Sports Outside the Beltway

Stephen Strasburg Impresses In Major League Debut

4684450947_131b1bb9f9If you live in the Washington, D.C. area, then you’ve been part of the hype about the Washington Nationals latest new phenom Stephen Strasburg, which started long before he’d ever thrown a single pitch in a Major League game. Last night, we learned that the hype may just have been justified:

WASHINGTON — For all the hype and expectations, projected debut dates guessed and re-guessed, every word and soundbite, millions though they were, one typically critical detail of a starting pitcher’s pregame routine was absent Tuesday night.

Nationals rookie Stephen Strasburg never looked at a scouting report of his opponent.

“I was just trusting everything he called,” Strasburg said after the game, referring to his future Hall of Fame catcher, Ivan Rodriguez.

Strasburg said it so earnestly that maybe he didn’t understand the magnitude of what he had just accomplished. Hailed as the savior of baseball in D.C., the No. 1 overall pick of the 2009 draft, whom some scouts described as the greatest pitching prospect of all time, had somehow managed to match or even exceed the exorbitant expectations placed upon him by striking out a Nationals-record 14 batters in seven innings of no-walk, two-run ball in a 5-2 win over the Pirates.  He interspersed 100 mph fastballs between curveballs and changeups that plummeted to the earth as if gravity’s pull suddenly grew stronger just before home plate.

“I can’t really put it into words any better than you saw,” said manager Jim Riggleman. “It was just a great night for baseball in Washington.”

As commentator George Will, a Nationals season-ticket holder who was among the sellout crowd of 40,315, once wrote, “Sports serve society by providing vivid examples of excellence.

Only time will tell if Strasburg becomes a truly great pitcher, or whether he burns out after a few seasons. So far, though, he’s doing well.


Former Pittsburgh Pirate IF Pete Castiglione dead at 89

He also played for the St. Louis Cardinals and served in the United States Navy during World War II. RIP.

Peter P. Castiglione was born on February 13, 1921 in Greenwich, Connecticut. A high school baseball star he signed with the Pittsburgh Pirates’ organization in 1940 and played for the Carthage Pirates of the Class D Arkansas-Missouri League. Castiglione


Castiglione returned to home in January 1946 and played for the Selma Cloverleafs of the Class B Southeastern League that year. Following a strong season in which he batted .342 with 81 RBIs, he moved up to the Indianapolis Indians of the Class AAA American Association for 1947, and was called up by the Pirates in September.

Castiglione made his major league debut on September 10, 1947. He appeared in 13 games and hit .250. He was back with Indianapolis for 1948, but after another strong year in which he batted .308 with 88 RBIs, he secured his place with the Pirates.

Castiglione spent the next four-and-a-half years in Pittsburgh as a utility infielder. His best season was 1951, when he played 132 games and batted .261 with 42 RBIs.

At 32, he was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals in June 1953, where he ended his major league career the following year. Castiglione continued to play in the minors until 1958 with Toronto, Buffalo, Binghamton and Little Rock.

Pete Castiglione moved to Pompano Beach, Florida, where he became a letter carrier for the Postal Service. He always kept active in the sports community, refereeing and umpiring. He also acted as a scout for the Pirates, and wrote a column for the Pompano Town News. In 1967 he coached the Cardinal Gibbons High School baseball team to a fifth place finish in the state. He also coached the American Legion team.

Pete Castiglione passed away in Pompano Beach on April 22, 2010. He was 89.


MLB Outfielder Brian Giles retires

This is strange. For the second straight day, a member of a Star Tournament team that I came in 2nd with in 2001, has retired. First Nomar Garciaparra, now Giles. Giles was also a member of a winning tournament team of mine. Actually his two-run 8th inning triple won me Game 7 in that event.

Star Tournament sentimentality aside, Giles was a very good left fielder for over a decade. Just under 1,900 career hits and 300 homeruns. Good luck in retirement Brian.

The battle for the Dodgers’ left-handed pinch-hitting spot was reduced to two players on Thursday after non-roster outfielder Brian Giles, a 15-year veteran and two-time All-Star, retired from baseball.Brian Giles

Giles was with the Padres last season but has not played since June 18. He came to Dodgers camp with doubts as to how the knee would respond, and said the day he reported he would know what he was capable of fairly quickly.

“We went into this with our eyes open to what the challenges were going to be and how difficult it was going to be [for Giles],” Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti said Thursday. “My only regret is that he won’t have a chance to play here. Most of the last 14 years, I’ve watched him do damage to whatever team I was with at the time.”

Giles appeared in two Cactus League games for Los Angeles this spring, both as a designated hitter, going 0-for-4 with a walk.

“The way it felt during the two-week period since I got here, the little bit of testing I did on it, it wasn’t up to my expectations, the way I expect to compete and the things I need to do,” Giles said. “I thought about it last night, talked about it with Ned and my agent. There are no regrets. Obviously, I want to play and feel that I can play but I’m physically not able to do what I expect myself to do.”

After grounding into a force play in the sixth inning Wednesday against Arizona, Giles was lifted for a pinch hitter and jogged off the field, apparently his final act as a major league player.

Giles, a two-time All-Star, is a career .291 hitter with 287 home runs and 1,078 RBI in 1,847 games.


Former MLB Infielder and Manager George Strickland dead at 84

Strickland was mostly a utility infielder who backed up Bobby Avila, Al Rosen, and Chris Carrasquel for the Cleveland Indians. After his playing days were over he was a coach for Cleveland who had brief stints as the team’s manager in 1964 and 66. Before his career in Cleveland, he played for the Pittsburgh Pirates. He also coached in the major leagues for the Minnesota Twins and Kansas City Royals. RIP.

George Strickland, the slick-fielding shortstop for the Indians in their historic 1954 season and a two-time interim manager for the team, died on Sunday at 84.George Strickland

The Indians acquired Strickland in a trade with the Pittsburgh Pirates on Aug. 18, 1952. Playing in an era when the value of middle infielders was determined by their fielding and not their hitting, Strickland batted .233 with 22 home runs and 213 runs batted in for the Indians before he was released on Aug. 3, 1960.

For much of his time with the Indians, Strickland’s glove ably backed the Indians’ famed “Big Four” starting pitchers: Hall of Famers Bob Feller, Bob Lemon and Early Wynn, and all-star Mike Garcia.

Strickland played 112 games, batting .213 with six homers and 37 RBI, in 1954, when Cleveland set what was then an American League record for wins, finishing 111-43 before being swept in the World Series by the New York Giants.

Strickland was an Indians coach from 1963-69, usually stationed at third base. His first stint as Cleveland’s interim manager began on April 2, 1964, one day after manager Birdie Tebbetts suffered a heart attack, and days before the start of the season. The Indians went 33-39 with Strickland at the helm, before Tebbetts returned on July 5.

Cleveland began the 1966 season 27-10, but had slumped to a 66-57 record when Tebbetts was dismissed as the manager on Aug. 19. Strickland took over, and Cleveland went 15-24 the rest of the way to finish 81-81. Strickland went back to his duties as the third base coach when Joe Adcock was hired as the manager.


Former MLB Pitcher Jim Bibby dead at 65

I remember Bibby quite well. He was a good MLB pitcher who went 111-101 in a 13-year career. He was most remembered for his time in Texas and Pittsburgh but played for St. Louis and Cleveland also. Here’s something you probably won’t hear in reports on his death.Jim Bibby

He was originally in the New York Mets organization. A poor man’s black version of Nolan Ryan. Hard throwing righty with arm and control issues. The Mets gave up on Bibby at the same time they did the same with Ryan. Ryan went to California for Jim Fregosi and Bibby went to St. Louis for among other others Jim Beachump and Harry Parker. A pinch hitter and long reliever respectively on the 1973 pennant winning Mets but hardly compensation for a pitcher who went on to win 111 games. The Mets made a lot of bad trades and this is one of them though it was lesser known than others.

Thanks for memories Jim Bibby. RIP.

Community Funeral Home in Lynchburg said Wednesday that Bibby died Tuesday night at Lynchburg General Hospital. The cause was not disclosed. The family asked for privacy but said a statement would be released later.

Bibby played 12 years in the majors and pitched the first no-hitter in Texas Rangers history, beating Oakland 6-0 in 1973.

He was a member of the Pittsburgh team that won the 1979 World Series, starting two games against Baltimore — including the deciding seventh game.


Former MLB Manager Bobby Bragan dead at 92

He made his Major League debut with the Philadelphia Phillies where the recently deceased Stan Benjamin was also a player. Later on Bragan would manage three franchises, and be the first skipper of the Atlanta Braves after the team moved from Milwaukee. RIP.

FORT WORTH, Texas — Bobby Bragan, who earned the nickname “Mr. Baseball” and was dedicated to seeing baseball blossom in Fort Worth, died at his Fort Worth home on Thursday night. He was 92.Bobby Bragan

“We are dealing with the loss of one of the great ones,” former Rangers manager Bobby Valentine told “He was a true renaissance man. He was amazing, so incredibly special. He had such great knowledge of baseball, such retention. He could talk baseball on one hand, recite poetry on the other. There was no one else quite like him.”

Bragan, a native of Birmingham, Ala., arrived in Fort Worth in 1948 as a player and manager after parts of seven seasons in the majors, ending up with the Brooklyn Dodgers. He was a backup catcher for the Dodgers before spending two years in the military. He returned for the 1947 season. The Dodgers went on to lose the World Series that year to the New York Yankees, and Bragan had a pinch-hit double in his only World Series plate appearance.

The next season he was in Fort Worth helping the Cats become a winner. He stayed through the 1952 season and his teams won regular season titles in 1948 and 1949, never finishing below .500 during his tenure.

Bragan went on to manage in the majors for Pittsburgh (1956-57), Cleveland (1958), Milwaukee (1963-65) and Atlanta (1966). Bragan was the first manager of the Braves after they moved from Milwaukee to Atlanta. He managed Hall of Famers Hank Aaron, Eddie Mathews, Bill Mazeroski, Roberto Clemente, Bob Lemon and Warren Spahn, compiling a 443-478 career record.

Bragan also was a major league coach for the Los Angeles Dodgers and Houston Colt .45s. His minor league managerial stops also included the Hollywood Stars of the Pacific Coast League.


Washington signs reliever Matt Capps

Because the one thing a team that lost over 100 games the season before needs is a ace reliever to turn things around. From ESPN-

The Washington Nationals have signed Matt Capps to a one-year contract to be their closer for 2010, his agent said late Wednesday.

The deal is for $3.5 million for 2010, with a chance to make another $425,000 in performance bonuses. The performance incentives kick in at 40-65 games finished.

The deal went down to the end between the Chicago Cubs, New York Mets and Washington, Capps’ agent, Paul Kinzer, said. The Mets were a late entry into the Capps pursuit, offering a similar contract to what Capps signed for with Washington.

The only previous MLB team Capps has played for is Pittsburgh. He has plenty of experience pitching for a bad baseball team.

Capps who saved 66 games and been a good reliever from 2006-08, had a sore arm for much of 2009. A one year contract is a small gamble. I just don’t see the Nationals turning around any time soon.


Kansas City sign C Jason Kendall

The Royals two main catchers for 2009 are not returning for 2010. From AP-

Jason Kendall agreed Friday to a $6 million, two-year contract with the Kansas City Royals and is expected to become their everyday catcher.

Kendall is a .290 hitter over his 14-year career. The 35-year-old was an All-Star in 1996, 1998 and 2000 but hit just .241 with two homers and 43 RBIs last season with the Milwaukee Brewers.

He has 376 career doubles, 177 stolen bases and a .369 on-base percentage in a career that has included stops in Pittsburgh, Oakland and with the Chicago Cubs. Kendall also has been hit by 248 pitches, fifth most all-time.

He gets $2.25 million next year and $3.75 million in 2011. He can earn an additional $250,000 each season in performance bonuses.

The Royals did not offer a contract to Miguel Olivo, who led the team last year with 23 home runs, and aren’t expected to re-sign backup catcher John Buck.

While the recently signed Ivan Rodriguez is twenty times more likely to be a future Hall of Famer, Jason Kendall has always been more my type of catcher. If you put aside Pudge’s arm, Kendall is better overall player. He gets on base, doesn’t hit into double plays, and the pitchers he has caught have posted better earned run averages than those working with Ivan. Kendall is certainly a very underrated player, but I have to admit he will never make the Hall of Fame. Ivan, barring some scandal, will make it when he becomes eligible.


Tampa Bay Rays trade 2B Akinori Iwamura to Pittsburgh

The trade saves the Rays from having to pay a $650,000 on Iwamura’s contract if they didn’t pick up his option.

The Pittsburgh Pirates have been plugging holes after trades for years, but filling the Freddy Sanchez void proved difficult.

On Tuesday, the team agreed to acquire second baseman Akinori Iwamura from the Tampa Bay Rays for reliever Jesse Chavez.


Iwamura was batting over .300 early last season for the Rays before sustaining partial tears of the anterior cruciate ligament and meniscus in his left knee. He returned in September and batted .290 for the season in 69 games. He was Tampa’s everyday second baseman when the Rays went to the World Series in 2008 and batted .274 with six homers, 48 RBIs and a .349 on-base percentage.


Chavez led Pittsburgh and all major league rookies with 73 appearances in 2009, going 1-4 with a 4.01 ERA in 67 1/3 innings. He was taken in the 42nd round in 2002 by Texas, and made his major league debut with the Pirates with 15 appearances in 2008.

The Rays think they have 2nd base plugged with Ben Zobrist. Maybe they do, but the team got shockingly little compensation for Iwamura. A run of the mill reliever was the best Tampa could do?


Pitcher Shawn Chacon arrested on gambling debt related charges

He spent all of 2009 pitching for a Oakland A’s farm team. From the Greeley Tribune-

Greeley police arrested former major league pitcher Shawn Chacon on Monday night on a felony warrant for suspected unpaid gambling debt in Las Vegas.

Police received an anonymous tip at 7:57 p.m. Monday that Chacon was at Highland Park Lanes, 1900 59th Ave. in Greeley, and that tip led to his arrest soon after, according to police reports.

Chacon was taken to the Weld County Jail, and bail was set at $165,125.

The arrest comes after Chacon was wanted in connection with three bad checks written to Caesars Palace in March, each for $50,000, according to the Las Vegas Sun.

Chacon was a standout athlete at Greeley Central High School before being drafted by the Colorado Rockies in the third round of the 1996 draft. He made the Major League All-Star team in 2003 before being traded to the New York Yankees in 2005. After his stint with the Yankees, Chacon went on to pitch for the Pittsburgh Pirates and Houston Astros.

The story of Shawn Chacon is a sad one. He was once a promising pitcher, now his career and personal life appear to be in ruins.


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