The On Deck Circle

Baseball History, Commentary and Analysis

Archive for the category “Baseball Video”

Soundtrack for Baseball: July, 2012

This is my third offering in a sporadic series in which I mix baseball analysis with some of my favorite music artists.  Let’s call this one “The Blues Edition.”  (Please ignore any commercials that may appear.  For “Full Screen,” click the icon on the lower, right-hand corner of each video.)

The relationship between the analysis and the songs is tenuous at best, but it amuses me nevertheless (as do bright, shiny objects and fire trucks.)

Here were my offerings for April and May (June somehow slipped by me unnoticed.)

The point of these posts is to create a video-blog of the highlights (and low lights) of the baseball season.  I’ll leave it to other bloggers to address this season’s stats and stories in a more traditional fashion.

So let’s begin.

Has any PHEENOM ever made such a huge impact in his first full season as Mike Trout has done this season?  The list of players who were great right out of the gate, and who went on to have fantastic careers, is not a very long one.  That list would include, for example, Ted Williams, Joe DiMaggio, Frank Robinson, Alex Rodriguez and a handful of others.

Add Mike Trout to that list.  Sure, it’s true that Trout’s future is yet to be written, but other than the possibility of injury, there is no reason to think that we’re not looking at the next Stan Musial or Mickey Mantle.

All Trout has done so far is hit a league-leading .351 to go along with a circuit-pacing 78 runs scored in just 80 games.  Oh, and did I mention he’s also stolen the most bases in the A.L. (35) while being caught an absurdly low 3 times?  How about that 180 OPS+, also the best in the junior league.

The fact is, pitchers have to learn to stop “Messin’ with the Kid.  Here’s a direct appeal to MLB pitchers from Junior Wells and Buddy Guy, so listen up.

Meanwhile, up in New York, the Yankees have added both age and depth to their first-place team by trading for Seattle’s most famous icon (and, no, I don’t mean Starbucks.)

Ichiro Suzuki has been a fixture in the Mariners outfield since he burst on the Major League scene in 2001.

But after 11 1/2 years in Seattle the former MVP has finally been granted his wish to play for a team that could well find itself in the World Series this year.

Ichiro has accumulated over 2,500 hits in his MLB career along with a career batting average of .322.  The ten time All-Star and future Hall of Famer has won 10 Gold Gloves, three Silver Sluggers, and has led the A.L. in hits seven times.  He has been a one-of-a-kind player in his generation.

Yet Ichiro is also 38-years old, and clearly isn’t the player he once was.  His OPS+ of 82 this season is unimpressive, while his batting average is just .261.  Though it’s true he still has some value, it is clear he is no longer able to do “The Things That {he} Used To Do.”

I’ll let the immortal Stevie Ray Vaughan spell it out for you.

I wasn’t sure he could do it again.

I’m talking about the Tigers Uber-Ace, 29-year old Justin Verlander.  Last year, he won both the Cy Young award and the MVP award.  It was perhaps asking too much for a repeat performance, yet Verlander is not far off last year’s pace.

Granted, Verlander won’t finish this season with a 24-5 record, as he did in 2011.  His record currently stands at 11-7, but he has pitched better than that. Verlander leads the A.L. in innings pitched, complete games, and fewest hits surrendered per nine innings.  His ERA is just .23 higher than last year.  He is second in his league in strikeouts, starts and WHIP, while also leading the league in WAR for pitchers.

Verlander is a polished pitcher with a solid arsenal, but his bread and butter pitch is an old-fashioned 100 mile per hour fastball.  His is the ultimate power arm.  His nickname should be the “Smoking Gun,” ’cause that’s what he brings to the table.

So let’s dedicate this next song, “Smoking Gun,” performed by the smooth as silk Robert Cray, in honor of Verlander’s awesome right arm.

When we were kids, our best pitcher would always pitch the most games.  Sounds logical, right?  In the Majors, of course, things are much different.  Sure, it’s true that a relief pitcher will probably appear in more games than a typical starting pitcher.  That’s the nature of the job.  But, apparently, it doesn’t necessarily follow that even your best relief pitcher will lead the staff in appearances.

That honor is often enjoyed by the specialist of all specialists, the situational lefty.

He doesn’t have to be particularly good, mind you, just left-handed.

Situational lefties are the summer school teachers of the bullpen.  They’re willing to do the job, and there just ain’t that many others to choose from with their particular mix of modest self-esteem and masochism.

Which explains (though it doesn’t excuse) why lefty Tim Byrdak of the Mets leads the entire Major Leagues in appearances (as of August 1st.)

In 55 appearances, Byrdak has managed to accumulate a paltry 30.1 (not entirely effective) innings pitched.  His ERA on the season is 4.45.  Apparently, his “situations” have been a bit more challenging for Byrdak than he would like.

But once a Major League manager gets an idea in his head, or develops an irrational affinity for a particular player, there’s just no turning back.  So manager Terry Collins runs the 38-year old Byrdak out there about two out of every three games (actually, Byrdak has recently missed a couple of games with a sore knee) and hopes for the best.

Good baseball strategy?  Who cares.  It’s what’s de rigueur these days in Baseball Land.  Obviously, it’s simply impossible to love mediocrity too much.  Does it backfire sometimes?  Sure, love is like that.

So here’s an ode to loving someone or something too much by the late, great, blind Canadian blues artist, Jeff Healey.

Someday, I’d like to meet an actual Padres fan.

The San Diego Padres were one of baseball’s expansion teams in 1969.  Forty-three years after their founding, not only have they not won a World Championship, but they’ve won only one World Series game.  (Andy Hawkins beat the Tigers’ Dan Petry, October 10, 1984, 5-3.)

They’ve also never reached the 100-win plateau in any season, topping out at 98 wins in 1998.  In fact, they’ve topped 90 wins in a season just four times since the first man walked on the moon.

During their existence, they have lost 520 more games than they’ve won.

Their only league MVP winner, Ken Caminiti in 1996, turned out to be a steroids user, was arrested in a Houston hotel room for possession of crack cocaine, and died prematurely at age 41.

If that’s not enough to give a baseball fan the blues, I don’t know what is.

Sure, other MLB teams have suffered long droughts of futility, but, other than Tony Gwynn, can you give me one reason the Padres haven’t been baseball’s most superfluous team?

The question is, “How Many More Years” will the Padres offer so little in the way of hope and success to their (presumably loyal) fans?

Perhaps it’s time for a little Howlin’ Wolf as an antidote to this historically uncompelling franchise.

With that, my friends, we come to the end of this edition of a “Soundtrack for Baseball.”  I hope you enjoyed it.  We may do it again in another month.

Best Forgotten Baseball Seasons: Part 27 – The Houston Astros

The Bad News Bears

Image via Wikipedia

Perhaps it says something about my shameless immaturity, as well as the uniquely mind-warping experience of having been weened on 1970’s pop culture, that whenever I think of the Houston Astros, Walter Matthau’s “Bad News Bears” come to mind.

I have to admit that I thought Tatum O’Neal (the best pitcher on that team) was pretty cute back then.

This was 1976, when she and I were both just 13-years old.

The movie ends, more or less, with the foul-mouthed, youthful Bears spraying beer (!) all over each other upon finishing the season in second place (they had been expected to finish last.)

In 1977, “The Bad News Bears in Breaking Training” follows the Bears all the way to the Houston Astrodome (minus my gal Tatum,) which was still considered an impressive monument to modern engineering in those days.

I remember Cesar Cedeno, the Astros center-fielder, had a cameo role in that film.  While the Bears enjoyed yet another successful season in ’77, the Astros finished 81-81, good for 3rd place in the N.L. West.

Meanwhile, 26-year old Cesar Cedeno — already in his eighth big league season — enjoyed a solid, if unspectacular, year.  He batted .279, stole 61 bases, stroked 36 doubles, and scored 92 runs.

But Cesar Cedeno’s Best Forgotten Season was in 1972.

Just 21-years old, Cedeno led the N.L. in doubles for the second time with 39 (after swatting 40 the previous year), he scored a career high 103 runs, stole 55 bases, and added 22 homers, eight triples and 82 RBI’s.

Cedeno batted .320 and slugged .537; he would post precisely the same two percentages the following season.

Cedeno’s 8.2 WAR is still the fourth best in Astros history.

His .921 OPS, 162 OPS+, and 300 total bases would all represent the highest totals he would reach in those three categories in his career. 

Cedeno also played in the ’72 All-Star game, won a Gold Glove (one of five he would win in his career), and finished sixth in the N.L. MVP voting.

I always find it interesting when a player like Cedeno peeks at such a young age, remains productive for an extended period of time, but never again produces an MVP caliber season. 

Why is that?  Is there a certain amount of luck involved, coupled with peak physical performance, that accounts for this phenomenon?

True, many players reach their peak-performance years when they are about 27-years old. But baseball history is littered with ballplayers who had careers similar to Cedeno’s: Vada Pinson and Ruben Sierra are just two players who come immediately to mind.

Cedeno enjoyed 17 big league seasons, finishing with a career batting average of .285, 550 stolen bases (26th all-time), 2,087 hits, 1,084 runs scored, 436 doubles, 60 triples and 199 home runs.

His career Win Probability Added (WPA) is 31.7, 77th best in baseball history.

Meanwhile, Tatum O’Neal, after having  dealt with drug and alcohol issues in the past, has made a comeback in recent years starring as Maggie Gavin in the hit T.V. show “Rescue Me,” playing Tommy Gavin’s (Denis Leary) sister.

Going back even further in Houston Astros history, though, back to a time when they were known as the Colt-45’s, and Tatum and I were yet to be born, you may come across the name Turk Farrell.

28-year old Turk Farrell, a big right-handed pitcher born and raised in Massachusetts, had been taken in the 1961 expansion draft by the Colt 45’s after having been left unprotected by the L.A. Dodgers.

Turk Farrell’s Best Forgotten Season was 1962.

For a pitcher on a first-year expansion team, Farrell performed quite well.  In a club-leading 241 innings, he struck out 203 batters, posted a 3.02 ERA, tossed eleven complete games, including two shutouts, and posted a solid WHIP of 1.097, which was second best in the league.

For all of that, Farrell was rewarded by his teammates with a final win-loss record of 10-20.  There were three other 20-game losers in the N.L. in ’62; two of them played for the expansion Mets.

Farrell ended his 14-year big league career after the 1969 season with a career record of 106-111.  His career ERA+ of 104 indicates that he was typically your standard issue, average major league starting pitcher.

His 1962 season has led me to consider starting a new (shorter) series about players who perform well, often for bad or mediocre teams, but whose statistics don’t always tell the full story of their relative success.

That’s another way of saying that this 27-part series “Best Forgotten Baseball Seasons,” has finally come to a merciful end.  After slogging it out for about six months, I have certainly learned a lot more than I ever thought I would about each teams’ forgotten stars.

If you’ve been with me the whole time, or even part of the time, thank you so much for being kind enough to follow along.  For those of you who have left kind comments along the way, I always appreciate the ego-stroking sentiments.

If you are interested in reviewing any of the particular posts from this series, or if there are some you missed along the way, I have included links to each segment of this series below.

Part 1: The New York Mets
Part 2: The Chicago Cubs
Part 3: The New York Yankees
Part 4: The Montreal Expos
Part 5: The Phillies
Part 6: The Brooklyn Dodgers
Part 7: The Los Angeles Dodgers
Part 8: The Cincinnati Reds
Part 9: The Boston Red Sox
Part 10: The Atlanta Braves
Part 11: The Cleveland Indians
Part 12: The Kansas City Royals
Part 13: The Baltimore Orioles
Part 14: The Detroit Tigers
Part 15: The St. Louis Cardinals
Part 16: The Oakland A’s
Part 17: The Pittsburgh Pirates
Part 18: The San Francisco Giants
Part 19: The Seattle Mariners
Part 20: The Minnesota Twins
Part 21: The Chicago White Sox
Part 22: The Texas Rangers
Part 23: The San Diego Padres
Part 24: The Toronto Blue Jays
Part 25: The Milwaukee Brewers
Part 26: The Angels

Meanwhile, have a Happy Thanksgiving.

Bill Miller

Bonus Baseball Video Clip and Poem: Memorial Day Edition

Happy Memorial Day, everyone.  In honor of our armed forces serving all over the world, and the sacrifices they make, today I am reprinting a poem written by Bill Gallo entitled, ” Ode to Baseball and AmericaWho’s Up?”  It originally appeared in the New York Daily News on May 12, 2010.  Gallo is actually a cartoonist.

After the poem, I’ve included a bonus video clip from a baseball film.  It is understated, and one of my favorites.  It expresses the hope we all share to someday reach our potential, despite the fact that many of us get sidetracked along the way.

Ode to Baseball and America:  Who’s Up?

The geezer sits there thinking of war

“No more,” he says, “No more.”

C’mon, we’ve had them all our lives

No more, no more.

Yes, we’re thankful for the

guy who survives.

And, thank God, too

That the guy is you

Who can watch a ballgame — and yells

Like a fan:  “Get ’em Home!”

It’s for the ones

on base…and

the ones in

Afghanistan.

Tomorrow, I resume my series, “Best Forgotten Baseball Seasons:  A Team by Team Analysis.

Now, on to the video clip.

Best Scenes From Baseball Movies: Part 3 – The Best One Ever

Well, here it is, folks.  Part 3 of my very short series called,  “Best Scenes From Baseball Movies.” I hope you enjoyed Part 1, “There’s No Crying In Baseball,” from the film “A League of Their Own,” and Part 2, “I Believe,” from “Bull Durham.”

Part 3 will probably not come as a surprise.  In my opinion, this is not only the best scene ever in a baseball movie, it is one of the ten best scenes from any movie ever made.

Next Tuesday, I will resume my new series, “Best Forgotten Baseball Seasons:  A Team By Team Analysis.”  Also, come back here on Monday, Memorial Day, for a special bonus baseball movie scene, and a baseball poem honoring our military personnel serving overseas.  (And no, I didn’t write it.)

So, without further ado, here is the Best Scene Ever From a Baseball Movie:

Have a nice and safe Memorial Day weekend.

Best Scenes From Baseball Movies: Part 2

Last Friday, as you probably remember, I embedded my third favorite scene from a baseball movie on this blog.  Tom Hanks’, “There’s No Crying in Baseball,” is an all-time classic.

Today, I offer you my second favorite scene from a baseball movie.  It is delivered by Kevin Costner’s character, Crash Davis, in the movie, “Bull Durham.”  The language is a bit strong, I suppose, but the sentiments are pure baseball.  The quality of the video, by the way, is mediocre, but it was the best I could find.

Next Friday, come back and view my Number #1 favorite scene from a baseball movie.  Meanwhile, have a good weekend.

So, without further ado, enjoy the video-clip below.

Best Scenes from Baseball Movies

Recently, I’ve been watching a lot of baseball movies.  As I’ve been viewing them, I have been remembering with great pleasure which scenes from these movies are my all time favorites.  So, of course, I decided to turn this subject into a blog post.

Today, I am posting a youtube clip of my third favorite baseball movie scene of all time.  Next week, I’ll post a clip of my second favorite, and the week after that you’ll get to view my number one favorite scene ever from a baseball movie.

I’d like to hear from you about which baseball movie scenes are your favorites.

So here comes my Number #3 Favorite Baseball Movie Scene of All Time:

Make it Stop: Pittsburgh Pirates Baseball at PNC Park – Comedy Video

Call this the weekend edition of The On Deck Circle.

A baseball-blogging colleague of mine, Dave Kreshover, is part of a comedy team called Nine More Outs.  He, along with two of his friends who comprise this group, visit various major league parks around the country pretending to be fans of that particular team for the day.  Previously, they invaded Toronto to poke fun at the Blue Jays.

In this youtube video that Dave asked me to post on my blog, NineMoreOuts find themselves in Pittsburgh attending a Pirates games.  This is their second stop on what they call their Stadium Shmadium Tour.

I found the video to be very funny, and I think will, too.

By the way, Dave also has a baseball blog of his own which is well worth checking out.  It is called, “Be Gone With Wilpon.”  If you are a Mets fan, you might already be aware of its existence.

So, without further ado, here is the video…

Enjoy your weekend, Bill

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