The list of first-timers on the baseball writers’ 2020 Hall of Fame ballot includes two notable names with Mississippi ties: Cliff Lee and Bobby Abreu, both of whom figure to get decent support. Neither, however, is likely to be named on 75 percent of the ballots to earn election. The real question is, will they get enough support to stay on the ballot for a second term? A player needs to appear on at least 5 percent of the ballots to do so — a bigger hurdle than you might think. Consider: Weir native and Holmes Community College product Roy Oswalt and former Jackson Generals Lance Berkman and Freddy Garcia were first-timers on the 2019 ballot, and none of them came close to making it for 2020. Both Lee, who pitched at Meridian Community College before going on to Arkansas, and ex-Generals star Abreu have some eye-catching numbers. Lee, a four-time All-Star and a Cy Young Award winner, went 143-91 with a 3.52 ERA over 13 seasons. Abreu, a two-time All-Star, batted .291 with 288 homers, 400 steals and eight 100-RBI seasons. But it’s a very crowded field. Still on the ballot is Billy Wagner, another ex-Gens star who has lasted five years. The little left-hander, who has 422 career saves (sixth all-time), got just 16.7 percent of the votes in 2019. The only Mississippi-connected players enshrined in Cooperstown are former Negro Leagues stars Cool Papa Bell and William Foster.
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.
Maybe Bobby Abreu spent last year looking for the fountain of youth. Maybe he found it. The former Jackson Generals star — from way back in 1994 — is batting .315 for the New York Mets at the age of 40. Abreu, the only ex-Gen still playing affiliated ball, is hitting .400 over his last 10 games and went 5-for-13 in a five-game series at Philadelphia, helping the surging Mets win four times. In that series, the Venezuela native contributed four runs, three RBIs, two walks and a stolen base, No. 400 of his career. There is talk that Abreu might see some time in the leadoff spot while Juan Lagares is out with an injury. Abreu’s outstanding MLB career (.292 average, 2,400-plus hits) appeared to be over after he batted just .242 in 100 games with the Los Angeles Angels and Dodgers in 2012. He did not play in 2013. The Phillies gave him a look in spring training this year but he didn’t stick. Then the Mets signed him to a minor league deal and called him up in late April. Abreu’s impact surely has been everything, if not more, than they could have expected. P.S. Louis Coleman, the Greenwood native and former Pillow Academy star, was sent down by Kansas City lugging a 6.27 ERA, more than double his career average. Coleman posted a 0.61 in 27 games for the Royals in 2013. … San Diego signed former Ole Miss star Cody Overbeck (out of the independent Atlantic League) and assigned him to Double-A San Antonio. … Former Hattiesburg High star and onetime big leaguer Robert Carson is back in A-ball with Rancho Cucamonga in the Dodgers’ system. A waiver claim by the Angels (from the Mets) in the off-season, the big left-hander posted a 10.34 ERA in Triple-A, was released last month and signed a minor league deal with the Dodgers. He pitched for the Quakes on Sunday and gave up a home run in his one inning.
Bobby Abreu, who starred for the Jackson Generals 20 long years ago, can still swing it. Check out the numbers he has rung up in the Venezuelan Winter League: .322 average, three homers, 28 RBIs. The Philadelphia Phillies, for whom Abreu played nine seasons (1998-2006), apparently liked what they saw in the 39-year-old outfielder who didn’t play in the big leagues in 2013. They’ve signed him to a minor league contract with a spring training invite. It would be a neat little cap on a generally brilliant career if Abreu can make this comeback work. He’ll be 40 in March, and he hit just .242 in 100 MLB games in 2012. But don’t count him out. He has a .292 career average with 2,437 hits and 287 homers, and his winter ball work would seem to indicate he’s still got something left. He could be a threat as a lefty pinch hitter.