Hi all. Here is how I see baseball on this Tuesday, Nov. 29.
First of all, in a bulletin I’m writing after the first edition came out, Yoenis Cespedes has reportedly signed again with the Mets for 4 years at $110 million with a full no-trade clause. Christmas has hit Flushing. Twitter is blowing up, as are certain Facebook threads. I return you now to the earlier column.
This makes a lot of sense. The Marlins, in the greatest distress because of the death of star Jose Fernandez have signed a very good pitcher to at least occupy his space, if not fill his shoes.
When the Yankees’ Thurman Munson was killed in a plane crash they were without a particularly good catcher for a decade and a half. They used a lot of nonentities whose names don’t even come back to me as I write this. The Marlins turned to Edinson Volquez who pitched in the 2015 World Series as the Royals beat the Mets. Admittedly he’s 33, but they had to get some able-bodied pitcher to replace Fernandez, tragically killed at 24 with two other men in a horrific shipwreck off Miami. Volquez, a righthander has been in the bigs since 2005 with the Rangers. He’s a respectable 89-79 though he’s never lasted long in any given city. When he was with the Reds he was an All-Star back in 2008. The Reds had gotten him from Texas in the Josh Hamilton trade. Both men would play in the World Series with their new teams. After 2008 he wouldn’t win double digit games until 2014 with the Pirates. In 2015 with the Royals he started game 1 of the World Series, an epic 14-inning win by the home team from Missouri. Volquez pitched unaware that death had claimed his father back in the Dominican Republic. He made a brief return there, then reached New York for game 5, when the Royals won the series with a 12-inning victory. He has pitched in both the 2009 and 2013 World Baseball Classics and with the 2017 tournament partly taking place in Miami he could well petition his new employer for permission to pitch in that event. How the Marlins will react is anybody’s guess. They might want to protect their new find.
A sure-shot first-ballot Hall of Famer, Mariano Rivera is 47 today. I have always said he was the best player I ever broadcast, though my announcing partner has a solid case for Vladimir Guererro. Like Joe DiMaggio, Rivera is the son of a fisherman. He quit school in 9th grade to work with his dad, but quit fishing after losing an uncle and nearly losing his own life to the sea. He signed at age 20, which is ancient for an international who can be signed at 16. Rivera was an unknown Panamanian when he struck out a dozen Miracle hitters in 1992. We broadcast that game, a 1-0 win by the Ft. Lauderdale Yankees over our Miracle. The game was played at a blistering pace and was done in 98 minutes, shorter than most movies. We left not thinking anything special, since it didn’t take Cy Young to strike out a dozen of our banjo hitters. Later the word came down that Mariano had undergone elbow surgery and was probably finished. Neither the Marlins nor the Rockies took him in the expansion draft, so again all of baseball figured him worthless. How wrong the grapevine was. Especially when we didn’t see Rivera in AA we assumed he had just disappeared, until he surfaced with the Yankees in May 1995. He was theirs until the end of 2013. He had an insane record for a closer, 82-60 with 652 saves and a 2.21 ERA. He was an All-Star 13 times and won 5 World Series rings, the last in 2009. His MLB mark of 652 saves is unreachable with the quality of modern relief pitching. His son Mariano III was drafted in round 4 by the Nationals in 2015.
Former pitcher Dennis Burtt is 59 today. He doesn’t get his mention here because of his playing career, since he went 2-2 for the Twins between late 1985 and April 1986. Though he was a 2nd-round pick by Boston in 1976 he didn’t last. He gets mentioned because he was pitching coach on two teams we broadcast for. We saw him in Fort Myers with the Miracle in 1992, (the year of the Mariano Rivera game) and in New Britain as pitching coach for the next two seasons. I have messaged him for further details to put in a later edition. A known fact is that he was a pitching coach until 1998.
Two 1960’s-era Tigers have birthdays today. Bill Freehan is 75 and Dick McAuliffe would have been 77 had he not passed away this past May. Freehan was the team’s catcher starting in 1961 and playing steadily through 1976. He was an All-Star 11 times and his team won the 1968 World Series. With no draft the Tigers signed him from the University of Michigan. At his best he was one of the league’s best catchers. McAuliffe played second and short for the Tigers from 1960–73, then played two seasons in Boston. He was an All-Star 3 times, 1965–67 with Freehan.0