Hi all. Here’s how I see baseball on this Sunday, August 14.
With A.Rod and Beltran gone and Mark Teixeira soon to go, the Yankees could only get younger. And they have with a vengance. Gary Sanchez, the megaprospect catcher was called up earlier this month and has spent a lot more time behind the plate than Brian McCann, a catcher in his early thirties who may already be flagging. Then yesterday, unheralded Tyler Austin and megaprospect Aaron Judge launched home runs back-to-back on their first MLB atbats. In the 140 years of the great game, no teammates have homered on their first atbat in the big leagues, let alone go “back to back and belly to belly,” as Yankee broadcaster John Sterling puts it. How young are Austin and Judge? They may have been singing “I’m a Yankee Doodle Dandy” in school only a few years back. Ask them what a vinyl record or a cassette is and they might give you a blank stare.
Austin will be 25 next month. He’s a Yankees draftee from 2010, and as such it’s surprising he’s still around. The Yanks have long had a penchant for trading minor leaguers for over-the-hill stars, not to mention over-the-hill mediocrities like Ken Phelps, Jimmy Jones and Dave LaPointe. Austin plays first base and in the outfield. If Greg Byrd’s shoulder is healed from the surgery that ruined his 2016, he is penciled in at first, leaving Austin to find an outfield niche or back him up at first. As a high schooler Austin had the same sort of cancer John Kruck and Lance Armstrong had, but surgery kept it at bay.
As for the much more heavily advertised Judge, he turned 24 this past April and the fans have clamored to see him because he was tearing the cover off the ball in AAA. He played college ball at Fresno State and was the Yankees’ first pick in 2013. That simple fact guaranteed he’d get a chance sooner than a lower pick like Austin. Judge hit .283 in part of a season in Tampa of the Florida State League, which is like hitting .313 in a similar league such as the Carolina League. This is because of the pitching-heavy nature of the FSL and the huge ballparks there. He is enormous, at six-seven and 275, so he and CC Sabathia will have to compete to get enough food on the chow line as long as the large pitcher remains a Yankee. As for yesterday’s game, energized perhaps by the success of their youths the Yankees beat the Rays 8-4, their second win in the series and third in a row.
In Chicago, the Cubs’ 11-game winning streak was ended on a grand slam by Randal Grichuk as the Cards beat the Cubs 8-4. The salami finished a 6-run top of the 8th for the RedBirds. Before that Brandon Moss and Jed Jyorko had hit solo home runs and Stephen Piscotty had broken a 2-2 tie by scoring on a wild pitch. Grichuk hit the grand slammer on his birthday, a day on which he was mentioned in this forum. The game featured two of the Cardinals’ elite prospects: Luke Weaver, 22 was the starter and Alex Reyes, 21 got the win. Grichuk and Colby Rasmus are the only two Cardinals in history to hit grand slams on their birthday.
Today’s Yankee game was scheduled to be the earliest starter, but it will be delayed as Mariano Rivera’s plaque goes up in Monument Park. That could be the highlight of the day, as the Yankees are sending Luis Severino to the hill. He’s been terrible all year long, but with Nathan Eovaldi’s elbow causing serious trouble the Yankees had no alternative. The Mets and Padres play at 1:10 Eastern after an 11-inning game last night won by the Mets 3-2. Today is a battle of lefties Steven Matz of the Mets and Clayton Richard of the Padres. The Cards and Cubs are the ESPN game at 8 Eastern. Mike Leake goes for St. Louis against the former Cardinal John Lackey.
On the subject of the Cardinals, their outfielder Jeremy Hazelbaker is 29 today. He had been a 4th-round Red Sox draftee back in 2009. In spite of his early draft status this is his rookie season in the bigs. He had played college ball at Ball State in Muncie, Indiana which was his home town. He mostly played in New England with the Red Sox’ minor league teams until being traded to the Dodgers in 2013. Next season he played for Chattanooga, the Dodgers’ AA team. After he was released in May 2015 the Cardinals signed him and his career took off.
Don Carman is 57 today. One of my friends dubbed him “Don Home Run Carman” after watching a game where numerous gopher balls left the lot while Carman was pitching. All told he was 53-54 with a 4.11 ERA over a decade. He spent the bulk of his time with the Phillies, then a year each with the Reds and Rangers. Since his retirement from the game he has become a sports psychologist.
Mark “The Bird” Fidrych was born this day in 1954 and died at 54 in April 2009, the day Harry Kalas died. The Tigers drafted Fidrych in round 10 of the 1974 draft. As such it’s amazing he was in the bigs in mid-April 1976, less than two years after being drafted. One of his minor league coaches at Lakeland in the FSL dubbed him “The Bird” because of his resemblance to Big Bird on Sesame Street. He was finished by the end of 1980 due to arm trouble. In his brief career he was 29-19 and caused a sensation with his antics on the mound. He was an All-Star both in 1976 and 1977. In 1976 he led his league in ERA and took the Rookie of the Year award. He died a horrible, accidental death under a truck he owned which he was working on.
Paul “Daffy” Dean, the younger brother of Dizzy Dean was born this day in 1912 and died in 1981. Unlike Dizzy, it is known that Paul was from Lucas, Arkansas. Dizzy, or “Ole Diz,” as he called himself told different reporters that he was from different cities in the South, and when queried on it he’d say “I don’t want their bosses to bawl them out for getting the same story.” Paul made his debut in 1934 when Dizzy was established. His brother said “Me and Paul are gonna win 45 games.” In fact, they won 49-Diz won 30 and Paul 19. In that world championship season of 1934, Dizzy pitched a 3-hitter in game 1 of a doubleheader, then Paul pitched a no-hitter. Supposedly, Diz said to Paul “If you told me you was gonna pitch a no-hitter I’d have pitched one too.” Each Dean brother won two games of the 4 needed to win the 1934 World Series. Paul got hurt in 1935 en route to winning 19 games but was never the same after that. Diz would get hurt in the 1937 All-Star game. Paul was done in 1943 with a 50-34 record. In spite of the nickname “Daffy,” Paul was known to be the quiet and serious brother. He was pitching in Brooklyn when a woman came to the plate instead of a Dodgers’ player. Paul played it straight and she grounded out. According to Leo Durocher, Diz would have knocked the woman plate-crasher down.