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Posted By Dr. Stan, the Stats Man

In 1901, the Boston Americans was established as an original franchise of the newly formed American League. The Boston Americans became the Boston Red Sox in 1908. In 1900, the Chicago Orphans became a new franchise in the National League. In 1907, the Orphans became the Chicago Cubs. Fenway Park, the home of the Red Sox, was opened in 1912 and Wrigley Field, the home of the Cubs, was opened in 1914. Yes, they are the two oldest ballparks by far in baseball. The third oldest park is Dodger Stadium which opened in 1962.

The 1908 World Series (WS) matched the Chicago Cubs against the Detroit Tigers. The Cubs won in five games for their second consecutive WS title. However, as I explained in a previous blog the only reason the Cubs were in the WS was because of the Giants’ Fred Merkle’s infamous bonehead play when he failed to touch second base as the Giants’ winning run crossed home-plate forcing the Cubs and Giants into a one-game end-of-season playoff game won by the Cubs. 1918 also marked the last time the Cubs won a WS. The Cubs were WS losers in 1910, 1918, 1929, 1932, 1935, and 1945. It was said that the mistreatment of Merkle by Cub fans and writers led to the “Curse of Merkle” being placed on the Cubs. Through the 2014 season, the Chicago Cubs are still waiting to win their next World Series since 1908.

The 1918 WS featured the Boston Red Sox who defeated the Chicago Cubs 4 games to 2. The Series victory for the Red Sox was their fifth in five tries, going back to their first WS win in 1903. The 1918 WS was indeed a unique one. It was the last WS in which there was no home runs hit. It also marked the first time that “The Star Spangled Banner” was performed at a major league game. It took 86 years for the Red Sox, who had won the American League but lost the WS in 1946, 1947, 1967, 1975, and 1986, to finally win the World Series in 2004 and then win again in 2007 and 2013. The 86-year-old drought was often attributed to the "Curse of the Bambino”, allegeable brought about by the Red Sox selling Babe Ruth to the Yankees in 1919.

There is a baseball executive connected with both franchises that one can say was principally responsible for ending the Red Sox Curse in 2004 and possibly ending the Chicago Cub Curse in 2015. He is the 41-year old Theo Epstein, currently the head of Baseball Operations for the Cubs.

Epstein became the youngest GM (at the age of 28) when he was hired as the new GM of the Red Sox at the end of the 2002 season. He is credited with making several key acquisitions, including David Ortiz, Kevin Millar, and Curt Schilling, during his first tenure as Red Sox GM. These players were regarded as instrumental in breaking the “Curse of the Bambino”" when the Red Sox defeated the Cardinals in the 2004 WS.

On October 12, 2011, Epstein agreed to a five-year contract to be the new President of the Cubs. During the first three years of Epstein's presidency, the Cubs finished each season in last place in the National League Central. At the end of Epstein's fourth year in 2015 the Cubs finished the regular season in third place in the National League Central while clinching a Wild Card berth into the postseason. It was the first time since 2008 that the Cubs have made it to the postseason. On October 13, 2015 the Cubs won the National League Division Series against the St. Louis Cardinals and advanced to the National League Championship Series, marking the first time the Cubs won a postseason series at Wrigley Field.

Epstein has used trades such as acquiring Jake Arrieta, drafting such players as Kris Bryant, and signing such free-agents as Jon Lester to build the 2015 Cubs into what I believe is the best team in the 2015 playoffs.

Yes, the Cubs are my choice to win the 2015 WS and break their 108 year-old curse.

Posted By Dr. Stan, the Stats Man

If you follow baseball what happened at second base involving Chase Utley and Ruben Tejeda is well-known to you. The picture of Tejeda flipping in mid-air and breaking his leg is on TV and in all newspapers. This is my take on what I saw. First, in my many years of watching baseball I have seen many worse slides trying to break up a double play than the one between Utley and Tejeda. Would we be having this debate if Tejeda had not broken his leg? The Mets’ players and fans have been quick to condemn Utley and label him a dirty player. If the player making the slide was the hard-nosed David Wright would the Mets fans be saying the same thing? My answer is an emphatic no. In fact they would be complementing Davis Wright for being a hard-nosed player. It is understood throughout baseball lure that the job of a player is to break up a double play. Sliding hard into second base is part of the game of baseball.  

I will give my take on what I saw by addressing some of the many questions being asked about this incident.

Was Utley’s slide a dirty play? My interpretation of the sliding rule is that as long as the slider can touch second base with a hand or a foot he is allowed to slide as hard as he can. My view of the slide is that Utley was close enough to second base. My answer to this question is no, the slide was not a dirty play.

Was the umpires’ ruling wrong? This brings into play the neighborhood rule. It was clear from the replay that Tejeda definitely did not touch second base. But, I do not think the neighborhood rule applies because the reason he missed second base was not to avoid the slide but because Murphy’s throw was a bad throw. Therefore, the ruling that Utley was safe at second base was the correct one.

What punishment should Utley receive (if any)? Well, on Monday morning I just heard that the MLB has suspended Utley for the next two games. However, Utley has appealed this decision and since the appeal will not be heard today Utley will probably be in the starting lineup tonight. I believe that when the appeal is heard Utley’s attorneys will correctly show many films of much worse take-out slides and state that none of these players were suspended. I agree with this statement and believe Utley should not be suspended.

Will Harvey retaliate in game 3 at Citi Field tonight? I don’t believe so. I am sure that both teams will be warned before the game starts. So if Harvey throws at Utley he will have a quick shower. The game is much too important for Harvey to risk being ejected. However, this clearly may affect how Harvey pitches. Will he be willing to throw inside pitches? If he is afraid of throwing inside this clearly may affect his performance. I believe a Mets pitcher will eventually retaliate against Utley but we won’t see this until next year.

Should the rule on sliding into second base to break up a double-play be changed? The neighborhood play which allows the player receiving the throw to be close to second base and then get out of the way of the sliding player attempts to protect the player. Let me say I do not want to see any player hurt. The only change I could see to the rule is to force a player to slide directly into second base touching the second base with either two hands or two feet.  

Should the so-called neighborhood rule on a double-play be changed? No, the neighborhood rule is the only protection a player receiving the throw has. It would be silly to take away that protection.

In conclusion, sliding hard into second base has been part of baseball for many years. We should not change this part of baseball. However, I am for anything that will increase the safety of the fielder. Please comment here or on the Sandlot Stats Facebook page with any solution you may have.

Posted By Dr. Stan, the Stats Man

After being swept by the Orioles and almost losing home-field-advantage for their wild-card playoff game against the Astros, the Yankees limped into the 2015 MLB playoffs. The 2015 Yankees are not a championship team. This became evident by watching their games against Toronto and other very good teams. In fact, I think the Yankees have overachieved in 2015. A lot of credit has to be given to their manager Joe Girardi. Girardi has been a wizard at dealing with the loss of key players such as Teixeira and Eovaldi for long periods of time as well as the loss of Ellsbury, Pineda, Sabathia, and Tanaka for short periods of time. Girardi has gotten the most out of his older players, A-Rod and Beltran, by giving them their needed rest. He also stuck with Didi Gregorius as Jeter’s replacement when many critics said giving up Shane Greene for Didi was a terrible trade. With his great second half of the season, Didi now looks like the Yankee shortstop for the future while Shane Greene has disappointed. Girardi also knows how to use his bullpen effectively. He has built a formidable seventh, eighth, and ninth inning trio in Wilson, Betances, and Miller. This being said I think the probability of the Yankees winning the 2015 WS is very small. The rest of this blog is meant to be a reminder of why the Yankees are considered the greatest professional franchise in American sports.

The Yankees 4-1 victory against the Red Sox on Thursday marked their 17,567th victory since their beginnings in 1901 (the year the AL was founded). This victory also was special in that it was the 10,000th victory in Yankee franchise history. The Yankees rank number 1 in the AL for career victories. However, there are seven NL teams with more wins (Cardinals, Pirates, Reds, Braves, Cardinals, Cubs, and Giants). Of course, the NL was founded in 1876.

What about World Series (WS) wins? The Yankees have won 27 titles. Their first WS win was in 1923 and their last WS win was in 2009. Of the total of 110 WSs, the AL has won 63 and the NL has won 47. Thus, the Yankees have won 24.5% of the WSs. They also had an amazing 5-year WS winning streak (1949-1953). Behind the Yankees in WS wins are the St Louis Cardinals with 11 titles (first win 1926, last win 2011). Holding down third place are the Boson Red Sox with 8 (first win 1903, last win 2013).

The other eight 2015 playoff teams are listed in the form (total WS wins, year of first win, year of last win). The list is Los Angeles Dodgers (5, 1959, 1988), Pittsburgh Pirates (5, 1909, 1979), Chicago Cubs (2, 1907, 1908), NY Mets (2, 1969, 1986), Toronto Blue Jays (2, 1992, 1993), Kansas City Royals (1, 1985, 1985), Houston Astros (0), Texas Rangers (0).

How about the all-time Yankee player and manager win list? 

Yankee Playoffs 2015 1

Finally, where does Jeter rank in the all-time win list for players? The list below is based on all players since 1954.

Yankee Playoffs 2015 2

This is another reason why many people consider Jeter the sixth greatest Yankee of all-time behind Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio, Mantle, and Berra.

Posted By Dr. Stan, the Stats Man

As a life-long Yankee fan whenever I think of the greatest Yankee players of all-time the names Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio and Mantle immediately come to mind. In my opinion the next name that should be mentioned is Lawrence Peter (Yogi) Berra.

Yogi’s early life: Yogi was born on May 12, 1925 to immigrant parents. He grew up in St. Louis across the street from Joe Garagiola, another ML catcher. He began playing baseball at the American Legion level. While playing American Legion ball he acquired the nickname Yogi from a friend who said he resembled a Hindu yogi when he sat with his hands and legs crossed. The Yankees signed him in 1943, when he was 18 years old, and shipped him to the Norfolk Tars of the Class B Piedmont League.

Yogi’s service to his country: After his one year in the minors, Yogi played for the U.S. Navy where he served as a gunner’s mate on the USS Bayfield during the D-Day invasion of France. Berra was one of a six-man crew on a Navy rocket boat. He was fired upon, but not hit, and later received several commendations for his bravery.

Yogi as a major league player: In 1946, the Yankees promoted him to the Newark Bears of the Class AAA International League. Berra was called up and played his first game on September 22, 1946, and he played 7 games that season and 83 games in 1947, for the Yankees. He played more than one hundred games in each of the following fourteen years. Yogi appeared in fourteen World Series including 10 World Series championships, both of which are records. His final game was on May 9, 1965 with the Mets. Berra was a great contact hitter and ranks second all-time to DiMaggio in strike outs per home run (DiMaggio is 1.02 and Berra is 1.16). Five times, Berra hit more home runs than strikeouts in a season. Manager Paul Richards described Berra as the toughest man in the league to get out in the last 3 innings.

Yogi’s baseball statistics: He retired with a career .285 BA, 358 HRs and 1,430 RBIs. As a catcher he led the league throwing out base-runners for 3 years (1950, 51, 52). Berra was a great handler of pitchers, Berra led all American League catchers 8 times in games caught and in chances accepted, 6 times in double plays (a major league record), 8 times in putouts, 3 times in assists.

Yogi as a manager and coach: Yogi retired after the 1963 World Series, and was immediately named to succeed Ralph Houk as manager of the Yankees. In 1964, after losing to the Cardinals in the WS he was fired. He then signed with the Mets and coached them for next seven seasons. He became the Mets manager in 1972. In 1973, he led the Mets to the NL pennant. It was Berra's 2nd as a manager, one in each league. The Mets lost to Oakland in the 1973 WS. Yogi’s tenure as Mets manager ended with his firing on August 5, 1975. In 1976, he rejoined the Yankees as a coach. Berra was named Yankee manager before the 1984 season. Berra agreed to stay in the job for 1985 after receiving assurances that he would not be fired, but the impatient Steinbrenner did fire Berra after the 16th game of the season. Berra then joined the Astros as their bench coach and stayed with them until retiring in 1989. He finished his managerial career with a regular season record of 484–444 and a playoff record of 9–10. In 1999, after George Steinbrenner ventured to his home in New Jersey to apologize in person for the way he was fired, Yogi ended his 14-year estrangement with the Yankee organization.

Yogi’s later years: From 2000 on Yogi would attend Yankee spring training each year, working with the young Yankee players. Yogi died on Sept. 22, 2015. At Yogi’s funeral, Joe Torre spoke of his many baseball achievements which included 10 WS rings, 3 MVP Awards and 18 All-Star appearances, but then added: “He was so much more than that. He was so good and so honest and so real and so human.”

RIP Yogi!




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