Archive for December, 2014

Nine Reasons to Remember the 2014 Season

December 30, 2014

Well, the year is almost over and so is the baseball season. As there are nine innings to a game and nine players to a side, it seemed reasonable to look back on the 2014 season in “nines”. So here’s nine reasons to remember in 2015 what happened in 2014.

1. Madison Bumgarner is one heck of a postseason pitcher. In World Series play he is 4-0 with an ERA of 0.25 in 36 innings with a save and a shutout. At 20 or more innings pitched, that’s number one. It’s also number one if you start with 25 innings, 30 innings, or 40 innings. To top that ERA you have to push the innings pitched total to over 50 innings (Sandy Koufax at 57 innings pitched).

2. Giants fans can take a breather in 2015. Since moving to San Francisco, the Giants have won six pennants. Five (1962, 2002, 2010, 2012, 2014) have been in even-numbered years. Only 1989 is an odd-numbered year.

3. Mike Trout finally won an MVP Award. It always looks strange to see a player win an MVP in a “down” year for them. Happened this year.

4. For the first time since Bob Gibson in 1968, a pitcher, Clayton Kershaw, won the National League MVP Award. How rare is it? The current NL award goes back to 1931 only Carl Hubbell (twice), Dizzy Dean, Bucky Walters, Jim Konstanty, and Don Newcombe won the award prior to the expansion era. Since expansion (1962 for the NL) only Sandy Koufax, Bob Gibson, and Kershaw have won. It’s somewhat more common in the American League. Add Newcombe to the expansion list and you have all of the NL pitchers who’ve won the MVP since the advent of the Cy Young Award.

5.  Derek Jeter, the last of the “Core Four” retired.

6. It was year 69 of the Cubs rebuilding. The last time Chicago made it to the World Series was 1945. Harry Truman was President.

7. The Kansas City Royals won a pennant for the first time since 1985. Their rebuilding only took 29 years.

8. For my Dodgers, it’s up to 26 years.

9. The Hall of Fame class of 2014 included three managers, two pitchers, and a power hitter. It was the biggest class since the mass enrollment of Negro League personnel in 2006.

That’s my nine. I presume yours will be different. Have a great 2015 and say it with me “Go Dodgers.”

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A Dozen Things You Should Know About John T. Brush

December 27, 2014
John T. Brush

John T. Brush

1. John Tomlinson Brush was born in Clintonville, NY on 15 June 1845.

2. He served in the Union Army during the American Civil War.

3. In 1875 he opened a department store in Indianapolis. It’s main item was clothing.

4. In 1887 he became part owner of the Indianapolis Hoosiers of the National League. He wasn’t particularly a baseball fan, but he saw the open spaces on the outfield fences as a way to advertise he store.

5. In 1889 he came up with a plan to categorize players in five categories. Players in the highest category (Class A) would be paid $2500 with players in class B would receive $2250, class C would receive $2000, class D would get $1750 and class E would receive $1500 for a yearly salary. This was supposed to stop high salaries and, because salaries were uniform, stop players from trying to change teams. As a result, John Montgomery Ward formed the Brotherhood of Professional Base Ball Players.

6. In 1890 Brush became part owner of the New York Giants (Indianapolis was dropped  from the NL). In 1891 he became owner of Cincinnati. In Cincinnati he crossed paths with Ban Johnson, a local reporter. The two men hated each other so much that Brush nominated Johnson to head the Western League in 1894 just to get Johnson out-of-town.

7. In 1901 he proposed the NL become the National League Base Ball Trust. The trust would assign players to team, determine umpires and managers, and make all teams be owned by the trust. In the annual league meeting the Trust was defeated (although it gained four votes).

8. In 1902 Brush began running the Giants and in 1903 took over control of the team. Still owner of the Reds and also owner of the Baltimore Orioles of the American League (now the Yankees), he pulled all his good players from the Reds and Orioles and formed the Giants team that would win pennants in 1904, 1905, 1911, and 1912. Among other things, he brought John McGraw to New York. BTW “syndicate baseball” (owning interest in 2 or more teams), was only outlawed in 1910.

9. In 1904 he refused to let his pennant winning Giants play the American League’s Boston team in a second World Series. Ban Johnson was President of the AL and Brush was still angry over the 1890s conflict with Johnson.

10. In 1908 his team ended up on the wrong side of the Merkle Boner game. When NL President Henry Clay Pulliam ruled the game had to be replayed (and NY lost) Brush attacked Pulliam mercilessly. Some sources contend Brush’s attacks were a major factor in Pulliam’s 1909 suicide.

11. In 1912 he was injured in an automobile accident. In November 1912, while on the way to recuperate in California, Brush died on a train while passing through Missouri.

12. He has never received much support for the Hall of Fame.

Sale of the Century

December 26, 2014
The one and only

The one and only

Just a brief note today to remind you that today marks the anniversary of the greatest baseball bargain of the 20th Century. On 26 December 1919, the Boston Red Sox sold their combination pitcher/outfielder Babe Ruth to the New York Yankees. It was both the sale of the Century the steal of the Century. New York won a pennant in 1921 while the Red Sox waited until 1946. The Yankees won the World Series in 1923 (and 26 more since) while Boston waited until the 21st Century.

The Case for Keith Hernandez

December 24, 2014
Keith Hernandez in civvies

Keith Hernandez in civvies

Glen sent me an email with a link to an article about the Hall of Fame. He asked what happened to Keith Hernandez and his chances for the Hall. Legit question. Here’s my take on Hernandez and the Hall.

First, Hernandez played from 1974 through 1990. He was with the Cardinals from ’74 through mid-1983. With them he won a World Series (1982), an MVP (1979–shared with Willie Stargell), won five Golden Gloves, a batting title, a doubles title, and led the National League in runs scored twice. In 1983 he was shipped to New York where he settled in at first for the Mets. He remained through 1989 helping the Mets to a World Series championship in 1986, a couple of playoffs which they lost to the Cards and Dodgers, led the NL in walks once, won another five Golden Gloves and finished as high as second in the MVP race. His last year was 1990 at Cleveland. In part-time duty he hit .200 and was through. Since then he’s done hair treatment commercials which probably shouldn’t be held against him in Hall of Fame voting (although as a pitchman he’s a great first baseman).

Hernandez’s final numbers look like this: a triple slash line of .296/.384/4.36/.821 with an OPS+ of 128. He has 162 home runs, 98 stolen bases, 426 doubles, 1124 runs scored, 1071 RBIs (and 1070 walks). His Baseball Reference.com version of WAR is 60.0. In postseason play he hit .265 with a couple of  homers. In fielding he has 11 Gold Gloves and was, by everyone’s estimation one heck of the defensive first baseman.

But he’s never gotten much of a Hall of Fame push. It’s a little hard to know why. He was generally well-liked, but he’s still never gotten much of a push for the Hall (the Hall of Miller and Eric guys have put him in, but not the guys in Cooperstown). I think a couple of things work against him. First, he is considered more a “fielder” than a “hitter” and as a character called “Baseballidiot” who shows up here occasionally once put it “It’s a hitter’s Hall.” Second, the Cardinals were in contention frequently, but only got to the World Series once when Hernandez was there. Some thought, and I remember hearing this from guys I know, that with a “heavier” hitting first baseman (think Mize or Pujols, to stay with the Cardinals) they might have gotten over the top more often. And it doesn’t help that when he leaves St. Louis the Cards go to the World Series in 1985 and 1987 (losing both) while Hernandez only goes to one with the Mets. Now it’s true the Mets won their Series (1986) but the team was seen as something of a disappointment. They were supposed to dominate the NL in 1985, 1986, 1987, and 1988 and managed to get to all of one World Series. In 1985 and 1987 they lost the NL East title to Hernandez’s old team the Cards (who seemed to be better without him) and in 1988 they finally broke through (as they’d done in 1986) only to lose to a Dodgers team they’d beaten 11 times in the regular season. And it didn’t help that he was seldom seen as the best player on his team (1979 being an obvious exception). With St. Louis the press went to Ozzie Smith and to some extent to Willie McGee. In New York there was Gary Carter, Daryl Strawberry, and Dwight Gooden who got more press. That surely had to hurt him.

So would I vote for him? They answer is a definitive “maybe” (can I cover my backside or what?). My problem is that I think he’s a heck of a  player but there are a number of players I’d rather see get in first. On my current hypothetical ballot for this year’s Hall, I had no problem voting for 10 and complained about leaving off four more (that’s without reference to the steroid guys). If Hernandez were on this year’s ballot, he’d join the “four more” that I left off.

 

A Review of Players and Teams of the National Association: 1871-1875

December 22, 2014
Players and Teams of the National Association

Players and Teams of the National Association

I haven’t done a book review in a while, so here’s a year-end review of one. You still have time to pick it up for the holidays.

Paul Batesel has written Players and Teams of the National Association: 1871-1875. The book is from 2012 and published my McFarland and Company of North Carolina. The book is composed of two sections. The first is a series of short (half page average length) biographies of the men who played in the first professional league, the National Association of Professional Base Ball Players. Each biography concentrates on the baseball aspects of the man’s career, so these are not comprehensive bios of the earliest professionals, but baseball bios. Some are quite short, as there is little known about the man. Others are somewhat longer. In some cases there is a picture of the man, in other cases no picture is available.

The second part of the book is, to me, the more interesting. It’s a biography of each of the teams that played in the National Association. The list is alphabetical by team name and includes a brief history of the team, a short squib on the stadium, a list of managers, a description of the team uniform, and then a year-by-year synopsis of the team’s actions in the NA. There is, when available, a picture of at least one player in uniform so that you have a visual of the uniform as well as the description. For the stadia, there are contemporary pictures of the town. Sometimes you can pick out the field, other times the picture description tells you where in the picture the stadium was located. I found this to be one of the more interesting aspects of the book.

If you are interested in the National Association, the book is worth a look. It’s not stat heavy, but relies more on the bios of both players and team. It’s available from Amazon.com for $31.50 and is 228 pages long.

A Bum by Fluke

December 17, 2014
our radio looked a lot like this.

our radio looked a lot like this.

As most people who actually take time to sit and read the things I write know, I’m a Dodgers fan; have been since I was a little kid. Glen asked me a couple of times how, in a house and area full of Cardinals fans, I became a fan of the Brooklyn Dodgers. I’d like to say it was some kind of grand epiphany or a youthful show of wisdom. Well, it wasn’t. Actually it was something of a fluke.

When I was little my grandfather and I listened to baseball on a radio, either the one at home, or on weekends at the local barber shop. He was a diehard Cardinals fan who lived and died with the Cards and the stats of Stan Musial. I knew this and appreciated it, but something changed at World Series time. He began to root for the Dodgers. In 1952 he died a little when they lost to New York, then died a little more when they lost in 1953. He was up front about rooting for the Dodgers, so I figured it was OK too. I wasn’t quite sure why you changed teams at World Series time, but that was the way of the world, at least my little part of it. Because when you went to the barber shop at World Series time everyone was rooting for the Dodgers.

In 1954 the Giants went to the World Series along with the Indians. My grandfather listened and commented, but there was no real rooting going on. If the Indians won, fine; if the Giants won, better (it was a National League town). Then in 1955 we got a television. It was  small, black and white, the reception went in an out and I remember my grandfather standing outside holding the antenna pole while my grandmother would shout, “A little more to the right” until the picture cleared up. When World Series time came the Dodgers were back in and this time they won. There was rejoicing in my home and at the barber shop. And there was equal sadness when they lost again in 1956.

By then I was a dyed-in-the-wool Dodgers fan. Everyone seemed to think the Cardinals was the team to support, but the Dodgers were a close second. So I figured that “well, heck, if the Cardinals have number one support and the Dodgers are OK too, maybe someone should help out by making the Dodgers the number one team with the Cards in second place.” So I decided that would be me.

Then came 1957 and the Braves made the World Series. My grandfather rooted for them as hard as he’d rooted for the Dodgers. The guys at the barber shop rooted for them as hard as they’d rooted for the Dodgers. Something was wrong and it took a while to figure it out. The common denominator in all the World Series matchups, except the “who cares?” Series of 1954 was the New York Yankees. My grandfather and his cronies weren’t Dodgers fans at all; they hated the Yankees, and anyone playing the Yanks in the Series was to be supported. When the same thing happened in 1958 I was sure I was right.

But by then it was too late. I was a Dodgers fan with a willingness to root for St. Louis if necessary (sort of the opposite of my grandfather). So that, little children, is how a person from a Cardinals family and Cardinals town becomes a Dodgers fan. Maybe someday I’ll tell you why my son supports the Twins.

RIP Sy Berger

December 15, 2014

NBC News is running a story on the death of Sy Berger. You probably never heard of him. I certainly hadn’t. But he’s important to every baseball fan. He invented the modern baseball card.

Apparently in the 1950s he worked for Topps and came up with the idea of putting six cards in a pack with a stick of gum. Baseball cards weren’t new, but they weren’t common and you didn’t get six with a stick of gum for a nickel. He sat at his table at home and created the first ones using scissors and cardboard. He put stats on the back, a short bio, the team logo went on the front, and of course there was a picture of the player on the front. His most famous card is the 1952 Mickey Mantle.

Berger was 91 when he died yesterday. Anyone who collected baseball cards owes him a debt. I still have a handful. I think I’ll take a look at a few of them, but I won’t miss the gum. The gum was awful, the cards sublime. RIP, Sy, and thanks.

2015 Frick Award Announced

December 10, 2014
Dick Enberg

Dick Enberg

The Baseball Hall of Fame just announced that longtime broadcaster Dick Enberg is the 2015 Ford Frick Award winner. The Frick Award is given to a distinguished broadcaster for his work. Enberg broadcasts Padres games. He’s also well known for his work on CBS television in basketball, football, and tennis.

Other than the January 2015 Hall of Fame balloting, this concludes MLB’s postseason awards and honors.

2015 Spink Award Announced

December 9, 2014
Tom Gage

Tom Gage

MLB has announced that Tom Gage of the Detroit News is the winner of the 2015 J.G. Taylor Spink Award. The Spink Award is given annually to a print writer who covers baseball and is worthy of remembering. The winner has his picture placed in the Hall of Fame (near the library), but is not technically a member of the Hall of Fame. The Frick Award for broadcasting is to be announced tomorrow.

 

2015 Veteran’s Committed Strikes the Side Out

December 8, 2014

The Hall of Fame just announced that no person on the 2015 Veteran’s Committee ballot received enough votes for election to the Hall. Apparently Tony Oliva and Dick Allen both received 11 votes. All others received 10 (Jim Kaat) or fewer votes. Twelve votes were needed for election. The Spink and Frick Awards are to be announced the next two days. Hopefully someone will win each.