We love the minor leagues–we really do. But when we look back on the 2006 season in the minors, the big stories are the ones with negatives attached.
Delmon Young’s infamous bat toss in April set the year’s tone, as Young was suspended for 50 games and became a national punch-line, while his Triple-A Durham club spiraled downward into a controversy-filled season that led to the postseason dismissal of its entire coaching staff.
Young’s bat was tossed at a replacement umpire, as the regular umps were on strike. Before the dispute with Minor League Baseball was settled in June, replacement umps compromised the integrity of the season and put players and coaches in jeopardy, as evidenced by an ugly fight-filled game between Jacksonville and Birmingham in the Double-A Southern League. After the third scuffle, Barons manager Chris Cron pulled his team from the field, forfeiting the game.
That’s not all that happened, we know. We saw Asheville manager Joe Mikulik’s tirade on YouTube.com too. But here’s hoping 2007 gives us better things to write about than 2006 did.
Slice O’ Life
“I told them they’d really gone a long way to plan this joke on me and they could stop whenever they wanted. I just thought the White Sox went a long way to bust my chops with this crank call. When they told me I was part of the Thome deal, I was completely speechless.”–Phillies lefthander Gio Gonzalez on being traded in the offseason.
“With a guy like that, you really need to work on body awareness and him being able to consistently repeat his delivery. But when I saw him, I couldn’t believe it. He stands head and shoulders above the rest of the guys. And yes, you can use that line.”–Twins farm director Jim Rantz on 7-foot-1 righthander righthander Loek Van Mil.
“I don’t know where that came from. I’m glad they were fastballs because that’s just about the only thing I can hit.”–Double-A West Tenn righthander Carlos Marmol, after going 3-for-3 at the plate with a pair of doubles and a homer.
“As far as knuckleballers, I look up to all of them. I look up to all of the guys who had some sort of success at the major league level, simply because it’s such a tough pitch to master. Needless to say, the success rate isn’t very good. But I look up to guys like Wilbur Wood, Charlie Hough, (Tim) Wakefield . . . It’s just such a rarity that it’s become something that’s kind of on the verge of extinction.”–White Sox knuckleballer Charlie Haeger on his role models.
“My God, that’s a pretty good week for some people. Heck, that’s a good two weeks . . . I don’t think there was anything he didn’t recognize last night.”–High Class A Dunedin pitching coach Darold Knowles on Blue Jays outfielder Ryan Patterson after he went 6-for-6 in a game in May against Vero Beach.
”People say you can hear it when it’s quiet enough, even from the stands. But it’s OK. It’s always been that way and it’s nothing to be worried about. I’m fine.”–Orioles righthander Radhames Liz on the clicking sound in his shoulder when he releases.
“The Angels really sold me on the fact that they were the professionals in the situation–they’re the ones that do this for a living. There was also a significant money offer on the table, which also made it hard to turn down.”–Angels 2004 14th-round pick Nick Adenhart on deciding to go pro over pitching at North Carolina.
“I would never have thought it possible. It’s pretty sweet. In a way, it was just another home run. You don’t want to show anybody up. He got me (with a strikeout in the third inning), and I got him. That’s baseball, part of the game. At the same time, he’s got seven Cy Young Awards, so I’ll always remember it.”–Low Class A Lake County outfielder Johnny Drennen on his homer against Roger Clemens.
“If I was striking out every single time, I’d probably be worried a little bit. But I’m doing my part, I’m getting runners over when I need to–balls are going to fall eventually, I guess.”–Braves catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia on his struggles at the plate in 2006.
“We’re starting to get some reports on him that the swing plane has changed over the last year. What I remember when I managed against him three years ago, he was a pretty special creature. He’s got great makeup, he’s agile as a third baseman, he’s got good arm strength and he hits and he hits for power. There’s a lot of tools there, but he’s had some fundamental breakdowns in his game and we are fine-tuning those, getting him into our system and showing him what we expect from a major league player.”–Triple-A Buffalo manager Torey Lovullo on Indians third baseman Andy Marte.
“When you look at his career numbers, there’s nothing prior to this year to suggest he’d be playing like this. But he is playing like this.”–Angels GM Bill Stoneman after acquiring outfielder Terry Evans for righthander Jeff Weaver.
“Everybody looks up to Zack because of where Zack’s been. If you knew Zack, you would never know he had two years in the major leagues (with the Royals). He’s been very good lately. I think he’s really happy and having fun doing what he’s doing.”–Double-A Wichita pitching coach Larry Carter on righthander Zack Greinke.
“It’s like an oasis in the middle of a war zone, to be honest with you. You see these blocks of devastation, and then there’s this green field with kids playing on it.”–Delgado (La.) Community College head coach Joe Scheuermann on the field in New Orleans’ Orleans Parrish.
Stay Hot . . .
“It was drilled and corked through. He apologized to his teammates and the staff, but this is inexcusable. It’s embarrassing to him and it’s embarrassing to the organization.”–Brewers farm director Reid Nichols after high Class A Brevard County second baseman Hernan Irribarren was busted for using a corked bat.
“I’ve been in baseball 34 years and I’ve never done anything like that. I’m embarrassed . . . My actions were childish. Umpires have been around forever and we should respect them. Regardless of what happened on the field, it should not have escalated to that level, and it was my fault. I’m supposed to respect the umpire, and I didn’t do a good job of that. If I see him again, I will apologize to him.”–Triple-A Durham manager John Tamargo on his 10-game suspension from the International League for repeatedly bumping an umpire.
“The worst game for this team? It’s probably the worst game to ever (expletive) be played with what we went through. It was (expletive). It was everything. In all phases of the (expletive) game, we didn’t do (expletive). We showed up–that’s all we did. We got our (butts) kicked. That’s the only way I can explain it–we got our (butts) kicked.”–Double-A Corpus Christi manager Dave Clark after his club lost a 20-10 game to Midland in April. The Hooks went on to go 18-10 against Midland on the season.
“I have to turn the page on that. When you play with a guy like (third baseman) Josh Fields who passed for more yards than Eli Manning in the Cotton Bowl, you kind of just keep your high school football ‘glory’ days to yourself.”–White Sox righthander Sean Tracey on his high school football career.
“Oh, that was miserable. I went horse riding in Aruba and first of all, they had a sign there saying the company wasn’t responsible for the most bizarre things like struck by lightning, rattlesnake bites, gunshot wounds . . . I kept thinking ‘What in the hell am I getting myself into?’ They individually picked us out these horses and the thing they gave me was the biggest piece of crap–I didn’t want to ride it on the way back. The thing freaked out on me. Whatever. I’m not getting on a horse again anytime soon.”–Indians lefthander Jeremy Sowers, on horses.
“I have no idea when or if I’ll be back. I packed up all my stuff and I’m headed home. To be honest, I don’t even know about baseball anymore. Everything is just wearing on me and this year has just been so frustrating. I’m trying to keep my nose clean and keep to myself, but things just keep getting turned around. I’m tired of it.”– Triple-A Durham outfielder Elijah Dukes after he was suspended indefinitely by the parent Devil Rays. He did not play again.
“For example, you go in and you face a guy like (Tigers righthander Justin) Verlander and you’re screwed, basically. First pitch he’d throw would be 95 right down (the middle of the plate). Then you’re 0-1 and he’d come inside and 97 (mph) and then what do you do? You try to get a good swing on an 0-2 slider or an 0-2 changeup or another fastball–you just can’t catch up because you’re always put at a disadvantage, especially against a guy like that.”–Reds first baseman Joey Votto on the organizational plan before the new regime took over–he had to take the first pitch in every at-bat.
“Getting hurt was no doubt a blow to who I was as a person and where I stood confidence-wise after doing pretty well in the spring. It sucked, but there’s nothing else you can really say about it. I look at it as the injury just gave me more time to work on my swing, especially coming off the year I had last year. I just try to learn something from the positives and learn something from the negatives–and that’s not just in the game, but in my life. That’s how I roll.”–Cubs first baseman Brian Dopirak on his rehab after breaking his foot on Opening Day.
“There are two kinds of slumps: There’s one where the ball looks like BB’s being shot out of a gun, and there’s other ones where you’re making contact and you’re having good swings and it’s not falling–and that’s what I’ve been going through; a lot of sleepless nights.”–Double-A Springfield outfielder Cody Haerther on a 4-for-45 skid at the plate.
“I’m a little guy who gets hurt a lot. That’s why they call me Seabiscuit.”–Mariners outfielder Chris Snelling on his injury-marred career.
Dealing With The Media
“You guys have no clue what Barry Bonds is going through. LeBron James . . . You got Shaq dealing with stuff just to win a championship . . . unless you guys put on the uniform and get to a very competitive level, you guys will never understand what athletes and entertainers go through on an everyday basis.”–Devil Rays outfielder Delmon Young, on dealing with the media upon returning from a 50-game suspension.
“Baseball America, I read the one that came out this month. It is just a bunch of negative stuff about me. That is the media, the media talks. It doesn’t motivate me that much. It does, in a way, but I don’t let it get to me like that because the media is going to talk, and those people don’t know much anyway.”–Phillies shortstop C.J. Henry, acquired from the Yankees in the Bob Abreu trade, on the media.
My Name Is . . .
“It’s a Z. Last year everybody spelled my name with an S and that bothered me a little bit. It was like no one knew who I was. Even my family got on me when they saw the top 10 prospects in Baseball America and it was spelled with an S. They were like, ‘Who is this guy?’ Luckily I made the top 10, so my picture was in there. So when I saw that, I didn’t mind the S as much.”–Diamondbacks outfielder Carlos Gonzalez on the correct way to spell his name.
“When people started with the whole J.J. thing, I didn’t really understand it. My teammates and friends call me that, but basically because those are my initials. And having J.J. in there with Johnson, well . . . that’s just too many J’s.”–Orioles righthander James Johnson on his preferred name.
“He proved he could play anywhere, which makes him even more valuable for that big league spot. The problem comes in where do we want him to break in as a fourth outfielder in the big leagues or continue to play every day.”–Orioles farm director David Stockstill on Nick Markakis in spring training.
“He isn’t pretty, just solid. He’s what you want–he gets dirty, he plays at 100 miles an hour and has that presence about him that you want on your club.”–Indians defense coordinator Ted Kubiak on third baseman Kevin Kouzmanoff, who went on to hit .389.
“He’s sitting at 90-92 mph right now with his fastball, and that’s hard. Then he’s got this sneaky smooth, slow delivery, and his fastball just gets on you quick. His curveball is a power curveball and he’s throwing it for strikes; it’s a good pitch.”–Double-A Birmingham manager Chris Cron on lefthander Tyler Lumsden, who was dealt to Kansas City at midseason.
“Best changeup I have seen him have yet. When you are going 93-97 in A-ball, you don’t need a heck of a lot more to dominate. He commanded the changeup, and it is something he has worked extremely hard on. He has really bought into and knows it is something he has got to have.”–High Class A Sarasota pitching coach Ed Hodge on Reds righthander Homer Bailey.
“One of two things could happen. One, an opening could be created. Or two, Chad Billingsley could create his own opening.”–Dodgers GM Ned Colletti on righthander Chad Billingsley in April.
“He is just a pretty special kid. He uses the whole field, and his power numbers are going to get even better as he learns to command the strike zone. He has great barrel awareness. (He) always gets the fat part of the bat on the ball.”–Charleston manager Bill Mosiello on 17-year-old outfielder Jose Tabata.
“Everything’s swing-and-miss right now. But he’s had tremendous command of all his pitches. All we’re working with him now is being consistent from outing to outing. We don’t know what’s on the other side in how he bounces back after every start. But he’s been fine health-wise. Everything is going to be determined on how he bounces back.”–High Class A Kinston pitching coach Steve Lyons on lefthander Scott Lewis, who went on to win the minor league ERA title.
“As a model for young pitchers, this is one you want to look at. He’s done wonderfully for us. He’s very aggressive, has supreme confidence in himself, and it shows.”–Low Class A West Virginia pitching coach John Curtis on righthander Will Inman.
“He was aggressive with all his pitches. You throw a fastball for strikes, but he throws them in the bottom of the zone, which makes it hard for the hitters. Most guys with his velocity are up around the belt area, but he’s at the bottom of the strike zone and it explodes downwards from there.”–New Britain manager Riccardo Ingram on righthander Matt Garza’s Double-A debut.
“Man, he is unbelievable. He carries himself like a big leaguer. It seems like anytime he goes 0-for-4–which isn’t often–he comes back and goes 4-for-5 with a couple doubles or a couple home runs. And he can play center field. The guy is a big leaguer and I don’t think anyone’s swinging a hotter bat in the minors right now, that’s for sure.”–Dodgers lefthander Greg Miller on Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp.
“Just purely from a game standpoint, it speeds up on these (umpires) and they have trouble dealing with calls. Now I think you see what happens when things outside of normal calls happen and an in-game situation grows–they can’t deal with it. You know, it’s like telling me I can fly a jet. I’ve never flown a jet, but people tell me I can because I rode a bike once. It’s not even close to the same thing.”–Birmingham manager Chris Cron
“We’re only two weeks in and you can see how frustrating it’s getting already. The players’ jobs are on the line, and we’re dealing with some umpires who have trouble at this level.”–Triple-A Tucson lefthander Randy Choate.
“We hold the players to a high standard. We have to hold the umpires to a high standard, too. Some of these calls they’re missing are just obvious.”–Triple-A Colorado Springs manager Tom Runnels.
“The integrity of the game is being compromised, all so minor league baseball can squeeze some nickels and dimes out of the umpires. Minor league baseball ought to be ashamed at the product they’re putting on the field. If there are good-faith negotiations going on, I don’t need to be commenting in the press because it wouldn’t be productive. But I understand there are no negotiations, and that’s not fair to us.”–Tucson righthander Kevin Jarvis.
“Minor League Baseball did everything right and our union did everything wrong. I guess we can chalk this up to a learning experience. I’m excited about going back to work because there’s nothing like being between the white lines. It’s when I get back to my hotel that I’ll regret it. We’re getting the same exact money and this didn’t resolve anything. We all just caved to get back for the all-star games.”–a minor league umpire, speaking on the condition of anonymity about the strike settlement.
“I thought the strike was over. When will the real umpires show up? That’s what I want to know. Because that was an abortion. That was bad. The whole series was awful.”–Low Class A Asheville manager Joe Mikulik after he blew a gasket and his on-field tirade made national headlines.