Monday, August 29, 2011

The Best Right Fielder of All-Time: Babe Ruth vs. Hank Aaron

This is the toughest debate of any position.  When looking at right field, the question of who is the greatest comes down to two of the greatest players in the history of the game: Babe Ruth and Hank Aaron.  One redefined the game by absolutely mashing pitches the way nobody else had until he came around, and the other was so consistent that he became the all-time home run king (the title should still be Aaron's, Bonds doesn't deserve it) and all-time RBI leader.

First, Ruth.  There's too much to write in one paragraph, but let's start by saying that he completely revolutionized the game.  He gave fans during the end of the dead ball era what they wanted to see, and that was long balls.  Despite playing in humongous ballparks (yes, he was helped by the short porch in right at "The House  That Ruth Built," but Yankee Stadium also happened to be 490 feet to center when Ruth played there) and being  out of shape for most of his career, he still held 56 MLB records when he retired in 1935.  He still holds the best ever career slugging percentage (.690), OPS (1.164), and WAR (wins above replacement, 190).  He also holds top 10 marks in home runs, OBP., AVG., runs scored, total bases, RBI, walks, and extra base hits.  He was, and still is, baseball's most famous icon.  (Ruth's stats)

Hank Aaron didn't put up the monstrous totals that Ruth did, but his consistency over 23 seasons allowed him to pass Ruth's home run record in 1974 and to become one of the greatest players of all-time.  He never hit more than 47 home runs in a season, but he did average 33 home runs a season from 1954 through 1976.  He never drove in more than 132 runs in one season, but he still averaged 100 a season and broke Ruth's RBI record.  He was a better base runner and defensive player than Ruth was, stealing 240 bases in his career while also winning three Gold Glove Awards in a row from '58-'60.  He was an All-Star every year from 1955-1975 and won the 1957 NL MVP. (Aaron's stats)

Both Ruth and Aaron are all-time greats, but in the end the choice for the greatest right fielder of all-time is Ruth.  Yes, Aaron hit 41 more homers and drove in 84 more runs than Ruth did, but it took him 3965 more at-bats to accomplish those feats.  Aaron may have been the most consistent player of all-time, but Ruth was a more explosive hitter.  From the time Ruth became a more full time hitter in 1918 to the time he retired in 1935, he averaged 39 home runs and 120 RBI per season.  He also slugged a ridiculous .699 over that time frame.  Aaron was great, but the Great Bambino was the greatest.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Verlander First to 20 Wins

Justin Verlander pitches on Saturday.
Tigers ace Justin Verlander pitched Detroit to another victory, becoming the first pitcher in the big leagues this season to win 20 games.  Verlander didn't shut down the opposition as easily as usual, yielding four runs, but the Tigers generated enough offense to beat the Twins 6-4.  The Twins scored their runs by scoring two in the fifth and two in the sixth.  In the fifth, Verlander gave up back-to-back home runs to Luke Hughes and Jason Repko.  In the sixth, Hughes struck again, doubling home Danny Valencia and Rene Tosoni.  Verlander gave up eight hits in his six innings, but five of those occurred during the fifth and sixth innings.  Verlander struck out six and walked three in the victory.  The Tigers scored two in the first inning on home runs by Miguel Cabrera and Alex Avila, two in the fifth on a double by Ryan Raburn and a single by Austin Jackson, and two in the seventh on singles by Delmon Young and Miguel Cabrera.  Jose Valverde picked up his 39th save and has yet to blow a save all season.

MVP voters must consider Verlander as a serious candidate.  Clearly, the MVP is rarely awarded to pitchers (the last pitcher to win the award was Dennis Eckersley in 1992).  However, Verlander has been just that good on the mound and just that important to the Tigers.  With his 20th win today, Verlander is the first pitcher since Curt Schilling to win 20 games before September.  Think about that... 20 wins is considered an amazing season and Verlander still has an entire month to win more games.  He leads the AL in strikeouts (218), WHIP (0.90), and batting average against (.190).  He is second in ERA (2.38), K/BB ratio (4.71), and second in K/9 (9.10).  Need I say more?  Without him on the roster, the Tigers don't make the playoffs.  However, if the Red Sox don't have Adrian Gonzalez and the Yankees don't have Curtis Granderson, both teams still probably make the playoffs.  Verlander has been the best player in the AL as well as the most valuable player to his team.  He is going to win the Cy Young Award and with a good September, let's hope that he gets the MVP respect that he deserves.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Mike Flanagan's Death Ruled Suicide

Former left-handed pitcher Mike Flanagan's death has been ruled a suicide.  According to the police, he died of a self-inflicted shotgun wound to the head.  He was found 250 feet from his home on Wednesday after a neighbor who went to check on him couldn't find him at the house.  Flanagan's family released a statement, which said, "We thank you for your support and kind words at this difficult time.  Thank you for respecting our privacy as we grieve."  Flanagan was 59 years old

Flanagan was currently a TV analyst for the Orioles.  During his playing career, which lasted from 1975 to 1992, Flanagan had two stints with the Orioles.  He also spent part his career with the Blue Jays.  Over his 18    years in the big leagues, Flanagan compiled a 167-143 record with a 3.90 ERA and 1491 strikeouts.  He was an All-Star in 1978 and won the AL Cy Young in 1979 with a 23-9 record, 3.08 ERA and a 1.186 WHIP.  After retirement, Flanagan was the Orioles pitching coach in 1995 and 1998 and he served as the executive vice president of baseball operations for the team from 2006 through 2008.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

What is the Best "This is Sportscenter" Baseball Commercial?

One of the best parts of watching ESPN's Sportscenter is also being able to watch the commercials that go along with the show.  "This is Sportscenter" commercials have become one of the best parts of the network.  They've been doing them for years and they always manage to get the biggest names in sports to participate while keeping everyone at home laughing.  If you want to check them all out, this YouTube playlist has 82 of them.

There have been numerous ballplayers who have done "This is Sportscenter" commercials, and the question now is which one is the best?  The following videos are my top three favorites and below those are the other baseball themed "This is Sportscenter" commercials.  What are your favorites?  Leave a comment and share your favorite ESPN commercials.

Here are the rest of the baseball "This is Sportscenter" commercials:
Joe Mauer
Manny Ramirez #1
Manny Ramirez #2
Josh Hamilton
David Wright
Jose Reyes

Check Out the New COTB Page on Facebook

So I finally decided to make a Facebook page for Crack of the Bat.  I figured it was another good way to share my writing, spread more cool baseball stories, and connect with others who love the game.  You can check out the page by following this link: or you can check it out by going to the Facebook box in the right hand column of my blog.  Thanks and I hope you like the page!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

This Day in Baseball: Eric Bruntlett's 2009 Triple Play

Click on the clip to watch Bruntlett's play.

On August 23, 2009 Phillies second baseman Eric Bruntlett turned an unassisted triple play in the ninth inning against the Mets for a 9-7 Philadelphia victory.  Bruntlett almost ruined the game for Phillies closer Brad Lidge, as he made an error and allowed a second batter to reach on an infield hit.  With the runners in motion, Bruntlett was ranging towards second base, where he caught Jeff Francoeur's line drive for out number one, stepped on second base to double up Luis Castillo, and then tagged out Daniel Murphy coming from first base.

Bruntlett's triple play was only the fifteenth of its kind in MLB history, only the seventh turned in NL history, and only the second game-ending triple play ever.  The first game-ending triple play was turned by Detroit Tigers first baseman Johnny Neun on May 31, 1927.  He caught a liner for the first out, tagged the runner off first, and managed to tag second base before the base runner got back to end the game.  A triple play itself is amazing, an unassisted triple play is absolutely nuts, and a game-ending, unassisted triple play is downright one of the coolest plays a fan good ever witness.  Bruntlett ends a New York rally at Citi Field and still manages to make the fans cheer.  Obviously, he had to be in the right place at the right time, but this is still a great play to look back on.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Check Out the LLWS and This Year's Hometown Team

For any die hard baseball fan, the Little League World Series is a great change of pace from watching Major League teams.  There's nothing like watching twelve year old ballplayers in front of thousands of fans - if only I could have played in that kind of atmosphere during little league.

If you haven't kept up with this year's action, the team from Clinton County, Pennsylvania has gotten most of the attention.  They are the first local team to play in the LLWS in years.  The team is located only 30 miles from Williamsport.  They played their district tournament games at Volunteer Stadium in Williamsport and now they're back for the LLWS.  So far, each of the team's three games (including tonight's) has been played at Lamade Stadium, which has permanent seating for 9,000.  The grassy berm beyond the outfield fence has come in handy, as in their first game Clinton County helped to set a new LLWS attendance record when 41,848 people showed up (that number was bigger than 12 of the MLB games played on the same day).  Their next game brought over 30,000 people  to Lamade Stadium and tonight's game apparently has over 30,000 again.  Those numbers are unheard of this early in the tournament.

If you want to tune in and watch some great baseball (where the players aren't in it for millions of dollars), change your channel to ESPN2 or go to and watch Louisiana vs. Pennsylvania, which is currently in the second inning.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Strasburg Will Pitch for First Time Since Surgery

Last August when Nationals pitcher Stephen Strasburg torn his ulnar collateral ligament in his elbow, which required Tommy John surgery, he was expected to miss one year to 18 months in order to recover from the injury.  However, less than a year after surgery, Strasburg will pitch one or two innings for the Class A Hagerstown Suns.  Nationals manager Davey Johnson said that as long as Strasburg throws well in his side session on Thursday, he will pitch on Sunday against the Greensboro Grasshoppers. 

Johnson hopes to have Strasburg back with the Nationals by September, but I'm not sure that is the best idea.  Strasburg wasn't supposed to be back until the 2012, and while pitching this early is good progress, the Nationals shouldn't push him too hard, too fast.  Sure, it would be great for the Nationals to get their best pitcher back (especially to put people in the seats in Washington), but the risks outweigh the benefits.  Let him continue to rehab in the minors this season, make sure he's completely healthy and then have him start on Opening Day in 2012.  The Nationals have way too much invested in Strasburg to risk another injury in a meaningless big league game late in the season.  What are your thoughts?  Leave a comment with how you think the Nationals should handle the Strasburg situation.

Monday, August 1, 2011

The Cubs: The Definition of Deadline Losers

Jim Hendry: The look of a misguided man.
Honestly, at this point every Cubs fan should be completely fed up with GM Jim Hendry.  I've been a Cubs fan my entire life and it was depressing to watch the trade deadline come and go with only one move by Hendry. Could you really only get rid of Kosuke Fukudome!  It isn't like the Cubs are anywhere close to contending with the roster they have, so why keep players like Alfonso Soriano, Aramis Ramirez, Carlos Zambrano, Carlos Pena, Reed Johnson, Marlon Byrd Jeff Baker, etc.?  Obviously, no-trade clauses and obscene contracts (THANKS again Jimbo!) prevented some of the bigger names from moving, but HELLO, the only untouchable on the entire roster should be Starlin Castro.

Hendry should have followed the lead of Ed Wade in Houston and really broken up the team.  Sure, Wade didn't necessarily get the best return for Hunter Pence and Michael Bourn, but he sure as hell knew that his team would never win with the current roster, and he tried to start building for the future.  He didn't get great prospects for Bourn, but he landed two mega prospects for Pence (Jonathan Singleton and Jarred Cosart).  Wade probably torpedoed Houston's attendance for the rest of the season, but it was necessary to start moving in the right direction.  Hendry and the Cubs owners, the Ricketts family, should stop worrying about what attendance will be like for the rest of the season.  They needed to start getting rid of players who shouldn't be part of the Cubs long term plans.  As much as seeing Wrigley with empty seats depresses me, it's much worse to know that the Cubs front office stood pat and didn't make enough moves.

Trade Deadline Deals: Braves Finally Make a Move

The trade deadline came and went, but before it passed the Braves finally made a move.  Without giving up any really valuable prospects, the Braves were able to trade for center fielder Michael Bourn from the Astros.  They gave up much less than the Phillies did for former Astros outfielder Hunter Pence, but the Braves still gained an impact player who can help them make the playoffs.  The Braves needed more help than both the Phillies and Giants, as their offense has been terrible (and underachieving a lot) all season.  Their leadoff hitters have hit .254 with an on-base percentage of .306 (pitiful).  Bourn fixes that.  Center fielders for the Braves have hit .241 with a .322 on-base percentage.  Bourn fixes that.  He also plays great center field defense, has already stolen 39 bases, and will fit perfectly into Atlanta's lineup.  So far in 2011, Bourn is hitting .303/.363/.403 with one home run and 32 RBIs.  Sure, Bourn doesn't have the power that Pence or Beltran has, but he doesn't need to because he is a perfect leadoff hitter.  Congrats to the Braves for finding someone who should fit seamlessly into their lineup, and for not giving up any truly important prospects to do it.

Other intriguing moves:

Eric Bedard (from Seattle) to the Red Sox: After the deal for Rich Harden fell through, this is the only starter the Sox could get?  For their sakes, at least the Yankees chose not to do a single damn thing to improve their pitching (good luck Brian Cashman, because everyone but CC is hanging on by a thread).

Mike Adams (from San Diego) and Koji Uehara (from Baltimore) to the Rangers: Two great moves by the Rangers to shore up the back end up the bullpen.  Texas, just like last year, made moves that could propel them deep into the playoffs.

Ubaldo Jimenez (from Colorado) to the Indians: The number of people who actually thought that Cleveland was going to land Ubaldo can be counted on one hand.  However, total props to the Indians for making a bold move that could win them their division.  Jimenez has started to pitch much better as of late, and the Indians needed a big splash to stay in the AL Central race.  They gave up some great pitching prospects (Drew Pomeranz and Alex White), but pitching prospects are so volatile that it was smart to give away a lot in order to get a pitcher who has already proven he can be an ace at the big league level.  Now the Indians are hoping that Jimenez can revert to his form from the first half of last season.

Here is a link to the Yahoo Sports Trade Tracker, with all the moves made by MLB clubs:;_ylt=AuzSuzbRwQWolJdDCbWFGu4RvLYF?slug=jp-passan_mlb_trade_tracker_deadline_073011