Results tagged ‘ History ’
But with Max Scherzer coming off of a no-hitter in his last start, in which he was one plunked batter in the ninth away from a perfect game, many people began to wonder if Scherzer could become the second pitcher to accomplish the amazing feat.
Going up against a subpar Phillies roster, Scherzer appeared to have everything going in his favor, having allowed a mere one hit — a bloop single back on June 14th that kept him from a no-hitter then — over his last 18 innings pitched.
As predicted, Scherzer was dominant to start the game, carrying a perfect game through five full innings for the third straight start, helping to extend his hitless innings streak to an amazing 16 innings.
But it wasn’t meant to be, as Freddy Galvis of the Phillies rocketed a double down the line in the sixth innings to stop Scherzer’s bid at history. Even so, Scherzer didn’t let the hit shake him that much, as although he would allow four more hits in the game, as well as two runs — ending the National’s starters streak of 48 innings without an earned run — he still picked up his third straight start with a win, giving him 100 career victories altogether.
Not a bad night at all.
With his terrific string of starts as of late — six hits and two runs over his last 26 innings pitched — Max Scherzer now sits with a 9-5 record and a 1.79 ERA on the year. If he can keep pitching the way he has been lately, the Cy Young award is nearly a lock.
It’s been sixty years since the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA) last elected four players to the Baseball Hall of Fame in a single year — a class that included Joe DiMaggio as the top vote getter. But on Tuesday it was 1955 all over again, as Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz and Craig Biggio all received well over the 75 percent of the vote necessary to gain entry into Cooperstown.
Receiving 97.3 percent of the total vote — meaning, 15 out of the 549 voters somehow chose not to vote for him — Randy Johnson didn’t quite beat out Tom Seaver’s all-time Hall of Fame election percentage of 98.84 percent. But regardless, Johnson still finds himself eighth all-time on the percentage list, and becomes the tallest pitcher in MLB history to be elected to the Hall of Fame. With a perfect game under his belt, along with five career Cy Young awards, not to mention his 300+ career wins and close to 5,000 strikeouts, Randy Johnson more than deserved the honor.
The three other players elected on Tuesday were also extremely worthy. Pedro Martinez’s .687 career winning percentage was good enough to earn him 91.1 percent of the vote; John Smoltz’s combination of career wins, strikeouts and saves earned him a modest 82.9 percent; and Craig Biggio finally received his due after recording over 3,000 hits for his career, finding himself on 82.7 percent of the voters ballots.
But not all of the deserving players made it in this time, both in my opinion as well as the opinions of others. More than anyone else, Mike Piazza still not earning a place in Cooperstown is unbelievable. As I’ve stated in the past, Piazza may not be one of the best hitters in history, but he is statistically the best hitting catcher in history. Along with Piazza, Tim Rained not making much ground was also a disappointment to me, sitting twenty percent away from election with just two years of eligibility remaining. While Mike Piazza will in all likelihood get elected in 2016 (receiving around seventy percent in 2015), the time may never come for Tim Raines.
The time for Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens may never arrive either. A true shame, as they are first ballot Hall of Famers without their performance enhancing drug use, neither Bonds or Clemens made much progress in this their third years on the ballot. Bonds gained just 3.1 percent, taking him up to 36.8, with Clemens amassing a few more votes, bringing him up to 37.5 percent. With both just shy of 40 percent away from election, things aren’t looking too bright for them.
However, with a few great newcomers set to be added to the ballot in 2016, things are looking bright for a great 2016 Hall of Fame class. Though it assuredly won’t rival this historic class of 2015, Ken Griffey Jr. and Trevor Hoffman — both nearly slam dunks for election — are lining up to be a part of the ballot, joining Mike Piazza, who will hopefully finally see himself getting elected with a somewhat weaker ballot than the incredible one from this year.
A little over eight years ago, back in June of 2006, I took a trip with my family to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York, as part of a two week journey around the Northeast. I wasn’t extremely into baseball back then, but I enjoyed it just enough that I would’ve gotten a decent experience out of the visit. However, it wasn’t meant to be. Due to major flooding in the surrounding area, the Hall of Fame was closed, and we had to settle for a visit to a nearby baseball wax museum — an interesting place, but one that obviously paled in comparison to the main attraction in town.
In the years since, I’ve become one of the biggest baseball fans you’ll ever meet, constantly following the game and studying up on the stars of today and years past. Therefore, it had slowly become a must for me to make it back to Cooperstown at some point during my life. Although I imagined a return trip would take place a couple of decades or more from the time I last made the long trek up to New York from North Carolina, a plan for my dad, grandpa and I to take another trip to the Hall of Fame was quickly orchestrated over the past few months. And thus, on the Friday after Thanksgiving, the three of us made our way to New York.
On Saturday, November 29th, we got up early and made the drive from our hotel in Binghamton, NY, over to Cooperstown, arriving at a little bit after 9:00 in the morning:
As you may have noticed, there was snow on both of the trees to each side of the doors, as well as icicles hanging at various lengths from the roof. The cause of the snow and ice is one element of the trip that wasn’t present in June of 2006: cold weather. Far from the warm summer temperatures of our last visit, it was fairly cold (as is to be expected in late November), with the day starting off at around 10 degrees. But, thankfully, the Hall of Fame doesn’t close for cold temperatures, and we were actually able to make it past the front door this time around.
Upon entering the Hall and purchasing our tickets, we walked up the stairs to the second floor, where we caught a brief introduction movie, before beginning the tour of the museum.
One of the first pieces of memorabilia that we saw, and one of the most interesting of the day, was an old baseball that was used to “prove” that Abner Doubleday was the inventor of baseball, back in 1839:
However, contrary to popular belief, Doubleday didn’t invent baseball. As the display discussed, Doubleday was given credit for the sport’s origin, but a version of baseball had been being played for numerous years prior to 1839. Although the exact inventor of baseball isn’t fully known, credit for the rules of today’s version of the game — 90 feet between bases; 9 innings; 9 players per team — was awarded to Alexander Cartwright, the “Father of Modern Baseball”.
But while the invention of baseball wasn’t Abner Doubleday’s, there was an interesting non-baseball item that was in fact his own:
As a lover of history, including the Civil War era, these shoulder epaulets belonging to Doubleday during the war were very cool to see. Though not directly related to baseball, I came to find that the off the wall items such as these — not just baseballs, bats, jerseys, etc. — were some of the most interesting things to see.
But the baseball memorabilia was amazing as well; especially that of baseball’s well known all-time greats, such as Honus Wagner. Playing from 1897 through 1917, mainly for the Pittsburgh Pirates, there was a locker filled with Wagner stuff, such as one of Wagner’s full uniforms (used while he was a manager):
Wagner’s 1909 T206 baseball card holds the record for the most valuable sports card in existence, having sold for a whopping 2.8 million dollars back in 2007. So seeing the rare items tied directly to Wagner was amazing.
But things kept getting better and better as the journey through the museum continued. Next up was an entire section dedicated to the most well known player in baseball history: Babe Ruth. Among the items on display were a baseball estimated to have been hit by Ruth over 500 feet (picture 1); Ruth’s glove from the 1926 World Series (picture 2); a display of various things, such as one of Ruth’s bats (picture 3); and an autographed Babe Ruth baseball (picture 4):
Following the Ruth exhibit, there was an exhibit dedicated the Negro Leagues, titled “Pride and Passion: The African-American Baseball Experience”. The most well known Negro League player has to be Jackie Robinson, who broke baseball’s color barrier back in 1947, going on to be inducted into the baseball Hall of Fame in 1962. However, the exhibit focused on more than just Robinson. Also included in the exhibit, that helped tell the story of the Negro Leagues, were uniforms worn by Satchel Paige (left) and James “Cool Papa” Bell (right):
Paige is likely the most widely known Negro League pitcher, having pitched three shutout innings against the Boston Red Sox in 1965 at the age of 59, becoming the oldest player ever to play in the majors. Bell, while not as much of a household name as Paige, was just as amazing in his own way. Possessing blazing speed, it was said that Bell could “turn off the light and be under the covers before the room got dark” and that Bell once “hit a ball up the middle of the field and was struck by the ball as he slid into second base”. Though merely stories people liked to tell, it goes to show just how much Bell’s speed stood out to people.
Next in line on the path through the museum was “Diamond Dreams”, which showcased the many roles that women have played throughout the history of baseball, including playing the game themselves. The 1992 movie ‘A League of Their Own’, staring Tom Hanks, Geena David and Madonna, among others, covered this very topic of women playing the baseball. And therefore, the exhibit included costumes from the movie itself:
After spending some time reading about the history of women in baseball, the three of us then made our way through a collection of items from 1930-1970, including things used by all-time greats, Ted Williams and Mickey Mantle, before finding ourselves in a portion of the museum dedicated to Latin American baseball players, entitled ‘Viva Baseball’:
Although everything in the exhibit was interesting and fun to learn about, there were some items that interested me more than others. Two of the key items for me were David Ortiz’s 2004 World Series jersey (left), from the year the Red Sox broke their 86-year Championship drought, as well as a jersey worn by Albert Pujols (right) during his 2001 Rookie of the Year winning season:
The next section we came upon covered baseball up through the year 2000. Some of the top things around the exhibit were a Tom Seaver display (Seaver holds the record for highest Hall of Fame induction voting percentage, with 98.8 %) that included the red cleats from his 300th career win (picture 1); George Brett’s pine tar bat from 1983 (picture 2); Robin Yount’s batting helmet from his 3,000th hit (picture 3); and Derek Jeter’s 1998 World Series cleats (picture 4):
That’s one of the reasons I most enjoyed the last room of the second floor that had items from the last decade or so of the game. One of the great things about these items was that I could remembered seeing a lot of the unique events they were tied to take place on TV, either live or in a recap of the game. The room was organized into thirty different lockers (one for each team) positioned around the walls, with several items for each team in each locker.
Remember back in 2012 when Orioles’ slugger Chris Davis came on to finish out the marathon 16 inning game on the mound against the Red Sox after beginning the game as the designated hitter? Well, the cap Davis was wearing was there:
In fact, pretty much anything of significance that has happened within the past number of years was included in this exhibit. The cleats Miguel Cabrera was wearing the night he secured baseball’s first Triple Crown since 1967 (picture 1); the cleats Mike Trout wore when he recorded his first career cycle (picture 2); Jim Thome’s 600th career home run (picture 3); and the cap Mariano Rivera wore during his final All-Star outing of his career in 2013 (picture 4):
It was all there.
Also in the room — in a display case in the very center — was an arrangement of items specifically from the 2014 Major League Baseball season. Although a bat from Jose Abreu’s rookie year was awesome to see, as were the cleats Albert Pujols was wearing when he blasted his 500th career home run, the thing that stood out to me the most was the jersey worn by Mo’ne David during the Little League World Series:
Having watched Davis pitch on T.V. throughout the series, as well as seeing her on the cover of Sports Illustrated and basically anywhere you looked, it was awesome to see the jersey used by the first girl to earn a win in Little League World Series history.
After taking in all the things from this season, and doing my best to photograph it all, we all made our way up to the third floor of the museum. There, in a Hank Aaron exhibit, we saw another unique item not directly related to baseball, like the Abner Doubleday epaulets talked about earlier — bricks from Aaron’s childhood home in Alabama:
That was pretty remarkable to see after watching him hit that historic blast over and over on T.V.
However, as we all know, Aaron’s career mark of 755 home runs didn’t stand. Barry Bonds went on to pass Aaron, with his 756th home run coming on August 7, 2007. The helmet Bonds was wearing when he hit the homer was on display, as was the ball itself:
You may have noticed that the ball has an asterisk cut out of the cover. The story behind that lies with Marc Ecko — the person who bought the ball online for $752,467. After purchasing the baseball, Ecko held an online contest to determine its fate. Voters had three choices: put an asterisk on the ball; leave it alone; or shoot it to the moon. Around half of the ten million votes said an asterisk should be added before the balls donation. And thus became the ball you see above.
Also in this room, focusing on records and such, were some pretty incredible things. Among them was Derek Jeter’s batting gloves from his 3,000th hit game (picture 1); a cap from each of Nolan Ryan’s record seven career no-hitters (picture 2); first base from Armando Galarraga’s infamous near-perfect game (picture 3); a ball from the 2007 game in which the Rangers defeated the Orioles 30-3 (picture 4); the jersey from Roy Halladay’s postseason no-hitter in 2010 (picture 5); and, my personal favorite item, possibly of the entire museum, the glove Willie Mays used to make “The Catch” in the 1954 World Series (picture 6):
In all, I took more pictures in this one section of the museum than any other section. It was truly amazing stuff.
Towards the end of items on the third floor was a display with memorabilia solely from the 2014 World Series between the Giants and the Royals. Watching every single inning on T.V. as it happened, is was awesome to see some items from the series in person. But the one thing that stood out the most was rookie pitcher Yordano Ventura’s cap that he wore for his game six start:
In addition to being a standout item because of the great outing Ventura had, it’s the inscription on the cap that makes it stand out the most. After the tragic death of 22-year-old Cardinals’ prospect, Oscar Taveras, Ventura took to the mound with “RIP O.T # 18” written on his hat as a tribute to his native Dominican Republic friend. It was touching on T.V., and even more so in person.
Once we had viewed all there was to see on the third floor, my grandpa, dad and I headed down the street to grab a bite of lunch at a nearby restaurant before returning to continue walking around the Hall of Fame. Believe it or not, after over three hours spent at the Hall (and after 35 pictures and 2,000 words in this blog post), there was still more to see and do.
After returning to the Hall of Fame, we headed over to an art exhibit, which normally isn’t my thing but really intrigued me this time around. Following that, we headed through a room dedicated to this year’s Hall of Fame inductees — Joe Torre, Bobby Cox, Tony La Russa, Frank Thomas, Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux — before arriving to the Hall of Fame’s main point of interest: The Hall of Fame Gallery:
With the current number of Hall of Famers standing at 306 total people — 211 players, 35 negro leaguers, 28 executives, 22 managers and 10 umpires — there were a lot of plaques to cover, but we made our way around to every single one.
As with every part of the museum, there were a few portions (in this case, people) that stood out the most.
The first of such was the inaugural class of five plaques (located at the far end of the picture above), being of Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, Honus Wagner, Christy Mathewson and Walter Johnson, all of which were inducted in 1936 — three years before the Hall of Fame’s opening in 1939:
Standing out as a member of the Hall of Fame that isn’t necessarily as known as the everyday players such as Ted Williams, Mickey Mantle, Joe DiMaggio, Cy Young, etc., was Wesley Branch Rickey (left), accompanied by Jackie Robinson (right):
Rickey was the person who brought Jackie Robinson to the Dodgers in 1945, making him the first African American player to break baseball’s color barrier when he made his debut two years later.
Another lesser known member is Effa Manley — the only woman in the baseball Hall of Fame:
Manley was greatly involved in the Negro Leagues as the only woman owner among an industry of male owners. Her induction came in 2006 as a “reflection of her commitment to baseball and civil rights”.
One last person who is more known for what he did than who he was is Bill Veeck:
Mostly known for his stunt of bringing the shortest player in MLB history to the plate in 1951 — 3 foot 7 inch tall Eddie Gaedel — Veeck made a major impact on the game, stating, “I try not to break the rules but merely to test their elasticity”.
Upon completion of viewing all of the plaques, we made a brief stop by the gift shop, where I picked up a T-shirt and a magnet to commemorate my second trip and first successful visit to the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Following that, after half a dozen hours or so spent at the Hall of Fame, my dad, grandpa and I swung by historic Doubleday Field, which was covered in snow . . . :
I didn’t fully know what to expect from the Baseball Hall of Fame. Sometimes you can get your hopes up so high that the actual experience fails to meet those lofty expectations. But I can honestly say that the Hall of Fame completely blew away all my expectations. It was so well set up and so greatly stocked with some incredible pieces of baseball history that there was no way I could document it all — both with my camera or in this blog post.
So, if you haven’t, go see the Hall of Fame for yourself. It’s truly something that every single baseball fan should do at least once in their lifetime. You’ll never forget it.
The Cy Young award — named after the Hall of Fame pitcher who died in 1955 — was first handed out in 1956 to Don Newcombe, with the goal of recognizing the “most valuable pitcher” from each season. The first eleven years of the award saw one pitcher per year receiving the honor, but in 1967 the Cy Young began being handed out to a pitcher from each league who was voted on as the best from the season.
Seventeen players who have won the Cy Young award have gone on to the Hall of Fame up until this point — several of those winners are still active players, however. The current record for most Cy Young awards is held by Roger Clemens, with seven, but sixteen total players have won multiple Cy Young’s in their career.
Voting for the award is fairly straightforward.
Two writers from each city of both the American League and National League make up the Baseball Writers’ Association of America (BBWAA) voters for the Cy Young award, making a total of thirty voters for each league (fifteen teams, with two voters per city). A first place vote earns a player seven points, a second place vote gets four points, a third place vote receives three points, a fourth place vote is worth two points, with a fifth place vote earning a single point. Once added up, the player with the highest overall total wins.
The 2014 Major League Baseball Cy Young award winners for both the American League and National League were announced Wednesday night on MLB Network. Here are the winners, along with my thoughts on each:
AMERICAN LEAGUE CY YOUNG
Original Pick: Felix Hernandez
Finalists: Felix Hernandez, Corey Kluber and Chris Sale
Winner: Corey Kluber
Thoughts On Corey Kluber Winning
I originally had Felix Hernandez winning the 2014 Cy Young award, and after seeing that he was one of the three finalists for the honor, I still held strong with my selection. However, in one of the closest votes in Cy Young award history, Corey Kluber took home the award for his terrific, breakout season.
Just edging out the win by ten points, Kluber received a total of 169 points and 17 first-place votes, with Hernandez getting the other 13 first-place selections totaling 159 points. Third place recipient Chris Sale got 78 points from the voters.
Never receiving a single vote for the Cy Young award before this time around, Kluber becomes the fourth player in Indians’ franchise history to win the Cy Young award.
Going 18-9 with a 2.44 ERA on the season, Kluber essentially came out of nowhere and posted some incredible outings on the season. Kluber was one of the absolute best pitchers in baseball after the All-Star break, recording back-to-back 14 strikeout games in September and notching the best overall ERA of any starting pitcher over that span.
Heading into next season, it’s hard to know what to expect out of Corey Kluber. Although he was superb in 2014, there have been plenty of cases where a pitcher breaks out for a season and never performs that way again. But despite that, Kluber will in all likelihood be one of the best pitchers in the game, even if he isn’t quite as good as the masterful year he had this past season.
NATIONAL LEAGUE CY YOUNG
Original Pick: Clayton Kershaw
Finalists: Clayton Kershaw, Johnny Cueto and Adam Wainwright
Winner: Clayton Kershaw
Thoughts On Clayton Kershaw Winning
After yet another historic season put together by Clayton Kershaw, there was no real debate over whether or not he most deserved the 2014 National League Cy Young award. Winning his unprecedented fourth straight ERA title, Kershaw’s stats simply blew away the competition, which saw the next closest N.L. ERA nearly half a run higher.
Kershaw’s unbelievable season netted him a unanimous vote for the Cy Young, with him receiving all 30 first-place votes and 210 points overall. Johnny Cueto, the second place vote getter only tallied 112 points, with Adam Wainwright finishing in third with 97 points. With the unanimous selection, Kershaw becomes the first to do so since Justin Verlander in 2011.
Tying Sandy Koufax for the most Cy Young awards in Dodgers’s franchise history, Kershaw’s back-to-back Cy Young awards make him the youngest in MLB history, and one of only nine players, to win three in their career.
Firing a 15-strikeout no hitter in June, Kershaw’s season was remarkable, as despite missing the first month of the season, Kershaw was able to record 21 wins to go along with a mere 1.77 ERA. With many already naming Kershaw as the predicted front runner for the Cy Young award again in 2015, barring injury, there’s a chance that Kershaw could challenge Roger Clemens’ all-time record of seven career Cy Young awards.
But before Kershaw makes a run towards reaching Clemens, he is looking to become the ninth player in history to win both the Cy Young award and the Most Valuable Player award in the same year. Although some people have Giancarlo Stanton taking the honor, with a few giving it to Andrew McCutchen, there’s still a good chance that Kershaw could win the MVP. In my opinion, he deserves it.
Heading into game six of the 2014 World Series, I was fairly confident that my prediction of the Giants winning it all in six games was nearly a sure bet. Coming off of a strong, shutout start by Madison Bumgarner in game five to take a 3-2 series lead, I figured the Giants would have the momentum to take the championship in the first game back in Kansas City. But I was wrong — very wrong.
Game six turned out to be a blowout by the Royals, as by the second inning the game was basically over. Jake Peavy, the starting pitcher for the Giants, allowed five hits in the inning, including an RBI-double to Mike Moustakas and an RBI-single to Nori Aoki before he was removed from the game for the recently unhittable Yusmeiro Petit.
But even Petit isn’t perfect, as he allowed a two-run single to the first batter he faced, Lorenzo Cain, followed by a two-run double to Eric Hosmer and a Billy Butler RBI-double. When the dust finally settled, the Royals had scored seven runs in the inning, and every Royals’ starter, with the exception of Omar Infante (he would get a single in the next inning), had at least one hit.
Royals’ starter, Yordano Ventura, fared much better than the pitchers on the Giants’ side of the game. Going seven innings and giving up only three hits while allowing zero runs to a good Giants’ lineup, Ventura was simply remarkable. Leaving the game with a 9-0 lead over the Royals, it’s evident that the Royals have a potential superstar on their hands for years to come.
Up nine runs going into the bottom of the seventh inning, Mike Moustakas took the score to an even 10-0, blasting a solo shot to right field. Coming off of Giants’ reliever, Hunter Strickland — the sixth home run allowed by Strickland in the postseason, a playoff record — Moustakas provided the first home run of the series since game two of the Fall Classic, and would be the final run scored of the game, which became the fifth game out of the series decided by five or more runs.
Taking game six with ease, the Royals forced a World Series game seven for the first time since 2011 — just the 37th World Series game seven in history. With the home team having won the Fall Classic in the past nine game sevens dating back to 1982, including the Royals’ last World Series win in 1985, you had to wonder if history would come through for the Royals or if the Giants terrific elimination game record would prevail.
With game seven of the World Series being a win or go home game for both teams, both starting pitchers — Tim Hudson for the Giants and Jeremy Guthrie for the Royals, who was fantastic in his last outing — were subsequently on very short leashes. (Meaning, should they struggle early they wouldn’t be allowed to continue for very long.) However, both looked fairly sharp to begin the game, posting a scoreless first inning.
But the second inning brought problems for both pitchers. Guthrie gave up a couple of runs via two sacrifice flies that scored the given runner from third, but, surprisingly, he was allowed to continue. Hudson, though, after allowing a couple runs of his own, was replaced after just 1.2 innings pitched — the shortest game seven outing of a World Series game since 1960.
Guthrie pitched a good third inning but allowed a leadoff single to Pablo Sandoval in the fourth (Sandoval went 3-3 on the night, bringing his hit total for this World Series up to a staggering 12), followed by a Hunter Pence single and a flyout that allowed Sandoval to advance to third. Showing signs of struggle, Guthrie was quickly replaced by Kelvin Herrera who immediately gave up a single to Michael Morse, scoring Sandoval from third, and giving the Giants a 3-2 lead. Neither team would find a way to put anything together after that.
On just two days rest, Madison Bumgarner, who threw a complete game shutout in game five, came on in the bottom of the fifth — his first relief appearance since the 2010 National League Championship Series. It was originally thought that if Bumgarner was brought on in relief, it would be for a couple of innings. But Bumgarner was so dominant that he remained in through the final out of the game, surpassing the old MLB postseason record of 48.2 innings pitched and lowering his World Series career ERA down to a measly 0.25.
While the Royals threw out their heart of the order in the bottom of the ninth, with Alex Gordon technically singling but winding up at third on a couple of outfield bobbling errors, they didn’t have a comeback in them. Salvador Perez, although he put up a battle against Bumgarner, stranded Gordon at third, popping out to third baseman Pablo Sandoval, and securing the Giants the 2014 World Series Championship.
The third World Series title for the San Francisco Giants in the past five year, and their eighth overall in franchise history, the Giants were fairly impressive over the course of the seven games it took to decide a winner, despite outscoring the Royals overall just 30-27. But they would be nowhere without their dominant lefty, Madison Bumgarner, who received the Most Valuable Player award for his dominant pitching during the Fall Classic.
With game seven now decided, thus concludes another exciting Major League Baseball season. But hang in there. There are only 158 days until Opening Day 2015.
It was a rather intriguing story line when the Brewers were leading the National League central division after the first full month of the season. It was somewhat of an impressive feat when they were still leading the division after the first two months had passed. But now that we’re just a couple of weeks away from the All-Star break and the Brewers are still on top, it’s beginning to become one of the most discussed topics in all of baseball.
Predicted by many to do poorly this season (I had them finishing fourth), with the seemingly average team the Brewers have and the difficult division in which they play, the fact that the Brewers currently sit 5.5 games ahead of the second place Cardinals is incredible — especially after the Cardinals won the division fairly easily last year, with the Brewers ending up 23 games back.
But while most of the baseball world counted out the Brewers for 2014, their players felt they had just as good of a shot as anyone, which is proving to be true. “We felt good about our situation,” said Brewers’ second baseman, Rickie Weeks, on Thursday. “Obviously, a lot of the media didn’t. That’s one of the things that keeps us together in this clubhouse.”
Having achieved the most wins in all of baseball (only the Athletics have a better winning percentage), and holding the largest division lead of any other team over the second place opponent, the Brewers making the playoffs is no longer a long shot as it appeared to be at the beginning of the year. It has now become a really good possibility.
Off to the best start halfway through the season (81 games) in their franchise’s history, the Brewers not only have momentum on their side, they also have statistics. Since the Wild Card was introduced in 1995, 69 percent of teams (82 out of 118) in first place at the halfway point have made the playoffs, with 61 percent (72 out of 118) holding on to win their division.
One of the biggest reasons for the surprising performance by the Brewers as a whole has been their consistent game play by their individual players. Jonathan Lucroy, one of the game’s most underrated catchers, has done a fantastic job both defensively behind the plate as well as offensively. And despite a slightly down season for Ryan Braun (he’s still making a good contribution), Carlos Gomez, Aramis Ramirez, and Scooter Gennett are all doing their share, with Khris Davis and Mark Reynolds providing a good deal of power, regardless of their low batting averages.
On the pitching side of things, Kyle Lohse has really stepped up his game this year, doing a great job of giving the Brewers opportunities to win ballgames, and with the exception of a couple of rough starts, Yovani Gallardo has been a valuable asset as well. With a closer like Francisco Rodriguez, who currently leads baseball in saves, coming on in the ninth inning to shut down games, the Brewers have a really solid team no matter how you look at it.
With just 14 games remaining until the All-Star break, the Brewers find themselves on the verge of making some more history by surpassing the old franchise record of 54 wins at the break. That would certainly be an amazing feat. But I’m sure the majority of the Brewers would tell you, having made the World Series just once back in 1982 (they lost), their main focus is on making it deep into October.
As the saying goes, records are made to be broken. And with a strongly hit single to right field off of Edwin Jackson on Saturday afternoon, Phillies’ shortstop, Jimmy Rollins, broke a record that had stood for the past twenty-five years; notching his 2,235th career hit, surpassing the franchise’s all-time hit mark of 2,234, set by Mike Schmidt back in 1989.
Accomplishing the milestone hit in three fewer seasons than Schmidt, Rollins gave Phillies fans something to be cheerful about, after a dismal start to the season has left them wishing for something worth applauding. Sitting in last place in the National League East division — a division that they once dominated — the Phillies are seemingly on their way to a poor overall year, but Rollins’ historic moment in the Phillies 7-4 win against the Cubs helped briefly give excitement to an otherwise dull team.
But as is to be expected when a player such as Rollins breaks an all-time record — especially a record held by a Hall of Fame player — many people are beginning to ask the question: Just because you pass a Hall of Famer on a franchise’s hit list, does that automatically make you Hall of Fame worthy?
As far as the answer goes, there seem to be three different views. The first view writes off the idea altogether, saying that Rollins’ numbers are simply nowhere close to Hall of Fame caliber; the second group doesn’t feel that Rollins is quite yet Hall of Fame worthy, but could become so if he plays well long enough; and the final portion of people (mainly Phillies fans) see him as a Hall of Fame shortstop right now.
For me, I side with the second set of people.
On one hand, I don’t think Rollins has a zero percent chance of the Hall of Fame down the road. He’s been far too good of a player for far too long for me to completely dismiss the possibility. But on the other hand, I don’t think Rollins currently has the numbers to stand up against some of the games all-time greats. However, given a few more productive seasons, I could definitely see a good case begin to be made for Rollins.
At 35 years old, Rollins still has a few good seasons left in his career, and seeing that he’s always been fairly consistent, Rollins should continue to pad his already good numbers, which aren’t as far off from Hall of Fame level as you might initially think upon a glance.
Of the twenty-two shortstops in the Hall, ten of them have fewer career hits than Rollins currently possesses, showing that there truly is no magic number of hits needed to earn election. In addition, assuming Rollins plays for another five seasons, based off of his average yearly totals, he would finish his career with around 240 homers, 1,100 RBI’s, 2,900 hits, 500 doubles, and 500 stolen bases. Given, that’s all purely speculative, but it’s interesting to note, nonetheless.
The bottom line, whether or not you’re a Phillies fan, and whether or not you feel Jimmy Rollins is going to get into the Hall of Fame eventually, you have to recognize the amazing career Rollins has put together. Even if he doesn’t go down in the record books as one of the all-time greats in baseball history, he will absolutely go down as one of the all-time greats in Phillies history. With all the fantastic players who have come through the Phillies organization over its 131-year existence, that speaks volumes by itself.
As I wrote in my last blog post, there was a chance coming into St. Louis that either the Cardinals or the Red Sox could win the World Series, should they be able to sweep the other team. But thanks to a couple of wild finished, the series heads back to Boston — the Red Sox lead 3-2 — where a champion will be crowned at Fenway Park for the first time since 1975, when the Reds beat out the Red Sox in seven games. (If the Sox win it will be their first World Series clinch at home since 1918.)
But a lot took place to get to this point.
Going into game three, on Saturday, the Red Sox had Jake Peavy on the mound taking on the Cardinals’ Joe Kelly. Both Peavy and Kelly had been decent this season/postseason, and both were looking to give their team the edge in this talent-laden World Series.
Peavy had a bit of trouble early, allowing a couple runs to the Cardinals in the bottom of the first inning, but he quickly regained himself, not allowing a run the remainder of his four inning outing. Kelly was just a bit better, however, as he gave up only one run over 5.1 innings, when he was replaced by Randy Choate, who promptly gave up the game tying run to the Red Sox.
The bottom of the seventh saw the Cardinals retaking the lead, on a two-run double by Matt Holliday. But just as to be expected in an exciting World Series game, the Red Sox tied things up in the very next inning. Making the score 4-4, heading into the ninth.
Things would then get interesting.
The Sox failed to score in the top half, as Trevor Rosenthal was dominant once again, giving the Cardinals a chance to walk-off with a big win. Which they did, but not in the most conventional way. A Yadier Molina single was followed up with an Allen Craig pinch-hit double, placing runners at second and third with just one away. Jon Jay would then ground to Dustin Pedroia, who quickly threw home for the out, but a wide throw by Jarrod Saltalamacchia led to the most talked about World Series play in years.
Will Middlebrooks found himself with nowhere to go after diving for the errant throw, leaving third base umpire, Jim Joyce, to signal obstruction, after Allen Craig tripped over Middlebrooks, which would subsequently win the Cardinals the ballgame. Not a way you’d like to see a game of that magnitude end, but you had to figure it would give the Red Sox added motivation in the next game.
Game four didn’t have a controversial finish, but it did end in just as unusual of fashion.
A surprise to many, Clay Buchholz, who had been reported at thirty percent healthy, had a great game for the Red Sox, only allowing a single run through his four innings on the mound. Lance Lynn, who isn’t really acknowledged that often, had a great game as well, also giving up a single run through his 5.1 innings pitched.
Although, after Lynn allowed a couple of base runners in the fifth, he was replaced by Seth Maness — a mistake in my mind, as Maness has been getting hit all postseason — who allowed a homer to Jonny Gomes, making the score 4-1, Red Sox.
The Cardinals would score a run in the seventh, and go onto make a push to tie the game in the ninth, but a mistake by rookie Kolten Wong ended the game with everyone stunned. Getting picked off at first by Koji Uehara, Wong became the first player in postseason history to get picked off to end the ballgame.
The series once again became tied, heading into a final game in St. Louis.
A rematch of game one, game six saw Adam Wainwright going up against Jon Lester in a pivotal game. Both Lester and Wainwright pitched well — Wainwright struck out six batters through the first two innings — as they both allowed a mere one run through the first six innings.
The one run off of Wainwright came from an RBI-double by David Ortiz, who is now hitting .733 in the series — the only Red Sox player in history with back-to-back 3-hit nights in the Fall Classic. Lester’s lone run came off a solo-shot homer to Matt Holliday — one of Lester’s only four hits allowed.
The Red Sox would get the better of Wainwright in the seventh, scoring two runs to make the score 3-2, Sox. And that’s how the game would end, as Koji Uehara was stellar once again, closing out the game for the Red Sox.
The Cardinals and Red Sox now head back to Boston. It will be interesting to see how each team plays, knowing game six could be it. The way this World Series has been going, however, — especially with Michael Wacha pitching game six for the Cardinals — I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see it go seven games. But, in the end, if I had to pick a favorite at this point in the series, I’d have to give the Red Sox the edge.
We’ll just have to wait and see what happens.