BBA Award Ballots

This post gathers together the Baseball Bloggers Alliance History Chapter award voting for 2014 in MLB. My ballot for the Walter Johnson (Pitcher of the Year) award in the AL is:
1 Felix Hernandez
2 Corey Kluber
3 Chris Sale
4 Jon Lester
5 Max Scherzer

In the NL:
1 Clayton Kershaw
2 Johnny Cueto
3 Adam Wainwright
4 Cole Hamels
5 Doug Fister

Mark Aubrey with Baseball Nuggets handled the Willie Mays (Rookie of the Year) awards. He went with, in the AL:
1 Jose Abreu
2 Masahiro Tanaka
3 Matt Shoemaker

In the NL:
1 Jacob deGrom
2 Billy Hamilton
3 Yangervis Solarte

For the Connie Mack (Manager of the Year) awards, my choices are, in the AL:
1 Buck Showalter
2 Lloyd McClendon
3 Mike Scioscia

In the NL:
1 Bruce Bochy
2 Clint Hurdle
3 Matt Williams

For Goose Gossage (Reliever of the Year), in the AL, I have:
1 Wade Davis
2 Greg Holland
3 Zach Britton

In the NL:
1 Craig Kimbrel
2 Jonathan Papelbon
3 Mark Melancon

The Stan Musial (MVP) ballots, for the AL:

1 Mike Trout
2 Michael Brantley
3 Josh Donaldson
4 Adam Jones
5 Felix Hernandez
6 Alex Gordon
7 Victor Martinez
8 Jose Bautista
9 Jose Altuve
10 Robinson Cano

The following is Mark Aubrey’s ballot for National League MVP:

1  Clayton Kershaw
2  Giancarlo Stanton
3  Andrew McCutcheon
4  Anthony Rendon
5  Jonathan Lucroy
6  Buster Posey
7  Adam Wainwright
8  Jason Heyward
9  Anthony Rizzo
10 Josh Harrison

Published in: on October 10, 2014 at 5:15 pm  Comments (6)  

2012 Baseball Bloggers Alliance Award Voting

I’m a member of the Baseball Bloggers Alliance, and this is my voting for the group’s various awards for 2012.

For the Connie Mack Award (manager of the year)
N.L.: Davey Johnson, Bruce Bochy, Dusty Baker
A.L.: Bob Melvin, Buck Showalter, Robin Ventura

For the Willie Mays Award (rookie of the year)
A.L.: Mike Trout, Yoenis Cespedes, Yu Darvish
N.L.: Todd Frazier, Bryce Harper, Wade Miley

For the Goose Gossage Award (top reliever)
N.L.: Aroldis Chapman, Craig Kimbrel, Jonathan Papelbon
A.L.: Fernando Rodney, Jim Johnson, Grant Balfour

For the Walter Johnson Award (Cy Young)
A.L.: David Price, Jared Weaver, Justin Verlander, Felix Hernandez, Chris Sale
N.L.: R.A. Dickey, Johnny Cueto, Gio Gonzalez, Alex Kershaw, Matt Cain

For the Stan Musial Award (MVP)
N.L.: Buster Posey, Ryan Braun, Andrew McCutcheon, Gio Gonzalez, Yadier Molina, R.A. Dickey, Adam LaRoche, Chase Headley, Matt Holliday, Melky Cabrera
A.L.: Miguel Cabrera, Mike Trout, Robinson Cano, David Price, Josh Hamilton, Prince Fielder, Adrian Beltre, Derek Jeter, Jared Weaver, Albert Pujols

Published in: on October 1, 2012 at 9:26 am  Leave a Comment  

Bryce Harper in 2008 and 2009

Bryce Harper, like LeBron James, was recognized as a potential superstar very early on. In March 2008, while Las Vegas was in the midst of its economic descent, the city’s Review-Journal wrote what seems to be the first profile of Harper in mainstream media. The paper explained that Bryce was part of a divorced family: a 2000 divorce left Bryce in his dad’s custody, and brother Bryan (who got a baseball scholarship to Cal State Northridge, but instead went on to play at the College of Southern Nevada with Bryce, and then the University of South Carolina Gamecocks, who won the 2010 and 2011 College World Series) and his sister in his mom’s custody. Jon Gold wrote:

Bryan, a level-headed senior with a full-ride scholarship to Cal State Northridge awaiting, is now on the mound for Las Vegas High and bats second.

Bryce, a fiery freshman, is behind the plate for the Wildcats and batting third.
Together, they’ve led the Wildcats to an 11-4 mark – Bryan with a 3-0 record, 1.50 ERA and 28 strikeouts in 20 innings; Bryce batting .500 with 21 hits, three home runs and 15 RBIs.

A battery in baseball heaven. That is, when the two aren’t bickering.

“We’ve gotten into it; that’s just brothers butting heads,” Bryce Harper said. “That’s just me and him. But when it comes down to the nitty-gritty, it’s, ‘Me and you, let’s do it right here.’ ”

Bryce has that kind of confidence in his big brother, and he’s not afraid to say it. He’s not much afraid to say anything. He’s the louder one, the snappy one, the 15-year-old with pictures of his baseball heroes on his wall and a Texas Longhorns blanket on his bed – a snapshot of unbridled passion. . . .

When he [Bryce] was 7, a travel-ball coach in Las Vegas asked him to play for his 10-year-old team. Forget the three-year gap, Bryce was a star. One team led to another and another.

And it has all led to this: at age 15, most scouts and baseball experts have Bryce ranked as one of the best players in the country, if not the best.

As a 12-year-old, – a Web site that ranks 12- to 14-year-old ballplayers – tabbed Bryce as the best player in the nation. Same honor when he was 14.

Four years from his first opportunity at the Major League Baseball draft, Bryce has his eyes on the top.

“I remember I was in fifth grade, my counselor came in and said, “What do you want to do?'” Bryce said. “I said I wanted to be a pro baseball player, and she said, ‘No, really.’ I get that all the time, and it pisses me off.

“I’m going to be a pro baseball player.”

Travel baseball has taken Bryce around the country – from California to Utah to Oklahoma to Georgia – sometimes for as many as 130 games a year. That’s not including the countless hours in the batting cage, or the time at the field, leaving his dad’s arm in shambles.

But it could all pay off. At 6-3 and 200 pounds, with a pristine swing and a 94 mph fastball, the dream might become a reality.

“With his work ethic, I don’t really know if Bryce has a ceiling right now,” Las Vegas coach Sam Thomas said. “He’s not Superman, he’s not perfect – but I think he’s doing pretty damn good for a 15-year-old.”

Thomas added, comparing the brothers: “They’re totally different people. Bryan is more social and laid back, and Bryce is more nose-to-the-grindstone. Tate is so mild and quiet, like a mouse, and Tanner is more outgoing. It’s almost like the seniors are the same and the younger ones are the same.”

In mid-January of ’09, Damon Seiters of the Review-Journal wrote that Bryce Harper “recently competed in the International Power Showcase at Tropicana Park in St. Petersburg, Fla., where he hit a group of home runs that are sure to be remembered. During one round of the home run contest, Harper hit six home runs that traveled an averaged 469 feet, including three that went 484 feet or more.

“His longest went 502 feet, which was the longest in the contest.

‘He had a great time, and he hit some memorable shots,’ said Ron Harper, Bryce’s father. ‘And it was a lot of fun seeing him out there on a (pro) ballfield.’

“Harper’s long shots all came using an aluminum bat, but Ron Harper said that doesn’t tarnish the feat. ‘It’s a metal bat, but I’ve seen him hit the ball 450, 460 feet with wood,’ Ron Harper said. ‘Wood or aluminum, the kid was hitting some majestic shots.'”

At about the same time (February 22, 2009), the Chicago Tribune’s Phil Rogers wrote that “Harper is 15 but has been on the radar of scouts for at least three years, maybe longer. He was only a 6th-grader when he showed up for his first national showcase, playing against players who were high school freshmen and sophomores.

“He homered twice in one game and showed solid skills behind the plate. According to Perfect Game, which runs those showcases, he has just continued ‘getting better and better.’

“He stands 6 feet 3 inches, weighs 205 pounds and has a quick, pure swing from the left side to go with one of the best arms in the country, pitchers included.”

Thomas, his high school coach, said Bryce “is not only a tremendous baseball player, but also one of the most respectful young men I have ever coached. His ability to play the game is matched by his desire for perfection and his work habits to reach that goal. His work on the field, in the weight room and in the classroom is second to none.”

Published in: on June 3, 2012 at 5:32 pm  Comments (1)  

2011 Baseball Bloggers Alliance Award Voting

I’m a member of the Baseball Bloggers Alliance, and this is the official tally of the voting for the history chapter’s selections for the various awards for 2011. The Connie Mack award for manager of the year in the A.L. and N.L., with vote totals provided after each manager:

For the American League:
Joe Madden: 5
Mike Scioscia: 5
Jim Leyland: 3
Joe Girardi: 3

(Leyland and Girardi tie for 3rd, and Scioscia and Madden tie for 1st)

For the National League:
Kirk Gibson: 10
Charlie Manuel: 4
Ron Roenicke: 4

(Manuel and Roenicke tie for 2nd)

The Willie Mays award for rookie of the year in the A.L. and N.L., with vote totals provided after each player:

For the A.L.:
Jeremy Hellickson: 5
Brett Hosmer: 5
Ivan Nova: 3
Dustin Ackley: 3

(ties for both 1st and 3rd)

For the N.L.:
Vance Worley: 6
Craig Kimbrel: 6
Freddie Freeman: 6

(three-way tie for 1st)

The Goose Gossage award for reliever of the year in the A.L. and N.L., with vote totals provided after each player:

Jose Valverde: 8
Mariano Rivera: 8
David Robertson: 1
Brandon League: 1

(ties for both 1st and 3rd)

Craig Kimbrel: 8
John Axford: 8
Joel Hanrahan: 1
J.J. Putz: 1

(ties for both 1st and 3rd)

The Walter Johnson award for pitcher of the year in the A.L. and N.L., with vote totals provided after each player:

Justin Verlander: 14
Jered Weaver: 8
C.C. Sabathia: 6
James Shields: 3
Dan Haren: 2

Clayton Kershaw: 14
Roy Halladay: 7
Cliff Lee: 7
Tim Lincecum: 3
Ian Kennedy: 2

(tie for 2nd)

The Stan Musial award for MVP in the A.L. and N.L., with vote totals provided after each player:

Justin Verlander: 20
Miguel Cabrera: 19
Jacoby Ellsbury: 17
Jose Bautista: 12
Curtis Granderson: 11
Adrian Gonzalez: 9
Michael Young: 8
Robinson Cano: 8
Alex Gordon: 4
Jered Weaver: 3

(tie for 7th)

For the N.L.:
Matt Kemp: 26
Ryan Braun: 18
Albert Pujols: 15
Prince Fielder: 12
Joye Votto: 9
Lance Berkman: 9
Justin Upton: 8
Roy Halladay: 6
Troy Tulowitzki: 5
Clayton Kershaw: 3

(tie for 5th)

Published in: on October 7, 2011 at 1:50 pm  Comments (1)  

Felix Hernandez and the Imminence (?) of Him Pitching a No-Hitter

I’ve attended two Seattle Mariners games this year in which Hernandez started the game with 3 hitless innings and wound up pitching 9 innings and allowing 5 hits in the first instance, and 8 innings while allowing 2 hits in the second instance.

Felix came up through the minors with the similar sort of hype that previously surrounded Bob Feller and Dwight Gooden. He now has four 2-hit or 1-hit complete games in his career, and, according to Baseball-Reference, 23 games with at least 8 innings pitched and 4 or fewer hits allowed.

When will he pitch a no-hitter? The easy answer is to be evasive and say it’s anyone’s guess, with a possible reference to Randy Johnson going from mid-1990 to mid-2004 without a single no-hitter despite a pitching style that was much like Nolan Ryan’s but more effective.

My guess is that Felix, aided by the trend of declining offense around MLB and an anti-hitter environment at Safeco Field, will do it sometime in 2011 or 2012–barring injury, a trade, or some other unforeseeable obstacle.

(The prediction came true, with perfection added, and to celebrate the occasion, the Mariners put out this poster of the game:)



Published in: on June 27, 2011 at 4:42 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Some Unusual Last Names Shared by Baseball Players and Representatives in the 112th Congress

By the way, none of these people are related, so far as I know, except for the baseball Uptons:

Canseco (Jose and Francisco, representing Texas’s 23rd district)

Lankford (Ray and James, representing Oklahoma’s 5th district)

Mack (Connie and Connie, representing Florida’s 14th district)

Matsui (Hideki, Kazuo, and Doris O., representing California’s 5th district)

Posey (Buster and Bill, representing Florida’s 15th district)

Rivera (Mariano and David, representing Florida’s 25th district)

Schilling (Curt and Robert T, representing Illinois’s 17th district)

Slaughter (Enos and Louise McIntosh, representing New York’s 28th district)

Speier (Chris and Jackie, representing California’s 12th district)

Upton (B.J., Justin, and Fred, representing Michigan’s 6th District)

Womack (Tony and Steve, representing Arkansas’s 3rd district)

And a near-miss:
Throneberry and Thornberry (Marv and Mac, representing Texas’s 13th district)

Published in: on January 7, 2011 at 11:52 am  Comments (1)  

A Brief Survey of Baseball in China, 1881-2010

One of the biggest themes of life in 2010 in the U.S. has been the worry that China is cleaning our clocks: that a government single-mindedly intent on achieving bold goals and untroubled by democracy and the mess of politics is spearheading the emergence of a Chinese century, and meanwhile a distracted, lazy, and ill-educated U.S. citizenry is not doing enough to overcome the obstacles of feckless politicians and selfish, misguided interest groups. These sorts of fears haven’t entered the realm of baseball, though.

Leaving economics, politics, and culture aside, no one knows what the global baseball landscape will be in 2040 or 2050. But, it’s interesting to look at the history of baseball in China, not least because there are some signs that elements of China’s government are intent on developing baseball into a national sport. This is 36 years after a nationwide ban on the game ended in 1974. In March 2003, China Daily reported:

What will be the next popular game in China? Maybe baseball.

Despite a worrying proposal from the International Olympic Committee (IOC) that could see the sport axed from the Olympics, the Chinese authorities are making great efforts to develop the sport in China by setting up the Chinese Baseball League, where the nation’s top teams battle it out.

After an experimental inaugural season last year, the league will swing back into action on Saturday with a new US-style package in the hope of winning recognition for the sport which has yet to catch on in China.

Foreign promoters, a doubling of matches, all-star games and former US Major League players are some of the many means that league organizers have used in a bid to win popularity for the game, although they are still reluctant to call it a “professional league.”

Shen Wei, secretary-general of Chinese Baseball Association (CBA), said: “We are making big strides towards turning profession, compared with last year. Our league is still not a real professional one, but we are getting closer.”

The short 2002 season, lasting for only one month, attracted more attention than organizers had expected, encouraging them to do even better this year.

Like last season, four teams, Beijing Tigers, Tianjin Lions, Shanghai Eagles and Guangdong Leopards, are participating under a home-and-away format and will play 48 matches, twice as many as last season, before two teams fight it out in the best-of-five finals.

And 24 of the 48 matches, and the finals, will be broadcast on nationwide TV.

But three years later, in May 2006, China Daily updated the story:

As Wang Wei stepped on the field on the 2006 China Baseball League (CBL) All-Star Game over the weekend, little excitement came from the stands. The spectators remained nonchalant during most of the game although Wang played fairly well – he was the first to run home for the northwest conference team, which tied with southeast conference 9-9 in a seesaw seven-inning match held in Wuxi of East China ‘s Jiangsu Province. Many of them left almost half an hour before the end of the three-hour show that gathered China ‘s best baseball players.

It wouldn’t be fair to blame the spectators, who mostly were watching the first baseball game of their lives. Even for the most loyal Chinese sports fans, Wang is an unfamiliar name, although the 28-year-old catcher from Beijing has an A-plus resume: He is a core member of the three-time national league champions Beijing Tigers with a possible fourth straight league title in sight, and he has been a consistent member of the national team in the past few years.

On March 3, he delivered a two-run homerun, the first of the inaugural World Baseball Classic in an Asian zone round match against eventual winner Japan in Tokyo.

Any equal achievement in other popular sports would easily establish Wang as a household name in China , but like his team-mates, Wang has been playing in obscurity for years.

Wang is a perfect example to identify recent baseball development in China – steady and fast, but mostly unrecognized.

The development has attracted huge attention outside the country, as Team China has played some memorable matches internationally including a World Cup journey to the Netherlands and a historic bronze medal from the Asian Championships in Japan last year.

But the achievements went largely unnoticed in China , a country where table tennis and badminton are revered as national pastimes.

“Baseball is still an unpopular sport in China,” said Wang.

The 2008 Olympics helped give baseball in China more of a foothold. In April 2010, MLB signed a development/promotion agreement with the Chinese Baseball Association. Here’s China Daily reporting on the deal:

If Jim Small is to be believed, China could be crowned world baseball champions in the very near future.

Small, vice president of MLB Asia, said at a strategic partnership signing ceremony between Major League Baseball (MLB) and the Chinese Baseball Association (CBA) on Wednesday that not that long ago nobody believed Chinese swimmers would win at the Olympics or Chinese athletes would excel at the Winter Games.

“There is no reason to doubt that in the near future some of the world’s best baseball players will be Chinese,” Small said. “It will take some time but it’s definitely going to happen.”

MLB and CBA extended their cooperation for another four years to help grow baseball in China despite the fact the game has been kicked out of the Summer Olympics, for now.

During this coming four-year period, MLB will help the CBA in training players, coaches and umpires, with an aim to further spreading the US pastime in the world’s most populous nation.

The cooperation between the two organizations started in 2002 and both sides are happy with the results and they should be.

The Chinese national team, coached by Jim Lefebvre, who recently became the San Diego Padres’ hitting coach, shocked the baseball world by beating Chinese Taipei at the Beijing Olympics and repeated that feat at the World Classics. The team also took a South Korean team that beat the US to 12 innings in a 1-0 loss at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

“MLB is prepared to do whatever it takes to help develop baseball in China. We plan to bring the team to the United States in July in preparation for the Guangzhou Asian Games,” Small said. “But as to who manages the team next, it’s up to the CBA.”

Baseball is still a medal sport at the Asian Games and the Chinese pro league is set to swing away later this year.

“The partnership with MLB since 2002 has borne a strategic significance with Chinese players going to play in the US and national team coaches getting training from MLB experts,” Lei Jun, chairman of the CBA, said.

“We did achieve some progress (the two wins over Chinese Taipei) but that’s not much compared with the real strength of other Asian countries as well as the world’s power teams.

“The road of baseball development has been and will still be bumpy. That’s why we need the help of MLB,” Lei said.

“Our goal (of the partnership with CBA) is to have baseball reach a significant level in the world’s largest country,” Small said.

For that, Small said there were two areas of focus.

That is to make the game more visible and more popular through road shows, the setting up of clubs at college campuses, the continuation of the Play Ball! Program in 120 schools and increased TV coverage in China. The other focus is to increase the level of play in China through MLB providing coaches and inviting the national squad to the US for training each year.

Small said a MLB Development Center was set up in Wuxi, Jiangsu province, last September to target potential national team talent.

“The result of the long and important partnership between MLB and CBA for the past 10 years is nothing short of astonishing,” Small said. “Several players went to play in the pro leagues in the US, the national team grew and most surprising is that more people play baseball today than before.

“The passion in kids we have seen shows that, no doubt, China will reach the goal of becoming a strong baseball nation,” Small said, adding MLB’s ultimate goal was to make the game a Chinese sport.

“Our goal is to not to have a foreign coach; it is to be played by the Chinese, coached by the Chinese and umpired by the Chinese.”

The Yankees, who, one has to guess, see China as a huge potential market of both consumers and possible future Yankees, have made quite a few steps over the past five years or so to promote youth baseball in China, and the New York Times has regularly reported on those efforts.

Amid these various signs of growth, it’s interesting to look back at the primeval period of U.S.-China baseball relations. In September 1986, the Associated Press reported:

With coaching from Los Angeles Dodgers president Peter O’Malley, China’s sports minister tossed out the first ball last week to inaugurate a baseball field donated to China by the Dodgers.

The pitch by Li Menghua, minister of the State Physical Culture and Sports Commission, was pronounced too low, and he tried again to exclamations of approval from O’Malley and Chinese officials wearing Dodgers caps.

The playing field at the Tianjin Physical Education College was decorated with striped canopies, banners and balloons for the opening ceremony, during which O’Malley cut a red ribbon and a children’s band played.

The field was built over a five-month period with about $162,000 donated by the Dodgers.

It is a result of a visit last year by O’Malley to China to discuss possible projects to promote baseball in China , where it still is a fledgling sport held back partially by a lack of playing facilities….

Although baseball had a long history in China, dating to pre-Communist days, it never had been as popular as soccer and some other sports.

Baseball exhibitions were held in the late 1950s, but the sport was officially abandoned in 1965 and did not return to China for almost 10 years.

China joined the International Baseball Association in 1981, and its national teams have since played in international competitions.

The official sports news media have cited a severe shortage of qualified coaches and a lack of playing fields as reasons the game is not more popular.

China has hopes, however, of getting good enough at it to challenge Taiwan and Japan, where baseball is highly popular.

New York’s C.W. Post, the first U.S. collegiate team to play in China, lost, 6-4, to Peking’s municipal team in Peking last year.

And in May 1991, the Chicago Tribune’s Uli Schmetzer issued this report on the history of baseball in China, with some very intriguing items about the People’s Liberation Army and the persecution of baseball itself by Mao’s Red Guards:

In the United States, football often is considered analogous to war. In China, the American sport of baseball once was considered beneficial for war.

Du Kehe knows. He was the star player of the Fighting Sports Brigade, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) team in the 1940s and ’50s that dominated a baseball fad. In those days, tens of thousands of soldiers played baseball, and every company had to field a squad or face the wrath of He Long, their venerable field marshal.

Marshal He, a legend in Red China’s army pantheon, saw baseball not so much as a crowd thriller but an effective way to improve the grenade-throwing ability of soldiers. He considered the sliding and sprinting between bases perfect speed training for assault troops, and batting the best method to develop aim.

“If my marshal was alive today, baseball and sports in general would have much greater support from the state,” grumbled former staff sergeant Du, now 61 and the assistant coach of China’s national baseball team.

Du still believes the marshal was right when he used baseball to train his troops. ”It made better soldiers, and our pitchers could toss a grenade faster and farther than anyone else… and with a curve on it,” he said.

Baseball in China barely has survived its much-mourned founding father.

Today, the estimated 2,000 players competing at the provincial level and the 20,000 to 30,000 novices swinging bats all over the country are a modest reminder of the golden days when a man took up bat, glove and ball to save the nation from the Japanese invaders and Chiang Kai-shek’s Kuomintang Nationalists.

The first baseball gear came to China in 1881 with the country’s future railway builder, Zhen Tian You, a graduate of Yale. Western schools and missionary churches fostered the game through the first three decades of this century.

The late Marshal He had no such problems. An illiterate peasant, he rocketed to fame after he formed the first platoon of the PLA armed with vegetable knives. His dictum was: Every man must use his knife to kill a nationalist and steal his rifle. It worked.

Du remembers the marshal (“who was not much of a player himself”) was so keen on baseball he promised better treatment to captured Japanese prisoners of war willing to coach his men in the game.

“My first coach was a Japanese POW, and my marshal used to say, ‘Baseball and sports are the pillars of national defense and development.’ He built a special factory just to produce baseball equipment for the army,” Du said.

Of course, Du admits, it was not the most advanced equipment. The bats tended to break, the balls to split and the gloves were stuffed with jute and were so clumsy ”you had to catch the ball with both hands.”

With the Communists victorious, He’s baseball mania expanded to the civilian population. So did his career. He became the popular Commissar for National Sport and naturally made sure his beloved baseball had a good slice of the budget action.

But the marshal, never one to guard his tongue, criticized the dictator Mao Tse-Tung for his economic errors, and when the Cultural Revolution began, He became one of its first victims. Mao’s fanatic Red Guards imprisoned the Hero of Liberation and the Father of Baseball in a remote country camp, where he miserably starved to death in 1968 after having gnawed his way through the cotton padding of his marshal’s overcoat, the only item he had been allowed to keep.

He’s downfall took baseball with him. The Red Guards denounced the sport as an example of western decadence. Baseball coaches and officials were persecuted ruthlessly as capitalists.

“My own Chinese coach was ‘struggled’ to death by the Guards,” said Du, referring to the barbaric method of ”struggling” against political enemies by beating, spitting and tormenting them in public, often until they died. Baseball players were forced to humiliate their coaches in public to save their own lives.

For 14 years, from 1960 to 1974, baseball was banned in China.

“But some of us still played in secret in the countryside. We posted guards to whistle if someone came. Then we hid the bats and gloves and pretended to be doing exercises,” recalled Du.

Published in: on December 27, 2010 at 6:02 am  Comments (2)  

Talking With Baseball Bloggers Alliance Founder Daniel Shoptaw

This blog is a member of the Baseball Bloggers Alliance, an organization that started in April of 2009, and began robust growth that September, with about 230 members as of December 10, 2010. The BBA has chapters covering every MLB team, along with a handful of other chapters covering topics such as history (this blog’s chapter) and fantasy baseball. Baseball Bloggers Alliance Day, on Dec. 10, is an occasion for BBA members to talk a bit about the Alliance, its mission, and how its members are involved with the BBA. To mark the day, I talked with BBA founder and president Daniel Shoptaw, a Cardinals blogger in Arkansas. Our exchange covers the start of the BBA, a variety of subjects related to running the Alliance, and the BBA’s goals.

Q: What was the impetus for forming the group? Was it directly patterned on the BBWA, in terms of having award voting be the public centerpiece of the group?

A: Really the reason that I started up the BBA was to increase contacts and assistance throughout baseball. I’d done a “Playing Pepper” series that spring where I contacted bloggers from each team to talk about their squad and thought it’d be great to have this one place to go to, with contact info and a chance to develop some personal relationships. Springing out of that, I thought that the bloggers could do just as good of a job, if not more so, voting on the traditional post-season awards. Bloggers were more likely to embrace the modern perspective on these things and dig a little deeper than win-loss record and home runs. I did want the results to be comparable to what the writers did, so I set up the voting along the same lines that they do.

Q: How do you keep your personal interest in the Cardinals separate from the goals and issues involved with running a broad group of baseball bloggers? Do you get grief from Cubs/Royals bloggers in the BBA?

A: It’s not really that big of an issue, since my rooting interests and my administrative duties (as it were) don’t usually come into conflict. I pride myself on my fairness, to some degree, so I don’t think that if there were ever a conflict between, say, a Cubs blogger and another blogger, I’d automatically side against the Cub blogger. In fact, with the BBA I’ve been able to interact with some Cubs and Royals bloggers and have a friendly rivalry-type of relationship with them. They’ll tweak me on Twitter, I’ll do the same, that sort of thing.

Q: How does living in Arkansas, where you’re not really close to any mlb team, influence your work on the BBA, and for that matter, blogging about the Cardinals?

A: Well, obviously my blogging is not a first-person kind of thing. I get to watch games on television, of course, but that’s not the same as being at the park and the family obligations usually keep me from seeing a complete game anyway. So I may rely more on media reports for my blogging than some others.

I’m not sure that it’s been an issue for the BBA. With the great technologies of the internet, anyplace is a great place to run an organization or to stay in touch with the membership.

Q: What are your ambitions for the group? In terms of influence, changing the nature of baseball blogging, and the impact the award voting might have?

A: I’d love to see our awards widely reported. I never expect that the BBA awards would supplant or even rival the BBWAA (no matter what their cease-and-desist letter from last year might imply), but I could see them getting the same type of coverage as, say, the Players’ Awards or the Sporting News’ awards.

I’d also like to see this group be a force for breaking up stereotypes on blogging, for recognizing great writing, and maybe becoming an organization that has the cache, as it were, that the BBWAA has. Covering baseball has changed a lot since the formation of the baseball writers’ association. Back then, the only way you knew anything about the game was to read it in the next day’s paper. Now, you can watch almost every game live, you can watch post-game press conferences, you can do your own research. Not to say that the writers aren’t important in this–they most certainly are–but it does allow you to draw your own conclusions, which may be just as insightful and relevant as any printed in the paper.

Q: Did you have other organizing experience before forming the BBA? If so, how has it been similar to other groups/businesses you’ve helped organize?

A: Actually, the BBA was a cross between that Playing Pepper series I mentioned and a group I started back in 2007. Soon after I got into the blogging game, as it were, I started rounding up other Cardinal bloggers to do projects with. We call ourselves the United Cardinal Bloggers and we typically do a project every month or so. Some of them are done every year, some rotate in and out. It’s a good chance to link to each other for traffic increases plus see how different people tackle the same topic. The UCB is a pretty active group, with a weekly show at Blog Talk Radio and many members having a strong Twitter presence. I think doing that helped immensely in the setup and administration of the BBA.

Q: What have you learned from the BBA?

A: I’d say I’ve learned how much passion is out there for all teams. If you’d have told me that Toronto and San Diego would be two of our largest members, I don’t think I’d have believed it. There’s some great blogs following Kansas City and Pittsburgh as well. All across baseball, fans are writing about their teams and having a great time doing it.

Q: Has it changed your attitude toward baseball and toward online baseball writing/blogging?

A: I don’t think so. Being that I’ve been blogging for three-plus years now, I had already gotten past the pajama-wearing, basement-dwelling meme that tends to follow bloggers around. Of course, there are always some that are needlessly provocative or are written by people with great intentions but perhaps lesser skills, but on the whole baseball blogging is a great thing to be a part of and the BBA hasn’t changed that opinion in the slightest.

Q: What have been some key moments of satisfaction/accomplishment you’ve felt since starting the group?

A: Whenever we hit any sort of membership milestone (100, 200, etc.), it’s a great feeling. When I started up the BBA, I sent out a lot of e-mails asking if a blogger wanted to be a part of the group. It was nice when the e-mails started coming the other way, from people who had heard about the organization and wanted to be a part of it. It was also nice last year when our Florida chapter’s ROY ballot was picked up and discussed by a media member in that market.

Q: What are some of the obstacles to trying to gather together a range of bloggers under the BBA umbrella: people with different goals for their blogs, widely varying numbers of visitors, differing levels of technical and/or baseball knowledge, and, I imagine, widely varying ages?

A: The biggest obstacle is just making sure you penetrate through the clutter for people. I do a lot of the BBA organization and discussion on e-mail, even though we’ve tried various other things. While usually there’s a good response, you always wonder if the ones that don’t respond are still interested, are even reading the e-mail, or just don’t have anything to say. Often it’s the latter, but it’s one of the reasons I try to remind again and again, hoping that it’ll get through.

Probably the other obstacle, as it were, is that not everyone has the same amount of free time to do things. I don’t want to add to anyone’s burden or list of things to do more than I can help it. If people aren’t enjoying being in this completely voluntary organization, they aren’t going to be in it for long. That’s why I tend to put out deadlines well in advance, so people can work up posts in advance, whenever they have free time. I try to keep people informed of what’s going on in the BBA without putting undo hardships on them. How well I succeed at that, well, that’s a question for those in the membership!

2010 Baseball Bloggers Alliance Award Voting

I’m a member of the Baseball Bloggers Alliance, and this is the official tally of the voting for the history chapter’s selections for the various awards for 2010. The Connie Mack award for manager of the year in the A.L. and N.L., with vote totals provided after each manager:

For the American League:
Ron Washington: 10
Ron Gardenhire: 6
Joe Girardi: 3

For the National League:
Bruce Bochy: 9
Charlie Manuel: 8
Dusty Baker: 5

The Willie Mays award for rookie of the year in the A.L. and N.L., with vote totals provided after each player:

For the A.L.:
Neftali Feliz: 11
Austin Jackson: 9
Brian Matusz: 5

For the N.L.:
Buster Posey: 15
Jason Heyward: 9
Jaime Garcia: 3

The Goose Gossage award for reliever of the year in the A.L. and N.L., with vote totals provided after each player:

Rafael Soriano: 15
Joakim Soria: 7
Mariano Rivera: 4

Brian Wilson: 11
Billy Wagner: 6
Heath Bell: 6
(Wagner received one first place vote, and therefore is ranked above Bell, who received only two second place votes)

The Walter Johnson award for pitcher of the year in the A.L. and N.L., with vote totals provided after each player:

Felix Hernandez: 21
David Price: 10
C.C. Sabathia: 9
Clay Buchholz: 7
Justin Verlander: 2

Roy Halladay: 21
Adam Wainwright: 10
Ubaldo Jimenez: 8
Josh Johnson: 6
Tim Hudson: 5

The Stan Musial award for MVP in the A.L. and N.L., with vote totals provided after each player:

Josh Hamilton-26
Miguel Cabrera-18
Robinson Cano-16
Paul Konerko-12 (placed ahead of Bautista because he received one 4th place vote; Baustista ranked no higher than 5th on a ballot)
Jose Bautista-12
Joe Mauer-7
Evan Longoria-6
Mark Teixeira-5
Adrian Beltre-4
Delmon Young-3

For the N.L.:
Joey Votto-26
Albert Pujols-18
Troy Tulowitzki-14
Carlos Gonzalez-13
Adrian Gonzalez-12
Matt Holliday-8
Roy Halladay-7
Jayson Werth-6
Ryan Zimmerman-4
Aubrey Huff-3

Published in: on October 3, 2010 at 4:56 pm  Comments (6)  

A Quick Introduction to Mariners’ Interim Manager Daren Brown

I’m not sure how many people have paid attention to the Tacoma Rainiers or know much about Daren Brown, but I hardly recognized his name. So I hunted down a John McGrath Tacoma News-Tribune profile of Brown from April of ’07, when he was about to start his term as Rainiers manager. It should offer some clues into how he’ll manage the Seattle Mariners and what his perspective will be:

Daren Brown ‘s sixth managerial job – he’s replacing Dave Brundage at the helm of the Tacoma Rainiers – will afford him more time to devote to the task than his first managerial job.

In 1998, Brown accepted an offer to call the shots for the Amarillo Dillas of the independent Texas-Louisiana League. The assignment was only slightly complicated by the fact Brown happened to be the Dillas’ best starting pitcher at the time. . . .

On the mound, the 6-foot-4 right-hander was versed in the basics (fastball, curve, change-up, slider), but had no dominant pitch. As a manager, Brown realized the guile that enabled him to survive five seasons in the Toronto Blue Jays organization – and earn him three Pitcher of the Year honors in the Texas-Louisiana league – translated to his new line of work.

“I didn’t throw a 95-mile-an-hour fastball, so in order to compete I had to think a little bit,” he said. “That’s probably helped me more than anything in managing. I wasn’t a guy who just went out there and expected to get outs. I had to think to get my outs.” . . .

Hired by the Mariners after winning a third consecutive division [title] in Amarillo, Brown’s tour through the [Mariners’] farm system has included stops in San Bernadino, Calif. (2001-02), Appleton, Wis. (2003), back to San Bernadino (2004-05) and San Antonio (2006).

He also spent three weeks last year in Seattle, coaching first base during the final three weeks of the season as a replacement for Mike Goff, who moved to the bench after Ron Hassey was released.

The big club had long been eliminated from the playoff race, but the procession of call-ups from the minors put a joyful twist on an otherwise bleak September.

“When you walk into the clubhouse,” Brown said, “and you see six, seven, eight guys you’ve had the previous three or four years, putting on a big-league uniform, some of your thoughts go back to when you had them the California League, going out onto the field to work with them at 3 o’clock in the afternoon.

“Even then, we were letting those kids know we were preparing them to be successful in the big leagues, not preparing them to be successful in A ball or Double-A. It’s about the big leagues. It was a good feeling on my part, knowing they got there. Now it’s a matter of getting them ready to stay.”

Published in: on August 9, 2010 at 7:32 pm  Leave a Comment