Baseball and Softball in the Olympics

Hey baseball fans!

Baseball and softball will officially be back in the Olympic Games in Tokyo during the 2020 Summer Olympics! I am so excited to watch the world’s best play in Japan. Here is a brief history of Olympic baseball and softball.

For the longest time, the two sports were only considered recreational in the Olympics. There were no medals awarded for the best team and the sports didn’t really gain the recognition they deserved. However, there were some instances that made it apparent that baseball should have been an Olympic sport sooner than it actually became one. An exhibition game between two American teams during the 1936 Berlin Games was watched live by around 100,000 people, almost double the seating capacity at Yankee Stadium, and an exhibition game between the U.S. and Australia during the 1956 Melbourne Games was watched live by 114,000 people, the largest attendance for a baseball game ever to that date.

The 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles were the first games to have a tournament for baseball, but the sport was still considered an exhibition and no medals were awarded for first place Japan or second place United States. The two countries flip-flopped positions in the ’88 Seoul Games, but still no official medals were given out. Finally, baseball became an official Olympic sport in time for the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona, while softball became one for the ’96 Games in Atlanta. Both sports had eight team round-robin tournaments. The teams with the most wins would face off in semifinals and finals. However, the IOC (International Olympic Committee) voted baseball and softball out of the Olympics for the 2012 Games in London, becoming the first sports to be voted out of the Olympics since polo was eliminated from the 1936 Games. But baseball and softball will be back for the 2020 Tokyo Games after the IOC approved their return on August 3, 2016.

Cuba won the gold in baseball in 1992, 1996, and 2004, while the U.S. took gold in 2000 and South Korea in 2008. Other teams to have placed in the top three include Australia (silver in ’04), Chinese Taipei (silver in ’92) and Japan (silver in ’96 and bronze in ’92 and ’04). In softball, the U.S. won the first three golds, while Japan took gold in 2008. Australia and China have won the other medals during softball’s Olympic history. Pitcher Pedro Luiz Lazo for Cuba is the most decorated baseball Olympian, helping Cuba to four medals from 1996-2008. Pitcher Jennie Finch never lost a game for the U.S. softball team during Olympic play and was on the nation’s gold medal team in 2004 and silver medal team in 2008.


Who else is excited for baseball and softball in the Olympics? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below. Thanks for reading this post and I hope you enjoyed it. Check back soon for more of “all the buzz on what wuzz.”

2001: An Ichiro Odyssey

Hey baseball fans!

The future is bright in the Bronx! Tyler Austin and Aaron Judge hit back-to-back home runs in their first major league at-bats on Saturday against the Rays, the first time that has ever happened in history. In honor of the Baby Bombers and a certain someone just getting to 3,000 hits, here is one of the greatest rookie seasons in MLB history.

Ichiro Suzuki was one of the greatest Nippon Professional Baseball hitters in the Japanese baseball league’s history. Playing for the Orix Blue Wave from 1992-2000, Ichiro batted an astounding .353! His name became known around the baseball world and before the 2001 MLB season, he signed with the Seattle Mariners. Everyone knew he was a star in the making, but no one could’ve ever predicted the year he was going to have in 2001.

The 27-year-old MLB rookie led the league in the following categories: plate appearances (738), at-bats (692), stolen bases (56), batting average (.350), and base hits (242). He became the first player since Jackie Robinson in 1949 to lead the league in batting average and stolen bases in the same season. Ichiro was on the cover of Sports Illustrated, became the first rookie to receive the most votes for the All Star Game due to the MLB allowing voting in Japan, and became the first Rookie of the Year Award winner since Fred Lynn in 1975 to win the MVP in the same year. He is also the only hitter in baseball history to win the RoY, MVP, Silver Slugger, Gold Glove, and start in the All Star Game in the same season. Honestly, Ichiro’s rookie campaign was just magical.

Oh yeah, I forgot to mention; Suzuki helped his Mariners win 116 games, the most in the American League ever. Sadly, Seattle lost to the Yankees in the 2001 ALCS and are still the only AL team to never reach the World Series. However, Ichiro Suzuki will forever be known as one of if not the greatest hitter in the history of the Seattle Mariners and it all started during that legendary rookie year. Congrats on 3,000, Ichiro. Thanks for reading this post and I hope you enjoyed it. Check back soon for more of “all the buzz on what wuzz.”

The Dominant Ballplayers of My Generation

Hey baseball fans!

Ichiro Suzuki has 3,000 career hits! I am so happy for him because this is a guy who I grew up watching for more than half of his great career. This got me thinking: who are some of my favorite current MLB players whose entire careers I’ve grown up watching since I started following baseball back in 2007? Here are a few in no particular order:

Number One: Dustin Pedroia

Pedroia has always been one of my favorite players in baseball playing now because I was a baseball fan rookie when he was an MLB rookie. I’ve seen him evolve into the All Star and MVP that he is today and have always respected him, even though he’s on the Red Sox. One of the best second baseman in baseball, Pedroia has not just captivated me since 2007, but many other baseball fans across the nation. A .298 career batting average is pretty darn good.

Number Two: Andrew McCutchen

I remember when Cutch was lighting up Pittsburgh in 2009 and I could tell right then and there that he was going to be a star, but I didn’t know what he would specialize in. To my surprise, he is great at all aspects of the game. He’s batted over .300, hit more than 30 homers, stole more than 25 bases, been to multiple All Star Games, won many Gold Gloves and Silver Slugger Awards, and was even an MVP in 2013. He’s a real five-tool player and it’s been really cool to see him dominate the game in so many ways.

Number Three: Clayton Kershaw

I mean, he’s the best pitcher in baseball and it’s not even close. It seems impossible that a pitcher today could have a career ERA of 2.39, but that’s exactly what Kershaw’s is. The LA Dodger has been intimidating hitters since 2008 and I actually remember when he was just good and not legendary. All I know is I would not want to face him in a live game or even batting practice.

Numbers Four and Five: Mike Trout and Bryce Harper

The 1980s had Mike Schmidt and George Brett and the 2010s have Trout and Harper. The 2012 Rookies of the Year in the AL and NL, respectively, have torn up baseball since they joined the league. Trout has had a bit more success overall, but they’re pretty even nowadays. This is the prime battle between two young players at the same position in current baseball over who is the best and I hope it continues for many years to come. When these guys came into the league, they were so hyped up, and now I know that this is justified. Some players, they are.

Who are some of your favorite players that you grew up watching? Write your comments in the comments section. Thanks so much for reading this post and I hope you enjoyed it. Check back soon for more of “all the buzz on what wuzz.”

My Top Five Favorite New York Mets of All Time

Hey baseball fans!

Last post, I promised you a Mike Piazza-themed post today. Well, here it is: my top five favorite New York Mets in baseball history.

Number Five : Mookie Wilson
Why? Look, he’s no Hall of Famer, but without him hitting that grounder towards first base in the bottom of the tenth with two outs in Game Six of the 1986 World Series, one of my favorite plays in baseball history would have never happened. He’s a fan favorite in Flushing and for good reason; 327 steals in 12 seasons in the Majors is not too shabby.

Number Four: David Wright
Why? I’ve grown up watching Wright play third base for the Mets and even though he has become very injury-prone in recent years, Mets fans still love him. He’s essentially a version of Derek Jeter, but for the Mets, so how can you not love him? Yes, this is a biased pick, but his statistics are pretty stellar. In 13 years in the MLB, he’s made seven All Star Games, bats .296 lifetime (which is better than Hall of Famers Duke Snider and Barry Larkin), and has hit 242 homers.

Number Three: Mike Piazza
Why? Statistically, he’s the most powerful catcher in the history of the MLB and his 12 All Star Games and 1993 NL Rookie of the Year only help his cause. He would definitely be higher if not for my obligatory hatred towards him because of the little incident with him and Roger Clemens in the 2000 World Series.

Number Two: Gary Carter
Why? Carter is arguably one of the most beloved players in Mets history. This catching predecessor to Piazza surely left the 2016 Hall of Fame inductee with big shoes to fill. Carter made the All Star Game 11 times, hit 324 career homers, drove in 1,225 runs, and was an important contributor to the Mets’ 1986 World Series run.

Number One: Tom Seaver
Why? I never understood why Seaver had the highest Hall of Fame voting percentage (before this year) until I looked at his career stats: a 2.86 ERA, 311 wins, 3,640 strikeouts, 12 All Star Games, and three Cy Young Awards. Wow. Just wow!!

Honorable Mentions: Nolan Ryan, Francisco Rodriguez, Dwight Gooden, Yoenis Cespedes



Do you agree with my picks? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below. Thanks for reading this post and I hope you enjoyed it. Check back soon for more of “all the buzz on what wuzz.”

The All-Time Home Run Derby

Hey baseball fans!

Ken Griffey, Jr. and Mike Piazza are officially MLB Hall of Famers. This post is going to be Griffey-themed, while the next one will be Piazza-themed. Anyway, Ken Griffey, Jr. was an amazing home run hitter, but how would he do in a Home Run Derby against the hitters with the top eight career home run totals in baseball history (he is number six all time, by the way)? Here are my predictions on the aforementioned event.

The Quarterfinals:
Matchup One: Barry Bonds (1) vs. Sammy Sosa (8)
Who would win? In their heydays, Sosa and Bonds were two of the best home run hitters ever, but Bonds only had one year of over 60 homers in a season, while Sosa had three. They both also have one Home Run Derby title each, but Sosa placed in second in two others. So, folks, this matchup ends in an upset. Sosa moves on!

Matchup Two: Hank Aaron (2) vs. Jim Thome (7)
Who would win? Thome finished second in the ’98 Derby to Griffey, but Aaron just has more power. Even though Hammerin’ Hank never participated in one of these tournaments, I think he still takes this one. Aaron moves on!

Matchup Three: Babe Ruth (3) vs. Ken Griffey, Jr. (6)
Who would win? Griffey has won the most Home Run Derbies of all time with three titles, but Ruth would have ate up the spotlight and would probably break some HRD records along the way because of that.  Ruth moves on!

Matchup Four: Alex Rodriguez (4) vs. Willie Mays (5)
Who would win? A-Rod has never finished first or second in a Home Run Derby in his career and, on top of that, Mays probably would have ate up the spotlight like Ruth, due to his exuberant personality. The crowd would’ve pulled for Mays and that momentum would carry the Say Hey Kid over Rodriguez. Mays moves on!

The Semis:
Matchup One: Willie Mays (5) vs. Sammy Sosa (8)
Who would win? Two outgoing personalities. One spot in the finals. I think experience really matters in this competition as you get to the later rounds, so as much as I’m rooting for Willie, I’m going to give this one to Sammy because of his previous Home Run Derbies. Sosa moves on!

Matchup Two: Hank Aaron (2) vs. Babe Ruth (3)
Who would win? This one is pretty tough, to be honest. These two guys both hit so many home runs and, in my opinion, are pretty even in this stage of the competition. The only way to predict who would win is to analyze their career slugging percentages, a category in which Ruth is the all-time leader. Ruth moves on!

The Final Round:
Matchup One: Babe Ruth (3) vs. Sammy Sosa (8)

Who would win? This round is pretty one-sided. Everyone in the stadium would be pulling for the Babe and, naturally, he’d come up in the clutch. No contest.
RUTH WINS!

Would you also predict the Sultan of Swat to win the All-Time Home Run Derby? Let me know in the comments section down below. Thanks for reading this post and I hope you enjoyed it. Check back soon for more of “all the buzz on what wuzz.”

MLB Expansion: The Nadel Rules

Hey baseball fans!

NBA2K17 just announced that you will now be able to expand the NBA in the video game’s “MyGM” mode. Considering MLB expansion has been a pretty prevalent topic over the last several months in newspapers across the nation, I thought it would be a good time to give you all of my rules on how MLB expansion should work for incoming teams.

1. Team location, name, and color schemes will be decided at least one full season prior to the offseason in which they will officially join the league.

2. There would need to be two teams added at once to keep the balance of the number of teams between the two leagues.

3. The two teams would get five draft selections per round in the MLB Draft directly prior to the season they are set to join the league to build up their farm system. In the next MLB Draft, they would get two draft picks per round. The places in which they would pick would be decided by a lottery.

4. Once the offseason’s Winter Meetings have ended during the offseason before the two expansion teams begin their inaugural seasons, the already-existing MLB teams will get to save eight position players and seven pitchers. The expansion teams will then pick the players they want from the existing teams, except for the saved players.

5. There is one exception to the above rule. The players in the previous All Star Game “final vote” would be able to join the team in their league if they weren’t a free agent and if the expansion team actually wants them. For example, if a new American League expansion team wants to sign Rays’ third baseman Evan Longoria next offseason, they can do so as long as Longo says he wants to join the team. Then, his former team would have to restructure his contract to allow him to leave. An expansion team would be allowed to sign only one of these “final vote” players per league.

6. The MLB standings would be rearranged so that there are four divisions per league with each division having four teams. There would still be two Wild Cards per league and the playoffs would be structured like that of the NFL.

What do you think of my new rules? Would you implement them? Let me know in the comments section below. Thanks so much for reading this post and I hope you enjoyed it. Check back soon for more of “all the buzz on what wuzz.”

Potential MLB Award Names?

Hey baseball fans!

Yesterday, during the pre-game ceremonies of the 87th annual MLB All Star Game, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred officially announced that the AL and NL batting titles have been renamed after Rod Carew and Tony Gwynn, respectively, two of the best hitters in baseball history. This got me thinking: what other awards could be named/created after former players? Here are some of the ones I came up with:

League leader in home runs: Mike Schmidt Home Run Award
Why? Some people would have Babe Ruth here, but I have him for another award. Schmidt is second all time only to Ruth in career home run titles with eight and is 16th on the all-time home run list with 548 career dingers.

League leader in slugging percentage: Babe Ruth Slugging King
Why? Ruth is number one all time in terms of career slugging percentage (.690) and led the league in slugging percentage 13 times. Also, the winner of this award would be called the “slugging king” because Ruth had many regal nicknames, most famously the “Sultan of Swat.”

League leader in saves: Mariano Rivera Saves Award
Why? Rivera is the all-time leader in saves, games finished, and ERA+. Enough said.

Best player on a non-playoff team: Ernie Banks Award
Why? Banks never got to play in the playoffs, let alone the World Series, yet he was always in the MVP conversation and won the award twice. Because the MVP is usually given to a ballplayer on a winning club, this award is designed especially for hitters and pitchers who don’t get to go to the postseason, but still had an unbelievable year.

Manager with most wins in a given season: Connie Mack Award
Why? Mack is the winningest manager in baseball history and it’s not even close. He collected 3,731 career managerial wins, while second place John McGraw only won 2,763 games as a manager.

Should these awards be renamed/implemented into the MLB record books? Let me know what you think of the names in the comments section below. Thanks for reading this post and I hope you enjoyed it. Check back soon for more of “all the buzz on what wuzz.”

 

An Interview with 1996 ALCS hero, Jeffrey Maier

Hey baseball fans!

Who’s ready for another Baseball with Matt interview?! I know I am. This time, it’s with Jeff Maier! Derek Jeter and/or Yankee fans definitely know that name, but for those of you who don’t know him, allow me to explain.

It was Game One of the 1996 ALCS at Yankee Stadium, where the Yanks were hosting the Baltimore Orioles. Both teams had not been to a World Series since the 1980s and were yearning for a trip back to the Fall Classic. Derek Jeter, the Yankees’ rookie starting shortstop at the time, came up to bat in the bottom of the eighth inning with one out with New York down 4-3 facing Orioles reliever Armando Benitez. On the first pitch of the at-bat, Jeter sent a high fly ball to deep right field. Orioles right fielder Tony Tarasco ran back to the warning track to make the catch and settled under the fly ball in time to do so. However, from the stands, a 12-year-old boy by the name of Jeff Maier reached over the wall and brought the ball into the stands.

Technically, this play should’ve been called an out on account of fan interference, no questions about it. Just click here to see for yourself. Despite the obviousness, right field umpire Rich Garcia called it a home run, probably because he was looking at Tarasco and didn’t see Maier reach his glove over the wall. Tarasco, Benitez, and Orioles manager Davey Johnson all protested the call, but it was ultimately upheld. The Yankees would go on to win the game, series, and World Series that year, their first championship since 1978. The Yankees made some other clutch plays throughout their playoff run, but most people cite Maier’s incident as the catalyst for the Yankees’ late-1990s dynasty.

So now that you know a little bit about Jeff Maier, here’s the interview:

Matt: When did you start getting into baseball? Did you play as a kid?
Jeff: As early as 4 years old. Yes I played from TBall through college.

Matt: Who was your favorite Yankee on the ’96 squad?
Jeff: Jeter.

Matt: How much of a chance did you think the Yankees had in the ’96 playoffs?
Jeff: They were a very good team. Most folks likely had Atlanta favored. The Yankees added key pieces as the year unfolded. They were gritty and a special group.

Matt: Describe what was going through your mind during Jeter’s at-bat and when his fly ball flew in your direction.
Jeff: I knew with a hard throwing righty like Benitez and a batter like Jeter who had a knack for hitting the ball to the opposite field that there was a chance for action in right field. Once the ball was in the air; I can’t remember much. I’d like to think most folks (children or adults) would have similar instincts take over in pursuit of a potential foul ball or HR souvenir.

Matt: What was the atmosphere like in your section after your catch and the homer?
Jeff: Pretty raucous. Lots of folks cheering and high-fiving.

Matt: How did the national attention affect you after the incident?
Jeff: I have terrific parents that kept me and the situation grounded. Long term; I’d like to think that it didn’t impact or alter the man I am or have become. Short term; I think it forced me to mature and experience something most 12 year olds will not.

Matt: Do you keep in touch with Jeter today?
Jeff: No, but I hope he is enjoying retirement and new challenges with the Players Tribune and other post-career hobbies.

Matt: How influential do you think the incident was in jump starting the Yankees’ dynasty of the late ’90s and early ’00s?
Jeff: They were a great team and subsequently an amazing core group of players that did incredible things on the field. I’m sure winning that game was helpful; but they were special and destined to do great things nonetheless.

Thanks for reading this interview and I hope you enjoyed it. And a very special thank you to Jeff for such a great interview!! Check back soon for more of “all the buzz on what wuzz.”

July 4th Fell on a Monday

Hey baseball fans!

Yesterday was July 4th! Happy birthday, America! To celebrate the anniversary of the birth of our nation, here is a little patriotic story about America’s pastime.

The date was April 24, 1976 and the Cubs were playing the Dodgers in Los Angeles. Rick Monday started in center field that day for Chicago. Entering the bottom of the fourth, the Cubs were up 1-0, when suddenly, two men walked into center field with the intention of burning an American flag. Monday was throwing a ball with his fellow outfielders to practice for the upcoming inning, but as soon as he saw these two men about to burn the flag, he ran over and snatched it from them. He ran from the outfield all the way to the Dodgers dugout and handed the flag to Dodger pitcher, Doug Rau. Here’s the link to the video.

When Monday stepped out to bat in the top of the fifth, he received a standing ovation from the LA crowd. On the message board of Dodger Stadium, it read in capitalized letters, “RICK MONDAY… YOU MADE A GREAT PLAY…” The two men, William Thomas and his 11-year-old son, were fined and charged for trespassing. The Dodgers would go on to win the game by a final score of 5-4 on a walk-off, tenth-inning single by Ron Cey, but really, it was America that won that day.

Rick Monday never put up Hall of Fame numbers, but that moment will forever be engraved in baseball history as one of the most patriotic acts any ballplayer has ever done on the field. Thanks for reading this post and I hope you enjoyed it. Check back soon for more of “all the buzz on what wuzz.”

A BwM Book Review: Nine Innings to Success by Jim Palmer and Alan Maimon

Hey baseball fans!

Jim Palmer, one of the best pitchers of all time, accompanied by Alan Maimon, had his new book published about a month ago called “Nine Innings to Success: A Hall of Famer’s Approach to Achieving Excellence.” I just finished it, and boy was it good!!

“Nine Innings to Success” discusses Jim Palmer’s working life, from when he was an All Star on the field to an All Star in the booth. His stories are funny, sad, and inspirational all at the same time, but the best part about this book was the ‘nine innings.’ Palmer has a certain way he does things and he highlights that way in a clear-cut fashion in this book. Because the book is about Jim Palmer, the things he does must be working. Included in his success story are anecdotes about other sports legends, like fellow Hall of Famer Cal Ripken, Jr. and fellow broadcaster Al Michaels, and lessons he learned from other people along the way, like his longtime Hall of Fame Orioles manager Earl Weaver. From the corporate world to public speaking, Palmer goes into depth on how his to-do list to success works in a multitude of fields and justifies his points by, you know, being Jim Palmer.

As someone who will be going to college soon, this book really helped me out a lot. It has changed how I think about carrying myself and taught me some valuable life lessons that I will be using in many situations to come. The book really makes you say: “If I follow these steps, I can be as successful as Jim Palmer,” which says a lot. It bestows confidence in you while also giving you a checklist of what to do to be the best and how to do it. I enjoyed reading “Nine Innings to Success” not just because it was a good book to read, but because it’s a good book to follow for the future.

I definitely recommend buying this book, which you can do on Amazon by clicking here. Thanks for reading this book review and I hope you enjoyed it. Check back soon for more of “all the buzz on what wuzz.”

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