Oct 31, 2016

With all the talk of the Chicago Cubs being cursed, lets look back in history how the 1969 New York Mets played their part!

Oct 30, 2016

Italian / American Player With One Of MLB's Best Beards: Mike Napoli (2006-2012)

Michael Anthony Napoli was born on October 31st, 1981 in Hollywood Florida. The Italian American catcher / first baseman was drafted out of high school in Pembroke Pines, Florida by the Anaheim Angels. In 2004 at A Ball he hit 29 HRs with 118 RBIs getting promoted to AA in 1995 where he hit 31 HRs with 99 RBIs.

By 2006 he was on the Angels roster as their main catcher over Jose Molina. Napoli entered the major leagues with a HR in his first career at bat, coming against the Detroit Tigers. Overall in his rookie year he hit 16 HRs with 13 doubles in 94 games, although he only batted .228. By 2008 he brought his average up to .273 and would hit over 20 HRs in each of the next three seasons.

He competed for the catching job with Jeff Mathis, although Napoli was a far better hitter than Mathis, manager Mike Scioscia prefers a better defensive catcher. Mathis threw out 25% of base runners to Napoli’s 15%, & the Angels staff had better ERA of almost one run when Mathis was behind the plate. Scioscia had a closed door meeting with Napoli about his catching during the summer of ’09. Napoli led all catchers with eight errors in 2009 & his seven passed balls were fifth most in the league. But his power was needed in the Angels line up, he saw more time at DH as well as first base.

In 2010 he had his best Angels season playing in 140 games, with 108 hits, 26 HRs, 68 RBIs, 24 doubles & 60 runs scored. His batting average did fall to .238 & he struck out 137 times (7th in the league). In Anaheim he played in three post seasons, hitting a pair of HRs with four RBIs in the 2007 ALCS against the Boston Red Sox.

In January 2011 he was traded to the Toronto Blue Jays along with Juan Rivera for Vernon Wells. Four days later he was sent to the Texas Rangers for Frank Francisco. Napoli would share time during the regular season behind the plate (61 games) with veteran Yorvit Torrealba (98 games).

 Napoli would play at first base as well as designated hitter and have an incredible year at the plate. He hit .320 although his 369 at bats did not qualify him in the batting leaders, hit 30 HRs (10th in the league) with 25 doubles & 75 RBIs playing in 116 games over all. He saw more playing time behind the plate in September & by the post season he was the Rangers main backstop.

Post Season 2011: In the 7th inning of Game #3 of the 2011 ALDS he hit a two run HR off Tampa’s Dave Price putting the Rangers ahead 2-1, in a game they would win 4-3. In the Series he batted .357 (4-15). He had a good ALCS against the Detroit Tigers as well, batting .292 with an RBI & six runs scored.

In the World Series he became a household name & a Texas baseball legend as the fans in the Dallas / Fort Worth metroplex chanted Napoli -Napoli!! In Game #1 he hit a two run HR off Chris Carpenter to tie the game at two, although Texas went onto lose 3-2.

In Game #4 he greeted new pitched Mitchell Boggs with a tremendous three run HR in the 6th inning sealing the Rangers 4-0 win, tying the series at two games each. In Game #5 he came to the plate in the bottom of the 8th inning with the bases loaded & the score tied 2-2. Napoli lined a double to centerfield scoring two runs, leading the Rangers to a three games to two series lead.

In the classic Game #6 he broke a 4th inning 2-2 tie with an RBI single, overall in the series he lead all teams with 10 RBIs. He batted .350 (second for Texas behind Ian Kinsler) with seven hits & two HRs.

In 2012 Napoli returned with a one year deal to avoid arbitration. He  played in 108 games, slugging 24 HRs but his average fell to .227 with 56 RBIs. Texas lost their hold on first place in the final days of the season & lost the first round of the new one game Wild Card Playoff.

For 2013 he signed on with a one year deal for the Boston Red Sox, as the teams primary first baseman. Napoli was second to slugger David Ortiz on the club in HRs (23) & RBIs (92). His 38 doubles were tied with Ortiz for best on the Sox team. Napoli also went down swinging 187 times.

Post season 2013: In the ALDS against the Tampa Rays he went just 2-12. In the ALCS he was the hero of Game #3 at Detroit, hitting a HR off the Tigers' Justin Verlander, while scoring the only run of the game in John lackey's 1-0 victory. In Game #5 he hit a HR off Anibal Sanchez in the Red Sox three run 2nd inning.

In the Red Sox World Series win over the St. Louis Cardinals, Napoli drove in three runs with a double in the Game #1 Red Sox 8-1 victory. He would get just one more hit in the five game series, an RBI single in the clincher game five.

That December he signed another deal with Boston for 2014. In 2014 as the Red Sox fell to fifth place, Napoli struggled all year with injury & sleep issues. He broke his finger in a game against the Chicago White Sox & it plagued him all season. Overall that year he hit .248 with 17 HRs 20 doubles & 55 RBIs.

Napoli suffered from sleep apnea &  under went facial reconstructive surgery to cure the issue up. "I've been dealing with sleep apnea for a long time, my whole career. I've tried numerous things and none of them worked. Dental mouth piece, CPAP machine, medicines ... It's just gotten to the point where I have to get this done." The procedure was a success & Napoli moved on.

But 2015 started out just as bad, in 98 games with the Boston Red Sox he hit just .207 & was traded to the Texas Rangers in August. He was used mostly against left handers during his second stint with the Rangers, batting .295 with 5 HRs 10 RBIs in 35 games. After the season he signed a deal with the Cleveland Indians.

Napoli with his Mom
Family: Napoli has a very close relationship with his mother, Donna, who raised him & his brother. "It's a strong relationship, ever since I was a little boy," said Napoli. "My mom worked two jobs to make sure I had everything -- me and my brother. She always made sure I was at practice on time. She made sure I had the right equipment. There's a real strong bond between me and my mother." He sports a tattoo of her had written signature in a rose on his arm. She joked she was honored but with all the other ink on his arm, it's camouflaged.

Party at Napoli's: Napoli was a great success for the first place Cleveland Indians helping them get to the World Series. The popular Napoli inspired a Cleveland fan from Parma, Ohio to come up with a t-shirt slogan "Part at Napoli's" after hearing about the famous bash at his place after the Sox World Championship. The shirt was give to him as a present & when Napoli was seen on a post game interview wearing it, demand was outstanding. The shirt raised $150,000 in monies that went to the Cleveland Clinic Children's Hospital.

In just his second game in a Cleveland uniform, he hit a 7th inning HR at Cleveland to help defeat his former Boston Red Sox team mates. The first HR of his season came off Junichi Tarzawa proved to be the game winner breaking the 6-6 tie. He closed out April with 4 HRs & 11 RBIs. He had a huge May driving in 25 runs while hitting 7 HRs. At the end of the month through June 12th he drove in runs in 14 of 19 games while hitting safely in 17 of 19 games. On June 2nd, his 9th inning sac fly was the walk off game winning heat, to beat the KC Royals in a come back Indian win.

He closed out July starting a 16 game hits streak, in that stretch he hit HRs in five straight games & drove in ten runs as well. On August 11th he had a four hit, four RBI day including a three run HR in a 14-4 win over the LA Angeles.

He closed out the season having the best year of his career, having career highs in HRs (34) RBIs (101) bits (133) runs (92) games played (150) & matching his walks total (78). His veteran presence among the young players speaks way beyond the big numbers he put up. 

Quotes: Terry Francona- "The numbers are really good, but all of the other things aren't overstated. I mean, what he's done is legit, and it's powerful. Sometimes you just get lucky along the way where you get pretty special people and you try to take advantage of it."

Post Season 2016: In the ALDS Napoli helped his Indians surprise the Boston Red Sox with a three Game sweep of the series. He went 2-12 in the series with a Game #1 double.

In the ALCS he was quiet for the first two games against the Toronto Blue Jays. But in Game #3 at Toronto, he started out with a 1st inning RBI double & then made history in his next at bat.

He broke a 1-1- with a 4th inning HR that made him just the fifth player in MLB history to hit HRs for four different teams. The Indians went on to a 4-2 win & a commanding 3-03 series lead. They won it in five games, as Napoli went on to his third World Series in just six years, all with different teams.
After the winning the AL pennant early & having a few off days, Napoli encouraged his team to celebrate in Las Vegas but that was rebuffed by management.

In the World Series against the Chicago Cubs, Napoli got a hit & scored the second run of the series in Game #1. In Game #2 he got two hits in the 5-1 loss. As the series moved to Wrigley Field, everyone was looking for a high scoring affair, as  the Cubs hosted a World Series game for the first time since 1945.

But Napoli saw the winds blowing in & told his team mate Andrew Miller that he predicted they would win 1-0 that night. Sure enough Napoli was right as the Indians won a 1-0 squeaker over the Cubs.
He was upset he did not get the start in Game #4, but did come in later to finish it out as the Indians took a 3-1 World Series lead. In the Game #5 loss he got a hit in the 7th inning & represented the tying run, but was left stranded on base.

In his eleven year career Mike Napoli has been to three World Series, playing in eight post seasons batting .234 with 8 HRs & 29 RBIs.

Overall in his career he has played for four teams batting .252 with 238 HRs 213 doubles 678 RBIs a .465 slugging % & a .352 on base %. He has been a catcher, a first baseman, out fielder & DH.

Family: Napoli had been linked to a realation ship with model Alison McDaniel. He currently has been dating nursing student Sophia Phalen.

Oct 21, 2016

2016 Mets Reliever: Jim Henderson (2016)

 James Duffy Henderson was born October 21st, 1982 at Calgary Alberta, Canada. The tall six foot five, right hand pitcher was attended Midland College in Texas & Tennessee Wesleyan College as well. He was drafted by the Montreal Expos in 2003 as a 26th round pick.

Henderson would spend ten years pitching in the minor leagues, for the Expos, Chicago Cubs, Washington Nationals & Milwaukee Brewers. He would also pitch for Team Canada in the World Cup Tournaments. He was briefly a started but by 2006 was a full time reliever. In 2009 he posted 21 saves combined in A ball & AA ball. 17 of those saves came at Wisconsin where he posted a 1.07 ERA. In 2012 he was a PCL All Star pitching for AAA Nashville posting 15 saves with a 1.88 ERA. Overall in the minors he is 41-38 with a 3.92 ERA with 64 saves.

On July 26th, 2012 he finally got to the majors debuting with the Milwaukee Brewers pitching an inning of relief against the Washington Nationals. He remained on the club making 36 appearances going 1-3 with three saves.

In 2013 he replaced Brewer closer John Axford who was struggling mightily. His fastball got up to 98 mph & he developed a nasty slider as well. He ended up with 28 saves in 32 opportunities, striking out 75 batters in 60 innings over 61 appearances. He went 5-5 with a 2.70 ERA, crediting former Met Francisco Rodriguez in tutoring him.

K-Rod would fill in for Henderson when he went on the DL as the teams closer until he was traded to Baltimore. Rodriguez would return the next year as a free agent & be the Brewers closer. Henderson had shoulder issues & ended up needing surgery while his season ended in August after pitching just 14 games.
In 2015 he returned to pitch at all three levels of the minor leagues in 35 games. He was granted free agency at the end of the year & signed a one year deal with the New York Mets. He had a good enough Spring Training with 13 strike outs & a 1.69 ERA in 10.2 innings. to earn him a trip North with a spot in the Mets bullpen.

In the second game of the 2016 season, he made a 7th inning appearance out of the Mets bullpen, striking out two Royals in the 2-0 Mets win at Kansas City, help preserving Noah Syndergaard's shut out bid. In the Mets home Opener on April 8th, he would do the same thing to the Philadelphia Phillies; a perfect 7th with two K's. On April 10th he continued to impress striking out the side in the 7th inning in a 5-2 Mets loss.
He gave up his first run on April 12th, he came on in the 8th inning of a 1-1 tie with the Miami Marlins. He allowed a base hit, then a pair of walks before being relieved by Jerry Blevins.

Blevins gave up a sac fly to pinch hitter Martin Prado that scored what was the winning run, charged to Henderson as he earned his first loss. Henderson threw a career high 34 pitches in that inning, the most of his MLB career.

The next afternoon in a matinee at Citi, with the Mets short of arms, manager Terry Collins called upon him again to pitch again, in relief of Logan Verret who had shut out the Marlins thru six innings. Obviously the work load was too much as he got into another bases loaded jam, walking two more batters. He was bailed out by Hansel Robles & Jerry Blevins who shut down the Marlins. The Mets went on to a 2-1 win. He closed out April with three holds in the final week.

Over the next two months he blew two save chances, as the Mets lost both games. On June 4th in Miami, he earned his first win of the year. It was middle relief appearance where he retired one batter. After a June 18th game he went down with tendinitis, the injury made him miss two months of action.

When he returned the team had changed, as injuries affected everyone especially the pitching. He had lost a chance to pitch in the late innings as Addison Reed & new comer Fernando Salas had the 7th & 8th inning roles. Henderson did record two more holds, collecting a total of 11 on the year.

On September 22nd, he earned an extra inning win as Asdrubal Cabrera hit a walk off HR to beat the Philadelphia Phillies. On the year he was 2-2 with a 4.37 ERA, 40 Ks & 14 walks in 35 innings of work in 44 appearances. In his career he is 10-11 with a 3.68 ERA in 155 games pitched.

Italian / American MLB Manager: Terry Francona

Terry Jon Francona was born April 22, 1959 in Aberdeen, South Dakota. He is the son of former MLB outfielder Tito Francona, who batted .272 lifetime over 15 seasons.

The Francona’s lived outside of Pittsburgh where Terry grew up playing baseball in an MLB family. He became a star player at the University of Arizona, winning the Silver Spikes Award as his team won the 1980 College World Series.

He was selected by the Montreal Expos in the first round of the 1980 draft (the 22nd pick overall). Francona came up right away, after the 1981 baseball strike batting .274 in 34 games. He went 4-12 in the 1981 NLDS, batting .333 against the Phillies. He then went 0-1 playing in two games of the NLCS against the eventual World Champion Los Angeles Dodgers. It would be his only post season appearance as a player.

In 1982 he was hitting real well batting .321 in June when he injured himself on the astro turf of St. Louis’ Busch Stadium. In 1983 he saw action in a career high 120 games, but was only batting .217 at the start of September. 

He went on a tear batting .550 for the month, convincing the Expos he was the first baseman of their future, as they Warren Cromarte leave for free agency. He finished the year batting .257. The next season he was among the league leaders in batting, hitting .346 in June when another injury ruined his season.

Terry Francona was journeyman outfielder / first baseman just like his dad, over ten seasons. He made stops playing in Montreal (1981-1985) Chicago Cubs (1986), Cincinnati Reds as one of the players replacing Pete Rose (1987) Cleveland (1988) where he hit .311 in 62 games & Milwaukee (1989-1990) finishing his ten year career.

Lifetime he hit .274 with 474 hits 16 HRs 74 doubles & 143 RBIs in 707 games played.

He quickly became a minor league manger & in 1996 was named coach of the Detroit Tigers under former team mate Buddy Bell.

He then got the job as manager of the Philadelphia Phillies from 1997-2000, finishing in third place twice. He worked as bench coach in Texas & Oakland before getting the job as the Boston Red Sox skipper in 2004.

In Boston he became a legend & immediate hero, leading the Red Sox to their first World Series Championship since 1918. He led them to another Championship in 2007 and in his six years, led his team to over 95 wins five times. He is the first manager in MLB history to win his first eight World Series games & is 15-2 in playoff elimination games.

In June of 2009 he won his 500th game as Red Sox manager, joining joe Cronin & Mike Higgins. That season the Red Sox finished second winning a wild card berth.

In the Post Season they lost three straight to the Anaheim Angels. The following year he managed his 1000th Red Sox game, becoming the fourth Sox manager to do so. The team finished a disappointing third place, not getting to the playoffs.

In July of 2011, Francona became just the second Red Sox Manager to win 1000 games.  Unfortunately, that September the Red Sox suffered one of the worst collapses in baseball history with a horrid 7-20 record. 

They missed the post season once again & Francona was fired as manager. His dismisal came with bad press, bad gossip of pain pills & a lost club house. At the same time he & his wife divorced after 30 years of marriage. 

He was soon living the happy single life, dating & playing around Boston with much younger chicks. He was be replaced as Manager in Boston by Bobby Valentine who didn't have much success either.

Broadcaster: After getting fired from the Red Sox, Francona was hired by FOX Sports as an analyst for the ALCS filling in for Tim McCarver who needed minor heart surgery. Francona then joined ESPN'S Sunday Night Baseball where he replaced none other than; Bobby Valentine.

In 2013 accepted the position of Manager of the Cleveland Indians. He gladly accepted the job mainly because of his good relationship with President Mark Shapiro & GM Chris Antonetti. He beat out Sandy Alomar Jr. for the job.

Francona brought the Tribe, to the playoffs for the first time in six years, with a 92 win season. The Indians improved with 24 more wins than previous year, earning Francona the AL Manager of the Year Award. The Indians lost to the Tampa Rays in the 2013 AL Wild Card game.

In 2014 the Indians had another good season (85-77) but finished third in the AL Central behind the Tigers & AL Champion Kansas City Royals. In 2015 the Indians finished just above .500 at 81-80, in third place once again.

In 2016 his Indians team won 94 games, going 94-67. Led by veteran slugger Mike Napoli 34 HRs-101 RBIs & Carlos Santana 37 HRs. Jose Ramirez batted .312 & Francisco Lindor batted .301 while Rajai Davis stole 43 bases. The offense was first in the AL in steals & sac flies, second runs scored, doubles & third in hits.

His pitching staff led by Corey Kluber (18-9) had five starters in double figures in wins. Cody Allen saved 32 games in the bullpen. The staff was second on wins, ERA  & first in strike outs.

In the ALDS he swept his old Boston Red Sox team in three straight. In the ALCS he beat the mighty Toronto Blue Jays in five games getting the Indians to their first World Series since 1997. Cleveland has not won a World Series since 1948.

The Indians suffered injuries to their starting staff & won it with clever managing by Francona. He put together make shift starters & relied heavily on his bullpen, especially Andrew Miller who pitched in five post season games, nine innings & did not allow a run. 

In Game #3 Francona had two interesting events happen. First while he was chewing tobacco in the dugout, one of his teeth came out. He fished it out of the wad of tobacco & told a member of his staff to save it & find a dentist to fix it the next day. Then his starting pitcher; Trevor Bauer had blood spewing from his pinkie while on the mound. He had to be taken out of the game & had six relievers pitch out a win. Francona was even seen putting up his middle finger, then rubbing below his eye with it. He said it was not intentional & was just a nasty habit.

In Game 5#, left-hander Ryan Merritt, took the mound in only his second career start. Blue Jays big mouth Jose Bautista tried to intimidate Merrit saying he'll be shaken in his shoes on the mound. Merritt never knew about the words Bautista spewed & retired him twice, while not allowing a hit until the 4th inning.

 In a 17 year managerial career in 2590 games, Francona is 1381-1209 (.533%) through the 2016season. He has made seven post seasons & won two World Series Championships while in Boston, getting to his third Fall Classic with Cleveland.

He is one of 32 managers to win three pennants. In Cleveland he is 352-294 in four seasons, getting over .500 each time.

Personal: Francona suffers from blood circulation issues. He has had a scare with clogged arteries, life-threatening pulmonary embolism & bad knees which led to ongoing treatment for blood clots. He has to wear extra clothes, including two pairs of tights & this is why his regular uniform top was usually hidden by a pullover.

A Young Terry with his dad Tito Francona

Oct 3, 2016

A Special Tribute to Broadcaster Vin Scully- Retiring After 67 Amazing Years

A special message of acknowledgement to the great, legendary broadcaster Vin Scully. Scully has finally called it quits after an amazing 67 years behind the mic for the Dodgers.

Vincent Edward Scully was born in the Bronx & attended Fordham University. He lived near the Polo Grounds & became a New York Giants fan during the 1936 World Series. His broadcast journey began in 1950 back in Brooklyn when Red Barber recruited him at age 23. Under Barber's mentorship he learned-never be a "homer", never listen to other announcers, and keep your opinions to yourself.

Back then New York had baseballs greatest rivalry, the Brooklyn Dodgers & New York Giants. Scully the Giant fan, now the voice of the Dodgers, would broadcast the 1951 Shot Heard Round the World, when Bobby Thompson won the pennant with baseballs most famous HR ever. He would be there for all the classic Subway World Series' of the 1950's & the final years of Jackie Robinson's career. He was the guy who called Brooklyn's only World Championship in 1955 as Johnny Podres closed out Game #7 in the Bronx. He would also call the only perfect game in World Series history two years later on the losing side.

Scully said goodbye to Brooklyn with the Dodgers & move out west to broadcast California baseball in Hollywood at Los Angeles. It was literally a whole new ball game & a new era began. The L.A. Dodgers would win three World Championships in their first seven years in Los Angles. Scully would call Sandy Koufax's perfect games, no hitters & all the strike outs that went with it.

The 1970's brought the first all California World Series in 1974 as the Oakland A's Dynasty won their third straight Championship, beating the Dodgers. Scully was there for the two Tommy Lasorda Dodgers' Pennants of the late 70's with Steve Garvey, Davey Lopes, Bill Russell & Ron Cey baseballs longest running infield. It was onto "Fernandomania" in 1981 as the Dodgers won another World Series, beating their old AL New York rivals. In 1988 when Kirk Gibson hit his now famous, pinch hit HR off the bench, it was once again Scully making the call.

Scully continued to work alone in the booth on Dodger home games & certain road games as well. His mix of old stories & facts about the current players on the field kept the broadcast interesting, like no one else could do. He never missed anything on the field, never screaming or trying to show up the game itself. His dulcet voice, described as sweet & flowing said it all, he made the game more enjoyable to listen to.

In the 2000's when baseball cable packages & MLB.com subscriptions started, I was able to listen to Scully on a nightly basis, since I'd always tune in to the late night Dodgers games. I found myself looking forward to just listening to Vin Scully broadcast more than the actual game matchups. 

My favorite part of the game was between innings late in the game, the camera would go onto Scully & he would tell a story of a game on that day in Dodger history. He would give his account of it &
then say "now lets get back to this one". It was almost like no, don't get back to this let Vin tell more stories of past games!!. Mr. Scully, I thank you for the enjoyment of just sitting back, relaxing & enjoying a casual baseball game.

In addition to his Dodger broadcast he was a network announcer as well for CBS (1975-1982) NBC(1983-1989) & national radio broadcasts as well. Not only did he do baseball but also PGA Golf & NFL Football. In 1970 he actually turned down the offer to work the brand new Monday Night Football games. He called many World Series, Championship Series, All Star Games & Games of the Week in his career.

Trivia: Mets fans remember him & Joe Garagiola calling the 1986 World Series, it's Scully who said "little roller up along first, it gets by Buckner & the Mets win it!" After a long silence letting the cameras catch all the action on the field & in the stands, Scully came back & said it perfectly " if a picture is worth a thousand words then you just seen a million".

Scully has won the Ford Frick Award from the Baseball Hall of Fame. He has a star on Hollywood Blvd, has a street named after him in Vero Beach, Florida, long time Spring Training home of the Dodgers. The press box in Dodger Stadium is named after him & as of this year, the address of Dodger Stadium is 1000 Vin Scully Way.

He was named Sportscaster of the Year three times & California Sportscaster of the Year 32 times. He of course is in National Sportswriters & Radio Halls of Fame.

Scully has been married to his wife Sandi since 1973, his first wife Joan, passed away in 1972. He has four kids, two stepchildren, sixteen grand kids & three great grand kids.

His son Michael was killed in helicopter crash at age 33. Scully said that being a Catholic, his faith made him go on from his sons death & get back into his work.

He signed off on Sunday at Candlestick Park as the Dodgers & Giants went at it for the last time with Scully behind the mic. Willie Mays, the greatest player Scully said he ever saw joined him in the booth, quite a  moment. Scully signed off saying "I have said enough for a lifetime".