Tag: MLB History

Detroit Tigers: Ian Kinsler 2B for Now, but Will He Switch Positions Soon?

Ernie Banks. Pete Rose. Rod Carew. Robin Yount. Paul Molitor.

The common thread may seem obvious—they’re all Hall of Famers (with the exception of Rose, of course). But there’s something else that ties them together, and it’s something that may end up being very relevant to your Detroit Tigers.

Each of them, from Banks to Molitor, started as a middle infielder. And each of them would abandon that position and move to other places on the diamond and further their Hall-worthy careers.

What does this have to do with the Tigers? Let’s just say that you might not want to get too comfortable with the idea of a double-play combination of shortstop Jose Iglesias and second baseman Ian Kinsler, the latter acquired last week from the Texas Rangers for Prince Fielder.

Kinsler is 31 years old. Already there are signs that age could be rearing its head with Kinsler, at least in the form of stolen base output.

Age and middle infielders are usually not a good mix, Omar Vizquel notwithstanding.

The Tigers may have—emphasis on “may have”—traded for Kinsler with the idea that he could move elsewhere, such as the outfield, or first base.

Some history, first.

Banks broke into the big leagues with the Chicago Cubs in 1953 as a shortstop. By 1962, his tenth season, the Cubs had moved the 31-year-old Banks to first base, where he pretty much played the rest of his career (including past his 40th birthday). Banks played 1,259 games at 1B, and 1,125 at SS.

Rose was a rookie in 1963, age 22. He debuted as a second baseman for the Cincinnati Reds. By 1967, at age 26, the Reds shifted Rose to the outfield. He would spend the next 10-12 years moving all around the diamond, eventually settling at first base. Rose played 24 years, but only 628 games at 2B, his so-called “natural” position.

Carew broke in with the Minnesota Twins as a 21-year-old second baseman in 1967. In 1976, at age 30, Carew was playing first base, and he never looked back.

Yount was an 18-year-old rookie with the Milwaukee Brewers in 1974, arriving on the scene as a shortstop. But by 1985, before his 30th birthday, the Brewers moved Yount to the outfield.

Molitor was 21 years old when he broke into the bigs with the Brewers as a second baseman in 1978, functioning as Yount’s double-play partner. A mere three years later, the Brewers moved Molitor—first to the outfield, then in 1982 to third base, which would be his position until 1990, when Molitor became mostly a designated hitter for the last nine years of his illustrious career.

It would be a big shock to me if the Tigers see Kinsler as their everyday second baseman much beyond 2016. By that time, Kinsler would be 34 years old.

Ah, but what about the greatest DP combo in history, you might ask—our own Alan Trammell and Lou Whitaker?

It’s more than fair to bring them up.

Tram and Lou never budged from their original positions, though the former did spend a handful of games in the outfield, at second base and at third base. Trammell played until age 38. Whitaker never played anything other than second base in a career that spanned from 1977 to 1995 (also age 38).

But let’s face it: Trammell and Whitaker are anything but the norm—in so many different ways.

The good news is that, as we have seen, switching positions for the aforementioned Hall of Famers took nothing away from their offense. And their move from the middle infield came relatively early in their respective careers—all within the first 10 years.

Kinsler is entering his ninth season, and he’s played all but two innings in his defensive career at second base (the other two innings were at third base, in 2012)—over 1,000 games as a second baseman.

He’s ripe for a position change.

It could be that Dave Dombrowski traded for Kinsler with an eye toward having Kinsler wear another type of glove. It could be that second base may be the territory of Hernan Perez before long. Kinsler may find himself at first base, and Miguel Cabrera could be a full-time DH.

Or Kinsler could move to the outfield, a la Yount.

Yes, acquiring Kinsler was a short-term move as the Tigers are in a “win now” mode. But while Kinsler may be an oldish second baseman, the Tigers could flip him into a youngish outfielder or first baseman.

Stay tuned.


Note: All stats referenced in this article are from www.retrosheet.org and www.baseball-reference.com

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Deadspin Buys BBWAA HOF Ballot, Will Let Readers Decide Hall of Fame Vote

For the first time in history, readers will get a chance to have a say in a single vote (at the very least) for the Baseball Writers’ Association of America Hall of Fame vote.

According to Deadspin, the website has officially bought a ballot from a voting member for the annual elections:

Our idea was to make a mockery and farce of the increasingly solemn and absurd election process, and to take some power from the duly appointed custodians of the game’s history and turn it over to the public.

Well, with the Baseball Writers’ Association of America having released its official ballot today, we can happily announce that we have a vote. A member of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America thought our plan sounded like a pretty (expletive) good idea and sold us his/her vote, making a stand against the idea that a somewhat random subsection of the baseball press should maintain the power to confer what is, regrettably, the game’s most prestigious honor. For obvious reasons, the voter will remain anonymous for now, but he/she will be filling out his/her ballot on behalf of Deadspin readers, who will be polled in binding elections. The voter will announce his/her name and motivations once his/her vote has been officially cast.

That’s right, one voter has agreed to let the website determine whom they will vote for. The website also noted that it is still buying votes.

This year’s ballot includes newcomers Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, Frank Thomas and Jeff Kent, joining holdovers Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Craig Biggio and Jack Morris.

There’s a lot that comes to mind when it comes to this. Is it even legal? And, what do fans think about it?


Is It Legal?

While nothing specifically states it is illegal to sell your Hall of Fame vote in the BBWAA Constitution, there are a few bylaws that seem to make it frowned upon.

Article IV, Section 5 from the bylaws specifically states this:

1. Any member convicted by the Board of Directors of misusing or attempting to misuse his or her membership shall be expelled for five years and his or her membership card shall be revoked.

Selling your vote to a website could constitute misusing your membership. But, if the proceeds go to a charitable organization, then it gets even stickier, according to Article II, Section 2B:

1. The Association shall not sponsor or endorse any marketable physical product or suffer any unauthorized use of its insignia. It may, however, elect to make available to commercial television the presentation of its annual awards, provided that all net financial revenues obtained by the Association from such a presentation are distributed to legitimate charitable organizations of the Association’s choosing, at the earliest possible date, in order for the Association to maintain its not-for-profit status.

The biggest question is, does selling this vote fall under the category of annual awards? That’s likely something the lawyers would have to decide.

Regardless, this particular voter selling his or her vote is doing something no other journalist has done in history. Never have fans had the opportunity to cast a vote like this. Granted, hundreds or thousands of votes will be tabulated to create just one, but it’s still history in the making.


What Fans Are Saying

Since Deadspin announced it had bought a vote, a lot of fans have taken to Twitter:

And that is what a majority of fans are saying on Twitter. Most like the idea. 


In The End

Regardless of your personal beliefs on the system, no player has ever missed the Hall of Fame by one vote. The closest has been Nellie Fox, who missed the Hall of Fame by two votes in 1985. He was elected by the veteran’s committee in 1997, but never received enough votes from the writers.

However, Fergie Jenkins did come the closest to not getting elected in 1991. He received 334 votes when he needed 333 for election. Ralph Kiner experienced the same thing in 1975 when he received 273 votes when he needed 272. Willie Keeler was also elected by two votes in 1939.

So one vote didn’t make the difference, but two the other way could have.

In the grand scheme of things, one vote shouldn’t make the difference. Last year, there were 569 ballots cast with 427 votes needed for election.

If this “fan vote” ballot does keep a player from being elected, that still means there would be at least 142 other ballots that kept a certain player off the ballot.

However, until the writer who sold their vote is revealed, there’s not much to dissect. While some will have a major problem with it, especially those who paid their dues in the media, the bottom line is that he or she can vote however they like.

The only major issue that may come from this is if the writer personally profits from selling their vote. If that’s the case, then there are major conflict of interest issues that will have to be approached in the future.

If the money goes to charity, then it doesn’t hurt to try something new. Baseball gives fans a vote when it comes to the All-Star Game. Sometimes players elected aren’t deserving, but that’s the fans’ vote.

At least with the Hall of Fame, it’s only one vote (so far) and has no true bearing on a player being enshrined. It will take hundreds of more ballots to elect a player.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

Jim Leyland: History Will Judge Him Favorably in Detroit, as It Should

The year still looms there, like the cheese that stands alone.


It used to be 1968. That was the year that all Tigers fans would reference, sometimes happily, sometimes wistfully, sometimes pessimistically.

It seemed like we waited eons after the Tigers’ 1968 World Series triumph for that feeling to come again. But it was only 16 years, which in retrospect is nothing, really.

And there was plenty of winning between ’68 and ’84 to keep fans from losing too much faith.

The ’68 club was the core of the 1972 team that won the AL East on the next-to-last day of the season. That group got old and fizzled, leading to the lean years of 1974-75.

Mark Fidrych was more than enough of a distraction in 1976 to keep you from remembering that the Tigers were winning just 74 games.

There was another 74-win season in 1977, but we were still blinded by the idea of Fidrych, who kept trying to come back from a shoulder injury.

In 1978, Alan Trammell and Lou Whitaker made their full-time debuts, and the Tigers began a stretch of .500+ baseball that would run through 1988.

And in there was 1984.

You don’t have to say much beyond the year.

And here we are, some 29 years later, and 1984 is the cheese that stands alone.

There was 1987, when the Tigers rocketed past the Toronto Blue Jays in a frantic final week of baseball that will never be forgotten in these parts. But that Tigers team was spent and fell to the Minnesota Twins in five games in the ALCS.

There was a close call in 1988, but the Tigers couldn’t quite catch the Boston Red Sox in the AL East.

Then came 1989’s bottoming outa 103-loss season, which saw manager Sparky Anderson take a leave of absence due to exhaustion.

That 1989 season started an ugly stretch of baseball in Detroitone that continued unabated for 16 years.

Mike Ilitch bought the team in 1992 and after a series of miscues in the front office and in the dugout following Sparky’s departure after the 1995 season, Ilitch hired a young executive named Dave Dombrowski to get the team’s act together. It was November, 2001.

Dombrowski, hired in as the team’s president and CEO, fired GM Randy Smith and manager Phil Garner one week into the 2002 seasonafter Dombrowski had been on the job for five months.

The Tigers bottomed out once more, to the tune of 119 losses in 2003. Dombrowski knew that was coming. He also knew that the team would be so wretched on the field, the dugout may as well have some flair.

Hence the hiring of Alan Trammell as manager for 2003.

Trammell was the sacrificial lambthe rookie manager who couldn’t possibly have any success with the joke of a roster that he had been provided. Casey Stengel managed the 1962 Mets, you know. Funny how stupid Casey was when he didn’t have Mantle, Maris, Berra and Ford on his roster.

Trammell had Munson, Halter, Young and Witt.

Tram put in his three years, and was dispatched when Dombrowski‘s roster re-tooling began to take shape.


That year was even more prominent when Trammell managed the Tigers, because he had Kirk Gibson and Lance Parrish on his coaching staff. It was maybe the only time in big league history when the coaches, even at their ages, were better players than the guys on the 25-man roster.

Tram got the ziggy after 2005, with a clubhouse in disarray and the taste of an 8-24 finish to the year lingering in everyone’s mouths.

Jim Leyland sat at the podium, just announced as the Tigers new manager in October 2005, and he had some unfinished business. His last stint in the dugout, with Colorado in 1999, was a huge disappointment.

“…the last couple of yearsand this stuck in my craw a little bit, I did not want my managerial career to end like that,” Leyland said of returning to the role of baseball skipper, as per ESPN.

Leyland had been out of the managing game for six years when Dombrowski reached out to him shortly after firing Trammell.

But at the press conference announcing his hiring by the Tigers, with his friend Dombrowski smiling beside himthe pair won a world title in 1997 in FloridaLeyland declared his vim and vigor were back.

The Tigers were his home town team, to be truthful. Forget the Ohio and Pennsylvania roots. Leyland was a catcher in the low minors for the Tigers in the 1960s. He managed in the Tigers farm system in the 1970s. He was in Lakeland, FL. every spring, brushing shoulders with Kaline, Freehan, Cash and Northrup as Leyland was busy managing a bunch of guys named Morris, Parrish, Whitaker and Trammell.

The Tigers were his team, in his heart.

Leyland was a Pirate for awhile, as we all know. He won some divisions in Pittsburghthree straight in fact, from 1990-92. The World Series eluded him.

Then it was on to Florida, and an unlikely and unexpected World Series victory in 1997.

The Marlins had a fire sale that began almost right after the parade, and Leyland suffered through a 108-loss season in 1998.

Then it was that year in Colorado, which Leyland is least proud of among all his years managing. He felt he stole a paycheck from the Rockies. He has admitted that he was awful and he was burned out, maybe managing too soon after the Marlins debacle and thus his juices weren’t flowing right.

But he was rested and raring to go when Dombrowski called him and asked him to take over the Tigers.

It may not have been quite the rush to Detroit as Brady Hoke’s was to Ann Arbor when U-M Athletic Director Dave Brandon called Brady and asked him to “come home” to coach the Wolverines, but it didn’t take long for Leyland to say yes to Dombrowski, either.

Leyland said yes so fast, he barely looked at the Tigers roster.


The cheese still stood alone, but Leyland‘s first year in Detroit seemed to have magic pixie dust sprinkled on it. The Tigers were 76-36 at one point, before stumbling to the finish with a 19-31 record over their final 50 games. Still, it was good enough to qualify for one of Bud Selig’s wild card berths.

The 2006 Tigers made it to the World Series, where cold bats and their pitchers’ inability to field their position resulted in a 4-1 series loss to the St. Louis Cardinals.


That magical year of Trammell, Whitaker, Parrish, Morris et al continued to haunt the Tigers.

There was the last week of 2009, which was the 180-degree opposite of that of 1987. The Tigers blew a three-game divisional lead with four games to play, and had to settle for a one-game playoff in Minnesota. It was a marvelous game, but one that makes Tigers fans shudder, and always will.


In 2011, the Tigers cruised to a divisional title and lost to Nelson Cruz, er, the Texas Rangers, in the ALCS.


In 2012, the Tigers had to fend off a pesky Chicago White Sox team just to win the division, but made it to another World Series. Again, the bats and the baserunning went cold, and the San Francisco Giants swept the Tigers.

In 2013, the Tigers kept the Cleveland Indians at arm’s length and made it to another LCStheir third straight. But, as Leyland said more than once at his retirement press conference on Monday, the Tigers “let one get away” against the Red Sox. And, he said, it hurt him deeply.

Jim Leyland had eight years as Tigers manager. In only one of them did the team fail to reach the .500 standard. Three times they won their division. Twice they won the American League pennant.

In the 17 years prior to Leyland‘s arrival, the Tigers had exactly one winning record. Four times in those 17 years, they lost more than 100 games.

It rankles some to say that Jim Leyland made baseball relevant again in Detroit. Because, after all, the goal isn’t to be relevantit’s to win the whole shebang.

It also rankles them because the Tigers’ success since Leyland was hired is largely due to the magic wand of Dombrowski, whose trades and free agent signings have given Leyland the tools any manager needs to be successful. Those tools all have one thing in common: talent.

Any knucklehead could have managed the Tigers with the rosters Leyland was given, and won as much as he did. Right?

We’ll never know for sure, mainly because Leyland isn’t a knucklehead. He’s a grizzled baseball guy who has stood up to the likes of Barry Bonds and Bobby Bonilla, who has given confidence to the Don Kellys of the world and who has presided over a clubhouse that the players police themselves and which has had hardly any fracturing.

Leyland was like Chuck Daly that way. Leyland expected his players to be grown men and act as such. It has helped that the Tigers have made it a habit of employing players who are pretty darn good guysmen of character and dignity. Carlos Guillen comes to mind.

The team has also had lots of veterans in the clubhouse during Leyland‘s tenure, which doesn’t hurt. It’s why the manager has felt it best to keep out of the players’ sanctuary, for the most part.

Leyland didn’t always push the right buttons, but what manager does? He was slave to pitch counts. He wasn’t particularly aggressive or creative. The move of Jhonny Peralta to left field, when it comes to Leyland, was almost off the charts. It was Mickey Stanley to shortstop-ish.

But the players adored him. And when players like the manager, they tend to play better. That’s a fact.


It still stands alone. Leyland wasn’t able to rip that year from the wall. It’s 29 years and counting. That gap makes the 1968-84 wait seem like nothing.

Leyland, thanks to the emergence of the Internet and talk radio, was nitpicked and criticized more than any Tigers manager prior to him, combined.

But would we have nitpicked and criticized, if the team was dreadful?

Isiah Thomas, the great Pistons point guard, once said that fans don’t boo nobodies.

Translated: only the irrelevant escape feeling the heat.

The very fact that Jim Leyland, in his eight years managing the Tigers, faced so much criticism, is actually a testament to the man.

Leyland started winning as soon as he got to Detroit, and except for 2008, he never really stopped.

We started caring about the Tigers again when he arrived, and we have never really stopped.

Like him or not, that much is irrefutable.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

Where Mariano Rivera’s Cutter Ranks Among Most Unhittable Pitches Ever

When Mariano Rivera retires after the 2013 MLB season, his cutter will also leave the sport forever. All active players who have been victimized by it will rejoice, knowing that they’ve outlasted a near-unhittable pitch.

How does it compare to baseball’s filthiest offerings ever? That’s what we’ll be ranking in the following slides.

Thanks to the evolution of pitch-tracking technology, it’s now possible to determine which particular pitch is being thrown in any situation. Using that information, we can see precisely how unhittable a pitch is in terms of the batting average against it, and how often it results in contact, a home run or a strikeout.

These advances, unfortunately, didn’t come along until the 21st century. Therefore, in creating this list, we needed to rely quite a bit on broader statistics and personal testimony.

You will hopefully find it enlightening, nonetheless.


*Stats provided by Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted. Updated through the games of Sept. 20, 2013.

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Remembering Roberto Clemente’s Immortal Legacy as MLB Honors Him

September 17th marks Roberto Clemente Day around the MLB, as the league honors the legacy of one of the all-time greats.

He made his impact felt on and off the field during his 18-year career with the Pittsburgh Pirates, before his life came to a tragic end in a plane crash at the age of 38.

Clemente was signed by the Brooklyn Dodgers prior to the 1952 season out of Puerto Rico, but he never took the field for the Dodgers big league club before being selected by the Pirates in the 1954 Rule 5 draft.

He immediately took over as the Pirates everyday right fielder as a 20-year-old in 1955, hitting .255/.284/.382 and flashing plenty of future star potential.

The first five seasons of his career saw him make slow progress towards being the superstar he would one day be, as he hit a combined .282/.311/.395 and batted over .300 just once. Things took off in 1960 though, and he would quickly join the ranks of the game’s elite.

He hit .314/.357/.458 that season with 16 home runs and 94 RBI to finish eighth in NL MVP voting. He also made his first of what would be 12 All-Star appearances that season, and helped the Pirates to a World Series title.

From then until the end of his career, he was perhaps the best pure hitter in all of baseball, winning four batting titles and topping the 200 hits mark four times. He finished in the top 10 in the batting title race every year from 1960-1971, on his way to exactly 3,000 career hits and a .317 career batting average.

He was more than just a one-dimensional offensive player though, as he ranks as perhaps the best defensive right fielder to ever play the game 

With a cannon arm and fantastic range, he took home 12 Gold Glove awards and posted a 204.0 UZR for his career. His 254 outfield assists from right field rank as the most all-time, which is good for 16 more than anyone else.

He would take home 1966 NL MVP honors, and lead the Pirates to another World Series title in 1971 when he went 12-for-29 with two home runs to claim WS MVP. That capped off his Hall of Fame resume, and solidified his place as one of the best of all-time on the field.

It was his work off the field that would complete his legacy though and make a true legend.

Clemente did a good deal of charity work in the offseason throughout his career and when Managua, Nicaragua was hit with an earthquake on December 23, 1972 he set to work organizing relief efforts.

When he found out that the first three waves of relief supplies never reached their intended destination, he decided to come along with to help make sure they made it all the way to Managua. The plane was overloaded and wound up crashing into the ocean off the coast of Puerto Rico shortly after take off.

The Hall of Fame held a special election prior to the 1973 season for Clemente and he was inducted that summer after receiving 92 percent of the vote. His No. 21 was also retired by the Pirates in 1973 and MLB named the award for off-field work which had previously been known as the Commissioner’s Award the Roberto Clemente Award.

In 1973, he posthumously was given the Presidential Citizen Medal by President Richard Nixon, and in 2003, he earned the Presidential Medal of Freedom from George W. Bush, the highest civilian award.

All of the honors and praise bestowed on Clemente during his career and after his untimely death are more than deserved, as he goes down not only as one of the greatest players of all-time but a truly great human being.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

5 Most Shocking Batting Champions in MLB History

The two names atop the leaderboard for batting average in the National League are certainly not players that were thought of as contenders for the batting crown at the start of the season.

Chris Johnson entered the season as a career .276 hitter and was transitioning to a new team in the Atlanta Braves. Michael Cuddyer does have the advantage of playing at Coors Field, but that was not a help to him last season as he hit just .260. With less than a month left in the season, both of these players are in a race to lead the NL in batting average.

There have been a number of other players that have surprised the league by coming out of seemingly nowhere to win a batting title.

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Can the Texas Rangers Avoid Another Late-Season Collapse?

Rangers fans are hoping their team learned a thing or two from last season’s meltdown that left many in Texas sick to their stomachs. That 2012 team had hopes of returning to the World Series for a third-straight year, but a tumultuous nine-game stretch to finish the season saw a five-game lead and the division title disappear.

After an uninspiring performance in the Wild Card Game with Baltimore, the Rangers front office found itself facing difficult questions in the offseason. There were many writers and critics that saw the offseason as a complete failure.

Jon Daniels, Nolan Ryan and Co. failed to sign the prized free agent that was Zack Greinke, while Texas’ own free agents found other homes in Los Angeles (Josh Hamilton), Boston (Ryan Dempster, Mike Napoli, Koji Uehara), Philadelphia (Mike Adams) and Chicago (Scott Feldman).

No one thought Texas had lost all of its punch, but it appeared the team had some red flags as a result of all the offseason roster change. Nevertheless, the Rangers find themselves in September again with a situation similar to that of last year’s team: battling the Oakland A’s for the division crown with a likely consolation prize of a one-game wild-card matchup.

“Everything happens for a reason, and it just wasn’t meant to be for us last year,” shortstop Elvis Andrus said in an interview with Drew Davison of the Star-Telegram. “That’s baseball. We learn from that and make sure we don’t take anything for granted this year.”

Here, we take a look at the three similarities and differences between the 2012 and 2013 Texas Rangers‘ stretch run that could make all the difference in the outcome of the season.


Pitching Rotation

By the time September 2012 rolled around, the Rangers managed to put together a nice rotation with Matt Harrison, Yu Darvish, Derek Holland and Ryan Dempster as the top four starters. Each of these four pitchers earned three wins in the month of September, and only Dempster had an ERA over 4.00. What absolutely killed this pitching staff was the No. 5 slot where Scott Feldman, Martin Perez and Roy Oswalt combined to go 0-4 with a 6.25 ERA for the month.

This year’s starting five has only two holdovers from 2012 in Darvish and Holland, both of whom are markedly improved pitchers in 2013. After a rough start Wednesday in Oakland, Darvish still maintains a 2.91 ERA and Holland a 3.07 ERA. They had 3.90 and 4.67 ERAs last year, respectively.

Matt Garza’s mediocre performance since arriving in Arlington is essentially a wash with last year’s big acquisition of Dempster, but there is still hope that he will turn it around and be a major contributor.

What makes this year’s rotation better, though, is the emergence of Martin Perez and the under-the-radar acquisition of former Ranger-killer Travis Blackley.

While Perez didn’t contribute much in 2012, his nine wins this season are tied for second on the team. He also has a nice 3.41 ERA that shrinks every game he pitches.

Blackley has shown he can hold his own in the back of the rotation. If he can find a way to eat up enough innings in his starts and keep the score close, it would at least be an improvement from what the Rangers had in 2012 in the five-spot.

Looking forward, the most important pitcher will be Darvish. Warranted or not, Yu has received criticism for his tendency to surrender the lead late in the game. If he is able to stay focused and continue to lead this staff, it will give the Rangers a brief moment to breathe down the stretch.



Gone from the Rangers’ offense are Hamilton, Mike Napoli and Michael Young. Coupled with the suspension of Nelson Cruz, the lineup is definitely missing some of that familiar pop. Texas’ offense in 2013 isn’t nearly as dangerous as last year’s, but it is still capable of putting runs on the board.

Adrian Beltre has continued to fly under the radar. He is one of the best hitters in baseball, but he needs more help to get this team into the playoffs. Texas showed its versatility in the days following Cruz’s suspension by stealing bases and putting pressure on the other team’s defense. It may have to do more of the same down the stretch.

Leonys Martin, Elvis Andrus and Alex Rios have all swiped more than 30 bases this year, and Craig Gentry is another threat on the base paths.

The Rangers really just need for guys to play at their expected level in order to take some of the pressure off the pitching staff. There are plenty of guys who are capable of doing this.

David Murphy has struggled at the plate all season long and has lost playing time as a result. After a year in which he hit .304 and set career highs in other offensive categories, Murphy hasn’t been the same spark this year and has an average of .222.

Lance Berkman, if healthy, could also be a source for additional offense. Berkman is likely to retire after the season concludes, but if there is any life left in his bat the Rangers could certainly use it.



As good as the bullpen was in 2012, it is even better in 2013.

Despite the departures of shutdown middle relievers Koji Uehara and Mike Adams, the bullpen’s ERA is down from 3.42 to 3.02 this year. Spurts of dominance by Tanner Scheppers, Robbie Ross, Jason Frasor and Neal Cotts have paved the way for another stellar year by closer Joe Nathan.

Nathan has been lights out this year. He’s converted on 38-of-40 save opportunities and nearly cut his ERA in half this season, down to 1.48.

Pitching Coach Mike Maddux has to be excited about the return of fireballer Neftali Feliz. After missing over 15 months due to elbow surgery, Feliz appears ready to contribute in the bullpen for the remainder of the season.

Former All-Star closer Joakim Soria could also play an important role in relief.

If the Rangers can hand the ball over to these guys with the lead, they are going to be in great shape in the playoff hunt.

All statistics are from MLB.com.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

A-Rod and MLB’s 10 Most Villainized PED Users Ever

Major League Baseball has taken a no-nonsense approach to performance-enhancing drugs. MLB officials, the sport’s fans and even its players now villify the rotten individuals who attempt to cheat their way to on-field success and monetary gain.

Keep in mind, several of the following PED users never actually tested positive for an illegal substance. Some admitted to injecting themselves or cannot disprove overwhelming circumstantial evidence.

Nonetheless, they’re all despised by a significant portion of the population because of their actions and intentions.

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MLB’s ‘Dog Days of Summer,’ a Player Named Chicken Wolf and Aug. 23 Obscurities

The long summer months of Major League Baseball have perennially been referred to as “the dog days of summer.” In 2013, fans are now actually able to bring their dogs to the baseball games, as this handy schedule of “dog day” events illustrates—Sept. 9 “Puppypalooza” in Cleveland, anybody?

Thursday night, I was watching the 11 p.m. SportsCenter—cliche, I’ll admit—when a brief segment concerning Major League Baseball’s obscure and nuanced past caught my eye: “This Day in History.”

It mentioned, as ESPN.com can attest, that on August 22, 1886, a Louisville Colonels player named Chicken Wolf hit a walk-off inside-the-park home run.

But that was not the unusual part.

William Van Winkle Wolf—it seems “Chicken” couldn’t have been much worse—hit a long fly ball that didn’t clear the fence. The outfielder was unable to return the ball to home plate on time. Actually, due to a dog nipping at the outfielder’s heels—no, literally biting his leg—the fielder never even reached the ball.

Apparently, the dog had been sleeping by the outfield fence.

We have heard of Angels in the Outfield, a fictional movie released July 15, 1994, and despite our doubts as kids of such an occurrence, many of us believed a young Joseph Gordon-Levitt.

But Chicken Wolf is real, and he really accrued statistics and accolades over his 11-year career with the Colonels—who were known from 1882-84 as the Eclipse—and the St. Louis Browns; they are not flashy, however.

As per Baseball-Reference, he not only won the 1890 American Association (AA) batting crown (.363 in 134 games), but he made $216 as a 20-year-old Eclipse player in 1882.

Rather than continue a discussion of our new friend, Chicken, I’ve hand-picked three interesting Major League Baseball obscurities from this day in history.

The information is derived from Nationalpastime.com, a fantastic database whose slogan is “Touching Base with History.”

That said, let’s get into a few quick stories from August 23 and touch base with some obscure history.


1906: A 19th Consecutive Victory, Chicago White Sox

The Chicago White Sox beat the Washington Senators 4-1 at American League Park in Washington, D.C. for their 19th consecutive win.

The American League record would stand for almost 100 years, until the Oakland Athletics won 20 straight ballgames in 2002.

Sound familiar?

The 21st century win streak is glamorized, romanticized and probably remembered from 2011’s Moneyball, in which Brad Pitt plays general manager Billy Beane.


1961: A 12-Run, 10-hit, Five-Home Run Ninth Inning, San Francisco Giants

At the time, this home run parade tied the 1939 New York Giants’ record for a single inning. The dozen runs within the final frame were part of a 14-0 victory over the Cincinnati Reds at Crosley Field.

The home-team Reds committed three errors during the inning—because no rally of those proportions is without the simultaneous implosion of the losing team.

The five sluggers for the Giants included Orlando Cepeda, John Orsino, Felipe Alou, Willie Mays and Jim Davenport—his was an inside-the-park round-tripper. 


1989: The First Team Mascot to Be Ejected, Montreal Expos

The Los Angeles Dodgers beat the Expos 1-0 in a whopping 22 innings at Olympic Stadium. The more interesting loss was of the Expos’ bright and hairy mascot, “Youppi!”

Manager Tommy Lasorda—who has encountered his fair share of embarrassment, when he was knocked to the ground at the 2001 All-Star Game by a Vladimir Guerrero broken bat—complained to the umpires in the 11th inning and Youppi! was subsequently ejected, the first in history for a mascot.

From Nationalpastime.com:

Dodger manager Tommy Lasorda complains to the umpires about the hairy orange giant’s behavior at Olympic Stadium. The L.A. skipper takes exception to the loud noise caused by the hairy creature’s running leap onto the visitors’ dugout before sneaking back into a front row seat.

Stay tuned for more nuances, obscurities and stories from the final few dog days of summer, though I can’t guarantee I’ll see you at “Bark at the Park” at Citi Field on Sept. 14.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

Ranking the 10 Biggest ‘One-Hit Wonders’ in MLB History

Whenever an MLB player enjoys a breakout season, the inevitable question arises about whether the production is for real and a sign of things to come or is a matter of everything falling into place for one season.

There have been no shortage of “one-hit wonders” over the years, from Rookie of the Year winners who faded into obscurity to journeyman veterans who put it all together for one great season.

With that in mind, here is a look at the 10 biggest one-hit wonders in MLB history.


10. SP Wayne Garland, Baltimore Orioles

 1976 Stats  38 G/25 GS  20-7  2.76 ERA   64 BB  113 K
 Rest of Career  152 G/96 GS  35-59  4.23 ERA  264 BB  337 K

After spending his first three seasons as a middling reliever, Wayne Garland came out of nowhere to go 20-7 with a 2.67 ERA as a 25-year-old in 1976. That earned him an eighth-place Cy Young finish and a 10-year, $2.3 million deal from the Cleveland Indians in one of the first big free-agent signings.

He then promptly led the AL in losses his first season in Cleveland, going 13-19 with a 3.60 ERA, and it was all downhill from there. He pitched just 61 more games over the next four years, going a combined 15-29 with a 5.28 ERA, before his career ended at the age of 30, just five years into his contract.


9. 2B Warren Morris, Pittsburgh Pirates

 1999 Stats  147 G  .288/.360/.427  15 HR  73 RBI  65 R 
 Rest of Career  293 G  .256/.320/.349  11 HR  91 RBI  111 R

Warren Morris is perhaps best known for his walk-off, series-winning home run for LSU in the 1996 College World Series. But he was also a top prospect coming up through the Pirates organization.

He arrived in the majors as a 25-year-old in 1999 and immediately became one of the top offensive second baseman in the game, joining fellow prospect Abraham Nunez for what looked to be a solid double-play combination for the Pirates long-term.

His production plummeted the following season, though, with his OPS dropping 103 points and his RBI total falling by 30, despite 17 more at-bats. That would be the last season he saw everyday at-bats, and his big league career was over by 2003. 


8. 1B Kevin Maas, New York Yankees

 First 25 Games    79 AB  .291/.398/.684  10 HR   17 RBI   16 R
 Rest of Career  1,169 AB  .226/.325/.404  55 HR  152 RBI  155 R

Any time a rookie has a hot start to his career, the baseball world takes notice. And that is only amplified when said rookie plays for the Yankees. In 1990, that rookie was Kevin Maas, and he looked like the game’s next great slugger.

He blasted 10 home runs over his first 25 games and finished his rookie season with a .252/.367/.535 line, along with 21 home runs in 254 at-bats, to finish second in AL Rookie of the Year voting to Sandy Alomar.

His average dropped to .220 the following season, though he still managed 23 home runs in 500 at-bats. That would wind up being the only season he saw everyday at-bats, and his big league career was over by 1995 at the age of 30.


7. SP Pete Schourek, Cincinnati Reds

 1995 Stats     29 G/29 GS    18-7  3.22 ERA   45 BB  160 K
 Rest of Career   259 G/147 GS  48-70  4.86 ERA  375 BB  653 K

Pete Schourek had a longer career than most guys on this list, playing 11 seasons and making a total of 288 appearances for five different teams, but there’s a clear outlier when looking at his numbers.

After going 23-26 with a 4.54 ERA over the first four seasons of his career, the left-hander entered the 1995 season as the Reds’ No. 4 starter. But he finished it as their ace.

His 18-7 record helped the Reds reach the NLCS and netted him a second-place finish in NL Cy Young voting behind Greg Maddux.

It was back to mediocrity after that, though, as Schourek was 4-5 with a 6.01 ERA the following season and a combined 25-44 with a 5.13 ERA the rest of his career.


6. 2B Brian Doyle, New York Yankees

 1978 World Series   6 G    7-for-16 (.438 BA)  0 HR   2 RBI   4 R
 Regular Season Career  110 G  32-for-199 (.191 BA)  1 HR  13 RBI  18 R

A 23-year-old rookie in 1978, Brian Doyle played in only 39 games during the regular season, hitting just .192 with zero RBI and six runs scored.

However, when Willie Randolph went down with an injury prior to the World Series, Doyle stepped into a starting role on the game’s biggest stage. He made the most of the opportunity, starting all six games of the series and helping the Yankees to a title by going 7-for-16 at the plate.

He’d return to the role of backup infielder the following year, and he was out of baseball by the end of the 1981 season, but he’ll always be remembered as an integral part of the Yankees’ 1978 title.


5. SP Bill James, Boston Braves

 1914 Stats  46 G/37 GS   26-7  1.90 ERA  118 BB  156 K
 Rest of Career  38 G/23 GS  11-14  2.88 ERA   81 BB   97 K

Not to be confused with the sabermetrics guru of the same name, Bill James was a right-handed pitcher for the Boston Braves, breaking into the league as a 21-year-old in 1913.

After enjoying modest success as a rookie, James emerged as ace of the staff in 1914, tying Dick Rudolph for the team lead in wins. The Braves would sweep the Athletics in the World Series that year, with James going 2-0 and allowing just two hits and no runs in 11 innings of work in the series.

Arm problems set in from there, though, and he would make just 14 more appearances in the big leagues. He toiled in the minors until 1925, but was never able to regain his star form, and he goes down as one of the bigger “what-ifs” in baseball history.


4. SP Kent Bottenfield, St. Louis Cardinals

 1999 Stats   31 G/31 GS   18-7  3.97 ERA   89 BB  124 K
 Rest of Career  261 G/85 GS  28-42  4.69 ERA  296 BB  442 K

Many of the guys on this list had big seasons when they first broke into the league, then failed to match that success moving forward. In the case of Kent Bottenfield, however, his “one-hit” season came at the age of 30 in what was his eighth year in the majors.

A journeyman swingman, Bottenfield entered the 1999 season with an 18-27 career record and a 4.27 ERA. He’d appeared in 44 games (17 starts) for the Cardinals the year before, going 4-6 with a 4.44 ERA. But he joined the rotation full-time that season, and everything fell into place. He went 14-3 with a 3.78 ERA at the All-Star break to earn his first and only trip to the Midsummer Classic.

He was just 4-4 with a 4.25 ERA in the second half, and the Cardinals wisely sold high on him in the offseason, shipping him to the Angels with Adam Kennedy for center fielder Jim Edmonds. Bottenfield would spend just two more seasons in the majors, going 10-15 with a 5.63 ERA, before retiring.


3. SP Tom Cheney, Washington Senators

 Sept. 12, 1962    1 G/1 GS   1-0   16 IP   1 ER   4 BB   21 K
 Rest of Career  115 G/70 GS  18-29  450 IP  194 ER  241 BB  324 K

With 19 wins in eight seasons, Tom Cheney had a career that by all accounts could easily have been lost in the shuffle and never talked about again. That is, except for one start late in the 1962 season.

A 27-year-old pitching for his third team in six years, Cheney had just 40 starts under his belt when he took the mound against the Orioles in what was his third-to-last start of the season.

It would be no ordinary start, though, as the Senators came away with a 2-1 win in 16 innings and Cheney recorded the win in a complete-game effort. He had 13 strikeouts through nine innings and ended up throwing a total of 228 pitches on his way to a record 21 strikeouts for the game.


2. SP Mark Fidrych, Detroit Tigers

 1976 Stats  31 G/29 GS   19-9  2.34 ERA  97 K  250.1 IP  24 CG
 Rest of Career  27 G/27 GS  10-10  4.28 ERA  73 K   162 IP  10 CG

As a 21-year-old rookie in 1976, Mark Fidrych took the baseball world by storm, winning Rookie of the Year honors and finishing second in AL Cy Young voting. He also the the AL in ERA and earned the starting nod in the All-Star Game.  But perhaps his most telling stat of all was his 24 complete games in 29 starts.

A manager would literally be run out of baseball today if he abused a rookie pitcher the way Ralph Houk did Fidrych did in 1976, but it was a different time then. Either way, after a strong start the following season (11 GS, 6-4, 2.89 ERA), injuries set in and “The Bird” was essentially finished.


1. LF Joe Charboneau, Cleveland Indians

 1980 Stats  131 G  .289/.358/.488  23 HR  87 RBI  76 R
 Rest of Career   70 G  .211/.258/.371   6 HR  27 RBI  21 R

Joe Charboneau had an inauspicious start to his pro career, to say the least. He was taken in the second round of the 1976 draft by the Phillies, but he quit baseball just a year later after fighting with management. The Twins signed him the following year, and he was traded to the Indians the next season.

The 1979 season saw him hit .352/.422/.597 with 21 home runs in Double-A, and an injury to Andre Thornton the following year gave him his chance at the big league level.

He made the most of it, winning Rookie of the Year honors and winning over the city of Cleveland in the process. His decline was a rapid one, though, as battled back problems and hit just .210 the next season, becoming the first reigning Rookie of the Year to be demoted to the minors the following season.

He would play just one more season before calling it a career, as issues with his back persisted and he was never able to return to his 1980 form.

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