Five Notable Players from the 2003 World Series Retired this Offseason

I’m writing about Juan Pierre‘s retirement like it’s the end of an era. In actuality, I finally have some time to write about baseball and it’s the biggest thing going other than the Adam Wainwright injury.

Pierre’s retirement had me looking into the 2003 Florida Marlins a bit more. Immediately, I saw another member of the team was a recent retiree: Josh Beckett. Beckett was the MVP of the 2003 World Series and threw the last pitch before defeating the New York Yankees in what turned out to be a 5-hit shutout in Game 6.

This brings me to even more recent retirees from the Marlins’ opponent. The New York Yankees also employed some very memorable guys who retired following the 2014 season.

The first, and the one we knew was done long in advance, was Derek Jeter. One of baseball’s best, Jeter hung up his cleats following a Hall of Fame career.

By Keith Allison [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
By Keith Allison [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
Also retiring from the Yankees were Alfonso Soriano and most recently Jason Giambi. By contrast to Jeter, neither compares. In fact, neither ever won a World Series with the Yankees. For the most part, they were with the Yankees during the leaner playoff years.

Reviewing both rosters, not many players remain active. A few like Brad Penny are clinging onto hope that they can come back. The only player still playing at an elite level is Miguel Cabrera who at the time was just a utility player.

The 2003 World Series wasn’t a particularly memorable one without a rooting interest, however, there was a bit of significance. It was the last year Joe Torre took them to the finals before Joe Girardi won it with the team in 2009. Getting beat by dominant the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2001 was one thing. Losing to the Wild Card nobodies on the Marlins in 2003 was another. The Yankees Dynasty had ended and this offseason, so did the careers of several players who were there to see it happen.

Cincinnati Reds’ Billy Hamilton is No Juan Pierre

The fastest man in the MLB is probably Billy Hamilton of the Cincinnati Reds. He had a 100 stolen base season at the minor league level and so far has shown us he’s ahead of big league catchers. When I think of Hamilton, one player I also think of is Juan Pierre.

Yesterday Pierre announced his retirement. This caused me to reflect a little bit on his career and what he meant to baseball. Pierre was an old-school style player very similar to what we see from Hamilton. Speed aside, Hamilton is nowhere near the level of player of Pierre.

By John on Flickr (Original version) UCinternational (Crop) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
By John on Flickr (Original version) UCinternational (Crop) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
As I addressed yesterday, Pierre was far more than a base-stealing threat. He also led the league in hits twice and frequently surpassed the 200 hit mark. From 2003-2007 he didn’t miss a single game, which really helped bolster some of his numbers.

The difference I see is that Hamilton has yet to prove that he can hit. Pierre’s .295 career average is far greater than I ever see Hamilton reaching. In 2014, he hit just .250 with an on-base percentage below .300. It’ll improve, but not so much where a comparison to Pierre with the bat makes sense.

Hamilton’s hitting abilities are really what is holding him back more than anything. He’s already about 1/4th of the way to reaching Pierre’s career numbers in strikeouts. Based on his strengths, Hamilton needs to really just put the bat on the ball even if it doesn’t go very far. If he can perfect drag bunts, he’ll have 15-20 extra hits a season.

Thankfully I haven’t heard any comparisons between the two. However, I also don’t talk baseball very much with anyone who knows more than team names. Since I recognize Hamilton’s potential, I really do hope to see him become a better hitter. Adding more singles and walks to his repertoire will make him significantly better as a ball player.

At that point, let the comparisons to Pierre begin.

By OctopusHat on Flickr [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
By OctopusHat on Flickr [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

2015 MLB Prediction: The American League East Disappoints Us All

Throughout the 1990s and into the 2000s, the American League East was one of the best divisions in baseball. This was in part thanks to the Toronto Blue Jays in the early part of the 1990s, the New York Yankees in the late 1990s and early 2000s, and the Boston Red Sox in the 2000s up through 2013.

The other two teams in the division, the Baltimore Orioles and Tampa Bay Devil Rays, also had competitive seasons including a World Series appearance by the latter in 2008.

In 2015, the Red Sox enter the season with a revamped offense and completely new pitching staff. The Blue Jays have added Josh Donaldson and Russell Martin while the Orioles are the defending division champions and still rather dangerous.

Overall, it’s still a strong division on paper. However, I’m predicting in 2015 this once dominant division falters and disappoints us all.

I’m not buying the Red Sox. If Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson was the one who cooked up all of their transactions, I’m smelling some bad news. There’s no true ace and several of their starting pitchers had bad seasons last year. Just because they’re in a new city that has won in recent years doesn’t mean they’ll bounce back.

The Orioles are also a major concern for me. Matt Wieters and Manny Machado will return from injury and there’s really no telling at what percent and when they actually will be back in the lineup. The loss of Nelson Cruz and Nick Markakis without any significant replacement is also troubling.

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Then there’s the Blue Jays. I’m rooting really hard for them. I love the offense they have, but the pitching staff still seems to lack something. R.A. Dickey and Mark Buehrle are old enough to die of natural causes. I’m not sure that even with their potent offense we’ll see the Blue Jays in the postseason, who by the way are the only team since 2000 absent from playoff baseball.

Finally I’ll lump the Yankees and Rays in together because I don’t see either having a particularly good year and for completely opposite reasons. The Yankees are old, getting older, and make Dickey and Buehrle look like toddlers. As for the Rays, their experience makes a virgin seem confident in bed.

By james_in_to on Flickr (Original version) UCinternational (Crop) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
By james_in_to on Flickr (Original version) UCinternational (Crop) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
In the end, though, the division may remain competitive and not in a particularly good way. Maybe, they’ll battle for the playoff spot with one of the lowest win totals. The best pitcher in the entire division is probably Masahiro Tanaka and even he is a bit of a mystery.

For the first time in a while, I see the American League East placed firmly near the front door and given the job of “mat” for the rest of the league.

Five Statistical Facts about Bob Feller

According to Baseball-Reference’s Fan EloRater, only 13 pitchers put up better statistics than Bob Feller. Feller spent all 18 seasons of his big league career with the Cleveland Indians and 3 others fighting in World War II. A member of the Indians the last time they won the World Series, these are five statistical facts about the Heater from Van Meter.

Leading the League in Wins

One-third of the seasons he played in Feller led the American League in wins. This fraction includes partial seasons so it’s an even greater achievement than what I’m making it out to be. Six times Feller had more wins than anyone else and it would have been far more if not for WWII. Feller led the league in wins 1939-1941, 1946, 1947, and finally in 1951.

Nearly an MVP

The Cy Young Award didn’t exist until it was too late for Feller to win one or more likely several. He did come close to capturing a couple MVP Awards, most notably each season 1939-1941. These three seasons Feller finished in the top three of voting however Joe DiMaggio and Hank Greenberg would end up winning it.

By Cavguy147 (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
By Cavguy147 (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Leading the League in Strikeouts

In each full season he played in from 1938-1948, Feller led the league in strikeouts. Of course, this leaves out the 1942-1945 seasons as he did not play in the first three and only started 9 games in 1945. His high came in 1946 when Feller struck out 348 batters.

Postseason Pitching

Feller only made it to one World Series when the Indians actually won in 1948. He didn’t pitch particularly well either, going 0-2 with a 5.02 ERA. In spite of their ace’s struggles, the Indians defeated the Boston Braves in six games.

More Complete Games than Wins

A common trend among pitchers from this era, Feller finished with more complete games than he did wins. Feller won 266 games in his career and secured 279 complete games. The most wins he had in a season was 27 in 1940. The most complete games was 36 in 1946.

Juan Pierre Has Swiped His Last Base, Retires from Baseball

The career of the indestructible Juan Pierre has come to a close. The veteran outfielder has retired from baseball, but not before leaving his mark on the game.

Pierre played through the time when home runs were still the most popular kid in school all the way up until pitchers began to dominate again. It never seemed to affect him, though, as he only ever hit 18 home runs in his big league career.

Rather than driving the ball a long way, Pierre’s game was focused on speed. Three times Pierre led the league in stolen bases. In 2010 at 32-years-old he swiped a career high 68 with the Chicago White Sox.

By OctopusHat on Flickr [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
By OctopusHat on Flickr [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
Pierre was more than a speedy guy. He was also great at making contact. He had nearly one walk for every strikeout and even led the league in hits twice.

Most impressive/underrated of all is how Pierre always showed up to work. From 2003-2007, Pierre played in all 162 games which happened to be for three different teams. You can’t succeed if you don’t show up and this was not a problem for Pierre in the prime of his career.

At the time of his retirement, Pierre is ranked 18th on the all-time stolen base list. His 614 is pretty damn good. This ranking probably won’t change anytime soon as nobody is even within 100.

The highlight of Pierre’s career may have come in 2003 when he helped the Florida Marlins win their second World Series Championship in franchise history. Along with fellow recent retiree Josh Beckett, the Marlins were able to upset the New York Yankees.

Although we remember him most as a Marlin, Pierre only played in Miami for 4 seasons including his last season in 2013. Pierre had success in some form with every team he played for and surely has made a few headlines all over the baseball community from fans who remember the handful of seasons or games he played in their city.

Jihadi John a Pittsburgh Pirates’ Fan

It’s never a good thing when terrorism enters the world of Major League Baseball. Thankfully at the center of this controversy, it’s all about a hat.

An image of the man behind the Jihadi John mask has him wearing a Pittsburgh Pirates’ cap. Of course, as hip-hop culture has taught us, this doesn’t guarantee his support of the Bucs. He may just like the colors or the letter P.

Of course, the Pirates are disgusted by this. Any team would be and rightfully so.

From a lighter standpoint, I’m insulted because I highly doubt Jihadi John could name 10 players on the Pirates. I’m not sure what the story behind the hat is at all, but I know I could beat him at Pirates’ trivia.

So I issue an open challenge to you, Jihadi John. You versus me in a best of 21 trivia contest about the Pirates. If you win, you get to wear whatever hats you want and I’ll join your “cause.” If I win, you can never wear the hat of a professional sports team you know nothing about plus you have to retire from terrorism.

I’m waiting J.J. You know where to reach me.

Fantasy Baseball Take on Ryan Zimmerman

The 2015 season for Ryan Zimmerman will be an interesting one as he’ll take over the role as starting first baseman for the Washington Nationals. He moves from third base where the distance to throw the ball across the diamond was becoming difficult for his frequently injured shoulder and arm.

The Nationals are very hopeful that limiting the amount of throwing can help keep Zimmerman healthy. First base has some sharp balls hit to it, but to a much lesser extent than playing the hot corner at third. His fielding will be more about catching line drives thrown to him than anything else.

For your fantasy baseball team, Zimmerman remains a risk. He played in only 61 games last season and there is always an adjustment period whenever a player moves to a new position. As much as he has a reputation for frequently being injured, Zimmerman has a pattern of two years healthy followed by an injury-plagued year. Last season is the only year he actually failed to reach 100 games in a season so the risk in drafting/signing/trading for him isn’t as dangerous as it may seem.

By dbking on Flickr (Originally posted to Flickr as "IMG_9230") [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
By dbking on Flickr (Originally posted to Flickr as “IMG_9230”) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
The problem with Zimmerman, though, is that he’s a first baseman. Because this is such a strong position, Zimmerman gets lost behind a lot of the other names with a bit more security attached to them. I still expect 20-25 home runs, 80 RBIs, and a .275 batting average from him if healthy, but for a first baseman you’re going to want a lot more.

You will want to pay attention to Zimmerman’s eligibility as some leagues may still have him as a third baseman. If so, his value does go up a little bit.

Considering the Nationals’ lineup and Zimmerman’s placement somewhere around 5th or 6th, he should get plenty of opportunities to drive in runs. Again, injuries appear to be the only reason to dismiss Zimmerman completely. He’s still not a great option as a starting first baseman, however, as a bench player who can fill-in he’s incredibly valuable to have.

2015 MLB Prediction: The Seattle Mariners are the “Surprise” Playoff Team

Can we call the Seattle Mariners a surprise playoff team in 2015? Considering they haven’t been to the postseason since 2001, I think it is.

I’m predicting in 2015 the Mariners sneak into the postseason. In 2014, they were only one game away from tying for a wild card. They managed to do this with a roster not as good as the one they have now.

What I really like about the Mariners is their pitching. Of course, there’s Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma at the front end. It’s the younger guys like James Paxton and Taijuan Walker that will make them more than a team with just two aces.

An under the radar move, the Mariners also traded for J.A. Happ. Certainly Happ isn’t the kind of pitcher to challenge for a Cy Young Award. However, he is still someone who can win you a dozen games.

Of course, the biggest move the Mariners made this offseason was signing free agent outfielder/designated hitter Nelson Cruz. He’s the reigning AL home run champion and should continue his slugging in Seattle.

Slugging in Seattle…it sounds like a nice romantic comedy for Cruz to star in when things go real good.

By Mike Tigas on Flickr (Original version) UCinternational (Crop) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
By Mike Tigas on Flickr (Original version) UCinternational (Crop) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
How do the Mariners make the playoffs?

Winning the division is unlikely with the Los Angeles Angels around. Since I’m predicting a fall for the Oakland Athletics, as you should too, the Mariners are the obvious choice to step in and find themselves playing October baseball.

A one-game wild card for the Mariners is a good situation for them too. I could see a scenario similar to last season when the San Francisco Giants called upon Madison Bumgarner to get them past the Pittsburgh Pirates. Instead, the Mariners would use King Felix for this task. For the Mariners’ sake, they better hope they clinch the wild card earlier than the last day of the season.

Once in the playoffs I don’t see the Mariners doing very much. Aside from Cruz, Robinson Cano, and Kyle Seager there aren’t many bats I like at all. Austin Jackson is so absolutely “meh” and much of the others on the roster swing so hard they loo like they’re going to fall over. Mike Zunino has the pop, but can he actually make contact?

I’m guaranteeing the Mariners make the playoffs this year. I’m guessing their opponent in the wild card game is someone from the AL East. The Toronto Blue Jays, perhaps?