SPORT RIPKEN

So who are baseball’s most storied franchises anyway?

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I wrote this earlier today and a couple of people have asked me about it:

The Yankees may be baseball’s most storied franchise, but the Cardinals and Red Sox are probably in the top four.

The question asked: who the other top-four team would be.

Good question! It was a half-throwaway thought at the time, but for what it’s worth I was thinking the Dodgers.  Then I thought a bit more and realized that the Giants have an argument too, especially if you’re looking at overall franchise history and aren’t weighting more heavily for recency.

But wait! Do we weight more heavily for World Series championships? Overall record? Pennants?  Some hard-to-define notion of tradition? Because that could change the answer too! For example, everyone knows the Yankees have the most World Series titles and most know the Cardinals are second. But I bet most of you can’t guess which team has the third most World Series titles. Give up? Yup, the Athletics, with nine. They rarely get talked of as One of the Great Franchises, though, because (a) they moved cities a couple of times; and (b) their gold and green and lack of either an historical or otherwise cool stadium makes them seem less TRADITIONAL.

Raw wins is a problem because it’ll weight too much for the longer-lived NL, right? I mean, the Cubs are second among all baseball teams in raw wins, but we’re not going to call them the second most-storied franchise, are we? Just feels wrong, even though they do have the crazy-old ballpark and tradition coming out of their ears.

Here the top teams in various categories:

World Series titles: Yankees (27), Cardinals (11), Athletics (9), Giants (7), Red Sox (7), Dodgers (6), Reds (5), Pirates (5), Tigers (4), [four teams tied with 3]
Pennants: Yankees (40), Dodgers (22), Giants (22), Cardinals (19), Braves (17), Cubs (16), Athletics (15), Red Sox (13), Tigers (11), Reds (9), Pirates (9)
Overall wins: Giants, Cubs, Dodgers, Cardinals, Braves, Reds, Pirates, Yankees, Phillies, Red Sox
Winning percentage: Yankees, Giants, Dodgers, Cardinals, Red Sox, Cubs, Indians, Reds, Tigers, White Sox
Tradition Index [which I just made up]: Yankees, Red Sox, Dodgers, Giants, Cubs, Cardinals and, then, heck, it starts to fracture.

Thoughts?

The Yankees have to be number one, obviously. They dominate everything and have for a century. Not even close.

After that there are all kinds of arguments to make, with the big caveat being that the National League teams have a 25-year head start on the American League, thus inflating their pennant and raw win totals. Still, I think the Cardinals are a no-brainer for the top-four (my arbitrary cutoff from before). World Series titles count for a lot.

The final four teams, then, seem to be the Dodgers, Giants, Athletics and Red Sox. The Giants have the edge in World Series titles over the Dodgers but are short of the A’s. The Giants and Dodgers tie with pennants, and both had only two before the advent of the American League, so their considerable pennant advantage over Philly/KC/Oakland is still pretty legit. It shows that they were more consistent than the feast-or-famine A’s.

What to do with the Red Sox? A lot of early dominance and a lot of recent dominance, but such a relatively fallow (though rarely truly bad) period for so much of the 20th century. They made up for it in the literally “storied” aspects of this exercise because, man, they have tradition out the wazoo and people have been waxing poetically about them for so long. But really: on baseball terms they fall a bit short, don’t they? More World Series wins than the Dodgers, but far fewer pennants. A better winning percentage than the A’s but fewer pennants and World Series titles. A very interesting case indeed.

So, gun to my head, here’s what I got for my list of “most storied franchises,” whatever the heck we want that to mean:

1. Yankees
2. Cardinals
3. Giants
4. Dodgers
5. Athletics
6. Red Sox

That’s different than how I thought it would look when I came up with this half-baked notion earlier today, and it may ruffle the feathers of the people who don’t think an inconsistent, vagabond franchise like the A’s should crack this list, but it’s what my gut tells me right now.

What do you think?

Settling the Scores: Memorial Day edition

ARLINGTON, VA - MAY 21:  American flags are shown after being placed by members of the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment at the graves of U.S. soldiers buried at Arlington National Cemetery, in preparation for Memorial Day May 21, 2015 in Arlington, Virginia. "Flags-In" has become an annual ceremony since the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) was designated to be an Army's official ceremonial unit in 1948  (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
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Memorial Day commemorates the men and women who died in military service. At some point in the past couple of decades, however, it has become an all-purpose flag-waving, patriotism-declaring, civilians-in-camouflage holiday. It’s understandable why this is the case. We, as a country, haven’t always done mourning well. I think it’s part of our national cultural DNA that we don’t and it’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it does make days like this difficult.

I feel like the flag-waving and troop-supporting stuff is some sort of subconscious reaction to death. It’s our way of instantly trying to justify those deaths or to explain how they were not in vain, much the same way we might tell someone upon the death of a loved one that they’re in a better place or that they had a full life. Feeling the pain of loss is hard. We want to soften it in any way we can and make our pain serve a larger, better purpose. And so we get today, when Major League Baseball puts its players in camouflage caps and in jerseys with camouflage logos. They’ll sell them too, with proceeds going to good and noble veterans charities. The intent is noble and the ultimate effect of it all is beneficial. But it’s also a little beside the point. Maybe not beside the point as much as mattress sales or big celebratory barbecues which have come to characterize Memorial Day for so many, but still not exactly the purpose of the holiday.

I don’t condemn it. As I wrote last year, the men and women who actually fought and died in wars were hoping that they were, ultimately, making a better and happier world for those they left behind. And they no doubt hoped, among everything else they hoped, that others didn’t have to face what they were facing. They wanted our lives to be happy and our country to be safe and part of a happy and safe country involves 300 million people doing whatever it is they damn please, even if it’s just having barbecues and wearing camo at the ballpark.

I won’t say have a happy Memorial Day because that seems odd. Have any kind of Memorial Day you want, really, even if it includes barbecuing, drinking beer and wearing a cam ballcap. But as you do, please make sure you take some time to think about those who died in military service. And remember that they didn’t get to have as many days like the one you’re having as they were meant to have. And make at least some effort to offset your happy, patriotic or silly pursuits with some mourning and reflectiveness. It’s OK for that to stand on its own.

The scores:

Red Sox 5, Blue Jays 3
Orioles 6, Indians 4
Yankees 2, Rays 1
Nationals 10, Cardinals 2
Brewers 5, Reds 4
Royals 5, White Sox 4
Cubs 7, Phillies 2
Rangers 6, Pirates 2
Astros 8, Angels 6
Athletics 4, Tigers 2
Twins 5, Mariners 4
Giants 8, Rockies 3
Diamondbacks 6, Padres 3
Marlins 7, Braves 3
Dodgers 4, Mets 2

 

Should Dave Roberts have taken Clayton Kershaw out of Sunday’s game?

NEW YORK, NY - MAY 29:  Clayton Kershaw #22 of the Los Angeles Dodgers delivers a pitch in the first inning against the New York Mets at Citi Field on May 29, 2016 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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Dodgers manager Dave Roberts will likely be second-guessed heavily during tomorrow’s news cycle. Starter Clayton Kershaw had pitched a terrific ballgame, as is his tendency, but with 114 pitches to his name, Roberts decided to pull him from the game in the eighth inning with two outs and a runner on first base.

Roberts opted not for closer Kenley Jansen, who hasn’t pitched since Wednesday, but for another lefty in Adam Liberatore. He was playing the numbers, with the left-handed-hitting Curtis Granderson coming up. Liberatore, much to Roberts’ chagrin, served up what turned out to be a game-tying triple to Granderson, hitting a rocket to right-center just out of the reach of a leaping Yasiel Puig.

Jansen has, for six years, been one of the game’s elite relievers. Kershaw, though at a high pitch count, doesn’t seem to suffer from the times through the order penalty like most pitchers. Kershaw’s opponents’ OPS facing him for the first time was .525 coming into Sunday. Twice, .597. Three times, .587. Four times, .526 (but this suffers from survivorship bias so it’s not exactly representative).

Furthermore, Kershaw held lefties to a .546 OPS over his career. Liberatore, in 99 plate appearances against lefty hitters, gave up a .575 OPS. Jansen? .560. It seems that, faced with three decisions, Roberts arguably made the worst one. Playing conservative with Kershaw at 114 pitches is defensible, but only if Jansen comes in. If Roberts wanted the platoon advantage, Kershaw should have stayed in.

Luckily for the Dodgers, Mets closer Jeurys Familia didn’t have his best stuff. He loaded the bases with one out in the top of the ninth on a single and two walks, then gave up a two-run single to Adrian Gonzalez, giving the Dodgers a 4-2 lead. Jansen came on in the bottom half of the ninth and retired the side in order to pick up his 15th save of the season.

Royals sweep White Sox over the weekend on three late rallies

KANSAS CITY, MO - MAY 28:  Brett Eibner #12 of the Kansas City Royals celebrates his game-winning RBI single with teammates in the ninth inning against the Chicago White Sox at Kauffman Stadium on May 28, 2016 in Kansas City, Missouri. The Royals won 8-7. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)
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The Royals had themselves a pretty good weekend. The quickly fading White Sox, not so much.

On Friday, the Royals fell behind 5-1 after the top of the sixth. They would score once in the bottom of the sixth, four times in the seventh, and once in the eighth to steal a 7-5 win facing pitchers Miguel Gonzalez Dan Jennings, Matt Albers, Zach Duke and Nate Jones.

On Saturday, the Royals entered the bottom of the ninth down 7-1. They scored seven runs on closer David Robertson and Tommy Kahnle to win 8-7.

On Sunday, the Royals were down 4-2 after the top of the eighth. They plated three runs in the bottom half of the eighth against Jones and Albers, going on to win 5-4.

Coming into the weekend, the Royals were 24-22 in third place. The White Sox were 27-21, a half-game up in first place. Now the Royals are in first place by a game and a half, and the White Sox are in third place, two games out of first.

Here’s video of the Royals’ comeback on Saturday, since it was so unlikely:

Report: Ryan Braun is “the hot name out there”

ATLANTA, GA - MAY 24: Ryan Braun #8 of the Milwaukee Brewers waits to hit during the first inning against the Atlanta Braves at Turner Field on May 24, 2016 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)
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In Saturday’s column for The Boston Globe, Nick Cafardo notes that, according to a scout, Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun is “the hot name out there.” Braun has been bothered by neck and back issues this year, missing on Sunday his eighth start out of the Brewers’ last 14 games, but he has still put up a quality .351/.424/.583 triple-slash line in 170 plate appearances this year.

More importantly for an acquiring team, Braun is in the first year of a five-year, $105 million contract. He’s earning $19 million this season and in the ensuing two seasons, and then his salary decreases slightly to $18 million in 2019, $16 million in 2020, and $15 million if both sides pick up his mutual option (else a $4 million buyout would be exercised).

Per Cafardo, the Astros, Cardinals, Red Sox, Phillies, Mets, Giants, and White Sox are potential landing spots for Braun.