Hey Hey Hey, Goodbye

AJ

A requirement of living in Chicago is choosing one baseball team or the other. Every other sport in this town offers one team, and thus everyone who’s a football fan lives and dies with da Bears. The same is true of basketball and the Bulls, and hockey and the Blackhawks. But baseball is a whole different story. It’s the North and the South, just like the Civil War. And also like the Civil War, the good guys are the ones up north.

I imagine, from the perspective of a Cubs fan, that the White Sox fans must really hate Wrigley Field. It’s the embodiment of all things related to the Cubs. It’s the pretty park with the ivy on the outfield wall, and the rooftops all around, and the firehouse across the street. It is all of those things, but to hate on the Cubs is to hate on those things.

A.J. Pierzynski was the White Sox player I always loved to hate. When Michael Barrett slugged him in a Cubs-Sox game back in 2006, he was acting on every Cub fans’ behalf. And every time that A.J. would do commentary on TV, while holding the microphone with that World Series ring from 2005 on his hand, I thought about how much I despised him. He, like Wrigley Field, was the embodiment of the other side in Chicago’s long-running baseball feud.

I shed no tears for the White Sox or their fans when A.J. Pierzynski left town to sign with the Texas Rangers. I even got a good laugh when, opening up a pack of the new Topps 2013 baseball cards that just came out, I saw a rather interesting shot of A.J. in his old stomping grounds at U.S. Cellular Field.

But A.J. has moved on, and White Sox fans are left with the card (not shown here) as one last reminder of him. I only wish that he could take the Cell’s scoreboard down to Texas with him. Good riddance.

Hats off to Josh Hamilton

I wrote a piece for ThroughTheFenceBaseball last night, and I’m cross posting it here.

It’s not very often that one batter hits four homers in the same game, as Josh Hamilton did last night against the Orioles. And three of the four went to straightaway center, which makes it all the more impressive. And each one was a two-run shot? You can’t make this stuff up!

But nothing on jersey night

I’m back after a weekend in Cleveland, which was loaded with family, baseball, and rock n’ roll. In other words, all of my favorite things. I could, and probably will, tell lots of stories about the Rock Hall, but those will wait until I have some time. But for now, a baseball tale will have to do.

Cleveland is in first place in the American League Central at the moment, and they hosted the Texas Rangers over the weekend. The Rangers are the defending American League champions, and they are in first place in the AL West. So it’s too early to call it a playoff preview, but I’ll do that anyway. Three months from now, who knows? But we’re living in the moment for now.

On Friday, Chris Perez came in and got the save for the Indians. Saturday’s game, the one that I went to at Progressive Field, was Chris Perez jersey game. It was entertaining, and it’s hard to complain when you’re as close to the action as I was, as seen in the picture above. We had walkup seats, located two rows from the field. That just wouldn’t happen in Chicago.

The Indians trailed most of the game, tied it in the eighth inning, and lost then on a three -run homer in the 11th inning. One pitch to Adrian Beltre was the difference in the game. But it was still a good game, with lots of defensive gems on the field. There was no sign of Chris Perez, though.

The next day, the final game of the series, the Indians beat the Rangers, and handed Yu Darvish his first loss in the majors. And Chris Perez again came in to get the save. It was as if the baseball gods allowed Perez to get saves, or have his jersey given away to fans at the ballpark, but not both at the same time. That would be too much good fortune, perhaps.

Two saves in a three game series is about the best that any closer can hope for. And the other game in the series was the one where everyone in the stands had his jersey on. Not a bad weekend for Chris Perez, I would say.  Better for his team to have it go that way, instead of getting one save on Saturday–Perez jersey night–and losing the other two games.

The baseball itch has been scratched, for now, and going to another game isn’t on the schedule until mid-September at Wrigley Field. That’s such a long way away, it’s actually going to be during football season. But it will get here, and there will be hopefully be many more Chris Perez saves between now and then.

Pitchers and catchers reported today

It’s officially spring training, now that the pitchers and catchers have reported to the Cubs’ facilities in Arizona. Position players are coming in next week.

Burt Hooton was a Cubs pitcher who seemed destined for greatness. He made his big league debut in 1971, without spending a single day in the minor leagues. No Cubs player has done this in the four decades since. And, on the second day of the 1972 season, he threw a no-hitter against the Phillies in Wrigley Field.  Somehow, though, Hooton had a losing record for the 1972, 1973, and 1974 seasons. He was dealt away to Los Angeles early in the 1975 season, where he would later pitch in three World Series–all against the Yankees–and win a championship with the team in 1981.

He pitched his final season with the Texas Rangers in 1985, and he is currently the pitching coach for the Triple-A affiliate of the Houston Astros. Looking at his career, it can be said that being traded to Los Angeles clearly helped his career. It was actually the inverse of Rick Sutcliffe‘s experience with the Cubs and a trade.

And so the 2012 season–which is still more than a month away from officially starting–has passed its first milestone. More will be coming in the days ahead.

Hanu-Cubs, Night 4

As with the previous nights of this festival of Jewish Cubs players, we begin with the music of Steve Goodman. For more about this song, and Steve Goodman generally, click here.

The profile of Dave Roberts is here. Sam Fuld is here, and Ken Holtzman is here. Tonight’s post will focus on the winningest active Jewish pitcher in the majors, Jason Marquis. He wasn’t drafted by the Cubs, and isn’t with them anymore, (he’ll be with the Minnesota Twins next season, if you’re curious) but he spent two seasons with the Cubs in 2007 and 2008.

The thing I’ll always remember about Jason Marquis is that he wore number 21, which Sammy Sosa also wore during his heyday in Chicago. Sosa left after the 2004 season, and his number (which he wore because it was Roberto Clemente’s number) lay unused for a couple of seasons thereafter. But like the big dirt spot out in right field at Wrigley Field–which, it was said, was there to tell Sammy where to stand during the game–the stigma of  “Sammy’s number” was eventually papered over, and Marquis was the first to wear it post-Sosa. Others to wear #21 since have included Milton Bradley and Tyler Colvin.

There’s an irony to the number that Marquis wore, as there so often is. When Sammy Sosa left the game, he was within reach of 600 career home runs. The situation with the Cubs fans–which was fueled by his walking out on the final day of the 2004 season–was such that the milestone would not come in a Cubs uniform. After a season in Baltimore, and another season out of the game, Sosa came back with the Texas Rangers in 2007. He did hit his 600th homer, in an interleague game against the Cubs, off of Marquis, who was wearing his old number at the time. You can’t make this stuff up.

Marquis was signed for three years with the Cubs, but was traded away to the Rockies after only two seasons on the North Side. The Cubs were but one stop on Marquis’ major league journey, and I wish him well in the years to come (especially when he’s in the American League).

There are four nights left in this series, and another pitcher will be profiled tomorrow night. The full Marquis appears below:

As always, thanks for reading. See you tomorrow night.

A card unlike any other

I was going through an stack of old baseball cards today, when something caught my eye. And I have to admit that it’s a fairly exciting find, too. But first a few words about the intended subject of this card, Jamie Moyer.

Moyer began his long professional career (24 seasons, and possibly still counting) with the Chicago Cubs in the late 1980s. He spent three years with the Cubs, and was traded to the Texas Rangers late in 1988. The Cubs gave up Moyer, first baseman Rafael Palmiero, and pitcher Drew Hall, in return for Mitch Williams (who would be a key part of the Cubs’ division winner the following season) and five other players. Moyer spent two seasons in Texas (1989 and 1990), and signed with the St. Louis Cardinals as a free agent in early 1991. In fact, he may have already been a Cardinal by the time this 1991 Upper Deck card hit the market. And there’s also a tell-tale can of spit tobacco (Joe Garagiola’s preferred term) in his back pocket, which is something I’ve written about here and here.

But take a look to Moyer’s right. In the first row behind the Rangers’ dugout, with both feet up and resting his arms on his knees. Wearing a red cap on his head, and staring right into the camera. He seems to be more aware of the camera than Moyer is. I think that’s George W. Bush, the son of the sitting president (at the time the picture was taken), and part of the Texas Rangers’ ownership group.

Think back to the 2011 postseason for a moment. When George W. Bush sat next to Nolan Ryan, they were not in an owner’s box, but right behind the Rangers’ dugout. This was an extension of the way that he raised his personal visibility as a private citizen in the late 1980s and early 1990s. His path to public life began with the Texas Rangers, then went to the governor’s office in Texas, and then to the White House. Visibility was the key, and you don’t get that from sitting in a skybox. Sitting behind the home team’s dugout, on the other hand, is exactly the way to draw attention to yourself.

Sitting presidents appearing on baseball cards are certainly nothing new. Topps included a number of “Presidential First Pitch” cards as an insert to their 2011 Opening Day set, and my favorite one appears below. It must be the Cubs jacket.

But to have a future president appear on a baseball card? I’d be surprised if there are any others, besides this one that I found. It’s enough to take an ordinary baseball card and turn it into something unique. I didn’t say valuable, because I believe that those who would monetize these things are missing the point. These cards are meant to connect us to the game, not to provide investment opportunities.

Baseball cards went off the rails sometime in the 1980s, when they turned into a business proposition. That’s why there’s such a severe glut of them now, where a bag of 30 old baseball cards costs one dollar at a local dollar store. There must be millions of these things out there in circulation, and the value of them collectively is next to nothing. And that’s as it should be.

These things are fodder for stories  about baseball, at least for me, and that’s why I acquire them as I do. I find these stories, and put them on this blog when I have a few moments to write them down, but I have no illusions that they will ever be anything more than that. Nor do I want them to be.

Re-learning the lesson of 1986

As exciting and incredible as this year’s World Series was, there was a lesson to be taken from it by anyone who was paying attention. In a nutshell, it’s that the game isn’t over until the final out is made.

In football, you can take a knee to run out the clock. In basketball, you can dribble around in the backcourt until the horn sounds. I don’t know enough about hockey to give an example of how to kill time, but I’m sure it exists. But in baseball, that final out–that final strike, even–needs to be recorded before the celebration can begin. And until that happens, the other team still has a glimmer of hope, no matter what the scoreboard says.

In this year’s World Series, the Rangers needed just one strike to win the championship on two separate occasions, and both times they came away empty. If they come back next season and complete the championship, it won’t sting quite so much. But if this was their one moment, and they begin to fall off from championship-level play in 2012 and beyond, it will be the moment that will forever live in infamy, for the Rangers and their fans.

Similar instances happened not once, but twice in the 1986 post-season, and both times involved the Boston Red Sox. The first came in the ALCS, when the California Angels (as they were known back then) were ahead of the Red Sox 3 games to 1, and were playing at home with a chance to win the pennant in front of their home fans. Baseball was still a year or two away from the ninth-inning only closer, and the results of this game may have had some role in bringing it about.

The Angels had a 5-2 lead going into the top of the ninth inning. The math for the Angels was pretty simple: get three outs, before the opponents score three runs (or more).  The starter for the Angels, Mike Witt, was sent out to the mound to finish the job.  He had thrown 106 pitches already, but a three-run lead must have seemed fairly safe to Angels’ manager Gene Mauch. This would have been Mauch’s first trip to the World Series as a manager, and the franchise’s first trip, as well. It must have on everyone’s mind in the ballpark that day.

But Witt gave up a hit to Bill Buckner, struck out Jim Rice, and then, on the 119th pitch he threw, surrendered a two-run homer to Don Baylor. Mauch left Witt in to retire the second out, and then went to his bullpen for the final out. Instead of going to his closer, Donnie Moore, Mauch turned to Gary Lucas. Lucas came in to close out the Red Sox and win the pennant, but his first pitch hit the Angels’ batter, Rich Gedman. Mauch then brought in Donnie Moore, who inherited a mess that was not of his own making. He came in to face Dave Henderson, who was 0-for-the entire series to that point.

Moore got ahead in the count 1-2, before Henderson took ball two, and then fouled off the next two pitches.  On the fourth two-strike pitch that he saw from Moore, Henderson hit a home run that gave the Red Sox a one-run lead. The Angels still had a chance, and they plated a run in their half of the ninth inning to tie the score. With the bases loaded and one out, and the pennant-winning run just 90 feet away, both Doug DeCinces and Bobby Grich failed to get the run home. If they had, chances are that nobody would remember Donnie Moore’s name. But that’s not how it played out.

Moore also pitched the tenth and 11th innings for the Angels, and in the 11th he gave up a sacrifice fly to–who else?–Dave Henderson to score what turned out to be the winning run. There were still two games left to play, but they were to be played in Fenway Park. The Red Sox beat the shell-shocked Angels in both games, and the Angels’ first pennant had slipped away from them.

In the World Series, however, the shoe was on the other foot. With Boston one strike away from winning the title in Game 6, and Ray Knight in an 0-2 hole against Calvin Schiraldi, Knight singled to keep the Mets’ rally going. The Mets would win the game in the next at-bat, when Mookie Wilson came up and….you probably know the rest.

Donnie Moore’s life spun out of control after 1986, as he was mercilessly booed by Angels fans every time he came in to pitch. He wound up taking his own life in 1989, less than three years after giving up the Henderson home run. Calvin Schiraldi was in the same circumstance as Moore was, but he didn’t meet with the same fate. He pitched another six  seasons, and is now a baseball coach in Austin, Texas.

Time will tell as to how Neftali Feliz (who needed just one more strike in the ninth inning of Game 6) and Scott Feldman (who needed one last strike in the 10th inning of Game 6) are treated by the Rangers fans. Hopefully they will continue on with their pitching careers, and contribute to the Rangers’ success in the post season in years to come. And they, as well as everybody else who was paying attention last fall, will appreciate anew the need to get that final strike to end the game.

Who says baseball is in trouble?

Youth Baseball S/S Willow

The World Series that just concluded last night has demonstrated that baseball is alive and well. And if anybody wants to point to television ratings as an indication of anything, I’ll simply say this: Baseball was around before anyone knew what television was, and it will still be around after nobody can remember what television was anymore. Television may be the Titanic, but baseball is the iceberg. And remember how that encounter played out.

What that line of thinking–that low ratings is bad for baseball–seems to presuppose that the Yankees, Mets, Dodgers, or one of the other large market teams is needed to give an air of legitimacy to the postseason. And the Cardinals, Rangers, Tigers, Brewers, and every other playoff team this year just proved that you can have a compelling month of baseball without those teams. What happens on the field is what really counts.

The shirt I’m wearing right now is a green one that I bought in Central Park last summer, as shown in the picture above. It was a fundraising-type thing for the Central Park Conservancy, and I was happy to add a few shekels to the cause of keeping Central Park what it is. A city like New York deserves nothing less than an awesome park in the middle of it. Anyway, you can see that the shirt has some crossed baseball bats on it and reads “Central Park Baseball, since 1858.”

I don’t know whether games in Central Park go back that far or not, but it’s possible they could. I’m sure that I wouldn’t recognize too much about a baseball game from 153 years ago. But then again, most of society wouldn’t be too familiar to me, either. In 1858, nobody knew what a telephone was, nobody had ever held a dollar bill before, and almost nobody had ever been photographed. Slavery was still legal in many states, and the Civil War was still three years away. But, if the shirt is to be believed, there was baseball being played back then.

My point is that the game has evolved over the years and decades, but it has also endured. Basketball and football may claim that they are America’s sport of choice, but the NBA is about to do much worse damage to itself this year than baseball did in 1994. Neither basketball nor football is woven into the fabric of this nation as much as baseball clearly is. The postseason and the World Series give us all a chance to remember how great the game is, and how much we, as Americans, rely on it as a way of marking the time.

I’m going to continue writing about baseball-related topics over the offseason, in part because it helps to keep the game alive in my heart and my head. Additionally, I have just been accepted into the Baseball Bloggers Alliance, and I want create even more content than I already have (and it’s quite a lot, believe me) for any of those folks who come on by this way. Some of my posts will be about other topics, because there’s much more to life than baseball, and I’ll never lose sight of that.

This blog will continue to be what it is–Rob’s digital soapbox for putting thoughts and ideas into the wider world. It’s heavy on the baseball, for sure, but has some pretty diverse and eclectic things thrown in, too. Interesting enough–I hope–to come back to on occasion, at least.

The offseason begins today, so let’s make it a good one!

This one just had to go seven games

Tonight’s baseball game–more than any other I’ve seen in my lifetime–was a transcendent affair. If you weren’t riveted by this game–or by this World Series–you just can’t like baseball. Come to think of it, you may not even have a pulse. Go back to obsessing over the Kardashians or something.

What can you say about this game? The lesson is simple: A game is never over until the last out is made. The Cardinals proved this in the ninth inning, and again in the tenth inning, before sending everyone home with memories they’ll share as often as they can, for as long as they live. Nolan Ryan didn’t look too happy, but at least the rest of us get what this postseason deserves: one game to settle it all.

I’ve loved baseball ever since I was old enough to understand what was going on, and it’s always paying me back in ways I could never imagine. And so it was again tonight.

Tomorrow night can’t come soon enough for me.

I could never root for the Rangers

Game six of the World Series is tonight and, if all goes as I hope it will, there will be a Game seven, winner-take-all, ultimate baseball showdown in St. Louis tomorrow night. The series to this point–and this year’s postseason in general–demands nothing less.

I’ve already gone on the record as being a Cardinals supporter, for the same reasons that I put my distaste for Ohio State aside when bowl season comes around in college football. It’s a tribal loyalty thing more than anything else. And taking the DH off of the table for the final two games of the Series should benefit the Cardinals. We’ll see if that’s how it actually turns out.

Fox’s coverage of the World Series has turned Nolan Ryan into the face of the Rangers franchise, if he wasn’t already, and that’s just fine with me. He sure does seem to have the J.R. Ewing look down, doesn’t he? But for a player with his stature to take such a prominent role in the building of a championship-caliber team is really something special. We may not see anything like it ever again.

All of the attention given to Nolan Ryan deflects attention from the one who once was the face of the franchise. His career arc depended on the Rangers to give him some public standing, which in turn led to Texas politics and then to the White House. There’s a lot that I could say about this, but I’ll just bite my tongue and offer up a more baseball-specific reason not to root for this guy or his team.

In the early 1990s, with a disastrous player’s strike looming on the horizon, the realignment of baseball into three divisions in each league went forward. This created an opening for a wild-card team to get into the playoffs, by virtue of their overall record during the regular season, instead of as the winner of a divisional title.

The owners still had to vote to approve this change, and one team’s part-owner stood apart from the others. He claimed that “history would prove” his correctness opposing the change, even though it had already been very successful in the NFL. Adding a wild card team into the playoff mix–which allowed, by the way, for a riveting evening of baseball on the final day of this year’s regular season–was “an exercise in folly,” for this one individual.

Without the addition of the wild card to baseball’s playoffs, the Cardinals–who finished six games behind the Brewers at the end of the regular season–would have been watching the games of the past four weeks, instead of playing in them. That would have been the true “exercise in folly,” in this writer’s humble opinion.

A number of years ago, when the part-owner (whose name I’m not using here, if you hadn’t already noticed) held his last full-time job, I oversaw development of educational materials to be used with a History textbook’s revision. I made it my goal to remove any and all references to this individual in the development, on the theory that the less that was said about him, the better. And how did it turn out? Let’s just say “Mission Accomplished” and leave it at that.

Advantage, Rangers (maybe)

I haven’t missed writing a wrap-up during the Series, and I’m not starting now. Texas had to win tonight if they were going to take the title, and they did it. But stealing a game in St. Louis is not a given on their part. They can probably smell it now, but they can’t taste it just yet.

The Cardinals are playing elimination games from here on out, but they’ve probably been under elimination threat since August. They aren’t going to back down now, not with the series going back to St. Louis for the final battle. The Cardinals didn’t get to celebrate the wild card berth at home, nor did they win the NLDS or NLCS at home either. Celebrating at home, with the fans going wild in the stands, is something the Cardinals will certainly want to do. They just need to win two in a row to do it. And I think lots of people have learned the hard way not to count the Cardinals out this season.

This has been an awesome postseason, and one of the better World Series that I’ve ever seen. It’s a shame that it has to end this week, but it’ll be enough to carry us through until next spring, once the final out is recorded and the offseason begins.

I can hear their sighs of relief

The St. Louis economy received a significant jolt tonight. The Rangers’ win in Game four means that there will be a Game six next week, and so parking revenue, concession sales, sales tax from ticket prices, hotel bookings, bar receipts, and a whole bunch of other monies will be changing hands in St. Louis next week. And whatever the numbers turn out to be, it won’t be an insignificant amount.

If you have tickets for Game Six, you can exhale now. One more chance to see Albert play at home? The chance to tell all your friends and relatives that you were there when the Cardinals won? Something like that doesn’t come around too often, and those who can afford to pay it will shell out whatever it takes to be there. Just keep in mind it’s $314 and up for standing room on Stubhub at the moment.

But we won’t know about Game seven until the conclusion of Game six on Wednesday night. It will certainly be a wild 24 hours in St. Louis if the series goes to seven games. It looks like that will happen, because this is an evenly-matched pair of teams, but the only way to get through the postseason as a fan is to be ready for whatever comes along. I’m looking forward to it already.

The pendulum swings toward Texas

When the FOX announcers began talking about how the Cardinals had never been involved in a 1-0 game in their previous 100+ games of World Series play, I knew the final score wouldn’t be 1-0. I’m going to suggest that jinxes do exist, and talking about a 1-0 game is the quickest way to make sure you wind up with something else.

So it’s now a best-of-five series, and Texas now has a decided advantage over the Cardinals. Only the Milwaukee Brewers had a better home record than the Rangers in the regular season, and the Rangers are 4-1 at home in the post season.

Cardinals fans who may have been saddened by the prospect of the Cardinals winning the clincher in Texas–and thus denying them the chance to celebrate with their team on the field for the third time this postseason–now have to hope that the Cardinals can win a game in Texas, to get the series back to St. Louis. There are no guarantees that will happen, either.

Elvis Andrus and Ian Kinsler did it all for the Rangers tonight. Their play to start a double play in the fourth was a thing of beauty, and the play they made to end the fifth–where Andrus dove to stop the ball and then shoveled it from his glove toward the bag at second, where Kinsler caught it and forced Jaime Garcia–is the kind of a play that will become legendary if the Rangers go on to win the Series. I wrote about how much I appreciated Curtis Granderson’s defense in an earlier series, but Kinsler and Andrus have this symbiotic relationship that makes what they do all the more amazing.

And then, with the game–and maybe even the season–on the line in the ninth inning, they came through on offense. Kinsler’s seeing-eye single and steal of second base set the table, and Andrus’ hit and the did-that really-just-happen misplay by Albert Pujols set the two of them up at second and third base with no outs. Then a sacrifice brings Kinsler in to tie the game, and another sacrifice fly brings Andrus home with the game winner. The Cardinals had their chance in the bottom of the ninth, but the two-man wrecking crew of Andrus and Kinsler carried the day for Texas.

So now we have the off-day tomorrow to make the Theo Epstein announcement, and then the Series resumes on Saturday in Texas. It promises to be quite a last weekend of baseball for the season. It should be much more intriguing than the Bears playing a football game (American style) in London.

Sometimes you gotta work the count

Hindsight is always 20/20. Without the benefit of hindsight, I’m not able to write this. But with that in mind, the turning point of today’s ALCS game in Detroit happened because a Rangers’ batter failed to employ just a little bit of baseball strategy. And as a result, his team missed a chance to get back to the World Series. They’ll have other chances this weekend, but this one they let get away from them.

It was the bottom of the fifth inning, and the Tigers were on the ropes. Already down 3 games to 1, they were just one big play away from elimination. Those kinds of things seem to happen with Nelson Cruz at the plate in this series. But the batter at the pivotal moment wasn’t Cruz, but Ian Kinsler.

Kinsler came up after the Tigers’ Jason Verlander had just walked the bases loaded. Two of the Tigers’ relievers were unavailable to come in, and Verlander had already gone over 100 pitches for the game. In other words, he was in some serious trouble. All Texas had to do was deliver the knockout punch.

Kinsler came to the plate, and impulsively decided to swing at the first pitch he saw. The result was a ground ball to third base, which Brandon Inge turned into an easy double play. Inning over, advantage Tigers. And they would then take full advantage of this momentum swing by scoring four runs in the bottom of the inning.

Would there be any harm in taking that first pitch, if you’re Ian Kinsler? If so, I can’t imagine what it might be. If Verlander threw a ball and fell behind in the count, the pressure on him would have increased considerably. The “take” sign should have been on in this situation, at least until Verlander threw a strike. This would have forced him to battle with Kinsler a little bit more than he did. As it was, a better result could not have happened for the Tigers, nor a worse result for the Rangers.

Detroit still has to win in the Rangers’ park to keep their season going. They are decidedly the underdogs in this series, and will remain so even if a seventh game should be necessary. But they have lived to fight another day, and those who had tickets for Game six in Texas–along with everyone else who just wants this series to continue–is thankful for that.

Process of elimination

On the last night of the regular season, which seems like much longer than eight days ago, we were treated to a sensational night of memorable moments. Perhaps I’m being greedy, but the next thirty-six hours could give us even more moments like this, because three teams will see their seasons end, one way or another. It should be fascinating to watch.

It starts tonight, when the Yankees try to finish off the Tigers  and earn a spot in the ALCS against the Rangers. Whether they win or lose tonight, they have Curtis Ganderson to thank for being able to play the game in the first place. The catches he made in Detroit should inspire kids everywhere to want to save the game with their glove, rather than win it with their bat. The walk-off homer is nice (ask Evan Longoria about that), but making a play that saves runs can have just as much impact on the game’s outcome. Perhaps such a play will be made tonight.

Tomorrow night will feature a tasty 1-2 punch of DBacks at Brewers, followed by the Cardinals in Philadelphia. Both games probably won’t end within minutes of each other, as happened in the AL games last week, but the teams in the second game will probably find out which team they’ll have to face before they take the field tomorrow night.

My interest in these games is high, since last week’s game set the table–so to speak–for the postseason. Will Pujols have a chance to play in St. Louis again? Will tomorrow be Prince Fielder’s last game in Milwaukee? Will the games be blowouts, or will Mariano Rivera and the other closers be needed to finish out the games? I suppose we’ll know soon enough. But I already know that you can’t beat October baseball.

Countdown to #Cubs #DoubleTriple at 38 losses

Now that the Cubs have gone back to playing decent teams after the sweep of Houston, the losses have begun piling up again. And here’s a fun fact: Seattle just lost 17 games in a row  and they are still two games better than the Cubs right now. But the tour of baseball in the 1970s keeps moving forward.

1973 Texas Rangers

Expansion team: No

Overall record: 57-105

# of win streaks of 3 games or more: Three

Manager(s): Whitey Herzog, Del Wilber, Billy Martin

Hall of Famers on roster: Herzog, but no players

100 loss seasons since: None

Pennant wins since: 2010

If you ever need to ask someone a really good trivia question, think about Delbert Quentin Wilber (who went by “Babe” for some reason). In the 1973 season, he managed exactly one game in the majors, won it, and then never managed another game again. He served as a place holder between Whitey Herzog, who lasted less than one full season with the Rangers, and Billy Martin, who was hired after being fired by Detroit earlier in the season. Herzog and Martin lost 105 games combined that season, but Wilber secured his place as the manager with the highest winning percentage in history. No one can ever beat it.

1973 San Diego Padres

Expansion team: No

Overall record: 60-102

# of win streaks of 3 games or more: Six

Manager(s): Don Zimmer

Hall of Famers on roster: Dave Winfield

100 loss seasons since: 1974; 1993

Pennant wins since: 1984; 1998

The Padres are here in the 100 loss club for the third time in their short existence as a franchise. But the most remarkable thing I can think to say about this team is that they had the foresight to draft Dave Winfield.

In addition to being drafted by the Padres as a pitcher, Winfield was also drafted by teams in the NBA, ABA, and NFL. Clearly, he was a talented athlete. And in the 1970s, such an athlete would still choose to play baseball. But today, he would be in the NFL of the NBA, and wouldn’t give baseball a second look, most likely. He was promoted by the Padres directly to the major leagues after being drafted out of college, and converted into an outfielder so that he could hit more regularly. I think that was also done with some guy named Ruth. It turned out pretty well for both of these guys, actually.

There isn’t much else that can be said about the 1973 Padres, except that they were very nearly moved to Washington, DC after the season ended. Instead, the team was sold to McDonald’s owner Ray Kroc, and the team has remained in San Diego ever since.

Countdown to #Cubs #DoubleTriple at 39 losses

The Cubs finally put together a three game win streak by sweeping the Astros at home last weekend. The conditions were right, and the Cubs took advantage. But all good things come to an end, and tonight’s loss brings us to the epic 1972 season, where only one team in the majors made it to the 100 loss plateau.

1972 Texas Rangers

Expansion team: Not exactly (previously the Washington Senators)

Overall record: 62-10o

# of win streaks of 3 games or more: Four

Manager(s): Ted Williams

Hall of Famers on roster: No players, but Nellie Fox served as a coach, along with Williams

100 loss seasons since: 1973

Pennant wins since: 2010

1972 was a watershed year for baseball: The first players’ strike in the modern era wiped out the first week and a half of the season. The Oakland A’s began a three-year championship run, becoming the only team not named the Yankees to accomplish this feat. Jackie Robinson died, just days after throwing out the first pitch in Game Two of the World Series.  Roberto Clemente reached 3,000 hits, and then lost his life in a plane crash on New Year’s eve. And The American League voted to adopt the Designated Pinch Hitter (DPH) on a three year experimental basis. We know how that one turned out. But the focus here is on losing, and the new Texas Rangers franchise made their way into the loser’s circle.

The Washington Senators had suffered several 100 loss seasons in the 1960s, but Ted Williams had guided the team to their first (and only) winning season in 1969. They fell back below .500 after that, but the move to Texas was more than Williams could tolerate, and he resigned at the end of this season.

To reach 100 losses, the Rangers suffered through an almost unbearable September, where they went 3-23 for a winning percentage of .115  There may have been worse months in big league history, but there can’t be too many of them. The team’s  100th loss came on the last day of the season, in the final game played in Municipal Stadium in Kansas City.

The next Cubs loss will usher in the Designated Hitter era. Should be interesting.