Archive for July, 2009

Weekend Reading

July 31, 2009
Because we should all have some more Ziggy in our lives.

I’m sure most people try to get out and do something on the weekends, but I know that weather/apathy/lethargy sometimes sets in and changes plans. If that happens to you, here’s some good stuff to read over the weekend.

– I didn’t realize this until the other day, but Cardboard Gods is back up. After (I guess) finishing his book, Josh Wilker has started writing on the site again. I’ll probably spend a while this weekend reading through the 8 or so posts I’ve missed.

– I went looking around for some history on the Trade Deadline. I wanted to know when it started and why, but I really couldn’t find anything. I suppose most of it has to do with the glut of stuff going up at this point in the year anyway on the subject. I thought about doing some stuff on past deals, but luckily, Lar did all the work over at Wezen-Ball. He’s got an awesome series of posts up this week covering several major deals and how they were viewed at the time. Short version, some things never change.

– If you want something a bit less baseball, I’d recommend reading Drown and/or The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, both by Junot Diaz. They are not sequels, but you do meet two of the characters in Oscar Wao that were originally in Drown. Both books center on the issue of immigration and the questions of assimilating into a new country, but I like Drown more than Oscar Wao. Diaz has a real knack for language, and they’re both worth checking out and neither take very long to read.

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This Day in Baseball History: July 31st, 2003

July 31, 2009
Not a good start with his new ball club, but the ERA (7.04) is a bit misleading (5.60 K/BB, 8.12 K/9, 3.61 FIP, 20.2 LD%).

On July 31, 2003:

John Smoltz becomes the fastest to 40 saves in a season.

From 1992 to 1999, John Smoltz was one of the best starting pitchers in baseball. Smoltz peaked from 1995 to 1999 with ERA+’s all above 134, and he won his only Cy Young award in 1996. Before the 2000 season got underway, he had to undergo Tommy John surgery to repair his elbow, and he lost all of that season. When he came back in 2001, he was ineffective in 5 starts, posting a 5.76 ERA, and for the stretch run, he became the Atlanta Braves’ closer. Smoltz dominated in that role with a 1.59 ERA and 10 saves in 11 chances.

Smoltz returned to that role in 2002 and became the fastest to 40 saves on August 8th. Smoltz did it in Atlanta’s 114th game, beating Lee Smith’s record of 117 set in 1993. He would go on to set the NL record for most saves in a season with 55, and he finished 3rd in the Cy Young voting. However, Smoltz was only more dominating in 2003. He set the record for the fastest to 40 saves on July 31st (108 games), but an injury forced him to miss most of September, limiting his chances to break the single-season record. During that 2003 season, his K/BB ratio was an astounding 9.13 and his ERA was 1.12 as he seemed to thrive in his new role. The following season, he went backwards a bit, and he wasn’t happy as the closer as his arm began feeling better. He wanted to start, and he returned to the starting role in 2005.

Francisco Rodriguez bested John Smoltz’s record last season on July 20th (98 games) on his way to smashing the single-season record for saves. The closer’s role has recently come under scrutiny, and the save is the biggest reason why. Managers choose to keep their supposed best pitcher for the ninth inning and a 3-run lead instead of bringing him in during the seventh with a 1-run lead and men on base. I believe that it does take “something more” to pitch in the ninth inning with the game on the line, but I also agree that any reliever should be able to nail down a 3-run lead with 3 outs to go. If I was a manager, I would keep a different leaderboard with other stats. The closer would now be called the relief ace, but I would grant that title to multiple relievers if they deserved it.

– Save: Come in with men on base and possible game-winning or tying runs in scoring position and don’t let them score while ending the inning.
– Hold: Come in and allow zero runs in a full inning of work.
– Tough Hold: Same thing but with a one-run lead.
– Close: Finish the game with a one-run lead or the tying and/or winning run in scoring position.

Obviously, these overlap, but I, at least, think the names are more appropriate. Additionally, I think they are worth getting. But in the end, it’s probably best to just leave it to K/BB, GB/FB, and OPS vs. LHB and RHB and screw the counting stats. But counting stats are easier for players to understand.

Trivia Time
On what day was John Smoltz traded to the Braves?

Yesterday’s Answer –> Curt Schilling with 319 in 1997 with Philadelphia and 316 in 2002 with Arizona.

Rounding the Bases

July 30, 2009
Only part of this post was devoted to the above.

A few comments about things as the Trade Deadline gets here.

– Lots of trades on the penultimate day before the deadline. Are there usually this many trades on July 30th? If not, why this season? And for everyone saying that no one will take on salary, a lot of teams (even the Reds) are or are trying to do so. If that is, is the improving economic situation a factor, or have we all overestimated the impact of the recession on baseball? If so, will players start getting higher salaries next off-season?

– Lots of talk about the Cliff Lee deal yesterday, and a lot of criticism heading Cleveland’s way. Now, I understand the “not getting enough back” criticism, and that part is fine. But I don’t understand why everyone thinks the Indians would have competed next season. Even if Jake Westbrook is healthy, could you really count on him and Fausto Carmona to be the 2 and 3 guys in that rotation for next season? There are no other legitimate starting options (Carl Pavano, Jeremy Sowers, et al. are not very good) there. And for a team seemingly strapped for cash, they won’t be able to go out and nab a top-notch starting pitcher to complement Lee. So, do you really think Cleveland was going to compete next season anyway? Instead, the Indians gave themselves two arms (one that will go in the rotation next season and one that is a bit away) and a decent middle infielder and catcher that can be used as trade fodder for another starting pitcher in the off-season, and with a young nucleus behind Grady Sizemore, Shin-Soo Choo, Matt LaPorta, Asdrubal Cabrera, and Carlos Santana (who will all be there for another 4-6 years), the Indians are trying to bulk up the number of pitching prospects, hoping they will team with Alex White to be a decent rotation in 2-3 years. Again, maybe they didn’t get enough back, but I don’t think they were going to compete next year anyway.

– Lots of shock at the Freddy Sanchez-Tim Alderson deal yesterday. Color me one of the people surprised that Nick Sabean gave up such a good young pitcher, but Keith Law makes a good point about Alderson’s step (or steps) back this season. So, maybe it was a fair deal for Sanchez, who is underrated and is worth about 3.5-4 wins a season. But the point being left out in this is did Sabean have to give up Alderson. I doubt he did, and I bet Neil Huntington felt pretty good about his coup yesterday. He probably thought he’d get a couple decent prospects back. As for Alderson, I imagine that his body hasn’t responded well to the 145 IP that occurred last season. If he bounces back, that trade could be huge for the Pirates. All of this said, the Giants traded from a position of strength at the deadline and still have pitching to burn.

– Lots of talk about Roy Halladay, but no deal appears imminent. Still a day to go and there might be some posturing going on, but I’m impressed with JP Ricciardi. He said he would have to be wowed, and when he wasn’t, he didn’t just take the best deal on the table because it was there. It’s not a hard thing to do, especially after all the talk recently, but when he didn’t get what he wanted, he stepped back. With the pitching coming back to Toronto next season, this is the anti-Cleveland Indians. Adding one more good starting pitcher to team up with Halladay, Ricky Romero, and others could make the Blue Jays into contenders. Of course, I retain the right to change my opinion if Ricciardi reverses course on this and acts like every other GM.

– I still think a Lyle Overbay for Casey Kotchman trade should be in order, but if the Blue Jays keep Halladay, that becomes awfully unlikely. The two players are very similar, but Overbay is a bit better with the stick while Kotchman is a bit better (though Overbay is better with the stick than Kotchman is with the glove) with the leather. However, the Braves would take on the additional salary, and the Blue Jays receive an extra year from Kotchman that they wouldn’t have received from Overbay. When Overbay leaves, Freddie Freeman should be able to step in. Am I missing something here?

– Anyone else think tomorrow should still be fun? There’s this feeling inside me thinking that the Rays and Red Sox will try to do outdo each other. Both have a lot of prospects, and I imagine that 2 of Halladay, Victor Martinez, and Adrian Gonzalez end up in the AL East by 5 PM tomorrow.

Joe Torre the Player

July 30, 2009
I remember back in the late 1990’s when I told my dad that Joe Torre (the symbol of the Yankees to me) was the scum of the earth, and I also remember my horror (at the time) when my dad told me he was both a player and a manager for the Braves.

Ranking fifth (for now) on the all-time managerial wins list, Joe Torre will make it into the Hall of Fame, but lost in his brilliance and success as a manager is what some (but probably isn’t) might call a Hall of Fame playing career.

After a brief call-up in 1960 as a 19-year old catcher, Joe Torre would become more of an everyday player in 1961 on a Milwaukee Braves team that included Hank Aaron and Eddie Mathews. His first season was a pretty good one as he went on to come in second in the Rookie of the Year voting (to Billy Williams, who had an awesome rookie season) with a .278/.330/.424 line with 10 home runs and 21 doubles. After a frustrating 1962, he broke out in 1963, and for the next 7 seasons, he would be one of the best catchers in the National League.

Over that time (1963-1970), he made 6 All-Star appearances, won a Gold Glove, and played in 135 game in all but one of those seasons. His OPS+ usually sat in the 120-140 range, which is pretty good for a catcher but he was playing quite a bit at first base as well. In 1966 (the first in Atlanta), Torre had his best season during the stretch hitting .315/.382/.560 with 31 HR, 101 RBI, 20 2B, and only 1 more strikeout than walk (61 to 60). He fell off a bit the next season and even more the following season, and he was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals prior to the 1969 season for Orlando Cepeda, who played fairly well for a couple of seasons but was clearly no longer the force he was in San Francisco at the beginning of the decade.

Joe Torre revived his career in St. Louis, but it was mostly as a first baseman and third baseman. In 1969, he bounced back by playing 144 of the 161 games at first, but he did play over half of his games at catcher in 1970. During both of those seasons, his batting average and power went back up, and he drove in 100 runs in both seasons. Prior to the 1971 season, the Cardinals and Torre decided it would be best if he played third base to clear a spot for young 21-year old Ted Simmons, who went on to do pretty well that season. But Torre did better. Having his best season at the age of 30, Torre hit .363/.421/.555 with 24 HR, 137 RBI, and 230 H. The average and RBI totals were league-bests, but his 24 home runs were no match for Willie Stargell’s 48. Torre was named the MVP for the first and only time.

Torre remained a solid player for the next few seasons, but he never neared his 1971 totals again. He was traded to the Mets after the 1974 season where he served as a player-coach and player-manager before retiringas a player in 1977 to focus on full managing responsibilities.

This Day in Baseball History: July 30th, 1980

July 30, 2009
They were supposed to be the fearsome twosome in 1980.

On July 30, 1980:

JR Richard suffers a stroke before the Houston Astros game.

James Rodney Richard was a high school phenom. In his entire high school career, he never lost a game, and during his senior season, he didn’t even give up a run. At 6’8″, he received lots of scholarships to play basketball (he was good at that, too), but he decided to put his name in the 1970 draft. With the second pick, the Astros selected Richard.

Being able to throw a 100 mph fastball and 93 mph slider will move one through the minor-league system pretty quickly, and in September of 1971, Richard earned his taste of the majors. Over the next four years, he wouldn’t pitch very much (39 games) as he bounced between AAA and the minors, but he received his first real chance in the rotation in 1975 when the Astros traded away Claude Osteen and when Don Wilson committed suicide. Richard was a bit wild and unsuccessful in his first real season, but he followed it up with a breakout 1976 season in which he won 20 games. Over the next 3 seasons, he would become one of the better pitchers in the National League, winning 18 games each season and leading the league in strikeouts twice.

On July 30, 1980, Richard was having an outstanding season with a 10-4 record and 1.90 ERA, but before the game that night and while playing catch, he suffered a stroke. During his previous starts, he had complained of a “dead arm” and not being able to see the catcher’s signs. Some took this as a sign of mental weakness in the 30-year old, but when he checked into a hospital, the blood pressure in his right arm was almost non-existent due to a blockage in an artery. However, the hospital believed nothing was seriously wrong and sent him back to the team just days before suffering a stroke.

But Richard was determined to make a comeback. In 1982 and 1983, he climbed the ladder again, attempting to prove he could pitch, but when he reached AAA, he struggled. Late in 1983, a graft in his left leg closed and needed surgery. Fearing the consequences of continuing to pitch, Richard retired after the Astros released him in November.

Trivia Time
In 1979, JR Richard’s 313 strikeouts were the most by an NL right-hander in a season. One righty has beaten that record. Who is it? How many strikeouts did he have? And how many times has he beaten Richard’s 313 strikeouts?

Yesterday’s Answer –> George Lee Anderson

Tom Browning Out in Right Field

July 29, 2009
Haven’t read it, but I might have to go find it. Browning seems to be my kind of guy.

Tom Browning was an average major-league pitcher who played for the Cincinnati Reds from 1984 to 1994 and the Kansas City Royals for a few games in 1995. As a rookie in 1985, he set a major-league record by being the only rookie pitcher ever to win 20 games in his first season, but he wasn’t particularly good as he did have a 3.55 ERA (107 ERA+) and a 2.12 K/BB ratio. In 1988, Browning became the first Cincinnati Red to throw a perfect game, which is odd considering how old the franchise is, on September 16th. A year later on Independence Day, he almost threw another one before losing it in the ninth. He pitched several more years and helped the Reds win the 1990 World Series, but after a nasty shoulder injury in 1994, he was done.

But one of the more interesting things he did was actually in 1993. On July 7th, the Cincinnati Reds were playing the Chicago Cubs in Wrigley Field. At the time, the buildings past the outfield fence had started to add unofficial bleachers to the tops of the buildings for people to watch the game. It became a legal matter when the tenants started charging money to sit up there, but not all of them charged. Why does this matter? Because Browning decided to watch a game from up there.

He went to a Sheffield Street building (out to right field) in his full uniform, and he watched the game while dangling his feet off the edge. Before the game, Browning told the pitchers to be on the look-out for him, but they had little idea he would pull that stunt. How he got out of the stadium and to the top of the building without anyone (players, coaches, security, or fans) noticing is a mystery, but Browning was apparently a sneaky man (he wore a suit over his uniform to get across the street, but you figure someone would have noticed before he left the stadium).

Apparently, he tried to make it to the top of the scoreboard in center field but was unable, and therefore, he headed to the building across the street. While up there, a few fans offered to buy him some hot dogs and beer, but he declined.

Manager Davey Johnson stated that he didn’t know Browning had done it until after the game, but if the players realized during the third inning what happened, I think Johnson probably figured it out as well. Johnson went on to fine Browning, but because the fine was a whole $500, he didn’t seem too upset. I imagine everyone thought it was pretty funny.

Fun story, and I’d like to think Lar from Wezen-Ball for sending me the story. Below is the newspaper article (I couldn’t find a link), but the best story of the day might be the one at the bottom of the article.

Copyright USA Today Information Network Jul 8, 1993

MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL; BEHIND THE SEAMS; BASEBALL’S ODDS & OFFBEAT

Instead of “Where’s Waldo?,” the Cincinnati Reds played “Where’s Tom?” in Wednesday’s 4-3 win against Chicago at Wrigley Field.

Pitcher Tom Browning told teammates to look for him in the third inning but wouldn’t say where.

Come the third inning, and – lo and behold – Browning was spotted on the rooftop of a brownstone on Sheffield Avenue behind Wrigley Field’s right-field bleachers.

Yes, the game was in progress, and yes, Browning, who last pitched Sunday, was in full uniform. He’d worn a warm-up suit over his attire to travel across the street incognito.

“It was kind of neat to have that available at a major league park, to be able to sit across the street and watch a game,” Browning said after he’d come to ground level and back to Wrigley.

“They (the fans watching from the roof) offered me a couple of beers and a hot dog, but I said `no.’ “

Browning actually had intended to climb into the ballpark’s manually operated scoreboard in center field but couldn’t get in.

“I told my pitchers to look for me in the third inning, and I’m not going to tell anybody where,” said Browning, who did tip off Tim Belcher.

Cameras caught Browning with his legs dangling off roof, waving his Reds cap. But manager Davey Johnson didn’t find out about the escapade until after the game. “Maybe he wanted to be a fan,” Johnson said. “I’d hate to think what we’d be like, if we were in a tight pennant race. We’d all be crazy.”

Johnson then called Browning into his office, saying the pitcher would “make a contribution,” (read pay a fine) in return for his fun.

Browning didn’t care. He loved being a bleacher bum in – or slightly out of – Wrigley.

“I had fun,” said Browning. “I think baseball is at its purest here.” – Carrie Muskat

CRUISIN’: Atlanta’s Terry Pendleton couldn’t wait to show off his new toy to his teammates. He arrived at Fulton County Stadium this week driving a new Ford Cobra, a replica of the ’67 original.

He didn’t keep it secret that he was dying to show it off.

“I just love that car,” he said. “I love the curve and the waves on it.”

Pendleton ordered the car from Unique Motor Cars in Gadsden, Ala., then had Ernie Elliott, brother of NASCAR racer Bill Elliott, build an engine.

Which means the car will go pretty fast. How fast? Pendleton won’t say exactly – and since the speed limit in most places he drives is 65, he won’t say, either, if he’s taken the car to its limit.

THE LAST LAUGH: The security staff at Baltimore’s Memorial Stadium evened a score with New Britain (Conn.) Red Sox infielder Scott Bethea last week.

During a rain delay in a Class AA Eastern League game against the Bowie (Md.) Baysox May 16, Bethea pulled street clothes over his uniform, ran onto the field from the stands and slid on the infield tarp a la former Orioles catcher Rick Dempsey.

Bethea then sprinted to the visiting bullpen and shed the street clothes. When security arrived, he pointed vaguely and told them, “I just saw him go that way.”

But when the Red Sox returned to Baltimore last Thursday, New Britain manager Jim Pankovits wanted to teach his infielder a lesson. He arranged with Jack Boehmer, director of stadium operations, for in-house security to “arrest” Bethea. They came into the locker room, put handcuffs on him and led him off.

As they were walking down a hallway, Pankovits asked Bethea what he thought of the dilemma. “What the hell am I supposed to think?” Bethea replied.

Said the manager: “I think you’re on Candid Camera.” – Mike Dodd

This Day in Baseball History: July 29th, 1986

July 29, 2009
Does anyone know where “Sparky” came from?

On July 29, 1986:

Sparky Anderson wins number 600 in the American League.

As a player, Sparky Anderson wasn’t much. Anderson was signed by the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1953 as a second base prospect. Like most middle infield prospects, he was a pretty good fielder but a poor hitter. In the minors, he hit .263 with a .325 slugging percentage. Finally at age 25, he received his chance in the major leagues, but he didn’t do much. His glove couldn’t make up for a .218 average in over 500 at-bats when there was no pop (o HR, 9 2B). After that 1959 season, he was returned the minor leagues, where he would stay for four more seasons.

Fortunately while with the Toronto Maples Leafs (of the International League not the National Hockey League), Jack Kent Cooke saw Anderson’s leadership qualities and began trying to convince Anderson that his abilities would be best used in a managerial role. In 1964 and following several tough minor league seasons, Anderson relented and became the Leafs manager. Five years later, Anderson returned the major leagues but this time as a coach. He became an Angels coach in the following off-season, but the Cincinnati Reds called with a managerial position a few days later.

Anderson, of course, accepted the position, and the rest is history. In his first season, he won 102 games and an NL pennant. He and the Reds won 2 World Series titles in 1975 and 1976 as part of the Big Red Machine. In 1979, he left for the Detroit Tigers, and he became the first manager to win a World Series in both leagues in 1984. Two years after that and on July 29, 1986, he won his 600th game as a Detroit Tiger. Combined with the fact that he won over 600 in Cincinnati, Anderson became the first manager to win 600 games in each league.

Only five managers (John McGraw, Connie Mack, Tony LaRussa, Bobby Cox, and Joe Torre) have won more games than Anderson’s 2,194.

Trivia Time
What is Sparky’s real name?

Yesterday’s Answer –> Pittsburgh Pirates and the Pittsburgh Pirates

This Day in Baseball History: July 28th, 1971

July 28, 2009
When I was younger, I used to think he was Frank Robinson, and it took me a while to distinguish the two.

On July 28, 1971:

Brooks Robinson does the unthinkable.

In 1983, Brooks Robinson was elected to the Hall of Fame. During his career, he was a decent hitter. Over 23 seasons, Robinson hit .267/.322/.401 with a decidedly average 104 OPS+. In fact, one of the few offensive records he set was hitting into 4 triple plays during his career. However, he didn’t win a plaque at Cooperstown for his stick. Instead, he won it with his glove.

Known as the “Human Vacuum Cleaner” (someone really needs to come up with a better nickname for a defensive whiz), Robinson nabbed an incredible 16 consecutive Gold Glove awards from 1960-1975, and he is considered to be the best defensive third baseman of all-time. His career fielding percentage was .971 with 263 errors (about 11 a season). In every way, he was an awesome third baseman.

But every dog has his day, I guess. On July 28, 1971, Brooks Robinson committed 3 errors in the same game. The fifth inning was the culprit as it appears that he made all three in that inning on two consecutive plays. Adding to his misery, he went 0-for-3 on the day. The Orioles, however, went on to win the game in an exciting fashion as the other member of the Robinson family, Frank (okay, they aren’t really related), bashed a walk-off home run to win the game, 3-2. The only 3 Oriole runs came on that one hit. Interestingly enough, the Orioles and the Oakland Athletics both had a 63-38 record at the end of the game.

Trivia Time
Robinson forgot this game and helped the Orioles win 101 games and make it to the World Series. Who did they play and who won the 1971 World Series?

Yesterday’s Answer –> Willy Taveras’ best streak was 171 games and 666 at-bats. 70 and 285 would be the best after that. Womack’s second best was 62 and 265, but he had several double-digit streaks as well.

Tony Peña

July 27, 2009
After talking about his son earlier today, I figured a post on Tony Peña, Sr. was appropriate.

Born on June 4, 1957, Antonio Francisco Padillo Peña grew up in the Dominican Republic. His brother Ramon and he were taught to play baseball by their mother who was a softball star. He learned several of his quirky habits from her and his youth in the Dominican Republic. One of his most famous quirks was sitting on the ground while catching with one leg stretched out. Another one was taking a bat to a new glove for half an hour in order to break it in. A final oddity was using lamb grease and oil to heal arm injuries.

Peña began his professional career when the Pittsburgh Pirates signed him in 1975, and he spent the next 4 and a half years in the minors. Late in 1980, he received a brief call-up, and in 1981, he didn’t play a whole lot, though he did come in 6th in the Rookie of the Year voting. A year later, he received his chance and made it count. A .296/.323/.435 line helped him earn an All-Star nod, and his additional defensive skills combined with that offense to make him a fan favorite in Pittsburgh. The following season, 1983, was probably his finest. He boosted his average and OBP about 10 points and hit a career-high 15 home runs, and adding in his first Gold Glove, Peña came in 12th in the MVP voting. By putting up similar numbers in 1984 and winning his second of 3 consecutive Gold Glove awards, he was blossoming into a young star.

1985 was a small step back as his average dipped down to .249, but he still won a Gold Glove. Fears were quieted when he rebounded with a solid 1986 an another All-Star nod, his fourth in 5 seasons (oddly, he wasn’t in the game in 1983). During the following off-season, he was surprisingly traded to the St. Louis Cardinals for Andy Van Slyke and Mike LaValliere, who would be instrumental in the last great Pirate teams. His first season in St. Louis wasn’t pretty, but he rebounded to post decent 1988 and 1989 seasons. St. Louis, however, had its young stud catcher in Todd Zeile, and they let Peña walk in the 1989 off-season.

Peña went on to sign with the Boston Red Sox, but after a decent 1990 season, the now 33-year old catcher was on the decline. His playing time began diminishing, and following the 1993 season, he headed to the Cleveland Indians to split time with Sandy Alomar, Jr. Still unproductive, Peña’s playing career would end with the 1997 season.

With his major-league career in the past, he went back to the Dominican Republic to manage some Winter Ball teams and led them to championships. In 2002, he became the manger for the Kansas City Royals, and a year later, the Royals had their first winning season since 1994 as Peña won Manager of the Year honors. Unfortunately, fortune turned against him and the Royals in 2004 and 2005, costing Peña his job. He moved to the New York Yankees as the first-base coach the following year and interviewed for the managerial position after Joe Torre’s departure, and he now serves as the Yankees’ bench coach.

Monday Frivolities

July 27, 2009
He used to be one of the Braves better prospects, but Erik Cordier (who the Braves got for Peña) isn’t doing great in the Braves system, either.

It was only a matter of time, but Tony Peña, Jr.’s hitting has finally classified him as a pitcher. I didn’t know that poor hitting could actually reclassify your position. I thought that you had to, you know, play the position, but I guess, you know you’re pretty special when something like this happens.

Anyway, in honor of Tony Peña, Jr. hopefully finally making Joe Posnanski happy, I’ve decided that today’s post needs to center around “Non-Pitchers that Pitch“. Of course, bear in mind that he probably won’t be able to live up to his first appearance (July 21, 2008 — 1 IP, 0 H, 1 K, 0 ER, 0 BB).

Kid Gleason spent the first 8 years of his career as pitcher and was decidedly average (104 ERA+, though it’s a bit odd to use that statistic for a guy who pitched in the 1890’s). He split time during those years at pitcher and the middle infield, and in 1896, he switched to second permanently. As a second baseman, he wasn’t a particularly good hitter, but by grabbing a couple at-bats in 1912, he became one of the few to play in 4 decades. He soon became a manager and was the manager for the 1919 Black Sox team, though he supposedly knew nothing of the conspiracy. (299 games as a pitcher)

John Ward also spent his first few seasons (7) primarily as a pitcher, but after an arm injury in 1883, he taught himself to throw left-handed in order to play the outfield. The second pitcher to throw a perfect game and Bill James’ 15th best non-pitcher, Ward would become a Hall of Famer. But before that, he was a lawyer fighting for the players’ rights against the National League. (292 games)

– Did you know that Babe Ruth pitched? He was actually pretty good. (163 games)

Johnny Cooney spent his first 6 seasons on a mound before eventually giving way to being a first baseman/outfielder. He, like Gleason, was a pretty average pitcher, but he was fairly below-average as a hitter. In his entire 20 season career, he hit 2 home runs, and they came on consecutive days in September of 1939. (159 games)

Elmer Smith spent his American Association days as a pitcher, and in 1887, he led the league in ERA. Once the National League began, he became a member of the Cincinnati Red Stockings and was a pretty good hitter/outfielder. For his career, he hit .310/.398/.410. (149 games)

– For the five seasons up to the turn of the 20th century, Cy Seymour was the perfect example of an average pitcher (exact 100 ERA+). He was a decidedly better center fielder. In 1902, he had a really impressive 1905 when he hit .377/.429/.559 with 40 doubles, 21 triples, 8 home runs, and 121 RBI, narrowly missing out in leading in all of these categories because a jerk had to hit 9 home runs. How inconsiderate. (140 games)

John Coleman wasn’t a very good pitcher. In 1883, he threw 583 innings with a major-league record 48 losses, 772 hits, and 291 earned runs (501 overall — how many errors did his team, who was 17-81, make?) for one season. Granted, he pitched a lot, but it’s still impressive. At least, he was an average hitter (100 OPS+). (107 games)

Rube Bressler (I might name one of my kids or dogs Rube) wasn’t a very good pitcher, either, and after being sent to the minors in 1917, he was only brought back in 1918 due to a shortage of ballplayers caused by World War I. In 1921, he became a first baseman/outfielder, and he was a decent hitter. (107 games)

And so ends our list of players who spent most of their major-league careers as position players but were multi-talented enough to have made 100 appearances as a pitcher as well. Here’s to Tony Peña, Jr. even getting the chance to pitch once in the majors (or twice, I guess). It is, however, worth mentioning that all of these players did the exact opposite of what Peña is attempting, and what Peña is attempting is probably harder.