Top 100 Baseball Blog

Friday, August 30, 2013

Leigh Steinberg: The Real-Life Jerry Maguire

Earlier this summer I had the chance to interview sports agent Leigh Steinberg. While he may be best known for representing NFL players such as Warren Moon, Thurman Thomas, Steve Young and Troy Aikman, he has also worked in other sports, including baseball.

Born and raised in California, Steinberg attended Cal-Berkeley, where he met his future first client, quarterback Steve Bartkowski, who was one of his residents when he was a residence hall adviser. The football player became the first pick in the draft following his college days, and his RA wound up getting the chance to represent him.

Called the “real-life Jerry Maguire,” Steinberg was the original super agent. In addition to his work representing athletes, he is also an accomplished speaker and writer. He is certainly one of the most interesting people in the world of sports.

Continue reading for an inside look at his career.

Leigh Steinberg Interview:

How did you first become interested in becoming a sports agent?
: There was not an established area of sports law when I was in law school. There was no guaranteed right for a player to have representation and teams could refuse to deal with an agent. I was a dorm counselor at UC-Berkeley in the early 1970's and the Cal freshman football team was housed in my dorm. One of the students, Steve Bartkowski, the quarterback, was drafted in 1975 as the first pick in the first round of the NFL Draft by the Atlanta Falcons, and he asked me to represent him. I had traveled the world since graduating in January 1974 and had not started my practice yet. We were able to negotiate the largest rookie contract in the history of the NFL, eclipsing Joe Namath and OJ Simpson's contracts.

Who was your first client, and how hard was it to convince them to sign with you?: It was only the second year that I went through the process of recruiting new clients. By profiling the type of athlete I wanted to represent--a role model with good values--it narrowed the focus to athletes that truly would be excited about the charitable and community approach

Which sport did you prefer to work with and why?: I have represented high round draft picks in the NBA,NFL, MLB, and boxers, ice skaters, gymnasts; and they are all unique. The NFL is the nation's passion currently and so I focused on quarterbacks, and at one point represented half of the starting QB's in the NFL.

What do you consider to be the defining moment of your career, or the one you are most proud of?: Standing at the podium in Canton, Ohio, delivering the presentation speech for Warren Moon's induction into the Hall of Fame was a culmination of everything I tried to achieve.

Warren was my client for 23 years, an extraordinary role model and charitable leader, and the first African-American quarterback in the modern era to be inducted. Troy Aikman also was inducted, and I remembered the excitement of the day in Pasadena when he was selected MVP of the Super Bowl.

Standing on the field when Steve Young won his first Super Bowl and exorcised the shadow of Joe Montana was heartwarming.

If you could do things over, what is something you would change about your career?: I wish I had started even earlier than the 90s crusading on the concussion issue and player safety. It took me ten years to realize that athletes were in denial about their long term health and to really help their life after football I needed to try and make the game safer.

Can you talk a bit about your philanthropy and how you passed that along to your clients?: My dad had two core values; one, treasure relationships-especially family; and two, take responsibility for trying to improve conditions in the world. Asking athletes to retrace their roots to the high school, collegiate and professional communities and set up scholarship funds and foundations that could make a difference was key. Athletes can be positive role models and trigger positive imitative behavior. My clients have raised almost $800 million dollars for charities and raised awareness about societal issues. It is the nexus for a well-rounded approach which will prepare them for second career.

What are you up to these days?: I am getting ready to relaunch a new sports and entertainment company that will represent star talent and have a marketing arm. It can market teams, leagues, corporations and any high profile individual. We will also create a virtual studio to help produce or consult with motion pictures, television, video games, apps that bring fans closer to sports on the internet, mobile phone, tablets and every platform of content supply.

I also am working on a Sporting Green Alliance that will take sustainable technology to stadia, arena and practice fields at the high school, collegiate and pro levels to drop carbon emissions and energy costs and transform those venues into educational platforms so that millions of fans can see a waterless urinal or a solar panel and think about how to integrate the concepts into their own homes and businesses.

I have turned in the first draft of an autobiography to St. Martin's Press which will come out later in the year. I speak around the country and write for publications like

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

Monday, August 26, 2013

The Baseball Historian's Notes for August 26, 2013: The Sanctimony of Baseball

For as much fun as baseball can be, the sanctimony sometimes gets a little too thick for comfort. The latest example has been the firestorm following Boston Red Sox pitcher Ryan Dempster hitting Alex Rodriguez with a pitch after several apparent failed attempts in the same at-bat. While Dempster disputed that his actions were intentional, it sure seemed that way, and he earned a five-game suspension.

The purpose of the pitch was assumed to be A-Rod’s recent suspension and controversy surrounding his use of PEDs, apparent dishonesty in covering it up, and highly public appeal of his punishment.

The fallout from the incident between Dempster and A-Rod has revealed the hypocritical nature of baseball. While throwing at a hitter is considered acceptable after a home run has been admired too long, a batter jogs across the pitcher’s mound following an out, or a hundred other mundane reasons, the outcry against Dempster has been perplexing. Even Boston teammate David Ortiz came out publicly on the side of Rodriguez.

While hitting a batter for any reason can easily be argued as stupid and immature, as long as it has a place in the game (which it currently does), how can there be any quibbling over acceptable circumstances?

Dempster clearly had his reasons for throwing the pitch, which may or may not have had something to do with A-Rod’s loathsome public image. People may not agree with what the pitcher did, but he was only following the protocol that has already been in place for generations before him. Don’t hate the player; hate the game.

***Out of all the pitchers who have toed a mound in baseball history, one that you would least want to have throw at you was Hall-of-Fame southpaw Sandy Koufax. The flamethrower intimidated hitters throughout his career with his powerful arm.

As a youngster, Koufax was just a thrower with a lot of promise that needed a lot more polish. This scouting report from when he was 18 saw his diamond through the rough edges and recommended him as a top prospect. Whoever wrote it was right on the money; as he went on to have a storied career.

***The topic of Hall-of-Fame pitcher Satchel Paige’s age has been a topic of debate for decades. While he’s believed to have been born in 1906, nobody is certain that’s accurate, and he did little to quell the mystery whenever he was asked to address the matter.

Here is a video clip of Paige talking to a reporter in 1958 about his age. Although he was at least in his early 50s at the time, he spoke of wanting to continue pitching for another 15-20 years. He made it to 1966, when he pitched his last organized game. As he one famously said, "Age is a question of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter."

*** Sometimes old-time baseball players are best recognized by their stats or how they looked on their baseball cards. Those who played before the era of television and internet are relative mysteries when it comes to people knowing what they sounded like. Slugger Jimmie Foxx, who hit .325 with 534 home runs and 1,922 RBI, during a legendary 20-year career, is one of those players. There’s not a great deal of audio material for Foxx, but this interview is a wonderful example of the burly first baseman talking about his career.

*** Being elected in the National Baseball Hall of Fame is the ultimate pinnacle for any career in the sport. During the induction ceremony, newly minted members can experience a rush of emotions and appreciation for finally reaching the top of the proverbial mountain for their chosen profession.

Pitcher Bob Gibson, who was known as a silent warrior during his great career with the St. Louis Cardinals, gave a great acceptance speech. Like his pitching style, it was direct, effective and classy. His grace in accepting baseball’s ultimate honor should be seen as much as an example as what he was able to do on the diamond.

*** A little over 30 years ago, Kansas City Royals third baseman George Brett was ejected from a game following one of the most explosive reactions to an umpire decision ever seen.

The future Hall-of-Famer hit what appeared to be a go-ahead home run against Goose Gossage and the New York Yankees. However, Yankees manager Billy Martin asked for the hitter’s bat to be inspected. It was determined that the amount of pine tar on the barrel of the bat exceeded permissible amounts, and Brett was called out and the home run was nullified. Brett went berserk, and it became forever known as the “Pine Tar Incident.”

As it turns out, Merritt Riley, a 47-year-old police officer, played a major role in the imbroglio. At the time, he was a teenaged batboy for the Royals. The Yankees were able to inspect Brett’s bat after their catcher took it from the youngster’s innocent hands at home plate following the homer. Riley’s recollections of that game are an interesting take from a perspective not usually paired with the story.

***And now your moment of Zen. Turns out the Harvard baseball team isn’t just full of players who are wicked smart. They can also perform the hell out of their own version of a Carly Rae Jepsen song.

This 2012 video was obviously made by the players while trying to find something to do while in their travels to or from a game. There may be a number of other attempts to cover this delightful ditty, but the Crimson boys put their own unique spin on it.

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

Monday, August 19, 2013

The Baseball Historian's Notes for August 19, 2013: All Hail the Hidden Ball Trick!

In a sport increasingly known for money, technology and deeds of avarice, the hidden ball trick has to be one of the rarest and time-honored plays in baseball. It’s something that has been utilized since the earliest days of the game, yet still has a place today.

One blog post from several years ago reported there have been less than 300 hidden ball tricks in major league history. It’s a stat that has not been well-documented, so while the exact number is in question. there is no doubting its rarity.

Although the hidden ball trick is as old as soaking runners or jamming wads of chewing tobacco into spike wounds, it is still as cool as ever. It was glorified in a movie and is still a top highlight when occasionally pulled off in today’s game.

The most recent example came on August 10 in a game between the Tampa Bay Rays and Los Angeles Dodgers. L.A. third baseman Juan Uribe was the victim of a particularly well-executed play. Naturally, it was talked about for days after the fact. No matter how big baseball gets, it is small joys like this that make baseball the national pastime.

***Whatever good will Alex Rodriguez had with most fans was likely lost following his recent PED suspension and subsequent highly publicized appeal. Going back to a simpler time in his career, this clip documents a 1996 exhibition home run derby in the minor leagues, featuring Ken Griffey Jr., David Ortiz and Rodriguez. It’s fascinating to see A-Rod, with innocence in full bloom, not to mention a shockingly scrawny Big Papi (before the “big” was apropos).

***One of the most iconic moments in baseball history was Dodger outfielder Kirk Gibson’s 1988 Game 1 World Series home run against super closer Dennis Eckersley and the Oakland Athletics. The full drama of the entire at-bat can be seen via this clip.

Gibson had not started that particular game because of injuries to both legs that left him barely able to walk. Late in the game, he was summoned to the clubhouse, tottered up to the plate and after several minutes of drama slammed a homer against Eckersley; perhaps the best pitcher on the planet at the time.

The Dodgers went on to take the Series against the heavily-favored Athletics. A bonus of the famous moment is that it is called by legendary broadcaster Vin Scully, who can make any magical baseball moment even more special.

***Henry Chadwick, who passed away in 1908, is often referred to as the Father of Baseball. The journalist and voracious scorekeeper had so much influence on the game that he is often credited with its founding. He certainly didn’t invent baseball, but his contributions were significant enough that his enshrinement in the Baseball Hall of Fame is an honor richly deserved.

This look at Chadwick is done in large part by the author going through a treasure trove of his papers. Primary sources is the good friend to any historian, and anything that can illuminate a figure like the Hall of Famer, who is largely forgotten by mainstream society is a reclamation worth doing.

***The Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees have had a rivalry of one sort or another since the Yankees joined the fledgling American League in 1903 (Boston was an original entrant in 1901). This color photo from a 1942 game at Fenway Park between the two teams is an interesting tidbit in the history of those two teams. It’s interesting to note how similar many parts of the stadium are to what stands today. On the other hand, there are noticeable differences to the left field wall, where the Green Monster, which is festooned with advertisements, is not nearly as intimidating as it eventually became.

***Free giveaways have become a staple at baseball games; particularly in the minor leagues. As the swag has diversified, so have the methods of delivery to the hysterical crowd hoping to be one of the lucky few to bask in the glory of free but completely useless crap.

One of the most interesting developments has been that of the t-shirt cannon. Pumping balled up shirts in inconvenient sizes to fans has become strangely popular. The New York Times’ Pagan Kennedy explored the history of the non-lethal weapon, and found that it originated in the 1990s, first appearing as a veritable mortar. It has evolved since then, but become an accessory few baseball teams can now live without.

***If you are a student of a game and a lover of baseball history, it doesn’t get any better than the following clips. In 1993, Bob Costas interviewed Red Sox legend Ted Williams at length about his career and thoughts about the game. Clip 1, clip 2 and clip 3 add up to nearly 40 minutes of pure bliss for anyone who gets chills listening to the Splendid Splinter talk about hitting or baseball.

***And now, your moment of Zen. Most fans of baseball and its history would agree the current game just isn’t the same that it used to be. Fortunately, there’s a way to temporarily transport back in time. Here is a complete radio broadcast of a 1957 game between the Brooklyn Dodgers and the Chicago Cubs. The pitching matchup of future Hall-of-Famer Sandy Koufax against Dick Drott led to a fantastic game (and 12 strikeouts by Koufax!)

In addition to other Hall-of-Famers like Roy Campanella, Ernie Banks and Duke Snider playing, the first three innings are called by a young announcer by the name of… Wait for it… Vin Scully!


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

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Boston Red Sox: Why You Shouldn't Be Buying Team's 2013 World Series Chances

Following last season’s 92-loss debacle, this year’s version of the Boston Red Sox have been a breath of fresh air. Heading into last night’s game at 71-49 they already had one more victory than all of last year and hold first place in the American League East. The turnaround can be attributed in various parts to new manager John Farrell and a slate of offseason moves that seriously shook up the roster. While there is a lot to like about this team, let’s be clear on one thing; they are not a serious World Series contender in 2013.

This declaration isn’t a continuation of the Debbie Downer fatalists who infested Red Sox Nation prior to the team winning the World Series in 2004; taking home the trophy for the first time in 86 years. It’s a realistic view of a fun, but flawed team, which will be held back by its lack of starting pitching.

Boston leads the major leagues with 605 runs scored this season. Despite the impressive offensive output, the mediocrity of their starting pitching will prevent them from experiencing October glory.

Southpaw Jon Lester is supposedly the team ace. The 29-year-old was once one of the brightest young pitchers in the game, but has never fully claimed his supposed destiny.

Worried whispers around Boston have termed Lester’s lack of ace performances as a “slump.” Looking at the numbers suggest it’s much more than that. The high point of his career was 2010, when he went 19-9 with a 3.25 ERA and 225 strikeouts. While he won 15 games the following year, his struggles started in the waning weeks of that season.

Since September 1, 2011, Lester has gone 20-24 with a 4.69 ERA in 63 starts. The longevity of such underwhelming production suggests his reality is more that of a back-end starter than pitcher simply needing to get back on track.

Moving on from Lester brings us to other problems with the starting rotation.

Right-hander Clay Buchholz looked like he finally put together everything that made him a 2005 first-round draft choice, as he went 9-0 with a 1.71 ERA in 12 starts earlier this year. Unfortunately, he last pitched on June 8 because of a strained neck.

The injuries are nothing new for the 29-year-old. He has missed time every year since he became a “regular” in the Boston rotation mid-way through the 2009 season. He has shown tantalizing talent, particularly this year, but has cemented his reputation of being made of tissue paper and dandelion spores. Regardless if he pitches again this year, there’s no way he can be counted on to front a rotation through a gritty playoff run.

Veteran Jake Peavy was brought to Boston last month through a trade with the Chicago White Sox. While the 2007 National League Cy Young winner can still be effective, he is now more of a back-end guy than anything else.

He had a gruesome right shoulder injury that was MacGyvered back together through surgery, rehab and possibly black magic.

Since coming to the American League half-way through the 2009 season, he has just a 4.00 ERA while allowing 1.1 home runs per nine innings. Those numbers are jumps from his 3.29 ERA and 0.9 home runs per nine innings in eight years in the National League.

Right-hander John Lackey is dangerously close to being in the same category as Peavy. He missed all of last season because of Tommy John surgery. Despite a 7-10 record, he has surprised many with his 3.32 ERA in 21 starts this year. It may not stay that low much longer.

Lackey hasn’t had a full-season ERA of less than 3.75 since 2007. Additionally, there are visible signs he is tiring as the season has wore on. He has a 4.96 ERA in five starts since the All Star break, as opposed to a 2.78 mark before that time. Coming off such a grueling injury and recovery, he can’t be expected to be a workhorse this year.

The other pieces of Boston’s rotation are equally uninspiring.

36-year-old Ryan Dempster and his career 130-132 record and 4.35 ERA were signed to stabilize the bottom of the rotation. At 6-8 with a 4.67 ERA this year, he has done just that, and proved that you can expect about six innings and three runs allowed per start, but not much more, and sometimes even less.

That brings us to lefty Felix Doubront, the youngest and hottest member of Boston’s staff. After nearly losing his job earlier in the season, the 26-year-old has gone 5-3 with a 2.63 ERA in 13 starts since the first of June. While he has certainly done a commendable job of turning things around, he is still not in the neighborhood of being an ace.

Doubront has pitched seven innings or more just three times this season, and three times last year, over a cumulative span of 50 starts. His inability to go deep in games comes from his struggles to find the strike zone, as his 3.9 walks per nine innings often spike his pitch counts. His style of pitching is often exposed by experienced teams come playoff time, making him a dangerous arm to rely on.

The Red Sox also have a farm system chock-full of young talent; some of whom have appeared at the Fens this season. They may be big parts of the future, but they won’t be pulling a circa 1992 Tim Wakefield and making big and unexpected contributions to a playoff run. Allen Webster, Steven Wright and Brandon Workman have all had their moments this year—some good and some not so good. While there is a good chance they will have their time in the next year or two, it is clear it won’t come in 2013.

The starting rotation of the Red Sox isn’t terrible. It has a number of veterans who are productive and will be part of the team for seasons to come. They just don’t have the ability or cache of a playoff staff. To compliment what the current group’s skills, an ace is needed to take the team to the next level. That may be easier said than done, but that is what winning teams must do to become and remain viable.

Although the Red Sox have rebounded nicely from last year’s disaster, don’t get your hopes up for anything more than enjoying an entertaining team. The question marks about their starting pitching are enough to put away the streamers and sparkling grape juice for at least another year

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

Monday, August 12, 2013

The Baseball Historian's Notes for August 12, 2013: What's Smothering Baseball

Despite some excellent games, Max Scherzer notching his 17th win (against just one loss) and outfielder Alexis Rios being traded from the Chicago White Sox to the Texas Rangers; a somber fog hung over baseball this past week because of the specter of performance enhancing drugs.

New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez was suspended an unprecedented 211 games for a litany of offenses linked to the Biogenesis scandal, but immediately filed an appeal and played his first games of the season. It’s unknown when his case will be heard, but steroids will remain a major issue in the game until that time and beyond.

PEDs have become ingrained in baseball in large part because of players’ quest for money and career longevity. There may be no official science linking users with specific improvements in performance or physical benefits, but at the least, the perception is that it helps. Whether it is a star staying at the top of his game or a bit player hoping to hang on for one more season, it all comes down to chasing glory and paychecks. On top of the huge salaries earned by major leaguers, even minor league pay could be the most money some may ever hope to make, especially in the case of international players.

For most players a baseball career is a finite period of time to make their mark and their bank. There is constantly a mob of other players breathing down their necks to usurp their place in the game, so any advantage, real or perceived, may be seen as means to an end if it allows them to hold on for even one more day.

***While some players are desperate to stay in the game, others are just as ferocious in their attempts to break in and start a career. SB Nation’s Brandon Snead wrote an eye-opening piece about Montaous Walton, who had a serious lack of talent but created an online and media-driven prospect profile in an attempt to fake his way into a professional baseball career. The shocking part of the story is how far he got in receiving tryouts, interviews, perks and even hiring an agent. The caper took place over the course of years, but finally came to an end when authorities were alerted to his fraudulent actions.

***This next bit may sting a little for fans of the Boston Red Sox. It’s the official transfer paperwork documenting the sale of slugger Babe Ruth to the Yankees in December, 1919. Of course, the Bambino went on to serve as the foundation of the greatest dynasty in American sports history (26 World Championships), while the Red Sox went 86 years before winning their next title in 1919. The one-page document had an incredible impact that completely changes the course of two of baseball’s greatest franchises for the better part of a century. Simply remarkable.

***Major League teams get all the attention in the media, but minor league baseball is still extremely popular across the country. The Reading Eagle’s Mike Drago outlined the 1983 Phillies, which was one of the best teams in recent memory. Despite starting out 6-11, by future MLB stars Juan Samuel and Darren Daulton, they finished at 96-44 and won their division by 18.5 games.

Reading’s success was achieved by outscoring their opponents by 200 runs. They also stole a whopping 272 bases, which shattered the previous league record of 232. It’s been thirty years since that incredibly successful team was entertaining crowds, but they will go down as an all-time great.

***It was 25 years ago last week (August 8, 1988) that the first night game was played by the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field. This video clip of legendary broadcaster Harry Caray and Bill Murray, perhaps the team’s most famous fan, shows the action from the booth on that historic night.

Unfortunately, the game against the Philadelphia Phillies was rained out after three innings of play. The first official Wrigley night game was completed the following night against the New York Mets, and resulted in a 6-4 Chicago win.’s Jim Caple wrote an excellent feature documenting the events of that historic illumination.

Technology is rampant in baseball today in so many ways, so it’s easy to forget that the simplicity of lights is a relatively new feature for the Cubs.

***The 1969 New York Mets was one of the most iconic teams in baseball history. Just seven years into their existence, they went 100-62 and beat the favored Baltimore Orioles in the World Series. Known simply as the “Amazin’s,” the squad is still fondly recalled by many for being so fun to watch. This pictorial essay documents in lavish color the team that captivated the country and became the first to show how quickly an expansion franchise could become competitive.

***Baseball lost another of its all-time greats with the recent passing of Johnny Logan. The shortstop had a 13-year major league career, primarily for the Boston/Milwaukee Braves. He shared the left side of the infield with Hall-of-Fame third baseman Eddie Mathews, and was part of some successful teams.

Logan played in two World Series (1957-58), and was an excellent hitting middle infielder during a time when such a thing was a rarity. He hit .268 in 1,503 career games with 93 home runs and 547 RBI. He was also a four-time All Star, and three times finished in the top-20 in MVP voting.

Logan was 86 at the time of his passing.

***And now, your moment of Zen. Hall of Fame outfielder Rickey Henderson is not only known for being the greatest leadoff hitter and base stealer of all-time, he is also quite a character. He was always known for bizarre behavior of comical sound bites that were completely serious on his part. This list compiles the 25-greatest non-play moments of his loquacious career. After reading through these unforgettable parts of his career, you’ll never look at him the same way again.

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Thursday, August 8, 2013

Nolan Sanburn: Oakland A's Pitching Prospect Talks Baseball

The Oakland Athletics have displayed a knack for producing quality Major League pitching in recent years, with the likes of Tim Hudson, Trevor Cahill, A.J. Griffin and Sean Doolittle just to name a few. Young Nolan Sanburn is hoping he can be one of the next in line to emerge from their system.

Sanburn is a 22-year-old right hander who was a second-round draft pick in 2012 out of the University of Arkansas. He was primarily a reliever with the Razorbacks, going 6-5 with a 2.96 ERA in 46 games (four starts) with 84 strikeouts in 73 innings over two years.

Because of a polished pitch arsenal, the A’s view Sanburn as a potential starter. He got a brief taste of pro ball last summer in short-season Vermont, but missed the start of this season because of shoulder surgery.  He has recently returned and is working his way back to full strength, currently pitching for Single-A Beloit. More information on his statistics is available here:

I was able to catch up with Sanburn this past offseason to ask him some questions about his baseball career. Check out what Oakland’s pitching prospect had to say:

If you could sit down and pick the brain of any pitcher, current or former, who would that be and why?: Justin Verlander, because he is such an incredibly gifted and talent pitcher. He seems to have mastered his craft more than almost every other pitcher in baseball. Every fifth day, he goes out and gives his team an opportunity to win that day. He competes every pitch of every at bat, and he never gives in. I look up to him and respect him very much as a person and as a player because he is dominant on the field while also staying out of trouble off the field. He is a pitcher I aspire to be like. 

Leading up to the 2012 MLB Draft, what kind of contact and recruiting were you getting from different teams?: Leading up to the draft, I was in contact with just about every team. But because our college team was still playing, I rarely thought about the draft because I was so focused on winning and getting to Omaha. 

Can you run through what your draft experience was like?: Getting drafted was an incredible feeling! It was years of hard work, with the help of my family's support. My approach to the draft was work and play as if it all depends on you, and pray as if it all depends on God. I feel very blessed and fortunate to be a part of the Oakland A’s organization, and I cannot wait for this season to arrive. 

What pitches do you throw and which one do you hope to improve the most?: Fastball, curveball, slider and changeup. I feel that I have developed all my pitches after attending Instructional League in the fall. Gil Patterson (former Oakland pitching coordinator) played a huge part in my mental and physical approach to baseball and pitching. I hope I have the opportunity to improve on my location and my percentage of quality strikes. 

With the A's getting so much exposure from Moneyball, how has your reality matched or differed from how the organization is portrayed in media?: The Oakland A's organization is an incredible organization to be in. I am so thankful that the front office believed that I have what it takes to eventually pitch in the big leagues. I am not too sure how different or similar the movie is from real life, but I do know that I have been treated wonderfully and been given all the tools and opportunities to be successful. 

What do you believe sets you apart from other pitching prospects in the Oakland organization?: There are many great pitchers in this organization, and I believe that all of us have an opportunity to become successful major league pitchers. But when it comes to my performance and overall success, I make sure I am doing everything that I can to put myself in the best position to be successful. I am always surrounding myself with coaches and older players who have more experience and knowledge than me. I take pre and post-injury prevention stretching very seriously, and when I throw, I make sure every throw has a purpose. I am not as physically gifted as a lot of players are, so I take it upon myself to make sure that I am giving it everything that I have on and off the field. If I don’t make it to the big leagues, it will be because I wasn’t good enough, not because I didn’t work hard enough. 

What is the most valuable piece of advice you have ever been given?: Start becoming the man you want to be for the rest of your life, and becoming the man your children will look up to. I believe this is the best advice I have ever heard. Gil Patterson is an incredible man who I look up to very much, and this is who spoke these words. I believe this statement is important because it has nothing to do with baseball, but has everything to do with life. Baseball is important to me, but not as important as my relationship with Jesus Christ. If I can become more Christ-like, then I will put myself in better position to be a great husband, a great father and great friend. 

Having aspirations to pitch in the major leagues, how difficult is it to put in the work and time needed to get there after being drafted?: In my opinion, I don’t see playing baseball or pitching as work. I am a 21-year-old man living an 8-year-old’s dream. My life is good! I enjoy going to work every day and playing catch and working out and running. It’s fun for me. This is an opportunity of a lifetime, so I am not gonna let it pass me up because it’s difficult. I am so blessed and fortunate to be where I am. I look forward to every chance to get on the field to play. It’s just another opportunity to be thankful for everything the Lord has given me. 

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

Monday, August 5, 2013

The Baseball Historian's Notes for August 5, 2013: A-Rod Lacks the Good Will to Help Himself

News is expected today announcing the fate of maligned New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez. For his role in the Biogenesis performance enhancer scandal, he is expected to face anything from a lengthy suspension to being banned from the game. He has reportedly vowed to fight to the end, and accept no punishment despite there allegedly being volumes of evidence linking to his use of PEDs, active recruitment of other players and interfering with MLB’s investigation. Regardless of what happens, it promises to not be pretty.

It’s a shame it has come to this. It didn’t have to. The 38-year-old Rodriguez was a baseball prodigy who oozed talent. Staying on top of his game may not have been easy but ending his career on such a down note, when he could have been celebrated as one of the best players to ever don a uniform, is a antithesis. Not only is he going out as a cheater, he is flaunting a me-first oblivious sense of entitlement never before seen on a baseball diamond. Even Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens saw the writing on the wall and faded into the sunset after their affiliations with PEDs became prominent.

Rodriguez’s long track record of arrogance is overwhelming any sense that he may in the right. Although he had admitted previous PED use, he has never officially failed a test. His suspension/banning will either come under the terms of the Joint Drug Agreement or by the commissioner invoking his ability to act in the best interests of the game. In either instance, the lack of true due process is questionable at best. Unfortunately, Rodriguez has burned so many bridges with his narcissistic and grating ways that he has become like the boy who cried wolf. Instead of stirring up an army of supporters, he is simply giving more ammunition to the growing number of people who would simply like him to go away.

***The PED users who have thrown away parts of their careers and their reputations puts the following story into perspective. Baseball is enjoyed by a wide swath of people around the world. There is flourishing World Series of Beep Baseball, which is a modified game played by blind participants since the 1970s. Pitchers are signaled by a high-pitch beep that allows batters to know when to swing. Runs are scored if hitters reach base before the ball is picked up by an opposing fielder. There have been five balls caught on the fly in tournament history. It’s great to see those who love baseball able to get out on the field and play the game after adapting it to their abilities.

***Was there anything Yankees legend Babe Ruth couldn’t do? In addition to being the Sultan of Swat, he was also known to enjoy croaking out a song or two. This picture, which was taken in 1938 when he was the first-base coach for the Brooklyn Dodgers, shows him warming up his pipes with some of his players. Meanwhile, this rare footage is of the Babe doing a little arm-swinging song routine for the cameras during the earliest days of television. He wasn’t as successful a crooner as he was a baseball player, but like everything he did, he was larger than life in every one of his endeavors.

***Later this week marks the 110th anniversary of one of the darkest days to ever take place at a major league stadium. On August 8, 1903, a large crowd turned out for a doubleheader at Huntingdon Street Baseball Grounds in Philadelphia between the Phillies and Boston Beaneaters. A disturbance in the bleachers caused the structure to collapse, injuring hundreds and killing a dozen spectators.

The Phillies didn’t play for another 12 days, as an investigation into the tragedy was conducted. It was determined that rotten timber was the main culprit, and the team wound up playing the remainder of their home games that year at the park of the American League rival Athletics. Stadiums are no longer the tinder boxes they once were, thanks in part to an incident such as this, which has gone largely forgotten.

***The New York Public Library is still looking for baseball artifacts that were stolen from them 40 years ago. The collection includes rare baseball cards, photos, letters and other priceless artifacts from the early days of the game. While some of the items have been returned to the library over the years, the whereabouts of the bulk that were taken still remain unknown. It will be great if they can eventually be recovered so they can be enjoyed by the general public.

***The Boston Red Sox lost two alumni last week, when it was announced former first baseman George “Boomer” Scott had passed away at the age of 69, and former pitcher Frank Castillo, 44, had perished in a drowning accident. Both were popular and productive during their stints in Boston, and their deaths will be felt by Red Sox Nation.

***When Yankees outfielder Roger Maris broke Babe Ruth’s 34 year-old single-season home run record in 1961, when he hit 61 round-trippers, it changed more than just his own life. The 61st home run was hit off Boston Red Sox’s Tracy Stallard, and caught in the stands by a young New Yorker named Sal Durante. He got to meet Maris after the game and was encouraged to keep the ball.

Durante, who was engaged, sold the ball for $5,000 a few weeks later, allowing him to marry his fiancé and start their new life together. This short film tells their terrific story, which is an all-time baseball classic.

***And now, your moment of Zen. Several years ago, Phillies’ pitcher Kyle Kendrick had a very cruel but funny prank pulled on him by his teammates. An elaborate ruse was concocted to convince the young hurler he had been traded to a Japanese team. He endured several minutes of uncomfortable incredulity before finally being let off the hook. He’s still with Philadelphia, and while he may actually get traded before his career is over, he’ll likely never forget the time he was briefly sent packing across the ocean.

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

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Out of the Park Baseball: Playing "What If?" With the Past, Present, and Future of Baseball

Here is a first for the Baseball Historian- a guest blog. It is written by Brad Cook, who runs marketing for the fantastic baseball history game, Out of the Park Baseball. Enjoy!

Thanks to Andrew for graciously offering me a guest post slot at The Baseball Historian. In the interest of full disclosure, I'm the PR and marketing guy for Out of the Park Developments, but I'm also a lifelong baseball fan with many fond memories of the sport. Those memories are what initially drew me to Out of the Park's flagship game, Out of the Park Baseball, before I even worked for them. 

OOTP, as it's known, lets you indulge in your wildest "What if?" fantasies, even if "What if?" simply means letting you call the shots for your favorite team as the current season plays out. Sure, OOTP lets you take the reins of your favorite modern day club and unleash your inner GM and armchair manager, allowing you to haggle over trades, draft a fresh crop of talent for your farm system (complete with the top couple hundred or so real draftees), sign free agents, decide who deserves a contract extension, set your lineups and pitching rotation, make game-time decisions (when to steal, when to pinch-hit, and so forth), and much, much more. And you can play forward from there, taking your club decades or even centuries into the future as you guide its destiny. 

However, this deep management game also lets you travel back through time and play forward from there, with real players showing up when they actually did and expansion teams and realignment appearing at the right times. Want the Red Sox to keep Babe Ruth? Sure, you can do that. Ever wonder how Lou Gehrig's career would have turned out had he not contracted a fatal disease? Easy. Curious how Mike Schmidt might have fared had your team drafted him? No problem -- just turn off the "players show up on their debut teams" option and he could be yours in the draft. 

And when you turn on commissioner mode, you can travel to even more parallel baseball universes. Go back in time and add the DH before it appeared (if you must be a heretic). Bring about free agency sooner than it actually happened. Tweak the financial settings. Adjust the variables to make your league more hitter- or pitcher-friendly. Just about every feature is customizable, including the option to have real players show up randomly throughout history, rather than when they really did -- Pete Rose could appear in the 1920 draft while Ty Cobb debuts in 1950 and Sandy Koufax begins his career in 1980. 

You can travel as far back as 1871 and play forward from there, with the likelihood that you could end up with a very different 2013 season by the time you reach the current day, depending on the settings you choose. OOTP also supports as many saved games as you want to create, so you can experiment with a variety of options to see what results they produce. 

Baseball fans love to argue about whether Koufax could have struck out Ruth, or if Hank Aaron would have gotten the best of Three-Finger Brown, or if a certain team could have reversed its fortunes had its management not made some unfortunate decisions. While we'll never know the definitive answers to those questions, OOTP lets you get as close as possible to them. 

Out of the Park Baseball 14 is the latest version in this long-running series, and it's available now for just $39.99, with all seasons and players included. It runs on PC/Mac/Linux. A simpler version is also available for just $4.99 for iOS (iPhone, iPad, iPod touch).

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