27 Oct

good ol’ days

On this date in 1986, the New York Mets – led by a host of former Jackson Mets – won Game 7 of the World Series, claiming the franchise’s second and last championship to date. The Mets, who had stayed alive with their unforgettable comeback in Game 6, won the clincher over Boston 8-5 at Shea Stadium. The New York roster was replete with former JaxMets: Darryl Strawberry, Lenny Dykstra, Mookie Wilson, Jesse Orosco, Kevin Mitchell, Roger McDowell, Lee Mazzilli, Wally Backman and more. Davey Johnson, the manager, managed the JaxMets to a Texas League crown in 1981, and coach Greg Pavlick played for the OJMs in the first game at Smith-Wills Stadium in 1975. The big Mets came to Smith-Wills for an exhibition against their Double-A club prior to the ’86 season. In Game 7 of the Series, the Mets fell behind 3-0 early but roared back to break the Red Sox’s hearts again. McDowell got the win, Orosco the final out and Strawberry hit a monstrous eighth-inning home run that made it a 7-5 game.

05 Sep

running on empty?

Wouldn’t it be strange if Billy Hamilton’s last act as a New York Met was a baserunning gaffe? The Taylorsville High product, who has made his living with his legs, was betrayed by his aggressiveness on Thursday, getting thrown out trying to steal third base with no outs in the bottom of the ninth and his team down a run. Hamilton was designated for assignment Friday, a move the Mets said was needed to add another pitcher to the active roster. But manager Luis Rojas also called Hamilton’s mistake on Thursday “not good baseball.” Hamilton, used mainly as a pinch runner and defensive replacement, was 1-for-22 at the plate this season and had three steals in four tries. He has 302 career steals, having been successful more than 80 percent of the time. But he has never gotten on base at a good rate. He has bounced from Kansas City to Atlanta to San Francisco to the Mets the last two seasons. Can he bounce back to the big leagues?

17 Aug

big league chew

Pitching on 20 days “rest,” Mississippi State product Dakota Hudson went four innings for St. Louis on Sunday and allowed just two hits and a lone run. Hudson had last pitched on July 26; St. Louis’ season was interrupted three days later by COVID-19 issues. Hudson (0-2, 5.40 ERA) was the tough-luck loser as the Cardinals fell to the Chicago White Sox 7-2 in their third game back from the hiatus. Hudson’s replacement, rookie Roel Ramirez, gave up the record-tying four straight home runs in the fifth inning. … If anyone was wondering, no Mississippi-connected hitters have been involved in any of the 10 occurrences of the back-to-back-to-back-to-back blasts. But … on June 8, 1961, when the Milwaukee Braves became the first team to do it, Jackson native Marshall Bridges, pitching for Cincinnati, yielded the last two homers to Joe Adcock and Frank Thomas. (Bridges actually had a nice MLB career: 23 wins, 25 saves, a 3.75 ERA and a World Series ring over seven seasons.) … Ex-Ole Miss star Drew Pomeranz already has a career-best four saves for San Diego and may get even more opportunities now that Kirby Yates, the erstwhile closer, has gone on the injured list with an ailing elbow. Pomeranz has not allowed a run in nine appearances (7 2/3 innings) entering Monday’s play. … Former Petal High standout Anthony Alford hit his second career homer on Sunday in a rare start for Toronto. He is 2-for-10 this season. Alford’s first career homer was a memorable walk-off bomb last year. … Meridian Community College alum Corey Dickerson went on the bereavement list on Saturday, which means he’ll miss a minimum of three games for Miami. He is batting .208 in his first year with the Marlins. … Wondering what’s next for Brian Dozier, the former Southern Miss star who was designated for assignment by the New York Mets on Sunday. The veteran second baseman, who got only 15 at-bats with the Mets after joining the club on July 30, could be traded or claimed on waivers by another club, but it seems more likely he’ll become a free agent — again. Over a two-year span, the one-time All-Star has been with five different teams. He batted .238 with 20 homers for Washington last season.

02 Aug

transaction watch

Billy Hamilton, the speedster from Taylorsville, is on the move again. The New York Mets have traded for the veteran center fielder, who had been in San Francisco’s alternate camp. Hamilton is valued for his defense and speed on the bases, a skill that has gained importance with the new extra-inning rule in MLB this season. “The guy is incredible, and he’s got tons of energy,” Mets pitcher Jared Hughes, who played with Hamilton in Cincinnati, told the New York Post. “He’s a good influence in the clubhouse. Everybody loves him.” Hamilton, a .242 career hitter with 299 steals, came up with the Reds in 2013 and spent last season with Kansas City and Atlanta. He joins fellow Mississippi native Brian Dozier (Tupelo/Fulton) on the Mets’ roster. … Former George County High standout Justin Steele, a left-hander, has been added to the Chicago Cubs’ 30-man roster. Steele, a fifth-round pick in 2014, has not pitched above Double-A. He has a 3.62 career ERA.

22 Jul

another chance

Robinson Cano is the New York Mets’ starting second baseman, but there may be playing time there in 2020 for Brian Dozier, who signed a minor league deal with the club today, presumably to back up Cano. Dozier, the former Southern Miss star from Fulton, was released by San Diego two weeks ago after being left off their summer camp 60-man roster. Dozier, 33, hit .238 with 20 home runs last year for World Series champ Washington but played little in the postseason. Though it seems very unlikely Dozier would make the 30-man active roster for the Mets’ Friday opener against Atlanta, his chance may come. Cano, an eight-time All-Star, is 37 and on the decline. The lefty hitter batted a career-low .256 with 13 homers in 107 games for the Mets in 2019, and he struggled in particular against left-handers. Dozier is right-handed hitter who has 192 career homers and a Gold Glove on his resume. He had signed a minors deal with the Padres in the off-season and spent spring training with them. He began his eight-year MLB career with Minnesota in 2012.

30 Jun

the gamble

J.T. Ginn rolled the dice in 2018, turning down a reported $2.4 million signing bonus to pitch at Mississippi State and gamble that that kind of money would be available again after his college career. The gamble paid off for the former Brandon High star on Monday, when he signed for a reported $2.9M with the New York Mets. It’s the Mets who are rolling the dice now. Ginn, 21, had Tommy John surgery in February, so he won’t see the mound again until next spring. Many pitchers come back stronger from that surgery. Some don’t. That’s the gamble the Mets have taken by paying Ginn roughly twice the slot value of the 52nd pick. He was a first-rounder in 2018, going 30th overall to the Los Angeles Dodgers. Ginn, who posted a 3.22 ERA and 109 strikeouts in 89 1/3 innings at State, is a pure power pitcher. The 6-foot-2 right-hander throws an upper 90s fastball, a nasty sinker and a hard slider. The Mets are understandably excited about his potential. Old cranks might recall the excitement the Mets had about another right-hander from Mississippi whom they picked eighth overall back in 1993. That would be Kirk Presley, the prep phenom from Tupelo who chose pro ball – and a $900,000 bonus – over Mississippi State, where he planned to play baseball and football. The Mets heralded Presley as one of their young guns, along with fellow prospects Jason Isringhausen, Bill Pulsipher and Paul Wilson. Alas, Presley developed shoulder problems, had a couple of surgeries and ultimately retired in his fifth pro season, never pitching above A-ball. When it comes to pitchers and their arms, you just never know how it’s gonna play out.

02 Jun

nostalgia

Mississippi baseball aficionados may get a dose of nostalgia today if they follow the semifinals of mlb.com’s Dream Bracket 2, the computer-generated tournament matching some of the outstanding teams of recent years. The 1986 New York Mets, loaded with former Jackson Mets, are in the National League semis against the 1975 Cincinnati Reds. On the American League side, the 2001 Seattle Mariners, featuring three ex-Jackson Generals, take on the 2004 Boston Red Sox. The ’86 Mets, feeding on a farm system that had produced three Texas League titles (1981, ’84 and ’85), trotted out former OJMs Darryl Strawberry, Lenny Dykstra, Jesse Orosco, Mookie Wilson, Wally Backman and Rick Aguilera, to name a few. The Generals, Houston’s Double-A club, claimed two TL pennants during their nine-year run at Smith-Wills Stadium and produced a long list of major leaguers. Three of them – Freddy Garcia, Carlos Guillen and John Halama — were on the ’01 Mariners club that won an MLB-record 116 games in the regular season before falling to the New York Yankees in the ALCS. Those three were part of the blockbuster trade in July of 1998 in which the Astros acquired Randy Johnson from the M’s. Johnson went 10-1 for the Astros down the stretch but was 0-2 in the NLDS and then departed as a free agent to Arizona. Seattle, meanwhile, got long-term returns on the trade. All three ex-Gens were impactful players on the ’01 club. Garcia, a starting right-hander, went 18-6 with a 3.05 ERA and logged 238 2/3 innings, most on the staff. Halama, a lefty swingman, was 10-7 with a 4.73 in 31 games, 17 starts. Guillen, a good fielding shortstop, batted .259 with five homers and 53 RBIs as a complimentary piece in a loaded lineup with Ichiro Suzuki, Edgar Martinez and Bret Boone. P.S. On June 2, 1935, Babe Ruth announced his retirement at age 40. On July 11, 1914, Ruth, pitching for the Boston Red Sox, struck out in his first career at-bat against Pleasant Grove native Willie Mitchell. On May 30, 1935, batting third for the Boston Braves, Ruth grounded out against Jackson native Jim Bivin in the first inning. It was Ruth’s final career at-bat; he was replaced in left field by Ludlow native Hal Lee. In between those two ABs, Ruth belted 714 home runs, which stood as the record for almost 40 years.

17 Jun

feel the power

Trent Giambrone has put on a nice little show of power at Triple-A Iowa, homering for the third straight game on Sunday and for the fourth time in his last seven contests with the Chicago Cubs affiliate. More impressive, however, than what the Delta State product has done is what ex-Harrison Central High star Bobby Bradley has managed. He went deep twice for Triple-A Columbus on Sunday after also homering twice on Friday. The highly rated Cleveland prospect leads the International League with 22 home runs. Bradley, a first baseman who is on the Indians’ 40-man roster, is batting .310 over his last 10 games and .287 with 52 RBIs for the year as he awaits his first big league call-up, which reportedly might happen in July. He has 136 homers in his six minor league campaigns. Giambrone, a fourth-year pro who is not on the Cubs’ 40-man, is batting .375 in his last seven games and .220 with 13 homers on the season. He has played seven different positions for the I-Cubs. He opened some eyes in the Cubs’ system when he batted .324 in major league camp this spring. Of course, no discussion of power hitting can be complete without mention of Hunter Renfroe, the Mississippi State alum who hit two homers for San Diego on Sunday after belting three – 1,316 feet worth — on Friday. He has nine in his last 15 games and 23 for the season, tied for second in the majors. P.S. Former Ole Miss and Pearl River Community College standout Braxton Lee leads the Eastern League with a .304 average in 51 games for Double-A Binghamton in the New York Mets’ chain. The onetime big leaguer is batting .346 over his last 10 games. … Drew Waters of the Mississippi Braves is batting an absurd .463 in his last 10 games and leads the Southern League in hitting at .338 heading into the SL All-Star break. He has a 25-game on-base streak. He also leads the loop in triples, doubles and OPS.

05 Jun

just stuff

The wolves are howling again in Queens, where Ole Miss alum Mickey Callaway’s job as manager of the New York Mets appears in serious jeopardy. The Mets dropped their third straight on Tuesday after Callaway’s controversial decision to pull starter Noah Syndergaard with a lead in the seventh inning. Callaway later said he regretted making the move. The Mets are 28-32, 5½ games back in the National League East. … What more can one say about Austin Riley? The DeSoto Central product hit a go-ahead homer to spark Atlanta’s win on Tuesday and is now batting .324 with nine bombs and 25 RBIs in his first 18 MLB games, one of the best starts in history. … Former Mississippi State standout Mitch Moreland could come off the 10-day injured list on Friday for Boston, according to the Boston Globe. He leads the team with 13 home runs. … Ex-Southern Miss star Brian Dozier, enjoying a resurgence at the plate for resurgent Washington, left Tuesday’s game with a forearm contusion after an HBP and is considered day-to-day. Dozier is batting .283 over his last 15 games, boosting his season average to .223 with eight homers. … T.J. House, the former big leaguer from Picayune, is pitching for the Milwaukee Milkmen in the independent American Association. The 29-year-old left-hander is 2-0 with a 3.10 ERA in three starts. House was in Triple-A in the Chicago White Sox’s organization in 2018 before being released in June. He last pitched in the majors in 2017 with Toronto. As a rookie with Cleveland in 2014, House put up a 5-3 record and 3.35 ERA in 18 starts but never replicated those numbers in limited opportunities thereafter. … Former Petal High standout Demarcus Evans, recently promoted to Double-A in Texas’ system, yielded a couple of runs on Tuesday but wound up earning a win when his Frisco team rallied to beat Amarillo. Evans had made two scoreless appearances before Tuesday. He had an 0.81 ERA and six saves at Class A Down East. … USM product Bradley Roney has yet to yield an earned run in four appearances at Class A Florida in the Braves’ chain as he continues his comeback from injuries that had kept him out since mid-2017. … Brandon Parker grew up on the Coast rooting for the Braves. “Ever since I was a little kid, I’ve been a Braves fan,” he told Biloxi’s WLOX. On Tuesday, the Braves, shopping for a power bat, drafted the former West Harrison High and Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College star in the 10th round. The 6-foot-1, 205-pound right fielder, a Dallas Baptist signee, hit 38 home runs the last two seasons at MGCCC. He was the NJCAA Division II player of the year in 2018 when he batted .424 with 24 homers and 81 RBIs.

24 May

here and there

Pearl River Community College takes the No. 1 seed into its NJCAA Division II World Series opener on Sunday at Enid, Okla. The Wildcats also take power bats and arms. Five Wildcats have nine or more homers: Dexter Jordan 18, Kasey Donaldson 13, Wiley Cleland and Reece Ewing 11 and Austen Izzio nine. Starting pitchers Shemar Page (7-1) and Miles Smith (8-3) have punchout stuff, Page averaging 10.13 strikeouts per nine innings, Smith 9.80. All of these players, save for Ewing, are Mississippi kids. … The Mississippi Braves have trotted out a new shortstop in the first two games of the current homestand, with recent addition Riley Unroe replacing the slumping Ray-Patrick Didder, who is hitting .123. Unroe, a minor league veteran taken in the Rule 5 draft by Atlanta in the off-season, was batting .304 at Class A Florida when promoted last week to the Double-A M-Braves, who are limping along at 21-24. Tonight at Trustmark Park, right-hander Jasseel De La Cruz is slated for his M-Braves debut. He threw a no-hitter for Florida on Saturday and was 3-1, 1.93 ERA for the Fire Frogs. … Austin Riley’s numbers through nine games in the big leagues are off-the-charts good: .389, five homers, 12 RBIs, eight runs, .833 slugging percentage. Atlanta’s record since the former DeSoto Central High star arrived: 7-2. Looks like he’ll be sticking around. … Seems like only yesterday – actually, it was Sunday – when the rumors were rampant that Mickey Callaway was going to be fired as manager of the New York Mets. The ex-Ole Miss star had just watched his club lose three straight to woeful Miami. The Mets went home and promptly beat Washington four straight, turning Nationals manager Dave Martinez’s chair considerably hotter. “He’s a hell of a manager,” Southern Miss product Brian Dozier, in his first year in Washington, said in an mlb.com story. “I got his back any day.” The Nats, with their huge payroll, are 19-31. … Things are also tough in Detroit, where former Jackson Met Ron Gardenhire’s Tigers just finished an 0-9 homestand to fall to 18-29. Said Gardenhire: “We have to stick together. We have to have each other’s backs.” Gardenhire has stuck with JaCoby Jones in center field; the Richton High alum is batting .173.