Tagged: Frank Francisco

Major League Name-A-Likes

Already this year we’ve seen Frank Francisco pitch for Frisco of the Texas League, and had reason to invoke Johnny Podres of the Padres, and mention that the first draft choice of the Mets was a fella named Matz.

Some of them are desperate stretches, but you can in fact come up with at least one player whose name suggested they should’ve played with a particular city or team monicker across his chest (and even some who did).
Alphabetically by franchise:
Arizona: Of course, it’s pitcher Steve Phoenix from the A’s of 1994 and 1995.
Atlanta: They get the all-time great in this bizarre category, former Reds and Padres’ outfielder Angel Bravo.
Baltimore: Probably the closest is ex-Cub third baseman Kevin Orie, unless you like Ossie Orwoll, the fifth starter of the ’28 A’s.
Boston: Since none of the big leaguers named Fox have ever been nicknamed “Red,” you have to go with a washed-out mega-prospect who was once… Ted Cox, Red Sox. That or ex–outfielder Daryl Boston.
Chicago A.L.: Two deadball era stars fit best here, Pitcher Doc White (who actually pitched for them), and A’s outfielder Socks Seybold. Current Giants’ backup catcher Eli Whiteside gets honorable mention.
Chicago N.L.: You could look to 19th Century second baseman Cub Stricker, but I’m much more inclined to pick the spring-training-only ex-manager of the Red Sox, Mike Cubbage.
Cincinnati: It says something that nobody nicknamed “Red” has ever appeared for them in a post-season game. But pitcher Red Barrett made cameos with the ’39 and ’40 N.L. champs.
Cleveland: No-brainer. Former Red Sox pitcher Reggie Cleveland.
Colorado: Of all the players with the first name “Rocky,” the one most closely mirroring “Colorado Rockies” has to be “Rocky Colavito.” If Mets prospect Jose Coronado makes it, he’d have to be considered.
Detroit: Got to be Tigers’ 1957-58 manager Jack Tighe, although, interestingly, in the latter stages of his career when he was Detroit’s player-manager, Ty Cobb’s team was often spelled “Tygers.”
Florida: Marlin Coughtry, ’60s infielder, or Marlin Stuart, ’50s pitcher.
Houston: Rockies’ closer Huston Street or venerable catcher and pinch-hitter Tyler Houston.
Kansas City: A 1945 Giants’ pitcher named Roy Lee, or Mets and Jays pitcher Roy Lee Jackson.
Los Angeles A.L.: You can reuse Angel Bravo; I’d rather try 1972-73 Royals pitcher Norm Angelini.
Los Angeles N.L.: Who else but 1912 Reds’ third baseman Johnny Dodge?
Milwaukee: Lots of real-life Brewers; Tom of the Red Sox, maybe Jim of the Dodgers.
Minnesota: The Canseco Twins?
New York A.L.: Gotta go with the second baseman of the champion St. Louis Browns of the 1880’s, Yank Robinson. I can, though, recall my delight in 1976 when a reliever made a cameo in the Bronx and became Jim York, New York.
New York N.L.: Until draftee Matz makes it, their patron saint has to be Lenny Metz, infielder of the 1920 Phillies.
Oakland: How about the Cardinals’ outfielder of the early teens, Rebel Oakes?
Philadelphia: The ultimate one-team name-alike Dave Philley played 18 years in the majors, and for a dozen games in 1960 he was actually “Dave Philley of the Phillies.” He had previously played for the A’s in their original home, making him “Dave Philley of Philly.”
Pittsburgh: Either infielder Gaylen Pitts of the ’74-75 A’s, or pitcher Jim Pittsley of the ’95-99 Royals.
St. Louis: Ex-Cardinal outfielder Jose Cardenal is good. Cup-of-coffee 1963 Houston pitcher Conrad “Randy” Cardinal is better.
San Diego: Johnny Podres, of course, although 1941 Indians’ outfielder Buck Frierson is a good back-up.
San Francisco: Ah, if the Rangers would only swap him for Brian Wilson. He could be Franklin “Frank” Francisco, San Francisco.
Seattle: The toughest of the bunch. We have to settle for ex-Giants and Twins pitcher George Maranda.
Tampa Bay: You might go with ex-Expo Razor Shines, or bring in relievers Chris and Ken Ray.
Texas: Tim Raines? Wayne Granger?
Toronto: You could choose Vida Blue, or Joey Jay, but I like Jay Bruce. Doesn’t that sound good? Jay Bruce of the Blue Jays?
Washington: Last year’s feel-good career minor leaguer who made the Cardinals, Rico Washington. Also you could use ’60s pitcher Jim Nash for a weak homonym. 

Recommended Prospects, Recommended Reading (Updated)

Funny that with all the big names moving before the deadline, the number of primo prospects was actually pretty low. I was particularly unimpressed with what the Indians got for Cliff Lee (and Ben Francisco) although I am only about ten percent insufficiently skeptical to address the Lee deal as I did the McLouth one – that the trading team was selling a guy, if not at peak value, then at the last moment he would be seriously overvalued, and were doing well to get anything hopeful back.

Having said that, if you still consider Justin Masterson a prospect and not a full-fledged major leaguer, he was clearly the most gifted of all the players given up for “the names.” A year from now, when Brad Penny and John Smoltz and who knows who else are Red Sox memories, Boston would not have parted with him, and not just because of his pitching gifts. The Sox are astounded by his quiet leadership, an almost unheard-of quality for a pitcher. He doesn’t rant, he doesn’t yell, he doesn’t slap his glove against his thigh, and nothing bleeds from his sock. He just inspires his teammates to feel more secure about their talents and accomplishments, and their prospects for winning the game. Terry Francona will miss him, maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but soon, and for the rest of his life.
And ironically, given how they are howling in Pittsburgh over the exiling of McLouth, then Jack Wilson, then Freddie Sanchez, the head-and-shoulders pick for the top pure-prospect traded against the deadline was the guy the Bucs got for Sanchez, pitcher Tim Alderson. Harkening back to the Johan Santana/Yankees post here, the rule of thumb is that half of all pitching prospects fail. That would ordinarily discourage the ever-discouraged Pirate faithful. However, Alderson and Charlie Morton are both front-of-rotation, ace-of-staff prospects. If one makes it and the other turns merely into a righty Jarrod Washburn, they’ve done awfully well – and this assumes that very little else from the McLouth or Wilson trades bears great fruit, which is not necessarily a correct assumption.
One more deadline note. The amazement at the Adam LaRoche/Casey Kotchman trade itself amazes me. The Red Sox made a similar acquisition in 2004, a glove-first, low-power starting first baseman, about whom everyone said “where they gonna play him?” His name was Doug Mientkiewicz and the point was, his window as a starting player was pretty much over, as is Kotchman’s. He will never hit enough. So you keep the defensive whiz as your back-up and pay for it by spending the middling slugger with the middling glove. The only complication this time is that the Boston backup on those days when Victor Martinez is playing first, is a fellow named Youkilis, and he’s no slouch.

The Rangers sent Frank Francisco out on rehab to AAA. To Frisco of the Texas League. Making him Frank Francisco of Frisco.
Nearly as good as Johnny Podres of the Padres, Jim York of New York, or Ted Cox of the Red Sox.

Three books to endorse with high praise and the caveat that I’m mentioned in one, and two of them are written by friends. I write as a guy who was once the country’s only nationally-published reviewer of baseball books (who once gave the second edition of The Baseball Encyclopedia a panning for some awful typos) so finding three I like at one time is quite a feat.
First there’s Marty Appel’s Munson: The Life And Death Of A Yankee Captain. When a book reveals details of a man’s life to his own family, it’s a pretty good book. I am duly impressed both with the research effort and the clarity of Marty’s work, and the attempt to recreate that sad day 30 years ago tomorrow when Munson’s death shocked baseball. It is not happy reading, but it is worthwhile reading.
I think Ron Darling may have written (let’s broaden it out to all of them who didn’t go to Yale; even co-written) the best book by a pitcher since Kirby Higbe’s HIgh And Inside. Ron’s is called The Complete Game and it takes a novel approach: a pitch-by-pitch, thought-by-thought recitation of key innings of key games, nearly all of them his own, throughout his long span in college and major league ball. Apart from taking you inside an entire team’s thinking as the pitches succeed each other, Ronnie also underscores what is to me the most underrated skill among elite athletes: Memory. Nearly all of the microscopic detail (what he was thinking between the third and fourth pitches, to the third hitter, in the fifth inning, of his thirteenth start, etc) was pulled from his recall and simply verified in the record books. He rolls the details out the way Gordie Howe once rolled out each shot he took in a Detroit Red Wings-New York Rangers game, 27 years after he played it. A great read, and very well written.
Almost not at all written is the third suggestion: Chris Epting’s The Early Polo Grounds. This is 181 pre-1925 photos taken at the legendary home of The New York Giants and it borders on time travel, even if the captions aren’t always complete (a date of an October, 1910, photo is disputed by the author because the Giants didn’t play in that year’s World Series; he seems not to have known that in those days the Giants and Yankees regularly played post-season series for the “Championship of New York”). Having just spent hours in the photo vaults of Cooperstown looking at all the photos of the fabled ballpark, I can say that this collection rivals that part of the Hall’s from the 20th Century – plus, they won’t arrest you if you try to take it home.