The Week That Was in Baseball: December 13-19, 2010
Baseball's Most Productive Pitching Quartets • Goodbye, Bob Feller
Who Owns the AL East Now? • The Union Blows the Save, But Gets the Win
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Leeward Towards Philly
Lee’s deal with the Phillies also reinforces the power of the players’ wives in deciding where to play. Mark Teixeira was ready to sign with Boston a few years ago when his wife stepped in and confessed her preference to live in New York, so he became the Yankees’ property. New Yorkers instantly wondered if the Lees’ decision was based on the rough treatment of his wife Kristen by Yankee fans in October when the Rangers came to town for the ALCS, something downplayed by both Lees. Reports say that after the Phillies’ offer was delivered, the Lees sat down and went through the pros and cons of living in each city. It almost sounds like an episode of the popular HGTV program “House Hunters”; we can almost hear the Suzanne Wang clone and the mindless background music in our heads right now:
“Cliff and Kristen are looking for a place to pitch where they can settle in after constantly being on the move for two years. They’ve looked at three options and are ready to choose. Option One is in Arlington, Texas, a place they know well. Cliff likes the fact that he got to a World Series and the people are friendly, but Kristen dislikes the traffic and heat. Option Two is a spot at the legendary Yankee Stadium, and while it’s the most lavish option for Cliff, with money and All-Stars galore and a chance to reunite with his old buddy CC Sabathia, he’s not thrilled that the clubhouse could become an old folks’ homeand while not a dealbreaker for Kristen, the taunting and abuse she received from Yankee fans was not a plus. Finally, they were shown a late entry in Philadelphia with Option Three, another former home where they share wonderful memories of the pastgreat food, die-hard fans and less traffic. So, which option did they choose?”
“We chose...” (The rest you know.)
The Quintessential Quartet?
The 2002-03 New York Yankees, consisting of Roger Clemens, Andy Pettitte, Mike Mussina and David Wells; their combined win total is at 1,103or, roughly an average of 275 per pitcher. The Yankees won 100 games in each seasonwith the foursome accounting for a 135-60 recordbut failed to bring home a world title in either year.
The 1982 Houston Astros. The staff included two future 300-game winners (Nolan Ryan and Don Sutton), Joe Niekro (with 221 wins) and Bob Knepper (146), all adding up to 1,046 wins. How did the Astros do with these prolific guns? They finished fifth in the six-team NL West, at 77-85, thanks to an inefficient version of the Astros’ singles-and-speed offense of the time.
The 1998-99 Atlanta Braves. With Kevin Millwood in the mix joining the “big three” of Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and John Smoltz, the combined career total of this foursome is 1,032 wins and counting (Millwood is still active). The Braves won 209 games over these two years, and the four main aces combined for a 134-61 markbut lost both times in the NLCS.
The 1970 Minnesota Twins featured four pitchersBert Blyleven, Jim Katt, Jim Perry and Luis Tiantwho combined for 1,014 career wins, but none of them are in the Hall of Fame. Perry shared the AL lead with 24 victories and the Twins took the AL West title, but lost to Baltimore in the ALCS in three straight.
The 1970 St. Louis Cardinals. The Redbirds were not as fortunate as the Twins in 1970 despite the presence of two future Hall of Famers (Bob Gibson and Steve Carlton) and two others (Jerry Reuss and Mike Torrez) ultimately given some consideration; together, they eventually won 985 career games. Gibson was his usual stunning self and posted a 23-7 record, but the other three added up a collective 25-37 mark, with Carlton losing a NL-worst 19 games; the Cardinals finished at 76-86.
Redistricting the East
The Red Sox, almost an afterthought in 2010 after failing to make the playoffs, currently look to be the team to beat after locking up Gonzalez and Crawford, two All-Star-caliber talents at the top of their game. The everyday lineup and starting rotation are front-loaded; only the bullpen is a question mark, even as former Chicago closer Bobby Jenks joins on as a set-up man for Jonathan Papelbon.
In New York, finding that elusive second ace to plug up a questionable rotation (after CC Sabathia) is one problem, but so is the advancing age of long-time stars Alex Rodriguez (36 next season), Derek Jeter (37), Jorge Posada (40) and closer Mariano Rivera (41). There are still prime-time components in Mark Teixeira, Robinson Cano, Curtis Granderson and Sabathia, but their only major move to date is the signing of catcher Russell Martin, who’s seen much better days. Standing pat is a dangerous game in this division.
Tampa Bay retains a solid rotation for 2011 (assuming Matt Garza isn’t moved, as has been rumored), but the bullpen and the everyday lineup has been pilfered; as of right now, your starting Rays infield besides third baseman Evan Longoria consists of Reid Brignac, Sean Rodriguez and Dan Johnson. That alone will not win you the East. (Nor will the possible addition of 42-year old Gary Sheffield, the subject of chatter among hot stove league experts.)
What's Roger Clemens' Availability?
Why Buy When You Can Renteria
The Comebacker’s Greatest Hits
Missing Rapid Robert
Feller was, quite simply, a phenomenon when he signed with the Indians in 1936 at the age of 17. In his first appearance against major league hitters at an exhibition game that July, he struck out eight St. Louis Cardinals in three innings of work with a supersonic fastball. Quickly added to the roster for keepswith, still, one year of high school to completeFeller tied an AL record on September 13 when he struck out 17 Philadelphia A’s; he broke the mark in his final start of 1938 when he collected 18 K’s against Detroit. He threw a no-hitter to start the 1940 season, came to within one strikeout of matching Rube Waddell’s then-AL record of 348 in one season in 1946, and won 266 career gamesa figure which would have likely topped 300 had he not missed three-plus years due to military service at the height of his abilities.
The Indians were lucky to signand keepFeller; he had inked illegally with Cleveland, but commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landisusually a stickler to the rules, especially in regards to questionable player signingslet it go, fearing an expensive bidding war between the haves in the AL. (Landis also took into consideration that it was Feller’s deep desire to play for the Indians all along.)
Hitters often took their chances against Feller simply by not swinging, as he walked almost as many hitters as he struck out; six times in his career, he walked ten or more batters in a game, and he set the all-time modern mark (which still stands) by giving up 208 passes in 1938. More controversially, he was a critic of Jackie Robinson upon his signing with the Brooklyn Dodgersnot because he was black, but because Feller believed his talent level wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. (Robinson would most certainly prove him wrong, and Feller, after a good deal of time, admitted as such.)
Feller experienced one world title with the 1954 Indians, but in virtual absentia; although on the roster, he didn't make a single appearance during the Tribe's World Series sweep of the Giants.In retirement, Feller remained an active fixture with the Indians’ organization, frequently appearing at games and becoming part of a spring training tradition in which he would throw out the ceremonial first pitch at the Indians’ first exhibition game.
Caverretta was a player-manager for the Cubs from 1951-53, and the last surviving ex-ballplayer to say he played against Babe Ruth (when Ruth was with the Boston Braves in 1935); in fact, no living ex-major leaguer can claim an earlier big league debut than Caverretta, who first appeared in September 16, 1934. (Feller was third on that list.)Also passing on this week was Walt Dropo, a versatile athlete pursued by both pro football and pro basketball before becoming part of the potent Boston Red Sox’ wrecking crew of 1950 that also featured Ted Williams, Bobby Doerr, Vern Stephens and Johnny Pesky. In that year, Dropo as a rookie hit .322 with 34 home runs and an AL-leading 144 RBIs for the Red Sox, the last team to date to collectively hit .300. Dropo would never come close to matching his first-year success; he broke his wrist a year later, hit only .239 in 99 games, and was traded in 1952 to Detroit, the first of four teams he’d play for over the remaining ten years of his career. Dropo did have a revival of sorts with the Tigers, averaging just under 30 homers and 100 RBIs in three years there; he was best remembered in Detroit, however, for matching a major league record in 1952 by collecting hits in 12 consecutive at-bats. Dropo finished his career in 1961 with a .270 average, 1,113 hits and 152 home runs. He was 87.
Spin Never Felt So Victorious
Moore's Law, Baseball-Style
There's a Faith Healer in All of Us
The Herd Heard It...Somewhere
One Trans-Pacific Deal Not Lost in Translation
Coming Soon to TGG
|Baseball's Ten Most Memroable Home Runs
Our list of ten long balls that are the most deserving for their fame, importance and pure spectacle. Check it out now!
After Further Review: Making the Right Call on Replay