Archive for July, 2009

Fandom Auctioned: SOLD! for $14.99

bandits mascot jcBanditsI’ve managed to come down pretty decisively on one side of most of the sports arguments of my day (I’m against municipal levies to pay for ballparks; I don’t mind the designated hitter), but this one still gets me into ferocious internal arguments with myowndamnself.

Should a fan ever renounce his love for his team? For me, personally, the answer is no. How can I expect to hang with my wife for the rest of my life if I can’t even put up with the mild agita that each doomed Royals season brings me? And yet, there’s a part of me that says it might be OK for the more feckless amongst us, because some owners render teams unworthy of undying love, and I hate to reward that kind of behavior. The old “small market!” chestnut has been blown to pieces as the likes of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays turn burgeoning farm systems into quality major-league contenders. It simply appears that some billionaire owners are too cheap to give back to their fans in any meaningful way.

Pittsburgh Pirates fan Brad Davis, fed up with the Buccos’ tendency to trade away every player that ever gave the team a fighting chance to win, put his fandom up for auction on eBay. The slightly tattered artifact was picked up by the Low-A Quad Cities River Bandits, who know how to spot a value pick in this constricted market. They paid just $14.99 for a slightly-used vintage fan. And Brad gets a friendly small-town Bus Leagues club with an awesome stadium to call his very own.

There’s only one real problem I have with the way this played out. The auction story was cute and all, but I can’t help feeling that Davis could have stayed within his own farm system if he wanted to see great Pirates draft picks before they were traded. But I guess he needed a clean break.

Word of warning, though. Once you go Bus Leagues, you’ll never go back, Brad.

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Perfect Pitchers Get All The Glory, While Their Catchers Get None

On the heels of yesterday’s post about Felix Cespedes’s near-perfect game, I got an email from a fellow writer that made me do some thinking about perfect games.  One of the things I found myself wondering: who were the catchers for each of the eighteen perfect games in major league history?

This list is taken from the Encyclopedia of Baseball Catchers and fact-checked against Baseball-Reference.com when possible.

1. Lee Richmond (June 12, 1880) – Charlie Bennett
2. Monte Ward (June 17, 1880) – Emil Gross
3. Cy Young (May 5, 1904) – Lou Criger
4. Addie Joss (October 2, 1908) – Nig Clarke
5. Charlie Robertson (April 30, 1922) – Ray Schalk
6. Don Larsen (October 8, 1956) – Yogi Berra
7. Jim Bunning (June 21, 1964) – Gus Triandos
8. Sandy Koufax (September 9, 1965) – Jeff Torborg
9. Catfish Hunter (May 8, 1968) – Jim Pagliaroni
10. Len Barker (May 15, 1981) – Ron Hassey
11. Mike Witt (September 30, 1984) – Bob Boone
12. Tom Browning (September 16, 1988) – Jeff Reed
13. Dennis Martinez (July 28, 1991) – Ron Hassey
14. Kenny Rogers (July 28, 1994) – Ivan Rodriguez
15. David Wells (May 17, 1998) – Jorge Posada
16. David Cone (July 18, 1999) – Joe Girardi
17. Randy Johnson (May 18, 2004) – Robby Hammock
18. Mark Buehrle (July 23, 2009) – Ramon Castro

Look closely and you’ll notice something interesting: seven Hall of Famers (I’m counting Johnson in that group) have pitched perfect games; three Hall of Famers (I’m counting Rodriguez, but not Posada) have caught perfect games. No Hall of Fame catcher, however, has ever caught a perfect game pitched by a Hall of Fame pitcher.

And then there’s Ron Hassey. Catching one perfecto is cool; catching two is off the charts, especially when you realize he was only behind the plate for five more games (plus four appearances as a pinch-hitter) after Martinez’s gem.

And Suddenly, My Childhood Comes Rushing Back

I went to the West Virginia Power’s web site tonight to see if Charleston could somehow manage to salvage something from this four game series (West Virginia won the first game on a walkoff homer, the second on a combined no-hitter, and the third on a combined one-hitter) – they did, winning 8-7 despite nearly blowing an 8-2 lead – when pure awesomeness reached out and punched me in the face.

Guess who’s coming to Appalachian Power Park on August 7?  MR. BELDING!

saved by the bell

Dennis Haskins, who played Mr. Belding on Saved By The Bell for about a hundred years, will sign autographs and host a postgame karaoke party when the Power hosts Kannapolis on Back To School Night.  (The game is sponsored by the West Virginia Lottery – gamble early, gamble often, kids!)

Mr. Belding and fireworks?  Be still my heart!  What’s the fastest way from New Hampshire to West Virginia?

(Okay, I need to know: how the hell did Max get into that picture?  Did they just want an even number of people and he was available?)

Now Pitching For The Baltimore Orioles…

As a Red Sox fan, last year’s version of the Tampa Bay Rays scared me from the start. Young and talented in all aspects of the game, they had the look of a team that could expect to contend in the division for years to come.

I hate to say it, but the Orioles are starting to engender some of the same feelings. They already have an offense filled with up-and-coming stars (Nick Markakis, Adam Jones, Nolan Reimold, Matt Weiters) and the pitching staff is also young, with more help on the way.

The team’s top pitching prospect, Chris Tillman, arrived on Wednesday, making his major league debut against Zack Greinke and the Kansas City Royals. The 21-year-old Tillman, Baseball America’s 22nd ranked prospect, arrived from Seattle with Jones and George Sherrill in the Erik Bedard trade in February 2008 and has torn up Baltimore’s farm system ever since: 11-4, 3.18, 154 strikeouts for AA Bowie last year, 8-6 with a 2.70 ERA and 99 strikeouts for AAA Norfolk in 2009.

Tillman didn’t pitch great in his debut, but he kept it close, allowing three runs on seven hits in 4.2 innings.  Matt Albers held it there and the offense scored five runs in the seventh and eighth to win 7-3.

If Felix Cespedes Didn’t Have Bad Luck, He’d Have No Luck At All

Driving home from work this afternoon, I caught the tail end of Mark Buehrle’s interview on Jim Rome’s radio show. Rome mentioned that following Buehrle’s 2007 no-hitter, the pitcher had given his teammates watches as a reward for their part in the career highlighting event. The next question, of course, dealt with DeWayne Wise, maker of the history-saving ninth inning catch, and what Buehrle could possibly do to show his gratitude (Rome suggested a new house).

Felix Cespedes should seriously consider buying his teammates…nothing.

The eighteen-year-old Dominican righthander pitched the game of his life for the DSL Phillies on Tuesday. Twenty-seven times members of the rival DSL Mariners came to the plate against him, and twenty-seven times they went back to the dugout without reaching base. Fourteen of those went down on strikes, raising Cespedes league-leading total to 73 on the year, as he attained one of the most astonishing heights a pitcher can reach.

Problem was, Cespedes’ Phillies teammates didn’t do so good with the scoring of the runs, pushing across a grand total of zero in the first nine innings. They certainly had their opportunities: four times, including the top of the ninth, a runner was thrown out attempting to score. He ended up coming out after nine and eventually saw things fall apart: the perfecto went buh-bye in the tenth, the first batter of the twelfth finished the no-hitter, and the fourth batter of the twelfth ended the shutout and lost the game for the visitors.

And so goes the young career of Felix Cespedes, who despite pitching a fourteen strikeout perfect game still holds a season record of 0-4.

Rymer Liriano Cannot Be Contained!

Usually, if something happens on a Sunday afternoon and I don’t get around to writing about it until the wee hours of Wednesday morning, it’s not worth mentioning at all.  In the case of the wonderfully named Rymer Liriano, however, it’s more than worth it; the delay is my fault.

Liriano, an eighteen-year-old outfielder for the Padres’ Rookie level affiliate in Arizona, played one of the best minor league baseball games of the season on Sunday, finishing 4-4 with three homeruns, six RBI, and six runs scored in a 19-8 win over the AZL Royals.  His at-bats went as follows:

1. (1st inning): Three-run homerun
2. (2nd inning): Two-run homerun
3. (4th inning): Single
4. (6th inning): Solo homerun
5. (8th inning): Hit by pitch
6. (9th inning): Walk

The key plate appearance was the final one, in the ninth inning. You’ll notice that Liriano had already hit a solo, two-run, and three-run homerun, leaving him a grand slam short of the cycle. As luck would have it, he came to bat for the final time with the bases full of Padres. That’s as far as luck went, however – the equally awesomely named Starling de la Rosa threw a wild pitch, allowing the runner on third to score and freeing up first base. (It doesn’t say that Liriano was walked intentionally, but come on – would YOU pitch to a guy who had already hit three homers?)

Still, it doesn’t get much better than the day Liriano had. He didn’t leave anybody on base and he scored every time he got on base himself. That’s a good day, folks.

(It must be noted that on Tuesday, the Royals exacted their revenge, coaxing an 0-4 and three strikeouts out of Liriano.)

The Z-Meter: 7/27/2009; Jhoulys Ascendant!

The Z-meter tracks the story arcs of 25 top prospects (or players we just like) on their way to the bigs. It is named after current Washington Nationals star Ryan Zimmerman, who made the transition from anchoring the University of Virginia to starring in MLB in one year.

Promoted:

Jordan Zimmermann: Syracuse Chiefs (AAA) to Washington Nationals (MLB)
Matt LaPorta: Columbus Clippers (AAA) to Cleveland Indians (MLB)
Daniel Bard: Pawtucket Red Sox (AAA) to Boston Red Sox (MLB)
Mat Gamel: Nashville Sounds (AAA) to Milwaukee Brewers (MLB)
Fernando Martinez: Buffalo Bisons (AAA) to New York Mets (MLB)
Matt Wieters: Norfolk Tides (AAA) to Baltimore Orioles (MLB)
Antonio Bastardo: Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs (AAA) to Philadelphia Phillies (MLB)
Andrew McCutchen: Indianapolis Indians (AAA) to Pittsburgh Pirates (MLB)
 
Jhoulys Chacin: Tulsa Drillers (AA) to Colorado Rockies (MLB)
 
 
 
Antonio Bastardo: Reading Phillies (AA) to Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs (AAA)
Justin Smoak: Frisco Rough Riders (AA) to Oklahoma City RedHawks (AAA)

Madison Bumgarner: San Jose Giants (A) to Connecticut Defenders (AA)
Yonder Alonso: Sarasota Reds (A) to Carolina Mudcats (AA)
Pedro Alvarez: Lynchburg Hillcats (A) to Altoona Curve (AA)

Mauricio Robles: West Michigan Whitecaps (A) to Lakeland Flying Tigers (A+)
Josh Vitters: Peoria Chiefs (A) to Daytona Cubs (A+)

As Brian reported earlier, Jhoulys Chacin has been called up from AA Tulsa to the big club in Colorado. As happy as I am to see one of my favorite Bus Leaguers move up, I have to question the way it was done. The Rox have just taken a young guy from the smothering heat and humidity of Oklahoma directly to the dry altitude of Denver. Had Jhoulys been able to make a couple of starts in AAA Colorado Springs, he might be a little better prepared for the way his ball is going to move, or, as the case will most certainly be, not move.

But to hell with that stinkin’ thinkin’. Go get ’em, Jhoulys!

In other news, I’ve officially given up on Shooter Hunt. The balls-out amusing name was not enough to save him when his rehab stint in the Gulf Coast League turned into a further demonstration of how he just can’t pitch. 0-4 with an ERA over 9.00 is more than I can take. He’s gone.

So, welcome two new members. Eddy Martinez-Esteve, who has the triple-bonus of 1) a lengthy, hyphenated last name that stretches across his entire jersey like a rainbow 2) I saw him play in college when FSU won the ACC tournament in Salem, VA and 3) is actually pretty damn good. Also, Travis Wood, who maintained a 1.21 ERA with 103 Ks with the Carolina Mudcats, which earned him a post-break promotion to AAA Louisville. Travis, you’re our first L’ville Bat since “The Deal”, so be gentle with us.

Welcome aboard, fellas.


The top level. These prospects are in AAA in the prime of their youth, waiting for the call that will change their lives.

Wade Davis, RHP – Durham Bulls (Rays): 20 Games – 8 W – 6 L – 3.22 ERA – 47 BB – 103 K

Kila Kaaihue, 1B – Omaha Royals – .264 – 60 R – 13 HR – 41 RBI – 77 BB – 0 SB – .466 SLG – .869 OPS

Alcides Escobar, SS – Nashville Sounds (Brewers): .304 – 67 R – 3 HR – 31 RBI – 26 BB – 35 SB – .418 SLG – .772 OPS

Carlos Carrasco, RHP – Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs (Phillies): 20 Starts – 6 W – 9 L – 5.18 ERA – 38 BB – 112 K

Austin Jackson, OF – Scranton Wilkes-Barre (Yankees): .313 – 47 R – 4 HR – 39 RBI – 33 BB – 17 SB – .432 SLG – .807 OPS

Justin Smoak, 1B – Oklahoma City RedHawks (Rangers): .171 AVG – 9 R – 1 HR – 8 RBI – 10 BB – 0 SB – .244 SLG – .510 OPS

Travis Wood, RHP – Louisville Bats (Reds): 1 Game – 0 W – 0 L – 1.35 ERA – 4 BB – 5 K


These guys also have the potential to skip straight to the majors, but may get promoted to AAA first.

 

Lars Anderson, 1B – Portland SeaDogs (Red Sox): .259 AVG – 43 R – 8 HR – 47 RBI – 46 BB – 1 SB – .390 SLG – .739 OPS

Carlos Santana, C – Akron Aeros (Indians): .272 AVG – 64 R – 19 HR – 69 RBI – 63 BB – 0 SB – .534 SLG – .930 OPS

 
Andrew Locke, OF – Corpus Christi Hooks (Astros): .324 AVG – 58 R – 13 HR – 86 RBI – 34 BB – 1 SB – .489 SLG – .863 OPS
 
Madison Bumgarner, LHP – Connecticut Defenders (Giants): 12 Games – 7 W – 1 L – 1.74 ERA – 20 BB – 52 K
 Jeanmar Gomez, RHP – Akron Aeros (Indians): 15 Starts – 7 W – 3 L – 3.54 ERA – 27 BB – 71 K
 
 
Yonder Alonso, 1B (injured) – Carolina Mudcats (Reds): .246 AVG – 4 R – 1 HR – 8 RBI – 6 BB – 1 SB – .377 SLG – .686 OPS
 
Kyle Drabek, RHP – Reading Phillies (Phillies): 9 Games – 6 W – 1 L – 3.12 ERA – 19 BB – 44 K
 
Pedro Alvarez, 3B – Altoona Curve (Pirates): .283 AVG – 18 R – 6 HR – 17 RBI – 7 BB – 0 SB – .525 SLG – .849 OPS
 
Eddy Martinez-Esteve, OF – Connecticut Defenders (Giants): .300 AVG – 43 R – 4 HR – 41 RBI – 32 BB – 1 SB – .418 SLG – .783 OPS
 

These guys have vast potential but need to work out some kinks in A-ball before they can advance.

Ian Gac, 1B – Bakersfield Blaze (Rangers): .234 AVG – 49 R – 16 HR – 43 RBI – 24 BB – 1 SB – .447 SLG – .738 OPS

Mike Moustakas, SS – Wilmington Blue Rocks (Royals): .247 AVG – 52 R – 11 HR – 61 RBI – 20 BB – 8 SB – .409 SLG – .693 OPS

Che-Hsuan Lin, OF – Salem Red Sox: .266 AVG – 59 R – 6 HR – 45 RBI – 48 BB – 19 SB – .371 SLG – .727 OPS

Josh Vitters, 3B – Daytona Cubs (Cubs): .227 AVG – 8 R – 0 HR – 10 RBI – 2 BB – 1 SB – .307 SLG – .560 OPS

Collin Cowgill, OF (injured) – Visalia Rawhide (Diamondbacks): .277 AVG – 39 R – 6 HR – 36 RBI – 29 BB – 11 SB – .445 SLG – .819 OPS

Mauricio Robles, P – Lakeland Flying Tigers (Tigers): 7 Starts – 4 W – 2 L – 3.60 ERA – 14 BB – 40 K

Tim Beckham, SS – Bowling Green Hot Rods (Rays): .278 AVG – 40 R – 5 HR – 54 RBI – 27 BB – 7 SB – .408 SLG – .744 OPS

Ezekiel Spruill, RHP – Rome Braves (Braves): 18 Games – 8 W – 5 L – 1 SV – 3.06 ERA – 21 BB – 85 K

Brad Brach, RHP – Fort Wayne TinCaps (Padres): 45 Games – 1.17 ERA – 3 W – 2 L – 26 SV – 9 BB – 64 K

Jamie McOwen, RF – High Desert Mavericks (Mariners): .335 AVG – 54 R – 6 HR – 58 RBI – 30 BB – 7 SB – .485 SLG – .878 OPS


NCAA: Only used if a prospect in college shows really, truly, immensely, hugely inescapable potential.

Stephen Strasburg, RHP – San Diego State: 14 Starts – 13 W – 1 L – 1.32 ERA – 19 BB – 195 K

Strasburg was the #1 pick in the college draft this season, and will join the Washington Nationals system any old day now. He remains here as an honorary member.


Prospects chosen from Diamond Cutter’s Top 25, Baseball America, and our trademark irrational sense of whimsy.