Tag Archive | "Minnesota Twins"

To Buy or Not To Buy?

The Major League Baseball non-waiver trade deadline is still a couple of months away, but the St. Louis Cardinals have to be contemplating the direction this 2012 season will take. And the way things have gone so far, it may not be an easy decision.

It is fair to say there is no way the Cardinals will be sellers, even with the absurd rash of injuries they have endured. A team that sells is a team that has no hope to make it to the postseason and a few expensive, desirable players that are nearing the end of a contract. This does not describe the Cards in any way. While they may have a handful of big contracts due to come off the books at the end of this season, it does not appear like they are contracts the team would be able to move without eating significant money and obtaining an upgrade at the same time. Plus, the Cardinals are still in second place in a weak division—far from out of it.

The Chicago Cubs are already 10 games out of first and are well under .500 after a lengthy losing streak last week. But they’re in full rebuild mode, and everyone knows it. They are sellers. The same goes for the San Diego Padres and Minnesota Twins. These teams need to shed payroll, build prospects, and plan for contention years down the road. The Cardinals are still good enough to win now, and are positioned to win in the near future as well.

So will the Cards be buyers at the deadline? That’s where the tough call comes in. They do have needs: bullpen depth, starting pitching that can eat innings, veteran bench help, stability at second base and center field. But they have a problem: many of those holes can be filled by guys they already have on their roster; unfortunately those guys are currently on the disabled list.

This isn’t a newsflash to anyone who has been paying attention. The Cards’ DL looks like their active roster, and their active roster looks like their Triple A roster.

And therein lies the problem: Do the Cardinals stand pat and bet on injured players not only returning to the lineup but also returning to form and contributing to a team committed to winning now? Or do they try to acquire talent (at the expense of prospects, mind you) to keep the team up in the near-term, and deal with extra players if and when they have to? Let’s not forget the calendar just flipped to June. There’s no way this team has seen the last of the injury bug. If Matt Holliday or Rafael Furcal or Yadier Molina goes down, this team is screwed…with a capital F.

Things were a lot different last year. When dealing with ineffectiveness—such as the Cards did with Ryan Franklin, Trever Miller, Brian Tallet, et al.—and knowing they had depth, moving guys like Colby Rasmus to acquire the role players needed for success was easier. But the Cardinals are short on depth right now. The depth is in the starting lineup. And the minor leagues are nearly tapped, at least of guys who are close enough to ready for the big leagues. Who could they possibly move at this point?

Players will be available come July but the Cards must be sensible in their dealings. The injuries this year have been of epic proportions. Maybe karma has come to collect after an otherworldly 2011. Or maybe this is just a test, like 10.5 games out in late August was. Hope the Cardinals studied this year as well as they did then.

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More positives than just the Royals recent record

Last week I wrote that I felt the Cleveland Indians series could be the turning point in the Kansas City Royals 2012 season, and a week later I’d have to say so far, so good. The club split a pair of rain-shortened series with the Minnesota Twins and Detroit Tigers and currently holds a 2-1 series lead over the New York Yankees. Since snapping their self-inflicted 12-game losing streak the Royals are 6-4 and regardless of what happens today will have gone 4 straight series without losing a series. They’re still 5.5 games out of first, which is still phenomenal considering how bad they were at home in April. However, their recent steadying of the ship isn’t the most encouraging sign, it’s not even close:

Mike Moustakas has been en fuego. Over the last week Moose has his .318/.375/.682 and has been every bit as good with the glove. His bare hand play to save game one of the Yankees series was iconic. He’s only 23 so I’m sure there are a few slumps on the way, but this kid looks like the Royals best bet to make the All Star Game at this point.

They are who we thought they were. Those famous words from Dennis Green can now be spoken about our red hot bullpen. Even without Joakim Soria and Greg Holland, the bullpen is turning into the strength we’d hoped it’d be. Through 10 games, Jonathan Broxton has a 1.86 ERA and has converted 5 out of 6 save opportunities. Tim Collins has a 2.30 ERA and has struck out 12 while walking only 3 in 15 2/3 innings. Tommy Hottovy, Nate Adcock, Jose Mijares, and Kelvin Herrera all have ERAs below 3.50.

The return of Felipe Paulino. I struggled to understand in Spring Training why Paulino seemed to be the most questioned starter coming back for the Royals. From the time he joined the club in 2011 he was arguably the Royals best starter. Replacing Luis Mendoza with Paulino is a huge upgrade in the rotation. Essentially you’ve taken long reliever out of the rotation and replaced him with a true #4 that has the potential to be a #3. Paulino’s debut against the Yankees (6 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 6 K) did nothing to discourage me from thinking he makes this club a lot better. Basically, bad Paulino is like good Mendoza, and good Paulino is the best pitcher on this staff.

Future All-Star Danny Duffy looks to be fine. After skipping a start with elbow soreness, Duffy returned to light up the radar gun and pick up a win. Duffy has a lot of work to do in terms of limiting his pitch count, but even after 1 terrible start and 1 skipped start his 2012 line projects out to 12-13 wins, a sub 4 ERA and 160+ strikeouts.

While this does explain the Royals improved play, what does it say for the future? More importantly, is there any chance the Royals can dig out of this hole? Jeff Francoeur famously told us to check back at the end of May, but that’s far too soon to expect the Royals to get back to .500, at least in my mind. The club can legitimately hope to have Salvador Perez and Lorenzo Cain back in July which I think should make this club even better than they’ve been the last two weeks.

With that in mind, I think July 31 is legitimately when you could expect to see them back at .500, and essentially back in the Central Division race. To do that they only need to play 3 games over .500 in each of the next months. From that point they play 35 games against division opponents and will have every opportunity to win their way into the playoffs with (hopefully) a full deck of cards for the first time all season.

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Breaking Good

Everyone expects improvement from the 2012 Kansas City Royals, but just how much improvement to expect is a point of debate. Will 4-5 players make “the leap” at the same time vaulting the Royals into 90+ win territory? Will this season be a springboard to 2013, around 81 wins and a lot of incremental individual improvement? While much of the answer may lie in the Royals clubhouse, I think a good portion may also be determined in Cleveland, Detroit, Minnesota and Chicago. The unbalanced schedule means that the Royals will play 72 of their 162 games against the Central Division. Just how good (or bad) the division is may have as much to do with how successful the 2012 Royals are as anything.

Another way to say this is, the Royals need some help in 2012 to contend…and thankfully they are already starting to get it. What, you say? We’re still a month away from Spring Training, how can the Royals already be getting help? Let’s take a look at the off season news from the AL Central:

The Minnesota Twins and Chicago White Sox did not really contend last year and may have actually gotten worse heading into 2012. The Twins lost Michael Cuddyer, Joe Nathan and Jason Kubel to free agency and their additions were not impressive. Justin Morneau is still recovering from concussion issues while Joe Mauer is supposed to be completely recovered from his tired legs. The White Sox, on the other hand, seem to be trying to rebuild while maintaining a $100 million dollar payroll thanks to anchors of contracts still owed to the likes of Adam Dunn, Alex Rios and Jake Peavy. They lost Ozzie Guillen and traded away Carlos Quentin, Sergio Santos, and Jason Frasor for young pitching. My honest appraisal is, if the Royals make even the slightest of progress, these two teams should not be much of a concern.

That brings us to the Cleveland Indians, the team thought to be on the same path as the Royals, if not a step or two ahead. It is easy to forget how dominant the Indians were early last season after their collapse. Their biggest acquisition? It could be Derek Lowe if he turns back the clock, or Kevin Slowey…and that’s about it. The lack of acquisitions are not even the biggest problem for the Tribe, it is the question marks surrounding Fausto Carmona right now. The 28 year old opening day starter is actually 31, and facing charges in the Dominican Republic for lying about his identity. No one has any idea how serious this is, but there is no way it is a positive for the Indians.

It would be pretty easy to argue that the three teams above have no bearing on the Royals division chances. The Tigers are the favorite and it is not really close. They have the best pitcher in the division (baseball?), Justin Verlander, and arguably the best hitter in Miguel Cabrera. Thankfully for the Royals, the Tigers have added virtually nothing to last year’s squad and just this month lost DH Victor Martinez to an ACL injury that could sideline him for 2012. Sure, there are options available for the Tigers to replace Martinez, but none of them come without question marks. Losing Martinez also hurts Cabrera, who needs the protection in the lineup.

All this being said, it is still on the Royals to go out and win the division. The AL Central has been a weak division for some time and just as the Royals seem to be poised to improve, the rest of the division is regressing. Does that mean it is a prime opportunity to add a started like Roy Oswalt? Only time will tell.

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Cooperstown Choices: Brad Radke

With the Hall Of Fame election announcement coming on January 9, 2012, it is time to review the ballot, go over the names, and decide who belongs in the Hall Of Fame.

There are twenty seven men on the ballot this year and we will take a look at each one individually prior to official announcements. You can find all of the profiles in the I-70 Baseball Exclusives: Cooperstown Choices 2012 menu at the top of the page.

Tune in Saturday, January 7, 2012 as I-70 Baseball Radio will host a panel of writers discussing the Hall Of Fame Ballot in a 2-hour special.

In this article, we take a look at Brad Radke

Brad Radke
Radke’s career was unique in the fact that he spent his entire 12 year career wearing the same uniform. He broke into the majors in 1995 and retired in 2006 as a member of the Minnesota Twins. This is Radke’s first year on the ballot.

Year Tm W L ERA G GS CG SHO IP H R ER BB SO ERA+ SO/BB
1995 MIN 11 14 5.32 29 28 2 1 181.0 195 112 107 47 75 91 1.60
1996 MIN 11 16 4.46 35 35 3 0 232.0 231 125 115 57 148 114 2.60
1997 MIN 20 10 3.87 35 35 4 1 239.2 238 114 103 48 174 120 3.63
1998 MIN 12 14 4.30 32 32 5 1 213.2 238 109 102 43 146 111 3.40
1999 MIN 12 14 3.75 33 33 4 0 218.2 239 97 91 44 121 135 2.75
2000 MIN 12 16 4.45 34 34 4 1 226.2 261 119 112 51 141 116 2.76
2001 MIN 15 11 3.94 33 33 6 2 226.0 235 105 99 26 137 116 5.27
2002 MIN 9 5 4.72 21 21 2 1 118.1 124 64 62 20 62 95 3.10
2003 MIN 14 10 4.49 33 33 3 1 212.1 242 111 106 28 120 101 4.29
2004 MIN 11 8 3.48 34 34 1 1 219.2 229 92 85 26 143 136 5.50
2005 MIN 9 12 4.04 31 31 3 1 200.2 214 98 90 23 117 110 5.09
2006 MIN 12 9 4.32 28 28 0 0 162.1 197 87 78 32 83 104 2.59
12 Seasons 148 139 4.22 378 377 37 10 2451.0 2643 1233 1150 445 1467 113 3.30
162 Game Avg. 13 13 4.22 34 34 3 1 221 238 111 104 40 132 113 3.30
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/18/2011.

Why He Should Get In
Radke does have an All Star appearance (1998) and a top three Cy Young finish (1997) to his credit. However, his league leading stats were in categories such as Losses (2000), Home Runs Allowed (1995, 1996), and Walks Per 9 Innings (2001).

Why He Should Not Get In
Radke is probably looking at his one and only time on the ballot. With less than 150 wins and less than 1500 strikeouts, his career numbers are fan inferior to that of the other immortals in Cooperstown.

Bill Ivie is the editor here at I-70 Baseball as well as the Assignment Editor for BaseballDigest.com.
He is the host of I-70 Radio, hosted every week on BlogTalkRadio.com.
Follow him on Twitter here.

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Royals Sign Lefty Mijares

ROYALS SIGN LEFT-HANDED RELIEVER Jose Mijares TO A ONE-YEAR CONTRACT

KANSAS CITY, MO (December 21, 2011) — The Kansas City Royals announced today that the club has signed left-handed relief pitcher Jose Mijaresto a one-year Major League contract for 2012. Consistent with club policy, terms of the deal were not disclosed. With the signing of the Mijares, the Royals’ 40-man roster stands at 40.

“We expect Jose to be a solid addition from the left side that further strengthens our bullpen,” Royals GM Dayton Moore said. “He has been especially good against left-handed hitters in his career and will give Ned more options to match up late in the game.”

The 27-year-old Mijares (me-HAH-ress) has posted a 3-6 record with a 3.16 ERA in 186 relief appearances for the Minnesota Twins since making his debut in 2008. Last season, the 6-foot, 230-pounder went 0-2 with a 4.59 ERA in 58 contests, all in relief. In his career, Mijares has held left-handed batters to a .212 average, allowing just five home runs in 287 plate appearances. Born and raised in Caracas, Venezuela, Mijares is currently 3-0 with a 1.29 ERA (0 BB, 7 SO) in eight relief outings for Tigres de Aragua in the Venezuelan Winter League.

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2011 Hall Of Legends Inductee: Al Hrabosky

The week of Thanksgiving brings a time for all of us to be thankful for family, friends, health, any a myriad of other things that each of us finds important. Here at I-70 Baseball, we take this time to show some thanks to some players that spent some time wearing both of the uniforms of our two teams, the Cardinals and Royals.

The requirements are that simple: the inducted player had to play for both the Cardinals and Royals in his career. From there, it is pure judgement of I-70 Baseball to say they deserve enshrinement in our “Hall Of Legends”. This year we induct five new legends to join the inaugural group of five from last season. The original five inductees were manager Whitey Herzog, pitchers Dan Quisenberry and Danny Jackson, outfielder Reggie Sanders, and catcher Darrell Porter.

The final inductee for 2011 is, appropriately, former Cardinals and Royals closer, Al Hrabosky.

St. Louis (1970 – 1977)

Alan Thomas Hrabosky, or as we would soon call him affectionately, The Mad Hungarian, was originally drafted out of high school by the Minnesota Twins in 1967. Opting to wait for a better offer, that came along in 1969 when the Cardinals selected Hrabosky in the first round. They would send him to their Class A affiliate in Modesto, California and the young left-hander would dominate the league. In 13 starts, he would post an 8-2 record with an ERA of 2.48. That was not what caught the attention of the front office, it was his 112 strikeouts in 98 innings. Combined with the ability to miss bats (less than 1 hit per inning pitched) got Hrabosky a promotion to Arkansas (AA) to finish out 1969.

He would stay in Arkansas to start the 1970 season, but not for long. Trouble was brewing in St. Louis and a most promising start to the season was about to fall apart. George Culver, a big veteran right hander, had gotten off to a quick start for the season, winning his first three starts with a mind boggling ERA just over 1 run per game. Then things started falling apart and he would soon be heading to Houston. Nelson Briles was also struggling and newcomer and former Reds pitcher, Billy McCool was about to make his last major league appearance. All of that turmoil created an opportunity for Hrabosky, and he was called up from AA in early June. And he did not disappoint.

His second appearance was in a long extra inning game at Chicago on June 19. In two innings of work, he would retire all six men he faced, three by way of the strikeout. Thanks to bases loaded single by Ted Simmons in the seventeenth inning, Hrabosky would earn his first major league win. He would continue to pitch late in games through July and into early August, when the Cardinals finally fell out of contention. Even though the 1970 Cardinals had been somewhat of a disappointment, the 20 year old hard throwing lefty had made quite an impression. He would go back to Arkansas to finish out the season, but would return late in September when the rosters expanded.

Hrabosky would continue his development in the minor leagues, mostly as a starter, occasionally getting a call up to St. Louis to fill in for an injured pitcher. The last call was in June 1973, when the Cardinals traded Jim Bibby to the Texas Rangers. Hrabosky would take his spot, initially as a setup man to veteran closer, Diego Segui. By the end of the season, it was Hrabosky that was closing out games, and he would continue to do so for the next four years.

1974 would be big year for Hrabosky as he and right hander, Mike Garman, took turns closing out games for the Cardinals. They were a most effective tandem, providing late inning heat from both the right and left side. Hrabosky would post an impressive 8-1 record with an ERA of 2.95. His 9 saves may not seem like a lot, but when you have starters like Lynn McGlothen and Bob Gibson in the rotation, there just aren’t a lot of save opportunities to be found. But when called upon, Hrabosky held the game with regularity. He was a big part of the Cardinals late divisional race, falling just a few runs short of a post-season opportunity. For his effort, Hrabosky would get a few Cy Young votes, coming in fifth in the voting.

Taking one for the Team

The date was September 25, the last home game of the 1974 season. Thanks to a series of bad games, the bullpen had been used a lot and needed Bob Forsch to go deep into the game. He did not make it out of the first inning. Rich Folkers was able to get the last two outs, but not before the Pirates had a commanding 5-0 lead. A wiped out bullpen would have to finish this game, and that meant somebody would have to take one for the team.

Since the Pirates were somewhat vulnerable to left handed pitching, especially since they planned on facing the right handed Bob Forsch, manager Red Schoendienst ran out all the lefties he had. Following Rich Folkers, it was veteran Claude Osteen. While Osteen was on the mound, the Cardinals rallied and had taken a 6-5 lead.

Osteen got into trouble in the fifth inning, and again the call would go to the bullpen. This time it was Al Hrabosky. The Cardinals extended the lead to 9-5 but Hrabosky gave most of those runs back. In the ninth inning, Hungo was still pitching for the Cardinals when he Dave Parker with a pitch. Parker would score the tying run when Manny Sanguillen singles. Into extra innings we go.

Hrabosky pitches a scoreless tenth inning but gets into trouble in the eleventh. It all unraveled quickly with only one ball hit with any authority. Mike Garman came into to relieve Hrabosky and get the final two outs, but Pittsburgh had taken a 12-9 lead. That would not be the final score as the Cardinals roared back for four runs in the bottom of the inning with pinch hitter, Jim Dwyer, getting the game winning RBI with a sacrifice fly. The win probability chart from this game tells you all you needed to know about this game. Game Six of the World Series, anybody ? Well, almost.

Even though he had struggled, and had given up the lead in the ninth inning, Hrabosky took one for the team with 6 1/3 innings of relief. It wasn’t pretty and those earned runs he allowed ballooned his ERA by about 1/3 of a run per game. It was a gutsy performance, just one of the many that we would come to appreciate.

Fireman of the Year

If not for Mike Marshall pitching in nearly every Expos game in 1974, Al Hrabosky might have won the Fireman of the Year award for his outstanding relief work. He would win that award in 1975, a career year for Hungo and one of the best ever for a Cardinals reliever. In 65 appearances, he would post a 13-3 record with an ERA of 1.66. He averaged about 1 1/2 innings per appearance, so these were no short outings. His 22 saves would lead the National League. His strikeout total had started to fall off, but he more than made up for it by continuing to miss bats with an increased consistency. In addition to his Fireman of the Year award, he would come in third in Cy Young voting, behind Tom Seaver and Randy Jones, both of whom won more than 20 games. Hrabosky was the only reliever to receive any votes.

1976 would be another good year for Hrabosky, but the strikeouts kept falling and the number of hits allowed has started increasing. This would continue in 1977, but the story of that year would be the continual clashing with new manager, Vern Rapp.

Rapp was an old school authoritarian and was not handling a lot of the changes in the game, most notably more player freedoms in the new free agency era. Long hair and ridiculous facial hair was the new form of expression, and Hrabosky had some of the wildest of both. Rapp failed to notice that it was all part of Hrabosky’s on the field persona. He would go behind the mound and talk to himself. He would pop the ball into the glove, spin around and take his position on the mound. He would stare at the catcher with his eyes barely visible between his cap pulled down low and a glove held high on his face. Then, from what can only be called a maelstrom of arms and legs, comes a pitch somewhere in the confluence of body parts, and it is likely very hard and could quite possibly be well inside.

The crazy hair and outlandish mustache was just a part of Hrabosky’s act, and it had been most effective. But Rapp was having none of that, and wanted his players clean shaven and hair kept at a respectable length. They may finish dead last in the division, but they were going to look professional.

Throw in the emergence of an exciting young flame thrower named John Urrea and 1977 would be Hrabosky’s last season in St. Louis. He would be traded to the Kansas City for their former closer, Mark Littell. In 8 years in St. Louis, Al Hrabosky would finish with a 40-20 record, ERA of 2.93 and collect 59 saves, a big total for that era of baseball.

Kansas City (1978 – 1979)

It could have been the change of scenery, facing hitters in a new league or maybe it was just getting some distance between him and Vern Rapp, but 1978 would be something of a comeback year for the now veteran left hander. He would collect 20 saves in his first season with the Royals, which is a very good number considering that starters threw 53 complete games. His strikeout rate continued to fall, but he would lead all Royals pitchers. Where he was most effective was in missing American League bats, just as he had been doing in the National League. He was just as likely to walk a batter as let them get a hit. All of that added up to a stingy 2.88 ERA, third on the staff.

1978 would also be the only time that Hrabosky would appear in post-season, pitching in three of the four ALCS games against the New York Yankees.

Al Hrabosky would have another fine season for Kansas City in 1979, but a quirky young reliever make his major league debut that year – a redheaded right handed submariner named Dan Quisenberry. Quisenberry would entertain teammates and terrorize opposing batters for the next decade, so it was time for Al to move on.

The Royals let Hrabosky test the new free agency market and the Atlanta Braves signed him to a contract for the 1980 season.

Atlanta (1980 – 1982)

The former closer took on a new role with the Atlanta Braves, the setup man to Rick Camp and then later for Gene Garber. His best year for the Braves was the strike shortened 1981 where he posted a miniscule 1.07 ERA as a one inning specialist. Unfortunately for the Mad Hungarian, his career would come to an end in August 1982 and he would miss the chance to pitch against his former team in the NLCS.

Al Hrabosky pitched effectively for all three teams where he played. He was dominating closer in both leagues and proved to be an effective setup man at the end of his career. The final tally on Al was a 64-35 record with an ERA of 3.10 (ERA+ of 123, not bad). He had a positive win-loss record with all three teams, and he would finish with 97 saves.

Life after Baseball

After his playing days were over, Al returned to the St. Louis area and started a career as a broadcaster. He has been a commentator for the Cardinals since 1985 and can now be found doing most of the television broadcasts on the Cardinal Fox station, Fox Sports Midwest.

Bob Netherton covers Cardinals history for i70baseball.com and writes at On the Outside Corner. You may follow Bob on Twitter here or on Facebook here.

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Gebhard, Jirschele Win Bender, Coolbaugh Awards

Gebhard, Jirschele Win Bender, Coolbaugh Awards

Courtesy of Erika Lynn

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla.—Minor League Baseball™ announced today the selections of Arizona Diamondbacks Vice President & Special Assistant to the General Manager Bob Gebhard and Omaha Storm Chasers manager Mike Jirschele as the recipients of the fourth annual Sheldon “Chief” Bender and Mike Coolbaugh Awards, respectively. Gebhard and Jirschele will be honored on December 8 at the annual Banquet during the Baseball Winter Meetings™ at the Hilton Anatole in Dallas, Texas.

Sheldon “Chief” Bender Award
Bob Gebhard, Arizona Diamondbacks VP & Special Assistant to the GM

The Sheldon “Chief” Bender Award is presented to someone with distinguished service who has been instrumental in player development. Bender spent 64 years in baseball as a player, manager and executive. He oversaw the Cincinnati Reds farm system for 22 years and spent a total 39 years with the club.

Gebhard began teaching players while he was still on the diamond as a pitcher in 1974 in the Montreal organization. He served as a player/coach for their Triple-A™ affiliate in Memphis for two seasons. Gebhard then held the positions of Minor League Field Director and the Director of Minor League Operations with the Expos over the next dozen years.

In 1987, he joined the Minnesota Twins organization as Director of Major League Personnel. Gebhard worked with Jim Rantz, who was his manager in Gebhard’s first year in the Minors in 1965 with the St. Cloud Rox. Rantz was presented with the inaugural Coolbaugh Award in 2008.

Minnesota promoted Gebhard to Vice President of Player Personnel in 1988. He remained with the Twins through the 1991 season when the club won its second World Series title in five years.

Gebhard then went to work for the expansion Colorado Rockies. As the first general manager of the club, he built their entire baseball operations department from the ground up. In 1995, the Rockies won the National League’s first wild card berth.

From 2000-04, Bob worked in the St. Louis organization, helping with the Cardinals’ day-to-day operations, including contract negotiations and player evaluation.

For the last seven seasons, Gebhard has been in his current role of Vice President & Special Assistant to the General Manager with the Arizona Diamondbacks. He has relied upon his decades of experience to provide his input on various aspects of the club’s operation.

“Bob Gebhard has been developing, scouting, evaluating and signing players for more than 35 years during his distinguished front office career,” Minor League Baseball President Pat O’Conner said. “His tremendous dedication, knowledge and experience have contributed to the success of several organizations, resulting in 10 playoff appearances and two World Series championships.”

“I am very honored to be selected for the Chief Bender Award because I had known Chief for years and he represented so many wonderful things in our game,” Gebhard stated.

Other recipients of the Bender Award include Keith Lieppman (2009) and Mark Newman (2010).

Mike Coolbaugh Award
Mike Jirschele, Omaha Storm Chasers Manager

The Mike Coolbaugh Award is presented to an individual who has shown an outstanding baseball work ethic, knowledge of the game and skill in mentoring young players on the field. Coolbaugh played in nearly 1,700 games in his Minor League Baseball career from 1990-2006. He also appeared in 44 Major League games. Coolbaugh was only 35 years old when he died after being hit in the neck by a line drive while coaching first base for Tulsa in a game at Arkansas on July 22, 2007.

Jirschele led the Omaha Storm Chasers to the Pacific Coast League championship in his ninth consecutive year of managing the Kansas City Royals’ top affiliate this season. Along the way, he also won his 1,000th game as a Minor League manager.

After playing 13 seasons in the Minors, Jirschele began his managerial career in 1992 in the Gulf Coast League. He was named manager of the year in the GCL for leading Kansas City’s rookie club to a 41-18 record and the league championship.

The following year, he piloted the Rockford Royals to a division championship in the Midwest League. In 1994, he again captured manager of the year honors when he led the Wilmington Blue Rocks to a 94-44 mark and the Carolina League title. Jirschele was also named The Sporting News Minor League Manager of the Year in 1994.

He first managed Omaha in 1995, when the club was a member of the American Association. Omaha made the playoffs in two of the three seasons Jirschele managed the team.

In 1998, he was named infield instructor for Kansas City’s Minor League system. From 1999-2002, Jirschele served as the Royals’ coordinator of instruction. He began his second managerial stint with Omaha in 2003 and was Coolbaugh’s manager in 2006.

“Mike Jirschele is a man of integrity who stresses the importance of respecting and playing the game of baseball the right way,” O’Conner stated. “Winning his 1,000th game as a manager and the Pacific Coast League championship this year are just the latest examples of his dedication to develop successful players for the Kansas City Royals, something Mike has done for two decades.”

“I’m very honored to receive this award,” Jirschele said. “I just go out, do my job, do what I’m supposed to do and try to make players better for the organization. My role is to get them to the big leagues and build a rapport with the players so they feel like they can come in and talk to me at any time. To get an award for doing what you feel is your job is very gratifying.”

Bobby Jones (2008), Charlie Montoyo (2009) and Woody Huyke (2010) have also received the Coolbaugh Award.

Other 2011 Minor League Baseball Major Award Winners:
John H. Johnson President’s Award (outstanding club operation)-Tennessee Smokies
Larry MacPhail Award (outstanding club promotion)-Lake Elsinore Storm
Warren Giles Award (outstanding league president)-Chuck Murphy, Florida State League
Rawlings Woman Executive of the Year (outstanding female executive)-Marla Terranova Vickers, Montgomery Biscuits

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Wounded Critters At The K

The Minnesota Twins came to Kauffman Stadium this week and were quickly swept aside in less than 24 hours. Bruce Chen and Luke Hochevar looked like the 1 to 2 punch the Royals needed them to be back in June. Back when the Royals were in a free fall. Not to cheapen the wins the Royals got this week. They were wins, 62 and 63 which ensures that the Royals will not lose 100 games this season. Woo freaking Hoo! I would have rather had these wins when the Royals were still in the division race. But that is not what was sad about this series. What was sad, was how terrible the Twins were playing.

You see, the Twins are my favorite division rival. I have this perception that out of all the cities in the division Minneapolis is most like Kansas City. They are the most like Kansas City in market size, and from the visiting Twins fans I’ve met at Kauffman Stadium their fan base is similar to us in personality. It seems the Royals and Twins always play close games even though the Royals have a hard time winning a season series against them.

I think my affinity for the Twins as a rival began in 2003 when the Royals were actually competing for the division title. During that time the company I worked for had an office in Minneapolis and the guys there were big Twins fans. It seems we had a wager on every series that year. I even have a favorite game that year: This one. The Royals scored 12 runs in the bottom of the 6th. If you look at the box score you’ll notice it was against good pitching.

In August of that year the Vikings had a pre-season game at Arrowhead the same weekend the Twins had a three game series. Kauffman was invaded from the north with Minneapolis sports fans. I made a sign that said “Circle this Bert” depicting the Royals ahead of the Twins in the standings. I ran all kinds of smack at them when they were there. At the end of the game we smiled and shook hands.

I like the way the Twins organization came to prominence by building from within. The way the Royals are trying to. I enjoyed the Royals beating the Twins this week. But that was not Twins baseball. The team I saw this week looked like a wounded critter looking for a place to die. I guess in a way it was. They’ve had a rough season and the players are probably looking forward to the season being over. I hope the Twins get better this off-season. Next year when the Royals are better, I want them to beat the Twins when the Twins are good too.

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Elimination Day

Labor Day. Many people recognize this as the end of summer. The Boys Of Summer in Kansas City may very well feel the same. With a loss today and a Tigers win, the Royals will find themselves mathematically eliminated from winning the American League Central division, putting an official end to a race they have not been a part of for months.

Ned Yost

The strike shortened season of 1994 would see the Royals finish the closest to first place that they ever have since the installation of six divisions in baseball. They would be eliminated from competition on August 7th due to the strike, but they were only four games back when the season came to a close on August 10.

Despite a losing season in 1995, the Royals would finish second in the American League Central. That may be just a bit deceiving however as the team finished 30 games behind the Cleveland Indians and would find themselves mathematically eliminated on September 8th. It would not be the smallest margin they would trail by, but it would be the highest finish they would enjoy since then.

Looking back across the dates, the research shows that the Royals have faded over the last 17 years fairly early. Below you will see the date that the boys in blue found themselves aware that it would be impossible for them to find post-season baseball.

Year Division Winner Record Place Final Games Back Date Eliminated
1994 Chicago White Sox 64-51 3rd 4 August 7
1995 Cleveland Indians 70-74 2nd 30 September 8
1996 Cleveland Indians 75-86 5th 24 September 7
1997 Cleveland Indians 67-94 5th 19 September 12
1998 Cleveland Indians 72-89 3rd 16.5 September 14
1999 Cleveland Indians 64-97 4th 32.5 August 31
2000 Chicago White Sox 77-85 4th 18 September 11
2001 Cleveland Indians 65-97 5th 26 September 5
2002 Minnesota Twins 62-100 4th 32.5 September 2
2003 Minnesota Twins 83-79 3rd 7 September 23
2004 Minnesota Twins 58-104 5th 34 September 4
2005 Chicago White Sox 56-106 5th 43 August 26
2006 Minnesota Twins 62-100 5th 34 August 22
2007 Cleveland Indians 69-93 5th 27 September 9
2008 Chicago White Sox 75-87 4th 13.5 September 10
2009 Minnesota Twins 65-97 4th 21.5 September 13
2010 Minnesota Twins 67-95 5th 27 September 7

Only one time in the last 17 seasons have the Royals found themselves in the hunt past the second week of September. With the young guns on the horizon, that may finally change. Maybe then the Kansas City area can find more to celebrate than the beginning of football season.

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Contest: Tickets To The K

The K

Our friends at Sports Vacation Guys have made it their business to help people find their ultimate trip built around their love of sports. It is a unique idea that allows them to build your ultimate vacation and make sure you see the game you want, in the city you want, and help you see some of the sites that the area is most famous for.

The inspiration for Sports Vacation Guys was an annual trip known as The Bachelor Stadium Tour (BST). The BST takes a group of friends and builds an exciting weekend filled with baseball and big cities. This year, over Labor Day Weekend, the pals will embark to Kansas City for two games at Kauffman Stadium to see the Royals take on the Cleveland Indians. From there, they will hop a plane and head to Target Field to see the Minnesota Twins take on the Chicago White Sox in a Labor Day doubleheader.

The Sports Vacation Guys want to share the first stop of their trip with you, Royals fans. So, let us know in the comments below what your ultimate sports vacation would be. The best submission (chosen by myself and a representative from Sports Vacation Guys) will receive two tickets to the September 4th game between the Royals and Indians with The BST.

Just to get you started, here is what some of our favorite baseball people around the internet said when we asked them to do the same.

Dennis Lawson – Pitchers Hit Eighth

If I had the opportunity to take an ultimate baseball weekend trip, my destination would be New York City. I’d go for a double dip – day game at Citi Field and a night game at Yankee Stadium. Since it’s the “ultimate” trip, the scheduling would work out perfectly, so I’d get to see Adam Wainwright and the Cardinals clobber RA Dickey and the Mets in the afternoon. That should leave me with enough time to grab some New York style pizza and get to the Stadium to catch CC Sabathia and the Yankees take on Josh Beckett and the Red Sox. Naturally, the only way for that marathon to end would be with “Enter Sandman” blaring as Mariano Rivera enters in the bottom of the 9th to close it out. With all that baseball in one day, I’d have plenty of time the rest of the weekend to see the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, and Times Square.

Drew Sarver – My Pinstripes

My ultimate baseball trip would involve a Midwest visit to Chicago, Detroit, and Cleveland. Starting with a day series in the bleachers at Wrigley Field. And of course one game watching from the rooftop across the street. Then on to Detroit’s Comerica Park to watch Justin Verlander toe the rubber for the Tigers, and finally back east to Cleveland’s Progressive Field to watch the Indians take on the New York Yankees. A side trip would include a trip to the Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.

Daniel Shoptaw – United Cardinal Bloggers, C70 At The Bat

Well, typically, it’d be in St. Louis. Do some shopping, see the Arch, Grant’s Farm, things like that with the family. Outside of that, I don’t know. Washington would be great with all the monuments, etc. Though if you are just talking baseball, spending some time in the Iowa cornfield diamond would be right up there.

Jason Turbow – The Baseball Codes

I’d ordinarily be tempted to say a trip to Wrigley Field, preceded by a Friday taping of Oprah. Now that she’s closed up shop, I’ll go with Boston. Fenway provides the most wondrous ballpark experience I’ve encountered, and a weekend in Beantown would allow me to walk the Freedom Trail and head to the Public Garden for a photographic recreation of “Make Way for Ducklings,” the Robert McCloskey classic I read to my kids at least once a week. (I will be taking pictures because my children will have stayed home. With this in mind, a tour of the Samuel Adams Brewery might be in order, as well.)

Hilda Chester – Fan of the site

The perks of getting to see my team play the Braves in Atlanta not only allow me to see Turner Field, but I will also get to check out the Georgia Aquarium and take in the history of the south by visiting places like Martin Luther King Jr Historical Site. Most importantly- getting to ATL allows me to try the good ol’ Southern cooking first hand.

Shai Kushner – Baseball Digest

While I’m still not totally sold on west coast baseball …

I would love to take a trip along the west coast and catch as many games as I could from Seattle to San Diego, picking up some family along the way to come along for the ride.

I’ve been to Dodgers Stadium as well as Angels Stadium of Anaheim Stadium South of Los Angeles Stadium, but haven’t checked out the other new ballparks in that time zone.

Of course the drive along the coast would be almost as much of a highlight, even if it’s a little out of the way.

Michael Lynch – Seamheads

I’d love to go back to Fenway Park to watch my beloved Red Sox for the first time since 2004. I’m originally from Brookline, MA and visiting the places I used to hang out and the historical landmarks in Boston would be amazing. I’d also get to spend time with my mother and stepdad, which would make it that much better.

Rob Rains – St. Louis Sports Page
My ultimate trip that revolves around baseball would be to pack my family into an RV and go to as many ballparks as we could in one summer. We took a “Halls of Fame” trip where we went to as many Halls of Fame as we could between St. Louis and Cooperstown and you’d be surprised how many there are if you take side trips.

Jamie Shoemaker – Through The Fence Baseball

An ultimate weekend trip would be centered around the Atlanta Braves. I’ve been to the stadium twice, including a sellout against the Yankees in which the Braves won 5-2. The weekend would start off by visiting the CNN center where the Atlanta Braves clubhouse store is. They frequently have autograph signings and in my perfect weekend, Bobby Cox and the greats would be there signing autographs. This would ultimately include John Smoltz, Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux, Andres Gallaraga, etc. just to name a few. During the game, Chipper Jones would win the game with a landmark grand slam that landed into my hands. I would then meet Chipper and the rest of the braves to return the ball to Larry. In the end (hopefully after receiving all the memorabilia for returning the ball) I would have a room full of Atlanta Braves signed gear and a poster of Chipper Jones and I.

To top it off, there would be a concert afterwards, in which my favorite band, Shinedown performs with Halestorm opening. Yeah, that might have been a reach, but it’s the ultimate weekend!

Michael Engel – Kings Of Kauffman

I’ve always been interested in the early history of America. If I had the opportunity to run off for a weekend, I can think of no better place to visit (that isn’t Kauffman Stadium of course) than Boston.

Naturally, Fenway Park is the baseball stop. There are few iconic locations in professional sports anymore, but Fenway may be the most recognizable ballpark in the game today.

Along with that, there’s the city of Boston itself with all the historic landmarks, the quirky street layouts, and a few dozen breweries (or thereabouts). I’m not a fan of the Red Sox in any way, but as a baseball fan, it would be tough to turn down a chance to see the Green Monster – and the rest of the city is a nice bonus, too.

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