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Saturday, October 25, 2014

Ramble On: Author Jerome Preisler Talks Derek Jeter and the New York Yankees

Prolific author and former columnist for YES Network Jerome Preisler sat down with Ron Juckett and myself and talked about his time covering the New York Yankees. He shared his thoughts about the recently retired Yankees captain Derek Jeter, and gives a fascinating look at slugger Alex Rodriguez.
Check out the podcast HERE.

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You can check me out on Facebook or follow me on Twitter @historianandrew

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Boston Red Sox: The Prospects That Got Away

The Boston Red Sox have developed an excellent reputation in recent years for their ability to identify, scout and draft/sign top-notch amateur talent. As a result, current key contributors like Dustin Pedroia, Clay Buchholz and Xander Bogaerts are all products of their player development system. Despite such strong examples, the organization hasn’t nailed every player development move—nor should they be expected to.

Just because a player has been drafted doesn’t mean they are in the fold. It can be a difficult proposition to come to terms with the dozens that are selected annually, and there are always some that go unsigned—typically because they are going to college or because they want more money than the team is willing to give. For the fun (and agony) of it, let’s take a look at some of the best players the Red Sox have drafted over the past decade, did not sign but have gone on to have success with other teams.

Steve Pearce, First Baseman- Drafted 10th Round in 2004: 10 years and four organizations after being selected by the Sox, Pearce finally made a splash in the majors this season at the age of 31, hitting .293 with 21 home runs for the Baltimore Orioles. It took nine minor league seasons and parts of seven major league seasons before he was finally able to find a regular gig. However, he looks like he has finally stuck and may be a better-fielding Brian Daubach for a new generation.

Pedro Alvarez, Third Baseman- Drafted 14th Round in 2005: A major prospect coming out of high school, Alvarez passed on signing in order to attend Vanderbilt. The move paid off, as he polished his game enough to become the second overall selection in the 2008 draft. Although he has 104 home runs in five seasons with the Pittsburgh Pirates, he has also hit just a combined .235 with 678 strikeouts in 592 games. Nevertheless, now playing third base, he has few peers in the big leagues that can match his power at the position.

Charlie Blackmon, Pitcher- Drafted 20th Round in 2005: Boston thought enough of his pitching prowess to draft this future major league outfielder as a hurler. Electing instead to attend Georgia Tech, he ultimately became a 2008 second-round pick of the Colorado Rockies and developed into a starter for them midway through last year. This was a  breakout season for him, as he hit .288 with 19 home runs and 28 stolen bases, numbers that would have been a big help to the anemic production the Red Sox got from their outfielders in 2014.

Jason Castro, Catcher- Drafted 45th Round in 2005: The Red Sox appear to have their catchers of the future on the horizon in Christian Vazquez and Blake Swihart, but if they had retained Castro they could have had real a log jam on their hands. A solid receiver, Castro is better known for his bat, which has launched 32 home runs over the past two seasons and helped earn him a 2013 All-Star nod.

Brandon Belt, Outfielder- Drafted 11th round in 2006: Passing up a chance to join Boston to go to school (community college and then the University of Texas), Belt became a fifth-round pick of the San Francisco Giants in 2009. Monster minor league numbers, including a collective .350 batting average have not yet fully translated at the big league level. Still, the large left-handed hitter is just 26 and has a career 125 OPS+ in his four seasons by the bay.

Yasmani Grandal, Catcher- Drafted 27th Round in 2007: Following a standout career with the Miami Hurricanes, Grandal was taken by the Cincinnati Reds with the 10th overall selection in the 2010 draft. He was then flipped to the Padres in a trade the following December. Sandwiched around a 2013 suspension for PEDS, he has managed a combined 120 OPS+ in parts of three seasons for the offensively-challenged Padres. On the other hand, his lack of defense has led to him seeing more time of late at first base where his bat doesn’t play up nearly as much.

Nick Tepesch, Pitcher- Drafted 28th Round in 2007: A career record of 25-12 with a 3.45 ERA in four minor league seasons in the Texas Rangers’ system carried the big right-hander to the majors in 2013. He is just 9-17 with a 4.56 ERA in 42 games (39 starts) over the past two years in the majors but is still young, and having already held his own, may see brighter days ahead.

Alex Meyer, Pitcher- Drafted 20th Round in 2008: Just 24, the right-hander has long been considered one of the top prospects in all of baseball, including placement in MLB.com’s top-100 list in each of the past three years. Following a star turn at Kentucky, he was selected in the first round of the 2011 draft by the Washington Nationals but was traded to the Minnesota Twins following the 2012 season. He has struck out 10.4 batters per nine innings in his three minor league seasons, and having just completed a successful 2014 campaign in Triple-A should be a good candidate to join the Twins’ rotation in 2015. With the Red Sox in full rebuild mode—especially with their starting pitching, having a prospect the caliber of Meyer would be nice—even with the youngsters they already have competing for openings.

Yan Gomes, Catcher- Drafted 39th Round in 2008: Yet another catcher that couldn’t come to terms with the Red Sox. After being drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays and looking like a fringy prospect at best, he was traded with infielder Mike Aviles to the Cleveland Indians in November, 2012 for pitcher Esmil Rogers. Since then, Gomes’ emergence has been nothing short of amazing, as he has paired surprisingly solid defense behind the plate with impact offense. Playing full time for the first time in 2014, he batted an impressive .278 with 21 home runs and 74 RBIs in 135 games for a Cleveland team that was in contention until the final weeks of the season.

Statistics and draft information via Baseball Reference.

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You can check me out on Facebook or follow me on Twitter @historianandrew

Monday, October 20, 2014

2014 World Series Prediction Podcast

My buddy Ron Juckett joins me to break down the 2014 World Series between the San Francisco Giants and Kansas City Royals?
Who do we pick? Find out on our 25 minute podcast.
(Spoiler: one of us is right. Shh.)
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You can check me out on Facebook or follow me on Twitter @historianandrew

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Dave Roberts Stealing the Hearts of Boston Red Sox Fans: The Baseball Historian’s Notes for the Week of October 19

The 2014 World Series matchup has been determined with the surging Kansas City Royals taking on the battle-tested San Francisco Giants. The Royals are making the most of their first playoff appearance in 29 years while the Giants will now have appeared in three of the past five Fall Classics. Some don’t think that it’s much of a matchup but no matter how exciting it is, it will go down as another chapter in the annals of baseball history. That being said, on to this week’s notes…

*The eleventh anniversary of the “Steve Bartman game” has passed, marking an improbable Chicago Cubs loss in the playoffs to the Florida Marlins that was attributed to a hapless fan. Five outs away from a Chicago trip to the World Series in 2003, Bartman reached for a foul ball, a movement which impeded Cubs’ leftfielder Moises Alou from making the catch. Despite holding a commanding 3-0 lead, Chicago went on to give up eight runs in the inning and lose the game and eventually the series. This AOL.com article commemorates the game, but the real treat is the embedded video for “Catching Hell,” the ESPN 30 for 30 documentary about that game and the role of scapegoating in sports.

*Better late than never, a Wisconsin banker has returned a banner to the Royals that he “borrowed” as a college student in 1985 during their last World Series appearance. He kept it all these years as a conversation piece and because of embarrassment. However, the team’s recent success prompted him to return the flag, a gesture much appreciated by the organization.

*University of Delaware English professor Bernard McKenna is in the process of researching baseball during the time when the game was still segregated. Having grown up in the Baltimore area, his interest focused on that particular region. Recently, his work turned up a long-forgotten 1930 photo from the archives of the Baltimore Black African showing Hall of Fame pitcher Satchel Paige in the uniform of the Baltimore Black Sox—a team which he spent just one year during a lengthy career that saw him suit up for numerous squads. This rare find portrays Paige in just one of the many uniforms he donned during his lengthy and transitory career.

*Want to incorporate a little baseball history in your next vacation? Beth J. Harpaz from the Miami Herald has you covered, recently compiling a list of some of the best museums around the country that focus on that subject. Now that the heavy lifting has been done, gas up the Family Truckster and hit the road in search of these treasures.

*Former third baseman Ken Caminiti was one of baseball’s most recently polarizing players. He was talented and tenacious, who won the 1996 National League MVP in 1996 with the San Diego Padres but also openly past admitted steroid use in 2002 shortly after his career ended. His story became all the more tragic and complicated following his untimely death in 2004 at the age of 41. His career and demons have been explored in great depth and detail by Bleacher Report’s Scott Miller, which provides a lot more insight into one of the game’s great competitors, who also happened to have a very dark side.

*These days, when a player struggling at the plate wants to turn things around they might put in extra work with a coach or change up the equipment they are using. Times have changed, as the Baseball History Daily recently dug up a Hugh Fullerton article from a 1911 edition of The Chicago Examiner describing how former Detroit Tigers’ second baseman Jim Delahanty correlated receiving a blow to the head with increased success at the plate. The weirdness that is this story is best summed up by one of the former player’s teammates—’If I were you,’ said Davy Jones, ‘I’d hire a mule to kick me three of four times, and maybe I’d hit 1000 per cent.” A career .283 hitter, Delahanty must have taken a knock or two to the old noggin to have had success like that…

*The Boston Red Sox are an organization made up of many great moments and memories. However, perhaps none of them top the stolen base pinch runner Dave Roberts had in Game 4 of the 2004 ALCS against the New York Yankees. With his team down three games to none at the time, his successful theft led to him scoring the tying run late in the game and jumpstarted the team to a historic comeback that culminated in them winning the World Series—the first time they had done so in 86 years.

Unbelievably, October 17th marked the 10-year anniversary of Roberts’ play. This clip from the ESPN 30 for 30 film Four Days in October bring the magic of the moment back to life.

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You can check me out on Facebook or follow me on Twitter @historianandrew