Did you know?: During a game that carried into the dusk hours, Clarkson once pitched a lemon to the plate to persuade the umpire, Jack Kerins to call the game due to darkness. Kerins called the lemon a strike, and when shown by Boston’s catcher that he had called a lemon a strike, Kerins finally called the game.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Best #1's

With Season 19’s draft now in the records book, we here at the Clarkson Gazette thought that it would be fun to look back and rank all of the #1 overall picks in Clarkson’s history. There have been some great players over the years drafted #1 over the years, but also some not so great ones (see John Chang). Overall it looks like it’s a mixed bag, with surprisingly only three Rookie of the Year winners overall. Without further ado, here are the top ten #1 draft picks in Clarkson history, as compiled by Gazette staff:

Honorable Mentions:

All of these players will undoubtedly be stars in the future, but have not gained enough playing time to make our list yet.

Raymond Stokes
Bill Tomberlin
Peter Perez
Bill Fordyce
Vin Iglesias

10.) Paul Suzuki – Coming in at #10 is the sweet hitting catcher, Paul Suzuki. The player on our list with the least amount of big-league time, he none the less deserves a spot on our top ten list. Already he has made the All-Star team once, and it one of the best offensive catchers in the game. With more time under his belt, he has nowhere to go but up.

9.) Dave Bell – A journeyman starter in Clarkson, his claim to fame is throwing a no-hitter in Season 17. The longtime pitcher has 171 wins and 1 All-Star appearance in his career. However, with some of the recent #1 draft picks, it’s likely that he would drop off our top ten list in the next few years. For now though, he makes our list.

8.) Junior Gonzales – One of the quality young pitchers in Clarkson, he’s been a solid workhorse since making it to the Majors. A solid 3.36 career ERA and 80 wins, he looks like he will be around for a while, and may make a run and some big milestones. Now with Wichita, it looks like he will continue to rack up the wins.

7.) Luther Bland – The wide ranging CF of the New York Bombers comes in at number 7 on our list. Bland makes our list as an all-around athlete, who combines speed and his physical tools to be one of the best centerfields in Clarkson. Already with 2 Rings, All-Star appearances and Gold Gloves, he has made an impact on one of the most dominant teams in Clarkson.

6.) Mariano Pena – The closer extraordinaire, Pena also faced the daunting task of working his way through Boston’s deep farm system. After spending several years in the minors, he got the call to be Boston’s new closer, and did not disappoint. Slamming the door shut over 200 times now, Pena appears on track to be one of Clarkson’s great closers. As with O’Connor, Pena’s short time in the Majors hurts him on this list, but he is sure to move up as well.

5.) Vinny O'Connor – O’Connor joins our list at #5. Drafted right after the top four on our list, in Season 8, O’Connor was traded to the juggernaut Brown Sox and struggled to work his way through Boston’s super-deep farm system, despite his talent. However, once he made it to the Bigs, he shined, winning the Rookie of the Year and being named to two All-Star teams. If not for his short time in the Majors, he would probably be higher on our list.

4.) Curt Brock – The first pitcher on our list is one of the best. Brock, who is having a career year, has struck out nearly 2000 batters, and compiled over 150 wins. His 3.82 lifetime ERA may not be on the level of Sutton or Wakeland, but considering his time spent in what many believed was a “juiced” era of baseball, that number becomes more impressive. Like Castillo and Ramirez, Brock is beginning to get up there in years, but is still pitching amazingly.

3.) David Castillo – Drafted two years after Ramirez, Castillo came into the league out of college and has set Clarkson on fire. The 6 time All-star has put up impressive numbers over the years, but it’s all-around offensive skills that move him up our list. Hitting for contact, power and speed, Castillo has amassed over 300 homeruns, scored over 1400 runs and swiped nearly 600 bases in his great career. Now past his 34th birthday, he is still playing at a high level, so we expect those numbers to continue to rise.

2.) Eugene Mills – Our oldest member on the list is one of the bats of early Clarkson history. Mills, a fixture on 4 World Series winning teams, boasts a solid .294 average to go along with 552 homers and a slew of awards. After winning Rookie of the Year honors, he was named to 5 All-Star teams, won 3 Gold Gloves and 4 Silver Sluggers. Now retired, Mills is on the short list to get into the HOF, but has not heard his number called yet.

1.) Quilvio Ramirez – Drafted way back in Season 5, Ramirez is without question our #1 choice for this list. Already in his 12th season and still only 32 years old, Ramirez has put up some HOF worthy numbers. A liftetime .315 average, Ramirez is one of Clarkson’s great hitters, but adds some pop to go along with that. Currently sitting at 458 homeruns as of press time, he will undoubtedly join the 500 homers club shortly. Throw in an MVP, 7 All-Star nods, 9 Silver Sluggers and a Gold Glove to boot, he makes the debate for #1 moot.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

We Come From France

Iowa City – The Cornheads are off to a fantastic start in the AL East, but it appears not everything is peaceful in the small Iowa town. Cornhead fans have taken to the airwaves, message boards and blogs in anger at the perceived lack of respect from MLB and the national media, including the Clarkson Gazette.

“Spring is here and the corn is planted but so are the Cornheads, who have planted themselves above the world champs in a very tough division. When visiting the Clarkson [Gazette] Blog you won’t see the Cornheads being mentioned.” One poster on the Cornheads fan page writes.

“We don’t live in New York, we live in Iowa and last time I checked they own two Clarkson titles to our none.” team president Douglas “Doogie” Bader said, “We will have to earn those stripes the hard way, or if we just want to see our name in lights we can always move to New York."

Fans of the newly minted Iowa City team are riding high after a sweep of last years champs and an early season four game lead over their division rivals. In addition, the fever pitch is reaching a crescendo with their recent, and ongoing at time of press, 12 game winning streak. A streak they look to extend to lucky 13 behind their ace, Curt Brock.

Brock, who has struggled the previous two years with the team, has had a career revival since moving to Iowa City. Fans in the notorious tough Philadelphia were constantly on one of the highest paid pitchers in the game for not living up to his contract. In fact, ownership even put the lefty hurler on the trading block earlier this year, but ultimately could not work out a deal. Lucky them.

“It was tough the last couple of years, and I really struggled for the first time in my career. At least a prolonged struggle.” Brock said recently in an interview, “I kind of lost my mojo, but since moving to Iowa City, things have really turned around. The fans here are great, and really make me feel at home. A total 180 from Philly.”

Brock, who grew up just outside of Atlanta, GA in Woodstock, has found peace after purchasing a farm near Iowa City, where he has said he goes to relax after home games. The fresh air has worked wonders for the former number 1 overall pick, as he has posted a league leading 1.31 ERA.

After finishing in second place to the New York Bombers for the last five years, and early playoff exits in each season, many national pundits are taking a wait and see approach with the Cornheads.

“Look, it’s great what’s being done in Iowa City right now, but it’s still very early, and a four game lead is not insurmountable for the Bombers” PSEN analyst Duncan McDougal said, “They’ve been on fire, and Brock is pitching out of his mind right now, but I don’t think they can keep it up. Especially with Julio Saenz back for the Bombers. Besides, the entire population of Iowa City can fit most stadiums, I don’t think they have a chance this year.”

Enraged by McDougals comments, the rabid Cornhead fans took to the streets outside of Principal Park to protest his, and other national columnists, comments. One fanatic even went so far as to burn dolls of Willie the Janitor from the Simpsons in effigy. McDougal, who is of Scottish decent, commented that “when you are surrounded by corn and nothing but corn, you’re going to be a little off kilter”.

McDougal has since issued an apology to Cornhead fans after pressure from the PSEN network, and has been suspended one week.

However, not all Iowa City residents have been happy with the teams success. Saul Moleski, former owner of Iowa City Pizza, has fallen on hard times after a disastrous game promotion early in the season. The promotion promised a free large one-topping pizza for anyone with a ticket from final game of the series with the Bombers, provided that the team swept the World Champs.

Unfortunately for Moleski, the home team prevailed, and the next day, many of the fans from the sold out game appeared to get their free pizza. Of course, there was not enough pizza to go around, and eventually, Saul had to file for bankruptcy after honorably trying to fill all orders.

“I know nothing about the base-ball! I come from Russia, where we hear of mighty New York Bombers. I thought Bombers would win!” Saul said when reached for comment.

When asked about his future plans, he replied, “Now I have to move to Moscow with sister! Is sad because Saul will work with donkeys or be sent to Siberia!”

“It’s sad, because everyone around here loved Saul. He is always very friendly, but we’ll get him back on his feet, this is a good community.” said local resident, Mack Johnson.

Fans have created a website, freesaulmoleski.com, and hope to raise enough money to help Saul get back on his feet in America.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Spring is in the Air

The sun shines brightly, sometimes with a bit of leftover chill. There are flyovers, big crowds, hot dogs, popcorn, the Star-Spangled Banner and "God Bless America."

But to Major League Baseball players, managers and coaches, Opening Day is about a lot more than fanfare.

The beginning of the season means a fresh start, with teams that finished in last place now in the same position as teams that finished in first. Everybody's record? 0-0.

Teams that had their hearts broken in pennant races and seven-game postseason series have a chance to one-up their rivals.

"Opening Day is exciting," Boise Potato Farmers manager Dave Davis said. "You should be able to get excited about Opening Day. If not, you don't really belong in a uniform. It's the start of a long baseball season and hope springs eternal in the spring. Everybody feels they have a chance and you should get some goose bumps. If you don't, something's wrong."

Davis, who is in his first year as the Farmers’ manager, takes over a team that has finished 4th in their division four years in a row. Despite a 3-8 start to their season, fans are excited to have Davis on the team, who is known to work well with players and is widely considered a great strategist.

"You look at it as this: You have a chance to have a good season," Davis said. "You should feel like you have a chance to make the playoffs. That's the way you should feel as a team. The least is you should feel like you're going to have a good ballclub."

The Bombers and Brown Sox don't just feel they have good ballclubs. They know it. But the Brown Sox have something to prove, especially after getting hammered in the World Series by the Bombers, four game to one.

"It's the best part of the year, where everybody is enthused," Sox slugger C.J. Little said. "It's all about the fans, who are coming out to see the product that's going to be on the field all season. They bring that enthusiasm no matter who we’re playing, which really helps motivate us."

Brown Sox shortstop Yuuta Pan agreed.

"A new beginning," Pan said. "There's a lot of optimism for every team on Opening Day. Everyone gets excited for it. By the end of Spring Training, you're ready to get going. Fans are waiting for it, players are waiting for it. It's always special."

But those are the obvious reasons to cherish Opening Day. There are many more little reasons to love it just as much.

J.T. Barrett, for example, is loving it because he's back on the field after winning his first AL MVP and batting a robust .363 with 157 RBI’s.

"I've been looking forward to Opening Day ever since right after Game 7 of the ALCS last year," Barrett said. "It leaves a bad taste in your mouth getting that close to the World Series, but something about the spring air cleanses the pallet a little bit."

And what about the Santa Cruz Scum Bags? They're playing on Opening Day for the first time. And their skipper, Lenny Peterson, is heading into his first Opening Day as well.

"A new era is born," Peterson said. "It's going to be a very special Opening Day for these players. I never thought I would be involved in an Opening Day as Head Coach. After never having been in one as a player, it feels great to experience it as a coach."

"It's very special, not only for ourselves, but for the city of Santa Cruz," Scum Bags catcher Steven Corey said. "They finally get a team in their city. It's the start to a franchise. There are a lot more things involved than just playing."

That's how a lot of players feel about Opening Day.

Take, for example, rookies who've never experienced the largesse and grandeur of the moment.

Seattle Rain pitcher Dizzy Bartlett, who went through his first opener this year after being obtained from the Bombers two seasons ago, is expecting some serious butterflies.

"You hear people talk about how they live for it," Dizzy said. "So I'm excited. I'm sure I'll be pretty pumped up. I'll be flowing. It's a game where I'll be excited, but control it. ... I don't know if it'll match the nervousness of getting drafted, but I got through that, so I'm sure I'll get through this one."

It's OK, Dizzy. Even the veterans sometimes have a tough time getting through it.

"I love it, and sometimes it stresses me out," said Detroit Ducks former Rookie of the Year Jerome McNally. "And tickets ... everybody wants to come into town for Opening Day. It's crazy."

McNally's teammate, Tony Guapo helped explain what McNally was referring to.

"It's a big deal in Detroit, when the businesses close down and 40,000 or 50,000 people are at the ballpark," Guapo said. "There's nothing like Opening Day. It's the beginning of a long haul."

And that's pretty much the sentiment everyone can agree on.

"Spring Training is a time to get ready," said Texas RF Malcolm Locke. "We all know that it's a long season, and that's what you prepare for. Opening Day is the day you start the marathon."

"You don't even need your coffee that day," New Orleans outfielder Arthur Carroll added. "If you can't get pumped up for Opening Day, you'll never get pumped up for a game."