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Knuckleballs and forkballs: Candiotti vs Morris

A few days earlier, It’s Pronounced Lajaway had a piece on the greatest Indians players to never make an All-Star team.

Knuckleballer Tom Candiotti, who pitched for the Indians from 1986-1991 (and again in 1999), made the list at No. 5.

As It’s Pronounced Lajaway noted, Candiotti especially deserved an All-Star nod back in 1991:

As I’ve referenced in other posts in the past, Candiotti’s Tribe career was pretty impressive in hindsight. He posted an ERA+ over 125 in three of his six seasons in Cleveland. If you think Kluber got snubbed this year, check out Candiotti’s situation from 1991. With a 2.23 ERA in 17 starts (6th best in all of baseball), Candiotti was left off the roster. Meanwhile, due to postseason heroics which almost got him into the Hall of Fame, some guy named Morris started the game for the AL—with the 43rd best ERA in baseball at 3.65.

Of course, as I had posted here recently too, Candiotti would have made the American All-Star team had he not been traded to Toronto a mere 10 days prior to the Midsummer Classic.

I want to focus here on Candiotti vs Morris, though, since it was brought up on It’s Pronounced Lajaway.

Candiotti normally struggled in first innings of ballgames because it took a few frames for him to get the feel for the knuckleball, but interestingly, Morris was even worse in his 21-win season with Toronto in 1992. That season, Morris had a 6.88 ERA during the first innings of his 34 starts, allowing 26 earned runs and 14 extra-base hits. In 1991, Candiotti gave up 15 first-inning runs in 34 starts, for a 4.01 ERA, and nine extra-base hits. But Candiotti’s first-inning ERA was skewed because seven of those runs came in the one game where he received multiple for a bad tooth just prior to taking the mound. In any event, Morris’s 6.88 ERA in the first inning in 1992 was a lot worse.

Former major-league pitcher Jim Kaat, working the broadcast booth for CBS during the 1992 postseason, explained Morris’s first-inning woes this way during Game One of that year’s ALCS: “When you throw the forkball, it’s difficult to find the release point” and get that pitch in the strike zone early on. The idea that it took a few innings for Morris to see if his forkball was sharp or his fastball was effective, before he decided which pitch to go with. So, essentially, it took Morris a few innings before he settled down. And once he had his pitches working, he’d be untouchable the rest of the game.

That’s not all. As Kaat also pointed out, because of Morris’s high leg kick and the use of the forkball, the ball took a longer time to get to home plate, making Morris easy to steal bases on throughout his career. In fact, Morris was one of the easiest pitchers to steal on in the AL during that morris cardera.

Wait a minute. Morris had a tendency to struggle in the first innings of ballgames. Because he threw a forkball, Morris was easy to run on. Those two characteristics were consistent with knuckleball pitchers such as Candiotti and Charlie Hough. So, why did knuckleballers get more scrutiny than a guy who threw a forkball?

Hough himself wondered the same thing during the spring of 1992, some five months after Morris had captured World Series MVP honors with Minnesota. “Some managers would say they wouldn’t have a knuckleballer on the staff with all the wild pitches and passed balls,” Hough told the Chicago Daily Herald, referring to the negative perception toward knuckleball pitchers. “But there are more wild pitches on a forkball or a splitter. If Jack Morris throws a wild pitch or passed ball and gives up a big run on it, it’s all right. But when I do it, it’s the god-darned knuckleball” (Mark Ruda, “Is the Knuckleball a Dying Art? Not on the White Sox,” Chicago Daily Herald, April 5, 1992).

Then there’s also bases on balls. Managers hate knuckleballers because of the walks associated with them. But in 16 seasons, Candiotti finished in the top 10 in walks allowed only twice. Meanwhile, he was in the top 10 for fewest walks allowed per nine innings a total of three times. Morris, however, finished in the top 10 in most walks allowed nine times in his 18 major-league seasons, and never once finished in the top 10 in fewest walks per nine innings. So, managers prefer a forkball pitcher because…?

Wild pitches? Morris was in the top 10 in his league in that category a total of 12 times, leading the league six times and finishing second twice. Candiotti was in the top 10 in wild pitches “only” seven times. He never led the league in that category, and his 14 wild pitches in 1998 represented a career high. Morris equaled or surpassed that number several times; he had seasons with 18, 14, 15, 24, 16, 15, and 14 wild pitches.

Round-trippers? Six times, Candiotti finished in the top 10 in the league in fewest home runs allowed per nine innings. He never led the league in homers allowed, finishing in the top 10 only twice, including a career high of 30 allowed in 1998. Morris was in the top 10 in homers allowed seven times, and had seasons in which he allowed 37, 30, 40, and 39 long balls. So, Candiotti owned low home run and walk rates—and managers didn’t like a pitcher like him because…?

In Game One of the 1992 ALCS, Morris had an atypical flawless first inning against the Oakland A’s. But his early-inning woes would bite him in the second frame, as he allowed three runs – including back-to-back homers – and Toronto went on to lose 4-3. In Game Four, he allowed five runs in the third inning as the Blue Jays trailed 6-1 entering the eighth. Oakland seemed destined to win that contest to even the ALCS at 2-2, but the 1992 Jays weren’t the same team as the offensively-challenged ’91 club.

The ’92 Jays were a more balanced team, and it was no cakewalk to go through their lineup. John Olerud and Candy Maldonado had solid seasons, and Toronto also had a legitimate designated hitter in Dave Winfield. (The DHs in the 1991 ALCS were a combined 2-for-18 after putting up horrendous regular-season numbers.) With Winfield hitting behind him, Joe Carter saw more fastballs because pitchers didn’t want to walk him and have to deal with the dangerous Winfield with runners aboard.

Icandiotti cardn 1991, if the Jays were trailing by that kind of a margin – 6-1 in the eighth inning – the game was essentially over since they didn’t have much of an offense beyond White-Alomar-Carter atop the batting order. No such problem in 1992. An Alomar double and Carter single cut the deficit to 6-2. Winfield then singled Carter to third, prompting A’s manager Tony La Russa to bring in closer Dennis Eckersley. It didn’t matter. Olerud and Maldonado each smacked RBI singles to make it 6-4. An inning later, Toronto tied it off the seemingly invincible Eckersley, and then prevailed 7-6 in extra innings.

The comeback overshadowed a horrible outing by Morris, whose numbers were: 3.1 IP, 5 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 5 BB, 2 SO.

Not unlike Candiotti’s in Game One in 1991: 2.2 IP, 8 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 1 BB, 2 SO.

The ’92 Blue Jays would win the AL pennant before stunning Atlanta in six games in the World Series. And oh, Morris lost twice against the Braves.

* * * * *

Though Jack Morris defeated Candiotti’s Blue Jays twice in the 1991 ALCS, the Candy Man has nothing but praise for the right-hander.

“Jack Morris was the greatest competitor I’ve ever seen on a big-league mound,” he said several years ago on the subject. “Jack might not have had an outstanding ERA, but he had this refuse-to-lose mentality and was definitely a big-game pitcher. The bigger the game, the better Jack was. He could beat you 1-0 or he could beat you 10-9. He always wanted the ball and he never wanted to come out of the ballgame. That’s what you want out of your starting pitcher. That’s the guy I’d want on the mound for a seventh game in the World Series.

“Not only was he the best clutch pitcher I’ve ever seen, but Jack also threw an amazing split-fingered fastball, which was the best splitter in the game. It approached the plate looking like a fastball, but it really dipped when it got to the plate. I know I wouldn’t have wanted to hit against that splitter of his.”

Candiotti never stepped into the batter’s box against Morris, but opposed him on the mound quite a few times. Sure, Candiotti was only 1-8 lifetime in their nine career matchups, but several of the games were very close. During the Cleveland years, he was 1-5 despite a respectable 3.67 ERA. “Jack was with the Tigers for most of those years,” Candiotti said. “It seemed like I faced him a lot when we were playing against Detroit, and he was always one pitch better than me.”

That was certainly the case in both of their 1987 matchups. On August 23, Candiotti should have had a shutout but his defense betrayed him, and the Tigers took advantage and won the game in a span of four pitches. In the third inning, Detroit had runners on the corners with one out when Darrell Evans hit what looked like an inning-ending double-play grounder to Joe Carter at first base. Alas, Carter’s throw to second base went into leftfield as everybody was safe. One run scored, and there were still two runners on. Kirk Gibson, the next batter, smacked a three-run homer and the Tigers would prevail 4-3 behind Morris. “I threw Gibby a knuckleball the pitch before, and he missed it by a foot,” Candiotti recalled. “I threw him another knuckler but it stayed up a little bit, and Gibby just absolutely crushed it. We lost that game but it easily could’ve been a shutout, because they didn’t come close to getting another run.”

Ten days later, Candiotti threw a one-hitter in Detroit, but Carter booted a ball at first base which led to a run, and Morris’s Tigers won 2-1. Though the error cost him the game, Candiotti was quick to jump to his teammate’s defense. “That year,” he recalls, “part of the problem was there weren’t any set positions for a few players. Joe wasn’t out there trying to make an error. He was out there trying his best, but it was tough when he’d play first base one day, then move over to leftfield the next, back to first again, and then to rightfield. It was tough for a few of the guys not having a set position.”

One time, it was because of a catcher’s unfamiliarity with Candiotti that cost him a game against Morris.

Joel Skinner, who was traded to Cleveland before the 1989 season, had caught Yankees knuckleballer Joe Niekro five times from 1986-87. However, for the first five months of the ’89 season with the Indians, he’d caught Candiotti just once – way back in April – because Andy Allanson was the Candy Man’s personal catcher. In September, though, interim manager John Hart wanted to see what Skinner could do behind the plate, and inserted him into the starting lineup in a game against Morris.

“Skinner warmed me up in the bullpen before the game, and did just fine,” recalled Candiotti. “But with the knuckleball, though, is it’s different in the game than it is warming up on the sidelines. When the game began, he was using a regular catcher’s glove – instead of the big knuckleball glove that catchers wear to catch a knuckleball pitcher*.”

Gary Pettis led off with a single, stole second, and moved to third on a passed ball. Candiotti then fanned Fred Lynn but Skinner couldn’t hang on to the third strike, which got away for another passed ball, allowing Pettis to score. “After that inning, Skinner switched to the big glove,” said Candiotti. “And he did a great job the rest of the way. In fact, he was terrific in handling my knuckleball whenever he caught me [from that moment on].” Despite Candiotti’s solid game – two earned runs over 6.2 innings – Morris was victorious 3-1.

Morris would compile a 26-8 record against Cleveland by the time Candiotti finally beat him in 1990. “It seemed every time I pitched against Detroit, I got matched up against Jack. He had an amazing record against us, especially at Tiger Stadium. He just beat us every time. I go, ‘Well, somebody’s gotta take this punishment. It might as well be me.'”

Though Morris said years ago he didn’t need luck to beat Candiotti, based on some of those games it seemed like he did.

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*Skinner wasn’t the only catcher who learned the lesson the hard way. When Dodger catcher Carlos Hernandez first caught Candiotti during spring training in ’92, he didn’t want to use the big knuckleball glove – and soon regretted that decision. “Carlos was catching me in the bullpen and he was just using a regular catcher’s glove,” said Candiotti. “I threw my hard knuckleballs and a few of them hit him. After that, he gave up and went with the bigger glove.” With the oversized glove, Hernandez missed only three of Candiotti’s pitches during the entire game. 

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Sometimes zeroes don’t mean much…

Dan Johnson, called up by the Blue Jays from Triple-A Buffalo on July 11, made his Toronto debut that same night against his old team, the Tampa Bay Rays, and had the most interesting stat line in his new club’s 8-5 victory.

Johnson, probably best known for his ninth-inning homer for Tampa Bay against the Red Sox in September of 2008 in a contest which gave the Rays the AL East lead and then another dinger against the Yankees in the 2011 season finale to help the Rays clinch the wild card, posted the following line in his Toronto debut:

0 AB, 3 R, 0 H, 0 RBI, 4 BB, 0 SO.

Though Johnson couldn’t get a hit, he still made a huge contribution for Toronto. The Blue Jays’ newest DH was still was able to reach base in all four plate appearances and, more importantly, came around to score three times – including the tie-breaking run in the ninth inning after he had drawn a leadoff walk against the struggling Grant Balfour.

Definitely an odd and crooked-looking line score.

This reminds me of a couple of weird-looking stat lines for Tom Candiotti, where he lost a couple of games despite allowing zero earned runs. Same with John Smoltz, who lost a pivotal game to the Philadelphia Phillies in Game Four of the 1993 NLCS.

Let’s start with the Smoltz game, with the Atlanta right-hander owning a career postseason record of 5-0 with a 2.13 ERA in nine starts heading into the October 10, 1993 contest against lefty Danny Jackson (a playoff veteran himself) and the Phillies. Thanks to a Mark Lemke error at second base in the fourth inning, the Phillies scored two runs off Smoltz to take a 2-1 lead. The Braves almost tied it in the eighth when they put two runners on with two outs and erratic closer Mitch “The Wild Thing” Williams took over for Jackson.

Lemke, looking to redeem himself for the earlier fielding error, took Williams’s second pitch to deep left – which would have tied the game but leftfielder Milt Thompson made a circus catch to end the inning.

Atlanta then put two runners on to lead off the ninth but Williams fielded Jeff Blauser’s sacrifice bunt attempt and threw out the lead runner at third base, before inducing Ron Gant – arguably the league’s best clutch hitter down the stretch – to hit into a game-ending double play. The Phillies won 2-1 to even the series at 2-2, and then won the next two games to clinch the NL pennant.

But here was Smoltz’s line in the game:

6.1 IP, 8 H, 2 R, 0 ER, 5 BB, 10 SO.

It was Smoltz’s first career postseason loss – despite the fact he struck out 10 Phillies and gave up zero earned runs. What was interesting too, was that reliever Mark Wohlers walked three and struck out five in two hitless innings, meaning Atlanta pitching struck out 15 Philadelphia hitters but the Phillies still prevailed [1].

Oscar AzocarThen, on to Tom Candiotti. On August 3, 1990, the Cleveland Indians knuckleballer took a no-hitter into the bottom of the eighth inning at Yankee Stadium. He retired the first two batters and was four outs away from history, with a 4-2 lead. The Yankees had scored two runs in the first inning on a hit batsman, an error by second baseman Jerry Browne, a Candiotti wild pitch, and an RBI groundout by Mel Hall.

With two outs in the eighth, Steve Sax walked before Jim Leyritz reached on an error by shortstop Felix Fermin. Yankees rookie Oscar Azocar, in his first month in the majors, broke up the no-hitter with a single up the middle, cutting the deficit to 4-3.

At that juncture, Indians skipper John McNamara pulled Candiotti in favor of closer Doug Jones, who gave up a first-pitch home run to Hall, turning the 4-3 lead into a 6-4 deficit. That was the way the game ended, with Candiotti charged with the loss and the following line:

7.2 IP, 1 H, 5 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 7 SO.

All five runs off Candiotti were unearned because of the fielding errors by Browne and Fermin.

Then on June 30, 1995, Candiotti was pitching for the Dodgers against the Colorado Rockies, and gave up two first-inning runs because of an error by third baseman Tim Wallach. At the time, the two runs seemed insignificant because Rockies starter Kevin Ritz was just 11-24 with a 5.78 ERA going into the season, and you would figure a lineup featuring Mike Piazza, Eric Karros, and Raul Mondesi would do some damage against a mediocre pitcher.

Unfortunately, the Dodgers couldn’t touch Ritz, who gave up just three hits over six shutout innings (though he also walked five and struck out only one). Karros finally homered off Curtis Leskanic in the ninth to break the shutout, but the Dodgers couldn’t get the tying run home in the 2-1 loss.

The line for Candiotti:

7 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 7 SO.

It was as good a start as Candiotti had had at Yankee Stadium five years earlier – but again only good enough for a loss. It would be that type of a season for the knuckleballer, who went 7-14 despite a respectable 3.50 ERA for a first-place Dodger team [2].

Funny stat lines – they happen in baseball from time to time, and thanks to Dan Johnson for reminding me of these couple of examples.

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[1] Kent Mercker, who also appeared in the game for the Braves, recorded two outs but did not issue a walk or notch a strikeout.
[2] Teammate Ramon Martinez was 17-7 with a 3.66 ERA.

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You’re not an All-Star!

Right-hander Jeff Samardzija, traded from the Chicago Cubs to the Oakland Athletics on July 5, was named to the National League All-Star team the following afternoon for the upcoming Midsummer Classic at Minnesota’s Target Field.

Samardzija, who was 2-7 for the Cubs despite a 2.83 ERA in 17 starts (and 103 strikeouts in 108 innings), will be allowed to take part in the festivities but will not be pitching in the All-Star Game because of the trade which sent him from the NL to the AL.

But hey, at least he became an All-Star for the first time. Some players never got a chance to even be named to the All-Star Game. Some 20 years ago, a guy with a good ERA but a low win total wouldn’t have been named to the team.

Take Tom Candiotti, for instance, who was probably denied a shot at the 1991 Midsummer Classic because he was traded from the Cleveland Indians to the Toronto Blue Jays 10 days prior to the game. He also was unfortunate in that he pitched in the wrong era.

* * * * *

SkyDome played host to the 1991 All-Star Game and the Blue Jays had three All-Stars – rightfielder Joe Carter, second baseman Roberto Alomar, and left-handed starter Jimmy Key. The Indians, meanwhile, had only one representative for the Midsummer Classic. Second-year catcher Sandy Alomar Jr., despite having a bad year – he’d spent time on the disabled list and was hitting .200 going into July, was voted into the starting lineup by the fans. A .476 hitting tear the first seven days of July – including a 4-for-4 performance in the final game before the All-Star break – helped pushed his average up to a more respectable .241 at the end of the first half.

“Sandy Alomar was an All-Star with Cleveland,” Candiotti laughed as he told me this back in 2010. “He was voted in, but other than Sandy, there weren’t any other All-Star-caliber players on that team. The trade to Toronto – which happened before the break – might have cost me a spot on the All-Star team that year, because the Indians really had no other guys that were going to make it.” [1]

Nowadays, it seems to be a lot easier to make an All-Star roster. Take a look at the 2010 AL roster, for instance; there were a total of 42 All-Stars on that squad! Back in 1991, however, there were only 28 roster spots available on All-Star teams, which certainly cost Candiotti a spot. As the years went by, spots were added as the roster size went over the 30-man mark, so in the 2000s, there are far more players per club in the Midsummer Classic. In 2009, All-Star rosters increased from 32 to 33 players, but even that wasn’t enough.

In 2010, All-Star rosters were increased to 34 players, and a new rule was added: Pitchers who start on the Sunday before the break are prohibited from playing in the Midsummer Classic. Thus, that year, American League All-Star pitchers CC Sabathia and Trevor Cahill – who were named to the All-Star team earlier but each then started his team’s final game before the break – were part of the festivities at Angel Stadium, but weren’t eligible to pitch. [2]

That meant Joe Girardi, the manager of the AL squad, had to pick two more pitchers to replace them. In fact, Girardi added three – Jered Weaver, Justin Verlander, and Andrew Bailey – to the team. Reason? Girardi had originally picked Weaver as one of the replacements, not realizing the right-hander had pitched on Sunday. Thus, a replacement then had to be chosen for Weaver, opening up yet another spot on the AL team. [3]

So, in the end, Verlander replaced Sabathia, Weaver replaced Cahill, and finally, Bailey replaced Weaver.

Thanks to the new rule, Verlander and Bailey were recognized as All-Stars. Ditto Sabathia, Cahill, and Weaver, even though there were not part of the Midsummer Classic roster. A whopping total of 42 players – among them 18 pitchers – were recognized as All-Stars on the AL squad that year, including all the players who either were ineligible to pitch or couldn’t play because of an injury.

In 2011, it was more of the same. In total, four starting pitchers in the AL and two in the NL were declared ineligible to participate in the All-Star Game because they pitched on the Sunday before the break, meaning they needed to be replaced. And even then, there were some complications. Sabathia replaced Tampa Bay’s James Shields on the roster because Shields was starting on the final Sunday. Red Sox pitcher Jon Lester replaced Mariners pitcher Felix Hernandez because he also started on Sunday. But Sabathia just happened to pitch on Sunday too, meaning he was essentially a replacement needing his own replacement (which turned out to be Alexi Ogando of Texas). Lester happened to be on the disabled list, meaning he needed a replacement too (Ricky Romero of Toronto). So, the week after the initial announcement of the All-Star rosters, there were still players being added, and replacements needing to be replaced.

“If they had that rule when I was playing,” Candiotti shrugged, “I definitely would have made it one of those years. But I’m sure even with [roster sizes] increasing every year, there’ll always be complaints about how so-and-so was left off the team.”

That last part is probably right. Despite the new rule regarding pitchers and the increase in the roster size, there is still controversy over the player selection process. In fact, there has been for years, before and after the expanded rosters in the 2000s. In 2006, Kansas City pitcher Mark Redman was an All-Star despite an ERA of 5.27 and a 6-4 record at the break. Why was he an All-Star? Well, the rules state that each team has to have at least one representative on its league’s All-Star roster. In Redman’s case, he was the Royals’ lone representative, a year after going 5-15 in Pittsburgh. Speaking of the Pirates, they had their own controversial All-Star in 2003, when closer Mike Williams was selected for the Midsummer Classic as Pittsburgh’s lone representative despite his 6.44 ERA. That rule – where each major-league team needed at least one representative – was one that Candiotti also had to deal with when he was still pitching in the big leagues. Candiotti certainly missed out in 1991 because of that rule.

sandersonFor instance, the ’91 Yankees were a fourth-place outfit in the AL East that didn’t deserve to have any players representing them in the Midsummer Classic. The Yankees, in fact, didn’t have any players voted in. However, since each team had to send at least one player, right-handed pitcher Scott Sanderson, 9-3 with a 3.93 ERA, was selected for the American League squad as the Yankees’ lone representative. While Sanderson’s won-loss record was great, he was far from being a dominant pitcher, averaging just over six innings per start with opponents hitting .276 against him. The knuckleballing Candiotti, on the other hand, was averaging over seven innings – 121.1 innings pitched over 17 starts – while posting a 2.23 ERA. Opponents were hitting only .224 off Candiotti. Thus, with Sanderson’s inclusion (which turned out to be the only time in his career he was an All-Star), a far more deserving pitcher like Candiotti was not selected. If there was no rule insisting each team had to have at least one player chosen as an All-Star, it’s very likely Candiotti’s 2.23 ERA – not to mention all the other stats except for walks – would have put him ahead of a pitcher with an ERA approaching 4.00.

First-half stats in 1991:

……………………………..GS    IP      H    R  ER  BB  SO HR  ERA  (W-L)
Candiotti (CLE/TOR)……. 17   121.1  102  38  30  33   96     7   2.23   (8-7)
Sanderson (NYY)……….. 17   103.0  112  48  45  13   60     9   3.93   (9-3)

“My numbers were up there some years,” Candiotti recalled, referring especially to 1990 and 1991. “My ERA was the [third-best] in the American League the year I was traded to Toronto. How do you have a pitcher with [one of the best ERAs] not make the team?”

He does offer up another explanation, however. It goes back to when Boston Red Sox catcher Rich Gedman had trouble handling Texas knuckleball pitcher Charlie Hough in the Midsummer Classic in 1986.

“Managers and coaches pick the pitchers for the All-Star team. Back in 1986, Charlie was on the American League team. He was pitching to Rich Gedman, the All-Star catcher that year. Gedman missed the ball and couldn’t catch it in that one inning Charlie was pitching.”

Hough struck out three straight batters in the eighth inning, but gave up two runs and couldn’t get out of the inning. With a runner on second base, Hough struck out Chili Davis for the first out, but the ball got past Gedman for a wild pitch. Hough then struck out Hubie Brooks, but the ball again got away – this time Gedman was charged with a passed ball – allowing the runner to score and Brooks to get to first base. Hough fanned Tim Raines for the second out before Steve Sax hit an RBI single to knock the knuckleball pitcher out of the game.

“A catcher just couldn’t catch a knuckleball pitcher if he wasn’t his personal catcher. A knuckleball pitcher really needs his own personal catcher, and so over the years after that, managers and his coaches weren’t going to pick a knuckleball pitcher.

“There were three years when I really deserved to go. One of those years was definitely 1991. Unfortunately for me, I was having a tremendous season, [third in] the American League in ERA [at the All-Star break]. Then I was traded to Toronto, and I was no longer a member of the Indians. There was nobody that really did anything on that Cleveland team that year. When I got to Toronto, there was Robbie Alomar, Joe Carter, Jimmy Key, Tom Henke, tons of guys, five or six players that could be picked as All-Stars. I was [third in] the league in ERA [at 2.23] but I didn’t get a chance to go. There was no doubt I would have been an All-Star [had I still been] with the Indians. But I was traded. Oh well.”

That’s right, oh well. So Jeff Samardzija – unless the rules are changed for him – won’t pitch in the 2014 Midsummer Classic. But hey, at least he was named to the National League squad. Some people just aren’t – or weren’t – lucky enough.

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[1] The Indians apparently had no other guys that could make the All-Star team in 2010. Right-handed starting pitcher Fausto Carmona was the Indians’ lone representative at the Midsummer Classic, despite posting unspectacular numbers. At the break, Carmona was only 8-7 with a 3.64 ERA in 18 starts. By season’s end, the numbers would be 13-14 and 3.77. Those are numbers for an All-Star? And it wasn’t as though he made the team based on a great 2009 season, as he was 5-12 with a 6.32 ERA in 24 starts in ’09.

[2] “Rangers Righty Alexi Ogando Joins AL All-Stars,” Associated Press/Yahoo! Sports, July 10, 2011. In the 2011 season, almost the same thing happened with Sabathia. This time, CC wasn’t named to the All-Star team originally but was later added to the team as the replacement for Tampa Bay pitcher James Shields. However, Sabathia and Shields both pitched in the Yankees-Rays contest on the Sunday before the All-Star break, making them ineligible for the game. Thus, Texas pitcher Alexi Ogando was named to the AL squad as a replacement for Sabathia.

[3] “Verlander, Weaver, Bailey Added as AL All-Stars,” Associated Press/Yahoo! Sports, July 11, 2010.

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And how do you score that one again?

On July 3, Minnesota’s Chris Parmelee extended his hitting streak to 13 games with a first-inning RBI double against Yankees rookie right-hander Masahiro Tanaka, but the Twins still went on to fall 7-4 to New York.

Parmelee, who is batting .440 during the streak and .286 on the year, was also tagged out on an unconventional 9-4-2-5-7 play when he tried to stretch his two-bagger but then stopped and tried to return to second base.

Sure, it was also a game which saw Tanaka (12-3) become the winningest Yankees rookie before the All-Star break, surpassing the 11 first-half victories collected by Spec Shea in 1947 (according to the Elias Sports Bureau), and fellow rookie Zelous Wheeler homered in his major-league debut after spending nearly eight years in the minors… but how often do you see a 9-4-2-5-7 play in a ballgame?

This reminds me of a strange play in an Indians-Royals game back on April 16, 1990, where an unusual 6-4-4-5 double play – with an assist to the umpire – took place on a rainy day in Kansas City.

Tom Candiotti was on the mound for Cleveland that afternoon, and though he often pitched in hard luck throughout his career, actually benefited this time – with help from this particular odd (and controversial) double play.

candiottiThere were two Royals runners on base – Jim Eisenreich on second and Kurt Stillwell on first – with nobody out in the second inning.

Because it was early in the game and Candiotti also couldn’t get a good grip of the knuckleball in the rain, the Indians ace wasn’t throwing his knuckler. With Candiotti tossing very hittable pitches, Willie Wilson hit a hard line drive that Indians shortstop Rafael Santana caught, but the ball dropped out of his glove. Second baseman Carlos Baerga picked the ball up, and stepped on the bag to force Stillwell out. But Baerga dropped the ball as well!

“This was a rainy afternoon in Kansas City,” Candiotti recalls years later, “and the field was wet, the ball was wet… everything was ugly out there.”

However, Baerga then alertly picked up the ball again and stepped on second base once more, beating Stillwell to the bag. For some reason, second-base umpire Rich Garcia missed the play and called Stillwell safe. And for some reason, Eisenreich was caught between second and third.

“Then Baerga saw Eisenreich, and threw to Brook Jacoby at third base,” recalls Candiotti. “They got the guy out. So, it looked like we got just that one out at third base, and there were still two runners on with one out.”

Third-base umpire Steve Palermo, however, overturned Garcia’s call and signaled Stillwell out, which was the correct play. So now there were two outs, and two pitches later Candiotti was out of the inning as he retired Frank White on a lineout to centerfield.

“It was a double play, but how do you score that?” asks Candiotti.

Simple: You score it Candiotti as the winner, as Cleveland went on to win 6-3 in the rain.

“Tom Candiotti: A Life of Knuckleballs,” a biography of former big-league pitcher Tom Candiotti, will be released in July of 2014. You may pick up a copy either from Amazon.com or through the McFarland & Company website.

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Six innings of one-hit ball… Flashback to 23 years ago…

On June 14th, San Diego Padres rookie Jesse Hahn gave up just one hit – an infield single by Mets shortstop Ruben Tejada to lead off the bottom of the first – over six innings in only his second major-league appearance, winning a 5-0 decision over New York.

The right-handed Hahn, who was just called up from Double-A San Antonio to make the start, even contributed an RBI single as he picked up his first major-league win. He had made his big-league debut on June 3rd against Pittsburgh, allowing four runs on six hits – including two home runs – over 3.2 innings. Hahn was then optioned to Double-A the following day.

But with lefty Robbie Erlin on the disabled list since May 22nd and Tim Stauffer struggling while briefly being used in the rotation (a total of nine runs allowed over three innings in his last two starts), the Padres turned back to Hahn.

If the rookie right-hander can continue pitching the way he did in his second career start in the majors, he might stick around for a while. Doesn’t get much better than six innings and allowing just one hit in your second major-league start.

That reminds me of a game between Cleveland and Toronto 23 years ago – almost to the day. Back on June 12th, 1991, a rookie right-hander by the name of Mike Timlin made his first big-league start for the Blue Jays, facing Tom Candiotti and the Indians. Timlin had already appeared in 26 major-league games – and had notched four victories against three defeats – but was making his first start since Single-A ball in 1989. Used as a closer in the minors, Timlin had pitched to an unimpressive 3.92 ERA in his first two months in the majors.

And yet Timlin opened the game with three perfect innings before walking Alex Cole to lead off the fourth. He took a no-hitter in the sixth inning, before Felix Fermin broke it up with an infield single. That proved to be the only hit the Indians managed off Timlin in his six full innings of work.

Cleveland would get just one more hit after that, coming in the seventh off lefty Bob MacDonald – another rookie. Thanks to the Indians’ punchless offense, Candiotti was a hard-luck 1-0 loser despite throwing a complete-game three-hitter of his own [1].

Timlin, meanwhile, would appear in 1,054 major-league games as a reliever while making just four starts. In his second start six days after beating Candiotti, Timlin was roughed up for three runs on seven hits and two walks over 3.2 innings in a loss to the Yankees. Naturally, in his third major-league start on June 23rd, he tossed five shutout innings against Cleveland. The opposing pitcher that night? Once again, Tom Candiotti.

Timlin wouldn’t make another start until 2002 with the St. Louis Cardinals, when he allowed four runs over 4.1 innings in Milwaukee in what turned out to be his final starting assignment in the majors. Remarkably, in two starts against Candiotti, Timlin had a 0.00 ERA. In his two other starts, 0-2 with a 7.88 ERA.

Obviously, though, Timlin was a successful reliever in the majors for 18 years, notching 141 career saves while pitching for six clubs. He was also part of four World Series championship teams, winning rings with the 1992-93 Blue Jays and the 2004 and 2007 Boston Red Sox. He was also on the mound for Toronto for the final out of the 1992 Series, throwing out Atlanta’s Otis Nixon at first base – with the Braves fleet-footed outfielder trying to bunt for a hit – to clinch the title for the Blue Jays.

Getting back to Jesse Hahn, perhaps the San Diego rookie will torment the Mets again the next time he faces them – like he did in his second major-league start. Or he might just dominate the rest of the National League. Perhaps he’ll turn out to be a dominant reliever some day. He might even pitch the Padres to the World Series. We’ll see how he does moving forward.

[1] It was an interesting – albeit low-scoring – three-game series between the two clubs. One day earlier, in the series opener, the Blue Jays took a 1-0 lead into the eighth before Jerry Browne’s two-out RBI single off David Wells brought home the tying run. The Indians ultimately won it in the bottom of the 12th when, with the bases loaded, Toronto lefty Ken Dayley hit Cole with a pitch to force home the winning run. Then in the series finale, Jimmy Key tossed a complete-game two-hitter and the Blue Jays beat Charles Nagy and the Indians 1-0, with the only run of the game coming on a throwing error by second baseman Mark Lewis.

“Tom Candiotti: A Life of Knuckleballs,” a biography of former big-league pitcher Tom Candiotti, will be released in July of 2014. You may pick up a copy either from Amazon.com or through the McFarland & Company website.

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