Go Figure: Dust off the memory cobwebs and test your 2019 MLB season knowledge
Today's action is tomorrow's trivia. And as time goes on, with more activity all along the way, the clarity of what just happened -- then the next thing, and then the next -- fades.
Tack on a decade, a generation or two, a century or longer. Pretty soon, we are really dusting off the cobwebs of our memory banks.
For example, 100 years ago, on this day, who was leading the American League in home runs? Any fan of baseball history, recognizing it was Babe Ruth's first year as a New York Yankee, would guess (correctly) that it was the Bambino who led not only every other player in the Major Leagues -- but most every other team -- in homers.
For this week's "Go Figure," however, we flip the calendar pages a short distance: to Friday, May 24, 2019. How well do you recall the state of the Majors only one year ago, roughly 50 games into the 162-game season?
Q1. Entering the season with a career 62.4% winning percentage, who was the perennial AL Cy Young Award contender who lost his league high-tying sixth game in seven decisions for the Boston Red Sox?
(Chris Sale, Rick Porcello, David Price)
Q2. This National League team won a 12-10 slugfest over the Miami Marlins on May 24, but still found themselves with a 20-31 record, 10 games out of first place. Identify this struggling NL squad, which was also dead-last among all 15 NL clubs in runs allowed.
(Padres, Rockies, Nationals)
Q3. On this day, two of the three players making their MLB debuts are sons of men who also played in the Majors. One, a Blue Jay, has a dad in the Hall of Fame. Can you pick out this father-son combo?
(Vladimir and Vladimir Jr. Guerrero, Craig and Cavan Biggio, Dante and Bo Bichette)
Q4. Of the six divisions nearing the season's one-third juncture, only one had standings, from first through fifth place, in that same order at season's end. Which division?
(National League West, American League Central, American League East)
Q5. In a sign of troubles to come, the Cubs squandered 4-0 and 5-4 leads to the Cincinnati Reds. With his 14th home run, Cub first baseman Anthony Rizzo was one of three Chicago players to homer in the contest. How many more would Rizzo hit last season?
(13, 18, 23)
Q6. At the end of play May 24, only one AL batter, hitting .339, had a higher batting average (of those with enough at bats to qualify) than White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson's .337. Who was ahead of Anderson, the eventual batting champ?
(D.J. LeMahieu, Michael Brantley, Jorge Polanco)
Q7. At the end of play May 24, White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu was third in the American League with 41 runs batted in. He finished with his first AL RBI crown, with 123, after overtaking Boston's Rafael Devers for good on Sept. 7th with a four-RBI game. Who was the NL player who surged past Abreu for the Major League high of 126?
(Cody Bellinger, Anthony Rendon, Josh Bell)
Q8. Former Cubs outfielder Jorge Soler, who joined the Kansas City Royals in 2017, had 11 home runs on May 24, six behind AL leader George Springer of the Astros.
Soler finished with a league-leading 48 home runs, passing an injured Mike Trout (45 homers) in his 161st game with a pair of homers, then capping his strong finish with a round-tripper in the season finale. Was Soler's season output higher or lower than his career home run total entering 2019?
Q9. So you thought you could get through a Go Figure quiz without going way back in time, did you? Not so fast. When Babe Ruth swatted 54 home runs in 1920, he outpaced how many of the 15 other Major League teams in that category?
(5, 10, 14)
1. Chris Sale; 2. Nationals; 3. Craig and Cavan Biggio; 4. AL East; 5. 13; 6. Jorge Polanco; 7. Anthony Rendon; 8. Higher (he had 38 career homers); 9. 14 (only the Philadelphia Phillies had more homers than Ruth)
• Matt Baron is an Oak Park-based freelance writer. He supplements his baseball brainpower with Retrosheet.org for much of this research.