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Sports Then and Now



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 →

Bo Jackson: The Best Dual Sports Athlete Ever 3

Posted on January 04, 2016 by Mike Raffone

MIKE Comic 132 Bo JacksonNow, he’s the most entertaining star of television’s Heisman House football commercials.

But, back then, this fabulous football and baseball player was all the rage. Many sports fans regard him as the greatest dual sport athlete ever.

A 1985 Heisman Trophy winner, Bo Jackson not only dominated on the football field for the Auburn University Tigers. He also excelled at two other sports – baseball and track.

Voted #8 on ESPN’s list of the top 25 NCAA football players ever, Jackson dazzled as a fast and powerful running back while at Auburn. The 6’1” and 230 lb. Jackson rushed for an amazing 6.6 yards per carry. He amassed a staggering 4,575 career yards and scored 45 total touchdowns (43 rushing and 2 receiving).

This Heisman Trophy winner became the number one overall pick in the 1986 NFL Draft by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

However, because the Bucs inappropriately contacted Jackson outside of NCAA rules and regulations, the running back became ineligible for baseball during his senior season in 1986. As a result, Jackson chose not to sign with Tampa Bay and agreed to play professional baseball with the Kansas City Royals organization instead.

While at Auburn, Bo Jackson starred in two other sports. The football star qualified for the United States Summer Olympic Trials twice in the 100 yard dash. Jackson’s incredible speed became extremely evident during the spring of 1985 when he recorded the fastest 40-yard dash time ever at 4.12 seconds at the NFL Combine.

In addition to track, the former Auburn Tiger excelled on the baseball diamond. In 1985 he batted .401 with 17 home runs and 43 runs batted in while starring defensively in the outfield as well.

After graduating from Auburn, Jackson played eight years in Major League Baseball with the Kansas City Royals, the Chicago White Sox and the California Angels. He also left his mark in the NFL while playing four seasons with the Oakland Raiders.

This phenomenal athlete is still the only athlete ever to be voted an all-star in two different professional sports – Major League Baseball and National Football League – and NOT be voted into either sport’s Hall of Fame.

Sadly, Bo Jackson’s brief but memorable dual-sport career ended prematurely.

Without his hip injury, he undoubtedly could have been a Hall of Famer in two professional sports…..

…..a fact, thanks to the 2012 ESPN Films 30 for 30 “You Don’t Know Bo” documentary, that every sports fan now knows. And not just Bo!

MIKE – on sports!

 

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 →

30 Years Ago: George Brett Erupts During “Pine Tar Game” (VIDEO) 6

Posted on July 24, 2013 by Dean Hybl
After having his home run reversed, George Brett had to be physically restrained from umpire Tim McClelland.

After having his home run reversed, George Brett had to be physically restrained from umpire Tim McClelland.


It is hard to believe that it was 30 years ago, July 24, 1983, when New York Yankees manager Billy Martin set off “Volcano Brett” after Kansas City Royals star George Brett launched what appeared to be a two-run home run in the top of the ninth inning of the final game of a four-game series between the two teams at Yankee Stadium.

The scene of a totally unhinged Brett erupting out of the dugout and having to be restrained from home plate umpire Tim McClelland by the other umpires and his teammates is a familiar one that has been replayed extensively over the last three decades.

However, the entire incident is an amazingly interesting time capsule for baseball from an era before steroids, corked bats and other unlawful tricks to get an edge completely changed the game of baseball.

In re-watching the video, it is almost comical to think anyone would take Martin’s argument seriously and legitimately consider that having a little pine tar more than 18 inches up the handle of the bat would play any role in Brett’s home run off Goose Gossage.

However, after Martin spent time pointing out the indiscretion to McClelland and the other umpires, they actually measured the bat against the plate and then McClelland famously signaled that Brett was out, thus launching one of the most famous tirades in baseball history.

Of course while the Yankees technically “won” the game on that afternoon with Brett being the third out, the victory was overruled by American League President Lee MacPhail. He ordered the game to continue following the Brett home run with the Royals now leading 5-4.
Read the rest of this entry →

25 Years Ago: The Kansas City Royals Rule Baseball 4

Posted on October 27, 2010 by Dean Hybl

In 1985 the Kansas City Royals took advantage of some amazing fortune to win the World Series title.

While it is just about impossible in today’s baseball landscape to imagine the Kansas City Royals being among the dominant teams in the game, that was indeed the case in the 1970s and 1980s when the Royals were perennial contenders. Their run of glory culminated 25 years ago when they claimed their one and only World Series title.

After entering the American League as an expansion franchise in 1969 (two years after the Kansas City Athletics left for Oakland), it took only three seasons for the Royals to post a winning campaign and in 1976 earned the first of three straight division titles under the guidance of future Hall of Fame manager Whitey Herzog.

Unfortunately, each season ended with an American League Championship loss to the New York Yankees.

After faltering slightly in 1979 and replacing Herzog with Jim Frey, the Royals won their fourth division title and again faced the Yankees in the post season in 1980.

This time, the Royals swept the Yankees and earned their first World Series appearance in only their 12th season. By comparison, it took the Texas Rangers (who entered the league as the expansion Washington Senators in 1961) 36 years to make a playoff appearance and 50 years to reach the World Series.

Though Kansas City lost to the Philadelphia Phillies in the World Series, the core nucleus of players, including George Brett, Frank White and Willie Wilson was young enough that additional series appearances seemed likely.

However, the Royals in the early 1980s struggled slightly. After earning a playoff spot in the strike-shortened 1981 season despite having an overall losing record, the Royals didn’t again reach the playoffs until 1984 when they won the AL West with a pedestrian record of 84-78.

To no surprise, the Royals were swept in the playoffs by the Detroit Tigers.

By 1985 many recognized that the Royals, now under the guidance of manager Dick Howser, were reaching the end of their championship window. Read the rest of this entry →

Kansas City’s Kauffman Stadium Chosen to Host 2012 All Star Game 3

Posted on June 16, 2010 by Don Spieles

Kauffman Stadium

Wednesday evening in a live event at Kansas City’s Kauffman Memorial Stadium, home of the Royal’s, MLB Commissioner Bud Selig announced that the 2012 All-Star game would be played there.

Standing at a podium located at home plate, Selig awarded Kansas City it’s third All-Star game since the Mid-Summer’s Classic was introduced in 1933. That inaugural game, played at Comiskey Park in Chicago, began one of the most beloved traditions in all of sports.

Back in 2006, Selig had told KC that, should a tax referendum for stadium renovations get passed, an All-Star Game would land at Kauffman Stadium between 2010 and 2014. Many expected KC to have to wait until a bit later, as 2012 marks the 100 year anniversary of Boston’s Fenway Park. Fenway would have been an obvious choice, but Selig is anything but predictable. 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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