(L to R) Fielder, Cain, Dickey (Image courtesy of Nashville Sounds)
It’s the best time of the baseball year: October. Tonight the MLB postseason officially gets underway with the American League wild card game, and this year, like most years, the playoffs are loaded with former Sounds. Between the 10 clubs in the post-season and what their active roster looked like at the end of the regular season, as many as 28 former Sounds could be involved in the playoffs plus two more players with local ties. Here’s a look at the teams and any former Sounds they may feature.
How they made it: Won a Wild Card spot
Fun fact: The Pirates are in the playoffs for the third year in a row, the first time they’ve done that since the last time they’d been in the post-season — 1990-92 when they lost in the NLCS each time.
The Pirates, who were the Sounds’ parent club from 1998-2004, are loaded with former Sounds. Aramis Ramirez (’98-’00) has said publicly he plans to retire at the end of the season, and what an 18-year major league career he’s had. He was traded from Milwaukee in July and hit .245 with six homers and 33 RBIs in 56 games for the Buccos. Travis Ishikawa (’12) played briefly for the Sounds as part of a rehab assignment when he was with the Brewers, and slugger Pedro Alvarez, while not a former Sound, is a former Vanderbilt Commodore. The Pirates also have three coaches who are former Sounds. Hitting coach Jeff Branson (’91-’92) played for the Sounds as a Reds minor leaguer, and Jeff Livesey (’01, ’04) was a two-time Sounds hitting coach in ’01 and ’04 during the Pirates-Sounds affiliation. Another Pirates coach with Sounds ties is Frank Kremblas (’05-’08), who managed the Sounds the first four years of the affiliation with the Brewers. The Sounds won the Pacific Coast League title in ’05 under Kremblas, who was the PCL Manager of the Year in ’07 and got the team back to the playoffs in ’08, still the last time the Sounds have been in the post-season.
How they made it: Won a Wild Card spot
Fun fact: The Cubs averaged 94 losses per year over the past four seasons and now are in the playoffs with a team boasting seven rookies.
The only former Sound on the Cubs’ roster is on their field staff. Pitching coach Chris Bosio (’09, ’11), in his fourth year with the Cubs, was the Sounds’ pitching coach in ’09 and then again in June ’11 through the end of that season. Bosio enjoyed an 11-year playing career, including a post-season appearance in ’95 with a Mariners team that defeated the Yankees in the ALDS in dramatic fashion.
Chris Bosio, shown with the Sounds. (Photo courtesy Mike Strasinger / Nashville Sounds)
St. Louis Cardinals
How they made it: Won the NL Central
Fun fact: The Cards have done their fair share of winning in their long franchise history, and this has been a particularly good century so far. They’re in the the postseason for the fifth year in a row and the 12th time in 16 seasons of the 2000s. That’s not bad.
The Cards boast two former Sounds in their bullpen — veterans Randy Choate (’08) and Carlos Villanueva (’06-’07, ’10). The 40-year-old lefty Choate has been with the Cardinals the past three years, and this season he posted a 3.95 ERA in 71 appearances over just 27 1/3 innings, which means he’s a LOOGY! Villanueva, who may not be able to land a spot on the Cardinals’ NLDS roster, posted a 2.95 ERA in 35 appearances after signing as a free agent in February.
New York Mets
How they made it: Won the NL East
Fun fact: The Mets are in the playoffs for the first time since 2006 when they lost in the NLCS to the Cardinals.
The Mets are the only playoff team without a former Sound. So, obviously, you shouldn’t root for them.
Los Angeles Dodgers
How they made it: Won the NL West
Fun fact: The Dodgers are in the playoffs for a third straight season for the first time in their long franchise history. They’d made it in consecutive seasons a total of seven times, but never three in a row until now.
The Dodgers have three former Sounds on their team, including manager Don Mattingly (’81), arguably the most notable former Sound in franchise history, who played on, if you base it off what the players went on to do, one of the most notable teams the Sounds have ever had. “Donnie Baseball” hit .316 for the Sounds in 1981 when they were the Yankees’ Double-A Southern League affiliate. It was a club that also included current Orioles manager Buck Showalter, future MLB speedsters Otis Nixon and Willie McGee, and current PCL managers Brian Poldberg (Omaha, Royals) and Bob Mariano (Sacramento, Giants). Former Sound and former Brewers manager Ron Roenicke (’88) is the Dodgers’ third base coach, a position to which he was named in mid-August. He’d been let go by the Brewers in May. Along with Clayton Kershaw, the Dodgers’ pitching staff is led by Zack Greinke (’11) and his ridiculous 1.66 ERA. Greinke made two starts for the Sounds in 2011 as part of a rehab assignment with the Brewers when he was coming back from a rib injury.
How they made it: Won a Wild Card spot
Fun fact: The Astros averaged 104 losses the past four seasons and now are in the playoffs for the first time since 2005. They reached the World Series that year and were making their their sixth postseason appearance in the last nine years.
The Astros have three former Sounds players and one former Sounds coach. Mike Fiers (’11-’14) and Carlos Gomez (’10) were dealt from Milwaukee to Houston on July 30, and Fiers tossed a no-hitter in just his fourth outing with the Astros. Between the two clubs, Fiers went 7-10 with a 3.69 ERA in 31 games, 30 starts. Gomez, who rehabbed with the Sounds for eight games in 2010, combined to hit .255 with 12 homers and 56 RBIs this season. He had 20-plus homers and 30-plus stolen bases the past two years for Milwaukee. Veteran lefty reliever Joe Thatcher (’07) put together a solid year in the Houston ‘pen, posting a 3.18 ERA in 43 appearances. He signed with the club in February, became a free agent in July and re-signed with the team days later. He’s been in the big leagues over nine seasons but has never pitched in the playoffs and seems unlikely to be on Houston’s roster for tonight’s game. The Astros’ third base coach under manager A.J. Hinch is former Sounds hitting coach Gary Pettis (’05), who was with the Sounds in 2005, the first year of their affiliation with the Brewers that culminated with a PCL title. Pettis joined the Astros this year after spending several seasons as third base coach with the Rangers under Ron Washington.
New York Yankees
How they made it: Won a Wild Card spot
Fun fact: The Yankees are back in the playoffs after a two-year hiatus. They’d reached postseason 17 times in 18 years from ’95-’12 (’08 was the exception…that was the year of the Rays).
The Yankees have two former Sounds — one a pitcher and the other a pitching coach. Chris Capuano (’10) went 0-4 with a 7.97 ERA in 22 appearances (4 starts) for the Yankees this year and was on and off their 40-man roster several times. He would seem to be a long shot for the Yankees’ ALDS roster if they get past Houston. He went 1-1 with a 1.80 ERA in four starts for the Sounds in a comeback effort in ’10, which he described to me in an interview when he came through Greer Stadium in 2014 with Colorado Springs. Yankees pitching coach Larry Rothschild (’78) was part of the inaugural season of the Nashville Sounds, as he made five relief appearances that year as a Reds minor leaguer. He made just seven appearances in the major leagues as a player (Tigers ’81-’82) but has had a very long career in the big leagues as a coach and manager.
Kansas City Royals
How they made it: Won the AL Central
Fun fact: The Royals were quite the story in 2014 since they hadn’t been to the postseason since 1985. Going in to this year, some still weren’t sold on the idea of sustained success. Fangraphs, a great source for stats and analytics, projected the Royals for 79 wins this year. And they weren’t alone in predicting a down year in KC. The Royals said no.
The Royals are loaded with former Sounds, including two mainstays in their lineup — outfielder Lorenzo Cain (’08, ’10) and shortstop Alcides Escobar (’09). Cain hit .307 with 16 homers and 72 RBIs in 140 games during an all-star campaign, and Escobar joined him in the mid-summer classic, totaling a .257 average and 17 stolen bases by the end of the year. The Royals also have a former Sound from this past season. Ben Zobrist (’15) joined the Sounds in May during a west coast road trip as part of a rehab assignment with the A’s. He went 3-for-10 in three games on his way back from a knee injury. The A’s traded the free-agent-to-be to Kansas City in July for Aaron Brooks, who pitched for the Sounds late in the year, and lefty Sean Manaea, who now is one of the A’s top pitching prospects and definitely a name to know for the 2016 Sounds. The Royals also have two coaches who are former Sounds players. Their first base coach Rusty Kuntz (’85) played in 74 games for the Sounds as a Tigers Triple-A player in 1985, and hitting coach Dale Sveum (’99) hit .344 in 42 games for the Sounds when he was with the Pirates in 1999, the final season of his 18-year playing career.
Toronto Blue Jays
How they made it: Won the AL East
Fun fact: Last year the Royals snapped a long postseason drought, which passed on baseball’s longest active stretch without a playoff appearance to the Blue Jays, who hadn’t been since 1993 until this year. Now who owns the longest active streak without a playoff appearance? We’re looking at you, Seattle Mariners (14 years, 2001).
The Blue Jays aren’t just fun to watch. They’ve got three former Sounds and another player with local ties. In fact, the majority of the Jays’ starting rotation is Sounds/Nashville-heavy. Nashville native R.A. Dickey (’07), remember, was the Pacific Coast League Pitcher of the Year in 2007 after going 13-6 with a 3.72 ERA in 31 games (22 starts) for the Sounds, thanks largely to his then newly-discovered knuckle ball. Murfreesboro native and Vanderbilt alum David Price was dominant for Toronto after coming over from Detroit in July. He went 9-1 with a 2.30 ERA in 11 starts and is locked and loaded for Game 1 of the ALDS on Thursday against Texas. And what a year it turned out to be for former Sound Marco Estrada (’10, ’12-’13), who went 13-8 with a 3.13 ERA in 34 games (28 starts) after being acquired from Milwaukee last off-season. Estrada lost a no-hit bit in the eighth inning in two consecutive starts in June, and one of them was a perfect game when it was broken up. Price, of course, wasn’t the only big name the Jays acquired in July. Former Sound LaTroy Hawkins (’10), who made two appearances in a Sounds uniform as part of a rehab assignment, came with all-star Troy Tulowitzki in the blockbuster deal with Colorado. Hawkins posted a 2.76 ERA in 18 appearances for Toronto, and this is his 21st season in the major leagues. Yes. Twenty-first.
How they made it: Won the AL West
Fun fact: The Rangers lost 95 games during an injury-plagued 2014. And on August 2 of this year, they were 8.0 games out of first place and sitting in 3rd place in their division.
The Rangers have three former Sounds, all from the days of the Sounds’ affiliation with the Brewers. After playing just 42 games last year due to a neck injury, slugger Prince Fielder (’05) was back to having another Fielder-type season, hitting .305 with 23 homers and 98 RBIs in an all-star campaign for Texas. His 28 homers as a Sound in 2005 remain tied for 7th-most in single-season franchise history. Fielder’s longtime Brewers teammate and fellow former Sound Yovani Gallardo (’07-’08) also was a big part of Texas’ success this year. Gallardo, dealt by the Brewers last off-season when they figured they’d eventually lose him to free agency anyway, went 13-11 with a 3.42 ERA in 33 starts, his seventh straight season with at least 30 starts. Former Sound Carlos Corporan (’08-’09) played in 33 games for Texas this year, his first season with the Rangers after several years in Houston as a back-up catcher for the Astros. He missed a lot of time late in the year due to injury before being activated September 1. He’s not a lock to be on the club’s postseason roster.
October baseball. The best. Enjoy!
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