Diamond Hoggers has reached 100,000 hits. And while we don’t want to rest on the laurels of our accomplishments, we’d like to thank every reader who has ever made their way to the site. We hope at the very least we’ve created a place where you can know you’re going to get baseball information with an appreciation of the game’s history, present, and a little humor mixed in. Thank you for your continued support of Diamond Hoggers. We can guaruntee we’ll hold ourselves to the same standards for as long as the internet exists and we’re fit to type on a keyboard.

So long, Sean Casey

The time has come for baseball to say goodbye to one of the best guys to ever put on a uniform. Sean Casey has decided to retire, electing to take a position with the MLB Network and spend more time with a family that has always meant the world to him.

During of the most enjoyable baseball summers we ever had in 1999, Sean Casey was a key cog in a team that nearly made it to the postseason if not for a choke in the final week of the season. A career .302 hitter, we have several lasting memories of Sean Casey.

First off, when we went to our first game in the Diamond Seats at Great American Ball Park; Casey came up into the seats during batting practice when asked to pose for a photo. It wasn’t good enough for Casey to simply pose for a photo while standing on the field with the fan in the front row. After the initial photo, a crowd began to surround Casey asking for the same accomodation. You’re lucky if you can get a player to speak to you these days during BP. Thinking that Casey would realize he’d made a mistake in being friendly, we thought he’d quickly head down in the Reds clubhouse until the game started. We were wrong. Casey then began to take photos with anyone and everyone in the stands who wanted one that day. Casey also was notorious for signing autographs until the last fan had went away.

Casey was our grandmother’s last favorite player. She loved the Reds for a longtime, she had many favorites come and go. She had many who she didn’t really like (Griffey for one). But she always had fond things to say about “Ol’ Sean Casey”. We watched the Reds with our grandmother on many a night growing up.

The guy was a positive in every clubhouse he’d ever been a part of. He played the game like a warrior, always running hard out of the box and laying out for a play in the field. While he will never be a Hall of Famer, if there were such a place for guys who played the game the right way and for their treatment of individuals, this guy would be first ballot.

Thank you for the memories, Sean. We wish you would have one more run in the Queen city before hanging up your cleats for good.

We put some stock into what Marty says

The voice of the Reds is Marty Brennaman. And usually his voice is blasting the Reds; as he’s long known for being our toughest critic. But Marty is cautiously optimistic about the 2009 Reds. Speaking at a recent Reds caravan stop in Kentucky:

-“I’m optimistic. I know this time last year I was, and I was dead wrong about the team. Everybody seemed to be as one last year that they were going to be better. Now, fast-forward to a year later, I’m still optimistic, and a lot of the people become naysayers. It’s going to be interesting.

-“I think they improved themselves behind the plate in Ramon Hernandez. I think they improved themselves in center field with Willy Taveras. They picked up a situational left-hander in Arthur Rhodes, who will help the bullpen.

-“I think you have to look at this division before making some type of prediction. If the Cubs have improved themselves — and I’m not so sure they have — (and) if they are able now to go out and get (pitcher) Jake Peavy before the season begins, they will separate themselves even more from the rest of the division. But if you assume they’ve helped themselves. The only other team in this division who I think has (improved) has been the Reds. I don’t think Milwaukee has, Houston has, St. Louis has or Pittsburgh.

-“It’s a different team from what we’ve been watching for the last however-many years because it’s a team that’s going to rely pretty much on pitching, defense and speed, and not feature the big home-run bats that they’ve been noted for all these (recent) years. They go into Great American Ball Park, and the park was built to take advantage of the power of Adam Dunn and Ken Griffey Jr. And it didn’t work out. So they’re going to strike off in a different direction, and I agree with that 100 percent.”

And you know what? Marty is right. The Reds biggest positive is what they’re up against in the central. While other teams didn’t need to improve themselves as much as the horrid Redlegs; teams like the Cardinals and Brewers haven’t done much via acquistions. As disappointing as the Reds have been in failing to bring in a big gun, these opponents have also failed to make the big move. Now we just have to hope that the Cubs fail in their pursuit of Jake Peavy and vastly underperform at the key moments that the Cubs always do.

Nothing breathes fresh-air into this fan base like our old windbag radio anouncer.

Throwing it around

There’s snow on the ground still. It’s Super Bowl week but the only good thing about that means that baseball is not far off on the horizon. We’re at the 70 day mark until Opening Day. It sounds like a lot, but 10 weeks goes quickly.

-More on Joe Torre’s book, including Carl Pavano, Steroids and how the Yankees do business. [NY Times Bats blog]
-Andy Pettite is close to signing a 1-year deal with the Yankees. [MLB Trade Rumors]
-An update on Ken Griffey Jr. [The Real Mccoy]
-Kirk Radomski took a piss test for Doc Gooden, he says. [24 Hours from Suicide]
-Read about the top 10 prospects in the Colorado Rockies organization. [Baseball America]
-There’s already projections out from a lot of sources about how many innings Joba Chamberlain will get in 2009. [Roto Authority]
-Dustin Pedroia’s brother got busted for child molestation. [The Sporting Blog]
-Kenny Rogers is leaning towards retirement. [SI Truth & Rumors]
-Torre is attacked; called a twin of Richard Nixon. [Deadspin]
-An early season preview for 2009. [The Hardball Times]

Torre slams A-Rod, Steinbrenner in new book

I don’t think Joe Torre ruined anything. How could he possibly ruin it by telling the truth? Sure, Torre may have violated some of the ‘one of the boys’ clauses that come with being part of a clubhouse in the big leagues, this is just confirmation of what many already believed went on behind closed doors.

We’re refferring to a weekend story, Joe Torre is set to come out with a book titled The Yankee Years. In that book Torre talks about Alex Rodriguez having a “single white female” obsession with Yankees captain Derek Jeter and how Yankee teammates called Rodriguez “A-Fraud”.

This book should be a good read. It’s co-written by one of the finest baseball writers in the country, Sports Illustrated’s Tom Verducci. It is a 477-page firsthand account of Torre’s time in New York and all that came with it. Bronx folk are going to look at the situation and feel that Torre sold them out for a lucrative book deal. Yankee fans aren’t going to be forthcoming in admitting if they enjoy the book or not. They’ll be concerned with how it will affect their current roster, as a fair amount of those guys played for Torre. We look at it as, the guy gave you 12 years of being a father figure to all those big babies in the Bronx. He doesn’t owe you a thing more. And to be honest, of what has leaked so far, it doesn’t sound like he is: a) lying; or b) telling us anything we didn’t assume already.

Despite who is currently wearing pinstripes, Yankee fans should side with Torre; or at least lighten the blow a little bit. He’s going to be a far more proud symbol of Yankee tradition in 25 years then Alex Rodriguez will be.

The McGwire brother isn't backing down

In case you haven’t heard, more excerpts from the new proposed Jay McGwire book deal are out. Of the noteworthy:

-We were living in Southern California, so it was an hour flight to go to Northern California. When I went to see Mark in the summer of 1987, his rookie season with the Oakland A’s, I hung around the clubhouse and met all the players, including Jose Canseco, who never did get the story straight about Mark. That’s just part of what I’m here to tell you. Jose was different than my brother, obviously. I thought he was funny. He always had something to say about everything. Jose’s the kind of guy who dresses in the nice clothes. Mark dressed in jeans and plain button-down shirts—simple, conservative. Jose’s a more flamboyant guy with an outgoing personality. I never had a problem with him, but I know Mark never really cared for him that much or hung out with him. I think a natural rivalry, complete with jealousy on both sides, existed. Given their ages and talents, it was inevitable. Neither knew at the time which one of them would be the best of the Bash Brothers.

-Steroids promote muscle growth and healing, just what Mark needed. So I began selling the idea to Mark that steroids would boost his career. Major League Baseball did not have testing back then, and using the right combination of drugs would add muscle and aid his recovery power from the many dings and bruises of being a professional athlete. Clearly the use of steroids would allow him to avoid the injuries while adding the right amount of strength. I went to him and I said, “Mark, you have to do something about this.” I wasn’t thinking about altering baseball history; I only wanted to help my brother. I told him, “Mark, it’s no problem to get the stuff. All you need is some cash and I’ll get it for you.” He definitely wanted to look into it.

-However, Mark did gain the confidence you get from using steroids. There’s an invincibility factor that comes into play—nobody talks about that; they just talk about the physical results. But let me tell you: when you’re using, you feel indestructible, which is a great attitude to have when you step into a batter’s box and prepare to look at 90 mph fastballs. Steroids did that for Mark. When you get stronger and you put on muscle, you feel good about yourself. You feel good physically and emotionally. That applied to Mark’s swing. He literally grew into his status as a home run hero, which I don’t think would have happened had he not gained that confidence.

It’s becoming more clear that the guy is telling the truth. It’s also becoming clear that McGwire isn’t going to come out and refute any of this. McGwire seems happy just to sit back in the shadows and allow people to think what they want.

ESPN’s Around the Horn said something that made us think a bit: no one has even seen McGwire in years. No one knows what he looks like anymore. Odd to think about a guy who was baseball’s symbol a decade ago now isn’t even heard from or seen at all. What someone could make for an interview with this guy (if they could pull it off) could be very lucrative. We wish we were McGwire’s neighbor right about now. It would be like winning the lotto. If we could get him to talk.

Baseball America breaks down Cincinnati's farm system

Baseball America has their 2009 write up on the Reds prospects available. There is some very wholesome stuff here. At the same time I crack up that the publication goes and predicts a ‘2012’ lineup. I can assure yout that Francisco Cordero, Aaron Harang, and Bronson Arroyo won’t be here in 2012. Two out of those three guys might be gone by the deadline this year if the Reds are as poor as I think they’re going to be. Last year for instance, Baseball America had Josh Hamilton and Jay Bruce playing together in the Reds 2011 lineup. Never happened. Thanks for subjecting our mind to the tease, though.

Baseball America always does their homework though. If they say a guy will hit for average in the big leagues they usually do. If they say a guy has a glove he usually does. You have to put some stock into what they say. The bottom line though is that with any of these guys; as it was with Adam Dunn, Austin Kearns, Chris Gruler, Homer Bailey, and any other guy tapped the top gun in the Reds’ farm system, is that its a crapshoot at best.

Seems like the only farm system where anything ever holds up is the Marlins and the Rays (of late). I don’t look for Drew Stubbs or Chris Valaika to become anything substantial. I don’t think Joey Votto will ever be a good fit for left field based on his glove, ability, or the numbers he puts up. I do think Yonder Alonso will be a good enough player to make him expendable though. I think the best player of all those listed is a guy who Baseball America doesn’t even list as having a best tool, Todd Frazier. Baseball America believes that Frazier will made Edwin Encarnacion an afterthought.

So we’ll file this away and look back on it in 5 or so years and see how Baseball America did.

The 70’s Mariners were beyond hideous

Before Ken Griffey Jr., Jay Buhner, Edgar Martinez, Tino Martinez, Omar Vizquel, Randy Johnson, Alex Rodriguez, and a swarm of other talented players filled the Kingdome there was this group of brutals. And the song actually talks about a lot of them being cast offs. This is great. There’s not a much better way to finish up hideous ballplayer week then with a video about the 1970s Mariners teams.

*Hat tip to Torgo Jr. for the find. Great work.

Throwing it around

It’s a cold thursday. We’re going to see The Wrestler this weekend. We’re very excited about it. WWE Royal Rumble is on sunday. Sports really dry up this time of year. There is absolutely nothing to bridge the gap unless you like golf or NCAA/NBA basketball. And we still haven’t made it through February.

-Prince Fielder and the Brewers are working on a 2-year contract. [SI Hot Stove]
-The best outfield arms of 2008. [The Hardball Times]
-John Franco approves of the new bullpen of the Mets. [NY Daily News]
-Even with those big contracts off the books, the Reds are at their payroll limit. [MLB Trade Rumors]
-Keith Law ranks the top prospects by organization. [ESPN]
-Albert Pujols will be a free agent again before you know it. [Y! Sports Big League Stew]

Look to yesterday when the Tribe was mighty

Grady Sizemore, Budweiser tall boy in hand, celebrates winning the 2007 American League Central. And the Indians are going to win that division again this season. They’re not overly impressive on paper, but they’re sure to get those most out of the guys they do have. Mark Shapiro rarely makes a bad signing of a guy who doesn’t contribute in a positive way. And plus they still have Victor Martinez and of course this guy.

Look for the Tribe to get Ohio back in postseason baseball in 2009.

At least Juan Bell sounded like he could play the game

Next up of futility fame is Juan Bell. Juan broke into the big leagues with the Baltimore Orioles as a 21 year old middle infielder. And we honestly challenge you to find a worse hitter over the course of his big league career. This guy was absolutely abysmal to the plate to the tune of a career .212 batting average.

Bell just never got out of the quick sand that was his professional career. His best year came for those absolutely sick 1994 Montreal Expos, when he hit an actual .278 in 38 games. He also made stops in Philly, Milwaukee, and Boston. By the time he finished his career they were sticking him in the outfield because it was clear he would never field well enough to play shortstop or second base.

He was teammates with Robin Yount, Larry Walker, Pedro Martinez, Mel Rojas, Jose Mesa and Danny Jackson.

Juan Bell career statistics. [Baseball Reference]

You could take Al Martin off the Pirates, but you couldn't take the Pirate off Al Martin

Today we start off with Al Martin. Once again, a guy who was not terrible. A player who we even enjoyed and wished that would have ended up making a stop in Cincinnati. But a guy who was guilty of some hideous acts.

Martin claimed to have played football at University of Southern California. In 2001, he compared a collision with Seattle teammate Carlos Guillén to the time he tried to tackle Michigan running back Leroy Hoard in 1986, when he was playing strong safety at Southern California. In actuality, USC and Michigan did not meet that year, and Martin was an outfielder in the Atlanta Braves’ system at the time. Furthermore, USC has no record that Martin ever attended the university.

Sounds like something a mischevious child would do, Al. The next act just qualifies as odd, not so much hideous. It’s pretty humorous. Makes you think about a time when baseball didn’t have real problems for people to complain about:

In a September 1996 game against the Chicago Cubs, Al Martin spit out a large wad of sunflower seeds immediately after hitting a home run, prompting complaints from several viewers that Martin intentionally vomited on the field.

Oh no! He intentionally vomited on the field! Lock up your women and children!

Lastly, Martin was guilty of bigamy. The guy had more then one wife. When he finally got caught red-handed, he admitted that he did not know a drive-thru chapel ceremony in Las Vegas was legally binding. That’s just classic. Spoken like a true male pig (my girlfriend would say).

His best years were with the most hideous organization in baseball, the Pittsburgh Pirates. In 1996 he hit .300 and scored 101 runs on a Pirates team that featured the likes of Jermaine Allensworth, Charlie Hayes, and Orlando Merced. He had a section in the outfield roped off for his fans called “Al’s Army”. He never blossomed into the next Ken Griffey Jr. like we thought he would. He finished as a journeyman. And screw the baseball Gods for letting us be wrong about Al Martin.

Al Martin lifetime statistics. [Baseball Reference]