Rotisserie Duck

Grading The Prognostications PDF Print E-mail
Rotisserie Duck
Written by Don Drooker   
Friday, 17 October 2014 00:00
Each year, a number of us from are fortunate enough to be included in the best Fantasy Baseball pre-season magazine. It is called "The Fantasy Baseball Guide - Professional Edition" and edited by that Superhero, Rotoman. For many of us, the contribution is a list of "Picks and Pans" where we try to predict which players readers should target or avoid.

Before attempting to objectively assign a grade to my own predictions, a few disclaimers are in order...

1) While the publication itself hits the shelves in anticipation of Spring Training, our lists need to be submitted well before the December holidays. At that point, numerous free agents haven't signed and many MLB roster roles haven't been determined.

2)  The Old Duck always attempts to focus on players that are more marginal than the obvious fantasy stars. You don't need me to tell you that Mike Trout is a good player, you need me to find you a bargain or to steer you away from an over-rated player. Taking this approach is more fun but also more challenging.

3) One lesson to take away from this exercise is that being an "expert" has a price. Most of the opponents sitting around the draft table in March/April have read the magazine and already know my thoughts about many players. Having your name in print is a reasonable excuse for sharing information, but for those of you in home leagues, make sure you keep your opinions to yourself in the company of your mortal enemies.

So, without pulling any punches, let's see how the Quacker made out...

> CODY ALLEN - PICK - When a young reliever strikes out 88 batters in 70 IP and his team is fed up with the existing closer, that would be called an opportunity. - Put up 6W, 24 SV, 2.07 ERA & 1.06 WHIP to earn close to $20 in Roto value...Grade "A"

> HENDERSON ALVAREZ - PAN - While only 24, he's too much of an enigma...allowed only 90 hits on 102 IP, but strikes out just 5 batters per 9 IP...too confusing. - I shouldn't have been so confused as he exceeded expectations with 12 W & a 2.65 ERA even though he still had a low K rate...Grade "C"

> ELVIS ANDRUS - PICK - We've become spoiled and taken him for granted...has five full MLB seasons and will only be 25 on opening day...swiped 42 of 50 bases in 2013. - A slight drop-off from '13 with a .263 BA & 27 SB, he still earned $18...Grade "B"

> NORICHIKA AOKI - PICK - Don't be fooled by the fact that he's 32...plug in 10 HR's, 25 SB's, .285 BA for 550 AB's and bid accordingly. - Had some rough patches but managed 17 SB's & that exact .285 BA while filling the Royals black hole in RF and earning $17...Grade "B"

> HOMER BAILEY - PICK - Despite the horrible first name for a pitcher and the fact that he toils at Great American, this guy has figured it out...had 199 K's and his ERA could have been a half-run less based on raw numbers. - Pitched OK for 2/3 of the season before getting hurt with 9 W & a 3.71 but disappointed fantasy owners...Grade "C"

> GORDON BECKHAM - PAN - An example of a team being fooled by hype just like a fantasy player. - Hope you followed this advice, as he hit .226 in 446 AB's with single-digit HR & SB...Grade "A"

> PETER BOURJOS - PICK - If healthy, watch where he lands this off-season...a regular job in CF somewhere produces 10-15 HR's & 20-25 SB's...turns 27 on opening day. - Never got it going offensively with a .231 BA and a $4 Roto contribution, he eventually lost the starting job in St. Louis...Grade "D"

> MICHAEL BRANTLEY - PICK - Seems to be improving each year as he moves into his age 27 season. - The best advice of the year, he had a $40+ fantasy campaign with 20 HR's, 23 SB and a .327 BA...Grade "A"

> A.J. BURNETT - PICK - If he doesn't retire and returns to Pittsburgh, don't be duped by the fact that he's 37...had 209 K's in 191 IP. - Despite nagging injuries, he stayed on the mound for 34 starts, but 8 W and a 4.59 ERA didn't help your cause...Grade "C"

> BILLY BUTLER - PAN - At the age where a spike was expected, he went from 29 to 15 HR's...that physique will age quickly. - Right on the money, he hit 9 HR with a .271 BA while barely earning double-digit dollars...Grade "A"

> MARLON BYRD - PAN - The book should be called "Cheaters Hit The Lottery" with him and Melky on the cover...a career year at age 36 equals $16 Yakov Smirnoff once said, "America is a wonderful country". - My personal prejudice against PED guys got the best of me and he earned $20 with 25 HR's...Grade "D"

> MELKY CABRERA - PAN - Has never had a decent season when he wasn't "juiced". Another former cheater who had a productive year with a .301 BA & 16 HR's...Grade "D"

> MATT CAIN - PICK - Hope his 8-10 record lowers the perceived value in your league...based on raw stats, his ERA should have been closer to 3.15 than the actual 4.00. - As always, injuries will mess up predictions as he only made 15 starts...Grade "C"

> ALLEN CRAIG - PICK - His late-season injury might give you a slight discount in March...was the best clutch hitter in baseball and his lifetime OPS is .850. - A big miss, as he never showed any of the form we saw in 2013, he hit .215 in over 450 AB's and was barely rosterable...Grade "D"

> NELSON CRUZ - PAN - At age 33 coming off a PED suspension, let someone else take the risk...could be this year's Melky Cabrera. - Another empty swing for the Duck (and lots of MLB teams), he resurrected his reputation with 40 HR's...Grade "C"

> DAVID DEJESUS - PAN - The Rays are really smart, but a contract extension for 34 year-old OF with no power, no speed and no batting average over .263 since 2010? - The Rays are a smart organization but not this time, as they paid for a .248 BA and 19 RBI's...Grade "A"

> RYAN DEMPSTER - PAN - Last June, I traded Koji Uehara for Ryan Dempster...need I say more? - Retired before the season even started due to "physical reasons"...Grade "B"

> ADAM EATON - PAN - Was over-hyped last Spring and didn't have the elbow surgically repaired...don't make a significant investment. - Was better than I thought, but not as good as the hype with only 1 HR & 15 SB's...Grade "C"

> ALCIDES ESCOBAR - PAN - Sucked in many Fantasy players with his 2012 stats at the plate...swiped 22 bases last season without getting caught, but a .259 OBP doesn't cut it. - Improved his OBP to .317 and swiped 31 bases...Grade "C"

> MARCO ESTRADA - PICK - At age 30, he's not a prospect anymore, but 261 K's in 266 IP over the last two seasons is intriguing. - In the rotation for half the season, then relegated to the bullpen but he still managed 127 K's in 151 IP...Grade "C"

> DANNY FARQUHAR - PICK - New closers are never secure, but 79 K's in 56 IP is impressive...let others focus on his 4.20 ERA. - Never got the chance to close but as a set-up man, produced a 2.66 ERA with 81 K's in 71 IP...Grade "B"

> CURTIS GRANDERSON - PAN - Some MLB team will pay dearly for those two 40-HR seasons he had at Yankee Stadium, but if he doesn't land in a HR haven, focus on the .261 lifetime BA and declining speed at age 33. - The Mets were the suckers and the "Grandyman" hit .227 in 564 AB's to destroy your team's BA...Grade "A"

> ROBERTO HERNANDEZ - PAN - Needs to try a third name...maybe Fausto Seaver? - This was more of a joke than a prediction but he did make 29 NL starts and produced a negative Roto value...Grade "A"

> EDWIN JACKSON - PAN - Every pitcher who gets a 4-year, $50+ Million deal this off-season should send him a thank-you card...he set the market for durable, journeyman hurlers and paid off with 18 losses and a 4.98 ERA. - Got even worse with 15 losses and a 6.33 ERA...Grade "A"

> CASEY JANSSEN - PICK - Under-rated and very good as a closer...56 out of 61 Save opportunities the last two seasons. - Started the year on the DL but still produced 25 saves...Grade "B"

> IAN KINSLER - PAN - Middle infielders start to fade at this age (32)...had only 13 HR's & 15 SB's in 2013, so don't pay for the stats he had in his 20's. -Stayed healthy and had a productive season with 17 HR's, 15 SB's and over 90 RBI's...Grade "C"

> JAMES LONEY - PAN - Perception is reality...his numbers for the Rays last year were almost identical to the stats he had with the Dodgers in 2011...he was a goat then and a hero now, so just understand what you're getting. - If you paid for more than 9 HR's & 4 SB's, you didn't heed this advice...Grade "B"

> JED LOWRIE - PAN - Hit .290 with 15 HR's but was the worst fielding SS in the AL...defense might not matter to you, but it matters to MLB organizations. - A .249 BA, 6 HR's & Zero SB isn't an offensive machine...Grade "B"

> CAMERON MAYBIN - PICK - Missed almost all of 2013, but swiped 66 bags the two previous seasons and the injury wasn't related to his legs. - Once again, injuries ruined his season and he's now gone from prospect to suspect...Grade "C"

> BRIAN MCCANN - PAN - He'll get a boatload of money as a 30 year-old free agent Catcher, but you should be more conservative...his composite BA for the last two seasons is .242. - Only a late-season surge got him over 20 HR's and he never adjusted to defensive shifts while hitting .232 (just like I told you). Everyone who invested $20+ at the draft table didn't get half of their money back...Grade "A"

> JHONNY PERALTA - PAN - Wasn't a great defensive SS and if he ends up being a corner OF somewhere with no juice, steer clear. - My 4th whiff on PED guys, his 21 HR's helped produce a $17 return...Grade "D"

> SALVADOR PEREZ - PICK - A 24 year-old Catcher with over 900 MLB AB's and a lifetime .301 BA...oh, and he's the best defensive backstop in the AL. - Solid season with 17 HR's & 70 RBI's but only hit.260...Grade "B"

> GLEN PERKINS - PICK - If he's still the Twins closer come March, a rock-solid pick. - "Solid" was correct with 34 Saves...Grade "A"

> HANLEY RAMIREZ - PAN - Had a 1.040 OPS in 304 AB's last season...the previous year, it was .759 in 604 AB's...don't pay for 2013's performance. - '14 was somewhere in-between with a .817 OPS and a $20+ season, but you paid more than that at the draft...Grade "B"

> TANNER ROARK - PICK - Sometimes it takes a while for young pitchers to figure it out...between AAA and majors in 2013, he allowed only 123 hits in 159 IP. - For a single-digit price in most leagues, you got 15 W and $18 in value...Grade "A"

> ANIBAL SANCHEZ - PICK - I told you to draft him last year...hope you did. - Injuries interrupted his season but managed 8 W's with a 3.43 ERA & 1.10 WHIP...Grade "C"

> DREW SMYLY - PICK - If he's in the Tigers rotation, sneak him onto your 76 IP, had 81 K's and only 17 BB. - Flourished in Tampa after the trade and ended up with 9 W's & a 3.24 ERA, so if you got him cheap, you'll be happy in '15...Grade "B"

> DREW STUBBS - PAN - Don't be sucked in by the power-speed potential...his lifetime BA is .239. - Even in Denver, he wasn't a full-time player but the altitude helped his stats and he earned $20...Grade "C"

> JONATHAN VILLAR - PICK - This is somewhat iffy because he only hit .243 in 210 AB's, but if he plays everyday, 35+ SB's will help your cause. - Never hit enough to keep the starting gig and 17 SB's don't make up for a .209 BA...Grade "D"

Statistics can be manipulated to reach a number of different conclusions, but the Quacker did manage "A" or "B" ratings on 54% of the players and without cheaters in the mix, it would have been 60%. The overall GPA was about 2.7, which matches my blood alcohol level in college. The good news is that Aoki, Brantley, Janssen, Roark and Smyly were helpful members on my fantasy squads...hope they helped you too.

Last Updated on Saturday, 18 October 2014 07:33
Curing Insomnia PDF Print E-mail
Rotisserie Duck
Written by Don Drooker   
Friday, 10 October 2014 00:00
For those of us who have played Fantasy Baseball for an extended period of time, the old cliché is that listening to someone else talk about their team is BORING! Even the Zen Master of this site reminds all of us at least once a year to be careful about spending too much time on the subject of our own team. The truth, however, is that we can't help ourselves because we take pride in even minimal achievements over the course of a baseball season. Now that you've been warned, here is a summary of the three keeper league teams that the Old Duck fielded in 2014. The rationalizations for this exercise are as follows...

1) For those of you who actually pay attention, this can be instructive. After having dinner recently with another avid fantasy player, it became obvious that every time we spend a couple of hours comparing notes, we're both more enlightened about the subject.

2) The guys who play against me in these leagues love reading about my strategy. As George C. Scott (as Gen. Patton) said when he defeated the German tank corps in North Africa, "Rommel, you magnificent bastard, I read your book!"

3) After much success of my teams over the years, these same guys also love to hear about my failures.

4) Those of you who have trouble sleeping can just print out this column and keep it on the table at your bedside. Beats the heck out of counting sheep.

Xperts Fantasy League (XFL) - 15 team, Mixed, 5x5 (w/OBP), 40-man rosters with 23 active each week, $260 budget for 23-player draft in November, maximum of 15 keepers including Farm players, Supplemental Snake Draft in March for 17 additional players, monthly free agent additions, salaries of players drafted increase $5 each year, salaries of Farm players increase $3 each year (once activated), established 2003.

A unique industry league that includes some of the best-known Fantasy Baseball writers in the business. Donald's Dux have been fortunate to win four championships over the years and were coming off a 2nd place finish in 2013. One of the real challenges is the timing of the auction in November, when many MLB roles are not yet defined. On the offensive side, the Dux keeper list was impressive with the following...

> 1B) Anthony Rizzo

> 3B) Miguel Cabrera

> 1/3) Mark Trumbo

> SS) Starlin Castro

> OF) Andrew McCutchen

> OF) Yasiel Puig

> OF) Michael Brantley

> OF) Carlos Gomez

The pitching side was as weak as the hitting was strong with only Shelby Miller, Matt Harvey and Danny Farquhar as keepers. Despite the downside of Harvey missing 2014, his low salary warranted the spot and Farquhar was still projected as the Mariners closer last November.

At the draft table, the Dux added Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Devin Mesoraco as catchers, Brandon Phillps and Dustin Ackley as 2B and Norichika Aoki and Peter Bourjos as OF. On the pitching side, Matt Cain, Marco Estrada, Tanner Roark, Ricky Nolasco, Fernando Rodney and Jonathan Papelbon rounded out the staff.

Between November and March, the pitching staff became even weaker with Farquhar no longer being a closer and Nolasco signing with the Twins instead of the Dodgers. It was obvious that pitching needed to be prioritized in the March Supplemental Draft but having the #1 pick (a reward for finishing 2nd), the Dux couldn't pass up Jose Abreu. Our 2nd pick was Nate Jones to beef up Saves (he never got even one), then Tim Hudson and Taylor Jordan (as insurance for Roark). Grasping at straws later in the snake, Bronson Arroyo and Jason Hammel were added to provide some depth.

The results were fairly predictable as the Dux dominated the offensive categories with 73 of a possible 75 points. The pitching, despite the addition of Adam Wainwright through trade, never really made the grade with weaknesses in Wins and Strikeouts limiting the categories to 40 points.

The 113 point total was good enough for another strong 2nd place finish, but 17 1/2 points behind the winner.

Pacific Coast League (PCL) - 12 team, AL-only, 4x4, 23-man rosters (14 hitters, 9 pitchers), $260 budget, maximum of 15 keepers and three Farm players, established 1987.

The Fusco Brothers (named after the inept characters in the comic strip) have won multiple titles over the years, but were coming off a disappointing 7th place finish in 2013. The keeper list was fairly weak with only Jacoby Ellsbury, Matt Wieters and Felix Hernandez having any real star power and lots of unproven young players like Jurickson Profar, Jonathan Villar, Dustin Ackley, Drew Smyly and Danny Salazar.

On the weekend prior to opening day, it was clear that the squad needed the diminishing asset of power and in a league with significant draft inflation, big dollars had to be allocated for HR and RBI. With all the corner spots open, Edwin Encarnacion ($34) and Jose Abreu ($30) were added and after spending $21 on Howie Kendrick, all the other players drafted were for single-digit dollars. The five pitchers drafted quickly showed why they were so inexpensive as Ricky Nolasco, Hector Santiago, Sergio Santos and Alexi Ogando all went into the tank. Then Wieters was lost for the season and Salazar imploded back to Triple-A.

On June 1st, the squad managed to be in last place in three of the four pitching categories and was in 9th place overall with only 44 points. Six weeks later, at the All-Star break, things weren't a whole lot better with 48 points and an 8th place spot in the standings. At this point, fantasy teams need to be realistic about their chances. This particular league pays five places with the 6th place team getting the valuable #1 Farm pick the following year. A number of the contenders approached me about King Felix, Casey Janssen and Drew Smyly because they were all on expiring contracts. Their offers weren't overwhelming and looking at my team, it seemed that we still had a reasonable chance to finish 6th and claim a top 2015 prospect. Logic indicated that unless we could get a top prospect in a trade, staying the course might be the best option. Our one proactive offer of Hernandez for George Springer was rejected, so we stuck it out. Thanks to some pitching additions like Matt Shoemaker, Neftali Feliz, Aaron Sanchez and others, by mid-September the Old Fuscos were in the 60 point range and looking good for 6th place. A few stellar performances down the stretch actually got us to 64 1/2 and a tie for 4th place.

The lesson to be learned is to understand the length of the season. That team with only seven points in pitching on June 1st ended the campaign with 33 points in those four categories.

Bowling League of Rotisserie Baseball - 12 team, NL- only, 4x4, 23-man rosters (14 hitters, 9 pitchers), $260 budget, maximum of 15 keepers and three Farm players, established 1984.

Donald's Ducks has had great success in this league but was also coming off a very disappointing 2013 season with a 9th place finish. The Draft Day environment includes two types of inflation...1) the normal percentage allocated to keeper leagues (20%+) and...2) what has affectionately become known as "Duck Inflation", where teams aware of your past success play off your bids to some extent. That makes keeper decisions even more difficult because throwing back a "bubble" player usually means you won't get him back at that price. With those factors in mind, the Ducks kept Allen Craig at $33 and Yadier Molina at $28 to complement other players like Giancarlo Stanton, Starlin Castro, Jason Heyward and Craig Kimbrel, who were at more reasonable salaries.

As always, the draft was challenging and the basic strategy was to get some speed and, if possible, a second closer. The result was $31 for Ben Revere and $24 for Aroldis Chapman. You might remember that Chapman was still on the DL at this point from that horrendous Spring Training accident, but closers in a 4x4 league are like gold and go for severely inflated prices...Kenley Jansen and Addison Reed each went for $30. The Ducks didn't do well on single-digit dollar hitters like Jordan Pacheco, Derek Dietrich, Marco Scutaro or Ryan Doumit but did add some decent end-game pitching with Tanner Roark, Jason Hammel and Wily Peralta.

It became obvious early on that the Ducks offense was not going to be competitive, as there just weren't enough everyday players. Stanton was great while Castro and Heyward were good, but Craig was a shell of what he had shown in 2013 and Molina was also struggling before getting injured. On June 1st, our 61 1/2 points had us in 4th place, 10 points behind the leader. Six weeks later at the All-Star break, our 61 points had us tied for 2nd but now 18 points behind. It was clear by this point that the league championship had been decided, but there were 6-8 teams who all had a legitimate chance to finish as the runner-up. Teams wheeled and dealed, the Ducks lost Craig and Hammel to the AL and added Matt Holliday through a trade, but by late August, the Quackers point total was still 61 and they were in 4th place. During September, the standings looked like a roller-coaster for at least a half-dozen teams but in the end the Ducks 61 1/2 points got them a tie for 2nd place,14 1/2 points behind the victor. Probably better than we deserved, however, all but the championship team had flaws.

Two second place finishes and one fourth is certainly better than last year, but it's a hollow feeling because none of the teams ever challenged for the top spot. Guess I better get to that Arizona Fall League game this afternoon and do some scouting.

History In The Hallway PDF Print E-mail
Rotisserie Duck
Written by Don Drooker   
Friday, 03 October 2014 00:00
On a recent broadcast of the PBS series "Antiques Roadshow", a woman's baseball card collection from the 1800's turned out to be worth a small fortune. Her great-grandmother ran a boarding house in Boston in the 1870's, when the Red Sox baseball team (known then as the Red Stockings) housed its players there. Not only were the cards in pristine condition, the collection also included a letter from three Hall of Fame players saying how much they missed her cooking. Of course, these types of finds only happen every decade or so, but it does motivate people to review their own personal belongings related to sports.

A couple living in a Phoenix area retirement community happened to see the episode and wondered if one of their family artifacts might be of value. Through a succession of local referrals, they contacted me and asked for my expertise and assistance in helping them with the project. While I'm always optimistic about collections, the reality is that most folks significantly overvalue what they own and the Old Duck ends up being the bearer of bad tidings. When I arrived at their home and walked down the hallway, it was obvious that this experience would be different.

On the wall, in a glass-covered frame sized 3 feet x 5 feet, was a display of about 200 baseball cards from the early 1900's. The owner of the collection (we'll call him Phil) proceeded to tell the story. His uncle was a baseball fan and a heavy smoker who passed away in the 1960's at age 90. He had collected baseball cards that were included in tobacco products around 1910 and, at some point, decided to create a beautiful display to put up in his house. Phil (who was born in 1944) remembered the framed collection and always loved looking at it as a child, so we know it has been encapsulated for over 65 years. Initially, it was left to Phil's dad and has now been in Phil's possession for the good part of 40 years. He and his wife didn't really know what to do in terms of appraising it, selling it, insuring it or just keeping it, so we talked about the options.

In today's marketplace, the key to older sports collectibles is the authenticity and condition. Even though the display looked great, there was no way to tell if all of the cards were authentic and unless they just wanted to leave it on the wall as a memento, the logical approach was to open it up and see what they really had. They decided that reaping some profit from the cards would be their priority, as they wanted to give the money to a needy cause. So, after a lengthy battle with 50+ year-old screws in the back of the wood, we turned over the frame.

If you've been thinking along with me on this, your reasonable fear is correct. All of the cards had been glued onto a black felt backing to keep them secure in the frame. Removing a fragile piece of cardboard from vintage glue is a daunting task and really can't be done without damaging the back of the card. We decided to take some samples off the backing in an attempt to verify the authenticity and keep them intact enough to send off to a 3rd party firm for grading and authentication. A number of factors became clear very quickly...1) many of the cards were real because they had cigarette ads (Piedmont, Sweet Caporal, etc.) on the back of the cards confirming they came from an era starting in 1909...2) no matter how you tried to remove them, the backs were going to be damaged...3) some of the "cards" had blank backs and the texture of paper instead of cardboard meaning they were probably just magazine photos added to enhance the display.

To test the items without spending too much of their money, I sent ten of the cards to the authentication company and then we went through the agonizing process of waiting 3-4 weeks for the results. Last week, the cards came back and as suspected, it was good news and bad news. Eight of the ten cards were designated as "Authentic" without a grade due to the damage on the backs. Two others were not authenticated because they had "evidence of trimming." That doesn't mean they weren't real, it's just that the original owner has cropped them slightly to improve the aesthetics. While this won't turn out to be a major windfall for Phil and his wife, it is a project worth pursuing because these cards look much better on the front than many similar cards with actual grades. It will give collectors of vintage cards the opportunity to own a 100- year-old collectible at an affordable price and I'm very glad to be the conduit for that process. The frame is now on my dining room table as phase two of the project begins. Gentleness will be the order of the day as we try to separate Christy Mathewson and his friends from the black felt.

The first eight are listed on eBay as we speak and here's who is included...

> 1909-1911 T206 Nap Lajoie (2B) - Napoleon was one of the best players of this era. He played from 1896-1916, was a .338 lifetime hitter with over 3,200 hits and was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1937.

> 1909-1911 T206 Willie Keeler (OF) - Nicknamed "Wee Willie" at 5' 4", he played 19 seasons with a lifetime BA of .341.

> 1909-1911 T206 Hal Chase (1B) - Played 15 big league seasons and led the Federal League with 17 homers in 1915 and then won the National League batting title in 1916 with a .339 average.

> 1909-1911 T206 Jim McGinley (P) - This set included minor league players and the uniform on his card portrait says "Toronto." He did pitch a few games for the Cardinals in 1904-05 but the bulk of his career was in the Eastern League where he won 22 games for the Maple Leafs in 1909.

> 1909-1911 T206 Charley Carr (1B) - Played in the Majors until 1906, but was with the Indianapolis Indians of the American Association when these cards were issued.

> 1909-1911 T206 Lee Quillen (3B) - The correct spelling of his name is "Quillin" and he only played 53 games for the White Sox in 1906-07. A member of the Minneapolis Millers of the American Association in 1909.

> 1909-1911 T206 Iron Man McGinnity (P) - "Joe" actually ended his major league playing career in 1908 but won 29 games for the Newark Indians of the Eastern League in 1909. You can understand the nickname when you see his record with the New York Giants. In 1903, he pitched 434 innings and won 31 games. The following season, he threw 408 innings and won 35 games. Those were league-leading totals in both years and he was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1946.

> 1912 T207 Walter Johnson (P) - "The Big Train" joined Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, Honus Wagner and Mathewson in the inaugural Hall of Fame Class of 1936. He pitched for the Washington Senators for 21 seasons and won 417 games.

A nice start to a 100-year-old collection, wouldn't you say? Let's see what phase two brings. I'll keep you posted.

Last Updated on Friday, 03 October 2014 00:47
The Heritage Of Prospects PDF Print E-mail
Rotisserie Duck
Written by Don Drooker   
Friday, 26 September 2014 00:00
For both Fantasy Baseball players and baseball card collectors, the word "prospect" aligns us with those crusty old guys in Western movies who head out to the mountains searching for the mother lode. While others extol the virtues of veteran players, we channel the bandito from Bogart's "The Treasure of the Sierra Madre" and say, "Veterans? We don't need no stinkin' veterans."

For many baseball fans, late September and early October can be gloomy, especially if your favorite team is out of contention. For the prospector, it is one of those times when the planets align and prospects converge. It begins in late September with the release of Topps Heritage Minor League Edition and dovetails into early October with the start of the Arizona Fall League. As we've reviewed in previous visits, the Topps Company produces a set of cards each year that uses the format from one of their historic issues of a half-century ago. This year's Heritage product mirrors the beautiful 1965 set and the major league player set came out earlier in the year with the minor league set just hitting shelves last weekend. Each pack contains eight cards and retails for about $3. A sealed box has 24 packs and guarantees two autograph cards and one relic (jersey or bat) card. There are 225 cards in the complete set and the last 25 are more scarce, which was also a feature of the original sets from the 50's and 60's.

Inclusion in the set has to be determined early in the year, so a number of the players in this minor league edition have already made their way to "The Show."

> Nick Ahmed, Reno Aces - Currently on the D'Backs roster

> Andrew Susac, Fresno Grizzlies - Backing up Buster Posey for the Giants

> Dalton Pompey, Lansing Lugnuts - A top 100 prospect, he joined the Blue Jays when rosters expanded in early September

> Cam Bedrosian, Arkansas Travelers - Steve's son has had a couple of stints with the Angels this season

> Javier Baez, Iowa Cubs - An everyday member of the Cubs lineup since being brought up in early August

> Tommy La Stella, Gwinnett Braves - The Braves regular 2B since coming up in late May

> Oscar Taveras, Memphis Redbirds - Came up to the Cards at the end of May and already has over 200 MLB AB's

> Joe Panik, Fresno Grizzlies - The new Giants 2B is hitting over .300 entering the final week of the season

> Jon Singleton, Oklahoma City RedHawks - Part of the Astros youth movement, he has shown significant power since being called up in June, but his BA is still below the "Mendoza Line"

> Andrew Heaney, Jacksonville Suns - The Marlins top pitching prospect is getting a taste of the big leagues

> Joc Pederson, Albuquerque Isotopes - The #16 prospect on's top 100 list, he was added to the Dodgers roster on September 1st

> Cory Spangenberg, San Antonio Missions - This versatile youngster joined the Padres on September 1st and has already contributed some positive results

> Dilson Herrera, St. Lucie Mets - At age 20, he was hitting .340 at Double-A when the Mets called him up in late August

> Anthony Ranaudo, Pawtucket Red Sox - Has made a half-dozen starts for the Red Sox since coming up in early August

> Arismendy Alcantara, Iowa Cubs - The first of the new wave Cubs joined the big club in early July and has ten home runs and eight stolen bases in 250 AB's

> Marco Gonzalez, Palm Beach Cardinals - Has made five starts for the major league Cardinals in the pennant chase

> Maikel Franco, Lehigh Valley IronPigs - The Phillies 3B of the future has joined the big club for September

> Jorge Soler, Tennessee Smokies - This 22-year-old Cuban outfielder has been very impressive since his debut with the Cubs on late August

> Mookie Betts, Portland Sea Dogs - With the Red Sox since June, he won't turn 22 until October

> Gregory Polanco, Indianapolis Indians - Came up in June and should be in the Pirates outfield for many years to come

> Aaron Sanchez, New Hampshire Fisher Cats - Came up to the Blue Jays in July and has been very impressive pitching in relief

In addition to Pederson and Heaney, the Heritage Minor League set also includes 15 additional members of the top 20 list such as Byron Buxton, Carlos Correa, Kris Bryant, Francisco Lindor and Addison Russell.

Dozens of the players in the card set will also be appearing in the Arizona Fall League beginning October 7th. This developmental league, originally conceived by Hall of Fame Baseball Executive Roland Hemond, utilizes Spring Training facilities in the Phoenix area for six weeks each autumn. The ballparks are great, the weather is beautiful and the crowds are sparse. Be sure to check for Perry Van Hook's analysis of the individual rosters prior to opening day.

Don't forget, if you sit behind home plate at an AFL game, the scouts might ignore you, but I won't. Stop by and we'll talk baseball.

Last Updated on Friday, 26 September 2014 01:09
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Rotisserie Duck
Written by Don Drooker   
Friday, 19 September 2014 00:00
Baseball is the easiest sport for fans to criticize because almost all of us have played the game at some level. We've fielded ground balls, thrown from the outfield and maybe even hit a home run or two. So, when a batter flails away at a pitch in the dirt or a fielder misses the cutoff man, we're quick to attach a negative analysis to the event. That all stops, however, when we see a major league player get hit in the head by a 95-mph fastball.

Watching Marlins MVP candidate Giancarlo Stanton being beaned by Brewers pitcher Mike Fiers last week was a gruesome sight. Reports indicated that he suffered multiple facial fractures as well as dental damage. It added that he had a tooth lodged in his cheek and a hole in his lip so big that "the doctor's index finger could fit in it." When you link that moment to the one in Spring Training when Reds Pitcher Aroldis Chapman was hit in the face by a line drive off the bat of the Royals’ Salvador Perez, maybe it turns out that these guys aren't really overpaid after all.

Even though some modern writers and broadcasters use the term "bean ball" to describe a pitch that hits a batter anywhere on his body, the historic definition seems much more narrow and means being hit in the head or "beaned." As with many rules within the game, the issue in keeping it under control falls to the umpires and leaves them with the difficulty of determining "intent." For that reason, players and managers still take the position that HBP (Hit By Pitcher) should be self-policed and retaliations often escalate into "beanball wars." MLB has yet to figure out a reasonable solution to bench-clearing brawls and we all have some visual available in our brain of one of those fiascos. Mine is 72-year-old Don Zimmer charging after Pedro Martinez in the 2003 Yankees vs. Red Sox ALCS.

Ironically, a player named Chapman is the only major league player to have died from being hit in the head. On August 16th, 1920 at the Polo Grounds in New York, Indians Shortstop Ray Chapman was hit by a pitch thrown by Carl Mays and died 12 hours later. He was 29 years old and in his ninth major league season. Accounts of the incident seem to suggest that Mays was a noted "headhunter." Pitching for the Yankees, he won 26 games that season and led the American League with 27 wins the following year. Babe Ruth was his teammate during this time and hit 113 home runs in those two campaigns.

Many players have had their careers impacted dramatically after being struck in the head by a baseball. Tigers Hall of Fame Catcher Mickey Cochrane was in his 13th season in 1937 when he was knocked unconscious by a pitch and spent seven days in the hospital. He never played another game. Another Hall of Famer, Lou Boudreau, played very little after being beaned in 1951 and retired the following season. Despite this type of outcome, baseball waited until 1956 before implementing a requirement that batters either wear a batting helmet or protective plastic liners under their caps. Full helmets didn't become mandatory until 1971 and the earflap was added in 1983.

Players of the last 50 years certainly haven't been immune from these sad stories. Tony Conigliaro of the Red Sox was one of the brightest young stars of the game in the mid-60's. In 1965, he led the AL in home runs at age 20! On the night of August 16th, 1967 at Fenway Park, "Tony C." was hit in the face with a fastball thrown by Jack Hamilton of the Angels. The injuries were so devastating that he missed the entire 1968 season and even though he played with some success in '69 and '70, his deteriorating eyesight forced him to retire at age 26. Dickie Thon came back from a gruesome beaning in 1984 but was never the same player. Twins Hall of Famer Kirby Puckett had his jaw broken by a fastball late in the 1994 season and it would be his last game as he developed glaucoma the following spring and had to retire.

Getting hit by a pitch can also be strategic instead of tragic. Ron Hunt of the Expos holds the major league record for HBP with 50 in 1971. This was right in the middle of a 7-year run where he led the National League each year. Minnie Minoso of the White Sox led the AL in 10 of 11 seasons from 1951-1961.

Of course, as in all things baseball, humor can always be found. In the 1950's, Yankees legend Yogi Berra was hit in the head by a pitch and was carried off the field before being taken to the hospital. The headline in the newspaper the next morning said, "X-Rays of Yogi's head show nothing."

As for me, I'm going to fire up that InterWiFi thinggy and download some Chin Music.

Last Updated on Friday, 19 September 2014 08:12
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