Archive for the ‘MLB’ Category

One hundred and ten years ago, the American league ballclub from Boston without an official nickname defeated the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 1903 World Series, the first edition of the historic and prestigious championship series.

Later renamed the Red Sox, that same Boston team would win it all in 1912, 1915, 1916 and a likely fixed 1918 series in which both the Chicago Cubs and Red Sox are believed to have thrown different games a year before the more famous Black Sox scandal.  After that series, both teams would fail to win another one for years, creating rumors of curses such as that of the “Bambino”, Babe Ruth, who was sold to the rival New York Yankees and that of the Billy Goat and William Sianis in Chicago.

The Red Sox came close in 1986, before a series of events including a ball finding its way through Bill Buckner’s legs saw the Red Sox fall in a game six in which they held a two-run lead in extra innings and lose the series in game seven.

It would be another eighty-six years after that 1918 championship before Boston, long in control of the Boston market after the Braves left for Milwaukee in 1953, would find themselves atop the baseball world, champions at long last and finally over the Curse of the Bambino in 2004.  The sweep of the same St. Louis Cardinals franchise they beat tonight came just a year after Aaron Boone walked off in the ALCS to send Boston home at the hands of their greatest rivals, while the series-fixing mates from Chicago experienced a game six meltdown before falling to Florida in a seventh game.  Boston found their revenge during their 2004 title run, rallying to win the ALCS decisively in game seven against their familiar foes from The Bronx after trailing the series three games to none.

Under Boston native wunderkind general manager Theo Epstein, now with the Cubs, the Red Sox would not stop at one, sweeping the Colorado Rockies in 2007 to continue to spoil the once annually suffering fans at Fenway.  The only thing the team seemed to fail to accomplish under Epstein, was to win the World Series at their historic home field of Fenway Park.

In 2013, the city of Boston suffered a tragedy, as a pair of Chechnyan radicals bombed the Boston Marathon, as the city united in mourning under the phrase “Boston Strong”.

Boston fans would be disappointed just a few months later as the Bruins inspirational Stanley Cup run fell short, allowing two goals in seventeen seconds near the end of game six of the finals as the Chicago Blackhawks won their second championship in three calendar years, just as the Red Sox had in 2004 and 2007.

Finally, going from last place in 2012 to first place and tied for the best record in baseball with St. Louis in 2013, the Boston Red Sox are the world champions!  After defeating the Cardinals 6-1 in game six, outfielder Shane Victorino proclaimed, “Boston Strong!”

7248The long history of the Chicago Cubs… arising from the ashes of the Excelsior Base Ball Club of Chicago and winning the pennant of the National Association of Base Ball Players in the team’s first season of play.  Older than Major League Baseball itself, the team actually led the way towards to foundation of the National League in 1876, winning the first NL pennant as well.  A dynasty in the 1880s, winning pennants in 1880, 1881, 1882, 1885, and 1886, before falling into an awful twenty year pennant drought, unthinkable for such a storied franchise.

The Cubs would win the pennant in 1906, but ultimately fall to their crosstown rivals, the 1906 Chicago White Sox team forever known as the “Hitless Wonders”, but would then vanquish the Tigers in two straight World Series in 1907 and 1908.  The 1906-1910 Cubs are still the winningest team over a five-year period in major league history, winning four pennants over the stretch and having the best single season record in history in 1906, going 116-36 and winning the pennant by twenty games over the New York Giants.

Unfortunately, the first dynasty in major league history (depending on whether or not the National Association of 1871-1875 is considered major, MLB currently does not consider it so) became the biggest laughingstock in professional sports, now in the one hundred-and-fifth calendar year since that fateful day of October 14, 1908.

The team has languished through years of poor ownership (Wrigley), lack of innovation (being among the last teams in the league to establish minor league affiliates or to allow black or Hispanic players onto the team), and pure misfortune (such as in the 2003 NLCS Game 6, not to throw any names out there) and supposed curses (Fred Merkle in 1908, the black cat at Shea Stadium in 1969, and of course the Billy Goat Curse in 1945).  The team has tried everything from spending wildly under the Tribune ownership to counting on saviors from the farm system that never worked out (Corey Patterson and Felix Pie to name a few) to international studs (Kosuke Fukudome) to no avail.

In 2013, the Cubs sit at 49-60 and sixteen games out of first, and have already traded Matt Garza, Scott Feldman, and Alfonso Soriano.  The team’s relief pitching is shaky at best, and the team has a pretty comfortable lead in the blown saves department, having four more than any other team in baseball, and the team couldn’t hit with runners in scoring position if their lives depended on it.

Yet perhaps things are not quite as bad as they seem.  Baseball-Reference’s Simple Rating System calculates that the Cubs should be better than Nationals, Mets, Giants, Padres, Rockies and Mariners right now, yet the Nationals are hovering around .500.  At the very least, the renowned “Lovable Losers” are still an exciting team to watch, currently third in the National League with 120 home runs and first with 216 doubles and a team slugging percentage good for fourth.  The pitching staff as a whole remains above average with a 102 ERA+, but are tied with San Diego atop the NL lead with 357 walks conceded.  Despite all the blown opportunities, the Cubs are still just one save below the NL average.

mlb_u_castro_b1_600By Pythagorean Win-Loss Theorem, the Cubs, having scored 434 runs and allowed 459, the Cubs should be at around 52-57.  In reality, it is only three games better than they already are, but it looks a whole lot better to be five games under .500 than to be eleven games under.  The Cubs could be just a couple bats, and arm, and an overhauled bullpen away from actually competing, though the postseason would have to shock even the most optimistic of Cubs fans, given the strength of the NL Central, from which three of the NL’s four best records are found (Pittsburgh, St. Louis, and Cincinnati).  Not to mention, they currently have an absolutely stacked farm system position player-wise, including what is regarded as the best power hitting quartet of prospects in the league: SS Javier Baez, 3B Kris Bryant, OF Jorge Soler, and 1B/DH Dan Vogelbach, a few solid arms in C.J. Edwards and Pierce Johnson, star outfielder Albert Almora, second baseman Arismendy Alcantara and third baseman Mike Olt.  Further, the Cubs can expect a resurgence of sorts from incumbent shortstop Starlin Castro, and hopefully improvement from first baseman Anthony Rizzo and an extended showing of the Junior Lake Show.

My Top 13 Prospects List Published On WorldSeriesDreaming.com Plus Other Cubs Prospects News

The team still isn’t good, but perhaps its reputation for being awful has covered up some actual progress in the right direction and hopefully the Cubs renew that sensation of excitement that hasn’t swooped Wrigleyville since 2009, and maybe some day be in the same position that that hockey team that used to be known for being awful and alienating its fan base stands now, as champions.

The Downers Grove North Trojan Varsity Baseball Team hosted and defeated the Hinsdale South Hornets on Senior Night at Legion Field in Downers Grove.  It would be the visitors that would score first, but the Trojans would put together five runs in the second inning and would not relinquish the lead throughout the rest of the game.

Dowers Grove North came into the game in second place in the West Suburban Conference’s Silver Division, two games behind Oak Park-River Forest, with an official conference record of 12-6, contests in which the team outscored opponents by a combined score of 142-62.  Hinsdale South led the Gold Division by a game and a half over the Trojans’ greatest rival in the Downers Grove South Mustangs.  While the Trojans led the conference in runs scored, Hinsdale South’s conference-low five runs allowed seemed likely to be enough to keep the 13-0 in the game and allow them a chance to win.

Instead, the game went in the complete opposite way, as the home side won by a final score of 10-2, as the visitors put up single runs in both the first and fifth innings, while the Trojans were able to avoid the big inning.  The Trojans had an opportunity for more, but third baseman Joey Provenzano was called out at third after hitting a two-run double.  When questioned about the closeness of the play, the home plate umpire replied that Provenzano was only half-way to third when the ball got there and that it was “not close at all”, though it appeared that the base-runner may have been able to touch third base before the tag itself was applied.

On defense, shortstop Connor Kopach backed up the strong pitching performance from Matthew Bohanon with caught line drive and a throw to first that North first baseman Troy Southard was able to pick out of the dirt, a task he would be successful at consistently throughout the game.  Right fielder David Henson flashed the leather with two outs in the seventh inning, leaving his feet to make a diving catch to end the game and complete the eight run victory.  Other noteworthy offensive performances came from designated hitter Jack Goergen and center fielder James Sheldon.

Steve Smith got a hit.

The Trojans close out their regular season with a game at Glenbard North and a home finale at Legion Field against Naperville Central of Monday, May 20, during the last week of classes for the team’s Senior class of 2013.

Is Another Expansion Boom Looming?

Posted: April 29, 2013 in CFL, MLB, MLS, NBA, NFL, NHL

The National Basketball Association relocation committee has recommended against the Sacramento Kings relocating to Seattle to revive the SuperSonics on Monday.  There is now speculation that Seattle may be granted an expansion franchise for the 2014-15 season.  The NBA isn’t the only league looking at expansion currently, as the Canadian Football League has made expansion to Ottawa official, Major League Soccer is close to granting an expansion club to New York, the National Football League aims to increase its global image, and the National Hockey League has been rumored to be looking at two expansion franchises.

Canadian Football League – The CFL has twice had to leave the Canadian national capital when the Rough Riders folded and their replacement, the Renegades followed suit in 2006.  By 2008, the city was granted another expansion team to begin play in 2010, which was continually pushed back and currently is set at 2014.  The team is expected to announce that it will be called to Ottawa RedBlacks on June 8th.  The league will likely be content with an uneven number of teams, but should it eventually look for a tenth franchise, Moncton or Halifax would seem to be the front-runners for a team to represent all of Atlantic Canada.

Major League Baseball – The MLB has no plans at expansion, and there are not that many markets that would seem ready to support a new MLB franchise for the time being.  Though it should be noted that MLB has experimented in the past with the Expos de Montréal playing games in San Juan, Puerto Rico before the franchise ultimately relocated to Washington, D.C. as the Washington Nationals.  Furthermore, the 1998 expansion that brought the Tampa Bay (Devil) Rays and Arizona Diamondbacks into the league featured three strong candidates in Mexico City, Monterrey, and Guadalajara, suggesting that the league may be more than willing to extend its bounds outside of the United States and Canada.

Major League Soccer – It won’t be the Cosmos, but Major League Soccer is coming into New York City with a team to rival the New York Red Bulls, a team that currently plays in Harrison, New Jersey.  The 25,000 seat stadium will be located in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park and share parking with Citi Field, home of the MLB’s New York Mets.  An ownerships group, stadium deal, and prospective owner should all be finalized within four-to-six weeks.

National Basketball Association – With Seattle the obvious expansion candidate for the 2014-15 season, should an expansion take place, the only remaining question is whether the league would stay at 31 teams or go to an even 32.  Louisville and Kansas City both have NBA-quality arenas done, and neither subjects the league to competition from the NHL.  Other markets that could house future franchises include St. Louis and Vancouver, a city that lost the Grizzlies to Memphis in 2001.

National Football League – The NFL is the best attended sports league in the world, but lacking even a team in Canada, the league has remained strictly within the United States apart from exhibitions in Toronto, Mexico City, and London.  The league could eventually see teams in all three of those markets, and with a “struggling” NFL franchise being relatively prosperous to teams in other leagues, the league has no extraordinary need for relocation (except maybe Jacksonville).  Besides international markets, the league needs to look at the second largest market in the United States: Los Angeles, a city that (with its suburb Anaheim) has two teams in the MLB, two in the NBA, two in the MLS, and two in the NHL.

National Hockey League – Amid the league’s third work stoppage of the Gary Bettman era, reports began to circulate that the league would be awarding two expansion franchises in the near future, most likely to Quebec and suburban Toronto.  With the NBA to Seattle efforts, Seattle ended up in the mix as well, but unless the NBA expands there, there will be no stadium to house an NHL team.  Portland and Kansas City both have made efforts to lure the Phoenix Coyotes from the desert.

Yu Darvish of the Texas Rangers made his season debut on Tuesday and dominated the Astros’ lineup, pitching a near perfect game, leaving with a 7-0 lead at Minute Maid Park.  Darvish came to the MLB from the Japanese Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) last off-season when the Rangers outbid the Chicago Cubs by a significant margin to earn the rights to sign Darvish.

The Astros moved to the American League West from the National League Central for the 2013 season, and opened their American League campaign with an 8-2 opening day victory over these same Texas Rangers.  The Rangers lost two straight World Series titles and then the first ever American League Wild Card Game, and have a mark of postseason shortcomings taking attention away from their continued success in recent years.

Darvish finished the night with 14 strikeouts, causing his pitch count reach 111 pitches.  Darvish’s perfect game would have been the 24th in MLB history, a feat that has become more common in recent years.  2012 saw Philip Humber, pitching for Houston on Wednesday, Matt Cain, and Felix Hernandez throw perfect games.  2010 included Dallas Braden and Roy Halladay, as well as the infamous officiating-spoiled perfection of Armando Gallaraga.

Former Cubs prospect Marwin Gonzalez broke up the perfect game with 2 outs in the 9th inning with a ground ball up the middle that got through Darvish’s leg.  Darvish left the game in good humor, smiling after his near-historic start.

Most sports teams have officially defined histories, yet the official records are not always accurate, or don’t reveal enough background.  In some cases, these claims are dubious, while in others, they are undeniable.  In this article, a few of these mishaps will come to light, while a few commonly accepted – but little known – scenarios are discussed as well.  The first article of this series features five scenarios, with more likely to come in future editions.

The Cincinnati Reds – The Oldest Professional baseball Team – Or Not.

The Cincinnati Reds are popularly thought of as the oldest professional baseball team, but these claims – which are even endorsed by the team – prove to be completely false.  The Cincinnati red Stockings were the first team to declare themselves professional for the 1869 season after the National Association of Base Ball Players voted to allow payments to be made to players.  However, the notion that the Reds that play in the National League today can lay claim to this title is completely wrong.  Not only did several teams illegally pay players before it was allowed, but the Red Stockings simply are not the same franchise as the modern Reds.  The Red Stockings would go on to play in the 1870 season after their undefeated 1869 season (in which they did not win the championship, due to the methods used at the time to determine the title), but would not field a team for the 1871 season of the new National Association of Professional Base Ball Players.  In 1876, a new Red Stockings would be admitted to the new National League, and even they would not be able to claim association with the current franchise.  The Red Stockings would disband on June 18th, 1877, before being revived on June 21st of the same year.  On December 4th of the same year, the Red Stockings would be expelled, only to be re-admitted a day later.  The controversy surrounding the franchise would not end there, as the team would leave the NL on October 24th, 1879, only to rejoin on on December 3rd.  On October 6th, 1880, the team would be expelled from the league, and this time it was permanent.  A new team of the same name would be founded as an independent team in 1881, before organizing the rival American Association for the 1882 season.  In 1890, the new team would join the National League, where the Cincinnati Reds have participated in every season since.  So which team is oldest surviving team in the league?  That is up for debate, though the usually accepted claim to the title comes from the Chicago Cubs, despite suspending operations for the 1872 and 1873 seasons.  The Atlanta Braves – who actually have deeper connections to the original red Stockings than the Reds do – are the next oldest after becoming a founding member of the new National Association in 1871 as the Boston Red Stockings.

The Cincinnati Braves?  Atlanta’s History Goes Back Further Than Boston and Milwaukee

Despite the claims of the modern Reds that were shown to be false in the above section, there is just one MLB team that has real connections to the original Red Stockings, namely the Atlanta Braves.  After the Red Stockings reverted to amateur status and subsequently folded, the members of the team were dispersed between a new club in Boston and the Washington Olympics.  The new Boston team was organized by former Red Stocking Harry Wright, and also featured Cincinnati stars Charlie Gould, George Wright, and Cal McVey.  Due to the history of its new stars, the Boston club was named the Red Stockings.  Throughout their tenure in Boston, the Red Stockings would have several names attributed to them, including the “Red Caps”, “Beaneaters”, “Doves”, “Rustlers”, and “Bees”, before eventually settling on “Braves”.  The Boston Braves would relocate to Milwaukee in 1953 and Atlanta in 1966.

The “Steagles” Roots Go Back Further Than The 1940’s Temporary Merger

Many readers may know of the war-time merger of the Philadelphia Eagles and Pittsburgh Steelers in 1943, commonly known as the “Steagles” or officially, the Phil-Pitt Combine.  However, what many don’t know is the fact that this isn’t the first time these teams had merged.  Take a close look at the events that occurred and see if you notice the oddity that resulted from their first merger:

  1. Art Rooney sells Pittsburgh Pirates (now Steelers, not the baseball team or the hockey team that relocated to Philadelphia before folding) to Alexis Thompson.
  2. Thompson announces plans to relocate Pittsburgh as the Boston Ironmen, pending NFL approval.
  3. Philadelphia Eagles owner Bert Bell sells half of Eagles to Rooney.
  4. Rooney and Bell announce that the former Eagles will be renamed the Pennsylvania Keystoners, splitting games between Pittsburgh and Philadelphia.
  5. NFL rejects relocation of Pirates to Boston.
  6. Rooney and Bell move their team to Pittsburgh full-time as the Steelers, while Thompson brings his team to Philadelphia instead.

Did you see it?  If you didn’t, the Eagles became the Steelers, and the Pirates became the new Eagles.  However, the league record book includes the history of the original Eagles with that of the current franchise, and the Pirates with the Steelers.

The Celtics-Clippers Connection

Irv Levin wanted to own a NBA team on the West Coast, but the league would never let him move the team he owned for one reason: the team he owned was the Boston Celtics.  Meanwhile, John Y. Brown’s Buffalo Braves were struggling on and off the court, having come off two straight tenth-seed finishes in the eleven team Eastern Conference.  Desperate to sell the team, Brown had an idea.  The Buffalo Braves franchise would be traded for the Boston Celtics franchise, and the Braves – now owned by Levin – would move to San Diego and become the Clippers for the 1978-79 season.  The Clippers would continue to struggle finding a home, lasting only six seasons in San Diego before their 1984 relocation to Los Angeles.

The Washington Senators Replaced By The Washington Senators?

When many sports historians take a quick glance at MLB standings throughout history, they see a Washington Senators franchise that lasted from the 1901 season of the American League – its first since unilaterally declaring major league status – until their 1972 relocation to Texas to become the Rangers.  However, the matter is a bit more complex that that.  While a Washington Senators appears on every standings sheet during that period (though they were officially the Washington Nationals for quite some time, but the name was never adopted by the media), it is actually two separate franchised.  The original Washington Senators relocated to Minnesota for the 1961 season, but Washington politicians threatened to take legal action against the league for stripping the city of its franchise.  However, the league found a solution, as the Los Angeles Angels and a new Washington Senators franchise would be ready in time for the 1961 season, making it seem as it the Senators had never left.

2013 MLB Draft

Posted: December 11, 2012 in MLB

The draft isn’t for several months, but it is never too early to look ahead.

High School Top 100

College Top 50

The Astros and Cubs have the first and second picks, respectively. The Astros are moving to the AL, and while there has only been one other league change in the modern era (Milwaukee to the Nl in 1998), they may be inclined to go for a power bat like Meadows. They were linked to Mark Appel last year.

The Cubs would seem to like Frazier, as a seemingly great all-around prospect, but also have an obvious lack of pitching in their minor league system, though it has improved as of last with the additions of Arodys Vizcaino, Juan Carlos Paniague, Dillon Maples, Pierce Johnson, and Duane Underwood.