2021: The Year In Travel

In normal times, this is where I would take a look back at all of the trips I took over the past year and look ahead to what, if any. travel plans I already have for 2022.  Unfortunately, 2021 continued to be far from normal times, as the global pandemic raged on for a second year, though things did manage to open back up slightly.

My first “trip” of the year, if you can call it that, was in March.  On a Friday afternoon, I drove down to Purdue to pick up Danny, before continuing on to Indianapolis so we could watch Purdue in the NCAA tournament.  They managed to completely crap the bed, which made the whole effort worthwhile.  After the game, we traveled back the way we came and I was home early the next morning.

In August, I made my only big trip of the year, driving down to Florida for some fun in the sun.  I had rented a condo on AirBNB that was right on the water, which, thanks to the spacious deck, let me enjoy the view while relaxing and reading.  I also managed to make my first two trips to Tropicana Field, as the White Sox were in town to battle the Rays.  Those experiences did not turn out quite as well.

On the drive home, I stopped in Atlanta and managed to take in a game at Truist Park to see the Yankees battle the Braves.  The following day I completed my journey, making it home in the midst of a torrential downpour, which made the last hour or so of driving so much fun.

The only other trips were back down to Purdue for football games, one in October and two in November.  We didn’t manage to make the second game in November, but it’s the drive that matters.

Looking ahead to 2022, despite the rise in COVID cases due to the omicron variant, I’m planning to return to Hawaii later this month and the family is headed to Boston in May for Angelina’s graduation.  Other than that, there are some baseball trips I want to take this year, but nothing is solid just yet.  Here’s hoping that the world returns to some sort of normalcy, though I’m not optimistic.

By The Numbers – 25

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 #25.  87 different players have donned #25 while playing in Chicago, 51 for the White Sox and 36 for the Cubs.

Acquired by the Cubs following the 2003 season for Hee Seop Choi, Derrek Lee, wearing #25, quickly became a mainstay of the Cubs lineup.  He hit .278 with 32 home runs and 98 RBIs in his first year on the north side.  2005 was a career year for Lee, and that was just in the first half.  He led the majors with a .376 average and 72 RBIs while tying for the lead with 27 home runs.  For the full season, he hit 46 home runs and a .335 average, the highest for a Cub since Bill Madlock in 1976 and he notched the first batting title for a Cub since Bill Buckner in 1980.  When it was all said and done, he had won the Gold Glove and Silver Slugger awards and finished third in MVP voting.

A broken wrist limited Lee to 50 games in 2006, but he rebounded in 2007 to hit .317 with 22 home runs as the Cubs won their first NL Central title since 2003.  Lee went 4 for 12 as the Cubs were swept in 3 games by the Diamondbacks.  Another strong season in 2008, with a .291 average, 20 home runs, and 90 RBIs helped push the Cubs back to the post-season.  Lee did all he could, hitting .545 in the NLDS against the Dodgers, but the Cubs were once again swept.  Lee overcame a slow start in 2009 thanks to a 21 game hitting streak and finished with a .306 batting average, 35 home runs and 111 RBIs, which earned him enough votes to finish ninth in MVP voting.

2010 was a strange year for Lee and the Cubs.  On June 9th, he hit his 300th career home run.  Later that month, however, he would get in to a fight in the dugout with Carlos Zambrano, which led to a suspension for Zambrano.  In the last year of his contract and with the team going nowhere fast, Lee was traded to the Braves on August 18th, ending his Cub tenure.

Looking to reload after winning their first World Series championship in 88 years, the White Sox acquired Jim Thome from the Phillies for Aaron Rowand, Gio Gonzalez, and Daniel Haigwood.  Thome, wearing his familiar #25, made an immediate impact, setting a major league record by scoring in each of Chicago’s first 17 games and setting the team record with 10 home runs in April.  By season’s end, Thome had put up a .288 average with 42 home runs, 102 RBIs, and an OPS of 1.014.  One of the few bright spots for the 2007 White Sox came in mid-September, when Thome, on his bobblehead day, launched his 500th career home run, the first player to do so on a walk-off.  For the year, Thome hit .275, with 35 home runs and 96 RBIs.  2008 was a bit of a down year for Thome, as his average and OPS both fell, but he still managed 34 home runs and 90 RBIs.  The most important of each came in the 163rd game of the year, as he hit a solo home run to give the White Sox a 1-0 victory over the Twins and the Central Division title.  With the White Sox going nowhere in 2009, Thome was traded to the Dodgers on August 31 for a warm body.

 

2021 Final Standings

The 2021 season, at least the portion which would see me attending games, has come to an end after the White Sox lost to the Astros in the ALDS 3-1.  After a year without in-person baseball thanks to the corona virus, I ended up attending the most games I’ve seen since 2009 and my 5th highest total of all time.  I also managed to travel to four different stadiums, bringing my total up to 27.  All told, I managed to see 25 of the 30 teams a year after seeing none.

2021 Team Records
Team Name Won Loss Winning Pctg
Tampa Bay Rays 3 0 1.000
New York Yankees 2 0 1.000
Arizona Diamondbacks 1 0 1.000
Washington Nationals 1 0 1.000
Philadelphia Phillies 1 0 1.000
Los Angeles Angels 1 0 1.000
San Francisco Giants 1 0 1.000
Boston Red Sox 1 0 1.000
Seattle Mariners 2 1 0.667
Chicago White Sox 29 20 0.592
Cleveland Indians 3 3 0.500
Kansas City Royals Continue reading →

All Time Division Series Team Records

We’ve gotten through 162 games and the post-season is set.  The White Sox travel to Houston to take on the Astros in the ALDS.  I seem to remember something good happening the last time these two teams met up in the post-season.

Normally, I would take a renewed view of the team records for the 30 playoff contests I have attended.  Thanks to the corona virus pandemic that kept fans home last season, however, nothing has changed since I looked at those records last year.  Instead, I figured it was worth our while to focus on the Division Series for the first time and see how teams have performed in the 16 games I’ve attended in that first playoff round from 2000, 2003, 2005, 2007, 2008, 2015, 2016, and 2017.

Division Series Team Records
Team Name Won Loss Winning Pctg
Seattle Mariners 2 0 1.000
Los Angeles Dodgers 2 0 1.000
Arizona Diamondbacks 1 0 1.000
Washington Nationals 1 1 0.500
Tampa Bay Rays 1 1 0.500
Chicago White Sox 3 3 0.500
Chicago Cubs 5 5 0.500
Atlanta Braves 1 1 0.500
St. Louis Cardinals 0 1 0.000
San Francisco Giants 0 2 0.000
Boston Red Sox 0 2 0.000

2021 Predictions Revisited

What a difference six months makes.  Back in March, at the dawn of the 2021 baseball season, I made my annual predictions as to who would win what with little idea if the season would go off as planned.  Now that the regular season has come to an end, it is time revisit those predictions and see what, if anything, I got right.

American League

East: Yankees

Well, that’s one down.  Despite losing two starting pitchers from last year’s staff, the Rays managed to repeat as champs of the AL East.

Central: Twins

I was all set to go with the White Sox here, until a late injury to Eloy Jimenez in spring training left me feeling bad.  The Twins fell off the face of the Earth, while the White Sox overcame injuries all season to cruise to their first division title since 2008.

West: Astros

Hey, here’s one I got right.  The Astros return to the top of the division after a one year break.

Wild Cards: White Sox, Blue Jays

Talk about coming down to the wire.  With a potential 4-way tie for the two Wild Card spots heading in to the final day of the season, the Yankees and the Red Sox both took control of their destinies with victories on Sunday, leaving the Blue Jays and the Mariners on the outside looking in.

AL Champion: Yankees

The Rays do seem to be the class of the league.

Cy Young: Lucas Giolito

That seems very unlikely.  Blue Jays ace Robbie Ray seems like a popular choice.

MVP: Aaron Judge

A fine choice, but who could have seen Shohei Ohtani coming?  The two-way Angels star will run away and hide with this award.

National League

Continue reading →

By The Numbers – 38

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 #38.  89 different players have donned #38 while playing in Chicago, 45 for the White Sox and 44 for the Cubs.

From the time he made his debut in 2001 through the January 2012 trade that ended his Cubs career, Carlos Zambrano took the field with #38 on his back.  When he was on his game, which he was for much of his early career on the Northside, he was one of the best in the game, helping the Cubs to division titles in 2003, 2007, and 2008.  Towards the end, though, he was known more for the troubles he has caused, whether it was fighting with Michael Barrett, Derrek Lee, or a Gatorade machine before finally walking out on the team after a horrid start against the Braves in the August of 2011, where he was ejected, claimed he was retiring, and then was suspended for the remainder of the season.  In January, he was traded to the Marlins.

On the south side of town, Pablo Ozuna donned #38 during his 3+ years with the White Sox.  Signing as a free agent in January of 2005, Ozuna saw the most playing time of his career to that point, including scoring the winning run in Game 2 of the ALCS, pinch running for A.J. Pierzynski after the infamous dropped third strike call in the 9th inning, and kicking off he 8 game winning streak to close out the franchise’s first World Series title in 88 years.

Ozuna returned to the White Sox in 2006 and, on May 3, he hit his first career home run.  A broken leg suffered in late May of 2007 limited Ozuna to 27 games.  He returned from the injury in 2008 and was performing well, hitting .281 in 32 games, but was designated for assignment after a roster crunch in July.

Fitbit VII – Week 31

A pretty decent week, all things considered, as I notched my first 10,000 step day since May.  Things got off to a decent enough start on Sunday, as I made a return trip to Tropicana Field to watch a horrible baseball game, finishing with 5100 steps.  Things improved a bit on Monday, as I relaxed for my last day in Florida and chalked up 5400 steps.  On Tuesday morning, I hopped in the car and headed to Atlanta, where an ill-advised uphill walk to Truist Park to watch the Braves and the Yankees put me 10 steps shy of 10,900.  I left Atlanta on Wednesday and headed for home, which left me with only 4700 steps.  Going back to work on Thursday left me with a depressing 3500 steps.  The return of crosstown baseball on Friday lifted me back up to 4600 steps.  The return trip to Guaranteed Rate Field on Saturday was another improvement, leaving me 4 steps away from 5500.

Total steps: 39,888

Daily average: 5698.3

Lighting It Up

A high scoring affair on the south side last night as the White Sox battled their crosstown rivals led me to think: what was the highest scoring game I’ve ever attended?  Some quick calculations have produced these top 9 scoring games that I have seen in person, starting with last night’s tilt.

30 runs

8/27/2021

After putting up 6 runs in the top half of the first, the Cubs, for the second time this season, coughed up the lead.  Yasmani Grandal, in his first game action since a knee injury on July 5th, hit two home runs and drove in 8 runs as the White Sox won 17-13.  The 17 runs are the 4th largest output I’ve seen in person, while the 13 runs put up by the Cubs was the largest I’ve seen in a losing effort.

26 runs

7/2/2006

Another high scoring crosstown tilt, as Michael Barrett and Carlos Zambrano both homered off of Mark Buehrle in a 7 run first inning.  Despite home runs from Juan Uribe, Jim Thome, Joe Crede, and Tadahito Iguchi, the Cubs held on to win 15-11 while avoiding a three game sweep.

9/2/2017

Powered by backup catcher Rene Rivera’s first career grand slam, the Cubs built an 11-4 lead heading to the 7th inning against the Braves.  The Cubs bullpen then managed to give up 8 runs over the final three innings, which would have given the Braves the victory, but they also managed to tack on 3 insurance runs, giving the Cubs a 14-12 win.

24 runs

4/30/2008

Two three-run homers from Geovany Soto led the Cubs to a 19-5 victory over the Brewers, their highest single game output since 2001.

23 runs

Continue reading →

Two Sides Of The Same Town

cws-chiFollowing last week’s trade deadline deals, Ryan Tepera and Craig Kimbrel became the 36th and 37th people I’ve seen play in person for both the Cubs and the White Sox.  With the first round of crosstown kicking off this afternoon at Wrigley, here’s a look at those players, in alphabetical order.

David Aardsma

After posting a decent season with the Cubs in 2006, Aardsma was traded to the White Sox for Neal Cotts.  Aardsma lasted one season with the Sox, where he was unable to duplicate his success from the year before.

Jason Bere

Drafted by the White Sox in the 36th round in 1990, Bere debuted with the big league club in 1993, finishing 2nd in Rookie of the Year voting.  After an All Star selection in 1994, injuries marred the remainder of his tenure on the South Side, which ended in 1998.  He resurfaced with the Cubs in 2001 and had a decent season, but he went 1-10 in 2002 before being let go.

Emilio Bonifacio

Bonifacio spent back-to-back partial seasons in Chicago, first for the Cubs in 2014 after signing as a free agent, where he played decently enough to be flipped at the trade deadline, along with James Russell, to the Braves for a young catching prospect by the name of Victor Caratini.  He returned to Chicago in 2015, signing with the White Sox, where he he did not do well at all, hitting .167 in 47 games before being released in August.

Welington Castillo

Debuting with the Cubs in 2010, Castillo spent time behind the plate for the Cubs until May of 2015, when, having been replaced in the starting lineup by Miguel Montero, he was flipped to the Mariners.  He returned to Chicago in 2018 after signing with the White Sox as a free agent.  On May 24th of that season, he was suspended 80 games for a violation of the PED policy.  The White Sox then cut bait following the 2019 season, shipping him off to the Rangers.

Neal Cotts

Acquired by the White Sox in the Billy Koch trade, he debuted with the team in 2003.  He was a key contributor in the bullpen during the 2005 championship season, and was the only relief pitcher to appear in all 3 rounds of the playoffs that season.  Following the 2006 season, he was traded to the Cubs for David Aardsma, and he spent the next 3 injury filled seasons on the North Side.

Scott Eyre

Joining the White Sox organization in a 1994 trade with the Rangers, he debuted with the big league team in 1997.  He split the next 4 seasons between the rotation and the bullpen, not to mention between Chicago and Charlotte, before being moved to the Blue Jays following the 2000 ALDS loss to the Mariners.  He joined the Cubs as a free agent for the 2006 season and enjoyed 2 seasons of relative success, before falling apart in 2008, when he was traded to the Phillies.

Kosuke Fukudome Continue reading →

By The Numbers – 51

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 #51.  44 different players have donned #51 while playing in Chicago, 20 for the White Sox and 24 for the Cubs.

Juan Cruz, wearing #51, made his big league debut for the Cubs on August 21, 2001, against the Brewers.  He went 3–1 with a 3.22 ERA in his first 8 starts, and recorded his first two major league hits on October 2.  Cruz went 3–11 with a 3.98 ERA in 45 games in 2002, picking up his first career save.  He got off to a good start in 2003, striking out 6 consecutive Mets on Opening Day, becoming only the second Cubs reliever to achieve the feat.  Things went a bit downhill from there, finishing the year 2–7 with a 6.05 ERA while making 6 starts, despite being sent back down to Iowa in June.  He threw one scoreless inning during the NLDS against the Braves.  That would end up being his final Cub appearance, as he was traded to those same Braves the following March.

Dane Dunning was acquired by the White Sox as part of the return for Adam Eaton in 2016.  He made his major league debut in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, going 2-0 in 7 starts with a 3.97 ERA.  He started Game 3 of the Wild Card series against the A’s, getting pulled after 2/3rds of an inning as the White Sox were eliminated.  That was his final White Sox appearance, as he was traded to the Rangers in exchange for Lance Lynn this past December.