Wednesday, October 21, 2015

KUDOS TO SANDY ALOMAR JR.



As a cyclist, you're always looking for new riding pals. Since moving up to Western North Carolina, I've met several whom I now consider good friends with which to explore this outdoor wonderland.

Then there's Sandy Alomar Jr., the 1990 AL Rookie of the Year, six-time AL All-Star catcher and older brother of Hall of Famer Roberto Alomar.

OK, I haven't exactly met Sandy, currently the first-base coach for the Indians, or hit the road with him, but through the ap Strava, we follow each other's two-wheeled exploits.

Strava is like Facebook for cyclists, runners and hikers but so much more. It's basically a hopped-up GPS. It tracks your speed, mileage, heart rate and elevation gain in addition to measuring best times over designated segments against other cyclists. After downloading a ride, followers can see what you've been up to. Similar to the "like'' in Facebook, Strava followers give "kudos'' and/or comment.

After I started following Alomar, he reciprocated a short while later.

Strava

Nice! Sandy Alomar Jr is following you on Strava

Hey Dean,
Whoa, you're kind of a big deal! Sandy Alomar Jr is now following you on Strava. You already follow Sandy Alomar Jr. Let's show him what you can do.
Go get 'em.
— Your friends at Strava
I have to say I was pretty flattered to get that email. Then, a few weeks later:

Strava


Sandy Alomar Jr
Gave you Kudos!

Hey Dean,
Great job out there, Sandy Alomar Jr gave you kudos on Montreat Treat with Kevin
Keep it up,
— Your friends at Strava
He really is following me! Wheel cool!

Alomar began cycling three years ago as a way to stay in shape with a sport that's friendly on an ex-catcher's knees. As cyclists, we're brothers, if only linked through the Internet.

Incidentally, Barry Bonds is active on Strava. I'm following his cycling exploits, too. In time, maybe he'll join my ever-expanding peloton of real and virtual riding compadres.

Monday, October 19, 2015

1993 TOPPS FINEST: PAGING Nos. 172-180

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HALL OF FAMERS

  • None.

FINEST OF THE NINE

  • No. 175 George Bell gets the nod. He averaged 27 homers during his 12-year career with three teams and was named AL MVP in 1987.

FINEST MOMENT

  • Bell again stands out with his spectacular '88 Opening Day performance. The reining AL MVP slugged three home runs against the Royals.

DESIGNED TO THE NINES

  • No. 180 Rob Dibble's bulging vein captured at the end of that violent high leg-kick delivery captures everything you need to know about his personality and career.

Friday, October 16, 2015

1993 TOPPS FINEST: #180 ROB DIBBLE

VEIN MAN OUT OF THE BULLPEN.


ARMED AND ALWAYS DANGEROUS.




DEFINING THE PLAYER

  • Rob Dibble didn't nibble. The vein-popping hothead always pumped gas out of the bullpen while frequently lighting a match. Making his bones first as #182 Randy Myers' set-up man for the World Series champion Reds in 1990, Dibble became a two-time All-Star and inherited the closer's job before injuries wrecked his career, which lasted only seven turbulent seasons. He packed a lot of drama in that time, during which he saved 89 games, averaged 12.2 strikeouts per nine innings and was suspended more times than a goth teen.

DEFINING MOMENT

  • Dibble got into several scraps with the opposition, but his clubhouse throw-down with manager Lou Piniella on Sept. 17, 1992, took the cake. Especially because it was all caught on film by a TV news crew. After the Reds held on to defeat the Braves 3-2, Piniella was asked why a rested Dibble wasn't called on to close. Sweet Lou said Dibble had a sore shoulder. Dibble was told this and said it wasn't true. That's when Sour Lou bolted from his office and attacked the 6-4, 230-pound Dibble, yelling he was a liar. The wrestling match was broken up and the two made up, with Dibble being called on to pitch the next day.

DEFINING SEASON

  • Taking over as Reds closer in '91, Dibble saved a career-high 31 games, blew only five and averaged 13.6 strikeouts per nine innings.

FIVE FINAL FACTS

  1. Dibble made his major-league debut in '88 but emerged in '89, winning 10 games in relief and striking out 141 batters in 99 innings.
  2. One of 51 pitchers to record an Immaculate Inning (striking out the side on nine pitches). On June 4, 1989, against the Padres, Dibble got Carmelo Martinez swinging, Mark Parent looking and Garry Templeton swinging.
  3. Was co-MVP of the '90 NLCS (along with Myers) after saving a game and striking out 10 in five innings covering four appearances.
  4. Achieved his 500th strikeout in 368 innings, the fewest in major-league history. Craig Kimbrel (305) and Aroldis Chapman (292) have since surpassed him.
  5. After retiring in '96, Dibble embarked on a broadcasting career and has managed to rub just as many folks the wrong way.










Wednesday, October 14, 2015

1993 TOPPS FINEST: #179 ERIC ANTHONY

COULD HIT THEM A COUNTRY MILE.



BUT COULDN'T MAKE CONTACT CONSISTENTLY.




DEFINING THE PLAYER

  • Eric Anthony came out of nowhere. He went from high-school dropout working at a plastics company to major-leaguer. While his nine-year career didn't amount to too much -- .231/.305/.397 with 78 homers and striking out twice as much as he walked -- he left his mark as a prodigious slugger capable of reaching the outer-reaches of any park.

DEFINING MOMENT

  • It was one of those tape-measure shots at the Astrodome that had everyone talking on May 17, 1990. Facing the Cubs' Mike Morgan, Anthony became the first Astro to park one in the right-field upper deck, 440 feet away. The first was Jim Wynn in '70. 

DEFINING SEASON

  • After failing to hit over .200 in parts of his first three seasons, Anthony showed some promise in '92, hitting a career-high 19 homers and driving in 80. He slashed .239/.298/.407.

FIVE FINAL FACTS

  1. Selected in the 34th round of the '86 draft.
  2. Received a tryout by the Astros that year and got their attention with several long BP homers.
  3. In the minors in '88-'89, covering Class A through Triple-A, Anthony bashed 91 homers. He added four more for the Astros in his major-league call-up in '89.
  4. Followed up his '92 season by batting a career-high .249 in '93, adding 15 homers and 66 RBI.
  5. Traded to the Mariners in the '93 off-season for Mike Felder and Mike Hampton, who would win 76 games and sport a 3.59 ERA over seven seasons.

Monday, October 12, 2015

1993 TOPPS FINEST: #178 NORM CHARLTON

NOT YOUR NORMAL RELIEVER.



WE SEEM TO HAVE A TEAM DISCREPANCY. 




DEFINING THE PLAYER

  • Although the least well-known member of the 1990 Nasty Boy Reds, Norm Charlton might have made the biggest impact. At least in one game. While seventh-inning specialists usually toil in anonymity, Charlton delivered the quintessential image of the Reds rough-and-rowdy bullpen. It wasn't a punch-out; it was a knock-out of a catcher in a home-plate collision during that magical season. The lefty did plenty of damage on the mound, too, during a 13-year career for five teams. He saved 97 games, won 51 and had a 3.71 ERA.

DEFINING MOMENT

  • On June 24, 1990, against the Dodgers in a Sunday Night Baseball telecast, Charlton, who relieved Rick Mahler in the seventh, was on first base with two out when Joe Oliver doubled down the left-field line in the bottom of the inning. Todd Benzinger scored from second and Charlton ran through third-base coach Sam Perlozzo's stop sign and rumbled toward Mike Scioscia. What ensued was the year's best home-plate collision. Charlton scored -- and also notched the save -- and the Reds went on to win 10-6.

DEFINING SEASON

  • Charlton enjoyed his only All-Star season in '92, teaming up with #180 Rob Dibble as closer. Charlton saved a team-leading 26 games, won four and had a 2.99 ERA.

FIVE FINAL FACTS

  1. Selected 28th in the first round of the '84 draft by the Expos.
  2. Traded to the Reds in '86 essentially for Wayne Krenchicki.
  3. Teamed with Dibble (eighth inning) and #182 Randy Myers (ninth) to form the Nasty Boys, who took baseball by storm, as the Reds went wire-to-wire to win the World Series.
  4. In November '92, Charlton was dealt to the Mariners for #136 Kevin Mitchell.
  5. After one season in Seattle, a lost '94 to injury and being signed by the Phillies, Charlton was reacquired by the Mariners during the '95 midseason. He was their closer down the stretch as they made their first playoff appearance.



Friday, October 9, 2015

1993 TOPPS FINEST: #177 LENNY DYKSTRA

THE GUTS OF TWO PENNANT-WINNERS.



MOST DEFINITELY PHYSICALLY ENHANCED IN THE '90S.




DEFINING THE PLAYER

  • Rabble-rouser Lenny Dykstra earned the nickname "Nails.'' He just didn't know when to temper that fire, and it got him into a heap of trouble off the field. Mets fans still warmly remember the scrappy leadoff hitter and his role on the 1986 World Series champions. Phillies fans still get misty over the 'roided-up "Dude'' and his zest for lunacy that led them to the '93 NL pennant. And the victims of Dykstra's financial schemes still would like to see him burn in hell. A player of modest talent, Dykstra forged a respectable 12-year career, slashing .285/.375/.419 with 285 steals. 

DEFINING MOMENT

  • Down 0-2 after being swept at home, the Mets were in need of a spark in Game 3 of the '86 World Series on Oct. 21. Dykstra, batting lead off, provided it. He stroked a first-inning 1-1 pitch from Oil Can Boyd into the right-field Fenway seats. The Mets went on to win 7-1 to save their season.

DEFINING SEASON

  • Dykstra came of age in '93 for the Phillies. He led the NL in runs (143), hits (194) and walks (129) and slashed .305/.420/.482. He also set career-highs in homers (19), RBI (66) and steals (37).

FIVE FINAL FACTS

  1. A 13th-round choice in the '81 draft.
  2. Had one of the greatest minor-league seasons for Class A Lynchburg of the Carolina League in '83. He slashed .358/.472/.502, stealing 105 bases and driving in 81. He was named league MVP.
  3. A notorious tobacco-chewer, Dykstra was known to spit out wads in center field, which was not lost on Pirates center fielder #185 Andy Van Slyke. "I hate playing center field against Lenny Dykstra. One of these years, he's going to give me foot cancer out there.''
  4. Dykstra was sentenced to three years in prison in '12 after pleading no-contest to grand theft auto and filing a false financial statement. Released in '13 after serving 6 1/2 months. 
  5. While there are plenty more tawdry incidents involving Nails, perhaps it's better to end with a funny/sad one. Check out this two-part dumpster-fire smackdown with former Phils closer and not-so-close friend #49 Mitch Williams that occurred earlier this year at a roast in Philadelphia. The audience is just as entertaining as the combatants.


Wednesday, October 7, 2015

1993 TOPPS FINEST: #176 MIKE STANTON

LEFTY SLUGGER NEUTRALIZER FOR 19 YEARS.




IS HE THROWING RIGHT-HANDED HERE?





DEFINING THE PLAYER

  • Trivia time. Reliever Mike Stanton is the all-time leader in what category: 1) Saves? 2) Hit batters? 3) Holds? If you zeroed in on 3, you spend too much time on Baseball-Reference.com. Stanton amassed 266 during his 19-year career with eight teams. Does it need to be said he threw left-handed and pitched until he was 40? Stats aside, Stanton was a valuable bullpen member during the majority of the Yankees' late-'90s dynasty.

DEFINING MOMENT

  • Stanton's typical steady relief work helped the Yankees get the early jump on the Mets in Game 1 of the '00 World Series on Oct. 21. He came in to pitch in the 11th inning, spinning two perfect innings with three strikeouts, as New York won 4-3 in 12. It was his first of two victories in the five-game Series.

DEFINING SEASON

  • An All-Star for the first and only time in his career in '01, Stanton won nine games in relief and had 23 holds and a 2.58 ERA in 76 games.

FIVE FINAL FACTS

  1. Taken by the Braves in the 13th round of the '87 draft.
  2. Had a breakout season with the Braves in '93 when he saved 27 games.
  3. Lost his job next year to Greg McMichael and never again reached double-figures in saves.
  4. In 55.2 postseason innings covering 53 games, Stanton fashioned a 2.10 ERA and five victories.
  5. The hold became an official MLB statistic in '99 and is defined as entering a game with a lead and holding said lead. Yes, not exactly the pantheon of baseball stats.