Kev, I don’t know how you could even dream of leaving such pitching excellence off of the list….
#3 Lannimal Planet
….as Kevin said, the pitching for the Chiefs in August was just brilliant. Duke was fantastic, yes. The way the season careened and veered for John Lannan, though, is truly something to behold. In Spring Training, Lannan–like so many Big 8 defenses against Nebraska–fell victim to the option. Because he had not been sent down to the minors from the big league club in three separate years, Lannan was still a flexible player on the Nationals’ roster. When the Nationals chose Ross Detwiler as their fifth starter at the beginning of the season and selected Craig Stammen for their bullpen, Lannan was the guy who was shipped to Syracuse.
A year before–in 2012–Lannan started 33 games for the Nationals and put together a mighty fine ERA of 3.30. So, it seemed as though Lannan was a casualty of what economist-types call frictional unemployment. That’s basically where an employee can’t find the job that’s right for his or her skill set. Lannan was, as Major-League pitchers go, on the employment line.
Early in the season, being sent to Triple-A affected him. He admitted as much. His ERA through two months was 5.63. With two weeks left in his season, Lannan’s ERA was 4.89. Syracuse was en route to the South for quite a late road trip. Lannan, it was speculated, was headed to the big leagues, to replace Stephen Strasburg. If you haven’t heard, Strasburg didn’t pitch after September 7th. Also, M*A*S*H is not still in production, all the triceratops are dead and the iron age has finished.
Lannan was, essentially, playing out the string. He didn’t pitch like it. Lannan, as Kevin mentioned in passing, threw 18 innings, gave up 11 hits, struck out 12 and walked just one. He tossed two complete-game shutouts en route to Washington.
And now, he;s a Philadelphia Phillie. Good luck to John in finding his way back to the majors for, he hopes, the full season.
Bryce Harper not in the top three? What is wrong with us? What could possibly be more interesting than a near-teenager who electrified the Major Leagues?
4. My Oh Maya
Yunesky Maya originally signed with the Nationals in 2010 for eight million dollars over four seasons. Because he was a Cuban defector, the amount of video on Maya wasn’t plentiful. Maya was such an enigma that there was extensive debate abut whether or not his name was spelled with an i. Some sources referred to him as Yuneski Maya. We quickly learned to spell his name with a y, but we’ve recently uncovered this long-ago-buried list of other rejected spellings which turned out to be relatives of his:
UNESCO Maya (His philanthropic brother-in-law)
Yuneskey Maya (His locksmith stepfather)
Yunesky Mayan (His South American cousin)
Soon-Yinesky Maya (His half-sister who married Woody Allen)
As you can see, it was quite difficult to determine exactly which person we were dealing with. And even when we figured out who he was, we didn’t exactly know what he was. Chiefs pitching coach Greg Booker told us that Maya had at least 12 pitches. He threw a typical fastball, curveball, slider and changeup, but threw each from varying arm angles, leading to more variety than your typical Laugh-In episode.
That grab bag of pitches was a negative at times, though, for Maya. Scouts felt that he didn’t rely enough on his fastball and threw too much “junk.” So, Booker made an effort this year to change that tendency. It clicked, it seemed, on a July night in Rochester.
The first 20 batters in the game for Rochester didn’t reach base. That means Maya went six innings and two-thirds without allowing a baserunner. He only threw to a third ball in the count twice in 20 batters. With two out, Chris Parmelee came to the plate.
Even though Parmelee homered, Maya finished eight innings and got the Chiefs the win. It was part of a five-game win streak for Maya.
I’ve spent the last five days imagining auto-tuned Yunesky Maya. I stopped laughing about an hour ago.
5. Guess it’s just the Bison in you that brings out the man in me
In order, those are the first: African-American in the major-leagues, state, woman to swim the English Channel, openly gay character on television and element on the Periodic Table of the Elements. Some are memorable to everyone, some are memorable to none and some sit somewhere in the middle. It’s hard to know what’s going to resonate. And, it’s tough to judge when the thing that’s going to resonate is going to happen.
On April 21st at Alliance Bank Stadium, nothing happened. Except weather you wouldn’t leave your mother-in-law out in. So, the Chiefs and Buffalo Bisons played a doubleheader on the 22nd. In the 4th inning of game one, 20-year-old Bryce Harper came to the plate with a zero in his home run column in Triple-A.
It was the only homer Harper hit in his 21 games in Syracuse before a record-breaking rookie season in Washington.
After that last post, KB, I’m wondering why we never photoshopped Jim Negrych’s head onto the grinch’s body. Would have been a worthwhile endeavor. Maybe if he’s in Buffalo this year–he signed with the Jays–we can get it done.
6: Long Night, Impossible Odds
Some stats folks have developed a device called “Win Expectancy” for baseball teams. To use one of these calculators, a person simply has to input the game situation at any time and the algorithm spits out the percent chance that each team will win.
On July 5th, the Chiefs had been home for a full day since losing four games–all by one run–in Norfolk. Syracuse beat Buffalo on Independence Day to stop the losing streak. The following night, Buffalo surged out to a 7-0 lead after the top of the 3rd. At that point, according to “Win Expectancy”, the chances of each team taking the game were as follows:
Only Lloyd Christmas would look at that split and think, “So you’re saying’ there’s a chance…” But, strange things began to happen:
*Back-to-back 3rd-inning sacrifice flies from Corey Brown and Jarrett Hoffpauir (7-2)
*A 4th-inning grand slam from Jesus Valdez (7-6)
*A two-out, 5th-inning solo home run from Carlos Maldonado (7-7)
At that point, the Win Expectancy calculator says this:
In the 7th, each team scored a run, leaving us at 8-8 in the 8th. In the bottom of the eighth, Erik Komatsu led off with a single, leaving the Win Expectancies here:
This Win Expectancy doohicky is neat, but it can’t take everything into account. You have to believe that the Chiefs’ batter in this situation, Corey Brown and his then-19 home runs in 81 games, would have tilted the numbers more dramatically in Syracuse’s favor. But, Brown popped out attempting to bunt. Then, Erik Komatsu was caught stealing and the Chiefs didn’t score. Off to extras.
In the 10th, 11th, 12th and 13th, the Chiefs put the leadoff man on first. In the 13th, that left the Win Expectancy for that game at:
Problem was, the four results after the leadoff men reached were: flyout, double play, strikeout and popout. In the 13th, Corey Brown was ejected arguing balls and strikes. In the top of the 14th, a Matt Tuiasosopo single scored Brad Emaus and Buffalo took the lead for good 9-8. Win Expectancy:
That left the Chiefs 44-44, the last time they were at .500 in 2012.
That was a crazy night in Rochester, there. What’s really interesting is that as the season progressed, what Jason Michaels and Mark Teahen did that night seemed more outlandish. By the way, if you all are interested in Mark Teahen and his home run progress next year, you can follow him on Twitter @ESPY_TEAHEN.
They call the middle of baseball season the “Dog Days of Summer.” First, have you ever wondered who “they” are? Do “they” just sit in a room and turn phrases? And are there books in the room “they” sit in? Do “they” get paid?
Second, why “dog days”? According to some cursory research, our ancestors felt hot weather when Srius, the “dog star”, was high in the sky. Those folks labeled Sirius the “dog star” because it was the brightest star in the constellation “Canis Major.”
Now that we’ve cleared that up, on July 20th of this past year, the Chiefs opened play eight games under .500. They were joined that day by a 22-year-old named Eury Perez. The only YERR-ee I’d ever run into was Mr. Geller, of spoon-bending fame.
This Eury was the real genuine article, we found out. In his first game, he did this:
All told, Eury Perez had at least one hit in his initial 19 games as a Syracuse Chief. That 19-game string was just three off the longest of the season from any IL player.
Jason’s #8–Expo on the Hill
Some events are best remembered from first-person accounts. The fight between Koyie Hill and Luis Exposito when Norfolk was in town is one of those events.
Both players were ejected. The “brawl” was truly entertaining. Hill and Exposito fought. Norfolk manager Ron Johnson held court. He and Chiefs pitching coach Greg Booker had a cordial, laughter-filled conversation right next to the “brawl.”
Hope all of you out there had a brilliant holiday week. The question is, which week is truly the “holiday week.” Is it the one during which Chanukah starts? And how do we decide whether or not Chanukah has a C? And when does it get an extra k? I’ve asked around and simply can’t figure it.
Jason’s #9–Adventures in RadioLand
When you tune in to a Chiefs game on your radio, smart phone, iPad or computer, you hear anything ranging from one single pitch to a full game. And Kevin and I appreciate whatever you’re dropping in for. We, however, see it all (or a good chunk of it, as the case may be (due to travel, weddings, conflicts or safaris to South Sudan). Last season, from the Chiefs broadcast booth, we witnessed:
*224 home runs
*223 double plays
*74 sacrifice flies
This is the part of the blog where I’d normally include a clip of Chuck Barris on The Gong Show saying, “We’ll be back with more stuff.” But, there’s no Gong Show clip which is appropriate for even most audiences (in the one I’m watching right now, Chuck says, “But what do I know, I thought Idi Amin was a zany guy” and “…so far they’re a big hit with winos and some forms of plankton.”).
Along with the loads of baseball things and other oddities we see, sometimes things go, let’s say, haywire in the radio booth. Frankly, any time one’s major habitat is labeled a “booth”, any number of cooky things may happen. So, as we wait for 2013, here are a few of my favorite moments of the 2012 season in Chiefs audio.
*There are typically no calls to action in these blog entries. This time, we ask that you vote, either in the comments section or on Twitter @SyracuseChiefs for the one you like most.
A) Unpleasant Valle Friday
On August the 10th, the Chiefs were playing the Lehigh Valley IronPigs in game one of two. One of the novelties of the series was Phillies’ young-gun catcher Sebastian Valle’s ascent from Double-A. We were excited to see what he could do close-up…
B) A Weekend in the Hampsons
Sometimes, when players just seem like they fit in a certain situation, we say they pass the “eye test.” But, what happens when the eye test fails?
C) Puppet Masters
In our postgame show, we enjoy providing you memorable highlights from the game that just concluded. We trust that this one will roll around your mind for a while…
Vote away. Happy New Year.
That Pawtucket comeback was fun. We should have Garrett create an app for it.
Jason’s #10–T.M. is On My Side
And on that comeback app–patent pending–we could include a young man whose “see ball, hit ball” approach worked out better for his fans than it did for the idleness of the baseball. 25-year-old Triple-A rookie Tyler Moore came to Syracuse from Brandon, Mississippi, which bills itself as a “city of growth and stability.” If that is true, Brandon will assuredly grow from 21.3 square miles and stabilize its population around 16 thousand.
On April 29th–after hitting seven home runs in 23 games with the Chiefs–the kid from Mississippi made his Major-League debut in Los Angeles, a city of 503 square miles and 3.8 million people. He made his Hollywood premiere significantly better than that of Waterworld by going 1-for-3.
The Nationals, though, were cruising along in the first two months of the season like they were the opposite of the Achille Lauro. So, Tyler Moore played in just 12 games before May was out. On the first of June, Moore was shipped back to the Chiefs by way of Indianapolis, where the team was concluding an eight-game road trip. It took a very short time to learn that the country boy hadn’t been corrupted by the big city.
Moore’s 2-for-5 night helped catapult the Chiefs to a 7-5 win. That ended up as the only victory for the Chiefs in that series.
The following night, Moore tormented Indy pitching again, going 3-for-4 with a pair of doubles against the Indians. It was clear that Tyler Moore was not going to be around the minor-leagues for any significant length of time. And he wasn’t. After that 5-for-9 return, Moore suited up in just four more games for the Chiefs.
That didn’t mean that he was forgotten in Syracuse, though. He and his two roommates–Corey Brown and Seth Bynum–made a pact at the beginning of the season that the person of the three who got called up first would pay the remainder of the rent for the season. Smart businessmen, Seth and Corey.
Why are we doing #11 on 12/12/12? Because we’re alternative numerologists. We are the Alice in Chains of calculation.
Jason’s #11–The Hunt for Red’s October
You have to understand one thing about nicknames in baseball. They generally come from easiest thing to call someone. Zach Duke = Dukey. John Lannan = Johnny. Corey Brown = Brownie. Add a y sound, create a nickname.
Sometimes, there’s a little more thinking involved. For example, Chiefs pitcher Jeff Mandel has become affectionately known as Howie. It’s quite handy. It serves as a signal to the pronunciation of Jeff’s last name AND opens up a universe of Deal or no Deal references. And this:
For those of you that haven’t seen Bobby’s World, it was a rather psychedelic somewhat-live-somewhat-cartoon series which featured the now-mullet-free Howie Mandel. If you have a chance to catch the series, take it all.
Sometimes, nicknames don’t always have the same full-clubhouse appeal. So, when Greg Booker nicknamed new Chiefs catcher James Skelton “Red” in May, there were some folks who didn’t quite grasp it. Booker’s contention was the name fit, but also that the backstop was built a little like ol’ Red Skelton.
Yes, James came through the Tigers organization as a catcher. But that doesn’t mean he looked like one. Alll 5’11″, 165 of him was converted to the infield in 2009. And so, when he arrived in Chiefsville last year, Skelton drew a few glances for his size, or lack thereof. But, as we find out so much in life, it’s not wise to judge a bat by its glover. Or whatever that phrase is.
Skelton’s plate discipline (five walks to four strikeouts in his first eight games) and his ability to man a pitching staff brought smiles to the faces of both manager Tony Beasley and Booker. In game two of a doubleheader against Louisville on June 6th, Skelton made the whole team grin.
Skelton turned what could have been a lost great start from Mandel (five innings, one hit, five strikeouts) into a victory for the Chiefs. By the way, that hit was one more than Skelton had with Louisville in nine at-bats in 2011.
Sadly, though, Skelton’s season was shortened significantly five days later. The Lehigh Valley IronPigs were in town and Skelton was behind the plate. He singled in his first at-bat and the Chiefs took a 1-0 lead on a first-inning double play ball. Then, in the fourth, the IronPigs rallied and Kyle Hudson was at third.
That play left Skelton with a dislocated shoulder and put him on the shelf for a month and a half. It was an odd situation. Skelton had to vacate the plate to catch the throw from Teahen up the first-base side of home. Hudson, a former football player at Illinois, sought out the contact and rendered himself out. Skelton played in two games the rest of the year for the Chiefs including the season finale in which he scored two runs.
Will James Skelton ever make it to the majors? Who knows. He won some hearts in the Chiefs clubhouse in 2012, that’s for sure. Kevin’s back on Friday with #10.
“Beat that, Benetti.” Really? A challenge? Well there’s no better way to one-up a person than to do approximately what he did….and do it a little better.
And so, a comeback victory against Rochester it is. En garde, Brown.
#12: Tea for Four, and Four for J-Mike
One of the most entertaining aspects of a Triple-A baseball season is the release of the Opening Day roster. What prospects will be in Syracuse? What will the starting rotation be like? The question I always like to ask is, “What players who have had Major League careers?” It’s generally fun and informative to be around guys who have put on Major League uniforms. They’ve got happy memories, have learned from the best and are somewhat looser than players who have never tasted the bigs (and, thus, are a little more nervous about their legacies and where they currently stand).
This past season, two of the “previously writ large” names in Syracuse in April were Mark Teahen and Jason Michaels. Teahen was, if you ask him (and his tongue is remotely close to his cheek), was the inspiration behind Michael Lewis’ mega-hit, Moneyball. Michaels won a World Series with the Phillies. The one thing the Chiefs seemed to have was game-tested knowledge and leadership.
Congress has knowledge and leadership and is walking toward something comfortingly known as a “fiscall cliff.” This, I think, is happening because John Ratzenberger won the lottery.
With all of that veteran impetus, though, the Chiefs opened the season 4-13. In game 18, on a rather temperate Wednesday evening in Rochester, the Chiefs went down 4-0 in the fourth inning. After two walks and a single, Mark Teahen came to the plate and did what he had done a career-high 18 times with the Royals in 2006:
It was a big one. Teahen’s grand slam tied the game. Rochester came back to score in the home half of the seventh, though. So, the game entered the eighth with the Chiefs down a run. Against new reliever Tyler Robertson, Teahen walked. Tyler Moore singled through the left side of the infield. Bryce Harper, then, attempted to give an out with a sacrifice bunt, but Rochester wouldn’t let him. Third baseman Michael Hollimon didn’t handle the bunt cleanly and everyone reached safely. Michaels was next:
Two slams. Five innings. And a 10-5 win over the Red Wings. Michaels only played 20 more games after that one in his career. He retired to become a coach in June.
The Chiefs won 11 of the 16 games last season with Rochester…..and there may be one more of those games on my list. Along with your kiss.
P.S. Kevin: That you mentioned “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum” without including Comedy Tonight might be the most depressing thing that’s happened to me since Hi-C stopped making Ecto Cooler.