07 Nov

next stop, chi-town

Marcus Thames’ whirlwind tour of MLB’s big markets reportedly will resume. The Louisville native reportedly has been hired as hitting coach for the Chicago White Sox. Thames, who hit 115 homers over a 10-year big league career that ended in 2011, was the hitting coach with the New York Yankees for several years, took a detour to Miami’s staff in 2022 and then spent 2023 with the Los Angeles Angels, who fired manager Phil Nevin after the season. Thames is a well-respected hitting coach, and the Angels’ offensive numbers in many categories improved under his watch. He will not get a chance to work in 2024 with fellow East Central Community College alum Tim Anderson. The White Sox recently declined an option on the veteran shortstop’s contract, making him a free agent. Anderson signed a seven-year deal ($37.5 million) after a promising rookie campaign in 2016, won a batting title and made two All-Star teams before suffering a dreadful 2023 season, batting .245 with one home run, 25 RBIs and a negative WAR. The outspoken Alabama native is also a lightning rod for controversy. P.S. Mississippi State alum Buck Showalter, dismissed by the Mets after his second year as manager, reportedly is a candidate for the Angels job, as is former Jackson Generals star Ray Montgomery. … Lance Lynn, the veteran pitcher out of Ole Miss, became a free agent after the Dodgers declined an option in his contract. Lynn had a tough year (5.73 ERA) that ended when he gave up four home runs in one inning in a playoff game against Arizona. … Kudos to ex-Mississippi State standout Nathaniel Lowe on winning a Gold Glove at first base for world champion Texas. Mauricio Dubon, who passed through Biloxi on his way to The Show, earned a Gold Glove as a utitity player for Houston. … Oakland outrighted Ole Miss product Chad Smith to Triple-A; he had a 6.59 ERA in 10 games for the A’s. … Olive Branch native Kendall Williams, a Dodgers prospect, pitched in the Arizona Fall League’s Fall Stars Game on Sunday and yielded a 433-foot home run to Kyle Manzardo.

09 Oct

let’s get some hits

It has been a rather quiet start for the smattering of Mississippi-connected hitters in the MLB postseason. Collectively, the seven have five hits and one RBI. Texas has stormed to four straight road wins, but ex-Mississippi State star Nathaniel Lowe is just 3-for-18 (.167) with an RBI and two runs in four starts at first base. Baltimore, which trails Texas 2-0 in their American League Division Series, has alternated former MSU standouts Adam Frazier and Jordan Westburg at second base and seen them go 1-for-8. DeSoto Central High alum Austin Riley went 1-for-4 in Atlanta’s loss to Philadelphia in Game 1 of the National League Division Series at Truist Park; that was one of just five hits the Braves managed in a 3-0 loss. Riley and Co. need to step up tonight against Phillies ace Zack Wheeler. Former Southern Miss star Matt Wallner is 0-for-6 for Minnesota, which swept Toronto in the wild card round and is 1-1 against Houston in the ALDS. Wallner, who typically sits against left-handers, didn’t play in the Twins’ 6-2 win on Sunday. Ole Miss alum Grae Kessinger, an Astros bench player, didn’t get in either game in Houston. Ex-UM standout Nick Fortes has already gone home; he went 0-for-2 as Miami was swept out of the wild card round by Philadelphia. … There is a high standard for Mississippians in postseason play. The record for highest career batting average is held by Charleston native Bill Hoskins, a Negro Leagues star who batted .487 in 43 NL World Series plate appearances between 1937-46. (Baseball Reference now includes Negro League stats in its all-time charts.) Hoskins, a 6-foot-2 left-handed batter, hit .325 with 36 homers in his career, most of it spent with the Baltimore Elite Giants. Tim Anderson, the ex-East Central Community College star still with the Chicago White Sox (for now), has the third-best single-postseason batting average (per baseballreference.com) with a .643 mark in 14 plate appearances in 2020. P.S. Houston kept MSU product Kendall Graveman off the roster for the NLDS because of a shoulder issue, but the right-hander could be activated for the next round. … Ex-Ole Miss star Lance Lynn reportedly is “in play” to be the Game 3 starter for the Los Angeles Dodgers, who got bludgeoned by Arizona in the NLDS opener. Game 3 is Wednesday at Phoenix.

02 Oct

into the mist

In what was probably — probably — the last game of Buck Showalter’s managerial career, the New York Mets’ disappointing season ended with a blowout loss — 9-1 to Philadelphia at CitiField. Former Mississippi State star Showalter announced before Sunday’s game that he would not be returning for a third season with the Mets. He was greeted with a standing ovation from Mets fans when he took out the lineup card pregame. A 101-win playoff team in 2022, the Mets suffered some key injuries and tumbled to 74-87 this year. “It’s not the ending I wanted, but I still love the city and the players,” Showalter told The Associated Press. He has won 1,726 games (.509 win percentage) over 22 years with five different clubs, claiming four manager of the year awards, including in 2022. His teams went 0-for-6 in postseason series, bowing out last year in a wild card series against San Diego. … The question about Showalter’s future in New York was one of several involving Mississippians in the majors headed into the off-season. To wit: Will East Central Community College alum Tim Anderson be back with the Chicago White Sox? The team holds an option on his contract, but the combustible former batting champ hit just .245 with one home run and scuffled on defense at shortstop. … Will ex-Mississippi State star Hunter Renfroe and Meridian CC product Corey Dickerson land jobs for 2024? Renfroe, who belted 20 homers in 2023, was waived in August by the Los Angeles Angels, claimed by Cincinnati and then released before season’s end. Dickerson, who hit .250 in 50 games, was released by last-place Washington in August. … What’s next for Spencer Turnbull? The former Madison Central High standout, who threw a no-hitter for Detroit early in 2021, missed all of 2022 after elbow surgery and endured more injury issues this season, which he finished in the minors. He was 1-4 with a 7.26 ERA for the Tigers, 0-1, 6.23, in the minors, pitching just twice in September. … Is Drew Pomeranz done? The Ole Miss product, 34, who has a 3.91 career ERA and a World Series ring, hasn’t pitched in the majors since 2021 because of injuries and made just seven minor league appearances this year. He is a free agent for 2024. … Two players who finished strong and possibly solidified their jobs for 2024: Ex-MSU star Brent Rooker and former Ole Miss standout James McArthur. Journeyman Rooker, an All-Star in his first year with Oakland, belted his 30th homer on Sunday; he hit. 306 with six bombs over his last 15 games. McArthur, a rookie in his first year in Kansas City’s system, notched a two-inning save against the Yankees on Sunday. In his last seven appearances, the tall right-hander went 1-0 with four saves and did not allow a run in nine innings.

04 Sep

bucking the trend

Nathaniel Lowe is on the board. The Mississippi State alum, much more slugger than speedster, got his first stolen base of the season on Sunday in Texas’ 6-5 win against Minnesota. He’s only 11 behind the leader among Mississippians. Yes, the all-Mississippi stolen base list for 2023 is a little sad. The state that produced the legendary Cool Papa Bell, the amazing Billy Hamilton and Mr. Zoombiya Jarrod Dyson has produced just 38 combined steals, which would rank fifth among the individual leaders in MLB. Ironically, in a year in which stolen bases are up across the majors thanks to rule changes, Mississippians aren’t burning up the basepaths. Most of the Mississippians in The Show are power threats, not speed demons. Tim Anderson, the former East Central Community College star who has had a tough offensive year with the Chicago White Sox, has 12 bags. He got his 1,000th career hit on Sunday but no steals. He has had as many as 26 in a season. Second on the current list is ex-Mississippi State standout Adam Frazier, who has swiped nine bases for Baltimore. Orioles rookie Jordan Westburg, another MSU alum, has four steals in just 50 games. No one else has more than three. Hamilton, the Taylorsville High product, is the all-time leader in steals among Mississippians (native or school alums) with 326. He got two bags in just three games with the White Sox this season; he recently signed a minor league deal with Tampa Bay but has yet to play. Second on the all-time list is Starkville native Bell, a Hall of Famer who stole 285 bases in the Negro Leagues, according to baseballreference.com. He probably swiped many more than that. Dyson, a McComb native and Southwest Mississippi CC alum, got 266 bags; his final MLB season was 2021. Gulfport’s Gee Walker is fourth on the list with 223, Vicksburg’s Ellis Burks had 181 and Greenville’s Frank White — celebrating his 73rd birthday today — had 178. The active leader — with Hamilton down in the minors — is Anderson at 116.

24 Aug

something different

On this date in 2010, Roy Oswalt the MLB pitcher became Roy Oswalt the MLB left fielder, appearing at a position other than on the bump for the only time in his 13-year career. The former Weir High and Holmes Community College star, with Philadelphia at the time, came in as a replacement for an ejected player in the 15th inning of a 16-inning game against Houston. And, of course, the ball will find you, as they say. The first batter of the inning, Jason Castro, hit a fly ball to left field, which Oswalt caught without incident. Oswalt came to bat in the bottom of the 16th and grounded out for the final out of the Astros’ 4-2 win in the 5-hour, 20-minute affair. Oswalt, who retired in 2013, was 163-102 with a 3.36 ERA for his career, making three All-Star Games. He wasn’t a terrible hitter, either, banging out 101 hits (.154 average) with a homer and 36 RBIs. P.S. Tim Anderson returned Wednesday from his five-game suspension and went 2-for-5 with an RBI and scored the game-winning run in a 5-4 victory for the Chicago White Sox against Seattle. East Central CC product Anderson was the ghost runner in the bottom of the 10th, took off for third base on a failed pickoff attempt by the Mariners catcher and scored when the shortstop’s throw got past the third baseman.

18 Aug

a few atta-boys

Emaarion Boyd, the second-year pro out of South Panola High, got the walk-off knock Thursday for Low-Class A Clearwater in the Philadelphia organization. Boyd was 2-for-5 with a walk, a run and a triple in the 5-4, 11-inning win against Dunedin. Boyd, 19, the Phillies’ No. 13 prospect, ranks second in the Florida State League in steals (49), fifth in runs (65), ninth in triples (five) and 10th in batting average (.272). “His ceiling is that of a speedy table-setter,” according to the scouting report on mlb.com. … Lance Lynn, former Ole Miss star, tossed seven shutout innings for the Los Angeles Dodgers, who beat Milwaukee 1-0 for their 11th straight win on an eighth-inning homer by Austin Barnes. The Dodgers are 4-0 in Lynn’s four starts since acquiring the veteran right-hander from the Chicago White Sox and 3-0 in his starts at Dodger Stadium. “I’ve always enjoyed pitching in this ballpark, and it’s definitely a lot better as a home player,” Lynn told mlb.com. He is 3-0 with a 1.44 for the Dodgers after going 6-9, 6.47, with the struggling ChiSox. … Tim Elko, the ex-Ole Miss slugger, hit his first Double-A home run for Birmingham and now has 23 for the season across three levels. A 2022 draftee by the White Sox, the big first baseman is batting .267 for the Barons, .301 with 88 RBIs for the year. … East Central Community College product Tim Anderson, now with the White Sox, finally issued an apology (on Instagram) for the fight he started with Cleveland’s Jose Ramirez on Aug. 5. Anderson will begin serving a five-game suspension (reduced from six on appeal) today. The two-time All-Star and 2019 batting champ went 2-for-17 while his appeal was pending and is at .230 for the year. … Konnor Griffin, Jackson Prep’s two-way star, and Samuel Richardson, Lewisburg High slugger, are among the 50 players on the rosters for Sunday’s Perfect Game All-American Classic in Phoenix. Both played on state championship teams this past season. Pitcher/outfielder Griffin, an LSU commit considered a top MLB draft prospect for next summer, participated in the Baseball Factory/Under Armour All-America Game last Sunday in Arlington, Texas, and has been invited to USA Baseball’s 18U national team tryout camp set for Aug. 21-25 in California. Those who make the final roster will compete for Team USA in the U-18 World Cup in Taiwan in September. Richardson, a Missouri commit, played in the Hank Aaron Invitational in Atlanta on July 30. … Drew Davis, a pitcher/infielder at Sumrall, has made the 15U Team USA that is going to the Dominican Republic for a tournament in September.

06 Aug

around the horn

The Milwaukee Brewers will get a jolt of energy today when Wheeler’s Brandon Woodruff takes the mound for the first time in four months. The Brewers, after a winning rally against visiting Pittsburgh on Saturday, are 60-52 and lead the National League Central by 1.5 games over Cincinnati and 2.5 over the Chicago Cubs. Woodruff, a two-time All-Star and a horse in the Brewers’ rotation since 2019, posted a 0.79 ERA in his first two starts this season before being shut down with a shoulder problem. Drafted out of Mississippi State in 2014, Woodruff is 42-25, 3.14, for his MLB career and typically gets deep into games. “I hold myself to a high standard and expect a lot of myself …,” he told reporters recently. “I’m happy to get to pitch.” He has dominated most of the hitters on the Pirates’ roster. Woodruff’s addition to Milwaukee’s active roster means there is a Mississippi product on every first-place club: Adam Frazier and Jordan Westburg in Baltimore, Matt Wallner in Minnesota, Nathaniel Lowe and Chris Stratton in Texas, Austin Riley in Atlanta and Lance Lynn with the Los Angeles Dodgers. P.S. Tim Anderson, the ex-East Central Community College standout now with the White Sox, engaged in a fist fight with Cleveland’s Jose Ramirez on Saturday and incited a benches-clearing brawl. Anderson, having a tough year for a disappointing team, faces a certain suspension, as do several others. He has been involved in a number of kerfuffles over the years. … Trustmark Park in Pearl is supposed to be a tough place to hit a home run. Well, try telling that to Drew Lugbauer of the Mississippi Braves. He hit three bombs in a win against Montgomery on Saturday night, the first time anyone has done that at the TeePee. With five homers in his last three games, he has 20 on the year, tied for first in the Southern League. Thirteen of those homers have come at home. He holds the Double-A club’s career record for bombs with 66, 32 at home. Of note: Left-hander Luis De Avila, an emerging prospect in the Atlanta system, threw six shutout innings against the Biscuits and improved to 6-6, 2.95, this season. … Hurston Waldrep, Atlanta’s first-round pick this year and a former Southern Miss pitcher, threw three innings in his pro debut for Low-Class A Augusta. He struck out eight and yielded one run. … Ex-Ole Miss star David Parkinson improved to 4-0 in his last five starts for Double-A Reading (Philadelphia system), going six innings (no earned runs) against Hartford. Left-hander Parkinson (6-4, 4.30) was the Phillies’ minor league pitcher of the year in 2018 before his career got off track. … Stuck in A-ball since 2018, former Pascagoula High standout Willie Joe Garry Jr. got a promotion last week to Double-A Wichita in the Minnesota chain and has looked right at home. Garry, 23, a lefty-hitting outfielder, belted a grand slam Saturday night and is 2-for-7 with six RBIs in two games. He was a .205 career hitter in 294 games in the low minors.

30 Jul

present arms

Stars must have been aligned on Saturday night. By some cosmic coincidence, five Magnolia State college products got the ball as starting pitchers in minor league games, scattered from Double-A to Low-Class A. Collectively, they pitched pretty darn well, allowing five runs and striking out 21 batters over 25 innings all told. Only one got a decision, however, and that was a loss. Most impressive among the bunch was former Ole Miss star Gunnar Hoglund, who delivered four perfect innings, fanning three, for Low-A Stockton (Oakland system). The 19th overall pick in the 2021 draft (by Toronto), Hoglund spent several weeks on the injured list this season and has scuffled (6.32 ERA in nine starts) since his return. Saturday’s outing certainly was a good sign. The hard-luck loser on Saturday was Southern Miss alum Dalton Rogers. He threw 5 2/3 innings for High-A Greenville (Boston), allowing just two runs. He dropped to 1-3 with a 5.11 ERA; he had a 2.49 ERA in Low-A to start the season. Ex-Ole Miss star David Parkinson, in pro ball since 2017, worked 6 2/3 for Double-A Reading (Philadelphia), allowing a lone run with six strikeouts. He trimmed his ERA to 4.61. Former USM standout Hunter Stanley tossed 4 2/3 innings for Double-A Akron (Cleveland), giving up a lone run with four strikeouts. He trimmed his ERA to 5.02. Houston Harding, a Mississippi State and Itawamba Community College product, made his first start for Double-A Rocket City (Los Angeles Angels) in the Southern League and went four innings, allowing one run (a home run). Harding had a 1.32 ERA in A-ball this season but has not been as effective (12.42) in nine Double-A appearances. Saturday’s start was a positive step. P.S. A pair of Mississippians in the majors hit noteworthy homers: Tim Anderson belted his first in over a year and Brent Rooker hit his first since appearing in the All-Star Game. East Central Community College product Anderson, who has 98 career bombs, hit a leadoff shot for the Chicago White Sox, his first in 327 at-bats this season. Slumping for much of the season, Anderson is 20-for-57 (.351) since the All-Star break. Ex-MSU star Rooker’s homer was his 17th for Oakland but first in 20 days. His bomb at Colorado went 462 feet, longest by an A’s player this year. He is batting .269 since the break, .248 on the year.

16 Jul

you never know

On paper, based on practically all the relevant stats, this should not have happened. Lance Lynn and the Chicago White Sox should not have beaten Spencer Strider and the Atlanta Braves. But it happened on Saturday night at Truist Park in Atlanta. Over the course of 162 games, games like this do happen, which is one of the joys of baseball. The White Sox, 38-55 after a 9-0 loss on Friday, beat the Braves (61-29, best record in MLB) in a roller coaster affair, 6-5. Former Ole Miss star Lynn, 5-8 with a 6.03 ERA going in, got the win against All-Star Strider, 11-2 with a 3.44. Both threw 97 pitches in the Georgia swelter, and neither was particularly sharp. Ex-Mississippi State standout Kendall Graveman got the save, his eighth as the fill-in closer, but not before giving up a home run to Ronald Acuna leading off the ninth that made it a one-run game. Graveman gave up two more hits before getting a ground ball up the middle that East Central Community College product Tim Anderson, who has had his issues at shortstop, turned into a nifty 6-3 double play to end the game. Lynn worked 5 1/3 innings, yielding six hits, three walks and four runs. He gave up two homers; his season total of 24 is the highest in baseball. He struck out six and has 133 on the year, ranking sixth in MLB. The last run Lynn allowed came on a fifth-inning single by DeSoto Central High alum Austin Riley that tied the score 4-4. Strider, who fanned 10 on Saturday, leads MLB in that category with 176. But he allowed eight hits — several on two-strike pitches — and five runs over six innings. The ChiSox took the lead for the third and final time on a two-out, two-strike homer by Jake Burger off Strider in the sixth. Strider has allowed 14 homers. The teams go at it again today. On paper, the Braves should win. But as Saturday showed, you never know. P.S. Ex-DeSoto Central star Blaze Jordan’s first Double-A homer was a big one. His two-run ninth-inning blast gave Portland a 3-2 win at Reading in the Eastern League contest. Jordan was promoted Friday from High-Class A Greenville in the Boston system. … Minnesota recalled former Southern Miss slugger Matt Wallner from Triple-A on Saturday; he did not play in the Twins’ 10-7 win vs. Oakland. Wallner, who made his MLB debut in 2022, was 7-for-19 with a homer and four RBIs in two previous stints this season with the Twins.

10 Jul

into the break

The MLB All-Star break likely comes at a good time for some players while there are others who no doubt would prefer to just keep going. Take Tim Anderson and Jordan Westburg as contrasting examples. Westburg, the ex-Mississippi State star, just arrived in the big leagues on June 26 and has sizzled in his 11 games for Baltimore. The infielder went 2-for-5 with a run in the Orioles’ 15-2 romp over Minnesota on Sunday. He is batting .325 (13-for-40) with three doubles, two triples, six RBIs and eight runs for the second-place O’s. Surely, he wishes there was a game today. On the other hand, Anderson, the former East Central Community College standout, enters the break in a major funk. He went 0-for-5 on Sunday and struck out with two runners on in the ninth as the staggering Chicago White Sox lost to St. Louis 4-3. He is batting .138 over his last 15 games and .223 for the season. He has no homers, 13 RBIs and 29 runs in 67 games. This time a year ago Anderson was headed to the All-Star Game. Today, he probably needs the break. … Ten years ago, Anderson was a first-round draft pick out of ECCC by the White Sox. Coincidentally, on Sunday the ChiSox took another shortstop out of Mississippi in the first round — Ole Miss’ Jacob Gonzalez, who was the 15th overall selection. Rebels outfielder Kemp Alderman went in the second round, 47th overall, to Miami, and Mississippi State outfielder Colton Ledbetter went in Round 2, 55th overall, to Tampa Bay. Atlanta, with the 24th pick, took right-hander Hurston Waldrep, who starred at Southern Miss in 2022 and helped Florida reach the College World Series finals this year.