Top 100 Baseball Blog

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Aaron Guiel's Amazing Baseball Journey

With every major league team having more than 100 players at any given time in their minor league system, it can be extremely difficult to not only stand out but also rise to the level of being considered for the parent club. This struggle is only exacerbated with each passing year the call doesn’t come.Aaron Guiel toiled for 10 years in the minors before finally playing in his first big league game. He went on to a near two-decade professional career, which helped pay off his hard work.

After being a 21st round draft pick of the California Angels in 1992, the left-handed hitter made steady progress through the minors, culminating in a .333 batting average and 23 home runs in Double-A in 1997 (He split time at that level that year for the Angels and the San Diego Padres, who acquired him in a trade for Angelo Encarnacion). A second baseman, he eventually transitioned to the outfield. Despite producing at a level any team would want to see from a top prospect, he returned to the minors year after year, even spending part of the 2000 season in Mexico.

Finally, in 2002 and part of the Kansas City Royals organization, he was given a shot at the majors. Called up in late June, he split time with Michael Tucker in right field the rest of the way. Appearing in a total of 70 games, he hit just .233 but chipped in four home runs and 38 RBIs.

Approaching the wrong side of 30, most minor league players in Guiel’s shoes only get a cup of coffee if they’re lucky. Instead, he made sure it counted. He platooned again the next year, but raised his play, hitting .277 with 15 home runs in 90 games. He stayed with the Royals until mid-way through the 2006 season, when he was picked up by the New York Yankees off waivers. The team went on to win the World Series, although he did not make their postseason roster.

Guiel headed off to Japan in 2007, embarking on a five year stint with the Yakult Swallows. He hit 90 home runs during his time and retired from playing following the 2011 season at the age of 38.

During his major league career, Guiel appeared in a total of 307 games, hitting a combined .246 with 35 home runs and 128 RBIs. He was particularly effective against right-handed pitching, contributing a .767 OPS and 108 OPS+ against them. His final home run was a game-winning two-run shot against James Shields and the Tampa Bay Devil Rays on September 22, 2006.

All told, Guiel compiled 1,860 hits, 331 home runs and 1,162 RBIs during his professional career. His perseverance paid off, as he was able to do a little bit of everything and experience many different teams and environments. He may not hold a litany of records or be a candidate for the Baseball Hall of Fame, however, he had a wildly successful career that very few can dream of matching what he accomplished.

Aaron Guiel Interview:

Who was your favorite player when you were growing up, and why?:Being in Canada and only having a Canadian team on television, my favorite player was Gary Carter  with the Montreal Expos. 

On the one hand he played for a Canadian team so we always get a chance to watch on TV. Plus, the first glove that was given to me by my grandfather was a catcher’s mitt, so it was a natural fit.

Can you describe your draft experience with the Angels in 1992?:The whole situation moved fast. I never expected to be drafted so when I was I had no expectations.

Being a Canadian, a visa was required to play in the United States.Because no immigration visa was available at the time, I had to stay in Vancouver and train with the Triple-A team until one opened up a couple months after the draft.I expected to stay for a couple months, but couldn't be more wrong with how the path took me.

What do you remember most about your major league debut?:After spending nine years in the minor leagues, I was pretty nervous when I was told I was going to the big  leagues.Some pretty special guys and teammates in Triple-A, along with my long-time manager Mike Jirschele, gave me the news so I was a very special moment.

I joined the team for interleague play against the New York Mets. I do remember striking out my first at bat.I tried as best I could, to slow things down, but as any player will tell you, it's easier said than done.

In your opinion, who was the most talented player you ever played with or against? What made them stand out so much?:The most talented player that I played with who is Carlos Beltran. He was a bona fide five tool player. He also carries himself with a quiet confidence; it made you believe he had the ability to do something special every night.Pretty humbling playing next to a guy like that…

What is your favorite moment from your baseball career?:My favorite moment has to be getting called up for the very first time in a while playing in Fresno California for the Omaha Royals.After so long in the minor leagues, it was a special time to celebrate for me and my family.

Who was your favorite manager or coach during your career, and why?:My favorite manager that I played for was Mike Jrtschele in Triple-A Omaha for the Kansas City Royals. Even though he was a minor league manager, he spent so many years in the minor leagues. He was easy to relate to and created a great culture for the AAA players at that level.It's been great to see him move up to the major leagues and be rewarded for all his hard work.

If there is anything you could go back and do differently about your baseball career, what would that be?:There's nothing that I would change. I believe that everything happens for reason, and you can't play with regret.I'm content because I know that I gave everything I had every year that I played.

What were some of your favorite and least favorite things about playing in Japan?:I really enjoyed my time in Japan. Great people, cities, food etc… Just a great place to play baseball, and an amazing place to live with your family.
The timing was perfect because I had got to a point where I didn't think I was going to be an everyday player in the big leagues, so Japan was a perfect place for me.

What are you up to since retiring as a player?:After retiring in 2011, I took a minor-league coaching job with the Kansas City Royals rookie league tea It was a good experience to be around the game and the young players. Since then I've just enjoying my time with my family in Phoenix, Arizona.

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Sunday, June 18, 2017

How Pitcher Dave Davenport Fought His Way Out of Baseball


Fighting with your boss is usually a losing proposition, no matter who is on the right side. Nobody learned this harder than former right-handed pitcher Dave Davenport, who literally saw his professional career come to an end after a skirmish with his manager with the St. Louis Browns in 1919.

At 6’6” and 220 pounds, Davenport was positively massive in size for the era. A native of Louisiana, he had three brothers who also played professional ball, including younger brother Claude who pitched two innings for the 1920 New York Giants. 

Davenport came into his professional career after being discovered after throwing five no-hitters for a semi-pro team out of Runge, Texas. After winning 15 games for the San Antonio Bronchos in the Texas League in 1913 he was sold for $4,000 and made his major league debut with the Cincinnati Reds the following year. He won two games and saved two others (in 10 appearances) during his rookie campaign with the Reds but jumped to the St. Louis Terriers of the Federal League midyear with teammate Armando Marsans after their demands for a raise was quickly dismissed by manager Buck Herzog.

The Cincinnati Times-Star was less than flattering in their farewell to the pair, writing, “The prospect of being on a winning team seems to have meant nothing to Marsans and Davenport. Offered a few additional dollars, they were off, apparently without a thought for the team or the Cincinnati fans, who had backed them up so loyally. The fans have plenty of sporting spirit. They have a right to expect at least a little of it from the players.”

The big righty truly broke out with the Terriers in 1915, winning 22 games with a 2.20 ERA in a league-leading 55 games. He also led the league with 46 starts, 30 complete games, 10 shutouts, 229 strikeouts and 392.2 innings. Just 25, he became a scorching hot commodity over night, which was good because he lost his job with St. Louis.

Since the Federal League folded up shop after the 1915 season, Davenport jumped to the Browns in 1916. He led the American League in pitching appearances that year with 59. While he was a solid hurler (mostly as a starter) over the next four seasons, he never approached the level of success he had attained.  

A major reason for the pitcher not becoming a full-fledged star was likely his trouble staying away from the bottle. A notorious hard drinker, his frequent dalliances with nightlife curbed his immense talent and brought him an unflattering reputation. He was not seen as a partier as much as a man who had his problems and kept largely to himself. H.R. Hoefer of Baseball Magazine called him “a man of few words, and between moody, taciturn, and glum most people would call him a casual acquaintance.”

In 1919, Davenport was wallowing through his worst season as a professional. A 2-11 record and 3.94 ERA in 24 games (16 starts) had him on the verge of losing his job anyways. Skipping his September 2nd start without explanation led to his immediate suspension for the rest of the season without pay. He subsequently confronted and got into a physical confrontation with two team officials, even reportedly pulling a knife on the two men. He never pitched in another big league game again.

Davenport finished up with a major league record of 73-83 with a 2.93 ERA in six seasons; on the sidelines at the young age of 29. He was unofficially blacklisted, with many holding a very negative impression of him. “The attitudinous [sic] Dave has the temperament that is supposed to go with a star without being a stellar performer, wrote the Washington Post’s J.V. Fitzgerald in 1920, the year after the banishment.

Unbelievably, Davenport's fight with his Browns’ manager may not even be the strangest way he was released from a team. In 1921, he was pitching for the Ogden Gunners in the Northern Utah League when he was fired for being too good. At 7-0 with 112 strikeouts in 63 innings in seven starts (all complete games). He was told “They (opposing teams) were defeated before they went onto the playing field.”

Davenport continued playing on the semi-pro circuit into the late 1920s. He became the property of the New York Yankees in 1921 but never made it anywhere with them besides on paper. Married to his wife Lillian, he passed away in El Dorado, Arkansas in 1954 at the age of 64 following a lengthy illness. One of baseball’s tragic tales, yet largely a victim of his own doing, he was once one of the most promising young players in the game but quickly receded to the shadows of anonymity because of his own bad behavior.

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Monday, June 12, 2017

Minor League Baseball Announces its Top 25 Teams in Licensed Merchandise Sales

ST. PETERSBURG, Florida — Minor League Baseball today announced its list of Top 25 teams in licensed merchandise sales for 2016, with the combined totals of all 160 teams setting a Minor League Baseball record with more than $68.3 million in retail sales. The $68.3 million total marks a 5.06 percent increase over 2015’s total of $65.1 million, which had been the highest total recorded since Minor League Baseball’s licensing program began in 1992. The numbers are based on total licensed merchandise sales from January 1 – December 31, 2016, and include the 160 teams in the domestic-based leagues that charge admission to their games. 

The Top 25 list includes (alphabetically, with Major League affiliate): Charlotte Knights (White Sox), Columbia Fireflies (Mets), Columbus Clippers (Indians), Corpus Christi Hooks (Astros), Dayton Dragons (Reds), Durham Bulls (Rays), El Paso Chihuahuas (Padres), Fresno Grizzlies (Astros), Frisco RoughRiders (Rangers), Indianapolis Indians (Pirates), Iowa Cubs, Lake Elsinore Storm (Padres), Lehigh Valley IronPigs (Phillies), Louisville Bats (Reds), Nashville Sounds (Athletics), Oklahoma City Dodgers, Omaha Storm Chasers (Royals), Portland SeaDogs (Red Sox), Richmond Flying Squirrels (Giants), Sacramento River Cats (Giants), Salt Lake Bees (Angels), South Bend Cubs, Tacoma Rainiers (Mariners), Toledo Mud Hens (Tigers) and Trenton Thunder (Yankees). 

The Columbia Fireflies, Corpus Christi Hooks, Fresno Grizzlies, Iowa Cubs, Omaha Storm Chasers, Portland Sea Dogs and Richmond Flying Squirrels made the list for 2016 after not making the Top 25 in 2015. Twenty different major league organizations were represented by teams on the list, with only the Chicago Cubs, Cincinnati Reds, Houston Astros, San Francisco Giants and San Diego Padres placing two affiliates in the Top 25. 

The only teams to make the list using the nickname of their major league affiliate were the Iowa Cubs, Oklahoma City Dodgers and the South Bend Cubs. 

“Minor League Baseball team names and logos continue to be some of the most creative and fun in all of professional sports and are valuable marketing tools for their clubs,” said Sandie Hebert, Minor League Baseball’s Director of Licensing. “Each year a few teams choose to create new identities and it’s always interesting to see the fan reaction and how that translates into merchandise sales.” 

In addition to strong online sales, Minor League Baseball has also expanded its retail line into stores across the country, featuring items from MiLB licensees such as New Era Cap, 47 Brand, Bimm Ridder, Original Retro Brand, Outdoor Cap, Gear for Sports’ Under Armour line and Nike. “In addition to buying merchandise at the ballpark or online, you can now find Minor League Baseball products in many popular retail locations around the country,” added Hebert. “The ever-increasing popularity of Minor League Baseball has helped create another year of record-breaking sales and further solidifies the Minor League Baseball brand as a fan favorite.”  

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Sunday, June 11, 2017

Matt Miller: Baseball's Side-Armed Pitching Dynamo

The sheer thrill of playing professional baseball must be enormous. Imagine the feeling one would have after making the major leagues after toiling for seven years in various levels of independent and minor league ball. Former pitcher Matt Miller is someone who is very familiar with this, as he had a lengthy, yet ultimately satisfying journey through his baseball career.

Following high school in Leland, Mississippi, the right-handed Miller bounced around the college scene, attending Delta State University, Mississippi Delta Community College and the University of Louisiana at Monroe. He went undrafted, yet signed on with the Greenville Bluesmen of the independent Big South League in 1996 at the age of 24.

Throwing from a unique side-arm angle, Miller struggled in his first season, shuttling between the bullpen and starting (posting a 6.07 ERA in 19 games).  However, the next year was a completely different story, as his 12-3 record and 2.26 ERA in 15 starts earned him recognition as the league’s pitcher of the year and a contract with the Texas Rangers in 1998.

Once he joined the pro ranks, Miller moved exclusively to relief. Over the next six seasons he pitched in the minors for the Rangers, San Diego Padres, Oakland A’s and Colorado Rockies. He posted solid numbers but nothing that would get a pitching prospect on the wrong side of 25 any real consideration.

In 2003, at the age of 31, Miller had the season of his life, which propelled him to the majors. Appearing 61 games for the Rockies’ Triple-A affiliate, he was 5-0 with a 2.13 ERA and 83 strikeouts in 63.1 innings. His dominance resulted in a brief call-up in the middle of the season, spanning four games, where he posted a 2.08 ERA. His major league debut came on June 27th against the Pittsburgh Pirates. He threw a scoreless sixth inning in a 5-3 loss—with a strikeout of Kevin Young and picking off Jeff Reboulet from first base being the highlights. 

Granted free agency that offseason, Miller signed with the Cleveland Indians and spent parts of the next four years as part of their bullpen. In a combined 96 appearances with the Tribe, he was 6-1 with a 2.74 ERA and two saves. A potential career year in 2005 (1.82 ERA in 23 games) was derailed by an elbow injury that kept him out of the majority of the season and ultimately hampered him the rest of his career.

Following a final season with the Pittsburgh Pirates Triple-A affiliate in 2008, Miller hung it up at the age of 36. He now owns a baseball player development business in Mississippi and thus remains close to the game that he worked so hard to master and raise himself to its highest peaks. Keep reading for Miller’s responses to questions about his playing career.

Matt Miller Interview:

Who was your favorite player when you were growing up, and why?: My favorite player was Roger Clemens. Regardless of the steroid allegations, he was the first player that really got me interested in taking my game to another level.

Can you describe how you came to be signed after independent ball?: I was signed by the Texas Rangers after winning the Pitcher of the Year Award in the Big South League in 1997. I think they signed the Hitter of the Year also, so it wasn't as much about scouting me out, but probably more about let’s take a chance, lol.

How did you come to your signature side-armed throwing motion?: I started throwing side arm during my sophomore year in junior college. My coach, Terry Thompson, suggested it one day and I immediately thought he was giving up on me. Little did I know it changed the course of my life!

You debuted in the majors in your eighth professional season. Did you ever come close to giving up?: My wife and I decided to play until I was no longer offered a contract so I would never be able to wonder, ‘what if?’

What is your favorite moment from your baseball career?: My favorite moment was probably getting a save in Anaheim and facing Troy Glaus, Vladimir Guerrero, and Tim Salmon to do it (note from Baseball Historian- Miller actually retired Jeff DaVanon, Tim Salmon and Jose Molina to notch the save that day). Didn't get many save opportunities, so that was special.

Can you give a little insight about what it was like to fight for an MLB roster spot year after year?: I only went to camp a couple of times feeling like I had a guaranteed job, so I had to always go in ready to compete. It’s a tough spot to be in sometimes because in order to make a roster, friends may have to fail. I never rooted for my teammates to fail, but on occasion their failure may have secured a spot for me or others.

If you could do anything differently in your playing career, what would it have been and why?: I am very satisfied with my career, but if there is one thing I would have changed it would have been my physical conditioning. We have added more focus in that area with my business and I can see the results in some of our athletes.

What are you up to since retiring as a player?: I own 59 Baseball and Fitness in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. I tried a few other things but felt like something was missing and decided to stick with what I know.

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Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Minor League Baseball Announces its May Players of the Month

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Minor League Baseball today announced the Player of the Month Award winners for each of the 10 full season leagues for the month of May. Each winner will receive an award from Minor League Baseball in recognition of the honor. 

Lehigh Valley IronPigs (Phillies) right-hander Tom Eshelman was 3-0 with a 1.50 ERA and two complete games in five starts and led the International League in innings pitched (38.2) despite making his first start of the month with Double-A Reading. In his first month at the Triple-A level, Eshelman worked seven or more innings in four of his five starts (worked 6.2 innings in the other) and struck out 25 batters while walking four. Eshelman, 22, was originally selected by the Houston Astros in the second round of the 2015 First-Year Player Draft out of Cal-State Fullerton. 

Memphis Redbirds (Cardinals) right-hander Luke Weaver was named Pacific Coast League Player of the Month after posting a league-best five wins. Weaver’s 2.19 ERA and his 37.0 innings pitched were good for second in the PCL and he struck out 37 batters in May while issuing just six walks. Weaver, 23, was selected in the first round of the 2014 First-Year Player Draft out of Florida State University. 

Reading Phillies second baseman Scott Kingery batted .325 in May and led the Eastern League in home runs (10), runs (30), total bases (84), extra-base hits (20), OPS (1.055), slugging (.667) and stolen bases (eight). He posted 13 multi-hit games in May, including six straight from May 25-30. Kingery, 23, was selected by Philadelphia in the second round of the 2015 First-Year Player Draft out of the University of Arizona. 

Chattanooga Lookouts (Twins) shortstop Nick Gordon led or tied for the Southern League lead in runs (22), total bases (58), extra-base hits (17), doubles (11) and triples (three). Over half of Gordon’s hits for the month (17 of 32) went for extra bases and he recorded nine multi-hit games. Gordon, 21, was selected by Minnesota in the first round of the 2014 First-Year Player Draft out of Olympia High School in Orlando, Florida. 

Springfield Cardinals right-hander Matt Pearce was brilliant in five May starts, leading the Texas League in wins (five), ERA (0.69), innings pitched (39.0), complete games (two) and shutouts (one). Pearce held opponents to a .194 average and allowed just two earned runs over his last 33.0 innings. Pearce, 23, was selected by St. Louis in the 13th round of the 2014 First-Year Player Draft out of Polk State College. 

Lancaster JetHawks (Rockies) shortstop Brendan Rodgers led the California League in average (.409), hits (47), extra-base hits (21), total bases (86), home runs (eight), RBI (29), slugging (.748) and OPS (1.182) in May. His 21 extra-base hits and 86 total bases led the minors in May. Rodgers notched 14 multi-hit games in May (seven straight to end May) and posted a 13-game hitting streak from May 2-15 and finished the month on a 10-game streak. Rodgers, 20, was the third overall pick in the 2015 First-Year Player Draft by the Rockies out of Lake Mary (FL) High School. 

Salem Red Sox third baseman Michael Chavis destroyed Carolina League pitching in May, leading the league in average (.368), hits (42), runs (24), doubles (12), homers (seven), RBI (30), extra-base hits (20), total bases (77), slugging (.675) and OPS (1.101). He recorded 14 multi-hit games and posted two seven-game hitting streaks and a six-game streak. Chavis, 21, was selected by Boston in the first round of the 2014 First-Year Player Draft out of the Sprayberry High School in Marietta, Georgia. 

Daytona Tortugas (Reds) second baseman Shed Long batted .359 in 27 games in May to claim Player of the Month honors in the Florida State League. Long recorded 14 multi-hit games during the month of May, including five games with three hits. Long, 21, was selected by Cincinnati in the 12th round of the 2013 First-Year Player Draft out of Jacksonville (AL) High School. 

Kane County Cougars (Diamondbacks) right-hander Jon Duplantier was dominant in the Midwest League in May, going 4-0 with a 0.79 ERA in six starts. Duplantier allowed just one unearned run over his last five starts (29.0 innings). He scattered 17 hits over his 34 innings of work in May, holding opponents to a .149 average and his 34 strikeouts in May were third-best in the league. Duplantier, 22, was selected by Arizona in the third round of the 2016 First-Year Player Draft out of Rice University. 

Lakewood Blue Claws (Phillies) left-hander Nick Fanti handcuffed the South Atlantic League in four April starts, going 3-0 with a 1.05 ERA and held opponents to a league-best .136 average. Fanti did not allow more than one run in any of his outings and worked the first 8.2 innings of a May 6 no-hitter at Columbia. Of the 12 hits he allowed over 25.2 innings in May, only three went for extra bases (two doubles and a triple). Fanti, 20, was selected by the Phillies in the 31st round of the 2015 First Year Player Draft out of Hauppauge (NY) High School. 

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Thursday, May 25, 2017

Topps, MiLB.com Partner for Special 15-Card Insert In Pro Debut Set

 The Topps Company and MiLB.com, the official site of Minor League Baseball, have announced the release of a first-of-its-kind "Ben's Biz" insert set highlighting the adventurous travels of MiLB.com reporter Benjamin Hill. The 15-card set is part of the Topps® 2017 Pro Debut set that was released yesterday. 

 During his decade-plus of covering Minor League Baseball for MiLB.com, Hill has traveled to nearly 150 Minor League ballparks, experiencing America through the lens of these communities. Along the way, he has met some of the nation's "superfans," participated in crazy on-field stunts and contests and experienced some the of the Minors' renowned ballpark fare. 

 “We love that the Ben’s Biz cards represent the heart of Minor League Baseball showcasing not only the great game, but also the entertainment that occurs off the field that bring families to the ballpark,” said Topps Brand Manager Zvee Geffen.  

“Growing up, I was obsessed with Topps® baseball cards and they played a huge role in my evolution as a fan. To now partner with Topps is, quite literally, a dream come true,” said Hill. “The Ben’s Biz insert set is unique, and often quite weird, and my hope is that it inspires others to explore America through Minor League Baseball.” 

 All of this and more are featured within the 15-card Ben's Biz insert set. Hill will be providing context and background to each card at MiLB.com, through his blog (https://bensbiz.mlblogs.com/) and on Twitter (@bensbiz). Check back regularly for more content related to this groundbreaking insert set. 

 2017 Topps® Pro Debut features a 200-card base set of players from throughout Minor League Baseball. Baseball fans will have a chance to explore the world of MiLB through the various insert sets in addition to the Ben’s Biz cards, including cards dedicated to special promo nights uniforms and Fragments of the Farm relic cards, which contain a unique item found at various ballparks embedded in them. 

 Find 2017 Topps Pro Debut at local hobby stores, Target, Walmart, online retailers and select Minor League ballparks.  

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Monday, May 22, 2017

Jeoff Long: The Two-Way Player

In baseball, it’s hard enough to make it to the major leagues playing the position you were signed for, let along doing so after shifting from pitching to hitting full time. Nevertheless, some players are talented enough to make the switch, including Jeoff Long, whose possible stardom was derailed by an injury in his early 20s.

Long grew up as a talented multi-sport athlete in Kentucky. Playing basketball, football and baseball, he excelled at all three until he suffered a knee injury during his junior football season.

The right-hander hit .590 during his senior baseball season but was nearly flawless on the mound, leading to being signed for around $70,000 by the St. Louis Cardinals in 1959—when he was just 17 years old. He was sent to the low levels of the minors but his 2-14 combined record over the ensuing two seasons led the team to realize that his future was likely to be more successful with a bat in his hands instead of a ball.

If Long’s transition was difficult, it was difficult to tell by the numbers. In his first full season as a hitter the first baseman/outfielder hit 21 home runs in just 92 games and by 1962 he put up a .284 batting average with 30 home runs for the Cardinals’ Double-A team in Tulsa.

In 1963, at the age of 21, he was brought up to the Cardinals for a cup of coffee, appearing in five games. He managed a lone single (off Jack Sanford of the San Francisco Giants) in his five at-bats. He was brought up again the following year but was sold to the Chicago White Sox mid-season. All told, he played in 51 big league games that season, hitting a combined .192 with a home run (Against the Milwaukee Braves’ Bobby Tiefenauer) and nine RBIs. With the 1964 Cardinals winning the World Series, Long picked up a half a winner’s share for his 43 at-bats with the team.

Long suffered through a series of nagging injuries to start the 1965 season before his old knee injury flared up.  He wound up having surgery but did not heal properly and missed the next two seasons. Although he returned in 1968 (in the minors for the Cardinals) he could not get himself back on track over the next couple of seasons. After the 1969 season, he retired from professional baseball, still just 27.

Following his playing career he went into the family business (Cincinnati Drum Service). Now 75, he is retired but still a fan of baseball. Keep reading to see what he had to say about his playing career.

Jeoff Long Questionnaire:

If you could do anything differently about your career, what would that be?: I would have never had knee operation in fall of 1965. It failed.

What was the strangest play you ever saw on the baseball diamond?: No strange plays, but saw a lot of great plays.

Who was your favorite coach or manager?: Whitey Kurowski, Grover Resinger, Harry Walker, and Eddie Stanky.

Did you ever get another player’s autograph during your playing career?: No autographs while playing. Did get some team baseballs. Got autographs when retired at old timers’ get-togethers.

For your info, I loved the game and all the people in it. It was an honor to play in the major leagues and be a part of the greatest game. Met and played with some of baseball’s best. Biggest thrill was signing with the Cardinals out of high school. Mo Mozalli signed me along with Eddy Lyons.

I had arm trouble and switched from the mound to first base and outfield. 

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Sunday, May 14, 2017

Ed Scott, Pioneering Scout for the Boston Red Sox

Major League Baseball was segregated until 1947, when Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier by joining the Brooklyn Dodgers. Despite that important first step, the trail blazing athlete was not a cure-all and the game only gradually and begrudgingly trudged towards inclusion. The Boston Red Sox were the last big league franchise to integrate, with backup infielder Pumpsie Green’s appearance on their 1959 roster making them the final team to field a black player. The franchise long battled a wretched reputation when it came to race (which persists to this day), and it might have been even worse if it weren’t for the work of Ed Scott.

An African American, Scott was born in 1917 and grew up in Mobile, Alabama. Like many young boys, he became fascinated with baseball, though at the time his only chance to play professionally would have come through the Negro Leagues. He was good enough to play as an outfielder for semi-pro and barnstorming teams before a lengthy stint with the Indianapolis Clowns (1940-1952). One of his proudest moments was winning a 32 piece dish set and barbecue basket by getting the first hit against Satchel Paige in a 1940 game. To make ends meet because baseball didn’t always pay the bills, he also had a 20-year career working for a paper company.

 Once he was no longer able to hold an on-field position he took up scouting, which would become his defining career. In a strange twist of irony, although baseball was slow to come around on integration, once black players began to be signed some teams began what amounted to an arms war to make sure they were not missing out on the new available talent pool. With segregation polluting the country, in the earlier days black scouts had better access and knowledge of black amateur players than their white scouting counterparts.

Scott scouted for Negro League and major league teams. His most famous find came early on, as he was able to secure the services of a young outfielder named Henry “Hank” Aaron for the Indianapolis Clowns. Not long after that the youngster was signed by the Boston Braves and went on to have a Hall-of-Fame career as baseball’s “Home Run King.”

Scott’s son, Ed Jr., later explained that Aaron came to be signed when he was spotted playing in a Mobile softball game. “If that boy can hit a softball that far, how far he can hit a baseball,” mused Scott Sr.

Scott later explained that once he had secured Aaron for the Clowns, he sent a report to the team, indicating “Aaron was the greatest wrist hitter I had ever seen.”

Beginning in the early 1960s, Scott began working for the Red Sox in a scouting capacity after being recommended by former player Milt Bolling. Through the years he signed a number of players who went on to have outstanding professional careers, including George Scott, Oil Can Boyd, Andre Dawson and Amos Otis. Bolling went so far as to later say that if Boston had hired Scott earlier "we might have had Hank Aaron and Ted Williams on the same team."

So respected was the work of Scott that he remained on the Red Sox’s employee roll until the early 2000s, compiling a 34-year stint with the team. When he passed away in 2010 at the age of 92, he left behind a wife of 69 years, seven children, 27 grandchildren, 20 great-grandchildren and an indelible mark on the game of baseball.

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Thursday, May 11, 2017

Attempting to Figure Out Boston Red Sox Pitcher Joe Kelly


The Boston Red Sox’s confounding power right-handed pitcher Joe Kelly is in his fourth season with the team. While boasting a stellar 2.12 ERA in 14 relief appearances, he is walking batters at a high rate and striking out even fewer. What’s the cause of this and what might his future hold? Let’s dig a little deeper to see if there are any answers.

After coming to Boston in a 2014 trade, Kelly worked exclusively as a starter until transitioning to the bullpen last year. The 28-year-old has long been lauded for his top-shelf stuff but the results, particularly with the Red Sox, have never matched. A great example of that was his 2015 season when he went 10-6 with a 4.82 ERA in 25 starts. It was perfectly acceptable stuff for a back-of-the rotation starter, but the former third round pick has long shown promise of more.

In his 17 innings this season (admittedly a small sample size), Kelly has permitted just 11 hits and four runs. However, he has walked nine while striking out just eight; an odd stat line for a pitcher who is one of the hardest throwers in the game. Indeed, the 98.7 MPH he has averaged on his fastball is the fastest of his career, and at least one stat service has him as the hardest thrower in the game this year. With such octane, one would think he would be fanning batters at a prodigious rate but a deeper look at the numbers show why he hasn’t.

It all starts with how frequently Kelly is utilizing his fastball. Strangely, he is throwing it just 56.2% of the time, which is by far the lowest mark of his career, and about 10% less than last year. For someone who threw the hardest pitch registered in Red Sox history earlier this year, the way he has increasingly abandoned the gas may seem inexplicable but it is paying off.

Kelly is coaxing an impressive 59.6% ground ball percentage on all balls put into play. This represents a career best (last year was 46.9%) and may be a combination of his heavy sinking fastball and batters waving at his darting slider.

Kelly’s slider, typically seen as his next best offering, is being thrown 27.2% of the time thus far—or almost double his previous career high. He still mixes in a curve (16.2%) but has all but given up on his changeup (0.3%). This combination of hard stuff with breaking balls has also led to career lows in line drive and fly ball percentages.

What is likely contributing to his lack of punch outs is his continued struggle to control his stuff. He has gone to a full count on a full quarter (17) of the 68 batters he has faced this season. He has surrendered eight walks and a base hit in such situations, representing a lion’s share of the damage he has permitted. He is throwing strikes just 59.3% of the time, which is well below his career rate of 61.3%.

It appears that even though he is in his sixth major league season Kelly is still figuring things out. His impressive ERA is reflective of a new approach and raw overall stuff. His control problems have prevented him from moving to the next level. Considering the strides he may still be able to make, especially when it comes to harnessing his arsenal, it’s easy to see why the Red Sox remain enamored with him. Time will only tell if he continues to put it together and blossom into the shutdown pitcher statistics suggest he is capable of becoming. In the meantime, he appears to be a different pitcher and is becoming a contributor, albeit one who can put people on the edge of their seats for the wrong reasons, for Boston, who desperately need whatever help they can get in their bullpen.

Statistics via FanGraphs and BaseballReference

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Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Minor League Baseball Announces its April Players of the Month

For Immediate Release                                                                                                                       May 8, 2017

Minor League Baseball Announces its April Players of the Month

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Minor League Baseball today announced the Player of the Month Award winners for each of the 10 full season leagues for the month of April. Each winner will receive an award from Minor League Baseball in recognition of the honor.

Durham Bulls (Rays) third baseman Patrick Leonard led the International League in batting average (.412), hits (35), RBI (17), runs scored (17) and on-base percentage (.474). Leonard recorded 10 multi-hit games in April and posted a five-hit night on April 27. Leonard, 24, was originally selected by the Kansas City Royals in the fifth round of the 2011 First-Year Player Draft out of St.Thomas High School in Houston, Texas.

El Paso Chihuahuas (Padres) first baseman Jamie Romak was named Pacific Coast League Player of the Month after leading all of Minor League Baseball in home runs (11), extra-base hits (19), total bases (74), slugging percentage (.860) and OPS (1.274). He also led the Triple-A level in runs (23) and RBI (25). Romak, 31, was selected by the Atlanta Braves in the fourth round of the 2003 First-Year Player Draft out of A.B. Lucas Secondary School in London, Ontario.

Hartford Yard Goats (Rockies) infielder Ryan McMahon led the Eastern League in hits (30), total bases (54) and RBIs (20) in April and tied for the league lead in triples (2). He was second in extra-base hits (14), OPS (1.097) and doubles (8), while his
average (.375) and slugging percentage (.675) were third-best in the league. McMahon, 22, was selected by Colorado in the second round of the 2013 First-Year Player Draft out of Mater Dei High School in Santa Ana, California.

Pensacola Blue Wahoos (Reds) right-hander Tyler Mahle dominated the Southern League in April and threw the league’s first perfect game in 47 years on April 22 against Mobile. Mahle needed just 88 pitches to blank the BayBears and took perfect games into the fifth inning in three of his five April starts. Mahle led the Double-A level in innings pitched (32.2) and WHIP (0.52) and led the Southern League in ERA (0.55) and opponents’ batting average (.104). Mahle, 22, was selected by Cincinnati in the seventh round of the 2013 First-Year Player Draft out of Westminster (CA) High School.

Springfield Cardinals right-hander Jack Flaherty was dominant in the first month of the Texas League season, going 4-0 with a 0.56 ERA in five starts. He led the league with 32.1 innings pitched and his 28 strikeouts were one shy of the league lead. Flaherty held batters to a .191 average (allowed just three extra-base hits: one homer, a triple and a double) and left his only no-decision of the month with a 9-1 lead. Flaherty, 21, was selected by St. Louis in the first round of the 2014 First-Year Player Draft out of Harvard-Westlake High School in Studio City, California.

Lake Elsinore Storm (Padres) first baseman Josh Naylor led the California League in RBI (23), extra-base hits (11) and total bases (52) in April. His 30 hits were one shy of the league lead. Naylor posted hitting streaks of seven and eight games in April,
including a stretch of five consecutive multi-hit games April 24-28. Naylor, 19, was originally selected in the first round of the 2015 First-Year Player Draft by the Miami Marlins out of Saint Joan of Arc Secondary School in Mississauga, Ontario.

Lynchburg Hillcats (Indians) left-hander Thomas Pannone dominated the Carolina League in April, allowing just seven hits (four singles and three doubles) over four starts (20.2 innings). The only run he allowed was unearned, while his WHIP (0.68) and average against (.106) led the league. Left-handed batters were 1-for-19 (.053) against Pannone, who was promoted to Double-A Akron on May 5. Pannone, 23, was selected by Cleveland in the ninth round of the 2013 First-Year Player Draft out of the College of Southern Nevada.

Lakeland Flying Tigers (Tigers) right-hander Beau Burrows went 3-0 with a 1.30 ERA in five starts in April to claim Player of the Month honors in the Florida State League. Burrows did not allow a run in three of his five starts and allowed just four earned runs
over 27.2 innings. He left with a lead in both outings in which he did not factor in the decision. Burrows, 20, was selected by Detroit in the first round of the 2015 First-Year Player Draft out of Weatherford (TX) High School.

Lansing Lugnuts (Blue Jays) first baseman Bradley Jones led the Midwest League in home runs (six), RBI (23) and total bases (58), while finishing second in average (.372), hits (32), slugging (.674) and OPS (1.089). He recorded 10 multi-hit games and
separate hit streaks of seven and eight games in April. Jones, 21, was selected by Toronto in the 18th round of the 2016 First-Year Player Draft out of the College of Charleston.

Columbia Fireflies (Mets) right-hander Merandy Gonzalez dominated the South Atlantic League in four April starts, going 4-0 without allowing a run in 28.1 innings. Gonzalez allowed just 15 hits (11 singles, three doubles and a triple) and walked three
while striking out 23 as opponents batted just .160 against him in April. Gonzalez, 21, was signed by the Mets out of Cotui, Dominican Republic, in 2013.

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Sunday, May 7, 2017

Macho Row: The 1993 Phillies and Baseball's Unwritten Code- A Review


Although they lost the World Series to the Toronto Blue Jays in dramatic fashion, the 1993 Philadelphia Phillies were one of the most iconic teams in baseball history. With a roster comprised of long-haired, grubby outcasts, they captivated the country once they started winning and proved they were no joke. However, they were not built to last and were gone as quickly as they arrived (The Phillies wouldn’t have another winning season until 2001) —with many of their key players never approaching the same level of effectiveness during the remainder of their careers. William C. Kashatus’ Macho Row: The 1993 Phillies and Baseball’s Unwritten Code (University of Nebraska Press, 2017) takes an in depth look at this motley crew and how they impacted the baseball scene for one fleeting season.

Kashatus uses six players as lenses to tell the story of the 1993 Phillies. These include Darren Daulton, Lenny Dykstra, John Kruk, Dave Hollins, Pete Incaviglia and Mitch Williams. Their commonality, and what led to the greatness of that team, was that they were all castoffs who converged to all enjoy the best season of their careers. Led by Daulton, the only homegrown Philadelphia product (he toiled in the organization for over a decade before becoming a star), they were a rough and tumble lot who embraced their identity as dirt bags that turned baseball on its ear.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Phillies succeeded despite significant drama. Dykstra, the best player on the team credits his huge numbers that year to starting a regimen of steroids. A number of other players on the squad were eventually outed, or at the very least, suspected of doing the same. Pitcher Curt Schilling is described as sometimes showing up his teammates, especially Williams, whose high wire act as the closer was so nerve-wracking that his teammate was often seen holding covering his eyes with a towel and holding his head until the final out was recorded. It was all able to work with the steady leadership of Daulton, the longest-tenured and most-respected veteran who was not afraid of exerting his will when needed.

Part of what makes this team so fascinating in retrospect is that they ended up not being all that likeable. In addition to the steroid use and brash behavior on the field, there was boorish behavior off it. Kruk enjoyed giving off the appearance of being an uneducated lout, even though that was the opposite of reality. Dykstra had a mega-sized ego and rarely let anyone forget it. Hollins could be so moody that he gained the nickname of Mikey to reflect how much he could transform his personality.

While Macho Row is well written there are some components that could have made it an even more enjoyable read. Additional perspective from the coaching staff, front office and their opponents would have provided valuable context. There is some sprinkled in but not enough when presenting the retelling of an entire season. Additionally, more detail about what was going on around the Phillies that year (other standout teams, players, etc) would have been welcome.

Kashatus gives a “where are they now” glimpse for the six players he focused on. Sadly, the bad has often outweighed the good with this group. Not only did they all see their careers take a dive after the magical 1993 season, they experienced personal difficulty as well. Daulton has experienced major health issue; Dykstra went to jail; Williams was fired from an announcing job after allegedly ordering a pitcher to intentionally hit a batter during a youth baseball game he was coaching.

While not without its faults, Macho Row is an easy read and throws the curtain back for a closer look at one of baseball’s most memorable teams. They are also an easily identifiable jumping off point when baseball transitioned to the steroid era and are thus an intriguing cautionary tale. Baseball fans will enjoy finding out what made them tick and how they changed the game forever.

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Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Adam Jones Incident Provides Unfortunate and Unique Opportunity for the Boston Red Sox

Baltimore Orioles star slugger Adam Jones divulged after yesterday’s game against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park that he was on the receiving end of racial taunts from fans in the stands. The Red Sox swiftly made a public apology and are reportedly considering issuing lifetime bans for fans who are caught perpetrating such behavior in the future, but reaction needs to be stronger and more widespread.

During his first at-bat in the next game, Jones received a strongly positive response from the Boston crowd. While it makes for a good video clip it cannot be viewed as a resolution to such a serious and disgusting situation. The city of Boston has a lengthy history of racism, which has been often matched by the Red Sox. The team was the last in the major leagues to integrate, finally bringing infielder Pumpsie Green to the big league roster in 1959, a full 12 years after pioneer Jackie Robinson broke in with the Brooklyn Dodgers. The franchise is undoubtedly in a better place with race relations than they have been in the past but the recent Jones incident shows that the work is far from done.

Professional players expect to be booed. They might even expect to be called names. That’s not my taste but that’s an entirely different thing compared to bringing racism into the equation. This was no isolated incident, as Boston has long had a reputation for such things happening in the stands. New York Yankees pitcher C.C. Sabathia said that black players expect such behavior when they play at Fenway.

Just because many, or even the majority of, fans don’t participate in such behavior, their silence is the strongest form of complicity. This goes double for Red Sox staff. At any given time during a home game, there are hundreds of vendors, ushers and security staff wandering through the crowds to maintain order and happiness. There is no way that such displays truly go unnoticed. Please don’t act surprised that this came to national attention now.

True baseball fans appreciate rivalry and fair play. There is no room for racism or the tolerance of anyone at the games who are perpetuating such vitriol. Fans need to step up and say something when they observe this. Staff MUST step up and address these situations when they come up. The front office must lead the charge in setting expectations and following through with training and consequences as needed.

Once lagging behind all other major league teams in the areas of social justice and equality, this is a unique opportunity for the Red Sox and their fans to jump to the forefront of this important issue. Only time will tell if they seize the day. As black Boston star Mookie Betts tweeted after the Jones story broke, “Fact: I'm Black too Literally stand up for @SimplyAJ10 tonight and say no to racism. We as @RedSox and @MLB fans are better than this.”  

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Sunday, April 30, 2017

Boston Red Sox History Tidbits

Baseball is fun as much for the trivia, stories and tidbits of knowledge that accumulate as for the actual action that takes place on the field. The Boston Red Sox are one of the most storied franchises in the sport, and as such have a rich trove of factoids. Here is a sampling.

Much has been made this season about the “Red Sox flu,” which sent a number of players, and even a broadcaster, to the sidelines.  Heading into the season, the team has a troubling trend of player sick days, racking up a total of 85 between 2011-16. This represents $3.9 million in salaries during those days missed, and the most in the majors since during that time.

In 1967, rookie southpaw Billy Rohr began his career with two complete game victories (including a one-hitter in his debut) against the New York Yankees. He went 0-3 with an 8.51 ERA in his next eight games (six starts), and pitched his final major league games the next year at the age of 22.

Although the Red Sox lost the 1986 World Series to the New York Mets in heart-breaking fashion, it truly was a magical season for the team. As a sign of the special things to come, Dwight Evans hit the very first pitch of the season (for the Sox and all of MLB), off the Detroit Tigers’ Jack Morris, for a lead off home run on Opening Day (The Tigers went on to win the game 6-5).

In 2009, Boston signed promising 17-year-old pitching prospect Carlos Matias out of the Dominican Republic for $140,000. However, Major League Baseball discovered that he was born with a different last name and voided the contract on the grounds of identity fraud. He went on to sign with the St. Louis Cardinals, adopted his birth name of Carlos Martinez and is now an annual Cy Young contender at the age of 25 for the Red Birds.

Right-handed pitcher John Dopson pitched parts of five perfectly average seasons with the Red Sox (1989-93), going 26-30 with a 4.29 ERA. He does hold one interesting team record, as his 21 balks during that time are more than runner up Roger Clemens’ 18 for the most in team history. 15 of Dopson’s balks came in 1989, which ironically was the year after “the year of the balk,” when baseball had more balk calls than any other year in history.

Entering, the 2017 season, All Star outfielder Mookie Betts last struck out during a regular season game on September 12, 2016 against the Baltimore Orioles and Oliver Drake before next whiffing against the Toronto Blue Jays’ Francisco Liriano on April 17, 2017—a streak of 129 plate appearances. Given the age of power pitching and free swinging hitters, this is a truly amazing feat.

Bobby Sprowl was a highly touted pitching prospect in 1978. The left-hander was the team’s second-round selection the year before and had posted a 2.10 ERA in his first season in the minors. Unfortunately, during spring training he was accidentally shot in the (right) arm while inside his Winter Haven, Florida apartment after his neighbor’s gun accidentally discharged and a bullet went through the wall. He recovered quickly and went on to win 16 minor league games that year before appearing in three Boston games at the end of the season. Unfortunately, that was his only season in Boston and he never recorded a major league win in parts of four years as a big leaguer.

Jack Rothrock played parts of eight seasons (1925-32) in a Red Sox uniform. Besides hitting .300 in 1929, he is perhaps best known for playing a different position for five consecutive Opening Days with the team.  Between 1928 and 1932, he manned shortstop, center field, right field, third base and left field on successive first games of the year.

Current Boston closer Craig Kimbrel has a fastball he consistently throws in the upper 90s. He credits this ability in part to a broken foot he suffered at the age of 18 when a panel of sheet-rock was accidentally dropped on his foot at a construction site he was working with his father. He went off to Wallace Community College that and performed a training regimen that included throwing from his knees while he was forced to be off his feet. This added to his arm strength and helped make him one of the most dominant pitchers in the game today.

The number worn most often on the Boston Red Sox has been 28 (worn by 56 different players). Most recently, reliever Robbie Ross has had 28 on the back of his uniform.

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