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.

22 Oct

bits and pieces

The big stuff was provided by other hitters, but former Mississippi Braves standout Gregor Blanco did a lot of little things Tuesday night that helped San Francisco win Game 1 of the World Series. Blanco went 1-for-3 with two walks, an RBI and two runs — plus a couple of nice catches in center field — as the Giants whipped Kansas City 7-1. Blanco played for the M-Braves in 2005 and ’06 and was — trivia alert! — the first player to bat in the very first M-Braves game on April 7, 2005, in Montgomery, Ala. He won a ring with the Giants in 2012, going 4-for-15 with a run and an RBI — plus some nice D in left field — in the Series victory over Detroit. … Former M-Braves reliever Tim Collins, buried in KC’s deep bullpen, made just his second postseason appearance, working two scoreless innings, though he did allow an inherited runner to cross in the seventh. Collins, a 5-foot-7 lefty who throws gas, put up a 1.13 ERA and two saves in six games for the M-Braves in 2010 after he was acquired by Atlanta from Toronto as part of the Yunel Escobar trade. A couple of weeks later, Collins went to Kansas City (along with Blanco, coincidentally) in the deal that moved Rick Ankiel and Kyle Farnsworth to the Braves. P.S. Ex-Mississippi State star Tyler Moore smacked his second home run in the Dominican Winter League, this time going deep against ex-M-Braves ace Randall Delgado. Moore is batting .417 in four games for Toros del Este. … Former Hattiesburg High standout and onetime big leaguer Robert Carson has re-signed as a minor leaguer with the Los Angeles Dodgers. A 14th-round pick by the New York Mets in 2007, the big left-hander pitched at two levels for the Dodgers this past summer, going 2-5 with a 5.40 ERA and 30 strikeouts in 25 innings in Triple-A. He began 2014 in the Angels’ system before getting released.

21 Oct

see how they run

You have to be hoping that McComb native Jarrod Dyson gets on base tonight in Game 1 of the World Series. Even some San Francisco Giants fans have to be hoping for that. You want to see the Kansas City Royals speedster run. And you want to hear what he says about it afterward. Dyson has always been fast — and he’s always been outspoken. “That’s J-Rod,” said Chuck Freeman, Dyson’s coach at McComb High from 2002-04. “We tried to keep the reins on him, but his personality always shined through. That’s how he is.” Dyson, who stole 36 bases for KC in the regular season — four against the Giants in the Royals’ three-game sweep back in August — and is 120-for-140 in his big league career, has gotten just one bag in the postseason. But he’s a major threat to steal, as are several of his teammates, which makes for compelling theater. As Dyson told mlb.com, “They give us an inch, we are going to run a mile.” P.S. Both Pittsburgh and Oakland made the postseason this year but both lost in the wild card round (to the Giants and Royals, as a matter of fact.) Still, both towns have reason to celebrate this month. The Pirates won the World Series in 1979 — 35 years ago — and the A’s captured the Fall Classic in 1989 — 25 years ago. Significant anniversaries, to be sure, and Mississippi native Dave Parker was a common thread. He batted .345 with four RBIs for the Pirates in the ’79 Series and contributed a homer and two RBIs for the A’s in ’89. The oft-controversial slugger, one of baseball’s first big-money players, batted .290 with 339 homers over a 19-year career spent with six different clubs. He was inducted into the Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame this summer, though his chances of making it into Cooperstown appear slim. Sadly, Parker is battling Parkinson’s disease.

18 Oct

spirit of ’76

The most famous player on the 1976 Jackson Mets arguably was pitcher Mike Scott, who became a Cy Young award winner. You could make a case for outfielder Lee Mazzilli, who played briefly in Jackson that season and went on to be a fairly successful big leaguer. A few others from that team also made the majors, including Roy Lee Jackson, Dwight Bernard and, of course, Ned Yost, who is certainly the most talked-about former JaxMets player at the moment. The Kansas City Royals manager played 83 games for Jackson in ’76, which was the second year the New York Mets’ Double-A club operated at Smith-Wills Stadium. Yost, a catcher, batted just .199 with three homers and 25 RBIs for manager John Antonelli. Yost was back in Jackson to start the 1977 campaign, batted .309 in 30 games and was promoted to Triple-A Tidewater, where he hit .299 with 12 homers in 60 games. He made it to the big leagues in 1980 with Milwaukee. Yost married a Jackson girl, and their son, former minor league player Ned Yost IV, was born in the Capital City in 1982. P.S. Gavin Collins, a catcher who made the All-SEC Freshman team in 2014 for Mississippi State, clubbed a walk-off homer Friday night as the Gray beat the Maroons 4-3 in a fall ball scrimmage in Starkville. The Bulldogs will play an intrasquad game at Smith-Wills today at 4 p.m. … Former State star Tyler Moore hit his first homer on Friday in the Dominican Winter League.