Tito Francona Dies at Age 84

John Patsy “Tito” Francona, father of current Cleveland Indians manager, Terry Francona, died on February 13, 2018He was 84.

Tito was a major-league outfielder and first baseman from 1956 to 1970, playing for nine different clubs, but primarily with the Cleveland Indians, where he finished fifth in the American League MVP voting in 1959 and had an all-star season in 1961.  During his career, he compiled a .272 batting average, 125 home runs, and 656 RBI.

Terry Francona will be starting his sixth season with the Indians in 2018.  Prior to that, he managed the Boston Red Sox from 2004 to 2011, which included two World Series championships.  A first baseman /outfielder like his father, Terry also played in the big leagues from 1981 to 1990 for five teams, including five seasons with the Montreal Expos.

For more information about Tito Francona, follow the link below from LancasterOnline:



Will Top Prospect Vlad Guerrero Jr. be the First to Join His Father in the Hall?

Contributed by Richard Cuicchi

In many respects, it’s ridiculous to predict the Hall of Fame career of a player who has played less than 200 minor league games. Yet it’s tempting to do so when the player is rated the top hitting prospect in the minors, and he also has the baseball bloodlines of a Hall of Famer.

While his father played major-league baseball during 1996 to 2011 and was recently elected to the 2018 class of the National Baseball Hall of Fame, Vlad Guerrero Jr. is just starting to blaze his own trail in professional baseball as an 18-year-old.

Guerrero Jr. just completed his second season in the Toronto Blue Jays organization, after collecting a $3.9 million bonus during the international signing process in 2016.  He began this year at Single-A Lansing and then got a mid-season promotion to High-A Dunedin.  Between the two teams, he managed to hit 13 home runs and drive in 76 runs, while hitting for a .323 average.

He was recently named the top hitting prospect in the minor leagues, attaining a rating of 80 (out of a possible 80) by baseball analysts at MLB Pipeline. It is the first time a prospect has ever received that rating in the hit tools category.  Guerrero Jr. is the third overall top prospect in all of Major League Baseball and the top-rated prospect in the Blue Jays organization.  While he still requires some maturing, it’s not out of the question he could be playing in the big leagues in 2019.

He is being compared to current major-leaguer Miguel Cabrera, who began his major-league career in 2003 at age 20, went on to win two MVP Awards, and is a cinch as a future Hall of Famer.

Guerrero Sr. garnered 92.9% of the vote in his second season of eligibility for the Hall of Fame. He will be first player to go in as an Angels player, even though his career also included significant time with the Montreal Expos.  He is the third Dominican player to be elected, following pitchers Juan Marichal and Pedro Martinez.

Guerrero Sr. was a five-tool talent, finishing his career with a .318/.379/.533 slash line. With a reputation as an unconventional hitter, he collected 449 home runs, 1,596 RBI, and 1,328 runs scored.  His career accomplishments included nine All-Star selections and eight Silver Slugger Awards.  In his first year with the Angels in 2004, he was the American League’s Most Valuable Player, leading the Angels to a first-place finish in the AL West.  He made his only World Series appearance with the Texas Rangers in 2010.

Guerrero Jr. continues the family tradition in professional baseball. In addition to his father, uncles Wilton and Julio played pro ball.  Wilton was a major-leaguer from 1996 to 2004 with four teams, while Julio played in the minors with the Red Sox organization.  He also has two cousins, Gabriel and Gregory, who are currently in the minors.

Guerrero Jr. is one of several sons of former major leaguers currently in the Blue Jays organization. Second baseman Cavan Biggio is the son of Hall of Famer Craig Biggio.  First baseman Kacy Clemens is the son of seven-time Cy Young Award winner Roger Clemens, while shortstop Bo Bichette is the son of Dante Bichette, a four-time all-star.

In addition to Biggio, there are several other Hall of Famers with sons or grandsons currently toiling away in the minors or in college. They include Cal Ripken Jr., Ivan Rodriguez, Tom Glavine, Carl Yastrzemski, and Harmon Killebrew.  Then there’s also Mariano Rivera, a sure-fire lock to be elected to the Hall in 2019, with a son currently in the minors.

So, what are the odds of Guerrero Jr. getting into the Hall? The reality is there has never been a father-son player combination in the Hall.  Not even prolific duos like the Griffeys (Ken Sr. and Ken Jr.) and the Alous (Felipe and Moises).  Lee and Larry MacPhail, baseball executives from the 1930s to 1960s, are the only father and son currently in the Hall of Fame.

We’ll have to check back in about 25 years from now to see if the Guerreros are actually the first players. (Although it probably won’t be me doing the checking.)



The Shelby Family Tradition Continues at Kentucky

John T. Shelby III was recently added to the University of Kentucky baseball program as a student assistant coach, while he completes his course work for a undergraduate degree.  He is part of family tradition at the university that includes his father and two brothers.

Shelby played at UK for three seasons, with his best year coming in 2006, when he Second Team All-SEC with a .291 average, 18 home runs, and 1.017 OPS.  He then pursued a professional career after being drafted by the Chicago White Sox organization in 2006.  He spent seven seasons in pro ball, reaching the Triple-A level with Tampa Bay in 2011.

Shelby’s father, John Shelby Jr., played 11 seasons in the majors, primarily with the Orioles and Dodgers organizations and has served as a major-league coach for several teams.

Shelby’s brother, JaVaon, also played for UK and is now playing in the Oakland A’s organization.  Their brother, Jaren, has committed to play at UK for the 2019 season.

For more information about John T. Shelby III, see the link below from LEX18.com:


Mike Rojas Joins His Father’s Former Organization

Mike Rojas was recently named the manager of the Northwest Arkansas Natural, the Double-A affiliate of the Kansas City Royals.  His father, Cookie Rojas, was a 16-year veteran of the big-leagues, having played for the Royals during 1971 to 1977, when he was a four-time all-star selection.

After playing professionally for two years, Mike pursued a coaching career.  He has been a minor-league manager for 13 seasons.  His goal is to eventually manage in the majors.

For more information about Mike Rojas, follow the link below from ArkansasOnline:



Amanda Hopkins Takes Up Her Father’s Profession

Amanda Hopkins is making a name for herself in an unusual role for women in Major League Baseball, as a full-time major-league scout.  For that matter, there aren’t very many women in any significant roles with major-league clubs, but Hopkins is changing that.

She completed her first season in 2017 as a scout for the Seattle Mariners.  She is very familiar with the role, as she grew in the game with her father, Ron, who held roles in scouting for the Mariners, Texas Rangers, and Pittsburgh Pirates.  Ron is currently a special assistant to the GM with the Pirates.

For more information about Hopkins, follow the link below from mlb.com:



Rafael Palmeiro to Attempt a Comeback

Former major-leaguer Rafael Palmeiro has put the word out that he is interested in making a comeback in Major League Baseball.  Now 53 years old, Palmeiro last played in the majors in 2004 as a 40-year-old.  Only a handful of players have previously made big-league appearances over the age of 50, most recently Minnie Minoso who pinch-hit in a 1980 MLB game as a publicity stunt.

Palmeiro had a productive career as one of only five major-leaguers to have hit at least 500 home runs and 3,000 hits.  He would be in the Baseball Hall of Fame if he had not tested positively for PEDs in his last season.

Palmeiro has two sons who are pursuing professional baseball careers of their own.

Preston completed his second year in the Baltimore Orioles organization in 2017, when he hit 13 home runs and drove in 77 RBI.

Patrick completed his third season in the independent leagues, after having played in the Chicago White Sox organization from 2012 to 2014.  In 2015 Patrick and his father appeared in the same game for the Sugar Land Skeeters, an independent team.

For more information about Rafael Palmeiro’s pursuit of a comeback, follow the link below from sportsday.dallasnews.com:




A Tale of Two Griffeys: One Very Good, One Dominant

Contributed by Richard Cuicchi

There have been nearly 250 father-son combinations to play in Major League Baseball. History shows that it’s pretty rare for both the father and the son to excel on the diamond at a high level comprising leadership in batting or pitching categories, all-star selections, and post-season appearances.

Hall of Famers Yogi Berra, Tony Perez, and Earl Averill had major-league sons with marginal success as big-leaguers themselves, while Joe Wood and Ed Walsh’s sons were in the majors only long enough for the proverbial “cup of coffee.” Pete Rose’s son spent 21 years in the minors, but managed to get into only 11 games in the Big Show. The sons of Ty Cobb, Hank Aaron, and Mickey Mantle never made it out of the low minor leagues.

On the other hand, there are a few good examples of father and son careers that were both highly successful. One of those was Ken Griffey Sr. and Ken Griffey Jr.

Ken Griffey Jr. was simply one of the best players in baseball history. In 1998 The Sporting News came up with their list of the 100 Greatest Baseball Players of all time which included Griffey Jr. who was then only 28 years old.  He joined legendary players such as Ruth, Aaron, Cobb, Williams, Mays, Musial, and DiMaggio.  The ultimate honor for a baseball player is his election to the National Baseball Hall of Fame.  Griffey Jr. came closest of any player to being a unanimous Hall of Fame inductee in 2016, garnering 99.3% of the baseball writers’ votes.

Griffey Jr. had the distinction of being the first player in history to appear with his father in the same major-league game. 19-year-old Griffey Jr. and his 40-year-old father, Ken Sr., were teammates with the Seattle Mariners in 1990 when they first played together on August 21.  Three weeks later they hit back-to-back home runs in the same game.

While the Mariners’ roster featuring both Griffeys may have been somewhat of a publicity stunt at the time, Griffey Sr.’s own career was nothing to sneeze at. His performance is often overshadowed by his son’s superstardom.  Even though he wasn’t a Hall of Famer like his son (Griffey Sr. received a meager 4.7% of the votes in his only year of eligibility in 1999), Griffey Sr. did manage to log a few All-Star seasons and claim two World Series rings.

Here is more background and comparison of the careers of the two outstanding players.

Both Griffeys were born in Denora, PA, which was also the birthplace of Stan Musial. Griffey Jr. shares the same birthday as Musial.

Griffey Sr. began his professional career at age 19 in 1969, being drafted in the 29th round by the Cincinnati Reds.  However, he didn’t make his major-league debut until August 25, 1973 at age 23.  Griffey Jr. was the first overall pick in the 1987 MLB Draft by Seattle when he was 17 years old and made his major-league debut on April 3, 1989.  Griffey Jr. went on to play in 22 big-league seasons, while his dad recorded 19 seasons.  Both were outfielders.

Griffey Sr.’s career slash line (Batting Average/On-Base Percentage/Slugging Percentage) was .296/.359/.431 compared to Junior’s .284/.370/.538. The biggest contributor to their difference in Slugging Percentage was Junior’s 630 career home runs, currently sixth on the all-time leader list.  Griffey Sr.’s highest season was 21 home runs, as he managed to hit only 152 during his career.  Junior led the American League in round-trippers in four seasons and hit 40 or more in seven seasons.  Griffey Sr. had the edge over his father in Batting Average, as he compiled nine seasons with .300 or better.

Griffey Jr. was selected to 13 All-Star teams while his father appeared on three, including an All-Star Game MVP Award in 1980. Griffey Jr. also captured the award in 1992.

In addition to Junior, Griffey Sr. had another son, Craig, who took up a pro baseball career from 1991 to 1997. Craig appeared in seven minor-league seasons in the Mariners and Reds organizations but managed to reach the Triple-A level for only a handful of games.  Griffey Jr.’s son, Trey (Ken Griffey III), pursued football over baseball as his sport of choice.  He wound up playing wide receiver for the University of Arizona for four seasons, had tryouts with the Baltimore Ravens and Miami Dolphins, but has yet to make an active NFL team roster.  With no expectation of pursuing a pro baseball career, Trey was selected by the Seattle Mariners in the 24th round of the 2016 MLB Draft as a tribute to his father (Griffey Jr.’s uniform number with the Mariners was 24.).

Griffey Sr.’s biggest claim to fame, and perhaps his most significant accomplishment over his son, came as a member of the fabled Cincinnati Reds’ “Big Red Machine” teams in the early-to-mid 1970s. He helped the Reds win the World Series in 1975 and 1976.  Junior played on three post-season teams, two with Seattle and one with the Chicago White Sox, but his teams reached the American League Championship Series only once.

Griffey Jr. attained a peak salary of $12.5 million in four seasons with Cincinnati. He earned a total of $151.7 million during his career.  Of course the economics of baseball were different when Griffey Sr. was playing.  He collected a little over $10 million during his entire career, with his highest annual salary being $1.15 million for Atlanta in 1987.

The Griffeys rank among the top major-league father-son duos for combined career performances. They lead all pairs in career hits, and rank second all-time behind Barry and Bobby Bonds in games played, runs scored, home runs, and RBI.

In addition to the Bondses, other successful major-league father-son combos include Felipe and Moises Alou, George and Dick Sisler, Gus and Buddy Bell, and Mel and Todd Stottlemyre.

Former big-league stars Roger Clemens, Vladimir Guerrero, Craig Biggio and Dante Bichette currently have sons in the low minors trying to follow in their father’s footsteps. Perhaps one of these will be successful in forming the next great MLB father-son duo.