Tuesday, July 30, 2013

George "Boomer" Scott 1944-2013

I received an interesting message from my friend Barry last night while at work which at first I didn't get. It said the following:
We just lost The Boomer...sad, sad, sad...George Scott passed away today. The original Big Papi
Now to be totally honest, I had heard of the name George Scott but was really unfamiliar with him. I decided to look into him and see what man known as the Boomer was about.

George Scott was a powerful slugger and prodigious fielder in his day who liked to refer to his homers as "Taters" and called his glove "Black Beauty". Scott was called up to the Red Sox in 1966 and immediately made his presence felt in the league by playing every game in the season and putting up an impressive rookie season of .245 with 27 homeruns and 90 RBI with 147 hits (18 2B/7 3B/27 HR) and an OPS of .757 (.324 OBP/.433 SLG). He was the starting first baseman for the American League and ended up tied for third in the 1966 American League Rookie of the Year behind Tommie Agee of the Chicago White Sox, Jim Nash of the Kansas City Royals and Davey Johnson of the Baltimore Orioles.

Scott was a pivotal player on the 1967 Red Sox team that is affectionately known as "The Impossible Dream". Playing alongside Carl Yaztremski, Tony Conigliaro, Reggie Smith, Mike Andrews, Jim Lonborg, Jerry Adair, and Joe Foy the Boston Red Sox returned to the World Series with a 90-72 record under Manager Hall of Famer Dick Williams. It was the Red Sox's first World Series appearance since 1946. The Red Sox would lose a close series to the St. Louis Cardinals who was led by Hall of Famer Bob Gibson who was the MVP of the World Series with three complete game victories against the Red Sox, two of which were shutouts.

1967 Boston Red Sox Autographed 35th Anniversary Poster Created by Renowned Artist Paul Madden
In that 1967 season Scott followed up his rookie campaign with a .303 average with 19 homeruns and 82 RBI with 171 hits (21 2B/7 3B/19 HR) and an OPS of .839 (.373 OBP/.465 SLG) with 10 stolen bases. Scott had deceiving speed for a man of his size. According to Richard Goldstein in his article George Scott, Slugger Who Boomed ‘Taters’ in Fenway, Dies at 69 from the New York Times website dated July 29, 2013:
Listed at 6 feet 2 inches and 210 pounds, Scott was evidently well over that, to the consternation of Dick Williams, the manager of the ’67 Sox.
Not only was he agile on the base paths, but he was also nimble in the field. According to Nick Cafaldo in his article George Scott was a big man with a gentle way: ‘Boomer’ leaves a big void from the Boston Globe website dated July 29, 2013:
I have never seen a better-fielding first baseman. George Scott played first like Ozzie Smith played shortstop and like Brooks Robinson played third base...He had quick, soft hands and amazing footwork for such a large man.
Scott would end up finishing 10th in the 1967 American League voting and won the first of his eight gold gloves. Scott would continue to hit "taters" to the delight of the Boston faithful until the day that I would assume Boston fans hated especially those who rooted for Scott. On October 10, 1971 the Red Sox made a deal with the Milwaukee Brewers to trade Scott with Ken Brett, Billy Conigliaro, Joe Lahoud, Jim Lonborg and Don Pavletich for Pat Skrable, Tommy Harper, Lew Krausse and Marty Pattin. It was in Milwaukee that Scott really hit his stride.

In five seasons with the Brew Crew would average .283 BA with 23 homers and 93 RBI with 170 hits (27 2B/4 3B/ 23 HR) and an OPS of .798 (.342 OBP/.456 SLG). His best season came in 1975 when he tied for the league lead in homeruns (with Reggie Jackson of the Oakland A's) with 36 "taters" and lead the league in RBI with 109. He was an All-Star, finished eight in the AL MVP voting and won the fourth of his consecutive five Gold Gloves while with the Brewers.

Scott would be traded back to the Boston Red Sox on December 6, 1976 with Bernie Carbo for Cecil Cooper. Scott would make his final All-Star appearance in 1977 and would eventually be traded to the Kansas City Royals on June 13, 1979 for Tom Poquette. He would be released from the Royals two months later, signing with the New York Yankees where he played out the rest of the season and retiring after being granted free agency at the end of the season.

Going back to Barry's statement of Scott being the original Big Papi. According to Red Sox historian Dick Bresciani in the article George Scott, 'Boomer,' dies at 69; starred for Pittsfield and Boston Red Sox from the Berkshire Eagle website dated July 29, 2013:
In losing George Scott, we have lost one of the most talented, colorful, and popular players in our history...He had great power and agility, with a large personality and a large physical stature. He could light up a clubhouse with his smile, his laugh, and his humor
I can see the similarities with Ortiz and also Mo Vaughn. All three were big guys who radiated positive vibes while playing in Boston becoming fan favorites of the Red Sox nation. May He Rest in Peace.

Here is the career line for George Scott who played in 14 seasons from 1966-1979:

George Scott
69914186957 .333 .435.268.767 
Thanks Uncle B for turning me on to George Scott. Always like to hear about players who do well, especially one of us big guys. 

Sisco Kid

For Further Reading:

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Albert Pujols and Plantar Fasciitis

All season we've heard about how Albert Pujols is playing on an injured left foot due to a condition called Plantar Fasciitis. Before I go into the most recent development on Pujols and his left foot, I decided to look into to what Plantar Fasciitis is. According to WebMD.com:
What is Plantar fasciitis?
Plantar fasciitis (say "PLAN-ter fash-ee-EYE-tus") is the most common cause of heel pain. The plantar fascia camera is the flat band of tissue (ligament) that connects your heel bone to your toes. It supports the arch of your foot. If you strain your plantar fascia, it gets weak, swollen, and irritated (inflamed). Then your heel or the bottom of your foot hurts when you stand or walk.

What causes plantar fasciitis?
Plantar fasciitis is caused by straining the ligament that supports your arch. Repeated strain can cause tiny tears in the ligament. These can lead to pain and swelling

What are the symptoms?
Most people with plantar fasciitis have pain when they take their first steps after they get out of bed or sit for a long time. You may have less stiffness and pain after you take a few steps. But your foot may hurt more as the day goes on. It may hurt the most when you climb stairs or after you stand for a long time.
Ok, now that we got that out of the way let's focus on Pujols. As it has been well documented, Pujols is not having a Pujolsian type of season. Currently he's batting .258 with 17 home runs and 64 runs batted in and started at Designated hitter for 65 of his 99 starts. It would stand to reason that the reason why Pujols is still in the starting lineup, even with a painful condition as plantar fasciitis is that Pujols has been somewhat productive (compared to teammate Josh Hamilton). Last night's game in Oakland might change things.

According to Los Angeles Times sportswriter, Mike DiGiovanna in his article Angels' Albert Pujols aggravates foot injury, could land on DL:
Albert Pujols aggravated the left foot injury that has hobbled him all season on a ninth-inning, two-run single Friday night and returned to Southern California on Saturday to undergo an MRI test and be examined by a doctor, a setback that is expected to send the slugger to the disabled list.
I really think this is the right thing for Pujols. I give him credit for playing with pain all season but at some point he needs to realize that doing so would hurt not only the team but also himself. Let's say the ligament were to snap. He'd be out for a considerable time and that wouldn't help anyone.

Considering that the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim are currently tied for 3rd in the American League West at 48-54 (with the Seattle Mariners) at 12 games back in the standings and 8.5 games behind in the American League Wild Card race, I think that Pujols should just rest the foot before he damages it even more. Its easy for me to say since I am not an athlete of Albert Pujols' caliber but with his team seemingly fading more and more in the standings. It would benefit all parties if Pujols just sat and let himself heal.

Agree? Disagree? Let me know.

Sisco Kid

Friday, July 26, 2013

Pete Rose Played With 11 Hall of Famers

In an interview yesterday with Dan Patrick, Pete Rose spoke on a number of subjects. Once subject that piqued my interest was based in a comment that he made. Here is the quote:
“I know nobody that played with me took steroids,” he said. “I played with 11 Hall of Famers and played against 52 Hall of Famers, and I don’t know any of them linked to steroids.”
Now that got my wheels a-turning. Who are these 11 Hall of Famers that Rose played with. Consider this, Rose played from 1963-1986 (ironically the same number of years that he has been suspended).  In thinking about which teams he played with I came up with 7 definite answers. Here are the ones I got off the bat (in that order):
Johnny Bench
Joe Morgan
Tony Perez
Mike Schmidt
Steve Carlton
Tom Seaver
Frank Robinson
When I asked Pete for his input, aside from my first five answers, he gave me this one:
Barry Larkin
Now that makes 8. So I decided to think about who he played with on Montreal while with the Expos that became Hall of Famers. Andre Dawson came immediately to mind but I was unsure if Dawson signed with the Chicago Cubs before or after 1984. After checking the trusty Baseball Reference.com Dawson did in face play with Rose in Montreal as well as Gary Carter. That put us at 10.

Here is where it gets tricky. We were absolutely stumped. I went and checked every year that Rose played and looked to see who his teammates were and found a player who had a cup of coffee with the Philadelphia Phillies in the form of 6-at bats during the 1981 season. Any guesses? It was an 18-year old Ryne Sandberg. Bringing the list to 11.

Now I'm going to sound like an infomerical: Wait!!!! There's more. I'm going to add a 12th Hall of Famer. Now Pete didn't play with him but played for him: Sparky Anderson was the manager of the Big Red Machine.

So there you have the list. Maybe if I'm feeling up to it I'll try to deduce who were the 52 Hall of Famers that Pete Rose played against....Maybe ;)

Until Then, enjoy the clip of the interview Pete Rose did with Dan Patrick on July 25, 2013:

Sisco Kid

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Looking Back At My Pre-Season Predictions 100 Games In

Hot on the heels of giving those darn Red Sox credit (Giving The Bad Guys Their Due) for their amazing 2013 season and on my earlier post where I went back to look at my predictions after 30 games (A View of the Standings Almost 30 Games Into 2013) here I go looking at my predictions with a little more than 100 games played in the season.

Here is what the standings currently look like as the afternoon of July 23 (Courtesy of Yahoo Sports):

 American League
 Boston Red Sox6041.594--33-1827-23512424+88Lost 16-4
 Tampa Bay Rays5941.5900.534-1925-22468400+68Won 69-1
 Baltimore Orioles5743.5702.529-2028-23485444+41Won 58-2
 New York Yankees5247.5257.028-2324-24387392-5Lost 24-6
 Toronto Blue Jays4553.45913.525-2520-28444470-26Lost 52-8
 Detroit Tigers5444.551--29-1925-25493399+94Won 25-5
 Cleveland Indians5247.5252.530-1922-28466438+28Lost 16-4
 Kansas City Royals4551.4698.024-2421-27375391-16Lost 23-7
 Minnesota Twins4254.43811.023-2419-30390441-51Won 15-5
 Chicago White Sox3957.40614.021-2318-34365425-60Lost 15-5
 Oakland Athletics5841.586--30-1528-26440376+64Won 26-4
 Texas Rangers5544.5563.028-2227-22421402+19Won 13-7
 Seattle Mariners4752.47511.026-2521-27401443-42Won 77-3
 Los Angeles Angels4651.47411.026-2720-24439445-6Lost 24-6
 Houston Astros3365.33724.517-3616-29368524-156Lost 61-9
 National League
 Atlanta Braves5643.566--31-1525-28430355+75Won 15-5
 Philadelphia Phillies4950.4957.026-2123-29388434-46Lost 26-4
 Washington Nationals4851.4858.027-2221-29367392-25Lost 42-8
 New York Mets4352.45311.019-2924-23395422-27Lost 16-4
 Miami Marlins3661.37119.021-2715-34309405-96Won 14-6
 St. Louis Cardinals5937.615--29-1730-20477348+129Won 17-3
 Pittsburgh Pirates5839.5981.532-1826-21373328+45Won 25-5
 Cincinnati Reds5643.5664.532-1724-26436360+76Won 16-4
 Chicago Cubs4453.45415.522-2622-27397410-13Won 15-5
 Milwaukee Brewers4157.41819.025-2716-30381439-58Lost 15-5
 Los Angeles Dodgers5147.520--27-2324-24389388+1Won 48-2
 Arizona Diamondbacks5148.5150.527-2124-27407401+6Lost 14-6
 Colorado Rockies4852.4804.028-2320-29441437+4Lost 15-5
 San Francisco Giants4553.4596.027-2218-31385435-50Lost 25-5
 San Diego Padres4456.4408.027-2317-33397458-61Won 14-6
x-Clinched Playoff Spot; y-Division Champ
Last updated Tuesday, Jul 23, 2013 1:16 pm EDT

If the season ended today, my predictions would still be off. LOL. In the AL East, the Red Sox and Blue Jays went and screwed up by playing against expectations. (Rays, Orioles, Blue Jays, Yankees and Red Sox). In the Central, the Indians and White Sox have screwed me over (Tigers, White Sox, Royals, Indians and Twins). In the West, we all know how bad the Angels have played so in doing so they ruined the order of my predictions (Angels, Rangers, Oakland, Mariners, Astros).

In my last post, I was doing better with the predictions so let's see where we stand now. In the NL East, the Nationals are really taking a helluva nose dive both in the standings and in my predictions (Nationals, Braves, Phillies, Mets and Marlins). In the Central, those pesky Pirates are disrupting the order I came up with (Cardinals, Reds, Pirates, Brewers and Cubs). In the wild and wooly West, where it seems like no one wants to win the division everything is just head over heels in terms of what I predicted except for Padres who are in last place (Giants, Dodgers, Diamondbacks, Rockies and Padres).

Luckily for me I don't make a living off of prognosticating Baseball standings. We'll see how things end up before I tap out.

Sisco Kid

Giving the Bad Guys Their Due

Ok, so I picked the Boston Red Sox to finish dead last in the American League East. Based after last season, how could I think that they would be in first place as of July 22, 2013. By golly I have to give them their proper credit. I credit the return of former pitching coach John Farrell to take the reins of the team after the debacle that was the one year managerial term of Bobby Valentine as being a big part of the return of the Red Sox. They want to play for him since they see him as being one of them. Valentine could never shed the outsider label and some of his decisions and comments didn't help his cause.

Farrell has stabilized the rotation to the point where even John Lackey is producing. Lackey came into camp in the best shape since his days with the Angels and isn't as reviled with Red Sox nation as he was in years past. Lester is pitching as expected and Buchholz was the best pitcher in the American League before his injuries. Mainstays Pedroia, Ellsbury and "Big Papi" David Ortiz continue to do what they do best. Where the Red Sox have been negatively affected by their last two relief pitching trades (basically Andrew Bailey for Josh Reddick and Joel Hanrahan for Mark Melancon) they have greatly benefited from three somewhat low key free agent signings. Watching the Red Sox vs. Yankees game last night at the bar, I realized that the signings of Shane Victorino, Johnny Gomes and Mike Napoli might be the reason the Red Sox make it back to the post-season this year since being swept by the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in 2009 in the first round.

In my opinion, Victorino was a much better fit in Fenway than Carl Crawford ever was. While he has speed, his offensive game isn't dependent on said speed to be effective. I always felt that Crawford needed a wide open park to play in to exploit the gaps in the outfield for doubles and triples. The Green Monster was an offensive killer for Crawford and as with Valentine, he just didn't fit it. Victorino is the kind of scrappy player that the Red Sox nation seems to embrace.

Gomes and Napoli have embraced that dirty and gritty bearded look that would have driven former New York Yankees Colonel Ruppert crazy. LOL. Gomes came over from Tampa Bay and Napoli from Texas and have had major hits for the Red Sox this season. The homer Gomes had off of Sabathia left smoke trails in the air as it hit the lights. Napoli simply crushed both pitches he drove into the seats to put the Yankees away in extra innings.

Where the Yankees offseason offensive signings have been somewhat productive (mainly with Lyle Overbay who the Red Sox let go before the end of Spring Training) being the best of the signings, the Red Sox have really done well with signing guys to fit the holes from last season. This four game series the Red Sox are hosting against the Tampa Bay Rays will be very important for both teams since after this series they only play three more times in Tampa in mid-September.

While we still have about 60 games to go, I still think the Rays will end up as the champs of the American League East, I don't see the Red Sox making my prediction come true. Rats!!!! LOL. There's always next season.

Sisco Kid

Things Are About To Come Full Circle For Alfonso Soriano

Rumors are stating that the New York Yankees and Chicago Cubs are close to a trade that would bring back Alfonso Soriano to the Bronx. Now whether or not this is a good move for the Yankees is not the point for this post. What I want to look at is how this move closes the circle on the February 16, 2004 traded that sent Soriano and Joaquin Arias to the Texas Rangers for Alex Rodriguez. Why is Soriano's return closing the circle?

It would seem that with Ryan Braun's suspension yesterday due to his involvement in the Biogenesis PED investigation it is almost a matter of time that Alex Rodriguez gets his due in the form of a suspension (or even worse for him a ban) from Baseball. Nine years removed from that trade we can potentially see a lineup that includes Soriano but no Rodriguez. It really is funny how things like this work in Baseball.

My friend Melvin asked me why the Yankees keep trading for half-ass players. Here was my response:
I'm not totally sure. I think they need to reassure the fan base that they are doing something to salvage the season. Plus they aren't willing to trade for an expensive piece in terms of giving up top tier prospects. Soriano is a salary dump for the Cubs. They'll take something minimal from the Yankees to be rid of him.
My friend Steven added another important layer to my comment by stating that some fans need a "name" and the illusion that the team is adding offense.

Whether or not Soriano can make a difference remains to be seen. I do believe that his bat behind Robinson Cano is an upgrade from Vernon Wells and Travis Hafner. Maybe a trade back to the city that saw his career start might give him a jump start to break from the ennui that he possibly felt in Chicago. Plus his contract runs into 2014 which would leave the Yankees with a potential signed outfield of Soriano, Ichiro Suzuki and Brett Gardner with Wells and possibly Curtis Granderson (if they chose to resign him). I'm not sure if the AA Trenton Thunder trio of Slade Heathcott, Tyler Austin and Ramon Flores are ready to play next season in the Bronx. But if they aren't I guess Soriano, Ichiro and Gardner will have to do.

We'll see how it plays out in the next day or so.

Sisco Kid

Monday, July 22, 2013

Baseball, Fathers and Sons (and Daughters too)

I just fished reading Joe Posnanski's book The Soul of Baseball: A Road Trip Through Buck O'Neil's America and have to say that it was one of the best Baseball books I've read in a long time. The oral history narrative of the Negro League stories from the great Buck O'Neil was simply amazing and a pleasure to read. Buck's positiveness in the face of hatred and often times insurmountable odds is an inspiration to not only Baseball fans but for all individuals from all walks of life. There was one thread in the book that got me thinking about my own life.

In the book both Posnanski and O'Neil touch upon the subject of Baseball in relation to fathers and sons. Posnanski reflects back to the moment when Mark McGwire broke Roger Maris' single season home run record of 61 during the magical (though now maligned) 1998 homerun race between McGwire and Sammy Sosa. Here is what he says about it:
When McGwire reached home, he lifted his son high in the air. Even now, even though I presume that McGwire was chemically enhanced when he broke the record, I feel a little something building in my throat when I think of that night. Fathers and sons and all that. [Posnanski, Joe (2009-10-13). The Soul of Baseball (p. 14). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition]
He also reflects on his relationship with his own father when Buck asks him what he remembers the most about his father and Baseball. This is how Posnanski describes it:
When I was a toddler, my father had bought me a cheap glove. The glove was plastic, and it was packaged in plastic with a plastic Wiffle ball bat and a plastic ball. After he learned more about baseball, he took me to Kmart and spent a few hours of his factory salary to buy me a proper glove. He used the plastic one.

“On fly balls, always take a step back first,” he would tell me as he smoked his Kents and threw baseballs high over the telephone wire. “It’s easier to come in on the ball than it is to go back.”

“When you have two strikes, choke up on the bat,” he said. “You have more bat control.”

“Before the ball is hit, think about where you want to throw,” he said.

And so on. He was a Confucius of baseball proverbs. Get in front of the ball. A walk is as good as a hit. Make the easy play. Expect the bad hop. Step into your throw. Keep the bat head up when you bunt. Don’t make the third out at third base. If a pitcher is struggling with his control, take a strike. Catch the ball with two hands. Charge the ball. Meet the ball. Follow the ball. Keep your eyes on the ball. I never knew where a semiprofessional soccer player from Poland picked up all that stuff. 
[Posnanski, Joe (2009-10-13). The Soul of Baseball (pp. 15-16). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition]
Buck O'Neil reflects on the bond of baseball and father and son's numerous times with his meeting with the sons of Negro Leaguers Satchel Paige and Dan Bankhead. He also reflects on a general basis on how Baseball, fathers and sons make up a very interesting and intertwined trio when Posnanski asks him why there are so many father and son combinations in professional Baseball:
“Why do you think there are so many fathers and sons in the game?”

“Maybe it’s because baseball is a sport you hand down to your kids,” Buck said. “Does a father teach his son how to be a running back? No, see, that’s instinct. Everybody runs with their own style. Does a father teach his son how to play basketball? Maybe, there are a few fathers and sons in basketball, right? But it’s not the same thing.

“In baseball, you play catch with your son. You teach him how to hold a bat, how to swing it, how to get under a pop-up, how to throw to the right base. You teach him how to run the bases. You teach him how to run back on a ball over his head. You teach him how to throw a curveball. You see what I’m saying?”

I nodded. But Buck wanted to be sure.

“In baseball, you pass along wisdom,” he said. “Like your father did for you in your backyard.”
[Posnanski, Joe (2009-10-13). The Soul of Baseball (p. 80). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition]
Now here is where it gets personal for me. I never had my dad throw a ball to me or take me to a ballgame. Dad was not really the athletic type...unless womanizing is a sport :) In his defense, through his busy work schedule and extra curricular activities, he always found the extra money to indulge me on my epic dream of becoming a professional baseball player and often found the time to drive me to little league games. He even found the time to take us to a parade where Dominican pitching great Juan Marichal was the Grand Marshall and signed the t-shirt I was wearing. Alas, if only I still had that shirt :/

So in my case, the bond between Baseball, father and son was not as described in the book but to be perfectly honest, it wasn't half bad. Which leads me to the herein and now with my own children.

Now my kids haven't picked up the Baseball fervor that I have but I feel they indulge dad by going to games with him and asking questions that at their age I knew the answers to for years. I try my best to have them involved in the game of Baseball whether it was T-Ball (my son found it boring), baseball sticker books (no real interest) and watching the games on TV (minor interest). Even at the games the interest tends to lie in the food and the atmosphere rather than the games themselves, though in their defense in my nose bleed seats in section 431 at Yankee Stadium only the die hard fan can really follow the game properly. I did notice a bit of a change in them when we attended the Brooklyn Cyclones vs. Staten Island Yankees game at Richmond County Bank Ballpark a few weeks ago.

Since we were right at the visitors dugout and were in the midst of every crack of the bat, every pop of the ball in the catchers mitt, every foul ball and every loud fan behind us they seemed to be a little more involved...at least I can hope :) My daughter was even given a ball by Cyclones 2nd Baseman L.J. Mazzili (son of former professional player Lee Mazzili). So here we were watching the game and having a grand old time in the way Buck O'Neil states in the book:

“Fathers and sons,” Buck said. “That is what this game is all about. You know what I mean?" [Posnanski, Joe (2009-10-13). The Soul of Baseball (p. 79). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition]

In my case it's Fathers, Sons and Daughters...and yes Buck, I know what you mean. ;) Rest in Peace and Thank You.

Sisco Kid

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Mariano Rivera's Last All-Star Appearance

(PHOTO: Matt Slocum/AP Photo)
So there are some who are complaining about Jim Leyland putting Mariano Rivera in during the 8th inning in last night's All-Star Game rather than in the 9th. This is my take on it.

Leyland was being safe by making sure Mo got in the game. It's not like he pulled a Cito Gaston and not putting him in at all a-la Mike Mussina in 1993. What if the National League got 4 runs in the bottom of the 8th against someone else on the mound and won the game with Mo waiting in the bullpen. THAT would have been worse. Leyland found himself in a no-win situation with the home field belonging to the N.L. He got Mo got in the game. This is what Mo had to say:
"I wanted to pitch," Rivera said. "Anything can happen. Leyland wanted to make sure I pitch, so it was a great idea. I appreciate him giving me the opportunity, here in New York. I think it was perfect."
Mo had his moment. his final All-Star standing ovation by the fans AND fellow All-Stars, a Mariano-like 1-2-3 inning plus the MVP Award to boot. As a Yankees fan, that's all I care about. Agree? Disagree?

For the record, Mariano Rivera is a 13-time All Star (1997, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2013) appearing in 9 games (1997, 2000, 2002, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2008, 2009, 2013) and finishing with a 0.00 ERA with 4-saves, 5-hits allowed, 5-strikeouts, no walks and only 1-unearned run allowed. No bad. Not bad at all.

Sisco Kid

Monday, July 8, 2013

The Most Steals of Home Plate

Getty Images
I came across an answer to the question of Who is the all-time leader of steals of home plate when reading The Baseball Fan's Bucket List: 162 Things You Must Do, See, Get, and Experience Before You Die by Robert and Jenna Santelli. Now whenever I think of stealing home I think of Jackie Robinson stealing home during Game One of the 1955 World Series and catcher Yogi Berra jumping up in protest when the umpire called Robinson safe. Now unfortunately the statistic of steals of home is not an official statistic but I decided I look online to see what I could find.

The Baseball Fan's bucket list states that Ty Cobb is the all-time leader with 50. Baseball Almanac has Ty Cobb in the lead with 54 stolen bases of home. Here is the list as compiled by Baseball Almanac (for players with 10 or more stolen bases of home plate):

Stealing Home Plate Ten Times in a Career
Ty Cobb (1905-1928) 54
Max Carey (1910-1925) 33
George Burns (1911-1925) or (1914-1929) 28
Honus Wagner (1897-1917) 27
Sherry Magee (1904-1919) 23
Frank Schulte (1914-1918) 23
Johnny Evers (1902-1929) 21
George Sisler (1915-1930) 20
Frankie Frisch (1919-1937) 19
Jackie Robinson (1947-1956) 19
Jim Sheckard (1897-1913) 18
Tris Speaker (1907-1928) 18
Joe Tinker (1902-1916) 18
Rod Carew (1967-1985) 17
Eddie Collins (1906-1930) 17
Larry Doyle (1907-1912) 17
Tommy Leach (1898-1918) 16
Ben Chapman (1933-1946) 15
Fred Clarke (1894-1915) 15
Lou Gehrig (1923-1939) 15
Bobby Byrne (1907-1917) 14
Fritz Maisel (1913-1918) 14
Fred Merkle (1907-1926) 14
Vic Saier (1911-1929) 14
Heinie Zimmerman (1907-1919) 13
Donie Bush (1908-1923) 12
Sam Rice (1915-1934) 12
Shano Collins (1910-1925) 11
Harry Hooper (1909-1925) 11
George Moriarty (1903-1916) 11
Braggo Roth (1914-1921) 11
Buck Herzog (1908-1920) 11
Jimmy Johnston (1911-1926) 10
Rabbit Maranville (1912-1935) 10
Paul Molitor (1978-1998) 10
Babe Ruth (1914-1935) 10
Billy Werber (1930-1942) 10
Ross Youngs (1917-1926) 10

****AUTHOR'S NOTE There are two different sets of years listed for George Burns since there were two players named George Burns who played during virtually the same time. Both had a high number of stolen bases so I couldn't discern which George Burns was the one on this list. 

I added the years the players played to add perspective to the list. Out of the 38 players on the list, 32 of the players made their debut in the Dead Ball Era. Baseball Reference describes the Dead Ball Era as:
While the exact period that should be described as the Deadball Era is arguable, it is generally recognized to have stretched from the founding of the American League in 1901 to the elimination of the spitball in 1920. The Deadball Era marked the end of the sport's rapid development in the 19th Century and the beginning of relative stability in the rules and structure of the Major League game.
What I find curious is that among the speedsters like Rabbit Maranville, Honus Wagner and Ty Cobb, there is Babe Ruth with 10 steals of home. I guess Tommy Lee Jones as Ty Cobb in the Cobb movie was right about Ruth: He could run okay for a fat man. =)

The remaining six players are broken down as such: Three debuted between 1920 and 1935, one in 1947 (Robinson) and two after 1965 (Carew and Molitor). Only four of the top ten in career stolen bases are on this list (Cobb, Collins, Carey and Wagner). So what does this show?

I believe that it shows that stealing home was a part of an aggressive strategy employed by managers and base-runners in an era where there wasn't a reliance on the long ball to score runs. With the rise of the long ball and the gaining popularity such Baseball philosophies as Moneyball (stolen bases are not deemed favorable in the Sabermetric principles concerning Baseball statistics and productivity) the tendency to try to steal home (and to a lesser degree all bases) has diminished in the last decades. But are these the only reasons why the stealing home has virtually disappeared? I kept looking and found another reason why.

I found an article by Dave Anderson of the New York Times entitled Why Nobody Steals Home Anymore which was published on April 16, 1989. Now given that the article is almost 25 years old, I find that it is still relevant with the game today. One statement from Whitey Herzog in the article stood out to me:
'The game has changed,'' said Whitey Herzog, the Cardinals' manager. ''You don't see big windups anymore.''
Anderson further adds:
With a base-stealing threat on third, pitchers seldom use a big rocking-chair windup as they often did years ago. Instead, they usually check the runner in coming to a stretch or a semistretch position that not only holds the runner closer to the bag but also takes less time.
This makes total sense to me. Aside from Dontrelle Willis, I can't say that I've seen a pitcher recently who utilizes a big windup a-la Juan Marichal and Bob Feller. With windups becoming shorter and more compact and with pitchers even using the stretch more and more, the opportunities to steal home have shrunk. To think about it, the last steal of home I remember was Jacoby Ellsbury stealing home on Andy Pettitte of the New York Yankees in 2009.

Though there seems to be a renaissance in base stealing throughout the majors. Cincinnati Reds prospect Billy Hamilton stole a total of 155 bases during the 2012 season evoking memories of the last stolen base glory era of Rickey Henderson, Tim Raines, Willie Wilson and Vince Coleman. I believe that with the concerted effort of MLB to curtail the use of PED's in the sport and the subequent diminishing of power numbers to the Pre-Steroid Era levels, teams are trying to find ways to score runs via small ball techniques. While I believe that stolen bases in general will continue to rise league-wise. it remains to be seen whether or not a return to stealing home becomes the norm or stays a rarity.

Sisco Kid

On a final note, I leave you with footage of the above referenced stolen base of home by Jackie Robinson in the 1955 World Series. Enjoy.

Monday, July 1, 2013

The New York Yankees After The Month Of June

I put together a post after the Subway Series entitled The State of The Yankees Entering June concerning where I thought The Yankees would be after arguably the hardest month on their schedule. Here is what I said:
I find it funny to read comments by some Yankee fans concerning the four game sweep of the Subway Series to the Mets. I keep reading "Wait until September". "We'll see when the World Series is on and the Yankees are playing". My favorite was: "We were saving our strength for Boston". Stop with the false bravado folks. This team will be lucky to finish the month of June with a .500 record with the way they are hitting.
So here we are on July 1, 2013 and let's look at how their schedule turned out:
Boston 0-2
Cleveland 3-0
Seattle 3-1
Oakland 0-3
Anaheim 1-2
Los Angeles 1-1
Tampa 2-2
Texas 1-2
Baltimore 0-3
Where the Yankees entered the month of June at 31-23 in second place, one game behind the Boston Red Sox they end the month at 42-39 in fourth place, six games behind the Boston Red Sox. The stretch was punctuated by one four game wining streak and two five game losing streaks for a total record of 11-16 for the month of June and 12-21 in their last 33 games. No bueno.

The only consolation is that the Yankees have a chance to redeem themselves in July by playing 11 games against the sub .500 Minnesota Twins and the Kansas City Royals to close out the first half of the season. Whether or not they they can take advantage of playing the Twins and Royals remains to be seen.

I'll revisit the plight of the Yankees at the end of July.

Baseball Sisco