Baseball Pet Peeves

FIRST COMPLAINT: Is anyone else bothered when one of the former baseball players whose name was linked to cheating by using PEDs gets rewarded by getting a job in the world of baseball, a world he helped taint? Off the top of my head I can think of the following former players who were hired as coaches: Manny Ramirez, Mark McGwire, Barry Bonds and there has been speculation that Jason Giambi will join that group. Andy Pettitte got a job as a special adviser to the Yankees general manager in Feb. of 2019.

Of course, many other players who got caught, served their punishment but only after their inflated stats had earned them huge contracts. Why not take a chance I’ll get caught if a) I might not get caught  b) I can put up big numbers  and c) ultimately I already made or will make a bundle of loot thanks to PEDs so it’s worth it.

Other men who were rewarded with jobs include FOX analyst Alex Rodriguez. I’ll never understand why anyone would hire someone who tarnished baseball as these cheaters did. Of course, FOX also hired Pete Rose, but that’s another story.

SECOND ISSUE: I’m not big on the stats young members of the BBWAA seem to love now so I have to complain about the kind of stats put up by some Cy Young Award winners. Go back to Felix Hernandez or stick with the NL winner over the last two years, Jacob deGrom. In his case, his wins total is incredible.

Bob Feller used to say he didn’t care about any stat but one, the most important one, WINS. He’d cruise a bit when he had a big lead, unconcerned that his ERA would suffer. He wanted to stick it out for nine innings and allow his fate to be in his hands as he secured win after win after win.

Now, over the two seasons de Grom has won the award, he has put up some incredible numbers, BUT his two-year win total is a mere 21. That’s right. He’s 21-17 over that span, hardly a big boost to his team. It may or may not be fair, but look at what men such as Steve Carlton did in ONE YEAR. “Lefty” went 27-10 in ’72 when his entire Phillies team won just 59. That’s pretty close to being responsible for half of his team’s wins. One more example. When Sandy Koufax won his last two Cy Young Awards in 1965 and 1966, he won 53 times, 2 1/2 times as many as de Grom.

Of course if you go back to real old-timers, the contrast is even more startling. I chose one pitcher off the top of my head and glanced at his best two and three consecutive seasons for wins. Grover Alexander won 64 in back-to-back seasons and his highest win total over a three-year stretch was 94. That means to match him, in 2020, de Grom only needs to win 73 games!

If you agree or disagree with my two complaints, please make a comment on waynestewartonsports.blog  Thanks.

 

Did You Know Items–early Nov.

 

Did you know many major leaguers also played college football (and, of course, some even played in the majors and the NFL including Bo Jackson and Brian Jordan to name just two).

Here are a few men who played college ball and major league baseball: Mike Hargrove, Mickey Hatcher, Mike Cubbage, Darin Erstad, Lee Elia, Todd Helton, Art Howe, Rick Helling, Quinton McCracken, Herbert Perry, Merv Rettenmund, Chris Singleton, Bill Spiers, John Stearns, Eric Young, Ron Villone, and Hall of Famer Frank Thomas. As a nostalgia test, how many of those men do you remember playing either (or both) sports?

Did you know that in 1927 when Babe Ruth set the record for the most homers in a single season with 60, the entire output of the American League was 439. Therefore, Ruth accounted for 12% of all the league’s homers that season. Author Lee Allen made the amazing point that in 1953, when the N.L. hit a total of 1,197 HR, for a player to account for 12% of those blasts, he would have needed to belt an astonishing, impossible 145 home runs.

Here’s an item from June 19, 1927, which seems like a misprint given the way the game is played today: Jack Scott of the Phillies went the distance in both games of a double header, giving up only four runs but splitting two decisions. He is the last pitcher in the majors to complete two games on the same day.

Apparently, many years later Wilbur Wood, a knuckleball pitcher, started both ends of a double header, but apparently he never managed two complete games. Nowadays, of course, many pitchers don’t record two C.G. all year long and the amount of C.G. that league leaders put up today is, by contrast, absurdly low.

Fights among teammates are neither common, everyday events nor rare occurrences, but did you ever hear about two TV baseball announcers who got into it? One such skirmish took place on September 4th of 2018 when Detroit’s Mario Impemba and Rod Allen fought in the broadcast booth prior to a game in Chicago. The two had worked together for 17 years before the fight. Fox Sports Detroit suspended both men for the rest of the season.

I never understood why the Reds signed Homer Bailey to a big contract a few years ago. I thought he was way over valued. Well, in September of 2018, the Reds dropped him from their starting rotation when his record tumbled to 1-14 and his ERA soared to 6.09. On day’s he pitched his Reds went 1-19 for a “winning” percentage of .050!

Here’s a quick quiz item (below) taken from my book Name That Ballplayer 2nd edition which is coming out in April. If interested, you can pre-order it now for $12.99 on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Name-That-Ballplayer-Ultimate-Whodunnit/dp/151074908X/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=name+that+ballplayer&qid=1572880419&sr=8-1

The book is divided into sections with each subsequent section containing more and more difficult questions. The reader’s job is to guess the identity of the player in question using as few clues as possible. There’s more to it, but for now, try your skill with one sample item.

Question from an easy section:

Clue #1:  A member of the Hall of Fame, Class of 2005, this popular Cubs infielder retired from the game part way through the 1994 season, upset with his performance and too proud to take what he felt would be an undeserved paycheck. He couldn’t stay away from the game he loved too long, though, and was back in 1996.

#2: In his first big league season, 1981, he played just 13 games for the Phillies. Traded the following season to Chicago along with Larry Bowa for Ivan DeJesus, he would spend 15 years with the Cubs. His most memorable day of that tenure may well have been his two-homer performance on national television in June of 1984, with both smashes coming off the nearly untouchable Bruce Sutter.

#3: A real gimme clue—he was named after former big league pitcher Ryne Duren. Answer below, after next item.

Last point about Bailey: When he was removed from the starting rotation, he let it be known that a) he was making (not exactly earning) $21 million in the fifth year of a six-year deal which paid him $105 million in all.  b) Bailey had the nerve to notify the Reds that he did not feel capable of working out of the pen–to which unsympathetic Reds fans probably muttered sarcastically, “Oh, poor Homer.” Or maybe, “Well then, where in the world CAN you pitch?” The Reds, however, must have listened to his lament as he did not work another game after his last start for them on 9/5/18.

They shipped him to the Royals who swapped him to Oakland and his 2019 split season resulted in his best record of his career at 13-9 but his ERA was 4.57, exactly what his lifetime ERA was going into ’19.

The Who Am I answer is Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg. If you’d like a few more samples, perhaps more challenging ones, just let me know by making a comment.

Oct. 2019 Items: More on Stan the Man

In my last blog, I covered some aspects of the career of Donora’s Stan Musial. Most of the info came from a St. Louis Cardinals publication and some came from a bio I wrote entitled Stan the Man (Triumph publisher). Here are some additional items:

Over the years I’ve heard different versions as to who was the first MLB player to hit $100,000 for a one-year contract. The Cardinals 2013 Yearbook states Ted Williams and Joe DiMaggio reached that plateau in the AL before Stan became the first NL player to earn that much money.

Take what I found to be today’s best paid players and compare their paycheck to that of Stan. Strasburg is said to have made $38.3 this season and he is followed by teammate Scherzer at $37.4 million (those two salaries surpass the entire payroll for the Rays, Marlins, and Bluejays and it’s about the same as the total salaries for the Pirates and the Padres).

Now, take Strasburg’s salary and divide it by, say, his 33 regular season starts and you have him earning $1,160,606 per game–that’s more than 11 1/2 times what superstar Stan made for an entire season. For those who like such stats, Strasburg earned more for one inning of work, at $183,2253, than Stan got for a full season. Even if you throw in his work load for postseason play, the figures are still staggering.

Bonus Trivia Item: Do you know who hit the longest homer in the long history of Forbes Field? Scroll below for answer.

When Ryan Zimmerman hit a game ending home run in the Nats first game in their new ballpark (after leaving RFK Stadium), he tied Musial for the second most walkouts in NL history with 11.

One last money item: in 1947, Stan signed a contract for $31,000. Even though that is chump change nowadays, it marked the most money a Cardinals player had ever earned.

The longest Forbes Field homer belongs to Dick Stuart who once hit 66 home runs in the minors. His blow in Pittsburgh came on June 5, 1959, and it traveled over the center field wall on a pitch from Cubs Glenn Hobbie.

Stuart, who had quite an ego, loved to boast of his slugging. Vernon Law said Stuart took to signing his autograph “Dick Stuart, 66,” and he added a star to go along with it. The “66” was in reference to the number of homers he hit in the minors in 1956 when he became, at 23, the youngest man ever to top the 60 home run plateau.

Stu even bragged that he could have hit 90 homers that year if the Class A pitchers had better control. He said he had to chase many bad pitches just to reach 60 homers. He could have claimed he would have hit many more home runs if Forbes Field wasn’t his home park—in 1960, only eight of his 23 homers came there.

The above info on Stuart comes from the book I’m finishing–to be released next year to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the wildest, most lopsided World Series ever back in 1960. The tentative title for the 2020 book is 1960: When the Pittsburgh Pirates Had ‘Em All the Way. That, as all Pittsburghers know, is a reference to announcer Bob Prince’s famous phrase.

Stan the Man Items

The 2013 St. Louis Cardinals Yearbook dedicated about 150 of its 250 pages to Stan Musial. I’m reading through it and will pass on some noteworthy items in this blog and in a future blog, but one thing is clear: this Man was truly incredible. I knew, of course, how great he was, but reading through the yearbook still resulted in my coming across amazing facts and figures.

At one point Stan was tied for the third fastest time going down the line home to first throughout the entire Major Leagues. He was clocked at 3.4 second–only Mickey Mantle (3.1) and Bobby Thomson (3.3) were faster (around 1953).

In 1958, he was so hot to start the season he wound up hitting a sizzling .528 for the entire month of April.

In 1943, he went 34 straight games without striking out once. That year he struck out 18 times over his 700 total plate appearances. Today some players K that many times in two weeks or so–when Mark Reynolds set the record for the most times striking out in a season, 223, he averaged close to 1 1/2 strikeouts per game!

Stan may not have considered himself a big power hitter, but he did swat 475 HR and tons of extra base hits yet he still managed to make great contact, so he didn’t whiff a lot. In fact, not counting his final two seasons when he was up there in age baseball-wise, he never struck out more than 40 times in a season. Even in his last two years his K totals were 46 and 43.

Trick question: who wore jersey #6 for the Cards in 1945? Answer below.

About the only weakness among all his glittering stats is this: the “Donora Greyhound” wasn’t much of a base stealer despite his speed. The most bases he stole in a season was 9 and he was caught seven times that year. Lifetime he swiped 78 bases but was nailed 71 times for a very poor percentage.

On May 27, 1943, Stan stole two bases in a game. What’s noteworthy here is the fact that his two steals gave the Cards a team total of three on the year and that game was their 29th of the season!

As a fellow Donora native I found this to be an interesting coincidence: growing up Stan lived on Marelda Avenue. In 1946 he was living in a hotel at the start of the season but then he, wife Lil, and his young family moved into a furnished rental bungalow on a street with a name much like that of his old home, Mardel Avenue.

In off seasons, he continued to return to Donora and always had strong ties to the place of his roots. In October of 1946, though, he did say he was looking to make St. Louis his new home as he planned on buying a home and sending his son Dickie to school in St. Louis. The next month he attended one of many banquets Donora would hold in his honor. That month also featured him becoming the first man ever to win an MVP Award at two different positions, outfield and first base. At the time of the writing of the 2013 yearbook only two other men, Hank Greenberg and Alex Rodriguez matched that feat.

Trivia answer: In ’45 Stan missed the season due to serving in the Navy. That season his good friend Red Schoendienst wore #6 and even filled in as an outfielder instead of playing his normal spot at second base.

Did You Know: Lucas Giolito

White Sox All-Star pitcher Lucas Giolito has some interesting side stories to his career. First of all, in a strange statistical situation, in 2018, he went 10-13 with a sky high ERA of 6.13 which was the worst among all major league pitchers who qualified for the ERA title (requiring 161 or more innings pitched). He also gave up more walks, 90, and more earned runs than any other A.L. pitcher.

In 2019, he was 11-5 through his first 21 starts, and, as of this writing (on September 12th) he’s at 14 wins with a 3.27 ERA and 216 K’s. He won Pitcher of the Month honors in May when he had six starts and went 5-0 with a tiny ERA of 1.74. He became the first player in MLB history to go from having the league’s worst ERA to making the All-Star squad the next season.

In the Sept./Oct. issue of Baseball Digest, writer John Perrotto mentioned Giolito’s family connection to the world of acting. His grandfather, Warren Frost, played the father of George Costanza’s fiancé, Susan, in the TV show Seinfeld. His mother, Laura Frost, has appeared in several movies such as The Ring and Collateral Damage and she was in several episodes of Frazier, Crossing Jordan, and Bull. His father Rick acted in Who’s the Boss and Hunter and was in the movie Hit the Dutchman. That’s not all. His brother Mark was the co-creator of TV’s Twin Peaks and another brother, Scott, wrote for Twin Peaks and for Andromeda.

Bob Friend Trivia and More

Here’s a sneak peek at some info on Bob Friend from my upcoming book on the 1960 Pirates:

Friend led the league in starts from 1956-1958. He won 22 to top the NL in 1958 then suffered through a frightful season in which he went 8-19 to lead the league in defeats, for a hellacious dip. Back on his game in ’60, he won 60% of his decisions, winning 18 in all to go with a 3.00 ERA.  

Baseball is a peculiar game. Some big name pitchers, often for reasons they have no control over such as a lack of run support and the type of defense they have behind them, actually wind up with lifetime records which are sub-.500.  Some well known pitchers who suffered that ignominy include Friend (197-230), Bobo Newsom, Don Larsen of World Series perfect game fame, Johnny Vander Meer who threw back-to-back no-hitters, and both Leon Cadore and Joe Oeschger, the men who hooked up in and completed the major’s longest game ever in terms of innings, 26, back on May 1, 1920. Imagine their pitch counts! One estimate was between 250-300 for each weary man at the end of the game which was called in 1-1 tie. The game ran a mere 3 hours and 50 minutes.

Upon Friend’s retirement in 1966, he was also one of just 17 pitchers to lose 200 games and one of just a few pitchers to lose that many while finishing a career with a record below .500. That does not mean he wasn’t a quality pitcher because he was. As Roger Craig, who lost 24 games with the 1962 expansion Mets and 22 more the next season, observed, “You’ve got to be a pretty good pitcher to lose that many.” His logic was no manager is going to let a lousy pitcher play long enough to acquire tons of losses. As a trivia note, Friend holds the distinction of giving up Pete Rose’s first big league hit.