Spring is right around the corner and baseball games are being played, sort of. The Indians first intrasquad game of spring camp was held Wednesday in Goodyear. Indians third base coach Steve Smith and Clippers manager Mike Sarbaugh picked teams to manage, which has become annual tradition in the desert. This year Smitty’s squad defeated the fightin’ Sarbys 1-0 in a four inning game.
(photo courtesy of the Indians Twitter account)
The only run came in the first inning; a Jose Lopez single scored Carlos Santana. Chris Seddon took the loss. Seddon, Frank Herrmann, Jeremy Accardo, Tyler Sturdevant, Josh Tomlin, Robinson Tejeda, Nick Hagadone, and CC Lee each pitched one inning.
The Tribe will open the Cactus League schedule on Saturday at 3:05pm (eastern) against the Reds.
It’s the most wonderful time of the year. The baseball season is off the ground, the NBA and NHL seasons are past the mid-way point and entering the “stretch run”, college hoops is ready for the Madness, and (for you motor heads) the NASCAR season is underway.
When I’m not standing behind a batting cage I’m a basketball junkie, so I’ll be touring the NCAA Tournament landscape over the next few weeks. My broadcasting stops include Lexington, KY for the opening rounds of the Division III Tournament, the “First Four” games in Dayton, the NCAA first and second rounds at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, and even a stop at the Division II Championship at Northern Kentucky University. Don’t be jealous.
Immediately after I finish my hoops duties, Ryan and I will be leaving on a jet plane for Arizona to get a firsthand look at this year’s Clippers squad. There are some neat things in store at Huntington Park this year, so stay tuned for all the details.
RHP Austin Adams, a candidate for the Clippers rotation, has been shut down from all baseball activities. He’s suffering from a sore right-shoulder and is expected to be re-evaluated next week. Adams, 25, was 11-10 with a 3.77 ERA in 26 Double-A starts last season.
The bd’s Mongolian Stir-Fry Sluggers are back! Kids ages 5 to 12 can register to run onto the field with the Clippers before a select Sunday game at Huntington Park. Prizes include an autographed baseball, t-shirt, coupons to bd’s Mongolian Grill, and more! Click here to see the form.
If you’re REALLY craving some Clippers baseball, check out the MILB.TV page and watch the archived broadcasts from last season’s championship run. The 2012 broadcast plans will be released soon, but rest assured that every game will be broadcast on MILB.TV!
LHP David Huff has been named the Indians “Opening Day” starter for the first Cactus League game on Saturday. Huff is competing with Jeanmar Gomez, Zach McAllister, and Kevin Slowely for the fifth spot in the Tribe’s rotation. The three that don’t win the job will probably start in Columbus.
The Indians are planning to release an update on Grady Sizemore’s injured back on Thursday.
That’s all for now!
With warm temperatures this week and baseball news on every website, it’s beginning to feel like baseball season is here, despite what the calendar says. I keep waiting for Mother Nature to shout, “Fooled you!” and drop a foot and a half of ice and snow over Ohio, but I’m keeping my fingers crossed.
First and foremost, if you haven’t yet, you should “like” the Clippers Cargo Shop Facebook page. You can check out the latest and greatest merchandise Krista Oberlander has procured by months of scouring the world of sports apparel and memorabilia, and you may just win a prize while you’re at it.
Those who follow minor league baseball are likely aware that the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees are a team without a real home for the 2012 season while PNC Field is slated to undergo major renovations. There is recent news out of the Electric City that doesn’t make it sound like the efforts are going as smoothly as the Yankees, the IL and Lakawanna County would like. Hopefully things can get finalized in the near future to avoid any serious long-tern ramifications.
Here is a neat story out of Pirates Spring Training. New Bucco A.J. Burnett has worn #34 his whole career, but young Daniel McCutcheon currently had claim to the number when Burnett was traded to Pittsburgh. As often happens, a new player will “buy” a number from the current owner. Cash, gifts, home renovations have all taken place, but soon-to-be-father McCutcheon got creative. He asked Burnett for a college education for his unborn baby girl. Burnett will set up a 529 education investment account for the Baby To Be Named Later.
In case you didn’t hear, Sizemore is out for the season with a torn ACL. Scott Sizemore, former Toledo mudhen and current of the Oakland A’s second baseman injured his left knee just two hours into the first team workout Saturday in Phoenix. Sorry if there was any confusion there.
Finally our buddy Tony Lastoria’s yearly Indians Prospect Insider book is finished and available to order. Check it out here.
So Grady Sizemore is out for the whole of Spring Training. Now Closer Chris Perez is on the shelf for 4-6 weeks with an oblique strain. Sizemore’s injury is a shame, if you were surprised, you haven’t been paying attention.
The major difference between the effect of the two injuries is that thought the Tribe was hoping for a rebound from Sizemore to help them make a run at the play-offs, they were COUNTING on a healthy Perez to anchor wheat is supposed to be a very good bullpen.
Perez’ injury is not one that is expected to keep him down for much or (cross fingers) any of the regular season, but if it puts him well behind schedule for his preparation to be ready to go full bore, then Manny Acta might be forced to utilize his bullpen in ways that don’t necessarily maximize players’ abilities. Can Vinnie Pestano close games? Clippers fans know the answer to that, but the dominoes might put people in situations they aren’t best equipt to handle.
In other injury news, former flame-throwing national sensation Joel Zumaya wrecked his elbow just a dozen pitches into his first live bullpen session with his new club the Minnesota Twins. He is out for the season with a torn UCL in his right elbow. Zumaya looked good in off season workouts in front of several teams and the Twins locked him up to a one-year deal for a base salary of $850K plus many lucrative incentives. Minnesota is on the hook for $200K if they cut Zumaya due to injury, but that’s better than what they would have to pay him to sit on the DL for the season.
As the action heats up in the desert, so will the news, so check back often!
Grady Sizemore suffered a back strain in Arizona a couple weeks ago while rehabbing his surgically repaired right knee. It is unlikely he’ll be ready for Opening Day on April 5th.
When the Indians sent Sizemore into free agency this offseason, some thought his days in the Tribe were over. Then Cleveland re-signed him at the discounted rate of $5 million (his option was for $9 million), giving the club a chance to possibly save a little cash (there are $4 million in performance incentives bonuses) and Sizemore a chance to re-prove himself for a larger deal in 2013. Now, the three-time All Star finds himself back in the training room instead of the outfield.
With Sizemore on the shelf, the Indians are looking at several options. Michael Brantley could move from left to center for the time being. Brantley, a center fielder in the minors, wowed Clippers fans while patrolling that spot at Huntington Park. That would leave Shelley Duncan to get more time in left and possibly Ezequiel Carrera to provide back-up for both.
This could also open the door for Aaron Cunningham to make the team. He would likely be an alternative at the corner spots, but has played a little in center also. Cleveland acquired Cunningham in December for reliever Cory Burns.
How does this affect the Clippers?
The Sizemore injury probably doesn’t change the outfield landscape too much for Mike Sarbaugh. It was likely the Indians were already going to carry five outfielders and with plenty of depth, there will be several capable bodies to contribute in Triple-A.
Trevor Crowe is not on the 40-man roster, but could get more attention in camp now. He spent all of last season on the disabled list after undergoing right shoulder surgery. He could be the Clippers starter in center.
Thomas Neal and Chad Huffman are both still likely to start with Columbus. Both will be entering their sophomore seasons in the organization. Neal, a member of the 40-man, was acquired July 30th for Orlando Cabrera. Huffman, not on the 40-man, was claimed off waivers from the Yankees at the end of the 2010 season.
Russ Canzler will be front and center in the Clippers lineup if he doesn’t make the major league club. He was acquired from Tampa this winter. The reining International League MVP played mostly the corner infield spots in April and May, but almost exclusively in the outfield during the second half of the season.
The “wild card” options include Felix Pie, Fred Lewis, and Ryan Spilborghs, all of which inked free agent minor league deals and will be vying for a spot in Cleveland. It’s too early to say whether they will land in Columbus. Pie is the least likely because of a clause that allows him to opt out of his contract if he’s not on the Indians Opening Day roster. Fred Lewis has the same opt-out option if he’s not in Cleveland by June 1st. Spilborghs will reportedly make $1 million if he’s on Cleveland’s roster and could be an insurance policy for more injuries down the road.
The Clippers may see the return of Tim Fedroff and Nick Weglarz to Huntington Park. Fedroff played 62 Triple-A games in left or center last season and hit in one of the top two spots in the order. Weglarz damaged a ligament in his right thumb diving for a ball during the Clippers 2010 championship run, it required surgery. He missed the first two months last season after a bout with back spasms. He spent the entire season in Double-A. Weglarz is still considered a prospect, but 2012 is a crucial year and he’ll need to reach Columbus and be productive.
To quote former Clippers manager Torey Lovullo after his 2009 team came close to setting a single-game franchise stolen bases record, “I wouldn’t call it a free-for-all.”
Maybe, but I’d say it’s close.
Have a great week!
The 2012 International League season could be deemed “The Year of the Shortstop” because of the surplus of IL talent at that position. The Clippers are ticketed to have Juan Diaz at short, but the signing of Cristian Guzman should add some depth at that position for the Tribe. Elsewhere, shortstop Tyler Pastornicky is probably headed right to Atlanta after a small sample in Gwinnett and Tampa’s top shortstop prospect Huk-Ju Lee may get a little more seasoning in Double-A instead of suiting up for Durham. Even if Clippers fans don’t see those guys at Huntington Park this year, there are plenty of good young position players to keep an eye on.
Bryce Harper (OF) (19 years old) – Syracuse Chiefs (Nationals)
He’s considered the top prospect in all of baseball and will either start in Double-A or Triple-A. There is a pretty good bet that at some point in 2012, he’ll wear the Syracuse uniform. Harper signed for $9.9 million in 2010 as the first overall selection. He played 72 games in Low-A before jumping straight to Double-A in the second half of the season. Harper is considered to have the best of everything: arm strength, power, bat speed, etc. He bats left-handed, but throws right and can play all three outfield spots. He is a better than average base runner as well. Syracuse visits Huntington Park from May 15-18 and if Harper is in the lineup, there will be a buzz about his arrival.
Tim Beckham (SS) (22 years old) – Durham Bulls (Rays)
Beckham was the #1 overall pick out of Griffin High School (GA) in the 2008 draft. He signed for a Rays record $6.1 million and has been under the microscope ever since. The right-handed hitting infielder is coming off a season in which he tied a career best 12 HRs and compiled 70 RBIs between Double-A and Triple-A. He only played 24 games with the Bulls last year, batting .255 and his OBP dropped from .339 to .282 when he was promoted. Beckham hasn’t been the superstar that he was projected to be when drafted, but is considered to be one of the top prospects in the Rays system. The 2012 season will be crucial for his stock as a major league option in St. Petersburg.
Will Middlebrooks (3B) (23 years old) – Pawtucket Red Sox (Red Sox)
Middlebrooks is considered to be the top prospect in the Red Sox farm system and he lived up to the hype in 2011, hitting .302 with 18 HR, 80 RBI, with a .345 OBP in Double-A. He appeared in the futures game and was considered to be the top hitting prospect in the Eastern League. Middlebrooks made a cameo in Triple-A, playing 16 games, but went just 9-for-56 (.161) in the International League. The 6’4” right-hander was a fifth round pick out of Texarkana, TX in 2007 and is considered to be the future of Fenway at the hot corner.
Joe Benson (OF) (24 years old) – Rochester Red Wings (Twins)
Benson skipped over Triple-A last year, playing in 21 games with Minnesota after 400 AB in Double-A. He’s sitting behind Denard Span, Josh Willingham, Ben Revere, Rene Tosoni, and Trevor Plouffe on the Twins depth chart so it looks like he’ll get his first taste of Triple-A in April. Benson, a second round pick in 2006, has survived his share of injuries to post a .265 career average and a .359 OB. He’s arm and range in the outfield will keep him on the short list for a call-up, but he’ll need to hit in Rochester to stay on the radar.
Brian Dozier (SS) (24 years old) – Rochester Red Wings (Twins)
Dozier is the reigning Twins Minor League Player of the Year and will make his Triple-A debut this season. He led the Twins system with a .399 OBP and 24 stolen bases, batting .318 in 78 games in the Eastern League. Dozier, a 2009 draft pick (8th round), was a collegiate star at Southern Miss. He will hit near the top of the
Red Wings lineup.
Starling Marte (OF) (23 years old) – Indianapolis Indians (Pirates)
Marte won the Eastern League batting title last season, hitting .332, and was rewarded with a spot on the Pirates 40-man roster. He has all the tools, from a great arm to tremendous range in center field, he’ll be challenged offensive and defensively by playing at Indy’s Victory Field, the league’s largest park. The Pirates are hoping Marte shows better plate discipline after daring only 22 walks and adds more power after he homered only 12 times in 536 ABs last season. It’s safe to say the Dominican Republican signee from 2007 will be an in Dean Treanor’s lineup almost every day.
Freddy Galvis (SS) (22 years old) – Lehigh Valley IronPigs (Phillies)
The Clippers got a sneak peek at Galvis during the Governors’ Cup playoffs, but they’ll see more of his this season. The Venezuelan infielder was signed by the Phillies at 16 years old and he’s now considered one of the five best players in their minor league system. He was named the Phillies Minor League Player of the Year in 2011 and his glove is as good as it gets. The switch-hitter stands only 5’9” and uses his compact strike zone to his advantage, posting a .326 OBP in Double-A. Ryne Sandberg’s job will be improving Galvis’ bunting skills and perfecting his ability to get on base.
Didi Gregorius (SS) (22 years old) – Louisville Bats (Reds)
With Zach Cozart moving up to Cincinnati, Gregorius could take the shortstop reins in Louisville. He signed in 2007 out of Curacao and helped the Dutch national team win the World Cup last year. The left-handed hitter reached Double-A last season for the first time, playing in 36 games. He is a career .273 hitter with excellent range and arm strength. Gregorius has no power and needs to get smoother with his glove, so it’s possible he is sent to Double-A for the early stages of the season.
Neftali Soto (1B) (23 years old) – Louisville Bats (Reds)
Soto has been on a roller-coaster ride since getting scooped up in the third round of the 2007 draft. He’s played four different positions, struggled defensively, and suffered a broken wrist last season. The good news for Soto is the trade of Yonder Alonso this offseason, which leaves one less player ahead of him on the depth chart. The 6’2”, 200lb. right-hander tied for the home run crown in the Southern League last season, smashing 30 bombs. He appeared in four games with Louisville at the end of the season, going 7-for-17 and he’ll be playing for manager David Bell for the second straight season since Bell was promoted from Double-A.
L.J. Hoes (OF) (22 years old) – Norfolk Tides (Orioles)
Hoes hit .305 over 95 games with Double-A Bowie last year and played LF, 2B, and 3B. He was a third round pick in 2008 and has slowly climbed the ladder despite a lack of offensive power. With only 16 HRs over four seasons, the outfield may not be the place Baltimore sees as Hoes’ future. He managed to steal 16 bases and generate a .379 OBP in Double-A, so it’ll be interesting to see where Tides skipper Ron Johnson placed him in the lineup and on the field.
Austin Romine (CA) (21 years old) – Scranton Wilkes-Barre Yankees (Yankees)
Romine was the big winner when Jesus Montero was dealt to Seattle over the offseason. He moves up quickly on a depth chart that also dropped Jorge Posada, who announced his retirement. Currently Francisco Cervelli is the only one standing in front of Romine as Russell Martin’s counterpart in the Bronx. He is considered to be a asset defensively, but needs to improve his caught stealing numbers. Romine lacks consistent offense, which will also be a point of focus with former catcher Dave Miley as his manager in Northeastern Pennsylvania.
Keep checking back for more previews of the 2012 season!
Cristian Guzman is in and Jon Garland is out. Actually, Garland was never in. The 32 year-old rehabbing right-hander had agreed to a minor league contract last week, but now has backed out after refusing to take a physical on Monday at the Tribe’s spring training facility in Goodyear. Garland was 1-5 in nine starts with the Dodgers last season before succumbing to a shoulder injury that forced surgery. The Indians were holding a locker spot for Garland, which is convenient because they’ll need one for Cristian Guzman.
Guzman signed Wednesday and will compete for a reserve infield spot with the major league club. The soon to be 34 year-old was on Manny Acta’s Washington Nationals teams and the two appear to have a good relationship. Guzman did not play last year because of a shoulder injury. He is a career .271 hitter over 11 MLB seasons with the Twins, Nationals, and Rangers. This is the third time in his career that Guzman has played in the same organization as the Clippers. He started in the Yankees system, recently Washington, and now Cleveland.
There are now 62 players in the Indians camp, 27 pitchers and 35 position players.
With Garland out of the fold, the Indians fifth starter spot (the only one up for grabs) will be decided between Kevin Slowey, Jeanmar Gomez, David Huff, and Zach McAllister. MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian has more on that competition, created by the arrest of Roberto Hernandez (the former Fausto Carmona).
Have a great day!
As we start to look ahead to the season, let’s take a look at some of the top pitching prospects that we may see at Huntington Park this year. These pitchers are not listed in any particular order, but all are considered the “best of the best” in their respective organizations. All of these pitchers seem to be headed to Triple-A this season.
Drew Smyly (LHP) (22 years old) – Detroit Tigers
Smyly signed in 2010 after the Tigers scooped him up in the 2nd round out of Arkansas. The former Razorbacks pitcher will battle with fellow youngsters Jacob Turner and Andy Oliver for the final spot in the Tigers rotation, with Turner looking like the favorite. Smyly combined 21 starts between High-A and Double-A and thoroughly dominated with a 2.07 ERA. His fastball, curve, slider, change-up repertoire already makes him a formidable opponent for hitters in the upper levels if the minors, despite having logged only one professional season. Mud Hens fans will enjoy watching Smyly and Oliver pitch at the top of the rotation, especially competing in the same division with the Clippers excellent young arms like Zach McAllister, Jeanmar Gomez, Scott Barnes, etc.
It’s worth noting that the Louisville Bats will be sans RHP Brad Boxberger, who would have been Cincinnati’s top pitching prospect, but he was traded in the deal that sent Mat Latos to the Reds for Yonder Alonso, Edinson Volquez, and Yasmani Grandal. That leaves the Reds without any upper level pitching prospects.
Kyle McPherson (RHP) (24 years old) – Indianapolis Indians (Pirates)
McPherson is the Pirates 14th round draft pick from 2007 and should be ready to get his feet wet in the International League after posting a 3.02 ERA in Double-A last season. He features a mid-90s fastball with a curve and change-up that he used to garner the Buccos Minor League Pitcher of the Year Award last season while leading the organization in strikeouts. McPherson should benefit from pitching at Victory Field, the largest ballpark in the league.
Matt Harvey (RHP) (22 years old) – Buffalo Bisons (Mets)
Harvey is on the fast track to the majors after the Mets selected him with the 7th overall pick in the 2010 draft. His first professional season was split between High-A and Double-A, where he combined for a 13-5 record with a 3.32 ERA. Harvey struck out 10.3 batters per nine innings and added a change-up to his arsenal of fastball, slider, and curve. He will be in the Bisons rotation, trying to improve his command and develop the change-up.
Jhan Marinez (RHP) (23 years old) – Charlotte Knights (White Sox)
Marinez has an interesting story to tell. He made his Major League debut on July 16, 2009 with the Marlins and pitched in four games that season. Since then, he hasn’t pitched above Double-A. Marinez was traded in the off-season to the White Sox as compensation for Ozzie Guillen becoming the manager in Miami because Guillen had one year remaining on his Chicago contract. Last season, Marinez pitched 56 games in relief for Double-A Jacksonville of the Southern League (3.57 ERA, 74K, 42BB, 58IP). He throws a 96mph fastball and a deceiving slider and will be a “go-to guy” in the Charlotte bullpen.
Chris Archer (RHP) (23 years old) – Durham Bulls (Rays)
A former Cleveland Indians farm hand, Archer has risen to the top of the Rays always impressive minor league system. He went from the Indians to the Cubs before the 2009 season, dealt for Mark DeRosa. He became Chicago’s #1 ranked prospect before being traded to the Rays for Matt Garza last winter. He can touch 97mph with his fastball and compliments it with a dynamite slider. He also throws a change-up, which is a work in progress. Archer made two regular season starts with Durham last year, his Triple-A debut, and lost his only playoff game against the Clippers in Game #2 of the IL first round (5.2IP, 5ER, 7H, 3BB, 11K). If Matt Moore makes the major league club’s rotation, Archer will be the ace.
Julio Teheran (RHP) (21 years old) – Gwinnett Braves (Braves)
The Braves think Teheran, the reigning “International League Pitcher of the Year” could be their ace of the future. He features a 97mph heater, a remarkable change-up, and solid breaking pitches (slider and curveball). Atlanta’s player development staff has worked to temper his deliver, making it less violent and therefore reducing his risk of injury. That will be a point of emphasis again in 2012 as Teheran will probably start in Triple-A, waiting for his name to be called in Hot-lanta. He did pitch in five games (three starts) with the Braves at the end of last season.
Randall Delgado (RHP) (22 years old) – Gwinnett Braves (Braves)
Delgado will be attempting to capitalize off his outstanding September in the majors when he competes for a rotation spot with Atlanta. He made a couple of emergency starts last year and parlayed that into an extended stay (1-1 with a 2.83 ERA in seven starts). Delgado throws a 94mph fastball, curveball, and change-up. He only made four Triple-A starts after pitching in 21 Double-A games to start last season. The quantity of arms in Atlanta may keep in Gwinnett a little longer. The Braves have a boatload of pitching between MLB and Triple-A, so there’s a log jam that could give the G-Braves the best staff in the International League for the second straight season.
Phillippe Aumont (RHP) (23 years old) – Lehigh Valley IronPigs (Phillies)
Aumont pitched in 18 games for Lehigh Valley last year, the 6’7” French-Canadian reliever’s first taste of the International League. He was the Seattle Mariners first round pick (11th overall) in the 2007 draft, but was sent to Philly in the December 2009 Cliff Lee trade. He throws a 96mph sinker, solid curve, and has a change-up that doesn’t get much use. He was placed on the Phillies 40-man roster this winter and will get plenty of work from IronPigs skipper Ryne Sandberg. Meanwhile, two of the Phillies top pitching prospects, Trevor May and Jonathan Pettibone, will likely start in Double-A.
Alex Wilson (RHP) (25 years old) – Pawtucket Red Sox (Red Sox)
Wilson turned things around in his sophomore season of Double-A ball and now seems poised for a spot in Boston soon. He was 4-5 with a 6.66 ERA in 16 starts with Double-A Portland in 2010, but returned last year and went 9-4 with a 3.05 ERA in 21 outings. He also made four starts with Pawtucket. Wilson’s fastball is considered the best in Boston’s minor league chain, reaching 97-98mph. He also throws a great slider and decent change-up. He’ll probably be in Pawtucket’s rotation come April, but could wind up as a two-pitch reliever in the majors.
Liam Hendriks (RHP) (23 years old) – Rochester Red Wings (Twins)
The Australian born Hendricks was the Twins 2011 Minor League Pitcher of the Year and got his first taste of both Triple-A and the majors. Since signing in 2007, he’s overcome knee injuries and an emergency appendectomy to pitch a career-best 163 innings last year. Hendricks throws a low 90s fastball that he complements with a curve, slider, and change-up. With names like Pavano, Liriano, Baker, Blackburn, Duensing, and Marquis ahead of him on the depth chart, Hendricks looks to be on target for Rochester’s rotation.
Manny Banuelos (LHP) (20 years old) – Scranton Wilkes-Barre (Yankees)
Banuelos was an international signing in 208 by the Bronx Bombers and he’s just about ready to make his Big Apple debut. The Mexican-born southpaw made seven starts for the SWB Yankees last season after carrying a 3.59 ERA in 20 Double-A appearances. He can touch 95mph with his fastball and has great break on his curve. The addition of a change-up gives Banuelos everything he needs to make the next step. He’ll get the ball every fifth day for Dave Miley club until New York calls, probably sometime soon.
Dellin Betances (RHP) (23 years old) – Scranton Wilkes-Barre (Yankees)
Betances pitched in two games, making one start for New York last season. He’s a 2006 Yankees draft pick (8th round) that has struggled with command during his six-year career, but his ability to reach the upper 90s with a heater has made Betances lethal. The key will be controlling his curveball and fine tuning the change-up. He pitched 136 innings last season and should get that again with SWB in 2012 if he’s healthy.
Did I miss anyone? Let me know at email@example.com
That’s all for now, but stay tuned… I’ll take a look at some of the top position players around the league later this week!
The other day on MLB.com, they posed an interesting question to fans. Who would you put on your baseball Mt. Rushmore? A neat exercise, but as soon as you begin, you realize what you are up against. Four faces to represent the game of baseball? An impossible task, yet it’s one anyone can do and be just as right as anyone else (within reason).
Working in the front office of a baseball team, these discussions come up from time to time, usually in the off season when we are pining for the games to start, or when the news of the day leads into it, such as Hall of Fame voting, major retirement announcements, player deaths.
Top player lists are rivaled only by “Is He a Hall-of-Famer?” debates for their ferocity. You could go to just about any number in the top player lists and the bigger the number, the more room for argument there is. A top 10 or 20 will be filled with names that few could say don’t belong, but the argument is how can you put player A in above or instead of player B. Expand to a top 50 and you have the same problems, but the pool of candidates swells a lot because even though Pete Rose and are likely not on any respectable top 10 list, he’s got to be in the top 50…right? What about admitted PED users? Should a thoroughly feared hitter like Frank Thomas be considered even though he spent half of his time at DH? Should you include pitchers or make a separate list for them? These questions are one of the things that make baseball such a great part of the American landscape. Everyone has their own interpretation of the qualifications and even then, their personal bias can shade opinions. Here’s my top 20 list. I’ve concentrated on just position players and listed them alphabetically. We’ll see if we can get Leo to chime in with a list of his own, then we can argue!
Feel free to share your top 10 or 20 or 50. With Spring Training here, baseball talk is back!
Pitchers and catchers report today and that is cause enough for a national holiday, but it also happens to be Presidents Day. American Presidents have been a big part of baseball in our country. Abraham Lincoln loved the game so much, he had a field built on the White House grounds. Though Teddy Roosevelt didn’t care much for the game, he encouraged his sons to play because it was America’s Game.
Presidents and baseball are most closely linked by the ceremonial 1st pitch. William Howard Taft began the tradition of the President throwing out the ceremonial 1st pitch in 1910 and every President since has thrown at least one 1st pitch, whether at the season opener, an All-Star game or World Series. Not all were strikes. FDR hit a camera man in 1940. Harry Truman threw one pitch right-handed and one southpaw before the season opener in 1950. In 1976 Gerald Ford became the first President to throw a 1st pitch at the All-Star Game. Ronald Reagan threw out the 1st pitch in Chicago in 1984 then sat in on the radio broadcast for a while (he was a former play-by-play man). He also threw out the 1st pitch before game 3 of the Japan Series in 1989. George H.W. Bush threw out the first season-opening pitch outside of the US in 1990 in Toronto. Bill Clinton was the first President to successfully throw a 1st pitch from the top of the pitcher’s mound. In 2001 George W. Bush, a former owner of the Texas Rangers threw out the 1st pitch before the the first World Series game in New York following the 9/11 attacks. He wore a bullet proof vest under his NY Fire Fighter jacket. in 2010, Barrack Obama celebrated 100 years of Presidential 1st pitches by taking the mound at Nationals Park.
There are many quotations from Presidents about baseball, one of my favorites is from President Truman -”I couldn’t see well enough to play when I was a boy, so they gave me a special job – they made me an umpire.”
With Spring Training upon us, the excitement is palpable. Before long there will be intra-squad games, then games against other teams, the roster moves will then come fast and furious and before you know it, rosters will take shape and it will be time to play ball for keeps. Keep coming back as we will do our level best to keep you updated on the things that matter for the Clippers and the Indians and other levels as well. Late in Spring Training, Scott and I will head to Goodyear to get a firsthand look at how things are going and we will bring you all the news fit to print as the Indians get ready to vie for the Al Central crown.
The Chris Gimenez – Eric Wedge marriage seems to be over, probably for good this time. The former Clippers utility man opted for free agency this week after being designated for assignment by the Seattle Mariners. Gimenez, 29, played 24 games with Seattle last season, he hit .203 with one double, one homer, six RBI and ten walks.
In total, he has logged 97 games in the majors over the last three seasons.
Gimenez can catch and play the corner infield/outfield positions, something that endeared him to former Indians skippers Eric Wedge a few years ago. A 19th round draft pick by the Tribe in 2004, Gimenez climbed the minor league ranks, reaching Triple-A in the later stages of the 2008 season.
The story is that during the opening weeks of 2009 spring training, Wedge was hitting fly balls to several players and while most were moving at a light pace, Gimenez was sprinting across the field for every batted ball, making a few diving catches on the quiet Goodyear practice fields. Wedge was so impressed with the blue-collar work ethic of Gimenez, that he called him up to the bigs later that season.
Wedge was fired by the Indians after 2009 and took the reins in Seattle last year, while Gimenez was removed from the Indians 40-man roster after the 2010 campaign. Gimenez and Wedge reunited last season as Chris signed with the Mariners via free agency.
Seattle recently acquired Jesus Montero from the Yankees, bumping Gimenez off the roster. Even though Wedge and the Mariners offered him a chance to start in Triple-A, he declared free agency and signed with Tampa Bay.
He will now go to Rays spring training with Jose Lobaton, Robinson Chirinos, Stephen Vogt, Nevin Ashley, Craig Albernez and Mark Thomas all vying for the chance to join Jose Molina as the major league catching tandem. Lobaton and Chirinos are the favorites, so there is a decent chance Gimenez could start the season with Durham.
Gimenez has been one of my favorite players to cover because he’s extremely intelligent, self-aware, and forthcoming. He truly loves baseball, understanding his limitations, and works very hard to overcome all the obstacles he faces. Those attributes have served him well during his career and hopefully will help in his new organization. I’ll be rooting for him and something tells me Eric Wedge will be too.