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Signing off his live broadcast, Los Angeles Angels broadcaster Victor Rojas receives a phone call. A fresh order of prints — featuring Hank Aaron’s “755” — have just shipped.

The Overland Park native’s apparel startup, Big Fly Gear, has been growing steadily since its launch in February, Rojas said. The clothing line, fittingly, celebrates historical milestones in baseball. The company name: a callback to Rojas’ own career with the sport, he said.

“‘Big Fly’ has been my home run call for years,” Rojas said, describing the catchphrase that’s developed over 17 years in Major League Baseball games.

Rojas’ ties to baseball go even deeper, however. The announcer-turned-entrepreneur is the son of Kansas City Royals Hall of Famer Cookie Rojas, who served as the team’s second baseman and later manager.

The resurgence of baseball in Rojas’ hometown — and with his father’s former team — make a great fit for Big Fly, he said.

“The KC sports feel helps us tremendously, here in the Midwest,” said Rojas, who noted the majority of sales so far have been centered around Big Fly’s homebase in Dallas, as well as cities west of the Mississippi.

Focused on graphics, Big Fly’s brand tells a story, Rojas emphasized.

“If you like baseball, you will like the look and the vintage feel,” he said, acknowledging his early decision to avoid Angels-related merchandise in favor of highlighting milestones from different generations of baseball history — like Hank Aaron’s 755 career home runs.

“Right now, we are going back in time,” Rojas continued, describing Big Fly’s first at bat. “There are a thousand ideas out there and a million stories for us to tell.”

Some of those tales might well come from Kansas City’s rich history with the sport, he said.

Kansas City baseball goes back further than the Royals and the Athletics, the latter of which left the city after the 1967 season. The Negro Leagues Baseball Museum is headquartered in KC, showcasing stories that led to the integration of baseball with opportunities for players of all races.

Working with the museum’s president, Bob Kendrick, Big Fly’s apparel could feature graphics tied of the era of Buck O’Neil, Jackie Robinson and Satchel Paige, Rojas said.

View this post on Instagram
Thank you to Victor Rojas and all my friends @bigflygear.

A post shared by Albert Pujols (@albertpujols) on May 10, 2019 at 8:49am PDT

Uniting with a timeless sport

A fan-designed logo gives Big Fly a classic look while still remaining trendy, he explained.

And while not everyone knows what “Big Fly” means right off the bat, photos of his family wearing the apparel help communicate the message of America’s pastime online and on various social media platforms, Rojas said.

Click here to check out Big Fly Gear’s selection.

One momentous shout-out came May 10 on Instagram, he added, from none other than Angels first baseman and designated hitter Albert Pujols — formerly of the St. Louis Cardinals — who that night homered for his 2,000th career RBI. (The Angels ultimately won 13-0 over the Detroit Tigers in the May 9 matchup.)

Pleased by Big Fly’s revenue so far, Rojas said there’s more to the brand’s story to come.

“In our Big Fly Brigade, we will give back,” he said.

The startup is planning donations each month to veterans groups, he said, ultimately aiming to pay for a military family to go to every Fourth of July baseball game at MLB ballparks.

“It’s not just about us making money,” he said.

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Another offseason, another Gold Glove nomination for Kansas City Royals left fielder Alex Gordon, who is vying for his seventh award.
From the department of “Have we been here before?” it was announced today that Alex Gordon is up for another Gold Glove nomination. If he were to win this season, this would add to his 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2017 and 2018 crownings as a member of the Kansas City Royals.

This will be his highest fielding percentage for a year since 2013, when he made one error in 341 chances for a .997 mark. He also only made one error in 2019 but with only 276 chances his percentage dropped to .996. His lone error was not fielding a baseball but on a throw way back on May 8th at the Los Angeles Angels.

His seven outfield assists are the lowest since 2016 but that is a combination of fewer chances hit his way and teams not being willing to run on Gordon despite his aging arm. Compared to other outfielders, he fielded his position 11 points higher than league average which is an amazing difference.

Congrats on being named a Rawlings #GoldGlove Award finalist, Gordo! #AlwaysRoyal

He also started two double plays for the Kansas City Royals and on all plays hit his direction that had a 40-60 percent chance of being fielding successfully, he closed the deal a ridiculous 88.9 percent of the time. If he were to win, Gordon would tie Frank White for most Gold Gloves in Kansas City Royals franchise history. Overall he would only be behind Ken Griffey Jr. for placing in the top three overall in outfield Gold Gloves won.

Not bad for a player who did not begin playing the outfield full-time until his fifth year in the majors converting from third base. He was 27 years old when that happened and the next season he won his first Gold Glove. On top of all the Gold Gloves won, in 2014 Gordon received the American League Platinum Glove which is an award from the fans who vote on the best defensive player from that season’s Gold Glove winners.

Imagine if Gordon came up with the Kansas City Royals playing left field the entire time and his bat was producing to keep him in the lineup. He could easily be challenging for the all-time lead in this award for outfielders.

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The Rule 5 draft will take place at the Winter Meetings in December, but the deadline to add eligible players to the 40-man roster to protect them from being drafted is Wednesday, November 20. The Royals currently have a full 40-man roster, so they will have to do some roster shuffling to add players in anticipation of the draft.

What is the Rule 5 draft exactly? It is a way of making sure organizations don’t hoard talent by stashing minor leaguers without giving them a chance. Players eligible to be protected are those players not on the 40-man roster that were 18 or younger on the June 5 preceding their signing and this is the fifth Rule 5 draft upcoming; or were 19 or older on the June 5 preceding their signing and this is the fourth Rule 5 draft upcoming. Basically, if you were a high school draftee or international signee who began their pro career in 2015 or before, or a college draftee who began in 2016 or before, you are eligible.*

*-there are weird exceptions to this, like the one that Blue Jays exploited to steal Elvis Luciano from the Royals last year

Let’s take a look at who might get added and who may get exposed to the Rule 5 draft

Locks to get protected
Nick Heath is almost certainly going to be added to the 40-man roster and is a dark horse to make the roster out of spring training. The speedy outfielder hit .255/.345/.387 across Double-A and Triple-A last year and led all minor leaguers with 60 steals. He performed well in the Arizona Fall League in 2018 and is holding his own in winter ball and having a blast doing it.

Carlos Hernandez is the kind of player teams covet in the Rule 5 draft, a high-upside power arm in the low minors who has been held back by injuries. The 22-year old right-hander posted a 3.50 ERA with 43 strikeouts in 36 innings for low-A Lexington last year, but teams will be enticed by his 95 mph fastball. With the state of the pitching in the organization, the Royals will almost certainly protect the young Venezuelan who is ranked the #13 prospect in the system by MLB Pipeline.

Could get protected
Gabriel Cancel has pretty good pop for a second baseman, slamming 18 home runs for Double-A Northwest Arkansas and batting .246/.308/.735 overall. The 22-year old has experience in the upper minors and is still young enough to have some upside. He was overwhelmed in the Arizona Fall League this year, but his ability to play all over the infield may make him enticing to teams.

Gerson Garabito has been good, not great, posting a 3.77 ERA with 113 strikeouts in 141 innings for Double-A Northwest Arkansas. The 23-year old right-hander features a fastball in the low-90s and has always had average to below-average strikeout rates, so the upside seems limited, but a team may gamble on him hoping to unlock more.

Grant Gavin is a Kansas City native who attended Central Missouri University and has posted strong numbers as a reliever at each level. He had a 3.61 ERA with 73 strikeouts in 52 1/3 innings for Double-A Northwest Arkansas this year, and had a strong performance in the Arizona Fall League. The 24-year old right-hander has struggled with walks a bit, but he could be able to make the jump into a big league bullpen soon.

Ofreidy Gomez is a 24-year old right-hander that has flown under the radar, but features a mid-90s fastball that teams could covet. He had a 4.05 ERA with 111 strikeouts in 115 2/3 innings for Double-A Northwest Arkansas.

Seuly Matias was considered one of the top prospects in the system a year ago, but a disastrous season and a hand injury have diminished his value. Matias hit 31 home runs in 2018 for Low-A Lexington, but hit just .148 with a 45 percent strikeout rate for High-A Wilmington in 57 games this year, missing the last two months. He still has great power potential at age 21, but teams typically don’t select raw power hitters with high strikeout rates, so Matias could very well be unprotected.

Blake Perkins was acquired from the Nationals in 2018 in the Kelvin Herrera. The 23-year old centerfielder hit .224/.330/.347 in 122 games across High-A Wilmington and Double-A Northwest Arkansas. He has good speed and has shown an ability to get on base with a 12.8 percent walk rate in his career, but his failure to hit much in his career may keep teams away.

Sebastian Rivero gets lost in the catching depth the Royals have, but Rivero was considered the best defensive backstop in the system by Baseball America in 2018. The Royals already have four catchers on the 40-man roster with Salvador Perez, Cam Gallagher, Meibrys Viloria, and Nick Dini. Rivero has only played three games above High-A ball and has never hit much, so teams may not want him to make the jump to the big leagues.

Have been passed over before
D.J. Burt has some speed and positional versatility as a second baseman and outfielder, but hit just .226/.303/.304 in 80 games for Double-A Northwest Arkansas. The 24-year old has virtually no power, but could still have some use as a utility player and pinch-runner.

Foster Griffin was exposed to the draft last year and went unselected. The former first-round pick had seemingly ugly numbers in Triple-A this season, posting a 5.23 ERA with 111 strikeouts in 130 2/3 innings, but that was actually a league-average ERA in the offensive-crazy Pacific Coast League. The left-hander has always been a bit underwhelming in his minor league career, but he is still just 24 and has pitched very well in winter ball this year.

Jake Kalish has been a serviceable left-hander in Omaha’s rotation the past two seasons, but at age 28, lacks the upside teams are looking for in the Rule 5 draft. He posted a 5.16 ERA with 89 strikeouts in 118 2⁄3 innings for Omaha this year. Kalish has generally posted underwhelming strikeout rates in his career, but very low walk rates, so he could be attractive to a team looking for a strike-thrower.

Yunior Marte seems like the kind of pitcher teams should like in the Rule 5 draft, but he went unselected in last year’s draft. Marte has a loose arm that can hit 96 mph on the radar gun and can fill any role on a staff. The 24-year old right-hander had a 3.58 ERA with 72 strikeouts in 60 1/3 innings across Double-A and Triple-A this season.

Rudy Martin is a speedster who can draw some walks, but fails to hit much otherwise. He hit .185/.260/.283 across three levels this year, swiping 26 bases in 100 games. He had a 32 percent strikeout rate, far too high for a non-power hitter, so unless a team sees him as an asset on the bases only, he seems unlikely to get selected.

Emilio Ogando improved his strikeout rate moving to the bullpen this year, although his overall numbers were still underwhelming. The 26-year old left-hander had a 5.20 ERA with 78 strikeouts in 72 2/3 innings mostly in Double-A Northwest Arkansas. Ogando has generally posted decent numbers in the minors, but with lower strikeout rates, and at his age, there isn’t much upside.

Chase Vallot has had trouble staying healthy and making contact, but he does flash some great power when he connects. The former first-round pick hit just .190/.303/.401 with 14 home runs in 83 games for Low-A Lexington this past season. The 23-year is a patient hitter, but has pretty much no defensive value and a 38 percent career strikeout rate, so he will not be selected.

Nolan Watson has a 6.46 ERA in his career since the Royals made him a first-round pick in 2015 and missed most of this season due to Tommy John surgery. The 22-year old right-hander has a “fringe-average fastball” and seems unlikely to be selected.

Long shots to be added
Jeison Guzman was given a $1.5 million bonus out of the Dominican Republic, but his bat has failed to develop since then. The 21-year old hit .253/.296/.373 with seven home runs in 121 games for Low-A Lexington this past season. He has a left-handed bat and some good tools, so he may still have a future, but he seems unlikely to be selected in the Rule 5.

Janser Lara has a live arm and an ability to miss bats, but he was out the entire 2019 season with an undisclosed injury. The 23-year old has a 4.02 ERA in his career with 10.5 strikeouts-per-nine innings, but 4.7 walks-per-nine innings, and has never pitched above low-A ball, making him very unlikely to be chosen.

Emmanuel Rivera is ranked as the #19 prospect in the system by MLB Pipeline due to offensive potential, but he has not developed much power yet. The 23-year old had a down year for Double-A Northwest Arkansas, hitting .258/.297/.345, and there usually isn’t much use for third basemen who struggle with the bat in the Rule 5 draft.

Ashe Russell has been an enigma since the Royals selected him 21st overall in the 2015 draft, tossing just 38 1⁄3 professional innings in his career. Russell had psychological issues that prevented him from throwing a baseball correctly and walked away from baseball at one point. Jeffrey Flanagan reported last winter that he had made progress and could return to the mound, but the 23-year old never appeared in a game this year.

Andres Sotillet has a thick frame and a low-90s fastball, but hasn’t translated that into a high strikeout rate. The 22-year old right-hander did perform adequately for Double-A Northwest Arkansas this season with a 3.35 ERA and 63 strikeouts in 7 1/3 innings. His walk rate took a big spike this year, but he has generally been a solid strike-thrower.

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1985 — The Kansas City Royals, behind Bret Saberhagen’s five-hitter, beat the St. Louis Cardinals 11-0 in Game 7 of the World Series. The Royals became the sixth team in major league history to rally from a three-games-to-one deficit to win the World Series.

1986 — The New York Mets won the World Series with an 8-5 victory over the Boston Red Sox in Game 7. The Mets rallied from a 3-0 deficit to win behind home runs by Ray Knight and Darryl Strawberry. Knight is named Series MVP.

1989 — The World Series resumed after a 10-day delay because of the San Francisco earthquake. Oakland, behind two homers by Dave Henderson, beat the Giants 13-7 in Game 3.

1991 — Pinch-hitter Gene Larkin hit a game-winning single with the bases loaded in the 10th inning as the Minnesota Twins beat the Atlanta Braves 1-0 to win one of the most exciting World Series in history. Series MVP Jack Morris pitched a seven-hitter over 10 innings and won only the third decisive seventh game in World Series history to go into extra innings.

1996 — After two humbling losses at home, the New York Yankees won their first World Series title since 1978 with a 3-2 victory over the defending champion Atlanta Braves in Game 6.

1999 — Roger Clemens pitched the New York Yankees to their second straight World Series sweep, shutting down the Atlanta Braves 4-1. The Yankees won their record 25th championship — third in four years.

2001 — The Arizona Diamondbacks pounded the New York Yankees 9-1 in the World Series opener. The score was set at 9-1 in the fourth inning. Arizona’s Craig Counsell and Luis Gonzalez homered off Yankees pitcher Mike Mussin. Curt Schilling held the Yankees to three hits, including Bernie Williams’ bloop RBI double in the first, over seven innings and struck out eight.

2002 — The Anaheim Angels won the World Series with a 4-1 win over the Giants in Game 7 at San Francisco’s Edison Field. Garret Anderson’s three-run double in the third inning put the Angels up 4-1. John Lackey became the first rookie to win a seventh game since 1909 when Babe Adams did it for the Pirates.

2004 — The Boston Red Sox became World Series champions at long, long last. Johnny Damon homered on the fourth pitch of the game, Derek Lowe made it stand up and the Red Sox won Game 4 3-0, sweeping the St. Louis Cardinals for their first crown since 1918. Manny Ramirez, who batted .412 (7-for-17) with a homer and four RBIs, was named Boston’s first World Series MVP.

2006 — The St. Louis Cardinals beat the Detroit Tigers 4-2 in Game 5 to wrap up their first Series title in nearly a quarter-century and 10th overall.

2010 — Freddy Sanchez and the San Francisco Giants chased Cliff Lee early, roughing up the postseason ace for an 11-7 victory over the Texas Rangers in the World Series opener. Sanchez doubled three times in the first five innings and finished with three RBIs.

2011 — David Freese homered to lead off the bottom of the 11th inning, and the St. Louis Cardinals forced the World Series to a Game 7 by rallying from two-run deficits against the Texas Rangers in the 9th and 10th.

2013 — Another wacky end to a World Series game as Game 4 finished with a pickoff play, a first in postseason history. Jonny Gomes hit a decisive, three-run homer as the Boston Red Sox beat the St. Louis Cardinals 4-2 to tie the series at two games apiece. Koji Uehara picked off rookie pinch-runner Kolten Wong at first base for the final out — with postseason star Carlos Beltran standing at the plate.

2015 — Alex Gordon hit a tying home run with one out in the ninth inning, Eric Hosmer hit a sacrifice fly against Bartolo Colon in the 14th and the Kansas City Royals beat the New York Mets 5-4 in the longest opener in World Series history.

2018 — Steve Pearce hit a tying homer in the eighth inning and a three-run double in the ninth, and the Boston Red Sox rallied from a four-run deficit for a 9-6 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers and a 3-1 World Series lead.

Today’s birthdays: Francisco Mejia 24; Carlos Perez 29; Jay Jackson 32; Martin Prado 35.

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The Texas Rangers and veteran pitcher, Edinson Volquez, are reportedly working on a minor-league deal, bringing Volquez back with a shot at the MLB roster.
With much of the Texas Rangers brass in the Dominican Republic for the opening of the organization’s new baseball complex, TR Sullivan tweeted out Friday morning that the club and veteran Edinson Volquez are working on a minor-league deal.

Volquez, a 14-year veteran, spent the 2018 and 2019 seasons with the Rangers organization, missing all of 2018 and the majority of 2019 due to injury. The hopes for his initial deal in Texas is that he could help bolster the rotation. With injuries considered, Volquez made 11 appearances for the Rangers last year, four as a starter. He posted a 6.75 ERA throwing 16 innings.

During the season, Volquez made his plan known to retire at the end of the season but it appears that plan could be put on hold. The Rangers are looking to bring Volquez back on a minor-league contract with a Spring Training invitation. This would give Volquez the opportunity to compete for a spot in the Rangers bullpen as his days as a regular starter are probably behind him.

The 36-year old has bounced around a bit in his career, not because of ineffectiveness but rather a consistency with his pitching. Volquez started his career with the Rangers back in 2005 and was the main piece of the deal with the Reds that brought Josh Hamilton to the Rangers. He would go on to be an All-Star with the Reds in 2008 and then later, won a World Series in 2015 as a part of the Kansas City Royals.

If the two sides do come to an agreement, I wouldn’t expect to see Volquez change the Rangers offseason plans at all. They still will be in the market for starting pitching. If Volquez makes the roster out of Spring Training, his veteran presence would be a plus. If he doesn’t, I wouldn’t be shocked to see him move forward with his retirement and maybe join the Rangers in another capacity.

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Kansas City Royals left fielder, former Nebraska baseball star and Lincoln Southeast grad Alex Gordon won his 3rd straight and 7th career Gold Glove award Sunday night.

GOLDEN – Kansas City Royals OF, former #Huskers star and @LSEAthletics grad Alex Gordon wins his 3rd straight and 7… https://t.co/WoK7x8H90z
Courtesy: Royals Media Relations

KANSAS CITY, MO (November 3, 2019) – Rawlings Sporting Goods Company, Inc., and ESPN announced tonight that Royals left fielder Alex Gordon has earned his seventh career Rawlings Gold Glove Award, receiving the award for the third time in as many seasons. Gordon was also honored as the top left fielder in the American League by Rawlings from 2011-14 and 2017-18. Dating back to 2011, Kansas City has won a Major League-best 17 Rawlings Gold Glove Awards and are the only American League team with at least one winner in each of the last nine seasons (since 2011), trailing only Colorado’s streak of 10 straight seasons among Major League teams.

The awards were voted on by managers and coaches from the American and National Leagues, and honor the best individual fielding performances at each position in both leagues.

Kansas City now has 35 Rawlings Gold Gloves by 13 different players in its 51-year history. Gordon’s seven awards are second most in franchise history, trailing Frank White’s eight (1977-82, ’86-87).

Gordon, who was named the Rawlings Platinum Glove winner in 2014, has 98 outfield assists since 2010, tied with Gerardo Parra for most in the Majors during that time. His seven outfield assists – including three in his first 17 games – tied for third-most among Major League left fielders in 2019, two shy of Lourdes Gurriel Jr. for the lead. He was charged with just one error in 276 chances in left field, the fewest errors by a left fielder with as many chances since his 2013 campaign, when he committed just one error in 341 chances. Gordon’s only error came on May 18 at Angel Stadium, and he ended the season with 105 straight games (104 starts) and 214 total chances without an error. Since moving to the outfield in 2010, only one other outfielder has more total chances that Gordon (2,788) and fewer errors (18): Nick Markakis (14 E in 2,918 TC).

Gordon’s seven Rawlings Gold Gloves are second most among outfielders active in 2019, trailing Ichiro Suzuki’s 10. Gordon was one of three finalists among American League left fielders, beating out Boston’s Andrew Benintendi and Oakland’s Robbie Grossman.

Voting for the Rawlings Platinum Gold Glove Award presented by SABR began at the conclusion of the awards show at www.rawlings.com, allowing the public to weigh in as to who is “The Finest in the Field ®” in both the American League and National League. A combination of the international fan vote and the SABR Defensive Index will determine who takes home the honor of each League’s top defensive player. The Rawlings Platinum Glove Award winners will be unveiled during the 2019 Rawlings Gold Glove Award Ceremony presented by Gold Sport Collectibles on Friday, November 8.

Below is a list of Kansas City’s 35 Rawlings Gold Glove Award winners by 13 different players:

1971 – Amos Otis (OF)

1973 – Amos Otis (OF)

1974 – Amos Otis (OF)

1977 – Al Cowens (OF), Frank White (2B)

1978 – Frank White (2B)

1979 – Frank White (2B)

1980 – Frank White (2B), Willie Wilson (OF)

1981 – Frank White (2B)

1982 – Frank White (2B)

1985 – George Brett (3B)

1986 – Frank White (2B)

1987 – Frank White (2B)

1989 – Bob Boone (C), Bret Saberhagen (P)

2000 – Jermaine Dye (OF)

2006 – Mark Grudzielanek (2B)

2011 – Alex Gordon (LF)

2012 – Alex Gordon (LF)

2013 – Alex Gordon (LF), Eric Hosmer (1B), Salvador Perez (C)

2014 – Alex Gordon (LF), Eric Hosmer (1B), Salvador Perez (C)

2015 – Alcides Escobar (SS), Eric Hosmer (1B), Salvador Perez (C)

2016 – Salvador Perez (C)

2017 – Alex Gordon (LF), Eric Hosmer (1B)

2018 – Alex Gordon (LF), Salvador Perez (C)

2019 – Alex Gordon (LF)

Each manager and up to six coaches on his staff vote from a pool of qualified players in their League and cannot vote for players on their own team. In 2013, Rawlings added a sabermetric component to the Rawlings Gold Glove Award selection process, as part of its new collaboration with the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR). The SABR Defensive Index comprises approximately 25 percent of the overall selection total, while the managers’ and coaches’ vote continues to carry the majority.

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Jorge Soler’s record-settin’ dinger mashin’ earned him a third consecutive Royals Player of the Month award, while Danny Duffy was named Pitcher of the Month.

Soler, 27, led the Royals in September with 10 home runs and 20 RBI, his second straight 10-homer, 20-RBI month. Prior to August, the last Royal to hit 10 homers in a month was Mike Sweeney in June 2001. Soler’s first home run of the month, on September 3 vs. Detroit, was his 39th of the season, which broke a tie with Mike Moustakas (38 in 2017) for the Royals’ single-season record. Soler homered in consecutive games three times in September and had a pair of multi-homer games, on September 11 in Chicago and on September 28 vs. Minnesota. He reached safely in each of his last 14 games and recorded a hit in each of his last eight, including a home run in Game 162 to finish the season with 48, becoming the first Royal ever to lead the American League in home runs.

Former Royals reliever and coffee maker Peter Moylan has nominated himself to manage the Royals following the retirement of Ned Yost:

pic.twitter.com/IRiVw2LrqO

— Peter Moylan (@PeterMoylan) October 1, 2019
The Washington Nationals advanced in a playoff situation, coming back from a 3-1 deficit in the 8th to defeat the Brewers 4-3.

Sheryl Ring at Beyond the Boxscore talked to “baseball cop” Eddie Dominguez, who wrote a book about his time as an investigator for MLB’s department of investigations. It was, apparently, an ugly job.

“After fifteen years I saw that… It’s an ugly business. There’s a lot of corruption,” Dominguez said. “It wasn’t all bad. But if I could take it back I would love to. I’ve lost my love for sports. It’s not the same. That was my primary reason for writing the book – to express what I saw that a lot of people don’t see. There’s a lot more to it, but that was my primary reason.”

Also at BtBS, a look at Tyler Duffey’s adjustments making him a weapon for the Twins, written by Patrick Brennan. WAIT, we know Patrick Brennan!

Former Royals pitcher Brian Bannister, now the Red Sox VP of pitching development, was among those who talked to David Laurila of FanGraphs about developing his own changeup:

I originally had a four-seam grip, but I realized that created backspin, which was bad. So I went to a two-seam grip and tried to see how much I could turn it over, how much I could pronate my arm — similar to how Max Scherzer describes his. I tried to think about how much depth I could put on it, instead of how slow I could throw it. That was the difference for me.

The Angels followed their firing of manager Brad Ausmus by firing their pitching coach and bench coach.

Kyle Boddy of Driveline Baseball now works for the Reds, too.

Tremendously excited to join the Cincinnati @Reds.

A few things:

1) I will remain at @DrivelineBB.
2) I am Director of Pitching Initiatives // Pitching Coordinator.
3) I work almost entirely in the minor leagues, so fortunately, I won’t see @BauerOutage any more than I have to. pic.twitter.com/QMD7voD6Mm

— Kyle Boddy (@drivelinebases) October 1, 2019
If Nashville landed an MLB team, their home might look like these renderings.

‘Sesame Street’ is 50 years old, which means many Royals Review readers grew up with it. Here’s a fascinating look at what went into developing a curriculum for it.

Dolphins are returning to the Potomac River following a prolonged watershed restoration and cleanup effort.

The Highwomen are BACK as the Wednesday song of the day. The little bounciness in the chorus in the “lucky penny” line delights me every time. I want to see someone do a jaunty quickstep to this song.

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Monday morning, Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa underwent hip surgery to repair damage suffered on Saturday against Mississippi State. By all reports, this procedure was a success. Team surgeon Dr. Lyle Cain has since released a statement and revealed that Tagovailoa should make a full recovery.

“Tua underwent successful surgery on his right hip Monday morning in Houston,” Dr. Cain said in a statement. “The procedure went as planned, and he is resting comfortably. Tua’s prognosis is excellent, and we expect him to make a full recovery. He will return to Tuscaloosa in the next several days to begin his rehab.”

There were concerns following the injury about Tagovailoa no longer being able to play football, much like former Raiders running back Bo Jackson after he suffered a dislocated hip in 1991. However, the Los Angeles Rams team surgeon, Dr. Michael Banffy, explained how these two situations are different.

“What can happen with the dislocation is that blood vessels will either tear or they’ll be placed on stretch for so long that the bone itself will lose its blood supply and that will cause death of the bone,” Banffy said, per AL.com. “If you get it reduced right away, the idea is that will minimize the risk. But this is still something that you have to watch and it might not even present itself for a couple of months, similar to the way it did with Bo Jackson.”

For now, Tagovailoa’s future prospects seem positive, to the point that he could potentially prepare for the NFL Draft. However, the recovery timeline will play a role. Three months is one possibility, but Dr. Banffy believes that six months is more likely. This would mean that Tagovailoa would not be eligible to take part in the physical workouts during the NFL Scouting Combine, provided he skips his senior season at Alabama in pursuit of a pro career.

Still, Dr. Banffy does not believe that suffering this injury would drastically affect Tagovailoa’s prospects. He believes that the Alabama star will still be a first-round pick for a quarterback-needy team.

“I don’t think this will knock him out of the first round, for sure,” Banffy said. “It will probably knock him out of the top five, which is where people were predicting him in but I think that it all depends on how he progressively heals and how he looks at the combine.”

With teams such as the Cincinnati Bengals and Chicago Bears potentially searching for a new option at quarterback, there will be multiple potential destinations for Tagovailoa. However, he will first have to recover from Monday’s surgery and avoid any setbacks.

Hit play to listen to GroupChat’s new Episode 12! The Sexiest Man Alive John Legend has arrived! And Khloe Kardashian won a People’s Choice Awards and didn’t even know it? Tune in and tap subscribe for these deets and more on Sean Spicer getting the boot from ‘DWTS’ and some Royals Christmas Controversy!

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Will the Kansas City Royals put a new(ish) glove at second base, sending a fan favorite out to patrol the fields of Kauffman Stadium?
The Kansas City Royals had a disappointing 2019. For the second year in a row, they racked up 100 losses, and it was pretty clear early in the season that the team was nowhere near ready to contend for the postseason. The season did have some good moments, though, to instill some confidence for the future.

Along with some top moments and broken records, the 2019 season did something else important. It made the areas where the Royals lack painfully obvious. Pitching took the top spot on the weakness list, obviously. First base was also an area where the team struggled.

Second base was never really an issue. There may have been some movement throughout the position, but at the end of the day, Whit Merrifield was still around. Come spring training, though, the Royals may have to answer some questions about who will be in the spot full time.

As was said, fans saw some movement through second in 2019, just like most positions for the Royals throughout the season. Merrifield saw himself playing other spots on the field and some have to wonder if this won’t turn into a more permanent gig for him.

On top of that, Merrifield’s likely replacement, Nicky Lopez saw 76 games at second in 2019. There is no telling what the Royals will do in 2020 under a new manager and new ownership. Once spring training arrives, though, some big decisions will have to be made. Let’s break this position down a little further and see who might make an appearance at second in 2020.

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This post is part of a series concerning the 2020 Modern Baseball Era Committee ballot, covering executives and long-retired players whose candidacies will be voted upon at the Winter Meetings in San Diego on December 8. It is adapted from a longer version included in The Cooperstown Casebook, published in 2017 by Thomas Dunne Books. For an introduction to JAWS, see here. All WAR figures refer to the Baseball-Reference version unless otherwise indicated.

2020 Modern Baseball Candidate: Ted Simmons
Player Career WAR Peak WAR JAWS
Ted Simmons 50.3 34.8 42.6
Avg. HOF C 54.3 35.1 44.7
H HR AVG/OBP/SLG OPS+
2472 248 .285/.348/.437 118
SOURCE: Baseball-Reference
Ted Simmons was one of baseball’s true iconoclasts. He denounced the Vietnam War, wore his hair long, nearly became a test case for the Reserve Clause, and was as conversant in 18th century fireplace utensils (yes, really) as he was the tools of ignorance and the curveballs of opposing pitchers. Oh, and he could switch-hit well enough to rank among the position’s best offensively. With eight All-Star appearances, he was hardly unheralded, but Simmons nonetheless tended to get lost among the bounty of great catchers from the 1970s. Seven of the top 16 in the JAWS rankings hail from that decade, including three of the top four, namely Johnny Bench, Gary Carter, and Carlton Fisk. Simmons wasn’t quite their equal, but he ranks 10th, just ahead of Modern Baseball ballot-mate Thurman Munson (12th), with Gene Tenace (13th) and Bill Freehan (16th) not far behind.

Such a concentration of top-tier players at a single position in a given time period is hardly unprecedented, even among those already enshrined. Using the Hall’s own definition of activity — at least one game played in a given season — five enshrined catchers were active every year from 1929-37 except ’30. Every other position except third base (which like catcher, has just 15 enshrinees, the lowest at any position besides relievers) has stretches with six or seven active players, with the seven left fielders from 1975-76 the largest of the recent concentrations.

While BBWAA voters elected Johnny Bench on the first ballot in 1989, the electorate otherwise did a pretty lousy job of handling his contemporaries. Before they needed two ballots to elect Fisk (in 2000), or six to elect Carter (in 2003), they completely botched the job when it came to Simmons, who fell off the ballot after receiving just 3.7% in 1994. Not until 2009, after his BBWAA eligibility would have lapsed, was he eligible to be considered for an Era Committee ballot; he’s now appearing on his fourth one. While he didn’t escape the “less than” pack on the 2011 or ’14 Expansion Era ballots, he fell just one vote short of joining Jack Morris and Alan Trammell, both elected via the ’18 Modern Baseball Era Committee ballot. If he can find that elusive 12th vote, he’ll either become the first player elected after going one-and-done via the writers or share the honor with Lou Whitaker, a 2001 victim of the same Five Percent Rule, who’s making his committee ballot debut this year.

Born in 1949 and raised in the Detroit suburb of Southfield, Simmons was the son of a harness horse owner and trainer. He played basketball, hockey, and football as well as baseball as a youth, and was talented enough as a halfback to be offered a scholarship to the University of Michigan. He was even better at baseball, so good that the Cardinals drafted him with the 10th pick of the first round in 1967 (nine picks before Bobby Grich) and signed him for a $50,000 bonus. He hit exceptionally well in the minors given his age: .331/.415/.570 with 28 homers at A-level Modesto as an 18-year-old in 1968, then .317/.365/.495 with 16 homers at Triple-A Tulsa the following year. Both seasons ended with big league cameos; he was just 19 years and 43 days old when he debuted on September 21, 1968, going 1-for-2 with a walk against the Dodgers’ Claude Osteen.

In the offseason, Simmons attended the University of Michigan. Ineligible for intercollegiate athletics, he absorbed the surroundings of campus life amid a hotbed of anti-Vietnam sentiment. He was finally called up for good in late May ’70, after finishing his Army reserve duty. His arrival forced Joe Torre, the Cardinals’ regular catcher, to third base. While he didn’t hit much as a rookie, he batted .304/.347/.424 with seven homers and 3.3 WAR in 1971, earning him down-ballot MVP consideration; meanwhile, Torre survived the transition to the hot corner and won the NL batting title and MVP award. Simmons improved to .303/.336/.465 with 16 homers and 4.5 WAR in 1972, but his season was more notable for something else: he became the first playing holdout in major league history.

After making $17,500 in 1971, Simmons received a raise to $25,000 under the Cardinals’ unilateral right to renew his contract under the Reserve Clause — but he wanted $30,000, in part because at the request of management, he had bypassed winter ball and the extra money that would have entailed. Instead of sitting out the regular season, he continued to play. As Marvin Miller, the Executive Director of the Major League Baseball Players Association, later explained, “Simmons refused to be bluffed into signing a new unsatisfactory contract in order to be ‘allowed’ into uniform. The union advised [him] that once his contract was renewed, he was under contract and could not be barred from spring training or from the regular season, even if he refused to sign that contract.”⁠

Simmons suggested that he could take his case to court. His lack of a signed contract raised the question of what would happen if he made it through the entire season without one. Would he be a free agent, since the Reserve Clause, which allowed the team “to renew the contract for the period of one year”⁠ — a clause that the owners interpreted as “in perpetuity,” with each one-year period rolling over to the next — would no longer be in effect? Wary of allowing him to test a case that carried ramifications for the entire industry, the Cardinals signed him to a two-year, $75,000 deal on July 24.

Simmons went against the grain in other ways. A 1978 Sports Illustrated profile by Ron Fimrite introduced him as the St. Louis Art Museum’s newest trustee, described his and wife Maryanne’s collection of early 18th century furniture, and summarized his early-career rebelliousness:

[H]e was unyielding even when it became evident that his views did not sit well in a community as conservative as St. Louis. He denounced the Vietnam war and was outspoken in his contempt for the Nixon Administration. He allowed his hair to grow to his shoulders; that gave him a leonine look and earned him the nickname Simba… At that time, he was a lion roaring his defiance.

Simmons’ iconoclasm was hardly a detriment to consistent performance. Even with a mediocre 1976 season (five homers and a .394 slugging percentage), he averaged 17 homers a year from 1971-80 while hitting a combined .301/.367/.466 for a 131 OPS+ (16th in the majors). Aided by occasional appearances at first base or left field, he averaged a hefty 148 games for that stretch, and topped a .300 batting average six times, cracking the league’s top 10 five times, including a second-place finish in 1975 (.332). Meanwhile, he made the top 10 in on-base and slugging percentages four times apiece.

His defense was a bit rougher. Though Simmons led the league in passed balls three times, he was basically average according to Total Zone (-2 runs behind the plate for the decade, and -9 in limited infield and outfield duty), and average or better when it came to throwing out would-be base thieves in seven out of those 10 seasons. When combined with the value of his bat, he ranked among the league’s top 10 in WAR five times, and either first or second in WAR among NL catchers eight times. His 44.7 WAR for the stretch ranked 11th in the majors, and second among catchers behind Bench (54.7).

Simmons made six All-Star teams across that decade, and in 1978, replaced an injured Bench as the NL starter, thereby breaking his nine-year stranglehold on the honor. Alas, he remained stuck on a team that hadn’t been to the postseason since 1968, in part because they traded away Steve Carlton, heir apparent to Bob Gibson as the staff ace. The Cardinals finished second in the NL East three times with Simmons, winning as many as 90 games, but slipping below .500 three times, including in 1978 and ’80.

In mid-1980, Whitey Herzog joined the Cardinals, first as manager and then adding general manager duties. He and Simmons didn’t click, to say the least, but his main beef wasn’t the catcher’s hair length or taste in antique furniture — it was his defense. In a league where stolen base attempts were about 70% more common than today, and where the 116 steals allowed by Simmons ranked as the second-highest total (albeit with a league-average 31% caught rate), Herzog viewed Simmons’ throwing as a liability. In his 1999 memoir, You’re Missing a Great Game, the White Rat expounded:

Ted Simmons, God bless him, was a fine person who cared about winning. But he had one major weakness as a ballplayer: poor arm strength. Unfortunately for the Cardinals organization, that one flaw was a bigger disaster than anybody around me seemed to realize. Ted’s fluttery throws to second were enough to scuttle the Cards and keep the fans away… Because Ted threw poorly to second, every team in the world knew they could swipe that base in the late innings.

To a degree, Herzog may have had a point; the numbers back up his assertion that the Cardinals were weak in defending the stolen base in the late innings. Per Baseball-Reference.com, from 1971-80, they ranked sixth out of 26 teams in terms of both stolen base rate from the seventh to ninth innings (prorated to 0.61 per nine) and success rate (68%). Even so, the cost was minimal. Using a typical era-appropriate linear weights value of 0.2 runs for a successful steal and −0.4 runs for an unsuccessful one,⁠ Cardinals’ opponents gained a net 4.6 runs via late-inning steals, where the average team’s opponents cost themselves 2.8 runs — a difference of 8.4 runs for the decade, or 0.84 runs per year. For 1980, the team allowed the second-highest stolen base total of any NL team in innings 7-9 (46, at a 74% success rate); the difference via linear weights between the Cardinals and the average team amounts to 2.0 runs, with Simmons catching 76% of the team’s innings — so perhaps 1.5 runs, in a year when his offense was 24 runs better than the average hitter (not average catcher). Herzog’s suggestion that the combination not only had a significantly deleterious effect on the Cardinals’ chances of winning but on their attendance, which rose and fell with their record but was generally in the middle third of the league, is a gross exaggeration.

Herzog considered moving Simmons to first base and 1979 NL co-MVP Keith Hernandez to left field, a plan that was received lukewarmly, and rightly so. Instead, in a busy week in December 1980, he signed free agent Darrell Porter, a nominally superior defender who had caught for his Royals teams, and in the third in a series of three blockbusters traded Simmons to the Brewers, the only team truly interested in keeping him at catcher, no small consideration for a player who could use 10-and-5 rights (10 years of major league service time, five with the same team ) to block any deal. Also heading to Milwaukee were Rollie Fingers (whom Herzog had just acquired from the Padres) and Pete Vuckovich, for the much younger David Green, Dave LaPoint, Sixto Lezcano and Lary Sorensen.

In his 1983 Baseball Abstract, Bill James depicted the Herzog-Simmons breakup as a matter of exerting managerial authority (“If I had to trade that man for five cents on the dollar, I’d trade him… If Whitey Herzog didn’t have the guts to run Ted Simmons out of St. Louis, he might as well have quit on the spot”). Dan Okrent gave a more nuanced depiction in his classic Nine Innings, where he caught up with Simmons as a Brewer in 1982. Per Okrent, Simmons’ reluctance to move had everything to do with fear that he would embarrass himself attempting to replace Hernandez, an 11-time Gold Glove winner who’s second all-time in fielding runs among first basemen. The dropoff would have stood out, to say the least.

While Herzog’s multiple deals laid the groundwork for the Cardinals’ 1982 championship, the Simmons trade actually helped Milwaukee more than St. Louis. Fingers won AL Cy Young and MVP honors in the strike-torn 1981, Vuckovich won the Cy Young in ’82 (thanks to strong run support), and the Brewers made the postseason for the first and second times in franchise history. Simmons scuffled in the strike year (.216/.262/.376, 0.3 WAR), but rebounded (.269/.309/.451 with 23 homers and 3.4 WAR) to help the Brewers win the 1982 AL pennant. Facing Herzog’s Cardinals in the World Series, he received a warm welcome from St. Louis fans and homered in each of the first two games there, but finished just 4-for-23 in a losing cause.

Simmons earned the AL starting catcher nod for the 1983 All-Star Game and accumulated 4.0 WAR even while DHing in 66 games; his performance crashed through the floor in 1984, his age-34 season. With the much more defensively adept Jim Sundberg joining Milwaukee via trade, Simmons couldn’t find a comfort zone at first base, third base, or DH and wound up hitting a woeful .221/.269/.300 (61 OPS+) with just four homers in 132 games. His -2.6 WAR was not only the worst in the league, it remains tied for the 15th-lowest in the post-1960 expansion era. While he recovered somewhat the next year (104 OPS+, 1.0 WAR), he spent his final three seasons with the Braves, pinch-hitting and spotting at catcher and first base. He retired following the 1988 season and remained in baseball, working as a coach, scout, and executive (including as general manager of the Pirates from early 1992 to mid-1993, when a heart attack forced him to step down) but never landing a managerial job.

Simmons figured to have a legitimate shot at election to the Hall of Fame when he reached the BBWAA ballot in 1994 given his standings on the hits leaderboards for catchers (second at the time) and switch-hitters (sixth), as well as his eight All-Star appearances. His score of 124 on James’ Hall of Fame Monitor, based on common statistical benchmarks and accomplishments for old-school stats, is near “virtual cinch” territory (130), between contemporaries Fisk (120) and Carter (135). Yet with 300-win pitchers Carlton and Don Sutton making their ballot debuts, Phil Niekro a holdover, and Orlando Cepeda in his final year of eligibility, Simmons got lost in the shuffle, receiving just 3.7% of the vote. Not only was that not enough to return for the 1995 ballot, it eliminated him from consideration in front of the Veterans Committee through 2008; with the Hall of Famer-engorged Veterans Committee in flux, he didn’t get onto another ballot until the smaller ’11 Expansion Era committee.

What happened? On the BBWAA front, one has to wonder if Simmons’ early-career contract rebellion, long hair, and his not being cut from the typical major league cloth hurt his standing among an older generation of writers who saw him as too radical. That’s pure speculation on my part, as I found no mention of such factors in the election coverage. His missing the cut by just four votes (receiving 17, when 21 were needed) took many by surprise, including the St. Louis Post Dispatch’s Bob Broeg, who covered Simmons during his career, voted for him, and called his shortfall “a shame” while noting that had the Five Percent Rule been in place earlier (it was adopted in 1979), players such as Bob Lemon and Red Ruffing wouldn’t have been elected by the writers.

His sinking without a trace didn’t entirely escape notice. In 1996, writers within the BBWAA mounted an effort to petition the Hall of Fame’s board of directors to restore the eligibility of Simmons, ’91 candidates Larry Bowa and Al Oliver, and ’93 candidate Bill Madlock, all of whom had fallen short of 5% in their first year on the ballot. As had been done with Dick Allen, Ken Boyer, Ron Santo and eight others for the 1985 ballot, the plan was for them to get another chance to clear 5%. While the Hall board was receptive to the idea, the proposal was never formalized, and Simmons et al never got a second chance.

When Simmons finally got his chance for reconsideration in 2011, as fate would have it, Herzog was among the eight Hall of Famers sitting on the 16-man panel appointed by the Hall’s board of directors, which elected executive Pat Gillick and came within one vote of electing Miller, the former union head. The group gave eight votes to one former player, Davey Concepcion, whose former teammates Bench and Tony Perez were on the committee. The eight other candidates (including Simmons) all received fewer than eight votes, though the Hall didn’t announce their actual totals.

Herzog was still on the committee when Simmons came up on the 2014 Expansion Era ballot. Bench and Perez were gone, but fellow catcher Fisk and Simmons’ former Brewers teammate Paul Molitor were both on the committee. It made no difference. The committee unanimously elected managers Bobby Cox, Tony La Russa and Torre; none of the six players (including Concepcion and Simmons) or three non-players (Miller, Billy Martin, and George Steinbrenner) received more than six votes. While it’s not hard to imagine Herzog’s view of Simmons carrying considerable weight among those undecided, two other Post-Dispatch writers have reported that it was Simmons’ short stay on the BBWAA ballot that hurt him. Said Rick Hummel, who has served on the Historical Overview Committee that puts together the ballot, “The first question these Hall of Famers ask you is, ‘How many ballots was he on for the writers’ election? One? They must not have liked him very much.”

Wrote Derrick Goold, “[The voters] have a chance to prove the writers wrong —and they should… and instead they choose to use that vote to legitimize theirs. It’s maddening.”

Viewed today, Simmons’ merits are clear. He ranked among his league’s top 10 in WAR five times, and in one of the three slash stats (average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage) a combined 15 times. Among his contemporaries, Bench ranked among the top 10 in WAR eight times, Carter six times, and Fisk four; in terms of slash stats it’s Bench six times, Carter four times, and Fisk nine times. Simmons’ 118 OPS+ ranks “only” 13th among catchers with at least 5,000 plate appearances, but his ranking climbs significantly when playing time is considered: 10th at the 6,000 PA cutoff, seventh at the 7,000 PA cutoff. In terms of batting runs (i.e., runs above average), which accounts for his offensive excellence and playing time in one fell swoop, he’s 10th among catchers at 172, just ahead of Fisk (168) and Carter (160).

Simmons’ defense, so maligned at times during his playing days, wasn’t nearly as costly as it was made out to be. Among catchers in the post-1960 expansion era, his 182 passed balls rank second, and his 0.11 per nine innings third; meanwhile, his 1,188 stolen bases allowed is sixth, but his stolen base rate of 0.71 per nine is 16th. Carter (0.78 per nine) is eighth in that category, and just below Simmons is Tony Pena (0.69), widely considered among the best defenders of his day; Simmons’ 34.0% caught stealing rate is less than a point behind Pena’s 34.8%. While not as complete as more modern metrics — we don’t have any estimates of his pitch framing — his blocking and stolen base prevention is captured in Total Zone. While he was 34 runs below average for all of his defensive work, he was just eight below average for his time behind the plate; he was much worse in small samples at first base, left field, and third base. That’s not insignificant, but neither is it grounds for eliminating him from consideration, particularly with Piazza (-63 runs overall, offset by particularly strong framing), Mickey Cochrane (-40), and Ernie Lombardi (-12) enshrined.

Though Simmons is short of all three WAR standards, he’s nonetheless 10th in both career WAR and JAWS, and a respectable 15th in peak. At a position that both BBWAA and committee voters have given short shrift, that’s more than good enough. He faces a ballot crunch, competing for votes with the likes of Whitaker and Dwight Evans, both of whom are getting their long-awaited first chances; Miller, who like Simmons previously missed by one vote, and four other players (Munson, Dale Murphy, Steve Garvey, and Dave Parker) who each won MVP awards. That’s fierce competition, but if Simmons can sustain momentum from last time around – and I have no evidence that’s a thing in this format – he’ll make history and get his rightful spot in Cooperstown.