Sunday, February 21, 2010

Prospects Q&A with Michael Schlact

Texas Rangers pitching prospect Michael Schlact sits on his back porch reflecting on Spring Training. "One tweets a lot when they're rehabbing. And I feel like I'm 10 years old again playing baseball."

They say you have to have a lot of little boy in you to play professional ball, and Schlact has just that. His passion and love for the game emulates out of his respect and care for his career, his fans, his teammates, and all those around him. After coming off of a near career-ending injury that lead to surgery and currently, rehab, Michael agreed to do a brief interview with me in between chronicling his "March to the Mound" on Twitter (clever), playing Words With Friends, and going to In-And-Out Burger with his wife.

Me: You were drafted in the 3rd round out of high school. Do you think not playing at a collegiate level helped or hindered your performance in pro ball?

Michael:I believe that foregoing college helped my performance in pro ball. I was able to jump right into professional competition, with the best coaches,against the best players. I think that helps you become a better player every day, because you have to rise to the occasion in order to compete.

Me: The Rangers organization, before your injury, was really into developing your 4-seam fastball to compliment your sinker. Any hopes of continuing that when you're done rehabbing or has the 4-seam gone to the wayside?

Michael:I will still use the 4seam fastball. my primary pitch is my sinker, and I will use that the majority of the time when I return. The Rangers were developing my 4seam fastball to help me add arm strength, and give the hitters a different look.

Me: I haven't found a whole lot about your injury aside from what you mentioned briefly to me a few days ago. Can you tell me more about it?

Michael: I had 3 small tears on the backside of my rotator cuff, a small tear in the labrum, and some bursists. They cleaned up the shoulder (debridement) and then removed the bursa sac and shrank the shoulder capsule at the end.

Me: I've heard your sinker is your go-to pitch, but that you have trouble with letting it go high. Is keeping it down in the zone something you struggle with?

Michael:I don't think that I have trouble keeping it down, but in the past, I had some trouble trusting the pitch. Pitching is all about trusting your stuff to do what it's meant to do. When you don't do that, and you try and aim your pitches, they will usually not do what they are meant to do. a big focus on mine is trusting my sinker to go down in the zone, and I will work on that tirelessly when I return to pitching.

Me: How is life on the road being married? I know your faith in God means a lot to you, does that help you deal with the distance?

Michael:My faith in God is key in dealing with being away from my family. Fortunately, my wife can travel with me during the season. Being married is tough as a ballplayer, because we move around a lot, I leave for long roadtrips, and sometimes living conditions in the minors are less than favorable. She is such a blessing for me though. She supports my dream, and has been by my side through everything.

Me: Tell me about one of your most fun moments in either Spring Training or during your time in the minors.

Michael:I think playing in the Championship series with the Frisco Roughriders in 2008 was my most fun moment in Pro Ball. We made it all the way to the final game of the series, where it's either win and you're champs, or lose and you're not. There is something fun and exciting about playing for all the marbles.

Me: What have you been doing during your rehab? What % would you put your health at today?

Michael: I have been working out every day, and running a lot. The key to returning healthy is to be stronger than you've ever been before. I do shoulder routines each day, that compliment my workouts. I told myself that I will never go through this again, so being as strong as I possibly can is the only option. I would say that I'm 70-75% right now.

Me: Aside from rehabbing this spring training, what are you working on fine-tuning, especially with your secondary pitches?

Michael: Once I get to the mound again, I'm going to work on my mental side of pitching. Trusting my stuff, being a competitor, focusing on one pitch at a time, rather than who the next 8 hitters are. My slider could be much better, and I can also make my change up be a lot more consistent down in the zone.

Me: What do you think your biggest fault is as a pitcher?

Michael:It would have to be giving the hitter too much credit. One of my favorite baseball quotes is "the ball is round, the bat is round, but you have to hit it square." There are many great hitters that play this game. But, just like pitching, it's very hard to hit. If I can control the mental side of my game that will help me become a much better pitcher.

Me: What benefits you most as a pitcher?

Michael: I think my height. Creating a downward angle on pitches definitely adds a whole new look to pitching versus pitches that come in flat.

Me: What do you love most about the Rangers organization?

Michael: I love that Nolan Ryan is our president, and that he has a huge hand in the pitching department. Having the greatest pitcher to ever play as one of your leaders in the pitching department is the coolest. Also, they only hire the best. Everyone is our organization is a class act. They are knowledgeable and want the best for us.

Me: You were being developed primarily as a starting pitcher, will it be the same when you finish rehabbing?

Michael: I haven't heard much about what my role will be when I return. I guess right now I'm focusing on just getting healthy. I want to pitch in the big leagues, so whatever role they think will get me there, I'll take.

Me: My favorite question to end with- Who is your favorite ballplayer of all time, and why?

Michael:My favorite ballplayer of all time would probably be John Smoltz. He is a warrior on the mound, a great person, and he'll do whatever it takes to win. He's one of my childhood heros.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Joe Torre's Safe At Home Foundation

About the Foundation (from

Joe Torre, former professional baseball player and manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers, grew up the youngest of five children in Brooklyn, New York. His father was a New York City police detective and revered in his community. He was the cop that made everyone feel safe. Everyone except his own family.

Joe, Sr. ruled his home with an iron fist. He was a physically abusive husband and an emotionally abusive father. The violence that had besieged the Torre household for so many years was a well-kept family secret and stayed a family secret for generations. However, in December of 1995, Ali and Joe Torre attended a seminar called Life Success. As a result of Joe's participation in that seminar, he began to talk openly of his childhood experience with domestic violence. He went public with his family secret in his autobiography, Chasing the Dream: My Lifelong Journey to the World Series.
Ali and Joe Torre wanted to educate children about the issue of domestic violence. In 2002, they created the Joe Torre Safe At Home® Foundation. The mission of the Foundation is "educating to end the cycle of domestic violence and save lives".

Initially, the Joe Torre Safe At Home® Foundation focused its resources on awareness building through a local and national multimedia campaign. However, the Joe Torre Safe At Home® Foundation quickly determined that they want to educate children about violence so that children understand that they are not alone and that there is hope.

In 2005, the Joe Torre Safe At Home® Foundation opened its first school-based programming initiative, Margaret's Place, at Hostos-Lincoln Academy, Bronx, NY. Margaret's Place, a tribute to his mom, is a comprehensive program which provides students with a safe room in school where they can meet with a professional counselor trained in domestic-violence intervention and prevention. Currently, the Joe Torre Safe At Home® Foundation has ten fully funded and operational Margaret's Places in New York City and Westchester County. The sites are fully funded and have a minimum commitment of three years.

I didn't know about this charity until a friend of mine brought it to my attention. After doing some research I realized it really hit home for me. Those of you who know me know I was in a really abusive relationship for years. Under some great advice (this morning surprisingly) I've decided not to let that man affect my life anymore. For some reason talking about him has happened a lot lately and I've realized that it's my own fault for keeping up the discussion by agreeing to answer questions and discuss him.

Of course I was never married or had children that were affected by his rage, but it affected my life greatly and has ultimately made me the person I am today. I believe I would probably be a completely different woman if I hadn't been through said relationship.

Domestic Violence is not only physical. What most people don't understand is that a person (man, woman, or child) can be hurt and scarred just as badly emotionally as they can physically. The emotional abuse, I found, took a worse toll on my life than anything physical could have.

Abuse doesn't just affect a person when it happens or in the moments after, or during recovery. It affects the way they live their life, who they trust around them, and the choices they make. I feel as though doing a spotlight on blog about this charity is a closing for me. A way for me to move on with my life. Baseball has always been a huge part of it, and for a while I was afraid that because of my past relationship I would give up on my love for the game all together. Luckily, things happened in my life that forced me to not give up, and reminded me about why I'd loved baseball since I was a little girl in the first place.

I'm so glad that what happened to me (even though I wish it hadn't happened at all) happened early enough- before I had children, before I got married. I know now that the way I continually let my ex treat me was not "ok," no matter how much I convinced myself that it was. I never want my children to think it's okay for a man (or a woman) to treat their significant other in that manner.

Joe and Ali Torre believe it's important to educate children about the effects of domestic violence and I couldn't agree more. I grew up in a family where my father and mother never treated each other with anything other than love and respect. I only remember once them getting into a huge argument but it never escalated past yelling, and ended with my father getting down on the floor trying to make a distinction between "chocolate... vanilla... chocolate... vanilla!" (I'm not sure WHAT he was trying to use that as a metaphor for)... I laughed... a 5 year old laugh.. my parents looked at each other, my dad started cracking up- and though the fight probably wasn't resolved, for that moment it was over.

My parents loved me and always told me that it was never okay for a man to hit a woman, my dad being a cop was always the up most advocate against that, but I never really was talked to or talked about emotional abuse. By the time I had been with my ex long enough for his emotional abuse to infiltrate my confidence, the "no guy should ever hit you" rule was null-in-void.

The Torre's recognize that emotional abuse affects someone just as deeply as physical, and I couldn't be more in love with this charity. Thankfully Torre has recognized and dealt with the abuse he dealt with as a child, and I can only pray that what I've dealt with will always help me to be a strong woman so that my children don't have to deal with the kind of abuse Torre dealt with and witnessed. I wish what happened to me had never happened but I'm glad it made me just that much stronger of a person.

I truly believe that this is one of those organizations where getting the word out helps more than anything. Education IS prevention. Funding will not only help with the education but will ultimately help prevent domestic abuse in family homes.
To donate you can click here. Ali and Joe Torre will match any donations up to $500,000. Donate $50 and you're actually donating $100! If that isn't awesome, I don't know what is!

You can also order this amazing key chain- its a house and a key and when you flip the house over it's Home Plate engraved with Joe Torre's signature. You can follow this link to do so.

I encourage everyone to check out Torre's foundation- it's a great cause and really hits home for me. No child should ever be abused or witness abuse. Parents should know that its not ok to put up with abuse, and everyone should be able to say "no" and feel like it's okay to walk away. I will be donating to Torre's charity tomorrow morning and would like to rally and get at least $500 donated in the name of this blog. Please comment when you've donated, or send me an email, and we'll tally the donations at the end of the month.

Please make sure and spread the word. Domestic violence is NOT OKAY. We can help prevent it!!!!!
We Are Chicago Baseball

Friday, February 12, 2010

White Sox Retire Frank Thomas' #35

Frank Thomas' Proud, Honored that White Sox will Retire his Number.

The White Sox said Friday they will retire Frank Thomas' No. 35, as their former slugger officially announced his retirement at U. S. Cellular Field.Thomas' uniform number will be retired during an on-field ceremony on "Frank Thomas Day," Aug. 29, when the team hosts the New York Yankees at 1:05 p.m.

"I'm very, very proud and honored," Thomas said of having his number retired. "If it was up to me, I would have played every year of my career here in Chicago. But I understand pro sports, and as guys get older, guys move around. But this is where I've always wanted to be, and to have my number retired here, it's a huge honor."

Thomas, who last played for the White Sox in 2005 before finishing in Toronto and Oakland with 521 career home runs, didn't play last season. At age 41, he said he realizes his retirement announcement has been "a long time coming.""I had to get baseball out of my system before I made this announcement," Thomas said."I'm at peace with it. I had one heck of a career, proud of it. It's been one hell of a ride."

Thomas' No. 35 becomes the 10th uniform number to be retired by the White Sox, joining No. 2 (Nellie Fox), No. 3 (Harold Baines), No. 4 (Luke Appling), No. 9 (Minnie Minoso), No. 11 (Luis Aparicio, currently un-retired for the 2010 season), No. 16 (Ted Lyons), No. 19 (Billy Pierce), No. 42 (Jackie Robinson) and No. 72 (Carlton Fisk)."
Everyone who enjoyed watching Frank Thomas perform during his outstanding career with the White Sox quickly realized we were watching one of the greatest offensive players of all-time, a player destined to re-write our club's record books," Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf said in a statement. "When your career comes to an end and your body of work is compared to Hall of Famers like Mel Ott, Babe Ruth and Ted Williams, you truly rank among baseball royalty."I believe it is only a matter of time until Frank receives the game's greatest honor in Cooperstown and he unquestionably deserves the honor of being recognized among the elite White Sox players in this franchise's history by having his No. 35 retired."
No one will ever play the game the way Thomas played it.. I grew up watching Frank and he will FOREVER be a huge part of my life and my love for baseball. I respect this man so much and am so happy that the Sox are retiring his number. I can't wait til 2014 when he gets inducted into the Hall of Fame- no one deserves it more! I'm so glad I got to see such an amazing player steroid-free in an era when finding untainted players is so hard. Thank you so much for the great memories and for turning me into such a big baseball fan, Frank!

Q&A With Top Prospect Drew Storen

I recently did a top prospects blog on Washington National's first round pick, Drew Storen. Nicely enough, Drew agreed to "sit down," if you will, with me for a question and answer session. As nervous as I was, this being my first professional interview, Drew talked lightly, and was insanely nice and easy to talk to. Our conversation quickly switched back and forth from baseball, to minor league antics, to mutual friends, to our disdain for PED's. By the end of the interview, I realized that Storen really was as nice as all the articles painted him, and that's exactly how he wants to be known.

Me: This is going to be your first visit to Spring Training. How are you feeling about that?

Drew: Well, kinda nervous because its something new and Ive never been there and I'm kinda excited. I used to go to spring training with my dad so its gonna be kinda cool to be on the other side of it. They gave us the schedule and it said "Yankees and Mets" and its not like the farm teams or minor league teams- it's the actual major league teams so it'll be a little different.

Me: Who did you go see in Spring Training when you were younger?

Drew: We would go see the Red Sox, Twins. They were down there in Florida so we'd always go see them.

Me: Did you grow up a fan of any team in particular?

Drew: I didn't really grow up a fan of any team in particular, but I did like the White Sox. I was a big Frank Thomas fan. I wouldn't say I had a specific team as much as I was fan of a bunch of different players.

Me: Who's your favorite pitcher in the game?

Drew: Mariano [Rivera]. Hard not to like that guy. There's different things about different guys but he's such a professional- just kinda poker face the whole time.

Me: Some people are criticizing the National's organization for planning on rushing you through the minor league system. I was telling you earlier about how I'm not a fan of that- How do you think that's going to affect you when you make it to the show?

Drew: I think its (short pause)...I don't really worry about it. You've seen guys do it before- Zim (Ryan Zimmerman) moved quickly and obviously he's doing ok. They're doing a good job not moving me too quickly. Doing things like the AZ fall league is good preparation. My performance is going to warrant that call and they're also look at the big picture.

Me: You've only spent 3 months in the minors. It hasn't been that long since you were drafted- walk me through draft day.

Drew: We had a big thing of friends and family...probably like 40 people all down in my basement. I had an idea that I could be the pick, but I wasn't for sure. I didn't tell anyone except for my parents. I really had no idea it was gonna happen for sure, it was kinda cool. It happened and then all of a sudden my phone started ringing. I had like 250 texts and however many phone calls... I was up doing interviews all night, I didn't go to bed until late and then the next morning I was on the plane at 7am. It was probably the craziest 24 hours. I still get chills talking about it.

Me: What advice did your family give you when you were drafted?

Drew: A lot. I wouldn't say it was one of those things where my dad was like "let's sit and talk about this." He ingrained in my head a long time to not be "that guy".. to treat people right. I dont want people to meet me and be like "that guy was a jerk." Another thing is, that not gonna cheat to get there, that's not how I like to do things. if I'm going to make it its going to be on my own count and not because some kinda PED (Performance Enhancing Drug).. that's something big for me.

Me: That's so admirable- you seem so natural talking during an interview. Have you always been so open with the media?

Drew: Its just easy because my dad's been in the media (his father is Mark Patrick) and I've always been around it so its really easy for me to do. Its not like reporters aren't people... its easy for me to sit and talk to people.

Me: I just read Odd Man Out by Matt McCarthy, have you read it?

Drew: (laughing) No, I haven't but I've heard so many stories that I feel like I have

Me: Do you read a lot of books about baseball?

Drew: I've read Livin on the Black, Moneyball of course. The only thing is when I drive I listen to books, Ive listen to Outliers and Talent is Overrated.... Freakenomics.

Me: Moneyball- Billy Bean of course- that's kind of you in a way.

Drew: Yeah being drafted out of college.

Me: College and the minors are two totally different atmospheres, I bet.

Drew: Yeah well in college you're playing ball and going to class and flying to games and staying in hotels. The minors aren't quite like that.

Me: Long bus rides, tons of fast food.

Drew: Yeah I think I've had more buffalo wings this last summer than I have my entire life. This summer when I was in AA I went and bought a $4 blow up raft and laid it in the middle of the aisle of the bus so that I could sleep.

Me: That's hilarious. You're known a lot for you low number of walks. You rarely walk a guy- but when you do, how's it make you feel? Walk me through Drew Storen walking back to the rubber after the ump tells the batter to take his base.

Drew: That makes me the most mad of anything- that's what I tell people. Oooooohhhhhh I can not stand walking people! You just look at the numbers. Why not let him put it in play? You have good enough fielders who are gonna make the play, why let the guy have a free pass? Even the best of the best relievers get in trouble because they walk a guy. Especially in big spots like that it just takes that one swing and momentum that changes things. The biggest thing to me is when i get 2 quick outs I never want to fall behind 2-0 to a guy. Everybody does it, but the guys that don't do it as much are the most successful.

Me: What matters most when you're trying to get a guy out? Velocity or getting the ball in the zone?

Drew: Its all about results.. you talk about any major league pitcher or hitter.. it doesn't matter how hard you throw... you gotta get the ball down. I went into the minors going okay-- I'm throwing, I'm going to try and throw it past guys here...That quickly changed.

Me: Haha, yeah, isn't that mentality you had when your second pitch of your career got belted 500 feet over the center field wall this summer?

Drew: Yeah, haha. I realized I need to throw the ball down in the zone. I was going to try and throw it past him, that was a 96 MPH fastball too.

Me: Besides that moment, did you have any other "welcome to pro ball" moments this summer?

Drew: My first week and 1/2 was a welcome to pro ball moment. I would have outings where they were good outings, except for one or two pitches. I'd give up a home run in Hagerstown and it was after falling behind the guy. It was like an acclamation period.

Me: Spring training this year, besides throwing down in the zone, what else do you hope to work on?

Drew: Being quicker to the plate- something that kinda resolved by using a slide step. I'd used it a bit in college, but I used it all the time in the fall league. That and minimizing my pitch count.

Me: If they do throw you in as a starter, what adjustments are you going to need to make with your change-up?

Drew: Oh geeze, I guess get a feel for it, get that confidence, that mental confidence. They haven't said a word to me a bout becoming a starter though, all these wild rumors started flying around.

Me: What's your favorite baseball movie? And choose wisely, I'm really picky about my baseball movies.

Drew: Well you have to love the classics like The Natural and Major League, and of course Field of Dreams.

Me: Perfect answer. Anyone can tell you, I'm obsessed with that movie. Around this time I start getting cabin fever and I'll just put it on to fall asleep with it. I've never not teared up at the "Hey dad, wanna have a catch?" line.

Drew: Oh yeah, and that reminds me of me and my dad. We'd always have a catch- he'd come home in his shirt and tie and throw with me. I also like For Love of the Game. It's got a few cheesy lines but I love the "clear the mechanism." I've never obviously pitched in such an intense game but it really is true, that you have to just clear your mind.

Me: Okay Drew, last question- and most important. Who's your favorite ballplayer of all time?

Drew: Oh uhm... Eric Van Leemer from Summer Catch!

Me: haha, seriously?

Drew: Oh yeah! No one else can rock cut off shirts and leather pants like that guy.

Me: That is an awesome answer.

Drew: Haha, thanks. Real player though, I'd say Ken Griffey Jr. He's always been my favorite. My dream is to face him.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Prospects: Drew Storen

One of my favorite parts about baseball is that it's such a fine-tuned sport. MLB players are brushed through with a fine tooth comb, meticulously looked over and judged every plate appearance or visit to the mound until they are deemed "ready" to play with the greats.

Or deemed not good enough.

Unfortunately there's a bigger chance of not making it than even having a chance of making it. Roughly 10% of minor league ballplayers will have a chance to make it through the roughly 6 levels of play before they lace on the spikes for their Big League debut. Only 3% of minor league ballplayers actually will make it to the bigs.

Which is what makes MiLB top prospects so interesting. These guys are the valedictorian's of their class. They are the captain of the football teams, the million-dollar babies. They have the greatest chances of making it, and we as fans love to watch their journey.
I grew to love baseball even more by being around minor leaguers. I sold Dippin Dots for the low class-a affiliate for the Cardinals (and later Cubs) when i was 16 as my first job, and I realized that watching a minor league game is the closest you can come to watching baseball at it's purest.
I still go to that ballpark that I sold Dippin Dots at and sit behind the visiting bullpen, drink beer, and keep score by myself. I love the smell of the ballpark, watching the guys goof off in the bullpen, hearing the crack of the bat with only 800 people on a Wednesday night to keep me company. I love traveling to different minor league stadiums and doing the same thing, and I love following guys in the Midwest League.

Watching some of the guys I still have scorecards for, and was close to when I worked for the Peoria Chiefs make it to the big leagues is the most amazing feeling. It sounds dumb but 5-6 years after watching them, guys like Sam Fuld, Jake Fox, and Brendan Ryan are making it to the bigs and some of them even playing in the post season,.I feel like a proud sister watching her surrogate big brothers reach their dreams.

So the older I got the more I got into following top prospects, and especially Midwest League players. I enjoy going to see the guys play first hand, and I thought I would share my joy of watching these boys' journey's by doing a Spotlight on: Prospects, blog now and again.

I'm not going to force any players down your throat- and I'm not going to specify my prospects blogs to Top Prospects- there are a lot of players in the Midwest League who aren't top Prospects but for those of you who live in the Peoria Area (and Chicago- as there are some Midwest League affiliates up North), it might be fun for you to get out and see some of these guys play.

You might be watching the next Albert Pujols :)

So today I want to concentrate on one of MLB Network's top prospects- Drew Storen.

Storen is MLB Networks number 40 Top Prospect.

A Right Handed pitcher from Stanford, Storen was drafted in the 2009 Amateur draft in the 1st Round, 10th overall for 1.6 million by the Washington Nationals (After they chose Stephen Strasburg with the Number 1 pick). A small(er) signing bonus is product of Storen not wanting to fuss over his contract, hoping to catapult his career quickly through the minors- perhaps even becoming the Nat's closer at the end of the 2010 season.

Storen has a fastball in the 90-94 MPH range with quality movement, a cureveball that breaks in hard at 79-83 MPG (that he refers to as more of a "slurve"), and a changeup that he rarely uses due to his pitching in relief.

Drew flew through his first season in the Minors starting out in A and ending out in AA pitching for the Harrisburg Senators in the Eastern League.

His 2009 combined stats look a little something like this:

2-1 Record
1.95 ERA
28 Games
11 Saves
37 IP
21 Hits
8 runs
2 HR's
8 Walks
49 Strike Outs
.784 WHIP.
I've clearly bolded the most impressive of his stats. (check out that WHIP!)

In the Arizona Fall League, he had 2 wins, 4 saves, a .66 ERA, and a 1.39 WHIP.

So after a productive first year in the minors and in the Arizona Fall League, what has Storen been working on in the off season? Improving his control will always be at the top of the list, but he also specifically began working on his control over the running game. Base runners have had an easier time stealing bases against him and Storen has successfully lowered his time-to-the-plate from 1.7 to 1.3 without losing velocity or movement.

Drew is likely to start the season in AA again, and as I said before, we can look at him to be the potential closer for Washington at the end of the 2010 season.

Spotlight On: Mel Ott

Kevin Youkilis, Jeff Bagwell, Barry Bonds, Ichiro Suzuki.

What do these guys have in common?

Out of the ordinary batting stances.

Back in the 1930's there was another guy with an odd batting stance that caused a lot of talk- Mel Ott.

New York Giant's right fielder, Mel was brought up into the majors at the ripe age of 16 because Giant's manager John McGraw, was scared that his time in the minor leagues would mess with his more than interesting batting stance.

Known to lift his right leg prior to impact, this helped Ott with his power. Clearly it worked becaused Mel was the youngest player in baseball history to hit for the cycle, was the first NL player to surpass 500 home runs, was a 6 time NL home run hitter in 1932, 1934, 1936-38, and 1942. In addition to being a power hitter, Mel was also a 6x NL leader in walks.

"Whoa that's Smokey Joe Wood, and Mel Ott, and Gil Hodges!"
-Archie Grahm, Field of Dreams

After playing for 22 seasons in the major leagues, Mel managed the Giants from 1942-1948. His lax-a-dazy managing style left the standings for the Giants with much to be desired. In fact, then Dodger's manager Leo Durocher came to coin Ott's managing style with the phrase "Nice guys finish last!" He was insanely popular with his team and also with the fans.

"Look over there. Do you know a nicer guy than Mel Ott? Or any of the other Giants? Why, they're the nicest guys in the world, and where are they? In last place!" - Leo Durocher

After his stint managing the Giants, Ott teamed up with Van Patrick in 1955 as the radio and video commentator for the Detroit Tigers.

In 1951 Ott was elected on the first ballot with 87.2% of the vote to the Baseball Hall of Fame. His number 4 was retired by the Giants in 1949. Ott passed away tragicially in a car accident in New Orleans in 1958. He is remembered by the Mel Ott Little League in Amherst, NY, which was begun in 1959 in rememberence of this great ballplayer.

" 'O' is for Ott
of the restless right foot
When he leaned on the pellet,
the pellet stayed put."
-Ogden Nash, 1949

Friday, February 5, 2010

"Stats are like Heroin to the Baseball Fan"

I watched a great special on MLB Network about the best stats in the 2009 season and I thought I'd share- some of them are pretty interesting.

Highest OPS

-Albert Pujols- 1.101
-Joe Mauer- 1.031
-Prince Fielder- 1.014
-Joey Votto- .981
- Derrek Lee- .972

Most Extra Base Hits

-Albert Pujols- 93
-Ryan Howard- 86
-Mark Teixeira- 85
-Prince Fielder- 84
-Adam Lind- 81

Highest OBP

-Joe Mauer- .444
-Albert Pujols- .443
-Nick Johnson- .426
-Todd Helton- .416
-Joey Votto- .414

Highest BA

-Joe Mauer- .365 (it never ceases to amaze me how insanely monsterous this is)
-Ichiro Suzuki- .352
-Hanley Ramirez- .342
-Derek Jeter- .334
-Pablo Sandoval- .330

Highest BA With Runners in Scoring Posistion

-Yunie Escobar- .373
-Hanley Ramirez- .373
-Joe Mauer- .367
-Kevin Youkilis- .362
-Bay- .360

Consecutive Games Played

-Prince Fielder- 185
-Andre Etheir- 116
-Everth Cabrera-97
-Joe Mauer- 95
-Robinson Cano- 90

Most Pitches Seen

-Chone Figgins- 3,078
-Jayson Werth- 3,041
-Brian Roberts- 2,895
-Adam Dunn- 2,893
-Ryan Howard- 2,870

Most Intentional Walks

-Albert Pujols- 44
-Adrian Gonzalez- 22
-Prince Fielder- 21
-Manny Ramirez- 21
-Chipper Jones- 18


Most Quality Starts (at least 6 innings pitched with 3 or fewer earned runs)

-Felix Hernandex- 29
-Tim Lincecum- 26
-Zack Greinke- 26
-Adam Wainwright- 25
-Jair Jurjens- 25

Most 10K Games

-Tim Lincecum- 8
-Justin Verlander- 7
-Jon Lester-6
-Zack Greinke- 5
-Ricky Nolasco- 5

Highest Percentage of Team's Victories

-Zack Greinke- 24.6% (This is huge considering he played for the ROYALS)
-Roy Halladay- 22.7%
-Felix Hernandez- 22.4%
-Justin Verlander- 22.1%
-Adam Wainwright- 20.9%

Lowest Home ERA

-Zack Greinke- 1.70 (again... proving why he was the AL Cy Young winner)
-Clayton Kershaw- 1.83 (phenomenal especially considering his age and division played in)
-Ted Lilly- 1.87
-Tim Lincecum- 1.88
-Adam Wainwright- 2.05

Most 1-2-3 Innings by a Pitcher

-Justin Verlander- 95
-Dan Haren-91
-Tim Lincecum- 91

Most Pitches Thrown

-Justin Verlander- 3,931
-Felix Hernandez- 3,627
-Adam Wainwright- 3,614
-CC Sabathia- 3,586

Most Innings Pitched in Relief

-DJ Carrasco- 89.1
-Brian Bass- 83.2
-Todd Coffey- 83.2
-Andrew Bailey- 83.1
-Ramon Troncosco- 82.2

Lowest WHIP

-Dan Haren- 1.00
-Chris Carpenter- 1.01
-Javie Vazques- 1.03
-Tim Lincecum- 1.05
-Ted Lilly- 1.06

Common Gregg, show us that million dollar arm- Cuz I gotta good idea about that 5-cent head of yours

Jays Sign Gregg to One-Year Deal

By Jordan Bastian /

02/05/10 11:16 AM EST

TORONTO -- The Blue Jays have made it official: Kevin Gregg is competing for the closer's job. On Friday, Toronto officially announced that it has signed the reliever to a one-year contract that includes a pair of club options, adding more depth to a crowded bullpen.

Gregg will earn $2.75 million in 2010 and has the potential to remain with the Blue Jays through 2012. Toronto will have the choice of exercising a one-year, $4.50 million club option for 2011 or a two-year club option worth $8.75 million for the 2011-12 campaigns.

The options give the Blue Jays the opportunity to retain Gregg if the club lacks other closing options over the next two years. That's important considering that left-hander Scott Downs and right-hander Jason Frasor -- Gregg's competitors for the ninth-inning job this spring -- are both eligible for free agency next winter.

Including the two club options also increases Gregg's potential value as a bargaining chip around the July 31 Trade Deadline. Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos is focusing on the club's long-term situation and is trying to gather as many assets as he can. Having Gregg in the fold as a potential trading chip is of value for a Toronto team that is trying to obtain young players for the future.

Gregg also qualified as a Type A free agent this offseason and there is the chance that he could be worth compensation Draft picks again down the road. That also is true of Downs or Frasor, who would likely be at least Type B free agents next offseason. If all three relievers qualify, the Jays could have a handful of compensatory picks to help build up their farm system.

Adding Gregg to the mix could also signal that Anthopoulos is considering trading Downs, Frasor or another reliever. As things currently stand, the Blue Jays have more than a dozen arms in the mix for the seven available bullpen roles. With Gregg, Downs and Frasor set to make the team, that leaves few jobs up for grabs.

Over the past three seasons, the the 31-year-old Gregg has posted a 3.86 ERA with 84 saves in stints with the Marlins and Cubs. The right-hander has also blown 20 saves over that time period -- seven with Chicago a year ago while earning $4.2 million -- and he allowed 13 home runs last season, which was tied for the most yielded by a Major League reliever.

Gregg did finish with 23 saves and 71 strikeouts over 68 2/3 innings with the Cubs in '09, but he lost the closer's job to Carlos Marmol in August and was shut down toward the end of September due to a crack in the cartilage in his left rib cage. In the season's final two months, Gregg allowed 18 earned runs over 20 1/3 innings, giving him a bloated 7.97 ERA over that time period.

Even with that recent history of inconsistency, Gregg has more experience as a closer than Downs or Frasor, who have performed well in setup roles. Downs and Frasor helped out in the ninth inning last year after former closer B.J. Ryan battled injuries and command issues, leading to his release in July. Ryan is still owed $10 million for this season.

Jordan Bastian is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Realignment of divisions or..... reassigment of career?

Originally posted on ESPN Page 2- follow the direct link to the story here
In the article linked above, David Shoenfield talks about his idea for realigning the AL divisions every year in a "lottery" in which a "face" from each team (except for 3 of the AL West teams, and the Yankees and Red Sox) would come and draw what division they would play in every year. Most of the Western division would stay due to "location" (please commence eye rolling now) and the Red Sox and Yankees would stay in the East due to being more of "national" teams.
The last part of thearticle seems odd to me. No, not the: "It's time for the sport to think outside the box," but the: "David Shoenfield is a senior editor for"


How is this guy a senior editor for the largest and most popular sports broadcasting collarborative in the history of American Sports?

And what is he smoking?

He seems to think this is a great idea, and as I'm reading the article I'm sitting there to myself saying "This guy can't be serious... he just CANT be serious."

Here's 5 reasons why realignment every year of the divisions will never work and is moronic:

1) It increases travel espenses.

Every season teams in the MLB play in a sepecifically set up division partially to allow for easier and cheaper travel. Major league ballplayers require not only good amounts of rest and relaxation (especially pitchers), but ease from point A to point B durring their traveling. If we realigned the Divisions the way he wanted to, then instead of playing 6 series against Cleveland every year, for example, the White Sox would be playing in 2010 6 series against the Seattle Mariners. Instead of a first month spent mostly in the central against their division opponents in neighboring states, the White Sox would spend the month of April a little like this (home games are denoted in bold):

4/5- Mariners
4/6- Off
4/7- Mariners
4/9- Angels
4/12- Blue Jays
4/13- Blue Jays
4/14-Blue Jays
4/15- Blue Jays
4/16- Mariners
4/20-TB Rays
4/21-TB Rays
4/22-TB Rays
4/23- Orioles

Notice how based on Schoenfield's realignment system the White Sox would be playing teams from either side of the country at home, and spend the rest of the time on the West Coast, then off to the East Coast. Jet-lag much? What about the starting rotation? With these guys jumping from coast to coast so much, the team is going to have incur even more expenses sending the next-day's starting pitcher ahead of the rest of the team to make the coastal jump in order to get rest before his start.

Way to cut back on all that unnecessary spending there, Schoenfield......

2) Not everyone cares that much about the Yankees and Red Sox.

This guy acts like we all sit and drool over what Theo Epstien's next off season move will be, and blare "Empire State of Mind" in the showers, dreaming of the glitz and glam of the big New York City lights of Yankee Stadium.

Give me a break. Since the Red Sox won the World Series in 2004 ESPN has shoved that team so far down our throats that we'd spit up red and white if we tried to swallow. Then start prouncing Harvard "Ha-vahd" and buy our children little Wally the Green Monster dolls to sleep with. I thank God every day for MLB Network because it's a rare occassion that I turn on ESPN to watch Baseball Tonight when I can easily get an unbiased well-rounded commentary on The Hot Stove.

But to posistion New York and Boston so that they are constantly in the East is the most ignorant part of this idea yet. What? So that Kansas City can play in the East and lose even more? That's not exactly how to increase the fairness of the playing field, is it? I'm not sure what difference I see when you compare to the win/loss record for Kansas and Baltimore-(The Orioles finished 64-98 while Kansas City smoked them at 65-97.....) it's replacing crap with crap. The only problem I can see is that poor Grienki, who won the American League Cy Young this year, would be paired up against the Red Sox and Yankees more often, most likely incurring less wins and therefore decreasing his trade-value.

Again, another STELLER idea, Schoenfield.

3) Changing the alignment of divisions won't increase a losing team's winning chances.

The Yankees don't win the world series every year but the Pittsburg Pirates do come in last place divisionally every year.

Let's put it this way. Since 2002, the Pirates have come in dead last place 4 times. When they haven't come in last they've come in 2nd to last. The one time they came in 3rd they finished 24.5 games back. The Kansas City Royals also came in last 5 times since 2002 in the AL Central.

How is putting the Royals in the AL East or the AL West going to help their chances? Maybe it will keep the team on their toes a little bit but whether they're losing to the Minnesota Twins, Chicago White Sox or New York Yankees or Boston Red Sox, the fact remains- they're losing.

Perhaps if MLB was doing something like increasing Wild Card posistions the teams would have a better chance of winning the world series, but what's the point of fighting for the division title if there's going to be 6 Wild Card posistions? In my opinion that not only discourages teams from productive playing and hard work, but encourages mediocrity.

4) We need to focus on fixing the "fixes" before MLB moves onto another gimmick.

Two Words: Revenue Sharing.

The problems with revenue sharing lay in the complexities and loopholes that allow teams to get out of directly contributing to the revenue poll. The Yankee's building their new stadium allowed them to get out of contributing 100% of the funds they were supposed to. However, with the past acts of the Marlins and Tampa Bay Rays I'd try and get out of contributing roughly 1/3rd of the $300 mil contributed to the revenue pool as well.

Perhaps if Selig had specified that the money that goes into the revenue poll was to be used directly for player payroll, teams wouldn't be trying to get out of paying into the pool. However, in another show of how he loves to do things half-way, Selig and the Blue Ribbion Panel only said that the money was to go to "increasing player productivity on the field," leaving the outcome of the $30 million dollar checks the lower market teams recieved open to interpruation.

The Whole out-of-box idea of Schoenfield's is to increase competitiveness, and if the revenue sharing plan were fixed, it would work to do that better than his moronic idea. The Rockies and Royals are known for investing all of their revenue checks into player payroll.

The player's union would never agree to a salary cap, so entertaining the thought is worthless. If revenue sharing were played out the way it's supposed to be then the teams who go over on their payroll, and know there is a luxuary tax, invest the % (it originally was 40% and is teetering around 31% currecently) of revenue to the smaller market teams. Smaller market teams would invest the $20-$30 mil back into their player's payroll, signing a few big names, and increasing competitive balance.

Schoenfield should write an intelligent article about that before he goes blasting off about ridiculous realignment strategies.

5) This is just a friggin stupid idea.

I bet if i did a count on the number of times in this blog I've used different versions of the word "moron" or "idiot" it would be in the double digets. I don't even feel bad about it because this really is the MOST RIDICULOUS IDEA I'VE EVER HEARD.

Here's an idea-- why dont, when the teams go to the lottery and pull out their assigned division, they also pull out a randomized roster from Yahoo! Sprots of the top 30 most productive Fantasty Baseball teams. Then we can cut out payroll problems all together! Who knows if the Yankees or Padres are going to be more successfull- baseball is a gamble!

I, personally, as a White Sox fan, would love to watch my team spend 65% of the season on the West Coast- I dont get enough sleep as-is so why not watch all my teams games from 9pm-12am? Nevermind that they would be crucial division rivalry games, but the teams they'd be playing against wouldn't have to travel nearly as much because, as Schoenfield puts it, West Coast teams would need to stay put for the most part due to "location."

Location? I'm sorry-- LOCATION?

Location IS WHY WE HAVE A CENTRAL, EAST, AND WEST! That's the whole reason! Because of location!

My whole advice to Schoenfield is to stop. Just stop writing. Stop thinking, and for the love of God- please dont discuss baseball in a serious manner ever again. I'm not sure who let this article slip through at ESPN but they, along with you, should be fired. Usually I can take something tongue-in-cheek with a laugh but this--- this you were clearly serious about. I have yet to read one comment not ripping you to shreds, and rightfully so.

So before you decide to contribute to the baseball world with another brilliant suggestion, tuck your tail between your legs and run along- grown ups converse here....

We Are Chicago Baseball

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Spotlight On: Roy Campanella Night

"Campy's now gone, Jackie's gone.
Moving from our friendly confines at
Ebbet's field to the glitz in Hollywood..
that was a pretty big move for us."

-Carl Erskine, Dodger's pitcher.

In 1958 the Dodgers spent their season losing- something they hadn't been used to in the last decade. Their 2nd season at the Coliseum in Los Angelas they needed some inspiration to lift their spirits and bring a World Series Championship home to a new group of fans in a new town like they had promised.

The only problem was that winning wasn't coming easy for the "boys of summer." The new park, which was the Los Angelas Memorial Coliseum housed a left field fence that was 257 feet, and a right center field fence that went back 455 feet.

The team was struggling, and along with that, their most famed players were no long with the team. Jackie Robinson had been gone since the end of the 1956 season, Duke and Hodges were on their last leg, and the Dodger's famed catcher, Roy Campanella, had suffered from a car accident which left him paralyzed and ended his career right before the Dodgers moved from Brooklyn.

The Dodgers finished 2nd to last in the West in 1958 and they needed something to lift their spirits in 1959.

Enter, former Dodgers catcher, Roy Campanella.

It hadn't been long since Campy, as he was called by his teammates, had been playing with the Dodgers. Roy, of Italian and African American decent was the 2nd player in Dodger history to break the color barrier. In 1948, a season after Jackie Robinson, he came to Brooklyn after spending two years jumping around their minor league system.

Campy also was the first African American player to coach a group of white professional athletes when he took over the manager role when Walter Aston was ejected from a game during the minor leagues in the 1947 season.

Campy's career was not without success. With 8 All-star selections, 3 NL MVP awards, and a World Series under his belt, Roy is a deserving Hall of Fame inductee. Campy was also a favorite on his team- which is why the LA Dodgers banned together in 1959 and decided to send their team some inspiration in the form of the very man they had played with for a decade.

On May 9th, the Dodgers held an exhibition game for which the Yankees agreed to fly to LA. This night, which was used to raise money for Campy's medical bills, would forever be known as Roy Campanella night. The Dodgers announced to the 93,103 in attendance that the lights would be turned off as former teammate Pee Wee Reese wheeled Campy to the mound.

"They told everybody-
we want each of you to light one match....
What a sight that was."
-Joe Pignatano, Dodger's catcher.

The entire coliseum lit a candle or match, and commentators remarked that it was the most beautiful and stunning sight you would ever see in sports.

Here was a city, which had only welcomed this former power-house of a team for a season- and a season which left much to be desired. Yet here were almost 100,000 fans and residents of LA packing into a football field to honor a man they had never even seen play before. LA was ready to back their Dodgers, and the Dodgers welcomed the encouragement.

"Roy had never played one inning in LA,
and yet, somehow,
that fandom in California
caught the spirit of Roy Campanella"

-Carl Erskine, Dodgers pitcher.

In 1959 Campy was also appointed the assistant supervisor of scouting for the Easter Coach. He went to spring trainings and helped mold young catchers and pitchers. "Campy's Bullpen" is still used in Dodger spring training today.

Sometimes, in baseball, fans come together to support a team in a way that can only be described as magical. This game has transcended through the ages and never ceases to be one of the main events in American culture and history to touch the lives of humans so perfectly. One fact remains- that when you get a group of 93,000 fans together to honor a great baseball legend, the event touches a lot of people. It also inspires a lot of people including the 1959 Dodgers who went on to beat my Go-Go White Sox and win the World Series that year.

Campy passed away in June of 1993 but not after helping mold the lives of many young players and fans. He will forever be remembered as not only a great player, and man, but also one of the most historically popular African American players of his time.

We Are Chicago Baseball

Monday, February 1, 2010

Spotlight On: Christy Mathewson

I've recently decided that every few days I'm going to do a Spotlight On blog... these will be focused completely on the history of baseball and will include players, managers, parks, events, etc- all celebrating the greatest and some of the least known or publicized parts of baseball history. My whole point in doing this is to hopefully teach those of you who don't focus much on baseball prior to the 1990's, some interesting tidbits about the game.

I will also be doing a Spotlight On: Prospects, blog once or twice a week. I'd like to get more traffic on the site and be able to pass some of my knowledge and favorite reasons why I love this sport to others.

Today I decided to start with someone I learned about based on reading Eight Men Out. Hugh Fullerton, a Chicago sports writer, and Christy Matthewson sat in box seats during the 1919 World Series and circled "suspicious" plays including two by ace, Eddie Cicotte, in Game 1.

The first play that cued Mathewson, who was a retired Reds player and manager, off? An intentional hit of Cincinnati lead off hitter Morrie Rath to single to New York gamblers that the players were in agreement with the fix.

It comes as no surprise that Christy Mathewson would be one to watch every game in deep scruntity of every play. As a manager he had suspended Hal Chase for "indifferent playing." On and off the field "Matty" as he was nicknamed in the bigs was the epitome of a role model. He never played ball on Sundays, went to Bucknell University, and served as his college class president.

In a time when booz, gambling, and women were rampant in baseball, Mathewson was the odd man out. He attended a literacy club, and coined the phrase "you can learn little from victory, but everything from defeat."

He was deemed arrogant by his teammates but he was one of the few who could easily be arrogant and it be acceptable.

Matty started his professional baseball career playing minor league ball with the Norfolk. From there he was bought for $1,500 from the Giants, and after going 0-3, returned with receipt in hand when the big league team demanded their money back. Soon afterwards he was sold to the Reds for $100 and then went full circle and was traded back to the Giants for a burnt out fast ball pitcher.

Christy has a little more than a fastball under his belt. Andrew Foster taught him a pitch that he used maybe only 12 times a game- but was always a threat. Called a "fadeaway" in the dead-ball era, Christy Mathewson is one of the best known screwball pitchers in baseball history. (A screw ball is a reverse curve that breaks in to right handed batters. It usually leaves the batters line of vision easily hence the nickname "fadeaway").
With a combination fastball, screwball, and change up, Matthewson won a career 373 games, had a 2.13 career ERA with 80 career shutouts, 2,502 K's and only 844 walks.

In 1905 the Giants won the World Series. Matty, always persevering, started in Games 1, 3, and 5. Christy Mathewson not only pitched 3 complete games by himself, but gave up only 14 hits and no runs. That's right- this guy pitched 3 complete game shutouts during the 1905 World Series.

By 1908 Matty had completed 2 no hitters, had won the Triple Crown for pitching twice, and was regarded as baseball's first real superstar.

Due to his morality and passion for God and life in general, he was the perfect role model for young boys. He took it a step further when he joined the army for World War I in 1918 and went over seas with Ty Cobb to fight for America's freedom.

In France he was accidentally gassed and as a result, developed tuberculosis.

Matty returned home to coach the Giants during the 1919-1920 season, but his illness kept him out of baseball after that except for a brief stint with the Boston Braves as a co-president in 1923. He suffered silently and ultimately passed away in 1925 at only 45 years old.

Christy Mathewson died on Opening Day of the 1925 World Series and members of the Pittsburgh Pirates and Washington Senators wore black arm bands and the US mourned his passing.

11 years later Mathewson was one of the first five players ever to be inducted into the Hall of Fame. He was the only one not there to see it.

Matty will always be remembered for his insane arm, his 13 times winning 20+ games and 4 times winning 30+, his intelligence, his love for the game and trying to keep it clean, and-a personal favorite of mine- what I call the "curse of Christy Mathewson." Matty pitched and lost a playoff game against the Chicago Cubs who went on to win the 1908 World Series. They haven't won one since. I've always found that little piece of history entertaining.

"M is for Matty
Who carried a charm
In the form of an extra
Brain on his arm"
-Ogden Nash
We Are Chicago Baseball