Because I’m Robbie Grossman and I’m Awesome

For all you wrestling fans out there, I thought I’d start this blog with my friend the Miz.  I think his catchpharse applys nicely to today’s topic:

Robbie Grossman is on pace for something historic this season.  No Minor League player has scored 100 runs and walked 100 times in the same season since 2004 when Nick Swisher did it for Triple-A Sacramento.  That’s six seasons without a player breaking both century marks.  Grossman will end the drought in 2011.

With 98 runs and 93 walks coming in to tonight’s game at Brevard County, Grossman could not only get to 100 runs, he could do it by the end of the month with two July games remaining.  The 98 runs he has already also happen to be a Pittsburgh Pirates Class A-Advanced record, tying Pat Magness’s stats from the 2005 season when the Pirates were affiliated with the Lynchburg Hillcats. 

Pat Magness

Pat Magness scored 98 times for the Lynchburg Hillcats in 2005

Let’s dig a little deeper for a moment.  Over the last six seasons several players have come very close to breaking the 100/100 plateau.  Connor Crumbliss (great name by the way) walked 126 times and scored 95 times for the Low-A Burlington Bees last season.  Seattle Mariners DH Jack Cust walked 143 times and scored 97 times in 2006 while at Triple-A Portland.  Cust neared the feat in 2005 as well as Magness, who finished with 141 walks and 98 runs.  Sure it’s impressive, but they all came down to the wire before falling short.  Grossman has more than five weeks left in the season to score two runs and walk seven times.  Sure, I guess it’s conceivable Grossman could draw one walk a week until the season ends and finish with 99, but considering he’s walked five times in the last three games, that’s doubtful.  Grossman is going to blow the lid off the accomplishment.

Only two Major League players hit the 100/100 mark last year.  They’re named Albert Pujols and Jose Bautista.  I hear they’ve both had marginal success.

Grossman has played 104 of the 106 games his team’s played this year.  Assuming he doesn’t miss another game he’ll walk 121 times and score 127 times.  By the way, he also leads the Florida State League in on base percentage.  Somehow he didn’t make the all-star team.

“He comes ready to play every day,” said Marauders hitting coach Ryan Long.  “Good attitude and ready to get after it every day.”

“I’ve always just gone out there and played the game,” said Grossman.  “I love the game of baseball.  Just go out there and have fun with it.”

What makes Grossman’s accomplishments really cool too is that he’s not just doing this on a whim.  Scoring 100 runs (I don’t know about the walks) has been his goal all season.  With five weeks left in the year he’s on the verge of hitting his mark.

“A lot comes along with that,” Long said.  “It helps with your approach.  You’ve got to get on base. You’ve gotta handle each at bat for what it is.”

And that’s exactly what Grossman has done, reaching base in what seems like every game this season.  His 37 straight game streak of safely reaching base earlier this season is still tops in the Florida State League.  He’s again running a high total reaching in 26 straight.

“You’ve got to get on base to score runs.  You’ve got to hit or walk or do something positive to get on base.  You’ve got to score runs to win baseball games.  Hitting leadoff that’s one of my main objectives to get on base and score runs.”

Robbie Grossman

Robbie Grossman is having an historic 2011 season

Grossman was a sixth round pick of the Pirates back in 2008, given more than a million in signing bonus money to forgoe a commitment to the University of Texas.  Since then he has run into some setbacks in his short career.  After striking out more than 160 times during his first full season he batted only .245 last year with the Marauders and a lot of outside sources began to doubt his eventual value to the big club.  Baseball America dropped him from a Top 10 prospect two years ago to prospect No. 25 in the organization in its rankings this year.  But then you stop for a second and realize that had he gone to college he’d have just been drafted and embarking on his pro career this season.  He’s 21 and killing the Florida State League.  If he keeps it up he could easily be in the Majors by 23.  Something tells me he’ll be back in the Top 10 in the magazine’s 2012 Prospect Handbook publication.

And as far as Marauders manager Carlos Garcia is concerned, Grossman sort of reminds him of one of his old Pirates teammates.  When he was drafted, many sources drew the Robbie Grossman-Lenny Dykstra comparison.  Garcia pointed to Andy Van Slyke.

I can see it now…”Where Have You Gone Robbie Grossman?”…A Pittsburgh Pirates fan blog.

P.S.  How lucky are Marauders fans in two seasons.  Last year they get Quincy Latimore becoming just the ninth Pirates farmhand to drive in 100 runs.  This year they get Grossman turning in one of the greatest minor league baseball seasons over the last several years.  Don’t you love hyperbole when it’s true.

Till next time



Agent 99? Missed it By That Much…Marauders Get Smart

Well the collective IQ of the Bradenton Marauders just shot through the roof today.  That’s not to say anything bad about any of the current Marauders, it just speaks volumes about the newest member of the team.  Ross Ohlendorf has officially been assigned to the Marauders on MLB rehab.  He’s been sidelined since April with an ailing shoulder.  If you’ve never read about the hurler here’s a little history on him.

How crazy is that story?  The guy writes his senior thesis on rate of return of the MLB draft.  Where is Bill James’ book on that?  I mean shouldn’t more people know about this 126-page masterpiece?  I feel like this is a study that should be more often referenced.  Like shouldn’t this guy be a GM of a team with this thinking?  Can you imagine the smack this guy can talk.  Hey (insert Player X), you know you’re rate of return was 30% below the league average.  You’re wasting your team’s money!  Why don’t you try to hit this next pitch, oh, sorry, just struck you out.”

I believe it was 2009 when the Sporting News came out with its list of the smartest athletes in sports.  After reading Tim Kurkjian’s article linked above, I’m not sure why Ohlendorf is only third on TSN’s rankings.  The only two athletes ahead of him are former Florida State football player Myron Rolle, a Rhode’s Scholar, and Oakland A’s reliever Craig Breslow, my cousin.  Now while being my cousin seems enough to put Breslow at the top of the list, he also graduated from Yale with a degree in molecular biophysics and scored an 34 on his MCAT’s.  I’m told by my medical friends that is good.  I’m told by statistics, it’s obscene.  On a side note, Craig also runs the Strike3Foundation.  You can check it out here.  But anyway, Ohlendorf checks in third.  Here’s his profile from the story:

• Age: 28
• On-field accomplishments: Was the only Pirates starter with a winning record (11-10 with a 3.92 ERA) in 2009, his first full major league season. On September 5, 2009, became the 40th pitcher to strike out three batters on nine pitches.
• Alma mater, major, GPA: Princeton, operations research and financial engineering, 3.8
• SAT score: 1520
• Off-field/intellectual interests: He worked as a volunteer intern in the U.S. Department of Agriculture last offseason. In addition to having worked on a cost-benefit analysis of a program that traces disease in livestock and its effect on farmers, he helps his father manage the family’s herd of longhorns near, of course, Austin, Texas. “Ranching,” he says, “is pretty much all I do in the offseason.”
• What I’m reading now: “The Nine Tailors, by Dorothy L. Sayers.”
• If I weren’t a professional athlete, I’d … “(Do) something in business or finance.”
• Nerdiest thing about me: “I read on the day I pitch.”
• Smartest teammate I’ve had: “Pirates outfielder Andrew McCutchen.”

I’d also like to point out that, among the top 20 smartest athletes, Brian Bannister checks in with a fine arts degree from USC, Georgia Tech center Sean Bedford took the SAT’s in 7th grade and got an 1100, and San Jose Sharks defender Sean Murray majored in hotel management at Cornell.  I have to imagine the last one went over well at parties.  “Nice to meet you, I’m Joanie, I’m majoring in molecular biophysical statistics and its relation to the calculus of the universe’s agriculture.  What about you? …”  I will say this, the guy probably runs the best damn hotel in the business.  They probably have free wifi and breakfast is included.  Isn’t that the worst, when breakfast isn’t included?  I feel like the more money the room is the less breakfast I get…and I have to pay for internet.  It just doesn’t make sense…sorry, that’s for another blog.

So Princeton.  Believe it or not, Princeton baseball has actually turned out its fair share of baseball players.  The school has three MLB players right now, which, believe it or not is more than my alma mater of Syracuse.  Granted, Syracuse has no baseball team, but still.  Mets pitcher Chris Young, Padres outfielder Will Venable and Ohlendorf are all Tigers.

Lets end on this note.  Above in the excerpt from The Sporting News, Ohlendorf says the nerdiest thing about him is that he reads on the day he pitches, which I guess is to say, “I read before I go to work.”  Just sit back and process the fact that reading before work is today considered nerdy.  While you do that I’m going to go play Nintendo.

Till next time,


I Love Rehabers…So Put Another Dime in the Jukebox Baby?

Pedro Alvarez sporting the Independence Weekend uniforms

Having Major League rehabbers in town means one thing: awesome postgame spreads.  Well alright, it usually means some other things too, like a ringer in the middle of the lineup, some added expertise around the clubhouse and reunions of old friends.  And it also means killer postgame spreads…the rehabbers usually buy for the younger guys.  I guess it’s kind of like a rite of passage – ‘you don’t get to leave until you buy us food’ – or it’s just guys who have made it being nice to their hosts.  Yeah, it’s probably the latter.

The Marauders have actually faired very nicely with Major League rehab assignments over the last year and a half.  Pedro Alvarez is in town right now.  Chris Snyder launched his candidacy for the Republican nomination for President, I mean Florida State League MVP (sorry, it’s that time of year) back in April.  Joel Hanrahan has also shown his face.  Steve Pearce, Jose Ascanio and Joe Beimel have been around as well.  Heck, even minor league rehab guys like Donnie Veal and Brian Friday have played well with Bradenton.  They’ve also seen their fair share of opponent rehabs, facing the veritable pantheon of Joe Mauer, Hanley Ramirez, Chase Utley, Kevin Slowey, Angel Pagan, Grant Balfour, Antonio Bastardo and so on.

On a side note, Derek Jeter (in the most highly anticipated rehab start of all-time…seriously has any semi-mildly injured player made more news in one week than Derek Jeter?) is playing against the Altoona Curve on rehab this weekend.  Much of the Curve roster is made up of former Marauders.

Anyway, back to the Marauders.  Having big leaguers around is fun for a couple of reasons.

1 – Food.  We’ve discussed this.

2 – They’re really, really good.  When you watch Pedro Alvarez take batting practice it’s just amazing.  Almost every ball is impacted with incredible force.  He drives stuff all over the field and most of the time it’s just brutalized.  I turned to pitching coach Mike Steele yesterday and asked how it’s possible for him to make such incredible contact every time.  The answer was simple: “He’s really talented.”  It’s fun most of all though to watch reactions, especially Jarek Cunningham.  Usually a character around the cage, Cunny’s jaw dropped every so often.  His regular screams of astonishment at other teammate’s hits just turned into silent stares for Alvarez.  UPDATE:  Cunningham was yelling sarcastic WOW’s again on Saturday.

Pedro alvarez has played all week on rehab for a quad injury

3 – They’re really, really good (Part II).  Sometimes rehab appearances aren’t statistically stellar.  Guys aren’t necessarily here to get outs or hit homers.  They’re here to test their elbow, or leg, or arm, or oblique.  They want to see live pitching again after having been on the side for an extended period of time.  Sure they may strike out or give up some runs, but for the most part, their goal is the be healthy.  So enter Alvarez and Joe Beimel, who started Friday on rehab.  Beimel’s stated goal was just to throw strikes.  He told me pregame strikes would make him happy.  It just so happen he threw a lot of them.  In one inning Beimel K’d two batters and none of the three to face him had a chance.  It was like a carnival game.  “Step right up and see the bearded lady!  This man will guess your weight exactly!  Three tickets to try to hit of the Major League pitcher!”  I remember back in the spring when Beimel was on his first rehab stint.  Phil Irwin called what Beimel threw “Invisiballs.”  That makes the whole see-ball-hit-ball mantra kind of difficult.  So yeah, even when all the guy wants to do it throw strikes, he still is pretty awesome.

4 – They’re really, really good (Part III).  I’ve never seen anybody take strikes in batting practice.  Well, check that.  I’ve only ever seen one person take strikes in batting practice.  Pedro Alvarez has that good a plan at the plate and he executes it.  Elevys Gonzalez noted that when he joined us on the pregame show Wednesday.  They guy is just selective, but not in a bad way, because when he gets his pitch he doesn’t miss it.  

5 – They’re fun.  You might think that Big Leaguers would, well be ‘Big League’ – that maybe they would just sit off in the corner and not want to be bothered.  It’s quite the contrary actually.  Alvarez has been just one of the guys.  His first day in town was a rainy Tuesday.  While the guys stood around in the clubhouse and waited out the pregame rain, Alvarez was right there with them tossing around a football.  At batting practice on Saturday he was the life of the party in group two, chiding Jarek Cunningham about hitting homeruns to the opposite field.  (The joke is that Jarek likes to pull the ball.  Pedro had hit an opposite field homerun on Friday and wanted Cunningham to follow suit in BP).  Cunningham didn’t go to the opposite field and then, when challenged back by Cunningham, neither did Pedro.  He did, though, launch a ball off the batter’s eye in center.  That will do I guess.

6 – The off the field stories.  If you’re a frequent listener to our broadcasts you might remember when Steve Pearce was in town rehabbing.  It was then that we discovered he and Quincy Latimore were bowling partners.  I know, right?  Then in Jupiter the Marauders played against a rehabbing Hanley Ramirez.  It was then we learned that Ramirez and Marauders catcher Carlos Paulino go way back.  It turns out Pauly and Hanley played, at different times, for the same manager in winter ball back home in the Dominican.  Through that connection Ramirez took Paulino under his wing as a younger Marlins farmhand (Carlos was acquired in a trade by the Pirates this year).  Before Paulino had an agent, it was Ramirez that supplied him with any needed equipment.  The Bradenton catcher recalled one time when Ramirez sent him 20 bats.  Paulino, only needing five, sent the rest back home to people in the DR.

Well with Pedro Alvarez in town he again unearthed a neat offbeat storyline.  See both Cunningham and Alvarez were in the Pirates 2008 draft class.  That means they turned pro together, went through their first instructional league together and have been linked a bit by that experience.  Turns out the two have a similar sense of fashion and have been shopping buddies in the past.  I figured I might be able to find the duo at Hollister, A+E, Abercrombie, etc, but Cunningham actually says Nordstrom is the regular haunt.  Really?  I was actually leaning toward Lord and Taylor.

With Alvarez’s assignment likely nearing a close in the close future, things will soon return to normal on the Marauders roster.  But with guys like Evan Meek and Ross Ohlendorf, Ryan Doumint etc still on the mend for the Pittsburgh Pirates, who knows what added flavor the Marauders future may hold.

Till next time…