Monday, April 28, 2014

Sports Illustrated 1987 Baseball Preview Issue

I was recently looking through an old box of sports magazines that I have at my mom's place and came across the Sports Illustrated Baseball Preview Issue from 1987. On the cover as you can see are then Cleveland Indians sluggers Cory Snyder and Joe Carter. The cover proclaims an "Indian Uprising" and that "Believe It!! Cleveland is the best team in the American League." In the article Pow! Wow! The lost Tribe is back, thanks to the bats of young sluggers Joe Carter and Cory Snyder by Ron Fimrite dated April 06, 1987.

Now, if my recollection of the 1987 season is correct, the Minnesota Twins defeated the St. Louis Cardinals in the 1987 Fall Classic, not the Indians. I wanted to take a look back at the predictions made in 1987 for the season and how the predictions stood up to the reality.

Before I go into how things turned out, I keep seeing the term "Rabbit-ball" being used to refer to the 1987 season. What does the term mean? Keep in mind, according to Larry Granillo in his article Living through the Rabbit Ball in 1987 from SBNation dated June 13, 2013:
After a big-league record for most home runs in a season in 1986, home runs suddenly increased by an additional 20 percent -- that's 700 home runs! -- that season...Where there were more than 20 sluggers hitting at least 30 homers in 1987, there were only five in 1988.
Now realizing that the ball was probably juiced that season (there has never been an official admission by the powers that be), here is how SI laid out their predictions:

Now here are the final standings for the 1987 season:

Here are the year end awards for the 1987 season:

The only accurate predictions made were the selections of Benito Santiago as National League Rookie of the Year and Wade Boggs as the American League Batting Champion. As impressive as Wade Boggs' .363 batting average is, Tony Gwynn ripped off a .370 batting average in the NL.

Dan Pasqua? Really SI? Pasqua never hit more than 20 Homers in a season for his career. He did that with the Chicago White Sox in 1988. I can see picking Schmidt in the NL but Pasqua? Speaking of Schmidt, Schmitty hit home run number 500 on April 18, 1987.

Mark McGwire won the American League Rookie of the Year award and would become the second of three consecutive Oakland A's to win the AL Rookie of the Year award (Jose Canseco in 1986 and Walt Weiss in 1988)

Both Roger Clemens and Dave Stewart won 20-games in the AL. For Stewart this was the first of four consecutive 20+ game seasons as the ace of the Oakland A's (20 in 1987, 21 in 1988, 21 in 1989, 22 in 1990). Rick Sutcliff would win 18-games for the Chicago Cubs to lead the NL in wins.

Steve Bedrosian winning the NL Cy Young Award is surprising to me. I can't say that I even remember "Bedrock" having that kind of a season, while closing for the Phillies. Nolan Ryan led the NL with a 2.76 ERA with 270 strikeout with an 8-16 record. Makes you wonder that if Sabermetricians had the Cy Young vote that year, Ryan would have gotten more votes for NL Cy Young.

Vince Coleman became the last ballplayer to steal over 100 bases in a season. Coleman followed up his 107 stolen bases in 1986 with 109 stolen bases for the St. Louis Cardinals in 1987.

And The Cleveland Indians finished with a league worse 61-101 record, far below predictions. All the main predictions in terms of records were off from what SI prognosticated.

The magazine also had the following articles:
- Whatever Happened to the Strike Zone by Peter Gammons
- The Long and Short of It by Peter Gammons
- Game 6 by Peter Gammons
- Once Upon a Time in Cleveland... by Robert W. Creamer
- Manager on a Hot Seat by E.M. Swift
- More Than a Media Darling by Peter Gammons
- Fathers and Sons
- Taking the Sting Out of Batting by James E. Reynolds
- Working Hand In Glove by Lee Chilton

And my favorite of the bunch which while written in 1987, I feel transcends time by feeling as if it was written today:

- Let's Just Play Ball by Ron Firmite

Give the magazine a read if you want a stroll down memory lane. You can access the issue in its entirety with pictures and advertisements here: Sports Illustrated 1987 Baseball Preview Issue from the Vault Reader

Until Then Play Ball,
Baseball Sisco

Friday, April 25, 2014

Michael Pineda and the Pine Tar Incident

By now we all know about Michael Pineda of the New York Yankees getting ejected from Last night's game in Boston of having pinetar on his neck after being accused of having pinetar on his hand during his last start against Boston. Now I wasn't going add my two cents on this story but I've changed my mind. No excusing Pineda's actions. He chose to do something that was illegal and got caught. He was given a 10-games suspension and hopefully he won't appeal the suspension. This is where I want to add my two cents.

According to Major League Baseball Rule 8.00, Subsection 8.02: “The pitcher shall not apply a foreign substance of any kind to the ball.” My problem with this rule is that while many a pitcher uses one substance or another when the weather is cold AND it is commonly known that pitchers do this, it is one of Baseball's "hush-hush" acts that gets a blind eye from MLB. Both David Cone and Al Leiter on air during the YES network's telecast admitted that they used firmgrip hidden on their belt to aid with the grip of the ball during cold weather. As I said, this is not an uncommon thing.

Tyler Kepner describes a way that a pitcher can circumvent the rules in his article Missing on the Mound: A Dab of Discretion from the New York Times website dated April 24, 2014:
Going outside the rules is easy enough, and widely condoned, because nobody wants the umpires to investigate their own pitchers. One common method, pitchers say, is to put suntan lotion on their arms. Dab the rosin bag onto that spot, touch it with your fingers, and you create just enough stickiness to get a better grip
In the same article St. Louis Cardinals starter Adam Wainright is quoted as saying:
“There’s ways to do it without doing that,” said Adam Wainwright, the Cardinals’ ace right-hander. “I mean, what’s he doing? But I do think that on a day like yesterday, when we had wind gusts of up to 41 miles an hour, honestly it is very hard to get a good grip on the ball. I do think a little something here and there — not pine tar — but something is fine.”
Even during the World Series last October you had a mysterious green substance that was seen in John Lester's glove and made its rounds on the social media circuit. This is just one type of action that MLB has rules for but doesn't enforce until it becomes obvious that they have to.

This is what I propose. If the usage of substances to aid in gripping as common and rampant as the players say, then either enforce the rule with a more stringent eye, not letting it be a "hush-hush" or a "Wink-wink" kind of thing players do and is condoned OR change the rules and allow pitchers to legally use the substances that many have already been using in certain conditions in the same way that the rosin bag is allowed to be used.

For those who are beat the drums about wanting Baseball to be "clean", do some research. BASEBALL HAS NEVER BEEN CLEAN. I think this is a very naïve way of looking at things. Historically from day one, players have sought to find ways in order to gain an advantage. This hasn't changed in over 130 years and probably won't ever change. If those who want a clean game are serious about their wanting cleanliness then start with kicking out Hall of Famers Gaylord Perry and Don Sutton who admittedly used substances to doctor the ball while pitching their way to the Hall of Fame. For those who want to do some research, pick up a copy of Roger I. Abrams' The Dark Side of the Diamond: Gambling, Violence, Drugs and Alcoholism in the National Pastime for a glimpse of the lengths some players have gone to in order to find an edge throughout the history of the game.

Do I think it is right? Honestly I don't know. It is hard for me to say when you have ballplayers, coaches and announcers who just shrug when asked if pitchers use substances to aid in their gripping the ball or even going as far as what David Ortiz of the Boston Red Sox stated: “Everybody uses pine tar in the league, It’s no big deal at all.” I place the onus on MLB to either enforce the rules and not ignore the acts by the pitchers or to amend the rules. It's a simple as that.

Until Then Play Ball,
Baseball Sisco

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Hank Aaron Passes The Babe April 8, 1974

"I have never gone out on a ballfield and given less than my personal best. When I hit it tonight, all I thought about was that I wanted to touch all the bases." - Hank Aaron

Amid the stress of trying to pass eternal fan favorite Babe Ruth on the All-Time Home Run List, Henry Louis "Hank" Aaron was finally able to connect for his 715th home run in front of the Hometown crowd at Atlanta Fulton County Stadium, 40 years ago today. Under the cover of a light misty rain and facing a 1-0 count in the fourth inning against Los Angeles Dodgers starter Al Downing, Aaron was able to hit a 400-foot homer over the left-center field fence to step alone onto the main pedestal for the record that many had claimed would never be broken.

For video footage with interviews with Hank Aaron and Al Downing, watch the following video:

Aaron faced many obstacles on his road to 715. His path was littered by hate mail, threats to his family and life and the resistance by many people who refused to believe that a man of color could or should eclipse the Babe's hallowed record. But as the fastball that Downing offered to Aaron sailed over the fence, we saw a change in the game that started with World War II veteran and fellow Negro Leaguer Jack Roosevelt "Jackie" Robinson and continued with Arron rounding the bases with two white fans running side-by-side with him, not to harm him but to pat him on the back. To congratulate him on his achievement. To bask with Aaron not in a black or white thing but as fans, as people, as decent human beings.

Writing that just gave me goosebumps. The game of Baseball has not always been perfect when it came to race relations but Aaron reaching 715 was indeed a new step not only for Baseball but for many in this country who were still living with hatred and racism on a daily basis. But enough with the waxing poetically and being overly sentimental. :)

With Aaron's fourth inning homer, the game would be tied 3-3 and would eventually be won by the Braves 7-4. Here is the box score from the Los Angeles Dodgers vs. The Atlanta Braves, April 8, 1974:

Aaron would play for two more seasons, making the move to the American League with the Milwaukee Brewers. He would retire with 755 homers. Happy Anniversary Hammering Hank!!!!!

Until Then Play Ball

Monday, April 7, 2014

What Happened to Ricky Romero

Watching the Yankees vs. Blue Jays this past weekend made me wonder what had happened to Blue Jays pitcher Rickey Romero. Romero was touted as being one of the best young starters in the game when he came up with the Blue Jays in 2009. Romero showed constant improvement with each season following his call up.

Romero posted a 13-9 record and a 4.30 ERA in 2009, 14-9 record and 3.73 ERA with 3 complete games and 1 shutout in 2010 and an even better 2011 with a 15-11 record with a career best 2.92 ERA with 4 complete games and 2 shutouts as an American League All-Star selection. Based on those first three seasons, hopes were high on the left-handed Romero. But the wheels seemed to come off of the proverbial bus.

In 2012 Romero seemed to have regressed with a 9-14 record with a 5.77 ERA. In 2013, Romero seemed to hit rock bottom by starting the season in the minors. When he was finally called up, Romero put up two lackluster starts and was once again demoted to the minors. Romero went 5-8 with a 5.78 ERA in 22 starts with the Buffalo Bisons of the AAA International League. Romero was called up in September pitching twice in relief.

Romero seemed to not have done enough this Spring Training to warrant making the trip up from Dunedin. On March 19, 2014 Romero was sent down to Minor League camp and is currently on the roster for the 2014 Buffalo Bisons. What I find telling is that Romero is not on the 40-man roster for the Toronto Blue Jays.

This makes his road back to the majors that much more difficult. In order for Romero to be promoted to Toronto while not being on the 40-man roster, the Blue Jays would have to make room for him by waiving someone on the current 40-man roster. I'm not sure if the Blue Jays are willing to make that kind of choice based on the way Romero is pitching. This might mean a longer stay in the minors for Romero. For more on the 40-man roster, click on the article The 40-Man Roster: How Does It Work? From the Brew Crew blog page from January 4, 2009.

I would think that the best situation for Romero would be a change of scenery with a new organization. It seems that with Romero being signed through 2015 and with a 2016 $13.1 million dollar team option with $600k buyout might not be part of the Blue Jays organization past 2015. We'll have to wait and see what transpires.

Hopefully Romero can bounce back and make his way back to the majors.

Until Then Play Ball,
Baseball Sisco

For Further Reading
- Click Here to Access Ricky Romero's Career Major League Statistics from Baseball
- Click Here to Access Ricky Romero's Career Minor League Statistics from Buffalo Bisons website from

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Hank Aaron Ties The Babe April 4, 1974

From the NYTimes Front Page
April 5, 1974
On April 4, 1974, 40 years ago at Riverfront Stadium in the National League city of Cincinnati, Ohio Henry "Hammering Hank" Aaron launched a pitch by Reds starter Jack Billingham during the first inning over the left-center field fence that would tie him with the man who simply went by the nickname of: The Babe.

The 400-foot line drive, 3-run home run tied Aaron at 714 career home runs with Ruth in front of a sellout crowd of 52,154 spectators. Aaron's 714th home run came in his 11,289th major league at-bat compared to Ruth reaching 714 in 8,399 major league at-bats.

What I never knew until reading the Dave Anderson article (whose PDF you can access on the link below) is that this was Opening Day, 1974.

Here is video footage of Aaron's home run from MLB's Youtube Channel:

The Braves would end up losing the game 7-6 in extra innings. Aaron would eventually pass Ruth three days later against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Atlanta's Fulton County Stadium.

Here is the box score for the April 4th game from the New York Times, April 5, 1974:

On April 8th, I will honor Aaron with a post on his passing Babe Ruth on the All-Time career Home Run List with his 715th career home run.

Until Then Play Ball,

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Daniel Murphy's Paternity Leave Decision

First off I would like to extend Congratulations to Daniel Murphy on the birth of his first child earlier this week. It's the choice that he made by leaving the team for two games (three days) to be with his wife and child that has been criticized by a number of New York sports radio hosts. As a father of two, I find the comments to be irreprehensible and insensitive. Murphy did nothing wrong. The Paternity leave rule was collectively bargained in 2011 and calls for a 1-3 day leave on the birth of a child. For a radio host to make the following a statement it just shows how out of touch he is:
"One day I understand. And in the old days they didn’t do that. But one day, go see the baby be born and come back. You’re a Major League Baseball player. You can hire a nurse to take care of the baby if your wife needs help...What are you going to do? I mean you are going to sit there and look at your wife in a hospital bed for two days?” he mocked. “Your wife doesn’t need your help the first couple of days; you know that you’re not doing much the first couple days with the baby that was just born."
It really is amazing how some announcers make themselves bigger than a story:
"I guarantee you are not sitting there holding your wife’s hand. . . . I had three kids. . . I was at the birth and was back to work the next day. I didn’t see any reason not to be working. Harrison (Francesa’s son) was born at nine in the morning. I worked that day. What was I gonna do, sit with my wife in the hospital?"
Well, that's great for you Mr. Francesca. I'll make sure to send you a Father of the Year card this Father's Day. Not to be left out of the jackassery, former NFL quarterback Boomer Esiason said this:
“have a C-section before the season starts. I need to be at Opening Day, I’m sorry.”
Man, he's come a long way from that caring dad we saw in those commercials for cystic fibrosis years ago. Both of my kids were C-section babies and while my daughter was a planned C-section, my son wasn't. He was the first C-section child, the decision to do the C-section came after many hours of trying to get my son to be born naturally. So for a first born child as Murphy's child was, it's not that easy to say to just "have a C-section before the season starts." 

And following Esiason's comments came his partner, Craig Carton:
"Assuming the birth went well, the wife is fine, the baby is fine, 24 hours and then you get your ass back to your team and you play baseball.”
Ok, enough of the douchiness. I think former Mets pitcher and current Mets announcer Ron Darling said it best before the start of today's the Mets' game against the Washington Nationals:
"Murphy does a really nice job of maneuvering around silliness that comes to him sometimes. He does a great job. Its 2014, it's not 1944. You're not sweating in a waiting room waiting to hand out cigars. It's a family thing you want to be together he was and I think it's great. Better families, better husbands, better the fathers. That's cool."
Amen. Thanks Ron for the logical and intelligent words. Blessings for Daniel Murphy, his wife and their new arrival.

On a side note, I wonder if people will say the same about Jimmy Rollins if he decides to take three days on his paternity leave.

Until Then Play Ball,
Baseball Sisco

For Further Reading