By The Numbers – 23

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 #23, one of the most famous and successful numbers in city history across all sports.  67 different players have donned #23 while playing in Chicago, 35 for the White Sox and 31 for the Cubs, including a familiar face for both sides of town.

Robin Ventura made his major league debut donning #23 in September of 1989, appearing in 16 games down the stretch, hitting only .178 while driving in 7 runs in 45 at bats.  A good spring in 1990 led to Ventura breaking camp with the White Sox, but he struggled both on the field and at the plate, suffering through a horrendous 0-for-41 slump while committing 25 errors over the course of the season.  He finished the year with a .249 average, 5 home runs, and 54 RBIs and placed 7th in Rookie of the Year voting and was named to the Topps All Star Rookie team.

Ventura and the White Sox moved in to the new Comiskey Park in 1991, hoping to improve on the previous year’s growth.  He improved his fielding enough to earn his first Gold Glove award and, at the plate, he set a White Sox team record for RBIs by a third baseman, finishing with an even 100.  He upped his average to .284 and hit 23 home runs.  His work was enough to garner enough MVP votes to finish in 20th place.  1992 was another good year for Ventura.  He earned his first All Star nod, going 2-2 in the AL’s victory at Jack Murphy Stadium.  He finished the year with a .282 average, 16 home runs, and 93 RBIs.  He also snagged his second consecutive Gold Glove award.  Ventura continued his successful ways in 1993, collecting his 500th hit in May and, on August 4, entering the public consciousness with an event that would come to define his entire career.  While batting against the Rangers, Ventura was hit by a pitch thrown by Nolan Ryan and charged the mound.  Ryan, 20 years Ventura’s senior, placed him in a headlock and punched him several times, starting a bench-clearing brawl that was voted the best baseball brawl of all time by SportsCenter.  After the season, he was awarded his third consecutive Gold Glove award.

The strike in 1994 saw Ventura’s streak of 90 RBI seasons and Gold Gloves come to an end.  When baseball stopped in August, Ventura was hitting .282 with 18 home runs and 78 RBIs, while posting a new career high with an .832 OPS.  When play resumed in late April 1995, Ventura struggled out of the gate, committing ten errors in the first ten games.  As the White Sox started to tear down the team that had finished the previous two seasons on top of their division, trade rumors started to follow Ventura, though nothing came to fruition.  On September 4, he became the eighth player in history to hit two grand slams in one game, and the first since Frank Robinson in 1970.  He finished the year setting career highs with a .295 average, an .882 OPS, and 26 home runs while driving in 93 runs.  Ventura had the best year of his career to date in 1996, setting White Sox team records in career home runs by a third baseman, with 142, and grand slams, with 9.  He set new career highs with 34 home runs, 105 RBIs, 2 triples, an OPS of .888, and a .974 fielding percentage at the hot corner.  He hit .287, while earning his fourth Gold Glove award.

1997 turned into a dismal year for both Ventura and the White Sox.  During a spring training game, Ventura caught his foot in the mud while sliding into home plate and suffered a broken and dislocated right ankle.  Expected to miss the entire season, he returned on July 24, collecting the game-winning hit that night, and homered in his first at-bat the next night.  With the White Sox only 3.5 games behind the Indians in the standings, a healthy Ventura might have put them over the top.  A week later, the team threw in the towel in what eventually became to be known as the White Flag Trade, sending 3 pitchers to the Giants for prospects.  “We didn’t realize Aug. 1 was the end of the season,” said an upset Ventura.  He finished the year appearing in 54 games, hitting .262 with 6 home runs and 26 RBIs.  Entering the last year of his contract in 1998, the White Sox made little attempt to sign Ventura to an extension, with owner Jerry Reinsdorf claiming his skills were “deteriorating” after his injury the year before.  With more trade rumors following him throughout the season, he finished the year with a .263 average, 21 home runs, and 91 RBIs while earning his fifth Gold Glove award.  Following the season, he became a free agent, ending his White Sox playing career.

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Against The Giants All Time Leaders – Through 2021

giantsIn the past, we’ve looked at the all time leaders in both offensive and defensive categories for all 30 teams. This offseason, we will take our first ever look at those leaders against all 30 clubs. We continue today with the San Francisco Giants.

The Giants began life in 1883 in New York, before moving west to San Francisco in 1957. I’ve seen them play 23 times, first at their old home at Candlestick Park in 1999 and most recently this past September at Wrigley Field.

Home Runs

Name Total
Jose Abreu 3
Moises Alou 2
Michael Barrett 2
Javy Baez 2

Hits

Name Total
Derrek Lee 10
Ryan Theriot 7
Aramis Ramirez 7

Runs

Name Total
Jose Abreu 5
Yolmer Sanchez 5
Derrek Lee 4
Ryan Theriot 4

RBI

Name Total
Jose Abreu 6
Jim Edmonds 5
Yolmer Sanchez 4
Javy Baez 4
Moises Alou 4

Doubles

Name Total
Aramis Ramirez 3
Jim Edmonds 2
Kris Bryant 2
Albert Almora 2

Triples Continue reading →

Against The Dodgers All Time Leaders – Through 2021

dodgersIn the past, we’ve looked at the all time leaders in both offensive and defensive categories for all 30 teams. This offseason, we will take our first ever look at those leaders against all 30 clubs. We continue today with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

The Dodgers began life in Brooklyn in 1883, moving to their current home on the west coast, along with their rival Giants, in 1957.  I’ve seen them play 27 times, including the first two games of their 2008 NLDS sweep against the Cubs and their pennant-clinching victory in the 2017 NLCS.

Home Runs

Name Total
Aramis Ramirez 3
Javy Baez 3
Paul Konerko 2
Alexei Ramirez 2
A.J. Pierzynski 2
Josh Fields 2
Willson Contreras 2

Hits

Name Total
Derrek Lee 15
Alfonso Soriano 13
Ryan Theriot 12

Runs

Name Total
Alexei Ramirez 7
A.J. Pierzynski 6
Alfonso Soriano 5
Ryan Theriot 5
Aramis Ramirez 5

RBI

Name Total
Alexei Ramirez 8
Aramis Ramirez 7
Mark DeRosa 7
Paul Konerko 7

Doubles

Name Total
Alexei Ramirez 4
Kris Bryant 4
Derrek Lee 4

Triples Continue reading →

By The Numbers – 28

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 #28.  86 different players have donned #28 while playing in Chicago, 46 for the White Sox and 40 for the Cubs.

Acquired by the Cubs prior to the 1989 season, Mitch Williams, wearing #28, quickly became a beloved cult figure on the north side.  He made an immediate impression, giving up 3 hits to load the bases in the ninth inning on Opening Day before striking out the next three batters, starting with future Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt, to close out a one-run victory.  That kickstarted an amazing season for Williams, and the Cubs, as they made a surprise run towards an NL East title.  On April 28th, Williams became the only pitcher in major league history to earn a save without throwing a pitch, entering the game with two outs and picking off runner Carmelo Martinez to end the game.  Williams made the All Star team for the only time in his career and hit his lone career home run, en route to a 4-4 record with 36 saves.  He appeared in two games of the NLCS against the Giants, giving up the game-winning hit to Will Clark in Game 5.

1990 was not quite as good for Williams.  His record dropped to 1-8 while his ERA rose to 3.93.  He earned only 16 saves, a drop of 20 from the previous season, as a knee injury bothered him throughout the year.  The next spring, with the Cubs having acquired Dave Smith to replace him as closer, Williams was traded to the Phillies just prior to Opening Day.

On the other side of town, Joey Cora switched to #28 after the 1991 season, his first with the White Sox.  Cora spent the 1992 season on the bench following the acquisition of Steve Sax, starting only 21 games at second base.  With Sax faltering, Cora became the everyday second baseman in 1993.  He set a career high with 153 games played and hit .268 with a career high 20 stolen bases as the White Sox won their final AL West crown.  Cora struggled in the ALCS, hitting an anemic .136 as the White Sox fell in 6 games to the Blue Jays.

Cora continued to improve in 1994, raising his average again to .276 and had 2 home runs and 30 RBIs when the season came to a premature end due to the player’s strike.  When baseball resumed in 1995, Cora became a free agent and his White Sox playing career came to an end.  He rejoined the organization and once again wore #28 as third base coach for the 2004 season, when Ozzie Guillen was hired as manager.  He moved to became the bench coach after the 2006 season, where he would remain until the end of the 2011 season, when he was fired with 2 games left in the season as part of Guillen’s exit from the team.

By The Numbers – 31

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 #31.  59 different players have donned #31 while playing in Chicago, 26 for the White Sox and 33 for the Cubs, who have retired it for two different players.

Greg Maddux wore #31 when he got his start with the Cubs in 1986.  Over the first seven years of his career, he became one of the shining stars of the National League, helping lead the team to the 1989 NL East title and winning the first of his 4 consecutive NL Cy Young awards in 1992.  Eleven seasons after before being allowed to leave as a free agent by GM Larry Himes, Maddux returned to the Cubs in 2004.  He defeated the Giants in August of that year to win his 300th game and, in July of 2005, he struck out his 3000th batter.  In 2006, with the Cubs far out of contention, he was traded to the Dodgers for their stretch run.

On the south side of town, Liam Hendriks burst on to the scene in 2021, wearing #31 as he took over the closer role for the eventual AL Central champs, leading the league with 38 saves and closing out the All Star Game for the American League.  He is signed for two more years, so this will either get cemented or I’ll look back at a horrible choice.  Time will tell.

By The Numbers – 32

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 #32.  96 different players have donned #32 while playing in Chicago, 40 for the White Sox and 56 for the Cubs, including a familiar face for both sides of town.

Steve Stone was acquired by the White Sox in a November 1972 trade with the Giants.  He wore #32 for the 1973 season, before being traded to the Cubs.  He returned to the White Sox in 1977 as a free agent, going 27-24 over the next two seasons, before once again becoming a free agent.  Upon his retirement, he moved in to the broadcast booth, joining the Cubs booth in 1983 alongside Harry Caray.  He left the Cubs booth in 2004 and joined the White Sox radio booth in 2008, moving over to television in 2009, where he remains a fan favorite to this day.

On the north side, pitcher Jon Lieber donned #32 over two stints with the Cubs.  Acquired via a trade with the Pirates in December of 1998, Lieber quickly became a mainstay of the Cubs rotation, culminating in a 20 win season in 2001.  He left as a free agent following the 2002 campaign, returning in 2008, working mostly out of the pen for the eventual division champs in his final major league season.

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 – 37

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 #37.  74 different players have donned #37 while playing in Chicago, 27 for the White Sox and 47 for the Cubs.

Selected in the fourth round of the 1985 draft, Bobby Thigpen made his major league debut for the White Sox just over a year later, wearing #58.  He switched to his more familiar #37 the following year, as he moved in to the closer role full time, replacing Bob James, and racked up 16 saves while also putting up a 7-5 record with a 2.73 ERA.  In 1988, he broke the team record for saves, with 34, while leading the league with 59 games finished.  He duplicated the effort in 1989 with another 34 saves, though with a 2-6 record and a 3.76 ERA.

Thigpen’s 1990 season was one for the record books.  He earned his first All Star nod while on his way to setting the major league record with 57 saves, while also leading the league with 77 games and 73 games finished.  On September 30, he earned his 57th save while throwing the final pitch at Comiskey Park.  After the 1990 season, Thigpen joined other major league all stars on a tour of Japan where, unfortunately, he would suffer a back injury that would plague him for the remainder of his career.

In 1991, he still managed to earn 30 saves, but his ERA jumped up to 3.49.  In 1992, he set a career high with a 4.75 ERA while earning only 22 saves, losing his grip on the closer role to both Scott Radinsky and Roberto Hernandez.  His 1993 was even worse, as his ERA jumped to 5.71 and he managed only 1 save in 25 appearances before an August 10 trade to the Phillies for former teammate Jose DeLeon.  He left as the franchise’s all time leader with 201 saves, a position he still holds today.

On the north side of town, pitcher Travis Wood was acquired by the Cubs, along with Dave Sappelt and Ronald Torreyes, in exchange for Sean Marshall.  Wearing #37, Wood was called up to the major league club in early May of 2012, replacing Chris Volstad, who started the season 0–6.  Wood went 6-13 with a 4.27 ERA in his first year as a Cub.  In 2013, Wood became the first Cub since Mordecai Brown to start a season with 9 straight quality starts and, on May 30, he hit his first career grand slam, leading to his first All-Star selection.

Wood struggled in 2014, with a 5.03 ERA in 31 starts, though he did hit his 9th career home run.  After struggling in the rotation to start the 2015 season, Wood was moved to the bullpen, where he fared much better, posting a 2.95 ERA and 4 saves in relief.  Continuing to work out of the bullpen in 2016, Wood posted a 4-0 record with a 2.95 ERA in 77 appearances.  In Game 2 of the NLDS, Wood hit a home run off of Giants’ reliever George Kontos, becoming just the second relief pitcher to homer in a postseason game., after Rosy Ryan in Game 3 of the 1924 World Series.  Wood appeared in 3 games of the 2016 World Series, giving up 2 hits and a run in 1 2/3 innings.  Following the season, he became a free agent.