Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Pedro's Run

The other day, I posted something on a Reddit thread about which season was better: Pedro Martinez in 2000 or Clayton Kershaw in 2014. Like most of my fellow respondents, I felt that Pedro was the clear winner, though I still noted that Kershaw has been “remarkable” and “sensational.”

That wasn’t enough for one person, who pointed out that Kershaw has a lower batting average than ERA, the implication being that I was somehow downgrading the Dodgers’ lefthander.

That response made me curious, and I headed off to Baseball-Reference to check out Pedro’s offensive numbers. For his career, he hit .099 with no home runs, 18 RBI, and 190 strikeouts in 434 at-bats. His OPS+ was -32.

Most of his plate appearances came when he was in the National League (1992-97 and 2005-09). During his seven seasons (1998-2004) with the Red Sox, however, he came to the plate 21 times – once he delivered a sacrifice bunt, once he walked, and ten times he struck out, part of the 19 times in total that he came to the plate and sent back to the dugout without recording a hit.

It was the sort of futility you would expect from an American League pitcher trying to play by National League rules, and I was all set to walk away and go about my business when I noticed something that struck me as interesting: despite not hitting safely in those 19 at-bats, Pedro managed to score a single run in seven years.

It came in 2002 – on June 20, 2002, to be specific – against the San Diego Padres. Matched up against the immortal Kevin Pickford, Pedro began the game in typical Pedro fashion, striking out the first five Padres he faced (all of them swinging) before allowing two runners to reach without consequence. In the top of the third, Pickford hit Lou Merloni before giving up a sacrifice bunt to Pedro. Lou was stranded, however, and the game remained scoreless through four.

In the top of the fifth, Pickford struck out Trot Nixon and got Merloni to ground out to third. The rookie was rolling, with only two singles and a hit batsman on the negative side of his ledger, and the opposing pitcher coming up to the plate.

Of course, Pickford didn’t know it at the time, but Pedro Martinez the batter had his number. I mentioned above that in his time with the Red Sox, Pedro delivered two positive offensive outcomes. The first was the sacrifice bunt that moved Lou Merloni over to second in the third inning; the second was the walk that he drew with two outs and nobody on in the fifth.

The next batter, Rickey Henderson, singled to center field, moving Pedro to second and putting two men on for Johnny Damon. Damon demonstrated to Pickford why it is a bad idea to issue a two out walk, especially to the pitcher, tripling to right-center field to score both runners and give the Red Sox a 2-0 lead. Pickford was given one more batter to right the ship, but a walk to Nomar Garciaparra sealed his fate and he was removed in favor of Rodney Myers; he would pitch one more month for the Padres, mostly out of the bullpen, before being shipped back to the minors.

Pedro flied out and struck out in his final two at-bats of the day, but the damage was done: the Red Sox won the game, 5-0, meaning that on the finest offensive day of his time in Boston, Pedro Martinez scored the eventual winning run. (He also allowed just two hits and struck out eleven batters in eight innings pitched, which at that point was really just another day in the life of Pedro Martinez.)

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Monday, June 30, 2014

Forty Is The New Thirty: 2014 Mid-Season Update

It’s about time for my annual update on the teams that have gone the longest without a 40-home run hitter in the lineup. Last season saw the removal of the fifth-longest tenured team on the list when Baltimore’s Chris Davis hit his 40th home run of the season on August 2, the first Oriole to do so since Rafael Palmeiro in 1998.

We currently have eight teams that are working on at least twelve seasons without a 40-home run hitter. Some of them could see that streak end this season; most of them will not.

Kansas City Royals

Last 40-Home Run Hitter: None

Current Leader: Salvador Perez/Alex Gordon (9)

When I started this project several years ago, I wish I had chosen to ironically title it “The Steve Balboni Project” or something like that. It would have been much catchier, as well as paying homage to the man who may forever hold the Royals’ single-season home run record (unless I’m mistaken, Balboni also set Kansas City’s single-season record for strikeouts that year, a mark that was broken in 1989 by Bo Jackson).

That’s a really long way of saying that unless Mike Moustakas ever figures out what the hell he’s doing at the plate, Balboni may remain the holder of one of baseball’s most interesting records for quite some time.

Minnesota Twins

Last 40-Home Run Hitter: Harmon Killebrew, 1970

Current Leader: Brian Dozier (15)

Some day, Miguel Sano will return from the elbow injury that tried to ruin him. He will return, and he will hit all the home runs, and Killebrew’s mark will fall.

Pittsburgh Pirates

Last 40-Home Run Hitter: Willie Stargell, 1973

Current Leader: Pedro Alvarez (13)

In most cases, if a player on a team has 13 home runs halfway through the season, I write it off as a “not gonna happen” and move on. For some reason, though, Alvarez just feels like the kind of guy who could go crazy and hit 27 homers in three months.

Miami Marlins

Last 40-Home Run Hitter: Gary Sheffield, 1996

Current Leader: Giancarlo Stanton (21)

One of these years, it’s gonna happen for Stanton. I’d say barring injury, but in 2012 he went deep 37 times despite missing 39 games, so getting hurt really isn’t even a barrier.

Oakland Athletics

Last 40-Home Run Hitter: Jason Giambi, 2000

Current Leader: Brandon Moss/Josh Donaldson (18)

This is a fun one. You have to believe that if a guy can hit 18 in half a season, he can hit 22 in half a season. But at the same time, we’re talking about Brandon Moss and Josh Donaldson, a couple of good players who aren’t exactly known as mashers. It really could be interesting to watch this one down the stretch.

Seattle Mariners

Last 40-Home Run Hitter: Alex Rodriguez, 2000

Current Leader: Kyle Seager (13)

I honestly don’t know when a Mariner will hit 40 home runs in a season again. It could be a while. How’s that for expert analysis?

Colorado Rockies

Last 40-Home Run Hitter: Todd Helton, 2001

Current Leader: Troy Tulowitzki (18)

Tulowitzki has looked like a potential 40-homer guy for a while now; he’s gone over 30 a couple times and it didn’t seem unreasonable to think that he could add a few more in one or two special seasons. He’s in that Moss/Donaldson group from above, except I’d be slightly less surprised if Tulo busted out 22 more bombs before season’s end.

Los Angeles Angels

Last 40-Home Run Hitter: Troy Glaus, 2001

Current Leader: Mike Trout (18)

It’s amazing that a team with Albert Pujols, Mike Trout, and Josh Hamilton is working on its 13th seasons without a 40-homer guy (and they also had six seasons of Vlad Guerrero in there). Hamilton’s not getting there, at least not this year; Pujols might, if he kicks it up a notch or three; Trout is yet another level above Tulo in the “currently has 18 home runs” club, mainly because it feels like he is capable of anything. Forget 40 home runs – he’s a 40-40 season waiting to happen.

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Wednesday, June 25, 2014

I Should Probably Just Stop Listening To Sports Talk Radio

1) I don’t often listen to WEEI’s Dennis & Callahan morning show for any length of time, but this morning I happened to change the station while the two (along with co-host Kirk Minihane) discussed the Luis Suarez incident from Tuesday (in which Suarez, playing for Uruguay in the World Cup, bit an Italian player on the shoulder). My timing allowed me the opportunity to hear them call Suarez a psychopath, a sociopath, and – my favorite – “Aaron Hernandez without a gun.”

2) On the midday show on 98.5 The Sports Hub, Scott Zolak and Dan Shaughnessy were discussing LeBron James, with Shaughnessy bringing up Game 1 of the NBA Finals, which James left near the end with leg cramps. Both agreed that sometimes there are things that happen that you just can’t play through; Zolak even mentioned LaDainian Tomlinson missing part of the 2008 AFC Championship game with a sprained MCL. I usually enjoy Zo – he brings the sort of over-the-top enthusiasm and energy to the job that makes him fun to listen to – but thought it strange that he let things like this slide after constantly going after Stephen Drew in recent weeks for missing time with an oblique injury.

3) Later on during “Gresh and Zo” (which was short a Gresh today), Zo and Hardy, I think it was, ran down the likelihood that various Red Sox players would be traded. One of those mentioned was Drew, who was recently re-signed by the team after sitting out the first couple months of the season. Zolak said that given everything that has happened with Drew thus far – his signing forced Xander Bogaerts to third, which made some people unhappy – there’s no way they trade him.

This isn’t so much a criticism as me wondering if he’s missing the long view here. The Sox extended Drew a qualifying offer in the offseason and he turned it down, meaning that when he signed a contract elsewhere, Boston would receive a draft pick as compensation. He never did, and with the draft approaching (and the loss of their compensation looming), the team re-signed him to a one-year deal, prorated for the amount he had turned down over the winter. I think they did this for two reasons: one, they like Drew and hoped he could help bring something to a team that was struggling, and two, it kept alive the possibility that they could receive some compensation for his services (by dealing him to a contender further on down the line).

Maybe it’s crazy to think that the Sox would pay him however many millions just to take a chance on receiving something (probably a low, low level prospect) in return, but I also think it’s crazy to suggest that they would never consider trading him.

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Thursday, June 12, 2014

Where Do Home Run Hitters Come From?

Every so often, something I hear on the radio during the day catches me the wrong way. Usually I just end up complaining privately about it, but today it presented an opportunity to do some light research, which is always fun.

On 98.5’s afternoon drive show, Felger and Mazz, Tony Massarotti went on a rant about the team’s lack of outfield power coming up through the system. I’m pretty sure he’s absolutely correct on this; the only guy I can name who is even remotely on the horizon is Bryce Brentz, and the Sox don’t seem to be in any great rush to promote him. They did mention that Mookie Betts was recently moved to the outfield, presumably to give him somewhere to play when he reaches the big leagues in a year or two, and it would not shock me if Xander Bogaerts gets moved to a corner at some point (assuming Garin Cecchini or Will Middlebrooks can handle third and Deven Marrero hits enough to complement his excellent defense at short).

An outfield of Betts, Bradley, and Bogaerts? I’m not sure how excited I can get about that.

Anyway, Mazz talked about this and made some good points because he’s a baseball guy, but then he started talking about the draft, and that’s where he lost me.

Last year, the Red Sox had the seventh pick in the draft. They used it to select Trey Ball, a high school lefthander from Indiana. This was a mistake, according to Mazz, because one, Ball has SUCKED in the minor leagues thus far (and it’s completely reasonable to tell a kid who is still just a year out of high school and two weeks shy of his 20th birthday how shitty he is based on his performance in a grand total of thirteen games), and two, you have to get a power hitter in that spot because that’s where most power hitters come from.

The latter point seemed off to me, so I took a look at the top ten major league home run leaders for the past ten seasons (2004-13) and where they came from originally (due to ties, there were 106 individual seasons included). Here’s what I found:

• Eighteen times, one of the seven players who were signed as amateur free agents finished in the top ten in the majors in home runs. That’s 16.9%.

• Thirty-nine times, one of the twenty players who were drafted in the first round finished in the top ten in the majors in home runs. That’s 36.8%.

• Forty-nine times, one of the twenty-four players who were drafted in the second round or later finished in the top ten in the majors in home runs. That’s 46.2%.

So what does this tell us? First of all, Mazz isn’t totally off base – ten players chosen with the seventh pick or higher (including Moises Alou, who was a January draft pick in 1986) have finished in the top ten in home runs a total of 23 times in the past ten seasons, which works out to 21.7% of the total seasons represented here. So 1 in 5 players who finished in the top ten in the majors in home runs over the past ten seasons was a top seven draft pick. That’s pretty good.

Check out that last bullet point again, though. Nearly half the players and half the seasons over the past ten years were accounted for by players originally drafted outside the first round, directly refuting Mazz’s point that the team should have gone for a power hitter at number seven because that’s the best or only place to get one. Sure, you could get an Evan Longoria or Pedro Alvarez early on; you could also end up with a Mike Moustakas or Eric Hosmer (just like that Trey Ball pick could go the way of Clayton Kershaw, or it could be Matt Hobgood). Likewise, in the fifth round you could get a Ryan Howard, or you could get a Seth Schwindenhammer. It’s the draft; it’s a crapshoot.

Also worth noting: the Sox took seven listed outfielders both last year and this year. Presumably they feel that at least a couple of those have some power potential. Whether it can be developed is an entirely separate consideration.

It was a small point in a long show, but like I said, it rubbed me the wrong way (and I figured it would be more fun to write about than the fact that Mazz consistently rants about Dustin Pedroia’s diminished power while neglecting to mention that Pedroia had a wrist issue earlier this season that may still be bothering him and affecting his offensive performance) and seemed like a fun thing to look into.

7 players, 18 seasons

Andruw Jones (2005-06) – amateur free agent

Carlos Delgado (2008) – amateur free agent (1988)

David Ortiz (2004-07, 2010) – amateur free agent (1992)

Vladimir Guerrero (2004) – amateur free agent (1993)

Adrian Beltre (2004, 2012) – amateur free agent (1994)

Miguel Cabrera (2007-08, 2010, 2012-13) – amateur free agent (1999)

Alfonso Soriano (2006, 2013) – purchased from Japan (1998)

20 players, 39 seasons

Alex Rodriguez (2005, 2007) – 1st round, 1st pick (1993)

Josh Hamilton (2010, 2012) – 1st round, 1st pick (1999)

Adrian Gonzalez (2008-10) – 1st round, 1st pick (2000)

Pedro Alvarez (2013) – 1st round, 2nd pick (2008)

Moises Alou (2004) – 1st round, 2nd pick (January) (1986)

Evan Longoria (2013) – 1st round, 3rd pick (2006)

Mark Teixeira (2005, 2009-11)) – 1st round, 5th pick (2001)

Ryan Braun (2007-08, 2011-12) – 1st round, 5th pick (2005)

Barry Bonds (2004) – 1st round, 6th pick (1986)

Prince Fielder (2007, 2009-11) – 1st round, 7th pick (2002)

Carlos Pena (2007, 2009) – 1st round, 10th pick (1998)

Jay Bruce (2012) – 1st round, 12th pick (2005)

Manny Ramirez (2004-05, 2008) – 1st round, 13th pick (1991)

Aaron Hill (2009) – 1st round, 13th pick (2003)

Paul Konerko (2004-05, 2010) – 1st round, 13th pick (1994)

Derrek Lee (2005) – 1st round, 14th pick (1993)

Lance Berkman (2006-07) – 1st round, 16th pick (1997)

Jayson Werth (2009) – 1st round, 22nd pick (1997)

Carlos Quentin (2008) – 1st round, 29th pick (2003)

Adam Jones (2013) – 1st round, 37th pick (2003)

24 players, 49 seasons

Carlos Beltran (2006) – 2nd round (1995)

Adam Dunn (2004-05, 2007-10, 2012-13) – 2nd round (1998)

Ryan Ludwick (2008) – 2nd round (1999)

Joey Votto (2010) – 2nd round (2002)

Giancarlo Stanton (2011-12) – 2nd round (2007)

Curtis Granderson (2011-12) – 3rd round (2002)

Chris Davis (2013) – 5th round (2006)

Ryan Howard (2006-2009, 2011) – 5th round (2001)

Matt Kemp (2011) – 6th round (2003)

Jim Edmonds (2004) – 7th round (1988)

Matt Holliday (2007) – 7th round (1998)

Paul Goldschmidt (2013) – 8th round (2009)

Edwin Encarnacion (2012-13) – 9th round (2000)

Dan Uggla (2010-11) – 11th round (2001)

Albert Pujols (2004-06, 2008-11) – 13th round (1999)

Jim Thome (2004, 2006-07) – 13th round (1989)

Mark Reynolds (2009-11) – 16th round (2004)

Jermaine Dye (2006) – 17th round (1993)

Josh Willingham (2012) – 17th round (2000)

Mark Trumbo (2013) – 18th round (2004)

Jose Bautista (2010-11) – 20th round (2000)

Jason Bay (2009) – 22nd round (2000)

Richie Sexson (2005) – 24th round (1993)

Travis Hafner (2006) – 31st round (1996)

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Sunday, June 08, 2014

MLB Draft Picks Who Became Famous For Something Other Than Playing Baseball

This has been sitting in my Documents folder for years now, half-done and just waiting for me to finish. I finally decided to stop worrying about actually writing about these guys and just go ahead and post the unannotated list. (It's better this way.)

I think I last worked on this following the 2010 draft (Golden Tate's presence was a giveaway). The only additions I made were Johnny Manziel and Russell Wilson, because 15 minutes of sifting through half of the 2011 draft convinced me that I didn't want to spend an hour or more doing it for the next three years. If you read this and know of any others that I've missed, please feel free to let me know.

Lastly, the fun thing about doing stuff like this? Imagining a Kansas City Royals outfield featuring Bo Jackson, Deion Sanders, and John Elway, playing behind Dan Marino.

QUARTERBACKS

Archie Manning, SS, Atlanta Braves, 1967 (43-780) – Drew High School (MS)

Babe Laufenberg, RHP, San Francisco Giants, 1978 (20-498) – Crespi Carmelite High School (CA)

Billy Joe Hobert, OF, Chicago White Sox, 1993 (16-453) – Washington

Brian Brohm, RHP, Colorado Rockies, 2004 (49-1451) – Trinity High School (KY)

Brooks Bollinger, 3B, Los Angeles Dodgers, 2000 (50-1443) – Wisconsin

Brooks Bollinger, 3B, Los Angeles Dodgers, 2001 (50-1480) – Wisconsin

Browning Nagle, RHP, California Angels, 1991 (51-1314) – Louisville

Bubby Brister, SS, Detroit Tigers, 1981 (4-94) – Neville High School (LA)

Charlie Ward, SS, Milwaukee Brewers, 1993 (59-1556) – Florida State

Charlie Ward, SS, New York Yankees, 1994 (18-507) – Florida State

Chris Weinke, 3B, Toronto Blue Jays, 1990 (2-62) – Cretin High School (MN)

Dan Marino, RHP, Kansas City Royals, 1979 (4-99) – Central Catholic High School (PA)

Danny Kanell, 3B, Milwaukee Brewers, 1992 (19-528) – Westminster Academy High School (FL)

Danny Kanell, RHP, New York Yankees, 1994 (25-702) – Florida State

Danny White, INF, Cleveland Indians, 1973 (39-714) – Arizona State

Daunte Culpepper, OF, New York Yankees, 1995 (26-730) – Vanguard High School (FL)

Dennis Dixon, OF, Atlanta Braves, 2007 (5-168) – Oregon

Dennis Dixon, OF, Cincinnati Reds, 2003 (20-591) – San Leandro High School (CA)

Drew Henson, 3B, New York Yankees, 1998 (3-97) – Brighton High School (MI)

Glenn Foley, 1B, Florida Marlins, 1994 (72-1639) – Boston College

Jacob Locker, RHP, Los Angeles Angels, 2006 (40-1212) – Ferndale High School (WA)

Jacob Locker, RHP, Los Angeles Angels, 2009 (10-321) – Washington

Jay Schroeder, C, Toronto Blue Jays, 1979 (1-3) – Palisades High School (CA)

Joe Theismann, SS, Minnesota Twins, 1971 (39-773) – Notre Dame

John Elway, OF, Kansas City Royals, 1979 (18-463) – Granada Hills High School (CA)

John Elway, OF, New York Yankees, 1981 (2-52) – Stanford

John Manziel, SS, San Diego Padres, 2014 (28-837) – Texas A&M University

Josh Booty, SS, Florida Marlins, 1994 (1-5) – Evangel Christian High School (LA)

Ken Stabler, LHP, New York Yankees, 1966 (9-190) – Alabama

Kerry Collins, SS, Detroit Tigers, 1990 (26-690) – Wilson High School (PA)

Kerry Collins, SS, Detroit Tigers, 1991 (60-1461) – Penn State

Kerry Collins, RHP, Toronto Blue Jays, 1994 (48-1321) – Penn State

Mark Brunell, LHP, Atlanta Braves, 1992 (44-1237) – Washington

Marques Tuiasosopo, 3B, Minnesota Twins, 1997 (34-1023) – Woodinville High School (WA)

Matthew Cassel, RHP, Oakland Athletics, 2004 (36-1087) – USC

Michael Vick, OF, Colorado Rockies, 2000 (30-887) – Virginia Tech

Patrick White, OF, Anaheim Angels, 2004 (4-113) – Daphne High School (AL)

Patrick White, OF, Los Angeles Angels, 2007 (27-838) – West Virginia

Patrick White, OF, Cincinnati Reds, 2008 (49-1457) – West Virginia

Patrick White, CF, New York Yankees, 2009 (48-1455) – West Virginia

Quincy Carter, OF, Chicago Cubs, 1996 (2-52) – Southwest DeKalb High School (GA)

Rob Johnson, RHP, Minnesota Twins, 1991 (16-414) – El Toro High School (CA)

Rodney Peete, SS, Toronto Blue Jays, 1984 (30-722) – Shawnee Mission South High School (KS)

Rodney Peete, 3B, Oakland Athletics, 1988 (14-359) – USC

Rodney Peete, 3B, Oakland Athletics, 1989 (13-348) – USC

Rodney Peete, 3B, Detroit Tigers, 1990 (28-742) – USC

Russell Wilson, 2B, Baltimore Orioles, 2007 (41-1222) – Collegiate HS (VA)

Russell Wilson, 2B, Colorado Rockies, 2010 (4-140) – North Carolina State University

Steve Bartkowski, 1B, Baltimore Orioles, 1974 (19-447) – California

Steve Bartkowski, 1B, Kansas City Royals, 1971 (33-708) – Buscher High School (CA)

Steve McNair, SS, Seattle Mariners, 1991 (35-916) – Mt. Olive High School (MS)

Todd Marinovich, LHP, California Angels, 1988 (43-1101) – Capistrano Valley High School (CA)

Tom Brady, C, Montreal Expos, 1995 (18-507) – Serra High School (CA)

Tony Rice, C, California Angels, 1990 (50-1272) – Notre Dame

BASKETBALL

Anthony Peeler, LHP, Texas Rangers, 1988 (41-1049) – Paseo High School (MO)

Bimbo Coles, SS, California Angels, 1990 (54-1341) – Virginia Tech

Danny Ainge, SS, Toronto Blue Jays, 1977 (15-389) – North Eugene High School (OR)

Dell Curry, RHP, Baltimore Orioles, 1985 (14-359) – Virginia Tech

Dell Curry, RHP, Texas Rangers, 1982 (37-810) – Fort Defiance High School (VA)

Eric Montross, RHP, Chicago Cubs, 1994 (62-1547) – North Carolina

Lonnie Kruger, RHP, Houston Astros, 1970 (12-278) – Silver Lake High School (KS)

Lonnie Kruger, RHP, St. Louis Cardinals, 1974 (21-477) – Kansas State

Malcolm Huckaby, 3B, Houston Astros, 1990 (51-1285) – Bristol Central High School (CT)

Mark Hendrickson, LHP, Atlanta Braves, 1992 (13-369) – Mt. Vernon High School (WA)

Mark Hendrickson, LHP, San Diego Padres, 1993 (21-590) – Washington State

Mark Hendrickson, LHP, Atlanta Braves, 1994 (32-902) – Washington State

Mark Hendrickson, LHP, Detroit Tigers, 1995 (16-434) – Washington State

Mark Hendrickson, LHP, Texas Rangers, 1996 (19-563) – Washington State

Mark Hendrickson, LHP, Toronto Blue Jays, 1997 (20-599) – Mt. Vernon (WA)

Ryan Minor, 3B, Baltimore Orioles, 1996 (33-981) – Oklahoma

Ryan Minor, 3B, New York Mets, 1995 (7-189) – Oklahoma

Ryan Minor, SS, Baltimore Orioles, 1992 (15-408) – Hammon High School (OK)

Trajan Langdon, 3B, San Diego Padres, 1994 (6-150) – East High School (AK)

OTHER FOOTBALL

Antwaan Randle El, OF, Chicago Cubs, 1997 (14-424) – Thornton High School (IL)

Bert Emanuel, OF, Pittsburgh Pirates, 1992 (49-1379) - Rice

Bert Emanuel, OF, Toronto Blue Jays, 1989 (75-1478) – UCLA

Bo Jackson, SS, New York Yankees, 1982 (2-50) – McAdory High School (AL)

Bo Jackson, OF, California Angels, 1985 (20-511) – Auburn

Bo Jackson, OF, Kansas City Royals, 1986 (4-105) – Auburn

Cedric Benson, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers, 2001 (12-370) – Lee High School (TX)

Chazeray Schilens, OF, Detroit Tigers, 2003 (34-1000) – Highland High School (AZ)

Curt Warner, OF, Philadelphia Phillies, 1979 (32-784) – Pineville High School (WV)

Deion Sanders, OF, Kansas City Royals, 1985 (6-149) – North Fort Myers High School (FL)

Deion Sanders, OF, New York Yankees, 1988 (30-781) – Florida State

Freddie Mitchell, OF, Chicago White Sox, 2000 (50-1441) – UCLA

Freddie Mitchell, OF, Tampa Bay Rays, 1997 (47-1379) – Kathleen High School (FL)

Golden Tate, CF, San Francisco Giants, 2010 (50-1518) – Notre Dame

Golden Tate, OF, Arizona Diamondbacks, 2007 (42-1252) – Pope John Paul II High School (TN)

Hart Lee Dykes, LHP, Chicago White Sox, 1988 (54-1300) – Oklahoma State

Hines Ward, OF, Florida Marlins, 1994 (73-1646) – Forest Park High School (GA)

Jack Del Rio, 1B, Toronto Blue Jays, 1981 (22-550) – Hayward High School (CA)

Javon Walker, OF, Florida Marlins, 1997 (12-367) – St. Thomas More High School (LA)

Jeff Samardzija, RHP, Chicago Cubs, 2006 (5-149) – Notre Dame

Kenard Lang, 1B, Chicago White Sox, 1996 (43-1273) – Miami

Lawyer Milloy, OF, Cleveland Indians, 1992 (29-798) – Lincoln High School (WA)

Lawyer Milloy, OF, Detroit Tigers, 1995 (19-518) – Washington

Marshall Faulk, OF, California Angels, 1993 (43-1195) – San Diego State

Mewelde Moore, OF, San Diego Padres, 2000 (4-109) – Belaire High School (LA)

O.J. McDuffie, OF, California Angels, 1991 (41-1077) – Penn State

Patrick Pass, OF, Florida Marlins, 1996 (44-1297) – Tucker High School (GA)

Quan Cosby, OF, Anaheim Angels, 2001 (6-179) – Mart High School (TX)

Ray Guy, RHP, Atlanta Braves, 1972 (17-395) – Southern Miss

Ronnie Brown, OF, Seattle Mariners, 2000 (42-1253) – Cartersville High School (GA)

Russ Francis, RHP, Kansas City Royals, 1974 (9-210) – Oregon

BASEBALL FRONT OFFICE/UMPIRES

Frank Wren, OF, New York Yankees, 1976 (17-400) – Northeast High School (FL)

Kerwin Danley, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers, 1979 (12-310) – Dorsey High School (CA)

Kevin Towers, RHP, Atlanta Braves, 1981 (13-323) – Mira Costa (CA)

Omar Minaya, OF, Oakland Athletics, 1978 (14-342) – Newton High School (NY)

FOOTBALL COACHES

Dick Jauron, SS, St. Louis Cardinals, 1973 (25-567) – Yale

Karl Dorrell, OF, Houston Astros, 1982 (28-708) – Helix High School (CA)

Turner Gill, SS, Chicago White Sox, 1980 (2-36) – Arlington Heights High School (TX)

Turner Gill, SS, New York Yankees, 1983 (18-457) – Nebraska

Urban Meyer, SS, Atlanta Braves, 1982 (13-323) – St. John’s High School (OH)

ENTERTAINMENT

Donald Hogestyn, 2B, New York Yankees, 1976 (25-582) – South Florida

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Saturday, June 07, 2014

Fun Names From The 2014 MLB Draft

1. Max Pentecost, Toronto Blue Jays, 1-11 - Pretty sure this will be the name of the lead character in “Pacific Rim 2”.

2. Touki Toussaint, Arizona Diamondbacks, 1-16

3. Forrest Wall, Colorado Rockies, 1-35

4. Connor Joe, Pittsburgh Pirates, 1-39 – Sounds like the kind of guy who should roar into town in an old, beat up pickup truck, spend the summer breakin’ hearts and hittin’ homers, and never be seen or heard from again.

5. Justin Twine, Miami Marlins, 2-43 – If the whole baseball thing doesn’t pan out, my wife thinks his name sets him up nicely for a career as a BDSM porn star.

6. Scott Blewett, Kansas City Royals, 2-56 – I can’t help but hear Robert De Niro whenever I read this guy’s name. That clip could get a TON of play in minor league ballparks this summer.

7. Cy Sneed, Milwaukee Brewers, 3-85

8. Tejay Antone, Cincinnati Reds, 5-155 – We considered naming our son T.J. This twist never would have occurred to me.

9. Brock Dykxhoorn, Houston Astros, 6-166 – I…I don’t even know what to say about this one.

10. Joey Pankake, Detroit Tigers, 7-220 – Not sure if this guy is real or just Dan Vogelbach’s alter ego.

11. Stone Garrett, Miami Marlins, 8-227

12. Keaton Steele, Minnesota Twins, 8-230 Taken together, these two sound like the lead characters on season two of “True Detective.” If nothing else, they should open a bar together or something.

13. Matt Shortall, Philadelphia Phillies, 10-292

14. Holden Helmink, Arizona Diamondbacks, 12-360

15. Nigel Nootbaar, Baltimore Orioles, 12-361

16. Jimmy Pickens, Cincinnati Reds, 15-455 – I hope people start calling him “Slim.”

17. Mat Batts, Minnesota Twins, 17-500 – Not only does it rhyme, but he’s won’t even be the first Mat Batts to play professionally (assuming he signs): Matt Batts played for five teams in the 1940s and 1950s.

18. Blake Drake, St. Louis Cardinals, 18-555

19. Aaron Bummer, Chicago White Sox, 19-558 – Who among us wouldn’t pay good money to listen to Hawk Harrelson excitedly call “a game-winning hit for Bummer! What a Bummer!”?

20. Hawtin Buchanan, Seattle Mariners, 20-591

21. Aaron Attaway, Toronto Blue Jays, 20-594

22. Wigberto Nevarez, Atlanta Braves, 20-613

23. Onas Farfan, Minnesota Twins, 21-620

24. Bubba Blau, Milwaukee Brewers, 24-716

25. Cre Finfrock, Milwaukee Brewers, 26-776

26. Mariano Rivera, New York Yankees, 29-872 – I may be a Red Sox fan, but this still makes me happy.

27. Theo Theofanopoulos, Minnesota Twins, 30-890 – I want to see this name on the back of a major league jersey.

28. Hunter Brothers, Colorado Rockies, 30-893 – Sounds like a TLC reality show.

29. Josh Goossen-Brown, Chicago White Sox, 31-918 – It’s not really unusual, but it was the only name on MLB.com’s Draft Tracker that was listed in all caps, so I like to think that that’s how it’s supposed to be.

30. DeAires Moses, Seattle Mariners, 31-921

31. Taylor Aikenhead, San Diego Padres, 32-957 – Guarantee he’s heard, “OH, MY ACHIN’ HEAD!” at least 472,000 times in his life.

32. Denz’l Chapman, Oakland A’s, 32-972 – Not sure I understand the reasoning behind the apostrophe here.

33. Keegan Yuhl, Houston Astros, 35-1036

34. Kirvin Moesquit, Minnesota Twins, 36-1070

35. Rags Rogalla, Philadelphia Phillies, 37-1102 – Sounds like a Mafia enforcer. This is just a name that seems to fit Philly well.

36. Joseph Winterburn, Boston Red Sox, 40-1214 – This is New England. The winter does, indeed, burn.

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Thursday, June 05, 2014

Mum-Mum

1.


One morning when I was almost five, I woke up to find my parents gone. They had left in the middle of the night with my baby sister after she decided to stop breathing. My mother’s mother, who we called Mum-Mum, lived just down the street and had come to stay with me and my older siblings until the rest of our family returned.

After I found her there, probably in the living room reading a book or magazine, she covered the frightening nature of her impromptu visit by pouring me a bowl of cereal, explaining briefly and carefully what was happening, and assuring me that all would be well.  

2.

One evening when I was about eight, we were just getting ready to sit down for dinner when my older sister looked out the window and said, “What’s that?” and a massive thunderclap exploded practically inside our house. A drunk driver had flown down Central Road from the direction of Mum-Mum’s house and scored a direct hit on my parents’ bedroom, knocking it off the foundation and opening a crack in the wall through which I could look up at the ceiling and gaze upon the stars.

Soon the police were there, and the fire department, bringing with them many vehicles with many flashing lights. And, as I sat quietly amid the ruckus and ate my dinner, Mum-Mum appeared, ready to bring my younger sister and I back to her house. We stayed there for two nights while our parents dealt with the logistics of figuring out how to literally put a house back together.

3.

I got my first bike when I was nine or so. Nobody had ever taught me to ride, and our driveway was too short and steep for bike-riding anyway, so it makes sense that I ended up at Mum-Mum’s house to learn, with her large, flat, evenly paved driveway.

One moment stands out. We were out there after school, practicing, and it must have been cool but not cold out because she was wearing a light, grey, hooded sweatshirt. She grabbed the back of the bike and we started to move, but within seconds I was skidding out of control as the back tire kicked out. Somehow I kept my feet, straddling my ride as it fell to the ground beneath me. Mum-Mum wasn’t so lucky; she lost her footing, fell, and did a complete barrel-roll on the ground before springing to her feet, laughing, and getting me ready to go again.

Thirty-four years I knew her, and that’s my very favorite memory: a woman in her late-sixties laughing like a schoolgirl, demonstrating for her grandson exactly how you should respond when something knocks you down.

4.

All of this hit me tonight while I was visiting, of all places, the grocery store. I was walking through the bread aisle, a grown-ass man looking for cookie dough for his wife, when it suddenly got misty enough that I had to pull off my glasses and wipe the tears from my eyes, all the while hoping that anyone who saw me would feel sorry for that poor fellow with the severe allergies.

I found the cookie dough and set about procuring a dessert for myself. I thought about Ben & Jerry’s before eschewing the idea. Who wants to pay five bucks for a pint of ice cream, anyway?

5.

Mum-Mum died on Memorial Day, May 26, just before 9 p.m., with her children and her oldest grandson by her side. Since then I’ve told everyone who asked, and some who didn’t, that it’s okay: she lived a long life, squeezed as much value out of her time here as anyone I’ve ever known, and impacted the lives of countless people. “I’m sad,” I said, “because I loved her and I’ll miss her, but I can’t feel bad.” I told a lot of stories, laughed and smiled a lot, and tried to remember the good times.

I’m not lying when I say that stuff, or putting on some sort of act. I really do feel that way. But if we’re being honest, let me also say this: Mum-Mum’s death has left a giant fucking crater in the center of my soul. I’ve never felt this way before, can’t begin to know how to process it, and have no idea how to fill it.

I had previously lost three grandparents and assorted great-aunts and great-uncles, but no one this close to me has ever died before. That makes me lucky until the first time it happens and my emotional immune system has no way to handle it. How do you come to grips with the loss of someone who did all of those things I talked about above, who took you to the New England Aquarium and Boston Museum of Science, who showed you how to body-surf in the waves at Rye Beach, who lived down the street your entire life, who was always there, who always loved you, who was never supposed to fucking die?

6.

Mum-Mum worked until she was in her late-sixties, but retired when I was about seven or eight, so most of my memories of her are as a woman of leisure, unencumbered by the necessity of having to wake up early every morning and punch a time clock; instead, she seemed to wake up early every morning and wonder what adventures the day held for her.

She traveled the world. She painted beautiful pictures. She had coffee with friends and neighbors. She walked on the beach. She lived life the right way.

We always went to her house for the big holidays, Thanksgiving and Christmas, making sandwiches from leftover turkey and partaking in whatever snacks and desserts she had prepared. As I remember, she wasn’t a big drinker, but I can still remember her asking if anyone wanted a gin and tonic after dinner (even before I knew what a gin and tonic was). When one of her grandkids wanted a treat, a certain ritual followed: our parents would say no, at which point Mum-Mum would catch our eye and give a nod that said, “Go ahead and have one. I’ll take care of this.” She knew that a good grandmother should be her grandchild’s boldest co-conspirator and greatest ally (and also that she wouldn’t be the one dealing with sugared-up children later on).

We played board games on those nights, mixing it up for years before eventually going almost exclusively with Trivial Pursuit. The true joy of playing that game with Mum-Mum was knowing that no matter what, if she thought she knew the answer to a question, she was going to call it out – even if it wasn’t actually directed at her team.

There was nothing quite like hearing a question, seeing Mum-Mum get excited and start to work her way through the answer, and waiting in anticipation for someone on her team (usually one of her children) to stop her before she could give it away.

At the end of those nights, it was inevitable that she would complain about “Sheridan Long Good-Byes,” which can probably best be described as when you start off by attempting to say good-bye to everyone still remaining at the gathering and end up holding a full conversation with each person. More than once in her final years, I thought to myself that her life was turning into the ultimate Sheridan Long Good-Bye, a drawn-out farewell when all she really wanted to do was call it a night and go to bed.

7.

At her funeral, the priest basically recapped the obituary, telling everyone in the church a bunch of stuff that most of them already knew. Then my brother spoke briefly before our cousin Kate stepped up and delivered a beautiful eulogy that had the entire congregation in tears. Later on, after we went back to Mum-Mum’s house to eat, tell stories, and continue celebrating her life, someone pointed out that as Kate went on, the priest became more and more visibly displeased, apparently trying to will her with his mind to wrap it up already.

This made me think of my favorite Mum-Mum story, one I told at least twice, including shortly after arriving at the funeral home for her wake (it’s not a stretch to say that it kept me from losing my mind that day). When my wife and I were preparing to be married, we had to take a written exam, a compatibility test of sorts, to show that we were serious about the whole idea. Usually, couples take this test, the priest looks at it, they go back and review it with him and all is well. Not us. I did so poorly that we soon had a weekly appointment with Father Kelly, the priest who was to marry us.

Somehow Mum-Mum got wind of this. She had long recommended that her grandchildren forget about getting married and “live in sin”, but if we wanted to tie the knot and some stuffed shirt in a collar was standing in the way of that for no good reason…well, that didn’t sit right.

“If he doesn’t think you two ought to get married,” said my 82-year-old grandmother, “you tell that jackassy priest to come talk to me.”

It’s common knowledge in our family that one of Mum-Mum’s favorite words was jackass, usually directed at other drivers on the road. Still, this was a different level; I’d heard a lot of things, but I’d never heard anyone talk about a priest like THAT before.

I think she might have done it again in reference to the officiating religious figure at her funeral, if given the chance, simply because his behavior warranted it. I do believe I might have to do it for her from now on.

8.

So Mum-Mum is gone now, has been for ten days or so. I keep telling myself it’s for the best – really, it is – but that still doesn’t change that hole in the middle of me, the feeling that I’m now incomplete and will never be whole again. It’s an idea that I fear I don’t have the capacity to fully understand.

Walking around the grocery store, though, turning this over in my head, something occurred to me. When that driver hit our house all those years ago, it pretty much destroyed my parents’ bedroom. My dad ended up taking that room right off of the house – I can still see him and a couple other guys knocking it down with sledgehammers – but never put anything up in its place. I suppose he figured that it was so close to the road that building in that area again would just be tempting fate.

For the longest time, that hole just sat there, a reminder of the near-disaster that our family had endured. Then, over time, something interesting happened: it slowly started to fill in. I think my father would throw dirt and rocks in from time to time, and he may have put a much bigger load in at some point to speed things along, but the point is that it eventually filled up. It’s still noticeable because I know it’s there, and we’ll never forget the reason it looks like that, but there’s dirt and grass and plants and stuff where there used to just be a big hole in the ground.

Maybe I’m the same way. Mum-Mum was a beautiful person that I will never forget, and that piece that her passing carved out of me is never going to be completely filled in. It will never be the same. But gradually, it will begin to hurt less. Old memories, of her and the rest of our family, will start to fill it in; new memories will make it grow. It will never be exactly the same again, but somehow it will be okay. In the meantime, all I can do is pick myself up, laugh, and keep going.

9.

In the end, I knew what I had to do – or, more to the point, what Mum-Mum would have done were she in my shoes. I went back to the freezer section, picked out a flavor of Ben & Jerry’s that I wanted to try, and headed to the checkout.

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