Mike Silva's New York Baseball Digest

Mike Silva Hall-of-Fame Ballot

This entry was posted on January 4th, 2014 @ 11:00 am by Mike Silva.
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My Hall-of-Fame Ballot (If I had one)

1) Edgar Martinez- It might take the BBWAA some time to appreciate the designated hitter, just like they needed some time to warm up to relievers. His production from 1995 to 2003 is right up there with all the all-time greats. Even the move to spacious Safeco Field didn’t slow him down. There is one site that evaluates him based on an award called POP (Premium Offensive Player). A POP season is one in which the player has a BA over .300, OBP over .400, SLG over .500. Martinez has eight POP seasons for his career- more than Mickey Mantle. Every player with eight or more POP seasons is in the Hall of Fame, with the exception of Barry Bonds, who is not eligible as of this writing. Martinez is also one of five players who have had more walks than strikeouts (with at least 1200 or more of each) while hitting .300. The others are Babe Ruth, Frank Thomas, Jimmie Foxx, Hank Aaron, and Chipper Jones.

2) Jeff Bagwell - is one of the few players that spent his entire career in one city and produced Hall of Fame quality numbers his entire career. He spent a large portion of his career playing in the pitcher friendly Astrodome where he produced an OPS of .996. How can you argue with a career that yielded 449 homers, 202 stolen bases, and a .948 OPS? Bill James said in 2001 that Bagwell is the fourth best first basemen of all time. High praise for someone that plays a position known for offense. Personally, I think only Lou Gehrig, Albert Pujols and Jimmie Foxx are better offensive players at the position. If I am going to support Gil Hodges on the Golden Era ballot, I can’t not support other first basemen such as McGwire and Bagwell.

3) Rafael Palmeiro - Wouldn’t be much of a debate if he didn’t have that infamous dialogue with Congress and failed drug test. Palmeiro had 3,020 hits, 569 homers, over 1,800 RBI, and a .885 OPS for his career. Although he never won an MVP, he did win three Gold Gloves (one very dubious one in 1999) during his career. Again, I don’t know the true impact of steroids on these results. I also don’t know how many pitchers were using that Palmeiro faced. The offensive numbers are no doubt Hall worthy. Is that even arguable?

4) Greg Maddux – Has two of the best single season performances of all-time. In 1994-1995 he had ERA’s of 1.56 and 1.63, respectively. Which if you use ERA+ is better than Gibson’s 1968. One 20-win season and that came his last year in Chicago. 4 Cy Young Awards, 18 gold gloves, 1 walk per nine in his 1994 and 1995 seasons. He also had 355 wins.

5) Tom Glavine – 305 wins, five 20+ win seasons, and a very famous reinvention with the Mets. Also won two Cy Young Awards, as well as a World Series MVP in 1995 that included the Classic 1-0 performance in Game 6

6) Barry Bonds - So let’s look at Bonds’ career prior to 1998. Would he still be a Hall of Fame player?

A typical Bonds year was 31 HRs, 91 RBI, 35 stolen bases, 102 walks, and .288 batting average. His OPS .959 and his OPS+ was 162. After the ’97 season he had 374 HRs, 1,094 RBI, 417 stolen bases, and 1,244 runs scored in a career that spanned 12 years. All of those numbers were good enough to be among the best of any Hall of Famer at any position. At that point, the guy averaged a 30/30 season for his career. He also won three MVP awards and 7 Gold Gloves.

Post ’98 we know things got crazy. That version of Bonds had a typical year that included 39 HRs, 90 RBI, 10 stolen bases, 133 walks, and .314 batting average. His OPS was 1.193 and his OPS+ was 209. The totals for that 10 year portion of his career were 388 HRs, 902 RBI, 97 stolen bases, and 983 runs scored. He won 4 MVP awards and only 1 Gold Glove. Defense and speed were the key element of his game that disappeared.

Remember, the book (Game of Shadows) claims he took steroids for about 5 years (98-2003), that is when he became a video game. A typical year included 47 HRs, 108 RBI, 14 stolen bases, 140 walks, and .318 batting average. His OPS was 1.205 and his OPS+ was 214, which is higher than Babe Ruth. During those five years he produced 284 HRs, 648 RBI, 83 stolen bases, and 697 runs scored. He was walked an insane amount (843 times) as well.

7) Roger Clemens - You have to put him in the same category as Bonds. How can you leave someone off with his record, despite the PED use? 354 wins, 7 CYA, 1-MVP/pre-roid (1996) 192-111, 3.06, 3 Cy Young Awards. After roids he was 162-73, 3.21 ERA and 4 Cy Young Awards. Third all-time in strikeouts, sixth in wins, and two 20-strikeout games.

8) Frank Thomas – Had 8 POP seasons (.300 batting average, .400 OBP, .500 slugging). 969 games at 1st and 1,300 at DH. 521 home runs, .419 OBP, career batting average of .301 and two MVP awards. You have to put both Thomas and Martinez in the Hall-of Fame.

9) Mike Piazza - Most home runs as a catcher (427 overall) , his 1997 where he was 40/124/.362 might be the best individual season for a catcher all-time. When you factor in the travel and wear and tear of the position, a career .308 batting average is amazing. We are crucifying him for bacne, but how many of us would have lousy skin carrying around the tools of ignorance for nine innings on average of six days a week?

10) Mike Mussina - - He only has 270 wins, but he is 100 games over 500. That should count for something. Some other Mussina facts:

- Only one losing season in 18 years.

- Statistically compares to HOF pitchers like Jim PalmerClark GriffithCarl HubbellJuan Marichal.

- Also compares through age 39 to Future Hall of Fame pitchers Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine.

I would vote for if there were more room on the ballot

Jack Morris – He doesn’t have the peripheral numbers of other Hall of Famer’s, such as Bert Blyleven, but that shouldn’t take away the fact that he won 254 ballgames. He also was a big time postseason pitcher for Detroit and Minnesota, of course winning that classic Game 7 in the ’91 World Series against Atlanta. With the advent of bullpens 250 should be the new 300 and Morris clearly knew how to pitch well enough to win. Let’s not make wins the end all, but let’s not diminish the fact that is ultimately what pitching is all about.

Tim Raines- He is one of the individuals that I examine every year. Part of me believes he doesn’t have enough Hall worthy seasons (I count 9 out of 23). The presence of Rickey Henderson in the eighties sometimes overshadows Raines who was his National League counterpart. He had speed and hit for power and average. His 13 years in Montreal were impressive, and he tacked on in Chicago and New York. If he didn’t chase a ring as a part time player with the Yankees I suspect he might have collected 3,000 hits. For his career he had over 2,600 hits, 808 stolen bases, and a career OPS of .810. Time to recognize “Henderson lite” and put him in the Hall. If you added 400 more hits and subtracted 400 walks this wouldn’t be a debate because he would have the magic number of 3,000. I would have kept him on my ballot if there were more room because I do believe he is a Hall-of-Famer.

Mark McGwire – For the first-timers to the site I will repeat my position on steroids. Unlike many members of the BBWAA, I don’t get offended by the use of PEDs during the 90s. Perhaps it was because this is the generation in which I “cut my teeth” in learning the game, but more likely because there never has been definitive scientific proof as to the cause and effect. Both pitchers and hitters were using drugs that were not against the rules of the game. We all know that McGwire is currently 10th all-time in home runs with 584, but his numbers are comparable to other Hall of Fame first basemen such as Harmon Killebrew, Ernie Banks, and Willie McCovey. We have racists, tax cheats, drunks, and spit ballers in the Hall, so there is no reason why we can’t honor someone that used enhancements, some that were not outlawed at the time. What really puts me over the top with Big Mac is that his at-bats from 1995-2000 were an “event” like no other in the history of the game. Not even Barry Bonds (who I will support when he is eligible), garnered that much interest across all 30 big league ballparks. He will never get in, so why waste a vote, but should be considered by the Vets Committee. Now that he is coaching I wonder if the powers-that-be will eventually move past McGwire and PEDs.

Jeff Kent – His years with San Franciso yielded 29/115/.297 BA/ .903 OPS There was an MVP award in that time- all at 2B. My issue is that he was very good, not great in New York, Houston, Los Angeles. I still think he is a Hall-of-Famer, but is left out on this crowded ballot. I believe he will have to get in via the Veterans Committee.


Craig Biggio – Hall-of-Fame run for six year period from about 1993 to 1999 where you could count on him for 20 home runs, high OBP, gold glove defense up the middle. His defense is even more remarkable as he started as a catcher and even played the outfield. My issue is he compiled 3,000 hits and he wouldn’t even be considered without it. Now that the BBWAA has “thrown away” the automatic qualifiers (see Palmeiro) because of PEDs, I am ok with throwing them away all together. I am more about quality than quantity.

Curt Schilling – He seems to be garnering favor thanks to a couple of big postseasons (2001, 2004) and a bloody sock. I don’t see a long enough string of quality to call Schilling a Hall-of-Famer. I see two years in Philadelphia (97-98), two in Arizona (2001-2002) and one in Boston (2004). The difference between Schilling and Jack Morris is consistency. I wouldn’t be surprised if he gets Vets Committee consideration the first year he is eligible. I won’t be upset if he makes it, either (see Catfish Hunter).

Sammy Sosa – Never failed a test, but a very strange career arc. Before the historic 1998 an average Sosa season (’96 to ’97) was very good (37 HR/113 RBI/.263 BA/.831 OPS), after (’98 to 2004) he became a video game (52 HR/127 RBI/.308 BA/1.006 OPS). Despite McGwire’s home run record, Sosa won the MVP in 1998 as the Cubs made the playoffs. Having watched his career it’s hard for me to take him seriously with these huge jumps in production.

Larry Walker - His best seasons came in Colorado (.334 average, 1.006 OPS), which was a joke pre-humidor. Walker was a very good player in Montreal, but his career road numbers (.278 BA and .865 OPS) make me think he belongs in the Hall-of-Very-Good.

Alan Trammel - Nice run in the mid-to-late 80s, but fell off after the age of 32. He is in the top-10 in Wins Above Replacement for his position, tied with Barry Larkin, but I wouldn’t have voted for Larkin, either. I don’t see a long enough run, historic event or total numbers. The position he played is the only argument. He may get in on the Vets Committee at some point, which wouldn’t bother me. I don’t see him as a Hall-of-Famer.

Don Mattingly - Great five-year run. Career was ruined by a back injury, and if he didn’t wear pinstripes he would have been off the ballot after year one.

Lee Smith - We all know that saves are overrated. It’s the process of how you gain it, not the results. There was an argument based on his work with the Cubs, but he was just another very good reliever once he left the Windy City.

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Curtis Granderson a Nice Start for the Mets

This entry was posted on December 7th, 2013 @ 11:00 am by Mike Silva.
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Curtis Granderson is not typically the type of offensive player I prefer. Yes, he has tremendous power, but he strikes out a ton, has a good, but not great OBP, and is average defensively. The Yankees traded for a player in 2010 that many thought would make them forget Bernie Williams. Unfortunately, outside of two outstanding regular seasons (regular is the key word) in ’11 and ’12, he wasn’t worth the price of Austin Jackson and Ian Kennedy.

Earlier in the offseason I wanted nothing to do with the big outfield free agents i.e. Nelson Cruz and Curtis Granderson – both were too Jay Bay-like for my taste. Shin-Soo Choo was desirable, but if Jacoby Ellsbury is able to obtain a 7-year/$153 million dollar deal, then Choo will be in that neighborhood and then some.  My preference was to bring back Marlon Byrd and seeing what the trade market could yield for an impact hitter (see Matt Kemp, Carlos Gonzalez, Troy Tulowitzki).

My attitude has changed after seeing how expensive rumored trades can be (reports were that top pitching prospect Shelby Miller would have been the price for the Cardinals to obtain J.J. Hardy from Baltimore), and the insane contracts given out (see Jacoby Ellsbury). When it’s all said and done, four years for Granderson at $60 million dollars is a very reasonable contract. Furthermore, it doesn’t require the Mets giving up any of their upper- level pitching prospects.

What are the Mets getting with Granderson? A player that will play 150 games, hit 25-30 homers, steal 15 bases and bring a professional winning presence to the clubhouse. The concerns over his ability to hit LHP have been alleviated since his work with hitting coach Kevin Long. The last three years have seen him hit nearly identical against LHP and RHP pitching, and in some cases, better against the southpaws.

This move has been compared to the Mets signings of Pedro Martinez and Carlos Beltran in 2004- that’s nonsense. Those were impact players that were sending a message to the league the Mets were major players again. Granderson is a complementary player that shows the Wilpons actually have the means to commit to a long-term contract. Granderson improve an anemic offense that was towards the bottom of the National League.

In other words, this was a nice move for Sandy Alderson and company, but not a difference-maker in of itself ala Beltran and Martinez.  What’s next will determine how far along the Mets rebuilding program has come.

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Cano and Jay Z: Good Result and Bad Process

This entry was posted on December 6th, 2013 @ 11:00 am by Mike Silva.
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In the end Robinson Cano and Jay Z were the biggest losers in their negotiations with the Yankees and Seattle. Yes, Cano captured the 10-years and $240 million he so desperately desired, but in the long run you had to believe he wanted that in New York. Instead, he will have to end his career in the anonymity of Seattle.

It has to kill Cano that he was never viewed in the same class as A-Rod and Derek Jeter, two Yankees the team didn’t hesitate to give, at that time, a record-breaking contract. The Yankees viewed Cano as someone they were comfortable in playing hardball. They would like to have him but didn’t have to have him back.

Now he takes his talents to Seattle where he can build his Hall-of-Fame resume in the place that Griffey, A-Rod and the Big Unit fled for greener pastures. Perhaps he can challenge Edgar Martinez as the best offensive player in Mariners history. Highly unlikely, despite the fact his current numbers are better than 19 second baseman in the Hall-of-Fame, but it would be nice to dream since his contract pays him like someone headed to Cooperstown.

As for Jay Z, the end result was similar to what you see from Scott Boras, but the process was far from Boras-esque. Earlier today this deal was on life support, as Mariners CEO Howard Lincoln was rumored to be angered by the antics of the rap mogul during last night’s negotiations. Personally, Jay Z lucked into a desperate team bidding against itself. Was the tenth year really going to make a difference between the two offers? Maybe, but if the Yanks threshold was $175 they already had them beat at nine. How much impact could Jay Z have considering he was able to wrap this negotiation up and still find time to perform his concern tonight?

What player will want to sign-up for this chaos? What will Jay-Z do for you that another agent, specifically Boras, won’t? I am still waiting for those Pepsi commercials Jay Z supposedly landed for Cano. More important, players should look at how badly Jay Z team’s nearly botched these negotiations for a player without a pier in the marketplace.

Wasn’t the point of signing with Jay Z meant to get Cano the big contract from the big team? If so, mission not accomplished.

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Thoughts on the Jacoby Ellsbury Deal

This entry was posted on December 5th, 2013 @ 6:00 pm by Mike Silva.
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The Jacoby Ellsbury deal will have a polarizing effect on the New York media landscape throughout the day. Some Pundits will laud the Yanks for returning to their traditional spending ways, while others will express concern for the years and length given to a player that relies on his legs and has been injury-prone. I believe the jury is out on this deal since it can’t be judged until subsequent moves have taken place.

In a vacuum the Ellsbury deal is a bad one. 7 years and $153 million dollars (plus vesting option that can bring it to 8/169) is an awful lot for a player that offensively has been below league average for a majority of his career. Take away his career year in 2011 (32 HRs, 105 RBI, .928 OPS) and last season’s contract year (9 HRs, 53 RBI, 52 SB, .298 BA) and you have a player that probably isn’t even as good as their current centerfielder, Brett Gardner.

As a matter of fact, Gardner’s 2013 numbers (8 HRs, 52 RBI, .273) are very similar to Ellsbury last season, but for nearly $19 million dollars a year less. Baseball-Reference has David DeJesus, Shane Victorino and Angel Pagan has comparables- all quality pieces, but in the 4-year $48-million dollar range.

The money shouldn’t bother Yankees fans unless Ellsbury prevents Brian Cashman from bringing back Robinson Cano and adding starting pitching. That is the crux of the debate since adding Ellsbury to a lineup with Cano improves the offense. Right now the Yankees have two power hitter they can rely on: Brian McCann and Alfonso Soriano. Mark Teixeira is coming off a wrist injury, and I need to see how that will affect his performance. Don’t believe there is a correlation? Look at the drop-off in Baltimore’s Nick Markakis from his wrist woes. The rest of the outfield comprises of a speedy Ellsbury clone in Brett Gardner and an over-the-hill singles hitter in Ichiro. There isn’t a lot of power in that trio.

The Ellsbury move needs to give Brian Cashman flexibility in trading Gardner for a third baseman or pitching, signing Cano and leaving enough budget to bring back Hiroki Kuroda and/or another starting pitcher of quality. This doesn’t include the additional veteran bullpen help (paging Grant Balfour) they need in the event David Robertson can’t fill the shoes of the greatest closer of all-time. Ellsbury is a great back page move on December 4th, but it doesn’t solve the multiple holes throughout the roster.

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Trenton Thunder Named MILBY Team of Year

This entry was posted on October 29th, 2013 @ 7:13 am by Jed Weisberger.
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TRENTON, NJ - MiLB.com, the official website of Minor League Baseball, has named the Trenton Thunder, Double-A affiliate of the  Yankees, “Team of the Year” following a three-week online voting period this month. The honor is part of the annual “MiLBY” Awards which are presented by MiLB.com each fall.

The Thunder were the champions of the Eastern League after earning the East Division Wild Card during the regular season.  Trenton got hot at the end of the year and finished on a nine-game winning streak including sweeps of the first place Binghamton Mets in the Eastern Division Championship and the Western Division Champs, the Harrisburg Senators, to earn the title. Trenton became the first team to sweep both rounds of the EL postseason since 1991.

The title is the franchise’s third in its 20 seasons in Trenton, all under the watch of Manager Tony Franklin. In Franklin’s seven years with the Thunder, he has led them to the EL Championship Series five times.

MiLBYs are the end-of-season awards that honor the best players, teams and performances of the Minor League season. For three weeks, fans chose their favorites in 13 categories at milb.com. The official website of Minor League Baseball announces Fans’ Choice winners as well as MiLB.com staff picks for the major awards.

Trenton is a finalist for two additional MiLBY Awards that will be announced on Thursday, October 31.  The Retirement Party for Chase That Golden Thunder is a nominee for “Promotion of the Year” and a tribute video for Chase is up for “Mascot Clip of the Year”.



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After 20 Years, Quite a Thunder All-Star Team

This entry was posted on August 1st, 2013 @ 7:07 am by Jed Weisberger.
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I’ve managed to watch all 20 years of Trenton Thunder baseball. First the Tigers, then the Red Sox and now the Yankees supply players.

The team will continue its 20th season celebration Friday night with the distribution of a commemorative All-Time Team card set, presented by Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey, for the first 1,500 fans ages 6 and older.

Online voting for the team, released by Bill Cook and the club Thursday,  began on June 10 with fans being asked to select two players at each infield position, four outfielders, five pitchers, and one manager.

The players selected to the Trenton Thunder’s 20th Season All-Time Team are below.  Every player has appeared in the majors:


Dioner Navarro – In 128 games with the Thunder during the 2003 and 2004 seasons, Navarro hit .302 with 7 home runs and 66 RBI. He went on to become a 2008 American League All-Star with Tampa Bay and has spent more than ten years in the MLB.

Jesus Montero – Having spent only a partial season in Trenton, Montero posted 10 doubles, 9 home runs, and 33 RBI. He is currently in his 2nd season with the Seattle Mariners after playing 18 games for the Yankees in 2011.

First Base:

Tony Clark – During the 1994 season in Trenton, Tony Clark compiled 86 RBI, with 21 home runs, and a .279 batting average. When his 15 year Major League career came to an end in 2009, Clark finished with a career .262 batting average, 251 home runs, 824 RBI and was a member of the 2001 AL All-Star team. Tony Clark’s number 33 is one of four numbers retired by the Thunder.

Shelley Duncan – Duncan ranks second in Thunder history in both career home runs (53) and single-season home runs (34). He has since gone on to play seven years in the majors, playing for the Yankees, Indians, and Rays.

Second Base:

Robinson Cano – After batting .298 with 8 home runs and 59 RBI in 123 games for the Thunder during the 2003 and 2004 seasons, Cano made his debut with the Yankees in 2005. Since breaking into the big leagues, Cano has been named to the American League All-Star team six times and has been awarded two Gold Gloves and four Silver Sluggers. Cano was a member of the Yankees’ 2009 World Series Championship team.

David Eckstein – During his only season with the Thunder in 1999, Eckstein recorded a .313 batting average, scored 109 runs, and stole 32 stolen bases. He finished his ten year career in the big leagues as a two time All-Star and two time World Series Champion. Eckstein’s number 2 was recently retired by the Thunder on May 8th, 2013

Third Base:

Kevin Youkilis – Youkilis compiled a .344 average with 5 home runs and 26 RBI during his time in Trenton during the 2003 season. Since making his major league debut in 2004 with the Boston Red Sox, Youkilis has won a Gold Glove and been named an American League All-Star three times. He was a member of both the 2004 and 2007 Red Sox World Series Championship teams.

Shea Hillenbrand – Prior to his seven year MLB career in which he was named an All-Star twice, Hillenbrand batted .301 with 50 doubles, 18 home runs, and 115 RBI in Trenton. In 2000, he became the Thunder’s all-time, single-season hits leader with 171.


Nomar Garciaparra – After spending the 1995 season in Trenton, Garciaparra would go on to have a 14 year major league career, spending time with the Red Sox, Cubs, Dodgers, and Athletics. He was named the 1997 AL-Rookie of the Year, won two batting titles, and was six time All-Star. Garciaparra’s number 5 is one of only four numbers retired by the Thunder.

Freddy Sanchez – During his tenure with the Thunder, Sanchez posted a .327 batting average with 43 doubles, 57 RBI and 22 stolen bases. Sanchez has been named an NL All-Star three times and won the 2006 NL batting title while with the Pirates.


Brett Gardner – In his 109 games with the Thunder during the 2006 and 2007 seasons, Gardner hit .286 with 84 runs scored. His 46 stolen bases rank fifth all-time in Thunder history. A 2009 World Series Champion, Gardner is currently in his sixth season as an outfielder with the Yankees.

Austin Jackson – Jackson spent the 2008 season with the Thunder. When the year came to a close, he compiled a .285 with 9 home runs and 69 RBI. He was the 2009 runner-up for AL-Rookie of the Year and is now in his fourth season with the Detroit Tigers.

Melky Cabrera – Cabrera posted a .275 average, with 10 home runs, and 60 RBI with the Thunder in 2005. He was named a National League All-Star in 2012 and was a part of the Yankee’s 2009 World Series Championship team. He is currently in his 9th season in the majors.

Trot Nixon – After batting .235 with 13 home runs and 71 RBI in his 148 games in Trenton, Nixon went on to have a successful twelve year MLB career. He was a member of the 2004 Red Sox that helped deliver the first championship to Boston in 86 years.


Phil Hughes - Currently in his seventh season with the Yankees, Hughes is a former American League All-Star and 2009 World Series Champion. He pitched over 130 innings during his time with the Thunder. Hughes compiled an 11-3 record with a 2.17 ERA and 160 strikeouts. He was also named to the 2006 Eastern League All-Star team as a member of the Thunder.

Tyler Clippard – Clippard played with the Thunder over the 2006 and 2007 seasons.   In those two seasons in Trenton, Clippard went 14-11 and posted a 3.64 ERA with 203 strikeouts in 193 innings. He also holds the Thunder’s single season record for strikeouts with 175 and threw the first no-hitter in Thunder history on August 9, 2006 against the Harrisburg Senators. He is now in his 7th year in the majors and is currently playing for the Washington Nationals.

Joba Chamberlain – Following his career in Trenton, in which he tallied a 5-2 record with a 3.24 ERA and 69 strikeouts in 41.2 innings, Chamberlain has gone on to play seven years with the Yankees as both a starter and reliever. He was also a member of the 2009 World Champion Yankees.

Carl Pavano – During his three separate stints with the Thunder, Pavano compiled an 18-6 record with a 2.66 ERA and 171 strikeouts in 210 innings pitched. With his 16 wins in 1996, Pavano holds the Thunder’s all-time single-season wins record. He went on to pitch fourteen years in the major leagues and was named a NL All-Star in 2004 and was a key part of the Florida Marlins 2003 World Championship team.

Ian Kennedy – After going 5-1 with a 2.59 ERA and 57 strikeouts in 48.2 innings during the 2007 campaign with the Thunder, Kennedy has pitched for the Yankees and Diamondbacks. With the Diamondbacks, Kennedy led the National League in wins in 2011 and finished the year in 4th place in Cy Young Award voting.


Tony Franklin – Reigning Eastern League Manager of the Year, Tony Franklin is in his seventh season as Thunder manager. He is the longest tenured manager in Thunder history. Franklin has led the Thunder to four 1st place playoff appearances, including two back to back Eastern League titles in 2007 and 2008.

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A Yankees System Report Featuring Mark Newman

This entry was posted on July 22nd, 2013 @ 7:13 am by Jed Weisberger.
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TRENTON, N.J. – It’s always fun when Yankees Senior VP of Baseball Operations Mark Newman gets together with reporters.

The discussion gives a clue about the state of the Yankees farm system. There is plenty of talent on the way. There are detractors in this department as well, but some excellent kids are on their way.

Many have wondered why catcher Gary Sanchez, hitting .267 (86-for-322) with 13 homers and 61 RBIs in 83 games, and outfielder Mason Williams, batting .275 (86-for-313) with 19 doubles 20 RBIs in 78 games – and .348 in his last 10 – have not been promoted from Single-A Tampa to Double-A Trenton.

“Sanchez is making progress, and Williams is playing great right now,’’ said Newman. “Both will stay with Tampa the rest of the season.’’

Why? In Sanchez’s case, more work needs to be done on the overall running of a game. With Williams, whom the Yankees are looking to mature, the soon-to-be 22-year-old is just beginning to play as expected.

So the Yankees signed veteran catcher Jose Gil to play at Trenton and promoted Cuban expatriot outfielder Yeral Sanchez to play with the Double-A club.

Meanwhile, the Yankees are trying Pete O’Brien at third base after he earned promotion from Class-A Charleston after hitting .325 (63-for-194) with 22 doubles, 11 homers and 41 RBIs in 53 games as a catcher. He’s kept it going at Tampa, batting .307 (31-for-101) with six more homers and 28 RBIs in 25 games.

“With Sanchez, Murohy and Romine ahead of him behind the plate, and what he has been showing with the bat, we figured we’d try him at third base, where he played in high school (before catching at the University of Miami). We can always move him back to catcher.’’

Newman and the Yankees are pleased with right-hander Dellin Betances, who, with a switch to the bullpen, seems to have found a niche. Betances has a 6-4, 3.39 mark, a strikeout/walk ratio of 77-32 and has not allowed an earned run in his 10 last appearances over 18 innings.

“There’s nothing magical about what Betances is doing,’’ said Newman, who indicated the native of Brooklyn could get a big-league call-up.  “He’s throwing more strikes. It seems he does that when he goes to the bullpen, so that is where we will use him.’’

Betances has strengthened Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre’s bullpen while Mark Montgomery works his way back from back issues.  He pitched twice in the Gulf Coast League recently.

In Trenton, where outfielders Tyler Austin, Slade Heathcott and Ramon Flores have not dominated as some thought they might, Newman also sees progress.  Heathcott is 22, while Austin and Flores are 21.

“It’s age,’’ said Newman about the trio’s adjustments. Austin had a bad wrist for three weeks and, like 95 percent of competitive athletes, didn’t tell anybody about it because he wanted to play. Presently on the DL, Austin is hitting .254 (79-for-311) with six homers and 39 RBIs in 81 games.

“Heathcott is getting  hot,’’ said Newman, referring to a .304 clip and four multi-hit games in his last 10, boosting the Texarkana, Texas, native’s average to .260 (97-for-334) with five homers and 41 RBIs in 85 games. He’s also stayed healthy this season.

Flores, who has had some good streaks and not-so-good streaks, is hitting .241 (90-for-374) with four homers and 37 RBIs in 96 games.

“As Ramon matures physically, and he’s not there yet, he’ll hit for more power,’’ said Newman.

The Yankees are naturally pleased with first-round draft pick Eric Jagielo’s 15-game stint in Staten Island, where he is hitting .333 (18-for-54) with a homer and eight RBIs.

“Jagielo should be playing well,’’ said Newman. “We thought he was one of the top hitters in collegiate baseball (Notre Dame) last season. He’s got great makeup.’’

How quickly the infielder will move through the system depends on “how he plays,’’ said Newman.

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Nunez Working His Way Back in Trenton

This entry was posted on July 5th, 2013 @ 7:14 am by Jed Weisberger.
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TRENTON, N.J.  – Yankees shortstop Eduardo Nunez emerged from the Trenton Thunder clubhouse Thursday afternoon just as a reporter asked a question.

“Is there anybody in this (Yankees) organization who isn’t injured?’’ was the queery.

“Sometimes I wonder,’’ said the 26-year-old native of Santo Domingo, flashing a sheepish grin in the process.

Nunez, part of the parade of Yankees missing time, has been on the disabled list since May 12. He has not appeared with the Yankees since May 5. With Derek Jeter also sidelined, the club has gone through a myriad of shortstops, the latest being Luis Cruz, signed this week.

First diagnosed with sore ribs, Nunez has been nursing an oblique injury which rendered him unable to swing a bat in comfort in several weeks. He was finally cleared to play in games earlier in the week, arriving in Trenton for a stint with the Yankees’ Double-A club that will last two or three days.

Nunez led off and was the Thunder’s DH Thursday night in front of a holiday crowd of 7,826 at ARM&HAMMER Park.

“I feel good,’’ Nunez said. “No pain in my oblique. “I am able to swing without any pain. I’m really hoping to get back (to the Yankees) next week.’’

Nunez hit the ball; hard twice, but went 0-for-5 in the Thunder’s Eastern League loss to Reading Thursday. He’s scheduled to play shortstop for seven innings in Friday night’s contest and bat at least four times. A key is regaining his timing at the plate.

“That’s the plan,’’ said Thunder manager Tony Franklin. “He’s got to get his swings in against live pitching.’’

Whether he will play a few games with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre as well has not been determined. Neither has Alex Rodriguez’s schedule after Friday night’s appearance with Class-A Tampa.

Nunez, who was hitting .200 (16-for-80) in 27 games prior to his injury, is a .261 lifetime hitter with some power. He is frustrated he was unable to help the Yankees the last two months.

“Watching some of the troubles the team has had, I wish I could have helped,’’ said Nunez,  “I told to (Robinson) Cano a lot. He’s keeping me up-to-date with everything.

“I just want to make sure I’m healthy. Our team will come back. I know that.’’

Nunez is quite comfortable playing with the Thunder and in ARM&HAMMER Park, where he was an Eastern League All-Star in 2009, hitting .322 (160-for-497) with 26 doubles, nine homers and 19 stolen bases.

He was among the top offensive shortstops in the minors that season, but committed 31 errors in 123 games. Many of the miscues came when he tried to make a spectacular play. His defense is much more consistent now, but many still hammer away at a minor-league season that was in the past.

“I have no problem playing here as part of my rehab,’’ said Nunez. “I had fun here that season. The fans are great and so are the facilities. I’ll get my work in and get back to New York.’’

Nunez is making progress. The Yankees could use his bat. Tonight he faces another test.

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Did Pettitte’s 250 Lock Him for Hall of Fame?

This entry was posted on June 11th, 2013 @ 7:17 am by Mike Silva.
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Andy Pettitte locked up his 250th career win this past weekend against the Mariners. It now could be said the win also locked up his Hall of Fame candidacy, something that many thought was dead and buried after his retirement in 2010.

The naysayers will point out how Pettitte is the anti-Hall of Famer. He is good, not great. He is more a model of consistency than dominance. You could even point out the advantages he’s enjoyed playing with the best closer in the history of the game, as well as the Yankees’ resources. Although all are fair points I don’t believe you punish players for good fortune.

Wins have become the worst barometer for success in the modern sabermetric world. Jack Morris‘ entire HOF candidacy is viewed more on wins, which aren’t controllable, and anecdotes instead of the consistency he enjoyed during the 80s. Pettitte falls into a similar category except his performance north of 30 has dwarfed anything achieved by Morris. You could argue that Pettitte is a better pitcher today at 41 than during his mid-twenties.

There are ten pitchers with 250 or more wins that aren’t in the Hall of Fame.

Tom Glavine

Roger Clemens

Greg Maddux

Randy Johnson

Tommy John

Jim Kaat

Mike Mussina

Jamie Moyer

Jack Morris

Some are waiting for their turn (Maddux, Glavine and Johnson); while others (Clemens) have to hope the voters forget about their PED transgressions. Moyer, John and Kaat have unique careers that are more models of aging well than consistency. Morris may get in with the Veterans Committee since the sabermetricians have made him a sacrificial lamb for their movement. Its possible Mussina is the only “non-lock” that has a legitimate case for the Hall. I probably would have voted for Moose even before his final season in which he won 20 games. With that said, if Mussina is a Hall of Famer then Pettitte should be one, as well.

So why Pettitte? His ERA+ is right there with other Hall members (I am counting Glavine as a given) with 3,000+ innings pitched.

Bert Blyleven 118
Tom Glavine 118
Gaylord Perry 117
Andy Pettitte 117
Dennis Eckersley 116
Steve Carlton 115
Phil Niekro 115
Fergie Jenkins 115
Jim Bunning 115
Robin Roberts 113
Nolan Ryan 112

His Wins Above Replacement (59) would place him at 31, ahead of  names such as Whitey FordDizzy Dean and Sandy Koufax.

You can slice the pie anyway you want it. Pettitte doesn’t have a Cy Young Award (neither did Nolan Ryan), MVP or many top-five elite seasons. Shouldn’t consistency and improvement be important when judging baseball’s greatest honor? Are there many pitchers today that you would ask to take a big start over Pettitte? I might give it to him over his teammate and Cy Young winner, CC Sabathia.

There is the possibility Pettitte’s admission to using HgH will factor into his candidacy. He handled that scenario with honesty and class, the antithesis of what you saw with Clemens, Sosa and McGwire. If anything it may have endeared him to the voters more than before.

Once the voters allowed fringe candidates to enter the Hall they opened it up to others. It seems modern players take a hit because of PEDS, but also due to the fact they have technology and monetary resources that allow for a longer career. That, quite simply, isn’t fair or an intellectually honest argument.

I probably would vote for Mike Mussina, and would also support Andy Pettitte‘s induction.

It won’t happen on the first ballot, and may not come until the Veterans Committee calls. Regardless, if Catfish Hunter and Lefty Gomez are in the Hall of Fame, then Pettitte should probably be a lock.

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Draft is Baseball’s Annual Crapshoot

This entry was posted on June 7th, 2013 @ 7:15 am by Jed Weisberger.
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Do I enjoy following the Major League Baseball Draft? Of course I do. What’s not to like about baseball’s best crapshoot of the year?

The baseball draft is different than the others, in that, lasting 40 rounds, there is more chance for booms or busts in the selections.

Take the Yankees’ second first-round selection – outfielder Aaron Judge from Fresno State, who is 6-foot-7, 255 pounds. He is thought by some to have 30-home run potential, which would be a nice addition to the Yankees someday, and is listed as a solid fielder with a good arm.

I like the fact the Yankees took a chance on Judge. So what will he be, the next Dale Murphy or the next Mitch Jones or Eric Duncan?

Jones, you likely never heard of, Duncan, a Jersey kid, you might have. Jones was a 7th-round pick by the Yankees in 2000. He played collegiately at Arizona State and Utah Valley State University. Duncan was the Yankees’ first-round pick in 2003 out of Seton Hall Prep.

Both are great kids. Jones still holds the Trenton Thunder record for home runs in a season with 39. Hit 27 in Triple-A in 2005. Won the Triple-A Home Run Derby at that level’s All-Star Game by edging Texas infielder Ian Kinsler.  Duncan played 10 seasons in the minors, hitting .267 for the Northwest Arkansas Naturals, Kansas City’s Double-A club, in 2012.

Jones actually played in eight big-league games, appearing with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2009, hitting .308 (4-for-13). One of his four hits was a double.

Granted Jones wasn’t quite the investment by the Yankees Duncan was, but neither, with so much power potential, flamed out. Will Judge go the opposite way? It’s possible, but certainly not a sure thing.

So many factors enter into all this these days. One is the aluminum bat – the BBCOR which is used by the majority of high school and collegiate teams. No matter what is said, aluminum bays don’t behave like the good, old wood used in professional baseball.

Another is the ability to hit something other than a fastball for power. Clint Eastwood and Amy Adams, in the obvious contrived plot of “Trouble with the Curve’’ were right on with the high-school prospect who looked great both in the computer and against the fastball, but helpless against off-speed stuff.

Neither Jones nor Duncan mastered hitting the off-speed stuff, which is why both are retired and not household names anymore.

Yet, a high draft pick, the players in which teams have invested money, will certainly be given a longer rope than lower draft picks. The same is true with pitchers.

Teams have given top pitching selections millions, yet found a relative bargain with a later-round selection.  Take the case of success with Yankees starter David Phelps.

As a 14th-round pick, and Phelps makes no secret if this, he had to prove himself at every level, despite the fact all he did was win. Guys came and guys went. Some had command , others may have run into injury problems.

Yet, Phelps today is a solid member of the Yankees rotation. What 14th-round pick in this year’s draft will become a more-than-serviceable player?  There will be at least one.


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