Saturday, April 26, 2014

Concerned About Kuroda; Connie Marrero, 1911-2014

From April 13, 2012 through August 12, 2013, Hiroki Kuroda was 27-16 for the Yankees. Since August 12 of last year, he is only 2-8. He just turned 39.

I am now officially concerned. And with Ivan Nova most likely out for the season with an elbow injury, the Yankees can't afford to lose another starter.

Kuroda got rocked last night, as the Yankees opened a 3-game home series against the Whatever They're Calling Themselves This Season Angels of Anaheim. He didn't get out of the 5th inning, and allowed 8 runs (6 earned). This included home runs by Ian Stewart (a bit of a surprise) and Albert Pujols (not a surprise, as El Hombre has turned it up a notch lately, including joining the 500 Home Run Club).

The bullpen was no better Bruce Billings allowed 4 runs, and Shawn Kelley 1. It was the Yankee debut for Billings, a 28-year-old righthander from San Diego. He had previously made 4 big-league appearances, all in 2011: One for Colorado and three for Oakland. Wearing Number 40, he pitched 4 innings for us, allowing 4 runs on 4 hits, including 2 homers, but only walked 1and struck out 7 of the 17 batters he faced. At his age, he can hardly be called a "prospect," but I'd like to see what he can do in a closer game.

The Yankees didn't hit last night, either. Their only run came in the 6th inning, when the game was already well out of reach. Derek Jeter singled, Carlos Beltran doubled, and Alfonso Soriano hit a sacrifice fly.

Yankees 13, Angels 1. WP: C.J. Wilson (3-2). No save. LP: Kuroda (2-2).

The series continues, first pitch about to happen as I type this. Vidal Nuno, taking Nova's place in the rotation, starts against Hector Santiago.

*

Connie Marrero has died. More specifically, Conrado Eugenio Marrero Ramos. He was from Sagua La Grande, Cuba, and pitched in the Caribbean leagues for many years before Clark Griffith, a Hall of Fame-quality pitcher who had become the owner of the Washington Senators (and that's why he's really in the Hall) began signing Cuban pitchers in the late 1940s, including future All-Stars Camilo Pascual and Pedro Ramos.

When Griffith signed Marrero, the diminutive righthander (Baseball-Reference lists him as having been 5-foot-5, 158 pounds) was already 36, and he didn't make his big-league debut until April 21, 1950, age 38. He hung on with the Senators until 1954, with a career record of 39-40, an ERA of 3.67, an ERA+ of 108, and a WHIP of 1.340.

He probably should have gotten to the majors much sooner; he was certainly "eligible," as, while Hispanic, he was a white Cuban. White Cubans had been in the majors since 1911, with teams responding to questions of race by saying, "He is as white as Castilian soap" -- meaning he was descended entirely from white Spaniards, not "Indians" native to the island or the descendants of black slaves. None of the Cubans who played in the major leagues from 1911 to 1947 was dark-skinned enough that their MLB team "got away with" sneaking a black player into a game.

Marrero went back to Cuba, and became the oldest living former Major League Baseball player. He was just short of his 103rd birthday when he died last week.


With his death, the oldest living ex-MLB player is now Mike Sandlock. a catcher and infielder originally from Greenwich, Connecticut. He played with the Boston Braves in 1942 and '44 (spending '43 in the minors), the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1945 and '46, and then remained in the minors until resurfacing with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1953. He played 195 games in the majors, and batted .240 -- .282 with 2 homers and 17 RBIs in 1945, his one season where he was up for more than a little while. (The year with the MLB ranks most depleted by World War II.) He is now 98 years old.


The oldest living ex-Yankee is Rinaldo "Rugger" Ardizoia, a pitcher who played 1 game, April 30, 1947, and tossed 2 rather ineffective innings. The San Francisco native, now 94, is also believed to be the last surviving player for the Mission Reds, who once played in the Pacific Coast League, as local rivals to the San Francisco Seals and Oakland Oaks.

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