Showing posts from March, 2020

If Your Birthday is March 31st...

Image share it with Peter Bourjos . The defensively gifted but offensively challenged outfielder has played with five big league clubs. I caught him in action with the 2016 Phillies. Josmil Pinto (below) appeared on track to follow 2013 New Britain Rock Cats teammates Eddie Rosario and Miguel Sano to major league stardom. He put up some nice numbers that summer: 23 doubles, 14 home runs and a .308 average, which earned him a late-season promotion to the Twins, which he hit well over .300 in limited service. But he never grabbed an every day job in Minnesota and drifted back to the minors. He was still hoping for a comeback this winter, when he batted .272 for a team in the Venezuelan winter league. No Hall of Famers were born on the last day of March. And to be honest, no one really came close. Bill Hallman , a late 19th century outfielder, played the most games of anyone with this birthday (1507). But he was just a .272 hitter. Chien-Ming Wang seemed on his way to stardom w

Future Hall of Famer

Yadier Molina is not just the best of the three catching brothers who've made the majors, he is nearly a lock for Cooperstown. Rugged, dependable and consistent, he's been behind the plate for a pair of Cardinals World Championship teams. In the last 13 seasons, you can book him for a .260 or better average (five times over .300) and rock solid defense. Most crucially are those defensive skills that have held up -- at the most taxing position on the field -- even as he approaches his 38th birthday in July. Determined to stay an everyday player, his 1947 games caught are the 7th most in baseball history -- and more than 350 ahead of the second most among active players, Russell Martin. And that 1947 total is more than such icons as Johnny Bench, Yogi Berra and the soon-to-be inducted Ted Simmons. A recent article ranks the greatest catchers in Cardinals history. Simmons ranks second; Tim McCarver, Tom Pagnozzi and Mike Matheny round out the Top 5. But there&#

Baseball History This Weekend

March 27th, 2012: Embattled owner Frank McCourt agrees to sell the Dodgers to a group that includes Magic Johnson and former Braves executive Stan Kasten for $2 billion, the highest ever paid for a pro sports team. March 27, 2002: Jose Canseco's big league career ends when he's released by the Expos at the end of spring training. March 27th, 1973: Denny McLain is released by the Braves at the end of spring training. The career of the last 30-game winner is over at the age of 29. March 27th, 1987: The Mets trade backup catcher Ed Hearn, pitcher Rick Anderson, and prospect Mauro Gozzo to the Royals for David Cone and minor leaguer Chris Jelic. The trade becomes a huge plus for New York, where Cone, after an injury shortened 1987, stars for the Mets (and later, the Yankees). Perhaps, it's the reversal of karma for the equally onesided Amos Otis/Joe Foy deal 18 years earlier. March 28th, 1985: Sports Illustrated  publishes the greatest April Fool's stunt in th

Not to Be for Now

This is how it was supposed to look: Mets and Nats at Citi Field. The special logo on the field, stands full of fans, the sky over Flushing a perfect deep blue. But something bigger than baseball put those plans on hold. Of course, we'll miss it; especially being homebound, it would have been great to pop on the TV this afternoon and see a game -- even if was to be played without a crowd or even in a Grapefruit or Cactus League park away from the worst of the danger. As the keenly observant -- and from what I understood, later in life baseball fan -- John Lennon famously told us, "Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans." Instead, we embrace our memories alongside the dreams of better days ahead. Looking back over my years as a fan, I've attended three season openers: 1969 : Mets hosting the Expos at Shea Stadium, that wild 11 - 10 Montreal victory, whose photos I've enjoyed sharing with you on this platform . Believing they

Dial "S" for Surgery

Paraphrasing the classic 1950s Alfred Hitchcock movie  Dial "M" for Murder  was Tuesday's breaking news that Mets star Noah Syndergaard needs Tommy John surgery. Unlike the widely reported arm issues of fellow stars -- and S-surnamed -- Chris Sale and Luis Severino, Thor's problem seemingly came from out of left field. He'd even appeared in three games during Grapefruit League play. As the Mets plan for however-long a 2020 season there'll be, GM Brodie Van Wagonen can take confort that he picked up free agents Rick Porcello and Michael Wacha last winter. Those moves gave the Mets five veteran starting pitchers. But it's also an ominous sign that after a 2019, where their rotation came through healthy and durable, one of the team's most important arms has been shut down before the games begin to count.

If Today is Your Birthday...

Image share it with Starlin Castro . The former Cub, Yankee and Marlin infielder joined the Nationals over the winter and will join Howie Kendrick and Asdrubal Cabrera in a core of veteran infielders who'll man 2nd and 3rd base for the World Champs. I caught him in action on March 12th at West Palm Beach. Turning 30 today, he's been a .280 lifetime hitter over 10 major league seasons. Also on the cake and candles list: Chad Gaudin , who pitched for nine teams in 11 major league seasons (2003-2013). Corey Hart , the power hitting infielder who hit 20 or more homers five times during his seven full seasons with the Brewers. Wilson Alvarez , who fired a no hitter in his first-ever start for the White Sox, on August 11th, 1991. Bruce Hurst, the Red Sox lefthander who beat the Mets twice in the 1986 World Series. And if not for Boston's collapses in games six and seven, might well have been named that series' MVP. Garry Templeton , the longtime shortstop who mi

A 2010 Gardy Party

From June 3rd, 2010 : Facing Kevin Millwood. Brett Gardner homers leading off the bottom of the 6th inning as the Yankees hosted the Orioles. The ball soars past right fielder Nick Markakis to extend the Yanks lead to 5 - 1. Who do you think brought that souvenir home?

Chris Iannetta

Chris Iannetta had been one of the feel-good stories in Yankee camp. The veteran catcher, best known for his years with the Rockies and Angels, hit the stuffing out of the ball in his bid to become the Yankees backup catcher. After seeing him on TV and reading about his success, I was so pleased that was part of the travel squad that made it to the east coast of Florida last week. He was 1 for 2 in the exhibition finale against the Nationals, bringing his spring training average to a nice round .400. With the Yanks not totally sold on minor league veteran Kyle Higashioka serving as the backup for Gary Sanchez, Iannetta's experience and live bat was opening eyes before the pause button was hit. But now? It will easily be eight weeks, at best, before players are back in camp. Did Iannetta's 10 game burst change any minds? Can it continue after the long layoff? 10 days ago, especially with a 26-man roster, one could see the advantage of carrying a third catcher, especially

Throwback Thursday: Manny World

Manny Ramirez was still a Southern California favorite as the 2010s began. He's in action March 9th, 2010 in a Cactus League game against the Rockies. One of the great natural hitters of his time, his quirky personality kept media members amused, while several PED busts late in his career have kept him out of the Hall of Fame.

More Images From West Palm

 Fitteam Ballpark, home of the World Champion Nationals, as well as the Houston Astros. Riveting blue Florida skies, and the expanded screening that almost serves as a bubble over the field. And below, that now familiar "curly W" rising above the parking lot.


Jacob deGrom and Wilson Ramos stretching and getting ready before the March 11th exhibition against the Cardinals at Port St. Lucie.

Andujar Answers His Doubters

Miguel Andujar came to camp this year with plenty to prove. Questions hovered over the 2018 runner up for American League Rookie of the Year. Would his hitting suffer after missing almost all of last season with a serious shoulder injury? Answer #1: Not a bit. He still stings the ball, the same way he did in 2018, the same way he did when I saw him tearing up AA a couple of years earlier with Trenton. Could he adapt to the outfield as a transition to a multi-position player? Answer #2: Sort of. He did fine in left field and while hardly flashing Aaron Judge-esque instincts in right field, didn't embarrass himself there. With 3rd base in the Bronx now capably manned by Gio Urshela, Andujar's future could well be in the outfield, where his iffy instincts at the hot corner won't be detriment. Might Andujar also be able to play some first base? Answer #3: Not likley. One fumble prone game earlier this month was apparently all that Aaron Boone and Brian Cashman chose t

Patrick Corbin

Having missed him whenever his Nationals (or in 2018 and before, D'backs) came to New York, I finally got an in-person look at Patrick Corbin on Thursday . One can only imagine the awkwardness he felt in taking the mound, aware that this was the final game he'd be playing for at least the next four weeks. That didn't diminish his performance one hit. He turned in four innings of one hit, shutout ball -- ironically, against the Yankees, the club he rooted for as a kid and considered the front runner for him as a free agent until the Nats came up with a longer (and more lucrative) offer. Joining Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg in Washington's dynamic rotation, Corbin won 14 games a year ago. Then, during the post-season, he beat the Dodgers in an LCS game and was the starter and winning in Game Seven of the World Series. When the 2020 season finally gets rolling, Patrick Corbin will be a big reason the Nats will be among the favorites in the National League.

The Last Out...For Now

Not long after Thursday's Yankees/Nationals game began in West Palm Beach, word spread that it would be the last live baseball we'd see for a while. Efforts to contain the coronavirus outbreak had forced all the major sports to suspend games, in order to avoid large gatherings in concentrated places such as ballparks and arenas. The game thus played out under eerie, almost unreal circumstances. Reaching the bottom of the 9th, the Yankees held the lead. Now, with two outs, Washington's Wilmer Difo faced Yankee pitching prospect Albert Abreu. Ball meets bat. Difo lifts a fly ball, pulled in by Thomas Milone. What is Milone thinking as he grips the ball in his glove? Or Difo as the game ends? Both symbolically joined to hit a huge pause button halting the 2020 baseball season before it ever began. Health and safety considerations outweigh the value of three hours of in-person, or even televised entertainment. During this global pandemic, we're all entering unc

Spring Training 2020: First Stop, Port Saint Lucie

The refurbished Clover Park was my first stop... Not only is is the look brighter, but the ballpark now aggressively celebrates Mets history. You now enter the main parking lot at a baseball and team-centric sign. Inside, you'll find murals of franchise legends such as Mike Piazza... As well as time-spanning combinations bridging different Mets eras; here, Piazza is placed alongside Tom Seaver. On the field, on this day, the 2020 edition of the Mets looked capable -- how could it not when the starting pitcher is two-time Cy Young Award winner Jacob deGrom. In the 3rd inning, J.D. Davis flashed the power that caught fans eyes a year ago. This Carlos Martinez pitch went soaring toward the scoreboard. Then a celebration with Robinson Cano, whom Davis drove in, before heading back to the dugout. As always, Spring Training is a celebration for fans. Say hello to the Hat Man, Tom Lange, a prominent  and lauded Cardinals fan who designs his own unique head gear, p

My Favorite Time of the Baseball Year

Heading to Florida today for seven games in seven days. Hoping to catch Gerrit Cole suiting up for the Yankees, Didi Gregorius in Phillies red and Josh Donaldson slugging for the Twins. Time to soak in some sun, catch up with good friends and get my first chance to see baseball up close in 2020. And you know I'll pack a couple of Canons to share what I see with you.

Pre-Season Sizzle

With the Grapefruit and Cactus Leagues at the halfway point, Framil Reyes earns today's spotlight. The hard-hitting outfielder -- who came to Cleveland in a deadline deal last summer from the Padres -- has smacked 5 homers along with 4 doubles, and is batting .444 (with an OPS of a sorching 1.631). With most experts picking the Indians to be no better than second to the Twins in the AL Central, the Indians have to hope that this budding slugger maintains his red-hot pace after the team heads north and the games begin to count.

If Your Birthday is March 9th...

Image share it with  Aaron Boone : third generation member of a dynastic baseball family, author of an iconic Yankee post-season home run and beginning his third season as the Yankees manager. Our March 9th birthday party co-stars: Daniel Hudson , the veteran reliever who claimed a place in history by retiring the final three Astros in the 2019 World Series, to bring Washington its first baseball championship since 1925. Benito Santiago , the outstanding catcher for the Padres and Giants. Bert Campaneris , the A's shortstop -- and six-time AL stolen base champ -- on their great teams of the early and mid-'70s. Terry Mulholland , the "craft lefty" who appeared in the post-season with four different teams: the Phillies, Cubs, Braves and Twins. And we remember: Jim Landis , a gifted defensive center fielder during the late '50s and '60s, mainly with the White Sox. Jackie Jensen , who joined the Yankees in 1950, but is best known for playing alon

Weekend Special: Lehigh Valley 2010

10 years ago this spring... from May 2nd, 2010, the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs host the Indianapolis Indians. It's Triple A ball, the players are just a phone call away from the majors. And several on the field this afternoon would take that final step. Above: future major leaguer Pedro Alvarez hits for Indy; Jose Tabata and Neil Walker also saw action that afternoon. Below: John Mayberry Junior at bat for Lehigh Valley. Finally, say hello to Andy Tracy , who smacked 296 homers over spent 13 years in the minors -- in contrast to his 13 over 149 major league games between 2000 and 2009 with the Expos, Rockies and Phillies. A cloudy and cool spring afternoon from May 2010.


Yoan Moncada began delivering on his potential during 2019. After settling at 3rd base for the White Sox. he posted career-best numbers across the board with 25 homers, a .315 batting average, and OPS on the good side of .900 -- while cutting his strikeout total by 60. The Cuban expat won't turn 25 until May and is now locked in through 2025 for a guaranteed $70 million. He joins other exciting young players such as Eloy Jiminez. Tim Anderson and top prospect Luis Robert alongside veteran 1st baseman Jose Abreu as the core of a group that the South Side Chicagoans hope will bring them back to the post-season for the first time since 2008.

Philly Bats Warming Up

The Phillies two top 2019 acquisitions flexed some muscle on Wednesday. Bryce Harper , whose late signing a year ago may have contributed to a less than spectacular season, crushed a pair in a split squad win over the Pirates. His first inning blast came just two batters after catcher -- and for the moment, lead off man -- JT Realmuto cleared the fence. Harper has looked great in the early going -- driving in eight runs in just four games. Freed of the uncertainty of being a free agent and that late arrival in camp amidst all the noise and hoopla, he could be in line for a huge season. At age 27, Harper should be right at his athletic peak. It's what you do 3 weeks before Opening Day... you dream.

The Next $200 Million Man

Christian Yelich is on the verge of becoming baseball's newest $200 million player. Numerous reports on Tuesday, beginning with Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic, say that he and the Brewers are about to shake hands on an extension lasting at least seven years and worth at least $200 million. No question about whether Yelich (seen here as a member of the 2016 Marlins) is worth the money. The 2018 National League MVP was on track to make it back to back honors when he suffered a broken kneecap from fouling a ball off his leg. Even with missing the season's final weeks, he led the NL in batting average, on-base and slugging percentage. With his numbers growing year-by-year, he's not only become the heart and soul of Milwaukee baseball, but one of the handful of "best players in the game." For a franchise that has too often seen its best players leave as free agents, this California native is one who chose to stay and still get paid.

Three-Three Day

Third day of the third month: today's salute goes to a couple of notable New York pitchers who've sported the number: David Wells (above) one of three Yankees ever to throw a perfect game. While his time in the Bronx was the high point of his career, "Boomer" actually spent 21 seasons in the majors and won 239 games. These days, along with occasional broadcasting work,  he's a popular guest at Old Timers Day.   Matt Harvey (below) a Connecticut native who grew up a Yankee fan but made his mark, all too briefly, with the Mets. The team's young ace in 2013 missed the next season with Tommy John surgery, before rebounding in 2015, as the Mets won the NL pennant. Since then,  thoracic outlet syndrome forced more surgery -- and cost him his effectiveness. After bouncing from the Mets to the Reds and Angels the last couple of years, Harvey remains unsigned as we approach the halfway point of spring training.

Comeback Needed

Red Sox fans have to be encouraged by what they've seen so far in Florida from Nate Eovaldi . The 2018 post-season hero was held to just 23 games -- and a dozen starts -- last season. Sunday, he sparkled, firing three innings of one-hit shutout ball. The lesser known grad of Alvin (Texas) High School has dazzled at times during his career. But except for 2015, when he went 14 - 3 with the Yankees, Eovaldi has never sustained his excellence over a full season. And those bursts of brilliance have outweighed inconsistency and recovery from Tommy John surgery. If anything, his importance to Boston baseball can't be understated -- especially with David Price now a Dodger and Chris Sale set to start the regular season on the injured list.