John Halama: the First Perfect Game in Pacific Coast League History in 2001

This is the first, and probably only, post here that’ll talk about a minor league perfect game. John Halama of the Tacoma Rainiers threw it on July 7, 2001: it was the first nine-inning perfect game in the Pacific Coast League’s 99-year history to that point, so it seems worth telling the story here. The 6-0 win came over Calgary, a former Mariners AAA farm team. The Seattle Times reported:

The perfect game came in Halama’s second start for Tacoma, and his first start at Cheney Stadium.

Halama had nine strikeouts, got seven fly-ball outs, and 11 ground-ball outs while pitching the fifth perfect game of any length in league history. The previous perfect game occurred in 1975.

Coincidentally, Halama’s perfect game came just four nights after Rainiers teammate Brett Tomko, also sent down to Tacoma by the Mariners, pitched a no-hitter in Oklahoma City.

On the final play of the game, Halama made the putout at first base on Ben Candelaria’s grounder to Todd Betts.

Betts, the first baseman, made one of the more memorable plays of the game. In the seventh inning, he leaped off the bag to snag a high throw from the shortstop, then tagged out batter Mike Gulan.

Ramon Vazquez provided the offense for Tacoma, hitting a grand slam in the third inning. Luis Figueroa hit a two-run single in the eighth to cap the Rainiers’ scoring.

Rahula Strohl of the Tacoma News Tribune added:

“I was just trying to stay within myself,” said Halama. “I was sent down here for a specific reason, to get my mechanics back and to get the ball down.” Eleven of Halama’s 27 outs came on groundballs, and he struck out nine on 97 total pitches.

First baseman Todd Betts made a pair of nice plays to preserve the perfect game.

In the fifth inning, he made an over-the-shoulder catch in shallow right field on a blooper off the bat of Calgary center fielder Jeff Abbott.

Then in the seventh, third baseman Mike Gulan grounded one to shortstop Ramon Vazquez, who threw wide of first to the home-plate side, but Betts collected the throw and applied the tag to Gulan, ending the inning.

Saturday’s start was Halama’s second since being sent down to Tacoma from Seattle on June 29.

He pitched seven innings and gave up one run on four hits in his first start with the Rainiers.

“Two starts don’t mean I’m there,” Halama said. “The call of getting back up (to the majors), that’s going to be Seattle’s decision.”

“That’s the hardest drop for a player to make, from the majors down to the minors,” Rainiers pitching coach Chris Bosio said. “John pitched like a major leaguer, and he got his reward.”

This is Halama’s first stint in the minors since joining the Mariners between the 1998 and 1999 seasons as part of the Randy Johnson trade to the Houston Astros.

The next day, Halama said: “I do feel better now than I did in the big leagues. My mechanics were a little screwed up (in the majors) as opposed to now. He’s [Tacoma pitching coach Chris Bosio] helped me out since day one.”

Published in: on September 1, 2010 at 2:16 am  Leave a Comment  

Some Things on Ubaldo Jimenez From 2003 to 2010

Since Jimenez looks like he’s going to be an awfully good pitcher for a while, no matter how many wins he winds up with in 2010, I thought it was worthwhile to gather up a few things on him that perhaps have escaped notice. This Rocky Mountain News profile of him seven years ago, in mid-June 2003, talked about Jimenez when he was in Asheville, North Carolina:

Halfway through the season, Class A Asheville pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez has made steady progress. The strides he makes in the balance of the season could be more dramatic.

Jimenez, 19, is in his first full professional season. He has gone 4-3 with a 4.40 earned-run average in 14 starts and has held opposing batters to a .230 average.

”It’ll be interesting to see how he finishes this league up,” Asheville pitching coach Mike Arner said. ”I would say he’s going to dominate in August, if he stays on the track he’s on, because he’s constantly learning. He’s always asking questions.”

In his first seven starts, Jimenez pitched six innings once and went 2-2 with a 4.96 ERA in those outings. Omitting a May 18 start reduced by rain to one inning, Jimenez has pitched at least six innings in his other six starts, going 2-1, 3.79.

”He’s starting to understand he needs to make the guys try and swing the bats and not try to strike everyone out,” Arner said. ”Early in the year, he was trying to strike every hitter out and going five innings with 100 pitches.”

Jimenez has been up to 93 to 94 mph with his fastball and usually will pitch at 91 to 92 mph. Arner said Jimenez has the capability to pitch at 93 mph.

At times, Jimenez will show a decent sinker. But Arner said that because Jimenez, like any young pitcher, has a tendency to want to see a lot of movement on that pitch, it ends up staying flat.

Arner said that when Jimenez starts to get consistency with his curveball, that pitch, which has a sharp, late break, definitely will be his out pitch.

Jimenez’s changeup is decent in the bullpen, Arner said, and will be a good pitch once he just relaxes and throws it the same way in games. But because he’s too amped up, Arner said, Jimenez overthrows his changeup and doesn’t throw it for strikes.

Jimenez, who is from San Cristobal, Dominican Republic, received a $30,000 bonus April 25, 2001, when he was signed by Rolando Fernandez, the Rockies director of operations in Latin America. Jimenez was throwing 85 to 86 mph at the age of 16 when Fernandez first saw him and 87 mph when he signed with the Rockies.

”The velocity was OK,” Fernandez said, ”but he had a feel back then for his curveball. He didn’t throw it for a strike. But the rotation was there. The bite was there. I think that’s what really caught my eye, and, of course, the projection of the body, because he was 6-2 and 165.”

Fernandez expected Jimenez, who now is 6-feet-4 and 198 pounds, would spend a second season in the Dominican Summer League last year. But when the Rockies opened their Dominican academy Feb. 1 in Boca Chica, Jimenez advanced so much from then through June, he earned the opportunity to come to the United States and pitch at rookie-level Casper.

”The progress he made then was incredible,” Fernandez said, ”because I was going to leave him one more year in the Dominican. This kid just kept getting stronger and gaining velocity. His mechanics and control improved. When he first signed, the projection was there, but he was very raw.”

Three years later, Jimenez made his AAA debut on June 30, 2006, and Bob Stephens of the Colorado Springs Gazette reported:

Potential is wonderful. Performance is better. Ubaldo Jimenez had a lot of the former and not enough of the latter Friday night.

The young fireballer lost his first outing with the Colorado Springs Sky Sox before a crowd of 5,580 at Security Service Field as Jon Knott homered and tripled twice for five RBIs to lead the Portland Beavers to a 7-3 victory.

Sky Sox runs came on Ryan Shealy’s two-run homer, his team-high 13th, and Chris Iannetta’s solo shot. It was Iannetta’s first homer since he was promoted from Double-A Tulsa on Monday.

Jimenez had won seven straight decisions for Tulsa but allowed six earned runs in 53 innings in his Triple-A debut.

“Baseball people know that when a guy is in a groove at one level, it’s hard to carry that over to the next level,” said Sky Sox manager Tom Runnells. “It rarely happens.”

Jimenez was sensational in his past five starts for Tulsa. He didn’t allow a run in his past 23 innings and gave up 10 hits in his final 32 innings.

“I can’t wait for (Jimenez) to get comfortable here,” said Sky Sox leadoff man Jeff Salazar. “We all know how good he can be. He’s going to be exciting to watch in the big leagues for a long time, I think.”

The 6-foot-4 right-hander has a fastball consistently in the mid-90s but left too many up in the strike zone, leading to nine hits. He walked three and struck out four.

Runnells expected an adjustment period for the 22-year-old from the Dominican Republic who originally signed with the Rockies at 16. Jimenez is on the Rockies’ 40-man roster and has been listed as the organization’s fifth-best prospect by Baseball America the past two years.

Jimenez said he had trouble adjusting to the altitude but also must improve his curveball, which is an ongoing project.

“It was hard to breathe,” Jimenez said.

Jimenez adjusted well enough to the altitude and to AAA ball to move up to the Rockies in time to start their final game of 2006, on October 1. Tracy Ringolsby of the Rocky Mountain News said he

gave a glimpse of what could be in the Rockies’ season-ending 8-5 loss to the Cubs at Wrigley Field, providing an impressive effort in his first big league start, only to see the bullpen let the game slip away.

“He was the complete package, very impressive,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “He deserved better backing.” . . .

Jimenez was charged with four runs, three earned, in 6 2/3 innings, leaving with a 4-2 lead and two men on base only two see both score – one when Johnny Cedeno greeted reliever Jeremy Affeldt with a single and the other when shortstop Clint Barmes booted what should have been Angel Pagan’s inning-ending ground ball.

Juan Pierre then singled home the go-ahead run before Jose Mesa got the final out in the seventh, only to see the Cubs rally for three more runs off Manny Corpas and Tom Martin in the eighth.

Garrett Atkins provided a ninth-inning farewell to the season, hitting his 29th home run, but there was to be no repeat of the Rockies’ wacky 10-8, 14-inning win Saturday when they rallied after blowing an 8-0 lead.

The focus in the finale, though, was on Jimenez, the fourth of four rookies who was afforded a final-month start to give Hurdle and his staff a first-hand glimpse. Jimenez was impressive, his one glitch an Aramis Ramirez home run on an 0-2 pitch after giving up a leadoff walk to Ryan Theriot in the fourth.

He allowed only four of the first 20 batters he faced to reach base, until, with two out in the seventh, he gave up a single to Scott Moore and walked Henry Blanco.

“Those last two hitters I tried to do too much,” Jimenez said. . . .

“Obviously he had an opportunity (Sunday), and he made a wonderful impression,” Hurdle said. “There was a separation (from the other rookies) there. . . . He used all his pitches. He threw the breaking ball early in the count. He had a fastball in the mid-90s. He kept left-handed hitters off-balance with the change and threw the curveball to right-handed hitters early and late in the count.”

Finally, this February Troy Renck of the Denver Post profiled Jimenez as potentially ready for a breakthrough performance in 2010:

“I need better fastball command to take that next step,” said Jimenez, who went 15-12 with a 3.47 ERA last season. “If you can throw the fastball where you want, it means everything.”

At 26 and entering his third full season, Jimenez is more interested in long-term success than short-term recognition. He has made himself a better bunter. And he has evolved into a terrific fielder. But to become pure acid reflux for hitters, Jimenez must throw more fastball strikes early in games.

Here’s why, explained manager Jim Tracy.

“Of course, 97 miles per hour is great, but 94 to 95 well-located at the knees is even better,” he said. “If he can do that the first few times through the lineup, just think how much more effective his off-speed pitches will be later in the game, when the other team hasn’t seen them much. We’d be in business.”

It’s not that Jimenez doesn’t trust his fastball. According to Inside Edge scouting services, he threw it 64 percent of the time last season.

Sometimes he will get too cute, using the changeup or slider against weaker hitters, such as when former Dodgers pitcher Randy Wolf rapped a game-winning single on a curveball last year.

“There are games I feel like I have so many good pitches that I don’t want to stick with just one. But I don’t need to go back and look at video; the video of the mistakes is in my head,” Jimenez said. “I know the hitters better, and I am learning to make adjustments.”

Jimenez, who is 6-feet-4, 207 pounds, turned into a beast last season, working at least six innings in 29 starts, including 25 in a row from May 1 to Sept. 7. He credits pitching coach Bob Apodaca and Tracy for sparking his U-turn after he went 1-3 with a 7.58 ERA in April.

Apodaca helped fix Jimenez’s mechanics, specifically getting him to take the ball out of his glove more quickly when he starts his windup. Tracy, meanwhile, puffed out the right-hander’s chest.

“When he became manager, he called me into his office and the first thing he told me was, ‘I don’t want to take you out of the game. I want you to win or lose it.’ Hearing that gave me a lot of confidence,” said Jimenez, whom Tracy has nicknamed “The Chief.” “Before he was the manager, I was always looking over my shoulder when I got into the fifth inning. I loved having more responsibility.”

For the Rockies to win their first National League West crown, they need more victories from their ace in waiting.

Apodaca has been pleased with Jimenez’s spring-training approach thus far, saying: “He’s been assertive in everything he does. Before he was quiet as a mouse, and now he doesn’t even hesitate to give his opinion.”

Everything is in reach – from the franchise’s single- season win record (17), to Cy Young Award contention.

“He’s one of those guys, along with (Tim) Lincecum and (Adam) Wainwright, that are going to be the next generation of great pitchers,” said TBS analyst Ron Darling.

Added Rockies closer Huston Street: “He throws easy cheese. He doesn’t have a ceiling.” . . .

“If my team thinks that I am an ace, why shouldn’t I think the same?” Jimenez said. “I want to live up to their expectations.”

Published in: on June 20, 2010 at 7:49 am  Leave a Comment  

A Very Brief Historical Tour of Fenway Park

I went to Fenway last month on a trip to Boston. I did not try to hunt down where Ted Williams hit his last homer, Smoky Joe Wood and Babe Ruth pitched, or Wade Boggs ate his pre-game chicken dinners, but I did wander around the park before the night’s game and take some pictures of landmarks. Here is a picture of the plaque commemorating the Pesky Pole:

And here is a picture of the logos for the seven Red Sox World Series titles:

A couple days after my Fenway visit, I went to the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, about a half-mile south of the park. There’s no obvious link between a boutique art collection in a city mansion and major league baseball, but Gardner was a big sports fan, including baseball and the Red Sox, despite being in her 60s when the American League began. In the men’s bathroom (and I guess the women’s too) were some interesting mottos of Ms. Gardner’s, etched on tiles in the walls. One said, “Win as though you were used to it and lose as if you liked it,” which would be a good motto to put in the restrooms at Fenway Park, Boston Garden, or any other sports stadium. Also, a good piece of unheeded advice for Kendry Morales, Gus Frerotte, Bill Gramatica, Tagg Bozied, Pauolo Diogo, and however many other celebrating athletes.

Published in: on June 11, 2010 at 6:58 pm  Leave a Comment  

Randy Johnson’s 20-Strikeout Game in 2001

It came against the Cincinnati Reds on May 8, in Arizona. The AP summarized:

Randy Johnson got 20 strikeouts, but not the glory. Johnson became only the third pitcher to strike out 20 in nine innings, but missed out on tying the record because Arizona and Cincinnati went to extra innings Tuesday night.

The Diamondbacks went on beat Cincinnati 4-3 in 11 innings.

“This was a game to put in a time capsule and let people of the future watch it,” Johnson said.

Johnson became the first left-hander to strike out 20, but didn’t join Roger Clemens and Kerry Wood, who share the record for strikeouts in a nine-inning game.

The Elias Sports Bureau, baseball’s statistician, said Johnson’s performance will be considered as occurring in an extra-inning game even though he came out after nine.

The major-league record for an extra-inning game is 21, by Tom Cheney for Washington against Baltimore in a 16-inning game on Sept. 12, 1962.

“I was asked if I wanted to go out there and saw no point in going out there for the 10th inning,” Johnson said. “I surely could have went out there and done it, but what was the point in going out there and throwing 10 innings?

“I really didn’t see it.”

Johnson wasn’t disappointed, though.

He wanted to turn the game over to the bullpen.

“The outcome is what’s important,” he said.

Center-fielder Steve Finley has never seen a slider on a par with Johnson’s.

“It was ridiculous,” Finley said. “You know, he throws that batting-practice fastball 92 or 93, and there were a lot of times tonight I thought he was throwing his fastball that speed, and it was 98.

“It was so easy, with no effort, on any of his pitches, sliders, everything.”

Johnson threw 124 pitches, 92 for strikes, and walked none before Byung-Hyun Kim relieved to start the 10th.

Johnson struck out the side in the fourth, seventh and eighth innings, and fanned two batters in the first, second, third, fifth and ninth.

He struck out only one in the sixth.

He had 18 strikeouts in the first eight innings, then struck out pinch-hitter Deion Sanders on three pitches leading off the ninth.

Johnson gave up a groundout to Donnie Sadler, then struck out Juan Castro swinging.

The pitcher raised his right arm in celebration and tipped his cap as he walked off the field.

Bank One Ballpark put a “K” on the scoreboard for each strikeout, but the board ran out of room before Johnson reached 20.

Additional “Ks” were then tacked on the side of the board, with lights forming “20” in the middle.

Johnson struck out Barry Larkin and Alex Ochoa three times apiece; and Castro, Pokey Reese, Chris Reitsma, Ruben Rivera, Sadler, Kelly Stinnett twice each.

He fanned Aaron Boone and Sanders once.

Johnson, who struck out nine of his first 12 batters and eight of his last nine, allowed three hits.

He had a perfect game going until Boone singled with one out in the fifth.

Boone stole second and scored when Rivera singled up the middle. Cincinnati’s third hit off Johnson was a sixth-inning single by Sadler.

Hal McCoy of the Dayton Daily News, covering the Reds, wrote:

A sheet of paper was placed on the chair of each member of the Cincinnati Reds Tuesday afternoon, a scouting report on how to hit Arizona’s Randy “The Big Unit” Johnson.

For all the good it did, it would have better to have distributed a menu for the post-game meal or a map showing how to get around the bases at Bank One Ballpark.

It is easy enough for manager Bob Boone and coach Tim Foli to sit down in a room and formulate a plan of attack. It is quite another thing to drag a baseball bat to home plate and put that plan into effect when Johnson is throwing 96 miles an hour fastballs and bending 88 miles an hour sliders.

That paper should have had on it, “Our Father, who art . . .”

“The fastball is the pitch to hit,” the report said. “Be on time (with the swing) and be ready to attack his fastball. Look fastball and hit it. His fastball is very hittable.”

Sure, and electric eels are easy to catch barehanded.

The scouting report was useless for a lineup stacked by Boone with all right-handed hitters.

The first time through the batting order, Johnson struck out six of nine, and the other three didn’t get the ball out of the infield. Johnson struck out the side in the fourth – Donnie Sadler, Juan Castro and Barry Larkin. When Larkin became victim No. 9, he lost his bat on the strike three swing and it helicoptered beyond third base, the farthest anything projected by the Reds had traveled up to that point.

That sound in the Reds’ dugout was sheets of paper being torn to shreds.

The Big Unit struck out the side again in the seventh, getting Larkin and Ochoa each for the third time, giving him 15 after seven. Johnson struck out the side in the eighth, getting Rivera and Reese, then breaking the club record by fanning Kelly Stinnett for No. 18.

Pinch-hitter Deion Sanders struck out in the ninth, victim No. 19, the most Reds ever to strike out in one game. And he had seven strikeouts in a row, an Arizona record, then whiffed Castro for No. 20, tying Kerry Wood and Roger Clemens for the nine-inning record, but most ever by a left-hander. Philadelphia’s Steve “Lefty” Carlton struck out 19. Of Johnson’s 20 strikeouts, 18 were swinging.

After the ninth, as 29,817 stood and roared, Johnson pumped his arm skyward as he left the mound and waved his hat at the stands before disappearing into the dugout for the night, taking history with him.

The day after his game, Johnson said: “It’s much like a no-hitter. If it happens, it was meant to be. If it doesn’t happen, well, you just say you still gave it all you had. There are only two other players in the history of baseball who have done it. There’s a great deal of satisfaction in doing it.”

Published in: on May 26, 2010 at 12:54 pm  Comments (1)  
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Some Facts About Randy Johnson

From the Arizona Diamondbacks’ 2001 media guide, here’s a long list of highlights and facts about the first two decades of Randy Johnson’s professional career, spanning from 1986 through 2000. We begin with his Career Highlights:

Johnson has kept lefthanded hitters to a .189 overall average in his career (173-for-913), and while allowing 222 regular season home runs during his career, only 10 have been hit by lefties (Von Hayes and Jim Eisenreich-1989; Wally Joyner and Mike Greenwell-1991; Mo Vaughn-1992; Darren Bragg-1996; Darin Erstad, Mo Vaughn & Jim Edmonds (2)-1997) [Johnson wound up his career having allowed 25 homers by lefties].. .he had a personal 16-game winning streak that ran from August, 1995 through May 2,1997, falling a win shy of the American League record for consecutive games won in a career.

Published in: on March 12, 2010 at 6:47 am  Leave a Comment  

Ichiro’s 2001 Season

From an old Seattle Mariners media guide, here are some facts, significant and otherwise, about Ichiro’s 2001 rookie mlb season. He:

Became the first Japanese-born position player to play in the Majors and was voted AL MVP and Rookie of the Year by the BBWAA, becoming just the second player ever to win both awards in the same season (Fred Lynn, 1975)…
led the Majors in batting average and stolen bases, the first player to do so since Jackie Robinson (1949)…
became just second rookie ever to lead either league in batting, joining Tony Oliva (1964)…
set ML rookie record for singles…
set AL rookie mark for hits and at bats…
set club record with 242 hits, becoming just the third rookie since 1964 to collect 200 hits (Nomar Garciaparra, 1997; Kevin Seitzer, 1987)…
his 242 hits were the most in the Majors since 1930…
also set club records for most games hit safely (135, tying the ML mark), multi-hit games and infield singles…

among league leaders in runs scored, total bases & triples…
56 stolen bases led the AL and third-most in club history…
was AL Rookie of the Month for April, May, August and September…
23-game hit streak April 22-May 18 tied for longest in the Majors (Moises Alou); second-longest in club history…
made ML debut April 2, starting in right field and going 3×5…

broke a 7-7 tie in the 10th inning with his first Major League home run, a two-run shot (Jeff Zimmerman) in Seattle’s 9-7 win April 6 in Texas…
recorded first outfield assist of the season (9-5) April 11 in Oakland…
had 15-game hit streak April 4-20 (26×65/.400)…
was home run short of the cycle in consecutive games, May 12 & 13 in Toronto…
tied club record with seven consecutive multi-hit games, May 12-19…
had 23-game hit streak April 22-May 18 (44×114/.386)… reached safely in 38 consecutive games before 0x4 June 4 (SF, RBI)…

had two hits in the 1st inning June 29…
struck out as a pinch-hitter in the top of the 7th inning, before a two-run game-tying home run in the top of the 9th inning (Jeff Zimmerman) in Mariners 9-7 win July 2 in Texas…
was home run short of cycle July 3 in Texas…
hit 1st lead-off home run July 6 at LA (K. Brown)…
batted .347 with a club-record 134 hits in the first half…
voted to start All-Star Game; led Majors w/3,373,035 votes; just sixth rookie ever voted to start an All-Star Game (1st since Sandy Alomar in 1990) and first rookie outfielder to start an All-Star Game since Tony Oliva in 1964…

started in center field and was 1×3 including an infield single off Randy Johnson in the first inning in the Midsummer Classic…
lined out as a pinch hitter Aug. 2 to end 11-game hit streak (18×46)…
had 21-game hit streak Aug. 3-24 (42×937/.452)…
0x5 Aug. 26 vs. Cleveland snapped 21-game hit streak & streak of hitting safely in 32 previous starts…
became the first Major League player with three hit streaks of 15 or more games in a season since 1980 (Cecil Cooper) and the first Major Leaguer with two hit streaks of   20+   games   since   1996   (Juan Gonzalez)…
collected 200th hit Aug. 28 in team game #132; matching Darin Erstad (2000) as fastest in the Majors to 200 hits since Joe Medwick in 1935 (131 games) and the fastest in the AL since Al Simmons in 1925 (125 games)…
had a Major League-leading 51 hits in August, just the second Mariner ever with 50 hits in a month (Rodriguez, 54 hits in Aug. ’96).

Published in: on February 19, 2010 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  
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Some Trivia About Ichiro’s 262-Hit Season in 2004

Quoting from the Seattle Mariners 2005 media guide, here are some tidbits about how in 2004 Ichiro:

– Established all-time ML single-season hit record with 262 hits, passing George Sisler’s mark of 257 hits (1920).
– Also established the all-time ML mark for most hits over any four-year span, with 924… previous mark was 918 by Bill Terry (1929-1932).
– His 262 hits were 46 more than AL runner-up (Michael Young, Tex. -216), the largest hit differential ever in one league by a first- and second-place finisher… previous mark was 44, by Stan Musial (228) over Dixie Walker (184) in the NL in 1946.
– Became first player ever with 200 hits in each of first four years in the Majors.

– Led the Majors, and established a club record with .372 batting average…5th Mariner to win a batting title, and second Mariner to win two batting titles (Edgar Martinez, 1992, 1995).
– Set club record with 80 multi-hit games, the most in the Majors during the Division Play era (1969).
– Set ML record for most singles with 225.
– Led Majors with 57 infield hits.
– Hit three lead-off home runs, extending his club record to 12 career lead-off home runs…lead-off homers came April 30 at Detroit; Aug. 15 vs. New York Aug. 17 at Kansas City.
– Had a career-high 5 hits four times (July 29 at Ana.; Aug. 3 at Bal. game #1; Sept. 4 at Chi.; Sept. 21 at Ana.), becoming just 5th player ever with four 5+-hit games in a season.. .joins Tony Gwynn, 1993; Stan Musial, 1948; Ty Cobb, 1922; Willie Keeler, 1897.

– Had 50 hits in a month three times (50 in May, 51 in July, 56 in August)…he is the first player with consecutive 50-hit months since Joe Medwick in 1936 (50 in July, 52 in August)…the 56 hits in August were a club record for hits in a month and the most hits in a month by a player since Jeff Heath had 58 hits in August, 1938.
– Became first player with four 50-hit months (also 51 hits in Aug. 2001) in a career since Pete Rose (Aug. 1966; Aug. 1968; July 1973; Sept. 1979).
– Recorded 36 stolen bases, 2nd in the AL, becoming first Mariner ever with four straight seasons with 30+ stolen bases.
– Reached base safely in 40-straight games, April 29-June 13, a new career-high.
– Collected 2,000- hit of pro career (US & Japan) with single in 5- inning May 21 vs. Detroit.

– Matched club record for right fielders with two outfield assists June 12 vs. Montreal…finished 3rd in the AL with 12 outfield assists.
– Elected to start in All-Star Game; was 1×4 with one run scored in Mid-Summer Classic in Houston.
– Led ML with 704 at bats, just the 3rd player ever with 700 at bats in a season, joining Willie Wilson (705 in 1980) & Juan Samuel (701 in 1984).
– Led AL (2nd in Majors) with .372 batting average with runners in scoring position (45×121).
– Led AL with 19 intentional walks…also was third-hardest player to strikeout (12.1 PA/K) and 4th-toughest to double-up
(117.3 AB/GIDP).

– Had a 21-game hit streak, tied for 2nd-longest in the AL, July 4-29…third 20+ game hit streak of his career.
– Only game not played was July 10 at Chicago.
– Set career-high with four stolen bases July 20 vs. Boston.
– Tied career-high with 5 RBI Aug. 17 at Kansas City, going 4×4, with a home run and 2 runs scored.
– Left game on Aug. 18 with mild concussion after being hit by a pitch.
– Was 4×7 and a home run short of the cycle Aug. 21 at Detroit.
– Recorded 200th hit of the season, a home run, on Aug. 26 vs. Kansas City, becoming the fastest player, by date, to reach 200 hits in the Division Play era.

– 200th hit came in team-game #126, the fastest to 200 hits in team games since 1930: Bill Terry (#119) and Chuck Klein (#125).
– Had eight hits in eight at bats over two games Sept. 21-22.
– Recorded hit #257 & #258 Oct. 1 vs. Texas, both off Ryan Drese, tying and passing George Sisler…hit #257 was a single in the first inning to left field…hit #258 was single in the third inning to center.
– Final hit, #262, came Oct. 3 vs. Texas, a single to center in the 8th inning off Brian Shouse.

Mike Cameron’s Four-Homer Game in 2002

Here’s the Seattle Post-Intelligencer’s picture of Cameron squaring up on one of his four homers in a May 2, 2002 game vs. the White Sox in Comiskey Park II:

And a shot of Cameron watching it fly away:

A graphic of Cameron and Bret Boone’s first-inning homers:

And a graphic of Cameron and Bret Boone’s second first-inning homers: they set a record by becoming the first MLB hitters to hit homers twice, back-to-back, in the same inning:

A Cameron quote: “It was just one of those days. If I could compare it to anything, it was like MJ (Michael Jordan) when he hit the six 3s against Portland and he just shrugged his shoulders. That’s what I told guys on the bench, I don’t know. I’m just putting a good swing on the ball.

“Guess another asterisk goes by my name besides being traded for Ken Griffey Jr. It’s very special, man. I’m still living the moment. I just felt like I was the king of the hill today.”

Published in: on December 27, 2009 at 4:59 am  Leave a Comment  
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Some Edgar Martinez Lore, Anecdotes, and Trivia

From what I’ve seen, the case that Edgar Martinez’s fans have cumulatively assembled to argue for him as Hall of Famer almost exclusively mentions only his statistical accomplishments as a hitter, gauged by both the traditional metrics and the advanced, sabermetric kind. But of course it is people, not assemblages of statistics, who stand as candidates for the Hall of Fame, and that seems to be part of Edgar’s problem.

As an unassuming, unquotable Latino who never reached the World Series and played far from any media hothouse, in the most remote big league city in the sport, Edgar’s a deep underdog in the charisma category of Hall of Fame qualifications. (I think it’s obvious that personality and a résumé of myth-making material help any player make it to Cooperstown: see Dizzy Dean, Enos Slaughter, Bobby Grich, and Bob Johnson for four examples on both sides.) Even in the Seattle area, he didn’t attain the heights of fame (or notoriety) that Ken Griffey Jr., Randy Johnson, Alex Rodriguez, Jay Buhner, and Ichiro did. Mario Lanza, a friend who’s written a long story about being a Mariners fan in the ‘80s and early ‘90s, said:

Even in Seattle people didn’t really know who he was. I saw him in Crossroads Mall [in Bellevue] with his family, just sitting there eating dinner outside of the food court. Here he was, one of the greatest players in Mariners history, and people just walked by him like he was nobody special.

He used to go there with his family, and I’d see him reading newspapers right outside the Daily Planet newsstand. I must have seen him five times there and nobody ever recognized him. Even in Seattle he was anonymous. How are the writers in Boston or New York supposed to feel any differently about him?

To remedy the mistaken impression that Edgar was a routinely, even boringly efficient player, I’ve gathered together some anecdotes, lore, and oddball trivia about his career, presented in chronological order. Most of them are taken from the Mariners’ 2002 media guide. You’ll be surprised by some of the pure heroism this compilation reveals:

Edgar began his pro career in Bellingham in 1983, hitting .173 in 32 games, which gave him some early adversity to overcome.

In 1985 he led Southern League third basemen in putouts, 94, assists, 247, double plays, 34, and chances.

In 1986 he led Southern League third basemen in fielding percentage, .960. (I don’t know what he was doing in Chattanooga for the second year in a row.)

He was the Calgary Cannons MVP in ’87. At the time, the Seattle Times said “he is regarded a brilliant fielder.” And, Edgar said: “I think I can play utility, third, second, wherever they want to play me I try to do it.”

Edgar’s first major league hit was a triple. It was hit off Reggie Ritter of the Indians on Sept. 14, 1987. The Times reported that in the second inning of that game, “on consecutive plays, he dived to his left to take base hits away from Jay Bell and Andy Allanson.” The triple came in the bottom of the second.

Despite the fine glove and hitting .372 in 43 Mariner at-bats in ’87, in 1988 he was back with the Cannons, was named their player of the year, and led the Pacific Coast League with a .363 average.

He spent the offseason after ’89 by hitting .424, or 56-132, in Puerto Rican League winter ball: it was good enough to outpace the second leading hitter by 82 points.

In 1990, Edgar stole home on August 25 as part of a double steal with Ken Griffey Jr. It was his only steal of the season: his first, at age 27, spent entirely with the big league team.

Despite playing with a sore right shoulder throughout 1992, Edgar was the A.L. player of month for July and August. He was the third player to record that feat in back to back months: Mattingly in August and September of ‘85 and Puckett in May and June of ’92 preceded him.

Edgar hit .343 to lead the A.L. in batting average in ’92: he was the first Mariner to do it, the second A.L. player to do it for a last-place team, and the first right-handed hitter since Harvey Kuenn in 1959 to lead the A.L. in BA.

After missing most of 1993 with three different left hamstring pulls and strains (it helps explain his lack of mobility in later seasons), Edgar started ’94 by getting hit on the right wrist by the Indians’ Dennis Martinez in his first at bat. It was the first game at Jacobs Field, so Edgar was the first hit by pitch in the park’s history.

In ’95 he became the first A.L. right-hander since Luke Appling to get two batting titles, and his .356 was the highest average for an A.L. righty since Joe DiMaggio in 1939.

He was the first Latino with 100 walks, hit .433 vs. lefties, and reached base in 137 of the Mariners’ 145 games.

Edgar’s ALDS performance against the Yankees included a playoff-record seven RBIs in game 4, hitting .571 for the five games, with an OBP of .667, and hitting “The Double” to win game 5 and the series.

After doing all this in ‘95, he still had time to play Puerto Rican League winter ball for the team in San Juan.

Before suffering four fractured ribs when catcher John Marzano ran into him chasing a pop-up on July 20, 1996, Edgar had been on pace to hit 75 doubles, which would have been the MLB record by 8. The injury stopped his streak of 293 straight games, a Mariner record.

Despite playing only 139 games, Edgar still hit 52 doubles for the second straight year (he’d only played 145 games in ’95): he was the fifth hitter to get 50+ doubles in back-to-back seasons.

In ’97, he had to get stitches twice within five days in September. The first time was on Sept. 8 in Kansas City, when Royals DH Chili Davis swung his bat in the sixth and it landed on Edgar’s head in the dugout for a five stitch cut. Edgar stayed in the game and went 2-4 with two singles, getting his 100th RBI along the way. A quote from Edgar: “I lost sight of it in the lights. I knew it was coming, and I ducked to the left. I must have ducked right into it. It was scary, lots worse than having a pitch come at your head.”

Then, on Sept. 12, came the coup de grace: playing Toronto at the Kingdome, Edgar slid into home, and into catcher Charlie O’Brien’s mask, trying to score in the sixth inning. He got eight more stitches on his chin. Of course he stayed in the game, and of course he hit the game-winning three-run homer in the eighth, breaking up a 3-3 tie. Edgar hit it off Roger Clemens, who was 21-5 at the time, and on his way to the ’97 Cy Young and a 2.05 ERA while giving up nine homers in all of 1997. Here’s the kicker: Edgar also had two infield(!) singles, for a 3-4 night, with two runs scored to go with his three RBI.

Edgar’s quote: “I never have been to a hockey game. But I’ve watched and seen the fights and the cuts. I guess you could say my week has been like a hockey game.” Lou Piniella called Martinez “a tough kid, a professional. It was his night.” Over the seven games that began with getting five stitches on the 8th, Edgar hit .400, 10-25, with four walks and a .483 OBP.

After having right knee surgery after the ’98 season, Edgar managed to hit .394, 56 for 142, in 41 games at Safeco Field in 1999. His five homers in two games, on May 17 and 18 of ‘99, tied the MLB record and set a Mariners record. The homers were capped by three in a row on the 18th vs. the Twins. Edgar’s 1,500th hit came on August 14 at Fenway, off Pedro Martinez.

On July 29, 2000, Edgar was scheduled to be grand marshal of Seattle’s Seafair Torchlight Parade in the evening, but first there was a game to play. It ran late: 13 innings, and 5 hours, 4 minutes. But Edgar had a parade to catch. So he hit a walk-off single for a 6-5 win over the Blue Jays, showered, dressed, didn’t say a word to the press—too busy–and went off to the day’s second job. The Torchlight Parade’s theme: “Heroes of Our Hearts.”

His 145 RBI in 2000 was the best ever in the majors for a player 37 or older.

In 2001, Edgar reached base in 43 straight games in May and the first half of June. He was ejected on October 1 in Anaheim when he charged Lou Pote after the pitcher hit him. The Seattle Times reported:

Angels reliever Lou Pote was struggling in the sixth, with two on and one out when a fastball rode in on Martinez, hitting him in the right arm before ricocheting up and hitting him on the bill of the helmet. The DH fell hard, as if hurt or stunned.

Then suddenly Martinez got up, seemingly much faster than he usually moves, and headed for Pote, who seemed stunned in turn. The young pitcher backed away from the angry veteran as players converged en masse.

Anaheim catcher Bengie Molina and third baseman Glaus grabbed Martinez. Jay Buhner came out of the dugout and grabbed Pote, who had been entirely non-threatening.

Benches and bullpens emptied, but the only one showing emotion was Martinez, who had to be held by teammates, including Javier and Piniella. . . . Martinez declined to comment after the game.

On October 4, after he got suspended for two games for charging Pote, the Times added:

“It hit him in the chin, then the eye, then the forehead,” trainer Rick Griffin said. “He was pretty upset.”

No one could remember Martinez being so angry in public.

“I’ve seen him as angry before,” said Jay Buhner, who has been Martinez’s teammate for 12 years, “but never in front of fans, never in the open.”

As Bret Boone observed, “Everyone’s got a breaking point. Edgar’s is pretty deep, but those guys reached it.”

Martinez reportedly was upset after being hit several times this year by Angels pitchers and having several other pitches just miss him.

Asked if he wanted to talk yesterday, he smiled and shook his head and said, “No comment.”

Edgar ended 2001 with a .425 OBP, second among active players with at least 2,000 at-bats, behind only Frank Thomas’ .438.

He was named A.L. player of the month, for the fifth and final time, for May 2003, and made the All-Star team that year for the seventh and final time. 2003 was the last year in his nine-year streak of on-base percentages above .400.

Finally, here are a few items from his overall career:

Edgar hit .625, 10-16, off Mariano Rivera, with three doubles, two homers, six RBI and three walks. He hit .444, 8-18, off Roy Halladay, .571, 8-14, off Rick Sutcliffe, .480, 12-25, off Dave Stewart, .372, 16-43, off Andy Pettitte, .429, 6-14, off Dennis Eckersley. . . He hit four homers each off Clemens and David Wells, and three homers and two(!) triples off Mike Mussina. He hit at least .500 off 242 different pitchers, and 1.000 off 75 different pitchers. He had the third most doubles in the majors in the ’90s, with 358, six behind Mark Grace, MLB leader for the decade.

A-Rod in the Playoffs

With the soul of David Ortiz circa 2004 apparently having been transferred to Alex Rodriguez, at least for the 2009 playoffs, here are a couple pictures from his time in the playoffs as a Seattle Mariner. This was a time when there was no sense of Rodriguez choking in the clutch: he scored a run in his first playoff game, the deciding game 5 of the 1995 ALDS, hit a homer in his first playoff start in 1997, and had averages over .300 in his first four playoff series as a starter. First, here’s A-Rod consoling Joey Cora at the end of the 1995 ALCS:


Second, celebrating with Kazuhiro Sasaki after sweeping the White Sox in the 2000 ALDS:
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At the start of the 2000 ALCS vs. the Yankees, A-Rod’s solo homer helped Seattle to the win, as the Seattle Times reported:

“The magnitude of last night’s 2-0 victory over the Yankees was not only because it opened the American League Championship Series, but because the Mariners won against New York’s No. 4 starter, left-hander Denny Neagle.

Neagle survived early trouble, but eventually weakened just enough to permit a two-out run in the fifth inning on Mark McLemore’s double and Rickey Henderson’s single to right field, and a bombastic leadoff homer by Alex Rodriguez in the sixth.

Rodriguez made it 2-0 when he got the inside fastball he was looking for and drove it off a spot near the top of the left-field foul pole, about 150 feet high, 318 feet away.

“I saw the pattern that was developing; he was jamming me,” Rodriguez said. “The whole at-bat I was focused on a fastball in, and I finally got it. I thought it might go foul at first. I felt a sense of relief when it didn’t.”

And on Oct. 8, 2000, one Seattle fan liked A-Rod an awful lot, as she expressed in a letter to the Seattle Times:
“Strength of character looms large at shortstop

I was struck to read that, in the midst of the locker-room celebration after winning a playoff position, shortstop Alex Rodriguez slipped quietly away to a corner and cried.

Few in Seattle who saw the pictures in 1995 will ever forget the image of Joey Cora being consoled by Alex after losing the ALCS to Cleveland. It was both heart-wrenching and surprising that a rookie would have the compassion and strength to be there for Joey when he needed support.

As we have come to know Alex better over the past five years, it no longer is surprising to think of that moment because it is very true to his character, both as a ballplayer and as a person.

I do not know who, if anyone, was there for Alex as he undoubtedly felt both the joy of winning and the relief of not losing, but I feel certain I can speak for many in Seattle when I say that if we could have been there to hold Alex’s hand, we would have done so in a heartbeat.

Alex has demonstrated without question his ability to lead this team to greatness, even in the midst of some very hard times. But it is from those hard times that we all have come to know Alex best and have gained tremendous respect for who he is, not simply what he does on the ballfield.

It would truly be an honor to Seattle if Alex chose to stay with this team rather than move into a bigger market. I only hope that Seattle has the strength of character to give Alex the support he deserves, the support that he has given to this team and city from the very beginning.”

Donna Crist, Seattle

Published in: on October 18, 2009 at 5:21 pm  Leave a Comment  
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