Jan 24, 2013

Former Mets Number One Draft Pick: Scott Kazmir (2002-2004)

Scott Edward Kazmir was born January 24, 1984 in Houston, Texas. He was a star quarterback & pitcher in high school, who once tossed four straight no hitters. He verbally committed to his home state Texas Longhorns college football team, but instead went with baseball. He was chosen by the New York Mets in 2002 as a first round draft pick (#15 overall).

The left handed Kazmir began with the Brooklyn Cyclones at A ball in 2002, pitching in five games (0-1) with a 0.50 ERA in 18 innings pitched. In 2003 he struck out 145 batters in 109 innings pitched at A ball St. Lucie & Capital City. He was highly touted by the time he got to AA ball rated as the #7 prospect in the country by Baseball America in 2004. That year he struck out 104 batters in 101 innings pitched.

On July 30th 2004 the New York Mets made a terrible trade when they sent Kazmir to the Tampa Rays for Victor Zambrano & Bartlome Fortunato. The trade was highly criticized then & still is by the Met fans, New York media & everyone else for that matter. The trade led to GM Jim Duquett's demotion within the organization since he had taken over at GM for Steve Phillips.

Kazmir went on to success & Zambrano went on to fail miserably in New York. Kazmir made his debut in August of 2004 in Seattle pitching five scoreless innings against the Mariners earning his first career victory. He went 2-3 the rest of the way coming back in 2005 to go 10-9 leading the league in walks (100) posting a 3.77 ERA.

In 2006 he was the youngest Opening Day starting pitcher (22 years old) since Dwight Gooden took the mound for the 1986 Mets. That season Kazmir made his first All Star team, throwing a perfect sixth inning, retiring Freddy Sanchez, Carlos Beltran, and Albert Pujols at the All Star game in Pittsburgh. At that point he was 10-6 with a 3.27 ERA. After the break he limited to just five starts due to injuries, finishing the year at 10-8 & a 3.24 ERA.

In 2007 Kazmir had his best season going 13-9 while leading the AL in strikeouts (239) & starts (34) posting a 3.48 ERA (9th in the league). The following season Tampa went all the way to the World Series, in the regular season he was 12-8 fourth best on the staff.

Post Season: In the ALDS he got the win in Game #2 at Tampa beating the Chicago White Sox 6-2. In the ALCS he allowed five runs in ten innings pitching in two games against the Boston Red Sox earning no decision each time. Tampa won his first outing in Game #2 in extra innings but lost Game #5. In the World Series he lost the opener 3-2 at Tropicana Field, allowing two runs in the first inning against the Philadelphia Phillies.

In Spring Training 2008 he strained his elbow delaying the start of his season; he eventually made another All Star team & earned the victory for the AL. The next season he continued to have arm issues & was traded to the Los Angeles Angels for two minor leaguers. He is known to throw a lot of pitches, & has had problems with his mechanics as well as his velocity due to all the arm issues.

In 2010 he was 9-15 (second in the AL in losses) walking 79 batters (6th in the AL) posting one of the worst ERA’s among starters at 5.94. In 2011 he only appeared in one game at the major league level. He was 0-5 with a 17.02 ERA in just 15 innings in five games at AAA Salt Lake. In 2012 he was pitching in an Independant League at Sugarland.

In his eight year career he is 66-61 with a 4.17 ERA. He struck out 993 batters & walked 473 in 1022 innings over 180 games.

Jan 20, 2013

Willie Mays & the Giants Bring the World Series Trophy To New York & Honor Their New York History

As a member of Bill Kent's NY Baseball Giants Nostalgia Society, darthmaz & I were able to attend the Giants return to New York, as they displayed their World Series trophy. More importantly on the bill was special guest, the great Willie Mays. 

The event was held at the Westin Hotel on 42nd St. off 3rd Ave, for invited guests only. The room was full of a huge group of Giants fans, many of them, long time New York Giants fans from the days of the Polo Grounds. They came from all over the country for this very special event. The Giants baseball club, remembers its roots in New York & continues to honor it's history in the city. The team was actually in New York City longer than they have been in San Francisco. 

 The Giants brought along their top Management; Brian Sabean, Larry Baer & owner Peter Magowan. McGowan, born in New York, told his interesting story of how he grew up a Giants fan, watching Willie Mays at the Polo Grounds. Heartbroken as 14 year old, when the Giants left New York, his family also soon moved out West as well. Eventually Magowan, the grandson to Merrill Lynch & Safeway co-founder, would become the principal owner of the Giants in 1993. He rebuilt the franchise, kept the team in San Francisco, built a new ballpark & has made them one of the most successful teams of this era. 

The highlight of this day for me & everyone else was being in the same room as Willie Mays. He received a standing ovation as he entered the room & again when he spoke. His speeches & stories were outstanding. 

When the Sey Hey Kid talks about baseball, he lights up & has a passion in his voice. You can feel his excitement, love & respect for the game, even after all these years. He remembered how New York embraced him as a 19 year old rookie, when he arrived from Birmingham, Alabama. Team mate Sid Gordon said to him, "welcome home Willie" & he said "welcome home? I'm from Alabama"! 

He was scared of the big city & the big leagues as well, in the very beginning. He spoke with high praise of how Leo Durocher & his wife, actress Lorraine Day cared for him. The team had him live with a family in Washington Heights & had a responsible adult stay with him at all times, so he could not get into trouble in the big city. New York will always be a home for him. 

He said he wanted to retire before the final season of his career, while playing with the 1973 Mets. He asked the advice of a local sports writer & when he hit five HRs in spring training, he felt he could do one more year. He said it was a thrill to play in another World Series for New York. Mays said he felt the Mets had the better team & should have won that 1973 World Series over Oakland. 

On no one getting into the Hall of Fame this year, he said it's up to the writers, but he feels someone should get into the Hall every year. It's good for baseball, as well as the Hall of Fame itself, in Cooperstown. 

He was asked about his legendary four HR game, against the Milwaukee Braves in 1961. Sharp as a tack, he seemed to remember every detail of the day. He said he wasn't even going to play that day, because he had eaten ribs that night before & his stomach felt ill. But Joe Amalfitano's came to him & said "I got your bat, I got your bat". Then during batting practice he hit four HRs & put himself back in the lineup, telling his manager "the bat told me to play". Although he hit four HRs that day, he said he hit another long ball that game that Hank Aaron caught as it was going over the fence. Then in the top of the 9th inning, he was on deck, ready at a chance to hit number five on the day, but Jim Davenport grounded out to end the game. He said he still bothers Davenport about that to this day. 

When asked who were the toughest pitchers he faced he said, early in his career Ewell Blackwell (known as the whip) hit him on his shoulder & he cried for a half hour. Don Drysdale was like a daddy to him, he said just lie down right there. Sandy Koufax was a gentleman, he just threw the ball right by you. And Bob Gibson, who gets mad when called a head hunter, was just that. 

It was an honor to be at this event , to see & hear Mays speak, telling these classic stories. My only regret is that there was no photo opportunity with Willie. Mays acted like a true gentleman, a true professional. He was very humble with a great sense of humor & still presents himself like a role model. He was very grateful for all the opportunities & successes he has had in his life. Certainly a lesson for us all, thanks Willie. (last photo from NY Post)

Jan 4, 2013

Former New York Giants Fifties Pitcher: Ray Monzant (1953-1958)

Ramon Monzant was born on January 4th, 1933 in Maracaibo Zulia Venezuela. The six foot right handed pitcher was signed by the New York Giants at age 18 becoming the second pitcher from Venezuela to make the big leagues.

In 1953 he was 23-6 in the Carolina league at Danville. The next year he was 11-7 at AAA Minneapolis getting called up to the Giants big league team in July. He pitched in six games before getting demoted back to the minors at the end of the month, as the Giants went on to win the World Series. In 1955 he started out the year at AAA Minneapolis getting back to the Polo Grounds by early June.

He got the start against the Chicago Cubs and allowed three runs in three innings taking the loss. In his next start he went seven innings and took another 2-0 loss to the Cubs in Chicago. At the end of the month he took another loss in a start & then was beaten in the 11th inning by the Brooklyn Dodgers at Ebbetts Field. On July 6th he earned his first career win, it came in relief at the Polo Grounds against the Philadelphia Phillies.

At the end of the year he earned two more wins in September including a complete game three hit victory against the Pittsburgh Pirates in the second game of a double header. On the year he was 4-8 with a 3.99 ERA in 28 games.

In 1956 he only pitched four games with the Giants going 1-0. In the Giants last season in New York Monzant was 3-2 in 24 games. In the last game the Giants ever played at the Polo Grounds, Monzant took the mound in the 9th inning with the Giants down 8-1. He allowed a HR to John Powers and was the last Giants pitcher to leave the mound.

In 1958 he moved west with the Giants to San Francisco and pitched in the first night game ever played on the west coast. He allowed four runs in 2.2 innings pitched taking the loss against the Los Angeles Dodgers.

He came back to win his next two decisions, including a shut out of the Chicago Cubs where he struck out Ernie Banks three times. In May evened his record at 3-3 after a complete game win over the Dodgers. For the year he pitched in a career high 43 games going 8-11 with a 4.72 ERA & a save.

He did not pitch in 1959 & mad one final appearance in 1960. Overall in his career he was 16-21 with a save posting a 4.38 ERA while striking out 201 batters while walking 134 batters pitching in 316 innings over 106 games. In the minors he pitched for six seasons & was 61-25 with a 3.18 ERA.

Passing: Monzant retired back in Venezuela where he passed away in 2001 at age 68.