Lockout Ends; Will Baseball History Follow?
ALSO: SOME GOOD, SOME BAD IN NEW BASEBALL AGREEMENT
Did you know…
Since 1900, there have been eight seasons of 60+ home runs and eight others of 100+ stolen bases . . .
In 1887, the St. Louis Browns of the American Association stole 581 bases in 135 games and no team swiped fewer than 221 times. Six men reached triple digits in steals, including Charlie Comiskey, with 117 steals for the St. Louis Browns . . .
Since 1900, the only men to swipe at least 100 in a season were Rickey Henderson and Vince Coleman three times each, Maury Wills, and Lou Brock . . .
In 1962, the 29-year-old Wills had more steals (104) than the rest of the league combined and 72 more than the runner-up, Willie Davis . . .
Henderson led his league in steals 12 times in 25 seasons, topping 40 steals 17 times and stealing 30 or more in four different decades . . .
In 1986, Vince Coleman became the only man to steal at least 100 bases without hitting a home run . . .
Chase Utley’s 87.79% success rate is the best by any player with at least 100 stolen bases.
Just In The Nick Of Time, There’s a Chance For Baseball History To Be Made In 2022
By Sean Millerick
Raise your hands if you remember where you were when Mark McGwire passed Roger Maris for the home run crown in 1998. How about when Barry Bonds passed McGwire in 2001? Ichiro’s 264 hits in 2004?
Raise them again if you get a special thrill when a pitcher passes 300 strikeouts, or when a base-stealer shows signs of giving Rickey Henderson a run for his money? Or maybe you just remember how dominant the 1998 Yankees and 2001 Mariners were and would love to see if a team can make a run at 117 wins.
There’s not a sport out there more intrinsically linked to its history than baseball. Each of those moments mentioned above was huge for baseball fans, as were 100 other pursuits of 100 long-standing records.
It’s game of numbers, even if MLB would really like you to forget that fact so new fans will flock to the sport.
Which made it all the more essential that MLB and the MLBPA came to their senses shortly after the league announced the cancellation of additional week’s worth of games on Wednesday. Thankfully though, baseball is back, and every game of the season is going to be played after all.
Had an agreement not been reached, all the evidence was pointing to not a single MLB team playing more than 151 games — an occurrence that would have had dire consequences.
Consider that a steroid-free Maris needed 154 games just to hit 59, and a very-much-not-steroid-free McGwire needed 152 games to pass him. Throw in the deadened ball with this truncated schedule, and that would have been all she wrote on someone even joining the 60-homer club this season, let alone challenging Bonds* for the record. That would have been a massive loss for the game.
And robbing fans of a summer long chase for the granddaddy record in sports would have just been the tip of the iceberg. Thirty MLB teams’ worth of franchise milestones were looking really safe for 2022 as well as a result of this lockout. That matters so much more for baseball than the other sports.
Unless Michael Jordan, Wayne Gretzky, or Dan Marino played for your team, individual accolades and records just don’t resonate the way they do in MLB.
For instance, I’d be impressed if say 10 per cent of Cleveland Browns fans could tell you who holds the single season record for passing touchdowns (Brian Snipe). By contrast though, I’d be shocked if 99 per centof Guardians fans couldn’t tell me something about Jim Thome’s 52-HR effort in 2002.
Homers, strikeouts, RBIs, stolen bases, hits, wins…really just pick a rotisserie baseball category. Baseball fans know the franchise leader for all of these. And in a season as long as baseball’s, where even in an expanded playoff so few teams really have a legit chance at making a run at a title, it is the pursuit of those kind of individual records that help keep the season interesting. History can happen with every pitch.
Bottom-line, the season was saved in every sense of the word Thursday afternoon.
Now, sure, we did just see a really recent example of baseball functioning with well less than 162 games played. But that came with a giant, pandemic-sized caveat.
Baseball fans would have been happy if they got so much as a month-long round-robin tournament, or some baseball version of Madness in August instead of March.
We were happy for any distraction then, and records to a backseat to just being happy for the respite. Not getting to watch a home run race in the interest of public health and player safety? Totally understandable. Cancelling a home run chase over money? That was going to hurt- and fans would have absolutely made MLB feel some of that hurt in the revenue department.
More importantly though, that was going to hurt a lot of fans every day of the season. Just like it did in 1994 and 1995. Hurt because most of those stories within the story of the MLB season couldn’t be told because there wasn’t enough schedule to make those record pursuits possible.
Fortunately though, that particular Rubicron wasn’t crossed in 2022. We’re getting a full season. Maybe Judge or Tatis do hit 60 homers. Maybe Gerrit Cole gets into Randy Johnson territory for strikeouts. Maybe someone does start to make Ichiro feel uncomfortable about his 262 hits. Maybe Steve Cohen buys his Mets 117 wins. Maybe…well, the exact record doesn’t matter.
What matters is that everything is on the table this season. It wouldn’t really have been baseball if it hadn’t.
Sean Millerick is a diehard Miami Marlins fan but still finds cause for hope every Spring Training. He currently writes for @CallToThePen. You can find him on Twitter @miasportsminute.
Lockout Settlement Full of Good News and Bad News
By Dan Schlossberg
The good news is they settled, albeit after losing the Winter Meetings, the Hot Stove League, a chunk of spring training, and the trust of baseball fans everywhere.
The bad news is the new Basic Agreement has more than its share of flaws.
Let’s start with the biggest: in 2023, every team plays every other team (29 opponents) each season. The format is to be determined, but those games will result in the number of intra-divisional games teams will play (previously 19 games per season against its four of divisional opponents)
Such a lineup will further compromise the integrity and significance of the World Series. But so will the new playoff format, with 12 teams instead of 10 (MLB’d bid for 14 failed).
Still, with a dozen teams allowed to dive into postseason play, there’s a greater chance that some team with a sub-.500 record will qualify. That is bad for baseball, TV money be damned.
Rejected 8-0 by the executive committee of the Major League Baseball Players Association, the CBA won approval when union membership was polled. It also won approval from the owners — by unanimous vote.
It’s good to have baseball back but fans may not be totally forgiving. We’ll see whether they boo or cheer once the games begin.
Camps officially open Sunday but players may report as early as tomorrow.
Those players are happy that the 162-game schedule survived, though no games will be played until April 14, with all scheduled before that to be made up either as part of double-headers or in a week added to the end of the schedule.
We won’t even ask whether anyone — from MLB to individual clubs — prints a 2022 media guide. They’ve been going digital for years and the lockout might have been their final death-knell.
At least we can look forward to the All-Star Game in Los Angeles, the Hall of Fame Induction in Cooperstown, and the Winter Meetings in San Diego.
Beyond that, we can also look forward to a rushed spring training marked by madcap trades, signings, and arbitration hearings. The Rule 5 draft, usually held at the winter meetings, has already been cancelled by the clubs.
Let’s hope we’ve seen the last of “official” seven-inning games and extra-inning ghost runners automatically stationed on second base.
We do know pitchers won’t hit any more, though it wouldn’t be surprising to see Max Fried take a turn as a pinch-hitter.
Maybe somebody can pinch-hit for Rob Manfred and Tony Clark too. Permanently.
Former AP sportswriter Dan Schlossberg hosts “Oddities & Ironies of Baseball,” followed by a booksigning, at Westwood (NJ) Public Library at 2 p.m. Saturday, March 19. He is the author or co-author of 40 baseball books. E.mail him at email@example.com.
Veteran @mlb player tells me and an MLB Official confirms. … unvaccinated players can’t play in Canada and under new CBA they will not be paid or receive service time for those games missed in Canada #wcvb
The new CBA stipulates official MLB games for various destinations outside North America, including Mexico, Asia, Puerto Rico, London, the Dominican Republic and Paris . . .
Hall of Famer Tom Glavine on the work stoppage: “This is going to do damage to the game – there’s no question about that. How much? I guess we’ll see. I still talk to people who swore off the game after the (1994-95) strike and they haven’t gone back.”
Mickey Mantle was named after “Mickey” Cochrane, whose real name was George Stanley Cochrane . . .
George is also the real first name of Tom Seaver, Sparky Anderson, and both Ken Griffeys . . .
Moose Skowron got his nickname because of a striking resemblance to wartime dictator Benito Mussolini of Italy . . .
Not that it matters much anymore but Carlos Correa is now represented by super-agent Scott Boras.
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HERE’S THE PITCH is published daily except Sundays and holidays. Brian Harl [firstname.lastname@example.org] handles Monday and Tuesday editions, Elizabeth Muratore [email@example.com] does Wednesday and Thursday, and Dan Schlossberg [firstname.lastname@example.org] edits the weekend editions on Friday and Saturday. Readers are encouraged to contribute comments, articles, and letters to the editor. HTP reserves the right to edit for brevity, clarity, and good taste.