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Royals All-Star Update

The All-Star game will be coming to Kansas City on Tuesday July 10. About a month ago, we took a look at 4 players who could be in position to to make the team. While it doesn’t appear that any Royals player will be voted in, it does appear that they still have 4 players in position to possibly make the team. Only one of those is different than a month ago.

Billy Butler
“The Butler” is proving to be the best hitter on the team, and the most clutch performer as well. Starting in St. Louis on Father’s Day when he hit the game-tying home run in the top of the 9th, he has continued to get big hit after big hit. Most recently, he homered in today’s game against the Tampa Bay Rays in the bottom of the 8th to put the Royals ahead 5-4 and help secure the 3-game sweep. Butler has stiff competition at the DH position. It appears that David Ortiz will win the fan voting, and Butler will be competing agains the likes of Adam Dunn and Edwin Encarnacion for a spot. Both of whom are having outstanding years. Butler will have the advantage of being the hometown guy though, and would be a great choice to participate in the Home Run Derby as well.

Mike Moustakas
“Moose” has continued to swing a hot bat just about the entire year. Along with that, he has played surprisingly stellar defense at 3rd base. It looks like the fan vote is going to go to either Adrian Beltre or Miguel Cabrera. Along with those 2 players, the Anaheim Angels’ Mark Trumbo is also having a terriffic offensive year. Moustakas has his work cut out for him to make the team, but like Butler, the hometown advantage will help his cause.

Alcides Escobar
Relative to the competition at the position, Escobar is the most deserving Royal. As of now, it appears Derek Jeter will get the nod as the starter. He is having a fine year, but Escobar has been phenomenal. Along with playing a gold-glove caliber defense, he is hitting .315/.353/.427 with 12 stolen bases. There are other shortstops having good years like Elvis Andrus and Asdrubal Cabrera, but nobody has been as good all-around in the American League at the position as Escobar has.

Jonathan Broxton
Broxton is quietly putting together a very good year. He currently ranks 4th in the American League in Saves with 19 and has blown just 3 all season. Royals fans have been treated to a few tense moments by the man they call “Johnny Drama”, but overall, he has been a very solid door-closer all season. While Broxton is somewhat deserving, he is more of a longshot and it would be very disappointing if the Royals only got one all-star and the spot wen to him.

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#OurTime to have more than one All-Star again?

It has been 12 years since the Royals have had multiple players in the MLB All-Star Game, but this could be the year that streak ends.

The 2012 All-Star Game will be played at beautiful Kauffman Stadium on July 10. For 3 days, the city of Kansas City and the Kansas City Royals organization will take center stage in the baseball world. The hope was that the Royals would have an exciting young team that would be in contention at that point in the season. And while there is still time for that to happen with just under 2 months to go until the game, things have gone mostly poorly for the Royals so far this season. There was the injury to Catcher Salvador Perez, the injury to Closer Joakim Soria, the comical Broxton beanball walk-off loss in Oakland, the disastrous first inning the team played in front of its home crowd, the injury to Center-fielder Lorenzo Cain, the slow start by Alex Gordon, the 12 game losing streak, the Hochevarity of SP Luke Hochevar, the sub-.200 batting average of Eric Hosmer, Jonathan Sanchez becoming the pitcher version of Juan Gonzalez, and most recently the season-ending elbow injury to SP Danny Duffy. Nobody expected this season to go perfectly, but certainly nobody could have expected all of that disaster to hit before May 15. But despite all of that, there have been several bright spots for the Royals so far this season. And while it is extremely unlikely that any Royal gets voted in as an All-Star starter, it is not far-fetched to think that there are as many as FOUR players who could be deserving of selection as a reserve. Let’s take a look at these players, one by one, along with their primary competition to this point at their respective positions.

Designated Hitter

Billy Butler-Kansas City Royals

Avg: .285
R: 13
HR: 6
RBI: 25

David Ortiz-Boston Red Sox

Avg: .348
R: 24
HR: 7
RBI: 25

Edwin Encarnacion-Toronto Blue Jays

Avg: .276
R: 21
HR: 11
RBI: 29

Adam Dunn-Chicago White Sox

Avg: .250
R: 20
HR: 11
RBI: 26

Analysis: While “The Butler” is having a very nice year to this point, unless he goes on a surge and separates himself from this group in some way it is going to be very difficult for him to get selected out of this group. It is pretty clear that based on the numbers at this point, he would be the 4th most deserving candidate of these four players.  Not to mention, the likelihood of two DH’s being selected is not good.

3rd Base

Mike Moustakas-Kansas City Royals

Avg: .308

R: 14

HR: 4

RBI: 15

Miguel Cabrera-Detroit Tigers

Avg: .294

R: 17

HR: 7

RBI: 29

Evan Longoria-Tampa Bay Rays

Avg: .329

R: 15

HR: 4

RBI: 19

Adrian Beltre-Texas Rangers

Avg: .302

R: 19

HR: 6

RBI: 21

Analysis: With the type of defense he’s been playing, and the fact that statistically nobody is separating themselves from the pack here, Moose has a very good chance at being selected as a reserve.  Cabrera will likely get voted in as the starter, and the numbers at this point are close enough that is easy to see defending American League Champions manager Ron Washington going with the hometown guy in Moustakas.  Unfortunately, it is also easy to see him going with his own guy in Beltre.

Shortstop

Alcides Escobar-Kansas City Royals

Avg: .296

R: 12

HR: 1

RBI: 10

SB: 7

Derek Jeter-New York Yankees

Avg: .372
R: 24
HR: 5
RBI: 15

Elvis Andrus-Texas Rangers

Avg: .328
R: 24
HR: 1
RBI: 17

SB: 6

Mike Aviles-Boston Red Sox

Avg: .261
R: 22
HR: 5
RBI: 21

SB: 5

Analysis: Clearly Derek Jeter is deserving of the starting spot he will surely be voted into.  And while Aviles is having a very solid year to this point, his relative anonymity and the fact that he is extremely unlikely to continue to put up numbers like this make him the odd man out of this group.  So once again, that would leave Ron Washington deciding between one of his own players and one of the host city’s players.  Though he lacks the power numbers, the defensive reputation combined with the average, steals, and home-field advantage give Escobar a very good chance of being selected.

Outfield

Alex Gordon-Kansas City Royals

Avg: .256
R: 22
HR: 4
RBI: 16

Adam Jones-Baltimore Orioles

Avg: .291
R: 27
HR: 10
RBI: 21

SB: 5

Josh Hamilton-Texas Rangers

Avg: .402
R: 30
HR: 18
RBI: 44

Curtis Granderson-New York Yankees

Avg: .258
R: 23
HR: 11
RBI: 20

While Gordon’s numbers don’t stack up at this point, this selection was taking into consideration the fact that he got off to such a slow start to begin the season and has hit put up very good numbers to get up to the respectable level he’s at now.  If he continues at the pace he’s been on since he broke out of his funk, he will be right in the mix come decision time.  And given the fact that he deserved to make it last year and didn’t (with Washington also being the manager who snubbed him), he should have a very good chance of being selected.

It’s been a long time since Jermaine Dye started the 2000 All-Star game and Mike Sweeney made the team as a reserve.  But 2012 may just be #OurTime to have multiple All-Stars once again.

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Breaking Good

Everyone expects improvement from the 2012 Kansas City Royals, but just how much improvement to expect is a point of debate. Will 4-5 players make “the leap” at the same time vaulting the Royals into 90+ win territory? Will this season be a springboard to 2013, around 81 wins and a lot of incremental individual improvement? While much of the answer may lie in the Royals clubhouse, I think a good portion may also be determined in Cleveland, Detroit, Minnesota and Chicago. The unbalanced schedule means that the Royals will play 72 of their 162 games against the Central Division. Just how good (or bad) the division is may have as much to do with how successful the 2012 Royals are as anything.

Another way to say this is, the Royals need some help in 2012 to contend…and thankfully they are already starting to get it. What, you say? We’re still a month away from Spring Training, how can the Royals already be getting help? Let’s take a look at the off season news from the AL Central:

The Minnesota Twins and Chicago White Sox did not really contend last year and may have actually gotten worse heading into 2012. The Twins lost Michael Cuddyer, Joe Nathan and Jason Kubel to free agency and their additions were not impressive. Justin Morneau is still recovering from concussion issues while Joe Mauer is supposed to be completely recovered from his tired legs. The White Sox, on the other hand, seem to be trying to rebuild while maintaining a $100 million dollar payroll thanks to anchors of contracts still owed to the likes of Adam Dunn, Alex Rios and Jake Peavy. They lost Ozzie Guillen and traded away Carlos Quentin, Sergio Santos, and Jason Frasor for young pitching. My honest appraisal is, if the Royals make even the slightest of progress, these two teams should not be much of a concern.

That brings us to the Cleveland Indians, the team thought to be on the same path as the Royals, if not a step or two ahead. It is easy to forget how dominant the Indians were early last season after their collapse. Their biggest acquisition? It could be Derek Lowe if he turns back the clock, or Kevin Slowey…and that’s about it. The lack of acquisitions are not even the biggest problem for the Tribe, it is the question marks surrounding Fausto Carmona right now. The 28 year old opening day starter is actually 31, and facing charges in the Dominican Republic for lying about his identity. No one has any idea how serious this is, but there is no way it is a positive for the Indians.

It would be pretty easy to argue that the three teams above have no bearing on the Royals division chances. The Tigers are the favorite and it is not really close. They have the best pitcher in the division (baseball?), Justin Verlander, and arguably the best hitter in Miguel Cabrera. Thankfully for the Royals, the Tigers have added virtually nothing to last year’s squad and just this month lost DH Victor Martinez to an ACL injury that could sideline him for 2012. Sure, there are options available for the Tigers to replace Martinez, but none of them come without question marks. Losing Martinez also hurts Cabrera, who needs the protection in the lineup.

All this being said, it is still on the Royals to go out and win the division. The AL Central has been a weak division for some time and just as the Royals seem to be poised to improve, the rest of the division is regressing. Does that mean it is a prime opportunity to add a started like Roy Oswalt? Only time will tell.

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No “Savior” Needed

Happy Birthday Mr. Hosmer

On Monday, October 24, Eric Hosmer turned 22 years old. He looks, acts, and plays like a 10 year veteran, but is still just a kid with only one year under his Major League belt.

Everyone in Kansas City knows who this “kid” is.

He’s the new face of the franchise. He’s the future All-Star. He’s the “savior” for the Kansas City Royals.

The word “savior” gets thrown around in the sports world quite a bit. Lebron James was supposed to be the Cleveland Cavaliers’ “savior.” Tim Tebow is supposed to be the Denver Broncos’ “savior.”

James obviously wasn’t the answer in Cleveland. Despite Tebow’s comeback win this past weekend against the Miami Dolphins, I highly doubt he will be the real answer for any NFL team.

The point is, that the Kansas City Royals don’t need any one guy to fill that type of role. They don’t need one mega superstar to take them to the “holy land.” Guys that can carry a team almost all by themselves only come around once in a lifetime (Michael Jordan).

All they need from Eric Hosmer is for him to play to the best of his abilities. They have enough talent to take the pressure (that builds by the day) off of him. The last thing the Royals need is for a super talented player to get bothered by that type of pressure (although I think Hosmer is level-headed enough to not sink to Adam Dunn status).

So enough with all this “Eric Hosmer: The Kansas City Royals’ Savior” talk. He’s a beast, he’s a stud, everyone knows how good he is. But the Royals are building a team to contend, so every player could wear that title.

One more thing… I saw a tweet this past week that I thought was great. I think it would be fun to hand out a Royals “Tweet of the Week” from here on out, so here it is. It comes from Brian McGannon in Kansas City.

Royals 1b Eric Hosmer joins Babe Ruth, Reggie Jackson and Albert Pujols as the only players to hit 3 HRs in a World Series game #FutureTweet
@BrianMcGannon
Brian McGannon

Great tweet, Brian.

You can follow him @BrianMcGannon and myself @tbryant824

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Harvey’s Wallbangers – The 1982 Milwaukee Brewers

When the St. Louis Cardinals added veteran Lance Berkman to an already potent offense, my mind raced immediately to the 1982 Milwaukee Brewers. They were an amazing bunch of characters that simply hit the cover off the baseball for about three years, winning their division in the strike shortened 1981 season and coming within a few outs of winning the 1982 World Series. If the Cardinals were a precision unit, the Brewers looked like they just rolled out of a local bar well past closing time. Abner Doubleday couldn’t have chosen two better teams to face each other in the 1982 World Series.

Building the core

The nucleus of the 1982 team was a group of players the Brewers drafted and developed in their farm system. The two stars of this program were Hall of Famers Paul Molitor and Robin Yount. Yount would spend his entire 20 year career with the Brewers while Molitor played in Milwaukee for the first 15 of his 21 seasons. Between the two of then, they collected 6,461 hits, and 411 would come in the 1982 season. Yount’s bushy hair and enormous mustache fit in well with the rest of the team while Molitor’s clean cut looks made him look like a player from a different time. As a pair, they locked down the left side of the infield defensively and became a feared 1-2 punch at the top of the batting order.

Gorman Thomas

Gorman Thomas was another Brewers minor league product and had broken into the major league shortly before Yount and Molitor. Thomas was an average center fielder defensively, but the man could hit the ball. And hard. He was the right-handed Adam Dunn of his era, or maybe more precisely the Dave Kingman of the American League. He would lead the league in home runs twice, 45 in 1979 and 39 in 1982, but didn’t hit above .250 in either of those seasons. Of all of the players on the Brewers roster, Thomas was the one that Cardinals fans feared most because he delivered a significant power threat at the bottom of the batting order.

Charlie Moore came up about the same time as Thomas. His biggest contribution that he made it possible for the Brewers to trade away Darrell Porter in a huge deal that brought them lefty Bob McClure, who had a career year in 1982. Moore would spend most of the 1970s behind the plate, but would move to right field when the Brewers acquired Ted Simmons prior to the 1981 season. He was an inconsistent hitter, but even in a down year, he was a better hitter than most of the 8th or 9th place hitters in the National League.

Jim Gantner was the last of the Brewers minor league prospects. He would flirt with a .300 batting average a few times in his career, his highest average coming in 1982, but his value was a steady glove on the right side of the infield. Ganter, Molitor and Yount would rotate positions early in their career, but once they settled into Molitor at third base, Yount at shortstop and Gantner at second base, good things started happening. Gantner’s most memorable moment came in Game Seven of the 1982 World Series when he got into a shouting match with Joaquin Andujar after Andujar made a spectacular defensive play to squelch a potentially game changing rally.

The missing pieces

To bolster the young core of Paul Molitor, Robin Yount, Gorman Thomas and Jim Gantner, the Brewers made several deals in 1977 and 1978 that got them very close to their championship goal.

Mike Caldwell

Mike Caldwell had been a sometimes brilliant but equally inconsistent pitcher with the San Francisco Giants and San Diego Padres. He came to the Brewers in 1977 and struggled in his first year. Not so in 1978 when he turned in a career year going 22-9 with 23 complete games, 6 shutouts and one save. His ERA of 2.36 might have earned him the AL Cy Young Award in just about any other year. Unfortunately for Caldwell, Ron Guidry of the New York Yankees also chose 1978 to turn in a career season, finishing with an unbelievable 25-3 record and an ERA of 1.75. Guidry would win the Cy Young Award and Caldwell would come in second. Although his numbers would steadily decline, Caldwell continued to be a productive starter for the Brewers until his retirement following the 1984 season. He saved his best performance for the 1982 World Series as he would dominate the Cardinals, shutting them out in Game One and going 8 1/3 innings in Game Five for his second win. The Cardinals would finally get to him in relief, late in Game Seven, scoring two important runs in the bottom of the 8th inning to give Bruce Sutter some breathing room. Those two runs turned out to be important as it allowed Sutter to challenge the Brewer hitters more than he might have in a one run game.

Cecil Cooper also came to the Brewers in 1977. As good as Paul Molitor and Robin Yount were, Cecil Cooper was the hitting star of the Brewers through the 1983 season. A dependable .300 hitter, you could also count on Cooper to hit 25-30 homers and drive in over 100 runs. He did just a bit better in 1982, finishing the season with a .313 average with 32 homers and 121 RBIs. While we marvel at his offensive production, his glove was just as good, winning the Gold Glove award twice. In many respects, Cooper was the Brewers equivalent of Keith Hernandez.

Left fielder Ben Oglivie was another piece that was added in 1978. Oglivie was a streaky bat that could produce some high batting averages and occasionally some frightening home run numbers. He would lead the league in 1980, but his production fell off after that. Even so, he still managed 34 homers and 102 RBIs in 1982, plus a huge home run in both the ALCS and World Series.

“The Trade”

The additions of Cooper, Caldwell and Oglivie helped the Brewers become a legitimate contender by the end of the 1970′s. They managed to win 90 or more games for the first two times in their short franchise history, but they were still missing a few players to be able to make it to post-season. Specifically, they needed a productive catcher, a staff ace and a closer. They would get all three in one of the biggest trades in Cardinals history, the one that defined General Manager Whitey Herzog’s legacy. On December 12, 1980, the Cardinals sent newly acquired reliever Rollie Fingers, catcher Ted Simmons and pitching prospect Pete Vukovich to the Milwaukee Brewers for pitchers Dave LaPoint and Lary Sorensen and outfielders Sixto Lezcano and David Green. Just 4 days earlier, Fingers had come to the Cardinals in a massive 11 player deal with the San Diego Padres. We were still trying to image a bullpen with 2 future Fall of Fame closers when this deal went down.

While this was primarily a player dump by Herzog, the Cardinals did get some useful players in the trade. Dave LaPoint became a dependable arm in the starting rotation, and occasionally in the bullpen. His contributions would continue when he would be traded to San Francisco in 1985 for slugger Jack Clark. Lezcano became the next in a long line of disappointing corner outfielders, but would be part of the Garry Templeton for Ozzie Smith trade prior to the 1982 season. David Green was the player that Herzog really wanted. A big man with great speed, a good arm and some serious pop in his bat would be a welcome addition to the Cardinals outfield. Injuries would take a toll on Green and he would never develop into the player Herzog had hoped he would be, but a minor league deal that flew under the radar brought that player to the Cardinals from the Yankees system. That player was Willie McGee.

The Brewers couldn’t have been happier with their deal with the Cardinals. These new players made their presence felt immediately and the Brewers responded with their first division title in the strike shortened 1981 season. They would lose the first AL Divisional Series to the New York Yankees, but would return to post-season again in 1982, beating a very solid California Angels team in an exciting 5 game series.

Ted Simmons had a bit of difficulty adjusting to a new league in 1981. He rebounded in 1982, hitting 23 home runs and driving in 97 runs, approaching career highs in both categories. Simba was adapting to the American League style of play quite nicely. His numbers would even get better in 1983, but then the 13 years of wear and tear behind the plate would start taking it’s toll and Simmons would finish out his career as a backup in Atlanta.

Rollie Fingers would lead the American League in saves with 28 while his counterpart in St. Louis did the same – Bruce Sutter would save 25 games in the short season. Even scarier than Finger’s 28 saves was his 1.04 ERA, earning the mustached one both the AL MVP and Cy Young Award. He was nearly as good in 1982, until a severe muscle tear in September would end his season. This one injury may have been enough to tip the World Series balance in favor of the Cardinals. Fingers would sit out all of 1983, but would come back for one more monster season in 1984. Unfortunately for Fingers, the aging Brewers pitching staff was largely ineffective and they slipped back to the bottom of the AL East.

Pete Vukovich

As important as Fingers and Simmons were, the real win for the Brewers came in the person of Pete Vukovich. He’d been a wild hard thrower early in his career with the White Sox and Blue Jays. He began to turn heads as a starter for the Cardinals, winning 15 games in 1979 and 12 in 1980. When he moved to the American League, Vukovich became an overnight sensation. He would go 14-4 in the short 1981 season and then follow that up with a team leading 18-6 record in 1982. That was good enough to earn him the AL Cy Young Award in 1982.

Vukovich was a perfect fit for the Brewers. He was a character with big bushy and uncombed hair. He looked like he had been wearing the same uniform since the start of the season and that it hadn’t been washed in months. He would also frustrate opposing batters by coming up with all sorts of equipment failures, generally as a reliever starts warming up in the bullpen. On a perfectly clear day, his cleats would suddenly be clogged by mud. His belt would fall apart, requiring the equipment manager to bring out a replacement. And my personal favorite, his shoes never seemed to be tied properly. Add to that a scary facial expression and tendency to throw high and inside, Vukovich became an intimidating hurler.

Like his equipment issues, his pitching was also about deception. While he had a good fastball early in his career, arm troubles limited it’s effectiveness in 1982, but he would show it enough to make his devastating change-up a world class out-pitch. We would later learn that Vukovich had torn his rotator cuff during the season and continued to pitch through the pain, rather than resting it and possibly costing his team a trip to the World Series. That would catch up to the former Cardinal as he would only start 3 games in 1983 before being shut down. He would pitch two more ineffective seasons, never coming close to his 1981 and 1982 performance.

Putting it together in 1982

Now that we know a bit about the players, let’s take a look at their production in 1982. As a team, they led the American League in wins, runs, home runs, slugging and OPS. They would finish second to the Kansas City Royals in hits and batting average. Even though they had a free swinger in Gorman Thomas, with his 143 strikeouts, as a team they were next to last in strikeouts. Yes, the 1982 Milwaukee Brewers were one scary team.

H 2B 3B HR RBI BA OBP SLG OPS
Ted Simmons (C) 145 29 0 23 97 .269 .309 .451 .759
Cecil Cooper (1B) 205 38 3 32 121 .313 .342 .528 .870
Jim Gantner (2B) 132 17 2 4 43 .295 .335 .369 .704
Robin Yount (SS) 210 46 12 29 114 .331 .379 .578 .957
Paul Molitor (3B) 201 26 8 19 71 .302 .366 .450 .816
Ben Oglivie (LF) 147 22 1 34 102 .244 .326 .453 .780
Gorman Thomas (CF) 139 29 1 39 112 .245 .343 .506 .850
Charlie Moore (RF) 116 22 4 6 45 .254 .299 .360 .659
Roy Howell (DH) 78 11 2 4 38 .260 .305 .350 .655
Don Money (DH) 78 14 3 16 55 .284 .360 .531 .891

That’s what the Cardinals had to face in post-season. George Hendrick led the Cardinals with 19 home runs. If you combine Don Money and Roy Howell as a platooned designated hitter, only two Brewers regulars hit fewer home runs than Hendrick: Charlie Moore in right field and Jim Gantner at second base. Only one Cardinal (George Gendrick) had over 100 RBIs, the Brewers had 4, and Ted Simmons was knocking on the door with 97. The 1982 World Series was really going to be David vs Goliath, and David won that battle, didn’t he ?

Ahhh, but the Cardinals had the running game, right ? That’s true, but the Brewers did a bit of running on their own. Paul Molitor was threat on the bases and would steal 41 bases. Lonnie Smith was the only Cardinal that would steal more – 68. The Cardinals did more running up and down the order, but the Brewers could be aggressive on the bases when they needed to be. That would ultimately cost them in Game Seven of the World Series when Robin Yount would be thrown out at third in a game changing throw from George Hendrick.

How did the Cardinals win ?

It may be as simple as Rollie Fingers and Gorman Thomas.

The arm injury that kept Rollie Fingers out of the World Series caused manager Harvey Kuenn to juggle his bullpen and use several pitchers in a different role. After demolishing the Cardinals in Game One, Game Two was a tight affair until the very end. In a tie game in the 8th inning, Kuenn had to go to Pete Ladd instead of Rollie Fingers. Ladd walked the bases loaded and then walked in the eventual winning run on a controversial ball four call. After a long rain delay, the Brewers bullpen was again victimized in Game Six. And finally, in a close Game Seven, Rollie Fingers might have been able to keep it a one run game which might have changed how the ninth inning was played out. Bob McClure, who had taken the loss in Game Two, would give up two important runs and the Cardinals had some breathing room for the last inning of the World Series.

Robin Yount, Paul Molitor, Cecil Cooper and Jim Gantner all hit the ball well in the World Series, each posting a batting average over .330. The DH platoon was largely ineffective and even though he hit 2 home runs, Ted Simmons was not much of a factor, other than knocking Joaquin Andujar out of a game by lining a ball of his leg. The one batter that we feared most in the Brewers lineup had an atrocious series: Gorman Thomas. Perhaps it is fitting that he struck out for the final out, Thomas would only manage 3 hits in the series, all singles.

More than Fingers and Thomas, team speed ultimately made the difference in the series. It is no surprise that the Brewers took two of the three games at County Stadium in Milwaukee. It is an older stadium and the infield and outfield grass was relatively slow. In the smaller and slower park, the Brewers bats became more potent. Things were much different in the cavernous Busch Stadium. Balls that got through the Brewers defense were gobbled up by Ken Oberkfell, Ozzie Smith, Tommy Herr and Keith Hernandez. A ball hit in the gap that got past Gorman Thomas, Ben Olglivie and former catcher Charlie Moore would be cut off by Lonnie Smith, Willie McGee or George Hendrick. While good pitching can defeat monstrous hitting, the real difference in the 1982 World Series was good defense from the Brewers being beaten by exceptional defense from the Cardinals.

And we had Bruce Sutter and they didn’t have Rollie Fingers

What does this mean for the 2011 Cardinals ?

An outfield of Lance Berkman, Colby Rasmus and Matt Holliday is beginning to look a lot like Charlie Moore, Gorman Thomas and Ben Oglivie. Did I mention that Thomas routinely led the league in strikeouts ? They produced a huge amount of offense, but they needed to because they didn’t prevent a lot of it from their opponents. The Brewers also had a respectable infield, but other than Cooper nobody was an above average defender. That sounds a lot like what the Cardinals will field with David Freese, Ryan Theriot, Skip Schumaker (or Daniel Descalso) and Albert Pujols.

The Brewers clubbed their way to the World Series. If the Cardinals want to do the same, they too will have to thump their way through the National League. That just got a little bit harder with Philadelphia’s signing of Cliff Lee and Milwaukee’s acquisition of Zack Greinke, but it can be done. Fortunately, there aren’t too many teams these days like the 1982 Cardinals and there are no stadiums like old Busch, so anything can happen.

Bob Netherton covers Cardinals history for i70baseball.com and writes at Throatwarbler’s Blog. You may follow Bob on Twitter here or on Facebook here.

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The Balboni Line

After Adam Dunn’s recent signing with the White Sox, I pulled up his career stats, and could hardly believe his home run totals from the last seven seasons: 46, 40, 40, 40, 40, 38, 38. The consistency is stunning, but being a Royals obsessive, something else struck me: Adam Dunn has out-homered the Royals single season record for seven straight years. (The only other player I’ve been able to find with such a streak is Babe Ruth, who hit at least 41 for seven consecutive years, 1926—32.) Dunn’s incredible stretch prompted me to delve deeper into just how pitiful the Royals lack of home run power has been.

Steve Balboni

Royals fans have enjoyed some great players over the years, but the team has somehow never had a hitter bust out with even a 40 home run season. They are the only current franchise without a 40 homer hitter. The team mark is an embarrassingly low 36, set by Steve “Bye-Bye” Balboni in 1985. Barry Bonds’ all-time record of 73 is more than twice the Royals record.

Only ten times has a Royals player reached 30 homers:

Steve Balboni 36 1985
Gary Gaetti 35 1995
John Mayberry 34 1975
Dean Palmer 34 1998
Danny Tartabull 34 1987
Jermaine Dye 33 2000
Bo Jackson 32 1989
Danny Tartabull 31 1991
George Brett 30 1985
Chili Davis 30 1997

Some of the lack of power is explained by the home run graveyard that is Royals/Kauffman Stadium. In recent years, the Royals inability to hang on to power hitters has also helped keep the record intact: Carlos Beltran had 15 home runs with KC in 2004 before he was traded to the Astros—he finished the year with 38, and then peaked at 41 with the Mets in 2006. Ex-Royal Jermaine Dye knocked 44 in 2006. Health problems have also played a role: had Bo Jackson and/or Mike Sweeney been able to stay healthy, they may have taken a run at the record.

Only the Twins join the Royals in failing to have a player hit more than 36 home runs in a season since 1985. The Twins do at least have the memory of some huge home run years: Harmon Killebrew alone had nine seasons over the Balboni line.

Some astonishing numbers:

The average home run record for the 29 non-Royals franchises: 53
Average number of 37+ home run seasons per franchise: 15
Times a Yankee has hit 37+: 38
Number of individual seasons of 37+ home runs since 1985: 244
Average number of seasons of 37+ per team since 1985: 8 (In other words, if the Royals had kept pace with home run hitters around the bigs, Balboni’s mark would have been surpassed eight times in the last 25 years.)

I posted a few of these stats on Twitter recently, prompting this response from Jeff Parker of Royally Speaking: “You are bumming me out.” So, hey, how about some hope: I asked Greg Schaum of Royals Prospects what he thinks the chances are of someone currently in the Royals system breaking the record. Greg feels Mike Moustakas has the best shot: “Moose should have 3-4 peak years where he could break that record…But he still needs to prove he can handle big league pitching (especially breaking stuff). But he would be the guy with the best chance.” Moustakas’s final home run tally last year in the minors was…36.

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Pujols Makes History Once Again

With two outs in the bottom of the first inning, and Ryan Dempster on the mound, Albert Pujols promptly lifted a solo home run over the fence in right center. It was Pujols’ 30th home run of the season and his 396th of his career.

The blast extended his own Major League record of consecutive 30 home run seasons to begin a career. It was Pujols’ tenth straight season of 30 home runs, and I’ll venture to say it won’t be the last.

In seven of Pujols’ ten seasons in the bigs, he has hit his 30th home run in August. It has certainly been his best month over the course of his excellent career. In 258 games and 988 at bats in August, Pujols has hit .347/.429/.667 with 220 runs, 76 home runs, and 206 RBI. In 2010, Albert has raised his average from .295 to .316 and has hit six home runs in 12 August games.

The Machine is on pace to hit 42 home runs and 120 RBI in what some people have called an “off” year. If his numbers at the end of the season are close to what he is projected for, we could be talking about the first Triple Crown winner since Carl Yastrzemski did it in 1967. Pujols is second in the league in home runs (Adam Dunn – 31), he leads the league in RBI with 86, and is only eight points behind the league leader in average (Carlos Gonzalez – .322).

Regardless of how the season ends and where the three-time MVP finds himself among the league leaders, nobody in the history of the game has ever done what Pujols has been able to do. Not Barry Bonds, not Ken Griffey Jr., not Hank Aaron, not Alex Rodriguez, not Babe Ruth, not Ted Williams, not Jimmie Foxx, not Lou Gehrig. Nobody. He’s as good as it gets and as good of a hitter you will ever see. Have fun building an argument against that, because you simply can’t.

Even Cardinal fans take him for granted. I have been very hesitant to say this, but it is the truth. When Albert Pujols retires, barring a major injury, he will go down as the greatest hitter of all time. People do not understand how good he is, and maybe they never will.

Like the “Beyond Baseball” commercial puts so perfectly, I can’t wait to look back and say, “I saw Albert Pujols do… everything.”

Justin Hulsey covers the Cardinals for i70baseball.com and his blog, Cardinals Front Office, that is also dedicated to Cardinal baseball.You may follow him on Twitter @JayHulsey by clicking here.

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