Cougars had best winning percentage in baseball this year

The 2014 Kane County Cougars pose with their Midwest League championship trophy at Wrigley Field earlier this month. (Photo courtesy of the Chicago Cubs)

The 2014 Kane County Cougars pose with their Midwest League championship trophy at Wrigley Field earlier this month. (Photo courtesy of the Chicago Cubs)

Some food for thought:

The Los Angeles Angels finished the regular season with the best record in Major League Baseball: 98-64. They had a .605 winning percentage.

The Kane County Cougars finished their season with the best record in Minor League Baseball: 98-49 (including 7-0 in the Midwest League playoffs). They had a .650 winning percentage in the regular season and a .666 winning percentage overall.

Even if the Angels go undefeated in the postseason, they will not match Kane County’s winning percentage. My point, of course, is that the best team in affiliated baseball this year (as measured by winning percentage) played in the Midwest League.

Kane County was affiliated with the Chicago Cubs during the 2013-14 seasons, but will be an Arizona Diamondbacks affiliate the next two years. South Bend is the new Midwest League affiliate of the Cubs.

Posted in 2014 Playoffs, Kane County Cougars, Midwest League, South Bend Silver Hawks | Leave a comment

Almadova, Ratterree awarded MiLB Gold Gloves

Michael Ratterree playing right field for the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers earlier this year. (Photo by Craig Wieczorkiewicz/The Midwest League Traveler)

Brewers prospect Michael Ratterree playing right field for the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers earlier this year.

Two players who spent a significant part of the 2014 season in the Midwest League were announced as winners of Rawlings Gold Gloves.

Rawlings Sporting Goods Company awards nine Gold Gloves (one for each position) to minor-leaguers from the 10 full-season, MLB-affiliated minor leagues based in America. Outfielders Breland Almadova (CF) and Michael Ratterree (RF) are among this year’s recipients.

Almadova played 89 games in center field for the South Bend Silver Hawks and 42 games in center field for the Visalia Rawhide. Overall, the Arizona Diamondbacks prospect had a .995 fielding percentage this year (only two errors in 365 chances).

Ratterree played 119 games in right field for the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers and seven games in right field for the Huntsville Stars. Overall, the Milwaukee Brewers prospect had a .992 fielding percentage this year (only two errors in 264 chances).

Click here to see the full list of this year’s winners.

Posted in California League, Gold Glove Awards, Huntsville Stars, Midwest League, South Bend Silver Hawks, Southern League, Visalia Rawhide, Wisconsin Timber Rattlers | Leave a comment

MLB managerial news: Gardenhire fired, Redmond extended

The Minnesota Twins fired manager Ron Gardenhire today, and the Miami Marlins extended manager Mike Redmond’s contract through the 2017 season.

Gardenhire managed the Twins for 13 years, compiling a 1,068-1,039 regular-season record. He led the Twins to the postseason six times, but the team advanced past the opening series of the playoffs only once. He was named the American League Manager of the Year in 2010.

His first job as a manager was in the Midwest League, as skipper of the 1988 Kenosha Twins. That team lost the MWL Championship Series to the Cedar Rapids Reds.

One of Kenosha’s offensive stars that year was future major-leaguer Lenny Webster, who was named the MWL’s Most Valuable Player after hitting .288 with 11 HR and 87 RBI in 129 games. Kenosha’s most notable pitcher that year was future major-leaguer Willie Banks, who went 10-10 with a 3.72 ERA and 113 strikeouts in 125.2 IP. RHP Pat Bangtson, who never reached the big leagues, went 17-5 with a 2.87 ERA and 120 strikeouts in 179 IP.

Yesterday the Marlins gave Redmond a two-year contract extension, on the same day his team was no-hit by Washington Nationals RHP Jordan Zimmermann.

Redmond also started his managerial career in the Midwest League, helming the Lansing Lugnuts in 2011. He was named the MWL Manager of the Year and led the Lugnuts to the MWL Championship Series. (They lost to the Quad Cities River Bandits.)

Redmond also started his playing career in the Midwest League, batting .200 with 10 RBI in 43 games with the 1993 Kane County Cougars and .271 with 24 RBI in 92 games with the 1994 Cougars.

Posted in Cedar Rapids Kernels, Kane County Cougars, Lansing Lugnuts, Midwest League, Quad Cities River Bandits | Leave a comment

Hawkins pitches in 1,000th MLB game

Colorado Rockies RHP LaTroy Hawkins pitched in his 1,000th MLB game Saturday, becoming just the 16th hurler to reach that milestone.

Hawkins had an impressive 1993 season in the Midwest League, going 15-5 with a 2.06 ERA, 179 strikeouts and 41 walks in 157.1 IP for the Fort Wayne Wizards. He pitched four complete games, including three shutouts, and gave up only five home runs.

RHP LaTroy Hawkins pitched for the Fort Wayne Wizards in 1993. (Photo from It's All Relative blog of the Fort Wayne TinCaps)

RHP LaTroy Hawkins pitched for the Fort Wayne Wizards in 1993. (Photo from It’s All Relative blog of the Fort Wayne TinCaps)

To commemorate Hawkins’ 1,000th-game milestone, the Rockies gave him a team-signed bottle of Dom Perignon champagne. (See photo at end of post.)

The all-time leader in MLB pitching appearances is LHP Jesse Orosco (1,252 games). He didn’t pitch in the Midwest League on his way up to the major leagues, but he made two rehab appearances with the Peoria Chiefs in 2000.

Of the 14 pitchers who rank between Orosco and Hawkins, four played in the Midwest League.

LHP Mike Stanton (No. 2 on the list with 1,178 games) went 11-5 with a 3.62 ERA and 160 strikeouts in 154 IP for the 1988 Burlington Braves. He also pitched an inning for the 2007 Dayton Dragons.

RHP Trevor Hoffman (No. 10 with 1,035 games) went 1-1 with a 1.87 ERA, 12 saves and 52 strikeouts in 33.2 IP for the 1991 Cedar Rapids Reds.

RHP Roberto Hernandez (No. 13 with 1,010 games) went 9-10 with a 3.17 ERA and 114 strikeouts in 164.2 IP for the 1988 Quad City Angels. He also pitched in seven games for the 1987 Quad City Angels and four games for the 1989 South Bend White Sox.

RHP Rich “Goose” Gossage (No. 15 with 1,002 games) went 18-2 with a 1.83 ERA and 149 strikeouts in 187 IP for the 1971 Appleton Foxes. (That included 15 complete games and seven shutouts!) He also pitched in 10 games for the 1970 team and two games for the 1974 team.

LaTroy Hawkins holds the team-signed bottle of Dom Perignon he received from the Rockies. (Photo tweeted by the Colorado Rockies)

LaTroy Hawkins holds the team-signed bottle of Dom Perignon he received from the Rockies. (Photo tweeted by the Colorado Rockies)

Hawkins did not pitch in Colorado’s final game of the season Sunday.

Posted in Burlington Bees, Cedar Rapids Kernels, Dayton Dragons, Fort Wayne TinCaps, Midwest League, Peoria Chiefs, Quad Cities River Bandits, South Bend Silver Hawks, Wisconsin Timber Rattlers | Leave a comment

Three former Loons named Dodgers MiLB players of year

The Dodgers named LHP Julio Urias their Minor League Pitcher of the Year. He pitched for the Loons in 2013. (Photo by Craig Wieczorkiewicz/The Midwest League Traveler)

The Dodgers named LHP Julio Urias their Minor League Pitcher of the Year. He pitched for the Loons in 2013. (Photo by Craig Wieczorkiewicz/The Midwest League Traveler)

The Los Angeles Dodgers named a trio of former Great Lakes Loons as their top minor-league players of 2014.

LHP Julio Urias was named their Minor League Pitcher of the Year after going 2-2 with a 2.36 ERA and 109 strikeouts in 87.2 IP for the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes (High-A). He pitched for the Loons in 2013, going 2-0 with a 2.48 ERA and 67 strikeouts in 54.1 IP.

Urias turned 18 on August 12.

The Dodgers also named OF Joc Pederson and SS Corey Seager co-winners of their Minor League Player of the Year award.

Pederson batted .303 with 33 HR, 78 RBI and 30 SB in 121 games with the Albuquerque Isotopes (Triple-A). He was promoted to the major-league level this month and has hit .143 (3-for-21) with eight walks and nine strikeouts in 15 games.

He batted .160 (8-for-50) in 16 games with the 2011 Loons.

Seager split the 2014 season between High-A and Double-A, hitting a combined .349 with 20 HR and 97 RBI in 118 games. He played with the Loons in 2013, batting .309 with 12 HR and 57 RBI in 74 games.

Dodgers SS prospect Corey Seager (Photo by Craig Wieczorkiewicz/The Midwest League Traveler)

Dodgers SS prospect Corey Seager (Photo by Craig Wieczorkiewicz/The Midwest League Traveler)

Corey’s oldest brother, Kyle, is the starting third baseman for the Seattle Mariners. Seattle presented him with the Mariners Heart and Hustle Award as part of a pregame ceremony Friday.

Kyle Seager played 41 games with the 2009 Clinton LumberKings, batting .275 with 1 HR and 22 RBI. A third Seager brother, Justin (the middle one), played with the LumberKings this year, batting .240 with 3 HR and 37 RBI in 110 games.

Posted in Albuquerque Isotopes, California League, Clinton LumberKings, Great Lakes Loons, Midwest League, Pacific Coast League, Rancho Cucamonga Quakes | Leave a comment

It was 40 years ago yesterday …

On Sept. 25, 1974, Dr. Frank Jobe performed a groundbreaking surgery to replace a torn ligament in Los Angeles Dodgers LHP Tommy John’s left elbow with a tendon from the pitcher’s right forearm — the first “Tommy John surgery,” which the procedure is commonly known as today. The surgery allowed John to pitch for 14 more seasons.

I mention this here because John pitched in the Midwest League before and after his famous surgery — both times for teams based in cities that are no longer part of the league.

John’s first season as a professional ballplayer was spent in the Midwest League. As a Cleveland Indians farmhand, he went 10-4 with a 3.17 ERA in 88 IP for the 1961 Dubuque Packers. According to this article, his first professional game was canceled because fish flies covered the Dubuque stadium lights.

He made one more appearance in the Midwest League, 24 years later. He made a six-inning start for the 1985 Madison Muskies, giving up two runs on four hits and four walks while striking out three batters.

(See the box score from John’s Muskies start here.)

Posted in Midwest League | Leave a comment

Former MWLers Stewart, Watson join D-backs front office

The Arizona Diamondbacks announced Thursday afternoon that they’ve hired Dave Stewart as senior vice president and general manager and De Jon Watson as senior vice president of baseball operations. Both will report directly to Chief Baseball Officer Tony La Russa.

Stewart’s major-league career included a four-year stretch during which he annually won 20 or more games for the La Russa-managed Oakland Athletics. The A’s played in the World Series in three of those years.

Stewart was drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1975 and played for their Midwest League affiliate in 1976 (Danville) and 1977 (Clinton). His 10-inning stint with the Danville Dodgers was forgettable — he went 0-2 with a 16.20 ERA, 10 strikeouts and 16 walks — but his season with the Clinton Dodgers was memorable. He went 17-4 with a 2.15 ERA and 144 strikeouts in 176 IP for Clinton.

Despite his impressive season with Clinton, Stewart wasn’t the Midwest League’s MVP or prospect of the year in 1977. Both of those honors went to future Hall-of-Famer Paul Molitor, who batted .346 with 8 HR and 50 RBI in 64 games with the Burlington Bees that year.

According to the Diamondbacks, Stewart is the only current MLB general manager who played and coached in the major leagues.

Watson never played in the major leagues, but he spent five seasons in the minors, including the 1987 season in the Midwest League. Primarily a first baseman, he batted .240 with 5 HR and 50 RBI in 91 games with the Appleton Foxes, who were a Kansas City Royals affiliate at that time.

Posted in Baseball Hall of Fame, Burlington Bees, Clinton LumberKings, Midwest League, Wisconsin Timber Rattlers | Leave a comment