Posts Tagged ‘Robinson Cano’

Thunder Announce All 15 Year Team

April 7, 2008

C: Dioner Navarro

INF: Tony Clark, Robinson Cano, Nomar Garciaparra, Kevin Youkilis, Pork Chop Pough

OF: Kevin Thompson, Melky Cabrera, Brett Gardner

P: Phil Hughes, Justin Pope, Joba Chamberlain, Scott Patterson, Chien-Ming Wang, Carl Pavano, Ron Mahay, Corey Spencer, Jeff Suppan, Joe Hudson

Manager: Tony Franklin

We will continue our breakdown of the starting pitching, relief pitching and manager ballots shortly…let’s see if the fans made the right choices.

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com

All 15 Year Team: Second Base

March 14, 2008

Robinson Cano / Photo by Mike Ashmore (2006)

Thunder Thoughts look at the All 15 Year Team nominees continues with a look at the four finalists at second base.

David McDonough is the featured writer in our position-by-position breakdown of the Thunder’s All 15 Year Team, and has covered the team since their inception in 1994.  He brings a smooth and unique writing style, not to mention a knowledge of the team’s history and players that few others have.  In short, few are as qualified as he is to be doing this.

The following is Dave’s breakdown, mine will follow after all of his are done…

David Eckstein: Cream of the crop. One of the most popular players in club history, Eck was the quintessential lead-off man – always on base, always a danger to run, always scoring runs. His OBP was .440. He was the catalyst of that 1999 club which won a club record 92 games. All Eckstein did was bat .313, score 109 runs (a club record) and steal 32 bases. He played a good second base, and was a great bunter.

All of which tells you nothing unless you saw him play. Eckstein is about 5’7 and weighed 165 on a good day when he was dressed warm. He was a walk-on at Florida, and he always played like a guy who was one step from a seat in the stands. He hustled in his sleep. He ran everywhere. He was always the first one on the field, and he played with a deep, intelligent concentration. He made everyone around him a better player.

I once asked why he sprinted from the dugout out onto the field at the beginning of every game. He smiled and said, “That’s my last warm-up. The other guys sometimes pretend they are gonna race me, but I always get there first.”

I also remember an exceedingly rare day when Eckstein’s name was not in the line-up. I poked someone and said, ‘Ten bucks that Eckstein coaches first.” Sure enough, in the bottom of the first inning, there he was on the coaching line. No way was he going to sit still.

So why did the Dan Duquette-era Red Sox let him go on waivers – waivers! – to the Angels in 2000? Because they had their collectives heads up the dark place, and were so wedded to the idea that a little guy didn’t have the tools. So Eck went off to become the first ex-Thunder player to wear a championship ring (with the 2002 Angels) and was the World Series MVP in 2006 with the Cards – at shortstop, mind you, a position nobody – including me – thought he could play. While the Red Sox went through a series of second basemen like Todd Walker and Mark Bellhorn.

Waivers, for God’s sake.

Freddy Sanchez: I have Freddy down as a shortstop, so more about him later.

Robinson Cano: Ex-Thunder manager Bill Masse once said that Robby Cano (whose dad pitched in the Yankees organization) had so much talent, he seemed somewhat bored in the minor leagues. That sums up Cano at Trenton really well. He is probably the most talented guy all-round to play second for the Thunder, as he did in parts of 03 and 04, but he did sometimes act as if his mind was elsewhere – maybe at Yankee Stadium.

This was mostly evident in his occasional fielding lapses – what is this round thing I have in my hand? – but he did hit well in Trenton. He didn’t have the power he would show in New York; however, he had 20 doubles in 04, and you just knew he would rise to the challenge when he got to the big leagues. Which he has, of course. If you want to vote for the ex-Thunder who will probably look back on the best big-league career, Cano’s your man.

Lou Merloni: Likable Lou was another little hustling sparkplug, who seemed destined to spend his career in Double-A, with a couple of trips to Triple-A. I confidently expected that by now he would be coaching baseball at his alma mater, Providence College. Instead, he is with his fifth organization, and has gotten parts of nine years in the big leagues, with time off for half a season in Japan.

Lou played for the Red Sox affiliated Thunder in 95, 96, and 97, and played second, short and third. Second base is as a good a category as any to put him in. By his third year here, at age 26, he could hit Double-A pitching pretty good. Everyone admired his work ethic, too. And it didn’t hurt that he was Nomar Garciaparra’s best friend, or that he was from Framingham, MA. In late 98, he went up to the Red Sox to keep Nomar company, and he’s been a useful fringe player ever since – a guy you keep at Triple-A until you need him to fill in for some injuries. He’s gotten in as many as 194 at bats in a season in the Show. He is 36 now, and he played the whole 2007 season in Triple-A for the A’s without a call- up, so his time may be over.

Not On The Ballot: Angel Santos: a heavy set little guy (listed at 5’11) who played a decent second base for the 2000 and 2001 Thunder. He could hit a little bit, had some power (14 homers in 2001) and could run (26 stolen bases that year). He got a cup of java with the Sox in 01 and with Cleveland in 03. A great ballplayer? Maybe not, but probably in Merloni’s class.

Dave’s Vote Goes To: The Eck, who else?

Ashmore’s Thunder Thoughts: I’m sure you’re all sick of me telling you that I first started following this team as a fan back in 1999, right?  But that experience helps me in these All 15 Year Team things, and I think you just may see the first consensus vote so far.  Without further ado…

David Eckstein: Eckstein was my favorite player on that ’99 team, and for good reason.  He hustled.  But he didn’t just hustle on the field…I can remember him sprinting from the dugout to get onto the field, like he literally couldn’t wait for his chance to play.

I remember how small he was.  I don’t know what he’s listed at, and quite frankly don’t care, because I don’t think whatever the numbers are would paint an accurate picture of just how undersized this guy looked compared to everybody else.  It almost looked like somebody had let their little kid run on the field.

As Dave wrote, the fact that Eckstein was let go on waivers show you how horrific a job the Red Sox did of managing their farm system at that time.  There’s a scroll sized list of awful, awful moves they made…but this one’s near the top.

Freddy Sanchez: Of the 124 games Sanchez played in Trenton, 113 were at shortstop.  He’s a shortstop, people…at least in this competition he is.  Writing about him here would waste your time and mine.

Robinson Cano: Say what you want about Bill Masse, but he always had a certain way of putting things.  Such was the case when I asked him about Cano in 2006…

“For all the bad things you hear about baseball with the steroids and the black marks on the game, Robby Cano is what’s good about baseball,” Masse said.

“He loves to have fun and he’s always got a smile on his face.”

And even during his rehab assignment that year, which I’ve seen a handful of guys gripe their way through (Helllllloooooooo, Paul Lo Duca), Cano was all smiles.

Back from the time I briefly got to see him in 2004, you could tell he was going to be something special, and he certainly hasn’t disappointed in the Bronx.

Lou Merloni: When you’re nicknamed “The Mayor,” you’ve got to be a pretty popular guy.  Of the 1,245 games that Merloni’s played over his 15-year-career, I’ve seen a grand total of one.  And I was 12, so it’s safe of you to assume that I remember next to nothing about Merloni’s time in Trenton.

Since his three year stint with the Thunder, he’s played for Boston, San Diego, Cleveland, and the Los Angeles Angels in the big leagues.  However, he’s also worn eight different minor league uniforms and even one in Japan since then.

It’s been a long road for Merloni, but the road to the big leagues did, in fact, run through Trenton for him.

Not On The Ballot: Gabe Lopez.  Played in 326 games at second base over three seasons for the Thunder.  He rubbed some people the wrong way, but I thought he was an all right guy and an all right player.  He even made the All-Star team in I believe 2006.  But he was never a prospect, and is out of the Yankees organization after six seasons.

My Vote Goes To: David Eckstein.  How could it go to anyone else?

Yankees lose to Twins, 7-5

March 5, 2008

The Yankees lost to Minnesota, 7-5, today.  Not a real great pitching performance from anyone involved, but Edwar Ramirez in particular struggled.  I did some sporadic live updates throughout the game, sooooo…

For those unfortunate souls (such as myself) who don’t get the YES Network (I suppose that would make it the No Network) the Yankees are playing the Twins right now on ESPN.

Robinson Cano and Melky Cabrera are the Thunder alums currently in the field, while Ian Kennedy got the start for the Yankees.

Kennedy’s final line: 2 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 0 K

Heath Phillips came in for the third…

The game is in the fourth inning now, and Joba Chamberlain is in.  This should be good.

Well, maybe not.  Garrett Jones just hit an absolute bomb off of Chamberlain in the fifth, and Joba just drilled the next batter on the first pitch.  Uh-oh.

Jonathan Albaladejo in for Joba.  Not a stellar outing for either Kennedy or Chamberlain.

Shelley Duncan now in the game.  Score remains 4-3 Yankees.

Seventh inning, game now 4-4.  Albaladejo out, Edwar Ramirez is in.  With a runner on, he got the strikeout and got out of the jam.  He’ll probably start the season in Scranton, but he did well for himself in this particular spot.

It’s in the eighth, and Edwar has nailed a batter as well and threw his next pitch high and in to the following Twins hitter.

Just kind of waiting for one of Minnesota’s guys to nail a Yankee at this point…

Twins take a 6-4 lead in the 8th.  Edwar got into a jam, and couldn’t get himself out of it.  He gave up a bases loaded double, and there’s still two on with only one out.

Colin Curtis just made a dazzling, diving play in left field to bail out Ramirez to an extent.  It’s 7-4 now after the sac fly, and with two outs, that’s it for Ramirez.  Definitely not the outing he wanted…he’s given up three runs, and the runner on second is his.

Chris Britton’s been in since, Ross Ohlendorf’s now on the mound.

Shelley Duncan just crushed a ball over the left field fence, and the Yankees trail 7-5 in the 9th.

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com

Henn Steps Up, White Does Not *UPDATED*

March 3, 2008

Not counting rehab assignments, nine players with time on the Trenton Thunder roster played in yesterday’s exhibition game between the Yankees and Phillies.

Steven White, who’s had an up and down past few years, got off to a bad start this spring.  In relief of Andy Pettitte, he allowed four runs on five hits and two walks in just an inning and two thirds.

Scott Patterson finished out the fourth for him and induced a groundout with a runner on.

Sean Henn rebounded from his poor outing (which didn’t count in the official spring training stats, by the way) to allow just one hit in the seventh inning while striking out one.

Colin Curtis replaced Bobby Abreu in right field and went 1-for-2 with a strikeout.

Juan Miranda replaced the prolific Jason Giambi at first base and was 0-for-1.

Robinson Cano started the game at second base and was 1-for-3 with a strikeout.

Alberto Gonzalez was 1-for-1 with an RBI after replacing Cano.

Melky Cabrera was the starting center fielder and went 0-for-1 with a walk and an RBI.

Justin Christian replaced him and went 0-for-1.

The game ended in a 7-7 tie.

Note: Justin Christian, and not Alberto Gonzalez, appears to have had the game-tying RBI in this game.  The official boxscore would then be incorrect.

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com

Making David Letterman Proud…

January 19, 2008

While our Top 20 Moments of 2007 countdown returns on Monday, I figured that with the 2008 Baseball America Prospect Handbook set to reach bookstores very soon, it might be time to revisit some of their picks from years back.

For starters, let’s take a look at their top 30 Yankees prospects from 2004 and see how they turned out…

1. Dioner Navarro, C

Dioner Navarro / Photo by Mike Ashmore (2004)

While I will always think that dealing Dioner Navarro was a mistake, it’s also fair to say that he didn’t turn out quite the way a lot of people thought he would.  Only at the last trade deadline were the Yankees able to acquire an adequate backup catcher in Jose Molina, but this is a role that Navarro easily could have filled instead.

Traded in the Randy Johnson deal, he’s spent the past two seasons with the Dodgers and Devil Rays.  Since L.A. shipped him off to Tampa, his stats have steadily declined, and he hit a career low .227 in 119 games last season.

2. Eric Duncan, 3B

It’s interesting that while Shelley Duncan was crushing the ball at every stop of the Yankees organization, it was Eric that was getting the recognition as a top prospect.  Now, Eric is about a year away from being considered a total bust, while it’s Shelley who set the world on fire in the Bronx last year.

Frequently hampered by injuries, the Yankees first pick in 2003 struggled last season in Triple-A Scranton, hitting .241 with 11 home runs and 61 RBI.

He was left unprotected in the Rule 5 Draft, and went unclaimed.

3. Rudy Guillen, OF

It’s really hard to believe he was the 3rd best prospect in the Yankees organization at one time.  He spent parts of two seasons in Trenton, and after hitting a paltry .173 in 21 games in Double-A in 2006, he attempted a conversion to pitcher.

Last season for the Gulf Coast League Yankees, he appeared in three games, and allowed three runs in four innings of work.

4. Joaquin Arias, SS

Arias was dealt to Texas right before the start of the 2004 season and actually reached the big leagues with Texas in 2006.  He hit .545 in six games, collecting an RBI.  He only appeared in five games last season at the minor league level, and missed the majority of the season after suffering a shoulder injury.

5. Ramon Ramirez, P

Ten years from now, if anyone remembers Ramirez at all, they’ll recall that he got busted for performance enhancing drugs.  In reality, Ramirez was a pretty solid pitcher who played for the Thunder in parts of three seasons.

As has been mentioned here before, the converted outfielder was dealt in the deal that netted the Yankees future Hall of Famer Shawn Chacon.  He has appeared in 83 games for the Rockies over the past two seasons, but struggled last year after an impressive 4-3 record and 3.46 ERA in 2006.

6. Robinson Cano, 2B

Robinson Cano / Photo by Mike Ashmore (2006)

Is there really anything new I can tell you about Robinson Cano?  Along with Navarro, he was one of the first true top prospects that the Thunder had under their relatively new affiliation with the Yankees.  He joined Trenton in July of 2003, and stayed there until he eventually hit his way to Triple-A in June of 2004.

He briefly returned to Trenton during his All-Star season of 2006, rehabbing an injury in three games at Waterfront Park.  Cano was very generous with his time with the media, and also with the fans, and reminded everyone why he was one of the more popular players in Thunder history.

7. Ferdin Tejeda, SS

Tejeda is the second position player in the top 10 who crapped out and tried a conversion to the mound.  He wowed Thunder fans with a .174 batting average in 30 games during the 2004 season, and lasted one more year as a middle infielder before trying his hand as a relief pitcher.

He was actually quite good last season in Charleston, going 2-2 with a 2.55 ERA in 31 games. 

8. Jorge DePaula, P

Jorge DePaula / Photo by Mike Ashmore (2006)

Those looking for a sign that the Yankees pitching depth has improved need look no further than DePaula being ranked as their second best pitching prospect just four years ago.  I personally liked DePaula a lot, and he was subject of the very first feature I ever did on the Thunder.

But the Yankees got very little out of him (10 games over a three year span) after he battled injuries, and he eventually went back to the Rockies organization for 2007.  A 6.41 ERA in 19 games at Triple-A Colorado Springs earned him his release.

9. Estee Harris, OF

Harris was the Yankees second round pick in the 2003 draft.  That’s pretty much the extent of good moments he had under the Yankees umbrella.  He never made it out of Charleston, hitting .216 in 2005 and a mind-numbing .177 in 2006.

He eventually ended up with the Road Warriors of the independent Atlantic League last season, and spent most of the season there before being acquired by the Long Island Ducks of the same league.

10. Bronson Sardinha, 3B

No, that’s not a typo.  Sardinha was a third baseman at the time, and stayed that way through the 2004 season before being converted to an outfielder in Trenton for the 2005 campaign.

He was also still pretty highly regarded as a top prospect in the organization, but his average play over the next few seasons would eventually send him down the Top 30 list.  But the Yankees still thought enough of him to protect him on their 40-man roster before the start of last season, and he somewhat imexplicably got a big league call-up despite hitting just .222 in Triple-A last year.

11. Eduardo Sierra, P

Has yet to crack the big leagues after nine seasons in the minors.  Was dealt in the Shawn Chacon trade.

12. Chien-Ming Wang, P

Quite possibly the most underrated starting pitcher in the game.  He’s 38-13 in his last two seasons with the Yankees, and has emerged as a perennial Cy Young contender.  Oddly enough, the highest ERA of his minor league career came in Trenton in 2003 (4.65).

13. Scott Proctor, P

Was one of Joe Torre’s most reliable relievers before being traded back to Los Angeles, where they’re now re-united.

14. Danny Borrell, P

One of the game’s good guys, Borrell was tantalizingly close to the big leagues before injuries essentially ended his career…or so everyone thought.  He came back last season with the Oakland Athletics organization, and went 3-3 with a 2.80 ERA in 19 games, including nine starts.

15. Matt DeSalvo, P

DeSalvo recently signed with the Braves organization after finally putting it all together and getting a chance at the big league level in the Bronx last year.

16. Hector Made, SS

A made man by name only, the undersized Dominican was traded to the Phillies in the Sal Fasano deal.  Entering his seventh season in the minors, he briefly reached Double-A last season, hitting a home run for his only hit in ten at-bats.

17. Sean Henn, P

Henn had his best chance of securing a regular spot in the Yankees bullpen last season, but essentially blew it after posting an ERA of over seven in 29 games.

18. Mark Phillips, P

Phillips returned to professional baseball for the first time since 2003 last year, appearing in seven games for the Newark Bears of the independent Atlantic League.

19. Melky Cabrera, OF

Got Melky?  The Yankees still do, despite numerous trade rumors involving the young outfielder.  Several analysts have predicted the Thunder alum will be a breakout player in 2008, but for which team?

20. Jose Garcia, P

Garcia was traded to Texas in February of 2004, and eventually found his way to the Cardinals organization.  Released midway through last season by St. Louis, he also went to Newark of the Atlantic League, where he and Phillips won a championship.

21. Jose Valdez, P

Did not pitch in the 2005 season, and appeared in only 14 in 2006.  In his first full year back, Valdez went 3-4 with a 2.87 ERA in 37 relief appearances in Tampa.

22. Michael Vento, OF

Vento appeared in two games for the Yankees in 2005 before joining the Nationals organization the following season.  The career .282 hitter in the minor leagues collected five hits in nine games with Washington before spending all of 2007 in Triple-A Syracuse with the Blue Jays.

23. J.T. Stotts, SS/2B

Stotts did not play last season.  He hit just .228 with no home runs and 21 RBI in 86 games for the Thunder in 2006, primarily being used as a utility infielder.

24. Brad Halsey, P

Halsey made his Bronx debut in 2004 after going 11-4 with a 2.63 ERA for Columbus.  He pitched in a grand total of eight games for the Yankees before being shipped west to Arizona as part of the Randy Johnson deal.  After joining Oakland in 2006, he was converted to a reliever, but appeared in just three games last season due to injury.

25. Jason Stephens, P

In five seasons of minor league baseball, has appeared in just 61 games.  The sixth rounder is 17-9 with a 2.68 ERA when he does pitch, however.

26. Jon-Mark Sprowl, C

Sprowl did not play last season, and most recently played in 2006 as a member of the Cubs organization.  He hit just .118 at the Single-A level.

27. Erick Almonte, SS

Another player who eventually went to independent baseball, Almonte was off of the affiliated map by 2006 and ended up as a member of the independent Long Island Ducks.  The man best known as Derek Jeter’s temporary replacement was eventually picked up by the Detroit Tigers and played well for them at the Double-A and Triple-A levels last season.

28. Tyler Clippard, P

Clippard threw the first no-hitter in Thunder history, and made a very steady climb as a prospect in the organization.  But with a glut of starting pitching prospects — something that was clearly not a problem when this list came out — he was dealt this off-season to Washington for reliever Jonathan Albaladejo.

29. Ben Julianel, P

Julianel had two relatively unremarkable years in the Yankees system before joining the Marlins organization in 2006.  He reached Triple-A for the first time last season.

30. Mike Knox, P

Knox last pitched in 2005, where he had an 11.50 ERA in 14 games for Single-A Tampa.

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com

In the meantime…

January 3, 2008

As a reporter, but especially in my many years as a fan, you tend to notice that there are some things that some teams do better than others.  For example, the Thunder have consistently had the best giveaways in the area, and this season will be no different.  A steady supply of bobbleheads, player-themed giveaways, and of course the ever popular fireworks nights (a nightmare for the press for a variety of reasons, by the way) litter the Trenton schedule this season.

Here’s a look at some of the highlights…

April 10th: Fireworks and Desktop Championship Ring Replicas (First 2,000 fans)

April 14th: All 15 Year Team Card Pack, Volume One (First 1,500 fans)

April 25th: Thunder Championship Hats (First 1,500 fans)

April 26th: Joba Chamberlain Youth Jersey Night (First 1,000 fans, ages 5-15)

May 27th: Robinson Cano Bobbleheads (First 2,000 fans, ages 6 and up)

May 28th: Shelley Duncan Bobbleheads (First 2,000 fans, ages 6 and up)

June 10th: Yankee T-Shirt Night (First 1,000 fans)

June 11th: Bobblehead (to be determined) (First 2,000 fans, ages 6 and up)

June 12th: Camouflage Jersey Auction and Fireworks

June 20th: Thunder Card Set Giveaway (First 1,500 fans)

June 23rd: All 15 Year Team Card Pack, Volume Two (First 1,500 fans)

June 25th: Chien-Ming Wang Bobblehead (First 2,000 fans, ages 6 and up)

June 30th: All 15 Year Team Card Pack, Volume Three (First 1,500 fans)

July 3rd: American Flag Jersey Auction

July 8th: 15th Season Collectors Yearbook Night (First 1,500 fans, ages 18+)

July 9th: Phil Hughes Bobblehead (First 2,000 fans, ages 6 and up)

July 25th: Thunder Championship Banners (First 2,000 fans)

July 27th: Melky Cabrera Thunder Youth Jersey Night (First 1,500 fans, ages 5-15)

July 28th: All 15 Year Team Card Pack, Volume Four (First 1,500 fans)

July 30th: Joba Chamberlain and Ian Kennedy Dual Bobblehead (First 2,000 fans, ages 6 and up)

August 8th: Tony Franklin Eastern League Champion Bronze Statue (First 2,000 fans)

August 13th: Ian Kennedy Bobblehead (First 2,000 fans, ages 6 and up)

August 20th: Bobblehead (to be determined) (First 2,000 fans, ages 6 and up)

August 31st: Fan Appreciation/Joba Chamberlain Player Statue (First 2,000 fans)

As you can see, there are quite a few neat items that the team is giving away this year, and there were a lot more that I didn’t mention.  Logo baseballs, other kids-themed giveaways and so on.  There are a bunch more fireworks nights as well, but again, fireworks are to my job are what someone like Lumberg from Office Space would be to yours.

Yeeeeeeeeeah, I’m gonna hafta go ahead and try to talk to you while loud explosions are going off in every direction, mmmmkay?  And then, if you could go ahead and make me listen to the audio of the conversation with the fireworks making loud popping noises in my ears so that it’s impossible to understand what you’re saying, that would be greeeeeeeeeat.

Anyway, my personal favorite of the bunch would have to be the Kennedy & Chamberlain dual bobblehead, that’s a pretty neat idea that’s been used by other teams in the minor leagues.

I do try to get as many items as I can — and to be clear, I get them by purchasing tickets like everybody else…the Thunder do not provide their giveaway items to the media as many teams do, the Yankees included — and if I get any extras, I might be able to give them away in some sort of contest depending on the popularity of this blog…so stay tuned for that.

For the complete schedule, check out the Thunder’s website.

Check back tomorrow for #20 in my countdown to the best moment for the Thunder in 2007.

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com