August 31, 2010

Twitter Tuesday: Craig Breslow

Late Monday night, Oakland reliever Craig Breslow tweeted the following:

1,974 followers....who will be #2,000?!

And since I already follow the lefty...you should too.

Why? Because "why not?"...that's why!

In all seriousness, the former All-Ivy League hurler is the kind of player who is using what he's achieved on the field to hope those off of it thanks to his Strike 3 Foundation.

The Strike 3 Foundation (founded in 2008) is a charitable agency that heightens awareness, mobilizes support, and raises funding for childhood cancer research. Breslow's sister was diagnosed with thyroid cancer at the age of 14. Now, more than fifteen years later, she lives an unrestricted life as a cancer survivor.

So, hey, follow the big leaguer on Twitter and become Number 2000. Then...go nuts and follow the Strike 3 Foundation.


You can check out Craig Breslow's Strike 3 Foundation at their website. If you'd like to learn more and donate...click HERE.


August 29, 2010

Manny Heading to Chicago

Ladies and gentlemen...cue the crazy!

Following in the footsteps of Michael Jordan and Ken Griffey Jr., Manny Ramirez looks to be the latest superstar to look awkward in a White Sox uniform.

In what had to have been the least secretive waiver claim EVER, Ramirez looks to be leaving Los Angeles for the Southside of Chicago.

This past week, the White Sox put in the claim and have until Tuesday to work out a deal with the Dodgers.


But, according to reports late Sunday night, the deal is done...and all it'll cost Chicago is the nearly $4 million the 38 year-old slugger is due. They are hoping the slugger will be able to replicate the late heroics he pulled off in 2008 when he helped the Dodgers win the National League West.

Of course, no one is talking about it officially, but if/when the deal is finalized, the 11-time All-Star would join the White Sox when they travel to the team that he debuted with...Cleveland.

In just 66 games this season, Ramirez is batting .311 with eight home runs and 40 RBI.


Frank Thomas Gets His Number Retired

"I'm from a small town in Georgia and there you can only dream about something like this," future Hall of Famer Frank Thomas told the crowd prior to the White Sox-Yankees game Sunday, "but I've always dreamed."

And with that (and U.S. Cellular's trademark celebratory fireworks), the smiling visage and Number 35 of the the Southside's most productive player was unveiled alongside the nine other former numbers retired by the Sox.

Thomas retired this past February after a 19-year career that saw the two-time American League MVP hit .301 with 521 homers and 1704 RBI.

After making his Major League debut in 1990, "The Big Hurt" went on to set White Sox team records in homers (448) and RBIs (1,465) before splitting his final three seasons with Toronto and Oakland.

He is one of four players to have a .300 average, 500 home runs, 1500 RBIs, 1000 runs and 1500 walks during their career.

Who are the other three? Mel Ott, Ted Williams and Babe Ruth…not too shabby.

Matter of fact, Thomas has a handful of goofball records like that…records that no one really knows how to put into context. You can find some of them HERE.

Lastly, it appears that the White Sox won't just end the overdue Thomas love affair with his number being retired.

In a release sent out just after the start of Sunday’s game, the team announced that a life-size bronze sculpture of "The Big Hurt" will be unveiled in 2011.

He'll become the eighth member of the franchise to get the bronze treatment. The others...Luis Aparicio, Harold Baines, Charles A. Comiskey, Nellie Fox, Carlton Fisk, Minnie Minoso and Billy Pierce.

After that, expect to see Thomas show up next during Hall of Fame Induction Weekend as a member of the jam-packed Class of 2014.

So who should have their number retired by the Chicago White Sox next? What are you waiting for...go vote!


August 28, 2010

David Ortiz Legs Out His Annual Triple

Pop quiz, Hall members...only three players have at least one triple in each season since 2000.

Can you name them? Can you name one?!?

Ichiro Suzuki?

Nope. He started his U.S. tour of duty in 2001 and while he's racked up 89 since his debut...he doesn't qualify.

Carl Crawford?

Again...no. The league's active leader in triples with 100 didn't debut in Tampa until 2002.

Would you have guessed Johnny Damon? Probably...and you'd be right. The Detroit outfielder is second among active players with 98.

What about Damon's teammate Carlos Guillen? Maybe. With half (50) of the career output of Crawford, Guillen does indeed have a triple in each of the last eleven seasons.

But what about Boston's David Ortiz?

“Yeah, I can believe that,” Red Sox utility man Bill Hall told the Boston Herald after Ortiz legged out his annual triple in the fifth inning of a game last week. “He’s definitely not the fastest person in the world, but he can still beat some guys in a race in this league. It’s obviously got to be a ball that’s well-placed, maybe kicked around a little bit, but he’s not pulling up at second. He expects to go to third.”

For his career, "Big Papi" has 15 triples. To put things in perspective (or not), career triples leader, Hall of Famer Sam Crawford has 309 and 13 times over his 19 year career, he had 15 or more.

But here's the kicker, gang, the Red Sox and Twins (you know...the team that released Papi and opened the door for him to head to BeanTown) are 11-3 in the 14 games where Ortiz has reached third without stopping first for oxygen at either of the previous two bases.


An interesting sidenote...one of those three losses (an 8-3 victory by the Orioles July 22, 2004) marks the only game where Ortiz hit two triples in one contest.

Both times he was stranded at third.

So, American League fans, this October when you are lamenting the fact that your team doesn't have homefield advantage for the World Series...maybe Joe Girardi was right to have not put in a pitch runner for Ortiz in the ninth inning of the All-Star.

Or then again...maybe leaving him in to get forced out at second was a bad decision.


August 27, 2010

"The Machine" Reaches Number 400

After entering the season 34 home runs shy of 400 for his, yes, young career…the talk turned from IF it was going to happen this season to when Albert Pujols was going to reach the milestone and who was it going to be against.

After failing to go deep against the Pirates Wednesday night, the St. Louis slugger was slated to face off against Washington pitcher Jordan Zimmermann Thursday night.

“The Machine” was three for three lifetime against the righty with one home run and after grounding out in the first…he stopped playing games and sent Zimmermann’s second offering in the fourth deep for the historic homer.

Sure, the Cardinals ended up losing 11-10 in 13 innings, but the history Pujols made against the Nationals is what fans will remember.

As it is…the first baseman became the third youngest overall (following Alex Rodriguez and Ken Griffey Jr.) to reach 400 home runs and youngest National Leaguer ever to accomplish the feat.

Pujols is 30 years, seven months and ten days old, or (for the sake of the next round of numbers I’m going to throw at ya)…30 years and 222 days old.

Rodriguez was 29 years and 316 days old when he hit his 400th homer, whereas Junior was 30 years and 141 days old.

To answer the question “who else went deep 400 times before their 31st birthday”…Hall of Famer Jimmie Foxx did it at 30 years and 248 days and Yankees legend Mickey Mantle was 30 years and 325 days old.

And if you were wondering…only four players of the 46 other players to go deep 400 times have done it in fewer than Pujols’ 5615 at bats.

So what’s next for “Phat Albert”?

This season has already seen him extend his own streak by becoming the only player in Major League history to begin his career with ten straight seasons of 30 or more home runs.

Well, with 93 RBI, dude is only seven shy of becoming the only cat to have started his career with 30 or more home runs and 100 RBI as well. Incidentally, he'll also become the only player to have ever belted 30 home runs and knocked in 100 in ten straight years.


Recently, Hall readers were aked who they thought would be the next player to reach 600 career home runs. Their answer?


Albert Pujols.


Friday 5: Joe Oliver

With the Cincinnati Reds still surprising the baseball world by continuing to widen the gap between them and the St. Louis Cardinals in the National League Central, it is time to, again, look back at their storied past.

I mean, here is a team (or, if you prefer…a machine) that re-defined baseball in the 1970s. Two decades later, they straight up demoralized the heavily favored Oakland A’s by sweeping them in the 1990 World Series.

And who can forget catcher Joe Oliver ending Game Two with a game-winning RBI (remember when they were called that?) off Hall of Fame closer Dennis Eckersley in the tenth inning?

One of my favorite members of that wire-to-wire World Championship team was Oliver…and I had a chance to catch up with the 19-year pro for this week’s “Friday 5”.

HOVG: You’ve been playing baseball all your life…who has been your biggest influence and why?

OLIVER: My father was at every game and every practice when I was growing up…he was always there to play catch with me. It turns out he had supported me so much growing up, I didn't realize how important that was until I was a father and had saw him attending my kids’ games. It means a lot to a son to see his Dad and Mom there.

HOVG: After playing thirteen seasons for a number of Major League franchises, it is, without saying, that you’ve done some traveling…what is your most memorable travel experience?

OLIVER: Well, I have to say going to Oakland in 1990 and winning the World Series. I had never been there and to go there and win it all makes a great impression on you forever.

HOVG: Being part of that World Series winning team is probably your greatest experience…what is your favorite story from that crazy wire-to-wire season?

OLIVER: There are so many memories from that season…it is hard to name just one. One of the things I remember in the clubhouse after Game Three of the World Series…(Chris) Sabo had just hit his second homer of the game and put us up three games to zip. He was so intense in his interview and was so wired about how good Oakland was and how we couldn't let up. As I look back, he was so right. We had just lost (Eric) Davis and (Billy) Hatcher to injuries. If we played more than four games, we might have lost it all after losing those key parts of our team. It just showed he was so focused like we all were during that post season.

HOVG: This past weekend saw your former manager Lou Piniella hang it up for good. What is Lou’s legacy…Hall of Famer or no?

OLIVER: Lou was the main reason I played for so long! He motivated me and challenged me to be a better player every day. Some players can play for a manager like that and some just can’t perform for a tough manager. What I saw from Lou was a man who hated winning and didn't want anyone to accept losing. It is more infectious than winning. You can accept it and let it divide a team and clubhouse. He wouldn't allow it. He has won a lot of games as a manager and I look at how many franchises he has affected in a positive way and turned them around. Lou saved baseball in Seattle and got Tampa Bay headed in the right direction. The Cubs were doing well, they just fell short with bad breaks and…they are the Cubs. (Laughs) He should be in the Hall someday as a great manager who just loved the game and loved winning.

HOVG: When did you know that you “made it”?

OLIVER: I guess I felt like I made it after my third season. I ended up winning the team MVP in 1993 and from that point on, I felt like I was a big leaguer. You can’t get caught up in the hype and attention and get complacent. It is nice to have people recognize you for your hard work but not needed to make you feel like you belong.

This Sunday, Joe Oliver’s Triple Threat Baseball 15-18 (and under) team in Orlando, Florida will be holding their second set of tryouts at Zinn Beck fields in nearby Sanford. Registration kicks off at 8:30am…with tryouts starting at 9:00am. For more information, check out Triple Threat Baseball
on the web.

Aside from coaching the 15-18U squad…Oliver is also at the helm of the baseball team at Pine Castle (FL) Christian Academy.


August 25, 2010

Albert Pujols on the Verge of 400

I seem to be writing plenty about Albert Pujols lately.

And no…I haven’t become an overnight Cardinals fan.

I also haven’t been swayed by the recent love shown to me by the famous (infamous?) St. Louis Cardinals Sign Guy (check out his tweets HERE, HERE or HERE).

What has been making me take notice is “Phat Albert’s” pursuit of baseball immortality.

Recently, the first baseman
extended his own streak by becoming the only player in Major League history to begin his career with ten straight seasons of 30 or more home runs.

Likewise, sitting at 96 for the season, Pujols is a few RBI shy of becoming the only cat to have started his career with 30 or more home runs and 100 RBI as well. Incidentally, he'll also become the only player to have ever belted 30 home runs and knocked in 100 in ten straight years.

Ever.

Currently with 399 career bombs and at just 30 years (and a hair over seven months) old…only Alex Rodriguez (29 years and ten months) and Ken Griffey Jr. (30 years and five months) have reached the same home run plateau as Pujols.

So here’s who stands in the way of the Cardinals slugger becoming the third youngest player to reach 400 homers. And, yeah, before you read on…the odds of Pujols going into some pre-600 home run slump a la Alex Rodriguez is pretty slim.

Wednesday, the Cardinals finish up their series against the Pirates. On the bump for Pittsburgh…Daniel McCutchen. For his career, “The Machine” has two hits (including one home run) in three at bats against the young righty.

With Stephen Strasburg back on the DL for Washington, the Nationals are bound to turn to Jordan Zimmermann when they open up against the Red Birds on Thursday.

And if Pujols doesn’t take McCutchen deep Wednesday…he’ll surely round the bases against the 24 year-old Zimmermann. In three plate appearances last year against the right-hander…the three-time National League MVP was three for three with a home run.

After that, the Cardinals head into the weekend against hurlers Scott Olsen and Livan Hernandez. Combined, Pujols has gone 16 for 50 against the pair with five homers.

So with Pujols on the verge of hitting number 400, it looks to be just a matter of hours before he becomes just the 47th player all-time (and
the second this season) to reach 400 home runs for his young career.

Is it too soon to start designing his plaque for Cooperstown?


August 23, 2010

Johnny Damon...Back to BeanTown?

Six weeks ago, the talk here at The Hall of Very Good was whether or not Johnny Damon was a Hall of Fame caliber player.

Today...there is word that he might be heading back to the Boston Red Sox.

Here's the skinny. The current Detroit Tiger outfielder was placed on waivers by the team. Boston, one of the teams from which Damon has no-trade protection, put in a claim for the one-time BeanTown hero.

"At this moment, I'm not sure I want to leave Detroit for (the Red Sox)," Damon said, according to tigers.com. "I enjoy playing here. But obviously, (Red Sox manager) Terry Francona is amazing...it's something that I'm going to have think long and hard over."

Currently, the famous formerly Bearded One is batting .270 for the Tigers, with just seven homers and 40 RBI.

For his career, he is sixth among active players with 2536 hits. Recently Damon surpassed Hall of Famers Joe Morgan and Heinie Manush on the all-time hits list.

He has has until Wednesday to decide whether he would waive his no-trade clause to return to Fenway Park.


BallHype: hype it up!

August 15, 2010

Is "Prince Albert" the Game's Best?

It's a safe bet to call Albert Pujols the best player in the game right now, right?

Right?!?

The guy that ESPN's Rob Neyer tabbed as the top player of the first decade of the new millennium has made history.

Again.

With one picture perfect swing of the bat, the first baseman extended his own Major League record by becoming the ONLY player in history to begin his career with ten straight seasons with 30 or more home runs when he went yard off of Ryan Dempster in the first inning of the St. Louis Cardinals 9-7 loss against the Chicago Cubs on Sunday.


And with a few more RBI (he's currently sitting at 86), he'll be the only cat to have started his career with ten straight seasons with 100 or more runs knocked in. Incidentally, he'll also become the only player to have ever belted 30 home runs and knocked in 100 in ten straight years ever.

Ever.

“Prince Albert” started this year with 366 home runs and is currently sitting at 396. When he reaches 400, he’ll be the youngest National Leaguer to reach the milestone (the slugger turned 30 on back in January) and third youngest overall after Alex Rodriguez (who was a couple of months shy of his 30th birthday when he did the deed) and Ken Griffey, Jr.

Should the St. Louis Cardinals slugger continue on his home run pace and get to 40 home runs and 40 or more doubles this season (not as likely, given he is only at 26), it’ll be a record fourth time he achieved the feat.

Last season, he tied Lou Gehrig as the only player to have done it three times.

And should Pujols do all the above AND take home another National League MVP award, he’ll be only one of two players (Barry Bonds has seven) to be named his league’s best more than three times.

So answer this for me again...it’s safe to call Pujols the best in the game, right?

Thought so.


Last week, Hall readers were aked who they thought would be the next player to reach 600 career home runs. Did they say Pujols, Thome...or someone else?


BallHype: hype it up!

August 14, 2010

Albert Pujols Favored to Reach 600 Next

After Alex Rodriguez went deep last week and became just the seventh player in Major League history to accumulate 600 or more home runs, I had to ask...who will be the next player to do it?

Future Hall of Famers Jim Thome (579 career bombs) and Manny Ramirez (554) are both within shouting distance of the milestone...but at 39 and 38 years old respectively, their best years are behind them.

While it would be hard to root against Thome because he's 21 long balls away from 600...does he have enough in the tank to do it? He's hit just 15 this year and I'm not so sure he'll continue to get the at bats next season.

Ramirez, on the other hand...well, he looks to be close to done.

At just 30 years old, Washington's Adam Dunn (347) has done nothing but crush the ball since he entered the league. In each of his last nine seasons, Dunn has hit at least 25 or more home runs. From 2004-2008, he became just the second player to hit 40 or more home runs in five straight seasons.

The other? George Herman Ruth...who did it in seven straight years. And with 31 so far this season, Dunn looks to have 40 back on his radar after stalling out at 38 last year.

Second generation superstar Prince Fielder has the most home runs of anyone under the age of 30. With 185 home runs at the age of 26, the Milwaukee Brewers first baseman is making a name for himself as one of the National League's premier power hitters.

Not surprisingly, Albert Pujols seems to be the odds on favorite to be the next guy to do everything. Friday night, the 30 year-old hit career homer number 394 and barring sudden injury, will become the second youngest player to reach 400.

Here's how the vote panned out.

41% - Albert Pujols
40% - Jim Thome
6% - No one
5% - Prince Fielder
4% - Manny Ramirez
2% - Adam Dunn

So what do you think? Who has the edge...who did I miss? More importantly...will we see anyone get to 600 again?!?

Curious about A-Rod and his march to the milestone? Here are ten things you might not have known about his 600 home runs.


BallHype: hype it up!

August 13, 2010

Friday 5: Lenny Randle

With the Cardinals-Reds fracas from Tuesday night still making headlines, it's hard to not think of other basebrawls (see what I did there?) from throughout the history of the game.

One such incident occurred in 1977 and involved infielder Lenny Randle and his manager Frank Lucchesi. Out of respect to Randle and Lucchesi I won’t re-hash it here.

Randle has accomplished plenty since his days on the playing field…this week, he takes a crack at the “Friday 5”.

HOVG: Who was your biggest influence?

RANDLE: My Dad and Mom, my former managers Billy Martin, Ted Williams, Joe Torre and my coach Willie Mays.

HOVG: What is your most memorable travel experience?

RANDLE: Living in Italy the last 19 years and visiting 31 countries.

HOVG: What is your favorite baseball term or saying?

RANDLE: God bless…no stress.

HOVG: What is your best experience or greatest accomplishment?

RANDLE: Meeting the Pope and playing for four Presidents. Also…providing scholarships for more than 1500 students.

HOVG: When did you know that you “made it”?

RANDLE: I knew I made it at birth!

HOVG: Lastly, you joined a New York Yankees team in 1979 that had just come off a World Series Championship the year before. What stories do you have of the recently departed George Steinbrenner?

RANDLE: I have a thousand George Steinbrenner stories. As a Yankee, George made us feel like family. The media never knew the soft side and what he did for me, Billy Martin, (Graig) Nettles, Oscar Gamble, Goose (Gossage), Mickey Rivers and Roy White. He would give money to all our private mailboxes on the road with notes that said:

Go have a good time. Here’s $300. Enjoy! We are winners! George

After a big league career that saw Randle play for five Major League teams and set batting records overseas in Italy, he came home and got a master's degree in special education-adapted physical education from Arizona State.

Now…he’s the founder of the Lenny Randle Sports Academy, an instructional camp that offers private lessons and clinics to players around the country ages 7 to 17.

For more information on the Academy or any of the services that Randle offers, check out
his website.


BallHype: hype it up!

August 12, 2010

Chipper Jones...Career Over?

Tuesday night, Atlanta Braves third baseman Chipper Jones tweaked his left knee fielding a sixth inning grounder against Houston.

Today, he had an MRI...and it's not good.

According to Atlanta's 790 The Zone, the 38 year-old has a torn ACL and will miss the rest of the season. But let me throw this out...is his career over as well?

If so, we’ve had the honor of watching one of this generation’s best third basemen. And no, Yankees fans…I am not talking about Alex Rodriguez.

Initially a shortstop and occasionally a left fielder…Jones has anchored the hot corner for the Atlanta Braves for more than 80% of the games he’s played. But why doesn’t he get mentioned in the same breath as baseball’s elite?

Here’s a guy who isn’t stuck in a smaller market. Atlanta is on the East coast and TBS (or the Turner Broadcast System to you high brow muckety-mucks) carried “America’s Team” from 1972 until 2007, so obviously Jones got his fair share of exposure.

He hasn’t bounced around from team to team every year a la Matt Stairs or Royce Clayton (both played for close to a dozen teams)…he’s been with ONE team since he was selected with the first overall pick in the 1990 amateur draft.

There is absolutely no need to look at the transaction wire to see where Number 10 is suiting up next.

And arguably, while he his status as one of baseball’s best hitters has dimished slightly (he was batting just .265 with ten bombs this season)…he is possibly the greatest switch hitter the game has ever seen. With all apologies to Mickey Mantle and Eddie Murray…it’s Jones who holds the distinction of being the ONLY switch hitter to have a career batting average of .300 (currently .306) and 400 or more home runs.


Add to that the fact that Jones’ 2008 league leading batting average of .364 is only one tick off of Mantle’s season best .365 for a switch hitter and you’ve got more than just a great hitter from both sides of the dish…you’ve got one heck of a ball player.

From 1996 to 2008, Jones has hit .295 or higher in all but one season. Prior to 2009, he had 14 straight seasons with 20 or more home runs and eight straight seasons (nine total) of 100 or more RBI.

And speaking of streaks, Jones also played in an amazing ELEVEN straight post seasons from 1995 to 2005.

Incidentally (perhaps coincidentally), the Braves brought Atlanta their lone World Series championship in Jones’ rookie year, 1995. That post-season, he hit .364 and finished second in the Rookie of the Year voting to Hideo Nomo. As a sidenote, Nomo lost his only start that post-season as the Dodgers were swept by the Reds.

Four seasons later, in 1999, Jones brought home the MVP trophy when he hit .319 with 45 home runs and 110 RBI. He also swiped 25 of 28 bases! And not to sound like a broken record, but in 12 of his 14 seasons…he’s nabbed some MVP votes.

For his career, Jones has belted 436 home runs…third most for a switch hitter behind Mantle (536) and Murray (504). 358 of them coming as a third baseman.

I wrote before that by the end of this season, he’d have easily surpassed 1500 RBI and 2500 hits. Unfortuantely, it might be stuck at 1491 and 2490. His career OPS of .941 is 30th all-time and the only two players ahead of him that are Hall eligible and NOT enshrined are Mark McGwire and Lefty O'Doul.

The six-time All-Star holds most of the ATLANTA Braves team records and is situated alongside Hank Aaron and Mathews atop many of their franchise records. Should he come back, he’ll have eclipsed most of Mathews’ numbers except home runs. It’s safe to say he’ll never touch what “Hammerin’ Hank” did.

That being said…the dude is a lock for Cooperstown. He could retire today and waltz in without any more icing needed for the top of the proverbial Hall of Fame cake.

Hopefully, it'll be on his terms and not because of injury.



BallHype: hype it up!

August 10, 2010

Twitter Tuesday: Sign Guy

I'm not sure if this is just going to encourage him or not, but long ago, the guys over at Joe Sports Fan brought "Sign Guy" to the attention of the unsuspecting masses.

Basically, "Sign Guy" is a St. Louis fan who, apparently, spends his days and nights coming up with puns involving his beloved Cardinals. He then scrawls said puns on spare pieces of poster board and takes them to Busch Stadium in hopes to get on television.

Now...dude is on Twitter.

TWITTER HANDLE:
@STLCardsSignGuy

SAMPLE TWEETS:

MOLINA says YADIOS to Stealers!

With MATT every game is a HOLLIDAY!

Does LARUSSA know how to DEAL the CARDS?

With AARON the CARDS are MILES ahead!

WHITEY-St. Louis' favorite HONKEY!

Two Great Carpenters: JESUS and CHRIS!

And my personal favorite:

I put my pants on one leg at a time like everyone else, I just make great signs after I do.

As you can see, his zingers are pretty basic and, frankly...not that funny. That said, this guy has become every bit as much of the fabric of Cardinals baseball as Ronnie Woo Woo has on Chicago's Northside.

I'm just not sure if that is a good thing.

By the way..."Sign Guy" promises he will "enshrine" his 200th follower on a sign during ESPN's last game of the year. So what are you waiting for...follow this guy already!


BallHype: hype it up!

August 8, 2010

Catching Up with Daniel Nava

Much has been made about this season being “the year of the pitcher”. Well…you could also call it “the year of players hitting a home run in their first Major League at bat”.

Sure, it might be lengthy…but it would be appropriate because on Saturday, Toronto’s J.P. Arencibia became the fifth rookie to go yard in his first at bat this year.

And while 107 players have done the deed all-time…this is the most players to have done it in the same season at this point in the schedule. To make what Arencibia did all the more special, he became just the 27th player to go deep on the first pitch he saw.

This past June, Red Sox outfielder Daniel Nava became an overnight hero in Boston when he sent Joe Blanton’s first offering deep during a 10-2 victory over the Phillies.

I had a chance to catch up with Nava and reminisce about that blast.

HOVG: You made history in your first at bat by becoming just the fourth player in Major League history to hit a grand slam in his first at bat. Even better, only you and Kevin Kouzmanoff did it on the first pitch you saw. Did the thought of going yard ever cross your mind when you stepped up to the plate?

NAVA: No...it never crossed my mind.

HOVG: Walk us through the experience.

NAVA: The situation allowed me the opportunity to get that first pitch. We were trailing at the time and I was simply trying to put something into the outfield to bring home a run and even up the score. I was looking to do this early in the count, it just so happened to happen on the first pitch. I wasn't sitting on a particular pitch…I was more or less looking for anything that was going to allow me to get the job done. Once I made contact I initially thought the ball was in the gap but when I saw (Jayson) Werth take two steps and stop, I realized that it was gone. But the realization of what had happened is something that I still haven't grasped! My whole goal in rounding the bases was to make sure I touched all of them and didn't trip along the way! (Laughs)

HOVG: After you hit that grand slam and became a Boston legend, it came out that you used to leave tickets at the box office for Erin Andrews. Have you heard from the "Dancing with the Stars" finalist yet?

NAVA: (Laughs) I haven't talked with her. I'm sure she's got plenty of better things to do. Hopefully I'll get a chance to at least meet her. (Laughs)

HOVG: You spent some considerable time earlier this season patrolling the same patch of grass that Ted Williams, Carl Yastrzemski, Jim Rice and Manny Ramirez called home...what's that like?

NAVA: To have the opportunity to play left, which as you mentioned is the same ground some of baseballs greats have played, is exciting! Those guys have obviously made Fenway, as well as leftfield, a special place to play.

HOVG: What's next for Daniel Nava...what keeps you motivated?

NAVA: What's next? Well I learned a lot while I was up in Boston, but at the moment I'm back in Pawtucket, so I'm trying to work on my defense and tightening up my routes to balls and reads off the ball. In general, I’m trying to put myself in the best position I can on every pitch to make a play when a ball is hit my way. I have to say that this entire experience has been a lot of fun. I've learned a lot and know I still have a lot to learn. But I thank God everyday for the opportunities I've had and I hope there are more in the future.

Daniel Nava has bounced between Boston and their Triple-A affiliate Pawtucket this season. With the PawSox, he is hitting .297 with nine home runs and 44 RBI. In his 30-game stint with the Red Sox, he played a flawless leftfield and batted .290 with, yes…that one historic home run.



BallHype: hype it up!

August 7, 2010

Carlos Delgado Headed to Boston

A couple of weeks ago, I took at a look at the potential Hall of Fame class of 2015.

Now comes word that Carlos Delgado, a player that I categorized as "on the bubble", has inked a deal to play for the Boston Red Sox.

According to the Boston Herald, Delgado worked out for the Sox batting cages Friday before their game at Yankee Stadium. The former Blue Jays great had been working out at a facility in Long Island and had previously been linked to a handful of teams including the Los Angeles Angels, New York Yankees and Chicago White Sox.

But ultimately Boston makes the most sense for Delgado, who hasn't suited up in more than a year. And with All-Star Kevin Youkilis on the shelf for the rest of the season and oft-injured Mike Lowell filling in at first, Delgado's left-handed stroke and 473 home runs would add a little needed pop to the BoSox lineup.

Delgado is scheduled to report to Triple-A Pawtucket tomorrow, and according to his agent, David Sloane, he'll only need 10 days to two weeks to be ready after not playing since last May.

According to ESPN.com, the terms of Delgado's deal calls for him to be paid a prorated salary of $20,000 and includes a an opt-out date of September 1.

If the first baseman is promoted to the bigs, he'd be paid on a prorated salary of $3 million...or roughly $545,000 a month. There are performance clauses that would pay Delgado an additional $75,000 for being ALCS MVP and $100,000 for being named World Series MVP.

But what about those Hall chances?

If you look at Delgado's overall numbers, he stacks up rather favorably to some players already in the Hall of Fame. Among those players (according to
Baseball-Reference) are legends Willie Stargell, Willie McCovey and Duke Snider.

Of the more recent players on the list, Delgado matches up well with Jeff Bagwell, Fred McGriff and Andres Galarraga.
The problem? None of the three of them are considered shoe-ins...and neither should Delgado.

Delgado's career totals...a .280 batting average, 473 home runs and 1512 RBI are impressive. Unfortunately, the climate of today's baseball frontier is such that if you didn't produce those numbers over the span of a 17-year career...it is deemed a failure of sorts.

No hardware to speak of, only two All-Star appearances and a mere 2038 hits...yeah, Delgado is going to need a little more to get my support.



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August 6, 2010

Friday 5: Delino DeShields Jr.

Every year the MLB draft seems to be littered with familiar names. Full of sons, brothers, nephews...the 2010 draft was no different.

Two months ago, the Houston Astros drafted Delino DeShields Jr. with their eighth overall pick. His father, selected with the 12th overall pick in 1987, played 13 seasons for five different teams.

Junior looks to start soon with his first.

"It's a done deal everybody I'm officially an Astro wish me luck" was the message DeShields sent out to his friends on facebook Thursday.

Today...he's taking part in the "Friday 5".

HOVG: How does it feel knowing you just inked a deal to play pro ball?

DeSHIELDS: It's a good feeling and definitely a relief. I'm just really happy that it's over with. It is a once in a lifetime opportunity and I'm glad that God gave me the abilities to make it to this point

HOVG: Aside from your Dad...who was your biggest influence and why?

DeSHIELDS: I never really had an influence. I mean, I always wanted to be like my dad but other than that...no one else really influenced me

HOVG: Do you think the pressures to succeed are greater being the son of a former Major Leaguer?

DeSHIELDS: I think the pressures to succeed are definitely going to be hard because people are going to judge me, but that's a part of the game and I'm not going to let anyone bring me down. I'm just going to go out every day, play my hardest and prove all of my doubters that I deserve to be in this organization

HOVG: What are you looking forward to the most in the pros?

DeSHIELDS: I'm looking for all of the free stuff honestly. (Laughs) I really won't have to pay for my equipment anymore which is a relief.

HOVG: Let's look into the future...what'll be your walk up music?

DeSHIELDS: My walk up music? Well if I were to pick one now it would be "Ball All Day" by Roscoe Dash.

According to MLB Trade Rumors, the Astros gave DeShields $2.15 million signing bonus. He will report to the Astros' team in the Gulf Coast League on Friday. The 17 year-old (he'll turn 18 on August 16) is scheduled to stay there for a week before joining rookie level Greenville of the Appalachian League.


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August 5, 2010

Derek Jeter Had a Good Game Too!

Perhaps overshadowed by the fact that his teammate Alex Rodriguez finally got that monkey off his back and slugged home run number 600 is the history that Yankees captain Derek Jeter made on Wednesday.

Not only was it the 50th time that A-Rod knocked in Jeter with a homer...but the shortstop was also on base three years ago (to the day) when number 500 was hit.

But enough about Rodriguez and his milestone. For now.

With four hits, Jeter surpassed Yankees great Joe DiMaggio with his 35th 4-for-4 game. For his career, the Yankees hit king is sitting at 2872...one behind Babe Ruth on all-time leaderboard.

Not only did the Yankees captain get four hits, but two of them were doubles. Jeter entered the game tied with Hall of Famers Sam Crawford and Jimmie Foxx with 458. He ended the contest with 460 and tied with another Hall of Famer...Dan Brouthers

By scoring three runs, Jeter put his career total at 1652. When he rounded the bases in the first inning after Rodriguez sent number 600 deep, Jeter passed up Hall of Famer Joe Morgan (1650 runs scored) on the all-time list.

So yeah, Alex Rodriguez had a pretty good afternoon (check out ten things you might not have known about his milestone HERE), but let's not forget his teammate Derek Jeter and his own pursuit of excellence.


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August 4, 2010

Behind-the-scenes of the Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame Weekend

Sitting atop the National League Central on August 5…you might think that this is the best the Cincinnati Reds have fared going into the last two months of the season since their 1990 World Series championship.

You'd be wrong.

This year’s incredible turnaround (a .560 winning percentage) is actually good for their fifth best record at this point in the season since they swept the A’s nearly 20 years ago.

Glenn Braggs was a member of that wire-to-wire championship team and was on hand a couple of weeks ago when he and his teammates were honored at the annual Reds Hall of Fame Induction.

I recently caught up with the slugger, and here is his exclusive account of what went down that weekend.

The weekend was a combination 1990 Championship Team Reunion as well as Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony. I arrived Friday morning on a red eye from Los Angeles and met up with the guys from that World Series team at Great American Ball Park later that evening.

About 13 of the guys showed and it was great to hookup again and rehash memories. Our team had a lot of camaraderie and hasn't missed a beat. Reds Hall of Famers Barry Larkin, Eric Davis and Tom Browning were there as well as 2010 Inductee Chris Sabo.

The Reds beat the Rockies that night and following the game, we were honored on field with a tribute and a pre-Hall of Fame ceremony for this year’s inductees Pedro Borbon, Chris Sabo and Tony Mulane. Afterward, M.C. Hammer performed and we all loved it considering his song "U Can't Touch This" was our clubhouse theme song in 1990.

On Saturday, there was a meet-and-greet at the Reds Hall of Fame with the fans and later, we attended another game at the ballpark to see the Reds win again. I also met up with legendary club house manager Bernie Stowe and he was still as feisty as ever.

Johnny Bench and ESPN Announcer Joe Morgan were there and it was as though we were all family. Many of the former Reds from the “Big Red Machine” were on hand as well as many Reds greats such as Tommy Helms and Jim O'Toole.

Not many people know this, but I wore number 15 because George Foster was one of my favorite players and we always have great chats when I see him. I always enjoy re-connecting with all of these guys because baseball is a fraternity and it doesn't really matter what era you played in.

Sunday saw another game in which the Reds fought hard but this time lost a close one. Afterward, the Hall of Fame Gala began with tributes to the 1990 Championship Team, Pete Rose becoming the all-time hits leader, and, of course, the inductions of three new Reds Hall of Famers.


A big thanks to Glenn Braggs for serving as The Hall of Very Good’s eyes and ears at the Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame weekend. To check out more photos from the weekend…click HERE!


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Ten Things About Alex Rodriguez and His 600 Home Runs

Weight lifted...monkey gone.

Alex Rodriguez has joined Barry Bonds, Hank Aaron, Babe Ruth, Willie Mays, Sammy Sosa and Ken Griffey Jr. as the one of the only players to slug for 600 or more home runs for their career...and he did it exactly three years to the day after he slugged number 500.

For Rodriguez, it took 2267 games…the second quickest behind Ruth (2044 games) to do so. That said, when he took Shawn Marcum deep in the first inning of today's
game, A-Rod became the youngest to accomplish the feat at just 35 years, 8 days old…nearly two full years younger than Ruth when he did the deed.

Here are ten things that I bet you might not have known about the 600 home runs that Rodriguez has hit.

365
Since he hit his first home run June 12, 1995 off Tom Gordon, Rodriguez has gone on to victimized 364 other pitchers. Atop the hit list at eight are three pitchers…Ramon Ortiz, David Wells and Bartolo Colon. All-time home run king Jamie Moyer has given up six longballs to the Yankees third baseman. And of the 365 pitchers Rodriguez has taken deep…some of them were siblings. The brothers Hernandez (Livan and Orlando) and Weaver (Jeff and Jered) are responsible for a combined 12 home runs.

255
I don’t have to tell anyone, but the New York Yankees are not only A-Rod’s third team, but it is the team that he’s been the most productive for. Since he first landed in the Big Apple in 2004…he’s hit 255 home runs. For his first team, the Seattle Mariners, he hit 189 homers and in just three seasons with the Texas Rangers…he hit a mind boggling 156 home runs. Wow.

122
Just a few days into August, A-Rod’s 600th home run was also his 122nd career bomb during August. Coincidentally, it is also the month he has had his best production. Rodriguez hit a career-best 15 in August 2003. And if you’re keeping track (and I am)…Rodriguez has only ONE home run in March, 86 in April and June, 104 in May, 107 in June, 89 in September and six in October.

109
For his career, Rodriguez hits a home run once every 14.4 at bats…good for tenth all-time. However, did you know that it took him 109 plate appearances before he hit his first ball out of the yard?

100
One-sixth of Rodriguez’s home runs have come on the first pitch. The most pitches he’s seen before hitting one out? Nine. Four times, A-Rod has taken the count full and connected on the tenth pitch.

50
When it comes to driving people in, only Manny Ramirez has more RBI among active players. One player Ramirez has never driven in is the same guy who A-Rod has knocked in 50 times since 2004…Derek Jeter. After Jeter, Joey Cora has been hit in 26 times, Gary Sheffield 19 times and Rodriguez’s teammate with both the Rangers and the Yankees, Mark Teixeira…16 times.

26
Thanks to Interleague play, Alex Rodriguez has been able to victimize pitchers in both leagues. For his career, he’s slugged one out against 26 teams. Only the Florida Marlins, Cincinnati Reds, St. Louis Cardinals and Chicago Cubs have not given up home runs to A-Rod. And the team he’s crushed the most? The California/Anaheim/Los Angeles Angels. Rodriguez has taken the Halos deep 67 times. And in case you were wondering, A-Rod’s 600 home runs have come in 31 different ballparks.

13
Rodriguez has gotten a bad rap for his post-season play, but for his career, he’s hit 12 home runs in the Playoffs and one in his lone World Series appearance.

1
And speaking of home runs that don’t account for his career total of 600, A-Rod has also hit one All-Star home run. In the fifth inning of 1998’s Midsummer Classic, Rodriguez took Andy Ashby yard.

0
Even though, he is sitting one stolen base away from joining Barry Bonds and Willie Mays as being one of only three players to have 600 home runs and 300 steals…Alex Rodriguez has NO inside-the-park home runs. It’s true…Alex Rodriguez has the most home runs without having at least one inside-the-park job. By comparison, Babe Ruth has ten.

So there you have it, gang. You thought you knew everything about Alex Rodriguez and his 600 career home runs. And even though he gave everyone ample time to search out every nugget of information...I'd wager you didn’t.


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