Sunday, May 26, 2013

How to answer pointless baseball trivia questions in 5 easy steps...

                                 When I used to hang out at a Brooklyn bar named O'Connor's in Park Slope (no longer there, sadly), I used to always show up in the afternoon, ready to give various trivia questions I made up to the older bartender, Chris.  Of course, he' was an old time baseball fan from the '50s, so he had plenty of trivia questions for me as well.  I always preferred coming up with the questions myself, rather than just relay information someone else had told me....that's the advantage of being a dog walker, you have plenty of time to think.

                     One of the questions I asked had been mentioned in my blog about a year ago, which was, "Who's the only player to win an MVP and never make an All Star Game?'  The answer is Kirk Gibson, and almost no one ever got it (Maybe having to do with him being maybe the worst MVP pick of all time, but anyway...).  I'm not sure there is any one method to figuring out the answer to these, but I'm gonna try for a trivia question that I thought of, also on the subject of MVP.  The question being, :"Since  1931, when the MVP starting being voted on by the BBWA, (Baseball writers of America) who is the only franchise to have at least one MVP in each decade (excluded the current one)?  The answer can be deduced in 5 easy steps:

Step one: "Eliminate all expansion teams".

Since there's no way to win an MVP if your team doesn't exist for the first three decades, then the Angels, Rangers, Mets, Astros, Royals, Pilots/Brewers, Padres, Expos/Nationals, Mariners, Blue Jays, Marlins, Rockies, Rays and D'Backs are all eliminated.  30 teams just became 16; the "original" franchises from 1901, if you will.

Step Two: Go back to the last decade.

This actually made it very easy, especially in the National league, as the Giants (Kent, 2000, Bonds, 2001-2004), Cardinals (Pujols, 2005, 2008, 2009) and Phillies (Howard, 2006 and Rollins, 2007) were the only three teams to have an MVP that decade.  Which means the Cubs, Reds, Pirates, Braves and Dodgers are out.  The AL was a little trickier, although 3 of the teams were expansion (Ichiro in 2001 for Mariners, A-rod 2003 for the Rangers and Vladimir Guerrero, 2004 for the Angels), so they're gone. That just leaves the Yankees (A-rod, 2005 and 2007), Red Sox (Pedroia, 2008), A's (Giambi, 2000, Tejada, 2002) and Twins (Morneau, 2006, Mauer, 2009) left.  Some may ask, "Hey, aren't the Twins an expansion team?"  The answer is no.  They actually used to be the Washington Senators, but moved to Minneapolis in 1961.  Shortly thereafter, a "New" Senators emerged, becoming the Rangers in 1972.  Two different franchises...

Step Three: Back another decade.

In the NL, no Cardinal or Phillie player won in the '90s.  The Giants had Barry Bonds in 1993 (Probably the only legitimate one he had in a Giants uniform, but anyway...)  The Yankees and Twins did not have a player win the award between '90-99, so that leaves the A's (Henderson in '90, Eckersley in '92) and Bosox (Mo Vaughn, in '95...though Albert Belle from the Indians clearly deserved it more...sometimes it pays to be a nice guy) as the two AL survivors.  And then there were three...(sorry for the Genesis reference).

Step Four: Back yet another decade...or two

I know it seems monotonous, but we're close.  Actually, there's no change from the remaining three, as Boston (Clemens in '86), Oakland (Canseco in '88) and Giants (Mitchell, at the tail end of the decade, in '89) all had BBWA approval.  In the '70s, we lose the Giants (all around rough decade for the team, save for the earlier years), but The Sox ( "Gold dust twins", Lynn and Rice in '75 and '78 respectively) and A's (Vida Blue in '71) remain.

Step Five: The answer is revealed.

Alas, the A's, who went from being the Kansas City A's to the Oakland A's in 1968, did not have an MVP in that turbulent decade, but the summer of love gave us Carl Yazstemski from Boston, as the Most Valuable player. Yaz used to be the answer to one of the most obvious trivia questions; "Who was the last player to win the Triple Crown in Baseball?", until Miguel Cabrera did it last year (and looks to be doing it again this year)

                   So the answer to this question of course is, the Boston Red Sox.  In the spirit of full disclosure, the remaining Bosox MVP's are: Jackie Jensen in '58 (easily the most obscure MVP The Sox ever had; many, including myself, believe Mantle deserved it, but I guess it was destiny), Ted Williams in '46 and '49 (but he did NOT win it during his two triple crown years, or in 1941, when he batted .406.  Screw DiMaggio's 56 game hitting streak, the "Splendid Splinter" was robbed) and Jimmie Foxx in 1938.  Foxx also won two other MVP awards in the '30s with, you guessed it, the last team to fall in this trivia question, the A's (Then, of course, in Philadelphia).  That's why baseball trivia trumps all other sports; history meeting coincidence on a regular basis... 


Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Someday, they'll name a surgery after me

                                      There is an event coming up that is making me both leery of the future and question my own happens every year on May 22nd; my birthday.  There are a number of celebrities who share my birthday, including Lawrence Olivier, Wagner, and Morrisey, but for baseball players, I had to do a little research.  According to, there have been 44 players born on that date.  Four of them played before 1901, but the rest were active during the modern era (ie, when the American and National leagues merged).  As for act active players now, there are two: Colin Cowgill and Eric Sogard. Vaughn Eshelman, who was a Rule 5 draft pick and pitched a few seasons for the Red Sox in the mid '90s, is, and will remain, (barring a 44 year old rookie breaking in this year) the only big leauger who shares my EXACT birthday, 5/22/69.

                       Other notables include Chad Tracy, an infielder for several teams in the '90s, Jim Colburn, a pretty good starter for the Royals in the '70s, among other teams.  Walt Hriniak, who was more well known as a hitting coach for the Red Sox than as a player. Jose Mesa saved over 300 games for The Indians, Mariners and Phillies.  Ed Morgan had a short career, but batted .349 with 26 homers and 136 RBI's for the 1930 Indians (He also led the league with a whopping 66 comparison, current Indians player Mark Reynolds already has 44 and still has 3/4 of the 2013 season left).

                Then there's journeyman pitcher Julian Tavares, who played for over 15 years for the Indians, Cardinals, Red Sox and others as a reliever and spot starter.  It was one of those spot starts that I witnessed, as the Sox played the Yankees in Yankee stadium in 2007 on, you guessed it May 22nd. I was by myself, so I wore my Expos shirt...I'm no martyr.  Tavares won that day on our birthday, being aided by a Mike Lowell homer.  I also remember Okijima being ineffective, which was a rarity; Oki was money that year.

        Though by far the most famous players sharing my birth date are a hall of famer, and a man more famous for a procedure done to him than his antics on the field.  The first player is Al Simmons, who played on Connie Mack's 2nd Philidelphia A's Dynasty from the late '20s, early '30s.  He went by the nickname "bucketfoot", which he received because of his unique batting stance.  Simmons was no joke, though, batting .334 for his career, with 307 homers and over 1,800 RBI's.  He was over shadowed by his more famous team mates, such as fellow Hall of fame inductees, Jimmie Foxx, Mickey Cochrane and Lefty Grove.

                   Perhaps the most famous player born on May 22nd, is Tommy John, a name that is mention dozens of times over the course of the year, mostly with the word "surgery" following it.  John was a hot shot starter for the LA Dodgers in the early to mid '70s, until he hurt his arm in '75.  He had two options; quit, or try this brand new surgery in which the ulner collateral ligament in the medial elbow is replaced with a tendon elsewhere in the body. It was the invention of Doctor Frank Jobe, who first tried the procedure in 1974.  When Tommy came back from surgery, he was good as new.  Better in fact, as he won many more games after the surgery than before.  He ranks 7th on the all time list among lefties with 288 wins...and most importantly, was a reference on the great, short lived T.V. show, "Police Squad", which inspired the Naked Gun w THERE's fame...

Friday, May 10, 2013

Active players going to the hall...

                                            This summer will be the first one in a decade and a half that there will be no one inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.  I could go on a rant about this, but I already did that back in January.  Instead, I'd like to ponder what active players could possibly be enshrined in the future.  So here we go, team by team...

Yankees: Jeter and Mariano are shoo-ins, but from there, it gets a little tricky.  Oh sure, Ichiro will go in on his first try, but it'll be as a Mariner.  C.C. will have to put in a few more years to be considered, and even then, it's a big fat "maybe" (no pun intended).  Petitte will fall the way of Jack Morris and Tommy John; maybe he'll get in, but it'll take a while.  Cano will need a few more years of being Cano, and Texieria will have to avoid injuries.

Red Sox: Could Papi be the first D.H. to make the hall? Who knows...probably not. As for Pedroia, see Cano above.  Everyone else is to young or just not up to HOF standards. Ellsbury has two good years for every injured one...If he changes that pattern, he could be an interesting choice...but let's not get carried away.

Orioles: A talented team, if a little too young (the first of many times I'll say this, btw), Baltimore has Adam Jones, Nick Markakis, Chris Davis and a host of talented young players...history will determine their future...sorry for sounding so pretentious.

Blue Jays: Bautista was a late bloomer, and besides, his averages have been going down.  Reyes gets hurt too much, Buerle seemes to have peeked, and everyone else is a little green or a little gray (haired).  Although, R.A. Dickey is a knuckleballer, so it's quite possible he could pitch into his '50s...

Rays: Both Longoria and Price could be good choices if their health holds up. The biggest problem; will it be with Tampa?  They are a small market team, and one of the few franchises with no HOF members.  So, hopefully the team holds onto at least one of them...I could see Longo as the Rays 'George Brett.

Tigers: This team has had the last two AL MVPs in Verlander and Cabrera, both of which may be bound for Cooperstown.  It also helps that they're both on a very good team that's picked to win it all in 2013 and beyond.  I feel that Fielder will suffer from Mo Vaughn's disease (too much time at the buffet table)...actually, I could have said his dad, Cecil, but Vaughn came to mind first.

Royals:  For the first time in years, K.C. is a threat.  However, the team is too young to have a HOF worthy player at this point.  Big game James needs to pitch many more big games to qualify, and Alex Gordon, Moustakis, etc. need to make it to the postseason and or All Star game a number of times to attract more attention to their talents.

White Sox: I believe Konerko will eventually make his way in (although, hopefully after worthy retired players like Fred McGriff), and there's a couple of other players a bit too young to make a call on...mostly pitchers (Sale comes to mind).

Indians: If Absdrubal Cabrera has the same kind of endurance as former Indian great Omar Vizquel (who I believe will go in eventually), then, he has a chance...the rest of the team is filled with Nick Swisher types that are useful, if unspectacular players...the one exception is catcher and former Latin Rock guitarist, Carlos Santana.

Twins: Mauer is one of the greatest hitting catchers ever, with 3 batting titles already under his belt.  And although he's catching less and less these days, he'll probably spend most, if not all of his career with the same team, which is attractive to HOF voters.  Now if the team could only get good again...

Rangers: If you told me five years ago that Adrian Beltre was HOF worthy, I would have laughed.  He has seemed to resurrect his career with first, Boston, then Texas. Big Puma needs about three more good years to make him truly HOF worthy, but he'll go in as an Astro. Their pitching staff is strong, but not seasoned enough for consideration, and Nelson Cruz just hurt himself as I wote his name...

A's: The epitome of a talented, yet too young to even speculate about future enshrinement, players.  Coco Crisp's fro should be entered into the Afro hall of fame, right next to Oscar Gamble's (unless Crisp has reverted back to braids).  "Rage" Balfour does hearken back to the "Mad Hungarian", Al Hrabowsky days of closers, but he's not been consistent enough for Cooperstown.

Angels:  Pujols will go in as a Cardinal, and Josh Hamilton has to find his groove again.  All others are talented, but young, or just good players.  Maybe Weaver, whose absence is being felt big time, as this talented team has gotten off to a horrible start in 2013, could string together some great years.

Mariners: Ichiro is playing out his twilight years in the Bronx, King Felix needs to put about five years of greatness in a Seattle uniform, and I can't really name anyone else with a straight face...O.K., maybe Jason Bay...I'll be honest, I don't have a straight face now.

Astros: I'm not even going to dignify this with a response...

Braves: There's been a lot of hoo-ha about Tim Hudson getting 200 wins, and how he's HOF bound, but let's not start etching his name into a plaque just yet.  Maybe when he gets to 250 or so (and even that's sometimes not enough).  The Upton Brothers (well, Justin anyway), Jason Heyward etc. could maybe/sorta make a mark, but I think Brian McCann, as a good hitting catcher, may be the best bet among their offensive player.

Nationals: Too fast, too soon (I think that's the name of The New York Dolls second album), is a good way to describe the chances of Harper, Strasburg, Gonzalez and the rest of the Nats...the only player who is old enough to consider is Jason Werth...and he ain't going.

Phillies: As far as the Phighting Phils have falling from their 2007-2010 heyday, they have at least three Cooperstown hopefuls; Howard, Rollins and Mike Young (who, if he goes in, will do so as a Ranger) .  I would have thought Halladay was on his way there, til the last few years, in which he has looked more like Anthony Young than Cy Young.

Mets:  David Wright may be the Ryne Sandburg of his generation; a great player, doomed to spend his entire career on a team that never makes it to the World series, yet maybe makes it to the Hall. He has the advantage of being at a position (3rd base) that has the least amount of players inducted.  The rest of the team is...well, ask me in 7 years about Matt Harvey...

Marlins: Giancarlo Stanton...yeah, he's only in his mid twenties, but really, he's the only serious contender.

Cardinals: Beltran is a sorta/maybe, Fred McGriff/Harold Baines type, and Pujols is on the Angels ..and John Jay and Ryan Ludwick are younger than my nephew, so shut up.

Reds:  People make a fuss over Votto, but I believe the real Hall candidate is Brandon Phillpis; Gold glove, good bat...almost a less speedy version of Reds Hall of famer, Joe Mogan.  Here's just hoping he doesn't get into broadcasting too.

Pirates: The Bucs are good this year, thanks to their bullpen, with closer Jason Grilli leading the way.  However, the star of the team is undoubtedly Andrew Mcutcheon, who is maybe too young to start retiring his number in Pittsburgh.  Him staying in the steel city may go a long way to ponder an inclusion in the hall.

Cubs:  Alphonso Soriano...yeah, I know, but it's all I could come up with.  Theo's got a lot of work to do.

Rockies: Although Tulowitski is a great player, and maybe someday, blahblahblah...the real definite is Todd Helton.  Sure, his numbers may have been inflated by playing in the mile high city, but even into middle age, he's been a productive player, who should get to 3,000 hits.  As for their pitching...they're in Denver...'nough said.

Giants: Lincecum has two Cy Youngs, but he needs to get back to his late '00s form to get to HOF status.  Posey has all the makings of a HOF catcher, but you never know.  All others are speculations and/or past their prime...

Diamondbacks: Inconclusive, to say the least...maybe if Heath Bell stays and remembers how to be good, and "Tat man"...sorry, forgot his name...

Dodgers:  A team filled with players that should have been potential Hall of famers, but decided not to be, somehow... Carl Crawford (who should have stayed in Tampa), Matt Kemp (inconsistent), Kershaw (needs more good years) and Hanley Ramirez, who I have nicknamed "Poison", as in he's poison to a clubhouse, no matter how talented he is. ( Not to be confused with Paul Waner and Lloyd Waner, who were known as "Big Poison" and "Little Poison",)

Padres: Chase Headley had a good year last year...hey, ten more of those, and he's a big maybe...everyone else is...well, everyone else...

O.K., I may have missed someone, but I don't believe it's anyone major...yet.  Which makes this list a little superfluous, but hey, you read it!   


Friday, May 3, 2013

42 : A review...

                                         So, I finally got around to seeing the Jackie Robinson movie, and for the most part, I have positive things to say.  I basically got what I was expecting, but maybe was looking for a little more, as I pretty much knew the story backwards and forwards going in.  Anyone expecting a deep analysis of Robinson's childhood, and how he how he overcame the hardship of growing up without a father, only to become a multi sports star at UCLA and also serve his country in WWII, will be a little disappointed.  The movie starts with Brooklyn Dodgers owner Branch Rickey ( a believable, if a little cartooney Harrison Ford ) looking for the first black to play in the majors..."Ray", this is not...

         However, it also doesn't waste time on superfluous details, and basically gets down to the business of baseball, showing Robinson ( Chad Boseman ) playing for the Kansas City Monarchs of the Negro Leagues, only to be selected over such worthy contemporaries as Roy Campenella ( too nice ) and Satchel Paige ( too old ) to try out for the Dodgers AAA affiliate, the Montreal Royals.  Now, I don't want to give anything away, but Jackie makes the team, and then gets called up to Brooklyn a year later, wins the first rookie of the year award, leads Dodgers to pennant and so on...

             The acting is pretty top notch, with both Boseman and Harrison making a formidable pair ...but the real treat is watching Chris Merloni ( Det. Stabler of Law and order: SVU fame ) as Leo Durocher, the controversial Dodger manager who was suspended for the 1947 season by commissioner Happy Chandler because of his affair with married actress Loraine Day.  Durocher was such an interesting character, and Merloni was so convincing, there maybe needs to be a "Leo the lip" bio in the works.  Seriously, Leo played with Babe Ruth ( who nicknamed him the "All American out" ), was part of the "Gashouse gang" Cardinal team of 1934, and managed both the Dodgers and Giants in the '40s and 50s...(not to mention being the manager of one of the biggest choke teams of all time, the 1969 Cubs ).

            Another part of the film I enjoyed was the attention to detail on recreating Ebbets Field, Shibe Park, Crosley Field, et al  There will definitely be an Oscar for set design in this movie's future.  Also, they made the Brooklyn neighborhoods (one of which of which I live in ) look like they're right out of  the '40s...although to be fair, my brownstone hasn't really changed since then, according to my downstairs neighbor, who's lived in this apartment for over 50 years..

     And of course, there's the race issue.  There's a scene in which Phillies manager Ben Chapman (Alan Tudyk ) taunts Jackie with more "N words" in a single at bat than N.W.A and Strom Thurmond combined.  Then there was the scene against the Reds, where it was a coming home of sorts for Kentucky native Pee Wee Reese.  A father and son are at the game, and once the father starts hurling racial slurs toward Robinson, the son follows suit...Of course, there's the famous scene in which Pee Wee puts his arm around Jackie and tells him everything is alright, and shows the hostile crowd that this is his friend.  In reality, I believe what Reese said to Jackie was simply, "Fuck em"!  This is a PG movie, however, so that didn't happen.

              Now the last bit of information led me to believe that this film, for the most part, was made for kids, and that's fine; MLB really needs to reach out to it's younger audience ( young black audience, especially ).  One of the funniest things that happened to me at the the theater, didn't occur during the movie, but afterwards, as a liberal, white Park Slope dad tried to explain to his 10 year old son why the son of the racist Reds fan joined his dad in the bigotry.  This conversation started while i was in the stall, and continued outside...the father backtracking while trying to make his point and not delude his son.  I guess that means the film was a success in that sense.  For me, I enjoyed it; maybe a little too Hollywoodish , but then again, everything to me is.  And if it's gonna be glitzy, it might as well be about baseball.  Now when's that Durocher film gonna come out...?