Mets/Phillies; Ten Players Go Yard – and other Power Displays

David Wright - one of seven Mets to go deep yesterday.

David Wright – one of seven Mets to go deep yesterday.

Yesterday (August 24), as the Mets trounced the Phillies 16-7 (in Philadelphia), the two teams tied the NL record for combined home runs in a game at eleven – thanks in most part to the Mets’ franchise-high eight round trippers. In the process, the two teams set a new MLB record for the most players hitting a home run in a game at ten – seven Mets and (with “a little help from my friends”) three Phillies. The eleven home runs were just one short of the MLB record for a game – accomplished twice, both times in a White Sox/Tigers contest – more on that later.

Ryan Howard, hit the games first home run,

Ryan Howard, hit the games first home run,

The Mets/Phillies game featured home runs by the hitters in the one-through-seven spots in the Mets line-up – including two home runs by 2B Wilmer Flores and single shots by C Travis d’Arnaud, 1B Daniel Murphy, 3B David Wright, LF Yeonis Cespedes, CF Juan Lagares, and RF Michael Cuddyer. Chipping in one each on the Phillies’ side of the long-ball ledger were C Cameron Rupp, 1B Ryan Howard and RF Dominic Brown.

 

 

Two Twelve Home Run Games

There have been two MLB games featuring a record 12 home runs – May 28, 1995 (White Sox at Tigers) and July 2, 2002 (Tigers at White Sox).

The White Sox won the first of those games by a 14-12 score (after the Tigers had jumped out to an early 7-1 lead), despite being out-homered 7-5. Going yard for Chicago were C Ron Karkovice (two home runs), 1B Frank Thomas, 2B Ray Durham and SS Craig Grebeck. The losing Tigers got two home runs each from CF Chad Curtis, 1B Cecil Fielder and DH Kirk Gibson, as well as one round tripper from 2B Lou Whitaker.  It was quite a show for the fans. The Tigers were up 7-1 after two innings; still led 11-10 after six; saw the game tied 11-11 in the seventh; and fell behind by the final 14-12 score in the eighth.

On July 2, 2002, the two teams put on their own offensive fireworks display again – this time in Chicago. The White Sox again prevailed, topping the Tigers 17-9 – with the home runs even at six apiece. The Sox got two round trippers each from C Sandy Alomar and RF Magglio Ordonez and one each from CF Kenny Lofton and 3B Jose Valentin.  On the Tigers’ side, DH Dmitri Young hit a pair of long balls, while 2B Damion Easely, LF George Lombard, CF Wendell Magee and RF Robert Fick had one each.  For trivia buffs, the White Sox’ Frank Thomas and Ray Durham were the only players to appear in both games.

Home Run Hitters Seeing Red(s)

The fact that both twelve-homer games have featured the White Sox and Tigers is one of those baseball coincidences that appeal to BBRT. Here’s another.  Only five times has an MLB team hit five home runs in an inning.  Once in the American League (the Minnesota Twins on June 9, 1966) and four times in the National League.  If you are looking for a reason NL teams have achieved this power feat so many times, you have to look no further than Cincinnati.  Turns out that the Reds have been the victims of ALL FOUR five-homer NL innings (June 6, 1939 – by the Giants; June 2, 1949 – by the Phillies; August 23, 1961 – the Giants again; April 22, 2006 – by the Brewers).  For more details on these five-homer innings, click here.

Eight Players on One Team Go Deep

The Mets home run barrage fell one short of the record for the most different players on one team hitting a home run in a game.  That goes to the Reds, who had eight players go deep in a 22-3 win at Philadelphia on September 4, 1999. Homering for the Reds were C Ed Taubensee (twice), C Brian Johnson, 2B Pokey Reese, 3B Aaron Boone, 3B Mark Lewis, Greg Vaughn, CF Jeffrey Hammonds, RF Dmitri Young.

Blue Jays Clear the Fences Ten Times in One Game

As far as total home runs by one team in a game – that goes to the Toronto Blue Jays, who had ten players go yard in an 18-3 home win over the Orioles on September 14, 1987.  Catcher Ernie Whitt did the most damage with three home runs, 3B Rance Mulliniks and LF George Bell chipped in two apiece, DH Fred McGriff added one HR the Jays got two homers out of the CF spot (Lloyd Moseby and Rob Ducey).

 

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Homer Hitting Hurlers or More of Why I Hate the DH

Bumgarner - Batting Practice Pays Off

Bumgarner – Batting Practice Pays Off

This past Sunday (August 16), San Francisco Giants’ lefthander Madison Bumgarner picked up his 14th win (against six losses) of the season, throwing a three-hit, complete-game shutout in a 5-0 win over the Washington Nationals. In the sterling effort, Bumgarner walked just one and struck out fourteen.  Of even more interest to BBRT was the fact that Bumgarner also collected a home run (his fourth of the season) and an RBI double in three at bats. The round tripper was Bumgarner’s tenth in seven major league seasons – his eighth since the start of the 2014 campaign.   Note: Bumgarner seems to have found his stroke in the past two seasons.  In 2009-13, he hit .138, with two home runs and 16 RBI.  In 2014-15, he is .258-8-22, and has even been used as a pinch hitter.)

On the same day that Bumgarner homered against the Nationals, another pitching “ace” proved his worth on the mound and in the batter’s box.  The Dodgers’ Zack Greinke picked up his 13th win of 2015, throwing seven innings of six-hit, one-run ball (one walk, eight whiffs) against the Reds – and  drove in the winning run (in a 2-1 game) with a home run ( his second of the season and sixth in his 12 MLB seasons) in the bottom of the fifth.

Daniel Norris – Livin’ in a Van Pays Off

Yesterday, as I was putting the final touches on this post, a new break came across my IPad. Tigers’s starting pitcher (former Blue Jays’ prospect) Daniel Norris had done two amazing things with the bat.  He had damaged one of Wrigley Field’s new outfield video boards in batting practice – and he had hit a two-run home run in his first major league plate appearance. By the way, this is the same Daniel Norris who lived in a van behind a Wal-Mart in Spring Training. (To read more about Norris – and his van –  in the pre-season BBRT 2015 MLB Rookie Watch List, click here.)  The Tigers, by the way, beat the Cubs 15-8, but Norris left after 4 1/3 innings pitched (four hits, one walk, three earned runs and six strikeouts) with an oblique strain. 

This display of punch at the plate by two ace pitchers (and a rookie) not only added further to BBRT’s often-voiced opposition to the Designated Hitter, but also got me thinking about the home run leaders among pitchers.

Here’s the list – and a little bit about the career leaders – followed by single season leaders and some special moments for pitchers as hitters.  The first number in the career leader list is each pitcher’s home runs, while in the pitcher position; it does not include home runs hit as a pinch hitter or while playing another position). In parenthesis, you will find their career total HRs.  BBRT Note: Primary sources for the career and single seasons lists: Baseball-Reference.com and Pitchers Dig the Long Ball (At Least When They Are Hitting), David Vincent, Spring 2012 Baseball Research Journal.

 

King of the HR-Hitting Hurlers

King of the HR-Hitting Hurlers

Career Home Runs by Pitchers – All Those with 30 or More

Note: Bold face indicates Hall of Fame member.

Wes Farrell                  37    (38)

Bob Lemon                 35    (37)

Warren Spahn             35

Red Ruffing                 34     (36)

Earl Wilson                   33     (35)

 

Wes Farrell

Farrell – a 6’ 1”, 195-pound right hander is the king of home run hitters among pitchers (while playing in the pitcher position). Farrell holds the career record at 37 and the MLB single season record for a pitcher at nine. Farrell’s MLB career spanned 15 seasons (1927-41), during which time he pitched for the Indians, Red Sox, Senators, Yankees, Dodgers and Braves.   His biggest year at the plate came for the 1931 Indians, when he hit .273 with nine home runs and 30 RBI in 48 games. That same season, he went 22-12, 3.75 on the mound. For his career, Farrell went 198-128 (a .601 winning percentage), with a 4.04 ERA, winning 20 or more games six times and leading his league in complete games four times.  As a hitter, he recorded a .280 average, with 38 home runs and 208 RBI. He hit nine home runs in a season once, seven in a season twice, collected 25 or more RBI in a season four times (with a high a 32 RBI with the 1935 Red Sox, when he went .347-7-32).

Wes Farrell Tidbit:  In 1931, the year Farrell hit his single-season record (for a pitcher) nine home runs, he also tossed a no-hitter (beating the St. Louis Browns 9-0, walking three and fanning eight). In that game, Farrell drove in four runs with a double and a home run in four at bats.

Bob Lemon

Tied Number-two in career home runs as a pitcher is another Cleveland Indian – Hall of Fame hurler Bob Lemon, who racked up 35 career round trippers as a pitcher and two more as a pinch-hitter. Lemon was a 6-foot, 180-pounder right hander (threw right, batted left).  Lemon played his entire career (1941-42; 1946-58) with Cleveland.  As a pitcher, he went 207-128, with a 3.23 ERA.  Lemon won 20 or more games seven times, topping the AL in victories in three seasons. His big year at the plate came in 1949, when he went .269-7-18 in 46 games. During his career, he achieved a season-high batting average of .321 (in 47 games in 1947) and 26 RBI (in 72 games in 1950). His career offensive numbers were .232-37-147 (13 seasons).

Bob Lemon Tidbit:  Although he never hit a home run as a position player, Lemon originally came up to the big leagues as a utility player – and was converted to a pitcher.  (He played 13 MLB games in CF, two at third base and one in right field.) Lemon was, in fact, the starting center fielder for the Indians on Opening Day in 1946 – as well as in Bob Feller’s April 30, 1946 no-hitter again the Yankees. (Makes a great trivia question – “What HOFer both threw a no-hitter and played center field in a no-hitter?”)

 

The Babe started as a pitcher - and a darn good one.

The Babe started as a pitcher – and a darn good one.  Twice topping twenty wins in a season.

Who Says Pitchers Can’t Hit – This Guy Started as a Pitcher

Warren Spahn

The winningest left-hander in MLB history (363 victories), Spahn is tied for the second most home runs as a pitcher with 35.  The six-foot, 172-pound southpaw pitched in the major leagues for 21 seasons (1941, 1946-65) primarily for the Braves (for the Mets and Giants in his final season). Spahn won twenty or more games 13 times, leading the NL in wins eight times, strikeouts four times and ERA three times.  He finished his career at 363-245, 3.09. As a hitter, he batted .194, with 35 home runs and 189 RBI.  His best year at the plate was 1958 when – at the age of 37 – he hit .333, with two homers and 15 RBI in 42 games. He also led the NL that season with 22 pitching victories, as his Braves made a second consecutive trip to the World Series.  Still Spahn never hit more than four home runs in a season and his spot near the of the career home run list is as much due to his longevity as hit batting prowess.

Warren Spahn Tidbit:   Spahn, as a pitcher, hit at least one home run in a record (for pitchers) 17 consecutive seasons.

Red Ruffing

Like most of the hurlers on this list, Ruffing enjoyed a long MLB career – 22 seasons (1924-37) with the Red Sox, Yankees and White Sox. Although he never topped four home runs in a season, his total of 34 as a pitcher earns a spot on the leader list.  As a pitcher, the 6’ 1”, 205-pound righty won 273 games (225 losses) with a 3.80 career ERA. He logged four consecutive 20-win seasons with the Yankees (totaling 82 wins and 33 losses) from 1936-39. Ruffing hit for average as well as a little power. He was a .269 career hitter (topping .300 eight times), with those 36 home runs and 273 RBI.

Red Ruffing Tidbit:  Ruffing was a post-season master, going 7-2, 2.68 in ten World Series starts (all with the Yankees) – tossing eight complete games in the process.

Earl Wilson

Earl Wilson pitched in 11 MLB seasons (Red Sox, Tigers, Padres), hitting 33 home runs from the pitcher’s position. On the mound, the 6’3”, 216-pound right hander won 121 games (versus 109 losses), with a 3.69 ERA.  His best season was for the Tiger in 1967, when he went 22-11, 3.27 – leading the AL in wins in his only twenty-victory campaign. At the plate, his best campaign was 1966, when he pitched for Boston and Detroit and hit .240, with seven home runs and 22 RBI.

Earl Wilson Tidbit:  On June 278, 1962, Wilson – starting for the Red Sox at home – no-hit the Angels 2-0. He was the first black pitcher to complete a no-hitter in the American League.  Wilson also hit a home run in that game and is one of only four pitchers to hit a home run while pitching a no-hitter.  (The others are Wes Farrell, Jim Tobin and Rick Wise).

A few other pitchers’ long ball moments.

Single Season Home Run Records by Pitcher – All with seven or more

Wes Farrell, Indians                9          1931

Jack Stivetts, Browns             7          1890

Wes Farrell, Indians                7          1933

Bob Lemon, Indians               7          1949

Don Newcombe, Dodgers       7          1955

Don Drysdale, Dodgers          7          1958, 1965

Earl Wilson, Red Sox/Tigers   7          1968

Mike Hampton, Rockies         7          2001

Pitcher with Two Grand Slams in a Single Game

Braves’ RHP Tony Cloninger started the Independence Day fireworks early in 1966.  On July 3 of that season, facing the Giants in San Francisco, Cloninger went the distance, holding the Giants to three runs for his ninth win of the year.  More significantly, he also went three-for-five, hit TWO Grand Slam homers and drove in nine runs (still the single-game record for a pitcher). (The Braves won 17-3.) Cloninger not only became the first- still only – pitcher to hit two grand slams in a game, he was also the first National League player to hit two grand slams in a game. Cloninger had a 12-year MB career, going 113-97, 4.07 on the mound (24-11 in 1965) and .192-11-67 at the plate – hitting five of his career 11 home runs in that 1966 season.

A No-Hitter and Two Home Runs

On June 23, 1971, the Phillies’ Rick Wise took the mound against the Reds in Cincinnati – and he had the right stuff, shutting down the Cincy 4-0, throwing a no-hitter (one walk, three strikeouts) for his eighth win of the season.  He also had the right stuff at the plate – hitting a pair of homers and driving in three runs.  He’s still the only MLB pitcher to hit two round trippers while tossing a no-hit game. In that 1971 season, Wise went 17-14, 2.88 on the mound (arguably his best season ever) and .237-6-15 at the plate.  He spent 18 season in the big leagues, going 188-181, 3.69 and .195-15-66. And, he was, of course, spectacular on June 23, 1971.

Three HRs in a Game – By the Pitcher

On May 13, 1942, the Boston Braves (then managed by Casey Stengel) took on the Chicago Cubs in Boston – with the Braves starting pitcher Jim Tobin taking the mound. The Braves won 6-5, with Tobin fashioning a complete game – five hits, three walks, three earned runs. More important historically, Tobin came to the plate four times and lashed three home runs (driving in four). Tobin is the only pitcher since 1900 to tally three long balls in a game. (Guy Hecker is credited with three HRs  in August 15, 1886 game for the Louisville Colonels of the then major league American Association.   Hecker started 48 games on the mound that season – and also played first base or outfield in another 39.) Tobin played in nine big league seasons (Pirates, Braves, Tigers) and put up a 105-112, 3.44 pitching line.  At the plate, he went .230-17-102. In that 1942 season, he hit a career high six homers – three on May 13. (He also lead NL pitchers in losses with 21 and complete games with 28, as Boston finished 30 games under .500.)

Ken Brett’s Streak

In June of 1973, Phillies’ pitcher Ken Brett hit a home run in four consecutive pitching starts (his only hit in each game and his only home runs of the season). Brett won all four games – giving up 11 earned runs in 34 1/3 innings and tossing three complete games. Brett’s MLB career lasted 14 seasons and his mound record was 85-85, 3.93.  At the plate, the brother of x time batting champion George Brett, went .262-10-44. The four r

 

What does all of this add up to?  More of “Why I hate the DH.”

 

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70th Anniversary of Jimmie Foxx’ Pitching Victory

Today’s post is spurred the recent spate of position players taking the mound – plus today’s 70th anniversary of, perhaps, one of the most surprising pitching appearances ever by a position player (Hall of Fame slugger Jimmie “The Beast” Foxx).

A lot already has been written this year about position players taking the mound.  The appearance that grabbed BBRT’s attention took place on Sunday August 16, when we saw a position player (Oakland 1B Ike Davis) pitching to a pitcher (Baltimore reliever Jason Garcia) – and walking him. What made this especially unique is that it took place in the DH-embracing American League, in which pitchers seldom bat. It was, by the way, Davis’ second pitching appearance of the season (totaling two scoreless innings). Davis, of course, may come by his penchant for taking the mound naturally.  He is the son of former MLB reliever Ron Davis – who notched 130 saves in 11 big league seasons.  Still, this has been a big year for position players on the mound.

On June 16th and 17th alone , six position players took the mound – and two teams brought multiple position players on in relief.  The players: June 16 – Rays’ 2B Jake Elmore, Rays’ utility infielder Nick Franklin and Phillies’ 1B Jeff Francoeur; June 17 – Indians’ utility player Ryan Raburn, Indians’ OF David Murphy and Padres’ SS Alexi Amarista.

Still, position players taking a turn on the hill is nothing new (except maybe in this year’s numbers). Such renowned hitters as Ty Cobb, Ted Williams and Stan Musial all recorded brief stints on the mound (1, 1, and 2 career pitching appearances, respectively).  This brings me, finally, to today’s topic – a more unusual position player pitching appearance – by one of MLB’s most prolific sluggers.

JIMMIE FOXX STARTS ON THE HILL – AUGUST 19, 1945

On August 16, 1945, Philadelphia Phillies’ 37-year-old first baseman Jimmie Foxx – who had led his league in HRs four times, RBI three times, batting average twice and won a Triple Crown (1933) –  not only took the mound for the Phillies, he started the game.   It was the second game of a double header against the Reds) and Foxx went 6 2/3 innings for the win, giving up just four hits and two earned runs, while walking four and striking out five. Foxx, in his final MLB season, took the mound nine times (starting twice) that year – going 1-0, with a 1.59 ERA and 14 strikeouts in 22 2/3 innings.  Add in a previous (1939) one-inning pitching appearance for the Red Sox and the Hall of Fame slugger retired with a 1.52 ERA.  Foxx, known as “Double X” or “The Beast,” for his hitting prowess, apparently could be a bit of a beast on the mound as well. Foxx earned his weay into the BB HOF with a career .325 average (20 seasons), 534 home runs, 1,922 RBI and, of course, that flashy 1.52 ERA.

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Ballpark Tours 2015 – Winding Down

Welcome to the final post from BBRT’s annual Ballpark Tours baseball trek. This year’s trip (Bleacher Bums XXXIII … A Rock and Roll Adventure) took us to Schaumburg, IL (minor league), Chicago (Cubs/Giants), Cleveland (Twins/Indians), Detroit (Tigers/Red Sox) and back to Chicago (White Sox/Angels). For reports from earlier in the trip: Day One, click here. Day Two, click here. Day three, click here. Days Four and Five, click here.

Day Six – White Sox Rock Angels

At "The Cell" we sat in the lower deck, right field.  BBRT suggests lower deck seats at U.S. Cellular - it's where the action is.

At “The Cell” we sat in the lower deck, right field. BBRT suggests lower deck seats at U.S. Cellular – it’s where the action is.

Day Six saw us back in Chicago (Hotel Indigo again, see Day One) for a White Sox/Angels contest at U.S. Cellular Field – known by locals as “The Cell.”  Let me begin by saying you’ll find the Sox fans more serious than their Cubs’ counterparts, and you’ll also find far fewer “baseball tourists” at The Cell. (On the way there, I had a conversation with one Southside local who wondered why we wanted to go to a Sox game).

The game wasn’t particularly compelling – with the White Sox topping the Angel 8-2. It did have its moments though:

 

  • Sox’ RF Avasail Garcia, went two-for-four with two home runs (lighting up the A.S. Cellular scoreboard) and four RBI.
  • We broke a BPT 2015 trend, seeing only five pitchers – after seeing 45 pitchers in the first four major league games.
  • White Sox Cy Young candidate Chris Sale went 7 1/3 innings for the win (his tenth), giving up just two runs on five hits and two walks – with seven strikeouts.
  • I finally saw my 6-4-3 double play in the fifth inning, off the bat of Angels’ C Chris Iannetta. (Alexei Ramirez to Carlos Sanchez to Adam LaRoche).
  • Sox CF Adam Eaton made a great running catch in deep center field – off the bat of Albert Pujols.
Avasail Garcia lit up the sky and the scoreboard with a pair of home runs.

Avasail Garcia lit up the sky and the scoreboard with a pair of home runs.

BBRT Survey

BBRT conducted an on-the-bus survey regarding a handful (minus one) of baseball issues.  Given the venue in which the survey was taken, it’s safe to assume the respondents were all baseball fans with some knowledge of and passion for the game.  In general, the group supported the DH as is (AL only), doesn’t want to see Pete Rose in the Hall of Fame, is split on the use of a clock in MLB and supports challenges and replays as part of the game.  Here are the detailed results.

When asked if Pete Rose should continue to be banned from baseball:

Maintain the ban           57%

Lift the ban                  35%

No opinion                   8%

On-board opinions on the DH:

Keep as is – DH in AL, not in NL         48%

Eliminate DH (both leagues)                  22%

DH or no DH, just make both leagues the same 17%

Use DH in AL and NL                         13%

On the proposed rules on the use of a clock in baseball:

Support            48%

Oppose            44%

No opinion         8%

On MLB’s challenge and replay system:

Support            57% (13% stipulated only with adjustments)

Oppose            39%

No opinion       4%

U.S. Cellular Field

The Cell has a bit of a blue collar feel – not a lot of frills, but good sight lines (at least from the lower deck).  BBRT would recommend holding out for lower deck seats for a couple of reasons: 1) The Upper Deck is steep and high; 2) The Sox restrict the ability to move between decks and there is more going on (in terms of food and entertainment on the lower level).  A few other observations:

  • The White Sox three video boards (left, center and right field) provide plenty of information for fans. (I also found the left field – old school – video board enjoyable.  Basically, black and white (yellow, actually), it reminded of the Twins-O-Gram at old Met Stadium.
  • The White Sox are keeping pace with MLB’s trend toward the honoring of former greats, with the White Sox Legends Sculpture Plaza. In the concourse between Sections 100 and 164, you’ll find tributes to: Louis Aparicio; Harold Baines; Charles Comiskey; Carlton Fisk; Nellie Fox; Paul Konerko; Minnie Minoso; Billy Pierce; and Frank Thomas.
  • If you go to the ballpark not just for the game, but also for the food, US. Cellular is a little slice of heaven. You’ll want to make a trip around the concourse just to see what the offerings are. They range from sausages of every ethnicity (with plenty of tasty toppings) to Corn off the Cob (highly recommended by BBRT) to unique items like an Avocado/Bacon Grilled Cheese  sandwich with Tomato-Basil Bisque.  For sheer volume, the Nachos in a Helmet should keep you busy for the whole game.  Not only are the choices plentiful and tasty, U.S. Cellular has some of MLB’s most reasonable concession prices.
  • BBRT also recommends the two-tiered, open-air, right field Bullpen Sports Bar. A great place to enjoy a beverage and the game in the company of passionate baseball fans.

The Cell’s Bloody Mary

The Cell's Bloody Mary - appropriately spiced and priced.

The Cell’s Bloody Mary – appropriately spiced and priced.

U.S. Cellular’s Bloody Mary – purchased at the lower-level, right-field corner Infinity Zone Bar was the best and cheapest (at $8.25) of the trip.  Rather than just vodka and a prepared mix, this one included Worcestershire sauce and celery salt added by the bartender (and you did have a choice of levels of spice), a pair of olives, a lime wedge and a lemon wedge. Not quite as tangy as Detroit’s pickle-brine flavored mix, but appropriately spiced and priced.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Trip Home

After the White Sox game, it was back on the bus for the trip back to Saint Paul.  Along the way, we made a stop at the Mihas Brewery (Monroe, WI) and Beer Memorabilia Museum – which has added a distillery since our last visit.  There was plenty of beer tastings, as well as the opportunity to sample spirits (tequila, rye, vodka and more). We had about a two-hour stop in the town of Monroe population about 10,000.  For most trekker the schedule went:  1) Taste a few of Minhas’ beers; 2) Lunch in nearby “downtown” Monroe (which has a surprising number of choices, from home-style cooking to deli sandwiches to barbeque to Mexican specialties). I was in a group that chose Poncho and Lefties Outlaw Grill; 3) Sample the spirits at the Minhas Distillery (I especially enjoyed the tequilas); and then back to the bus.

Wrapping Up – with a Brewery and a Distillery

sixlazynuttThe final few hours, were spent swapping stories from this year’s trip (and previous trips) in a bus filled with laughter.  We rolled back into Saint Paul by about 9:30 p.m. and the 2015 Ballpark Tours Bleacher Bums XXXIII trip ended in much the same way it started – with lots of hugs and handshakes.   The final touch – a round of applause for tour operator Julian Loscalzo – who once again delivered a memorable baseball (and social) experience.

A visit to the Minhas Distillery had us in high spirits for the ride home.

A visit to the Minhas Distillery had us in high spirits for the ride home.

The Babe would have approved.

The Babe would have approved of our Ballpark Tours journey.

Ballpark Tours Bleacher Bums XXIII - our rolling group traded miles for memories, and it was a good trade.

Ballpark Tours Bleacher Bums XXIII – our rolling group traded miles for memories, and it was a good trade.

Ball Park Tours 2015 – Day Four and Five – Cleveland to Detroit

Welcome to ongoing coverage of the Ballpark Tours 2015 … Bleacher Bums XXXIII … Rock N’Roll Adventure.  Looking at Day Four (last half) and Day Five in this post  For Day One. click here; Day Two, here; Day Three, here  I do apologize for any typos, editing on a moving bus.

 —— BPT Day Four – Cleveland ——

 The Game

Pre-game action included a fire in a nearby building. Indians' bats ptoved hotter.

Pre-game action included a fire in a nearby building. Indians’ bats ptoved hotter.

Day Four included a morning/afternoon visit to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (included in the Day Three report) before the Saturday night Twins/Indians contest, as well as a second consecutive night of Rock N’Blast post-game fireworks.  It turns out that FIREworks was the theme of the evening.  It started with a pre-game fire in a building near the ballpark; moved on to the Indians’ explosive offense; and finished with another round of what BPT trekkers agreed was best ballpark fireworks display the group has ever seen. (At least the best since the night before.)

On a baseball tour, the game – of course – is the thing.  So, let’s start there. The Indians shellacked the Twins 17-4 in a contest that wasn’t even that close. The Cleveland bats were so hot, in fact, the Indians did not even have to worry about their number-one key to the game – Stopping Torii Hunter.

 

Scoreboard old the story.  Today's Indians' strategy. Stop yesterday's hero -Torii Hunter.

Scoreboard old the story. Today’s Indians’ strategy. Stop yesterday’s hero -Torii Hunter.

(Hunter, the hero of Friday night’s Twins’ win was reported by the Indians’ PA announcer as having the most hits versus the Indians of any active player. Before Saturday’s first pitch, the Indians scoreboard posted “Stop the Hunter” as the number-one key to the game.)

Here are a few observations (clearly, not highlights).

  • The Indians collected 19 hits, including four doubles, a triple and two home runs (PH-RF Jerry Sands; CF Abraham Almonte). Twins hurlers also gave up eight walks, while fanning four. Indian pitchers walked three and whiffed 12. Betty White (Hot in Cleveland) probably could have scored for Cleveland Saturday night.
  • In keeping with the trend on this trip, we saw 35 players (19 Twins/16 Indians), including 11 pitchers. In the three MLB games on this trip so far, we have seen 35 pitchers take the mound (actually 34, Minnesota’s A.J. Achter appeared in both games in Cleveland). This is definitely not “crisp, clean” baseball.
  • The final Twin to take the mound did not come in from the bullpen. Shane Robinson came in from right field to record the final three outs for the Twins (bottom of the eighth inning).  A. J. Achter started the eighth and gave up three singles, a home run and a walk to the five batters he faced, before Twins’ manager Paul Molitor made the call to … right field (cell phone in Shane Robinson’s pocket?).  Robinson walked the first hitter he faced, then recorded a ground out to shortstop, fly out to center and a strikeout (Jerry Sands on a 64-mph knuckleball). Of the seven pitchers who toiled for the Twins, only Robinson and Kevin Jepsen did not give up at least one earned run.
  • The Twins did rap three home runs in the contest: Joe Mauer, Kurt Suzuki and Eddie Rosario,
  • It was Michael Brantley bobble head night – and he responded with three hits, two runs, one RBI and a stolen base. The star of the game, however, was Indians’ CF Abraham Almonte (acquired from the Padres on July 31). Starting his first game as an Indian, Almonte went four-for-five, with two doubles, a home run, three runs scored and two RBI.
  • To soothe Twins’ fans. Consider this – the Indians scored 26 runs in two games – and only got a split.  Conversely, the Twins gave up 26 runs in two games and still earned (earned may be too strong a word) a split.
  • Selective hearing? The PA announcer seemed to have a slightly unusual accent. Each time Indians’ catcher Roberto Perez came to the plate, I could have sworn he was introduced as “Rubber Toe Perez.”

Progressive Field

God seats. Game for Twins' fans - not so much.

God seats. Game for Twins’ fans – not so much.

I got to the game early to collect my Brantley bobble head (which I later gave to a youngster who hadn’t arrived early enough to grab one of the popular promos).  That gave me time to visit Heritage Park (right field corner), with its plaques of past Indians’ stars, as well as the Bob Feller display in the Terrace Club (second deck, left field corner). Both are well worth a visit, and will provide you with a sense of Cleveland’s long MLB history.

Our seats were in the upper deck between home plate and first base – great view of what turned out to be a less than great game. These seats were considerably less expensive ($29) than last night’s left-field, lower-level seats, but offered a better view of the scoreboards and game action. Pre-game entertainment included a live rock band on the concourse level (right field) and a building fire about a half block from the ballpark.

Cleveland knows how to do fireworks,

Cleveland knows how to do fireworks,

Then came the game (already described above) and, finally, the Rock N’Blast fireworks and laser display. As I noted yesterday, Cleveland knows how to do fireworks – and tying the display to the history of rock and roll made it “more Cleveland”  and a treat for nearly all the senses.

I shared my observations on Progressive Field and its Bloody Mary yesterday, so we’ll move on to Day Five and Detroit.

 

 

 

 

 

——Day Five Detroit—–

We departed Chicago for Detroit (Day Game versus Red Sox) at 9:15 a.m. and, apparently, a couple days in Cleveland were reinvigorating.  The “Back of the Bus” was in fine form. (Sorry, “front of the bus,” but loyalty is a virtue.)  Lots of baseball talk, the sharing of stories from past BPT tours and, of course, the classic rock sing-alongs.  On the way to the Motor City, we weren’t just rolling – we were rocking and rolling.  It was at this point that a new idea (stolen from Field of Dreams) was born:

Question: “Is this heaven?”

Answer: “No, it’s the back of the bus.”

We also had the announcement of the winner for Friday’s contest to guess how many total runs would be scored in MLB’s 15 games.  I missed by one – but that was good enough to earn a twenty-dollar bill.  (One trekker, who entered only the free, just for fun, competition actually hit the run total – 118 – right on the mark.)

The Game

I have a lot to say about Detroit’s Comerica Park, so I’ll keep game comments brief.  The Red Sox topped the home town Tigers 7-2 in a contest that was tight (3-2 Red Sox), until Boston broke loose for four runs in the top of the eighth – much to the disappointment of most of the crowd of 38,766. A few observations:

  • In the “It’s why we play the game” category – Boston was led by an unlikely hero. Number-nine hitter, CF Jackie Bradley, Jr., came into the game hitting just .121, with one home run and four RBI in 24 games. His output Sunday? Two-for-three – with a double, home run and five RBI.
  • A sign of the times: We reached double-digits in pitchers used for the fourth straight game. Contest-by-contest pitcher count for our major league games: 12, 12, 11, 10.
  • In the fourth inning, we were treated to a beautiful, full-tilt, back-to-the-infield, over-the-shoulder catch in deep center field by – you guessed it – improbably hitting hero, Red Sox CF Jackie Bradley, Jr.
  • The game featured just 13 hits, but – unfortunately – also eleven walks (only two of those eleven “walkers” came around to score).

Comerica Park

Count me, officially, as a fan of Comerica Park.  The park, which opened in 2000, seems to have something for fans of all ages – while also “displaying” a great respect for Detroit baseball history and tradition.

Comerica Park ...offers a unique baseball experience: lots to offer for fans of all ages.

Comerica Park …offers a unique baseball experience: lots to offer for fans of all ages.

First, our seats were in the lower deck, right field. Despite the distance, the sight lines were good and you still felt close to the action.  (If I had any complaint about the seating – and this seems true of most ballparks’ outfield seats – we seldom saw a vendor in our area.  This may not be an issue for most fans, but I prefer to remain in my seat, scoreboard at the ready, during the game.)

My suggestion for Detroit is that you get to the park early and walk the concourse.  You will not only find a diverse range of food choices (including, in-season, strawberry shortcake), but also solid evidence of Detroit status as a baseball city.  You will find displays of photos and memorabilia commemorating each decade of Detroit baseball throughout the concourse, as well as some of the most detail “legends” statues (Ty Cobb, Hal Newhauser, Charlie Gehringer, Hank Greenberg, Al Kaline, Willie Horton) beyond the left field fence.  These are some of the most detailed ballpark statues I have seen – and well worth the time to take in.

Detroit baseball history documented throughout the park.

Detroit baseball history documented throughout the park.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Detroit's legends beyond LF fence.

Detroit’s legends beyond LF fence.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Willie Horton – Detroit’s Home Town Hero

As I was looking at the Detroit Tigers’ legends statues at Comerica Park, I heard one fan (from out of town, I presume) questioning why Willie Horton was up there with the likes of Ty Cobb and Al Kaline.  That experience prompted me to share this story about Horton.  First, Horton is a Detroiter – moving to the city with his family at the age of nine and later starring at Detroit’s Northwestern High School.  A four-time MLB All Star, Horton was a star on the field for his home town Tigers. In 15 seasons with Detroit, he hit .276, with 262 home runs and 886 RBI … and he hit .304 in the 1968 World Series.  Horton, however, secured his status as a true home town hero (and Detroit legend) not on the field, but in the streets.

On July 23, 1967 – as the Tigers faced the Yankees in a Sunday afternoon double header (remember those) at home – race-related rioting, looting and arson was lighting up the city of Detroit’s streets (ultimately, there would be 43 fatalities, more than a thousand injured and more than 2,00 buildings destroyed).

After the close of baseball action, with smoke from burning areas of the city visible from the ballpark, players were warned to avoid certain neighborhoods, including the area where Horton had grown up.  Horton took the warning as a call to action, and followed his home town heart.  Still in uniform, Horton rushed to the streets of his old neighborhood, climbed on roof of his car (in an area later described in the media as a “like a war zone) and pleaded for calm.  Detroit has not forgotten that effort – or Horton’s still ongoing commitment to the city, his city.  And, there is more to that recognition than the Horton statue at Comerica Park. Every year, on October 18 (Horton’s birthday), per legislative  decree, the state of Michigan officially celebrates Willie Horton Day.

Two more Willie Horton facts: Horton is the youngest of 21 children in his family. Horton hit his first home run in Tiger Stadium at the age of just 16 – playing in a Detroit All City High School game.

  • Kids love the ferris wheel and tiger-themed carousel at Comerica.

    Kids love the Ferris wheel and tiger-themed carousel at Comerica.

    Plenty for the kids at Comerica, including a Tiger-theme carousel and a baseball Ferris wheel.

  • The Big Cat Court has some great food items – including (in-season) strawberry shortcake.
  • There are tigers – the striped cats – statues and images, in many art forms, almost everywhere you look, adding to the home town feel of the park.
  • Tiger fans are knowledgeable and loyal.
  • The Amsterdam 416 Bar, above the right field bleachers, is worth a visit.

 

 

 

Comerica Bloody Mary

Not a World Series Champ, but Comerica's Bloody Mary makes the first division.

Not a World Series Champ, but Comerica’s Bloody Mary makes the first division.

The Comerica Bloody Mary ($10) uses McClure Bloody Mary Mix – a Detroit product – developed by the McClure (family) pickle company as a use for its leftover pickle brine. It also contains a sharp combination of spices, tomato paste and fresh-pressed cucumber juice. At Comerica, the drink is topped with a stick of three olives and a pickle.  It is a first-division Bloody Mary, unique in its combination of pickle-brine tartness and peppery spice.  One of the most “refreshing” Bloody Mary’s I have enjoyed at a ball park.  It truly awakens the taste buds. One suggestion, add a dash of celery salt.

 

 

 

 

Kalamazoo

BPT trekkers have been known to occasionally enjoy a refreshing beverage (Okay, maybe more than one and maybe more than occasionally). )

BPT trekkers have been known to occasionally enjoy a refreshing beverage (Okay, maybe more than one and maybe more than occasionally). )

We bussed to Kalamazoo after the game and BPT delivered again.  The Radisson Plaza there proved a great hotel. Comfortable rooms, great bars and restaurants, outstanding breakfast buffet (try the Greek omelet). My evening meal was a pulled pork sandwich with bourbon and Sriracha BBQ sauce, smoked Gouda and jalapeno slaw – with truffle, which cheddar fries on the side. We really rough it on these BPT trips.

Next, back to Chicago (White Sox/Angels).

 

 

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Ballpark Tours 2015 – Fireworks Friday

Our Ballpark Tours (BPT) Bleacher Bums XXXIII – Rock N’Roll Adventure – tour group rolled out of Chicago at about 9:30 a.m. on Friday, leaving Wrigley Field behind and heading for Cleveland’s Progressive Field and two days of watching the Indians take on the Twins.  For more on BPT 2015 Day One, click here; Day Two, here.

Progressive Field - lots of fireworks, early and late.

Progressive Field – lots of fireworks, early and late.

Clearly, the entertainment options available in The Windy City took the wind out of the sails for many of our group.  It was a relatively quiet bus ride.  We arrived at the Holiday Inn Express in downtown Cleveland about 5:30 (great hotel, large rooms, complimentary breakfast, ten-minute walk to the ballpark – see photo at the end of this post), so our group rushed to get settled in an off to view some baseball – not to mention $2 Budweisers in right field until 7:00 p.m.

We arrived close to game time, so there wasn’t a great deal of time to explore the ballpark (more on that in my next post). I will pass on a few observations on the ballpark later in this post – but first, the game:

  • We were promised post-game “Rock N’Blast” fireworks, but the Twins and Indians delivered their own fireworks much earlier. In the third inning, BOTH teams batted around.  The Twins sent 11 batters to the plate, scoring six runs; the Indians had nine batters step into the box, while scoring four times.
  • Overall, it was an exciting (especially for our group of Twins fans) back-and-forth contest. The Twins took a 6-0 lead early, then fell behind 9-7, and, finally won, 10-9 on a Torii Hunter homer in the top of the ninth.
  • The two teams used six pitchers each. So, in the past two games on the tour (Cubs/Giants – Indians/Twins), we’ve seen a total of 24 pitchers.
  • Going back to the fireworks theme, Friday’s game featured 29 hits – including seven doubles, two triples and four home runs. For those on the bus who love offense, this may prove to be this year’s best stop. A Twins’ win and 29 hits, that’s like dinner and a show.
  • Forty-year-old Torii Hunter started in right field and had a single, double, (game-winning) home run, three runs scored, two RBI and a stolen base for the Twins. Almost prophetically, the PA announcer had told the crowd before the game that Hunter had more hits against the Indians in his career than any other active player. He certainly stayed active last night.
  • Recent Twins’ call-up A.J. Achter got off to a rocky start in his first 2015 major league appearance (relieving in the bottom of the fourth) – giving up a walk and a home run to the first two hitters he faced (Indians’ DH Carlos Santana and C Yan Gomes). Achter then settled down and struck out the next four batters (before being lifted at the end of the fifth inning). Achter was 4-2, with a 2.82 ERA and 45 strikeouts in 44 2/3 innings in 40 appearances at Triple A Rochester this season. In six minor league seasons, he is 22-18, with 31 saves, a 2.91 ERA and 383 strikeouts in 365 innings. He pitched in seven games for the Twins last year, going 1-0, 3.27.

In Baseball, We Keep Track of Everything … Well, almost.

It’s often been noted in this blog that “In baseball, we keep track of everything.” That generic “we” – at least yesterday – did not include the umpiring crew.  Last night, with the Twins’ CF Aaron Hicks’ facing Indians’ right-hander Cody Anderson with one on and one out in the third inning, home plate umpire D.J. Rayburn “lost track” of the count. (It was either 2-2 or Hicks had fanned on a 1-2 pitch.) Apparently, Rayburn wasn’t the only one off track out there on the field.  The four-man umpiring crew met behind the mound, but couldn’t agree on just what the ball-strike count was.  So, the “powers that be” in New York were called upon (during an official delay of 1:58) to review the video and determine the proper count, which was confirmed from New York at 2-2. Hicks went on to hit a single to center, part of the Twins’ six-run third.  Ultimately, we ended up seeing an umpiring crew needing the help of reviewers some 460 miles away not to make a judgment on a close call, but to determine the ball-strike count. It doesn’t seem like keeping track should be quite that hard.

A Few Observations on Progressive Field

Progressive Field is a good place to watch a ball game.  Fine sight lines; a feeling of being close to the action; a nice city skyline back drop; solid and fairly priced concessions; and knowledgeable, involved and loyal fans.  In addition, Progressive Field’s downtown location is close to plenty of pre- and post-game food, beverage and entertainment possibilities.  The overall architecture does feel a bit industrial, however, when compared to newer designs. We arrived too close to game time to explore much of the park (although I have been here before), but I’ll provide more detail after Game Two of the series.

While Progressive Field is a good place to watch a ball game, it is not a good place for scoreboard watching. The large video board in centerfield is the primary source for almost all game-related info (and the Indians seem to provide less info than most teams) – and it is hard to see from the outfield seats.  There are narrow LED panels along the bottom of the upper deck, but they are hard to read – and the information keeps changing – so you need to be looking at the right panel at the right time to get the information you want.  (Scores from other games, for example, come up periodically and one at a time.) Also, any detailed information on the panels (like an inning-by-inning line score of the Indians’ contest is pretty small and hard to read.  I thought that might be my 68-year-old eyes, but a twenty-something tour participant said he had the same issue.

BBRT Note/Correction:  Since this post was written, I have taken in a game from Progressive Field’s infield section seats – with a view of the big center field video board and lower video panel.   On that board and panel, the Indians do provide more info on each hitter/pitcher and  an inning by inning line score – and show the score more like eight games at a time.  Still, that board is difficult, if not impossible to view from many outfield seats. (In fact, while we had tro strain to see it from our $45 left field area seats Friday night, we could view it easily from our $29 second-deck, infield section seats on Saturday. Also  even though the CF board shows the games about eight at a time, they do not leave the scores up – so you still have to be looking when they are posted.

It is also worth noting that , when it opened in 1994 (April 4, with President Clinton throwing out the first pitch), it was considered one of finest ballparks in the nations.  And, the Cleveland fans agreed. The Indians sold out every game from June 12, 1995 to April 4, 2001 – 455 consecutive home sellouts. 

The Terrace Club -  give it a try when in Cleveland.

The Terrace Club – give it a try when in Cleveland.

Final Progressive Field thoughts for now.

  • The Indians know how to put on a Dollar Dog Night. You can have up to six and there are plenty of vendors, both at concessions stand and traveling the concourse and seating area.
  • Cleveland also knows how to do fireworks. BPTers generally agreed that the post-game Rock N’Blast Show – fireworks and lasers set to rock music – was the best ballpark any had witnessed.

 

  • Two-dollar Bud night is very popular, get to the “Right Field District” early if your goal is to maximize this opportunity.
  • I’d recommend visiting the Terrace Club – in the left field corner.  It’s a glass enclosed bar and restaurant open to any ticket holders.  (It’s where I purchased my Bloody Mary for review.) Get there early enough to get a seat (counter or table) near the “glass” and you can watch the game VIP style.
  • You also may want to try the right field Corner Bar –a two story bar with more than three dozen beers on tap.
  • If it’s a night game, take a light jacket. It gets windy at Progressive Field.

Progressive Field Bloody Mary

Special note: I did drink responsibly.

Special note: I did drink responsibly.

The Bloody Mary ($9.75)  at Progressive Field (Terrace Club) beat Wrigley’s disappointing offering, but still did not crack BBRT’s first division.  On the plus side: a generous pour; I was asked if I wanted it spicy, and tobasco and pepper were added (the final product did have the appropriate “bite”); the Terrace Club proved a great (and classy) place to consume a Bloody Mary and still keep an eye on what’s happening in the ballpark.  Negative:  The only condiments offered were a slice of lime or lemon. I am told, however, that on Sundays, they offer Bloody Mary’s loaded with such items as shrimp and bacon. Wish I was going to be here then.

 

 

Diversions

Saturday (today), we had time (it’s a night game) to explore Cleveland.  As usual our bus travelers split off to take part in the pursuits of their choice. Popular destinations were the Cleveland Museum of Art; Cleveland Baseball Heritage Museum; the nearby Horseshoe Casino; and, perhaps most popular, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (a must for music lovers visiting Cleveland.)

A baseball from the Rock and Roll Hal of Fame ... an appropriate symbol for BPT's Rock N'Roll Adventure.

A baseball from the Rock and Roll Hal of Fame … an appropriate symbol for BPT’s Rock N’Roll Adventure.

I chose the Rock and Roll HOF (even though I’ve been there twice before). What a day. Those who know me will recognize how much I would appreciate free breakfast, rock and roll and baseball ALL in the same day.  I discovered two bonuses at the Hall: 1) They’ve lifted the ban on picture taking. 2) There was a special Everly Brothers (my all-time favorites) exhibit on the third floor.   BBRT side note:  One of the staff told me that after the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame lifted the photo ban (you actually had to check your camera at the entrance and pick it up when you left), a number of artists pulled their display items.  She declined to name names, however.

 

Tonight more baseball, but first a nice late lunch/early dinner.  Given our schedule, late game, early a.m. bus departure for Detroit (Tigers/Red Sox), you’ll probably be spared a post tomorrow. But, I’ll be back.

Oh yeah – and here’s our room. Ballpark Tours delivers again!

bptclevroom

 

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Ballpark Tours 2015 – Day Two – Wrigley

101 years of baseball at this location.

101 years of baseball at this location.

Day Two of my 2015 Ballpark Tours (BPT) trek began early Thursday morning in Chicago’s Gold Coast area. On the docket for “trekkers?” A day of sightseeing, a night game at Wrigley Field (Cubs/Giants) and maybe brews and blues post game. For information on Ballpark Tours and a report on Day One of this year’s trip, click here.

Early in the day, the BPT touring party fanned out in small groups heading for (among other places) – an on-the-river architectural tour, the Art Museum, the Museum of Science and Industry, Navy Pier and Magnificent Mile shopping – and those are just the excursions I heard about.  (Ballpark Tours always schedules free time for trekkers to take in local culture, entertainment, food, shopping, etc.)

Wrigleyville - Welcome to the neighborhood.

Wrigleyville – Welcome to the neighborhood.

By mid-afternoon – via the El, on-foot or by taxi – members of the group began making their way to Wrigleyville (Red Line Addison stop if you’re lucky enough to make a Cubs’ game). Our cadre headed for the Cubby Bear for pre-game food and beverage and – like most of the many Wrigleyville sports-oriented bars –  it was packed by 3 p.m. (before a 7:05 game).  BBRT’s suggestion – make it to Wrigleyville early and take in the atmosphere – sports bars packed with fans, bustling souvenir/memorabilia shops  and “hustling” outdoor stands and ticket sellers seemingly on every block.  Pre-game Wrigleyville is part of the Cubs’ experience.

As game time approached, the excitement in the bars and on the streets ratcheted up.  There was lots of Cubs’ Blue and Giants’ Orange.  This was a big series, with the Cubs trailing the Giants by just ½ game for the final Wild Card playoff spot.  Clearly, the fans (on both sides) were ready for meaningful baseball (and just over 41,000 would pack into Wrigley for the contest.

I got into the park early, collecting my promotional Cubbies Water Bottle – a give-away that I promptly gave away to a Cubs’ fan (didn’t need one more thing to cram into my suitcase). Now if it had been a bobble head …

On the way into Wrigley, I noted three things: 1) Lots of photo taking with the Ron Santo, Billie Williams and Ernie Banks statues; 2) Lots of street vendors selling water and peanuts; 3) Lots of Kyle Schwarber (#12) jerseys – more on that later.

For those of you who don’t track such things, there’s a great deal of messy construction in and around Wrigley Field this year (which will continue for quite some time), as the Cubs are restoring, improving and updating the century-old facility. The effort – deemed the 1060 Project – will cost about $575 million and should be completed by 2018. It includes improvements to Wrigley’s façade and infrastructure; upgraded restrooms, concourses, suites, press boxes and clubhouses; additional seating; a giant “jumbotron”; and even an adjacent hotel and office-retail complex.

Wrigley Field - new video board in left field may be a little too much.

Wrigley Field – new video board in left field may be a little too much.

Once inside Wrigley, we were witness to the most visible impacts of Phase 1 of Project 1060 – additional bleacher seating, a 3,990-square-foot video board in left field and a 2,250-square-video board in right field.  For BBRT at least, the changes take away some of the ancient lady’s charms.  Lost behind the video board in right field was the glimpse of Lake Michigan we used to enjoy – and cumulatively the expanded bleachers  and new video boards reduced the view of the Chicago skyline and Wrigleyville’s row house architecture. And, with all the usual video hoopla that comes with video boards – after spending all that money, you better maximize their use – Wrigley is no longer as much of a “step back in time” for fans.  BBRT’s take?  I like the tastefully sized right field video board, but find the massive left field video structure distracting and out of place with my image of Wrigley. Thank goodness they kept the ivy (Wrigley Field is the last remaining ballpark with ivy-covered outfield walls) and the manual scoreboard above the center field bleachers.

BBRT note: I set about informally surveying Cubs’ fans on how they felt about the changes and found out two things: 1) Cubs fans like the new video boards by about a 3-1 ratio (they appreciate joining the 21st century in terms of graphics and replay); 2) The Cubs make lots of money off visitors to Wrigley. On that second realization … I approached groups of fans in the ball park (concentrating on those in which at least one member was wearing Cubs’ apparel) for my survey and came fact-to-face with fans from California, Iowa, Ohio, Massachusetts, Arizona, Michigan, North Carolina and Louisiana before finding my first Chicagoan. Hopefully, changes to the park and adjacent area won’t cut into the attraction for fans from outside Chicago. 

Now to observations on the game.

Hunter Pence - MLB's highest stirrups?

Hunter Pence – MLB’s highest stirrups?

The Cubs jumped out to a 5-0 lead after two innings – and then held on for a 5-4 win, taking a half-game lead (for the final Wild Card spot) over the Giants – and sending the crowd into a rousing rendition of the “Go Cubs Go” victory song.  Good game, great fans in what is still a great place to watch a game. Some observations:

  • My obligatory score card got off to a bad start. Before the lineups were announced, I “inked” Cubs’ pitcher Jason Hammel into the nine spot.  “Clever” Joe Maddon, however, chose to bat the pitcher eighth, putting 2B Addison Russell in the nine-hole. Note: Hammel did lead off the second with a single – and later scored.
  • My Hammel lineup gaff hardly mattered. It’s hard to produce a “clean” scorecard, when the two teams use 35 players, including 12 pitchers and five pinch hitters.  Gotta love the National League and the double switch.
  • The Cubs’ 22-year-old rookie catcher Kyle Schwarber’s (#12) replica jerseys were all over the park. In the second inning, the 2014 first-round pick – and former High School and College All American – showed us why. He poled a three-run homer – and ended the contest hitting .342 with six homers and 18 RBI in 25 games.  Schwarber, who made his major league debut in mid-June, played in 147 minor league games in 2014-15, putting up a .333-34-102 line.
  • Kyle Schwarber is only one of many young players to watch on this exciting young Cubs’ team. Starting the game were: 3B Kris Bryant, 2B Addison Russell, RF Jorge Soler, SS Starlin Castro.
  • Giants’ RF Hunter Pence must have the highest stirrups in MLB.
  • The Giants’ offense was based on the “Brandon Principle.” Four runs on a pair of two-run homers – by 1B Brandon Belt (great baseball name) and SS Brandon Crawford.
  • It was a game of deep counts (on both sides). Twelve hurlers threw 315 pitches (136 balls, 179 strikes).

 

Ode to Cubbies/Giants

 

Young Cubbies take the day.

Put Champion Giants away.

Schwarber and Soler drive in five.

Two Brandons keep SF alive.

 

Still much to my dismay.

Not a single double-play.

And to top off my chagrin.                         

Also heard the Twinkies didn’t win.

Bad Bloody - somewhat saved by the Chicago Dog guy.

Bad Bloody – somewhat saved by the Chicago Dog guy.

Bloody Mary Review

When it comes to the traditional BBRT Bloody Mary Review, Wrigley won’t be flying the big “W” flag.  The $10 Bloody Mary, although featuring a generous vodka pour, suffered from a weak, very mild mix – and NO (that’s zero/nada) salt, pepper, tabasco or condiments (no pickles, olives, lime, celery, peppers, etc.). I actually ended up commandeering some celery salt, pepper and peppers from the Chicago Dog stand.

 

 

 

Decade Dogs

Decade Dogs - tastes for the ages.

Decade Dogs – tastes for the ages.

A final thought.  While in Wrigley, stop by the Decade Dogs booth featuring – on an alternating basis – ten specialty dogs to commemorate each of Wrigley’s ten decades.  On our day at the park, the featured item was “Mini Corn Dogs,” but you could also enjoy jumbo versions of the: Chicago Dog (a seven on a scale of ten according to one of our trekkers); Chili-Cheese Dog; Maxwell Street Polish; and (Ugh!) Veggie Dog.

 

 

 

 

And, now it’s on to Cleveland for the Twins, Dollar Dog Night and Two-dollar Bud Night. I’ll keep the Pepto ready for all three.

 

 

I tweet baseball @DavidBBRT – follow for notification of new blog posts.

me.

 

 

Ballpark Tours 2015 – Every Mile a Memory

This morning I departed on my annual Ballpark Tours’ (BPT) baseball trek, my 27th such journey.  Ballpark tours has taken me to major and minor league ball parks from Colorado to New York and pretty much all parts in between.  (Thank you, “tour master” Julian Loscalzo.) On this year’s trek, I’m joining 35 other baseball fans and fanatics for a week-long bus tour that is taking us to a minor league game in Schaumburg, IL (just outside of Chicago), as well as major league contests in Chicago (Cubs hosting Giants), Cleveland (Indians hosting our Twins), Detroit (Tigers hosting Red Sox), back to Chicago (White Sox entertaining the Angels) and then back to our home base of Saint Paul, MN (with a stop at a craft brewery in Wisconsin on the way home).

Before I begin my series of “reports from the road,” let me put in an unabashed plug.  For BBRT, there is no better baseball touring group than Ballpark Tours – just the right amount of chaos and discipline; comfortable transportation; great hotels; time in most cities to take in local culture, arts, food and nightlife (I’m planning on the Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry and Cleveland’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on this trip); and, most important, the comradery – every year, without fail – of a great group of fun-loving baseball fans/friends.  How do others feel about Ballpark Tours?  On this trip, 35 of our 36 trekkers are repeat participants. How do I feel about BPT?  Hey, every morning for the next week I can get up knowing the most important item on my agenda is going to a ball game.  How can you beat that? For more on Ballpark Tours (and the upcoming Cuban trip), click here. 

I probably won’t post every day (we do have a busy schedule), but here’s first report from the tour.

DAY ONE

Scnuamburg tsnirtWe met our bus in Saint Paul’s Midway area at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday, August 5, and the parking lot was filled not just with our luggage, but also with hugs and handshakes, as old baseball- and tour-based friendships were renewed.   We loaded up quickly, with the rowdier trekkers heading for their seats at the back of the bus, and the less animated at the front (there is always a friendly competition between “the front of the bus” and the “back of the bus”).  The departure was toasted with coffee, juice, energy drinks (we’ll need them in the days ahead) – as well as an assortment of adult beverages.

The theme for this trip is Rock N’Roll Adventure (commemorative and complimentary T-shirts were handed out before we boarded the bus) and our theme would prove prophetic sooner than even I expected (but I don’t want to get ahead of myself).

As is Ballpark Tours’ tradition, early in the day, the K-Kwiz – a baseball trivia contest – was distributed and each trekker took the microphone and introduced themselves – usually with a baseball-related story. (Oh, and I shouldn’t forget, participants also described the books they each brought for the on-board baseball book exchange). It was during this phase that I began feeling like the Minnie Minoso of BPT – having been on BPT trips in four consecutive decades, beginning in the 1980s.  I should note here that Day One would feature other handouts – including a schedule of our games, hotels and arrival/departure times; a Ports-O-Call guide to restaurants, “watering holes,” museums, music, public transit, etc. in the cities we will visit; and entry forms for a contest based on predicting the total runs scored in MLB over the weekend. We will leave a paper trail.

You never know who'll show up on a Ballpark Tours trip.

You never know who’ll show up on a Ballpark Tours trip.

Around lunch time, we also had a visit from the “Assistant Pope” (aka Tom Smith) – who regaled the group with a laugh-provoking monologue worthy of a comedy club and then distributed assorted crackers, deli meats, cheeses and “sacred” eel pout (actually pickled herring) throughout the bus.  We lunched, pack your own, at a rest stop along the highway – with trekkers unveiling everything from deli sandwiches and beer to an elaborate picnic table buffet of baguettes, lox, assorted cheeses, stuffed olives and Napa Valley wine.

Then, it was back on the bus, when the Rock N’Roll Adventure began to rock.  Thanks to modern technology, the back of the bus began a long-lasting sing-along to 70’s rock – which included plenty of air guitar and dancing in the aisle of the bus. The moves being thrown down were a bit subdued given the limited space, but the singing was spirited (especially on Rolling Stones and Beatles numbers).

Great seats!

Great seats!

Of course, this is a baseball trip, and – we arrived in Schaumburg – for the Schaumburg Boomers/Southern Illinois Miners games.  The Boomers play in the independent Frontier League, so the names won’t be recognizable, but here are a few observations:

  • A nice park – I always like the old-style Red Brick – but it was empty (the over and under on fans was about 300 in a stadium that holds 7,365). It was almost like the tour group had a private showing.
  • The lighting, as in a number of minor league parks, was terrible (although only one fly ball – a foul pop-up was “lost” in the dark).
  • We had great seats, at the edge of the first base dugout – row six. (However, you could sit pretty much anywhere you wanted.)
  • The ball park was not kind to dead pull hitters – 355-feet down the left field line and 353-feet to the right field corner. One team representative informed me that the dimensions matched Wrigley Field because the mayor of Schaumburg “has a thing for the Cubs.”  Further digging showed deeper Cubs’ ties.  The stadium, which opened in 1999, is built on land purchased in the 1980s – reportedly as a potential site of a new home for the Cubs (the New Wrigley Field) if the team and the city of Chicago could not come to an agreement on night baseball.
  • Several small planes from the nearby Schaumberg Airport flew over the stadium during the game, seeming to clear the third-base-side light towers by about fifty-feet.
  • The team’s signature sandwich, the Schaumburger (a hamburger, topped with pulled pork and cole slaw for eight dollars) was both juicy and tasty. BBRT would recommend it.
  • There will be no Bloody Mary review for Schaumburg Boomers Stadium – the only adult beverage was beer.
  • There was general agreement among those of us keeping score sheets that the official scorekeeper had lost his or her red “error” pen – two or three errors were scored as base hits.

As for the game itself, Southern Illinois topped Schaumburg 4-1 in a fairly “quiet” contest – that’s what happens when you have 300 fans in the stands.  But there were a few highlights, at least from the BBRT point of view. Southern Illinois’ leadoff hitter CF Aaron Gates showed great speed, going three-for-four with a pair of well-placed bunt singles down the third base line. Schaumburg’s leadoff hitter 2B Mike Schulze also got on base three times – via three walks.  The stadium organ player was right on top of things, playing Fitz and the Tantrum’s song “The Walker” after Schulze’s last plate appearance. Schaumburg did turn a nifty third-second-first double play (TJ Bennett to Mike Schulze to Willi Martin) in the middle of Southern Illinois’ three-run third inning. (BBRT loves a good double play.) Southern Illinois’ starting pitcher Adam Lopez (who came into the game with a 1.88 ERA and 82 strikeouts in 76 1/3 innings) showed good stuff – giving up one run in six innings, with three hits, two walks and six strikeouts.

IndigoPost-game, we checked in to the Hotel Indigo, in Chicago’s Gold Coast neighborhood.  Another quality Ballpark Tours lodging choice. All in all, a great first day.

 

More on the tour in the days to come, including BBRT’s take on the changes to Wrigley Field – video screens, expanded bleachers, concourse/concession upgrades, etc.

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Beltre’s Record-Tying Cycle

Adrian Beltre - Solid credentialq with the bat and the glove.

Adrian Beltre – Solid credentialq with the bat and the glove.

Adrian Beltre tied a MLB record yesterday (August 3) – as his Rangers topped the Astros 12-9 – becoming just the fourth player to hit for the cycle (single, double, triple, home run in a game) three times in a career. The 36-year-old Beltre, in his 18th major league season, joins John Reilly, Babe Herman and Bob Meusel with three career cycles. Beltre hit a triple in the first inning (getting the hard one out of the way, especially on 36-year-old legs), a double in the second, a single in the third and a home run in the fifth.  For the game, he went four-for-five, with two runs scored and three RBI.  Here are a few bits of trivia related to Beltre’s achievement:

Despite completing his cycle in the first five innings, Beltre does not have the fastest cycle in MLB history.  That distinction goes to Rockies’ Mike Lansing. On June 18, 2000, Lansing completed the cycle in just four innings – as the Rockies topped the Diamondbacks 19-2. In that game, Lansing went four-for-five with three runs scored and five RBI.  Lansing could have done more damage, but was lifted for a pinch hitter in the eighth.

– Beltre’s three cycles have come on September 1, 2008 (for the Mariners against the Rangers); August 24, 2012 (for the Rangers against the Twins); and August 3, 2015 (for the Rangers against the Astros).

– All three of Beltre’s cycles have come at Arlington, making him the only player to hit for multiple cycles in the same park for more than one team.  (As BBRT maintains, in baseball, we keep track of pretty much everything.)

– In his three cycles, Beltre has gone thirteen-for-fifteen (.867), with eight runs, nine RBI and three doubles, three triples, three home runs.

Beltre, by the way, is somewhat quietly building a resume that should earn him serious Hall of Fame consideration. To date, he had 2,697 hits; 404 home runs; 1, 304 runs scored; and 1,414 RBI – to go with a .284 career average. He’s a four-time All Star; four-time Gold Glove winner; and has led his league in hits, doubles and home runs once each.  In addition to now being one of just four players to hit for the cycle three times, he is also one of only five players to hit 100 or more home runs for three different teams (Dodgers, Marines, Rangers); joining Darrell Evans (Braves, Giants, Tigers); Reggie Jackson (A’s, Angels, Yankees); Jim Thome (Indians, Phillies, White Sox); and Alex Rodriguez (Rangers, Mariners, Yankees). While not a likely first-ballot electee, reaching 3,000 hits and 1,500 RBI should give Beltre a solid shot at the Hall.

For you trivia buffs, thanks to the Cubs’ long-time reluctance to install lights, Tim Foli of the Montreal Expos is the only MLBer to start a cycle on one day and complete it the next. On April 21, 1976, Foli collected a single, double and triple against the Cubs before the game was suspended due to darkness (top of the seventh. with the Expos up 11-3).  When play resumed on April 22, Foli added an eighth-inning home run – completing a somewhat unnatural “natural” (single, double, triple, home run in that order) cycle.   To date there have been just 14 natural cycles in MLB history. The Expos, by the way, won the game 12-6.  

 

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BBRT – Looking Back at MLB in the Month of July

To regular followers, an apology.  BBRT posts have lagged a bit as, in the past four weeks, we’ve sold one house and purchased another, with a three-week lag between possessions.  It’s been, to say the least, a bit hectic.  BBRT should be back on a regular schedule soon – and my annual Ballpark Tours’ baseball trek is just around the corner – Schaumburg (minor league), Chicago (Cubs and White Sox), Detroit and Cleveland. I’ll report from the road.

 

July – Teeny Boppers to Ancient Warriors and

No-Hitters to 21-Run Explosions

We are entering the “Dog Days of August,” which means it’s time for BBRT’s look back at the previous month in MLB.  As usual, BBRT will feature a few “items of interest” and a bit of a statistical review. In this monthly wrap up, I’ll also take a look at the winners in the trade deadline scramble.

ITEMS THAT CAUGHT BBRT’S ATTENTION

Mike Trout - Knows how to celebrate his mom';s birthday.

Mike Trout – Knows how to celebrate his mom';s birthday.

Happy Birthday Mom, Love Mikey

Okay, I admit it.  Nothing Mike Trout does surprises me.  Hopefully, however, he surprised his mother on her birthday this year (July 10). He did his mother proud that day, going three-for-five with two home runs, two runs scored and four RBI. Then again, maybe she wasn’t surprised.  In his five MLB seasons, Trout is hitting .556 (ten-for-eighteen) with three home runs, seven runs scored and nine RBIs on his mother’s birthday.

Going for the Cycle

On July 21, with a ninth-inning triple, Rangers’ OF Shin-Soo Choo became the 274th MLBer to hit for the cycle (it’s been done 306 times), He was also just the eighth Ranger and first Korean player to achieve that feat.

Bring ‘Em All On

On July 26, sixteen-season MLB veteran Tim Hudson took the mound for the Giants against the Oakland A’s, a team he had never beaten in his MLB career (0-2, 9.58 ERA) – in fact, the only team he had never beaten in his MLB career.  Hudson went five innings, giving up three runs and earned the victory as the Giants topped the A’s 4-3. In gaining the win, the 40-year-old Hudson became just the fifteenth pitcher to record at least one win against all 30 current major league franchises. Hudson was also the second pitcher to achieve that distinction this season, joining the Brewers’ Kyle Lohse, who beat the Twins to complete his 30-team victory list on June 26. Both Lohse and Hudson joined the 30-franchise victory club by beating the teams that first put them on the major league mound.

By the way, that 15-pitcher list includes Al Leiter (first ever to accomplish the feat), Randy Johnson, Kevin Brown, Barry Zito, Terry Mulholland, Curt Schilling, Woody Williams, Jamie Moyer, Javier Vazquez, Vicente Padilla, Derek Lowe, Dan Haren and A.J. Burnett.

Karns Shines on the Mound and in the Batter’s Box

On July 21, Rays’ pitcher Nathan Karns collected his first-ever major league hit – a second-inning home run against Phillies’ starter Aaron Nola.  It was the first MLB game since 2009 won by a score of 1-0 with the only run being a home run by a pitcher – and the first such outcome in the AL since 1962.  Karns also became only the second Rays’ hurler ever to go deep, joining Estaban Yan (June 4, 2000) in that club of two “clubbers.” Karns pitched five innings of shutout ball to pick up his fifth win (against five losses.) Five relievers protected the 1-0 lead.

Cole Hamels - traded after his no-hitter.

Cole Hamels – traded after his no-hitter.

Hamels No-Hitter Helps Ruiz Make History

On July 25, the Phillies’ Cole Hamels threw a no-hitter, beating the Cubs 5-0 at Wrigley.  Hamels walked just two and struck out 13 in the dominating outing. On that day, history was made not just from the mound, but also behind the plate. It was the fourth no-hitter caught by Phillies’ backstop Carlos Ruiz – tying him for the MLB record for no-hitters caught with Jason Varitek. Ruiz’ list of no-hitters caught includes Hamels’, two by Roy Halladay and one combined no-hitter (started by Hamels). Varitek caught no-hit games by Jon Lester, Hideo Nomo, Derek Lowe and Clay Buchholz.

Of special interest to BBRT:  The no-hitter was also Hamels’ final start for the Phillies, who traded him to the Rangers on July 29. That makes Hamels only the second pitcher to throw a no-hitter and be traded before his next start (and the first to be traded immediately after a no-hitter mid-season). Hall of Famer Bert Blyleven threw a no-hitter for the Rangers in his last start of the 1977 campaign and was traded to the Pirates before the 1978 season opened.

On a Pretty Good Run

On July 26, the Angels Albert Pujols took another step – this one about 90-feet – toward his spot in the Hall of Fame. In a 13-7 win over the Rangers, Pujols swiped his 100th career base – joining Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron and Willie Mays as the only MLBers with a career .300 average, 500 homers and 100 steals. Pujols is on a pretty good run this year. Although it was only his second stolen base of the campaign, he has 30 home runs this season and made the All Star squad for the first time since 2010. Pujols’ membership in his new “club” is not guaranteed, however. Since 2010, his career batting average has dropped from .331 to .314. (From 2011 to July 31, 2015, Pujols has averaged .276.)

The Perfect Outing

On June 26, Cubs’ catcher David Ross took the mound and retired the Phillies in order in the ninth.  It was his second relief outing of the season – and his second perfect 1-2-3 inning. This outing was made even more special, as the 38-year-old Ross belted his first HR of the season in the bottom of the inning. According to reliable sources, Ross’ fastball topped out at 72 mph. Ross, who never pitched in a professional game before this season, now has a WHIP of 0.00.

 

A-Rod ...from Teeny "Bopper" to 40-year-old slugger.

A-Rod …from Teeny “Bopper” to 40-year-old slugger.

From Teeny “Bopper” to Ancient Warrior

On July 27, Yankees’ DH Alex Rodriguez celebrated his birthday in style, hitting his 24th home run of the season. The round tripper, which helped the Yankees to a 6-2 win over the Rangers proved an historic blast. Coming on his fortieth birthday, it made A-Rod only the fourth player to homer both as a teenager and in his forties (Ty Cobb, Rusty Staub and Gary Sheffield are the others).  Elias also reports that Rodriguez holds the MLB record for career home runs (six) hit by a player on his birthday. (We do seem to track everything in baseball.) 

OUCH!

On July 28, the Yankees torched the Rangers’ for 21 runs (in a 21-5 win).  The last team to give up 21 runs? It was also the Rangers, in a May 30, 2012 loss to the Mariners (21-8). On July 28, the Yankees put up 19 hits, drew ten walks and also benefitted from two hit batters, and three errors (two were catcher’s interference). In the Bomber’s 11-run seventh inning, the first eight batters reached base safely against Rangers’ starter Martin Perez (2B, 1B, 1B, HBP, 2B, 1B, 1B, 3B). Wandy Rodriguez came on in relief and struck out the side. The K’s, however, were sandwiched around three hits and a walk.  On the trivia side of the equation, Yankees’ CF Jacob Ellsbury became only the seventh player in MLB history to reach base on catcher’s interference twice in the same game (joining David Murphy, Rangers, 2010; Bob Stinson, Royals, 1979; Dan Meyer, Mariners, 1977; Pat Corrales, Phillies, twice in 1965; and Ben Geraghty, Dodgers, 1936).

Pulling the Old Switchroo

On July 31, the Yankees’ switch-hitting first baseman Mark Teixeira ended the month in style, popping a pair of home runs (one his tenth career Grand Slam), as the Yanks topped the White Sox 13-6. Teixeira hit the Grand Slam in the second inning, batting right-handed and crashed a two-run homer from the left side of the plate in the fourth.  That blast gave Teixeira a MLB-record 14 games with home runs from both sides of the plate, breaking a tie with Nick Swisher. For BBRT, it brought back memories of Ken Caminiti, who accomplished this feat ten times, and once hit dingers from both sides of the plate three times in four days (for the Padres) –  September 16, 17 and 19, 1995.  On the 18th he went 0-4 with two strikeouts, in the other 3 games he was 10 for 11 with 6 homers, 2 doubles, 3 walks, 7 runs scored and 12 RBI.

The All Star Game

Of course, July featured the 2015 All Star Game – which turned out to be a tribute to the changing “face(s)” or the game.  For BBRT observations on the ASG, click here.

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NOW, THE STATS

July’s Best and Worst Records

No team had a better month than the Yankees, who went 17-7 (.704), the only squad to play .700 ball for the month. That enabled the Bombers to enter August with a six-game lead over second place (tie) Baltimore and Toronto. Over in the NL, the Pirates matched the Yankees 17 wins (versus nine losses), but still trail the Cardinal by 5 ½. Other teams with at least 15 wins in the All Star Game-shortened month were:  The Royals (17-11), White Sox (16-10) in the AL; and the Cardinals and Cubs, both 15-12 in the NL.  On the other side of the ledger, only the Rockies and Rays failed to win at least ten games in July, going 9-15 and 9-16, respectively.

If the Season Ended …   

So who’s on top?  If the season ended on July 31, the MLB playoff teams would be:

  • AL … Division Champions: Yankees; Royals; Astros. Wild Cards: Angels, Twins. Note: Both the Orioles and Jays are within one game of a WC spot.
  • NL … Division Champions: Nationals; Cardinals; Dodgers. Wild Cards: Giants; Pirates. Note: The Cubs are just one game out of a WC spot.

Also, if the season ended today, only the Cardinals would be playing .600 or better ball (66-37, .641), although the Royals would be close (61-41, .598). Only the Phillies would be playing under .400 ball (40-65, .385). Of interest to BBRT: The Cardinals,with the best record in MLB,  are no offensive juggernaut, standing 18th in runs scored, ninth in batting average and 21st in home runs.. The Cards, however, have given up the fewest runs (300) and boast the lowest team ERA (2.65)

You can see the full July 31 standings at the end of this post.

Trade Deadline Biggest Winners

More than 100 MLB players and prospects (and a few handfuls of cash and players to be named later) changed teams in dozens of trades leading up to the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline.  BBRT won’t examine them all, but here are the teams BBRT rates as having made make the biggest “splash” during the wave of trades.

1. Toronto … The Jays proved they are serious about making the 2015 post-season, acquiring five-time All Star SS Troy Tulowitzki, an “ace” in five-time All Star southpaw David Price, speed for the lineup in CF Ben Revere and bullpen help (LaTroy Hawkins and Mark Lowe). Probably the biggest July haul.

2. (Tie) Kansas City … The Royals are determined to make another run at the World Series title and improved their chances by adding RHP Johnny Cueto (a 20-game winner in 2014) and the versatile veteran, solid-hitting Ben Zobrist

2. (Tie) New York-NL … The Mets went out and got a much needed power hitter in Yeonis Cespedes (who has topped 20 homers and 80 RBI in each of his three full MLB seasons and has 18 HRs and 61 RBI this year), strengthened the bullpen with Tyler Clippard and added versatility and a bit of offensive punch with Juan Uribe and Kelly Johnson.

4. Houston  … The Astros, like the Blue Jays and Royals, added an ace to their pitching staff, acquiring (three-time All Star) Scott Kazmir. They also added power and speed for the outfield with two-time All Star Carlos Gomez (if healthy) and pitching depth with Mike Fiers.

5. Los Angeles-NL … The names weren’t as big, but the Dodgers filled a back of the rotation need, acquiring starting pitchers Matt Latos and Alex Wood.

Honorable Mentions: Nationals (beefed up their bullpen with closer Jonathan Papelbon); Cubs (added starting pitching in the form of Dan Haren and bullpen help with Tommy Hunter).

Special Mention:  The Rangers may not be in the hunt (and BBRT expected them to be sellers, not buyers), but they may have made what will prove to be the best  long-term deal, acquiring southpaw Cole Hamels – a three-time All Star, who still has three seasons on his contract – from the Phillies.

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STAT TIME

Here are a few tidbits of information about July team performance:

  • Cardinals’ hurlers put up the best ERA for the month at 2.78. Over in the AL, White Sox pitchers were the stingiest in July at 3.29. How much difference does the DH make? For the month, the overall AL ERA was 4.10, compared to 3.59 for the NL. For the season, through July, the difference is not as pronounced – NL-3.77; AL-3.90.
  • Through July 31, the Cardinals are the only team with a season ERA under 3.00 – at 2.65. Next best?  The Pirates at 3.18. The AL’s lowest season ERA belongs to the A’s at 3.45.
  • No team scored more runs in July than the surging Yankees, who put 133 runs on the board. Other teams topping 120 tallies for the month were the Angels (132), Tigers (131), Blue Jays (126), Royals (123) and Pirates (120). For the season, the Blue Jays hold the top spot with 550 runs scored. No other team has reached the 500 mark. (Despite this offensive output, the Blue Jays are only two games over .500.)  The Braves, on the other end of the spectrum, pushed across an MLB-low 72 runs for the month.
  • The July team home run title is shared by the Tigers and Mariners, who each bashed 37 round trippers during the month – and still went a combined 12-31. Colorado topped the NL in July homers at 27. The A’s and Marlins had the fewest July dingers, 15 each.
  • For the season, the Astros lead the AL with 143 homers, while the Dodgers top the NL with 127. (Note: Houston also leads the AL in stolen bases at 74, a nice power/speed combination.) Only four teams had less than 80 HRs through July: Braves (62), Phillies (69), Marlins (79), White Sox (79).

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Now, here are your month-of-July and through-July batting and pitching leaders:

Month-of-July Batting Leaders

Four National Leaguers with at least 75 plate appearances managed to hit at a .400 or better pace for the month of July – led by Brewers outfield Gerarado Parra at .435 (37-for-85). Parra also led the NL in runs scored (23). Parra’s hot month earned him a move to the AL – and he is now an Oriole. Other July .400 hitters were the Reds’ 1B Joey Votto (.405), Giants’ C Buster Posey (.400) and Rockies’ 2B DJ LeMahier (.400).  Over in the AL, the top average for the month went to Royals’ 1B Eric Hosmer at .385 (40-for-104).

July’s hottest hitters were Rockies’ RF Carlos Gonzalez in the NL (.386-11-24 for June), who led the senior circuit in home runs and RBI for the month; and Angels’ CF Mike Trout, who hit .367-12-24 for the month, leading the AL (and all MLB) in July HR and tying for the league lead in RBI.   Here are the July offensive leaders.

—– AVERAGE (minimum 75 plate appearances) —–

AL                                          

Eric Hosmer, 1B, Royals – .385

Xander Bogaerts, SS, Red Sox – .371

Chase Headley, 3B, Yankees – .370

NL

Gerardo Parra, LF, Brewers – .435

Joey Votto, 1B, Reds – .405

Buster Posey, C, Giants – .400

DJ LeMahieu, 2B, Rockies – .400

—– HRs —–

NL

Carlos Gonzalez, RF, Rockies – 11

Adrian Gonzalez, 1B, Dodgers – 8

Lucas Duda, 1B, Mets – 8

AL

Mike Trout, CF, Angels – 12

Alex Rodriguez, DH, Yankees – 9

Mark Teixeira, 1B, Yankees – 9

—– RBI —–

AL

Mike Trout, CF, Angels – 24

Kendrys Morales, DH, Royals – 24

Josh Donaldson, 3B, Blue Jays – 24  

NL

Carlos Gonzalez, RF, Rockies – 24

Ryan Howard, 1B, Phillies – 23

Andrew McCutchen, CF, Pirates – 21

—– RUNS SCORED —–

AL

Lorenzo Cain, CF, Royals – 22

J.D. Martinez, RF, Tigers – 21

Adam Eaton, CF, White Sox – 21

NL

Gerardo Parra, LF, Brewers – 23

Carlos Gonzalez, RF, Rockies – 20

Four with 18

—– STOLEN BASES —–

NL

Billy Hamilton, CF, Reds –  9

Jayson Heyward, RF, Cardinals – 7

A.J. Pollock, CF, D-backs – 7

AL

Jose Altuve, 2B, Astros – 6

Jose Reyes, SS, Blue Jays (now a Rockie)– 6

Three with five

Month-of-July Pitching Leaders

Four was a lucky number for pitchers in July, as nine hurlers tied for the month’s leadership in victories with four. All but one of those, the Royals’ Wade Davis, was a starter. As a reliever Davis had quite a month – pitching 10 2/3 innings in 12 appearances, going 4-0, with five holds and a 0.84 ERA.

When it comes to mound efficiency, Scott Kazmir – who started the month as an Angel and ended it as an Astro, led the way. Kazmir went 34 innings in five starts and gave up – wait for it – just one earned run. His 0.26 ERA was MLB’s lowest for July, but not by much. The Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw also gave up just one earned in July, but pitched on fewer inning – for a NL-lowest 0.27 ERA.  The only other pitcher with a July ERA under 1.00 was Kershaw’s team mate Zack Grienke (0.95).\

Month of July Pitching Leaders

—– WINS —–

AL

Wade Davis, Royals – 4-0, 0.84 ERA

Anibel Sanchez, Tigers – 4-1, 4.55

Andrew Heaney, Angels – 4-0, 1.98

Nathan Eovaldi, Yankees – 4-0, 3.09

NL

Jake Arrietta, Cubs – 4-1, 1.90

Mike Leake, Reds – 4-1, 1.25

Jose Fernandez, Marlins – 4-0. 2.53

Matt Wisler, Braves – 4-0, 3.30

Jose Fernandez, Marlins – 4-0, 2.53

 —– ERA (minimum 20 innings pitched in the month) —–

AL

Scott Kazmir, Angels/Astros – 0.26

Chris Tillman, Orioles  – 1.31

Matt Shoemaker, Angels – 1.78

NL

Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers – 0.27

Zack Greinke, Dodgers – 0.95

Mike Leake, Reds – 1.25

—– STRIKEOUTS —–

AL

Corey Kluber, Indians – 45 (46 1/3 IP)

Carlos Carrasco, Indians – 43 (38 2/3 IP)

Chris Archer, Rays – 40 (32 2/3 IP)

Jose Quintana, White Sox – 40 (42 IP)

NL

Jon Lester, Cubs,  – 50 (40 1/3 IP)

Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers – 45 (33 IP)

Jake Arrieta, Cubs – 44 (42 2/3 IP)

—– SAVES —–

AL

Shawn Tolleson, Rangers – 7

Cody Allen, Indians – 7

Four with six

NL

Craig Kimbrel, Padres – 11

Mark Melancon, Pirates – 9

Trevor Rosenthal, Cardinals – 8

_______________________________________________________    

And now the MLB Leaders THROUGH July

—– BATTING AVERAGE —–

NL

Paul Goldschmidt, 1B, D-backs – .349

Dee Gordon, 2B, Marlins – .331

Bryce Harper, RF, Nationals – .330

AL

Miguel Cabrera, 1B, Tigers – .350

Jason Kipnis, 2B, Indians – .329

Prince Fielder, 1B, Rangers – .326

—– HR —–

AL

Mike Trout, CF, Angels – 32

Albert Pujols, 1B, Angels – 30

J.D. Martinez, RF, Tigers – 28

NL

Bryce Harper, RF, Nationals – 29

Giancarlo Stanton, RF, Marlins – 27

Todd Frazier, 3B, Reds – 27

—– RBI —–

NL

Nolan Arenado, 3B, Rockies – 78

Paul Goldschmidt, 1B, D-backs – 77

Bryce Harper, RF, Nationals – 68

AL

Josh Donaldson, 3B, blue Jays – 73

Mark Teixeira, 1B, Yankees – 73

Kendrys Morales, DH, Royals – 72

—– RUNS SCORED —–

AL

Mike Trout, CF, Angels – 76

Brian Dozier, 2B, Twins – 74

Two with 72

NL

Bryce Harper, CF, Nationals – 68

Paul Goldschmidt, 1B, D-backs – 67

A.J. Pollock, Cf, D-backs – 67

—– STOLEN BASES —–

NL

Billy Hamilton, CF, Reds  – 49

Dee Gordon, 2B, Marlins – 34

Charlie Blackmon, CF, Rockies – 27

AL

Jose Altuve, 2B, Astros – 27

Billy Burns, CF, A’s – 21

Lorenzo Cain, CF, Royals – 19

BBRT note: Through July, The Nationals’ CF  Denard Span has the most steals without getting caught (11).

Pitching Leaders THROUH July

—– WINS —–

NL

Gerrit Cole, Pirates – 14-4 (2.24)

Michael Wacha, Cardinals – 12-4 (3.09)

Five with 11

AL

Dallas Keuchel, Astros – 12-5 (2.32)

Colin McHugh, Astros – 12-5 (4.43)

Felix Hernandez, Mariners – 12-6 (3.02)

—– ERA —–

NL

Zack Greinke, Dodgers – 1.41

Jacob deGrom, Mets – 2.05

Max Scherzer, Nationals – 2.22

AL

Scott Kazmir, Angels/Astros – 2.10

Sonny Gray, A’s – 2.16

Dallas Keuchel, Astros – 2.32

—– STRIKEOUTS —–

AL

Chris Sale, White Sox – 177 (137 2/3 IP)

Chris Archer, Rays – 173 (141 2/3 IP)

Corey Kluber, Indians – 172 (157 IP)

NL

Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers – 185 (140 IP)

Max Scherzer, Nationals – 172 (150 IP)

James Shields, Padres – 148 (133 2/3 IP)

—– SAVES ——-

AL

Glen Perkins, Twins – 29

Zach Britton, Orioles – 27

Two with 25

NL

Mark MelanCon, Pirates – 33

Trevor Rosenthal, Cardinals – 31

Craig Kimbrel, Padres – 30

___________________________________________

Finally, MLB standingS as of July 31

 

AL East

Yankees          58-44   .569

Orioles             52-50   .510     6.0

Blue Jays         53-51   .526     6.0

Rays                51-53   .490     8.0

Red Sox          46-58   .442     13.0

AL Central

Royals             61-41   .598

Twins              53-49   .520     8.0

Tigers              50-53   .485    11.5

White Sox       49-52   .485     11.5

Indians            48-54   .471     13.0

AL West

Astros              58-46   .558

Angels             55-47   .539     2.0

Rangers           50-52   .490     7.0

Mariners          47-57   .452     11.0

A’s                  45-59   .433     13.0

NL East

Nationals         54-47   .535

Mets                53-50   .515    2.0

Braves             46-57   .447    9.0

Marlins            42-61   .408     13.0

Phillies             40-64   .385     15.5

NL Central

Cardinals         66-37   .641

Pirates             60-42   .588     5.5

Cubs                55-47   .539     10.5

Reds                46-55   .455     19.0

Brewers           44-60   .423     22.5

NL West

Dodgers          58-45   .563

Giants              56-46   .538     1.5

D-Backs          50-51   .495       7.0

Padres             50-53   .485      8.0

Rockies           43-58   .4426   14.0

I tweet baseball @David BBRT

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