Cubs & Indians

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Who breaks their World Series curse first: Cubs or Indians?

It will be, no matter the outcome, a historic World Series, because whichever team wins, there will be black-and-white footage shown before the champagne has dried.

The Chicago Cubs, as we all know, haven’t won the World Series since 1908, a season in which they hit 19 home runs all season. That team has a seemingly mythical characters, such as Three Finger Brown, Orval Overall and Tinker to Evers to Chance.

Finally! The Cubs’ six darkest days leads to their brightest

Can you believe it? The Cubs are headed to the World Series. Let’s examine just how much almost-clinching heartache led Chicago to this moment.

Is this the Cubs’ year? Will the Indians’ run continue in the Fall Classic? We’ve got you covered for every pitch of the 2016 postseason.

And then there are the Cleveland Indians, who haven’t won the World Series since 1948, the second-longest current championship drought in baseball. That team had Bob Feller, Bob Lemon and Gene Bearden in the rotation, and — this seems impossible today — those Indians had Lou Boudreau as a player/manager, a role he had for 10 years, winning the American League MVP as a shortstop in 1948.

It’s 1908 versus 1948. It’s about ending a drought. It’s about two teams with great stories to tell. This will be fabulous.

Here are five questions.

(1) How good is the Indians’ bullpen?

It is terrific and, more importantly, it is different than any other bullpen. Tribe relievers posted a 1.64 ERA in eight postseason games. In Game 3 of the American League Championship Series, the Indians became the only team in history to win a postseason game in which no pitcher went as many as two innings. In the clinching Game 5, the Indians became the only team in postseason history to throw a shutout in a game in which the starter didn’t pitch five innings.

The incredible Andrew Miller starred again in Game 5, as he did through the whole postseason, posting this line: 11⅔ innings pitched, 5 hits, 0 runs, 21 strikeouts, 2 walks. No pitcher — starter or reliever — struck out more batters in his first nine innings of any postseason than Miller’s 20 this year. He was the first reliever ever to strike out five batters in back-to-back appearances in the postseason. In the ALCS against Toronto, Miller struck out 56 percent of the batters he faced; no one in postseason history has had a strikeout rate like that. But what makes him so great — and the Indians so dangerous — is the way he is used. In Game 1 of the AL Division Series against the Red Sox, he was summoned in the fifth inning and pitched in three different innings. In the crucial Game 3 of the ALCS against the Blue Jays, instead of handing the ball to closer Cody Allen, Miller pitched the final 1⅓ innings for the save. In the clinching Game 5 of the ALCS, he pitched 2⅔ scoreless innings and brought the game to Allen, who also has been brilliant in this postseason.

The record for most innings by a reliever in one postseason is 18⅔ by Frankie Rodriguez with the 2002 Angels and Tug McGraw with the 1973 Mets. Miller is going to break that record — and a few others — in the World Series.

(2) How set up is the Cubs’ rotation?

Jon Lester and Javier Baez of the Cubs were co-MVPs in the National League Championship Series. Jamie Squire/Getty Images

It is in good shape. By winning the final three games of the National League Championship Series against the Dodgers, the Cubs not only get some rest before the World Series, but they have their starters aligned relatively well. Most important, Jon Lester will start Game 1. He has a 0.86 ERA in this postseason, including a marvelous performance in the crucial Game 5 of the NLCS in Los Angeles, going seven innings and allowing just one run. He now has a 2.50 career ERA in 17 postseason starts.

Since 1969, the only pitchers (10 or more starts) with a lower ERA are Madison Bumgarner and Curt Schilling.

Jake Arrieta likely will start Game 2, but he labored in September (4.40 ERA) and in two starts in this postseason (4.91 ERA). But Arrieta in Game 2 will allow the Cubs to push Kyle Hendricks back to Game 3 at home, where he posted a 1.32 ERA this season. Hendricks, who led the NL in ERA in 2016, was sensational in the clinching Game 6 at Wrigley, allowing two hits and no runs in 7⅓ innings.

(3) What is the status of the Indians’ rotation?

Somehow, the Indians made it this far without any contribution in the postseason from Carlos Carrasco (broken pinky) or Danny Salazar (tightness in his forearm), making them the first team since the 1970 Reds to go to the World Series with zero playoff appearances from two pitchers who started at least 25 games with an ERA under 4.00 during the regular season. But now, there’s a chance Salazar will be ready for the World Series. He hasn’t pitched since Sept. 9, so there will be rust, but he still will be a boost to the rotation. His stuff, when right, is spectacular. Closer Allen said Salazar “is the most gifted pitcher I’ve ever been around.”

Trevor Bauer, who sliced his right pinky in a drone accident on Oct. 14 and bled all over the mound in his start in Game 3 of the ALCS, said he will be able to pitch as often as possible in the World Series. We’ll see about that. It’s possible we’ll see Ryan Merritt, whose 4⅓ scoreless innings in Game 5 — the second start and fifth appearance of his major league career — were stunning. There are uncertainties in the Cleveland rotation, but it’s certain that Corey Kluber will start Game 1, and surely he will be ready to try going on short rest again in this series. In 18⅓ innings in this postseason, Kluber has a 0.98 ERA. His breaking ball is from hell. Josh Tomlin likely will start Game 2. After that, it’s up in the air, but it has been for the whole postseason — and here are the Indians, in the World Series.

(4) What are we to make of the Cubs’ offense?

No worries now. Still, like every other team in the major leagues in this all-or-nothing era of baseball, the Cubs’ lineup can be pitched to, if a really good pitcher locates well. In the NLCS against the Dodgers, the Cubs averaged 7.75 runs and had 21 extra-base hits in the four victories, including pounding Clayton Kershaw in the clinching Game 6, a 5-0 shutout.

But the Cubs were shut out (with only one extra base hit) in their two losses, the first time they had been shut out in back-to-back games since May 2014. It took a bunt single by cleanup hitter Ben Zobrist leading off the fourth inning of Game 4 to get the Cubs going, and it took a couple of cheap hits in Game 5 to keep it going.

But now, Anthony Rizzo and Addison Russell are out of their funks, NLCS co-MVP Javier Baez (13 hits in this postseason) has arrived and Willson Contreras is swinging so well that the Cubs look like the team that scored the second-most runs in the NL this year. Ten different Cubs, including all three catchers (the first time ever to have three catchers hit home runs in one postseason), have hit home runs in this postseason. And only hours before Game 6 of the NLCS, Cubs president Theo Epstein said there is at least a chance that Kyle Schwarber, who tore ligaments in left knee in the third game of the season and hasn’t played since, might be ready to play in the World Series. If so, it would be as a designated hitter or a bat off the bench. It is intriguing.

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(5) What about the managers?

Indians manager Terry “Tito” Francona is looking for his third World Series title. AP Photo/Charlie Riedel

The Indians’ Terry “Tito” Francona has been masterful in this postseason. He has known exactly when to take his starter out, what reliever to bring in and when to take that reliever out. He did a great job this season of getting run production, despite not having his best outfielder, Michael Brantley, for most of the season and having to mix and match at several positions. Should Francona win the World Series, it would be his third ring, and it would mean a spot in the Hall of Fame — because he would have ended an 86-year drought in Boston and a 67-year drought in Cleveland.

But Francona might be on his way to the Hall anyway, with his three pennants, 1,381 wins and a .533 winning percentage, plus an 8-0 record in the World Series. Francona’s secret is his communication skills — his touch and feel with people, especially his players. Every player has a button, and Francona always knows where it is and when to push it. In spring training every year, he calls his players into his office, one by one, to talk. In the case of Bauer, who has had some communication issues, he called him in all the time, just to talk. Apparently, it worked. Francona will jump on a player privately if he gets out of line, but he also is one of the best at making players comfortable and relaxed so they can play their best.

The Cubs’ Joe Maddon is an expert at that, as well. He once pulled a bunch of his Rays players out of the batting cage and took them in the clubhouse to watch a magician work, another case of Maddon valuing time away from the game as good, not bad. His calm hand and great communication skills are two reasons the Cubs have been able to handle the pressures that comes with extraordinarily high expectations from the first day of spring training.

And no one is going to outfox Maddon in the running of a game. He and Francona have managed against each other 133 times in their careers; Maddon has a 69-64 advantage, including 5-3 in the postseason. Now they’ll get four, five, six or seven more shots at it.

The pick: Cubs in seven.  Read more


The 2016 World Series is set, and no matter who wins, it will be a celebration a long time in the making.

The Chicago Cubs are considered the team of destiny as they try to win their first championship since 1908. On the other hand, the Cleveland Indians haven’t won a title since 1948, and their fans will be just as excited about the possibility of a win.

Both teams will come out with a lot of energy to provide fans with the best possible matchup on the sport’s biggest stage. Here is what you need to know about the upcoming battle.


When it comes to the Cubs, it’s hard not to talk about history. Not only has it been more than 100 years since the last World Series win, but the organization hadn’t even won the pennant since 1945.

After the Cubs clinched the National League Championship Series, that was just about all anyone could talk about.

“To stand on that platform afterwards,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said, per Bob Nightengale of USA Today, “and you’re looking at the ballpark and the fans and the ‘W’ flags everywhere. I think about the fans, and their parents, and their grandparents, and great-grandparents, and everything else that’s been going on here for a while.”

However, it’s important to remember that the current squad stands on its own as an elite team. The players aren’t necessarily carrying history with them; they won 103 games with a lot of talent in just about every part of the roster.

The starting pitching has been great all year, especially Jon Lester and Kyle Hendricks. The duo has allowed just five earned runs in 37.1 innings this postseason, including just total three runs in four starts in the NLCS.  Read more


 

Click here to watch video of Game 1

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World Series Game 7: For Cubs and Indians, It All Comes Down to This

In baseball’s 37th winner-take-all World Series game, the Cleveland Indians will host the Chicago Cubs, a team that had the best record in baseball this season and is now trying to be the first team since 1985 to win a championship after trailing in the series three games to one.

A master of understatement, Indians manager Terry Francona summed up Game 7 in an interview before the game by saying “I’m going to go out on a limb and say it’s a really important game, and we’ll be really excited to play.” Read more


 

World Series: Seven thoughts on Game 7 between the Cubs and the Indians

Cleveland has Corey Kluber and a rested bullpen. Chicago’s bats have finally broken out. Both teams will hope to end a lengthy championship drought. Here’s what to expect in the last baseball game of 2016.

After winning a 3–2 squeaker at Wrigley Field in Game 5 on Sunday, the Cubs took Game 6 with a 9–3 rout, setting up the 38th World Series Game 7 in baseball history and the third in the past six years. Here are some thoughts on the last game of the 2016 season.

(1) History class

Chicago is not only trying to win its first championship since 1908 and the third in franchise history but also trying to become the sixth team to win a best-of-seven World Series by overcoming a 3–1 deficit, after the 1925 Pirates (over the Senators), the ’58 Yankees (over the Braves), the ’68 Tigers (over the Cardinals), the ’79 Pirates (over the Orioles) and the ’85 Royals (over the Cardinals).

(2) The Kluber Plan

Corey Kluber has already put together a postseason for the ages, striking out 35 batters and allowing just three runs in 30 1/3 innings over five starts. His 0.89 ERA is the eighth-lowest mark among pitchers with at least 25 postseason innings dating back to the inception of the World Series in 1903, and he ranks third in the 48 years of the division play era.

(3) The book on the Professor

Cubs starter Kyle Hendricks matriculated at Dartmouth, and he’s as gifted on the mound as he is smart off it. After winning the NL ERA title during the regular season (2.13), he has pitched to a 1.31 ERA with 17 strikeouts in 20 2/3 innings over four postseason starts. That said, Chicago manager Joe Maddon has used a quick hook with Hendricks, letting him go past 5 1/3 innings only in the NLCS clincher, when he threw 7 1/3 innings against the Dodgers with a 5–0 lead. Despite having yet to allow a run, Hendricks lasted just 4 1/3 innings in Game 3 because he had yielded six hits and two walks and left the bases loaded for reliever Justin Grimm, who escaped the jam by inducing a ground-ball double play from Francisco Lindor.

(4) The curious case of Aroldis Chapman

The big question for the Cubs’ bullpen is the state of Aroldis Chapman’s arm and ankle. Maddon called upon his closer in Game 6 with two outs and two on in the seventh inning and a five-run lead, because he apparently no longer trusts any of his other options. Chapman needed just two pitches to get Lindor on a replay-aided groundout to first, but he had to sprint to the bag on the play and subsequently rolled his right ankle, prompting a visit from the training staff. He returned for the eighth and, even after Chicago stretched its lead to 9–2, was on the mound for the start of the ninth, running his pitch count to 20 before departing after he walked Brandon Guyer.

(5) Cleveland’s ‘pen is mighty rested

There was some good news for the Indians in the wake of Tuesday night’s defeat: None of Cleveland’s top three relievers—Cody Allen, Andrew Miller or Bryan Shaw—even warmed up, let alone got into the game. Miller and Allen should be able to combine for four innings of work in Game 7 if manager Terry Francona so desires. Kluber, Miller and Allen have combined for 59 of the team’s 124 postseason innings (47.5%) and will likely push that figure back above 50%, win or lose. So far, they’ve yielded just four runs among them for a 0.61 ERA, striking out 86 (13.1 per nine, or 26% of all batters faced).

(6) Chicago hit parade

The Cubs’ cold bats have heated up, to say the least. After starting the series 1-for-15, Kris Bryant is now 5-for-7 with a pair of homers since then. Addison Russell, who began the postseason 1-for-24, is 12-for-37 with three homers and two doubles starting with Game 4 of the NLCS. Anthony Rizzo, who opened October with a 1-for-23 skid, is 16-for-39 with three homers (including one late in Game 6) and five doubles since NLCS Game 3. Meanwhile, Kyle Schwarber, who was back in the lineup with the DH back in play, went 1-for-3 with a walk in Game 6 and has now reached base in seven of his 14 plate appearances.

(7) Davis on defense

Cleveland’s outfield defense has been a rough spot at times in this series, as was particularly evident in Game 6. In the first inning, Russell hit a catchable fly ball that fell between rightfielder Lonnie Chisenhall and centerfielder Tyler Naquin because of miscommunication, allowing two runs to score and giving Chicago a 3–0 lead. During the season, the Indians’ outfielders tied for 20th in the majors with -11 Defensive Runs Saved, and three players who combined for +8 DRS—Michael Brantley, Abe Almonte and Marlon Byrd—aren’t on the World Series roster.  Read more

McNally & Etchebarren

1966 World Series ~ Heroes  of the Incredible Sweep

The 1966 World Series matched the American League (AL) champion Baltimore Orioles against the defending World Series champion and National League (NL) champion Los Angeles Dodgers, with the Orioles sweeping the Series in four games to capture their first championship in franchise history. It was also the last World Series played before Major League Baseball (MLB) introduced the Commissioner’s Trophy the following year. Read more


Dave McNally

Pitcher
Born: October 31, 1942 Billings, Montana
Died: December 1, 2002 (aged 60) Billings, Montana
Batted: Right Threw: Left
MLB debut: September 26, 1962, for the Baltimore Orioles
Last MLB appearance: June 8, 1975, for the Montreal Expos

MLB statistics
Win–loss record: 184–119
Earned run average: 3.24
Strikeouts: 1,512
Teams: Baltimore Orioles (1962–1974) / Montreal Expos (1975)

Career highlights and awards
3× All-Star (1969, 1970, 1972)
2× World Series champion (1966, 1970)
AL wins leader (1970)

David Arthur “Dave” McNally (October 31, 1942 – December 1, 2002) was a Major League Baseball left-handed starting pitcher from 1962 until 1975. He was signed by the Baltimore Orioles and played with them every season except for his final season with the Montreal Expos.[1]

Career
McNally is the only pitcher in Major League history to hit a grand slam in a World Series game (Game 3, 1970, a 9–3 victory). The bat (lent to him by teammate Curt Motton) and ball are in the National Baseball Hall of Fame Museum in Cooperstown, New York.

McNally is also part of World Series history for his (and his pitching mates’) performance in the 1966 World Series, which the Orioles swept over the defending champion Los Angeles Dodgers. In the fourth game, he and Don Drysdale matched four-hitters; one of Baltimore’s hits was Frank Robinson’s fourth-inning home run for a 1–0 Oriole victory. McNally’s shutout capped a World Series in which Baltimore pitchers set a Fall Classic record by pitching 331⁄3 consecutive shutout innings, beginning with Moe Drabowsky’s 61⁄3 scoreless innings in relief of McNally in Game One, followed by shutouts from Jim Palmer and Wally Bunker. Ironically, the trio had pitched one shutout total during the regular season—that by McNally on August 6 against the Washington Senators.

He won more than 20 games for 4 consecutive seasons (1968 through 1971) and was one of four 20-game winners for the 1971 Orioles (Pat Dobson, Jim Palmer, and Mike Cuellar were the other three). He was the only pitcher other than Roger Clemens to win 12 decisions in a row 3 times, including 17 consecutive at one time. After winning the last 2 decisions of the 1968 season, he opened the 1969 season with a 15–0 record.

On September 28, 1974, McNally gave up Al Kaline’s 3,000th career hit.

In an article in 1976 in Esquire magazine, sportswriter Harry Stein published an “All Time All-Star Argument Starter”, consisting of five ethnic baseball teams. Because of space limitations the Irish team, including McNally as left-handed pitcher, was omitted.

1975 free agent labor grievance
He is also known for his role in the historic 1975 Seitz decision which led to the downfall of major league baseball’s reserve clause and ushered in the current era of free agency. McNally and Andy Messersmith were the only two players in 1975 playing on the one year reserve clause in effect at the time. Neither had signed a contract at the time but both were held with their team under the rule. The two challenged the rule and won their free agency.

McNally retired after the 1975 season and had no intention of claiming his free agency. According to John Helyar’s book The Lords of the Realm, players union executive director Marvin Miller called McNally—technically still an unsigned player—to ask him to add his name to the grievance it had filed in opposition to the reserve clause and he agreed. The reason Miller thought of McNally, Helyar wrote, was “insurance” in the grievance in the event Andy Messersmith decided to sign a new contract after all. Baseball owners wanted his name off the grievance so the Expos offered McNally a $25,000 ($109,941 today) signing bonus and a $125,000 ($549,706 today) contract if he made the team, but McNally declined. The hope was to sign Messersmith at the same time, thus eliminating the challenge.

After baseball and death
After retiring McNally owned car dealerships in Billings, Montana.

He lived in his hometown of Billings, Montana, until his death from lung cancer on December 1, 2002. He was buried at Yellowstone Valley Memorial Park in Billings. Read more https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dave_McNally


Andy Etchebarren

Catcher
Born:  June 20, 1943 (age 73) Whittier, California
Batted: Right Threw: Right
MLB debut: September 26, 1962, for the Baltimore Orioles
Last MLB appearance: April 20, 1978, for the Milwaukee Brewers

MLB statistics
Batting average: .235
Home runs: 49
Runs batted in: 309
Teams: Baltimore Orioles (1962, 1965–1975) / California Angels (1975–1977) / Milwaukee Brewers (1978)

Career highlights and awards
2× All-Star (1966, 1967)
2× World Series champion (1966, 1970)

Andrew Auguste Etchebarren (born June 20, 1943) is an American former professional baseball player and minor league manager. He played as a catcher in Major League Baseball (MLB) for a total of 15 seasons for the Baltimore Orioles (1962 and 1965–75), California Angels (1975–77) and Milwaukee Brewers (1978).

Playing career
Etchebarren was born in Whittier, California of Basque descent. He was signed by the Baltimore Orioles as an amateur free agent in 1961. Expected to be the Orioles’ third-string catcher entering his MLB rookie season in 1966, he became the starter in spring training when Dick Brown and Charley Lau each underwent surgery to remove a brain tumor and remedy an ailing elbow respectively.[1] Etchebarren was the last man to ever bat against Sandy Koufax, when he hit into a double play during the sixth inning of Game 2 of the 1966 World Series. Etchebarren helped the Orioles to win the 1966 and 1970 World Series, 1969 and 1971 AL Pennants and 1973 and 1974 AL Eastern Division.

He was named to the 1966 and 1967 AL All-Star Teams. Etchebarren finished 17th in voting for the 1966 AL MVP for playing in 121 games, having 412 at Bats, 49 runs, 91 hits, 14 doubles, 6 triples, 11 home runs, 50 RBI, 38 walks, .221 batting average, .293 on-base percentage, .364 slugging percentage, 150 total bases, 3 sacrifice flies and 12 intentional walks.

In 15 seasons he played in 948 games and had 2,618 at-bats, 245 runs, 615 hits, 101 doubles, 17 triples, 49 home runs, 309 RBI, 13 stolen bases, 246 walks, .235 batting average, .306 on-base percentage, .343 slugging percentage, 897 total bases, 20 sacrifice hits, 19 sacrifice flies and 41 intentional walks.

Managerial career
In 2000 Etchebarren was manager of the [(Bowie Baysox)] of the [(Eastern League)], in 2001 and 2002 Rochester Red Wings of the International League. He served as manager of the Aberdeen IronBirds of the New York–Penn League for three seasons until his dismissal from that position on October 22, 2007. He was the manager of the York Revolution of the Atlantic League, and retired from baseball following the 2012 season. Read more

Baltimore Superstars

Most “baby boomers” who recall the photo from the 1966 World Series (Box Score) recognize Brooksey, but who is Etchebarren # 8 & McNally #19? So many notorious Orioles have played in Baltimore but don’t get the same recognition.  In fact, depending on who you ask, you may get a wide variety of answers to the question, “who is your favorite Oriole”?

If you ask some of the 9-10 year old players on my team (RPBL Blaze) they might say, Manny Machado (my personal “active roster”), Chris Davis, Adam Jones, Matt Wieters, and J.J. Hardy.   But if you ask my adult league Brewers players, they might say Cal Ripken.  I want to take some time and recognize the “Iron Man”.

Minor league affiliates

Level Team League Location
AAA Norfolk Tides International League Norfolk, Virginia
AA Bowie Baysox Eastern League Bowie, Maryland
A Advanced Frederick Keys Carolina League Frederick, Maryland
A Delmarva Shorebirds South Atlantic League Salisbury, Maryland
Short Season A Aberdeen IronBirds New York–Penn League Aberdeen, Maryland
Rookie GCL Orioles Gulf Coast League Sarasota, Florida
DSL Orioles 1 Dominican Summer League Dominican Republic
DSL Orioles 2 Dominican Summer League Dominican Republic

 

Heat of the Moment

Orioles shortstop Manny Machado and Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura were both ejected Tuesday night following a bench-clearing melee that was precipitated by Ventura throwing at Machado (read more).

With one out in the bottom of the fifth inning and the Orioles leading 5-1, Ventura’s first pitch to Machado — a 99 mph fastball — hit the Baltimore slugger in the back. Machado charged the mound as Ventura prepared for the confrontation by taking off his hat and glove. Machado threw a punch at the Kansas City starter and slammed him to the ground.

robinson_fieldingWith the crowd at Camden Yards chanting, “Man-ny, Man-ny,” both benches and bullpens flooded the field. Machado was restrained by teammate Chris Tillman after the initial contact.

I was thinking about this as it relates to how I might react today?  What should I tell my kids?

All I can think of is the following: Filter comments and actions according to:

  1. Is it truthful
  2. Helpful
  3. Necessary
  4. Critical
  5. God’s will

Do you want to be right, or do you want to be happy?

I love reading about Brooks Robinson.  However, most pictures of him show him posing for the camera.  I’m coaching young 9-10 year old players and it is VERY important the kids get into the proper fielding position on every pitch.  This is something I’ve been trying to explain for years to my son (read more).

Bobby DickersonAlso, found a funny video of Brooks and his self-deprecating personality (click here).  It’s interesting what Buck Showalter said about the situation.  Also, notice at the end who is standing next to him.  It’s Bobby Dickerson, another favorite coach of mind.

Nevertheless, I like how Manny turned and took the ball on the back.  I would argue, as big as he is, it probably did not hurt that much.  It stung for about 5 minutes, tops.  Notice how out of breath he after the brawl.

Here’s is what Buck had to say (click here).

 

Victory and Defeat

Thrill of Victory and the Agony of Defeat

I will never forget this commercial growing up => ABC Wide World of Sports featuring Howard Cosell and Muhammad Ali.

ABC’s Wide World of Sports is an American sports anthology television program that aired on the American Broadcasting Company (ABC) from April 29, 1961 to January 3, 1998, primarily on Saturday afternoons. Hosted by Jim McKay, with a succession of co-hosts beginning in 1987, the title continued to be used for laurel_wreathgeneral sports programs on the network until 2006. In 2007, Wide World of Sports was named by Time Magazine on its list of the 100 best television programs of all-time. Read more

A laurel wreath is a circular wreath made of interlocking branches and leaves.  In ancient Greece wreaths were awarded to victors, both in athletic competitions, including the ancient Olympics.

The important thing to remember is that we win and lose as a TEAM. “The way a team plays as a whole determines its success. You may have the greatest bunch of individual stars in the world, but if they don’t play together, the club won’t be worth a dime.” –Babe Ruth  Read Sportsmanship

 


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Hitter’s Mentality

Brewers topple Reds 12-2 @ St. Helena Park (300 Willow Spring Road Baltimore, MD 21222).  standings_2016-05We remain undefeated, with 3 Wins and Zero (0) Losses.  Our current standings would have more games played if it weren’t for all the bad weather.  Unfortunately, we had over 5 weeks of rainouts and holidays so we have a lot of games that need to get made-up.  For more info, visit www.over40baseball.org

Well, if you have been following my “web logs” AKA blogs, then you would know I came out of retirement three (3) years ago.  As a matter of fact, I am playing “Major League Rules” baseball with my old high school glove (over 30 years ago).  It’s a very small infielder’s glove that is broken in and I love it! I also acquired a newer glove to play softball for US Army – Aberdeen Proving Ground team back in 2010 which is a little bigger and I use for pitching.

BrewersLogoWe are required to use wooden bats and most little league and high school folks don’t understand why?  The simple answer is power.  A wood bat’s sweet spot, although usually quite smaller than composite or alloy, may perform as well as a certified bat. Also, wood bats are heavier to swing compared to aluminum and composite. Interesting side story: last year my son lost his little league glove (left at the field of the Essex Father’s day tournament).  Obviously, a baseball player’s glove is “irreplaceable” and arguably the most important piece of equipment.  It generally takes a few months to break a good Rawlings glove in properly.

So, to make a long story short, if MLB used aluminum they would have to build larger ball parks.  Home run fence would need to be extended at least another 100 feet.  The “Green Monster” is a popular nickname for the 37’2″ high left field wall at Fenway Park, home to the Boston Red Sox baseball team. The wall is only 310–315 feet from home plate.

Nevertheless, the main reason for starting this article is because of my very poor performance this past weekend.  Even though we destroyed the Reds, I batted 0-4.  Batting lefty, I hit 4 ground balls all to the 1st and 2nd baseman.  However, one of them I hit on the “screws” but infielder made a nice play.  I need to start hitting line drives.  Hopefully, next weekend, Jun 12 when we face the Royals @ Martindale Park (990 Homberg Ave Baltimore, MD 21221), things will be different.  Last year I had two stand-up triples and anybody who has ever played the game KNOWS there is no better feeling.


Why tracking your Batting Average is HURTING your Batting Average

Every season, players and coaches set goals based on how they want to perform over the course of the season. Hitters want to hit .300. Pitchers want to have a sub-3 ERA. Coaches want to win 20, 30, 50, or 100 games, depending on the level of play. These measurable stats have existed since the beginning of baseball, and in particular the batting average has become the go-to number to illustrate a hitters success.

But is batting average, hits, or strikeouts really the way to measure the success of hitters throughout the course of the season? When they line out to the shortstop and see “0-1” in the stat book, is that a way for them to build confidence as a hitter? It’s probably the way for them to LOSE confidence as a hitter. Because according to baseball history, an out is the definition of a failed attempt. Which is crazy, because so much of this is out of our control!

Think about it, you did everything right over the course of an at-bat. You visualized hitting a missile in the on deck circle, and strolled up to the plate with a slight smirk knowing you were about to do DAMAGE to this baseball. You had a simple plan of attack. To HUNT the fastball, be on time for it, and LET IT FLY. You were focused, relaxed, and calm.

As you saw the first pitch fastball seeming to move in slow motion to your happy-zone, you did exactly what you had planned. YOU LET THE BARREL FLY! The barrel met the baseball with so much speed and pureness, that it sent it sizzling on a line…directly to the shortstop, whose momentum took him 2 steps back after catching the baseball at such a high speed…0-1

You’re not terribly mad at your at-bat, but you are disappointed you didn’t get the end-result. According to baseball you failed. According to the stat of all stats (batting average), you are a worse hitter than you were going into the at-bat. Which is starting to weigh on your head. Because going into the last month of the season, you’re hitting .308…and your average has been steadily declining over the last couple weeks.

If the mental aspect of the game is really 90% of success in baseball, then why not approach the game with a mindset that enables consistency? If consistency is the ultimate sign of a great player, why don’t we change our mindset to allow it to happen? Read more


Bryce Harper’s Hitter’s Mentality

Do you feel “lost’ at the plate? Have you had that feeling like there is nothing you can do to get a hit no matter what you try? Does self-doubt overtake you when you step in the batter’s box?

Sometimes, a string of bad at-bats can overwhelm a hitter. You may even start thinking that you are in a “slump” and feeling that you can’t hit anything. The fact is that you can’t hit every pitch, nobody can. The only way a string of bad at-bats turns into a slump is if you buy into the “slump” mentality.

Bryce Harper, 21, is the youngest player in the MBL, despite being in his third season in the big leagues. Harper hit .143 through the first five games for the Washington Nationals. Harper even showed signs of frustration slamming down his helmet and throwing his bat at a few bad at-bats. Harper started to think he was in a “slump.”

Harper said he received some good advice from his father who coached when he was young:

“Man, you need to stop thinking so much. Just go out and hit the baseball. Plain and simple… It’s sometimes where you start slow and that’s just part of the game and there’s nothing you can do about it. Just have fun, smile, laugh, just be as happy as you can all the time and good things will happen.”

Harper took heed to his father’s advice and it paid off with an eight-game hitting streak and a jump in his batting average to .340.

Harper started to trust his abilities, stopped over-thinking when in the batter’s box and knew the hits would eventually come if he focused on the process…

Maybe you had swung at some bad pitches… so what? Learn from the at-bat, have a calm mind, trust your swing, and move forward.

Adopt a hitter’s mentality: Take charge of your mental game. Focus on quality at-bats instead of your hitting average. This can help you focus on the process. (Read more).


 

 

All for one and one for all

Today at our 1st little league “playoff game”, I told the players afterwards that I was very impressed with our Team Chemistry and Cohesiveness.  My wife reminds me of the positive vibes she feels from the parents as well watching the kids interact with one another so seamlessly.

The World Champs are a testament to great chemistry.
The World Champs are a testament to great chemistry. (USATSI)

Team chemistry is a complicated issue, but it’s also the key to getting the most out of a team’s talent. Task cohesion, refers to a team’s ability to function as a collective unit and perform effectively on the field. “United we Stand”.

To compile a list of the best Major League Baseball teams of all time, there’s more than a century of data to mine and parameters to set. For one thing, a team can’t be great if they lose in the playoffs. For the Ruth and Gehrig Yankees (and every other team before 1969), the postseason simply meant the World Series. The best of the American League played the best of the National League for a winner-take-all best of seven.  Based on Baseball Almanac’s calculations and other tales of epic clubs of yore, here are the eight best MLB teams of all time.

8. 1970 Baltimore Orioles

1970 Baltimore Orioles

In the modern era, 100-win seasons are special achievements. The 1970 Baltimore Orioles posted 108 wins and went 115-55 with their playoff run included. They beat the Reds in five games to cap off a season for the ages that was defined by the Birds’ pitching staff.

Hall of Famer Jim Palmer led the staff that featured three 20-game winners in the rotation and a team ERA of 3.15. Big Frank Robinson and Boog Powell supplied the power while Paul Blair and Brooks Robinson worked their magic on the field and at the plate. This was Earl Weaver’s best team, one of five 100-win squads skippered by the late Hall of Fame manager but the only one to win the World Series.

7. 1961 New York Yankees

Yankee Stadium

The 1954 New York Giants could have claimed this spot, but the 1961 Yankees’ dominance (109 wins) was simply too much for for teams in their era to handle. Mickey Mantle had a monster season but Roger Maris ended up stealing the headlines by slugging 61 home runs to claim the record from Ruth. Mantle cracked 54 dingers and hit .317 with a .448 on base percentage while three other players hit at least 20 homers for this new version of Murderers’ Row.

On the mound, the Chair of the Board ran the show. Whitey Ford went 25-4 in the regular season before pitching 14 scoreless innings in two World Series wins to nab MVP honors. The Yankees beat the Reds in five games, but the outcome was never really in question. Maris’ 61 in ’61 seemed predetermined for this all time great club.

6. 1929 Philadelphia Athletics

Back in the day, Philly was a two-team town and the A’s were a dominant force in the American League with Connie Mack as their manager and Shibe Park as their home field. Whether the 1910 club was better than the 1929 squad is debatable, but the latter had to take the AL title from Ruth and Gehrig’s Yankees, so they win the race here. Jimmie Foxx (or, “Double X”) led the charge in ’29, hitting .354 with 33 home runs and a gaudy .463 on-base percentage, but Al Simmons was the team’s beast with 34 dingers and 157 RBI to go along with a .356 batting average. Yeah, they were that good.

The A’s went 104-46 in the regular season, blowing out the second-place Yankees by 18 games (the Red Sox ended up 48 games behind in the standings). On the mound, Lefty Grove (20-6) and George Earnshaw (24-8) combined for 32 complete games. They beat the Cubs in five games to win the World Series as Jimmy Dykes hit .421 and Foxx drove in five for the A’s.

5. 1939 York Yankees

New York Yankees

Based on the 1939 Yankees’ 411 run differential, you could rank them at the top of the list for best team of all time, but they’ll get their due. Bill Dickey, Joe Gordon, and Red Rolfe did plenty of damage that year, but it was Joe DiMaggio’s team. Joltin’ Joe hit .381 with 30 home runs in a Yankee Stadium where fly balls to left field went to die (490 feet to left-center, 415 to left.) The Yankee Clipper had an on-base percentage of .448 and somehow struck out only 20 times in 524 plate appearances.

Red Ruffing paced the pitching staff with 21 wins and 22 complete games. The 1939 World Series against Cincinnati wasn’t even fair. Charlie Keller hit .438 with 3 home runs as the Yankees outscored the Reds 20-8 in a four-game sweep. With the playoffs added in, the 1939 Yankees went 110-45.

4. 1907 Chicago Cubs

While there are several stats that make the 1907 Cubs special, the one that catapults off the page is the team’s mind-boggling 1.73 ERA. Even in the Dead Ball Era, this pitching staff defined stingy. They outscored opponents by nearly 200 runs on their way to a record of 107-45.

In the World Series, the 1906 Cubs team that won 116 games got to redeem itself and enter the pantheon of best clubs ever. The pitching staff allowed a total of six runs in five games. How do you manage a four-games-to-none sweep when playing five games? Game One was called off after 12 innings with the teams deadlocked in a 3-3 tie. Yes, baseball was like soccer back then.

3. 1976 Cincinnati Reds

1976 Cincinnati Reds

Though one could argue the “Big Red Machine” of 1975 was one of the best ever, that club needed all seven games to win the World Series. That was not the case for the 1976 Reds who swept the Phillies in three games in the NLCS and then manhandled the Yankees in a four-game sweep of the World Series.

Johnny Bench hit .533 in the World Series with 6 RBI to take home MVP honors while George Foster and Dave Concepcion added to the onslaught. In the regular season, Joe Morgan, Pete Rose, and Ken Griffey led the offensive juggernaut to 102 wins. Scrappy and scruffy in the way only a 1970s ballclub could be, the Reds of 1976 were fun to watch and one of the game’s greatest.

2. 1998 New York Yankees

Take David Wells, David Cone, Andy Pettitte, and Mariano Rivera in their prime. In mid-season, add Cuban sensation Orlando “El Duque” Hernandez. Start the batting order with Chuck Knoblauch and Derek Jeter, then mix in Paul O’Neill, Bernie Williams, and Tino Martinez in high-production years. Round it out with Jorge Posada, Scott Brosius, and Chili Davis. Call in Jeff Nelson, Mike Stanton, Graeme Lloyd, and Ramiro Mendoza from the bullpen and DH or pinch-hit Darryl Strawberry when you want to intimidate a pitcher. That’s how the 1998 Yankees went 125-50.

Manager Joe Torre had access to the most talented pool of players in the modern era during the 114-48 regular season. The only vague threat that year came in the playoffs when Cleveland took Game Two of the ALCS at old Yankee Stadium, then roughed up Andy Pettitte to take game three in Cleveland. These were the only two losses the Yankees had in the postseason. El Duque righted the ship with an epic performance in game four before Cone and Wells sealed the deal. The World Series was more like a vacation to San Diego for this team, which took home the trophy in a four-game sweep.

With all this talent, who was the MVP of the World Series? Scott Brosius, whose brutal treatment of Trevor Hoffman in Game Three ended the best closer argument and signifies just how deep the ’98 Yankees were. Joe Torre insisted “Best Ever” go on the World Series ring along with the club’s impossible record. His assessment holds up to objective scrutiny.

1. 1927 New York Yankees

 1927 New York Yankees

In a time when the baseball season lasted 154 games, the 1927 Yankees went 110-44. Babe Ruth mashed a record 60 home runs (more than 12 whole teams hit that year) and Lou Gehrig hit .373 with 47 home runs and 52 doubles. Outfielders Earl Combes (.356 BA) and Bob Meusel (.337 BA) combined for 83 doubles. They were called “Murderers’ Row” for a reason.

The 1927 Yankees could also pitch with the best of them. Ace Waite Hoyt went 22-7 with a 2.63 ERA while closer Wilcy Moore chalked up 19 wins out of the bullpen with an ERA of 2.28. Their run differential (number of runs they outscored opponents) was a staggering 376. In the World Series, the Babe hit .400 with seven RBI as the Yankees swept the Pittsburgh Pirates in four games. It’s what happens when the best player ever leads the best squad ever against any opponent.

To put Babe Ruth’s achievement in perspective, the World Series opponent Pirates hit 54 home runs as a team in 1927 — six fewer than the Sultan of Swat. No wonder they wanted to put an asterisk next to Maris’ 61.  Reference | Other resource

 

ESPN Highlights

Our Roland Baseball – National League playoffs… GO BLAZE.

IMG_2119Not every picture is “Sports Illustrated” quality.  However, one of our parents captured some FABULOUS candid photos that clearly differentiate the average “smart phone”.  Click here  Here is the latest reel (click here).

Above from left to right (clockwise), Coach Craig, Coach Carl, Coach Dave, Amiela, Wyatt, Luke, Mason, Krrish.

 

Day at the Yard

I was going to title this blog, “Day at the Ballpark”.  But in Baltimore we call it the “Yard”.  How many other teams use the same name?

A baseball park, also known as a ballpark or diamond, is a venue where baseball is played. A baseball park consists of the playing field and the surrounimg_546943302_0430161912ading spectator seating. While the diamond and the areas denoted by white painted lines adhere to strict rules, guidelines for the rest of the field are flexible.  The term “ballpark” sometimes refers either to the entire structure, or sometimes to just the playing field. A home run where the player makes it around the bases, and back to home plate, without the ball leaving the playing field is typically called an “inside-the-park” home run. Sometimes a home run over the fence is called “out of the ballpark”, but that phrase more often means a home run that clears the stands and lands outside the building. The playing field is most often called the “ballfield”, though the term is often used interchangeably with “ballpark” when referring to a small local or youth league facility (read more).

The following is a list of Major League Baseball stadiums, sorted by capacity, their locations, their first year of usage and home teams.  img_547075254_img_1653The newest MLB stadium is Marlins Park in Miami, home of the Miami Marlins, which opened for the 2012 season. All except eleven MLB stadiums (Angel Stadium of

Anaheim, Dodger Stadium, Fenway Park, Kauffman Stadium, Marlins Park, Nationals Park, Oakland Coliseum, Oriole Park at Camden Yards, Turner Field, Wrigley Field, and Yankee Stadium being the exceptions) have sold the naming rights to their stadiums to corporations. Turner and Wrigley are named for the individuals and not the corporations; Kauffman is named for Ewing Kauffman who brought baseball back to Kansas City; while Fenway is named for the neighborhood and realty company at the time of ownership. This list will decrease to ten when SunTrust Park opens in 2017 as Turner Field’s replacement (read more).

The next time I visit the yard, remind me to thank Lawrence Berry, usher next to dugout.  I don’t know if my son Blake appreciates how cool it is to see Manny, Chris, Adam and others so close, but I certainly appreciate their long road of hard work!  Some of the pix above are from our 9-10 little league team, “Blaze” for Roland Park Baseball and I was excited to see good turnout, in spite of the rainy weather.  Also, note the “Kids run Bases” which some of our players participated in and I’m sure it was a lot of fun!

hardy_manny

Unfortunately, the games I attended on Saturday and Sunday (4/30 & 5/1/16)against the White Sox ended in losses.  However, it was a nail bitter, where the lead changed 3-4 times.  Thus, all this back-n-forth made it suspenseful. Moreover, the best part was the 2 out bunt by the CWS which turned out to be the game winning run.  It goes to show, any way you can get on base counts.  What was very monumental about this offensive strategy is Orioles closer Zach Britton sprained his left ankle while trying to field a bunt single by White Sox leadoff hitter Adam Eaton (read more).  This was after Zach struck out the first two batters.  Thus, CWS went on to win the game in the top of the 9th inning.

On Sunday, we saw another very unusual play defensively when Manny Machado and J.J. Hardy found an inventive new way to get an out at first (read more). A ball hit by Chicago White Sox’ Todd Frazier gets by Baltimore Orioles third baseman Manny Machado during the fourth inning of a baseball game, but shortstop J.J. Hardy, was able to get the ball and throw it to first to get put out Frazier on the play (read more).   Orioles third baseman Manny Machado has a knack for making incredible diving stops down the line, but sometimes it’s nice to have some help (read more).  Check out the box score.

orioles_recap

 

Always like a Girl

I would be remiss if I did not include some stories about my daughter.  She is turning 12 next month and I’m so proud of all her accomplishments.  In particular, she has done exceptionally well in school and extracurricular activities like Piano, Dance and Theater.

When it comes to sports, there tends to be a big “misperception”.  My wife found this video and it brings tears to my eyes every time I watch it.

Chelsea is an excellent runner and swimmer.  This is her 7th year playing soccer and continues to excel with great success.  This spring she is playing lacrosse (2nd year) for the Roland Park Middle School “B” Lacrosse coached by Sarah Layng and Kelsy Mugele.  Read more

Personally, I played baseball my whole life so I was not familiar with some of the skills she needed to develop.  Thankfully, her coach suggested the following sites that has proved to be very helpful from the Denver, Colorado Women’s Lacrosse Team:

Blaze defeat Greyhounds

Score: 9-5

Tonight’s game gave us an opportunity to build our confidence hitting. In particular, Wyatt won the MVP of the game for hitting a clean stand-up double and snapping his slump. He also started the game on the mound and shut them out two innings.

Krrish clobbered the team’s first homerun all the way to the trees. He ripped a line drive off the pitcher straight down the left corner line.

Amelia was called from the bullpen, late in the final inning to save the game.

Blaze are now 2-1-1. Great job!

Coaches Tip of the Game: Keep working hard, try your best and don’t forget to have fun.

Mr. Hoover