If the Astros play a game and nobody watches, does anybody hear the applause?

The best fastball in baseball may belong to Royals rookie Yordano Ventura, who hit 102.9 MPH against the Rays.  He averaged 99.5 MPH on his fastballs over six innings of work.  The pitch that nearly hit 103 was his 93rd of the night…  [MLB]

SOMEBODY must have been watching…  Unfortunately, none of them have a Neilsen TV-Set Top meter reader.  The Houston Astros game got a 0.0 share, losing even to the pre-game show, on Monday night.  The team has had several losing records – bad records – and is in Chapter 11.  [SI]

Josh Hamilton dove into first base on a grounder and tore the ulnar collateral ligament in his left thumb.  He should be out nearly two months.  And that, kids, is why they don’t let you slide into first base in Little League, much less head first.  [ESPN]

Hamilton’s former teammate, Adrian Beltre, is getting a strained left quad looked at.  He left Tuesday night’s game unable to run.  As insurance, the Rangers called up Kevin Kouzmanoff from the minors. [ESPN]

After nearly 2000 games in the MINORS, Pete Rose, Jr. still is trying to get back to the majors – as a manager.  Who knew?  [SI]

And when is a mascot not a mascot?  When he only appears in the plazas and not necessarily on the field.  The Dodgers say that the un-mascots are “unique performance characters“.  Yikes…  [SI]

Hurry Back!

Tampa sends starter Mike Moore to the DL with a sore left elbow.

The Dodgers send A.J. Ellis to the DL for knee surgery.

Miami sends Jacob Turner to the DL for a right shoulder strain.

Seattle loses starter James Paxton to the DL wiht a strained latissimus dorsi muscle (it’s in his back).

Minnesota sends Oswaldo Arcia to the DL with a right wrist strain.

Welcome Back!

Josh Beckett rejoins the Dodgers.

Craig Breslow returns to Boston.

Off to Rehab:

Taijuan Waker, Mike Minor, Tyler Chatwood, Freddy Galvis, Dane De La Rosa, and Jeff Locke

Baseball 365:

Arrivals:

(1870) Ollie Pickering

Pickering came from the Texas League and hit a couple of bloop hits as a rookie.  Naturally, those bloop hits became known as Texas Leaguers – a term occasionally still used today.

(1879) Doc White

(1888) Hippo Vaughn – great Cubs pitcher from days gone by

(1909) Claude Passeau – sticking with the Cubs pitcher theme…

(1946) Nate Colbert – Padres power hitter of the early 1970s

(1961) Kirk McCaskill

(1965) Hal Morris

(1981) A.J. Ellis

(1985) David Robertson

Departures:

(1982) Francisco Barrios

Barrios was just 28; died of a heart attack.

(1995) Bob Allison – KU fullback, Twins hitter.

(2001) Willie Stargell

(2009) Nick Adenhart

Nick Adenhart was a passenger in a car when it was hit by a drunk driver and he died.  Adenhart had just made his first major league start of 2009 and had recently left the ballpark.  I remember when this happened and wrote about it briefly here.

Events:

(1913) Ebbets Field opens with a loss – the Phillies take Brooklyn, 1 – 0, before 10,000 fans.

(1947) Commissioner Happy Chandler suspends Leo Durocher an entire season for conduct detrimental to baseball.

(1962) Houston tops the Yankees, 2 – 1, in an exhibition game at the new Astrodome.  Mickey Mantle homers.  There was grass in there, you know.  The turf came later because grass couldn’t grow after they painted the windows in the roof to help fielders track fly balls….

Advertisements

Jeter Passes Molitor on the Hit List – and other stuff…

Our first full week is over – and if the playoffs were to start now, you’d have Detroit facing either San Francisco or the Marlins…  Ony one team is really struggling right now, and that’s the 2 – 7 Arizona Diamondbacks.  They’ll turn it around some.  I hope.

Derek Jeter got two hits yesterday, moving him past Paul Molitor into eighth on the all-time hit list.  #7 on the list is Carl Yasztremski, with 3419 hits – or about four months worth of hits from now. [ESPN]

Bobby Parnell, Mets closer, decided to have Tommy John surgery and hopes to be back for 2015.  [ESPN]

Yasiel Puig has a strained ligament in his right thumb and will miss a few games.  Fortunately, the Dodgers have a lot of good outfielders… [SI]

Josh Beckett pitched a full bullpen session, throwing all of his pitches, on Sunday and could be available to pitch at some point this week.  [MLB]

Off to Rehab…

Chad Billingsley

Transactions:

The Cleveland Indians traded lefty pitcher Colt Hynes to Los Angeles for righty pitcher Duke von Schamann.  Hynes made it to the majors with San Diego last year, but isn’t really a prospect (he’s almost 29).  von Schamann might have been considered a prospect after 2012, but right now his only value is that he is younger than Hynes.

Both went to Texas Tech.

Baseball 365:

Arrivals:

(1873) John McGraw – a fine third baseman and the first great manager of the National League in the last century.

(1884) Jake Daubert

(1918) Bobby Doerr

(1942) Tom Phoebus

Tom Phoebus came up with the Orioles and threw complete game shutouts in his first two starts.  His arm went lame in a couple of years and he became sort of a baseball nomad.

(1944) Bill Stoneman

Stoneman wasn’t a half bad pitcher – threw the first no-hitter in Expos history.

(1969) Ricky Bones

(1973) Brett Tomko

(1975) Ron Belliard

(1979) Adrian Beltre – I think he’s a Hall of Famer.  You?

Departures:

(1967) James “Shanty” Hogan

Hogan was a big catcher (6′ 1″ – 240 and sometimes much more) for the Braves, Giants, and Senators in the 20s and 30s.  As a hitter, he was similar to Ron Hassey – but with slightly better receiving and throwing skills.

He was considered a top prospect for the Braves when the Giants surprised everyone and traded away Rogers Hornsby to the Braves for Hogan and outfielder Jimmy Welsh.  Hogan helped the Giants pitching staff – they regularly had the lowest ERAs in the league – and was the first catcher to start three double plays in a game.  As he got larger, though, Hogan’s career came to an end…

(2005) Bob Kennedy – a baseball lifer.

Events:

The Brewers open their new history in 1970 by losing to the California Angels, 12 – 0.  Ouch.

The Toronto Blue Jays begin their baseball life with a 9 – 5 win over the Chicago White Sox despite occasional snow flurries.  Doug Ault homers twice and Al Woods hits a pinch-hit homer for the win.

Ken Forsch throws a no-hitter against the Braves in 1979, joining his brother, Bob, as the only brothers to toss no-hitters.

Jack Morris tosses a no-hitter against the White Sox in 1984 – I remember watching that game.  The Sox had nothing that day…  It was the first sign that the 1984 season would be great for the Tigers.

2012 Gold Glove Winners – National League

First – a quick recap of how this works…  Many systems look at range factors – meaning the number of plays made by a fielder every nine innings.  I look at the number of plays made for every 800 balls in play.  The reasons for this include the fact that some teams are loaded with high strikeout pitchers, so the fielders get less action on some teams.  I also make modifications for the groundball/flyball tendencies of the teams, and try to take into consideration the number of innings pitched by lefties – as this may affect the number of plays made by the first or third baseman (see Sandoval, Pedro – 3B).

Then, once I know how many plays someone makes, I can then see how many extra (or fewer) plays someone makes, convert those plays into hits (and eventually runs saved).  I can do that for double plays and errors, too.  The player who saves the most runs at his position wins the award.

I make one modification for first baseman – I remove assists made by other infielders so they get more credit for the plays they make on balls fielded by them and not balls fielded by others.

Originally, this method was used to make defensive ratings for a game – so using 800 balls in play also meant that I could calculate how many points in batting average a fielder may add or take away from a hitter.  So, if you see a player with a range of, say, 10.0, that means that the fielder makes ten plays more than the average fielder at his position and effectively reduces the batting average of a hitter by ten points.

I don’t do this for pitchers by position – they play far too few innings, so the award is given to the team.

Catchers are done differently…  They are effectively done at the team level (though we can note who was the primary catcher) and catching teams are scored in seven different ways: Team ERA, Team Winning Percentage, Fielding PCT (not counting Ks), Error Rates, Mistake Rates, Mobililty (assists not tied to stolen bases), and Opposition Base Stealing Rates.  You get one point for being above average, and lose a point for being below average.  It is theoretically possible to get a perfect score of seven, which happens a lot for a certain catcher in St. Louis.

Let’s get on with it…

First Base:

26.1  Ike Davis, NYM  (10.2 Range, 1222.1 innings)
24.5  Gaby Sanchez, MIA+PIT  (15.0 Range, 697.1 innings)
23.3  Adam LaRoche, WAS  (7.8 Range, 1323.1 innings)

I had no idea Ike Davis was this good, but he made a lot of plays, as did Adam LaRoche.  LaRoche has the better reputation.  Last year, Davis was brutal in about 225 innings, which is why you can’t really take any fielder TOO seriously – at least statistically speaking – until you have seen about 2000 innings in the field. This was the second straight time that Sanchez finished second, so last year’s thinking that his 2011 season may have been a fluke isn’t true.  He’s pretty solid.  If only he could find his bat…

Dishonorable Mentions:

-29.8  Allen Craig, STL  (-18.8 Range, 773.2 innings)
-22.8  Anthony Rizzo, CHC  (-16.2 Range, 730.2 innings)
-21.8  Bryan LeHair, CHC  (-22.6 Range, 474.1 innings)

For what it’s worth, the third string first baseman in Chicago, Jeff Baker, also scored poorly.  Some of that is having a REALLY good keystone combination who turn a lot of double plays which would affect their ranking a bit.  I don’t think Rizzo will be this bad next year…  Allen Craig can hit, but he needs a late inning defensive replacement.

Second Base:

25.7  Darwin Barney, CHC  (9.6 Range, 1270.1 innings)
22.2  Dan Uggla, ATL  (8.7 Range, 1348.1 innings)
17.2  Freddy Galvis, PHI  (19.3 Range, 416 innings)

Barney is awesome – you have to watch him and Starlin Castro play together…  That’s an impressive middle infield.  The rest of the team, however, is brutal.  Dan Uggla had an outlier season – he’s usually around league average.   I don’t expect that to happen again.  Freddy Galvis is crazy quick, but he can’t hit enough to hold that position.  Neil Walker of Pittsburgh just missed this list…

Dishonorable Mentions:

-25.3  Rickie Weeks, MIL  (-9.6 Range, 1344.3 innings)
-15.9  Emmanuel Burriss, SF  (-32.4 Range, 269.1 innings)
-15.0  Daniel Murphy, NYM  (-5.5 Range, 1127.2 innings)

Weeks has had leg injuries and they apparently cut into his range…  Hopefully he can bounce back to where he was a couple of years ago.  Burriss didn’t really play a lot, but when he did either (a) the ball never seemed to come his way, or (b) he stands still a lot.  I don’t believe he is really that bad…

Third Base:

25.2  Pablo Sandoval, SF  (15.2 Range, 842 innings)
18.9  Placido Polanco, PHI  (11.3 Range, 664.2 innings)
15.5  Adam Kennedy, LAD  (33.4 Range, 225 innings)
*14.4  Ryan Zimmerman, WAS  (5.5 Range, 1280.1 innings)

There are a couple of teams that had larger amounts of innings thrown by left handers, which skewed the ratings of a couple of players – starting with the top two names on this list.  Throw in the fact that neither player made it to 1000 innings, Ryan Zimmerman would have won my award.  By the way – the ball found Adam Kennedy.  He’s a good fielder, don’t get me wrong, but he’s not really 33 plays per 800 better than average.If had kept that rate for as many inning as, say, Ryan Zimmerman had played you’re talking about 70 or more extra assists, and 25 extra putouts…

Dishonorable Mentions:

-18.9  Hanley Ramirez, MIA+LAD  (-11.0 Range, 860.1 innings)
-15.6  Chris Nelson, COL  (-9.8 Range, 647.1 innings)
-15.1  Greg Dobbs, MIA  (-19.0 Range, 262.1 innings)

The optimists in Florida (and last year I was one) hoped that Ramirez would battle the position to a draw – but that didn’t happen.  And he wasn’t hitting the way he had in the past.  So he had to go.  Somebody had better figure out if he can play center or left.  So Hanley left and the Marlins tried Greg Dobbs, who isn’t very good either (and he’s not as bad as those stats suggest).  Polanco gets his turn in 2013…

Shortstop:

37.4  Brandon Crawford, SF  (19.1 Range, 1101 innings)
31.6  Starlin Castro, CHC  (14.5 Range, 1402.2 innings)
16.4  Andrelton Simmons, ATL  (18.9 Range, 426 innings)

Simmons and Paul Janish played comparable numbers of innings and had comparable range numbers…  Brandon Crawford was a very pleasant surprise for the Giants, proving to be a dependable and able glove man.  Now, some of this was due to the higher numbers of innings pitched by lefties, and some of this is due to his youthful range.  I don’t see him doing this two years in a row, but you never know.  Starlin Castro continues to get better.  It’s sad that such a wonderful combination such as Castro and Barney is stuck on such a horrible team.

Dishonorable Mentions:

-22.6  Jose Reyes, MIA  (-8.7 Range, 1410.2 innings)
-21.5  Ian Desmond, WAS  (-10.9 Range, 1139.1 innings)
-15.1  Willie Bloomquist, ARZ  (-16.8 Range, 528.1 innings)

I have said for some time now that Reyes and Jimmy Rollins (who was fourth on the bad list…) are overrated and have been consistently overrated for years.  The Marlins would have been better served to have put Hanley in left, put Reyes at third, and put Emilio Bonifacio at short.  Bonifacio has better range and is great on the double play.  Reyes has a flashy arm and a bigger contract.  Ramirez is too bulky and if you watch him play you notice how he doesn’t just let loose with his arm but he kind of guides his throws.  They are not shortstops anymore.

Left Field:

The best left fielders play less than 500 innings.  There’s no way you can give a gold glove to Austin Kearns who just happened to play his 142 innings when a right handed hitter pulled a fly ball his way.  Shane Victorino played left for the Dodgers – he was legitimately good there, saving the Dodgers about 11.5 runs.

Looking at the guys who play left field a LOT, you have:

8.7  Alfonso Soriano, CHC  (2.5 Range, 1183 innings)
5.5  Ryan Braun, MIL  (2.4 Range, 1318 innings)
4.4  Melky “the Cheater” Cabrera  (2.4 Range, 898 innings)

By the way, tons of people get innings at this position – more than any position other than pitcher…

Dishonorable Mentions:

-20.1  J.D. Martinez, HOU  (-10.4 Range, 833 innings)
-18.5  Matt Holiday, STL  (-6.3 Range, 1312.2 innings)
-17.8  Carlos Gonzalez, COL  (-6.4 Range, 1127.2 innings)

J.D. can’t be that bad – or else he took his hitting slump out to the field with him.  Holliday continues to get slower.  Gonzalez should be a much better fielder than this, but few guys look good in Colorado…

Center Field:

16.3  Angel Pagan, SF  (6.0 Range, 1279.1 innings)
14.5  Jon Jay, STL  (6.0 Range, 993.1 innings)
9.3  Kirk Nieuwenhuis  (13.6 Range, 372 innings)

The third best regular was Michael Bourn…  Pagan had his best year – not sure if he can repeat this level, but he is really, really good (and stayed healthy).  Jon Jay had a great season as well…  You know who had a remarkably good season in center?  Bryce Harper.  Harper’s range was the equal of both Pagan and Jay – he just played 700 innings.

Dishonorable Mentions:

-22.9  Dexter Fowler, COL  (-9.0 Range, 1026 innings)
-13.5  Matt Kemp, LAD  (-7.5 Range, 911 innings)
-13.3  Drew Stubbs, CIN  (-5.2 Range, 1107.1 innings)

You can see the problems that Colorado had with these last three positions – Fowler, Gonzalez, and Chris Nelson.  I’d love to know how much of this is the park – it’s a huge outfield and has more holes than anywhere else.  Matt Kemp’s body defied him in 2012.  We’ll see if he can come back.  Stubbs was sent to Cleveland, so don’t expect him to erase the ghosts of great Indian center fielders gone by…

Right Field:

26.1  Jason Heyward, ATL  (8.9 Range, 1337.2 innings)
15.9  Justin Upton, ARZ  (5.6 Range, 1280.2 innings)
15.1  Jayson Werth, WAS  (10.7 Range, 608.2 innings)

Heyward had a great season and, like Upton, is just entering his prime.  I wonder which one gets to play in left next year.  I’d move Upton there and tell him it’s time to break out and play like Hank Aaron.  Werth has been a great right fielder for years.  By the way, #6 on the list is that kid Harper again…  If he had played a whole year in center or right, he makes one of the two lists and MIGHT have won the award in center field…

Dishonorable Mentions:

-17.2  Andre Ethier, LAD  (-6.6 Range, 1256.1 innings)
-16.7  Carlos Beltran, STL  (-6.9 Range, 1126.2 innings)
-16.2  Hunter Pence, PHI+SF  (-5.5 Range, 1408.2 innings)

Ethier and Kemp didn’t help the pitching staffs, did they?  Beltran’s knees are now problematic, and Hunter Pence occasionally looks awkward out there – but he tries hard.

Catchers:

Yadier Molina, STL
Carlos Ruiz, PHI
A.J. Ellis, LAD

Molina and the Cardinal catchers were above average in every category, capped by throwing out 35 of 73 base runners.  Ruiz and Ellis were above average in six of the seven categories and dead even in the seventh.  Ruiz gets props for working with the great Phillie rotation, while Ellis probably doesn’t get as much credit as he deserves for the Dodgers success last year.  Ellis and Ruiz had comparable stats against base runners, but Ruiz had the better back up in Erik Kratz.  I saw him – big dude, strong arm, looks like a take charge type.

The worst catching was either Chicago or San Diego, both of whom scored at -5.  Both teams had losing records, staffs that couldn’t keep the ball away from hitters, and tended to be mistake prone.  The worst teams against the run were Pittsburgh and Washington…

Pitchers:

Miami
Milwaukee
Los Angeles

The Marlins pitchers made more plays per 800 balls in play and were the only team with significantly more double plays started than errors committed (21 – 8).  The average team was about 12 – 14.  As such, I give the award (if I have to pick a player) to Mark Buehrle.

Is David Wright Mr. Met? A Slew of Injury News, too…

The Yankees recently acquired pitcher, Michael Pineda, will miss the rest of the 2012 season following surgery to repair a torn labrum in this right shoulder.  He could be back around Spring Training.  Meanwhile, Seattle GM Jack Zduriencik says that Pineda wasn’t damaged goods (Yanks GM Brian Cashman said there were no pre-trade signs of injury) even though Pineda (a) lost eight MPH on his fastball after the all-star break last year and (b) showed up to spring training camp about 20 pounds overweight.  [SI/ESPN]

Boston Red Sox outfielder Carl Crawford is seeking a second opinion on his ailing elbow and heads off to the office of Dr. James Andrews.  Crawford is also still recovering from surgery on his left wrist.  [SI/CNN]

The San Francisco Giants placed Aubrey Huff on the 15-day DL after Huff was treated for a severe anxiety attack.  Huff hasn’t played well recently and also had to play second base for the first time in his major league career – it may or may not be related – and the Giants are giving him time for Huff to respond to the treatments.  [SI/CNN]

Jeremy Bonderman, who has had part of a rib removed, various other shoulder and arm ailments, and STILL is trying to make a comeback is now recovering from elbow-ligament replacement surgery in hopes of making a minor-league camp in 2013.  Hey – you only get one life…  Do the best you can with what you have.  I’ll root for a comeback.  [ESPN]

Transactions:

A quick list of transactions I missed having spent more time sorting baseball cards than blogging…

The Baltimore Orioles signed Bill Hall.

The Cincinnati Reds placed Bill Bray on the 15-Day DL with a strained groin – hopefully his own groin.

The Mets placed Mike Pelfrey on the 15-Day DL with swelling in his right elbow…  So much for making the top ten in wins this year…  (See below)

The Mets also placed Jason Bay on the 15-Day DL with a non-displaced rib fracture.  When you get into your middle 30s, as Bay is, you find out that the ground is much harder now than it used to be.

 

Who is Mr. Met?
David Wright‘s game winning homer to beat the Marlins last night put the New York Mets third baseman on the top of the list for most RBIs by a Met in their 50.1 season history.

Heading into the season, Wright is well off the record for games played, but is in the top 10, having recently passed both Darryl Strawberry and Mookie Wilson for sixth place.

1853 – Ed Kranepool
1322 – Bud Harrelson
1235 – Jerry Grote
1201 – Cleon Jones
1154 – Howard Johnson
1122 – David Wright

Wright is already second in runs scored behind the recently departed Jose Reyes, and should pass Reyes around the all-star break.

735 – Jose Reyes
699 – David Wright (at season start)
662 – Darryl Strawberry
627 – Howard Johnson
614 – Edgardo Alfonzo

With 171 hits this season, Wright would take over the top spot on the all-time Mets hit list.

1418 – Ed Kranepool
1300 – Jose Reyes
1248 – David Wright (at season start)
1188 – Cleon Jones
1136 – Edgardo Alfonso

Wright is a couple of solid seasons away from the club homer mark – a reasonably different list from the others…

252 – Darryl Strawberry
220 – Mike Piazza
191 – Howard Johnson
183 – David Wright (at season start)
154 – Dave Kingman

I probably shouldn’t have been surprised by this – but he’s near the top of the list in stolen bases, too.

370 – Jose Reyes
281 – Mookie Wilson
202 – Howard Johnson
191 – Darryl Strawberry
152 – Lee Mazzilli
151 – David Wright (at season start)

Having looked this over, it’s pretty clear that the best player in Mets history is likely David Wright.

What is certain is that the career list for this team pales in comparison to the same lists for other teams that started since 1962.  The Royals career lists would include George Brett, Frank White, Amos Otis, Willie Wilson, and Hal McRae.  The Astros would boast Craig Biggio, Jeff Bagwell, Bob Watson, Jose Cruz, and even guys with partial careers like Cesar Cedeno.  The Padres at least have Tony Gwynn.  The Expos had Dawson and Raines and Carter for longer periods of time.  Colorado has Helton at the top of most lists – with much higher numbers than the Mets history.  The only two teams with shallower team histories are the two most recent teams – Tampa and Florida/Miami.

At least the Mets have some quality pitchers who, while not having complete careers in a Mets uniform, spent enough quality time to make a mark or three.

Wins:

198 – Tom Seaver
157 – Dwight Gooden
140 – Jerry Koosman
99 – Ron Darling
98 – Sid Fernandez

Saves:

276 – John Franco
160 – Armando Benitez
107 – Jesse Orosco
101 – Billy Wagner
86 – Tug McGraw

Strikeouts:

2541 – Tom Seaver
1875 – Dwight Gooden
1799 – Jerry Koosman
1449 – Sid Fernandez
1172 – David Cone

Even in saying that the pitching list is stronger, there really isn’t much depth on their lists, again, because nobody played an entire career in New York other than Ed Kranepool and Bobby Jones.

The active leader in Ks for the Mets is Johan Santana (496).  With a reasonable season, he’s going to pass Tug McGraw for 11th on the list and if he plays two season, should move past Bobby Jones into ninth.  Mike Pelfrey, with 50 wins, could have a great season and pass Steve Trachsel (66) to crack the top ten list in wins.  Santana (40) needs two years, likely, to crack that list and if Pelfrey makes it he’d need to get past Jones (74), too.

At some point, the Mets need to get their act together and build a core of players around Wright that can last longer than, say, four seasons with the Mets.  Give the fans something to remember other than blips of greatness.

 

Happy Birthday!

Those celebrating with cake, cards, and remembrances include:

1888 – Ray “Rube” Caldwell
1900 – Lewis “Hack” Wilson (191 RBIs for the Cubs in 1930)
1903 – Dale “Moose” Alexander
1917 – Sal “The Barber” Maglie and Virgil “Fire” Trucks
1927 – Granville “Granny” Hamner
1947 – Amos Otis.  Wow – Otis is 65!!!  (Andy Finch – do you feel old today?)
1960 – Steve Lombardozzi
1961 – Curtis Wilkerson
1969 – Ricky Trlicek, who, like Kent Hrbek before him, needed to buy a vowel.
1973 – Geoff Blum
1977 – Kosuke Fukudome
1978 – Joe Crede

Whatever happened to Joe Crede?

I missed the 4/25 birthday list, so belated greetings to:

1950 – Bill Greif
1959 – Tony Phillips
1966 – Darren Holmes
1975 – Jacque Jones
1984 – Robert Andino

Panda Ties Mays, and I admit to being a Bonifacio fan…

Pablo Sandoval extended his hitting streak at the start of the 2012 season to 16 games by hitting a homer in the first inning against the Mets.  The 16 game streak matches the longest hitting streak to start the season in Giants history – a record set in 1960 by Willie Mays.

Tampa, looking for a little more bench strength, are considering giving a contract to Godzilla himself, Hideki Matsui.  Matsui hit .251 with a dozen homers for the A’s last year.  The twelve homers put Matsui at 505 career homers – the first 332 with Yomiuri in Japan.

Hunter Pence took today off with a sore shoulder injured while diving for a ball Sunday in San Diego.  He’s day to day.

Hurry Back!

The Mets placed shortstop Ronny Cedeno on the 15-Day DL with a left intercostal strain.  To cover the infield, the Mets recalled infielder Jordany Valdespin from AAA Buffalo.  Not sure what to make of Valdespin.  He looks like a pretty decent fielder, has gotten better with the bat but puts everything in play, can run a little, but hasn’t been a great percentage base runner.  He might help, but I don’t know how much playing time the 23-year-old kid from San Pedro de Macoris, Dominican Republic will get…

The Boston Red Sox, already down a couple of outfielders, placed Jason Repko on the DL with a partially separated shoulder.  Back comes Lars Anderson…  The first baseman (and Norse Guitar Hero) has been learning to play the outfield to increase his opportunities with the Sox.

Welcome back!

The Indians activated Asdrubel Cabrera from the bereavement list.  Nick Hagadone returns to AAA Columbus.

Happy Birthday!

Those celebrating with cake, cards, and remembrances include:

(1886) Harry Coveleski – Stan’s brother…
(1900) Sunny Jim Bottomly
(1907) Dolph Camilli
(1921) Warren Spahn
(1939) Chico Fernandez
(1967) Rheal Cormier
(1979) Carlos Silva
(1985) Emilio Bonifacio

When the Marlins first got Bonifacio, I nailed his productivity, which wasn’t going to be all that good – low average, few walks, didn’t run enough.  To his credit, and not that any of us writers had anything to do about it, he’s gotten better.  Bonifacio is better about working the count and getting on base.  He makes better contact.  He’s been convinced to use his speed more on the bases and now is among the leaders in stolen bases.  He can play a decent enough third, a good short, is fast enough to cover center though he never looks totally comfortable out there and doesn’t really have that strong an arm.  He’s the best defensive shortstop on the Marlins roster – but he’ll never be the starter with all that star power there.

I’m convinced – and I’m now a fan.

A Tale of Two Mouths…

I am writing as the Cubs and Marlins prepare to open a three-game series here in Miami…  Ozzie Guillen, he of the multiple footspace mouth, aims to start earning the respect of Little Havana and the thousands of Cubans who are more than irked at Guillen’s callous and thoughtless statement about Fidel Castro.  I’ll be honest – I’d rather be at the park tonight…

By the way, Kerry Wood is not here, though.  He’s taking care of a sore right shoulder by getting a cortisone shot.  [ESPN]

A lot of press about Bobby Valentine lately – and with good reason.  In the middle of saying something positive about Kevin Youkilis, Valentine let side a note that Youk didn’t seem “…as physically or emotionally into the game as he had been in the past.”  That led Youk to wonder what, exactly, he had done to deserve it and for his teammate, Dustin Pedroia, to call out Valentine for making that comment in the first place.  You have to love when Pedroia pulled out a comment about how Valentine was successful in Japan – certainly a pointed comment.  It also didn’t help that Valentine left Daniel Bard in Monday night’s game too long, enough to walk in the lone run in a 1 – 0 loss to the Rays on Patriot Day.

I’ll be honest – I’m not a huge Valentine fan, or for that matter a fan of most of the more “too happy to tell you his opinion” managers, because it’s too easy to say something stupid.  The more you say about people, the more likely you will say something – even unintentionally – that doesn’t sit well with someone else.  (I run that risk as a writer.)  The Red Sox needed to focus on winning; now the press can start sharpening their pencils and wit on other things.

Other people with thoughts on the subject:

Peter Gammons

Richard Justice

Jason Turbow

Back to real baseball stuff…

Cleveland Indians shortstop Asdrubel Cabrera is on the bereavement list as he has headed home to Venezuela following a death in the family.  Pitcher Nick Hagadone joins the Indians in the meantime.  [ESPN]

Some good news…  The San Francisco Giants wrapped up starter Madison Bumgarner to a six-year deal worth at least $35 million, with opportunities to make a few more dollars based on two potential option years and bonuses if he makes a run at a Cy Young award.  I like the deal – I like any deal that keeps a homegrown talent around for a while.  Bumgarner has shown good command and surprisingly solid maturity in his first seasons with the Giants.  [FoxSports]

Reds utility infielder Miguel Cairo heads to the 15-Day DL with a strained left hamstring.  Joining Cincinnati will be infielder Todd Frazier.  Frazier isn’t a bad option – a little power, a good eye, a bit of speed, but a bit of a free swinger.  He can help out at three positions.  [MLB]

Transaction Wire:

The Brewers activated shortstop Alex Gonzalez.  He can still play – but his bat is starting to slow down.

Colorado swapped AAA pitcher Edgmer Escalona for Tyler Chatwood.  And I just got Chatwood’s 2011 Topps Update card…  Bummer!  Chatwood was a starter for the Angels last year, but doesn’t have much of a strike out pitch and his control had been suspect.  Moving to Colorado, Chatwood looked to have a shot at a rotation spot, but hasn’t made it and didn’t look great in relief.  Escalona has had a good run through the minors and has looked good in two short stints with the Rockies since 2010.

Tampa Bay recalled Brandon Gomes from AAA Durham, and dispatched Alex Cobb back to the minors.  Gomes is another of those great young arms in the Rays system, just killing it in the minors.  He has future closer stuff.

Baltimore designated infielder Josh Bell for assignment – he could be claimed by any other team, or could accept a AAA assignment.  The Orioles just claimed a player themselves, catcher Luis Exposito.

Happy Birthday!!!

(1820) Alexander Cartwright, a founding father!
(1852) Adrian “Cap” Anson
(1923) Solly Hemus
(1954) Denny Walling
(1967) Marquis Grissom
(1984) Jed Lowrie

Infante Lights Up Marlins Stadium and Happy Birthday, Ed Winceniak!

The Dodgers are 9 – 1 after ten games and Matt Kemp leads the majors in every batting category except one – and that’s stolen bases.  However, Dodger shortstop Dee Gordon leads the majors in that category…

Speaking of the Dodgers…  Welcome back Vin Scully, whose horrible cold kept him from the Dodgers home opener and didn’t call a home game until Sunday.  Vin has been on the mic since 1950 and this was just the second time he missed the home opener.  [ESPN]

Who had Omar Infante in the pool?  Infante hit the first Marlins homer in the new stadium, setting off that funky art piece in centerfield.  [MLB]

Welcome Back!

Phillies reliever Jose Contreras returned from the 15-Day DL, meaning that Joe Savery is back in AAA.
Happy Birthday!

Those celebrating with cake, cards, and remembrances include:

(1892) Hubert “Dutch” Leonard
(1925) Alton Brown – not the cooking guy, though…
(1929) Ed Winceniak (see below)
(1939) Bernie Allen
(1942) Doctor Jim Lonborg (see below)
(1944) Bob Montgomery – Fisk’s backup and long-time Sox broadcaster.
(1955) Bruce Bochy – backup catcher turned pretty good manager
(1969) Fernando Vina – not a bad little infielder, but was listed in the Mitchell Report for his connection to Mets clubhouse attendants tied to steroids and HGH distribution.  Vina later admitted that he had used HGH in 2003 to recover from injuries.
(1972) Antonio Alfonseca – six fingered reliever for the Marlins
(1983) Tommy Manzella – former prospect…

Jim Lonborg was the pitching hero of the 1967 Red Sox, much the way Carl Yasztremski was the batting hero of that team.  Yaz was the MVP that season, while Lonborg won the Cy Young.  That winter, though, he tore up his knee skiing, and his career, while still good, was never quite as sterling.  I have several of his baseball cards – he was a great pitcher.  He’s a dentist now…  If you ever watch old episodes of Cheers and see that picture of Sam Malone over the bar, it’s really that of Jim Lonborg.

I don’t know if my friend Angela Kolb will be visiting today, but please note that – per her comments the other night – I included a Boston Red Sox reference.
Ed Winceniak

Ed Winceniak was a quick and agile defensive shortstop who lost three years of his prime to the Korean War, and as a middle infielder in the Cubs chain in the 1950s, was destined to watch as Ernie Banks and Gene Baker got all the playing time.

Winceniak, like many a good man of Polish descent, grew up in Chicago and graduated from Bowen High School.  The Cubs signed him in 1948 and dispatched him to the low minors – teams like Hutchinson/Springfield, Visalia, and Rock Hill.  There, Winceniak showed good range, was quick on the double play, but wasn’t necessarily a top notch hitter.  He did hob-nob with some decent coaches and ball players.  His manager at Visalia was Claude Passeau, former Cubs pitcher, and he moved through the farm system with future major leaguers Dusty Rhodes and Jim Fanning, among others.  In addition to his fielding skills, Winceniak was known for his dependability.  In both Visalia and Rock Hill, he played every inning of every game.

In 1950, however, the United States was getting involved in another war – this one in Korea – and Winceniak joined the military, missing three years.  When he returned after the 1953 season, the Cubs gave him a second chance and dispatched Winceniak to Des Moines in the Western League for 1954.  Something clicked there, Wenceniak continued to play good defense, especially turning two, and for three months his batting average hovered around the .330 mark (good for a top five batting average) before falling back to .280 when the season ended.

Still, it was a fine season.  Winceniak was voted by the managers of the Western League to a spot on the all-star team, and on the night he was notified of his award, he showed he earned the spot.  Per a blurb in The Sporting News,  “Shortstop Ed Winceniak of the Bruins backed the judgment of his supporters that evening when, with his team trailing, 2 to 1, he blasted a two-run homer in the ninth inning to defeat Omaha, 3 to 2.  The blow enabled Hy Cohen, who was also named to the star team, to notch his fifteenth victory.”  When the season was done, Winceniak was voted Most Valuable Player by his teammates, earning 16 of the 21 votes cast.

Winceniak was invited to spring training in 1955 but was sent to Los Angeles of the Pacific Coast League instead, showing the same fielding skills – adept at the double play – and a little power, if not a high batting average.  Winceniak earned another spring training invitation and made the Cubs out of camp as a backup infielder.

Wearing number 12, Winceniak got in a few contests in 1956, but was dispatched to Havana briefly at the roster cutting deadline.  The Cubs actually were planning to keep Winceniak around a little longer, but found out that Owen Friend needed another ten days of major league service to qualify for a pension.  So, the Cubs sent Winceniak to Cuba until Friend had enough days on the roster.  Then they swapped Friend for Winceniak thirteen days later.

His days with the Cubs wouldn’t last much longer, though – he was sent to St. Paul in the American Association where he had a fine season, hitting .273 with a little pop.  Once again, Winceniak earned a trip to spring training and stayed with the Cubs in April and early May while Ernie Banks nursed a small injury.  Playing in a doubleheader on May 12th, Winceniak hit his first major league homer off of Hal Jeffcoat, then singled in the nightcap – giving him three hits in six trips for the two games.

They were his last two games of his major league career.

Instead, the Cubs got Banks back and gave the next shot to other younger infielders.  Winceniak was dispatched to Portland for the remainder of the season.  Winceniak kept playing in the PCL, staying in Portland in 1958, then being bought by Denver for the 1959 season.  Half-way through that season, Winceniak found himself in Seattle.  When the 1959 season ended, so did Winceniak’s baseball career.

According to the book “Baseball Players of the 1950s”, which has biographical sketches of every player who played during that decade, Winceniak returned home with his wife and took a position with the Republic Steel Corporation for the next 25 years.  In his summers, he would scout some for the Atlanta Braves and Montreal Expos.  After a stint with Dekker Electric company, he retired in 1993 and still lives in Chicago today.

Sources:

The Sporting News:

Hoffman, John C. “Bruin Bosses Have Fall Preview of Spring-Daisy Chain Prospects.” The Sporting News, September 29, 1954, Page 24.

Western League Notes – The Sporting News, September 15, 1954, Page 37.

Hoffman, John C. “Bring-‘Em-Up Wid Giving Cubs Different Look for Next Season.” The Sporting News, October 20, 1954, Page 16.

“A Friend-ly Gesture.” The Sporting News, June 6, 1956, Page 17.

Books Containing Biographical Information include:

1949 California League Gold Book
Baseball Players of the 1950s

Baseball Digest Scouting Reports:

March, 1956, Page 34
March, 1957, Page 33

Websites:

Retrosheet.org
Baseball-Reference.com