While Waiting for the Stove to Get Hot
My god, it’s nearly 70 today in the Midwest, a great day for a ballgame. But there won’t be one for several more months. Still, the weather gets an old guy’s mind on baseball…
So it’s official. Ryne Sandberg won’t be back in Des Moines next year to reprise his role as the skipper of the Iowa Cubs. One and done. No matter; no surprise. Baseball fans in minor league outposts have been used to the transience of ballplayers since way before free agency came to the big leagues.
This town has headquartered the following teams going back to the 1890’s: Prohibitionists, Hawkeyes, Midgets, Undertakers, Underwriters, Champs, Colts, Boosters, Demons, Bruins, Oaks and Cubs.
Sandberg was just the latest in a series of luminaries to spend at least a summer here. Eddie Cicotte won 18 games for the 1906 Des Moines Champs [who were managed by the finely named Dirty Jack Doyle] before later gaining infamy at the center of the Black Sox scandal. Vida Blue fanned 16 in a game while pitching for the Iowa Oaks in 1970. That’s still a record in the American Association. I can remember watching Blue stand on the mound here grinning at the hitters. He was part of the guts of the Oakland A’s team that passed through here en route to a three-peat; one of the last of the great big league dynasties. Joe Rudi and Gene Tenace were Oak teammates of Blue’s. Tony LaRussa once played for the Oaks before becoming their manager in 1979, the same year when he was promoted to his first big league managerial post with the White Sox in midseason.
In between Cicotte and LaRussa, the Des Moines Demons hosted the first professional ballgame ever played under permanent lights in 1930. That club included a guy named Buckshot May and one Les Cox who hit a paltry .172 in only 58 AB’s – probably had a bad case of rabbit ears.
The ballpark where the town team finally settled over six decades ago was first christened Western Park, later renamed after a local sportswriter, rebuilt in the early 90’s with municipal assistance and then renamed again after its naming rights were sold to a local corporation, so the history of the place pretty well parallels the trend line of professional baseball itself since the latter half of the 20th century. Sportswriters have descended from balladeers to muckrakers and stadia in some cases can be seen as public/private whorehouses.
I’m one to decry the constant peripheral amusements that seem so obnoxious nowadays at sporting events of all stripes but my brief perusal of Des Moines’ background in professional baseball served as ample reminder that forerunners of the Jackass TV/movie franchise were commonplace even long before Bill Veeck and Charlie Finley arrived on the scene. As long ago as 1890 balloon ascensions and parachute jumps were used to lure people to games hereabouts.
Regarding that last one, were parachutes really around before airplanes? If so, couldn’t chickens have come before eggs?
This might be old news but Hammel was on ESPN 1000 and said that he changed his diet and workout routine over the off season and tweaked his delivery so it'd be more repeatable so he'd have a better second half. So...some cause for optimism anyway.
CHILDERS: RHSP Dylan Cease and LHSP Bryan Hudson are probably the top two SP prospects in the organization right now.
LHSP Jose Paulino has electric stuff (91-94 MPH fastball with sinking action and a mid-80's slider), but he also has trouble commanding it.
RHP Jose Albertos (2015 IFA - Mexico - $1.5M bonus) just turned 17 in November, and his fastball already sits at 95-96. He also throws a curve and a change-up, and is fairly advanced for a kid his age.
AZBOBBOP: Most of 2016 draft picks will get assigned to either Eugene or AZL Cubs, but the Opening Day Eugune roster will probably be almost 100% from the Extended Spring Training squad roster (pending the arrival of draft picks).
I think I can probably tell you which pitchers and players at EXST are in contention for roster slots at Eugene and which are in contention for slots with the AZL Cubs - AS THINGS STAND RIGHT NOW - (listed alphabetically):
* bats or throws left
# bats both
Eloy Jimenez atop the leader board for minor-league home runs in the Cub system, with seven. Tied with Balaguert and Vogelbach, two 24-year-olds. Jimenez won't be 20 until late November. Leads the Midwest League in SLG and OPS. Maybe he'll get promoted to the Myrtle Beach squad that visits Woodbridge, VA, in June or Frederick, MD, in August.
Watched two Pelican games at Frederick the other week. Was most impressed by Stinnett and Happ. Happ may swing harder than Javier Baez, though more compactly. (Also got to see Brockmeyer hit a bomb.)
E-MAN: Jose Paniagua isn't a string-bean, but I wouldn't say he necessarily bulked-up during the 2015-16 off-season either, He led the DSL Cubs in HR and doubles in 2014, and he showed XBH power when he arrived in Mesa last year, leading the AZL Cubs in HR, doubles, and RBI in 2015. It's just that he has taken his HR power to a new level this year.
Paniagua displayed plus-HR power in Cactus League Minor League Spring Training games in March, and that got him a slot on the South Bend Opening Day roster. But he was sent to EXST after only six MWL games.
More on the Cub Way.
Martinez is one of my least favorite pitchers in baseball. I'd love to see a game like yesterday's against him.
Send Soler down!
Awesome thanks AZ
Great report, Phil! This organization has so many hitters to be excited about.
Ben Zobrist is very enjoyable to watch!!!!!!
given that he seems to only be throwing low 90s these days rather than the 93-96mph he used to throw, along with his wildness issues this year, he may end up passing through.
i dunno if something is wrong with him physically or his past shoulder issues has rendered him what he currently is, but he's been throwing a lot of sliders he can't control well and his fastball isn't as sharp. even when his slider wasn't working in a game he was still throwing a lot of them.
Any scuttlebutt on where Neil Ramirez gets traded?
He seems better than some of the relievers on competitive teams. He ought to bring more than the waiver fee.
My guess? Toronto.
PHIL: It seems as if Paniagua has always played 1B with the Cubs. At 6'2 and 180#, what is his frame like? String bean? Have you seen him bulk up? Where do you project him? Thanks.
Phil, what's your thoughts on which position players are going to Eugene and who is staying in AZL?
Ahhh...way to bring me down BB.
Still - a win tomorrow will be an acheivement regardless.
Don't mean to spoil your mood, but with tonight's win the are 3-5 on the trip with one to play.
While I'm bringing the room down -- Richard comes in to pitch the 9th with a 12-1 lead...and can't finish the game. Woof.