Clemente, Jays sluggers, Koch, Lekas, Ortiz, Ramirez
By Bob Elliott
Boston Red Sox sluggers David Ortiz and Pablo Sandoval know a thing or two about the post season.
Eight trips to October and three World Series winning teams for Ortiz.
Three trips to post-season play and three Series rings for Sandoval.
Both were asked this weekend if that was a World Series team in the other Rogers Centre dugout?
“Well, they have a good team, but a pitching staff is going to be important, the bullpen too,” said Sandoval. “I’ve got two teams from the AL going to the Series: either KC or Toronto.
“KC has the better bullpen, way better. Toronto has the better hitters and in the post season the bullpen is usually more important than hitting.”
Sandoval didn’t have a problem delivering against post-season pitching batting .344 with six homers, 20 RBIs and a .935 OPS in 39 games with the San Francisco Giants.
“That’s some middle of the lineup they’ve got,” said Ortiz shaking his head at the fact the Blue Jays have three boppers with 30 or more homers and 100 or more RBIs.
“Man, three guys 30 and 100, we never had that,” Ortiz said. “It was Manny and me.”
Manny Ramirez had 43 homers and 130 RBIs while Ortiz went deep 41 times with 139 RBIs in 2004 as the Red Sox ended their World Series drought.
It was the second season of a four consecutive years of Ortiz and Ramirez putting up more than 30 homers and 100 RBIs.
“We had six with 25 or more, seven with 19 or more one year, but we never had three guys who went 30 and 100,” said Ortiz, of the 2003 season when Ramirez led with 37 homers, followed by Ortiz (31), Nomar Garciaparra (28), Trot Nixon (28), Jason Varitek (25), Kevin Millar (25) and Bill Mueller (19).
Ortiz and the Red Sox split a four-game series with the Kansas City Royals Aug. 20-23.
“Reality is reality, Toronto has the experience and more hitters than KC,” Ortiz said. “The Royals have some guys like Mike Moustakas, Eric Hosmer and Alcides Escobar, who have learned to become better hitters, but they don’t have a middle of the order like Toronto.”
The Boston DH said that all the Jays have to do was “play better against New York.”
Ah, Toronto took three of four from the Yankees at Yankee Stadium last weekend.
“I’m talking about the last time New York was in here ... the Yankees took two of three here right?” Ortiz asked.
Right you are.
The man with 501 homers and 1,630 RBIs in 19 seasons was impressed with right-hander Marcus Stroman on Friday in his home debut.
“He was hyper, he was going crazy,” said Ortiz, “he wasn’t 95 mph like last year, but he had a lot of movement ... movement is always better than velocity.”
Ortiz spoke with his former Minnesota Twins teammate LaTroy Hawkins and told him “at this time of the year the most important thing is team chemistry. I told him, ‘take care of that.’”
The veteran Hawkins arrived and insisted that relievers leave the bullpen as a unit, staying until the last pitcher is finished a get-work session after the game ends. He bought Built-A-Bears for player with under a year’s service time to lug the 10-game trip and the three games of this home stand.
Whether that has helped throw more strikes and get more two-out hits is open for debate, but bus rides and plane trips have been more fun.
As for the 30 homer/100 RBIs seasons, Jose Canseco, Carlos Delgado and Shawn Green put up those numbers in 1998 for the 88-win Jays.
Tony Batista, Brad Fullmer and Delgado of the 83-win Jays in 2000 were the only other slugging trio to do.
Boston and Toronto sluggers with 30 homers or more and 100 RBIs or more in the same season.
Boston HRs RBIs
Manny Ramirez 37 104
David Ortiz 31 101
Ortiz 41 139
Ramirez 43 130
Ortiz 47 148
Ramirez 45 144
Ortiz 54 137
Ramirez 35 102
Jays HRs RBIs
Jesse Barfield 40 108
George Bell 31 108
Jose Canseco 33 151
Carlos Delgado 26 142
Shawn Green 25 158
Delgado 41 137
Tony Batista 41 114
Brad Fullmer 32 104
Delgado 42 145
Vernon Wells 33 117
Troy Glaus 38 104
Wells 32 106
Aaron Hill 36 108
Adam Lind 35 114
Donaldson 39 120
Bautista 35 102
Encarnacion 33 100
Honors for Bautista: Jose Bautista has been nominated for the Roberto Clemente award for the player who “best exemplifies the game, sportsmanship, community involvement and contribution to his team.”
Sandy Alomar played against Clemente in his prime.
“Players like Willie Mays, Mickey Mantle, Frank Robinson, Hank Aaron, who I roomed with, and Clemente, were a different class of players from that era,” said Alomar. “Roberto was a better player after he turned 30.”
Clemente hit .307 before he was 30 and .331 after.
The most amazing thing Alomar ever saw Clemente do on the field?
“Run toward the right field line, slide, field the ball, turn and throw out a guy at third,” said Alomar. “His accuracy and arm strength was outstanding.”
Alomar had taken his three children to a friend’s house in Salanis, Puerto Rico on New Year’s Eve 1972. The street was closed off. Then, a call came that Clemente had died in a plane crash while delivering supplies to victims of the Managua, Nicaragua earthquake which killed 6,000. That ended the party.
There is a lobby to retire the No. 21, Clemente’s number, throughout baseball, a la Jackie Robinson’s No. 42.
“For the cause that he died for there could be no greater honor than that,” said Alomar, pointing out Clemente made the trip himself to make sure that supplies wound up in the proper hands.
“Today the Roberto Clemente from Carolina, Puerto Rico is still one of the biggest names in Nicaragua,” said Alomar, who told of a team of 12-year-olds from Nicaragua coming to his town a couple of years ago and asking questions about Clemente nonstop,
Like old times: Brian O’Nora was working triple-A International League games in 1992 and was called up to the majors for a few games as a fill-in ump when other arbiters were on holidays or injured and Toronto was one of his early destinations. Same for 1993.
“We were saying that the atmosphere in the park on Friday was like I remember it 1992 and 1993,” said O’Nora, who worked second base on Saturday.
Scout of the year: Ted Lekas was honored as the Jays pro scout of the year. Lekas was a Jays area scout from 1988-97 scouting and signing Chris Carpenter, only the second first rounder from New Hampshire after a guy who lived down the street from the Carpenter clan, Hall of Famer Carlton Fisk. Carpenter went on to win a Cy Young award with the St. Louis Cardinals after the Jays allowed him to leave, finishing second and third other years.
My favorite Lekas story was in 1996 after the Jays drafted Billy Koch, a Long Island right-hander who attended Clemson. Koch was with Team USA at the Atlanta Olympics so the Jays did not make a contract offer within 15 days of the draft to allow Koch to concentrate on a gold medal.
Some agents parlayed the lack on interest from clubs into a loophole and filed for free agency -- Travis Lee received a $10.2 million US signing bonus from the Philadelphia Phillies, Matt White, $10 million, Tampa Bay Devil Rays, John Patterson $6.075 million, Arizona Diamondbacks and Bobby Seay $3 million, Rays.
The Koch family said it had been treated fairly by scouting director Bob Engle and scout Mike Russell. Koch signed with the Jays for a $1.45 million bonus.
Jays president Paul Beeston phoned Lekas and told him to pick up a case of Dom Pérignon plus a large box of Kodak film for Koch’s father, an amateur photographer and deliver it.
Lekas didn’t mind the drive but ... “I go four hours from Worcester, Mass. to West Babylon, N.Y., give the gifts to Mr. Koch, he says thanks and shuts the door. Never even invited me in for a cup of coffee.”
Lekas has worked for the Jays for 21 seasons (1988-2005, 2013-present) and was also a regional supervisor and a pro scout.
Did you know: One of Jays third base coach Luis Rivera’s 516 hits in the majors came off Jose Canseco in the slugger’s pitching performance, a run-scoring single in a eighth inning of a 15-1 Red Sox win over the Texas Rangers May 29, 1993.