In my latest for The Hardball Times, I take a look at Dave Duncan and his legacy. He coached the White Sox into the playoffs and molded World Champion pitching staffs in Oakland and St. Louis, all the while turning unlikely pitchers into aces and Cy Young Award winners.
For one season he ran the pitching for the Seattle Mariners. Could he have put together a championship caliber rotation and bullpen there? If the stats on the 1982 Mariners were any indication, Seattle missed a big opportunity when they let Duncan go after his one year.
A lot of people have written about how twice the Rangers were one pitch away from winning the 2011 World Series. But my friend Gar Ryness (better known as The Batting Stance Guy) pointed out an interesting fact.
They were an out from winning the World Series in back to back innings, but they weren't one pitch away from winning twice.
They were one pitch away from winning the 2011 World Series 15 TIMES!
On 15 different occasions, a Ranger pitcher threw a pitch that could have clinched the World Series if a reasonable scenario took place.
In the 9th inning with one out and runners on first and second, Allen Craig came up where a ground ball could have turned into a World Series clinching double play.
Yeah both David Freese and Lance Berkman had their at bats go down to the final strike, but they could have popped up or grounded out on the first, second or third pitches.
And I am not coming up with outlandish "Line Drive Triple Play" scenarios nor counting the four balls thrown to Albert Pujols when he was intentionally walked in the 10th inning.
Remembering my brother in Curse of the Bambino dialing my uncle for each pitch the Red Sox could have clinched in 1986, I know all too well that the expectation of excitement builds with each pitch.
Rangers fans, I feel for you.
And let's review all 15 pitches.
Bottom of 9th inning Neftali Feliz Pitching Texas 7, St. Louis 5 2 on, 1 out.
PITCH 7 - Low and Outside, 1 Ball 0 Strikes. PITCH 8 - Called strike on inside corner, 1 Ball 1 Strike. PITCH 9 - Swinging strike, 1 Ball 2 Strikes. PITCH 10 - 2 Run Triple to Right Field to tie the Game
Bottom of 10th inning TEXAS 9, ST. LOUIS 8 Scott Feldman pitching 2 on, 2 outs
PITCH 11 - Fouled back out of play, 0 Balls 1 Strike. PITCH 12 - Inside, 1 Ball 1 Strike. PITCH 13 - Swinging strike, 1 Ball 2 Strikes. PITCH 14 - Low, 2 Balls 2 Strikes. PITCH 15 - RBI Single to Center Field to tie the Game.
After Berkman's single, the Rangers were never a pitch away again. Of the 15 pitches, 9 came with 2 outs, where a pop up in the infield or a grounder (or Nelson Cruz timing his leap correctly) would have made champs out of Texas.
I never saw Jim Kern pitch. Not live at least. If I saw him on TV, I have no memory of it.
But yet I remember Jim Kern vividly. I didn't remember the fact that he was a 3 time All Star and finished 4th in the 1979 AL Cy Young Award balloting.
Nope. I remembered that every year it seemed like he just looked happy on his baseball card. I mean just look at his 1979 Topps Card.
The guy is loving life! He's playing for a 90 loss Indians team going nowhere in a hurry, but he's laughing away.
He's an All Star with mess up hair and the bad ass "Tomahawk C" hat and a full set of teeth,
This guy is ready to take the mound and have a great time.
In 1979 he switched teams to Texas and won the Rolaids Relief Award. That would put a smile on anyone's face.
I distinctly remember being 7 years old and laughing when I saw this card.
Later in Texas he grew some ridiculous facial hair but that obviously didn't put a damper on his mood.
I have no idea if he was a cool guy or not.
But I remember thinking even as a kid that he looked like he was having fun and savoring being a ball player.
Jim Kern was a state of mind. A way to look at life.
It was about positivity and being happy with where you are.
Now contrast that with Warren Brusstar.
Man this guy always looked mad.
Maybe he was ticked off that his hat didn't quite cover his curly hair, giving him a "White Oscar Gamble" quality.
Maybe it was playing in the rough Veterans Stadium in some intense playoff caliber actions.
Maybe he was grinding his teeth in pain from all the shoulder injuries he piled up as a sinker ball pitcher
Or perhaps, unlike Kern, Brusstar had a thankless job. He wasn't a starter and he wasn't a closer. He piled up neither wins (he got 28 over 9 big league seasons) nor saves (14 total in his career) in an era when those two stats seemed to be the only yard stick people had to measure a pitcher's value.
Either way, as a kid, I thought he looked really mean.
And he kept looking mean as the years went on.
Being a part of a World Champion and pitching in the 1980 World Series didn't put a smile on his face..
Even a hair cut and moving to The Friendly Confines of Wrigley Field couldn't cheer him up.
Come on man! You are a big league pitcher with a World Series ring! Cheer up!
So that's my advice to you my dear readers. Embrace the Jim Kern within. Wear that smile. He may not have a won a World Series, but he seemed to have more fun along the way.
With Brad Lidge leaving Philadelphia for the Nationals today, I realized that exactly 1/2 of the pitchers who have clinched a World Series for the Phillies switched teams. The late Tug McGraw was the other one.
I asked the Phillies fans to pay to pay their respects to Lidge today. But later I realized that the fraternity of Phillies pitchers to clinch a post season series is actually very very small.
Despite being a member of the National League since the 19th century, the Phillies went from 1903, the year of the first World Series, to 1979, a World Series I remember watching, without a single post season series victory. They lost the 1915 and 1950 World Series. They lost the 1976, 1977 and 1978 NLCS. And less said about 1964 the better.
In fact if the Houston Astros got another hit in the 9th inning of Game 4 of the 1980 NLCS, their searched for post season victory would have been prolonged.
And yes he gave the Phillies headaches throughout 2009 and lost that key Game 4 of the World Series.
But Phillies fans... say good bye and salute the man.
Don't focus on his bizarre and grotesque 2009. Don't bring up the Pujols homer, the Podsednik homer and losing 2 games in the 2005 World Series and his horrible last 2 years in Houston.
Remember Lights Out Lidge. Remember how he arrived in Philadelphia basically as a reclamation project in exchange for Michael Bourn and he turned into the closer the Phillies were searching for.
Remember how he went a perfect 41 for 41 in save opportunities in the 2008 regular season. And then remember the 7 for 7 he went in saves for the post season, including the glorious moment of striking out Eric Hinske to win the World Series.
Also remember that despite being dreadful in 2009, Lidge closed out both the Division Series and clinched the National League pennant, picking up 3 saves and a win before his World Series meltdown.
For many Philadelphia fans, Lidge's strikeout of Hinske was the first championship they experienced in their lives. Using my "You don't follow a team until you are 7 years old" formula, any Philadelphia fan 32 years or younger had gone their whole lives without seeing one of their teams winning a title.
Now? They've got a Phillies World Championship. And they would not have made it past the Mets, Brewers, Dodgers nor the Rays without the anchor in the bullpen.
The lights are out. Give him his due respect, Phillies fans.
In 2021 when Prince Fielder is limping along, 9 year older and heavier, finally has his overblown contract expire, Tiger fans can look at Angel fans and say "Hey! We're out of this deal! You've got one more with Albert Pujols!"
Remember Fielder is at least 4 years younger than Albert (assuming that Pujols' birthday is correct) and appears to have a few more peak seasons.
Don't get me wrong, giving 9 years to a fat slugger could be a horrifically terrible idea. But its better to give one to someone who still has 2 years in his twenties left to play.
Man if that gut gets any bigger... this could be Mo Vaughn all over again!
The Cincinnati Reds signed utility infielder Willie Harris today. It is hardly an earth shattering move. His job is to provide the Reds with some depth in their infield to allow them to develop Paul Janish and Zack Cozart.
Harris was a utility player for the Mets last year and has the kind of career that fascinates me.
He was a 24th round pick by the Orioles in 1999. Very few of the players drafted after him that year played a single game in the majors. Most of those who did had brief cameos (the Sean Henns and Darren Clarkes of the world.) Jason Frasor and Mike Jacobs were drafted after Harris, but no other big leaguer of note.
Instead of being a career minor leaguer with perhaps one cameo in the show, Harris has now played in 11 different seasons in the majors, starting games in left field, center field, second base, third base, shortstop and right field.
He hit for a good average in the minors and stole a lot of bases and made his big league debut on September 2, 2001 where he was in the same lineup as Cal Ripken Jr.
A survivor in baseball, he went from the Orioles, to the White Sox to the Red Sox to the Braves to the Nationals to the Mets.
He played with Ramirez and Ortiz and the Big Hurt. He played under Frank Robinson and Bobby Cox.
(His time in Atlanta must have been sweet for Harris, a Georgia native, as evidently his family roots for the Braves no matter team he plays on!)
Future Hall of Famers Ivan Rodriguez and John Smoltz were his teammates. And when Stephen Strasburg made his electrifying debut on June 8, 2010, he was lifted for a pinch hitter. Guess who the hitter was? Willie Harris.
But of the many highlights, game saving catches and stolen bases in his career, he was front and center in a historic franchise's greatest moment.
For whatever reason, the White Sox are always short changed in the National attention department and the "beloved" status.
But in 2005, a year after the Red Sox lifted their curse and 2 years after the Cubs blew a chance to erase theirs, the White Sox stormed through the playoffs.
In the Division Series against the defending champion Red Sox, Harris smacked a pinch hit RBI single in the 14-2 blow out victory. He didn't appear in the ALCS but stole a base as a pinch runner in the White Sox extra innings victory in Game 3 of the World Series.
Then came Game 4. With the White Sox on the verge of winning their first World Series title since 1917 (and erasing memories of the 1919 World Series scandal), Chicago and Houston were in a scoreless stalemate in the 8th.
Freddy Garcia was masterful but manager Ozzie Guillen lifted him for pinch hitter Willie Harris. He led off the inning with a single to left off of Brad Lidge and moved to second base on a sacrifice by Scott Podsednik. With 2 outs in a game where both teams squandered scoring opportunities, eventual World Series MVP Jermaine Dye hit a 1-1 pitch up the middle scoring Harris. (Picture above).
It was the only run of the game. The White Sox won 1-0. They won the World Series. Willie Harris forever can be called a World Champion.
And it should be noted that three times in that post season he was called off the bench. All three times he delivered. When a runner was in scoring position, he drove him in. When he was asked to pinch run, he stole a base. When asked to lead off, he started a World Series winning rally.
And do you wonder how a 24th round pick always manages to find work in the big leagues? Because he plays every position and delivers when asked.
Is he a star? Nope. Never will be. But he's played more than a decade of major league baseball, was a regular for several of those seasons, has a World Series ring and earned a few million dollars along the way.
I have a feeling the Reds will be happy with this signing.
Jamie Moyer is going to try and keep pitching. He’s sitting on 267 wins and signed with the Colorado Rockies (always a good place for pitchers to revive their career) at age 49.
More than one person has noted that Moyer has pitched in the majors longer than some players have been alive. And that’s true, seeing that he’s logged 24 years in the show. But we here at Sully Baseball don’t just make idle statements. We create 25 man rosters.
So here a 25 man roster of the best players born after Jamie Moyer’s big league debut. I used June 16, 1986 as the absolute oldest date allowed for this roster. He pitched 6 1/3 innings at Wrigley Field that day, earning the win for the Cubs against the Phillies. He beat future Hall of Famer Steve Carlton that day. He got future Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt to ground into a double play.
Every single player on this roster was born AFTER that day.
Felix Hernandez, Billy Butler and Yovani Gallardo were born in 1986, but before his debut, so I excluded them.
But don’t worry. There are All Stars, World Series heroes and even a Cy Young Award winner who can honestly say that Jamie Moyer has been a big leaguer longer than they’ve been alive.
The 2010 Rookie of the Year gave the Giants a much needed spark in their lineup and helped propel them to the World Series title. His season ending injury in 2011 probably ended his catching career. He has 32 career starts at first base.
Posey was born on March 27th, 1987, just before Moyer began his second season in the majors.
Andrus, stolen from the Braves organization in the Mark Teixeira deal, has been the spark plug for the Rangers back to back pennant winners. He has at least 32 steals in all three of his seasons and stole 4 bases in the Rangers ALCS upset over the Yankees in 2010.
Andrus was born August 26, 1988, three days after Moyer threw a complete game 9-3 victory over the Astros, helped by a home run by future Hall of Famer Andre Dawson.
The beloved “Kung Fu Panda” exploded onto the scene and into the hearts of Giants fans in 2008. He posted an OPS above .900 in both 2009 and 2011 and provided much needed home run pop. He struggled in the Giants World Series title run but clubbed a key RBI double in the NLCS against Philadelphia.
Sandoval was born on August 11, 1986, the same day Jamie Moyer and the Cubs lost 10-7 to Pittsburgh.
McCutchen, a rare Pirates draft pick that wasn’t a bust, is the electric and multi talented centerpiece to the franchise. Super fast with power and a flare for the dramatic, he made the 2011 All Star team with 23 homers, 23 stolen bases, 89 RBI and a 127 OPS+.
McCutchen was born on October 10, 1986, 15 days after Moyer pitched 7 solid innings against the eventual World Champion New York Mets.
The first pick in the 2005 draft made it to the Diamondbacks in time to play in the 2007 NLCS. He broke out in 2009 and last year was one of the best players in the National League, displaying 31 homer power, 21 stolen base speed, an OPS of .898 and helped propel Arizona back into playoffs. He crushed 2 homers in the Division Series against Milwaukee.
Upton was born on August 25, 1987, 5 days before Moyer got roughed up by Atlanta in a 13-4 Cubs loss.
A key part in the Reds turnaround, Bruce was a consistent home run threat and an All Star in 2011. His walk off homer clinched the NL Central title for the Reds in 2010 and was one of the most dramatic moments in Reds history.
Bruce was born on April 3, 1987, 4 days before Moyer would throw 1/3 inning of relief for the Cubs in their 9-3 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals.
One of the most dynamic young pitchers in the game, Kershaw had dynamic stuff right out of the minor leagues. But everything came together in a magnificent 2011. He led the league in wins, ERA, strikeouts, WHIP and hits per nine innings and winning the Cy Young Award over favorites Roy Halladay, Tim Lincecum, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels.
Kershaw was born on March 19, 1988, just before Moyer was to begin his third season in the major leagues.
A 22nd round draft pick, Hanson worked his way up the Braves system to become a mainstay in their rotation. He has a career 3.28 ERA over 460 1/3 innings pitched during his three years in Atlanta. Hanson started a game in the 2010 Division Series against the Giants.
Hanson was born on August 28, 1986, the day after Moyer lost a 7-1 game for the Cubs in Houston.
Garcia finished third in the 2010 Rookie of the Year vote when he won 13 games to a 2.70 ERA for the Cardinals. He won 13 games the next year and started 5 games in the post season. He had a 1.80 in over 10 innings in the 2011 World Series.
Garcia was born on July 8, 1986, 2 days before Moyer lasted only 2/3 of an innings in the Cubs 11-4 loss to the Dodgers.
After losing Matt Garza and many other key members to their pitching staff, the Rays needed to look within for the 2011 season. They found Jeremy Hellickson who went 13-10 with a 2.95 ERA over 189 innings. He won the Rookie of the Year and helped pitch the Rays to their third playoff berth in four years.
Hellickson was born on April 8, 1987, 5 days before Moyer pitched 8 strong innings, striking out 12 to win the game for the Cubs over the Phillies.
Once a top prospect for the White Sox, Hudson flourished with the Diamondbacks in 2011. He won 16 games and logged 222 innings as Arizona made it back to the playoffs. He also batted .277 and won the Silver Slugger Award.
Hudson was born on March 9, 1987 as Moyer was in spring training getting ready for his second big league season.
Another part of the terrific Mark Teixeira trade, Feliz became the Rookie of the Year in 2010 and clinched the Rangers first ever pennant. He closed out their second pennant the next year and came within a strike of clinching the World Series. At age 24, he has become one of the top closers in the game.
Feliz was born on May 2, 1988, the same day Jamie Moyer pitched 6 innings and got the win for the Cubs in Jack Murphy Stadium, San Diego.
“The Cuban Missile” arrived on American shores with an arm that seemed super human. He averaged 12.8 strikeouts per inning pitched and has almost a 2 to 1 strikeout to walk ratio while hitting triple digits on the radar gun.
Chapman was born on February 28, 1988, just as Jamie Moyer was reporting to spring training after 2 seasons in the bigs.
Kimbrel was brought up to help the Braves during the stretch run in 2010 and his 17.4 strikeouts per 9 innings gave Atlanta an outstanding pen. The next year he kept up his dazzling numbers, saving 46, striking out 127 and walking only 32 in 77 innings. He won Rookie of the Year in 2011.
Kimbrel was born on May 28th, 1988, 4 days after Moyer pitched into the 10th inning of a hard luck 3-0 Cubs loss to the Atlanta Braves.
“The Super Nova” gave the Yankees an unlikely source of depth on the staff in 2011. After an unremarkable promotion in 2010, he received Rookie of the Year consideration in 2011, winning 16 games and throwing 165 1/3 innings. In the suspended Game 1 of the Division Series, Nova won the game with 6 1/3 effective relief innings.
Nova was born on January 12, 1987, after Moyer’s first season in the majors.
Castro became one of the elite shortstops in the game before he could legally buy a drink. A solid hitter with some pop, he finished 5th in the 2010 Rookie of the Year vote. The next year he made the All Star team while leading the league in hits. Off the field problems are already haunting him, but they are unresolved as of this writing.
The first big leaguer born in the 1990s, Castro was born on March 24, 1990 just as Moyer was beginning his second season with the Texas Rangers.
The left handed power hitting third baseman provided some pop for the Pirates when he arrived in Pittsburgh during the 2010 season. His numbers tailed off during his second year in the Steel City but remains an important piece in the Pirates hopes for 2012 and beyond.
Alvarez was born on February 6, 1987, just as pitchers and catchers were reporting for Cubs spring training and Jamie Moyer was preparing for his second season.
The J-Hey Kid homered in his first at bat and became an instant fan favorite in Atlanta. He wound up hitting 18 homers posting a 131 OPS+ and finishing second in the Rookie of the Year vote as the Braves returned to the playoffs. He tailed off badly in his second year but remains a big reason for the Braves optimism for the years to come.
Heyward was born on August 9th, 1989 while Jamie Moyer was recovering from injuries. He would come back to the Rangers that September.
Acquired from the Yankees in the Curtis Granderson deal, Jackson gave the Tigers a solid centerfielder with speed and extra base power. He finished second in the 2010 Rookie of the Year vote. The next season he led the league in triples and played a key part in Detroit’s Division Title.
Jackson was born on February 1, 1987 as Moyer was preparing for his second big league season.
There are several choices for the 25th man, but I am going with Bumgarner for the way he shone on the biggest stage. The 20 year old Bumgarner already showed he had great stuff for the 2010 Giants, but in Game 4 of the World Series he threw 8 shutout innings against the hard hitting Rangers to earn the victory and put San Francisco on the cusp of the title. He won 13 games and pitched to a 3.21 ERA over 204 2/3 innings in 2011 helping create an incredible 1-2-3 punch in the Giants rotation with Lincecum and Cain.
Bumgarner was born on August 1, 1989 as Moyer was rehabbing and a month before he returned to the Texas rotation on September 5th.
That is a solid 25 man roster with some other names left off.
Rick Porcello, Michael Pineda and Chris Volstad are all talented arms. Matt Moore has already had post season glory. Alicides Escobar and Gerardo Parra have had their moments. Mike Trout will probably become a big star.
And Colby Rasmus is in my doghouse, so forgive me if I went with 5 other outfielders.
And Jamie Moyer can come up to each of these players and say “Hey, I’ve been doing this longer than you’ve been on this Earth!”