Top 100 Baseball Blog

Monday, July 30, 2012

Chatting with Red Sox 2012 1st Round Pick Deven Marrero

The 2012 season has been just as tough for the Boston Red Sox as the last month of their 2011 campaign. Although fans have endured significant recent disappointment, the future appears bright given the way that the team has continued to smartly draft and sign young players. The consensus jewel of their 2012 draft is polished shortstop Deven Marrero, who is in just the second month of his professional career but could be a regular in Boston before long.

Marrero is a product of Arizona State University, which has a reputation as a veritable factory of professional grade ballplayers, including Boston second baseman Dustin Pedroia. During his three seasons with the Sun Devils Marrero became known as perhaps the best shortstop in college. He is a plus defender with a great arm, and showed a skilled bat, including a .397 batting average as a freshman. His average dropped to .313 as a sophomore and .284 as a junior, which many attributed to a change in his swing, but didn’t push him out of first round consideration because of how well-rounded he is considered by most teams.

The Red Sox took Marrero with the 24th overall pick in this year’s draft with the hopes of being able to pair him in the near future as Pedroia’s double play partner. Keeping with their organizational philosophy of not rushing their young players, they had Marrero start his professional career with the Lowell Spinners in the short season New York-Penn League. Thus far he has shown why the Sox are so high on him, as he is hitting .283 with a home run, 9 RBI, and 9 stolen bases in 32 games. More information about his statistics is available at

During a recent Lowell road trip to Vermont I was able to chat with Marrero prior to one of the games. He graciously shared some insight about his background and experiences in the minors. If all goes as planned expect to see him in Boston before long, manning the left side of the infield between Pedroia and Will Middlebrooks.

Deven Marrero Interview:

How did you first become interested in baseball?: Growing up my family was a baseball family. I’ve got two cousins who live right next to each other and they started playing baseball. Pretty much we started playing baseball since we were little kids; little babies. Instead of a soccer ball or a football in my hands, it was a glove and a bat. Growing up that was my number one sport really.

How did you end up with Arizona State University?: The tradition. They sold me on the tradition, it’s a great program over there and they have a great tradition of going to the College World Series and definitely produce some major league baseball players. That’s the most important thing. They get you ready for the next level and they play baseball the right way.

What was your draft experience like this year?: It was a lot of fun. I was anxious getting ready to figure out which team I was going to get picked by. It was a fun process, definitely. I’m happy I got picked by Boston. It’s a first class organization and I couldn’t be happier with it. It was a good experience to be with my family and all my friends, so it was cool.

Did you ever have any contact with ASU alum Dustin Pedroia prior to the draft?: Yeah! He always comes and stops by ASU every once in a while. We’ve just talked a little bit and he knew who I was and all that, so it was pretty cool to go over there to Fenway and just goof around with him and have a brother, an ASU alum next to my side.

What was your visit to Boston like after you signed with the Red Sox?: It was a lot of fun and a good experience. It’s kind of big to go to Fenway, but it was a cool picture for me to put in my mind and to put up on my wall. That’s where I’m going to be at the end of the day and that’s where I want to make my home.

Has Boston shared if they hope to keep you at shortstop or move you to another position?: Definitely shortstop. That’s the one position I’ve played my whole life and I don’t think I’ll move from there. But I’m just going to go out there and keep working at short and if they tell me to move, I’ll move. As for now, I’m a shortstop.

Now that you have signed your first pro contract are you planning on doing anything for yourself or your family to celebrate?: I haven’t decided that yet. I’m sure I’ll have a nice vacation or something like that. It’s been a while since we’ve had a family vacation. But as of right now I’ve just got to concentrate on playing baseball. When the off-season comes I’ll worry about that and have fun with my family because they deserve it just as much as I do.


You can follow me on Facebook by going to or follow me on Twitter @historianandrew

Saturday, July 28, 2012

The 2012 All-Underrated Team

As Major League Baseball heads into the second half of its season chatter increases about the frontrunners for various end-of-year awards. Although these awards recognize some of the greatest players in the game, there are others who toil in relative obscurity despite their own excellent production. They are not overlooked because of unfairness, but rather because of playing in smaller markets, manning a position with many high profile players, or because their intangibles just don’t leap off the page like some sexier stats do. My All-Underrated Team includes the following:

Catcher- A.J. Pierzynski- Chicago White Sox: Pierzynski has seemingly been around forever and is enjoying his finest statistical season in year 15 of his major league career. He is just an average defensive catcher, but is hitting .287 with 16 home runs and 50 RBI, while ranking 5th among all catchers with a 2.3 offensive WAR*. Despite his production, he was not named an All-Star this season, but a majority of teams in the majors would love to have a player like him behind the plate.

First Base- Paul Konerko- Chicago White Sox: Some might say that Konerko is so underrated that he is overrated, but he is nothing if not consistent. In his previous 13 full seasons entering 2012, he averaged 30 home runs and 95 RBI. He has continued producing this year, hitting a blistering .335 in 91 games, with 16 home runs and 49 RBI. His current OPS+ of 149 represents the second best figure of his career. Even with his consistently excellent production, he is rarely mentioned in the same breath as other top first basemen in baseball.

Second Base- Aaron Hill- Arizona Diamondbacks: When Hill struggled to finish 2010 with a batting average over .200, it appeared his best days were behind him. However, a 2011 mid-season trade to Arizona seems to have invigorated him and he hasn’t looked back since, re-establishing himself as one of the best all-around second basemen in the game. In 94 games so far this year, he is tied with Neal Walker for a National League second baseman best 2.4 offensive WAR, while hitting .304 with 13 home runs, 46 RBI, and 8 steals. He is good at most facets of the game and great at none, making him easy to be overlooked.

Shortstop- Alcides Escobar- Kansas City Royals: Always known as a flashy defensive player, Escobar is finally seeing his bat catching up. He is hitting a career best .301 in 97 games, with 16 steals. While not a power hitter, his 23 doubles and 4 home runs are indicative of increased pop, and putting him on pace for a career high .414 slugging percentage. He gets little national exposure manning short for the second division Royals despite having become one of the best at his position.

Third Base- Chase Headley- San Diego Padres: Nothing about his game stands out, but Headley provides across the board consistency at the hot corner. In addition to playing solid defense, he’s hitting .265 with 12 home runs, 51 RBI, and 10 steals in 100 games. He is adept at getting on base, having already drawn 54 walks, contributing to his .360 OBP. There are other third basemen who are better than Headley in individual aspects of the game, but few who can match the complete package he brings to the anemic Padres lineup.

Outfield- Jason Kubel- Arizona Diamondbacks: There was a bit of head scratching this past-season when Arizona signed Kubel as a free agent, as they already had young defensive whiz Gerardo Parra ready to start. Kubel has silenced any doubters by exploding on the National League scene. In 90 games he has hit .297, with 22 home runs and a league leading 72 RBI, putting him on pace for the best season in his career. He’s a poor defensive player, but with star teammate Justin Upton struggling this year, his impact on the lineup has been invaluable.
Outfield- Michael Bourn- Atlanta Braves: Bourn used to have a reputation as a speedy defensive-minded outfielder, but what he has done this season has transcended such labels. He is arguably the best defensive outfielder in baseball and has boosted his value by seeing an increase in his offensive production. In 99 games he is hitting .298, with 28 steals, 41 RBI, and a league leading 68 runs scored. His 8 home runs, which have nearly doubled his previous career total, have been another pleasant surprise for the Braves, who have their sights set on the playoffs. His overall WAR of 4.0 compares favorably with the likes of Ryan Braun (4.5), yet he gets a fraction of the attention.

Outfield- Josh Willingham- Minnesota Twins: Much Like Kubel, Willingham doesn’t need to worry about clearing a space in his trophy case for a Gold Glove any time soon, but his personification of a professional hitter makes him an easy addition to this list. He was signed this past off-season because the Twins didn’t know what to expect from oft-injured stars Justin Morneau and Joe Maurer. While the team has struggled for wins, the fault doesn’t lie with Willingham. In 95 games he has hit .273, with 26 home runs, 76 RBI, and a .954 OPS, which represents a career best by nearly 100 points. In the past he has been known as a masher of left-handed pitching, but has consistently hit righties (.866 OPS) this year as well.

Starting Pitcher- Johnny Cueto- Cincinnati Reds: R.A. Dickey, Stephen Strasburg, and Matt Cain have all gotten the lion’s share of press in the 2012 National League Cy Young race, but it turns out that Cueto might be having a better season than all of them. He is 12-5 with a league leading 2.23 ERA and 4.6 WAR in 20 starts, while allowing only 5 home runs. Now in his 5th season, he continues getting better, as his ERA has dropped every year. Despite his dominance this year, he is rarely mentioned as a top Cy Young candidate and didn’t even make the All-Star team.

Reliever- Vinnie Pestano- Cleveland Indians: The majority of baseball fans outside of the Lake Erie region probably aren’t familiar with Pestano, but they should be, as he is one of the most dominant relievers in baseball this season. The hard throwing righty is the primary set-up man for the Indians. He is 3-0 with a 1.47 ERA in 45 appearances, and has been scored upon exactly once since May 30th. His 2.0 WAR is the same as Rafael Soriano, the Yankees’ star closer. Pestano is particularly nasty against right-handed batters, as they have just 9 hits in 73 at bats against him on the season, good for a paltry .123 average.

*Statistics from and


You can follow me on Facebook by going to or follow me on Twitter @historianandrew

Friday, July 27, 2012

Catching Up With New York Mets Prospect Travis Taijeron

The past few years have been difficult for the New York Mets. The Fred Wilpon ownership debacle, expensive free agents like Jason Bay not panning out, and the departure of franchise stalwart Jose Reyes have all left fans reeling. The hope that the team can turn things around is largely built on their young player development. The Mets don’t currently have a deep system according to most baseball insiders, but they have had some luck in finding players in later rounds of the draft that they believe will become contributors to the big league team. One of those prospects is Travis Taijeron, who is perhaps the Mets minor league break-out player so far this year.

Taijeron is a right-handed outfielder, who was taken in the 18th round of the 2011 MLB draft out of Cal-Poly Pomona. A native of San Diego, he came to Pomona after junior college, setting their single season home runs record in 2010 with 16, and then matching it again the next year. He improved his draft stock over the last month of his college career, hitting a blistering .542 with a 1.000 slugging percentage.

After signing with the Mets Taijeron tore up short-season ball with the Brooklyn Cyclones, hitting .299 with 9 home runs and 44 RBI in 56 games. He was promoted Savannah to begin this year, but performed so well that he was sent up to Class-A Advanced St. Lucie, where he has continued playing well. In 87 total games so far this season he has hit .279, with 16 home runs and 54 RBI. More information about his statistics is available at

With the Mets having one of the least productive outfields in baseball this year, a prospect like Taijeron could have a perfect opportunity if he keeps up his rapid pace of development. I had a chance to chat with him last season when he was with Brooklyn, and found him to be the perfect blend of easy going and hard working. He shared some insight about his experiences in baseball, so keep reading and find out a little bit more about this surging Mets prospect.

Travis Taijeron Interview:

How did you first become interested in baseball?: When I was probably five-years old. I just always loved playing sports. My dad always brought me out. I played many sports; soccer and everything. Baseball took my interest when I got to high school. I just started to excel in baseball.

Did you have a favorite team or player when you were growing up?: The San Diego Padres. I’m a Padres’ fan. My favorite team that the Padres had was the ’98 team; that was the year they went to the World Series, and they had a bunch of really cool guys. Caminiti was one of my favorite players.

How did you first find out that the Mets were interested in you?: I basically had talked to teams since I was in high school and through college. I didn’t really know. I had been to workouts and things like that for teams, but I didn’t know what teams were interested in me.

After you signed, did you do anything special for yourself or your family?: Nah man, I’m a senior, so I didn’t sign for very much money. I’m still working; I’m still an average dude going out there. I still work construction in the off-season.

What is life like in the minor leagues?: I’m having a great time in the minor leagues. I’m still playing baseball and that’s all I can really ask for. I’ve always loved baseball, so I’m having a great time.

If baseball doesn’t pan out for some reason, what do you think you will end up doing?: I really have no idea. I just take it, and this is what I am doing right now. I want to throw all of my focus on baseball and see what happens.


You can follow me on Facebook by going to or follow me on Twitter @historianandrew

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Danry Vasquez: The Detroit Tigers Newest Import From Venezuela

Although the MLB draft receives more media coverage, international free agent signings have increasingly become a more glamorized and integral part of young player development in baseball. Much like bygone days of exploration, major league teams have worked on expanding their presence in countries across the globe in the hopes of being able to sign the next great player. In recent years the Detroit Tigers have invested heavily in Venezuela, with their profile in that country becoming even more prominent since they acquired countryman and MLB superstar Miguel Cabrera.  One of the Tigers’ most recent Venezuelan signees is outfielder Danry Vasquez, a prospect for whom the Tigers have the highest of hopes.

In 2010 the Tigers lavished a $1.2 million signing bonus on the then 16 year old Vasquez. With international signing rules and restrictions being much more lax, such deals are becoming common as the player development race becomes more competitive. Vasquez is an extremely athletic player who can play all over the outfield but will likely settle into a corner spot as he matures. He already has an excellent arm and projects to become an excellent defensive player as he matures. He throws righty, but hits from the left side, with a swing that can already be described as “sweet.”

Still just 18, Vasquez is already in his second professional season and playing for the Connecticut Tigers in the New York-Penn League. The Tigers aggressively started him in A-ball this year, but wisely ended that experiment when he struggled after 29 games. He has looked much more comfortable and played well during his stint with Connecticut. His steady growth and maturation has only increased the excitement Detroit feels about his future. You can check out his statistics at Although he is likely at least three or four years away from Detroit, keep this prospect in the back of your mind because if all goes as planned he is going to be a good one and playing in the majors for years.

Danry Vasquez Interview:

How did you first become interested in baseball?: I was playing for about 15 years. When I was three years old my father and my mother brought me to the stadium every day and I was playing with my buddies and my friends over there. I learned a little bit more about the big leagues; the big league players.

Did you have a favorite team or player when you were growing up?: When I was younger, everything I was with was Ken Griffey, Jr. Miguel Cabrera now. I really like him because he’s like my father here; he’s my friend.

Did you play for a baseball academy when you were younger?: Yeah, the thing over there is the little teams in Venezuela and the scouts go to the stadiums and they watch the games [to] see who [are] the good players. They (the academies) showcase for the players.

How did you find out that the Tigers were interested in signing you?: That’s because every time I was playing they were going to the game and watched [how] I played. They [asked] me if I wanted to go practice with them before I signed. They were [always] direct with me. They sent me email that they wanted to be a player with me.

How did you celebrate with your family after you signed your first contract?: We didn’t tell the people that I signed. Just the family [knew and we had] a little barbeque and I celebrated with my family and with my friends. My dad and my mom, they are my life.


You can follow me on Facebook by going to or follow me on Twitter @historianandrew

Monday, July 23, 2012

Marlins Get Great Prospect/Person in Brian Flynn

The Marlins acquired an excellent prospect and a great person when they got Brian Flynn as one of the players in the trade for Omar Infante and Anibal Sanchez. I had a chance to chat with Flynn this past off-season. Check it out here:

Royals Terrance Gore Trying to Speed His Way Through Minors

The recent success of Cincinnati Reds’ speed-burning prospect Billy Hamilton has given new life and respect to what players with his skill set can bring to the game. If utilized properly, speedsters can wreak havoc, not only on the base paths, but with potentially game-changing defensive range. It’s not easy for teams to find such players with enough skill to be quality major leaguers, but occasionally gems are unearthed. The Kansas City Royals believe they acquired such a prospect last year, when they drafted outfielder Terrance Gore, and so far he is doing nothing to refute their confidence.

The diminutive (5’7, 165 pound) right-handed Gore is a centerfielder who has showcased his speed since he started playing baseball at Jones County High School in Gray, Georgia. During his time with the Greyhounds he swiped an impressive 145 bases, and hit .474 as a senior, garnering widespread attention. He ultimately decided to attend Gulf Coast Community College in Panama City, Florida, where he continued his dominance on the base paths. During his lone season with Gulf Coast, Gore hit .330 with 51 steals (in 54 attempts), putting him squarely on the draft radar. The Royals swooped in and snatched up him up in the 20th round of the 2011 draft, and now hope he will work his way on to their big league roster.

Gore’s speed is literally off the charts. He has been clocked as fast as 3.7 seconds going from home to first base. To put that in perspective, a player who can reach the 3.9 mark is assessed an 80 grade for speed, the highest that exists on the scouting scale.

The Royals are taking things easy with Gore, as he is relatively inexperienced playing against higher levels of competition. He is currently playing with the Burlington Royals in the Rookie level Appalachian League, and acquitting himself very nicely, hitting .284 in 25 games with 14 steals. More information about his statistics is available at

This past off-season I was able to track Gore down and had him open up a little about himself and his experiences in baseball.

Terrance Gore Interview:

Who were your favorite team and player when you were growing up, and why?:  The Yankees and Derek. The reason I chose Jeter would be because he is competitive and loves the game. He is a veteran and everybody on his teams knows he is capable of getting the job done.

How did you know that the Royals were interested in you?: I knew the Royals were interested cause of my area scout; he told me that I reminded him of another Jarrod Dyson.

Can you describe what your draft day experience was like?: The draft days were crazy. During the draft I was at my computer and all I could do is wait on one phone call. Other pro teams would text me and tell me to wait, your time is coming. So, finally during the 15th round, I was headed to get something to drink and on my way my phone rang and I knew that it was a scout, but honestly I didn't know from whom. After the Royals had called and offered me I was smiling from ear to ear because not only did I get drafted, but it was my birthday the same day. Best present I could have asked for.

How do you use your speed to impact a game?: My speed is God’s gift, coaches say, and I am blessed with it. I can say this much; when I get on base the whole game changes. The pitcher is worried about me and it helps out my team a lot because normally they are going to see nothing but fastball to give them a chance to throw me out.

What has been your favorite moment so far in your career?: I must say we were playing the Padres and we were tied in the 9th inning with 2 outs, guy on second. Then I was up and the count was full and I hit a line-drive to center to score the go-ahead run. We won that game by one. My manager (Kennedy) walked up to me and said, 'Little Gore comes though big.’

Who has been your most influential manager or coach?: That’s a very easy question; everybody in the Royals’ organization, up to Scott Sharp, all the way to the clubby. They showed me how to play the game the right way; the Royals way.

Have you found it difficult to prove yourself to managers and coaches because you are not a big guy?: I honestly think I have. Coaches joke with me all the time with my size and they know it motivates me to show them I can do it. The first time I ran down that line I think I proved to them that I may be small but I have the heart to play the game and gain respect from any other team.

Run me through what a typical day's schedule is like when you are on a road trip in the minors: On the road we wake up at 5:30, work out at 7, extra work at 7:40, and stretch at 8:40.  We practice about 9, eat before the game around 10, get on the bus and head to the game. After the game we eat dinner and back to the club house, shower, then hotel. 


You can follow me on Facebook by going to or follow me on Twitter @historianandrew

Saturday, July 21, 2012

A Few Questions with John Morlan

From the time he started his collegiate baseball career with Ohio University, John Morlan was one of the top pitching prospects in the game. He had been drafted in 1965 (8th round by the Reds), 1967 (1st round by the Pirates, and 1968 (4th round by the Indians), but passed on signing each time in favor of finishing his college career; a decision that paid off when he was the 5th overall pick in the 1969 draft by the Pirates. The right-handed starter finally embarked on his professional career with the ambition of being the next great pitcher in the major leagues.

Morlan scuffled during his first minor league season in 1971, posting a 5.50 combined ERA at two different levels. He rebounded and truly blossomed by 1973, going 11-5 with a 2.09 ERA for the Pirates’ Triple-A team in Charleston. His excellent production earned him a promotion to the Pirates, whose pitching staff was in flux because of the sudden and inexplicable decline of Steve Blass. Morlan got into a total of 10 games (7 starts) with the Pirates in 1973 and acquitted himself nicely. His record was a pedestrian 2-2, but he had a 3.95 ERA, more than respectable numbers for a prospect his age.

The Pirates shored up their starting rotation for 1974, aided in large part by the acquisition of young Ken Brett. It was a move that by necessity pushed Morlan to the bullpen, where he became the Pirates’ long man. He ended up appearing in 39 games in relief for the National League East Division champions, posting a 0-3 record and 4.29 ERA. His effectiveness was diminished by a lack of control. Although he only allowed 54 hits and 2 home runs in 65 innings, he struck out 38 while walking 48. He did not appear in the playoffs and never again appeared in a major league game.

Morlan pitched at Triple-A for Pittsburgh through 1977, but with limited success. He compiled a 14-20 record during that time but was never needed at the major league level. The Pirates were annual contenders every season during that time and grew to have a loaded pitching staff with few significant holes.

Although the rising star of John Morlan never crested in the way he had originally hoped after he left college, his time in the majors was more than a majority of first round draft picks can claim. More information about Morlan’s career statistics is available at He recently shared with me some memories of his time in baseball and obviously has no regrets about his time in the game.

John Morlan Questionnaire:

What was the strangest play you ever saw in baseball?:  The funniest thing I ever saw in baseball was in Triple-A in Charleston, West Virginia. Our manager Joe Morgan got thrown out of a game after he gave the umpires the lineup card at home plate! Joe was still mad about a call the umpires made the night before.

Who was your favorite coach or manager?: My favorite manager was Joe Morgan; an honest and true baseball man. He helped me greatly!

Who was your toughest out?: My toughest out was always when somebody was in scoring position. Tony Perez comes to mind. The Big Red Machine was the team to beat.

If you could do anything about your playing career differently, what would that be?: The thing I would do different is try to relax more than I did. There’s a lot of pressure to perform at that level.


You can follow me on Facebook by going to or follow me on Twitter @historianandrew

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

A Few Questions with Ronn Reynolds

The New York Mets of the 1980’s was one of the most entertaining baseball teams of the decade. Between stars like Dwight Gooden, Darryl Strawberry, and Gary Carter, they had personality and talent to spare. They vacillated from terrible to World Series winners, with their common theme being their ability to draft and cultivate talented young players. Some of those prospects became stars, while other like Ronn Reynolds, weren’t able to stick because of the established veterans already in front of them.

Reynolds, a catcher, played collegiately at the University of Arkansas. He was drafted by the Oakland A’s in 1979, but decided to go back to school for more seasoning. The following year the New York Mets made him their 5th round selection, with the idea that he was their catcher of the future. At the time the Mets had John Stearns and Alex Trevino manning the position, and while they were both solid receivers, neither were considered stars.

In the minors Reynolds proved to be stronger defensively than offensively, but impressed enough to earn his first major league call-up in 1982 for two games. He got in another 24 games with the Mets in 1983, splitting his time between Flushing and their Triple-A affiliate in Tidewater.

On December 10, 1984, something happened that changed Reynolds’ future with the Mets forever. That day the team traded a raft of young players for future Hall of Fame catcher Gary Carter, immediately installing him as the anchor of their lineup. The Mets still saw Reynolds as having a future with the team, but as a backup. With Carter just 30 years old at the time, it was clear that playing time behind the plate in New York would be limited for years to come.

Reynolds played with the Mets in 1985, but unhappy with his playing time, he was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies during the off-season. His desire to be a major league starter never came to fruition, as he bounced around, also playing for the Astros and Padres. He never appeared in more than 43 games in any one season and retired following the 1990 campaign. 

In 142 career major league games Reynolds hit .188 with 4 home runs and 21 RBI. More information about his career statistics is available at

Not every baseball player can be a star or even a starter. That simple truth doesn’t mean that they stop trying, and in the case of Reynolds it drove his entire professional career, though he was never able to achieve his ultimate goal. Baseball can be as much about the chase as it can be the results; something that Reynolds only became aware of after his career ended.

Ronn Reynolds Questionnaire:

If you could do anything differently about your career, what would that be?: I would have stayed with the Mets and been satisfied backing up Gary Carter.

Who was your favorite coach or manager?: Joe Torre.

Who was the toughest pitcher you ever faced?: Orel Hershiser.

What was the strangest play you ever saw?: An inside the park home run by Dave Kingman in St. Louis!


You can follow me on Facebook by going to or follow me on Twitter @historianandrew

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Interview with 2011 Tampa Bay 1st Round Pick Jeff Ames

Last week the Hudson Valley Renegades, the short-season affiliate of the Tampa Bay Rays, visited Vermont. The team is packed with talent, with three first round picks on the roster, including Jeff Ames, one of Tampa's most highly regarded pitching prospects. I was able to interview the big righty, and you can check it out here.


You can follow me on Facebook by going to or follow me on Twitter @historianandrew

Monday, July 16, 2012

Profiling Boston's "Other" Kendrick Perkins

Many Boston sports fans were upset last year when popular Celtics’ center Kendrick Perkins was traded away. Although he is gone, Boston should prepare for another Kendrick Perkins. This one plays baseball in the Red Sox organization and looks like he could become even more well-regarded than his eponymous predecessor.

The baseball playing Perkins is a big slugging outfielder, who throws right-handed but bats from the left side. He was a talented high school athlete in LaPorte, Texas, excelling equally on the diamond and the gridiron. He hit over .400 with a total of 26 home runs during his four years on varsity baseball, while totaling 3,602 rushing yards and 55 touchdowns as a running back during his junior and senior seasons, making him one of the most dominant players in the Houston area.

Perkins committed to Texas A&M to play baseball and football, and even though the Red Sox selected him in the 6th round of the 2010 MLB draft, most felt he would be nearly impossible to sign given his college plans. However, Boston, known for aggressively pursuing tough signs, made an offer that Perkins couldn’t refuse, and so he began his professional baseball career.

Considered a raw prospect with enormous potential, particularly in the power department, Perkins has been moved slowly thus far in his career. He played in the Gulf Coast League during the 2010 and 2011 seasons, and this year is with the Lowell Spinners in short season ball. He is already off to a fast start with 4 home runs and 13 RBI in 25 games. A primary focus for him will be working on cutting down on his strikeouts, as he already has 38 in just 93 at bats. That being said, not many players have the combination of athleticism and work ethic of Perkins, so he looks to have a bright future.

Earlier this month I got to see Perkins play in person and even hit an impressive opposite field home run. Before one of the games he took a few moments to chat with me about his baseball career.

Kendrick Perkins Interview:

How did you first become interested in baseball?: Well you know, my grandpa, before he passed, his big passion was baseball. I always looked up to him, and since he passed I feel like I owe it to him because I fell in love with the game because of him. Right now he’s up there watching and I’m pretty sure he’s proud.

You grew up in an area (Texas) where football is king. What is your background with that sport?: Yeah, I played football all four years in high school. It was pretty good and I liked it, but I really played it just to keep in shape during baseball off-season. But what everyone didn’t know back in my hometown was that baseball was my main love, and I shocked a lot of people when I went pro. It was just the right decision for me.

Who were your favorite baseball team and player when you were growing up?: My favorite baseball team was the Seattle Mariners, and Ken Griffey Jr., of course. I bat lefty because of him, and I don’t throw lefty, but I just really watched him growing up and I liked the way he did things. He always played hard and he had fun with the game, and that’s what I am trying to do here.

What was your draft experience like and how did you find out the Red Sox were interested in you?: I found out my sophomore year that the Red Sox were interested in me. They sent me a Christmas card one year and it shocked everybody in my family. Other than that the draft process got real heavy my junior year, and I’m not going to lie but it was very stressful for an 18 year old to go through all of that, but that’s just part of the business.

After you signed, did you do anything special to treat yourself or your family?: Not really. The first thing I did; my older brother, I bought him a truck and I got me a truck too. We put the rest away. The day it happened; the day I got drafted, we celebrated, but I knew from then on after that day it was going to be about business. Just trying to work hard and make my dream come true of making it the big leagues.

Other than the travel, what is the hardest thing to get used to when it comes to being a professional player?: Really just staying healthy and going out there and giving 110 percent every day. There’s going to be days where you’re not feeling it but you got to go out there and give your all because you never know if that day is going to be your last day. The game’s not going to be good to you if you’re not having fun.


You can follow me on Facebook by going to or follow me on Twitter @historianandrew

Saturday, July 14, 2012

How to Fix the MLB All-Star Game

I may be coming in a little late on this topic, now that it has passed for another year, but I did have some thoughts about the Major League All Star Game, which is rapidly hurtling towards an NFL Pro Bowl Game-type reputation. The All Star Game used to be an event, but has become a drawn-out exercise in desperate need of rejuvenation. Major League Baseball is notorious for reluctantly incorporating change and growth (see steroids and instant replay), but making the Mid-Summer Classic a classic again would give a nice boost to the supposed national pastime. The whole "This time it counts" strategy is and has always been a total bust. If you show me a baseball fan who claims to care that the All-Star Game league winner gets home field advantage in that year's World Series,  I'll show you a liar. It's long past due to change things up and give the All-Star Game a makeover. Here are a few ideas towards that end.

Let the kids play!: The biggest emphasis in this year's game was on it's two youngest participants, Mike Trout and Bryce Harper. MLB smartly, and if not so subtly, decided marketing it's up and coming stars was in the best interest of their business. Going forward, how about taking that philosophy to a whole new level? Instead of a minor league Futures Game and an MLB All Star Game, let the two squads play each other. The All Star Game used to be popular because it allowed fans to see players from the two leagues face each other for the only time other than the World Series. Now with extended interleague play, a major part of the All Star Game's allure has been removed. MLB would be better served with their star veterans facing the "coming attractions," and expose fans to the present and the future. Not only would this be a great marketing strategy but it would undoubtedly increase the competitive intensity, as the rookies would be striving to beat the vets, and the vets would be trying to avoid being embarrassed.

Expand and refine the Home Run Derby: With increased technology, television is able to immediately tell viewers exactly how far each home run in the Derby was hit and the apex of its trajectory. What it can't do is reduce the increasing blandness of the competition. The highlight of this year's Derby was Robinson Cano getting booed by the Kansas City crowd because of a perceived slight to their hometown star, Billy Butler. That right there is all the proof you need that the concept of this competition has gotten stale. 

Currently, the Derby is composed of 8 players participating in 3 rounds (that seem to drag on forever). To get greater fan buy-in, what about expanding the number of participants, while cutting the rounds to one, with a winner-take-all philosophy?  More participants would market to a wider swathe of MLB to fans, while round reduction would keep the hitters fresher and hopefully more invested in participating.

Showcase those skills: NBA All-Star weekend is probably the most popular all-star endeavor of all the major sports. A prominent part of that is because of the various ways they display the unique skills of their players; with the dunk, three point shooting, and skills competition being their main showcases. MLB should adopt a similar format.  Clocking the fastest runners from first to home or having an outfield arm competition (how about even a sunflower seed spitting competition?) would be fresh ways to show off the finer parts of the game and give fans new ways to appreciate the abilities of the players. Competition is all about the measurables, and times and distances would bring that to the festivities in spades.

Fortunately, MLB has not reached the end of their creative rope, like the NFL, when it comes to showcasing the best of their players and game. However, it's always important to stay ahead of the curve and baseball's All-Star Game is ripe for change. It would be great to see MLB take a chance and do a major overhaul, but if their track record is any indication, any change will wind up being reactionary instead of innovative, which is a great shame with so much opportunity being there for the taking.


You can follow me on Facebook by going to or follow me on Twitter @historianandrew

Friday, July 13, 2012

Honus Wagner: Had To Prove More Than Other Players

For most fans of baseball history, Honus Wagner represents one of the most respected and mythic figures the game has ever known. The “Flying Dutchman” spent all but three seasons of his 21 year major league career playing shortstop for the Pittsburgh Pirates before being an inaugural inductee to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1936. Because of his accomplishments and notoriety it’s hard to believe that he was once ordered by a court to provide evidence of the existence of his baseball career.

Like many ball players in the early part of the 20th century, Wagner became involved in a number of different ventures once his playing days ended. In addition to coaching with the Pirates, he worked in law enforcement and was a businessman, even opening a eponymous sporting goods store. Ultimately he was unable to make a go of it with the store and ended up selling it in 1929, along with the use of his name, to E.L. Braunstein, a business man who also dabbled in sporting goods. The deal ensured that his store remained open and that he still had a role in its operation, including a three year contract that paid him $60 per week, plus commission of 1% on annual sales over $50,000 and 3% of any sales he made personally. Unfortunately their arrangement was not destined to be profitable or harmonious.

In 1933 Wagner brought suit against E.L. Braunstein, E.L. Braunstein and Company, Honus Wagner Company, National Stores Company, and the United Sporting Goods Company; asking for an accounting of sales of sporting goods made in the three years since he had contracted the use of his name. Wagner also claimed personal injury because of newspaper ads that indicated he had sold his store because he was forced to liquidate because of financial distress. He also believed he was owed $8,000 from sales he had made, and wanted Braunstein to stop using his name and likeness altogether.

Wagner’s suit detailed his successful 21 year baseball playing career and claimed that, “His name became a household word through the field of baseball and other sports.” Because he believed his name to be a valuable commodity, he wanted the judge to essentially give him back his name and reputation for his sole use. In a clever legal ploy Braunstein’s lawyer responded, “Defendants aver that they have no personal knowledge of the subject and have made inquiry and can obtain none, and demand proof thereof.”The judge, taking both claims into account, ordered Wagner to provide the court with proof of his baseball career and that his name was indeed one that was well known.

The court’s order that Wagner provide evidence of his baseball career was all legal formality and embarrassment for the Hall of Famer, rather than anything that had any bearing on the outcome of the suit. Even though Wagner provided the necessary documentation, the case took over a year to be adjudicated, with the court ultimately finding that “all commissions due, or alleged to be due, the plaintiff by any or all of the defendants by reason of any sales, or any cause or causes whatsoever, have been fully paid.”

The judgment also refused Wagner’s attempt to reclaim his name. The court found that “the right to the exclusive use of the name ‘Honus Wagner’ for all commercial and advertising purposes is vested in the E.L. Braunstein & Co. Inc,… E.L. Braunstein and Honus Wagner Company… their heirs, executors, administrators, successors and assigns. This was based on Braunstein having bought the assets from bankrupt Honus Wagner Sporting Goods Company, as well as a contract Wagner had signed in January, 1929. The judge believed that Wagner’s contract was clear and that no evidence had been proffered indicating any breach on the part of Braunstein, who objected several times to the original complaint before it was finally dismissed on August 21, 1934.

After a lengthy and public dispute Wagner wound up getting nothing. He was bitterly disappointed in the outcome and reportedly bothered for years afterwards that Braunstein was able to continue using his name for commercial gain. Despite the undesirable outcome, Wagner never took further action in the matter. In the end all that the year-long lawsuit had accomplished was Wagner proving in a court of law that he was one of the greatest and most beloved baseball players of all time; the first and only time a Hall of Famer has ever had to do such a thing.


You can follow me on Facebook by going to or follow me on Twitter @historianandrew

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Taylor Guerrieri: The Next Big Thing in Tampa

The Tampa Bay Rays are the model small-budget franchise for Major League Baseball. They eschew going after big ticket free agents in favor of methodical young player development. In recent years they have had particular success in cultivating starting pitchers in their farm system, producing quality young arms like James Shields, David Price, Jeremy Hellickson, and Matt Moore. The Rays must feed this machine every year in order to be able to keep churning out a consistent flow of talent. One of the newest starting pitcher prospects they have brought into the fold is Taylor Guerrieri; someone they believe will eventually become another of their developmental successes.

Guerrieri is a right-hander from Spring Valley High School in Columbia, South Carolina. During his senior year he experienced a meteoric rise up draft boards, as he went 6-1, with a 1.10 ERA and 72 strikeouts in 51 innings. Scouts drooled over his effortless delivery of a fastball that runs into the mid-90’s, an excellent curveball, and other secondary pitches believed will keep getting better over time.  Although it initially looked like he was going to attend the University of South Carolina, Guerrieri was taken by the Rays with the 24th overall pick in the first round of the 2011 MLB draft, and they managed to wrest him away from his collegiate commitment.

Like most young pitchers, Guerrieri is being handled gently by the Rays. He is getting his first taste of the professional game this season, having appeared in 3 games for the Hudson Valley Renegades in short-season ball. He has been dominant in his limited exposure, posting a 0.69 ERA in 13 innings. More information on his statistics is available at

Guerrieri took a few minutes to chat with me during his team’s recent road trip to Vermont. This is definitely one prospect you are going to want to know more about, as he looks to earn his place as another cog in the Rays’ prospect machine.

Taylor Guerrieri Interview:

How did you first become interested in baseball?: My dad. He had a big part in my life. He was telling me that whenever I was in my crib he would ball up socks and throw them to me and I would pick them up and throw them back, and that’s when he knew I was going to be a baseball player.

Did you have a favorite team or player when you were growing up?: I was always a Braves fan kind of, because that was my hometown team, being the closest to South Carolina. My favorite player? I just liked watching the game because I appreciated it. But I really didn’t have a favorite player to be honest.

Is there any pitcher who you model yourself after?: I like Verlander a lot; he’s real fun to watch… Halladay and his command. Growing up I didn’t have any favorite pitcher.

What pitches do you currently have in your repertoire?: Two-seam fastball, four-seam fastball, curveball, and a changeup.

What was your draft experience like?: It’s funny because you get teams who come to get you to fill out questionnaires and the Rays didn’t do it until the last second, the day before the draft. They didn’t even call me before they picked me, so that was funny too. So they picked me and it was exciting and everything. It was a good experience; something you’ll never forget.

Why did you ultimately sign with Tampa instead of attending school at the University of South Carolina?: Just playing baseball every day. No school was kind of tough to get used to. Mainly I wanted to come out and play baseball every day. That’s what I love.

What has been the toughest thing to get used to in being a professional baseball player?: Probably every fifth day, just throwing. I was coming out of high school, so I was throwing every seven days. Now it’s every fifth day and it really takes a toll on your body, but I’m starting to get used to it a little bit better and it’s working out for me.

Is there anything you personally hope to improve on this year, or the Rays have asked you to work on?: Just the changeup. They want me to develop my changeup more. I work with it every day and I’m sure, you know, with every pitcher out here, they just want command; to just improve their command of the strike zone. If I do those things I’ll be alright.


You can follow me on Facebook by going to or follow me on Twitter @historianandrew

Monday, July 9, 2012

Meet Joe Rogers: The Detroit Tigers Closer of the Future

The Detroit Tigers are known for mega stars like Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder, and Justin Verlander, but they can’t rely only on players signed through free agency, so young player development is an important component of the organization. One of the prospects from the 2012 MLB draft they are most excited about is Joe Rogers, a polished closer who if things go well could be in the Detroit bullpen within a couple of years.

The left-handed Rogers had a stand-out career for Winter Haven High School in Florida, highlighted by a no-hitter with 20 strikeouts he had in 2009 against Lake Gibson. He was also heavily involved with AAU ball, which helped lead him to his college choice of the University of Central Florida. He improved in each of his three seasons at CFU, leaving as the best closer in school history. In 79 games he posted a 13-5 record, 3.60 ERA, and 30 saves.

Rogers’ steady growth and impressive polish rocketed him up the draft boards this year. The Detroit Tigers loved what they saw from the southpaw and took him in the 5th round of the draft. He was an early sign and was assigned to Connecticut in the short season New York-Penn League. Rogers has the ability and makeup for in-season promotions, so if all goes well, it won’t be surprising to see him in Detroit in the near future. More information about his season statistics is available at

I recently caught up with Rogers prior to one of his games and chatted with him about baseball and his draft experience. You can also keep up with him via his Twitter account to find out how the rest of his season goes.

Joe Rogers Interview:

How did you first become interested in baseball?: Just like any kid who wanted to start playing- I think I started playing when I was six-  I began in t-ball. I’ve been playing for quite a while and it’s one of those things that I just fell in love with. I started when I was six and it just moved up from there. Every year since high school and college I have just been blessed with every year I have been able to continue playing.

Who were your favorite team and player when you were growing up?: My family is all from New York, so I was a Yankees fan. I really respected Derek Jeter and how he went about the game, so I think Derek Jeter would probably be the guy who I looked up to the most, although he’s not a pitcher.

You played with Chet Lemon’s AAU team. Was he involved in the team and did you get much instruction from him?: He was a coach. Actually I got on the team with one of my friends who still plays at UCF in Orlando, who kind of put my name out there for him and Chet let me play with him for a couple of tournaments and it was fun. I had a blast there and that’s how I got introduced to UCF. It was a blessing to go play there and Chet’s an awesome coach, and I know he’s still coaching.

Do you think Chet Lemon’s connection to the Tigers led to them being interested in you and drafting you?: You know, it could have, but I don’t know that. I think anywhere from playing in the high school to college at UCF is probably what had to do with it. Whatever it was it definitely couldn’t have hurt my chances with the Tigers, but I’m sure it did help.

What pitches do you have in your arsenal?: Right now I’m throwing a fastball; both two-seam and four-seam. I have a slurve that is more like a slider/curveball mix. I have a changeup too.

Can you describe what your draft experience was like?: It was funny; we got done playing in the Miami Regional. Back at UCF we played Miami, Stony Brook, and a couple of other teams. We got done with that regional and I was at an all-time low because the season was over, and I got back to Orlando and was on the computer with one of my buddies and I thought I was going to get taken by the Brewers, but the Tigers came and picked me up in the 5th round. It was definitely an awesome experience. I was on the phone with my parents at the time and they were all going nuts. It was very humbling and I’m very glad to be part of the organization.

I feel like I still have a lot of work to do. It’s definitely nice to be a professional baseball player, as of right now, I’ll tell you that, and waking up in the morning and knowing that your one job is to get better at baseball. It’s definitely an awesome feeling.


You can follow me on Facebook by going to or follow me on Twitter @historianandrew