Archive for April, 2013

12 and Under World Cup in July

Monday, April 22nd, 2013

It is not the Little League World Series, but it is a group of elementary school kids playing in an event to call themselves the best in the world at baseball for the 12 and under generation.  The difference between the Little League World Series and the World Cup is the Little League is restricted to players who palyed in a specific organization.  You couldn’t grab the best kids from each of the Little League’s from around the country to play in the Little League World Series.  You are kind of stuck with the players who played in your Little League organization.

The 12 and under World Cup is supposed to be composed of the best 12 year olds in your country, if you can find them and convice them to play.  They will be going to Taiwan to compete in the 12 and under World Cup.  It is not a surprise the defending champs from the last 12 and under World Cup is Taiwan.  They were briefly prohibited from playing in the Little League World Series after winning so many titles because many of their teams were All Star teams, and not just composed of players just from a specific Little League organization.

Now the world is not restricted by that.  Any country can select who they think are the best 12 year olds.  And they will be competing in Taiwan.  And because the United States does not have a separate bracket just for itself, there is no guarantee a United States team reaches the finals.  Let’s hope they don’t use their WBC major league brethen as an example of how you get to the finals.

16 teams have entered this tournament.  A true 12 year old World Series.  They have been broken out into two groups.  The event will be held from July 18 to July 25.  The top four teams from each group will advance to a quarter finals.  There will probably be major league scouts there trying to get a head start on their scouting reports.  There has to be another Jurickson Profar or Todd Frazier among that group.  Maybe even another Rinku Singh.

Group A - Taiwan, Mexico, Japan, Italy, Colombia, Czech Republic, India and Hong Kong

Group B - USA, Venezuela, Brazil, Korea, Panama, Nigeria, Russia and Pakistan

Myworld guesses a couple of those countries may drop out due to lack of funding.  It costs money to get to Taiwan and house the players.  I don’t believe the IBAF is funding their travel.  A team absent from this list is last year’s second place team Cuba.

For the USA, Colombia, Czech Republic, India, Panama, Nigeria, Russia and Pakistan it is the first time they are competing in this event.  Since this is only the second 12 and under World Cup that is not a surprise.  It is probably a good thing they put India and Pakistan in separate pools.  It might also be a good thing if they force the two to play each other.

Details of the event can be found here: http://www.ibaf.org/en/news/2013/04/22/16-teams-to-play-in-ii-ibaf-12u-baseball-world-cup/01cdca0d-faa7-4888-a654-88863d2f13b3

It’s the President’s Office

Monday, April 22nd, 2013

It’s the President’s Office

May 14 – China Premier Li Jiabao says he is looking forward to his visit to the United States in September. One of the plans on his agenda in addition to talking to the United States President about the Iran conflict is to watch Chinese native Jason Woo pitch in a baseball game. He is hoping he will have that opportunity. While he says he has little understanding of the game of baseball he has asked his officials to brief him on the game. At one time China had a professional baseball league, but now it is restricted to club play. Their season does not start until June and they play a limited schedule.

Ruben was back. That put a lot of pressure off Larvell. Not that he was under any obligation to run the team in Rueben’s absence, especially since Rueben had not selected anyone to be in charge while he was gone, but Larvell took on that responsibility. Everyone seemed to come to him for answers to their questions. There were days he felt like he was behind the steering wheel in a car racing through a neighborhood at 60 miles an hour. As long as he stayed on the road everything was okay. Who cares if he hit a few mailboxes along the way or left some black skid marks along the road. He would apologize for that later. The important thing was to stay on the road. While Ruben was gone Larvell felt he had stayed on the road.

The command structure in the organization was a bit loose and haphazard, something Larvell didn’t like. He made a mental note to himself that this was another example of how poorly this franchise was being run. There was very little communication streaming down from the top, because there was confusion about who was at the top after Ruben. They all had impressive titles over their little fiefdoms of responsibility but there was no organizational chart showing where those titles settled in the hierarchal scheme of the major league team. Was the President of finance a higher ranking official than the Vice President of player personnel? You would think so by the way he told Larvell what to do all the time.

Larvell got most of his information from Ruben’s administrative staff when he wanted to know what was going on with the ball club. It rarely filtered down from Ruben except when Ruben stopped by his office to chat. With his current problems Ruben did not stop by the office to chat anymore. Larvell determined that was probably a good thing. He always seemed to come by at the busiest of times for Larvell when he least wanted to engage in mindless chit chat.

Larvell remembered the Cubs structure. There was an organization chart. Everyone knew where they stood in this command structure. The Cubs owner conducted staff meetings once a week. Even if he wasn’t available to attend the staff meeting he would still put a person in charge to run it, having that person brief him when he got back about what was discussed. Every manager knew at least something about the organization they were not involved in because it was discussed at the staff meeting, whether they needed this information or not. With the Orioles Larvell was limited to what he learned from Pablo, Moose and Rigo and what he could extract from the administrative staff from other offices through the rumor mill or gossip channels.

The trip to Europe seemed to have gotten the press off Ruben’s back. That was a good thing. The return of Jason Woo gave them more interesting stories to write about. Once Ruben returned his physical presence was forgotten. His statements about “flatulent claims” and “export money from me” would remain embedded in the ethos of the internet forever, the video clips from the interview propagating like weeds throughout the various blogs and other links from baseball sites for the world to laugh at. Ruben Pendergrass the person would be ignored, but his escapades would be remembered forever. The pervasive but brief sex clip with Kathy Li made that a certainty, creating an urban legend as the fat baseball owner with the sex tape because no one could remember his name.

One thing that did not change with Ruben’s return was the continued losses of the major league team. They were firmly in last place in the American League East with no hope for escape. Larvell was already trying to contact other teams to trade the remaining veterans on the team. There was not a lot of interest.

The team was so bad that yesterday they made the ESPN highlight reels for turning a single into a triple play. There were runners on first and second with no one out. The next batter lined a single into right field. The runner at second flew through a stop sign from the third base coach and was thrown out trying to score. The batter hitting the single tried to take second on the throw but he was thrown out easily. The runner on first who had successfully advanced to third on the single forgot how many outs there were and walked off third base toward the dugout. The third base coach grabbed him and tried to bring him back to the third base bag, but the runner was ruled out by the umpire because of the contact with the third base coach. No matter what station Larvell switched to they were showing that play. If it was another team Larvell would find it humorous. Since it was the Orioles he found it pathetic.

The local writers took advantage of the gaffe to further denigrate the team. It was the manager’s fault. Larvell’s fault. The owner’s fault. The incompetence of the players seemed to never enter the equation. Like the Ruben Pendergrass interview, the single resulting in a triple play propagated like a weed through the various blogs and sports talk shows throughout the internet, another embarrassment to a once proud franchise.

Larvell made another note to himself to talk to Moose about their coaching options for third base next year. That was too basic a blunder to commit. It gave the perception the Orioles didn’t focus on the most basic fundamentals. He could understand a player making mistakes on the field, but coaches are supposed to know better. Regardless of how the team was playing on the field, Larvell wanted the perception to those watching the game that progress was being made. No one was seeing that. The big headline among the local press was “Blanks Drawing Blanks with the O’s”. As if he didn’t expect to see that at some point in his career.

Dodgers Waltz Over Orioles

Sunday, April 21st, 2013

For the first two innings Jake Arrieta was dominate, striking out the first two hitters he faced while carving up the first six Dodger hitters on just twenty pitches.  He struggled in the third and blew up in the fifth, walking five and hitting one in those two innings to allow the Dodgers to overcome an early 3-0 deficit to down the Orioles 7-4.

The Orioles took a quick lead off recently promoted Stephen FifeNate McLouth led off the game with a bloop single over the shortstop’s glove, advanced to second on a wild pitch and scored when Nick Markakis bounced a single up the middle.  Adam Jones was hit by a pitch and Chris Davis lined a single to load the bases.  Matt Wieters could not bring them home, swinging and missing on a 91 mile per hour fastball.  J.J. Hardy stroked a clutch hit with a single down the right field line, driving in two and advancing to second when Andre Ethier threw the ball to first.  The mental error did not hurt as Ryan Flaherty flied to left to end the inning.

Arrieta was efficient with his pitches in the first two innings, throwing only five balls.  It fell apart in the third when he walked the leadoff hitter A.J. EllisSkip Schmacher singled to left centerfield to advance Ellis to third.  A one out walk to Carl Crawford loaded the bases where Mark Ellis launched a fly ball deep enough to left to score Ellis.  A walk to Adrian Gonzalez loaded the bases again.  Arrieta recovered getting ahead of Matt Kemp 1-2 and then blowing a 93 mile per hour fastball past him.  Jake threw 34 pitches in the third inning and only 20 in the first two innings.

Adam Jones got the run back in the bottom frame by blistering Fife for a fly ball deep into left centerfield, just to the left of the bullpen.  The ball would have easily landed into the visitors portion of the bullpen if it had been hit more in centerfield.

With a three run lead again Arrieta retired the side in order in the fourth, but still threw six balls out of the strike zone.  His game unraveled in the fifth when he walked .095 hitting Skip Schumacher on four pitches, then got behind .180 hitting Justin Sellers 2-1 before plunking him.  Another walk to Carl Crawford loaded the bases.  Arrieta got ahead of Mark Ellis 0-2, but he was still able to line a single over the leaping J.J. Hardy to score two runs.  That was it for Arrieta.

T.J. McFarland came on, allowing all the baserunners of Arrieta to score.  Adrian Gonzalez poked one into left field for a double.  Nate McLouth tried to make a sliding catch along the left field foul line, but the ball glanced off his glove, Gonzalez trotting into second with an RBI double.  Matt Kemp singled to give the Dodgers a 5-4 lead.

Stephen Fife didn’t last five innings either.  He was taken out of the game after a two out single by Nick Markakis.  J.P.Howell came on and gave up a single to Adam Jones to put two runners on.  Chris Davis swung and missed at a breaking pitch low and away to end the inning.  Davis had three hits in his four at bats, picking the worst time to make an out.

The Dodgers slowly pulled away by scoring runs in the seventh and ninth.  A.J. Ellis had a clutch two out single in the seventh to drive in a run.  Jerry Hairston hit a sacrifice fly in the ninth to make it 7-4.

Game Notes: A fan tried to run on the field but he was grabbed quickly by security.  He barely got to the left field foul line.  He made a brief wave and then was grabbed by security.  Two policeman escorted him away…Paco Rodriguez retired the side in order in the seventh, getting all three outs on ground outs.  As far as myworld could determine, he threw only one 89 mile per hour fastball.  The rest of the lefty’s offerings were junk balls…Manny Machado had a poor 0 for 5 day, striking out twice and grounding into a double play.  Chris Davis still has a hot bat, stroking three hits, one of them hitting off the wall for a double.  Davis has battered the ball off the wall a couple times.  A little more distance and he could be leading the league in homeruns…Carl Crawford walked three times…Matt Kemp may be breaking out of his slump, stringing together three singles in his last three at bats.

Sweet Caroline

Saturday, April 20th, 2013

Between 1998 and 2004 Amy Tobey was responsible for choosing the songs to be played between innings of the Boston Red Sox games.  She had heard the Neil Diamond song Sweet Caroline played at other sporting events and chose this song for the Red Sox games, usually playing it between the seventh and ninth innings when the Red Sox had the lead.  Tobey considered it a good luck charm to protect the lead.

John Henry’s group bought the team in 2002 and they requested Sweet Caroline be played during the eighth inning of every game.  Megan Keiser now chooses the music to play between innings, except for the eighth inning where it is Sweet Caroline.

On Friday the New York Yankees played the song Sweet Caroline to honor the city of Boston.  The Red Sox cancelled their game last night as the man hunt for the Boston marathon bomber continued.  On Saturday the Red Sox played their game.

Neil Diamond called the Red Sox switchboard at 12:30 to announce he had arrived.  The Red Sox had no intention of inviting him since they had already had him sing live a month earlier.  He had volunteered to come to Fenway to sing his song.  The Red Sox faithful were glad to have him.  Even if it was a return visit.

You can see it all here: http://mlb.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20130420&content_id=45313172&vkey=news_mlb&c_id=mlb

It is only fitting the Red Sox would win the game 4-3 thanks to a 3-run homerun in the eighth by the used to be unheralded Daniel Nava.

Yankees Still on Top in Major League Salary

Saturday, April 20th, 2013

Despite the spending of the Los Angeles Dodgers, the New York Yankees are still the top spending team as far as salaries to begin the 2013 season.  Below is a list of the teams in order of their salary.  The 2012 salary is shown in parenthesis.  The 2013 salaries were compiled by USA Today based on documents obtained from the MLB Player’s Association.  Deferred payments and incentive clauses are not included.  The 2012 salaries were compiled by CBS Sports also from the MLB Player’s Association.

1. New York Yankees - $227,354,057 ($197,962,289)

2. Los Angeles Dodgers - $216,597,577 ($95,143,575)

3. Philadelphia Phillies - $158,485,714 ($174,538,938)

4. Boston Red Sox - $154,630,500 ($173,186,617)

5. Detroit Tigers - $148,414,500 ($132,300,000)

6. San Francisco Giants - $140,264,334 ($117,620,683)

7. Los Angeles Angels - S138,396,250 ($154,485,166)

8. Texas Rangers - $120,990,100 ($120,510,974)

9. Chicago White Sox - $119,073,277 ($96,919,500)

10. St. Louis Cardinals - $115,222,086 ($110,300,862)

11. Toronto Blue Jays - $113,027,800 ($75,489,200)

12. Washington Nationals - $110,831,769 ($81,336,143)

13. Chicago Cubs - $104,304,676 ($88,197,033)

14. Cincinnati Reds - $103,991,305 ($83,309,942)

15. Baltimore Orioles - $90,993,333 ($81,428,999)

16. Arizona Diamondbacks - $90,100,500 ($74,284,833)

17. Atlanta Braves - $89,778,192 ($83,309,942)

18. Milwaukee Brewers - $82,976,944 ($97,653,944)

19. Kansas City Royals - $81,491,725 ($60,916,225)

20. Cleveland Indians - $81,272,800 ($78,430,300)

21. Minnesota Twins - $75,802,500 ($94,085,000)

22. New York Mets - $73,396,649 ($93,353,983)

23. Seattle Mariners - $72,622,052 ($81,978,100)

24. Colorado Rockies - $71,924,071 ($78,069,571)

25. San Diego Padres - $67,143,600 ($55,244,700)

26. Pittsburgh Pirates - $66,289,524 ($63,431,999)

27. Oakland Athletics - $63,389,500 ($55,372,500)

28. Tampa Bay Rays - $57,895,272 ($64,173,500)

29. Miami Marlins - $42,341,900 ($118,078,000)

30. Houston Astros - $26,562,000 ($60,651,000)

Alex Rodriguez $29 million salary is more than what the Houston Astros are paying in salary for their entire roster.  Mark Teixeira at $23,125,000 is just under the Astros salary.  Those two players will be missing half the season.  That is $52 million to pay to players who are not going to play for the equivalent that may be a full season.

The Mets are paying $24.6 million to Johan Santana and he will miss the entire season.  Some insurance company is probably paying for that salary.

The top ten (or twelve) player salaries are:

1. Alex Rodriguez (Yankees) - $29 million

2. Cliff Lee (Phillies) - $25 million

3. Johan Santana (Mets) - $24.6 million

4. Mark Teixeira (Yankees) - $23.1 million

5. C.C. Sabathia (Yankees) - $23 million

6. Joe Mauer (Twins) - $23 million

7. Prince Fielder (Tigers) - $23 million

8. Tim Lincecum (Giants) - $22.2 million

9. Vernon Wells (Yankees) - $21 million

10. Adrian Gonzalez (Dodgers) - $21 million

11. Zack Greinke (Dodgers) - $21 million

12. Miguel Cabrera (Tigers) - $21 million

Luis Terrero Raking Again in Mexico

Saturday, April 20th, 2013

In 2011 Luis Terrero almost won the triple crown in the Mexican League.  His 38 homeruns were just one homerun shy of the league lead with Jorge Guzman hitting 39.  His 110 RBIs led the league but his .390 batting average was second, trailing only Barbaro Canizares who hit .396.  He was voted the MVP of the League.

Those kind of numbers got the attention of the Rakuten Golden Eagles of the Nippon Professional Baseball League, who invited Luis for a try out.  The Golden Eagles were mining the Mexican League for foreign players.  They had earlier signed traditional homerun leader Luis Garcia to a contract.  Terrero survived only 34 games in Japan, hitting just .153 with one homerun.  He struck out 30 times in just 121 plate appearances.  Garcia also struggled in Japan, hitting just .227 with seven homeruns.

Luis Terrero has returned to Mexico for the 2013 season and after the first 24 games of the season his numbers are triple crown eligible.  His .411 average is second in the league, but his 11 homeruns and 30 RBIs both lead the league.  He also has five stolen bases in six attempts.

Luis played five seasons in the major leagues from 2003 - 2007 as a fourth/fifth outfielder type before his Mexican League heroics, signed originally by the Arizona Diamondbacks out of the Dominican Republic in 1997.  He never played a year in the major leauges where he got more than 230 at bats, finishing with a career .234 average.  His last season for a major league affiliate was with AAA Louisville in 2010 at the age of 30.  The next year he played in the Mexican League where many ex-major league AAAA players go to die.

You can follow all the Mexican League action here: http://www.milb.com/index.jsp?sid=l125

Top Ten Career Minor League Homerun Hitters

Saturday, April 20th, 2013

When you approach this hallowed list as a minor leaguer there is always a reference to Crash Davis, the fictionalized character in Bull Durham who is most noted for having the most career homeruns for minor leaguers.  It is not a record most players want because it indicates there is very little time spent in the major leagues.  Mike Hessman has 370 career minor league homeruns.  At 35 years old he is currently playing in Louisville where he has slugged five homeruns in 11 games, bringing his minor league career homerun totals to 375.  He also has 14 major league homeruns and 14 homeruns playing in the Japanese professional league.  His eleven 20 homer seasons in the minor league season are one shy of four of the players on the below list.

1. Hector Espino (484) - Born in Chihuahua, Mexico, most of his homeruns were done in the Mexican League, which is considered AAA.  He is considered the Babe Ruth of Mexico.  The St. Louis Cardinals invited him to their spring training, but he never showed because he wanted a fair share of the sale price that was being given to the Mexican League team for his services.  He did play two seasons in the International League with the St. Louis Cardinals where he hit six homeruns.  The California Angels tried to sign him a number of times in the late 60s, but they were not successful as well.  Other major league teams who tried to sign him were the New York Mets and San Diego Padres.  His refusal to sign with a major league team earned him the nickname “the Rebel of Chihuahua”.  Like Jackie Robinson and his uniform number 42, the number 21 for Hector Espino has been retired by all professional teams in the Mexican winter and summer leagues.  He died in 1997 at the age of 58 of a heart attack.  With his 453 homeruns in the Mexican League, 20 in the Mexican Central League and his six homeruns in the AAA international league it is not clear how he got to his total minor league numbers to 484, but I’m sure there are five additional homeruns in the Mexican Central League we don’t see.

2. Nelson Barrera (457) - He broke the Mexican League homerun record of Hector Espino by two (455 to 453) but not the overall minor league record.  Nelson was signed by the Chicago White Sox in 1984 but only batted .174 with two homeruns for the Buffalo Bisons, resulting in his release.  He played 26 seasons in the Mexican League until his death at age 44 when he was eloctrocuted trying to repair his roof, touching a metal sheet that was in contact with some high voltage wires.  The 6,000 seat stadium in Campeche is named after him.

3. Alejandro Ortiz (458) - Another Mexican League player, but there is a lack of history on him.  He played on many teams with Andres Mora.

4. Andres Mora (444) - Another Mexican League player, he at least got four seasons in the major leagues with the Baltimore Orioles and the Cleveland Indians, beginning at the young age of 20. The Montreal Expos were the first team to sign him at age 17 but after 21 hitless at bats in the Florida State League with 11 strikeouts he returned to Mexico.  Three years later the Orioles called him.  He started the season as a 20 year old with the major league team Baltimore Orioles because Reggie Jackson held out in April.  The problem with Mora is that if he wasn’t hitting he was a liability in the field as well as on the bases.  He bounced up and down between Rochester and the major league team.  The Cleveland Indians picked him up in 1979 but Joe Charboneau had a rookie of the year season, beating out Mora for the left field job.  Instead of being sent back to the minors in Tacoma he chose to return to Mexico to play.  He slugged 27 major league homeruns.  He ranks third all time in Mexican League homeruns behind Hector Espino and Nelson Barrera (and probably Alejandro Ortiz, but he is not named for whatever reason).  If Mora had not spent the four seasons in the major leagues he probably would have surpassed Espino and Barrera (and Ortiz) in homeruns.

5. Buzz Artlett (432) - He was called the Babe Ruth of the minor leagues, the first non-Mexican League player on this list.  He is considered the all time minor league homerun king.  At 6′4″, 230 pounds he was a big man for the 1920s.  He began his career as a pitcher, getting his nickname Buzz because he could go through a lineup like a buzz saw.  In 1923 he began his career as an outfielder.  He played his only major league season in 1931 at the age of 32 when the Philadelphia Phillies purchased his contract, but his poor fielding became an issue.  As a hitter he hit .313 with 18 homeruns.  After that one major league season he returned to the minor leagues to establish the home run record.

6. Nick Cullop (420) - Nick is the all time minor league RBI king and may have surpassed Artlett for the homerun crown if he hadn’t spent five seasons playing major league ball.  He hit 11 major league homeruns playing for five different teams.  His best minor league season was with the Minneapolis Millers with the short right field porch where he could hit .359, swatting 54 homeruns and driving in 152 runs.

7. Merv Connors (400) - He had two major league seasons with the Chicago White Sox in 1937 and 1938 at the age of 23 and 24.  He hit eight major league homeruns.  His two best years in the minor leagues were his two last seasons when he hit 47 and 34 homeruns as a 38 and 39 year old for Amarillo and Carlsbad.  Most of his homeruns were hit in class C ball.

8. Joe Hauser (399) - He played in the major leagues from 1922 to 1929 where he hit 80 homeruns, another player who could have hit many more homeruns if not for the major league service time.  He blames Ty Cobb for over analyzing his hitting style and ending his major league career, though a broken leg also hindered his ability to hit.  He is legendary because he is the first player to hit 60 or more homeruns twice, hitting 63 in 1930 for the Baltimore Orioles and 69 in 1933 for the Minneapolis Millers.  His chance to hit 70 was ended when the game was rained out, but he finished with 182 RBIs for the year.  Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa became the other two players to hit more than 60 in their tainted seasons.

9. Bobby Prescott (398) - Prescott was born in Panama in 1931.  He played briefly for the Kansas City Royals in 1961 but only hit .083 while appearing in just ten games.  He played his last eight seasons (1964 -1972) in the Mexican League where he had his most prolific homerun numbers, hitting 175 homeruns in a five year period.

10. Jack Pierce (395) - He played for the Atlanta Braves and Detroit Tigers between 1973 and 1975 where he hit eight homeruns.  He went to Japan in 1977 to play for the Nankai Hawks where he hit 13 homeruns.  He also had a few seasons playing in the Mexican League, becoming a true international baseball star.  His 294 homeruns in the Mexican League are the most by a player born in the United States and eighth in the Mexican League.

The Delmarva Debut (cont - 7) - end

Saturday, April 20th, 2013

Larvell was curious how Jason would work with a man in scoring position and less than two out. He would be facing the bottom of the order. With a 2-0 lead they could give up the run. The infield was playing back conceding the run. Larvell was curious if Jason would concede the run.

He worked from the stretch. He seemed very calm on the mound, taking a deep breath as he glanced over at the runner on third. The number seven hitter did not stand a chance against Jason, striking out on three pitches, all of them fastballs, the last one a feeble swing and miss long after the ball had firmly planted itself in the pocket of Kevin’s mitt. “Woooooo….,” the crowd roared and a third K was added to the third base section of the “K’s for Tots” program. Ninety seven more to go, Larvell thought to himself.

Jason got ahead of the number eight hitter 0-2. The third pitch was a slider bouncing in the dirt. The batter tried to check his swing but the umpire indicated he went around. Kevin had the ball bounce off his chest protector, retrieved the ball, tagged the batter then glared the runner back to third. The batter had not noticed the umpire had indicated he swung and protested the call, pounding his bat to the ground. The manager rushed out of the dugout. He was soon toe to toe with the umpire. The crowd booed. It was a brief argument. It was clear the hitter had swung. The manager was just trying to protect his player from being ejected. Once the player was in the dugout the manager turned away from the umpire. There was a loud chorus of boos as the opposing manager stomped back toward the dugout.

“Nasty,” Rigo said to Larvell.

“With a runner on third most catchers in the game would not call for a pitch like that. Kevin has a lot of confidence in his ability to block the plate to call for a slider with a runner on third.”

“He has always led the league in fewest passed balls per pitch thrown by catchers in every league he has played. In his career, you can count the number of passed balls he’s allowed on two hands and I bet a lot of those were wild pitches erroneously ruled passed balls.”

“I’m impressed. You did your homework before coming here. How do you pick up this trivia and remember it.”

“Some things you just remember.”

The third hitter tapped a weak grounder to the second baseman. Jason’s control had been much better that inning. After the brief discussion Kevin had with Jason on the mound Jason threw only two pitches the umpire did not call a strike.

In the bottom of the inning Delmarva scored another run to make it 3-0. Kevin led off the inning hitting a laser into the right center field gap. He lumbered into second base. He moved to third on a wild pitch and then scored when the next hitter mashed one to the warning track in left center. The crowd first roared thinking the ball would travel over the fence, but it settled into the leftfielder’s glove, deep enough for Kevin to just trot home with the third run.

Jason did not have any trouble in the third inning. There were two chants of “Wooooooo….,” with the fifth and sixth K being placed in the slot along the third base railing. The last out was a bouncer just in front of the mound. Jason looked very athletic springing off the mound and tossing the ball to first. The limbs from his 6’5” frame seemed to move effortlessly. There was no stiffness in his arms and legs that were apparent in other tall pitchers Larvell had seen try to play defense, their long appendages getting in the way of them fielding the ball.

Delmarva did not score in the bottom of the third and a new pitcher came trotting in from the bullpen. There were boos from the crowd when they realized Jason was not coming out to pitch the fourth inning.

“How many pitches did he throw?” Larvell asked Rigo.

Rigo looked at his cell phone. He had been using the calculator feature to click off each pitch. “Forty-two, close to half of them thrown in the first inning.”

“God damn pitch counts,” Larvell could hear Jerry mutter from his seat. He had one too many beers and it was only the fourth inning. Larvell could hear him getting louder as the game progressed, working the room boasting about his accomplishments each time he went to the bar to fill up his cup. It was time for them to leave the stadium before Jerry felt bold enough to boast to Larvell.

“You had enough?”

“Already? We just got here.”

“I sense the environment is about to change.” Larvell motioned his eyes toward Jerry. He was slurring something about the days when pitchers used to go nine innings. If he was in charge of a major league baseball team pitchers would not be babied as they are now.

“Why are all owners drunks?”

“I wouldn’t categorize. Owners just have more money for residual spending.”

They quietly moved towards the exit without Jerry noticing. He was quite engaged talking to his other guests, allowing Larvell only the opportunity to give a friendly wave and mouthing the words “Thank you” before he slipped out the door.

It was as they were walking out of the stadium just short of the parking lot Larvell heard the growl of thunder echoing from a distance.

“Did you hear that?” Rigo cried out with fascination. “That was thunder.”

Larvell heard the murmur from the crowd after the thunder rumbled in the distance. It was the second time he had heard this type of thunder on a clear night. The first was after Jason completed his appearance against the Yankees. He looked up at the night sky and saw the absence of clouds. There was no rain in the forecast. It was a mystery what could have caused the thunder. Larvell refused to accept the fact Jason was the cause, even though the tales spread around the baseball internet community were pretty certain it would roar after each game he pitched. It defied all sense of logic.

“I would have preferred him coming back without the thunder,” Larvell responded back. “It just complicates things. He gets enough attention as it is. This only creates more problems for us. I don’t care how often I hear it after each game he pitches, no one is going to make me accept the fact that he is the reason for the thunder.”

End of Chapter 22

Top Dominican Prospects - American League

Saturday, April 20th, 2013

The Dominican Republic made up for their early elimination at the hands of the Netherlands in the 2009 WBC by going undefeated in the 2013 WBC to become the first team other than Japan to take the championship, getting some revenge by beating the Netherlands in the seminfinals.  To the rest of the world - there is more where the 2013 team came from.  This is a review of the American League Dominican Republic prospects.

1. Miguel Sano 3B (Minnesota Twins) - He is probably the best power hitting prospect in baseball right now.  If he was a superior defensive player he may be considered the best prospect in baseball.  The Twins hope he doesn’t get too big to play third base.  While his bat would still play at first it would certainly be less valuable.  Miguel finally broke from the rookie leagues and played in the full season Low A league slugging 28 homeruns.  The slugging numbers (.637 vs .521) and the batting average (.292 vs .258) were down but he showed an increased awareness of the plate walking 80 times.  This year he is playing in the pitcher friendly Florida State League and showing pitchers no mercy, hitting .362 with five homeruns (.690 slugging).  He still needs to cut down on his strikeouts.

2. Gary Sanchez C (New York Yankees) - Gary Sanchez was considered the top prospect out of the Dominican Republic in 2009, but Sano appears to have surpassed him.  The question with Sanchez is whether his defense will be good enough to allow him to catch.  He is said to have better catching tools than Jesus Montero but 16 errors and 18 passed balls at two levels tells a different story.  He did slug 18 homeruns and has the bat to move to first base, but like Sano the stick is more valuable if it can be used behind the plate.  While he is not a fast runner he was able to steal 15 bases in 19 attempts.  He is also playing in the Florida State League, hitting .351 with three homeruns.

3. Dorssys Paulino SS (Cleveland Indians) - On many teams he would be considered their shortstop of the future.  With the Indians he finds he is second on the depth chart behind Francisco Lindor.  Paulino has a better stick than Lindor, but he doesn’t play the position as well defensively.  Last year he combined for a .333 average at two rookie levels, slugging .558 with seven homeruns in his professional debut.  He has above average speed that allowed him to steal 11 bases in 13 attempts.  He is one rung behind Lindor in the minors so the Indians will keep him at shortstop, but his eventual position may be second base.

4. Yordano Ventura RHP (Kansas City Royals) - They call Yordano the “Lil Pedro” after Pedro Martinez because of his small stature.  He only stands 5′11″ but he hits 102 miles per hour on the radar gun.  Myworld does not recall Pedro with that kind of velocity.  He needs to work on his secondary pitches, which include the curveball and change.  His command is also a little spotty.  After a promotion to AA his strikeouts per innings pitched dropped to 7.7 while his walk numbers were a bit less than one every two innings.  His small stature eliminates any downward plane advantage a pitcher with a triple digit fastball would have.

5. Adalberto Mondesi SS (Kansas City Royals) - He is the son of the Dodgers Raul Mondesi and his brother Raul Mondesi Jr. plays for the Tampa Bay Rays.  He may not be able to hit for the power of his dad but his defense at short has the potential to be a plus.  He has all the tools to play the position.  He also showed a little better bat last year than most projected, hitting .290 with three homeruns.  One issue was his 65 whiffs in 50 games.  That may be acceptable for a power hitter, but Adalberto may not fit that mode.

6. Alex Colome RHP (Tampa Bay Rays) - Alex is the nephew of Jesus Colome.  The Rays always seem to have a large queue of pitchers waiting to get into the Tampa Bay Rays starting rotation.  The Rays seem to try to accomodate room for one pitcher by trading one veteran to acquire a bat and an injury to another gives another young pitcher an opportunity.  Alex is next in line for an opportunity to fit into the starting rotation.  He lost the battle for the fifth starters spot to Roberto Hernandez (ex-Fausto Carmona).  Alex has a fastball that pops the plate in the 93-95 mile per hour range with a curve ball, slider and change his other offerings.  He has made three starts this year and has only given up one earned run for a 0.56 ERA.  The opposition is hitting him at a .143 rate.

7. Jorge Bonifacio OF (Kansas City Royals) - Another relative of a major leaguer, Jorge is the younger brother of major leaguer Emilio.  He is not the same kind of player as Emilio, relying more on his power than his speed.  The trade of Wil Myers seems to have opened a spot for him in right field.  Last year he played in Low A where he hit .282 with ten homeruns.  His major league debut in right field is still a couple years away.  It’s early in the season in the Carolina League, but after the first 12 games he has yet to hit a homerun and is hitting .250.  Five of his twelve hits have gone for extra bases.

8. Danny Salazar RHP (Cleveland Indians) - Danny was signed in 2006.  It is only now, after toiling five years in rookie and Low A leagues that he is knocking on the door of the major league roster.  He is not a big guy, standing just 6′0″ but the velocity on his fastball has seen jumps to 93-97 with readings in the triple digits.  He still needs to work on his secondary pitches, but his changeup is considered the best among the pitchers in the Indians minor league.  He had Tommy John surgery in 2010, one of the reasons he stayed frozen at the lower levels of the minor leagues.  This has restricted his work load, with 2009 seeing his most work with 107 innings.

9. Ronny Rodriguez SS (Cleveland Indians) - Ronny plays shortstop and is a step ahead of Lindor in the depth chart.  He attended high school in the United States but moved back to the island where he was signed as an international free agent for $375,000.  He has shown some pop his first two years hitting 11 and 19 homeruns.  Last year he improved his strikeout numbers but he still swings at too many pitcher’s pitches.  This could result in a lower average as he rises to the top.  He is currently playing in AA Eastern where he is currently hitting just .218.  He has only walked once in 14 games for a .228 OBA.

10. Enny Romero LHP (Tampa Bay Rays) - Enny throws hard, hitting the mid-90s with his fastball, excellent for a pitcher who throws from the left side.  His secondary pitchers, the curve and change are far from polished.  He also has some command issues, walking more than a hitter every two innings.  His ERAs the last two years (4.26 and 3.93) tell the tale of a pitcher who still needs a lot of work.  Enny is pitching for AA Southern where a poor middle start of his three starts had inflated his ERA to 5.93.  He has already given up four homeruns, which is just one less than he gave up last year.

The Delmarva Debut (cont - 6)

Friday, April 19th, 2013

“You still owe me a beer and a hot dog,” Rigo whispered to Larvell. “I’m not going to let you off so easy.”

“What do you mean? You have your beer and hot dog.”

“You didn’t have to pay for it. It doesn’t count.”

“You didn’t have to pay for it either. We’re even. Look, there are even beans on the plate for a bonus point.”

“You still owe me a beer and a hot dog.”

The announcer interrupted their debate, asking everyone to please rise for the playing of the national anthem. Larvell and Rigo were already standing. A young girl introduced as a student at American University sang the anthem. She had a pretty voice. Larvell could tell by the crackling in her voice she was nervous. She probably didn’t expect to be singing in front of this many people at a minor league game. The important thing is she remembered all the words. Larvell enjoyed it when the crowd chanted “Oh” in unison at the point in the song where she sang “Oh-oh say does…” She smiled too at the large crowd participation of her “Oh”. That was an indication some Oriole fans were here at the game.

Larvell looked out into the crowd. Everyone was standing at attention, many with hand to heart. Even many of the Asian fans with their Chinese flags stood at attention with their hand to their heart. Larvell assumed they were loyal U.S. citizens also loyal to someone from a country they or their parents once called home. There were even a number of United States flags being waved.

“I didn’t think we had so many Chinese in the area,” Larvell commented to Jerry when the music stopped.

“Kind of surprising, but then I’m not complaining. This kind of turnout is the difference between a team being in the black or the red after the season ends.”

Larvell and Rigo stood behind the luxury seats to watch the game since all the seats were occupied. Jerry and the general manager offered to give up their seats but Larvell declined. Rigo again followed Larvell’s lead. A number of people milled behind them still chowing down on their burgers and dogs from the buffet line.

Jason was rusty to start the game. Compared to his performance against the Yankees his pitches were all over the plate. He walked the leadoff batter on five pitches. The monitor on the scoreboard was showing his pitches at 101 miles per hour. Velocity doesn’t matter if you can’t get the ball over the plate.

The crowd ohhed and ahhed at the high velocity readings of his pitches, but groaned after the fifth pitch was called ball four by the umpire. The next batter was not so fortunate. He struck out on four pitches. There was a chorus of “Wooooooo….” echoing from the crowd at the last called third strike, a fastball reading 103 on the monitor. Jason may have been gone for a month but the crowd had not forgotten him. The Chinese flags waved high in the air in celebration of the strikeout just as the cheer sticks pounded in joy. It was a constant din of thunder inside the stadium. Larvell wondered if that thunder would be heard after Jason was done pitching.

The third hitter walked on four pitches to put runners on first and second. Kevin trotted out to the mound to talk to Jason. Larvell studied their chemistry together. One of the classes he had taken in college was body language and knowing when someone was comfortable with your presence. He liked how Jason and Kevin stood on the mound together, Kevin with his hand on Jason’s shoulder as he talked to him, Jason listening intently as he stared into his eyes. According to what he was taught, Jason would have turned his shoulder away and not allowed the contact if there was antagonism between the two. There would also be no eye to eye contact. They talked until the umpire went out to break it up.

The cleanup hitter was jammed with a fastball on the inside part of the plate and popped the ball up. The umpires screamed in unison “Infield fly, batter’s out.” The next hitter struck out on three pitches. Again the chants of “Wooooooo….,” rang through the stadium. The decibel level had to be greater than a rock concert between the chants, the screaming of the vendors competing with the screams of the fans and the constant pounding of the cheer sticks. A fan arriving late to the stadium had brought in a trumpet and was constantly blowing on it. The only tune he knew how to play was the one Larvell recognized from the race tracks they played to start each race. He blew out from his horn the same note after each strike and each out starting with the third batter.

Whatever Kevin had said to Jason calmed him down. Larvell noticed along the third base line near the home dugout near the batter’s box area a fan was placing a large “K” inside a slot in the railing to count the number of strikeouts for Jason. There were two “K’s” visible from the railing.

As the opposing team ran out to the field to their various positions to start the bottom of the first an announcer approached the fan responsible for placing the K’s in the slot. The promotion was called “The K’s for Tots” program and it was being sponsored by a local bank. Every game they gave $10 for each strikeout recorded by a Delmarva pitcher. After going through his sponsorship spiel the announcer asked the young fan who was helping his parents place the “K”s in the slots along the railing how many strikeouts he thought Jason would get tonight.

“A hundred,” the kid spoke confidently into the microphone, drawing laughter from the fans in the stadium. He collapsed into his mother’s arms smiling, a bit embarrassed by the laughter.

“That may be a little optimistic, but he already has two in the first inning. Just 98 more to go. Back to you Jeremy.”

Delmarva did well in the bottom of the inning. The number two batter got a single. Alexis Panigua followed by sending a ball soaring over the fence just below the scoreboard. Larvell was impressed with the sound the ball made off the bat. It was also a curveball he hit. So much for those scouting reports that said Alexis couldn’t hit a curveball.

After giving high fives to the players who had come out of the dugout Larvell was even more impressed where Alexis sat when he returned to the dugout. He sat next to Kevin. Jason was on the left side of Kevin, a towel wrapped around his neck and Alexis sat to his right. Larvell noticed for the first time their uniform attire as the three sat together. Alexis and Jason were both showing all sock, the bottom of their uniform pants hanging just above their calves. He glanced at some of the other players in the dugout and they were all showing sock. The only player Larvell could find who had his uniform pants touching his cleats was Troy Harper. He appeared to be a different duck. As Dusty had told Moose, Kevin is old school. He is teaching the players the old school mentality of playing ball.

Alexis said something to Kevin. He seemed to mime the curve of the pitch before he whacked it. They laughed. The talk was brief. Soon they sat in silence, both studying the opposing pitcher on the mound. Larvell didn’t like the tattoos that covered Alexis’ arms, but it seemed all the players nowadays had some ink on their frame. The best player in the game, Victor Murray of the Yankees had an arm that could have been printed straight out of the Marvel comics highlighting all the villains in the series.

After the third out Delmarva ran back out to the field. The leadoff batter in the top of the second laid down a perfect bunt down the third base line. It would have been better if the third baseman had just held the ball, but he tried to wing an underhand throw to first and he fired it right by the first baseman Jorel Putnam. By the time the right fielder Alexis retrieved the ball the runner had made it to third base.