Nick Gordon is one of the top prospects in the Twins system. Drafted fifth-overall by Minnesota in 2014, the lefty-swinging shortstop is coming off an age-21 season where he slashed .270/.341/.408 for Double-A Chattanooga. He’s also coming off the release of his first album, “I Do It All,” which dropped earlier this month.
“G-Cinco” started rapping when he was in middle school, but it was only recently that he began sharing his hip-hop stylings beyond his inner circle. Prompted by the urging of a close friend, the son of former all-star closer Tom “Flash” Gordon, and brother of 2015 NL batting champion Dee Gordon, decided the time had come to “let people hear this side of me.”
The multi-talented youngster is well aware that mixing music and sports can make for a tricky balance, particularly in terms of image. But he doesn’t anticipate any issues. Not only does Gordon consider himself “a baseball player first,” he’s “never been one to lead a lifestyle that isn’t appropriate,” nor does he feel a need to “go out there and rap about things I don’t do.”
What he does do — along with rapping base hits — is “sit down and listen to beats, and write.” As for which he considers more important when crafting a song, the beat or the lyrics, that’s largely a matter of inspiration within the creative process.
“Sometimes it’s the beat that makes you feel more, and sometimes it’s the things you want to say,” explained Gordon, who cited Drake as one of his favorite artists. “If a beat feels good to me, I try to make a song that’s catchy and people can move to it. Other times it’s more like, ‘Oh man, this beat is something where I want to put down what I feel.”
And in case you’re wondering, yes, he does sometimes rap about baseball — although it’s not always obvious.
“There are some messages in there about baseball,” acknowledged Gordon. “Every now and then, if you really listen to the music, you’ll hear them. You’ll be like, ‘He’s talking about baseball there.’”
With spring training right around the corner (Hallelujah!), Gordon will soon be back to playing baseball. He’ll also continue to listen to beats and write — with much the same approach he takes to hitting.
“It’s all about continuing to get better and trusting the process,” Gordon told me. “That’s with everything you do in life. It’s all about reps, and the more you write, the better you get.”
Reading Anthony DeCurtis’s biography of Lou Reed — a Christmas gift from my daughter, who knows I’m a Velvet Underground fan — I recently learned that Reed attended Dodgers games with his father while he was growing up in Brooklyn and on Long Island. Reed is described as having cared about the Dodgers “very much,” only to completely lose interest in baseball after the team relocated to Los Angeles when he was a teenager.
On the non-baseball front, John Cale, Reed’s Velvet Underground bandmate, is quoted as saying that, “Walter Cronkite and Jackie Kennedy would come down and dance in front of us on the floor.” This was in the mid 1960s, when the band was part of an Andy Warhol-produced multi-media event called the Exploding Plastic Inevitable. The music was extremely loud and discordant, drug use was rampant, and… Walter Cronkite and Jackie Kennedy?
It is often said that catchers make the best managers, and while that may or may not be true, many former backstops have filled that role. Even so, the current number isn’t especially high at the big-league level. Less than half of the current group (13 of 30) wore the tools of ignorance during their playing days, and all of the six newly-named managers were either infielders, outfielders, or pitchers.
I brought this up with Milwaukee’s David Stearns at November’s GM meetings. After initially touching on how technology is impacting pitching, I questioned whether we might be trending away from catchers in the manager’s chair.
“I really don’t know why that might be,” answered Stearns. “That’s not something I’ve observed, but it could be cyclical. Ultimately, it’s the organization’s job to bring together talented people with different skill sets and backgrounds.”
Mickey Callaway’s background is pitching, which makes the Mets manager a relative rarity in his new role. Bud Black and Bryan Price are the only other former hurlers in the position, and previous seasons have seen as few as… well, none.
“The pitchers, and the challenge they’re having breaking that barrier, is an interesting one,” observed Pirates GM Neal Huntington. “There are special guys who do it, but generally your club leaders are your position players. That’s where I think it falls to the catchers. They see the whole game and are running it with the manager. So why it could maybe transitioning out… truthfully, we’ve got a manager that we love, so I haven’t spent a ton of time on where that trend might be going.”
As for where the trend has been, Bailey Winston, one of our crack interns, did some research. Since the 2005 season, the number of MLB managers who weren’t former catchers has ebbed and flowed within the 15-20 range (50-67%). Prior to that — and this might surprise you — it was usually much higher. In 2000, a whopping 26 of the 30 managers (87%) were non-catchers. In 1990, it was 19 of 26 (83%). In 1980 it was 22 of 26 (85%). In 1970 it was 20 of 24 (83%).
MLB expansion seems inevitable, down the road. The game has room to grow, and a solid handful of team-free cities could successfully support a new franchise (somewhere out there, Jonah Keri is pointing at a map of Montreal).
Overlooked in most expansion talk is the minor league market. For each team MLB would add, half a dozen affiliates would need to be added as well. That could pose a challenge. As it stands — and this is despite the increasing popularity of minor league baseball — a number of current affiliates are struggling, and/or unappealing options for most big-league organizations.
Assuming two MLB teams would be added are there a dozen municipalities with the wherewithal to house, and support over the long-term, a farm club?
When it comes to player development, the Colorado Rockies don’t mind a little adversity. As a matter of fact, they want their prospects to experience it. In their eyes, slumps, and the angst that often accompanies them, are invaluable learning tools.
“We push these guys to struggle,” said general manager Jeff Bridich, who previously served as the club’s farm director. “If you don’t struggle by the time you hit the major leagues, we have failed you. If you’re struggling for the first time in front of 35,000 people, and can’t handle it — if you haven’t learned how to handle it prior to the big leagues — you’re in trouble. And it’s our failure.”
Per reports out of Japan, Daisuke Matsuzaka will be playing with NPB’s Chunichi Dragons this coming season. The 37-year-old hurler, who had shoulder surgery in 2015, went 56-43 with the Red Sox and Mets from 2007-2014. Prior to coming to MLB, Matsuzaka spent eight season with the Seibu Lions.
On Friday, the Sydney Blue Sox — Lars Anderson’s current team — lost to the Adelaide Bite by a score of 10-8, eliminating them from the Australian Baseball League playoff race. Since joining the club, Anderson is slashing .290/.336/.402 over 28 games.
Jay Baum, a 25-year-old third baseman for the Canberra Cavalry, continues to tear up the ABL. The Seattle Mariners prospect — a 21st-round pick in 2014 out of Clemson — leads the league in batting average (.439), slugging percentage (.791), and OPS (1.275).
If you missed the news 10 days ago, the Minnesota Twins have hired Jim Kaat as a special assistant. The 79-year-old southpaw has the most wins (189) in Twins history, and 283 overall. Kaat pitched 4,530 innings between 1959-1983, and was awarded 16 Gold Gloves.
The finalists for this year’s SABR Analytics Conference Research Award have been announced. They can be found here.
Vladimir Guerrero going into the Hall of Fame with an Angels cap, and not an Expos cap, makes a certain amount of sense. Not only did he win an MVP award in Anaheim, he went to the postseason with the Angels five times, while none of his Expos teams advanced beyond the regular season. The fact that the Expos are now playing in another city as the Nationals may have also played into his decision. And then there’s the financial factor. Guerrero earned more than $50M in salary in Southern California than he did north of the border.
Even so, Guerrero had 173 home runs, a 141 adjusted OPS, and 20.3 WAR in six seasons as an Angel. He had 234 home runs, a 148 adjusted OPS, and 33.7 WAR as an Expo. Those numbers clearly suggest Montreal.
Many of you aren’t familiar with the latter, whose mysterious absence in Cooperstown has nothing to do with PEDs. Here is a snapshot look at the 19th-century legend.
Browning played from 1882-1894, mostly with the Louisville Colonels, with whom he won two of his three batting titles. He was the first player to use a bat made by what became the Louisville Slugger company, which was ultimately named after him. According to his SABR Bio Project entry, Browning was both deaf and illiterate. He also reportedly battled alcoholism, once saying “I can’t hit the ball until I hit the bottle!”
RANDOM HITTER-PITCHER MATCHUPS
Circling back to the news front, Pursuit of Pennants will be coming out in paperback next month, and the book’s co-authors, Mark Armour and Dan Levitt, will be augmenting the event with a blog series. Starting tomorrow, and running for 25 consecutive weekdays, Armour and Levitt will present us with the ”25 important events in team building.” Here a link to the blog and an excerpt from the book.
“On December 23, 1975, arbitrator Peter Seitz forever altered the balance of power between baseball players and their clubs and how a general manager could build his team. In a high-profile arbitration hearing involving Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Andy Messersmith and Montreal Expos pitcher Dave McNally, Seitz ruled that the infamous ‘reserve clause’ in the standard player contract did not in fact bind a player to his club endlessly, and that the two players were now free agents.
“Messersmith and McNally had played the 1975 season without contracts, their teams having renewed their 1974 contracts under the reserve clause, a provision that allowed a club to re-up the player for one year. The two claimed that their clubs now had no right to them for the following year because both their contract and the option year had expired. Seitz sided with the players, ruling that the wording of the clause, which had been in every player’s contract for decades, only applied to the year following the end of their signed contract. Team building had changed forever.
The players had been striving for modifications to the reserve clause for many years without success. Most famously, in early 1970 longtime St. Louis star Curt Flood, in reaction to a late 1969 trade to Philadelphia, filed suit against baseball in an attempt to invalidate the clause and give him the right to sign with any team he wished. Flood lost his case in the US Supreme Court, but his struggle, and the obvious panic it induced in the owners, helped to strengthen the players’ resolve and persuade many in the media of the merits of his case.”
LINKS YOU’LL LIKE
Michael Hattery wrote about fandom, sabermetrics, and aesthetics at Waiting For Next Year.
The Marlins have hired women into baseball operations for first time in franchise history, and Tim Healey gave us the details at The Miami Sun-Sentinel.
RANDOM FACTS AND STATS
Clay Rapada appeared in 152 games and was credited with eight wins. Among pitchers with zero career losses, no one has more of either.
Matty Alou and Mike Epstein — Oakland’s primary two- and four-hole hitters — went a combined 1 for 40 in the 1972 World Series. Despite their doldrums, the A’s beat the Cincinnati Reds in seven games, with Gene Tenace driving in nine of the team’s 16 runs.
Bruce Sutter went 68-71 and led his league in saves five times. He never led the league in appearances. Firpo Marberry went 148-88 and led his league in saves six times. He led the league in appearances six times.
In 1963, Dodgers southpaw Ron Perranoski went 16-3 with 21 saves and led NL pitchers with 69 appearances. He allowed zero runs, in 35 innings, in the games where he was credited with a save.
Eddie Grant, whose 844 big-league hits are the most ever for a player out of Harvard University, was killed in action during World War I, in Argonne, France, in 1918.
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.