Strong Island's Finest: Positional Players

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In honor of the U.S. Open out at Bethpage this weekend, let’s look at
the greatest baseball players from Long Island, or Strong Island for
all you meatheads, in Major League history. First, the position
players:

Carl Yastrzemski, Southampton. 23 seasons with Red Sox … 452 HR,
1844 RBI, .285/.379/.462 … .369 AVG, 4 HR in 17 postseason games … 1967
A.L. MVP & Triple Crown Winner … 18 All-Star games … 7 Gold Gloves
… Hall of Fame in 1989.

Craig Biggio, Smithtown. 20 seasons with Astros … 291 HR, 1175
RBI, .281/.363/.433 … 414 SB (50 in 1998) … 668 2B, 5th all-time … 285
HBP, 2nd all-time … 7 All-Star games … 4 Gold Gloves … successful
transition from catcher to second baseman … dirtiest helmet ever.

John Valentin, Mineola. 11 seasons with Red Sox and Mets … 124
HR, 558 RBI, .279/.360/.454 … 47 2B in 1997 led A.L. … .347 AVG, 5 HR
in 17 postseason games.

A.J. Pierzynski, Bridgehampton. 12 seasons (and counting) with
Twins, Giants, and White Sox … 104 HR, 516 RBI, .284/.326/.428 … 2
All-Star games … traded to SF for Joe Nathan and Francisco Liriano …
2005 World Series Champion … 27 GIDP in 2004 led N.L. … .300 AVG, 5 HR
in 30 postseason games … thrown out 3 of 41 base stealers in 2009 (7%).

Frank Catalanotto, Smithtown. 13 seasons (and counting) with Tigers, Rangers, Blue Jays, and Brewers … 83 HR, 449 RBI, .292/.358/.448.

Tony Graffanino, Amityville. 13 seasons (and counting) with
Braves, Devil Rays, White Sox, Royals, Red Sox, Brewers, and Indians …
58 HR, 302 RBI, .265/.335/.394 … .231 AVG in 15 postseason games … once
traded for Tanyon Sturtze, who is definitely slightly crazy.

Keith Osik, Port Jefferson. 10 seasons with Pirates, Brewers,
Orioles, and Nationals … 13 HR, 108 RBI, .231/.308/.321 … 2 relief
pitching appearances, 2.0 IP, 9 ER, 2 K … threw out 29% of potential
base stealers.

Tom Veryzer, Port Jefferson. 12 seasons with Tigers, Indians,
Mets, and Cubs … 14 HR, 231 RBI, .241/.283/.294 … 9 SB, 23 CS … 2
seasons with 20+ errors at shortstop.

Edwin Encarnacion: “I think [the Blue Jays] got too hasty in making their decision.”

TORONTO, ON - OCTOBER 19:  Edwin Encarnacion #10 of the Toronto Blue Jays reacts in the fifth inning against the Cleveland Indians during game five of the American League Championship Series at Rogers Centre on October 19, 2016 in Toronto, Canada.  (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images
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1B/DH Edwin Encarnacion signed a three-year, $60 million contract with the Indians early last month. The 34-year-old had spent the last seven and a half seasons with the Blue Jays, but his future elsewhere appeared to be written on the wall when the Jays signed Kendrys Morales in November to essentially occupy Encarnacion’s role.

Encarnacion spoke about testing free agency for the first time in his career and the situation that led to him leaving Toronto for Cleveland. Via Jorge L. Ortiz of USA TODAY:

“Toronto was always my first option, but I had never been a free agent, and anybody who gets to free agency wants to find out what’s out there,’’ he said. “I think they got too hasty in making their decision, but now I’m with Cleveland and I’m happy to be here.’’

Encarnacion last season hit .263/.357/.529 with 42 home runs and an AL-best 127 RBI. He’s now on the team that defeated his Blue Jays in the ALCS to advance to the World Series. Encarnacion effectively replaces Mike Napoli, who returned to the Rangers.

Sammy Sosa compares himself to Jesus Christ

Sammy Sosa
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I’m on record saying that Sammy Sosa has been rather hosed by baseball history.

The guy did amazing things. Unheard-of things. He was truly astounding at this peak and was incredibly important to both his franchise and Major League Baseball as a whole. His repayment: he’s a pariah. His club won’t claim him and his greatness, by any measure, has not just been overlooked but denied by most who even bother to consider him.

Yes, he had PED associations, but they were extraordinarily vague ones. He’s in the same boat as David Ortiz as far as documented PED evidence against him, but Ortiz will be a first ballot Hall of Famer while Sosa barely clings to the ballot. He hit homers at the same cartoonish rate as Mark McGwire, but while Big Mac has been embraced by baseball and has coached for years, Sosa can’t get into Wrigley Field unless he buys a ticket and even then the Cubs might try to hustle him out of sight. The man has been treated poorly by any measure.

Yet, it’s still possible to overstate the case. Like Sosa did in this interview with Chuck Wasserstrom:

It’s like Jesus Christ when he came to Jerusalem,” Sosa told chuckbloggerstrom.com. “Everybody thought Jesus Christ was a witch (laughing) — and he was our savior. So if they talk (bleep) about Jesus Christ, what about me? Are you kidding me?”

At least he was basically joking about it. Still, it’s a totally unfair and almost offensive comparison.

I mean, anyone who watched Sosa’s career knows that he had trouble laying off breaking stuff low and away. In contrast . . .