Results tagged ‘ New York Mets ’

Baseball’s Most Tortured Fans

Living in New York, I have had to hear much chatter about the woeful ways of the New York Mets.  The angst felt by their fans toward their beloved team is certainly understandable.  At the risk of inflicting more wounds, I won’t go into events that have led to their frustration, particularly the ones over the past seven seasons.  However, I am a little tired of the “woe is me” attitude that seems to prevail among Met fans.  Of all the fans of Major League Baseball teams, they act as though nobody has had it as rough as them.   I must admit it is a bit humourous at times to listen to them rant but at the same time, it does get old.   So I decided to quantify which fans have been inflicted with the most misery over the course of their existence.  I kept the list to five though it could have very easily been expanded to ten.  Sorry Met fans, your team doesn’t cut it; in fact I would have a hard time picking them for my top ten.  Here they are, in no particular order the UnFab Five:

Pirates fans yearn for the days of Dave Parker.  Image:  bleacherreport.com

Pirates fans yearn for the days of Dave Parker. Image: bleacherreport.com

Chicago CubsThis franchise has been known as the Cubs since 1903 but it actually dates back to 1876 when they were known as the White Stockings.  The last time the Cubbies appeared in the World Series was 1945 and the last time they won it was 1908.  Since then, it has been nothing but losses and heartbreak for the fans of Wrigleyville and beyond.  Since that 1945 series, the Cubs have captured four division titles and one Wild Card.  They have yet to win a single playoff series.  Oh, they have been close.  They had a two games to none lead on the San Diego Padres in 1984 back when the divisional round was the best of five and the winner went to the Fall Classic.  First, it was Steve Garvey taking Lee Smith deep to win Game 4 and then with the Cubs winning 3-2 in Game 5, Leon Durham‘s error in the bottom of the seventh inning opened the door to a four run inning allowing San Diego to prevail 6-3 and go to the World Series.  Fast forward to 2003 and the team held a commanding 3 games to 1 lead over the Florida Marlins in the NLCS.  This was, of course the Steve Bartman series in which the end result was Florida coming all the way back and advancing to the Series.  Then there was 2008 when Chicago posted the best record in the National League at 97-64 only to be swept in the first round by the Los Angles Dodgers.  Throughout their history, be it decades ago or a couple of years ago, there has been an endless array of second tier finishes.  If you though the party for the Boston Red Sox was huge when they finally won it all in 2004, wait until the Cubs win the big one.  Hopefully, that will happen before the next turn of the century.

Cleveland IndiansAlthough the Tribe enjoyed a great deal of success from the mid 1990′s to 2001, this is a franchise that has not won a World Series since 1948.  Some of those playoff losses a decade or so ago are the stuff of legend…..and misery.  They lost the 1997 Fall Classic in heart-breaking fashion when the Indians coughed up a 2-1 9th inning lead in Game 7 and lost in 11 innings.  In 1999, they blew a two game to nothing lead against the Red Sox in the divisional round and lost in five as Pedro Martinez came out of the bullpen in the clincher and tossed six-no hit innings.  After a string of dismal seasons, the 2007 club held a 3 games to 1 lead over Boston in the ALCS only to see the Sox make another historic comeback and evaporate Cleveland fans’ dreams once again.  Since that year, the team has not finished above .500.  Before their 1990′s surge, they were about as big a laughingstock in the game as you could find.  In 1968, the Tribe finished in third place.  They would not finish that high again in the standings until 1994.  From 1978 through 1985, Cleveland would finish no higher than sixth place in the American League East.  “Major League” came to theaters in 1989; too bad some of that magic didn’t rub off on the organization until five years later.

Pittsburgh PiratesEveryone knows the not-so magical number:  20, as in the number of consecutive losing seasons.  I also think back to the last time the Bucs won the World Series which was 1979.  Not too long after that, the team began playing some really bas baseball.  From 1981 through 1989, the Pirates finished higher than fourth only twice, lowlighted by the 1985 campaign in which the team went a horrendous 57-104.  And then it was onto those three, glorious seasons from 1990 to 1992 in which they captured three straight National League East titles.  Of course, those last two seasons ended in miserable fashion.  In 1991, the Pirates came home with a 3-2 NLCS lead over the Atlanta Braves only to score exactly zero runs over the next 18 innings as Atlanta reached the Fall Classic.  Who could ever forget the two teams’ epic encounter the following season in the NLCS?  The Bucs fought back from a 3 games to 1 deficit and took a 2-0 lead into the 9th inning of Game 7 only to watch the Braves push across three runs, the final one being Sid Bream‘s “dash” around third base to score the series-clinching run.  The following season, Barry Bonds was gone and an entire generation of Pittsburgh fans has NEVER seen their club get to the .500 mark.

Kansas City RoyalsEven now, it is almost hard for me to picture the Royals be so miserable as growing up they were one of the best franchises in Major League Baseball.  I am sure that feeling is not shared by KC fans.  Except for that tremendous run between 1975 and 1989, the last time it won 90 games, Royals fans have not been treated too kindly by their team.  The five seasons between 2002 and 2006 saw Kansas City lose over 100 games four times.  Had they not finished 83-79 in 2003, KC’s streak of consecutive losing seasons would stand at 18.   Since 1994 when MLB expanded to three divisions per league, the Royals have finished as high as second place only once, that coming in 1995.   During this stretch, they have seen homegrown stars such as Johnny Damon and Carlos Beltran flourish in other locales.  They have not made the playoffs since 1985, the year of their only World Series victory and is currently the longest postseason drought in the game today.   Kansas City fans are hoping this is the year all of the building and shuffling pays off with a winning season and a playoff berth.   I will believe it when I see it.

Seattle MarinersThis was the hard one.  I could have gone with a handful of other teams.  If I had written on this topic at this time last year, I think I would have gone with the Montreal Expos/Washington NationalsTheir 2012 season and having stars such as Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper takes them out of consideration.  I could have chosen the Milwaukee Brewers, despite the fact they have made two playoff appearances over the past five seasons.  It was a very long wait for postseason baseball to return to Wisconsin.  Instead,  I will go with the only other team besides Expos/Nats to not appear in a World Series, the squad from the Pacific Northwest.  It’s hard to believe that a franchise that once boasted Ken Griffey, Jr, Alex Rodriguez, Randy Johnson and Edgar Martinez could appear on this list.  No World Series trips helped (hindered?) the cause as well as futility before and after the four players starred for the club.  Seattle began play in 1977 and did not post a winning record until 1991 when it finished 83-79.  It took all the way until 1997 for the franchise to reach the 90 win mark.  After trading Griffey, the team made the ALCS in 2000.  After losing Rodriguez, the M’s won a record 116 regular season games but lost again in the ALCS.  Since then, there has been nothing going on except the magical hitting of Ichiro Suzuki and later the dazzling pitching of Felix Hernandez.  They lost 101 games in 2008 and 2010 and have finished last in the AL West seven times in the last nine seasons.  After almost a decade of misery, the skies may be getting brighter in Seattle.

Follow me on Twitter @ltj41 and covering the Arizona Diamondbacks at http://venomstrikes.com

Brian Wilson: Return of the Beard

There are still a number of high-quality players left on the free agent market.  Much of the attention surrounds where outfielder Michael Bourn will land.  Others are speculating on the destination of pitcher Kyle Lohse.  The most intriguing name out there also happens to be the among the game’s brightest personalities, the man with the coolest beard in baseball.   Closer Brian Wilson also happens to be a World Series winner of the San Francisco Giants in 2010 but is also coming off Tommy John surgery which he had on April 19th.  They jury is still out on whether he can hit 98 MPH again but there should be a team out there who can give one of the most likeable players in baseball a shot at finding past glory.

I hope to see Brian Wilson pitch in 2013.  Image:  zimbio.com

I hope to see Brian Wilson pitch in 2013. Image: zimbio.com

Closers have their own brand of “personality” both on and off the field.  You have Fernando Rodney who shoots an imaginary arrow after recording a save.  Rafael Soriano likes to untuck his jersey after the last out.  At the end of his saves, Wilson crosses his arms and looks up into the sky to honor both religion and his dad who passed away when he was 17.  The nature of the position dictates you must have a short memory as when you get beat, chances are your team loses.  The Beard is a natural for the position.  From his mohawk haircut, to his bright orange cleats and of course the now-famous facial hair, Wilson is one of the most recognizable players in Major League Baseball.   For a period of time, he was one of the best closers the game had.  He is a three-time All Star who also finished seventh for the Cy Young Award in 2010.  In that same season, he saved 48 games to lead the National League and his ERA was 1.81 with 93 strikeouts in 74 2/3 innings.  In four seasons from 2008 through 2011, Wilson saved 163 games, one of the best totals among his peers  In the Spring of 2012, his shoulder was bothering him and he was forced to undergo surgery in April after only two appearances during the season.

The one team Wilson has been linked with is the New York Mets, a franchise that desperately needs some of the good vibes he could provide.  Most Met fans I have talked to are pretty down about the team although they understand that the pain that could be the 2013 season is necessary.  Wilson would provide stability at the back end of the bullpen and a popular presence for the organization that traded the rock star known as R.A. Dickey.  It would be nice to see the Amazins pick up Brian Wilson, and if the team falters, send him to a contender for a chance at another ring.  That would be a fitting scenario for a truly great person.

Follow me on Twiter @ltj41 and covering the Arizona Diamondbacks at http://venomstrikes.com

Painful Now, the R.A. Dickey Trade Will Pay Dividends

I came home from work Monday night to the venting of my sister Kathleen.  She is a life-long New York Mets fan and she called to rant about the trade of R.A. Dickey.  I tried to be as understanding as possible all the while knowing it pained her and most Met fans to see arguably one of the most popular player of the last 30 years dealt after winning the Cy Young Award.  In a 2013 season that was shaping up to be not much better than the 2012 campaign, the trade of their best pitcher gives those loyal Met fans even less hope now that their best reason to watch the team every fifth day will not be wearing their uniform next season.  Once the emotion of the trade wears off, I hope Kathleen and all those despondent fans will see that the trading of Dickey makes sense and was done for the future of the organization.

It will be painful for Met fans not to see R.A. Dickey in their uniform in 2013.  Image:  www.cbssports.com

It will be painful for Met fans not to see R.A. Dickey in their uniform in 2013. Image: http://www.cbssports.com

Many fans thought the Met brass was being frugal during negotiations with the knuckleballer on a contract extension.  Why, they said, were they only offering two years for $20 million dollars on top of the $5 million dollars due in 2013?  Dickey was supposedly looking in the neighborhood of two years, $26 million dollars.  If you look at it from management’s point of view, they were being generous.  After all, they were the ones who gave Dickey a nice contact when no other team would.  Their offer per year was double his 2013 salary, not bad for a 38-year-old pitcher who won double digits in a season twice in his career.  Perhaps the Mets knew they were going to trade Dickey all along, getting the most for him while they are clearly still trying to rebuild.  Face it, the team might have been moderately better next year with Dickey and though I am an eternal optimist, it would have been very difficult to contend for even the second Wild Card spot in 2013.

How about looking at it this way.  Even the most ardent of Dickey’s supporters would concede that he probably won’t win 20 games again.  So what if he stayed in New York, played out the final year of his deal but went 15-10 with a 3.23 ERA. A pretty good year but do you think he would have been offered anything better than what the Mets proposed?  I would venture to say no.  By being traded to the Toronto Blue Jays, Dickey gets his money and also is going to a team that is looking to take a shot at the World Series.  Plus, the city of Toronto is much like New York and we all know how well he handled things here.  Toronto will love him, much like the love he received in the Big Apple.  Plus, he gets to stick it to the Yankees maybe four times next year, music to Mets’ fans’ ears.

As for those who question the prospects the Mets received from Toronto, maybe that was the best they could do.  There are concerns about the health of catcher Travis d’Arnaud, the main piece of the deal who is listed as the 11th best prospect by mlb.comIf one of the three prospects received by the Amazins turns out to be a solid to spectacular player, then this deal is a win for the club.  He will be playing for the team long after R.A. Dickey retires.  General manager Sandy Alderson and company deserve a little leeway here.  They did manage to pluck Zack Wheeler from the San Francisco Giants for Carlos Beltran.  Beltran has already moved on to the St. Louis Cardinals while Wheeler hopefully will be up with the Mets sometime in 2013.

One final thought.  I am sad to see R.A. Dickey leave.  I think he was one of New York’s finest and most articulate athletes we have seen and is one of the best interviews in sports (just ask my niece Katie).  This is why fans don’t make good GM’s.  They are paid to assess the long-term future of the organization.  The long-term health of the Mets dictated this trade had to be made.  I do feel sorry for Mets fans.  It seems as though this team is permanently stuck in neutral.  Contrary to what many Yankee fans say about their team in the late 80′s and early 90′s, there is no comparison.  They never saw problems like this.  From 2001 to 2012, the Mets have had five winning seasons, seven losing seasons and one epic collapse.  I hope this deal works out for the Mets much sooner than any of us anticipate and that by 2014, we can count on them as playoff contenders.

Follow me on Twitter @ltj41  and covering the Arizona Diamondbacks at http://venomstrikes.com

Hot Stove Cooking Up Big Rumors

Maybe you are paying more attention to football.  Perhaps you are excited that the NBA is back.  Or maybe you were engrossed in another little event this week.  Something about a Presidential election.  Whatever you had going on, thanks for dropping by because the MLB General Managers’ meeting took place earlier this week.  There were lots of news and rumors over the past three days so let’s take a look at some of the highlights.

Josh Hamilton, the prize of the 2012-2013 free agent class. Image: http://www.zimbio.com

Josh Hamilton is the big prize of the free agent market.  I always though Hamilton was a lock to return to the Texas Rangers.  Then news came out that he was seeking a seven-year contract worth about $175 million dollars.  Late last night, Bob Nightengale of USA Today reported that Texas was only willing to give the 2010 American League MVP a three-year deal.  It would be hard for me to imagine Hamilton anywhere but the Lone Star State considering all of the demons that he carries each day.  The Rangers seem to be willing to move on without him and if there is an organization that could afford such a hit, it would be Texas.  So where would the All-Star outfielder go?  The Baltimore Orioles and Philadelphia Phillies  are the two teams that have been mentioned the most.  The Seattle Mariners have emerged as a suitor and frankly the fact their offense has been shaky for years means they should make a big run at him.  That would show ace pitcher Felix Hernandez that the organization is willing to surround him with some offense instead of struggling to get two runs per start for the King.

Rumors were flying that two top-of the-rotation guys could be dealt soon.  The Tampa Bay Rays are supposedly listening to offers for James Shields.  Also, it seems the New York Mets and National League Cy Young favorite R.A. Dickey are far apart on a contract extension.   With the expected loss of B.J. Upton to free agency, the Rays will be in the market for a bat.  Tampa’s wealth of young pitching will help absorb the loss of “Big Game James” and the team has always struggled to score runs.  As far as the Mets trading Dickey, boy what a slap that would be to their fans.  Outside of Dickey, there isn’t much to cheer about in Flushing these days and a trade of arguably the team’s most popular player will further alienate a fan base that has had nothing but rotten luck for years.  Then again, it could make sense in the long run as the knuckleballer’s value has never been higher.  If I were New York, there is not a chance I trade him.  I would make a better offer (Dickey supposedly turned down a 3-year, $30 million dollar deal) but not go crazy ($15 million per year).  Those fans have suffered long enough.

Other big-name free agents looking for homes include Torii Hunter, Nick Swisher and Brian McCannCheck out the full list here courtesy of azcentral.com.  Speaking of Arizona, the Diamondbacks are supposedly looking to deal star right fielder Justin Upton again.  On the manager front, Walt Weiss was just named the manager of the Colorado Rockies and Davey Johnson has agreed to manage the Washington Nationals for another season.  Yes, it sure was a busy week in baseball.  Expect things to heat up some more later on as the weather starts getting colder.

Follow me on Twitter @ltj41 and covering the Arizona Diamondbacks at http://venomstrikes.com

Interleague Play is Done for 2012. Will Anyone Miss It?

Image: New York Post

We are now officially in late June as Major League Baseball’s annual Clash of the Americans and Nationals  AKA Interleague play is now complete. Outside of the Yankees, who once again tortured the Mets and their fans, will anyone really miss this yearly excercise of mixing up the leagues?  Oh wait, next season there will be an Interleague game every day with the Astros moving to the American League West.   Yay!

Yes, I understand the buzz the game receives when it’s Yankees-Mets, White Sox-Cubs and Dodgers-Angels.   But doesn’t it seem all of the other contests are just normal games?  And why do we keep stats for Interleague play as if they are their own categories like regular season and postseason statistics?  Is it something special to be the career leader in home runs for Interleague games?  What I am trying to say is, after 15 years or so of this, the novelty has worn off.  Unless the Yankees, Red Sox or Cubs are coming to town, attendance does not spike when say, the Rays come to Miami as opposed to when the Phillies visit the Fish.  Most fans (like me) would just as soon see more games against division foes, games that mean a lot more at the standings than the alleged payoff at the gate.

If MLB wants Interleague games mean something, put a series like Mets-Yankees at the end of September.  Can you imagine a scenario such as David Wright homering off David Robertson  to send the Mets to the playoffs and the Yankees home?  That would put some real meaning into something that has become almost an afterthought.

Follow me on Twitter @ltj41 and covering the Arizona Diamondbacks at http://venomstrikes.com

Davey Johnson: Good Player, Better Manager

Image: sportsillustrated.cnn.com

One of the best stories in Major League Baseball this season has been the emergence of the Washington Nationals.  Although yours truly picked them to win the National League East, I did not expect them to be this good, this quickly.  Even casual fans are familiar with their young budding superstars Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper, not to mention established stars such as Jayson Werth, Gio Gonzalez and Tyler Clippard.  Leading this fast-rising group is (I can’t believe I am using this term) grizzled baseball man Davey Johnson.

For those who are not aware or can’t recall, Davey Johnson was a pretty good player during the late 1960’s and through most of the 1970’s.  At a time when power was not associated with Second Basemen, Johnson hit 15 or more home runs three times, including 43 in 1973, one of three members (Darrell Evans and the legend Hank Aaron being the others) of the Braves to top 40 round-trippers.  He started at Second for the Orioles in four World Series trips, winning two in 1966 and 1970.  Before managing the Mets, their fans best remembered him as the guy who made the last out of the 1969 World Series. 

Aahhh, managing.  This second career is where Davey Johnson  has flourished.  He has won at just about every stop.  In 1984, his first season in New York, he guided the Metsto a 90 win season, their first finish above .500 in eight years.   In 1986, he led the team to its second (and last) World Series title.   His next stop was Cincinnati where in 1995, his Reds won the National League Central title and advanced to the National League Championship Series.  After a falling out with owner Marge Schott, Davey returned home (sort of) to Baltimore where the Orioles made the playoffs in 1996 and 1997.  Those were the O’s last two seasons over .500.  The Dodgers were his least successful stint, finishing two games over .500 in two seasons in Los Angeles. 

Many people were stunned when Washington asked him to manage the team in the middle of the 2011 season.  After all, he last managed a Major League team in 2000. When you see his winning percentage is .562  (1,226-957) perhaps it shouldn’t be that shocking.  Twenty-six years after the Mets’ title who would be surprised if he did the same with the Nationals?

Follow me on Twitter @ltj41 ands covering the Arizona Diamondbacks at http://venomstrikes.com

The Midnight Massacre and Other June 15th Trading Deadline Stuff

My buddy Doug reminded me not too long ago that the Major League Baseball trading deadline used to be June 15th.  He figured that would make for an interesting post.  Guess what?  He is absolutely correct.   With the date only two days away, now would be a perfect time to reflect on some major happenings that took place at the old deadline. 

The biggest June 15th deal took place in 1977 and it became known as the Midnight Massacre, considered by many Met fans to be the darkest day in the history of the franchise.  Tom Seaver  had been in a feud with Met management over the issue of (what else?) money.  Seaver had been critical in the press of ownership not spending the dollars necessary to keep the Mets from sliding toward mediocrity.  Dick Young was a writer with the New York Daily News who continually took the side of the organization even calling Seaver “greedy”.   It is worth pointing out that Young’s son-in-law worked in the organization.  Things came to a head in the June 15th edition of the Daily News  in which Young stated that Seaver was jealous of the contract of  Nolan Ryan  received from the California Angels, even dragging Seaver’s wife and Ryan’s wife into fray.  That night, Tom Terrific demanded to be traded and the Mets obliged sending him to the Reds  for Steve Henderson, Pat Zachary, Doug Flynn and Dan Norman.  Not only that but slugger Dave Kingman was dealt to the Padres, also over a contract dispute. The Mets lost their two best players on the same day, June 15th, 1977.  Check out Bill Madden’s column  for even more background on this historic deal.

June 15th is also a date Cubs’ fans would like to forget as a trade was made that has gone down as one of the most lopsided deals of all time.  In 1964 the Cubbies dealt Lou Brock  to the Cardinals for pitcher Ernie Broglio.  At the time, it didn’t look so bad as Broglio was 18-8 the prior year and in 1960 led the National League in wins with 21.  Other than his .315 batting average in 1963, the speedster Brock was basically a .255 hitter.  Who knew that Brock would go on to the Hall of Fame while Broglio would post seven wins in his two and a half seasons in Chicago, retiring after the 1966 season? 

In 1976, Charlie Finley, having already lost Catfish Hunter and Reggie Jackson, decided to sell off more players who were instrumental in the A’s three consecutive World Championships.  On June 15th, Joe Rudi and Rollie Fingers were sent to the Red Sox while Vida Blue was sent to the Yankees all for cash.  Commissioner Bowie Kuhn rejected the deals, citing “the best interest of baseball clause”.  Finley tried suing Major League Baseball as well as Kuhn but ultimately lost.  Fingers and Rudi left after the season and Blue was traded before the 1978 season.

Since we started with a depressing story about the Mets, how about a good one for the Amazins?  It was June 15th, 1983 when the Cards traded Keith Hernandez to the Mets for Neil Allen and Rick Ownbey.  The two pitchers combined for a 21-22 record for St. Louis while  Hernadez trade helped restore some badly needed credibility.  His arrival set in motion a chain of events that resulted in the team’s second title three years later.

Follow me on Twitter @ltj41 and covering the Arizona Diamondbacks at http://venomstrikes.com

Post Number 50 Honoring Sid Fernandez And Others Who Wore That Number

Image: mentalfloss.com

Congratulations.  You have been selected to take part in the 5oth post of this blog.  You receive no monetary prize, just entertainment or information (or perhaps both) as we look at some Major Leaguers who have worn the uniform number 50.  Of course a big thank you goes out to all of you have started at my very first post and have continued to follow me up to this point.   I hope you have just as much fun reading as I have had in writing.  May there be many more to come.

Back to the business at hand:

Sid Fernandez  El Sid wore #50 as a tribute to his home state of Hawaii which if you couldn’t figure out was the 50th state to enter the Union.   He spent 14 years in the Majors, mostly with the Mets and was death on left-handed hitters.   He was an earlier version of Randy Johnson minus the extra ten inches of height, eight MPH on the fastball and stick frame.  It was a deliberate, side-arm motion that made the lefty difficult to solve even for right-handed batters.  He pitched the most important 2.1 innings in Met history in Game 7 of the 1986 World Series.  After Boston jumped out to a 3-0 lead, Fernandez entered in relief of Ron Darling and allowed just a single walk while striking out four as the Mets finally tied the game in the sixth inning before winning the Championship 8-5.   Sid finished with 114 wins and a 3.36 ERA to go along with 1,743 strikeouts in 1,866.2 innings pitched. 

Image: bleacherreport.com

J.R. Richard  There will come a time where I will devote an entire post to James Rodney.  Right when I started watching baseball, he seemed to me like the most dominant pitcher of all time.   Unfortunately, his career was cut short when he suffered a stroke during the 1980 season.  I vaguely remember the picture of him being carted off the field in the Astrodome.  I seem to think he attempted a comeback in 1981 that was cut short because of the effects of the stroke.  Just think, for half a season, he was on the same staff as Nolan Ryan for the Astros.  Can you imagine facing those two on back to back nights?  Watch this clip of Richard dominating hitters.

Image: bleacherreport.com

Jay Howell  OK, he didn’t wear #50 for his entire career.  He did sport the big 5-0 with the A’s and Dodgers, the teams with whom he had his greatest success.  He came to Oakland from the Yankees in the big Rickey Henderson trade, totaling 61 saves in three seasons with the team.  Howell then landed with the Dodgers in 1988, saving 21 games to go with a 2.08 ERA as Los Angeles shocked the A’s to win the World Series.   For his career, Howell saved 155 games and recorded the victory in 58 other contests.  He made the All-Star team three times and finished with an ERA under 2.00 twice. 

Other famous number 50′s include Jamie Moyer, Matt Lawton  and Mike Timlin.  Let me know if you can think of any others.

Follow me on Twitter @ltj41 and covering the Arizona Diamondbacks at http://venomstrikes.com

St. Louis Cardinals: Pro Sports’ Most Underrated Franchise

Stan Musial: “The Man” Image: nytstore.com

Over the last 30 years, they have appeared in six World Series, winning three of them.  In all they have won 11 titles, second in their sport to the New York Yankees.  The only other franchises with more championships are the Green Bay Packers, Montreal Canadians, Boston Celtics and Minneapolis/Los Angeles Lakers.  Other organizations with less pedigree are often looked at more favorably.  Yet when it comes to success, not many teams define that term better than the St. Louis Cardinals.

Go ahead, look at the all-time history of the franchise.  I’ll make it easy for you; click on this link.  Now then, did you see how many times they lost 90 or more games in a season over the past 90 years?  Three.  Even when they do  not make a postseason appearance, they are usually competitive.  In that same 90 year stretch, they have had one last place finish.  Even the Yankees can’t make that claim.  It doesn’t matter who manages the team, who makes the personnel decisions or who takes the field for them, you know the Cardinals will be a tough team to beat year in and year out.

Yet, there are so many more teams out there that make a lot more noise but don’t have the credentials of St. Louis.  As much as it pains me to say this, the Dallas Cowboys are one of those teams.  The Pittsburgh Steelers are kind of similar to the Cardinals but A-they get a little more recognition and B-they don’t have as many championships as the Redbirds.  The Red Sox and Phillies seem to have a lot more bark and definitely more positive press but if you combine their number of World Series titles, that number won’t reach the number won by the Cardinals.   And living in New York you always have to hear about the Mets, Giants, Jets, Knicks and Rangers.  Yet, those five teams have combined to win their sport’s championships 17 times only six more than that little old team in St. Louis. And fans?  I guarantee you those Cardinal fans are probably the best in sports.  Remember, obnoxious fans don’t make the best fans (hear that New York, Boston and Philadelphia)?

If you need any more evidence of the greatness of the Cardinals, consider this.  They lost Albert Pujols to free agency and Tony LaRussa to retirement.  Chris Carpenter has not pitched this season and now Lance Berkman is out at least two months.  Yet, after being in first place most of the season, they have slipped to second, only a half game out.  Would it surprise you if they won the division?  Heck, it shouldn’t surprise you if they make it back to the World Series.  So forget all of the sound and fury of all the other franchises.  Take a moment to respect the consistent and committment to excellence (sorry, not you Oakland Raiders) of the St. Louis Cardinals.

Follow me on Twitter @ltj41 and covering the Arizona Diamondbacks at www.venomstrikes.com

Adam Dunn and Big Homer/Big Strikeout Guys of Years Gone By

Image: sportsillustrated.cnn.com

Adam Dunn belted his 14th home run this season on Sunday, clearly demonstrating he is over his nightmare 2011 season.   He has struck out a league leading 60 times and also checks in with a batting average of .243.  For his career,  he has slugged nearly 400 home runs, whiffed almost 1,900 times and owns a career bating average of .243.  He reminds me of many of the high power-high strikeout-low batting average guys from the 1980′s.  These players never get confused with the greats of the game but for a while they were certainly feared because of the home run potential they possessed.  In fairness to Dunn, he has had a much more prolific career than most if not all of them.  For five consecutive seasons, he finished with 40 or more dingers and 100 RBI’s or more six times.  In no particular order,  here are some of my favorites from the go-go 80′s.

Image: bleacherreport.com

Gorman Thomas: “Stormin Gorman” led the American League in home runs twice with 45 in 1979 and 39 in 1982,  the year of Milwaukee’s only World Series appearance.  Two is also the number of times he led the AL in strikeouts with 175 in 1979 and 170 in 1980.  While most people think of these types of players as lumbering First Basemen or Designated Hitters, Thomas was actually a pretty good Outfielder.  He ranked in the top three in putouts by a Center Fielder four times and ranked fifth in assists in 1982 with nine.  He finished his 13 year career with 268 home runs, 1,339 strikeouts and a .225 batting average.

image: chinmusik.net

Dave Kingman:  Kong thrived for seven different teams over the course of his 16 year stay in the Bigs.  He paced the National League in homers twice with 48 in 1979 and 37 in 1982.  While his overall batting average was a paltry .236, he did hit .288 in 1979 while also leading the league in Slugging and OPS that season.  1979 would not have been complete unless he also led in K’s which he obliged, fanning 131 times.  He also led the league in strikeouts two other times, 105 in strike-shortend 1981 and 155 in 1982.  My favorite Kingman stat has nothing to do with hitting.  In 1977, he became the only man to play for a team (Mets, Padres, Angels and Yankees) in all four divisions in a single season.   The final numbers are an impressive 442 homers  and a gigantic 1,816  strikeouts.

Image: bleacherreport.com

 

Steve BalboniThe Yankees sent “Bye Bye” to the Royals before the 1984 season for reliever Mike ArmstrongThis was a classic George Steinbrenner bone-headed decision, one of many, trading young, promising talent for a middle-of-the-road player who does nothing in New York.   Balboni immediately paid dividends for KC by launching 26 homers to go along with a healthy 139 whiffs.  Although the career numbers are not as gaudy as Thomas and Kingman, he does own something the other two do not:  a World Series ring.  In 1985 he led the club in round-trippers with 36 and the rest of the American League in strikeouts with 166 as the Royals took home their only World Championship.    Balboni eventually did play for the Yanks at least on a part-time basis in 1989 and 1990.  The 1990 campaign was his last as a semi-regular player and in typical Bye Bye fashion he deposited 17 balls into the seats in only 301 plate appearances.  Of course he also struck out 91 times and batted a robust .192.

I could spend all day reviewing the careers of these guys and men like Rob Deer, Pete Incaviglia and Tony Armas. If any of you can think of other players both past and present, I would love to hear about them.

Follow me on Twitter @ltj41 and covering the Arizona Diamondbacks at http://venomstrikes.com

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