Baseball’s biggest tease

Tim Lincecum

Tim Lincecum: a one-time ace who still teases greatness.

Giants fans got teased again last week. In the midst of a dreadful, team-wide June Swoon, Tim Lincecum took the hill against San Diego and fired a no-hitter – his second in as many seasons.

This isn’t the fireballing Lincecum of five years ago, however. Watching him today, it’s increasingly difficult to recall “The Freak” that burst upon baseball in 2007 and went on to back-to-back Cy Young Awards in his first two full seasons in the big leagues in 2008-09. That flame-thrower led the National League in strikeouts three straight years, posted remarkable WARs (Wins Above Replacement) of 7.9 and 7.5 in 2008-09, and was widely regarded as the game’s most dominant pitcher and a future Hall of Famer. Continue reading

The last of the great Albuquerque Dukes teams

Dukes logoThe arrival of the 2014 baseball season means 20 years have passed since the old Albuquerque Dukes won the last of their eight Pacific Coast League championships. The franchise joined the Triple A PCL in 1972 with a dominant team managed by Tommy Lasorda and featuring future big leaguers like Ron Cey, Davey Lopes, Burt Hooton, Charlie Hough, Larry Hisle, and more. The Dodgers’ minor league system was well-stocked during the years the O’Malley family owned the Dodgers, and Albuqerque, often the final stop for players on their way to the majors, reaped the benefits time and time again. Continue reading

2014 Baseball Hall of Fame ballot: Who gets your vote?

Greg Maddux

Greg Maddux: 355 wins, four Cy Young Awards. First ballot Hall of Famer?

The 2014 Baseball Hall of Fame ballot was announced today, and as I wrote a couple years ago, there are few clear answers in Hall of Fame voting these days. This year presents an even tougher field to choose from than last year…all thanks to the “Steroid Era” and baseball writers’ reactions to it.

If you had a vote to cast, which players would you choose? Do you vote for suspected steroid users, or just those who appear clean? Do you vote for clear-cut Hall of Famers whose careers may have been tainted, or do you vote for marginal Hall of Famers whose performances were (as far as we know) never in question? Continue reading

The name on the front of the jersey

Jeter Rivera

Future Hall of Famers Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera, Yankees throughout their careers…quite a rarity these days.

Gehrig. Feller. Williams. Musial. Banks. Stargell. Yastrzemski. Bench. Yount. Ripken. The list goes on and on. Many of baseball’s all-time greats never changed uniforms in their lengthy big league careers. Of course that’s a rarity now, which makes present-day Yankees greats Mariano Rivera and Derek Jeter all the more unusual.

I grew up in an era when baseball was changing dramatically. In the 1970s, as the DH rule and free agency hit baseball, longtime stars suddenly started moving from team to team. I remember thinking how strange it was to see Catfish Hunter become a Yankee, but superstars changing uniforms quickly became the norm. Continue reading

Another Lanning hits the big leagues

Spencer Lanning

Spencer Lanning, Cleveland Browns

As I wrote about last year, three Lannings have played Major League Baseball (the last retired in 1947), and I’ve had a fun time over the years tracking down artifacts and history of those long-lost ballplayers and linking them to my family tree. In fact, not too long ago I finally found a photo of Lester “Red” Lanning from his college days as a baseball star at Wesleyan University in Connecticut, before his short-lived career in the majors. However, there’s never been a Lanning in the NFL (or NBA, or NHL)…until now. Continue reading

Dave Parker: The Cobra’s on-field impact too easily forgotten

Dave Parker

Dave Parker was the star of the stars for the late-’70s Pirates.

Today’s sad news that former All-Star Dave Parker is battling Parkinson’s Disease stirred a host of childhood memories.

I grew up watching “The Cobra.” I was a mediocre right fielder in Little League right around the time Parker was winning batting titles and Gold Gloves patrolling right field in Pittsburgh. For years he was one of my favorite players, both in his truly electric prime as a legitimate five-tool talent with the “We Are Family” Pirates of the late 1970s and later, when he resurrected his career following baseball’s cocaine scandal of the 1980s that also claimed another hero of mine, Vida Blue.

As a West Coast native, I was never a Pirates fan, but they were a fun team to watch throughout much of the 1970s. The late ‘70s “Lumber Company” lineup of Willie Stargell and Bill Madlock and Omar Moreno and more was impressive to say the least, but to me the true superstar was always Parker. Continue reading

Puig: Astounding to date, but not a Hall of Famer just yet

Eric Young & Mike Piazza

Two future major leaguers, Eric Young and Mike Piazza, as Albuquerque Dukes in 1993.

Twenty years ago I had the good fortune of working in the front office of the old Albuquerque Dukes as Mike Piazza blazed his way through town on his way to the Dodgers and, I expect (steroid rumors aside), ultimately the Baseball Hall of Fame. He was a classic phenom – a late round draft pick taken primarily as a favor to Tommy Lasorda who blossomed into maybe the best-hitting catcher in baseball history.

However, I also remember Raul Mondesi, who had almost as meteoric a rise through the system and to the majors. He was yet another Dodgers product who became a Rookie of the Year, and yet another phenom. He had some very good years, but he never reached the greatness predicted for him when he arrived in the big leagues., and instead of a storied Dodgers career he ultimately wore the uniforms of seven different franchises. Continue reading

PEDs: Here We Go Again

Yes, here we go again…

Just as the Super Bowl approaches and baseball’s spring training follows closely afterward, sports news is being dominated not by positive, feel-good stories, but by a gaggle of new allegations against NFL and MLB stars for performance-enhancing drugs.

ARod

ARod won’t be doing much smiling anytime soon.

First came news from Miami that a suspected PED-dealing doctor’s files contained some big names. Once again we see Alex Rodriguez among the suspected cheaters. No surprise there. Melky Cabrera and Bartolo Colon, two players whose positive tests and subsequent suspensions made news last season, are also among those named…which certainly doesn’t bode well for the others on the list. Gio Gonzalez, suddenly a 21-game winner last year, and Nelson Cruz, the 2011 ALCS MVP, are also on the list. And, along with these guys, others appearing in the files included the University of Miami’s longtime strength and conditioning coach; a Cuban boxer; and a professional tennis player who has already been suspended from tennis for trafficking in HGH. Continue reading

World Series 2012: So much for the pundits’ picks

The Detroit Tigers, at 88-74, had the fewest wins of any division champion in 2012. They were tied with the National League Wild Card St. Louis Cardinals for the fewest wins of any playoff team period. Meanwhile, the San Francisco Giants were 94-68.

In 2012 the Tigers’ run differential on the season was +56, 13 runs fewer than that of the Giants.

Pablo Sandoval

The dominant player on the field in Game One was a Giant: Pablo Sandoval

Yet a stunning 23 of 28 ESPN “experts” picked Detroit to win the World Series, many of them in six games or less. Several based their picks on the Tigers’ “dominant starting pitching.”

Eight of 11 MLB.com pundits chose the Tigers.

At FOX Sports, Ken Rosenthal also picked the Tigers. Continue reading

2012 World Series, Game One

Pablo Sandoval

Pablo Sandoval crosses the plate after one of his record-tying three home runs in a World Series game. (DAVID J. PHILLIP/AP)

I was lucky enough to be at Game One of the 2010 World Series, when the mood outside the ballpark before the game was just amazing. Palpable excitement about a team that had survived its division race on the final day of the season and then rolled through the playoffs. This year was a bit different…this team did the opposite, rolling to a division title over the last couple months of the season but then needing miraculous comebacks to win both playoff rounds. There was less hyperactivity outside the park for Game One this year, at least before the game, but that all changed once everyone was inside and gametime approached.

Thankfully, after the 9th inning monsoon in Game Seven of the NLCS, the weather was perfect…a cool, crisp fall day in the City by the Bay. Continue reading