Tagged: St. Louis Cardinals

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- Indiana

Indiana is known more for basketball and auto racing than baseball. However, the Hoosier State has a strong baseball legacy. 377 Major League players were born in Indiana. Amos Rusie is the greatest Hoosier pitcher. His 65.20 career WAR ranks 23rd among state and territory pitching leaders. Scott Rolen is the greatest position player from Indiana. His 70.11 career WAR ranks 27th among position player leaders. Combined, Indiana boasts a 135.31 WAR, 23rd highest among all states and territories. 

The Hoosier Thunderbolt terrified batters. Many batters never saw Amos Rusie’s fastball, but it sounded fast. The Mooresville native so scared opposing teams the pitcher’s box was moved back from 55 feet to the familiar 60 feet 6 inches. Batters wanted extra time to avoid taking a fastball to the head. 

Rusie pitched for 10 seasons in the Majors with three teams: Indianapolis Hoosiers (1889), New York Giants (1890-1895, 1897-1898), and Cincinnati Reds (1901). The talents of some players are easily recognizable. Rusie pitched just four minor league games before reaching the Majors with the Hoosiers, who folded after the 1889. In 463 career Games, he made 427 Starts, threw 393 Complete Games, including 30 Shutouts, pitched 3,778.2 Innings, allowed 3,389 Hits, 2,068 Runs, 1,288 Earned Runs, 75 Home Runs, 1,707 Walks, 1,950 Strikeouts, posted a 246-174 record, 3.07 ERA, 1.349 WHIP, and 129 ERA+. Foul balls were not counted as strikes until 1901, making Rusie’s strikeout total even more impressive. 

Baseball is a business. In 1895, Rusie was twice fined $100 for breaking curfew and not trying hard enough. Angered by the large fines, his salary was $3,000, Rusie sat out the 1896 season and sued the Giants owner for $5,000 and his release. Ultimately the matter was settled for $5,000 as baseball owners did not want the Reserve Clause challenged in court. 

Rusie’s career was derailed after injuring his shoulder making a pickoff move in 1898. The injury prevented him from pitching in 1899 and 1900. The Giants traded Rusie to the Cincinnati Reds in 1901 for a young pitcher named Christy Mathewson. Rusie only lasted until June, Mathewson went to Cooperstown. 

Amos Rusie’s fastball terrified batter, so much that the baseball diamond was changed. (www.fromdeeprightfield.com)

Rusie set an unbreakable record, walking 289 batters in 1890. He pitched the Giants’ first No Hitter in 1891. Rusie won two ERA titles (1894 and 1897) and the Pitching Triple Crown in 1894. He led the National League in Strikeouts and Walks five times, and Shutouts four times. Rusie was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1977 by the Veterans Committee. 

Amos Rusie’s best season was 1894 with the Giants. He pitched in 54 Games, made 50 Starts, threw 45 Complete Games, including 3 Shutouts, pitched 444 Innings, allowed 426 Hits, 228 Runs, 137 Earned Runs, 10 Home Runs, 200 Walks, 195 Strikeouts, posted a 36-13 record, 2.78 ERA, 1.410 WHIP, and 188 ERA+. He led the National League in Starts, Wins, Shutouts, Walks, Strikeouts, ERA, WHIP, and ERA+. At his peak, few pitchers baffled and intimidated hitters like Rusie.

Third Base is under-represented in Cooperstown. The hot corner does not receive the same respect as the rest of the infield. Evansville native Scott Rolen should be inducted into the Hall of Fame in the coming years. He played 17 seasons with four teams: Philadelphia Phillies (1996-2002), St. Louis Cardinals (2002-2007), Toronto Blue Jays (2008-2009), and Cincinnati Reds (2009-2012). Drafted by the Phillies in the 2nd Round, Rolen was one At Bat short of losing his rookie status in 1996 when he was injured by a Hit By Pitch. He returned from the injury to win the 1997 National League Rookie of the Year award and launch a Hall of Fame career. 

Rolen played 2,038 career Games, collected 2,077 Hits, 517 Doubles, 43 Triples, 316 Home Runs, 1,287 RBI, scored 1,211 Runs, 118 Stolen Bases, 899 Walks, 1,410 Strikeouts, .281 BA, .364 OBP, .490 SLG, .855 OPS, and 122 OPS+. He was elite with the glove. At Third, he played 17,479.1 Innings, had 5,745 Chances, made 1,478 Putouts, 4,081 Assists, committed 186 Errors, turned 355 Double Played, with a .968 FLD%, 2.86 RF9, 2.75 RFG, and 140 Rtot. Rolen was a seven time All Star, won eight Gold Gloves, a Silver Slugger, and the 2006 World Series with the Cardinals. Despite his great play, his departures from Philadelphia and St. Louis came after run-ins with managers Larry Bowa and Tony LaRussa

Scott Rolen is among the greatest defensive Third Basemen ever and he was solid at the plate. (Dubois County Herald)

The best season of Rolen’s career was 2004 with the Cardinals. He played 142 Games, collected 157 Hits, 32 Doubles, 4 Triples, 34 Home Runs, 124 RBI, scored 109 Runs, 4 Stolen Bases, 72 Walks, 92 Strikeouts, .314 BA, .409 OBP, .598 SLG, 1.007 OPS, and 158 OPS+. He was an All Star for the third time and won his sixth Gold Glove. Rolen finished fourth for the National League MVP. While he did not lead the league in any statistical category, it was another solid season in Rolen’s consistent career. 

Indiana continues to build a proud baseball history. The Hoosier State is well represented in Cooperstown with 10 Hall of Famers: Mordecai “Three Finger” Brown, Max Carey, Oscar Charleston, Ford Frick (Commissioner), Billy Herman, Chuck Klein, Sam Rice, Edd Roush, Amos Rusie, and Sam Thompson. Rolen should soon join this elite group. Next week the United States of Baseball moves to the final member of the former Three I League. The Hawkeye State, Iowa. 

DJ

United States of Baseball- Idaho

There is more to Idaho than potatoes. The Gem State is full of unspoiled beauty that everyone who enjoys the outdoors should experience. Idaho has also produced 30 Major League players. The greatest pitcher born in the Gem State is Larry Jackson. His 52.56 career WAR ranks him 26th among state and territory pitching leaders. Harmon Killebrew is the greatest position player born in Idaho. His 60.42 career WAR ranks him 33rd among position players. Killebrew is the only Idahoan in the Hall of Fame. Jackson and Killebrew combined to give Idaho 112.98 WAR, 34th most among all states and territories.

Larry Jackson was born in Nampa. The Right Hander pitched 14 seasons in the Majors for three teams: St. Louis Cardinals (1955-1962), Chicago Cubs (1963-1966), and Philadelphia Phillies (1966-1968). In 558 career Games, Jackson made 429 Starts, threw 149 Complete Games, including 37 Shutouts, pitching 3,262.2 Innings, allowing 3,206 Hits, 1,405 Runs, 1,233 Earned Runs, 259 Home Runs, 824 Walks, 1,709 Strikeouts, posting a 194-183 record, 3.40 ERA, 1.235 WHIP, and 113 ERA+. Jackson was a five time All Star and the first from Idaho. 

Jackson’s best season was in 1964 with the Chicago Cubs. In 40 Games, he made 38 Starts, throwing 19 Complete Games, including 3 Shutouts, pitching 297.2 Innings, allowing 265 Hits, 114 Runs, 104 Earned Runs, 17 Home Runs, 58 Walks, 148 Strikeouts, posting a 24-11 record, 3.14 ERA, 1.085 WHIP, and 118 ERA+. He led the National League in Wins. Jackson finished 12th in the MVP voting. He also finished 2nd for the Cy Young award, then given to a single pitcher, not one per league. 

Larry Jackson was just short of elite during his career before turning to politics in retirement. (Belleville News-Democrat)

In Philadelphia, Jackson is most remembered for being part of the trade that sent future Hall of Famer Ferguson Jenkins to the Cubs. Later, the Montreal Expos selected Jackson in their expansion draft. He knew he was close to the end of his career, Jackson wanted to play for a west coast team closer to home. Instead of reporting to Montreal, he retired and returned to Idaho. Jackson served four terms in the Idaho House of Representatives and as the Executive Director of the Idaho Republican Party. He ran for Governor, finishing fourth in the Republican Primary despite campaigning by fellow Idaho players Harmon Killebrew and Vern Law.

Harmon Killebrew struck fear in the hearts of opposing pitchers. The Payette native played 22 seasons for the Washington Senators/ Minnesota Twins (1954-1974) and Kansas City Royals (1975). In his career, Killebrew played in 2,435 Games, collected 2,086 Hits, 290 Doubles, 24 Triples, 573 Home Runs, 1,584 RBI, scored 1,283 Runs, 19 Stolen Bases, 1,559 Walks, 1,699 Strikeouts, .256 BA, .376 OBP, .509 SLG, .884 OPS, and 143 OPS+. Killebrew was a great hitter who opted to forgo hitting for average and use his power to help his team.

The best season of Killebrew’s career was his 1969 MVP season with the Twins. In 162 Games, he collected 153 Hits, 20 Doubles, 2 Triples, 49 Home Runs, 140 RBI, scored 106 Runs, 8 Stolen Bases, 145 Walks, 20 Intentional Walks, 84 Strikeouts, .276 BA, .427 OBP, .584 SLG, 1.011 OPS, and 177 OPS+. He led the American League in Games played, Home Runs, RBI, Walks, OBP, and Intentional Walks. Killebrew season was a terror at the plate. His MVP came in the middle of Killebrew’s five year run where he finished in the top five for the MVP four times. 

Harmon Killebrew terrorized the American League with every swing. (Associated Press)

Killebrew was a 13 time All Star, finished in the top 10 for the MVP six times, won the 1969 American League MVP award, the 10th player to join the 500 Home Run Club, and the first Twins player elected to the Hall of Fame in 1984. He was the first player elected as an All Star at three different positions (Third Base, First Base, and Left Field). Killebrew posted eight 40 Home Runs seasons, second only to Babe Ruth’s 11. Killer had nine 100 RBI seasons and seven 100 walk seasons, leading the Junior Circuit four times in free passes. When he retired Killebrew had the fifth most Home Runs. The legendary slugger became a beloved broadcaster for several teams in retirement. 

Idaho has given baseball several solid players and a Hall of Famer. The Gem State continues building its baseball legacy and hopes to send more players to Cooperstown. Next week the United States of Baseball heads east across the plains to the Land of Lincoln. Illinois is next.

DJ

Yadier Molina Marches On

The Opening Week of the baseball season was full of stories. The All Star Game being pulled from Atlanta, Miguel Cabrera’s Home Run in the snow, Yermin Mercedes going 8 for 8, benches clearing in Cincinnati, Joe Musgrove’s No Hitter, and so much more. What was lost in the excitement is Yadier Molina continues to catch for the Cardinals. 

Molina has made 17 consecutive Opening Day starts for St. Louis, the most for one team. He tails only Ivan Rodriguez and his 20 consecutive Opening Day starts, but Rodriguez started for multiple teams during his Hall of Fame career. Making 17 consecutive Opening Day starts is an impressive feat, as only a select few players remain in the Majors for close to two decades. Every position has its own demands, but none demand more than catcher. The toll from squatting alone is enough to shorten plenty of careers. Then add in the abuse from blocking balls in the dirt, getting hit by foul balls, and rocked by bats on the follow through. Baseball did change the rules about running into the catcher, but Molina survived the first half of his career before Rule 7.13, the Buster Posey Rule, was instituted. Beyond the physical abuse, catchers also have the added responsibility of calling pitches. Catchers are a different breed. 

Yadier Molina is on a one way trip to Cooperstown. (Orlando Ramirez- USA TODAY Sports)

Surviving the abuse has not made Molina timid. He never shies away from confrontation when he feels it is necessary. Molina came to the aid of his pitcher as Cincinnati’s Nick Castellanos stood over Jake Woodford after scoring on a Wild Pitch. It is not the first time Molina has defended his team against the Reds. He confronted Brandon Phillips after the Cincinnati second baseman had some less than flattering things to say about the Cardinals. That confrontation sparked an all out brawl. Molina is willing to fight anyone who disrespects him or his team, including Diamondbacks Manager Torey Lovullo. The St. Louis catcher never backs down. 

There are numerous other examples of Molina standing up for himself and his team. He may not be loved across baseball, but every team wishes he had spent his career wearing their uniform. He remains a master of his craft in what could be his final season. Yadier Molina’s record setting Opening Day start did not garner all the headlines, but it is another line on his Hall of Fame resume.

DJ

Predictions Sure To Go Wrong 7.0

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

American League East

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

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

American League Central

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

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

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

American League West

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

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

National League East

DerekJesseJohn Moving Co.KevinBernieThe Winning Run
BravesBravosAtlanta BallclubBravesBravosBravos
MetsGnatsCohensMarlinsMetsMets
NatsFishFlorida FishMetsMarlinsMarlins
MarlinsAmazins2019 ChampsNatsNationalsNats
PhanaticsPholliesSad HarpersPhilliesPhilliesPhillies

The National League East is the toughest division in baseball. Atlanta was 1 game away from the World Series last year. Instead of hoping for better results the Braves got better by signing Charlie Morton and will get Mike Soroka back from his torn Achilles. Their offense is led by reigning National League MVP Freddie Freeman and future MVP Ronald Acuna Jr. The Amazin’s are a force to reckon with, especially after adding Francisco Lindor, Marcus Stroman, Carlos Carrasco, and Taijuan Walker. The question is can the Mets win enough. The Marlins have finally built a team internally. Miami bought two World Series championships but those were short term successes followed by fire sales and long rebuilds. The young Marlins will be fun to watch and are building towards October. The Nationals may have the best rotation in baseball. The keys for Washington are keeping everyone healthy and can the offense, besides Juan Soto, keep up with the pitching. Philadelphia has Bryce Harper, but one player cannot put an entire team on his back. The Phillies will be good, but in a deep division they could be the best last place team in baseball. 

National League Central

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

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

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

National League West

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

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

Postseason

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

American League Wild Card

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AL Wild CardRaysYankeesJaysRaysWhite SoxTwins
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National League Wild Card

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PadresThe over hyped LA teamMetsPadresMetsBrewers

American League Divisional Series 

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National League Divisional Series

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BravesCincy…..why not?PadresBravesCardinalsBraves
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American League Championship Series

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Black SoxWhite ElephantsYankeesYankeesYankeesYankees
RaysTwinkiesChiSoxChiSoxWhite SoxWhite Sox

National League Championship Series

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PadresYou want a hot apple pie with that?PadresPadresBravesPadres

World Series

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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- Delaware

Delaware is often forgotten. Sitting on the Atlantic coast between Philadelphia and the Washington-Baltimore Metro, the state hides in plain sight. While the First State does not have a Major League team, it has sent 56 players to baseball’s highest level. Delaware punches above its weight for its place in baseball. Sadie McMahon is the greatest pitcher born in Delaware. His 43.55 WAR is the 36th highest among all state and territory leaders. Paul Goldschmidt has the highest WAR for position players born in Delaware. His 45.11 WAR ranks him 40th. McMahon and Goldschmidt have a combined 88.66 WAR, ranking Delaware 39th among all states and territories. 

John Joseph McMahon was born in Wilmington. He earned the nickname Sadie during his baseball career, but the exact origins are unclear. McMahon pitched for nine seasons with three teams: Philadelphia Athletics (1889-1890), Baltimore Orioles (1890-1896), and Brooklyn Bridegrooms (1897). He played during a time of great change for pitchers with the introduction of the pitchers mound in 1893. McMahon pitched in 321 career Games, made 305 Starts, throwing 279 Complete Games, including 14 Shutouts, in 2,634 Innings, allowing 2,726 Hits, 1,592 Runs, 1,026 Earned Runs, 52 Home Runs, 945 Walks, 967 Strikeouts, 98 Wild Pitches, posting a 173-127 record, 3.51 ERA, 1.394 WHIP, and 118 ERA+. He was forced to retire before turning 30 after a shoulder injury derailed his career. 

Sadie McMahon was a great pitcher in the early days of professional baseball. (www.sabr.org)

Pitching from the flat pitchers box, McMahon enjoyed his best season with the 1891 Baltimore Orioles. He appeared in 61 Games, with 58 Starts, throwing 53 Complete Games, including 5 Shutouts, in 503 Innings, allowing 493 Hits, 259 Runs, 157 Earned Runs, 13 Home Runs, 149 Walks, 219 Strikeouts, 16 Wild Pitches, posting a 35-24 record, 2.81 ERA, 1.276 WHIP, and 131 ERA+. He led the American Association in Starts, Wins, Complete Games, Shutouts, and Innings Pitched. His 35 Wins were nearly half of the Orioles 71 victories

Sadie McMahon was an elite pitcher before injuries quieted his arm. In the twilight of his career, McMahon went pitch for pitch against Cy Young and the Cleveland Spiders in the 1895 Temple Cup. The Temple Cup was a postseason exhibition series. While McMahon is not an all time great, he was a terrific pitcher in the early days of professional baseball. 

Paul Goldschmidt is the greatest position player born in Delaware. The Wilmington native is the first active player to lead a state or territory in the United States of Baseball. The star First Baseman is entering his age 33 season, having played 10 seasons with the Arizona Diamondbacks (2011-2018) and St. Louis Cardinals (2019-present). Goldschmidt has played 1,311 career Games, collected 1,395 Hits, 305 Doubles, 20 Triples, 249 Home Runs, with 828 RBI, 837 Runs scored, 128 Stolen Bases, 770 Walks, 1,268 Strikeouts, .293 BA, .392 OBP, .522 SLG, .914 OPS, and 141 OPS+. He is a six time All Star, four time Silver Slugger, three time Gold Glover, 2017 World Baseball Classic champion, and twice finished second for the National League MVP (2013 and 2015). 

Paul Goldschmidt continues to be a force for the St. Louis Cardinals. (www.calltothepen.com)

Goldschmidt’s best season, thus far, was in 2015 with the Diamondbacks. In 159 Games, he collected 182 Hits, 38 Doubles, 2 Triples, 33 Home Runs, 110 RBI, 103 Runs scored, 21 Stolen Bases, 118 Walks, 151 Strikeouts, .321 BA, .435 OBP, .570 SLG, 1.005 OPS, and 168 OPS+. He was an All Star, won both the Silver Slugger and Gold Glove, and finished second for the MVP award. This was not a one season flash as Goldschmidt was just as dominant in 2013, either season could be his best. Now playing for the ever competitive Cardinals, Goldschmidt will be a force for many more seasons.  

The First State is not the biggest state, nor has it sent the most players to the Majors. However, it plays its part in the continuing story of baseball. Delaware has one native son in Cooperstown, Bill McGowan. Surely the legendary umpire will someday be joined by a fellow Delawarean. The United States of Baseball takes a short drive west next week to the nation’s capital, the District of Columbia is next.

DJ

It Is Designed To Break Your Heart

Some losses in life hurt deep within your soul. Emotional pain can create physical agony. The death of a loved one or the end of a relationship can cause such pain. Baseball too can hurt your soul. The retirement of your favorite player does not end the relationship as you still see them from time to time, but it is never the same. Retirement does give you time to prepare for the inevitable, but it is never enough. Perhaps the harshest pain is when your favorite player, the cornerstone of the franchise, is unceremoniously traded away. The dagger in your heart is twisted when there is no logic to the trade. 

Breaking bad news to someone you care about is never easy. Even if it is just a baseball trade. 

Your soul can hurt. My friend Josh took the news as well as could be expected. Nolan Arenado is his favorite player. The Rockies are his favorite team. The majority of our text conversations revolve around Arenado. The latest crazy play or highlight video. He loves Arenado and the Rockies loved him back by playing him at Third everyday.

Heartbreak is never easy. Those closest to us can do the most damage. The pain takes time to fade, if it ever does. In the days since the Arenado trade he has posted and shared several articles, each more critical than the last. We have tried to make sense of the trade, but sometimes there are bad trades and only so much sense to be made. 

The breakup of the Blake Street Bombers hurt. How could it not? It was the end of the first great era in Rockies history. However the Arenado trade cuts deeper. Gone is the illusion that Colorado is trying to win. The owner chose the GM over the superstar. Yes the Rockies got four players in return but they also sent $50 million to St. Louis to complete the trade.

Nolan Arenado wanted to win in Colorado, but the Rockies never built a contender around him. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

Speaking of those Cardinals. It is one thing to suffer heartbreak. It is another for your pain to bring someone else joy. My friend’s wife is a die hard Cardinals fan. Any other team and he could have stomached the trade, but now he has to watch Arenado win with the Cardinals instead of the Rockies. Baseball can be brutal. The emotional attachment to players and teams can bring fans both elation and suffering. 

Fandom is rarely a conscious choice, as it is often determined by where we live. Watching a player like Nolan Arenado play for your favorite team is intoxicating. Watching him be traded away for peanuts to the worst possible team is gut wrenching. Time supposedly heals all wounds, but the damage is done. Some things in life cannot be undone. Even if Arenado returns to Colorado later in his career, the pain of losing him in his prime remains. The raw emotion of losing your favorite player because of the incompetence of your favorite team is something no fan should experience. Colorado fans are left to wonder why. There are no satisfying answers. 

DJ

United States of Baseball- Arkansas

Arkansas’ natural beauty is often overlooked. From the Ozarks to the banks of the Mississippi River the Natural State has plenty to offer. The state has also produced 159 Major League players. They have achieved varying degrees of success on the diamond, but two players reign supreme. Dizzy Dean is the greatest Arkansas born pitcher and Brooks Robinson is the greatest position player. Dean’s 43.90 career WAR is the 35th highest among pitching state leaders, while Robinson’s 78.38 WAR is the 20th highest among position players. Their combined 122.28 WAR gives Arkansas the 27th highest WAR. 

Born Jay Hanna Dean, Dizzy Dean and his younger brother Paul “Daffy” Dean are the only Major Leaguers from Lucas, Arkansas. Dizzy played 12 seasons with the St. Louis Cardinals (1930, 1932-1937), Chicago Cubs (1938-1941), and St. Louis Browns (1947). He twice led the National League in Wins, was a four time All Star, won the 1934 National League MVP award and World Series, and was inducted into Cooperstown in 1953. 

Dean’s best season was 1934. He pitched in 50 Games with 33 Starts, throwing 24 Complete Games, 8 Shutouts, in 311.2 Innings, allowed 14 Home Runs, 75 Walks, 195 Strikeouts, with a 30-7 record, 2.66 ERA, 1.165 WHIP, and 159 ERA+. He won the National League MVP award, plus led the league in Wins, Shutouts, and Strikeouts. In the World Series against the Detroit Tigers, he won the first and seventh game, a six Hit Shutout, for the Gashouse Gang. He went 2-1 in 3 Starts, pitching 26.0 Innings, including 2 Complete Games, 1.73 ERA, and 0.962 WHIP.  

Dizzy Dean was a great showman and pitcher for the St. Louis Cardinals. (AP Photo)

Dean’s career was derailed after a comebacker broke his toe during the 1937 All Star game. He returned too quickly, altering his pitching motion to compensate for the injury. Dean’s effectiveness began declining after he was traded to the Cubs in 1938. He pitched in 317 career Games, Starting 230, throwing 154 Complete Games, 26 Shutouts, in 1,967.1 Innings, with 453 Walks, 1,163 Strikeouts, a 150-83 record, 3.02 ERA, 1.206 WHIP, and 131 ERA+. His final appearance was on September 28, 1947 for the St. Louis Browns. Dean was an announcer for the Browns and complained he could pitch better than the team’s pitchers. On the last day of the season, he proved he was right, pitching 4 Shutout Innings before injuring himself running the bases. A fitting end to a Hall of Fame career

The Human Vacuum created a black hole in Baltimore. The Little Rock native Brooks Robinson played his entire 23 season career with the Orioles, 1955-1977. He was elected to 18 consecutive All Star Games, won 16 consecutive Gold Gloves (1960-1975), helped the Orioles win two World Series, won the 1964 American League MVP, and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1983.  

Robinson’s best season was 1964. In 163 Games, he collected 194 Hits, 35 Doubles, 3 Triples, 28 Home Runs, 118 RBI, scored 82 Runs, 51 Walks, 64 Strikeouts, .317 BA, .368 OBP, .521 SLG, .889 OPS, and 145 OPS+. Robinson won the American League MVP award and led the league in Games played and RBI. 

If Brooks Robinson could not make the play it was impossible. (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images)

Baltimore played in four World Series during Robinson’s career, winning in 1966 and 1970. He played in 39 Postseason Games, collecting 44 Hits, 8 Doubles, 5 Home Runs, 22 RBI, scored 17 Runs, 6 Walks, 9 Strikeouts, .303 BA, .323 OBP, .462 SLG, and .785 OPS. His success in October was a continuation of his success in the Regular Season. 

In 2,896 career Games, Robinson collected 2,848 Hits, 482 Doubles, 68 Triples, 268 Home Runs, 1,357 RBI, scored 1,232 Runs, 860 Walks, 990 Strikeouts, .267 BA, .322 OBP, .401 SLG, .723 OPS, and 105 OPS+. His offensive numbers were good, but were overshadowed by his elite defense at Third Base. In 25,083 Innings, he had 9,196 career Chances, made 2,712 Putouts, 6,220 Assists, 264 Errors, and turned 621 Double Plays. Robinson was an elite fielder, .971 vs .953 lgFld%, with better Range, 3.20 RF9 vs 3.09 lgRF9. The Human Vacuum’s skill with the glove propelled Robinson to finish in the top four for MVP voting five times.

Arkansas has produced excellent baseball players. The Natural State has sent six players to the Hall of Fame. Dean and Robinson are joined in Cooperstown by Lou Brock, Travis Jackson, George Kell, and Arky Vaughan. Elite players come from everywhere, but the United States of Baseball’s next stop is a hot bed. We head west to California next.

DJ

United States of Baseball- Arizona

The heat is the most challenging part of baseball in Arizona. It is hard to concentrate when your brain is melting. Despite the extreme heat, Major League Baseball came to the desert in 1998. A retractable roof made the Diamondbacks possible. Not every field in the Grand Canyon State has a roof, yet 121 Arizona born players have reached the Majors. John Denny and Ian Kinsler helped build a proud baseball legacy. Denny is the greatest pitcher born in Arizona with 31.1 career WAR. He ranks 44th among state leaders. Ian Kinsler is the greatest position player with 55.2 career WAR. He ranks 37th among position player leaders. Combined Denny and Kinsler have a 86.3 WAR, giving Arizona the 41st highest combined WAR.

John Denny pitched his way to the 1983 National League Cy Young Award. (1984 SPX/Diamond Images via Getty Images)

John Denny is the pride of Prescott, Arizona. He is the only Major Leaguer born in the city. He pitched 13 seasons for the St. Louis Cardinals (1974-1979), Cleveland Indians (1980-1982), Philadelphia Phillies (1982-1985), and Cincinnati Reds (1986). Denny’s best season was with the Phillies in 1983. He made 36 Starts, threw seven Complete Games, one Shutout, in 242.2 Innings, with a 19-6 record, 2.37 ERA, 1.162 WHIP, and 152 ERA+. Denny led the National League in Wins and won the Cy Young award. Arm troubles soon diminished his abilities and he was out of the Majors after 1986 at just 33 years old. In his career, Denny Started 322 Games, threw 62 Complete Games, 18 Shutouts, in 2,148.2 Innings, a 123-108 record, 3.59 ERA, 1.336 WHIP, and 105 ERA+. He leads all Arizona born pitchers in Games Started, Wins, Shutouts, Innings Pitched, Walks, Strikeouts, and of course WAR. 

Ian Kinsler is one of 33 Major Leaguers born in Tucson, Arizona. He played 14 seasons for the Texas Rangers (2006-2013), Detroit Tigers (2014-2017), Los Angeles Angels (2018), Boston Red Sox (2018), and San Diego Padres (2019). He was a four time All Star and won two Gold Gloves at Second Base. Kinsler’s best season was with the Tigers in 2014. He collected 188 Hits, including 40 Doubles, 4 Triples, and 17 Home Runs, scored 100 Runs with 92 RBI, 15 Stolen Bases, 29 Walks, and 79 Strikeouts. He posted a .275 BA, .307 OBP, .420 SLG, .727 OPS, and 103 OPS+.

Ian Kinsler could do it all on the diamond. (Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports)

Defensively, Kinsler played nearly 1,900 Games and 16,000 Innings at Second Base. He was a slightly below average fielder (-.003), but his Range was significantly higher than average (+0.25 per nine innings). He helped his team win with his bat and glove. Kinsler collected 1,999 career Hits, including 416 Doubles, 41 Triples, 257 Home Runs, scored 1,243 Runs, 909 RBI, 243 Stolen Bases, 693 Walks, and 1,046 Strikeouts. He posted a .269 BA, .337 OBP, .440 SLG, .777 OPS, and 107 OPS+. Ian Kinsler leads all Arizona born players in All Star appearances, Games Played, Plate Appearances, At Bats, Hits, Doubles, Triples, Home Runs, Runs Scored, RBI, Stolen Base, Walks, Strikeouts, and WAR.

The Grand Canyon State continues to build a strong baseball legacy. Leaving the desert of Arizona for the Natural State, Arkansas is next for the United States of Baseball.

DJ