Top 100 Baseball Blog

Sunday, March 17, 2019

The Archives of the Baseball Historian: Interviews with Retired Players Through Baseball History- Now Available in Paperback!

My book The Archives of the Baseball Historian: Interviews with Retired Players Through Baseball History is now available in both eBook and paperback form!



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Saturday, March 16, 2019

The Boston Red Sox Face Major Questions in 2020

In true baseball fashion, it’s impossible to focus on and enjoy the current season at hand when questions may shroud the future with uncertainty. The Boston Red Sox, coming off a commanding 2018 season that resulted in a World Series championship have no reason to believe they can’t compete again this year. However, if they look a little further down the road they will see major questions wait for them once this season is over.

The primary questions come in the form of key players who will become free agents, and should also draw significant interest and dollars, despite the suspiciously repressed market this past offseason. No area of the team will be impacted more by this than the starting rotation. Ace Chris Sale (he of seven consecutive top-six Cy Young finishes) and 2017 Cy Young Award winner Rick Porcello are both due to become free agents. The checkbook would need to be opened wide to sign one or both, but the team should give pause before making a final decision.

The left-handed Sale will turn 30 at the end of next month and despite consistently logging 200+ innings throughout his career, he was limited to just 158 in 2018, missing time and losing some velocity due to a shoulder injury. These are not reasons on their own to not re-sign him, but should all factor into the decision of whether or not to bring him back. The Red Sox have already indicated they have started inquiring about an extension, and reports indicate that a massive seven-year extinction appears the be in the offing. which sounds like they have no qualms about the southpaw’s long-term health.

Porcello just turned 30 this offseason and has been fit as a fiddle throughout his 10-year major league career. However, he has never enjoyed consistency, flashing CY Young ability at his best (22-4 with a 3.15 ERA in 2016), and at his worst getting hit hard and giving up a lot of home runs (11-17 with a 4.65 ERA and 38 home runs allowed in 2017). In many ways, he pitches like a healthy Clay Buchholz. There is talent for days, but you never know how it will translate on the mound from season to season.

Last year Porcello was solid, yet average. He was 17-7 and had a career-high 190 strikeouts. However, he also had a 4.28 ERA, 102 ERA+ and gave up 27 gopher balls. His record indicates he can give the Red Sox a lot of value but paying him like an ace is probably not a shrewd move. He may be hard-pressed to exceed the four-year, $82.5 million contract he is finishing up and Boston will need to do some deep soul searching if they plan to give him any more than that.

Slugger J.D. Martinez was a revelation in his first season in Boston last year, hitting .330 with 43 home runs and a league-leading 130 RBIs. Despite offering negative value in the outfield, where he played about 40 percent of the time last year, he is a true game changer with his bat. He technically has four years and a little over $85 million remaining on his contract, but has a $2.5 million player option to buy out the remainder of his contract and become a free agent after each of the next three seasons. Although he will turn 32 later this year, he could be extremely productive for years to come (a la David Ortiz), particularly if he fully transitions to the designated hitter position.

It would seem extremely likely that the Red Sox would like to retain Martinez long-term, and if he chooses not to opt out then they are all set through the 2022 season. Something to consider is that he is represented by Scott Boras, who always looks to get the largest contract possible for his clients, even if it means rolling the dice. If there is even an inkling that Martinez can score a larger deal by opting out than you can bet your bottom dollar that he will simply because of his representation.

Another team stalwart who is set to hit the open market after the 2019 season is shortstop Xander Bogaerts. The 26-year-old is coming off a career season, where he hit .288 with 23 home runs and 103 RBIs. However, he has struggled with inconsistency in his career and is not considered an exceptional defensive player. While he is certainly a valuable player, he has not fully blossomed as many expected back when he was a top minor league prospect. Nevertheless, as a shortstop capable of putting up the numbers he has already done are hard to find.

The Red Sox may decide to let Bogaerts walk if they believe the money needed to resign him could be better spent elsewhere, especially on their free agent starting pitchers. A cheaper, more defensively adept shortstop may be easier to find. On the other hand, he is a commodity in the lineup and could be hard to let go of, especially if he continues to see his offensive game grow. He hit .320 in 2015, albeit with just seven home runs. If he can somehow combine the average and power even more, he would be on the threshold of star status.

Playing into these decisions the Red Sox must make is that their farm system is rather barren of near-ready top-flight prospects who could conceivably be cheaper alternatives. To remain competitive Boston will not only need to carefully manage their roster, but they will have to be prudent free agent shoppers, including determining how to handle their own players who may be hitting the market. The team doesn’t need to answer these questions right now, but they definitely need to be well into their planning process.

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

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Chatting with the Boston Red Sox: Former Players, Prospects and Announcers Talk About Their Time with the Greatest Team in Baseball

I have just published a collection of interviews with former players, prospects and announcers of the Boston Red Sox. Chatting with the Boston Red Sox: Former Players, Prospects and Announcers Talk About Their Time with the Greatest Team in Baseball is available here for just $2.99. Your support is greatly appreciated! 

Chatting with the Boston Red Sox: Former Players, Prospects and Announcers Talk About Their Time with the Greatest Team in Baseball by [Martin, Andrew]

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

Monday, March 11, 2019

The Baseball Historian: Talking Baseball, Books and History

I recently had the pleasure to chat with my friend Ron Juckett about baseball, baseball history and my new eBooks. I had a great time doing it and you can see our conversation at:

You can find my books here, here and here

Ron has also been doing amazing things broadcasting replays of  sporting events, especially baseball, from seasons of yesteryear. His Youtube page is treasure trove of game archives!

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

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Daniel Moskos: Pitcher Recalls Journey from High Draft Pick to Lengthy Professional Career

There are no guarantees in baseball. Literally none. Professional players must fight and earn everything they achieve without exceptions. This includes former top draft picks like pitcher Daniel Moskos, who had a 12-year professional career and reached the majors leagues, but had nothing given to him along the way.

The left-handed Moskos was highly coveted while in college for the Clemson Tigers. So highly was he thought of that the Pittsburgh Pirates took him with the fourth overall pick in the 2007 draft. A starter by trade, he transitioned to the bullpen during the 2009 season, and was called up to the Pirates in 2011. He appeared in 31 games in relief for them, going 1-1 with a 2.96 ERA.

Moskos was stuck in Triple-A the next season and was ultimately claimed by the Chicago White Sox off waivers. He has since pitched in the organizations of the Los Angeles Dodgers, San Diego Padres, Independent ball and in the Mexican League, but has not made it back to the big league to date. Injuries and personal issues have kept him off the field at various times, but he has kept pushing through it all.

Still just 32, he has accumulated a professional record of 48-37 with a 3.83 ERA. He is not currently pitching but is not officially retired either. He is currently working within the baseball world and still has a thing or two to prove if another team picks up the phone and gives him a call. Keep reading for more from the southpaw about his career in baseball.

Daniel Moskos Interview

Who was your favorite player when you were growing up, and why?: My favorite player growing up was John Smoltz.  I was a huge Atlanta Braves fan, and I actually got the chance to meet him when I was about 5 years old, so I always thought that was really cool.  Plus, he would dominate as a starter and a reliever, whatever the team needed.

Can you please describe what your draft experience was like, being taken as the 4th overall pick by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2007?: The draft was really stressful, but obviously worked out pretty well for me.  It is still a lot to handle as a 21-year-old kid.  Between playing baseball, going to class, and having to meet with scouts it was a lot.  So, when the day came, which was the day before our super regional series against Mississippi St., it was quite a relief.  I actually didn’t know that the Pirates were going to draft me, I found out when everyone else did.  I was fortunate enough to have my parents and my girl friend(now wife) with me.  For the record, I thought I was going to the Rockies.  The feeling of getting drafted was everything I thought it would be and more, just amazing.

Being a high draft pick, how stressful was the extra attention you received as you worked your way up the minors?: I didn’t really find extra stress with being a high draft pick.  Baseball is hard enough as is, so I simply focused on what I could control, which was to work on getting better one day at a time.  The Pirates were very good at focusing on the process, and not so much about the results.  The concept was to make you the best big leaguer you can be, not just be good in High-A, Double-A, or where you are playing.

What do you remember most about your major league debut?: I remember pretty much everything.  From my flight getting in that morning, to taking a cab to the field, shagging batting practice, my name getting called to warm up in the bullpen, and throwing my first pitch; a fastball that was a called strike to Carlos Gonzalez, lol.  It was a dream come true.

In your opinion, who was the most underrated player you ever played with or against, and if you are feeling bold, is there anyone you can think of who was overrated?: The most underrated player that I played with, at the time, was Josh Harrison.  Obviously, he turned out to have a really good career, and is super versatile, but when I played with him he was relatively unknown.  I always thought he was going to be a everyday regular that needed more recognition.  Not going to touch the overrated side, hahaha.

What is your favorite moment from your baseball career?: My favorite moment would have to be my big league debut.  I have a lot of great moments that I will always cherish, but the debut confirmed what I had always dreamed of as a kid.  I was a major league. It still feels surreal to say that, and I would never take it for granted.

What pitches did you throw, and what was your best weapon?: My repertoire was a two-seam and four-seam fastball, slider, and a changeup.  My best offering was my fastball.

Given how well you pitched for Pittsburgh in 2011 (and in subsequent minor league seasons) what are your thoughts on not having gotten back to the major leagues since?: Baseball is a game where opportunity is very important.  Unfortunately for me I got hurt at the wrong time.  My elbow started bothering me in spring training of 2012.  It nagged me all season and I had surgery that offseason.  Just a clean up procedure. The next year it still didn’t feel right, and my results showed that.  Then in 2014 it finally blew out on me, and I had Tommy John surgery.  It has felt amazing ever since, but I think it might have been too little too late.  The game is going younger, and I am getting older.  I believe that I can still get big league hitters out, but I guess major league organizations don’t agree.

What are your 2019 baseball plans and how long would you like to keep playing?: My 2019 plans were originally to go back to Mexico to play another year.  However, that all changed when I came to Driveline to train.  It’s a facility in Seattle that is changing the game of baseball, and they caused me to change the way I looked at my career.  So, I talked to some of the employees about the idea of me working with the company, and now I’m an employee of the company.  I still throw and keep myself in shape, if an MLB team comes calling for my services I would have to at least consider it.  Right now though, I couldn’t be happier with where I am at.

Who is a current or former player you wish you had the chance to pitch against, and how would you approach that at-bat?: Barry Bonds.  He’s the best hitter there ever was and probably ever will be.  My approach would be to hope he hits it at someone, lol.

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

Saturday, March 9, 2019

Adam Hyzdu: The Former Boston Red Sox Outfielder's Hard Road to Success

When Adam Hyzdu came out of high school he was a hot shot prospect, selected in the first round of the 1990 MLB draft by the San Francisco Giants. The future looked promising for the slugging outfielder as he started his professional career. Few people, including Hyzdu, would have guessed that it would take him 10 years to reach the major leagues. Despite his lengthy journey, his work paid off, and while he never became a regular player he was able to claim his role in being part of baseball history.
As he progressed through the minors, Hyzdu developed a reputation as a solid defensive outfielder whose right-handed swing produced a good number of home runs, but also a lot of strikeouts. He typically struggled initially when promoted to a higher level, but when repeating it the following year, saw his production blossom. Although he hit as many as 30 home runs in a season (1999), he lost his status as a top prospect and bounced around between the Giants, Reds, Red Sox, Diamondbacks, and Pirates’ organizations.
Hyzdu’s breakthrough came in 2000 while playing for the Pirates Triple-A affiliate. He hit .290 with 31 home runs and 106 RBI, intriguing the talent-poor Pirates. He hit .389 in a brief September call-up, showing he could handle major league pitching. Over the next several seasons he yo-yoed between the minors and Pittsburgh, serving as a valuable backup outfielder, but never receiving prolonged big league playing time.
Following the 2003 season, Hyzdu signed as a free agent with the Red Sox to provide organizational depth for a team built for the playoffs. Although he played in only 17 major league games (with just 10 at bats) in 2004, Hyzdu became part of baseball history as a member of the curse-breaking Red Sox team that won their first World Series in 86 years. He didn’t make the postseason roster but received a championship ring on Opening Day the following year.
Hyzdu became the epitome of a journeyman player, playing with the Red Sox and San Diego Padres in 2005 and the Texas Rangers in 2006. Following a stint in Japan in 2007 he called it a career, never having found the stardom he was once pegged for, but having made the most out of the opportunity he received after years of hard work. He appeared in a total of 221 major league games over parts of seven seasons, hitting .229 with 19 home runs and 61 RBI. His 18-year minor league career produced a .275 batting average, 280 home runs, and 1,024 RBI in 1,750 games.
Although Hyzdu’s career didn’t unfold the way many thought it would, he left the game knowing that he will always be part of his history. Compared to the many players who have come and gone without such distinction, he can consider his career quite the success.
Adam Hyzdu Interview:
How did you first become interested in baseball and what sports did you play growing up?: I liked all sports and played them all. Baseball just paid first, haha.

Who was your favorite player growing up?: Pete Rose.

What was the draft process and choosing an agent like?: The draft was actually disappointing because the Braves and then the Reds passed, and I grew up hating the Giants. My agent was referred to me by Buddy Bell.

Who was your most influential coach or manager?: Mike Cameron, Joe Hayden, Marty Brown, Ken Macha.

What is the strangest thing you ever saw at a baseball game?: In one game I saw a pitcher snap his arm in two. Also, an apartment behind the field burned down and then the other teams’ shortstop had a seizure.

Who was the biggest character you ever played with or against?: Kevin Millar.

What is your favorite moment from your playing career?: Winning the 2004 World Series, and winning the National League Player of the Week, on a personal level.

Is there anything you would do differently if you could do your playing career over?: Had more confidence and worked out sooner in my career- maybe those would of worked hand in hand.

What have you done since you stopped playing?: I worked for Children’s Miracle Network and now own an RV dealership.

How has being a member of the 2004 Boston Red Sox impacted you?: It’s been cool to go back from time to time. No better place to win a Championship.

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

Thursday, March 7, 2019

New eBook Released About The Legal Troubles of Baseball Legend Rogers Hornsby

Hello Readers,

I have published a second eBook about the legal troubles of legendary Hall of Famer Rogers Hornsby.  Lawsuits, accusations of being a homewrecker and being the subject of a Chicago mob hit plot were just a few of the scrapes he found himself involved with. You can check this out here.

The book is $2.99 and I of course immensely appreciate any support you are able and willing to give. Sales of these books help keep this blog and my writing going. Thank you so much for reading!

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

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

The Archives of the Baseball Historian: EBook Now Available For Sale!

Hello Readers,

I have recently published a 124-page eBook of some of my best interviews with former major league players. You can check this out here.

The book is $3.49 and I of course immensely appreciate any support you are able and willing to give. 

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

Saturday, March 2, 2019

How Has Bryce Harper's Contract Impacted Mookie Betts' Quest for New Deal?

The recent signing of free-agent outfielder Bryce Harper to a record-breaking 13-year, $330 million contract by the Philadelphia Phillies sent shock waves across baseball. Although the star slugger will continue making his home in the National League, the deal may have a surprising impact on the Boston Red Sox—specifically in their pursuit to retain their soon-to-be free agent star Mookie Betts.

The reigning American League MVP and leader of the 2018 World Champions is not eligible to be a free agent until after the 2020 season. However, it’s likely that Boston is already working on how to keep the outfielder in their uniform for the rest of his career.
Betts and Boston avoided arbitration this year, agreeing to a one-year, $20 million pact. He will be eligible for arbitration again next year and then can hit the free agent market following the 2020 season if he cannot come to a long-term agreement beforehand.

The 26-year-old Betts is already on track to be one of the best players in franchise history. A true five-tool talent, he led the league with a .346 batting average in 2018, chipping in 47 doubles, 32 home runs, 80 RBIs, 30 stolen bases and a league-best 129 runs scored. He is also perhaps the best defensive outfielder in the game, patrolling the expansive right field ground at Fenway Park. His superb play led to a 10.9 WAR (BRef) last year and an already impressive total of 35.2 in his four-plus years in the majors.

Unsurprisingly, the Harper signing will impact negotiations when attempting to lock down Betts because of the benchmark it has set in terms of length and total value. Additionally, Harper was able to avoid any deferred money and has a complete no-trade clause, which teams typically are loathe to give. Not only are the two players the same age, one would be hard-pressed to find a serious talent evaluator who would disagree that Betts is the better all-around player.

It would behoove the Red Sox to do everything they can to sign Betts to a lengthy contract now. That will be easier said than done. Although the team has money and chutzpah in spades, Betts and his agent hold all the cards. The current free agent market, which is widely regarded as repressed despite the recent mega deal, may be worth waiting out to see if MLB purse strings become untangled. Additionally, Los Angeles Angels outfielder Mike Trout, a similarly talented player, is due to become a free agent at the same time. The ability for teams to bid on two generational-type talents like these two could drive the market up even more and land Betts a deal that could necessitate him to build a Scrooge McDuck style money pit to swim around in during the offseason.

If I’m the Red Sox, I’m doing whatever I can to sign Betts now and not draw this out. Is this something he would even consider? Maybe, but undoubtably he would have to be blown away to give up his soon-to-be earned right to be wooed by all 30 major league teams. Although he is a Boston treasure, he will not, nor should he be expected, to give a hometown discount. He has every reason to expect and to get a record-setting deal of his own.

Would a 13-year, $350 million contract be a good starting point? With the luxury tax in play, any deal of this magnitude has to be creative with how the money is dispersed across seasons. Could such a deal be front loaded (a la Harper’s), so it is more of a 10-year, $300 million deal with an extra three years and $50 million tacked on to account for likely declining years? This would set the contract record and compensate Betts for the lower pay at the end of the contract by buying out his final two arbitration-eligible years at a significant raise.

The Red Sox should have the funds to be able to offer a deal with no deferred money. An ironclad no-trade clause is always a difficult ask to accommodate, given the volatility of consistent player ability over time, but Betts has ascended to the Mount Rushmore of Red Sox history, and if anyone should be given such a consideration, it is him.

The 2019 free agent class does not have anyone who is a likely candidate to surpass Harper’s deal. Thus, it becomes a tantalizing decision for Betts to either try to sign for stupid money now or wait and see if he can get into a situation where really, really stupid money is available a little later. There is no clear answer as to how this will play out. However, one thing is certain and that is that the Harper contract has muddied the waters and raised the stakes for both sides.

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

Thursday, February 28, 2019

Examining Bryce Harper's Free-Agent Contract With the Philadelphia Phillies

A major source of lingering drama in Major League Baseball has been resolved with the news that star free-agent outfielder Bryce Harper has agreed to a 13-year, $330 million contract with the Philadelphia Phillies. With Spring Training already in full swing, the announcement sets the sport on its ear, as a major domino has fallen and changed the power dynamic among anticipated 2019 contenders.

As much as nearly a third of a billion dollars can be considered disappointing, one could argue that being the case for this contract—purely from a hype perspective. In the months and even years leading up to Harper’s free agency, numbers like $400 million, $500 million and $40 million a year had been speculatively tossed around. They may have actually come to fruition if not for the inconsistency the 26-year-old Harper has shown during his seven year career.

A LeBronian type prospect since before he could legally drive, Harper has varied from maddeningly inconsistent to breath taking. He has already missed 40 or more games in a season due to injury three times; seen his yearly WAR jump wildly (5.2, 3.7, 1.1. 10.0, 1.5, 4.7 and 1.3- in chronological order); and won the 2015 National League MVP Award at 22 with a commanding performance. When he has been at his best he has been a generational type of talent, and when he hasn’t he has been merely good.

The contract with the Phillies is an interesting study in compromise. He has been given a straight no-trade clause, but also has no player opt-out options during the entirety of the deal. The $25+ million he will earn annually pales in comparison to other recent deals like stars Manny Machado and Nolan Arenado. On the other hand, the $330 million he will make over the life of his contract is the largest contractual amount in the history of professional sports, let alone baseball, and includes no deferred payments.

Overall, it seems like a solid deal for both sides. Harper is a tantalizing talent who is still young enough that thinking he still has another gear or two that have not yet been tapped is entirely possible. The Phillies, for their part, have landed their star after being strongly connected to him and Machado, who they missed out on, throughout the off season. They had already built a solid roster of good young homegrown talent and veterans that included a number of other signings this winter. There is more than enough of a base in place that Harper doesn’t need to assume the entire weight of expectations on his shoulders.

The Phillies were already considered strong contenders in the National League East this season. Obviously, their latest addition will only increase their chances. Harper and his career 162-game averages of .279 with 32 home runs, 91 RBIs and a .388 OBP will go along way toward striking the fear into opponents.

The Phillies are on the hook for a lot of money. However, this seems like it could be the rare deal that’s relatively equal for both sides. While it will take Harper to near his 40th birthday, the possibility exists that he could greatly outperform its annual average value earlier on, so his salary in his older and presumably declining years would be more of a reasonable trade off.

Now that Harper has landed all that’s needed is to have the Phillies’ new shiny toy don his uniform and take the field. The possibilities of what will happen next are many and varied. Regardless if you’re a fan of the player or the team, it will certainly be interesting to see if this marriage results in championships and a defined legacy that ends at the Baseball Hall of Fame or if they fail to meet their full potential.

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

Monday, February 25, 2019

How a Runaway Taxi Temporarily Saved Casey Stengel's Managing Job

Before he became the legendary skipper of the New York Yankees, winning 10 pennants and seven World Series, Casey Stengel was a pretty good outfielder for 14 big league seasons and a second division manager for the Brooklyn Dodgers and Boston Braves. So uninspiring was his leadership of the Braves, that in 1943 he missed more than a quarter of the season after being run down by a wayward taxi, leading one local journalist to quip, “The man who did the most for baseball in Boston in 1943 was the motorist who ran Stengel down two days before the opening game and kept him away from the Braves for two months.”

Stengel hit a combined .284 with 60 home runs and 535 RBIs for six different teams between 1912 and 1925. He was a character, but got along well with players, helping him become a manager once he was no longer able to make a living with his bat and glove. He was first hired by the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1934, but after three straight years finishing fifth or worse it was time for him to find a new job. That opportunity came in 1938 with the Boston Bees/Braves. Although bereft of stars other than outfielder Wally Berger, he steered the team to a 77-75 fifth-place finish in his first season with them. Unfortunately, it was all downhill from there.

Four consecutive finishes (1939-1942) in seventh place led to Stengel’s employment being in a major doubt. An unfortunate intervention in the form of being hit by a car temporarily stayed his termination.

Just prior to the start of the 1943 season Stengel was attempting to cross a street near the team hotel in rainy Boston when he was struck by a taxi. The driver, Thomas Hastings, was kind enough to take the injured man to St. Elizabeth’s Hospital, where he initially was placed in the maternity ward due to a shortage of available beds. A diagnosis of a badly broken leg and ensuing staph infection led to a six-week hospitalization for the maligned skipper. The injury was so bad that amputation was considered for a time. Ultimately, it did heal, but left him with a limp for the rest of his life.

During the 46 games Stengel missed, Bob Coleman stepped in and admirably led the team to a 21-25 record. Many had fun at the injured manager’s plight, sending him cards and gifts at the hospital that were addressed to “Casey Stengel: Psych Ward.”

For his part, Stengel was his typical offbeat self while recovering. Just before leaving the hospital, he told reporters, “I guess the boys played over their heads early in the season just to give me something to sing about on my hospital cot…  If we have those close and extra-inning games when the team comes home, you’ll see me in there swinging at the umpires with my crutches and my right-leg cast.”

Upon Stengel’s return to the bench, he managed the team to a 47-60 record the rest of the way. While the sixth-place finish was an improvement on previous years, that and the sympathy from the injury was not enough to endear him in Beantown. Seeing the writing on the wall, Stengel resigned from his position on January 27, 1944 and went home to California to reassess his options. The Braves hired his replacement—Bob Coleman, who would last through the All-Star Game of the 1945 season.

It wouldn’t be until 1949 that Stengel landed another major league managing gig. However, this new job was with the Yankees and propelled him into immortality. Although an errant taxi and unadoring Boston fans nearly curtailed his career, he pushed through it and ended up a baseball managing legend.

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

Monday, February 18, 2019

Minor League Baseball Reveals Full Schedule of Games and Date of Unveiling Day for 2019 Copa de la Diversión

Season-long event series returns more than doubling number of teams and game dates 

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla., Feb. 18, 2019 — Minor League Baseball™ (MiLB™) today unveiled the 397-game schedule for its second annual Copa de la Diversión® (Fun Cup™) event series, taking place during the 2019 season. Following an incredibly successful 2018 campaign when Copa de la Diversión (“Copa”)-participating teams authentically connected with their Latinx communities, resulting in dramatic increases in attendance, merchandise sales and commercial partnership revenue, this year’s participating teams look to continue that momentum. 

The 2019 season will see 72 teams transform their brands to join in Copa’s mission to authentically connect MiLB teams with their diverse communities, and embrace and celebrate the culture and values that resonate most with Latinx fans nationwide. 

April 5 marks the first of the nearly 400 Copa-designated games scheduled for 2019, with Columbus officially debuting Copa’s sophomore season at 6:05 p.m. ET. Highlighting the 2019 schedule is the Copa home opener for 2018 Copa champion Mariachis de Nuevo México (Albuquerque Isotopes), on Saturday, April 6, against fellow Copa participant Abejas de Salt Lake (Salt Lake Bees). 

“The growth we’re seeing in team participation for Copa is outstanding,” said Kurt Hunzeker, Vice President of Marketing Strategy and Research for Minor League Baseball. “To see this authentic engagement with our Latinx fans in MiLB communities across the country is very exciting. We like to say that you don’t attend a Minor League Baseball game, you feel it. To extend that feeling to a previously underserved fan base is remarkable.” 

The Copa 2019 schedule release comes on the heels of announcements made in late 2018. In November, MiLB announced an agreement with ECHO Incorporated making it the “Official Outdoor Power Tool of MiLB” and the “Official Outdoor Power Tool of Copa de la Diversión” (“Herramienta Oficial de la Copa de la Diversión”). Additionally, MiLB announced in December a partnership with the Lupus Foundation of America (LFA) to become an “Official Charity of MiLB Copa de la Diversión,” marking the first-ever philanthropic partner tied specifically to MiLB's Latinx fan engagement initiative. 

Copa “Unveiling Day,” slated for March 18, will showcase all 72 identities and logos via a coast-to-coast social media campaign as teams reveal their Copa-specific, culturally-relevant on-field identities. Additionally, full merchandise for each Copa team will be made available exclusively at each participating Copa team’s ballpark and on teams’ retail store sites. 

Visit for more information on Copa de la Diversión.

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

Friday, February 15, 2019

Jalal Leach: A Giant Testament to Perseverance

When baseball players sign their first professional contract they have stars in their eyes and no doubts in their mind as they are certain they will play in the major leagues. Unfortunately, the majority of these young men see their careers end short of their goal. However, a small number make it, which is a monumental accomplishment regardless if they go on to set records or have a total of one big league hit like former outfielder Jalal Leach.

Leach, a left-handed thrower and hitter, began his career by being taken in the seventh round of the 1990 draft by the New York Yankees. Future franchise stalwarts like Andy Pettitte, Shane Spencer and Jorge Posada were all also drafted that year by the team, but they all went after Leach, who was highly regarded out of Pepperdine University.

He progressed through the system, posting solid numbers wherever he played. He did a lot of things well. A typical season was 1993 in Double-A, where he hit .282 with 14 home runs, 79 RBIs and 15 stolen bases. Unfortunately for him the New York outfield was stacked with the likes of Bernie Williams and Paul O’Neill, making him more of a luxury than a necessity.

For whatever reason the Yankees never gave Leach a chance at the major league level and he was scooped up in the minor league draft by the Montreal Expos following the 1995 season. He continued his solid play for them, but bounced around to the Seattle Mariners and multiple stints with the Philadelphia Phillies and San Francisco Giants.

In a testament to his determination, Leach finished a typically productive year in 2001 at Triple-A for the Giants, hitting .285 with 16 home runs and 70 RBIs in 130 games when he finally received the ultimate reward in his 12th professional season. The Giants brought him up in the midst of Barry Bonds’ historic chase that ultimately reached a record 73 home runs. The September call up played sparingly, but finally got his first taste of the majors. He flied out to right in his very first at bat, against Curt Schilling, and went on to have a total of 12 plate appearances the rest of the way where he chalked up an RBI single and two walks.

Leach never played in the majors again but played through the 2004 season in the high minors, independent ball and the Mexican League. In 15 minor league seasons he posted excellent numbers—a .287 batting average with 132 home runs, 741 RBIs, 185 stolen bases and 1,517 hits. He has gone on to continue working in the game, running his own baseball school and currently working for the Miami Marlins. Keep reading as he reflects on his successful career that continues to this day.

Jalal Leach Interview

Who was your favorite player when you were growing up, and why?: Reggie Jackson.

Can you describe your draft experience with the New York Yankees in 1990- How did you find out you had been selected?: Back then the draft was done via the phone.

Given your success in the minor leagues, how frustrated did you feel about not getting Major League opportunities?: It was a part of the job. There were plenty of guys like me in the boat.

What do you remember about your one Major League hit (an RBI single off Octavio Dotel and the Houston Astros)?: I figured Dotel was going to throw many plenty of fastballs because I wasn’t getting frequent playing time.

In your opinion, who was the most talented player you ever played with or against? What made them stand out so much?: Barry Bonds. He was the smartest player I played with.

What is your favorite moment from your baseball career?: I guess you could say getting called to the big leagues, but I really enjoyed the entire time.

Your major league experience came in the midst of the Barry Bonds 73 home run season; what was it like making the jump and going immediately into that circus?: To my recollection it really wasn’t that bad because we were still in contention.

What was your experience like playing professional ball in Mexico?: It’s baseball, but down in Mexico they were known for throwing breaking balls.

Who was the best manager/coach you ever had, and why?: My impactful coaches were Bob Selna, Little League coach; Paul Ferrbouf, high school basketball coach; Andy Lopez, college baseball coach; Dusty Baker, manager with the Giants. All these men were influential in molding me as a person as well as a player.

What are you up to since retiring as a player?: Owned a baseball school in Sacramento for 16 years ( and I’m now the Pacific Rim Coordinator for Miami Marlins.

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

Sunday, February 10, 2019

2019 Boston Red Sox Non-Roster Invitees to Watch

Winter may be showing no signs of slowing down, but the impending 2019 Major League Baseball season, is about to kick off with the commencement of spring training. The Boston Red Sox are riding high coming off their dominant 2018 season that culminated with a resounding World Series victory. Outside of their bullpen there aren’t many roster questions. However, like any team, they bring a number of non-roster invitees each spring to camp, who may well end up playing a valuable role in the upcoming season. Let’s take a look at some of the most interesting non-roster players this year.

Gorkys Hernandez, Outfielder: The 31-year-old right-hander is nothing to get excited about. However, he plays all three outfield position adequately and would be able to hold his own if Boston’s already stacked outfield (spearheaded by 2018 American League MVP Mookie Betts) were beset by injuries.

A light-hitting speedster in the past, Hernandez never received regular work in the majors until the past two years, where he has played as a partial regular with the San Francisco Giants, accumulating 724 at bats during that time. He no long possesses the same speed that saw him steal as many as 54 bases in a single minor league season. However, he has come into some power, as evidenced by the career-high 15 home runs (almost doubling his previous high of eight) he hit last year to go along with a .234 batting average and 40 RBIs in 414 at bats. Signed to a minor league deal, he is a solid insurance policy for the team with lofty expectations like the Red Sox.

Zach Putnam, Relief Pitcher: With Boston’s 2019 bullpen facing many questions, it’s possible that opportunities could exist for those who are barely on the radar at this point. One such candidate is the 31-year-old right-handed Putnam. He missed the entire 2018 season recovering from Tommy John Surgery and is joining Boston on a minor league deal.
Putnam spent the previous four seasons before his surgery with the Chicago White Sox. An unfortunate close acquaintance with injuries, he has pitched well when he is able to take the mound. During his tenure in the Windy City, he was a combined 9-6 with a 2.71 ERA and six saves in 130 relief appearances. He struck out 149 in 139.1 innings, while yielding 56 walks and just 108 hits.

Never a hard thrower, his average fastball velocity has typically been around 90 MPH. He relies on a split-finger pitch that he throws more than half the time. That has all contributed to him getting a lot of swings and misses and softer contact. If, and that is a big if, he can come in healthy he could be a pleasant surprise in middle relief.

Carson Smith, Relief Pitcher: Excitement was high when Boston obtained the right-hander after a standout 2015 season with the Seattle Mariners in the Wade Miley trade. That season, just 25 years of age, he had posted a 2.31 ERA with 13 saves in 70 relief appearances with 92 strikeouts in 70 innings. In the three years since, significant injuries have limited him to a 2.66 ERA in just 29 appearances, spanning 23.2 innings with the Red Sox.

Possessing a fastball in the low 90s and a wipeout slider, he could go a long way to shoring up the pen if he could only stay healthy. He was outrighted off Boston’s 40-man roster after the World Series, but the team remains intrigued enough by his potential to have brought him back to give him another crack to fulfill the confidence they showed in him when he was first acquired. Don’t hold your breath on Smith’s health, as he will not play in any spring games and it could be a while before he sees the field due to his most recent recovery. However, don’t be surprised if he pops up at some point later in the year and proves himself to be an asset down the stretch.

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Sunday, February 3, 2019

Baseball Hall of Fame Voting Peculiarities of the Past

The 2019 Baseball Hall of Fame election results were recently announced, with Mariano Rivera, Mike Mussina and Edgar Martinez all receiving the requisite number of votes. In particular, Rivera gained national headlines by becoming the first person to be named on 100 percent of the ballots that were cast. While he was a wonderful pitcher and completely deserving of the honor it is intriguing to consider with so many baseball legends of the past who were previously inducted that this was the first unanimous choice (Ken Griffey Jr. held the previous record by being named on 99.3 percent- 437/440- of ballots in 2016).

Taking a look back at some of the upper echelon Hall of Famers reveals some interesting information on their paths to Cooperstown, and in some cases causing bewilderment when wondering how voters could have possibly seen them as anything other than an all-time great.

Willie Mays: With a .302 career batting average to go along with 660 home runs and legendary prowess in the field, the former outfielder is widely seen as a top-three player of all time. However, in 1979, when he was elected in his first year of eligibility, he was named on 94.7 percent of ballots (409 of 432). The fact that 23 voters could not see their way to check the box next to his name seems unbelievable. Not known for being particularly verbose with the press, the lack of votes may have been a rebuke to chide him for such perceived impertinence.

Joe DiMaggio: The Yankee Clipper is synonymous with excellence and is also regarded as an all-time great because of his .325 batting average and leadership position on nine World Series-winning squads with the New York Yankees among many other attributes. Unfortunately, this did not play out with Hall of Fame eligibility. He was actually not voted in until his fourth time on the ballot (1955), and even then, garnered “just” 88.8 percent of votes. He started off surprisingly tepid in his efforts for the Hall, as he got just 44.3 percent of votes in his first year of post-retirement eligibility in 1953. A primary cause for this may have been that his 13-year playing career was relatively short, although he sacrificed three full years due to military service.

Warren Spahn: Perhaps the most consistently best left-handed starting pitcher of all time, he won 363 games with a 3.09 ERA over 21 seasons. He won at least 20 games in a season a ridiculous 13 times, although that surprisingly resulted in just one Cy Young Award. He even missed three full seasons due to military service. He was voted into the Hall in his first season of eligibility, but received a shockingly low 83.2 percent of the vote, as 64 writers decided to leave him off their ballots. Interestingly, it wasn’t because it was an especially hard ballot, as he ended up being the only person selected that year. However, his lack of awards and post season success are possible contributors to such negligence.

Jackie Robinson: The pioneering Robinson, who officially integrated major league baseball had a breathtaking 10-year career. While his numbers (.311 with 137 home runs and 197 stolen bases) are modest for baseball bean counters, he is a no-brainer selection when taken into account with the challenges he faced and the standards he set. He was elected in his first year of eligibility (1962), but just slipped in with 77.5 percent of the vote, as 36 of the 160 voters did not believe he was worthy of the honor. Clearly, he had to contend with some of the same racism with the voting process that he encountered as a player.

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