Open to all BP staff, One-Hoppers is the grab bag of anything baseball-related that anyone's seen or thought about. It can be something from an individual game, a splash of snark, breaking news or a reaction to same, tidbits of research, and more.
A look back at the reign of the the longtime Yankees owner, who passed away on Tuesday morning.
A titan has fallen, and an era has ended. Just two days after venerated Yankee Stadium public address announcer Bob Sheppard's death, and nine days after celebrating his own 80th birthday, principal Yankees owner George Steinbrenner passed away Tuesday morning due to a heart attack. He had been in failing health for several years, rumored to be suffering from Alzheimer's Disease, and had ceded control of the team to sons Hank and Hal as his handlers increasingly protected him from the glare of the spotlight.
Some major-league clubs better not look back because the U.S. Futures Game team might be gaining on them.
I don’t remember much about my baseball card-collecting days, but my overtaxed neurons still cling to a few isolated remnants. The way I divided the cards according to All-Star status, believing that an appearance in the Midsummer Classic conferred some indefinable air of greatness upon the likes of John Hudek, or signified that Scott Cooper was bound for Cooperstown. The times I toted around huge binders on family trips, bringing offerings of cardboard to an oracular cousin in Virginia (who, in retrospect, may well have been a false prophet) to be deemed worthy or unworthy of prominent display. And one particularly memorable series of cards, affixed with the tagline “The Future is Now,” composed of 15 players age 25 or under who represented the promise of innumerable productive seasons to come. Those cards rest not 10 feet from me as I write this—no, my mom never threw them out—but it would take me hours of flipping, sorting, and page turning to track them down. Fortunately, through the kindness of the strangers populating the internet, I don’t have to. After a Boolean search or two, I’ve located my quarry.
As it turns out, that group of 15 contained several Hall-worthy names, but it also included a number of players whose best work was already behind them (Steve Avery, Carlos Baerga, Rod Beck, Jason Bere, Aaron Sele) by the time the cards were placed into packs. That a third of Upper Deck’s picks failed (to varying degrees) to pan out, despite the fact that all of them had reached their mid-20s as established major leaguers before being featured, drives home the difficulty of forecasting performance. With that, I’ll conclude my detour into the domain of Josh Wilker—and to think, if I hadn’t wasted my youth in card collection, I could’ve spent my time on Rec.sport.baseball, working toward becoming the youngest founding member of BP.
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A look at the expansion teams and why they have or haven't won it all.
By popular request, the last set of capsules covering teams with the longest wait since their last World Series win. In the previous installment, we reached all the way back to the Cubs. For this final entry in a series that I feel like I undertook back when I was about 13, the expansion teams that have never won:
The Yankees aim for a repeat, Jerry Manuel stays optimistic, plus other news from around the majors.
TAMPA, Fla.—With spring training nearly reaching the one-month point, Curtis Granderson has had time to be fully indoctrinated into the ways of being a member of the Yankees. Yet the center fielder continues to be amazed with his new surroundings. Granderson came to the Yankees fully understanding the ways of being a major-leaguer. He made his debut with the Tigers in 2004 and spent six seasons with them, including the American League pennant-winning club in 2006, before being traded to the Yankees at the winter meetings last December.
The Twins play in a small market but they have consistently beaten the large-market White Sox and Twins.
Since its inception in 1994, the American League Central has been the Junior Circuit's weak sister. Its teams have posted cumulative records above .500 only four times, topping the league only once (1996) and trailing it nine times, including six of the last eight. While the division has produced its share of memorable races for the postseason-including Game 163 tiebreakers in each of the past two years-it has rarely played host to two strong teams at the same time. Or even one. In non-strike years, the AL Central champions have averaged just 92.9 wins, compared to 95.7 for the West winners and 98.4 for the East winners, and they've produced just one wild-card winner, compared to three for the West and 11 for the East.
There's no denying it, this is the division where the big boys come to play.
It's no secret that the American League East has been the game's strongest division in recent years. They've produced the highest winning percentage and Hit List Factor by far over the past three years, as well as the last three AL pennant winners, two of the last three World Series champions, and the strongest fourth-place team of the wild-card era. With the two highest average payrolls, those of the Yankees and Red Sox, and a reliance on more free-agent muscle than any other division, this is baseball's high-rent district, though not every team is trying to spend with the big boys. As part of my ongoing series on the game's competitive ecology (introduced via a division-based overview, and continued with a look at the NL East), today we delve further into some numbers that illustrate that diversity.
Selig's idea of having the MLB champions facing the NPB champs has many intriguing features.
After vehemently opposing international competition, Commissioner Bud Selig seems primed to send the champions of Major League Baseball to Japan to face the champions of Nippon Professional Baseball, reviving the tradition started in the early 20th century.
The most famous American team to tour Japan arrived in Tokyo in November of 1934, loaded with talent beyond belief. Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Jimmie Foxx, and Moe Berg(whose motives for joining the team may have been more political than athletic) led a team of All-Stars across the world as a way to further the growth of baseball. These barnstorming tours were far from new, however, as A.G. Spalding led a world tour as early as 1888 to bring baseball to the world beyond the Atlantic, and the New York Giants and Chicago Cubs trekked far and wide playing each other after the 1913 season in the so-called "Tour to End All Tours" to further that same mission.
The managerial decision tree for picking Game Four starters has had a number of offshoots, but how often did they lead to victory?
The present World Series has been notable for the way that both managers, facing rotations that are just a bit shorter than either would like, have struggled with the question of whether to bring back their Game One starters on short rest for Game Four. The managers tested their staffs and came to opposite conclusions: Charlie Manuel, fearful of pushing Cliff Lee too hard despite his terrific start in Game One and seeing that Joe Blanton had pitched relatively well this (and disregarding a poor track record against the Yankees), chose to wait until Game Five for Lee's encore. Joe Girardi, despairing of losing a World Series game with the wild and rarely utilized Chad Gaudin, decided to pitch big CC Sabathia on short rest, a move that paid off in the last round of the playoffs.
Are any particular teams deriving an outsized home-field advantage?
Last week, we began our look into home-field advantage by looking at what home teams actually do better than road teams. It has been well documented throughout baseball history that the home team wins about 54 percent of ballgames, and last week we determined that the home team was better at pretty much everything. They struck out less, walked more, hit more home runs, got more hits on balls in play, made fewer errors, converted more double-play opportunities, stretched more extra-base hits into triples, hit more line drives, and they recorded more complete-game shutouts. The home team was able to take an advantage in nearly every aspect of the game. This week, we will carry that discussion of what home-field advantage helps into who it actually helps the most.
Having once been involved in the selection process for the Futures Game, I can tell you first-hand that it's not a simple process. Just like the All-Star Game, there are limitations imposed to ensure that each team is represented, and the US vs. World set-up creates additional challenges certain positions. Still, when the game kicks off (ESPN2 on Sunday at 2 pm ET), there will be plenty of top prospects in action, and for so many fans, it also represents the first time to get an actual look at players you've been reading about, at times for years, so here are some things to look out for.
Taking the teams out of the equation to answer who the best talents are in this year's draft.
To be clear, this is not a prediction of how the players will be selected, nor is it any kind of mock draft. Instead, this is a pure ranking of talent based on a combination of ultimate ceiling and the probability of reaching it after numerous conversations with scouts, cross-checkers, scouting directors, and front office officials.
A cautionary tale for fans of the early over-achievers who think that their teams may go 159-3.
At this time of year, early hot streaks push unexpected teams up in the standings, like the Marlins, the Blue Jays, and, momentarily, the Orioles. The question then becomes whether or not the good start is legitimate. Should we get excited? Since the Rays advanced from their seemingly permanent spot in the basement to the World Series last year, everyone is on the lookout for the next club to take the Great Leap Forward; if you're going to jump on a bandwagon, it looks better if you get on early. The truth, however, is that teams like the 2008 Rays, the ugly ducklings that become swans, don't come along early, and many a solid early-season record turns out to be little more than a tease.