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 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.
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.
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.
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.