End Of The Road?

With only four months remaining on the 10-year, $240 million contract signed following to the 2011 season, the Angels decided to cut ties with Albert Pujols, designating the future Hall of Fame baseball person for assignment yesterday.  “It’s more about opportunity,” GM Perry Minasian said of Pujols, to date, had posted an OPS 80 points below the league average in his age-41 season.  “Albert is not a bench player. We felt like, for him, with respect to him, keeping him on the bench, him not getting any playing time, would not do him any good or the team any good.”

Pujols is reportedly steadfast in his desire to continue playing, but it’s hard to see a good fit for him, especially with no DH in the National League.  Some speculation mentioned the White Sox as a potential landing spot, given the relationship between Pujols and Tony La Russa, but, unless Pujols is suddenly able to play the outfield, you would think the presence of Jose Abreu and Yermin Mercedes would preclude any such reunion.  If I had to guess, I would say this is the end of Pujols’ long and distinguished career.

Thanks to the profitable nature of the Cubs/Cardinals rivalry, I didn’t see Pujols play in person as often as I could have during his prime, but he’s still in the top 5 of games played for non-Chicago players in my history.  His numbers, both for games I attended and overall, were:

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All Time Team Records

In a shocking development, the 2021 baseball season got underway last night without issue or delay.  With hopefully a full 162 game schedule on the docket, 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.  Thanks to some eBaying of pocket schedules from the 80s, I was able to identify one additional game that I attended in 1988, a California Angels victory at Comiskey Park against the White Sox.

The Cubs look to contend in a weak NL Central with one final year of having the core of their World Series Championship team under contract, while the White Sox hope their offseason additions put them over the top and make them true World Series contenders.  The 2021 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 13 2 0.867
Florida Marlins 15 8 0.652
Colorado Rockies 10 6 0.625
Boston Red Sox 18 13 0.581
Toronto Blue Jays 15 11 0.577
New York Yankees 15 11 0.577
Los Angeles Angels 19 14 0.576
Cleveland Indians 28 24 0.538
Chicago Cubs 219 197 0.526
Philadelphia Phillies 10 9 0.526
Houston Astros 22 20 0.524
Chicago White Sox 306 287 0.516
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2021 Predictions

After a year of pandemic-related shut downs and a truncated 60-game schedule last year, the 2021 baseball season is scheduled to kick off on Thursday with a full slate of games and some percentage of fans back in the stands.  For the eleventh consecutive year, I’ve looked into the crystal ball to make my picks for the upcoming season.

American League

East: Yankees

Central: Twins

West: Astros

Wild Cards: White Sox, Blue Jays

AL Champion: Yankees

Cy Young: Lucas Giolito

MVP: Aaron Judge

National League

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2020 BBWAA Award Predictions

The Baseball Writers of America have announced the finalists for their awards for the just completed shortened baseball season, which will be announced next week.  It is a good bet that few of my original predictions for the winners will be accurate.  Hopefully, these new predictions will be slightly better, especially since I’ll have a 33% chance of being right.

American League

Most Valuable Player: Jose Abreu, D.J. LeMahieu, Jose Ramirez

Well, my pre-season selection to win the award this year, Yoan Moncada, got taken down by the corona virus, but I’m expecting (and hoping) that it stays in the same clubhouse and that Jose Abreu wins.

Cy Young Award: Shane Bieber, Kenta Maeda, Hyun-Jin Ryu

My initial guess was that Blake Snell would take home the prize, but this has Shane Bieber written all over it.

Manager of the Year: Kevin Cash, Charlie Montoyo, Rick Renteria

Once again, I didn’t make any predictions for this award prior to the season.  Kevin Cash is the likely winner, though wouldn’t it be funny to see Renteria bring home this award a month after losing the job he was being recognized for?.

Rookie of the Year: Christian Javier, Kyle Lewis, Luis Robert

Another award I didn’t predict prior to the season.  Had you held the election at the end of August, Robert would have been the odds-on favorite.  However, a month long slump in September probably puts Kyle Lewis in the driver’s seat.

National League

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Everything Old Is New Again

About 2 1/2 weeks ago, Rick Hahn described the ideal candidate to become the next manager of the White Sox: recent post-season experience with a championship organization.  Depending on your definition of recent, the White Sox found their man today, announcing that Tony LaRussa, who retired from the dugout after leading the Cardinals to a championship in 2011, would once again take the reins on the south side of Chicago.

LaRussa, who is third all-time with 2,728 wins, first became manager of the White Sox in 1979, under owner Bill Veeck.  After leading the team to the AL Western Division title in 1983, LaRussa was fired in June of 1986 by Ken Harrelson.  This has long been cited as the biggest sports-related regret for owner Jerry Reinsdorf.

 

LaRussa caught on with the A’s less than a month after leaving the White Sox, staying there for 10 years, winning 3 AL pennants and one World Series championship.  He then spent 16 years on the bench for the Cardinals, winning 3 NL pennants and 2 World Series championships, retiring after the final one in 2011.  Since then, he has spent time working for MLB and in the front office for the Diamondbacks, Red Sox, and Angels.

LaRussa, who will be 76 on opening day 2021, becomes the oldest manager in the major leagues and the oldest to take over a team since Jack McKeon in 2011.

The two biggest concerns, to my mind, are 1) has the move toward analytics changed the game enough in the last 9 years that he’s been left behind and 2) will the exuberant players on the White Sox roster, namely Tim Anderson, Luis Robert, and Eloy Jimenez, chafe under an older school manager who may not appreciate the bat flips and political outspokenness.  This will either end very well, with post-season success, or will bomb spectacularly.  There really will not be a middle ground.

All Time Playoff Team Records

For the first time since 2008, both the White Sox and the Cubs are in the post-season following this abbreviated 2020 season.  The expanded run to the World Series will start with the White Sox facing A’s in Oakland for a best of 3 series starting tonight, while the Cubs welcome the Marlins to Wrigley starting tomorrow.  Winners will advance to the LDS and enter a playoff bubble, with the AL moving to California and the NL to Texas.

With the AL Wild Card Series set to kick off today, it’s time to take an updated look at the team records for the now 30 playoff contests I have attended. These contests come from the 2018 Wild Card game, the ALDS in 2000, 2005, and 2008, the NLDS in 2003, 2007, 2008, 2015, 2016, and 2017, the NLCS in 2003, 2015, 2016, and 2017, the ALCS in 2005, and, of course, the 2005 and 2016 World Series.  Sadly, I won’t be adding any games to this list this year.  Thanks, corona virus.

Post-Season Team Records
Team Name Won Loss Winning Pctg
Florida Marlins 3 0 1.000
Seattle Mariners 2 0 1.000
New York Mets 2 0 1.000
Colorado Rockies 1 0 1.000
Arizona Diamondbacks 1 0 1.000
Chicago White Sox 5 4 0.556
Los Angeles Dodgers 3 3 0.500
Atlanta Braves 1 1 0.500
Cleveland Indians 1 1 0.500
Los Angeles Angels 1 1 0.500
Washington Nationals 1 1 0.500
Tampa Bay Rays 1 1 0.500
Chicago Cubs 9 13 0.409
San Francisco Giants 0 2 0.000
St. Louis Cardinals 0 1 0.000
Boston Red Sox 0 2 0.000
Houston Astros 0 1 0.000

2020 Predictions Revisited

The shortened 60 game 2020 baseball season wraps up today.  2 months ago, I made my annual predictions as to who would win what, not really knowing what a shortened season during a global pandemic would entail.  Now that the 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.  The Yankees looked to be on cruise control, until a plague of injuries knocked them off course.  The Rays, meanwhile, took home their first division crown since 2010.

Central: Twins

The Twins take their second consecutive division title, thanks in part to the White Sox crapping down their pants leg over the last week of the season.

West: Astros

The A’s came through in a big way, dethroning the Astros after their 3 year reign atop the division.

Wild Cards: White Sox, Rays

Well, these predictions were made before the current playoff structure was put in place.  The three second place teams are guaranteed a post-season slot, with the next two best records earning a wild card spot.

AL Champion: Yankees

While they didn’t win the division, the Yankees do seem primed to make a strong run.

Cy Young: Blake Snell

Indians ace Shane Bieber pretty much has this wrapped up.

MVP: Yoan Moncada

Moncada has struggled after contracting COVID-19 back during summer camp, but I think I was in the right ballpark.  Jose Abreu looks to be the clubhouse leader for this award.

National League

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Homer History

The White Sox have been on a historic home run streak over the past few days.  Sunday, versus the Cardinals, they notched the 10th occurrence in MLB history of 4 consecutive home runs when Yoan Moncada, Yasmani Grandal, Jose Abreu, and Eloy Jimenez went deep back to back to back to back in the 5th inning.  The first three home runs also became the first time a team had 3 Cuban-born players go back to back to back.

This was the second time the White Sox have accomplished this rare feat, joining the Nationals as the only franchise to do it more than once.  Jim Thome, Paul Konerko, Alexei Ramírez, and Juan Uribe did the same on August 14, 2008 against the Royals.

The White Sox followed up on that with a little more history on Monday night.  Last week, in Detroit, Tim Anderson and Eloy Jimenez led off the game against starter Matthew Boyd with back to back home runs.  Boyd was back on the bump against the White Sox Monday night in Chicago, and again served up two home run balls to start the game, to Anderson again and Yoan Moncada.  This made the White Sox the first team to ever lead off a game with back to back home runs against the same pitcher twice.  They also halved the previous record of time between games with back to back home runs to start a game, down to 5.  The Dodgers held the previous record, at 10 games.

Here We Go Again

Tomorrow’s scheduled game between the Cardinals and the White Sox at Guaranteed Rate Field, which originally was tonight’s scheduled game in Iowa at the Field of Dreams site, has reportedly been cancelled as yet another Cardinals staffer has tested positive for the corona virus.  The current plan is for the Cardinals, who have played a grand total of 5 games so far this season, to arrive in Chicago on Saturday, by rental car if necessary, and play a double header against the White Sox, followed by the normally scheduled game on Sunday.

Assuming that goes off without a hitch, they would stay in town to face the Cubs, adding an additional double header to make up one of the games missed last weekend.  At this point, the chances of the Cardinals completing a “full” 60-game season seem rather remote, even if everything else goes as planned for the rest of the year.

A Pause In The Season

This weekend’s series between the Cubs and the Cardinals in St. Louis has been cancelled after an additional two Cardinal players and a staff member have tested positive for COVID-19.  In total, nine Cardinals players have tested positive for the corona virus since last week and the team has not played since July 29th.  Assuming they can resume play on Monday, they will need to play 55 games in just 49 days in order to complete their 60 game schedule.

The Cubs will head back to Chicago tonight, and then likely hold work outs at Wrigley Field before resuming their schedule on Tuesday in Cleveland.  They aren’t scheduled to return to St. Louis this year, so making up these games will likely include some combination of double headers at Wrigley and mutual off days, if the games are made up at all.