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.”
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.
Here we go again…again.
It’s the moment you’ve all been waiting for – the start of our offseason countdown chronicling the top 12 Syracuse Chiefs moments of 2012! We’re a little bit later this year as opposed to 2011, but Jason and I have needed months and months to compile our lists from an otherwise action-packed season. (Wait, does that excuse actually work? Let’s move on before you really have time to think about it.)
(Look, over here!)
I’ll start it off, and Jason will respond in kind (or in mean, I guess) on Friday.
#12: Keep The Fat Lady On Ice
When you’re 69-73 and 14.0 games back in the division with two games remaining in the season, it’s easy to calculate that you’re not exactly post-season bound. The Chiefs weren’t a playoff team this year, and they certainly knew it before the season’s penultimate game. But in the 2012 Alliance Bank Stadium finale, Syracuse had no intention of rolling over and playing dead, despite what the first six batters might have you believe.
Mitch Atkins started on the hill on that sunny Sunday for Syracuse (selling seashells by the sea shore), and his outing against the Rochester Red Wings started off with just a minor hitch, when shortstop Eduardo Escobar singled to center field. Not to worry, though, as Atkins was facing a Red Wings team that ranked third-to-last in the International League in runs scored. What was the worst that could happen here?
- Tsuyoshi Nishioka doubles (16) on a line drive to center fielder Corey Brown. Eduardo Escobar to 3rd.
- Brian Dozier singles on a line drive to center fielder Corey Brown. Eduardo Escobar scores. Tsuyoshi Nishioka to 3rd.
- Wilkin Ramirez doubles (17) on a ground ball to left fielder Jesus Valdez. Tsuyoshi Nishioka scores. Brian Dozier to 3rd.
- Clete Thomas singles on a soft line drive to right fielder Brett Carroll. Brian Dozier scores. Wilkin Ramirez scores.
- Rene Rivera homers (10) on a fly ball to center field. Clete Thomas scores.
Ah. So that’d qualify as “worst that could happen”, then.
In the blink of an eye, it was 6-0 Red Wings. Six batters, six hits, six runs, no outs, one bullpen set in motion. If Pat Lehman ever warms up earlier in a game, it’ll be because I started. The floodgates were as open as a 24-hour Wegmans.
But a funny thing happened on the way to the blowout – Atkins settled down, retiring the next three batters he faced. Then Corey Brown and Jesus Valdez homered in the first, slicing the deficit to 6-2. Then Atkins tossed a perfect second inning before Brett Carroll doubled in a run in the bottom half of the frame. 6-3. Then Atkins mowed down the Wings in the third, and the Chiefs responded with three runs, knocking out Rochester starter Nick Blackburn – the last of which came right here.
And just like that – we were all squared away at six. Yes, Mitch Atkins ended up with the longer stint of the game’s two starters after giving up six consecutive hits to start the game. Silly Mayans.
Of course, the Chiefs needed to do more than just tie the game, or else I wouldn’t be writing about this. Valdez and Chris Marrero knocked in seventh-inning runs, and Wilkin Ramirez’ eighth-inning home run wasn’t enough for Rochester, as the Chiefs won, 8-7. Turns out any comebacks in the season’s first 142 games were just appetizers for a hearty, medium-rare main course in Game #143. Now that’s going out in style.
So in case you were thinking “well, this season wasn’t that memorable” – that comeback ranks below 11 other moments for me. Beat that, Benetti.
The Chiefs take on Toledo at 7:00 tonight at Alliance Bank Stadium. If you tune in tonight to our broadcasts on Time Warner Cable Sports (Me and Steve Grilli) or on The Score 1260 (Kevin Brown), you might hear:
*The Syracuse Baseball Wall of Fame Induction Ceremony is tomorrow night. Former Baltimore Oriole Scott McGregor will be inducted along with four others (Carlos Delgado was inducted at the Hot Stove event in February).
*Toledo starter Drew Smyly went to high school at Little Rock Central. That’s the same school which, 55 years ago, was the test case for the U.S. Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board of Education decision. Read more here.
*Pittsburgh Pirates right-hander Jason Grilli is allowing opponents to hit only .186 this year.
*The Nationals, at 73-45, have the best record in baseball by a full two games.
*Former Chief Horacio Ramirez has been signed by the Cubs. Ramirez, a former Atlanta Brave starter, threw with the Chiefs in the first year of affiliation with Washington, 2009.
All this and more at 6:45 on The Score 1260 and at 7 on Time Warner Cable Sports.
On August 18, the Syracuse Baseball Wall of Fame’s Class of 2012 will be inducted prior to the Chiefs’ game against the Indianapolis Indians. Here on Inside the Chiefs, we’re catching up with the soon-to-be Syracuse Wall of Famers.
First up, one of the most popular players in Chiefs history: Stu Pederson. The right fielder (who played for the L.A. Dodgers for part of the 1985 season) was a member of the Chiefs from 1988-92, suiting up for 473 games. Among the highlights of Pederson’s Syracuse career was a walk-off grand slam to win the final game of the ’91 campaign and being a member of the ’89 International League pennant-winning club. Pederson’s popularity with Chiefs’ fans was so high that the team hosted a “Stu Pederson Night” during the ’91 season.
Stu sat down with our intern, John Nolan, a short while ago for this question and answer session:
What comes to mind when you think of your time as a member of the Chiefs organization?
John and Tex. They were just great people. When I got there, they welcomed me in. We formed an instant relationship. They were great people — really nice to myself and my family. When I think of Syracuse, the first thing I think of is Tex and Johnny and their whole family. They’re like one big family.
What are some of your best memories from your playing days in Syracuse?
I got my 1,000th hit there. But you know, just being at the old MacArthur Stadium, where so many all-stars had played before, that was memorable.
Why do you think you became such a fan favorite?
I don’t know the exact reason, but I would imagine with Syracuse being a blue-collar type town, it’s because I was a hard-nosed player. I wasn’t the fastest guy, or the guy with the most power, or anything like that. I played my hardest every time out. That’s how I was taught to play and I displayed it.
Part of your popularity probably had something to do with the way fans simply embraced yelling your name. Heck, your name was even printed on t-shirts and megaphones. Was MacArthur Stadium’s famous chant of your first name something you experienced throughout your career?
That was kind of unique to Syracuse. People used to call my name, “Stuuuuu!”
When I played in San Antonio, the P.A. announcer there did it. But in Syracuse, it kind of took on a life of its own. I still have the t-shirt that says “Stuuuu!” on it.
You played in Syracuse from 1988-92. After a year or two, players often decide to move on to another club. What kept you with the Chiefs for five seasons?
I felt comfortable there. John and Tex make you feel comfortable. Rather than bounce around from different teams and different organizations every year, I enjoyed Syracuse and I still loved playing baseball. To me, baseball is baseball. Would I have liked to have made it back to the big leagues? Sure. But I thought Syracuse was as good as any minor league city I was gonna play in, so that’s why I stayed.
What does it mean to you to be a member of the 2012 Syracuse Baseball Wall of Fame induction class?
It’s an honor. It’s a great honor with so many great players having gone through Syracuse and playing there. Obviously it’s not based on what I did in the major leagues, but based on what I did in Syracuse. It shows the appreciation the people of Syracuse have for me as a ballplayer.
So with your playing days over, what is Stu Pederson up to now?
Living in the San Francisco area. Married still to my wife, Shelly. We’ve been married for almost 28 years. We have four kids – three boys (Champ, 24, Tyger, 22, and Joc, 20) and a daughter (Jacey, 14).
I have my own business — a ticket business. We sell tickets for sporting events, concerts, and theater events.
Still love baseball. I coach high school baseball and a travel team during the summer time. I really enjoy it, trying to help some of these younger kids reach their dream.
And finally, what do you hope your legacy is with Syracuse baseball fans?
Played hard. Gave it everything he had. Played the game the right way, played hard.
We’re less than a month away from the end of Syracuse’s 2012 season, but there’s still plenty of reason to come stop by Alliance Bank Stadium this year. Take today for example: the Chiefs and Buffalo Bisons will go at it in a Triple-A battle of the Nationals and Mets. For any Chiefs fans in the area, or any fans of the big league Mets, today’s twin bill features a number of juicy storylines. Let’s take a look at the two games through four intriguing players – that just so happen to have something in common…
Duke’s the Game 1 starter for Syracuse, and there’s reason to believe that the International League All-Star will submit another brilliant performance tonight. Duke, who’s tied for the league lead with 11 wins, has simply dominated the Bisons this season. He tossed seven shutout innings against Buffalo in a May 1 win, and threw six scoreless frames against the Bisons on July 4. Why has Duke been so successful against Buffalo? The Bisons are a very patient team, second in the league in walks and first in strikeouts, and Duke prides himself on throwing strike one. Get ahead of hitters and work from there – that’s more or less Duke’s philosophy.
Though the Chiefs are nine games back with 30 games to play, Duke still has plenty left to pitch for. At 11-5 with a 3.78 ERA in 21 starts, he’s already showed that he can have success in the International League, consistently giving the Chiefs a solid start. He’s thrown at least six innings in eight consecutive starts and at least 5.2 innings in 13 straight starts. There are ramifications for Duke here for the future, as he’s with Washington on just a one-year deal. Can he still be effective in the majors? He’s held lefties to a .255 average this year and posted an ERA in the threes in the last three months. Another good start could go a long way toward solidifying a return to the major leagues for the former National League All-Star.
Buffalo’s Game 1 starter is an appetizing one. Wheeler – perhaps the Mets’ best overall prospect – will be making his Triple-A debut tonight. The 22-year-old righty-hander was 10-6 with a 3.26 ERA in 19 starts with Double-A Binghamton. He throws in the high 90s with a sharp curveball, named the best curve in the Mets’ organization by Baseball America. Wheeler was acquired by the Mets last season in a one-for-one swap with the San Francisco Giants for Carlos Beltran. Considering Beltran didn’t re-sign with the Giants, and likely wouldn’t have re-signed with the Mets – consider this a potentially huge win for New York.
While the big league club’s started to slip, hopes are high for Mets fans now. Vaunted prospect Matt Harvey has recently gone up to the major leagues and tossed a few great starts, while Buffalo right-handers Jeurys Familia and Jenrry Mejia still have tremendous potential. But it may be Wheeler who’s the most anticipated of anyone, and he could provide the foundation of a future rotation of aces for the Mets. And the beginning to the final step before the majors starts today in Syracuse.
Walters, a 22-year-old middle infielder, is one of the newest Chiefs, after being added to the roster on Friday. He’s jumped through the Nationals’ system this year after starting the season with Advanced-A Potomac. Walters was also part of a one-for-one trade last season, coming over to the Nationals from Arizona in exchange for starting pitcher Jason Marquis. (Marquis didn’t re-sign with Arizona and likely wouldn’t have re-signed with Washington…so, much like the Wheeler deal, this could end up being a steal.) He’s a switch-hitter with a solid glove and some pop in his bat, smacking 19 doubles and 11 home runs in 99 games so far this season.
Where does Walters fit in the Nationals’ future plans? He’s looked at as a potential Steve Lombardozzi-type, providing some help for middle infielders Danny Espinosa and Ian Desmond. Of course, a 22-year-old switch-hitting shortstop with pop doesn’t need to be relegated to backup status. Walters has already exceeded expectations this season, and it should be fun to see if he can continue to do so with Syracuse. Plus, the youth movement’s already been good to Syracuse this year, thanks to the 15-game hitting streak of Triple-A rookie Eury Perez.
26 years old might be the outside edge of being considered a “prospect”, and Lutz reached that mark two months ago. But just because he’s hit that magical number doesn’t mean there’s no future for Lutz. On the contrary, the infielder is a powerful bat whose best days seem to be ahead of him. In 47 games this season, Lutz has posted a slash line of .325/.429/.556 thanks to 11 doubles and 8 home runs. The right-handed hitter who made his major league debut this season (1-8 in four games) has always hit when healthy – but it’s the latter concern that’s often been the problem. Over the last three seasons, Lutz has played just 72 games (in 2010), 63 games (2011) and 53 so far in 2012. In those 188 games, he’s smashed 39 home runs. If he stays healthy, Lutz is a definite corner infield option for the Mets in the future.
From 22-year-old Eury Perez to 39-year-old C.J. Nitkowski (just promoted minutes ago!), there are plenty of reasons to come check out the Chiefs and Bisons today. But we’ve given you at least four, a group of Zach(k)s that likely have big league years galore to come. So catch ‘em while they’re still here.
We’d love to hear from you here on our blog with potential ideas. Shoot us an email at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
In his first at-bat as a Syracuse Chief, Buffalo’s Jim Negrych impressed.
Negrych reached base five times in his Syracuse debut on Monday. A day later, he was riding west with the Chiefs on the Thruway back to his hometown.
“I got good luck when it comes to Triple-A, because when I first got called up to Indianapolis our first road series was in Buffalo,” Negrych said recently in the Chiefs dugout at Alliance Bank Stadium. “It’s always exciting to go home and play where I have strong feelings toward that city and the community.”
In his first game back to Buffalo as a player, Negrych went three-for-four with a two-run homer for Indianapolis. His sixth-inning homer was the only offense in a 2-0 Indianapolis victory in front of “at least 50″ relatives and friends.
Negrych hit .295 in 48 games with Indianapolis in 2010, but was released after the season. He signed on with the Marlins and played all of last season in Double-A with the Jacksonville Suns. Miami cut the 5’8″ Negrych a day before spring training ended, despite a career .302 average.
“Every time I go someplace, they say, ‘you’re gonna have to work for it,’” Negrych said with a smile. “It’s been like that my entire life. Being 5’8″ from Buffalo it was tough for me to get legitimate college scholarships. I went to Pitt and did my thing there and got drafted. When I got drafted, they told me the same thing. Every year I play, I hear the same thing. I can honestly say that nothing’s ever been handed to me so I’m proud of that.”
Not making the Pirates and Marlins isn’t the worst thing that’s happened to the 27-year-old Negrych. On July 27th, 2009–not 11 months prior to his homecoming in Buffalo–Negrych and his Double-A team, the Altoona Curve, were tied at five with the Binghamton Mets. Binghamton’s Jose Coronado hit a bouncing ball up the middle which both Negrych and shortstop Brian Friday went for.
“It was a slow ground ball, I dove head first and our shortstop [Friday] slid and we connected like a figure eight. His knee hit me right in the top of the stomach,” Negrych recalled. ” It caused my stomach to start squirting blood.”
“Initially, I remember rolling around telling Friday that I think he got me pretty good there. I got up and I thought if I was up I thought I just got the wind knocked out of me. I stayed in the game and took my next at-bat in the bottom of the ninth. I remember running down to first base and not realizing there was two outs. I thought there was one out.”
“I went back into the dugout and said, “I’m starting to feel a little nauseous, I think I do need to come out of this game.’ I came out, went into the clubhouse, went to throw up and I threw up straight blood. It was time to tell the trainer I need to see somebody.”
The next day, Negrych checked into Altoona Hospital for emergency surgery to stop bleeding in his lower right abdomen. That wasn’t the end of the danger.
“There were some mistakes in the hospital where they fed me the next day and they weren’t supposed to,” Negrych said. “That turned into a bacteria infection in my stomach which didn’t pass. I went from being 185 pounds and ten days later being 155 pounds. It was an eye-opener and something that stuck with me. By the time the whole process was over and I was done with the other infection that I got in the hospital, I was 145 pounds looking at an offseason in 2010.”
Less than a year later, Negrych was back home, entertaining his friends and family in Triple-A. Now, two franchises later, Negrych is once again one promotion short of the big leagues.
“You just need to convince one guy,” Negrych said. “It’s just finding that one guy to convince.”
The Chiefs and Bisons play again tonight at 6:05 in front of, we assume, another Jim Negrych cheering section. Catch the game on The Score 1260 or online at thescore1260.com.