Sunday, April 24, 2016

Tigers' "Big Three" Struggle (NXPL Update / 82' Tigers)

The Detroit Tigers' "Big Three" -- Manny Soto, Joaquin Andujar & Dan Petry entered their series against the 22-23 Minnesota Twins, undefeated; Detroit (34-11) meanwhile owns a four game-lead over the Baltimore Orioles in the American League Pennant race.

The series breakdown...

The Twins come to Tiger Stadium, with a 3-2 season series edge over Detroit.

Game 1
Manny Soto enters 6-0 with 1.99 ERA, but just didn't have his stuff today. Soto would get whooped with 4 HR's allowed (including two-run HR by Gary Ward) -- allowing 7 ER in 5.1 innings. Lance Parrish homers for Detroit; Twins win 8-5.

Soto's first loss of season.

Game 2
Lance Parrish clobbers 2nd HR of series, but the Twins get off to early lead again, and Gene Garber records a three-inning save for his 11th; 4-3 Twins.

Joaquin Andujar (part of the "Big Three") loses his first game of the season...

Game 3
Twins jump on Tigers with Grand Slam by Kent Hrbek; Hrbek ends the game 4-for-4 with 6 RBI and a walk. Lance Parrish hits 2 HR's (3rd consecutive game with HR)...

Dan Petry loses his first game of the season...

Meaning the Twins did something the rest of the American League has not been able to do, hand the "Big Three" their first loss of the season (Congrats, Twinkies).

Game 4
RBI double by Lance Parrish early on, gives Tigers 2-0 lead, Bill Madlock adds clutch PH two-run in 6th that got Tigers rolling, as they win finally with 7-1 victory.

Game 5
Two-run triple by Lance Parrish gets things started for Tigers, but Sixto Lezcano cuts 4-0 lead in half in 4th inning with his 10th HR of the season. Bill Madlock was everywhere this game, his 3rd hit was a RBI single to give extra insurance with 5-2 lead... while his 4th hit of the game would be a solo HR in the 6th.

Twins start to battle back with runs in the 7th and 8th inning, cutting lead to 8-4; Bases loaded for Gary Ward (who had some big hits against us this series), but Randy Moffit does not allow him to clear the bases.

Tigers win 8-4.

Minnesota Twins wins series, 3-2 (and own season series, 6-4)... winning 6 of their first 8 meetings against Detroit; Lance Parrish is a beast and without looking around the league, I can confidently say if we voted for MVP, he would be the early choice (.325, 13 HR & 41 RBI) through 50 games.

Detroit is now 36-14, while Minnesota climbs a game to an even 25-25; Good series by the Twins, it could have been a bigger series for them, but at least they didn't go backwards.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Amazing April 2016 (Day 1 / 1st Round)

John Lackey's 2004 Angels, plus the 2012 Angels are two big surprises so far.
The Amazing April 2016 Tournament is underway, and we have already had a few surprises in Day 1 of the 1st Round; By the way, some of the rankings may have you scratching your head, #1- #4 are last year's Final Four, and the rest are ranked by MLB winning percentage -- hence, that's why the 2001 Seattle Mariners are ranked #11.

Game #1 R H E
#60 2012 Los Angeles Angels 2 2 0
#5 1909 Chicago Cubs 1 4 1 F
Je.Weaver (1-0) / CG (1)
LP Mo.Brown (0-1)
HR Trout (LAA) - 1
INJ E.Aybar (LAA) - 1 game
Trumbo (LAA) - 1 game
Game #2 R H E
#39 1957 Milwaukee Brewers 4 7 2
#26 1968 Detroit Tigers 3 8 3 F (12)
WP Buhl (1-0)
LP Da.Patterson (0-1)
HR Adcock (MIL) - 1
Crandall (MIL) - 1
N.Cash (DET) - 1
INJ E.Mathews (MIL) - 1 game
Game #3 R H E
#46 1914 Boston Braves 1 5 0
#19 1919 Cincinnati Reds 0 5 0 F
WP D.Rudolph (1-0) / CG (1)
SHO (1)
LP Eller (0-1) / CG (1)
Game #4 R H E
#49 1998 San Diego Padres 2 4 0
#16 1901 Pittsburgh Pirates 3 7 0 F/wo
WP Phillippe (1-0) / CG (1)
LP K.Brown (0-1) / CG (1)
Game #5 R H E
#64 2013 Baltimore Orioles 2 5 0
#1 1979 Pittsburgh Pirates 4 6 0 F
WP Candelaria (1-0)
LP Tillman (0-1)
SV Tekulve (1)
HR A.Jones (BAL) - 1
Bi.Robinson (PIT) - 1
INJ Madlock (PIT) - 2 games
Game #6 R H E
#47 1985 Los Angeles Dodgers 2 8 0
#18 1975 Cincinnati Reds 4 6 0 F
WP Gullet (1-0)
LP Valenzuela (0-1)
SV McEnaney (1)
Game #7 R H E
#56 1982 St. Louis Cardinals 0 3 0
#9 1909 Pittsburgh Pirates 2 4 0 F
WP Camnitz (1-0) / CG (1)
SHO (1)
LP Andujar (0-1) / CG (1)
Game #8 R H E
#52 1984 Chicago Cubs 3 10 1
#13 1948 Cleveland Indians 7 13 0 F
WP Feller (1-0)
LP Sutcliffe (0-1)
HR Keltner (CLE) - 1
INJ Keltner (CLE) - 1 game
Game #9 R H E
#54 2004 Los Angeles Angels 2 6 0
#11 2001 Seattle Mariners 1 5 0 F (12)
WP Lackey (1-0)
LP A.Rhodes (0-1)
SV F.Rodriguez (1)
HR J.Guillen (LAA) - 1
INJ Figgins (LAA) - 1 game
Game #10 R H E
#35 1985 Toronto Blue Jays 0 2 1
#30 2013 St. Louis Cardinals 5 4 1 F
WP Wainwright (1-0) / CG (1)
SHO (1)
LP Stieb (0-1)
HR Holliday (STL) - 1
Game #11 R H E
#37 1962 San Francisco Giants 1 6 1
#28 1909 Detroit Tigers 4 6 0 F
WP Mullin (1-0) / CG (1)
LP Marichal (0-1)

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Time for Prairie Ball

Urbana, Illinois will host the 1st Praireland APBA Baseball Tournament.
My friend Thomas Nelshoppen will be hosting the first ever Prairieland APBA Baseball Tournament in Urbana, Illinois. This year's event landed 16 participants, which is pretty dang good for a first tournament turn-out.

I first formed a friendship with Tom through his blog (The APBA Blog) and APBA Facebook Group, and officially got to meet him in person at the Chicagoland World Series (Winter Edition) in November 2013. There is no better guy to host such a event -- he is to the APBA community as Lou Gehrig was to the New York Yankeees... Seriously? Why is this guy not in the APBA Baseball Hall of Fame already?!

I do want to say that others are playing significant roles in hosting the event as well, as in my friend Thomas Fulton (who were looking for a replacement at press time - due to an unfortunate death in the family).

The division names are based on local heroes of close-by hometowns; The Divisions are as follows, with the following teams...

The 1st Prairieland APBA Baseball Tournament takes place this upcoming Saturday (April 16th)!

Good luck to Tom & all the guys participating, I know a few of the others as well, and they know as well as I do how fun these events can be!

Have fun, boys!

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Twin Thumbs Up for Twin Cities!

Group photo of the APBA gang for TCABT V.
Twin Cities was one again a huge success with their biggest lineup yet, 30 participants to make their biggest tournament yet! It has a remarkable setting, and my goodness I am wicked jealous of Darrell Skogen's Baseball bookshelf (you'll see it in the pics to come) -- They had games being played everywhere, the basement, kitchen & living room! It was a total APBA paradise...

Let's take a look at all the pics...

You can check out more in depth TCABT-V Tournament action via Jim's APBA Barn.

Ron Emch did another wonderful video of the tournament action, he's put together quite a few videos over the years at plenty of these tournaments -- it's good to get these things documented, so thank you so much, Ron!

You can click here to check out the video!

Meeting of the Minds: Jim Fraash and Jeff Boeding tally up the tournament results.
Beau Lofgren, the Bartels and Darrell Skogen.
The amazing bookshelf I mentioned earlier (I also heard about Darrell's card collection).
TCABT Championship Series between Darrell Skogen's 2004 Cardinals & Kevin Cluff's 2011 Rangers.

Kevin Cluff would become the tournament's second-time winner with Leroy Arnoldi; Cluff won the very first tournament with the 1927 New York Yankees over the 1973 Cincinnati Reds. 

The following teams have now been retired from tournament play:

1927 New York Yankees (TCABT I / Kevin Cluff)
1954 New York Giants (TCABT II / Leroy Arnoldi)
1902 Pittsburgh Pirates (TCABT III / Andy Bartel)
1937 New York Yankees (TCABT IV / Leroy Arnoldi)
2011 Texas Rangers (TCABT V / Kevin Cluff)

Kevin Cluff with the TCABT Championship Trophy.

Who will win the TCABT VI? Coming back on October 1st (Saturday) -- We'll have to wait and see...

Friday, April 8, 2016

Boys Keep Swinging (2016 Boys of Summer Season)


The Boys of Summer APBA Baseball League is underway, starting our 4th season! Plenty of excitement for this upcoming year, with an influx of rookies (due to MLB's "Year of the Rookie" - 2015). The rosters have completely took a overhaul with so many transactions, signings & releases this off-season! Every team has a reason to be optimistic and excited for this 2016 BoS Season -- plus two big questions are: 'Can the Portland Microbrewers repeat?'... and 'Are the Chicago Nine, truly the team to beat in 2016?'

We'll find all that out by the end of the season.

The first week was a big one for the Fairgrove Tigers, who opened up a 6-0 series victory over a talented South Side Spartans team -- with Chris Davis batting .368 with 3 home runs & 4 RBI, plus 2 doubles & 4 runs; Their ace Madison Bumgarner also had a good week in his two starts, 16 K's & only 2 earned runs allowed in 16 innings -- including a shutout.

On the National League side, the other undefeated team from Week 1 was the Louisville Sluggers, with the return of manager Larry Waddell, back at the helm; His rotation was excellent against the Seattle Rainiers -- led by Sonny Gray (2-0, 0.52 ERA, 16 K & 4 BB in 17.1 innings)!

There was plenty of shutouts this first week and there was plenty of contenders for this week's pitching awards in both leagues, but in the end it came down to these two...

  • Zack Greinke (Swatara Eliminators/A.L.): W, 15 K's, no earned runs (including a shutout & no-decision) with only 5 hits allowed -- in 15.2 innings.
  • Lance Lynn (Holland Hitchhikers/N.L.): 2-0, 0.53 ERA (1 ER, 8 H & 5 BB's allowed) with 15 strikeouts for Holland -- just edging Louisville's Gray for this week.
There was plenty of offense as well -- but none was as impressive as these two...
  • Bryce Harper (Holland Hitchhikers/N.L.): .435 AVG (10-23), 4 HR, 12 RBI & 1.635 OPS.
  • Chris Davis (Fairgrove Tigers/A.L.): .368 AVG (7-19), 3 HR, 4 RBI & 1.426 OPS.

Most disappointing start may have to go to the #1 Overall Draft Pick (in this year's 2016 BoS Draft) - Kris Bryant (Third Baseman of the Micatin Destroyers) -- in which he went 0-for-21, striking out 10 times!

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Separation at the Top (NXPL' 82 Update)

The American League this last week in the 1982 NXPL Season experienced some separation at the top of the League; Both the Baltimore Orioles and Detroit Tigers swept their opponents to improve to a majors-best 25-10 (The National League's Montreal Expos are also 25-10).

Baltimore faced the California Angels (who were 17-13 & only 3 games back, entering play); The Angels' bats could not get rolling the first two games, suffering 6-1 & 4-1 losses with 4 hits in each contests -- and would be outscored 27-10 by the O's.

Meanwhile the Tigers, rebounded against the Chicago White Sox, after suffering a 3-2 series loss to those Baltimore Orioles; Detroit would not win as convincing as the O's did against the halos -- Detroit would sweep this series on clutch bullpen pitching; Winning each game by a single run!

Detroit would win the series finale in 12 innings, with a clutch walk-off single to right field by Howard Johnson.

The White Sox by the way, entered the series at 16-14; With the series losses for the Angels and White Sox, and with the Orioles & Tigers soaring... some separation has been made.

The division now appears like this...

The Detroit Tigers' success has so far relied mostly on its team pitching (1.84 ERA) -- lead by starting pitchers Mario Soto, Joaquin Andujar & Dan Petry. In fact, they can start being nicknamed the "Big Three" with a combined 18-0 record through 21 contests!

  • Soto: 5-0, 1.45 ERA, 2 CG (1 SHO), 47 K / 10 BB, with a .821 WHIP (56 IP).
  • Andujar: 7-0, 1.03 ERA, 2 CG (2 SHO), 23 K / 11 BB, with a .892 WHIP (52.2 IP).
  • Petry: 6-0, 1.36 ERA, 3 CG (3 SHO), 32 K / 13 BB, with a .925 WHIP (53 IP).
Andujar has been impressive, 7-0 with 1.03 ERA, just over a month into season.

The bullpen has been almost as impressive with a 1.95 ERA...
  • Dave Rozema: 4 Saves, 4 Holds, 1.74 ERA, 7 K & 1 BB (.774 WHIP) in 10.1 IP.
  • Andy Hassler: 1 Save, 5 Holds, 2.38 ERA, 5 K's in 11.1 innings (been a bit lucky, with 8 walks allowed).
  • Dave Tobik: 2 W, 1 SV, 2 Holds; 1.32 ERA, 11 K & 4 BB (.732 WHIP) in 13.2 IP.
  • Sid Monge: 2 Saves, 3 Holds, 3.27 ERA, 5 K (11 hits allowed) in 11 Innings.
Dave Rozema has been excellent, I use my bullpen basically by committee depending on the situation, and I am already finding it hard to be a bit selective with Rozema; I only have him for so many innings due to limited play in 1982 for him. 

Adding another bullpen arm will help, so I may shop around. Jim Slaton, a spot starter/reliever for the Tigers just returned from the disabled list, and will help take the load off some of the guys in the pen -- helping to preserve innings in the other arms, and facing lower pressure situations.

The Lineup has been better of late for the Tigers, with the team batting .242; There are areas in the lineup that still needs work. Jason Thompson, is a prime example -- Thompson hit .284, 31 HR & 101 RBI for the Pirates in 1982, with a .391 on-base percentage & .902 OPS; Thompson for the Tigers? .230 batting average, 5 HR & 11 RBI (.314 OBP & .716 OPS) through 35 games.

The team OPS right now is .685 with a .303 on-base percentage; Alan Trammell and Lou Whitaker, most noticeably been playing below standards -- but they are not as relied on for their bats (at this point of their career) compared to Bill Madlock, Thompson & even an aging Bill Oglivie.

The interesting factor is that our .303 OBP & .242 batting average has us 4th in those areas, in our 8-team American League, while our team ERA leads the pack (1.84) to second-best Baltimore (2.71 ERA). The Minnesota Twins lead the A.L. with a .267 average, while the Orioles and Angels have better producing lineups as well. 

The Tigers' lineup still can improve which is something to be even more exciting about, although I am not sure if our bullpen will be as stellar as the season goes deeper... It will definitely be an interesting thing to watch as the year goes on.

I always believe in run differential, and the two teams that stand apart from the rest, are both the Orioles (+64) and the Tigers (+55) -- The next best team in the A.L. is the Angels (+20); The Twins who have the best hitting & scoring (164 runs/2nd), are at a -20 run differential, due to their suspect pitching. The Tigers in comparison have scored 31 less runs, but have only allowed 78 runs (2.2 runs per game).

Entering the season, I believed we ranked among the best 4 teams in the American League, but now I believe it is definitely a pennant race between the Orioles and Tigers -- it's their league to lose, another team to be in the mix would be more of a surprise (it's possible), but that would have to involve a big trade acquisition; My Tigers plan to add to the mix, and hope we have enough to take Baltimore, I do think they have the edge on us right now.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Baseball is Back!

In the spirit of the great game returning -- Check out this really good "Baseball on Film" via Youtube, of some of the best Baseball moments in the movies; I really love how this was put together, and how it finishes.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

The Hypocritical & Unwritten

Bryce Harper takes a swing at Baseball's unwritten rules.

Dear Mr. Bench & Mr. Gossage...

... Please shut up!

Oh no he didn't?
Oh... yes, I did.

I continue to laugh at the old school continuing to defend their unwritten MLB rules by making comments that just come off as childish. I do respect how these two Hall of Fame players have played the game -- I get it, that's the way the game used to be when they played, it's built into them.

Hence, used to be..

The thing is the game has changed a plenty since their days, and it will only continue to change, the game goes through phases... good and bad. We were introduced to the Designated Hitter, we have witnessed expansion, we have seen inter-league play... The All-Star Game has become more than just some exhibition highlighting MLB's stars, it now affects the post-season... Speaking of post-season, since 1969, we have seen the addition of league championship series, league division series, and we had the addition of wild card teams (starting in 1995) to now go along with a extra wild card team in each league for a "Wild Card Game" -- for all of you that want to go GRRRRR!! on that last part, you can thank the NFL for that one.

We have watched the mound get lower, we have watched the strike zone get smaller, and we watched in horror as the pitcher got punished more & more as MLB's hunger for (even more) offense in the late 90's got bigger & bigger; We watched Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine suddenly not getting that corner strike, while steroid heads like Mark McGwire and Barry Bonds disgraced the game without even thinking twice about it.

The thing is this...

If you love the game, truly love it, you have stuck around through all of this, and you will continue to do so as well, by continuing to love the game. But let's also acknowledge the facts that this game (that we love so much) is one hypocritical son of a beach.

Personally, I believe if it wasn't the fact that Bryce Harper called Baseball out as being "tired", we would not have heard as much hoopla about the whole ordeal -- If it came from Cal Ripken, Jr, we would not hear the end of how brilliant and classy he is... but the comments did not come from Baseball's Golden boy... but it came from MLB's bad boy, Bryce Harper.

I get it, Harper's brash, he carries himself a certain way that is off-putting to the fans that treasure the old-school style -- but maybe people are getting their panties in a bunch, because they truly know what Bryce Harper said is true.

Ty Cobb added plenty of excitement back in the day.
Harper is not the first athlete in the history of the game to ruffle feathers.. Heck, if Ty Cobb was around today, he would probably back Bryce 100% -- Cobb was never one to be quiet. Baseball has had its colorful characters from the good to the bad -- Babe Ruth, Bill Veeck, Bill "Spaceman" Lee, Mark Fidrych, Manny Ramirez, Rube Waddell & Pedro Martinez... just to name a few.

In recent years we have seen more antics from the pitchers, from Fernando Rodney shooting an invisible arrow into the sky, Jonathan Papelbon's WWE wrestler muscle flexes, fist pumps, and over-the-top yelling -- To relievers running like a crazed man to the mound or even ridiculous "not dyed" beards on relievers (cough cough... Brian Wilson).

Yet, batters must completely respect the game by not expressing themselves, whatsoever! Heaven forbid! There was last year's outcry in the post-season when Jose Bautista flipped his bat, but do we ever hear of Carlton Fisk's ball-directing (75' World Series HR) or about the enthusiastic Joe Carter homer off Mitch Williams? No...

Are they the same? Not exactly ... Are they different? No.

Say what? They are the same thing to a degree, from Kirk Gibson's doing his double-jab fist pump around 2nd base in 1988 or his really excited reaction off of Goose Gossage in 1984... Seriously, I thought he was going to slap third base coach Dick Tracewski's hand right off.

Kirk Gibson's reaction off of Goose in 84'.
Maybe that's part of Goose Gossage's beef with Bryce? Maybe Bryce kind of reminds him of that feisty, out-spoken player in 1984 that made him look like a fool.

Now onto Goose Gossage and Johnny Bench, obviously they are a pitcher and catcher, which forms the battery -- obviously they are going to be a bit biased and in support of the pitcher. What gets me, is that these guys, especially Johnny Bench have benefited from the accolades of their careers. Bench was spokesmen for Scott's & Ace Hardware, to Miller's beer... Not only he was a celebrated Baseball celebrity of sorts, he had one hell of a career -- So he is never going to go away, he is forever in Baseball lore and will continue to be for the next millennium or as long as Baseball exists -- it's sealed.

So when players like himself come out and make these statements, it comes off to me as "Hey, don't forget about me, I still have something to say." No offense, Mr. Bench we couldn't forget about you if we even tried. But your day in the sun is over, time to let today's stars shape today's game. Maybe don't attack a player because he's Bryce Harper, but maybe accept that its one of today's stars with something that has been on all of our minds....

Baseball is tired, Baseball needs excitement, and I couldn't agree more with what I heard on the radio the other day, but a talk show host mentioned that with these comments by Bryce Harper (being over-analysed and ridiculed), to now go along with the Adam LaRoche drama with the Chicago White Sox (separate issue) -- Baseball is finally leading the headlines!

Landis: Evidence of Baseball's Two-Face.
Baseball that is not good news, if the most excitement you have had in months is two dramas that have been over-analysed. Yes, you can say that I am sitting here, analyzing it myself -- but I want to point out the hypocracy of baseball. It always has been hypocritical from keeping Negro Leaguers out of Baseball for generations, while turning around and awarding the man Kenesaw Mountain Landis (who kept them out, due to his obvious bigotry), a  place in Cooperstown -- and to think he was a judge for the Supreme Court (disgusting). Landis, of course, was best known for the his role in banning the eight players from the 1919 Chicago White Sox; Those players may have not made their ill-fated decisions if it was not for their money-pinching owner Charles Commiskey (another sorry excuse of a human being) -- he was also rewarded a place in Baseball's Hall of Fame.

Baseball has always contradicted itself from the beginning of time, and we will continue to see that as the game continues. Baseball has always changed its game on an attempt to bring in more fans, if that means allowing juicers to hit juiced-balls over shallow fences or if it means adding more playoff teams in trying to keep up with other professional sports -- they do it in away from avoiding some of the obvious fixes needed to be made.

The game doesn't market itself anywhere as well as the NFL or NBA, and that's sad really... because the MLB definitely has better marketable stars than today's NFL (a league that had a huge image problem & ordeals of its own). The NFL still strikes big with its commercials, from United Way to NFL.Com & Fantasy Football -- they are always marketing & growing, and the commercials are clever, funny. MLB has done better with this of late -- The big improvement has been due mainly to the MLB Network; I believe the MLB Network has done many great things for the game of Baseball, bringing more light, with the draft, prospects, how ownership goes about things, seeing players drop by the studios to give you a feel for that player as a person.

I could go all day on what's wrong with baseball.

The game itself, though, needs to kick it into overdrive -- earlier post-season game start times will pay dividends in bundles. More baseball on the radio, I'm sorry but its sad that I have to tune into my wife's smart phone and make sure I'm on a ESPN satellite radio to listen to a World Series game! Back in the old days, you can turn on radio, and listen to some regular season game at free will -- meanwhile sports radio is polluted with NFL talk (speaking of Try-outs, and camp -- over Baseball), just another troubling side of Baseball, and where we fell out with the masses as America's past time...

We are indeed that... past time.

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