This year’s ALCS and NLCS teams are now set… the Astros will face off against the Yankees tonight in the ALCS and the Cubs and Dodgers will play Game One on Saturday in the NLCS.
In the ALCS, the Yankees will be making their 16th ALCS appearance, most in the league since baseball went to the Championship Series format in 1969, while the Astros will be making their first-ever ALCS appearance. The Astros are the last of the 15 current A.L. franchises to play in an ALCS. Oakland (11 ALCS appearances) are second to the Yankees in most ALCS played.
In the NLCS, the Cubs will be making their third straight and fifth NLCS appearance. The Dodgers will be playing in the NLCS for the 12th time, second to the St. Louis Cardinals who have played in 13 NLCS.
A pair of New York Yankees players made big news as the team eliminated the Cleveland Indians from the playoffs and prevented the Tribe from making a return trip to the World Series.
First, Didi Gregorious hit a pair of home runs in the fifth and deciding game. He became the first Yankees’ player to have a multiple-HR game since Raul Ibanez in 2012.
Eighteen players have hit two or more HRs in a post-season game on more than one occasion. Yankees legend Babe Ruth did it four times, while Carlos Beltran and Manny Ramirez each did in three playoff games (15 players had multiple home runs in two post-season games).
Current Yankees’ slugger Aaron Judge made news for not hitting the ball; in fact, he struck out four times for the third time in the series. He became the 57th different player to strike out four or more times in a post-season game (it has now happened 68 times). Judge also now holds the MLB record for most post-season games with four or more strikeouts with three. Nine players struck out four or more times in two games in their playoff careers.
In this blog over the past few months I have written about the New England Patriots having the best record of all NFL teams since 2000, thus leading the unofficial “NFL Team of the Century” race. Well, here’s a look at the major league baseball “Team of the Century” race.
The New York Yankees hold the top spot with the best record of all MLB teams since 2000. The Yankees are 1421-1005 (a .586 winning percentage) in games this century. They have a 58.5 game lead over the second place St. Louis Cardinals. The Cards have the best record since 2000 in the National League over the Atlanta Braves. (Note: Only 11 of the 30 MLB teams have a winning record this century.)
Following is a look at the record of each MLB team this century.
New York Yankees 1421-1005 .586
St. Louis 1364-1065 .562
Atlanta 1341-1087 .552
Boston 1336-1093 .550
Anaheim 1331-1099 .548
Oakland 1323-1105 .545
Los Angeles Dodgers 1296-1133 .534
San Francisco 1291-1136 .532
Philadelphia 1276-1153 .525
Chicago White Sox 1245-1186 .512
Minnesota 1222-1209 .503
Texas 1213-1218 .499
Cleveland 1210-1220 .498
Toronto 1201-1228 .494
Seattle 1198-1232 .493
New York Mets 1198-1230 .493
Arizona 1190-1240 .490
Cincinnati 1184-1246 .487
Detroit 1176-1254 .484
Florida 1171-1257 .482
San Diego 1159-1272 .477
Chicago Cubs 1153-1275 .475
Milwaukee 1153-1276 .475
Montreal 1140-1288 .470
Tampa Bay 1140-1288 .470
Houston 1140-1289 .469
Colorado 1129-1302 .464
Baltimore 1107-1321 .456
Pittsburgh 1071-1356 .441
Kansas City 1057-1373 .435
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Over the past several years, we have heard the word “parity” thrown around quite a bit, especially in the world of sports. Professional teams like the Montreal Canadians, the New York Yankees, the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakes, and at various times in the NFL, the Cowboys, Steelers, Packers and 49ers, have all enjoyed long success in their respective league.
While the fans in those towns may enjoy the dynasties that were built, other cities and executives within each of the four major sports leagues would rather see the wealth spread around a bit to other teams.
Back-to-back titles have happened in each of the four major sports in the last two decades. The Yankees won three straight titles in the late ’90’s; the Patriots won back-to-back Super Bowls in 2004 and 2005 (there has not, however, been a team that has won three straight Super Bowls); the Lakers won three consecutive NBA titles earlier this century (and the Miami Heat are hoping for a third straight title this year); and, the Detroit Red Wings won back-to-back Stanley Cups in 1997 and 1998. But those days when a franchise won five or more straight championships are very much a distant past.
So which of the four major sports in the last 20 years has seen the “most” parity? Let’s start the discussion with a few numbers.
Different champions: Of the four sports, the NHL has had 13 different franchises win the Stanley Cup in the last 20 years. The NFL is close behind with 12 teams winning at least one Super Bowl in the past two decades. The World Series has been won by 11 different teams since 1993, while the NBA Championship has seen only eight franchises hoist the title trophy since 1993. Slight advantage to the NHL.
Repeat champions: Of the four sports, the NFL has had the most repeat champions (teams that won more than one title) in the last 20 years with seven (Baltimore, Dallas, Denver, Green Bay, New England, New York Giants and Pittsburgh). The other three sports have each had five repeat champs in the past 20 seasons. No advantage.
Back-to-Back titles: In the past 20 years, the NHL has had the fewest consecutive titles by a team, one. That happened in 1997 and 1998 when the Red Wings won back-to-back titles. It has happened only twice in major league baseball in the last 20 years; it has occurred three times in the last 2o Super Bowls. In the NBA, there have been seven times when a team won back-to-back titles (on two occasions, those teams won a three-peat). Advantage NHL.
So based on these three factors, the NHL, in my opinion, has had the most parity over the past 20 years.
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Earlier this week the New York Yankees signed Boston Red Sox center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury to a seven-year contract worth $153 million. Several media outlets and baseball pundits questioned whether or not it was a good move on the part of the Yankees. Many questioned either the length or value of the contract, while others opined that Ellsbury was just not the type of player that deserved that type of free-agent contract.
In defense of Ellsbury, he played a major role in the Red Sox winning the championship last year. He led the majors with 52 stolen bases and batted .298 while playing a solid center field. He has stolen 50 or more base in three of his seven seasons. But his speed on the basepaths was a bone of contention for some people who see Ellsbury as too one-dimensional of a player.
Maybe, however, the Yankees decision was a simple response to a need that has plagued the team for almost 25 years.
As mentioned above, Ellsbury led the majors last season with 52 stolen bases. He was the only player to steal 50 or more last season. Do you know the last Yankees player to steal 50 or more bases in a season? It happened in 1988. Rickey Henderson stole 93 in that season, the last time the Yanks had a player reach the 50-steal mark in a season.
Here’s a look at the last time each of the major league teams had a player who stole 50 or more bases in a season.
American League teams
1988: New York Yankees (Rickey Henderson, 93)
1995: Texas (Otis Nixon, 50)
1996: Kansas City (Tom Goodwin, 66)
1997: Minnesota (Chuck Knoblauch, 62)
1998: Cleveland (Kenny Lofton, 54)
1998: Toronto (Shannon Stewart, 51)
2001: Detroit (Roger Cedeno, 55)
2001: Seattle (Ichiro Suzuki, 56)
2006: L.A. Angels (Chone Figgins, 52)
2007: Baltimore (Brian Roberts, 50)
2009: Tampa Bay (Carl Crawford, 60)
2010: Chicago White Sox (Juan Pierre, 68)
2010: Houston (Michael Bourne, 52)
2010: Oakland (Rajai Davis, 50)
2013: Boston (Jacoby Ellsbury, 52)
National League teams
1985: Philadelphia (Juan Samuel, 53)
1987: San Diego (Tony Gwynn, 56)
1990: San Francisco (Brett Butler, 51)
1991: Atlanta (Otis Nixon, 72)
1993: Washington (Marquis Grissom, 53)
1997: Cincinnati (Deion Sanders, 56)
1997: St. Louis (Delino DeShields, 55)
1998: Pittsburgh (Tony Womack, 58)
2004: Milwaukee (Scott Podsednik, 70)
2006: Chicago Cubs (Juan Pierre, 58)
2007: Arizona (Eric Byrnes, 50)
2007: Los Angeles Dodgers (Juan Pierre, 64)
2007: Miami (Hanley Ramirez, 51)
2008: Colorado (Willy Taveras, 68)
2008: New York Mets (Jose Reyes, 56)
* Note: Did you notice that one player, Juan Pierre, is the last player to steal 50 or more bases for three different teams (Chicago White Sox, Chicago Cubs and L.A. Dodgers), and Otis Nixon is the last player to steal 50-plus bases for two teams (Texas and Atlanta).
Will a full season of Ellsbury stealing bases lead the Yankees to a World Championship? We’ll have a few months to see how well this free agent signing plays out. No doubt the Bronx Bombers are hoping Ellsbury’s stolen base skill will be a catalyst in that journey back to the World Series.
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