Julio Borbon made his major league debut tonight as a Texas Ranger. He also became the latest Mississippian to make The Show. Borbon’s connection is thin — he was born in Starkville in 1986, apparently while his father was in grad school at Mississippi State — but he’s still a native. The former Tennessee All-American has been on the Rangers’ prospect charts for a couple of years. He was a .300 hitter at the Class A and Double-A levels in 2008 and was batting .298 in Triple-A when the Rangers called him up. An outfielder, Borbon goes 6 feet 1, 190 pounds, hits left-handed and has plus speed. He could be a good one.
MLB Network aired a rebroadcast this morning of Game 6 of the 1986 National League Championship Series, the New York Mets vs. the Houston Astros at the Astrodome. It has to rank in just about everybody’s Top 10 list of the best major league games. The Mets led the series 3-2 and were desperately trying to avoid having to face Mike Scott, almost unhittable in the series, in Game 7. They would win 7-6 in 16 innings — and go on to win the World Series, of course, where they played another fairly memorable Game 6. That NLCS game would have been a great one even had it been played sometime in May: the Mets score three in the ninth to force extra innings; both teams score once in the 14th; the Mets break away, or so it seems, with three in the 16th, only to see the Astros score two and leave the winning run on base. The cast of characters was rich. Nolan Ryan, Dwight Gooden, Gary Carter, Keith Hernandez, Jose Cruz, Davey Lopes, Davey Johnson … heck, Yogi Berra was a coach for the Astros. And from a Mississippi perspective, it was off-the-charts compelling, then and now. So many connections and angles. The Mets’ Double-A club had been in Jackson since 1975 — the Astros’ club would move to Smith-Wills Stadium in 1991 — and the big league Mets played an exhibition game at Smith-Wills that spring. Their roster was replete with former JaxMets: Darryl Strawberry, Lenny Dykstra, Mookie Wilson, Jesse Orosco, Kevin Mitchell, Lee Mazzilli, Wally Backman, Kevin Elster and more. Johnson, the manager, managed the JaxMets to a Texas League crown in 1981. Coach Greg Pavlick played in the first game at Smith-Wills. And Scott, the Astros’ ace, was also a former JaxMet, while Jeff Calhoun, who worked the game-deciding 16th for Houston, played at Ole Miss. Watching the rebroadcast brings all that back — and reminds us why we love the game.
P.S. Wonder if anyone else noticed this: When the Braves and Red Sox hooked up Saturday, there was a former Jackson Mets shortstop coaching first base for Boston (Tim Bogar), a former Jackson Generals shortstop playing short for the BoSox (Julio Lugo), and a former Mississippi Brave playing short for Atlanta (Diory Hernandez).
Mississippi Braves manager Phillip Wellman expressed his frustration with his club’s anemic attack after a tough loss Friday night, calling it “embarrassing” in a published report. Meanwhile, at Class A Myrtle Beach — which won 11-1 Friday — there sits left fielder/DH Cody Johnson, Atlanta’s No. 1 pick in 2006, who’s hitting .268 with 20 homers and 48 RBIs. As for those two Top 10 prospects, first baseman Freddie Freeman is hitting .318 with six homers and 33 RBIs and right fielder Jason Heyward is at .293, 10, 26 (in 43 games). Any of the three would be an upgrade to the M-Braves’ current lineup. When will Atlanta’s brass make a move with one or more of them? Sure, they’re being patient, but they’ve got to be considering it now.
P.S. The Tampa Bay Rays have activated Chad Bradford, the submarine-style reliever from Byram, Hinds CC and Southern Miss. Bradford has been out all season after elbow surgery in February. He posted a 1.42 ERA for the American League pennant winners last season.
Wondering what’s going on with Bill Hall. The Nettleton native rarely plays anymore for the Milwaukee Brewers, who have gone to youngsters Matt Gamel and Casey McGehee and even veteran Craig Counsell at third base. That’s a crowd, and it’s beginning to look like Hall may not fit in. Since hitting those 35 home runs in 2006 and getting a big contract, he’s been spiraling down. Currently, Hall is batting .197 with five homers and 16 RBIs — and offense is what he is supposed to bring to the table. He went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts against Minnesota on Tuesday, his first game action since June 17. That’s one appearance in eight days. Not a good sign.
It didn’t make big headlines locally, but it was a pretty big deal when Ole Miss’ Jordan Henry agreed to contract terms with the Cleveland Indians on Monday. Henry, who played center field and hit leadoff for the Rebels, was the SEC leader in walks and steals and generally the sparkplug for Ole Miss. The Rebels will miss him. Rated by Baseball America as the top Mississippi college player in the draft, Henry was plucked in the seventh round by the Indians. Ole Miss also lost right-hander Phillip Irwin, who signed with Pittsburgh as a 21st-round pick. The Rebels figure to lose a few more to pro ball in the coming days.
P.S. Tim Dillard walked Manny Ramirez once and retired him on a ground ball the other time the two faced off in Wednesday night’s Pacific Coast League game (see previous post). Former Itawamba CC star Dillard went eight innings for Nashville (Milwaukee Brewers) in a game the Sounds won in 15.
Tim Dillard, the former Itawamba Community College and Saltillo High star, gets to share the stage with Manny Ramirez tonight in Albuquerque, N.M. Dillard is scheduled to start for the Triple-A Nashville Sounds against Ramirez and the Isotopes in the second game of the Los Angeles Dodgers slugger’s minor-league comeback from his 50-game drug suspension. ESPNews is expected to do live look-ins on Ramirez’s at-bats, of which he should get at least a couple. Game time is 8:05 CDT. Dillard, who has some big league experience, is 7-3 with a 4.31 ERA for the Sounds. Ramirez went 0-for-2 Tuesday night, but we know what he’s capable of.
For the first time in recent memory, we could actually field a full team of current big leaguers with Mississippi connections. Start with Eli Whiteside (Delta State) behind the plate, then it’s Marcus Thames (East Central CC) at first base, Matt Tolbert (Ole Miss) at second, Edwin Maysonet (DSU) at shortstop, Bill Hall (Nettleton) at third and an outfield of Seth Smith (Ole Miss), Fred Lewis (Gulf Coast CC) and Chris Coghlan (Ole Miss). For starting pitchers, how about Cliff Lee (Meridian CC), Roy Oswalt (Holmes CC) and Paul Maholm (Mississippi State). Jonathan Papelbon (MSU) is the closer. Brandon Medders (MSU), Brent Leach (DSU) and Tony Sipp (Gulf Coast CC) can handle middle relief. There’s a backup catcher in Paul Phillips (Meridian CC), but not much else for a bench until (or unless) David Dellucci (Ole Miss), Jason Smith (Meridian CC), Joey Gathright (Hattiesburg) and Jonathan Van Every (Itawamba CC) get recalled. It’s not exactly an All-Star cast, or even a good fantasy team, but it might give the Washington Nationals a good series.
It is appropriate on this day when fathers are feted that recognition be given to the Hairston clan, the first and to date only black three-generation major league family. The tree started with Sam Hairston, who was born in Crawford, the same Mississippi town that gave us Jerry Rice and Clarence Weatherspoon, stars of other sports. Sam Hairston was a Negro Leagues star of the 1940s who made a brief yet significant appearance with the Chicago White Sox in 1951. He was the second black Mississippian to play in the big leagues (arriving behind only Luke Easter). Sam had two sons who played in the majors, Jerry and John. Jerry also had two sons make the big leagues, Jerry Jr. and Scott. That’s a truly remarkable story.
For those out there still digging the long ball — if it’s OK to do that in these complicated times — please note that Marcus Thames has found his stroke. The Louisville native and former East Central CC star hit two home runs for the Detroit Tigers on Friday, giving him three in two days and five for the season. If he can do one thing on the ballfield, it’s hit for power. Thames’ return from a long stint on the disabled list has helped the Tigers move into first place in the American League Central. Ex-Gulf Coast CC star Fred Lewis, known more for his speed than his pop, might have topped Thames’ power display on Friday, however. Lewis, with the San Francisco Giants, hit a homer into McCovey Cove, no easy feat. OK, so it bounced in. That’s still impressive. Barry Bonds hit a bunch out there, but few others can do it.
Tommy Hanson, the former Mississippi Braves ace, goes against former Ole Miss star Matt Maloney in a matchup of prized rookie hurlers today when Atlanta takes on Cincinnati. Both have had mixed results to date. Atlanta, which has lost four straight, including the last two against Cincinnati, is approaching the desperation stage. Don’t know if that’s a good thing or not for Hanson, who is carrying a heavy burden as the Braves’ anointed future ace.
P.S. Waiting for word on changes to the M-Braves’ roster. First baseman Freddie Freeman would seem to be the logical choice to be promoted first. The M-Braves certainly need a power bat at that position. Outfielder Jason Heyward played again Wednesday night for the first time in a couple of weeks; he may get a shot here soon enough. Outfielder Cody Johnson also may rate a look, and third baseman Donell Linares is yet another possibility. The second half starts on Monday at Trustmark Park. Maybe the new bodies will arrive at the same time.