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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.

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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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Will anyone beat Candiotti’s Cleveland mark for 200-inning seasons?

Right-hander Corey Kluber, who worked 6.1 innings on June 4th in Cleveland’s 7-4 walk-off victory over Boston, has emerged as the Indians’ best pitcher in 2014, posting a 6-3 record with a 3.23 ERA through the club’s first 61 games of the campaign. With 86.1 innings so far through 13 starts, he is on pace to finish with his first career 200-inning season.

Kluber, who made 24 starts in 2013, pitched a career-high 147.1 innings for the Indians last year when he was 11-5 with a 3.85 ERA.

Last season, no Indians pitcher topped the 200-inning mark, with right-hander Justin Masterson (14-10, 3.45) leading the Cleveland staff with 193 innings. The hard-luck Masterson was on pace to surpass 200 innings until he was sidelined in early September with an oblique injury. At the time, he had already pitched 188.1 innings through 28 starts and would have easily gotten past the 200 mark.

Masterson was forced to leave his September 2nd start against Baltimore after only one inning. He was sidelined for the three weeks before returning on September 25th. He made only three appearances upon his return – all in relief.

The significance of Masterson’s injury – other than the fact that the Indians were hurting as they were battling for a wild-card spot then and couldn’t afford to have their ace out of the rotation – was that it stopped him from getting to 200 innings. Had he reached that milestone, it would have been his third straight 200-inning season. Masterson could have been gunning for his fourth consecutive 200-inning campaign in 2014. (As of right now, he is on pace to fall just short of 200 innings this season.)

Other than the fact that the more innings Kluber and Masterson pitch helps Cleveland win ballgames, why is the 200-mark significant? Well, the reason is that Tom Candiotti remains the last pitcher to register five consecutive 200-inning seasons in a Cleveland Indians uniform, having accomplished the feat from 1986-1990. Candiotti would have made it six seasons in a row except the Indians traded him to Toronto in June of 1991.

Think about it. If not for Masterson’s injury in 2013, he would have been more than halfway to Candiotti’s streak. If Kluber gets to 200 this year, it will be his first such season – and he will have four more to go just to match Candiotti.

nagy

Charles Nagy nearly matched Tom Candiotti’s record…but fell just short.

Even though the Indians have had Cy Young pitchers in the recent past – such as Cliff Lee (2008 Cy Young winner) and CC Sabathia (2007 winner) – nobody has been able to match that feat in a Cleveland uniform. Lee and Sabathia, both of whom were workhorses in Cleveland, couldn’t approach that streak. Lee, for instance, managed “only” three 200-inning seasons in a four-year span during his time with the Indians. Sabathia was close, as he pitched 210 innings as a sophomore in 2002 and then 241 in his Cy Young season in 2007. In between, Sabathia logged 197.2 (in 2003), 188 (in 2004), 196.2 (in 2005), and 192.2 innings (in 2006). He would then pitch a career-high 253 innings in 2008, but split that season with the Indians and Milwaukee Brewers.

Jake Westbrook, an All-Star for Cleveland in 2004, had three straight 200-inning seasons for the Indians from 2004-2006. Alas, he made only 25 starts in 2007 and threw just 152 innings. Prior to the streak, Westbrook had tossed 133 innings in 2003.

Going back a few years, Charles Nagy came the closest when he logged four straight 200-inning seasons for the Indians from 1996-1999.

Since no Indians pitcher got to 200 innings in 2013, Candiotti’s record as the last Cleveland pitcher with at least five consecutive 200-inning campaigns will last for at least five more years.

“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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