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Sports Then and Now



Costly Baseball Thumb Injuries, Then And Now 0

Posted on November 22, 2017 by Joe Fleming
The Los Angeles Angels could not overcome the thumb injury suffered by star Mike Trout during the 2017 season.

The Los Angeles Angels could not overcome the thumb injury suffered by star Mike Trout during the 2017 season.

Considering that the wounds are relatively minor, a blistered or sprained thumb has caused considerable consternation in baseball over the years. In the 2017 season, a sprained thumb might have cost two teams each a playoff berth, and of course, there’s also that famous thumb injury in 1986 which arguably extended the Curse of the Bambino another twenty years.

Medically, a sprained thumb affects the tissue in either the interphalangeal joint (thumb knuckle) or metacarpophalangeal joint (thumb base). In addition to physical activity, arthritis often causes either a hyperextension (when the thumb moves backward) or hyperflexion (repetitive motion). A few simple exercises, and perhaps a thumb brace and a little ice, usually cure the problem. But alas, these measures were insufficient to change the course of history for these three teams:

2017 Los Angeles Angels

The World Series Champion Houston Astros eventually ran away with the American League West title in 2017, but in May, preseason favorite Los Angeles appeared to be in the driver’s seat. Then, in a May 28 loss that brought the team’s record under .500 for one of the first times that season, MVP candidate Mike Trout sprained his thumb. Read the rest of this entry →

Joe Cronin: Player-Manager 1

Posted on October 01, 2017 by Dean Hybl
Joe Cronin

Joe Cronin

In recognition of the start of the baseball playoffs, we recognize as the Sports Then and Now Vintage Athlete of the Month a man who managed pennant winning teams in Washington and Boston and spent more than decade as a player-manager.

When the Boston Red Sox acquired Joe Cronin following the 1934 season they didn’t just get an All-Star player, they also got a new manager. Read the rest of this entry →

Time to Put Luis Tiant in the Baseball Hall of Fame 2

Posted on July 26, 2015 by Dean Hybl
Luis Tiant won 229 games during his Major League career.

Luis Tiant won 229 games during his Major League career.

With the induction this weekend of John Smoltz, Pedro Martinez and Randy Johnson to the Baseball Hall of Fame the committee has again sent a mixed message about what constitutes a Hall of Fame pitcher.

Johnson completed his career with 303 wins to rank 22nd all-time, but neither Martinez or Smoltz rank in the top 75 in career pitching victories. With 219 career wins, Martinez is tied for 76th in baseball history. Smoltz completed his career with 213 wins to rank tied for 89th.

Of course, the argument for both Martinez and Smoltz is that at their best, they were elite pitchers and worthy of Hall of Fame recognition.

While that argument can certainly be justified for Martinez, the numbers don’t quite work out that way for Smoltz.

Using the six seasons in which they won the most games as a benchmark, Martinez averaged a 19-6 record with a 2.28 ERA and 270 strikeouts. The average numbers for Smoltz were a 17-9 record with a 3.14 ERA and 221 strikeouts. Just as comparison, Johnson’s six top seasons averaged 20-7 with a 2.72 ERA and 330 strikeouts.

The numbers for Martinez and Johnson are comparable to many Hall of Famers, but the peak year stats for Smoltz appear rather pedestrian and are not especially better than those of several pitchers with comparable career numbers, but no Hall of Fame plaque.

One pitcher who has received increased support for the Hall of Fame in recent years, but has yet to earn his spot in Cooperstown is former Boston Red Sox great Luis Tiant.

During his 19 year major league career, Tiant posted a 229-172 record (.571 winning percentage) with a 3.30 ERA and 2416 strikeouts. His win total is greater than that of 23 Hall of Famers, including not only Martinez and Smoltz, but also Jim Bunning, Catfish Hunter, Don Drysdale, Bob Lemon and Sandy Koufax. 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 →

2014 Major League Baseball Preview: Is Money the Answer? 10

Posted on March 30, 2014 by Dean Hybl
Despite hitting 86 home runs the last two seasons, Chris Davis is still one of the most underrated players in baseball.

Despite hitting 86 home runs the last two seasons, Chris Davis is still one of the most underrated players in baseball.

Several major league baseball teams spent the winter spending money like a drunken sailor in hopes of moving to the top of the league. Yet, as we prepare for the 2014 season the teams expected by many to contend are a combination of big money and middle payroll teams.

For now, the Los Angeles Dodgers have surpassed the New York Yankees as the team with baseball’s highest payroll. However, that doesn’t mean the team in the Bronx is suddenly being frugal. The suspension of Alex Rodriguez hacked a large salary off their payroll, but the Yankees made up for that by signing Japanese pitching star Masahiro Tanaka and high money free agents Jacoby Ellsbury, Carlos Beltran and Brian McCann.

While several teams in recent years have been able to make the playoffs without high payrolls, once the playoffs begin the higher payrolls have generally had an advantage. That was quite obvious last season in the two playoff series that went to a decisive game. The higher payroll Cardinals and Tigers each started a seasoned veteran in the fifth game of their division round playoff series (Adam Wainwright and Justin Verlander, respectively). Their opponents, the Pirates and A’s, each started a rookie who wasn’t even in the major leagues when the 2013 season started.

Having a high payroll is no guarantee that a team will make the playoffs, but big off-season spending has certainly put several teams in a position to contend.

Below are a few thoughts heading into the 2014 season:

Baseball’s Most Underrated Player
In the last two seasons Baltimore Orioles slugger Chris Davis has hit 86 home runs, driven in 223 runs and scored 178 runs, yet ESPN’s recent player rankings didn’t have him listed among the top 25 players in the game. The Sybermetrics disciples have become so enamored with WAR and other made-up stats that they have forgotten that driving in and scoring runs is the name of the game. As a team, the Orioles have been generally dismissed despite having two consecutive solid seasons, but they have a very potent offensive and if David has another strong season the O’s could again be in contention throughout the season.
Read the rest of this entry →

Boston Red Sox Finish Improbable Season With World Series Title 1

Posted on October 31, 2013 by Dean Hybl

 

The Boston Red Sox slid past the St. Louis Cardinals to win Game Six and the 2013 World Series.

The Boston Red Sox slid past the St. Louis Cardinals to win Game Six and the 2013 World Series.

After a 2012 season filled with internal bickering, a trade that removed three of the best players from the roster and a record that was the third worst in the American League, who could have predicted that just 12 months later the Boston Red Sox would be the 2013 World Series Champions?

Yet, despite basically starting from scratch with a roster that included a dozen new faces, there were the Red Sox defeating the St. Louis Cardinals 6-1 in game six to claim their third World Series title in a decade and first being clinched at Fenway Park since 1918.

The final game was perhaps the least dramatic of a World Series that had two “first ever” endings.

Game three, a 5-4 Cardinals victory, was the first World Series game ever ended on a fielder obstruction play. Then the next night, the Red Sox tied the series at two games each when Koji Uehara picked off Kolten Wong with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning to preserve a 4-2 victory.

As was the case throughout the season, the key for the Red Sox against the Cardinals was timely hitting, strong starting pitching and a lights out bullpen. Read the rest of this entry →

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  • Vintage Athlete of the Month

    • Paul Warfield: The Perfect Receiver
      December 10, 2018 | 3:36 pm

      Warfield-DolphinsThe Sports Then and Now Vintage Athlete of the Month was perfection personified as a wide receiver during his NFL career.

      Known for his fluid movement, grace and jumping ability during his 13 year NFL career, Paul Warfield was an eight-time Pro Bowl selection and key performer for the Miami Dolphins during their 17-0 campaign in 1972.

      Because the role of the wide receiver has changed so much and today’s star receivers get the ball thrown to them so many more times than in the pre-1978 era, Warfield is often overlooked when discussing all-time greats.

      But, think about this. Warfield averaged 20.1 yards per catch for his career (427 receptions, 8,565 yards) and 19.9% of his receptions went for touchdowns (85). By comparison, Julio Jones has averaged 15.5 yards per catch for his career and a touchdown in 6.9% of his receptions (46 TDs in 669 catches). Antonio Brown averages 13.4 ypc and a TD in 8.7% (70 of 804) of his receptions. Terrell Owens averaged 14.8 ypc and a TD in 14.2% of his receptions. Even Jerry Rice, considered the greatest receiver of all-time, averaged only 14.8 ypc and a TD in 12.7% of his catches.

      Read more »

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