Australia’s prolific baseball themed author, Nicholas Henning, is at it again. This time he has produced an affectionate and authoritative survey of modern Australian baseball taking his readers through the two iterations of the Australian Baseball League. By the list of those mentioned in his book it is clear that it is quite far reaching and complete. To give you some idea of the scope of his work here is a list of those who are mentioned.
A: Jim Abbott, Chris Adamson, Corey Adamson, Tony Adamson, Muhammad Ali, Craig Anderson, Tim Auty
B: Grant Balfour, Billy Beane, Andy Benes, Matthew Bennett, Shayne Bennett, Kris Benson, James Beresford, Simon Beresford, Adam Blackley, Travis Blackley, Wade Boggs, Barry Bonds, Ricky Bones, Chad Bradford, Eddie Bray, George Brett, Tom Brice, Scott Brosius, Homer Bush
C: George Caiger, Cameron Cairncross, Rod Carew, Grahame Cassel, Robert Cassel, John Challinor, Eric Chavez, Anthony Claggett, David Clarkson, Roger Clemens, Michael Collins, Jose Contreras, Nathan Crawford, Tristan Crawford, Johnny Cueto
D: Lachlan Dale, Phil Dale, Ryan Dale, Chili Davis, Joshua Dean, Jon Deeble, Mitch Dening, Rob Derksen, R.A. Dickey, Mark Dollimore, Trent Durrington
E: Adam East, Andre Either, Mike Ekstrom, Paul Elliott, Mark Ettles, Matt Everingham
F: Pete Falcone, Matthew Fawcett, Cecil Fielder, Steve Fish, Jane Fonda, David Foxover
G: Kevin Garner, Kirk Gibson, Joe Girardi, Paul Goldschmidt, Adrian Gonzalez, Paul Gonzalez, Tom Goodwin, Matthew Gourlay, Troy Glaus, Andrew Graham, Kevin Greatrex, Pedro Gutierrez
H: Brad Harman, Tony Harris, Peter Hartas, Neal Heaton, Liam Hendriks, Matt Herges, Jason Hewitt, Steve Hinton, Geoff Hooker, Donald Horne, Justin Huber, Luke Hughes, Joe Hughes, Warren Hughes, Mark Hutton
I: Takehiro Ishii
J: Greg Jelks, Richard Jewell, Derek Jeter, Alex Johnson, Randy Stuart Johnson, Randy Glenn Johnson, Randy David Johnson, Ron Johnson, Rikki Johnston, Jacque Jones
K: Josh Kennelly, Matt Kennelly, Sam Kennelly, Tim Kennelly, Brook “Boris” Kilpatrick, Brendan Kingman, Mark Klatt, Ryan Klesko, Don Knapp, Brooke Knight, Billy Koch, Dae-Sung Koo, Mark Kotsay
L: Travis Lee, Craig Lewis, Shane Lindsay, Pat Listach, Graeme Lloyd, Wayne Lundgren, Michael Lysaught
M: Greg Maddux, Mike Maddux, Mark Marino, Wally Marks, Tino Martinez, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Tyler Maun, Ian Maurice, Grant McDonald, Daniel McGrath, Fred McGriff, Andrew McNally, Adrian Meagher, Parris Mitchell, Paul Molitor, Miguel Montero, Mickey Morandini, Wayne Morgan, Warren Morris, Damian Moss, Peter Moylan, Brian Murphy, Dale Murphy, Jack Murphy
N: Charles Nagy, Micheal Nakamura, Chad Needle, Bob Nilsson, David Nilsson, Gary Nilsson, Hideo Nomo
O: Trent Oeltjen, Miguel Olivo, Richard Olson, Chris Oxspring
P: Andrew Barton “Banjo” Paterson, Kyle Perkins, Robbie Perkins, Martin Prado, Luke Prokopec, Kirby Puckett, Yasiel Puig, Albert Pujols
Q: Joseph J. Quinn
R: Hanley Ramirez, Dusty Rhodes, Ricky Rhodes, Rory Rhodes, Cal Ripken Jr, Mariano Rivera, Brett Roneberg, Ron Ross, Ryan Rowland-Smith, Eric Robert Rudolph
S: Craig Saupold, Dea Saupold, Rainee Saupold, Tony Saupold, Warwick Saupold, Max Scherzer, Mike Schmidt, Trent Schmutter, Steve Schrenk, Trevor Schumm, Andrew Scott, Ryan Searle, Kevin Seitzer, Scott Servais, Gary Sheffield, Matthew Sheldon-Collins, Simon Sheldon-Collins, Barry Shipley, Craig Shipley, Grant Shipley, Mark Shipley, Richard Shirt, Randy Smith, Chris Snelling, Aaron Sookee, Alfonso Soriano, Russell Spear, Josh Spence, Ed Sprague, John Stephens, Phil Stockman, Darryl Strawberry
T: Carlos Tabares, Clayton Tanner, Miguel Tejada, Brad Thomas, Royal Thomas, Jim Thome, Richard Thompson, Lewis Thorpe, Shane Tonkin, Mark Trumbo, Ted Turner
U: Juan Uribe
V: Todd Van Steensel, Robin Ventura, Justin Verlander, Tom Vincent, Peter Vogler
W: Jordan Walden, Mike Walker, Brett Walters, Russel Ward, David Weathers, Jeff Weaver, Darren Welch, David Welch, Stefan Welch, David Wells, Vernon Wells, Peter Wermuth, John Wetteland, David White, Gary White, Bob Wickman, Luke Wilkins, Gerald Williams, Glenn Williams, Jeff Williams, Brendan Wise, Tim Worrell
Source: Henning’s Baseball Musings
So it was good to see him bounce right back today against Toronto when he came on in the 7th after reliever Brad Boxberger imploded and allowed 2 runs and lost Tampa’s lead. Grant immediately brought the inning to a close with two ground outs and then came back in the 8th to face a minimum three to complete his outing. Tampa, who eventually lost 5-4 to the Blue Jays, have virtually no chance of making the post season but no doubt they and Grant are hoping he can get his career back on line during the rest of this season in preparation for hopefully a more successful season next year. After all he is guaranteed his $6 Million for next year so they will want some bang for their buck.
by David Egbert/rayscoloredglasses.com
I confess to becoming a big-time Grant Balfour fan during his 2007-2010 tour with the Rays. I loved his competitive approach to the game and his desire to have the ball in his hand at critical times. His next three years with the Oakland Athletics were equally as impressive as he went from a setup man to a shutdown closer. As he reached free agency after his three years with Oakland, I wondered where he would land next. Little did I know what a strange journey would unfold.
In his three years with Oakland, Balfour was dominant in whatever role in which the A’s put him. His overall statistics were incredible: a 2.53 ERA, 64 saves, a 203/75 K-BB ratio and a 1.043 WHIP. Numbers like those will get the attention of any general manager and Balfour was set to be a free agent after the 2013 season. However, things didn’t go well from the beginning as Oakland GM Billy Beane didn’t seem interested in Balfour and quickly acquired former Baltimore Orioles closer Jim Johnson, avoiding arbitration with him on a a one-year, $10 million contract. That was an incredible contract for Beane and the small market A’s and less than Balfour was probably asking per year.
Balfour turned around and agreed to a $15 million with Baltimore and then things really became unglued. Baltimore backed out of the contract citing possible medical problems found during a physical. It was later revealed that those problems included possible right shoulder, wrist, and knee issues. Balfour was furious and shortly after signed a two-year, $12 million contract with the Rays who claimed they found no injury issues with Balfour.
Balfour opened the season as the Rays closer and from the beginning things didn’t go well. His command was off and he wasn’t just blowing saves, he was having horrendous outings. Many including myself, blamed the performance on the lack of save opportunities the woeful Rays were offering. Closers are creatures of habit and if you don’t offer them a steady diet of high-risk, high-reward outings, they lose it. But as time went on and things didn’t get better you had to look elsewhere for the problem.
The next place to look is always the possibility of injury. Certainly, a red flag was sent up by the Orioles when they cited injury problems and voided the contract. Maybe, that was the same reason Oakland passed on Balfour for a more expensive closer. Any one of the three injuries mentioned could affect Balfour’s delivery and his command. As usual, the Rays are silent on the subject and Joe “it’s always a sunny day” Maddon claims Balfour’s healthy and he’s sure he will snap out of it any day. Based on Balfour’s three walk performance on Monday loss to Detroit, the turnaround isn’t here quite yet.
There is always a chance that it is mental. For a hyper-competitive pitcher like Balfour, any sign of failure can work on your mind and affect your game. Steve Blass, a pitcher with the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 1970’s, lost his command and got to the point that he couldn’t throw a strike. I don’t know how you solve that problem, but having Balfour see a sports psychologist wouldn’t be a bad idea. One other solution is to take Balfour out of the high-stress closer role. Maddon seems to be trying that solution, but based on recent performances, that isn’t working either.
The last possibility, and I certainly hope the least likely, is that Balfour has hit the wall and he’s done. That happened to Heath Bell in the middle of a three-year contract and he’s out of baseball. Johnson hit it with the A’s and he’s back in the minors. It’s a cruel way to go out but it wouldn’t be the first time nor the last.
This is all sad because Balfour’s good guy. It’s sad because, for the same money, the Rays probably could have resigned Fernando Rodney. It’s sad because the Rays owe Balfour $7 million next year and that’s a lot of money for an ineffective relief pitcher. Let’s hope that sometime between now and next April the Rays find an answer that is positive for the team and Grant Balfour.
Boston’s Daniel McGrath suffered the loss in his only game this week when his control abandoned him. Throwing only 2.2 innings he served up 6 runs on 3 hits and a season high 7 walks for his worst outing this season. After 17 games he is 5-6 and 4.27ERA.
The Twins’ Lewis Thorpe started 2 games this week and whilst both were no decisions his performances were solid allowing 2 runs in each game on 5.1 and 4.2 innings respectively. In the latter game he fanned 7 whilst walking 1 and has now lowered his season ERA to a season low 3.96 after 14 games with a 3-2 record. In these games he struck out 11 to 3 walks leaving him with a healthy BB/SO ratio of 28/68
It was a good week for Logan Wade who played in 7 games this week going 7-28 including 2 doubles, a triple and 1 home run  and 7RBI. He is now hitting .255 after 63 games.
COMSTOCK PARK – Andrew Graham admits he’s always been about setting goals.
It doesn’t matter whether the setting of goals came during in his playing days when the farthest he could advance up the minor league ladder was 36 games at Triple-A in 2007. A second goal as a player was trying to help Team Australia to the second round of the first two World Baseball Classics in 2006 and 2009, while a third was learning to become a manager at short-season Connecticut the last three years.
In each case, Graham said he’s tried to set lofty standards and then live up to them.
Which is why he’s been thrilled this summer with a West Michigan Whitecaps club that could win both halves of the Midwest League schedule for the first time since 2006.
Graham, who played 176 career games in the minors, understands that the priority for low Class A-level ballplayers is all about development. Improve as a player, get to the next level and eventually become a major leaguer. But as a member of two Whitecaps clubs that in 2004-05 that went from fifth-place finishes in the first half to finish first and second in the second half, Graham also understands what winning means to a community. The 2004 team was the third of five Midwest League champions.
With no Whitecaps team making the playoffs since 2010 and none winning a post-season series since 2007, Graham said winning here was a goal since being named manager last winter.
“I’ve always set goals and my goal has always to be in the playoffs,” he said. “That’s one that has been ticked off my list.”
The Whitecaps went 7-3 in their last 10 games of the first half to win the Eastern Division by a half-game with a 41-29 record. The team took a 32-18 record and five-game lead in the second half into Wednesday. West Michigan’s 73-47 overall record is only surpassed by Kane County’s 75-45 mark.
It’s a season that should leave Graham very much in the hunt for Midwest League manager of the year while boosting his managerial stock in only his fourth year of running teams.
Graham said his managerial philosophy hasn’t changed since he led Connecticut to a 39-35 record in his first season in 2011. Since he was released by the Tigers as a player the same day the organization hired him as a manager, Graham has stressed player development such as hitters not giving away at-bats, won’t tolerate players who don’t hustle and believes in an open-door policy. Graham has been very accessible to the media.
“You want players to be able to go about their business,” he said. “I try to be a mix between being able to mingle with the players and creating a loose environment in the clubhouse. I have an open-door policy, but I think I can also put my foot down.”
As for handling the Xs and Os of baseball, Graham said five years as a minor league catcher left him with a knowledge of the game. One of his chief concerns in making the transition from managing in short-season to a club which plays 140 games was pitching. Short-season teams typically have a couple more pitchers over low Class A. He also sees a difference in managing a team for five months compared to three.
“I was a little skeptical at first, but I’ve handled it,” Graham said of having fewer available arms. “I have a confidence in handling players because I was a player.”
With five years of playing experience and another four as a manager, Graham, a native of New South Wales, Australia, said he’s already spent more time in baseball than he expected. He played two years in college at Clarendon College in Texas and another at Armstrong Atlantic State University in Georgia, then expected to head back home, but the Tigers took him in the 19th round of the 2003 draft.
“I thought I’d play in college, but I signed and then I thought I’d stay as long as I was good enough to play,” he said. “Now I’ll coach as long as they want me. It’s a little strange. I’ve spent as long in this country now as I did in Australia.
Graham said he’s enjoyed working for the Tigers, but has no timetable for his advancement up the ladder in that organization. Whether it’s a player or manager, Graham said the goal is the major leagues.
“The goal is the big leagues, but you want to win and keep relationships,” he said. “I know I’ve enjoyed being part of the Tiger family, they’ve treated me well.
“The game is fun for me. I can’t sit here and say I’ll move up or down. I want to stay in the game, hit fungos and teach the game I’ve loved since I was 4 years old.”
Eugene Emeralds kept Sam Holland busy this week bringing him out of the bullpen 5 times. He didn’t disappoint them throwing 2 scoreless innings in each of the first 4 games and allowing only 1 unearned run in 1 inning in the 5th. He also struck out a total of 11 in that time whilst giving up 1 walk, an unusual occurrence for him when you consider that his BB/K ratio for the season is 7/49. So after another impressive week he is now 0-1 after 24 games with a 2.27ERA
Colorado’s Robbie Perkins appeared in 4 games this week going 4-13 including a double and scoring 4 runs for the Tri-City Dust Devils. He is now hitting .165 after 32 games and 109ABs.
Pirates’ Sam Street appeared in the NY Penn League’s Mid Season All-Star game in Jamestown this week. He came on in the 9th with the game tied at 1 all and retired the two hitters who faced him with a ground out and a fly ball before being relieved. You can’t do much better than that in a pressure situation. Back with his home team he threw only the 1 scoreless inning for the Jamestown Jammers when he collected his 5th Save of the season out of 5 opportunities. So after 12 games he is 1-0, 5 Saves after 20 innings and a 1.35ERA. Great effort by Sam to make the ASG and then to perform so well.
Knox oversaw team’s first four seasons, ballpark move, ASGs
LAVERTON, Victoria – The Melbourne Aces announced today that Windsor Knox will step down from the role of General Manager after guiding the team since the return of the Australian Baseball League in 2010.
Knox, who took on the job just 30 days before the opening pitch on 6 November 2010, has seen the team evolve over the years and the franchise accomplish many exciting firsts for the sport.
‘’It has been a long four years but I am proud of what our team has done for baseball during that time’’ says Knox. ‘’We built our first ballpark at the Melbourne Showgrounds in just five days and later made the tough decision to move to the Melbourne Ballpark for the 2012-13 season purely for financial reasons. With hindsight, it was the right choice as it helped us secure a three-year-deal with our naming rights partner Jet Couriers.’’
The excellent facilities at the refurbished Melbourne Ballpark have set the standard in corporate entertainment and the field was rated by players as the best ballpark in the country.
The Aces came close to winning the ABL Championship Series in 2011-2012, taking the reigning Premiers to three games and creating a memory that will keep the players striving to get back there this year.
The team recently announced that the Aces will host the ABL All-Star Game for the third season in a row. The game will be broadcast worldwide on ESPN – an achievement that Knox has spearheaded each year.
In media, the Aces partnered with SEN Radio during the 2010-2011 season, with live broadcasts moving from digital radio to analogue on Friday nights another first for the franchise. The team has developed strong relationships with the press during Knox’s tenure and has garnered its share of exposure through the media as a result.
Knox believes this media coverage has taken baseball to a whole new audience and set the stage for future growth.
‘’Looking back, our radio coverage on SEN, along with our live streaming, has had the biggest impact on our brand over the years,” he commented. “The production of our three television commercials is another thing we are proud of and the results were beyond our expectations. We created the first ever ABL viral video campaign to go global.”
Aces Advisory Board Chairman Ron Gauci said Knox will remain with the team until a replacement General Manager can be found.
“Baseball in Victoria owes Windsor a great deal of gratitude for his contribution to the game and his tireless efforts to position the sport and the team to grow,” he said. “Windsor has been here since day one of the league and his leadership will be missed.”
In addition to his more measurable achievements, Knox is proud to have provided a pathway for young Victorian baseball players to aspire to.
“I want to thank our members and fans, all the Victoria baseball clubs, Baseball Victoria and our sponsors for supporting the Aces during my time at the helm. I will miss the action but hope that I have left the team in good shape to go forward,’’ he concluded. “I have worked with some very good people over the past four years.’’
Kansas City’s Ryan Dale was a little busier this week playing in 5 games for 2-14 with 2RBI leaving him hitting .190 after 27 games and 84ABs.
Sam Gibbons appeared in only 1 game this past week for the Elizabethton Twins and suffered his 4th loss in a 6 inning outing when he allowed 2 runs on 7 hits [1HR] and a walk whilst striking out 3. After 10 games he is now 3-4 with a 3.71ERA.
Twins’ Josh Guyer had 2 good starts this week and allowed an un-earned run in a 5 inning effort and 2 un-earned runs in the 2nd when again he threw 5 complete innings. Both were no decisions for him but they did help to lower his season ERA to 4.97 after 11 games.
Pirates’ Nick Hutchings threw 3.1 innings in his 10th start allowing 2 runs [1ER] on 4 hits whilst striking out 2. His record remains 2-2 and 4.54ERA after 37.2 innings.
Sam Kennelly played in 4 games this week hitting 2-13 with 2 RBI. He is hitting .273 after 24 games and 88ABs.
Ben Leslie had a better week going 2-5, including a double in the 2 games he played for the Giants. After 15 games he is 8-39, .205avg.
The Rangers’ Todd McDonald went 2-8 in limited action this week appearing in 3 games giving him a .229 avg. after 48 games.
Aaron Sayers had another quiet week for the Tigers going 1-11 in 3 games so that after 29 games he is hitting .257
The Tigers’ Zach Shepherd was kept busy appearing in 7 games for 6-23 which brings his avg. down to .287 after 46 games.
By Steve Millar For Sun-Times Media
Hein Robb and Josh Spence have discovered just how small the baseball world really is.
Robb, from Brakpan, South Africa, and Spence, from Geelong, Australia, ran in a lot of the same circles on their journeys to playing professional baseball in the United States.
Both attended MLB’s Australian Academy at different times.
Now the two lefties find themselves making up 40 percent of the Windy City ThunderBolts’ starting rotation.
“It’s kind of coincidental that now we’re both here,” Spence said. “We know a lot of the same people, we’ve been to a lot of the same places, and it’s cool being here together now.”
One place Spence has been that neither Robb nor any other current T-Bolt has is the big leagues. He spent parts of the 2011 and ’12 seasons in the San Diego Padres bullpen, compiling a 3.15 ERA in 51 appearances.
“I feel like it’s sunk in, but I’ll never really know how much it has sunk in,” he said. “You always play baseball to get to the next level and progress, so to be on a 25-man roster with an organization that there was three, four, five levels of minor league baseball under you, it’s a pretty special feeling. They say, ‘It’s hard to get there, but it’s harder to stay.’
“The guys in the clubhouse here have a few questions here and there. I’m very thankful for the experience and glad to share it.”
Spence signed June 19 with the T-Bolts. Robb joined the team Aug. 5. They’ve quickly become friends.
“Baseball’s not a big sport back home, so we can talk about rugby, cricket, (Australian rules football),” Robb said. “Those things make you feel more like you’re at home and not a visitor.”
Both shunned the more traditional sports in their home countries and began playing baseball at young ages. Spence came to the United States after high school and played for Central Arizona College before moving on to Arizona State and getting drafted by the Padres.
Robb was signed by the Twins when he was 16 and began playing pro ball in America at 18.
“I was playing in a regional tournament in South Africa and the Twins scouts were there, had a meeting with me and offered me a contract,” he said. “It was definitely a good experience, but at that age you obviously have no idea what you’ve got yourself into.”
Both say the adjustment to American life has been relatively smooth, though Robb — who saw snow for the first time last offseason — misses Christmas in summer.
Robb and Spence are just part of the international flavor for Windy City.
Reliever Victor Larez is from the more traditional baseball-producing country of Venezuela. Outfielder Daniel Aldrich grew up in South Carolina but was born on a military base in Germany.
German Markus Solbach began the year pitching for the T-Bolts before being signed by the Minnesota Twins, where he briefly played with Robb.
“It definitely spices things up having some international guys around,” Robb said. “You want to have some different cultural ways to make things interesting.”
The Astros’ Jake Bowey continued to struggle this past week. In 9 games he hit 5-34 leaving him with a .221 avg for the season after 27 games and 86ABs. There was a period there last month and early August when he was hitting over .300.
Lachlan Madden who came back from the DL last week threw in 2 games this week for a no decision and a win, his 2nd. Both were relief appearances and in the first he tossed 2 scoreless innings allowing only 1 hit and 3 walks [2 intentional] and in the win he did slightly better throwing 2.1 scoreless, 0 walks and striking out 4. After 14 games and 20 innings his record is 2-1 and he lowered his ERA to 3.60. He should be pleased with his week’s work.
The Yankees’ Adam Silva remains on the DL and is back home in Melbourne on rehab. He had been sent to the DR to get more ABs after he had finished his rehab program from surgery. Unfortunately for Adam he strained his oblique in his 1st game back and as his rehab was going to extend beyond the season the Yankees thought it best that he rehab at home. Hopefully we will see him get some games in for the Cavalry during the ABL season.
Hayden Timberlake of the Astros went 1-4 with 1 run in his only game this week. He is hitting .219 after 10 games with his current team.