Tagged: Toronto Blue Jays

United States of Baseball- Minnesota

Minnesota has had its share of baseball glory. The Twins have put the Land of 10,000 Lakes on the baseball map with players like Harmon Killebrew, Kirby Puckett, and Joe Mauer. The fear of contraction is gone. On the field the state of Minnesota has been well represented. The greatest pitcher born in Minnesota is Jerry Koosman. His 56.96 career WAR ranks 24th highest among state and territory leaders. Paul Molitor is the greatest Minnesota born position player. His 75.71 career WAR ranks 23rd highest. Minnesota’s combined 132.67 WAR ranks 24th highest among all states and territories.

Jerry Koosman would have been a helicopter pilot in Vietnam if not for a military dentist transferring him to Texas and the son of a Mets usher pointing a scout in the right direction. The Lefty from Appleton pitched 19 seasons in the Majors with four teams: New York Mets (1967-1978), Minnesota Twins (1979-1981), Chicago White Sox (1981-1983), and Philadelphia Phillies (1984-1985). Koosman pitched in 612 career Games, made 527 Starts, Finished 43 Games, threw 140 Complete Games, including 33 Shutouts, collected 17 Saves, Pitched 3,839.1 Innings, allowed 3,635 Hits, 1,608 Runs, 1,433 Earned Runs, 290 Home Runs, 1,198 Walks, 2,556 Strikeouts, posted a 222-209 record, 3.36 ERA, 1.259 WHIP, and 110 ERA+. He was a two time All Star. Koosman is the last pitcher to win 20 Games one season and then lose 20 the next. In 1991 he failed to receive 5% of the vote for the Hall of Fame and was removed from the ballot. 

Jerry Koosman was a key figure in the Mets winning the 1969 World Series. (Getty Images)

Koosman helped build the Mets into a winner. He pitched behind Tom Seaver and helped lead the Amazin’s to the World Series in 1969 and 1973. In the Fall Classics, Koosman made 4 Starts, threw 1 Complete Game, Pitched 26.1 Innings, allowed 16 Hits, 7 Runs, 7 Earned Runs, 2 Home Runs, 11 Walks, 17 Strikeouts, posted a 3-0 record, 2.39 ERA, and 1.025 WHIP. He was on the mound when the Miracle Mets of 1969 brought a World Series title to Queens. 

The best season of Koosman’s career was the year of the pitcher. In 1968 he pitched in 35 Games for the Mets, made 34 Starts, threw 17 Complete Games, including 7 Shutouts, Pitched 263.2 Innings, allowed 221 Hits, 72 Runs, 61 Earned Runs, 16 Home Runs, 69 Walks, 178 Strikeouts, posted a 19-12 record, 2.08 ERA, 1.100 WHIP, and 145 ERA+. Koosman’s 7 Shutouts set the then Mets record. He was an All Star and finished second for the National League Rookie of the Year, one vote behind Johnny Bench. He also finished 13th for the MVP. In the Year of the Pitcher, Koosman was not strongly considered for the Cy Young despite having an outstanding season. 

Paul Molitor’s Hall of Fame career almost did not happen. Injuries and a cocaine habit nearly derailed the St. Paul native. Molitor played 21 seasons with three teams: Milwaukee Brewers (1978-1992), Toronto Blue Jays (1993-1995), and Minnesota Twins (1996-1998). He played all over the field, but primarily Third and Second Base. In 2,683 career Games, Molitor collected 3,319 Hits, 605 Doubles, 114 Triples, 234 Home Runs, 1,307 RBI, scored 1,782 Runs, 504 Stolen Bases, 1,094 Walks, 1,244 Strikeouts, .306 BA, .367 OBP, .444 SLG, .817 OPS, and 122 OPS+. He was a seven time All Star and four time Silver Slugger. Molitor was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2004 on the first ballot. After his playing career, Molitor returned to the Twins as their manager for four seasons, winning the 2017 American League Manager of the Year award

Paul Molitor could play everywhere on the diamond and was always dangerous with the bat. (Ron Vesely/ MLB Photos)

Molitor played in two World Series. His 1982 Brewers lost to the Cardinals, while his 1993 Blue Jays defeated the Phillies. Molitor played in 13 World Series Games, collected 23 Hits, 2 Doubles, 2 Triples, 2 Home Runs, 11 RBI, scored 15 Runs, 2 Stolen Bases, 5 Walks, 4 Strikeouts, .418 BA, .475 OBP, .636 SLG, and 1.112 OPS. He was the 1993 World Series MVP after hitting .500 in 24 At Bats. Many thought Molitor’s best years were behind him, but they were wrong.

The best season of Molitor’s career was 1993 with Toronto. He played in 160 Games, collected 211 Hits, 37 Doubles, 5 Triples, 22 Home Runs, 111 RBI, scored 121 Runs, 22 Stolen Bases, 77 Walks, 71 Strikeouts, .332 BA, .402 OBP, .509 SLG, .911 OPS, and 143 OPS+. Molitor led the Junior Circuit in Hits and Plate Appearances (725). He was an All Star and won the Silver Slugger award. He finished second in the American League MVP voting behind Frank Thomas.

Minnesota has plenty of baseball history. The state is represented in Cooperstown by four players: Chief Bender, Paul Molitor, Jack Morris, and Dave Winfield. The Land of 10,000 Lakes continues building upon its great baseball legacy. The United States of Baseball is taking a break as The Winning Run prepares for our 30 in 30 road trip. When we return we will head south to the Magnolia State. Mississippi is next. 

DJ

The 30 in 30 Schedule

The baseball schedule is a grind. Day after day, game after game. 162 games is no easy feat. Neither is 30 games in 30 days. We have our schedule for seeing all 30 teams in 30 days. It is not for the faint of heart. 

After much time and research, here is the schedule we will follow for our 30 in 30 baseball road trip. 

SundayMondayTuesdayWednesdayThursdayFridaySaturday
July 16July 17
St. Louis
Cardinals
Cincinnati
Reds
July 18July 19July 20July 21July 22July 23July 24
Philadelphia PhilliesWashington NationalsAtlanta
Braves
Tampa Bay RaysMiami
Marlins
Houston
Astros
Kansas City Royals
July 25July 26July 27July 28July 29July 30July 31
Minnesota
Twins
Chicago
Cubs
Cleveland SpidersBaltimore OriolesBoston
Red Sox
Buffalo
Blue Jays
Pittsburgh
Pirates
August 1August 2August 3August 4August 5August 6August 7
New York
Mets
New York YankeesDetroit
Tigers
Milwaukee BrewersChicago White SoxColorado
Rockies
Los Angeles Dodgers
August 8August 9August 10August 11August 12August 13August 14
Oakland AthleticsSan Diego
Padres
Los Angeles AngelsSeattle
Mariners
San Francisco GiantsArizona DiamondbacksTexas
Rangers

In 30 days we will drive 15,611 miles and roughly 237 hours. We have 11 drives over 500 miles. This includes three drives over 500 miles, three over 700 miles, and five over 1,000 miles. We will be driving a rental car, no sense destroying our own cars. There will be long days where we do not want to drive. However, it will be worth it in the end. 

This is one of the truly great baseball road trips. The most common reaction from people has been shock at the enormity of the trip and the amount of driving. Kevin and I both understand and are thankful Bernie will be joining us later in the trip to be our third driver. Hopefully knowing the end is in sight energizes us. 

There are two types of challenging drives. Difficulty because of game start time and distance. The two drives that are difficult because of start times are early in the journey. Our third game is the Phillies with a 1:05 PM start time. It is 576 miles and almost 9 hours from Cincinnati and Philadelphia. The easy solution would be to drive some after the Reds game. However, I live in Cincinnati so it makes more sense to sleep in my own bed before leaving. This means we will hit the road around 3 AM. Rise and drive. The second challenging start time is in Tampa. We will be coming from Atlanta, 493 miles and almost 8 hours away. The Rays game starts at 12:10 PM. Again the easy solution is to start driving the night before, but finances play a role. I am from Atlanta so we will stay with my family, plus hang out with Jesse and John. You cannot pass up free lodging. Kevin and I will have another 3 AM departure. Great for beating traffic, but no one wants to wake up that early. 

We are hoping for nothing but blue skies, green grass, and baseball. (Photo by Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

The second category of difficult drives is the distance between teams. Try as we might, some teams are isolated or at dead ends. The Marlins and Rays present a problem. The Braves are the only close team so we knew there would be a long drive to or from Florida. We will have a mostly free day in Miami, and free lodging thanks to our friend Jason, so we should be rested for the drive to Houston. The Astros are 1,186 miles and 17 hours away. Unfortunately Miami has a night game, so another short night before setting off around 2 AM. The change from Eastern to Central Time helps, but a 17 hour drive is tough. Miami to Houston is our longest drive of the trip. 

The West Coast could make or break the trip. Our limited window and the schedule gave us limited options. The trip west begins after seeing the White Sox. We will drive 1,004 miles and 14 and a half hours to Denver. The time zones again help. After the Rockies game we have to keep moving, our next game is in Los Angeles. Dodger Stadium is 1,022 miles and almost 15 hours away. Back to back 1,000 mile days will be brutal, but our baseball guardian angel, Bernie, joins us at the perfect time. After a few days driving up and down California we face a drive from Anaheim to Seattle. The Mariners are 1,163 miles and 18 hours north. While it is a few miles shorter than Miami to Houston, California traffic can be a nightmare. The key is simply getting out of Los Angeles.  The final long drive is to our final game. We head 1,047 miles and 15 hours east from Phoenix to Arlington for the Rangers game. The time zones will work against us. The final leg will either have us completely spent or we will be hyped as we complete the most ridiculous trip of our lives. The only thing that will matter is watching our 30th game in 30 days. 

There will be plenty of difficult drives along the way, but we know these are the ones that will test our commitment to completing 30 in 30. Having an off day in Miami and New York should reenergize us. The short drives between Milwaukee and Chicago as well as San Diego and Los Angeles will give one of us a day off. This is our schedule to see 30 games in 30 days. Hopefully we hit minimal traffic and avoid rain delays and rain outs. 

DJ

Planning 30 in 30

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DJ

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- Illinois

The Land of Lincoln is one of the most fertile states for producing Major League players. Illinois has sent 1,069 players to MLB. There are great players born in Illinois. Robin Roberts is the greatest pitcher born in Illinois. His 86.05 career WAR ranks him the 14th among all state and territory leaders. Rickey Henderson is the greatest position player born in Illinois. His 111.20 WAR ranks him 8th among state and territory leaders. Combined Roberts and Henderson give Illinois 197.25 WAR, ranking the Land of Lincoln 11th among all states and territories. 

Robin Roberts was born in Springfield. The Right Handed Pitcher spent 19 seasons in the Majors, pitching for four teams: Philadelphia Phillies (1948-1961), Baltimore Orioles (1962-1965), Houston Astros (1965-1966), and Chicago Cubs (1966). Roberts was dominant during his time in Philadelphia and continued pitching for several more seasons as a crafty veteran. In his career, Roberts appeared in 676 Games, made 609 Starts, threw 305 Complete Games, including 45 Shutouts, pitched 4,688.2 Innings, allowed 4,582 Hits, 1,962 Runs, 1,774 Earned Runs, 505 Home Runs, 902 Walks, 2,357 Strikeouts, posted a 286-245 record, 3.41 ERA, 1.170 WHIP, and 113 ERA+. Roberts was an All Star in seven consecutive seasons, 1950-1956. He finished in the top seven for the National League MVP in five of the seven All Star seasons. Roberts was the only pitcher to win against the Braves in their three home cities: Boston, Milwaukee, and Atlanta. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1976. 

Robin Roberts’ easy motion hide the fierce competitor on the mound. (www.mlb.com)

There are plenty of great seasons in Robin Roberts career, but 1952 was the most consequential. Pitching for the Phillies, Roberts appeared in 39 Games, made 37 Starts, threw 30 Complete Games, including 3 Shutouts, pitched 330 Innings, allowed 292 Hits, 104 Runs, 95 Earned Runs, 22 Home Runs, 45 Walks, 148 Strikeouts, posted a 28-7 record, 2.59 ERA, 1.021 WHIP, and 141 ERA+. He led the National League in Wins, Games Started, Complete Games, Innings Pitched, and Hits allowed. Roberts won 20 of last 22 Starts and 17 of his last 18. He also began a streak of 28 straight Complete Games from July 20, 1952 to June 14, 1953. Roberts was named an All Star and finished a close second to Hank Sauer for National League MVP. Commissioner Ford Frick later told Roberts he wanted to create an award, the Cy Young award, to honor pitchers, in part due to Roberts’ 1952 MVP snub. 

Robin Roberts was a terrific player on the field and served as the Phillies player representative during negotiations with the owners. He fought for higher pay, better pensions, and benefits. Roberts later served at the head of the National League players representatives. He, along with fellow future Hall of Famer Jim Bunning, approached Marvin Miller about serving as the first Executive Director of the Players Association. They knew the players needed a full time advocate. This choice of Miller led to greater benefits, free agency, and higher salaries, among other areas of progress for the players. 

The Man of Steal never lacked self confidence. Everyone in the stadium knew Rickey Henderson was going to steal, yet the opposing team could rarely stop him. The Chicago native played 25 seasons with nine teams: Oakland Athletics (1979-1984, 1989-1993, 1994-1995, 1998), New York Yankees (1985-1989), Toronto Blue Jays (1993), San Diego Padres (1996-1997, 2001), Anaheim Angels (1997), New York Mets (1999-2000), Seattle Mariners (2000), Boston Red Sox (2002), and Los Angeles Dodgers (2003). Henderson was a one man wrecking crew. In 3,081 career Games, he collected 3,055 Hits, 510 Doubles, 66 Triples, 297 Home Runs, 1,115 RBI, scored 2,295 Runs, 1,406 Stolen Bases, 335 Caught Stealing, 2,190 Walks, 1,694 Strikeouts, .279 BA, .401 OBP, .419 SLG, .820 OPS, and 127 OPS+. He is the All Time leader in Runs scored, Stolen Bases, and Caught Stealing. Henderson was a 10 time All Star, won a Gold Glove in 1981, three Silver Slugger awards, the 1989 American League Championship Series MVP, won two World Series (1989- Athletics and 1993- Blue Jays), and the 1990 American League MVP. He led the league in Stolen Bases 12 times and stole at least 50 Bases 14 times. Henderson led the league in Runs scored five times and scored at least 100 Runs 13 times. He led the league in Walks four times and drew at least 100 Walks seven times. He struck out more than 100 times just once, at age 39, but also drew 118 Walks that season. Henderson hit over .300 eight times. His unequalled resume earned him induction into the Hall of Fame in 2007. 

No player in baseball history was as feared on the bases as Rickey Henderson (www.mlb.com)

Rickey Henderson’s MVP season may not be his greatest season, but it is still worth examining. Playing for the Oakland Athletics in 1990, he appeared in 136 Games, collected 159 Hits, 33 Doubles, 3 Triples, 28 Home Runs, 61 RBI, scored 119 Runs, 65 Stolen Bases, 10 Caught Stealing, 97 Waks, 60 Strikeouts, .325 BA, .439 OBP, .577 SLG, 1.016 OPS, and 189 OPS+. He led the American League in Runs scored, Stolen Bases, OBP, OPS, and OPS+. He was eight seasons removed from his record 130 Steal campaign, and was combining his otherworldly speed with power. In his 12th Major League season, many assumed Henderson was at his peak. Few imagined his career would continue for more than a decade after his MVP season.

Illinois has been critical in the development of baseball. Cooperstown is filled with 23 natives from the Land of Lincoln: Al Barlick (Umpire), Ed Barrow (Executive), Jim Bottomley, Lou Boudreau, Charles Comiskey (Executive), Jocko Conlan (Umpire),  Billy Evans (Umpire), Warren Giles (Executive), Will Harridge (Executive), Rickey Henderson, Whitey Herzog (Manager), Freddie Lindstrom, Joe McGinnity, Hank O’Day (Umpire), Kirby Puckett, Robin Roberts, Red Ruffing, Ray Schalk, Red Schoendienst, Al Spalding (Executive), Jim Thome, Bill Veeck (Executive), and Robin Yount. Growing the game happens on and off the diamond. Next week the United States of Baseball visits Illinois’ neighbor. The Hoosier State is next, Indiana. 

DJ

Predictions Sure To Go Wrong 7.0

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

American League East

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

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

American League Central

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

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

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

American League West

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

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

National League East

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

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

National League Central

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Red BirdsCincy…..why not?ArenadosMiller TimeCardinalsCardinals
Red LegsCardsDrink pretty goodCardinalsBrewersBrewers
Brew CrewBrewcroodsShitcagoRedsCubsReds
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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

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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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National League Wild Card

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PadresThe over hyped LA teamMetsPadresMetsBrewers

American League Divisional Series 

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Black SoxSouthsidersSoxRaysWhite SoxRays
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National League Divisional Series

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PadresGnatsCincyPadresDodgersPadres
BravesCincy…..why not?PadresBravesCardinalsBraves
CardinalsYou want a hot apple pie with that?CardsMiller TimePadresCardinals

American League Championship Series

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National League Championship Series

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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- Guam

Guam sits 4,000 miles west of Hawaii and 2,500 miles east of the Philippines. It is an unlikely place to produce MLB players, yet the island has sent two players to the Majors. Sean Reid-Foley is the greatest and only pitcher born in Guam. His 0.0 WAR ranks 55th and last among all state and territory leaders. John Hattig is the best and only position player born in Guam. His 0.3 WAR is 55th and last among all leaders. Their combined 0.3 WAR ranks Guam 55th and last for among all states and territories. 

Sean Reid-Foley is the only Major League pitcher born in Guam. The Agana Heights native debuted on August 13, 2018 along with his catcher Danny Jansen. They were the first battery mates to debut in the same game since 1967. He pitched three seasons for the Toronto Blue Jays (2018-2020) before he was traded to the New York Mets in January. In his career, Reid-Foley has appeared in 21 Games, making 13 Starts, pitching 71.2 Innings, allowing 67 Hits, 46 Runs, 35 Earned Runs, 11 Home Runs, 48 Walks, 76 Strikeouts, posting a 5-8 record, 4.40 ERA, 1.605 WHIP, and 101 ERA+. Reid-Foley’s best season with Toronto was 2019. He appeared in 9 Games, making 6 Starts, pitching 31.2 Innings, allowing 33 Hits, 20 Runs, 15 Earned Runs, 5 Home Runs, 21 Walks, 28 Strikeouts, posting a 2-4 record, 4.26 ERA, 1.705 WHIP, and 107 ERA+. Hopefully Reid-Foley enjoys a long and successful career pitching in Queens. 

Sean Reid-Foley could emerge as a solid Major League pitcher in Queens after an off season trade. (The Toronto Star)

John Hattig is the only Major League position player born in Guam. The Third Baseman was born in Tamuning and was the first Guamanian to play in MLB. Hattig played one season with the Toronto Blue Jays. He debuted on August 19, 2006. In his lone season in the Majors, he played in 13 Games, collecting 8 Hits, 1 Double, 3 RBI, 2 Runs scored, 5 Walks, 8 Strikeouts, .333 BA, .448 OBP, .375 SLG, .823 OPS, and 117 OPS+. Defensively Hattig appeared in 10 Games, making 7 Starts, playing 2 Complete Games, 63 Innings, with 18 Chances, 4 Putouts, 14 Assists, 0 Errors, and turning 1 Double Play.

John Hattig had a brief, but success career with the Blue Jays. (www.bleacherreport.com)

Despite his short career, Hattig had a day to remember on September 13. The Blue Jays were in Seattle to play the Mariners. Playing Third and batting eighth, Hattig helped bulldoze the Mariners in a 10-0 Toronto win. In his first At Bat in the 2nd Inning Hattig Walked. In the 4th he came up with the bases loaded and laced a bases clearing Double scoring Gregg Zaun, Adam Lind, and Aaron Hill. These were the only 3 RBI of his career. He later scored on a Reed Johnson Single. In the 5th he drew another Walk. In the 7th he Singled. In his final At Bat in the 9th he Struck Out swinging. Hattig went 2 for 3, 1 Double, 3 RBI, 1 Run scored, 2 Walks, and 1 Strikeout. A great day for any player.

No member of the Hall of Fame is from Guam. The island may continue producing MLB players, but the journey to the Majors is long and difficult. Next week, the United States of Baseball heads east to the Aloha State, Hawaii.

DJ

United States of Baseball- Colorado

Colorado is better known as an outdoor playground than a hub for baseball. The mountainous terrain in the western half of the state and cold winters are not conducive to year round baseball. Nevertheless, the Centennial State has sent 97 players to the Major Leagues. Colorado may trail other states in sheer numbers, but the state makes up for it with quality. Roy Halladay has the highest WAR among Colorado born pitchers, 65.37, and ranks 22nd among state and territory leaders. Chase Headley leads all Colorado born position players with 25.92 WAR, ranking him 48th among all leaders. Halladay and Headley’s combined 91.29 WAR ranks Colorado 38th highest. More and more baseball talent comes from the Centennial State each year, it will undoubtedly continue climbing higher in the rankings.

Roy Halladay is one of the great pitchers in recent baseball history. The Denver native pitched 16 seasons for the Toronto Blue Jays (1998-2009) and Philadelphia Phillies (2010-2013). In 390 career Starts, Halladay posted a 203-105 record, throwing 67 Complete Games, 20 Shutouts, 2,749.1 Innings Pitched, allowed 236 Home Runs, 592 Walks, 2,117 Strikeouts, with a 3.38 ERA, 1.178 WHIP, and 131 ERA+. He was an 8 time All Star, finished in the top 5 for the Cy Young Award seven times, won 2 Cy Youngs (2003 and 2010), and was posthumously elected to the Hall of Fame in 2019. 

Roy Halladay threw the second no-hitter in postseason history on the way to Cooperstown. (Mel Evans/ AP)

Halladay’s career numbers reflect the era in which he pitched. Pitching continues to evolve, gone are the days of massive innings totals, double digit Complete Games, and the ability to contain most teams inside the ballpark. Hall of Fame voting for pitchers is changing and Halladay helped lead the charge. 

Unquestionably Halladay’s greatest season was his 2010 campaign with the Philadelphia Phillies. In 33 Starts, he posted a 21-10 record, throwing 9 Complete Games, 4 Shutouts, in 250.2 Innings, allowing just 68 Earned Runs, 30 Walks, 219 Strikeouts, with a 2.44 ERA, 1.041 WHIP, and 167 ERA+. Halladay led the National League in Wins, Complete Games, Shutouts, and Innings Pitched on his way to his second Cy Young and finishing 6th in MVP voting. His crowning achievement was Game 1 of the National League Divisional Series against the Cincinnati Reds. Halladay missed the zone with a full count in the 5th Inning. This Jay Bruce walk was all the offense the Reds could muster. He pitched 9 Innings, allowing 0 Hits, 1 Walk, 8 Strikeouts, faced 28 batters, and threw 104 pitches. Halladay became the second pitcher to throw a No Hitter in the Postseason after Don Larsen’s Perfect Game in the 1956 World Series. Halladay was nearly unhittable in 2010 and was in Game 1 of the NLDS.

Chase Headley played 12 seasons for the San Diego Padres (2007-2014, 2018) and New York Yankees (2014-2017). The Fountain native appeared in 1,436 Games, collected 1,337 Hits, 272 Doubles, 16 Triples, 130 Home Runs, 596 RBI, scored 637 Runs, 93 Stolen Bases, 574 Walks, 1,298 Strikeouts, .263 BA, .342 OBP, .399 SLG, .742 OPS, and 106 OPS+. Playing primarily Third Base, Headley played 9,643.1 Innings, had 2,888 Chances, made 703 Putouts, 2078 Assists, 107 Errors, and turned 173 Double Plays. Both his career .963 Fld% and Range, 2.60 RF/9, were above average. Headley was a solid hitter and above average Third Baseman. While his numbers will not see him inducted into Cooperstown, he was a productive player throughout his long career. 

Chase Headley was a solid Third Baseman with the glove and the bat throughout his career. (The Athletic)

Headley’s best season was in 2012 with the Padres. In 161 Games, he collected 173 Hits, 31 Doubles, 2 Triples, 31 Home Runs, 115 RBI, scored 95 Runs, 17 Stolen Bases, 86 Walks, 157 Strikeouts, .286 BA, .376 OBP, .498 SLG, .875 OPS, and 145 OPS+. He led the National League in RBI, and won his only Silver Slugger and Gold Glove. Headley peaked in San Diego before he was traded to the Yankees who re-signed him as a free agent to a 4 year, $52 million contract. Players are rewarded for past performance and Headley cashed in.

Colorado has sent two players to Cooperstown. The WAR leader, Roy Halladay, and Goose Gossage. Undoubtedly more Coloradans will follow as the Centennial State continues building its baseball legacy. Next Week the United States of Baseball heads east to the Constitution State, Connecticut. 

DJ

United States of Baseball- American Samoa

American Samoa is 2,500 miles west of Hawaii. It has an area slightly larger than Washington DC and half the population of Billings, Montana. Despite its small size, American Samoa has sent one player to the Major Leagues, Tony Solaita.

Tony Solaita was born in Nuuuli. He played seven seasons for five different teams: New York Yankees (1968), Kansas City Royals (1974-1976), California Angels (1976-1978), Montreal Expos (1979), and Toronto Blue Jays (1979). His career 8.00 WAR is the third lowest for a position player among state or territory leaders and American Samoa has the second lowest combined WAR.

1977 was Solaita’s best season and the only season he played at least 100 games. Playing at First for the Angels, Solaita played 116 Games, collected 78 Hits, 15 Doubles, 14 Home Runs, 53 RBI, scored 40 Runs, with 1 Stolen Base, 56 Walks, 77 Strikeouts, .241 BA, .349 OBP, .417 SLG, .766 OPS, and 112 OPS+. He posted career highs in Games, Plate Appearances, At Bats, Runs scored, Hits, Doubles, RBI, Stolen Bases, Walks, and Sacrifices. 

Tony Solaita during his only game with the Yankees, it would be 6 more seasons before he returned to the Majors. (Samoan Biographies)

Solaita’s MLB career ended after another season with the Angels and 1979 spent bouncing around Canada. He played 525 Games, collecting 336 Hits, 66 Doubles, 1 Triple, 50 Home Runs, 203 RBI, scored 164 Runs, Stole 2 Bases, with 214 Walks, 345 Strikeouts, .255 BA, .357 OBP, .421 SLG, .778 OPS, and 120 OPS+. He played First Base and served as the DH. Solaita was an average First Baseman. In 2,126.1 Innings, he had 2,344 Chances, made 2,128 Putouts, 199 Assists, committed 17 Errors, turned 166 Double Plays, for a .993 Fld%.

In 1980, Solaita moved across the Pacific, playing four seasons with the Nippon-Ham Fighters of Japan’s Pacific League. He appeared in at least 125 Games each season. He blasted 155 Home Runs (45, 44, 30, and 36), more than tripled his Major League total.

Tony Solaita’s baseball legacy continues as other players of American Samoa descent have reached the Major Leagues, but he remains the only player born on the islands. 

The United States of Baseball leaves the tropics of American Samoa for the desert. Arizona is next.

DJ  

The Eighth Lousy Day of Baseball Christmas

On the Eighth Lousy Day of Baseball Christmas the baseball gods sent to me: the worst ERA with a Win, the most Runners Left on Base in a season, the most times Caught Stealing without a Stolen Base, the most Hits without an RBI, the most Innings Pitched without a Win or Save, the most Games Managed without finishing first, the most Home Runs without a Triple, and the most Complete Games without a Shutout.

Some pitching performances are ruined by a team’s inability to hit; see Jacob deGrom. Sometimes the roles are reversed and a team cannot hit enough to overcome poor pitching. There are also moments where extraordinary hitting overcomes terrible pitching. This is the case with Dave Wright and Fernando Hernandez who share the highest career ERA with a Win, 18.00. 

Dave Wright pitched in two Major League games. He debuted on July 22, 1895 for the Pittsburgh Pirates pitching 2 Innings, allowed 6 Hits, and 6 Earned Runs against the Baltimore Orioles. Two years later on September 28, 1897 Wright started for the Chicago Colts against the Pirates in the waning games of a lost season. He threw a Complete Game allowing 17 Hits, 2 Walks, hit 2 batters, allowed 14 Runs, and 12 Earned Runs. Miraculously the Colts won 15-14, giving Wright the victory and lowering his career ERA from 27.00 to 18.00. His ERA record stood for over a century.

The Mound can be the loneliest place in baseball. (Getty Images)

No pitcher dreams of struggling when they climb on a Major League mound. Fernando Hernandez pitched in 3 Games for the 2008 Oakland Athletics. He debuted on April 9 in Toronto, pitching the 8th Inning. Welcome to the Majors, your first batter is Hall of Famer Frank Thomas. Thomas flew out to Center and Aaron Hill stuckout. Back to back walks to Lyle Overbay and Marco Scutaro threatened Oakland’s lead, but Gregg Zaun hit a ball that deflected off of Hernandez to Third Baseman Jack Hannahan who threw to Daric Barton at First to retire the Blue Jays. The Athletics scored 4 Runs in the 9th to win 6-3 and give Hernandez his lone Major League win. 

Two days later Hernandez was summoned from the Bullpen in Cleveland with two runners on and Oakland leading 9-2. He proceeded to hit Kelly Shoppach to load the bases before walking Jhonny Peralta to force in a Run. Manager Bob Geren pulled Hernandez. Shoppach and Peralta later scored, giving Hernandez 2 Earned Runs with no batters retired. His brief Major League career came to a close on April 13, still in Cleveland. He entered in the 7th with Cleveland leading 3-1. After Grady Sizemore and David Dellucci flew out to Center, Travis Hafner Singled and Victor Martinez Lined Out. Back out in the 8th, Peralta flew out before Ryan Garko Walked, Franklin Gutierrez Doubled, and Jamey Carroll Walked. Asdrubal Cabrera Struckout. Sizemore then Singled home Garko and Dellucci drove in Gutierrez and Carroll. The inning and his career ended with a Hafner fly out. Hernandez allowed 4 Hits and 4 Earned Runs in 2 Innings. 

Fernando Hernandez finished his Major League career with an 18.00 ERA. His 3.68 career Minor League ERA did not matter in the Majors. Dave Wright and Fernando Hernandez both boast 18.00 career ERAs, however they both won a Major League game. While their careers were short, they did come away with a Win. Leave out the other details.

Happy Eighth Lousy Day of Baseball Christmas

DJ