Top 100 Baseball Blog

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Connie Mack's All-Early Baseball History Team

Connie Mack is one of the most enduring figures in the history of baseball. The Hall of Famer spent 15 years playing professionally as a catcher and then went on to manage and own the Philadelphia Athletics for 50 seasons. To say that he knew the game would be quite the understatement. That’s why when he gave his opinions it was best to listen—including the time he talked about his all-time team of players who debuted prior to 1900.

In 1944, Mack was getting towards the end of his illustrious career (he stepped down as manager following the 1950 season) but had been on hand to have observed a major portion of baseball history to that point. Therefore, when he was asked by the AP’s Chip Royal to compile a list of the best players who started their career prior to 1900 to ever play the game, it was fascinating to see his answers. Keep reading for his full roster.

Catcher: Mack had two names that came to mind here, as he nominated Buck Ewing and Charlie Bennett.

Ewing hit a combined .303 over 18 major league seasons (1880-1897) and eventually made the Hall of Fame. Considered a true two-way player, his offensive and defensive capabilities made him one of the first superstars in baseball.

Although Bennett hit just .256 during his 15-year career (1878-1893), primarily with the Detroit Wolverines and Boston Beaneaters, he was considered a good-hitting catcher for the time. However, his defense was his real calling card and he is even credited with developing the first chest protector. He was also considered one of the toughest to ever play the position, especially at a time when backstops took a ferocious beating because of the lack of good equipment. He once “declared that only a sissy would use a padded glove with the fingers and thumb cut off.”

First Base: “My first baseman would have to be Fred Tenney of the Boston Nationals who started out as a left-handed catcher,” asserted Mack. “He was more up to date in his time than any man I ever saw.”

In 17 major league seasons (1894-1911), spent mostly with the Beaneaters, he hit just a total of 22 home runs. However this was during the Dead-ball Era and he was a fine batsman, hitting .294 along with revolutionizing how to play first with how he fielded and the way he positioned himself in the field.

Second Base:Nap Lajoie of Cleveland never had an equal at second base,” claimed Mack. There should be no arguments about this selection, as “Larry” hit a robust .338 with 3,243 hits and 1,599 RBIs in 21 major league seasons (1896-1916) with the Philadelphia Phillies and Athletics, and the Cleveland Naps. Yes, he was so good that the team was actually named after him while he was playing for it! The right-handed hitter won five batting titles, including in 1901 when he paced the fledgling American League with a ridiculous .426 mark. Naturally, he was one of the first members of the Hall of Fame.

Shortstop: Herman Long was the pick here. In 16 seasons (1889-1904), primarily spent with the Beaneaters, he hit .277 with 91 home runs, 1,055 RBIs and 537 stolen bases. Although he still holds the major league record for most errors (1,096) in a career, he was a tremendous defensive player and was notorious for his superior range. Despite strong support, the Hall of Fame has continued to elude him, more than a century after he last played a game.

Third Base: Perhaps the most obscure of all his picks, Mack named Billy Nash as his third baseman on this team. He hit .275 with 60 home runs and 979 RBIs over 15 seasons (1884-1898) spent mostly with the Beaneaters.

Utility Infielder: Scrappiness is a trait typically associated with good utility players. Hughie Jennings had that in spades. Known as “Ee-Yah” for his excited yelling on the field, he predominantly played shortstop and first base from 1891-1902 (he played in an additional 12 games while a coach/manager between 1903-1915 but only as a fill-in). He hit .312 with 12 home runs, 529 RBIs and 248 stolen bases. He also still holds the major league record for times hit by a pitch (287) and was the quintessential sparkplug—which led to 14 years as a manager. His combined contributions to baseball garnered him entry to the Hall of Fame.

Outfield: Mack picked a real murderers row for his outfield, going with Hugh Duffy, Ed Delahanty and Sam Thompson.

A tiny man (5’7” and 168 pounds) with a big bat, Duffy formed one half of the Beaneaters’ famed “Heavenly Twins” duo with Tommy McCarthy in the 1890s. A right-handed hitter who played 17 seasons (1888-1906), Duffy combined for a .326 batting average, 106 home runs, 1,302 RBIs and 574 stolen bases. He won two batting titles and two home run crowns, and is the only player in history to have at least one .300 season in four different major leagues (National, American, Players and American Association). He was inducted in the Hall of Fame in 1945.

Delahanty terrorized pitchers with his right-handed bat for 16 seasons (1888-1903), primarily with the Philadelphia Phillies. For his career he hit .346 (5th all-time) with 522 doubles, 186 triples, 101 home runs, 1,466 RBIs and 455 stolen bases. Not much of a defender, he made up for it by hitting over .400 three different seasons. His numbers would likely be even more impressive except for his tragic death at age 35 in the midst of the 1903 season. While playing for the Washington Senators, he was ejected from a train near Niagara Falls for being intoxicated. He somehow fell off the bridge and into the falls, thus sadly ending the life of one of baseball’s greatest hitters. He was inducted in the Hall of Fame in 1945.

Big Sam Thompson played 1885-1898 with the Detroit Wolverines and the Phillies (he also got into 8 games in 1906 with the Detroit Tigers). With his size (6’2” and over 200 pounds) and thick handlebar mustache, he cut quite the intimidating figure. During his career, he combined to hit .331 with 126 home runs, 161 triples and 1,305 RBIs. He was also known for a cannon arm and would have had even more impressive numbers had he not started his major league career when he was 25. Despite his impressive resume, he had to wait until 1974 to get into the Hall of Fame, via the Veteran’s Committee, more than 50 years after his death.

Pitchers: Mack told Royal that “for pitchers, you can’t beat Cy Young, Cleveland’s immortal ace; John Clarkson of the Chicago White Stockings and Tim Keefe of the (New York) Giants.” These were relatively easy choices, as each had at least 328 victories; each eventually made the Hall of Fame; and each helped define the position into what it is today.

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Thursday, November 24, 2016

Dave Elmore Named King of Baseball

For Immediate Release                                                                 November 17, 2016 

Dave Elmore Named King of Baseball 

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Minor League Baseball announced today that David G. Elmore, owner and founder of Elmore Sports Group, has been named the 2016 King of Baseball. The King of Baseball is a long-standing tradition in which Minor League Baseball recognizes a veteran of professional baseball for longtime dedication and service. Elmore will receive the King of Baseball Award at the Baseball Winter Meetings Banquet on Sunday, Dec. 4, at Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center in National Harbor, Maryland. 

“This is a truly amazing honor to be named the King of Baseball,” said Elmore. “There is nothing I have enjoyed more than being a part of Minor League Baseball for these past 36 years and realizing the great good our teams do to bring our communities together and provide countless charitable benefits.” 

“Dave Elmore has had a long and illustrious career as a Minor League Baseball owner and operator, and he has served Minor League Baseball in a number of roles over the years,” said Minor League Baseball President & CEO Pat O’Conner. “He has truly earned this honor through all of his hard work and tireless efforts for the betterment of the game and it is my pleasure to present him with this award.” 

Elmore founded the Elmore Sports Group in 1969, which now consists of six Minor League Baseball teams, including the Colorado Springs Sky Sox, San Antonio Missions, Inland Empire 66ers, Lynchburg Hillcats, Idaho Fall Chukars and Eugene Emeralds. The company also owns hockey and soccer teams, along with facility management, travel, hospitality, special events and concession companies. 

Elmore has served on the Joint Professional Baseball Agreement Committee, which consists of four Minor League Baseball team owners and four Major League Baseball team owners. Together, they work to identify and address issues that arise between both leagues while discussing possible amendments to the Professional Baseball Agreement. 

Elmore was inducted to the Pacific Coast League Hall of Fame and the Texas League Hall of Fame for his contributions as an owner. He is also the Pioneer League representative for the Minor League Baseball Board of Trustees. 

Prior to joining the sports and entertainment industry, Elmore was a partner with a law firm in Chicago from 1958 to 1968. In addition, the White House appointed him to the Travel and Tourism Advisory Board in the Department of Commerce in 1983. Elmore was a member of the Young Presidents Organization from 1969 to 1984, and he served as president of the International Fraternity of Phi Gamma Delta, which consists of more than 85,000 members. 

PREVIOUS KING OF BASEBALL AWARD WINNERS 1951 Clarence Rowland 1952 J. Alvin Gardner 1953 Frank Shaughnessy 1954 Shelby Pease 1955 Herman White 1956 Tommy Richardson 1957 Charles Hurth 1958 Not awarded 1959 Bonneau Peters 1960 Joe Engel 1961 Rosy Ryan 1962 Phil Howser 1963 Donnie Bush 1964 Eddie Mulligan 1965 Ray Winder 1966 Eddie Leishmann 1967 Alejo Peralta 1968 Dewey Soriano 1969 Chauncey DeVault 1970 George MacDonald 1971 Phil Piton 1972 Vince McNamara 1973 Ray Johnston 1974 Fred Haney 1975 Joe Buzas 1976 Don Avery 1977 Bill Weiss 1978 Zinn Beck 1979 Harry Simmons 1980 Billy Hitchcock 1981 Jack Schwarz 1982 Sy Berger 1983 Oscar Roettger 1984 Donald Davidson 1985 Stan Wasiak 1986 Lefty Gomez 1987 Bill Schweppe 1988 Max Patkin 1989 George Sisler, Jr. 1990 John Moss 1991 George Pfister 1992 John Lipon 1993 George Kissell 1994 Jimmy Bragan 1995 Gene DaCosse 1996 S. “Chief” Bender 1997 Max Schumacher 1998 Leo Pinckney 1999 Tom Saffell 2000 Pat McKernan 2001 Roland Hemond 2002 George Zuraw 2003 Bob Wilson 2004 Dave Rosenfield 2005 Calvin Falwell 2006 Paul Snyder 2007 Dave Walker 2008 Pat Gillick 2009 Milo Hamilton 2010 Don Mincher 2011 Chito Rodriguez 2012 George McGonagle 2013 Charlie Eshbach 2014 Bill Valentine 2015 William Gladstone

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Sunday, November 20, 2016

Carlos Beltran and the Boston Red Sox Seem Like a Perfect Match

Boston Red Sox legend David Ortiz rode off into the sunset at the end of the 2016 season after spending 14 historical years with the team. He can never be truly replaced but the lineup will have a huge hole if a reasonable successor is not identified. Fortunately, Boston seems to be hot on the trail of a tremendous candidate in veteran Carlos Beltran.

Although no deal has been struck, rumors persist that the Red Sox are one of a few teams thought to be in the lead for the services of the soon-to-be 40-year-old. Despite his advanced age, Beltran is an ageless wonder, much like Ortiz, and could be as seamless a transition as the Red Sox could hope for.

Playing for seven teams over 19 major league seasons, Beltran began as an outfielder but has seen more and more time at designated hitter as he has gotten older. He has combined  for a .281 batting average, 421 home runs, 1,536 RBIs, 312 stolen bases and one of the best postseason resumes in history (.323, 16 home runs and 41 RBIs in 55 postseason games).

Beltran kept chugging along in 2016. Playing in 155 combined games with the New York Yankees and Texas Rangers, he hit .295 with 29 home runs and 93 RBIs. This translated to a roster spot on the American League All Star team. The switch-hitter is a real professional hitter and there is little reason to believe he won’t continue to be productive moving forward.

The appeal of the free agent to the Red Sox should be manifold. His experience and veteran leadership are obvious. That alone would be immensely helpful in helping bridge from Ortiz, who was a once-in-a-lifetime type of presence for the team. Also, given Beltran’s age, he will not require a contract as exorbitant in years or money as some of the other designated hitter candidates on the market such as Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Bautista.

If Beltran were to play any significant time in the field it would mean something had gone very wrong with the team’s plans. Boston not only has better defensive options but it is also the best way to keep him healthy. However, he is still capable of logging some occasional innings with a glove if needed. That kind of flexibility would provide infinite value, as the major question of what returning pariah Pablo Sandoval will be and what he can do in 2017 still remains completely to be seen.

Unfortunately, the Red Sox will face stiff competition in attempting to lure Beltran to the Hub. The Yankees and Houston Astros are rumored to be the other two teams with the most interest. Nearing the end of his career, it’s likely that he is hoping to land in a situation that will garner him his first World Series ring. Although that would seemingly take the rebuilding Yankees out of the equation, he lives there and apparently loved his previous time with the team. The Astros are chock full of young talent, but just missed the playoffs in 2016 and have already made major rumblings this offseason. They may be a team to watch in 2017 but then again so are the Red Sox, who did make the playoffs this past year and won a World Series as recently as 2013 with a deep roster and deeper pockets.

Boston may not need to make a lot of moves to get back to contention next year. However, they do need to find a replacement for Ortiz; especially someone who can come as close as possible to matching his production and leadership. They will likely not find someone better equipped as Beltran, so the ensuing weeks will be interesting to see if the Red Sox emerge as a mutual match for his services.

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Sunday, November 13, 2016

Checking in With Minnesota Twins Prospect Trey Cabbage

The Minnesota Twins last made the playoffs in 2010. They have lost at least 92 games every season except once since and are still rebuilding in an effort to reclaim their former success. One of the young players they are hoping will contribute to that overhaul is third base prospect Trey Cabbage.

A graduate of Grainger High School in Rutledge, Tennessee in 2015, the athletic Cabbage became a baseball prodigy in part due to the influence his entire family had on his development in the sport. Accordingly, when it was time for him to leave school, he was regarded as one of the best young players in the nation and was drafted by the Twins in the fourth round of that year’s draft.

The right-handed throwing, left-handed hitter has been eased into his professional career. Appearing in a total of 64 games at the lowest levels of the minors during the past two years, he has hit a combined .230 with two home runs and 31 RBIs. He has also struck out 75 times in 217 at-bats. However, he is still just 19 and coming into his own as he adjusts to this new level of baseball. 2017 should be a pivotal year for him to play in a full-season league and show what he has learned since turning pro. At 6’3” and over 200 pounds, he projects as a possible power hitter.

Earlier this past winter, Cabbage agreed to answer some questions about his career. Keep reading more on this exciting prospect. You can also follow him on Twitter and see how his 2017 season pans out.

Trey Cabbage Interview

Who was your favorite team and player when you were growing up, and why?: My favorite team was probably the Braves and Cubs because I grew up watching both teams. I just grew fond of the Cubs due to the fact that their Double-A team is a short drive from my house, so I got to see a lot of their big league guys in the minors.

How did you first find out that the Twins were interested in you, and what was your draft experience like?: I found out of the Twins’ interest when they contacted me about coming to a high school game. The draft was a nerve-wrenching experience, but I'm blessed and happy to be where I am.

What position do you think is your best, or where you future lies in baseball?: I honestly don't have a preference where I play in the field. I have been told I'm more suited to play third so I'll keep working to be the best third baseman I can be.

Was there anything in particular you did to celebrate after being drafted?: No, I didn't do anything to celebrate really. I just stayed working and went to play

How difficult was it to get adjusted to actually being a professional ball player and going through all the work and experiences for the first time?: It definitely was an adjustment into pro ball but I felt like I caught on pretty quickly and am excited to get back at it in year two.

How instrumental has your family been in your development as a baseball player?: My family has always been there and supportive in every aspect of my life, including baseball. My father and I have been playing ball and working skills since I was three years old. My family also helped me out in other sports along the way, so I wouldn't be burnt out, or pigeon-holed if you will.

Who is one pitcher from any time in baseball history that you would like to face?: To face any pitcher.... That's a tough one. I just want to make every at bat a quality one and give the best I've got against every pitcher I face.

What do you like to do in your free time?: I love the outdoors so I like hiking and just running and training outside. 

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Sunday, November 6, 2016

Predicting the 2016 MLB Awards

The World Series just concluded in historic fashion, meaning another baseball season is in the books. With many exciting moments and performances, there was plenty to keep fans busy in 2016. Soon, the sport will announce the winners of its awards, and there is plenty of competition for the top honors. Without further ado, here is my (unofficial) ballot.

American League MVP- Boston Red Sox Outfielder Mookie Betts: First, let’s get some business out of the way. If someone were to say Los Angeles Angels outfielder Mike Trout had a better season I wouldn’t put up much of an argument. However, both players are phenomenal five-tool talents and this is not the best player award. While Trout’s team was fighting to stay out of the baseman, Betts’ Sox took the tough American League East.

Having just turned 24 after the end of the regular season, Betts established himself as one of the best players in the game in 2016. Appearing in 158 games, he hit .318 with 31 home runs, 113 RBIs, 214 base hits, 122 runs scored and 26 stolen bases. This all helped contribute to a stellar 9.6 WAR. The converted infielder also proved himself as an elite defensive outfielder. His 32 defensive runs saved led the league and where a whopping 10 more than the runner up, Adam Eaton of the Chicago White Sox. Simply put, no player was more valuable to his team and their success than Betts.

National League MVP- Chicago Cubs Third Baseman/Outfielder Kris Bryant: Although he didn’t run away with it, Bryant is the clear choice here. Just 24 like his counterpart Betts, he was the best of a Cubs team that won an impressive 103 games and the World Series. Appearing in 155 contests, he hit .292 with a league-leading 121 runs scored, 39 home runs and 102 RBIs.

Splitting his time between third base and the outfield, Bryant is better in the field than he is given credit for. He compiled a positive dWAR and was also good enough for five defensive runs saved. He may be hurt a little by his teammate, first baseman Anthony Rizzo, having a similarly strong season. However, he was just a bit more productive and consistent and deserves to take home what will likely be the first of multiple MVP awards.

American League Cy Young- Boston Red Sox Starting Pitcher Rick Porcello: The right-hander bounced back from a miserable 2015 season in Boston to finally assume the mantle of an ace at the age of 27. Making 33 starts, he went 22-4 with a 3.15 ERA. His win total led the league, and he struck out a career-high 189 batters in 223 innings (also a best). His 1.01 WHIP was .008 behind the leader and possible Cy Young runner up, Justin Verlander of the Detroit Tigers. 

Porcello gets the nod because he not only matched Verlander on ERA and WHIP but he notched six more wins, which is perhaps the sexiest stat taken into consideration by voters (no matter how right or wrong that is). He was also ridiculously consistent, pitching at least into the sixth inning in all of his starts. He was also tougher as the season wore on. He had matching 11-2 records in each half of the season, but his 2.62 ERA after the All Star break was a little more than a run better than his mark before that.

National League Cy Young- Washington Nationals Starting Pitcher Max Scherzer: There are few pitchers in baseball as consistent as the power right-hander. His ERA+ has sat between 123 and 144 in each of the past three seasons, which yielded a CY Young Award (2013) and two fifth-place finishes. He was in vintage form in 2016, going 20-7 with a 2.96 ERA and 284 strikeouts and a 141 ERA+. He led the league in wins, punch outs and innings (228.1). He also followed up two no-hitters in 2015 with a record-tying 20 strikeout game earlier this year.

There has been significant support for Chicago Cubs right hander Kyle Hendricks, who led the league in ERA (2.13) and ERA+ (188).  However, he threw nearly 40 less innings, and went seven or more innings in a start seven times compared to 20 for Scherzer.

Somehow, Scherzer sometimes seems to fly under the radar, yet he is consistently one of the best pitchers in the game. He was in vintage form this season and should take home another piece of hardware for his trophy case.

American League Rookie of the Year- Detroit Tigers Starting Pitcher Michael Fulmer: This may not be the popular pick but it is the right choice. Sentiment may be on the side of New York Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez, who hit .299 with 20 home runs in just 53 games. No matter how dominant Sanchez was, he should not be rewarded for what was such a relatively short hot streak.

In 24 August games, Sanchez hit .389 with 11 home runs. He hit .217 with nine home runs in his other 29 games. While he literally set records, the Rookie of the Year award should be about cumulative performance and not about portions of a season.

Enter Fulmer. The right-hander quietly performed like a veteran all season, going 11-7 with a 3.06 ERA in 26 starts. He struck out 132 in 159 innings while allowing just 42 walks and 136 base hits. He gave up two or fewer runs in 16 of his starts. Although he did not make the same splashy headlines as Sanchez, he submitted an impressive body of work and did so over the course of a full season.

National League Rookie of the Year- Los Angeles Dodgers Shortstop Corey Seager: Perhaps the easiest of all the awards to prognosticate, the 22-year-old will also be in the conversation for MVP. Appearing in 157 games, he hit .308 with 26 home runs, 40 doubles and 72 RBIs. He collected 193 hits and scored 105 runs, all while playing surprisingly solid defense for a player of his size (6’4” and 215 pounds).
The National League was chockfull of rookies this year, making Seager’s efforts all the more impressive. He looks to be one of baseball’s next superstars.

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