Thursday, April 28, 2011

1984 American League Batting Race

In my last post I mentioned how the 1976 AL Batting Race came down to two different sets of teammates whose teams played each other during the last series of the season. In my opinion it was arguably the most exciting batting race that I knew of. Well folks, I believe that the American League Batting race of 1984 comes in at a close second. Why? It involves my hometown team and two of my favorite players of all time: Dave Winfield and Don Mattingly. 

The 1984 New York Yankees team was in flux. Veterans Craig Nettles and Rich "Goose" Gossage from the Yankees glory years of the late 1970's had moved on to San Diego. New manager and Yankee legend Yogi Berra had the unenviable task of replacing another Yankee legend in the form of Billy Martin. The team was a mixture of veterans and young players and coming off of a strong 1983 season with a record of 91-71, the sky was the limit. Now, at the start of the 1984 season, no one expected the Detroit Tigers to start the season with a 35-5 record. In an era without Wild Card teams, this left the rest of the pack in the dust to play out how the rest of the American League East would end up. Though the Yankees would finish in third place with a respectable 87-75 record, the bright spot for the team was the battle for the AL batting title between veteran outfielder Dave Winfield and up and coming first baseman Don Mattingly.

Winfield was in the middle of (the then record) 10-year $23-million dollar contract signed during the 1980-1981 offseason after having played his first eight seasons with the San Diego Padres. Mattingly had been a mid-season call up in 1982 and played in 91 games in 1983. The 1984 season would be his first full season in the majors and gave us Yankee fans a glimpse of what Donnie baseball would bring to the team. 

Winfield would start the season battling a hamstring injury and a horrible slump to eventually reaching the .370 plateau in the month of July. At around the same time Mattingly seemed to make the most of his opportunity and was cruising along near the .350 mark. By September, both teammates traded the batting lead among themselves during the weeks leading up to the end of the season.

By the time September 30th rolled around, the race was still tight with Winfield at .341 and Mattingly trailing at .339. On the last game of the regular season against the Detroit Tigers, Mattingly went 4-5 with two doubles, three runs scored and one RBI to finish the season at .343 while Winfield went 1-5 with two runs scored and ended at .340 crowning Don Mattingly  as the American League batting champion. 

I remember reading the papers at the time and feeling as if there was some kind of division in terms of who to root for. I understand that people have their favorite players on a team but it seemed that the majority of fans pulled behind Mattingly over Winfield. I'm not saying that Winfield wasn't a fan favorite in his 10 seasons with the Yankees. Far from it. God knows he was loved for in the very least just putting up with the Boss all those years. Mind you, this wasn't the grandfatherly Steinbrenner that people grew to love. No, this was the nasty Steinbrenner who due to his issues with Winfield would get himself suspended for his association with Howard Spira in trying get information to use against Winfield.

Maybe the fans just leaned in favor of the young player over the veteran. I should know, I had a "Hitman" framed poster on my wall of a clean shaven Don Mattingly dressed in a white pinstriped suit with a black shirt and holding a black baseball bat in a style reminiscent of how 1930's gangster would hold his Tommy-gun with his guitar case full of baseballs. Then again, I traveled on numerous trains and buses to get to Kings Plaza Mall (from Astoria) just so I can meet Dave Winfield in person and get his autobiography signed for me and my neighbor Anne who was a lifelong Yankees fan (May she always rest in peace). By the way, I still have the poster and the book. 

In the end, here are the final statistics for both players: 

Mattingly: .344 with 23 HRs and 110 RBI. In 603 at-bats, Mattingly had 207 hits (44 2B/2 3B/23 HR) with 91 runs scored, 41 walks and 33 strikeouts. His OPS was .918 (.381 OBP%/.537 SLG%)

Winfield: .340 with 19 HRs and 100 RBI. In 567 at-bats, Winfield had 193 hits (34 2B/4 3B/19 HR) with 106 runs scored, 53 walks and 71 strikeouts. His OPS was .908 (.393 OBP%/.515 SLG%)

On a side note, allow me a small look into how much things have changed in Baseball from then to now. In the September 10, 1984 issue of Sports Illustrated, an article by Steve Wulf named And May the Best Man Win, Mattingly attributes his power surge to working on his mechanics with hitting coach Lou Piniella. Now fast forward 25 years to Jose Bautista of the Toronto Blue Jays who attributes his newly found success and power surge at the plate to hitting coach Duane Murphy. The difference? Where people took Mattingly's statements at face value in the 1980's, some people today continue to doubt Batista's accomplishments due to the effect of the Steroid Era on Baseball.

In the end, Yankee fans were witnesses to one of the most exciting and close batting races in history.


For Further Reading:
- Click Here to access Dave Winfield's career statistics from Baseball
- Click Here to access Don Mattingly's career statistics from Baseball
- Click Here to access Steve Wulf's article And May the Best Man Win from Sports Illustrated dated September 10, 1984 from the SI Vault website
- Click Here to access Ira Berkow's article It's Two For the Crown from the New York Times dated August 20, 1984.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Lyman Bostock Jr 1950-1978

Having been born in the early 1970's and buying and trading baseball cards during the late 1970's and 1980's, I am fairly familiar with most players who played during those eras. Every once in a while there are a few that pop up on the radar and I say to myself "Who is that". One particular player keeps popping up and before I can research him, something else comes along and I forget him. I was researching George Brett for a future post and once again this player's name is featured prominently. I'm not going to let him slip away again. This gentleman has a very short but productive career that was tragically ended during the 1978 season in the city of Gary, Indiana. This player's name was Lyman Bostock.

Bostock was the son of former Negro Leaguer Lyman Bostock Sr., and was born in Birmingham, Alabama on 11-22-1950. After living in Gary, Indiana for a few years, his mother moved the family to Los Angeles, California where there were ample job opportunities and for Lyman's teen years the climate was ideal for playing Baseball. 

After graduating High School, Bostock attended San Fernando Valley State College (now known as the California State University, Northridge (CSUN)) and was drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals in the 1970 amateur draft. Bostock decided to stay in school instead of signing with St. Louis. He was drafted by the Minnesota Twins in the 1972 amateur draft and played in the Twins' minor league system until he made his major league debut on April 8, 1975.

Bostock spent three seasons with the Minnesota and was known for his defensive prowess in the outfield having made 15 errors. Bostock was also known for being aggressive on the basepaths having hit a total of 26 triples and stealing 30 bases in 46 attempts over that span. 

Bostock was also a part of arguably the most exciting batting race that I know of. On the last day of the 1976 season, four players were vying for the American League batting title: Bostock, teammate Rod Carew, George Brett and his teammate on the Kansas City Royals Hal McRae. Both teams played each other and Brett eventually won the batting title with a .333 batting average (McRae .332, Carew .331, Bostock finished fourth at .323). Bostock was again in the thick of the AL batting race the next year finishing with a .323 batting average coming in second to teammate Rod Carew who had an astounding .388 batting average. From 1975-1978, Bostockhit .318 with 18 HR and 175 RBI. In 1436 at-bats, Bostock had 456 Hits (78 2B/26 3B/18 HR) with 112 walks, 128 strikeouts and 30 stolen bases (in 46 attempts). Bostock's OPS was .812 (.366 OBP%/.446 SLG%). His performance while with the Twins made him a highly sought after free-agent after the 1977 season.

Bostock signed with the then California Angels for five-years $2.5 million dollars which compared to current salaries is paltry but during the 1977 offseason that was a very lucrative deal. Bostock only played the majority of one season with the Angels before being shot and killed while with relatives in Gary, IN on September 23, 1978. His final statistics with the Angels at the time of his death was .296 with 5 HRs and 71 RBI. In 568 at-bats, Bostock had 168 Hits (24 2B/4 3B/5 HR) with 59 walks and only 36 strikeouts and 15 stolen bases (in 27 attempts). His OPS was .741 (.362 OBP%/.379 SLG%).

Not only was the effect of his death felt in Baseball but also in his community since Bostock was very charitable. For example, upon signing his free-agent deal with the Angels, Bostock donated $10,000 to the church of his youth in Birmingham, AL and when he felt he wasn't earning his salary at the beginning of the 1978 season, he decided to donate it to charity. At the time of his death he was 27-years old.


For Further Reading
- Click Here to access Lyman Bostock Jr's career statistics from Baseball
- Click Here to access Jeff Pearlman's article Fifth and Jackson from for an in-depth biography on Lyman Bostock.
- Click Here to access Among Twins, Bostock's death most senseless from the Cool of the Evening webpage for an interesting article on Lyman Bostock Jr.
- Click Here to access the Tim Connaughton biography of Lyman Bostock Jr from the The Baseball Biography Project from

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Stan Musial Best of the 1950's?

My buddy Jake approached me the other day and asked me a question based on something that he has heard. Where he read this is unsure, but the gist of the article was that due to an East Coast bias in Baseball during the decade of the 1950's, players like Ted Williams and Mickey Mantle received most of the accolades while players like Stan Musial were often overlooked. I decided to look into Musial's numbers and I was astonished at what I saw. Before I go into Musial, I want to touch on the subject of Baseball's geography in the 1950's.

I would agree that there is some validity to the statement of the existence of an East Coast bias during the 1950's. Granted, players like Williams, Mantle and Mays deserved all the accolades and press they received but keep in mind, the Baseball landscape was different from what we see today. Consider in 1950 there were only 16 teams. Boston, Chicago, Philadelphia, and St. Louis each had two teams. New York City had three. Cincinnati, Cleveland, Detroit, Pittsburgh and Washington D.C., each had one. The Reds were the main southern town and St. Louis was considered at the edge of the western frontier. The concentration of teams along the Northeastern part of the country was a representation of where the majority of the population resided. It was until 1952 that an extra team was added to the "West" with Milwaukee's addition of the Braves (who moved from Boston). The numbers equalized to Pre-1952 numbers in terms of East and West with the St. Louis Browns' move to Baltimore becoming the Orioles. True East-West representation came in the form of the Brooklyn Dodgers and the New York Giants playing for their respective new cities Los Angeles and San Francisco in 1958. Other expansions and movements South and West came in subsequent years as the nation's population expanded into older cities and grew into new areas. It would stand to reason that with the concentration of the teams in one particular area and the media presence surrounding those teams it would lend credence to an East coast bias (for the record, TV broadcasting in terms of times of sporting events is still based on the Eastern part of the country). Now that I have given some background on Baseball's movement West, let me shed some light on Stan Musial of the St. Louis Cardinals.  

Stan "The Man" Musial was born on November 21, 1920 in Donora, PA. He was signed by the St. Louis Cardinals in 1937 and after playing on various minor league teams Musial made his major league debut on September 17, 1941. In a twenty-two year career (Musial missed the 1945 season to military service) Musial cemented his status of one of the best to ever play the game. This left-handed power hitter was a career .331 hitter leading the league in hitting seven times (1943, 1946, 1948, 1950-1952, 1957) with the highest being .376 in 1946. Musial also led the league in hits six seasons (1943-1944, 1946, 1948-1949, 1952), doubles eight times (1943-1944, 1946, 1948-1949, 1952-1954) with 53 being the highest in 1953. Musial was also an aggressive runner on the bases having led the league in triples five times (1943, 1946, 1948-1949, 1951) with 20 being the highest in 1943 and 1946. Though Musial never led the league in homers, he has a total of 475 career homers with his largest season total being 39 in 1948. 

Musial led the league in OPS seven times (1943-1944, 1946, 1948, 1950, 1952, 1957) with his career OPS at .976. Musial's best OPS occurring in 1948 with 1.152 (.450 OBP%/.702 SLG%). Musial also led the league in OPB six times (1943-1944, 1948-1949, 1953, 1957) and in SLG six times (1943-1944, 1946, 1948, 1950, 1952).

Not surprising, Musial won three National League MVP awards (1943, 1946, 1948) and a twenty-four time All-Star (1943-1944, 1946-1960). The Major Leagues had two All-Star games per season from 1959-1962 in which Musial played in both each year).

Defensively, Musial split his career between the outfield (13 seasons in LF and RF with a fielding percentage of .983 with 16 errors in total) and first-base (14 seasons with .992 Fielding percentage with 78 errors)

So based on that basic breakdown concerning Musial's statistics, did he get his just credit as one of the best players of the 1950's. I believe that Musial benefited in the 1940's of playing in a league that was weaker due to many of it's better players entering World War II. His best seasons were during the mid to late 1940's and he maintained consistent statistics through the early to mid 50's. Though his numbers didn't start to tail off after the 1958 season, the league itself grew stronger with the integration of the Negro League players starting with Jackie Robinson in 1947. The National League was even stronger than the American League since they were much more aggressive in integrating and signing the beat players they could get from the Negro Leagues. The Dodgers and Giants were two of the most aggressive teams to do so in the 1950's and their combined seven pennants during that decade is a testament to the effect of the influx to the league of the new players. 

In no way am I taking away from Musial's accomplishments by saying so but the bar of competition was significantly raised. Musial went from being one of the few great players in the 1940's to be joined by other great players in the 1950's. His place in Cooperstown is undeniable. I think the more accurate discussions whether or not Musial is one of the best players of the 1940's rather than the 1950's. Anyone agree? Disagree?


For Further Reading
- Click Here to access Stan Musial's statistics page from Baseball
- Click Here to read David Schoenfeld's article The List: 10 cases of East Coast bias from which touches upon the Musial/East Coast bias discussion

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Are the Texas Rangers Baseball's Best Team?

Well, seven games in and the Texas Rangers are making me look downright wrong. Here I thought that the Rangers would be severely weakened by the departures of Cliff Lee and Vladimir Guerrero. Plus I thought that the poor handling of the Adrian Beltre, Michael Young and Neftali Feliz situations would play an adverse role on the team. All the Rangers have done is start the season 7-1 by clubbing the Boston Red Sox (who I thought would be strong to start but have been real stinkers), the Seattle Mariners and the surprising Baltimore Orioles. 

Can they keep up the pace? Who knows. They're healthy and playing good ball while the Oakland Athletics, who I thought would win the A.L. West are tied for last with the Mariners at 2-5 while the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim are 3-4. Granted, the season is only a week old. But if the Rangers can play this well losing Lee and Vlad, then how stronger will they get when they really hit their stride and gel fully as a team. They play the Detroit Tigers and the New York Yankees next week. Let's see how they look after these upcoming series.


Friday, April 8, 2011

Bye Bye Manny Ramirez

I get a text from my friend Pete while listening to the Yankees-Red Sox game that says "O S#!T Sisco. Now Manny never gets into the hall". Since I was already listening to the game, John Sterling and Suzyn Waldman had been discussing first the rumor that Ramirez had retired and later the reports that he decided to retire rather than continuing the program for those who fail a drug test. That further led to speculation that Manny had failed another test for performance enhancing drugs (PED's) and was looking at a 100 game suspension. The speculation was rendered fact when Major League Baseball confirmed that Ramirez had in fact failed a drug test administered during Spring Training. 

Didn't Ramirez learn from his suspension two seasons ago? Did he really think that if he took something that as a former offender, they wouldn't look at him through a stringer point of view? At least Rafael Palmiero had the good sense to disappear from public view the season after he served his suspension. To answer my friend Pete: Yes, the only way Ramirez enters the Hall of Fame is as a paying customer. 

You can forget his career .312 batting average, his 555 homers and 1831 RBI. You can disregard his career OPS of .996 (.411 OBP/.585 SLG). You can forget that Ramirez made up one of the most dominating one-two combinations with David Ortiz since Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig. You what's the sad part about it, he didn't need any kind of drugs to enhance himself. 

Ramirez, along with McGwire, Palmiero, Barry Bonds, Alex Rodriguez, Sammy Sosa and Roger Clemens to name a few, has the god given natural ability to play ball and never needed to resort to using PED's. Who knows why he did so. Maybe time and age started catching up with him. At least give McGwire and Rodriguez credit for coming out and admitting that they had used PED's. It might not aid theirarmando enshrinement to the Hall of Fame. Only time will tell that story. In Ramirez's case he should do the same and try to salvage some part of his legacy instead of running away from his mistakes. 

Like my friend Migdalia said earlier today: Manny being Manny. He always went by some different beat. Well, the beat has stopped. Until he comes clean, Manny Ramirez is nothing but a coward. 


Sunday, April 3, 2011

Santana and Viola: A Comparison

I came up with the idea for this post while writing my post on the 2011 Mets. In looking at the situation concerning Johan Santana, I couldn't help but think of another time in Mets history when they made a trade for another ace of the Minnesota Twins: Frank Viola. 

Viola was a local New York City area product from East Meadow in Nassau County on Long Island and played his college baseball at St. John's University in Jamaica, NY a few miles from Shea Stadium. Viola was drafted by the Minnesota Twins in the second round of the 1981 draft and made the majors in 1982. After having struggled in his first two seasons, Viola hit his stride in 1984. Viola went 18-12 with a 3.21 ERA in 35 games started and 257.2 innings pitched. In 1985 he went 18-14 with a 4.09 ERA in 36 games started and 250.2 innings pitched. In 1986 he went 16-13 with a 4.51 ERA with a league leading 37 starts and 245.2 innings pitched. In the year of the Twins first World Championship of 1987, Viola went 17-10 with a 2.90 ERA in 36 starts and 251.2 innings pitched. In his Cy-Young Award winning season of 1988, Viola went 24-8 with a 2.64 ERA in 35 starts and 255.1 innings pitched. During that stretch (1984-1988), Viola went 93-56 with a 3.46 ERA in 179 starts and 1261 innings pitched. He averaged 36 starts and 252.2 innings pitched per season during these years. Viola was a workhorse of a pitcher for the Twins. 

Santana came up with the Twins in 2000, and after a few seasons of pitching as a starter and a reliever Santana also found his way. In 2003, Santana went 12-3 with a 3.07 ERA in 45 games of which he started 18 with 158.1 innings pitched. As a full-time starter in 2004, Santana went 20-6 with a league best 2.61ERA in 34 games started and 228.0 innings pitched leading to his winning his frat Cy-Young Award. In 2005 he went 16-7 with a 2.87 ERA in 33 games started and 231.1 innings pitched. In 2006, Santana won his second Cy-Young award with a league best 19 wins with 7 losses and a league best 2.77 ERA in 34 starts and 233.2 innings pitched. In 2007 he went 15-13 with a 3.33 ERA in 33 starts with 219.1 innings pitched. From 2003-2007, Santana went a combined 82-35 with a 2.92 ERA with 152 games started (174 total games) and 1070.2 innings pitched. Like Viola, Santana was the workhorse of the staff in his prime years with the Twins. 

Both pitchers were traded to the Mets in multiplayer deals (Viola during the 1989 season and Santana after the 2007 season) and pitched tremendously well in their first full National League seasons. After going 5-5 with a 3.38 ERA in 12 starts to finish the 1989 season, Viola went 20-12 with a 2.67 ERA with a league best 35 starts and a league most 247.2 innings pitched. In Santana's first season with the Mets in 2008 he  went 16-7 with the league best in 2.53 ERA, games started (34) and innings pitched (234.1). The second full seasons were disappointing for both pitchers. Where Viola made the All-Star team with an 11-5 record, he finished the season with a 2-10 record in his last 12 starts and was allowed to sign with the Red Sox for the 1992 season. On the other side of the coin, Santana went a respectable 13-9 with a 3.13 ERA in 25 starts having to undergo season ending arthroscopic surgery to remove bone chips in his left elbow. Santana's 2010 campaign was also shortened due to the shoulder injury that is keeping him from playing today.

Though both players are significantly different physically, it seems to me that both of them felt the effects of being workhorse type pitchers during their years in Minnesota. When you're the ace of the staff it's expected and I would imagine that neither pitcher would complain about it. It just seems curious to me that both players seemed to falter after their departure from the land of 10,000 lakes. In Santana's case, he has time on his side to prove it differently. Only time will tell.


For Further Reading:
- Click Here to access Frank Viola's career statistics from Baseball
- Click Here to access Johan Santana's career statistics from Baseball

Who is playing for the New York Mets

I was asking a simple question of a few friends who are Mets fans: Who is playing for the Mets this year. Most of them gave me a simple answer: I don't know. I think those three little words speaks volumes as to the state of the New York Mets. The team is in the middle of a lawsuit brought on by those victims of the Madoff ponzi scheme. Based on that, it's safe to say that the team has been hampered financially which reflects the team's lack of aggressiveness when it came to signing free-agents this past offseason. Though many Mets fans are skeptical when it comes to the state of their team this season, the team still has a young nucleus that they can conceivably build around. 

Third baseman David Wright and shortstop Jose Reyes are still the centerpiece to the Mets franchise. Creeping up right behind them is second year first baseman Ike Davis. That leaves three stable piece to the infield, though many believe that Reyes will be taking his services elsewhere by the trade deadline at the earliest. 

I have personally believed that Reyes should have been shipped out for pitching long ago. It just seems that he is too preoccupied with how his home run celebration dances opposed to his total production on the field. Adding to that assessment is the injuries that have helped to hamper his performance in the last two seasons. From 2005-2008, Reyes played in no less than 153 games, topping out with 160 in 2007 and 161 in 2005 while he only played in 36 games in 2009 and 133 in 2010. This season is going to be an important one for Reyes since he is in the last year of his 5-yrs $33.75 million contract.

David Wright will continue to be his consistent self in both the lineup and in the field. Aside from his 2009 season that was shutdown due to a concussion, Wright has played in no less than 154 games playing in 160 games in 2005, 2007 and 2008. For those who worry that Wright has lost some of his power, Wright has averaged 27 homers and 107 RBI for his career and showed last season that he could hit the ball out of the park after his seemingly power empty 2009. He's under contract with the Mets through 2012 with a team option for 2013.

Ike Davis will only get better as time goes on. At least we know that Luis Castillo will NOT be playing second base for the Mets. One of the poster children of the unfulfilled potential of the former regime, Castillo was cut with a 1-year $6-million owed to him. His departure opens the door for Brad Emaus to try and make his name for the Mets at second. If he doesn't work out, the Mets have David Murphy waiting in the wings.

The Mets starting catcher will be Josh Thole. This will be his first chance to start the season as the everyday catcher. After him there is some reason to worry. The Mets signed Ronny Paulino to be their backup catcher once his 50-day suspension for performance enhancing drugs expires. Mets fans will have to wait a little longer for Paulino to make his Mets debut. Paulino has been diagnosed with Anemia and cannot play until his blood count improves. A trip to the DL is likely once his suspension has ended. It leaves the team with relative unknown Mike Nickeas as the backup and backup shortstop Chin-lung Hu as the emergency third catcher.

The outfield is made up of Jason Bay, Angel Pagan and Carlos Beltran though Bay is starting the season on the DL with a rib injury. Can Beltran come back from his knee injury and produce while playing a corner position? Can Pagan continue to improve from his impressive 2010 season? Can Jason Bay live up to the contract he signed during the 2009-2010 offseason? While I would like to say the questions for the Mets end there, there are even more questions the pitching side.

The biggest one revolves around ace Johan Santana. Will he come back from surgery in June or is it just lip service. Some news outlets had reported that Santana was not on pace to come back in June. That in fact he would return NEXT season. To hold down the pitching staff, the job falls to Mike Pelfrey, Jonathan Niese and the surprise story to the 2009 season AJ Dickey. Rounding out the rotation will be Chris Capuano (formerly of the Milwaukee Brewers) and injury prone Chris Young (formerly of the San Diego Padres). Joining Castillo on the departed list will be starter Oliver Perez who seemed to the the focus of the fans' venom. A big sigh of relief could be heard when it was announced that he would be cut from the team.

Aside from closer Francisco Rodriguez, the bullpen seems to be full of faces that might be unrecognizable to Mets fans. From the right side, the Mets have rookie Pedro Beato, Blaine Boyer, Taylor Buchholz, DJ Carrasco and Mets veteran Bobby Parnell. Tim Byrdak will attempt to replace Pedro Feliciano as the left-handed specialist out of the pen.

Mets manager Terry Collins certainly has his full this in his first season with the Mets. With the team playing in a very tough division with the favored Philadelphia Phillies, the dangerous Atlanta Braves and the pesky Florida Nationals and Washington Nationals it seems that this season won't be one ending with a playoff spot. Who knows, if the team keeps close in the hunt maybe when Johan Santana returns, he'll help them get over the hump for a Wild Card spot. Unfortunately, I think the off field issues will overshadow whatever the team does. For the good of the team and their fans, the team needs to have new ownership so that the focus can just return to the field where it belongs.


For Further Reading:
- Click Here for a look at the 25-man roster for the 2011 New York Mets from