Archive for May, 2008

This Week In Bobbleheads

A couple of months ago, we got a comment from a guy who had made amazing happen and compiled a list of every bobblehead giveaway scheduled for the 2008 season (full disclosure: I attempted to make a list like this for all minor league promotions. It hurt my brain and I stopped before it was even close to done). My admiration for this man knows no bounds.

I sent an email some time later to see if he might like to join the ranks here at Bus Leagues as the official promotions contributor; the resulting, deafening silence indicated that a) he was not interested or b) he no longer uses that email address. Either way, I’m not about to let this golden resource get away for another day. From now on, every Sunday I will post a list of the bobbleheads that will be available during the next seven days. This will allow you, our awesome readers, to strategize: “Can I get OMDQ the Robinson Cano AND the Shelley Duncan? How will we pull off the Braun-Gallardo double when they’re being given on THE SAME DAY?! That jerk is on his own for Petrocelli – time to actually go to a Fisher Cats game, OMDQ.” Okay, that last thought might’ve been a little harsh.

If you want to see the whole list, visit the above link. It will not be a disappointment.

Tuesday, May 27
Chicago Cubs – Kosuke Fukudome
Trenton Thunder – Robinson Cano

Wednesday, May 28
Trenton Thunder – Shelley Duncan

Thursday, May 29
Toledo Mudhens – Mike Hessman

Friday, May 30
Fort Worth Cats – Mayor Mike Moncrief
Hagerstown Suns – Blue Devil (Mascot)

Saturday, May 31
Fresno Grizzlies – Drag Kings
Rancho Cucamonga Quakes – Frankie Rodriguez Figurine
Salem Avalanche – Matt Holliday

Sunday, June 1
Arizona Diamondbacks – Baxter (Mascot)
Beloit Snappers – Yovani Gallardo
Greensboro Grasshoppers – Miss Babe Ruth
Milwaukee Brewers – Ryan Braun
New Hampshire Fisher Cats – Rico Petrocelli
Rochester Redwings – Stan/Stu Cliburn Double

I’m Happy…No, I’m Sad…No, I’m Happy…No, I’m –

In two weeks, I was planning to make the two hour trip down to Pawtucket, Rhode Island, to see the Red Sox take on the Louisville Bats.  Though I’m a Red Sox fan and would welcome the chance to see youngsters like Clay Buchholz and Justin Masterson for a far more reasonable price than a trip to Fenway, this trip wasn’t about them.  This trip was to be my best chance to see The Deal, Jay Bruce, the number one baseball playing prospect in the world, in action.

Alas, the Reds were not on my side.  The team announced today that Bruce will be recalled from Louisville in time for Tuesday’s game against the Pirates.  He had been crushing International League pitching, posting a .364 batting average, 10 homeruns and 37 runs batted in this season. 

Where Bruce will play when he arrives in Cincinnati is still up in the air.  I always thought he projected as a centerfielder in the majors, but apparently the good folks in the Reds front office do not share that assessment and see him as a long term solution at one of the corner outfield slots.  Problem is, those positions are currently occupied by Ken Griffey, Jr., who won’t be going anywhere at least until he hits his 600th career homerun (and probably not even then – he would need to approve any trade), and Adam Dunn, who is working on a fifth consecutive 40-homer season.  So, if The Deal is gonna see any playing time, any at all, it will probably be in center…provided he can unseat the Hall of Fame-bound duo of Corey Patterson and Ryan Freel.

I hadn’t realized this previously, but the Reds have some serious potential in the next couple of years.  A lineup featuring Bruce, Dunn, Joey Votto, and Brandon Phillips?  A rotation featuring Aaron Harang, Johnny Cueto, Edinson Volquez, and Homer Bailey?  Careful, Reds fans – brighter days might be on the horizon.

And you know what?  All is not lost – Clay Buchholz is still on a rehab assignment in Pawtucket…

A Bus League Roster in a Major League Park

Marco with Peroni

I spent part of my Memorial Day weekend at the ballpark, thanks to fellow blogger Marco (seen with beer above), who wanted to see the Washington Nationals’ new home, and invited me to meet him there.

Marco, OMDQ and I all are part of the Channel Four News Team that once upon a time filled the pages of Awful Announcing with live-blogs to shake the very foundations of the earth. We’ve scattered a bit since then, but we all still maintain a bond, and work together whenever possible – OMDQ and I here, and Marco and I at Storming the Floor during basketball season.

Even though this was an MLB trip, I can say with some certainty that some or all of these Nats will be seen in Columbus or Harrisburg soon, because I have never seen such a concentration of low batting averages and high ERAs in one place. We watched Elijah Dukes get his average down to .102 and double-clutch at least one fielder’s choice, and wondered what the heck he was still doing in the majors. His mates aren’t much better.

The game was as sloppy as one might expect, with the Nats jumping out by six runs and then promptly giving them all back. Going into the ninth, Marco and I were trying to decide if we could stand extra innings, since we both had three-hour drives to get to our respective homes. Fortunately, the Nats did the only thing one can do in such a situation – they called in Dmitri Young to pinch-hit in the bottom of the ninth. Dukes had stopped swinging and walked himself to first base, and Da Meat Hook slapped a single that advanced the former Ray to third. Guillermo Mota uncorked a wild pitch that bounced high onto the backstop, and Dukes plated the winning run (Young was pulled for a pinch runner, which robbed us of the divine comedy of watching him try to get to second on the play).

One thing to know if you plan on going to Nationals Park any time soon: parking is scarce, and everything around the ballpark is under construction. The boarded up warehouses that made this area an eyesore in the past are being converted to million-dollar lofts now that the Nats have brought up the property values. We’ll keep an eye on Washington’s minor-league roster, since there will no doubt be room for some of the young guys later in the season.

 

Doesn’t Matter What Leagues You Played In: 330 Is A Big Number

A few weeks ago, after Russell Branyan hit three homeruns in one game for the Nashville Sounds, I looked up his minor league stats at Baseball-Reference.com.  The results were a little surprising: Branyan had more than 200 homeruns in his minor league career, highlighted by back-to-back seasons of 40 and 39 in 1996-97. 

By the time Branyan got the call from Milwaukee on Sunday, he had run that total to 210 homeruns.  Add in the 121 he has hit so far at the major league level, and we’re talking about a fairly impressive career tally, more than 330 roundtrippers in fifteen seasons as a professional (and a good chance of reaching 350, probably in 2009).

“I play for a love of the game, and the game’s not fun if you don’t produce and you’re not performing,” Branyan said. “I’m going to keep playing this game as long as I can, as long as I’m having fun and playing well.”

At Bus Leagues, we tend to focus on the prospects, the young guys striving to make the leap to The Show, and there’s nothing wrong with that.  Some of the stories and players there are quite remarkable.  Sometimes, however, it’s pretty cool to take the time to reflect on a guy like Branyan, who has proven himself at every level, yet remains as hungry as ever to play – and be successful at – Major League Baseball.

The Minotaur and History

20-year-old Clayton Kershaw made his major league debut for the Los Angeles Dodgers on Sunday, limiting St. Louis to two runs on five hits in six innings.  He struck out seven Cardinals and walked just one.  In light of that impressive performance by one of baseball’s top prospects, I thought it might be interesting to look at some of the best pitchers of the past twenty or so years and see how they fared in three areas: first batter faced, first game, and first season.

For Kershaw, we know two of those pieces – the first batter he faced, Skip Schumaker, struck out, and the pitching line for his debut is above – but only time will tell on number three. 

Roger Clemens (21)
First Batter: Brett Butler (groundout to first, unassisted)
First Game: 5.2 IP, 4 ER, 11 H, 4 K, 3 BB
First Season: 9-4, 4.32 ERA, 126 K, 133.1 IP

Greg Maddux (20)
First Batter: Craig Reynolds (groundout to second)
First Game: 1 IP, 1 ER, 1 H, 1 K
First Season: 2-4, 5.52 ERA, 20 K, 31.0 IP

Okay, Maddux’s major league debut fascinates me because he didn’t make his first appearance as a pitcher.  Instead, he pinch-ran in the 17th inning of a 7-7 game against the Houston Astros – a game that had originally been started by Nolan Ryan and Jamie Moyer (did they supply the pitchers with water from the Fountain of Youth that day?).  Maddux took the mound for the first time the following inning, gave up a homerun to the second batter he faced, Billy Hatcher, and received the loss.  Five days later he made his first start, going the distance against Cincinnati (3 ER, 11 H, 4 K, 3 BB) for the win.  He also recorded two hits.

Is this common knowledge?  Am I the only one who didn’t know about this unusual set of circumstances surrounding Maddux’s first games in The Show?

Tom Glavine (21)
First Batter: Gerald Young (flyout to center)
First Game: 3.2 IP, 6 ER, 10 H, 1 K, 5 BB
First Season: 2-4, 5.54 ERA, 20 K, 50.1 IP

Randy Johnson (25)
First Batter: John Cangelosi (groundout to second)
First Game: 5 IP, 2 ER, 6 H, 5 K, 3 BB
First Season: 3-0, 2.42 ERA, 25 K, 26.0 IP

Pedro Martinez (20)
First Batter: Reggie Sanders (foulout to catcher)
First Game: 2 IP, 0 ER, 2 H, 1 K, 1 BB
First Season: 0-1, 2.25 ERA, 8 K, 8 IP

Save Us, Jamie D’Antona, You’re Our Only Hope

As far as transactions go, it’s not quite as big as Clayton Kershaw’s arrival on the big league scene, but the Los Angeles Dodgers made a second move over the weekend, calling outfielder Terry Tiffee up from AAA Las Vegas to replace the injured Andruw Jones.  Tiffee, a career .286 hitter entering this season, led all minor leaguers with a .422 batting average through Saturday.

Jamie D’Antona (AAA-Tucson) and Luis Maza (AAA-Las Vegas) are the two remaining minor leaguers with .400 batting averages. 

This will be Tiffee’s fourth stint at the major league level.  He previously hit .226 in 91 games and 239 at-bats with the Minnesota Twins from 2004-06. 

Butch Hobson Night in Nashua? I’m So There

As previously promised, my wife and I ventured a few miles down the road again on Friday to watch the Rox of Brockton square off against the Pride of Nashua in an official Canadian-American League regular season contest.  We probably wouldn’t have bothered if not for a couple my wife used to babysit for in high school – they’ve been a host family for several years, which means they get tickets to every home game, but weren’t able to go last night and offered us the tickets instead.  Free tickets?  Heck yeah.

We were joined in our endeavor by our friend Allison, who had the unfortunate luck of standing at the cash register waiting to pay for her food while the longest national anthem rendition in sports history was being sung.  I’m as patriotic as anyone, but I think I missed my son’s first birthday waiting for “the home of the brave.”  We also had to wait for the cashier to get quarters (one of the best things I saw on either of the past two nights?  Workers at the concession stands digging into their own pockets and yelling out, “I’ve got four quarters!”  Folks, THAT is minor league baseball, and it is awesome).

 The fourth and final ticket went to my friend Chris, who arrived in the second inning and immediately asked, “So where’s Barack Obama?”  The senator wasn’t on hand, unfortunately, so Chris ended up turning his attention in another direction: a charity auction to benefit a local girl who has leukemia.  For several innings, he kept a close eye on a great picture of Bobby Orr, Larry Bird and Ted Williams.  It appeared to be autographed and had a high bid of about $125.  Midway through the game, Chris got into a conversation with the guy running the auction, who broke the sad news that the “autographs” were laser engraved, not real.  The whole thing was priceless: the guy gave Chris the whole, “You didn’t think those autographs were real, did you?  Oh, you did?  That’s so sweet and naive of you,” spiel, at which point Chris decided that he was not interested in submitting any further bids.  I texted my wife and Allison: “I just saw hope die.”

With slightly better weather than the previous night, there was a bigger crowd on hand (announced at just over 2,000 after the game, with more actual bodies than Thursday).  They had a good reason to be there: prior to the game, the Pride had a ceremony to retire the number of former manager Butch Hobson, who led the team to the Can-Am League championship in 2007 before moving back to the Atlantic League with the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs.  Butch was given a framed “Number 17” jersey and his number was hung below the press box along with his name and years of service.

After the ceremony, Butch signed autographs on the concourse.  I wasn’t sure how much of a line would greet him, given the fact that everyone in southern New Hampshire who wanted a Butch Hobson autograph probably already has at least five (I don’t know that Butch ever, EVER refused an autograph request in eight years), but there was an impressive number for most of the first inning.  I waited until the end, when I could walk right up, and caught Butch’s eye. 

I was uncertain that he would remember me.  He meets so many people in his travels, has probably dealt with hundreds of front office staffers in his career, and I’m pretty sure he didn’t know my name when I worked for the team, but that wouldn’t stop Butch Hobson.  As I approached the table, he greeted me with a spark of recognition in his eyes, a firm handshake, and a hearty, “Hey man, how you doin’?”  Did he actually remember me, or was it the practiced response of a man who is supposed to know everyone?  Who cares?  He autographed a ticket stub for Joey – his first autograph – and years from now I’ll be able to tell Joey about the time I talked with Butch Hobson and got him to sign something for my boy.

(Keep an eye out in the next couple years for K.C. Hobson, Butch’s oldest son, who is a pretty fair baseball player.  Word is that he throws in the low 90s, hits well, and may be drafted next year.)

As for the game…what game?  I was busy socializing.  The Pride fell behind early, then built up a decent lead, then gave up eight runs in the sixth inning (I think) and ended up losing 12-8.  Krazy George was on hand again (they announced at one point that he was part of the group responsible for the first Wave in sports history) and we saw the mascot Stitches a few times; once, he gave Allison a high five, which pretty much made her night (he refused to give her a “high two” – don’t ask).  Joey got a little stuffed Stitches from the frightened kid who was selling merchandise in the stands (I don’t remember what led up to it, but I do recall saying, “Run now, James.  Run while you still can,” as he backed away with a nervous smile on his face).  Chris took one look at it and wondered why Mr. Met was wearing a Pride hat.  Well put, sir.

We were supposed to be treated to a fireworks show after the game, but a Nashua city ordinance prevents such displays after 11:00 PM.  Since the Pride staged a minor ninth inning rally and the game ended at about 11:01…no fireworks, a very disappointing turn of events.  I know they always say that promotional schedules are subject to change, but it’s always extra sad when they actually do.