“I Yam What I Yam – A Catcher Man!”

Ah, if only the MLB draft were a big, huge event like the NFL or NBA draft – then you could have heard this.

“With the 13th pick in the 3rd round of the 2008 draft – the Oakland Athletics select Popeye, Catcher from Arizona State.”

Paramore looks like all he needs is the pipe and the can of spinach and he’s ready to play the sailor man in an off-Broadway adaptation of Robert Altman’s film.

As for the play of Mr. Paramore – well, he is a catcher. He does have some patience but not a lot of power. The A’s have a decent one in Kurt Suzuki (though he’s got little patience and struggled with power in 2010), so Paramore has a chance to make an impact if he can get his power numbers up.

Time to eats yer spinach, Mr. Paramore.

 

John Farrell – 1991 Fleer

November 23, 2010

Who Said Pitchers Don’t Become Managers?

Before Bud Black, pitchers as manager didn’t really work. Remember Larry Rothschild’s tenure at Tampa Bay? Ray Miller with the Twins?

Well, they may not have worked because of the source material.

But now the Blue Jays hired Farrell as their manager.

He’s a definite lifer, good with pitchers and seemingly has the respect of every one in the room up there. (Actually, for me Toronto is ‘over there’.  My latitude is 44.872394. The Rogers’ Centre is 43.641636.

So I give to you, on “Old Yeller”, John Farrell. Mediocre MLB pitcher, good coach, now manager.

BTW, many bloggers out there are slagging two of the sets I like, Donruss Red and Fleer Old Yeller. To those folks, I say:

 

“Gotta Be The Shoes!”

Why was I fascinated by Chuck McElroy? As a Cubs fan, I should have been wary about an inconsistent lefty reliever who was worse against lefties than righties (752 OPS vs 724).

He was part of the merry-go-round of relievers the Cubs used on April 24, 1993. Why do I remember that game, a 15-5 loss to Cincinnati?

Well, the future Mrs. Smed attended her first major league game. We couldn’t get bleacher seats, so we got $15 tickets four rows from the Cubs bullpen. Great seats. Well, except for the fact that there was plenty of traffic in front of us. And Bob Scanlan, who wasn’t used, kept getting up to ‘stand guard’, as it were.

The Reds loaded the bases in the first against Greg Hibbard, and Chris Sabo was up. I told my future bride that I had never seen a grand slam in a professional baseball game in person.

CRACK!

The Reds, who were bad that year, were off and running. Hibbard gave up 7 in three innings. Jose Bautista gave up two more, including another home run to Bip Roberts. Dan Plesac then pitched three innings, and in the 7th the Reds loaded the bases again. I told the future Mrs. Smed that it’s rare that a team hits two grand slams in a game.

POW! Joe Oliver goes yard.

McElroy gave up two more runs in the 8th – on a home run to Reggie Sanders.  They were unearned. My future wife did think he resembled Spike Lee.

The only true highlight for the Cubs was a double hit by Matt Walbeck in the bottom of the ninth. Down 15-2 with one out and two on, Walbeck lifts an easy pop to center – but center fielder Cesar Hernandez has a pratfall and Walbeck goes to second easily. Yes, we were still at the game. Hey, it was great seats at Wrigley!

Of course, McElroy resembled Spike Lee:

However, in retrospect, he’s more of a doppleganger for DMC (of Run – DMC fame). Though I don’t think Chuck hit the mound with a dookie rope that had a logo the size of a hubcap on it.

Wow, I hadn’t seen Larry “Bud” Melman in a while.

 

The Next Rick Ankiel?

It was an eventful year of minor league baseball watching for me this year, even if I did just squeeze in two games.

In April, I saw Rancho Cucamonga face Inland Empire, and saw Scott Kazmir and Reggie Willits rehabbing for the home-standing Quakes. I also realized why Kazmir had fallen from grace a bit. He wasn’t overpowering many Class A hitters and fell behind in the count a bit. His stats were pedestrian – 6 1/3 innings, 8 hits, 3 earned runs.

I was impressed by the 66’ers starter, Aaron Miller. While he gave up three runs in the first, he rebounded and used a fastball and breaking pitch effectively. Old-timer Charlie Hough, the 66’ers pitching coach, applauded his effort. But the unknown pitcher taking his place (there were a couple of fans in the stands and I who dove for our smart phones because the program did not have him listed) would make a bigger splash this year.

It was Kenley Jansen! Jansen rose through the Dodgers system like a rocket this year after being converted from catcher, and he’s on my keeper list for my fantasy baseball team!

The other game I saw was out in Manchester, NH, featuring the New Hampshire Fisher Cats against the Harrisburg Senators. The Senators started John Lannan, who was their opening day starter this season. He wasn’t in AA to rehab, he was in AA to find himself again by working with pitching coach Randy Tomlin. Again, I wasn’t impressed, per se. Lannan had trouble locating and was rocked for a few long hits. But the work with Tomlin must have paid off, since he returned to Washington in early August and went 7-4 with a 3.42 after returning from exile.

That Senators team also featured former Braves lefty Chuck James, who was battling back from injury and ineffectiveness (not exactly in that order). Since he’s a portsider, the adage YOU GOTTA HAVE A LEFTY will help his chances. He did look very sharp when I saw him and for the season in AA he went 8-0 with a 1.59 as a reliever.

The Fisher Cats featured a rehabbing Travis Snider (who played in 20 games, so the Jays weren’t rushing him back) and the game starter was Kyle Drabek, who looked very nice in his appearance. But I was intrigued by a name that I semi-recognized, then found some info in the program, and then did more research.

As you may have guessed, it was Adam Loewen.

Because the Orioles are about as exciting and newsworthy of a club as the daily reports coming from the island of Palau, I barely recognized him. Rookie card collectors probably knew about it quickly because his card’s value plummeted after it was revealed he had a stress fracture in his elbow in 2007. (Let me just say this…OUCH!) He got knocked around a bit in 2006, but a 22-year old Canadian rookie should be expected to take his lumps for a terrible team. He tried to come back in 2008, got his head beat in, went to the minors and put up some good numbers but on his return to Balmer it was not meant to be and he was shut down in 2008.

He really couldn’t pitch anymore without risk of something happening like Dravecky, Saunders, Smiley or Browning.

Baltimore gave him a big bonus and he could have definitely lived off what he had for the rest of his life. But he loved baseball. So he decided to keep playing. However, the Orioles weren’t so convinced, so they allowed him to sign with the Blue Jays organization.

In 2009, Loewen, age 25, spent the year at Dunedin in the FSL and had some struggles. But the FSL is a pitcher’s league so he wasn’t written off as a lost cause. The Eastern League is another pitcher’s league, but he showed a lot more power this past season. He’ll need to cut down the strikeouts and raise the batting average a bit, but his peripherals are good and solid.

Will Loewen return to the majors as a hitter after his pitching career was all but written off, like Ankiel? The Jays have Wells, Lewis, Lind, Bautista, and Snider in the OF mix. And they’re going to have to pay – Wells is due $23 million (WOW!), Lewis and Bautista are aribtration eligible (and Bautista’s gonna cash in…) and Lind has a long term deal in place. Snider’s put up some good numbers and he’ll be just 23 next year. No one is gonna take Wells off their hands either.

And the Jays just received Rajai Davis in a trade – which probably mean Lewis will be non-tendered. (In reality, it’s a wash, Davis’ speed is great but Lewis is a bit better on offense.)

So Loewen may make the majors, and he no doubt feels some loyalty to the Jays for allowing him to come back with them, but unless Toronto does something drastic I think Loewen’s comeback story will be for another team in the near future.

 

Can You Tone That Teal Down Just A Skosh, I’m Blind Now. Thanks!

Before I got back into the game, I forgot just how TEAL those early Marlins uniforms were.

Magadan was a player whose skill sets on offense (average and patience) and his weaknesses (power and speed) made him a mis-matched type of player. He could have been a great middle infielder, but didn’t play there, and as a corner infielder he didn’t have the power. He was basically a rich man’s Jim Eppard.

While he had a long career, he didn’t make the mega bucks, and he really didn’t become a star. That’s what happens when your OPS falls 150 points after your best year. You try to survive.

Magadan had a transaction merry-go-round in 1993. He was an original Marlin, but was traded in late July to Seattle in exchange for Henry Cotto and Jeff Darwin. He spent a lot of time at first filling in for Tino Martinez. But a month after the season, he was shipped BACK to Florida for…Jeff Darwin.

I don’t know if the 1/2 year rental was a Florida favor to Dave’s cousin Lou Piniella, but the Mariners got rid of Cotto, who promptly had a decent 1/2 season for the Marlins and disappeared. Maybe Cotto stole Lou’s Cheese Whiz.

After another powerless season in Florida (8 extra-base hits in 254 plate appearances is deep in slappy territory), Magadan became a wandering corner infielder / pinch hitter. A vagabond, ready to fill in a lace some singles past the infield to start a rally when called upon, and also to play first and third competently enough so the manager doesn’t have to take a chance on the AAA guy.

“Fight Fiercely, Hahhhvahhhd!”

I was first attracted to this card by the photo. I’ve always been intrigued by pitchers with seemingly unusual deliveries or flourishes.

Herrmann has a normal delivery, from the stretch, and then he really lifts that back leg up as you can see:

That makes for a great photo!

But then I read more about Herrmann. It’s nice when a non-drafted free agent makes the bigs, even for one game. It’s even better when said NDFA pitches meaningful innings. As with most rookie hurlers, he had a tough stretch, but he’s in the mix to contribute in 2011.

Then I found out he’s an Ivy Leaguer. Now, in baseball, Ivy Leaguers are more common than in the NBA and NFL (the NHL has some because most Ivy League schools have excellent college hockey programs). But the last two Crimson to play in the bigs were Mike Stenhouse and Jeff Musselman.

Harvard baseball players are expected to go to class, graduate, and then get their law degree or MBA and lead the free world, not ride the buses on road trips in the Carolina League. But Herrmann worked hard in the minors, putting up decent stats but then becoming a major league consideration. He made AAA for a couple starts in 2008, converted to a reliever in mid-2009 after another AAA promotion, and then gave the Indians a great reason to call him up by compiling a 0.31 ERA in 28 2/3 innings (that with NO unearned runs!)

He was used quite  a bit, appearing in 40 games over the past four months.  And perhaps he will make that big-league salary that could have awaited him on Wall Street or Park Avenue. But I bet he had more fun while getting there – and I bet not many Harvard grads have worked in Kinston, NC for a spell!

A Man Of Taste & Elegance

Well, I don’t know him personally, but in this pose he exudes some sort of nobility about him.

And maybe a touch of Salvador Dali sans mustache (and melting stopwatches).

And of course, Dali leads me to Bunuel and then to this:

And the Pixies and weird Spanish art leads me to:

Which leads to:

(It may be a stretch, but many of Picasso’s faces look…broken!)

So, you’re saying, is this just an excuse to:

A. Kill time before a dinner I have to attend at this conference I have to attend?

B. Procrastinate work I need to do, such as drafting a work plan for a client?

C. Tell everyone that I’m currently listening to the Pixies?

D. Not prepare for my two presentations tomorrow?

E. Avoid talking about Javier Vazquez?

Well, I suppose I gotta do something, and the easiest thing to do is talk somewhat about Vazquez, since he started this here chain looking all elegant in his posted photo.

Vazquez is putting together a Saberhagen-esque career (minus the injuries and the bleach). Which is, it seems that every other year he’s great, and then…not so much.

What it boils down to is pretty much an average starting pitcher. Over the course of two seasons, he’s gonna throw about 400 innings at a league average ERA, and may scratch out a winning record based on his run support.

One thing, though, that I was quite surprised about. He’s been a big-time team hopper without filing for free agency. In fact, he recently filed for free agency for the FIRST time. He’s been extended, sure, and has made $92 million over his career, but he’s never been out on the open market, per se.

His trades:

Dec. 2003 – From the Expos to the Yanks for Nick Johnson, Juan Rivera and Randy Choate.

Jan. 2005 – From the Yanks to the D-Backs along with Dioner Navarro and Brad “Admiral” Halsey for Big Unit. (We’re so sorry…Uncle Albert…) (Anyone under 35 get that reference? 40? )

OK FINE:

Back to Vazquez:

Dec. 2005 – From the D-Backs to the White Sox for El Duque, Chris Young and Luis Vizcaino.

Dec. 2008 – From the White Sox to the Braves along with Boone Logan for Brent Lillibridge and three prospects.

Dec. 2009 – From the Braves to the Yankees (again) along with Boone Logan (again) for Melky Cabrera, Michael Dunn and a prospect.

Now, after a bad year, he hits the market.

I’d buy on the cheap! With a good offense, this is his year to win 15 with an under 4.00 ERA!

John Franco – 1988 Topps

November 16, 2010

What The Heck?

Is Franco playing a joke on Chris Sabo, on the photographer, on society as a whole?

Or did he need to wear goggles as well for a stretch?

Franco was a great reliever, but had horrible timing. He was traded to the Mets before the 1990 season. That year, the Reds won the Series. Franco had to endure some ghastly Mets teams before finally getting his post-season chance – and then he was a set-up man after losing his job after an injury.

And while his stat numbers may get him into the HOF, he doesn’t have a stellar career WAR, and had some ‘interesting’ records (like 0-8 in 1998).

However, he was definitely valuable, and exuded Noo Yawk when he played for the Mets. And while the jury may be out on his HOF credentials, he definitely proved to be worth a lot more than Rafael Landestoy.

Wha’??

Yes, in 1983 the Dodgers traded Franco AND a minor leaguer to the Reds for Landestoy. Why?

Um…

Thinking….

Um…

Still thinking….

Did Franco get into a shoving match with Jack Fimple in Albuquerque?

No?

Um…..

Were the Dodgers really that worried about Sax’ fielding that they traded a future all-star closer for a generic middle infielder who posted an OPS+ of 32 for the Dodgers and went 0-2 in the post-season as a pinch hitter?

 

 

 

It’s On The Way, Next Week

The perfect picture of the a great windup, and a card the right and true and just Night Owl needs.

Not part of the Nebulous 9 – but still…

Pitchers have had funky windups since the dawning of baseball as a sport. I love to watch players that have interesting, unique, non-standard deliveries instead of the “normal” ones. They add color and spice to the game.

Nomo’s delivery reminded me a bit of Luis Tiant’s, from the wind-up:

Now, if only MLB woudl allow me to post stuff from classic Tiant-era Red Sox games, then you could see.

Same thing, though – the motion added deception combined with the already filthy stuff meant – pain for the batters. Well, until they figured it out. Nomo started to give up a lot of dingers, and then fell behind in counts.

Still, though he was neat to watch!

Doug DeCinces – 1988 Fleer

November 14, 2010

Not Airbrushed!?!?!?

Doug DeCinces played 1,645 games in the AL and four in the NL. Those were the last four games of his career.

They were at the end of the 1987 season as the Cards were gunning for the NL East title. I’m not sure why the Cards went out and got him, as Terry Pendleton wound up starting 158 games at third, including the last two of the season.

But you know, perhaps Whitey just wanted Doug to jump on a pile or two.

Doug was one of those under-rated players because of his low batting average. But Earl Weaver made room for him by gently shoving Brooks Robinson aside. And he rewarded Earl with patience, power and defense. Then he moved to the Angels and did pretty much the same thing. (Why the Orioles traded him for Dan Ford, I have no idea – but they did…)

But on September 23, 1987,  the Angels released DeCinces. Six days later he signed with the Cards, played four games in 1987. He spent 1988 in Japan and then hung ’em up.

Yet, this card from Fleer does not seem to be airbrushed. I’ve looked at it close and afar, and it seems that it’s DeCinces IN a Cards uniform.

Which of course makes a card like this even more outrageous…

A. That’s a particularly heinous airbrush job.

B. Brady Anderson moved from Boston to Baltimore on July 29th. There were over 50 games that Anderson played in  as an Oriole that they could have at least snagged a wire-service action shot or SOMETHING!

C. Did I saw how bad of an airbrush job that is? I bet the Topps artists (after they put down the bong) hated to have to draw that little Oriole on the hat (much like the old Blue Jays logo gave them fits as well). Well, unless they thought it was funny — “DUUUUDE! That Oriole is SMILING, man!”

Somehow, Topps survived awful cards and bleah designs, whilst Fleer who actually tried, it seemed, to get a player on the right team, took a dirt nap, was resurrected and again is swimming with the card fish.