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.

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 →

By The Numbers – 12

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 #12.  91 different players have donned #12 while playing in Chicago, 44 for the White Sox and 47 for the Cubs.

A.J. Pierzynski signed with the White Sox on January 6, 2005 and rewarded the organization with eight seasons of stability behind the plate that included one All-Star selection, two playoff appearances, and, of course, the 2005 World Series championship.  Over those 8 seasons, Pierzynski was involved in many key moments while wearing #12 that endeared him to the White Sox faithful, including:

  • The walk-off home run, and resulting bat flip (pictured above), against the Dodgers in 2005 while wearing 1959 throwbacks
  • The two home runs in a thrashing of the Red Sox in game one of the 2005 ALDS, the first White Sox home postseason victory since 1959
  • The controversial dropped third strike that led to a White Sox victory in game two of the 2005 ALCS against the Angels
  • The 2006 brawl against the Cubs where Michael Barrett sucker-punched him after Pierzynski enthusiastically scored a run against the crosstown rivals
  • Hanging on to the throw from Ken Griffey Jr. to preserve the shutout in the 2008 tie-breaker game that pushed the White Sox into the playoffs over the Twins
  • Being behind the plate for Mark Buehrle’s no-hitter in 2007 and Philip Humber’s perfect game in 2012

On the north side of town, a dynamic shortstop, the first player chosen in the 1982 draft, wore #12 when he made his major league debut in 1985.  Shawon Dunston quickly became a fan favorite.  In 1989, he entered the national consciousness thanks to the Shawon-O-Meter, a fan made sign that tracked Dunston’s batting average during each game.  The sign was seen in the Wrigley Field bleachers for a number of years and even made its way to San Francisco’s Candlestick Park for the 1989 NLCS.  Following the 1995 season, he left as a free agent before resigning with the team for the 1997 campaign.  He was traded to the Pirates at the end of August, ending his Cubs career for good.

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.

By The Numbers – 16

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 #16.  65 different players have donned #16 while playing in Chicago, 24 for the White Sox, who retired the number in 1987, and 41 for the Cubs.

Aramis Ramirez switched to his familiar #16 shortly after being acquired by the Cubs from the Pirates.  Ramírez finished the 2003 season strong, appearing in 63 games down the stretch and hitting 15 home runs while helping the Cubs capture their first division title since 1989.  He managed 11 hits during the post-season, including 4 home runs and 10 RBIs and hitting the first playoff grand slam in Cubs’ history during Game 4 of the NLCS.  The following year, Ramirez became the 14th player in baseball history to hit 3 home runs in 2 different games in the same season.  While his offense remained strong, posting a .951 OPS, his defense was a bit of a liability, as he posted the lowest range factor among all third basemen.

Ramirez was elected to his first All-Star Game in 2005.  He finished the season with 31 home runs and 92 RBIs despite missing the last month of the year with a strained quadriceps femoral muscle.  While his defense continued to suffer in 2006, with his third straight season with the lowest range factor, his offense continued to carry the load.  He collected his 1000th hit in July against the Mets and ended up with 38 home runs, 119 RBIs, and an OPS of .912.  A free agent at the end of the season, he re-signed with the Cubs, scoring a 5-year, $73 million contract.

In April of ’07, Ramirez launched his 200th career home run.  His continued offensive presence helped lead the Cubs back to the post-season in 2007 and 2008, winning division titles both seasons.  Unfortunately, Ramirez, like his teammates, went cold in both series as the Cubs were swept in the NLDS each season.  In 2009, Ramirez christened the season with his 250th career home run on Opening Day against Roy Oswalt.  He followed that with #300 in July of 2011 against the White Sox.  Following that season, he declined his portion of a mutual option and became a free agent.

Julio Cruz wore #16 on the southside following his June 1983 acquisition from the Mariners, when he gave the White Sox the spark they were looking for, helping the team go on a 72-31 run to finish the season and go from 6 1/2 games back to 20 games ahead.  Cruz scored the winning run on a Harold Baines sacrifice fly against, of all teams, the Mariners on September 17, clinching the first division title in White Sox history.  Cruz hit .333 during the ALCS against the Orioles, swiping 2 bases in the 4-game series.  Heading in to the 1984 season, Cruz re-signed with the White Sox with a 6-year deal, thought to be worth between $3.6 to $4.8 million.  Unfortunately, time, and injuries, were starting to take their toll.  1984 was the best year of the deal, and Cruz saw his average drop to .222 and he stole only 14 bases, a career low to date.  Following that season, Cruz changed his number from #16 to #12.

Another Disastrous Outcome

A week after Commissioner Rob Manfred, with a telling smile on his face, announced he was cancelling the first two series of the regular season due to the ongoing lockout, the two sides are still without an agreement on a new CBA and MLB released a statement cancelling another two series.  In total, the first two weeks of the regular season have now been wiped out.

Locally, the White Sox will miss a road trip to Detroit to battle the Tigers and a home series against the Mariners at Guaranteed Rate Field.  If nothing else gets canceled, their new Opening Day would be on Friday, April 15 against the Rays.  The Cubs would lose a four-game series at Wrigley Field against the Brewers and a quick tilt against the Pirates in Pittsburgh.

So where do things go from here?  Who knows?  The owners declined to counter to the MLBPA’s last, seemingly reasonable offer about an international draft.  How soon negotiations will start again is unknown at this point.  The longer this goes on, the longer I feel it will go on.

Against The Pirates All Time Leaders – Through 2021

pirates-primaryIn 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 Pittsburgh Pirates.

The Pirates began life in 1887 as the Alleghenys, before taking on the Pirates moniker in 1891.  I’ve seen them play 46 times, including a double header sweep in 2003, enabling the Cubs to clinch their first NL Central title and a work outing in 2008 against the White Sox.

Home Runs

Name Total
Sammy Sosa 6
Alfonso Soriano 4
Jermaine Dye 3
Corey Patterson 3
Aramis Ramirez 3

Hits

Name Total
Derrek Lee 17
Aramis Ramirez 16
Sammy Sosa 15
Alfonso Soriano 15

Runs

Name Total
Sammy Sosa 14
Aramis Ramirez 10
Derrek Lee 8
Alfonso Soriano 8
Corey Patterson 8

RBI

Name Total
Sammy Sosa 12
Alfonso Soriano 8
Aramis Ramirez 7
Derrek Lee 7
Jermaine Dye 7

Doubles

Name Total
Geovany Soto 5
Michael Barrett 5
Aramis Ramirez 4
Carlos Zambrano 4

Triples Continue reading →

By The Numbers – 26

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 #26.  71 different players have donned #26 while playing in Chicago, 58 for the White Sox and 13 for the Cubs, who have retired it for a Hall of Fame outfielder.

Sweet-Swinging Billy Williams first wore his familiar #26 in 1961, his first full season with the Cubs, where he played in 146 games, hitting 25 home runs with 86 RBIs, while earning Rookie of the Year honors.  Williams hit at least 20 home runs and drove in 84 or more runs in every season from 1961 to 1973, earning 6 All-Star team nods along the way, in 1962, 1964, 1965, 1968, 1972, and 1973.  In 1963, he started a consecutive game streak that would last into 1970, setting the National League record with 1,117.

In 1970, Williams batted .322 with 42 homers and 129 RBI and finished second in MVP voting.  He replicated that finish in 1972, winning the batting title with a .333 average, along with a .606 slugging percentage, 37 home runs, and 122 RBIs.  That gave him his 3rd top ten finish in 5 seasons.  Following the 1974 season, Williams was traded to the A’s for, amongst others, Manny Trillo.  Williams was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1987 and his number 26 was retired by the Cubs later that summer.

On the South Side of town, nobody has really made their mark wearing #26, though one of the greatest “what ifs” in team history did don the number in 1986.  Acquired in the Rule 5 draft from the Pirates in December of 1985, Bobby Bonilla made his major league debut with the White Sox on April 9, going 0-1 as a pinch hitter in the Sox loss to the Brewers.  Bonilla was putting together a pretty decent rookie campaign, especially since he was making the jump from A ball, hitting .269 with 2 home runs in 75 games when GM Ken Harrelson decided send Bonilla back to the Pirates, in exchange for pitcher Jose DeLeon.  DeLeon went 23-22 across parts of 5 seasons in 2 stints with the White Sox, while Bonilla made 6 All Star teams, earned three Silver Slugger awards, and two top ten MVP finishes over the next 10 seasons.