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Sports Then and Now

Remembering Major League Baseball’s Mr. November Derek Jeter 0

Posted on November 01, 2015 by Mike Raffone

MIKE sports comic Mr. November

This athlete tops the charts as one of Major League Baseball’s most admired and respected players ever.

In addition to Derek Jeter’s Captain Clutch nickname, the former New York Yankee also came to be known as Mr. November.

Jeter got the name through unique circumstances surrounding the postponement of the 2001 World Series.

He not only earned his own separate month on the calendar in Major League Baseball lore, but he also will be remembered as one of the greatest players and most trustworthy athletes of his generation.

It’s only fitting that we honor him on this first day of the month of November.

Due to the shocking September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in New York City, the Fall Classic between the New York Yankees and the Arizona Diamondbacks was delayed. Games were pushed back until late October. The Yankees won Game 4 of the series when Derek Jeter hit a walk-off home run in the 10th inning. This extra-inning game took place for the first time during the month of November. The Yankee Stadium scoreboard recognized Jeter’s historic moment and immediately called him Mr. November.

Historically, Jeter excelled in the post-season where he won five World Series championships and batted an impressive .351. The Yankee shortstop also played in a total of 152 post-season games. During that time, he made 679 plate appearances and collected 191 hits. No wonder why Derek Jeter was known for being clutch.

In addition to his remarkable post-season statistics, Jeter served as a terrific role model during his 20 years with the New York Yankees. The Yankee great is expected to be a first ballot Hall of Fame inductee.

This 1996 American League Rookie of the Year and 2000 World Series Most Valuable Player made 14 All-Star appearances. Mr. November’s also collected five Silver Slugger Awards and won five Gold Gloves.

Legendary baseball coach Don Zimmer appropriately called Jeter “the all-time Yankee.” Upon retiring last year, Jeter ranked as the all-time New York Yankees leader in hits, games played, stolen bases and at bats.

Over and above his baseball exploits, Derek Jeter’s leadership and ever present smile made him one of the most successful product spokesmen in sports.

Global brands like Nike, Gillette, Ford, VISA and Gatorade paid Mr. November handsomely to endorse their products – no matter what month of the year.

MIKE on sports!

Stop the Spitting in Major League Baseball 0

Posted on October 19, 2015 by Mike Raffone

Spitting in Baseball

This cheeky comic may make your toes scrunch, but it speaks volumes about a vile habit that remains unchecked in America’s favorite pastime.

It started way back THEN in the 1800’s when baseball first blossomed and chewing tobacco was all the rage. Unfortunately, spitting in baseball has continued til NOW in 2015 as the sport thrives.

So, it’s about time someone like me addresses this scourge in sports by writing about it in today’s Sports Then and Now blog.

Spitting in baseball is a major league problem.

While watching this weekend’s ALCS and NLCS playoff games, I once again found myself disgusted by the disturbing discharges emanating from eminent National and American Major League Baseball players.

These orally induced actions seriously sully my spectating enjoyment and probably yours, too.

My guess is that all of America agrees with me on this issue. Baseball players, coaches and managers spit waaaaay too much. Read the rest of this entry →

The Evolution of Baseball 4

Posted on August 31, 2015 by Ashley Andrews
Though the game of baseball has evolved quite a bit since its early days, there are still many components that are similar.

Though the game of baseball has evolved quite a bit since its early days, there are still many components that are similar.

With the postseason and World Series creeping toward us, many baseball fans get a little nostalgic about the sport. They reflect on the games they watched in the ’70s and ’80s, and they typically lament the direction the game has gone since then.

They aren’t just talking about the attitudes of players or their astronomical incomes. It also applies to the playing of the game itself. Since its inception, baseball has made a remarkable evolution through technology and adaptation. Here are just a few of the ways that it isn’t your grandfather’s game anymore. Whether you like them, hate them, or don’t even understand them, they’re where we are now.

Instant Replay

We might as well get to this one right away, hadn’t we? Baseball has always had a very low-tech nature. Wrigley Field even shunned lights until 1988. Indeed, much of the game’s appeal has always been that even impoverished kids on a rocky vacant lot can cobble together enough basic gear to play.

So it was a bit blasphemous for some fans when Major League Baseball began doing limited video review of certain types of plays. But the fact is, the founders of baseball might have put the technology to use when they first developed the game, if it had been available. As excruciating as it can be to watch an umpire stand there with headphones on for three or four minutes, it’s tough to deny that the mysterious reviewer in New York City is getting most calls right. Win or lose, you can’t argue with that.

Gear In High Gear

With each passing year, the technology behind and within the game becomes more complex. Catcher’s masks are sleek and made of space-age materials. The cleats used today could get you traction on an iceberg.

In perhaps the most dramatic changes, bats have reached an interplanetary level of evolution. The timber swung by DiMaggio and Maris as kids is nothing like youth baseball bats from, and even the equipment they later used in their professional careers pales in comparison. Sure, pitching is tougher today, but knowing about the bats of the past makes it all the more impressive what those players were able to do.

Statistical Overload

This is not exactly an on-field factor, but it certainly has an impact in the game. Numbers are being crunched at a greater rate than popcorn and Cracker Jacks in modern ball parks. It isn’t enough just to know a player’s batting average or ERA. He also has a slugging percentage, on-base percentage, and a detailed statistical profile of his hitting proficiency on odd-numbered days when the moon is waxing and the temperature is a multiple of 14.

The thing is, these numbers aren’t just tossed around like a pre-game warm up ball. They are actually used. They drive fielder positioning, pitch selection, and base-running predictions. 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 →

Will Rob Manfred Make Baseball Better? 2

Posted on January 25, 2015 by Dean Hybl
On his first day as commissioner, Rob Manfred sent a letter to baseball fans outlining his immediate areas of focus.

On his first day as commissioner, Rob Manfred sent a letter to baseball fans outlining his immediate areas of focus.

Today is the beginning of a new era in Major League Baseball. After more than 20 years, Bud Selig has finally relinquished control of “America’s Pastime.” His replacement, Rob Manfred, will have a hard time being as bad for the game as Selig, so hopefully he will be a refreshing change for the sport and help return it to previous glory as one of America’s treasures.

Manfred’s first action was to write a letter to baseball fans telling them of his desire to grow the game among youth and within urban areas.

It is a nice thought, but based just on the language of his letter, I have a feeling he has a different strategy for how to achieve that growth than I do.

As a life-long baseball lover and the father of a nine-year-old son who enjoys baseball, but has many other sports, activities and technology tugging at his time and interest, here are three things that I think would help achieve his goal to strengthen the sport for generations to come.

1.Make Watching and Enjoying Baseball Affordable – I understand that baseball is a business and one of the goals is to make money, but as the middle class continues to struggle in a country where the gap between income levels is continuing to widen, all entertainment options must recognize that continuing to increase prices will ultimately reduce the number of people interested in their product. Last year my family spent a day in Baltimore that culminated with attending an Orioles game. The combined cost for tickets (we sat in the lower deck along the first baseline), parking, food and merchandise was quite hefty. For a one-time thing, it was something we could budget for and afford. However, going to a game would not be something we could afford on a regular basis. When the Orioles were contending in the early 1990s, tickets to games at Camden Yards were tough to find and the Birds often led the league in attendance. Though they have been successful again over the last three seasons, there seems to still be a lot of empty seats even for big games. I can’t help but believe that the fact that it is just really expensive to go to a game is one reason. I know even the new Yankee Stadium is rarely completely full and with tickets for their games higher than anywhere else you can understand why.

If Manfred wants the next generation of fans to continue attending games, then he better make sure that the game experience doesn’t become so expensive that their parents can’t afford to take them to games in person or to buy a hat, jersey and other merchandise without taking out a loan. I know that like the NFL, MLB is looking to continue increasing their revenue, but if going to major league games ever gets to the point that the only people attending are the wealthy and the inner-city poor who receive tickets through charity organizations supported by the team, it will not help grow the overall love for the game. Read the rest of this entry →

How to Improve the Game of Baseball in an Instant 0

Posted on November 25, 2012 by Rick Swanson


Executive VP of Baseball Operations argues that instant replay would slow down the game of baseball.

Joe Torre was recently quoted saying this about instant replay: “The thing is our game is a little unique. There’s not a lot of time stoppage, so to make sure that if we do implement replay … you’re [not] going to slow this game down and you’re going to upset the rhythm of the game.”

The only way for instant replay to work if it is done in an instant.

Baseball has never used a clock in the game but if they use it for instant replay, it would really speed up the game.

If each replay was limited to 30 seconds and if each team only had two challenges per game, the game would only be increased by a minute or two at the most.

No more arguing with the umpire. If the manager has to toss out a red ball across the foul line to signify a challenge he won’t waste time getting all upset with any umpire again.

The way to make this work, is to only give the manager five seconds to decide if he wants to use up a challenge.

After five seconds if the red ball is not tossed across the white lines, then everyone gets to see all the replays.

There is no need to stop showing them in the park, because the manager did not object, so why should fans be upset if the call was bad or not?

The burden now lies with each team, to decide if they want to dispute any call.

If each team has only two challenges a game only two minutes would be added to the game. (If the team wins both challenges they would continue until getting one wrong.)

This only works if the umpires stay on the field, and watch the giant screen with all in the park at the same time.

After 30 seconds all four umpires would give their decision one at a time. If the verdict is tied two and two, then the one who made the original call gets to decide.

The technology is available on every big screen in every park in MLB.

Why can’t everyone look at the same play again?

Why is baseball afraid to show replays on big screens in every park?

Fans would be able to watch along on the big screen while umpires decided the fate of their call.

All every fan wants to see every call be correct. Nobody wants to see a perfect game erased, because of a bad call by an umpire.

Baseball and instant replay were meant for each other, but as stated earlier the key word is instant.

Next we need to show every pitch to everyone in the park, to make the umpires follow the rules of the sport.

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    • Bob Gibson: Big Game Hurler
      October 4, 2015 | 10:33 am
      Bob Gibson

      Bob Gibson

      With the baseball playoffs upon us, the Sports Then and Now Vintage Athlete of the Month is a two-time World Series MVP who hurled eight complete games in the Fall Classic and still holds the record for strikeouts in a World Series game.

      Throughout his 17 year career with the St. Louis Cardinals, opponents knew they were in for a battle every time they faced Bob Gibson.  

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