Top 100 Baseball Blog

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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Sunday, April 16, 2017

The Boston Red Sox and 2018 MLB Free Agents

The 2017 Major League Baseball season has just kicked off but it’s never too early to look ahead to next year. There is an interesting crop of potential free agents, and the Boston Red Sox, who are annual players in the market, may look to go shopping once again. Let’s take a look at what players might be good fits.

No matter what happens this season the Red Sox won’t be heading into 2018 sweating out how to retain any of their major stars. To the contrary, first baseman Mitch Moreland and outfielder Chris Young are the biggest names on the team playing in the final year of their contract. On a positive note, Allen Craig, who has hit a combined .139 in 65 games with Boston since 2014, is scheduled to have his $11 million 2017 salary come off the books. While the team may not have many obvious holes, they are always in the process of trying to get better. Here are some of the anticipated free agents that may help them do that.

Jonathan Lucroy- Catcher/First Baseman: Barring a breakout season from Moreland (which is happening in the early going), the team could be looking for an upgrade at first base for next year. Now that Hanley Ramirez has transitioned to designated hitter, it seems unlikely he would return to the field. Finding a more traditional first baseman could be costly given the premium at the position but Lucroy represents an intriguing option. A catcher throughout his career, he has also played 46 games at first since the 2013 season.

The 30-year-old right-handed hitter would be a welcome addition to the team’s middle of the order. Coming  off a career year in 2016 where he hit a combined .292 with 24 home runs and 81 RBIs with the Milwaukee Brewers and Texas Rangers, he is a proven hitter who would be a great fit playing half his games at Fenway Park (he has three doubles and a home run in six career games at the venue).

The team struck gold in the past with a former catcher shifting to first base (Mike Napoli), so rolling the dice again makes sense. Lucroy is making $5.25 million this year, so a big raise is in line. However, he won’t break the bank and could provide the offensive production of an above average first baseman at a lower cost than some of the premium names. Now in his 30s and rating as one of the worst catchers in baseball at framing pitches in 2016, a position switch may be desirable for Lucroy as well as to maximize his offseason value.

Jarrod Dyson- Outfielder: Now in his second season with Boston, Young has done everything that could possibly be expected as the team’s fourth outfielder. That means his return is possible. However, if he chooses to go elsewhere, Dyson is an intriguing replacement option.

A completely different player than Young (who relies on beating up on left-handed pitching), the 32-year-old Dyson’s game is built on speed and defense. Able to play all three outfield positions, he hit .278 with one home run and 30 stolen bases last year in 107 games with the Kansas City Royals. He is just a .258 career hitter with seven home runs and 177 stolen bases over seven-plus seasons in the majors, and is slated to become a free agent at the end of this year with the Seattle Mariners.

A downside to Dyson, who bats from the left side, is that he is fairly useless against left-handed pitching, as suggested by his career .583 career OPS against southpaws. On the other hand, Young has struggled mightily against righties in the past.

Dyson’s true value is his glove. His 4.9 dWar over the past three seasons is even better than defensive stalwarts like Jackie Bradley Jr. (4.4 over the same period). Adding that to his speed should make him a strong consideration for Boston’s 2018 fourth outfielder role.

Clayton Richard- Pitcher: The Red Sox have plenty of horse power at the front of their rotation but lack a tried and true swing-man who can shift easily between starting and relieving. This is where the 33-year-old left-hander could come into play.

Richard is currently holding down the fort as the “ace” of the moribund San Diego Padres. His career has already seen various iterations, as he has shifted from starting to relieving and back to starting again (missing most of 2014 due to injury in between). He began last season pitching in relief with the Chicago Cubs; posting mediocre results. He ended up with the Padres and returned to the rotation. His 2.41 ERA in nine late season starts suggested he still has something left in the tank.

Relying on a low-90s fastball, slider and changeup, Richard doesn’t have overwhelming stuff but is a example of a hurler who truly “knows how to pitch.” This is knowledge and ability that has come with age and experience. FanGraphs’ Jeff Sullivan recently pointed out how he has cleaned up his delivery in recent times and become an extreme ground-ball pitcher.

The Red Sox would likely not be interested in Richard if he has suitors trying to lock him up in their rotation for multiple years, as the salary he would command in that role could be prohibitive. Barring a Rich Hill-esque surge in 2017, all options are still on the table as to what his future holds. Boston ended up having a decent swing man last year in Clay Buchholz but it remains to be seen if anyone will fill that void this season. Going in strong on the lefty would be a good step in addressing that need and seeing what value they might find in the veteran.

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Sunday, April 9, 2017

Catching Up With Former Detroit Tigers Pitcher Steve Searcy

In the mid-1980s the Detroit Tigers were one of the most feared teams in baseball. Winning the World Series in 1984, they had an iconic manager in Sparky Anderson, and a roster full of talent, including the likes of Alan Trammell and Lou Whitaker. Hoping to keep their momentum going, they also focused on stocking their farm system with young talent to sustain their future. Unfortunately, the team slipped as they moved towards the end of the decade and into the 1990s; unable to develop the prospects to build a dynasty. One of those home grown players was left-handed pitcher Steve Searcy, who never became a star but did make it to the majors in Motown.

Searcy was not a natural southpaw. Born with osteomyelitis in his right shoulder, the bone inflammation forced him to do some things, including throwing a baseball, with his off-hand. Proving that the switch was not an impediment, he became such a skilled pitcher that he ended up at the University of Tennessee on scholarship. A stellar career as a Volunteer, including a 2.45 ERA in 95.1 innings in 1984, led to his selection in the third round in the 1985 draft by the Tigers.

Searcy quickly grew into one of the team’s top pitching prospects. In 1986 he was 11-6 with a 3.30 ERA in Double-A. A broken kneecap from a comebacker to the mound prematurely ended his 1987 season but he rebounded in 1988 to go 13-7 with a 2.59 ERA and 176 strikeouts in Triple-A. This earned him his call-up to the Tigers.

On August 29, 1988, Searcy toed the rubber for the first time in a major league game, facing off against Bill Long and the Chicago White Sox. The lefty went 7.2 strong innings but took the 3-2 loss in large part because of solo home runs he gave up to Carlton Fisk and Ken Williams.

Bouncing between the minor leagues and Majors for the next several seasons (1988-91 with the Tigers and 1991-92 with the Philadelphia Phillies) he pitched as both a starter and a reliever. He appeared in a total of 70 games (21 starts), accumulating a 6-13 record with a 5.68 ERA. Although he struck out 140 batters in 187 innings, the 119 walks and 25 home runs he allowed were indicators of things that prevented him from having greater success.

Searcy pitched in the minors for the Los Angeles Dodgers in the second half of 1992, and then for the Baltimore Orioles in 1993. Unfortunately, he struggled in both organizations and retired at the age of 29. Years after the end of his playing career he answered some questions about his baseball career. Keep reading for more on the former Tiger.

Steve Searcy Questionnaire:

If you could do anything differently about your playing career, what would that be?: Learn to study film. Just started when I was in the league.

What was the strangest play you ever saw?: Can’t say there is anything that sticks out, but I did have a player 0-and-2, and the umpire told me ‘anywhere close.’ I got strikeout on a ball inside.

Who was your favorite coach or manager?: Jeff Jones, pitching coach with Detroit.

How did you find out you were called up to the major leagues?: I was bumped back two starts, and told on the third day I was starting in the Bigs.

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Friday, March 31, 2017

Norm Angelini's Journey through 1970's Professional Baseball


In the 1960’s left-handed pitchers ruled baseball, with the likes of Whitey Ford, Sandy Koufax and Warren Spahn patrolling the mound. Needless to say, teams were extremely interested in identifying the next southpaw to potentially take their place in the pantheon. One such prospect was Norm Angelini, who may not have become a star but did accomplish the impressive feat of reaching at pitching well at the major league level.

Growing up in San Mateo, California, Angelini played baseball like many of his peers. It just turned out that he was better than most of them. He went on to play collegiately for the College of San Mateo and then Washington State University. So tantalizing was his talent that he ended up being drafted three times—but he never signed with any of them. In 1966 he was selected by the Baltimore Orioles, and then by the Cincinnati Reds in the 1967 January draft. Finally, he was taken in the eighth round of the June phase of the draft by the New York Yankees.

Prior to the 1969 season, the 21-year-old signed with the Kansas City Royals as an amateur free agent. He began as a starter in their minor league system, but by 1971 had transitioned to primarily relieving and found his true success, including a 1.41 ERA in 51 Triple-A innings that year.
Angelini earned a call up to the Royals in 1972 and performed admirably, going 2-1 with a 2.25 ERA in 21 relief appearances. He earned a win in his first big league game on July 22 against the Baltimore Orioles, despite giving up a solo home run to slugger Boog Powell in 1.1 innings.

Despite his success, Angelini made just seven appearances for the Royals in 1973. Just like that, his big league career was over at the age of 25. In his 28 career games he was a combined 2-1 with a 2.75 ERA and three saves. He continued to play professionally for another eight years, working at the Triple-A level for the Royals, Atlanta Braves and Montreal Expos.

Keep reading for Angelini’s answers to a few questions about his baseball career.

Norm Angelini Questionnaire:

If you could do anything differently about your career, what would that be?: Nothing- I gave it everything I had every time I got the chance to play.

Who was your favorite coach or manager?: Jack McKeon- He gave me the chance to get to the big leagues.

What was your favorite team you played on?: The 1980 Denver Bears. We won over 100 games that year.

What was the strangest play you ever saw?: A fly ball that hit our left fielder in the head and it went over the fence for a home run.

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Sunday, March 19, 2017

Chicago Cubs Looking Bad on Issues of Bullying and Hazing

As hazing and bullying continue to be significant issues in our society, professional sports, where such activity has often flourished, have started addressing it head on. This past offseason, Major League Baseball created an anti-hazing and anti-bullying policy that bans teams from "requiring, coercing or encouraging" activities such as "dressing up as women or wearing costumes that may be offensive to individuals based on their race, sex, nationality, age, sexual orientation, gender identity or other characteristic." Although such a stance is not only entirely appropriate but long overdue, it incredibly seems to have some teams like the Chicago Cubs struggling to figure out appropriate boundaries.

A recent ESPN article written by Jesse Rogers detailed the reaction of the Cubs to the new policy, because of their tradition of having rookies dress up in costumes that would now be considered off limits. Chicago manager Joe Maddon has come to rely on making his newer and younger players “uncomfortable” in what he believes to be an exercise that brings them deeper into the team fold. “The moment you get comfortable with your plight, then the threat is you’re not going to push yourself to the point where you need to again,” Maddon cryptically said.

Honestly, it’s really pathetic if that’s the best the Cubs can hit on to motivate their team and build camaraderie. In particular, with the number of children around the country subjected to bullying and hazing, it’s stupefying that the Cubs don’t see a connection between what they have traditionally done and the harassment and demeaning behavior suffered by so many. Any time those in a position of power use that influence to make others do something outside their comfort zone, that is the definition of bullying and not a dynamic motivational tool as some might have you believe.

Pitcher Rob Zastryzny, who was a rookie with Chicago last year and was made to dress up like a female cheer leader by the veterans on the team explained, “The Cubs guys did a really good job of it. I was a fan of it. It made me feel really close to the older guys.” That’s great that one player enjoyed it but what if some of their teammates went through the same exercise and didn’t feel the same way? I may not be an expert but it would seem that going out as a group to dinner, bowling or some other activity might serve a similar purpose. Just thinking outside of the box here.

The baseball dress-up culture is also strongly chauvinistic and homophobic, as costumes are often scanty cis-female clothing such as cheer leader outfits, skimpy dresses and other items meant to suggest lacking masculinity and/or heterosexuality in the wearer. For obvious reasons that don’t need to be elaborated on that is offensive on many levels and disappointing that the Cubs (or any other team) wouldn’t stop to think how that is perceived by fans and outsiders alike who claim similar identifies or simply have an ounce of respect or understanding in their bodies.

There are many out there who will lament that we live in “too PC of a world” and that we need to “toughen up” and not get bothered by such things. To them I ask they consider the following. Does that mean that when you go back to work next you’ll be fine if your supervisor forces you to wear an embarrassing costume around the workplace and out in public; knowing that if you don’t comply you will be on the outside looking in moving forward? Does that mean that if you have a child, friend or family member who identifies in a way that is frequently represented through MLB dress up that you are fine laughing at this “obvious joke” and don’t care how that child, friend or family member may feel about it?

Star pitcher Jake Arrieta tried to explain that what the Cubs have traditionally done is harmless. “No one is trying to offend any person or people that identify themselves as something else. It’s about making the younger teammates uncomfortable and seeing how they deal with the situation. It’s a team-building thing.” If only there were other ways to incorporate younger players into the team’s fold…

Ironically, the World Champion Cubs are also doing good work supporting the victims of bullying. However, I contend that you can’t condemn one form of bullying without condemning them all—especially given the many iterations it can take.

Showing how clueless some members of the Cubs are, Rogers reported that some alternative methods that will skirt the letter of the new law may include having the rookies wear Speedos or wrestling tights in 2017. One would think that a business like the Cubs that is valued at $2.2 billion could come up with more dynamic ways to motivate and team build. Unfortunately, that does not seem to be the case and the team is looking increasingly out of touch and foolish.

If baseball can change their rules on the field there’s no reason to think adjustments off the field are out of the question. It will just take a little awareness and thoughtfulness that realizes that professional athletes on a national stage exist on a stage that extends far beyond their locker rooms. Hopefully the Cubs organization will see how sophomoric and insulting the prevailing thoughts on the dress-up culture are and provide their players and coaching staff some tools that can help them come up with some positive alternatives.

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Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Lake Erie Crushers Reveal New Logo

March 15, 2017: Avon OH) The Lake Erie Crushers, presented by Mercy, unveiled a new logo, new uniforms and several new menu items today that will all debut during the 2017 Frontier League season. The new team colors will be purple and white to accompany the team’s new logo that features a bat wielding, fierce-looking grape, as tribute to the Crushers name. 

When the team debuted in 2009, the Crushers were originally named after the numerous vineyards and wineries that populate northern Ohio. The name was selected through fan voting, however previous Ownership selected colors and logos that did not reflect the origins of the name. New Owners Tom & Jacqueline Kramig, who purchased the team in February of 2016, have embraced the Crushers name with the new logo, new purple and white team uniforms, as well as a pledge to serve Ohio wines at Sprenger Health Care Stadium this coming season. 



“Ohio is the 11th largest producer of wines in America, and there are dozens of wineries in the northern Ohio region, where the team calls home” stated Co-Owner Jacqueline Kramig. “For this team to truly represent and reflect the local community, we felt the name and logo should have some connection to local history and businesses.” 

The Crushers are also unveiling several new menu items for 2017. Among the new offerings at Sprenger Health Care Stadium, an herb crusted chicken sandwich, a seasoned steak sandwich, a chicken sausage sandwich, and for our vegetarian fans, a fried green tomato sandwich. 

The Lake Erie Crushers hope fans will “Embrace the Grape” on Friday, May 12th at 7:05pm for the Home Opener. There will be a magnet schedule giveaway for the first 1,000 fans at the ballpark, and the fan favorite Post Game Fireworks Show to kick off another great season of Crushers Baseball. Individual Game Tickets go on sale on Monday, March 20th at 10am.

The Lake Erie Crushers are located in Avon, Ohio and play in the Frontier League of Independent Professional Baseball (www.frontierleague.com). For more information, you can contact the Crushers at 440-934-3636, visit our website at www.LakeErieCrushers.com, or email info@lakeeriecrushers.com. 

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Monday, March 13, 2017

The Impossible Dream 1967 Red Sox- A Review

The Boston Red Sox have a fan base and teams that create memories unlike most sports teams. Often, the two inform and feed off the other. Herb Crehan’s The Impossible Dream 1967 Red Sox: Birth of Red Sox Nation (2016, Summer Game Books) celebrates the 50th anniversary of one of those greatest collaborations, which was so memorable it spawned a team name for the history books and launched an identity for those on the sidelines that persists to this day.

Coming in to the 1967 season the Red Sox had little to look forward to. Mired in the second division since 1959, the team had some great young players like Carl Yastrzemski, Jim Lonborg and Tony Conigliaro but had not been able to see it translate to any sort of success in the standings. With rookie manager Dick Williams at the helm there wasn’t necessarily an expectation that was going to change overnight. As it turned out, that was wrong because Boston went on to win 92 games (many in an exceedingly exciting fashion) and took the heavily favored St. Louis Cardinals to seven games in the World Series before finally conceding the end of their magical season.

Crehan pivots back and forth from detailing the season and highlighting 13 of the most memorable figures from the 1967 team—from what they did that year to how their career and lives turned out afterwards. From the MVP performance from Yaz to the iron man exploits on the mound of Lonborg, the squad is rife with stories both good and bad. It was such an exciting year that fans were driven to a frenzy, which have remained a strong force ever since.

The fiery Williams ruled the team absolutely but was not always successful in reaching his players. The weight struggles (and confidence) of players like George Scott and Joe Foy impacted their play on the field but somehow did not become issues that derailed the success of their teammates. Williams was blunt if nothing else, and his methodology and the way it worked (or didn’t) in such cases were major storylines that season.

Second baseman Mike Andrews was a nice player but was never a star. Nevertheless, he was a major contributor in 1967 and went on to have a lasting impact in the Boston community through his work with the Jimmy Fund Charity.

Undoubtedly the biggest story on that year’s team was when star outfielder Conigliaro was hit in the face during a game by a pitch and went on to miss the rest of the season and all of 1968. Once looking like a potential future Hall of Famer, the 23 year-old suffered diminished vision, and while he had a couple of productive years upon his return, he was never the same again and out of baseball by the time he was 30. Crehan lingers on the “what might have been” with the slugger, who passed away at the age of 45—his life snuffed out too soon much like his baseball career.

The writing style of The Impossible Dream is formulaic in a baseball book sense. An aggregation of statistics, interviews and follow up are all staples of the genre. That being said there is a reason why they are used so often, and the author does a good job here of combining everything into a cohesive narrative.

It’s hard to believe that the 1967 Boston Red Sox are turning 50 this year. The iconic team is one of few to gain such lofty status in history despite not winning it all at the end. This was due to the combination of dynamic and memorable players, and story lines that captivated a fan base in such a way that they would never be the same again. An impossible dream, indeed!

Disclaimer: I was provided with a free copy of this book, but received no payment or other consideration for this review.

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Monday, February 27, 2017

The Boston Red Sox's 2017 Payroll Has Lots of Dead Money

The Boston Red Sox are one of the most successful franchises in Major League Baseball. Their consistent winning ways, playing in a big market and having a broad fan base all translate to them annually having one of the highest payrolls in the sport. As long as the team is winning the particulars of where the money is going never seems to matter as much. However, some of the players Boston will be cutting checks to in 2017, and the amounts, may come as a surprise.

Currently, the Red Sox are expected to pay out over $192 million in player salaries in 2017. This does not include some contract renewals, possible adjustments as the season wears on from trades, and additional free agent signings. That being said, a shocking amount of money will be spent on players who are not expected to have any impact on the team, or in some cases, are no longer still playing the game at all.

Rusney Castillo- $11.27 Million: The Cuban outfielder signed a massive $72.5 million contract in 2014 but has managed to hit just a combined .262 with seven home runs in 99 big league games since then. Now 29, the Red Sox’s level of confidence (or lack thereof) in him was made abundantly clear last year when he was removed from their 40-man roster. Although he is still with the franchise he is expected to be no more than Triple-A depth and has already made negative headlines by recently neglecting to run out a ground ball. By comparison, he is making only about $500,000 less than newly acquired ace pitcher Chris Sale.

Allen Craig- $11 Million: Formerly an All Star with the St. Louis Cardinals, the outfielder has been an unmitigated disaster since coming over to Boston in a 2014 trade. His results have been so putrid that he has managed just a .139 batting average, two home runs and five RBIs in 65 combined games. He never even saw the majors in 2016; instead scuffling in Triple-A in between injuries, mustering a .189 average in 29 games. His contract set to expire at the end of the year and it would be a major surprise if he sees any playing time in Boston this season.

Manny Ramirez- $1.99 Million: The mercurial slugger hasn’t had a major league at bat since 2011, and hasn’t donned a Boston uniform since 2008. However, he will receive a handsome sum from the team in 2017. Ramirez hit .312 with 274 home runs during an eight year contract in the Hub but saw his tenure spotted with occasional indifferent play and controversy. Signed for a total of $160 million by Boston, not all of the money was paid during the life of the deal, as $32 million was deferred over 16 years worth of payments starting in 2011. Last seen signing on with an independent Japanese team for 2017, Ramirez will be making slightly more with the Red Sox than Boston’s super sub Brock Holt this year.

Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford- $1.7 Million ($857,000 each): Ramirez is not the only former player that Boston is on the books for a princely sum in 2017. Ballyhooed free agent signings in 2011, Gonzalez and Crawford fell out of favor and were jettisoned via trade by mid-season the following year to the Los Angeles Dodgers. The move sent more than $250 million in future salaries across the country but did not completely end the team’s ties to the two players. The Red Sox assumed a small portion of the remaining money that is owed, which are still being paid to this day. Gonzalez is still the starting first baseman for the Dodgers but Crawford recently called it a career. Nevertheless, they persist in a small way as part of the Red Sox a half a decade later.

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