Trivia question: How many former Jackson Mets and/or Generals are in the National Baseball Hall of Fame? Answer: None. Still. Jeff Bagwell, elected to the Hall on Wednesday, wore a Generals uniform for four games in 1995. But he was on a major league rehab assignment from the parent Houston Astros, so it would be a stretch to call him a “former Jackson General.” He was originally drafted by Boston and didn’t come up through the Astros’ system. There were three true former Generals on the 2017 ballot: Billy Wagner, Carlos Guillen and Melvin Mora. Wagner, a seven-time All-Star who had 422 career saves, was named on 45 ballots (10.2 percent), down one vote from last year, his first on the ballot. There’s a lot of debate among writers about Wagner’s worthiness; he may yet get in. Guillen and Mora didn’t get a vote in their first year of eligibility and now fall off the ballot. Both were fine players but obviously not Hall material. It’s worth noting that Lee Smith, who got 151 votes this year, pitched in two games for the Generals in 1998, at age 40, as part of an ill-fated comeback attempt. He wasn’t on a rehab assignment, but it would still be a stretch to call him a former General. Incidentally, he falls off the ballot, too, now after 15 years on it. … Interesting to see Rafael Palmeiro’s comments about the Hall in a column by USA Today’s Bob Nightengale. “It bothers me to say that I’m not in the Hall of Fame,” the ex-Mississippi State star said. “Obviously, it would be so cool.” Palmeiro, who has 3,000 hits and 500 homers, infamously wagged his finger at members of Congress during a 2005 hearing on drugs in baseball and then months later failed a drug test, which he calls “a careless mistake.” He fell off the Hall ballot in 2014. He might get in some day, too, as the perspective on PED use continues to shift. “That’s my dream,” Palmeiro told Nightengale. … Trivia question: How many Mississippi-born major leaguers are in the Hall of Fame? Answer: None. The two Mississippi natives in the Hall are former Negro Leagues stars: Cool Papa Bell, from Starkville, and William Foster, the one-time Alcorn State dean and coach who is listed in Hall publications as being born in Rodney. Dizzy Dean, an adopted Mississippian who is buried here, was born in Arkansas. Columbus native Red Barber is in the broadcasters wing of the Hall. Several Magnolia State natives who played in the majors have generated Hall consideration – Buddy Myer, Dave Parker, Frank White among them – but we’re still waiting on that breakthrough player.
The college season in Mississippi starts on Feb. 1, when Blue Mountain College takes on Christian Brothers at BNA Bank Park in New Albany. (The inaugural game at the new BMC SportsPlex on campus is set for March 10.) Hard to believe the Toppers are entering their eighth season. BMC went 23-32 in 2016, 7-19 in the Southern States Athletic Conference, one of NAIA’s best leagues. Curt Fowler, the only coach BMC has had, welcomes back hitters Caleb Leach (.343, six homers), Peyton Callahan (.336) and Miciah Heard (.314, 31 steals) and hurlers David Torres and Christian Dale, both 5-game winners. … On Feb. 3, Mississippi College will host Florida Tech, NAIA nationally ranked William Carey hosts Shawnee State (as part of the WCU Invitational) and Millsaps plays at Huntingdon in Alabama. Delta State opens on Feb. 4 at home against Harding. Belhaven University’s first game is Feb. 10 at home against Berry, and Tougaloo will launch that same day at Loyola of New Orleans. Rust’s schedule has not been posted. Most of the junior colleges play the second weekend of February, and the NCAA Division I start date is Feb. 17. … For the record, MUW – and recently named coach Matt Wolfenbarger — will start play in 2018 as a Division III program.
A week ago, Corey Dickerson was penciled in as Tampa Bay’s starting left fielder. Today, the former Meridian Community College star from McComb may not be so sure where he stands. With spring training camps opening in about a month, the Rays appear overrun with outfielders. Mallex Smith, the ex-Mississippi Braves star who arrived in a Wednesday trade, and reported free agent signee Colby Rasmus join a crowd that includes Dickerson, Kevin Kiermaier, Steven Souza Jr., Mikie Mahtook and Nick Franklin. Kiermaier is the likely starter in center. Otherwise, who knows? The Rays may be planning to move someone, though it would be a surprise if they dealt Dickerson, who is only 27 and entering just his fifth MLB season. He delivered power (24 home runs, 36 doubles) in his first year in Tampa after coming over in a trade from Colorado. Though he hit just .245, that could at least partly be attributed to changing home parks and leagues. Dickerson, a .279 career hitter, has always drawn raves for his abilities with the bat, and he has said that he wants to win a batting title. Because defense is not his strong suit, Dickerson figures to get a lot of at-bats at DH, as he did in 2016. Then again, he does have trade value. It’s a situation that bears watching in the coming weeks.
Louis Coleman is off the market, having signed a minor league contract with Cincinnati. The Greenwood native and ex-Pillow Academy star will contend for a bullpen job with the Reds in spring training. Coleman posted a 4.69 ERA in 61 games for the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2016 but was non-tendered last fall. The 30-year-old right-hander has a 3.51 career ERA in 213 MLB games, having begun his career with Kansas City. … Incidentally, the Reds are slated to have five Mississippians in spring camp: Zack Cozart (Ole Miss), Billy Hamilton (Taylorsville), Cody Reed (Northwest Mississippi Community College), Stuart Turner (Ole Miss) and Coleman. Turner was a Rule 5 pick from Minnesota. … Former Hillcrest Christian and Ole Miss standout Cody Satterwhite, who finished his 2016 campaign in Japan, signed as a minor leaguer with Baltimore. Satterwhite, 29, had a 1.80 ERA in 18 games in Triple-A for the Los Angeles Angels before going to Japan. A second-round pick by Detroit in 2008, he has also pitched in the New York Mets’ system but hasn’t made The Show in an injury-dampened career. … From the rumor mill: Southern Miss alum Brian Dozier might be staying in Minnesota; reports are the trade talks with the Los Angeles Dodgers have cooled. UM product Chris Coghlan, fresh off winning the World Series, may be on Philadelphia’s radar; the Phillies are seeking a left-handed bat. … Toronto prospect Anthony Alford, Mr. Baseball and Mr. Football his senior year at Petal High, lost many of his trophies and other memorabilia in a Dec. 28 fire that destroyed his childhood home in Columbia. No one was injured in the blaze, though Alford’s father, mother and sister, who lived in the home, reportedly lost most of their belongings. Alford now lives in Sumrall with his wife, Bailey. … Mississippi State’s Jake Mangum, the 2016 SEC freshman of the year, is ranked 29th in Baseball America’s list of the Top 100 college draft prospects for 2017. The Jackson Prep product, a switch-hitting outfielder who turns 21 in March, batted .408 last year.
Having traded away a Mississippian today, Seattle then dealt for one. Welcome to the Mariners, Jarrod Dyson. The M’s, who earlier shipped lefty-hitting outfielder Seth Smith to Baltimore for pitcher Yovani Gallardo, traded pitcher Nathan Karns to Kansas City for Dyson, another lefty-hitting outfielder. Dyson’s game is more about speed and defense than Smith’s (see previous post). The ex-Southwest Mississippi Community College standout has 176 steals over parts of seven MLB campaigns; he’s a .260 career hitter who can play any of the outfield spots. He put up good numbers in a reserve role in 2016: .278, 14 doubles, eight triples, 25 RBIs, 46 runs and 30 steals in 107 games. Kansas City is the only club Dyson has played for.
Seth Smith will wear another hat in 2017. If you’re counting, that’ll be his fifth in 11 years in the big leagues. The Ole Miss alum and Jackson native has been traded from Seattle to Baltimore for pitcher Yovani Gallardo. Smith, a lefty-hitting corner outfielder, is 34 and in the last year of a three-year contract. He batted .249 with 16 homers and 63 RBIs for the Mariners in 2016, his second year with that club. He has previously played for Colorado, Oakland and San Diego. Smith has been a serviceable player in his MLB career, with 113 homers and a .261 average, though he is limited because he doesn’t hit lefties. His bat should benefit from playing in Camden Yards and those other American League East parks. Plus, he gets to play for Buck Showalter.
The postseason is on the boil in the Mexican Pacific League, and former Ole Miss standout David Goforth is rising to the occasion for Culiacan. Goforth, a Milwaukee farmhand, worked two scoreless innings on Thursday and got the win as the Tomateros beat Hermosillo 8-7 to go up 2-1 in the first-round series. (Joey Meneses, who played for the 2016 Mississippi Braves, had two hits and an RBI for Culiacan.) Goforth pitched 1 2/3 clean innings on Tuesday. He also got some work this off-season in the Venezuelan Winter League, producing a 4.70 ERA in nine games for Lara. After posting a 10.97 ERA in 10 big league games and a 4.91 in Triple-A in 2016, Goforth was designated for assignment by the Brewers in November. The 28-year-old right-hander from Meridian cleared waivers and was outrighted to the AAA Colorado Springs roster. He’ll likely begin his seventh pro season there.