Sunday, August 31, 2014

Pete Guzman, Pumped Up - 2037

Pete Guzman went five innings and gave up six hits in the Spokane Indians season opener in June 1989, according to The Spokane Spokesman-Review.

It was a performance that was enough for a 12-3 Spokane win, Guzman picking up the victory, according to The Spokane Spokesman-Review.

"They were pumped up," Bochy told The Spokesman-Review. "We've got a bunch of gamers here. They were really ready to play. They played very well."

Guzman only played that one game at Spokane, pitching the rest of the season in the rookie Arizona League. He only pitched in one more pro season, never making AA.

Guzman's career began that year in 1989, signed by the Padres as a free agent out of his native Dominican Republic. Guzman is also known by his formal name, Pedro Guzman.

Guzman got that one start at Spokane that first year. He then got 26 outings, four starts, in the Arizona League. He went 5-6 between them, with a 4.57 ERA.

For 1990, Guzman moved to single-A Charleston. In 28 outings there, two starts, he had a 4.10 ERA. He went three innings in an August game, giving up two earned runs. It was his final season as a pro.
1990 CMC-Pro Cards Tally
Players/Coaches Featured:1,741
Made the Majors: 826 - 47.4%
Never Made Majors: 915-52.6%-X
5+ Seasons in the Majors: 358
10+ Seasons in the Minors:209

Mark Littell, Not Nervous - 2055

Mark Littell got his first look at major league hitting in an exhibition game in 1972. He pitched well, but loaded the bases at one point, including walking the great Hank Aaron, according to The Associated Press.

But, The AP asked, was the minor leaguer nervous?

"No, I wasn't nervous ... not really," Littell told The AP. "When the bases were loaded in the fourth, I knew I had to keep my cool."

Littell eventually saw major league pitching for real, seeing it in nine separate major league seasons. He also went on to a long career as a coach.

He has since gone to a career making sure others on the field aren't nervous, for wholly different reasons than that situation he faced back in 1972.

Littell invented the Nutty Buddy. It's billed as an improvement on the athletic cup, one that can allow a player to take a 100 mph fastball, well, there and keep on playing.

Littell's career in baseball began 1971, taken by the Royals in the 12th round of the draft.

He started at rookie Billings, then played at single-A Waterloo that year he pitched in the exhibition game. He made AAA Omaha in 1973. He also made major league Kansas City that year.

In eight games, seven starts, that first year in the majors, Littell went 1-3, with a 5.68 ERA. He returned to Kansas City briefly in 1975 and then for a much longer stint in 1976.

In that 1976 season, Littell pitched in 60 games, mostly in relief. His ERA came in at 2.08 as he helped the Royals to the playoffs. He took the loss in the deciding Game 5 of the ALCS. He was named the team's pitcher-of-the-year.

Littell stayed with the Royals through 1977, when he was traded to the Cardinals. He then played the next five seasons with his new club, including a 1979 campaign where the reliever went 9-4, with a 2.13 ERA.

Littell's final major league season came in 1982. A lingering elbow injury finally ended his career. In 316 career major league games, he had a 3.32 ERA.

By 1989, Littell had started his coaching career. He served that year as pitching coach at short-season Watertown. He moved to single-A Charleston in 1990.

In 1994, he was pitching coach with the Brewers at high-A Stockton. In one game that year, Littell's bullpen shined, according to The Stockton Record.

"That's one of the things you like about guys coming out of the bullpen - come in and throw strikes," Littell told The Record. "They utilized the inside half of the plate. You can't ask for more than that."

Littell served in various roles in the minors through 2006. In 1996, he served as pitching coach at AAA New Orleans. From 2003 to 2006, it was rookie Helena. He didn't make the majors as a coach.

Since then, though, he has been promoting his invention, the Nutty Buddy. The device works by better distributing the impact around the important parts.

He even appeared on an episode of ESPN's Sports Science and demonstrated the effectiveness of his product the only really effective way to do so - using a pitching machine.

"The guy with the bullet-proof vest did it with his product," Littell told The Helena Independent Record in November 2006. "Well, I did too. I can literally say I stand behind my product."
1990 CMC-Pro Cards Tally
Players/Coaches Featured:1,740
Made the Majors: 826 - 47.5%
Never Made Majors: 914-52.5%-X
5+ Seasons in the Majors: 358
10+ Seasons in the Minors:209

Juan Gonzalez, Contract Hitter - 444

Originally published March 30, 2012
Juan Gonzalez hadn't won an MVP award yet, but, by then end of the 1993 season, he had completed his second-consecutive season with more than 40 home runs and third-consecutive topping 100 RBIs.

So, when the Rangers announced in February 1994 that they'd signed Gonzalez to a long-term deal - five years, $30 million - Rangers president Tom Schieffer could be excused for being a little excited.

"This kid is going to be in the Hall of Fame, and if anybody is worthy of it, he is," Schieffer told The Associated Press after the signing. "We have our fourth-place hitter for the next seven years. Now, all we have to do is make sure he stays healthy."

For most of that deal Gonzalez did exactly what Schieffer hoped. He won one MVP, then a second. He helped the Rangers to the playoffs in three separate seasons.

But it was another contract offer, one that Gonzalez didn't accept, that symbolized what should have been the second half of Gonzalez' career.

Offered an eight-year, $140 million contract after a trade to the Tigers for 2000, Gonzalez turned it down. That second half hardly amounted to five seasons, Gonzalez saw his career unspectactularly end on a one swing in 2005.

It ended with Gonzalez followed by injuries and later alleged links to steroid use, steroid allegations Gonzalez would flatly deny.

Gonzalez' career began in 1986, signed by the Rangers out of his native Puerto Rico. After starting in the rookie Gulf Coast League that year, Gonzalez eventually reached AA Tulsa by 1989, then AAA Oklahoma City in 1990.

In 1989, though, Gonzalez jumped directly to Texas in September, getting into 24 games, hitting .150 with one home run. He returned for another 25 games in 1990, hitting .289 in 90 at bats.

Then, in 1991, Gonzalez became a regular in Arlington. He hit .264, with 27 home runs. He also became a fan favorite, The AP wrote.

"I thought I was ready last year, but I tried to have patience and now I'm very happy," Gonzalez told The AP that May.

Gonzalez followed that campaign with his first two 40-plus home run campaigns. In 1993, he also hit .310, garnered his first All Star selection and came in fourth in the MVP balloting. That June, he even recorded 8 RBIs in a single game.

His home run total dipped to 19 in the strike-shortened 1994 season, but Gonzalez returned for 27 in 1995 and then a career-high 47 in 1996. His 1996 season was also the one where he won his first of two MVP awards, hitting .314 and leading the Rangers to the playoffs.

Gonzalez continued his hitting in the Division Series against the Yankees, hitting five more home runs. But Gonzalez' Rangers lost 3 games to 1.

"This was a very emotional series for myself," Gonzalez told The New York Times after the series loss. "This series for myself, I'm hitting a lot. Five home runs in four games, a lot of r.b.i. and we don't score. We lost. We lost."

Gonzalez ended up hitting more than 40 home runs in three-consecutive seasons. In his second MVP campaign, in 1998, Gonzalez hit 47 home runs and knocked in 157 runs.

By the end of the 1999 season, Gonzalez had hit 39 or more home runs in six of the past eight seasons. He knocked in more than 100 runs in seven of the past nine seasons.

After all that, the Rangers traded him to the Tigers that December in a 10-player deal. Going into the spring, the Tigers looked to lock Gonzalez up long-term, with the 8-year, $140 million offer. But Gonzalez turned them down.

"It's a big question for me, a big decision," Gonzalez told The Times in May. "It's a good organization, and it's treated me so great. They have good fans, a great tradition. But it's a big decision, I want to wait ... maybe after the All-Star break, maybe at the end of the year."

By those benchmarks, though, Gonzalez' value had dipped significantly. By the end of the year, he'd hit .289 with 22 home runs in just 115 games.

Gonzalez had a brief comeback in 2001 with the Indians, hitting .325 with 35 home runs and 140 RBIs. His last four seasons, 2002 to 2005, consisted of 70 games, 82 games, 33 games and 1 game, each season shortened by injury.

His last injury, a torn hamstring, came on his only at bat of the 2005 season, his final one in the majors.

By the end of 2007 Gonzales had been accused of steroid ties twice, first by one-time teammate Jose Canseco in Canseco's landmark 2005 book "Juiced" and then in December 2007, when Gonzalez' name appeared in The Mitchell Report, tied to bag with steroids found in October 2001 at the Toronto airport.

In spring 2008, Gonzalez made one last comeback attempt, with the Cardinals. He also denied ever using steroids.

"I'm clear," Gonzalez told The AP that spring. "I've never tested positive. I don't have a problem. I will continue with my head up and try the best inside the lines. I never used it."

Gonzalez didn't make the Cardinals in 2008. In 2011, he made his first Hall of Fame ballot, getting 5.2 percent of the vote, barely over the minimum to remain on. In 2012, he dropped below that minimum, 4 percent. He also dropped off the ballot.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Lee Henderson, Throw Home - 2041

Charleston Rainbow catcher Lee Henderson took the throw, but it was too late.

The Sumter runner rounded third and broke for home as another runner got caught in a rundown. Henderson caught the throw home, but the runner evaded his tag, according to The Sumter Item.

At the plate, Henderson went 1 for 4, knocking in one. It was a game Charleston would drop by a score of 4-2, The Item wrote.

Henderson was in his second season as a pro that year. He went on to play in five more. He made AA, but he never made it higher.

Henderson's career began in 1989, taken by the Padres in the 10th round of the draft out of West Covina High School in California.

Henderson played his first season in the rookie Arizona League. In 35 games there, he hit .210. He moved to Charleston for 1990. In 87 games there, he again hit .210. He went 0 for 2 in a June game.

For 1991, Henderson played at single-A Waterloo. His average was virtually the same, .213. That average improved at high-A High Desert in 1992. He hit .275 there. He also hit his first three professional home runs.

Henderson got his only look at AA in 1993 at Wichita. In 31 games there, he hit .176. He returned to high-A Rancho Cucamonga in August.

Henderson played just one more year in affiliated ball. He divided 68 games in 1994 between single-A Springfield and Rancho Cucamonga. He hit .234 between them.

His final professional season came the next year, with 34 games at independent Duluth-Superior, ending his career.
1990 CMC-Pro Cards Tally
Players/Coaches Featured:1,739
Made the Majors: 826 - 47.5%
Never Made Majors: 913-52.5%-X
5+ Seasons in the Majors: 358
10+ Seasons in the Minors:209

Jimmy Lester, Mold Them - 2056

Little League instituted a pitch limit for its young pitchers in 2006. It was something that scouts like Jimmy Lester welcomed, according to

"We as scouts like fresh arms and cringe when we hear of players throwing 100-plus pitches," Lester told the site in 2006. "You can teach players with fresh arms and mold them. Older players, or players who have thrown a lot, simply don't adapt well to change and have a greater chance of being injured."

The Lester's connection to Little League was a close one. Lester's time in Little League included a trip to the regional tournament. His son Josh's time that year in 2006 included a trip to the Little League World Series, his team winning the title.

Jimmy Lester's career in baseball started in 1985, signed by the Expos as an undrafted free agent as a 22-year-old.

Lester started at short-season Jamestown, hitting .285 in 54 games. It was his only year in the Expos system. He moved to the Padres and single-A Charleston for 1986.

With Charleston, Lester hit .278 and knocked in 32 in 96 games. He hit his only home run of the year in a May game, a three-run shot. In July, he made the league all-star team.

Lester played 1987 at single-A Reno and 1988 at AA Wichita. At Wichita, he hit .252 in 93 games.

His last playing time came in 1989 as a player coach back in Charleston. He returned there in 1990 as hitting coach.

Soon after, he became a scout. In November 1991, the new Rockies franchise named Lester a scouting supervisor. In 1995, Lester scouted a player named Marc Brzozoski.

"He's got a good arm and he can run," Lester told Brzozoski's hometown Calhoun Times. "He makes good contact doing what he does so he's going to be even better."

As a cross-checker with the Dodgers in 2001, Lester was credited with helping draft and sign Edwin Jackson. Jackson was also a good hitter in high school and there was some question about where he would go, according to The Los Angeles Times.

"I think the idea was to give him some at-bats in his first year [of pro ball] and see which came fastest, but in the long run I always felt his future would be as a pitcher," Lester told The Times in 2003.

In 2010, Lester was with the Pirates as a national cross checker. He's still with the Pirates in 2014 as a national scouting supervisor.

His son Josh Lester, who was on that 2006 Little League World Series team, is now excelling in baseball himself. He played 2014 as a sophomore at the University of Missouri.

"When he first was able to hit the ball out of the ballpark, just in BP, it was like a kid in a candy store," the father told The Columbia Missourian in April 2014. "You could see the face light up, the eyes get big."
1990 CMC-Pro Cards Tally
Players/Coaches Featured:1,738
Made the Majors: 826 - 47.5%
Never Made Majors: 912-52.5%-X
5+ Seasons in the Majors: 358
10+ Seasons in the Minors:209

Ty Gainey, One Spring - 50

Originally published June 22, 2012
Ty Gainey had a hot spring for the Astros in 1985, so hot, that Astro brass began noticing.

Gainey hit .370 on the spring, with 10 extra-base hits, The Houston Chronicle wrote. He did all of it without having hit previously above AA.

"I told him that I don't think I've ever seen a player improve so much from one spring to the next," Astros manager Bob Lillis told The Chronicle. "When spring training started, there were a lot of people who weren't on his side. Now everybody is."

For Gainey, though, the interest soon wained. A poor spring the next season and a Houston outfield that he couldn't seem to find a home in left him playing largely in AAA.

He made it to Houston in 1985 and each of the next two seasons, but his big league career ended up consisting of 57 total big league games.

Gainey's playing career, though, continued much longer, taking him to the Indians and Pirates systems and into Mexico, Taiwan and Japan. His last recorded playing time didn't come until 2000 - more than two decades after he was first drafted.

Gainey was first drafted by the Astros in 1979, in the second round, out of Cheraw High School in South Carolina.

Gainey started in the rookie Gulf Coast League. He made it to single-A Daytona Beach in 1981, then to AA Columbus full time in 1983.

After his spring in 1985, Gainey got his first look at AAA Tucson. He also quickly got called back to Houston, debuting April 24. In all, he got into just 13 games on the year, hitting .162. At Tuscon, though he hit .336 in 68 games.

Going into 1986, though, Gainey couldn't replicate his 1985 spring, coming in overweight, according to The Chronicle. He was also quickly returned to the minors. At Tucson that year, Gainey hit .351, and won the league batting title.

Gainey also had the best of his three seasons with time in the majors, getting back to Houston for 26 games, hitting .300. In spring 1987, Gainey acknowledged to The Orlando Sentinel his mistakes from the previous spring and he hoped they were behind him.

"This year, my goal from day one has been to make this club," Gainey told The Sentinel. "If I don't, I know the reason. It's not that I can't do it. It's the numbers game. And my number hasn't come up."

Gainey played just 18 games for the Astros in 1987. They were the last games he played in the majors.

Gainey only got five games in 1988 at AAA Tucson. He moved to the Indians system in 1989, starting 1990 back there. He moved to the Pirates system mid-year, then to Mexico City. Gainey made another attempt at the majors in spring 1991, with the Pirates.

"I'm a 30-year-old man with a kid's attitude about the game," Gainey told The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in March 1991. "As long as you can put on the uniform, as long as your meats can carry you to first base, as long as you can swing a bat, you've got a chance."

Gainey continued playing for nearly another decade, but not in the majors. He moved to Japan for 1993 and 1994, playing for Orix. He played in Taiwan in 1998 and is last recorded as playing in 2000 for Yucatan in the Mexican League.

Friday, August 29, 2014

John Barfield, Challenged Them - 424

Originally published May 13, 2012
The Rangers needed a starter in June 1991 and John Barfield went out and gave them a start. It was one where the usual reliever Barfield went into the seventh inning, gave up just two earned runs and picked up the win.

"I only threw 88 pitches. I was getting stronger, hitting spots and the defense gave me the confidence to go right after the hitters," Barfield told The Associated Press. "I challenged them all of the way through."

Barfield went on to get seven more starts for the Rangers that year, his third year in the majors. Though he continued playing into 1997 in the minors and independent ball, 1991 was Barfield's last year with time in the majors.

Barfield made the majors with the team that drafted him, the Rangers. Texas took Barfield in the 11th round of the 1986 draft, out of Oklahoma City University.

Barfield began with the Rangers as a starter. At single-A Salem and single-A Daytona Beach. Between them, he went 3-6 in 14 starts. Barfield played at single-A Charlotte in 1987, then moved to AA Tulsa in 1988. At Tulsa, Barfield went 9-9 in 24 starts.

He made AAA Oklahoma City in 1989, going 10-8 in 28 starts. He also made Texas in September. He got four outings with the big club, two of them starts. In his first start, Barfield went four scoreless innings, then after giving up three earned runs in the fifth, got pulled and picked up the loss.

In 11.2 innings of work for the Rangers that September, Barfield gave up eight earned runs and picked up that loss.

His first win would have to wait until 1990, Barfield switched to full-time relief. On June 29, 2.1 scoreless innings earned Barfield that first win. He ended the year with four in 33 total relief appearances. He also picked up a save in July.

Barfield then came back for 1991, what would be his final year in the majors. He got into 28 games, with those nine starts. He went 4-4, with a 4.54 ERA. In May, Barfield went two innings to pick up his second career save. The Rangers win was also the team's 11th in a row.

"I knew in spring training we'd surprise a lot of people," Barfield told The AP after his save. "Now we're even surprising ourselves."

Barfield returned to the minors in 1992, getting three outings back at high-A Charlotte and playing the rest of the year at AAA Oklahoma City.

He played in affiliated ball into 1995, going through the White Sox, Dodgers and the Rangers systems. He then played a game for the Indians at AAA Buffalo in 1997, after a year in Mexico. His last recorded playing time came in 1998, in the independent Atlantic League.
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