My Baseball Teacher- Milo Hamilton

Baseball for me has always been more than just a game.  Baseball taught me the value of fair play, a love of statistical data, the importance of everyday consistency and the impact of language, storytelling and the spoken word.

Almost daily, during the summers of my youth, I played baseball. Hitting, fielding, and running under the hot southern sky was what I lived for.  With school out for the summer, the sandlot fields of Georgia became my classroom for life lessons and so much more.

At night my classroom shifted from the sandlot fields to the fields and stadiums of the big cities of the major leagues. As almost every night during those summers, I listened to baseball.

The radio would take me to far-a-way fields like Crosley Field in Cincinnati, Forbes Field in Pittsburgh, and Wrigley Field in Chicago. My teacher for these baseball lessons was Milo Hamilton.

Milo Hamilton was the lead announcer for my Atlanta Braves.  His descriptions of the accounts of the game produced word pictures that brought alive for me the skill and exploits of players like Clete Boyer, Ralph Garr, Dusty Baker, Rico Carty, Phil Niekro, Orlando Cepeda and Hank Aaron.

However, it is was Hamilton’s style of calling a game and his use of language that made an everlasting impression on me.

One summer, I broke my arm and was unable to play the game I love.  Instead of playing I spent the summers in the “press box” of the little league field keeping score and acting as the public address announcer.  Soon, those public addresses turned from just announcing the names of the players to full-fledged play-by-play.

And what announcing style did I emulate?  You guessed it…Milo Hamilton.  Surprisingly my announcing became popular and I gained a new nick-name that summer as folks starting calling me “Milo”.

Milo Hamilton, died last week at age 88.  He was a sports casting legend. His broadcast career included stints with the Browns, Cardinals, Cubs, White Sox, Braves, and Pirates.

He spent 27 years as the voice of the Houston Astros. During that time, he was at the microphone for 11 no-hitters, Craig Biggio’s 3,000th hit in 2007, and the 2005 World Series where Astros played the Chicago White Sox.

Milo, was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1992.  At his retirement in 2012, Milo held the record for the number of major league baseball stadiums broadcasted from at 59 different parks.

Most famously, Milo was known for calling Hank Aaron’s record breaking 715th career home run in 1974.

However, for me Milo Hamilton was my baseball teacher.  He not only expanded my knowledge of the game. But he also taught me how the effective use of language can inform, excite, and inspire.

Milo Hamilton and the power of his the radio calls greatly increased my knowledge, love and passion for the game.  And for this baseball fan — I will be forever grateful.

My 2015 MLB Predictions

Spring is finally here and with its bloom comes the crack of the bat.  Our national pastime, baseball is back.  Today, marks the first day of a full slate of regular season games and along with it comes my annual predictions; or if you prefer, my “wild ass speculations” about the outcome of the April to October marathon which is Major League Baseball.

If you had a Kanas City – San Francisco World Series at the end of the 2014 season, I will meet you in Vegas ready to place a bet on your 2015 picks!  Now, my annual predictions are presented for “entertainment” purposes only.  Therefore, if you have any notion on using my baseball insights to win a pot of gold, take a gander at my 2014 picks; read them and see how impressively far off I was with my picks.

Now, I proudly present my Baseball Predictions for 2015.

MLB Divisions2

For the first time, I have produced a power ranking of all 30 MLB teams.   If you are a real baseball junkie like me, please take a look at my 2015 Power Rankings.

Baseball is one of the 8 passions of my life, I am so pleased to share this passion with the readers of this blog.

 

©2015 Marben Bland

In 1991, my baseball team, the Atlanta Braves played in the franchise’s first   World Series in thirty-three years. This was the first World Series my team had been a part of in my lifetime hence, I was “just happy” that they made it.   However, as the series moved along something changed. I went from “just happy” to wanting and expecting them to win. When we lost in game seven to the Minnesota Twins I was greatly disappointed.

Many Royals fans have told me that they are “just happy” to be in the World Series.  After 29 years of being out of the playoffs, the “just happy” position is a totally understandable reaction to years of frustration. However, in life, as in sports, we should not settle for being good and “just happy”; when greatness and being a champion is at our disposal.

Needless to say, every team will not be like the San Francisco Giants who in the last 5 years, are on the brink of winning a 3rd championship; and with the Kansas City Royals playing in the American League, you know when New York or Boston will outspend them to a title. Therefore, getting back to this stage will be difficult; if not impossible.

Well, the same is true for us. We may not get another chance at that sale, interview, relationship or time with our family. So, we should stop settling for “just happy”. The time to win a championship is now! My Braves, despite making it to the fall classic again in 1992, did not win it until 1995. Then, they lost again in 1996 and 1999. It has been 15 years; and we have gone without planning in the last baseball games of the year.

People who go far in business and life do so by not settling for “just happy”; especially when greatness is obtainable. Therefore, from one baseball fan to another, root like heck, for the Royals to win. Then, expect them to win! When we set higher standards and reach for them, we will obtain greatness. “Just happy” will turn into “Jubilation for a lifetime!” Isn’t that the only way to play the game, do business and to live our lives?

Royal fans I won’t be “just happy” when the team takes the field on Tuesday. I will be rooting for the win and expecting greatness!

 

Derek Jeter: Where Fantasy Meets Reality

Giving Us The Best That He’s Got

He never led his league in batting,

He never was the Most Valuable Player of his league

And He was never considered the best at his position.

However, he was……

A Winner

5 times a World Champion

An Icon

20 years as a New York Yankee, playing more games and amassing more hits than anyone in franchise history.

The Captain

A certain first ballot hall of famer

And today Derek Jeter will put on the Yankee uniform and play in his 2,747th and final regular-season game.

Ironically that final game will be in Boston against the Yankee’s most hated rival the Red Sox. Normally Red Sox fans are brutal on opposing players. However, this weekend they have displayed the ultimate respect for the Yankee shortstop as they recognize Jeter as having been a worthy adversary for the past 20 years.

While I will never forget how Derek Jeter and his Yankees spoiled the title hopes of my beloved Atlanta Braves in 1996 and 1999. As a fan and a student of the game I am impressed by the clear, compelling and classy way he played baseball. Moreover, in an era of performance enhancing drugs and other evils Jeter was a model citizen. He wrote the book on how athletes should act on and off the field. What makes this feat even more impressive he did it all in the most challenging and rewarding place to play in the world, New York City.

Sure, he was never the best, but he was always the best in the biggest moments. No better example was on Thursday night when in final at bat in Yankee pinstripes Jeter, delivered the game winning hit.

Yankee play by play announcer Michael Kay summed up the moment so well “Derek Jeter where fantasy meets reality.” However, the reality of today is that this is Derek Jeter’s last day as a big league player.

Nevertheless, this should not be a day of sadness because of the ending of a career rather it should be and will be a celebration of passion, persistence, and performance. For twenty seasons Derek Jeter has done what all of us hope to do with our faith, our families and our futures – give it the best that we have.

And today in Boston, the New Yorker will give the best that he has one last time.

A Little League World Series Star Search for Home

When the excitement of this year’s Little League World Series was over all of the players except for one, went home. 12 year old, Jaheim Brown, member of Jackie Robinson West (the U.S. Champions that lost to Korea in the final game), has reportedly been homeless since June; according to the Chicago Sun-Times and various other media reports. Jaheim’s family has been struggling to make ends meet and keep a roof over their heads; because his mother, a home care provider, lost a few of her clients and his father works only part time.

Unlike the team’s rags to riches story, a group of kids from a tough, dangerous part of Chicago who had a dream to become United States Champions; this story almost went unnoticed. Until, Spencer Leak, Jr., a Chicago business man became so moved by Jaheim’s story that he got involved. Leak Jr. is willing to pay the Brown family’s rent for one year. In regards to his generous gift to the Browns, Leak reportedly told the Chicago Sun-Times “I would hope that this rent turns into a mortgage that turns into home ownership for them. We want our little superstar to have a roof over his head; because that’s what he is… he’s a superstar.”

In a time when this blog space has been populated with the difficult issue of race, class and justice; it is refreshing to report a moment when those things did not matter. For this young black man, who also has the last name Brown, the outcome was far different.

 

Play Ball! │ My 2013 Baseball Predictions

It’s spring and while it does not feel like in it many parts of the country, this week a rite of spring will return….major league baseball.

MLB_LogoBaseball is one of 8 passions of my life, and I fancy myself as an “aficionado” of the sport.  As such I have established an annual ritual of predicting the winners of each of the divisions, the champions of the National and American leagues along with the winner of the World Series.

 

For the first time I have summoned the courage to share my “predictions” with my fellow baseball fans in the blog audience. Come October I will summon more courage as I publicly compare the results of my March musing with the action on the field revealing to all my skills in prognostication.

American League: National League
Division Winners:East: Toronto Blue   JaysCentral: Detroit   Tigers

West: Los Angeles Angles

 

Division Winners:East: Washington   NationalsCentral: Cincinnati   Reds

West: San Francisco   Giants

Wild Cards:Tampa Bay RaysOakland Athletics

With Tampa winning the one game playoff

 

Wild Cards:Atlanta BravesLos Angeles Dodgers

With LA winning the one game playoff

 

ALCS: Detroit vs. Los   Angeles Angles NLCS: Washington vs. Los   Angeles Dodgers
AL Champs: Los Angeles   Angles NL Champs: Washington   Nationals

World Champs: Washington Nationals

WSMVP:  Denard Span

And now my breakdown of each dvisiion an team

American League

 

East

Position Team My Take

1

Toronto Blue Jays With the likes of R.A. Dickey, Mark Buehrle, J.A. Happ and Josh   Johnson the Blue Jays may have the best rotation in baseball. Add the OPS of   2011 NL batting champion Jose Reyes along with the power of Jose Bautista the   Jays will have the punch to support the pitching.

2

Tampa Bay Rays The big question for the Rays is will the reigning American   League Cy Young Award winner David Price will be on the team by the end of   the season. Price, who won’t be eligible for free agency until after the 2015   season, says he feels at home in Tampa Bay and could spend his entire career   there, but he understands what he’s worth. The Rays say they want to keep him   as long as possible, that he’s a big part of their success, but if they were   to lock him up as they did teammate Evan Longoria, they’d have to consider   how little they’d have left to spend on the rest of their roster. While this   drama plays out the Rays will field a team that will be competitive while   playing another waiting game, but this time it will be for an incoming player   Wil Myers the super-prospect obtained from Kansas City in the James Shields   trade. Until Myers arrives in June the Rays will rely on another newcomer   James Looney the ex-Dodger who spent a cup of coffee with Boston.  Despite all the trade winds Price will be a   Ray all season and the team will contend for the division and beyond.

3

Baltimore Orioles The O’s earned a wild-card berth with the best record in one-run   games than any team in baseball.    Managers Buck Showalter squad will not have to repeat that feat to   contend again. Emerging start Manny Machado will be with the team for the   full season along with young veterans Adam Jones and Matt Wieters.  However, the real key to this team will be   pitching, Jason Hammel will be the opening day starter for a rotation that   will be in flux all season.

4

New York Yankees Yes they are old, and disabled, but they are the Yankees.  If they can tread water until the old and   disabled can get back they could be a factor.

5

Boston Red Sox Boston is still recovering from two self-inflected wounds, the   2010 “Chickengate” episode that got Terry Francona fired and the 2011“Bobby   Valentine” episode that got Bobby Valentine fired.  After selling off half the team to the   Dodgers the front office restocked the team with solid citizens led by a   proven no drama manager John Farrow.    However, solid citizens don’t genuine wins, good ballplayers do.  And this team does not have enough of them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Central

Position Team My Take
Detroit Tigers Justin Verlander just inked a deal   making him the highest paid huller in the   history of the game. Gold glover Torii Hunter has joined emerging star Austin   Jackson to adding teeth and punch to the Tiger outfield.  Prince Fielder and triple crown winner   Miguel Cabrera form the most potent corner infield tandem in baseball. However,   the biggest addition to the Tigers is the return of the bat of Victor   Martinez. Out all of 2012 with an injured knee Martinez makes an already deep   lineup deeper.   With Verlander at the   top the rotation the defending American League champs are virtually exempt   from long losing streaks.  However, on   the days that Verlander is not going 9 the team faces an uncertain final   frame because Manager Jim Leyland will until someone emerges will employ a   closer by committee.

2

Chicago White Sox In his first year as a manager Robin Ventura kept the White Sox   in contention until the final week of the season.  Chicago will be in the hunt all season for   one reason pitching. In less than three years, Chris Sale has established   himself as one of the game’s best left-handers.  With the rejuvenated Jake Peavey and a   solid bull pen the White Sox have the elements to be in hunt again this year.

3

Kansas City Royals For the first time in almost 2 decades the Royals are a bona fide   contender for a division title. With addition of James Shields from Tampa   Bay, the Royals reinvented their rotation in support of the burgeoning core   of young talent. While they won’t win it this year. 2013 wii be the season where the Royals will finally play significant games in September.

4

Cleveland Indians The Indians, surprisingly, landed arguably two of the top five   position players available in the free-agent market in Nick Swisher and   Michael Bourn, high-profile players to go with their new high-profile   skipper, Terry Francona.  It will be   interesting to see how these pieces coalesce. If the rotation, one of the   worst in baseball last year, comes together, they have the lineup and bullpen   to contend. 

5

Minnesota Twins Instead of a scorecard fans of the Twins have been looking at   the health cards of  two best players   on the team Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau. As the pair have spent lengthy time   on the DL. the last two seasons.  If   Minnesota has any chance to contend Mauer and Morneau must appear together on  more scorecards. .

 

 

West

Position Team My Take

1

Los Angeles Angles The additional of Josh Hamilton to a lineup featuring Mike Trout   and Albert Pujols makes the Angles the most lethal offensive team in   baseball.  L.A. has two solid starters   in Jered Weaver and C.J Wilson but not much in the rotation in and the   bullpen after that.  So they will need all   the firepower the lineup can provide.

2

Oakland Athletics Don’t forget the low budget A’s won the division last year over   the high budget higher profile Angles and Rangers.  How did they do it? They out “baseballed” other   teams playing the game the “right way” With a balance of pitching, defense   and timely hitting. While they won’t repeat as division champs they will be   in the hunt all season.

3

Texas Rangers  After winning the AL crown in 2010 and 2011 the Rangers failed   to make the playoffs last year, and they will again this year.  Texas is stacked with a lineup featuring   all world third baseman Adrian Beltre however; the pitching is suspect with   Neftali Feliz starting the season on the DL. Plus as the season moves along   they will miss the bat of the departed Josh Hamilton and the leadership of   Michael Young.  Manager Ron Washington   is on the hot seat and if the team gets off to a slow start he could be the   first skipper to go.

4

Seattle Mariners The fences at Safeco Field have been brought in which should   help Seattle native, the formal and newest Mariner Jason Bay.  However, what is good for Jason Bay can be   better for the players on the other teams especially when Felix Hernandez is   not pitching which he does only 1 out of every 6 days.  Thus the problem with this team, on the   days that King Felix is on the mound the Mariners feeble lineup can’t score   enough runs.  When he is not on the   bump the Mariners meager pitching staff will allow too many runs.  Despite this paradox the Mariners will have   a better record in 2013.  Why?  19 games versus the Houston Astros.

5

Houston Astros The Astros have a good shot at breaking the record for losses in   a season.  The only drama for this   squad is will they break the record at 121 in September or October.

National League

East

Position Team My Take

1

Washington   Nationals The Nationals are perhaps the most complete team in baseball.   The Nationals can pitch Stephen Strasburg, the Nationals can hit Bryce Harper.   And now the Nationals have speed at the top of the order with the acquisition   of Denard Span from the Twins. However, the biggest thing is the Nationals   can now close out ballgames, with the acquisition of the elite closer   ex-Yankee Rafael Soriano.  Manager   Davey Johnson in his last season at the helm has said it all it is the World   Championship or bust for this team. They have the talent to make their manger   a profit.    

2

Atlanta Braves Braves added not one but two Uptons, B.J. from the Rays and   Justin from the Diamondbacks.  The   brothers Upton will team with Jason Heyward to form perhaps the most   dynamic outfields in the game.    Atlanta’s line-up will feature at least 5 players capable of hitting   20 or more homers. However, all of that power will come at a price   strikeouts.  The Braves will most   likely set a record for strikeouts.    With a solid rotation led by 16 game winner Tim Hudson and an elite   bullpen anchored by all world closer Craig Kimbrel  all of those strikeouts may not   matter.  At any rate it will be a very   interesting summer in Hot-Atlanta.

3

Philadelphia Phillies  Don’t count the Phillies out. Ryan Howard and Chase Utley are   back from injury plagued seasons. With the big 3 of Cole Hamels, Cliff Lee   and the rehabbing Roy Halladay.  They   have the pride and more importantly the talent to contend. 

4

New York Mets Met the Mets, met the Mets, and the fans may need to meet them   gone are stars like R.A. Dickey, Jose Reyes and Jason Bay.  Last year the Met a 500 team until shortly   before the all-star break. No such luck for this team for without the wins   provided by Dickey the nameless Mets will remain that way.  

5

Miami  Marlins We have seen this movie before bring in high price talent,   compete for a championship and then selloff all the talent.  Well that is what the Marlins have   done…again. The only difference is this time the Marlins will lose 100 games   in nicer ballpark.

Central

Position Team My Take

1

Cincinnati Reds As he enters his 5th season as Reds skipper Dusty   Baker knows that is his best team he has fielded.  The Reds have solid pitching lead by Johnny   Cueto, a deep lineup featuring a healthy Joey Votto and the always dangerous   Brandon Phillips.  Plus a bullpen with   the now fulltime reliever Aroldis Chapman.     

2

St. Louis   Cardinals The Cardinals have been a model of consistency making the   playoffs in 4 out of the last 5 seasons and winning an improbable world’s   championship in 2011. Second year manager Mike Matheny has a squad equipped   to be a major contender.  With   bellwether pitcher Chris Carpenter on the 60 day DL, the staff will be lead   by another bellwether pitcher Adam Wainwright who has just inked a new long   term deal.  The injury bug extends   beyond the rotation with closer Jason Motte and 3rd baseman David   Freese  starting  the season on the 15 day DL and veteran   shortstop Rafael Furcal out for the season.    However, these are the Cardinals and they always find a way to   win.      

3

Milwaukee Brewers Two seasons removed from a division crown and a loss in game 6   of the NLCS the Brewers hope to contend again. 2011 MVP Ryan Braun remains a   proven star but the club needs Rickie Weeks and at least one other player to   step up to replace the injured Corey Hart who will start the season on the   DL.  The rotation is capable and can   depend on a good bullpen with closer John Axford on the backend to preserve   leads.      

4

Pittsburgh Pirates The Pirates have a lot going for them they play in the best   ballpark in America, Andrew McCutchen is a stud, and A.J. Burnett has emerged   from New York as a leader and a winner. But the real question in the steel   city will be: “Is this the season that the Pirates finish over 500 for the   first time in two decades?”  The answer   is: No…Why?  Well it is for the same   reason the Seattle Mariners will finish over 500. The Mariners will play the Houston   Astros 19 times this year and the Pirates will play them 0 times this year.  So let’s face it if they did not finish over   500 after playing Houston 19 times last year – how could they pull off that   trick this year? But don’t worry Pittsburghers indications are that the   Penguins will be playing deep into June perhaps for a cup and by the time   they finish training camp for the Steelers will be just a few weeks   away.     

5

Chicago Cubs The Cubs will serve as the farm team for all the teams in   contention. They will listen to and will make offers for nearly everyone on   the roster including opening day starter Jeff Samardzija and outfielder Alfonso   Soriano who the Cubs are so desperate to part ways with that they are will to   pay a chunk of his salary to anyone who will take him.  Fans should enjoy all the fun in the stands   of “the friendly confines” of Wrigley Field, because fun and winning will not   take place on the field.

 

West

Position Team My Take

1

San Francisco Giants By winning 2 of the last 3 world championships the word dynasty   has stated to be mentioned around the Giants.     The dynasty starts with   pitching and a staff anchored by Matt Cain the Giants are posed again to lead   the league again in ERA.  The staff   will get a major boot with the return to form for 2 time CY Young award winner Tim Lincecum.  On the field newly extended NL MVP and   batting champ Buster Posey will lead an offense of high OPS hitters the   Giants will play the small ball that has been the hallmark of this budding   dynasty.CY YOUNG

2

Los Angeles Dodgers 200 million dollars will buy a lot of things this year let’s see   if can buy a pennant.  Since the sale   of the team to a group fronted by basketball legend Magic Johnson the Dodgers   have been doing a full court press in acquiring talent. First it was the last   years late season blockbuster with Boston bringing Josh Beckett, Nick Punto, Carl Crawford and the big bat of Adrian   Gonzalez west. Then the pickup of the biggest free agent huller in the market   Zack Greinke.   All of this spending to go with the nucleus   of talent including 2011 CY Young winner Clayton Kershaw and the    dangerous Matt Kemp.  With the talent on hand and an ownership   group willing to obtain more the Dodgers will be in the thick of things all   season.          

3

The Arizona Diamondbacks In 2010 the Diamondbacks road the grit and determination of   manager Kirk Gibson to a division title. In 2011 that same group of players   limped to an 81-81 third place record.    So during the offseason the D-Backs essentially purged the team to   suit manager Kirk Gibson’s tastes for what a major league player should be.  Gone from the lineup are Justin Upton, Chris   Young, and Stephen Drew; replacing them are Martin Prado, Cody Ross, and   Cliff Pennington. It’s a substantial   sacrifice of upside — Justin Upton stands a decent chance of being worth as   much at the plate this year as Prado, Ross, and Pennington put together. So   while Gibson may have the type of ballplayer that suits him they most likely   will not win as much to suit ownership. Expect a change at the helm by the   end of the year and perhaps at midseason.   

4

San Diego Padres The Padres are doing another rebuild, this version is scheduled   to be short term in nature.  It stated last   year with Mat Latos going to the Reds for prospects and will continue this   year with to  3B Chase Headley being   packaged assuming he comes back well from his hand injury. That said I don’t   actually think they’ll finish in last, as most rebuilding teams would, in   part because they’ve already gotten their hands on a lot of the talent they   need to claw their way back up to respectability — and the other team   they’ll be fighting for last the Rockies already has a pretty good head start   in that department.

5

Colorado Rockies When a friend who is a Rockies fan discovered that I was writing   this baseball post he wanted me to be completely honest about his club. Well   Lance to be completely honest the Rockies stink!  They have major problems in all 3 phases of   the game pitching, hitting, and defense.    With the Astros exit to the AL, Colorado is now the worst team in the   NL.  However since the Astros are still   a baseball club they get the title for being the worst in the game.  Well that is one piece of good news for a team   and a fan base that will not have much to cheer for this season.