Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Edgar Martinez HR's Lead Puerto Rico All-stars Past Dominican Republic

Former Seattle Mariners standout Edgar Martinez hit a pair of home runs to lead a team of Puerto Rican all-stars to a win over players from the Dominican Republic in an APBA baseball game featuring Latin players.

Martinez, who was born in New York City but grew up in Puerto Rico, lead off the bottom of the seventh inning with a home run off Dominican starter Pedro Martinez. The home run by Edgar Martinez tied the game at 3-3.

Martinez stroked another solo home run the next inning off reliever Francisco Cordero. Puerto Rico went on to win 6-4.

One of the best parts of the APBA baseball game is the ability to create all sorts of fantasy teams. Lately, I've been going through all my sets -- about 20 seasons ranging from 1949 to 2014 -- to create teams of players born in Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Venezuela and Cuba.

All the squads are essentially all-star teams populated by assorted hall-of-famers and grade-A pitchers. (And easily identified using the sorted lists on Baseball Almanac and Baseball Reference!)

So, for example, Puerto Rico's starting lineup featured:

Roberto Alomar, 2B
Bernie Williams, CF
Roberto Clemente, RF
Edgar Martinez, DH
Juan Gonzalez, LF
Carlos Delgado, 1B
Mike Lowell, 3B
Ivan Rodriguez, C
Ivan DeJesus, SS

In this contest, Javier Vazquez (BXYZ) started the game, yielding to relief from Eduardo Rodriguez and Ramon Hernandez.

Among those available on the bench? Yadier Molina and Jorge Posada, Orlando Cepeda, Carlos Beltran and Sixto Lezcano, one of my favorite players from the late-'70s Brewers teams!

In this particular game, Dominican second baseman Robinson Cano got the visitors on the board  with a two-run home run in the first inning. Lead-off man center fielder Cesar Cedeno had reached on an error by left fielder Gonzalez to start the game.

Williams and Gonzalez each hit a solo home run for Puerto Rico to tie the game at 2-2 in the bottom of the fifth inning.

After a walk to Dominican DH Manny Ramirez in the seventh, pinch runner Alfonso Soriano stole second, went to third on a deep fly ball to right by Vlad Guerrero, then scored on a balk by Vazquez.

Martinez tied the game in the bottom of the seventh with his first homer. Gonzalez followed with a single. Jose Cruz then came on to pinch run, stealing second. Delgado walked. While I seldom call for a sacrifice, Lowell executed a perfect bunt, advancing the runners to second and third. Rodriquez then hit a single to drive in one run, and Beltran followed with a sacrifice fly to score Delgado and give Puerto Rico a 5-3 lead.

In the top of the eighth, Cedeno lead off the inning with a single off Rodriquez, who gave way to Ramon Hernandez. After Cano advanced Cedeno to second with a grounder to second, Albert Pujols drove in Cedeno with a single before Hernandez ended the threat. Score: 5-4.

Edgar Martinez closed out the scoring with his second home run in the bottom of the eighth inning. Hernandez returned to the mound in the ninth, earning the save. Rodriguez got the win over Pedro Martinez.

I'm looking forward to many interesting match-ups in the weeks ahead.

Here are the rosters:


C-Ivan Rodriguez, Yadier Molina, Jorge Posada
1B-Orlando Cepeda, Carlos Delgado
2B-Roberto Alomar, Carlos Baerga, Joey Cora, Rey Sanchez
SS-Ivan DeJesus, Alex Cora
3B-Mike Lowell, Edgar Martinez
OF-Carlos Beltran, Roberto Clemente, Jose Cruz, Juan Gonzalez, Sixto Lezcano, Bernie Williams

SP-Javier Vazquez (BXYZ), John Candelaria* (AYZ), Jaime Navarro (BZ), Ed Figueroa (BZ), Juan Pizarro (C(B*)W)
RP-Javier Lopez (A), Juan Romero (A&CX), Luis DeLeon (AYZ), Eduardo Rodriguez (D(B*)Y), Willie Hernandez (C(B*)YZ), Pedro Feliciano (BXZ), Roberto Hernandez (BKY), Ramon Hernandez (A&CYZ)

*Note: Candelaria, like Edgar Martinez, was born in New York City to Puerto Rican parents.


C-Tony Pena,  Miguel Olivo, Wilin Rosario
1B-Albert Pujols, David Ortiz, Edwin Encarnacion
2B-Robinson Cano, Juan Uribe
SS-Miguel Tejada, Hanley Ramirez
3B-Adrian Beltre, Aramis Ramirez
OF-Cesar Cedeno, Nelson Cruz, Cesar Geronimo, Pedro Guerrero, Vlad Guerrero, Manny Ramirez, Alfonso Soriano, Sammy Sosa

SP-Juan Marichal (AYZ), Pedro Martinez (AXYZ), Johnny Cueto (AX), Joaquin Andujar (AZ), Ubaldo Jimenez (AX), Mario Soto (BXYZ), Joel Pineiro (BY)
RP-Bill Castro (AZ), Armando Benitez (AX), Fernando Rodney (A&BXYZ), Francisco Cordero (AX), Rafael Soriano (A&CXZ)


C-Miguel Montero, Victor Martinez
1B-Miguel Cabrera, Andres Galarraga
2B-Marcos Scutaro, Jose Altuve
SS-Dave Concepcion, Asdrubal Cabrera
3B-Pablo Sandoval, Melvin Mora
OF-Magglio Ordonez, Carlos Gonzalez, Bobby Abreu, Gerardo Parra, Endy Chavez, Franklin Gutierrez

SP-Felix Hernandez (AXYZ), Johan Santana (AXZ), Kelvim Escobar (BY), Freddy Garcia (BZ), Anibal Sanchez (AXY)
RP-Yoevis Medina (AXW), Edward Mujica (BYZ), Jose Mijares (AX), Ugueth Urbina (BXYZ), Francisco "K-Rod" Rodriguez (A&CXYW)


C-Yasmani Grandal, Brayan Pena, Paul Casanova
1B-Rafael Palmeiro, Jose Abreu, Kendrys Morales
2B-Tony Taylor, Tito Fuentes
SS-Bert Campaneris, Yunel Escobar, Yuniesky Betancourt, Orlando Martinez
3B-Tony Perez, Jose Iglesias
OF-Yasiel Puig, Minnie Minoso, Tony Oliva, Yoenis Cespedes, Jose Canseco, Jorge Soler, Leonys Martin

SP-Luis Tiant (AY), Mike Cuellar (AYZ), Jose Fernandez (AXY), Roenis Elias (CY), Livan Hernandez (C),
RP-Tony Fossas (A&CXYZ), Aroldis Chapman (A&CXY), Vladimir Nunez (BY), Diego Segui (C(B*)X), Oscar Zamora (BZ), Jose Contreras (BXZ)


Sunday, March 8, 2015

Minoso, Cuban All-stars Split Series vs. '79 World Champs

Four home runs, including one by "Mr. White Sox" Minnie Minoso, were enough for a collection of Cuban all-stars to hang on for a victory over the 1979 World Champion Pittsburgh Pirates in a game of APBA baseball.

Minnie Minoso
Minoso, the first black player in White Sox history and a nine-time MLB all-star left fielder, died March 1, in Chicago. His passing at the age of 92 offered an opportunity to honor his outstanding career and his impact on Major League Baseball.

Minoso is just one of two dozen players born in Cuba that I organized into a team of APBA all-stars from the sets in my collection spanning 1959 to 2014. Among the others on the team? Hall-of-Famer Tony Perez, shortstop Bert Campaneris and Twins great Tony Oliva. Modern stars on the squad include Yasiel Puig, Aroldis Chapman and Yoenis Cespedes.

(In similar fashion, I've got some Northwest all-star teams comprised of players born in Oregon and Washington.)

For whatever reason, this weekend I matched the Cuban all-stars against the "We Are Family" World Champions, which featured their own Hall-of-Famers, Willie "Pops" Stargell and Bert Blyleven, along with Dave Parker, Phil "Scrap Iron" Garner and leadoff phenom Omar Moreno. The Pirates' deep pitching staff also included starter John "Candy" Candelaria and submariner closer Kent Tekulve. (Maybe I was inspired to play the Pirates by Kevin Burghardt's Best Teams of the 1970's tournament!)

The teams split the doubleheader, with the Pirates rallying for a pair of runs in the top of the ninth inning to take game one, 4-3. Cuba earned the win in game two, 7-6.

Game One

The first game featured a pair of lefties on the mound, Candelaria (BZ) vs. Mike Cuellar (AYZ) of the '69 Orioles.

In the bottom of the first, Campaneris led off with a single, and came around to score on a double by the next hitter, Oliva.

The Pirates tied it in the top of the third. Moreno, who walked to start the inning, scored on a double by Parker. Campaneris, of the '74 A's, had a double of his own in the bottom of the third, scoring later on a single by Perez.

Raffy Palmeiro ('95 O's) put Cuba up 3-1 with a solo home run in the sixth as Cuellar seemed to be cruising with a four-hitter heading into the eighth inning.

However, Moreno walked again, stole second, and came home on a single by shortstop Tim Foli. That marked the end of Cuellar's day, as Tony Fossas ('95 Cards) retired the next three hitters -- Parker, Stargell and Bill Madlock.

Still holding a 3-2 lead, Cuba called on Chapman to close the door. But Bill Robinson lead off with a double, then scored on a single by catcher Steve Nicosia. After two outs, Nicosia scored what would be the game-winner on a double by Moreno.

Tekulve earned the save, finishing off Cuba by striking out Perez, Palmeiro and getting Cespedes (2012 A's) to fly to center. Reliever Henry Romo got the victory, Chapman the loss.

Game Two

After going 0-for-4 in the opener, Minoso bounced back with a two-run home run in the third inning of game two to give Cuba a 3-1 lead. Palmeiro got Cuba on the board first with a solo homer in the second inning. He hit his third homer of the day, another solo shot, in the third inning, giving his team a 4-1 lead.

Robinson had put the Pirates on the scoreboard with a solo home run of his own in the bottom of the second inning.

Cuba looked like it would put this one away early as Perez ('69 Reds) pounded a two-run homer in the fifth inning off Blyleven (BY), the Pirate starter. Tony Taylor ('69 Phils) stole his second base of the game and scored in the sixth inning on a sac fly by Cuban starter Jose Fernandez (AXY) of the 2013 Marlins. That made the score 7-1.

Fernandez had already struck out seven batters, when Foli hit a two-out double in the bottom of the sixth and scored when Parker followed with a single. When the Pirates scored three more in the bottom of the seventh, Fernandez gave way to Fossas, who surrendered two more hits and suddenly the Pirates trailed only 7-6. Pittsburgh's four-run inning included doubles by Garner and Foli (his second in two innings) and singles/stolen bases by Madlock to lead off, Robinson and then Moreno.

While Cuba failed to score against the Pirates bullpen, including Jim Bibby, Romo and Tekulve, the Pirates' bats would have to rally once again versus Chapman, who took the loss in game one.

This time, however, Chapman retired the first five batters he faced in the bottom of the eighth and ninth. With two outs, Lee Lacy got a pinch-hit single, then stole second with Moreno at the plate. As Moreno already had scored three runs and driven in two more in two games, he was intentionally sent to first as the potential winning run.

Fortunately for Chapman and his Cuban teammates, Foli struck out to end the game. Fernandez got the win, Chapman the save. Blyleven took the loss. 

Next up? Perhaps a team of all-stars from Venezuela led by Felix Hernandez ...