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Sports Then and Now



Al Kaline: From Kid Star to Hall of Famer 5

Posted on May 31, 2015 by Dean Hybl
Al Kaline

Al Kaline

The Sports Then and Now Vintage Athlete of the Month was only 20 years old in 1955 when he collected a league-leading 200 hits and won the American League batting title with a .340 batting title.

Much like the young stars of today, Al Kaline took the baseball world by storm in the 1950s when he made his major league debut at 18 and just two years later finished second in the MVP voting. In making his first All-Star team in 1955, Kaline not only won the only batting title of his career, but he also hit 27 home runs, scored 121 runs and drove home 102 runs. Read the rest of this entry →

Baseball Playoffs Have Feel of the 1980s 12

Posted on September 28, 2014 by Dean Hybl
With their first playoff appearance in 29 years, the Kansas City Royals are partying like it is 1985.

With their first playoff appearance in 29 years, the Kansas City Royals are partying like it is 1985.

If you followed baseball in the late 1970s and early 1980s and then haven’t paid attention for the last 30 years, the teams appearing in the 2014 baseball post season probably don’t seem that strange to you.

Included amongst the squads that will be battling for the World Series Trophy are the World Series Champions from 1979 (Pittsburgh Pirates), 1981 & 1988 (Los Angeles Dodgers), 1982 (St. Louis Cardinals), 1983 (Baltimore Orioles), 1984 (Detroit Tigers), 1985 (Kansas City Royals) and 1989 (Oakland A’s).

Of course, what those of us who have been following baseball for the last 30 years know, is that of these teams only the Cardinals have won another World Series since the 1980s (2006 and 2011) with the 2006 victory coming over the Tigers, who also appeared in the World Series in 2012.

With the exception of the Dodgers, who have made the playoffs seven times since winning the 1988 World Series, and the A’s, who have made eight playoff appearances since losing the 1990 World Series, the other teams in that group have seen some pretty lean times since the 1980s.

No team has waited longer to get back to the post season than the Kansas City Royals.

After making the playoffs seven times and finishing no worse than second during a 10-year stretch from 1976-1985 that culminated with their World Series Championship, the Royals went into a nearly three decade tailspin.

After winning the World Series, the Royals were still generally competitive for the next decade as they had a winning record six times and finished second in their division three times between 1986 and 1995.

However, their second place finish in 1995 came despite a losing record and from that season through 2012 the Royals had only one winning season and five times had a season winning percentage below .400. Despite going from a seven team division to a five team division with realignment in 1995, Kansas City finished as high as third place only three times in 17 seasons. 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 →

Miguel Cabrera Posts A Season For The Ages, But Is It MVP Worthy? 2

Posted on October 04, 2012 by Dean Hybl

Miguel Cabrera is the first player in 45 years to win baseball’s Triple Crown.

With his impressive late season surge, Miguel Cabrera has become the first major league player since Carl Yastrzemski in 1967 to win the Triple Crown as the league leader in home runs, batting average and RBI. However, it is also likely that Cabrera will join another former Red Sox star on an even more amazing list.

All-time great Ted Williams won the Triple Crown twice, but interestingly, he finished second in the AL MVP Award voting in both of those seasons. In 1942, Williams finished 21 votes behind Joe Gordon of the New York Yankees. In 1947 the Splendid Splinter lost the MVP to Joltin’ Joe DiMaggio by a single vote.

Others who won the Triple Crown without being named MVP of their league include Lou Gehrig in 1934 and Chuck Klein in 1933.

Despite his amazing statistical year and hot final month that helped push the Detroit Tigers into the playoffs, many expect Cabrera to finish second in the MVP voting to Los Angeles Angels rookie outfielder Mike Trout.

In both of the seasons when Williams finished second, his team did not make the playoffs. The 1942 Red Sox finished second, nine games behind Gordon and the Yankees. In 1947, the Red Sox placed third in the American League, 14 games behind DiMaggio and the Yankees.

Though the 2012 Tigers actually finished with two fewer wins than Trout and the Angels, because of the current division format, Cabrera will be advancing into the playoffs while Trout starts his offseason.

Given the amazing statistics of Cabrera, .330 batting average, 44 home runs and 139 RBI, you would think there would be little discussion about the MVP Award. Especially when compared to the numbers of Trout in those same categories (.326 average, 30 home runs and 83 RBI). However, because Trout served as a leadoff hitter, he out-performed Cabrera in several non-power categories that helped illustrate the rookies all-around value including runs scored (129 to 109), on base percentage (.399 to .393) and stolen bases (49 to 4). Read the rest of this entry →

Big Bad AL East Isn’t So Tough After All 18

Posted on October 07, 2011 by Dean Hybl

Former Tiger Curtis Granderson will watch his former team play in the AL Championship Series.

Well, so much for the American League East being heads and shoulder above the rest of the American League in talent and baseball stature. Following the Detroit Tigers 3-2 victory in game five of the ALDS to eliminate the New York Yankees, we are now ensured that a team from one of the “lesser” divisions in the AL will represent the league in the World Series for the second straight year and fourth time in the last seven seasons.

There is no question that the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox are still head and shoulders above the rest of the league in terms of spending, but they both are proving that in today’s baseball world money doesn’t buy you quite as much as it used to.

Don’t get me wrong, money has definitely helped them both become consistent contenders. The Yankees haven’t had a losing season since 1992 and have made the playoffs in all but one season since 1995 while the Red Sox last had a losing season in 1997 and have won two World Series and made the playoffs eight times since.

However, while spending lavishly on salaries to attract the top free agents and available veterans has helped both teams maintain a stranglehold on at least one playoff spot each season, it no longer seems to be enough to ensure they dominate the World Series. Read the rest of this entry →

Remembering Sparky Anderson: Manager of the Big Red Machine 7

Posted on November 05, 2010 by Dean Hybl

Sparky ANderson (center) guided the famous Cincinnati "Big Red Machine" to four pennants and two World Series titles in nine seasons.

News this week of the illness and then death of Hall of Fame manager George “Sparky” Anderson has elicited many fond memories of the feisty manager who enjoyed unparalleled success during 26 seasons managing the Cincinnati Reds and Detroit Tigers.

When Anderson was introduced as the new manager of the Cincinnati Reds prior to the 1970 season many asked “Sparky Who?” and wondered why management would turn the reins of one of baseball’s up and coming teams to an unknown 36-year-old who had spent one season playing in the majors for the Philadelphia Phillies (hit .218 in 152 games in 1959) and never managed above AA.

As it turns out, Cincinnati General Manager Bob Howsman, who had hired Anderson for minor league managerial stints with the St. Louis Cardinals and Cincinnati Reds, had the manager he needed to turn the Reds into baseball’s team of the 1970s.

It didn’t take long for Anderson to prove that he was indeed the right man for the job. During his first season at the helm, the Reds won 102 games and reached the World Series for the first time since 1961.

Though they lost the Series to the Baltimore Orioles, with emerging superstars like Johnny Bench, Pete Rose, Tony Perez and Dave Concepcion, the “Big Red Machine” had been born. Read the rest of this entry →

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  • Vintage Athlete of the Month

    • Sudden Sam McDowell
      July 4, 2017 | 8:48 pm
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      Sudden Sam McDowell

      The Sports Then and Now Vintage Athlete of the Month was a hard-throwing lefthander who often led Major League Baseball in both strikeouts and walks. His off-the-field story also made him the prototype for a famed television character.

      Sudden Sam McDowell made his Major League debut for the Cleveland Indians a week before his 19th birthday and pitched in the majors for 15 seasons.

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