Thursday, February 27, 2014

In Case You Missed It: What Are the Odds?

Wednesday's opening day of spring training games likely produced the best defensive play we are going to see this spring.  Josh Reddick of the Oakland A's climbed the right field wall and robbed San Francisco Giant's Mike Morse of a home run.
Later in the same game, Morse tried again for a homer opposite field.  Yet again, Reddick came through and robbed Morse of a roundtripper. Here is the video of the catches:

I have no idea how often this has happened in a regular season game.  Has one player ever robbed another of two home runs in one game?  I am guessing it has happened less than a perfect game(23 times), 4-HR game(16 times) or an unassisted triple play(15 times).
Regardless, it is cool and nice to show new baseball highlights.  This also falls in the category of "If you think you saw everything in baseball, there is always something new."   One of the beauties of baseball, you will never know what can happen.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Voice of the Turtle by Ernie Harwell

Every year prior to the Detroit Tigers' first spring training game, Ernie Harwell opened up his broadcast by reciting the poem, Voice of the Turtle.
Since spring training games are beginning this week, I will carry on the tradition.  No, I will not be reciting it.  Thanks to YouTube, Ernie Harwell will do it himself:

Saturday, February 22, 2014

A Heartwarming Story of Lost Friendship, New Friendship and Recognition

As a lifelong baseball fan, card collector and consumer of any information baseball related, I have acquired a fondness of the old Negro Leagues.  Maybe because it is largely a part of baseball history that is forgotten and under appreciated.  Or just learning about a part of the game that a lot of people don't know about. It is kind of like rooting for the underdog I guess.
One of my proudest collecting memories was when I attended a Negro League autograph show/fundraiser back in college.  A friend and I went to the show, got some autographs and listened to some of the old ballplayers tell some stories.  Ted "Double Duty" Radcliffe was especially enjoyable, I might add.
About this same time, Ken Burns made his documentary, "Baseball".  In it, he told stories and history of the Negro Leagues.  Over the almost twenty years since the release of "Baseball", the Negro Leagues and it's players has been appreciated much more.  There has been museums opened, Negro League appreciation days at MLB games and MLB has set up pensions for the players also.  But there is so much more that can be done to help out the old players and learn about the Negro Leagues itself.
Here is a story about a teenager, through his hobby, has picked up on this cause:

I was a bit like him as a kid. I wish I had the thought and wherewithal to do something like that as a youngster.  I suppose growing up in the internet age sure does help.
Regardless, I hope for many more successes for Mr. Perron.  I would like to see some the old players being helped out financially or just have some joy and recognition brought in their lives before it is too late.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Andrelton Simmons Signing is Biggest Steal This Offseason

On Thursday, Atlanta Braves shortstop Andrelton Simmons signed a 7 yr/58 million contract extension with his team.  I believe this is biggest steal in terms of long term( 4 yr+) contracts for the 2013-14 off season.
2014 Topps

If you are unfamiliar with Simmons, the 2013 season was his first full season in MLB at the age of 23.  He hit 17 HRs and knocked in 59 RBIs while batting .248.  He also had an on base percentage of .296 and slugging of .396.  But Simmons' fielding is his best attribute.  For the 2013 he won his first Gold Glove award and is already considered one of the best defensive shortstops in all of baseball.
This contract extension locks up Simmons for the Braves until his age 30 season with average of over 8 million per.  This will enable the Braves to have one of the best players up the middle throughout his prime years and before age starts to catch up to him.  Simmons' detractors will mention his low .248/.296/.396 offensive splits.  But, I believe he will improve on them as his career moves along.  Probably not by a huge margin, but an improvement nonetheless.  Even if these numbers are his average during his career, it isn't terrible if you include his glove also.  Simmons did wind up with a WAR of 6.8 last season, which was 8th best for hitters in MLB last season.  I think the Braves will take that on a yearly basis for 8 million/yr in a free agent market that becomes more expensive each year.
Lets see how Simmons' contract compares with the others from this off season.  Here are the other contract extensions:
Craig Kimbrel(25 yrs old)   Closer       Braves   4 yr/42 million
Julio Teheran (22 yrs old)   Pitcher       Braves   6 yr/32.4 million
Freddie Freeman(23)         1st base     Braves   8 yr/135 million
Homer Bailey (27)              Pitcher      Reds      6 yr/105 million
Clayton Kershaw(25)         Pitcher      Dodgers 7 yr/215 million
Michael Brantley (25)         OF           Indians    4 yr/25 million

It appears that the Kimbrel and Freeman deals could end up very well.  As for Kimbrel and all the pitchers, one can never predict if and when he will get injured.  Because pitchers are more prone to injuries, their contracts have more risk.
Freeman's deal is good also. He a solid middle of the order bat and has a good glove also.  His contract is longer and more expensive, so there is more risk here also.  In addition, with all things being equal, I will take a shortstop over a 1st baseman because every successful team is solid up the middle of the diamond.  And as for Brantley, he is a nice player, but not in Simmons' class and his contract mirrors that.

Here are the big long term free agent signings this off season:
Masahiro Tanaka (25)      Pitcher      Yankees   7 yr/255 million
Robinson Cano (31)         2nd Base  Mariners  10 yr/240 million
Shin Soo Choo (30)         OF           Rangers    7 yr/130 million
Brian McCann (30)          Catcher    Yankees    5 yr/85 million
Jacoby Ellsbury(30)         OF           Yankees   7 yr/153 million
Curtis Granderson(32)     OF           Mets        4 yr/60 million
Jose Abreu (27)             1B            White Sox  6 yr/68 million
Ubaldo Jiminez (30)         Pitcher     Orioles     4 yr/50 million
Matt Garza (30)               Pitcher     Brewers    4 yr/50 million
Jhonny Peralta (32)          SS           Cardinals   4 yr/52 million
Ricky Nolasco (31)         Pitcher     Twins        4 yr/49 million
Jason Vargas (31)            Pitcher     Royals       4 yr/32 million

As you can see, all but two of these players are in the 30-32 age range. Which means at some point in their respected contract there is likelihood that the player's production will show decline. The other two, Tanaka and Abreu will be playing in the USA for the very first time.  They are unknown commodities and will have more risk attached to them.
After comparing Simmons' contract with all the others this season, it looks like a bargain.  8 million a year for one of the best young shortstops in the big leagues and to have it last through his prime years.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Trivia: Who is the All Time Winningest Latino Pitcher in MLB History?

On this day, I thought I will have a little fun and do a trivia question.  Who has the most all time wins in MLB history among Latin American pitchers?
I will give the answer at the end here in order to give you all a time to think.

Got an idea?
Is it the only Latino pitcher in the Hall of Fame, Juan Marichal?   Nope. The Dominican Dandy won 243 big league games in his career.
How about a sure fire Hall of Famer when he becomes eligible next year?  Pedro Martinez is also the wrong answer.   He won 219 career games.
Luis Tiant?  Also wrong.   The 3x time All Star and Red Sox World Series hero finished his career with 229 wins.
Fernando Valenzuela? Nope. The 6x time Dodger All Star won 173 games.
What about the active leader in this category? Bartolo Colon has 189 career wins and his 40 years old so he is unlikely to break the record.

The answer? It is none other than El Presidente, Dennis Martinez.  The Nicaraguan born righthander won a total of 245 games.
His career spanned from 1976 to 1998 pitching primarily for the Baltimore Orioles, Montreal Expos and Cleveland Indians.  The 4x time All Star also pitched a perfect game on July 28, 1991 against the Dodgers while pitching for the Expos and a World Series title in 1983 as an Oriole.

By the way, did you see what I did there?  Having El Presidente as an answer to a trivia question today.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

In Memoriam: Jim Fregosi

1991 Topps

The younger generation of baseball fans will remember Jim Fregosi mostly as a manager, but he was a very good player also.  His managerial career began in 1978 with the Angels and ended with Toronto after the 2000 season.  His biggest success was with the Philadelphia Phillies as he led them to the National League pennant in 1993.
1965 Topps
As a player, his accomplishments are unfortunately overshadowed by a trade he was involved in.  The New York Mets, who were in need of an infield bat, traded for Fregosi.  They shipped four players to the Angels including a young hard throwing right hander by the name of Nolan Ryan.  Ryan, of course, blossomed into a Hall of Fame pitcher while Fregosi was hampered by injuries and became a part time player.  He finished his career in 1978 after playing with the Rangers and Pirates also.  An ironic footnote to the Fregosi/Ryan trade is that Fregosi later managed Ryan for his last two seasons with Angels.
Prior to this trade, Fregosi was one of the first stars of the expansion Los Angeles Angels.  He was a six time All Star and a Gold Glove winner.  For his accomplishments his uniform number 11 was retired by the team in 1998.

Friday, February 14, 2014

In Case You Missed It: Olbermann's Commentary on Jeter's Retirement

New York Yankee shortstop Derek Jeter announced on Wednesday that the 2014 season will be his last.  There has been numerous commentaries and tributes on Jeter's career and the actual announcement.   ESPN's Keith Olbermann did one of his own on his show.  I think he did a nice job, so I will share it:

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

1991 Card of Week: 1991 BBM Hideo Nomo

1991 BBM #379
For the latest edition of my card of the week, I will showcase my only Japanese card.  It is the 1991 BBM card of Hideo Nomo.  He has several cards from this set, but this is his base rookie card.  Of course, Nomo was the initial player to succeed in MLB from Japan since 1965 and started the trend of others coming over here to compete when did so in 1995.
The former Dodger All Star is now a Hall of Famer too.  No, he was not elected in with Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Frank Thomas into Cooperstown's Hall of Fame, but was chosen for Japan's hall of fame in their 2014 class.  Also a part of this group includes former Seattle Mariner closer Kazuhiro Sazaki and Koji Akiyama.
An oddity of having Nomo in Japan's hall of fame is that he only played five years in Japan and a total of twelve in MLB.   His combined stats from the two major leagues puts him over 200 career wins and 3,000 strikeouts, but his impact reaches beyond just numbers.  Congratulations Nomo san.


Thursday, February 6, 2014

In Memoriam: Ralph Kiner

1950 Bowman
Hall of Fame outfielder passed away earlier today at the age of 91.  He spent his career mostly with the Pittsburgh Pirates that began in 1946 and ended in 1955.  He led the league in home runs for seven straight seasons from 1946 to 1952 and was six time All Star, all the while playing in Pittsburgh.  Kiner fishished his career with 369 home runs and 1,105 that enabled him to be elected in baseball Hall of Fame in 1975 and to have his uniform number 4 retired in Pittsburgh.
Kiner's successes was partially contributed to fellow Hall of Famer Hank Greenberg,  During Greenberg's only season as a Pirate and final one overall in the majors, he gave Kiner instruction in becoming a better hitter.  Kiner's home run and strikeout numbers improved subsequently after Greenberg's tutoring.  Kiner was also aided by a short left fence in old Forbes Field that became known as "Kiner's Korner".
Kiner is also famously known to author the quote, "Home run hitters drive Cadillacs, while singles hitters drive Fords."
He finished his career after short stays with the Indians and Cubs before embarking on a second career in baseball.  He was hired to become an announcer for the expansion New York Mets team in 1962.  He stayed in the Met broadcast booth through the 2013 season with his later years in a more limited capacity. 
Ralph Kiner was a true baseball legend and lifer and will be missed. 

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Happy 80th Birthday Hank Aaron

1960 Topps

Perhaps the greatest living Hall of Famer, Hank Aaron turns 80 years old today.  On this day of celebration, I will give you all some fun facts you may or may not know about Mr. Aaron.

-Held career record of 755 home runs when he retired.  Broke Babe Ruth's 714 mark in April of 1974 while geting racial and death threats from fans during his chase.

-He also holds career MLB records for RBIs (2,297), total bases(6.856) and extra base hits (1.477).

-Even though he hit 755 career homers, he never hit 50 in one season.

-Finished his career with 3,771 hits. If you take his 755 home runs away, he still has over 3,000

-Was 25 time All Star, another MLB record

-Is a 2x batting champion, 4x home run and RBI league leader each

-Won 3 Gold Gloves

-Won his only NL MVP and World Series in 1957

-his #44 uniform is retired for both Braves and Brewers

-1st ever player to play for Brewers to be inducted in baseball Hall of Fame

-teaming with younger brother, Tommie, holds record for career record for home runs as brothers (768)

-last active player in MLB  history to have played in Negro Leagues.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Card of Week: 2013 Panini Cooperstown Vin Scully

In my attempt to attain at least one card of each member of the baseball Hall of Fame, I concentrate on the former players only.  I am not really interested in owners, executives, announcers and managers.  But I made an exception with Vin Scully.
Not because of my fond memories of listening to him do NBC's Game of the Week with Joe Garagolia during my childhood, but mostly because he was the Grand Marshall of the 100th Tournament of Roses Parade this past January.
This is significant to me because this Rose Bowl pitted my alma mater, Michigan State against the Cardinal of Stanford University.  One of the duties of being the Grand Marshall is that he/she flips the opening coin toss prior to the game.  When I was watching this, it gave me a hunch that MSU would win the game.  Scully called many Dodger games that involved former MSU greats Kirk Gibson, Steve Garvey and Ron Perranoski and felt this is all meant to be.  When MSU won the coin toss, it reaffirmed my feeling for the outcome.
On the back of the each card in the set, it gives the line score of a game he participated in.  For the Scully card, Game 1 of the 1988 World Series is featured.  Of course, it quotes Scully's famous call on Gibson's dramatic walk off home run.
MSU did end up winning the game.  Now whenever I look at this 2013 card of Vin Scully, I automatically think of MSU's 2013 Big Ten Championship season and 2014 Rose Bowl victory.