Tagged: Boston Red Sox

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

United States of Baseball- Maryland

Baseball has a long and proud history. There are legends from every American state and territory. The best pitcher born in the Old Line State is Lefty Grove. His 113.31 career WAR ranks fifth among pitching leaders. The best Maryland born position player is arguably the greatest player of all time. Babe Ruth’s 182.47 career WAR is the highest for any player ever. Maryland’s combined 295.78 WAR ranks first among all states and territories. 

Robert Moses “Lefty” Grove was born in the west Maryland town of Lonaconing. He pitched for 17 seasons with the Philadelphia Athletics (1925-1933) and Boston Red Sox (1934-1941). Grove began his professional career in Martinsburg before the Minor League Baltimore Orioles bought him in exchange for an outfield fence. Grove spent five years in Baltimore before Connie Mack paid $100,600 for the future Hall of Famer. Once in the Majors, Grove was electric. In 616 career Games, he made 457 Starts, threw 298 Complete Games, including 35 Shutouts, pitched 3,940.2 Innings, allowed 3,849 Hits, 1,594 Runs, 1,339 Earned Runs, 162 Home Runs, 1,187 Walks, 2,266 Strikeouts, posting a 300-141 record, 3.06 ERA, 1.278 WHIP, and 148 ERA+. Grove led the American League in Strikeouts in his first seven seasons. He was named to six All Star teams, won nine ERA Titles, and back to back Pitching Triple Crowns in 1930 and 1931. Grove’s .680 Winning Percentage is the best of any 300 Game winner. He was elected to Cooperstown in 1947. 

Left Grove dominated the American League all the way to Cooperstown. (www.bostonmagazine.com)

Grove led the Athletics pitching to three consecutive American League pennants between 1929 and 1931. Grove pitched in all three World Series, appeared in 8 Games, made 5 Starts, threw 4 Complete Games, pitched 51.1 Innings, allowed 46 Hits, 12 Runs, 10 Earned Runs, 0 Home Runs, 6 Walks, 36 Strikeouts, posted a 4-2 record, 1.75 ERA, and 1.013 WHIP. The Athletics won the World Series in 1929 and 1930. 

Unquestionably the best season of Grove’s career was with the 1931 Athletics. He pitched in 41 Games, made 30 Starts, threw 27 Complete Games, including 4 Shutouts, pitched 288.2 Innings, allowed 249 Hits, 84 Runs, 66 Earned Runs, 10 Home Runs, 62 Walks, 175 Strikeouts, posted a 31-4 record, 2.06 ERA, 1.077 WHIP, and 217 ERA+. He led the Junior Circuit in Wins, Winning Percentage, Complete Games, Shutouts, Strikeouts, ERA, WHIP, and ERA+. He won the Pitching Triple Crown and the American League MVP. 

Easily the most written about baseball player ever, there is little left unsaid about Babe Ruth. George Herman Ruth was born in Baltimore. The elite pitcher and all time great hitter played 22 seasons with three teams: Boston Red Sox (1914-1919), New York Yankees (1920-1934), and Boston Braves (1935). Fully appreciating Ruth’s greatness means examining his pitching and hitting. On the mound, Ruth appeared in 163 Games, made 147 Starts, threw 107 Complete Games, including 17 Shutouts, pitched 1,221.1 Innings, allowed 974 Hits, 400 Runs, 309 Earned Runs, 10 Home Runs, 441 Walks, 488 Strikeouts, posted a 94-46 record, 2.28 ERA, 1.159 WHIP, and 122 ERA+. At the plate, Ruth played in 2,503 Games, collected 2,873 Hits, 506 Doubles, 136 Triples, 714 Home Runs, 2,214 RBI, scored 2,174 Runs, 123 Stolen Bases, 2,062 Walks, 1,330 Strikeouts, .342 BA, .474 OBP, .690 SLG, 1.164 OPS, and 206 OPS+. He was twice an All Star. Ruth was the American League MVP in 1923 and won the Batting Title in 1924. He remains the all time leader in SLG, OPS, and OPS+. Ruth was among the five members of the Baseball Hall of Fame’s first class in 1936. 

Babe Ruth is arguably the greatest baseball player ever. (Trenton Daily)

The Great Bambino appeared in 10 World Series. He won seven championships, three with the Red Sox and four with the Yankees. On the mound, Ruth pitched in 3 Games, made 3 Starts, threw 2 Complete Games, including 1 Shutout, pitched 31 Innings, allowed 19 Hits, 3 Runs, 3 Earned Runs, 1 Home Run, 10 Walks, 8 Strikeouts, posted a 3-0 record, 0.87 ERA, and 0.935 WHIP. His record 29.2 scoreless World Series innings was later broken by Whitey Ford. At the plate, Ruth played in 41 World Series Games, collected 42 Hits, 5 Doubles, 2 Triples, 15 Home Runs, 33 RBI, scored 37 Runs, 4 Stolen Bases, 33 Walks, 30 Strikeouts, .326 BA, .470 OBP, .744 SLG, and 1.214 OPS. In 1926, he became the first player to hit three Home Runs in a World Series game. Ruth repeated the feat two years later. 

Ruth’s career on the mound was cut short because of his bat. His best season pitching was 1916 with the Red Sox. Ruth pitched in 44 Games, made 40 Starts, threw 23 Complete Games, including 9 Shutouts, pitched 323.2 Innings, allowed 230 Hits, 83 Runs, 63 Earned Runs, 0 Home Runs, 118 Walks, 170 Strikeouts, posted a 23-12 record, 1.75 ERA, 1.075 WHIP, and 158 ERA+. He won the American League ERA Title. Ruth’s best season at the plate was not his MVP season, but two seasons before. In 1921, coming off his record shattering first season in the Bronx, Ruth playing in 152 Games, collected 204 Hits, 44 Doubles, 16 Triples, 59 Home Runs, 168 RBI, scored 177 Runs, 17 Stolen Bases, 145 Walks, 81 Strikeouts, .378 BA, .512 OBP, .846 SLG, 1.359 OPS, and 239 OPS+. He broke his own Home Run record set the season prior. He led the American League in Home Runs, RBI, Runs scored, Walks, OBP, SLG, OPS, and OPS+. He hit more Home Runs than five American League teams. He passed Roger Connor’s 139 career Home Runs to become the Home Run King. Ruth set single season records for Extra Base Hits (119) and Total Bases (457). There was little Ruth could not do on a baseball field.

Maryland has given more to baseball than just Grove and Ruth. The Old Line State has 11 native sons in the Hall of Fame: Harold Baines, Frank Baker, Jimmie Foxx, Lefty Grove, Judy Johnson, Al Kaline, Bowie Kuhn (Commissioner), Cal Ripken Jr., Babe Ruth, John Schuerholz (Executive), and Vic Willis. Maryland reigns supreme as the state with the highest combined WAR from its best pitcher and position player. Next week the United States of Baseball returns to New England. The Bay State is next, Massachusetts. 

DJ

United States of Baseball- Maine

Everyone needs a vacation from time to time. Few states can compete with the beauty of Maine. Vacationland is a natural playground from the sea to the mountains and forests. Major League Baseball has seen 78 Mainers take the field. The greatest pitcher born in Maine is Bob Stanley. His 23.86 career WAR is the 48th highest among pitcher state and territory leaders. George Gore is the greatest position player born in Maine. His 39.94 career WAR is 41st highest among state and territory leaders. Maine has a combined 63.80 WAR, ranking Vacationland 46th among states and territories. 

Bob Stanley was a critical part of Boston’s attempt to break the Curse of the Bambino. The Portland native played 13 seasons with the Red Sox (1977-1989). Stanley pitched in 637 career Games, made 85 Starts, 377 Games Finished, threw 21 Complete Games, including 7 Shutouts, 132 Saves, 1,707 Innings Pitched, allowed 1,858 Hits, 797 Runs, 690 Earned Runs, 113 Home Runs, 471 Walks, 693 Strikeouts, posting a 115-97 record, 3.64 ERA, 1.364 WHIP, and 118 ERA+. He was twice an All Star. Stanley was the American League Pitcher of the Month in August 1980. His 115 Wins are the most for a pitcher born in Maine. Stanley’s 33 saves in 1983 and 132 career Saves set then Red Sox records. He retains the Boston record for most career pitching appearances. 

Bob Stanley took the mound more than any pitcher in Red Sox history. (Associated Press)

In the 1986 World Series, Stanley did his best to break the Curse. He pitched in 5 Games, Finished 4 Games, with 1 Save, Pitched 6.1 Innings, allowed 5 Hits, 0 Runs, 0 Earned Runs, 1 Walk, 4 Strikeouts, posting a 0-0 record, 0.00 ERA, and 0.947 WHIP. Boston was close to ending its World Series drought before the team collapsed.

Stanley’s best season was his sophomore season. In 1978 he pitched in 52 Games, made 3 Starts, 35 Games Finished, including 10 Saves, Pitched 141.2 Innings, allowed 142 Hits, 50 Runs, 41 Earned Runs, 5 Home Runs, 34 Walks, 38 Strikeouts, posted a 15-2 record, 2.60 ERA, 1.242 WHIP, and 160 ERA+. He finished 7th for the American League Cy Young and 25th for the MVP. While Stanley never surpassed 1978, he was a key arm in Boston for another decade. 

George Gore was one of baseball’s earliest stars. The Saccarappa native patrolled Centerfield for 14 seasons with four teams: Chicago White Stockings (1879-1886), New York Giants (1887-1889, 1891-1892), New York Giants of the Players League (1890), and St. Louis Browns (1892). He was a feared presence at the plate. In 1,310 career Games, Gore collected 1,612 Hits, 262 Doubles, 94 Triples, 46 Home Runs, 618 RBI, scored 1,327 Runs, 170 Stolen Bases, 717 Walks, 332 Strikeouts, .301 BA, .386 OBP, .411 SLG, .797 OPS, and 136 OPS+. His career began by conducting baseball’s first holdout, A.G. Spalding offered Gore $1,200 to sign with the White Stockings. He countered with $2500. The sides eventually agreed to $1900. It was money well spent as Gore led the National League in Runs scored twice (1881-1882) and Walks four times (1882-1884, and 1886). His career 1.01 Runs scored per Game far exceeds many Hall of Famers including Henry Aaron and Ted Williams. Gore brought excitement to every game he played.

Gore played in four World Series. He lost in 1885 and 1886 with the White Stockings and won in 1888 and 1889 with the Giants. In his four trips to the Fall Classic, Gore collected 16 Hits, 2 Doubles, 1 Triple, 1 Home Run, 3 RBI, scored 15 Runs, 4 Stolen Bases, 9 Walks, 5 Strikeouts, .276 BA, .373 OBP, .397 SLG, and .770 OPS. He helped lay the groundwork for the World Series we know today.

George Gore was one of baseball’s first stars. (www.SABR.org)

Gore’s best season was 1880 with the White Stockings. He played 77 Games of a 82 Game season, collected 116 Hits, 23 Doubles, 2 Triples, 2 Home Runs, 47 RBI, scored 70 Runs, 21 Walks, 10 Strikeouts, .360 BA, .399 OBP, .463 SLG, .862 OPS, and 185 OPS+. He led the National League in BA, OBP, SLG, OPS, and OPS+. Gore is the only Mainer to win a Batting Title, which came in a season so dominated by pitchers that the Pitcher’s Box was moved from 45 to 50 feet after the season.  

Maine does not have a representative in Cooperstown. However, Vacationland has contributed greatly to the growth of baseball. Next week the United States of Baseball heads down the Atlantic coast to the Old Line State. Maryland is next. 

DJ

United States of Baseball- Kentucky

It has been over a century since Kentucky had a Major League team. The Louisville Colonels/ Eclipse were absorbed by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1899. Despite the lack of a Major League team, the Bluegrass State has produced 125 Major League players. The greatest Kentucky born pitcher is Jim Bunning. His 60.37 career WAR ranks him 34th among state and territory pitching leaders. Pee Wee Reese is the greatest position player. His 68.23 career WAR ranks 19th among state and territory leaders. Bunning and Reese give the Bluegrass State 128.60 WAR, 25th highest among all states and territories. 

Jim Bunning grew up across the Ohio River from the Cincinnati Reds. The Southgate native pitched for 17 seasons with 4 teams: Detroit Tigers (1955-1963), Philadelphia Phillies (1964-1967, 1970-1971), Pittsburgh Pirates (1968-1969), and Los Angeles Dodgers (1969). The Righty appeared in 591 career Games, made 519 Starts, threw 151 Complete Games, including 40 Shutouts, pitched 3,760.1 Innings, allowed 3,433 Hits, 1,527 Runs, 1,366 Earned Runs, 372 Home Runs, 1,000 Walks, 2,855 Strikeouts, posted a 224-184 record, 3.27 ERA, 1.179 WHIP, and 115 ERA+. 

Career numbers never tell the full story of a player. Bunning was a nine time All Star. The former Xavier University basketball player threw a No Hitter on July 20, 1957. He then threw an Immaculate Inning on August 8, 1959. Five years later on June 21, 1964, he was perfect. Bunning’s Perfect Game was the fifth in Major League history, the first since 1922, and the first in the National League since 1880. He also played a critical role in recruiting Marvin Miller as the first leader of the Player’s Union. After retiring, Bunning managed in the Phillies Minor League system before entering politics. He was elected to the Kentucky State Senate, the United States House of Representatives, and the United States Senate. In 1996, Bunning was elected to the Hall of Fame by the Veteran’s Committee. His final baseball honor came in 2001 when the Phillies retired his #14. 

Jim Bunning began his career in Detroit before becoming a Hall of Famer with the Phillies. (Bettmann/ Getty Images)

The best season of Jim Bunning’s career was with the 1967 Phillies. He made 40 Starts, threw 16 Complete Games, including 6 Shutouts, pitched 302.1 Innings, allowed 241 Hits, 94 Runs, 77 Earned Runs, 18 Home Runs, 73 Walks, 253 Strikeouts, posted a 17-15 record, 2.29 ERA, 1.039 WHIP, and 149 ERA+. He led the National League in Starts, Shutouts, Innings Pitched, Strikeouts, Hit By Pitch, and Batters Faced. Philadelphia finished two games above .500, but Bunning still finished second for the Cy Young and 22nd for the MVP. Great seasons can happen for players on less than great teams.

Pee Wee Reese never wanted to go to Brooklyn. The Dodgers legend thought he was heading to Boston. When Joe Cronin kept playing despite his age, the Red Sox traded the minor leaguer to the Dodgers. Harold Henry Reese gained his nickname from his love of playing marbles. The Ekron native played Shortstop for 16 seasons with the Brooklyn/ Los Angeles Dodgers. He missed three full seasons serving in the Navy Seabees during World War II. Despite the lost time, Reese still played in 2,166 career Games, collected 2,170 Hits, 330 Doubles, 80 Triples, 126 Home Runs, 885 RBI, scored 1,338 Runs, 232 Stolen Bases, 1,210 Walks, 890 Strikeouts, .269 BA, .366 OBP, .377 SLG, .743 OPS, and 99 OPS+. Reese was a solid Shortstop. He played 17,707.1 Innings, had 10,319 Chances, made 4,040 Putouts, 5,891 Assists, 388 Errors, turned 1,246 Double Plays, with a .962 FLD%, 5.05 RF/9, 4.93 RF/G, and 22 Rtot. His skills made Reese a 10 time All Star, named Dodger captain in 1949, his #1 retired by the Dodgers, and elected to the Hall of Fame in 1984. 

Pee Wee Reese’s greatest moment had little to do with baseball. (www.peeweereese.com)

Reese played in seven World Series, all against the Yankees. Brooklyn won only once, 1955, in their sixth attempt. In 44 World Series Games, Reese collected 46 Hits, 3 Doubles, 2 Triples, 2 Home Runs, 16 RBI, scored 20 Runs, 5 Stolen Bases, 18 Walks, 17 Strikeouts, .272 BA, .346 OBP, .349 SLG, and .695 OPS. 

Pee Wee Reese’s best season was 1954. He played in 141 Games, collected 171 Hits, 35 Doubles, 8 Triples, 10 Home Runs, 69 RBI, scored 98 Runs, 8 Stolen Bases, 90 Walks, 62 Strikeouts, .309 BA, .404 OBP, .455 SLG, .859 OPS, and 121 OPS+. He was named an All Star and finished ninth for the MVP. Reese set career highs in Doubles, Batting Average, SLG, OPS, and OPS+. It was his only season hitting over .300. 

Perhaps the greatest moment of Reese’s career was a simple act. It is debated where it occurred, Cincinnati or Boston. What is not debated is Reese putting his arm on Jackie Robinson’s shoulder in a public show of support. Reese could not shield Robinson from the horrific abuse he took from opposing players and fans, but showing his support for his teammate let everyone know where he stood. Reese’s support helped Robinson succeed. 

The Bluegrass State has a proud baseball legacy. Kentucky is home to several Minor and Independent League teams. Four native Kentuckians are enshrined in Cooperstown: Jim Bunning, Happy Chandler (Commissioner), Earle Combs, and Pee Wee Reese. More will surely follow. Next week the United States of Baseball heads to the Gulf Coast. The Pelican State is next, Louisiana.

DJ

United States of Baseball- Kansas

Fly over states may not have the large cities that attract Major League teams, but they play plenty of baseball. Kansas does not lack for baseball talent with 218 MLB players born in the Sunflower State. The best Kansas born pitcher is one of the greatest of all time. Walter Johnson has the most career WAR, 164.54, for a pitcher born in Kansas. He has the second highest WAR for any state and territory pitching leader. Johnny Damon is the greatest position player born in the Sunflower State. His 56.33 career WAR ranks 35th among state and territory leaders. Johnson and Damon give Kansas 220.87 WAR, 8th highest among all states and territories. 

Walter Johnson is on the Mount Rushmore of Major League pitchers. Few pitchers can compare to the Humboldt native. The Right Hander pitched 21 seasons for the Washington Senators. In 802 career Games, Johnson made 666 Starts, threw 531 Complete Games, including 110 Shutouts, pitched 5,914.1 Innings, allowed 4,913 Hits, 1,902 Runs, 1,424 Earned Runs, 97 Home Runs, 1,363 Walks, 3,509 Strikeouts, posted a 417-279 record, 2.17 ERA, 1.061 WHIP, and 147 ERA+. On July 1, 1920 against the Red Sox Johnson threw his only career No Hitter. Four years later, he helped propel the Senators to their only World Series victory. The Big Train holds the record for most career 1-0 Wins (38) and Losses (26). He is likely the permanent all time leader in Shutouts.

Walter Johnson is possibly the greatest pitcher in baseball history. (Baseball In Color)

Johnson dominated. He had 10 consecutive 20 Win seasons. He led the American League in Strikeouts 12 times, Shutouts seven times, Wins, Complete Games, WHIP, and ERA+ six times, and Innings Pitched five times. The Big Train struck out 300 batters twice and 200 batters seven times. He posted a WHIP below 1.000 nine times. His ERA+ was over 200 four times and 150 eight times. Johnson’s domination included an ERA under 2.00 11 times and winning five ERA Titles. He won the Pitching Triple Crown three times (1913, 1918, 1924) and the American League MVP twice (1913 and 1924). In 1936 Johnson was elected to the Hall of Fame as part of the inaugural class. 

Johnson’s best season was 1913. He pitched in 48 Games, made 36 Starts, threw 29 Complete Games, including 11 Shutouts, pitched 346 Innings, allowed 232 Hits, 56 Runs, 44 Earned Runs, 9 Home Runs, 38 Walks, 243 Strikeouts, posted a 36-7 record, 1.14 ERA, 0.780 WHIP, and 259 ERA+. Johnson won the MVP award while leading the league in Wins, Winning %, Complete Games, Shutouts, Innings Pitched, Home Runs, Strikeouts, ERA, WHIP, and ERA+. Total control on the mound as the Senators won 90 games to finish second for the pennant. 

“We’re idiots.” Boston’s Johnny Damon as the Red Sox marched to their 2004 World Series title. The Fort Riley native was a veteran leader that helped return Boston to baseball glory. The sometimes caveman looking Centerfielder played 18 seasons for seven teams: Kansas City Royals (1995-2000), Oakland Athletics (2001), Boston Red Sox (2002-2005), New York Yankees (2006-2009), Detroit Tigers (2010), Tampa Bay Rays (2011), and Cleveland Indians (2012). In 2,490 career Games, Damon collected 2,769 Hits, 522 Doubles, 109 Triples, 235 Home Runs, 1,139 RBI, scored 1,668 Runs, 408 Stolen Bases, 1,003 Walks, 1,257 Strikeouts, .284 BA, .352 OBP, .433 SLG, .785 OPS, and 104 OPS+. He scored at least 100 Runs 10 times. He was twice an All Star (2002 and 2005) and World Series champion (2004 and 2009). Damon appeared on the 2018 Hall of Fame ballot, receiving 1.8% of votes. He is best remembered for his departure in Oakland helping to usher in the Moneyball era and ending the Curse of the Bambino

Johnny Damon is best remembered for helping break the Curse of the Bambino. (The Eagle Tribune)

Damon’s best season was in 2000 for the Royals. He played in 159 Games, collected 214 Hits, 42 Doubles, 10 Triples, 16 Home Runs, 88 RBI, scored 136 Runs, 46 Stolen Bases, 65 Walks, 60 Strikeouts, .327 BA, .382 OBP, .495 SLG, .877 OPS, and 118 OPS+. He led the Junior Circuit in Runs scored and Stolen Bases. Damon set career highs in Plate Appearances, At Bats, Runs scored, Hits, Doubles, Stolen Bases, BA, OBP, SLG, and Total Bases. He was the July Player of the Month as he posted a 6.2 WAR season. Damon finished 19th in MVP voting. The Royals tried to resign him, but the constant losing took its toll. Kansas City traded him to Oakland instead of losing him in Free Agency. 

Kansas has sent two players to Cooperstown, Walter Johnson and Joe Tinker. Damon was a good player, but not quite Hall of Fame worthy. Kansas continues to wait for a third member in Cooperstown. Next week the United States of Baseball heads to the land of horse racing and basketball. The Bluegrass State is next, Kentucky. 

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

United States of Baseball- Hawaii

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DJ

Predictions Sure To Go Wrong 7.0

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

American League East

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

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

American League Central

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

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

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

American League West

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

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

National League East

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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

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

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

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

National League West

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

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

Postseason

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

American League Wild Card

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

National League Wild Card

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MetsGnatsPadresMarlinsDodgersPadres
PadresThe over hyped LA teamMetsPadresMetsBrewers

American League Divisional Series 

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

National League Divisional Series

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

American League Championship Series

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

National League Championship Series

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BravesBravosDodgersBravesCardinalsBraves
PadresYou want a hot apple pie with that?PadresPadresBravesPadres

World Series

DerekJesseJohn Moving Co.KevinBernieThe Winning Run
Black SoxBravosYankeesYankeesCardinalsBraves
BravesTwinkiesDodgersBravesYankeesYankees
BravesBravosYankeesYankeesCardinalsBraves

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

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

DJ, JJ, JB, BL, and KB

United States of Baseball- California

California has produced 2,338 Major League players, more than any other state; nearly 1,000 more than the second most productive state, New York. Only truly special players rise to the top in the Golden State. California’s greatest pitcher is Tom Seaver. His 106.02 career WAR ranks 8th among state leaders. The greatest position player is Barry Bonds, who ranks 2nd with 162.76 career WAR. Their combined 268.78 career WAR ranks California 3rd among all states and territories.

Tom Seaver for many was the perfect pitcher. He combined dominance with longevity. The Fresno native pitched 20 seasons in the Majors for the New York Mets (1967-1977, 1983), Cincinnati Reds (1977-1982), Chicago White Sox (1984-1986), and Boston Red Sox (1986). He won 311 Games, threw 231 Complete Games, 61 Shutouts, Struckout 3,640 batters, with a 2.86 ERA, 1.121 WHIP, and 127 ERA+. Seaver was the National League Rookie of the Year in 1967, a 12 time All Star, World Series champion with the 1969 Mets, won three National League ERA titles (1970-1971, 1973), three National League Cy Young Awards (1969, 1973, 1975), and was a first ball Hall of Famer in 1992. 

Tom Seaver made a career out of frustrating batters. (Focus on Sports via Getty Images)

There were so many great seasons in Tom Terrific’s career, it is difficult to pick which was his best. His three Cy Young seasons are the most logical, but his 1971 campaign is equally as dominant. Pitching for the 83 win Mets, he started 35 Games, threw 21 Complete Games, 4 Shutouts, in 286.1 Innings, allowed 61 Walks, while Strikingout 289 batters, posting a 20-10 record, 1.76 ERA, 0.946 WHIP, and 194 ERA+. Seaver was a tremendous pitcher, who despite all the accolades is still underrated. 

Barry Bonds is one of the greatest hitters of all time. Ignoring the PEDs, Bonds could hit. Yes his peak and the distance he could hit a baseball were unnaturally extended, no drug can help you hit a round ball with a round bat squarely. Bonds is a first ballot Hall of Famer if not for the cloud of PEDs. The Riverside native’s resume is ridiculous. He was a 14 time All Star, won 8 Gold Gloves, 12 Silver Slugger Awards, two National League Batting Titles (2002, 2004), and a record 7 Most Valuable Player Awards (1990, 1992-1993, 2001-2004). 

Bonds played 22 seasons for the Pittsburgh Pirates (1986-1992) and San Francisco Giants (1993-2007). He collected 2,935 Hits, 601 Doubles, 77 Triples, 762 Home Runs, 1,996 RBI, 2,227 Runs scored, 514 Stolen Bases, 2,558 Walks, 688 Intentional Walks, with a .298 BA, .444 OBP, .607 SLG, 1.051 OPS, and 182 OPS+. Bonds holds the Major League record for most Home Runs, Walks, and Intentional Walks. If not for his connection to PEDs and blackballing after surpassing Hank Aaron’s Home Run record he would have reached 3,000 Hits and increased his records. 

Barry Bonds could hit, regardless of PED usage. (Phil Carter-US PRESSWIRE)

Like Seaver, it is difficult to select Barry Bonds’ greatest season. However, 2004 is one of the most ridiculous seasons in baseball history and deserves some recognition. At 39 years old, Bonds played 147 Games with 617 Plate Appearances and 373 At Bats, 135 Hits, 27 Doubles, 3 Triples, 45 Home Runs, 101 RBI, 129 Runs scored, 6 Stolen Bases, 232 Walks, 120 Intentional Walks, 41 Strikeouts, with a .362 BA, .609 OBP, .812 SLG, 1.422 OPS, and 263 OPS+. He led the league in Walks, Intentional Walks, BA, OBP, SLG, OPS, and OPS+ on his way to his 7th MVP award. He set the single season record for both Walks and Intentional Walks. Bonds has the top three single season Walk totals (2001- 177 walks, 2002- 198 walks, and 2004- 232 walks). He also has the top three single season Intentional Walk totals, and six of the top ten (1st 2004- 120 IBB, 2nd 2002- 68 IBB, 3rd 2003- 61 IBB, 6th 1993 and 2007- 43 IBB, 9th 2006- 38 IBB). Teams were always terrified of Bonds swinging the bat, but in 2004 opposing teams refused to pitch to him, leaving voters little choice with their MVP votes. 

California is a hot bed for baseball. Both Seaver and Bonds were first ballot Hall of Famers, unfortunately only one enjoyed the honor. The Golden State has produced the second most Hall of Fame players. The 24 California born Hall of Fame players are: Gary Carter, Frank Chance, Joe Cronin, Joe DiMaggio, Bobby Doerr, Don Drysdale, Dennis Eckersley, Lefty Gomez, Joe Gordon, Tony Gwynn, Chick Hafey, Harry Heilmann, Trevor Hoffman, Harry Hooper, Randy Johnson, George Kelly, Tony Lazzeri, Bob Lemon, Ernie Lombardi, Eddie Murray, Tom Seaver, Duke Snider, Alan Trammell, and Ted Williams. The Golden State also produced Hall of Fame Executive Pat Gillick and Umpire Doug Harvey. California has been wonderful to baseball. 

The United States of Baseball is heading for higher ground. Next week we examine baseball in Colorado. 

DJ