Results tagged ‘ Brien Taylor ’

Banquo’s Closer

If you can look into the seeds of time,

And say which grain will grow and which will not,

Speak then to me, who neither beg nor fear

Your favors nor your hate.

I’ve always liked that snippet from Banquo’s second speech in Act 1, Scene 3, of Shakespeare’s Macbeth. But as fans have gotten more and more aware of the minor leagues and player development, it’s become more and more applicable to baseball.

“Which grain will grow and which will not…”

Hmmm.

Here are some images from the 1992 Fleer ProCards set of the Fort Lauderdale Yankees of the Florida State League. 20 seasons have come and gone since these kids were the future, and there were more opinions about them than each had seasons under his belt.

Do you remember this guy? Second-round pick in the 1990 draft, gaunt, rangy at 6’3″, 170, with the exotic birthplace of Rotterdam, Holland. The Yankees’ shortstop of the future (as viewed from 1992)…Robert Eenhoorn?It is literally true that he was a Yankee shortstop of the future. In fact, he was the shortstop on May 28, 1995, as the Yankees beat the A’s 4-1 in Oakland. Eenhoorn went 0-for-4, lowering his season performance to 0-for-7. The next game, in Seattle, the Yankees tried another young shortstop to fill in for the injured Tony Fernandez. Jeter somebody.

Remember this next guy?

I was at the Expansion Draft, the November after this card was made. The Yankees had just lost him to Florida, and I stepped into the hotel elevator to find General Manager Stick Michael, who looked like he’d just given blood – or was expecting that George Steinbrenner would make sure it was taken from it. He lasted longer than Eenhoorn (he did 202 homers and was on a World’s Championship team in Chicago) but given the baggage he seemed to proudly carry around (he was just arrested on family violence charges last week) it seems Michael’s anxieties were unfounded.

Everett and Eenhoorn were the Yanks’ top two picks in 1990, but this next guy was the star of stars in their system as of 1992 – the first overall pick in the 1991 draft. If you bought this set in 1992, you bought it to get this card:

What is sadder than this?

Brien Taylor was the real deal. I saw him pitch at New Britain, Connecticut. Not only have I never seen anybody throw harder, I’ve never seen anybody throw as effortlessly. His 100-MPH pitches seemed to be thrown about 5% harder than his warm-ups. You couldn’t see any of them from the stands. And then there was a brawl in a bar, and his brother was in trouble, and he went in to help him, and they tore his pitching arm to shreds.

And so the star-crossed 1992 Fort Lauderdale Yankees would mostly be a tale of woe (there’s also a card of Mike Figga – he’d hit a major league home run – and of Domingo Jean – he’d win a major league game). But, if you can look into the seeds of time, and say which grain will grow and which will not, speak to me then.

There was also this skinny pitcher – he made Eenhoorn look robust – who’d struggled in Greensboro the year before (3-4, 5.45, 52 strikeouts to 40 walks) and he’s about to hit a milestone in a career that, frankly, dwarfed everybody else who was playing in the minor leagues when this card was made (and nearly everyone who was playing in the majors).

This grain would grow:

Strasburg On Cardboard

With the scouting observation that the most impressive part of Stephen Strasburg’s night was his willingness to work quickly, to maintain ownership of the pace and momentum of the game, a little sneak preview of a much more “official” welcome to the big leagues.

RC1.jpg
This will be what Strasburg’s rookie Topps card will look like, and it’s more than just a nice shot of the rookie’s classic delivery. It is, in fact, an image of the first pitch of Strasburg’s Major League career, to Pittsburgh’s Andrew McCutchen, Tuesday night at Nationals’ Park.
The other memorabilia for the most hyped rookie since Griffey consists mostly of his Bowman 2010 cards (including a 1-of-1 variety which inspired insanity and could never recoup its purchase price unless Strasburg ended his career 511-0). A few game tickets have already popped up (standard Ticketmaster style around $50, nicer Ticketmaster around $60, the deluxe Season-Ticket style not being offered as eBay buy-it-now, but with a minimum of $70).
But with Upper Deck out of the game, the Topps card is the gold standard. And this is what it will look like.
UPDATE: The card is destined for general release in the annual update set in the fall but the grass doesn’t grow between the toes of the execs at the place with the renewed card monopoly: they’ll be giving some away earlier as part of this year-long “Million Card Giveaway.”
ONE LAST UPDATE: I can’t think of Strasburg – and this only has tangentially to do with the card – and not flash back to a summer’s day 17 years ago when I saw another can’t-miss pitcher who did not get as far as the Washington rookie now has. I had never seen, and have never seen, anything like it. Some guys throw extraordinarily hard (I was in the Red Sox dugout for a Daniel Bard inning in Spring Training, 2009, and I watched him paint the corners with 98’s and 99’s), but all of them show it.
Not Brien Taylor.
The ill-fated Yankees’ top pick of 1991 had already made it to AA ball in ’93 and was pitching for Albany at the Beehive in New Britain, CT, just 10 minutes from my home when I worked at ESPN. Taylor was to pitch and a bunch of us went to see him. And he was not just everything they said, but he was more – by being less.
The sound of his effortless warm-up pitches thudding the catcher’s glove resonated around the park. And then he got serious, and you couldn’t see the ball any more. Of course, there was nothing to suggest Taylor was trying to throw that hard, even though a nearby scout with a gun told us “that hard” was 102. Taylor still looked like he was warming up, or perhaps just playing a serious game of catch. Not that the first pitch was caught - it hit the backstop on the fly. The next one nearly did the same, and then a coach hustled out to the mound and put both hands on Taylor’s shoulders.
A slightly quieter thud. Strike one, 97 MPH. Another one. Strike two, on a curveball, about 90, I think. The last. Strike three, 96 MPH. By this point, having taken something off his fastball, it appeared the catcher was trying harder to throw the ball back to Taylor than Taylor was pitching it.
The Taylor I saw was 21 years old. An outfielder just up from A-ball (might have been Brian Brown) took him over the fence in a very big ballpark, and Taylor got a little angrier, fired it back up to triple digits, almost looked like he was trying, and soon reached his pitch count. Six months later came the bar brawl that would destroy his shoulder and end his career.
I wonder how many pitchers I’ve seen, live or on television, in 44 years of being a fan. I do not wonder about how many of them threw that blindingly fast, that effortlessly. Strasburg was as impressive as any rookie pitcher I’ve ever seen at the big league level. But he’s not on the other list. Only Brien Taylor is on that one.

FAREWELL TO THE BARD OF ORANGE PARK

The highlights that Sunday night on the WWL showed everything except what the home plate umpire described as the “most impressive thing I’ve seen all spring.” Justin Masterson looked sharp, Jonathan Papelbon struck out the side (amid two rocketing singles), and they even showed Junichi Tazawa getting in and out of james with four strikeouts in two innings.
Not even a quick cutaway of Daniel Bard, who merely dropped a small universe of 100 MPH heaters on three of the Tampa Bay Rays least equipped to handle them. And though it was Morgan Ensberg, Ray Sadler, and Elliott Johnson swinging through what they couldn’t catch up to, it was awe-inspiring, largely for the additional reason that the Red Sox youngster who struck out 107 men in 78 innings in the minors last year appeared to be generating his speed with a motion just slightly more involved than a guy long-tossing on the side.
I have not seen this in a long time. It harkens back to the days of Brien Taylor, the ill-fated Yankees’ prospect who regularly topped 100 with no more motion than you throwing something at a nearby trash can. Sunday night, the Red Sox managed to resist the temptation to keep such a weapon at the big league level; commendable restraint considering the early March effort against the lesser Rays was just the start – he ended the spring with 9-1/3 scoreless and twelve strikeouts.
If his long-term value isn’t readily apparent (and long-term could mean after the summer solstice), add in this factor: after that one inning, Tim Tschida, working the plate, said that obviously the speed was the most impressive thing he’d seen thus far this spring, but that would almost nobody else could tell was that Bard had been painting the corners with his lasers. Moving the damn thing around, inside high, inside low, outside low, outside high.
I only managed to see eleven games in Florida and Arizona, and I witnessed not just the aforementioned triple play, and other adventures I will recount here before opening day (Craig Monroe? Four homers in five at bats?). But The Bard — and we better use the article — remained the most stunning sight.
POLITICS-FREE

Thanks to all for the comments and the welcomes and the flaming go-to-Hades. This blog is about baseball and not politics; I won’t touch the latter here unless it unavoidably pertains to something between the foul lines, so write all you want about left-versus-right – I hope you find it entertaining to yourself, I won’t be reading it. As elsewhere here, abuse won’t be tolerated and the fine folks at MLB.Com will ultimately decide if we have to start approving comments. Doesn’t matter to me; I come here under the banner of the greater good: Baseball.
TRIVIA
Love trivia. But only if it means something. Here’s one I didn’t know about until 96 hours ago. What happened to the lights from the Giants’ last New York home, the Polo Grounds? The hint is: they’re still in service, today, in this country.
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