MLB best hitters

MLB update: League’s best hitters

When they were children, today’s MLB players dreamed about hitting a home run in a sold-out ballpark. Now, those same children have made their marks as household names, along with snagging Gold Gloves and Silver Slugger awards along the way. Here is a look at some of the league’s best batters of 2018 so far.

Some of these players have also showcased exceptional fielding prowess. But it is from inside the batter’s box they have shown to be the most dangerous. Both the American and National Leagues host plenty of formidable batters. There is still plenty of baseball in store, but these hitters have become leaders of their respective packs.

American League’s Best Batters

In the AL, a race for the Triple Crown is picking up heat. The amazing part is the three players in the lead play in the same division, and two of them play for the same team. The first player swinging for the title is Boston’s Mookie Betts.

MLB best hitters

Mookie Betts (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

For someone to win the Triple Crown, that player needs to lead his league in batting average, home runs and RBIs. Betts reigns supreme in two of those categories. He shares the lead for most home runs with 15, along with a .365 batting average.

However, the 25-year-old stands 10th in the AL in RBIs with 32. This does not take anything away from what he has accomplished this season. We will be seeming him break the 100 career home runs mark well before the All-Star Game in July.

His teammate, J.D. Martinez, is the other player Betts shares the home run lead with. Martinez has tallied 15 home runs and 41 RBIs, along with a .343 batting average. In his last seven games, Martinez has gone yard five times and driven home eight on a .346 average. If he continues picking up steam, the 30-year-old could take over the AL MVP debate, as well the Triple Crown.

The third candidate for the coveted hardware is Manny Machado of the Baltimore Orioles. Machado currently stands as the current American League leader in RBIs. His .343 batting average and 14 home runs are nothing to sneeze at either.

Unfortunately, the All-Star shortstop is one of very few bright spots for Baltimore this season. He is almost certain to return to the All-Star Game after missing it last season. Hopefully, the Orioles can turn things around in the upcoming games.

National League’s best batters

There may not a very tight battle for an NL Triple Crown, but some players have commanded more than respect from the batter’s box. Odubel Herrera of the Philadelphia Phillies is one of them.

MLB best hitters

(Photo by Brett Davis, USA TODAY Sports)

Herrera currently leads the National League in batting average this season. He has also cashed in seven home runs and 30 RBIs. As for the rest of Philadelphia, they have won seven of their last 10 games and are fighting for the NL East with Atlanta. If Herrera and company can continue this momentum, we will be seeing them in October.

Speaking of Atlanta, first baseman Freddie Freeman is taking names from the batter’s box in 2018 too. Freeman boasts a .321 batting average, along with nine home runs and 35 RBIs. Though Freeman has struggled a bit in recent games, the Braves are still running hot this season. Atlanta holds a slim lead over the rest of the NL East, but if the Braves wish to expand their lead, Freeman and company will have to bring more pain than ever before. Not to mention the Phillies are right on their tail.

Arizona Diamondback, A.J. Pollock, has made noise with his bat as well. Pollock has brewed up a .293 batting average with 11 home runs and 33 RBIs. However, he has hit a small slump in recent outings, as well as the rest of the Diamondbacks. But with some well-advised adjustments, Pollock and the gang could get back to dominating the NL West.

moving forward

Of course, these are merely a handful of the league’s best batters. There are plenty of names around the league making impacts this season. Now the question is, can these players continue their strides for the months of baseball still yet to play? Confidently, fans and experts will watch for what these players can do, in addition to whoever begins to appear on the radar.

 

Featured image from Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

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mlb spring training reports

Spring Training: Players and managers

As the 2018 spring training games thunder onward, several players and managers are starting to find their strides. Managers are making their cases as to why they were the right hire for their organizations. As all 30 teams are continuing to construct their 40-man rosters, players are contending for those last few starting spots. Opening Day is less than three weeks away, and everyone wants a piece of the pie.

This is just spring training, and the regular season is where the real battle begins. But to me, these names are taking full advantage of the spring games to make themselves known. Is there a lot of hype behind these names? Of course. Do these players and managers live up to it? I really think so. I will be spotlighting stars looking to repeat past success, players looking to debut in 2018, and managers in charge of continuing a team’s success.

Here are the managers and players making waves in the league.

Players and managers: Grapefruit League

The 15 teams playing in Florida have shown the latest and greatest they have to offer. Though much work still needs to be done, players and managers alike have risen to the occasion. The first name is looking to continue his All-Star strides as a third baseman. Meet Baltimore Orioles Manny Machado.

Manny Machado Spring Training

Photo by Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

In 2017, Machado did not make the All-Star team, posting a career low batting average of .259. But he did put up similar numbers in home runs (33) and RBI’s (95) as he did in the two seasons prior. Now in spring training, he is posting a .480 batting average, 3 home runs, and 14 RBI’s.

He will be back as an All-Star selection in 2018 no problem if he continues this improvement in the regular season.

One of the names that will be in the “NL Rookie of the Year” conversation is Ronald Acuna Jr. of the Atlanta Braves. At the plate, Acuna has recorded a .419 batting average in 2018. His fielding prowess is equally as impressive. The 20-year old outfielder has maintained a 1.000 fielding percentage and zero errors.

Expect to hear his name quite a few times in 2018.

For new managers, having a stacked roster is great. But it can lead to some challenges. Players putting their own interests ahead the teams needs is one of the most common of them. So far, Aaron Boone of the New York Yankees is breaking into in his new manager’s shoes. Yes, having Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge has more than plenty of benefits. But stacked rosters doesn’t always equate to automatic success. With the Pinstripes comfortably above .500 in spring training, Boone has proven he can make an impact as a first year manager.

players and managers: Cactus League

Changes in scenery can be challenging. Traded players and managers have to adjust to a new play scheme and build chemistry with new teammates. In some cases, this can also mean learning to play a completely different position. But Dee Gordon of the Seattle Mariners does not seem phased with such changes.

New SEA player Dee Gordon

Image courtesy of The Seattle Times

Primarily fielding as short-stop or second base, Seattle moved the 29-year old to center-field. So far, Gordon has recorded a .385 batting average in the 2018 spring games. He is also starting to find a rhythm in the outfield, having no errors at that position.

Pitchers are among the most idolized and scrutinized positions in baseball. When a young pitcher starts dominating at the mound, the entire league and baseball fans start noticing quickly.

Corey Copping of the Los Angeles Dodgers has the potential to be the next big arm in the majors.

In the 2018 spring games, Copping has an ERA of 0.00 and a pitching record of 2-0 in five games. In 2017, the team had the second lowest ERA and the lowest average in the MLB. Copping can prove to further continue the team’s pitching power and aid the Dodgers return to the World Series.

When looking to repeat success, managers need to make adjustments and find more formulas for winning. Chicago Cubs manager, Joe Maddon, knows a thing or two about repeating success. Along with the Cubs on top of the Cactus League, Maddon has guided Chicago to three consecutive appearances in the NLCS. More importantly, he led the charge winning the 2016 World Series, ending a 108-year title drought. Not to mention, Maddon accomplished this in just three seasons as the Cubs’ manager.

Looking Ahead

Before you know it, a new season of baseball will begin. Then, the training wheels come off, and the game is on. With each franchise with its own laundry list of important issues, the prize is the same: a World Series trophy. As spring training starts to wind down, players and managers will have to buckle down to turn around past misfortunes or repeat appearances in October. Soon, the league will see who has what it takes to step up and help their teams win.

 

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Image Courtesy of springtrainingonline.com

Photo by Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

Image courtesy of The Seattle Times

Top 5 third basemen

Top 5 third basemen in 2018

Pitchers and catchers have reported. This is not a drill. We are so close to baseball.

As we inch closer to actual baseball, we continue our top-five lists, going with third basemen this time. This was the hardest list so far as this position is ripe with talent.

Just missed the cut

Matt Chapman: Ever since the A’s traded perennial MVP candidate Josh Donaldson for pennies on the dollar, the hot corner has been an infuriating thought for Oakland fans. Not anymore, as Matt Chapman brings some of the best defense in the AL at just 24 years old.

In just 84 games last season, Chapman had a 3.6 WAR, which was second highest on the team for the entire season. Some may question his bat, but last season, Chapman had a .785 OPS and a 110 OPS+, all above average numbers.

He has solid pop with amazing defense. If Chapman can stay consistent, he’ll find his way on this list.

Anthony Rendon: Anthony Rendon had one of the most underrated seasons in 2017. He finished the year sixth in MVP voting with 25 homers, 100 RBIs and an OPS of .937. He wasn’t even selected as an All-Star. Ask Mets’ fans if they think Rendon is an All-Star.

If Rendon is able to keep these stats up, somebody will have to put respect on his name.

Manny Machado: This is a fairly notable omission, but has to be done for two reasons.

First, Machado had a really down year last season, particularly at the plate. He had the worst batting average of his career as well as his second worst OBP. Second, he has been moved to shortstop in the hopes that the O’s will get a better deal once they inevitably trade him.

5. Adrian Beltre

Top 5 third basemen

Two legs? One leg? No legs? Beltre is still gonna hit bombs. (Photo by Eric Risberg/AP Photo)

For what seems like the past 1,000 years, Adrian Beltre has played third base at a very elite level. Last season, while the Rangers struggled, Beltre had one of his best seasons yet, posting his highest OPS since 2012.

In 2018, Beltre will be 39 years old. While he continues to chug the fountain of youth, father time is still undefeated. It’s all a question of when for Beltre, but after last season, it’s hard to say that it will happen soon.

For now, Beltre continues to dominate the AL.

4. Justin Turner

This is where the list gets really hard. Honestly, No. 1-4 are interchangeable.

Justin Turner is unfairly put at No. 4 despite his great offensive numbers and being the MVP of a team that won over 100 games. While Cody Bellinger and Corey Seager are flashier, Turner is the most consistent Dodger.

Turner had a great season at the plate, with 21 home runs and an OBP of .415. Turner’s on the field play coupled with his leadership and great beard make him a phenomenal player for LA.

Close your eyes Mets fans. Turner is the one who got away.

3. Nolan Arenado

Making this list is brutal. Nolan Arenado is a legit MVP-level player, and he’s still third on this list.

Arenado’s numbers are loud and flashy. Last season he hit 37 homers and 130 RBIs while slugging for .586. Those are amazing stats.

But what truly sets Arenado from the rest is his fantastic glove. He has won five straight Gold Gloves. His 7.2 WAR shows that he is not only a top player in the NL, but the entire MLB.

2. Josh Donaldson

A’s fans can only hope Franklin Barreto is worth something because Josh Donaldson isn’t going anywhere.

Donaldson had what some would consider a down year. He only played in 113 games, but was still able to hit 33 home runs. If you want to know how good Donaldson is, watch his 2015 MVP season. You will see one of the most transcendent hitters in all of baseball.

While his time with the Jays may be coming to an end, Donaldson will dominate anywhere he goes.

1. Kris Bryant

Ask any Cubs fan if the drought was worth getting a player like Kris Bryant and consistent shots at a World Series victory and they’ll probably tell you no. Bryant is a great consolation prize though.

At just 26 years old, Bryant put up 29 homers and an OBP of .409. He was responsible for a 6.1 WAR in 2017.

There are a thousand ways to say it, but Kris Bryant is amazing. He’s only going to get better.

 

Featured image by Getty Images

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Baltimore Orioles 2018 season preview

2018 MLB preview: Baltimore Orioles

2017: 75-87 (fifth place in AL East)

Last postseason appearance: 2016

Last World Series title: 1983

2017 Recap

After winning 89 games and clinching a spot in the 2016 American League Wild Card game, the Orioles won just 75 games in 2017 and finished last in the AL East.

The Orioles came out of the gates hot and started the season 15-8, but proceeded to go 36-46 from May-July. A good August run of 17-12 was spoiled by a miserable 7-21 performance to end the regular season. Baltimore finished with a winning record at home, but won just 29 of 81 on the road.

The main reason for this debacle was the pitching. The Orioles finished 29th in WAR for starting pitchers. Out of 15 AL teams, Baltimore ranked 14th in ERA, hits, runs, home runs allowed and walks allowed.

Baltimore Orioles 2018 season preview

Kevin Gausman and the entire Orioles staff struggled all 2017. (Photo from Baltimore Sun)

Statistically, Baltimore’s best starter was Dylan Bundy, who had a 1.196 WHIP, which is above average. The O’s star closer, Zach Britton, missed a solid chunk of time with forearm problems, but Baltimore’s bullpen stayed somewhat afloat. They finished sixth in the AL in bullpen ERA, mostly because of Brad Brach, Mychal Givens, Darren O’Day and Richard Bleier, who all had an ERA below 3.50.

 

Offensively, Baltimore finished second in hits, fourth in batting average and fifth in slugging percentage and home runs. Unfortunately, they finished eighth in runs scored and 13th in OBP. The O’s actually finished first in the AL with 149 solo home runs, but with runners on, Baltimore generated just 594 runs, which was 11th in the AL.

The offensive MVP ended up being Jonathan Schoop, who batted .293 and hit 32 home runs. Schoop was the Orioles lone All-Star.

2018: Around the Diamond

The big question of the offseason was whether the Orioles should move star 3B/SS Manny Machado, or keep him in hopes that he stays long term.

Machado, who will hit the free agent market after the 2018 season, recently agreed a $16 million deal to avoid arbitration. However, Baltimore can still trade him either now or during the season if they choose. Although Machado had somewhat of a down year, hitting just .259 and a below average .310 OBP, he still hit over 30 home runs for the third straight season.

Baltimore Orioles 2018 season preview

Machado will play shortstop in 2018 (Photo from Call to the Pen)

The other question surrounding Machado was what position would he play if he remained on the Orioles. When J.J. Hardy was injured in 2016, Machado played 45 games at shortstop, the position he claims to be his most natural. However, he has mostly been at third base since he arrived in the big leagues, and has won two Gold Glove Awards manning the hot corner. On Saturday, manager Buck Showalter confirmed that Machado would be playing shortstop in 2018, while Tim Beckham, who hit .306 with the O’s last year, will play third base.

The right side of the infield features Schoop and Chris Davis, who hit 26 home runs, but hovered around the Mendoza line at .215 in 2017. With Welington Castillo now on the Chicago White Sox, Baltimore has a pair of catchers, Caleb Joseph and Chance Sisco, that could fight for the starting role. Sisco, the Orioles second-round draft pick in 2013, has hit .311 in his minor league career and is considered the catcher of the future in Baltimore.

Left to right we have Trey Mancini, Adam Jones and Joey Rickard. The 32-year-old Jones, who has been the face of the O’s for quite some time, will be a free agent after this season. Mancini, who is only 25, had a fantastic 2017, hitting .293 with 24 home runs and 78 RBIs.

After erupting in 2016 with 47 home runs during his first year with Baltimore, designated hitter Mark Trumbo came back down to Earth in 2017. Last season, the big fella hit only .234 with 23 home runs, but is a very solid option at the DH position, as Baltimore hopes to have Trumbo play the majority of games at DH.

On the BUMP

Fortunately for Baltimore, they parted ways with both Wade Miley and Ubaldo Jimenez. In 2017, Miley finished first in the league in walks allowed, while Jimenez gave up the sixth most runs, and the eighth most home runs in the MLB. They also made a wise decision to not re-sign Chris Tillman, who went 1-7 with a 7.84 ERA.

Sadly though, Baltimore will still be relying on Kevin Gausman, who allowed the fifth most hits and finished 10th in walks allowed. Baltimore will need Gausman to figure it out, as well as Bundy to continue to progress if they hope to improve.

The back end of the rotation is the epitome of suspect. With guys like Gabriel Ynoa, Miguel Castro and Alec Asher in line to start, Baltimore fans should continue to keep Camden Yards empty.

Because of his ruptured achilles, Britton will miss the start of the season, which is a huge loss for the O’s. Luckily, like stated earlier, the bullpen is full of solid names. Both Brach and O’Day will be returning in 2018.

The Future

The future looks bright for the Orioles. Austin Hays, one of the best outfield prospects in the minors, had a tremendous 2017 between A+ and AA. In 128 games, the 22-year-old hit .329 with 32 home runs. He appeared in 20 games for Baltimore and hit just .217, but he has a legitimate shot to take over right field for Baltimore in 2018.

Baltimore Orioles 2018 season preview

Austin Hays is one of the best outfield prospects in the game. (Photo from Camden Chat)

We mentioned Sisco, but have yet to talk about Ryan Mountcastle, the 20-year old SS/3B, who could take over down the road if Machado leaves. Last year, Mountcastle hit .287 with 18 home runs in A+ and AA.

In the first round of the 2017 MLB Draft, Baltimore selected DL Hall, who they hope can fix the pitching woes at some point. Hall is just 19 years old, but is considered Baltimore’s top pitching prospect. Hall is a lefty whose fastball can get up to 95.

 

 

 

2018 Prediction: 77-85

Can’t imagine the O’s sticking with Machado farther than the Trade Deadline. Schoop will continue to be one of the best 2Bs in the game, Mancini might take a step back, and maybe we will see Hays at some point. Expect a good year from Bundy, but other than him, look for the rest of the staff to struggle. Baltimore will finish dead last in the tough AL East.

Featured image by MLB.com

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Mike Mussina Hall of Fame

Mike Mussina looks to be a Hall of Fame lock in the near future

On Wednesday, the National Baseball Hall of Fame welcomed four new members. For just the fourth time in 82 years, the Baseball Writers Association elected a class of four or more players. Both Chipper Jones and Jim Thome were voted in as first-ballot Hall of Famers.

After falling just 15 votes shy of being enshrined last season, second-year candidate Vladimir Guerrero received 92.9 percent of the vote, which is now a record for a player in his second-year on the ballot. For former San Diego Padres closer Trevor Hoffman, the third time was, in fact, the charm. Hoffman, who missed by five votes last year, received 79.9 percent of the votes.

Mike Mussina Hall of Fame

Bonds and Clemens did not receive the results they hoped for. (Photo from Yahoo Sports)

Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds, two of the best to ever step on the diamond, both received over 50 percent of the vote, but each gained less than three percent when compared to last year. Both had each leaped about eight or nine percent over the past two seasons, but that did not occur in 2018.

Edgar Martinez, who was estimated to receive around 77.5 percent of the vote, fell just short at 70.4 percent. Martinez has now gotten the short end of the stick for nine years, but seems destined to reach the hall next season in his final year of eligibility.

Similar to Martinez is Mike Mussina, who continues to rise up the ballot. In 2013, the former Baltimore Orioles and New York Yankees pitcher earned just 20.3 percent of the vote. In the voting unveiled Wednesday night, Mussina finished with 63.5 percent. He now has five more years to get the last 11.5 percent.

In all likelihood, Mussina appears to be a lock for the Hall of Fame. If he is elected next season, he would join former teammate Mariano Rivera. If he somehow has to wait another year, he will go in with Derek Jeter, who will be on the ballot for the first time in 2020.

Yes, Mussina was never as good as Pedro Martinez, Randy Johnson, John Smoltz, Tom Glavine or Greg Maddux, all pitchers who played in the same era and have since been elected into the Hall of Fame. However, Mussina had a very great 18-year career. Let’s dive into the numbers.

Background

Mike “Moose” Mussina was a five-time All-Star and won seven Gold Gloves, which is tied for the fifth most among pitchers. Before he made the MLB, Mussina was a baseball, basketball and football standout at Montoursville High School in Montoursville, Pennsylvania. As a pitcher, Mussina went 24-4 with a 0.87 ERA

The Baltimore Orioles drafted him out of high school, but Mussina opted to attend Stanford University. As a junior, Mussina went 14-5 with a 0.99 ERA for the Stanford Cardinal baseball team. In 1990, not only did he graduate from Stanford with a degree in economics, Mussina was also drafted 20th overall by the Orioles.

He is the only pitcher in MLB history to have four perfect seasons in the field and win a gold glove, which is a year with no errors and a 1.000 fielding percentage. Mussina also had six top-five finishes in the voting for the AL Cy Young Award.

Mussina’s 270 career wins ranks 33rd all time. He is also 20th in strikeouts and 24th in pitching wins above replacement. His 82.9 WAR ranks ahead of Bob Gibson, Tom Glavine, Don Sutton and Jim Palmer to name a few, all Hall of Famers. His 44.5 WAR7, which is a stat that compiles a pitcher’s seven best WAR seasons, eclipses Hall of Famers Nolan Ryan, Dizzy Dean and Red Ruffing.

Numbers Never Lie

In 1995, Mussina led the AL in wins (19) and shutouts (four). A year later, Mussina led the AL in games started with 36. He had 11 seasons of 15 or more wins, which is tied for 15th all time. Mussina led the AL in innings (237 2/3) in 2000. In 2008, at the age of 39, Mussina became the oldest pitcher to ever win 20 games.

Mike Mussina Hall of Fame

Five-time All-Star, seven-time Gold Glove Award winner (Photo from CBS Sports)

In the postseason, Mussina had a 3.42 ERA in 23 career games. He has thrown the 10th most innings in postseason history, and ranks fifth in career postseason strikeouts. His four appearances in the 1997 playoffs were absolutely magnificent. A member of the Orioles at the time, Mussina went 2-0 with a 1.24 ERA and struck out 41 batters in 29 innings. He also notably defeated Randy Johnson on two occasions in the ALDS.

While he never threw a perfect game, he was pretty close on multiple occasions. On May 30, 1997 against the Cleveland Indians, “Moose” had retired the first 25 batters before surrendering a hit to Sandy Alomar Jr. with one out in the ninth. In 1998, against the Detroit Tigers, Mussina retired the first 23 men he faced. With two outs in the eighth, Frank Catalanotto doubled. On Sept. 2, 2001, Mussina was just one out away from perfection, but gave up a single to Carl Everett of the Boston Red Sox.

Tables to tell all

Pitchers with W>=270, SO>=2,800, ERA<=3.70, and ERA+ >= 120
Walter Johnson
Roger Clemens
Randy Johnson
Greg Maddux
Tom Seaver
Mike Mussina

Pitchers with seasons of W>=15, ERA+>=130 and WHIP<=1.28

BOLD= HOF

PITCHER NO. OF SEASONS
GREG MADDUX 10
ROGER CLEMENS 10
WALTER JOHNSON 10
RANDY JOHNSON 9
JIM PALMER 8
TOM SEAVER 8
LEFTY GROVE 8
MORDECAI BROWN 8
MIKE MUSSINA+ 3 OTHERS 7
PEDRO MARTINEZ 6
BOB GIBSON 6

 

The 3.68 ERA is a bit high, as it would rank the fourth highest for members in the Hall of Fame, but let’s not forget he played in the heart of the steroid era. Mussina has the fourth highest career JAWS of any pitcher not in the Hall of Fame. He also has over 100 more wins than losses. All pitchers who accomplished this, besides Roger Clemens, have been inducted into the Hall of Fame.

While he may have not been the best pitcher at any time, Mussina had a tremendous career and is deserving of the Hall of Fame nod.

 

Featured image by SI.com

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MLB Game 162 2011

Remembering baseball’s best night ever: Game 162

It is times like this when the average fan will look back and remember some great moments in baseball history. The hot stove is rather cold, and we are still six weeks away from pitchers and catchers reporting in the spring.

One of the greatest moments of the 21st century, if not ever, was the 162nd game of the 2011 regular season. I am not talking about one game in particular. I am talking about four different games that all led to one of the greatest finishes to a regular season ever.

Before we can focus on game 162, we need to know the context of the season.

September 2011

On Sept. 1, 2011, the Boston Red Sox were in first place of the AL East and were nine games ahead of the third place Tampa Bay Rays. In the National League, the St. Louis Cardinals were 7.5 games back of the Milwaukee Brewers in the NL Central and 8.5 games behind the Atlanta Braves in the Wild Card. Remember, this was the year before there were two Wild Card teams accepted from each league.

At the beginning of the month, everything was perfectly laid out for teams that looked playoff bound. Boston was a favorite to go to the World Series at the beginning of the year, and they looked poised to make another trip. However, they went 7-18 going into the last game of the season, and the Rays went 16-9 going into game 162. They were tied for the Wild Card with one game left, and everyone knew it would be exciting night just on that front.

The Cardinals were long shots for the postseason at the beginning of September. They were further back in the Wild Card than they were in the division. Luckily for them, the Braves went 8-17 going into game 162, while the Cardinals went a solid 16-10. This also left Atlanta and St. Louis tied for the NL Wild Card, just like the American League.

The hype for these games was there, and luckily for us, they did not disappoint one iota.

What was the situation for game 162?

Where even to start? The Cardinals were playing the Astros in Houston in what would be the last time Minute Maid Park would ever be a part of the National League. The Astros were also the worst team in the league with a lowly 56-105 record.

The Braves, on the other hand, were playing at home. The only problem is that they were playing the best team in the majors, and their bitter rival, the Philadelphia Phillies. Even though the Phillies had clinched the division and home field advantage through the entire postseason long before this game, they still had every intention of keeping their division rival out of the playoffs.

Much like the Cardinals, the Red Sox were on the road and they were playing one of the worst teams in the league in the Baltimore Orioles. Baltimore had lost the previous game, but were treating this last one like it was their World Series. Under no circumstances were they going to let Boston have a free ticket into the playoffs.

Down in Tampa, the Rays were playing the New York Yankees, who already clinched the AL East as well as home-field advantage through American League playoffs. The Rays had won five games in a row and had Boston sweating up in Baltimore. A Boston loss and a win against New York would give the Rays their third playoff birth in franchise history.

The National League

MLB Game 162 2011

The Braves collapse will go down as one of the “greatest” ever (Photo from NY Daily News)

The first domino to fall on the historic day was St. Louis beating Houston 8-0. It was a straight forward game that left the Cardinals confident they would have a ticket to the postseason. The problem was that the Phillies were down to the Braves 3-2 going into the ninth inning. It looked like the Braves would hold on amidst their September collapse.

Not so fast. Chase Utley flew out to left field to allow Pete Orr to score and tie the game. They were on the way to extra innings.

The Braves were not able to muster much of anything in extras. The closest they got was in the 12th where they had runners on first and second with two outs. Martin Prado proceeded to ground out, and they went to the 13th.

Hunter Pence came to bat in the 13th and was able to drive in the go-ahead run on an opposite field single. That gave the Phillies a 4-3 lead going into the bottom of the inning where the Braves would fight to stay alive.

Due up in the bottom of the inning were three of the Braves best hitters in Chipper Jones, Dan Uggla and Freddie Freeman. Jones began the inning by striking out, followed by Uggla being walked. It was a runner at first with one out with the young Freeman at the plate. He then grounded to first base, where John Mayberry and Jimmy Rollins were able to turn the double play, and Freeman slammed his helmet on the ground in disgust, finishing off what was an epic collapse to miss the postseason.

The American League

The results of the day are not the only thing that makes these games incredible, but it was in the manner in which it happened. Fangraphs did an excellent piece on the timing and odds that went into the regular season finale in the American League.

To sum up the games, New York had taken a 7-0 lead over Tampa, while Boston had a 3-2 lead over Baltimore. It looked like Tampa had no chance of coming back and that Boston would hold on. The stadium had emptied out as all hopes of the postseason alluded the Tampa faithful. About half the stadium looked emptied out at this point. All those fans forgot the wise words of Lenny Kravitz.

It ain’t over til it’s over.

The Rays burst out for a six-run bottom of the eighth, largely thanks to a three-run home run by Evan Longoria. The only problem was that they were still down 7-6 going into the ninth inning. They were down, but not out.

MLB Game 162 2011

The Rays react to a stunning home run from Dan Johnson (Photo from mlb.com)

The Rays found themselves down to one out in the bottom of the ninth. Joe Maddon used Dan Johnson as a pinch hitter to try and save their season against Cory Wade. Johnson fell behind and eventually reached a 2-2 count. The season was all but lost. Then, something magical happened.

Johnson roped a ball around the right field post for his second home run all season long.

Johnson trotted around the bases taking in what would be one of the greatest moments of the year. Everyone in Tropicana field went nuts, except for the skipper, Joe Maddon, who was stunned beyond belief.

It wasn’t over yet though. Boston and Baltimore had been in a rain delay, and they were just beginning to resume their game with Boston leading 3-2. They went to the bottom of the ninth, and Jonathan Papelbon had retired the first two hitters, and Baltimore was down to their final out.

Chris Davis was at the plate and was able to rope a ball down the right field line and get to second base for a two-out double. Nolan Reimold proceeded to drive a ball into the right-center gap for a ground-rule double to tie the game. Papelbon was just trying to get out of the inning at this point with Robert Andino at the plate. Andino was batting just .262 and was not a big threat at the plate. No problem for Papelbon, right?

MLB Game 162 2011

Mike Aviles walked off the field watching Baltimore celebrate their improbable victory (Photo from New York Times)

Wrong. Andino hit a line drive to the left fielder, Carl Crawford. Crawford bobbled the ball on the hop as he tried to make a play to catch the ball. That brief moment where he could not gather the ball led Reimold to round third base. Reimold steamrolled into home and just beat the throw. You might have thought that Baltimore had just won the World Series after that play.

Even after the blown save by Papelbon, the Red Sox still had hope. Hope that relied on the dreaded New York Yankees taking an extra-inning lead against the Rays. A moment where the Red Sox and their fan base would pray all they could for the Yankees to win, a true once in a lifetime moment. That moment was short lived.

It was not but three minutes later that those hopes would go down the drain.

Evan Longoria, the cornerstone player of Tampa Bay, perfectly fit a baseball just over the 315-foot marker on the short left field wall. The Rays came back from the grave in the Wild Card race in game 162 to stun the Boston Red Sox, who had just lost a heartbreaker 1,000 miles away.

The Aftermath

Terry Francona left as the Red Sox manager shortly after they blew their postseason chances. The Tampa Bay Rays lost in four games to the Texas Rangers, who eventually went on to the World Series.

The Philadelphia Phillies played the St. Louis Cardinals in the NLDS, the very team they allowed to enter the postseason after they stunned Atlanta. They lost the series to the Cardinals after a stunning performance by Chris Carpenter, outdueling the great Roy Halladay.

St. Louis went on to beat the Texas Rangers in seven games in the World Series in stunning fashion. That story is for another day though.

 

Featured image from the Tampa Bay Times

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MLB best hitters

Top destinations for Manny Machado

The dust from the Giancarlo Stanton hot stove has settled, but the rumor mill is not slowing down. It seemed like Stanton would be the biggest name on the trade block, but Manny Machado is a name of similar star power with only one year remaining on his contract.

Baltimore would be wise to move Machado as their AL East rivals are pulling away from the competition. With the acquisition of Stanton, the Yankees are all in for October this year. It has become evident that the Orioles do not have what it takes to compete with them or the Red Sox at this point. With only one year of control over Adam Jones and Zach Britton as well, it is time to see what haul of prospects they can bring in for the future.

Any contending team could use Machado’s services in 2018. General Manager Dan Duquette has stated there will be no open window for teams to discuss a contract with Machado, so odds are he will hit the free agent market next winter. With that being said, here are the most likely destinations to land his services.

5. New York Yankees

Manny Machado top destinations

Even after the Stanton acquisition, the Yankees are still hungry for more (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)

The Yankees have emerged as suitors for Machado in 2018. However, the Orioles do not believe it is in their best interest to trade their cornerstone player to their division rival. Even if they are to trade him elsewhere, they believe there is a possibility he could still be flipped to New York.

Baltimore is in the market for some young arms, and New York has that in their farm system. That has to be attractive for them as New York is always the team to go after the big name players. Landing Machado would immediately make them World Series favorites for 2018.

The largest hurdle they will have to jump is the Orioles’ reluctance to hand him over within the division. The Yankees would have to give up a serious haul to get them on board.

4. Chicago White Sox

The White Sox are not a conventional team to find on this list. There is no real chance for them to even win their division in AL Central. Reports have emerged, however, that they have the most intriguing offer for the Orioles. Even if that is the case, it still does not make sense.

The guys from the south side have been wheeling and dealing to the point where people fear they will be one of the most dangerous teams in baseball come 2021. They have six prospects in the MLB Top 100, and that doesn’t include former No. 1 prospect, Yoan Moncada.

Since Machado is only under contract for one year, there is no guarantee he will stick with the team long term. It is hard to believe that he won’t test the free agent market, so it does not make sense for the White Sox to give up more than one of these Top 100 prospects. The only way this will work is if they are confident that he will sign with them after 2018.

3. Arizona Diamondbacks

Arizona lines up well with Baltimore in the sense that they have the arms Baltimore wants. One name that has popped up onto the market is Zack Greinke. He is owed a salary of $34 million each of the next four years and is already 34 years old, so it is not exactly what Baltimore may want. However, he is still proving to be a viable option in the rotation.

The Diamondbacks are not far off from competing either. While they may have been swept in the divisional series by the Dodgers, they still have what it takes to do well in October. Again, this may come down to whether or not the Diamondbacks feel they can keep Machado past 2018.

2. St. Louis Cardinals

Manny Machado top destinations

It will take a lot for the Cardinals to part with their top pitching prospect,
Alex Reyes (Photo from ESPN)

The Cardinals are back into the mix in the rumor mill. Although they did not land the 2017 NL MVP, they did land his outfield counterpart, Marcell Ozuna. Ozuna provides a good punch to the lineup, but General Manager John Mozeliak has expressed that he is not done adding pieces to his lineup.

The Cardinals are thought to be the perfect fit for the young superstar. They have the most attractive pitching prospects for the Orioles and have a place for him at shortstop, which is where he would like to move. St. Louis had a surprise from their rookie shortstop last year, but he is able to play third base as well.

St. Louis knows that if they add Machado, then they will have enough to compete with the Cubs in 2018. However, the prospect cost may be too much for the Cardinals to go for. It will be difficult for the Orioles to get Alex Reyes, Luke Weaver or Jack Flaherty without any guarantee that he will stay past 2018. What happens in the next few weeks may determine how much the Cardinals, or other teams value one year of a superstar player.

1. Baltimore Orioles

Even with all of the rumors floating around, the Orioles are still the most likely place Machado will play. Between the Orioles not wanting to trade with the Yankees and the high asking price for Machado, it is doubtful that anything will be able to get done. If the Orioles realize that it will be hard for them to get a trade done with the current asking price and lower it, then it will be more likely for him to go St. Louis or Arizona.

If the Orioles can settle with two higher-end pitching prospects, then something will be done. Only time will tell if the Orioles bargain for the 25-year-old free agent to be.

 

Featured image from Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

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Baltimore Orioles

Baltimore Orioles team profile

The Baltimore Orioles enter the 2017 offseason with way more questions than answers. A 75-87 season with a last place finish in the AL East will do that to a team. Even so, the Orioles are just one season removed from an 89-73 season and a second place finish in the AL East. How did the Orioles fall off so quickly and where do they go in 2018?

2017 Season

After a second place finish in 2016, the Orioles were primed to make another run at the AL East crown. Through the month of April, it looked like they would do just that. They boasted a 15-8 record and were one of the hottest teams in baseball.

Baltimore Orioles

Manny Machado struggled mightily at the plate in 2017. (Photo by Karen Hill/Houston Chronicle).

However, an absolute collapse of the pitching staff grounded the Orioles’ playoff aspirations. As a staff, Orioles pitching gave up 841 runs on the season, averaging out to a little over five runs per game. That was much too difficult for the eighth ranked offense in the American League to overcome.

It wasn’t just the pitching staff that suffered from inconsistency though. Star third baseman Manny Machado got off to a poor start in 2017, batting .224 in March and April and slumping to a .191 batting average for the month of May. Throughout the whole season, he only slugged over .500 in one full month, slugging .690 in August. Even with Machado’s struggles, the Orioles were able to score 743 runs, only one less than their total last year.

One reason for that was the emergence of Jonathan Schoop. Schoop definitely tapped into his power this year, launching 32 home runs. He also drove in a team high 105 RBIs.

Another factor was the under the radar addition of shortstop Tim Beckham. Beckham is the new poster child for the change of scenery narrative. After posting a paltry 97 OPS+ in Tampa Bay, Beckham hit to the tune of a 131 OPS+ in Baltimore. Both Beckham and Schoop will be relied on next season season.

Team Needs

The Baltimore Orioles are set in the infield, with catching duties likely being split between Caleb Joseph and prospect Chance Sisco. Beckham will take over for the 35-year-old J.J. Hardy, solidifying a strong infield.

Where the questions begin is in the outfield. Nine different players earned time in right field for the Orioles, with 35-year-old Seth Smith playing the most games with 80. Joey Rickard, Craig Gentry and Mark Trumbo all played at least 31 games in right, but none are thought to be long-term options. Rickard, who will turn 27 next season, has a career 77 OPS+. Gentry will be 34 with an 84 OPS+ for his career, and Trumbo was mostly a designated hitter. Either way, right field will be the least of the Orioles’ problems if they can’t find some starting pitching.

When your “staff ace” posts a 4.24 ERA, you know there are bound to be some problems. The Orioles had two starters with ERAs well over 5.00. Wade Miley made 32 starts and posted a 5.61 ERA. Not to be outdone, Ubaldo Jimenez went one step further. The former Rockies ace started 25 games and posted an atrocious 6.81 ERA.

Dylan Bundy and Kevin Gausman were the only starters to post sub 5.00 ERAs on the season. The Orioles will definitely have to dip into the free agent market to address one of the worst starting staffs in the majors.

Potential Free Agent Signings

One player that the Orioles could target is pitcher Trevor Cahill. While adding a pitcher with a 4.93 ERA this past season may not sound like a good idea, a closer look at the numbers says otherwise.

As a starter with San Diego, Cahill made 11 starts, going 4-3 with a 3.69 ERA. It was when Cahill was shipped to Kansas City that his numbers started to balloon. A change of scenery and a change to the bullpen spelled disaster for the former second-round pick. Cahill will only be 30 years old next year, and should come at a reasonable price.

Baltimore Orioles

Tyler Chatwood has a chance to be an impact arm (Photo from AP Photo/David Zalubowski).

Another option for the Orioles is pitcher Tyler Chatwood. With Chatwood, you have to look even deeper than with Cahill. The former Rockies starter has a chance to be a diamond in the rough. Chatwood is a perfect example of how pitching in Colorado can damage a pitcher’s career.

He has posted a 5.25 ERA in 68 games at Coors Field. But outside of Colorado, Chatwood has posted a 3.31 ERA in 62 games. He has also given up 25 homers on the road compared to 42 at home, and limited batters to a .241 batting average on the road. There is only a 17-inning difference between his 332.1 IP at home compared to his 315.1 IP on the road. While Cahill could be a solid signing, Chatwood has the chance to be an impact arm for the Orioles. And at almost 28 years old, he’s one of the youngest available starters on the market.

The Baltimore Orioles have a chance to turn their organization around in 2018. However, with the Yankees and Red Sox back to powerhouses once again, the best the Orioles can hope for in 2018 is a Wild Card spot.

 

Feature image by cbssports.com 

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Andrew Knizner

How Andrew Knizner’s AFL performance impacts St. Louis

Andrew Knizner has been making waves in the Arizona Fall League. The seventh-round pick in the 2016 MLB draft for the Cardinals had a solid season in the minors. The 22-year-old catcher managed to rack up 12 homers and 51 RBIs in 95 games between Single and Double-A this past year.

Adding to the Cardinals’ catching core

The Cardinals have had the most reliable guy they could ask for behind the plate since 2004. Yadier Molina has put in more innings and excelled more than any other catcher during that time. He has established himself as a premier catcher and has come close to reaching a Pudge Rodriguez level of excellence.

Knizner

Molina has been one of the best catchers of this generation (Photo from SI.com)

Not only does St. Louis have Molina through 2020, but they have the best catching prospect in baseball, who is ready for some major league action. Carson Kelly is a converted third basemen, who has adjusted to the catching position very nicely. He has established himself as a potential Gold Glove winner, and has had his bat catch up to his glove the last couple of years.

The only problem is that Kelly is not getting younger. Molina’s contract extension through the 2020 season leaves some doubt as to how Kelly will get playing time in St. Louis. Kelly would soon be turning 27 by the time he could get consistent playing time with the Cardinals. This is what makes his future with the ball club murky.

Andrew Knizner is another name to bring some intrigue behind the plate. He is a converted third baseman, much like Kelly, and is still learning the tricks of the trade. He has not had a lot of flubs behind the plate, but his bat is what garners some attention. Knizner has shown that he can put the ball in play with solid contact, while also showing good plate discipline. Pitch selectivity is always good to see in young guys because it is an important skill to have when dealing with nasty pitching in the big leagues.

What Knizner’s success means for the offseason

It sure is a good thing that Knizner is breaking out in the AFL. He currently has a .358/.403/.537 slash line along with three home runs and 12 RBIs in 67 at-bats. That should give the Cardinals more comfort that they may have another option behind the plate after Molina hangs up his cleats.

The Cardinals are exploring trades before any free-agent signings according to Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports. The Cardinals have a lot of prospects they could potentially trade away. Knizner’s performance puts him as well as Kelly in the mix of the names that could be traded away this offseason.

Knizner

Knizner or Kelly fitting into a Miami trade could make sense, it is whether or not Stanton allows it to happen (Photo by Getty Images)

The team that the Cardinals have been attached to the most is the Miami Marlins. They are looking to lose most of the salary that is guaranteed to Giancarlo Stanton, so it appears evident that they will try to move him by the end of the offseason. If the Cardinals are looking to make that move with the Marlins, either for Stanton or another outfielder, both Kelly and Knizner could be thrown in there as the Cardinals can afford to give one up.

The Marlins already have a young and successful catcher in J.T. Realmuto. Much of Realmuto’s value comes from his performance at the plate though. He has also spent some time at first base.

If the Marlins are really looking to go into rebuild mode, then their current first baseman could be on the move. Justin Bour had a career year and could get a couple solid prospects in return as he has a team-friendly contract.

Kelly’s defensive prowess and young age could play a part in this trade. As the best catching prospect in baseball, it would be hard for the Marlins to turn that away. It would be contingent on Bour being dealt as well as mentioned earlier.

St. Louis is still in very early talks with Miami. Kelly or Knizner could play a role in how things play out as they are showing to be valuable prospects.

Other possibilities

In case a Stanton trade doesn’t work out for the Cardinals, Marcell Ozuna and Christian Yelich may be on the table as well. Not only that, but the Cardinals have showed interest in Josh Donaldson and Manny Machado. Both the Blue Jays and Orioles are in need of younger catching prospects, so Kelly or Knizner would make sense as pieces in a trade like this.

Even if these big name trades don’t happen, the Cardinals are still shopping around to see where they can improve. The front office knows they need to prove they are serious about contending with the Cubs. They have money and lots of prospects. Knizner only helps their bargaining power and gives them more flexibility for the future.

All in all, the reality to take away from his performance and potential is that Carson Kelly may not play a full season in St. Louis. With Yadier Molina blocking him, it would make sense for the Cardinals to move him somewhere else. Then they could look for Knizner to be the successor to Molina.

 

Featured image by Getty Images

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Honoring baseball's military veterans

Honoring baseball’s military veterans

Veteran’s Day is upon us once more, so it is only fitting to honor baseball’s military veterans today. From the Civil War, our nation’s greatest struggle, to the rice paddies of Vietnam, there have been dozens of baseball men that have fought alongside the “common Joe”.

Some of the names of the men who’ve served our nation in its greatest time of need you will know, others you will not. The list of names is too exhaustive to name them all, but we tip our caps all the same. Here are five men who’ve served with distinction.

Morgan Bulkeley – Civil War

Honoring baseball's military veterans

First president of the NL and Civil War veteran, Morgan Bulkeley. (Photo courtesy of: National Baseball Hall of Fame)

Morgan Bulkeley never played in a game, but the Hartford-based businessman was the first president of the National League. Bulkeley would only hold the National League’s presidency for one season in 1876. Not wanting to make baseball his life’s work, he walked away from the post.

In 1937, Bulkeley was enshrined in the Hall of Fame with Ban Johnson, the first president of the American League.

Bulkeley has the distinction of being the only Baseball Hall of Fame member to serve during the American Civil War. Even though he came from money, Morgan Bulkeley and his brother Charles both enlisted in the Union Army in 1861. An unusual choice given these were the sons of Aetna Insurance co-founder, Eliphalet Bulkeley.

For those that aren’t up to date on their Civil War history, the unusual nature of the Bulkeley boys’ enlistment lies in money. During the Civil War, a person could buy their way out of the draft and pay for another person to serve in their place. The Bulkeley boys choosing to enlist was the exception to the rule, make no doubts about it. For Morgan Bulkeley’s brother Charles, this decision would seal his fate. He would not survive the war.

For Morgan Bulkeley though, he spent his time under the command of Gen. George McClellan in the 13th New York Regiment. It must have been a shock to go from a life of extravagance, to marching around the dirty, dusty countryside in pursuit of Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia. This is exactly the life Bulkeley lived from the years 1861-1865.

Grover Alexander – WWI

Alexander is a name that rests among the greatest names in the history of pitching. What you might not have known, however, is Alexander also saw live combat in World War I.

Prior to the war, Grover Alexander broke into the big leagues in 1911 with Philadelphia. From that time on, he was one of the most dominant pitchers in the National League. He led the NL in wins five times between the years 1911-1917, posting three consecutive 30+ win seasons from 1915-1917. On top of those 30-win seasons, he also posted sub 2.00 ERA in each of those three years as well. He did all of this while war threatened to consume the entire world.

The United States had managed to keep a “veneer” of neutrality for most of WWI, but in the spring of 1917, peacetime was over. The U.S. was now on a war footing with Germany, and with an army that had been drastically reduced in strength over time, needed fresh recruits.

In 1917, and for the first time since the Civil War, the nation’s men were subject to conscription into the armed forces. This is the avenue by which Grover Alexander found his way into the Army.

Three games into the 1918 season, Alexander, at the rank of Sergeant found himself among the killing fields in France. A member of the 342nd Field Artillery Battalion. It was at his post, while under an enemy artillery barrage, that Alexander suffered severe hearing damage from a nearby shell explosion. This explosion also left Alexander with epilepsy.

It was 99 years ago today, that peace was reached between the belligerents of WWI, and by the spring of 1919 Alexander was back at his old post. On the hill, toeing the rubber as a member of the Chicago Cubs.

Warren Spahn – WWII

Honoring baseball's military veterans

All of Warren Spahn’s 363 career wins came after he won the Purple Heart in WWII. (Photo courtesy of: Dailydsports.com)

Spahn, a fresh-faced rookie in 1942, got his first taste of big league ball with the Boston Braves. He made two starts over four appearances in 1942, and by December he would be finding himself in Army green.

Spahn was one of the “luckier” baseball players of his generation in that his career was interrupted at the beginning, rather than during his prime years. Ted Williams, Bob Feller and Joe DiMaggio are just a few players that lost some of their peak years.

It was in December of 1944 that Warren Spahn would find himself fighting for his life during the Battle of the Bulge. This was the last gasp offensive of by the German war machine. Spahn, a combat engineer, was part of the under-equipped troops that were left to face the onslaught.

Spahn did several interviews after the war, in which he would recall the bitter cold and terrible conditions in which they fought. He has also recounted how fierce the fighting was while his unit tried to break free from the German forces that had surrounded them.

When the 1944 German winter offensive was stopped cold, Spahn’s unit was sent to Remagen. It was here, while working on the Ludendorff Bridge in March 1945, Spahn would get hit in the foot with shrapnel. This would be the end of the line for his time at the front.

It earned him a Purple Heart, but it was an incredible twist of good fortune for Spahn. The following day, the entire bridge collapsed into the river below taking over 30 men to their untimely demise. For his actions at Remagen, Spahn earned a battle-field commission of 2nd Lieutenant.

Ted Williams – Korean War

Ted Williams is all legend. This man was the game’s best hitter when he was called away to service during WWII like so many others.

Williams was drafted into service in 1941, but was exempted due to having a dependent mother, but he would later enlist in the Marines in 1942. After completion of his triple-crown season in ’42, Williams was off to training. It was during the years 1943-1945 that Williams would earn his pilot’s wings. The war would end before he would see any active combat.

However, the 1950’s brought with it a new fight. The Korean War.

Of the 1.8 million soldiers that fought in Korea, Ted Williams was one. Immediately Williams was back at flight school learning the controls of the F9F Grumman jet fighter. His involvement in the conflict would consume the majority of his 1952 and 1953 season’s.

In Korea, Williams was the wing man of future space traveler, John Glenn. In Glenn’s estimation, the pair flew together on about half of Williams’ 39 combat flights. Glenn would later recall that Williams was a very active pilot, and an excellent one at that.

Ted Williams was right in the line of fire taking on enemies in the air, and he almost was a goner on a few occasions. On one of those occasions, Williams’ plane was on fire after being badly hit. The landing gear on his smoking wreck was inoperable. The only option left was to attempt a belly landing. In true Ted Williams fashion, he did what he always did. He stayed calm, and he stuck the landing. Williams escaped the cockpit just moments before his mangled plane was engulfed in flames.

Al Bumbry – Vietnam War

Honoring baseball's military veterans

Al Bumbry never lost a man during his time leading troops in Vietnam. (Photo courtesy of: Getty Images)

Bumbry has the distinction of being one of only 10 major league players to fight in the Vietnam War. He would win the Bronze Star for his actions under fire as a platoon commander.

The most remarkable thing about Bumbry’s time in combat, is that he never lost a man under his command. This takes on even more significance when you realize the amount of responsibility on the young lieutenant’s plate. In an interview with The Washington Times, Bumbry said, “I was a tank platoon leader in Vietnam for a year. It was all very stressful. I had nine vehicles and 45 men in my platoon, and I was responsible for all of our activities.”

Bumbry, like the millions of others like him, returned home a changed man. He also returned a better ballplayer, to which he credits an accelerated maturing process forged in the fires of Vietnam. Though Bumbry floundered in his first 35 minor league games before being called to active duty in the Army, when he finally returned, he went on a tear through the minor leagues.

In 1972, Al Bumbry was called up to the big club in Baltimore where he played in nine games. The following year, 1973, Bumbry would solidify a spot in the Orioles lineup, and win the AL Rookie of the Year award.

Following his RoY campaign in 1973, Bumbry would firmly entrench himself as the everyday center fielder in Baltimore. From the years 1973-1985, Al Bumbry would put together a respectable career in MLB. He was a 1980 All-Star, a (.281) lifetime hitter and a key member of the Orioles’ 1983 World Series championship team.

 

(feature photo courtesy of: fadeawaypodcast.com)

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