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Article:Baseball Notebook: Happy New Year Edition

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Note: This will probably be the last post of 2007 unless I am not too tired to write on Monday morning after working 32 hours in a 56 hour span. So in case I don't write on Monday I want to wish Happy New Year to the readers of these posts at blogger.com, armchairgm.com and jaythejoke.com.

Darin Erstad Signs With Astros For $1 Million One Year Contract

Darin Erstad has been signed to a $1 million contract with incentives by the Houston Astros for 2008. Erstad has only played in 127 games over the last two seasons; the first with the Los Angeles Angels two years ago, and last year he was with the Chicago White Sox. In 1999 he had 13 home runs and 53 runs batted in but in 2000 he had a career year of 25 home runs, 100 RBI's, and hit .355.

In 2001, he was down to 9 home runs and 63 RBI's and hit .258. His slugging percentages for those three years were .374, .541 and .360. I am not going to say he was on steroids in 2000, but it sure looks suspicious how his numbers spiked that one year with his batting average being about 100 points higher that year than the year before and the year after.

Reports online are saying that Erstad will be a fourth outfielder coming off the bench, but with only Michael Bourn and Reggie Abercrombie ahead of him on the depth charts at this time, I can see him working back to being an everyday player if either of them struggles early in the season.

The other outfielder on the roster presently is Yordany Ramirez, who hit .315 in Triple A for the Portland Beavers in 2007. His plate discipline is non existent as he walked only 15 times in 413 at bats so doubt he will make the team out of spring training and will need some more seasoning in Triple A. He did make the jump from A ball to Triple A last season so there must be a good reason for him to be on the major league roster. Ramirez was signed at the age of 16 by the Padres but became a minor league free agent and was signed by Astros this fall.

Congressional Hearings May Not Call Players

Rep. Christopher Shays has stated that the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform may not call players in their hearings slated for January 15th since it would take too much research to question the players. (Mark "I Don't Want to Talk About the Past" McGwire can relax now)

Shays lays the blame squarely on Bud Selig with this comment:

"Part of it is that Major League Baseball has been incredibly passive on this issue to the point of condoning it," he said. "And so, who do I think is mostly at fault? The Commissioner, frankly, for tolerating it and for not having the guts to step up and say we need changes and if you don't agree with me, then find someone else to run this corrupt process."

The thought of walking away from the commissioner position probably never crossed his mind. When you consider he made $14.5 million in twelve months from Oct. 31, 2006 to Oct. 31, 2007 there is no way Selig would walk away from that kind of money. Even though he probably was making less than that at the height of the use of steroids he still was too busy making money to walk away from it all.

To my way of thinking Selig and Don Fehr of the player's union both share equal blame for the proliferation of steroids use. Fehr had fought to protect the players from any kind of drug testing till he was called before Congress. One thing for sure is that Congress will be a lot harsher toward Selig and Fehr than the Mitchell Report was and both of them have to be very concerned right now with the hearings only a little more than two weeks away.

Jim Beauchamp Dies at 68

Jim Beauchamp passed away at the age of 68 on Christmas Day. Beauchamp played for the St. Louis Cardinals, Houston Astros, both the Milwaukee and Atlanta Braves, Cincinnati Reds, and New York Mets. He played two different times for the Cardinals and Astros.

He was the bench coach for the Atlanta Braves from 1991 to 1998. In ten major league seasons, he had a total of 14 home runs and 90 runs batted in and a lifetime average of .231. He had much better stats in the minor leagues but never became more than a journeyman player in the majors. He didn't steal his first base in majors until his seventh season so was not known for his speed.

His motto was "God first, family second and job third" and lived his life that way.

Steve Bilko: Minor League Superstar Who Couldn't Make it In Majors

Steve Bilko had one of the greatest years in minor league history in 1956 when he won the Triple Crown in the Pacific Coast League with the Los Angeles Angels. He hit 55 home runs, drove in 164 runs and hit .360 that season. He later played on the original Los Angeles Angels team when they joined the American League and became the first player to play for both the L.A. Angels and Los Angeles Dodgers.

This paragraph from a story at sportshollywood.com tells more about Bilko:

Steve Bilko starred for three years in Los Angeles, from 1955-57. Playing with an extended schedule due to the good weather (in 1955 he played 168 games), Bilko led the league in home runs each year (37, 55, and 56), always hit over .300, and was named the League MVP for all three seasons. Bilko was 6'1", and was listed as weighing 240 pounds, but probably weighed much more (the Los Angeles Times ran a headline reading, "NOT EVEN MRS. BILKO KNOWS HIS WEIGHT"). He was so prized by the Angels that when he was called up to play in the majors at Cincinnati in 1958, he actually had to take a pay cut.

His main problem was that he couldn't convert minor league success into major league success. In the minor leagues he hit .312 and hit 313 home runs but in ten major league seasons only hit 76 home runs and hit .249.

It was a major surprise to see that today on ebay his 1952 card while he was with the Cardinals is now at $1027 after the bidding started at $9.95. It shows that a baseball card doesn't have to be of a famous player to be worth something.

Bilko would later be immortalized by the use of his name on the popular 1950's TV show Sgt.Bilko which used his name for the lead character in the Phil Silvers comedy.


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