Stephen Strasburg’s crusade to quit dipping tobacco

Now time for a post about a ballplayer that isn’t hideous. But the act of what he’s trying to accomplish; at least in our experience, is very hideous.

Stephen Strasburg is attempting to kick his smokeless tobacco habit. This comes after hearing about the bout of gland cancer that Tony Gwynn is going through (with chewing tobacco being tabbed as the unofficial cause).

“I’m still in the process of quitting,” Strasburg, 22, said. “I’ve made a lot of strides, stopped being so compulsive with it. I’m hoping I’m going to be clean for spring training. It’s going to be hard, because it’s something that’s embedded in the game.”

If by ‘compulsive with it’–he means after a meal, while driving anywhere over 15 minutes, while on a baseball field, while playing video games, while watching sporting events, while on a golf course, at his desk at work, while in a movie theater, after drinking caffeine or coffee, first thing in the morning, before he brushes his teeth at night–then we know what he means.

Hey, we applaud Stras in his efforts here. As someone who has tried to quit several times–we know what a bear this can be. But is a year on the sidelines without even playing really the time to try and quit? You know, with all that extra free time on your hands and all? Okay, now we sound like addicts don’t we?

Good luck in your efforts in trying to leave Dipville forever Stras. You’ll probably be successful, so long as you aren’t hanging around Dunner too much.

Wayne Kirby, just a “guy”

Before all Hell broke loose in 1995 and the Indians started ripping balls in the gaps and out of the ballpark every night; Wayne Kirby was actually considered a future cornerstone back when the franchise had no hope in the early 90s.

Then they realized he was a poor man’s Kenny Lofton–who was better served as being the “pie guy” and a designated pinch-runner. Yes, the pie guy. The guy who after the game comes out and hits the star who is being interviewed with a pie. Kirby was that kind of factor.

A look at his Wikipedia page will give you a glimpse of how mediocre he actually was:

  • 516 games
  • 302 hits
  • 14 home runs
  • 119 RBIs
  • 44 stolen bases
  • .252 batting average

Also as a “fast facts” segment on the page states:

  • As a member of the Indians, Kirby appeared in the 1995 World Series against the Atlanta Braves.
  • Younger brother is former NFL running back Terry Kirby.

A quick note for his mom, wife, or sister than entered that first bit onto his Wiki page. He did in fact play in that 1995 World Series. But he went 0 for 1. That at-bat was a strike out. While I’m sure you guys will never forget it, it wasn’t quite one of the more significant moments of the series.

He played with guys like Dave Otto (baseball’s only pitching palindrome), every great Cleveland Indians player from those mid 90′s teams, Delino Deshields, Todd Hollandsworth and Paul Konerko.

And his career year that he’ll tell his grand-kids about was without a doubt 1993, when he went off and homered six times and drove in 60 runs, stole 17 bags in 22 attempts, and scored 71 runs collecting 123 hits.

Wayne Kirby ladies and gentleman. If you exclude Alvaro Espinoza and Jim Poole; maybe the most ordinary member of the powerful mid-90′s Cleveland Indians.

Leading us off on Hideous Ballplayer week: Dale Sveum

So we admit, the above picture was stolen from Gem Mint Ten, as was the factoid that was on the back of the card that we’re about to share with you. The following ‘Topps Fact’ (remember those as a kid?) comes to you exactly as it was printed on the back of this card.

Topps Fact: Dale was an All-Northern California High School Choice in ’82.

It’s true. This guy was one of the best high school ballplayers in the hotbed that is California in the year I was born. And we digress, California must have been ‘low on numbers that year’.

This guy, in short; is white dog shit. He is Dale Sveum.

As you might have deducted from that mustache, the 80′s were good to Dale Sveum. As a 23 year old, he hit 25 home runs and drove in 95 in his first full year in the big leagues. It was as if God had armed him with a thunder bolt instead of a bat. Except he hit only .252 for the season. I’m sure that most people still thought they had the next fucking Teddy Ballgame on their hands. That’s what they did back in the 80′s in cities like Milwaukee. Hey Brewers fans, how did Dale Sveum work out for you?

Okay, I’m getting ahead of myself. My first memory of Sveum actually comes from an 80′s baseball card as well. Remember how the old Donruss and Topps cards would list Name, Position on the front of the card? Well, Dale’s position was ‘Pinch Hitter’. I shit you not. If anyone out there can scan the card that I’m talking about and send it our way we will reward you handsomely. But I swear, his position was pinch hitter.

The only problem I spot with that is by that time (early 90′s), Sveum was well on his way to becoming a player that rolls out of bed and hits .197 (he did so twice), .177, .155, .185, .211, .242, and he even hulked up and hit .353 one year in 12 games.

Either the pinch hitter role has evolved, or this guy hung around the big leagues for 12 seasons disguised as a guy that knew how to hit. Maybe he had pictures of Gene Lamount in drag. That’s the only way he sneaks into 131 plate appearances with a team like the 1992 White Sox.

Why in the sweet fuck would you have a guy who was a perennial .180 hitter as your first gun on the bench? It’s pronounced “Swaim” by the way.

They had one thing right, he hit 9th primarily in the Brewers batting order in 1987 (90 times).

He was also the cousin of John Olerud. He played with the likes of Orlando Hernandez (El Duque), Todd Van Poppel, Curt Schilling, Frank Thomas, Derek Jeter, and Bill Haselman.

Help celebrate Hideous Baseball Week at Diamond Hoggers, submit to us a hideous ballplayer or baseball story of your liking to our Twitter or at Diamondhoggers_at_gmail_dot_com. We’ll do some research just to verify that the player is indeed hideous; and we’ll run the post telling you why said player or situation was hideous.

Gordon Beckham will like his spot in the White Sox lineup

We know our friends at The Golden Sombrero will be happy to hear this, but the Chicago Tribune is reporting/speculating that Gordon Beckham is going to like hitting 2nd in the Chicago White Sox lineup this upcoming season.

Gordon Beckham could have a huge season hitting second in the Chicago White Sox lineup, between Juan Pierre and Alex Rios, Adam Dunn, Paul Konerko, and Carlos Quentin. He really seemed to grow in the second half of 2010. …

A lot of sources like Beckham as a breakout candidate for 2011. And we’ve already said multiple times that the White Sox are going to have one of the scariest lineups in all of baseball. Beckham is a guy who could score over 100 runs in his sleep if he can just get on base at a decent clip. He’s also going to be one of the guys who is going to be asked to show his maturity and do the little things that an experienced and professional hitter is expected to do like work the count, move runners over and other things that don’t always show up in the box score.

You have to remember that Beckham broke into the big leagues as a third baseman but the move to second base allows him to have an even higher ceiling if he can still reach his projected big league potential. It also opens the door for a guy like Brent Morel (or Dayan Viciedo) to arrive on the scene and give the White Sox another power source in what already figures to be one of the most formidable lineups in baseball.

We’re excited to see what Beckham can do this season.

Edinson Volquez agrees to 1-year deal with Reds

We won’t tease you with the headline that “Volquez and Reds agree to deal”. This is because this is not anything special. In fact, it’s the opposite.

“We’ll see if they’re up for doing more later,” Jocketty said Sunday from a Reds Caravan stop in Lexington. “We tried to do a multiyear deal. They just wanted to concentrate on the one year now. [Volquez's agent] had a few cases and wanted to get the arbitration thing out of the way.”

John Fay adds the following:

The Reds tried to get a multiyear deal done, but Volquez wanted a one-year deal.

Now why do you think this is? Let us translate the situation for you. Volquez took the one year deal raise, but didn’t want a longer deal so that if he does jump off the page and pitch like an ace in 2011 he can command huge dollars.

Basically what this means is if Volquez becomes the pitcher the Reds expect him to be–he’s only under their control for this year and unless they pay him like an ace (less money for Joey Votto and other young players who will be due for a raise) they’re going to lose the guy they traded Josh Hamilton to acquire.

Volquez didn’t want to pidgeon-hole himself on the Reds longer than just this year so he can break the bank. At least, that’s what it appears.

For Bruce & the Reds, The Show Goes on in 2011

It’s funny because we’ve still got all of February to go before we can even mention Spring training. But sitting here on a Sunday reading articles about Jay Bruce donating the clinch ball to the Reds Hall of Fame Museum has be stoked and ready for summer like I’ve never been before in the month of January.

Bruce shares the same sentiment as we do about the 2011 season:

“Obviously, with the extension, I know where I’m going to be for the next six-to-seven years. But expectations wise, it’s the same. We’re trying to go out and have a better season next year. I’m trying to improve as a player in order to help my team win. We have a great thing going now. I’m really excited about it.”

Clearly this is a guy who really ‘gets it’. We’ve said it a hundred times, and we’re about to say it again. He understands what the game of baseball is truly about. How can you not want this guy to be the greatest player who ever wore a Reds uniform?

“It’s great to come and interact with the fans,” Bruce said. “Everybody at every stop, they’re the ones that really push what we do anyway. They’re the ones that drive this whole sport. Fans make it what it is.”

He’ll enter the 2011 season 24 years young with an already a decent resume created during his big league career gone by. But we hope in 2011–Jay Bruce and the Reds explode. It’s a big season in the fact that I expect the team to slip a little bit and this is largely expected to be the year for Jay Bruce to really arrive as a Superstar type player.

Just a few more months, and we’ll be spending Sundays like this watching the Reds win on getaway day and playing lots and lots of golf. We can hardly live long enough. Until the show goes on that is.

Citi Field will host the 2013 MLB All Star game

Big news tonight if you’ve been wondering where the 2013 All-Star game will be held–it’s going to be Citi Field. I’ve got a bone to pick with the selection committee.

Where the Hell is the Cincinnati All-Star game? They built the new park in 2003 and there’s nothing but shit in sight for my poor franchise. It’s going to be at least a decade plus out when we finally get our All-Star game. And let’s be honest–they’ll let the Yankees have another one and then the Phillies and then they’ll rebuild old Yankee Stadium so they can have it there again and blow Babe Ruth and the Yankee Clipper one more time and then they’ll probably have it overseas in the Netherlands before they remember that the Reds have a pretty sweet ass park.

And anywhere but Citi Field for shit sakes. It is the Devil! That’s where the Godfather got hurt you know. I’ll forever hate that place.

The Baseball Show: Hot Stove Moves, Top 50 Prospects List, Bryce Harpers collectability, etc.

Pardon my creativity. We talk about Frank Francisco for about 30 seconds on today’s edition of The Baseball Show joined by co-host Mike Rosenbaum of The Golden Sombrero; but I guess a picture really does say a thousand words in certain situations. Like certain situations when you’re a Major League bullpen pitcher and a fight (with fans) breaks out, calms down, and you decide to start tossing chairs into the spectators area. I had to get this onto the blog somehow and this was my lucky chance.

More relevant topics discussed on today’s show:

-Manny Ramirez and Johnny Damon to the Rays

-The Mike Napoli for Vernon Wells trade

-Thoughts on the Kansas City Royals system; Micah Owings back to the DBacks as a hitter/pitcher

-Thoughts on the recently released Top 50 Prospects list.

-Why do baseball fans love prospects?

- A look into the collector corner; Mike talks about the value of Stephen Strasburg & Bryce Harper rookies cards as well as other top prospect rookie cards.

Oakland A’s Unveil New Golden Threads

Yesterday at Oakland A’s media day (we bet that was a happening event), the A’s unveiled these new beauties for the 2011 season.

We’re traditionalists. We could do without any uniform changes, ever. Line these guys up in the same home whites and away greys each and every year and mix in the occasional alternate on five or so occasions each season to spice things up. But overall, stay away from anything drastic like this and be true to your brand.

So what do you think? Thumbs up or thumbs down on the A’s new digs?

DH Video Select: Cal Ripken’s 2131 Nike Commercial Tribute

This is hardly a new video but without a doubt a really cool commercial that we should all remember from back in the day of our youth when Cal was congratulated by Nike. Nike always has a way of doing cool commercial for their boys when the big moments come.

You figure something like this is coming when Derek Jeter notches 3,000 later this year. In contrast, Eddie Murray had as many Nike commercials about him as you and I did.

There are Still Concerns over Jason Heyward’s Thumb

Just yesterday we named Jason Heyward as one of the top things we were looking forward to seeing in the upcoming 2011 season.

Today an article of MLB.com says that there is some concern in regards to his thumb that was injured for a good part of last year.

Based on his own previous experience, former Braves manager Bobby Cox said Jason Heyward might spend an entire career battling the effects of the thumb injury he suffered in May.

It’s far too early to tell if that will be the case. But with the start of Spring Training three weeks away, the 21-year-old Braves outfielder still has not regained the same flexibility he had before he jammed his thumb during a headfirst slide on May 14.

“I don’t have any pain in it, but I still don’t have the full range of motion in it,” Heyward said. “I still can’t bend it anywhere close to where it was before. I don’t know if I ever will be able to do that. But I know it’s not holding me back from hitting.”

It makes you wonder. Last year there was some talk that while it was an injury it wouldn’t require surgery. Now there can be speculation that it did need surgery. And for a guy you want to see rolling out at the age of 21–you would rather hear that he’s feeling “as good as he’s ever felt”.

Just don’t become the next link in ‘the curse’, alright J-Hey?

Tell me, Tell me what you want

A lot of what is generated on this blog is based upon what we think we would like to hear if we were reading an all-purpose baseball blog. But we rely on our readers to tell us what they want to hear.

If you want to sit around and tell Adam Dunn stories, we can do that.

Otherwise–email us at Diamondhoggers_at_gmail_dot_com or tweet us up @diamondhoggers. Any suggestions, tips, or content comments are welcome!

We love feedback. And if we get enough we’ll do a mailbag section.

Reds finalize Johnny Cueto extension

The Reds locked up yet another young player long-term today, finalizing terms with pitchers Johnny Cueto on a $27 million dollar, 4-year contract.

Cueto gets $3.4 million this year, $5.4 million in 2012, $7.4 million in 2013 and $10 million in 2014. Cincinnati has a $10 million option for 2015 with an $800,000 buyout.

Cueto went 12-7 last season, establishing career highs in wins and innings. He led the staff with 138 strikeouts and made 18 quality starts. The bullpen blew six save chances behind him, the second-highest total for any pitcher in the majors. Cincinnati was shut out in three of his seven losses.

I like the move. I look at it in a couple different ways. If Johnny Cueto was a Red in the late 90′s or from 2000 to 2004ish, he would have been advertised as a front-line guy. He’s got stuff that allows him to be a #2 starter in his sleep and with a little more development he’s one of the guys you definitely consider having a chance hulking up and turning into that coveted #1 guy the Reds really need.

I like his upside, make-up, and overall stuff better than I like Edinson Volquez. Volquez might have more pump to his fastball by a few MPH on nights, and he has the dubious distinction of being the man the Reds dealt Josh Hamilton to acquire; but on a day when you have to win a ballgame between the two I’m rolling with Cueto.

A lot of folks want to talk about this ‘average’ off-season the Reds have had. I’ll say this: they’ve done what they needed to do and what they should have done. They’ve locked up their young talent. The centerpiece of that being the true long-term deal they gave to Jay Bruce.

They followed with giving Joey Votto a good faith raise, and now Cueto is locked up to what the Reds became accustomed to calling a ‘long-term’ contract (it’s pretty good if you can get four years in Cincinnati. See Phillips, Brandon). There’s been whispers about the desire to give Edinson Volquez some financial security in the way of a new contract.

I lobbied for so long for them to do this. Take the blueprint of other teams who have had success, namely the 90′s Indians under John Hart. They’re giving themselves a window to compete. Now you’ve got the 24-year old Cueto along with Bruce, Votto, Volquez (presumably), and Aroldis Chapman all under contract within that window.

This is when they’re going to go after it. They can add pieces if they’re close, and I expect them to subtract and re-sculpt a little bit if they fall out of things. I would hate it but I wouldn’t be shocked if Brandon Phillips’ future in Cincinnati is hinged on how well the Reds perform over the first 5/8′s of next season. But that’s what I believe.

I applaud Bob Castellini for shelling out some money to try and make this team a winner though. Like someone else said, he’s never spent this kind of money on employees in the produce busienss. And it might not be this year–it might not even be next year. But over the window of time with these young guys along with the prospects the Reds have down in the farm system and what they will continue to acquire–they’re going to catch the Phillies in a down year. Or a year where they’ve gotten particularly ‘older’. And that’s when you’re going to be glad that this window was created.

Rocco Baldelli Retires from Baseball

Rocco Baldelli has dealt with a rare illness that has forced him to retire from the game of baseball at the age of just 29. We’ve followed this story through the years and always taken particular interest in it.

It seemed that Baldelli was on a meteoric rise to fame back in 2003 when he burst on teh scene and collected 40 hits in his first month in the big leagues. He was a hitting machine. I learned this as he became a late-season pick up for me in fantasy baseball that year. The guy seemed to get 3 ro 4 hits a night for a pretty good clip towards the end of that season. He was automatic.

Then the illness struck. A weird mitochondrial disorder that sounds like it’s got part of chronic fatigue, lyme disease, and parts of ALS mixed in it.

You look back on a talent like Rocco Baldelli and it’s really easy to wonder what might have been. You can only imagine how he feels. At the same time, Baldelli says that he’s ‘happy to retire’. When wondering how he might feel this way–while he’s faced with this illness he at least has his earned salary from his time in the big leagues to help him on his ways. If he were a normal person and not a pro athlete he would be a lot worse off.

He also showed many times in his career the ability to come back from adversity, launching comebacks like in the 2008 playoffs with the Boston Red Sox and a comeback this past season that saw him homer in his first at bat back from the minor leagues in his second stint with Tampa Bay.

Diamond Hoggers wishes Rocco Baldelli all the luck in the world in his future endeavors and we admire him for bravely playing the hand he was dealt with such a good attitude.