Tag: MLB History

B/R MLB Rivalry Series: Chicago Cubs vs. St. Louis Cardinals

Welcome to the third edition of Bleacher Report’s MLB rivalry series.

In the weeks to come, we’ll highlight some of the biggest head-to-head rivalries in our national pastime and shine light on the past, present and future of those matchups.

We kicked things off on the East Coast with a look at the famed Boston Red Sox-New York Yankees rivalry. Then we turned our attention west to the long, storied history of the Los Angeles Dodgers-San Francisco Giants feud.

Now it’s time for the best of the Midwest.

The Chicago Cubs and St. Louis Cardinals may not have the same contentious history as the first two feuds we highlighted. But, thanks to overlapping loyalties, it might be the best turf war the sport has to offer.

The following provides a look at notable numbers and notes, a detailed breakdown of the rivalry’s origins, an overview of memorable regular-season moments, a rundown of postseason meetings between the two clubs and finally a preview of the outlook of both franchises.

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B/R MLB Rivalry Series: Los Angeles Dodgers vs. San Francisco Giants

Welcome to the second edition of Bleacher Report’s MLB rivalry series.

In the weeks to come, we’ll be highlighting some of the biggest head-to-head rivalries in our national pastime and shining light on the past, present and future of those matchups.

We kicked things off with a look at the famed Boston Red Sox-New York Yankees rivalry, and now we turn our attention to the National League side, where the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants have a long history of their own.

Their rivalry began when both teams resided in New York and continued when they simultaneously moved across the country to California. Recent battles for the NL West crown have kept the feud alive and kicking.

The following provides a look at notable numbers and notes from the rivalry, a detailed breakdown of the rivalry’s origins, an overview of memorable regular-season moments, a rundown of pennant-race clashes between the two clubs and finally, a preview of the future outlook of both franchises.

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Albert Pujols Passes Reggie Jackson on All-Time MLB Home Run List

Los Angeles Angels superstar Albert Pujols hit his 564th and 565th home runs Monday, surpassing Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson and putting him 13th all time in career home runs. 

“Even to put my name with those legends in baseball before me is pretty special,” Pujols said after passing Jackson, per Alden Gonzalez of MLB.com. “I would’ve never thought in my entire life that I’d be able to do that. I’ve done some crazy things in this game and passed some unbelievable names, but my only focus is to help this organization to win.”

Pujols, a surefire Hall of Famer himself, has had a rough start to the season, as he’s hitting .171 with five home runs and 14 RBI. His struggles included a career-worst 0-for-26 slump that he finally broke with his 563rd home run in the first inning of a 9-4 loss to the Seattle Mariners on Sunday. However, he showed up in vintage form Monday against the Kansas City Royals with two solo home runs to surpass Jackson.

Pujols wasn’t too worried about his slow start, as he revealed after tying Jackson’s home run mark.

“Sometimes when [the hits] come, they come in bunches,” he told Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times. “When you struggle, you just struggle. The main thing is to stay positive all the time. I’ve been in this situation before. I know how to get out of it—don’t force anything, don’t press, clear my mind and do the things I have to do.”

Indeed, Pujols has started to show his age. While the 36-year-old continues to hit for power—he ripped 40 home runs and 95 RBI in 2015—his .244 batting average and .307 on-base percentage last season were the worst of his career.

Players within reach now on the all-time home run list include Rafael Palmeiro (569), Harmon Killebrew (573), Mark McGwire (583) and Frank Robinson (586). 

This latest accomplishment, however, is just another achievement on a lengthy list of impressive milestones. Pujols is a 10-time All-Star, three-time NL MVP, six-time Silver Slugger, two-time Gold Glove Award winner and a two-time World Series champion. He was the NL Rookie of the Year in 2001 and promptly hit .300 or better with at least 30 home runs and 100 RBI in his first 10 seasons.

The Angels will be hoping Pujols is now coming through his early-season struggles and will consistently produce as the team’s cleanup hitter. The Angels haven’t played well to start the season, opening with a 9-11 record, and Pujols’ early struggles haven’t helped. 

But if he gets hot, the combination of Pujols, Mike Trout and Kole Calhoun in the middle of the lineup gives the Angels a dangerous power trio. 


You can follow Timothy Rapp on Twitter.

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Mets Rookie Noah Syndergaard: Record-Setting Season

In 1995 the New York Mets felt they were on the verge of an All-Star pitching rotation consisting of Bill Pulsipher, Jason Isringhausen and Paul Wilson. This highly promoted young trio was dubbed “Generation K.”

All three prospects fell short of expectations, however, as each of them suffered major injuries before the end of the 1996 season. After being converted to a closer, Isringhausen was the only member of the trio who went on to find success in the majors, recording 300 saves and playing for five teams after the Mets.

Fast-forward 20 years later. The Mets again have a young generation of highly touted young starters. But this time it appears they may live up to the organizations’s lofty expectations. The trio of Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard helped carry the Mets to their first division title since 2006—and Syndergaard set the regular-season record for average fastball velocity per 100 innings pitched (97.1 mph) since 2002, according to NJ Advance Media’s Mike Vorkunov, via FanGraphs.   


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St. Louis Cardinals Boast 1 of History’s Best Pitching Staffs

When Adam Wainwright tore his Achilles tendon in April, the St. Louis Cardinals were left without their true acelet alone one of baseball’s top pitchersfor most of the season. Despite the setback, the National League powerhouse has relied on a pitching staff on pace to challenge MLB record books.

At 73-41, St. Louis owns the majors’ best record in 2015—at least five games ahead of any other team and six in front of a tough NL Central that might produce three playoff teams.

Yet the Cardinals have done so not by scoring runssorry, Bill James apologists—but rather by preventing them.

St. Louis pitchers have allowed 2.93 runs per game this seasonthe best in the league by more than 0.5 runswhile scoring just 3.97 (21st in the league).

But it’s the 2.93 per game that could go down as one of the best marks ever when considering it’s 29.2 percent lower than the league average of 4.14.

The St. Louis pitching staff is one of the best of the past 20 yearsa span that includes both the height of MLB’s “steroid era” and today’s “dead-ball era.”

Its dominance blows away the average MLB team at a rate that’s almost unheard of.

A study by Andrew Beaton of the Wall Street Journal pointed out the Cardinals arms corps is one of MLB’s best of the past century: “Only one team since 1900, the 1906 Chicago Cubs, performed better, allowing 2.46 runs a game compared with a league average of 3.62—a difference of 32 percent.”

Even without Wainwright, who went 2-1 with a 1.44 ERA in four starts before his injury, for much of the season, Cardinals starters own a collective 2.77 ERA so far this season.

If it holds up, that would be the lowest ERA by a starting rotation in 30 yearsthe 1985 Dodgers accumulated a 2.71 mark.

Paul Casella of Sports on Earth noted the unusual path the St. Louis starters have taken, though: “The Cardinals have seemed to collectively master run prevention, all without a single pitcher ranking within the top 15 in strikeouts, WHIP or strikeout-to-walk ratio.”

Either way, all five starting pitchers, from the 36-year-old John Lackey to the 23-year-old Carlos Martinez, sit below a 3.00 ERA at the moment.

Grantland’s Ben Lindbergh pointed out the St. Louis pitching staff strands baserunners at a rate no other team in history can match.

Some of the contributions might come from a resilient starting rotation. But the Cardinals employ a bullpen that isn’t shabby, either.

The relievers’ 2.26 ERA is the best since that of the 1972 Pittsburgh Piratesthe only bullpen better since the league lowered the mound in 1969.

More interesting are the members of the Cardinals pen.

There’s the starter-turned-closer, Trevor Rosenthal, who’s tied for the league lead with 35 saves. There’s Randy Choate, a 39-year-old workhorse, and Kevin Siegrist, a 26-year-old setup specialist. Then you have two recent additions in veterans Jonathan Broxton and Steve Cishekformer dominant closers who are now role players.

No matter the name or story, each reliever is capable of entering a game in a jam and shutting down opposing offenses.

The statistics show that Cardinals pitchers, as an entire unit, get more dominant once runners reach base, per Baseball-Reference.com:

St. Louis pitchers allow a .257 batting average when the bases are empty23rd in MLB and 10 points worse than the league average this season.

When runners get on or, even worse, get in scoring position, they turn into monsters and allow batters to hit just .212 and .194, respectively, in those situationsboth marks rank first in the majors by a wide margin.

Sports Illustrated‘s Tom Verducci credited catcher Yadier Molina for his game management behind the plate:

No other club is close to the Cardinals when it comes to the key moments of run prevention: when the opponent has scoring chances. Credit has to go not only to the pitchers, but also to veteran catcher Yadier Molina, whose skills at framing and calling pitchers are most valuable in those pressure situations.

Baseball’s new-age thinking based in analytics claims that scoring runs ultimately leads to winning ballgames. Yet the Cardinals are dispelling that notion in 2015. 

Even the offensive stars in St. Louis have bought in. Per Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Cardinals third baseman Matt Carpenter said the following:

We’ve played in close ballgames before. Just scoring runs is not a good plan over the course of the season. You have to play good defense. You have to pitch. That’s how you win close games. That’s how you lead the league in wins, in my opinion.

A team that struggles with creating runs, as St. Louis does, needs to excel in run preventionsomething the Cardinals do.

“I honestly think this is how you win in the playoffs,” outfielder Jason Heyward told Goold, “so we’re going to have a lot of experience built up.”

The Cardinals may be without their bona fide ace, but they have more than made up for the loss. 

Their pitching has them on pace for a 99-win season, according to FanGraphs’ projections, and one of the best overall performances by a staff in MLB history.

It’s safe to say, no matter how many runs the Cardinals score in a given game, they’ll be darned if they don’t allow fewer.


You can follow Dan on Twitter. He’s still bitter the 2011 Phillies and their four-headed monster of aces didn’t pan out as hoped.

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Ranking the Toronto Blue Jays’ 5 Greatest Pitchers of All Time

October 25, 1998, has been seen as a great day in Toronto Blue Jays history. The ball passed from one legend to another when reliever Dave Stieb took the ball from starting pitcher Roy Halladay for the first and only time in club history.

These icons are widely considered two of the greatest in Blue Jays history, so it is no wonder that this moment has been frozen in time.

However, where do the two rank on the list of the best Blue Jays pitchers in franchise history?

There have been many magical moments and memories from the Rogers Centre mound in the club’s 38-year history.

Which of these out-architects deserve to be at the front of this list?

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Does the 2014-2015 MLB Offseason Rank as Baseball’s Wildest Ever?

Major League Baseball’s offseason has been bananas, right? Perhaps the wildest and most active in recent memory—or maybe ever. At least, that’s how it feels while we’re right in the middle of it.

But how does this offseason stack up with hot stoves past?

Let’s start with a quick table that ranks the past nine offseasons in terms of total spending on free-agent contracts, according to ESPN.com:

That’s as far back as ESPN’s free-agent tracker tool goes, but there’s practically a decade’s worth of open-market expenditures, which gives us a pretty good idea.

As you can see, this offseason currently ranks as the third-highest spending in this time frame, behind 2006-07 and, yep, last year, when the New York Yankees paid out roughly half a billion all by themselves.

Because so many free agents have found homes by now, there’s no way 2014-15 can top 2013-14. But it is likely this winter will surpass 2006-07, especially once some team signs James Shields, who reportedly is seeking $125 million but may have to settle for a salary with eight figures instead, per Bob Nightengale of USA Today.

And here’s a look at how many clubs have paid out at least $100 million—a pretty good benchmark amount to qualify as a “big spender”—each of the past nine offseasons:

Again, the current hot-stove season rates rather high, but not quite the highest, with regard to how many clubs are spending nine figures on free agents. At least, not yet.

It’s feasible, though, that another team will join the current $100 million big spenders—the Washington Nationals, Boston Red Sox, Chicago Cubs, Chicago White Sox and New York Yankees—depending on where Shields winds up.

At least objectively, then, this offseason has been busy and splurgy on the free-agent front, but not necessarily the busiest or splurgiest, even within the past decade.

Of course, none of the above figures takes into account the record-setting $325 million extension Giancarlo Stanton signed with the Miami Marlins in November, or the $100 million one Kyle Seager inked in early December to stay with the Seattle Mariners.

And as an overzealous infomercial pitchman might superficially exclaim: That’s not all!

This offseason also has brought (deep breath): the Red Sox near-$100 million inkings of Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez on the same day; the late-fall acquisitions of Jason Heyward (now a St. Louis Cardinal) and Josh Donaldson (now a Toronto Blue Jay); the on-the-fly makeovers of the White Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers; and the Arizona Diamondbacks’ decision to go big after a pair of Cuban free agents, Yasmany Tomas and Yoan Lopez. (Phew!)

Add those in, and well, the case for 2014-15 as the wildest offseason only gets stronger.

What really sticks out about this offseason—and what has made it so chaotic in our collective memory bank—is all of the activity early on, especially during the winter meetings back in December.

Over the course of those four days, Dec. 8 to 11, all hell broke loose at what was still a rather early point in the offseason.

In the span of a little more than 48 hours, Jon Lester signed with the Cubs for a whopping $155 million, Ervin Santana scored $54 million from the Minnesota Twins and David Robertson landed another $46 million from the White Sox.

And on the trade front, all of the following big leaguers were moved—in that same span of time: Matt Kemp, Jeff Samardzija, Yoenis Cespedes, Howie Kendrick, Jimmy Rollins, Rick Porcello, Mat Latos, Brandon Moss, Dee Gordon, Wade Miley, Miguel Montero, Yasmani Grandal, Dan Haren and Alfredo Simon.

As Adam Berry of MLB.com recaps:

Teams handed out more than $500 million in guaranteed contracts and signing bonuses this week in deals that either became official or were agreed upon at the Winter Meetings.

There were 50 players traded and 17 signed via free agency, including 15 who changed teams. Fifteen All-Stars were on the move to a new team, from Yoenis Cespedes, now wearing the Olde English D, to Ervin Santana, heading north to Minnesota.

In all, MLB.com counted a whopping 79 players who changed teams via trade, free agency, waiver claims or the Major League portion of the Rule 5 Draft this past week in San Diego. Here’s a team-by-team look at the players who came and went during a very busy Winter Meetings.

That—combined with the sense that the rumor-filled meetings haven’t necessarily been quite that busy in recent years with regards to actual signings and trades, as Paul Casella of Sports on Earth writes—has given this offseason a certain frenetic pace that didn’t seem to slow down until just before and just after the new year.

The other factor that has made this such a wacky winter? Just about every team is making a push to contend in 2015, as Dave Cameron wrote for Fox Sports. Well, aside from a few clubs that are rebuilding, like the Tampa Bay Rays, Minnesota Twins and Philadelphia Phillies.

To wit, the moribund, punchless San Diego Padres acquired essentially an entire new lineup, with aggressive new general manager A.J. Preller trading for Kemp, Justin Upton, Wil Myers, Derek Norris and Will Middlebrooks.

Heck, even the Houston Astros—who are tied with the New York Mets for the longest active streak of losing seasons at six—have made a flurry of moves, especially of late, signing Colby Rasmus and trading for Evan Gattis, Luis Valbuena and Dan Straily. All within the past week, and all in the hope of finally becoming more competitive.

So has this been the wildest offseason ever? That depends on how you define wild and how far back you really want to go.

For instance, the 1992-93 offseason also had loads of player movement, especially in the form of big-name free agents, as Michael Clair of MLB.com wrote after the most recent winter meetings:

But while 2014 was nuts, with players like Matt Kemp, Jon Lester, and Yoenis Cespedes all on the move, ’92 may have been even wilder. At that year’s Meetings, Greg Maddux spurned the Yankees’ higher offer to sign with the Braves, Barry Bonds fled the Pirates to join up with San Francisco, and David Cone received the highest annual value for a pitcher when he signed a 3-year, $18 million deal with the Royals.

But that’s not all. The Orioles picked up Harold Reynolds on a one-year deal, the Yankees traded three players including J.T. Snow in exchange for Jim Abbott, and the Blue Jays loaded up for a run at repeating as World Series champs by signing Paul Molitor and current Diamondbacks GM Dave Stewart. Oh yeah, and the Red Sox signed Andre Dawson!

This offseason may seem like the wackiest and wildest ever, but that’s a difficult official declaration to make.

Ultimately, even accounting for recency effect and Max Scherzer snagging $210 million from the Washingotn Nationals earlier this week—the largest free-agent pitcher contract ever awarded—the 2014-15 offseason may have to settle for being one of the most memorable hot-stove seasons.

Then again, there may still be more to come beyond Shields’ inevitable signing.

It’s possible, for instance, that Cole Hamels, Jordan Zimmermann and/or Troy Tulowitzki—three superstars who have been mentioned as trade candidates all winter long—could get moved.

Should any or all of that happen, it will only make this offseason—already on we won’t soon forget—all the more memorable.

Statistics are accurate through the 2014 season and courtesy of MLB.com, Baseball-Reference and FanGraphs unless otherwise noted.

To talk baseball or fantasy baseball, check in with me on Twitter: @JayCat11.

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MLB Records That Could Fall During the Rest of the 2014 Season

With just over three quarters of the MLB season complete, it is a good time to take a look at some records that are on the verge of being broken during the rest of the 2014 campaign.

True, the marks we are going to discuss don’t necessarily carry legendary weight. No one is on the precipice of breaking Barry Bonds’ single-season home run record, for example, or of topping the 233 strikeouts Mark Reynolds amassed in 2009.

These will be a bit more obscure.

Some are MLB records, and others are franchise specific. Some of them are achievements that a player will be happy to be remembered for, while others speak to the changing landscape of professional baseball.

Here are seven records that could fall during the rest of the 2014 season.

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Pitchers Who Could Challenge MLB’s 20-Strikeout Game Record

If you are a fan of power pitching and strikeout artists, it’s never been a better time to watch the game of baseball evolve. Heading into play on May 5, 26 starting pitchers were averaging at least one strikeout per inning. In 2005, only three—Mark Prior, Johan Santana and Jake Peavy—reached that mark.

As the anniversaries of the most recent 20-strikeout performancesKerry Wood in 1998 and Randy Johnson in 2001—arrive this week, an interesting question arises: Which starter will be the next to join the 20-strikeout club?

The following list singles out 10 dominant arms capable of registering double-digit strikeouts every single time they toe the rubber, but why stop there? Power arms are on the rise, making a list like this open to interpretation and addition, not subtraction. 

Last season, teams averaged 1,224 strikeouts, per ESPN. To put that in perspective, Johnson’s 2001 feat came during a time when the average team struck out just 1,080 times. Strikeouts have never been easier to achieve in the history of baseball.

Sooner that later, a 20-strikeout performance will occur, perhaps during the 2014 season.

When it does, remember these names. 

Statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com and FanGraphs unless otherwise noted, and are valid through the start of play on May 5. All contract figures courtesy of Cot’s Baseball Contracts. Roster projections via MLB Depth Charts.

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Amazing Footage Surfaces of Infamous 1919 ‘Black Sox’ World Series

Hey, want to see how legendary scandals are made?

Black Sock researcher Jacob Pomrenke (h/t CBS Sports‘ Matt Snyder, Deadspin‘s Tim Marchman) gave us all quite the historical reminder with this video. 

Snyder explains to whom we owe our gratitude:

From Dawson City Museum and Historical Society Collection as well as Library and Archives Canada comes some actual video footage of the notorious 1919 World Series (or the “world’s series” as it was known at the time) between the Chicago White Sox and Cincinnati Reds.

The somewhat blurry images are from a scandal that not only rocked the baseball-loving nation nearly a century ago but also spawned a great deal of modern-day pop culture.

From Eliot Asinof‘s Eight Men Out to a passing line in The Godfather II, the scandal continued to make a mark well after 1919. 

As noted, and for the uninitiated, the Chicago White Sox lost to the Cincinnati Reds in eight games, which is covered in an ESPN Classic article, breaking down each chapter of the then-budding scandal. 

What’s really quite interesting is something Marchman noticed, giving a great deal of weight to silent images. 

As you may recall if you’ve read the shoddily researched book Eight Men Out or seen the well-done John Sayles movie based on it, one of the ringleaders of the scheme to throw the World Series at the behest of a gambling syndicate was ace Eddie Cicotte, the only player smart enough to demand his payoff upfront. (He got $10,000, placed under his pillow on the eve of the Series. That’s about $137,000 in today’s money, though it might be better thought of as twice his 1919 salary.) He famously hit the first batter he faced in the first game of the Series as a signal that the fix was on and then allowed six runs, something he’d done only twice in 35 starts that year.

Marchman encouraged viewers to pay close attention to the mark three-minutes, 20 seconds into the video, when Cicotte gets blasted for five runs. 

Out of context, the video is already an amazing look back in time, taking fans to a dramatically different sports landscape. Adding specifics really makes this a poignant look anybody can enjoy. 

We don’t get a thorough look at the eight-game debacle, but we do get to see Cicotte amble about the mound as one run after another scores, which is really quite a powerful image. 

The tale seems destined to grow, continuing to add to the mystique of some of the then-banned players like “Shoeless” Joe Jackson. A video like this is exactly the kind of wonderful glimpse that will keep it going. 

Nearly a century removed from the scandal, we can appreciate it as a part of the game. Thanks to some brilliant archiving, we have a new connection to the story.


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