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Author Archives: platecoverage

Ranking Yankees! Who is the Second-Greatest of Them All?

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ESPN.com is currently running a poll that asks, “Who is the greatest Yankee in history after Babe Ruth?

It’s not a question that would hold any interest for the late George Steinbrenner, who once quipped: “Second place is really first loser.” But we baseball fans are suckers for rankings, so rankings shall commence.

Respondents to the poll are asked to choose among some of the usual suspects, presented here in alphabetical order: Berra, DiMaggio, Gehrig, Jeter, Mantle and Rivera. I think it’s pretty clear, even to the most die-hard Mariana Rivera supporter (and really, who among us isn’t a Mariano Rivera supporter?), that the reliever doesn’t belong in this company… READ THE FULL STORY ON PLATE COVERAGE

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The Forgotten Rivalry: The Reds and Dodgers Battle for Supremacy of the ’70s

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Sometimes over the course of the schedule you manage to find that occasional game which encapsulates a club perfectly. One which showcases the superior firepower it’s truly armed with. The type of firepower that comes along once in a generation, if that. For Cincinnati, Saturday, May 19, 1973 was one of those games. As the Reds cruised to a 10-4 pasting of San Diego, Pete Rose banged out two doubles and a triple and scored three runs. Johnny Bench blasted his 10th home run of the year and drove in five runs. Joe Morgan actually got no hits at all – the box score shows him officially going 0-for-0.

That’s because in four trips to the plate, Morgan walked three times and drove in a run with a sacrifice fly. He was in the middle of nearly every Cincinnati rally, helping to pad Bench’s RBI total. After walking in the first inning, he induced Padre pitcher Mike Corkins into an errant pick-off throw and wound up on third base, from where he’d score on a Bench groundout. Then in the fourth inning, the Padres decided to walk Morgan intentionally with runners on second and third, which set up Bench’s two-run single. In the sixth, he walked in front of Bench’s homer, though he didn’t score that time because Anderson decided to give him the rest of the afternoon off and pinch-run Chaney, who finished out the game at second base. READ MORE ON PLATE COVERAGE.COM

‘There Are Very Few Individuals as Fascinating as Lefty O’Doul’

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Lefty O’Doul, Gen. Douglas MacArthur, Joe DiMaggio

Lefty O’Doul had an extraordinary baseball career. Blessed with blazing speed and preternatural hitting ability, O’Doul nonetheless failed to stick in the majors until the age of 31. It was partially his own fault: Despite repeated entreaties by coaches, managers and teammates to focus his attention on hitting, O’Doul insisted he was a pitcher, not the man who would eventually retire with a .349 lifetime batting average (fourth-best of all-time). 

After his playing days came to a close, O’Doul was appointed “Manager for Life” of the legendary San Francisco Seals (a position he held for 17 years); established a reputation as the best (and most cerebral) hitting instructor in the game; and, through sheer force of will and personality, did more than any other person to promote baseball in Japan, where it remains a national obsession (and where O’Doul is still revered).

With Lefty O’Doul: Baseball’s Forgotten Ambassador, author Dennis Snelling has written the definitive biography of one of baseball’s greatest personalities. It’s a book worthy of its subject.The following interview with Snelling was conducted via email.

READ MORE AT PLATE COVERAGE

When Lefty O’Doul Spoke, DiMaggio and Williams Listened

leftylede_origWhen Lefty O’Doul rejoined the San Francisco Seals in 1935, he was already considered one of the great teachers of hitting. Although he would serve as a manager for the next two decades plus, his greatest impact would be as an instructor—a combined hitting theorist and amateur psychologist of sorts who helped develop and inspire a number of great baseball players along the way.

Charlie Graham had O’Doul’s first prize pupil ready; the young man’s name was Joe DiMaggio, and he hailed from San Francis­co’s North Beach. A generation earlier he would have been one of the neighborhood kids O’Doul and his mates considered mortal enemies—the Irish versus the Italians.
Joe DiMaggio was quite a baseball player. READ MORE ON PLATE COVERAGE

The Baseball-Bowling Connection

Peas and carrots. Burt and Ernie. Beer and sportswriters. Baseball and bowling.

Baseball and bowling?

Baseball and bowling!

According to Major League Baseball, approximately 73 million people attended a game in 2016. The Bowlers Journal estimates 67 million knocked down a few pins last year. Coincidence? Ok, almost certainly. But one can’t deny the long, strong, proud historical connection between these two most American of leisure activities. READ MORE AT PLATE COVERAGE

2017 Pennant Race Predictions (with the Coolest, Strangest Stats and Facts)

 

For better or worse, statistics are the lingua franca of baseball, the language (and lifeblood) of the game.

We say “better or worse,” because as we all know, statistics can be misinterpreted or manipulated to support specious arguments (“Juan Gonzalez deserved the 1996 MVP because…RBI”), create divisions amongst fans (“old school” vs “sabermetrics”), confound or clarify (WAR and its components, particularly defensive metrics prior to the StatCast era).

But stats are also something else: A way to keep score, of course. A way to rate and rank our favorite players and teams.  A favorite diversion (one that transcends mediums, from baseball cards to baseball-reference.com).

And, as Kevin Reavy and Ryan Spaeder, authors of “Incredible Baseball Stats: The Coolest, Strangest Stats and Facts in Baseball History” know, stats are just plain fun. So fun, in fact, that they can make the annual fool’s errand known as predicting the division races for the coming year a worthwhile exercise.

Here then, a list of cool, strange, illuminating and just plain fun statistical nuggets discovered or uncovered by Reavy and Spaeder – one per team, in predicted order of 2017 finish.  For much, much more you’ll want to check out their book (really, the best ones are still there to be discovered by the reader). As they write in their introduction, “there’s a monstrous pile of data and satiating sabermetric goodies in this book…. But also, there are some really incredible stories.”

READ MORE ON PLATE COVERAGE

The Yankees vs The Universe: Who Ya Got?

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The Yankees sure are stocked with contenders for mythical “Best-Ever” status. You know the usual suspects: Ruth, Gehrig, Mantle, etc. – but they’re basically flush everywhere. In fact, if one were to compose the “All-Time Yankees Lineup,” it might be competitive with a composite “All-Time Major League Lineup” made up of players from every other franchise.

So, just for fun: The NY Yankees vs the rest of the Universe for “all-time” bragging rights. The rules: 1) To be considered for the Yankees lineup, a player must have spent the bulk of his career with the team, or barring that, have his career most closely associated with the team (the team logo on his HOF plaque might be instructive in this regard); 2) There will be no double-dipping: Since Ruth mans right field for the Yankees, he can’t be drafted by the Universe. READ MORE ON PLATE COVERAGE.COM

The Easiest Question in Baseball History Might Have a New Answer

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Lou Gehrig.

The answer, that is.  It’s always Lou Gehrig.

Actually… we’re getting ahead of ourselves. We’ll come back to answer in a minute or two. Let’s first discuss the question.

So there’s a game baseball fans like to play (and by “fans” we also include anybody, anywhere, who has ever written any words, at any time, about the sport). The game, or exercise if you prefer, is to rank the best player who ever lived at every position. Think of it as the all-time, “All-Time Starting Lineup.” Entire books have been devoted the topic, TV shows, countless articles, blog posts… it’s a favorite pastime of devotees of the national past time. READ MORE AT PLATE COVERAGE

The Bizarre Ending to Pitching’s Longest Winning Streak

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In addition to winning twenty-six games in 1912, Marquard was unbeatable throughout the campaign’s first three months.  He won an astounding nineteen consecutive games for the Giants from the time he defeated Brooklyn in the opener on April 11 until he beat the Superbas in the first game of a doubleheader on July 3.  Rube was finally vanquished on July 8, during a game at West Side Grounds, which was won by the Chicago Cubs, 7-2.

While the main story line from the afternoon should have revolved around the Cubs ending Marquard’s winning streak, a perceived jinx perpetrated by a demented woman seemed to grab the headlines.  While a large crowd was in attendance watching New York and Chicago battle, much of the attention was directed at a woman perched in a tree outside the ballpark, overlooking the playing field.  READ MORE

A Vindictive President Destroys a National Institution

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A story of a bombastic, vindictive man who brooked no challenge to his authority, had no tolerance for weakness, and hated whom he saw as “losers.” We’re speaking, of course, of Ban Johnson, founder and president of the American League.  READ MORE AT PLATE COVERAGE

Who’s in Command Here?!?

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So if pitchers who strike out a lot of batters while walking few tend to be very good, is the converse always true? Are pitchers with lousy K/BB ratios… lousy?

Well, yes.

And no.

It depends.

READ MORE

Satchel’s Greatest Trick

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To any qualified observer—players, coaches, even the owners who refused to grant him an opportunity to pitch in the majors—Satchel Paige was among the greatest handful of pitchers to ever take a mound. In his youth, Paige dominated with an overpowering fastball and extraordinary control. As the years and miles accumulated, he became the game’s greatest magician, flummoxing hitters with an unending variety of pitches and deliveries. Paige’s wit was a sharp as his control, his personality as big as the break on his curve. He took great pleasure in keeping people guessing, and he took his greatest secret with him to the grave… READ MORE

Koufax, Kershaw and the Power of Orthodoxy

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Part of the Koufax orthodoxy, of course, is his legend: Retired at 30, at the height of his game, the height of his fame. And then, gone. He never hawked a book, lent his name, or became an autograph factory.Never a hint of scandal, a suggestion of bad behavior. He’d make his Spring Training visits to the Mets or the Dodgers, to see old friends and talk to the kids, and the press covered these casual afternoons like matters of state. Then he’d disappear again, go back to his life. Fifty years of repose; fifty years of grace; fifty years of dignity. Five decades, essentially, of silence. Baseball’s Garbo. All the while, his legend grew, until it overshadowed even his magnificent accomplishments on the mound. He’s not just the best pitcher in Dodgers’ history; he was—is—often mentioned among the greatest handful of pitchers of all time, more monument than man to generations of fans.

The thing is, it’s pretty clear that Clayton Kershaw, not Sandy Koufax, is the best pitcher in the history of the Dodgers’ franchise. READ MORE

Overlooked, but not for Long…

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From my perspective, the best indicator for future success is past success. We had some tremendous performances in 2016 by guys relegated to teams tanking their way to a high draft pick. I don’t want to just run through a list of all-star players who played on bad teams. Instead, let’s look at guys who meet the following criteria:

  1. Good performance in 2016
  2. Played for a bad team…
  3. …at an underappreciated position.

That third criteria effectively eliminates the star positions: Shortstop, starting pitcher, and closer all have a sense of glamour even if their squad wasn’t that great. For that matter, the star quality of merely playing first base or center field is also too bright for our exercise. So given these restrictions, these are guys whose 2016 performance was overlooked due to things well outside of their control: READ MORE

Danny Goodwin: The Most Can’t Miss Prospect of All-Time

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Only one player in the history of major league baseball was good enough to be selected first in the draft… twice.  He was chosen ahead of some of the best players in baseball history. And his story shows that extraordinary talent doesn’t guarantee extraordinary success at the Major League level.

READ MORE AT PLATE COVERAGE

Marvels of Engineering, Monuments to Kitsch: Ballpark Wonders, Oddities and Attractions

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The Bat. The B&O warehouse at Camden yards. ‘The Big A’ at Angel Stadium. Those special flourishes, details, or attractions that make each ball park unique and serve as local touchstone (the guitar-shaped scoreboard at First Tennessee Park, home of the Nashville Sounds) or national icon (the ivy at Wrigley). Some are wonders of engineering (Safeco Field’s retractable roof); others are monuments to kitsch (the bobble head museum at Marlins Park). Some are awe-inspiring (the desert vistas at Camel Back Ranch-Glendale), while others are annoying (the drummer at Progressive Field). They are an indelible and indispensable part of the ball park experience… READ MORE AT PLATECOVERAGE.COM

Rollie Hemsley: The Long Journey to Sobriety

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Rogers Hornsby himself couldn’t control the talented catcher, who drank himself off four teams before finding help — and eventually helping thousands of others. READ MORE AT PLATECOVERAGE.COM

 

Was Dixie Walker a Racist?

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The only player to have been a teammate of both Babe Ruth and Jackie Robinson, Dixie Walker received MVP votes in eight separate seasons, finishing as high as second in 1946. Yet if he is remembered at all by today’s fans, it’s  for the charge that he was the player most responsible for trying to keep Jackie Robinson from joining the Brooklyn Dodgersa charge dramatized on the big screen in the 2013 film “42.” Walker has been characterized as a bigot for decadesbut is it a fair assessment of the man?. READ MORE

Just a Few Words About Jake Daubert

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The forgotten MVP, there was never a player easier to root for than Jake Daubert.

READ THE FULL STORY ON PLATECOVERAGE.COM

dWAR Doesn’t Care One Bit About Your Reputation

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Don Mattingly was a great first baseman.

Wasn’t he?

READ THE FULL STORY ON PLATE COVERAGE.COM

Let’s Give Away a Baseball Book!

PlateCoverage.com is giving away copies of “Baseball’s Most Baffling MVP Ballots,” by Jeremy Lehrman. Simply follow @plate_coverage on Twitter, and re-tweet the link below.  They’ll hold a random drawing when they reach 500 followers, and again at 1000 followers. How easy is that?

Visit Plate Coverage.com for more.

Bearing the Glory: Jackie Robinson’s 1949 MVP Award

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Jackie Robinson was just named National League Most Valuable PLayer for 1949. Asked how he felt about the honor, how he felt on this, the greatest day of his professional life, Robinson said: “The sooner I can get out of baseball, the better.”

Imagine having the best day of your life taken from you like that. (READ THE FULL STORY ON PLATE COVERAGE)

This and That, Odds and Ends: Hall of Fame Edition

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Curt Schilling’s legend was built on blood and guts and grit – but he seems intent on undoing it with bile and bigotry.

The HOF is populated by cheaters, gamblers, racists, drunks, and abusers of women. It’s also filled with kind, decent, generous men. One’s view on where Schilling lands on this character spectrum is irrelevant when assessing his qualifications as a player (well… unless of course you invoke the character clause).

(READ THE FULL STORY ON PATE COVERAGE)

The Selig Years, Pt. Three: Big League Baseball’s Current Position

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No league in any major sport enjoys a similar position to MLB either domestically or internationally. While the NFL and the National Basketball Association (NBA) are extremely popular multi-billion-dollar industries with lucrative contracts for players largely funded by cable providers and strong Internet strategies, they do not monopolize all of organized football and basketball in the United States the way MLB does for baseball. The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) enjoys a close relationship with the NFL and the NBA, but it is independent of those professional organizations. Although college basketball and football function essentially as minor leagues for the NBA and the NFL, respectively, they are not affiliated with those professional leagues… (READ THE FULL STORY ON PLATECOVERAGE.COM)

The Other Side of Baseball’s Success Story

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Bud Selig’s successor, Rob Manfred, will almost certainly continue to report on the financial health of baseball. While these reports may be factual, they do not quite represent the entire truth.

Part Two of our extended excerpt of “The Selig Years” from Will Big League Baseball Survive?: Globalization, the End of Television, Youth Sports, and the Future of Major League Baseball, by Lincoln A. Mitchell. (READ THE FULL STORY ON PLATE COVERAGE)

The Selig Years

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“The Selig Years” from Will Big League Baseball Survive?: Globalization, the End of Television, Youth Sports, and the Future of Major League Baseball by Lincoln A. Mitchell. Used by permission of Temple University Press. © 2017 by Lincoln A. Mitchell. All Rights Reserved.

In January 2015, Bud Selig stepped down as commissioner of baseball. He had served in that position since September 1992, although for the first six of those years, he had been acting com­missioner. Selig’s tenure of slightly more than twenty-two years was the second longest in baseball history. Only Major League Base­ball’s (MLB’s) first commissioner, Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis, served longer.

When Selig took over as commissioner, there were twenty-six Major League teams. To make the play-offs, teams had to win one of the four divisions, as there were no wild cards. There was no interleague play during the regular season, and steroid use was extremely rare and almost never discussed.  (READ THE FULL STORY ON PLATE COVERAGE)

Baseball in the Dark: The Best Players Outside the Spotlight

How much does team success impact player reputation? Do we overrate players on famous teams, and overlook players on less successful clubs? Do players in large media markets get an unfair advantage when it comes to honors like the Hall of Fame?

While we might intuitively answer “yes” to these questions, author Brandon Isleib goes a step further in his new book, “Playing for a Winner.” Isleib seeks to quantify just how much team success – over the course of a single season and throughout a player’s career – influences how fans (and award voters) perceive player production. (READ THE FULL STORY ON PLATE COVERAGE.COM)

Plate Coverage: Year-end Round Up

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Plate Coverage is ringing in the New Year by… taking a few days off.  But we’ll be back before you know it. In the meantime, check out some of our most popular stories and podcasts from the past year (well, five months – we’re still a new-born babe).

Visit Plate Coverage for More.

Linked on the Field, in Verse, and in the Corridors of League Power

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The Poem only Hints at the Complex and Eternal Connection Between Tinker, Evers and Chance

It was intended as a trifle, a last-minute mad-dash of an assignment. An editor had told him he needed eight lines to fill before he could head to the ball park to cover a game.

And so, New York Evening Globe and Mail columnist Frank Adams wrote his tribute – lodged his complaint – about the trio that had so vexed his NY Giants. 

For many fans, Adams’ eight-line throwaway of a poem is all that remains of the famed trio – a shame, considering their immense impact on the game in its early years. They were the main players on baseball’s grand stage. READ THE FULL STORY AT PLATE COVERAGE

Joyful Chaos: David Nemec’s Old Time Baseball History and Trivia

I recently had the distinct pleasure of joining Ralph Tyko and Alan Blumkin on “David Nemec’s Old Time Baseball History and Trivia Podcast,” part of the Comfortably Zoned Radio Network.

The intent on my part, of course, was to plug the book.

That was the intent...

Just listen. And try not to smile from ear-to-ear (you will fail).

It’s joyful chaos. (READ THE FULL STORY AT PLATE COVERAGE)

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