Tagged: Curse of the Bambino

Because The Game Is On The Schedule

True professional ball players continue playing hard even when the game means nothing. Baseball changes gears in August. The trade deadline has passed, the contenders and pretenders made moves, and the teams with no hope for the Postseason continue their march through the remaining season. The Major League season is a long, tough journey of 162 games in six months. No weekends off and few true off days with no games or travel. Baseball is a hard game played by hard people. 

No matter how much a player loves the game, playing for a lost cause is difficult. Few are surprised by the losses piled up by the Marlins and Orioles, yet players continue playing hard in this long season. Imagine doing that over an entire career. 

The Mariners began 2019 winning 13 of their first 15 games. Things were looking up for Seattle’s Kyle Seager. In eight seasons with Seager, the closest the Mariners have come to the Postseason was finishing second, nine games behind the Rangers and three out of the Wild Card in 2016. The October drought for Seattle and Seager appeared ready to end after the hot start this season, but it was a mirage. The Mariners are 35-69 since and are 10 games out of fourth place in the American League West. Kyle Seager continues extending his lead as the active player with the most games played without playing in the Postseason. He has played 1218 games, 200 more than second place, Jean Segura

Kyle Seager.jpg
Kyle Seager plays hard, even though most days there is nothing to play for in Seattle. (Stephen Brashear/ Getty Images)

Kyle Seager is outpacing his contemporaries, but he is not halfway to breaking the all time record. 2,528 career regular season games played, zero Postseason games. Mr Cub, Ernie Banks, sits atop the career leader board of being a true professional. The always cheerful Banks had two brushes with the Postseason. On August 16, 1969, the Cubs led the Mets and Cardinals by nine games. Chicago then proceeded to finish the season 17-26, including an eight game losing streak. The streaking Mets raced past Chicago on their was to a World Series Championship.

In 1970, the Cubs finished five games behind the Pirates. Chicago led Pittsburgh by five games in mid-June before falling and remaining a few games behind the Pirates for the rest of the season. Banks was a part time player in 1970, retiring retire after the 1971 season. Mr. Cub never played October baseball. Luke Appling, Mickey Vernon, and Buddy Bell can relate. This quartet are the only members of the 2,400 games played without playing in the Postseason club. No one wants to join the club. 

Pitchers have time to think between games, a luxury not given to position players. Even Mike Marshall and his record 106 relief appearances for the 1974 Dodgers, had days off. Zach Duke and Steve Cishek have pitched the most games among active pitchers without pitching in the Postseason. Duke has appeared in 570 games, but never a Playoff game. He was on two Postseason teams, the 2011 Diamondbacks and 2012 Nationals. However, both were quickly eliminated before Duke pitched. While Duke has the most games pitched without pitching in a Playoff game, Steve Cishek has not even sat on the bench during the Postseason. Cishek has pitched in 556 games, but not one in the Postseason. While Duke and Cishek are due a Postseason reward, they are not alone as Felix Hernandez’s greatness was wasted in Seattle. King Felix has 411 career starts, but none in the Postseason. Seattle last made the Postseason in 2001, four seasons before Hernandez arrived. Despite Hernandez’s dominance, the Mariners have finished within 10 games of the Division winner just twice in his career, 2007 and 2016. Injuries and a rebuilding team does not give much hope for King Felix to ever pitch in the Postseason.

FelixHernandez
Even perfection on the mound could not help Felix Hernandez reach the Postseason. (Dean Rutz/ The Seattle Times)

Pitchers give their arms to baseball and Lindy McDaniel was no different. He pitched in the most Regular Season games, 987, without pitching in the Postseason. The closest McDaniel came to the Postseason was in 1966 while pitching for the Giants. San Francisco was tied for the National League lead on September 1 before losing seven of their next 10 games. The Giants never recovered, losing the Pennant to the hated Dodgers by 1.5 games. McDaniel is not alone in never tasted October baseball. Hall of Famer Fergie Jenkins made 594 career starts, the most ever without pitching in the Postseason. The majority of his career was with the Cubs as they sought to exercise the Curse of the Billy Goat, yet Jenkins’ closest brush with October was with another cursed team, the Red Sox. In 1977, Boston battled the Yankees and Orioles all season, but when the Red Sox lost their lead in mid-August their season was over. The Red Sox and Orioles both finished 2.5 games behind the Yankees. Jenkins spent a few seasons pitching for the Rangers before returning to Wrigley in the twilight of his career. Never again coming close to October baseball.

Professional baseball is a grind. The excitement of the season wanes as the summer heat punishes players marching through the Regular Season. The season’s true dog days are in August for teams with nothing left to achieve. Some players are seeking new contracts or securing jobs, while others are playing just because it is their job. Hustling down the line, making a diving catch, sacrificing your body becomes more difficult when the season is lost but there are still games on the schedule. While baseball focuses on those making a Postseason push, remember the rest of baseball are professionals and continue to play hard. They show up everyday because the game is on the schedule.

DJ

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The King of Boston

The announcement that David Ortiz of the Boston Red Sox will retire after the 2016 begins the reminiscing of his career and its place within baseball history.  The numbers associated with Ortiz are impressive, and there is plenty of time to debate his hall of fame candidacy.  His statistics place him in Cooperstown, but the allegations of his using Performance Enhancing Drugs could raise some doubts in the minds of Baseball Writers.  The Baseball Writers will do what they believe is appropriate, let them debate whether Ortiz is enshrined in Cooperstown.

Few athletes have meant as much to a city as David Ortiz has to Boston.  He is happy and playful, but he always stands up for himself and his teammates.  Ortiz played a critical role in helping the Red Sox to win three World Series championships during his tenure.  He will always be a beloved figure in Boston for helping to break the Curse of the Bambino in 2004.  Winning the World Series again in 2007 and 2013 only solidified his place in Boston sports lore.

David Ortiz World Series

David Ortiz helped to bring joy to Fenway Park and Red Sox fans everywhere by helping Boston win three World Series in nine years. (www.mlb.nbcsports.com)

On-field success has showcased Ortiz’s talents, but it is what he did for the city of Boston itself that he should be most remembered for once he retires.  Following the Boston Marathon Bombing, the entire city of Boston went into lockdown.  Even after the death of one and capture of the other bomber, the fear of the unknown still hung in the air.  Would there be another attack?  Was it safe to go out to big public events?  Many legitimate concerns proliferated among Bostonians.

On June 11, 2008, David Ortiz became an American Citizen.  He chose to become part of the fabric of the United States.  America is a land of immigrants, only the Native Americans have not at some point immigrated to what has become the United States.  Immigrants from all over the world play an important role in shaping America.  On April 20, 2013, Ortiz, an American Citizen who came to America to play baseball, gave the city of Boston the pep talk it needed to feel good again and not allow a few people dictate how they live.  Standing along the first base line, with a giant American flag draped over the Green Monster, David Ortiz told the Fenway crowd and the rest of Boston:

“Alright Boston. This jersey that we wear today it doesn’t say Red Sox it says Boston.  We want to thank you, Mayor Menino, Governor Patrick, the whole police department for the great job that they did this past week.  This is our fucking city, and nobody’s going to dictate our freedom. Stay strong. Thank you.”

Kansas City Royals v Boston Red Sox

David Ortiz gave Boston the pep talk it needed during the pre-game ceremony in honor of the Boston Bombing victims. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

You may not like the language Ortiz used when speaking to the crowd, but it encapsulated everything the people of Boston had felt since the bombing.  Boston needed to hear from one of their own that everything was going to be ok.  This is exactly what David Ortiz gave to the people of Boston when they needed it the most.

The debate about David Ortiz’s place in baseball history and should he be enshrined in Cooperstown is up to the Baseball Writers.  What I think of first when I hear the name David Ortiz is a man who used his place on the Boston Red Sox to tell his fellow Bostonians and Americans that it is ok to be scared, but that no one is going to change who we are.  David Ortiz gave the city of Boston exactly what it needed, when they needed it, and for this, he will always hold a special place in their hearts.

DJ

Restoring Old Leather…Part 3

This is a three-part series on how I’ve come to recapture my love for America’s favorite pastime.

So it’s been nearly two decades since I paid careful attention to baseball. When I was working in financials before the 2008 crisis, I would get the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post daily. I’d save the sports sections for my lunch break and read some highlights and box scores over coffee and cigarettes. That’s the most I would do and I was certainly more engrossed in football (college, pro, and the sport that’s called football by the rest of the world), even to the exclusion of other sports.

Some of you may have already done the math and realized that I was hardly paying attention to baseball during an important time. The creation of the “Evil Empire” of the Yankees dominating the late 90s and early 00s that led to, for me, a heartbreaking moment of witnessing the end to the Curse of the Bambino.  The Yankees letting the Boston (sorry, I’m still enough of a Yankees fan that I’m not going to type their entire name) Red $%# make history by being the first team to ever come back from a 3 game deficit to win the ALCS. I also remember bits and pieces of the Subway Series, mostly because I saved a magazine issue that ran a story about it. 33% of the championships for a 15 year span for the Yankees. I wasn’t alive the last time another team in baseball could make a boast like this. Instead, I was spending most of those years studying, watching football, and guzzling beer.

The Yankees will always be the Evil Empire. (www.thegreedypinstripes.com)

The Yankees will always be the Evil Empire. (www.thegreedypinstripes.com)

The market crash taught me an interesting lesson about the notion of value. It’s an idea that’s tossed around often. Frequently interchangeable with words like price, cost, worth…but ultimately misunderstood. I started questioning what I valued. When the Yankees won the World Series again in 2009, I wasn’t paying much attention to sports at all but I watched some of the games. I always loved watching Mariano Rivera close games and he will probably forever remain my favorite Yankee of all time. But this time around, it was different. The thrill was gone…I had misplaced my values.

I’ve worked in education where I’ve taught children of all ages. I’ve taught the self-discipline and techniques of martial arts to kids as young as four and had the pleasure to watch them become fine teenagers and young adults. I’ve helped kids talk to their parents about problems and helped parents figure out how to give their kids the needed direction to straighten them out. I still have a little paper helicopter figurine an ingenious little 4th grader made me one day because he was so excited that I, an Asian man, was his substitute teacher. On the last day of a five month teaching assignment for an elementary school music teacher, the entire third grade class marched through the halls with handmade cards, placed them in a basket by my door, and gave me a hug.

I worked in the financial industry as a mortgage trader working with non-securitized whole loan packages. The sort of toxic assets that weren’t supposed to be packaged in those CDOs (Collateralized Debt Obligation) that spooked the market and brought it crashing down in 2008. Don’t blame me, I know guys that were willing to buy those things off the big banks who wouldn’t admit to the losses they needed to take. Forget supply and demand, the sky was falling. Sellers felt like what they had was worth more than the price they were hearing from the buyers – worthless.

The 2008 crash hit nearly everyone, and hard. (www.theamericangenius.com)

The 2008 crash hit nearly everyone, and hard. (www.theamericangenius.com)

I pretty much lost my shirt over the financial crisis and the rate I was paid to be a substitute teacher was nice while I was working except, when spread out over the year, I wasn’t making enough to get out of my mom’s house. We live in a social world, full of human interactions. Some of these interactions are emotionally fulfilling relationships that may be called friendship. Others involve exchanges in goods and labor and the relationship is labeled as business. They usually mix as well as bleach and ammonia.

There’s a really great book about human behavior called Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely. If you read the excerpt I linked to, you’ll see how baseball has this element where social norms clash with market transactions in a variety of ways. If the Nationals really consider me part of their “family” and care about me, why do they charge so much (or at all) for their games and concessions? Anyway, it made me think about the human element to sports, the language we use to describe the game, the minor league system, and so much more. I’ve come to find that baseball is a fantastic analogue for life. You may want to argue that all sports are analogues to the struggle that is life. If sports are a reflection our lives and society, then I would argue that we should try to live a baseball life over any other.

Baseball has been quite reluctant to adopt instant replay to correct calls. The human element of umpiring is part and parcel of the game. We may not agree with an umpire’s strike zone but we often forget that baseball players come in various heights. So imagine…

Eddie Gaedel's strike zone was almost non-existent. (www.sportingcharts.com)

Eddie Gaedel’s strike zone was almost non-existent. (www.sportingcharts.com)

Is Fister really adjusting to a different strike zone? When Ramos frames the pitch down is it less believable because Altuve’s chest is about half a foot lower than Marisnick’s? Even though the ump is supposed to consider a number of things, don’t we just care about consistency? That’s the human element, the X-factor that requires the personal touch making every game just a little different.

George Carlin had an amazing part to his act where he compared baseball to football. Although I think he may have been more of a football fan than a baseball fan, I think the comparison still holds today. It also makes you think about what we value and how we place value on things. Kid acts out in class. Is it an error? Or a penalty? I suppose what I want to everyone to ask themselves is that if life is such a battle, how do we win? Is tearing down another a worthwhile act to win? What if we helped each other avoid making errors? Would this world be a better place?

Baseball is a celebration of quirks and history. If it weren’t for baseball fanatics creating the Rotisserie League, would we even have fantasy sports leagues? Fantasy is one of those ways that I’ve come back into following players and teams. A way to keep my interest going and fill out my knowledge of the game the way I used to trying to memorize the stats on baseball cards. I came back to this sport because we can all use a bit more celebration in our lives. I hope you’ve enjoyed reminiscing with me and exploring the ways that life applies to baseball. Let me know what you think and let’s discuss this beautiful game.

BL @BHGLee

Al Rosen- Rest in Peace

We lost a legend over the weekend.  Al Rosen passed away at the age of 91.

Al Rosen, rest in peace. (www.cleveland.com)

Al Rosen, rest in peace. (www.cleveland.com)

Rosen delayed his baseball career after enlisting in the United States Navy in 1942.  He saw combat in the Pacific aboard an assault boat during the landing on Okinawa.  Rosen was a great player for the Cleveland Indians during his 10 seasons (1947-1956) in the Major Leagues.  He won the 1953 American League MVP.  After retiring he worked as the Present and CEO for the Yankees and Astros, and as the General Manager for the Giants.

 In December 2013, The Winning Run named Al Rosen as the third greatest Jewish Baseball player of all time.

Placing higher than a Hall of Fame player and manager, a spy, and a player who helped to end the Curse of the Bambino, means Al Rosen was a special player. This assertion is correct. While he has not been honored with a plaque in Cooperstown, his legacy is not forgotten.

Al Rosen’s career was delayed by his service in the Navy (1942-1946) during World War II. His actions in the Pacific include navigating an assault boat during the initial landing during the Battle of Okinawa. His actions no doubt helped to end the war and return the world to peace.

The fans of the Cleveland Indians were given the opportunity to watch the third (Rosen) and fourth (Lou Boudreau) best Jewish players in baseball history to play together from 1947 through 1950. Rosen played his entire 10 year career with the Indians. While he was only a bit player in 1947 until 1949, Rosen exploded onto the American League scene in 1950 by leading the league with 37 Home Runs. He would remain a staple of the Indians lineup until injuries forced his early retirement after the 1956 season.

Al-Rosen

Along with being apart of the 1948 World Series Championship team, Rosen had a career .285 Batting Average, with 192 Home Runs, 717 RBI, and 587 Walks against 385 Strikeouts. He was selected to four straight All Star games, led American League in Home Runs twice (1950 and 1953), RBIs twice (1952 and 1953), and was named the 1953 American League Most Valuable Player.

It is the 1953 season which launched Rosen to the third spot on the list of greatest Jewish players of all time. During this season Rosen collected 201 hits, scored 115 Runs (League leader), hit 27 Doubles, 43 Home Runs (League leader), 145 RBI (League leader), Walked 85 times against 48 Strikeouts, had .336 Batting Average (2nd in Batting Title), with a .422 On Base Percentage, .613 Slugging, 1.034 OPS, 367 Total Bases, and had a 10.1 WAR (9.1 oWAR). Winning the Triple Crown is no easy task, it has only been accomplished 16 times in baseball history, and only five times since Rosen began his career in 1947. In 1953, Rosen led the American League in Home Runs with 43, RBIs with 145, and finished second with a Batting Average of .336. The heartbreak of this seasons was that the Batting Title went to Mickey Vernon who finished the season batting .337. Rosen hit safely in 31 of his final 32 games, including the final 20 games of the season in his quest to win the Triple Crown. Ultimately, Roses, despite going 9 for his last 15, could not catch Vernon who went 5 for his last 16.

Al Rosen served his country honorably during World War II, became an All Star Major Leaguer, and put together one of the finest seasons in history in 1953. His service to both his country and to the game of baseball have earned him the distinction of being the third greatest Jewish baseball player of all time.

Rest in peace Mr. Rosen. You will be missed.

D

Greatest Jewish Baseball Players- #3 Al Rosen

Placing higher than a Hall of Fame player and manager, a spy, and a player who helped to end the Curse of the Bambino, means Al Rosen was a special player. This assertion is correct. While he has not been honored with a plaque in Cooperstown, his legacy is not forgotten.

Al Rosen’s career was delayed by his service in the Navy (1942-1946) during World War II. His actions in the Pacific include navigating an assault boat during the initial landing during the Battle of Okinawa. His actions no doubt helped to end the war and return the world to peace.

The fans of the Cleveland Indians were given the opportunity to watch the third (Rosen) and fourth (Lou Boudreau) best Jewish players in baseball history to play together from 1947 through 1950. Rosen played his entire 10 year career with the Indians. While he was only a bit player in 1947 until 1949, Rosen exploded onto the American League scene in 1950 by leading the league with 37 Home Runs. He would remain a staple of the Indians lineup until injuries forced his early retirement after the 1956 season.

Al-Rosen

Along with being apart of the 1948 World Series Championship team, Rosen had a career .285 Batting Average, with 192 Home Runs, 717 RBI, and 587 Walks against 385 Strikeouts. He was selected to four straight All Star games, led American League in Home Runs twice (1950 and 1953), RBIs twice (1952 and 1953), and was named the 1953 American League Most Valuable Player.

It is the 1953 season which launched Rosen to the third spot on the list of greatest Jewish players of all time. During this season Rosen collected 201 hits, scored 115 Runs (League leader), hit 27 Doubles, 43 Home Runs (League leader), 145 RBI (League leader), Walked 85 times against 48 Strikeouts, had .336 Batting Average (2nd in Batting Title), with a .422 On Base Percentage, .613 Slugging, 1.034 OPS, 367 Total Bases, and had a 10.1 WAR (9.1 oWAR). Winning the Triple Crown is no easy task, it has only been accomplished 16 times in baseball history, and only five times since Rosen began his career in 1947. In 1953, Rosen led the American League in Home Runs with 43, RBIs with 145, and finished second with a Batting Average of .336. The heartbreak of this seasons was that the Batting Title went to Mickey Vernon who finished the season batting .337. Rosen hit safely in 31 of his final 32 games, including the final 20 games of the season in his quest to win the Triple Crown. Ultimately, Roses, despite going 9 for his last 15, could not catch Vernon who went 5 for his last 16.

Al Rosen served his country honorably during World War II, became an All Star Major Leaguer, and put together one of the finest seasons in history in 1953. His service to both his country and to the game of baseball have earned him the distinction of being the third greatest Jewish baseball player of all time.

D