Tuesday, June 29, 2010

My favorite players from all 30 Big League teams...Vol. #5...Toronto Blue Jays

This is the 5th in a series covering all 30 current MLB teams, plus some now defunct teams, and the teams of the Negro Leagues, and, even a Minor League team here and there.

Vol.#1, Baltimore Orioles...Brooks Robinson

Vol.#2, Boston Red Sox...Fred Lynn

Vol.#3, New York Yankees...Derek Jeter

Vol.#5 Tampa Bay Rays...Rocco Baldelli

Today, the Toronto Blue Jays

This is was a somewhat hard choice. I don't like the Blue Jays, for many reasons, including the fact that George Bell was given Allan Trammell's 1987 American League MVP Award, and Jack Morris winning a World Series with the Jays in 1993, among several reasons.

My dislike for the Blue Jays came to an end, somewhat, but not completely, when the Tigers were moved to the A.L. Central in the mid 1990's, but the damage was done.

So, I wasn't really sure who to put down. 
As I was typing, it finally came to me...Carlos Delgado...no, good choice though...Dave Steib...no, thanks the same, Robby Alomar...no way, and then I remembered...remembered back to my youth and a left handed quarterback for the Michigan Wolverines, an All-American in both football and baseball as a Wolverine, and a first round pick of my Detroit Tigers...Rick Leach

Rick Leach was a great college QB @ Michigan, leading the Wolverines to 3 straight Big Ten Championships, 1976-77-78.

Rick Leach played for the Tigers in 1981-82-83, then was released before the start of the 1984 season. That always made me feel bad, because it would've been great for Rick to get a ring, but off to the hated Blue Jays he went, and there he played from 1984-1988, including the Jays great 1985 team that were up 3-1 to the KC Royals in the A.L. Championship Series before losing the last 3 games.

In 1986 Rick had his best year, batting .309 in 110 games.

I'm not going to give you to much of his big league numbers, just these...he hit 18 home runs in 799 big league games, collected 460 hits, and driving in 183 runs for the Tigers, Blue Jays, Rangers, and Giants in a 10 year career.

Yes, it took a Michigan Man to make my list as my favorite Toronto Blue Jays player, so it goes. Maybe I could've picked pitcher Roy Halladay, a fine pitcher, but he owned the Tigers, just like the Jays pitchers of the 1980's, and so, needless to say, I like Doc Halladay much better as a Phillie.

The one thing about ball players that rings true today, as it did when I was a kid, and that's that there will be another one right behind your favorite player, so maybe I'll be able to let the Blue Jays thing go, but seeing as how I rooted for the Braves in the 1992 and 1993 World Series against the Jays, it seem highly likely.

So, there you have the first 5 editions of my favorite players, next it's on to a bit of a change-up next, as we leave the current teams to go back in time to a non existing team...the Brooklyn Dodgers. 

Yes, I consider the Los Angeles Dodgers separate from their Brooklyn days. So, who will it be, Jackie Robinson, Roy Campanella, Ralph Branca, Duke Snider, Pee Wee Reese, or maybe Johnny Podres.

Until then, enjoy baseball, God's great gift to us, our National Past time.


Friday, June 25, 2010

Edwin Jackson throws no-hitter vs. Tampa Bay Rays

There's something weird going on with the Tampa Bay Rays, and it's not something the club wants to continue, as for the third time in less than a year the Rays have been no-hit, and this time it was done by an ex-teammate, Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Edwin Jackson.

Jackson threw 149 pitches Friday night, 79 for strikes, as he no-hit the Rays, defeating his old team 1-0 at Tropicana Field.
Jackson no-hits Tampa Bay rays 

Jackson wasn't perfect, walking eight Rays batters, but the Arizona right-hander got three double play balls, struck out six, and left 20 Rays on base. Tampa was also 0-7 with runners in scoring position.

Jackson joins Randy Johnson as the only Diamondback pitcher to throw a no-hitter. Johnson threw a Perfect Game against the Atlanta Braves on May 18th, 2004.

Jackson is the fourth pitcher to throw a no-hitter this year, joining the Colorado Rockies Ubaldo Jimenez(vs. Atlanta on April 17th@Atlanta), the Oakland A's Dallas Braden(Perfect Game vs. Tampa Bay May 19th), and the Philadelphia Phillies Roy Halladay(Perfect Game @ the Florida Marlins on May29th).

So, do you think it's a possibility that every big league pitcher will be looking @ the schedule, and when it's their time to face the Rays?

Monday, June 21, 2010

Only 11 days left to vote for MLB All-Stars

Sorry about not posting a lot lately. Health issues, and now helping my wife with Vacation Bible School @ our Church this week, plus trying to keep up the Brennan Boesch Blog, and my Detroit Tigers Baseball Cards Blog, has me wondering how to get it all in, but I promise to do a better job of every day posting.

Have you voted for the starters in the All-Star Game next month in Anaheim?

There are only 11 days, until 11:59 Eastern Time on July 1st, to vote for the players you would like to see in the greatest of all All-Star Games.

Also, remember to cast your vote for the Home Run Derby, which will take place on the Monday night before the game.

For both contests, you may vote up to 25 times per e-mail address, or if you go to a big league, or minor league park, you may vote as many times as you want, as long as they have the ballots.

Here's my choices for the HR Derby...

American League

Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers

Carlos Pena, Tampa Bay Rays

Brennan Boesch, Detroit Tigers...Write in Vote

National League

Albert Pujouls, St. Louis Cardinals

Prince Fielder, Milwaukee Brewers

Ryan Howard, Philadelphia Phillies


You may vote at your local teams web site, or at www.mlb.com (link below)

Vote for the 81st MLB All-Star Game

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

My 2010 All-Star Ballot

The balloting for baseball's annual All-Star Game constantly fuels fans and the media alike with controversy about the selection process, and the many deserving players who are left off the roster of both the American League and National League teams. 
This year is no exception.

In the American League , New York Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira has received over 1.2 million votes...for a guy hitting just .229, with 9 HR's and 39 RBI's. 

Now, Teixeira isn't the vote leader at first, the Minnesota Twins Justin Morneau, who has over 1.4 million votes is the leader.

Now, Morneau is having a good year, leading the American League with a .350 batting average , with 13 long balls and 39 RBI's, but the man who's 3rd in the voting, the Detroit Tigers Miguel Cabrera, who has received a little over 1 million votes, is having an MVP season. 

Cabrera has walloped 19 homers, #1 in the league, he has 56 RBI's, #1 in the league, and Cabrera is third in the American league with a .330 batting average, trailing only Morneau, and KC Royal Billy Butler.

In the Senior Circut, the Florida Marlins Hanley Ramirez is the leader, but the second spot belongs to the Philadelphia Phillies Jimmy Rollins, who has played in only 12 games, but has received over 992,000 votes.

The Rollins vote totals are what frustrate many, including myself. if a guy is hurt, and is not playing, his vote totals should be deleted until he's healthy.

Give players a week, max, and then the vote total is done.

I have a procedure to voting...
First, I will only vote a few times a week, allowing player who have a slow start to the season heat up. That allows a guy who was only hitting .200 in early May, but gets hot in mid June, to receive some of my votes that he deserves.

Second, I will not vote for a guy who spends a long time either on the bench, or on the Disabled List. If you don't play, you won't get any of my votes.

Third, I will not stuff the ballot box for every player on my favorite team, the Detroit Tigers. I will vote for player son the Tigers who deserve votes if they are playing well. In early May I voted for Tigers rookie center fielder Austin Jackson...he was the A.L. Rookie of the Month for April...and I have voted for Miguel Cabrera all 25 times...look @ his numbers and tell me why he shouldn't be the starter in Anaheim.

And lastly, I will not vote for admitted steroid users...sorry A-Rod fans, I voted for Alex Rodriguez when he was bombing away in the 1990's and into the 2000's, so he should be grateful that he got those votes from me.

Here's a sample of a ballot that I submitted for the 2010 All-Star Game

American League

C...Joe Mauer, Twins                                                           
1B...Miguel Cabrera, Tigers
2B...Robinson Cano, Yankees
3B...Michael Young, Rangers
SS...Derek Jeter, Yankees
OF...Ichiro Susuki, Mariners
         Scott Posednik, Royals
         Vernon Wells, Blue Jays

Write In...Brennan Boesch, Tigers

National League

C...Pudge Rodriguez, Nationals
1B...Albert Pujols, Cardinals
2B...Martin Prado, Braves
3B...Placido Polanco
SS...Hanley Ramirez
OF...Jason Heyward, Braves
         Andre Ethier, Dodgers
         Ryan Braun, Brewers

OK, there's a sample of the players that I've voted for among the 25 ballots that I was allowed to on line. I also voted at the ballpark a few times, and hope to get back to fill out some more.
If you've voted for the All-Star team, please let me know who you voted for, and how you vote.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Off to the Big Leagues

Mike Stanton left the friendly confines of The Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville to head up to the big leagues, and a starting outfield job with the Florida Marlins last weekend, and pitchers who toil daily in the Southern League couldn't be happier.

 The Jacksonville Suns right fielder was terrorizing pitchers in the S.L. this year, including a league leading 21 home runs, 52 RBIs. a slugging percentage of .726, and 138 total bases...in just 52 games.

Since I arrived in Jacksonville, I've witnessed a lot of great ball players go on to the majors from the Suns, including Andres Galaragga, Larry Walker, Marquis Grissom, Juan Encarnacion, Gabe Kapler, Shane Victorino, Matt Kemp, and James Loney, but Stanton just might be the best power hitter who ever laced up a pair of cleats for the Suns in 30 years...not the best ever, that would be Henry Aaron, who played here in 1952 for the then Jacksonville Braves of the South Atlantic League, but certainly the best of any Suns player I've had the pleasure to follow.

Amongst all the publicity of the big league debut of the Washington Nationals pitching phenom Steven Strasburg, who was everything the Nats wanted, and more, the Marlins call-up of Stanton was put on the back of the sports pages, but that's just what the Marlins, and Stanton wanted, just get the kid up here and let hem play.

This kid will hit in the big leagues, and the Marlins were wise to let Stanton start the year in the Suns outfield while he honed his skills, being careful not to rush the young man to fast. 

Stanton didn't disappoint, crushing Southern League pitchers every night, and filling the stands at the Baseball Grounds with baseball fans of all ages making sure they get a look at a big league ball player in the making.

If your reading the list and you live here in Jacksonville, I hope you made it out to see a Suns game before Stanton was called up, but, in case you missed him, I suggest you find the Marlins schedule and go to a game...maybe this weekend when they play the Rays in St. Pete, or find a way down to Miami, however you get there, just get there, because this kid can play.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

My favorite players from all 30 Big League teams...Vol. #4...Tampa Bay Rays

Looking at my favorite players from big league clubs...here's the list so far...

Baltimore Orioles...Brooks Robinson
Boston Red Sox...Fred Lynn
New York Yankees...Derek Jeter

Today...Rocco Baldelli, Tampa Bay Rays

OK, I had to think about this one, but not for long. 

One problem was the fact that 2010 is only the 13th season for the Rays, and most of the Rays players that came to mind...Jose Canseco...he won't make any of my teams...or Wade Boggs, Greg Vaughn, Fred McGriff, Miguel Cairo, or Tino Martinez, were guys who came to the Rays for a short period of time, either at the end of their careers, like Canseco, or like Cairo, at the start. To me, a player has to mean something to a team, be a intregal part of a franchise, and to me, Rocco Baldelli is Mr. Tampa Bay Ray.


Rocco, now that's a name that stays with you...Rocco...as in Baldelli, and in my mind the best player the Devil Rays ever had, but because of a series of injuries, really never fulfilled his promise, but boy did he ever try.

Rocco Baldelli played center field, and boy was he ever good. He could run in the outfield, on the bases, he could hit, and he played an all or nothing style, sort of like my guy Freddy Lynn, who is one of my fave outfield guys ever, and my favorite BoSox player ever.

Baldelli played in 156 games as a rookie for the Rays in 2003, batting .289, with 11 homers, and 78 RBI, and then in 2004 Rocco hit .280, with 16 HR's, and 74 RBI's...this time in just 136 games.

The future looked bright for Baldelli and the Rays, until Rocco tore his ACL in the 2005 off season while playing baseball with his brother, and then while rehabbing he hurt his elbow, underwent Tommy John surgery, and was out until June 2006...but when he came back, he came back as healthy as ever, hitting .302, with 16 HR's, with 57 RBI's, and 57 runs scored...in just 364 at bats...Rocco was back.

In 2007, Baldelli hurt his hamstring, and as the injury lingered, he appeared in only 35 games. Doctors later discovered that Baldelli suffered from mitochondrial disease, a neuromuscular disease. Baldelli would miss the rest of 2007, and most of 2008, returning in time to help the Rays win the American League pennant, and to play in the World Series.

Rocco won the 2008 Tony Conigliaro Award, given out for "...to overcome adversity...spirit, determination, and courage."

Rocco played sparingly for the Boston Red Sox in 2009, batting .253, with 7 home runs and 23 RBI.

Today Rocco has returned to the Rays as a special assistant, helping the Rays young players, and still hoping for a return to the game he loves.

I hope Rocco gets back into baseball as a player, he was, and still is, a great representative for our National Game, and the Rays organization.

So, here's a cheer to my favorite Tampa Bay Ray of All-Time, Rocco Baldelli..."The Woonsocket Rocket."

Monday, June 7, 2010

Honoring John Wooden, UCLA baseball style

Every time you hear one of John Wooden's ex-players talk about their coach, the last thing that talk about is basketball...first they talk about John Wooden the man, and how the ex-UCLA coach made them men first, and basketball players later.

In honor of perhaps the greatest teacher of young student athletes in the past 50 years, we look at some of the men of UCLA baseball...form Westwood to the Big Leagues...

Marv Gudat...1924-28...the first Bruin player to make it to the Big Leagues, in 1929, with the Cincinnati Reds, were he was 1-1, with a 3.37 era

Jack Roosevelt Robinson...1940...easily the most famous Bruin baseball player of All-Time, Robinson broke the color barrier with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947, becoming the first African-American to play in the majors in baseball's modern era, debuting on April 15th. In 10 big league seasons with the Dodgers Jackie Robinson batted .311, with 137 HR's, 734 rbi. Jackie won the 1947 Rookie of the Year, won the 1949 N.L. MVP Award, and was a member of the Dodgers World Series championship team in 1955.

Dr. Bobby Brown...1944...the former American League President won 4 World Series titles with the New York Yankees, in 1947, 49, 50, 51. 

Chris Chambliss...1969...Chambliss made his debut in the majors with the Cleveland Indians in 1971, and was the first baseman for 2 World Series New York Yankee teams in 1977, 78.

Don Slaught...1977, 79,80...a terrific defensive catcher with the Kansas City Royals, Texas Rangers, New York Yankees, Pittsburgh Pirates, California Angels, Chicago White Sox, and San Diego Padres.

Mike Gallego...1979-81... a good second baseman, Gallego played on the 1990 World Series Champion Oakland A's.

Todd Zeile...1984-85-86...in 16 years Zeile played in 2,151 games at catcher, first base, 3rd base, left field, and two games as a pitcher, for the Colorado Rockies in 2002, and the Mets in 2004.

Jeff Conine...1985-86-87..."Mr. Marlin"...was the nickname given to Conine by the fans of the Florida Marlins, where Conine was loved by fans of south Florida. Conine was a member of both Marlin World Series teams, in 1997, and 2003.

Eric Karros...1986-88...Karros was the N.L. Rookie of the Year in 1992 with the Los Angeles Dodgers, Karros played 12 of his 14 big league season with the Dodgers.

Troy Glaus...1995-96-97...in 12 big league seasons, Glaus has 1,276 hits, and was a member of the 2002 World Series Champion Anaheim Angels.

Chase Utley...1999-2000..a member of the 2008 World Champion Philadelphia Phillies, Utley has 161 home runs and 585 rbi in 7 big league seasons.
So, there are just a few UCLA Bruins that have made it to the Big Leagues...pretty darn good isn't it...I'm sure Coach Wooden would agree.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Galarraga still not Perfect

Major League Baseball announced today that Commissioner Bud Selig won't overturn umpire Jim Joyce's call that cost Detroit Tigers pitcher Armando Galaragga the first Perfect Game in Tigers history on Wednesday night.

In a statement released this afternoon, Selig said "Why the human element has always been an integral part of baseball, it is vital that mistakes on the field be addressed."

Selig went on to say "Given last night's call, and other recent events, I will examine our umpiring system, the expanded use of instant replay and all other related features."

Before today's game against the Indians Galaragga brought out the line up card to a very emotional Joyce, who apologized publicly for denying the historic moment for Galaragga.

Selig praised the entire Tigers organization for the way they handled the controversy, saying "The dignity and class of the Detroit Tigers...under such circumstances...embodied good sportsmanship of the highest order."

The Commissioner also had high praise for Joyce, saying " I applaud the courage of umpire Jim Joyce to address this unfortunate situation honestly and directly."

Farewell to "The Kid"

Ken Griffey, Jr., the owner of the smoothest swing in baseball history, retired Wednesday, ending a Hall of Fame career of one of the nicest players to ever don a big league uniform.

Forget all the numbers, the 630 career home runs, 5th most All-Time in the big leagues, or the 1.800+ RBIs,  10 Gold Gloves, or that MVP Award in 1997.

No, for me, what Ken Griffey Jr. should be remembered for is the way he played the game, the way it should be played, just like we played in the sandlots of our hometowns, the way Al Kaline, Stan Musial, Joe DiMaggio, and Willie Mays played.

Just like a kid, there was always that big, beaming smile, from ear to ear, Griffey was always smiling,  smiling after making one of his spectacular catches in center field, smiling after scoring the winning run from first base in that 1995 playoff game against the Yankees, smiling when a teammate made a big play, or got a big hit...he was always smiling.

Baseball is a game for kids, and Ken Griffey always played that way, just like a big kid, never growing up, just playing one long, continuous baseball game, just taking long enough to run back home so your Mom could make you lunch before you ran back to that make shift diamond that you and your friends made out of a bunch of dirt and over grown grass.

I always felt sorry for Ken Griffey, Jr. I felt that way because baseball has not taken care of "The Kid," or the countless other players who have given their all every single day for the past 15 years, or so, only to have fans, and the media, wonder of what they were doing was legitimate, or was it because of some pharmaceuticals that you had taken.

Because of the steroid era, players like Griffey have not been given the credit they are due...just because other players have been accused, or have been found to have violated baseball's drug policy. Because of Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Barry Bonds, Alex Rodriguez, and Raphael Palmeiro, the 630 round trippers hit by Griffey have come almost as an after-thought, and that's the shame of it, the shame of baseball.

So, it's so long, and farewell to "The Kid," who loved to play America's National Pastime, and who played with the energy, the excitement, and the jubilation of that kid inside, a kid who never wanted to grow up.


"I really thought he beat the throw."

People who don't follow sports just don't get it, they don't understand the passion, and what sports means to us. Maybe if they watched the end of the Cleveland Indians-Detroit Tigers game tonight then they'd understand why we wear our passion on our sleeves.

Human being makes mistakes every day, but when they happen in sports, there's nowhere to hide, just ask 23 year veteran umpire Jim Joyce, who kept a man from reaching perfection, baseball history, in Detroit, Michigan.

In the history of big league baseball 20 men have taken the mound in the first inning, and then left it after not allowing any of those 27 men to reach base safely...27 up, 27 down...perfection.

Armando Gallagara grasped the baseball in his glove, touched first base with his left foot, a 1/2 step or so before the base runner reached the bag, then started holding the baseball up for the umpire to see it in his glove, smiling as he waited for that out call...out number 27...waiting for perfection, 27 up, 27 down...but the call would not come.

Umpire Jim Joyce called the Cleveland Indians runner safe, even though he was clearly out, and what should have been the first Perfect Game in Detroit Tigers history, and the 21st in big league history, was turned into one of the worst blown calls in the history of baseball.

When Indians shortstop Jason Donald passed first base he spun around, put his hands on his helment, and then looked at his first base coach in utter disbelief...even he knew he was out.

Gallaraga, in the single greatest show of sportsmanship I've ever seen, just looked toward Joyce, smiling, not saying a word...not a single word.

The same couldn't be said for his manager, Jim Leyland, however, who bolted out of the dugout to protest the call, even though he knew he couldn't get the call reversed...that's not why he went out there...he went out there to back up his team, and his pitcher, who should have...heck, he was...perfect...27 up, 27 down, and even though Gallaraga retired the next hitter...28 up, 28 down...to preserve a much needed victory, 3-0, Tigers fans at the ball park, and all over the country were hopping mad, and they should be. 

As Tigers color commentator Jim Price said after the game, every single fan in attendance at Comerica Park, every fan watching, or listening on the radio, they were all  robbed...robbed of being at a special place, at a special time...they were robbed of watching a Tiger ballplayer achieve big league baseball history.

After the game Joyce asked a Tigers employee to cue up the video tape...remember, he thought the runner had beaten the throw to first...then, in the second most remarkable show of sportsmanship I've ever seen, Joyce admitted that he blew the call. "I took a perfect game away from that kid who pitched a perfect game," Joyce said. "I'm sorry, I had a great angle, and I missed the call."

Human beings make mistakes, and one asks for forgiveness for those mistakes, and after pacing back and forth in the umpires room, trying to make sense of what he had done, the 23 year veteran umpire broke down as he headed for the shower. 

Upon hearing about what was going on with Joyce, Leyland, who had ripped into the man just a short while earlier,  went into the umpires room and consoled Joyce, and then,  after all the dust had settled, Joyce sought out Gallaraga to apologize to the young man, to tell him how sorry he was. 

Forgiveness for our mistakes is often not deserved, nor given, but on a night of near...of perfection...the one person who had every right to be upset, the one person who had every right not to forgive...did just that...Armando Gallaraga forgave Jim Joyce, just as we all should....after all, we're not all perfect, except Armando Gallaraga that is, he was perfect tonight...27 up, 27 down...perfection...no matter what the official stats will show.