Random Awesomeness (part 183)

Random Awesomeness

Pre-order Bachman – Heavy Blues.

2015 Reds, 1990 Score style: Michael Lorenzen @lorenzen55

003 Michael Lorenzen

The first round draft pick for the Reds in 2013, Michael Lorenzen is one of the top pitching prospects in Cincinnati’s farm system. Pitching for the Pensacola Blue Wahoos of the Southern League in 2014, Lorenzen posted a 4-6 record with a 3.13 ERA while striking out 84 batters. While it is doubtful he will debut in Cincinnati right out of spring training, a September call-up is not out of the question for 2015.

A product of Cal State Fullerton, Lorenzen is the youngest of four brothers. The oldest, Jonathan Lorenzen, was a 14th round draft pick in 2000 and pitched in the Dodgers system until Tommy John surgery derailed his dream.

Speaking of surgery, I will not be posting much over the course of the next couple of weeks as I will be recovering from eye surgery. There may be a couple of scheduled posts, but should be back to normal by mid-March if all goes according to plan.

2015 Reds, 1990 Score style: Aroldis Chapman

002 Aroldis Chapman

One of the most dominant closers in the majors is fireballer Aroldis Chapman. He has been an All-Star for three straight seasons, with 113 career saves through five seasons. If the Reds’ starters can give him some save opportunities this year, he could reach the 150 mark. The Reds have two more seasons with the Cuban Missile before he is eligible for free agency, but I’d be willing to bet that he will be wearing another uniform before the 2016 season is over.

2015 Reds, 1990 Score style: Bryan Price

001 Bryan Price

2015 (ex)Reds, 1990 Score style: Mat Latos (Miami Marlins)

MIA Mat Latos

Reds fans knew at least one starting pitcher would be dealt during the off-season. Johnny Cueto, the ace, and Homer Bailey, with his long-term contract, were not likely candidates to depart Cincinnati. Mat Latos and Mike Leake were the two most talked about possibilities (perhaps because everyone forgot about Alfredo Simon, despite his stellar first half in 2014). Leake will stay put with the Reds; Simon is now a Tiger; Latos returns to his home state of Florida for the 2015 season.

I believe the Reds gave up too much for Latos in 2011, even though the four players sent to San Diego have not amounted to much. Sure, Edinson Volquez had a nice year with Pittsburgh in 2014, but that was after five subpar seasons. I hope Kansas City gets their money’s worth for him. Back to Latos, though. I believe the Reds bought high and sold way too low. The biggest problem Cincinnati faced during the off-season was left field, but that problem was ignored in both trades. They unloaded payroll without adding much talent.

Getting rid of Latos’ salary was important, especially if they are able to put some of that cash toward retaining Cueto, but the failure to address the current or future personnel needs of the organization is troubling.

Also troubling is the interview published by Ken Rosenthal on FoxSports.com over the weekend. Latos spoke with the writer about leadership issues that he saw within the Reds clubhouse after the departures of Bronson Arroyo and Scott Rolen. However, the pitcher did not indicate that he tried to address those issues while he wore the Cincinnati uniform.

“When Scott was there, we had guys doing exactly what they were supposed to do. After Scott left, we had guys with two years in the big leagues, in the clubhouse, on their phones, laying down in the video room, just hanging out during games, not in the dugout, not cheering their teammates on. Our dugout looked like a ghost town. After Bronson, the same exact thing. We had starters in there roping our (clubhouse attendants), like, cattle-roping our clubbies. Guys on their computers, buying stuff, hanging out in the clubhouse. We had a guy with a year-and-a-half in the big leagues wandering around the clubhouse, hanging out. We had a closer in there sleeping until the seventh inning.”

The Reds had several players that could have (and apparently should have) stepped up and put a stop to this behavior. Homer Bailey, Joey Votto, Brandon Phillips, Ryan Ludwick—all veterans with experience who should be teaching the younger guys the proper way to act in the big leagues. This is definitely an issue that Bryan Price must address during spring training, but it is up to the players to enforce it during the season.

I again question Latos’ willingness to address problems with his former team, but failing to act while he was here. That kind of openness is generally frowned upon by management, and the Bledsoe Brothers might want to address that with their client so he doesn’t diminish his free agent value when the 2015 season ends.

Painting The Corners: Off-Center Baseball Fiction by Bob Weintraub (2014)

painting

Painting The Corners: Off-Center Baseball Fiction
by Bob Weintraub
Yucca Publishing, 2014
224 pages

Baseball is, more than any other major sport, a game of numbers. Statistics play a greater role and hold more importance to fans in this sport than they do in football, basketball, or hockey. Pitching match-ups are analyzed, fielding metrics are scrutinized, hitting trends are studied, and all of this information is readily available to players, coaches, broadcasters, and casual fans with a few clicks of the computer mouse.

At the same time, however, baseball lends itself to art. Former Kansas City pitcher Dan Quisenberry wrote poetry about the game, and the late Commissioner A. Bartlett Giamatti wrote an impassioned essay entitled “The Green Fields of the Mind” about the national pastime. The sport is a favorite backdrop for Hollywood as well, serving comedies and dramas as well as biographical films. It is no surprise, therefore, to find a collection of short stories involving the diamond.

Bob Weintraub’s Painting The Corners: Off-Center Baseball Fiction is a fine collection of eleven tales mixing humanity, irony, and humor with our favorite game. Whether it is an elderly man signed for the express purpose of bunting runners over or an old-timer getting a second chance to make a play he flubbed during his career, Weintraub not only infuses just enough realism to make each story plausible, but enough imagination to make them enjoyment.

The way the stories are crafted will allow the reader to forgive the author for any predictability in the plots. If you can’t wait for Opening Day, or if your team falters out of the gate, Painting The Corners may help cure your baseball blues.

Learn more about Yucca Publishing.

Purchase Painting the Corners by Bob Weintraub.

Growing Up Pedro by Matt Tavares (2015)

pedro

Growing Up Pedro
by Matt Tavares
Candlewick Press, 2015
40 pages

Following excellent books about Hank Aaron and Ted Williams, the latest subject of a Matt Tavares children’s baseball biography is new Hall of Famer Pedro Martinez. Tavares tells young readers the story of a young boy who grew up watching his brother Ramon Martinez pitch in the Dominican Republic, dreaming of playing together in the major leagues. The author and illustrator follows Pedro’s journey pitching with his brother in Los Angeles, to becoming the best pitcher in baseball in Montreal, to a World Championship in Boston.

Tavares is in top form as his illustrations help tell the story of one of the greatest pitchers of the past thirty years. The book is aimed toward 8-12 year olds, and the text is certainly written on that level, but the artwork can be appreciated by baseball fans of any age. Tavares’ illustrations perfectly depicts Pedro’s intensity.

Learn more about Matt Tavares.

Learn more about Candlewick Press.

Purchase Growing Up Pedro by Matt Tavares.

Random Awesomeness (part 182)

Random Awesomeness


Purchase L.A. Guns – Cocked & Loaded.

R.I.P. Jerome Kersey

(June 26, 1962 – February 18, 2015)

kersey

A second-round draft pick in 1984 for the Portland Trail Blazers, Jerome Kersey passed away Wednesday at the age of 52.

101 Baseball Places to See Before You Strike Out by Josh Pahigian (2015)

101baseball

101 Baseball Places to See Before You Strike Out
by Josh Pahigian
Lyons Press, 2015 (2nd Edition)
256 pages

Everyone has a bucket list, even if it is not written down. Many baseball fans’ bucket lists are full of places to see, be it stadiums, museums, or other exhibits. Author Josh Pahigian gives baseball bucket listers a leg up with the second edition 101 Baseball Places to See Before You Strike Out. There are ballparks—major league, minor league, and amateur—and museums, but Pahigian goes a little deeper with some out-of-the-ordinary stops as well.

The Beyond the Vines Columbarium located at the Bohemian National Cemetery in Chicago has to be one of the most interesting entries. Although I would not rank it as high as Pahigian (who places it at #9), I am intrigued by the site and plan to make it a part of my next trip to Chicago, along with the Batcolumn (#32 on his list). I would personally replace several of the minor league and amateur parks with museums and major league stadiums, but that’s the beauty of bucket lists. Everyone has different goals and different destinations.

101 Baseball Places to See Before You Strike Out is a must-have for the baseball traveler, a handy guide to alert yourself to baseball attractions in the vicinity of your next family vacation.

Learn more about Lyons Press.

Purchase 101 Baseball Places to See Before You Strike Out by Josh Pahigian.

A tragically short four-year career

Lyman Bostock

Lyman Bostock was a star on the rise when his life came to a screeching halt on September 23, 1978. The outfielder was shot and killed while sitting in a car at an intersection in Gary, Indiana. He was not the intended victim; the shooter was aiming for his estranged wife, who he thought was guilty of infidelity. The shooter was tried and found not guilty by reason of insanity. He was committed for psychiatric treatment, but was given a clean bill of mental health just seven months later and was released back into society. Indiana changed state insanity laws shortly thereafter, making it possible for an insane person to be found legally guilty and serve time in prison after psychiatric treatment.

Bostock was fourth in the American League in batting average in 1976, behind George Brett, Hal McRae, and Rod Carew. In 1977, he was bested only by his teammate and future Hall of Famer Carew, who hit at an amazing .388 clip. In his tragically short four-year career, Bostock hit .311 for the Minnesota Twins and California Angels.

[This is the fifty-third of a series of “pre-season” baseball cards published at TWJ cards on tumblr. At least one new virtual card is planned for each day from now until Opening Day. Follow TWJ cards on tumblr for more.]

The kindness of bloggers

I recently sent Jim at GCRL a handful of Dodger cards, and he responded in kind with some Reds goodies. Here are a few of the cards that are now a part of my collection…

14 mesoraco

The Redlegs just signed their up-and-coming catcher Devin Mesoraco to a new 4-year deal worth $28 million. It boggles my mind that sports contracts are so much today. And we keep supporting them by shelling out big bucks to the games, at the concession stands, at the souvenir shops. I get by as cheaply as I can, and I don’t load up on souvenirs and such, but it’s still a mystery to me how they get away with it.

00 casey

Sean Casey was inducted into the Reds Hall of Fame a few years ago. I never really paid much attention to “The Mayor,” as his career was largely during my dark days of “baseball is for kids” days. During that time, very few players were on my radar, and Casey simply wasn’t one of them.

10 harang gold

A few years ago, I joked that Aaron Harang always pitched when we went to a game. I couldn’t stand seeing him on the mound, but it seemed like every single time we went to the park he was the starting pitcher. Then, for the 2011 season, he signed a free agent contract with the Padres. And wouldn’t you know it, the very first Reds game we went to was against the Padres, and Harang was pitching. I saw him again late in the 2013 season when the Mets came to town. I’m willing to bet we will go to a game in 2015, and he’ll be pitching for the Phillies. I just can’t stay away from Aaron Harang.

08 volquez

I liked Edinson Volquez, and was upset when the Reds traded him to San Diego for Mat Latos. To me, Latos never lived up to his potential, and I was not upset when he got shipped off to Miami this year (where he will probably wind up winning the Cy Young Award). Meanwhile, Volquez signed a 2-year deal with a team option for 2017 with the Kansas City Royals. I don’t think he’ll replace James Shields, but hopefully he’ll be more like the 2008/2014 Volquez than the 2009-2013 Volquez for KC.

Thank you for the cards, Jim!

You Can’t Make This Up by Al Michaels with L. Jon Wertheim (2014)

al michaels you cant make this up

You Can’t Make This Up
by Al Michaels with L. Jon Wertheim
William Morrow, 2014
304 pages

[Review by new TWJ contributor Jim. We are excited to have Jim as a part of the TWJ team, and look forward to future reviews!]

When I saw Al Michaels had written a book, I knew I would have to get my hands on a copy to hear all the great stories he had to tell. I was not disappointed in the least. Al was flawless in relaying hundreds of stories over his career and beforehand as well. Born to a loving mother and father in Brooklyn, Al never had to eat vegetables and grew up watching the Dodgers at Ebbets Field after attending school n the morning because the school was too crowded for him to go all day. Then he moved to Los Angeles and attended Arizona State University to develop his broadcasting skills.

Of his many stories, one of the highlights for me was him talking about his first impression of Cincinnati when he arrived. He was the broadcaster of a minor league team in Hawaii before he came to Cincinnati, so he was taken aback by the winter scenery. He also felt that living in the great state of Kentucky was a little too much of a step back from Hawaii. He tells of a time when Reds broadcaster Joe Nuxhall cussed out some players who were playing a joke on him and it went out on the broadcast. Growing up listening to Nuxhall, I laughed, picturing him doing something like that. All in all, You Can’t Make This Up is a great book for any sports fan. Al has experiences in many different sports, so there is something for everyone.

Learn more about William Morrow.

Purchase You Can’t Make This Up by Al Michaels.

100 Years of Who’s Who in Baseball by the Staff of Who’s Who in Baseball and Douglas B. Lyons (2015)

100 Years of Whos Who in Baseball

100 Years of Who’s Who in Baseball
by the Staff of Who’s Who in Baseball and Douglas B. Lyons
Lyons Press, 2015
216 pages

Who’s Who in Baseball debuted in 1912 with a cover price of fifteen cents. There were no new editions until 1916, when it became a yearly publication. Boasting lifetime records of star players originally, Who’s Who in Baseball now chronicles career statistics and photos of every major league ballplayer. This volume, 100 Years of Who’s Who in Baseball, is not a collection of all those records, but rather a collection of the covers of each previous Who’s Who, along with brief biographical sketches of the cover boys—from Ty Cobb to Babe Ruth to Miguel Cabrera to Mike Trout—and happenings in the big leagues.

If you are familiar with Who’s Who in Baseball, and simply want to see every black-and-white (with a red background) cover through the years, you will not be disappointed. However, if you are looking for in-depth discussion of the players and events, you might find 100 Years lacking. Many of the biographies barely reach a half page, at least until the 1960s, when more than one player is consistently featured. There are also some editorial oversights throughout, such as listing Tom Browning‘s perfect game among the 1998 highlights rather than 1988.

As a history book, 100 Years of Who’s Who in Baseball will leave the reader wanting more. As a celebration of the annual publication, though, it is adequate.

Learn more about Lyons Press.

Purchase 100 Years of Who’s Who in Baseball.

The kindness of strangers

A reader named Mike contacted me several weeks ago, telling me of a Kurt Stillwell card that he had not seen on my blog. It was a self-issued “testimonial” card, autographed by the former shortstop/second baseman. He also offered a 1988 team-issued postcard, of which I was aware but had not yet obtained for my collection. I sent him a few Stillwell cards he was missing from his collection, and Mike sent these two cards:

Kurt Stillwell baseball cards

But Mike didn’t stop there. He included several other Reds cards, including an autographed Duane Walker 1983 Topps…

walker

…and nearly the entire set of 1990 Best “All-Decade” Cedar Rapids Reds, a set that includes Eric Davis, Chris Sabo, Paul O’Neill and several other stars of the 1980s and 1990s Reds teams!

cedarrapids

These cards were unexpected, but very much appreciated. Thank you Mike, for your kindness! I’m on the lookout for more Stillwell cards from your wantlist!

Henry Aaron’s Dream by Matt Tavares (2010)

Henry Aarons Dream book review

Henry Aaron’s Dream
by Matt Tavares
Candlewick Press, 2010
40 pages

When Hank Aaron was young, there were no black men playing baseball in the major leagues. Jackie Robinson‘s debut in 1947 paved the way for players like Aaron to show the world their talents. Author Matt Tavares writes about a time in Aaron’s life many ignore: his early years in Mobile, Alabama, and his brief time in the Negro Leagues with the Mobile Black Bears and Indianapolis Clowns. There are also several pages devoted to Aaron’s life in the minor leagues, both on and off the field, and finally his ascent to the majors in 1954. Though he was not the first black baseball player, Aaron still faced a great deal of racism as he played the game he loved.

Much like There Goes Ted Williams, the best part of Henry Aaron’s Dream is the artwork. Written for third through seventh graders, Tavares’ artwork makes the story come alive for youngsters who are being taught about the legends of baseball as well as important social issues. There is nothing new here for long-time fans of the great home run hitter, but the beautiful illustrations easily make it worth the purchase price.

Learn more about Matt Tavares.

Learn more about Candlewick Press.

Purchase Henry Aaron’s Dream by Matt Tavares.

R.I.P. Dean Smith

(February 28, 1931 – February 7, 2015)

Dean Smith

Longtime North Carolina men’s basketball coach Dean Smith passed away Saturday at the age of 83. He left quite a legacy in the game, coaching several college players that would turn pro, including all-time greats James Worthy and Michael Jordan.

Random Awesomeness (part 181)

Random Awesomeness


Purchase Judas Priest – Defenders Of The Faith (30th Anniversary Edition) available March 10!

Super Baseball Infographics by Eric Braun, illustrated by Laura Westlund (2015)

Super Baseball Infographics

Super Baseball Infographics
by Eric Braun, illustrated by Laura Westlund
Lerner Publications, 2015
32 pages

Infographics are a great way to learn facts about almost subject. The internet is littered with thousands of infographics on a variety of topics. Eric Braun and illustrator Laura Westlund have joined forces to put sports facts in infographic form for younger readers to introduce them to the games we play. Super Baseball Infographics is a nice collection of random facts, such as the greatest home run hitters in history, the number of World Series won by each team, and the science behind fastballs and curveballs.

Super Baseball Infographics is designed as a simple introduction to the sport, and does not contain a great deal of information so it should not overwhelm young readers who are just learning about the big leagues.

Also available in the Super Sports Infographics series are books about football, basketball, and hockey.

Learn more about Lerner Publications.

Purchase Super Baseball Infographics by Eric Braun, illustrated by Laura Westlund.

Facing Michael Jordan edited by Sean Deveney with Kent McDill (2014)

Facing Michael Jordan

Facing Michael Jordan: Players Recall the Greatest Basketball Player Who Ever Lived
edited by Sean Deveney with Kent McDill
Sports Publishing, 2014
224 pages

Former Knicks and Rockets coach Jeff Van Gundy said, “[I]f you don’t take a peek back every once in a while, you can start to forget just how great he was.” Only twelve years after his retirement, it is difficult to believe anyone has forgotten Michael Jordan‘s legendary work on the hardwood. But just in case anyone has doubts, fans can be reminded by reading Sean Deveney and Kent McDill’s Facing Michael Jordan: Players Recall the Greatest Basketball Player Who Ever Lived.

First-hand accounts from Hall of Famers Charles Barkley, Magic Johnson, and Dominique Wilkins show the respect that even the greats had for the greatest. But Deveney and McDill did not simply talk to the household names for this volume. They also included memories from David Henderson, whose experience with Jordan happened in college, and Iowa coach George Raveling, who was introduced to MJ at the 1984 USA Basketball tryouts. Several modern players were also interviewed for the book, including Dwyane Wade and Jabari Parker, who talked about the legacy Jordan left for younger generations.

The only shortcoming here is the omission of Jordan’s short-lived and less-than-stellar professional baseball career. More than fifty NBA players and coaches shared their memories and experiences with the greatest basketball player of all-time. Facing Michael Jordan is a wonderful tribute to the man who inspired many to spend a little more time working on their dunking skills and tongue-wagging.

Learn more about Sports Publishing.

Purchase Facing Michael Jordan: Players Recall the Greatest Basketball Player Who Ever Lived edited by Sean Deveney with Kent McDill.

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