Category Archives: Rockies Jerseys 2019

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Michael Cuddyer is now a special instructor for the Twins, and he recently busted out his old magic tricks, at the expense of Eddie Rosario. Maybe Rosie picked up a thing or two about leading the clubhouse, as the Twins will need someone to step up in that role, with Joe Mauer no longer around.

The Worcester Telegram, near Rocco Baldelli’s hometown, profiles the Twins’ manager, and his adjustments so far to leading the big league club. Some fun additional details about the Woonsocket Rocket: He misses the seafood of Rhode Island (someone introduce him to fried Walleye) and is starting to follow the Vikings, despite being a lifelong Patriots fan.

Miguel Sano might have been sidelined by injury already this spring, but one Twins legend certainly hasn’t given up on the young star. Rod Carew still believes in Sano and the peace he found within himself this winter. Let’s hope Sir Rodney is right.

The Hardball Times profiles the rise of the MLB Bullpen Catcher, including the Twins’ Nate Dammann, who was recruited into the role by Dan Gladden, and old friend Henry Blanco (hey, he spent a year with the Twins.) Another fun fact in this article: Kevin Slowey climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro.

MLB.com put together a list of the ten fastest teams in baseball. It probably comes as no surprise, since this is a Twins blog, but the Twins are on their list. Led by Byron Buxton and Jorge Polanco, the Twins come in tied with the Rockies for the seventh fastest team in the MLB. The slowest players on the Twins? Jason Castro and Nelson Cruz.

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COMSTOCK PARK – Considering where he’s been in recent years, John Vander Wal doesn’t care about a little traffic congestion.

Orange barrels and one lanes that pop up along the drive from Comstock Park to Ada are specks in the road compared to what he’s seen.

Vander Wal, one of Major League Baseball’s all-time greatest pinch hitters, is in his first season as assistant coach with the West Michigan Whitecaps. That’s like walking across the street after nine seasons as a scout driving around the county.

“My commute is usually about 15 minutes. I mean, how great is that?” he said.

Vander Wal joined the Whitecaps this season as a third coach, joining hitting coach Mariano Duncan and pitching coach Jorge Cordova on the staff of first-year manager Lance Parrish.

Before joining the Whitecaps, he was a scout four seasons with the Arizona Diamondbacks after five seasons in a similar role with the San Diego Padres. That led to a lot of driving and flying around the country to be sitting and evaluating players from the seats of minor league ballparks.

So, Vander Wal welcomed the opportunity to become a coach. The benefit to come home made it special for the Hudsonville High School graduate.

“I’m fortunate enough to still be a part of the game and I get to go to my home after games half the time. I love that. That was the biggest selling card,” said the 52-year-old Vander Wal as the Whitecaps begin a seven-game homestand Tuesday. “It’s tough (being a scout). You leave three weeks at a time, home for a few days and then back on the road again.”

With the Whitecaps, Vander Wal has a myriad of duties ranging from positioning outfielders during games to assisting Duncan with hitters and offering his experience when called upon by veteran manager Parish.

“Between him and myself and Mariano, we have substantial big-league time,” Vander Wal said. “So, we try to have fun and teach these kids how to play at the professional level.”

“It’s quite a bit of transformation from playing college or high school ball to playing every single day,” Vander Wal said of most players on the Whitecaps. “It’s a learning curve. It’s tough to come out just about every day. They ask questions how to manage that, the mental grind of staying sharp and being successful every day as the season wears on.”

Vander Wal has experienced a lot in baseball. He went from Hudsonville High School to Western Michigan to the third-round pick of the Montreal Expos in 1987.

The first baseman-outfielder made his major league debut with the Expos in 1991 that began a 14-year career with eight teams. The left-hander found a niche as a pinch hitter, setting a league record for pinch hits in a season with 28 in 1995 with the Colorado Rockies. Vander Wal finished his career in 2004 with 129 pinch hits, seventh all-time.

Overall, he appeared in 1,372 games with a career batting average of .261. His best season came in 2000 with the Pittsburgh Pirates when he hit 24 home runs with 94 RBIs and batted .299 in 134 games.

MORE: Vander Wal’s stats

He was inducted into the Western Michigan Broncos’ Hall of Fame in 2003 and the Grand Rapids Sports Hall of Fame in 2005.

Now, with his son, Jake, a Forest Hills Central grad who is a sophomore outfielder at Central Arizona College, out of the house, it’s mostly Vander Wal and his wife, Debra.

“My wife is used to it. We get to see each other more now in the summer, but she gets it,” Vander Wal said. “She grew up in the game. When I was scouting, I was gone most of the summer. But that’s the way we’ve been. It’s baseball. But I’ll tell you, it’s nice to be home more in the summer.”

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Schaumburg, Illinois has no shortage of spectacle. A cursory Google search reveals that this suburb of Chicago has an indoor water park, an Ikea, and a Rainforest Cafe all stuffed within its city limits. But despite all of those commercial pleasures, I can’t imagine any of them fill the gaping spiritual hole left by the dissolution in 2010 of the crown jewel of Schaumburg: the Schaumburg Flyers, formerly of the independent Northern League, and formerly player-coached by Matt Nokes.

Nokes, as I’m sure you degenerates all know, was an All-Star once in his rookie campaign with the Tigers and then proceeded to slowly fade out of the Majors before tearing up the Northern League at the end of his career. A fun Matt Nokes story: While in the Minors, Nokes apparently flew his own plane to road games to avoid slumming it on the bus with his teammates. Via the Chicago Tribune:

While his Schaumburg teammates ride buses to such far-flung league cities as Sioux Falls, Fargo and Winnipeg, Nokes pilots his Lancair IV P aircraft—a four-seater with a pressurized cabin.

Nokes attributes his uncommon method of minor-league travel for his batting average hovering near .370 this season.

“I have not been on the bus yet,” Nokes said. “I’m definitely more rested. I fly the fastest single-engine plane in the world. Our longest trip is to Winnipeg [856 miles], and I make it in less than three hours.

I won’t lie to you: There are somehow only four Guys remembered in this week’s episode, including Matt Nokes. That’s isn’t because we skimped on length. Rather, Roth got sidetracked with long tangents not just about Schaumburg, but also—improbably—Neptune, New Jersey’s tendency to crank out Danny Devitos (plural). All that, and I still haven’t even mentioned Barry Lyons’s incredible chest hair. You can check that out for yourself.

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Thomas Harding reviews Trevor Story’s 2019 season and looks ahead to 2020. Story has established himself as one of the best players in the National League, through his improvements at the plate and major strides at shortstop. Like all players though, Story can still get better. The major area he can improve is the one that led many people to think he’d struggle hitting major league pitching in general: strikeouts. After his first couple of seasons, Story managed to reduce his strikeouts to around 25%. That was progress from the 30% he was at, but still not great. Compare that to Nolan Arenado, whose career high strikeout rate in a single season was 18%.

Things can change, but it seems like strikeouts will always be a part of Trevor’s offensive game. Reducing strikeouts is a way for him to get better, but it’s not exactly a big problem right now.

DJ LeMahieu hit one of the most dramatic home runs of the postseason on Saturday, tying the game in the ninth inning of an elimination game. Alas, it ended up as the second most dramatic home run of the evening, as José Altuve’s walk-off sent the Astros to the World Series in the bottom half of the ninth.

Patrick Saunders talks about his experience with DJ, his understated competitiveness, and the discussions that were involved from the Yankees’ side about signing DJ in the first place. Apparently, Yankees’ GM Brian Cashman had to be convinced to sign LeMahieu. He’s obviously glad that he did. Here’s what Cashman told MLB.com:: “It worked out extremely well, and to our benefit, and so I thank those individuals for pushing it — and I’ll pat myself on the back for hiring people smarter than me.”

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Third of a five-part series looking at the Rockies of 2020. Today: The infield

Shadows can’t obscure what Ryan McMahon accomplished in 2019.

Not the shadow of departed Gold Glove second baseman DJ LeMahieu, who’s now starring for the Yankees in the playoffs. Nor the shadow of the Rockies’ disappointing 71-91 season.

It can be argued that McMahon, 24, took a bigger step forward than any position player on the roster. A giant leap could be in the offing.

“I still think, and I’ve talked to ‘Mac’ about this, that there’s more in there,” manager Bud Black said. “It might take a year or two to have it all come out.”

McMahon hit 24 home runs and drove in 83 runs this season, both franchise records for a primary second baseman. A September slump, however, in which McMahon hit just .195 with a .271 on-base percentage, whittled his final batting average down to .250 and his OBP to .329.

“I need to improve my consistency, and I think there are a lot of young guys in this (clubhouse) who can take that next step, too,” McMahon said. “I watched guys like Nolan (Arenado), and Charlie (Blackmon) and (Trevor) Story, and they have been doing it for years.

“They have that consistency and that work ethic — for the whole season. That’s what’s next for me. That’s my goal.”

McMahon played in 91 games and had 181 at-bats in a middling 2018 season. But opportunity rose in 2019 because of LeMahieu’s departure via free agency and top prospect Brendan Rodgers’ season-ending shoulder surgery. McMahon became Colorado’s primary second baseman, playing in 141 games.

“This my first (full) big-league season and it definitely was a grind,” McMahon said. “You definitely feel it a little bit more, with altitude and all of that. But I’m trying to learn how to get through all of that. I’m trying to take my recovery a little bit more serious.”
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McMahon came up as a third baseman and his transition to the other side of the infield was not seamless. He made some mental errors — failing to cover second base a few times, being out of position a few other times — but he also flashed some LeMahieu-like plays.

“When you’re a kid and you’re playing one position, one side of the infield, you become very comfortable with that,” Black said. “And when you move, it takes time to get comfortable. But I see Ryan, looking forward, as an above-average defender, no matter where you put him, with repetitions and games played.”

McMahon committed 13 errors at second base and finished with a .972 fielding percentage. LeMahieu, by comparison, made just four errors with the Rockies in 2018 and committed 27 errors from 2015-18.

Diamond Appraisal
The left side of the Rockies’ infield is one of the best in baseball but questions loom regarding first base and overall depth:

3B Nolan Arenado (.315 average, 41 home runs, .962 OPS): On his way to his seventh Gold Glove, Arenado lived up to his new eight-year, $260 million contract, posting a career-high OPS and will likely finish in the top five in National League MVP voting.

SS Trevor Story (.294, 35, .917): Story just keeps getting better and is a strong contender to win his first Gold Glove. He’s the first shortstop in big-league history to begin his career with four consecutive 20 home run seasons. Story, in his second season of arbitration, will get a raise from $5 million to likely $11 million for 2020.

1B Daniel Murphy (.279, 13, .780): The veteran’s season was marred by a broken finger that kept him off the field for 20 games and affected him for much of the first half of the season. His batting average was his worst since hitting .266 with the Mets in 2009 and his defense was subpar. He’s owed $14 million in 2020, so he’s penciled in as the starting first baseman. If that remains the case, Murphy, who turns 35 on April 1, must improve.

2B Ryan McMahon (.250, 24, .779): Should Colorado be able to swing a trade for Murphy, which is unlikely, McMahon would become the primary first baseman. Manager Bud Black, however, likes McMahon at second.

2B/SS/OF Garrett Hampson (.247, 8, .686): An adjustment at the plate — he ditched his leg kick for a simpler toe-tap — turned his season around. Hampson hit .318 with five home runs, a .903 OPS and nine stolen bases in September. He’s Colorado’s fastest player and proved he could handle duties in center field. He’s set to be the Rockies’ top utility player in 2020.

2B/SS Brendan Rodgers (.224, 0, .522): The organization’s top prospect made his long-awaited big-league debut May 17 at age 22 but his season ended in July with shoulder surgery. Rodgers made a nice splash, hitting .313/.371/.375 with two doubles through his first 32 plate appearances, but fell into a deep slump, slashing .159/.196/.159 over his next 46 plate appearances without an extra-base hit. Rodgers, a natural shortstop, still needs to work on his mechanics at second. How quickly he returns from a torn labrum remains to be seen.

2B/SS Pat Valaika (.190, 1, .572): Valaika, 27, has thrived at Triple-A but he’s struggled as a role player in the majors since leading the majors with 16 pinch-hit RBIs in 2017. Valaika still has options, so the Rockies might hold on to him or they might want to give his spot on the 40-man roster to someone else.

3B/1B Josh Fuentes (.218, 3, .632): Arenado’s younger cousin had a hamate bone injury in spring training but came back to make his big-league debut April 6, filling in for Murphy and McMahon, who were both injured. He did not impress, hitting 2-for-18 with eight strikeouts in nine games. His 15-game stint in September was much better: a .270/.289/.541 slash line that included three homers. Sprin

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The Braves are remembered for playing some great baseball in the early 1990’s but they also had a good time in the clubhouse and one of the ringleaders was reliever Marvin Freeman.

A skinny 6-foot-7, “Starvin Marvin’’ Freeman loosened everyone up, though he admits he couldn’t top teammate Greg Maddux, whose humor stretched the boundaries, sometime beyond the discretion of a family newspaper. Freeman, though, willingly admits he could almost be as crude as the Hall of Fame pitcher.

“He,’’ Freeman said, “did something that I still love to talk about today.’’

Freeman, always a popular figure from an early age, was born in Chicago. He played at Chicago Vocational High School, where as the team’s No. 1 starter he helped lead a turnaround that saw the program go from 3-20 to 60-3 in his last three seasons. In 1981, he was drafted in the ninth round by Montreal but opted instead to go to Jackson State University.

After three seasons, he was selected in the second round of the 1984 draft by Philadelphia. The Phillies had just used their first-round pick that day on pitcher Pete Smith, who would also end up on the same staff in Atlanta.

It took Freeman 2 1/2 years to reach the majors, called up to the major league club for the last two weeks of the 1986 season. In his second major league start, Freeman beat the Mets on the same day his daughter was born back in Chicago.

But he wouldn’t stick with Philadelphia, bouncing between the minors and majors before pitching a no-hitter for the Triple-A Maine club in 1990 against the Richmond Braves.

A few days later, the Braves traded reliever Joe Boever for Freeman and he finished the season in Atlanta, appearing in nine games as a reliever and allowing just three runs in 15 2/3 innings.

In the worst-to-first season of 1991, Freeman was hurt late in the year, but not before he became a big part of the Braves bullpen, appearing in 34 games (2.92 ERA). Going to the bullpen and pitching more frequently, Freeman began experiencing arm and elbow problems. He appeared in 58 games in 1992 before struggling in three postseason appearances. In 1993, he dropped to only 21 games, was released and was picked up by Colorado.

Badly needing pitching help in a hitters’ ballpark, Freeman was a godsend for the Rockies, going 10-2 in the strike-shortened season of 1994. He was also was on the mound for the Rockies’ first-ever win over the Braves, breaking a 16-game losing streak and beating Tom Glavine. His 2.80 ERA still stands as a Colorado season record today.

But a bad elbow bothered Freeman in 1995. He registered a 8.53 ERA in the first month and he finished the season on the disabled list. The next season wasn’t much better. He went 6-4 in the first half of the season and made headlines late in the year with a stunt he pulled on controversial radio host Jim Rome. By August, he was placed on waivers, picked up by the Chicago White Sox and made just one start.

He tried to come back the next season with Toronto and broke camp with Class AAA team, making only one start before retiring. He came out of retirement a few months later with Toronto but lasted only a few weeks before calling it quits for good.

Freeman appeared in 221 major league games (78 starts), going 35-28 with a 4.46 ERA. He finished with 383 strikeouts in 593 2/3 innings.

After baseball, he went into high school coaching where he eventually coached his son, who is playing at Southern University.

Where he lives: Freeman, 53, lives outside Chicago in Olympic Fields with his wive of 32 years, Arnetta. They have two children, daughter Paris and son Justin.

What he does: Freeman has a sports academy where he tutors young pitchers. He is also pitching coordinator for the Chicago White Sox Charities which sponsors teams from ages 12 to 17. He calls himself a pitching coach mercenary.

On going to college instead of straight to pro baseball: “I wasn’t ready at 18. I hadn’t been out of Chicago except for a few family vacations down South. I needed to get that home sickness out of me, which I did in college. I will say it was nice leaving college and going to the pros as far as the umpiring. There was so much home cooking by the umpires in college and that makes a big difference for a pitcher.’’

On being traded to the Braves: “I think they wanted to get rid of Boever and I was going up and down from the minors to the majors. So I think it worked out good for both of us. I had just pitched a no-hitter against Richmond and I think the Braves saw something in me.’’

On the nickname “Starving Marvin”: “When I was coming out of Jackson State, one of the scouts saw me and said I had a great arm but it looked like I was starving. I think there was a chain of “Starving Marvin’s’’ up there and the nickname just stuck.’’

On his first two seasons in Atlanta: “When I got off the plane, I knew there was sunshine in baseball. They told me I was going to be relieving, so I knew what I was going to do on a consistent basis. I remember being there early in 1991 and there wasn’t a lot of people in the stands and Terry Pendleton telling all of us we had to win and they would come and they sure did. I had back surgery at the end of 1991, so I couldn’t pitch in the playoffs but it was a ton of fun.’’

On his arm troubles in 1993: “I struggled but what I like to remember is going to Chicago and all my relatives were there and my aunts came from Michigan and I pitched six scoreless innings. Then I was left off the postseason roster so (a TV station) gave me a camera and mic and I became a reporter and did what you do.’’

On his success in Colorado in 1994: “I tried to take everything I learned from Greg Maddux to Colorado and be a carbon copy of him. I would say it worked and I think my ERA still stands as a record there.’’

On the Jim Rome episode in 1996: “I had just had a bad game against the Padres the day before and he was doing his show in the right field bleachers and I was running in the outfield. The Padres fans were yelling ‘cheaters,’ which had something to do with the fact that our guys had hit a lot of homers in our park in Colorado because of the altitude. So they invited me to come up and be on the show and to get me to say some bad things about the Rockies. I always say Rome was an instigator and when I went on the show, I started crying which Brad Clontz did a great job of when he was with the Braves. I think I just dropped the mic, took my headphones off and left. I had gotten the final word.’’

On being a clubhouse funnyman: “I just wanted everyone to relax in the clubhouse. That was what it was all about. There is a lot of pressure on the field and you have to find a way to relieve some of it. We certainly did that in Atlanta.”

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Looking at the 10-man ballot under consideration by the Modern Era edition of the Hall of Fame’s Veterans Committee, a decent attorney could make a solid case for any of them.

The ballot is headed by Dale Murphy, who won consecutive MVP awards, but also features Steve Garvey, Don Mattingly, Dave Parker, and Thurman Munson, who won one apiece, and the original director of the Major League Baseball Players Association, Marvin Miller.

Also under consideration are Dwight Evans, Tommy John, Ted Simmons, and Lou Whitaker.

Conspicuously absent, however, are two influential but controversial former club owners, George Steinbrenner and Charlie Finley, as well as big-game pitcher Luis Tiant.

To win election, a candidate must receive 75 per cent of the vote, or at least 12 cast by the 16-man selection committee. Results will be announced live from San Diego, site of the 2019 Baseball Winter Meetings, at 8 p.m. EST Dec. 8 on MLB Network. Winners would be enshrined July 26, 2020 along with any announced on Jan. 21 by the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA).
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Miller, who headed the players union from 1966-82, is 0-for-7 in previous ballots by the various Veterans Committee and his family has requested that his name be removed from future votes. He and Munson, who lost his life in a 1979 plane crash while still an active player, are the only deceased candidates on this year’s ballot.
Marvin Miller

CIRCA 1970’S: Executive Director Marvin Miller of the Major League Baseball Players Association … [+]Getty Images

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A Historical Overview Committee appointed by the BBWAA compiled the ballot, considering only players who played 10 major-league seasons and have been retired at least 15 seasons plus managers, umpires, and executives active in the game for at least 10 years. Current executives who have turned 70 were also eligible to be included.

One of four rotating Veterans Committees, the Modern Baseball Era panel judges candidates who made their greatest impact from 1970-87. The voting panel, appointed by the Hall of Fame, has not yet been announced.

The group consists of 11 historians, many of them former baseball beat writers for major newspapers. They are Bob Elliott, Jim Henneman, Rick Hummel, Steve Hirdt, Bill Madden, Jack O’Connell, Jim Reeves, Tracy Ringolsby, Glenn Schwarz, Dave van Dyck, and Mark Whicker.

The election of Harold Baines by a different Veterans Committee last winter has strengthened the case for Murphy, whose resume includes five Gold Gloves and seven All-Star selections in addition to 398 home runs and a 30/30 season. He was National League Most Valuable Player in both 1982 and 1983 while playing for the Atlanta Braves but never reached the World Series. A strong-armed centerfielder who started his career as a catcher, Murphy spent 18 years in the majors before bad knees forced him to retire.
2017 Major League Baseball World Series Game Seven: Houston Astros v. Los Angeles Dodgers

LOS ANGELES, CA – NOVEMBER 1: Dodger legends Rick Monday, Don Newcombe, Sandy Koufax and Steve … [+]MLB via Getty Images

Garvey had fewer home runs (272) but a better batting average (.294) during a career spent mainly with the Los Angeles Dodgers. He still holds the National League record of consecutive games by a first baseman (1,207) and MVP awards for the regular season (1974) plus two each in the All-Star Game and NL Championship Series. He won four Gold Gloves.

Like Garvey, Parker played 19 years and was an All-Star regular (seven times). A two-time NL batting king, he had a lifetime .290 average plus 339 home runs, three Gold Gloves for his play in right field, and the 1978 MVP trophy. He spent 11 years with the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Mattingly and Munson both played for the New York Yankees, though both had relatively short runs. The former, now managing the Miami Marlins, hit .307 with 222 homers in 14 seasons while winning nine Gold Gloves, six All-Star selections, a batting crown, and an MVP (1985).

Munson, who preceded Mattingly to the Bronx, was American League Rookie of the Year in 1970 and Most Valuable Player six years later. One of two catchers to hit .300 with 100 rbi and 180 hits for three straight seasons, he was an All-Star seven times and Gold Glover three times.
New York Yankees

NEW YORK – CIRCA 1987: Tommy John #25 of the New York Yankees looks on from the dugout prior to the … [+]Getty Images

A third former Yankee on the Modern Era ballot, Tommy John won 288 games but is best-known as the pioneer patient for the surgery that bears his name. A durable lefthander who pitched for five clubs in 26 seasons, John posted a solid career earned run average of 3.34. He made the All-Star team four times – three of them after returning from surgery to replace the ligament in his left elbow. With the exception of suspected steroids user Roger Clemens, he has more wins than any pitcher not yet in Cooperstown.

One of the batters John faced often during his Yankee tenure was Dwight Evans, rifle-armed rightfielder of the Boston Red Sox for 18 seasons. Evans, who also spent a year in Baltimore, won eight Gold Gloves and went to three All-Star games while hitting 385 home runs. He had a career on-base percentage of .370.

Like Evans, Whitaker not only had a productive tenure in the American League but teamed with Alan Trammell in Detroit to form the longest-running double-play tandem in baseball history (19 seasons). Now he hopes to follow Trammell, elected by the Veterans Committee in 2017, into Cooperstown. A five-time All-Star and three-time Gold Glove recipient at second base, the 1978 AL Rookie of the Year hit 244 home runs while collecting 2,369 hits.
Washington Nationals v Detroit Tigers

DETROIT, MI – JUNE 28: Former Detroit Tigers infielders Lou Whitaker (L) and Alan Trammell talk … [+]MLB Photos via Getty Images

Ted Simmons starred in both leagues, first for the St. Louis Cardinals and then for the Milwaukee Brewers. A switch-hitting catcher with power, he hit .285 with 248 home runs, earning eight trips to the All-Star Game. He was also among his league’s Top Ten hitters six times in a 21-year career that concluded in Atlanta.

If players were voting for the Hall of Fame, Marvin Miller would have been enshrined years ago. The former head of the U.S. Steelworkers Union succeeded in boosting salaries tenfold between the time he was hired, in 1966, until his retirement in 1982. He also had well-publicized feuds with team owners and executives, especially Commissioner of Baseball Bowie Kuhn, and was the central figure in five work stoppages, many of them while arguing against a salary cap.

The Modern Era Veterans Committee will convene again in the autumn of 2022. It is mandated to meet twice in any five-year span.

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BOSTON—The Boston Red Sox, who have failed to win a single World Series since the departure of relief pitcher Curtis Leskanic in 2004, are attempting to defy the odds and do the impossible: reverse the curse of the journeyman reliever whose ghost has haunted this team since the mid-2000s.

Pitted against the Colorado Rockies in the 2007 Fall Classic, the team that for two long years seemed like it might be destined to lose forever has a chance to finally put an end to its 36-month-long World Series drought. However, the Red Sox must first overcome the famed Curse of Curtis Leskanic, which caused medium-to-long-suffering fans much anguish and heartache during the period between 2005 and 2006.

“It will take a miracle for the Sox to win the World Series as long as the spirit of Leskanic has anything to say about it,” wrote Boston Globe columnist Dan Shaughnessy, who coined the phrase “Curse Of The Former Red Sox Relief Pitcher Curtis Leskanic” in March of 2005, when an error by shortstop Edgar Renteria allowed the Devil Rays to defeat the Red Sox 7-4 in a spring training game. “This curse will play a huge part in this series. Every home run that curves just foul, every dropped fly ball, every bad hop, every blown call—Curtis Leskanic will be there.”

Leskanic, a right-handed set-up man acquired by the Red Sox halfway through the 2004 season, pitched nearly 28 innings for the team from July to September, and was present as Boston defeated the Yankees in the ALCS and went on the win the World Series. However, as legend has it, the Red Sox refused to offer him a contract extension, despite the fact that he was coming off a 3-5 season with a 5.19 ERA and 37 strikeouts. Leskanic, unable to find work in the major leagues, retired—and the rest is history. Since then, the Florida Little League team that Leskanic went on to coach has enjoyed unprecedented success, winning the Lake County Round Robin two years in a row and going undefeated in 2006.

Meanwhile, the Red Sox have made it to the playoffs just twice since 2004.

“I don’t usually believe in ‘curses,’ but how else do you explain the Red Sox’s early elimination from the 2005 Division Series, or their five-game sweep at the hands of the Yankees last August, or the fact that they didn’t even make the playoffs in 2006?” said longtime Red Sox fan Gary Everett. “No team is that unlucky.”

“We never should’ve gotten rid of Leskanic,” Everett added. “Just think of how many more rings we’d have now.”

“When [White Sox outfielder Scott] Podsednik hit that home run in Game 1 of the 2005 ALDS, all I could think was, ‘Damn you, Leskanic!'” said Allston, MA resident Terry Bresler. “But if the Sox can beat the Rockies this year, I might be able to finally forgive Tony Graffanino for that error he made in Game 2 of that series.”

In an interesting twist of fate, to end the curse, the Red Sox must first beat the Rockies, the team with which Leskanic began his career in 1993. Many fans believe destiny brought these two teams together—that it is only fitting that the Red Sox must exorcise the demons of their recent past against the very team with which Leskanic enjoyed his greatest success, including his 7-5, 6.23 ERA season in 1996 and his 1-1 effort in 1994.

“Ending the curse against the Rockies will just make it that much sweeter,” said Boston resident Terry McMahon. “Not even Curtis Leskanic can stop this team!”

“I just pray that my son can see the Sox win at least one World Series in his lifetime,” said Boston resident Sal Fischer of his son Cody, 2.

Many Red Sox fans believe the Curse of Curtis Leskanic was already broken this June when two diehard Red Sox fans traveled to Leskanic’s childhood home in Homestead, PA and burned it to the ground, while others think the curse was lifted in August when the Red Sox won three games in a row. Still others believe that the ghost of Leskanic was expelled from Boston in April, when Jimmy Buffett played to a sold-out crowd at Fenway Park; Leskanic was known for not being that into Jimmy Buffett.

Curtis Leskanic currently resides in Orlando, FL with his family, and works as a pro scouting consultant in the Red Sox organization. When reached for comment, he wished the Red Sox the best of luck.

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Whatever names you might have used in the past to refer to Charlie Sheen, we bet you’d never used this one: Carlos Estevez.

That’s his birth name.

And now, it might be his professional acting name, too.

In his upcoming movie, “Machete Kills,” Charlie is identified as Carlos Estevez in the credits.
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The Los Angeles Times reports that a trailer for the action flick, shown over the Memorial Day weekend, shows Charlie with a gun with the words, “And introducing Carlos Estevez.”

In the movie, debuting Sept. 13, Charlie plays the U.S. president who assigns assassin Machete Cortez (Danny Trejo) to stop a Mexican arms dealer from launching a weapon into space.

The Times was left to speculate about the name change after it couldn’t get in touch with Charlie’s camp.

One theory: It was director Robert Rodriguez’s idea.

Another: Change the name, lose the bad-boy image.

Charlie’s brother, Emilio Estevez, uses his birth name professionally. But Charlie followed dad Martin Sheen’s example in dumping the surname, a decision Martin – born Ramon Antonio Gerardo Estevez – regrets.

(Charlie actually stopped being called Carlos at age 4 to avoid being confused with his Uncle Carlos.)

“I thought, I got enough problems trying to get an acting job, so I invented Martin Sheen,” the elder Sheen said in 2003 on “Inside the Actors Studio.”

“It’s still Estevez officially. I never changed it officially. I never will. It’s on my driver’s license and passport and everything …

“In fact, one of my great regrets is that I didn’t keep my name as it was given to me. I knew it bothered my dad.”

Taking bets now on whether Charlie’s “new” name sticks.

In a Univision interview last year, he said: “I don’t wake up feeling Latino. I’m a white guy in America. I was born in New York and grew up in Malibu.”

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I have saved an article from MLB.com for a few days now, waiting until the dust from the end of the regular season settled and well after the Colorado Rockies held their much-discussed end of the season press gathering.
That article, which you can see by clicking here, picked five teams which the author felt “seem the most poised to take a step forward in 2020 — the ones you feel like are building toward something better.” That list did not include the Colorado Rockies.

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Rather than the Rockies, the author picked the Cincinnati Reds, Chicago White Sox, San Diego Padres, Texas Rangers and Los Angeles Angels as the five teams who finished below .500 in 2019 but could also make that “step forward” in 2020.

What to expect from the Rockies’ bullpen in 2020. Is there any room for change? | The Athletic ($)

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The answers Nick Groke offers are “the same” and “no, probably not.” He takes a look at the bullpen at the start and end of the 2019 season, as well as salary obligations for next season, and concludes that there won’t be a bullpen makeover.

We sort of already knew that. But Groke also has something new here, and it has to do with who will close games for the Rockies. In August, Davis was finally, mercifully, removed from the closer role in favor of Scott Oberg. But Bud Black, according to Groke, “went out of his way to avoid saying the change was permanent. And Davis may very well start 2020 as Colorado’s closer again.”

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Honestly, I don’t put to much stock in who the closer is and focus more on getting the best pitchers in the game in the highest leverage situations. Ninth innings have a lot of high leverage situations though, and Davis should probably be a middle innings or mop up guy until he can prove that he’s rediscovered what once made him one of the best relievers in the game.

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DNVR Exclusive: This new app will change the way you watch baseball | DNVR

In this free story from DNVR, Drew Creasman talks to the developer for a new app called UmpScores. The app tracks balls and strikes for major league umpires, with a big emphasis on highlighting all of the calls that they get wrong. It can be seen as part of a larger argument in favor of roboumps. It’s something that exists in the hopes that it will soon be made irrelevant. That, at least, is the only reason I can think of for wanting to put every pitch under the microscope and placing it on the good or bad side of a ledger.

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I may be in the minority, but I don’t want roboumps. I don’t think the current system for calling balls and strikes is broken, and I don’t think roboumps will improve the game. I also take a lesson from instant replay. I was a proponent of it at the time, but then it led to unexpected consequences. The most egregious one being when a player slides to the bag, comes off it for a second, all the while the fielder — in an entirely unaesthetic action new to the game — follows him with his glove somewhere on his body to maybe get a technical out. It introduced outs that wouldn’t have been outs previous to the introduction of instant replay. On the whole, I think instant replay’s a net negative, and I think I’d feel the same way about roboumps. I’d rather take a few missed strike zone calls in stride and pay more attention to the big picture.

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The author did start his article with an interesting point, pointing out that only three teams (the Minnesota Twins, New York Mets and Philadelphia Phillies) finished the 2018 season under .500 but rebounded in 2019 to finish at .500 (we’re looking at you, Philly) or better.

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Additionally, the author points out that, since the start of the 2015 season, nine teams have finished the previous season below .500 and bounced back to make the postseason the following season. That includes the 2017 Rockies as well as the Arizona Diamondbacks, who topped Colorado in the National League Wild Card Game that season).

After reading the article, I began looking at the possibilities of the Rockies improving by at least 10 games over this year’s final 71-91 record in 2020 to finish at least at the 81-81 mark. I also remembered the words of Colorado owner Dick Monfort, who said during the end-of-the-season press conference that, ““I don’t think we have a lot of flexibility next year of making some great big splash. Now that doesn’t mean that we can’t get creative and do some things that will help if the right deal comes along.”

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Can the Rockies improve by 10 games next season without “making some great big splash?” It’s possible if these three things happen.

Note: Later this week, we’ll pull a counterpoint and discuss the three reasons why the Rockies won’t reach .500 again in 2020.