Monday, February 8, 2016

My favorite movies of 2015

Movies rarely mean as much to me as they used to. I don't think that's a commentary on the quality of movies being made, as much as a commentary on me. It used to be that almost every year brought multiple movies I wanted to own, so I could revisit them again and again. In recent years though, I more often walk out of a theater thinking, That was very well done, instead of, I loved that! I'm an incredibly fortunate person. I was raised well by loving parents, I'm married to my best friend, I remain closer to my other important friends than most people my age, I have a good job, my wife and I have the means to travel some. Fortunate as I am, life doesn't leave me with the same time or energy for caring about movies it used to, and I miss that sometimes. And while I'm very happy in my grown up life, I've clung tightly to parts of my childhood too. My favorite movie of 2015 is a reminder that I don't ever have to let go of it completely.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Best players of the last 30 years, #30: Mark McGwire

It was half my lifetime ago, but 1998 remains more vividly drawn in my memory than any season before or since. Baseballs were flying over fences at a record clip. Not one, but two players were making a run at the single-season record in all of sports. Baseball fans were coming out of the woodwork, and they were all having a blast. Many fans and writers have since concluded that the summer of 1998 was a dark time in baseball's history. They didn't feel that way at the time though. The players most closely associated with that season were made into pariahs, but that was years later. In the moment, those players were gods. Hindsight has led many to pretend that summer wasn't awesome. Not me though, I remember. Meanwhile, even among those generally willing to look past the PED stuff and judge a player by their production, Mark McGwire has become an underrated player.

Monday, January 25, 2016

The 30 best players of the 30 years I've been a fan

It was April of 1986 when I showed up for my first day of t-ball practice wearing shorts, and was promptly told by Coach Jerry it would be better to wear long pants. It was a couple weeks after that when our t-shirt jerseys arrived, "Indians" printed across the front, fating me to cheer for a team hundreds of miles away in a city I wouldn't visit until I was in my 20s. That was that spring I bought my first baseball cards, back when you could find in corner stores and supermarkets. That was the summer I went to my first baseball games, one at Comiskey, one at Wrigley. That was the fall I watched the extra innings of what was then the longest postseason game in MLB history.

I've now spent three decades as a baseball fan. I've seen 17 teams win 29 World Series. I've seen dozens of Hall of Fame players and dozens more who will (or should) be there someday. As a way of looking back at my time as a baseball fan, I thought I'd rank the 30 best players of these last 30 years.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

My hypothetical 2016 Baseball Hall of Fame ballot

There are at least a dozen players on this year's Hall of Fame ballot whom I'd vote for if I could. The largest obstacle to this is that I'm not a member of the BBWAA, so I don't have even one day of membership there, much less the ten years needed in order to be allowed to vote. Even if had been a member for at least a decade and could vote, I still wouldn't be able to vote for the 12-15 guys I think deserve it, because there's a ten-player limit, which is arbitrary and idiotic, but apparently not going anywhere. Unable to vote for every candidate I want to, I'd have to decide how to make the best use of my ten spots.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Which MLB teams have a pitcher as the best player in franchise history?

Earlier this year a friend asked me to consider how many MLB teams have a pitcher as the greatest player in franchise history, because there don't seem to be many. Off the cuff, I came up with only four teams: The Mets (Tom Seaver), Diamondbacks (Randy Johnson), Indians (Bob Feller), and Twins (Walter Johnson, so long as we're counting the team's time as the Washington Senators). That conversation slipped my mind until a couple days ago, but today I thought I'd actually take a look at the numbers, in order to see if my thinking that day matches.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Chase Utley's dirty slide and MLB's rules are both to blame

During the 7th inning of Saturday night's Game 2 of the NLDS between the Dodgers and Mets, with New York ahead 2-1, one out, and runners on first and third, Chase Utley of the Dodgers went hard into... well, not into second base, but into the area behind and to the right of second base with a hard takeout slide of Mets shortstop Ruben Tejada. Utley wanted to make sure no double play would be turned, so that the tying run would score. Tejada's right fibula was broken, and while medical personnel attended to him, Los Angeles challenged the play. Utley was called safe, and two batters later (when the inning would already have been over if Utley had been called out), the Dodgers took the lead, a lead they held onto, tying the best-of-five series at a game apiece. Debate broke out immediately about the slide, and about whose fault the play was, Utley's or MLB's. It seems pretty obvious to me this isn't an either/or situation; both sides are clearly to blame.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

The worst seasons to feature a Maddux

Jeff Samardzija pitched a Maddux earlier this week, needing only 88 pitches to complete the shutout. That's the fewest pitches used in any of this season's eight Madduxes, and one of only 39 Madduxes accomplished on 88 pitches or fewer since MLB began fully tracking pitch counts in 1988. While the especially low number of pitches needed make the accomplishment all the more impressive, what really stood out to me about it is that Samardzija was in the midst of a really bad season, and a horrific second half. I found myself wondering: Which pitchers have thrown a Maddux while having the worst season?

Monday, August 31, 2015

The Toronto Blue Jays outscored other teams by a historic level in 2015

The Toronto Blue Jays have by far the best offense in baseball this season. This can be seen by looking at their MLB-best .340 OBP or their MLB-best .457 SLG. Getting on base and collecting extra-base hits are excellent ways of scoring, but I want to look at actual runs, if only because this Toronto team has been especially good at that in 2015. The Blue Jays scored 891 runs this season. Compared to a team like the 1999 Indians, who scored 1,009 runs, 891 doesn't look impressive, but boy is it ever.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Hitting for the cycle in your career as an All-Star

No player has ever hit for the cycle in an All-Star Game*, and no player ever will. What makes me so confident? Well, since the 15-inning ASG in 2008, only one player (Mike Trout this year) has even gotten four plate appearances, and it's awfully hard to hit for the cycle without getting four plate appearances. Mike Trout's home run to lead off the game gave him a the cycle for his career as an All-Star though, and even that's an awfully impressive accomplishment, one I of course found myself wondering about, wondering which others baseball greats had done. it.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

The last active MLB players from the 1990s

The 1990s were the most formative decade of my life, and it doesn't feel as though they were that long ago. Looking around baseball though, it's clear more time has passed since then than I would like to think. You can't quite count all the players from that decade who are still active in MLB on your fingers, but if you add one of your feet to the mix, you'll have more than enough digits. Only 15* players from that time are still playing. Who are they? What chance does each of them have of becoming the last active player from the group? Do they have a tontine, with the last surviving member receiving the Hellfish Bonanza? (Oh how I hope they do.)

When will the last of them finally call it quits, closing the book on the 90s, and on 1900s as well? Let's look and see...