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Gregg Zaun Jersey

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It’s not every day that you get to meet a World Series champion.

But having the chance to be trained by one? That’s a rarity, although it could become reality for young baseball players in Surrey this summer.

Former Toronto Blue Jays catcher Gregg Zaun is hosting a baseball camp from July 2-3 at Whalley Athletic Park. He will be joined by former baseball pros, including Whalley Little League icon and former Major League Baseball player Justin Atkinson.

After being fired as an analyst from Rogers Sportsnet in November, 2017, following allegations of “inappropriate behaviour and comments” toward female employees, Zaun pursued other avenues to stay involved in baseball. He recently spoke to the Now-Leader about his new-found inspiration: training young baseball players and growing the Gregg Zaun Pro Camp.

“I was lucky,” Zaun said. “I have uncles who played professional baseball, so it was passed from one generation to another. Not every kid gets gifted that opportunity, and I feel blessed to be able to pass the game on to the next generation.”

“Lots of kids these days learn from watching videos, but when someone who’s played the game at a higher level is able to share their experiences about their techniques that made them successful, I think that’s an invaluable asset for young athletes.”

It didn’t take Zaun long to realize his passion for teaching baseball to youngsters.

“I did a 10-week catching clinic in Toronto,” he said. “Often these guys go from being terrified of the baseball to embracing it. I have a nine-year-old who catches the equivalent of a 95 mile-per-hour sinker now.”

“With hitters, I’m starting to watch kids at 10 or 11 years old hit 65 mile-per-hour curveballs. Watching these kids lose their fear or watching those lightbulb moments with guys and girls playing baseball is something else, it’s really special.”

After teaching baseball to youth in the Greater Toronto Area, Zaun decided he wanted to take the camps across Canada.

Now, the Gregg Zaun Pro Camp just recently returned from Peterborough and will make stops in Kelowna and Edmonton, following the camp in Surrey.

“I wanted to make sure it wasn’t just Canadians in the Toronto area who got the chance to see how other professional baseball players went about their business.”

The California-born Zaun, who won a World Series with Florida Marlins in 1997 before playing for the Blue Jays from 2004 to 2008, now calls Canada home.

That’s part of the reason why he’s dedicated to improving the game in Canada, although he believes baseball in this country is already in a good place.

“I think Canada is making progress in the baseball world,” he said. “There’s an untapped resource of talent, for sure.”

“My goal is to help Canadian kids compete on the world stage, and I really believe the only thing holding these kids back is the opportunity to train year-round.”

“Certainly, weather plays a role. It makes a difference when you’re able to train 11 months of the year. If you want to compete with kids from down in the Southern U.S., in Latin America and in Asia, you need to get out and just do it, train full-tilt.”

Zaun does have a long-term vision of building training facilities in Canada. He envisions facilities with retractable roofs and enough space so that budding baseball stars could train around the clock.

“You look at these kids in Canada, they’re as good as anywhere else in the world, they just need the opportunity to be coached and trained year-round. That’s what I’m trying to do, create an environment where that can happen.

“I’m passionate about the game. Anybody who loves the game like I do, you want to see these kids get an opportunity to get to the next level.”

There is a storied history of baseball in Surrey, with the Whalley Little League existing for more than 60 years. They’ve also represented Canada at the Little League World Series on five occasions, with one of those appearances coming in 2018.

Zaun is no stranger to B.C., since his wife is from Kelowna, but this will be the first true visit to Surrey.

“I know a few guys from Surrey, and they tell me about how passionate the kids are for baseball. It’s going to be a really good experience for these kids. We want kids to know about it and come on out. Opportunities like this don’t happen too often. It’s a good experience to take advantage of these professionals and their time.”

For more information on the Gregg Zaun Pro Camp, visit Registration closes on June 20, with a fee of $200 per player.

Dennis Cook Jersey

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Spending sixteen years in the Major Leagues playing for some of the smartest coaches and managers, being teammates with dozens of All-Stars and Hall of Fame players and playing a position in catcher-which tends to translate into having a strong baseball acumen-Chad Kreuter has a ton of knowledge to share.

Since being drafted in the fifth round of the 1985 Major League Draft by the Texas Rangers, Kreuter, 55, made sure he absorbed as much knowledge and information as he could. A student of the game, Kreuter’s belief was that he could never have enough tutelage as it would be something that could either enhance his game, or, something to steer clear of.

After playing for seven different organizations primarily as a backup catcher from 1988 to 2003, Kreuter has taken what he’s learned over his career to aid the next wave of talent who are trying to turn their dreams into a reality.

Since 2017, the former switch-hitting catcher has been the manager of the Mets’ Class A Advanced team, the St. Lucie Mets. Bringing prior managerial experience from stops with the Modesto Nuts (the former Class A Advanced team of the Colorado Rockies) and four years as head coach at USC, Kreuter has been entrusted with helping to shape the young prospects in the Mets organization.

From Tyler Bashlor to Jeff McNeil to Pete Alonso, Kreuter has seen several of his former players move up the minor league rungs to reach their ultimate goal of playing in the majors.

In his first season at the helm of St. Lucie in 2017, Kreuter had two current Mets stars on his roster in Jeff McNeil and Pete Alonso. Listening to Kreuter speak about his two former players is akin to listening to a proud father rave about his sons. Kreuter offers honest assessments of what the pair needed to work on to better accentuate their strengths on the field during his time with them.

Player development is crucial, and so too is having a manager that understands how to relate to players and teach them the proper fundamentals and baseball IQ. Having the patience and realization that not all players progress at the same time, and understanding that what works for some players doesn’t for all is something a minor league manager must balance when handling prospects with various skill-sets. Kreuter takes pride in his ability to impart his baseball wisdom on the next generation of players, and takes his responsibility of playing a role in their development seriously.

Kreuter’s professional career, which spanned nearly two decades when you include the minor leagues, gave him plenty of time to develop a wealth of knowledge and instruction to assist young players.

For his career, Kreuter appeared in 944 big league games, posting a slash line of .237/.335/.357 with a career caught stealing rate of 36 percent, ranking in the top-five of caught stealing five different times (1992-94, ’97, ’00).

His career was nearly derailed after a brutal home plate collision with Johnny Damon in July 1996, in which he broke his left shoulder. Just a few days after the collision, Kreuter suffered internal bleeding caused by stomach lacerations, putting his shoulder surgery on hold. The doctors told Kreuter that the odds were extremely low that he’d ever be able to play baseball again, though he knew this was not going to be the way his career was going to end.

Working tirelessly in rehab, including incorporating his own routine like water workouts, Kreuter made it back to the majors the following year, signing with the Chicago White Sox in the offseason. He went on to appear in 493 games from 1997-03, which seemed nearly impossible given the doctor’s initial prognosis after his injury.

Kreuter brings that strong will and ingenuity to his work as manager for St. Lucie. The 2020 season will be his fourth year as manager, and he hopes that the experience will help him rise through the ranks with the ultimate goal of one day managing in the majors.

I had the privilege of speaking with Kreuter in early November where we discussed his lengthy career, working back from a near career-ending injury and his thoughts on some of the players he’s managed with St. Lucie.

MMO: Who were some of your favorite players growing up?

Kreuter: I studied the catchers. I grew up in the Bay Area and I would go to the Giants and A’s games. I’d go to wherever I could get to on the weekends whenever they were playing.

I used to go early and walk in with the players and watch batting practice and all of that. Early on I remember watching Gene Tenace. And I’d watch all the catchers that came through like Johnny Bench when he’d come and play the Giants, along with Carlton Fisk and Bob Boone.

As I started understanding more parts of the game I really liked watching George Brett and Robin Yount, and then I got to play with and against those guys when I broke into the big leagues.

Mainly I learned the game by watching the catchers because that’s what I was and I wanted to know how they moved and how they caught the ball. I copied that and made it my own.

I really never had a catching coach, just myself watching and mimicking the different guys and styles I saw.

Photo by Ed Delany, MMO

MMO: At what point during your youth and development did you start primarily catching?

Kreuter: I started catching when I was around eight-years-old. I remember one of my first Little League games they rolled out the catcher’s gear and the coach asked, “Who wants to catch? It’s one of the quickest ways to the big leagues.” I said, ‘I’ll do it!’ So that’s how it started.

I really never played anything else. I did play shortstop, pitched and played some third base here and there. But I was good behind the plate. I could always throw guys out, was always quick and could always block the balls so it was just a natural fit for me.

MMO: Did you have any notion that the Texas Rangers were looking to draft you prior to the 1985 MLB Draft?

Kreuter: Not at all. Back then there was no social media. You knew scouts were watching and I really thought the Cubs were going to draft me because those were the guys who talked with me the most. But I had no clue that the Rangers were even around or who the Rangers’ scouts were at the time.

It ended up being a scout who just passed away recently, John Young, and he’s the one who drafted me and got me with the Rangers.

MMO: You had a breakout year in 1993 with the Detroit Tigers, setting career highs in games (119), HR (15), RBI (51) & OPS+ (130). Was there anything physically or mechanically that you changed or altered to have such great success that season?

Kreuter: I think it was a matter of getting an opportunity to play and watching guys hit at the big league level. When I signed as a pro player in 1985 I was a right-handed hitter, I was not a switch-hitter. I was a right-handed hitter with a bad downward plane swing and when I got to the big leagues I had my lunch handed to me by all the righties.

As I got into pro ball I could make a lot of good contact but it was hard ground balls; it wasn’t the line drives or the fly balls that you’re seeing today. I certainly was strong enough to hit some home runs but I had a bad swing path. It took a while to change.

Then about a year and a half into my pro ball experience, I was messing around in the cage hitting left-handed and the front office said they wanted me to start doing that. I actually started switch-hitting in High-A in Salem, Virginia, in 1986 and I did it until I got to the big leagues. I did so in the ’87 season, ’88 season in Double-A and then I got called to the big leagues. I made the big league team in ’89 and got sent back down. They turned me back around to just right-handed and so I went that rest of the year and the following one all right-handed.

I went down to winter ball and the manager there was Tom Gamboa, who used to be with the Mets and other clubs. And he said, “You have a great left-handed swing. I think that you should continue (switch-hitting) because if you’re a switch-hitting catcher it’s going to open more doors for you.” So I went back to hitting left-handed.

After my ’91 season, I became a free agent and that’s when the Rangers called up Pudge (Rodriguez) right in the middle of the season. I got sent down, I actually went to Triple-A and was playing every day and doing well. I was then told I was going to be on the bench as a backup, I was kind of getting pushed out. I asked if I could go to Double-A to play everyday and I knew they didn’t have a catcher there that was an everyday guy. So I went down and played every day in Double-A and then right after the season was over the Tigers signed me and made the big league club in ’92.

MMO: I didn’t realize you started switch-hitting so late into your career. That certainly seems like a rarity in the game.

Kreuter: It was a rarity and I think I was a good enough athlete that I was able to do it. The unfortunate thing for me was after I got hurt in ’96-when I got run over by Johnny Damon at home plate-I broke my left shoulder and I was never supposed to play again because of the injury. I didn’t have the strength or the explosive quickness from either side of the plate to have any offensive numbers at that point anymore.

I changed swings again and really concentrated on putting the bat head on the ball, being a tough out and not being a guy to try and drive it because I didn’t have much power in that time.

MMO: You mentioned your injury from 1996, and July 19 must be a date that’s always ingrained in your mind because of it. Can you talk a bit about the injury and your ensuing complications from it?

Kreuter: There were a lot of complications. I broke the glenoid and the scapula: the glenoid is the joint in the shoulder and the scapula is in the back of the shoulder. Those were broken like a pane of glass. I think the glenoid was in three pieces and the scapula was in over fifty pieces that were visible. I have two six-inch plates, seven one-inch screws and nine staples that are still in my shoulder and muscle that put everything back together. The doctors called me Humpty Dumpty (Laughs)!

The scary part of it was I got hurt on a Friday night in Chicago, and the team immediately tried to best asses where I could be served by surgery and see what they could do. They sent me to L.A. and when I went out there I was feeling terrible.

On Saturday night and Sunday I wasn’t in the hospital but I went in the hospital for all kinds of tests and they had me stay at a hotel at night. Monday morning I woke up and I just felt terrible. My wife called the doctor and told them I was pale and not feeling good. I tried to get in the shower thinking that I would feel better getting in there and the next thing I knew I woke up in an operating room.

What happened was I had lost a third of my blood supply into my stomach and I was bleeding internally. Nobody had caught that on Saturday and Sunday so I lost a third of my blood supply and my body was in its last gasp of trying to survive. It put me into convulsions and I was in the shower at the time. I fell out of the shower and got wedged between the shower and was flopping around like a trout on the floor. I pulled the shower curtain down and my wife was actually on the phone with the doctors at the time it happened, and was able to call 9-1-1.

The ambulance was driving by the hotel at the time so they were up to me within two or three minutes she said. They were able to get tubes down my throat; apparently they weren’t even able to get a pulse. I was almost done at that point in time. I was rushed in and they attended the wounds that I had and had to cauterize down in my esophagus because I was bleeding into my stomach.

MMO: It’s pretty incredible that after such a terrible injury and a terrifying medical scare that you were able to make it back to the big leagues.

Kreuter: Yeah, yeah. After I came to I had lost so much blood they couldn’t do the surgery. They were supposed to do the surgery on Tuesday and this was Monday, so they canceled the surgery and told me they had to get me blood and I had to build some of my own blood.

My wife donated blood, my brother-in-law and father-in-law donated, they all had the same blood type. I got enough blood and then I got some plasma, and by the next Tuesday or Wednesday, I had surgery. It gave the doctors a better window and game plan because they were able to consult around the country on how they were going to do it and what they were going to try to do. Then they went in and tackled the surgery.

Initially, they didn’t want to do any surgery, it was just basically hang with ’em. And that wasn’t an option for me. I’m not that type of guy that’s just sit around and do nothing. I’m not that guy, I don’t want to be that guy. At least let’s go down trying. If we’re going to crash and burn let’s try. They asked me if I was sure and I told them I wanted them to go in and try and do it and if it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work. If it works, it’s going to be God’s hand in there.

When I came out of surgery they told me it went well but we’ll have to see. They said my rehab was now going to be the key to this whole thing. I did my rehab outside the box the whole time; I’m an outside the box thinker. I don’t conform real well to a whole lot of things. They basically tied my arm to my chest and said, “Don’t move for the next six weeks.” To me that didn’t make any sense because I looked down at my arm and I looked down at my wrist and I’m already atrophied; it looked like I had a young girl’s arm after I came out of surgery.

I knew that I had to do something so when I got discharged from the hospital-it took about a week to get discharged-I had my wife stop at Home Depot on the way home and I bought all types of supplies. She was like, “What are you doing?” I told her I had a plan.

When I got home I had to be propped up to sleep because there was no laying down. I had a tube in the back of my shoulder that was draining. What I ended up doing was putting a pulley up to my ceiling and figured out a way where I could strap something to my wrist and pull my arm up and down just to get some movement while I sat and watched TV.

From there it went to doing water workouts where my wife would put duct tape and cellophane on my back to cover up the eight-inch incision and the tube that was coming out of my back so no water could get in there. I’d try to put my arm up as high as I could because out of the water I was paralyzed, there was no movement.

But in the water, I could manipulate some movement with using the floats and the buoyancy of the water. I did that every single day and I was in the water for eight to ten hours, plus I was doing some rehab with a physical therapist that was basically stretching to try and break up scar tissue. There was nothing I could do physically initially other than just start stretching and trying to break up scar tissue around the breaks. I progressed to just doing pull stuff underwater.

I got hurt on July 19 and by December 24 I had the White Sox come and see my workout and they signed me that night for the next season. That was my Christmas present to myself. I was able to get myself in good enough physical condition to trick everybody, let’s put it that way (laughs).

MMO: So without the surgery, there was no way of you getting back into the game? And even then the doctors didn’t like your chances?

Kreuter: Yes. That was the only option and it was a long shot at best. They said it was like a 99 to one long shot to be able to have any movement. But see, they didn’t count on me doing anything underwater. The first couple of times I went back to the doctor for checkups-every seven days I would have to go back-they’d ask me where my brace was and where’s all the stuff we gave you? I told them I threw it away and they’d chew me out. They’d give me a new one and as I walked out the door of the hospital I’d throw it away again. I let my arm hang and it hurt, it hurt like hell.

What I learned was how far I could push my body and how your body responds to stuff like that. I figured if I could bounce back from that I could do anything. And that’s kind of how I am. I was going to push through it and I was going to grind through it, and if it didn’t work, it didn’t work, but at least I tried.

I wasn’t going to give anything less than 100 percent and then hang my hat on it when it was all said and done.

MMO: Wow! You essentially saved your career with all the extra rehab work you put in. That’s an incredible story of perseverance!

Kreuter: Yeah, it really was. I willed my way back and I was a smart enough player. But I’m going to tell you: I shouldn’t have played in the big leagues at that point in time. I was not skilled enough to play in the big leagues. I was not strong enough, I wasn’t physically capable of being a guy who could be an everyday guy or potentially an everyday guy.

I would catch balls and it was painful, I’d have to wince and nobody knew I was wincing. If someone came and slapped me on the back of the shoulder, I mean, I would basically buckle to my knees. That’s how much pain there was for the first year or so.

When they opened up the back of my shoulder, picture curtains in a hotel room, you pull back the curtains. That’s what they did to all of my muscles; they pulled those muscles back and separated them so they could get into the scapula and put the pieces back together. And all of those muscles sat there pinned back for six-plus hours.

Lost all their blood, lost all their size and then they put them back and they were just a wreck. It takes forever for those things to build back. You could actually walk behind me and you could touch the screws, you could see where the screws were initially, because there was no muscle. It was just bone and skin.

After about a two year period I started getting some development back and it started growing back. It was just grinding away. I used to be a scratch golfer, I haven’t played much golf since because it wasn’t time to play golf. It was time to lift and create some strength in my shoulder on an everyday basis. It was spending six to eight hours a day developing my shoulders.

The good thing was I did it on my right side too, and I had a great arm before I got hurt. My arm was even better after I got hurt! The scapula is directly related to the strength of throwing, so when I did all the scapula exercises to get the movement back, I did it on the right side and it helped me get stronger and throw better.

MMO: That’s right, you had a terrific throwing arm. You finished in the top-5 in caught stealing percentage five times in your career (1992, 93, 94, 97, 2000). Were there certain drills you worked on for arm strength and exchange?

Kreuter: Everything has changed, film has changed everything. Even though we had film, it wasn’t accessible. You couldn’t view it the same way you can now and break it down in slow motion and see little key things. Or go into a 3-D motion lab and see actual movement where the kinetic link is broken.

It was a lot of feel and I played a lot of long toss, a lot of catch. I learned to do that initially as a caddie to Nolan Ryan in 1989 when I was a rookie. I was his catcher and my assignment basically was, Nolan wants to go play catch? Go play catch. When he’s ready to throw a bullpen, go throw a bullpen. When he wants to lift, go lift with him.

He would go out to ungodly distances and throw and my arm would fall off the first couple of weeks. As I was getting in better shape I understood how to play catch, and what he was doing. That’s how he played, he was so far ahead of the game that way it was amazing.

Photo by Ed Delany, MMO

MMO: You brought up Nolan Ryan as someone who was an early influence. Throughout your 16-year Major League career, were there one or two pitchers who you felt like you had the best rapport with?

Kreuter: I had a great rapport with Nolan. He was very complimentary, I felt like he didn’t shake me off much. We went over game plans.

One of my mentors early on was Charlie Hough. He was a knuckleball pitcher obviously, but he could prepare you. One of the things we’d do on the road was I’d meet him for breakfast every day, and I was the backup catcher, but he prepared me. We’d pull out the lineup as we’re going into New York to face the Yankees and you’re going to face Don Mattingly, Dave Winfield and all the different guys on the team. How are you going to pitch them with Nolan? And then he asked how are you going to pitch them with Kevin Brown? Jeff Russell? Paul Kilgus? All the different guys that we had and so he taught me that you don’t pitch everybody the same. It’s not cookie-cutter, it’s all about angles. Guys hit angles, guy hit different pitchers and that’s why you see certain guys rake against some guys and they can’t hit other guys. He taught me that and said you have to learn these things.

When I caught Nolan it was one of those things where we tried to get Nolan’s best stuff and if he didn’t match up then we would pitch around certain guys. Nolan would do that and so it was fun and I had a great learning experience there with Charlie and Nolan. It was really fun.

MMO: At what point did you realize that you wanted to get into coaching/managing?

Kreuter: When I was with the Dodgers in 2000-02, Davey Johnson and Jim Tracy were my managers and Jim Riggleman was the bench coach there. I think at that point in time it was you’re getting up there in age, and I was hoping to play until I was 42. I was done at 38. The uniform was taken away from me at 38.

In hindsight, I probably should’ve tried to play a couple more years but I was at the point where I needed to be with my kids and my family and that was outweighing the grind of getting on the flights and all of that.

I think at that point I was starting to see that there was a career after playing, and this is what it can be (managing). I didn’t necessarily pursue it to pro ball right away. When I was done after the 2003 season, I took 2004 off and then I went to USC and helped out my father-in-law, Mike Gillespie, who was the head coach there. I went over to help him as a volunteer assistant. After one year there the Rockies courted me to go manage and I turned them down umpteen times before they finally convinced me to come over there.

When I was managing in Modesto, USC fired my father-in-law and offered me the job. I didn’t want to take it. With the Rockies, we had talked about working myself up the managing chain, and they had talked about trying to promote me and trying to do stuff within that organization.

But my father-in-law convinced me, he called me and told me I needed to take this job. He told me it would be a great job, that it was twenty-years for him and it could be twenty-years for me and that my kids could go there. And he’s a Trojan, he went to school there. I was thinking about my kids and family and I did it.

In hindsight, it wasn’t a good move. I was there for four years and I hadn’t gotten my full recruiting classes in. I had probably too good of an eye on some of the guys because I committed guys like Mike Moustakas, Giancarlo Stanton–who was Mike at the time-and Tim Beckham. A ton of guys that were going through and I lost in the Draft and in that point in time the Draft was kind of a free for all. Those guys could get drafted in the fifth or sixth rounds and still be offered big money.

I was losing guys late. I almost got Moustakas, he signed in the umpteenth hour. Stanton was a late sign. I had a lot of fun but by the time I got fired, it was because the athletic director, Mike Garrett, got fired, and they brought in a new athletic director who wanted his own new guys. I understood that. I felt like I needed to get my class in, and in that incoming class, I had Joc Pederson moving into his dorm the day I got fired, along with Shawon Dunston’s son, and a couple of other guys in that caliber. They were moving into their dorms and ended up signing the next day with their teams because I got fired. And obviously you’ve seen Joc and what he’s done.

There was a whole group of guys and we figured it out and we just didn’t get those guys into the classes. Then it took a little bit to get back into pro ball after that because once I jumped from the pro side to the college side I think everyone thought, what’s to stop him from doing it again? But I learned my lesson. I don’t want any part of that college ball anymore.

The way I looked at it was, I’m more pro-development rather than win now at the cost of the kids, which is kind of what college baseball is. It’s win at all costs and not so much develop the guys and let them develop. Their mindset is let them develop in pro ball. But I’m the opposite, I was like, I’m going to develop them here and if I have to take my lumps for a year with a guy because we’re revamping his swing or fixing his mound mechanics, that’s alright. I’m not going to get him up there and blow out an arm trying to just let him throw hard.

MMO: It’s interesting, I interviewed Dennis Cook for Mets Merized, and he was coaching in the Cape Cod League a few years back. He mentioned how many of the players didn’t have routines before starts. He was in shock that so many players from big schools weren’t being properly prepared on the development side of it.

Kreuter: I get it, as a coach your job hinges on 17-18-19-20-year-old players. You’ve got to get them in lockstep and in line, and they’ve got to do what you want them to do and can’t deviate off it. There’s a lot of cookie cutting with guys. And I find that hard to do, everyone is an individual and going to develop at different times.

It’s the same thing here in St. Lucie. I’ve got Hansel Moreno; he’s going to develop at a different time than Andres Gimenez. Even though they’re both extremely talented, their timeline and when they’re going to develop is totally different. We can’t force Hansel to develop right now. Sure, we’d love him to develop right now, but you can’t force him to do that. So it takes a little bit of time, and when his time arrives and he figures it out it’s going to be oh yeah, oh wow! But can you wait until he’s 26? I don’t know. It’s what’s the system going to see? Is it win now or is somebody else going to come and replace him?

Talent is amazing but you have to be able to put the talent together and you have to be able to have some patience with the talent. And other times you push the talent a little bit more. You push a Pete Alonso because he’s showing that he can do this and he can push through it with not all the right movements and all the fluidity of being a great fielder, but doing things he’ll be capable of.

You drive him through the system and look what he does. The best thing the Mets did this year was put him in the big leagues and not start him in Triple-A. That sparked him to have a great year. If they would’ve started him in Triple-A he probably wouldn’t have had that type of year. His confidence would’ve been a little bit lower, dejected a little bit. But that decision was a great one to do it.

MMO: You brought up Pete Alonso, who you managed in 2017. What did you see from Alonso early on, and what kind of work did you put in him with that year?

Kreuter: He was a train-wreck in some areas and he was an amazing talent in others. My job as a manager, along with all the other coaches, are to eliminate those weaknesses and then to start accentuating those strengths. He was not mentally ready for pro ball at that point in time and that was part of his demise early on as a player. And I say that because he wasn’t ready for the grind and he wasn’t realistic in how he was trying to approach the game.

He was trying to do too much and when you try to do too much in this game it becomes overwhelming for the player. And so what we tried to do was break it down, take one at-bat at a time and don’t give away at-bats. We revamped his swing a little bit and gave him a plan; he didn’t have much of a plan on an every pitch-to-pitch basis.

It started from the time he got to the clubhouse, walked into the cage and took his swings in the cage. He didn’t have a plan doing that, he didn’t have a plan when he went out for batting practice and he didn’t have a plan when he got into the game. All of his plans was more of an unrealistic one of how he was going to go about his business.

It was pulling in the reigns, slowing it down and saying hey, here’s how we’re going to do it. You’re going to be fine but let us not be in such a hurry to get things done. Understand how we’re going to put your swing path and make more contact. Understand that we’re going to create a plan so you don’t give away pitches. Understand that we’re going to have this plan where you don’t give away pitches, plus you don’t give away at-bats.

It just kept building and building and building and you saw his first 100-150 at-bats were not very good, and then his next 200 or so were amazing! He went from us to Double-A and kept it going and obviously started out the next year even better. He was able to take the plan that we gave him and take those little tweaks and make them his, implement them on an everyday basis and believe in them.

He bought in and that’s the biggest thing for guys is to buy in.

MMO: I spoke with Alonso at the end of the 2017 season for the site, and he spoke highly of both you and Luis Natera on helping him develop a plan and get out of the early slide he was in after coming back from an injury. He spoke about a contact drill and some tee work you guys did with him.

Kreuter: Yes, and that’s exactly what we did. A Hall of Famer and a should-be Hall of Famer taught it to me when I was in Seattle in Edgar Martinez and Alex Rodriguez. Edgar showed me some drills and Alex was already doing them and talked about it.

Edgar is one of the top right-handed hitters ever, I mean, he was amazing as a right-handed hitter. I’ve always been a student of the game, I wanted to learn. I learned from shortstops, I learned from outfielders, I learned from first basemen, I learned from catchers, I learned from pitchers and the coaches around me. I was always soaking up anything I could and when Edgar spoke it was like, this is something important and I need to remember. It’s either something that could help me or I can help somebody down the line with.

When I saw Peter’s swing and what he was doing, we talked about the approach and the way I teach is I’m a hodgepodge of everything that’s been thrown at me, good and bad. You take the good stuff and you keep it, and the bad stuff you try not to repeat it. I’ve tried to take a lot of stuff from guys like Kirk Gibson, Alan Trammell, Sparky Anderson, Lou Piniella and all the different guys that I was with throughout the years and roll it up into something that could help somebody.

Some days you have to speak a certain way to one player, but you say the same thing a little bit different to another player so he can understand it. It’s communication and you have to learn to communicate with guys like Pete and make it real so that they buy in and believe in what they’re doing.

The belief system in baseball when you fail seven out of ten times and you’re still really good, people don’t understand that failure just grates on your psyche. And if you’re failing seven out of ten times in a regular job or asking a girl out, you’re beside yourself, you’re without a job. In baseball that’s what’s so weird is you have the best hitters in the game doubting themselves at times because they’re in that rut of running through eight times without a hit or twelve times without a hit and all of a sudden here comes four in a row! That changes everything. Those times that you don’t get the hits really weigh on you.

Photo by Ed Delany, MMO

MMO: You also got to manage Jeff McNeil in your first season in St Lucie. I read an article that said one game he collected two hits but was still upset and in a bad mood after the game, so you gave him an Angry Orchard so it would “sweeten him up a bit.” Could you tell early on what kind of competitor McNeil was?

Kreuter: He is the ultimate competitor and trash talker. He’s taking BP and he’s saying that’s a double, that’s a single, that’s a triple. He’s telling you every time what it’s going to be and he’s going to trash talk before he gets in his first at-bat and saying I’m going to hit a home run here. And you’ve got to love it as a coach and as a manager. I love that spirit and fight that hey, I’m not going to give up.

But for him, he was a little too salty at times and a little too bitter where I thought it was going to affect him long term. I’ve gone through the slumps; I set a hit-less record when I was with Kansas City in ’99. I was going from hitting great and all of a sudden I hit the skids and then I wasn’t so great. So I understand failure and I understand how it can make you bitter and salty.

I had him in my office lots of times or talking to him at his locker and it was just a matter of trying to say let’s see the big picture here. You didn’t get any hits but you hit the ball hard. That’s a win-win situation there. The pitcher knows you beat him and his mother knows you beat him because you smoked the ball. It just happened to go right to the right fielder or was caught at the wall. That’s the way you have to go at guys like him and then you take away the bite or the sting of not getting the hit.

I was so proud and happy for him last year and what he did when he got called up and how he hit. And then you see what he did this year and it’s just amazing, it’s like one of your children. After they play for you I’m just rooting for these guys because they’re part of your family. In our clubhouse we create a family, we try to create and I try to create a bond that’s with those guys that is going to transcend beyond the game for years to come.

MMO: It must be so rewarding to see the guys that you had come through go on and have such success like they have.

Kreuter: It is and I understand that most of the guys that come through our clubhouse are not going to play a day in the big leagues. But they have to go about their business the same way as guys like Alonso, McNeil, (Tyler) Bashlor and the guys that have gotten their opportunities have and they have to believe in themselves the same exact way.

What we try to create is if they don’t make it-it goes back to my injury and that type of mentality-they have nothing to be ashamed of when it’s all said and done. There’s no pointing fingers, nothing to say except I did my best. I was given my opportunity, I either didn’t do it, I wasn’t good enough or that guy was better than me and he’s going to be given that opportunity. There are no excuses and that’s the way we handle our business.

MMO: And how did you come to secure the job as the St. Lucie Mets manager prior to the 2017 season?

Kreuter: In 2016 I interviewed for pitching coach at Brooklyn. Which was a dual role as the field coordinator for extended spring and the pitching coach. And within my background, I feel comfortable being a pitching coach obviously being a catcher I was in-tune with all of our pitchers and sat there and could like a parrot mimic what our pitching coaches say. I knew if they were talking to Joe Magrane what to say to Joe Magrane as opposed to Chuck Finley. I knew what to say to those guys based on the pitching coaches spoke to them and what they said, and so I feel very comfortable.

I interviewed for that and the group that was there thought I’d serve better as a manager. They said, “We think you’d be a manager. We’re looking for a guy that would be long-term in this position.” So I was passed over on it and I thought too bad and moved on. The next year I get a call from Ian Levin and they offered me the job. In that prior interview Ian was in on that and it brought me to that manager position that I’m in now.

MMO: As a minor league manager, how do you handle player development and winning games while knowing there will be constant movement of players throughout the course of a season?

Kreuter: It’s changed. My first two years here you’re just developing, you’re not trying to win any games. If you win that’s great, that’s because you’ve got pretty good players. But there wasn’t much strategy involved; you’re not hit and running, bunting or doing things that are conducive to winning.

This last year with our new front office, things changed. We were allowed to bunt, hit and run, run and hit, match up a little bit more with the pitching in the in-game management. Just as long as that wasn’t abused on the pitching part, which we basically had guys available on a daily basis. If you pitched tonight, you can’t pitch tomorrow. So we have to manage those guys but we were able to say I want this guy or Blake Taylor’s coming in to face the lefties here in the eighth. So he’d come in to face the lefties where before I had to throw certain guys in certain roles throughout the game and you weren’t necessarily allowed to match up like that.

For us this year, at one point we were 16 or 17 games over .500 and we were a team that I think our top average was .270; we didn’t have a whole bunch of guys hitting over .300 or a whole bunch of home runs. We were scrappy, if we had a man on first and second and no outs we bunted. We put them second and third and we emphasized driving the ball in with second and third with the infield back/infield in, hitting the fly ball whatever it is. And we capitalized on that.

We pitched really well and so we were able to move a lot of guys, I think we ended up moving about 17 guys to Double-A throughout the year. But I know at the end of the year Binghamton’s whole starting lineup was St. Lucie’s starting lineup. But it was fun to see.

We had a losing streak at the end of the year and we were running on fumes at the point in time but we were able to hold our heads above water and put together a great second half. And we kept sending guys like (Quinn) Brodey, (Luis) Carpio, (Jeremy) Vasquez and all the guys we sent to Double-A, and all the pitchers we sent up there. It was fun, it was really fun.

MMO: Are there certain players Met fans should be looking out for in the system?

Kreuter: I think Moreno is one. You start looking at our roster at the different guys that we had and I’m thinking Jeremy Vasquez is probably not a guy that’s on the radar to be their prospect, but I’m pretty sure he’s a guy that’s going to start knocking on the door. He’s like the little engine that could; he puts the bat head on the ball and he keeps on driving balls and moving forward.

David Thompson was a big one that came through here. Ali Sanchez as a catcher. Quinn Brodey, we’re hoping that Quinn does a lot of good things. Luis Carpio showed some promise here. Patrick Mazeika came through here and had a great year, struggled a little bit in Double-A but he’s very serviceable as a catcher now and a left-handed hitter. There’s a lot of different guys that you think about.

Kevin Smith, the left-hander, I like Kevin a lot. I like Blake Taylor a lot, too. Tony Dibrell had struggles when he left us but there’s something in there. I love Gimenez, I think that he’s a talent and he’s pretty special. If he doesn’t arrive this year then it will be there in 2021. But he’s pretty special.

MMO: Are you returning to manage St. Lucie in 2020?

Kreuter: I am.

MMO: You played Rick Peterson in Moneyball, and I also read that you trained Chris Pratt in helping him play Scott Hatteberg for the film. Can you talk a little about the work you did with Pratt and getting to work on the film overall?

Kreuter: I started out on that film doing the tryouts at USC. They wanted to do the tryouts when I was the head coach at USC, and we started out doing that. Then they asked me to kind of be the baseball technician, or baseball adviser. We went to Long Beach and filmed down there for a spring training scene. That day it started out as come in and check out the locker room to see if it looks like Oakland’s locker room. See if this is what their spring training locker room would look like. I went in and I’m in full uniform because I’ve been hitting fungoes and throwing batting practice while they’re filming.

I go in the locker room and Brad Pitt’s in there, the guy playing Ron Washington was there (Brent Jennings) and Philip Seymour Hoffman. And Bennett Miller–the director–says to me, “Have you ever watched a scene?” I told him no and he told me to sit over there and come meet Brad and Philip, and sit in the room and watch.

They filmed the scene and after it was all said and done I was walking out and Bennett asked where I was going. He told me I was going to be in the scene! I’m like, uh, no (laughs). He told me I was going to be in the scene and to go grab one of my coaches and he was going to put us in the scene so it was going to become more organic. I went back into the scene and they ended up filming it where they’re talking about different players and strategy and stuff with Brad Pitt. They did it for about six hours!

After that we filmed the baseball stuff on the field and I thought it was all said and done and I got a call a few days later and they said Brad wanted to know if I could come to Oakland and film there. I went to Oakland and filmed from 6 AM to 6 PM during a week when Oakland was out of town. I basically set up all of the scenes and made sure everything looked right with all of the baseball players. A lot of the guys we hired ended up being former minor league players that were done. The guy that looked like David Justice was actually right-handed, so we had to get him to look right when he went for the ball left-handed in the corner, and then they’d cut away when he actually threw the ball.

With Chris Pratt, I started out teaching him at USC and then my son Cade, who was at USC at the time, started doing more of the lessons with Chris; teaching him how to hit, hitting him ground balls everyday and hitting left-handed because Chris didn’t hit lefty. Cade worked with him exclusively in trying to teach him how to hit left-handed and all of the swings that he took were actual swings.

It ended up being a long-term project because Brad asked for me. It went from being on the field to into the studio and all the different scenes that were written for Brad he’d come to me and ask, “Does this sound right? Is that a run and hit or a hit and run? How do you say all the different lines?” I helped out with all that different stuff and really made sure it was baseball quality, which was fun. Plus, I got to play a couple of parts where I was actually in the movie.

It was rewarding, but I was nervous at first because obviously with Brad Pitt and Philip Seymour Hoffman they are huge movie stars and now I’m with them. And especially in that first scene I was like, what am I even going to say here? But I knew that baseball timeline of what they were talking about and I knew the players.

Philip was great because he would just throw stuff out there and say, “Hey Rick, what do you have on this guy? What do you got on (Jason) Giambi?” I would fill in what I knew about Giambi. And Brad would ad-lib from there and they’d cut and he’d use the same thing I would say in his next scene. It was basically so those guys could have a conversation that looked real.

The fun thing is I knew Billy Beane and I was able to consult Billy on a lot of things and call him up on set and tell him they’re doing this on set, are you okay with this? And he’d say ask them not to do that or let’s do this, and we were able to get feedback right away on different things.

MMO: Thank you so much for your time, Chad. It was great picking your brain and for you to share so many great anecdotes from your career.

Kreuter: My pleasure, take care.

Follow Chad Kreuter on Twitter, @ChadKreuter.

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Former major-league pitcher Ed Vosberg can see himself among those boys 11 and 12 years old playing for Sunnyside deep into the West Regional Little League tournament at San Bernardino, Calif.

He can envision himself as part of it all because he was in the thick of the Little League World Series title chase in 1973 as the ace pitcher of Cactus Little League. Cactus is one of two Tucson teams to make it to the Little League World Series. International Little League advanced to Williamsport in 1986.
Tucson Citizen clip of the 1973 Cactus Little League team that made it to the Little League World Series. Ed Vosberg is shown at the far left.

Some 46 years later, the memories of that magical run remain crystal clear for Vosberg, who is one of only three players to play in the Little League World Series, College World Series (with Arizona in 1980) and the World Series (with the Marlins in 1997). The others are Jason Varitek and Michael Conforto. He is the only pitcher with that honor.

Vosberg, who now works as a coach/consultant at D-BAT Tucson, wants to pass along the following statement to Sunnyside, which plays in the elimination bracket final on Friday at 6 p.m. against Northern California. Sunnyside reached the West Regionals in the consecutive years similar to Cactus with Vosberg in 1973 and 1974.

“I would like to congratulate the Sunnyside Little League team for all the success they have achieved in the last 2 years. That’s awesome! Back in 1973, Cactus Little League represented Tucson, Arizona in the Little League Finals In Williamsport Pennsylvania. I was fortunate enough to pitch and play first base for the team.

“It was an incredibly fun summer to be a part of the amazing run of 12 straight wins. I went 5-0 during the streak, and threw a no-hitter in the State tournament and won the final game of the Regionals 1-0, driving in the only run with a single in the first inning of the game. We won our first 2 games in the World Series, beating a team from New York, 4-0, then beating a team from Michigan 12-0 to get to the final game.
Ed Vosberg and Steve Kerr when they were inducted into the Pima County Sports Hall of Fame (Vosberg photo)

“The game we lost against Taiwan 12-0, but the game was 0-0 going into the 4th inning of the game. Crazy enough as it seems we made it to the semifinals of the Western regionals the following year and were two games away from making it back to the Little League World Series!”

In that regional final in against Concord, Calif., in 1973, Vosberg pitched a no-hitter as well as produced the lone RBI. Teammate Mike Fimbers also pitched a perfect game in the regionals. Cactus also did not have the benefit of a double-elimination format at that time. It had to win 12 consecutive games to make it to Williamsport.
Clipping of a Williamsport (Pa.) newspaper article kept by Ed Vosberg.

When Cactus — which also featured Mike Carreon, the brother of former big-leaguer Mark Carreon — returned home from Williamsport in 1973, it was welcomed by approximately 3,000 fans and the UA band and cheerleaders at the Tucson International Airport. From there, Cactus was part of a motorcade celebration downtown.

Tucson Citizen columnist P.J. Erickson wrote:

“The brand of baseball they play is called ‘Little League.’ But the brand of kid is strictly ‘Big League,’ Tucson style. Welcome home, gang.”

The team also took a trip to Washington, D.C., after the experience in the Little League World Series.
Tucson Citizen clipping of when Cactus returned home from the Little League World Series in 1973.

“It went beyond baseball,” Vosberg said in a 2013 interview with The Arizona Daily Star. “I remember standing in the White House next to president Nixon’s daughter. I remember our team going to Baltimore, watching Jim Palmer pitch. I still have my hat and jacket from that team. We wore green pinstripe uniforms. It was all so cool.”

Here are rosters of that 1973 Cactus Little League team and the 1986 International Little League team that advanced to the Little League World Series.
1973 Cactus Little League team
1973 Cactus Little League

Mike Banton
Richard Bianco
Tony Bravo
Robert Blum
Bill Brauer
Mike Carreon
Mike Fimbers
Ralph Lanik
Larry Manciet
Mike Martinez
David Mees
Ken Merritt
Gerald Pahissa
Mark Osbourne
Harry Unger
Ed Vosberg
1986 International Little League

Ricardo Barcelo
Edward DeBaca
Scott Foster
James Fraccaro
Daniel Fregoso
Brian Howdahl
Philip Johnston
Troy Kelly
Robert Ortiz
Mike Owens
Sam Tullous
Eric Unger
Martin Walker
Todd Warren
Chad Wilson
Justin Wood

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SportsPulse: The 2019 Washington Nationals should always be remembered for slaying Goliath and winning their first ever title. But as Trysta Krick puts it, maybe they were Goliath all along. USA TODAY

In theory, it was a good idea.

Hop on a plane headed hundreds of miles per hour away from the Worst Season Ever to a continent where baseball isn’t a national pastime, much less played on television in the wee hours of the morning.

Delete Twitter.

Don’t check email.


But, as it went, Anibal Sanchez had a no-hitter through six innings that night. Sanchez, who used to play for the Tigers, is remembered here for his humility: Two years ago, with his career on life support, the veteran right-hander accepted a minor-league assignment to Triple-A Toledo in the name of saving himself as a starting pitcher.

Now, flying far away from baseball, its pull began anew.

[ Max Scherzer, Anibal Sanchez win 2019 World Series with Nationals ]

Sanchez, who made a resurgence as a starter in Atlanta last season, his first away from Detroit, was pitching Game 1 of the National League Championship Series for the Nationals. He lost the no-hitter in the eighth, with me somewhere above the Atlantic Ocean. It would be the last baseball I’d partake in all season, I swore.

It was a promise impossible to keep.
Nationals pitcher Max Scherzer waves to the crowd.

Nationals pitcher Max Scherzer waves to the crowd. (Photo: Geoff Burke, USA TODAY Sports)

That’s the thing about this job: Its eyes stay on you like a celebrity on the cover of a tabloid in a supermarket checkout line — fixated no matter how much you try to move out of its view. And, as I learned over the past three weeks, trying to escape it — much like the game of baseball itself — is a game of failure.

There was my beat-writer friend, stuck in the postseason. An animated image of a pitcher scratching at the brim of his baseball cap. A National League East executive wondering about Nicholas Castellanos’ makeup, to which I responded, “He’s a good teammate, hard worker. Plays hard. Make-up wise, he’s the guy in CHC this year, not DET. I’d take him all day.”

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There was the next weekend, well past whatever counts as closing time in Italy, when it was brought to my attention that there was quite the baseball game happening. Against my better judgment, worked, Jose Altuve soon hit a walk-off home run to send the Astros to the World Series and that — that would be the last baseball I’d watch all season, I swore.

I didn’t delete Twitter in Tigers rehab. Kept checking my email, and one day, noticed a message from the Cubs in the clutter box, detailing a number of front office changes made to their 84-win team. Meanwhile in Detroit, general manager Al Avila continues to take arrows for his associates, leaning on loyalty as the losing Tigers try to navigate the ever-choppy waters of their rebuilding process.

There were sporadic texts from the best kind of baseball people — those who have become friends first, sources second — and a stray phone call late one night from someone who told me that Ilitch Holdings brought in a public relations research firm to meet with their companies’ communication departments and share ideas on how to get Detroiters and the media off their backs. We exchanged many ideas.
HOUSTON, TEXAS – OCTOBER 30: Max Scherzer #31 of the Washington Nationals celebrates in the locker room after defeating the Houston Astros in Game Seven to win the 2019 World Series at Minute Maid Park on October 30, 2019 in Houston, Texas. The Washington Nationals defeated the Houston Astros with a score of 6 to 2. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

HOUSTON, TEXAS – OCTOBER 30: Max Scherzer #31 of the Washington Nationals celebrates in the locker room after defeating the Houston Astros in Game Seven to win the 2019 World Series at Minute Maid Park on October 30, 2019 in Houston, Texas. The Washington Nationals defeated the Houston Astros with a score of 6 to 2. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) (Photo: Getty Images)

I went to church twice a week, one time at 6 a.m. At the suggestion of a friend, I went to confession and did, indeed, feel better afterwards. I read four books but no box scores. I watched people but not a single inning of baseball — so far.

But my favorite sport’s slow pull finally sucked me in on the morning of Oct. 22, in the worst of ways, as I awakened to 37 text messages about the Astros being awful again.

While it apparently did not occur to the vast majority, who rallied behind a Sports Illustrated reporter for exposing Astros assistant general manager Brandon Taubman for being a bad human, it certainly occurred to me that there was another female reporter out there — one who Taubman’s comments were directed at, who saw the arrogance in his eyes and heard the vengeance in his voice — hidden away.

A reporter whose hands were likely tied from telling her side of the story.
Washington Nationals starting pitcher Anibal Sanchez is held aloft by second baseman Brian Dozier at World Series Championship Parade.

Washington Nationals starting pitcher Anibal Sanchez is held aloft by second baseman Brian Dozier at World Series Championship Parade. (Photo: Brad Mills, USA TODAY Sports)

I escaped Tigers rehab on Oct. 30, arriving in a small sports bar in Europe near midnight, before Game 7 of the World Series, and offered the owner 20 Euros to let me stay and watch. There was no need, he said: An hour later, a group of mostly English regulars came in; there was also Nick from Houston, wearing an Altuve jersey.

Afterwards, I was very happy for Sanchez and Max Scherzer, who, as I wrote in mid-July, is the best of all the Tigers that have left town. I was happy for Daniel Hudson and Gerardo Parra, two players who very generous with their time for a rookie baseball reporter in Arizona in 2011.

I told Nick I felt bad for him, quickly couching it, saying I really didn’t. They heard some stories, we drank some beers, and I finally put the Worst Season Ever behind me by embracing the very thing I fled there to avoid in the first place.

Contact Anthony Fenech at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @anthonyfenech. Read more on the Detroit Tigers and sign up for our Tigers newsletter.

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Over in Japan, NPB officials decline to give out the Sawamura Award (the league’s equivalent of the Cy Young) this season because they decided no pitcher was worthy of it. That’s pretty funny, no? It got me thinking about if this was ever an option in Major League Baseball and what seasons in which it might’ve happened. As I looked through the votes from the past four decades, I did notice that, on numerous occasions, awards went to players who didn’t really deserve them — at least compared to someone who finished behind them in the voting. With that in mind, I decided to highlight some of the worst votes for the NL/AL MVP or Cy Young winners.

Let’s go with the 20 worst MVP or Cy Young votes in the last 40 seasons. Those are nice round numbers and we aren’t getting too far back in the past. Through the years, what is valued in baseball evolves. A good way to find what we now consider bad votes is to look at divides in on-base percentage versus stuff like batting average and RBI when it comes to hitters. WAR can be handy, but it never tells the whole story. We know the W-L record can cloud things on the pitching side and through the ’80s and early ’90s there was too much of a fixation with closers. So while we now regard some of these votes as lamentable, back in the day they weren’t really thought of that way. Which is fine. Times change. We know better now, though, so it doesn’t hurt to point out the flawed votes.

We’ll go in reverse chronology. Please note that I said the 20 worst and that there are plenty of other questionable votes when viewed through the lens of how we value players these days.
2006 AL MVP

One of the few things Derek Jeter never accomplished in his storied career was winning the MVP. Was he robbed here? Justin Morneau was the winner in 2006, but he was the third most valuable player on his own team after Johan Santana and Joe Mauer. The 130 RBI seemed to do the job, but David Ortiz had 137. Going simply by WAR, Santana should have won, but Jeter’s all-around case was strong, too. Regardless, we’d like to change this one.
2005 AL Cy Young

We were still stuck in the “wins” mode. Bartolo Colon won 21 games compared to Johan Santana’s 16. Otherwise, check this out.

Colon: 3.48 ERA, 122 ERA+, 1.16 WHIP, 157 K, 43 BB, 222 2/3 IP, 2 CG, 0 SHO, 4.0 WAR
Johan: 2.87 ERA, 155 ERA+, 0.97 WHIP, 238 K, 45 BB, 231 2/3 IP, 3 CG, 2 SHO, 7.2 WAR

That’s not even close. Johan should have three Cy Youngs and possibly an MVP (see 2006).
1999 AL MVP

Ivan Rodriguez had a great season and, generally speaking, I’m in favor of position players over pitchers for MVP, but Pedro Martinez was out of his mind during one of the most offensively prolific seasons in history. To sum up how ridiculous offense was in 1999, A-Rod had 42 homers and 111 RBI and finished 15th in AL MVP voting. Sammy Sosa hit 63 homers and finished ninth in NL MVP voting. Meanwhile, here’s Pedro:

23-4, 2.07 ERA, 0.92 WHIP, 313 K, 37 BB, 213 1/3 IP, 9.8 WAR (compared to 6.4 WAR from Ivan Rodriguez).

The next closest person to Pedro’s 2.07 ERA was David Cone at 3.44. Second to Pedro’s 0.92 WHIP was Eric Milton at 1.23. Second to the 9.8 WAR was Jeter at 8.0. Pitchers need to be on a completely different level for me to support them for MVP and Pedro Martinez was in 1999.
1998 AL MVP

Juan Gonzalez won rather easily in a sign of the times, as he homered 45 times and drove home a whopping 157 runs. He hit .318 with a .366 on-base percentage, too, so it looks like a monster season. It was. It’s just that offense was off the charts in this time period and Gonzalez was pretty one-dimensional. Ken Griffey Jr. hit 56 homers and drove home 146 while also stealing 20 bases and playing stellar defense in center. Nomar Garciaparra hit .323/.362/.584 with 35 homers and 122 RBI while playing shortstop. Derek Jeter hit .324 with a .384 OBP, 19 homers, 30 steals and 127 runs while playing short. Albert Belle hit .328.399/.655 with 48 doubles, 49 homers and 152 RBI, leading the league in OPS, OPS+ and total bases. A-Rod, who finished ninth in the vote, hit .310/.360/.560 with 42 homers, 124 RBI, 123 runs and 46 steals while playing short.

Here’s Gonzalez’s WAR vs. those guys:

A-Rod, 8.5
Jeter, 7.5
Garciaparra, 7.1
Belle, 7.1
Griffey, 6.6
Gonzalez, 4.9

If we had a re-vote, Gonzalez doesn’t crack the top five.
1998 NL Cy Young

Kevin Brown was often short-changed in voting and there’s plenty of speculation it had to do with his crusty personality with the media (which shouldn’t matter, by the way). Tom Glavine won the vote, but I think Brown should have. Let’s go side-by-side:

Glavine: 20-6, 2.47 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 157 K, 74 BB, 4 CG, 3 SHO, 229 1/3 IP, 6.1 WAR
Brown: 18-7, 2.38 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, 257 K, 49 BB, 7 CG, 3 SHO, 257 IP, 8.6 WAR

If it matters, both players pitched for division winners. Gimme Brown.
1996 AL MVP

Uh oh, we’re gonna pick on Juan Gone again. This vote was razor thin, with Gonzalez getting 290 vote points against A-Rod’s 287. It shouldn’t have been close. Both A-Rod and Griffey were better all-around players. Take a look:

Gonzalez: .314.368/.643, 33 2B, 47 HR, 144 RBI, 89 R, 2 SB, 3.8 WAR
A-Rod: .358/.414/.631, 54 2B, 36 HR, 123 RBI, 141 R, 15 SB, 9.4 WAR
Junior: .303/.392.628, 26 2B, 49 HR, 140 RBI, 125 R, 16 SB, 9.7 WAR

The Rangers won the division while the Mariners missed the playoffs, so it’s possible that was at play here. At the time, WAR wasn’t on anyone’s radar, but do we really need that to know A-Rod and Griffey were good at defense and baserunning while Gonzalez wasn’t?
1996 NL MVP

In going through all these votes, I noticed that voter fatigue is a real thing. I already suspected it, but there were multiple cases where players like Roger Clemens, Randy Johnson and Albert Pujols should have won but were likely cost more hardware because voters, deep down, just didn’t feel like picking the same guy over and over. Barry Bonds was probably cost the most, which is amazing given he won seven MVPs. He should have won about 10. In 1996, Bonds led the NL in WAR while posting a .461 OBP and .615 slugging. He had 42 homers despite 151 walks (30 intentional) and also stole 40 bases. He finished fifth in the vote, though. Ken Caminiti was the winner.
1995 AL MVP

Several other players have a case over Mo Vaughn, but let’s simply compare him to Albert Belle.

Belle: .317/.401/.690, 52 2B, 50 HR, 126 RBI, 121 R, 7.0 WAR
Vaughn: .300/.388/.575, 28 2B, 39 HR, 126 RBI, 98 R, 4.3 WAR

Belle led the AL in runs, doubles, homers, RBI (tied), slugging and total bases. Vaughn tied Belle in RBI and led the AL in strikeouts.

This wasn’t a case of the team factoring in, either, as Belle’s Indians went 100-44 for the best record in baseball. Yes, look at Belle’s numbers and realize this was a strike-shortened season. He was jobbed here.
1993 AL Cy Young

Did having a cool nickname benefit “Black Jack” Jack McDowell? It couldn’t have hurt, but I’m guessing the White Sox winning the division and McDowell leading the league with 22 wins had more to do with it. It’s supposed to be an award for the best pitcher, though, and look at Kevin Appier. He had McDowell by 0.81 in ERA with more strikeouts, a better WHIP and more than doubled him in WAR (Appier 9.3 to 4.4 for McDowell).
1992 AL MVP/Cy Young

Double whammy here as A’s closer Dennis Eckersley won both awards. The Hall of Famer had an exceptional season, but he still only faced 309 batters in 80 innings of work. Compare that to players who rack up over 600 plate appearances or starting pitchers working 250 innings. He certainly had an impact, but you can’t convince me the most valuable player in the league pitched 80 innings and that was it.

On the MVP side, Kirby Puckett put up 7.1 WAR for a 90-win Twins team. Mark McGwire (from a division winner), Roberto Alomar (from a division winner) and Frank Thomas also had strong cases.

Roger Clemens (voter fatigue!) was 18-11 with a 2.41 ERA in 246 2/3 innings. Mike Mussina was 18-5 with a 2.54 ERA in 241 innings.
1991 NL MVP

Bonds won MVP the previous season while Terry Pendleton was a veteran newcomer to a Braves team that went worst-to-first. Bonds never had a shot, even though he was better.

Bonds: .292/.410/.514, 28 2B, 5 3B, 25 HR, 116 RBI, 95 R, 43 SB, 8.0 WAR
Pendleton: .319/.363/.517, 34 2B, 8 3B, 22 HR, 86 RBI, 94 R, 10 SB, 6.1 WAR

Narratives can be strong and that was certainly the case in 1991, though it was a close vote.
1990 AL Cy Young

Bob Welch over Roger Clemens was a complete debacle. Though Clemens had already won two Cy Youngs and an MVP, I suspect this was less fatigue and more wins. Welch won 27 games. We could use more context, though. Welch won 27 games for a team that won 103 while Clemens won 21 for a team that won 88. Should that alone really have swung things?

The answer should be no, and everything else is a landslide in Rocket’s corner. Clemens had a 1.93 ERA compared to Welch’s 2.95. Clemens struck out 82 more hitters in 9 2/3 fewer innings while walking 23 fewer hitters. Welch allowed 26 homers to Clemens’ seven. They didn’t have WAR then, but it’s a good illustration of how bad this vote was: Clemens wins 10.4 to 2.9.
1989 NL Cy Young

Mark Davis had an amazing season for the Padres. He worked 92 2/3 innings in relief, closing down 44 saves in 48 chances with a 1.85 ERA. I realize Orel Hershiser being 15-15 in 1989 was a non-starter when it came to people maybe throwing him a first-place vote, but W-L is a team stat. Hershiser worked 256 2/3 innings while facing nearly three times the number of hitters Davis did. Hershiser pitched to a 2.31 ERA and posted 7.0 WAR compared to Davis’ 4.4 (which, by the way, is a ridiculous WAR for a reliever).
1987 NL/AL MVP

The league exploded with home runs in 1987, so voters didn’t seem to know what to do other than throw the votes to Andre Dawson and George Bell.

The NL side of this hurts, given that I was a nine-year-old Cubs fan who decided to wear No. 8 in Little League for the foreseeable future thanks to The Hawk.

The adult in me, however, realizes narrative played a large role here, with Dawson taking a blank check to Wrigley Field and wanting to sign with the Cubs no matter what. He became a hero in Wrigley, with Andre’s Army bowing down to him in the right field bleachers.

Dawson was great with 49 homers and 137 RBI. Team that with the narrative and he won MVP from a last-place team. He also posted a below average on-base percentage (.328 vs. a .331 league average). Think about that. A player on a last-place team who was below average at not making outs won MVP.

Tony Gwynn finished eighth while hitting .370/.447/.511 with 36 doubles, 13 triples, 56 steals, 119 runs and an MLB-best 218 hits. His 8.6 WAR dwarfed Dawson’s 4.0, but he only hit seven home runs. What about Eric Davis? He slashed .293/.399/.593 with 37 homers, 100 RBI and 50 steals. The Gold Glover had 7.9 WAR. Dale Murphy had a strong season, too.

The AL side was similarly flawed with Bell’s 47 homers and 134 RBI. Alan Trammell and Wade Boggs were better all-around players, though.

Bell: .308/.352/.605, 32 2B, 4 3B, 47 HR, 134 RBI, 111 R, 5 SB, 5.0 WAR
Trammell: .343/.402/.551, 34 2B, 3 3B, 28 HR, 105 RBI, 109 R, 21 SB, 8.2 WAR
Boggs: .363/.461/.588, 40 2B, 6 3B, 24 HR, 89 RBI, 108 R, 1 SB, 8.3 WAR

Gimme Boggs, who was perpetually underrated in MVP voting throughout his career, I suspect due to the relatively low homer totals.
1984 AL MVP/Cy Young

Willie Hernandez was great, but let’s reiterate a closer shouldn’t be winning MVP. He did pitch a ton of relief innings: 140 1/3 to be exact, and faced 548 batters.

Still, Hall of Famer Eddie Murray played all 162 games and hit .306/.410/.509, leading the majors in OPS+ (157) and posting 7.1 WAR to Hernandez’s 4.8. Trammell and Dave Winfield had strong cases as well.

On the pitching side, both Bert Blyleven (19-7, 2.87 ERA, 12 CG, 4 SHO) and Dave Stieb (16-8, 2.83 ERA, 11 CG, 2 SHO) faced nearly twice as many batters as Hernandez and posted WARs above seven.
1982 AL Cy Young

Harvey’s Wallbangers carried the day in the AL, with the Brewers taking MVP (Robin Yount, a correct choice) and Cy Young. Dave Steib was robbed, though, against Pete Vuckovich, who would later go on to play Clu Haywood in “Major League.”

Vuckovich: 18-6, 3.34 ERA, 1.50 WHIP, 105 K, 102 BB, 9 CG, 1 SHO, 223 2/3 IP, 2.8 WAR
Steib: 17-14, 3.25 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 141 K, 75 BB, 19 CG, 5 SHO, 288 1/3 IP, 7.6 WAR
1981 AL MVP

You knew I wasn’t gonna like a closer winning MVP, and here we go again with Rollie Fingers. What’s funny is the starting pitching selection in 1981 was mediocre enough that Fingers was justifiable to win the Cy Young. But a pitcher who faced 297 hitters in 78 innings winning the MVP? C’mon. Even in a strike-shortened season, that’s not OK. Rickey Henderson hit .319 with a 408 on-base percentage, 56 steals and 89 runs scored in 108 games. Dwight Evans posted a .415 OBP with a .522 slugging. Both players were at 6.7 WAR in 108 games played. That’s exceptional and either one would’ve been a fine choice.

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The inaugural Perfect Game Cares Celebrity Softball Game happens this Saturday at Veterans Memorial Stadium in Cedar Rapids. If you are a fan of baseball and have followed the sport for years, like me, then some of the names you’ll see on the field will look very familiar. That’s because many have played in the majors. I had baseball cards of many of these players. The fact that I get to take the field with the likes of Bo Jackson and Hall of Fame pitcher Trevor Hoffman is a baseball fan’s dream.

Brain will be playing on the Gray team, while Bob James is on the Blue squad! Tickets are just $10 for adults and $5 for kids and can be ordered HERE! There’s also a silent auction during the first part of the game on the concourse at Veterans Memorial Stadium. More on that HERE.

Below is a look at some of the big names on the Gray and Blue team rosters for Saturday’s game!
See the Unique Items Available at the Celebrity Softball Game Silent Auction

Bo Jackson
Perfect Game Cares

Tom “Flash” Gordon
Perfect Game Cares

Andruw Jones
Perfect Game Cares

Brooks Kieschnick

Dmitri Young
Perfect Game Cares

Tim Dwight

Alanna Arrington

Baylee Drezek

Allen Reisner

Other Gray team members include John Cangelosi, Mike Bruner, Corbie Birkicht, Jason Kohl, Mike Bonwell, Rick Heller, Tom Gorzelanny, Sarah Specht, Mike Kerr, Mike Knox, Gavin McGrath, John Campbell, Jaymz Larson, and Ben Rogers.

Trevor Hoffman
Perfect Game Cares

Greg Vaughn
Perfect Game Cares

Luis Gonzalez
Perfect Game Cares

Todd Coffey

Ben Ford

Brian Dinkelman

Chelsea Dubczak

Bruce Kimm

Other players featured on the Blue team include Dedric Ward, Kaylin Kinney, Josh Christensen, Corey Bowman, Adrian Arrington, Junior Spivey, Wes Obermueller, Tim Evans, Mike Sauser, Steve Erceg, Matt Usher, Joh Melendez, Blake Brockhohn, and Chad Johnston.

Read More: Celebrity Softball Rosters Are FULL Of Major League Talent |

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This Halloween, we’re going to take a look at players the Miami Marlins shouldn’t be afraid of signing for the 2020 season.

Last offseason, the Marlins signed the likes of Sergio Romo, Neil Walker, Harold Ramirez, and Curtis Granderson.
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Chicago Cubs: Top 3 Reasons Kris Bryant should stay
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Romo was a solid closer, considering the state of the team. They sent him to the Twins as part of a trade deadline deal.

Walker outperformed his sad 2018 numbers achieved with the Yankees, but will be 34 this season.
Miami Marlins

Ramirez was an exciting addition to a young team with nowhere to go but up. Despite a relatively good slashline of .276/.312/.416 in 119 contests, he was only 0.2 wins above replacement, according to baseball reference.

Granderson provided solid leadership in the clubhouse, but wasn’t able to get it done as well as his younger self, as evidenced by a .183/.281/.356 slashline and 98 strikeouts in 363 plate appearances. For the first time in his career, a full-season’s yield resulted in a sub-replacement level brWAR, at -0.6.

Were these four signees good enough for the major leagues? Of course! Any baseball player who appeared on a major league baseball team is a pretty good player. But the point of this whole major league baseball thing is not to be “pretty good,” it’s to be better than the other team’s “pretty good” players.

Signing free agents is at best, a risky proposition. You never know if you’re going to get another “prime” season from an established talent or a shadow of what that player used to be. Sometimes, it’s a question of feast or famine. These Marlins could do well to luck into a sweet deal in the free agent market, but there’s also hazards along the way.

So which players do you think the Marlins shouldn’t be scared of avoiding? We here at Marlin Maniac have identified five that we think could be worth a look.

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Jose Quijada is not projected to be worth a roster spot. His -41.24 projected fantasy points puts him at #380 behind Juan Nicasio and ahead of Tyler Bashlor. He has averaged -0.55 fantasy points in his past 34 games, which is more than our projected per game average. He is projected to average -0.93 fantasy points. His rank based on avg proj (#356) is better than his rank based on total fantasy points. Jose Quijada is expected to come up short of last season’s #294 fantasy position rank.
#378 Bryan Shaw -39 FP, -0.59 per game -3.74 per game (#386)
#379 Juan Nicasio -40 FP, -0.57 per game -3.74 per game (#386)
#380 Jose Quijada -41 FP, -0.93 per game -3.74 per game (#386)
#381 Tyler Bashlor -43 FP, -1.03 per game -3.74 per game (#386)
#382 Josh Staumont -46 FP, -0.82 per game -3.74 per game (#386)

These projections power SportsLine’s Computer Picks and Fantasy Data. But for contest winning DFS optimal lineups by top experts like Mike McClure visit SportsLine’s new Daily Fantasy Hub.

The tables below show projected stats (totals and averages) for the rest of the season and upcoming weeks. Below the projection are actual stats from last season.
2020 Projection -41.24 0.4 5.5 38 59 32
— Per Game (44 Proj) -0.93 0.01 0.12 0.86 1.3 0.72
3/19 to 3/29 (0.8 Games) -0.85 0.01 0.10 0.67 1.2 0.60
3/30 to 4/5 (1.7 Games) -1.72 0.01 0.21 1.5 2.4 1.2
2019 Season -18.80 1 4 29 44 26
— Per Game (34 GP) -0.55 0.03 0.12 0.86 1.3 0.76

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With all the fires and blackouts going on, Californians may have missed a major legislative milestone last month. As NBC News reports, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a law “banning hotels from giving guests plastic bottles filled with shampoo, conditioner or soap.” The measure takes effect in 2023 for hotels with more than 50 rooms and 2024 for hotels with less than 50 rooms. Violators could be fined $500 for a first offense and $2,000 for subsequent violations.

Contrary to what backers of the law appear to imagine, California is not the first to impose such a ban.

In 2014, ESPN showed “Brothers in Exile,” a program about Cuban baseball players Livan Hernandez and Orlando “El Duque” Hernandez, who starred with the Florida Marlins and New York Yankees. Before his defection from the Communist state, Livan traveled abroad with the Cuban national team. As Peter Bjarkman of the Society for American Baseball Research noted in his review, the ESPN show charted “the repressive treatment of Cuban players by their own state security and repeated bans on carrying home even simple items like hotel toiletries.” So there is a precedent for California’s ban on hotel shampoo bottles.

Assembly Bill 1162, by San Jose Democrat Ash Kalra, will harm manufacturers, inconvenience travelers, and do little if anything to improve the environment or personal hygiene. On that theme, the streets of San Francisco, where Gavin Newsom served as mayor, now boast record levels of excrement. That drives away tourists, deters business, and poses serious problems for public health.
K. Lloyd Billingsley is a Policy Fellow at the Independent Institute and a columnist at The Daily Caller.
Posts by K. Lloyd Billingsley | Full Biography and Publications

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Billy McMillon says his careers has been centered around helping baseball players perfect their game, something he believes will continue as he helps lead the next wave of Boston Red Sox players.

McMillon, 47, was formally announced on Wednesday as the 17th manager of the Pawtucket Red Sox, the Triple-A affiliate of the Boston Red Sox.

He takes over for Kevin Boles, who was manager from 2014 through the end of the 2018 season.

McMillon previously served as manager for Red Sox affiliates Low-A Greenville, High-A Salem and Double-A Portland. He was the Eastern League Manager of the Year in 2014.

“As I look back over my career, it’s always been geared toward helping players get better and I don’t see that changing much here. It’s just that they’re going to be a little closer to the big league team,” McMillon said.

For the past three seasons, McMillon has served as organization’s Minor League Outfield and Baserunning Coordinator.

“We couldn’t be more excited to have Billy come in this role and really be the lynchpin for finishing the development off of our team prospects that are going to help us in Boston in 2019 and beyond,” said Ben Crockett, the Boston Red Sox vice president of player development.

This season marks 50 years together for the Boston Red Sox and Pawtucket Red Sox.

The Red Sox used 44 players in 2018 season, 35 of whom played in Pawtucket at some point during their career, the team said.

McMillon was born in Otero, New Mexico, and now lives in Columbia, South Carolina, with his wife, Krista, and children, 17-year-old Kennedy and 14-year-old Jackson.

The team gave McMillon a PawSox jersey marked No. 51, which McMillon said was the sum of his children’s birthdays. His daughter was born on 6/24 and his son on 3/18, McMillon said.

“It kind of means a little something to me,” he said.

McMillon has a bachelor’s degree from Clemson University and an MBA from the University of Phoenix. During his three year career at Clemson, he had the highest career batting average (.382) of any former Tiger.

He was selected by the Florida Marlins in the eighth round of the 1993 June draft.

In his 12-year playing career, including six seasons as a major league outfielder, McMillon appeared on the diamond for the Marlins, Philadelphia Phillies, Detroit Tigers and Oakland Athletics.

This season’s home opener is Thursday, April 11 against Syracuse Mets, including outfielder Tim Tebow.

In two years, the team will be starting its first season in Worcester.

McMillon said he has never been to Worcester and was not focused on the forthcoming move.

“I’m more developing players…I’ve never been there. I’ve seen signs for it,” McMillon said. “The focus is Pawtucket, 2019, right now.”

As a part of an 18-acre, $240 million redevelopment project that will transform Worcester’s Canal District, the Pawtucket Red Sox franchise is relocating to Massachusetts to become the Worcester Red Sox.

The team will play in a 10,000-seat stadium, to be called Polar Park.

Along with the stadium will come a development project, to include 150-room hotel; a 100-room boutique hotel overlooking the ballpark; at least 225 market rate apartments; and 65,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space.

Construction is slated to begin in July.

Additionally, MassDOT is overseeing a complete reconstruction of the notorious Kelley Square intersection.
Kelley Square

’Peanut’ design for Kelley Square intersection in Worcester is best option, bike advocates say as MassDOT plans January meeting

WalkBike Worcester says the “peanut” plan to reconstruct Kelley Square is likely the best option for the intersection.

McMillon said he was excited to work with PawSox hitting coach Rich Gedman, who is a Worcester native.

“He has a way of interacting with the players,” McMillon said. “His experience on the field, it’s second to none.”