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Baseball, perhaps more than any other sport, is defined by its stories.

None of our American pro sports leagues have the same lengthy history within the culture. Nor do they have the same reverence for that history. Baseball is about narrative, a constant tale-telling that is built around connecting the present to the past.

Ron Darling’s new book “108 Stitches: Loose Thread, Ripping Yarns, and the Darnedest Characters from My Time in the Game” (St. Martin’s Press, $29.99) is about telling those stories, all through the lens of his own experience in the game. And he’s got plenty of experiences to talk about – a 13-year major league career where he won 136 games as a starting pitcher and two decades in the broadcast booth.

Darling’s conceit is a simple one: A series of stories about the various figures with whom he crossed paths over the course of nearly four decades in professional baseball. All told, there are 108 tales – just like there are 108 stitches on a baseball.

Published in Sports

Baseball is a team game made up of individual battles, a series of one-on-one confrontations where one man throws a ball and the other attempts to hit it. Yes, the action evolves after that, but at its heart, baseball is about pitcher versus hitter.

The man at the plate has a weapon – his bat – and protection in the form of gloves, a helmet, perhaps some armor in the form of an arm guard or shin guard. The man on the mound has none of that. But he is not unarmed – he has the ball. And the ball can be a formidable weapon indeed.

That weapon is the focus of Tyler Kepner’s new book “K: A History of Baseball in Ten Pitches” (Doubleday, $28.95). In it, the New York Times baseball writer digs deep into the myriad ways that players have tried to put the ball over the plate over the course of the game’s long history. It’s an exploration of one-half of that ever-present central conceit of hurler against striker.

Published in Sports
Wednesday, 03 April 2019 13:06

Possible MLB milestones coming in 2019

Baseball is a game that has always held its own history in high regard. And one of the best ways to keep track of that history has been through statistical milestones, numbers that have come to act as a sort of distillation of greatness. Round numbers that represent on-field brilliance in an easy-to-understand way.

Granted, changes in the game are in turn changing these milestones. The way the game is played and the meaning of the numbers being tallied isn’t what it once was; the sabermetric revolution has altered how we look at these statistics. Still, there’s something undeniably special about those iconic career marks. While their relevance may fade someday, we’re not there yet.

Here are a few milestones that might be reached in 2018:

Published in Sports
Wednesday, 20 March 2019 12:27

Play ball! A 2019 MLB Preview

It might be hard to believe, considering how much snow we’ve seen recently, but spring is here. Whatever the weather says, the truth is that baseball season is just around the corner! Spring training is coming to a conclusion – we’re on the verge of seeing games that count!

There’s plenty to be excited about in 2019. The biggest contracts in the history of the game have been signed. The stars are poised to pick up where they left off; reigning MVPs (Mookie Betts and Christian Yelich) and Cy Young winners (Blake Snell and Jacob deGrom) and Rookies of the Year (Shohei Ohtani and Juan Soto) are all ready to get back to work. Meanwhile, new faces like Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Eloy Jimenez are almost here. Plus, there are the names that we don’t know well (or at all) yet, but who will capture our attention before the season is through.

There are going to be a lot of home runs and a lot of strikeouts. There will be stars who perform to expectations and unknowns who shock the world. There will be delightful highs and unfortunate lows. There’s no way to say for certain what will go down on the field in 2019.

But let’s give it a go anyway.

Published in Cover Story

The times have changed with regards to major league baseball and free agency. The last couple of years have seen a drastic alteration in how owners have approached the business. Teams are far more reluctant to offer up the big-money deals that once ruled the landscape; even the best players are getting waited out.

However, we could feel relatively confident that we wouldn’t get TOO deep into spring training before the market’s two shiniest stars – Manny Machado and Bryce Harper – would be signed to deals at or near the level they sought. In a game of contract chicken that was the biggest talking point of the entire offseason, both men held out for what they believed themselves to be worth.

Eventually, they found teams that shared that belief.

Published in Sports

Another year, another big class voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Cooperstown’s Class of 2019 features four inductees voted in by the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA) – including the first-ever unanimous Hall of Famer.

Longtime Yankees closer Mariano Rivera became the first player to be named on every single ballot, breaking the percentage record of 99.3 set three years ago by Ken Griffey Jr. Rivera is joined by the late Roy Halladay – also in his first year on the ballot – as well as career Seattle Mariner Edgar Martinez in his last year of eligibility and longtime starting pitcher Mike Mussina.

Published in Sports
Wednesday, 12 December 2018 16:23

Hall of Fame surprise for Harold Baines

The Baseball Hall of Fame just got a hell of a lot more inclusive.

The Today’s Game Era committee announced that they have selected two players for inclusion in next year’s Hall of Fame class.

One is Lee Smith, a pitcher who spent a long stretch as the most feared closer in the game. He was the all-time saves leader for a stretch – he’s currently third – and at one point surpassed 50 percent of the vote in the regular BBWAA balloting. He was a unanimous choice of the 16-member committee.

The other is Harold Baines. He was a compiler, the sort of guy you labeled “professional hitter.” He never cleared seven percent on the writers’ ballot and fell off completely after five years.

Published in Sports
Tuesday, 20 November 2018 12:00

Who’s Cooperstown-bound in 2019?

It’s Hall of Fame season once again.

The Baseball Hall of Fame has released its ballot for the 2019 induction season. It’s a top-heavy ballot, meaning that the recent spate of large classes may well continue. There are some new names that will get a lot of attention and a few holdovers that might be ready to make the leap.

As far as the newcomers go, there are four that will likely be at the forefront of the conversation. Yankees closer Mariano Rivera has joined the ballot for the first time, as has his longtime teammate Andy Pettitte. Starting pitcher Roy Halladay, who passed away tragically last year, and first baseman Todd Helton round out the truly notable first-timers. Two are likely enshrinees; two will be on the outside looking in.

Published in Sports
Wednesday, 31 October 2018 12:58

Remembering (and ranking) Red Sox titles

Chalk up another championship for the Boston Red Sox.

When a Chris Sale fastball blew past the talented malcontent Manny Machado and the Sox beat the Los Angeles Dodgers, clinching their fourth World Series title of this still-young century, my first thought was that I was actually almost sad that it was over. My immediate reaction was that this was one of the most fun teams for which I’ve ever had the chance to root. And that it was one of the best.

But is it THE best?

Published in Sports
Tuesday, 23 October 2018 17:45

Red Sox – Dodgers: A World Series preview

After six months and 162 games – plus a couple of hard-fought playoff series – MLB’s remaining contenders have been whittled down to just two. The Boston Red Sox and the Los Angeles Dodgers will be facing off in the 2018 World Series. This will mark the 114th edition of the Fall Classic.

The Dodgers are back for the second consecutive year after outlasting the Milwaukee Brewers in a nail-biter of an NLCS that went the full seven games. The Red Sox are here thanks to a surprisingly brisk five-game dispatching of the Houston Astros in the ALCS.

Despite the fact that these are two of the oldest franchises in MLB history – and two of the most successful – this marks the first time in over a century that these squads have faced off in October. The last time was all the way back in 1916 – so long ago that the Dodgers not only hadn’t moved out of Brooklyn, they weren’t even called the Dodgers – they went by the sobriquet “Robins” at that time.

So let’s have a look, shall we?

Published in Sports
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