My next Baseball Bloggers Alliance ballot is for the Goose Gossage Award for the best relief pitcher in the American League. My choices are:
1st Place: Rafael Soriano of the Tampa Bay Rays. He had a 1.73 ERA and gave the Rays’ bullpen what they needed to take the AL East.
2nd Place: Joakim Soria of the Kansas City Royals. His 1.78 ERA was the bright spot in a dismal team this year. He saved 43 of the Royals 67 wins, out of 46 save opportunities (93%).
3rd Place: Naftali Feliz of the Texas Rangers. He had an ERA of 2.73 and 71 strikeouts, as well as 40 saves and he’s only 22 years old.
Next up: The Walter Johnson Award (Cy Young Award equivalent.
P.S. Sorry no pictures but my computer is screwed up and incredibly slow, so it would take 5 minutes to upload a picture and about 10 minutes to find one. It runs at about the speed of my Kaypro in the early 80’s. Anyone remember them?
The baseball Bloggers Alliance’s second award for 2010 is the Willie Mays Award for the Rookie of the Year. Since I write about the A’s (actually I’m the only blogger in the BBA writing about the A’s), I get to vote for the American League ROY. Here are my picks:
1st Place: Naftali Feliz, P, of the Texas Rangers.
During the regular season, Feliz dazzled as the Rangers closer at the ripe old age of 21! His 2.73 ERA, 71 strike outs in 69.1 innings, and his 40 saves are enough for the top spot IMHO. Let’s not forget he made the American League All Star Team.
2nd Place: Austin Jackson, CF,of the Detroit Tigers. Jackson is the complete player. His .293 batting average, .345 on-base percentage and .400 slugging percentage, coupled with a .985 fielding percentage, puts him way up the list as a legitimate 5-tool player.
3rd Place: Danny Valencia, 3B, of the Minnesota Twins. This may be a bit of a long shot, but this kid batted .311, with a .448 slugging percentage and had an on-base percentage of .799! Okay, so he only appeared 85 games, but he hit 7 Home runs and drove in 40 runners. Not bad for half a season. His defense at the hot corner is stellar with a .973 fielding perentage with only 6 errors. If he’d been able to play the whole season at this level, he might have taken the top. spot.
Next up: The Goose Gossage Award for the best relief pitcher.
As the sole Oakland A’s blogger in the Baseball Bloggers Alliance, I am required to submit a ballot for the BBA’s post-season awards. Today’s is for the Connie Mack Award for the Best Manager of the 2010 baeball season. Here are my choices:
1st Place: Ron Gardenhire of the Minnesota Twins. Since Gardenhire took the reins in Minnesota, the twins have one six out of nine division titles. Despite having fewer resources (read that money) than other teams they have beaten, he led the team to 94 wins. Only the Rays (96) and the Yankees (95) had more. And the team was without the services of Justin Morneau, the 2007 MVP, for the last half of the season, and Mauer was down for a while as well. The Twins went 47-21 without Morneau. That, and winning the AL Central Division, says a lot about Gardenhire’s ability to win without one of his best run producers. He get’s my nod.
2nd Place: Ron Washington of the Texas Rangers. The Rangers greatly exceeded expectations this year, and pretty much abled into first place inthe ALWestern Division with the huge lead they had built up early in the season. Like Gardenhire, Wash was without the services of Josh Hamilton for a significant part of the season, but he found a way to get his team to win. I would have put him in first place, if they Rangers hadn’t faltered coming down the stretch (.500 winning percentage in Aug and Sept). But they had such a huge lead that it didn’t matter.
3rd Place: Joe Maddon of the Tampa Bay Rays. [Under Construction.}
First of all, I apologize profusely for the amount of time since my last post. My only excuse is that my editor is making me rewrite the last 1/3 of my novel, “Contract Year,” to change the ending. So I have had to concentrate on that. But here are a few things that I’ve noticed since my Eri Yoshida update on July 22:
Bob Feller Diagnosed With LeukemiaLegendary pitcher Bob Feller recently revealed that he is being treated for Acute Myeloid Leukemia, a type of the disease that is very common in elderly men. Feller is 91 years old. “It is curable, but not guaranteed,” he told the Cleveland Fox News Affiliate. Bob is the third oldest living Hall of Famer after Lee McPhail and Bobby Doerr, who are both 92. The day he announced his condition, he was in his regular seat in the Indians’ Press Box, after missing 5 games while undergoing outpatient treatment at the Cleveland Clinic. He makes regular appearances on behalf the the team and is much loved by Cleveland fans. You can read about my experience meeting him in April at Spring Training in my post entitled, “Meeting Bob Feller.” Check it out.
Dallas Braden Gets Some Bling
On Sunday, Joe Stiglich’s A’s Blog
(Contra Costa Times website) had a note about a brief ceremony in the A’s clubhouse, at which Co-Owner Lew Wolff presented Dallas with a diamond ring honoring him for his perfect game.
Lew also gave him a diamond pendant for his beloved grandmother, Peggy Lindsey, who raised him after his mother died of breast cancer. Wolff asked Braden, “Can you do two in one year?” Dallas replied in characteristically droll fashion, “I don’t have that club in my bag!”
From Indie Ball to the Majors in 2 1/2 Months
On June 18th, 28 year-old Justin James was a pitcher for the Kansas City T-Bones in the independent Northern League. He had pitched in the Toronto and Cincinnati organizations before being released in 2009, following an injury-riddled 2008 season. He signed on with the T-Bones because they were the closest indie team to his home in Yukon, OK.
On June 19th, the A’s signed him to a minor league contract and he spent the last two months between Double-A Midland and Triple-A Sacramento, posting a 1.83 ERA and 49 strikeouts with only 16 walks in 39 1/3 innings. “I can’t stand walking people,” he said. “I’ve always been against it.” (We need more pitchers with that attitude and the ability to put it into practice.) He throws a 95 MPH fastball.
Last Wednesday, Justin got “the call” and reported for his major league debut, which turned out to be at Yankee Stadium, where the A’s were playing a 4-game series. We won’t talk about how that series went. Let’s just say that it went better for Justin than the team. He came into the game and pitched an inning, giving up 3 hits and an earned run with 2 strikeouts and a walk. Not bad against the mighty Yankees. In yesterday’s game against the Angels, he fared better, pitching an inning and and allowing just 1 hit.
“It’s really unbelievable,” he said before his Yankee Stadium appearance. “I didn’t expect that this would happen this year, coming from independent ball. I am as happy as I have ever been.”
That’s it for now. Hope everyone had a wonderful Labor Day Weekend.
Since I received such a good response to my article in Eri Yoshida’s second start for the Chico Outlaws, I’d like to give you and update.
In her third start on June 24th against the Edmonton Capitals, she pitched 5 innings for the first time and gave up 3 runs (2 earned), and suffered her first loss in the US. She breezed through her first 3 innings, giving up only 1 hit and a walk. She got into trouble in the 4th inning when she allowed 2 walks and hit a batter, followed by a single and a ground out, scoring two. In the 5th, she hit another batter and gave up a run-scoring double. Yoshida told Reporters that her “knuckleball wasn’t very effective.”
In her 4th start on July 2nd, she lasted only 3 innings and gave up 5 runs, but didn’t figure in the outcome of the game as the Outlaws won 6-5. Either the opposing hitters are learning how to hit knuckleballs, or her knuckleball was not effective, as in the previous game.
In any event, she tends to get a lot of “Hit By Pitches” in her games. Could it be that guys are stepping in to take one for the team? Who wouldn’t be tempted to do that with a 55 MPH knuckler? Just a thought.
Eri was also interviewed before her last start by ESPN’s “This week in Baseball.” I checked the ESPN site, but it appears that the interview hasn’t been played or posted. You can read about Eri on their website at: Eri on ESPN. While you’re there, check out a 13-year old female little league pitcher who also throws a knuckler. Watch the video. she’s amazing.
Eri will make her 5th start tomorrow night (July 23rd) in Chico against the Orange County Flyers. She will make her first road start on July 27th north of the border in British Columbia against the Victoria Seals.
I wish Eri good luck in her upcoming games, and I’ll report on this little (5’1″) dynamo in a couple of weeks.
Last weekend I attended a SABR (Society of American Baseball Research) event at the Borders Bookstore across from AT+T Park in San Francisco. It was Tim Lincecum Bobblehead Night at the stadium and at 4:15 the line to get the bobblehead was strung out almost back to downtown SF. But my friend Sandy and I were not there to snag a replica of “The Freak,” but to hear three authors talk about their recently-published baseball books. Let me introduce them to you.
Jeff Gillenkirk has written a baseball novel, entitled Home, Away. Jason Thibideaux is a pitcher who has a bright future in professional baseball. After a divorce which brings out the worst in both parties, he fails to secure joint custody of his two-year-old son whom he raised full time for the previous year while his wife finished law school. Jason is devastated at being separated from his son for long periods of time as he embarks on his baseball career.
Over the next few years, through many ups and downs in his career and in his relationship with his son, Jason arrives at the crossroads and must make a gut-wrenching choice between family and career.
“Home, Away has it all — realistic family drama, the action of professional sports, witty dialogue … I was captivated from beginning to end. Gillenkirk’s book is a home run.” –Holly Goldberg Sloan, screenwriter, “Angels in the Outfield.”
I am about halfway through Home, Away, and am enjoying it thoroughly.
Mark Armour is the author of Joe Cronin: A Life in Baseball. Joe Cronin was a player for 20 years for the Washington Senators and the Boston Red Sox, and was a 7-time allstar. He became a player-manager at the age of 26, a General Manager at age 40, President of the American League in 1950, and in the Mid-60’s was kicked upstairs to the Chairman of the League, a largely ceremonial position. He had almost 45 years at the level of manager or above, and spent over a half-century in baseball.
“For so many decades, Joe Cronin has defied the ambitions of biographers…until now, as Mark Armour finally brings us a revealing portrait of this towering figure in the game’s history,” says Rob Neyer of ESPN. “His treatment is both thorough and (equally important) very readable,” according to Bill Nowlin, author of more than 20 books on the Red Sox.
Steve L. Steinberg, a baseball historian, is the co-author (with Lyle Spats) of the book “1921: The Yankees, The Giants and the Fight for Baseball Supremacy in New York.” 1921 was the year that the Yankees won their first pennant. John McGraw of the Giants had always been the personification of New York baseball. As owner, general manager, and field manager (all at the same time), he called every pitch and managed in the old style of baseball.
By and large, the Yankees were a mediocre team before 1921. But that year, the Bronx Bombers, led by Babe Ruth, emerged as the new face of baseball. The clash between these two baseball styles and franchises is the focus of this remarkable book.
“1921 is an incredibly comprehensive look at a pivotal baseball season–for the sport, for New York, for an America finally distancing itself from war. … Iluminating and entertaining” — Frank Deford, senior contributing writer for Sports Illustrated and author.
I hope you will check these books out. They are all available on Amazon.com. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.
The A’s are struggling and depression is overtaking even loyal fans, so I haven’t been moved to write a blog post in some time. The A’s are losing to the Reds as I write, and are in danger of being swept, so I thought I’d share something much more positive: the story of Eri Yoshida, an 18-year-old knuckleball pitcher, known in Japan as the “Knuckle Princess.”
A few weeks ago, I received an email from the Golden Baseball League, an independent professional baseball league not affiliated with Major League Baseball. The email announced that Eri Yoshida would be making her second start for the GBL’s Chico Outlaws on June 12th. I called my friend Sandy, who is game to do anything involving baseball, and proposed that we drive the 3+ hours from the SF Bay Area to Chico for the game. She said, “Super!” So we headed up I-5 after lunch on that Saturday.
After checking into our hotel, we presented ourselves at Nettleton Stadium on the campus of California State University at Chico (called “Chico State”). The Chico State Wildcats play here during the college baseball season, and the stadium seats 4400 people on very hard aluminum bleacher seats that do have backs to lean against. Had I known, I would have brought seat cushions. Next time, defintely.
Once inside the ballpark and found my friend, Dave Kaval, Founder and President of the GBL.
Dave gave some info on the Outlaw season and the ballpark, and then pointed into the dugout. Eri Yoshida had just set down her gear bags on the bench and was preparing for the game. She looked so tiny, but completely at home.
To give you some perspective, Eri’s appearance in a men’s professional baseball league is historic. She is the first woman to play professional hardball since Ila Borders, who pitched in the Northern League and other independent leagues from 1997-2000. But Eri is the only woman to pitch professionally in 2 countries–her home country of Japan and the US.
But can she pitch, you are wondering. The answer is yes, but first, a little background. Eri has played baseball since she was in the 2nd grade in Yokohama, Japan. She played on the Kawasaki Senior High School men’s baseball team until she was drafted at the age of 16 by the Kobe Cruise 9 to play in a Japanese independent professional baseball league. This year she came to America to play for the Chico Outlaws.
She has always dreamed of playing professional baseball, and wanted to emulate Red Sox knuckleballer Tim Wakefield, her idol. She is very serious about her baseball career, and hopes that her efforts will help pave the way for other women to start playing hardball professionally.
Like any 18-year-old teenager, she enjoys watching cartoons, listening to music and eating “Natto” (a traditional Japanese food made from soybeans that looks like string cheese). She wears a wide smile and has a twinkle in her eye, except when she is atop the mound, where she’s all business.
So the umpire calls” batter up,” and the team erupts from the dugout to take the field, eight typical baseball bodies (tall, muscular, handsome) and last but not least, Eri, all 5’1″ and 115 pounds of her.
Eri pitched 4 innings, facing 18 batters, yielded 4 hits, gave up 2 runs (only one earned), walked 2 and struck out1 (her first). Her ERA for the game was 2.25. So yes, she can pitch.
It was comical watching these grown men made to look silly, as they flailed away at her knuckleball traveling about 50 mph, and looking equally inept when she threw one of her 70+ mph fastballs.
She struck out in her one trip to the plate. But in her debut outing on May 29th, she got a hit and and drove in a run in her only at bat. So she’s actually batting .500 on the year!
It’s hard to tell what her teammates think of her. She doesn’t speak English, so she’s at a big disadvantage. But she seems to have won the admiration of her manager, the crowd and many of her teammates for her perseverance. Chico Manager Garry Templeton, the former All-Star shortstop, said, “With all the hype, all the attention, she went out there and did her job. To me, she’s got some thick skin.”
She’s still looking for a win, which she would have earned if she had pitched one more inning. Apparently, she will be working with the team coaching staff to develop her strength and conditioning so she can pitch later into her games. Her next start will be in Chico when the team returns from it’s current road trip.
After the game, which the Outlaws won 8-4 over Yuma (AZ) Scorpions, we lingerered near the dugout watching her deal with the press through her interpreter. After the media left, Sandy and I walked out onto the field where Eri was talking to my friend Dave Kaval and a couple of members of the Outlaws organization. Eri caught my eye and and came over to shake my hand. I signaled in sign language that I wanted to get a picture of her with me and handed my camera to Dave. She put her right arm around me, looked at the camera and gave the thumbs up sign.
She signed the bat I am holding and I thanked her with an “Arigato.” She smiled and bowed, and made her way up the ramp to exit the stadium.
For me it was awe-inspiring. An 18-year-old in a foreign country where she doesn’t speak the language, playing a man’s game, and playing it well. And lest you think “well, it’s only independent ball,” that night she faced players with major league experience (more on that in another article) and others with quite a few years in the MLB-affiliated minor leagues. And the caliber of baseball was really good. So she’s the real deal.
I felt honored to be part of Eri’s professional baseball journey, albeit in a very small way. And she is making history.
Heck, even the NY Times covered her first game and reported on it, not to mention a gazillion guys from the Japanese media outlets. She has also been contacted by the Baseball Hall of Fame. They have a spot reserved for her in the Women in Baseball wing. Eri, you go girl!