Travelling The 50 States – Florida

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 27th state to be added to the Union: Florida.

State: Florida
Joined the Union: 1845
Visits: 10 (at least)

At some point in the mid-1980s, my grandparents bought a condo in Clearwater, Florida, which has helped make the Sunshine State one of my most visited states.  I’m fairly certain my first trip there would have been in the summer of 1988 and my most recent was last year, with a number of visits in-between.

From what I can recall, my first trip to Florida came the summer of 1988, following my eighth-grade graduation.  I’m pretty sure a collection of seven family members got in the car the day after Mike Tyson’s 91 second knockout of Michael Spinks for the two-day drive to Clearwater.  I’m not clear on exactly how long we were there, but I know there was a one-day excursion to Disney World.  Aside from that, we saw all of the tourist attractions that my grandparents thought were interesting.  Which means nothing that was really all that interesting.

We made another trip two summers later.  I don’t remember much of this trip, aside from the trip home where we came up through southern Illinois and listened to the White Sox somehow beating the Yankees 4-0 despite being no-hit by Andy Hawkins.

My sister and I made a return trip over Christmas break in 1991, our first time on an airplane.  Again, I don’t have many vivid memories of the events of this trip.

My fourth trip to Florida came during March of 1997.  I had an interview with GTE Data Services and turned it into a mini-vacation during spring break, staying with my grandparents.  The highlight of the trip, aside from nailing the interview and getting a solid job offer, was a trip to Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota to watch a spring training tilt between the White Sox and the Twins. Continue reading →

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.

2022 All Star Break Standings

For the first time since 1980, the Midsummer Classic returns to Los Angeles and Dodger Stadium.  As the stars of the baseball world gather in Tinsletown, it’s time to take a look at the team records for the 21 games, featuring exactly half of the teams in the league, that I attended in the first half of the baseball season, a disappointing one, for different reasons, on both sides of town.

2022 Team Records

Team Name Won Loss Winning Pctg
Los Angeles Dodgers 2 0 1.000
Texas Rangers 1 0 1.000
New York Mets 1 0 1.000
Cleveland Guardians 1 0 1.000
Baltimore Orioles 1 0 1.000
New York Yankees 2 1 0.667
Chicago White Sox 10 8 0.556
Minnesota Twins 1 1 0.500
Chicago Cubs 2 5 0.286
Continue reading →

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 →

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 – 17

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 #17.  79 different players have donned #17 while playing in Chicago, 42 for the White Sox and 37 for the Cubs.

Mark Grace moved to his iconic #17 during his rookie campaign in 1988.  He finished second in Rookie of the Year voting while hitting .296 with 7 home runs and 57 RBIs.  In 1989, he garnered some MVP consideration as the Cubs took home a surprising NL East title.  Grace hit .314 with 13 home runs and 79 RBIs during the regular season, before hitting .647 with a 1.799 OPS during the 5 game NLCS against the Giants.

In 1990, Grace began a decade of excellence, collecting the most hits, 1,754, and doubles, 364, of any player during the decade.  He won 4 Gold Glove awards, was named to 3 All Star teams, earned down-ballot MVP support in 3 different seasons.  Following the 2000 season, he left the Cubs, finishing that portion of his career with 2201 hits, 456 doubles, 148 home runs, 1004 RBIs, and a .308 average.

As the White Sox made their run towards the World Series title in 2005, general manager Kenny Williams attempted to acquire Ken Griffey Jr. from the Reds, but was rebuked when Reds ownership decided to veto the deal.  3 years later, with the White Sox again looking to make a run at a division title, he was finally able to acquire the aging superstar at the trade deadline in exchange for pitcher Nick Masset and second baseman Danny Richar.  At the time of the trade, the White Sox held a tenuous 1.5 game lead over the Twins.  Wearing #17, Griffey, who had spent most of the previous few seasons in right field to lessen the strain on his body, moved back to center field for the White Sox, displacing the disappointing Nick Swisher.  Griffey appeared in 41 games for the White Sox, hitting a decent .260 with only 3 home runs and 18 RBI.  His most important contribution came defensively, during the tie-breaking game 163 between the White Sox and the Twins, when he gunned down Michael Cuddyer, who was trying to score on a fly out to center, preserving the shutout and helping the White Sox win the division and advance the playoffs.  In the ALDS, Griffey appeared in 3 games against the Rays, garnering only 2 hits as the White Sox fell 3 games to 1.  Following the season, the White Sox declined Griffey’s $16 million option for 2009, making him a free agent.

Special bonus shout out to outfielder Carlos May, who played with the White Sox from 1968-1976.  May, who wore #17 for his entire White Sox career, is the only player in baseball history to wear his birthday, May 17th, on his jersey.

Against The Rays All Time Leaders – Through 2021

414_tampa_bay-rays-miscellaneous-2012In 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 things today with the Tampa Bay Rays.

The Rays began life in 1998 as the Devil Rays, dropping the Devil portion of their name in 2008.  I’ve seen them play 25 times, 5 as the Devil Rays and 20 as the Rays, including the 2008 ALDS, where they defeated the White Sox.

Home Runs

Name Total
Paul Konerko 4
Jermaine Dye 4
Tim Anderson 2
Jose Abreu 2

Hits

Name Total
Paul Konerko 19
A.J. Pierzynski 13
Alexei Ramirez 13

Runs

Name Total
Paul Konerko 11
Jermaine Dye 7
Alex Rios 6

RBI

Name Total
Paul Konerko 9
Jermaine Dye 8
Tim Anderson 6
Jose Abreu 6

Doubles

Name Total
Tim Anderson 3
A.J. Pierzynski 3
Alex Rios 3
Gordon Beckham 3

Triples Continue reading →

By The Numbers – 20

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 #20.  85 different players have donned #20 while playing in Chicago, 30 for the White Sox and 55 for the Cubs.

Carlos Quentin was acquired by the White Sox in a December 2007 trade with the Diamondbacks for Chris Carter, earning the nickname “The Carlos Quentin” after general manager Kenny Williams was quoted saying that the team’s goals for the winter meetings were to “acquire Carlos Quentin, and not a guy like him but actually Carlos Quentin.”  Quentin played immediate dividends, breaking through in a big way for the 2008 White Sox.  He was leading the American League in home runs and was third in slugging percentage, OPS, and RBIs when he broke his wrist slamming his bat following a strikeout against Cliff Lee, causing him to miss the last 6 weeks of the season.  The injury likely cost him the MVP award, and certainly impacted the White Sox, as their battle with the Twins for the AL Central title came down to 163rd game and left the starting rotation is disarray before playing, and eventually losing to, the Rays in the ALDS.

Quentin continued to struggle with injuries for the remainder of his White Sox career, never appearing in more than 131 games.  A shoulder injury ended his 2011 season, and his White Sox career, at the end of August.  That December, just over 4 years since he was acquired, Quentin was shipped to the Padres, for Simon Castro and Pedro Hernandez.

On the north side of town, Corey Patterson switched to #20 when he was recalled to the Cubs in 2001, appearing in 51 games and hitting only .221.  He became a full time player in 2002, hitting .253 in 153 games and slugging 14 home runs while driving in 54.  He was breaking out in 2003, becoming the threat the Cubs had hoped he would be, with a .839 OPS, a .298 average, and 13 and 55 for the power numbers when a torn ACL ended his season on July 6.  He returned in 2004, playing 157 games and hitting .266, but was never quite the same player as before the injury.  2005 was not a good season for Patterson, as he saw himself demoted in July following an 8-game losing streak.  Following the season, he was traded to the Orioles.

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.