Monday, July 31, 2017

100 Years of the #MLBTradeDeadline

John McGraw, Buck Herzog, and Christy Mathewson, summer 1916
This year marks 100 years of the #MLBTradeDeadline, and it happened because of one team. The team is the 1916 New Giants, and I literally wrote the book on them, from which this is adapted.

The 1915 New York Giants finished in last place, the only time that happened for a full season while John McGraw managed the team. The 1916 team started okay, winning 17 straight on the road (while on a 21-game road trip), a record that was tied by the 1984 Detroit Tigers but of course the Tigers had their streak over the course of a month, not in 20 days.

Well, the Giants floundered after that first streak, and McGraw basically said "screw it" and blew up the team mid-season.

In mid-July he traded his favorite player, all-timer Christy Mathewson, to the Reds (so Matty could manage) for infielder Buck Herzog, the Reds' current manager. This was Herzog's third go-round with the Giants, as he had been traded away twice before because the two hotheads couldn't get along. But they realized that together they were practically unstoppable, so they agreed to disagree, and Herzog was back.

Days later, McGraw also bought Harry "Slim" Sallee from the St. Louis Cardinals. Sallee is still considered one of the best pitchers in Cardinals franchise history despite playing for them when they were at their worst. In June Sallee had announced his retirement, left the team and went home. It was widely considered as a ruse to get traded, but in those days that was about the only thing he could have done.

Harry "Slim" Sallee, 1913

Several teams tried to trade for him, but the Cardinals rebuffed all offers. Finally, McGraw and the Giants offered to buy Sallee, and that offer the then-notoriously frugal Cardinals accepted. It was widely reported and believed that McGraw illegally encouraged Sallee to retire, and National League President John Tener said that "No other deal like that will be sanctioned while I am in office,” because heaven forbid a player would be allowed to choose where he could play. The league quickly passed a rule saying that a player could not threaten retirement in order to force a trade. (Imagine the field day Marvin Miller would have had with that one.)

The Giants did okay for a bit but then sucked again. In late August, McGraw traded first baseman Fred Merkle (yes, that one) to the Dodgers for catcher Lew McCarty.

And on August 28th, McGraw made the trade that made every other team really, really mad.

Heinie Zimmerman was the best third baseman in the league, now that Honus Wagner was old. But the Cubs' struggles this season had “The Great Zim” frustrated, like Slim Sallee had been in St. Louis. McGraw traded second baseman "Laughing" Larry Doyle (a key mman on the 1911, '12 and '13 pennant winners) for Zim, who at the time of the trade he was in the midst of a 10-day suspension by the Cubs.

Zimmerman been suspected of laying down on the job for much of the season, and even throwing a few games during his career to support his lifestyle. He cared so little about his finances he reportedly never collected a paycheck, instead asking the club treasurer for ten or twenty bucks until he was told he could have no more until the next time the rest of the team actually got paid.

"The Great Zim," 1917

The National League saw what McGraw was doing- stockpiling players right now for a pennant run the next season. All three of the pennant contenders- the Phillies, Dodgers and Braves were within four games of each other- thought their chances to take the flag could be in danger because of this new Giants team.

The Zim trade put Herzog back at his natural position, second base, and the Giants now had a tremendously defensive infield with Herzog, Zim, and Art Fletcher (best shortstop in the league by WAR that year).

That plus a few other moves (including an amazing month by a pitcher you've never heard of, the ultimately unfairly wronged Benny Kauff, plus much more) jump-started the Giants, and they won a major-league record 26 straight games, something that has never even come close to being equaled (no one has won at least 21 straight since the 1935 Cubs, and the 2002 A's were the last team to get to 20).

In the off-season Philadelphia Phillies president William Baker proposed the first-ever trade deadline of July 31st. This was in direct response to McGraw making trades through August that ultimately resulted in the 26-game win streak- and Philly missing out on their second straight pennant when the Giants beat them four straight during the rampage. 

The resolution passed unanimously. The trade deadline has been the last day of July ever since. It is the lasting legacy of the 1916 New York Giants. 

Want more on that team? You could read this. But really, you should just buy the book

McGraw, aka "Little Napoleon"

Thursday, July 27, 2017

2017 #MLB Weekday Day Game Summer Trip Schedule

Stunningly, by the 4th of July several teams had already completed their scheduled home weekday day games for the year. It's the heart of the season and teams aren't giving people a really good excuse to play hooky, or the kids on summer break a reason to go to the park and not the wave pool.

There will be more weekday day games in the east next season because the new Collective Bargaining Agreement says "getaway" games where at least one of the teams has a game in the west the next day has to be a day game so they get in at a reasonable hour. Earlier this year, the Braves forced the Giants to play a night game in Atlanta when the Giants had a game in San Francisco the next day. Then the game got delayed by rain. So the Giants didn't get out of Atlanta until nearly 3 am and were toast the next day. Of course, the Giants have been toast the whole season so that probably didn't make a huge impact. But you damn well know that if it was the Braves themselves who had to play in the west the next day it would have been a day game. Starting it 2018, it has to be no matter what. I broke down the numbers of how many scheduled weekday day games each team had earlier this year.

My goal in making this list is to see as many weekday day games in as many different stadiums as possible between July 1st and September 29th, the final weekday of the 2017 regular season. Despite most weekday day games taking place only on Wednesday and Thursday, it's almost possible to get to every team's home ballpark. Almost. I don't count Labor Day as a weekday (so I don't have a game scheduled for that day), but I do have two authorized holiday exemptions where it doesn't matter what day of the week it is so long as it is a day game- and that's on National Holidays in the capital of the country. So that's where we begin...

Enjoying my day game
Saturday, July 1st: 

Boston Red Sox at Toronto Blue Jays. The 150th birthday of Canada would have been an awesome time, I'm sure.

Tuesday, July 4th:

New York Mets at Washington Nationals. 'Murica

Wednesday, July 5th:

Toronto Blue Jays at New York Yankees. With a quick stop-off pilgrimage to the site of the Polo Grounds. Finnerty's, are you listening?

Thursday, July 6th:

San Francisco Giants at Detroit Tigers. Four parks in five days. Not the ultimate way I want to plan a trip like this, but you gotta do what you gotta do.

Friday, July 7th:

Pittsburgh Pirates at Chicago Cubs.
We will try and hit Wrigley a lot even if my head would've been spinning at this point by being in 5 stadiums in 5 different cities- and four straight- in 6 days.

Monday, July 17th:

Washington Nationals at Cincinnati Reds. The Reds always seem to have a few random weekday day games or "businessman specials," a throwback to the old days. I'm glad for it because it means I can easily get them in on this list.

Wednesday, July 19th:

Chicago Cubs at Atlanta Braves. The Braves have very few weekday day games this season (because they're too busy screwing over west coast teams as much as possible). Get there when you can. Also of note on the 19th, the A's and Giants both had weekday day games, the only time all year for both Bay Area teams.

Thursday, July 20th:

Toronto Blue Jays at Boston Red Sox. The Red Sox also have very few weekday day games, so an early-morning flight from Hartsfield to Logan is in the offing. As the Braves originally started in Boston and won their only World Series in Boston while playing at Fenway Park, it's a historical back-to-back.

The Cubs hosted the White Sox for daygames in the Crosstown Series Monday the 24th and Tuesday the 25th. A maybe, but not required.

Wednesday, July 26th:

Baltimore Orioles at Tampa Bay Rays. The Rays are not very day-game friendly either. But they're better than the Orioles, who are lousy when it comes to weekday day games.

Thursday, July 27th:

L.A. Angels at Cleveland Indians. Our best option this day since the Nats and Blue Jays have already been taken care of.

Monday, July 31st:

Atlanta Braves at Philadelphia Phillies. Another Monday "businessman's special." Probably be about 18 people at this game.

Shadows in the daytime
Wednesday, August 2nd:

Toronto Blue Jays at Chicago White Sox. The South Siders' last scheduled weekday day game of the season.

Thursday, August 3rd:

Arizona Diamondbacks at Chicago Cubs. Because when you can do the Chicago double....

Wednesday, August 9th:

Baltimore Orioles at L.A. Angels. The Angels are also terrible at having home weekday day games. Better than the Orioles, but that says very little.

Tuesday, August 15th:

Houston Astros at Arizona D-Backs. A rare Tuesday day game, period.

Wednesday, August 16th:

Philadelphia Phillies at San Diego Padres. In sunny San Diego, this is their last scheduled weekday day game of the year and I have no idea why.

Thursday, August 17th:

Arizona D-Backs at Houston Astros. Apparently these two are "designated interleague rivals" nowadays. Dumb.

Wednesday, August 23rd:

Milwaukee Brewers at San Francisco Giants. The only day game of the day, so an easy choice.

Thursday, August 24th:

Arizona Diamondbacks at New York Mets. Not my ideal back-to-back, but not many options to get the Mets in here. Plus the Giants started in New York, so another historical back-to-back. The best way to do this probably means a red-eye out of San Francisco to get to New York around mid-morning (considering the time change) which means I would be super-loopy at this game. Makes the whole thing more surreal and Hunter S. Thompson-like, so what the hell. 

Wednesday, August 30th:

St. Louis Cardinals at Milwaukee Brewers.  The why-isn't-this-sponsored Budweiser vs Miller series. The winner: Deschutes.

Thursday, August 31st:

Chicago White Sox at Minnesota Twins. The Twins built a no-roof park so they should host lots of day games... and they don't.

Wednesday, September 6th:

LA Angels at Oakland A's. Me and 12 of my closest friends.

Wednesday, September 13th:

Chicago White Sox at Kansas City Royals. The White Sox are on this list a lot. Also, the K is a fantastic place for a ballgame except that it's in the middle of nowhere.

Thursday, September 14th:

Cincinnati Reds at St. Louis Cardinals. The Missouri double.

Wednesday, September 20th:

New York Mets at Miami Marlins. There's a bobblehead museum here. Might be the best thing going this game.

Wednesday, September 27th:

Miami Marlins at Colorado Rockies. The Rockies have the 2nd-most home weekday day games of anybody this year, second only to the Cubs. But in order to get everyone else in, my only choice is to go to the last Rockies weekday day game of the year. At least they're on the list.  

Friday, September 29th:

Cincinnati Reds at Chicago Cubs. The final weekday day game of the season is at Wrigley. It makes sense.

25 out of 30 teams in three months, that's pretty good. The one team I regret not getting to is the Pittsburgh Pirates, who by all accounts have a beautiful ballpark that should be seen in the daytime. But they have surprisingly few weekday day games. As it happens, out of all the NL Central teams, whose total weekday day game numbers are inflated thanks to playing the Cubs, the Pirates still only have 16 total weekday day games, home and away (the other non-Cub teams in the division- Milwaukee, Cincinnati, and St. Louis- have at least 20).

The Dodgers final weekday home day game was the first week of June. Figures.

The Orioles are worse, because it was the week before Memorial Day. They have a few 3 pm starts, but that's mid-afternoon in my book, not daytime. The O's appear to be completely against weekday day games, and because they have a wonderful ballpark that should be seen in the daytime, this- again- doesn't make much sense to me.

An odd omission from this list are the Seattle Mariners. Safeco Field is fantastic! It's beautiful with the roof open and the sun shining in... yet the M's only have two non-Labor Day weekday day games after July 1st (coincidentally, the last one they're hosting the Orioles) which makes- you guessed it- no sense. August is the best time to be in Seattle.

Team number five we can't get to? The Rangers. This makes sense because Texas summers are absolutely brutal and they don't have a roof (this is why they want a new ballpark after just 20 years, because hell, we can get to the Astros and even the D-Backs, because Arizona summer heat is worse). They have only two day games in July, period, and two more in August. We could get to them but then we'd have to miss the Rockies. We're not missing any playoff teams this year. Sorry, Mariners.

photos by the author.

See you there