R. I. P.

Some of you may not remember March 22, 1993. I do.

On Little Lake Nellie in Florida, an off-day for the Cleveland Indians turned into a heinous tragedy. Tim Crews, Bob Ojeda and Steve Olin were relaxing with their families when Crews, Olin and Ojeda went out for a twilight boat ride. Crews and Ojeda were new to the Indians. They were added to the club to help stabilize a very young team that was soon to gel into one of the powers of the AL Central in the 1990s. Olin used a funky delivery to become one of the top relievers in the AL. Drafted in the 16th round in 1987, he made his big league debut in 1989 and stuck for good in 1991. In 1992, he had 29 saves, a 3.0 WAR, an ERA+ of 169 and allowed only 22% of his inherited runners to score (and unlike now, then a closer routinely inherited runners).

There was some alcohol drunk during the day but Crews was familiar with the lake.  However, he was not familiar with a new dock that was put up by neighbors. And in the darkness, the boat hit the dock, killing Crews and Olin and severely injuring Ojeda.

The crestfallen Indians went through the motions of the 1993 season, finishing 76-86 again. In 1994, they were 66-47 when the strike occurred and continued their run through the 90’s. Amazingly, even though his scalp was almost taken clean off in the wreck, Ojeda started seven games for the Indians later in the year.

It was a tragedy for sure. To have two young men with families snuffed out at an early age is always a tragedy, regardless if they’re baseball players or snowplow drivers.

However, the sadness and doom of the Indians fans (especially the younger ones) were no doubt compounded by the inclusion of the cards of the trio in the 1993 baseball card sets.

Olin was in all of the base sets, as befitting an up-and-coming star. Ojeda was in most base sets, and in late season updates by Score Select and Upper Deck. Crews only had a base card in Fleer as a Dodger and Pinnacle, and his Pinnacle card he was listed as an Indian but in a Dodgers uniform.

More information here on the accident. By all accounts, it took the life of two outstanding young men and basically ended the career of a third.


Nice Try, Tom. Better Luck Next Time.

First, some housekeeping. I am finally, FINALLY, bindered up all my close sets. I have about 20-some cards that I thought I had (or may have had) that have gone missing. I attribute this to fat fingers on my spreadsheets, and a chaotic time in my life where my collection was in bits and pieces. So I may have to add them BACK on my want list at some point. No biggie, it’s not like they were 1951 Mantles or even a 1973 Johnny Bench card.

Second, I have a lot of doubles, parallels, relics, etc. that I want and need to get rid of before I decide what comes next. I am thinking of a good way to do this – I have a couple of ideas percolating. Yes, you may get some more 1988 Donruss out of it, but with that you also may get an auto or a numbered card you didn’t know existed. Stay tuned.

Now, on to this card. I like the first three Pinnacle designs (until they went overboard with the gold diamonds or trapezoids or rhombii or whatever). They were definitely a worthy contender that kept Topps and Upper Deck (and the rest) on their toes for a while.

Pagnozzi was the reason, I guess, that Todd Zeile moved to third. Pagnozzi was a heck of a defensive catcher in his prime, with a 1.0 and 1.8 WAR defensively in back-to-back seasons. But the man could not hit.

Take a look at his 1991, where on the surface it looks good with a .264 average. He only had 36 walks in 510 plate appearances, and had just two home runs. His OPS+ was only 89. Added to that 10 GIDPs and a 9 for 22 rate in stolen bases (Joe Torre, HOF manager, let Pagnozzi steal 22 times. He must have been huffing that season.) and you have player that scored only 38 runs and had just 1 WAR offensively.

(Sidenotes to the 9 for 22 stealing stat – Pagnozzi in his career stole 18 bases and was caught 21 times – so the rest of his career he was 9 for 15. Torre didn’t have Jose Oquendo or Pedro Guerrero steal that much either. And even when the A’s stole a gazillion bases in 1976 not everyone joined in on the fun, as Larry Haney didn’t steal a bag, Gene Tenace was just five for nine, Ken McMullen was one of two and Billy Williams was four for six. So Pagnozzi attempting 22 steals that season is just, well, insane.)

1993 was the year that the end was beginning for Tom. Erik Pappas hit better than him and the vaunted defense backslid a bit. He started just 90 games, as opposed to 133 and 131 the two seasons before. He did miss a month or so, though, due to injuries, which happens to almost every catcher. Since this card clearly shows a play at the plate in Wrigley, and since Pagnozzi had a more limited schedule than usual, it should be easy to pinpoint this play.

Shall we? We shall.

Pagnozzi played when the Cards were in Chicago June 17-20 (the first games back after injury, he played in three games missing the 19th) and on September 20 and 22. I am thinking that this is from the first series (but you never know) so I’ll attack those games first. The runner at the plate looks to be African-American or a dark-skinned Latino, but of course I could be fooled there too. And the player looks to be safe, so I’ll see about the Cubs scoring a run on a single where a play at the plate could have occurred.

June 17 – A wild one. Pagnozzi goes 3 for 5 with 3 runs and an RBI in an 11-10 win. Ozzie Smith has six RBI (!!!) in the game.  Plenty of chances to have the photo snapped:

First inning – Jose Vizcaino scores from second on a line single to center by Ryne Sandberg. Definitely a possibility.

Eighth inning – Rey Sanchez scores from first on a double by Vizcaino. However, that doesn’t seem as likely.

June 18 – Cubs win 8-3 against Rene (“They paid me HOW much?”) Arocha. (Side note, the middle relievers for the 1993 Cards included Rob Murphy, Paul Kilgus and Les Lancaster. Yeesh.)  There are some likely candidates here.

Second inning – Sammy Sosa scores from first on a fly ball double to left by Rey Sanchez. Even though there were two out, a fly ball double to left doesn’t necessarily score the runner from first.

Sixth inning – Bob Scanlan (OK, I can yeesh the Cubs relievers too) hits a line out sac fly to left scoring Sosa. Possibly.

June 20 – Cards win 7-4 behind Pagnozzi’s 2-run homer and Geronimo “I Should Have Been Better Than I Was” Pena’s three RBI. Frankie Castillo was not impressing his hot wife that day. There is one possibility.

Second inning – Sosa scores from second on a Sanchez line drive single to center. There are two out though, so that’s not as likely as some of the others.

The first September game doesn’t help. Pagnozzi plays the 7th and the 8th as the Cards lose, plus it was a night game.

September 22 was a day game, and another wild one, an 11-9 Cubs win as they blister Tom Urbani and Arocha.

Second inning – Eric Yelding scores from second on a line drive single to center by Vizcaino. Maybe, but even though the background is blurred it looks sunny out there and the weather that September game was 71 yet overcast.

Sixth inning – Vizcaino scores from second on a single to right by Tuffy Rhodes. There was an E9 on the play. Could the E9 have occurred as the ball eluded Pagnozzi and hit Vizcaino? Could it? Nope, the newspaper account clearly states that Whiten bobbled the ball at second, allowing Rhodes to go to second, hence the error.

But the Tribune game stories may yield the answer. So I’ll go back to the June games and check.

The June 17 writeup was all about Turk Wendell’s debut start in all of it’s licorice chewing and tooth brushing glory.

The June 18 game story is all about Eric Yelding and some defensive plays.

The June 20 game story is all about how lousy the Cubs were playing at home. Geez, some things never change.

So those game summaries don’t give us a clear outcome.

My best guess? It’s Vizcaino scoring. His 1994 Pinnacle card (which I  found online) shows that he wears those wristbands and used tape. Not as much as his throwing hand, but he may have taped up his glove hand.

So I bet that’s the play at the plate in the very first game Pagnozzi was back at the dish for the Cards, where Sandberg slapped a single to center and Vizcaino beat the throw.

Sure, why not?

A Royals Version Of 1985

The (in) famous stat-geek, medical-type doctor and Royals fan Rany has posted a song tribute to his wobegon team.

It’s here!


Longest Lasting Draft Bust Ever?

Ask any Baltimore fan about Rhodes, it may result in a bit of hostility and language much like Earl Weaver answering a question about a Ron Luciano call.

He was a second-round pick in 1988 and rocketed through the system and was a Top 1o prospect in 1991 and 1992, as is fitting for a lefty with a fastball and good ERAs and K/W ratios. His 1992 Baltimore season was quite nice for a young lefty, 7-5 with a 3.63 ERA. Could he be another noted lefty starter much like McNally, Cuellar and Scott McGregor?

Um, no. 1993-1995 were just awful. Yes, he pitched well in relief in 1996-1998 but had a bad year in 1999.

I would call that a bust – they drafted Rhodes to be a lefty starter and he turned into a middle reliever.

He was signed in 2000 with Seattle, and went 5-8 with a 4.28 ERA, which wasn’t that bad considering the helium balls, small parks and specialization. He was 30 years old and every year from then on was a fight to survive in the majors. 30+ middle relievers always have some drama surrounding them when it comes to cut-down date.

Except for injury rehabs (and missing an entire year with injury) he’s been in the majors each year since then. Yes, he spit the bit as Oakland’s closer in 2004. Yes, he has just 32 saves in his long career, but holds the record for most holds in the big leagues. And he was a trailblazer, earning MVP votes as a middle man in 1997 (for his 10-3 record, no doubt) and making the All-Star game this last season.

It’s quite incredible. He’s playing in a position that of all positions is totally fungible (as the hipsters like to say). One false step and he could be Jeff Kaiser, pitching in the minors for years.

But he hasn’t. And he’s made $34 million dollars – mainly because his OPS+ against lefties is 76. And what’s more incredible…

Here is a listing of who debuted in 1991 along with Rhodes:

Jeff Bagwell

Rod Beck

Ricky Bones

Scott Brosius

Vinny Castilla

Royce Clayton

Rheal Cormier

Jeff Fassero

Tom Goodwin

Pat Hentgen

Roberto Hernandez

Eric Karros

Pat Kelly

Chuck Knoblauch

Mark Lewis

Kenny Lofton

Mike Magnante

Mike Mussina

Denny Neagle

Warren Newsom

Yorkis Perez

Mike Remlinger

Ivan Rodriguez

Rey Sanchez

Reggie Sanders

Bob Scanlan

Pete Schourek

Heathcliff Slocumb

Jim Thome

Mike Timlin

Jon Vander Wal

Mo Vaughn

Don Wakamatsu

Eric Wedge

Rick Wilkins

Bernie Williams

Mark Wohlers

Anthony Young

Bob Zupcic


Rhodes kinda beat the odds, didn’t he?

How Long Can You Be The Catcher Of The Future?

I’ve had a crazy few weeks. Life is, well, interesting at times. Challenging. Yet you have to live it. And that’s what I’m doing, as best as I can!

Since 2006 (or maybe before) Iannetta has been tabbed as “the catcher of the future” for the Rockies. When you hit .336 in AA and AAA as a 23-year old catcher, you get noticed. He played fairly well in 2006 for a cup of coffee in Colorado.

And each year hence, he’s the ‘catcher of the future’. In fact, he STILL is listed as a possible fantasy baseball breakout player. My gosh, though, that’s 4+ years of being ‘the future’. Are we in fish or cut bait territory?

What’s happened?

In 2007, he didn’t hit much for average, but showed some on-base skills and decent defensive metrics. He spent a brief time back in Colorado Springs.

In 2008, he had a great OPS+ of 125 and had 18 home runs. Iannetta started 96 games and looked to be, at age 25, a rising young catching star.

In 2009, he started 87 games, showed power and patience, but didn’t hit well for average. Still, his OPS+ was over 100 and his offensive WAR of 1.7 was good for a player hitting .228.

In 2010, he hit .197. He showed good power (9 home runs in 188 ABs). But his OPS+ was 78 and his defense backslid.

Who’s been ‘blocking’ Iannetta since 2007?

Well, Yorvit Torrealba and Miguel Olivo.

He’s going to be 28. If you can’t beat those guys out to be the regular catcher (mind you, he did get the most starts in 2008 and 2009 but in the playoffs in 2009, Torrealba was the catcher).

He’s no longer a ‘prospect’. In fact, he’s one season away from becoming a pledge in the backup catcher’s fraternity. But yet, on websites it says “he’s blossoming with the bat”. I’ll see it when I see it.




It’s THE Scott Leius…

So what do we know about the Troisieme – But of the Twins? (Heh…he said butt…)

A. He’s got a hella-mullet!

B. The Twins spring training jerseys were a bit flimsy.

C. He’s only 2 1/2 months older than I am.

D. He was a teammate of the immortal Willie Fraser in college. Now that’s something you can hang your hat on.

E. He hit .357 in the 1991 World Series.

F. 1991 was his only good year at the plate. He was considered a fine defensive player, finishing second in the Gold Glove voting at third in 1994. But the advanced metrics of the time show that he was about at replacement level on defense. He didn’t make errors, and that probably helped him.

G. He was supposed to be the regular shortstop in 1993 for the Twins, but on April 21 he left a game after scoring a run, and was not seen again in the big leagues. Were aliens involved?

H. He was a kid from Yonkers, but has stuck around Minnesota and is now a coach at Big League Baseball Camp with Tim Laudner and Gene Larkin. I couldn’t see if he still had the mullet.

And You Want To Be My Hitting Coach?

I always find it interesting about players that become coaches. For instance, guys like Juan Samuel and Garry Templeton stayed in the game as coaches and managers, when as players they had stormy, tempestuous relationships with management, other players, fans, etc.

Sometimes, pitching coaches are quite interesting. Guys like Joe Kerrigan and Dan Warthen couldn’t get anyone out in the majors, but they were long-time pitching coaches.

Jim Presley is a well-respected hitting coach. He was a long-time coach in Florida (where players like Hanley Ramirez and Miguel Cabrera sing his praises) and is now on Buck Showalter’s staff in Baltimore.

As a player, though, you’d never thought of Presley as a coach-in-waiting.

His offensive WAR for his career was only 4.4, and that was due to one thing.

Strike zone judgment.

In his career, he walked 210 times and struck out 859 times. His All-Star year, 1986, was Mark Reynolds-esque. 27 home runs, 107 RBI, 172 whiffs.

And he’s a hitting coach? Well, it is true that Baltimore does whiff a lot, and whiffing isn’t necessarily the worst thing in the world. But now I’m wondering about Presley’s lessons to Mark Reynolds.

“Do as I say, not as I do?”

Move Over Hank Aaron…

For many years, Aaron was the first in the alphabetical list of players.

But when Aardsma came up in 2004, Hank was relegated to second place.

(Yes, I know it’s old news, but still…many may not realize this.)

The first name listed in the alphabetical listing of players (by my brief research):

David Aardsma – 2004 – present

Hank Aaron – 1954 – 2003

John Abadie * – 1875 – 1953

Frank Abercrombie* – 1871 – 1875

* If you use the National Association as a big league, if not…

Ed Abbaticchio – 1897 – 1953

Bert Abbey – 1892 – 1896

Dan Abbott – 1890 – 1891

George Adams – 1879 – 1889

Bob Addy – 1876 – 1878

Just for kicks, here’s the last name in players:

Dutch Zwilling – 1910 – present

* Ed Zmich – 1910 (technically, he played about a month before Dutch…)

Frank Zinn – 1888 – 1909

Chief Zimmer – 1884 – 1887

George Zettlein – 1871 (or 1876) – 1883

Now you know…the rest of the story…

Aardsma has been the closer for two years in Seattle after a less than stellar career for the Giants, Cubs, White Sox and Red Sox.  He was a -0.4 WAR for his career and then he was the closer. Hmmm…

And now, he’s injured, with the new trendy injury for pitchers, hip labrum surgery. You know, that probably hurts like a mo-fo. But still, all of a sudden everyone (and by everyone I mean at least two I can remember) is getting a hip labrum repair. It’s the new botox, right?

One last thing about Aardsma…

Oh, wait, that’s aardvark…sorry.




How Much Is This Worth?

Does anyone have a Schrute Buck currency conversion chart?

I myself am now taking my pay in Stanley nickels.


An Excuse To Talk About A Few Things…

I like this set a lot. I completed it, and have a lot of doubles that I can send if someone wants a big head start.

Chuck James’ career, sadly, is pretty typical. A great rise, then when arm trouble started, he tried to pitch through it, couldn’t, and his career went poof.

And typically, he went down to the minors from where he hasn’t returned yet. Much like in ye olde days, where a horrific year (2-5, 9.10 in seven starts) would land someone in New Iberia or Zanesville. James wound up taking a year off then pitching well for Harrisburg and Syracuse last year upon recovery from surgery. I saw him pitch for Harrisburg last year on a business trip in New Hampshire and he looked sharp.

He’s in Twins camp this year. I don’t think he’s a candidate for the major league roster, since they have Mijares, Hughes, and Perkins as lefties in the pen and Scott Diamond as a Rule V player. Plus, he’s still got homer-itis, since he’s given up two dingers in 5 2/3 innings thus far. But he’s a lefty and breathing, so he’s just a heartbeat away from the bigs!

But what caused me to post was the weather up here in the Twin Cities.

I was out at 9:00 buying binders (and a couple o’ packs o’ Heritage) and it was…


What freakin’ month is this?

And the Twins are playing outdoors here in Minnesota on April 8. The typical weather in April is cloudy in the 40’s. Sleet on March 22? Could be an issue…