Sunday Notes: Taylor Trammell Loves Fans (and Wishes More Looked Like Him)

I’m not privy as to whether the Cincinnati Reds assign a grade to character in their draft reports. I also don’t know how much the San Diego Padres weigh that attribute when pondering possible acquisitions. I do know that Taylor Trammell projects as more than a quality big-league outfielder. He projects as a role model.

Trammell became a Padre last summer. Part of the trade-deadline deal that sent Trevor Bauer to the Queen City, he’d been selected 35th overall by the Reds in the 2016 draft out of Kennesaw, Georgia’s Mount Paran Christian School. Blessed with plus raw tools, Trammell is slotted No. 69 on our 2020 Top 100 Prospects list.

A prima donna he’s not. When he reaches the big leagues, Trammell will do so with a genuine appreciation for what life has presented him. Moreover, he doesn’t just embrace the game of baseball. He embraces the people who come to see it played.

“I have thoughts on fans,” Trammell told me in Padres camp last month. “I love them. There are people who come to games and want to heckle, and they have the right to do that. Do I agree with it? No, but if you want to pay money to come yell at us, I mean, do whatever you want. Go to a boxing match. Go to a baseball game. Go to a basketball game. Any game. When there are a whole bunch of fans in the stands, whether they’re rooting for you or not rooting for you, it’s great for baseball. They want to see a game and we’re putting on a show for them.”

If you’re rolling your eyes with skepticism upon reading that, you shouldn’t be. By all accounts, that’s who Trammell is. Part of a working-class family — his father is a post office employee, his mother once balanced two jobs — he hasn’t forgotten where he came from. The values he grew up with remain the same.

“Being able to play a game for a living doesn’t make me better than anybody else,” said Trammell. “I want to treat people the way I’ll treat one of my family members. At the end of the day, it’s not ‘Taylor Trammell this, Taylor Trammell that.’ It’s about, ‘Hey, you want a ball signed? Absolutely. You want a picture? Absolutely.’ Especially young fans. I was a kid at baseball games once.”

Most of the fans he’s signing autographs for don’t look like him. Trammell is African-American, and much like only 7.7% of MLB players on last year’s opening day rosters were African-American, only a small percentage attending games are people of color. He wishes that weren’t the case.

“It does bother me a little bit,” Trammell admitted. “When I was a kid, I would see guys like Ken Griffey Jr. play. Curtis Granderson. Going into middle school, high school, seeing Dexter Fowler play. ‘Oh, that fellow came from Georgia. I’m from Georgia. He came from where I came from, and made it. I can do it, too!’ So it is tough when nobody looks like you. That doesn’t mean I didn’t look up to guys like Chipper Jones, or to Christian Yelich now. But it’s true. There just aren’t that many black players in the game.”

Trammell could have pursued a career on the gridiron, a sport where roughly 70% of NFL players are African-American. As a high school senior, Trammell rushed for 2,479 yards and 36 touchdowns on his way to being named Georgia’s Class A offensive player of the year. But he chose baseball, where he’s very much in the minority.

Exposure is part of the issue. While baseball boasts a number of talented and charismatic black players, they’re aren’t as visible as stars in other sports.

“When you turn on the TV and see commercials, who do you see? LeBron James. Patrick Mahomes. James Harden. It’s ‘Oh, they look like me,” said Trammell. “I can run and jump; I’ll play basketball.’ Or they’ll be like, ‘I can catch a pass, I can throw a ball far; let me play football.’ But you need all those talents in baseball, too. I would love it if more more black kids would gravitate towards the game. When a kid is watching me play, I’d love to have him think, ‘That could be me.’”

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Like most players, Anthony Kay is doing his best to stay ready. The 25-year-old Toronto Blue Jays pitcher is back home in New York state, throwing at his old high school field with a trio of friends who live in the area. All three play in the Philadelphia Phillies system. Ben Brown and Nick Fanti are pitchers, and quite conveniently Logan O’Hoppe is a catcher.

O’Hoppe isn’t catching lobs when he’s squatting behind the plate. Kay is no longer in camp, but he’s throwing as though he is.

“I’m trying to stay pretty much full speed, ready to go,” related Kay, who feels it’s important that he keeps a baseball mindset. “You never know when we might get called back. so I’m trying to stay on top of my game as much as possible. If we get called back next week, I’ll be ready.”

When he’s not throwing, he’s usually gaming. Moreover, he’s doing so with a similar level of intent. The southpaw is no slouch when it comes to Madden NFL 2020. He consistently competes at the highest level.

“I finish in the top 20 regularly,” Kay told me. “There’s a setup where you play 25 games from Thursday to Sunday — it’s pretty much everyone on Play Station — and however you do in those 25 games gets you ranked. There’s a Top 100 leaderboard, and I’ve gotten as high as eight or nine.”

To what does the former UConn Huskies hurler attribute his gaming prowess?

“I watch a lot of Youtube,” said Kay. “There are e-books, and the stuff [top players] put out, like how to play offense and defense. I try to incorporate that into how I play. I’m maybe a little weak on offense, so it’s definitely nice watching those guys so I can steal some of their plays.”

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RANDOM HITTER PITCHER MATCHUPS

Cecil Cooper went 14 for 30 against Luis Tiant.

Bip Roberts went 16 for 34 against Greg Maddux.

Joe Morgan went 20 for 44 against Tony Cloninger.

Ralph Garr went 21 for 56 against Steve Carlton.

Eddie Murray went 24 for 58 against Bert Blyleven.

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Trevor Larnach is No. 2 on our Twins Top Prospects list, and No. 55 on our 2020 Top 100 Prospects list. Drafted 20th overall by Minnesota out of Oregon State University in 2018, the 23-year-old outfielder profiles as a middle-of-the-order basher. He was born in Walnut Creek, California, but his lineage extends 2,400 miles southeast.

“My mom is half Hawaiian,” Larnach explained. “She was actually born in Germany, but her parents are Hawaiian and we have family living there. I always tell people that I’d like to live there one day myself.”

His given name is Trevor John Ikaikaloa Larnach.

“[Ikaikaloa] means ‘Strong as a lion,’” explained Larnach. “My mom gave that to me. Your grandfather is supposed to give it to you, but he wasn’t there at the time I was born, so my mom did. The two half brothers I share with her have Hawaiian names as well.”

The translation of his siblings’ Hawaiian names?

“You’d have to ask my brothers that,’ Larnach told me. “I just know they’re not as cool as mine.”

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SABR Boston posted a great trivia quiz on its Facebook page on Friday. Keeping in mind that while the first answer that pops into your head is often right, it’s not always the case.

The question was, “This Boston player was an MVP and led all of MLB in RBI during the 1940s. Name him.”

The answer can be found below News Items.

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NEWS ITEMS

Retrosheet made a $1,000 donation to the Society for American Baseball Research earlier this week. In a statement, Retrosheet president Dave Smith urged others to contribute to SABR’s sustainability fund.

Glenn Beckert, a second baseman for the Chicago Cubs and San Diego Padres from 1965-1975, died last Sunday at age 79. A four-time All-Star who was originally signed by the Red Sox, Beckert batted .342 for the Cubs in 1971.

Dámaso García, a second baseman for four teams from 1978-1989, died on Wednesday at age 63. A two-time All-Star with the Toronto Blue Jays, Garcia slashed .300/.327/.387 from 1982-1984. He was awarded a Silver Slugger in the first of those three seasons.

Webster Garrison, a minor league manager in the Oakland A’s organization, has been battling COVID-19 in his home state of Louisiana. Per an AP News report, the 54-year-old Garrison recently resumed breathing completely on his own after spending three weeks on a ventilator.

The National Park Service’s African American Civil Rights Historic Preservation Fund has awarded a $490,729 grant to help restore Hamtramck Stadium. Opened in 1930, Hamtramck Stadium was the home of Negro League teams including the Detroit Stars and Detroit Wolves.

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The answer to the SABR quiz is Bob Elliott. An outfielder/third baseman for the Pittsburgh Pirates and Boston Braves, Elliott had 903 RBIs from 1940-1949. Ted Williams, who missed three of those seasons serving in the military, had the second-most RBIs (893) during that decade.

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Older readers of this column may remember Duane Josephson, who caught for the Chicago White Sox from 1965-1970, and the Boston Red Sox in 1971 and 1972. Reading his SABR BioProject entry earlier this week, I learned that Josephson had to retire at age 30 due to a heart condition. Josephson then moved back home to Hampton, Iowa and suffered a fatal heart attack 25 years later at the age of 54.

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The Buckminster Hotel, located right around the corner from Fenway Park, closed a few weeks ago with no plans to reopen. Why is this worth noting? It was inside the Buckminster — purportedly in room 615 — that the seeds of the 1919 Black Sox scandal were sown. The accuracy of that claim has been questioned, although enough evidence exists that a plaque commemorating the scandal hangs in the lobby.

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Last week’s column led with the question of who was better, Jim Edmonds or Andruw Jones? A few days earlier I’d run a Twitter poll that Jones won by an overwhelming margin. Of the 4,007 people who cast votes, 71.4% opted for the defensively-gifted former Atlanta Brave over the offensively-superior former St. Louis Cardinal.

I’ve since run another poll, and while it garnered nowhere near the number of votes, the result was notable. The far-better defender was trounced. Willie Randolph (65.9 WAR) received just 27.7% of the vote, while Jeff Kent (55.4 WAR) got 72.3%.

Why the polar-opposite results? My best guess is that most fans tend to credit superior defense more than they debit inferior defense. Jones’s nothing-to-write-home-about 111 wRC+ got a pass because he was jaw-droppingly good with the glove, while Kent’s not-so-good glove got a pass because he was a prolific hitter for his position.

Or maybe Willie Randolph is simply way underrated.

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LINKS YOU’LL LIKE

At Baseball America, J.J. Cooper wrote about how a 2020 minor league season is growing more and more unlikely.

The grandfather of Baltimore Orioles shortstop Richie Martin was a teammate of Jackie Robinson with the Negro League’s Kansas City Monarchs. Joe Trezza has the story at MLB.com

At The Undefeated, Claire Smith examined the lack of black catchers in MLB.

At The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Rick Hummel wrote about how former Cardinals right-hander Bob Tewksbury became known as a thinking man’s pitcher.

Baseball America’s Matt Eddy presented us with the 13 most significant minor-league achievements of the past four decades.

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RANDOM FACTS AND STATS

Logan Morrison has 1,410 total bases. Jim Morrison had 1,414 total bases.

Julian Javier had 506 RBIs and grounded into 100 double plays. His son, Stan Javier, had 503 RBIs and grounded into 102 double plays.

Greg Luzinski walked 845 times and struck out 1,495 times. Joe Sewell walked 842 times and struck out 114 times.

Frank Robinson had a .943 OPS and 32 home runs per year in his 10 seasons with the Reds. He had a .944 OPS and 30 home runs per year in his six seasons with the Orioles.

Babe Ruth and Ted Williams each had five seasons in which he led his league in both walks and total bases. Barry Bonds had no such seasons.

Jim Mason had a 53 wRC+ and 12 home runs over parts of nine big-league seasons. In 1976, Mason homered in his lone World Series plate appearance.

Fifteen players have hit the only two home runs of their careers in the same game: Babe Birrer, Frank Delahanty, Jess Doyle, Derrick Gibson, Brandon Harper, Sammy Holbrook, Tim Hyers, Jack Knight, Jack Lelivelt, Derek Lilliquist, Doug Loman, Brian McCall, Bobby Pfeil, Glen Stewart, Ed Summers. (List per @JamesSmyth621.)

On April 17, 1960 the Cleveland Indians traded Rocky Colavito to the Detroit Tigers in exchange for Harvey Kuenn. Colavito had won the 1959 American League home run crown, Kuenn the A.L. batting crown.

On this date in 1996, the Texas Rangers scored 16 runs in the eighth inning on their way to a 26-7 win over the Baltimore Orioles. Kevin Elster capped off the scoring with a grand slam off of infielder Manny Alexander, who was making his lone big-league pitching appearances.

Nick Altrock was a 20 game winner for the Chicago White Sox in both 1905 and 1906. He would later record his last big-league win at age 41, and his last big-league hit at age 53. (No, that isn’t a typo.)

We hoped you liked reading Sunday Notes: Taylor Trammell Loves Fans (and Wishes More Looked Like Him) by David Laurila!

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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.

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tomerafan
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tomerafan

Ah, Kevin Elster’s inexplicable 1996 season, when the light-hitting shortstop hit a ton of homers. I miss being able to identify outlier batter seasons as quirky or fun rather than wondering if something was amiss. The innocence of youth…

TKDC
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TKDC

It’s sadder because some of these seasons are surely just quirky outliers, but it’s impossible to fully erase that suspicion that creeps into the back of your mind.

Instead, think about the fact that Prince Fielder hit 319 home runs and then guess how many Cecil Fielder hit.

tz
Member

And crazy unexplainable outliers are not limited to the Bud Selig era.

Here are Bert Campaneris’s seasonal HR totals for 1965-1977 (the years where he had 500+ PA), with 1970 in bold:

6, 5, 3, 4, 2, 22, 5, 8 ,4, 2, 4, 1, 5

Anon
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Anon

As has been pointed out in several articles I’ve read over the years, 1970 was a huge fluke/outlier season for a lot of guys: Jim Hickman, Billy Grabarkowitz, Cito Gaston, Dick Dietz, and Clyde Wright all made the AS team for the only time and had huge seasons. Rico Carty, Wes Parker and Bernie Carbo all had career years that year. In terms of outlier seasons, 1970 attracted them like probably no other year making it an outlier itself 🙂

BTW, Dietz is an interesting guy. Drew TONS of walks and hit for decent pop (career 132 wRC+) but hit for modest averages and in the end just didn’t have a very long career. You have to wonder if he wouldn’t have been much better regarded in today’s game than the late 60’s. (poking around, I see that he may have been black-balled from the game for being a key figure in the 1972 strike)

tomerafan
Member
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tomerafan

Oh – absolutely – that was my point. The suspicion that has to be there has ruined the fun of the quirkiness.