Sunday, November 11, 2012

How it works

"Did you know that if you chose up 676 All-Star teams by initials, Bill Russell would probably be on the winning team? The J.C. team would be awfully good ..." - The Bill James Baseball Abstract 1984

OK, so this started as a simple exercise, putting together 25-man rosters from all of baseball history with initials that match our own (J.R. and M.H.). We had fun, so we started doing teams of players with our friends' initials. We had even more fun. So we began trying to see how many "initial teams" we could put together. Some teams came together naturally. Others have tremendous strengths and glaring weaknesses. Along the way, we discovered some fascinating players we had previously overlooked.

Each team, theoretically, has eight starting position players (no DH, thank you very much), five bench players (including a backup catcher, a utility infielder, a fourth outfielder and two others), a five-man rotation and a seven-man bullpen with one identified as the nominal closer. We only deviate from this roster format if necessary. Each team has a manager, and if none is available, we do the best we can to identify one. The teams are given random names - sometimes after our friends - that play off of the initials used to create the roster.

We have tried to pick the best teams possible with each set of initials, though in choosing the final bench or bullpen spots we reserve the right to pick sentimental favorites or, failing that, guys with funny names. We will not list a player at a position he did not play, though if roster requirements dictate (e.g., two outstanding shortstops but no decent second baseman), we will put a guy at his secondary position. We try to manage resources the way a real manager would - for example, if you've got two starting right fielders, you move one of them to left. For what it's worth, some guys might appear on more than one team if they were equally well known by two different names (e.g., Rich Gossage is eligible for the RG team, but he's also eligible for the GGs as Goose Gossage), but we won't abuse this by trying to put Babe Ruth on the GRs or anything like that.

Have fun.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

AA: The Aaron Altmans

Infield: Alex Arias (1992-2002) played mostly shortstop in his big-league career but he’ll start at third base on this team. He played very well for the Cubs in a short trial at the end of the 1993 season and then got traded to the Marlins, with whom he won a World Series title in 1997. In the NLDS that year, Arias went 1-for-1. In the NLCS, he went 1-for-1. Then, in the World Series, he spoiled his 1.000 postseason average by going 0-for-1. He was a slap hitter who rarely struck out. Second baseman Alexi Amarista (2011- ) is a Venezuelan utility player who had a fine career in the minors but is still trying to establish himself in the majors. Shortstop Alf Anderson (1941-46) played 126 games for the Pirates, mostly during World War II when there was a shortage of quality players. He was a minor-league batting champ but never hit anything in the bigs. He eventually got drafted and was a teammate of Ted Williams on a Navy team. First baseman Andy Abad (2001-06) was never very a-good. He showed mid-range power in the minors but hit just .095 in a brief major-league career that included cups o’coffee with three different teams.

Outfield: Center fielder Alfredo Amezaga (2002-11) was a journeyman utility guy who ran reasonably well, made good contact and played solid defense. In mid-career, the Marlins gave him a starting job for three seasons, in which his batting averages were .260, .263 and .264, so we’ll give him credit for consistency. Right fielder Abraham Almonte (2013- ) made his major-league debut with the Mariners in 2013. He’s a 5-foot-9, 205-pound bulldog, and we’ll be watching to see how he develops in the next few years. Left fielder Art Allison (1871-76), whose middle name was Algernon, batted .254 while playing for several different teams in the prehistoric National Association. Allison later worked for a government printing office in Washington and was killed in 1916 when he was hit by a truck while crossing a D.C. street in a blizzard.

Catcher: Alan Ashby (1973-89) came up with Cleveland, was the primary catcher for the expansion Blue Jays, and spent a decade with the Houston Astros. He wasn’t a great hitter, but he was consistent and he plugged along to more than 1,000 hits. Ashby caught three no-hitters with the Astros (Ken Forsch, Nolan Ryan and Mike Scott). While with the Blue Jays, he was given the nickname “Buns” because the ladies in the office thought he had a nice butt; he apparently tried to leave that nickname behind (no pun intended) when he left Toronto, but his teammates in Houston learned of it and decided to keep it alive as a private joke.

Rotation: Andy Ashby (1991-2004), no relation to his catcher, had a career record of 98-110, mostly for San Diego. If you take away three miserable years with Philadelphia – two at the start of his career, and one in mid-career – his record improves to 92-95, and his ERA drops from 4.12 to 3.90. He was a pretty good pitcher, with good control, and he appeared in two All-Star Games. Not bad for a guy who was signed as an undrafted free agent. Lefty Allan Anderson (1986-91) led the American League in earned-run average in 1988. He went 16-9 with a 2.45 ERA that season at age 24, but you had to wonder what to make of that record, since he struck out only 83 batters in 202 innings. He was the epitome of a pitch-to-contact guy: He walked very few batters, but he gave up a lot of hits. His ERA went up to 3.80 the following year, and then to 4.53 and then to 4.96, and then he was finished at age 27. Al Atkinson (1884-87) went 51-51 for three different teams in a couple of very early leagues. This was in the period when pitchers worked very heavy loads. He had a record of 20-26 as a rookie, and he went 25-7 in his next-to-last season. Lefty Al Aber (1950-57) won 24 games for the Indians and the Tigers, splitting time between the rotation and the pen. Andrew Albers (2013- ) is a Canadian lefty who started 10 games for Minnesota in 2013 and went 2-5 with a 4.05 ERA. He was a 27-year-old rookie, and his peripheral stats weren’t good, but he was a pretty solid pitcher in the minors. We’ll see where he goes from here.

Bullpen: Here lies the strength of this roster. Ace Adams (1941-46) will work as the team’s closer, in part because of his name. And, no, that’s a nickname. His parents named him “Ace.” Pitching before the advent of the modern-day closer, he nonetheless led the NL in games finished for four straight seasons and had 49 career saves (figured retroactively). He spent his entire career with the New York Giants, coming to the majors at age 31 and emerging as a relief workhorse during World War II when strong arms were hard to come by. When the real players came back from the war, Adams jumped to the Mexican League and was blacklisted from returning to the majors. If Adams falters, we will turn to Antonio Alfonseca (1997-2007), who had 129 career saves, including a league-leading 45 for the Marlins in 2000. Truth is, his ERAs were never all that good for a closer, and he put too many runners on base. He was a subject of some fascination because he had six fingers on each hand (see photo), although the sixth finger was just a little stub on the other side of the pinkie and he was never able to use it to put any kind of unique spin on the ball. He reportedly also had six toes on each foot, but since he didn’t pitch barefoot, we can’t confirm that detail. Al Alburquerque (2011- ) is a flame-throwing set-up man who has averaged 13 strikeouts per nine innings in his first three seasons for the Detroit Tigers. His name is so long that it almost forms a complete circle on the back of his uniform. Alfredo Aceves (2008- ) has pitched mainly as a set-up man. In his one season as a closer, he saved 25 games for the Red Sox in 2012 but also posted an ERA of 5.36. He has a career record of 30-14 with a 3.69 ERA, and we are waiting to see what he can do in his 30s. Lefty Armando Almanza (1999-2005) went 14-13, mostly with the Marlins. He was on Florida’s championship team in 2003, though he had a 6.08 ERA and did not appear in the World Series. Abe Alvarez (2004-06) made one start and three relief appearances for the Red Sox. He got clobbered  in three of those outings. His career record is 0-1 with an 11.32 ERA. Al Autry (1976) made one appearance in the majors, starting a game for the miserable 1976 Braves when they had to play three straight doubleheaders. He pitched five innings, gave up three runs and got the victory. The attendance in Atlanta that day was 970. Much to his surprise, he never pitched again in the majors, which he attributes to the fact (we are not making this up) that he angered manager Dave Bristol with a sarcastic comment about a teammate’s wild pickoff throw.

Bench: Catcher Alex Avila (2009- ) is on the verge of taking over the starting  job, or at least moving into a platoon with Alan Ashby (Avila swings lefty, and Ashby is a switch-hitter). He’s got some power and he draws a few walks, but he batted .227 in 2013 at age 27, so we’re going to hold off on anointing him as the starter just yet. Infielder Angel Aragon (1914-17) was a Cuban immigrant who batted .118 in 32 games for the Yankees. Outfielder Andy Allison (1871) , brother of our starting right fielder, batted .163 for Brooklyn in the National Association. Infielder Andy Anderson (1948-49) batted .184 for the St. Louis Browns. As you can see, the bench is thin. For that reason, we will keep a third catcher – Andy Allanson (1986-95). He was a lousy hitter (.240 with no walks, no power and no speed) but compared to some of the other guys on this bench, he would be a viable pinch-hitting option. Plus, we like the idea of confusing the other teams by occasionally starting the battery of Allan Anderson and Andy Allanson.

Manager: No A.A. has ever managed in the majors, but Alan Ashby managed in the minors for three years and spent a year as the bullpen coach for the Houston Astros. That experience will make him the de facto player-manager on this roster.

Monday, May 2, 2011

AB: The Antonio Banderases

Infield: Aaron Boone (1997-2009) spent most of his career at third base but will move to first (where he played more than 100 games) on this roster. Boone – grandson of Ray, son of Bob, brother of Bret – hit 126 regular season home runs in his career, but he will always be remembered for one he hit in the postseason: the walk-off shot he hit off Boston’s Tim Wakefield in the 11th inning of Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS. Boone moves to first to accommodate third baseman Adrian Beltre (1998- ), who has pushed past 300 home runs and has already moved past 1,100 career RBI in his early 30s. Beltre was a good power hitter from the time he arrived with the Dodgers at age 19, but he broke loose for 48 home runs in 2004, the walk year of his contract. That led to a big free agent deal in Seattle, where he played well but was perceived as a disappointment beause he didn’t hit 40-plus home runs again. He had a big year for the Red Sox in 2010 to revive his career. He is a Gold Glove defender with a good bat. Second baseman Alan Bannister (1974-85) was a utility guy who played all over the field as needed. He wasn’t a great hitter, but he wasn’t bad either – a decent average, walked as often as he struck out, ran well. He was a useful player who bounced around five teams and generally helped them. Shortstop Al Bridwell (1905-15) was a slap hitter who earned his niche in baseball history as the guy who hit the would-be single that was turned into a fielder’s choice by Fred Merkle’s infamous baserunning gaffe that cost the New York Giants the 1908 pennant. (If you’re not familiar with the play, simply google “Merkle’s Boner,” or look up that phrase on Wikipedia. Don’t worry – it’s “work-safe.”)

Outfield: Left fielder Albert Belle (1989-2000) was one of the best hiters of his generation, but his career was cut short by a hip injury and his sensational production was constantly overshadowed by his violent temper. He was originally known by his childhood nickname Joey, but after several controversial incidents and a stint in alcohol rehab, he re-emerged using his given name, Albert, as a symbol of his fresh start. It got his career back on track, but sobriety did little to tame his volcanic temper, and his career was a long-running battle with media, fans, opponents and sometimes teammates. He was suspended after he was caught using a corked bat, and he was fined when he decked an opposing infielder with a vicious elbow to the face in the middle of the basepath. His wrath was not limited to the baseball diamond – on Halloween 1995 he was arrested after he jumped in his vehicle and tried to run down some trick-or-treaters who had egged his house. He finished his career at .295/.369/.564 with 381 home runs despite retiring at age 33. He is the only player in history to have 50 doubles and 50 home runs in the same season. Belle drove in 100-plus runs in each of his last nine seasons, and between 1992-98 he averaged 126 RBI, and that total would be pushed even higher if you extrapolate his astonishing 1994 totals (101 RBI in 106 games) to account for the season-ending lockout. Center fielder Al Bumbry (1972-85) did a two-year tour of duty in Vietnam, winning a Bronze Star, before returning to baseball in 1972 and winning Rookie of the Year in 1972 when he batted .337 for the Orioles. He was very fast, a solid contact hitter and a good defensive outfielder. Right fielder Al Burch (1906-11) was a slap hitter with a little speed who spent most of his career in Brooklyn. Near the end of the 1906 season, in a game against the Boston Beaneaters, Burch came to bat against Happy Jack Cameron, a guy who had washed out as an outfielder and was attempting to hang on in the majors as a reliever. Burch rifled a line drive back up the middle that hit Cameron’s head with such force that it ricocheted back on the fly to the catcher, who caught it and doubled the runner off first base, one of the odder 1-2-3 double plays in history.

Catcher: Al Bool (1928-31) was a fine minor-league hitter who got a few trials in the majors in his early 30s.

Rotation: Andy Benes (1989-2002) was the first overall pick in the 1988 draft, taken by San Diego out of the University of Evansville. He went on to win 155 games and struck out 2,000 batters, mostly for San Diego and St. Louis. A.J. Burnett (1999- ) has had a similar career to Andy Benes, a solid starter who never quite became an ace. He was a top prospect in the Mets organization before he was traded to the Marlins. He pitched a no-hitter in 2001, had Tommy John surgery two years later and has continued to plug away. He had 110 career wins entering the 2011 season. Lefty Addison Brennan (1910-18) had a couple of good years for the Phillies, highlighted by 14 wins and a 2.37 ERA in 1913. Alan Benes (1995-2003) won 29 games in his career, almost half of them when he went 13-10 for the Cardinals in 1996. He is the brother of Andy Benes; their other brother, Adam, qualifies for the team with his initials but never made it to the majors. Al Benton (1934-52) was a swingman who won 98 games in his career, mostly for the Tigers. He also had a season in which he led the league in retroactive saves.

Bullpen: Closer Armando Benitez (1994-2008) was a flame-thrower who saved 289 games and struck out almost 11 batters per nine innings over the course of his career. Andrew Bailey (2009- ) was AL Rookie of the Year in 2009 and followed up with a fine second season. For his first two seasons he had 51 saves, a 1.70 ERA, and in 132 innings he has 133 strikeouts and just 37 walks. If he stays healthy, he could try to wrest the closer role away from Benitez, but he’s got a ways to go. Lefty Al Brazle (1943-54) started out as a swingman and then transitioned into a full-time reliever for the Cardinals. When saves were retroactively figured, it was determined that Brazle led the NL in both 1952 and ’53. He won 97 games in his career and saved 60. Andrew Brown (2006-08) is a 6-foot-6 righty who had a fine minor-league career and pitched reasonably well in the bigs before running out of steam. Antonio Bastardo (2009- ) is a young lefty fireballer whose name, when said in a deep and guttural tone, is every bit as intimidating as his fastball. Ambiorix Burgos (2005-07) had a live arm, a great name, and no control. Alton Brown (1951) is a local guy from here in the Hampton Roads area of Virginia who pitched a few games for the Senators.

Bench: Infielder Angel Berroa (2001-09) had an oustanding rookie season in 2003, batting .287 with 17 home runs and 21 steals, winning the AL Rookie of the Year Award. He also struck out 100 times and walked just 29 times, and that was a portent of things to come. Berroa’s career went straight downhill after his rookie season. Outfielder Angel Bravo (1969-71) was a minor-league speed demon who was never able to stick in the majors. Adrian Brown (1997-2006) was a slap-hitting outfielder for the Pirates. Infielder Art Butler (1911-16) was born Arthur Bouthillier but shortened his name to make it simpler. He was a .300 hitter in a long minor-league career but just a spart part in the majors. Backup catcher Arlo Brunsberg (1966) had three at-bats and finished with a .333 batting average (one hit), a .667 slugging percentage (it was a double) and a .500 on-base percentage (he got drilled once, too).

Manager: There has never been an A.B. manager in the major leagues, but Al Bumbry spent many years coaching for the Red Sox, Orioles and Indians.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

AC: The Archibald Coxes

Infield: Third baseman Andy Carey (1952-62) won four pennants and two World Series championships with the Mantle-Berra Yankees. He was a dependable player – a decent defender at the hot corner and a batter who would hit .260 or so, make good contact and supply a bit of pop. Playing for Casey Stengel, who platooned a lot and who liked to change his lineup around, Carey had only one season in which he had 500 at-bats (1955, when he played 135 games and came to the plate 570 time). He led the AL in triples that year with 11. Shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera (2007- ) is just hitting his prime with the Indians, and he’s establishing himself as a good top-of-the-order hitter. He bats close to .300, draws a few walks, hits the ball hard and runs well. He’s not great at anything, but he’s pretty strong across the board. Second baseman Alberto Callaspo (2006- ) is also in mid-career, playing with Anaheim. He’s a good contact hitter who can rip some doubles. Check back in a decade or so to see what kind of careers Callaspo and Cabrera have put together. First baseman Archi Cianfrocco (1992-98) was versatile enough to play all over the field, but he never fully developed as a hitter. He had a bit of pop, but he struck out too much, didn’t walk enough and struggled to push his batting average north of .250.

Outfield: Right fielder Al Cowens (1974-86) was a multi-talented player who had some very good seasons but struggled with inconsistency. He could hit 20 home runs in a good year, and he stole some bases but got thrown out too much. He made good contact and hit some good line drives, and he was a fine defensive player. At his peak he was a very good ballplayer – such as in 1977, when he went .312-23-112 for the Royals and won a Gold Glove. In 1979, Texas relief pitcher Ed Farmer broke Cowens’ jaw with a fastball and also broke Frank White’s wrist with a pitch. Cowens held a grudge, and the next time he faced Farmer – in 1980, when Cowens was with Detroit and Farmer with the White Sox – Cowens charged the mound during a groundout and jumped Farmer from behind. Center fielder Alex Cole (1990-96) could fly. As a 24-year-old rookie for Cleveland, he batted .300 and stole 40 bases (in 49 attempts) in less than half a season. He wasn’t really a .300 hitter, he never stole 40 bases again, and his success rate dropped. And, oh yeah, he wasn’t a great fielder. But he did hit for a decent average, and he did draw a few walks, and of course, he ran well, so he was an exciting and fairly functional player. Left fielder Adam Comorosky (1926-35) had a big year for Pittsburgh in 1930 – he batted .313 with 47 doubles, a league-high 23 triples, 12 home runs. He scored 112 runs and drove in 119, and for good measure, he led the league with 33 sac bunts. That was by far the best year of his career. He appears to have been a good defensive outfielder as well. He finished his career at .285, but with just 28 home runs.

Catcher: Amos Cross (1885-87) was the older brother of Lave Cross, who had 2,651 hits and who scored and drove in more than 2,700 runs. Amos had a good year at age 26 but he played just eight games the following year and was dead at age 28. It’s not clear how he died, but we’re open to suggestions.

Rotation: Andy Coakley (1902-11) won 58 games and had a 2.35 career ERA in the deadball era. He never led the league in anything, but he had two seasons with ERAs below 2.00 with well over 200 innings pitched. He went on to a long coaching career at Columbia University. Aaron Cook (2002- ) has spent most of his career with the Colorado Rockies and has won 76 games. Arnold “Hook” Carter (1944-45) was a lefty who pitched well for Cincinnati for a couple of years during World War II but was finished once the top players came back from military service. He struck out just 37 batters in 195 innings, which suggests that he was never going to be able to sustain a career anyway. Alex Cobb (2011- ) is a young starter with the Tampa Rays whose career is off to a promising start. It wouldn't take much to make him the ace of this staff. Al Cicotte (1957-62) was the great-nephew of disgraced Black Sox conspirator Eddie Cicotte. He was nowhere near as good as his great uncle Eddie – just a swingman who pitched for six teams in five seasons.

Bullpen: In the absence of an experienced closer, Cuban fireballer Aroldis Chapman (2010- ) will be handed the job. He arrived with the Reds as a 22-year-old with a fastball that lights up the radar gun at speeds approaching 105 mph. The Reds are still figuring out how to use him, and if he eventually moves into their rotation, he will almost certainly settle into the A.C. rotation as well – but as long as he remains in the Cincinnati pen, he’s the closer for the A.C. roster. Alex Carrasquel (1939-49) was the first Venezuelan to play in the majors, and he struck out DiMaggio, Gehrig and Dickey in his debut. That was an anomaly – he was a good pitcher but not a great one, and he didn’t strike out a lot of batters. He effectively ended his major league career in 1945 when he jumped from the Senators to the outlaw Mexican League, though he came back for three games with the White Sox in 1949. Andrew Cashner (2010- ) is a 6-foot-6 flamethrower, former first-round draft pick, who is just getting started and could have a fine career ahead of him, though shoulder issues in 2011 raised a red flag. Al Corwin (1951-55) pitched for the Giants and did well enough to get by for several years. Alberto Castillo (2008-11) is a Cuban lefty who has had a long career in the minors and a few call-ups to the Orioles in his mid-30s. We'll always switch catchers when he comes in so our battery will be a coupla Alberto Castillos. Aaron Crow (2011- ) is a talented young reliever with the Royals. He's a Topeka native and a former University of Missouri star who should be a natural favorite in Kansas City if he continues to develop. Lefty Art Ceccarelli (1955-60) was a swingman who won nine games for three teams. 

Bench: In a crowded middle infield picture, Alex Cintron (2001-09) and Andujar Cedeno (1990-96) emerge as the utility guys. Cintron, given a regular job by the Diamondbacks in 2003, batted .317 with some power. He spent the rest of his career proving he wasn’t really that good. Cedeno was fascinating to baseball fans because his arrival as a 20-year-old rookie hinted that the Astros were preparing to hand their shortstop job over to a guy whose name combined references to two of the team’s most talented and famous head cases (Joaquin Andujar and Cesar Cedeno). It didn’t really work out – Andujar Cedeno batted below .250, didn’t walk, was a poor defensive shortstop and had just mid-range power – but he hung around as a part-time infielder for several years. Outfielder Allie Clark (1947-53) was a journeyman role player who won World Series titles with the Yankees in 1947 and the Indians in 1948. Outfielder Allen Craig (2010- ) has emerged as a valuable role player with the Cardinals - a guy who hits for a decent average with a little power and can be stretched to play the infield. Alberto “Bambino” Castillo (1995-2007) was a light-hitting backup catcher with solid defensive skills for more than a decade.

Manager: Andy Cohen was the manager of the Phillies for 24 hours in 1960. Eddie Sawyer was the team’s manager but he stepped down early in the season, and Cohen had the job on an interim basis until Gene Mauch was hired one day later. Cohen’s career record as a big-league manager was 1-0. We’ll see if he can keep on winning with the A.C. team. He’ll be assisted by longtime Dodgers executive Al Campanis.

AD: The Abner Doubledays

Infield: First baseman Alvin Davis (1984-92) was sort of Fred McGriff Lite. He wasn’t as good as McGriff, and he didn’t play nearly as long, but he was a similar model – a .280-.290 hitter who drew lots of walks and hit for power. He spent almost his entire career with the Mariners, winning the AL Rookie of the Year Award in 1984 (.284-27-116) and going on to hit 160 career home runs. He will be sharing the infield with Alvin Dark (1946-60), Art Devlin (1904-13) and Adam DeBus (1917), though the exact configuration is a bit tricky. Dark was a shortstop and Devlin a third baseman, but each played a few games at other infield spots. DeBus only played 38 games, splitting time at short and third, and unfortunately he never moved to second base. For now, Dark will play shortstop, Devlin will move to second and DeBus will hold down third base – but the coaching staff is hoping that DeBus will volunteer to learn to play second. Dark was a good enough player that historian Bill James has suggested he may have made the Hall of Fame if the start of his playing career had not been delayed by World War II. He was a good contact hitter with a little bit of power (126 career home runs) and a decent glove. He won a Rookie of the Year Award, played in three all-star games and had a .323 batting average in 16 World Series games. Devlin was also a contact hitter, with more speed than Dark but less power. DeBus, who thus far is mucking up our infield alignment with his inability to play second base, batted .229 in a handful of games for the Pirates.

Outfield: Hall of Famer Andre “Hawk” Dawson (1976-96) came up with the Expos as a speed burning center fielder who also hit with power. Knee injuries, complicated by the artificial turf at Stade Olympique, eventually took away his speed and forced him to move to right field, where his powerful throwing arm remained an asset. Dawson hit 438 home runs and drove in almost 1,600 runs, but he had a terrible batting eye that limited his ability to get on base. He was tremendously respected as a team leader and a mentor to young players, which allowed him to stay in the game into his 40s. In 1987, when the owners colluded and secretly agreed not to sign any free agents, Dawson (looking to escape the artificial turf) famously handed the Cubs a blank contract with his signature on it and told them to fill in whatever salary they wanted. The Cubs signed him for $500,000 plus some incentives, and he responded with 49 home runs, 137 RBI and an NL MVP award. That season made him a Cubs legend, and he spent five more years there. Dawson will stay in center field on this team, while Adam Dunn (2001- ) will start in right. Dunn is a huge guy, listed at 6-foot-6 and 285 pounds, and a consistent slugger. How consistent? For four straight years, starting in 2005, he he exactly 40 home runs. He broke that streak by hitting 38 in back-to-back seasons. Dunn is a “three true outcomes” player – more than 49 percent of his career plate appearances have resulted in either a home run, a strikeout or a walk – and he is closing in on 400 homers in his early 30s. His run of consistent production was distrupted with a 2011 season that was an unmitigated disaster, and we’re sort of interested to see what kind of rebound he’s got left in him. (As a side note, the 2009 Washington Nationals frequently used an outfield of Dunn, Elijah Dukes and Austin Kearns, a trio that according to their officially listed weights that year checked in at a combined 778 pounds. If that ain’t a record, we want to see who beats it.) Left fielder Abner Dalrymple (1878-91) was a 19th-century leadoff batter who ran well and had some pop.

Catcher: Al DeVormer (1918-27) was never more than a backup in the majors, but he played for some very good teams and spent almost his entire major-league career playing for Hall of Fame managers (Miller Huggins, Frank Chance and John McGraw). He was a respected defensive catcher and a popualr teammate, and he stuck around in the minors until he was 40.

Rotation: Lefty Al Downing (1961-77) came up with the Yankees in the final years of the Mantle-Berra-Ford dynasty, a kid with an overpowering fastball but also with control problems (he led the AL in both strikeouts and walks in 1964). He eventually got it together enough to win 123 games, including a 20-9 season for the Dodgers in 1971. He was a good pitcher – very, very good at times – but he is probably best known for giving up Hank Aaron’s record-breaking 715th home run. Al Demaree (1912-19) won 80 games for four teams, and he had some good seasons along the way. After he retired, he went on to an even more prominentn career, spending several decades drawing highly distinctive sports-themed narrative cartoons for The Sporting News. Art Ditmar (1954-62) was nothing special as a pitcher, but he had the good fortune to spend a few years with the Yankees – in the years right before Al Downing – and therefore he won three pennants and a World Series title. Ditmar split his career between the powerhouse Yankees and the laughingstock A’s – he was 47-32 with a 3.24 ERA with the Yankees, and 25-45 with a 4.97 ERA with the A’s. Atley Donald (1938-45) spent his whole career with the Yankees during the DiMaggio era, putting up a career record of 65-33. He won three World Series titles with the Yankees, though he didn’t appear in the 1939 or ’43 World Series and he pitched badly in the 1941 Series. Art Decatur (1922-27) won 23 games for the Brooklyn Robins and the Philadelphia Phillies.

Bullpen: Closer Adrian Devine (1973-80) had 11 wins and 15 saves for the Rangers in 1977, which was the highlight of his career. Probably the most interesting detail of his career is the trade history that shuttled him back and forth between Atlanta and Texas. He came up with the Braves and was traded in 1976 to Texas as part of a package for Jeff Burroughs, who was two years removed from his AL MVP award. A year later, he went back to the Braves in a massive deal that involved 11 players moving among four teams. Two years after that, the Rangers traded him back to Atlanta. It seemed like every December at the winter meetingts, the Braves and Rangers would exchange Adrian Devine. Art Delaney (1924-29) had a distinguished minor-league career but largely got hammered in the majors. He’s a set-up man in this rather thin bullpen. Andy Dunning (1889-91) pitched a total of three games in the majors, all before his 20th birthday, and he appears to have gotten clobbered in all three. Two of them were complete game starts. Arthur Doll (1936-38) pitched in a total of four games and seems to have had better luck than Andrew Dunning. Alec Distaso (1969) pitched in two games for the Cubs at age 20, and he was out of baseball due to arm injuries before he turned 22. He went on to a career with the L.A.P.D. Art Daney (1928) had a major-league career that consisted of one scoreless inning for the Philadelphia A’s. That means the last four guys in our bullpen pitched in a total of 10 major-league games – we’ll be looking for some complete games out of our rotation.

Bench: Outfielder Alex Diaz (1992-99) never hit much, didn’t get on base, had no power and just a little bit of speed. He hung around for a few years and then became a Pentecostal minister in Puerto Rico. Argenis Diaz (2010- ) is an infielder who is still young. He hasn’t done anything all that impressive in the bigs, but if he does establish himself at all it wouldn’t take much to dislodge Adam DeBus from the starting lineup. Especially if he can play second base. Backup catcher Alex Delgado (1996) spent 18 years in the minors and in Mexico but only got a brief shot in the majors with the Red Sox. Outfielder Alejandro de Aza (2007- ) is a lefty stick with a bit of speed who has done alright in brief trials with the Marlins and the White Sox. He’s hitting his late 20s without having established himself, but he could be a valuable bench player. Outfielder Andy Dirks (2011- ) is another young lefty stick trying to stick in the majors. First baseman Arturo DeFreites (1978-79) was a minor-league slugger who never stuck in the majors.

Manager: Alvin Dark will be player-manager. He won a pennant with the 1962 Giants (might have won the World Series if McCovey had hit the ball three feet to either side on the final play of Game 7), and then won a World Series title with the A’s in 1974 (replacing Dick Williams, who had won titles in Oakland the previous two years but then quit because he was tired of dealing with owner Charles Finley). His career record was 994-954. Early in his managerial career there was the perception that he had difficulties dealing with players of color. A magazine article quoted him saying that blacks and Latins lacked the “mental alertness” of white players; he claimed that he had been misquoted, and several players such as Willie Mays and Jackie Robinson spoke up for him. He later became a devout Christian, which led to a very funny column by Mike Royko about the day that Dark came into a blue-collar saloon in Chicago trying to preach the benefits of godliness and clean living. One of the assembled drunks observed that Babe Ruth was (a.) a drinker and a womanizer, and (b.) a better player than Alvin Dark. When Dark agreed with both assessments, the assembled drunks “drank a shot to the memory of Babe Ruth and dirty living.”

AH: The Anne Hathaways

Infield: First baseman Aubrey Huff (2000- ) has hit 241 home runs and has a shot at 1,000 RBI if he can extend his career into his late 30s. He’s driven in 100 runs three times. Huff came up with Tampa and then wandered around a bit before winning a World Series title with the Giants in 2010. Second baseman Aaron Hill (2005- ) will hit his 100th career home run sometime early in 2012 (he finished 2011 with 98 career homers). His best season was 2009 when – coming back from a concussion the year before – he went .286-36-108 season for Toronto. He’ll turn 30 right around the time the 2012 season starts, so he should be right in the prime of his career, but he’s trying to reestablish himself after a couple of down seasons. Third baseman Art Howe (1974-85) was a very functional player whose best years were with the Astros. He was a .260 hitter who made good contact and could play decent defense all over the infield. Shortstop Andy High (1922-34) was primarily a third baseman but he moves to short, where he played occasionally, because that’s where he is most needed on this roster. He was a journeyman who never struck out, and his four seasons with the Cardinals (1928-31) included three pennants and a World Series title. He was 5-foot-6, and his nickname was “Knee” High.

Outfield: Left fielder Adam Hyzdu (2000-06) hit almost 300 home runs in the minors, but he never stuck in the majors. In 407 plate appearances, spread out over six seasons with four teams, he batted .229, struck out 98 times and hit 19 home runs. In 2000, playing for the Altoona Curve in the Eastern League, he went .290-31-106 and was named the league’s MVP. People got excited over that, not realizing that if a first-round draft pick is still in Double-A in his 11th season of pro ball, he probably ought to win the league MVP award. Right fielder Albert Hall (1981-89) sadly never played in Kansas City and therefore never became “the Royal Albert Hall.” (Rimshot) He spent almost his entire career with the Braves, a .250 hitter with a little bit of speed but not much else. Center fielder Al Heist (1960-62) had a long, serviceable career in the minors before graduating to the cubs in his early 30s. He stole just six bases in his career, which is disappointing since you would think that a guy named Heist would steal more. (Rimshot.)

Catcher: A.J. Hinch (1998-2004) batted .219 and had a terrible batting eye, but he had a little bit of power (32 home runs in 953 career at-bats) and he was a pretty fair defensive catcher.

Rotation: Andy Hawkins (1982-91) won 84 games, mostly for the Padres. Pitching for the Yankees in July 1990, he had a very eventful stretch of three starts. First, he threw a no-hitter but lost 4-0 because his teammates could neither hit nor field the ball. As the losing pitcher in a road game, he only pitched eight innings, and for that reason his performance was later ruled to not be an official no-hitter even though he pitched a complete game in a nine-inning game and allowed no hits. You decide for yourself. Putting linguistics aside, in his next start he pitched 11 shutout innings but lost 2-0 in the 12th. Then in his next next start, he lost 8-0 to the Chicago White Sox as Melido Perez pitched a rain-shortened six-inning no-hitter. So in the space of two weeks, Hawkins made three starts in which he got zero runs from his teammates, involving two complete-game no-hitters that were later declared not to be no-hitters when the statistic was re-defined, and in between those two he pitched shutout ball for 11 innings but lost. Atlee Hamaker (1981-95) was a talented lefty who could generally get people out when he was healthy but who was very rarely healthy for an entire season. In 1983 he was the best pitcher in the NL for the first half of the season, but he got clobbered in the All-Star Game (7 runs in 2/3 of an inning) and had a miserable second half, though he still led the league in ERA (2.25). The following year he had a 2.18 ERA in six starts before injuries ended his season. He struggled in 1985, missed the entire ’86 season, and then came back for a successful run as a swing man, finishing with 59 career victories. Aaron Harang (2002- ) is on track to become the first A.H. pitcher with 100 wins, having finished the 2011 season with a 95=94 record. He’s been a solid pitcher, mostly for the Reds, for the past decade; in 2006 he was one of a half-dozen pitchers who tied for the NL lead with 16 victories. Harang will not, however, become the first A.H. pitcher with 100 losses. That distinction belongs to Al “Boots” Hollingsworth (1935-46), who finished at 70-104 after a fairly decent career as a journeyman swing man. He had some good seasons along the way and later worked for years as a manager, coach and scout at the major- and minor-league levels. Art “Hard Luck” Houtteman (1945-57) went 87-91 for the Tigers and Indians. He was a solid pitcher whose career record was torpedoed by two bad seasons – he went 2-16 in 1949 and he went 8-20 in 1952, and for the rest of his career he was 77-55.

Bullpen: Closer Al Hrabosky (1970-82) fashioned himself as The Mad Hungarian. He had long, dark hair and a Fu Manch mustache, and between hitters he would step behind the mound, turn his back to the plate and work himself into a frenzy before charging back up the mound with a glare in his eye. Hrabosky had a couple of very good seasons for the Cardinals (13-3, 1.66 with a league-high 22 saves in 1975), but when straight-laced manager Vern Rapp demanded that he shave and cut his hair, Hrabosky – like Samson – seemed to lose his mystique. He had a fine career – 64 wins, 97 saves and a 3.10 ERA – but his legacy remains the image of the angry man with the bushy mustache. Al Holland (1977-87), another compact lefty, was actually a very similar pitcher to Hrabosky, right down to the facial hair and the angry stare. Holland saved 78 games, mostly for the Phillies and the Giants. Andy “Swede” Hansen (1944-53) won 23 games in a career split between the Phillies and the Giants. Aaron Heilman (2003- ) was a Mets prospect who struggled as a starter but who has put together a respectable career as a middle reliever. Andy Hassler (1971-85) was a lefty swingman who pitched a long time for a lot of teams and generally had success by keeping the ball down and pitching to contact. Al Hargesheimer (1980-86) pitched a few games here and there for the Giants, Cubs and Royals but never got a strong foothold in the bigs. Art “Red” Herring (1929-47) was a swingman who pitched mostly for the Tigers and the Dodgers.

Bench: Infielder Anderson Hernandez (2005- ) is fast and plays a decent defense, but he’s not much of a hitter. Utility man Al “Who Goes There?” Halt (1914-18) played mostly in the Federal League and didn’t make much of an impression. Outfielder Archibald Hall (1879-80) played center field for the Troy Trojans alongside Hall of Famer Dan Brouthers and a bunch of yahoos like Thorny Hawkes, Live Oak Taylor and Kick Kelly. The records don’t show when he was born, but it was presumably before the Civil War and he died in 1885, presumably at a farily young age. Arthur “Hoss” Hoelskoetter (1905-08) played all nine positions for the Cardinals in the early 20th century, and it didn’t appear to be a novelty. He played at least a dozen games at every position, including 49 behind the plate and 15 pitching. He couldn’t hit, but his versatility will come in handy. Backup catcher Allen Hubbard (1883) appeared in two games during the 1883 season, in one of which he played under the pseudonym Al West. In those two games, he went 2-for-6 with two runs, two RBI and a walk. Two games isn’t much to go on, but at this point he might push A.J. Hinch for the starting job on the principle that success in a small sample size is superior to futility in a larger sample size.

Manager: Art Howe will be the player-manager. He has managed the Astros, A’s and Mets and has won 1,129 games and two division titles. Played by Academy Award winner Philip Seymour Hoffman in the movie “Moneyball.”

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

AM: The Alonzo Mourning Mornings

Infield: First baseman Alex McKinnon (1884-87) was a .300 hitter in the early years of the National League who slashed out a lot of doubles and triples. His career was cut short when he contracted typhoid fever and died at age 30. Second baseman Al Myers (1884-91) was a solid middle infielder who played for four teams in the 1880s. He was your basic .250 contact hitter with a decent glove. Third baseman Alex McCarthy (1910-17) was a light-hitting utility infielder from Notre Dame who backed up (and sometimes played alongside) Honus Wagner with the Pirates for a few seasons. Shortstop Al Moran (1963-64) played for the New York Mets during their hapless post-expansion years. He batted .195 with just eight extra-base hits in almost 400 times to the plate, and he stole just three bases in 10 attempts. He wasn’t very good in the field either.

Outfield: Center fielder Andrew McCutchen (2009- ) is one of the most exciting young players in the game today. Three years into his career, he has been a consistent power-speed threat for the Pirates and he has a good batting eye. He appears to be on his way to a very solid career. Left fielder Austin McHenry (1918-22) was a fine player w ith the St. Louis Cardinals. In 1921, at age 25, he batted .350 with 37 doubles, 17 home runs and 102 RBI. Midway through the next season he was having another good year when he began to misjudge fly balls. He was diagnosed with a brain tumor and died at age 27. Right fielder Al Martin (1992-2003) was a solid player. He batted .276 for his career, with 132 home runs and 173 steals. He seemed to court controversy, however. He used to talk about his days playing football at Southern Cal, and he once compared an outfield collision to the sensation he had while tackling an All-American runner from Michigan State. Problem is, he never played football at USC. In fact, he never attended USC. He offered no explanation for why he thought he did. Later, he was accused of domestic violence and the police realized that he actually had two wives. He did have an explanation for that one - he said he didn't realize that the second ceremony was a real, legally binding wedding ceremony. That went over real well with the missus.

Catcher: Adam Melhuse (2000-08) batted .230 with a little bit of power but poor command of the strike zone. It was enough to keep him around as a backup and a part-time player for several seasons.

Rotation: Andy Messersmith (1968-79) was an outstanding pitcher – durable, a two-time 20-game winner, regularly among the league leaders in ERA – but he is best known as baseball’s first free agent. Pitching for the Dodgers in 1975, and still bound to the team in perpetuity under the guidelines of the reserve agreement in the basic contact, he tried to negotiate a no-trade clause and things got ugly. One thing led to another, and he filed a challenge to the reserve clause, and he succeeded where others had failed before. An arbiter ruled that players could “play out their option” and become free agents. Messersmith signed a three-year deal with Atlanta for a total of $1 million, plus a $400,000 signing bonus. (Ted Turner, the Braves’ maverick owner, wanted to replace Messersmith’s name on the back of his jersey with “CHANNEL 17” as an advertisement for his fledgling cable TV network WTBS, but MLB said no.) Moving from a good team to a bad one, trying to live up to the hype surrounding the contract, Messersmith struggled and then got hurt. He went 11-11 in his first year with the Braves and won just seven games after that. He finished with a career record of 130-99 with an ERA of 2.86. Al Mamaux (1913-24) had a couple of 21-win seasons with the Pirates in his early 20s but mostly struggled after that. His record through age 22 was 47-25; for the rest of his career it was 29-42. He also won 150 games in the minors, all in the International League. Art Mahaffey (1960-66) lost 19 for the Phillies in 1961 and then turned around and won 19 for them in 1962. He wasn’t an overpowering pitcher, but he once struck out 17 in a game. Happy Al Milnar (1936-46) was a lefty who won 57 games, all but two of them for the Indians. He earned his place in baseball history by giving up the final hit in Joe DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak. Lefty Angel Miranda (1993-97) went 17-21 as a swingman for the Brewers.

Bullpen: Closer Al McBean (1961-70) was, with all due respect to Horace Clarke, probably the best player ever born in the Virgin Islands. He won 67 games, saved 63 and had a career ERA of 3.13. He threw a hard sinker and came from a lot of different angles and arm slots to keep hitters off balance. Alan Mills (1990-2001) was an effective pitcher for a decade, mostly for the Orioles, winning 39 games in middle relief. Andy McGaffigan (1981-91) had a good run as a journeyman swingman, putting up a 3.38 career ERA. He was never a star, but he was always effective. Lefty Archie McKain (1937-43), nicknamed “Happy” just like Al Milnar, had a few good years for the Red Sox and the Tigers. Alvin Morman (1996-99) pitched for four teams in four years and was generally alright but never actually good. Aurelio Monteagudo (1963-73) had a long career in the minors, winning 100 games, but his major-league career was limited to a few relatively short callups that added up to 72 games. Andrew Miller (2006- ) is a 6-foot-7 lefty who is in mid-career but who has yet to show any real effectiveness.

Bench: Outfielder Andres Mora (1976-80) came to the Orioles as a highly touted prospect but he never really developed. The power was there, but he struck out too much, didn’t get on base and couldn’t crack Earl Weaver’s lineup. Gone before he turned 30. Infielder Aaron Miles (2003- ) is a good defensive player and a passable hitter who makes good contact. Outfielder Alex Metzler (1925-30) was a lefty hitter with a bit of speed and a good line drive stroke that produced a lot of doubles and triples. Infielder Amby McConnell (1908-11) – one of the few guys named Ambrose who would choose to shorten it to “Amby” – was a decent hitter with a bit of speed. He had the distinction of hitting into the first undisputed unassisted triple play in baseball history. Backup catcher Al Montgomery (1941) was a promsing young player – he batted just .192 for the Boston Braves, but he had a good track record in the minors – when he died at age 21 in a car crash heading north from spring training in 1942. He makes at least three members of this team who died tragically young.

Manager: No A.M. has ever managed in the majors, but Amby McConnell had a long career in the minors as a coach, manager and even a team owner. We’ll hand him the reins for now.