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Amazing Season Surprises Coming Out of Major League Baseball 2

Posted on September 14, 2015 by Brooke Chaplan
The surprising Houston Astros have been doing a lot of celebrating so far in 2015.

The surprising Houston Astros have been doing a lot of celebrating so far in 2015.

This season has been an exciting and topsy turvy one for Major League Baseball. Teams with historically mediocre records are dominating the teams with historically good winning records. Players that no one ever cared about, let alone heard of, are now standouts. Take a look as we outline the top surprises of this year’s MLB season.

The Astros
If you had asked sports fans a year ago who they thought would be winning the AL West, probably zero would have said the Houston Astros. Before this season, the Astros last winning season was in 2008. Between 2008 and 2014, they had four seasons with more than 90 losses. Ouch. Now they are Major League Baseball’s Cinderella team. The Astros are sitting on top of the AL West, with the Rangers just nipping at their heels.

Pitcher Ryan Madsen
Everyone loves a comeback story, and it doesn’t get much better than Ryan Madsen’s comeback. The right-hander missed most of the last four seasons due to injury. After diligently recovering, his ERA at the All-Star break was 1.51. He averaged one strike per inning he pitched. He’s helping to lead the Kansas City Royals, who have a healthy lead in the AL Central Division this season.

Bruce Bochy
Dave Stewart, general manager of the Arizona Diamondbacks, said the biggest obstacle to defeating the San Francisco Giants is their manager, Bruce Bochy. Actually, he jokingly recommended that his players kidnap Bochy before they played the Giants. Why? Because the first foreign-born manager to win the World Series has done so three times. He also passed the 1,500 win mark two seasons ago.

Despite these remarkable milestones, Bochy’s career started with humble beginnings, as a rarely used backup catcher. This season, ESPN polled MLB players, scouts, coaches, and general managers to find out who they thought was the best GM in the league. Bochy won by a landslide. Read the rest of this entry →

Rod Carew: Hitting Machine 21

Posted on July 05, 2014 by Dean Hybl
Rod Carew

Rod Carew

With the Major League All-Star Game being played this year in Minnesota, we recognize as the July Sports Then and Now Vintage Athlete of the Month one of the best hitters of the last half a century who was named to 18 straight All-Star teams, including in each of his 12 seasons with the Twins.

Few have been as good at the craft of hitting a baseball as Rod Carew. During 19 major league seasons, Carew won seven batting titles and hit .330 or better ten times. Read the rest of this entry →

Jim Thome Joins Elite Home Run Club 7

Posted on August 16, 2011 by Dean Hybl

Jim Thome is the fifth player to reach 600 home runs in the last decade and eighth all-time.

In baseball the number of career home runs needed to reach baseball immortality used to be 500. Thanks to baseball’s “Steroid Era” and the sudden rise of sluggers eclipsing that mark, that magic number now appears to be 600 career homers. That club just got a little larger on Monday night as Jim Thome became the eighth player in baseball history to reach 600 career home runs.

Since becoming a full-time starter for the Cleveland Indians in 1994, Jim Thome has been one of the most prolific and consistent sluggers in baseball while leaving the headlines and accolades to others.

He eclipsed the 40 home run plateau six times and hit 52 in 2002, but never finished higher than fourth in the MVP balloting and earned only five trips to the All-Star game.

Because his greatest talent was hitting home runs during a time when that skill was no longer unique, Thome has often been pushed aside as a product of his time.

However, unlike many of the other sluggers of his era, even though his career started right about the time that performance enhancing drugs began to engulf baseball, there has never been any evidence or accusations linking Thome’s home run proficiency to use of a synthetic product.

Yet, it has taken him nearing the 600 home run plateau for many baseball fans to even acknowledge that Thome belongs in the Baseball Hall of Fame. Read the rest of this entry →

Can the Twins beat the Yankees in New York, Finally? 5

Posted on May 15, 2010 by JA Allen

New York, New York. Twins face the Yankees in stern 3-game test.

Remember last October when the Yankees swept the Twins in the American League Playoffs? This was after the Twins had clawed their way back to win the Central Division crown while the league-leading Tigers swooned. Impossible to forget.

Remember the final moments of Twins baseball inside the Metrodome? With its artificial landscape contained by a shabby, baseball-colored roof that held and intensified noise to exhausting, bone-jarring levels—the Dome rocked and rolled. On that final Sunday there were 54,735 fans packed inside, all screaming for a win until the last pitch.

Remember being down 4-1 in the bottom of the the ninth as Twins third baseman Brendan Harris stood in the batters box with Michael Cuddyer safe on second base? Within that deafening roar as the count stood 2-0, Harris swung hard, hitting a ground ball to the shortstop who threw him out at first.

Read the rest of this entry →

Waiting For The Weekend: Michael Crabtree Finally Makes a Good Decision 0

Posted on October 09, 2009 by Dean Hybl
Michael Crabtree will finally start spending time on the field with his teammates instead of in meetings with his agents.

Michael Crabtree will finally start spending time on the field with his teammates instead of in meetings with his agents.

Boy there sure is a lot going on in the sports world this week. Yet, when I look at what to write about I’m almost paralyzed by the choices. Sort of like looking at the dessert aisle at an all-you-can-eat buffet; so much to choose from you just don’t know where to start.

Michael, Thank You For Joining Us
I don’t know about you, but I’m so glad that Michael Crabtree finally came to his senses and took the multi-millions of dollars the San Francisco 49ers have been offering him for months.

I have read several defenses of him saying that Michael is a good guy and was just trying to make sure he got what he deserved. Hey, he very well be the nicest guy since Harry Truman, but in this case he was just trying to be greedy.

Read the rest of this entry →

Twins Playoff Diaries: Minnesota Magic in October 0

Posted on October 08, 2009 by JA Allen
The Twins celebrate following their dramatic 12-inning win over the Tigers.

The Twins celebrate following their dramatic 12-inning win over the Tigers.

Baseball is simple and timeless – there is a man, a ball, a bat and unending athleticism.  American baseball strategy has not changed that much in the past 100 years.  Pinpoint execution and smart play are the keys.  Always has been – always will be.

So at the end of a long season in 2009 the Minnesota Twins faced the Detroit Tigers for all the marbles in a one game tiebreaker to determine the American League Central Division champion for the privilege of playing the Yankees in the ALDS.  You had to expect one helluva game.

No disappointment there.  It was a classic.  Like alternating hotrods driving to the edge of a cliff, stopping on a dime as one wheel hung over the edge – playing chicken in the dome with the playoffs waiting just out of reach over the chasm.

At the end of each Detroit at-bat the Twins pulled themselves back from the precipice to begin another run at the win.  Exhilarating stuff in the claustrophobic dome with the hankies flying and fans swooning in anxiety.

The coaches dueled on the sidelines with bunts and bullets, pinch hitters and runners and bullpen substitutions without reservation because unless they won this one, there would be no tomorrow.

Read the rest of this entry →

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  • Vintage Athlete of the Month

    • Billy Kilmer: Hard-Nosed Quarterback
      September 2, 2018 | 7:32 pm
      Kilmer

      Billy Kilmer

      The Sports Then and Now Vintage Athlete of the Month began his NFL career as an athletic running quarterback, but he endured a near fatal car accident to completely change his game during a career that spanned nearly two decades.

      Anyone who is familiar with former NFL quarterback Billy Kilmer probably remembers him as the portly, un-athletic, but very tough quarterback for the Washington Redskins in the 1970s. However, during his first two NFL seasons, Kilmer was primarily used as a running quarterback and running back for the San Francisco 49ers.

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