|2016 Season||Edition No. 9||May 5, 2016|
LADY LUCK RIDING SHOTGUN WITH POSSUM
As the 2016 Hot Stove League season moves into its second month of competition, Lady Luck still maintains her prominent spot on the buckboard of the Wahoos’ Wagon Train. With a laughably lucky pitching staff leading the way, the Wahoos have galloped out to an unsustainable 306.4-point lead over the field after four weeks of HSL competition.
Here are the standings through four weeks:
STANDINGS THROUGH MAY 1, 2016
POINT TOTALS FOR WEEK 4
Comments: The Wahoos’ eye-popping 606.7 points for the week has to be an HSL record. No, wait. They already had the record with 658.0 points for Week 2. If it wasn’t for good luck, Possum would have no luck at all. In spite of his gibble-gabble to the contrary, the Wahoos have been uncannily healthy this season, unlike many of our teams which have had star players spend significant time on the DL or with “Day-to-Day” listings next to many of our players on practically a daily basis. Almost every day of the season has been a “red letter day” for the Senators thus far, but the propitious Wahoos have been in the black on a regular basis.
One piece of irrefutable evidence that Possum has surpassed Lou Gehrig as the luckiest man on the face of the Earth is the Wahoos’ pitching record to date. Through games of Wednesday, May 4, the collective win-loss record of the charmed Wahoos pitchers is a jaw-dropping 31-11, a celestial winning percentage of .738. For perspective, in the annals of Major League history, the top winning percentage for any team for one season is .763 by the 1906 Cubs, who went 116-36. The second highest winning percentage was by the 1902 Pirates, who notched a .741 winning percentage with a 103-36 record. The Wahoos are currently in 3rd with their Beelzebubian mark of .738 for the 2016 campaign, ahead of the 4th place 1886 Chicago White Stockings (90-34, .726), the 1909 Pittsburgh Pirates (110-42, .724), and the 1954 Cleveland Indians (111-43, .721). The powerful 1927 Yankees, said by some to be the greatest team of all time, could only produce a paltry .714 (110-44) winning percentage, far behind the 2016 Wahoos.
For more perspective, the winningest 20th century pitcher with at least 100 career wins was Spud Chandler of the powerhouse Yankees from the 1930s and ’40s, who won 109 games against 43 losses for a .717 winning percentage, far below the satanic mark of Possum’s pitching staff. Behind Chandler on that list is Whitey Ford with a .690 winning percentage, followed by Pedro Martinez at .686.
So in conclusion, maybe Possum’s white-hot pitchers (Jose Quintana, 4-1; Nathan Karns, 3-1; Vince Velásquez, 4-1; Rick Porcello, 5-0; David Price, 4-0; Jon Lester, 3-1; Joe Ross, 3-0; and Gio Gonzalez, 2-1) can keep up their torrid pace, or maybe they can’t. Let’s wait and see.
TOP 25 HITTERS
TOP 25 PITCHERS
Reflections: Possum has 2 of the top 6 hitters (Bryce Harper and Dexter Fowler) and a remarkable 6 of the top 19 pitchers, so let’s all acknowledge that the poor guy can’t catch a break.
At the other end of the spectrum, the league bowel-territory Redbirds don’t have a single pitcher in the top 25 through the first month of play, and only one Crimson Chirper hitter (José Altuve, 3rd with 136.3 points) has been able to crack the top 25. Ouch. It seems that the Latin-derived team motto which was cheekily bestowed upon Tirebiter’s team some two decades ago was prophetic:
Work this week delivered me to Orange County, California, for an expert witness deposition, and this gave me the chance to visit bonny LoanMart Field in Rancho Cucamonga (yes, this is a real place) for an Advanced A contest between the Bakersfield Blaze and the home town Rancho Cucamonga Quakes. Depicted below, LoanMart Field is a beguiling jewel of a ballpark located in close proximity to the San Gabriel Mountains. Built in 1992, with seating for 6,588 fans, LoanMart Field has a scenic view of said mountain range through a vibrant stand of pine trees that line the left field fence.
From my saunter through the LoanMart Field concourse, I learned that Chief left-fielder Yasiel Puig had a short stint (14 games) playing for the Quakes in 2012 during his meteoric rise through the minor leagues in 2012. Current Dodger shortstop Corey Seager is likewise a Quakes alumnus, having played in Rancho Cucamonga in 2013 and 2014, and was named the California League MVP after the 2014 campaign. Younger brother Justin Seager is currently playing for the Blaze, and went 1-4 in the DH spot during the game against the Quakes on Tuesday night. Older sibling Kyle Seager (age 28), of course, currently occupies third base for the Seattle Mariners, but on his way up the ladder spent the 2010 season with the High Desert Mavericks, so all three of the Seager boys have the California League on their résumés.
Also on the Quakes’ roster—but not pitching that night—is Josh Sborz, who was the 2015 College World Series MVP for the University of Virginia, with four career College World Series wins on his curriculum vitae.
In keeping with the premise that there is always a spot in professional baseball for a good baseball dude, the Quakes employ former Baltimore Oriole Jay Gibbons as their hitting coach and former Major League journeyman pitcher Kip Wells (White Sox, Pirates, Rangers, Cardinals, Rockies, Royals, Nationals, Reds and Padres) as their pitching coach.
There were two highlights in the Quakes’ game against the visiting Blaze. The first was manager Drew Saylor getting tossed from the game by the home plate umpire after arguing a call, with the fulminating Saylor putting on a phillipic which may have made Earl Weaver blush, following which the fanatic Rancho Cucamongans were merciless in baiting the young Asian arbiter.
The second and crowning moment of the contest was the walk-off double hit by second sacker Tim Locastro with the bases loaded and one out in the bottom of the 9th frame, a heat-seeking missile that the Blaze center fielder dove for but missed, sending the horsehide sphere all the way to the fence. In 50+ years of watching baseball games, it was one of the most exciting finishes I have ever witnessed, and I wished that my baseball-loving boys and all of my Hot Stove League brethren could have been there to see it.
I was reminded the other day while tailgating with B.T. at the Husker Spring Game about one of the best HSL Trips of all-time, our 1993 “California Dreamin’” junket to the left coast, and the concomitant trip by our beloved brother Tricko. This prompted me to disinter my souvenir Art F/X trip tee shirt produced by B.T., which always brings a smile to my face. Below you will find reproduced the front and back from that historic league garment:
That fall was so hard, Magpie’s grandchildren had to have felt it.
AND THAT’S NOT ALL
On my trek home from California through the Phoenix airport, the name of one of their refreshment stops caught my eye, Le Grand Orange (pronounced LA GRAHND aw-RAHNGZH), the nickname of former Expo and Met Rusty Staub, as well as our own beloved Shamu. This in turn prompted me to excavate the below picture from the HSL archives, with the caption which attended it when it first appeared in From the Bullpen:
Shamu proudly displays the baseball
given him by idol, Willie Stargell.
And on that same 1989 junket to watch Spring Training baseball in the Grapefruit League, we have the below picture of Underbelly and a recovering Itchie in the back of our plane, with the caption below the photograph from that same March 29, 1989 issue of FTB.
Jigger grins the grin of a Willie Lomans returning
from a successful sales trip, his alcohol-soaked
brain unable to distinguish any longer the difference
between ordinary sales talk and out-and-out fraud.
Nothing like a little stroll down memory lane.
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Enough said. Good luck and back at you next week.