Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Detroit Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski Has Done It Again!

Over the last two seasons prior to the July 31 trade deadline, Detroit Tigers General Manager Dave Dombrowski pulled off trades that significantly made the Tigers better.
In the 2011 season, Dombrowski in need of a starting pitcher, picked up Doug Fister from Seattle Mariners for outfielder Casper Wells and pitcher Charlie Furbush.  Fister, who at the time of the trade had a record of 3-12(due mostly to lack of run support) has been a winner for the Tigers and helped lead them to the ALCS. Meanwhile, Wells is no longer with Seattle while Furbush is a part of their bullpen.
In 2012,  Dombrowski took advantage of Miami Marlins' salary purge and acquired starting pitcher Anibal Sanchez and second baseman Omar Infante in exchange for pitching prospect Jacob Turner and two minor leaguers.  Sanchez, who signed a long term deal with Detroit in the offseason, has been solid in the rotation while Infante shored up the second base position that has been lacking since the departure of Placido Polanco.  Turner's future will determine if both teams consider the deal a success.
On Tuesday, Dombrowski picked up shortstop Jose Iglesias from Boston Red Sox in exchange for Avisail Garcia(to the Chicago White Sox) and pitcher Bryan Villarreal(to Boston) in a three team deal. I like this deal for several reasons.

2010 Bowman
First of all, if you are not familiar with Iglesias, he is a slick fielding shortstop who has been compared to Ozzie Smith or Omar Vizquel.  These are big comparisons, so I would rather compare him to former New York Met and fellow Cuban, Rey Ordonez.  Iglesias has had a major league ready glove from the day he signed with Boston, but his bat has always been his biggest question mark.  At the time of the trade, Iglesias was hitting .330 for the Red Sox.   I don't think he will maintain this clip as his minor league stats have shown this.  Even if he hits .230, his glove will be good enough and Tigers have a solid enough lineup to mask his batting flaws.
Of course the biggest motivating factor in his acquisition is the impending suspension of current shortstop Jhonny Peralta.   Iglesias will be able to step right in a fill right in for Peralta.  Iglesias does not have the power that Peralta does, but he makes up for it with much more range in the field.  This will make the Tiger pitchers especially happy.
Another positive for the deal is Iglesias' age. He is 23 years old.  Tigers not only have a shortstop right now, but also one for the future.   The shortstop position is pretty weak on the market.  It mostly made up of veteran stop gap options.  With Iglesias in the fold, Tigers now will not have to overpay in terms of money or players for a veteran or anyone else.  Tigers' farm system is thin and the major league club already has a very high payroll, so Detroit is limited here.
Speaking of paying,  Iglesias is relatively inexpensive.  Detroit will be saving money with Iglesias versus a Peralta or whomever else.  Detroit then could use that money to resign their own players who are will be headed for free agency like a Max Scherzer or Austin Jackson. Or they can use that money to extend Miguel Cabrera's contract.
The final verdict of the deal, of course, is dependent on Iglesias and the departed's level of play.  But right now, it looks like it is another big midseason get by Dave Dombrowski.  I, personally believe that Jose Iglesias will be the Detroit Tiger shortstop for years to come.  He may never become a great hitter in the big leagues, but his glove can more than make up for it.  It is that good.  He could become the best fielding shortstop in Detroit in decades and that includes Alan Trammell.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

In Memoriam: George Scott

On Monday former first baseman George Scott passed away in his native Mississippi.  Scott spent his Major League career from 1966-1979 mostly with the Boston Red Sox and Milwaukee Brewers and was an integral member of the 1967 Red Sox "Impossible Dream" World Series team.
1975 Topps
Nicknamed "Boomer" because of his prodigious home runs that he dubbed "taters".   He finished his career with 271 HRs along with 1,051 RBIs and a .268 batting average which included leading the AL in HRs and RBIs for the 1975 season while in Milwaukee.
It was also his glove that made him famous as he won eight Gold Glove awards in his career.   In addition to his Gold Gloves, he made three All Star games in 1966, 1975 and 1977. 
His uniform was a bit unique also.  He wore a necklace that he said was made up of teeth of middle infielders.  He also wore a batting helmet in the field because of a prior experience of a fan throwing objects on the field.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Card of the Week: 1988 Topps Traded Jay Buhner

Since this Wednesday is the July 31 trade deadline, I will make this week's card about a player who changed teams prior to the deadline from the past.  If you don't know what the significance of this deadline, it allows all players to be traded without having to clear waivers.  Basically it means that after July 31, a player who is up for a trade must be put on the waiver wire and teams with the worst records have higher priority of the player.  Thus, a contending team can get that one player that they need for a playoff run without any impediment from other teams.
1988 Topps Traded
Jay Buhner was an outfield prospect in the New York Yankees organization in 1988 with little over thirty big league games and with not much success.  At the same time, the Yankees were looking too add a veteran left handed bat in their lineup for a playoff push.  Yankees dealt Buhner and two career minor leaguers to the Seattle Mariners for first baseman/designated hitter Ken Phelps on July 21, 1988.
The trade became one of the worst in Yankee history and best in Mariner history.  The Yankees did not make the playoffs and Phelps was out of New York a year later.  Meanwhile Jay Buhner became a key piece to the Mariners' rise from the cellar to the playoffs over the next decade.  Buhner also made an All Star appearance, won a Gold Glove and is a member of the Seattle Mariners Hall of Fame.
The trade also became a subject in an episode of 1990s hit comedy, Seinfeld:

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Perhaps the Unluckiest Pitcher in MLB History

Among the records in baseball, there are several individual streaks.  Three of the most noted being Joe DiMaggio's 56 game hitting streak, Cal Ripken Jr.'s 2,632 consecutive games played and Orel Hersisher's 59 consecutive scoreless innings pitched.   These are much revered and deservedly so.  Today is the 20th anniversary of an ending of a different streak - a more dubious one.  Anthony Young of the Mets got the victory over the Florida Marlins on July 28, 1993, thus ending his personal 27 game losing streak.
1991 Upper Deck Final Edition

Young was in his second year in the big leagues when the streak began in 1992.  He started the season with a 2-0 record, receiving one victory as a starter and the other out of the bullpen.  Young then went on to lose his next 14 decisions that year.   The first six of which came as a starter and the other eight as a reliever when manager Jeff Torborg moved him there to replace the injured closer John Franco.  While in the bullpen, Young saved 15 games and at one point held the opponents scoreless for 23 2/3 consecutive innings.  He ended the season with a 4.17 ERA in 121 innings pitched.
The 1993 season began with Young in the New York bullpen.  Young was the losing pitcher five more times in 17 relief appearances.  He then, was placed back in the starting rotation and lost seven consecutive starts.  Young's 20th loss in row broke the team record previously held by Craig Anderson(1962-64) and the 24th, the MLB record that had been held since 1911 by Cliff Curtis.  Loss #27 came out of the bullpen in an extra inning game vs Los Angeles Dodgers.  Four days later, Young entered the ninth inning in a 3-3 game and gave up an unearned run.  But, the Mets scored two of their own and allowed Young to be the winning pitcher much to the relief of Young and his many fans who had been sending him good luck charms such as four leaf clovers and rabbit's feet. 
During the entire streak, Young was quite accommodating to the growing media attention and also made an appearance on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno after the historic win.  Shortly after his win, Young was sent to the minors and was later called back up in September.  He lost three more game during the month and had an ERA of 3.77 in 100 innings pitched for the 1993 season.
The following March, Young was traded to the Chicago Cubs and pitched for them for two years plus one more with the Houston Astros in 1996.  Young's career stats include a win/loss record of 15-48 with an ERA of 3.89 in 460 innings and 20 saves.
In the baseball recordbooks, Anthony Young will be forever be labeled as a loser, but in reality, he is a winner.  Nowadays, Young is fine with the streak and realizes that in order to be in position to lose that many straight times, he had to be doing something right.  He currently coaches youth baseball and passes his knowledge and experiences onto the kids. 

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

More personal thoughts about MLB and steriods

Of course the big news of late is the suspension of Brewers' Ryan Braun for PED usage.  Once I again, I will give you all some idle thoughts about Braun, et al, suspensions, steriods and anything else linked to it all.
Frankly, I am tired of hearing and talking about steriods and other Performance Enhancing Drugs(PEDs),  but I know we are living in a day and age where it is available and will always have players who will use it for an unfair advantage.
Once again, baseball is getting a black eye from the cheaters.  Unfortunately, this the only way the game is going to be cleaned up.  Suspend and shame publicly the guilty.  MLB has been the most aggressive in going after the cheaters among the major sports leagues. I believe there is good percentage of players in NFL using Human Growth Hormones(HGH) and some in the NBA. Their day is coming in the future.
I am glad a superstar like Ryan Braun got caught and it wasn't by the traditional drug testing.  It will show that no one is too big for suspensions and news can come out at any time and from anywhere that someone is using.
Braun will be suspended 65 games and have a clean slate for next year.  I am hoping during the off season,  MLB and the players association will have discussions of having harsher penalties and maybe making contracts voidable if a player gets caught. I still think that known users should not eligible for future All Star games and individual awards.  Probably asking too much here.
The best thing that can happen for the New York Yankees is that Alex Rodriguez get a lifetime ban and his contract becomes null and void.  His lack of production and burden of a contract is a detriment to New York's success. Of course, MLB should not let the Yankees get off the hook for signing ARod to such high priced contract. I will make the prediction that the New York will not make a World Series until ARod's contract is over. I would almost consider playoffs,  but I am not going to go out on that limb.
I expect the other players linked to Miami Biogenesis clinic to be suspended within the next couple weeks.  I think each suspension depends on the amount of evidence on each player and person's priors, if any.  Interesting to see how it affects the playoff chases and upcoming free agency.
I am happy that players' union has done a 180 degrees from 20 years ago or so in their stance in steroids.  Years ago, the union would defend every bit of the player, even if guilty or innocent.  Now the players and union want the game to be clean and will be good with the suspensions as long as they are fair.  I still say why steroids were used and given a blind eye in the 80s, 90s and later is because the MLB players union was/is so strong.  Baseball had some many work stoppages and any fight to outlaw steroids by MLB would have been met by lawsuits, etc claiming invasion of privacy by the union.  MLB was so worried about more work stoppages and driving more fans away, so they turned a blind eye to this issue.  Once labor peace was attained, MLB went after steroids.
I have always been curious of clean players who had careers come quickly to end at the beginning of the steroid era like a Dale Murphy. He was a perennial All Star in the 80s and had decent numbers thru 1991 and all of sudden was mediocre at best afterwards. Was this because of others using steroids? or just natural aging of Murphy? Or clean players who came up at the sametime with Jose Canseco or Mark McGwire like a Wally Joyner or Mike Greenwell. Were these players actually better than perceived because their counterparts were cheating? How many All Star games and much better stats would they have had in a clean game?
Well, those are my thoughts regarding PEDS in baseball.  I surely hope this will be the last time I will discuss this subject for awhile besides the rest of Biogenesis suspensions.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Card of Week: 1994 Topps #180 George Brett

The big news in the world this week is that England's royal family has a new addition.  So, I will celebrate it with honoring the greatest Kansas City Royal of all time.  George Brett spent his entire career(1973-93) with the Royals.  He won a Gold Glove, AL MVP, 3x Silver Slugger Award winner and was a 13 time All Star.  Also during his tenure, Kansas City won five division titles, two American League pennants and one World Series championship.
As for the card itself, this perhaps my favorite Brett card of all time.  The photo is one of a few ever that has a viewpoint from behind the plate. It gives the fan a glimpse of Brett's classic swing that allowed him to get over 3,000 career hits.  It has also shows his #5 uniform number which was later retired by the Royals and a nice view of Royals (now Kauffman) Stadium. I have always considered the stadium as one of the most underrated in terms of beauty.   Too bad one can not see any of the fountains beyond the outfield wall.

In the baseball card hobby, a player's rookie card is usually always the most sought after and because of this, has the highest value. For me, I have always liked the players last card. I can flip the card over and easily see the career stats of the player.  Brett retired from baseball at the end of the 1993 season and this card gives you a look at his entire Hall of Fame numbers.  If you look close enough, you can see that Brett won batting titles three times -in 1976, 1980 and 1990). He is the only player in MLB history to win titles in three different decades.
The photo is significant also. I don't know that Topps made a photo of Brett using pine tar on purpose for his last card in order to showcase another part of Brett's career.  Brett's most famous (or infamous) game of his career was the Pine Tar Game  ,which Wednesday is the 30th anniversary of the game. To this day, I have never seen a person more irate on the field when Brett's go ahead home run was disallowed by umpire Tim McClelland.
On a personal note, George Brett was one of my favorite players growing up.  In addition to playing the game with class and dignity, Brett was known to come up big against the hated New York Yankees.  He also had the ultimate respect from my local Detroit Tigers and manager Sparky Anderson.  Anderson always said if the Royals were going to beat us, it will be by someone else other than George Brett and was given his fair share of intentional walks from Anderson during the later parts of games.  Brett also is one of the select few players to hit a home run over the right field roof of Tiger Stadium.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

My New York Mets All Time Team

Since this is All Star game week and is being played in New York Mets' Citifield ballpark. I will celebrate the stars of the past and present from the New York Mets and name my all time Mets lineup.   I will name them counting down from 9-1 according to their number as the position in the scorebook.
My rule is that a player must spend at least five years for New York and two full years at a position to qualify for it.  Also, I will only consider what they accomplished as a Met. 

9. RF:  Darryl Strawberry (1983-1990). Pretty easy pick here. Was one of the stars of stars in New York during the 1980s.  Made the All Star game seven times, won Rookie of Year award and twice, the Silver Slugger award.  Also help lead the Mets to the 1986 World Series crown and 1988 National League East division title    Backup:  Rusty Staub

8. CF:  Carlos Beltran (2005-2011) Had some solid seasons as a Met before injuries set in and was traded to San Francisco( for current Met Zach Wheeler) as a part of a youth movement.  Had three seasons of 100+ RBIs (with HR totals of 41,33, and 26 for them). Made four All Star games and added to his October legacy when he hit three HRs in 2006 NLCS.   Backup: Mookie Wilson

7. LF: Cleon Jones (1963-1975) One of the first home grown Mets players. Key member of the 1969 World Series and 1973 NL pennant winners. Made All Star game in 1969.

6. SS: Jose Reyes (2003-2011) All Star and also NL in hitting once, in triples four times and stolen bases three times.   Backup: Rey Ordonez

5. 3B: Dave Wright (2004-present) current face of the franchise. Has made six All Star squads so far and has 210+ HRs and 860+ while maintaining a .300 AVG during his career.  Backup: Howard Johnson

4. 2B: Edgardo Alfonzo (1995-2002) Not much to go with here. Had career numbers of 120 HRs, 538 RBIs and a .292 AVG

3. 1B: Keith Hernandez (1983-89). One of the key pieces Mets acquired that helped the team win 1986 World Series.  Made three All Star games and won six Gold Gloves

2. C. Gary Carter( 1985-1989) Another big acquisition prior to 1986 World Series.  Made three All Star games and came up big in World Series.  Since a catcher is a high priority defensive position. I went defense over offense in picking Carter over Mike Piazza.

1. P (starting rotation): 
Tom Seaver (1967-77,83)  Ace of '69 Champs and '73 NL Champs. 3x Cy Young winner. 10x All Star and Rookie of Year.
Dwight Gooden (1984-94) Ace of '86 Champs  and '88 NL Champs. Cy Young and Rookie of Year winner and a 4x All Star
Jerry Koosman (1967-78) won 140 career games with an ERA of 3.09.  Key member of Mets rotation in 1969 and '73 and made two All Star games
David Cone (1988-92,03) help lead NY to 1988 NL division crown. Led league in strikeouts twice and shutouts one. Made two All Star games
Jon Matlack(1971-77) won Rookie of Year. Made two All Star games including named MVP in one.
also considered: Ron Darling, Sid Fernandez and Al Leiter

Closer: John Franco (1990-2001, 03,04) Mets all time saves leader and member of one All Star team.
also considered Tug McGraw

There you have it. A decent lineup. A few superstars, a couple role players and some veteran leadership. Of course, New York Mets are known for being pitching rich.  Surprisingly though, none of the eight starters pitched a no hitter as a Met. 2012 by Johan Santana was the first ever Met to pitch a no hit gem.  Seaver, Gooden, Cone, along with Nolan Ryan, Mike Scott, Hideo Nomo and Philip Humber all pitched no hitters after leaving the Mets.   Leiter pitched one prior to joining the Mets.

For 2014, Minnesota hosts the All Star game and I will have my all time Twins team.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Card of Week: 2000 Black Diamond Rookie Edition Ben Sheets

Since it is 4th of July week, I was thinking what card should I showcase in my collection to honor America.  Why not one that represents USA's biggest baseball win in international competition?  So this week's card is 2000 Black Diamond Rookie Edition #140 Ben Sheets.  Within this set, several cards feature players from Team USA who participated in the 2000 summer Olympics in Sydney, Australia.   In addition to Sheets, other future major leaguers include: Roy Oswalt, Brad Wilkerson and Doug Mientkiewcz.  If you look close enough, the star on the front of the card is a piece of a jersey worn by Sheets.
2000 UD Black Diamond Rookie Edition

The 2000 Olympic games were the only time USA won the gold medal while baseball was a full fledged medal sport.  Ben Sheets pitched a three hit shutout against two-time defending gold medal champ, Cuba, in the gold medal game to clinch it for Team USA.  For the game, Sheets also struck out five Cuban batters while walking none.  Team USA was also managed by Hall of Fame manager, Tom Lasorda. 
After a stellar college career at University of Louisiana Monroe and his big win in the Olympics, Sheets was destined for stardom in the major leagues.  But injuries hindered his success.  Sheets pitched in ten big league seasons mostly with the Milwaukee Brewers and retired at the age of 33 after a comeback year in 2012 for the Atlanta Braves.  Sheets managed to make four All-Star teams and ended with a career record of 94-96 with an ERA of 3.78 while striking out 1325 in 1596 2/3 innings pitched.  His win-loss record was not indicative how well Sheets pitched at times.  Sheets suffered more losses as he should because the Brewers were not very good during this period.  As an example, for the 2004 season, Sheets had an ERA of 2.70 and struck 264 in 234 innings pitched.  But he finished the year with a win-loss record of 12-14. 

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Lou Gehrig's Farewell Speech

Today is the anniversary of Lou Gehrig's famous farewell speech at Yankee Stadium.  So I thought I will give you the actual speech at a bit of video of it.
For those who don't know,  Lou Gehrig was a star first basemen for the New York Yankees from 1923-39.  He played a then record 2,130 straight games before acquiring amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), which ended his streak and of course eventually his life.  Today ALS is also called Lou Gehrig's disease.
On July 4, 1939, Gehrig gave his farewell speech to the fans at Yankee Stadium. He was also honored in having his uniform number 4 retired by the Yankees.  The first ever player in MLB history to have his number retired by a team. Here is his speech:

"Fans, for the past two weeks you have been reading about the bad break I got. Yet today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth. I have been in ballparks for seventeen years and have never received anything but kindness and encouragement from you fans.
Look at these grand men. Which of you wouldn’t consider it the highlight of his career just to associate with them for even one day? Sure, I’m lucky. Who wouldn’t consider it an honor to have known Jacob Ruppert? Also, the builder of baseball’s greatest empire, Ed Barrow? To have spent six years with that wonderful little fellow, Miller Huggins? Then to have spent the next nine years with that outstanding leader, that smart student of psychology, the best manager in baseball today, Joe McCarthy? Sure, I'm lucky.
When the New York Giants, a team you would give your right arm to beat, and vice versa, sends you a gift — that’s something. When everybody down to the groundskeepers and those boys in white coats remember you with trophies — that’s something. When you have a wonderful mother-in-law who takes sides with you in squabbles with her own daughter — that's something. When you have a father and a mother who work all their lives so that you can have an education and build your body — it's a blessing. When you have a wife who has been a tower of strength and shown more courage than you dreamed existed — that's the finest I know.
So I close in saying that I might have been given a bad break, but I've got an awful lot to live for. Thank you."

and a video:

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Observations and Thoughts From 1st Half of MLB Season

Even though the all star break is two weeks away,  each team is at or around the half way point in terms of games played.  After watching games during this period, I have some thoughts and observations.

First of all, the Los Angeles Dodgers have been in a couple bench clearing brawls. One of which lead to a collarbone injury to pitcher Zach Grienke.  Brawls need to go away.  I am all for retaliating for a hit batsmen. Hit an opposing batter(nothing at or near the head) or make a hard slide in the basepaths.  An eye for an eye. End it there!  Bench clearing brawls are primitive and assinine.  Teams invest too much money in players and when they get in a fight, a season or career can be ruined.  Rant over!

Looks like the status for the 1962 New York Mets as the worst team in modern history is safe.  This year's top candidates, Houston Astros and Miami Marlins, to threaten this mark both have reached the 30 win mark.  Even if they trade a couple players away, they will win more than the 40 games that the 1962 Mets did.

Pittsburgh Pirates are the first to win 50 games and has the best record in baseball. I am happy for the fans.  Pittsburgh is a good baseball town with a long history.  Also happy to see Kansas City and Cleveland doing well and teams who weren't expected to compete like San Diego and Colorado do well also. These small market teams competing with the larger ones is an added benefit of the elimination(or mostly) of steriods.  During the steriod era, the home run was rampant and the big market teams were the ones who could afford the slugger and ended up winning more games. Now that home runs are down,  small ball is used more which allows smaller markets to win more games.

Pitchers J.A. Happ and Alex Cobb both took liners off the head this season.  I hope baseball finds a solution so this happens less.  It is very scary and hope it doesn't end a career in the future.  Best solution is probably some protective gear for the pitcher. I don't see any adjustments to balls and bats.  Runs are down to level of well before steriod era, this would cause more elimination of scoring.

With scoring down, it is probably why we are seeing more extra inning games this year, especially the long marathon ones.   I am also surprised to see a lack of a no hitter this year so far.  Anibal Sanchez and Yu Darvish came the closest and expect at least a couple to be thrown during second half.

Speaking of second half, I expect the announcement of suspensions from Miami Biogenesis clinic to be named soon after All-Star break.  The All Star game is a celebration of the game and players and MLB doesn't want suspensions to be the talk during this time.  MLB will announce it soon after and move on.  Media will soon cover trade deadline talks and pennant races.  Steriods will then will be shoved to the side.

Well, those were my thoughts of the first half. I am looking forward to some exciting pennant races and great individual performances.  Good luck to your favorite team and players.