Previewing ALCS Game 6-Can the Cardiac Kids take down the class of the American League?

Strange times we live in where the Bronx Bombers are the up and coming youngbloods trying to knock the crown off the favored Houston Astros, but here we are with the Yankees needing just one more game to claim their 41st American League pennants.

The Yankees are tossing their young ace back into the fire, starting the 23 year old Luis Severino against potential Hall of Famer Justin Verlander. Severino has some of the most electric stuff in baseball, but can let it get away from him when he’s overthrowing. He started out the wild card game with an absolute clunker before mixing in a solid start at home against the Indians and getting pulled early in Game 4. The kid has been known to go on hot streaks where his stuff is unhittable and it feels like he’s due for a dominant performance.

Recent acquisition and lifetime Detroit Tiger Justin Verlander will toe the rubber for the ‘Stros tonight in Houston. The thirteen year veteran showed he’s got plenty left in the tank, notching an ERA of just over 1 since waiving his no trade clause to get the opportunity to pitch for a contender. Verlander’s bread and butter has always been his live fastball, and he had it on a string in Game Two, tossing a complete game shutout with 13 strikeouts. The Yankees as a team are good fastball hitters and their heavyweights should be able to take advantage of the short porch in left field, but turning on a mid nineties heater from Verlander on the inside half of the plate is no easy task.

The Yankees have been a different beast in the playoffs than they were in regular season, relying on pitching and timely hitting rather than outslugging opponents. The San Francisco Giants used this formula to the tune of three World Series championships earlier this decade so it’s tried and true. If Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez start heating up, as they did last game, watch out. The Yankees have been a streaky team, and they are hitting their stride when it matters most.

The Astros are no pushovers, however-let’s not forget they won ten more games than the Yankees this year. Jose Altuve should win the AL MVP this year and his quick bat and short stroke are the perfect antidote to Severino’s heater. Carlos Correa and George Springer are big time bashers than can turn a game around with one swing of the bat and have more postseason experience than the current group of Yanks. Objectively, they were the better team over the course of the entire season, but all bets are off come October.

This Astros team reminds me of the 2001 Arizona Diamondbacks, with two pitchers carrying the pitching staff and the offense doing the heavy lifting. While that maybe a painful analogy for Yankees fans, that was a series that the Yankees could have and  should have won.

This one will be a bloodbath. Altuve is a fantastic player, but his play style brings so much more to his team than just statistics. He’s the sparkplug of one heck of an engine that is the Houston Astros, and you can bet your bottom dollar MinuteMaid will be bringing the noise. Altuve’s scrappy and energetic play style revs up a stadium in a way few can. Yankee Stadium has been rocking all postseason and has been the Yankees biggest advantage, but you’ve got to venture out and conquer on the road if you want to advance.

One guy to watch for is the Astros’ Marwin Gonzalez. A holdover from the years in the NL Central dungeon, Gonzalez has enjoyed a breakout season while playing all over the diamond, batting over .300 and cracking 23 homers to boot. He could be the difference maker in a series that’s looking like it will come down to the wire.

If there’s one guy you want digging in a big moment for the Bronx Bombers, it’s an easy choice-Didi Gregorious. The Yankees’ slick-fielding shortstop has inherited the clutch gene from his predecessor and has been the most reliable hitter in a Yankee’s lineup that is boom-or-bust by nature.

The Yankees need to bounce Verlander in six innings or less, because AJ Hinch will have no reservations about using Ken Giles for a four or five out save if the Yankees are threatening late. Giles is a lockdown closer, but the rest of the Houston bullpen is nothing to write home about. If Verlander gets deep into the game and they are backed up against Giles, the Yankees will be backed into a corner that will be tough to escape from. Verlander is too experienced to be rattled by the nerves of an elimination game, so Yankee hitters will have to work the count and be selectively aggressive at the plate and avoid fishing for the soft stuff. On the flip side, the key to hitting Severino is a contact oriented approach-all you’ve got to do is barrel anything up that’s coming in at triple digits and it’ll disappear in a hurry. Trying to crush the ball will most likely end in hitting nothing but air. I wouldn’t be surprised to see high strikeout guys like Springer and former stud prospect Alex Bregman struggle, but Altuve is tailor made to neutralize power pitchers.

It’s important for the Yankees to close it out here and for Severino to go deep into this game. The Yankees lack a true horse-Sabbathia is reliable, but there’s a lot of miles on that arm. Tanaka has been filthy but his elbow has been tender for a couple years now and was the worst starting pitcher in the AL for a good chuck of 2017. Sonny Gray hasn’t been able to go as deep into games as a Yankee as he was when he was in Oakland. Severino was objectively the third best pitcher in the American League this year, but he is prone to get lit up at times. The Yanks have leaned heavily on their bullpen this postseason, and they need a break if the Yanks want to keep this run going.

The Yankees weren’t even supposed to be good this year. The Astros have suffered through years of terrible baseball to build this team and have one of the most compelling stories in sports.

I think Didi gets the big hit and the Yankees win a low scoring game, two nothing. 8:00 toinhgt we’ll find out for sure.


The Yankee Empire Was Built on the Bones of the Kansas City A’s-A Story of Collusion, Greed, and Championships

Ralph Terry wiped the sweat from his brow and let out a long, slow exhale.

There are very few times in life where one can claim to absolutely, positively, know what another man is thinking.

But if you had to pick one instance in the history of the world to guess what another man was thinking, Ralph Terry in the bottom of the ninth in the seventh game of the 1962 World Series would be as good a pick as any.

After all, how could the man not be thinking of the last time he pitched in a pivotal Game Seven. Just two years prior, Terry had come on in relief and given up a walk off home run to light hitting Pirates second basemen Bill Mazeroski to lose the series. When you played for the Yankees during their heyday, losing the World Series was downright criminal. Despite the fact that he had won 23 games in 1962, he was still known as the pitcher on the receiving end of one of the most iconic moments in baseball history.

And now, on October 16th, 1962, Terry found himself in an eerily similar situation. Only this time, the hitter was the fearsome Willie McCovey, who would go on to crack 521 home runs during a Hall of Fame career. Felipe Alou was on third after a bunt single. Terry had managed to strike out the next two batters, but gave up a double to Willie Mays, and it was only the terrific defense of an old teammate from Kansas City, Roger Maris, that prevented Alou from scoring, preserving the shutout.

For now.

No one could blame Terry if he gave up a hit here. Unlike in 1960, when he came on in relief and recorded just one out before surrendering the historic blast, Terry had started this game and out-dueled Jack Sanford, surrendering just two hits through eight innings before encountering the jam he was currently entrenched in here in the ninth. He was just one out away from a complete game shutout in the seventh game of the World Series. But he had to go through McCovey-a far more fearsome hitter on his worst day than Mazeroski ever was on his best-to get there, no easy feat.

We all know what happened next. On an 0-1 fastball up and in, McCovey hit the liner-one he would later describe as “the hardest ball I ever hit”-right at Bobby Richardson, who snagged it to prevent it from taking his head off.

From scapegoat to hero. (AP Photo/Unaccredited)

For Ralph Terry, the vindication must have been sweet. Just two years prior, he was the scapegoat of a rare Yankees World Series loss and subject to brutal treatment from the insatiable Yankees fans. Now, he was World Series MVP, celebrating with his Hall of Fame teammates. Three in particular-Roger Maris, Clete Boyer, and Hector Lopez, all starters on  the 1962 team-were more vindicated than others, finally savoring success after beginning their career in the doldrums of an aimless and wandering Kansas City ballclub.

Speaking of Kansas City, 1,800 miles to the east of the celebration at Candlestick Park, the Kansas City Athletics had finished a poor 72-90, and watched four old teammates play key roles in yet another World Series victory-the Yankees’ fourth in six years. In fact, from 1955-the year the Athletics moved to Kansas City from Philadelphia-to 1964, the Yankees won an incredible nine pennants in a ten year span, largely due to the contributions of Hector Lopez, Art Ditman, Bobby Shantz, Ralph Terry, and most famously, the great Roger Maris. All six of those players were former Athletics. Yet despite the fact that the A’s had traded so much key talent to the Yankees and watched them enjoy enormous success, the A’s had no luck finding any success of their own, consistently finding themselves on the losing end on trades with the Yankees.

A casual observer might point to bad luck-after all, the once proud Athletics franchise hadn’t won a World Series in thirty two years at that point. A little more digging-and shockingly, not as much as you would think-leads to the hidden secret of the Kansas City Athletics, the New York Yankees, Arnold Johnson, and George Weiss.

The iconic 1960 and 1962 World Series, a Yankees dynasty, the incredible Maris-Mantle chase for 61-none of it happens without the Athletics’ otherwise forgotten thirteen year tenure in the Midwest.

The A’s were swindled, the Yankees built a dynasty, and Arnold Johnson profited. This is the incredible story of how Arnold Johnson cheated the A’s out of any talent for personal gain, and rigged baseball in favor of the Yankees for ten years.


Seven years earlier, the Bronx Bombers found themselves in an unfamiliar (and uncomfortable) position. After winning six out of seven World Series and an incredible five in a row, the Yankees had missed the World Series in 1954 and then, incredibly, lost to the tag along little brother Brooklyn Dodgers  in 1955. The Yankees had beaten the Dodgers four times during their incredible run, but it looked as if the Boys in Blue from another borough might not cede the upper hand now that they had finally wrenched away from the Bronx Bombers. The Dodgers were young and talented-the Yankees were slipping.

Although superstar centerfielder Mickey Mantle was still young, the team around him was aging. Irv Noren in left had just turned 30 and had a sub-par year that suggested he might have seen his best days. Right fielder Hank Bauer was a star-but at age 32, his performance was slipping. Phil “Scooter” Rizzuto, eventual Hall of Famer, was 37 and on his last legs. Starters Tommy Byrne and Eddie Lopat were 35 and 36 respectively. The stranglehold they’d held on the MLB was starting to slip. They needed an infusion of young talent, but had no way to get it. Like every great team, their dominance was starting to wane.

One hundred miles south, there was a team who’s problems dwarfed the Yankees. The Philadelphia Athletics had dominated the American League before the Yankees, and were baseball’s first great dynasty in the World Series era. However, baseball legend Connie Mack had neglected to develop a farm system, and his behind-the-times approach ruined the A’s. Infighting began between his three sons-Roy, Earle, and Connie Jr. A bitter feud escalated and in order to end it, Roy and Earle bought out Connie Jr. The buyout, along with the dwindling attendance numbers, nearly bankrupted Earle and Roy. They had to sell the team.

The Yankees smelled an opportunity as early as mid 1954. Enter Arnold Johnson, longtime business partner of Yankees owners Dan Topping, Del Webb, and Larry MacPhail. Johnson was a successful businessman who ventured into the real estate theater. He owned both Yankee Stadium in New York and Municipal Stadium in Kansas City, home of the Kansas City Blues, the Yankees’ top minor league affiliate. It’s safe to say he had a vested interest in one  particular franchise.

Compounding the problem was the rise of the Philadelphia Phillies. Longtime losers who had one winning season in thirty years, the Phillies had burst onto the scene with an influx of cash under new ownership. The ascent of the Phillies convinced American League President Will Harridge that there wasn’t enough room for two baseball teams in Philadelphia and the A’s needed to move.

Once Johnson agreed to move the team to Kansas City and gained the backing of Harridge, it was smooth sailing. Supported by the Yankees and their considerable influence as the driving revenue force in baseball, the other owners agreed to the sale. They did force Johnson to sell Yankee Stadium and Municipal Stadium in a feeble attempt to prevent a conflict of interest.

As the sale was nearing its completion date, Roy Mack shocked everybody by announcing that he was not going to sell the A’s to Johnson-instead, he was going to sell to Philadelphia native John Crisconi, who was  part of a group of loyal fans who intended to keep the A’s in Philadelphia.

The Yankees couldn’t believe it. They had stalked their prey for so long, hatched a plan only made possible by the most extreme circumstances-the Mack family feud, the rise of the Phillies, Johnson’s cooperation-only to see it snatched from them in front of their nose.

So once again, the Yankees pulled rank and put their considerable influence to work. They started rumors that Crisconi’s group didn’t really have the money to buy the A’s and it was just a desperate ploy to keep them in Philadelphia. Johnson managed to convince Roy Mack that he would never see the money he was promised. On October 28th, the Crisconi deal fell one vote short of approval-the deciding vote was cast by Roy Mack, who pivoted and sold to Arnold Johnson just a few days later-just short of a month after the Yankees’ World Series defeat, and just over two years after Johnson had made his initial offer.

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Officially official. Johnson second from the right.


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There you have it.

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Pitcher Ned Garver rocking the KC hat and the Athletics jersey, a new era for a Philadelphia staple. ( 

After Johnson was forced to sell Municipal Stadium, he took out a three year lease on it. Unbelievably, like a real life version of Major League, he intended for the A’s to draw so poorly that he would be able to move the team to sunny Los Angeles and enjoy his money in paradise while his team crashed and burned. His plans were foiled when the Dodgers moved to LA in 1958.

The Yankees’ plan had worked. They now had the resources, draft picks, and opportunities to develop players of two franchises and replace their aging stars. Arnold Johnson owned the soon-to-be Kansas City Athletics, and the Yankees owned Arnold Johnson’s loyalty.


The Yankees may have had two franchises’ worth of resources, but the circumstances that allowed this situation to develop had the inseparable side effect of the Athletics being a terrible team. There wasn’t much of value on the Athletics roster.

They had two third basemen, Hector Lopez and Clete Boyer. Lopez had some pop in his bat but had hands of stone, and the eighteen year old Boyer was slick at the hot corner but his endeavors were rather fruitless at the plate.

Vic Power was the best hitter the A’s had, but Bill Skowron was younger and already one of the best first baseman in the league. Similarily, Harry Simpson had a good year in 1955 but wasn’t much use to the Yankees because he played centerfield and wasn’t going to unseat Mantle.

On the pitching front, the Yankees eyed a pair of young pitchers-Art Ditmar and Bobby Shantz to replace the aging pair of Byrne and Lopat. Ditmar was just 27 and had struggled thus far with run prevention, but he was an innings-eater and his ERA was trending in the positive direction. The diminutive Shantz had been a two time All-Star earlier in his career, but injuries and poor performance had led to a rough couple of years following his All Star years. Still, the control oriented Shantz was had only just turned 30, had a wicked curve and a unique sidearm delivery that baffled hitters, and was one of the best fielding pitchers the game had seen to that point.

The deals started small-the Yankees were the Yankees, but you had to be careful not to be too obvious with your collusion. Unprotected players were picked up in the Rule 5 draft by the A’s, just in case they turned out to be something special.  The Yankees tossed aside an expensive and aging Enos Slaughter-then reacquired him for pennies on the dollar when he revitalized his swing in the Midwest. The Yankees would usually throw in cash when acquiring a young player while dealing away an older player-cash that would go straight to lining the pockets of Arnold Johnson, because he sure as heck wasn’t using it to build a contender out of the A’s.

Then, about a year and a half after the controversial sale, enough time to determine which assets were worth acquiring, the Yankees and the Athletics made their first blockbuster move. Rip Coleman, Milt Graff, Billy Hunter, Micheal McDermott, Tom Morgan, Irv Noren, and Jack Urban of the Yankees for Wayne Belardi, Art Ditman, Jack McMahan, Bobby Shantz, Curt Roberts, and Clete Boyer of the Athletics.

The A’s got absolutely hosed. The hitters couldn’t hit and the pitchers couldn’t stop getting hit. Coleman never played for them and was eventually waived. Graff played one season and hit a paltry .181-after five games the following year with KC, he never played in the bigs again. McDermott pitched an ineffective 29 games for the A’s and to the tune of a 5.48 ERA. Tom Morgan actually managed to clock in 143 innings for the moribund Athletics in completely mediocre fashion. Irv Noren had been an All-Star just three years prior, but it appeared that he had left all of his talent in New York-he batted a meager .213 for the A’s.

Jack Urban was probably the best of the bunch. His first year in Kansas City, as a rookie, Urban impressed with a 3.34 ERA and it appeared that at least the A’s had gotten something from this ill-advised trade. Then, in his sophomore campaign, his ERA ballooned to over five.

He never pitched in the majors again.

Roberts, McMahan, and Belardi were useful as spring training bodies so the Yankees stars could rest, but had uneventful careers with the Yankees otherwise.

Ditmar, Shantz, and Boyer, however, were big hits in the Big Apple.

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Casey Stengel and his new weapons.

Ditmar, reliable and sturdy, pitched 127 innings in 1957 alternating between coming out of the pen and starting games. His ERA of 3.25 was the lowest of his career at the time and he instantly gave manager Casey Stengel the ability to turn any game into a two pitcher game, saving the rest of the bullpen. Ironically, once Ditmar was no longer the young player with potential being traded for the aging vet, he found himself on the other side of that transaction and he finished his career in KC. In five years with the Yankees, his ERA was 3.24. In the same amount of time with the A’s, it was 4.97.

Shantz turned in a sparkling 1957 season where he led an all time great Yankees rotation with an ERA of 2.45 and led the league with an ERA+ of 148. His career ERA with the Yankees was an impressive 2.73 as he participated in 3 World Series with the Bronx Bombers.


The story of Clete Boyer is one of the most unbelievable parts of this parternship between the A’s and the Yankees. Commissioner Ford C. Frick (yes, that Ford C. Frick) was either completely oblivious, compliant, or just didn’t care that the Yankees and Arnold Johnson were manipulating the Athletics at the cost of the fans and the integrity of the sport.

Yankees GM George Weiss liked Boyer as a player in high school, but they had already signed the allotted limit of high school players. So, Weiss gave Athletic’s GM Parke Carroll a call and convinced him to draft Boyer, with the intent of trading for him down the road. It’s unlikely Carroll had much of a choice in the matter, given the contemporary state of affairs within the Kansas City front office. Boyer was then thrown in as part of the aforementioned deal.

He hit just enough to stick around-.265 and 18 homers was about what you would get in a good season from Boyer, but he was consistent and never slipped too hard. His real value laid in his defense. Boyer won just one Gold Glove award  playing in the shadow of Brooks Robinson and his more prolific bat, but Boyer often led the league in defensive statistics and manned the hot corner every day like a pro during four AL pennant runs. Modern day statisticians regard Boyer as one of the best defensive third basemen ever.

Though Boyer’s plate prowess wasn’t anything to write home about compared to the likes of Mantle and Berra, the Yankees cycled through dismal third basemen for another ten years, failing to reach the World Series, before striking gold with Graig Nettles.


Remember Vic Power and Harry Simpson?

Power was originally drafted by the Yankees, but was traded away years before. After finding success with the A’s, they made an unusually savvy move, especially under Johnson’s time as an owner-the Puerto Rican slugger was traded to Cleveland for a package that included a young outfielder from the Upper Midwest named Roger Maris.

A young Ralph Terry was flipped from the Yankees for Harry Simpson with little thought-if he turned out to be good, they could always get him back. He did and they did.

1958 passed, and the Yankees won the World Series. As 1959 neared, enough time had passed for what young players remained for the A’s began to either show promise or wash out of baseball. It was time for another flurry of trades.

The Yankees waited two years after Johnson’s acquisition of the A’s to assess what players had any value. They then pulled the trigger on a trade to acquire what few players they determined could help them. Now, two years later with a pair of World Series appearances under their belt and the A’s careening off the rails towards yet another unsuccessful season, the Yankees pulled off another pair of trades, these ones with more than a hint of desperation. The Yankees had tumbled to a 79 and 75 record after four straight trips to the World Series. Heads were going to roll.

First, they decided they liked something in the way Terry was pitching (despite relatively poor numbers at the time) and decided to pursue an avenue to reacquire him. Then, seeking to improve the outfield situation, where Mantle was flanked by a young, talented left fielder named Norm Siebern who wasn’t much at the plate that year (he’ll be important later) and a washed up Hank Bauer, they acquired Hector Lopez, hoping that a switch to the outfield would alleviate some of his defensive woes and his bat would be productive enough to make up for it.

In return, they sent Johnny Kucks (two seasons of a whole lot of nothing on the mound), Tom Sturdivant (ditto), and Jerry Lumpe, who actually went on to be one of KC’s best players and enjoyed a nice career there as a high average infielder.

Lopez, meanwhile, came to the team and instantly swung the bat well, finishing third on the team in home runs despite only playing two thirds of the season with the Yankees.

Still, more needed to be done for the Yankees to reach the World Series again. They still needed more hitting, and they needed to get younger, with offensive cornerstone Yogi Berra starting to age.

So, blockbuster Round Three-Hank Bauer, Don Larsen, Norm Siebern, and Marv Throneberry of the Yankees for Joe Maestri, Kent Hadley, and one Roger Eugene Maris of the Kansas City Athletics.

Look, Bauer was an awesome ballplayer in his heyday but he was washed and everybody knew it. He went on to manage the A’s after his retirement and probably helped the ballclub more there than he did on the field. Larsen, forever immortalized for his perfect game in the 1956 World Series, had fallen off, and was ineffective for the A’s. Throneberry was more famous for his good humor and presence on the “Worst Team of All Time” 1962 Mets than his abilities on the diamond. Siebern was  actually an All-Star in each of his two years with the A’s, and three times overall. A well balanced player with a smooth stroke that enabled him to hit for both average and power, he was perhaps the best player the A’s ever received in a trade with the Yankees.

Not to be unkind, but there are reasons you’ve never heard of Joe Maestri and Kent Hadley. And then, there’s Maris.


Two time MVP Maris. Sixty one in 61 Maris. Summer of 1998, the revitalization of the MLB Maris.

Maris is synonymous with baseball history. To find out his was traded to the Yankees as part of one of the most corrupt relationships in all of sports is shocking. It’s impossible to imagine anyone other than a Yankee breaking Ruth’s record. The “M&M Boys”, standing just a hundred feet away from each other during the top half of innings at Yankee Stadium, then trading dingers at the plate in the bottom half as they raced to beat out Ruth all summer. To think all of that may never have come to pass without Arnold Johnson ripping off the A’s for his own personal gain. It’s a little reassuring that Siebern ended up being a quality player for the A’s, but Maris won the MVP award in his first and second season in pinstripes and altered the course of history for America’s Pastime.

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The M&M Boys.

In a past where Mack sells to the Crisconi Group, or one where the Phillies never find success, or one where the A’s actually develop a farm system, what becomes of Maris? What becomes of baseball history?

The adverse effects of the home run chase on Roger Maris have been well documented. The New York media was none too kind to Maris, pitting him against the homegrown Mantle and labeling him as “not a true Yankee.” While Maris suffered (it’s been reported that the stress used to cause his hair to fall out in clumps), baseball and its fans benefited from the most exciting summer the sport had ever seen, canonized in movies and stories for years afterwards. But who knows how that summer would have played out had Maris donned a green and yellow jersey, roving the outfield free of Mantle’s enormous shadow? Would the impact of the home run race have been the same if Maris were halfway across the country from Mantle, playing on team going nowhere fast?

But would either of them have even approached the record with the protection they received from each other in the lineup? Maris and Mantle were the most fearsome power hitters to play on the same team since Ruth and Gehrig. You couldn’t pitch around them, knowing that the next guy was just as good, and you didn’t want to walk both of them and put someone in scoring position with a free pass. It speaks to the significance of the record that nobody even came close to the record for thirty five years without the help of performance enhancing drugs. Mays, Aaron, Robinson, Willie Stargell, Yaz, Reggie Jackson-none of them even threatened sixty one.


The days when the sun is high and the days are long belong to baseball. It’s the only sport of the Big Four whose regular season continues throughout the sweltering days of the Midsummer heat. Baseball is at its purest during the summer. And in 1961, Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle gave the sport the best summer of baseball anyone had ever seen. Thirty seven years later, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa, though chemically aided as part of a scandal that would forever tarnish the sport, brought millions of fans back to baseball with their chase for the elusive 62 home runs.


The Yankees received peak production from their Kansas City stars in 1960. Though they infamously lost the World Series in seven games, Maris, Lopez, Boyer, Ditmar, and Shantz were all key contributors on that team. After that season, Ditmar and Shantz began to fall off. Following that season, Ralph Terry bounced back to emerge as a two time All-Star and a World Series MVP. Maris turned in several more excellent season with the Bronx Bombers before injuries finished him off. Lopez played six more perfectly acceptable seasons for the Yankees.

In  March of that year, returning from Spring Training in Florida, Arnold Johnson suffered a cerebral hemorrhage and died at the age of fifty three. The A’s were sold to Charlie Finley, who moved the A’s from Kansas City to Oakland in 1968. While he certainly had his own issues as an owner, he built the one of the finest non-Yankee dynasties ever in the three-peat A’s of the early 70’s.

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The Kansas City A’s in their final season of their short lived tenure in the Midwest. Though it seems impossible to picture them any other way now, it was Charlie Finley who came up with the idea for green and gold uniforms. Prior to 1963, the Johnson era KC A’s and throughout their time in Philadelphia wore traditional red and blue themed uniforms, with traditional home whites and road grays. (


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Back to back to back.


A certain Oakland coach was less than thrilled about the new threads. He doesn’t look right out of pinstripes, but yes that is Joe Dimaggio. (

During Johnson’s 5 year ownership, the Yankees and A’s made an astounding fifteen transactions.

Following their victory in 1962, the Yankees went to the World Series in two consecutive years, but lost both. It would be another thirteen years before they would return to the Fall Classic-largely on the backs of former Athletics Reggie Jackson and Catfish Hunter. Those players, however, were acquired without any under the table dealings.

Kansas City baseball fans were rewarded with a team of their own in 1969-the expansion Royals, who have a rich franchise history of high peaks (1976-1985) and dreadful lows (2004-2009) in their franchise history. There was one more baseball player from KC who would be involved in a very controversial mix-up with the Yankees-the great George Brett, whose infamous pine tar game remains as one of those strange moments that remind us why we love baseball.

There’s not question the Yankees still would have been dominant without their business dealings with Arnold Johnson. After all, they still had Mantle, Berra, Whitey Ford, and Elston Howard as homegrown stars. But it’s debatable as to whether they win in ’57 without Shantz and Ditmar, or in ’61 without Maris. They definitely don’t win in ’62 without Terry.

It’s been over 50 years since Johnson passed away, and most of the anger over this arrangement, from the few that still remember it firsthand, has faded away. Johnson and the Yankees made a sham of the idea of fair play, but they left us fans with one of the most intricate and entertaining backstories in the sport, as well as two of the most iconic summers ever.

Arnold Johnson’s story ended in 1960. The Kansas City A’s were gone before Jimmy Carter was President. But the A’s and the Yankees have a unique relationship to this day. It seems that small-market stars from Oakland always find one way or another to reach the Bronx.

That tradition carries on up to this very day.

Now pitching for the New York Yankees, Number 55, Sonny Gray.

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(AP Photo/Ben Margot)

Sonny Gray

(AP Photo/David Dermer)

I hope you all enjoyed the post-it was certainly an arduous task. Baseball Reference was absolutely vital in providing me with the dates and details of each of the transactions, as well as the stats for each and every player.

These articles also provided useful information, as well as these pages. Thanks!

How the Kansas City Athletics Built the Yankees Empire of the 1960’s…Stay Tuned

The recent Sonny Gray trade between the New York Yankees and the Oakland Athletics inspired me to look at the history between these two ballclubs. As it seems yet another Oakland star is positioned to help the Yankees make a playoff run in the vein of Reggie Jackson, Catfish Hunter, Rickey Henderson, Scott Brosius, and Jason Giambi.

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All those players got their start in the green and gold and found glory in pinstripes. Coincidence? Sure. Oakland found a lot of success in the early 70’s, late 80’s, and early 2000’s, three time periods in baseball that preceded great Yankee dynasties. Oakland always has been, and perhaps always will be, a small market team. When their cost controlled young superstars hit free agency, the Yankees were able to offer a package that no other team in baseball could-the bright lights of New York City, a history light years ahead of any other franchise, and more cash than any other franchise could afford to offer. Logically, it follows that star players would head east to bask in the glory of NYC.

But before all of that, before the Core Four for the Yankees and MoneyBall for the Athletics, before the Bash Brothers and Donnie Baseball, before the A’s won three in a row and then watched those players win two more with the Bronx Zoo, there were the Kansas City Athletics and the New York Yankees.

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The A’s, just moved from Philadelphia, a once-proud franchise that saw the bottom completely fall out of their organization because they failed to ever try to develop a farm system, and the New York Yankees of the 1960’s, a dynasty of Hall of Famers with a legacy only matched by the Yankees of 1949-1953.

The Yankees had it all. The A’s had nothing.

And despite continuing to develop good young players, they invariably left Kansas City for greener pastures. One pasture in particular, and it was pinstriped.

The relationship between the Kansas City Athletics and the New York Yankees in the 1950’s and 60’s is one of the baseball’s shadiest stories.

It’s a project, and it requires research. Next week, I hope to have the full thrilling story on Pigskin and Pine Tar. Stay tuned!


Yankees Go All In On 2017 With Sonny Gray Trade

When I first started to write this column, I intended for it to focus on what the Yankees gave up and the risk associated with that. The more in-depth I looked, I realized the Yankees played their cards perfectly in picking up a player who is instantly the second best pitcher on the team.

As of 7/31/17, the New York Yankees are a superior team with Sonny Gray in their rotation rather than Luis Cessa or Caleb Smith or some other combination thereof stepping on the mound every fifth day.

But they better win the World Series within the next couple of years, or heads will roll in the Bronx. That’s the Yankee way. And with no World Series appearances, much less victories, this decade, the Steinbrenners gave the green light to cash in (ha ha, very funny, I know) on the farm system that they had been building over the past few seasons with smart drafting and flipping aging veterans on a hot streak for young prospects. All three of the players going the other way in this one-James Kaprielian, Jorge Mateo, and Dustin Fowler-were drafted and developed by the Yankees, a testament to the quality of the organization all the way on down. This was still a large gamble though-the Yankees weren’t supposed to contend in 2017, and for the majority of the first half, the Bronx Bombers terrorized the American League playing with house money and no pressure. The White Sox trade that cost them Blake Rutherford and this trade for Sonny Gray most assuredly dictates that the circumstances have changed. The pressure to win is on.

At his best, Gray is an All-Star. His 2014 and 2015 seasons in Oakland were unequivocally excellent. At the ages of 24 and 25, he was already one of the best pitchers in the American league. In 2016, injuries robbed him of playing time, and when he was on the hill, it was ugly-his 5.69 ERA was unsightly. in 2017, Gray returned to form-his numbers weren’t quite as good as they were in 2014/2015, but his velocity was consistent, and his FIP and other peripherals suggested that his slight dip in numbers was more due to Oakland’s historically terrible defense rather than any fault of his own. Gray is easily an upgrade over the wildly inconsistent Michael Pineda, who the Yankees no longer need to feel any pressure to resign after his recent Tommy John surgery. CC Sabathia is old and fragile, Masahiro Tanaka is a No. 1 starter with an ERA over 5 and a tender elbow, and Luis Severino and Jordan Montgomery has exactly zero postseason starts between them. Gray is a welcome addition as an instant rotation stabilizer with a history of postseason experience who comes relatively cheap contract-wise for the next three years. All told, Gray was the best pitcher available this year.

Still, Gray isn’t a surefire bet to be the Yankee’s ace through 2020. Gray is just 5’10 and one season removed from an injury riddled disaster season. Pitching is inherently a violent motion, and there’s a reason that they look for height with starting pitchers way back down into Little League. Gray’s early career is eerily reminiscent of another Bay Area phenom who came up and immediately lit the world on fire as a young pitcher.

Tim Lincecum was the best pitcher in the world by his second season, and among the worst in major league baseball by his sixth. His body couldn’t take the beating of throwing 95 mph with a 5’10 frame forever-his hips were messed up and his velocity tanked. He couldn’t miss bats and he ended up out of the league by age 33. So smaller pitchers that throw hard come with inherent risk that other players do not.

In addition to Gray’s durability and longevity concerns, there is also the consideration that he pitches in one of the most pitcher friendly ballparks in baseball, the Oakland Coliseum, with it’s deep fences and acres of foul ground. He’s going from a pitcher’s paradise to a hitter’s haven in Yankee Stadium-the adjustment might be troublesome.

So this trade doesn’t come without risk, especially when considering the prospects the Yankees gave up. But the Yankees did their best to mitigate that risk by trading players from positions of depth within the organization

Dustin Fowler looked for all the world to be the centerfielder of the future-after all, Brett Gardner is 33 and Jacoby Ellsbury is, uh, bad. Fowler tore it up in AAA this year and looked to have all the tools to be a solid major league contributor for a decade. Unfortunately, a devastating knee injury before his first at bat robbed him of the chance to ever step up to the plate as a Yankee. If he fully recovers-no guarantee, considering the severity of the injury, he would have profiled nicely between Judge and Frazier.

Fowler is a loss, for sure. However, Aaron Hicks is still just 27 years old and was enjoying a breakout season with the bat when he landed on the disabled list with an oblique injury. He’s due back in August, and even if he doesn’t quite replicate his success at the plate he’s always good for some Gold Glove caliber defense. Waiting in the wings is Estevan Florial, the newly anointed centerfielder of the future after Fowler and Blake Rutherford were both traded. Florial has got all the tools to be an All-Star, and the Yankees are demonstrating tremendous faith in him by trading away both Rutherford and Fowler. Though Frazier and Judge have firmly established themselves on the corners of Yankee stadium, the cupboard of outfielders is bare after Florial, so the pressure is on for him to continue to develop.

Jorge Mateo is a nice young player, and at one point was the Yankee’s best prospect. He’s got tremendous speed and can hit for average, but Cashman’s acquisition of Gleyber Torres and Tyler Wade’s development, along with the success and relative youth of Didi Gregorious and Starlin Castro, has rendered him expendable. He’s a great addition to the A’s farm system, but a loss of little consequence to the Yankees.

James Kaprielian likely would have been getting the starts that Cessa and Smith have picked up following Pineda’s torn UCL had he not suffered the exact same injury himself. Kaprielian could be a really nice pitcher-he looked to be a lock as at least a number three starter in the big leagues, but this is now his second Tommy John surgery. Chance Adams looks like he’s almost ready in Scranton, and Domingo Acevedo was also ahead of him on the RHP prospects list, so losing Kaprielian doesn’t hurt as much as it might have a year ago, especially as they added Clarke Schmidt and Matt Sauer in the first two rounds of the draft this year.

Gray didn’t come cheap, but the Yankees managed to acquire a cost-controlled starter with ace potential without compromising their future-a win win that proves that Brian Cashman is one  of the best in the business in both selling and buying at the trade deadline.

How to Hold Your Own at a Sabermetrics Cocktail, Part 2: ERA+/-

You have most likely heard of ERA, and have a pretty good grasp on the concept. It’s the average number of runs a pitcher allows over a span of nine innings. The lower the better, and one of the oldest barometers of pitching success.

The purpose of ERA+/- is to eliminate the variables associated with different ballparks and environments that factor into traditional ERA.

ERA+/- is a new take on an old concept. For starters, a typical ERA might be 3.95, and a typical ERA+ might be 104. The evident difference in those two numbers indicates that ERA+ must be interpreted in different ways.


Ignoring ERA- for now, the higher the better with ERA+ with a baseline average of 100. With ERA+, the difference between the observed result (ex. 104) and 100 is the percentage by which the league’s average ERA differs from the pitcher’s.

So, if Pitcher A has an ERA+ of 104, the league’s ERA is 4% higher (worse) than Pitcher A.

Now, important distinction here, that does not mean that Pitcher A’s ERA is 4% better than the rest of the league. In ERA+, the player is the baseline and the league’s ERA is the variable. It measures how far away the league is from the pitcher.

Most people would agree that it is more useful to see how a pitcher performs compared to the league rather than the other way around. That’s where ERA- comes into play. With ERA-, the difference between the observed result and 100 is the percentage that Player A’s performance differs from the league.

For example, if Bartolo Colon has an ERA- of 91, it means that his ERA is 9% better than the league’s ERA.


The difference between ERA+ and ERA- comes from the mathematical equation itself:

ERA+ = AL or NL ERA/ ERA + [ERA – (ERA x PF)]

ERA- = ERA + [ERA – (ERA x PF)] / AL or NL ERA

As you can see, the only difference is that the numerator and denominator are flipped. This is where the difference comes in: 4/5= 80%, but 5/4= 125%. That 5% difference in the example is same concept that leads to the difference in ERA+ and ERA-, and why one player’s ERA+ and ERA- can be different distances from 100.

Before I go any further, the obvious question remains: Why have both? In short, convenience. ERA- is more useful, to be sure. However, ERA+ was developed first and is a more readily available statistic than ERA- on websites like baseball reference. For a casual fan (or serious fan, if you are truly diving into a pitcher’s advanced stats like this), the difference is mostly negligible. ERA+ is more flawed than ERA-, but it achieves the same basic concept. It still gives you a comparison between the pitcher and the league, and it attempts to eliminate the same variables that can artificially alter ERA.


*Exhales*. With all the technical stuff out of the way, let’s get into why ERA+/- is useful. After all, you can compare a player’s ERA to the league ERA in any given year without all the mumbo-jumbo up above. Why ERA+/-?

Now, I know you are wondering about the “PF” in that equation. PF stands for Park Factors, and that is where the value of ERA+/- lies. Park Factors has its own complicated formula, but in short it attempts to compensate for the difference between a bandbox like Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati and a pitcher’s paradise like San Diego’s Petco Park. ERA+/- can be useful to analysts in determining how much the outside factors of a pitcher’s park and the league hitting environment are influencing a pitcher’s performance.

The best example I can give of the value of ERA+ is the 2007 Colorado Rockies. Many thanks to Baseball Reference for almost any and all stats, but unfortunately they don’t provide ERA-; therefore, we have to use ERA+ in this example.

The 2007 Rockies made it all the way to the World Series, where they were swept by the Boston Red Sox. Still though, the first World Series in franchise history was reason for excitement. It’s easy see why they were successful based on the offensive numbers…but wow, how did they make it through the playoffs with that pitching staff?

Their ace was Jeff Francis, who sported an extremely mediocre 4.22 ERA. None of their starters had an ERA below 4. Even our beloved FIP had them at a team-wide 4.52. Yet, they were good enough to make the World Series. How?

Well, the Rockies had seven different players accumulate at least eight starts that year, and all except for one had an ERA+ of over 100. Coors Field is the most difficult place to pitch in the majors by a wide margin, and ERA+ accommodates for that, as the team wide ERA+ is a respectable 112. It probably would have been even higher if it weren’t for a whole host of guys they had that pitched 15 or less innings (read: garbage time inning eaters) who were downright abysmal. ERA+ allows us to reference the Rockies against the rest of the Coors Field-less league. What appeared at first to be a terrible pitching staff actually ended being a pretty solid one.

Image result for coors field

(Photographer not given)

The other benefit of ERA+/- is it allows for comparison across different decades. In 1968, Carl Yastrzemski won the AL Batting title while hitting just .301. Tough time to hit. Everyone knows about the dead ball era, but fewer know about how much easier it was to pitch before the mound was lowered  in the 1960’s largely due to Bob Gibson’s dominance. And trying to pitch in the steroid era? Forget about it. Because the league’s ERA is built into the formula, it’s easier to compare players from different generations. It should be noted that Pedro Martinez’s dominance of the late 90’s and early 2000’s came during the most prolific offensive period in baseball history. That’s reflected in his ERA+, which ranks second all time.

Image result for pedro martinez pitching expos

(Photographer Not Given)

ERA+/- is a complicated stat, and much more difficult to explain and interpret than traditional stats. However, the reward for the extra effort put into understanding ERA+/- allows fans to gain a clearer picture of a pitcher’s performance and it quantifies and eliminates the variables of time period and location, essentially stabilizing the hitting environment over 100 plus years of baseball.

How to Hold Your Own at a Sabermetrics Cocktail, Part 1: FIP

For most of baseball’s existence, you measured a pitcher’s success with three stats-Wins, ERA, and strikeouts.

Nowadays, if you speak those terms, you’re a baseball dinosaur. Any in depth article you read will reference FIP, ERA+, and WAR. I’ve always considered myself to be a baseball expert-but with these terms I wasn’t even sure if it was better for the number to be high or low.

Here’s an explanation of GM’s and analysts’ new toy for player evaluation, and how you can use it to determine the performance of a particular pitcher or more importantly, hold your own in a conversation with a baseball geek.


FIP stands for Fielding Independent Pitching. In short, FIP attempts to isolate the pitcher’s ability to prevent runs independent of outside factors. Evaluate FIP in the same way you would ERA-the lower the better. FIP allows analysts to gauge how much the defense behind them is affecting their ability to prevent runs. Another way to say it would be that it helps you determine how lucky or unlucky a pitcher may be.

FIP attempts to quantify the difference between having Jose Canseco and Ken Griffey Junior patrolling the outfield behind you. Even if a a poor defensive player does not make an error, that may simply be because they didn’t get close enough to make a play on the ball. FIP is calculated using only strikeouts, walks, hit batters, and home runs allowed-outcomes that do not involve the defense. This eliminates several confounding variables in a pitcher’s performance.

FIP is not a panacea to the issues present in ERA, but does help to clear the minefield a bit when attempting to evaluate if your pitcher truly getting rocked or the balls are just finding holes.

ERA is still a valuable tool-after all, a pitcher’s primary purpose is to prevent runs. It’s still important to take FIP with a grain of salt-a pitcher with a good FIP never won any ballgames-it’s ERA that gives a team a chance to win. However, a significant FIP and ERA difference can indicate that a pitcher’s success is unsustainable, or that a recent skid is more due to poor luck and/or timing than a true red flag. Think of FIP as the norm that an oscillating ERA should, in theory, return to.

The formula is math spaghetti, so feel free to look that up on your own, but the important thing is to realize what factors play into calculating FIP and what FIP represents in terms of a pitcher’s value.

(Getty Images)

AJ Griffin tossed 200 innings for the A’s in 2013 and posted a respectable 3.83 ERA. His FIP of 4.55, however, suggested that he was getting hit harder than you might think at first glance. This was most likely due to the fact that he gave up an incredible 36 home runs. Sure enough, in Griffin’s next two seasons (he missed 2014 with an injury) he posted ugly ERA’s of over 5-to go along with even higher FIP’s, indicating that he was not, in fact, unlucky; he was just ineffective.

San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Jeff Samardzija throws against the San Diego Padres in the first inning of their baseball game Wednesday, April 27, 2016, in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg) Photo: Eric Risberg, Associated Press

(Eric Rinsberg/Associated Press)

On the other hand, the Giant’s Jeff Samardzija has posted a terrible 2-9 record and unsightly 4.81 ERA this season, numbers that twenty years ago everyone would agree indicated a very poor season indeed. However, his excellent strikeout to walk ration of 104 to 13 buoys (or sinks, however you want to look at it) his FIP, which instead stands at a 3.40, indicating a solidly above average performance. Taking the holistic approach, Samardzija’s numbers must accommodate for the 2017 Giants’ general incompetence. Though Eduardo Nunez is no great shakes at third, the rest of the Giants infield defense is excellent. Where Samardzija is getting killed is the outfield, where Samardzija especially suffers because he is by nature a fly ball pitcher. The Giants have started double digit players in left, including career infielders Eduardo Nunez and Orlando Calixte. In center field, lower body injuries and age have robbed Denard Span of the athleticism that once made routine plays easy, as the case is now exactly the opposite. Hunter Pence has always done things in his own weird way, which was fine when it worked, but now every fly ball to right threatens to send Giants fans into cardiac arrest. And Gorkys Hernandez, well he can’t really hit, but it’s fine because he can field, except, well, he can’t seem to do that either.

But you have a job and a life and what you don’t have is time for all of that analysis, so…FIP!


The 2017 Warriors are Not Going to Ruin Basketball

If you listen to the press outside of the Bay Area, there are a good number of people who believe that the Warriors would be better served building their new arena on Alcatraz Island rather than in San Francisco. Terms like “competitive imbalance”, “the easy way out”, and “ruining basketball” are tossed around carelessly without any rational thought behind them as the Warriors unopposed romp through the Western Conference has vilified them in the eyes of a jealous nation.

As flawed as these statements are, it makes sense that they are so prevalent. After all, takes like these are born of emotion-in particular, frustration-not clear headed thought. After all, it’s frustrating when your team stinks and the Warriors have such an unbelievable collection of talent concentrated on one team. Some fanbases have suffered years without success, watching dynasty after dynasty pass them by while they were thrilled to be competing for the eighth seed. And now, a team with three All-Stars, a team in contention to be among the greatest teams of All-Time, went out and signed Kevin Durant in free agency. It would be like if the ’96 Bulls went out and signed Gary Payton. Except Kevin Durant is a more dominant player than The Glove, for all his greatness, ever was.

But this line of thinking is incorrect, for multiple reasons. If there’s any team who embodies this “competitive balance” it’s the Warriors. It would be one thing if the Lakers or Celtics signed Durant and created a superteam-then, people might have some grounds on which the complain that their team could never win. But the Warriors should be an inspiration that event the worst of teams can one day become dominant.

The 1997 Warriors had one All-Star: the talented but unstable Latrell Sprewell, who was traded after choking out his own coach. He later turned down a 21 million dollar contract, claiming that it wasn’t enough to feed his children. Moving on. It wasn’t until 2013, when David Lee was selected to play in the All-Star game, that a Warrior once again made the All-Star team. In between, the Warriors had their magical “We Believe” season and…not much else. Some notable draft picks since the Run TMC era, the last instance of sustained success for the Warriors, include Joe Smith, Todd Fuller, Andris Biendris, Patrick O’Bryant, and Epke Udoh-a litany of busts that prevented the team from ever acquiring a player to build around.

That all changed with the selection of Steph Curry with the 7th overall pick in the 2009 draft. But success wasn’t instantaneous. Curry struggled with ankle injuries and at one point it was a real debate if he would sign with Charlotte to be closer to home once he hit free agency. It was just three years ago that the Warriors were bounced in the first round against the Clippers in the last year of the Mark Jackson era.

Up until the 1990’s, the Lakers and the Celtics dominated the NBA so thoroughly it was comical. From 1950 (the first year of the NBA finals) to 1990, the Lakers or Celtics won 27 out of 40 NBA Finals. That’s two teams winning the Finals 68% of the time. That’s absurd. The teams that have dominated in the last thirty years had virtually zero success prior to that-the Bulls, Spurs, Heat, Cavaliers, and Warriors were all afterthoughts in NBA lore before securing their place as All-Time great teams.

It should not be forgotten that the current iteration of these Warriors has just one championship to their name. Dominant teams come in cycles-which is why Jordan’s two three-peats are so impressive, and why the question of whether or not he could have won eight straight titles had he not decided to play baseball will forever remain as one of the most entertaining hypothetical situations in NBA lore. LeBron’s Cavaliers couldn’t break through the first time and the current group can also claim just one championship. The “Boston Three Party”-one of the finest pieces of trade engineering ever-was supposed to unbalance the league and it too produced just a singular title. LeBron’s “Heatles”-a crime far more egregious than the signing of Kevin Durant because it involved three star free agents instead of just one-was one lucky missed call on a Ray Allen travel from also managing just one title as well.

The dynasties with staying power involve home grown players-buying wins sacrifices long term success for moderate short term improvement-and this is evident in the teams and players with the most rings. MJ and Pippen. Magic, James Worthy, Kobe. Duncan and Robinson, with a little help from Tony Parker and Manu Ginobli.

That’s the number one reason why the Warriors scare people so much. It’s not just that the Knicks or the Nuggets or the Kings or any other number of irrelevant NBA teams have no chance to win a title.

The issue is that nobody else in the entire league, save for perhaps the Cavaliers, has a chance to win a title. A perfect storm-and a herculean effort by LeBron triggered an improbably comeback last season, on the back of superb play by LeBron but also injuries and recklessness by the Warriors. Yes, the Cavaliers beat the Warriors, but the Warriors also beat themselves. The number one seed Boston Celtics, winner of 60 plus games-not just beaten, but embarrassed in the conference finals. The Houston Rockets, the modern iteration of Mike D’Antoni’s “Seven seconds or less” offense? An afterthought. The Spurs held a commanding lead before losing Kawhi Leonard to an injury, but the successive blowouts proved that one man couldn’t have rescued even the Spurs, who haven’t been bad in twenty years.

If you’re not from the Bay Area, it’s a depressing outlook for an NBA fan. LeBron has been to the last seven NBA Finals, with no indication that anybody is line to slow him down. Out west, the Warriors are unbeatable with a healthy Curry.

However, as the examples above of superteams demonstrates, expected or planned brilliance (“Not 1, not 2, not 3, not 4..”-LeBron James, all the way up to seven, on the number of championships he expected the Heat to win) rarely pans out in the fashion expected. The disastrous results expected of an unstoppable superpower failed to materialize, and it was that much more significant and exciting when the veteran Mavericks, led by Dirk Nowitzki and his own version of the flu game, knocked off the heavily favored Heat.

The success of the Mavericks and Spurs against the Heat indicates why the Warriors shouldn’t be cause for distress. The 1927 Yankees, “Murderer’s Row”, was among the most dominant teams ever and certainly didn’t ruin baseball. In fact, it drew more fans because people want to see greatness. Casual observers had their interest piqued by a team that was so talented at their craft it was a sight to behold.

Competitive balance? How about the Yankees from 1949-1953, when they won five straight World Series. Baseball was not ruined.

Or the New England Patriots, owners of three Superbowl Rings, adding the best receiver in football in Randy Moss?

But sports can be fickle. Those 2007 Patriots are a perfect example. Eighteen victories, zero losses, facing a deeply flawed 10-6 New York Giants team led by an erratic Eli Manning (at that point in his career). Yet they failed to take home the trophy.

Greatness needs to be appreciated. People may complain bitterly at the time, but when it’s gone people wish they had it back. Just look at the reception Derek Jeter got at the end of his career-even the most bitter of rivals paid him their respects. The Warriors aren’t just a collection of uber-talented players. They are the next generation in the evolution of basketball. The pieces fit perfectly, with Curry, Klay, Durant, and Draymond each having the ability to stretch the floor and slash inside. Klay can guard 1-4 and KD and Draymond can guard anyone on the court. The seamless flow and positionless basketball is a sight to behold, and a far more advanced concept than the bully-ball that Wade, LeBron, and Bosh employed in their heyday. Bosh, the best shooter of the three, was forced into a perimeter role in the same way Kevin Love is today, which made no sense as he is 6’11 and should have been a dominating post presence, his value diminished as a floor spacer. Wade and LeBron were essentially the same player in their first year together, and there wasn’t enough space to go around. The “there’s only one ball” argument had far more validity hear than it does with the ball movement and spacing oriented offense of the Warriors.

That’s not to say that LeBron’s Heat wasn’t a great team. They were, as evidenced by their 27 game win streak. But they didn’t break the league, and their era of dominance ended more abruptly than expected. These Warriors are a team you will tell your grandchildren about. Appreciate their greatness, built in the right way.