November 2012

Maybe Now Marvin Miller Gets Into the Hall of Fame

The world lost a true legend this week with the death of Marvin Miller at the age of 95.  Notice I didn’t say sports world because his impact on society as the head of the MLB Players Association went beyond the play on the field.  His tenure allowed the game and other sports to reach unthinkable heights of popularity and profit.  Think of how much society  changed between his assumption into the role in 1966 to until he left the post in 1982.  Think about how much sports had exploded in popularity during that period, how much a part of the American culture it has become.  For a more thorough biography on him, check out this  article from

Marvin Miller, a true legend of the game. Image:

Would change have been inevitable if there was no Marvin Miller?  Probably.  Was he in the right place at the right time?  Definitely.  However, these changes for baseball might not have happened as rapidly or as successfully if the union chose someone else.  The most monumental highlight of his carer in baseball of course was his push for free agency.  No longer were players stuck with a franchise for life.  They could now choose which situation both financially and personally would benefit them the most.  After years of iron-fisted rule by the owners, it was the players who started to swing the money hammer.  Gone were the days of a Mickey Mantle being asked to take a pay cut after hitting 31 home runs and batting .285 the prior season.  In addition to salaries, Miller was instrumental in players receiving their share of licensing money, everything from apparel to baseball cards.  In short, every player for the last four decades and in the future owes a debt of gratitude to Miller as he has made each of these players wealthier than they could ever imagine.

Now that he has passed, it is time for baseball to right an egregious wrong and put Marvin Miller in the Hall of Fame.  You can count the number of people on one hand that have had the kind of impact on baseball that Miller had.  You probably wouldn’t get much past Babe Ruth, Jackie Robinson and Branch Rickey.  Whether you agree with how he transformed the game or not, the fact is he was the most influential man in the sport over the last 40 years.  His legacy will live forever.  And in 2013 when he is eligible once again,, there better be a plaque ready with his name on it.

Follow me on Twitter @ltj41 and covering the Arizona Diamondbacks at

Grooving with Baseball Star Don Baylor

My buddy Jim visited my blog covering the Arizona Diamondbacks, over the Summer and noticed Don Baylor standing in the background of one of the photos. He told me that Baylor was one of his favorites growing up (mine, too) and thought he would be a great subject for a post. Well, it took about five months but my pal’s request has been granted.

Don Baylor, the 1979 American League MVP. Image:

For those who are not familiar with his career, “Groove” was a powerful slugger who spent time with a number of American League teams over his 19-year career. He won the AL MVP in 1979 with the California Angels, leading the league in RBI’s with 139, propelling the Halos to their first division title in club history. I was able to see Baylor up close during his three years with the New York Yankees. I remember that besides being a dead-pull hitter and a guy whose stance I loved to imitate, he would get hit in the arm by a pitch and trot to first base. It was nothing to him, he would just glance down, flip the bat and jog to first. This was repeated 267 times, good enough to set a modern record which was later broken by Craig Biggio. Hughie Jennings is the all-time leader in this category, getting hit 287 times while playing from 1891 to 1903. Besides his proficiency in getting plunked and his awesome strength, Baylor was quite the base stealer swiping 52 bags in 1976. In fact, Groove stole 25 or more bases in a season five consecutive years and finished with a career total of 285. He is one of only two players (the other being Eric Hinske) to appear in three consecutive World Series with three different teams (1986 Boston Red Sox, 1987 Minnesota Twins and 1988 Oakland A’s).

After his playing career was over, Baylor served as the hitting coach for several different organizations and would become the manager for two teams. In 1993, he became the first manager of the Colorado Rockies and led the club to their first playoff appearance in 1995 earning Manager of the Year honors. From 1993-1997, the Rockies had the best first five-year record of any expansion franchise. He let go by Colorado after the 1998 season and went on to became the hitting coach for the Atlanta Braves for the 1999 season before being selected as skipper for the Chicago Cubs where he stayed for three seasons. Baylor has been the D-‘Back hitting coach for the past two years and appears to be set to come back for a third.

Don Baylor has been a winner on the field and as this article on by Tracy Ringolsby illustrates, a winner off the field for his work on behalf of cystic fibrosis awareness. I would love to see him get one more shot at managing and lead that club to a World Series championship.

Follow me on Twitter @ltj41 and covering the Arizona Diamondbacks at

Thanksgiving Week Action

The week of Thanksgiving usually belongs to football with a plethora of big games on the holiday and running all through the weekend.  College basketball is also big with its many tournaments like the Paradise Jam, Maui Invitational and 2K Classic.  Since this past weekend, there has been a flurry of Major League Baseball activity and while none of these happenings are particularly Earth-shattering, there have been quite a few items to keep baseball in the headlines.  Here is a quick recap of some of the wheelings and dealings around MLB.

John Gibbons is back for Round 2 in Toronto. Image:

John Gibbons named manager of the Toronto Blue Jays….again.   This will be the second go-around in Toronto for Gibbons who compiled a 305-305 record while piloting the club from 2004 through 2008.  He was involved in highly-publicized disputes with Shea Hillenbrand and Ted Lilly.  The Blue Jay roster he inherits is much better than any of his previous squads.  His best showing was 2006 when Toronto finished in second place with a 87-75 record.  The expectations will be much greater in 2013.

Jeremy Guthrie signed a three-year deal with the Kansas City Royals.   Guthrie came to Kansas City after a forgettable half season with the Colorado Rockies.  The right-hander took an immediate liking to Kauffman Stadium.   He was 4-2 with a 2.40 ERA during his home starts with the Royals, finishing his 2012 season with a 5-3 record and a 3.16 ERA in 14 KC starts.  Along with newly acquired Ervin Santana, Gurthrie has upgraded the Royals’ starting pitching to complement their tremendous nucleus in the field.

Hiroki Kuroda stays with the New York Yankees for another season.  The Japanese righty signed a one year deal worth $15 million dollars plus incentives.  He was arguably the Yankees’ best and most valuable pitcher going 16-11 with a 3.32 ERA in 33 starts.  Given the uncertainty surrounding the rotation with the  status of Andy Pettitte up in the air, the question mark of Ivan Nova and the return from injury of Michael Pineda, Kuroda’s choice to remain in the Bronx  will go a long away in helping the club defend their American League East title.

The Baltimore Orioles and Seattle Mariners made a deal.  The Orioles traded infielder Robert Andino to the Mariners for outfielder Trayvon Robinson.  Andino was the primary 2nd baseman for the O’s in 2012 playing 127 games and hitting seven homers and knocking in 28 runs.  Robinson started 39 games in left field for Seattle hit three home runs and 12 RBI’s.  Baltimore had a glut of infielders and the M’s had a surplus of players in the outfield.  This a trade that helps add depth to both squads while trying to tap the potential for the players involved.

Ditto for the Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies.  It is rare for division rivals to swap players.  The D’Backs sent 3rd base prospect Ryan Wheeler to the Rockies for left-handed reliever Matt Reynolds.  One of Arizona’s primary needs in the offseason was lefty bullpen help.  Reynolds appeared in 165 games over the past three seasons in Colorado sporting a 3.93 ERA.  Wheeler hit .351 with 90 RBI’s in 93 games before being called up from Triple-A in late July.  He hit .239 in 50 games for the D’Backs.  He will go into Spring Training with a chance to start at the hot corner for the Rox.

That’s all the news for now.  Happy Thanksgiving to you and your families.

Follow me on Twitter @ltj41 and covering the Arizona Diamondbacks at

Somewhere, Wilbur Wood is Smiling

In the days leading up to the Cy Young Award announcements, a few New York Met fans I spoke with at my office were convinced that R.A. Dickey was not going to win simply because he threw a knuckleballHappily, that turned out not to be the case as Dickey won in a rout, garnering 27 of 32 first place votes.  Knuckleball practitioners everywhere probably rejoiced seeing one of their own winning the most prestigious pitching award in baseball.  With that in mind, I would like to take a look at the career of Wilbur Wood, a player who sadly, I never got a chance to see pitch, his career over after the 1978 season.

Wilbur Wood on the SI cover June 4, 1973. Image:

When we think of knuckleballers from Ted Lyons to Hoyt Wilhelm to Phil Niekro to Tim Wakefield, the one thing they had in common is that they were right-handed.  The one guy I think of that was a left-handed knuckleball pitcher over the last 40 years is Wilbur Wood.  All of the pitchers mentioned in the previous sentence seem to get more recognition that Wood, who enjoyed his best seasons with the Chicago White Sox.  That is a crime.  You know, when they talk about all-time pitching seasons, we hear Bob Gibson in 1968, Steve Carlton in 1972, Ron Guidry in 1978, Dwight Gooden in 1985 and Justin Verlander in 2011 among others.  How about Wilbur Wood in 1971?  He started 42 games, relieved in two others and had 22 complete games.  The total number of innings pitched was 334 and the ERA was, get this 1.91.  That’s right 334, a number that is about 70-80 more innings than what the top guy does today with an ERA under 2.00.  Maybe the record of 22-13 holds down the amount of respect that deserves to go Wood’s way.  Want more eye-popping stats?  When you combine the number of innings pitched in 1972 and 1973, you come up with an astounding 736.  He led the American League with 24 victories in both of those seasons.  In fact, he won 20 or more games in four straight seasons from 1971 through 1974. In those four seasons, he pitched over 300 innings in every one of them.  In three of those years, he finished in the top five in the Cy Young voting.

Perhaps because Wood’s period of excellence was relatively short is why he tends to get overlooked.  After that 1974 season, Wood won 16 games in 1975 and then only 21 over the last three seasons of his career.  Still that is no reason why his dominance in the early part of the 1970’s should be dismissed.  After all, the idea is wins and getting hitters out and over that four-year stretch, there wasn’t many pitchers in baseball that were better than Wilbur Wood.

Follow me on Twitter @ltj41 and covering the Arizona Diamondbacks at

The Toronto Blue Jays Are Seizing the Moment

The Tuesday trade between the Toronto Blue Jays and Miami Marlins could be considered a surprise but not altogether shocking.  Anyone who has followed the Marlins’ franchise knows that this isn’t the first time owner Jeffery Loria has orchestrated salary dump maneuvers.  It is particularly galling because taxpayers forked over almost $500 million dollars to build the new stadium.  I would rather focus on the other end of the deal specifically what the move could be saying about the newly energized Blue Jays.

Jose Bautista and friends will be geting more help in 2013. Image:

Now it could turn out that each of the players Toronto acquired does not live to the advanced billing.  Josh Johnson, as wonderfully talented as he is on the mound, always seems to be hurt.  Who knows if Jose Reyes is actually happy with this deal and if that unhappiness carries over into the season.  Can Mark Buehrle turn in another season of at least 13 wins?  Actually, this could be less about the performance on the field than what it says about ownership’s commitment to win.  The organization signed both Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion their two best players, to deals through at least 2015.  Suddenly, a team that has wallowed around .500 for the last 15 years or so can now be considered serious playoff contenders.

As for the timing of the deal, it couldn’t be better for the franchise.  Although hockey will forever be king in Toronto, the Maple Leafs have been bad the last five seasons, missing the playoffs in all of them.  Now that the NHL is on the sidelines, the Blue Jays can maybe finally get back at least some of the many fans that were lost due the 1994 work stoppage.  The strike came at the worst time for the franchise as they were in the process of defending back-to-back World Series titles and drawing four million fans per year.  When play stopped, those fans never came back.  This trade can put the Blue Jays back on the map instead of being reduced to just highlights of Bautista, Encarnacion and Brett LawrieMore importantly, they can rebuild a jaded fan base.

All through grammar school, high school and college, the Toronto Blue Jays were one of the best teams in baseball with one of the most passionate set of fans.  While this deal is rotten for fans of the Marlins, I hope it is just the opposite for our fans north of the border.  As for the rest of the American League East, you have been put on notice.

Follow me on Twitter @ltj41 and covering the Arizona Diamondbacks at

Rookie of the Year Memories

Tonight marks the first of the major awards given out by Major League Baseball, the Rookie of the Year award for both the National and American Leagues.  Quite a few players that have won this award have gone on to outstanding careers with some of them eventually reaching the Hall of Fame.  Men such as Willie Mays, Rod Carew, Willie McCovey, Cal RipkenDerek Jeter and Albert Pujols certainly fit this billing.  Still, there are many instances where ROY winners do not live up to their initial promise and there are some who disappeared from the game less than five years afer their initial glory.  Here is a look back at some players who I wish could have had more success after their initial big splash.

Mark Fidrych-1976-Unfortunately, I was only three years old when “The Bird” was the word not just in baseball but everywhere you went.  The Detroit Tigers’ righthander would manicure the mound, talk to the ball and receive curtain calls after every home start on his way to a 19-9 record while leading the American League in ERA with 2.34 and complete games with 24.  Fidrych started the All-Star Game and finished second in the Cy Young race to Jim Palmer.  Because of his laid back demeanor and eccentrics on the mound, everyone loved the Bird as evidenced by the crowds that filled stadiums all season long every time he pitched.  Just weeks into the 1977 season,  Fidrych’s arms went “dead” as he put it, and it was not revealed until 1985 that the injury was a torn rotator cuff.  He pitched in just 27 games between 1977 and 1980, his career over at age 25.

Joe Charboneau-1980-Back in the late 1970’s the Cleveland Indians needed something to energize the fortunes of a proud but downtrodden franchise.  In 1980, it came in the form of “Super” Joe Charboneau, their 25-year old outfielder who captured ROY honors with 23 home runs, 87 RBI’s and a .289 average.  A song popped up in Cleveland called “Go-Go Charboneau” whose melody I can hear in my head but alas, can’t find a copy of online at the moment.  Sadly, back injuries derailed a promising career and he played in a total of 70 games in 1981 and 1982 before being forced to retire at age 27.

Pat Listach-1992-Listach, a fifth round pick of the Milwaukee Brewers in the 1988 draft, Listach was called up to Milwaukee during April 1992.  From there, he helped spark a surprising Brew Crew team all the way to a 90 win season , good for second place in the AL East behind the eventual World Series Champions, the Toronto Blue Jays.  Listach stole 54 bases to along with 93 runs scored and a .290 average in capturing ROY honors.  He was never able to re-capture his initial magic and never played in the Majors after 1997, his last appearance in a game at the age of 29.  Listach is currently the 3rd base coach of the Chicago Cubs.

Hot Stove Cooking Up Big Rumors

Maybe you are paying more attention to football.  Perhaps you are excited that the NBA is back.  Or maybe you were engrossed in another little event this week.  Something about a Presidential election.  Whatever you had going on, thanks for dropping by because the MLB General Managers’ meeting took place earlier this week.  There were lots of news and rumors over the past three days so let’s take a look at some of the highlights.

Josh Hamilton, the prize of the 2012-2013 free agent class. Image:

Josh Hamilton is the big prize of the free agent market.  I always though Hamilton was a lock to return to the Texas Rangers.  Then news came out that he was seeking a seven-year contract worth about $175 million dollars.  Late last night, Bob Nightengale of USA Today reported that Texas was only willing to give the 2010 American League MVP a three-year deal.  It would be hard for me to imagine Hamilton anywhere but the Lone Star State considering all of the demons that he carries each day.  The Rangers seem to be willing to move on without him and if there is an organization that could afford such a hit, it would be Texas.  So where would the All-Star outfielder go?  The Baltimore Orioles and Philadelphia Phillies  are the two teams that have been mentioned the most.  The Seattle Mariners have emerged as a suitor and frankly the fact their offense has been shaky for years means they should make a big run at him.  That would show ace pitcher Felix Hernandez that the organization is willing to surround him with some offense instead of struggling to get two runs per start for the King.

Rumors were flying that two top-of the-rotation guys could be dealt soon.  The Tampa Bay Rays are supposedly listening to offers for James Shields.  Also, it seems the New York Mets and National League Cy Young favorite R.A. Dickey are far apart on a contract extension.   With the expected loss of B.J. Upton to free agency, the Rays will be in the market for a bat.  Tampa’s wealth of young pitching will help absorb the loss of “Big Game James” and the team has always struggled to score runs.  As far as the Mets trading Dickey, boy what a slap that would be to their fans.  Outside of Dickey, there isn’t much to cheer about in Flushing these days and a trade of arguably the team’s most popular player will further alienate a fan base that has had nothing but rotten luck for years.  Then again, it could make sense in the long run as the knuckleballer’s value has never been higher.  If I were New York, there is not a chance I trade him.  I would make a better offer (Dickey supposedly turned down a 3-year, $30 million dollar deal) but not go crazy ($15 million per year).  Those fans have suffered long enough.

Other big-name free agents looking for homes include Torii Hunter, Nick Swisher and Brian McCannCheck out the full list here courtesy of  Speaking of Arizona, the Diamondbacks are supposedly looking to deal star right fielder Justin Upton again.  On the manager front, Walt Weiss was just named the manager of the Colorado Rockies and Davey Johnson has agreed to manage the Washington Nationals for another season.  Yes, it sure was a busy week in baseball.  Expect things to heat up some more later on as the weather starts getting colder.

Follow me on Twitter @ltj41 and covering the Arizona Diamondbacks at

Why I’m Pumped About Mariano Rivera Coming Back

In the midst of the devastation Hurricane Sandy brought last week, the New York Yankees and their fans received some good news.  On Thursday, relief pitcher Mariano Rivera, the best closer of this or any other generation announced he was coming back for (presumably) his 19th season in the Bronx.  Details of a contract have not been worked out but we are all hoping for a quick resolution so we can resume watching one of baseball’s true legends.

Super Mo returns to the Bronx in 2013. Image:

When I first heard this news, Spring Training could not get here fast enough for me.  That and the fact as I look out my window, I see the first snow of the Fall/Winter.  Anyway, it would have been a real shame to have Rivera’s career end due to a freak knee injury and the last image of Mo on a field is him being loaded onto a cart in Kansas City.   While Rafael Soriano pitched great in Rivera’s absence, better than anyone could imagine, it wasn’t the same Yankees without Rivera standing on the mound in the 9th inning getting ready to wrap up another victory.  On a personal note, Mo began his big league career in 1995, the same year I graduated college.  There aren’t too many players left whose playing days extend back that far.  I suppose his continuing to play  allows me to think back to the days of darker hair and less responsibility.

2013 will give us at least one last look at a pitcher the likes we will never see again.  No one has had the dominance of Rivera and to have done it for so long is truly remarkable.  Sure, guys like Rollie FingersRich Gossage, Bruce Sutter, Dan Quisenberry and Lee Smith may have had better seasons relative to their workloads but their period was shorter than the soon-to-be 43-year-old hurler.  More recently, Dennis Eckersley, John Smoltz and Eric Gagne had a dominating individual seasons, better than any of Mo’s but their runs were much smaller.  Even Trevor Hoffman, who was great for so long, has a career ERA a half run higher than Rivera’s.  Think about this.  In a nine-year span from 2003 to 2011, Rivera’s ERA was under 2.00 eight times.  Now that is an impressive stat one that should be repeated many times as opposed to one showing how many saves Mo had for guys whose last name began with an “S”.

144 days until Opening Day

Follow me On Twitter @ltj41 and covering the Arizona Diamondbacks at

Election Day, Major League Baseball Style

Here we are on the eve of Election Day and politics is in the air.  Frankly, I can’t wait until this is over because the two Presidential candidates have been campaigning since around February 2009.  As we head to the polls to choose either the same leader or a new one as well as leaders in our cities, counties and states let us remember that voting is one of our great rights, fought for and died for by brave men and women throughout this great country’s existence.

Since baseball is the Great American Game, there have been several players whose nicknames are affixed with political overtones.  Here are three of the most well-known.  Sorry, no one ever seems to want to be Vice President in the White House and that has carried over to the diamond.

Dennis Martinez won 245 games over a 23-year span. Image:

Dennis Martinez-El Presidente  To the best of my knowledge, no player has ever been nicknamed “The President”.  We will just have to settle for the Spanish translation although Dennis Martinez is a real good choice to have that name.  His career spanned 23 seasons (1976-1998) and in that time he amassed 245 victories.  He won 15 or more games nine times leading the American League with 14 in the strike-shortened 1981 season while pitching for the Baltimore Orioles.  Also during his time in Baltimore, Martinez was a member of two World Series teams and in 1979 he led the AL in complete games with 18 and innings pitched with 292 1/3, both totals we may never see again.   In 1991, he led the National League in ERA with a 2.39 mark while pitching for the Montreal Expos.  His greatest achievement came on July 28, 1991 when he pitched a perfect game against the Los Angeles Dodgers.  Martinez is one of only nine pitchers to win 100 games in both the American League and the National League.

The Mayor’s Sweet Swing. Image:

Sean Casey-The Mayor  Not many politicians are lifetime .302 hitters.  Casey played in twelve Big League seasons for five different teams, the majority of his time spent in Cincinnati with the Reds.  He was a three-time All-Star, topping the .300 mark six times.  His best year was 1999 when he hit .332 with 25 home runs and 99 RBI’s to go along with a .938 OPS as the Reds won 96 games before losing a one game playoff to the New York Mets.  In four playoff series, Casey batted a robust .410 including a staggering .529 (9 hits in 17 at-bats) in the 2006 World Series as a member of the Detroit Tigers.  This mayor does not hold elected office; you can see him several nights a week on various MLB Network shows.

Frank Robinson-The Judge  When we cast our ballots, how many of us really know what types of judges we are voting for?  It is not like we see them on TV saying, “I presided over 30 convictions in 32 trials” or something of that nature.  Well, everyone knows that Frank Robinson is THE Judge is in Major League Baseball.  The man is a Living Legend in the game in every sense of the word.   There are so many stats to choose from so I’ll start with the fact that he is the only player to win the MVP in both leagues (1961 Reds and 1966 Orioles) and is one of only 14 players to win the Triple Crown.  At the time of his retirement in 1976, he ranked fourth on the all-time home run list with 586 behind three guys you might have heard of:  Hank Aaron, Babe Ruth and Willie Mays.  He knocked in 100 or more runs six times finishing with a career total of 1,812.  Robby was a member of World Series Champion teams in 1966 and 1970 with the Orioles and for good measure, won the 1956 NL Rookie of the Year with the Reds.  In 1999, The Sporting News ranked him as the 22nd best player of all-time.  Robinson also made history becoming the first black manager (while still playing) in 1975 when he was named skipper of the Cleveland Indians.  The Judge certainly has presided one of the most memorable careers in the history of baseball.

Follow me on Twitter @ltj41 and covering the Arizona Diamondbacks at

Here’s Hoping the Kansas City Royals Don’t Stop With Ervin Santana

In case you missed it, the Kansas City Royals dealt a minor league player to the Los Angeles Angels for right handed pitcher Ervin Santana.  Sure, this isn’t a blockbuster deal or even a major deal by any stretch.  However, it hopefully sends a signal to the Royals players and their fans that ownership is trying to get better after what has to be considered a disappointing 2012.  I also hope that general manager Dayton Moore is right and that KC will not stop with this trade.  I would like them to acquire at least two more significant players to greatly bloster last season’s 72 win output.

Ervin Santana will look good in Royal blue in 2013. Image:

Why this interest in the Royals?  Well, I grew up loving baseball in the late 70’s and 80’s when Kansas City was considered one of the model franchises in the game.  They had big-times stars such as Frank White, Hal McRae, Willie Wilson, Dan Quisenberry and of course the incomparable, New York Yankee-killing Hall of Famer George Brett.  Between 1976 and 1985, the team won seven division championships, two American League pennants and the 1985 World Series. Unfortunately since that title, KC has registered only seven winning seasons and only one year (2003) over .500 the past 16 seasons.  With everyday players such as Eric Hosmer, Billy Butler, Alex Gordon, Lorenzo Cain and Salvador Perez the nucleus is there for some special things.   Now management needs to focus on the pitching staff.  I would love to see one of the franchises I grew up admiring and loathing at the same time get back to its former glory.  The Baltimore Orioles did it in 2012.  It would be nice to see the Royals enjoy similar success in 2013.

Much like they did before 2012 with Jonathan Sanchez, the Royals made a trade for a talented but up-and-down pitcher in the soon-to-be 30-year old Santana.  The career record of 96-80 is nothing to sneeze at but the 4.33 ERA is a little high.  He has won 16 or more games three times and also hurled a no-hitter on July 27th, 2011 against the Cleveland Indians.  Last year wasn’t so kind to Santana with a 9-13 record and a 5.16 ERA, nearly two runs higher than 2011.  If he could revert to his 2010 form (17-10, 3.92 ERA) it would go a long way in helping KC make a return trip to the playoffs.  In order for that to happen, the wheeling and dealing has to continue right through Spring Training.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 221 other followers

%d bloggers like this: