Pittsburgh Pirates Featured articles

The Phils offense is once again shutout as they are three-hit by Pirates pitching as they lose, 3-0.

phillies logoThe Phils gain only three hits, all by Chase Utley, as they are shutout for the third straight game as they lose to the Pirates, 3-0, in their last spring training game as tonight’s game has been cancelled due to rain.

The Pirates broke up a 0-0 tie in the top of the sixth as, with a man on second, and with one man out, Russell Martin hits an RBI double, knocking in Andrew McCutchen, who had earlier been safe at first on a force out, 5-4, wiping out at second base Travis Snider, who had started the inning off with a walk, then moved up to second base on Phillippe Aumont’s wild pitch, giving the Pirates a 1-0 lead. The Pirates then made it a 2-0 lead as Neil Walker hit an RBI single, scoring Martin. The Pirates then added to their lead in the eighth as, with a man on third, and with two men out, Clint Barmes hits an RBI single, knocking in Gaby Sanchez, who had earlier doubled, then moved up to third base on Jordy Mercer’s ground out, 3-unassisted, giving the Pirates a 3-0 lead. That would end up being the final score as Ryan Beckman collected his first save of the spring as he threw a 1-2-3 ninth inning, getting Jimmy Rollins to fly out to right for the game’s final out.

Kyle Kendrick pitched five shutout innings, giving up three hits and two walks, while striking out two. Phillippe Aumont (0-3, 4.05) took the lost as he went a third of an inning, giving up two runs on a hit, a walk and a wild pitch. Antonio Bastardo pitched two-thirds of an inning, giving up two hits. B.J. Rosenberg pitched a scoreless inning, giving up two hits and a walk, while striking out a batter. Mario Hollands pitched a third of an inning, getting out the only man whom he would face. Jake Diekman pitched two-thirds of an inning, giving up a run on two hits and a walk, while striking out a batter. Jonathan Papelbon pitched a 1-2-3 inning, striking out the side. Charlie Morton and Jason Grilli combined for four shutout innings, giving up two hits (one hit each) between them, while striking out a batter (Morton). Tony Watson (2-0, 0.00) got the win as he pitched a 1-2-3 inning. Bryan Morris collected his fourth hold of the spring as he threw a 1-2-3 inning, striking out a batter. Jeanmar Gomez received his second hold of the spring as he threw a scoreless inning, giving up a hit, while striking out a batter. Jhonathan Ramos received his first hold of the spring, as he threw a 1-2-3 inning. Ryan Beckman collected his first save of the spring, as he threw a 1-2-3 ninth.

The Phils had only three hits in the game, all by Chase Utley, two doubles and a single. The Phils had no walks in the game while the defense committed an error (Cody Asche) in the game, along with an outfield assist (Dom Brown) and a pickoff (B.J. Rosenberg).

The Phils ended spring training on a sour note as tonight’s game was rained out. Their next game will be their season opener against the Texas Rangers at Globe Life Park in Arlington, Texas. The game is to start at 2:05 pm EDT (1:05 pm CDT). The Phils will send to the mound Cliff Lee (0-0, -.–) while the Rangers will counter with Tanner Scheppers (0-0, -.–). The Phils will be trying to start the 2014 season on a good note, while planning to break out of their present hitting slump.

The National League Pennant winners- before the World Series era

The National League officially started in the 1876 season. There was a World Series from 1884-1990. The NL Championship was called the Temple Cup from 1894-1897 and the Chronicle-Telegraph Cup in 1900. Of course, it was the New York Giants who won the NL Pennant in 1904 and refused to play the AL Pennant winning Boston Americans for the World Series that season. Among the NL Championship winners from 1876-1902, there were five teams that won a total of 21 Championships that are still in existence today. Three teams that won a total of 6 Championships, were all contracted by the NL after the 1899 season.
The Chicago White Stockings, the ancestors of today’s Chicago Cubs, won the first NL Championship in 1876 with a 52-14 record. The next season, it was the Boston Red Caps winning their first title with a 42-18 record. The Red Caps are the Atlanta Braves today. The Red Caps repeated by winning in 1878 (41-19). The Providence Grays were the Champions in 1879 (59-25) as the league went from a 60 game schedule to a 84 game one. The White Stockings would be the first NL team to three-peat by winning the NL Pennant in 1880 (67-17), 1881 (56-28) and 1882 (55-29). The last NL Pennant before the first edition of the World Series went to the Boston Beaneaters, who were previously the Red Caps. They finished with a 63-35 record in an 88 game season.
In the first ever World Series, the Providence Grays (84-28) defeated the New York Metropolitans of the American Association in a best of five series 3-0. In 1885, the Chicago White Stockings (87-25) played the AA St Louis Browns in a best of seven series. The first game ended in a tie, the second was forfeited by the Browns. The seven game series finished in a tie at 3-3-1. The White Stockings (90-34) would repeat with the NL Pennant in 1886, this time losing to the Browns 4 games to 2. The Detroit Wolverines, who finished 2nd in 1886, won the NL Pennant in 1887.
They were set to play the Browns in the World Series, but this was no ordinary series. This one was set to be a “a series of contests for supremacy” which became a best of 15 series with games played in ten different cities. The Wolverines would win the whole thing by winning 8 of the first 11 games. In an odd occurrence, games 12 through 15 were actually played with the series decided. The last four games were split, giving the Wolverines the series 10-5.
The New York Giants would win the NL Pennant in 1888 (84-47), beating the Browns in the World Series 6 games to 4. The series changed to a best out of ten format. The Giants would win the NL again in 1889 (83-43) , winning the best out of ten WS over the Brooklyn Bridegrooms, 6 games to 3.
In an interesting, but common occurrence at that time, the Bridegrooms left the American Association to join the National League. The Bridegrooms would win the NL Pennant in their first season in 1890. They became the first team to win consecutive League Championships playing in different leagues. They played the AA Champ Louisville Colonels, but the best of 7 series ended in a tie, 3-3-1.
With no World Series played until 1903, the Boston Beaneaters ran off a streak of three straight NL Pennants, winning in 1891 (87-51), 1892 (102-48) and 1893 (86-43). The League created the Temple Cup, which lasted from 1894-1897. This was the first example of a “Wild Card” system as the first place team matched up against the second place team to determine the Championship. The Baltimore Orioles won the Pennant in 1984 (89-39), finishing 3 games ahead of the New York Giants (88-44). In what was a best of 7 series, it was the second place Giants who swept the Orioles in 4 games. The Orioles would repeat as NL Champs in 1895 (87-43), this time losing to the second place Cleveland Spiders (86-46) 4 games to 1. The Orioles had better luck in 1896, going 90-39. They faced the Spiders who finished 80-48. This time the Orioles swept the Spiders in 4 games, winning their first Temple Cup. The final Temple Cup was in 1897, where the Boston Beaneaters (93-39) held off the Orioles (90-40) by 2 games to take the NL Championship. However, it was the Orioles who won the final Temple Cup, 4 games to 1.
The 1898 Beaneaters (102-47) were considered one of the greatest teams in the 19th century. The Brooklyn Superbas won the NL Championship in 1899 with a record of 101-47 record. It had been a weird season, as talks existed of teams being contracted after the season. The Brooklyn Bridegrooms actually merged ownerships with the Baltimore Orioles prior to the start of the season before changing their name. The season resulted with the Cleveland Spiders, who had been completely stripped of all their talent throughout the season, finishing with a record of 20-134, the worst recorded record in the history of professional baseball. The Baltimore Orioles, Providence Grays, Cleveland Spiders and Detroit Wolverines folded after the 1899 season, leaving 8 teams in the NL.
The 1900 season featured the first and only Chronicle-Telegraph Cup, sponsored by Pittsburgh Chronicle-Telegraph. The Cup would be similar to the Temple Cup, featuring the NL Champion against the team that finished in 2nd place. The only difference was the fact that the best of five series would have all five games played in Pittsburgh. The Superbas would win the Championship (82-54) by 4 1/2 games over the second place Pirates (79-60). The Pirates had the real home field advantage, with all five games played at their home. But it was the Superbas who would win the series 3 games to 2.
The final two NL Championships went to the Pirates in 1901 (90-49), 7 1/2 games over the second place Philadelphia Phillies, and in 1902 (103-36), an astounding 27 1/2 games ahead of the second place Superbas. The Pirates would win the first NL Championship of the modern World Series era in 1903, but lost to the AL Champion Boston Americans.
In the pre World Series era (1894-1902), the kings of the National League were the Boston Red Caps (Beaneaters) who won 8 NL Championships. The Chicago White Stockings would win 6 in this time, followed by the Brooklyn Bridegrooms (Superbas) and Baltimore Orioles, who had each won 3. The Providence Grays and New York Giants each won 2 with the Detroit Wolverines winning the other NL Championship. In the four year history of the Temple Cup, only one NL Championship winning team won the Temple Cup, the 1896 Orioles. The New York Giants won the Temple Cup in 1894, Cleveland Spiders in 1895 and the Orioles in 1897.

The Jason Bay roller coaster has finally idled to a complete stop


It looks as if the career of OF Jason Bay is finally coming to an end. As many would say (particularly fans of the New York Mets), it will probably be three years too late. It is self explanatory to describe the drop in Bay’s production; which saw a six year run with the Pittsburgh Pirates and Boston Red Sox where he was a top ten power hitting OF in all of MLB over that span that slammed to a complete halt after he signed a 4 year, $66 million contract with the Mets. But if you look at some of the transactions that have involved Bay, you will see that he was both highly desired and not taking seriously over the series of trades he was involved in.
Bay was originally drafted by the Montreal Expos in the 22nd round of the 2000 draft. What is interesting about Bay is that he was in the Little League World Series at age 11 in 1990. He then got to play on Canada’s Junior Olympic team. He was not highly recruited during high school and played at North Idaho College. It was that point where Bay started setting records, eventually transferring to Gonzaga. He would continue to dominate, but was still not scouted as a high end player with MLB potential. The Expos saw enough to take him in the June draft. The Expos GM…?…. Omar Minaya. (*Cue the typical Mets fans bashing of Minaya* Why not? This is an article about Jason Bay. I would not expect Jason Bay to bring back the greatest memories in the mind of Mets fans.)
Bay would tear up the New York Penn and Midwest Leagues in 2000 and 2001. It was in the Florida State League where he would struggle, playing in Jupiter (A+). Hitting .195 in 38 games dropped his value so much that he was traded at the end of spring training in 2002 to the Mets with Jimmy Serrano for Lou Collier (a guest on the Passed Ball Show, interview can be found at www.johnpielli.com/john-piellis-pbs-interviews.html). Collier’s value to the Expos was that of a utility infielder so it was obvious that Minaya and the Expos did not value Bay very much (at that time). Bay would put up respectable, not dominant numbers for A St Lucie and AA Binghamton. This increased his value enough to be dealt to the San Diego Padres with Josh Reynolds and Bobby M Jones in a deal that would get the Mets RHPs Steve Reed and Jason Middlebrook. He hit .309 in his final 23 games in AA Mobile to finish the season at .283, 17, 85.
Bay moved up to AAA for the 2003 season, where he hit 20 HRs and OPSed .951 in 91 games. This increased his trade value to point where he was used as trade bait; this time dealt to the Pirates with Oliver Perez (yes… that Oliver Perez) and Corey Stewart for All Star OF Brian Giles. Bay was having a solid season; he trailed only Pirates AAA OF prospect JJ Davis in slugging percentage (Davis was at .964). Bay had made his MLB debut that season with San Diego and after being traded to the Pirates, he played every day at the big league level. While Pirates fans were pissed at the thought they gave another good player away for nothing, Bay gave them something to think about.
At this point, Bay started to become a player. He would win the NL Rookie of the Year Award in 2004 and have consecutive All Star seasons, with 30+ HR and 100+ RBI in 2005 and 2006. A down 2007 saw Bay’s average dip to .247. While Bay had rebounded the next season, he still had not caught up to his 2005 and 2006 seasons. Then he was dealt on July 31st for the second time in his career.
The Red Sox would deal OF Manny Ramirez to the Dodgers, getting Bay from the Pirates. The Pirates would get pitcher Bryan Morris and 3B Andy LaRoche from the Dodgers and pitcher Craig Hansen and 1B Brandon Moss from the Red Sox. To put it in perspective how valued (or overvalued) Bay was in this trade, look at it this way. The Pirates traded Bay to the Red Sox and got back Morris, Hansen, LaRoche and Brandon Moss. Though LaRoche and Hansen never panned out, Morris has become a solid reliever for the Pirates and Moss has become a solid everyday player for the Athletics. To get Bay, the Red Sox traded Manny Ramirez, Brandon Moss and Hansen! Obviously the Red Sox got some salary relief by dealing Ramirez to LA, but few saw this deal as a fair one, on paper, for the Red Sox.
Bay would have a solid 2009 season, at least in regards to HR (36) and RBI (119). His OPS was .921, which was the highest it had been since 2006. He had a career high in strikeouts, hit only 29 2Bs and finished with a .267 average entering his free agency season. While he was productive, the Red Sox felt comfortable letting him walk as a free agent.
Remember the discussion about the two free agent outfielders that offseason. I remember hearing all the bitching about the fact that Matt Holliday was getting a 7 year contract to remain with the St Louis Cardinals. While I stayed away from those complaints, I did think Bay could provide some value with the 4 year deal he signed.
It would have been very difficult to expect Bay to be a top MLB OF during the duration of his Mets contract. But, nobody saw his career coming to a crashing halt. It seemed like the turning point was that evening in LA when Bay crashed into the LF fence at Dodgers Stadium. He was never a force in the lineup after that, including an embarrassing 2012 season where he managed to have an OPS of .536. His SLG% alone for the Red Sox in 2009 was .537. It doesn’t get any worse than a .165, 8, 20 in 70 games. Both Bay and Mets fans were mercied after the 2012 season, allowing both the fans and Jason to move on with their respective lives. He would be signed by #6 org, the Seattle Mariners and would hit .204, 11, 20 in 68 games with the M’s before he was released on August 6th. Assuming Bay will no longer play, he finished his career with a .266, 260, .482 split to go along with his 222 HRs.
Similar to anyone else who watched Bay play during his time in NY, I was frustrated that he could never get it together. However, the way he played the game was an example that all should follow. Even at his worst, he ran out every ball hit, played the game with all his heart and never let his offensive woes affect his performance on defense. Maybe he should have hung it up after the 2011 or 2012 season. But nobody leaves two years of owed money on the table and only Gil Meche left money on the table his last year in Kansas City. And he was owed much less than Bay was. Bay’s slow moving coaster has been idling in the station for years now, and if it has come to a final stop, I wish the guy the best. Jason Bay will be forever remembered for being one of the many players who could not cut in NY- he’d be the first to tell you.

As Mark Mulder nears MLB return, some other predominant pitchers with MLB gaps of five seasons or more


Mark Mulder’s 2014 minor league deal with the Los Angeles Angels has become official, meaning the left hander will be attempting a comeback to the big leagues, a place he has not pitched since 2008. Mulder owns a career record of 103-60, 4.18 in 205 games, 203 starts as he has pitched from 2000-2008 for the Oakland Athletics and St Louis Cardinals. Mulder will be forever remembered as one of the three stud young leaders of the Oakland Athletics pitching staff of the early part of the 2000s. Mulder’s success has been short lived, however, as he won 40 games in the 2001 and 2002 seasons and 88 games from 2001-2005. After the Cardinals acquired Mulder from Oakland, Mulder was healthy for just one season in St Louis. 2006 saw him make just 17 starts for the Cards (6-7, 7.14) before making just 3 starts in 2007 and pitching in just 3 games (1 start) for the Red Birds in 2008.
If Mulder completes his comeback, he will return to the big leagues after a six year gap. I have come up with a series of pitchers who have had similar gaps in pitching in the big leagues. All have been for different reasons. I did this list off the top of my head, so if there are any other notable gaps among MLB pitchers, please feel free to let me know, either by comment, e-mail or social media. Of course, the pitcher who probably has the longest gap pitching in a big league game was the great Satchel Paige. Making his MLB debut at the age of 41 was something that should never had have to happened. Paige was one of the best to ever throw the ball and should have had 15-20 years of MLB experience by the time he first pitched in 1948. He would pitch in 1949, as well as 1951-1953, with ’53 as the last season he figured to pitch on a MLB mound.
12 years later, Paige, at age 58, was given the ball to make a start for the Kansas City Athletics. He would throw 3 innings, giving up just a hit, walking no one and striking out a batter. Jim Palmer would attempt a comeback in spring training of 1991, pitching for the Baltimore Orioles, the team he had just got be inducted in the Baseball Hall of Fame just two years ago. Palmer had received 92.6% of the BBWAA’s votes in his first year on the ballot. The 268 games winner with three World Series wins and 8 20 win seasons was unfortunately unable to complete his comeback, which would have been unprecedented for a current Hall of Famer.
The next longest gap between MLB pitching appearances was the 7 seasons between appearances that Chuck Hartenstein had. Hartenstein, a guest on my johnpielli.com website (http://www.johnpielli.com/john-piellis-pbs-interviews.html). Chuck had a career that spanned from 1966-1970, mostly for the Chicago Cubs. He would be back in the minors by 1971, but some persistency and adjustments got him some accolades in the minors. One of his managers was Roy Hartsfield, who had just gotten the MLB job with the expansion Toronto Blue Jays. Hartenstein was taken over with Hartsfield and would make 13 appearances for the Jays in 1977, going 0-2, 6.59 in 27 1.3 IP.
Next was the return of former Cincinnati Reds top pitcher Jose Rijo. Rijo pitched for 12 seasons in the big leagues, mostly for the Reds, winning the World Series with the team in 1990. By 1995, his arm was shot. His season ended prematurely, as he was long gone by the time the team swept the Dodgers in the NLDS and got swept by the Braves in the NLCS. After multiple operations, Rijo was back. He returned to the Reds in the 2001 season, pitching to a 2.13 ERA in 13 relief appearances. The next season, Rijo pitched in 31 games, going 5-4, 5.14, as he also made 7 starts at age 37.
Another interesting one is the path of current San Francisco Giants RHP Ryan Vogelsong. Vogelsong had some struggles during his time in Pittsburgh, as he pitched with them in 2001-2002 and 2003-2006. He never established himself and by the end of 2006, was out of baseball. He attempted his comeback in 2010, pitching in AAA for the Phillies and Angels. Though he never made it to the majors, he would sign a minor league deal with the San Francisco Giants for the 2011 season. He earned himself a callup and would go 13-7, 2.71 in 30 games, 28 starts. He struck out 139 batters in 179 2/3 IP. He went 14-9, 3.37 in 2012 for the Giants as the team won its second WS in three seasons. He battled some injury issues in 2013, but is set to return to the Giants rotation in 2014, as he signed a 1 year, $5 million contract for the season.
Dave Stieb had a very good career for the Toronto Blue Jays from 1979-1992, before making 4 starts for the Chicago White Sox in 1993. It was assumed that his career was finished as Stieb had struggled pitching in the minors for the White Sox and Kansas City Royals. But he signed a minor league deal with the Blue Jays in 1998 and pitched very well in A+ and AAA. He made his return to the big leagues by going 1-2, 4.83 in 19 games, 3 starts for the Blue Jays.
Based on my research, I could not find a pitcher that had a gap of 5 years or more based on service time in either World Wars, or Korea. Of course, Steve Howe had a 4 year gap after having multiple suspensions related to the use of drugs.

What if Jordany Valdespin was Gregg Jefferies?


Jordany Valdespin gained a minor cult like following after he had some success during the 2012 season. I got to see Valdespin for a couple spring trainings before he made his MLB debut. I also watched him play a couple seasons in AA Binghamton. A line drive hitter with some speed, he never seemed like he could play SS at the MLB level. But he could hit.
If you have followed Jordany Valdespin over the past couple of seasons, you know there have been several up and downs. Mostly downs. The guy does have talent, but not enough of it has shown through for him to establish himself as a big league player. And of course, the clubhouse and personality issues have drawn more attention than his play on the baseball field. Valdespin’s performance over the past season made it easy for the Mets to cut bait with him.
In addition to his issues with the Mets authority and manager Terry Collins, Valdespin also rubbed his teammates the wrong way. He was not liked in the clubhouse. Two major times stand out. When he hit a walk-off grand slam, he was nearly punched out during his postgame interview with a pie from then Mets catcher John Buck. And of course, we all know about the time he admired a home run against the Pirates while the game was out of reach. When Pirates RHP Bryan Morris drilled him the next day, the team did nothing to either retaliate or back him up. When he was removed from the team’s 40 man roster last month, it rid the team from a player they no longer wanted. But it also released Valdespin from a place he no longer wanted to be. Valdespin signed a minor league contract with the Miami Marlins, one that does not include a major league camp invite. Personally I wish him well and hope he eventually enjoys some big league success.
During the 1988 season, the Mets were well on their way to another NL East title. Many say, including myself, that the 1988 Mets team was the best team they ever assembled, top to bottom. On August 28, 1988, the Mets brought up a 20 year old infielder named Gregg Jefferies, who would start 29 of the team’s 32 games to finish the season hitting .321 in 109 ABs. Jefferies would play all 7 games of the Mets/ Dodgers NLCS at 3B, moving starting 3B Howard Johnson to SS in a bold move. Jefferies managed to hit .333 that series (9-27) batting second in the team’s lineup all series.
The one similarity Jefferies and Valdespin had was the fact they both rubbed their teammates the wrong way. There are no other similarities, as Jefferies was extremely talented and would become a staple in the Mets lineup until he was traded to Kansas City after the 1991 season. But, before Jefferies was finally moved out of town, he may have singlehandedly taken down the team which was on a serious run when he joined it. The team chose to trade RHP Roger McDowell, whom Jefferies had never gotten along with, along with Lenny Dykstra to the Phillies for Juan Samuel in 1989. Dykstra, years later, accused Jefferies as being the player who destroyed the team, adding that he felt the Mets cho6se him over the rest of that team.
Lets say Valdespin was the real deal. At this moment, he is not, but many believed he could have become a regular on this team last season. What if that happened? Lets say Jordany became the Mets everyday CF. (Lets also assume he couldn’t play SS on a regular basis at the MLB level.) What if he had a 1988 Jefferies like run? Maybe got 400 ABs and hit something like .300, .325, 450. (Remember Valdespin is not a real OBP guy.) Lets assume he hit 30 2B, 9 3B, 15 HR and drove in 60 runs, scoring 60 more.
At this point, fans would be going nuts, especially with little else to root for. It would be a cult following, but the same issues would exist in the clubhouse. Is there a weird scenario where the Mets of now would choose to build a team around a player like that? Because they made that decision with Jefferies from 1989-1991. An easy decision to make now, especially with hindsight telling us that Valdespin can’t cut it at the MLB level and his 50 game suspension for his involvement with biogenesis. But what if he was as good as Jefferies was?


2013′s MLB Bonehead of the Year, the 1st annual “NMA”


There have been few MLB players who I have been more critical of than former Pirates, Nationals and Brewers OF Nyjer Morgan. And perhaps it is something I should back off soon. As it has been announced that Morgan will not return to the Japanese Yokohama team next season, there is a good chance he will land a job back in major league baseball as a 4th OF or even a platoon starting situation in the right spot. In that regard, I wish him the best. He is still a very serviceable player who put up decent to good numbers at Yokohama. I am presented my own award, which goes to the biggest bonehead of the MLB season, and I am calling it the “Nyjer Morgan Award”, presented by www.johnpielli.com.
I guess my disdain for @theRealTPlush comes from a series of incidents that happened within a little more than a year from each other. There was his barreling over of a defenseless catcher who was nowhere near the plate against the Marlins. While playing for the Nationals, his hit on Brett Hayes was uncalled for. What was worse was his reaction after being hit in retaliation for it, which escalated the situation. I am not saying he should have taken it, but to show up the team by stealing bases in a meaningless time of the game added to the fact that he was already wrong by hitting the catcher for no reason. If that was the one time he brought the negative vibes to himself, I could deal with it. Then there was him sticking his head into the Brewers/ Cardinals rivalry of 2011. His unprovoked shouting match with Cardinals RHP Chris Carpenter seemed like a cry for attention, and maybe an attempt to prove himself as a “Brewer”. With the fact that Carpenter has a reputation for antagonizing opposing players, that was another situation where if it was isolated, it would have been forgotten. Then there was the bold statements regarding the Cardinals playoff chances, which in itself simply made him look foolish. The Cardinals defeated the Brewers to win the NL Pennant and eventually the 2011 World Series. Add in the fact that he intentionally yelled “fuck yeah” knowing it was going to be heard on air on TBS, I have found it very difficult to endear myself to this man. Perhaps if he signed with my favorite baseball team, the New York Mets, I would give it one last chance.
But Nyjer Morgan is not the only associated with MLB that stands out as being a bonehead. 2013 was full of moments like that, from Mets SS Ruben Tejada’s overall cocky attitude almost costing him a job to some of the umpires either doing a terrible job at what they get paid to do or going on a world tour with the hopes that the general public knows their name. I came up with the five biggest boneheads in MLB for the 2013 season. But, before I get into them, here are some honorable mentions:
Brewers OF Carlos Gomez was clearly in the wrong when he took his grudge with Braves LHP Paul Maholm too far in a game in Milwaukee. Starting a fight with the entire Atlanta Braves team did not make Gomez look good, but to this point, this is the only time I have seen Carlos Gomez act that way.
Dodgers OF Yasiel Puig burst onto the scene and pretty much saved the Los Angeles Dodgers 2013 season. He did not do it without some questionable hick-ups though. The fact that he became enraged during an altercation with the Arizona Diamondbacks is justified as he was hit in the face. His lack of hustle and overstated bravado have made him as many enemies as fans.
Mets infielder Jordany Valdespin has hopefully learned his lesson after running himself off the New York Mets. He has not proven himself to be an MLB player, let alone one who can spout off at veteran teammates and then his manager after being sent down to AAA. Getting popped for a 50 game PED suspension did not help.
However, the Mets players and perhaps management decided to isolate Valdespin, which put them in the fire. They deserved some criticism for allowing Jordany to get hit by Pirates RHP Bryan Morris in a game after Valdespin admired a HR in a game that had been decided already. Valdespin should not have done what he did, but to let the Pirates discipline him made the Mets look small.
Marlins RHP Jose Fernandez showed up the Braves a little bit in a game this past season. I did not look at this as a serious bonehead move, but one that should be stated. Braves 3B Chris Johnson looked just as silly when he involved himself, then intentionally took a scared route around all the players. (It was clear he wanted to speak but wanted to nothing to do with backing up what he had to say.)
I am sure many others can be mentioned in regards to incidents that happened this season, so feel free to let me know. Before I get into my top five, I need to mention the consistent bad performance of umpire CB Bucknor, a man who I am sure tries very hard, but he is among the worst at what he does. Without further due, here are my top five boneheads of 2013 in MLB.
5. Carlos Quentin, OF, San Diego Padres: I would have ranked him a little higher as my initial reaction to his actions in the LA game had me more upset than I currently am. But, Carlos Quentin had no reason to rush the mound after he was hit by the Zack Greinke. While stating he was hit by Greinke twice before, he failed to acknowledge the fact that he stands closer to the plate than any other MLB hitter and is frequently among the most hit batters in all of MLB. If he has such a problem getting hit, maybe it is time to back off the plate.
4. Umpire Tom Hallion: Hallion has had enough of a reputation for being a hothead. Maybe he simply needs some anger management. However, his actions during a Rays game in Chicago simply make Hallion look silly. After what arguably seemed like a small strike zone by Rays LHP David Price, it seemed like Price composed himself professionally walking off the field after the 7th and final inning of his outing. Was he happy? No, but he did nothing to show up Hallion. Hallion took his mask and said, “Throw the fucking ball over the plate!”, enraging the Rays bench and leading to his subsequent ejection of Rays RHP Jeremy Hellickson. Hallion then called Price and the Rays bench a “liar” when asked about it after the game. My two cents: The Rays bench would not have reacted the way it did had Hallion not made that statement. Fans come out to see the players play baseball, not Tom Hallion.
3. Umpire Angel Hernandez: This will be my final time I cite a MLB umpire in this piece (#HoldUmpiresAccountable). Similar to Bucknor, there is no doubt that Angel Hernandez is one of the worst at doing his job. This was something known prior to his actions in a game between the Oakland Athletics and Cleveland Indians when he was named temporary crew chief when Gerry Davis was unable to participate in Oakland. A ball hit by Athletics infielder Adam Rosales was ruled a double on the field when there was uncertainty over whether it went over the HR line or not. The umpires went to watch the video replay of it, which should have shown inconclusively that the ball hit the railing above the yellow line over the fence in right center field. As the crew chief, Hernandez refused to overturn the improper call. After ejecting Athletics manager Bob Melvin, MLB determined that Hernandez made the incorrect call, even though instant replay was used.
2. Brian McCann, catcher, Atlanta Braves: I, personally, like the fact that Brian McCann defends his teammates and has the reputation for being a very good leader. That should translate well to his new team, the New York Yankees. And the two particular incidents were provoked by Jose Fernandez and Carlos Gomez, respectively. But, McCann does look like a bonehead after taking it upon himself to be the police on the diamond. Many players show up the opposition by admiring home runs, and in my opinion, Fernandez did nothing more than what guys like Yasiel Puig and David Ortiz do on a nightly basis. If the first instance does not happen, the second is not blown up as much as it was. I thought McCann overreacted with the Fernandez situation, though he was correct with the way he handled the Gomez one. And while I admire McCann for defending his teammates, there is no one MLB player in charge of morality.
1. Luis Cruz, 3B, team Mexico in WBC, Dodgers, Yankees: I find it amazing that the biggest bonehead in 2013 happened to be over an incident during MLB’s spring training. I figured somebody would have topped it during the long MLB season, and subsequent postseason. But Cruz, who currently is not playing for a MLB team and was let go twice during the season, still owns the prize. Not only did Cruz provoke a nasty brawl between team Mexico and team Canada, but the fact that he did not understand the rules of the tournament made him look even more foolish. After Canada OF Shane Robinson laid down a bunt to reach via a hit while Canada held a decisive lead, Cruz openly signaled to his pitcher to hit the next batter. The rules of the tournament stated that if teams finished with the same records, one of the ways of determining which team moved on was total runs scored. Cruz’ voice was heard, which led to three pitches being thrown inside to the next batter, the last which incited the aggressive brawl between the two teams. Cruz recently signed a contract with the Chiba Lotte Marines of the Japanese Professional League.
Perhaps I missed some other boneheads in MLB in 2013. Feel free to comment if there are any that strike your ire. Just remember, bitter feelings towards a manager for a team not doing well really dont count. Neither do underachieving players. Congratulations to Luis Cruz on winning the first annual “Nyjer Morgan Award”, presented by www.johnpielli.com.

Post midterm updates on MLB team payrolls

More retro clipart at http://www.clipartof.com/

Baseball fans should be excited as there have now been more days in the offseason than there are left until the pitchers and catchers report for spring training. Of course, teams and players have yet to submit their bids for potential arbitration cases. Within that, many of the cases will settle for somewhere in the middle of the bids of the team and the player. Plus, the amount of free agents that are out there will impact which teams are projected to have higher payrolls than they currently have. The following is a list of which teams, at this very moment, have the highest payroll. This does not include contracts that have been agreed to that have not become official. In parenthesis are the amount of the players on the 25 man roster have already been signed (not counting arbitration eligibles and players on progressive contracts).
1. LAD(16) $188.3M
2. BOS (15) $155.0M
3. SFG (14) $138.2M
4. PHI (11) $137.3M
5. NYY (11) $134.4M
6. LAA (10) $129.9M
7. TOR (15) $121.2M
8. DET (11) $119.3M
9. TEX (14) $101.9M
10. STL (8) $91.5M
11. WSN (12) $87.1M
12. CIN (12) $78.6M
13. ARI (11) $74.8M
14. MIL (8) $71.2M
15. MIN (8) $66.0M
16. COL (8) $65.5M
17. CHW (9) $62.5M
18. KCR (9) $62.1M
19. CLE (10) $55.6M
20. CHC (8) $48.4M
21. NYM (4) $48.2M
22. PIT (9) $47.5M
23. BAL (9) $46.0M
24. ATL (6) $45.5M
25. SDP (9) $43.1M
26. SEA (4) $36.1M
27. TBR (9) $33.8M
28. OAK (5) $33.5M
29. MIA (6) $20.4M
30. HOU (3) $16.8M
It should be understood that recently agreed to contracts for the Mets Bartolo Colon ($10 mil), Dodgers Juan Uribe (7.5), Twins Mike Pelfrey ($5.5) and the Braves expected signing of Gavin Floyd are not counted against the listed payrolls. The Mets would be at $58.2 mil (19th), Dodgers at $195.8 (still at 1st) and the Twins at 71.5 (14th).
Assuming the Floyd deal in Atlanta is $8 million, which is the median of the starting pitchers salaries this offseason, I have included the four mentioned deals in what can be projected as the payrolls for the 2014 season. One thing needs to be understood, however. All the free agents on the board will eventually come off the board and there is still a possibility that more trades will be made. Plus, salary arbitration cases are very unpredictable. So, as we head into the season, here is where payrolls could be, with the remaining 25 man spots estimated with salary arbitration estimates and the balance of players paid the league minimum.
1. LAD $224.8M
2. BOS $165.5M
3. DET $157.3M
4. PHI $155.3M
5. NYY $154.9M
6. SFG $148.2M
7. LAA $144.4M
8. WSN $133.1M
9. TOR $132.7M
10. TEX $115.4M
11. STL $103.5M
12. CIN $102.6M
13. ARI $96.3M
14. ATL $91.5M
15. KCR $88.1M
16. NYM $86.2M
17. MIL $83.7M
18. MIN $83.5M
19. BAL $81.5M
20. CLE $81.1M
21. CHW $80.0M
22. COL $78.0M
23. CHC $74.8M
24. SDP $73.6M
25. OAK $71.0M
26. PIT $69.0M
27. TBR $62.2M
28. SEA $52.1M
29. MIA $37.5M
30. HOU $29.3M
As will be expected, teams like Seattle, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Baltimore and even the Cubs, Rockies and Brewers could spend considerably more. Especially with either the Orioles or Mariners likely to sign Nelson Cruz. The payroll totals at the moment as well as the projected ones from here are in no way a guarantee of what will be in a month or two. But it does set a good barometer of where teams may be by spring training. Stay tuned.

11/30/2013 Jim “Mudcat” Grant interview (Passed Ball Show)


As a baseball player, Dixie Walker was pretty good


When people think about longtime MLB OF Dixie Walker, the first thing that pops out in one’s mind was his unwillingness to play with Jackie Robinson in 1947 for the Brooklyn Dodgers. Yes, Walker did organize the petition with what hoped to get Robinson off the team. But, whether or not Dixie Walker was morally correct has little to nothing to do with what he was as a baseball player. It is a fair assessment if one wants to describe Walker as a bigot. Remember though, he was not the only one who felt that way. Society has done very much in the lines of social equality, that some forget how bad and prejudice people were in the 1940s.
The fact that Walker eventually warmed up to Robinson makes Walker look better than he did when Robinson first made the team. Quite possibly, his initial treatment of Robinson was the reason he was traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates after the 1947 season. Walker would play his final two season, 1948 and 1949, wearing a Pirates uniform.
Dixie Walker made his only two postseason appearances with the Brooklyn Dodgers, the team he played with from 1939-1947. He played in all five games of the 1941 World Series against the Yankees as well as all seven games against the same team in 1947. Walker hit .222 (4-18) in the 1941 WS and hit .222 (6-27) in the 1947 World Series. I have written before about the extreme differences between the Pennant winning Dodgers clubs of 1941 and 1947. For a timeframe that was only six years away, it is amazing that there were only four players who played for both of those Dodgers teams. Only Walker, Pee Wee Reese, Hugh Casey and Kirby Higbe played on the Dodgers on both of those teams. Higbe was traded (according to the movie “42, he was traded to Pittsburgh because he did not want to play with Robinson) early in the 1947 season. Leo Durocher was the manager of the 1941 Dodgers and was supposed to manage the 1947 team. That was before he was suspended for the entire 1947 season for his association with gamblers.
Dixie Walker is the only player in MLB history to have played with both Jackie Robinson and Babe Ruth. Walker came up as an outfielder with the Yankees in the 1931 season. Walker were teammates throughout the 1933 season and for a little time in 1934. Of course, Walker was teammates witih Robinson in 1947 with the Dodgers.
Walker went from the Yankees to the Chicago White Sox, where he had his first big season. He was claimed on waivers by the White Sox during the 1936 season, In 1937, Walker hit .302, 9, 95 with a league leading 16 3B and 17 sacrifice hits. His best success came when he played for the Dodgers. He hit over .300 in 7 of his 8 full seasons in Brooklyn and consistently drove in runs. He won a batting title (.355) in 1944 and led the NL in RBI (124) in 1945. As much of a run producer Walker was, though, he never hit many HRs. In fact, he topped 10 HR just once (1944) in his entire career.
Walker’s brother Harry was also an OF who played mostly for the Cardinals and Phillies in the 1940s and 1950s. His father, Dixie, pitched for the Washington Senators from 1909-1912 and his uncle Ernie was an OF for the St Louis Browns from 1913-1915. Dixie and his brother became the first set of second generation brothers to play in the big leagues.
Dixie Walker was a very good player and had a solid career. He hit .306 in his 18 big leagues seasons. He finished his career with 2064 career hits, 1023 RBI and finished with a .820 career OPS. He had 376 2Bs, 96 3Bs and 105 HRs in his career. Walker finished with 2 seasons of 100 or more RBI and had 5 seasons of over 90 RBI. The four time All Star finished in the top 25 in the NL MVP award voting 8 times. That includes 5 top 10 finished. 2 of them being 2nd and 3rd place in the vote, respectively. He is not a Hall of Fame player, since his numbers did not dominate. He may not have won the Man of the Year Award for 1947, but I bet the Dodgers don’t hold off the Cardinals and Braves in 1947 without him.

McCutchen over Goldschmidt for NL MVP simply because the Pirates made the playoffs


The postseason awards are honestly becoming an annoying way to posture why one thinks a player is better than another. Within the last three seasons, both the Cy Young and league MVP discussions have changed from being an award that simply goes to the best pitcher or hitter in each league to one that depends on which stat you choose to go with. The sabermetric community likes to discredit stats such as pitcher wins and runs batted in, which to a point is justifiable, but no one ever talks about the fact a pitcher has to pitch well to win a lot of games and a batter has to actually drive said runs in. It can be debated all day, but the problem lies with the vague definition of the awards. What do you mean by best pitcher or most valuable player? Because there is no set criteria for each award, many choose to use their own definition of the award.
I feel confident that the AL MVP over the past two seasons was and should have been Miguel Cabrera. I think those who thought that Mike Trout should have won had a better case last season than this season. While I think Cabrera was correctly voted AL MVP, I understand the debate for Trout. Trout plays excellent defense, steals bases and probably does more different things to help the Angels than Cabrera does for the Tigers. In spite of Trout, the Angels still finished at 78-84. The critics say Trout did not have much to help him, but I do feel that the success of a team matters, at least to some extent. One who feels Trout should have won the award should agree that the numbers and production of the two are at least in the same ballpark. When that is the case, it is more important to factor in what the players impact had on a team.
Part of the reason I disagree with the choice for the NL MVP is the fact that it was simply given to Andrew McCutchen because the Pirates made the playoffs in 2013. Like I said before, I think a team’s success should factor in to the vote, but only if the players had comparable seasons. Yadier Molina’s value to the St Louis Cardinals cannot be stated more, and maybe he could have been a possibility if there was not a candidate that stood out.
But in 2013, there was a player who performed clearly above the rest. Paul Goldschmidt had an outstanding season, one which saw his numbers rank higher than McCutchen in just about every category. The Diamondbacks finished 81-81 and missed the playoffs, which is what cost Goldschmidt his due consideration. Lets break down the number of Goldschmidt and McCutchen and you make the logical decision, unless the award has changed to be the best player on a team to make the playoffs. I guess that is still up for debate.
McCutchen had a solid season, won the Silver Slugger Award and made the All Star team. In 157 games, McCutchen scored 97 runs, had 185 hits, 38 2Bs, 21 HR and 84 RBI. He had a .317 avg, .404 OBP and .508 SLG for a .912 OPS. Goldschmidt played in 160 games, scored 103 runs, had 182 hits, 36 2B, and led the NL in HRs (36) and RBIs (125). I can hear the sabermetrics people scoffing now. Driving in 125 runs, which by the way, nobody else in the NL did, does not mean the player was valuable. In fact, what a lousy performance! I hope you pick up my sarcasm. But even if you choose to disregard the RBI stat, which you have every right to do, Goldschmidt had a .401 OBP and led the league in both slugging percentage (.551) and OPS (.952). He also led the NL with his 160 OPS+ and 332 total bases. McCutchen was close (158) in OPS+, but not close in the other categories.
One may want to bring the defensive element into play, like they do with Trout. Ok, McCutchen did not win a Gold Glove Award this season, but Goldschmidt did. That should count for something. The only way one can justify McCutchen getting the award this season is because he played on a superior team. I’d like to use that as a tiebreaker if the numbers are close. They were not in this case. Goldschmidt should have been the clear winner, with no tiebreaker needed.
Going back 27 and 26 years ago, respectively, I understand that there were no extensive stats to go by. But the voting system changed. When Mike Schmidt and Andre Dawson won the NL MVP in 1986 and 1987, they got the award because they were the best players in their respective leagues. If we were using today’s formula of “you have to make the playoffs to win an award,” Glenn Davis of the Astros and Gary Carter and Keith Hernandez of the Mets would have finished 1-3. In 1987, the same could have been said about St Louis’ Ozzie Smith and Jack Clark and San Francisco’s Will Clark.
I get the change from a sabermetric perspective, but Goldschmidt was a better offensive player than McCutchen this season and was also the best defensive 1B in the NL. I understand that Goldschmidt cannot play CF like McCutchen, but he is the best defensively at his position. Don’t the sabermetric guys like to incorporate defense into these votes? A guy that wins a GG and leads the league in OPS, OPS+ and total bases should be the most valuable

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