Jean Carlos Star

Jean Carlos Enrique Segura is a rising star. He began shinning in 1990 in San Juan, Dominican Republic. But this year, he has become a full-blown star of major proportion. In his first full season as the starting shortstop of the Milwaukee Brewers, he has played in nearly every game and leads the National League in hits (124) with an All-Star batting average of .326. In the last ten games, he is hitting .378.

There are plenty of players who have put up great ‘can’t miss’ minor league stats and never made it big in The Show. Segura is not one of them. Since he hit organized ball, he has proven to be one of the most valuable players. Drafted by the Angels, he was selected an All-Star in 2010 at Cedar Rapids of the Midwest League. The following year he was named Arizona Fall League Rising Star for the Scottsdale nine. Last year, he was  a Texas League All-Star in AA at Arkansas. Also last year he was a Futures Game Selection. This year he was an All-Star at Citi Field for the National League.

This is his first full season.

In batting, he reminds one of a young Henry Aaron at the plate. Lightening quick hands with unexpected power. Segura has hit 11 home runs in his first full season so far. In Henry’s first 1954 season, he hit 13 while batting .280. His All-Star streak began the following year when he batted .314 with 27 home runs. In fielding, Segura has committed 10 errors at shortstop while Henry had 7 errors playing left field (6) and right field (1).

But is it too early to judge a rookie? Not necessarily so. Honus Wagner in his rookie season, and probably ranked as the greatest shortstop of all time, in his first full season in 1898 for St. Louis had 10 home runs and batted .299. Strangely, he never played shortstop in his first year as most of the time he was at first base (75 games), at third base (65) and second base (10). Then there is Alex Rodriguez. During his first full season in 1996 for Seattle he set the standard with a league leading batting average of .358 while smacking 36 home runs. He committed 15 errors. He too became an All-Star in his inaugural full season. He comes back into the Yankee lineup this week in Texas. Then there is Derek Jeter, today’s Captain of the Yankees. His first full season was also in 1996 when he hit 10 home runs while batting .314. He committed 22 errors in his first full season.

Cal Ripken Jr. hammered 28 home runs in his first full season in 1982 for Baltimore while hitting .264. He had only 13 errors all that season playing shortstop. Luke Appling of the Chicago White Sox in his first full season in 1932 (judging a season with over 100 games played) he batted .274 and hit 3 home runs in cavernous Comiskey Park located at 35th and Shields. He had 49 errors, with 37 coming at shortstop, 6 at second base and 6 at third base.

Yet in Milwaukee, every player who ever plays the shortstop position is judged from a point of reference called Robin Yount. In his first full season (1974) he hit .250 with 3 home runs. He matched his uniform number in the field, committing 19 errors.

The beauty of baseball is that comparison are inevitable.  It is part of the game.

This season, all are experiencing the excitement of a rising star. Look for him at shortstop at Miller Park. He is a remarkable young ballplayer.

Play Ball!

Enhancing The Outcome

When can we agree on the time the drug era began in baseball? One of the first times I noticed it was when a player for the San Diego Padres hit his 50th home run at old Bank One Ballpark (now The Chase) in Phoenix on a warm September evening in 1998. I had watched this player for years in Milwaukee. As he trotted across the plate, he was a caricature of his former self. Bloated, muscular beyond his years, hyper-alert. Being behind the visitors’ dugout you could gain such a perspective. That is the day, in my mind, legitimate baseball records ended. Not that the player in question was not a good player. On the contrary, he was a very good ball player. But 50?

Recently, Baseball Digest published a fascinating article on players with the most home runs before the All-Star break. It wasn’t the list that was peculiar; it was a comment one of the readers proposed. He asked, what would this list look like without the drug era players participating?

In order to do that, a line has to be drawn on when the drug era began. My timeline is the year that player hit his 50th home run…1998

By removing all of the players suspected or admittedly used drugs, the list would look very different from the one published. By using the arbitrary HGH Era date, Reggie Jackson of the Oakland A’s would lead the list with 37 home runs before the All-Star break. He would go on to crack 47 in that season of 1969. Second on the list would be Frank Howard of the Washington Senators. He blasted 32 before the All-Star break on his way to hitting 48 during 1969. Ken Griffey, Jr. of the Seattle Mariners would be #3 with 35 dingers in 1994. In fourth place is the legendary Shanley High School star from Fargo, ND, Roger Maris who hit 33 before the break on his way to his 61 in the magical 1961 season. To complete the top five is Matt Williams then playing All-Star caliber baseball with the San Francisco Giants and had 33 homers before the break in 1994 on his way to crashing 43 that year.

I have not included any player after the 1997 season. I simply do not know who was on the juice and who was not. For that matter, I don’t know what the status of any player was before the 1998 season. We experienced the cocaine era, the alcohol era, the chewing tobacco era (if you have never had a chew of ‘baccy’, you can’t understand the buzz that is created the first time you use it and the ‘no-fear’ of a heater past your ears).

Synthetic human growth hormone (HGH) was developed in 1985 and approved by the FDA for specific uses in children and adults. That’s children and adults. For children it was approved for treating a number of medical cases including Turner’s syndrome; Prader-Willi syndrome, chronic kidney insufficiency, HGH deficiency or insufficiency and for children born small for gestational age. It was created for use in adults for short bowel syndrome or HGH deficiency due to rare pituitary tumors or their treatment. It was also approved for uses in muscle-wasting disease associated with HIV/AIDS.

However, most common uses for HGH are not FDA-approved. Some people use the hormone, along with other performance-enhancing drugs such as anabolic steroids, to build muscle and improve athletic performance. Because the body’s HGH levels naturally decrease with age, some so-called antiaging experts have speculated and claimed that HGH products could reverse age-related bodily deterioration. The use of HGH for antiaging is not FDA approved. Regardless, some people obtain injectable HGH from doctors who prescribe it for off-label purposes, the uses for which it has not been approved by the FDA, and through Internet pharmacies, antaging clinics, and web sites.

Now we are once again deep within the much publicized HGH era that the Commish, wanting sainthood along with Karol Jozef Wojtyla, before he retires from his $18.4 million salary (equal to what both the NHL & NFL commissioners make), has thrown down the gauntlet on some of the best players in the game because their names were on a piece of paper and a paid informant is spilling his guts about anything and everything he can regurgitate for fame and a little bit of fortune. Plus, there is the possibility of not being persecuted further. More on that after the commish white-washes the game with the spirit of cleanliness once he proclaims the game safe for all young and old.

He plays with the very foundation of the game…its loyal fans.

Nonetheless, here is the list, tainted or not, of what Baseball Digest proclaims as the players with the most home runs before the All-Star break.

Rank  Player                         Team                                      Pre-            Season            Year

1         Bonds                         San Francisco Giants             39                73                  2001

2         Reggie Jackson          Oakland A’s                            37               47                  1969

3          McGwire                     St. Louis Cardinals                 37               70                  1998

4          Ken Griffey, Jr.           Seattle Mariners                     35                56                  1998

5          Gonzalez                    Arizona Diamondbacks          35                57                  2001

6          Frank Howard            Washington Senators             34                48                  1969

7          Ken Griffey, Jr.           Seattle Mariners                     33                40                   1994

8          Roger Maris                New York Yankees                33                61                   1961

9          McGwire                     Oakland A’s                            33               49                   1987

10        Matt Williams              San Francisco Giants              33               43                   1994

I do not believe that any of the players who have been tainted with HGH should be honored with any record in baseball. True, proven before guilty is a cornerstone of our democracy. Yet when it comes to baseball, all you have to believe is what you see with your own eyes. In my lifetime, I have seen players who should not be allowed in the record books because they used a substance that gave them an advantage over others in the game. It is a game we played and look forward to comparing the best to the best that have ever played. It is this comparison that makes this game the greatest. Stats shouldn’t lie. But that is just my opinion.

What do you think?

Play Ball!

A Vote For #3

He was one of those players that played for eighteen years in a state called ‘Overlooked’. In a world that favors big market players, baseball’s Hall of Fame is filled with players who played for teams in New York, Los Angeles, Boston, Chicago, Detroit, Philadelphia and Washington. He was a local legend and for the majority of his career, played in Atlanta. That in itself is a bit difficult to gain entrance into Cooperstown.

Although his career statistics aren’t mind boggling (.265 batting average; 398 home runs; 1,266 rbi), his selection to the All-Star team seven times, five Gold Glove Awards, four Silver Slugger Awards, back-to-back MVP Awards in the National League, the 1988 Roberto Clemente Award and the 1985 Lou Gehrig Memorial Award, #3 in your program and #1 in your Atlanta Braves hearts should provide entry into the Hall of Fame for one Dale Murphy.

He is one of three players who have won multiple MVP awards not in the Hall.

He absolutely dominated the National League in the 1980s.

He was also incredibly kind, generous and giving. According to a CNN report on July 4, 1983, titled “Murphy’s Law Is Nice Guys Finish First” brought to America his humanity. Before a home game against San Francisco on June 12, 1983, Murphy visited in the stands with Elizabeth Smith, a six-year-old girl who had lost both hands and a leg when she stepped on a live power line. After Murphy gave her a cap and a T-shirt, her nurse innocently asked if he could hit a home run for Elizabeth. “I didn’t know what to say, so I just sort of mumbled ‘Well, O.K.,'” said Murphy. That day he hit two homers and drove in all the Braves’ runs in a 3-2 victory. This was as close to a Ruthian event as any in the history of baseball.

He played ball before EC, the Era of Cheating, that ran rampant in the 90s and early 00s. His home runs and tremendous play was before everyone was Bond-ing. Murphy did hit playing without using performance-enhancing drugs. Thus his amazing career efforts could be diminished by his coming before the inflated era of EC.

Perhaps it is the stance he took by forming iWontCheat Foundation to promote ethical behavior and deter steroid use and cheating in youth athletics in 2005. Since 2008, every team member in the Little League World Series wears the “I WON’T CHEAT!” embroidered patch above the Little League Baseball logo on the left sleeve of their jerseys. Whatever the reason, the sport needs examples of what ‘hero’ in baseball means. For those members who vote on such issues, it is spelled M U R P H Y,  D A L E, Atlanta Braves outfielder.

EBL. The Key To Success.

The battle in baseball is centered around pitching, especially relief pitching. It is a treasured position. Just as the Milwaukee Brewers found out this past season by having their relief pitchers fail with 28 blown saves, the most in the entire major leagues, it is all about that guy coming in out of the bullpen late in the game to preserve the lead and save the game. These guys are a different breed. They think differently. Hall of Fame relief pitcher, Rollie Fingers, probably said it best. “I focus on making that one pitch. That’s what I tell myself, “One pitch.” You can’t worry about the next one. Even with a good hitter, he’ll get out seven times out of ten. I want to make sure that this is one of those seven.”

This off-season, especially in the Western Division of the National League, it is completely about that…finding the guy who can concentrate on that one pitch that will make a difference and take their team to the World Series and win it. Of import is the knowledge that in order to win the World Series, teams first have to defeat the San Francisco Giants and their amazing bullpen which will only improve with the return of one Brian Patrick Wilson. With his four-seam fastball, slider and cutter, teamed with Sergio Romo’s slider, two-seamer, change-up and three World Series saves against Detroit this past season, the team that resides in The City is once again the team to chase.

Arizona Diamondbacks made the first move to beef up their bullpen by signing closer Heath Bell. GM Kevin Towers was able to release him from Miami Marlins hell and bring him into the world of Gibson, which is much different from the world of Ozzie. Gibby will grunt where as Guillen simply blows his top with expletives. Look for Bell to reclaim his old form that was his calling card in San Diego two years ago.

The Dodgers made their big move in strengthening their bullpen by re-signing their top reliever this past season, Brandon League. General Manager Ned Colletti understood League’s importance to his team’s rise to the top of the NL West was resting on the guy he traded for last July 30th from Seattle. League went 6 for 6 in closes after succeeding Kenley Jansen who went on the disabled list with an irregular heartbeat.

In San Diego, they are set through 2015 with their closer, Houston Street. With an excellent ERA of 1.85, Street, the former Rookie of the Year in 2005 for Oakland, finished last season with 23 saves in the 40 games in which he appeared. He earned All-Star status for the first time in his career last season.

For those who live in the East, you may be in a bit of a time-warp. Not everything in baseball revolves around New York and Boston. What may appear to be a little late for many in the Eastern time zone to see, fabulous play has been going on this decade West of the Rockies. It’s understood that you can’t read about it in your morning newspapers anymore (but who reads the newspaper anymore for news?). In those early Eastern slumber hours, when head hits the pillow, they are playing baseball out West, good solid baseball. In fact, the last three champions have come out of the National League and in two of those years, the Western Division champion became the champion in all of baseball.

The key this coming season will be to find out which team in the NL West can come up with the bullpen that can deliver the save, especially on the road. Tom House, the former Atlanta Braves reliever stated, “When I’m on the road, my greatest ambition is to get a standing boo.” That’s what the rest of this division is hoping they have on their staff…the ‘on-the-road boo leader. Look for it this coming season as the newest stat in baseball, the EBL, Earned Boo Leader.

No. Don’t look for that stat in your newspaper. This is the season to look for it on your mobile. It’s under “E” as in Earned Boo Leader.

Play Ball!

The Captain



This is the time when we usually see him flying around the field making improbable plays to  alert the world that he is the very best at what he does during the post season. We see him fly into the third base box seats, crashing his legs into the rail and making that great catch. We see him dashing across the first base line, flipping the ball with his glove hand to the catcher to get the running coming home. He is the Captain. He is the leader.

He is D-E-R-E-K  J-E-T-E-R.

In his last game of the year, against the Detroit Tigers, he collected his 200th hit in post season. Do you understand that level of accomplishment? Here are a few facts: 18 seasons with over 3,300 hits. A 13 time All-Star with a lifetime .313 batting average. 16 seasons of post season baseball experience with 200 hits and a .308 BA. 158 post season games started. That’s nearly a season of post season games. His 200 post season hits ranks #1. Only a handful of other players who played in the big leagues have over 70 hits in post season. They are: Bernie Williams (128), Manny Ramirez (117), Chipper Jones (97), Albert Pujols (88), Alex Rodriguez (72) and Johnny Damon (72).

Imagine, while we were watching #2 play, he amassed 200 hits in post season, an astounding amount of hits, 72 more than the next best. When you talk about unbeatable records in baseball, this may be the one they talk about for decades to come. Who knows? Perhaps he will add to it next year.

Now he faces a 4 to 5 month recovery from ankle surgery. Perhaps when the warm weather of spring breaks through from a New York winter, #2 will step out of the dugout on the first base side of Yankee Stadium and jog to his familiar place at shortstop, wearing his pinstripes and that slight smile. When that happens, his place already fixed in Yankee lore will continue to grow and the endearing chants will once again be heard from the loving fans in the stands… D-E-R-E-K  J-E-T-E-R.

The Captain will have returned.








A Case For #28 As MVP


All-star, silver slugger award winner, Prince Fielder is an undisputed MVP candidate of the American League this season. Case in point: in 2011 he was the insurance behind the National League’s MVP, Ryan Braun. that assured pitchers threw would rather pitch to Braun in the third position in the batting order than take their chances with the ever dangerous Fielder in clean up. In 2012, he was the insurance behind the American League’s first Triple Crown winner in 45 years, Miguel Cabrera. In the clean up position, Fielder was again the biggest threat. Pitchers have learned that they just don’t like pitching to #28. He is that dangerous. Cabrera was the beneficiary.

This is not to take anything away from Braun or Cabrera. They are both great baseball players and superb hitters. Both earned their achievement titles.

But how dangerous is Fielder? In both 2011 and 2012, he played in all 162 games. In 2011 he had 170 hits. In 2012 he had 182 hits. Last year he had 36 doubles while he collected 33 doubles this season. He hit 38 home runs while driving in 120 RBIs last season. This year he hit 30 home runs and drove in 108 RBIs. As for the RBI total, you probably can’t have too many men on base when the Triple Crown winner is hitting ahead of you. Last year he hit .299 and this year hit .313. Perhaps the most amazing stat is the fact that he walked 85 times while striking out only 84 times.

He will get better. This was his first season in the American League. Despite inter league games, he had to learn all of the pitchers in a new league.

So, who is better than Prince Fielder as an MVP candidate in the American League? Is it a Triple Crown winner or Michael Trout of the Angels, who had a very good rookie season?  Detroit won their division and moved on to the playoffs. The Angels finished out of the running. MVP is all about who got you there not who might have gotten you there. Remember, Prince played in more games and hit as many home runs as Trout did. Plus he’s playing in the playoffs once again.

Play Ball!






Say It Ain’t So, Commish!

Early in the season, the sure way to hear a chorus of boo’s was during the introduction of #8 of the Milwaukee Brewers coming to the plate. Some cities gave him the raspberries more than others. In Los Angeles, the fans would boo in between bites of sushi. In Phoenix the fans continued to boo him because he was the friend of the dreaded enemy, Prince Fielder who did the unforgivable sin of naming Rickie Weeks to the Home Run Derby held at Chase Field last year rather than local favorite, Upton. In Chicago, well they saved their boo’s to test out their lungs on the dreaded enemy left fielder. In other cities the Brewer’s left fielder was booed because his name was tainted during the off-season by an unauthorized leak and a badly executed proclamation by Major League Baseball not admitting they were at fault in not chastising their method of drug testing.

Ryan Braun will be named to the National League All-Star team this week. But his position as a starter through fan voting, something he has led during the past few years as the game’s biggest vote getter, is questionable. All because somebody whispered something to somebody that Braun had failed his routine urine test in October, 2011.

After mediation, an arbitrator found that Braun’s case should be thrown out because the transferring of the urine by a Northern Illinois resident was not properly sent to the labs and was placed in his house over a weekend. But the word was made public. Braun failed his urine test. One of the most admired players in the game was now about to tumble off his star pedestal if Major League Baseball didn’t come to his rescue.

Many medical people, including every medical doctor (that’s with an MD after their name) that I spoke with said that urine samples can become very unstable and contaminated if they are not properly handled, processed and/or stored properly in a timely fashion, like over night. To wait over a weekend is NOT the way to handle a sample. It has to be thrown out. Yet the word was out that Braun had failed his urine test. Somebody didn’t like Braun.

After the announcement by the mediator became official, the factions of those who believed in Braun’s innocence or guilt were vocal. It was a split decision in the court of public opinion. Then the pronouncement of Major League Baseball came down. It basically stated that their testing procedures were excellent and that they were disappointed in the decision of the mediator. What? Why in the world would they make such a statement?

MLB doesn’t say anything without the express approval of the Commissioner. A Milwaukee Commissioner in his Milwaukee office lambasted one of the game’s bright young stars, a Milwaukee Brewer. He use to own this team. He was the guy who begged Ben Barkin the famed PR man from Milwaukee to get his client, Robert Uhlein (then the owner of Schlitz Brewing Co.) to pony up the money, for the benefit of the community, to buy the Seattle Pilots out of bankruptcy court and move them to Milwaukee. Does he now have soar grapes for selling the team? The word was out that Braun had failed his urine test; proven by a mediator that the testing procedure was not adequate; and now Major League Baseball was denying any responsibility for a failed system indicating that Braun was indeed guilty until proven innocent.

Would it hurt his performance on the field? This is the kind of meat conspiracy theorists chew on. This past week gave an indication to that answer. Last season, through Saturday, Braun was hitting .320. This season Braun was hitting .313. Last season Braun hit 16 Home Runs. This year he has hit 22, leading the National League. Last year he had 62 RBI while this season he drove in 55. This year his OPS is an amazing 1.005 while his slugging percentage is .611. Last year he was the National League’s Most Valuable Player. Last year he drew move votes than any other National Leaguer. This year he has proven that he can play through all the boo’s and the controversy by having as great a year as he did last season. Now he is desperately trying to win a starting position by receiving the top three votes for the outfield position by the fans. Braun had failed his urine test in the minds of the public and they may be withholding his starting All Star selection.

This is not about a great young ball player being tainted by running with a rough crowd, or going out drinking and having a DUI. He hasn’t been accused of hurting anyone or being a bad character. He hasn’t been proven to take any drugs. Yet he is as tainted as has Clemens, McGuire and Sosa, Bonds and Palmeiro. The chances of any of these players getting a first ballot Hall of Fame announcement are nil. The chances of any of these players ever getting into the Hall during their careers are slim. No they didn’t bet on games like Rose. No they didn’t take money like Jackson. But they have been linked to the drug infested era that has tainted them. Someone said that Braun had failed his urine test.

It’s time for the Commissioner of Baseball to state unequivocally that Ryan Braun did NOT fail his urine test. It has never been proven. He in fact DID NOT fail a urine test. Someone came up with a four or five day old sample, that was not stored the way it should have been nor shipped to the lab immediately, and said it reflected a positive result. However, any and all testing, under the agreement of Major League Baseball and the Player’s Union, was to remain confidential. That means nobody knew of any testing nor of any results. But the word was let out….Ryan Braun failed his urine test.

Come on, Commish. Did MLB leak the information to the press? Stop talking in circles. Bud loves to do that. He talks and talks and talks and talks and the circles soon become bigger and bigger until they don’t even look like circles any more. Did you ever notice that any difficult question that is asked the Commish, never gets a straight answer? Go ahead. Ask him how good Major League Baseball’s drug testing program is?

It’s time for the Commish to come out and state that there was a flaw in the system and that baseball has addressed that issue and fixed it. All testing will be done at random and immediately be sent to the testing labs without delay. No over night in the basement of somebody’s home. No over the weekend in someone’s house. Immediate sending is the answer. And then he has to say that baseball did something it should never have done: it should never have placed one of its brightest young stars in a position to fail.

That’s not what Commissioners do.

Say it ain’t so, Commish! Say it ain’t so.

Play Ball!