Looking Ahead To 2023

With about six weeks remaining in the 2022 season, Major League Baseball released their tentative 2023 schedule on Wednesday.  For the first time in years, MLB is moving to a balanced schedule, playing 52 games against division opponents, 64 games against non-division opponents in the same league, and, for the first time, 46 interleague games, with series against every team in the opposite league.  With the White Sox looking to bounce back after what has been a disappointing 2022 campaign to date and the Cubs looking to take the next step forward in their rebuild, the 2023 season looks to be an exciting time in the city of Chicago.  So, for one day, at least, let’s turn our attention to next summer for both teams.

The White Sox open their season on the road in Houston on March 30 for a four-game series against the Astros before returning home to face the Giants in their home opener on April 3.

Aside from the Giants, the new interleague schedule sees the Phillies, Marlins, Cardinals, Brewers, Diamondbacks, and Padres travelling to Chicago, while the White Sox will go on the road to face the Pirates, Reds, Dodgers, Braves, Mets, Rockies, and Nationals. The rivalry with their north side foes continues with a two-game series at Guaranteed Rate Field in late July followed by a mid-August tilt at Wrigley.

After facing AL Central foes only for the first half of September, the season ends with a six-game homestand against the Diamondbacks and the Padres.

On the north side, the Cubs also open their season on March 30, facing the Brewers at home.  After a 3-game series, they head out on the road.

The interleague schedule pits the Cubs against the Rangers, Mariners, Orioles, Guardians, Red Sox, and Royals at Wrigley, while they go on the road to face the A’s, Twins, Angels, Yankees, Blue Jays, and Tigers.

Of their 28 games in September/October, only nine are against their NL Central rivals, though, with the Cubs not likely to contend, that shouldn’t make much of a difference.  They end the year with a six-game road trip against the Braves and Brewers.

Elvis Has Entered The Building

Elvis Night is coming early to Guaranteed Rate Field this year.  With Tim Anderson, Danny Mendick, and Leury Garcia all on the IL, the White Sox are signing free agent shortstop Elvis Andrus.  Andrus, who was released by the A’s on Wednesday, cleared waivers and is expected to join the team on Friday in Cleveland.

Andrus, who turns 34 on the. 26th, which just so happens to be Elvis Night on the South Side, is hitting .237 with 8 home runs and 30 RBIs this season.  The two-time All Star, who spent the first 12 seasons of his career with the Rangers before being traded to Oakland in February 2021, is a career .270 hitter with 87 homers and 703 RBIs in 1,904 career games.  Prior to his release, Andrus was playing out the final season of an eight-year, $120 million contract, but the White Sox will only owe him the prorated league minimum for the remainder of the season.

Travelling The 50 States – Arizona

Over my 47 years, I’ve done my fair share of travelling across these United States.  I thought it would be an interesting experiment go look back at those trips to each of the 31 states I have visited (62% isn’t bad, is it?) and see if, and when, I may be returning.  Working in alphabetical order, we start today with the 48th state to be added to the Union: Arizona.

State: Arizona
Joined the Union: 1912
Visits: 2

Both of my trips to Arizona have occurred within the past seven years, first in 2015 and then again in 2018.  Both visits can also be connected to my job, either directly or indirectly.

In 2015, my first trip to Arizona was for a work recognition trip in March.  Staying at The Phoenician resort for three nights, we enjoyed the facilities (especially the pool), took a rafting trip down the Lower Salt River, and travelled to an offsite ranch for a farewell dinner.  Outside of the work-related activities, I also managed to sneak in a Friday afternoon trip to Sloan Park to see the Cubs battle the White Sox in exciting Cactus League action.   Rather than heading home, I extended my stay for a couple of days.

Saturday, after a trip to the airport to pick up a rental car, we headed to Camelback Ranch in Glendale to watch the White Sox take on the visiting A’s in another installment of the Cactus League.  Looking for some non-baseball activities, Sunday consisted of a lake cruise along Lake Pleasant while Monday started at Heard Museum, which claims to be one of the premier Native American museums in the United States.  When that turned into kind of a bust, we headed to nearby Chase Field for a tour of the home of the Diamondbacks.

I returned to the Phoenix area in 2018, following another work trip.  A conference in Las Vegas led to me stopping in Arizona for the weekend before heading home.  I again took in some Cactus League action, this time at Camelback Ranch and Peoria Sports Complex, seeing the White Sox, Cubs, and Mariners (twice!).  I also enjoyed a trip to the slot canyons and Horseshoe Bend in Page, followed by a quick trip to the Grand Canyon.  I also managed to see my dad for the first time in years (and, to date, the last time I’ve seen him).  He had recently moved to the Tuscon area and drove up for a quick bite to eat before going back home.

Will I return?  I have to assume that yes, I will return to Arizona someday.  Leaving aside any future spring training action, I do need to take in an actual game at Chase Field at some point.  I will also likely need to deal with something related to my dad.  So I’d say the odds are much better than 50/50.

By The Numbers – 2

In 1929, uniform numbers appeared on the back of baseball jerseys for the first time, thanks to the Indians and the Yankees.  By 1937, numbers finally appeared across all uniforms, both home and away, across both major leagues.  Since that time, 81 distinct numbers have been worn by members of the White Sox, while the Cubs boast 76.

Today, we continue our look at those players, picking our favorite, if not the best, player to wear each uniform number for both Chicago teams with #2.  50 different players have donned #2 while playing in Chicago, 28 for the White Sox, who retired the number in 1976, and 22 for the Cubs.

Acquired from the A’s for Joe Tipton following the 1949 season, Nellie Fox switched to his familiar #2 starting with the 1953 season.  The White Sox finished in third place in each season between 1953 and 1956, followed by second-place finishes in 1957 and 1958 before finally breaking through in 1959, thanks in part to Fox’s best season.  He batted .306, leading the AL in singles en route to a .380 OBP.  He also started and had four hits in two All-Star games and won his second Gold Glove on his way to winning the MVP for AL champions.

In the World Series, which turned out to be his only postseason experience, Fox led the White Sox with a .375 average with three doubles.  In Game 5, Fox scored the only run when Sherm Lollar hit into a double play in the fourth inning, only the second time that a World Series game did not have an RBI. Unfortunately, the Sox dropped the next game, and the series, to the Dodgers.

All told, Fox spent 14 seasons with the White Sox, making 12 AL All-Star teams and 15 of 16 AL All-Star Game selections beginning in 1951, with two All-Star games played between 1959 and 1962.  Following the 1963 season, he was traded to the Houston Colt .45s.  He died on December 1. 1975, at the age of 47, following a bout with cancer.  His #2 was retired by the White Sox in 1976 and he was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1997.

On the north side of town, Ryan Theriot wore three different numbers after making his debut on September 13, 2005 before settling on #2 in 2007.  That year, he made the opening-day roster as a utility player, but the early-season struggles of César Izturis led to Theriot taking over as the starter.  Theriot was notably versatile throughout the 2007 season, playing multiple positions defensively and hitting all over the batting order. Despite impressive numbers from Theriot in the lead-off spot, albeit a small sample size, the return of Alfonso Soriano resulted in Theriot returning to second in the batting order.

In 2008, Theriot had the sixth-best batting average in the National League.  While not expected to hit for power, Theriot was asked to try to drive in more runs early in 2009 as the Cubs dealt with injuries and poor performance from their power hitters.  He quickly went on a tear and smacked seven home runs, including his first two ever outside Wrigley Field, as the other players regained their health.  On February 19, 2010, the Cubs went to salary arbitration with Theriot, the first time they had done so since 1993, as the two sides were separated by $800k.  He appeared in 96 games with the Cubs in 2010, hitting .284, before the July 31 trade that sent Theriot and Ted Lilly to the Dodgers for Blake DeWitt.

By The Numbers – 5

In 1929, uniform numbers appeared on the back of baseball jerseys for the first time, thanks to the Indians and the Yankees.  By 1937, numbers finally appeared across all uniforms, both home and away, across both major leagues.  Since that time, 81 distinct numbers have been worn by members of the White Sox, while the Cubs boast 76.

Today, we continue our look at those players, picking our favorite, if not the best, player to wear each uniform number for both Chicago teams with #5.  75 different players have donned #5 while playing in Chicago, 42 for the White Sox and 33 for the Cubs.

Selected in the fifth round of the 1990 draft, Ray Durham broke camp with the White Sox in 1995 and, wearing #5, made his major league debut on Opening Day, leading off and going 1-4 in the 12-3 loss to the Brewers at County Stadium.  Durham stuck in the leadoff spot and finished the year with a .257 average, 7 home runs, and 51 RBI, good enough for a 6th place finish in Rookie of the Year voting.  He saw improvement in 1996, raising his average to .275 and his OBP to .350.  His home run and RBI totals also jumped, going to 10 and 65 respectively.  1997 was another good year for Durham, as he hit .271 with 11 home runs.

In 1998, Durham earned his first All Star nod and finished the year setting career highs with a .285 average, 19 home runs, 67 RBIs, and 36 stolen bases.  Durham improved his average again in 1999, raising it to .296, his career best.  It was also his second of seven straight years with an OPS over .800.  Durham nabbed his second All Star selection in 2000.  When the season came to an end, Durham had a .280 average with 17 home runs and 75 RBIs and the White Sox were atop the AL Central for the first time.  Like the rest of his teammates, Durham struggled during the ALDS, hitting .200 in the three game sweep against the Mariners.

2001 saw Durham’s average drop to .267, his lowest total since his rookie year.  He did manage to set a new career high with 20 home runs as the White Sox failed to repeat.  Durham was hitting .299 with 9 home runs at the trade deadline in 2002 when, facing free agency, he was shipped to the A’s for Jon Adkins.  At the time of the trade, Durham was the club’s all-time leader in leadoff home runs, while placing in the top 10 in franchise history in steals (5th), doubles (7th), extra base hits (7th), and runs (8th).

Michael Barrett wore #5 for the Cubs when he was acquired for the 2004 season.  Barrett gave up his cherished # 5 in early August, handing it over to the newly acquired shortstop Nomar Garciaparra, while switching to #8, in tribute to former Hall of Fame catcher Yogi Berra.

By The Numbers – 7

In 1929, uniform numbers appeared on the back of baseball jerseys for the first time, thanks to the Indians and the Yankees.  By 1937, numbers finally appeared across all uniforms, both home and away, across both major leagues.  Since that time, 81 distinct numbers have been worn by members of the White Sox, while the Cubs boast 76.

Today, we continue our look at those players, picking our favorite, if not the best, player to wear each uniform number for both Chicago teams with #7.  88 different players have donned #7 while playing in Chicago, 43 for the White Sox and 45 for the Cubs.

After wearing #12 when he was first called up to the big leagues, Tim Anderson switched to #7 starting with his second season in 2017.  Showing that he was still a work in progress, Anderson slashed .257/.276/.402 in 2017, with a 2.1% walk rate, the lowest in the major leagues.  Defensively, he led the major leagues in errors, with 28, as well as fielding errors (16) and throwing errors (12).  He showed slight improvements in 2018, with slight improvements in his OBP and slugging percentage, while reducing his overall errors.

2019 was Anderson’s coming out party.  He led the major leagues with a .335 average while raising his OPS to .865, setting career highs with 167 hits, 32 doubles, and 81 runs.  He still had some issues on defense, leading all major league players with 26 errors, leading to the lowest fielding percentage amongst all shortstops.  His hot bat continued into the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, notching a .322 average and an .886 OPS.  He won his first Silver Slugger award while leading the White Sox to their first post-season appearance since 2008.  He thrived in the Wild Card series against the A’s, going 9-14 in the three-game series.

Anderson continued to prove that he his offensive improvement wasn’t a fluke when baseball returned full time in 2021.  He was named to his first All Star team and, on the game’s biggest stage, he hit a walk-off home run against the Yankees in the inaugural Field of Dreams game in the cornfields of Iowa.  Overall, he hit .309 and posted an .807 OPS while hitting 17 home runs and driving in 61 RBIs.  Continuing where he left off the previous October, Anderson hit .368 in the ALDS against the Astros.

On the north side of town, Peoria-native and Northwestern graduate Joe Girardi made his Major League debut for the Cubs on April 4, 1989 wearing #7.  He batted .248 with a home run and 14 runs batted in (RBIs) in 59 games as the surprising Cubs took home a division title. Getting more consistent playing time in 1990, he hit .270 with a home run and 38 RBIs.  Limited to only 21 games in 1991, he managed just a .191 average with only 6 RBIs. In 1992, he rebounded to play in 91 games, hitting .270 with a home run and 12 RBIs.  Following the season, he was left unprotected in the expansion draft and was selected by the Rockies.

Throwback Thursday – Team Records Of The 2000s

It’s time for another trip in the wayback machine, as this week we move our focus to the start of the 21st century and see what my view of the baseball world looked like in the 2000s.  This was my first decade as a season ticket holder, starting in 2002 for the Cubs and 2005 for the White Sox.

I attended 518 contests during the 2000s, starting with my first trip to Cincinnati in April of 2000 and finishing with Daniel Hudson’s first major league victory in September of 2009.  I attended games at 13 stadiums from coast to coast and saw my first post-season action, with an ALDS in 2000, an NLCS in 2003, and a World Series game in 2005.

2021 Team Records
Team Name Won Loss Winning Pctg
Arizona Diamondbacks 11 1 0.917
Philadelphia Phillies 10 4 0.714
Toronto Blue Jays 6 3 0.667
Florida Marlins 12 7 0.632
Tampa Bay Rays 3 2 0.600
Texas Rangers 8 6 0.571
Los Angeles Dodgers 8 6 0.571
Chicago White Sox 130 107 0.549
Chicago Cubs 172 147 0.539
Baltimore Orioles 9 8 0.529
Cleveland Indians 10 9 0.526
Los Angeles Angels 10 9 0.526
Boston Red Sox 9 9 0.500
Colorado Rockies 6 6 0.500
Seattle Mariners 5 5 0.500
Anaheim Angels 1 1 0.500
Houston Astros Continue reading →

Throwback Thursday – Team Records Of The 1990s

Last week, we took a trip in the wayback machine to see all of the games that I attended during the 1980s.  This week, we turn our attention to the 1990s to see what my view of the baseball world looked like.

I’ve been able to identify 32 games I attended during the 90s, starting with a late April outing during the final season at Comiskey Park in 1990 through a September 2000 game at Wrigley Field, including my first visits to stadiums outside of Chicago starting with a July 1993 visit to County Stadium in Milwaukee.  All told, I saw games at eight different ballparks throughout the decade.

1990s Team Records
Team Name Won Loss Winning Pctg
Houston Astros 1 0 1.000
California Angels 1 0 1.000
Cincinnati Reds 1 0 1.000
Arizona Diamondbacks 1 0 1.000
Florida Marlins 1 0 1.000
New York Yankees 1 0 1.000
San Francisco Giants 1 0 1.000
Detroit Tigers 3 1 0.750
Oakland Athletics 2 1 0.667
Chicago White Sox 12 10 0.545
Chicago Cubs 6 5 0.545
Kansas City Royals Continue reading →

All Time Team Records

After a long lockout and an abbreviated spring training, the 2022 baseball season finally gets underway today, so, to celebrate, it is time once again to look at the all-time team records for games that I have identified as having attended dating back to 1984.  Last year, I tied 2004 for my 5th highest game total of all time and managed to see 25 out of the 30 teams, so there should be some nice changes.  Thanks to a name change, the all-time record of the Cleveland Indians become static moving forward, forever stuck at 4 games over .500.

The White Sox look to once again lead an improving AL Central and move past the ALDS in the post-season, while the Cubs are neither contending nor rebuilding.  The 2022 season should be an interesting one on both sides of town, even more interesting if we are able to see it in person.

All-Time Team Records
Team Name Won Loss Winning Pctg
California Angels 2 0 1.000
Arizona Diamondbacks 14 2 0.875
Florida Marlins 15 8 0.652
Colorado Rockies 10 6 0.625
New York Yankees 17 11 0.607
Boston Red Sox 19 13 0.594
Los Angeles Angels 20 14 0.588
Toronto Blue Jays 15 11 0.577
Philadelphia Phillies 11 9 0.550
Washington Nationals 7 6 0.538
Cleveland Indians 31 27 0.534
Chicago White Sox 335 307 0.522
Chicago Cubs 224 206 0.521
Houston Astros Continue reading →

What’s New For 2022

With a new collective bargaining agreement in place and a shortened spring training due to the 99-day lockout, there are plenty of changes coming to MLB for this season and beyond.  It’s time to take a deeper dive into the new CBA and see what those changes are and what impact they may have on the game, intended or unintended.

The most expected outcome of the new CBA is the expansion of the designated hitter to the National League.  In addition to this, a new rule was added that if a team wants to have the same player (*cough*Ohtani*cough*) both pitch and hit, he may be his own DH and removing him as the pitcher will not impact him continuing on as the DH.

The postseason will be expanded to twelve teams, six from each league.  The two division winners with the best records will automatically advance to the Division Series.  The remaining division champion and the three wild card teams will face off in a three-game series.  There will not be any reseeding between the rounds.

Due to Canadian law, unvaccinated players will not be allowed to cross the border and, under the terms of the new CBA, they will not be paid or receive service time for the games missed.

The lowest level of the Competitive Balance Tax (CBT) Threshold, which most teams use as a hard salary cap, will jump to $230M for 2022.  After that, there are three additional surcharge levels, which, at this point, should impact only the Dodgers, Mets, and Padres.

The minimum salary for players has increased to $700K for 2022 and will increase over each year of the CBA.  In addition, there is a new pre-arbitration bonus pool of $50M has been established to reward successful seasons by younger players under team control.  MVP and Cy Young winners would $2.5M while 2nd, 3rd, and 4/5th place finishers would receive $1.75M, $1.5M, and $1M respectively.  Rookie of the Year winners get $750K and 2nd place finishers would take home $500K.  Players named first team All-MLB get $1M while second team gets $500K.  The remaining pool of bonus money will be distributed based on WAR.  A single player can only receive one bonus per season.

Umpires will start using a microphone to announce replay review decisions to the crowd, helping fans better understand the outcomes of those reviews and why.

Double headers will move back to being nine-inning affairs.  The ghost runner starting on second base for extra-inning games was initially eliminated, but was re-instated for 2022 due to the shortened spring training and worries about the impacts of long games to pitching staffs.

Rosters will expand to 28 players for the month of April due to the shortened spring training.  Also, a limit of five has been placed on the number of times a player can be optioned to the minor leagues during a season.  After that, the player must be put on waivers in order to send him down additional times.  Players optioned prior to May 1st will not have that option count against the limit due to the expanded roster.  This new limit does not impact the number of option years a player has.

Players now have expanded rights to engage in promotional and endorsement activities with sports betting companies.  I’m sure nothing bad will come of that.  Also, the MLBPA has agreed to drop their grievance from 2020 about the owners bargaining in good faith about the pandemic-shortened season as part of the new CBA.  An older grievance, concerning how the Pirates, A’s, Marlins, and Rays spend their revenue-sharing dollars, is still ongoing.

Other rules changes that were part of the negotiations, like a pitch clock, shift restrictions, larger bases, and automated balls and strikes, will not be implemented until the 2023 season at the earliest.

Starting in 2023, a lottery will be implemented to determine who gets the first six picks of the draft.  The 18 teams who did not make the previous postseason will be eligible with the three teams with the worst records getting a 16.5% chance at the pick and the six teams with the best records getting a less than 1% chance.  Teams that receive revenue-sharing payouts will not be eligible to receive a lottery pick for more than two years in a row and those that don’t can’t get a top-six choice in consecutive drafts.  Any team that is ineligible for the lottery will not be allowed to select higher than 10th overall.  The draft itself will remain 20 rounds.  A decision on the International Draft, and the corresponding removal of draft pick compensation, will be decided by July 25th.

MLB and MLBPA agreed to stage international games or tours over the next five years.  Regular-season games will be held in Mexico City each May from 2023-26, in London in June 2023, 2024, and 2026 and in Paris in June 2025, and in San Juan, Puerto Rico, in September 2025 and 2026.  A season-opening series is planned for somewhere in Asia for 2024 and Tokyo for 2025.  Postseason tours are planned for South Korea and Taiwan this year and for Latin America in 2023.  Spring training games are being envisioned for Puerto Rico and/or the Dominican Republic in 2024, and the World Baseball Classic returns in 2023 and 2026.

Starting in 2023, teams will play at least one series against every opponent in each league.  Because of the expanded wild card, the new schedule will feature fewer divisional games, and every team will play at least one series against every other opponent, including alternating home and away series every other year against teams in the other league.

Finally, teams will be adding ad patches on their jerseys and stickers on their batting helmets starting in 2023.  Unconfirmed reports say that the jersey patches will go on the sleeve and may be on different sleeves depending on which would give it more exposure.  No word yet on how that would work with teams that already have one (or two) sleeve patches.  The jersey sponsorships are being sold at the team level and can’t go to alcohol, gambling, or media brands.  Helmet sponsorships are expected to be handled by MLB.