Bauer helped propel the Reds back to the Postseason for the first time since 2013. Trevor Bauer was going to command a king’s ransom in free agency, winning the Cy Young Award only raises his price.

Shane Bieber dominated on his way to winning the Pitching Triple Crown. (Paul Sancya/ Associated Press)

Shane Bieber was the unanimous American League Cy Young Award winner. No other American League pitcher could have won the award. Bieber led the league in Wins, Strikeouts, and ERA to win the pitching Triple Crown. Overall in 12 starts he went 8-1, throwing 77.1 innings, allowing 46 Hits, 14 Earned Runs, 7 Home Runs, 21 Walks, 122 Strikeouts, a 0.866 WHIP, and a 281 ERA+. He dominated opposing hitters, striking out at least 10 batters 8 times. Bieber pitched masterfully despite the constant uncertainty throughout the season.

Most Valuable Player

Freddie Freeman has been in the Most Valuable Player conversation for several seasons, finishing in the top 10 three times. He finished second to teammate Craig Kimbrel for the 2011 National League Rookie of the Year. Freeman is a two time Silver Slugger and has a Gold Glove on his resume. In 2020, Freeman collected 73 hits 23 Doubles (led league), 1 Triple, 13 Home Runs, 53 RBI, scored 51 Runs (led league), 45 Walks, 37 Strikeouts, hit .341, .462 OBP, .640 SLG, 1.102 OPS, and a 186 OPS+. He is the clear leader of the Braves. Freeman’s elite bat often overshadows his elite defense. He is arguably the best first baseman in baseball, a career .995 Fld%, making just one Error in 460 Chances in 2020. Freeman now has the hardware to prove he is among baseball’s elite.

Freddie Freeman is now officially recognized as among the elite players in baseball. (Kevin C. Cox / Getty Images)

Jose Abreu is a three time All Star, three time Silver Slugger, and 2014 American League Rookie of the Year. His talent was never questioned, as his rise to stardom has been long and steady. Abreu displayed his talents in 2020 winning the American League Most Valuable Player Award. Playing in all 60 games, Abreu was the clear choice. He collected 76 Hits (led league), 15 Doubles, 19 Home Runs, 60 RBI (led league), scored 43 Runs, 18 Walks, 59 Strikeouts, hit .317, .370 OBP, .617 SLG (led league), .987 OPS, and a 166 OPS+. He is the leader of the White Sox need to contend every season for the American League Pennant. Abreu is only 33 years old, he has several more peak seasons ahead. 

The 2020 season was wild. Covid, no fans, divisional schedules. MLB managed to successfully navigate the season when many, including myself, thought they would fail. Recognizing the best in the game shines a light on the players and managers who rose to the top because of their skill and drive to be their best. Hopefully Covid is under control when baseball returns in the Spring and 2021 is closer to normal. Despite all the challenges, 2020 was a season to remember, especially for these winners. 

DJ