Tagged: Twins

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

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

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

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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

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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

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

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

National League East

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BravesBravosAtlanta BallclubBravesBravosBravos
MetsGnatsCohensMarlinsMetsMets
NatsFishFlorida FishMetsMarlinsMarlins
MarlinsAmazins2019 ChampsNatsNationalsNats
PhanaticsPholliesSad HarpersPhilliesPhilliesPhillies

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

National League Central

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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

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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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AL Wild CardRaysYankeesJaysRaysWhite SoxTwins
TwinsSouthsidersRaysTwinklesBlue JaysRays

National League Wild Card

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MetsGnatsPadresMarlinsDodgersPadres
PadresThe over hyped LA teamMetsPadresMetsBrewers

American League Divisional Series 

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RaysWhite ElephantsYankeesYankeesAthleticsYankees
Black SoxSouthsidersSoxRaysWhite SoxRays
YankeesTwinkiesAsA’sYankeesA’s
MoneyballGod’s Waiting RoomJaysChiSoxTwinsWhite Sox

National League Divisional Series

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

American League Championship Series

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Black SoxWhite ElephantsYankeesYankeesYankeesYankees
RaysTwinkiesChiSoxChiSoxWhite SoxWhite Sox

National League Championship Series

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BravesBravosDodgersBravesCardinalsBraves
PadresYou want a hot apple pie with that?PadresPadresBravesPadres

World Series

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Black SoxBravosYankeesYankeesCardinalsBraves
BravesTwinkiesDodgersBravesYankeesYankees
BravesBravosYankeesYankeesCardinalsBraves

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

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

DJ, JJ, JB, BL, and KB

2021 Baseball Hall of Fame Ballot

The National Baseball Hall of Fame will announce the Class of 2021 tomorrow. Those elected will hopefully join the Class of 2020 for their induction ceremony this summer. There are no clear cut inductees this year. Several players may come close, but we will see if any pass the 75% minimum for induction. 

Voting Rules

  1. Vote for no more than 10 players
  2. A player is eligible for election to the Baseball Hall of Fame if they meet the following criteria:
    1. They competed in ten seasons. A single game counts as a season played. 
    2. The player has been retired for at least five seasons. The clock restarts if the player returns and plays in the Major Leagues. 
    3. The player is not on the ineligible list; banned from baseball.
  3. The player must receive 5% of the vote to remain on the ballot. 
  4. The player is elected if they receive at least 75% of all ballots cast. 

Voter Eligibility

  1. Any member of the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA) who has been an active member for ten years.
  2. The BBWAA is limited to writers for newspapers only, including some internet newspapers.

The Winning Run Rules

  1. Known steroid users are ineligible.

There are 25 candidates on this year’s ballot. Many require serious consideration, while a few are honored simply to make the ballot. Below are the candidates, their year on the ballot, and 2020 vote percentage. 

  1. Bobby Abreu- 2nd (5.5%)
  2. Barry Bonds– 9th (60.7%)
  3. Mark Buehrle- 1st
  4. A. J. Burnett– 1st
  5. Roger Clemens– 9th (61.0%)
  6. Michael Cuddyer– 1st
  7. Dan Haren– 1st 
  8. LaTroy Hawkins– 1st
  9. Todd Helton- 3rd (29.2%)
  10. Tim Hudson- 1st
  11.  Torii Hunter- 1st
  12. Andruw Jones- 4th (19.4%)
  13. Jeff Kent- 8th (27.5%)
  14. Andy Pettitte– 3rd (11.3%)
  15. Aramis Ramirez– 1st
  16. Manny Ramirez– 5th (28.2%)
  17. Scott Rolen- 4th (35.3%)
  18. Curt Schilling- 9th (70.0%)
  19. Gary Sheffield– 7th (30.5%)
  20. Sammy Sosa– 9th (13.9%)
  21. Nick Swisher– 1st
  22. Shane Victorino– 1st
  23. Omar Vizquel- 4th (52.6%)
  24. Billy Wagner- 6th (31.7%)
  25. Barry Zito– 1st

Here is my official unofficial 2021 Hall of Fame ballot.

I believe there are more than 10 Hall of Fame worthy candidates this year. Excluding deserving players because of the maximum of 10 rule creates an unfair system. There are also legitimate concerns about the actions of some off the field, but my focus is on the field. It is not hypocritical to exclude Bonds and Clemens as their actions impacted games. The accusations against Omar Vizquel and the public declarations by Curt Schilling did not. Poor morals do not exclude a player from the Hall of Fame. Cooperstown is a museum that preserves the history of baseball. PED users are part of that history, but they can be remembered elsewhere in the museum.

Six candidates return to the ballot after receiving my vote in 2020. Todd Helton, Andruw Jones, Jeff Kent, Scott Rolen, Omar Vizquel, and Billy Wagner. They each retain my vote, leaving just four votes for the other candidates. 

Todd Helton had 10 consecutive seasons with at least 140 games played, 160 hits, 37 Doubles, while hitting over .300. Thin air does not help you make contact. He also slugged at least 25 Home Runs in seven straight seasons. Helton should not be penalized for playing in Colorado, the Hall of Fame does not exclude Rockies players. 

Andruw Jones is the greatest defensive Center Fielder ever. He won 10 consecutive Gold Gloves. Awards voting is subjective, but the numbers never lie. His .990 Fld% is .007 higher than league average during his 17 season career. His Range meant Jones reached 0.46 more balls per nine innings than league average, turning 74.52 additional hits into outs every season. Runners were scared to advance on Jones. 49.2% of them held on fly outs with the next base open. He killed, threw out, 2.6% of them. 51.8% of runners did not advance, more than 5% higher than league average. Jones’ reputation prevented 86 runners from advancing a season. He was not only better than an average Center Fielder, he was better than Willie Mays. Jones prevented 253 runs, 14.88 per season, from scoring to Mays’ 173, 7.86 per season, in five fewer seasons. At the plate, Jones hit at least 26 Home Runs in 10 straight seasons on his way to 434. Put Andruw Jones in Cooperstown already.

Jeff Kent is one of the greatest offensive Second Basemen ever. His 377 Home Runs are 33 more than second place, Robinson Cano. He is a career .290 hitter. Kent had nine consecutive seasons with at least 22 Home Runs and 30 Doubles. He hit at least 21 Doubles in all 17 seasons of his career. Kent won the 2000 National League MVP. While he was average defensively, this has not excluded other Hall of Famers.

Third Base is underrepresented in Cooperstown. Scott Rolen is the logical choice to help correct this error. He won the 1997 National League Rookie of the Year. He had eight consecutive seasons with at least 21 Home Runs and 28 Doubles. In addition to his bat, Rolen was an elite defender. Playing over 2,000 Games at Third Base, with 140 defensive Runs saved, with .968 Fld%, .014% higher than league average. His Range allowed him to reach 0.19 more balls per nine innings. The hot corner needs a new addition. 

Omar Vizuel was a magician with the glove. He won 11 Gold Gloves, including nine in a row. While no one compares to Ozzie Smith, Vizquel was close. Vizquel was better at the plate. A career .272 hitter. He stole at least 22 bases in six consecutive seasons and hit at least 23 Doubles in eight seasons. Vizquel never struck out more than 72 times in a season. If Ozzie Smith is a Hall of Famer, so is Omar Vizquel.

Billy Wagner posted 422 Saves during the Steroid Era. Simply, he got batters out. He posted a 2.31 ERA, 0.998 WHIP, 1,196 Strikeouts, and 300 Walks. Mariano Rivera opened the door for more Closers, Wagner should walk into Cooperstown. 

Who will be enshrined in Cooperstown from the Class of 2021. (The Winning Run/ DJ)

The four additions to my ballot in 2021 came down to five players. Deciding who to leave off was difficult, the rule of 10 is dumb.

Hall of Fame players either burn brightly for a short time, Sandy Koufax, or have a long consistent career, Craig Biggio. Bobby Abreu fits the Biggio mold. Abreu had 12 straight seasons with at least 155 Hits. He hit at least 29 Doubles in 14 straight seasons. Abreu slugged at least 15 Home Runs in 13 straight seasons. All while playing at least 150 games a season. Playing every day builds impressive career numbers and Bobby Abreu built such a career. 

Wins are an inefficient measure of a pitcher’s performance, as Felix Hernandez and Jacob deGrom can attest. The magical 300 win club may be a thing of the past. Hall of Fame voters need to adjust their expectations for pitchers. Mark Buehrle won 214 games in 16 seasons. His rookie season was the only time he did not start at least 30 games. He pitched at least 200 innings in 14 consecutive seasons. Buehrle was the workhorse for the 2005 World Series winning White Sox. He also pitched the 18th Perfect Game in Major League history on July 23, 2009. A single game does not make you a Hall of Famer, but a Perfect Game helps. 

Tim Hudson, like Buehrle, deserves recognition as pitching changes. He won 222 games in 17 seasons. Hudson won at least 11 Games in all but one season between 1999 and 2012, failing in 2009 due to Tommy John surgery. He pitched over 3,100 innings with more than 2,000 strikeouts. Hudson finished in the top six of Cy Young voting four times. Hudson gave his team a chance to win every time he took the mound.

Torii Hunter has never received the recognition he deserves. He made a career out of consistency. He hit at least 21 Home Runs in all but one season from 2001 to 2011. He collected 21 Doubles for 15 straight seasons. Hunter won nine consecutive Gold Gloves in Center. He was an above average fielder, but his Range was elite. His +0.24 Range Factor per nine innings helped turn 39 hits into outs every season. Hunter’s most memorable moment was robbing Barry Bonds of an All Star game Home Run in Milwaukee. It was not as monumental as Kirby Puckett’s World Series catch. However, these Minnesota outfielders had similar careers. If Puckett earned his place in Cooperstown, so has Hunter. 

There are more than 10 deserving players on the ballot this year. The final cut was difficult. Curt Schilling was 11th on my list. His stats are similar to Buehrle and Hudson, but his Postseason accolades are why many believe he belongs in Cooperstown. Schilling is outspoken. His anger towards journalists and those who do not support his political views are well documented. I did not vote for Schilling last year and he falls short again this year. I voted for Omar Vizquel. The accusations against him are horrific. Both men have made poor choices off the diamond, but the Hall of Fame ballot and voters are not their judge away from the diamond.

DJ

Non-Tendered

Fans get excited about free agency, especially if their team lands one of the winter’s big names. The Phillies and Bryce Harper, the Yankees and Gerrit Cole, the Mariners and Robinson Cano (which worked out well), and so on. The MLB Draft is gaining importance in the minds of baseball fans, but it is not on the same level as the NFL and NBA Drafts. Baseball’s Draft is becoming more relevant despite the delayed or non-arrivals of the top picks. Arbitration is the third avenue for teams to build. Most focus on teams maintaining the status quo, but it is the non-tendered players who can make a difference for a new team. 

The Cubs decision to non-tender Kyle Schwarber, thus making him a free agent, has garnered the most attention. However, he is not the only non-tendered player. More than 50 players suddenly became free agents Wednesday. There are a variety of reasons why. Under performance, better replacement player under team control, cost. The peril of every non-tendered player is best shown by Matt Wisler and David Dahl. They are now free agents largely for things beyond their control.

The Twins non-tendering Matt Wisler came after a breakout season. (Brace Hemmelgarn/Minnesota Twins/Getty Images)

The Twins non-tendering Matt Wisler took many by surprise. Wisler’s 2020 was the best season of his career. Prior to 2020 he was 19-27 and 1 Save with a 5.20 ERA and 1.395 WHIP in 389.1 innings in five seasons. In 2020, he went 0-1, with 1 Save, 1.07 ERA, and 1.145 WHIP in 25.1 innings. A career year which normally would have made him an All Star. The choice to non-tender Wisler was strange as the bullpen was a strength for Minnesota. The Twins led baseball in Save Opportunities, while posting the American League’s 6th lowest bullpen ERA. Wisler is not a lock down closer, but rather a critical bridge. A closer is useless if the team cannot hold a lead before the 9th inning. Minnesota paid Wisler $725,000 after picking him up off waivers from the Mariners last off-season. After a career year, he was looking to make $1 to $2 million in arbitration. While his history is not as a dominant reliever, the Twins would not commit themselves to a full season, hopefully, with Wisler in their bullpen. In free agency, Minnesota may have difficulty finding an equal replacement at a lower cost. Time will tell if non-tendering Wisler was the right decision.

Minnesota’s decision to non-tender Matt Wisler was puzzling, while Colorado’s decision to non-tender David Dahl was surprising but understandable. Simply, Dahl could not stay healthy. While he has developed into a solid player, injuries have prevented Dahl from reaching the potential the Rockies saw when they drafted him 10th overall in 2012. 2019 was Dahl’s breakout season, he hit .302, with 15 Home Runs and 61 RBI in 100 games and was named to his first All Star team. A leg injury derailed his season in early August. Colorado hoped Dahl would continue his success in 2020, but a throwing shoulder injury in January derailed his season before it began. No player chooses to be injured and Dahl knew 2020 was an important season for his career, so he chose to not disclose the injury to the team over growing durability concerns. He tried to play through the pain but the numbers never lie. In 24 games Dahl hit .183 with no Home Runs and 9 RBI. His OPS tumbled off the mountains overlooking Denver, falling from .877 to .470. His injury history and $2.55 to $2.6 million expected price tag in arbitration was enough for the Rockies non-tender their former first round pick. 

Injuries derailed David Dahl’s time in Colorado, hopefully a new team means staying healthy. (Dustin Bradford/ Getty Images)

Baseball is a hard game. The game is unfair and does not care about your past performance or potential. Big free agent signings raise the hopes for immediate team success. The Draft is hope for the future. Arbitration is judgement day for teams and players. Did the team develop the players and have players lived up to their potential. Schwarber, Wisler, and Dahl will find new teams. Not every non-tendered player returns to the Majors. Some return to the minor to finish their careers, while others move on to their next stage in life. Baseball is a cruel game, and the business of baseball only adds another layer to that cruelty. 

DJ

East Meets West

MLB expanded the Postseason from 10 to 16 teams this season. Gone, temporarily, is the one game Wild Card Playoff. Winning the World Series in 2020 requires teams to win four series, 14 games total. The longer Postseason is beginning to mimic the playoffs for the NBA and NHL, which seem to last as long as their regular seasons. October this season feels like a tournament not a playoff. March Madness has come to the Fall. 

After a protracted fight over how and if to play the 2020 season, MLB had no choice but to change the Postseason. Separating the pretenders from the contenders in just 60 games is nearly impossible. In a normal 162 game schedule every team expects to win 40 games and lose 40 games. What happens in the other 82 games separates the pretenders from the contenders. 

The Tampa Bay Rays once again are defying all expectations in October. (Mary Holt, USA TODAY Sports)

The Wild Card and Divisional rounds of the Postseason should allow the best rise to the top. MLB does not need a repeat of 2006 when the St. Louis Cardinals squeaked into October with a 83-78 record. The National League Central was a truly terrible division, as the Cardinals and Astros, 82-80, were the only teams above .500. Only division winners and one Wild Card team made the Postseason in 2006, meaning the 85 win Philadelphia Phillies watched October from home because the 88 win Dodgers won the Wild Card. The 2006 Cardinals have the worst Regular Season record for a World Series Champion in the Expansion Era. No one wants a terrible team to squeak into the Postseason, get hot, and win the World Series. The Houston Astros and their below .500 record would fit the bill this season, not to mention their lack of humility in the aftermath of their cheating scandal and avoidance of any punishment, but I digress. 

The divide between the haves and have nots in baseball can be monumental. On paper the National League Central looked strong in 2020, sending four teams to the Postseason. However, reality soon set in as the Cubs, Brewers, Cardinals, and Reds were all knocked out in the Wild Card round. Likewise, the American League Central saw all three of its teams head home early after the White Sox, Twins, and Spiders all lost. 2020 is a battle for baseball supremacy between the coasts. The love affair with teams on either coast is another iteration of coastal bias in America, yet this year there is no bias as there is no other option. Eight teams remain in the hunt for the World Series. The crowning achievement will happen at a neutral site in Texas to conclude a historically strange season. Hopefully we can return to normal in 2021.

DJ

Let’s Go To The Tape

Umpires never want to draw attention to themselves. If players and fans are talking about an umpire it is rarely a good thing. Any umpire worth their weight wants to get the call right, even if it means changing their call. The intent of replay in baseball is getting the call right. No one wants a mistake by an umpire to alter the outcome of a game.

After many close calls players will signal the dugout to challenge the call. The manager has seconds to decide whether to challenge the call. In 2019, there were 2,429 games played and 1,171 challenges, roughly once every two games. 558 calls were overturned, 47.7%. Managers were successful  525 times in 1,053 challenges, 49.9%. Umpires overturned their own calls 33 times out of 118, 28%. Major League umpires make the right call more often than players and fans realize. The players on the diamond are not the only elites at the ballpark. 

Replay today is quicker and teams better understand what they can challenge than in the beginning. Each team averaged 35 challenges in 2019, successfully overturned 17.5 calls. The Padres under Andy Green were the most aggressive, challenging 54 times. San Diego successfully overturned 25 calls, 46%. Conversely, the Yankees and Aaron Boone made the fewest challenges, 22, yet were successful 15 times, 68%. Brandon Hyde and the Orioles challenged just 30 times. Like the Yankees, Baltimore was selective with their challenges. Unlike New York, the Orioles overturned only 11 calls, 36%, the fewest in baseball. The American League loved going to replay in 2019. The Rangers had the most calls overturned. Texas and manager Chris Woodward were successful on 29 of 46 challenges, 63%. Rocco Baldelli and the Twins hated replay. Minnesota had the lowest success rate, 30%, winning just 12 of 39 challenges. Ned Yost and his Royals used their challenges well. Kansas City was successful with 82% of their challenges, 23 of 28. While teams can benefit from challenges, they can also create frustration when replay is unsuccessful. 

Review
Talking to the replay umpire in New York to get the call right. A brief delay to ensure the players decide the outcome of a game and not the umpires. (Steven Ryan/ News Day)

Replay allows the umpire in New York to overturn, up hold, or let stand the call in question. Clear and convincing evidence is necessary to overturn any call. Unfortunately without infinite camera angles some calls stand due to a lack of clear and convincing evidence. Replay is not perfect, but it aids in getting more calls right than ever before. 

When a player asks the dugout to challenge and the team waives him in, umpires unofficially confirm another call. It is only calls that were clearly missed or are extremely close that are reviewed. Managers have only one challenge guaranteed per game. If they are successful with their first challenge, they receive one more. Managers are careful to use their challenges only when they believe a call will be overturned. Umpires usually get the call right and no challenge occurs. They see the play once, at full speed. Their training helps, but they are also elite at their craft. 

Replay puts more eyes on umpires. Suddenly every fan is an expert after watching the play multiple times at slow speed. Everyone has their opinion. However, fans should understand the arbiters of the game make the right call almost every time, thus allowing the players to decide the outcome of each game. 

DJ

Back to Baseball

After an off season of scandal, on again off again blockbuster trades, gigantic free agent signings, possible Minor League Baseball contraction, and the Mets being the Mets it is time to return to the diamond. Pitchers and Catchers report to Spring Training, the journey to October begins. 

Expectations are high in the Bronx after signing Gerrit Cole. Houston is out to prove they can win without stealing signs, while the rest of baseball is out for revenge. The on again off again trade of Mookie Betts to the Dodgers showed how far Boston has fallen while searching for financial flexibility. The Red Sox continue searching for a permanent manager to replace Alex Cora after he was swept up in the fallout from Houston. Major League Baseball proposed eliminating 42 minor league teams, which immediately angered the communities potentially impacted, baseball fans, and even Congress.

The Mets once again managed to stay in the headlines for all the wrong reasons. Yoenis Cespedes reworked his contract after the revelation that his injury was the result of a run in with a wild boar. The Amazin’s General Manager Brodie Van Wagenen, Cespedes’ former agent, now had to alter the contract he negotiated, but from the other side of the table. Carlos Beltran never made it to his first workout of Spring Training as Mets Manager. His involvement in the Astros scandal followed him to Queens. The Wilpons were unable to sell the Mets because they wanted to continue making team decisions once they no longer wrote the checks. 

RedsSP
The Cincinnati Reds are poised to climb out of the cellar and into contention after an active Winter. (Kareem Elgazzar)

Anthony Rendon got paid by leaving Washington, Stephen Strasburg got paid to stay with the Nationals. Zack Wheeler left Queens for Philadelphia for a chance to win and a large paycheck. Madison Bumgarner left the Bay for the desert, while Hyun-Jin Ryu left sunny Southern California and moved north of the border. Josh Donaldson added his name to the slugging Twins lineup, a new age Murderers’ Row. The White Sox and Reds loaded up on free agents, vaulting themselves into contention. Hundreds of other moves happened. Time will tell which moves helped teams, and which teams will come to regret. 

Baseball lost the legendary writer Roger Kahn. Few, if any, possess his ability to write about the game. He was baseball’s writer. His ability to put the passion and beauty of the game into print will be missed.

It was an odd and harrowing off season, but now Pitchers and Catchers are reporting to Spring Training. The world is a little more perfect because we are getting back to baseball. 

DJ

Sacrificing

Teams tend to play one of two types of baseball, long ball or small ball. The rise of of analytics has shown sacrificing an out to advance a runner is not in a team’s best interest. Teams are shying away from small ball because, as Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine so eloquently put it, “Chicks dig the long ball.” The roar of the crowd is much different for a Home Run than a Sacrifice Hit, Sacrifice Bunt. Instant offense versus a building block towards a potential Run. 

Baseball has changed since the small ball era of the early 20th Century. The small ball era helped produce Eddie Collins and his 512 career Sacrifice, 120 ahead of second place. Clayton Kershaw is the active leader with 108, 334th all time. Small ball produced Ray Chapman’s 1917 single season record of 67 Sacrifices. Bert Campaneris’ 40 Sacrifices in 1977 are the most since 1929. Home Runs have replaced the Sacrifice. Teams swing for the fences. They no longer get them on, get them over, get them in.

A slugger’s value comes from hitting a baseball over the fence, not tapping it in the infield. The top ten Home Run hitters of all time have hit 6,680 Home Runs. Barry Bonds, Hank Aaron, Babe Ruth, Alex Rodriguez, Willie Mays, Albert Pujols, Ken Griffey Jr., Jim Thome, Sammy Sosa, and Frank Robinson have played a combined 213 Major League seasons. Only Pujols is active, with two seasons left before Free Agency or retirement. Occasionally these long ball titans sacrifice themselves for the team. 

In 22 seasons, Barry Bonds hit 762 Home Runs and laid down 4 Sacrifices. Hank Aaron played 23 seasons, hit 755 Home Runs with 21 Sacrifices. Babe Ruth hit 714 Home Runs in 22 seasons and laid down 113 Sacrifices, more than the rest of this elite group combined. Alex Rodriguez Sacrificed 16 times in 22 seasons, while hitting 696 Home Runs. Willie Mays played 22 seasons, hit 660 Home Runs, and dropped 13 Sacrifices. Albert Pujols has played 19 seasons, hit 656 Home Runs with 1 Sacrifice. Ken Griffey Jr. hit 630 Home Runs over 22 seasons and Sacrificed 8 times. Jim Thome and his 612 Home Runs laid down 1 Sacrifice in 22 seasons. Sammy Sosa had 17 Sacrifices in 18 seasons while blasting 609 Home Runs. Frank Robinson dropped 17 Sacrifices in 21 seasons, with 586 Home Runs. Even the greatest sluggers of all time Sacrifice.

BabeRuthBunt
Babe Ruth revolutionized baseball with his power, yet he still played in an era where players were expected to bunt to help their team win. (www.captainsblog.info)

In 213 combined seasons, the greatest Home Run hitters laid down 211 Sacrifices. In an average season they hit 31.36 Home Runs with 0.99 Sacrifices. Their average career was 668 Home Runs and 21.1 Sacrifices, 30.2 Home Runs per Sacrifice. Even ardent believers in small ball know these players should swing the bat. 

Jim Thome and Albert Pujols each have just 1 career Sacrifice. Thome and Pujols are not Rickey Henderson. They have hit a 32 triples, 16 each, and stolen 133 bases, combined. Only Pujol’s 114 steals break to top 1,000. Both sluggers were designed to trot around the bases, not sprint. 

On July 3, 1994, Indians Manager Mike Hargrove looked to extend Cleveland’s 2.5 game over the Chicago White Sox in the American League Central. In the Bottom of the 7th, in a 7-7 tie against the Minnesota Twins, Eddie Murray laced the third pitch to Right for a lead off single. Hargrove signaled his young Third Baseman to Sacrifice. After taking a strike from Mark Guthrie, the 23 year old Jim Thome bunted, moving Murray to Second. Thome reached on an error by Third Baseman Chip Hale. Twins Manager Tom Kelly then replaced Guthrie with Carl Willis. Sandy Alomar Jr. greeted Willis with a swinging bunt down, loading the bases. Paul Sorrento followed with an RBI Single to Right, driving in Murray. Wayne Kirby fouled out to Third. One out. Kenny Lofton hit a Sacrifice Fly to Center, scoring Thome with Alomar advancing to Third. Two outs. Omar Vizquel flied out to Center. Three outs. 9-7 Cleveland. Thome and the Indians won 10-9 in 11 Innings, sending the Jacobs Field crowd home happy. 

JimThome.jpeg
Jim Thome hit baseballs a long way, his talents were not best used bunting. (www.cooperstowncred.com)

The importance of the game, and Thome’s Sacrifice, were lost as the 1994 season stopped on August 12th. Cleveland was 1 game behind Chicago when the Strike began. The Strike claimed the rest of the 1994.

The St. Louis Cardinals hosted the Chicago White Sox on June 16, 2001. The Chicago Cubs led the Cardinals by 6 games in the National League Central. In the Bottom of the 7th, White Sox pitcher Sean Lowe walked Placido Polanco on four pitches. J. D. Drew then Singled to Right. Cardinals Manager Tony La Russa looked to stretch the 6-3 lead. He signaled his Cleanup Hitter to bunt. In his 67th career game, Albert Pujols bunted the first pitch foul. On the second pitch, Pujols bunted the ball back to Lowe who threw to Second Baseman Ray Durham covering First. Polanco moved to Third and Drew to second. One out. Pujols has not Sacrificed again. Bobby Bonilla was Intentionally Walked to load the bases and replaced by Pinch Runner Jim Edmonds. Craig Paquette Singled to Right, scoring Polanco. Drew scored on an error by the Shortstop, Tony Graffanino. Edmonds stopped at Second. Edgar Renteria struck out looking as Edmonds stole Third and Paquette stole Second. Two outs. Mike Matheny grounded out to First. Three outs. St. Louis won 8-3. 

San Diego Padres v St. Louis Cardinals
Albert Pujols is one of the greatest right hand power hitters of all time, bunting is not his most dangerous weapon. (Dilip Vishwanat/ Getty Images)

The Cardinals lost to the Houston Astros on the final day of the Regular Season. Both teams finished 93-69. Houston was crowned Division champions by winning the season series 9 games to 7. St. Louis was the Wild Card. The Cardinals lost to the eventual World Series champion Arizona Diamondbacks in a decisive Game 5 in the Divisional Series

Baseball is a team game played by individuals. Players field ground balls, pitch, and bat alone. No one can help you succeed, but you can help others succeed. Backing up throws, turning Double Plays, executing a relay all help a team win. And yes, occasionally even the greatest Home Run hitters Sacrifice for the team. 

As baseball changes, Sacrifices by players capable of putting a baseball into orbit inches towards extinction. The Sacrifice is becoming a lost art as light hitting pitchers in the National League dominate and the Designated Hitter in the American League decimates the Sacrifice. A slugger bunting is now more rare than a Perfect Game. This generation’s greatest sluggers have Sacrificed just twice. If Mike Trout ever lays down a Sacrifice, soak in the moment. It will be the first of his career, and possibly the last time an all time great Home Run hitter Sacrifices himself.

DJ