February 7, 2007

The third of just eleven SP78 games played in 2007 wrapped up the July 15th slate of games, as the Rangers topped the Orioles 4-1 in a night match-up at site AZ8 in Peoria. Johnny Grubb’s 2-run home run in the fifth inning broke a 1-1 tie, and Mike Hargrove rounded out the game’s scoring with a two-our triple in the sixth, which scored Toby Harrah from first. Jon Matlack went the distance for the win, improving to 14-3, while Orioles starter Dennis Martinez went six innings—allowing all four Texas runs—and took the loss, dropping to 4-13. Eddie Murray homered for Baltimore, his 18th, to account for the O’s only run.  (Game #1179,  7/15/78)

Major League Baseball

Trammell’s Last Hurrah

DET - Alan TrammellI received an e-mail newsletter from the Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum today, and glancing through it I saw that there was a section spotlighting the fifteen new names on the BBWAA Hall of Fame ballot, a group which included Ken Griffey Jr, Trevor Hoffman, and Jim Edmonds…three players on the outer fringe of my baseball-loving past. Further down the page I found a list of the seventeen returning nominees; players who’d remained eligible after receiving at least five percent of votes the previous year. Included on that second list was former Tigers shortstop Alan Trammell, who’d retired after the 1996 season, and who’s currently playing for Detroit in my SP78 Replay season.

Added to the list of nominees was a short notation, stating that Trammell was appearing on the HOF ballot for the 15th and final time. After double-checking the names of the remaining players on the list, I realized that Trammell was indeed going to be the last player from my SP78 season to ever appear on the ballot. And that to me was a sad thing: I remembered back in 1998, when Dennis Martinez of the Orioles was the last of my ‘real game card’ players to retire, while Mike Morgan—a minor leaguer with the A’s in 1978—was the last of my ‘created card’ players to call it quits, finally, in 2002. And now, I was losing another Statis Pro player, albeit in a different way, but melancholy for me nonetheless.

I may be a bit biased, having stopped following baseball after the 1994 strike, but if I could induct just one player from that list of 32 candidates, it would definitely be Trammell. His career stats aren’t bad at all: 20 seasons as a Tiger, with seven seasons hitting above .300, four AL Gold Gloves, six times an All-Star, and a World Series MVP award in 1984. As for his current SP78 stats, well, those aren’t so hot: a .238 average in 103 games, with 97 hits, 14 doubles, and 38 RBI. With numbers like that, a Rookie of the Year award does not appear to be on his SP78 horizon, but with his solid play at short helping to keep the Tigers in the AL East race, a post-season appearance just might be.

Two days from now, on January 6th, the Class of 2016 Hall of Fame inductees will be announced. Of course I’d like to see Trammell make it, but according to all I’ve read, the chances of that happening are slim. And with that, another ‘last hurrah’ will take place, and Trammell will quietly disappear from the ballot, one of the last of a dying breed of SP78 players who still have ties to today’s game.

Happy Birthday, #5!

Happy Birthday, #5

Matlack Nabs 18th As Rangers Blank Tigers

TEX - Jon MatlackRangers ace Jon Matlack tied Mike Caldwell of the Brewers for the most wins in the major leagues yesterday, cruising to his 18th victory against just three defeats with a dominating 4-0 shutout of the Tigers before a Navy Night crowd at Tiger Stadium. For Matlack, who was traded to the Rangers in December after seven seasons with the Mets, the win was not only the 100th of his major league career, but helped lift Texas to a 4-game lead over second-place Kansas City in the tight AL West pennant race.

“I hit some rough spots last year,” Matlack said, referring to his 7-15 won-lost record with the Mets in 1977, “so it feels good to turn it around and help a team make a run at a division title.”

Help also came last night in the form of slugging left fielder Richie Zisk, another freshman member of the team, who spent last season with the White Sox after seven seasons with the Pirates; his 2-run home run in the first inning off Detroit spot starter Kip Young gave Texas a quick 2-0 lead. It was Zisk’s 19th HR of the year, and the first a slumping Rangers squad had hit since July 30th, when Johnny Grubb connected off Wilbur Wood in the second game of a twinbill against Chicago.

After Young averted further first-inning damage by enticing Grubb to loft an infield fly for the third out, Matlack ran into some trouble of his own to open the home half of the frame, serving up a double to Johnny Wockenfuss and a two-out walk to Jason Thompson. But Matlack settled down and retired Alan Trammell on a fly out to center to end the threat and escape the inning unscathed. From there, the former NL Rookie of the Year was invincible, retiring nine straight Tigers before Rusty Staub singled to lead off the fifth.

Meanwhile, the Rangers would pad their two-run advantage in the third, when lead-off hitter Bump Wills singled, stole second for his 58th theft of the season, and scored one batter later on an Al Oliver base hit to right. Texas would strike again in the fourth, making it a 4-0 contest with a bases-loaded sacrifice fly by Wills, which sent Toby Harrah home from third to round out the game’s scoring.

Detroit gave the home crowd something to cheer about when they put two runners on in the sixth and in the ninth, both times with two out, but Matlack worked his way out of each jam to keep his lead and shutout intact. In each instance, Matlack was assisted by a pair of sparkling defensive plays from his fielders: by right fielder Grubb in the sixth, when he leapt at the wall to grab a high drive off the bat of Staub, and by third baseman Harrah in the ninth to end the game, when he snared a hard shot down the line to deny pinch-hitter Mickey Stanley a sure double and two RBI.

For Matlack, it was his second shutout in a row, and his fourth of the SP78 campaign, dropping his season ERA to an impressive 2.11. He finished the game with a six-hitter, striking out three and walking one, and went the distance for his 16th complete game. On the flip side of the mound, rookie righthander Young—who hadn’t pitched in eight days—saw his record drop to 8-3 with the loss, after serving up nine hits and all four Tiger runs in six innings of work.

The Rangers are now tied with the Yankees for most wins in the AL, with 67, while the loss stopped Detroit’s modest win streak at two games. “If we can start hitting again, and Matty keeps pitching the way he’s pitching, we’ll have a chance at this thing,” said Texas manager Billy Hunter after the game, referencing his team’s lackluster .191 batting average for August and their shot at the division flag. “With seven games coming up this month against the Royals, it could get interesting.”

Both teams have the day off tomorrow before each opens the weekend with a three-game series on the road: Texas travels to Cleveland to face the Indians at Municipal Stadium, while Detroit heads west to Comiskey Park to take on the last-place White Sox.

To see a full recap of the game with notes, another photo, and an opportunity to make comments, click here.

TWISP Notes #64

November 3, 2015

• A total of nine SP78 games were played by my friend Steve P and I during our minor league baseball tour throughout New England this past summer, at least a game a day between June 22nd and June 29th. After three games were played in New Mexico to begin the trip (at Steve’s home in Las Cruces), four took place at hotels in Connecticut, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, and Maine, one was hosted by the University of Vermont in Burlington, and the last—an exhibition game between the Tigers and Mets—was played at the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York. The won-lost between the two managers over the course of the trip was an even 4-4, with Steve abstaining from one of the NM2 match-ups.

• The past few weeks have been tough ones for the Mets; they’ve gone 3-11 over that span, are currently mired in a 3-game losing streak, and for three games were without their starting outfield of Lee Mazzilli, Steve Henderson, and Bruce Boisclair. Mazzilli came off the 15-day disabled list on the 7th, while Boisclair returned on the 9th after missing a month with a head injury. Left fielder Henderson has been out since the 4th, and will likely return to action in the next few days.

• A’s speedster Mike Edwards stole home for the second time this season, doing so August 5th against the Mariners at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum. The theft came in the first inning off M’s pitcher Tom House, after Edwards had singled, stole second, and advanced to third on a groundout. Edwards also stole home on July 27th against the White Sox, after stealing second and third off Ross Baumgarten in the same inning. Edwards becomes the first SP78 player this season to collect two home thefts. Continue reading