The wind blew in off the lake in rural Michigan, rustling the grass of the newly renovated ball field. High school baseball players and their overaggressive parents crowded the field and the stands. One of the teens, a blond slugger licked his lips as he watched the flags in the outfield stretched taut by the wind blowing out over the fence. How far was he going to hit it today?
Meanwhile, half a town away, Dan Thompson was sneaking into a 2nd story bedroom of a lithesome teenage girl. She happened to be the girlfriend of the aforementioned slugger. The slugger struck out in his first at-bat. Dan Thompson did not.
So begins the legend of Dan Thompson. We all remember him as the first Big Sky mega-star. Clean cut, full of boyish charm all we saw was the power and the speed. All we remember is the 80 HR’s and 217 RBI’s in a single season, the career .300 average, the 749 career HR’s. What nobody remembers is his incredibly lethal game outside the game. Up to now, the hidden legacy of Dan Thompson has been kept secret by the players in the locker room and the few reporters who were privy to what was really happening.
First, there is the anecdotal evidence of the high school slugger mentioned above. From a rival high school, the young man named Michael Lownds has been lost to baseball history. But at the time he was the hot prospect in the district. He was the slugger with the bright future and Dan Thompson was the plugger hustling out the infield hit. But after that afternoon when Dan Thompson snuck into the girlfriend’s room, their futures went rapidly the other direction. Lownds crashed out of baseball after one fruitless year in the minors, battling depression and drug addiction. Thompson discovered a penchant for the home run and never looked back on his way to the Majors.
When the Big Sky league formed, he was the first pick, a young man just entering his prime with all the promise in the world. But what is often forgotten these days is that he was not the clear cut star of those early years. In Boston there was another Hall of Famer, Alex Yamamoto. Yamamoto has been overlooked a bit in history, but for the first five seasons he was at least Thompson’s equal. From Seasons 2-5, they each won two AL MVPs.
Hall of Famer Brian Fujiwara, an early teammate of Thompson and a childhood friend of Yamamoto knew them both really well. “Alex worked so hard at his craft. He studied, he worked out. He was the consummate professional. Dan just made everything seem so effortless. He’d show up on game day with that “look” and he would just crush the ball. He was so much fun to play with. As long as you kept your wife at home.”
Yamamoto would have been wise to listen to his friend’s advice. According to a few eyewitnesses who were afraid to come forth at the time, at the all-star game in Season 6, Thompson and Yamamoto’s wife, a legendary pornographic actress from Japan, met and disappeared for an evening. Yamamoto, who up to that point was having his best season ever, faded in the second half of the season, while Thompson took off, slugging an unheard of 40 HR’s post-break, setting the table for his historic Season 7. Nine months after that all-star game, Yamamoto’s wife gave birth to their only son. A surprisingly blonde-haired son. Yamamoto continued to make all-star games for 4 of the next 5 seasons, but he was never the same player. Again, Dan Thompson stole the mojo of his biggest rival.
Anecdotes and rumors circulate about more of Thompson’s conquests, but nothing substantiated until his trade to Toledo. Stories suggest that the trade to Toledo was precipitated by an incident involving the three daughters of the Pride’s General Manager, but there is no evidence. What is more factually based is that Thompson did not take the trade well.
“Toledo? Seriously? What a crappy franchise and an ugly city,” he famously was quoted right after learning about the deal. “There are zero hot chicks in that dump,” he not so famously told one of his teammates.
He was outstanding his first season in Toledo, winning the NL MVP. Curiously, he was vastly superior on the road that year, hitting almost .380 with an unreal 1.250 OPS.
Reportedly, that offseason, he did apparently find at least one attractive woman in Toledo, the wife of Toledo’s owner. Whispers say that it was her influence that encouraged him to sign the contract extension that he later claimed was his biggest regret of his career. Here is where his legendary prowess let him down. Some will tell you that he did steal the mojo of the Toledo owner that offseason, but, it was the owner of Black Sheep, so that mojo was not anything positive.
Two seasons later, Thompson was in St Louis, an organization with no control of the locker room, where an aging Thompson spent more time trying to get into women’s beds than he did playing baseball. He never again reached the stratospheric heights of his prime. He personally blamed it on his “cursed time in Toledo,” but in truth it probably had more to do with age and “reputation.”
Dan Thompson, the sexual vampire, would retire after a stint back with the Pride, his original franchise. When asked to look back on his career, he gave only a single quote. “At least I never played in Vancouver.”
The Big Sky Alumni has one of the best records on Hall of Fame voting in HBD. We have filled out Hall with many of the greats of our world, but the drawback is that makes our ballot seem weaker. That is only because other worlds can’t get the votes that we do because there are many candidates worthy of your vote this season. Here is my ballot for this season 36 and 2 other worthy candidates to consider
- SP Ben Sherman -Sherman should be a no brainer first ballot selection. 269 wins, 2 Cy Youngs, 8 all star games and a World Series ring with Tampa Bay is quite a resume and add a career 3.11 ERA and 1.18 WHIP with over 3000 strikeouts and he was clearly a dominant starter for years. Sherman’s best season was season 23 where he went 22-1 with a 2.05 ERA and a 1.00 WHIP.
- 1B Ermie Price – Price’s numbers are not eye popping – .282/.339/.558/ 407 HR/ 1207 RBI. But Price is not a HOF candidate because he racked up career numbers by playing a long time. Price is a candidate because from his rookie season in season 11 until season 16, he was one of the most feared hitters in all of baseball. He started out his career hitting 58, 54, and then 61 homeruns (I believe he holds the rookie record for homeruns and RBI,though that is unofficial). He hit 304 homers in those 6 seasons while hitting .291 with 891 RBI. The Hall of Game does indeed reward longevity, but it should also recognize the most dominant players from particular eras. Price was that. Beyond that, we might be able to make a case where every multi year winner of the Cy Young or MVP is a Hall of Famer. It’s certainly debatable, but if you look at the list of multi time winners of those awards, you’ll see the company Price keeps.
- SP Dwayne Richard – Richard was one of the best flamethrowers ever, averaging over 8.5 strikeouts per 9 innings. He won 217 games with a 3.13 ERA and a 1.16 WHIP. The 6 time all star and 2 time World Series winner won the Cy Young award in season 17 with a 22-3 record with a 2.23 ERA and a .99 WHIP. He was absolutely dominant from season 16 to 18 and a part of one of the greatest 1 – 2 duos with Glenn Painter. His win number is lower than many, but dominance from the mound merits Hall of Fame votes.
- RP Diego Ramirez – Ramirez began his career as a closer for Austin and won 2 Fireman awards with them, including season 18 with 46 saves and a 1.53 ERA and .79 WHIP . He finished his career with over 400 saves and would have racked up enough saves to potentially be an all time leader, but he signed a free agent deal with Kansas City and accepted the less glamourous role of setup man. It was in that role that Ramirez became the only setup man to win a Cy Young award. In season 24, he went 18-2 and pitched 143 innings out of the pen with an incredible 1.07 ERA and a .98 WHIP. He won nearly 100 games out of the setup role in Kansas City, winning more than 10 games in 6 different season for them. He was also a dominant force in the postseason, saving 21 of 23 games, winning 4, and posting a ridiculous 1.98 ERA and 1.03 WHIP in 72 2/3 seasons over 10 off seasons. In Kansas City’s improbable season 26 World Series victory, Ramirez went 3-0 pitching in 12 of their 20 postseason games. In total, he finished his career with 105 wins, 407 saves, 2.76 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 1512 Ks (7.92 Ks per 9), 8 all star games, and 2 World Series rings. While Ramirez is not a top all time saves leader, he is without a doubt one of the top bullpen arms to ever play in the BSA.
- Don Hunter – Hunter has no MVPs on his resume and I think that has held him back for a few seasons of voting. But Hunter was one of the best pure hitters in the game for a long time. He finished his career hitting .310/.388/.530 with 390 homers, 446 doubles, just under 2400 hits, and 1290 RBI. He hit over .320 in 7 seasons, over .400 OBP in 7 seasons 9and another at .399), and combined for over 20 homers and 100 RBI 6 times. He was a 7 time all star with 1 world series ring. Hunter never had the flashy power numbers that win MVPs, but he was one of the best hitters in the league for over a decade and a vital part of many winning teams
Three other players that I think merit consideration. Juan Tavarez is a Cy Young winner with 217 wins and was a consistent presence in the AL for a long time. Mickey Mcguire doesn’t have the look of a Hall of Famer, but he has one eye popping stat: 1012 stolen bases. He has nearly 200 stolen bases than the next closest player on the all time list, 350 more than the closest active player. RJ Milton was one of the most dominant and effective relievers and a key part of the era of Ottawa’s dominance in the AL. He saved 365 games in total with a 2.85 ERA and a 1.08 WHIP with 5 all star game appearances and 2 Fireman awards.
AL North Ottawa Pirates Infield: Led by prize Free agent signing Jacob Schmidt at 2B and Trot Harmon at 1B this group should do enough to get the job done. Schmidt should be an upgrade over departed Gene Cain. Richie Eaton was a huge disappointment last season with a price tag of 7 mil per season a bounce back season would be a huge boost the offense.
Outfield: Jose Romo and Otto Buchanan at the corners is as good as it gets. With Ronnie Crosby backing them both up. Mike Busby brings his 3 gold Gloves over from Toledo to man CF
Bullpen: The loss of FA Dennis Hiro will hurt the team, he was the anchor of the bullpen for the last few seasons. Tim Alexander will move from the rotation into the pen to help minimize the loss of Hiro. Free agent signings Ken Bishop and former STL closer Cameron Abby will also help. Returning from last seasons bullpen are Brook Easley and Closer Roy Washington. This is a solid bullpen but not nearly as good as last seasons.
Rotation: The strength of the team. No team can match up with the big three of 4 time Cy Young winner Tony Tanaka, Mitch Morehead and future Hall of famer Trace Woods come playoff time. The rotation gives the Pride an advantage in every playoff series. Having a #1 SP available to start any game makes the Pride very dangerous come playoff time. Add in Victor Guerra ( who moves to the pen in the playoffs.) and FA signing Phillip Merrit there is no better group in the league.
Expectations. The signing of Schmidt, Merritt, Busby, Abbey and Bishop were all made to give the team the best chance to win right now. With only 3 players under 30 the window is closing. We all know pitching wins in the playoffs and the Pride are expected to be contenders this year again. We probably will be a wild card team again this season. But the Pride showed last season that winning the division is not the goal.
Scranton Skedaddlers Infielders-Pan, Molina, Miranda, Green, Prieto, and Pelaez/Lincoln will hold down the infield and DH spot. When will top prospects #p6395827Karl Pennington#p and #p6168895Damion Wilkins#p get their opportunity to prove they are ML ready? C- Kaito Pan will never be known as a defensive catcher, however, he is coming off a season in which he hit .354/.407/.566C- Ignacio Santiago is one of the best defensive catchers in the game but at this point he is strictly a backup to Pan. With Pennington ready in AAA there could be a trade in the future. 1B- Wascar Molina was a very good hitter in his rookie season, time for him to turn it up a notch and become a stud power hitting 1B. Juan Park is his idol, can Molina produce similar numbers? 2B- Rafael Miranda was an All Star last year as a 22yr old and could be this yr as well. Not the greatest defender at 2B, but he can handle the stick and run a little bit. 30HR/20SB is in his capabilities. 3B- Season 30 MVP David Green does everything for the club. He plays Gold Glove caliber defense at 3B, hits mid 30HRs, and steals 20 bases. Will the new long term deal he signed this offseason cause Green to get lazy or will he continue to excel? SS- Joaquin Prieto has been an All Star all 4 of his ML seasons and should continue that run this season. 53 plus plays compared to only 3 negative plays at SS since he entered the league. Prieto will never be an offensive juggernaut but he gets on base enough to use his speed, where he has stolen 177 bases in his career and only caught 32 times. Billy Hamilton should consider taking notes on Prieto’s thievery of bases. DH- Ruben Pelaez and Darwin Lincoln will split the DH role, but if one gets hot then the other could be swinging the bat for another team.
Outfielders- Evveryone in the OF has been an All Star, can they all co-exist? LF- Juan Owen & Gene Cain will provide the veteran leadership for the Skedddadlers. Each has 4 World Series rings and they both signed as free agents with Scranton to get one for the thumb. CF- Frankie Houston has won the last 3 Silver Sluggers for CF but he can also glove it. He was not happy about finishing as the runner up for MVP last season in the AL. Could he join Green as the 2nd Skedaddler to win MVP? RF- Javier Altuve is misplaced in RF but the Gold Glover has to play somewhere. Batting Average and OBP are not his game, he is in there to mash the ball. How does he generate so much power in his 5’11” 172lb frame?
Starters- Galahad Morris is the key to Scranton, if he is healthy then Scranton has a legit ace. However, injury is always a concern and he was unavailable last season in the playoffs. It cost Scranton against division rival and eventual WS Champion Ottawa. Unsuccessful in trying to upgrade the SPing staff Scranton will go in with Morris (17 wins), Vazquez (15 wins), Farr (16 wins), Field (14 wins), and Borchard (13 wins). The SPing staff is solid, but there is room to improve.
Bullpen- Bono Larkin was the big offseason trade to upgrade the bullpen. Larkin, Calles, and Marte should be very good but there are definite weak spots in the pen. Top RP prospect Kevin Pong could be called up early in the season if help is needed.
Expectations- Last season Scranton finished with the best record in the league and believes they were derailed from a championship because of an injury to Morris. Scranton is a well-rounded squad that is built for the long haul with one goal in mind, a World Series championship.
Trenton Twins Infield Bartolo Ramirez had a disappointing rookie season but hopes to cash in on his promise this year Outfield Jayson Caruso leads the way for this team and if he ever puts his speed and power together he’ll be an MVP candidate. Rotation Sean Downs is the veteran leader of the whole team and could be a trade target if Trenton’s season goes downhill Bullpen Al Medrano continues to be a workhorse, but he needs to be more effective in those innings to help Trenton improve.
Vancouver Vipers Infield Twitchell and Byrnes became one of the better one – two punches in the league last season Outfield Carlos Viriato didn’t get the accolades, but he may have been the best hitter on the team last season. Rotation Rafael Sanchez needs to step forward Bullpen Nearing the end of his career, Frank Thompson moves to the bullpen to try and take Vancouver back to the playoffs.
AL East Baltimore Fire Infield: Ryuu Hasagawa emerged last season and could become a top power hitter in the AL this year. Outfield: Enrique Mendoza is learning on the job in the majors but could be a superstar really soon. Rotation: Raul Martin jumped right into the frying pan last season but flashed his potential to anchor a rotation. Bullpen: Dillan Morgan moves into the closer role, but his control is a major concern moving into the season.
Boston Bombers Overall: This season is the beginning of a rebuilding project for the Bombers. We hope to still compete for the AL East title this season, but it will definitely be a challenge. Position Players: There are no offensive stars on the Bomber’s roster. However, we should play great defense. In the twilights of their careers, Donatello Carey will primarily play LF and Kwon will primarily play 1B. We have PLUS defenders at every position. The defense will have to be spectacular, because we will struggle to score runs and our pitching is suspect at best. Pitchers: We have no frontline, 120+ pitch count starters, so we will employ the Tandem rotation. We need Wingo, Hitchcock and the age-defying Coleridge to give us 5 solid innings every 4th game. Prediction: 81-81
Huntington Catholics The Huntington Catholics have decided instead of being just a playoff team every season, they are going in a new direction. The Catholics have traded away some of their top old timers and is still looking to trade away some so they can rebuild their team all around with young guys. General Manager Ginobili04 said, ” We had a lot of veterans on the team and not that many youngsters in the minors. We are looking to go young and look to draft some college players with our 20 million in scouting.” With that said he made it know that almost every veteran on the team is available. Pittsburgh Ghosts Infield: Rube Ratliff leaped forward to hit .300 last season and hopes to continue that momentum towards an all star season Outfield: Domingo Gutierrez had a down season last year and is looking to rebound. Rotation: Augie Nation only managed 2 wins in his first season in Pittsburgh, but he pitched too well to repeat that this season. Bullpen: Deacon Webster was a key offseason signing and is the piece Pittsburgh fans are hoping can give them bullpen stability.
AL South Atlanta Huckleberries Not sure what to really expect with this team.
I am happy with resigning D.T. Sherman for his defense, and the addition of Alex Barajas should definitely help as well. Overall I would say my team has an above average defense.
The starting rotation is pretty solid with Burton and Pickering leading the way. The bottom half of the rotation can be good at times so they will play a role in how far this team can go as well.
The bullpen can use some help. Tried getting some quality relievers but fell short in that department. This will be the true test of how this team fares.
Offensively this is an average team. Not that much power but some decent on base percentages, with a good amount of speed for base stealing. Looking to call up Albert Donahue which will add a big bat to the lineup which should help with the offense.
Overall I think this team is a .500 club with a very slim shot at a wild card if the bullpen holds up…not likely. El Paso Border Patrol Infield: Caleb Cummings lead the team’s offense, hitting .314, and will need to repeat his performance. Outfield: How many steals could Placido Mercado rack up if he got on base? Rotation: Javier Arroyo was dominant after a mid season trade and is a key component to El Paso getting back to the playoffs Bullpen: Rodrigo Estrada remains in the closer role and is looking for more innings to make a bigger impact.
Kansas City Monarchs Rotation Crane;Garza; Malone; Barrios; Jimenez or Wang Bullpen: Lehr; Burnett; Gload; Hernandez; Ramirez; Bevil (CL) Line-up: Javier 2B; Perez/Chen RF; Thames LF; Piper 1B; Graves DH; Strauss/Whitesell 3B; Guerrero CF; Reboulet C; Jimenez SS Not a division winner. But, if the rotation can be solid and keep us in the game, I think our line-up will score some runs. Plus 2 first rounders is nice. Hopefully not the highlight of the season. I also think we can make a push at a WC if we can pitch well.
Nashville Redbirds Infield: Delwyn Wise had his best season yet, hitting .304, .382 OBP, and 41 stolen bases. Outfield: Rudy Rizzuto set a single season record last year with 711 at bats. Rotation: Giovanni Schultz struggled at times last season and Nashville needs him to bounce back to keep up with the rest of the AL> Bullpen: Yamil Franco is being asked to fill a huge void left by Matos. The pen may become Nashville’s downfall in the postseason.
AL West Colorado Dusters IF: ROY Tony Castro and Joaquin Amaral return with callups Carlos Feliz and W0070 OF: no new additions in the OF while waiting for AAA players including Bartolo Martin to be ready Pitching: 14 Game Winner Woody Guerrero returns and improved bullpen hopes for better success.
Predictions: team is hoping to improve on 74 wins with newcomers. The team is still not ready to compete for a playoff spot until players in minors are ready in the next few seasons
Fresno Reds Infield: Vladimir Aquino had a great season for Fresno with limited ABs and the question is can he increase it with more opportunities. Outfield: Orval Farley’s debut is the talk of Fresno and a huge part of the future of the franchise. Rotation: Mark Little was dynamite in AAA last season and hopes to make a splash in the bigs this year. Bullpen: Cookie Beltre starts the season in the pen and it will be interesting to see if he finds an effective role there or moves back into the rotation.
Las Vegas Spittin’ Vermin Possible additions from AAA would be 24 year old OF Otis Bristow who hit .353 and stole 80 bases at AAA last season and 24 year old 1B Jose Rodriquez who hit .308 with 23 Homers and added 121 RBI.
Two promising hitters moving up to AAA this season are 21 year Pedro Lira and 22 year old Jung-Lee Wang. Both could see ML action this season.
21 year old Armando Cruz hit 44 Homers with a .310 BA at Hi A last season. He is a season away from the big club.
AA pitchers Mickey McAnaney, Tito Murphy, D’Angelo Nunez, John Li, and Estaban Estrada are a season away but one or more could make the jump to the major leagues this season.
The Vegas pitching staff is probably the most durable staff in BSA. Craig Heffner started 39 games (250 IP), Garrett Kinney 41 starts (243 IP), and Mickey Breslow 40 starts (207 IP). Rounding out the staff is 34 year old FA addition Bernie Callaspo and 23 year old Freddy Telford who is making the jump from AA last season. Al Chavez is the iron horse of RPs. He has recorded 100+ IP in 9 of the last 11 seasons and is in the hunt for most games pitched in BSA history.
Vegas has been 69-93 each of the last 2 seasons. My prediction Vegas known as a running small ball team scored the 3rd fewest runs last season. Vegas still led the league in SBs despite stealing 75 fewer bases. However their success rate was 86%. Vegas fell off considerably in both pitching and defense from the previous season. Look for improvement in both areas. The movement will be to youth. The Vermin’ will still be a running team but may not approach the same numbers as in the past.
Mikey McGuire needs 9 SBs to reach 1000. Once that milestone is reached his playing time should be drastically cut. McGuire is truly one of the most beloved players in Vegas history and he will be given his place of honor in Vegas.
CF Juan Matinez & RF Alex James both swiped 44 bases last season. Defensive specialist SS Placido Mendez stole 24.
Vegas has been last in Homers for a number of seasons. DH Clark (31 HR) and catcher Durazo (22 HR) led the small ball team. Look for Vegas to add a little more power.
for Vegas this season 69-93.
St. Louis Brown Stockings Infield: Rafael Trajano getting on base is the key to this offense moving this team to the top. Outfield: Brian Kim is suddenly the old man on the team, but this team would be much better off he he starting hitting like he were a young man again. A resurgence from Kim would make St. Louis very dangerous. Rotation: David Lee anchors a young rotation, maybe too young to win in the playoffs but they have as much sheer talent as anyone. Bullpen: Macbeth Kell won 12 games out of the pen last year and will be one of the most important players on this team as the pen is the weakpoint for this squad.
Predictions: AL North: Scranton Skedaddlers AL East: Baltimore Fire AL South: Nashville Redbirds AL West: St. Louis Brown Stockings Wildcard: Ottawa Pirates Wildcard: El Paso Border Patrol
AL Champion: Scranton Skedaddlers
Season 32 Top 10 Trade Acquisitions
With trades you always have winners and losers, so what players that have swapped franchises this year have proven to be wins for their teams? Ewell Priest It should come as no shock that the best player traded this offseason has had the biggest impact. For Columbus, Priest has done what he has always done – mash the baseball. He is hitting .310/.360/.529 with 27 homeruns so far. Not all of Columbus’ moves have panned out the way they had hoped this offseason, but Priest will pay off for a long time. Juan Owen San Fransisco was looking to fill a lot of hole under new management and they needed some offensive punch at the ML level. While they may not have turned around their squad this season, acquiring Juan Owen has certainly panned out for them. Owen is hitting .283 with a .384 OBP with 19 homeruns, 22 doubles, and 20 stolen bases. He has provided the kind of consistency this franchise desperately needed this offseason. Rigo Goya Losing Boomer Hoffman in free agency left Toledo with a hole in their rotation and they thought Goya would fit nicely after a down year last season. He has responded well to the change of scenery, going 15-5 with a 3.70 ERA and providing some veteran stability that Toledo believed they needed to make another run at a title. Yonder Diaz The play of Diaz has made Mexico City the winners of the Diaz/Pan for Matthew Carroll swap. Diaz is above his career averages in average, OBP, and slugging percentage (.270/.342/ .461), already has a career high of 23 home runs, and has stolen 30 bags. Those numbers could yield Diaz a nice contract in free agency. Arthur Mattingly A speedster like Mattingly has to hate leaving a stolen base free for all like Las Vegas, but Vegas needed to shed salary and Toledo needed a bat for their bench in order to make Juan Owen expendable. It has proven to be an important trade for Toledo as Mattingly was originally slotted in a bench role but has moved into a full time 2B and leadoff man. Filling that role has been more pivotal than his production which has been average (.267/.329 with 48 stolen bases). Jeff Leary Leary was a bit of a throw in player, but he has proven to be an impact platoon player for Montreal at catcher. He is hitting.271 with a career high 28 homeruns and is part of the reason Montreal has moved into a potential wild card spot. Matthew Carroll Carroll was one of the bigger names moved in the offseason and everyone in Columbus hoped he would live up to his potential and promise. But no one thinks Carroll is delivering the way Columbus had hoped for. He is hitting above his career averages though at .258/.325/.416, has a career high 20 stolen bases, and 18 home runs – one away from tying his career high. While he may not be what everyone hoped, but having his first 20-20 season and becoming one fo the best defensive 3B in the NL ranks this as a solid acquisition. Now we get to some of the midseason swaps… Javier Arroyo El Paso had been searching for an impact starting pitcher all season and when Arroyo became available in Honolulu, they pounced. Arroyo has given them a great second option, going 8-3 with a 2.87 WHIP. Arroyo may not have been enough to propel them into the wildcard this year, but he may have been what they needed to take that step next season. Omar Lopez Honolulu was looking to add depth when they traded Arroyo, and they not only added that but are getting the same kind of production out of one of the 3 pitchers they got back in Lopez. Lopez is 8-2 pitching for the islanders with a 3.45 ERA. His numbers are far better than the rest of his career has shown, but so far Honolulu doesn’t miss Arroyo at all. Carlos Balboa Balboa has not pitched a lot and he won’t pitch a lot, but when he has pitched, he has done it well. In 13 games, he has a 1.69 ERA and has only walked one batter. Balboa won’t be a workhorse, but he may provided Ottawa with some great matchup opportunities come playoff time.
So I’ve recently been using Twitter (as a Cavs fan, I was among the Twitter obsessed during the Lebron James saga and it hooked me) and I’ve found that 140 characters sometimes is pretty difficult for me. But when you are trying to say something meaningful (because that’s what social media is all about, meaningful thought), 140 characters forces you to focus in on what’s important. So it gave me the idea to try this out for the BSA blog and since I never have the time to do a full on season preview, let’s do it in 140 character per team. I will order the teams in my prediction of where they will end the season and write a highlight, question, or thought about their upcoming season in 140 characters or less. Oh, and you don’t even have to follow me @vzweeks to get these tweets!
1. Burlington Ents – Eugenio Sosa signing an extension was the most shocking move of this offseason. Losing Patrick Lewis hurts but still the favorite in the NL
2. Montreal Tim Raine’s – Always has a surprise in this division and the additions of SP B. Hoffman and D. Hernandez could revive baseball in Canada #whendoesNHLstart
3. Columbus Script – Adding Priest and Carroll were great moves, but they really need another starting pitcher or two to make a run at a World Series return
4. Augusta Warriors – Is their anyway Juan Park can pitch too? And someone find out where the John Clark of 4 seasons ago disappeared to
1. Richmond Poes – Jeff Rogers and Sadie Grim need to step it up for Richmond to become title contenders. Patrick Lewis signing provides needed stability
2. Toledo Black Sheep – The decline begins with the loss of Hoffman. Still a contender come playoff time, but win total will drop this season and even more next
3. Cincinnati Communists – Queen City left staring north at Toledo yet again #Ohiogeography Should see an improved record from the Commies, maybe a run at .500
4. Washington D.C. Huskies – Tike Henson will fit right into the DC culture #chicsdigthelongball Still searching for someone to step it up and break out in the rotation
1. Mexico City Sombreros – Hardest division to pick, but the most talent resides in Mexico City. Oliver Blanks has to live up to potential for this team to contend
2. Tampa Bay Tritons – Unamuno and Thompson are the new wave of talent Tamp has pinned its hopes to, but it needs pitching to move back to the top
3. Austin City Limits – Could have the best pitching in the division which might push them above 85 wins and into the driver’s seat of division. Soto could explode
4. New Orleans Swim – New ownership will have to decide what it is going to do with all its young talent, which could easily push them towards the top of division
1. San Diego SAMCRO – Andrea Parker had a really down year last year but still got a huge extension. He needs to be an anchor in the order #breakoutseason
2. Honolulu Noka Oi – Need Javier Arroyo to pitch like he did in s30 and Enerio Fuentes to cash in on his potential to really emerge into true contender status
3. Los Angeles Freaks – Jamison is a good signing, but team is aging with no pitching, so they’ll need angels in the outfield to get into the race #signtonydanza
4. San Fransisco Sequoias – Owen and Purcell improve the top of the lineup and should make the youngsters better but the lack of pitching depth will keep them down
1. Ottawa Pride – Mitch Morehead and Trot Harmon were the best free agent haul of anyone and should keep Ottawa at the top, but end of dominance is coming
2. Scranton Skeddadlers – This youth has to mature eventually, right? Galahad Morris is the key to this team moving from potential promise to the promised land
3. Trenton Twins – Losing Morehead hurts, but adding Alfonseca and Yamamoto helps make up for it. Needs more offensive punch somewhere from the lineup
4. Vancouver Vipers – Vancouver has some young talent but still lacks any kind of starting pitching to move above .500. Do have the best curling squad in the BSA
1. Huntington Catholics – Early contender for AL World Series representative. Pitching looks good but should add another bat to really be a contender #CansecoforMVP
2. Boston Bombers – 2 first ballot HOFers (Coleridge, Sherman) on the pitching staff with a third potential candidate (Guerrero), any life left? #retirementhome
3. Pittsburgh Ghosts – Huston Thurston and Luis Arias are desperate to get out of AAA and show the world what they can do on the big stage. Rosado contract stings
4. Baltimore Fire – Antithesis of Boston with a stunning youth movement (and more is coming), but the young talent is not yet ready to translate into wins
2. El Paso Border Patrol – Was Steve Laffey overhyped or will he move closer to the force he was can be? It’s a battle for second place #anythingcanhappenintheplayoffs
3. Charlote Panthers – Frank Burton is still a stud, but he can’t carry this team into the playoffs. Fans are clamoring for Albert Donahue
4. Kansas City Monarchs – Is this Thames last go around for the Monarchs? Will the front office look to move Piper? Any gas left in Ramirez? Lots of questions in KC
1. St. Louis Brown Stockings – Rebuild is officially over. Amassed loads of young pitching talent and several promising hitters. Could be a candidate for a huge trade
2. Las Vegas Spittin Vermin – Mickey McGuire could top to 1000 stolen base mark this season, a remarkable feat that will probably never be truly appreciated properly
3. Fresno Reds – Orval Farley should hit the majors this season, but they are still in talent acquisition mode and will be for a few more seasons
4. Colorado Dusters – Tony Castro and Joaquin Amaral finally give the Colorado fans something worth watching, but they want to know when Takada is coming too
To start, I believe all of the following players could have a case made for them to be placed in the Hall of Fame (n0t that they all belong, but that a case could be made):
Tony Bonilla, Philip Buford, Johnnie Bush Luis Canseco, Toby Darnell, Odalis Franco, Rafael Franco, Andruw Hartzell, Kevin Lim, Al Lunar, R.J. Milton, Eduardo Mota, Ernie Price, Shawn Radlosky, Edwin Saveur, Felix Sexton, Juan Tavarez
Here is my ballot:
- Andruw Hartzell – Hartzell accomplished a rare offensive feat in his career in finishing with career averages above. 300 batting average, .400 OBP, and .500 slugging. While 473 homeruns is not an eye popping number in this game, he has nearly 3000 hits, (#4 all time), and 483 doubles which shows he did have that extra base power and wasn’t just a singles hitter. Not to mention that he played almost all of his career in the hitter’s death trap of Tacoma. With all of those factors, Hartzell is one of the best all around hitters to ever play in the BSA and deserves a HOF plaque.
- Kevin Lim – Lim was not the all around hitter Hartzell was, but he could hit the long ball with the best of them. With 687 home runs and over 1800 RBI, Lim is the kind of power hitter Hall fo Fame visitors expect to see.
- Odalis Franco – Franco is pretty much a carbon copy of Lim. His power numbers are just a little behind him and he lacks an MVP award, but he did have a better average, OBP, and slugging percentage along with more doubles and over 2500 hits. I think Franco has waited long enough and is ready to punch his ticket to Montana (that is where the BSA hall of fame is, right?)
- Shawn Radlosky – Radlosky was as consistent a starter as anyone could hope for. With over 250 wins, he ranks among the top 10 all time. Looking at pithers already in the Hall of Fame, Radlosky compares to Mitch Singleton (he’s actually better than him in every major category). Radlosky is another who has paid his dues waiting around and his time is due to receive the acknowledgement that he deserves.
- Toby Darnell – The 5th spot is always the hardest as there are always a number of deserving candidates and this is the guy you end up comparing them all to. I have been voting for Darnell for a few years for a couple of reasons. First, I regard him as a second baseman and in that light, he is offensive output is impressive. While he didn’t quite get to 400 home runs, his slugging percentage is above .500, and he hit above .300 with over 2500 hits. He’s a top all time hitter in the BSA.
If we could extend our ballots to 10 votes like the MLB hall, this would be the rest of mine in order:
- Rafael Franco – DH and durability aside, this guy could flat out mash.
- Juan Tavarez – More wins would have made him a shoe in
- Luis Canseco – and underrated and overlooked all around hitter
- Ernie Price – 2 MVPS alone puts him here
- Felix Sexton – One of the top offensive threats from shortstop ever
1. Ahmad Nippert (San Diego) ****1/2- This 18 year old lefty is dominate against left handed hitters and can really give the radar gun a workout. A potential top of the line starter is everything a rebuilding team would want in the first pick.
2. J.O. Chavez (Baltimore) **** – May not be a dominant starter, but has 3 good pitches and could really be a workhorse.
3. Damion Wilkins (Scranton) ***** – As if Scranton didn’t have enough great prospects already, they walk away with a a middle infielder who has a decent glove and a could be a perennial league leader in batting average and even has some pop and speed to go with it.
4. Darin Barker (New Orleans) ****1/2 – You don’t see first baseman picked in the top 5 of the draft anymore, unless of course they hit like Barker. Huge power and everything else to go with it.
5. Ryuu Hasegawa (Baltimore) **** – About as good of a hitting second baseman as you could find, his range could develop enough to make him a possible centerfielder.
6. Darrell Grey (Mexico City) *** – He’ll have to move from SS, but he could play almost anywhere else. Health concerns are the huge knock against him
7. Eugene Lillibridge (Fargo) – unsigned
8. Chipper Mlicki (Scottsdale) **** – His eye is the only knock on this corner outfielder, but he’ll still hit just fine.
9. Addison Wilson (Vancouver) ** 1/2 – He’d have a decent bat for a SS, but his range isn’t good enough to play SS.
10. Benjamin Thurman (Honolulu) *** – Thurman is a SS with a decent bat and the range. His throwing accuracy is a little lacking, but he could be one of the better all around short stops in the league.
11. Al Hernandez (Austin) ***1/2 – A lefty starter who struggles a little against righties, but he can dial it up on the radar gun with superior control.
12. Harry Cruz ( Cincinnati) – unsigned
13. Sammy Serra (Rochester) *** – While his splits are average and his health is a little low for some owner’s comfort, his control combined with his velocity and pitches will make him a solid ML starter if he stays healthy.
14. Jim Kingman (Trenton) ***1/2 – A solid second baseman with a good eye who could make a solid leadoff hitter with his eye and speed, though his durability will hold him back a little at the top of the order.
15. Turk West (Charlotte) *** – He’s not going to be a top of the rotation starter, but with great control and 4 good pitches, he can be a workhorse middle of the rotation type.
16. Murray Kiner (LA) ***1/2 – Another great leadoff candidate with low durability, he could be a little like Otto Buchanon.
17. Cookie Bautista (Tampa Bay) – unsigned
18. Nash Bonham (El Paso) *** – Might have the best combination of pitches in the draft. His major issue is his durability, but he’ll be good when he does pitch.
19. Albert Donahue (Charlotte) ***1/2 – Big power particularly against righties, but he’ll be more than just a platoon player.
20. Bryant Ramirez (Las Vegas) ** – The first reliever taken in the draft, he shows a great fastball but doesn’t project to have the tools it takes to be a great closer.
21. Joe Quinn (Huntington) *** – The second reliever taken does have all the tools to be a closer in the league, though his stamina will limit his real impact.
22. Adam Teut (Toledo) ***1/2 – A really solid all around SP with a flamethrower for a right arm, but durability and health questions dropped him in the draft.
23. Jimmy Sosa (Nashville) – unsigned
24. Al Whitehill (Huntington) **1/2 – Another SS who will probably be moved, he could be a CF with a lot of power and a good eye though his splits will hold him back.
25. Santo Mendoza (Richmond) *** 1/2 – A finesse pitcher, he is a solid all around starter who can work the corner against righties and lefties.
26. Mack Parker (Tampa Bay) ** – It’ll be interesting to see where he actually ends up in the field, but his bat will be average wherever though his arm will be among the best at whatever position he does play.
27. Jake Arenado (Kansas City) *** – A solid defensive 2B with the range to possibly move to CF, has a solid all around bat that excels against south paws.
28. Houston Braden (Tampa Bay) *** – A solid reliever prospect with a rare 3 pitch combination that are all out piches.
29. A.J. White (Nashville) ** – A good eye and speed, he’ll have to move to a corner outfield spot and doesn’t have the bat to hold that spot.
30. Evan Snodgress (Portland) *** – This setup prospect will throw between 100 to 150 innings per season with his combination of skills.
31. Carlos Feliz (San Fransisco) ** – He has some solid splits, but his weak eye and poor range are what will hold him back.
32. Damian Hoover (Augusta) *** – If he doesn’t get hurt, he should make a great platoon player against lefties who could leadoff
33. Kirk West (Trenton) ***1/2 – A DH who could catch if he had to, he has the bat to be a major league hitter even if he didn’t own a glove. Struggles against righties some and his health is a concern, but a great pick at 33.
34. Bono Post (Toledo) **** – I might be biased with this assessment, but Post is a legitimate centerfielder with gold glove level range who can play everyday, has plus speed, and can put the ball in play well.
35. Denny Corbett (Ottawa) ***1/2 – The rich get richer as he may be the best closer prospect of the draft, but his health scared away a lot of teams.
I’ve had a hard time finding the time to blog for this season, but what better way to start off the New Year than with some blogging. We’re down to the wire, so what better way to start than with a playoff preview. I’ll take a look at each division and then the 2 wild card races. Honestly, there really is only one division that is even potentially a race, so I’ll highlight the ups and downs of each team.
AL North It is no surprise that defending champion Ottawa has run away with the division once again. While they are slightly behind last year’s pace , Ottawa is still the clear favorite to win it all, but they are aging so their grip on the AL may not last long. Vancouver took a step forward with their young hitters Alan Twitchell, Doyle Byrnes, and Carlos Viriato and have a chance to end a 7 season playoff drought. Trenton continues to hover around .500 but Mitch Morehead (13 wins, 2.99 ERA) continues to excel. Scranton continues to be at the bottom of the division, but their youth movement is starting and they’ll be at the top of this division soon. If their winning percentage holds up, they will have their highest win total in 16 seasons.
AL East Boston hasn’t wrapped up their 3rd straight division title, but they have a comfortable 7 game lead. Mendy Wingo is having a Cy Young caliber season for them, sitting at 15-5, 2.35 ERA, and .97 WHIP. Huntington is still in it, but something significant would have to happen since they have no games left with Boston. Brian Canseco has quietly been putting together one of his best seasons (.347/.450/.538) in his first season in Huntington. Rochester and Baltimore are both rebuilding, but both are playing better this year than last year and are showing some signs of life.
AL South Nashville is looking like a sure bet to repeat as division champs in what is normally one of the tightest division races. Sonny Torres has been out of his mind this season, pacing Nashville at 13-3. Charlotte is hanging in the wild card race with a balanced rotation that has 4 pitchers with double digit wins. Kansas City looked old at times this year, though Marvin Piper still showed himself as one of the best slugging catchers in BSA history with 33 long balls so far with 98 RBI. El Paso simply hasn’t gotten the production it expected out of some of their big free agents signings the past 2 seasons like Terrell Hoffman
AL West The AL West has always been a very competitive division with a tight race, but that was normally because it always had 3 good teams. They’re still competitive, but absent those 3 good teams. It looks like it is Las Vegas’ division to lose. Mikey McGuire needs 8 more stolen bases to become the 2nd player in the BSA with 800 stolen bases and 27 more to take the all time lead in the most neglected and forgotten category. San Fransisco is hanging around in the division title race, and a Ben Sherman led rotation could give them enough to not only take the division but pull an upset in the playoffs. After a surprising run last season, Portland has fallen back to earth, hitting only .232 as a team. Scottsdale continues the rebuilding effort after years at the top, but at least fans have Brian Kim to watch each night.
AL Wild Card While last season’s AL playoff race was a mess to figure out, this year really comes down to a 3 team race for the 2 wild card spots. Huntington stands at the top of the Wild Card race, 2 games ahead of Vancouver and 3 ahead of Charlotte. Huntington has been hot lately, winning 13 of 17, and has a fairly easy schedule ahead of them. Charlotte will play the 4 teams with the best records in the AL still, and Vancouver will need to gain ground early as it meets Nashville and Ottawa and the end of the season. But this week a 7 game stretch is coming up where Huntington plays 4 against Vancouver and then 3 against Charlotte which should really decide this race. I predict Huntington will all but secure their spot in that stretch and that Charlotte will squeeze out the final wild card spot the last days of the season while Vancouver is visiting Ottawa.
NL North This has been the best division in the NL for some time, and while that still holds true this season, it’s not the same. Burlington is in control and for the first time in years has breathing room down the stretch. Rudy Tabaka isn’t having as good a season as last year, but he set a ridiculous standard and is well on his way to another Cy Young with 20 wins, a 1.60 ERA, and a .86 WHIP. Columbus has stepped up this season and the trade for Tike Henson has pushed them into the playoff hunt with his .294 average and 25 homers. Augusta collapsed at the start of this season in surprising fashion, but they played more like the real Augusta in the second half and are making a mad dash towards the playoffs. Fargo has to hate being in this division, but Junior Manuel likes being in Fargo, putting up his 2nd straight 30 dinger season.
NL East While it was a close race early in the season, Toledo has pulled away with a comfortable 15 game lead. Juan Veras has proven worth the trade to get him, with 11 wins and a 2.31 ERA and 1.03 WHIP in Toledo. After taking a step forward into the playoff race last season, Richmond is playing at a slightly better place and in the driver’s seat for the second wild card spot. Veteran starter Philip Coleridge is still the heart beat of the team, just getting his 260th career victory. Washington has taken a little step back from last year, but is still slugging away with 3 hitters already over 30 home runs. Cincinnati never recovered from the devastating injury to Miguel Romano and is going to have to have to take another look at the mystery of why they are not more competitive.
NL South New Orleans is holding on to a 5 game leas over Tampa Bay, and Harry Shirley has been the difference with his 15 wins in his return from losing all of last season to injury. Tampa Bay is still fighting for life though and Koji Ming ‘s emergence as a closer has helped them in a a lot of close games. Mexico City and Austin are at the bottom this season, but in this division they could easily find themselves at the top next season.
NL West Boise is poised to win its 5th division title in 6 seasons. Trot Harmon is on pace to have his first 40 home run season and Vince Nathan continues to take his special “vitamins” and has posted consecutive 30 home run seasons. Tony Ellis was signed to lead LA past Boise this season, but he has struggled in LA, hitting only .249. In it’s first season under new ownership, San Diego has shown marked improvement and young Andrea Parker continues to shown the potential to be a superstar. Honolulu knows it’s future is much brighter than its present and has a steady flow of young talent waiting to make its way to the big show.
NL Wild Card If you were to just look at the standings and the math, Columbus and Richmond look to have their wild card spots all but secured. But then you see Augusta looming 5 games back and you know that team can kick it into another gear and make a big run. In fact, they already have. August is 26-12 since the All Star break, but just look at who is left on their schedule: Boise, Toledo, Richmond, Washington, Columbus, and Burlington. That is 3 division leaders, including the top 2 teams, and the 3 other teams in the wild card race. If August does pull off this comeback, it may be the best in season turnaround ever in the BSA and they’ll look like the team to beat in the playoffs. Washington isn’t out of it either and a hot streak could see them knock Richmond out again and they have a decent enough schedule to get hot and make that run. Richmond is in Honolulu right now and then has 7 home games against San Diego and Tampa Bay. If they can beat up on these teams like they should, it could secure them a spot regardless of what Augusta and DC does. Columbus is in the driver’s seat and aside from back to back home series against Toledo and Burlington, they don’t have a playoff team left on their schedule. I think Columbus should feel pretty secure at this point, but with the way Augusta is playing, every wild card team has to make sure they don’t slip up against the teams they should beat.
1 Aaron Johns (L) 97.47 HUNTINGTON,
2 Dennis Hiro (R) 96.52 OTTAWA,
3 Rudy Tabaka (R) 96.10 BURLINGTON,
4 Brook Easley (L) 94.87 OTTAWA,
5 Edgar Matos (R) 93.29 NASHVILLE,
6 Tony Tanaka (R) 92.72 OTTAWA,
7 Ezequiel Perez (L) 92.54 HUNTINGTON,
8 Rodrigo Cabrera (R) 91.88 VANCOUVER,
9 Diego Ramirez (R) 91.26 KANSAS CITY,
10 Juan Veras (L) 91.00 HUNTINGTON,
11 Victor Guerra (L) 89.66 OTTAWA,
12 Joaquin Guerrero (R) 88.99 LAS VEGAS,
13 Julio Zumaya (R) 88.81 LAS VEGAS,
14 Ariel Calles (R) 88.43 TAMPA BAY,
15 Philip Coleridge (R) 87.38 RICHMOND,
16 Frank Burton (R) 87.28 CHARLOTTE,
17 Albert Garcia (R) 87.17 TOLEDO,
18 Jair Bonilla (R) 86.99 BURLINGTON,
19 Bono Larkin (R) 86.78 HUNTINGTON,
20 Ken Brantley (L) 86.21 OTTAWA,
21 Todd Corcoran (L) 85.96 COLUMBUS,
22 Roy Washington (R) 85.92 PORTLAND,
23 Boomer O’Sullivan (L) 85.54 CINCINNATI,
24 Mitch Morehead (R) 85.08 TRENTON,
25 Ben Sherman (L) 84.43 SAN FRANCISCO