The five men that went before Derek Jeter in '92

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jeter running out of box.jpgIn a recent piece for the New York Times, Tyler Kepner traveled back in history for a look at the 1992 MLB Draft, when Derek Jeter was selected sixth overall by the Yankees.  Kepner spoke to the scouts that drafted Jeter and others who were present and conscious of the Yanks’ thinking when the future Hall of Famer was snatched.  It’s a great read and a great story, especially when you consider the five names that came off the board before Jeter:

1st overall.  Phil Nevin – 3B – Astros: Nevin was a stud in college for Cal State-Fullerton and lasted 12 years in the major leagues.  He finished his career with a .270 batting average, 208 home runs and 743 RBI in 1217 games.  Now he manages the Tigers’ Double-A affiliate in Erie, Pennsylvania.

2nd overall.  Paul Shuey – RHP – Indians: The reliever had several quality seasons and finished with a 3.87 ERA in 476 career appearances for the Tribe, Dodgers and Orioles.  Of course, Cleveland didn’t draft him with the hope that he would turn into a mediocre middle reliever and he threw his last major league pitch in 2007.

3rd overall.  B.J. Wallace – LHP – Expos: Wallace was a strikeout machine during his days at Mississippi State University and had a superb opening season in the Single-A Florida State League in 1993.  But injuries plagued him often and he failed to ever reach the major leagues.  By 1996 he was out of baseball altogether.

4th overall.  Jeffery Hammonds – OF – Orioles: Considered a five-tool player when he was selected out of Stanford University, Hammonds shot quickly through the O’s system and made his MLB debut in 1993.  He failed to ever live up to the hype, though, and hung up his cleats in 2005 with a .272/.338/.449 career batting line in 957 games.

5th overall.  Chad Motolla – OF – Reds: Motolla didn’t debut with the Reds until late 1996 and played in only 59 major league games.  He’s better known for his success in the minor leagues, where he’s among the all-time leaders in hits and RBI.  Now 38, he works as a hitting coach in the Blue Jays’ system.

Some guys — and some clubs, really — just have all the luck.  Jeter, 35, has a .387 career on-base percentage, a .458 slugging percentage, 2,820 hits and 311 stolen bases over his 15-plus professional seasons with the Yankees.  He debuted in 1995 and is currently batting .301/.350/.435 with six home runs, 34 RBI and six steals in 242 at-bats.  This year’s amateur draft begins on Monday.  The Nationals, of course, are on the clock and are fully expected to draft 17-year-old catcher Bryce Harper.

Yordano Ventura represented the best and worst of baseball’s culture

BOSTON, MA - AUGUST 28:  Yordano Ventura #30 of the Kansas City Royals delivers in the first inning during a game against the Boston Red Sox on August 28, 2016 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)
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It was reported this morning that Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura was killed in a car accident in the Dominican Republic. Former prospect Andy Marte was also killed in a separate car accident. Along with Jose Fernandez and Oscar Taveras, the baseball world has lost a lot of young, exciting talent in a very short amount of time.

Ventura was, like all of us, a complex human being. At his best, he was an exciting, talented, emotive pitcher who featured an electric fastball which sat in the mid-90’s and occasionally touched 100 MPH. At his worst, he was an immature, impressionable kid trying to fit in by exacting revenge against batters he felt had wronged him by slinging those electric fastballs at vulnerable areas of their bodies.

Baseball needed Ventura when he was at his best. It is players like him and Fernandez, not Mike Trout, that bring in new fans to the sport. To baseball die-hards, Angels outfielder Mike Trout is the pinnacle of entertainment because we know he’s an otherworldly talent. But to the average fan, Trout is just another player who hits a couple of homers and doesn’t do anything particularly interesting otherwise. Trout is milquetoast. Ventura was never an All-Star, but fans knew who he was because he made his presence felt every time he made a start. He was fun, if sometimes vengeful.

Ventura’s baseball rap sheet is rather lengthy for someone who only pitched parts of four seasons in the big leagues. Early in the 2015 season, Ventura found himself in a handful of benches-clearing incidents in quick succession. On April 12, he jawed with Trout, apparently misunderstanding the motivation behind Trout yelling, “Let’s go!” Though catcher Salvador Perez intervened, Trout’s teammate Albert Pujols ran in from second base and the benches cleared shortly thereafter. On the 18th, some drama between the Athletics and Royals continued. Ventura fired a 99 MPH fastball at Brett Lawrie, resulting in his immediate ejection from the game. More beanball wars ensued in the series finale the following day. Finally, on the 23rd, Ventura hit White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu with a 99 MPH fastball in the fourth inning. Ventura was not ejected… until after the completion of the seventh inning. Walking back to the dugout, Ventura barked at White Sox outfielder Adam Eaton and — you guessed it — the benches cleared. All told, Ventura was fined for his behavior with the Athletics and suspended seven games for the White Sox incident.

In August 2015, Ventura called Blue Jays outfielder Jose Bautista a “nobody” and accused him of stealing signs. He apologized shortly thereafter. Two months later, during his start in Game 6 of the ALCS against the Blue Jays, Ventura got into it with Jays first base coach Tim Leiper. Nothing happened beyond that, but apparently it was part of the Jays’ plan to try to put Ventura “on tilt.”

Most recently, in June this past season, Ventura hit Orioles third baseman Manny Machado with a pitch. Machado charged the mound and got in at least one punch before the players spilled out onto the field in a blob of royal blue and orange. Ventura was suspended for eight games.

Ventura was by no means a model of civility, but he was a product of baseball’s intransigent culture forcing players to assimilate or be ostracized. The old culture taught players to never show emotion. Hit a home run? Put your head down and circle the bases in a timely fashion or risk taking a fastball to the ribs. Players like Fernandez and Bautista — typically players from Latin countries — challenged those old cultural norms and are, as a result, the vanguard of the new culture. Ventura displayed aspects of each, the worst of the old culture and the best of the new. He was not a one-dimensional person; he was strikingly complex. At one moment willing to use a fastball as a weapon, the next stopping by some kids’ lemonade stand and giving out fist bumps. Baseball is made more entertaining and more interesting by its personalities and Ventura’s was a behemoth, for better or worse. His absence from the sport will be felt.

MLB remembers Yordano Ventura and Andy Marte

BOSTON, MA - AUGUST 28:  Yordano Ventura #30 of the Kansas City Royals delivers in the first inning during a game against the Boston Red Sox on August 28, 2016 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)
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Following the tragic passing of 25-year-old Yordano Ventura and 33-year-old Andy Marte, both of whom were killed in separate car crashes on Sunday morning, players and executives from around Major League Baseball expressed an outpouring of grief and support for the players’ families and former teams.

Fans have gathered at Kauffman Stadium in memory of the former pitcher.