Results tagged ‘ Albert Pujols ’

The Triple Crown

It is often said that baseball’s most prestigious feat is the elusive perfect game. After all, only 20 have been pitched in all of baseball’s history–18 in the modern era. To retire 27 batters consecutively is certainly majestic, and it guarantees baseball immortality. Many perfect games have been thrown by notoriously dominant pitchers–Monte Ward, Sandy Koufax, Randy Johnson, Roy Halladay, and Catfish Hunter, to name a few. Their reputation almost demanded one. However, for some pitchers, their perfect games are the only redeeming factor in an otherwise disappointing or mediocre career–perhaps Kenny Rogers or Dallas Braden.

I would like to argue that there is an even more illustrious feat in baseball; one that has not been accomplished since 1967: 43 years. The largest gap between baseball’s perfect games was 34 years. The feat that I speak of is baseball’s triple crown, in which a hitter must lead his league in batting average, home runs, and RBIs. It has only been done 16 times in baseball’s history, 13 in the modern era. The last man to win the triple crown was Carl Yastrzemski.

No one has ever pitched a perfect game twice. It is probably nearly statistically impossible. Two men have received the triple crown twice. The Cardinals’ Roger Hornsby in 1922 and 1925, and the Red Sox’s Ted Williams in 1942 and 1947. This is precisely what makes the triple crown even more impressive.

A perfect game does not guarantee a Cy Young Award. It is nearly unheard of for a player not to win the MVP if he has also won the triple crown. After all, MVP considerations are heavily affected by those same three statistics. To every rule and theory, there is always an exception, and Ted Williams is the exception to mine: In 1942 and 1947, he came in second place for MVP votes, losing to Joe Gordon and Joe Dimaggio, respectively.

A perfect game is one game; there are 161 others. To win a triple crown, the hitter has to be consistently superior in three outstandingly difficult categories. Every player who has won the triple crown in the modern era is currently immortalized in Cooperstown. Pitchers who throw a perfect game are perfect for 27 outs. Those who win the triple crown are spectacular 4,374 outs.

With a couple of legitimate Triple Crown contenders this season in Carlos Gonzalez, Joey Votto, Albert Pujols, and Miguel Cabrera, I wanted to try and figure out why there has been such a disparity in Triple Crown winners since Yastrzemski last did it. I decided to look at and compare various eras within baseball’s modern era (since 1900) and I think I have come to a reasonable conclusion.

It surprises me that there were any triple crown players in the dead ball era (1901-1919), which was defined by small ball. Pitchers were allowed to use altered balls and trick pitches, and starting pitchers completed their games more than half the time. Then again, it doesn’t surprise me that the two men to hit for it were Nap Lajoie and Ty Cobb.

The Lively Ball Era (1920-1941) followed in which a rubber-core ball was universally used, and trick pitches were prohibited. Pitcher’s completed their game less than half the time, and the average amount of runs scored per game was nearly ten. Also, in 1930, the National League’s batting average as a whole was over .300. Five men hit for the triple crown in this era: Roger Hornsby (twice), Chuck Klein, Jimmie Foxx, Lou Gehrig, and Joe Medwick.

Then came the Integration Era (1942-1960), catalyzed by Jackie Robinson. Many players were involved in World War II, which some argued diluted the level of play. Two players hit for the triple crown: Ted Williams (twice) and Mickey Mantle. The changes in this era went beyond the game itself, but I’m assuming the pitching was able to adjust to the new rules established in the Lively Ball Era.

The Expansion Era (1961-1976) followed, which came with an enlarged strikezone, and predictably, a reduction in offensive output. Only Frank Robinson and Carl Yastrzemski hit for the triple crown in this era, and no one has done it since. Perhaps the defining characteristics of the eras that follow offer some explanation.

The Free Agency Era (1977-1993) was characterized mainly by outrageous contracts. About one-third of teams used artificial turf which took emphasis off of the home run ball and resulted in more extra base hits.

The era that I have lived through–the Long Ball Era (1994-2005)–has been characterized by a remarkable increase in home runs. This is attributable to not only steroids, and parks more conducive to home runs.

I’m not sure what era baseball has transitioned into since 2005. Some say the steroids era (though testing was implemented in 2004, so that isn’t really valid). With no-hitters, and even perfect games, becoming more of a commodity, I’d like to call it the era of the pitcher, but this might just be a unique year.

It does not really make sense that no one has won the triple crown since 1967 if offensive production has sky-rocketed. I think that the use of steroids have had an obvious effect on the statistics. It’s no longer one person dominating the league for a year. Many players are capable of hitting copious amounts of home runs and RBIs and hitting for a high average. It seems like guys are continually beating each other out. At the end of the season, Carlos Gonzalez might be leading in batting average, Pujols in home runs, and Votto in RBIs–and the disparity might only be one or two points.

I would like to see one of these guys hit for the triple crown, especially now that baseball has transitioned out of the steroids era. It would not have felt right had someone hit for the triple crown in the steroid era because nearly nothing was pure. I see Pujols, Votto, Gonzalez, and Cabrera (the main AL contender) as pure baseball players that embody what baseball is supposed to be about. 2010 has been an amazing year for baseball. We have seen no-hitters, perfect games, a perfect game that should have been, and a triple crown would be the icing on perhaps the most exciting baseball season I have ever had the pleasure of watching.

How to Handle the Steroids Era

Before I start officially blogging all about Spring Training, there is one very important issue I would like to address. Many of you know my opinions on steroids, but I haven’t talked about it in a while. Believe me, my opinion has not changed, but with Mark McGwire FINALLY admitting to have taken steroids throughout his career; I think that it is a necessary topic to address. 

The question is no longer “if” they did it. The question is what to do about it. Unfortunately, the majority of the 104 players who tested positive for performance enhancing drugs in 2003 are still undisclosed. Actually, it’s hard for me to say whether or not that fact is unfortunate because the truth hurts. When all of the names finally come out, I know that some of the players I may consider “heroes” right now will be seen differently by many. 
Before I address what should be done about this issue, I would like to talk about the origins of this issue. I think that the catalyst was the implementation of the designated hitter rule in 1973. I do not like the designated hitter rule. It has severely disproportionated the two leagues, and it’s just not real baseball. Not only was it a catalyst for the steroids era, I also think it was a catalyst for the ridiculous contracts that have become a normalcy around Major League Baseball. My opinions on the possibility for a salary cap will be saved for another entry though. 
 I don’t know if the steroids era has an exact “starting point”, but arbitrarily speaking, I would say it was the last 20 years. No one is safe from suspicion, and the mentality has become “guilty until proven innocent”. There are people whom I believe to be clean such as Mike Lowell, Ichiro Suzuki, Albert Pujols, and Derek Jeter among others. So back to the main question: what to do about it? 
There are three main approaches to this dilemma, which you are probably familiar with, but there is no clear answer. Can we erase an era of baseball?Can we put the players who have cheated next to the players who have attained their feats on pure and natural talent? Can we use asterisks? 
The first method would be to simply not admit any players guilty of having used steroids into the Hall of Fame. This seems appropriate because these players cheated. I suppose they didn’t break the rules because steroids weren’t technically illegal YET, they were just frowned upon. When other players have broken the rules, they were banned from baseball even though they were quite deserving of a spot in the Hall (Shoeless Joe Jackson, Pete Rose). This is an entire ERA of players who have broken the rules. Baseball is a game rich in its history, and history cannot and should not be erased. It would be a travesty to try and forget any era of baseball: good or bad. The Hall of Fame may serve to commemorate the greatest players of each era, but it is also the ultimate token of baseball’s history. 
The second method would be to admit all players “worthy” of enshrinement into the Hall freely. Like I mentioned earlier, when players used steroids in the 90′s, they were not yet illegal. Is it truly fair to punish a person for something that was not yet considered a crime? What they did was not right, but it wasn’t completely wrong from a legal standpoint. The main problem with this theory is that the players of this era did not achieve their fantastic numbers the same way of their predecessors. These players have ruined the integrity of the game. Baseball is a game about natural abilities, not the abilities achieved externally. Surely it would be a tragedy to erase an entire era in baseball’s history, but it would also be a tragedy if players from the steroids era were admitted before other players who have been banned for their comparably trivial mistakes. 
The third and final approach to this dilemma is what some call the “asterisk method”. This would entail admitting all of the “worthy” players of the era into the Hall of Fame. However, a metaphorical asterisk would be placed next to their name, denoting the fact that they used performance enhancing drugs. This would not only ensure their place in baseball history, but it would also separate them from the natural greats. It seems like a win-win situation, but a problem still remains. There is no asterisk next the 1919 World Series. The Cincinnati Reds are in the books as the winners, even though the Chicago White Sox threw the series. There is no asterisk next to Roger Maris’ (former) single-season home run record (the controversy was that he had 162 games to do it whereas Babe Ruth only had 154). There is no asterisk next to Gaylord Perry’s name for his use of the spitball, nor is there an asterisk next to the lesser scandals. If we were to put an asterisk next to the players of the steroids era, Major League Baseball would certainly have to put asterisks next to other controversies. 
If I had to choose one, I would choose the asterisk method. There may be flaws, but you do get the best of both worlds. I don’t know if I’ll be able to cast a vote for a player guilty of using steroids until I get Pete Rose and Shoeless Joe Jackson into the Hall of Fame. I will not allow a single player guilty of steroids into the Hall of Fame before those two men are in. Mark my words. 
Please let me know what you think. Shoot me an e-mail, comment, tweetformspring etc.

What Could Have Been, and What Is.

Before I start endlessly analyzing and fretting over the Hot Stove rumors, I want to talk about what is right before us: the League Championship Series. We have plenty of time to talk about the former–the void between the end of the postseason, and Spring Training. I have enjoyed watching these series even though the National League Championship Series didn’t end the way I wanted it to. 

I was completely surprised that the Dodgers lost in only five games. To be honest, I didn’t think they would get past the powerhouse of the Cardinals, let alone sweep them. With guys like Chris Carpenter, Adam Wainwright, Matt Holliday, and Albert Pujols, I thought that the Cardinals would have gone a lot further than they actually did. They had the caliber to be in and to win the World Series, but fate just didn’t have it that way. I thought they had Game 2 (I think it was?) in the bag when there were two outs and an easy fly ball was hit to Matt Holliday, but instead of catching it to win the ball game (and perhaps instill some confidence in the Cardinals), it hit him right in the crotch. 
The Dodgers seemed to have luck on their side, and it was a 2008 NLCS re-match. The Phillies may have an emerging postseason legend in Cliff Lee and the ego-maniacal Cole Hamels whose pride from winning the World Series last season seemed to cloud his ability to pitch well, but the Dodgers have a deep lineup, a good starting five and a fabulous bullpen. I really wanted the Dodgers to advance to the World Series as well because I knew that regardless of whomever won the ALCS, the World Series would be enticing as long as the Dodgers were there. 
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Had the Dodgers advanced, they would have played either the Angels or the Yankees. If it was a matchup between the Dodgers and Angels, we would have had the first “subway series” since the one in New York in 2000. This subway series would have meant that I would have been up until roughly 2 am every morning, sleepwalking my way through school. Yet the intensity that arises from a series like this is so alluring, that a lack of sleep would have been well worth it. It’s almost like a civil war, and it will augment the rivalry between the two teams like nothing else can. 
Not that I would ever root for the Yankees, but if the Dodgers were representing the National League, I can’t say I would have minded too much if the Yankees were to advance. It would have been Joe Torre vs Joe Girardi. The Yankee manager that was fired for his supposed inability to advance the Yankees to the World Series despite their winning four World Championships under his leadership. 
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I’d like to talk about that for a second. I thought that whole scenario was completely ridiculous. I may be a Red Sox fan, but I have no problem admitting that Joe Torre is one hell of a manager. The same way that I can admit that I cheered for Derek Jeter when he surpassed Lou Gehrig, and the way that I consider Mariano Rivera a God; I consider Joe Torre a superb manager. I understand when managers are fired because their teams play miserably and are in last place, but I don’t understand when managers are fired despite their team getting to the postseason. Getting to the postseason is an honor–only 8 teams out of 30 do it a year–and a manager should be honored for that (most of the time) not scolded for their team’s failings. *Note: the whole Grady Little leaving Pedro in is another story*
Anyway, the Dodgers vs Yankees would have been a great matchup, and of course I would have been rooting for the Dodgers even though it hurts me to see Manny Ramirez’s postseason heroics. 
Instead of dwelling over what could have been, I suppose it’s best to look at what we have at hand: the Phillies advanced to the World Series, and Game 6 between the Angels and the Yankees is tonight. I don’t like the Phillies. I root for the Marlins because I live in South Florida, and the Phillies are the Marlins’ division rivals. I may be a bit jealous because the Phillies did what the Red Sox failed to do last year–advance to the World Series for the second year in a row (please don’t hate me Phillies fans, I respect your team nonetheless). They could be the first team since the Yankees to repeat World Series victories, and the second team this decade to have two World Series victories (the first, of course, was the Red Sox). I guess it’s just that having the Phillies in the World Series doesn’t excite me as much as the Dodgers would have. 
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Tonight, I’m rooting for the Angels–just like I have been for the entire ALCS. Although it’s hard to admit, they played better baseball than the Red Sox did. I know that they are a good team, and I know that they have what it takes to beat the Yankees. It is so foreign to me to be rooting for Bobby Abreu since I’ve always had something against him for taking Juan Pierre’s spot in the All-Star game a couple of years ago (the fact that he played for the Yankees only augmented this feeling). Torii Hunter’s ego may bother me, but I know that he’s a fabulous center fielder, and a great team leader. Lackey pitched his heart out in Game 5, and Mike Scoscia made a huge mistake in taking him out (for the record Scoscia is probably my least favorite manager in the Majors). Out of the teams that remain, I want the Angels to win. I want them to win it for Nick Adenhart, because that would be beyond baseball. 
The one interesting thing about having the Phillies in the World Series is that whoever wins from among the three teams that remain, that team will have two World Series victories in this decade. The Yankees won it in 2000, the Angels won it in 2002, and the Phillies won it last year. The question is, who will it be? And it is that unanswered question that keeps me watching baseball. 

Flares (Flair?) for the Dramatic

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The minute that my exam finished, I was so happy. The main reason being that I could finally get back to watching baseball. The fact that the Red Sox won the night before my exam, and the night of, really helps seal the deal for me. I mean, besides the fact that I forgot to mention the cotton gin in my DBQ (about the expansion of slavery), I think I did fine. 

Plus, the Sox finally won a series against the Rays. That took long enough. In a way, I miss the days where we could walk all over them, but in another sense, I do like the rivalry… a lot. Jason Varitek has been getting some nice, key hits, and it’s not like I need to mention Mr. Clutch-hitter (Jason Bay). You know, I’m sure he did this in Pittsburgh all the time, but with the whole media attention thing, I guess it went unnoticed. 
I’m still calling a home run every time Big Papi comes to bat, but each game he goes without one just represents how special the first one will be. I know he wants it, and I know it’s on his mind all the time, so I think he needs a sports psychologist. Calling Emily… 
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The Red Sox also did what they finally needed to do–letting Javier Lopez go. That guy has given me heart attacks ever since he came to the Red Sox, and this year it has gotten even worse. Every time he came in this year, it was basically saying, ‘We concede to you,’. Whether it be the various errors that result in walk-off wins, or maybe just blowing leads, it was time to go. 
This is the best thing the Red Sox have done since reacquiring Kason Gabbard (yeah, they do good things often). The bullpen is basically impeccable now. I am confident with everyone in there, even though Papelbon has been having a bit of a “flair for the dramatic” lately. Okay, I just lied… I’m not AS comfortable with Hunter Jones (maybe because I didn’t see him much during spring training), but he’s done alright. 
I was happy that the Sox brought up Daniel Bard. You guys should have seen him in spring training. He has a 100 mph fastball and posted a 0.00 ERA during spring training, and his stats aren’t half bad down in Triple AAA Pawtucket either. Speaking of which, I’m planning on visiting the PawSox this summer. I cannot wait. 
I didn’t even drink coffee to keep myself up for the West Coast game last night. I had taken a two hour nap (and thus, avoided homework) and was pretty much ready to go. Justin Masterson was all over the place, but his quote was so funny “A ball here, a ball there, a strike every once and a while”. So his control was a bit off, but he did manage to only give up two runs. 
I really thought that I was in for it when the Red Sox tied it at 3. I was hoping it wouldn’t be too late of a night, because I was still pretty tired. Luckily, Jason Varitek came through with a single, and Pap was to come in to close the ninth. 
This one was not as dramatic as the Mother’s Day save where he put two men on (who then advanced to second and third) and then struck the next three guys out. It was pretty epic. This one ended in a less dramatic fashion, but with the same results. 
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And a special shout out to Dom Dimaggio who passed away not so long ago. He was probably one of the most underrated players ever, but when your brother is Joe Dimaggio and your teammate is Ted Williams, what can you expect? I love the fact that he was called the “little professor” on the team. Dustin Pedroia kind of reminds me of him (or his build at least). Dom also holds the longest hitting streak in Red Sox history at 34 games. 
The Other 29 Teams that I keep up with 
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Ryan Zimmerman and his hitting streak, that’s gotta be great for the miserable Nats (no offense). But in all honesty, I don’t think he’ll catch Dimaggio. That record is going to last a long time. 
The ERAs under one? Zack Grienke and Johan Santana? I have basically awarded the Cy Young to the two of them already. And by the way, I’m not concerned with the lackluster performances that some of the Red Sox starters have been having because honestly, it’s pretty much been limited to one inning. 
If I remember correctly, Jon Lester started out (2-3) last season as well. And then he turned into “one of the best left handed pitchers in the game). 
And I would be remiss if I did not mention Albert Pujols. I think that he has the potential to win the Triple Crown. But how cool would it be if a Red Sox won it? Not because they’re my favorite team, but because the last person to win it was a Red Sox, in 1967…. Mr. Carl Yastrzemski. By the way, I think Yastrzemski should be a spelling bee word, it’s impossible to spell. 

International Upset? Or enjoyable shock?

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Did any of you really think that the Netherlands would even win one game? I’ll be completely honest with you– I didn’t. I thought that teams would walk all over them– especially the Dominican. You know, the team with all the All-Stars? 

Here is was their lineup:
1. Reyes (SS)
2. Taveras (CF)
3. [Hanley] Ramirez (DH)
4. Ortiz (1B)
5. Tejada (3B)
6. Guillen (RF)
7. Cano (2B)
8. Cruz (LF)
9. Olivo (C)
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They have the two best short stops in Major League Baseball, Miguel Tejada (if that even is his real name), not to mention David Ortiz.
Here is the Netherlands lineup: 
1. Kingsdale (CF-RF)
2. Schoop (SS)
3. Simon (1B)
4. de Caster (3B)
5. Engelhardt (LF)
6. Adriana (DH)
7. Van’t Klooster (RF)
8. Jansen (C)
9. Duursma (2B)
I don’t know who ANY of these guys are! So the Netherlands are making the trip to Miami where they will meet Puerto Rico, Venezuela and the USA. I think that this shocked the world, and that is the beauty of baseball. I counted them out– I really did but you can’t do that in baseball. The Netherlands are kind of like the Rays of 2008. They came out of no where, and now their skills will be put to the test. 
It’s not like it wasn’t a close game though. It went scoreless into the 11th inning when the Dominican scored a run in the top half, but the Netherlands rallied in the bottom half to produce a walk-off victory. 
The Dominican Republic team is like Team USA of 2006–disappointing. So what went wrong? I think there are a few things that are significant. 
1. Overconfidence. Everyone expected a lot out of the Dominican Republic, especially with that lineup of theirs. They may have gotten a little too self-assured. 
2. Since most all of the players in their lineup play in the Major Leagues, none of their guys have had much practice. If it wasn’t for the WBC, they would be at Spring Training getting into baseball shape. Some of the guys on these other teams have been playing baseball in the winter, so that gives them some of an advantage. 
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3. Albert Pujols and Alex Rodriguez were both unable to play. I can definitely see Albert Pujols making a big impact, but seeing that this tournament is similar to the playoffs, I don’t know how well he would have done. 
I think that I will be lucky enough to get to a few of the WBC games. In fact, my weekend looks to be absolutely filled with baseball. On Saturday, I plan on heading to Fort Lauderdale to see the Red Sox play the Orioles, then go to the Puerto Rico vs United States game at 8:00 pm. Then on Sunday, the fantasy baseball draft!! I’m nervous about that, I have NO idea what I’m doing. 
 In the Realm of the Red Sox 
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Clay Buchholz had a successful outing against the Orioles earlier this week. He fired three scoreless innings and struck out two. There is even better news though: he says that he has never felt more confident before a game.
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Where does this confidence come from? Veteran starter John Smoltz. Not only did the Red Sox pick up an established talent, but they also picked up an adviser. And for the abundance of young pitching that the Red Sox have and will rely on in the future, it’s great to have a Hall of Fame shoe in to guide them along. 
I have heard that Randy Johnson is kind of mean, and I don’t think that does anyone any good. What if Tim Lincecum needs advice? That’s a bit discouraging, or at least I would find it to be. 
Josh Beckett had a successful outing today going four scoreless innings with two strikeouts. This week, Josh Reddick has been on fire! I think he is gaining confidence at the plate, which is what I noted that he needed to work on when I saw him a few weeks ago. Something tells me that he won’t be in the Majors this year. 
I can see him tearing up Double-AA ball though. I think I’m going to make him my future project– he has a guaranteed spot next year and will be on my radar! I have been very happy with the production of my projects thus far this Spring. 
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Mike Lowell finally returned to the lineup against the Orioles, and he went 1-3. He would not have gotten that hit if he hadn’t asked Terry Francona for another at-bat. I’m glad that he did, and I’m glad that he felt good. I know that it will take him a year to fully recuperate from the surgery, but I am confident that he will be fine if he can adjust. 
We signed all of the guys without contracts yet to one-year deals. This doesn’t mean that long contracts can’t be negotiated. As far as I can tell, Jon Lester’s deal is still in the works. This includes people like Jacoby Ellsbury, Jed Lowrie, Justin Masterson, etc. 
I am hoping that I can get you guys some more information about Junichi Tazawa this weekend. I’ll bring lots of pictures from the WBC– I will be sitting in the upper-deck though. I know that a few of the guys from MLB Network are going to be there, and I want to meet them! 
-Elizabeth
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