Tag Archives: @Phl_inphielder

THE NEXT WAVE OF CHAMPIONSHIP DROUGHTS

As the League Divisional Series’ wrapped up this week, we saw the continuation of the Cleveland Indians’ World Championship drought advance to an agonizing 69 years.  With the 108 year dry spell of the Chicago Cubs ending last year, much has been publicized of the plight of the Indians.

At closer look, there is a new generation of dry spells in Major League Baseball.  The Expansion Era of baseball began in 1961 when the American League expanded to Washington and Southern California.  The clubs that began play that year were the current day Angels and Texas Rangers (who moved from our Nation’s Capitol following the 1971 season).  In 1962, the National League expanded to New York (Mets) and Houston (current day Astros).  1969 saw both leagues expand when the Seattle Pilots and Kansas City Royals joined the American League. The San Diego Padres and Montreal Expos also joined the National League.  The Pilots would move to Milwaukee the following spring and become the current day Milwaukee Brewers.  The Expos franchise relocated to Washington in 2005 and became the current day Washington Nationals.

The expansion era continued in 1977 when the Seattle Mariners and Toronto Blue Jays joined the AL.  In 1993 it was the NL’s turn to welcome the Florida Marlins (now the Miami Marlins) and Colorado Rockies.  The expansion era ended in 1998 when the Arizona Diamondbacks joined the National League and the Tampa Bay Rays franchise joined the American League.

 

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The 2005 Houston Astros celebrate after winning the National League Championship.

 

Now that I gave everybody a baseball history lesson I’ll get to the point.

I still have trouble wrapping my head around the fact that the Houston Astros are competing for the American League championship.  After 50 years in the National League, including a National League championship in 2005, the Astros moved to the American League in 2013.  That trip to the Fall Classic in 2005 was the franchise’s only appearance.  They would be swept by another drought-beater, the Chicago White Sox.  That World Championship was the Pale Hose’s first title since 1917, they haven’t been back to the Fall Classic since.

Getting back to the Astros, their drought is now going on 55 years without a World Series title.  Can the Astros be the drought-enders this year?

 

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The Washington Nationals were eliminated from playoff contention by the Chicago Cubs in 5 games.  The Expos/Nationals franchise has never appeared in the World Series.

 

With so much being made of the Indians early exit, there was another team that is almost under the radar.  When the Washington Nationals lost the National League Division Series to the Cubs, that made 48 consecutive years without an appearance in the World Series.  The closest this franchise has come to a Fall Classic berth was a dramatic five-game loss to the Dodgers in the then best-of-five NLCS in 1981.

 

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The Seattle Mariners won an MLB record 116 games in 2001.  The Mariners have yet to appear in the World Series.

 

There is another franchise that has not seen the Fall Classic.  The Seattle Mariners drought began with their inception in 1977.  That’s forty years and counting in the Pacific Northwest without a trip to the World Series.

Looking at the rest of the expansion classes that I mentioned in the opening, the Rangers, Astros, Padres, Brewers, Rockies and Rays have all made Series appearances and have lost.  The Rangers (2010 & 2011) and Padres (1984 & 1998) are the only two of these franchises to appear more than once.  The Brewers won the 1982 American League title, they have been members of the National League since 1998.

Will the drought of the Houston Astros, the team that switched leagues after half a century, come to an end this year?  Will a metropolitan area that was ravaged by a hurricane in August finally see the top of the baseball heap this fall?  To be continued!

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WHEN AMERICA’S PASTIME BECOMES DRAMATIC

Major League Baseball, the green grass, the white lines, the hot dogs and cold beer!  The night that families can enjoy each other while watching the calm and patient American sport.  That’s all well and good on a Saturday night in July, but something happens to the grand old game at the end of September and into October.

With the field  down to a precious few as the weather turns cooler and the leaves change colors, games become bigger and moments become more dramatic. Fans and players alike keep their eyes on the scoreboard while their heads are in the game at hand.

The waning days of the 2017 season haven’t disappointed.  The only drama left today when all fifteen games are contested at 3:05 EDT will be whether or not Giancarlo Stanton of the Miami Marlins ties or passes Roger Maris’ 61 home run plateau.  Twenty-four hours ago the story-lines were completely different.

 

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Giancarlo Stanton is sitting on 59 home runs, 2 shy of Roger Maris’ 61 in 1961 on the final day of the 2017 regular season.
The final Saturday of the 2017 regular season began with the American League Eastern Division up for grabs. The American League top seed still had not been decided, and their was one last National League Wild Card berth to be filled.

At 1:00 in the afternoon, at two iconic ballparks, the two scenarios in the American League played out.  While the Yankees hosted the Toronto Blue Jays at Yankee Stadium the Houston Astros were at Fenway Park visiting the Red Sox.  Were we headed for the latest chapter in the lore that is the American League’s oldest rivalry?  The Yankees began the day 2 games behind the hated Bosox.  Were we headed for “Bucky Dent, The Sequel” on Monday afternoon?

In The Bronx, the Yankees and Blue Jays were tangled in a low scoring pitcher’s duel.  Aaron Judge put the Bronx Bombers on the board with his 52nd home run of the year.  New York would hold on for a 2-1 victory.

Following the victory in The Bronx, the scoreboard watching continued.  The Yankees and their fans left the fabled ballpark in mild disappointment.  The Red Sox had wrapped up the American League East with a 6-3 win vs. the Astros.

As for those Houston Astros, that loss at Fenway Park cost them the top seed in the American League Playoffs.  The Cleveland Indians clinched a tie with the Astros as a result of their loss to the Red Sox.  Since the Tribe swept the season series vs the Astros they locked up the number one seed.

 

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The Cleveland Indians celebrate the 2017 American League Central Division championship.  They locked up home field advantage in the American League Playoffs yesterday.

 

There was still one piece left to fill in the National League puzzle.  Coming into play on Saturday, the Milwaukee Brewers trailed the Colorado Rockies by two games for the final Wild Card spot.  Things were looking pretty good for the Brew Crew in the middle of the third inning of their game with the St. Louis Cardinals.  Milwaukee darted out to an early 6-0 lead over the Redbirds.  Then the roof caved in on the Brewers.  The Cardinals scored four runs in the bottom of the third and added three in the bottom of the eighth to win the game 7-6.  The Milwaukee loss ended their surprise run at the post-season, and nailed down the final spot for the Colorado Rockies.

 

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The Colorado Rockies unexpected trip to the National League Post-Season was completed with the Milwaukee Brewers loss to the St. Louis Cardinals on Saturday.

 

So there will be no Yankees-Red Sox one game playoff this coming Monday.  There will be no Brewers-Rockies either.  All eyes will be on Marlins Park in Miami on Sunday.

Giancarlo  Stanton tries to catch Roger Maris at 61 home runs.  Also, Marlins second baseman Dee Gordon trails Cincinnati’s Billy Hamilton by one stolen base in the National League Stolen Base race.

The American League Stolen Base crown is a three-way race going into the final day.  Houston’s Cameron Maybin is tied with the Royals’ Whit Merrifield.  Maybin’s Astros teammate Jose Altuve trails them by one.

Altuve and Charlie Blackmon of the Rockies have already nailed down the batting titles.  Stanton and Aaron Judge of the New York Yankees are already the home run kings.

So enjoy the finales today amid today’s NFL games. Major League Baseball’s second season begins on Tuesday in The Bronx.  I will be previewing the post-season on Wednesday night.  See you all then!

THE FALL SPRINT IS IN FULL SWING

It’s been three weeks since we last talked baseball.  Part 2 of a football preview and Hurricane Irma put America’s pastime on the back burner.  Miss three weeks, you miss a lot!

Since we last talked baseball, the Indians won 22 in a row, and the Dodgers lost 11 straight.  The Dodgers have cooled off for the first time since June and have gone 5-16 since my last baseball blog.

 

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The Cleveland Indians set a modern-day record with a 22 game winning streak.

 

Since we last spoke, the Indians have clinched the American League Central, the Astros rebounded from Hurricane Harvey and clinched the American League West.  The Washington Nationals sewed up the National League East, and those Dodgers, despite their recent skid have nailed down a playoff spot.  The Dodgers magic number now stands at one.  They have failed in two attempts this week to clinch the National League West.

The American League East race could add yet another chapter in the fabled Yankees-Red Sox rivalry.  As of this writing, Boston leads the Yankees by 2 1/2 games.  The Sox still have eleven games to play,  New York has ten contests remaining.  They have already concluded their season series.  The Yankees  hold a comfortable seven game cushion in the American League Wild Card race.

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The Yankees and Red Sox are looking at another epic battle for the American League Eastern Division Championship.

 

About that American League Wild Card race, the Yankees (or Red Sox) will win the fist Wild Card, past that it remains a free for all!  As of this writing, the Minnesota Twins are clinging to a one game lead over the Angels.  A total of FOUR games seperate those Angels and the Baltimore Orioles.  The  Texas Rangers, Seattle Mariners, Kansas City Royals, Tampa Bay Rays stand in between the Angels and O’s.  As the late voice of the New York Mets, Bob Murphy used to say “fasten your seat belts!”

The Milwaukee Brewers refuse to fold.  The Brew Crew has been hanging around both the National League Central and National League Wild Card races all year.  With eleven games remaining, Milwaukee trails the defending World Champions Cubs by 3 1/2 games in the Central race.  The Brewers are also 1 game behind the equally surprising Colorado Rockies for the second Wild Card spot.  The Arizona Diamondbacks consistent lead in the NL Wild Card race was also unexpected.

 

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The Milwaukee Brewers are still hanging around in the National League playoff hunt.

 

So here we are on September 20th with 3 divisions still undecided, a number of possibilities in the American League Wild Card chase, and a playoff appearance from two of three surprise teams in the National League.

Oh, and Giancarlo Stanton is now sitting on 56 home runs.

I will be back next Wednesday, barring any natural disasters.  It should be an interesting week in the 2017 pennant chase.

A WEEK THAT BASEBALL WONT SOON FORGET

It’s been an interesting week to say the least.  From the last time I wrote about baseball, the Miami Marlins have won 4 out of 6 games. Miami now finds themselves five and a half games behind the Colorado Rockies for the second National League Wild Card spot.  The even bigger story coming out of South Beach these days is the torrid pace that Giancarlo Stanton is hitting home runs at.  Since we last spoke, Stanton has hit 5 round-trippers, and became the first player since Chris Davis in 2013 to hit 50 home runs in a season.  He is sitting on 51 as I write this, and it isn’t even Labor Day yet!

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Miami Marlins’ Giancarlo Stanton leads the Major Leagues with 51 home runs.

Last Wednesday night a rarity occurred at PNC Park in Pittsburgh.  Los Angeles Dodgers’ pitcher Rich Hill pitched the game of his career.  Hill was perfect going into the ninth inning of a scoreless tie with the Pittsburgh Pirates.  Jordy Mercer lead off the Pirates half of the ninth by hitting a ground ball to third base.  Dodgers’ third baseman Logan Forsythe booted the grounder to break up the perfect game.  Hill would get out of the inning without allowing a hit.  This would’ve put the finishing touches on the second no-hitter of this year, except the game was still scoreless!  Josh Harrison lead off the tenth inning with a home run.  His walk-off broke up the no-no and pinned Hill with a loss after nine innings of no-hit pitching.

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Rich Hill takes the loss after pitching nine innings without allowing a hit.

 

Last Friday night, life changed forever in Southeast Texas.  Hurricane Harvey battered the Texas Gulf Coast during the night and into the morning as a Category 4 storm, that was just the beginning.  It would stall over the Houston  metropolitan area as a Tropical Storm  and flood the city and surrounding areas until yesterday.  Over 50 inches of rain fell in some places.

As a result, fun and games came to a halt in Houston.  Over the weekend the Astros were out in Anaheim playing the Angels.  The NFL Texans were in New Orleans on Saturday night playing the Saints in a preseason game.

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Flooding from Hurricane Harvey outside Minute Maid Park in Houston.

The Astros and Texans were supposed to come home on Monday, neither of them did. Both teams arrived in Dallas on Sunday.  The Astros were scheduled to host their cross-state rival Texas Rangers this week at Minute Maid Park, while the Texans were scheduled to host their cross-state rivals from Dallas on Thursday.  It was to be the preseason finale for both teams.

The city of Houston was in no condition to host sporting events this week.  After moving the Texans-Cowboys preseason tilt to AT&T Stadium in Dallas, the NFL cancelled the game altogether so the Texans could return to Houston to tend to their families and neighbors.

The Astros and Rangers are also scheduled to play a three game series in late September in Arlington.  The Astros approached the Rangers about swapping the two series’ and play this week in Arlington and in Houston in September.  Much to the shock of most fans, the Rangers balked at the idea of going to Houston in September.  This writer is still floored by the decision of  Texas Rangers’ brain trust.  This is how you handle a crisis in YOUR state?? This situation was about real life, this wasn’t about a Wild Card race and the prospect of playing on the road late in the season!  Terrible decision, guys.

Hat’s off to the Tampa Bay Rays who opened their ballpark to host the three game series. And yes, the Rangers get to play host in September.  GO ASTROS!

 

I dedicate this article to everyone affected by the tragedy that has hit Southeast Texas.  I was made aware of two families that my friends are personally connected to that lost everything.  Thank God they are all alive and safe and able to rebuild their lives.  It hit me personally knowing that businesses that I work closely with suffered major damage in Port Aransas, and Fulton as well as in Port Arthur. Many were not as fortunate, the death toll will rise in the coming days.

The population of Houston, Galveston, Beaumont and the surrounding areas desperately need help.  In addition to financial donations, simple supplies are needed such as toiletries, towels, clothing, and diapers.  So many common items were washed away, so many lives are gone, or stripped.  Be strong Texas!

A ONCE IN A CENTURY OCCURRENCE

This past Monday afternoon, most of us here in the United States experienced the first total solar eclipse to occur on our soil in nearly 100 years.  I got to see glimpses of the partial celestial covering that happened here in South Florida, the closest total covering occurred in South Carolina.  I will say that it ranks as one of the most amazing sights my eyes have ever seen!

You may be wondering what a solar eclipse has to do with baseball, or sports in general for that matter.  The answer to that question is, the eclipse has nothing to do with the subject matter of this article.

Tuesday was the tenth anniversary of another rare feat.  On August 22, 2007 the Texas Rangers overcame an early 3-0 deficit to defeat the Baltimore Orioles by the score of 30-3. Yes folks, I didn’t just make a typo, the Rangers lit up Orioles pitching for 30 runs on 29 hits in that game.  To make things even more historic, this modern record-breaking offensive explosion took place during the first game of a doubleheader!  Texas would tack on 9 more runs in a 9-7 victory in the nightcap!

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The scoreboard at Oriole Park at Camden Yards shows the historic linescore.

 

As I mentioned at the top of this article, the Orioles actually lead this contest heading into the fourth inning.  After a five run rally in the fourth by the Rangers, the game was actually competitive, with Texas holding a 5-3 advantage.

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Rangers catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia ignited a 9 run rally in the sixth inning.

 

In the top of the sixth, Rangers catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia ignited a rally with a solo home run.  Texas would then load the bases and center fielder Marlon Byrd would clear the bases later  on in the inning with a grand slam!  Saltalamacchia drove in a total of seven runs in the game, including two home runs.

 

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Utility infielder, and ninth place hitter, Ramon Vazquez belted two home runs and drove in seven runs.

 

Utility infielder Ramon Vazquez also had a historic night.  The ninth place hitter in the Rangers lineup also belted two homers and also knocked in seven runs.  What’s even more amazing is the fact that Vazquez and Saltalamacchia combined for four homers and 14 RBI and that didn’t even account for half of the scoring!

Texas continued the pounding with a ten run eighth and six run ninth.

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Orioles reliever Paul Shuey allowed nine runs in two innings to finish the game.

Now back to the once in a century part.  The last time a Major League ball-club scored 30 runs in a game was on June 29, 1897 when the old Chicago Colts defeated the old Louisville Cardinals by the score of 36-7. Yes that second digit is an 8!  It was the ninth time in the entire history of Major League Baseball that a team scored over 30 runs in a ballgame.

I leave you with this closing question, what will happen first, a solar eclipse in the United States or a 30 run outburst on a Major League field?

 

 

 

A RECORD SETTING YEAR IN HOLLYWOOD?

It’s been an interesting year in the National League West to say the least.

As of this writing, the surprising tandem of the Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies find themselves tied atop the National League Wild Card Race.  They currently hold a four-and-a-half game lead over the Milwaukee Brewers, and a five game lead over the St. Louis Cardinals.  Both have records of 66-53 going into play tonight.

What’s even more interesting is the fact that the Wild Card leaders from the west have no shot at a division title.  In fact , the Brewers and Cardinals have more a shot at winning the Central title.  Coming into play tonight Milwaukee trails the defending World Champion Cubs by one game, St. Louis trails their arch-rivals from Chicago by a game-and-a-half.

So why are two teams that have had such a stronghold on the National League Wild Card race so far back in their divisional race?  The answer resides in the Chavez Ravine section of Los Angeles.  The Dodgers currently hold an 18 1/2 game lead over the Diamondbacks and Rockies.  Yes, the same two teams that have led the Wild Card pack throughout the season trail the Dodgers by over 18 games.

On June 1st the Dodgers were actually in third place in the division with a record of 33-22.  Colorado and Arizona shared the top spot in the division at 34-22.  Since June 1st the Dodgers have gone 51-12, by far the hottest team in the Majors.  Currently Los Angeles is 50 games over .500 at 84-34.  The Dodgers are on pace to win 115 games.

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Cody Bellinger has hit 34 home runs and driven in 79 runs.

Perhaps the turning point of this unbelievable Hollywood script came in late April.  Due to an injury to Joc Pederson, the Dodgers brought up first baseman Cody Bellinger from AAA Oklahoma City.  Since his call-up, Bellinger has been one of baseball’s biggest stories. As of this writing Bellinger is hitting .275, has hit 34 home runs and has 79 RBI’s.  Keep in mind Bellinger didn’t get started with the big club until the end of April.

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Yu Darvish is 2-0 since being acquired from the Texas Rangers at the trade deadline.

 

Another new cog in the machine that has taken baseball by storm is Yu Darvish.  The veteran starter was acquired from Texas at the trade deadline.  All Darvish has done in Dodger blue so far is compile a 2–0 record, and an ERA of 1.50.  He has allowed a total of 2 earned runs in 12 innings pitched, and has recorded 20 strikeouts.

The 2001 Seattle Mariners and the 1906 Cubs are tied for the most wins in a single season.  The Mariners were a torrid 116-46 in 2001, the Cubs were 116-36 in 1906.

The Mariners record tying season ended with a five game loss to the eventual World Champion Yankees in the American League Championship Series.  The Cubs fell to the White Sox in the 1906 World Series.

Can the Dodgers keep up the pace?  Is this their year?  Can they carry this pace into the post-season unlike the Mariners and Cubs?  Stay tuned!

THE DAY THAT BASEBALL DIED

“I met a girl who sang the blues, and I asked her for some happy news, but she just smiled and turned away”… Don McLean from the song “American Pie.  A song which depicted that awful night in February, 1959 when we lost Ritchie Valens, Buddy Holly, and The Big Bopper in a plane crash.

This past Sunday night into Monday morning we experienced baseball’s version of virtually the same thing.  On Sunday night the sad news broke, Darren Daulton, an icon in Philadelphia and a leading member of the Cast of Idiots Phillies team that shocked the baseball world in 1993 had passed away.  This bulletin reverberated all the way to South Florida, where Daulton, who was acquired by the Marlins at the trade deadline in 1997, became a force in their locker room as well.  That 1997 Marlins team would also shock the baseball world when they won the World Series that year.  Cancer took Daulton at the age of 55.

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Philllies icon Darren Daulton passed away at 55 on Sunday.

It was an atmosphere in my home in South Florida on Monday morning that began with my wife informing me of the news.  Those of you reading this via the Phillies Inphielder will remember that your administrator put out a post not too long ago, reporting that Daulton’s battle with cancer had reached round two.  Daulton seemingly had the disease beat in 2015.

In a year in which the Phillies Faithful began with the news that Dallas Green, the manager of the 1980 World Championship team had passed away, this is part 2 of a one two whammy.

Daulton’s field presence was fiery and dominating.  He was a major reason that the 1993 Philllies came out of nowhere to win the National League Pennant.  His role as a leader on a team that went from a last place finish in 1992 to National League Champs in 1993 will remain a legend in the City of Brotherly Love for many years to come.

Daulton was dealt to the Florida Marlins at the trade deadline in 1997.  His short time spent here in South Florida was very eventful.  Darren would play first base for the Marlins and would once again provide a huge leadership presence.  This was on a ball-club that included the likes of Jeff Conine, Gary Sheffield, Kevin Brown, Bobby Bonilla and Charles Johnson.  He was certainly a leader among leaders in the Marlins clubhouse.

Sadly, part 2 of this horrendous morning for all baseball fans was yet to come.

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1979 American League MVP, and original Colorado Rockies manager Don Baylor passed away at 68 on Monday morning.

 

While the baseball world was mourning the death of the man affectionately known as Dutch, more awful news broke.  I got a notification from my ESPN app on my phone in the middle of Monday morning that Don Baylor had also succumbed to cancer.

Baylor was the American League Most Valuable Player in 1979 while playing for the Western Division champion California Angels.  He also starred with the Baltimore Orioles and spent time with the Yankees, Athletics, and Red Sox.

After his playing days, Baylor pursued a career in managing.  He landed his first managerial job in the Majors with the Colorado Rockies.  He managed Colorado from their inaugural year of 1993 through 1998.  Baylor lead the Rockies to a Wild Card playoff berth in 1995 and was named National League Manager of the Year.  He also managed the Chicago Cubs from 2000-2002.

This past Sunday into Monday was clearly the day that baseball died.  Two of its leading figures from a time gone by were taken way too soon.

Rest well Dutch and Don.

 

 

THE FINAL CHAPTER OF A BYGONE ERA

To begin tonight’s article I would like to offer my heartiest congratulations to the 2017 Major League Baseball Hall of Fame class.  Jeff Bagwell, Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez, Tim Raines have etched their immortality as players in the hallowed halls of Cooperstown.  In addition, executive John Scheurholz and commissioner Bud Selig were also enshrined. Congratulations again to all!

Of the five new members, the one that stands out the most to this writer is Tim Raines.   He isn’t noticeable because his stats were better than that of Pudge and Bagwell, although he had more stolen bases than the other two combined.  What stands out for me is the logo on Raines’ cap on his plaque.

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Tim Raines’ Hall of Fame plaque will be the last one to depict a Montreal Expos cap.

 

Tim Raines joins Andre Dawson (class of 2010) and Gary Carter (class of 2003) as the representatives of the Montreal Expos in Cooperstown.

The Montreal Expos were one of four expansion franchises that joined the Majors in 1969.  They joined the National League along with the San Diego Padres, while the Kansas City Royals and Seattle Pilots joined the American League.

The Pilots franchise would only play the 1969 season in the Pacific Northwest.  They went to Spring Training in 1970 while the franchise was up for sale.  During Spring Training the team was purchased by Bud Selig.  Selig, a former minority owner of the Milwaukee Braves sought to return Major League Baseball to the city when the Braves left for Atlanta .   Upon closing on the sale of the Pilots, Selig, just prior to the start of the 1970 season, relocated the Pilots to Milwaukee.  The franchise would open the season as the Milwaukee Brewers.  They would play the schedule originally prepared for the Pilots.

Now, back to the Expos.  The Expos were the first Major League Baseball team located outside of the United States.  The Toronto Blue Jays would join Montreal north of the border in 1977 when they began play in the American League.  The franchise would enjoy moderate success in Montreal.  They called Jarry Park, which for years was the smallest venue in the Majors, home from 1969-1976.

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Jarry Park, original home of the Montreal Expos.  Capacity for baseball was 30,000, the smallest in Major League Baseball.

 

Following the 1976 Summer Olympics, which were held in Montreal, the Expos moved into Olympic Stadium.  They began play there in 1977 and would call the “Big O” home until they relocated after the 2004 season.

The Expos enjoyed some success on the field and at the gate through the 1970’s and 1980’s.  In the strike shortened year of 1981, the Expos made their only appearance in the post-season. Since the 1981 season was interrupted between mid June and early August by a players strike, it was split into two halves.  The Philadelphia Phillies lead the National League Eastern Division at the time the players went on strike.  When play resumed, the Phillies were declared first half divisional champions.   The second half was a new season, with a new set of standings.  The Expos would finish the second half on top in the National League East and play a best-of-five series against the Phillies to determine the divisional champion.  Montreal would defeat Philadelphia in five games.  Raines was part of that 1981 squad.  The Expos would lose the National League Championship Series to the Los Angeles Dodgers, also in five games.  The Dodgers went on to win the World Series.

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Montreal Expos celebrate winning the 1981 National League Eastern Division championship after defeating the Philadelphia Phillies in a five game series set up by a strike shortened season.

 

Alongside the three Expos that are enshrined in the Hall of Fame, the stars that graced French Canada were many.  Randy Johnson began his career in Montreal.  Pedro Martinez gained notariety in French Canada.  Rusty Staub continues to be a folk hero in Montreal to this day.

Major League Baseball has had two mid-season work stoppages in its history.  The 1981 strike gave the Expos their only real shot at a World Championship.  The other stoppage happened in 1994.  The players walked out in August of that year and the season never resumed.  The Expos had a record of 74-40 on August 12, 1994.  They had the best record in baseball, but never got to finish the season.  This strike was the beginning of the end of the Montreal Expos.

The ownership of the Expos could not keep up with its American competitors financially. Many of their stars were traded away, and as a result attendance and fan interest dwindled.  The Expos finally were relocated by Major League Baseball following the 2004 season.  They moved the franchise to Washington, DC, where they are now known as the Washington Nationals.  To date the Nationals have yet to make an appearance in the World Series.

Raines will be the final Expos player to be enshrined in Cooperstown, this franchise’s next inductee will be sporting a Nationals cap.  Truly the end of an era.

 

 

THE GRANDDADDY OF FIRE SALES

The great baseball flea market is off and running.  It’s that time of year, folks,  the non-waiver trade deadline is approaching.  The deadline for non waiver trades in Major League Baseball is July 31 at 4:00 Eastern Time.

Since the abolishing of the reserve clause in 1975, this deadline has gone from a last-ditch opportunity for contenders to put a finishing touch on their roster to an out-and-out flea market.  It’s not even about trading away a player who is in the last year of his contract before he leaves anymore.  It’s become a time when teams that are out of the race are just shedding big contracts with no regard to their paying fans.

Although the practice of shedding contracts has become a way of life in recent years, the idea began right after the birth of free agency.

The Oakland Athletics were baseball’s most dominant franchise in the early ’70’s.  The A’s were American League Western Division champs from 1971-1975.  During that time, they won consecutive World Championships in 1972, 1973, and 1974.

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Former Oakland A’s owner Charlie Finley tried to give away much of his team that won three consecutive World Championships.

Finley had control over the likes of Reggie Jackson, Sal Bando, Dave Duncan, Catfish Hunter and Rollie Fingers prior to the reserve clause’s demise.  Catfish Hunter became a free agent following the 1974 season, and signed on with the New York Yankees.  It was after this signing, that Finley decided to put business before winning.  Before the beginning of the 1976 season, Reggie Jackson and Ken Holtzman were dealt to the Baltimore Orioles.  1976 was the final year of Jackson’s contract.  Jackon would join Hunter in the Bronx the following year.  The Athletics did get Don Baylor and Mike Torrez in return.  Nowadays that trade would be even more lopsided.

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Jim “Catfish” Hunter left the Oakland Athletics for the New York Yankees following the 1974 season, sparking an infamous attempt at a fire sale.

That was just the beginning. Prior to the 1976 trade deadline, Finley contacted the Boston Red Sox about acquiring Joe Rudi, Rollie Fingers, Baylor,  Vida Blue, and Gene Tennace for 1 million dollars apiece.  Sal Bando was offered to Boston for a measly half million. The Bosox agreed to pay the one million dollar price tags for Rudi and Fingers.  Vida Blue was sold to the Yankees for $1.5 million. Blue was also offered to the Detroit Tigers.

Three days later, commissioner Bowie Kuhn voided both deals, citing that in “wasn’t in the best interest of baseball.”

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Commissioner Bowie Kuhn voided Charlie Finley’s attempt at an all out fire sale at the 1976 trade deadline.

 

Finley’s actions were driven by getting back as much of his investment as possible before all of the players mentioned in this article either walked, or demanded to be paid their new market value.

Today, you have owners that blatently shed payroll this time of year.  The murmuring around my neck of the woods is an annual occurrence.  The Marlins dealt their top reliever, David Phelps to Seattle this week in exchange for prospects.  That set off an uneasy feeling of “here it comes” around South Florida.  Will the likes of Giancarlo Stanton, Marcel Ozuna, and Christian Yelich still be here on Monday night?  According to the Marlins front office, they are committed to keeping the All-Star caliber outfield intact. That being said, 3rd baseman Martin Prado will almost surely have a new address.

So I ask you Commissioner Manfred, what happened to the “best interests of baseball” that Kuhn cited.  Why are franchises like the Marlins, Padres, and this year both teams in the San Francisco Bay area being allowed to shed payroll and rid themselves of contracts that they signed?  What about the good of the team next year and beyond?  What about the spirit of parity?  Are the likes of the Yankees, Red Sox, Cubs, and Dodgers going the way of the Cavaliers, Rockets, and Warriors in basketball?

Baseball has thirty franchises, all thirty fan bases deserve to have stability .

 

IT WAS AN EPIC WEEK IN MIAMI

It was a very exciting and at times interesting week here in South Florida.  Hometown heroes Giancarlo Stanton and Justin Bour electrified the faithful at Marlins Park Monday night, despite first round exits in the Home Run Derby.  The transplanted Yankee fans, of which there are a-plenty here in the sixth boro, saw their heroes Gary Sanchez and Aaron Judge defeat the star Fish in epic fashion.  Oh, and by the way there was the 510 foot moon shot by Judge that will be talked about for years.  The rookie slugger put on a show of shows to win the event.

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Yankees rookie slugger Aaron Judge wins the 2017 Home Run Derby.

Tuesday night’s All-Star Game also ended with a pinstripes connection.  Former Yankee Robinson Cano capped off an extra inning 2-1 victory with a game winning homer in the top of the tenth inning.  The Seattle Mariners star also walked away with the game’s MVP award.

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Seattle’s Robinson Cano slams the game winning home run in the top of the 10th inning in a 2-1 American League victory.

 

With Tuesday’s victory, the American League has now won five straight All-Star affairs. Here’s a fun fact, the Junior Circuit’s recent dominance has been on enemy turf.  Four of the last five games have been hosted by the National League.  The Minnesota Twins have been the lone American League host since 2013.

The National League gets to don their home uniforms next year too as the game heads for the Nation’s Capital.  The last time an All-Star Game was in the shadow of the White House was 1969 as an American League venue.  It was held at RFK Stadium, home of the Washington Senators.  The American League will be the home team once again in 2019 when the game will be in Cleveland.

 

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Mariners’ Nelson Cruz poses with home plate umpire Joe West during Tuesday’s All-Star Game.  Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina is the photographer.

 

Amid the Aaron Judge moon shots and the Robinson Cano game winner, the All-Star experience is all about having fun.  Cano’s Mariners teammate Nelson Cruz did just that. Cruz entered the game as a pinch hitter in the sixth inning and had an odd request.  He asked home plate umpire Joe West for time out so he can take a picture with the arbiter. West agreed and so did National League catcher Yadier Molina.  The St. Louis Cardinals backstop turned photographer snapped the photo.

During Monday’s Home Run Derby, Marlins’ slugger Giancarlo Stanton was helpful to his teammate Justin Bour.  While Bour was locked in an epic first round battle with eventual champ Aaron Judge, Stanton helped him out during his time-out.  Sensing that Bour needed strength and energy, Giancarlo greeted him with a glazed donut!

The All-Star Game is all about having fun!

I dedicate this week’s blog to my son, Justin Karpel.  When Major League Baseball awarded the Marlins with the 2017 All-Star Game we discussed going to the Home Run Derby.  It was supposed to be a once in a lifetime father and son night at the ballpark.  As many of you know, Justin took his life this past February.

As I sat alone in my living room Monday night I couldn’t stop thinking about what could have been, and what should have been.  On a night that I was supposed to be in Miami with my son, I was home in my suburban Ft. Lauderdale living room watching alone. Rest in peace my son. It never gets easy.