Archive for April 23rd, 2008

Indy Spotlight – Holding the Flavor of the Month’s – Ahem – in the Bus Leagues

When I promised last week to provide a relatively accurate list of former major leaguers that are currently listed on independent rosters, I had no idea what a task it would become.  Did you guys know there are like eight independent leagues out there?  Eighty or so teams?  Somewhere in the vicinity of 1,600 players?  That’s a lot of players.  Throw in a vicious flu/bronchitis that hit on Monday morning and it’s a miracle we’re here today, only one day behind schedule.

The list below isn’t perfect.  There have been some signings since I copied all the rosters into Word, the most obvious of which I accounted for, but I didn’t go through and enter every name into BR to see if somebody had four games of experience in 1999. 

Not surprisingly, the Atlantic League dominates this list, with 56 former big leaguers under contract thus far.  The ALPB has been one of the top independent leagues in the country for ten years now, the place where high-level talent goes when they have something to prove.  In 2001, Jose Canseco started the year with the Newark Bears (including a record crowd of over 4,800 on Opening Day in Nashua) before finishing the year (and his major league career) with the Chicago White Sox.  Two years later, Rickey Henderson took the same route, playing for Newark (literally an hour into my first day as an intern with the Pride, I tagged along with another intern who had been assigned to meet Henderson at his car) before the Dodgers came calling for the last thirty games.  And my personal favorite?  Dante Bichette, who joined the Pride in late July of 2004 after skipping two full seasons, took about a week to shake the rust off, then put on a clinic over the final month.

Will any of the guys on this list follow in the footsteps of Canseco, Henderson, Brendan Donnelly, or any of the other guys who used the independent leagues to get one more shot at the big time?  Too early to tell, but we’ll try to keep an eye on it as the season progresses.  (Some of the more interesting names are in bolded italics.  Guys that I’m not 100% certain about are listed as “possible”.)

American Association (A – AA)

Lincoln Saltdogs
Felix Jose (OF) – 1988-95, 2000, 2002-03 – Jose was the Atlantic League’s Co-MVP with the Nashua Pride in 1998.

Pensacola Pelicans
John Webb (P) – 2004-05

Sioux City Explorers
Dusty Bergman (P) – 2004

Sioux Falls Canaries
Pat Mahomes (P) – 1992-97, 1999-03

Wichita Wingnuts
Kevin Hooper (IF) – 2005-06
Dustan Mohr (OF) – 2001-07

Atlantic League of Professional Baseball (AA – AAA)

Bridgeport Bluefish
Adam Greenberg (IF) – 2005 – Greenberg had one of the craziest careers ever, taking a pitch off the head during his first major league at-bat.  He left the game and has not appeared in a big league uniform since.
Alex Prieto (IF) – 2003-04
Tim Drew (P) – 2000-04 – The middle of the three baseball-playing Drew brothers, Tim and J.D. played together on the 2004 Atlanta Braves.
T.J. Tucker (P) – 2000, 2002-05
Eric Dubose (P) – 2002-06
Matt Ford (P) – 2003

Camden Riversharks
Kevin Walker (LHP) – 2000-05
Jason Phillips (1B/C) – 1999, 2002-03
Josh Rabe (OF) – 2006-07
Mike Vento (OF) – 2005-06

Lancaster Barnstormers
Matt LeCroy (C-1B) – 2000-07
John Nelson (SS) – 2006
Sendy Rleal (P) – 2006

Long Island Ducks
Tom Martin (P) – 1997-07
Jason Simontacchi (P) – 2002-04, 2007
Joe Valentine (P) – 2003-05
Brent Abernathy (IF) – 2001-03, 2005
Donaldo Mendez (IF) – 2001, 2003
Pete Rose, Jr. (IF) – 1997
Carl Everett (OF) – 1993-2006
Damian Rolls (OF) – 2000-04
Jamal Strong (OF) – 2003, 2005

Newark Bears
Bobby Hill (IF) – 2002-05
Ramon Castro (IF) – 2004
Randall Simon (IF) – 1997-99, 2001-06
Cory Aldridge (OF) – 2001
Keith Reed (OF) – 2005
Ruben Mateo (OF) – 1999-2004
Jose Herrera (OF) – 1995-96
Al Levine (P) – 1996-2005
Benito Baez (P) – 2001
Edwin Almonte (P) – 2003
J.J. Trujillo (P) – 2002
Will Cunnane (P) – 1997-2004

Somerset Patriots
Michael Ryan (OF) – 2000-05
Jeff Duncan (OF) – 2003-04
Brandon Knight (P) – 2001-02
Scott Wiggins (P) – 2002
Bret Prinz (P) – 2001-05, 2007
Andy Van Hekken (P) – 2002
Brian Reith (P) – 2001, 2003-04

Southern Maryland Blue Crabs
Jeff Farnsworth (P) – 2002
John Halama (P) – 1998-2006
Adam Johnson (P) – possible – 2001, 2003
Jason Pearson (P) – 2002-03
Carlos Perez (P) – possible – 1995, 1997-2000
Dan Reichert (P) – 1999-2003
Damian Jackson (IF) – possible – 1996-2006
Greg Blosser (OF) – 1993-94 – Anyone else surprised that Blosser only played 22 games in the majors?
Eric Crozier (OF) – 2004

York Revolution
Wayne Franklin (P) – 2000-06
Pete Munro (P) – 1999-2000, 2002-04
Aaron Myette (P) – 1999-2004
Aaron Rakers (P) – 2004-05, 2007
Corey Thurman (P) – 2002-03
Dave Veres (P) – 1994-2003

Canadian-American Association of Professional Baseball (A)

New Jersey Jackals
Joel Bennett (P) – 1998-99
Luke Allen (OF) – 2002-03

Ottawa Rapids
Napoleon Calzado (OF) – 2005

Sussex Skyhawks
Yohanny Valera (C ) – 2000
Walter Young (1B) – 2005

Golden Baseball League (AA)

Edmonton Cracker-Cats
Augustine Montero (P) – possible – 2006
Hector Ramirez (P) – possible – 1999-2000

Yuma Scorpions
Pascual Matos (C ) – 1999

Northern League (A-AA)

Gary SouthShore RailCats
Tony Cogan (P) – 2001

Joliet JackHammers
David Moraga (P) – 2000
Juan Carlos Diaz (INF) – 2002

Schaumburg Flyers
James Lofton (INF) – 2001 – I have an absolutely awesome story that features Lofton as the central figure.  I’ve been meaning to write it up for about two years now – maybe this blog will give me the momentum to do so.
Rontrez Johnson (OF) – 2003
Jermaine Allensworth (OF) – 1996-99
Bo Hart (INF) – 2003-04

United League Baseball

Laredo Broncos
Edgard Clemente (OF) – 1998-2000

San Angelo Colts
Matt Duff (P) – possible – 2002

Two Roads Diverged

On a shelf in my parents’ living room, there is a baseball signed by every attendee of the 2004 New Hampshire Baseball Dinner. Some of the names are starting to fade, but most are still clearly visible. Jim Rice. Johnny Pesky. Rick Wise. Butch Hobson. Bill Monbouquette. It’s one of those items that is pretty cool to have, even if the actual monetary value is probably nonexistent.

In addition to some of the big name stars who signed balls for fans that night, there were a couple of relative nobodies, minor leaguers who had played their high school ball in New Hampshire and were now working their butts off for the opportunity to play in the major leagues.

Manchester’s David Williamson (for some reason, all the stats sites refer to him as “Willie” Williamson) was a former seventh round pick by the Cardinals out of UMass-Lowell who was starting to run into some serious and confusing trouble. Like Steve Blass, Mark Wohlers, and others before him, Williamson was a pitcher with immense physical talent who, somewhere along the way, had forgotten how to throw strikes. In 2002, with the Low A New Jersey Cardinals, he appeared in six games, all starts, posting a 2.25 ERA, 10.13 K/9, 7.13 BB/9, and a 1.29 WHIP in 24 innings pitched. His line the following year? 17 games, four starts, 9.90 ERA, 7.20 K/9, 15.30 BB/9, 2.45 WHIP in 20 innings pitched. In 2004, he ended up at the end of the world, in Nashua, pitching for the Pride, hoping to figure out the problem and capitalize on his potential. Didn’t happen. I distinctly remember watching him in one of the three games he pitched – he got two quick strikes on one of the hitters he faced, then hit the backstop on the fly with his next pitch. He ended up appearing in a total of eight games between Nashua and Pennsylania (the league’s traveling team, which really WAS the end of the world for most guys), walking 31 batters in 7 2/3 innings. Just like that, his career was over.

The other minor leaguer at the dinner that night was Litchfield’s Kyle Jackson, a 32nd round selection by the Boston Red Sox in June 2001. Unlike Williamson, Jackson has achieved limited success at the minor league level; for awhile, he was even included on Boston’s 40-man roster. He suffered a setback in 2007, however, going 4-9 with a 5.99 ERA in 42 relief appearances at AA Portland. Now 25 and in his seventh minor league season, Jackson’s career is at a critical stage. Will he finally follow in the footsteps of Charlie Zink and Chris Smith (Portland’s “Governor” and “Mayor”, respectively, as Kevin Gray tells us at the beginning of a story on Jackson in today’s Union Leader), who left the Sea Dogs after a combined nine seasons with the team, moving down the highway to AAA Pawtucket? Or does Jackson’s story end before he walks down the tunnel, through the dugout, and out onto the impossibly green grass of Fenway Park? At this point, only time will tell.

Spotlight on AA Ball – 4/23/2008

Lots of great promotions coming up in AA ball. The Reading Phillies have the most charming this week, as they celebrate local legend Joey Bago Donuts, a longtime employee of the team who has grown into a cult favorite between-innings entertainer. [MiLB]

The Huntsville Stars (Brewers) are encouraging people to skip work and come out to the ballpark on the 28th. And you have to love language like this in an official press release: “Naturally, it’d be a great idea to invite the boss, however, if he or she is a complete tool, c’mon out and work on your savage tan and get your drink on with your co-workers instead.” [Huntsville Stars]

Harrisburg Senators (Nationals) catcher Luke Montz is flashing some serious offense (.432) and defense (10 of 15 attempted steals snuffed out). What’s a guy got to do to be called “catcher of the future” around here? [MiLB]

John Jay was the first Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. Jon Jay is a Springfield Cardinals OF who went 4 of 4 to help Mark Mulder win his second rehab start on his way back to the Bigs. [Wikipedia][SpringfieldCardinals.com]

You hear a lot about the great promotions in the minors, but I don’t think we’ll ever see a better draw than the Midland RockHounds’ (A’s) Trauma Awareness Day, coming your way in May. [Midland RockHounds]