Well, baseball fans, the 2015 Major League Baseball postseason tournament is underway now. The Chicago Cubs and Houston Astros survived the Wild Card play-in games, and now there are 8 teams left standing, including the Toronto Blue Jays and aforementioned Astros, both of whom snapped double-digit playoff droughts. By the time the early part of November rolls around, Major League Baseball will have its 3rd World Champion in as many years.
One of those contenders is the New York Mets, who upset the Washington Nationals to take the NL East title, their first title, and in fact their first playoff birth, in 9 years. The keys to the success of the Mets this year were a solid mix of starting pitching (including ’14 NL ROY Jacob DeGrom) and the hitting of players such as Yoenis Cespedes, Lucas Duda, Daniel Murphy. One player who missed roughly half the season due to injury, but returned just in time to be an inspirational morale boost to his teammates was their team captain, 3B David Wright (Chesapeake). Wright, often nicknamed Captain America, is one of the few Mets players to have postseason experience, and his leadership will be counted on when the NLDS gets underway tonight in Los Angeles.
Another Met with playoff experience has graciously accepted his platoon role for the betterment of the team. OF Michael Cuddyer (Chesapeake) signed with the Mets last winter to play closer to home after time in Minnesota and Colorado and to join fellow Hampton Roads-native Wright as well as try to win his first World Series ring. He will be a valuable part of the Mets locker room for the month of October as well-2015 will mark his 7th postseason appearance in his 15-year career. Cuddyer played in the postseason with the Minnesota Twins in 2002, 2003, 2004, 2006, 2009, 2010. He has batted .338 in 22 career postseason games entering the 2015 playoffs.
Also in the postseason-St. Louis Cardinals 3B Mark Reynolds (Virginia Beach/UVA), who played in the playoffs 2007 with Arizona and 2012 with Baltimore; Chicago Cubs reliever Justin Grimm (Bristol), making his first playoff appearance. Also of note, the Cubs left fellow reliever Neil Ramirez (Virginia Beach) off the playoff roster for the NLDS, but have the option of adding him to the roster later in the postseason should the need arise.
8 teams. 1 Champion. Virginia will be well represented.
For years, even decades, the University of Virginia has been known as a hotbed of talent for the sport of football. (Every NFL draft since the early 1980s has seen at least one NFL player get drafted out of UVA.) But make way, football, Major League Baseball is gaining steam.
As of Tuesday, September 15th, when the Orioles recalled P Tyler Wilson (Midlothian) from Triple-A Norfolk, a record 10 Wahoos appear on major league rosters. Here is the rundown of the UVA-to-MLB pipeline:
San Francisco Giants reliever Javier Lopez (Fairfax) played at Virginia from 1996-1998. He currently leads all active major league players with 4 World Series rings. (2007 with the Red Sox and the three SF titles of the 2010s.)
St Louis Cardinals IF Mark Reynolds (Va Beach) played at Virginia from 2001-2004. His 236 career homers are 23rd among active major league players.
Washington Nationals IF Ryan Zimmerman (Va Beach) played at Virginia from 2003-2005. In the 2005 draft, he was selected in the first round by Washington, the very first draft choice in the history of the Washington Nationals, who had just moved to DC from Montreal. Zimmerman is the last player left from the team’s inaugural season in Washington, and has clearly become the face of the franchise. His 10 career Walk-off homers are 2 short of the NL record). On March 30th, 2008, he christened the new Nationals Park with a walk-off HR to beat the Braves. In the summer of 2015, he cracked the 200 HR milestone. In his time as a National, his resume also includes an all-star game, a Gold Glove, and 2 Silver Sluggers.
Oakland Athletics P Sean Dolittle played at Virginia from 2005-2007. In 2014 he was 10th in the AL with 22 saves, and made his first all-star game.
Also currently on Major League rosters: Cleveland Indians P Kyle Crockett (Poquoson), Arizona Diamondbacks IF Phil Gosselin, Tampa Bay Rays OF Brandon Guyer (Herndon), Seattle Mariners C John Hicks (Richmond), San Francisco Giants OF Jarrett Parker (Stafford), and Wilson.
Major League Baseball, Wahoo strong!!!!!!!!
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.