Top 100 Baseball Blog

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Jen Royle is at Home with the Boston Red Sox

There is little doubt that people living in the Boston area love their baseball. Accordingly, the local media is constantly seeking to provide comprehensive and entertaining coverage of the Red Sox. This has led to the region boasting some of the best broadcasting and sports writing talent anywhere. One of the best is Jen Royle, who is a dual threat and recently returned to Beantown, which also happens to be her hometown. 

Royle is an Emmy-winning journalist who worked for the YES Network in New York and covered the Orioles and Ravens in Baltimore, in addition to work for ESPN and SB Nation among others.

Now that she is back in Boston (with her best friend Truman), she is broadcasting for WEEI and running her own sports site ( It’s a compendium of Boston baseball; providing a range of material, including news, game recaps, blogs, videos and fantasy games.

One word that describes Royle to a tee is “authentic.” She is feisty, intelligent and knows her baseball. Not only that, but she has a talent for communicating that information to her listeners and readers. With so much constantly going on with the Red Sox, her work is a valuable source in the Hub.

In addition to her site, you can follow Royle at her Twitter account of @Jen_Royle.

Recently, I had an opportunity to exchange emails with Royle to welcome her back to Boston and ask her some questions about her career. For more information on one of the preeminent authorities on Red Sox baseball, make sure to keep reading. 

Jen Royle Interview: 

How did you first become interested in becoming in sports journalism?:
Well, I grew up in Boston so baseball was beaten into my head (not literally) at an early age. My childhood memories are those at Fenway Park watching Roger Clemens, Mike Greenwell, Dwight Evans, Jim Rice, etc. That 1986 team I believe was the start of it all because I had finally reached the age where I understood the game. It was also the perfect year to begin my relation with the Red Sox because of the '86 World Series. I think as a female, getting caught up in the 86-year curse definitely played a factor, especially after seeing them choke against the Mets. Of course that would be the story for the next 18 years until they finally beat the Yankees and won the series.

I think growing up in Boston and liking baseball is comparable to growing up in Canada and liking hockey. So with that, in the back of my head I always knew I wanted to work in sports, particularly baseball in some capacity. I'm fairly certain at one point I had created a job in my mind because I wasn't even sure they existed, but if you knew me really well you'd know that when I want something, I find a way to get it. I can honestly say I worked my ass off to get where I am today and I'm still not where I want to be. It's a constant struggle to find success in my brain. I'm always striving to do better, to be more successful, to attempt a new challenge and to learn something new. Sounds ridiculously corny but it's true. 

What was your first job in sports?: I lucked out. I never had to move to a small market or cover minor league sports in some random mid-west city. I started in New York and my first job was with the YES Network. I was a freelance writer for their website and wrote a couple of stories a week on various topics that didn't really include players because I didn't have access. I stood on the subway platform with an umbrella one night in the rain and asked fans how much they paid for their tickets, etc. Those kind of stories. But again, I busted my ass and as soon as the lead Yankee writer left for the NFL Network, I was the next in line.

I started covering the team towards the end of the 2003 season and my first locker room was Yankees-Red Sox at Yankee Stadium. It was pretty surreal. I remember that day like it was yesterday because I remember NOT being nervous. I recall standing next to Gordon Edes (, Dan Shaughnessy (Boston Globe), Tony Massarotti (Boston Herald) and learning from the best. I was thrown into the Boston clubhouse because of my roots. YES wanted a perspective from both sides so it made sense to throw me on Sox.

I made mistakes, of course. But I never made the same one twice. I learned a lot the hard way, mostly because I didn't have a female mentor on hand, but it only made me tougher and strong and prepared me for Boston. In 2007, web videos became popular and more things were talked about via video rather than via keyboard. This was when I was handed a cameraman and a mic, and because I had been a writer for the past four years or so, it was easy for me to ask players like Torii Hunter, Josh Hamilton, Vernon Wells, Michael Young, etc. to sit with me for five minutes. I had already established myself as a knowledgeable reporter and not just some chick they handed a camera to because she looked good.

I was also lucky enough to start a professional relationship with guys like Pedro Martinez, Terry Francona and David Ortiz. As I watch all these young, inexperienced female reporters enter the business, these guys, to name a few, know I've now been around for 10 years 

Do you prefer to write or broadcast, and why?: I prefer radio. I don't think right now, at least in Boston, there is a job designed for me on television. I'm very opinionated and have zero studio experience in terms of reading a prompter. It's just not something I'm interested in doing. I love radio and I love being a female on radio because it showcases my knowledge, or lack thereof. If I can't talk about something with the smart Boston fan base, then I have more work to do. Radio tests me and challenges me in ways I've never been challenged before. I'm honored to have my own show on WEEI, the station I grew up with, and I am thankful to Jason Wolfe for giving me this opportunity. 

You have successfully implemented the use of social media into your work as well as any other journalist out there. What do you believe to be its biggest benefits and drawbacks?: Both. But it's only a drawback if you allow social media to get in your head. Unfortunately, I allowed that during my two years in Baltimore and it affected me in ways it shouldn't have. I will put 95% of the blame on the jerks that were tweeting me and blogging about me, but the other 5% was me paying attention to it. It was all new to me, however, so looking back, I'm not sure I would have done thing differently. Now, however, I laugh at haters.

Baltimore dug deep and hit me where it hurt. They called me some of the worst names in the book, tweeted me "Now I know why your father died... to get away from you." There were THREE fake Jen Royle twitter accounts, one claiming I was dying of AIDS (that person has since issued an apology through my lawyers), and you can only be called fat, stupid and ugly, for so long without it getting to you. It was overwhelming and I'm not ashamed to say I just didn't know how to handle it.

The good thing is, I'm now in Boston, my hometown, and I'm a new person. I don't get much hate here and if I did, it would roll of my back. So honestly, Baltimore happened for a reason.

If you could do things over, what is something you would change about your career?: Nothing. I'm exactly where I want to be. I guess that means I did everything right along the way.

What is your favorite sports memory, either personal or professional?: Oh there's just too many... my answer is simple. My favorite sports memory is anything that involved my dad. If I could have one day with him, I know he'd want to watch the Red Sox, so I'd like a day at Fenway Park with him. I grew up a diehard Bruins fan and he would take me to The Garden to watch the B's as a child. I remember holding his hand walking through the old North Station in my Ken Linseman jersey. Wayne Gretzky was my favorite player and he even took me to see him play when the LA Kings were in town. I think about those days at The Garden often...

What is something on your career bucket list you still hope to accomplish?: ESPN. Sunday Night Baseball. Sidelines.

How does baseball in Boston compare to other regions of the country?: It doesn't. Baseball is king in Boston. We are so lucky to have such an amazing ballpark here in Boston that continues to create memories for fans. The fans here are smart and they put the players on a pedestal. Don't get me wrong, the Bruins, Celtics and Patriots are kings as well, but this is a baseball town and I wouldn't have it any other way.

I don't get paid for most of my writing work, so it can sometimes be a struggles to keep it going. If you have enjoyed my work and are feeling generous, please consider submitting a donation using the Paypal button below. If not, I hope you continue reading. Thanks!



You can check me out on Facebook or follow me on Twitter @historianandrew

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Jason Churchill of ESPN Chats Prospects and MLB Draft

I recently participated in a podcast with ESPN's Jason Churchill, chatting prospects and the upcoming MLB draft. I had a great time and hope you will check it out HERE.


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Monday, May 27, 2013

The Baseball Historian's Notes for May 27, 2013

The 2012 season saw Detroit Tigers’ slugger Miguel Cabrera win the Triple-Crown with a .330 batting average, 44 home runs and 139 RBI. Although it’s hard to fathom, he may be headed to an even better season this year, which could see him make history.

Cabrera is currently hitting .385 with 14 home runs and 57 RBI. He ranks first in the American League in batting and RBI, and is second in home runs. If he were to repeat the Triple Crown, he would not only be the first player to ever win consecutive Triple-Crowns, he would also join legendary Hall of Famers Rogers Hornsby and Ted Williams as the only players to accomplish the feat more than once.

Another mark Cabrera is eyeing is the all-time RBI record. To date, he is on pace to finish the season with 192, which would break the major league record of 191 set by Chicago Cubs’ outfielder Hack Wilson in 1930. While RBI has seen its reputation tarnished in the advancing sabermetric world, the possibility of Cabrera unseating Wilson to set a new standard would still be a big deal.

***Speaking of Hack Wilson, he once was given an unexpected ride in a paddy wagon. On May 23, 1926, the oddly-shaped 5’6” and 190 pound Wilson (he wore a size-6 shoe) went out to celebrate with some friends after hitting a home run estimated at over 450 feet in a win against the Boston Braves. Unfortunately’ Wilson’s party went to a Chicago area beer parlor, which was a poor choice given that the country was in the midst of Prohibition.

On what was reportedly a tip by the Cubs, Wilson and his pals were arrested when the beer parlor was raided. “Hack was loaded in the wagon with eleven others and taken to jail,” cried one newspaper report. No doubt because of his celebrity, Wilson was released without facing charges. He went on to lead the National League with 21 home runs that season and set the all-time single-season RBI mark just a few years later.

***Former Boston Red Sox second baseman and current announcer Jerry Remy is affectionately known as the Remdawg to his fans. His pleasantly gruff voice has graced Red Sox television broadcasts for years, but fans should check out his truly terrifying profile (No worries, he is not nude) in Play Girl Magazine from the 1980s. With a listed position of “Sex God” and a weakness identified as “undersized,” it’s impossible to not burst into convulsive laughter after viewing the write-up.

***If it can be believed, former pitcher Dock Ellis may have accomplished one of the most difficult feats in baseball history when he threw a no-hitter against the San Diego Padres on June 12, 1970 while a member of the Pittsburgh Pirates—and supposedly under the influence of LSD.

Recently, Deadspin’s A.J. Daulerio attempted to sort fact from fiction in the notorious incident. The game and the claim were the highlights of Ellis’ above-average major league career, which saw him go a combined 138-119 with a 3.36 ERA in 12 seasons. Sadly, Ellis passed away in 2008, so other than the information that is already out there it’s unlikely there will ever be a true resolution to this story.

***There are few left-handed pitchers in baseball history who can compare to the dominance and majesty of former Brooklyn/Los Angeles Dodgers’ hurler Sandy Koufax. For an idea (or a reminder for my older readers) of his beautiful pitching form, this classic footage, which is set to an excellent vintage soundtrack, shows how he was able to carve up the National League on his way to a 12-year Hall of Fame career.

***Randy Mario Poffo, better known as WWF wrestler “Macho Man” Randy Savage, passed away two years ago of a heart attack. Prior to becoming a grappling icon, he was a minor league player in the St. Louis Cardinals’ and Cincinnati Reds’ systems. In addition to this picture of him from his hardball days, his career statistics show he was a catcher and outfielder, who hit .254 with 16 home runs over four seasons.

***The New York Yankees will host the Boston Red Sox later in the week, continuing what has been one of the longest rivalries in baseball. It has produced some of the best games and regional competiveness, but there have also been some ugly moments.

A game on May 19, 1929 at old Yankee Stadium was called after five innings because of rain. Once the game was cancelled, it started to pour and the estimated 53,000 fans in attendance bolted for cover. In the right field bleachers, several people fell in the mad dash, which caused the surging masses to trample those who couldn’t get out of their way, causing two deaths and leaving 63 with injuries.

Yankees’ star Babe Ruth later visited some of the injured and pledged to hit a home run for each of the 14 injured children. Since he wound up leading the league with 46 round-trippers, it appears he made good on his promise.

***Finally, your baseball moment of Zen. This Conan O’Brien Old Time Baseball bit still makes me laugh out loud every time I see it. It gives an excellent idea of what the game was like in the 1860s, with just a few embellishments for comedic effect.


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Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Houston Astros' Rebuilding Process Being Helped by Prospects Like Mike Foltynewicz

With a 1962 New York Mets-esque 13-33 record, the Houston Astros have a lot of holes they will need to fill if they want to have any chance of respectability in the future. Fortunately, they have thrown themselves into rebuilding through player development, and have a number of young prospects who are looking like they will be major pieces in the coming years. Among the team’s top young pitchers is Mike Foltynewicz, who is getting closer and closer to a spot in the major league starting rotation.

The big right-handed Foltynewicz was drafted in 2010 by the Astros in the first round (19th overall selection) out of Minooka High School in Illinois. The Astros zeroed in on him after a senior season that saw him go 9-1 with a 0.38 ERA. He had previously signed a letter of intent to play collegiately at the University of Texas, but turned pro after his high draft selection.

At the time, the scouting report on the youngster praised him for his mid-90s fastball and excellent changeup, but noted his need to develop a more consistent breaking pitch. As he has progressed through the Houston system, he has tightened up his stuff and become a more complete pitcher.

Foltynewicz was just a combined 5-14 with 4.74 ERA in his first two professional seasons, but truly blossomed last year. Playing for Single-A Lexington, he went 14-4 with a 3.14 ERA and 125 strikeouts in 27 starts, and was named the Astros’ Minor League Pitcher of the Year.

He began the 2013 season with High-A Lancaster, but was promoted to Double-A Corpus Christie after the first month. He is off to another excellent start, going a combined 1-0 with a 2.79 ERA in 11 games (seven starts). He is also striking out an impressive 9.86 batters per nine innings, which is the highest mark of his career.

The Astros may be a total mess as things stand today. However, it won’t always be that way, and young players like Foltynewicz will be the reason why the franchise is on its way to turning things around.

Mike Foltynewicz Interview:

Who was your favorite player when you were growing up, and why?: I have to say my favorite players growing up were Mark McGwire, Scott Rolen, and Jim Edmonds. My parents were always Cardinals fans, so I really liked all three of those guys.

How close did you come to attending college and how did you decide to sign with Houston?: I was pretty close to attending college because the University of Texas was my dream school, and me getting a scholarship to go there was amazing. But going higher than I expected in the draft, and wanting to get my professional career started right away, my decision was easy.

Can you describe what your draft day experience was like?: My draft day experience was pretty awesome. We were playing our sectional championship game in Bloomington and we lost a tough game. We were all sad and emotional on the bus ride home, but about 30 minutes into the bus ride I got the call that Houston wanted to take me 19th overall, and I said ‘absolutely.’ All the sadness turned into happiness and laughter and joy. It was an amazing day overall.

How difficult is it to adapt to pitching under pitch counts, constant coach/instructor scrutiny, and attention from Houston fans and front office?: It’s difficult to pitch under pitch counts because I’m used to going all the way in high school and having a 120 pitch count maybe in a game. I’m really competitive and love to compete, but I also understand why they are doing it and what’s best for me.  The constant coach instructing doesn’t bother me at all. They are always finding ways to make me better so I like it. All the attention from the fans doesn’t bother me much. Everyone will have their opinions, either negative or positive, so I just try to go out and pitch the best I can every time and let people think what they want. I know and all the coaches know what I’m capable of.

Which pitches do you throw, and which is your best and which do you believe needs the most work?: I throw a four-seam, two-seam, changeup and curveball. I believe my four-seam is my best pitch, maybe my two-seam also. My two-seam gets a lot of ground ball outs and swing and misses or foul tips and I can throw that in any count. My changeup is coming along great and so is my curveball. But I think my curveball needs the most work, but there is always work for improvement for all my pitches (command).

Have you noticed many changes in the Astros organization since GM Jeff Luhnow took over?: Luhnow has done a great job so far coming in. He’s showing that he is not afraid to make moves, and he’s confident in what he is doing.

What was the most difficult thing to get used to in pro ball other than the travel?: The most difficult thing getting used to in pro ball is playing 140 games, throwing every day, and only having one off-day a month. A full season takes a big toll on your body and your mental toughness. I feel like I have come a long ways and matured a lot from the day I got drafted till now.

When on a road trip, what is your go-to meal of choice?: I don’t really have a go-to place to eat after games; just whatever is open is good enough for me!

I don't get paid for most of my writing work, so it can sometimes be a struggles to keep it going. If you have enjoyed my work and are feeling generous, please consider submitting a donation using the Paypal button below. If not, I hope you continue reading. Thanks!


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Monday, May 20, 2013

The Baseball Historian's Notes for May 20, 2013

I had such a good time going over baseball history links last week that I decided to do it again! Here’s hoping this can become a regular feature, as the cool nuggets just continue to pile up. I’ll try to continue bringing a blend of topics to keep it fresh and interesting. As usual, thanks for reading!

***Baseball has had a lot of mascots over the years, ranging from obnoxious to downright entertaining. But none were more buxom or lascivious than Morganna, the Kissing Bandit.

The well-endowed exotic dancer became an unofficial mascot of sorts after she jumped from the stands at Riverfront Stadium in 1970 and kissed Cincinnati Reds’ star Pete Rose. Over the next several decades, she repeated her act numerous times at baseball games and other sporting events, earning nicknames, admirers and citations from local police.

Recently, a wonderful short film was produced telling the true story of the grand dame of field rushers. Among the most famous MLB recipients of her smooches included Nolan Ryan, Johnny Bench and Cal Ripken Jr. Love her or simply lust for her, she was unlike anything baseball has ever seen, before or since.

***Earlier this month, NBA player Jason Collins publicly came out as a gay man and was recognized as the first professional athlete to do so. With their always being an emphasis on identifying who was the first to do what in our society, the stories of those who simply tried can often be left by the wayside. That appears to be the case with gay athletes.’s Rick Reilly recently wrote a terrific article about how former major league outfielder Glenn Burke tried to come out during his career, but was unceremoniously stuffed back into the closet.

During a four-year major league career with the Los Angeles Dodgers and Oakland A’s in the late 1970s, Burke openly lived as a gay man. Unfortunately, as time went on, intolerance grew from other players and team management. The Dodgers even reportedly offered him $75,000 to marry a woman; and offer Burke left on the table.

Burke, who died in 1995 of AIDS, never saw the kind of acceptance Collins is currently receiving. However, as Reilly demonstrates, it’s important to remember his legacy and the path he started to pave for those who have and will go after him.

***In a random bit of baseball history, check out this clip of Vladimir Guerrero’s first major league home run. The blast came on September 21, 1996 against Mark Wohlers and the Atlanta Braves. It was a quintessential home run for Guerrero, who was playing for the Montreal Expos at the time. He golfed a pitch that was low and outside over the fence in right field. Everything, from the pitch location to the wild wind-up swing, is classic Guerrero and representative of his style at the plate.

Guerrero has played in the majors for all or parts of 16 seasons, and hit 449 home runs during that time. Although he hasn’t been on a major league roster since 2011, he may not be done quite yet, as he recently signed to play independent ball. Even if he hits another home run, it’s hard to imagine it will beat the feeling he must have had with his first.

***The Jackie Robinson biopic 42 has earned rave reviews at the box office, but not everyone is happy with the content of the film. Sherrill Duessterhaus, the daughter of former major league pitcher Fred Ostermueller is outraged about how her father is portrayed in the movie.

Ostermueller is shown taunting Robinson before throwing a pitch at his head, which causes a brawl to break out. While there was an instance in 1947 when he did hit Robinson with a pitch, there is no evidence to suggest the theatrics shown in the movie.

Hollywood enhances “true stories” all the time for dramatic effect, but when it comes making such negative depictions, the onus should be on the filmmakers to make sure they can back up their version of events.

***Talk about nosebleed seats! Take a gander at this amazing picture of college students looking down on a game of the 1960 World Series at Forbes Field in Pittsburgh between the Pirates and the New York Yankees. While they may have missed out on seeing the intricacies of the game, at least the seats were free.

***Hall of Famer Honus Wagner wasn’t only one of the greatest shortstops of all time; he was also a pretty intimidating lawman.’s Dayn Parry wrote about how Wagner became the deputy sheriff of Allegheny County in Pennsylvania in 1942, when the former player was 68.

The article not only is a great tidbit of history about one of baseball’s iconic players, but also includes a pretty amazing photo of Wagner doing his best Dirty Harry impression; 30 years before there was a Dirty Harry.

***Bo Jackson is one of the best athletes to ever step on a field. When he was a student at Auburn University, he played baseball in addition to the Heisman Trophy-worthy work he did on the gridiron.

The Kansas City Royals made Jackson a fourth-round draft pick in 1986 despite his proclivity for football. His selection was made in part because of this scouting report from April, 1985, which left the evaluator nearly at a loss for adjectives when trying to describe the youngster’s ability.

Jackson had a good, but not great baseball career. However, he never dedicated himself to the game full-time until after he was severely injured playing football, making him one of baseball’s great what-if questions.

I don't get paid for most of my writing work, so it can sometimes be a struggles to keep it going. If you have enjoyed my work and are feeling generous, please consider submitting a donation using the Paypal button below. If not, I hope you continue reading. Thanks!


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Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Former Boston Red Sox Outfielder Troy O'Leary Answers Some Questions

Baseball teams come to be defined by their players as much as the successes or failures they have with their win/loss records. In particular, the Boston Red Sox have a rich tradition of players who have left indelible marks on the franchise and its fans. One player who is surely in that category is Troy O’Leary, who came to Boston under humble circumstances, but left as a tremendous success.

The left-handed O’Leary was a 13th-round draft choice of the Milwaukee Brewers in 1987. He was a .300 hitter in the minors, but could never crack the team’s big league roster beyond brief stints in 1993 and 1994.

Shortly after the start of the 1995 season, O’Leary was released, but was quickly snapped up by the Red Sox, who had a big hole in right field. It turned out to be a brilliant maneuver, as he went on to hit .308 with 10 home runs and 49 RBI in 112 games, and the Red Sox won the American League East.

O’Leary wound up having a productive seven-year career with the Red Sox, playing both right field and left. His best season came in 1999, when he hit .280 with 28 home runs and 103 RBI in 157 games.

His defining moment came that same year in the ALDS in the deciding Game 5 against the Cleveland Indians. Behind his two home runs (including a grand slam) and seven RBI, the Red Sox rallied from an early deficit to take the series and advance to the ALCS against the New York Yankees.

While they team failed to make the World Series in 1999, the heroics of O’Leary became a permanent part of Red Sox lore.

His final season in Boston came in 2001 when he appeared in 104 games, but hit just .240 with 13 home runs and 50 RBI.

Following the season, he signed as a free agent with the Montreal Expos. After one season there, he finished his major league career with the Chicago Cubs in 2003. He also played in Korea in 2004, and in Mexico in 2005 before calling it a career.

During his 11 seasons in the majors, he hit a combined .274 with 127 home runs and 591 RBI. He was often overshadowed in Boston by bigger names like Nomar Garciaparra, Pedro Martinez and Mo Vaughn, but the once lightly-regarded player carved out a very nice career and niche for himself in team history.

Other than trying to jumpstart a baseball reality show, O’Leary has remained out of the spotlight in retirement. But that shouldn’t come as a surprise, given the way he quietly became one of the most consistent players in Red Sox history.

I had the opportunity to exchange messages with O’Leary and ask him a few questions about his career. Check out what he had to say!

Troy O’Leary Questionnaire:

Who was your favorite coach or manager?: Kevin Kennedy.

What was the strangest thing you ever saw as a player?: A routine ground ball and a person ran on the field naked.

Who was the toughest pitcher you ever faced?: Randy Johnson.

If you could do anything differently about your career, what would that be?: Not go to Korea.

I haven't done this before, but figured I would give it a shot. I don't get paid for most of my writing work, so it can sometimes be a struggles to keep it going. If you have enjoyed my work and are feeling generous, please consider submitting a donation using the Paypal button below. If not, I hope you continue reading. Thanks!


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Monday, May 13, 2013

The Baseball Historian's Notes for May 13, 2013

Baseball in just about any context is a good thing. During the regular season, the attention of fans is typically riveted to the on-field action, but there are many fascinating nuggets of baseball awesomeness hidden all over in the form of its history. You just have to know where to look to find them. To help you on your way to discovering some of the delights from baseball’s past, I have dug up some items that should both engross and entertain.

Baseball is a game that can be enjoyed as much in the moment as it can be in projecting its future and discovering its past. Without further ado, let’s see how well I can do at putting the historian in “Baseball Historian.”

***Hall of Famer Steve Carlton is one of the greatest left-handed pitchers of all time. Unfortunately, he is also known for his controversial opinions. He developed this reputation after a 1994 article by Pat Jordan for Philadelphia Magazine portrayed the southpaw in a less than favorable light. The piece was meant to be a “where are they now” type of article, but it developed into much more than that. Carlton came across as paranoid and self-centered, setting the tone for his post-career legacy.

Carlton later refuted how he was portrayed, but has never been able to erase the stain from his image. He has receded into the shadows since that interview, but it’s worth giving a second look because it provides such unique insight into one of baseball’s all-time greats.

***It’s always interesting to find out what scouts thought of all-time great players before they became stars. Check out this scouting report from 1987, profiling outfielder Ken Griffey Jr.

The scout, Steve Vrablik, obviously knew what he was doing, as he designated Griffey as a five-tool player and recommended him for a maximum signing bonus of $175,000-$200,000.

Perhaps the funniest part of the report was the reference to Griffey’s “solid thighs and buttocks.” There isn’t further elaboration on whether that was in regards to lower-body strength or trying to figure out how he would look in baseball pants.

***In the unfortunate news story of last week, former outfielder Otis Nixon was arrested on drug charges following a traffic stop in Georgia. The 54-year-old was found with crack cocaine and drug paraphernalia in his car, and was initially held in jail on a nearly $12,000 bond.

Nixon was known for his speed during a 17-year major league career with nine teams, including the Atlanta Braves and Boston Red Sox. Although he had just 180 total extra-base hits, he stole 620 bases, which currently ranks 16th all-time.

He struggled with drug abuse during his playing career, running afoul of the law and earning a 60-game suspension in 1991 for a failed drug test.

Although Nixon got sober late in his career, it appears that his decades-long battle his demons continue. Hopefully, he can turn things around once and for all and be better known as the player who stole 72 bases in 124 games in 1991 instead of what has put his name in the headlines for so long.

***’s David Eskenazi has been putting out some truly amazing articles featuring some of the best baseball players from the past that the West Coast has ever seen. One of his recent featured players was “Buffalo” Bill Schuster, one of the greatest shortstops in the history of the Pacific Coast League

Schuster played in 123 major league games over parts of five seasons, but combined for just a .234 batting average with one home run and 17 RBI. Fortunately, he found much greater success in the PCL.

Also known as “Screwball,” Schuster was as well known for his unpredictable behavior as he was his play on the field. One brilliant scouting report described him thusly: “Schuster is a big league shortstop with a bush brain. He is noisy and offensive and probably the last person in the world to be wrecked with on a desert island. Yet he hits well and fields brilliantly, which is why he is always around.”

With 2,168 hits in 16 minor league seasons added to his reputation as a character, Schuster is one old-timer who shouldn’t be forgotten.

***With few exceptions, baseball stadiums are among the most beautiful architectural achievements in the world. Fenway Park in Boston is not only the oldest major league stadium still in use, but is also one of the most aesthetically pleasing. To see what I mean, check out this fantastic photo of the “Fens.”

***Hall of Fame outfielder Frank Robinson became the first hired  African-American manager in major league history when he assumed leadership of the Cleveland Indians in 1975. However, as the Washington Examiners’ Thom Loverro recently pointed out, Robinson was not technically the majors’ first black manager.

In 1973, Chicago Cubs coach Ernie Banks (like Robinson, also a Hall of Fame player) was forced into service as a manager, after Cubs’ manager Whitey Lockman was ejected late in a tight game against the San Diego Padres. Thanks in part to a few strategic moves on Banks’ part, the Cubs went on to win in 12 innings.

Although Banks never got a full-time gig as a manager in the major leagues, his historic turn as a skipper is an important part of baseball history and a key moment of his career.

***Finishing up this week’s post is a little moment of Zen brought to you by none other than the immortal Scott Bakula.

The Quantum Leap actor took the microphone before a game in the 1993 World Series between the Philadelphia Phillies and Toronto Blue Jays, and belted out a pretty respectable version of the National Anthem. Enjoy!

I haven't done this before, but figured I would give it a shot. I don't get paid for most of my writing work, so it can sometimes be a struggles to keep it going. If you have enjoyed my work and are feeling generous, please consider submitting a donation using the Paypal button below. If not, I hope you continue reading. Thanks!


You can follow me on Facebook by going to or follow me on Twitter @historianandrew

Monday, May 6, 2013

Podcast to Be Named Later: MLB Power Rankings: 5/6/2013

Ron Juckett and I discussed baseball's most recent power rankings in today's podcast. Check it out:

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The Baseball Historian's Notes for May 6, 2013

Cheating has a long and interesting history in baseball. From sharpened cleats, corked bats, banned substances and doctored pitches, players and teams are seemingly always in search of an edge. As former Chicago Cubs’ first baseman Mark Grace once famously said, “If you’re not cheating, you’re not trying.”

That being said, there can be a fine line between what is cheating and what is simply gaining an edge. When something questionable is identified, there is typically a race to classify it as legitimate or cheating. Hardly a year passes without at least one instance of a player being caught or being accused of nefarious actions. This year is no exception.

***Following seven shutout innings of work by Clay Buchholz, Toronto Blue Jays radio announcer Dirk Hayhurst accused the Boston Red Sox pitcher of doctoring his pitches by using an unknown substance on his arm. The allegations were then taken up by Jack Morris, another Toronto announcer and winner of 254 major league games himself. Both Toronto guys cited unnatural pitch movement and the improvement in Buchholz’s results this year as the crux of their arguments.

Buchholz denied cheating. He said he does have substances on his arm and uniform, but they are rosin and water, which are both legal.

Baseball Prospectus’ Dan Rozenson effectively squashed the speculation by proving there has been nothing unnatural or out of the ordinary with Buchholz’s stuff this year. If anything, his early-season success (6-0, 1.01 ERA) can be attributed to better pitch location.

To say the Toronto announcers may be driven by ulterior motives would be an understatement. The Blue Jays have floundered to an 11-21 start after being early favorites for a playoff spot after a busy offseason. Deflecting attention isn’t out of the question.

Morris just completed his 14th consecutive unsuccessful year on the Hall of Fame ballot. He has one more chance in 2014 for enshrinement before his name comes off the ballot and his fate is left to the Veteran’s Committee down the road.

Hayhurst, who had a cup of coffee in the majors as a pitcher, is also an author. He has used the media scrutiny this week to shill his books and essentially turned the fiasco into a tour of self-promotion.

There is no proof that Buchholz has done anything wrong. No Toronto players or coaches complained or made insinuations during or after the game. In the absence of evidence, it’s a shame to besmirch a player who is enjoying such a wonderful start to the season. Hayhurst and Morris would be better off adhering to the old chestnut that media needs to stick to reporting the news instead of making it themselves.

***Speaking of cheating, it looks like one of baseball’s all-time greats just got caught. New York Yankees legendary outfielder Mickey Mantle, who has been deceased since 1995, was recently outed for having used corked bats.

One of the Hall of Famer’s game-used bats from 1964 was X-rayed prior to going to auction this month and was found to have been tampered with and filled with cork.

This will swirl around the media for a few days, but ultimately be filed away in the annals of baseball’s irascible cheaters; much like Gaylord Perry’s Vaseline ball and Hank Aaron’s admitted use of amphetamines.

*** Tampa Bar Rays’ ace David Price is struggling mightily this year. After a loss Saturday night, his record stands at 1-3 with a 6.25 ERA. The most concerning part of the southpaw’s disappointing start has been the nearly 3 mph he has lost on his average fastball velocity from last year, according to

If the 26-year-old continues his lethargic pitching, it could be costly to both him and his team. Although he won the American League Cy Young last year, he isn’t eligible for free agency until 2016. He won’t get one of the fat contracts being dealt to top-of-the-line starting pitchers without a solid track record of success and production leading up to his appearance on the open market.

A subpar Price also obviously impacts Tampa Bay. With one the weakest offenses in baseball, they depend on defense and pitching to win games. He is their best pitcher, and the team will only go as far as he takes them.

***Reports of the demise of pitcher Chris Carpenter’s career may have been greatly exaggerated. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s Joe Strauss is reporting that the right shoulder injury that caused the St. Louis Cardinals to place the 37-year-old veteran on the 60-day disabled list and fueled speculation that his career was over may have been premature. Carpenter has begun a tentative throwing program, and if all goes well, could return to the team in relief sometime later this season.

Carpenter is in his 20th professional season and has always been a starter. However, shorter outings may reduce stress on his shoulder and could also give the Cardinals’ bullpen a boost in light of closer Jason Motte being lost for the year because of Tommy John surgery. All the best to Carpenter in this comeback attempt!

***Atlanta Braves starter Tim Hudson hit a major milestone last week when he picked up his 200th career win in a game against the Washington Nationals. Not wanting to leave the outcome in doubt, Hudson also hit a home run in the game, joining Hall of Famer Bob Lemon as the only other pitcher to have hit a home run in their 200th career victory.

The 36-year-old Hudson has been the model of consistency during his 15-year major league career. Entering this season, he had won at least 11 games in every one of his first 14 seasons except 2009, when he appeared in just seven games because of injury. He joins Andy Pettitte (248) and Roy Halladay (201) as the only active pitchers with at least 200 wins.

For good measure, Hudson added his 201st win on Sunday.

Now owning a career record of 201-105 with a 3.42 ERA, and showing few signs of slowing down, let the talk begin about Hudson’s potential worthiness as a Hall of Fame candidate.

***If you are seeking baseball-related Zen, look no further than former player turned minor league manager Wally Backman.

Backman, who currently helms the New York Mets’ Triple-A team in Las Vegas, has become a bit of an internet sensation. There are his epic meltdowns (caution for strong language), his motivational speeches (again caution for strong language), his thoughtful conversations with announcers (strong language…) and his love for ballpark sausage dogs (and more strong language…).

A baseball ambassador may be too strong a word to use to describe Backman, but the man sure is one of the more entertaining managers in the game.

I haven't done this before, but figured I would give it a shot. I don't get paid for most of my writing work, so it can sometimes be a struggles to keep it going. If you have enjoyed my work and are feeling generous, please consider submitting a donation using the Paypal button below. If not, I hope you continue reading. Thanks!


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Thursday, May 2, 2013

Mike Augliera: Boston Red Sox Pitching Prospect Talks Baseball

The Boston Red Sox have some of the better-known pitching prospects in baseball with Rubby De La Rosa, Allen Webster and Matt Barnes all leading most peoples’ lists. It turns out that they are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Boston’s farm system, as there are a number of other promising young arms being developed, including last year’s fifth-round draft choice, Mike Augliera.

The 22-year-old right-hander attended Old Bridge High School in New Jersey. He later became a college star at Binghamton University, where he is the all-time leader in wins (23) and innings (298.1). As a senior, he led the NCAA with an 83/7 strikeout-to-walk ratio, showing his excellent control.

According to an article by’s Evan Drellich, even Tim Sinicki, Augliera’s college coach, is amazed by the type of pitcher the Red Sox prospect became: "The evolution over the past four years has been remarkable, and he really is very deserving of this opportunity. I thought he was going to be a good college pitcher. He had a decent fastball in the kind of mid-80s range, decent secondary stuff. [I] really kind of thought if he developed and worked like he did, he'd turn into a really good college pitcher. I'd be lying if I said my crystal ball told me he'd be a fifth-rounder. He's just gone way above and beyond his expectations, and it's all because of his hard work." describes Augliera’s arsenal as including a high-80s fastball, an outstanding curveball and a promising slider. However, his fastball velocity has crept into the low 90s and only made him that more dangerous on the mound. In addition to his talent, Boston coveted Augliera in the fifth round because of his signability as a college senior, which allowed them greater flexibility to sign some of their other picks, like fourth-round pick, pitcher Ty Buttrey, who had the option of attending college if he didn’t like Boston’s signing bonus offer.

Augliera had a 4.42 ERA in 15 games at short-season Lowell during his inaugural pro season last year, but did strike out 10 batters per nine innings. He has started 2013 with high Single-A Salem and is off to an excellent start, going 3-0 with a 4.24 ERA in four starts. His strikeouts have been cut to 5.4 per nine innings, but he is certainly making adjustments to playing at a new level.

During a recent off-day due to a rainout, Augliera was kind enough to answer some questions about his baseball career. Check out what the Boston prospect had to say.

Mike Augliera Interview:
If you could sit down and pick the brain of any pitcher, current or former, who would that be and why?: I would probably pick Greg Maddux. I loved the way he pitched. He didn't throw the hardest, but he seemed to have a plan for every batter and was fun to watch pitch. I would enjoy receiving some tips from him on the finer things of getting hitters out. 

Leading up to the 2012 MLB Draft, what kind of contact and recruiting were you getting from different teams?: I was in contact with a bunch of teams; some more interested than others. I would receive general information letters, emails and phone calls from different teams. I didn't have much leverage being a senior, so I was just happy to be getting any kind of contact. 

Can you run through what your draft experience was like?: It was an amazing experience; something that I try to relive in my head a lot. From the contact with scouts at games, to the phone calls leading up to the draft, it was all a very enjoyable time for me and family. On Day 2 of the draft, my family and friends were over as we watched on the tv. There is no explanation for the variety of emotions I felt that day. We were all anxious, excited, nervous, and in the end it couldn't have played out any better. 

What pitches do you throw and which one do you hope to improve the most?: I throw a two-seam and four-seam fastballs, circle changeup and a slider. I am always trying to improve all of my pitches, but the one that I have spent the most time on since the season started is my slider. 

Minnesota Twins' pitcher Scott Diamond is the only MLBer to come from your alma mater Binghamton. Have you had any contact or advice from him?: Yes, I met Scott before he got called up to Minnesota a few times when he would come back and work out at Binghamton. With the Red Sox and Twins facilities both being in Fort Myers, Florida, we were able to grab dinner one night in spring training. 

What do you believe sets you apart from other pitching prospects in the Red Sox organization?: With all of the very good pitching prospects that are in the Red Sox organization, it is tough to set yourself apart. I do believe that with my combination of command and work ethic I will continue to get better each time out there. Being a college senior helps me in terms of having some more experience. 

Have you connected with any other Boston prospects since joining the organization?: Yes, I have made a lot of good friends in the organization since I signed last June. I have met a lot of good people in my short time so far with the Red Sox. 

What has been the most difficult part of adapting to life as a professional player?: Probably getting used to the daily grind of traveling, games and getting yourself ready to play. It's a big difference from college when you throw on weekends and have the weekdays off. We don't get many off days, so there is a lot of work to make sure that your body is able to recover for each game or start. 


You can follow me on Facebook by going to or follow me on Twitter @historianandrew

I haven't done this before, but figured I would give it a shot. I don't get paid for most of my writing work, so it can sometimes be a struggles to keep it going. If you have enjoyed my work and are feeling generous, please consider submitting a donation using the Paypal button below. If not, I hope you continue reading. Thanks!