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Sports Then and Now



Play Ball! But for How Long? 1

Posted on July 24, 2020 by Dean Hybl

Ready or not, the “shotgun wedding” 2020 Major League Baseball season is underway with all 30 teams starting a 60-game sprint to the playoffs.

When spring training was halted in mid-March, few could have predicted that it would be late-July before the first games would be played. But the combination of the continuing (and growing) health impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and an inability for the players and owners to agree on a financial plan that benefited both sides has led to a season that is not ideal for either side.

The 2020 Major League Baseball season will be quite different with fan cut outs in the stands instead of real fans.

In many ways, the real winners of a return to live baseball are the fans, as there are only so many vintage games and baseball movies you can watch before longing for new content. Even though fans will not be able to attend games in person, in this time of social distancing watching games on television seems like no big deal.

Live baseball will also be a happy return for sports gamblers as there have been few Sports Picks for them to wager around over the last few months.

However, given all the questions about the virus and community health that are still unknown, no one really knows what to expect or how long games will be played.

Already, several high-profile players have decided to opt-out of the season. Former Cy Young Award winners Felix Hernandez and David Price along with veteran position players Buster Posey, Ryan Zimmerman, Ian Desmond and Nick Markakis are biggest names among more than a dozen players who have already indicated they will not play.

Read the rest of this entry →

Vintage Video: There Will Never Be Another Vin Scully 1

Posted on September 25, 2016 by Dean Hybl

Vin Scully has been an icon since announcing his first major league game in 1950.

Vin Scully has been an icon since announcing his first major league game in 1950.

After more than six decades, legendary Brooklyn and Los Angeles Dodgers announcer Vin Scully is saying goodbye to the broadcast booth. To say that we will never see another Vin Scully may be quite an understatement.

Since he debuted as the third announcer along with Red Barber and Connie Desmond for the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1950, Scully has been baseball’s great storyteller.

Listening to a Vin Scully broadcast is not just an afternoon enjoying live baseball. It is an afternoon remembering both legendary and relatively obscure players from baseball’s past while also likely having American culture and history woven into the conversation.

Scully is not just a walking baseball encyclopedia, he is a walking American history book.

Having grown up in the Washington Heights section of Manhattan, Scully spent two years in the U.S. Navy before attending Fordham University. During his college career, Scully played on the baseball team while writing for the school newspaper and broadcasting football and basketball games on the radio.

Following his graduation, Scully was a fill-in announcer for CBS Radio station WTOP in Washington, DC. It was during this time that Red Barber, the Sports Director for the CBS Radio Network, recruited him to broadcast college football games.

After joining the Dodgers broadcast team in 1950, Scully continued to learn his craft from the legendary Barber. In 1953, Barber got into a salary dispute with World Series broadcast sponsor Gillette, propelling the 25-year-old Scully into the broadcast booth for his first World Series. He still holds the record as the youngest broadcaster to announce a World Series game.

He eventually became the lead announcer for the Dodgers and stayed with the team when they moved to Los Angeles following the 1957 season.

Though he is originally a New Yorker, it was in California where Scully truly became a broadcasting legend. Announcing Dodger games during the era of Sandy Koufax, Don Drysdale and Maury Wills, Scully became a fan favorite as many would bring transistor radios to the stadium just to hear Scully call the action. 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 →

25 Years Ago: Gibson Takes Eck Deep to Propel Dodgers to Improbable Title 1

Posted on October 15, 2013 by Dean Hybl

Kirk Gibson completely changed the 1988 World Series with one swing.

Kirk Gibson completely changed the 1988 World Series with one swing.

It was 25 years ago today that Kirk Gibson limped out of the Los Angeles Dodgers dugout and into baseball immortality. In his only at bat of the series, Gibson blasted a home run off future Hall of Famer Dennis Eckersley that not only lifted his team to victory in the first game of the 1988 World Series, but set the stage for a surprising series victory for the underdog Dodgers.

Though Gibson’s home run did not end a World Series the way blasts by Bill Mazeroski and Joe Carter did, his homer arguably was just as important in deciding a series as any other home run in history.

The 1988 Oakland A’s were believed to be virtually unbeatable. Assembled with a combination of home grown players and experienced veterans and managed by Tony LaRussa, the A’s won 104 games in the regular season and then swept the Boston Red Sox in the American League Championship Series.

Oakland scored 800 runs during the season and were led by Jose Canseco, who hit 42 home runs, drove home 124 runs, stole 40 bases and hit .307 to earn American League MVP honors. They also had an outstanding pitching staff including 21 game winner Dave Stewart and lights-out reliever Dennis Eckersley, who led the league with 45 saves in his first full season as a closer.

To the contrary, many believed that manager Tommy Lasorda had been using smoke and mirrors to coax his Dodgers team through the regular season and into the World Series. Sure they won 94 games in the regular season, but as a team hit just.248 and Gibson was actually the team leader with a .290 batting average and 25 home runs while finishing second on the squad with 76 RBI (Mike Marshall led the team with 82).

The Dodgers were in the 1988 World Series because they had one of the best pitching staffs in baseball. Even with perennial ace Fernando Valenzuela enduring the worst season to that point in his career, the team still had an ERA under three runs per game.

The main reason for that was Orel Hershiser, who was on his way to winning the Cy Young Award with a 23-8 record and 2.26 ERA. Read the rest of this entry →

Should Yasiel Puig be an All-Star? 1

Posted on July 04, 2013 by Dean Hybl

Yasiel Puig has posted numbers in one month that are comparable to what some All-Stars have done all season.

Yasiel Puig has posted numbers in one month that are comparable to what some All-Stars have done all season.

There seems to be a “old school vs. new school” battle brewing as to whether Los Angeles Dodgers phenom Yasiel Puig should be named to the National League All-Star team after just one month of stellar play at the major league level.

The old school argument is predictable and perhaps even a bit tired. Even though Puig has breathed life into the previously dead Dodgers and looked like an All-Star almost every night he has been on the field, he should not be selected to the All-Star game because he hasn’t proven himself even for half a season and therefore would be taking a spot away from someone else who has made their mark over the entire first half of the season.

The new school folks point to his amazing talent, .440 batting average with eight home runs and the 17-11 record of the Dodgers since his arrival as justification that the 2013 All-Star Game would not be complete without him being part of the National League squad.

Generally, I tend to fall on the “old school” side of most baseball arguments. I think the Triple Crown is far more significant than WAR and that pitchers should still be judged as much on their win-loss records and ERAs than on their WHIP.

However, when it comes to whether a player with 28 games of major league experience should be in the All-Star Game, I am not quite as regimented in my thinking.

Now, it was only three years ago when there was a similar ground swell around Washington Nationals pitching sensation Stephen Strasburg. Read the rest of this entry →

Fernando Valenzuela: Remembering Fernandomania 5

Posted on April 09, 2011 by Dean Hybl

Fernando Valenzuela

It was 30 years ago that the April Sports Then and Now Vintage Athlete of the Month became a national phenomenon as he captured the hearts and spirits of baseball fans across North America.

The rise of Fernando Valenzuela was exactly what the baseball world needed at a time when labor unrest started to lift its ugly head. Read the rest of this entry →

  • Vintage Athlete of the Month

    • Randy White: The Manster
      September 4, 2020 | 5:14 pm

      In recognition of the start of football season, we have selected a two-time All-American from the University of Maryland who went on to earn a spot in both the College and Pro Football Hall of Fames as our Sports Then and Now Vintage Athlete of the Month.

      Randy White actually came to the University of Maryland as a fullback, but as a sophomore new head coach Jerry Claiborne recognized that he had the skills to be a great defensive lineman and quickly moved him to defense.

      Read more »

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