Saturday, November 28, 2015

Senators Saturday - Rookie Stars, 1970.

Hope everyone had a good Thanksgiving with family and friends. The blog got away from me with all the goings on and giving thanks.

Today we see Jim Miles and Jan Dukes on a creased card 154 of the 1970 Topps set. This is one of the cards I have slated for replacement once I am mostly done putting together the Senators team sets. For now, it's a good filler.

Washington signed Jim Miles as an amateur free agent in 1966 and started him off at Single A the same year. He wasn't particularly impressive and didn't see Double A until 1968. That season he appeared at Double A, Triple A, and had a four inning stint with the Senators as a September call-up. In 1969 he played in ten games for Washington and pitched 20.1 innings. His 6.20 ERA insured he would not stick. Jim spent the rest of the season at Triple A. Miles would not appear in a Major League game again. He hung on at Triple A through the end of the 1972 season before hanging up the spikes for good. At least Jim could boast he struck out Mickey Mantle the only time he faced him.

Jan Dukes was a pitcher in high school and college. He injured his arm pitching for Santa Clara University. To give the arm time to heal, Dukes spent a year as an outfielder. The arm was never quite the same though. Washington still thought highly of Jan and drafted him in the first round of the 1967 draft. He started his pro career the same year with a stint in instructional league before being assigned to Double A. He would end the season with Triple A Hawaii. 1968 saw a pedestrian season for Dukes at Triple A. He would start the 1969 season at Triple A as well. The Senators called Jan up in September of 1969 and he got into eight games, pitching 11 innings. His 2.45 ERA was respectable. It was back to Triple A for most of 1970 for Dukes but he did get another short stint with Washington. This time 6.2 innings over five games and a 2.70 ERA. 1971 passed at Triple A with no trip to Washington. Following the franchise move to Texas, Jan got a cup of coffee with the Rangers in 1972. Just 2.1 innings in three games this time and a 3.86 ERA. That would be all for the former high school pitching legend. By the start of the 1973 season, Jan Dukes was part of the Montreal Expos farm system. He played part of a season at Triple A for Montreal before finishing out the year playing in the Mexican League. That was it for Jan Dukes' playing career.

Topps designated Jim Miles and Jan Dukes as Rookie Stars on their shared 1970 card. Looks like Topps went 0-for-2 with that prediction. Miles was already done in the Majors by the time this card was issued. Dukes was a little more iffy. In 1970 he was having some definite problems but still had the chance to make good. However, the college arm injury turned out to be too much to overcome.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Minor League Monday - David Miller, 1990 CMC.

David Miller shows off perhaps the most unusual pose for a pitcher on card 156 of the 1990 CMC set. Not only is Miller posing with a bat, he's playing for an American League affiliate. I can't imagine most American League teams want their farm teams spending a lot of time honing a pitcher's batting skills. After all, Dave would have a total of zero plate appearances during his time with Oklahoma City.

Miller was originally drafted by the Kansas City Royals in the 3rd round of the 1984 January Draft. He must not have signed though because he never played in their system and didn't begin his pro career until 1986. Somehow, in the intervening time, the Braves got hold of David. He played from 1986 through 1988 in the Atlanta system, working his way up the chain to Triple A. I'm not sure how Miller came to the Rangers system, but 1989 was his first season there and he spent the entire year at Triple A with OKC. His ERA and WHIP were the highest they had been since a short stint with Pulaski in Rookie Ball during the 1986 season. That denied him a shot with Texas and left him at Triple A for the 1990 season.

Dave appeared in 31 games for the 89ers in 1990. 21 of those appearances were starts and he pitched a total of 143 innings during the season. Miller struck out 92 opposing batters while walking just 53. That was about the highlight of the year. David's ERA climbed .65 points to 4.78 and his WHIP went up .214 points to 1.524. He ended the season with a 7-9 record.

Miller was not the same pitcher in the Texas farm system as he had been in the Atlanta chain. He turned in two seasons with his ERA north of four and his WHIP well over one. Even the pitching-hungry Rangers would raise their eyebrows at those numbers. I'm not sure what caused the change, perhaps an injury, the batters catching up with Dave, or maybe just the change in coaching. Whatever the reason, 1990 was Miller's last with Texas and the last of his playing career. At 25 years of age, his pro playing days were behind him.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Senators Saturday - Ted Williams, 1970.

Ted Williams looks rather serious on the front of card number 211 in the 1970 Topps set. He had a lot to be serious about in 1970.

Coming off his maiden season of managing in 1969. A lot was expected from Teddy Ballgame in 1970. After all, he had just led the Senators to their best season yet and was in the process of writing a book about hitting. Fans expected better hitting and more winning. They got a little better hitting, poor pitching management, and less winning.

Under Williams, the 1970 Washington Senators lost 16 more games than they did in 1969 and slipped back below .500. Their 70-92 record dropped them from fourth place to sixth (read: last) in the American League East. They were back in the cellar again and the fans deserted in droves. Over the course of the season only 824,789 came out to see the Senators in person. That was eighth among the 12 American League Teams. Considering the Royals and Brewers were in just their second year, those were some low attendance numbers. The lack of ticket sales helped increase the financial pressure on the team. Owner and General Manager Bob Short's fiscal mis-management didn't help.

All in all 1970 was a sudden plummet back to earth for Ted Williams and the Senators. Ted didn't need to worry though, he wasn't going anywhere. Short was still trying to trade on Williams' name to bring in fans and would have had trouble finding another manager anyway. Ted Williams would be at the helm for the 1971 season. Unfortunately, Bob Short was about to pull off a trade that would further hamstring the already struggling Senators.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Off-Season Moves Begin.

Well, the Rangers 2015-2016 off-season is in full swing and things are happening. The Rangers made a qualifying offer to Yovani Gallardo, shown here on a 2015 pocket schedule along with Adrian Beltre. Gallardo has now officially turned down the offer. Texas will likely continue to negotiate with Gallardo but will also get a compensatory draft pick if he decides to sign elsewhere.

Contract negotiations aside, General Manager Jon Daniels mentioned early in the process that Texas would be looking more to trades than free agent signings to improve their roster this off-season.

That statement seemed to hold true with the trade of outfielder Leonys Martin and reliever Anthony Bass yesterday. Both went to Seattle in a deal that brings reliever Tom Wihelmsen, outfielder James Jones, and a player to be named later to Texas. Wilhelmsen is a veteran reliever whom the Rangers have seen frequently and occasionally pummelled. However, he had a decent 2015 campaign and generally is very reliable out of the pen. Jones is a young, late-blooming outfielder with limited Major League experience. He appears to have limited power but can run, has a strong arm, and can play center field. The player to be named later will probably not be announced until after the Rule Five draft.

I can't say I have any thoughts one way or the other about Anthony Bass being traded. He performed well for the most part as a long reliever out of the Texas bullpen. Bass just didn't make a big impact and I have few memorable moments that I can recall involving him. As for Leonys Martin, he leaves Texas as a little bit of a disappointment. The Rangers first big Cuban signing, Martin was supposed to quickly mature to the center fielder of the future. His defense kept moving in the right direction but his bat just couldn't seem to make the transition. In spite of occasional success, he never made the transition to facing Major League pitching. After spending time on the disabled list in 2015, he lost the center field job and got left off the Rangers post-season roster. They asked him to report to Surprise, Arizona to continue workouts in case they needed him. He never showed. One has to assume that played a role in making him available for trade.

On the surgery front, Josh Hamilton had a second surgery in his left knee in late October. This one was for "clean up" and he appears to be recovering well. Should be ready for Spring Training, barring any other injuries or mis-behaviour.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Minor League Monday - Gar Millay, 1990 CMC.

Garrick Daniel Millay, shown here on card 168 of the 1990 CMC set, was drafted by the Mets in the 9th round of the 1983 June Draft. He did not sign. The Rangers drafted him in the 28th round of the 1986 June Draft. He signed. I'm not sure what happened to cause teams to shy away from Millay for two years and made his draft status drop so significantly.

Gar started his pro career immediately at Single A. He split 1987 between Single and Double A and 1988 between Double and Triple A. Apparently the Rangers decided Millay needed some more work so he spent the entire 1989 season at Double A Tulsa. He was assigned to Triple A Oklahoma City for the 1990 season.

In 104 games for the 89ers, Gar posted a .257 batting average and a .344 on-base percentage. His moderate power was demonstrated by his 16 doubles, two triples, and three home runs. He scored 39 runs while accounting for 42 RBI. His four stolen bases showed he could steal on occasion. The four times he got caught stealing showed he could also get caught on occasion. Unfortunately, Millay walked just 38 times while striking out 53 times.

Gar was the third most used outfielder with OKC. He played in 68 games in the outfield and committed just one error in 124 chances. That gave him a .992 fielding percentage. When not in the outfield Millay played 22 games at first base, chalking up six errors in 176 chances for a .966 fielding percentage. Gar also took the mound for the 89ers in one game, pitching one inning and giving up two runs. That left his career ERA at 18.00 to go along with his 3.000 WHIP.

1990 was a mixed bag for Gar Millay. His batting average went up while his on-base percentage dipped. His power also dipped while his strikeouts and walks switched places from the previous season. He was serviceable at first base and a decent outfielder. The problem was that the Rangers had Rafael Palmeiro at first base and a pretty crowded outfield in the early 1990's. Millay was effectively blocked unless he could get a big enough power bat to draw some attention.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Senators Saturday - Zoilo Versalles, 1970.

Zoilo Versalles does not look very happy on card 365 of the 1970 Topps set. It also looks like he is still wearing his Twins uniform, in spite of having left Minnesota after the 1967 season. In Topps defense, Versalles didn't stay very long with any team after departing the Twins. Between the start of the 1968 season and when the Senators purchased his contract on July 26, 1969, Zoilo played for the Dodgers and Indians. He was also briefly part of the expansion Padres but never suited up for them.

Versalles was a backup with Washington in 1969, playing in just 31 games while batting .267 with a .304 on-base percentage. An old back injury, suffered while with Los Angeles, hindered his usefulness. The Senators ended up releasing Zoilo on April 6, 1970.

Versalles played all of 1970 and part of 1971 in the Mexican League before the Braves bought his contract and brought him back to the Majors. He would finish out the 1971 season with Atlanta before being released. 1972 was spent playing in Mexico and Japan. 1973 saw Zoilo at Double A as part of the Royals system for part of the season and back in Mexico for the remainder. He also played in 1974 in Mexico before hanging up the spikes for good.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Senators keep coming back.

Well, the former Senators players have been overwhelming the former Rangers players in autograph request returns lately. That won't last though, since the former Rangers players outnumber them and there are only a few Senators left that I was able to send to and haven't come back yet.

The most recent autograph request to come back was this 1961 Topps card of former Senator Willie Tasby. Can't get enough of the signed cards from the first year in existence of the franchise. Good stuff. I sent this card, and a note asking for an autograph, to Mr. Tasby on October 26th of this year. The turn around was impressive, with the card coming back signed on November 5th. Mr. Tasby even took the time to re-wrap the note around the card to protect it on the return journey. Many thanks to Willie Tasby and all the other players who have signed for their time.