31 Oct

lefty for hire

The list of free agent pitchers includes some big names: Max Scherzer, Jon Lester, James Shields, Ervin Santana, to name a few. It also includes many more names from the MLB rank-and-file, role-fillers such as Paul Maholm, the former Mississippi State star from Greenwood. Maholm, a 32-year-old left-hander, was a late signee last off-season by the Los Angeles Dodgers and had a generally lackluster year: 1-5, 4.84 ERA in 30 games (eight starts). Over 70 2/3 innings, he yielded 82 hits and 28 walks with just 34 strikeouts. And he finished the season on the disabled list. Maholm was a first-round draft pick by Pittsburgh in 2003 and spent his first seven MLB campaigns with the then-lowly Pirates. He has bounced from the Chicago Cubs to Atlanta to the Dodgers over the past three seasons. His career numbers: 77-100, 4.30 ERA. Since he is a lefty who can start or come out of the pen, Maholm should get another shot in 2015. But he again might have a long wait this off-season. P.S. Read an interesting comment from Kansas City’s Alex Gordon, who was held at third base while his two-out hit was misplayed in left field in the bottom of the ninth inning of World Series Game 7. “I’m not as fast as Jarrod Dyson,” Gordon told mlb.com. “If I was, I probably would’ve scored (the tying run).” He’s probably right. Of course, a pop up ended the game and gave San Francisco the title. Former Southwest Mississippi Community College standout Dyson, who swiped 36 bags during the season, didn’t get to use his speed much in the Series. He wasn’t on base very often and never attempted a steal.

29 Oct

going seven

In its most recent issue, Baseball Digest chose the top 13 World Series Game 7’s in major league history, and two of them involved Mississippians. In 1997, Meridian native and ex-West Lauderdale High and Mississippi State star Jay Powell got the win as Florida beat Cleveland 3-2 in 11 innings. Powell worked a scoreless top of the 11th, keeping the score at 2-2, and the Marlins won the championship in the bottom half on Edgar Renteria’s memorable two-out hit. In 1946, Pascagoula native Harry Walker delivered the game-winning hit for St. Louis against Boston. Walker’s eighth-inning double, with two down, scored Enos Slaughter from first base on the latter’s famous “mad dash,” and the Cardinals held on to win 4-3. Shaw native and former Delta State coaching legend Boo Ferriss, who had a win earlier in that Series, started Game 7 for the Red Sox, departing in the fifth. Tonight’s San Francisco-Kansas City clash will be the 37th Game 7 (under the best-of-7 format) in World Series history. Aren’t we lucky?

29 Oct

star power

Former Mississippi State standout Hunter Renfroe shook out of a slump on Tuesday with a couple of hits, including a home run, in the Arizona Fall League. Renfroe, who had gotten off to a hot start in the AFL, is now batting .232 with two homers and six RBIs in 15 games for Surprise. Renfroe, a fast-rising San Diego Padres outfield prospect, is slated to play in the AFL’s Fall Stars Game on Saturday. “It’s going to be cool,” Renfroe told mlb.com. Also booked for the all-star contest is Daniel Castro, who finished the 2014 season as the Mississippi Braves’ starting shortstop. Castro, from Mexico, is batting .231 for Peoria; he batted .277 in 51 games for the M-Braves. … Tim Anderson, the ex-East Central Community College star now in the Chicago White Sox system, also had a good day in the AFL on Tuesday, going 3-for-4 for Glendale. Anderson, a shortstop, is hitting .309 with a homer and six RBIs. … Itawamba CC product Tim Dillard, in the Milwaukee system in 2014, still has not allowed a run over 9 1/3 innings for Zulia in the Venezuelan Winter League. P.S. Ole Miss has set its rosters for the Pizza Bowl fall ball championship. The series, which is essentially a 16-inning game spread over two days, will be held on Friday and Saturday at Oxford-University Stadium. … In Starkville, junior college transfer Logan Elliott and returning star Ross Mitchell combined on a two-hit, five-inning shutout as State continued its fall ball schedule. The Bulldogs are scheduled to play again on Saturday at Dudy Noble Field.

28 Oct

the hustle factor

The last time the Kansas City Royals were in the World Series, in 1985, they had their backs to the wall in Game 6 against St. Louis and won 2-1, then went on to win Game 7. People remember Game 6 because of umpire Don Denkinger’s missed call in the bottom of the ninth inning. Jorge Orta reached first base on that play, and KC, down 1-0, rallied from there (with the aid of some misplays by the Cardinals). Orta, when he was the hitting coach for the Jackson Generals in 1998, said when asked about the play that he hoped people would remember how he busted it down the first-base line and turned what appeared to be a routine 3-1 putout into a close play. Yes, Denkinger missed the call. Replays showed that. But Orta’s hustle — in a situation where some players might not have gone full-bore — was a factor. Hustle always plays. P.S. Much is made about how the 2014 Royals were built through the draft, and it is interesting to note that McComb’s Jarrod Dyson has some of the deepest roots on the current roster. Drafted by KC in 2006, he is the only homegrown player on the World Series roster from that draft. Dyson, a small but swift center fielder at Southwest Mississippi Community Colleger, was picked in the 50th round. Luke Hochevar, a pitcher, was the Royals’ top pick — the No. 1 overall pick, in fact — but he missed the entire 2014 season after having elbow surgery in March. Dayton Moore, who was Atlanta’s farm director when the Mississippi Braves were hatched in 2005, took the Kansas City GM job in June 2006, just after the draft was conducted.

27 Oct

eye on 2015

The calendar still says 2014, but in a real sense the 2015 season already has started for Tyler Moore. And it has started well. The former Northwest Rankin High, Meridian Community College and Mississippi State star hit his fourth home run on Sunday in the Dominican Winter League. Moore has 10 hits all told in 28 at-bats (.357) with 10 RBIs for Toros del Este. Moore, who spent most of 2014 with Triple-A Syracuse, will go to spring training in February vying for an MLB roster spot with Washington – or perhaps with some other big league club. The right-handed slugger, who has spent parts of three seasons in the majors with the Nationals, has 18 career MLB homers and 106 minor league bombs. P.S. Former Petal High standout Anthony Alford, returning to baseball in Toronto’s system, will play the outfield for Canberra in the Australian Baseball League. The Cavalry’s season starts Nov. 6. Alford, the former Ole Miss and Southern Miss football player, is joined on the Canberra roster by Marcus Lemon, a onetime Mississippi Braves player who is the son of Jackson native and former MLB star Chet Lemon.

24 Oct

just looking

While looking forward to tonight’s Game 3 of the World Series — and the possibility that McComb native Jarrod Dyson might be in the starting lineup for Kansas City — it’s worth taking a few moments to look back at some notable anniversaries of Fall Classics in which Mississippians played a role. … It was 30 years ago that the Detroit Tigers, with a pair of Magnolia State natives in their starting outfield, capped a dominating season with a World Series triumph over San Diego. In Game 3, with the series tied, the Tigers capitalized on 11 walks and won 5-2. Sunflower native Larry Herndon (5-for-15 in the Series) went 1-for-4 with an RBI on a walk in that game, and Jackson native Chet Lemon (5-for-17) went 2-for-5 with a run. The Tigers, who started that season 35-5 and won 104 games, took the Series in five games. Lemon, known for his defense in center field, had 15 putouts. … It was 40 years ago that the Oakland A’s beat the Los Angeles Dodgers in five games for their third straight world championship. That Oakland team included Belzoni native Herb Washington, the ex-track star and so-called designated runner. Washington, who stole 29 bases that season and never batted, made three Series appearances, getting no bags and scoring no runs. He was famously picked off in the ninth inning of Game 2, the only game the Dodgers won. Oakland released him the next year. … And it was 80 years ago that the St. Louis Cardinals and Detroit Tigers engaged in a rollicking seven-game battle notable in part because the Dean brothers, adopted Mississippian Dizzy and Paul, earned all four of the Cardinals’ W’s. In Game 2, Gulfport native Gerald “Gee” Walker delivered a game-tying pinch single in the ninth inning and the Tigers went on to win in 12. That was Walker’s only hit in the Series.

23 Oct

whatever happened to …

Corey Wimberly, the former Alcorn State standout, is still chasing the dream of making it to the big leagues — and the trail has led him to the Mexican Pacific League. Wimberly, 31, a sixth-round draft pick by Colorado in 2005, is batting .308 with three runs and a steal in six games for Obregon. The 5-foot-8, switch-hitting outfielder played at Double-A New Britain in the Minnesota organization in 2014, batting .252 with 32 runs and 17 bags in 72 games. Wimberly has been with seven different organizations, including some time with Atlanta’s Triple-A Gwinnett club in 2013. Wimberly’s best pro year might have been his first, 2005, when he led the rookie Pioneer League with a .381 average. He has stolen as many as 59 bases in a season (2008 in Double-A). P.S. Props to Mississippi Braves alum Gregor Blanco for becoming just the 19th player to hit a lead-off home run in a World Series game. Blanco’s Wednesday night blast didn’t hold up for San Francisco, which lost Game 2 to Kansas City 7-2.