Top 100 Baseball Blog

Monday, November 13, 2017

Blue Jays’ Dennis Holmberg Named Mike Coolbaugh Award Winner

ST. PETERSBURG, Florida — Minor League Baseball announced today it has selected Bluefield Blue Jays Manager Dennis Holmberg as the recipient of the 10th annual Mike Coolbaugh Award. Holmberg will receive the award at the Baseball Winter Meetings Banquet on Sunday,Dec. 10, at the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort in Orlando, Florida.

The Mike Coolbaugh Award is presented annually to an individual who has shown outstanding baseball work ethic, knowledge of the game and skill in mentoring young players on the field. The award was created by Minor League Baseball in 2008 to honor the late Coolbaugh, a 17-year minor league player who was in his first year as a coach at the time of his passing. Mike appeared in 44 major league games with the Milwaukee Brewers (39 games in 2001) and St. Louis Cardinals (five games in 2002).

Holmberg played eight seasons in the Milwaukee Brewers organization from 1970-77, where he played every position except shortstop. During his playing career, he also spent eight years (1971-78) in the Army Reserve National Guard. Following his playing career, Holmberg embarked on a coaching career that has spanned 40 years, the last 39 of which have come in the Blue Jays organization. Of Holmberg’s 40 seasons in
the dugout, 38 have been spent at, or below, the Class-A level (he spent the 1994-95 seasons as Toronto’s bullpen coach).

Holmberg’s teams have reached the postseason 11 times and he received the Bobby Mattick Award, which is presented by the Blue Jays organization to recognize excellence in player development, in 2006 and 2011. In his career, Holmberg has coached or managed 244 players that have reached the Major Leagues and he has a managerial record of 1,474-1,355. His 1,474 wins are ninth-most among active minor
league managers.

“I am humbled and deeply honored to be chosen as the 2017 recipient of the Mike Coolbaugh Award. To be included on the list with the previous winners and their accomplishments only reminds me of Mike’s work ethic, his knowledge and passion for the game,” said Holmberg. “I am grateful to the Toronto Blue Jays organization for 40 years of opportunity, Pat O’Conner and all of Minor League Baseball and most
importantly, the Coolbaugh family.”

“This is an incredible achievement and recognition for someone who has selflessly devoted the better part of his life to developing and mentoring our players and coaches on and off the field,” said Toronto Blue Jays General Manager Ross Atkins. “Dennis has impacted this organization as much or more than any player development staffer and we know that he will continue to. On behalf of the Blue Jays, we congratulate Dennis on receiving this award.”

“Dennis has spent the majority of his coaching career at the lower levels of Minor League Baseball, helping hundreds of impressionable young players learn what it takes to be a professional ballplayer and putting them in a position to have a successful career and hopefully reach the Major Leagues,” said Minor League Baseball President & CEO Pat O’Conner. “The impact he has made on so many careers, and the respect
he has earned from his peers throughout the game, made him an easy choice for the Mike Coolbaugh Award.”

“Each summer I have the pleasure to visit Dennis during the minor league season, and every time that I do, I am amazed by the passion and energy he puts in to educating these young men, preparing them for their careers ahead whether in, or out, of baseball,” said Blue Jays Director of Minor League Operations Charlie Wilson. “We are lucky to have such a unique, dedicated and talented leader in our organization and this recognition of Dennis is very well deserved.”

PREVIOUS MIKE COOLBAUGH AWARD WINNERS

2008 Bobby Jones, Texas Rangers
2009 Charlie Montoyo, Tampa Bay Rays
2010 Woody Huyke, GCL Pirates
2011 Mike Jirschele, Omaha Storm Chasers
2012 Johnny Goryl, Cleveland Indians 

About Minor League Baseball Minor League Baseball, headquartered in St. Petersburg, Florida, is the governing body for all professional baseball teams in the United States, Canada and the Dominican Republic that are affiliated with Major League Baseball® clubs through their farm systems. Fans are coming out in unprecedented numbers to this one-of-a-kind experience that can only be found at Minor League Baseball ballparks. In 2017, Minor League Baseball attracted 41.8 million fans to its ballparks to see the future stars of the sport hone their skills. From the electricity in the stands to the excitement on the field, Minor League Baseball has provided affordable family-friendly entertainment to people of all ages since its founding in 1901. For more information, visit www.MiLB.com. Follow Minor League Baseball on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
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Sunday, November 12, 2017

Boston Red Sox: Possible 2018 Free Agent Targets

Ticker tape is practically still being picked up from the victory parade of the World Series winning Houston Astros. However, as we head into the offseason, eyes have already turned to the 2018 major league baseball season. Nearly 150 players have become free agents and teams will shortly begin jostling to add new pieces in an attempt to field an even better team than the year before. Let’s take a look at some of the available talent that could be good fits for the Boston Red Sox, who won 93 games this year and may not be too far away from planning another parade of their own in the near future.

The Red Sox have eight players of their own who are now free agents (Fernando Abad; Blaine Boyer; Rajai Davis; Doug Fister; Mitch Moreland; Eduardo Nunez; Addison ReedChris Young). Given how they produced with Boston last year, and the holes they would create by leaving, it seems like Moreland and Nunez are two of the better bets to return if terms are mutually agreeable. That being said, there are plenty of other players that could potentially help the Red Sox in 2018:

Outfielder Cameron Maybin: After a nice first season as the Sox’s fourth outfielder in 2016, Young’s production dropped significantly this past year. In particular, he lost his ability to beat up left-handed pitching (a primary reason he was brought on board in the first place), as his batting average against them dipped from .329 to .200.

Although he doesn’t have the power of Young, Maybin could be a worthy replacement. The 30-year-old has excellent speed (33 steals in just 114 2017 games) and can all play all three outfield positions. He is also a pretty darn good defender, which would only add to the reputation of the stout Boston outfielders. He has played for seven teams in his 11-year career, mostly as a starter. He may not do enough with the bat to command starting dollars on the open market but could be a nice option to shore up the Red Sox bench.

Outfielder JD Martinez: Despite the team’s success it was obvious that the Red Sox sorely missed retired slugger David Ortiz this past year. They were in the top half of the league in runs scored but dead last (by a decent margin) with 168 home runs. They relied more on stringing together hits to score runs than one big blast, as had been a frequent occurrence throughout the career of Big Papi.

There aren’t a lot of great power options on the free agent market but Martinez is clearly the best. He hit 45 home runs in just 119 games this past year, including a Ruthian 29 in just 62 games after joining the Arizona Diamondbacks following a mid-season trade. He has a 1.222 career OPS in 14 games against Boston, so they would likely breathe easier if he didn’t have to face them any longer.

A pretty abysmal fielder, the 30-year-old right-handed hitter is an outfielder by trade. There is no place for him to play his natural position in Boston. However, one solution might be shuttling him between DH and first base, as disappointing/oft injured Hanley Ramirez plays out the final year of his $88 million pact in 2018. He has not played at first during his career but such shortcomings would be much more forgivable if he was around to put 40-plus homers over the fence on an annual basis. Once Ramirez’s contract runs its course he could slide into a full-time DH role.

Obviously, money will be an issue when considering the plausibility of signing Martinez.  It is rumored that he may be asking for upwards of $200 million. Given his age and defensive limitations that should be out of the question for any team that might mind spending 200 cents on the dollar. However, if the Sox don’t land slugger Giancarlo Stanton in a trade, he would be the next best option to see what might be worked out.

Relief Pitcher Bryan Shaw: Boston doesn’t typically throw a lot of money at higher-priced middle relief options. Shaw might be worth the exception. The 30-year-old right-hander has been a lynchpin of the Cleveland Indians’ bullpen for the past half decade, and has led the American League in appearances in three of the past four years. A slider/cutter man, he kills right-handed hitting, holding such batters to a .621 OPS for his career.

With the Red Sox currently possessing a pretty full bullpen, signing Shaw would be more about making an upgrade than addressing a need. His availability could also be determined by his market, as it is possible some team could make a run at him in the hopes of making him their closer, which would certainly eliminate Boston from any contention for his services.

Pitcher Yusmeiro Petit: A much less sexy but potentially as valuable option would be the right-handed Petit. A journeyman with a propensity to give up to many long balls for much of his career, he had a career year in 2017 with the Los Angeles Angels. He appeared in 60 games (one start) and had a 2.76 ERA, a near career-best of 10.0 strikeouts/9 and halved his home runs/9 from the previous year.

With a fastball that averages less than 90 MPH, he throws breaking balls a majority of the time and is the definition of a crafty pitcher. However, he has the ability and track record of both starting and relieving. He is the Swiss Army Knife type of pitcher that could be of immense value to the Sox staff, especially with free agent Doug Fister likely to hit the road and the healthy return of Steven Wright still unknown at this time.

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Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Remembering Future Hall-of-Famer Roy Halladay


Sadly, baseball lost another legend entirely too soon with the news that former pitcher Roy Halladay died Tuesday at the age of 40 in a single-engine airplane crash over the Gulf of Mexico. He is not due for consideration for the Baseball Hall of Famer until 2019 but his untimely passing is a melancholy opportunity to remember what a talented force he was during his 16-year big league career.

Make no mistake about it, regardless of his sudden death the right-handed Halladay should have always been a first-ballot Hall-of-Famer when he becomes eligible. His 203-105 record and 3.38 ERA are impressive but may not blow stat-counting voters away. However, he did more than enough.

For a decade (2002-2011) he was the best pitcher in baseball, going 170-75 with a 2.97 ERA. He won two Cy Young Awards during that time and finished in the top five in voting an impressive additional five times. He was also perhaps the last of the workhorse pitchers, tossing 67 regular season complete games and 20 shutouts during his career. For comparison sake, Clayton Kershaw and Max Scherzer have combined for 33 complete games and 19 shutouts during their respective careers (spanning a total of 20 seasons).

Part of what makes Halladay’s resume so impressive was that he originally came up with the Toronto Blue Jays in the late 1990s as a top pitching prospect but ultimately had to rebuild himself. He posted promising results his first two years but a ludicrous 10.64 ERA in 67.2 innings in 2000 led to his demotion to the low minors where he rebuilt himself as a sinker/cutter pitcher. He was up the next year and never looked back.

The crowning achievement of Halladay’s career was his 2010 no-hitter game in the National League Divisional Series, when his Philadelphia Phillies beat the Cincinnati Reds. This was just the second no-hitter in major league postseason history. He also had a perfect game earlier that season (against the Florida Marlins).

The perpetually bestubbled hurler was a throwback a breed of pitcher that simply doesn’t exist today. His appearance, demeanor and stuff was eerily reminiscent of pitchers from decades prior. He was a threat to go the distance in any given game and exceeded 200 innings eight times during his career. In a cruel irony, nagging arm injuries curtailed his career and led to his retirement following the 2013 season at the age of just 36.

Adding an ERA+ of 131 and a WAR of 65.6 to Halladay’s decade of excellence make him a surefire candidate to be inducted in Cooperstown in the coming years. Baseball fans should not look back in reflection and give him any undue credit; his untimely death simply means an appreciative retrospective is due all too soon.

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Sunday, November 5, 2017

The Cooperstown Casebook: A Review

Everybody loves a good debate, and in the baseball world such arguments are typically most spirited when it comes to discussing the Hall of Fame. From who should be in to who is overrated, the number of points of contention are practically endless. Jay Jaffe has written the next great primer on this topic with his The Cooperstown Casebook: Who’s in the Baseball Hall of Fame, who should be in, and who should pack their plaques (Thomas Dunne Books, St. Martin’s Press- 2017).

Jaffe, a writer for Sports Illustrated and creator of the JAWS player rating system, has long been at the forefront of conversations about who should be in and out in the Hall of Fame. He uses “new stats” (think WAR, park adjusted offense, defensive runs saved, etc...) instead of relying on the counting statistics that so many used heavily to measure Hall-worthiness in the past.

Although this book does rely heavily on advanced baseball statistics, it does a fantastic job of not only explaining what they are but why they matter. Additionally, there is no assertion that these numbers are the end-all, be-all, but rather a newer way to examine and appreciate the impact various players have had on the game’s history. Jaffe also discusses a fair amount of the politics of previous elections, especially those related to the Veteran’s Committee. It certainly appears that some players had extra boosts because of former teammates or friends who were involved in the voting.

Debating the merits of baseball hall of famers is a cottage industry. It is perhaps the one thing that most consistently keeps the sport in the headlines, as there has never been unanimous agreement over whether or not the correct candidates have been enshrined. The first quarter of the book examines how players have been elected in the past; what criteria has been used; biases that may have played roles and how new stats are starting to turn things on their head. It is an excellent primer to familiarize readers with all previous levels of knowledge of such things.

Baseball junkies will likely go gaga for the second portion of The Cooperstown Casebook, which takes a position-by-position look at a sampling of players both in, out and upcoming for election to the Hall of Fame. Although the synopsis for each player is brief (typically no more than 2-3 pages), there is an incredible amount of information packed in to give the reader a lot to think about. Players who have thus far been snubbed (i.e. Dwight Evans, Alan Trammell and Larry Walker); elected but over-celebrated or underappreciated (i.e. Phil Rizzuto, Bobby Doerr and Kid Nichols); and those with compelling cases for induction once they are eligible (i.e. Adrian Beltre, Bobby Abreu and Chase Utley) are presented in ways that fans may have never seen before.

While Jaffe’s work will not remove anyone from the Hall of Fame, it's very possible it could help sway some voters who may have held previous stances on candidates who would have not received future votes otherwise. At a minimum, readers should delight in rehashing players and reviewing evidence that has not been presented in such a way before. The Cooperstown Casebook is not only ground breaking; it’s well researched, well written and a heck of a lot of fun. In a genre that often struggles to reach new heights, that is no problem for this book, which soars and looks by all accounts to be a first-ballot hall of famer itself.

Disclaimer: I was provided with a free copy of the book being reviewed by the publisher, but received no payment or other consideration for this review.

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You can check me out on Facebook or follow me on Twitter @historianandrew