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Archive for the ‘Baseball’ Category

The 10 Best Baseball Team Nicknames of All Time

26 Jul

Baseball, over the years, has never had a shortage of nicknames for individual players as well as teams. Just as my list of top hockey team and tandem nicknames included a pair from the sport’s most iconic franchise, the Montreal Canadiens, this list of the ten best team nicknames has two for the national pastime’s winningest club, the New York Yankees, and it doesn’t even include their most famous nickname – “The Bronx Bombers”. Here’s the list:

 

murderersrow

1. Murderer’s Row – this nickname was given to a portion of the lineup of one of the best teams of all time, the 1927 Yankees. Opposing pitchers had to face a string of batters that included Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Bob Meusel and Tony Lazzeri. That Yankee team finished with a regular season record of 110-44, won the American League pennant by finishing 19 games ahead of their closest competitors, then swept the Pittsburgh Pirates in the World Series.

 

Gashousegang

 

2. Gashouse Gang  – this nickname belonged to the 1934 St. Louis Cardinals, who won the National League pennant that year, then beat the Detroit Tigers in the World Series. It’s said that the name was coined by the team’s scrappy shortstop, Leo Durocher, due to the team’s reputation for a shabby appearance and rough-and-tumble style of play. Opponents often claimed that the Cardinals took the field in dirty, unwashed, smelly uniforms, and at the time factories that turned coal into gas were usually known for their foul smell.

 

amazinmets

 

3. Amazin’ Mets – the 1969 New York Mets, who just a few years before were a bumbling expansion team, gained this nickname by shocking the baseball world by taking advantage of a late season collapse by the Chicago Cubs to win the NL Eastern Division crown. They continued their surprising run by sweeping the Atlanta Braves in the NL championship series and stunning the heavily favored and more experienced Baltimore Orioles in the World Series. They’re sometimes also referred to as the “Miracle Mets”.

 

phillies-whiz-kids

 

4. Whiz Kids – averaging just slightly over 26 years of age as a team, the 1950 Philadelphia Phillies earned this nickname when they fought off a late season challenge from the Brooklyn Dodgers to win the National League pennant. Two of the team’s young stars, pitcher Robin Roberts and outfielder Richie Ashburn, would go on to be elected to baseball’s Hall of Fame. Unfortunately, the Phils were swept by the powerhouse Yankees in the World Series.

 

bigredmachine

 

5. The Big Red Machine – the 1970s Cincinnati Reds, managed by Sparky Anderson, were so loaded with talent that Anderson once joked that his only job was to write down the starting lineup and get out of the way. Between 1970 and 1976, they won four National League pennants and a pair of World Series. The team’s lineup included 3 Hall of Famers, Johnny Bench, Joe Morgan and Tony Perez, and a player with certain Hall of Fame credentials in Pete Rose.

 

Dem Bums 2

 

6. Dem Bums – a sports cartoonist of the 1930s, Willard Mullen, christened the Brooklyn Dodgers with this nickname after a cab driver, when asked about the team, proclaimed “dem bums is bums!” The Dodgers, at the time, had a reputation as lovable losers and Mullin created a cartoon character (pictured above) to feature in the newspaper. The character remained a beloved mascot of the team’s fans throughout the years, and when the club finally defeated their hated rivals, the New York Yankees, in the 1955 World Series, a newspaper headline in large print letters asked “WHO’S A BUM?”

 

kuenn1

 

7. Harvey’s Wallbangers – the 1982 Milwaukee Brewers were managed by Harvey Kuenn (above) and featured a lineup of power hitters that included Robin Yount, Paul Molitor, Gorman Thomas, Cecil Cooper and Ted Simmons. They wound up winning the American League pennant and got the nickname for their reputation as a capable offensive club. The Brewers lost the World Series to the St. Louis Cardinals.

 

George Steinbrenner, Billy Martin

 

8. Bronx Zoo – the 1970s New York Yankees got this nickname after George Steinbrenner bought the team and brought in Billy Martin to manage it. The owner and manager often battled publicly and Martin was fired and re-hired multiple times. Also, the team’s roster was loaded with colorful personalities like Thurman Munson, Reggie Jackson, Jim “Catfish” Hunter, Sparky Lyle and Mickey Rivers, although the “Bronx Zoo” nickname mostly signified the constant feuding between Steinbrenner and Martin.

 

blacksox

 

9. Black Sox –  the Chicago White Sox have been known to their fans as the “Chisox” or the  “Pale Hose” over the years, but the 1919 version of the team became known for this nickname due to one of sports’ all-time scandals, as they were accused of throwing the World Series that year to the Cincinnati Reds. Eight White Sox players, including “Shoeless” Joe Jackson, were acquitted of any wrongdoing in court but still banned from baseball for life by commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis.

 

boysofzimmer

 

10. The Boys of Zimmer  – the 1989 Chicago Cubs were managed by Don Zimmer and thrilled Chicago baseball fans by winning an unexpected NL East division title that year. Looking back, that Cub team was a talented one, boasting players like Andre Dawson, Ryne Sandberg, Mark Grace, Shawon Dunston and pitchers Rick Sutcliffe, Greg Maddux and Mitch Williams. They eventually lost to the San Francisco Giants in the NL Championship series.

 

 

The 10 Best Baseball Nicknames of All Time

29 Jun

 

Baseball may have the best list of all-time nicknames, so it was really hard to trim down to just ten. Some classics that didn’t make the list, but deserve honorable mention, are George Herman “Babe” Ruth, “Hammerin'” Hank Aaron, “Yogi” Berra, “Cool Papa” Bell, “Joltin’ ” Joe DiMaggio, Stan “The Man” Musial, Ron Cey “The Penguin”, “Tug” McGraw (a nickname his mother gave him for his habit of breast-feeding aggressively as a baby) and Reggie Jackson “Mr. October”. The New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox are two of the sport’s oldest franchises, and bitter rivals also, so it’s no surprise that they dominate the list with three players each. Here’s the top ten:

 

gehrig

 

1. Lou Gehrig “The Iron Horse” –   a very fitting nickname for baseball’s original iron man, who played in 2,130 consecutive games over 17 seasons for the Yankees in their golden age. Cal Ripken eventually broke his consecutive games record, but it stood for 56 years. He was the first major league player to have his uniform number retired, and the second youngest player elected into the Hall of Fame.

 

williemays

 

2. Willie Mays “The Say Hey Kid” –   many consider him to be the greatest center fielder in baseball history. There are various stories as to how Mays got his nickname, but the most prominent one is that when he first arrived in the minor leagues, he didn’t know any of the other player’s names, so he just started addressing them as “say you, say hey” and a local sportswriter tagged him with the name.

 

dykstra

3. Lenny Dykstra “Nails” –   he helped both the New York Mets and Philadelphia Phillies to World Series titles, and his nickname is strictly a tribute to his style of play, which was rugged and all-out, all the time.

 

 

whitey-ford-hof

 

4. Edward “Whitey” Ford “Chairman of The Board” – another Yankee great makes the list, not for the “Whitey” nickname, but for the “Chairman of The Board” moniker, which he earned for his poise and command of high pressure situations. Ford pitched for the Yanks for 16 years and is one of the great left-handed hurlers of all time.

 

 

guidry

 

5. Ron Guidry “Louisiana Lightning” –  another Yankee makes the list, and another great southpaw also. He was also known as “Gator”, but the Lightning nickname was the one that stuck, as he had a flaming fastball that made him one of the top strikeout pitchers of his era. Like many “flame-throwing” pitchers, Guidry’s playing days ended due to arm problems later in his career.

 

 

spaceman spaceman

 

6. Bill “Spaceman” Lee –  this nickname was earned by Lee strictly due to his quirky personality. He had a decent major league career for the Boston Red Sox and Montreal Expos, but was released by both organizations for criticizing management.

 

 

Baseball Player Sal Maglie Pitching

 

7. Sal Maglie “The Barber” –  a very fitting nickname for a very old school pitcher, given to him for his propensity to give hitters “close shaves”, a ball player’s term for pitching inside. He played for 5 different major league organizations, and is one of just a few players to play for all three New York teams in his era – the Yankees, Giants and Dodgers.

 

oilcanboyd

 

8. Dennis “Oil Can” Boyd –  this nickname would normally be indicative of a pitcher who doctors the baseball, but in Boyd’s case the name was earned by his beer-drinking prowess, as beer is known as “oil” in his native Mississippi. Boyd was one of the most colorful characters of his era. Like former teammate “Spaceman” Lee, he pitched for both the Red Sox and Montreal Expos.

 

 

mordecaibrown

 

9. Mordecai “Three Finger” Brown – one of baseball’s early stars, his playing days go back so far that he actually pitched for a pair of World Series-winning Chicago Cub teams. His nickname came from the fact that he lost parts of two fingers on his right hand in a farm machinery accident, which allowed him to throw a devastating curveball that broke drastically before reaching the plate.

 

tedwilliams

 

10. Ted Williams “The Splendid Splinter” – this nickname was one of those classic ones that creative sportswriters of the times would bestow on the best players, and it fit Williams well, as he was arguably the greatest hitter of all time. He is still last player to hit .400 in a season, which he accomplished by batting .406 in 1941. His playing days spanned from 1939 until 1960, and he was effective to the end, homering in the last at-bat of his career.

 

MLB – The Francona Effect in Cleveland

01 Oct

The Cleveland Indians completed an amazing regular season journey in the American League this weekend by sweeping the Twins in Minnesota to clinch the top AL wild card spot. The team hired Terry Francona as manager prior to the season and his presence has been the main factor in the team qualifying for the postseason for the first time since 2007, when they blew a 3 games to 1 lead in the AL Championship Series and lost in 7 games to Francona’s Boston Red Sox. Francona, whose father Tito played for the Indians in the 1960s, instilled a winning attitude in a club that really lacks star power. Their starting rotation does not have the one horse who serves as a stopper when things go bad during the season, like the Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw for instance, or Tim Lincecum with the Giants. Their closer, Chris Perez, was a train wreck at the end of the year and looks like he has lost his job, and their lineup lacks a .300 hitter or a real power hitter. However, they played like a team all year and won together, with different heroes emerging on different nights. The addition of free agent Nick Swisher, an Ohio native, changed the atmosphere in the clubhouse, while Swisher also was a major contributor on the field. The emergence of young stars like Jason Kipnis, Carlos Santana, Asdrubal Cabrera and pitchers Danny Salazar and  Corey Kluber all helped the Tribe to a surprising finish that has them hosting the AL Wild Card. Justin Masterson, who led the team with 14 wins and started the season as the closest thing the Indians had to a # 1 starter, may wind up in the closer’s role if the team advances past the wild card game.

If the Indians can manage to beat Tampa Bay in the Wild Card game on Wednesday, it will set up an interesting divisional round series that will match the team against the Red Sox, the team Francona led to a pair of World Series titles before being fired in 2011. As it stands now, the Tribe will go with the rookie Salazar in that wild card game. He has been an outstanding power pitcher in his few starts since joining the team. Out of all the teams in the majors still playing in October, the Indians are the most surprising, considering this was supposed to be a rebuilding year.

 
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MLB – Review of Warner Brothers Film ’42’

30 Apr

Movies about sports don’t usually measure up to  films that wind up getting Oscar buzz for being dramatic or memorable, but the movie “42” , chronicling Jackie Robinson’s signing with the Brooklyn Dodgers, is more than just a run-of-the-mill sports movie. It’s an honest portrayal of an important event in American history. Sports often mirror society and that was never more apparent than when Robinson began his journey as the first African American player to break baseball’s color line in 1947. The film includes some dramatic scenes chronicling the mental and physical abuse Robinson faced as he made history in his rookie season. The movie has an outstanding cast, with newcomer Chadwick Boseman playing Robinson, and perhaps the best performance in the film is Harrison Ford’s portrayal of Brooklyn Dodger general manager Branch Rickey.

Harrison Ford as Branch Rickey

 Robinson faces prejudice from not only opposing teams and fans, but even his own teammates, who start a petition to keep from having to play on the same team with him. He is intentionally beaned in the head by a Pittsburgh pitcher and spiked in the calf purposely by Enos Slaughter. One of the most brutal scenes in the movie is when Phillies’ manager Ben Chapman, played by Alan Tudyk, comes out of the dugout and continuously heaps verbal abuse on Robinson when he’s at the plate. The scene is uncomfortable to even watch, yet the film’s producer says the language was actually cleaned up for the movie. Philadelphia’s team management winds up being criticized by sportswriters for Chapman’s behavior, so Chapman is ordered to pose with Robinson for a conciliatory photo to try and save face. Robinson relunctantly agrees to the photo, with some persuasion from Rickey, and Jackie suggests they pose holding a bat, “so we don’t have to touch skin.” The actual photo is below.

Jackie Robinson and Ben Chapman (actual photo)

The film has some light moments, such as the scene when Dodger pitcher Ralph Branca, played by Hamish Linklater, approaches Robinson after a game and asks why he always waits until the entire team is finished showering before he showers himself. Robinson explains that he doesn’t want to make anyone uncomfortable, but Branca tries to convince him that he shouldn’t feel that way. When he blurts out “c’mon, Jackie, shower with me”, he gets a laugh from Robinson and then tries to backtrack from the comment. Overall, the movie is uplifting, as Robinson’s Dodger teammates eventually come to respect him as a player and a man, and  defend him in the beaning and spiking incidents. One of those teammates was Bobby Bragan, who I actually remember as a major league manager when I first started to follow baseball in the 1960s. Bragan storms into Rickey’s office and demands to be traded rather than play alongside Robinson, but after a week rescinds the demand. It’s not mentioned in the movie, but Bragan later was quoted as saying that he changed his mind because “after just one road trip, I saw the quality of Jackie the man and the player, and told Mr. Rickey I had changed my mind and I was honored to be a teammate of Jackie Robinson.” When Bragan attended Rickey’s funeral in 1965, he stated that he decided to attend because, “Branch Rickey made me a better man.” Those types of stories are the real legacy of what Robinson accomplished by running the gauntlet of racism during that initial season in major league baseball, and why his story is so much more than a sports biography. Robinson truly did change history.

 
 

Miguel Cabrera’s Triple Crown Accomplishment

13 Oct

 

When New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees recently broke John Unitas’ record of throwing touchdown passes in 47 consecutive games, the achievement was compared to someone breaking baseball’s supposed “unbreakable” mark – Joe DiMaggio’s 56 game hitting streak. I personally believe DiMaggio’s record is more impressive, considering the day-to-day grind of a long season that baseball players endure. When Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera finished the 2012 regular season by becoming the first player in 45 years to win baseball’s “Triple Crown” by leading his league in home runs, batting average and runs batted in, it was at least as big an accomplishment as Brees’ record. He is only the 10th player in modern major league history to accomplish the feat (Rogers Hornsby and Ted Williams each did it twice). It took 45 years for a player to win it, amazing considering all the talk of “five tool” all-around players in baseball these days. When Carl Yastrzemski did it in 1967 for the Boston Red Sox, it was the eleventh time it had been done in the 45 years prior to ’67. In fact, Frank Robinson had done it the previous year, in 1966. You would think that leading the American League in those 3 major offensive categories would be an automatic ticket to winning the league’s MVP Award, but the Los Angeles Angels’ young star, Mike Trout, is actually getting more MVP buzz from the press. Cabrera has quietly put together a terrific major league career, establishing himself as one of the game’s top players, let alone one of its’ top hitters. The Triple Crown is icing on the cake, putting him in the company of these other players who’ve done it – Hornsby, Williams, Robinson, Lou Gehrig, Jimmie Foxx and Mickey Mantle. That’s pretty good company, and if Cabrera tops it off by leading his Detroit Tigers to a World Series championship, his 2012 season would go down in baseball history as one of the greatest individual efforts of all time in the sport.

 
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MLB – The Five Most Controversial Pitchers of All Time

15 Sep

This particular “list” post was supposed to be the 5 most controversial major league baseball players of all time, but when I narrowed down the choices to 5, I realized they were all pitchers, hence the title change. I’ve always thought of catchers as the “characters” when it comes to baseball players (former Orioles catcher Rick Dempsey comes to mind) but it looks like the pitchers take the prize. Here’s my list:

1. Bo Belinsky – he was the first “star” for the fledgling Los Angeles Angels franchise when they began operations in 1962, and was a perfect fit for the Southern California scene. He won his first four decisions to start the year, including tossing a no-hitter in his fourth start. Unfortunately, he lost focus on his career and became a notorious womanizer with Hollywood connections, partying with celebrities like Eddie Fisher, Dean Martin and Henry Fonda while being linked romantically with Connie Stevens, Tina Louise, Ann-Margaret and Mamie Van Doren. He ended the ’62 season with a mediocre 10-11 record and flamed out quickly after that, kicking around the majors until 1970 but not accomplishing much.

 

2. Bill “Spaceman” Lee – the Spaceman was an effective left-handed pitcher who relied on changing speeds to be successful, and he was, as he forged a 14 year major league career. He played that career for only 2 teams, the Red Sox and Montreal Expos, which was amazing considering his propensity for constantly criticizing team management. He was known for espousing hippy counterculture ideas, speaking in defense of marijuana use, Maoist China, Greenpeace and school busing in Boston. In Boston, he feuded with his old school manager, Don Zimmer, and nicknamed Zimmer “The Gerbil”. To this day, Lee, now 65,  still pops up as a pitcher in various semi-pro leagues, and in August of this year tossed a complete game victory for the San Rafeal Pacifics, and used a home made bat to drive in the first run of the game.

 

3. Mark “Bird” Fidrych – like Belinsky, Fidrych stormed onto the scene in his rookie year, and became an overnight sensation and fan favorite with, like Lee, his eccentric behavior. Also like Belinsky, he flamed out quickly and was out of baseball after 5 seasons. He fascinated his fans in Detroit, known as “Bird Watchers”, with his antics on the mound, which included talking to himself, talking to the ball, aiming the ball like a dart, strutting around the mound after every out, and throwing back balls that “had hits in them,” insisting they be removed from the game. In 1977, Fidrych felt his arm “go dead” while pitching, and within a couple of years was out of the game. It wasn’t until 1985, after he’d been out of the game for 5 years, that it was discovered he’d had a torn rotator cuff injury. After baseball, he bought a farm and unfortunately, in 2009, was killed in an accident while working under a dump truck he owned when his clothes became entangled with a spinning power takeoff shaft on the truck.

 

4. Dock Ellis – Eliis was a successful starting pitcher for 12 seasons in the majors, and helped the Pittsburgh Pirates win the World Series in 1971. He was a character and his career is littered with controversial incidents, the most famous of which occured on June 12, 1970, when he pitched a no-hitter while under the influence of LSD. He had taken the drug thinking he wasn’t scheduled to start that day, and his account of the game afterwards included these gems: he claimed his glove was telling him what pitches to throw, that at one point he was convinced that President Nixon was the home plate umpire, and that one batter he faced appeared to be Jimi Hendrix swinging a guitar across the plate. He also once showed up in the bullpen with curlers in his hair, and after giving up a legendary monster home run to Reggie Jackson in the All Star game, beaned Jackson in the face the next time he faced him in retaliation.

 

5. John Rocker – a left-handed closer, Rocker also flamed out quickly after a short time in the limelight. He really had only one successful season, when he had 38 saves for the Braves, then garnered 24 more the next year before being sent to the minors for threatening a reporter. He was a constant stream of controversial statements while he was in the headlines, mostly with statements that were racist, homophobic and/or sexist. While with the Braves, he was asked if he’d ever consider playing for the Yankees or Mets, and his answer was  a rant about New York City that went something like this: “I’d retire first. It’s the most hectic, nerve-racking city. Imagine having to take the train to the ballpark looking like you’re riding through Beirut next to some kid with purple hair, next to some queer with AIDS, right next to some dude who just got out of jail for the fourth time, right next to some 20-year-old mom with four kids. It’s depressing… The biggest thing I don’t like about New York are the foreigners. You can walk an entire block in Times Square and not hear anybody speaking English.  Asians and Koreans and Vietnamese and Indians and Russians and Spanish people and everything up there. How the hell did they get in this country?” His behavior may have been due to the fact that he was an admitted steroid user.

 

MLB – Five Most Memorable All Star Game Moments

10 Jul

The major league baseball All Star game is being played tonight, and the game is really a “Midsummer Classic”. Out of the four major league professional sports, baseball has the distinction of having its’ annual All Star game actually be a good representation of the way the sport is played in the regular season. The same thing can’t be said for the NHL, NBA and, after this past season’s 59-41 “flag football” exhibition in the Pro Bowl, certainly not the NFL. It got so bad in the NFL’s All Star game that commissioner Roger Goodell has threatened to just eliminate it in the future, a move the players are against.

Baseball’s All Star game has a long, historic tradition. For many years, the game was so popular that 2 All Star games were played each season. In recent years, it has become more than just an exhibition, since the league that wins gains more than just pride, they win home field advantage in the World Series for their representative. Here are my choices for the five most memorable MLB All Star game moments:

 

1. Carl Hubbell’s Impressive Pitching –  I normally only include entries on these lists of players I actually saw play, but this All Star Game feat has been legend for a long time and gets mentioned every year at All Star Game time. Hubbell, a New York Giant screwball-throwing southpaw pitching for the National League in 1934, struck out 5 future Hall of Famers in a row – Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Jimmie Fox, Al Simmons and Joe Cronin.

 

2. Fred Lynn’s Grand Slam –  baseball’s 50th Anniversary game, played at Comiskey Park in Chicago in 1983, was a one-sided affair, with the American League winning 13-3. The highlight of the game was a historic moment turned in by Fred Lynn of the Angels, who hit the first, and still the only, grand slam home run in All Star Game history.

 

3. Reggie’s Long Blast – in the 1971 game, played in Detroit, a young Reggie Jackson, then playing for the Oakland A’s, hit a monster home run that hit a light standard on the roof of old Tiger Stadium. The shot was estimated at 520 feet, and became an early entry onto Reggie’s long list of memorable moments that would continue throughout his career. Two other sluggers of the era, Frank Robinson and Harmon Killebrew, also homered in the game, which was also memorable since it was the last All Star appearance for the late Roberto Clemente.

 

4. Rose/Fosse Home Plate Collision –  nobody ever accused Pete Rose of not playing the game all-out, all the time, but there was a lot of controversy when he bowled over AL catcher Ray Fosse at home plate in the 1970 game in Cincinnati. Fosse wound up with a fractured and separated left shoulder, and was never the same again. Critics said the play was over-the-top for what amounts to an exhibition game, but, for the record, Fosse dropped the ball, allowing Rose to score the winning run.

 

5. Stan Musial’s Game-Winning Homer –  in the 1955 game in Milwaukee, the National League overcame a five-run deficit and won the game 6-5 in the bottom of the 12th inning on a walk-off home run by Stan “The Man” Musial. It was the greatest All Star moment for Musial, who was picked for the game 24 times in his career.

 

 

 

MLB – Five Most Intimidating Pitchers of All Time

20 Jun

In the long history of major league baseball there have been a lot of effective pitchers who carved out Hall of Fame careers, but there has also been a special breed who combine talent, competitiveness and a mean streak to become experts in the art of not only pitching effectively, but striking fear in the hitters they face. Here is my list of the five most intimidating pitchers of all time:

 

1. Bob Gibson – this Hall of Famer was on my list of 5 players who changed the game, since his dominance led to rules changes to add more offense. He may have been the most intimidating pitcher of all time. He was extremely competitive and downright surly. Hank Aaron, the greatest home run hitter of all time, said this about him: “you don’t dig in against Bob Gibson, he’ll knock you down. He’d knock down his own grandmother if she dared to challenge him. Don’t stare at him, don’t smile at him, don’t talk to him. He doesn’t like it. If you happen to hit a home run, don’t run too slow, don’t run too fast. If you happen to want to celebrate, get in the tunnel first. And if he hits you, don’t charge the mound, because he’s a Gold Glove boxer.”

 

2. Don Drysdale – like Gibson, he had Hall of Fame talent and a legendary mean streak. Here are some quotes from Drysdale’s peers – from Dick Groat: “hitting against him is like going to a dentist appointment.” From Mickey Mantle: “I hated to hit against Drysdale. After he hit you he’d come around, look at the bruise on your arm and ask, “do you want me to sign it?” From Mike Shannon: “Don Drysdale would consider an intentional walk a waste of three pitches. If he wants to put you on base, he can hit you with one pitch.”

 

3. J.R. Richard – he spent his career with the Houston Astros, and suffered a stroke in 1980 which shortened that career. But between 1976 and 1979, he was one of the most dominant pitchers in the majors. He never had a reputation as a head hunter like Drysdale or Gibson – his intimidation status came from his imposing 6’8″,  220 lb. frame and his tremendous velocity (his fastball was routinely clocked above 100 MPH and his slider at 98). On top of that velocity was the fact that Richard had control problems. Most hitters can can handle a pitcher who throws hard but get nervous when even that pitcher has no idea where the ball is going.

 

4. Randy Johnson – the only left-hander on this list, “The Big Unit” was intimidating, like Richard, because of his size (6’10”) and the velocity of his pitches. He had a long 22-year career, pitched 2 no-hitters and won 5 Cy Young awards, so he was much more than just a hard thrower. He was intimidating but not in the same league of “meanness” as some other hurlers from the 1960s. Still, he is one of the all-time scariest pitchers for hitters to face. An unforgettable baseball moment is when Johnson, in an All Star game, threw a pitch behind and over the head of former Phillie John Kruk.

 

5. Nolan Ryan – like Johnson, Ryan had longevity, pitching 27 seasons. Like Gibson and Drysdale, he was a throwback to the early intimidators, actually starting his career in 1966. Like Richard, he had control problems. His career won/loss record was barely over .500, but he holds the major league records for both career strikeouts and no-hitters (7). He also walked more batters than any other pitcher. He pitched in four different decades, and maintained his velocity and intimidating style into his 40s.

 

 

 

MLB – American League 2012 Season Preview

06 Apr

Each season in the American League, the question is which big-money club, the New York Yankees or Boston Red Sox, will make it to the World Series. But this season, the signings of Albert Pujols by the Los Angeles Angels, and Prince Fielder by the Detroit Tigers, have catapaulted those two teams to the top of the favorites list in the AL. Both of those teams were solid to begin with, and both have experienced, savvy managers in Mike Sciosca of the Angels, and Jim Leyland of the Tigers. There’s no doubt that the Angels are odds-on favorites to win the AL West, with their biggest competition coming from the two-time defending AL champion Texas Rangers. The Rangers defied the odds to make it to the World Series for the second year in a row last season, so they can’t be counted out, but the addition of Pujols to the Angels makes them the team to beat in the division. Seattle and Oakland, who opened the regular season with a series in Japan, will battle each other to stay out of the division cellar.

Leyland’s Tigers were already the class of the AL Central before they brought in Fielder, so they have to be favored to win the division again. The Cleveland Indians could be a surprise contender if some of their young players continue to develop. They have an emerging starting rotation and a solid bullpen, and with young stars like Asdrubal Cabrera and Carlos Santana, look like they should surpass the Chicago White Sox as the Tigers’ main competition. The Chisox still have a good team, but I’m not sold on the team’s new manager, Robin Ventura, who takes the job with no prior managing experience. The Minnesota Twins always seem to find a way to be competitive, but I see them struggling to stay ahead of Kansas City in the division.

In the AL East, the New York Yankees are the favorites in my eyes, mostly because I’ve never been a big fan of their main rival’s new manager, Boston’s Bobby Valentine. Although the Red Sox are considered a contender, I see them possibly finishing in the division basement. The Toronto Blue Jays are an up-and-coming group, and I have more faith that Buck Showalter can revive the Baltimore Orioles into a contender than I do that Valentine can lead Boston to the promised land. Then there are manager Joe Maddon’s Tampa Bay Rays, who look like the Yanks’ main competition. It’s hard to believe but the Yanks are going into the season without much fanfare, and I think that makes them dangerous. They certainly are capable of winnig it all, but I don’t see them beating out either the Angels or Tigers when all is said and done.

 
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MLB – National League 2012 Season Preview

04 Apr

The major league baseball season is right around the corner – actually, it’s already started with a series between Seattle and Oakland in Japan – so it’s time to preview the races in both leagues for 2012, starting with the National League.

The balance of power looks like it’s shifted from the NL to the American League this season, with 2 of the game’s premier hitters – Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder – signing with AL clubs. The defending World Series champion St. Louis Cardinals appear to be a classic one-year wonder champ, with Pujols gone, manager Tony LaRussa retired and pitcher Chis Carpenter recovering from injury. The San Francisco Giants, champs of the previous season, have arguably the best pitching in the NL and will be contenders. The best team in the league, however, has to be the Philadelphia Phillies, who have all the ingredients to reach the World Series, besides maybe a proven closer. The biggest challenge to the Fightin’ Phils in the NL East may come, surprisingly, from the up-and-coming Washington Nationals. They’ll be an improved club, especially if pitching phenom Steven Strasburg is recovered from injury. Another possible East challenger could be the Miami Marlins. The Fish are traditionally a scrappy team, and the boost they get from playing in their new stadium, coupled with the signing of shortstop Jose Reyes, should give them a lot of positive momentum.  I see both the Atlanta Braves and New York Mets headed for long losing years.

Despite the loss of Pujols and LaRussa, the Cards could have enough left to at least reclaim the NL Central title, although I believe the Cincinnati Reds will rebound from a disappointing 2011 campaign and win the division. The rest of division looks like a group of pretenders. The Milwaukee Brewers had a great 2011 campaign but lost Fielder and saw slugger Ryan Braun tainted with a possible steroids scandal. The doormat Pittsburgh Pirates could surprise and stay in contention if some of their youngsters develop, but at this point the Reds look like the better club. The Houston Astros definitely will bring up the rear in this division.

I see the Giants reclaiming dominance in the NL West, with defending division champ Arizona backsliding. The Giants’ biggest challengers will be their hated rivals, the Los Angeles Dodgers, rejuvenated under a new ownership group that includes former Laker great Magic Johnson. The Colorado Rockies, in my opinion, are also a better team than the Diamondbacks, and will be right there in the race with San Fran and the Dodgers. The San Diego Padres, unfortunately, will finish in the basement of this division. In the end, I see the Phillies representing the Senior Circuit in the Series, although the health of Chase Utley is a concern.

 
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