Results tagged ‘ Mickey Mantle ’

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.

Why I cheered for Derek Jeter

As a Red Sox fan, I have been brought up to hate the Yankees. The timeless rivalry dates back to the beginnings of baseball, and has been augmented numerous times thanks to trades we want to forget, home runs we wish had never been hit, and bench clearing brawls. 

Because both teams have so much history, there are many stories that have been passed down, and players that are glorified by having their numbers retired. Hate and love may be considered opposite feelings, but they are felt with similar passions. I love the Red Sox with all my heart and soul. I indulge in their history, and I revel at the accomplishments that past players have made, I watch history in the making as the present players play, and I dream of the accomplishments that future players will make. 
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I hate the Yankees. I hate the fact that they lead the American League East by 9 games even though the Red Sox were in first place for the first half of the season. I hate that they are so good. I hate that they go out and buy the best players on the market every single year, and rub it in our faces, and I hate the fact that they cut the hair and shaved the beard of who used to be one of my favorite players. And when I continue to think about all of these things, I realize something: I love to hate them. 
Just because I hate the Yankees, it doesn’t mean I wish they didn’t exist. What fun would the AL East be if the Yankees weren’t in it? The Red Sox and the Yankees need each other in order to exist in the way that they do. Baseball would not be the same if the Yankees didn’t exist, it would be much, much worse. 
Furthermore, just because I hate the Yankees, that doesn’t mean that I can’t admire some of their players. There are many players that I dislike, such as Alex Rodriguez. But I dislike A-Rod because of how he has cheated the game. Baseball figures like Joe Dimaggio, Lou Gehrig, Mickey Mantle, Yogi Bera, and so many others remind us of the beauty of baseball that is sometimes overshadowed by the scandals that are so evident today. I don’t know if anyone is every going to be able to catch Dimaggio’s immortal 56 game hit streak. Lou Gehrig’s speech at Yankee Stadium is a classic piece of baseball history. 
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The fact of the matter is, in order to be a fan of the Red Sox, you have to be a fan of baseball, and this applies for any team. Baseball is a beautiful thing. There is something very tangible and very intangible about it at the same time. Regardless of whom you root for, at the end of the day, we are all baseball fans, and that is why we should admire and respect the great players of the game who write another page in the eternal textbook of baseball. 
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That is why I cheered for Derek Jeter when he tied, and broke Lou Gehrig’s all-time Yankees hit record. I cheered because I love baseball, and Derek Jeter is one of prototypical players of the game. He is someone that will be remembered forever in baseball history. 
When I think about some of the goals I want to accomplish in my life, there is one that is the most important to me. I want to bring a smile to people’s faces when I talk and write about baseball. I want to change the minds of those who find baseball boring, and show them how beautiful it really is. My goal is not to convert people to Red Sox fans, my goal is to convert people to baseball fans because that is the essential basis. 
Going further on this goal, I want to create a program for people with disabilities to get into baseball. I want people who are blind to be able to listen to and love the beauty of the game, and I want people who are deaf to see the beauty of the game. Our senses play such an important role in the way we experience the game, that we should give the gift of them to those who are not fortunate enough to experience the game in the same way that we do. We are lucky enough to see the beautiful ballparks, to see unbelievable plays being made, and to see the looks on players’ faces when they have won the World Series. We are lucky enough to hear the crack of a baseball bat, and the roar of the crowd after a walk-off shot has been hit. We can taste the different kinds of specialties that are made at each park, and taste the hotdogs that are a staple of every park. We are able to feel the lines and dirt on the foul ball we caught. And we can smell the dirt on the baseball field, and the fresh cut grass. We should share this experience with those who are not fortunate enough
I have a few things that I want to get to on my Red Sox agenda as well. It looks like we are going to be the wildcard team, if we can hold Texas back. The Rays are not as much of a problem considering they have been in a massive slump (and they lost a huge part of their lineup in Carlos Peña). 
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There are two main things that the Red Sox need to focus on right now: their starting pitching rotation, and the “best” starting lineup that they can put out there. If Josh Beckett can return to his dominant Cy Young like May-August form, that may just determine how long the Red Sox will last. He has such an impact on postseason teams when he is strong: the 2003 Marlins and the 2007 Red Sox. If Jon Lester can keep up his dominant lefty reputation, and if Clay Buchholz can remain the young phenom that he is, then a three man rotation will be fine for the playoffs. 
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However, there is one main lineup thing that I have been having a bit of an issue with as of late. Ever since the brilliant acquisition of Victor Martinez, both Jason Varitek and Mike Lowell’s playing time have been limited. Is it really fair that these two are the ones sitting when Big Papi is the one who isn’t even batting .230 on the season? I know the impact that Big Papi has had on our recent playoff runs, and I’m not asking anyone to forget that. But if we dwell on the past and hope that it can repeat itself for too long, it may be too late to focus on the problems of the present. I think that Mike Lowell deserves to be in the lineup everyday with the way that he has been hitting since the All-Star break, which is why I would have him as the designat
ed hitter, and have Martinez at first with Jason Varitek catching.I know that Varitek’s average is worse than Big Papi’s, but he has more of an impact on the game with his defense than Papi does. I think that would be the best offensive lineup that the Red Sox can put out there. 
I want to conclude this by going back to what I said before about Derek Jeter. I have told you that I cheer for him, but I want to know what you guys think. No matter who you root for, did you cheer for him, or didn’t you? Why or why not? If you are a Red Sox fan, and you wouldn’t cheer for him, do you think I am a bad Red Sox fan for appreciating his accomplishment? Please drop me a comment or an e-mail. 

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