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Sports Then and Now



Remembering the Great Frank Robinson 0

Posted on February 07, 2019 by Dean Hybl

Frank Robinson-OriolesThe baseball universe is missing a major star today with the passing of all-time great Frank Robinson. Anytime you use the words “only” and “first” in someone’s biography, you know that they were probably quite special.

That is certainly the case for Robinson during his playing days as well as throughout his career as a manager and administrator.

There are many superlatives to share about what Robinson accomplished on the field, but one thing that makes him stand out is that he remains the only player in Major League Baseball history to earn the Most Valuable Player Award in both the American and the National Leagues.

Starting his career with the Cincinnati Reds in 1956, Robinson blasted 38 home runs and was named the National League Rookie of the Year. He quickly joined Hank Aaron, Willie Mays and Roberto Clemente as one of the elite outfielders in the National League.

In his first seven major league seasons, Robinson eclipsed 30 home runs six times and the other season hit 29. He was a regular .300 or better hitter and annually ranked near the top of the league in runs batted in.

He reached new heights during the 1961 campaign when he was named the National League MVP while leading the Reds to the National League Pennant and a spot in the World Series. He hit 37 home runs with 124 RBI and a .323 batting average. Read the rest of this entry →

Fortunes Turn Quickly For Mid-Market Major League Baseball Teams 0

Posted on September 02, 2018 by Dean Hybl
Orioles-Royals-2018

Just four years ago the Baltimore Orioles and Kansas City Royals played in the AL Championship Series. This year they may not COMBINE for 100 wins.

The Major League Baseball matchup this weekend between the Kansas City Royals and Baltimore Orioles illustrates exactly how quickly the fortunes can change for mid-market teams in the modern era of baseball.

It was just four years ago that the two teams combined for 185 regular season wins and met in the American League Championship Series.

This season, the two teams entered September with a combined total of 83 victories and a staggering 186 losses.

Baseball executives like to brag about having competitive balance where no matter what size the market a team can compete for a title.

However, the reality is that for teams outside of the big-budget Yankees, Dodgers and Red Sox, competitive balance means they have a small window for success before they have to drop back down to the bottom and try to crawl their way back to competitiveness.

The Houston Astros are a prime example of that reality. In 2014 while the Orioles and Royals were playing for the AL title, the Astros were celebrating that they won more than 56 games for the first time in four years. After going 162-324 between 2011-2013, the Astros “improved” to 70-92 in 2014 and then in 2015 went 86-76 and reached the playoffs.

The way things are looking, both the Orioles (40-95) and Royals (43-91) will be hard pressed to finish the 2018 season with a better record than the 51-111 mark the Astros posted in 2013.

In the 24 seasons since the baseball strike of 1994, the New York Yankees have posted a winning record every year. The Dodgers have been above .500 21 times and the Red Sox 20.

Conversely, of the other 27 teams, the St. Louis Cardinals are the only other team with 20 or more winning seasons during the last 24 years. In fact, the Cardinals are the only one of those 27 teams that hasn’t endured a stretch of at least three consecutive losing seasons.

All told, 16 teams have endured stretches of at least six consecutive losing seasons since 1995. The Pirates (18 straight), Orioles (14 straight) Tigers (11 straight), Brewers (10 straight) and Rays (10 straight) had double-digit periods of losing records since 1995. The Marlins, Reds and Royals each had nine consecutive losing years. Both the Orioles and Pirates did not have a winning season in the first decade of the new century and the Royals had a losing record in 17 of 18 seasons between 1995 and 2012. Read the rest of this entry →

Waiting for the Weekend: MLB Is Trying to Force the Orioles Out Of Baltimore 0

Posted on July 15, 2017 by Dean Hybl
There are a lot more empty seats for a Saturday afternoon Orioles game than there used to be.

There are a lot more empty seats for a Saturday afternoon Orioles game than there used to be.

I used to think that the New York Yankees were the greatest enemy of my favorite team the Baltimore Orioles. However, it is now becoming abundantly clear that the greatest threats to the future of the Orioles is not a division rival, but instead the evil duo of the Washington Nationals and Major League Baseball.

While it may take another decade or two to come to fruition, it now seems abundantly clear that the goal of the Nationals and Major League Baseball is to force the Orioles out of the city they have called home since 1954 (during which time three different franchises have called Washington home).

Considering that for 50 years the Orioles were one of the model franchises of the league, the fall from grace is quite surprising and disappointing.

It all started when Major League Baseball seized ownership of the Montreal Expos and in 2005 moved the team to Washington, DC.

At that time, Baltimore owner Peter Angelos fought the effort to move the team fearing that it would negatively impact the Orioles television revenue and fan base since Northern Virginia and Washington had long been an important part of the fan base for the Orioles, but while he could not stop the move, he did get some short-term financial concessions.

The Orioles received majority ownership of the MASN (Mid-Atlantic Sports Network) network and were given the rights to broadcast Nationals games at a discount from 2005 through 2011. While this was a short-term win for the Orioles, it seemed to have created resentment from both the Nationals and MLB.

When the initial broadcast compensation agreement ended in 2012, the Orioles were looking to secure future rights at a rate of $34 million per year, but the Nationals and MLB wanted closer to $100 million. Eventually, an arbitration panel made up of executives from other franchises said the value was as much as $66 million. The Orioles appealed the ruling saying the rate should be decided by a group not selected by MLB. The case was in the courts for several years before the ruling came back this week saying that MLB had the right to select the arbitrators.

So, in the five years that this issue has been festering, it appears that MLB and the Nationals have decided that they don’t just want more money from the Orioles TV network, they eventually want the Orioles out of the market. Read the rest of this entry →

Paul Blair: Defensive Whiz 2

Posted on May 30, 2017 by Dean Hybl

Blair-OriolesMore than 40 years before current stalwart Adam Jones first patrolled centerfield for the Baltimore Orioles, the Sports Then and Now Vintage Athlete of the Month roamed the field with grace while also providing the Orioles with timely hitting for more than a decade.

On a team that built its strength through pitching and defense, Paul Blair fit perfectly. He is one of seven members of the Orioles from that era who won at least three Gold Gloves and is tied with Mark Belanger for the second most in team history. Read the rest of this entry →

20 Years Ago: Cal Ripken Jr. Passes the Iron Horse 2

Posted on September 05, 2015 by Dean Hybl
It has been 20 years since Cal Ripken Jr. became baseball's career iron man.

It has been 20 years since Cal Ripken Jr. became baseball’s career iron man.

It is hard to believe that 20 years have passed since Cal Ripken Jr. put Major League Baseball on his back and helped it get past one of the darkest periods in its illustrious history.

On September 5, 1995 Ripken matched the seemingly unbreakable record of Lou Gehrig by playing in his 2,130th consecutive game. After the game became official and the streak numbers on the B&O Warehouse turned to 2,130, he punctuated the night with a sixth inning home run.

The drama was even better the following night as Ripken hit a home run in the fourth inning. Then, with Baltimore leading 3-1 midway through the fifth inning the game was halted for the dramatic unveiling of the number 2,131.

Following the unveiling, the full house at Camden Yards remained on their feet and millions of fans around the world watched as Ripken took several curtain calls and then circled the stadium in a victory lap that became a healing moment for a sport still reeling from the cancellation less than a year earlier of the World Series.

The ovation and lap lasted 22 minutes and was part of the most watched baseball game since the seventh game of the 1986 World Series.

While coming to work every day may not seem as glamorous as a record based more on performance, there was something about the ironman streak that resonated with baseball fans (and still does).

Certainly, part of that is because of the history and heritage from Lou Gehrig, the Iron Horse. The New York Yankees first baseman played in 2,130 consecutive games between 1925 and 1939 with the streak ending only because Gehrig was diagnosed with an incurable disease that ultimately would become known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. Read the rest of this entry →

Umpire Big Egos are a Bad Thing for Baseball 0

Posted on April 18, 2015 by Dean Hybl
Jordan Baker added himself to the list of awful ego-driven umpires by ejecting Ubaldo Jimenez during the Orioles-Red Sox game on April 17, 2015

Jordan Baker added himself to the list of awful ego-driven umpires by ejecting Ubaldo Jimenez during the Orioles-Red Sox game on April 17, 2015

Umpires who think they are bigger than the game has been a thorn in the side of baseball for generations. With Bud Selig, who seemed unwilling or incapable of addressing the problem, now out of the way, it is time for his replacement, Rob Manfred, to address this critical issue.

The problem was amplified last night when umpire Jordan Baker, who first umpired in the majors in 2012, made a ridiculous call that has the potential to impact one of the teams involved for days.

It is one thing when umpires make the wrong call on a close play and hold their ground. While you would hope they would be most concerned about getting plays right, part of being good at your job is feeling you are correct. Fortunately, the addition of replay as an opportunity to correct umpire mistakes has helped this phase of the game.

However, the bigger problem, and the one that Baker exemplified last night is when an umpire makes a horrible judgement call that cannot be altered by replay.

With the Baltimore Orioles clinging to a 1-0 lead with two outs and no one on base in the fourth inning, pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez was working on a no-hitter when Boston Red Sox third baseman Pablo Sandoval came to the plate. Considering that Jimenez was horrible in 2014 and fortunate to even make the starting rotation this season, you can guarantee that his focus was to continue the scoreless streak he has had to start the season and to keep getting players out.

So when his first pitch to Sandoval, who as a left-handed hitter with a large figure is known for setting up close to the plate, sailed in and hit Sandoval below the shoulder with a slider, you can bet that he disappointed to have added a base runner, but ready to move on to the next batter, Mike Napoli.

Watching the game live, there seemed to be nothing out of the normal until suddenly Baker came out from behind home plate and immediately threw Jimenez out of the game. There had been no warning or any previous close pitches by either team.

According to crew chief Jerry Meals, who of course is going to defend his fellow umpire, Baker felt that Jimenez was retaliating for a hard slide Sandoval had made into second base earlier in the game.

First, even if the hit-by-pitch was done in retaliation, that is part of the game and has been for generations. However, there is no evidence that the errant pitch was related to any previous action. It was just a bad pitch. Read the rest of this entry →

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  • Vintage Athlete of the Month

    • Earl Morrall: The Perfect Backup
      November 16, 2019 | 10:46 am
      Earl Morrall

      In a career that started in 1956 and ended in 1976, the Sports Then and Now Vintage Athlete of the Month was never really a leading man, but he seemed to be part of the supporting cast for many huge moments in NFL history.

      The second overall pick in the 1956 NFL Draft out of Michigan State, Earl Morrall joined a San Francisco 49ers team that already included the famous “Million Dollar Backfield” of Y.A. Tittle, Hugh McElhenny, Joe Perry and John Henry Johnson.

      Morrall started four games during his rookie season, but just before the start of the 1957 season was traded along with guard Mike Sandusky to the Pittsburgh Steelers in exchange for linebacker Marv Matuszak and two first-round draft picks.

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