Posts Tagged Toronto Blue Jays

Flashback to 1991 Candiotti/Henke One-Hitter

On August 6 at Rogers Centre, Toronto pitchers Drew Hutchison (8.2 IP) and Casey Janssen (0.1 IP) combined on a one-hitter in a 5-1 victory over the AL East-leading Baltimore Orioles, preventing the O’s to take an even more commanding lead over the second-place Blue Jays. (It also allowed Toronto to stay one game ahead of the Yankees for the second AL wild-card spot, as New York defeated Justin Verlander and the Tigers by the same 5-1 score.)

I don’t want to get into the performance of Hutchison, who came within a Chris Davis second-inning opposite-field homer of taking a no-hit bid into the final innings. This is not the blog for that sort of analyst.

I do want to go back to the 1991 season, when the Blue Jays got another clutch combined one-hitter against the Orioles. The game I’m referring to happened on August 28, 1991, at Baltimore’s Memorial Stadium, with the Blue Jays and Orioles playing the finale of their three-game series.

Toronto had won the first two games, and had never before swept a series in Baltimore. Going into that day, the Blue Jays were in first place in the AL East, with a one-game lead over the Tigers, who had No. 1 starter Bill Gullickson (16-6) on the mound against California. Gullickson, despite a high ERA (4.12), had a league-leading 16 victories, as Detroit seemed to always score runs for him.

It was a crucial day in the pennant race, because if the Tigers won and the Blue Jays lost, both teams would be tied for first place, and Toronto would be at a disadvantage because that year the Blue Jays were the “swing team” and would play only (the tougher) AL West clubs in the final weeks of the season. (That year, all of the AL West teams finished .500 or better.)

Gullickson certainly delivered, pitching a complete-game five-hitter…only to lose 1-0 to the Angels and Jim Abbott in an afternoon game. (Gullickson, though, would get 5.66 runs of support throughout the season, and go on to win 20 games with a 3.90 ERA.)

Then Tom Candiotti took the mound for the Orioles, and was in trouble in the first inning when Joe Orsulak (a perennial Candiotti-killer hitting .529 off him going in) hit an opposite-field single off the glove of third baseman Kelly Gruber. A walk and passed ball later, and the Orioles had runners on second and third with two outs.

Randy Milligan, a .444 hitter against Candiotti at the time, worked the count to 3-and-2 before striking out swinging.

From there, Candiotti didn’t allow another baserunner, taking the one-hitter into the ninth inning. Gene Tenace (the interim manager with Cito Gaston out due to a back problem) opted to go to closer Tom Henke in the ninth, and the Blue Jays stopper pitched 1-2-3 inning to close out the 3-0 victory.

It was Candiotti’s best game with the Blue Jays, with the team in a pennant race with the Tigers, and it came three days before his birthday.

Yet, the combined one-hitter has been forgotten. It was one of the most underappreciated – and yet clutch – pitching performances of the year. (As an aside, when I spoke with former Blue Jays reliever Bob MacDonald three years ago about this game, he admitted he didn’t remember anything about it, adding that it was probably because the no-hitter was broken up in the first inning. Had it been broken up in the late innings, it might have been more memorable.)

Like Hutchison in 2014, Candiotti was only two batters away from perfection going into the ninth, and similarly he also retired 22 straight Orioles like Hutchison did. Like Hutchison, it was an opposite-field hit early in the game and a walk that prevented a perfect game bid.

I know in 2012 when I flipped through the Blue Jays media guide, I found no mention of the 1991 Candiotti/Henke combined one-hitter in the section listing one-hitters, even though other combined one-hit efforts in franchise history were listed.

The 1991 Blue Jays, by the way, won the division, something that the 2014 team will not do. Because that 1991 club lost the ALCS to Minnesota, however, Candiotti has always been criticized by the Toronto media for his struggles against the Twins in that series. They forgot that without Candiotti’s regular-season contributions – a 2.98 ERA in 19 starts after a mid-season trade from Cleveland following ace Dave Stieb’s season-ending injury – the Blue Jays might not have made it to the postseason.

So, thanks to Drew Hutchison, we get an opportunity today to celebrate Tom Candiotti’s gem from that 1991 season.

Meanwhile…time to take another shot at tsn.ca. Read that first sentence carefully, and then you do not need to read any longer. How can you take that column seriously if they make such a mistake? (The mistake is magnified when you look at the very next sentence.) Do they even do fact-checking there?

tsn again

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

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Suck it, Toronto sports media?

For one night at least, the new-look New York Yankees have proven some people wrong.

Let’s pick on the Toronto sports media, since I have been crucifying them of late.

As pointed out right here yesterday, some in Toronto have been swinging and missing with their commentary. In particular, I was wondering out loud why the media was suggesting that the Yankees had given up on the season and were looking to “retool” for 2015.

And guess what? On Sunday Night Baseball in Boston on August 3, the Yankees came out swinging and rallied past the Red Sox 8-7 – after Toronto had dropped the last three in its series in Houston – and New York now stands just 1.5 games back of the Blue Jays for the second wild-card spot.

Does the Toronto media think that the Yankees (57-53) can’t make up 1.5 games against the Blue Jays (60-53)? You’ll also notice that the two clubs are tied in the all-important loss column, so if New York wins its three games in hand, both teams would have the same record.

And who were the heroes on Sunday night for the Yankees? If you looked at the box score, two names jump out: new second baseman Stephen Drew (just acquired from the Red Sox before the trading deadline) and reliever Esmil Rogers (the former Jay that was picked up off waivers that same day).

Drew’s two-run single in the fifth drove home the tying runs to make it 7-7, setting the stage for Brett Gardner’s game-winning homer an inning later. Penciled in at the No. 8 spot in the Yankee lineup, Drew also had an RBI double in the fourth, and finished the night 2-for-4 with four runs batted in. (Wow, another former Red Sox player returning to Boston and do damage against them. Haven’t we seen that movie before?)

As for Rogers, who was making his Yankee debut? Three hitless innings with a walk and three strikeouts to pick up his first victory as a Yankee.

I wonder what the media – especially those in Toronto – are going to be spinning in the upcoming weeks as the Blue Jays continue to unravel while the Yankees – again, a team that I can’t even stand – remain in contention.

And oh, PS: The guy that you took pot-shots at, Scott Feldman, threw a complete game against your slugging/home run-hitting lineup, while your rookie phenom lasted just three innings. Just saying.

tor-hou

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“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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Who says the Yankees have given up?

Once again a ridiculous column has surfaced on tsn.ca’s website, and this time it appears they’re taking shots at the New York Yankees.

Of course, the Detroit Tigers and Oakland Athletics made the big headlines by improving their pitching rotations with the additions of David Price (Tigers) and Jon Lester (A’s), respectively, and since the Yankees didn’t do anything significant, it is assumed the New York has given up on the season.

According to former Mets general manager Steve Phillips, who contributes weekly to tsn.ca, “the Yanks and Rays and Red Sox are going to retool for next year” – implying the American League East race is only between Baltimore and Toronto.

Really.

That means it is assumed that the Yankees have given up on the 2014 season, huh? That the club is just going to let Derek Jeter’s final big-league season be a non-playoff year, where the Yankees will simply play out the string and not compete for a shot at the postseason?

C’mon, let’s get serious.

So, was New York supposed to get either Price or Lester? Or maybe the Yankees were supposed to get a broken-down Cliff Lee, right?

First of all, the top pitchers who got moved – Price and Lester – came from the American League East. Did anyone seriously believe the Tampa Bay Rays and Boston Red Sox would trade their left-handed ace to a division rival? (Obviously, the writers at tsn.ca did so, with a couple of them writing nonsense in recent weeks about how the Blue Jays were seriously involved in talks with the Rays and Red Sox for those two pitchers – with the distinct possibility of landing either one of them. Yeah, as if those two clubs were really going to make that kind of a trade within the division. Again, let’s get serious here.)

cliff leeSecondly, the Yankees didn’t trade for the Phillies’ Lee, which is a good thing because he might be gone for the rest of the season. Lee, who had just came off the disabled list after the All-Star break and would have drawn interest from several clubs in an August waiver deal, might not throw another pitch in 2014. Speaking of Philadelphia, it appeared the Phillies wanted a king’s ransom for outfielder Marlon Byrd, so the Yankees were wise to not pull the trigger on that deal.

Third, the Yankees DID make deals to improve their roster days earlier, when they picked up third baseman Chase Headley from San Diego (July 22) and right-hander Brandon McCarthy (July 6) from Arizona. A week prior to the trading dealine, they also acquired veteran lefty Chris Capuano from Colorado. The point is, New York general manager Brian Cashman is always trying to make his team better. When the Yankees had some pitching holes to fill earlier in the month, they picked up Jeff Francis from Oakland as a stop-gap measure, and when that deal didn’t work out, they shipped the left-hander out of town. Cashman then picked up righty Esmil Rogers off waivers from Toronto, as well as Martin Prado in a separate trade with the Diamondbacks, with the versatile Prado able to play outfield for the Yankees.

So far, McCarthy has pitched well for the Yankees (3-0 with a 2.55 ERA in four starts), and Headley has delivered some big hits since his arrival (.429 in his first four games with New York, helping the Yanks win each contest, and .270 overall). Who knows? Perhaps Stephen Drew (picked up from the Red Sox for second baseman Kelly Johnson) might deliver a key hit down the stretch. Maybe the same thing for Prado.

It wouldn’t surprise me if the Yankees – a team that I don’t even like or root for – finished ahead of the Blue Jays in the East. And perhaps they might even pick up a few more pieces in August to bolster the lineup. But to suggest that New York has given up for the season….that’s simply ridiculous. Only according to tsn.ca.

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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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Knuckleball long balls

On June 27, Toronto knuckleballer R.A. Dickey gave up four home runs in a 5-4 loss to the visiting Chicago White Sox, falling to 6-7 with a 4.24 ERA this season.

A few things of note here: Dickey’s four dingers allowed gave him 10 surrendered over his last five starts, which accounted for 13 of the 14 runs against him in that span. The four homers by the White Sox – including two hit by rookie Jose Abreu, who’s now got 25 on the season and is more than halfway toward breaking Mark McGwire’s rookie record (49 set in 1987) – were the most Dickey had allowed since giving up six against Detroit on April 6, 2006. That game happened to be Dickey’s first big-league start as a knuckleballer.

Interestingly, in Tom Candiotti’s career, the most number of home runs he ever gave up in a game was three. In his first major-league start as a knuckleball pitcher in 1986 – in his first two seasons he wasn’t a knuckleballer – Candiotti gave up only one run, and that was a homer hit by Rick Dempsey. In fact, that home run was hit off of a Candiotti fastball; otherwise, he would have pitched scoreless ball that evening against the Orioles.

Also, June 27 was the anniversary of the Candiotti trade from Cleveland to Toronto in 1991. He finished with an undeserving 6-7 record with a 2.98 ERA as a Blue Jay. Dickey, of course, is 6-7 for Toronto right now with an ERA that is much higher.

One more point about the home runs: According to newspaper accounts during that 1991 season, almost none of the homers hit off Candiotti – he allowed only 12 in 238 innings – came off of the knuckleball. Nearly every one of them came on a curveball or fastball, in situations where he didn’t want to pitch around hitters, where he wanted to go right after the hitter with runners on base.

Among the homers Candiotti allowed in 1991, at least four of them came off of fastballs, with Joe Carter, Mike Greenwell, Kevin Maas, and Juan Gonzalez doing the honors. Robin Ventura hit a grand slam off of him on a slider (one of just three bases-loaded homers over 451 major-league games for Candiotti). Tom Brunansky and Carlos Martinez hit curveballs off of Candiotti out of the park as well. That would be a total of seven homers at least, coming off of something other than a knuckler.

The other home runs Candiotti gave up that season were not indicated in the newspaper recaps for those individual games.

Finally, here’s a neat video from 1993 featuring Candiotti pitching for the Dodgers in Taiwan:

“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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