Monday, March 12, 2012

Monday Mailbag

How many MLB players have hit the cycle in order? And what percentage of players is that total of all players who have hit for a cycle? - Trucker D., San Francisco, CA

Heading into 2012, only 13 players in major league history have hit for a natural cycle (single, double, triple, home run in the same game in that order):

Bill Collins - Boston Doves - October 6, 1910
Bob Fothergill - Detroit Tigers - September 26, 1926
Tony Lazzeri - New York Yankees - June 3, 1932
Charlie Gehringer - Detroit Tigers - May 27, 1939
Leon Culberson - Boston Red Sox - July 3, 1943
Jim Hickman - New York Mets - August 7, 1963
Billy Williams - Chicago Cubs - July 17, 1966
Tim Foli - Montreal Expos - April 22, 1976
Bob Watson - Boston Red Sox - September 15, 1979
John Mabry - St. Louis Cardinals - May 18, 1996
José Valentín - Chicago White Sox - April 27, 2000
Brad Wilkerson - Montreal Expos - June 24, 2003
Gary Matthews, Jr. - Texas Rangers - September 13, 2006

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It's a fairly diverse group of players to say the least. It's not every day that Bob 'Fats' Fothergill comes up in conversation. Anyhow, to answer the second part of your question, they account for just a hair over five percent of the 251 cycles in major league history.  

But really, let's be honest here. The biggest takeaway is that once upon a time there was a team called the Boston Doves. You know that mascot just struck all kinds of fear into the hearts of their opponents. 
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The franchise would eventually would go on to become the Boston Braves and move to Atlanta by way of Milwaukee.

Has any MLB pitcher ever recorded 4 strike outs in one inning? If so, who was the last? - Trucker D., San Francisco, CA

It's actually happened a lot more than you'd think; 57 times according to including 3 times in 2011. Milwaukee Brewers ace Yovani Gallardo was the last to accomplish the feat when he did it on September 17th against the Cincinnati Reds.
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American soccer has pretty well always been about outworking everybody else on the field. While not a terrible strategy, it has always seemed to be the only one we had. Do you see Jurgen Klinsman being able to change that philosophy single-handedly? Or is it gonna take a fundamental change in youth soccer programs and years of development? - Cory L., Raceland, LA
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I hope that regardless of what changes Klinsmann makes that he doesn't rob the U.S. Men's National team of this aspect of their identity. While Klinsmann has made it no secret that he wants to attack more than the U.S. traditionally has, I wouldn't think that this would cause the U.S.'s high work rate to diminish. I think the goal would be to continue to have guys with motors that just don't quit, but now combine that with players who can do more with the ball at their feet; relying less on the counter-attack and more on our ability to score while maintaining possession. The temptation after the win over Italy, and just a few years removed from the Confederations Cup victory over Spain is to become content with our 'bend-but-don't-break' defense and rely on the havoc-wreaking play of guys like Clint Dempsey and Landon Donovan, but the reality is that that's not going to be enough to consistently hang with world's top teams. So how do we get there? Part of it is finding the right personnel to put on the field, and part of it is going to be coaching. I think Klinsmann has the team on the right track, but we'll have a much better idea after we see how they do this summer in World Cup Qualifying.

Chelsea actually managed a win in the FA cup against Birmingham City, which is good news for Chelsea fans. However, "El Nino' managed to not score again, which is bad for Chelsea management, who paid an awful lot of money for him. How long could he possibly have left over there before he gets put up for sale? - Cory L., Raceland, LA
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Once one of the most prolific scorers in all of Europe- heck, all the world - the 27 year old Torres has been something of an enigma since his arrival at Stamford Bridge last January. In 50 matches with the Blues, Torres has just five goals. Hardly what Chelsea thought they were getting when they spent £50 million to get him from Liverpool last January. So what do you do with him? I can guarantee they're not going to get anything near what they spent to get him if they try and move him. It really comes down to what Chelsea management thinks the issue is. If Torres is just in a prolonged funk, then you probably want to ride it out. But if it's a more fundamental difference like Torres not being able to fit into the offense, then you've got problems. But let's keep in mind, it's not just Torres who has had problems for Chelsea this year. Didier Drogba hasn't exactly been lighting it up either with just 5 Premier League goals (with the 5th coming this past weekend). Two years ago he scored 29. So maybe it's not all on Torres. We'll see. The team is under new management now, and they started the Roberto Di Matteo era off with a win in the FA Cup as you mentioned and then followed that up with a 1-0 victory over Stoke City this weekend. Maybe the change is what the club and Torres needs.

So Fulham gets a win over Wolverhampton by the score of 5-0 last weekend, and all the scoring is done by two people. Clint Dempsey, who I know, had a brace and some Russian guy, who I've never heard of, had a damn hat-trick. Who is this international man of mystery and can he be the missing piece that brings Fulham into serious contention realm and out of their mid-tableness?(yes, I just made up a word) - Cory L., Raceland, LA
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The Russian you speak of is 28 year old Pavel Pogrebnyak. It's not a huge surprise you hadn't heard of him until recently because he just joined Fulham at the end of January after parts of 3 season with Germany's VfB Stuttgart. Is he the piece for Fulham that can take them to the next level? Well, if continues his torrid pace since arriving (5 goals in 4 games) then I'd say, yes. Unless he's one of the world's best keep secrets though, I see Fulham needing a little more before they can make the jump. They also need to make sure they lock-up Clint Dempsey to a long term deal as his contract expires in under 18 months, and he'll certainly draw interest from other clubs.

So Brek Shea is signed all the way through 2015. If his current form improves a little more, do you see a European club trying to buy him away before his contract is up? - Cory L., Raceland, LA
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There was actually a lot of speculation that this could have happened this past season, but nothing came from it. Assuming his play doesn't suffer this year, I'd be shocked if someone didn't offer him an opportunity. I don't see him going over there to play with just anyone though. Based on some of the less than positive experiences some younger Americans have had (Michael Bradley with Borussia Mönchengladbach, Jozy Altidore with Villareal, Freddy Adu with Benfica, etc), Shea is going to want to make sure he's going into a good situation. It does no one any good if he goes to a team like Real Madrid or Bayern Munich and instead of playing for them gets loaned to Turkey's third division. So it's certainly something to watch and the rumors are no doubt going to start back up the next time the European transfer window opens up. Stay tuned.

That concludes this week's mailbag. As always a special thanks to those of you who wrote in. Couldn't have done it without your questions. Got a question for the mailbag? Click on the link at the top of the page or send us an email at

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