Thursday, February 20, 2020

Oakland Dynasty: Early Struggles in 1976

The Oakland Athletics have started the 1976 MLB Season, and are coming off a season where they fell short in their attempt to four-peat, by getting swept by Baltimore, 3-0, during the 1975 A.L. Championship Series.

This off-season, Oakland acquired plenty of talent in SP-Jerry Koosman, P-Milt Wilcox, P-Rick Langford, CF-Jerry Martin & C-Rick Dempsey. Wilcox and Langford will start off in the bullpen, since they are stuck behind a talented rotation that features Catfish Hunter, Vida Blue, Koosman, Ken Holtzman & Dick Bosman.

To make room for the two Rule 5 picks, Wilcox and Martin, the Athletics sent SP-Glenn Abbott (who went 19-5 with a 3.30 ERA in 29 starts) and OF-Bill North (.294, 3 HR, 63 RBI & 60* SB) to the minors. With Chet Lemon emerging for Oakland, North became expendable.

On May 1st, Oakland traded North to the Dodgers in exchange for two prospects, LF-Rick Bladt & 3B-Arthur Fischetti, in what was overall a salary dump ($230,000).

On June 1st, the Oakland Athletics found themselves in 3rd place at 26-21, 4.5 games behind the first place Minnesota Twins, who have been a surprise in the A.L. West. Oakland has not shown any power with Reggie Jackson and Joe Rudi leading the team with 6 home runs each. Jackson is coming off a 42 HR season, which led the American League.

The lineup appears to be a bit of a mess, with two starters batting under .200 in C-Gene Tenace and 2B-Phil Garner. In fact, the team has no hitter batting over .300 with Rudi (.296) and Lemon (.285) being the team's best two regulars in that category.

The team knew it was going to take some lumps trying to integrate new talent into the starting lineup, such as Lemon and platooning shortstop Ivan de Jesus, but didn't know that it would be this messy. Even Hal McRae's (.271 BA & .739 OPS) numbers are down.

The pitching on the other hand has kept the Athletics in the race, their rotation has been pretty good, especially with their top 3 hurlers -- Catfish Hunter (4-6, 3.05 ERA), Vida Blue (5-1, 1.66 ERA) & Jerry Koosman (4-2, 1.92 ERA)... but it has been the team's stellar bullpen that deserves most of the credit.

Oakland's bullpen
  • Rollie Fingers: 5 SV, 2.83 ERA, 18 K & 1.221 WHIP in 28.2 IP.
  • Bill Campbell: 2-1, 0.69 ERA, 4 hits, but 11 BB allowed in 11 IP (1.154 WHIP)
  • Dave Hamilton: 1 SV, 1.74 ERA, 13 K & 1.161 WHIP in 10.1 IP.
  • Darold Knowles: 1-1, 1.86 ERA in 9.2 IP.
  • Rick Langford: 2-1, 1.38 ER, 16 K in 13 IP.
The only thing concerning me is the walks & the WHIP's that are higher than the ERA numbers indicate, making me wonder if these numbers will start tipping in the wrong direction. 

I mentioned the Twins have been a bit surprise, the Twins are 29-15 and are led by a strong rotation, topped by 1975's A.L. Cy Young Award winner - Bert Blyleven (6-3, 2.78 ERA & 71 K), Tommy John (5-2, 1.95 ERA) & Dave Goltz (5-0, 1.47 ERA). The bullpen has been great as well, with the team currently doing with a bullpen-by-committee since closer Skip Lockwood on the injured list.

The Twins lineup features Larry Hisle, Rod Carew, Lyman Bostick, Randy Bass & Eric Soderholm. Soderholm leads the team with 7 HR, with Hisle & Bass with 6 each, while Carew leads the team with a .294 batting average. 

But I feel at the end of the day, the team that Oakland will have to worry about the most are the California Angels, who features an excellent rotation 1-through-5. The Angels' rotation features Frank Tanana, Nolan Ryan, Ed Figueroa, Jim Kaat & Bill Singer. Three of those starters: Tanana, Kaat & Singer have sub-2.00 ERA's at the moment. 

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Seattle Continues to Surprise in 1978 A.L. Replay

The Seattle Mariners in my A.L. side of the 1978 "Brothers In Dice" MLB Replay, continues to surprise, as they are sporting a 21-25 record through 46 games.

Now most people may look at that and think that's not a good record, Shawn! Obviously they aren't even a .500 team.... but when you take in the fact that the Mariners are in their 2nd year of existence and they would go on to lose 8 more games than their expansion predecessor -- finishing 56-106 (.346).

The 1978 Replay Mariners currently have a .457 winning pct, and have lost 4 of their last games. They also started the season 3-9, while I came close a few times at getting them close to that .500 mark.

We are using real game starters, but I am doing the starting lineups as I see, as long as they are the real-life starters of those individual games. One of the obvious moves, was not having Leroy Stanton as the Mariners' clean-up hitter. Stanton came off an expansion season where he led the team with 27 HR & 90 RBI, while batting .275 with a .852 OPS. Unfortunately Leroy followed up that season with a lousy .182 batting average, 3 HR & 24 RBI.

Taking Stanton out of the cleanup slot for 30+ starts, really helps the overall production and flow of the lineup. Whenever Leon Roberts is in the starting lineup, I would plug him in the cleanup spot. Bruce Bochte has been mostly in the 3rd slot, sometimes cleanup, a couple times in the 5th slot.

Bochte is having an amazing season for my replay, batting .341 with 5 HR & 42 RBI in 46 games, while showing no signs of slowing down. I thought he would start coming down to earth around the 30-game marker, and for 8 games or so, I believe he was batting around .250, but then he heated back up. Bochte also has 18 doubles, which I believe is easily leading the American League right now.

I still have to play two more series, while doing about 6 teams' stats, but at the moment Jim Rice (106) and Bruce Bochte are the only two players over 100 total bases at the moment. Bochte is on par, if not playing better than Rice right now.

Bochte in real life batted .263 with 11 HR & 51 RBI -- Bochte is only 9 RBI from that through 46 games, and he still has 94 games to play.

The Mariners' Dick Pole (Grade D) is 5-1 with a 3.72 ERA (55.2 IP), getting touched up his last two outings... but his ERA was hovering around the mid-to-high 2.00 ERA's for awhile. In real life, he went 4-11 with a 6.48 ERA through 98.2 innings... so it appears that in my replay, he is going to outplay reality.

It should be mentioned that their bullpen has blown a combined 8 saves already, so we'll see how they goes moving forward... but at the moment it's all smiles in Seattle.

Saturday, February 8, 2020

1975 Off-Season & Winter Meetings

The Baltimore Orioles just came off their 2nd World Championship in 6 years, and 3rd in their last 9 years. The Cincinnati Reds have lost 2 World Series (1970, 1972) while the Pittsburgh Pirates have won a World Series (1971) and lost a World Series (1975) during the decade.

The Oakland Athletics are coming off a disappointing 3-0 sweep to the hands of the Orioles, falling short of a four-peat, after posting the best record (105-57) in the majors last season. The Orioles would go on to defeat the Pirates, 4-1.

Oakland feels that 1975 should have been their year, but now must find its way back to championship glory. Oakland for the most part planned on staying pat, but then the New York Mets came knocking on their door, dangling SP-Jerry Koosman. I had to modify the offer with them taking SP-Pete Broberg instead of SP-Brian Kingman, Broberg has salary to eat, while my owner didn't really want me to take on any more payroll... but I couldn't ignore the opportunity to add someone of Koosman's caliber.

The deal was as follows...
  • The Athletics traded 3B-Wayne Gross, SP-Pete Broberg, SP-Gary Williams, CF-Gary Woods & 2B-Darrell Woodard to the Mets, in exchange for SP-Jerry Koosman and OF/1B-Bruce Boisclair.
The Athletics extended the following contracts...
  • OF-Reggie Jackson: 7-year deal worth $3.85 million.
  • SP-Jerry Koosman: 7-year deal worth $2.69 million.
  • DH-Hal McRae: 7-year deal worth $2.52 million.
Other Transactions....
  • Acquired P-Milt Wilcox via Rule 5 Draft (from Chicago Cubs).
  • Acquired CF-Jerry Martin via Rule 5 Draft (from Philadelphia Phillies).
  • Acquired C-Rick Dempsey from the New York Yankees in exchange for prospect RF-Ray Cosey
  • Traded C-Ray Fosse to the Cincinnati Reds in exchange for 1B-Terry Crowley.
  • Traded RP-Jim Todd, SP-Rich Gale & P-Brian Kingman to the Milwaukee Brewers in exchange for P-Rick Langford, and minor leaguers C-Rod Boone & OF-Dick Davis.
  • Released RP-Lew Krausse Jr.

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

All Betts Are on the Dodgers

On Tuesday evening, as part of a three-team deal, the Los Angeles Dodgers landed superstar outfielder Mookie Betts, veteran starting pitcher David Price & cash from the Boston Red Sox. The Minnesota Twins were the third party involved in the trade, in which Minnesota acquired SP-Kenta Maeda. Boston acquired OF-Alex Verdugo from Los Angeles, and pitching prospect Brusdar Graterol from Minnesota.

I was shocked initially that the Red Sox didn't acquire either prospect 2B-Gavin Lux or pitcher Dustin May, personally I feel they lost big on this trade, they should have got more. I understand the need to cut payroll, but was this the best deal they could have got for a stud like Mookie?

Before this deal, I was already leaning towards the Los Angeles Dodgers to win it all. Now with Betts?! There is no excuse for this team, this powerhouse, not to walk away holding the World Series trophy. I was leaning towards a Dodgers-Yankees World Series before Betts, now I'm calling it -- Just as confident as I was that the 2016 Chicago Cubs (prior to the season) would go on to win it all, I feel the exact same way about the Dodgers right now.

I'm not always right, and to be honest my preseason World Series picks don't even come half-way true most of the time, but I'm feeling it.

There is just too much talent for them to come up short. I know there is 162 games to play during a season, and I know that 10 teams go into the postseason with a shot, but way too much talent... Sure Atlanta, Houston, Washington & the Cubs should be in the mix, but Walker Buehler is only going to get better folks!

Projected starters happen to be C-Will Smith, 1B-Max Muncy, 2B-Gavin Lux, SS-Corey Seager, 3B-Justin Turner, LF-A.J. Pollock, CF-Mookie Betts & RF-Cody Bellinger. This team still has tons of depth, good prospects & strong pitching. The league woke up seeing blue this morning.

Plus I believe baseball is dying to see a Dodgers-Yankees World Series, it's been 39 years... Wouldn't it be great to see those two iconic franchises go at it?!

Sunday, February 2, 2020

Say It Ain't So!

As you all know back on Monday, January 13th, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred & Major League Baseball shelled out punishments to the Houston Astros for their role in the alleged sign-stealing scheme.

The penalties were...
  • Manager A.J. Hinch suspended for one year.
  • General Manager Jeff Luhnow suspended for one year.
  • Former Assistant General Manager Brandon Taubman suspended for one year.
  • Astros are punished the next two MLB Drafts (2020-2021), in which the team will have to forfeit their 1st & 2nd Round Draft Picks in each draft.
  • Fined the maximum $5 million that is allowed under the MLB Constitution.
It didn't take long for the Houston Astros' Owner Jim Crane to turn around and fire both Hinch and Luhnow. Former Houston coach and Boston Red Sox Manager Alex Cora who was also suspended, suffered the same fate from the Boston Red Sox.

I will be going over some (or most) of the nine-page report that covered the MLB investigation, throughout this post, but first things first.

There is so much that I want to get off my chest on this subject, that I am not sure how this whole blog piece will even flow together by the time I finish it, or if it will even come up as good as I want it too. I really don't plan to leave no stone unturned. 

Be warned, that this post could look like the opening sequence of Star Wars: A New Hope (IV) with the Star Destroyer going across the screen by the time it's all done. 

I have been watching and reading the reaction of many baseball fans, some who know their stuff or seem to know their stuff, while most of the others seem to be fair-weathered fans at best, just looking to kick dirt on the Astros, all because it just seems like the cool thing to do. They are jumping to conclusions without fulling understanding the entire ordeal, and the fact this is not something that just happened over night. It's been going on, and it's been going on for awhile.

This is not something that just started --This and different versions of the scheme that the Astros "pulled off" (if you really want to call it that), and schemes that are completely different have been going on, long before the Houston Astros' version.

There are variations that have been used in other ways than just video, from many things, like a spy positioned with binoculars in the center field bleachers (which was actually quite somewhat common, dating back to the 1970's) to camera flashes, reflected mirrors, certain coded relay chants, and even codes that could be used through the PA, maybe even stadium music or fan drums, you name it...

The Astros, and all the other MLB teams that are doing this, have been finding more and more detailed schemes that could give their team a edge. I know some of you are under the illusion that only a handful of teams have come up with schemes, and all of the others are simply innocent... 

Well, no... you are wrong.

It is not a case that other teams may be doing this or might have thought of doing this... 
Nope, all have been doing this, if you think otherwise, you are simply naive or completely kidding yourselves. Then again, some of you that are under this illusion that its only the Astros and a couple teams, seem to be the same exact people that believe there is no juiced ball, simply and only because the Commissioner and Major League Baseball came out and said there was no juiced ball. Taking it at face value, running with it & excepting it as fact....

....Yes, you are so right... because Major League Baseball or any other major cooperation has never lied to the public before just to cover their own asses. [Eyes roll]

I don't understand this fan that believes everything is so cut and dry, living in their vanilla world, thinking that nothing is murky, that everything is simply black and white. Talking and acting as if any of things that I brought up, is completely impossible. We have had pitchers doctor baseballs, we have had players cork their bats, we have had teams take advantage of little loopholes in contracts, baseball drafts, luxury taxes, international signing rules & even with in-game strategies. Every player, every owner, every manager, and every team is looking for an edge against the opposition, and they will go at any lengths, even ignoring a half-ass warning (a couple years ago) by the commissioner...

all in an attempt to try to give their team a chance at a possible advantage.  

I never once denied that the Houston Astros cheated...
You all, automatically assumed that I was saying that, while you were thinking that I stand by this behavior. All I have been trying to say is that you are a damn fool for thinking that the Houston Astros were the only team conducting these schemes.

Take that in for a moment...

I never denied they cheated, while I believe all the other teams have cheated as well, and probably as often in different ways, and some maybe less. The commissioner as well as I did, knew about things dating back years, the Alex Cora mess, is not the first time the Boston Red Sox have been echoed through the press. When John Farrell was managing the team, the press (of an opposing playoff team) got wind that the Red Sox were using apple watches and cell-phone video capabilities to relay things back to the batter. Off the top of my head, I can't recall if it was as recent as 2016 or even around 2013's World Championship team. I believe that was the spark that caused the commissioner to respond with his weak 2017 warning to all teams. 

The warning (or murmur) from what I understand and remember, was nothing more than a paragraph long statement from the league, which the statement was repeated through the press and the MLB Twitter feed. It came out in September 2017, which was even mentioned in the Commissioner's nine-page investigation report. There was nothing detailed in the warning, of what the consequences could be... It came off as "Don't you dare take another cookie from the cookie jar." (shaking his finger)... Let's be honest, we are all going to go snag another cookie before dinner. 

The unfortunate thing for the Houston Astros, they ended up being the ones who got caught with their hand in the cookie jar. They are now the example. They have been punished to the extreme, the team turned around and fired their top personnel, they will lose their top two picks during the next two years, while being fined $5 million. They have suffered the consequences, so that said, I ask these so-called baseball fans to stop making them out to be the villains, when your team is doing just the same. Sure the haters and trolls are going to come out at full force, especially the fans of those teams that feel that their teams were effected by these schemes, which they simply were not affected.

Since Monday, I have been mentioning that these so-called schemes work out, maybe 2-4% of the time, and since Monday's fallout... I have seen former players from different eras, press members and analysts echoing my remarks. The edge was close to nil... nada... nothing! Even in the commissioner's investigation report, the Houston Astros players that were interviewed, mentioned that they found the scheme to be overall "ineffective" and the position players abandoned the scheme. You are talking a play here or there maybe games apart or series apart even, and that's not to mention if the hitter ever did anything with the ball when he did know a off-speed pitch was coming. Which leads to the fact that the hitter still needs to think "is the pitch going to being up, down, left, right"? Plus today's off-speed by pitchers today is not much different from their fastball, now you can notice with notable greats like Justin Verlander, when he throws his off-speed stuff, and yet he still makes the hitter look foolish.

At the beginning of the prior paragraph, I mentioned that I mentioned this stuff since Monday, I also echoed these same statements years ago when I heard about the silly cell-phone/apple watch video relay... So for those who think I hitched my wagon to the Astros, no, I have been saying these relay schemes have been ineffective for a few years now. My favorite team is the Detroit Tigers, while my National League team is the Atlanta Braves, while my favorite player is Justin Verlander who plays for the Astros. I root for Justin to have success, I root for him to pitch well, I root for him to win big awards, and to be as successful as possible during each season. I also root for him to have a longer season, meaning yes, I want to see my favorite player in the playoffs, so to accomplish that I would have to hope the Astros are successful in way to making him successful... got that?!

Speaking of Verlander, it was Verlander and I believe other pitchers that presented diagrams, charts and graphs that clearly pointed to the impact of juiced balls through the years. Heck, they didn't even need charts, look at all the pitchers over the years, having blisters issues, the texture and feel of the ball is obviously different. Verlander was simply trying to point out to the Commissioner and Major League Baseball, with ballparks designed to have fences in, mound levels changed & the strike zones constantly shrinking, do the hitters really need any more help? He asked for an answer, and they simply lied that there was no juiced ball, and that it was the same, until they recently admitted that they are "smaller." So they lied, lied, lied, lied and than admitted the ball was smaller, and that may be the reason for more home runs.

The simple fact is that MLB replaced the steroids with juiced baseballs, so that the average fair-weather baseball fan can get his jollies off having their big home run numbers.

You don't really need the graphs and charts, when you take in the fact that three 2019 MLB teams are now in the top four slots for single-season HR totals (not fishy, one bit)... all from one season. If I remember right, both April and May shattered their previous combined HR marks. I will go as far as saying that the juiced ball is more of a factor, and has more of an impact on the game than these so-called schemes that teams are using to cheat with. There is clear evidence of juiced balls, while we don't know for certain where or when these relay schemes actually helped the accused teams.

The New York Post, of course, feel that the Yankees were obviously screwed of a potential World Championship the last few years. Then again, Yankees fans believe every year is their year while ignoring the obvious facts that their starting pitching was not that good, if they were all healthy at the same time, then yes they had the potential to win it all... but the series only went so far in the first place because of James Paxton's solid outing in Game 5. It wasn't a scheme that made Yankees like Edwin Encarnacion swing at really bad pitches now, was it?

I have also read posts in the APBA Facebook Group and USA Todays' recent article, mentioning that the 2017 Houston Astros' World Championship is now tainted. USA Today wanted to use the Game 5 of the 2017 World Series as an example, where the Astros won 13-12 (10 innings)... so... the Los Angeles Dodgers, were also using the Astros' bang-the-can system, too? Could it just be the fact that both teams' pitching just didn't show up that day, and the fact that everything was flying to that short-distance left field porch?! The article went on to post that Jose Altuve was making things look easy, you know, because never mind the fact that he is one heck of an athlete. This scheme which we should mention maybe cause 2 plays tops in this series, and who is to say that those both didn't result as a dinky single? If someone is going to go as far and say that my favorite player didn't earn his ring, I'm going to be frank, and tell you to shove that little thought up your stinking ass.... Simple as that.

It still hasn't stopped the Los Angeles Dodgers from opening up about their feelings in recent weeks, while their fans went as far as demanding a World Series Trophy, by protesting outside of court houses. I had to make the joke on line, that the Dodgers should rename their franchise the Cry Babies or the Choke Artists, while they seem to be copying off the 90's Braves, winning tons of games, divisions, while the Dodgers are doing one worse, they (unlike the Braves) are still searching for a title. They can't win the big one, so they need to dig for excuses apparently.

CBS MLB link did a great job highlighting the following...
The other is this video, which was great at the 2:23 to 2:35 mark -- Echoing the fact that none of these schemes were pulled off to make any sort of real impact on the games or series, which the Houston Astros won to win the 2017 World Series.

This next 25-minute video is compelling because, you can hear the bangs, and you will see that it only working out for them in a big way with George Springer's home run at around 15:00 minute mark. There was a RBI double around the 9:00, 10:00 minute mark. Please watch video while having a bowl of cereal, and you will see it not working out for them most of the time. Plus I have not seen any playoff footage, if there is some playoff footage out there please let me know, I would like to check that out. 

Before I end this piece, I mentioned all the teams have been doing this, teams are now voicing out because they knew the Dodgers, Red Sox, Yankees and Astros were starting to become a league of their own. So the other teams no longer wanted to play along. Plus Manfred knew what was going on long before he took office, and just like with everything, Baseball doesn't address the issue until its bubbling over, and they are literally forced to address the issue. If it was not for that rat, Mike Fiers, many of the so-called Baseball fans would still be in the dark from all this.

There has been rumors about other teams such as the Milwaukee Brewers, I feel that Manfred is happy is enough not to want to dig more, because if he reveals the whole league is doing that would not look good for him. It's like when the steroid era, MLB wanted you to believe it was like 5 players on each team, when in all reality it was probably (and sadly) 75% of the league was doped up. The Astros are now the poster child of the scandal, while the commissioner wants everyone to take all of this in a serious manner.

For me, none of this was shocking news. The penalties shelled out were a bit shocking, but I now fully understand that the Commissioner wanted to make sure he sent a message to the entire league in a big way, hoping that this will stop teams from doing it again.

Trouble is, it's not.

My thing is how can you ever believe Major League Baseball? When time and time again, they have continued to lie to their fans -- being steroids, juiced baseballs, or relay schemes. If they had concrete rules in the first place, maybe none of this would ever have happened.

It's as if this sport loves giving itself a black eye. Make this game great again -- no clocks, no openers, limit the shifts, earlier start times for the playoff games. You have been losing generations of fans, and yet you don't seem to understand why.

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