Sunday, June 1, 2014

A Full Weekend

Yesterday, I competed in the California Affiliate League co-ed partner competition with several other teams from our box, CrossFit Synapse. Today, I caught nine full innings while wearing former Red Sox/Rays/Indians/Mets/Mariners catcher Kelly Shoppach’s old gear.

My amazing partner and I finished thirteenth out of 58 teams in the intermediate division. It was a pretty good showing for my first out-of-box competition and her first in a year. The most satisfying part was representing my CrossFit family and competing against/with dozens of tremendously fit and dedicated athletes from across Southern California.

Despite pushing myself through three WoDs yesterday, I was not dreading the thought of catching today. The legs were strong and lively. More importantly, the arm was feeling good and got stronger as the game progressed (frickin’ laser beams!). I had good at-bats too, putting the ball in play on good swings in my three plate appearances (I just need one to drop in for a hit).

Tomorrow, another WoD awaits.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

The Highlander

Eleven years ago, after a four year hiatus, I returned to playing organized baseball. At the time I said I would keep playing at least until Julio Franco retired. With his signing to manage and play for the independent Fort Worth Cats, the now 55-year old seemingly immortal Julio Franco is back.

And so am I.

I’ll be playing third base for the LA Rockhounds (LABL.org) this afternoon.

Baseball is ageless.

Photo Credits:
Top Left: by Tony Tomsic/SI
Top Right: by AP Photo
Bottom Left: by USA Today Sports Images
Bottom Right: by Damian Strohmeyer/SI

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Rays Rotation

Ladies and gentlemen, per manager Joe Maddon, as of today here is your 2014 Tampa Bay Rays opening day starting rotation.

Photo Credits:
Top Left: Alex Cobb, by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images
Top Right: Matt Moore, by Jim Rogash/Getty Images
Middle: David Price, by Ronald Martinez
/Getty Images
Bottom Left: Chris Archer, by J. Meric
/Getty Images
Bottom Right: Jake Odorizzi,by Leon Halip
/Getty Images

Saturday, January 4, 2014
Unhittable
This is a color-enhanced GIF of an RA Dickey knuckleball in flight created by a Reddit user (click here for a larger version).
Hat tip to Baseball Nation (part of SB Nation).

Unhittable

This is a color-enhanced GIF of an RA Dickey knuckleball in flight created by a Reddit user (click here for a larger version).

Hat tip to Baseball Nation (part of SB Nation).

Monday, November 11, 2013

My Rookies of the Year

Not that I have a vote, but if I did they would go to Wil Myers of the Tampa Bay Rays and Jose Fernandez of the Miami Marlins for the 2013 AL and NL Rookie of the Year award.

The choice of Myers over American League finalists Chris Archer and Jose Iglesias was an easy one for me. Myers came into the season as the highly touted 2012 Minor League Player of the Year and with all the expectations that came with that recognition. All he did was live up to those expectations, posting a .293/.354/.478 slash line with 13 home runs and 53 RBI in 373 plate appearances over 88 games. His WAR (Fangraphs version) of 2.4 also bested Archer’s 1.2 and Iglesias’ 1.8.

The National League race though was much closer for me. You couldn’t take your eyes off the Dodgers Yasiel Puig whether he was at bat, on the basepaths or in the field. However I decided to give the nod to Fernandez, who held opposing hitters to a league best .182 batting average against and a league low .265 slugging percentage against. His 2.19 ERA also trails only the two-time defending (and likely 2013) NL Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw. Want more? His 0.98 WHIP finished behind only Kershaw (0.92) and Mets phenom Matt Harvey (0.93). For what its worth, Fernandez’s 4.2 Fangraphs WAR also bested Puig’s 4.0 and Miller’s 2.1.

Photo Credits:
Left: Wil Myers, photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images
Right: Jose Fernandez, photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Wow.

That was Rangers closer Joe Nathan’s reaction on the strike three call by home plate umpire Marty Foster last night. Foster’s dubious call gave Nathan his 300th career save.

Insert references to Eric Gregg and Angel Hernandez here.

Friday, January 4, 2013

200 Words on Fred McGriff

I was invited to participate in a project by Graham Womack of BaseballPastandPresent.com, called “The 50 Best Baseball Players Not in the Hall of Fame.”  My assignment was 200 words on Fred McGriff (After a few drafts, I managed to hit 200 words on the button). The amazing roster of contributors includes Dan Szymborski of ESPN, Cliff Corcoran of Sports Illustrated, Rolling Stone columnist Dan Epstein, former Dodgers General Manager Dan Evans and a bevy of talented writers and baseball minds. The project was published January 2, 2013.

I have a byline!

Thank you Graham for the invitation. I had a lot of fun and I look forward to next year’s voting.

Here is my contribution on Fred McGriff, who finished tied for 26th in this year’s voting.

When he retired in 2004, I thought Fred McGriff was a pretty solid bet to gain eventual enshrinement in the Hall of Fame. His overall mark of 493 home runs ties him with the immortal Lou Gehrig at tenth currently all-time for first basemen (Pujols should pass them both sometime in 2013.) His 2,239 games played as a first basemen place him third all time. In his fifteen seasons as a full-time player from 1988 to 2002, his 458 home runs, 1460 RBI, 2329 hits and 59.5 fWAR rank third, second, third and fifth respectively among first basemen. A five-time All-Star, McGriff was somehow not named an All-Star in 1989 and 1993, seasons in which he later won the Silver Slugger award. McGriff also won the Silver Slugger award in 1992. Though he never won an MVP award, McGriff did finish in the top ten of the voting six times.

At this time though, McGriff seems more likely to be inducted into the infomercial hall of fame than into Cooperstown. The time capsule that was his television commercial endorsement of a baseball instructional video set first aired in 1991 and aired over 100,000 more times unchanged as recently as 2006.

Photo Credits:
Top Left, photo by John Bazemore, AP
Top Right, photo by James Escher
Middle Left, photo by Juan Ocampo/Dodgers
Bottom Left, screencap by PitchersandPoets
Bottom Right, photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images 

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

If I Had a Vote (Part Three)

AL Cy Young: David Price (Rays)

The award could go to any of the finalists (Price, Verlander and Weaver) and I would have no problem with it. It really is a tossup for me. Some were previously advocating Fernando Rodney before the finalists were announced. He had an outstanding season as well, but I would be hard pressed to give the award to a reliever given the respective seasons that Price, Verlander and Weaver had. So, why Price? Well, I predicted he would win the award in my preseason picks. He also led the AL in wins (tied with Weaver at 20), winning percentage (again tied with Weaver), and ERA. It’s hard to pick anyone over Verlander though, who led the AL in WAR, strikeouts, innings pitched, complete games and adjusted ERA+ while receiving the fourth lowest run support. Can I change my vote?

NL Cy Young: RA Dickey (Mets)

Last year’s NL Cy Young Award winner, Clayton Kershaw, had another outstanding season this year, leading the NL in WAR, ERA, and WHIP. My vote though goes to knuckleballer RA Dickey, who led the NL in strikeouts, innings pitched, complete games and shutouts, while also finishing second in wins and ERA. He also finished third in WHIP, mere percentage points behind Kershaw and Matt Cain.

Photo Credits:
David Price, by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images
RA Dickey, photo by Kevin C Cox/Getty Images 

Monday, May 21, 2012
Pirate Drew, We Hardly Knew Ye
Today, less than 24 hours after being traded by the Braves to the Pirates for cash considerations, Drew Sutton was acquired by the Rays for the proverbial player to be named later. The switch-hitting Sutton, who has experience at all infield positions, had hit .267/.373/.363 in 37 games for the AAA Gwinnett Braves this season. He has a .258/.322/.403 slash line in 178 major league plate appearances with the Reds, Red Sox and Indians. Sutton will join the Rays in Tampa for tonight’s game against the Blue Jays.

Pirate Drew, We Hardly Knew Ye

Today, less than 24 hours after being traded by the Braves to the Pirates for cash considerations, Drew Sutton was acquired by the Rays for the proverbial player to be named later. The switch-hitting Sutton, who has experience at all infield positions, had hit .267/.373/.363 in 37 games for the AAA Gwinnett Braves this season. He has a .258/.322/.403 slash line in 178 major league plate appearances with the Reds, Red Sox and Indians. Sutton will join the Rays in Tampa for tonight’s game against the Blue Jays.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Time Capsule

In 2004, The Aviator starring Leonado DiCaprio as Howard Hughes won the Oscar for Best Picture. In 2004, the top song according to Billboard Magazine was Yeah! by Lil’ Jon, Usher and Ludacris. In 2004, President George W. Bush was named Time Magazine’s Person of the Year. In 2004, Justin Timberlake “inadvertently” flashed Janet Jackson’s full breast during a live broadcast of the Super Bowl Halftime Show. And on April 20, 2004, then 25-year old outfielder Rich Thompson made his first major league plate appearance as a pinch-hitter for the Kansas City Royals in a 15-5 blowout win over the Cleveland Indians. He grounded into a double play against catcher Tim Laker who pitched a scoreless top of the ninth inning.

Last night, now 33-year old Rich Thompson made his first MLB start as the Tampa Bay Rays left fielder.  In the bottom of the third inning, 8 years and 25 days after his last MLB at-bat, Thompson made his second MLB at-bat.

He struck out. Looking.

But…

… in his next plate appearance, he grounded a ball up the middle for his first hit and his first RBI as Sean Rodriguez scored on the play. He would go on to steal second base and then later third as well.

Thompson had been playing the past five seasons for the Philadelphia Phillies AAA affiliate, the Lehigh Valley IronPigs, where he is the franchise leader in games (468), hits (452) and stolen bases (134). In 29 games this season, he had hit .307 with 11 RBI and 7 stolen bases. The IronPigs manager, Hall-of-Famer Ryne Sandberg, had this to say of Thompson in a recent article by Philly.com, “He’s a guy you pull for. I pull for him as much as anyone, just for him to have that chance (to return to the majors).”

This past Wednesday, the Rays, beset by injuries to outfielders Sam Fuld, Brandon Guyer and Desmond Jennings, traded 25-year old minor league outfielder Kyle Hudson to Philadelphia for Thompson and immediately added Thompson to their 25-man roster. Sandberg himself told Thompson the news.

This documentary by tv2sports.com follows a day in the life of Rich Thompson - father, husband and professional baseball player.

I love what I do, and I feel very fortunate for the things afforded to me because of what I do, but being a professional baseball player has to be the coolest job ever.

Photos by Kim Klement, US PRESSWIRE