Monday, June 28, 2010

Trivia: All-Star Game Representin'

The 81st All-Star Game will be played this July 13th at Angel Stadium of Anaheim. Under the current All-Star Game rules, each MLB team must be represented by at least one player. However, two players hold the record for representing five different teams at the All-Star Game over their careers. Can you name those two players? (Hint: Neither is an active player, but they were teammates on a team that won a World Series sometime after 1995 but before 2000.)

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Pauly Gets the Call

Okay, so I have some fun news. Pauly, a Charlie Hustle Award Winner and fellow UPL manager, has been called up to greener blogging pastures at Advanced Fantasy Baseball. His first article is already up: "10 Guys Available in 80% (or more) of ESPN Leagues that are Worth a Look."

It seems like just yesterday that Pauly officially started blogging about baseball. But he's been a baseball fan his whole life and is a great addition for the Advanced Fantasy Baseball blog, where the tagline is "Advice on who to keep and who to chase in your league."

You can check out Pauly's first article here. And I'll be looking forward to what he comes up with next.

Congrats, Pauly!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Trivia: Bragging Rights?

Since 1997, the White Sox and Cubs have played against each other six times each season. However, this is the first year that they'll be playing for an official prize. Whichever team wins the most out of the six games (or the last game if the series ends up tied at three) will take the trophy. Do you know that trophy's name? (Hint: The answer that I'm looking for begins with the letter B.)

Friday, June 18, 2010

One Shining Moment

Last Sunday I had the good fortune of attending the Cubs-Sox game at Wrigley Field. And while the rivalry of Cubs-Sox always makes for an interesting atmosphere, what I really wanted to see was the arrival of the Blackhawks with the Stanley Cup. (Given the sad state of Chicago baseball this season, can you really blame me?)

About 20 minutes before game time, my wish was granted. Chelsea Dagger was cued and Chicago's world championship hockey team began entering right field, hoisting the Stanley Cup for all to see as they made their way through the outfield. The crowd cheered and cameras were flashing all over the place.
Who says Wrigley Field has never celebrated a world championship?

Both the Cubs and Sox were also out on the field warming up, so there were many opportunities for them to mingle with the Hawks. When I saw Ozzie Guillen hoist the Cup above his head with a big smile on his face, I joined in with 20,000 other boo birds. Nothing against Ozzie personally, but I just didn't like seeing the Sox manager hoisting the Cup at Wrigley. However, after Ryan Dempster caught the opening pitch from Joel Quenneville, Demp got to hoist the Cup and I was able to cheer for that.

Even though the Cubs and Sox are hated crosstown rivals, there was a sense of unity in the ballpark. At least for a moment. In the Blackhawks, there was team greatness in our presence. And whether you're a fan of the Cubs or Sox, you want your team to be more like these Blackhawks. 

Group hug: The Cubs and Sox gather with the Blackhawks for a photo before the game. It was a proud Chicago moment. (Wait, what I meant to say was that tempers flared between the Cubs and Sox; then the Blackhawks came in and kicked everyone's butt.)

And perhaps the most amusing moment of the night was seeing the Stanley Cup on home plate during the national anthem:

The Stanley Cup has crossed home plate more times this season than Aramis Ramirez.

Oh, there was a baseball game, too. And much to my surprise, it turned into a pitcher's duel between Gavin Floyd and Ted Lilly. In fact, this was the first MLB game since 1980 where both pitchers had no-hitters through 6 1/2 innings. Floyd's no-no was broken up in the 7th. But before the 9th inning started, Lilly still had his going and a guy in front of me urged everyone in our section to stand up, "Come on, we have a chance for a no-hitter here!"

So we all stood, and I sneaked a peek in my wallet to make sure that I still had the game ticket. (Gonna hold on to this one, I thought.) And so, in the rain, Lilly took the mound in the 9th with a chance at the first no-hitter at Wrigley Field since 1972. The crowd had been electric all night, but especially now.


And just like that, it was over. Juan Pierre, pinch-hitting for Andruw Jones, led off the 9th with a single up the middle. The air basically went out of the ballpark, except for the Sox fans on hand. But that deflated feeling didn't last long. Pierre's leadoff hit actually set up an exciting finish that saw the Cubs lucky to hold on for a 1-0 win.

This was one night at the ballpark that I hope to remember for a long time.

Photos credit: D. Irwin

Monday, June 14, 2010

Trivia: Triple Crown on the Mound

The last time an MLB hitter won the triple crown (lead his league in batting average, homers, and RBI) was when Carl Yastrzemski did it in 1967. However, it's more common for a pitcher to win the triple crown (lead his league in wins, strikeouts, and ERA). In fact, there are two pitchers currently active who have won the triple crown. Can you name them?

Monday, June 7, 2010

Trivia: Rookie Sluggers

As of June 6th this season, Jason Heyward was slugging .531. Back in 1987, Mark McGwire set the then-record for rookie slugging at .618. But it has since been broken. Can you name the rookie who topped that mark?

Sunday, June 6, 2010


Note: I'm pulling this one from my drafts folder of last September 26, 2009. Not sure why I didn't publish it, opting instead to include a brief Strasburg comment in this Hit Parade from last fall. Perhaps it's because I wanted to make the post quite a bit longer and just didn't get around to it. In any case, I might as well post it now before the big debut.

My Strasburg thoughts from September, 26, 2009:

So how good will Stephen Strasburg's MLB career be?

I've been wanting to post about this since June, but I kept quiet because I thought I might have a chance to pick him up on waivers. But since I don't think that will happen now, I figure it's safe to just let it fly and say what I think about him.

There seem to be two schools of thought with Strasburg. One school believes the hype, saying this guy is one of the most talented baseball prospects "ever," a near lock to become a staff ace and put up All-Star numbers year in and year out (barring injury). Another school of thought points to history and warns about previous pitchers who were hyped as "can't miss" prospects who never even became reliable MLB starters, let alone All-Stars. The first school essentially says "We've seen enough," and the latter says, "Wait and see." Obviously, depending upon which school you belong to greatly affects how you value him.

To be fair, I think both schools of thought acknowledge that there has to be some level of "wait and see," and both schools of thought acknowledge that this guy is a prospect who you want in your MLB team's farm system. But where it really gets interesting for me is answering the question: How likely is Stephen Strasburg going to develop into a consistent All-Star at the major league level?

The first thing I take into consideration with Strasburg is his age and the type of competition he has faced. Based purely on the percentages, one of the dumbest things an MLB team can do is to draft a high school pitcher in the first round. Most will be busts, although every now and then you get a Cole Hamels. (But reading through Cole Hamels' history shows even he barely made it.)

Strasburg played three years of college, and he totally dominated years 2 and 3. So I look at that as a big plus. He's had three more years to mature, and he has excelled at a level much more respectable than high school hitters.

People like to compare Strasburg to Mark Prior, and I agree that it's a fair comparison. Like Strasburg, Prior played three years of college and dominated. Both were hyped by the media, hailed as can't miss prospects with special talents rarely available in the draft. And before Strasburg signed for a record $15.1 million coming out of this year's amateur draft, Prior held the previous record of $10.5 million in 2001.

Some people point to Mark Prior as evidence that Strasburg is a risky proposition. But that's where I take a different view. I look at Prior as evidence that Strasburg is, as far as pitching prospects go, a good bet. Prior did develop into a pitcher who dominated at the MLB level. It was injuries that derailed his career, and honestly, that's a risk that's hard to predict.

Post script: Since the time of my above thoughts, Strasburg has gone on to dominate Double-A and Triple-A. I've also had a chance to observe him as an in-studio guest on ESPN's Baseball Tonight. Strasburg's stats and demeanor are very impressive. I have upgraded my views of him since last fall.