Kershaw unanimously wins third NL Cy Young Award

Dodgers LHP Clayton Kershaw pitches during what turned out to be his 20th win of the 2014 season. (Photo by Matt Marton/USA TODAY Sports)

Los Angeles Dodgers LHP Clayton Kershaw pitches during what turned out to be his 20th win of the 2014 season. (Photo by Matt Marton/USA TODAY Sports)

It seems as if I write a version of this post every November.

Los Angeles Dodgers LHP Clayton Kershaw won his third National League Cy Young Award on Wednesday. I started this blog in 2011, the first year he won one. After finishing second to R.A. Dickey in 2012, he won his second NL Cy Young Award in 2013.

That means Kershaw won a Cy Young Award in three of the four years I’ve been writing about the Midwest League. And I keep writing about him because he pitched for the Great Lakes Loons in 2007, when he went 7-5 with a 2.77 ERA and 134 strikeouts in 97.1 IP and was named the MWL Prospect of the Year. (He also was the winning pitcher in that year’s MWL All-Star Game at Kane County.)

Clayton Kershaw was the winning pitcher in the 2007 Midwest League All-Star Game. (Photo courtesy of the Great Lakes Loons)

Clayton Kershaw pitches during the 2007 Midwest League All-Star Game. (Photo courtesy of the Great Lakes Loons)

Although he missed all of April because of a back injury, Kershaw arguably had his best season yet in 2014. He went 21-3 with a 1.77 ERA, a 0.857 WHIP, 239 strikeouts and 31 walks in 198.1 IP (27 starts). His most dominant month was June, when he went 6-0 with a 0.82 ERA, 61 strikeouts and four walks in 44 IP. That month he also pitched a no-hitter in which he struck out 15 and walked none, but an error was committed, so he didn’t get credited with a perfect game.

Kershaw is the first pitcher to win three Cy Young Awards before his 27th birthday, and the sixth pitcher to win three in a four-year span. Only nine pitchers have won three or more Cy Young Awards since the honor was first given in 1956.

Cincinnati Reds RHP Johnny Cueto finished second in this year’s NL Cy Young Award vote after going 20-9 with a 2.25 ERA, 0.960 WHIP, 242 strikeouts and 65 walks in 243.2 IP (34 starts).

Cueto pitched for the Dayton Dragons in 2006, going 8-1 with a 2.59 ERA and 82 strikeouts in 76.1 IP. He also made two rehab starts for the Dragons in 2013, notching a win and striking out eight batters in eight innings.

Posted in Dayton Dragons, Great Lakes Loons, Midwest League | Leave a comment

Cubs claim former Kernels RHP Roach off waivers

Donn Roach throws in the bullpen as a member of the 2011 Cedar Rapids Kernels. (Photo by Craig Wieczorkiewicz/The Midwest League Traveler)

Donn Roach throws in the bullpen as a member of the 2011 Cedar Rapids Kernels. (Photo by Craig Wieczorkiewicz/The Midwest League Traveler)

The Chicago Cubs claimed RHP Donn Roach off waivers from the San Diego Padres today. He reportedly will be in the mix of relievers trying to win a bullpen spot with the big-league team next year.

Roach split the 2014 season between the Padres (1-0, 4.75 ERA, 17 Ks in 30.1 IP) and the Triple-A El Paso Chihuahuas (4-6, 5.24 ERA, 44 Ks in 77.1 IP).

Roach was drafted by the Los Angeles Angels in 2008 and 2010 — he didn’t sign the first time — and was traded to the Padres in 2012. He played in the Midwest League in 2011, when he went 5-5 with a 3.45 ERA and 68 strikeouts in 70.1 IP for the Cedar Rapids Kernels.

As a bonus, here’s a photo of Roach standing in line at a concessions stand at Beloit’s Pohlman Field during the break between games of a doubleheader in June 2011. It’s not a great photo, but I like it because, to me, it says “Minor League Baseball.”

Kernels pitcher Donn Roach waits for his food while fans order theirs. (Photo by Craig Wieczorkiewicz/The Midwest League Traveler)

Kernels pitcher Donn Roach waits for his food while fans order theirs. (Photo by Craig Wieczorkiewicz/The Midwest League Traveler)

Posted in Cedar Rapids Kernels, El Paso Chihuahuas, Midwest League, Pacific Coast League | Leave a comment

Williams, Showalter win Manager of the Year awards

Rookie MLB skipper Matt Williams was named the National League Manager of the Year on Tuesday after leading the Washington Nationals to an NL-best 96 wins during the regular season.

Only three others have won a Manager of the Year award in their rookie season as a big-league skipper: Hal Lanier (1986 Houston Astros), Dusty Baker (1993 San Francisco Giants), and Joe Girardi (2006 Florida Marlins).

The Baseball Writers’ Association of America has awarded the honor since 1983.

In this year’s NL vote, Pittsburgh Pirates manager Clint Hurdle (who won last year) finished second, and Giants skipper Bruce Bochy (whose team won the World Series this year) came in third.

All three of the top vote-getters in the National League played in the Midwest League.

Williams batted .240 with 7 HR and 29 RBI in 68 games with the 1986 Clinton Giants.

Hurdle batted .235 with 19 HR and 89 RBI for the 1976 Waterloo Royals.

Bochy batted .243 in 30 games with the 1976 Dubuque Packers.

In the American League, Orioles skipper Buck Showalter was named the top manager for the third time in his MLB career. He didn’t play in the Midwest League, but the two AL runners-up did.

Los Angeles Angels manager Mike Scioscia finished second after leading his team to an MLB-best 98 wins during the regular season. He batted .253 with 7 HR and 44 RBI in 121 games with the 1977 Clinton Dodgers.

Royals skipper Ned Yost finished third after leading Kansas City to its first postseason appearance since 1985. He batted .192 with 6 HR and 27 RBI in 79 games with the 1975 Wausau Mets.

Posted in Clinton LumberKings, Midwest League | Leave a comment

Five Rays managerial candidates played in Midwest League

The Tampa Bay Rays announced that 10 managerial candidates will be interviewed as they seek a successor to Joe Maddon, who opted out of his Rays contract and subsequently joined the Chicago Cubs as their new skipper.

In alphabetical order, the 10 candidates are Manny Acta, Kevin Cash, Craig Counsell, Doug Glanville, Raul Ibanez, Barry Larkin, Dave Martinez, Charlie Montoyo, Don Wakamatsu and Ron Wotus. Half of them played in the Midwest League, one was a MWL manager, and one was a MWL coach.

Acta played and managed in the Midwest League. His final season as a player was with the 1991 Burlington Astros; he batted .257 with 2 HR and 35 RBI in 78 games. He managed the 1997 Quad Cities River Bandits, who went 59-75. The only notable player on that River Bandits team was Aaron Miles, who hit .262 with 1 HR, 35 RBI and 18 SB in 97 games.

Ibanez played 143 games with the 1993-94 Appleton Foxes, batting .300 with 12 HR and 80 RBI. His most notable Foxes teammate was Alex Rodriguez, who hit .319 with 14 HR, 55 RBI and 16 SB in 65 games with the 1994 team.

Martinez played 56 games with the 1983-84 Quad City Cubs, batting .238 with 15 RBI and 13 SB. In 1983, he was teammates with Shawon Dunston, who was named the Midwest League Prospect of the Year after hitting .310 with 4 HR, 62 RBI and 58 SB in 117 games.

Montoyo batted .266 with 5 HR and 19 RBI in 55 games with the 1987 Beloit Brewers. His manager was Gomer Hodge, who was a Midwest League skipper for seven seasons (Waterloo from 1981-84 and Beloit from 1986-88). Hodge also played in the MWL, hitting .218 in 8o games with the 1963 Dubuque Packers.

Wakamatsu batted .216 with 7 HR and 41 RBI in 103 games with the 1987 Cedar Rapids Reds. His teammate Keith Lockhart, who went on to play 10 seasons in the major leagues, batted .313 with 23 HR, 84 RBI and 20 SB in 140 MWL games.

Don Wakamatsu MWL card

Wotus didn’t play in the Midwest League, but he was the hitting coach for the 1990 Clinton Giants. Only one of his hitters, Clay Bellinger, made it to the big leagues. Bellinger batted .217 with 10 HR and 48 RBI in 109 games with Clinton; he went on to play 183 games in the major leagues, mostly with the New York Yankees.

Posted in Beloit Snappers, Burlington Bees, Cedar Rapids Kernels, Clinton LumberKings, Midwest League, Quad Cities River Bandits, Wisconsin Timber Rattlers | Leave a comment

QC’s Ferris wheel chosen as year’s best ballpark improvement

The new Ferris wheel created a unique LF backdrop at Modern Woodmen Park, home of the Quad Cities River Bandits. (Photo by Craig Wieczorkiewicz/The Midwest League Traveler)

The new Ferris wheel created a unique LF backdrop at Modern Woodmen Park, home of the Quad Cities River Bandits. (Photo by Craig Wieczorkiewicz/The Midwest League Traveler)

The Ferris wheel added to Modern Woodmen Park this year was selected by Baseball Digest as the best ballpark improvement of 2014.

The Ferris wheel opened on May 24. It is located on the ballpark’s left-field berm and rises 105 feet above the playing field.

One other Ballpark Digest award was given to a Midwest League team. The Fort Wayne TinCaps got the nod for having the best new food item of 2014, “The Big Apple,” which you can read about here.

The five-pound treat also was voted the best dessert in Minor League Baseball’s “Food Fight” competition in July.

The award-winning "Big Apple" dessert available at Parkview Field. (Photo courtesy of the Fort Wayne TinCaps)

The award-winning “Big Apple” dessert available at Parkview Field. (Photo courtesy of the Fort Wayne TinCaps)

Posted in Fort Wayne TinCaps, Midwest League, Quad Cities River Bandits | Leave a comment

Molitor introduced as new Twins manager

Paul Molitor, seen here with wife Destini, waves to fans during the Hall of Fame Parade of Legends earlier this year. (Photo by Craig Wieczorkiewicz/The Midwest League Traveler)

Paul Molitor, seen here with wife Destini, gives a thumbs-up to fans during the Hall of Fame Parade of Legends earlier this year. (Photo by Craig Wieczorkiewicz/The Midwest League Traveler)

The Minnesota Twins introduced Paul Molitor as their new manager Tuesday. The Twin Cities native replaces Ron Gardenhire, who was fired in late September.

Molitor’s Hall-of-Fame playing career began in the Midwest League, where he batted .346 with 8 HR, 50 RBI and 14 SB in 64 games with the 1977 Burlington Bees. Molitor was the Midwest League MVP and Prospect of the Year, and his Bees team won the MWL championship.

That was Molitor’s only year in the minor leagues, though he made two brief rehab stints later in his career. One of those rehab stints was a single-game appearance with the 1990 Beloit Brewers, for whom he went 2-for-4 with a solo homer.

Paul Molitor signs autographs for fans after speaking at the Burlington Bees winter banquet in January 2012. (Photo by Craig Wieczorkiewicz/The Midwest League Traveler)

Paul Molitor signs autographs for fans after speaking at the Burlington Bees winter banquet in January 2012. (Photo by Craig Wieczorkiewicz/The Midwest League Traveler)

According to the Bees, Molitor will be the third former Burlington player to both play and manage in the major leagues. The other two are Phil Garner and Rene Lachemann.

Garner batted .278 with 11 HR and 70 RBI in 116 games with the 1971 Bees, who were affiliated with the Oakland Athletics.

Lachemann batted .281 with 24 HR and 82 RBI in 99 games with the 1964 Bees. He also managed Burlington in 1973 (54-64) and 1974 (61-59). The Bees were affiliated with the A’s during all three of those seasons.

Bees and Athletics banners hung together outside Burlington's Community Field in 2011, when the two teams were still affiliated. (Photo by Craig Wieczorkiewicz/The Midwest League Traveler)

Bees and Athletics banners hung together outside Burlington’s Community Field in 2011, when the two teams were still affiliated. (Photo by Craig Wieczorkiewicz/The Midwest League Traveler)

Molitor also will be only the third former player to manage in the big leagues for the first time after having already been elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame. The other two were Ted Williams, who managed the Washington Senators in 1969-71 and the Texas Rangers in 1972, and current Philadelphia Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg.

(Side note: Williams played three years in the minor leagues — two in San Diego and one in Minneapolis. Both cities, of course, now have MLB teams.)

Like Molitor, Sandberg also has Midwest League roots, though his are not as a player. Sandberg managed the Peoria Chiefs in 2007 (71-68) and 2008 (60-78), when the team was affiliated with the Chicago Cubs.

Besides Molitor and Sandberg, only two other already-inducted Hall-of-Famers have gotten big-league managerial jobs in the last 25 years: Tony Perez and Frank Robinson. In all, eight Hall-of-Famers have managed in the major leagues since the first HOF class was elected in 1936. (Bob Lemon, Red Schoendienst and Yogi Berra are the ones not already mentioned.)

The Baseball Hall of Fame plaques of Paul Molitor and Ryne Sandberg hang next to each other. (Photo by Craig Wieczorkiewicz/The Midwest League Traveler)

The Baseball Hall of Fame plaques of Paul Molitor and Ryne Sandberg hang next to each other. (Photo by Craig Wieczorkiewicz/The Midwest League Traveler)

Posted in Baseball Hall of Fame, Beloit Snappers, Burlington Bees, Midwest League, Peoria Chiefs | Leave a comment

Francona signs two-year extension with Indians

The Cleveland Indians announced today that manager Terry Francona has agreed to a two-year contract extension.

Francona, 55, has been Cleveland’s skipper since signing a four-year deal in October 2012. The two-year extension keeps him under contract with the Indians through the 2018 season, and includes club options for 2019 and 2020.

Francona’s first managerial job was in the Midwest League, as skipper of the 1992 South Bend White Sox (73-64). The most notable players he managed in South Bend were James Baldwin II (9-5, 2.42 ERA, 137 Ks in 137.2 IP) and Mike Cameron (.228 in 35 games).

Baldwin’s son, James Baldwin III, also played in the Midwest League, for the Great Lakes Loons in 2012 and 2013. In 2012, the Los Angeles Dodgers farmhand batted .209 with 7 HR, 40 RBI and 53 SB in 123 games. In 2013, he batted .238 with 7 HR, 49 RBI and 42 SB in 118 games.

Perhaps the most famous moment of Francona’s South Bend tenure happened when rehabbing White Sox catcher Carlton Fisk homered in his first of three at-bats at Coveleski Stadium. The future Hall-of-Famer hit the ball so far it struck a synagogue down the left-field line; that building is now South Bend’s team store, and there is a plaque commemorating the Fisk shot on a nearby fence. That game was Fisk’s only one with South Bend.

Carlton Fisk (right) is congratulated by Terry Francona after hitting a long home run during his short rehab stint in South Bend. (Photo by Ron Ryback/South Bend Tribune)

Carlton Fisk (right) is congratulated by Terry Francona after hitting a long home run during his short rehab stint in South Bend. (Photo by Ron Ryback/South Bend Tribune)

Posted in Baseball Hall of Fame, Great Lakes Loons, Midwest League, South Bend Silver Hawks | Leave a comment