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Remembering the First World Series Home Run
PLUS: WHERE WILL THE TOP FREE AGENTS SIGN? WE PICK THEIR NEXT TEAMS
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Did you know…
Atlanta’s lefty ace Max Fried is not only a fine pitcher but the best-fielding (and best-hitting) pitcher in the National League. He made 30 starts in 2022, went 14-7 with a 2.48 ERA (51 ER/185.1 IP), and compiled a .976 fielding percentage, with one error in 42 chances. Fried picked off three runners in 2022, tied for third in the NL and fourth in MLB. Since his debut in 2017, his 23 pick-offs lead MLB. He has won three straight Gold Gloves.
The Oakland A’s will hold a 50th Anniversary celebration next April. The weekend will kick off with a private welcome reception on Saturday, April 15, followed by a 1973 team reunion pre-game ceremony on Sunday, April 16 during the weekend series versus the New York Mets.
The 2022 Atlanta Braves won their fifth straight NL East title but did it the hard way, spending all of eight days in first place. Going 78-33 after June 1 helped them catch the New York Mets, who blew a lead of 10 1/2 games.
Bryce Harper was not involved in any of the seven walk-off wins posted by the Phillies in 2022 . . .
J.T. Realmuto joined Pudge Rodriguez as the only catchers with 20/20 seasons, going 21-for-21 in steals before he was nailed in his last try, at Houston Oct. 3 . .
As the World Series returns to Minute Maid Park, keep in mind that the Phillies went 40-41 on the road this season.
Remember the first
. . . of now 1,000+ World Series home runs
By Jeff Kallman
Go ahead and lament the Phillies’ home run hammering of Lance McCullers, Jr. and the Astros in World Series Game 3. Kvetch all you wish at this “reliance” on the home run. (Expose yourself thus to forgetting or ignoring how the Phillies overthrew the Astros in Game 1 while you’re at it, too.)
But at least join celebration of Phillies third baseman Alec Bohm leading off the bottom of the second off with a line drive into the left field seats. Bohm may or may not have known what you may or may not have known before he swung, that he was making history of his own.
With McCullers discovering early and often enough that his usually formidable repertoire of breaking balls wasn’t good enough to remain unbroken, Bohm swatted the one thousandth home run in World Series history. He did it on the first pitch thrown in the inning, and just an inning after Bryce Harper launched the first pitch of his first plate appearance three quarters of the way up the lower right field seats.
The game would finish with a 7-0 Phillies demolition, putting them up 2-1 in the Series. It also finished with World Series home run numbers 1,001-1,003, courtesy of Brandon Marsh, Kyle Schwarber, and Rhys Hoskins to follow. It took a mere 119 years for Bohm to hit the millennial milestone, which tells you something about good things and those waiting.
The only thing that could have sweetened it would be if Bohm had hit it off a known Hall of Famer in waiting. That’s what happened the first time around, in Game One of the 1903 Series. Fashioned as a best-of-eight, the Pittsburgh Pirates had a 3-1 edge before the Boston Americans (the Red Sox-to-be) swept the final four games. But that set began with a 7-3 Pirates win, and the Pirates’ right fielder accounting for four of the seven runs.
Jimmy Sebring’s may not be a name you remembered until someone unearthed it in the immediate wake of the Phillies’ bomb squad turning Game Three into a simulated exercise by the ancient Strategic Air Command. But he checked in at the plate on 1 October 1903 in the top of the seventh, with the Pirates up 6-0.
That was the time of the Dead Ball Era, when pitchers were trained to pitch to contact and not through bats. When hitters weren’t supposed to think of home runs at the plate. When pitchers could pitch gobs of complete games not because they were “tougher men” but because they weren’t hard throwers. When a team could lead the league hitting only two less home runs in one year than Schwarber hit by himself to lead the National League this year.
Sebring already had a two-run single in the first, and a pair of one-run singles in the third and the fourth, against Hall of Fame pitcher Cy Young, when he checked in against Young in the top of the seventh. No, they also didn’t consider relief pitching then to be anything better than the refuge of men who couldn’t cut the mustard as starters, either. The idea that even a Hall of Famer just might be vulnerable facing batters the third or fourth time around wasn’t programmed into early 20th century software.
So with one out Sebring got a fourth crack at Young, whom he'd already hit as though holding ownership papers. He cracked one to the rear end of right center field and managed to run it out for an inside-the-park home run. The Pirates won the game and lost the Series war, but Sebring came out of it as the leading Pirate hitter for the set. It was Sebring’s final brush with baseball glory.
Baseball wasn’t the grand living then that it is today, and Sebring may well have been discontented with that side of the game. By May 1904, he was as much in love with the Pirates as a cobra with a mongoose. Not even a little tough love from his Hall of Fame teammate Honus Wagner could shake him out of it.
Then, according to Sebring’s Society for American Baseball Research biography, came the 3 July 1904 ankle injury that all but sapped Sebring’s baseball ability. And, perhaps, what remained of his love of the game. SABR biographer Robert Payton Wiggins, writing in 2011, ran down, among other things:
* Sebring argued with the Pirates over treating and caring for the injured ankle, and was traded to Cincinnati that August. Though he struggled, the Reds offered him a $600 pay hike rather than grant his release. Then his wife, Elizabeth, was stricken with peritonitis.
* The Reds loaned Sebring the money to tend his wife’s medical bills with a promise that it would be considered a gift if he stayed with them until autumn. But wanting to stay close to her, he joined Williamsport’s outlaw team in Pennsylvania’s Tri-State League.
* Oops. The Reds moved to declare Sebring a contract jumper and for baseball’s then-ruling National Commission to ban him (and others) unless the commissioners re-instated him. Meanwhile, Sebring enjoyed a bit of a second wind with Williamsport, but the Reds attempted to trade his rights while Sebring hung on to become Williamsport’s player-manager and try luring a few major leaguers to the team.
* Sebring finally received reinstatement for 1909, as a member of the Brooklyn Superbas. (You know them better as the Dodgers.) It cost the team a mere $600 to the Reds, the money Sebring still owed for his wife’s earlier medical care, while Sebring himself had to pay a $200 fine. He struggled in Brooklyn, was released and then picked up by the Washington Senators, struggled more, but ended the season confident he’d pick it up again come spring training 1910.
The only thing Sebring picked up, tragically, was Bright’s disease—known long since by its proper name, nephritis—discovered after a pair of December 1909 seizures. His wife and daughter high-tailed it by train back to Williamsport (they were visiting Mrs. Sebring’s father out of town) but arrived too late. He was dead at 27.
Sebring’s was the first of ten inside-the-park World Series home runs to come. Maybe the most famous names to do it were a couple of guys named Stengel (1923, for the New York Giants) and Gehrig (1928, for the Yankees). It hasn’t been done in a Series again since Royals shortstop Alcides Escobar did it in Game One of the 2015 Series against the Mets—and his was the first such Series homer in 86 years.
The young man who ran himself into a long inside-the-park home run to start World Series history, and who might have had his best run as a baseball player across that entire Series, couldn’t out-run his frustrations.
Alec Bohm has known frustration enough since he finished second in 2020’s National League Rookie of the Year voting. But he’s managed to out-play enough frustration when it’s counted this postseason. Now he has bragging rights the far more celebrated among the Phillies’ phloggers lack. He’d be justified completely if, for the rest of this Series, he changes his uniform number to 1,000.
Jeff Kallman is an IBWAA Life Member who writes Throneberry Fields Forever. He has written for the Society for American Baseball Research, The Hardball Times, Sports-Central, and other publications. He has lived in Las Vegas since 2007, where he plays the guitar and writes music when not writing baseball. He remains a Mets fan since the day they were born.
Picking Likely Landing Spots for Top Free Agents
By Dan Schlossberg
Figuring out where free agents will land is far more difficult than picking pennant winners or world champions.
It’s especially tough this year, since Aaron Judge — and possibly others — are certain to top existing records for the biggest contract ($430 million, spread over 12 years) and the highest annual average (the $43.3 million the Mets lavished on aging Max Scherzer).
Trea Turner has hinted he’d like to play close to his Florida home but Atlanta native Dansby Swanson, another shortstop, might not re-sign with the Braves because he has the same agent as Freddie Freeman, the subject of bungled negotiations last winter.
Judge might move too, especially after Yankee fans booed him during the playoffs after his 62-homer season.
So here’s an educated guess at where the top free agents will land, with second and third choices indicated as well:
Aaron Judge, OF — The towering slugger had 62 homers and chased a Triple Crown, and even acquitted himself well when asked to play center. The Yankees would have to double their March offer to the Northern California native but they can afford it. The picks: 1. Yankees, 2. Giants, 3. Dodgers.
Justin Verlander, RHP — Pushing 40, he’s about to win the Cy Young Award for the third time. His World Series struggles are a mystery. The picks: 1. Mets, 2. Yankees, 3. Astros.
Carlos Correa, SS — The injury-prone but superlative infielder is opting out of a three-year Twins contract after one year. The picks: 1. Dodgers, 2. Braves, 3. Twins.
Trea Turner, SS — Headed east? He has speed, power, and a good glove. The picks: 1. Braves, 2. Dodgers, 3. Phillies.
Jacob deGrom, RHP — Wary about his age and cranky elbow, teams might not pony up what he wants. The picks: 1. Rangers, 2. Braves, 3. Mets.
Edwin Diaz, RHP — The best available closer just might stay put but he’ll be paid more than any previous reliever. The picks: 1. Mets, 2. Dodgers, 3. Cardinals.
Brandon Nimmo, CF — The Mets want to keep him but the lure to play near his Wyoming home is strong. The picks: 1. Rockies, 2. Giants, 3. Dodgers.
Anthony Rizzo, 1B — He had a great year with the Yankees but the Cubs want him back. The picks: 1. Cubs, 2. Yankees, 3. Giants.
Carlos Rodon, LHP — A lefthanded starter coming off a strong season, he’ll be in demand. The picks: 1. Dodgers, 2. Giants, 3. Yankees.
Dansby Swanson, SS — Won his first Gold Glove and made the NL All-Star squad. Has good power but fans too frequently. The picks: 1. Dodgers, 2. Twins, 3. Braves.
J.D. Martinez, OF — Slugger who can DH or play the outfield. The picks: 1. Astros, 2. Cubs, 3. Braves.
Jean Segura, 2B-SS — Versatile infielder was terrific for NL champs. The picks: 1. Phillies, 2. Braves, 3. Yankees.
David Robertson, RHP — Did a good job as Philadelphia closer but age is creeping up on him and he’s often wild. The picks: 1. Yankees, 2. Mets, 3. Phillies.
Kenley Jansen, RHP — Led NL with 41 saves but also blew seven. Has bouts of wildness and is prone to gopher ball. The picks: 1. Dodgers, 2. Braves, 3. Yankees.
Xander Bogaerts, SS — If he exercises the opt-out clause in his Red Sox contract, suitors will line up at the door. His defense isn’t great but he compensates with the bat. The picks: 1. Red Sox, 2. Phillies, 3. Dodgers.
Clayton Kershaw, LHP — A native Texan, he could leave L.A. now that Bruce Bochy is managing the Rangers. The picks: 1. Rangers, 2. Dodgers, 3. Yankees.
Jose Abreu, 1B — Coming off a bad year, his price is down. But he’d like to stay close to Chicago. The picks: 1. Cubs, 2. White Sox, 3. Yankees.
Andrew Benintendi, OF — He makes contact and bats left-handed. ‘Nuff said. The picks: 1. Braves, 2. Yankees, 3. Mets.
Willson Contreras, C — A quality catcher who can hit! The picks: 1. Astros, 2. Cubs, 3. Cardinals.
Adam Duvall, OF — Coming back from a fractured wrist, he offers power and defense. The picks: 1. Braves, 2. Cubs, 3. Rockies.
Yuli Gurriel, 1B — Age could hamstring his next contract. The picks: 1. Astros, 2. Blue Jays, 3. Guardians.
Tim Anderson, SS — White Sox might not let him walk. The picks: 1. White Sox, 2. Dodgers, 3. Braves.
Joc Pederson, OF — He liked the West Coast but Braves want him back. The picks: 1. Braves, 2. Dodgers, 3. Giants.
Tyler Anderson, LHP — Good young lefties are hard to find. The picks: 1. Dodgers, 2. Braves, 3. Yankees.
Aaron Nola, RHP — Erratic post-season starter had losing record and weak outings in last three postseason starts. The picks: 1. Padres, 2. Phillies, 3. Cardinals.
Brandon Belt, 1B — Giants hope he’ll stay. The picks: 1. Astros, 2. Cubs, 3. Giants.
Michael Conforto, OF — The former Met missed the season but has recovered from shoulder surgery. The picks: 1. Phillies, 2. Braves, 3. Mets.
Zack Greinke, RHP — Good bet for short contract. The picks: 1. Blue Jays, 2. Phillies, 3. Mariners.
Former AP sportswriter Dan Schlossberg of Fair Lawn, NJ writes baseball for numerous outlets, including Latino Sports and forbes.com. E.mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“I’ve been in baseball 23 years and I’ve never seen this before. He’s either the exceptional talent we think he is or it’s an outlier. I’ve seen plenty of good, young arms but I’ve never seen this.”
— Atlanta GM Alex Anthopoulos after Spencer Strider fanned 202 in 131 2/3 innings
The 1906 White Sox won the World Series over the crosstown Cubs after winning a record 23 fewer games during the regular season . . .
None of the seven Braves teams that won 100 games during the divisional play era went on to win the World Series . . .
The only Mets team that won more games in a season than the 101-game winners of 2022 was the 1986 world championship squad . . .
The San Diego Padres have two games in Mexico City vs. the San Francisco Giants April 29-30 and should have suspended Fernando Tatis, Jr. by then as he will be healed for second wrist surgery and will have served his 80-game PED suspension . . .
For all their spending, Mets ranked only 11th in attendance with 2,564,737. The Dodgers led, followed by Cardinals, Yankees, and Braves – the only teams over three million – and then Padres right behind.
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HERE’S THE PITCH is published daily except Sundays and holidays. Brian Harl [email@example.com] handles Monday and Tuesday editions, Elizabeth Muratore [firstname.lastname@example.org] does Wednesday and Thursday, and Dan Schlossberg [email@example.com] 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.