Top 100 Baseball Blog

Friday, August 31, 2012

Chatting With New York Mets Top Prospect Brandon Nimmo

Ownership controversy, unwise free agent signings, and a weak farm system have all been emblematic of the recent struggles of the New York Mets. Playing in the largest market in America, the Mets have been stuck in a rut of mediocrity, unable to match the success and popularity of the cross-town Yankees. Sometimes it takes just one player to turn around the fortunes of a team, and the Mets are hoping that prospect Brandon Nimmo will be such a catalyst.

Nimmo is an outfielder from Cheyenne, Wyoming, who was the Mets’ first round draft pick (13th overall selection) in 2011. He grew up loving rodeo but also was drawn to baseball because of his father and the batting cage he built in a barn on the family’s property. Because Wyoming is one of three states (Montana and South Dakota are the others) without high school baseball, Nimmo was only able to play ball through his local American Legion team. A gifted athlete, the left-handed hitting, right-handed throwing youngster was dominant on the diamond. In 2010 he played in 70 Legion games, hitting .448 with 15 home runs and 34 steals in 70 games. He was snapped up by the Mets the following year’s draft, making him the highest drafted player in the history of Wyoming.

After a taste of professional ball last year, Nimmo has played this season with the Brooklyn Cyclones in the New York-Penn League, hitting .260 with 5 home runs, 37 RBI, and 44 walks in 63 games. More information on his statistics can be found at

Nimmo recently chatted with me prior to one of his games. His friendly, easy-going demeanor only makes you want to see him succeed more. Check out what he had to tell me and then give him a follow on Twitter if you want to keep tabs on this exciting prospect.

Brandon Nimmo Interview:

How did you first become interested in baseball?: It’s been in my family. Ever since I can remember I have been holding a bat, and I’ve have had a bat in my hands, or a glove, or a baseball. My older brother player and my dad loved the game, so it’s just been instilled in me since I was young.

Who was your favorite team and player when you were growing up?: My brother’s favorite player was Ken Griffey, Jr., so I always looked up to him. Obviously he was a great player, so a lot of people did. As I got older, in high school, I really liked the way that Troy Tulowitzki played the game. He was very passionate and played the game real hard, and I really appreciated that. That was a guy that I idoled.

Were you to going to college instead of starting your career?: Oh yeah! It’s a decision that is going to alter your life. The decision between college and pro ball is a very tough one and one that has to be weighed both ways throughout a long period of time. There were times where you would think you’re going to college and then there are times you think you’re going pro. At the end you make the best informed decision that you can. This has always been a dream of mine and I couldn’t be happier with it.

Could you talk a little bit about your draft experience?: Yeah, on draft day I just had a little get-together with my family. My immediate family and one of my best friends came over and we had some pizza and some wings. We were just getting ready to sit down to see if anything would happen. You go into the draft being told not to expect anything, as you should, and just to let it play out.

The first that we knew of it was what was on the tv. My brother was on Skype and his tv must have been a little bit faster because we heard him kind of yell right at the beginning and then we saw my name flash on our tv. You know, it’s a dream come true; it’s a feeling you never forget. It’s like winning the biggest game of your life; something that you work for for a long time. To actually see it through and make it happen is a blessing you can’t understand until you go through it. It was a great day, and then a lot of interviews afterwards, and tiring, but it was a day I’ll never forget.

What has been the most difficult on-field component of the professional game to get used to?: It’s just the speed of the game is a lot faster. Obviously everyone is talented here. There’s not one slouch on the baseball field, so you really have to work for everything that you do.

And then I’d say that dealing with the failure of the game with your mental ability. Mental toughness is something that really gets tested in professional ball. You play every day and can’t meditate on things for too long. You have to just put them in the past, whether they’re good or bad, and that’s something that’s learned with experience. That’s the biggest thing, getting a lot of experience.

What is the scrutiny like for you, having been a top draft pick for a New York team?: It’s huge. The media and the eyes on you are always there. And so if you let it get to you it can definitely weigh you down and put pressure on you. But you have to learn how to deal with that and make it into something good because it can be a great attribute to have to play baseball in New York and have all that media around you. You just have to try and make it work for you rather than against you, and learn how to do that. There’s no better place if you’re going to succeed at playing baseball than in New York. Just try and have fun with it and stay mentally tough.


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Wednesday, August 29, 2012

For Your Consideration: Adrian Beltre

Last week, Adrian Beltre of the Texas Rangers, was a regular fixture on ESPN SportsCenter, becoming the only major league player other than Joe DiMaggio to have a three home run game and hit for the cycle in the same week. Despite being a consistently good player for nearly 15 years, it’s been rare for Beltre to get this sort of attention without it involving a mischievous teammate rubbing his head. When looking at his entire body of work, it’s clear that Beltre is one of the most under-appreciated players in baseball and is moving closer and closer to being a legitimate Hall of Fame candidate.

I used to believe that I could tell a Hall of Famer by their stats or by having watched them during the course of their career and just “feeling” they were Hall-worthy. Given the explosion of counting stats over the past 20 years that is no longer the case, While I can admit that Beltre doesn’t necessarily “feel” like a future Hall of Famer to me, the numbers suggest otherwise.

Still just 33, Beltre is already in his 15th major league season. Since it’s reasonable to assume he still has a number of productive seasons left, a sampling of his current numbers, including 335 home runs, 1,194 RBI, and 2,185 hits indicate that by the time he plays his final game he will have accumulated some truly impressive stats, particularly for a third baseman. It is not outside the realm of possibility that he could make a serious run at 500 home runs and 3,000 hits, still the gold standard for Hall of Famers- unless you’re Rafael Palmeiro.

Beltre is more than just lumber. He made himself into one of the best defensive third baseman in baseball, and has few peers (Evan Longoria?) when it comes to being a dual threat. In fact, if advanced defensive metrics are to be believed, Beltre is actually an all-time great with his glove. His career defensive WAR of 21.6 is already 35th among all players in baseball history, behind only Brooks Robinson and Buddy Bell when it comes to third basemen.

With an unknown chunk of his career still to be played, Beltre already stacks up well against other Hall of Fame third sackers like Mike Schmidt, Robinson, and Ron Santo. As he continues to build his resume he could easily reach or surpass those legends in a variety of way. Here is how they currently stack up:

                                      Hits              Home Runs               RBI                Batting Avr.           OPS+                    WAR

One knock that Beltre might have against him is his lack of championships and hardware. He is only a three time All Star, has won three Gold Gloves, and been in the top 15 of MVP voting three times, with his high water mark coming in 2004 when he finished second while with the Los Angeles Dodgers. Although he is a near lock to be in the playoffs this season, he has only been two other times during his career, including last year’s trip to the World Series with the Rangers.

When contemplating possible Hall of Famers, voters and fans like to see full trophy cases, but Beltre’s is relatively bare of personal recognitions and team accomplishments. It may come as a huge shock to some, but many factors other than production often play a role in determining who receives individual awards. Player reputation, popularity, and media market are all strong influences when it comes the voting. Just looking at Beltre’s 2004 season shows how such thing may have impacted him. That season, despite hitting .334, with 48 home runs, 121 RBI, and a 2.5 defensive WAR, he was somehow left off the All Star team, didn’t win a Gold Glove, and finished behind Barry Bonds, who had one of the best statistical seasons of all time, for the MVP. That season is a classic example of how underrated Beltre has been throughout his career.

The final chapters in the book of Beltre have yet to be written, but what is already on the record is certainly impressive. He is within shouting distance of being a legitimate candidate for Cooperstown and is at the stage of his career where he is cementing his legacy. The next time a conversation comes up discussing who deserves to be in the Hall of Fame, take the time to consider Adrian Beltre and how he stacks up among the all-time great third basemen.

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Monday, August 27, 2012

Interview with Tyler Naquin

I recently had the opportunity to interview Cleveland Indians 20120 1st round draft pick Tyler Naquin. You can check out my conversation with the outfield prospect here.


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Saturday, August 25, 2012

Red Sox Reboot Creates Many Questions

Boston Red Sox fans have agitated for the better part of the 2012 season for the team to facilitate major change as a way to address their disappointing play since the end of last year. News reports of a completed earth shattering trade suggest that the front office has finally heeded those wishes. Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, Josh Beckett, and Nick Punto have been jettisoned to the Los Angeles Dodgers for a raft of A- to B+ level prospects (Rubby De La Rosa, Jerry Sands, Allen Webster, and Ivan De Jesus) and veteran first baseman James Loney, making it the most significant trade in terms of money in baseball history. The Red Sox are expected to send back only a fraction of the remaining money owed to the departing players, making it a textbook salary dump. This trade is the equivalent of the Red Sox hitting the reset button and make their immediate and distant futures complete unknowns and fraught with questions.

What will Boston do with all their newfound money?: The Red Sox are shedding a little over a quarter of a billion dollars in previously committed money. The ownership group, already known for their deep pockets, will have unexpected flexibility heading into the off-season. The natural urge would be to leap back into the fray and spend, spend, spend, to get back to instant contention, but the question must be asked, is that really the wisest move?

The two marquee free agents this off-season will be pitcher Zach Greinke and outfielder Josh Hamilton. Both are fantastic players, but also come with well-documented off-field issues that would seemingly make them horrible fits in the Boston sports scene potboiler. It is widely assumed both Greinke and Hamilton are better suited for smaller market teams, which would dim any spotlight that might derail their production. Certainly there are other players to be had, but emerging from their team chemistry disaster, it will be interesting to see if the Red Sox go for an instant rebuild or bide their time in finding the right players to make their next run at October glory.

Will free agents even want to come to Boston?: With all the drama surrounding the Red Sox this past season, it’s hard to imagine the team is a destination spot for many free agents. While they may have plenty of money to splash around, sometimes a player’s  decision whether or not to sign with a team comes down to small details like comfort and fit. Over the past two decades Peter Angelos and his dysfunctional Baltimore Orioles proved that simply having money to spend wasn’t a panacea and there is a good likelihood that the debacle Boston descended into could put them in a similar position.

Anyone with a television or a smart phone has seen Boston players thrown under the bus by the manager (Kevin Youkilis), shredded by fans and media (Crawford, Beckett and John Lackey), and constantly injected into soap opera-worthy storyline (essentially the entire 2012 team; right down to the bat boys). For the Red Sox money to mean anything they are going to have to repair their reputation, which has fallen into near disrepair.

Clearing copious amounts of cash off their books won’t help the Red Sox if they can’t alter their current reputation of being the baseball version of Days of Our Lives. They would be best served to hand over player leadership roles to Dustin Pedroia and Cody Ross, who both have a rare blend of a gritty playing style and infectious fun loving likeability. They are as apt to run through a brick wall for their teammates as they are to Saran Wrap their cars in the players’ parking lot. Believe it or not, guys like that can make a big difference when it comes to recruiting players.

What about the coaching staff and front office?: The trade will clear a lot of dead wood in the form of lackadaisical players and exorbitant contracts, the coaching staff and front office needs a similar purge. Now that some of Theo Epstein’s biggest albatrosses are on their way out of town, new GM Ben Cherington deserves a chance to show what he can do with roster and financial flexibility. This won’t be possible unless he can stop being the eunuch of team President Larry Lucchino, who is widely thought to be pulling many of the puppet strings once Epstein departed for greener pastures and deep dish pizza. Lucchino, notorious for his massive ego, isn’t going anywhere, so it will be incumbent on Cherington to be resourceful and have his voice heard. It’s unclear as to who orchestrated this trade, but given its impressive magnitude, signs are positive that the front office is finally starting to work cohesively.

It’s also hard to imagine the Red Sox moving forward without a major change to their coaching staff. Bobby Valentine has taken the lion’s share of the blame for this season, but it seems like the entire staff has contributed to the toxicity. Recently deposed pitching coach Bob McClure and Valentine had about respect for each other as a dog and a fire hydrant. Bullpen coach Gary Tuck is also said to similarly incommunicado with his skipper. It’s clear that this unit is one that needs to be blown up if the team is to take positive steps forward. At this point their jobs should all be fair game. Valentine isn’t the dynamic type of manager that the team should tie itself too. If the team wants to be able to attract free agents, Valentine has to be sent out of town on a rail. The dream scenario would be luring Tony LaRussa out of retirement. His pedigree and ability to attract talent wanting to play for him would be the quickest way to create a fresh attitude and scene in Boston.

There is a new world order in Red Sox Nation. Where hope once seemed like a distant memory, new possibilities now abound. However, be cautioned that the change is in the air doesn’t mean there are any guarantees. The Red Sox have decided to take an unexpected turn down an unknown path, and only time will tell if it leads them to where they want to go.


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Friday, August 24, 2012

Lou Gehrig Talks Baseball

Baseball icon Lou Gehrig became truly legendary because of his production, durability, and finally his untimely death at the age of 37 in 1941. His name still resonates with fans today, and despite playing many years with Babe Ruth, he was able to stay out of his shadow and create his own enduring legacy.

Much of what we know today about Gehrig comes from his statistics and anecdotal references from many baseball books and stories. Fortunately every now and then good first-person transcripts emerge on the internet like a long-lost treasure. I recently came across a radio interview given by Gehrig on August 22, 1939 in Rochester, Minnesota, where he was undergoing treatment for his ALS at the Mayo Clinic. The interview was conducted by correspondent Dwight Merriam, who got the “Iron Horse” on the record on a number of interesting issues.

The entire interview was posted online- with the permission of KROC-AM Radio. It’s a great opportunity to get some insight on one of the most memorable and tragic players in baseball history. I have pulled out some of Gehrig’s answers that I found most interesting, and included a few of my own thoughts (in italics).

Gehrig on night baseball-Well, night baseball is strictly a show and is strictly advantageous to the owners' pocketbook. But as far as being a true exhibition of baseball, well, I don't think I can say it is, and it's very difficult on the ballplayers themselves. Of course, we realize that the men who work in the daytime like to get out at night and really see a spectacle, and we do all in our power to give them their money's worth. But after all, it's not really baseball. Real baseball should be played in the daytime, in the sunshine.”

Gehrig, who passed away in 1941, could have never imagined the way night baseball would revolutionize the game. Of course technology, player pay, and fan expectations have all drastically changed, turning night games from “exhibitions” into the norm.

Gehrig on the best players ever-There's no question about the three greatest and most outstanding ballplayers in the history of baseball have been Ruth, Cobb, and Wagner. Now personally, Ruth was a typical fans' ballplayer. And Cobb was a typical individual ballplayer, because I believe he had more enemies on the ball field than any man in the history of baseball because he played it so hard and he thought of nobody. I mean, cutting or slashing or anything to gain his end, he went through. And yet I think Honus Wagner was the typical ballplayers' ballplayer or the managers' ballplayer, because he was always thinking of winning and doing what he could for the other fellow, for himself, and for his manager and for the fans.”

These are all interesting choices. It was well known that Gehrig and Ruth had a falling out and were not close friends; Cobb was one of the most disliked players in the game; and Wagner played his last game six years before Gehrig stepped on to a major league diamond. All three players represented different styles of play and would have been near the top of anyone’s list of top players at the time, making these diplomatic picks. However, it is clear that Gehrig reserved his highest praise for Wagner, who he seemed to admire as both an athlete and a person- sentiment noticeably lacking in the description of former teammate Ruth.

Gehrig on the top young players in 1939- “I see young [Ted] Williams come out of Minneapolis. He's around this part of the country. And we've got young Joe Gordon with the Yankees. And we've got a young fellow by the name of Charlie Keller, and a young man by the name of [Atley] Donald and there's a couple of young fellas down in St. Louis-- a pitcher by the name of [Bob] Harris and pitcher by the name [Jack] Kramer who looks might well. And you’ve got a young pitcher who was sent back for more experience, had a sore arm, with Boston-- a fella by the name of [Woody] Rich.”

Gehrig proved to have a good eye for young hitters, but was not nearly as adept at identifying pitching prospects. As Williams was hitting .314 with 20 home runs and 106 RBI in 110 games at the time of this interview, the Splendid Splinter was a relatively safe choice. Gordon was also established as one of the most dynamic second basemen the game had ever seen to that point. Of all the pitchers Gehrig mentioned, only Atley Donald had a career that could be described as better than average, and even he saw his career derailed by injuries and being shuttled between starting and relieving.

Gehrig on the possibility of a future players’ union- I don't see how it possibly could work because at that rate a boy would not be rewarded for his abilities. A ballplayers' union would put everybody in the same class, and it would put the inferior ballplayer, the boy who has a tendency to loaf, in the same class, as far as salary is concerned, with the fellow who hustles and has great ability and takes advantage of his ability.

Baseball free agency did not begin until 35 years after Gehrig’s death, but contrary to his bleak outlook it was something he would have certainly benefitted from. I am not aware of Gehrig’s personal feelings on the matter, but it would be easy to argue that he was drastically underpaid during his career. He was often one of the best players in the game, but never made more than $36,000 in any one season, while teammate Babe Ruth always made at least two or three times more each year.


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Wednesday, August 22, 2012

An Interview With Oakland A's Pitching Prospect Shawn Haviland

Despite their recent run of excellent play, the Oakland Athletics are still in full-blown rebuilding mode, looking for the right combination of young players to bring their small budget team back to the success they experienced during the heydays of Moneyball. While a preferred strategy is to draft can’t miss players, part of the trick is also being able to identify lesser known players that are believed to have the potential to be molded into a quality major leaguer. One of their sleeper prospects to keep an eye on is pitcher Shawn Haviland, who is currently making his way through their minor league system.
Haviland, a right-hander, was drafted in the 33rd round by Oakland in 2008 out of Harvard University. Although he majored in government studies, he was also attracted to the Ivy League institution because of its solid baseball program. Given how everything turned out, it was a good decision.
Haviland has mainly worked as a starter during his time in the Oakland system. He has piled up impressive strikeout numbers, averaging over 8 per 9 innings during his career. His best season came in 2010, when he went 9-6, with a 3.69 ERA and 169 strikeouts between High-A and Triple-A.
During this season Haviland is in the midst of his second year with Double-A Midland. He has appeared in 28 games (18 starts) and posted a 6-8 record, with a 4.61 ERA. More information about his statistics is available at
Even with the season in full swing I was recently able to check in and find out a little more about the Athletics’ young pitcher. Check out our interview and how he has gotten to this point in his baseball career.

Shawn Haviland Interview:
Who were your favorite team and player when you were growing up, and why?: Growing up in Connecticut I was a Yankee fan. Derek Jeter and David Cone were two players I really idolized. Jeter because he seemed to play the game the right way all the time, and Cone because he was a warrior. It didn't matter how he felt that day, he was going to scratch and claw to keep runs off the board. 
How did you know that the A's were interested in you?: During my senior season at Harvard I received a few calls from the A's regional scout to make sure I really wanted to play pro ball. The scout didn't let on that they would definitely pick me he seemed to be doing background work in the event that they did pick me. 

When you decided to attend Harvard, did you ever think you would eventually pursue a professional baseball career?: The fact that I wanted to play professional baseball is one of the reasons why I went to Harvard. Coach Walsh has done a great job in his tenure in making sure that Harvard plays a competitive and nationwide schedule so that scouts have plenty of opportunity to see you play. Quite a few guys from Harvard have been drafted, including three this year. 

What pitches do you throw?: I throw fastball, curveball, cutter, change up and splitter. 

What has been your favorite moment so far in your career?: In 2005 we won the Ivy League championship and went to a regional. Storming the field after the last out in the deciding game against Cornell is something I will never forget. 

Who has been your most influential manager or coach?
: My Dad has been easily the most influential coach that I have had. He coached me from Little League all the way through high school. The lessons he taught me about respecting the game and being a competitor are most of the reason why I am still playing baseball today.
What do you like to do in your free time?: We don't have too much free time during the season, but in my free time I like to spend time with my wife golfing or seeing a movie. We get to go to the movies for free in Midland, which is a great perk. 

How easy is it to get discouraged during the course of a season?: I think that you could easily get discouraged playing minor league baseball; it's an extremely cut throat business. For me I have been able to keep a positive attitude by reminding myself that I am lucky enough to play a game for my job. When "the office" is a baseball field it's really tough to have a bad day. 


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Monday, August 20, 2012

Greed is Driving Force in Baseball

Baseball has long marketed itself on the narrative that it is the national pastime, where the true players play for the love of the game over any other alternative gains. To play is to personify purity, gamesmanship, and national pride, among other superlatives. While those things may have occasionally been true, they have been used as window dressing to establish baseball’s public persona since becoming professionalized. There are many things I love about baseball, but there is no denying that one of its primary cornerstones is greed, which seems to be growing stronger every passing day and clouding the future.

Any time there is significant money to be made the lengths people will go to secure their piece of the pie can run the gamut from disappointing to despicable. The average major league player will earn more than $3 million in 2012, and owners stand to make exponentially more with tickets, concessions, merchandise, and television money lining their coffers. Needless to say there is a lot of money to be made and the public has begun to see an onslaught of actions representing pervasive greed in the game. Instead of being seen as individual discrepancies, they should be regarded as part of an expanding epidemic. Notable instances this past year include:

-    - Pitchers formerly known as Fausto Carmona and Leo Nunuez were arrested for identity fraud after it was determined they had changed their names and shaved three years and one year respectively off their ages in order to be more desirable prospects coming out of their native Dominican Republic. These are hardly isolated events, as it seems hardly a year passes without others being caught in similar cases. Looking at the numerous Dominican baseball hopefuls, many of whom come from crippling poverty, it might be easy to initially understand why they would be willing to break the law. But when it comes down to it, absent special playing talent, baseball rewards those who are willing to claw their way to the top, regardless of whose shoulders and heads they must step on to reach their desired summit.

-    - In yet another common theme, a major league team strong-armed its local community into publicly financing a new stadium, while doing little to repay such generosity. The Miami Marlins leveraged their threats of moving into approximately $500 million of public funding. This was another in a long line of similar extortion jobs, despite there being little to no evidence that publicly financed sports arenas ever pay off.

The Marlins, through false claims of poverty, wound up having to foot about 20% of the bill ($120 million) for the new park, while retaining naming rights and all generated revenue. It looked like the Marlins had started to repay their community when they embarked on a $190 million free agent spending spree this past off-season, but that good will barely made it to the All-Star break. In a massive fire sale the team traded a quarter of its roster and announced their regrets in having spent so much money during the winter. As things stand, the Marlins are a last place team with no direction, playing in a gorgeous new stadium they were able to weasel at a bargain price.

-    - San Francisco Giants outfielder Melky Cabrera was enjoying a career season this year until it was announced he had been suspended for 50 games following a positive test for synthetic testosterone. While he was derided for the positive test, he also received some initial support for being one of the first players identified with PEDs to not offer an excuse and just admit making poor choices. Any good will he may have accumulated went out the door with the most recent report that he had spent the better part of the last month trying to concoct a scheme involving a fake website and a fictitious health product to get out of his punishment. Since Cabrera is in a contract year, the tens of millions of dollars he stood to (and probably has) lost was likely the mitigating factor in him taking such measures. As incredible as Cabrera’s alleged plot may sound, it is a perfect example of the lengths players will go to in order to maximize their earning potential during their relatively short playing ability window.

Fans can still find wonderful entertainment and emotional investment in baseball but need to temper their expectations because of the game’s changing landscape. Incidents like those mentioned above are only becoming more commonplace. Disappointment is just a breaking news story away, and only the most optimistic of Pollyannas can now proclaim with a straight face 100% belief in the character of a particular player or team.

The most prevalent attributes in baseball are not talent, desire, or hard work; it’s money and greed. For as long as the game can survive with such enormous sums of money being up for grabs, there is little that should come as a surprise when it comes to what people are willing to do to get their share. There may be no “I” in baseball, but there are dollar signs. Lots of them.


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Friday, August 17, 2012

Catching Up With Danny Sheaffer

Danny Sheaffer’s baseball career began with great promise. The right-handed hitting Clemson University catcher was taken with the 20th overall selection in the first round of the 1981 MLB Draft by the Boston Red Sox. Despite his status as a top prospect, his journey to the major leagues proved to be a long one, but he never gave up and played in the big leagues in 7 of his 18 professional seasons, a testament to his hard work and determination.

After joining the Red Sox organization Sheaffer played well in the minors, but was blocked in Boston by the presence of Rich Gedman, one of the best hitting catchers in the game at the time. Finally in 1987, after Gedman suffered an injury, Sheaffer was summoned to the majors and appeared in 25 games, but struggled, collecting only 8 hits in 66 at bats.

Sheaffer was granted free agency following the 1988 season, and over the next few year bounced around with several organizations, including the Cleveland Indians, Pittsburgh Pirates, and Minnesota Twins. He only appeared in 7 major league games during that time and was never given an opportunity to stick on a big league roster.

Expansion proved to be Sheaffer’s big chance, as he signed with the fledgling Colorado Rockies prior to the 1993 season and emerged as half of their catching platoon that year with Joe Girardi. Sheaffer had a career year, appearing in 82 games, and hit .278 with 4 home runs and 32 RBI. He also improved his flexibility by playing occasionally in the outfield and corner infield spots- making him a valuable commodity off the bench.

Sheaffer went on to play two more seasons with the Rockies and three with the St. Louis Cardinals before finally retiring after 25 minor league games in 1998. His perseverance and adaptability became the key to his success and should serve as an example for any player trying to play their way to the majors. During his major league career Scheaffer hit .232 in 389 games, with 13 home runs and 110 RBI.  More information about his career statistics is available at

Since turning in his bat and glove Sheaffer has coached and managed in the minors, and currently serves as a roving instructor in the Houston Astros system. Despite what is surely a hectic travel and work schedule, Sheaffer graciously took the time to answer some questions earlier this season about his experiences in baseball.

Danny Sheaffer Interview:

Who were your favorite team and player when you were growing up, and why?: Growing up in central Pennsylvania, we only had TV access to two teams on a regular basis, the Phillies and Orioles. Philadelphia was the hands down winner in that one.

What was your draft experience like with the Red Sox?: I was called by a high school coach that I had in the past and he told me that I was drafted by the Baltimore Orioles in the first round. I quickly found out by a phone call from a scout that the "B" was correct, but it was Boston and not Baltimore. It was confirmed the next day by a Western Union letter (How times have changed).

Which was your favorite MLB season and why?: I would have to say it was a toss-up between the 1993 season with the Colorado Rockies (inaugural season ) and the 1996 St. Louis Cardinals season, the year we played in the NLCS against Atlanta.

Which pitcher you caught had the best stuff?: Roger Clemens, hands down had the best stuff.

What was your favorite moment from your playing career?: Hitting a game tying home run in my first major league game was a top moment.

If you could do anything differently about your playing career, what would that be?: I probably would have tried to get to the National League quicker than I did. There was way more opportunity for someone that plays multiple positions to stay in the big leagues.

Who was your favorite coach or manager?: My favorite manager was Tony LaRussa and favorite coach was George Hendrick.

Have you noticed any major differences between the players of your generation and those of today?: Way too many to write here, but one main difference is a sense of entitlement that many players seem to have, when what they have accomplished in the past really does not warrant that at that time.


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Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The Yankee Way: A Review of Pinstripe Empire

As a Red Sox fan I thought I had heard it all when it came to the glory of the New York Yankees and their 27 World Series titles. It’s a refrain frequently presented in a matter of fact tone to anyone with the audacity to challenge the place of the Yankees at the top of the baseball world. As it turns out there is a treasure trove of fascinating stories behind the successes (and occasional failures) of baseball’s preeminent franchise, and they have been marvelously captured by Pinstripe Empire: The New York Yankees From Before the Babe to After the Boss (ISBN 978-1608194926), the most recent book by Marty Appel.

Pinstripe Empire is a historical compendium of the most revered franchise in professional sports. Many works in the baseball history genre tend to use statistics to tell the story. While Appel shares important numbers, he doesn’t hit the reader over the head with them, but instead relies on an impressive collection of anecdotes, quotes, and other inside information to weave his narrative tapestry. He speaks on good authority too, having spent a number of years working for the Yankees- first handling Mickey Mantle’s mail and then working his way up to the team’s PR Director position. After leaving the team in the 1970’s he went on to an acclaimed writing career, authoring 18 books, including biographies of King Kelly and Thurman Munson.

At 620 pages Pinstripe Empire is robust to say the least, but is so out of necessity, meticulously covering every Yankees season through 2011. Appel includes all the salient information while including a generous portion of inside stories. From the specifics of each Billy Martin firing and subsequent re-hiring, to Babe Ruth’s habit of not flushing the toilet being the one lasting memory of the Bambino by a long-time clubhouse employee, this comprehensive history is full of depth and substance.

I love baseball and I love history, and any book that is written in a way that satisfies both genres is a rare but welcome treat. Pinstripe Empire is that kind of book. Putting away personal rooting interests, it’s impossible to not be drawn into the story of the Yankees and the way they have become woven into the American fabric over the past century. Love them or hate them the Bronx Bombers are the gold standard in sports and are the model of America’s pastime. Appel helps the reader not only understand the team and its past, but also how they fit in the baseball landscape and the larger story of America.

Less ambitious books would be satisfied to recount all the famous home runs and past headline stories; content that they had given an accurate depiction of their subject. Much of the beauty in Appel’s opulent work is in the wonderfully incidental and often forgotten details that are so important in telling an accurate story. Many people have heard of Babe Ruth’s called home run in the 1932 World Series or Reggie Jackson earning his “Mr. October” moniker in 1977. But how many can remember the trouble in getting old Yankee Stadium built on the site of the Hebrew Orphans Home or how Hall of Fame front office man Larry Macphail punched his way out of his stake in the team’ss ownership the night they won the 1947 World Series?

Appel includes a bibliography of cited works, something always appreciated by historians. While he utilized more books than periodicals as his sources, he has done such a thorough job of researching that only the most nitpicky of academics could find fault.

Perhaps the most complimentary thing that can be said about Pinstripe Empire is that after reading it even this dyed in the wool Red Sox fan can understand how the Yankees are so alluring to so many. Marty Appel has created a real gem; one that is worthy to be on the bookshelf of any historian, baseball fan, or just someone seeking a good read.

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


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Monday, August 13, 2012

Arizona Diamondbacks' Will Locante Hopes Goals Turn Into Excellence

The number of talented pitchers in the Arizona Diamondbacks’ system make them the envy of most teams. They have great starting and relieving depth, and if even a small percentage of these prospects pan out the D-Backs will be flush with pitching for years to come. Will Locante is in that mix, and the sky is the limit as he pitches in his first professional season.

Locante, a left-hander, was drafted by the D-Backs in the 11th round of the 2011 MLB Draft. He attended Briarcrest Christian School in Tennessee, earning All-Region and All-State honors as both a junior and senior. His senior season was his best, as he compiled an 8-2 record, with a 1.01 ERA and 107 strikeouts in 65.1 innings, which earned him a spot on the University of Tennessee’ baseball team.

While at Tennessee, Locante was made a reliever and struggled in that role. As a freshman and sophomore, he totaled a 3-1 record with 31 strikeouts in 21 innings, but also allowed 22 hits and a combined 6.43 ERA. He ultimately decided to transfer and ended up with Cumberland University in the NAIA.

After transferring, Locante immediately put the polish back on his dulled prospect star during his junior year with Bulldogs. He returned to starting, earning Honorable Mention All-America by the NAIA and a place on the All-TransSouth First Team. He appeared in 14 games (13 starts), going 8-2 with a 2.11 ERA and 118 strikeouts in 81 innings; more than enough to earn his draft spot by Arizona.

It remains to be seen if Locante will be groomed as a starter or reliever but he has the ability to do both. He has pitched exclusively as a reliever so far this year in the low minors with excellent results. You can check out his statistics at

This past off-season Locante interviewed with me and provide some insight on how he has gotten to where he is today in his baseball career. You can also give him a follow on Twitter and monitor his progress throughout the remainder of the season.

Will Locante Interview:

Who were your favorite team and player growing up?: My favorite player growing up was Satchel Paige. I admired how he carried himself on the field. Obviously, I only saw his highlights and stats, but heard many stories of outstanding confidence and ability.

How did your experience at Cumberland University prepare you for life as a professional baseball player?: After I transferred from the University of Tennessee to Cumberland, I shortly realized it was the best move I could have made. Coach Woody Hunt and my pitching coach Kevin Hite helped me tremendously. They taught me the art of self reliance and the importance of doing things on my own. They really gave me a glimpse into how I need to carry myself, mound presence, and what my thought process should be like.

Can you run through what your draft experience was like?: The draft day was the most rewarding and most stressful day of my family's life. All day we received calls from teams claiming I was going to be their next pick. This happened for 11 rounds. The Diamondbacks drafted me in the 11th and it was one of the best moments of my life.  It was like a weight had been lifted and a lifelong dream was accomplished.

Based on your own experience, can you give some insight on the intensity (or not) of contract negotiations between drafted player and team?: I really don't want to get too deep into it. However, I will tell you that things do definitely get intense. Fortunately, my advisor handled the majority of the negotiations. I am grateful to him and the Diamondbacks for reaching an agreement.

What pitches do you throw, and which one is your strongest and which one needs the most work?: Right now I am primarily a two-seam and slider type of pitcher. My best pitch is probably my slider, but I do love throwing my two-seam/sinker. The pitch I would really like to see develop and improved would be my changeup. The off season has been very productive and my changeup has definitely improved.  But I am never satisfied and always strive to improve and get better in every aspect of my game.

What were your emotions like as you headed into your first spring training and professional season?: As I head into my first spring training, I am really excited and eager to learn. What I am most excited for is hopefully getting to talk to major leaguers and ask them about approach and other bits of advice. Who better to learn from than major league pitchers and the experience from the great coordinators in our system?

After you signed, what was something that you did for yourself or family to celebrate?: After I signed there wasn't too much time to celebrate. I signed with about 30 minutes left in the deadline and I was then on a plane early the next day to head out to Arizona. However, after the draft, my family took me out to a nice dinner in Nashville and we had a great time. Also, I bought myself an iPad for the long bus trips I have ahead of me.

What are you specific goals for 2012?: My goals are:
1. To make it to a full season team out of spring training.
2.  Have an ERA of 2.5 or less and 3:1 k to bb ratio.
3. Further develop my changeup.
4. I want to enjoy the experience of playing professional baseball. **********************

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