Tuesday, February 2, 2016
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
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
Monday, November 30, 2015
Sunday, October 11, 2015
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
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 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
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 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...