Atlanta is in a rebuilding mode. Ditto for Arizona, who was also looking to shed some salary. So, the two teams became trading partners Saturday, as the Diamondbacks and Braves swung a trade that sent IF Phil Gosselin (UVA) west to the Dbacks for 2 pitchers.
Gosselin, on the DL recovering from a broken thumb, is batting .325 in 20 games this year.
Since Melvin Upton (Chesapeake) signed his mega-contract with the Braves, he has been, well, a major bust, to put it mildly. He has hit .198 with 61 RBIs in 267 games over 2 seasons in Atlanta. He was anxious to get going in 2015, hoping to break through his long slump, but his efforts have suffered a major setback. He will be sidelined through the end of Spring Training, and possibly into the regular season, due to inflammation in his foot. ESPN reports that he has been diagnosed with sesamoiditis, which, in laymans terms, is inflammation in the bone behind the ball of his foot.
Upton has three seasons left on his 5 yr, $75 million deal with Atlanta.
Upton (Chesapeake) will go by Melvin Upton in 2015. We will see if he becomes a real producer.
The Baseball HOF just announced its Class of 2015, its largest class in 60 years. Next year, long time closer Billy Wagner (Tannersville) comes up on the ballot for the first time. Wagner pitched in the majors from 1995-2010, racking up 432 saves, 2nd-best all time among lefties, and one of only 5 closers to ever rack up 400 saves.
An interesting twist to Wagner-he was within 8 days of being a teammate of all 4 of the Baseball HOF’s 2015 inductees. Check out this article explaining.
In the latest installment of this series where we look at ballplayers inducted in the Virginia Sports Hall of Fame, we turn to a 2-sport star, OF Brian Jordan.
Jordan grew up in Baltimore, MD, but came to Virginia to play his college ball, choosing Virginia’s capital city, the University of Richmond Spiders. After graduating from Richmond, he was selected in the first round of the 1988 MLB draft by the Cardinals, a year before he was a 7th round draft pick of the NFL’s Buffalo Bills. (The Bills would cut him during training camp.)
Jordan started out his baseball career in the Cardinals system, climbing the ranks while at the same time playing for the Atlanta Falcons in the NFL. In 1991, he even led the Falcons in tackles and was voted as an alternate to the Pro Bowl squad. That, however, would be the end of his football career, as in 1992 he signed a new contract with the St. Louis Cardinals that included a signing bonus of $1.7 million to focus on baseball exclusively and end his football career.
Jordan made his major league debut in 1992, and for those first three seasons he was a utility outfielder. In 1995, he became an everyday outfielder for the Cardinals, and delivered big time, batting .296 with 22 HR and 81 RBIs in 135 games, and even posted a respectable .339 on base percentage. In 1996, he continued to excel, batting .310 with 104 RBIs, and his .422 batting average with Runners in Scoring Position held up as a new Cardinals record until it was surpassed in 2013. He also hit a major league leading .684 with the bases loaded.
Jordan had a horrendous 1997 season, batting .234 in 47 games with ho homers and only 10 RBIs, but bounced right back in 1998, batting .316 with 25 HR and 91 RBIs. This power surge landed him a huge contract with the Atlanta Braves. In 1999, his first season with Atlanta, he would bat .283 with 23 HR and a career high 115 RBIs, and made his first and only all-star game. (Also appearing on the NL squad that year was fellow Richmond Spider and fellow Virginia Sports HOF inductee Sean Casey, ’14.) Jordan’s exploits would be a key factor in the Braves going to the playoffs, and he even keyed the Braves NLDS win over Houston, batting .471 with 7 RBIs, including a 12th inning GWer in Game 3. He hit 2 HR in the NLCS but was held to only one hit in the World Series.
Jordan’s numbers leveled off in 2000, but in 2001 he got himself back on track, hitting .295 with 25 HR and 97 RBIs in helping the Braves hold off the Phillies and Mets to win their 10th straight division title. The following winter he was traded to the Dodgers in the blockbuster deal that brought Gary Sheffield to Atlanta.
He hit .285 with the Dodgers in 2002, but injuries started to catch up with him. He left and signed a 1-year deal with the Texas Rangers, but hit a paltry .222, and again was hampered by injuries. He returned to Atlanta for 2005 and 2006, but could not shake the injury bug, and retired from playing baseball after that 2006 season. He finished his MLB playing career with a .282 batting average, 184 HR, and 821 RBIs.
Brian Jordan was inducted into the Virginia Sports Hall of Fame in the Class of 2009.
One of the best kept secrets in baseball came to fruition on Friday, as the Atlanta Braves finally completed their off-season long quest to deal OF Justin Upton (Chesapeake). Upton was dealt to the San Diego Padres for a package of prospects.
This was the latest in a series of bold moves by the Padres to beef up their offense in a huge way, and the Upton acquisition will mean the Padres will have a whole new outfield in 2015.
This was a win-win situation for both teams. The rebuilding Braves get something for a soon-to-be-free-agent Upton, and the Padres send a message to their fans they are trying to seriously contend in 2015. Upton will hit the open market this time next year, meaning the Padres could try to sign him long term or they could give him a qualifying offer and get draft pick compensation if he leaves.
Upton spent two years with the Braves, during which time he hit .267 with 56 HR and 172 RBIs in 303 games, and in 2014 he won his second Silver Slugger award.
Welcome to this new series here on FROM VIRGINIA TO THE SHOW, where we will look at the careers of baseball players who are enshrined in the Virginia Sports Hall of Fame. We lead off with Billy Wagner.
Wagner grew up in the Shenandoah Valley, in the small town of Tazewell. He was a natural right-handed pitcher, but had to learn to throw as a lefty after breaking his arm twice in childhood accidents. He parlayed that into a run at Tazewell High school where, in his senior year, he had a 7-1 record and a 1.52 ERA, with 116 strikeouts, in just 46 innings.
Wagner would go on to Ferrum College, where in 1992 he set an NCAA per-nine-innings records with 19 1/3 strikeouts and fewest hits allowed-1.88.
He was a first round draft choice in 1992 by the Houston Astros. In last 1995, he made his major league debut, pitching in only one game late season, and would open the 1996 season at AAA. He won 6 games in 12 starts for AAA, but when his contract was purchased in the Summer of 1996, he was tabbed the team’s new closer by Astros management. He would finish the season with 9 saves in 13 opportunities, and opponents batted .165 against him.
Wagner had his first full major league season in 1997, and took off. He converted 23 of 29 save opportunities that first full season and set a major league record of 14.1 strikeouts per nine innings.
Wagner would go onto play for 14 years, with Houston, Philadelphia, New York Mets, Boston, and Atlanta. He racked up 422 career saves, 2 short of the all-time record for lefties, and is one of only 5 closers in the history of baseball to reach 400 saves. He was a 7-time all-star and was the 1999 NL Rolaids Relief Man of the Year.
Wagner’s 225 saves with the Astros are a franchise record, as are his 12.39 strikeouts per nine innings-more than Nolan Ryan! He is also second on the team list with 464 games pitched. He is also 4th on the Mets list with 101 saves.
On June 11, 2003, while with the Astros, Wagner was one of a record 6 pitchers to throw a combined no-hitter. No Astros pitcher has thrown a no-hitter since, and the mark of 6 pitchers to combine to do so has been matched only once.
On June 25, 2010, Wagner closed out a Braves win against the Tigers to reach his milestone 400th save.
Wagner retired after the 2010 season, and stands 5th place on the all-time saves list. He now serves as the baseball coach at a private school in Crozet.
Billy Wagner was elected to the Virginia Sports Hall of Fame in 2012.