October 21, 2009

The season that was...June

During batting practice in 1988, Randy Johnson, then with the Montreal Expos, collided head-first with outfielder Tim Raines. Because of Johnson’s height, Raines exclaimed, "you're a big unit!"

Suffice it to say, the nickname stuck.

At 82 inches tall (or 6’10”), “Unit” is the tallest 300 game winner in history. Before he reached the milestone on June 4, Steve Carlton, Roger Clemens and Gaylord Perry shared the distinction at 6’4”.

Another fun fact, since I assume you all know about the Cy Young Awards and strikeout totals, Johnson is one of only two (Jamie Moyer is the other) players born prior to the Kennedy assassination.

Coindentally…the same number of Major Leaguers (two) were born after Johnson made his big league debut September 15, 1988.

Continuing with the trend of sluggers hitting the 300 home run milestone, Johnson’s former teammate Lance Berkman reached the milestone June 13 against Arizona. Berkman ended 2009 with 313 home runs…good for sixth all-time among switch-hitters.

Mickey Mantle leads the pack with 536. The other switch-hitters with 300 or more homers are Eddie Murray (504), Chipper Jones (416), Chili Davis (350) and Reggie Smith (314).

Four nights later, the Astros saw their catcher Ivan Rodriguez squat behind the dish and caught his record-setting 2227th game against the very team that signed him as a 16 year-old back in 1988...the Texas Rangers.

Unfortunately, he had one of his worst nights in memory in front of his old team by going one-for-five, made two throwing errors and saw the Rangers steal three bases.
Yikes.

"I-Rod" is the all-time leader in hits among catchers and sitting at 2618, it remains to be seen if he's got enough in him to be the first to see 3000. As it is...he's also ranked first all-time among catchers in doubles, putouts and with his 13 Gold Gloves and 14 All-Star Games, he's poised to enter Cooperstown as the greatest catcher ever.

A week later…on the same night the "King of Pop" died...Omar Vizquel became the "Venezuelan Hit King".

I know, I know...dumb seque. But the fact remains...with a first inning single, Vizquel surpassed Luis Aparicio on the all-time list with 2678 hits. He closed out the season with 2704.

One of the fun things about previewing milestones at the start of the season was watching them unfold throughout the year.

With a 4-2 victory over the Mets on June 27, Mariano Rivera become only the second member of the 500 save club.

Trevor Hoffman is the all-time leader with 591 saves, so it remains to be seen if Rivera (who ended the season at 526), can actually reach whatever record ends up being set. What is certain is this...it's going to be a long, long time before someone gets near either one of them.

As it stands, the next active reliever is Billy Wagner with 385 and after that...you're looking at Troy Percival with 358. Thing is, Wagner might not hit 386 and Percival might stay stuck at 358 since both have been hampered with injuries and retirement might be on the horizon for both of them.

Who has a chance at joining Hoffman and Rivera in the 500 Club?

Even though he notched a quarter of his career total of 243 saves in one season, Francisco Rodriguez is young enough at 27 to give them a run for their money.

So congrats to Rivera as you continues to secure his spot in Cooperstown, and let's all meet back here in eight years to see where K-Rod is at.

Earlier in the week, we looked at April and May. As you can probably guess…July is next.



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