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The Detroit Tigers are a rebuilding team with a plethora of promising pitching prospects. As of a few weeks ago, they also have a director of pitching development and strategies, and a coordinator of player development analytics. Each is a new position within the organization, and both are a step in the right direction. Dan Hubbs was hired to fill the first of those roles, Jordan Wergiles the last.

Who are Hubbs and Wergiles, and what will be their primary responsibilities? I asked those questions to Al Avila during the recently completed GM Meetings.

“Dan came from the University of Southern California, where he was the head baseball coach,” answered Avila. “Before that he was the pitching coach there for 12 years. He comes with a good knowledge of the technology that’s being used now. He understands the analytics that can help a pitcher get better. Basically, his challenge is to set up our pitching system.”

Addressing Wergiles — a recent Wake Forest University graduate who’d been interning for the Tigers — Avila spoke of the organization’s attempts to keep up with an ever-changing game.

“There are obviously some things that your average instructor, or pitching coach… those guys aren’t analysts,” said the GM. “Those guys don’t work with numbers. They work with human beings, so it’s more of, ‘Hey, here is what the numbers are telling us about this pitcher.’ [Wergiles] can be deciphering that to the coaches, so that they can make those adjustments with the pitchers.”

Requests to speak to Wergiles and Hubbs about their new roles were declined by the Tigers.

Avila name-checked another of his new hires — several have been announced — when asked to elaborate on the ramping up of his team’s analytical efforts.

“It’s a full-blown situation where you’re working with strength and conditioning, you’re working with trainers, you’re working with biomechanics,” said Avila. [Director of performance science] Georgia Giblin has got all the gadgets to put on the players, to test them for fatigue and whatnot. Then there is the video and what the numbers from Rapsodo are saying. It’s a pretty involved process. We’ll have all these people working as a unit, with Dan Hubbs in charge.”

That’s on the pitching side. The Tigers have also brought on board a new director of player development whose responsibilities will skew heavily to the offensive side of the ball. Kenny Graham spent the last four years as Milwaukee’s minor league hitting coordinator.

“It’s the same as what led to our pitching changes,” Avila explained. ”Kenny’s expertise is in hitting. He’ll set up our hitting systems, just like Dan Hubbs will be challenged with the pitching. Kenny’s first order of business is going to be hitting, and from there it will spread out to the other areas of player development. We’ll have a system for basically everything.”


The Oakland A’s have made a notable change. Last month it was announced that Ed Sprague will be replacing Keith Lieppman as the team’s director of player development. The latter had been in that role for nearly three decades.

I asked David Forst how the change came about, and how it might impact Oakland’s prospect pipeline.

“Keith came to me and said, ‘I think it’s time to take a step back,’” the GM told me. “This will be his 50th year with the organization, so he’s entitled to take whatever steps he wants. But he’s still going to be involved — he’ll serve as an advisor to Ed — so it’s as seamless a transition as you can have. It will just be a different look without Keith running the farm system.”

Sprague has been the team’s assistant director of player development, so the transition should indeed be smooth. That doesn’t mean that the department will be run in exactly the same manner.

“Any time there is a different voice at the head of a department, some things are going to change,” agreed Forst. “Ed has already come to me with ideas about managing people, and some of the technology he wants to use. He was really involved in all of our technological exercises over the last couple of years, so I think that’s something he’s going to push heavily. He’ll do some different things within our system.”

Sprague played 11 big seasons after being drafted out of Stanford University in 1988, and later served as the head baseball coach at the University of Pacific from 2004-2015. He joined the A’s player development department in 2016.


How soon do the Seattle Mariners expect to contend? Jerry Dipoto didn’t answer that question directly, but he did hint at a timeframe during the GM Meetings.

“Through our own intentions, [2019] was going to be measured by what we were doing developmentally,” Dipoto told a small group of reporters. “Much less so than by what we were doing in the big leagues. Our owners understood that. There’s going to come a point in time where that’s no longer the case. I don’t know when that point in time is, but I suspect that it’s sometime in the next year, year and a half. That’s when we believe that our young players will be better prepared for us to go out and add to them.

“Our payroll was about 136 [million],” added Seattle’s GM. “Over the last four years we’ve probably been 11th or 12th in MLB in overall payroll, and we’re probably not going to be too dissimilar from that next year.”



Babe Ruth went 1 for 21 against Gordon Rhodes.

Homer Smoot went 2 for 7 against Charlie Rhodes.

Carlos Pena went 0 for 10 against Arthur Rhodes.

Tuffy Rhodes went 0 for 10 against Ken Hill.

Dusty Rhodes went 5 for 10 against Brooks Lawrence.


Ashton Goudeau was one of four players the Colorado Rockies added to their 40-man roster this past week. Had that not happened, the 27-year-old right-hander would have been eligible for the upcoming Rule 5 draft, which will take place in San Diego on December 12, at the conclusion of the Winter Meetings.

He’s come a long way in a short time. Twelve months ago, Goudeau was signed as a minor-league free agent on the heels of a 5.79 ERA, which he put up in his first season in the Seattle Mariners system. Prior to 2018, he spent six wholly nondescript years as a Kansas City Royals farmhand.

He found a new level in 2019. Working as a starter for the Double-A Hartford Yard Goats, Goudeau logged a 2.07 ERA and a 2.64 FIP, and more strikeouts than baserunners allowed. He then punctuated his breakout campaign with 13 scoreless innings in the Arizona Fall League.

Asked about the acquisition of the former 27th-round pick, GM Jeff Bridich said that while Goudeau’s track record had been spotty, Rockies scouts liked “some of his measurables,” as well as his sturdy 6-foot-6 frame. It was a matter of adding polish, and Yard Goats pitching coach Steve Merriman provided plenty of it.

“The work he did with [Merriman] put him in a position to throw harder, and to locate his fastball better,” explained Bridich. ‘He’s always had a plus breaking ball. The added consistency, due to the mechanical stuff, and some of the sequencing we worked with him on, have put him in position to where he can be thought of as a guy who could get to the big leagues in the near future.”

The righty now relies on a fastball, a curveball, and a changeup, whereas “he used to be a four- or five-pitch guy.” Bridich said that Goudeau — his repertoire simplified and more-refined — will report to spring training as a starter.



Renowned baseball historian Dorothy Seymour Mills died a week ago today at age 91. Along with her late husband, Harold Seymour, she researched and wrote the groundbreaking “Baseball: The Early Years,” which was followed by “Baseball: The Golden Age,” and “The People’s Game.” In 2017, SABR established a lifetime achievement award in her name, to honor women’s contributions to baseball.

The Milwaukee Brewers have hired Ed Lucas as their new minor league hitting coordinator. A Dartmouth graduate and former big-league infielder, Lucas spent this past season as a player information assistant with the Phillies. He was featured in Sunday Notes on September 2, 2018.

Kristopher Negron has been named as the new Assistant to Director of Player Development for the Seattle Mariners. The 33-year-old former infielder played parts of six big-league seasons, appearing in 30 games for the Dodgers this past season.

The Baltimore Orioles have hired Eve Rosenbaum as their new director of baseball development. A Harvard graduate, Rosenbaum has spent the past two years as the international scouting manager for the Houston Astros.

Omar Vizquel will no longer be a part of the Chicago White Sox player development system. The former shortstop, and current Hall of Fame candidate, managed high-A Winston-Salem in 2018, and Double-A Birmingham in 2019.

The Yomiuri Giants, a team that has historically eschewed the posting system, have reportedly agreed to post pitcher Shun Yamaguchi. A 32-year-old right-hander, Yamaguchi is coming off a season where he went 15-4 with a 2.91 ERA. More information, including a breakdown of his pitch mix, can be found here.


The following paragraph appeared in my July 21 Sunday Notes column:

Tim Mayza has appeared in 99 big-league games, all with the Toronto Blue Jays, and has a won-loss record of 3-0. Over the past century, only Clay Rapada (8-0, 152 games) and Buddy Boshers (3-0, 100 games) have more pitching appearances without incurring a loss.

It took all of zero days for the jinx to rear its ugly head. That very same afternoon, Mayza allowed a walk-off home run — on the only pitch he threw, no less — and suddenly his unblemished record was history. Then it was Boshers’ turn. Called up from Triple-A by the Blue Jays on July 31, the lefty suffered his first defeat less than a week later.

Rapada is free from any such jinxes. The former journeyman southpaw threw his last professional pitch four years ago, and is now a coach in the San Francisco Giants organization.

What does he think of his obscure big-league record?

“It’s a crazy record,” Rapada told me earlier this week. “’But I’ve always believed that relievers shouldn’t be judged on wins and losses, or on ERA. If I gave my team a chance to win by keeping us in striking distance, I felt that I did my job. I also had a lot of good relievers coming in behind me, who saved my butt.”

Used almost exclusively as a LOOGY, Rapada threw just 93 innings in his 152 appearances. His splits were striking. Lefties logged a .486 OPS against his deliveries, while righties scorched him to the tune of 1.074. Would he have pitched in the big leagues, which he did for parts of seven MLB seasons, had that role not existed?

“I’d like to think I still would have,” said Rapada, who likened situational-relievers to football kickers. “When I was coming up, that’s all they told me to focus on — getting lefties out. Now that relievers are going have to face three hitters, there will be a need for a different focus.”

There will also be more opportunities for relievers to incur losses, as an increased number of batters faced means more baserunners allowed. Rapada’s record is likely to remain unbroken for a long time.


A Twitter poll I ran earlier this week asked the following question:

A player is considered elite, a probable Hall of Famer, throughout his playing days. Some years later, to his detriment, value is being measured differently. Is he a Hall of Famer?

The poll received 735 votes, with an overwhelming majority — 73% to be exact — choosing Yes. The result isn’t what I expected, but I agree with said majority. Today’s standards aren’t yesterday’s standards. Moreover, they aren’t tomorrow’s standards either.


Another Twitter poll I ran this week asked which of Dwight Evans and Larry Walker had the better career. Walker won in a landslide, garnering 87% of the support.

Some of their numbers are quite close. To wit, Walker had 383 home runs, 3,904 total bases, and 68.7 fWAR, while Evans had 385 home runs, 4,230 total bases, and 65.1 fWAR.

Expanding on the above, Evans has a slight edge in doubles (483 to 471), triples (73 to 62), and RBIs (1,384 to 1,311). Walker has a clear edge in wRC+ (140 to 129) and wOBA (.412 to .375). If awards float your boat, Walker has more All-Star berths (five to three), Evans more Gold Gloves (eight to seven).

Which of the former right fielders would I give the nod to? Quite honestly, I think it’s a coin flip. Are they both Hall of Fame worthy? In my opinion, yes.



At Bat Flips and Nerds, Ben Carter talked to Twins outfielder Max Kepler about baseball in Europe, past and future.

At Beyond the Box Score, Sheryl Ring wrote that Roger Clemens doesn’t belong in the Hall of Fame, and PEDs aren’t the reason why.

Baseball America’s JJ Cooper wrote about Major League Baseball’s proposal to dramatically, and injuriously, change the shape of Minor League Baseball.

Who was the greatest first baseman in Kansas City Royals history? Bradford Lee offered his opinion at Royals Review.



Jose Abreu came to the plate 693 times this year and grounded into a league-high 24 double plays. Yoan Moncada came to the plate 559 times and grounded into one double play.

Nick Markakis has 499 career doubles. Sixty-three players have hit more, including John Olerud and Goose Goslin, with 500 each.

Nicholas Castellanos has 140 doubles over the past three seasons, the most in the majors. JD Martinez has the most home runs (124). Charlie Blackmon has the most triples (28).

Curtis Granderson leads all active players with 95 triples.

The Pittsburgh Pirates have gone the longest with a league leader in RBIs. Willie Stargell led the senior circuit in that category in 1973. (per @JamesSmyth621)

Barry Bonds had 12,606 plate appearances and 5,976 total bases. Stan Musial had 12,718 plate appearances and 6,134 total bases.

On this date in 1953 it was announced that Walter Alston would be the new manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers, replacing Chuck Dressen. The Dodgers were coming off a season where they went 105-49 before falling to the Yankees in the World Series for the second year in a row.

The Dodgers have played in 20 World Series and come out on top six times. Their 14 Fall Classic defeats are the most for any franchise.

Mickey Lolich slashed .110/.215/.121, with no home runs, in 1,017 regular-season plate appearances. He homered his first time up in the 1968 World Series.

Dave Righetti played 16 seasons and had 16 career plate appearances. The first of his two hits came as a pinch-hitter.

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Another week is almost in the books, and with it came a flurry of Detroit Tigers news that was a bit more than one would expect for this time of year. From general manager Al Avila’s remarks about next season to Anthony Fenech’s response, from Lou Whitaker to Justin Verlander, the stories are included in this Friday edition of our links. So let’s just jump right in.

Avila expects another ‘challenging’ year
Al Avila spoke to the press during the annual general manager meetings on Wednesday about his expectations for the 2020 season. The tricky part, according to the GM, is balancing incremental improvements with the “big picture” goals of the franchise.

Avila is loathe to relinquish any of his prospects at this point in the rebuild, which has a significant effect on how the trade market will shape out for the Tigers. As far as free agent acquisitions are concerned, the GM admitted that the team struck out last year, but also noted the volatility of low-cost veteran players.

All in all, Avila paints a picture that looks disappointingly similar to last season. Hopefully, the new hires will help make a difference and move the needle in the right direction next season and for the years to come.

New hires should speak for themselves
Speaking of new hires, Anthony Fenech at the Detroit Free Press called out the Tigers’ front office for engaging in generic rhetoric and buzzwords when announcing the fresh additions to the staff. However, the criticism ends there, as he goes on to note the moves were also “a breath of fresh air” from Avila, and he has high hopes for the likes of sports scientist Dr. Georgia Giblin and Driveline-certified pitching guru Dan Hubbs, along with the others.

At the end of the day, it appears that Fenech just wants the veneer of vernacular used by the team to be more transparent. The Tigers have made some promising moves this week, but it will take patience to see if they pan out.

The story of Lou Whitaker
Lou Whitaker’s hometown newspaper, the Martinsville Bulletin, has published a fantastic two-part piece series on the former Tigers second baseman, telling the story of his life as a ballplayer. In the first half, Sweet Lou gives credit to his baseball peers growing up, without whom he would have never been challenged the way he needed to be. The second part discusses his Hall of Fame candidacy, and he path he followed to get to today. It is a compelling piece of work that every Tigers fan should read.

Justin Verlander has finally won his second Cy Young Award after another dominant season and a World Series appearance with the Houston Astros. Many believe this should be Verlander’s fourth or even fifth trophy, and those many would be right.

After some rather questionable finishes for the award in past years — the Rick Porcello decision in 2016, in particular — Verlander was bestowed the honor against his equally-deserving teammate Gerrit Cole. While the media and fans haggle over the metrics, there is no strong argument against the final decision.

Many of the names and numbers associated with this achievement are astounding. The list of accomplishments seemingly stretches a mile long.

Evan Woodbery at MLive also came up with some interesting figures, putting Verlander in some very elite company.

While it is tough to see the greatest Tigers pitcher of this generation winning awards with another team, fans can still appreciate what the right-handed hurler has accomplished in his Hall of Fame-worthy career.

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The Detroit Tigers have claimed David McKay off of waivers from the Seattle Mariners organization. McKay is a 24-year-old right-handed pitcher.
The Detroit Tigers completed their 40-man roster today by claiming David McKay off of waivers from the Seattle Mariners organization. McKay is a 24-year-old right-handed pitcher who has made several appearances in the major leagues with Seattle.

McKay has solid numbers throughout the Seattle farm system. In the minor leagues, he is 18-11 with a 4.81 ERA and 276 strikeouts over 231.0 innings pitched. In Triple-A specifically, he was 3-1 with a 5.04 ERA and 71 strikeouts in 44.2 innings pitched. He doesn’t have a ton of major league experience, but he has pitched 7.0 innings with a 5.14 ERA and five strikeouts.

McKay is another young arm to add to Detroit’s farm system. He is being optioned to Triple-A Toledo by Detroit. It seems like McKay strikes out a lot of batters but he gives up a few too many runs to be at the major league level. If he is able to get his ERA down successfully, he might get the call to Detroit before the season is over.

This new acquisition will add to a number of great pitching prospects in Detroit’s farm system. Which one of these pitchers make it to the big leagues will depend on their ability. Casey Mize and Matt Manning will almost certainly be called up at some point, even if it is not this season. McKay will have to compete with them and others for a roster spot in Detroit.

The Tigers today have claimed RHP David McKay off waivers from Seattle and he has been optioned to Triple A Toledo.

The Tigers 40-man roster is now at 40.

RELATED STORY: Check out how Detroit’s farm system ranks among others
With the 2019 season being an utter disappointment, it is good to see the Detroit Tigers going after young talent. The rebuild is in full swing, and it will be exciting to see new players getting the call to the bigs to help the team succeed in the future. David McKay may be able to do just that if he is successful.

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The Cleveland Indians were down a run in the 11th inning of the 1995 American League Divisional Series Game 2 when Albert Belle stepped to the plate. In the post-strike, abbreviated 144-game season, Belle had hit 50 home runs and 52 doubles, so none were surprised when he tied the game with one swing. The home run elevated from essential to legendary when Boston Red Sox manager Kevin Kennedy dared question the validity of the bat; prompting Belle to pull up his sleeve, flex his substantial muscle, and point to the bulging bicep to indicate the source of power.

Should the Indians have traded Belle with two years left on his contract?1

If they had moved Belle, fans would not have memories of one of the most dynamic offensive seasons by anyone ever to wear a Tribe uniform including the above sequence. Mo Vaughn’s name would not draw immediate vitriol in Northeast Ohio for winning a contentious AL MVP Award, Fernando Vina would not have been run over, and Belle would not have hit a grand slam to break a tie game against the Baltimore Orioles in the 1996 ALDS.

Such is the question fans of the Indians are forced to consider about Francisco Lindor as opposing teams salivate over the possibility of trading for the superstar shortstop and even purposefully leak information about potential trade returns to the media.

The argument to trade Lindor this offseason is simple yet flawed. Asset valuation dictates his trade value might be at a peak given the time remaining on his current contract will only lessen. Chief executive officer Paul Dolan’s own quotes demonstrate the ballclub does not expect to retain Lindor beyond that time frame.2 Thus, the Tribe will have more assets in the post-Lindor years by trading him than they would if they allowed him to sign elsewhere– even if the Qualifying Offer (QO) remains as-is in the next collective bargaining agreement (CBA).3

Application of the above would be logical if the front office believed the disappointing finish to the 2019 season was a harbinger of the contention window closing. If the 2020 season– and potentially the 2021 season– were not years the Indians thought the postseason possible, then ensuring the best team in the future would become essential as the front office did when trading C.C. Sabathia in 2008 and both Cliff Lee and Victor Martinez in 2009.

However, the situation for the upcoming Tribe campaign is quite different than the decade prior. Building around Lindor in the short-term rather than rebuilding in the wake of his departure is not only feasible but should be preferred. The team is coming off a 93-win season and only losing Jason Kipnis, Tyler Clippard, and Yasiel Puig as contributors with $15-20 million to spend this offseason to reach the same operating budget. The Indians return what is expected to be a strong rotation with Shane Bieber, Mike Clevinger, Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, and Aaron Civale. Jefry Rodriguez and Zach Plesac might be alternatives to plug in if the health should fail any of the Top 5 or converted into premier relief options. The bullpen will likely have to make up for the loss of Clippard, which having a full season of James Karinchak should do. The lineup has a couple of obvious holes at second base and the outfield, but those should be plugged through free agency– or even a trade. Upper-level prospects such as Nolan Jones, Daniel Johnson, and others appear near-ready to contribute.

Most fans claim winning a World Series is the most important objective for the Cleveland Indians. Well, it will be nearly impossible for the Tribe to be a better team in 2020 or 2021 without the best shortstop and Top 5 player in all of baseball on their roster. The 26-year-old Lindor is entering his prime and has compiled a 23.2 fWAR since 2016, which is only topped by Mike Trout, Mookie Betts, Christian Yelich, and Anthony Rendon.4 There should be little doubt the Indians World Series odds are higher for the next two seasons by retaining Lindor.

Navigating the AL Central division appears to be challenging but manageable. The Minnesota Twins were a phenomenal story in 2019– for fans of baseball outside Northeast Ohio– but the team is not without serious questions despite the expectation they will remain a formidable opponent. An offense reliant on a record-setting home run binge might need to adjust to Major League Baseball re-instituting a regulation ball with more drag and less bounce… what percentage of those home runs become long flyouts? Is Jake Odorizzi now a premier pitcher well worth the $18 million contract he was given for next year or will he revert to the mediocre starter he was from 2013 through 2018? If he reverts, will the Twins have enough in the rotation after Jose Berrios? Can the bullpen repeat the excellence they demonstrated in the second half of 2019? Can they hope to repeat a 23-12 record in one-run games?

The rest of the division is far less worrisome. The Chicago White Sox appear to be stuck in a loop: “a year or two away” unless they can have a substantial offseason.5 The Kansas City Royals and Detroit Tigers are still paying for the years they propped their contention windows open by trading away what was then their future and is now their present.

The American League has the Houston Astros stuck in a scandal-filled offseason, and the Boston Red Sox contemplating trading Betts. The New York Yankees are stacked, yet still have impending questions about their rotation. The Tampa Bay Rays and Oakland Athletics are among the teams who could push for the postseason. There will be elite ballclubs to contend with, of course, but there always will be. The last 71 seasons on Indians baseball have demonstrated just how difficult it is to win even a single World Series… again making elite stars– such as a certain ever-smiling lead-off hitter– essential on teams with enough overall talent to contend with the variability of short series baseball in October.

There is also the effect of the optics from a Lindor trade on the long-term fan psyche. The economics of being a small-market baseball team add monetary and psychological disadvantages in developing a consistently winning franchise and loyal fanbase. Astute fans frustratingly understand that the best of the best players are merely on loan– hopefully, for the highlight years of their career. Belle, CC Sabathia, Victor Martinez, and Manny Ramirez were each with Cleveland for eight years. Lindor has already shaved a year off of those totals by betting on himself.6 If the current ruminations come to fruition, they would subtract another two. The belief for how long the Indians will have ‘the next Lindor’ will in part rest on how they handle ‘the current Lindor.’

Maybe there are some valid reasons to trade a super-star player while they still hold high value and will give a bounty in return. However, any strategic deployment removing multiple seasons of a Hall of Fame caliber player in their prime from a contending ballclub’s roster is simply wrong. Keep the casual fans engaged by being competitive with the most marketable player in Major League Baseball, while maximizing the Lindor-window and trusting the loaded lower-levels of the farm system will be able to help beyond it.

In an alternative universe, the Indians front office would have spun the phrase Manny being Manny as a reason they needed to trade Ramirez after the 1998 season and missed having his two best offensives seasons being those wearing a Tribe uniform. Jim Thome’s jersey would have been torn off his back by a trade after the 2000 season; never having the opportunity to team up with Ellis Burks and Juan Gonzalez. Albert Belle would have been remembered mostly in Cleveland for giving Jason Grimsley his audition for Mission Impossible.

No thanks. Let’s stick with this reality, and let’s stick with Lindor in an Indians uniform for as long as we can.

That would mean before the 1995 season. After falling just short of a World Series championship during that October run, Belle would only play one more season with the Tribe before joining the division-rival Chicago White Sox after the 1996 season through free agency. Part of the recourse of losing Belle in free agency was trading fan-beloved Kenny Lofton for David Justice and Marquis Grissom to help plug the hole in the outfield; with those players helping the Indians return to the World Series in 1997. [↩]
To be fair, Albert Pujols was considered to be the greatest hitter in MLB for awhile. He also has been worth -0.2 fWAR since 2015, while the Los Angeles Angels have paid him about $150 million in that timeframe with two more seasons at $30 million each to go. Having an albatross contract such as that one would devastate a smaller market team. [↩]
The players have been quite unhappy with the CBA lever, so there is a decent chance the QO has less value than now. [↩]
Among position players. [↩]
Signing catcher Yasmani Grandal is a significant start. [↩]
i.e. Not signing a pre-arbitration deal that buys out a year of free agency. [↩]

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For fans of the Detroit Tigers, this can still be a heartbreaking topic. But Justin Verlander’s storied career rolls on in Houston, and the milestones are starting to pile up. He’s not just ours anymore, but whatever comes, he’s going to go down in the books as one of a handful of greatest Tigers of all-time. On Friday night, Verlander passed another notable name in Tigers’ lore, Frank Tanana, on major league baseball’s all-time strikeout list.

Verlander made mincemeat of the Astros’ interstate rivals, the Texas Rangers, in a 3-0 victory at Minute Maid Park on Friday. He one hit them, giving up two walks, and punched out eight in a seven-inning outing. The seventh strikeout tied him at 22nd all-time in strikeouts alongside Tanana. In the seventh, with two outs, Verlander struck out Rougned Odor to claim the spot all alone with 2774 strikeouts total for his career.

Verlander is now just 29 strikeouts from catching the legendary Cy Young, who ranks 21st with 2803 strikeouts. Mike Mussina lurks ahead of Young at 2813, so Verlander should enter the top 20 by July on his current pace. He still needs 226 strikeouts to become the 18th player to reach 3000 strikeouts, but it’s certainly not out of the question that he’ll reach that mark by late September. A few more seasons at roughly this pace, and Verlander will force himself into the top ten all-time.

More and more, the Hall of Fame credentials are piling up for the 36-year-old ace. And he continues to show no signs of slowing down from what now appears an incredible late career peak starting in the second half of the 2015 season. The lack of the Cy Young awards he should arguably have won in 2012, 2016, and 2018, don’t look like they’re going to hold him back.

As for Tanana, the left-hander pitched parts of 21 seasons, from 1973-1993, and won 240 games. Drafted by the Angels, the flame-thrower lost his elite velocity due to arm injury and had to reinvent himself with craft and control. He pitched for the Boston Red Sox, as well as the Texas Rangers, before coming to Detroit in 1985. Tanana would pitch for the Tigers for eight seasons, with the highlight coming in a complete game shutout of the Toronto Blue Jays on the final day of the 1987 season to clinch a division title.

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With the passing this month of Fred Guyer and Russ Streeter, Springfield lost two of its champion athletes from the 1950s and ’60s. Both graduated from Springfield Technical High School, Guyer in 1956, Streeter in 1961.

Guyer, who passed away Oct. 18 at the age of 81, was a late-blooming football star who went on to an illustrious career in the Springfield Fire Department. Streeter, who died Oct. 5 at the age of 76, starred for Tech in soccer, hockey, baseball and golf, then went on to more athletic glory at American International College.

Guyer never played football until he got to high school. Coach Russ Peterson spotted him one day in gym class and told him he should be playing football because of his strong physique.

Once Guyer decided to give the sport a try, he worked so hard at it that he became a star blocking back for Tech’s 1954 Western Mass. championship team led by single-wing tailback Chet Boulris. Then, as a senior in the fall of 1955, Guyer became the tailback and made The Sunday Republican’s All-Western Mass. first team.

Fred captained the Tech Tigers of 1955, and his brother Ed served as football captain at Springfield Trade in that same season.

With the Fire Department, Fred Guyer served for 36 years, retiring in 1999 as a highly decorated lieutenant.

Streeter, who died at his home in Bartlett, Illinois, was an All-Western Mass. first- team selection in soccer and hockey. Coach Milt Orcutt’s Tech team had an undefeated soccer season in 1959 and capped it with the Western Mass. championship.

In 1960, Streeter served as soccer tri-captain with Dan Socha and Al Leiper on a team that shared the WMass championship with Ludlow.

At AIC, Streeter played hockey for two of the college’s legendary coaches, Bill Turner and then Joe Buchholz.

After graduation from AIC, Russ and his wife, Connie — his Tech ’61 classmate — moved to the Chicago area where he began his career with Sears, Roebuck & Co.

T-BIRDS IN TUNE: Whenever the Springfield Thunderbirds play an American Hockey League game against a visitor from Canada, they have a soloist sing “O Canada” before the puck drops.

Such will be the case tonight at the MassMutual Center, when the T-Birds host the Belleville Senators of Ontario. Bill Squires of Longmeadow will do the honors.

Squires is a veteran of anthem singing at sporting events of all sorts. He’ll be singing the National Anthem at UMass women’s and men’s basketball home openers.

Squires’ performance tonight will be well received by both teams. The Senators and Thunderbirds each have 13 Canadian players on their rosters. In addition, both coaches, Springfield’s Geordie Kinnear and Belleville’s Troy Mann, are Canadians.

LEFTY ON CAMPUS: Larry Hasenfuss, a 67-year-old Sturbridge resident who earned a master’s degree in human services at Springfield College when he was 58, returned to campus this week for a visit. He had lunch with three of his professors, Marty Dobrow, Bill Clements and Richard Andersen.

While he was pursuing his advanced degree, Hasenfuss went out for the baseball team. He made the sub-varsity when he was 57 and did a lot of pitching.

“Larry was a rarity — a left-handed knuckleballer,” Professor Andersen said.

Andersen is well-known as the author of “A Home Run for Bunny,” about the Springfield Post 21 American Legion baseball team of 1934 that took a stand against racial segregation. The team withdrew from a regional tournament in Gastonia, North Carolina, when it found that its one African-American player, Bunny Taliaferro, would be barred from playing.

Dobrow is the author of “Going Big-Time,” the story of the rise of UMass basketball to national prominence; and “Knocking on Heaven’s Door,” the story of six local baseball minor leaguers trying to make the majors.

AIC HOMECOMING: American International College’s football team (2-4) hosts Franklin Pierce (1-5) at 11 a.m. today on Ronald Abdow Field as the centerpiece of homecoming weekend activities.

The Yellow Jackets’ two victories have come on their home field, against Bentley and Southern Connecticut. Franklin Pierce comes to town with a five-game losing streak in which it has allowed 50 or more points in each game.

AIC’s weekend activities also include field hockey vs. Adelphi at 3:45 and women’s volleyball vs. St. Michael’s at 4. The schedule also includes alumni games in softball, baseball, volleyball and lacrosse.

MARTIN’S MEN: Brown University men’s basketball coach Mike Martin, a Lahovich Award winner at Cathedral High School in 1999, has a veteran team ready to start the season Nov. 5 at Bryant College.

Martin graduated from Brown in 2004 after an outstanding basketball career, and became his alma mater’s head coach in 2012.

His Bears went 20-12 in 2018-19 — the first 20-victory season in the university’s history — when he was named Ivy League coach of the year.

In addition to a solid core of upperclassmen, Martin has four blue-chip freshmen who figure to see a lot of playing time. His Bears play their first home game Nov. 9 against Canisius.

ATTENTION FAMERS: Springfield’s Public Schools Sports Hall of Fame committee needs contact information (mailing address, email address, telephone number) from the following electees in its Class of 2019, or a family member: Charles Jutras ’51, Philip Brais ’67, Martin Brick ’65, Robert Nyman ’71, Milton Jones ’72, David Plant ’64, Harold Ethier ’38, Barry Muldrew ’65, Ronnie Rose ’71, George Hargrove ’08, George Wilson ’09, Evan Graham ’07, Nate Collins ’10, Daniel Salgado ’10, Anthony Brooks ’11, Bemnet Banks ’11,Wendale Hale ’08, Jayto Teh ’11.

Electees or family members can reach committee chairman Dwayne Early at [email protected], or by telephone at 787 7100, ext. 55490.

TODAY’S TRIVIA: Last night’s World Series game was the first played in Washington, D.C., since Oct. 7, 1933, when the Senators lost the clinching Game 5 to the New York Giants 4-3 in 10 innings. The rosters of those teams included six players who would be elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame — first baseman Bill Terry, outfielder Mel Ott and pitcher Carl Hubbell of the Giants; shortstop Joe Cronin and outfielders Heinie Manush and Goose Goslin of the Senators. By the way, that Game 5 featured a real save by veteran Dolf Luque, who was 43 years old. He threw four and one-third scoreless innings for the Giants in relief of starter Hal Schumacher.

BEST BET for the weekend: Maximum Security, in the Bold Ruler Stakes at Belmont.

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“He’s a seven-day-a-week ballplayer.” – Red Rolfe

Third base remains baseball’s enigmatic position, the one where fielding prowess stands on equal ground with hitting skill.

It is the rarest of combinations, and the position that has sent the fewest major leaguers to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

But third baseman George Kell parlayed his skills with the lumber and the leather into one of baseball’s most consistent careers of the middle part of the 20th Century.

Kell broke into the big leagues with the Athletics at the end of the 1943 season, then took over as Philadelphia’s every day third baseman the next year at 21 years old. After two get-your-feet wet seasons where he struck out just 38 times out of 1,088 at-bats – and finished 22nd in the American League MVP vote in 1944 – Kell was traded to the Detroit Tigers on May 18, 1946 for Barney McCosky.

It was a trade A’s owner Connie Mack would long regret.

Kell hit at least .304 from 1946-51, going to the first of five straight All-Star Games in 1947. He finished fifth in the MVP voting in 1947 with a .320 average and 93 RBIs, then hit .343 in 1949 – winning the batting title by .0002 over Ted Williams and denying Williams his third Triple Crown.

Kell had his greatest season in 1950, hitting .340 with 114 runs scored and 101 RBIs.

Kell was traded to the Red Sox during the 1952 season, and bounced to the White Sox and the Orioles before finishing his career in 1957 with his 10th-and-final All-Star selection. He was selected to the Mid Summer Classic roster in 10 of his final 11 seasons.

“George Kell is a thoroughbred,” said Hall of Fame shortstop Lou Boudreau.

Kell wrapped up his career with a .306 average – better than every Hall of Fame third baseman except Frank Baker, Wade Boggs, Fred Lindstrom and Pie Traynor. His ringing right-handed line drives left him with a .300-or-better average in nine straight seasons. He struck out just 287 times.

Following his career, Kell broadcast Tigers games from 1959-63 and 1965-96.

Kell was elected to the Hall of Fame by the Veterans Committee in 1983. He passed away on March 24, 2009.

“I have always said that George Kell has taken more from this great game of baseball than he can ever give back,” said Kell at his 1983 Hall of Fame induction. “And now I know, I am deeper in debt than ever before.”

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Remarkable as it is that Kyle Schwarber made the Cubs’ World Series roster after missing nearly the entire regular season, he isn’t the first to achieve that feat.

In fact, perhaps the most prominent example of that kind of comeback came in the last World Series that featured the Cubs.

Virgil Trucks was one of the more reliable pitchers in baseball in 1942 and 1943, posting ERAs of 2.74 and 2.84, respectively, while spending most of each season in the Detroit Tigers’ rotation. After the 1943 season, he enlisted in the Navy and joined the powerhouse Great Lakes Naval Training Station team managed by Hall of Famer Mickey Cochrane.

That all-star squad composed largely of big-league players who had joined the service routinely beat major league teams and colleges in exhibitions. As his Society for American Baseball Research biography notes, Trucks eventually moved on to active-duty postings in Hawaii and the Pacific in which he was able to pitch regularly against other Navy and Army teams. He was discharged in the summer of 1945 as World War II wound to a close and returned to the United States just in time for the final days of a pennant drive.

Tigers manager Steve O’Neill ultimately gave Trucks the ball to start the season finale Sept. 30 at the St. Louis Browns, which Detroit entered with a one-game lead over the Washington Senators. Trucks, making his first major league appearance since Oct. 2, 1943, allowed one run in 5 1/3 innings before giving way to Tigers ace Hal Newhouser. Detroit trailed 3-2 headed into the ninth before another serviceman recently returned from overseas, Hank Greenberg, hit a grand slam that clinched the AL pennant for the Tigers.

Trucks had proven his worth, and he got the start in Game 2 of the World Series against the Cubs at Detroit’s Briggs Stadium. The Tigers needed a boost coming off a shutout loss in Game 1 and Trucks provided it, allowing one run in a complete-game victory.

“Virgil Trucks was faster than anyone we saw all year in the National League,” Cubs manager Charlie Grimm told The Sporting News afterward.

Trucks also got the start in Game 6 at Wrigley Field, coming away with no decision in a wild affair won by the Cubs in 12 innings. That 8-7 win kept Chicago’s title hopes alive, but Detroit closed out the series two days later in Game 7, starting the clock on a return to the World Series that would take 71 years to arrive.

As for Trucks, he ended up pitching in the majors through the 1958 season, twice making the All-Star team and famously throwing two no-hitters in 1952 despite posting a 5-19 record that year.

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When Lou Whitaker was playing Major League Baseball for the Detroit Tigers, most fans and writers only paid attention to the statistics on the back of baseball cards. Hits, home runs, batting average, and RBIs were the teller of a player’s ability.

By those metrics, Whitaker was seen by the baseball world as good, not great. He had a career batting average of .276 and 2,369 career hits. His most home runs in a season was 28, and his most RBIs was 85.

Whitaker, who grew up in Martinsville, appeared just one year on the Baseball Writers Association of America Hall of Fame ballot, garnering just 2.9% of the vote in 2001. Players need at least 5% to stay on the ballot each year.

But now, as sabermetrics, defined as “the application of statistical analysis to baseball records,” has taken over the game and those who study statistics have begun digging deeper into the numbers of retired baseball players, a new appreciation for Whitaker’s career has grown.

Not only was Whitaker the American League’s Rookie of the Year in 1978, a 5-time All-Star, 4-time Silver Slugger, and 3-time Gold Glove Award winner in his 19-year career, he also finished with 75.1 career wins above replacement, or WAR, a statistic used to represent how many victories a player provides his team versus what a “replacement level” player could provide.

By WAR alone, Whitaker is 75th in baseball all time. He has the fourth-highest WAR of non-Hall of Fame players, behind Barry Bonds, Pete Rose and Bill Dahlen.

There are dozens of other new stats that paint Whitaker in a much different light than those Hall-of-Fame voters saw in 2001, and now a new set of voters will get a chance to take a look at the second baseman. Whitaker has been placed on the ballot for the Hall of Fame to be voted on by the Modern Era committee, which will meet to vote on Dec. 8.

“My fans just kept saying, ‘Lou, you’re next, you’re next,’” Whitaker, a graduate of Martinsville High School, said by phone last week. “You sort of understand what they’re saying but you sort of dismiss it because until it happens nothing is really concrete. I’ve always appreciated the support from the people who watched me play over the years. Even not getting more than 15% on my first ballot, most people would say, ‘Man that was a travesty,’ and couldn’t believe it.

“What can you say? Proud, happy, joyful, jovial. All those adjectives one can only think of to be in a position like this.”

Although Whitaker doesn’t have a plaque in the museum in Cooperstown, N.Y., his presence in its walls is certainly known. His jersey is there alongside shortstop Alan Trammell, his long-time double-play partner in Detroit. The two played more than 1,900 games beside one another, the most of any pair of middle infielders in baseball history.

Whitaker’s minor-league teams would play exhibition games in Cooperstown, and he said the players would walk through the building and see the names of the greats before them.

Now, decades later, the Hall of Fame has expanded, with TVs throughout showing highlights. Whitaker says it’s “50 times better now” and the amount of information “tells you everything you don’t even know about yourself, so to speak.”

“If that day comes, Martinsville is welcome, and they’ll get an opportunity to see the things I’m talking about,” he said.

Actually getting inducted is different, though. It’s about more than just jerseys and memorabilia. It’s a chance for players to be memorialized for all time.

“Because once your name disappears from that sort of light, you’re sort of forgotten in the sense of nobody really goes back and thinks about players,” Whitaker said.

Whitaker said he knows if it weren’t for the Modern Era committee he too would have just been one who played, had a decent career, and that would have been it. It took looking at the serious numbers, the deeper dive, for what he did to be fully appreciated.

He points out that most of his home runs came during crucial times of games, and the numbers agree. He had 75 career homers when the game was tied. Sixty-seven of his home runs came in the seventh inning or later.

He also points out that he wasn’t able to drive in so many runs because, for most of his career, he hit either first or second in the batting order.

“That’s something that [former Detroit Tigers Manager] Sparky Anderson used to tell me all the time. He used to tell me about all the great players, and he’d say, ‘Lou, you know what, some of these guys are hitting 35 or 40 home runs, and I bet you 30 of them probably didn’t mean anything,’” Whitaker said. “It’s so many different ways of really judging or looking at a players and seeing how valuable they were to a team.”

Whitaker also put just as much emphasis on his defense as he did his play at the plate. He turned more than 1,500 double plays and had had 6,600 career assists, both in the top-10 all time among second basemen at the time of his retirement. In 19 seasons he had just 189 errors.

Like the sabermetrics, these are numbers that Hall of Fame voters weren’t really looking at in 2001.

“They’re starting to see, ‘Wow, how did this particular guy get overlooked for all these years and years?’” Whitaker said. “These guys are basically seeing like, ‘How in the world could Lou Whitaker be overlooked? Man look at his numbers.’ And then they even say out of all the players that ever played Major League Baseball, they have a stat and they say, ‘What? Lou Whitaker is 77, 78 out of everybody that’s ever played baseball? What?’ And they look at this WAR … I’m above [Roberto] Alomar, [Derek] Jeter.

“Keeping up with those little numbers like WAR and all this other stuff, because when we played in our days it was just hits, home runs, and RBIs, you know what I mean? And those were your superstar players back then. They were the top 10 in hitting and RBIs and homeruns…and that’s still the big numbers but now they look at all this other stuff. They look at all these other stats when judging player’s value and ability, to see how valuable they are to their team.”

Throughout his career, Whitaker said he always felt like there were people who tried to make him feel less valuable than he truly was. But he didn’t play to impress others. He didn’t play to rack up big numbers. He played to win, and he played because he loved the game.

“I enjoyed playing baseball. Loved it. Just being out there having fun doing something I loved to do, because that’s what I did in Martinsville,” he said. “When I played baseball it wasn’t about who got the most hits, and who hit the most home runs in that day, but who won. And that’s the only reason I played the game is I played to win.”

His hope, he said, is that his play on the field would be enough. Now that he’s got another chance, it just might be.

Cara Cooper is the sports editor of the Martinsville Bulletin. You can reach her at (276)638-8801 ext. 241.

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The positive thing about Thursday night’s inexcusable violence near the end of an NFL game between the Cleveland Browns and the Pittsburgh Steelers is that so many people were stunned by it. Even teammates and the coach of Cleveland’s Myles Garrett, who removed the Pittsburgh quarterback’s helmet and hit him with it, called his actions “inexcusable” and “totally unacceptable.”

Myles Garrett suspended after brawl. NFL experts weigh in on what it means
That means a strong sense of decorum and civility remains in American competitive sports, which is encouraging. Garrett is now suspended for the rest of the season, and maybe longer. Some are urging the league to make an example of him through severe penalties and possibly even assault charges.

The league needs to react to Thursday night’s melee in a decisive way that signals it intends to take violent behavior seriously, both on and off the field.

Clearly, it also needs to do a better job of evaluating the link between repeated legal blows on the field and violent behavior. The long-term effects of those hits may have been typified last summer by Le’Ron McClain, a retired fullback, who tweeted a desperate plea for help and claimed the league wasn’t doing enough.

In fact, the league settled a class-action suit recently, offering up to $5 million in compensation to players dealing with the effects of head injuries. But that doesn’t adequately address problems on the field that lead to those injuries and, perhaps, violent behavior — a problem that affects the game at all levels.

To be clear, we’re not suggesting a connection between what happened Thursday night with head injuries — just that the violence again has brought a focus to a sport that, by nature, can be brutal.

The league needs to react to Thursday night’s melee in a decisive way that signals it intends to take violent behavior seriously, both on and off the field.
It’s important, as well, to put Thursday’s incident in perspective. There may be no excuse for using a helmet as a weapon, but sports has a long history of similar disturbing incidents.

Fifteen years ago, an NBA game was marred when Indiana’s Ron Artest leapt into the stands in Detroit and, aided by four teammates, attacked fans.

Even that wasn’t unprecedented. Back on May 15, 1912, Ty Cobb of baseball’s Detroit Tigers and several of his teammates took to the stands in New York with baseball bats. Cobb beat a fan who had lost one hand and three fingers on the other years earlier during a printing press accident.

In a 1938 football game between Tulane and Louisiana State, a fight erupted and was joined by fans and players. The Associated Press said some fans tore apart parts of the stadium and used its pieces as clubs. The fighting “went on ’till darkness,” the report said.

Local fans may recall when BYU defensive tackle Pulusila Filiaga jumped an umpire in 1981 and began punching him before other players pulled him away. That resulted in a season-long suspension.

As spectator sports grow ever more important in American society, the ability to confine violence within the boundaries of well-defined rules and a field, court or rink can become a measuring rod of civility in a broader sense.

Reaction to Thursday’s fight would indicate that the dividing line between sport and emotion remains strong. But there is more organized sports can do to keep it that way, both during games and, where players are concerned, for years after.