30 Sep

a touch of history

The last time before today that the Kansas City Royals were on the field for a postseason game was Oct. 27, 1985. It was Game 7 of the World Series, and Greenville native Frank White was playing second base for the host Royals when Bret Saberhagen got the final out of an 11-0 win against St. Louis. White batted fifth that day, behind George Brett, and went 1-for-4 with an RBI and a run. The eight-time Gold Glove award winner also had five assists. White, a five-time All-Star, spent all 18 of his MLB seasons with the Royals, from 1973-90, batting .255 with 160 home runs and 168 stolen bases. He is currently living in the KC area and running for a seat in the county legislature, according to a recent New York Times story. McComb native Jarrod Dyson will be on the roster for the Royals’ wild card game in KC today against Oakland. Dyson, a left-handed hitter, won’t start vs. A’s lefty Jon Lester, but he’s likely to get in the game as a defensive replacement or pinch runner. P.S. Former Ole Miss standout Drew Pomeranz, a lefty who can start or relieve, has a good chance to make Oakland’s postseason roster. He put up a 2.38 ERA in 20 games. … There are a handful of managers and coaches with Mississippi ties involved in the postseason. Former Mississippi State standout Buck Showalter manages Baltimore, ex-Jackson Mets star Ned Yost Kansas City and former JaxMets skipper Clint Hurdle Pittsburgh. Jackson native and MSU alumnus Chris Maloney is St. Louis’ first-base coach; Tupelo native and Jackson State product Dave Clark is Detroit’s third-base coach; Waynesboro native Jeff Branson is the Pirates’ hitting coach; Laurel resident (and former Southern League manager) Bobby Dickerson is the Orioles’ third-base coach; and Southern Miss product Jim Davenport is a special assistant with San Francisco. Davenport, in his 50th year with the organization, is a former Giants player, coach and manager. … Sad to see former JaxMets infielder Ron Gardenhire ousted as Minnesota’s manager, but he had a good run with six division titles during his 13-season stint.

29 Sep

the curtain drops

The Mississippi star on the final day of the MLB regular season was T.J. House, the Picayune High product who pitches for Cleveland. House, a rookie lefty who turns 25 today, went five innings Sunday for another victory, improving his season numbers to 5-3, 3.35 ERA. He went 4-0 over his last seven starts and appears to have thrust himself into the Indians’ plans for 2015. … Pillow Academy product Louis Coleman, with postseason-bound Kansas City, notched his first save of the season by striking out the side in a 6-4 Royals win. It’s unlikely that Coleman, with a 5.56 ERA this year, will make KC’s postseason roster. … Kendall Graveman, the Mississippi State product who rocketed to the big leagues this year with Toronto, tossed a scoreless inning in his fifth appearance and ended with a 3.86 ERA. … The Mississippi-connected hitters had a very quiet final day. The only one to get a hit was MSU alum Tyler Moore, who went 1-for-2, finishing at .231 this season for National League East champ Washington. Ex-Southern Miss star Brian Dozier (Minnesota) was 0-for-4 (.242); Ole Miss alum Alex Presley (Houston) 0-for-4 (.244); UM’s Zack Cozart (Cincinnati) 0-for-3 (.221); ex-Rebels star Chris Coghlan (Chicago Cubs) 0-for-4 (.283); Jackson native and Ole Miss alum Seth Smith (San Diego) 0-for-3 (.266); and Southwest Mississippi Community College product Jarrod Dyson (Kansas City) 0-for-1 (.269). … Taylorsville’s Billy Hamilton (Cincinnati) missed a fourth straight game because of a concussion. He finished at .250 with 56 steals. Meridian CC alum Corey Dickerson (Colorado) missed the final three games of the year to be with his wife in Mississippi for the birth of their first child. Dickerson hit .312 with 24 homers. P.S. Bobby Abreu, the last Jackson General still playing, got a hit in his final MLB at-bat for the New York Mets. Abreu, who has announced his retirement, finished with 2,470 hits, a .291 average, 288 homers, 1,363 RBIs and 400 stolen bases. Hall of Fame worthy? Close.

27 Sep

central casting

Kansas City, managed by former Jackson Mets catcher Ned Yost and with Mississippi natives Jarrod Dyson and Louis Coleman on its roster, celebrated — quite exuberantly, it should be noted — its first playoff berth in 29 years on Friday after beating the White Sox 3-1 in Chicago. The Royals, currently in a wild card position, can still win the American League Central title outright, and they can give some thanks to Brian Dozier, the former Southern Miss star from Tupelo, for that. Dozier, with Minnesota, went 3-for-5 with a home run (No. 22), three RBIs and three runs to spark the visiting Twins to an 11-4 win over AL Central leader Detroit. The Tigers are 89-71, up just one game on the 88-72 Royals with two left in the regular season. … St. Louis can clinch the National League Central title today with a win at Arizona and a loss by second-place Pittsburgh at Cincinnati. Ex-Ole Miss standout Lance Lynn is on the bump for the Cardinals. He is 15-10 with a 2.73 ERA and can notch his 50th career win today. Lynn and the Cardinals could get some help from UM product Zack Cozart and Taylorsville High alumnus Billy Hamilton, who suit up for the Reds. Hamilton’s status for today is unclear; the rookie outfielder suffered a mild concussion making a sensational catch on Wednesday and has not played since. P.S. Congratulations to Steve Knight, the William Carey University basketball coach and a onetime USM baseball player, on his election to the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame.

26 Sep

falling in

Fall ball has cranked up at Ole Miss, where the Rebels welcomed back 20 players from last spring’s College World Series finalist and blended in 18 recruits from a class rated No. 15 in the nation by Collegiate Baseball. Sophomore Colby Bortles, a .250 hitter in a part-time role in 2014, went 5-for-7 with a home run, three RBIs and three runs in two intrasquad scrimmages last weekend. Mike Bianco’s Rebels are slated for games today and Saturday at Oxford-University Stadium. … For the record, Mississippi State’s recruiting class was rated No. 6 by Collegiate Baseball. Baseball America’s ratings have not been released. … Belhaven University’s Steak and Burgers Series is under way at Jackson’s Smith-Wills Stadium. The Green leads the Gold 2-0; Thursday’s game was halted after eight innings with the scored tied 5-5. The Blazers were an NAIA regional participant last spring. … Mississippi College held a ribbon-cutting ceremony for its new Rice Field House on Thursday. The hope in Clinton is that the baseball-specific facility will aid in recruiting as the Choctaws move into NCAA Division II. They’ll play a Gulf South Conference schedule in 2015. … Two new coaches are on the job in the junior college ranks: former Delta State assistant Rodney Batts at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College and Ken Jackson at Southwest Mississippi CC. Batts was replaced on Mike Kinnison’s staff by former DSU star Eric Patten.

24 Sep

managerial material

If you haven’t noticed, Tim Bogar, the former Jackson Mets shortstop, has done a pretty impressive job as the interim manager in Texas. After a slow start under Bogar, the injury-thinned Rangers have won 10 of 11 and are 11-6 overall since Bogar stepped in for Ron Washington, who resigned on Sept. 5. Surely Bogar, a successful minor league manager, will be considered for the job next season. … Meanwhile, ex-JaxMets catcher John Gibbons will return in Toronto in 2015, according to reports. Gibbons is 154-165 in his second stint with the Blue Jays, who were officially eliminated from playoff contention on Tuesday. Toronto, which faded this year after a great start, hasn’t made the postseason since 1993. … Clint Hurdle, the 1990 Jackson Mets skipper, celebrated the clinching of a second straight playoff appearance on Tuesday after his Pittsburgh club beat Atlanta. … Former JaxMets catcher Ned Yost has Kansas City on the brink of its first playoff berth since 1985 yet still seems to attract more than his share of criticism for his game management. The Royals won their 86th game on Tuesday, matching last year’s total with five games left, and have posted their best back-to-back years since 1979-80. Yost is in his fifth season at the KC helm. … In Minnesota, the last-place Twins have clinched a fourth straight 90-loss season, but former JaxMets shortstop Ron Gardenhire reportedly will return as manager in 2015 – if he wants to. Gardenhire, 56, steered the club to six division titles in a nine-year stretch, but hasn’t sniffed the postseason since 2010, when he was the American League’s manager of the year. … The only question about the future of Buck Showalter, the onetime Mississippi State star, is whether he’ll win AL manager of the year for the job he has done in Baltimore. … Wondering what the shakeup in Atlanta will mean for the minor league field personnel. Aaron Holbert has done a good job as manager of the Double-A Mississippi Braves the last three years and would seem deserving of a promotion. But who knows how much change is coming for the Braves?

21 Sep

spoiler alert

Your spoiler this day was ex-Ole Miss star Chris Coghlan, who stuck it to the Los Angeles Dodgers. Coghlan hit two home runs, a leadoff blast and a two-run go-ahead shot in the eighth inning, to lift the Chicago Cubs to an 8-7 victory at Wrigley Field. The Dodgers already have clinched a playoff berth but are trying to nail down the National League West title, a more valuable prize. Coghlan, having a bounce-back campaign for the Cubs after losing his way with Miami, went 4-for-4 with three runs and three RBIs. The lefty-hitting outfielder is batting .283 with eight home runs, 38 RBIs and 45 runs. “I just feel blessed at the opportunity I have,” Coghlan told The Associated Press. He may well get another opportunity with the young but talented Cubs in 2015. P.S. Mississippians in the majors put on quite a power display on Saturday. Also going deep were Meridian Community College alum Corey Dickerson (No. 24), Southern Miss product Brian Dozier (No. 21), former Ole Miss star Alex Presley (No. 6) and ex-Rebel Zack Cozart (No. 4).

20 Sep

glory days

It would be remiss to let September end without another nod to the 1984 Jackson Mets. Thirty years ago this month, the JaxMets won the Texas League championship, the second of five pennants the franchise would claim during its 25-year run at Smith-Wills Stadium. The ’84 OJMs (from the “Our Jackson Mets” pregame intro) went 83-53 overall and won both halves handily in the TL East with a roster that included, at one time or another, 19 players who made it to the big leagues. There were so many players who made huge contributions that season it’s hard to note them all. Calvin Schiraldi went 14-3 with a 2.88 ERA and was the league’s pitcher of the year. Lenny Dykstra led the league in runs with 100; he also stole 53 bases while batting .275 with six homers and 52 RBIs. Billy Beane, in what he called his “junior year” in Jackson, had a breakout season: .281, 20 homers, 72 RBIs, 26 steals. Bill Max, who never made the majors, had a TL-best 16 game-winning RBIs plus 11 bombs. Al Pedrique led the league’s shortstops with a .961 fielding percentage. He also hit .285. Dave Cochrane led the team with 22 home runs. Ed Hearn — a platooning catcher — batted .312 with 11 homers and 51 RBIs. Randy Milligan hit .275 with nine homers and 34 RBIs in half a season before being injured. Joe Graves had 17 saves and nine wins out of the bullpen. Jeff Innis notched eight saves. Floyd Youmans won six games and fanned 87 batters in 86 innings. Other pitchers of note included Jay Tibbs, Randy Myers, Rick Aguilera and Roger McDowell. There was even a Mississippian on the club: ornery left-hander Rich Pickett, of Crystal Springs, who went 5-0 with four saves and a 2.27 ERA in 23 appearances. The JaxMets beat a very good Beaumont team — a San Diego Padres affiliate that went 89-47 that season — in six games in the TLCS. Sam Perlozzo earned TL manager of the year honors. The next year, he took a very different club (led by Biloxi’s Barry Lyons) and won the pennant again. Those truly were the glory days at old Smith-Wills. P.S. Props to Williams Perez and Kyle Kubitza for being named by the Atlanta Braves as the pitcher and hitter of the year at Double-A Mississippi. There were several others who could have won the awards on a very talented club that missed making the Southern League postseason by a hair.

18 Sep

photo finish ahead?

Still think Billy Hamilton will win the National League Rookie of the Year award. But it has become a competitive race. Jacob DeGrom, David Peralta and perhaps even Yangervis Solarte may garner support from voters down the stretch. Former Taylorsville High star Hamilton, Cincinnati’s leadoff batter and center fielder, has 56 stolen bases. That’s his eye-grabbing number. He has also hit a surprising six home runs, scored 72 times and driven in 48 runs in 147 games. Plus, he’s played great defense. But a September swoon (.146) has pulled his batting average down to .256, and his on-base percentage is a weak .298. He also has been caught stealing 23 times. DeGrom has surged of late and has posted an 8-6 record with a 2.68 ERA and 113 strikeouts in 134 1/3 innings for the New York Mets. Playing in the Big Apple also helps the shaggy-haired right-hander. Peralta, an outfielder for Arizona, is batting .293 (.326 OBP) with seven homers, 34 RBIs, 38 runs and nine triples. And then there’s Solarte, San Diego’s third baseman, who is batting .263 with 10 homers, 48 RBIs and 53 runs. Hamilton may need to lean hard at the tape to pull this win out.

17 Sep

as the dust clears

Buck Showalter and his Baltimore Orioles celebrated an American League East championship after beating visiting Toronto 8-2 on Tuesday night. It’s the first division crown for the O’s since 1997. Former Mississippi State standout Showalter will make his fourth foray into the postseason as an MLB skipper looking for another elusive achievement. For all his success (.521 winning percentage) in various places, Showalter has yet to win a postseason series. … In Atlanta, former MSU star Tyler Moore and Ole Miss product Aaron Barrett got to celebrate as Washington clinched the National League East with a 3-0 win over the Braves. … In the role of spoiler, Meridian Community College alumnus Corey Dickerson went 2-for-4 with a home run and four RBIs to lead Colorado to a 10-4 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers, whose NL West lead over San Francisco slipped to 3 games. Dickerson is batting .307 (he’d be in the top five in the batting race if he had enough plate appearances) with 23 bombs, 73 RBIs, 70 runs, 27 doubles, five triples and eight stolen bases. … Former Mississippi Braves star Charlie Morton, making his first start in a month because of injury issues, threw five shutout innings for Pittsburgh, which beat Boston 4-0 and boosted its postseason hopes. Morton is 6-12 with a 3.72 ERA for former Jackson Mets manager Clint Hurdle’s Bucs, who are just 2 1/2 games back of St. Louis in the NL Central. … Wasting a great start (one run in seven innings) by ex-Ole Miss standout Lance Lynn, the Cardinals lost to Milwaukee 3-2 in extra innings. … M-Braves alumnus Craig Kimbrel is Atlanta’s nominee for the Roberto Clemente Award, ex-M-Brave Todd Redmond is Toronto’s and Morton is Pittsburgh’s.

16 Sep

these are the moments

Jarrod Dyson seized the moment on Monday night, helping Kansas City win one of those games that can define a team’s season. In the ninth inning at Kauffman Stadium, with the Royals down a run and two outs, pinch-runner Dyson, the former 50th-round draft pick from Southwest Mississippi Community College, stole third base and kept going when the pitch by the Chicago White Sox’s Jake Petricka bounced past the catcher. Dyson beat the throw back to the plate. Tie game. Kansas City, which had trailed 3-0 in the seventh, won it moments later when Terrance Gore, another burner, scored from second on an infield hit. The Royals, seeking their first postseason berth since 1985, are 82-67, 1½ games back of Detroit in the American League Central and a game back of leader Oakland in the wild card standings. Dyson now has 34 steals in 41 tries and has scored 31 runs while batting .272 in his utility role. “Dice is daring,” Royals manager and former Jackson Mets catcher Ned Yost told mlb.com. “Dice has larceny in his blood.” P.S. Jonathan Papelbon, the Mississippi State product, was suspended for seven games and fined for his antics in Sunday’s game at Philadelphia (see previous post). The Phillies issued a statement supporting MLB’s action against their closer, and Papelbon, in a statement issued by his agent, apologized for his behavior and said he would not appeal.