GammonsDaily.com http://www.gammonsdaily.com Unfiltered MLB Anaysis. Fri, 19 May 2017 14:00:17 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.7.5 Peter Gammons: The kid from Milton Academy http://www.gammonsdaily.com/peter-gammons-the-kid-from-milton-academy/ http://www.gammonsdaily.com/peter-gammons-the-kid-from-milton-academy/#respond Fri, 19 May 2017 13:36:22 +0000 http://www.gammonsdaily.com/?p=44764

A couple of weekends back a baseball executive called me from his rental car to let me know “I’m going to your home town to see Matt Tabor pitch at Lawrence Academy.” I offered a little town of Groton, Massachusetts tour guide information.

That Tyler Beede pitched on that mound at Lawrence Acadamy. I did, too, back when dinosaurs roamed the earth, once in Little League, the day Harry Agganis died. That Matt Tabor grew up there in the Nashoba Valley in the town of Westford, which Dan Shaughnessy and I would call a suburb of Groton.

Tabor’s story is remarkable. Back in February, no one knew his name. Now, with two starts left, this Elon commit from Westford and Milton Academy is being clocked at 95-97 MPH, and several scouting directors this week said he could go anywhere from the end of the sandwich round to early in the third round. “I think he’ll be the first player from New England that gets drafted,” says one scouting director. There’s Vanderbilt third baseman Will Toffey, from Barnstable, Ma. and The Salisbury School in Connecticut. There’s Austin Filiere, another remarkable story since he plays shortstop and third for MIT and last summer led the Cape League in homers.

And the kid from Milton Acadamy may be the first player from the area drafted, somewhere between the 50th and 100th pick. Baseball—Red Sox baseball—may be the most popular sport in the Nashoba Valley, but it is not exactly Harvard Westlake. Tabor loved the game, and when he signed up to play for the Northeast Baseball 15-and-under team he was coached by Jeff Natale, who was a tremendous hitter at Trinity College in Hartford, Ct. and later reached AAA with the Red Sox and Yankees. Two years later, Natale moved on to be the assistant coach at Milton Acadamy, called Tabor to see if he were interested in transferring from Westford Acadamy to Milton. Which he was.

And here he is. And when he starts Milton’s rivalry game May 26 at Noble-and-Greenough, there may be 30 to 50 scouts in the stands. There were not 30 to 50 scouts to see T.S. Eliot, Buckminster Fuller, Robert F. or Ted Kennedy when they were playing rivalry somethings against Noble and Greenough.

That May 26 weekend, Matt and his friend Stevie O’Connor will have finished their Milton spring project, building a mini-Fenway Park and holding a whiffle ball tournament June 1 benefiting The Jimmy Fund. O’Connor was driving through Vermont, saw the min-Fenway built for similar tournaments benefiting a fund for Travis Roy—an extraordinary hockey player who was paralyzed his freshman season playing for Boston University. “We wanted to do something good out of our passion and love of the game,” says Tabor. “It’s fun, and if we help someone, that’s a great project.”

Tabor did not realize that the real Fenway Park was built by a family that has graced Milton Acadamy for generations, the Taylors. They owned the Red Sox and built the team that won the 1912 World Series. They built Fenway that season. For more than 100 years, the Taylors owned the Boston Globe. Oh, yes, cousin James, another Miltonian, has performed at the park his family built.

Tabor and O’Connor have their efforts up on GoFundMe, soon they will have their fund-raising tournament, and less than two weeks after the tourney Tabor will have been drafted and working out how and where he hits the road for the world of bus rides.

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Peter Gammons: The Pirates and the depreciating asset of Gerrit Cole http://www.gammonsdaily.com/peter-gammons-the-pirates-and-the-depreciating-asset-of-gerrit-cole/ http://www.gammonsdaily.com/peter-gammons-the-pirates-and-the-depreciating-asset-of-gerrit-cole/#comments Thu, 18 May 2017 16:03:02 +0000 http://www.gammonsdaily.com/?p=44753

Gerrit Cole was brilliant Wednesday night. He gave up one bloop single in his first six innings. Then again, since the Pirates’ April 3 opener at Fenway Park, Cole has been consistently brilliant, allowing two earned runs or less in his last seven starts.

He is healthy. He is still a power pitcher who averaged 96.7 and hit 99.1 Wednesday night with his four and two seamer, but he has studied and worked and made himself a multi-dimensional pitcher who Wednesday threw 26 of 38 changeups, knuckle curves, and sliders for strikes. His minor league mentor, Jim Benedict, tells Marlins folks that he is such a student of the game, so intelligent, that he could be a pitching coach, and right now. And he won’t be 27 years old until September.

Most big Scott Boras clients come with an expiration date tag. Sometimes, that free agent promise date seems a distraction; their teams believe it in the cases of Jake Arrieta and Matt Harvey, but it never distracted Max Scherzer from his relentless drive for greatness.

There is a sense that Cole has been distracted, but there is the warning label attached to his uniform that reads:”He becomes a free agent on November 1, 2019.” The Pirates knew that when they took him with the first selection in the 2011 draft, and while they made the playoffs in the deep National League Central three straight years, they knew that label would not come off as long as he was with the Pirates and the market could not support a $200M contract—particularly for a pitcher—that Scott Boras was taking him to the market the week of the next midterm elections. Oh yes, when Cole spun that gem Wednesday, the Pirates drew 18,808; Mike Sullivan’s defending Stanley Cup champions are in the playoffs, as ever.

So the reality is that Gerrit Cole could mean the World Series to the Astros or the Yankees, who have the farm systems to trade for him. If the Pirates wait until the off-season, his one year value is less than the value he has during this season, which is that if Houston or the Yankees get him he pitches three Septembers and Octobers for them in his twenties. And, don’t worry about the fact that he was the Yankees’ first pick out of high school and chose to attend UCLA, because Yankee scouting director Damon Oppenheimer has maintained a good relationship with Cole and his family.

If the Pirates do decide to trade him and reboot with a deep talented group of players in the minors, and with Jameson Taillon and Tyler Glasnow on their major league pitching staff and horizon, they can use the kind of haul the White Sox got for Chris Sale to deepen their rebuild, and can point to what Sale has meant to Boston, which is to say they wouldn’t be even thinking of October baseball right now without him.

Face reality;

–They are in last place. Granted, they’re only 5 ½ games behind the Brewers, but the Cardinals and Cubs loom ahead of them, and if you’re looking to another wild card run, there are six teams in front of them, and while the N.L. East is in chaos other than the Nationals, the West could have three post-season teams because the Rockies and Diamondbacks are very good.

–Taillon, for whom we all pray, isn’t coming back soon. Neither is Starling Marte. With Wednesday’s court ruling in Korea, Jung Ho Kang may not make it back this season, especially since the new U.S. administration is way behind in filling ambassadorships and consulate administrators, speaking of chaos.

–No one can explain it, but Andrew McCutchen’s OBP is under .300, his slugging under .400.

They listened on McCutchen last winter, and they will listen again between now and August 1.

And it looks as if they will, at the least, listen, on Cole. Why not?

The Pirates have the third worst run differential in the league. They are second-to-last in the NL in runs, homers and OPS, third to last with a .304 OBP. Only the Padres are worse in Defensive Runs Saved. Glasnow, Chad Kuhl and Trevor Williams are 3-8, 7.34, in growing pains. Gregory Polanco is now out with a hamstring pull, and many scouts feel he has regressed—one homer, .706 OPS.

The Pirates under Neal Huntington have built one of the game’s best cutting edge They Have established a unique culture, where everyone from Clint Hurdle to the Gulf Coast League buy into ideas and creativity without first person pronouns.

It will take a team that can look around its clubhouse and tell the players Gerrit Cole gives you a legitimate shot at a World Series ring this October, and the next. The Dodgers, who haven’t done the six year route for a starting pitcher under Andrew Friedman, wouldn’t jump in, especially with the pitching they have in their system from Clayton Kershaw to Walker Buehler. Toronto can’t; it’s just about in reboot mode. Boston’s done it for Sale and David Price, and won’t go this big again.

But the Astros and Yankees are two teams that can and they aren’t in the same league as the Pirates, unlike the Cubs and Cardinals. Look, there may not be a better baseball park east of San Francisco than Pittsburgh, and they have had a great run, but reality is setting in. Andrew McCutchen and Gerrit Cole are walking out the door soon, the cost of retaining Cole might make the rest of the payroll look like the ’17 Padres, so the best thing may be to accept reality, and think back to the 2011 draft, see where the next two players (Danny Hultzen, Trevor Bauer) have gone and appreciate that they got the best player in that draft, they made the playoffs thrice, and the expiration date is nye.

 

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Video: Peter on the emergence of Ian Happ, Dodgers’ depth, and more http://www.gammonsdaily.com/video-peter-on-the-emergence-of-ian-happ-dodgers-depth-and-more/ http://www.gammonsdaily.com/video-peter-on-the-emergence-of-ian-happ-dodgers-depth-and-more/#respond Thu, 18 May 2017 12:31:27 +0000 http://www.gammonsdaily.com/?p=44761 Peter joins The Rundown to talk about the return of Rich Hill to the Dodgers, the emergence of prospect Ian Happ, David Price’d return to the rotation, and more…

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Peter Gammons: Pitchers working fast could benefit more than just pace of play http://www.gammonsdaily.com/peter-gammons-pitchers-working-fast-could-benefit-more-than-just-pace-of-play/ http://www.gammonsdaily.com/peter-gammons-pitchers-working-fast-could-benefit-more-than-just-pace-of-play/#comments Wed, 10 May 2017 19:30:48 +0000 http://www.gammonsdaily.com/?p=44748

Back in the late 1970’s, Oriole pitchers used to wear t-shirts inspired by George Bamberger and Ray Miller that read, “work fast, throw strikes, change speeds.” Simple. “It still applies,” says John Farrell.

When working on a piece on the relationship between Greg Maddux and Eddie Perez, Maddux said, “what Eddie does is get the ball back to me in no more than two seconds after every pitch. He allows me to control the tempo of the game.”

The year that Mike Flanagan won the Cy Young Award, 1979, he discussed the Oriole pitching philosophy by standing on a mound, baseball in hand, and said, “the pitcher controls the game. He is the offense. Nothing happens until he throws the ball. He initiates the action. The batter reacts to what the pitcher does, so he is the reactor, he is the defense, the pitcher the offense.”

Then one goes and watches a big-time college game where catchers are checking numbers on their arms, looking into the dugout for signs, and after a throw-over or three, there are a good 40 seconds between pitches. I remember watching a University of Virginia game on TV one night and screaming, “no one would violate the speed limit in that state if the punishment were sitting through a four hour game in Charlottesville.”

Writing about Chris Sale last week, I mentioned how he took Mark Buehrle’s advice, worked quickly (both were in the top six in shortest time between pitches,  2010-2017). In discussing Sale’s pace and how much his teammates loved playing behind him, one catcher mentioned how much better Clay Buchholz might have been had he not been so deliberate between pitches, then went on to say it is hard to set up with close to a perfect presentation and hold it for 30 to 40 seconds.

Buehrle and Sale believe that working quickly doesn’t allow hitters to get set or think. Scouts watching Carlos Martinez Tuesday night said he did not allow Marlins batters to get set. “He doesn’t give his catcher time to keep looking in the dugout or to come out to the mound and break his rhythm,” said one. “It was wonderful.” And one veteran manager asked, “how great could Justin Verlander be if he didn’t shake off ten pitches an inning and having two or three meetings on the mound.”

This is one place pace of game and real baseball intersect. “I just don’t understand why teams don’t try to teach working quickly in the minors,” said one executive Wednesday. “We don’t need analytics preparing pitch selection. The pitchers and the catchers should create a pace and work off what they see hitters trying to do. Computers can’t see how batters change their position in the batter’s box or how they drop their hands or move their feet. Bob Boone used to talk about watching every move a hitter took in his setup. Pedro Martinez would watch a hitter set up and know how to attack him.

 

FASTEST WORKERS: (Seconds Between Pitches)

Jason Vargas          18.7

R.A. Dickey             18.9

Amir Garrett          18.9

Michael Wacha      19.0

Carlos Martinez     19.4

Kyle Hendricks      19.7

Luis Severino         20.0

Tyler Chatwood    20.0

Jered Weaver         20.2

Chris Sale                 20.4

 

SLOWEST WORKERS(Seconds Between Pitches)

Matt Andriese        28.0

Chris Archer           26.6

Alex Cobb                 26.6

Yu Darvish               26.3

Matt Shoemaker    26.3

Zack Greinke           26.2

Daniel Norris           26.0

Justin Verlander    25.9

Julio Teheran          25.6

Phil Hughes              25.6

Would Chris Archer be better, more efficient, more dominating if he worked quicker. Could Daniel Norris be more effective? Alex Cobb?

Perhaps what the pitching division of organizational development should do is think it out, see what happens if they go to instincts and pace and rhythm and leave the analysis to start-to-start preparation. It’s worth considering. Work Fast, Throw Strikes, Change Speeds might get starting pitchers to the seventh inning more frequently, reduce standing around and make for a more entertaining game.

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Peter Gammons: A 1982 tale of Gaylord Perry and a foreign substance http://www.gammonsdaily.com/peter-gammons-a-1982-tale-of-gaylord-perry-and-a-foreign-substance/ http://www.gammonsdaily.com/peter-gammons-a-1982-tale-of-gaylord-perry-and-a-foreign-substance/#respond Mon, 08 May 2017 16:44:05 +0000 http://www.gammonsdaily.com/?p=44744

Gaylord Perry was honored in Seattle this past week for his place in Mariner history. Winning his 300th game in the HO-scaled Kingdome, for his place in the Hall of Fame with Junior Griffey and Randy Johnson.

When I was covering the Red Sox, a clubhouse worker once gave me a jar of Vaseline from his locker in the visiting clubhouse. He was always coy, clever, humorous about whatever he put on baseballs, and for all the times he was inspected on the mound, only once was he ejected for putting a foreign substance on a baseball.

It was the night of August 23, 1982, against the Red Sox. In the seventh inning, down 1-0 with the bases loaded and two out and facing Rick Miller, who was his nemesis, he threw a pitch that dropped measurably. Umpire Dave Phillips, one of the most respected umpires of the era, jumped out from behind home plate and ejected Gaylord. There was some argument from Perry and M’s manager Rene Lachemann, but it sure seemed obvious to all of us in the building that there was a very mysterious flight pattern to the pitch.

But the reason Perry was ejected was a warning he got in the top of the fourth inning.

And that was, well, divine intervention.

Red Sox outfielder Reid Nichols asked Phillips to check the ball. Phillips did, found some substance, and issued the warning.

So, despite the fact that is was past 1:30 a.m. EDT when the game ended, the story, in my opinion, was Nichols.

So after taking the elevator to the first floor, I was able to get to Nichols in the hallway outside the visiting clubhouse, which, incidentally, had the greatest candy rack in baseball history. Nichols said, “in the bottom of the third inning I was standing at my position in left field and a voice came to me reminding of the scripture that ‘no weapon formed against thee shall prosper.’ So when I got up to the plate in the next inning, I asked the umpire to check the ball.”

And so, eventually, Gaylord Perry was ejected for throwing the post-warning suspicious pitch, proving a weapon formed against one does not prosper.

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Peter Gammons: Early May check in on Red Sox pitching staff http://www.gammonsdaily.com/peter-gammons-early-may-check-in-on-red-sox-pitching-staff/ http://www.gammonsdaily.com/peter-gammons-early-may-check-in-on-red-sox-pitching-staff/#comments Sun, 07 May 2017 22:49:07 +0000 http://www.gammonsdaily.com/?p=44733

Anyone who thought Dave Dombrowski essentially tossed blank checks at the Padres and White Sox to get Craig Kimbrel, Drew Pomeranz and Chris Sale had a large antiphonal choir with them. Prospect rankings may been rotisserie fools’ gold in many cases, but Dombrowski emptied some of the stock shelves for the three pitchers.

Now, a month into the 2017 season, one can easily ask—where would the Red Sox be without the threesome? And where they might be two months from now had he not laid down a clear nyet on Andrew Benintendi and Rafael Devers.

This has been a foggy, drizzly first fifth of the season for the Red Sox after they lost Friday night on a Joe Mauer walkoff in Minneapolis prior to the Saturday matinee. They were four games behind the Yankees. Only the Jays, A’s, Angels, and Royals had worse run differentials than Boston’s -4. They were 13th in the American League in runs, last in homers, 11th in OPS. Third base is such a hole that as they wait to see what they’ll eventually get back in Pablo Sandoval, their gaggle of third basemen are 29th in Defensive Runs Saved, 30th in OPS, and have more errors than several team rosters, and when David Price returns and if Brian Johnson eventually becomes the fifth starter, four of their five starting pitchers will be lefthanded.

Not exactly the model Earl Weaver laid down when he had three lefthanded starters with Mark Belanger and either Brooks Robinson or Doug DeCinces on the left side of the infield.

Yet, with sensational outfield defense, in the 15 games leading into Saturday their staff earned run average was 2.92, best in the majors in that time-frame. Pomeranz has allowed more than two runs just once in five starts, morphing into a curveball pitcher, ala Rich Hill. Eduardo Rodriguez has a 3.07 ERA. Rick Porcello went into Saturday with 18 quality starts in his last 19 outings. Watching David Price’s throwing session Wednesday and simulated game Thursday made one believe he will return, Memorial Day, whenever.

Kimbrel has been what John Farrell says “is arguably the best closer in the game.” 98.3 MPH heat. Curveball from Hell’s Kitchen. Struck out half the 48 batters he’s faced.

And Sale has been nothing short of beyond belief, with the 1.38 ERA and 63-8 strikeout-walk ratio through six starts and 45 2/3 innings. Farrell, teammates and managers and coaches from other teams ask, “why can’t more pitchers emulate him?”

Now, they’re not asking someone else to be able to dial it up from 91 to 97 MPH or throwing that killer breaking ball or something out of that deceptive, complex delivery and be so coordinated that he can throw close to three out of every four fastballs for strikes. Not a fair request.

What they are asking is why other pitchers, like Sale, dial up Mark Buehrle? Remember when George Bamberger and later Ray Miller had the Oriole pitchers wearing “Work Fast, Throw Strikes” t-shirts? The point, exactly.

When Sale got to the big leagues with the White Sox as a reliever, Buehrle was a veteran en route to 214 wins—more than Hall of Famers Don Drysdale or Bob Lemon— and 14 consecutive seasons throwing at least 200 innings. His stuff might have been described as Sale In a Hospital Zone, but he has really good stuff. He worked exceptionally quickly. He didn’t stand on the mound staring at his catcher as he gave the signs; in fact, Buehrle claimed that in his entire career, never once—never—did he shake off a catcher’s sign.

“I learned a lot from Mark,” says Sale. “He believed that the quicker you work, the less time there is for the hitter to get set or think. Your teammates enjoy playing behind you, which means you get a lot of help. It’s being aggressive. Don’t overthink it. Work fast, execute, trust your catcher.”

And going into his Sunday start against Ervin Santana, catcher Sandy Leon thinks Sale has shaken off two signs all season.

In his career, Sale averaged 19.3 seconds per pitch. Buehrle was 16.8, making them two of the quickest workers since the start of the 2010 season. This season Sale is down to less than 16 seconds between pitches.

Fewest Seconds Between Pitches, 2010-2017 (min. 1000 IP)

Mark Buehrle 16.8

R.A.  Dickey  18.3

Wade Miley  18.4

Jon Niese     18.6

Doug Fister 18.8

Chris Sale     19.3

Sale is averaging 14.2 pitches per innings this season, 15.5 for his career. Buehrle averaged 15.2 pitches per inning.

There has been speculation that once Price gets healthy, he could begin to work quicker. If Brian Johnson were to get himself back to the majors and is as healthy as he was two years ago, he has been a Buehrle clone in terms of pace.

Boston’s bullpen has been good, despite the Matt Barnes walkoff piece Friday. They think that between Ben Taylor, Chandler Shepherd and Jamie Callahan in the high minors, they may get further help in front of Kimbrel. And if Price comes back, he, Sale, Porcello and Wright were four of the eight pitchers in the American League that averaged at least 20 outs a start, taking further pressure off the back end of the staff.

There are issues to be answered with the Red Sox, who if they cling to remaining below the luxury tax threshold, cannot go out and take a significant contract at third base or the pitching staff. The Yankees do not want to cross the threshold and pay a 50% tax on free agents next winter, but their blend of youth and veterans has taken on a fascinating character piece in the first month.

Kimbrel may well be the best closer in the league right now, especially if Zach Britton has lasting problems with his forearm. If Pomeranz can throw 180 innings (for the first time), he may be a mid-rotation starter. Sale is a Cy Young candidate every year, perhaps this more than ever.

In reality, Yoan Moncada and Anderson Espinoza, Michael Kopech, Luis Alexander Basabe, and Manuel Margot are all going to play in the big leagues, not to mention that Travis Shaw has outperformed what he left behind, but without Sale, Kimbrel and Pomeranz, they might not have a chance to win their first post-season game since 2013, which is precisely the chance Dombrowski didn’t feel he could take.

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Videos: Peter on Red Sox-Orioles fued, Manny Machado, the NL West, and more http://www.gammonsdaily.com/videos-peter-on-red-sox-orioles-fued-manny-machado-the-nl-west-and-more/ http://www.gammonsdaily.com/videos-peter-on-red-sox-orioles-fued-manny-machado-the-nl-west-and-more/#respond Sat, 06 May 2017 13:50:33 +0000 http://www.gammonsdaily.com/?p=44741 Peter discusses Manny Machado’s on-field improvement, the D-backs and Rockies sustaining success and more…

Peter joins High Heat with Christopher Russo to discuss the drama between the Orioles and Red Sox…

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Peter, Theo Epstein, Eddie Vedder, and more from Hot Stove Cool Music 2017 http://www.gammonsdaily.com/peter-theo-epstein-eddie-vedder-and-more-from-hot-stove-cool-music-2017/ http://www.gammonsdaily.com/peter-theo-epstein-eddie-vedder-and-more-from-hot-stove-cool-music-2017/#comments Mon, 01 May 2017 14:53:32 +0000 http://www.gammonsdaily.com/?p=44722

The 2017 Hot Stove, Cool Music event brings together the Cubs, Red Sox and the world of music including Eddie Vedder for a good cause…

Theo Epstein discusses his Cubs shirt with a Boston Strong sticker and what the two teams working together means to him…

Eddie Vedder – Wishlist with Peter Gammons – Hot Stove Cool Music, Boston (April 29, 2017)

Eddie Vedder – Rockin’ In The Free World – Hot Stove Cool Music, Boston (April 29, 2017)

Foundation To Be Named Later is dedicated to improving lives through education, leadership and the healthy development of youth and families.

Click Here To Donate

 

 

 

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HOT STOVE COOL MUSIC 2017: Boston, April 28-29th http://www.gammonsdaily.com/hot-stove-cool-music-2017-tickets-available/ http://www.gammonsdaily.com/hot-stove-cool-music-2017-tickets-available/#respond Wed, 26 Apr 2017 15:48:04 +0000 http://www.gammonsdaily.com/?p=44678

HOT STOVE COOL MUSIC 2017: 

RED SOX / CUBS EDITION

Celebrating Music, Baseball and Giving Back


Baseball Champions for Charity Lunch – April 28th
Sheraton Boston, MA
11:30am-1:30pm

Moderated by Peter Gammons

Featuring a panel with:
Pedro Martinez
Ryan Dempster
Bernie Williams
Tom Caron
and other Cubs & Red Sox Legends

 

Hot Stove Cool Music – Cubs & Red Sox Edition – April 29th
Paradise Rock Club, Boston

Bands: WITH SPECIAL GUESTS TO BE NAMED LATER

1. Boston Hot Stove All Stars:
Peter Gammons
Theo Epstein (Chicago Cubs)
Will Dailey
Bill Janovitz (Buffalo Tom)
Chris Cote (The Upper Crust/Giant Kings)
Josh Kantor (Boston Red Sox Organist)
Bernie Williams (New York Yankees Legend)
Phil Aiken
Tom Polce
Paul Ahlstrand
Ed Valauskas
Mike O’Malley
Lenny DiNardo (former Boston Red Sox Pitcher)

2. BOTO – Band of Their Own
Kay Hanley (Letters to Cleo)
Freda Love Smith (Blake Babies)
Tanya Donelly and Gail Greenwood (Belly)
Jenny Dee (Jenny Dee & The Deelinquents)
Jen Trynin
Hilken Mancini and Chris Toppin (Fuzzy)
Magen Tracy

3. Chicago Hot Stove All Stars
Len Kasper (Cubs TV)
Matt Spiegel (Tributosaurus/Chicago radio host)
Curt Morrison (Tributosaurus)
Freda Love Smith (Blake Babies)
Dag Juhlin (Poi Dog Pondering)
Gerald Dowd (Robbie Fulks)
Max Crawford (Poi Dog Pondering)
Josh Kantor

 

 

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Jamey Newberg: Ink. http://www.gammonsdaily.com/jamey-newberg-ink/ http://www.gammonsdaily.com/jamey-newberg-ink/#comments Wed, 26 Apr 2017 15:43:55 +0000 http://www.gammonsdaily.com/?p=44716

There’s no way I could deliver a requiem on Josh Hamilton’s career as well as Levi Weaver did.  Instead, I thought I’d pull some things I’d written about him over the near-decade since he arrived, as I probably dumped more ink on the Josh Hamilton story than on anything else over that time.

December 2007

The scariest thing about a trade like this one — for both teams — is that the spectrum of what Edinson Volquez and Josh Hamilton could be in 2008 and 2009 and 2012 is massively wide.  Both players are sickeningly skilled but had shown themselves to be unpredictable, if not undependable — until huge resurgences in 2007.

Both Texas and Cincinnati are selling high in this deal.  Only time will tell whether they were buying smart.

March 2008

The Hamilton swing is so devoid of effort, it makes no sense.  You’ve seen the scout’s comment about the “flat-out, God-given gasoline” that comes effortlessly out of Neftali Feliz’s arm.  Josh Hamilton endows his baseball bat with a flat-out, God-given thunderstorm.  A nearly silent thunderstorm, somehow.

July 2009

The players fringing the diamond tonight, each of them Major League All-Stars themselves, had the same speechless, wide-eyed, almost giddy expressions on their faces that Max and I had on the couch watching that spectacle.  Before Hamilton’s first round was done, the players were all on their feet, just like the 50,000 Yankee Stadium fans who, in the space of 10 minutes, had adopted him as their own. 

The best moment for me was not the 502 off the Bank of America sign in right center, or the 504, or the 518.  Not the 13 straight.  Not the blast that tied Bobby Abreu for the greatest first round in Derby history, and not the one that broke the record.  Not the blast that Milton Bradley and Ian Kinsler and Michael Young were having, though that was pretty cool.  

The best moment, I thought, was after home run number 17, when Hamilton stepped out of the box to catch his breath, and did what we all wanted him to do.  He stopped.  Slowly turned around and looked to the crowd, which somewhere included his family.  And then to another part of the crowd.  And another.  Smiling, soaking that moment in, the one he’d dreamed almost prophetically about, as awestruck as those 50,000 who were on their feet, looking back at him and chanting his name.  “I got chills,” Hamilton would say afterwards.  “I got chills.”

February 2010

Josh Hamilton is a physical specimen, a powerful, graceful, seven-skills ballplayer who could have pitched or played wide receiver or dominated on a hockey rink.

He’s also assaulted his body, on the field and off of it, and given his history, and the recent stack of evidence, his durability will always be part of the profile.  With Michael Young, you never ask about durability.  With Hamilton, you never don’t.

 

April 2011

There’s no point in dissecting the play in yesterday’s top of the first to dispense blame.  The decision was in line with how this team plays, a brand of baseball that marks this team and helps make it what it is.  I’m not going to sit here and blame the player or the third base coach for the Hamilton bone break any more than I’d blame the center field wall for bruising Hamilton’s ribs.  It’s his style, it’s this team’s style, and, as much as we hate it, we have to concede that it’s just another chapter in a book that’s never going to end, as long as Josh Hamilton is a baseball player.

July 2011 (days after Texas signed Nomar Mazara and brought the 16-year-old to Arlington for an introduction and a little BP)

October 2012

It’s wrong to blame 2012 on Josh Hamilton.  Without him, Texas would have never had a 163rd game to play.  He’s the most extraordinary player in baseball when he’s locked in, and there were a couple long stretches this year when he was seeing the game in slow motion and making the field smaller in every phase.  He was the best baseball player in the world.

He was the best for long enough stretches to end up – even though he “took June and July off” (his own quip) – with 43 home runs (easily a career high), 128 RBI, and a .285/.354/.577 slash.

But every one of us is weighed down right now by the sense, even if he’s not as great a player as the April and early May version, and not as big a mess as he was in June and July, that, all told, he simply wasn’t the best he can be.

He wasn’t the best he can be, maybe in part because he seemed to lose his focus (in more ways than one), to the point at which his aloof nature, a quirky aspect of his character off the field, began to typify his play.  Once viewed as a player who played the game too recklessly, too hard for his own good, he finished 2012 appearing detached, checked out, embodying the club’s impossible collapse, his unique toolbox frozen up through critical moments when he wasn’t laughing at the opposing catcher’s ninth-inning jokes in what was then the season’s biggest game.

If he’d hit .285 every month, if he’d spread those 43 home runs and 128 RBI out evenly, nobody would complain.  But the timing of Hamilton’s final funk is what fans will take into the winter, and probably remember if he does leave for another uniform.  That, and the four-homer game in Baltimore on May 8 that lifted his numbers to a .406/.458/.840 slash line that wasn’t done climbing.  That time when he was absolutely transcendent, you know, before he wasn’t.

“Josh.”  Verb.  To tease.

In what is a relatively thin free agent market, there will probably be teams prepared to overpay for the good stuff, ignoring the brittle body and the drama and the high maintenance and the questions about approach, if not commitment, and “It’s me we’re talking about here.  Guys, it’s me.  It’s Josh.  It’s going to be something weird.”

His body compromised by the abuse he put it through before ever getting to Texas, Hamilton has dealt as a big leaguer with a right foot bruise, soreness and inflammation in both knees, strains of both hamstrings and a groin muscle, a pinched nerve in the lower back, an abdominal muscle tear, an intestinal virus, cracked ribs and bruised ribs and a rib cage strain, a right shoulder fracture, an unrelated shoulder bruise (with muscle spasms near his neck), a right wrist sprain, a right hand bruise, pneumonia, a viral infection, an abscessed tooth, dizziness, blue-eye sensitivity, sinus issues, and caffeine-induced ocular keratitis.

And an in-season effort to quit smokeless tobacco that some blame for the titanic slump that spanned June and July.

Those are the things we know about.

December 2012

I’m (pretty sure I’m) not going to waste any space here bullet-pointing all the reasons that it makes tremendous sense not to commit five years and an eighth of a billion dollars to Josh Hamilton, a 31-year-old with more age than that on his body.  Or listing a small sample of the moments of extraordinary greatness that Hamilton provided the Texas Rangers.  Or pointing out examples of the extraordinary accommodations and support that the Rangers provided Hamilton.

He can be, as he’s reminded us, “very deceptive, very sneaky in a lot of ways” when he wants.  His unpredictability is completely predictable.  It’s him, Josh, it’s gonna be something weird.

He made $28.2 million in five years here.  He’ll make $125 million in five years there.  I’m not going to say those numbers will end up looking backwards in terms of the production he provides, but I’m sorta confident about which team will have gotten the better deal.

February 2015

Joey Gallo is never going to be associated with Red Bull overload or smokeless tobacco withdrawals or ocular keratitis or blue-eyedness (Gallo’s eyes are brown).  He’s never going to say, “It’s gonna be something weird.”  He’s never going to drop a pop-up in center field unless it’s in Fall Instructs.  I’m never going to have to write about him: “He made $28.2 million in five years here.  He’ll make $125 million in five years there.  I’m not going to say those numbers will end up looking backwards in terms of the production he provides, but I’m sorta confident about which team will have gotten the better deal.” 

And the Texas Rangers will never passive-aggressively open camp without putting a locker up for Gallo, or for any of its players, no matter the reason.

April 2015

The Angels didn’t put a locker up for Hamilton in spring training, while he was in Houston rehabbing his shoulder and possibly dealing with another substance abuse relapse.  

Texas would never remove a player’s locker, or pull his merchandise or banner, regardless of what he was rehabbing from.  

*          *          *

The Angels’ owner will have paid you $42 million to play, and $68 million for you to leave.

October 2015

In a game decided by two runs, Josh Hamilton — the man whose dropped flyball in Oakland was emblematic of the Rangers’ 2012 collapse — saved one run and drove in another, eliminating from the division race the team that was so desperate to get rid of him in April that they took care of almost all of his game check last night, paying him to make that impossible catch and drive in the game’s final run. 

 

It wasn’t the same as freezing A-Rod to end the ALCS, or the Mavs finally taking down the Heat, but Josh Hamilton (20 days post-knee surgery) accounting for two runs in Texas 5, Los Angeles 3, helping send his team to the playoffs and making his primary payor’s playoff path a little steeper, was pure sports poetry.

I skipped October 2011.

I know.

It’s not Josh Hamilton’s fault that the right fielder didn’t get a split second of a better jump, or didn’t take a more decisive route, or wasn’t Endy Chavez, any of which probably would have made Hamilton and his teammates World Champions forever.

It’s not on Josh Hamilton that, less than 10 minutes later, his two-run bomb off Jason Motte wasn’t the greatest sports moment I will ever have and probably would have conclusively settled which pose the eventual statue would capture.

He was the best baseball player on the best editions of my town’s team in my favorite sport.

We were all fortunate enough to cross paths with him.  With his genius on the field, in our uniform.

Rays, Cubs, Reds, Rangers, Angels . . . but Josh Hamilton will be remembered in only one uniform, even though it seems he was here for just a flash, centerpiecing a career that took forever to get going, and sputtered at length at the end.

He came to us late, and left us early.

And then when he came back, the comeback ended unceremoniously.

That’s part of what doesn’t feel right, not as the final chapter of the always dramatic story that was Josh Hamilton, even though most careers do end quietly, if not cruelly.  Not many leave fully on their own terms.

Pro careerse usually end without ceremony, casualties of ligaments that don’t hold up or slowed twitch or marginally dulled reaction time.

They usually end as a fade.  Not always.  But usually.  Even for the great ones.

But this was supposed to end with Roy Hobbs obliterating the light standards, and the credits rolling, right after he’s seen playing catch with his kid(s).

Hamilton experienced sports-highs none of us could ever approach, and not just once.  He’s known lows most of us can’t truly imagine, or understand.

Superhuman on the one hand.  Painfully human on the other.

Now he’s heading toward super-normal, or something approaching it to a much greater degree than anything he’s familiar with.

I hope that goes well.

I take comfort in the idea that Josh Hamilton moving in the direction of something more simple will work out.  In a way, a really weird way, it’s always been about simple for him — when he was at his best, that is — at least to those of us watching from a distance.  See ball, hit ball, run and throw and destroy baseballs with that nearly silent thunderstorm that appeared almost effortless.  Simple.

Los Angeles was a terrible idea from the start.

Texas was perfect for him.

And he for it.

We remember pieces of dreams, some eerily real and others too insane to be true.  Other pieces we forget, and maybe that’s because it make things easier, and better, and more comfortable to move on from.

I’m sad I probably won’t have much, if anything, to write about Hamilton anymore.  The team he helped take to a new level is still there, but it’s not the same as those five incredible seasons he gave this team and those of us who care so much about it, five incredible seasons that saw the Rangers and Hamilton himself grow up, each fulfilling potential, once and for all, that had always been so painfully elusive.

That part I’m sad about, but not as fired up as I was that Josh Hamilton wore our uniform, and played the game the way so few ever have, or have been able to, brandishing twisted-steel forearms inked with the reminders of his troubled past, yet hinting at the promise, here, for years, of a future of imminent possibility.

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This contribution was provided by Jamey Newberg of The Newberg Report. You can follow Jamey on twitter @NewbergReport

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