Sunday Notes: Dylan Cease and Jason Benetti Have Discussed Art Museums

Dylan Cease was one of my interview targets when the San Diego Padres visited Fenway Park last weekend, and as part of my preparation I looked back at what I’d previously written about him here at FanGraphs. What I found were three articles partially derived from conversations I had with the right-hander when he was in the Chicago White Sox organization. One, from 2020, was on how he was trying to remove unwanted cut from his fastball. A second, from 2019, was on how he’d learned and developed his curveball. The third, from 2018, included Cease’s citing “body awareness and putting your hand and arm in the right spot” as keys to his executing pitches consistently.

And then there was something from November 2017 that didn’t include quotes from the hurler himself. Rather, it featured plaudits for his performances down on the farm. In a piece titled Broadcaster’s View: Who Were the Top Players in the Midwest League, Cease was mentioned several times. Chris Vosters, who was then calling games for the Great Lakes Loons and more recently was the voice of the NHL’s Chicago Blackhawks, described a high-90s fastball, a quality curveball, and an ability to mix his pitches well. Jesse Goldberg-Strassler (Lansing Lugnuts) and Dan Hasty (West Michigan Whitecaps) were others impressed by the then-promising prospect’s potential.

With that article in mind, I went off the beaten path and asked Cease about something that flies well under the radar of most fans: What is the relationship between players and broadcasters, particularly in the minor leagues?

“Obviously, the minors is a much more low-key scenario,” Cease replied. “It’s not the big stage, so it’s more homey. It’s not that the guys up here don’t feel like they’re part of the team — they do — but in the minor leagues it’s closer-knit. You might have 2,000 fans, so it’s more of a shared experience between you and [the broadcasters] whereas in the big leagues you might have a million people watching and listening. That’s more like a shared experience with everybody.”

Which doesn’t mean there isn’t a certain amount of bonding at baseball’s highest level. Big-league broadcasters might not have the same array of interactions with players as their multi-tasking minor-league brethren, but friendships are nonetheless formed.

“I was fortunate in Chicago,” said Cease. “I think Jason Benetti is one of the best in the game. I got to be around him for a couple years and it was cool to build a relationship with him. Of course, the guys here in San Diego are obviously great as well. There is a reason why fans like them, and we like them for much the same reasons. They have certain personality traits or are just likable guys.”

My asking what types of conversations he had with the now-TV voice of the Detroit Tigers segued into yet another off-the-beaten-path topic.

“A lot of non-baseball stuff, honestly,” said Cease. “Jason knows that I like art, so we would talk about art museums in certain cities, or maybe what I was working on (Cease has been painting, primarily with acrylics, in recent years). Things like that. He always showed interest in me outside of baseball, which was cool.”

Cease visits museums when he travels to various cities. New York’s Museum of Modern Art and Kansas City’s Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art are among his favorites So too is the Art Institute of Chicago, which he has visited with former teammate Lucas Giolito. Cease enjoys a variety of genres, and as is the case for most museum-goers, his appreciation for individual works and artists tends to be visceral.

“I’m not into French Impressionism as much as, say, modern abstract,” explained Cease. “That’s one that I like, but I wouldn’t say I’m pigeonholed into one genre. I’ll see something and be, ‘Man, I really like that,’ or maybe it’s, ‘I think that’s a little overrated.’ I guess that’s just like any of us when it comes to art.”

Abstract-art luminaries that Cease respects but wouldn’t rank among his favorites include Pablo Picasso, Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko. As for artists who especially resonate with him, he listed a half dozen.

“I like [Joan] Miró a lot,” said Cease. “I like [Jean-Michel) Basquiat and [Vincent] Van Gogh a lot. I really like [Wassily] Kandinsky. I like some of [René] Magritte’s stuff. Gustaf Klimt is great, I mean, there is a wide variety that I like, and again, in different genres. There is a lot of great art out there to enjoy.”

———

RANDOM HITTER-PITCHER MATCHUPS

Jim Bottomley went 13 for 21 against Mule Watson.

Bob Watson went 10 for 22 against Bill Hands.

Bob Horner went 9 for 14 against Rollie Fingers.

Johnny Temple went 12 for 23 against Paul LaPalme.

Mel Ott went 13 for 26 against Ed Head.

———

Bob Scanlan made 290 pitching appearances and threw 536-and-two-thirds innings over nine MLB seasons. He knows what it takes to set down professional hitters, a perspective he now shares as a pre- and post-game host and occasional in-game analyst for the San Diego Padres.

Chatting with Scanlan prior to a recent game, I learned that the hurler-turned-broadcaster’s attack plan included throwing what the batter was expecting to get.

“As a pitcher, there are times where you know that the hitter knows what you’re going to throw,” explained Scanlan. “He knows the pitch you’re going to throw, and he probably knows the location you’re going to try to get it to. In many cases, that’s absolutely fine, because you know that he knows what you’re going to throw.

“What I would do is throw what he was expecting, but in a little bit worse spot than he was anticipating,” continued Scanlan, who toed the rubber for six different teams from 1991-2001. “Not every hitter falls into that trap, but there are plenty of hitters that do. They see the ball coming out of your hand and gosh darn it, they guessed right. So, they go after the pitch. but it is actually six inches lower, or six inches further inside or outside than they expected. You can take advantage of their exuberance that way. Of course, there are times where you want to throw to different zones, or throw different pitches than they’re expecting, but if what you need is soft contact, that is one of the best ways to get it.”

Scanlan relied on soft contact throughout his career, largely by necessity. By his own admission, the 6-foot-7 right-hander wasn’t someone who could rear back and throw the ball by hitters. He averaged just 4.1 strikeouts per nine innings. Due in part to the approach he described, Scanlan “probably got more outs behind in the count than ahead in the count.”

I suggested to Scanlan that while the approach can be effective, missing an intended six-inches-worse spot can easily result in having to back up third base.

“Pretty much,” Scanlan replied with a laugh. “Or asking for a new ball from the umpire.”

———

A quiz:

Three left-handed pitchers have logged 3,000 or more strikeouts. Randy Johnson and Steve Carlton are two. Who is the third?

The answer can be found below.

———

NEWS NOTES

Sean Aronson will make his MLB broadcast debut when he fills in on the Minnesota Twins radio broadcast from July 8-14. Aronson has been the play-by-play voice of the Triple-A St. Paul Saints since 2007.

SABR’s Cleveland chapter will hold a virtual meeting this coming Wednesday, July 10, with Keith O’Brien and Jacob Pomrenke discussing gambling in baseball, past, present, and future. More information can be found here.

Jimmy Hurst, an outfielder whose MLB career comprised 13 games and 19 plate appearances for the Detroit Tigers in 1997, died earlier this week at age 52 (per Baseball Player Passings). The Tuscaloosa native spent close to two decades in professional ball, including a season in Japan and seven more in independent ball stateside. One of his three big-league hits was a home run off of David Wells.

——-

The answer to the quiz is CC Sabathia. The southpaw passed the 3,000 mark in 2019, his final MLB season.

———

A random obscure former player snapshot:

Arquimedez Pozo has one of the more unique names in baseball history. A Santo Domingo-born infielder whose career comprised 26 games — one for the Seattle Mariners in 1995, and 25 for the Boston Red Sox in 1996-1997 — Pozo had his most-memorable moment on July 28, 1996 when he hit a ninth-inning grand slam off of Minnesota’s “Everyday Eddie” Guardado. It was his lone home run, and one of just 14 hits he logged in a big-league uniform. Pozo also spent time in Japan and Korea, playing for the Yokohama BayStars in 1999 and for the Haitai Tigers in 2000.

———

Adley Rutschman is an obvious choice at catcher for the American League All-Star team. Who most deserves to join him on the squad? I asked that question in a Twitter poll earlier this week, with the options being Ryan Jeffers, Logan O’Hoppe, and Connor Wong. (I didn’t include David Fry, as the multi-position Cleveland Guardian had caught just 124 innings.)

Perez won the poll by a clear margin, garnering 55% of the votes, while O’Hoppe received 17.8%, Wong got 14%, and Jeffers got 13.2%. Here is a snapshot of their respective stats going into the weekend:

Jeffers: .237/.324/.483, 14 home runs, 128 wRC+, 1.9 WAR.
O’Hoppe: .280/.331/.476, 12 home runs, 126 wRC+, 1.7 WAR.
Wong: .323/.379/.591, seven home runs, 133 wRC+, 1.8 WAR.
Perez: .275/.344/.460, 14 home runs, 121 wRC+, 1.9 WAR.

In all likelihood, Perez will be getting an All-Star berth, and there may or may not be a third catcher. Jeffers, O’Hoppe, and Wong are every bit, if not more, deserving than the Kansas City Royals stalwart.

———

FOREIGN AFFAIRS

Greg Bird is slashing .321/.406/.602 with 18 home runs in 288 plate appearances for the Mexican League’s Charros de Jalisco. The 31-year-old erstwhile New York Yankees first baseman played for both the Frontier League’s Capitales de Québec and the Australian Baseball League’s Melbourne Aces in 2023.

Mexican League teams are batting a combined .286/.363/.445 this season, while the circuit’s pitchers have combined for a 5.28 ERA. Trevor Bauer is 10-0 with a 1.78 ERA and 117 strikeouts over 81 innings for Diablos Rojos del Mexico.

Natsuki Takeuchi threw eight scoreless innings on Thursday as the Seibu Lions outscored the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks 3-0. The 22-year-old rookie southpaw is 5-0 with a 1.11 ERA over his first nine NPB outings.

Kensuke Kondoh is slashing .340/.447/.571 with 13 home runs in 309 plate appearances for the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks. The 30-year-old outfielder has a .309/.417/.455 slash line since making his NPB debut in 2012. When I recently asked Toronto Blue Jays left-hander Yusei Kikuchi about the toughest hitters he faced in Japan, he named Kondoh and Yuki Yanagita.

Byeong Hyeon Jo has a 3.63 ERA and 55 strikeouts in 44-and-two-thirds innings for the KBO’s SSG Landers. The 22-year-old right-hander has made all 46 of his appearances out of the bullpen.

———

Left on the cutting-room floor from Friday’s Talks Hitting interview with Spencer Horwitz was the Toronto Blue Jays infielder’s response when I asked if he had any final thoughts.

“How are college hitters hitting so many homers now? I don’t know the answer,” the former Radford University Highlander said. “We were just talking [in the clubhouse] of how we think training might be different. When I was in college it was a lot of sacrifice bunts, a lot of hit-by-pitches, a lot of backside ground balls. When you get to pro ball, that’s completely gone.

“I saw that the guys in the Golden Spikes awards were hitting 20-30 homers. More than that. The question is, why? Are they that much stronger? Is the training all that much better? Is it the ball? The bats? The stadiums? I don’t know. I think it would be really interesting to find out why.”

Charlie Condon, who won this year’s Golden Spikes Award honoring the top amateur baseball player in the nation, led all D-1 hitters with 37 home runs. The University of Georgia outfielder is expected to be taken with one of the tops picks in this year’s MLB draft, which begins a week from today.

———

Also left on the cutting-room floor was a brief exchange with Tim Herrin that followed our conversation about his curveball. Scott Barlow was sitting within hearing distance, so I asked the Cleveland Guardians southpaw if he has a better breaking ball than his right-handed counterpart.

“No,” replied Herrin. “He’s got the best breaking stuff in the pen. Scotty Spin is what we call him. Scotty Spin.”

Barlow spins his curveball at 2,588 RPMs. Herrin spins his at 2,385 RPMs.

———

FARM NOTES

Sheng-En Lin is slashing .328/.444/.448 with one home run and a 134 wRC+ over 161 plate appearances in the Arizona Complex League. The 18-year-old infielder was signed out of Taiwan by the Cincinnati Reds last year.

Curley Martha is slashing .294/.413/.459 with two home runs and a 135 wRC+ over 104 plate appearances in the Dominican Summer League. The 17-year-old infielder — a standout in the 2019 Little League World Series — was signed out of Curaçao by the Texas Rangers in January.

Jimmy Crooks is slashing .311/.420/.448 with three home runs and a 148 wRC+ over 219 plate appearances for the Double-A Springfield Cardinals. The 22-year-old left-handed-hitting catcher is No. 13 on our St. Louis Cardinals Top Prospects list.

James Triantos is slashing .308/.346/.462 with seven home runs and a 132 wRC+ over 312 plate appearances for the Double-A Tennessee Smokies. The 21-year-old infielder/outfielder is No. 11 on our Chicago Cubs Top Prospects list.

Frank Schwindel is slashing .357/.438/.636 with 11 home runs over 178 plate appearances for the independent Atlantic League’s Long Island Ducks. The 32-year-old former big-league first baseman played in Japan last year.

———

Carson Palmquist is coming off of a season-best outing in which he fanned 13 batters while surrendering just one hit and one walk over seven scoreless innings for the Double-A Hartford Yard Goats. His overall season has been stellar. Despite a pair of especially-tumultuous starts that make his numbers look less impressive than they otherwise would be, the 23-year-old southpaw in the Colorado Rockies system has a 3.29 ERA to go with 92 strikeouts and just 49 hits allowed in 65-and-two-thirds innings.

What makes the third-round pick in the 2022 draft out of the University of Miami a challenging matchup for opposing hitters?

“I’d say it’s my deceptiveness and my willingness to compete,” Palmquist told me earlier this season. “I’m not backing down to any hitter. I’m throwing them strikes and seeing if they can hit it.”

Asked to elaborate on his deceptiveness, Palmquist explained that he hides the ball well while throwing from a low arm slot, and thanks to good extension he has a higher perceived velocity, making his 92 mph fastball look more like its 95-96. Along with a four-seamer, Palmquist throws a cutter — ‘that’s the new wave in baseball” — a slider, and a changeup. He delivers all four of his pitches from the third base side of the rubber.

———

LINKS YOU’LL LIKE

MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand examined the trade market for starting pitching.

Paul Skenes was playing third base when he recorded his first hit as a California prep, and it came against his now-Pirates teammate Jared Jones. Jason Mackey has the story at The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

At The Milwaukee Courier, Charles Collier wrote about how MLB isn’t doing enough economically for the heirs of former Negro League Players.

At Royals Review, Bradford Lee wrote about the tragic career of right-hander Mike Jones, whose promising future was derailed by a 1981 car accident.

———

RANDOM FACTS AND STATS

The Cleveland Guardians have MLB’s best home record at 29-11, The Chicago White Sox have MLB’s worst road record at 10-36.

The Seattle Mariners are in first place in the AL West with a record of 49-42. They have a plus-5 run differential. The Cincinnati Reds are in fourth place in the NL Central with a record of 42-47 They have a plus-18 run differential.

Rafael Devers recorded his 1,000 hit with the Boston Red Sox yesterday, making him the 33rd player in franchise history to reach that mark. Bookending Devers on Boston’s all-time hits list are John Valentin with 1,043 and Mookie Betts with 965.

Minnesota’s Jose Miranda recorded hits in 12 straight at-bats, tying him for the most in MLB history, before having his streak broken in the sixth inning yesterday. The other players with hits in 12 straight at-bats are Johnny Kling (in 1902), Pinky Higgins (1938), and Walt Dropo (1952).

The first MLB All-Star Game was played on July 6, 1933 with the American League beating the National League 4-2. Babe Ruth hit the first home run.

Cleveland’s Bobby Avila won the American League batting title in 1954 with a .341 average. Boston’s Ted Williams had a .345 average, but despite having 526 plate appearances he didn’t have enough at-bats to officially qualify (the rule has since been changed, with plate appearances now the determiner). Williams walked 136 times and had .513 OBP.

On today’s date in 2007, Carlos Beltran and David Wright hit back-to-back run-scoring singles in the 17th inning to give the New York Mets a 5-3 win over the Houston Astros. Aaron Sele got the win, Billy Wagner his 17th save of the season.

On today’s date in 1923, the Cleveland Indians swept a doubleheader against the Boston Red Sox, winning by scores of 27-3 and 8-5. Cleveland scored at least one run in every inning in the opener, including 13 off of Lefty O’Doul in the sixth inning.

Players born on today’s date include Jerry Dybzinski, an infielder who played for the Cleveland Indians from 1980-1982, the Chicago White Sox in 1983-1984, and the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1985. A Cleveland native who was drafted out of Cleveland State University, Dybzinski logged 213 career hits, including home runs off of Jim Kern, Charlie Hough, and Ed Hodge.

Also born on today’s date was Happy Iott, an outfielder whose MLB career comprised three games with the Cleveland Napoleons in 1903. A native of Houlton, Maine, Frederick Bidds Iott went 2-for-10, with both of his hits coming against the Boston Americans.





David Laurila grew up in Michigan's Upper Peninsula and now writes about baseball from his home in Cambridge, Mass. He authored the Prospectus Q&A series at Baseball Prospectus from December 2006-May 2011 before being claimed off waivers by FanGraphs. He can be followed on Twitter @DavidLaurilaQA.

21 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
yochuckiemember
17 days ago

I remember the early 60’s when they played two ASG’s

MikeDmember
16 days ago
Reply to  yochuckie

I don’t remember the ’60s because, you know, it was the ’60s.