This Date In Transactions History Rumors
It’s been exactly one year since the Blue Jays, Cardinals and White Sox completed the complicated three-team trade that sent Colby Rasmus to Toronto. The Cardinals have an 88-70 regular season record in the last calendar year, plus the 11 postseason wins they earned en route to the 2011 World Series championship. Meanwhile, Rasmus has hit 20 homers and posted a .224/.283/.419 batting line in 543 plate appearances with the Blue Jays. He struggled after arriving in Toronto last summer, but has hit for power so far in 2012, and now has 17 home runs on the season.
I spoke with Rasmus earlier in the month. Here are some of his reflections on the trade, his ability and playing in Toronto:
MLBTR - Looking back, what are your thoughts on the trade?
Colby Rasmus - I’m definitely happy I got traded. I’ve enjoyed my time here since I’ve been here. When I look back at my time here, I feel like I’ve worked hard, played hard and that’s all I can do. So I’m happy with it.
MLBTR - Did you expect to be traded?
CR - I was about 50-50. It was kind of hard to tell because in baseball nobody knows until it happens. I thought maybe there was a chance because of some of the things that went on. Things weren’t meshing very well. I thought there was definitely a chance that I could be moved.
MLBTR - Did you block out all of the reports last summer, or was it impossible to ignore?
CR - I tried not to follow that stuff, but sometimes it’s hard because you see TVs in every clubhouse. They don’t turn the TVs off baseball. So we listen to everything everybody says even though you try not to. With the fans of St. Louis they’re a different breed. They’re all into their baseball. They know every stat, everything that’s going on in the papers. You run into fans everywhere you go. So yeah some of those things I would hear I would try to keep as much of it out of my mind as I could.
MLBTR - What’s the biggest difference between this year and last year?
CR - The biggest difference I would say is comfort level. Here I just feel more accepted, wanted. Nobody bothers me. I just go out and play my game and that way I have confidence in my game. In St. Louis I started to lose my confidence because maybe I didn’t do things a certain way that they liked or wanted. I think it should be between the white lines. The other stuff should be set aside.
MLBTR - How do you evaluate your performance in St. Louis and in Toronto?
CR - I feel like I played some good baseball in St. Louis. I definitely still haven’t played to my potential, but in 2010 I hit .276 with 23 home runs and 60 [actually 66] RBI. That’s a pretty good year I felt. This year, like I said, I’ve been more comfortable with the things I’m doing. That way every day I can have a bit more of a routine that I like that fits me better and makes me confident to play on the field. So I feel like I’ve still got a long way to go. I can still get better. I haven’t had the best of luck at times, but that’s baseball. I’m just going to try to continue to try to learn ways to help myself and help my team play better.
Photo courtesy of US Presswire.
Here are today's latest draft signings, with the most recent updates up top..
- The Mariners signed sixth-round pick Timmy Lopes for $550K, well over the pick value of $198K, according to Callis (via Twitter). The infielder out of California is said to have a good bat, not unlike his older brother Christian Lopes who was drafted by the Blue Jays last year. The M's also announced that they signed 26 others from this year's draft and have now inked 25 of their first 30 picks.
- The Mets signed third-rounder Matt Koch for $425K, slightly below his pick value of $445K, tweets Jim Callis of Baseball America. The right-hander has a 92-96 mph fastball and flashes good slider and changeup.
- The Royals signed fourth-round pick, Stanford infielder Kenny Diekroeger, tweets Bob Dutton of the Kansas City Star. Just one of Kansas City's top ten picks remain unsigned.
- The A’s announced that they agreed to terms with center fielder Herschel Powell (20th round), right-hander Lee Sosa (26th), shortstop Christopher Wolfe (30th), and first baseman John Wooten (37th).
- The Pirates announced that they signed eight draft picks, including infielder Eric Wood (sixth round). Pittsburgh has now inked nine draft picks in total and continues to negotiate with eighth-overall pick Mark Appel.
Everyone makes mistakes. However, not everyone draws the ire of an entire fan base and a city for their errors in life or on the baseball diamond. For a long time, it seemed as though Bill Buckner would never be forgiven by the Red Sox faithful for his infamous play. The Mets, seemingly on the verge of elimination in Game Six of the 1986 World Series, mounted a comeback in the 10th inning that should have been extinguished by Mookie Wilson's slow roller to first base. Buckner, hampered by two bad ankles, let the ball squeak through his legs, allowing the Mets to score the winning run, tie the series at 3-3, and capture the title two days later at Shea.
Buckner remained with the club for the 1987 season until he was released in early July after hitting .273/.299/.322 with two homers in 75 games. His final 57 games with the Angels were much stronger as he posted a slash line of .306/.337/.432 with three home runs. Prior to the 1990 season, the Red Sox signed the 40-year-old Buckner and the veteran received a standing ovation when he was introduced at the home opener on April 9th. Buckner's Beantown homecoming would be short-lived, however, and on this date in 1990, the veteran would retire upon being released by the Red Sox.
The first baseman made just 48 plate appearances in his second Boston go-round but would retire with a strong 22-year body of work to reflect upon. Buckner came into his own as a member of the Dodgers before enjoying his prime with the Cubs, where he hit .300/.332/.439 across eight seasons. While Buckner's most memorable moment on the field was his gaffe October of 1986, the first baseman was able to wrap up his impressive career on good terms with the Fenway Park crowd.
In 1999, Rickey Henderson hooked on with the Mets and turned in yet another strong campaign. The 40-year-old hit .315/.423/.466 in 121 games and racked up 37 steals to go with it. However, production isn't always everything and, shockingly, Henderson proved to be difficult to work with. The veteran found himself as fodder for the tabloids when he allegedly left the Mets' dugout to play cards with Bobby Bonilla during the team's season-ending loss in the NLCS to the Braves. The friction between Henderson and the front office would carry over in to the 2000 season when the leftfielder openly complained about his $1.9MM salary and demanded a raise during Spring Training which he never received. On May 13th, 2000, Henderson's time in Queens would come to an end.
In an afternoon game against the Marlins at Shea, Henderson belted a shot that he felt was certain to clear the fence. Henderson opted to watch the ball in flight only to see it fall short. The outfielder wound up with what amounted to a 355-foot single and didn't feel the need to apologize for it. "I didn't cause them to lose. Look someplace else," said Henderson following the 7-6 loss, according to the Associated Press. It turns out that the future Hall of Famer would be the one who was someplace else as he went unclaimed on waivers before finally being released. Agent Jeff Borris wasn't fazed by the news.
"I don't anticipate having a problem finding him a place to play," said Borris. "A lot of people think Rickey has a lot of baseball left in him. Rickey has had a spectacular career, and it would be a blemish if it ended this way. There are a couple of major milestones that he still wants to achieve."
Borris was right as the legendary illeist wasn't without employment for long. Henderson quickly hooked on with the Mariners and finished out the year hitting .238/.362/.327. While that was the end of Henderson's time playing for the Mets, he would once again don orange-and-blue as a special instructor and later on as the team's first base coach in 2007.
On this date in 1990, the Yankees traded future Hall of Famer Dave Winfield to the California Angels for right-hander Mike Witt. However, the deal was not truly consummated until almost a week later when the rightfielder would finally give the deal his blessing. Winfield's situation was a complicated one: the veteran had ten-and-five rights and therefore had the right to reject trades. However, his contract included a list of seven teams that he would agree to be traded to and the Angels were on it.
"This has nothing to do with the California Angels. I respect them, like them, the city, the weather," said Winfield on May 12th, according to Helene Elliott of the Los Angeles Times. "I played with [Angel Manager] Doug Rader [in San Diego]. Everything's cool. I have nothing bad to say about the Angels. I'm going to play a lot of years for somebody, but it isn't going to be determined today where or when.."
Donald Fehr, the executive director of the Players Association, argued that the list was given to the Yankees under protest and the club was aware that Winfield had final say over any trade. Fehr cited another botched deal from 1988 which would have send the outfielder to the Astros until it was rejected by Winfield. One could assume that Winfield's refusal to sign off on on the trade stemmed from his infamous rift with Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, but there was a much simpler explanation for his veto. The outfielder was in the final year of his ten-year, $20MM deal and was looking for a contract extension from the Halos.
The Angels were now in an awkward position and ultimately decided to give in to Winfield's demands. On May 17th, the club agreed to a three-year, $9.1MM deal with Winfield that was only guaranteed for the first season. If released before the '91 campaign, Winfield would receive a buyout of $2MM plus an additional $450K to cover the following year. With that, the deal was finally put through.
For his part, Witt was excited by the prospect of joining the Yankees and resuming his role as a starter. The 6'4" hurler turned in a 4.47 ERA with 5.6 K/9 and 3.2 BB/9 in 16 starts for the Bombers that season. As for Winfield, he bounced back in spectacular fashion after getting off to a slow start in the first 20 games of the season. Upon joining the Angels, Winfield hit .275/.348/.466 in 112 games and won the 1990 MLB Comeback Player of the Year Award.
Winfield would call it quits after the 1995 season, capping off a spectacular 22-year major league career. The rightfielder was inducted into Cooperstown in his first year of eligibility of 2001 and became the first player to go into the Hall as a San Diego Padre.
Of all the dramatic things Suzyn Waldman has ever seen, the comeback of Roger Clemens ranks pretty highly. On this date in 2007, the Rocket appeared in George Steinbrenner's box at Yankee Stadium during the seventh-inning stretch as the Bombers faced the Mariners. Clemens told the rabid crowd over the PA system, "Thank y'all. Well they came and got me out of Texas, and I can tell you its a privilege to be back. I'll be talkin' to y'all soon."
The return marked Clemens' fourth return from retirement, enough to make even the most indecisive boxer or professional wrestler roll his eyes. Coaxing the hurler out of the Lone Star State wasn't cheap either as he inked a deal worth the pro-rated portion of $28,000,022 (the "22", of course, for his jersey number). That worked out to $18.7MM in total, good for roughly $4.7MM per month and $1MM per start. The contract also included a "family plan" clause that excused Clemens from traveling with the club for trips in which he was not scheduled to start.
It wasn't hard to understand why the Yankees would back up a Brink's truck for his services - the club was in desperate need of pitching and Clemens had posted a 2.40 ERA with 8.4 K/9 and 2.8 BB/9 across parts of the last three seasons in Houston. The 44-year-old's final return from retirement wasn't quite as sharp. Clemens made 17 starts and one relief appearance in the regular season and registered a 4.18 ERA with 6.2 K/9 and 2.8 BB/9. The Rocket was then shut down for the final few weeks of the season as he was bothered with a left hamstring injury.
Clemens' first start in the postseason proved to be his final of the year and his career. In Game 3 of the ALDS against the Indians, the right-hander aggravated that same hamstring in the third inning and was pulled by manager Joe Torre. The severity of the injury led the Yankees to pull him from the playoff roster, leaving him ineligible until the World Series. Unfortunately for Clemens & Co., the Yanks didn't make it beyond the ALDS as Cleveland wrapped up the series in four games. Clemens' final go-round in the majors wouldn't net him a third championship ring, but it did add to his overall net worth. According to Baseball Reference, the Rocket made nearly $151MM over the course of his 24-year big league career.
Most of us are familiar with the story of Archibald Graham, the New York Giants outfielder who appeared in just one game in 1905 -- without making a plate appearance -- before moving on to other endeavors in life. For this distinction, "Moonlight," as he was nicknamed, was immortalized in W.P. Kinsella's Shoeless Joe and later its film adaptation, Field of Dreams.
Graham's story was exhumed and canonized by those stories, for sure, but it hasn't been entirely unique. Here's an even weirder one: former Athletic Herb Washington. Notice I didn't include a position to describe Washington -- because he didn't have one. Despite playing in a whopping 105 Major League games with Oakland in 1974-75, Washington never made a plate appearance, played in the field or threw a pitch. He was a so-called "designated runner," used exclusively as a pinch-runner.
Washington was a decorated sprinter as a student-athlete at Michigan State University, and despite not having played baseball since he was a high schooler in Mississippi, his blazing speed apparently made him fit for the Major Leagues in the eyes of eccentric Oakland owner Charles O. Finley. Thus, Washington would parachute into games and, often times, attempt to steal bases.
The only problem was, Washington wasn't terribly good at it. Sure, he swiped 31 bags in his 105 games, but that was in 48 attempts -- good for an underwhelming 65% success rate. Stolen-base profiency is still a topic of debate, but most research shows that a 65% success rate won't add much, if anything, to your team's chance of winning -- not exactly what Finely had in mind when he signed the speedster. Most notably, Washington was picked off first base late in Game 2 of the 1974 World Series, the only game of that series that Oakland lost.
Finley and the A's had apparently seen enough of Washington on this day in 1975, because they released him from his contract. Perhaps they weren't over the pickoff, or maybe they just realized a precious roster spot wasn't best spent on a designated runner. Nevertheless, Washington didn't sign elsewhere and thus never appeared in the big leagues again, cementing his place among baseball history's many oddities.
Let us ease his pain.
George Steinbrenner believed that April is not too soon to fire a manager, apparently. Because on this day in 1985, the late owner dismissed skipper -- and Yankees legend -- Yogi Berra after a sluggish 6-10 start, in favor of Billy Martin, another former Yankees great. Martin's intensity was in, and Berra's ease and charm was out.
Martin's hiring marked his fourth stint as Yankees manager -- and there would later be a fifth, incredibly. But for all the on-again-off-again drama, the move worked. The notoriously fiery Martin reversed the Bombers' fortunes, guiding them to a 97-64 finish in the old AL East, although that was only good enough for a second-place finish behind the frontrunning Blue Jays, as the Wild Card(s) didn't exist back in that Stone Age. Subtract Berra's 6 wins and 10 losses from that final record, and you're left with an impressive 91 wins and 54 losses under Martin's stewardship -- 37 games over .500.
Of course, we now know managers only influence their teams' records so much, excepting for absurd ineptitude, and it's worth mentioning that Martin had plenty of talent on his roster. The 1985 Bombers had a few star-caliber players in Rickey Henderson, Don Mattingly and Dave Winfield, as well as a handful of strong complementary types like Willie Randolph. The big three combined for 20.4 WAR, according to FanGraphs, while the pitching staff was led by Ron Guidry (5.1 WAR) and a strong bullpen.
Despite the relative turnaround, things didn't end well for the Yanks. Martin's confrontational style got the best of him during a disappointing September stretch run, when was involved in an off-field fight with pitcher Ed Whitson that resulted in Martin suffering a broken arm.
With his Yankees having fallen short of the postseason, Martin's antics were difficult for Steinbrenner to digest, and he was once again fired in the offseason. Of course, Martin would return again, in 1988, his final year as a manager before his death on Christmas Day in 1989.
On this date in 1977, the the Athletics traded Mike Torrez to the Yankees for Dock Ellis, Larry Murray, and Marty Perez. If you don't remember Ellis' stint with the A's, you're probably not alone. The enigmatic right-hander wound up spending just two months in Oakland.
Nearly seven years after throwing his storied no-hitter, Ellis was the centerpiece of the three-player package headed cross-country. The 32-year-old hurler wasn't able to find his groove with the Athletics, however, posting a 9.69 ERA in seven starts totalling 26 innings. The A's, figuring that Ellis had jumped the shark, promptly sold him to the Rangers.
Ellis, however, got back on track in Texas in a big way. In 22 starts and one relief appearance, Ellis turned in a 2.90 ERA with 4.8 K/9 and 2.3 BB/9. The right-hander stayed on with the Rangers until the summer of 1979, when he was dealt to the Mets. Ellis brought everything full circle later in the year when his contract was purchased by Pittsburgh, allowing him to retire as a Pirate.
Meanwhile, Torrez became part of Yankees lore despite only spending the 1977 season in pinstripes. The right-hander earned two complete-game victories in the club's six-game World Series over the Dodgers and even caught the final out to seal the deal. Torrez went on to pitch for another five seasons and change, four of which were spent with the rival Red Sox.
There are a number of reasons why a club might trade a former All-Star. Most of the time, it has more to do with production than a player's literary work.
On this date in 1984, the Yankees completed their trade of third baseman Graig Nettles to the Padres when they chose minor leaguer Darin Cloninger as the player to be named later to go with left-hander Dennis Rasmussen. Reportedly, George Steinbrenner secured a sneak preview of Nettles' book, "Balls", which was highly critical of the Yankees owner. While Steinbrenner was happy to jettison the third baseman across the country, Nettles was also quite satisfied with the deal. The veteran pushed for a trade to the Padres in the past but had his request denied.
While Nettles' book was largely responsible for the timing of the trade, the deal also made sense from a baseball standpoint. The 39-year-old signed a two-year, $1.8MM deal in '83 but was already being moved into a timeshare at his position. The Yankees traded for the Indians' Toby Harrah and shifted Roy Smalley from shortstop back to third base, moves that Nettles admitted made him uneasy.
Even at his advanced age, Nettles had plenty of quality baseball left. The veteran hit .228/.329/.413 in his first year in San Diego and earned his sixth career All-Star selection in 1985. Nettles would wrap up things up with the Montreal Expos in 1988 after 22 major league seasons. The San Diego native hit .248/.329/.421 with 390 homers over his career.