07 Nov

just stuff

Rafael Palmeiro, one of seven players in MLB history with 500 homers and 3,000 hits, made the cut for the Contemporary Era Hall of Fame ballot. The former Mississippi State star is among eight finalists chosen by special committee. Also on the list are Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens; like Palmeiro, their careers were tainted by PED allegations. The BBWAA will vote on these candidates on Dec. 4. Will Clark, Dave Parker and Frank White were among candidates who did not make the eight-man ballot… Former Biloxi High standout Colt Keith, Mississippi’s Gatorade player of the year in 2019, went 1-for-3 with a double and RBI in Saturday’s Arizona Fall League Fall Stars Game. Keith is a highly rated Detroit prospect. … MSU alum Jake Mangum made the New York Mets’ Organization All-Star team, as selected by milb.com. Mangum, an outfielder, hit .306 with four homers, 35 RBIs and 14 steals in 2022, spending most of the year in Triple-A. … Meridian Community College product Corey Dickerson, ex-Taylorsville High star Billy Hamilton and MSU product Adam Frazier have elected free agency.

25 Jan

looking ahead

There is perhaps no Mississippian in the minors who’ll be more compelling to watch in 2022 than Blaze Jordan. The 19-year-old Southaven native, who just completed his first season of pro ball in 2021, is one of the top prospects in Boston’s Winter Warm-Up program, underway this week in Fort Myers, Fla. A power-hitting prodigy, the 6-foot-2, 220-pound Jordan was drafted in 2020 out of DeSoto Central High and debuted last summer, batting .324 with six homers and 26 RBIs in 28 games between the rookie Florida Complex League and Low-A Salem. The Red Sox were pleased with Jordan’s adjustment to the pro life. “It’s a lot to handle for a young player, and I think Blaze showed the ability to do all those things,” Red Sox farm director Brian Abraham told Boston-based eagletribune.com. Jordan, the Red Sox’s No 9 prospect per mlb.com, played mostly third base in 2021 but also saw time at first. The club reportedly wants him to continue to get fitter and faster. He’ll likely stay in A-ball this season. P.S. Curious to see how much support Jonathan Papelbon gets in the Hall of Fame voting, which will be revealed today. The Mississippi State alum, eligible for the first time, has 368 saves, a 2.44 ERA, six All-Star Game nods and a World Series ring. But it’s a very crowded and complicated ballot. … How would Deion Sanders’ career have played out had he devoted all of his time and energy to baseball? It would have been fun to see. Ex-MSU star Buck Showalter managed Sanders in the minors and told mlb.com’s Mike Lupica that Sanders had “a level of speed unlike I ever saw on a ballfield.” Sanders, a Pro Football Hall of Fame member and currently Jackson State’s football coach, batted .263 with 39 homers, 186 stolen bases and 43 triples in nine years (641 games) in the majors, rarely playing regularly. He “could impact a game in so many different ways, people would’ve lost count,” said Showalter, the veteran big league skipper recently hired by the New York Mets.

18 Jan

off-season stuff

Bobby Abreu is among the most accomplished former Jackson Generals players. He hit .291 for his big league career with a .395 on-base average, 288 homers and 400 steals, one of just six players all-time in the 250/400 club. He was a two-time All-Star, won a Silver Slugger, a Gold Glove and a Home Run Derby. Abreu, a star right fielder for the 1994 Generals (Houston’s Double-A club), is on the BBWAA Hall of Fame ballot for the third time, and there is an interesting piece on mlb.com in which a panel of experts debate Abreu’s credentials. The consensus would seem to be that he won’t make the writers’ cut and likely would need to get in down the road via one of the veterans committees. Pitcher Billy Wagner, also still on the writers’ ballot, stands a much better chance of being the first ex-Gens star to be elected. … Jackson native and longtime big leaguer Chet Lemon is featured in the National Baseball Hall of Fame’s weekly e-newsletter. The Card Corner item, which includes a nice story, is Lemon’s 1988 Fleer card. Lemon batted .273 over 16 years in MLB before an illness ended his career in 1991. He was a three-time All-Star, won a ring with the 1984 Detroit Tigers and still holds the American League record of 512 putouts, set in 1977 with Chicago. Lemon’s son Marcus played for the Mississippi Braves in 2011. … Former Mississippi College standout Blaine Crim is playing for Mayaguez in the Puerto Rican (Roberto Clemente) League Championship Series, which is being televised on FS2. Game 4 is Wednesday night at 5 p.m. Crim, a Texas Rangers farmhand, batted .406 for Mayaguez this season after mashing 29 homers in the minors in 2021. … Mississippi State product Justin Foscue was named a Rangers Organization All-Star by milb.com after batting .275 with 17 homers at three levels in 2021. He also played well in the Arizona Fall League. But the second baseman’s big league path is currently blocked by Marcus Semien, who signed a huge free agent contract with Texas.

23 Nov

touching the bases

Obscured by bigger names making the MLB Hall of Fame ballot for the first time, Jonathan Papelbon certainly rates some attention. The former Mississippi State standout — who turns 41 today — pitched 12 years in the big leagues and stands 10th on the all-time saves list with 368. The glowering right-hander posted a 2.44 career ERA, made six All-Star teams and won a World Series ring with the 2007 Boston Red Sox, saving each of the last three games in the sweep against Colorado. That’s pretty impressive stuff. Four of the top seven on the career saves list are in the Hall, though one who ranks above Papelbon — Jackson Generals alum Billy Wagner — has yet to make the cut while being on the ballot since 2016. … Another ex-Gens star, outfielder/DH Bobby Abreu, is also back on the ballot for 2022 election. Abreu batted .291 career with 288 homers, 400 steals and eight 100-RBI seasons. Still, he is considered a long-shot candidate. … While several Mississippi-connected major leaguers are free agents looking for 2022 jobs, there are a bunch of minor leaguers doing the same. Baseball America’s list includes one-time big leaguers Jacob Waguespack (Ole Miss), Aaron Barrett (UM), Cody Carroll (Southern Miss) and Braxton Lee (UM). Former Mr. Baseball Ti’Quan Forbes (Columbia High), Ben Bracewell (MSU), Conor Fisk (USM) and Bradley Roney (USM) are also in the market. … Former Itawamba Community College standout Tim Dillard appeared on MLB Tonight on Monday and on MLB Network’s Hot Stove today. Dillard pitched in 624 pro games — almost 1,600 innings — from 2003-20 and spent parts of four seasons in the big leagues with Milwaukee. The engaging Dillard, who relishes weirdness (@dimtillard), is now a broadcaster with the Brewers. Among the things he discussed on air were following his dad, Ole Miss alum and ex-big leaguer Steve, around minor league clubhouses; converting from an over-the-top pitcher to sidearmer; converting from player to broadcaster; sleeping on friends’ sofas; and growing a scraggly beard.

27 Jan

it don’t come easy

Billy Wagner, the former Jackson Generals standout who ranks sixth on MLB’s all-time saves list, made progress toward the Hall of Fame on Tuesday. Wagner was named on 46.4 percent of the ballots (up from 31.7) in his sixth year on the list. The left-hander, who pitched at Smith-Wills Stadium for the Double-A Gens in 1995 (plus a couple of rehab appearances), has 422 saves, a 2.31 ERA and averaged almost 12 strikeouts per nine innings. As Sports Illustrated’s Tom Verducci notes: “Wagner ranks among the most difficult pitchers to hit. Ever. Even now, with a proliferation of strikeouts in the game.” He was a seven-time All-Star. Still, it’s a long way from 46.4 to the 75 percent needed for induction. And closers don’t seem to get a lot of love. Other former Jackson Mets/Generals standouts like Jeff Reardon, Randy Myers, Todd Jones and Rick Aguilera never came close to making the Hall. … Ex-Gens outfielder Bobby Abreu, in his second year on the ballot, survived the cut for 2022. Players must appear on at least 5 percent of submitted ballots in order to remain on the list the following year; Abreu hit 8.7 this year. A two-time All-Star, and a strong defensive player, he batted .291 with 288 homers, 400 steals and eight 100-RBI seasons. Only a handful of players all-time have achieved 250-plus homers AND 400-plus steals. Playing in Jackson in 1994, he batted .303 with 16 homers, 73 RBIs and 12 steals. If there were a Mississippi minor league Hall of Fame, Abreu would be in it. … Mississippi State alum Jonathan Papelbon will appear on the ballot for the first time in 2022. He had an outstanding 12-year career, posting 368 saves (ninth all-time) and a 2.44 ERA while making six All-Star Games and winning a ring with the 2007 Boston Red Sox. He might be able to stay on the ballot for a couple of years, but making the Hall seems unlikely. … The only Mississippi-connected players enshrined in Cooperstown are former Negro Leagues stars Cool Papa Bell, a Starkville native, and William Foster, who grew up in Rodney and attended Alcorn State. (Columbus native Red Barber is in the broadcasters wing.) Others you could build a case for include Dave Parker, Frank White, Buddy Myer, Guy Bush and even Roy Oswalt, the former Holmes Community College star from Weir who surprisingly lasted just one year on the ballot (2019).

12 Jun

worth noting

William (Bill) Foster, widely considered the best left-hander in Negro Leagues history, was born on this date in 1904 in Texas. His mother died when he was 4 and he was raised by his maternal grandparents in Rodney, according to Negro Leagues historian James Riley. A ghost town no longer on the map, Rodney is listed by the National Baseball Hall of Fame as Foster’s hometown. It was 12 miles from Lorman and Alcorn A&M, where Foster reportedly made the college baseball team while in sixth grade. In the Negro Leagues, Foster was credited with 143 wins, played on several championship teams and started and won the inaugural East-West All-Star Classic in 1933. He was selected to Cooperstown posthumously in 1996. Foster, who claimed to hold a winning record head-to-head against the great Satchel Paige, threw a variety of pitches. “Now, if you can keep a man off balance, he can’t hit the ball hard,” Foster told historian John Holway. “How do I keep him off balance? And with what pitches? It boils down to the fact that I had to have one motion to control every pitch.” After his pro playing days, he served as a coach and dean at Alcorn State from 1960 until just before his death in ’78. The Braves’ field bears his name.

19 Nov

putting it to a vote

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.

05 Nov

here and there

Kendall Graveman rolled into the free agent market on Monday when the Chicago Cubs declined a $3 million option on the former Mississippi State standout. He pitched – very briefly — in the Cubs’ minor league system last season on a one-year, $575,000 deal while recovering from 2018 Tommy John surgery. Graveman is 23-29 with a 4.38 ERA over five big league seasons, four with Oakland. … Taylorsville High alumnus Billy Hamilton also became a free agent after Atlanta declined a 2020 option on the 29-year-old center fielder. Hamilton finished the past season with the Braves after being waived by Kansas City, with whom he had signed as a free agent last off-season. He is sitting on 299 career steals. … Former Ole Miss standout Mike Mayers was claimed on waivers by the Los Angeles Angels, where the new pitching coach is UM product Mickey Callaway, fired as the New York Mets manager after two seasons. Mayers, 27, a right-handed reliever, posted a 6.63 ERA for St. Louis in 2019 and was not on the Cardinals’ postseason roster. … Ex-Ole Miss star Drew Pomeranz will sign as a free agent with the Los Angeles Dodgers and McComb native Corey Dickerson with San Diego, according to predictions by MLB Trade Rumors staff. Left-hander Pomeranz is ranked No. 23 among available free agents and outfielder Dickerson is No. 25. … MSU product Brent Rooker and Mississippi Braves alum Drew Waters helped Team USA advance out of group play in the World Baseball Softball Confederation Premier 12 tournament in Mexico. Rooker, a Minnesota prospect, and Waters both homered in a Game 1 win vs. the Netherlands on Saturday. In an elimination game win on Monday against the Dominican Republic, Waters played as a defensive replacement in center field, while Rooker did not get in the game. Team USA now goes to Tokyo next week for the Super Round of the Premier 12 event, a 2020 Olympics qualifier. … Grenada native Dave Parker is one of 10 candidates announced by the National Baseball Hall of Fame on Monday for inclusion on the 2020 Modern Baseball Era (1970-87) ballot. A 16-member panel will vote and announce potential electees on Dec. 8 at the Winter Meetings. Candidates must receive votes from at least 75 percent of the ballots to gain election to the Hall. Parker– a seven-time All-Star, three-time Gold Glove winner, two-time batting champion, two-time World Series champ and one-time National League MVP — lasted the maximum 15 years on the baseball writers’ ballot before falling off in 2011. “(W)hen Parker was at his best, he was elite at just about everything a player can do on the field,” an ESPN writer recently noted.

15 Jul

exclusive clubs

On this date in 2005, former Mississippi State star Rafael Palmeiro, playing for Baltimore, rapped his 3,000th career MLB hit. It was a double at Safeco Field in Seattle. He became just the fourth player in history with both 3,000 hits and 500 home runs. There are now six in that exclusive club that also includes Hall of Famers Hank Aaron, Willie Mays and Eddie Murray. Shortly after recording hit No. 3,000, Palmeiro was suspended for failing a test for performance-enhancing drugs. He returned from that suspension in mid-August, put in a few more games with the Orioles but never played in the majors thereafter. Though he staunchly denied using PEDs, the four-time All-Star fell off the Hall of Fame ballot in 2014 after four years without ever coming close to election. Palmeiro is in the MSU, Mississippi Sports and College Baseball Halls of Fame.

23 Jan

one and done

The results of the National Baseball Hall of Fame voting should not, by any means, diminish what Roy Oswalt, Lance Berkman and Freddy Garcia accomplished in the game. Oswalt, arguably the best pitcher the state has ever produced, and former Jackson Generals stars Berkman and Garcia were among the 16 players who appeared on the ballot for the first time and didn’t garner enough support to appear again. It was a tad surprising how little support each received, but such is the nature of a process that had 35 names on the ballot, including the four truly great ones who were elected to Cooperstown. Each voter is limited to 10 picks. Oswalt got just four votes total. Berkman got five and Garcia none. It took 319 votes (75 percent) to get elected. Oswalt, from Weir and Holmes Community College, won 163 games, posted a 3.36 ERA and was a three-time All-Star. Berkman batted .293 with 366 homers, made six All-Star Games and won a World Series ring. Garcia won 156 games over 15 seasons, was a two-time All-Star and also won a ring. Though they’ll slip off the Hall of Fame ballot, Mississippi baseball aficionados won’t forget them. … Former Generals standout Billy Wagner, in his fourth year on the ballot, got 71 votes (16.7 percent), enough to stay on for the 2020 election. Meridian Community College alumnus Cliff Lee and Generals alum Bobby Abreu are among the players who’ll make their first appearance on the 2020 ballot.