Jed Bradley had just walked away from baseball when I featured him here at FanGraphs in May 2017. Six years removed from being a first-round draft pick, and seven-plus months after making the last of his half dozen big-league pitching appearances, the southpaw had decided that he “wasn’t happy doing it anymore, and life is too short to do something that doesn’t make you happy.” At age 26, Bradley set out to write the next chapter in his life.
Term papers followed, but so too did one last attempt to resurrect what had once been a promising career. Despite a still-balky shoulder that had factored into his farewell, the erstwhile 15th-overall pick couldn’t help but give the game he loves another shot.
“I had every intention of moving on with my life and never looking back,” recalled Bradley, who has since earned a law degree and is now a corporate attorney. “I re-entered college at Georgia Tech — the first time in over two decades I was outside of baseball entirely — and the hiatus lasted approximately three months before I found myself watching old World Series games on Youtube and following the latest trade rumors. Soon I was researching the efficacy of stem cells on shoulder injuries. I ended up flying to south Florida for stem cell injections, and from there I was driving to rehab sessions after classes trying to get my arm back in shape.”
Bradley graduated from business school, but the corporate world would have to wait. Armed with last-hope inspiration, he spent that summer on the mound for the New Britain Bees of the independent Atlantic League.
My asking Bradley why he eschewed a high-salary job, and instead played for peanuts in front of sparse crowds — this while knowing that a return to the big leagues was little more than a long shot — elicited one of the most thoughtful and articulate responses I’ve ever gotten in an interview. His words were pure baseball romanticism.
“Poets and philosophers have plenty of subject matter at their disposal with America’s Pastime,” Bradley told me. “Baseball and hope go hand in hand. There’s something about the game that every true fan appreciates — the warm, euphoric feeling associated with infinite possibilities. When opening day arrives, all teams have a shot at the World Series and everyone on the roster is on the cusp of their greatest season.
“This hopeful spirit is often displayed in the dogged attempts of players to keep their careers alive long after statistics and logic say they should,” continued Bradley, who allowed four runs over seven innings in his Atlanta Braves cameo. “It’s common to see former big-leaguers pitching or hitting in independent leagues or foreign countries many years after their time in affiliated baseball is over. Players routinely go through costly surgeries and endure extended rehab periods, just for the opportunity at launching themselves back into a world of uncertainty, shrinking professional opportunity, and meager compensation.Why do they do this? Hope. No matter what obstacles stand in the way, or logical evidence to the contrary, this perpetual rising sun resides in the heart of every baseball player.”
His indie-ball numbers served as ample evidence that hope can be fleeting. Over 72 tumultuous innings with the Bees, Bradley allowed 105 hits and nearly as many earned runs (62) as he had strikeouts (65).
Which isn’t to say that he regrets that one last summer of unrequited effort.
“I lived in the basement of a host family’s house with four teammates,” said Bradley, whose New Britain teammates included Alejandro De Aza, Mike Carp, and a handful of other players with big-league time on the resumés. “We all slept on buses across large swaths of America, for little pay, just so that we could wake up and chase the old dream once again.
“Those unfamiliar with the game may think such a pursuit childish, perhaps delusional. This view misses the magic entirely. What these people don’t understand is that the love of a game, rooted in eternal hope, has a transcendent quality that is always with you. I will forever cherish my time chasing the epic and the sublime on the baseball field. I marvel that, even now at 33, after two retirements, law school, and the bar exam, I still feel the faintest calling of the hope that made so much possible. If I thought I had a chance at all with my shoulder, I’d probably still be out there trying.”
RANDOM HITTER-PITCHER MATCHUPS
Colson Montgomery has a chance to be a star. Moreover, he has a chance to claim the starting shortstop job on Chicago’s South Side as soon as the coming season — this despite his having played just 186 professional games, none of them above the Double-A level. Drafted 22nd overall by the White Sox in 2021 out of Huntington, Indiana’s Southridge High School, Montgomery will report to spring training shortly after celebrating his 22nd birthday.
White Sox Senior Vice President/General Manager Chris Getz addressed the possibility of the fast-rising 6-foot-3, 205-pound left-handed hitter’s reaching Chicago in the season to come.
“For one, he’s been the talk of the Arizona Fall League,” Getz told reporters during November’s GM Meetings. “And not just the Chicago White Sox talking, other organizations as well. That speaks to his potential and how he’s getting better every time he goes out there and plays. I don’t want to set limitations on a Colson Montgomery. He’s a guy that is very unique and has the ability to be a special player at the big-league level.”
“He’s obviously got some zone awareness, continued Getz. “He’s got a hit tool. He’s got some power he’s tapping into. So, he’s got a chance to be a well-rounded player. I don’t want to have the expectation for Colson to think that he’s going to be our opening-day shortstop, but I also don’t want to cap anything for him either. Who knows how 2024 unravels for him?”
Montgomery slashed .286/.456/.484 with eight home runs in 294 plate appearances across three levels this past season. Currently No. 12 on The Board with a 55 FV, the organization’s top prospect missed the first two months of the 2023 campaign due to an oblique injury that was followed by a back strain.
Which pitcher started the All-Star Game, then played in only one more MLB game the rest of his career? (a hint: it happened in the 1980s.)
The answer can be found below.
The Miami Marlins have hired Frankie Piliere as their new Director of Amateur Scouting. Piliere has spent the past six years with the Seattle Mariners, the last three as Assistant Director of Amateur Scouting.
The Chicago Cubes have promoted Meghan Jones to Vice President of Baseball Strategy. A graduate of Loyola University (B.S. in Psychology, Marketing) and Northwestern University (MBA), Jones joined the Cubs in 2016 and most recently had served as Director, Baseball Operations, Administration and Strategy.
The Boston Red Sox have promoted John Soteropulos to Hitting Coordinator. The Cal-Berkeley alum and former Driveline hitting instructor joined the organization in January and has been tutoring prospects at the lower levels of the minors.
The Arizona Diamondbacks have hired Brad Marcelino as a minor league hitting coach. The 41-year-old Essex, England native has played and coached for the British National team, and has spent the last two seasons as Seattle’s Triple-A hitting coach.
Joe Hicks, a part-time outfielder who played for the Chicago White Sox, Washington Senators, and New York Mets from 1959-1963, died on December 2 at age 91 (per Baseball Player Passings). The Ivy, Virginia native batted .221 with 20 of his 92 career hits coming as a pinch-hitter.
Ken MacKenzie, who pitched for five teams in a big-league career that comprised the 1960-1965 seasons, died on Wednesday at age 89. A native of Gore Bay, Ontario who attended Yale University, the southpaw went 5-4 with the expansion New York Mets in 1962. Of the 17 hurlers who took the mound for Casey Stengel’s 40-120 club, MacKenzie was the only one who logged a winning record.
The answer to the quiz is J.R. Richard. The Houston Astros right-hander suffered a stroke shortly after starting for the National League in 1980.
Joey Votto may or may not retire this offseason. In my opinion, he should. Not because he is 40 years old and a shell of what he once was performance-wise, but rather because of his one-franchise legacy. The Hall of Fame-worthy first baseman was drafted by the Cincinnati Reds out of a Toronto high school in 2002, and two decades later he’s only called one organization home. Much like Dwight Evans having closed out his career with the Orioles after 19 seasons with the Red Sox, and Ron Santo spending a year with the White Sox after 14 with the Cubs, it just wouldn’t seem right for Votto to retire from another team.
Does Votto have anything left in the tank? Moreover, might he find one last opportunity to finally play in a World Series (hello, Blue Jays?) especially appealing? Regardless of the answer to those questions, his 17 seasons spent exclusively with the Cincinnati Reds is a legacy that shouldn’t be compromised.
The Adelaide Giants had 10-run and 13-run innings in a 27-9 win over the Canberra Cavalry in Australian Baseball League action on Thursday. Nick Ward, a 27-year-old Kennett Square, Pennsylvania native who plays in the Philadelphia Phillies system, went 6-for-6 with a walk, a home run, six runs scored, and four RBIs.
Jackson Grounds has made a pair of scoreless one-inning outings for the ABL’s Sydney Blue Sox. Signed by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2021 out of South West Rocks, the 19-year-old right-hander went 2-0 with a 3.53 ERA over 15-and-a-third innings in the Florida Complex League.
Yuito Mae is 2-0 with a 3.38 ERA and 12 strikeouts in 10-and-two-thirds innings for the ABL’s Melbourne Aces. The 22-year-old right-hander made his NPB debut with the Orix Buffaloes this year and threw two scoreless innings.
Jared Serna is slashing .308/.368/.462 in 187 plate appearances with the Mexican Pacific Winter League’s Charros de Jalisco. The 21-year-infielder in the New York Yankees organization had 19 home runs and a 119 wRC+ between Low-A Tampa and High-A Hudson Valley this year.
Raúl Valdés is 4-5 with a 4.34 ERA over 45-and-two-third innings for the Dominican Winter League’s Toros del Este. The 45-year-old southpaw pitched for five MLB teams from 2010-2014. Valdés has played 25 professional seasons.
The KBO’s Samsung Lions have signed David MacKinnon. A native of Easton, Massachusetts who spent this past season with NPB’s Seibu Lions, the 29-year-old corner infielder played for the Los Angeles Angels and the Oakland Athletics in 2022.
Inadvertently left on the cutting-room floor from an October interview I conducted with Houston Astros reliever Phil Maton was a quote addressing his 96th-percentile extension and the bump in perceived velocity that comes with it.
“I do have good extension,.” the 30-year-old right-hander told me.” That’s my best gimmick. I throw fake hard.”
A handful of Sundays ago I quoted from Bob Ryan’s Wait Till I Make the Show: Baseball in the Minor Leagues, a book published in 1974 that I happened across in an antiquarian bookstore while on vacation in Michigan this past summer. Here is another short excerpt, one in which Ryan describes a scene he observed at a Pacific Coast League game in 1972.
“In the ensuing argument, Salt Lake City manager Les Moss did something I have never seen before on a baseball field. He hit umpire Robinson. Videotape also showed that he had a firm hold of the arbiter’s genitals, as well. For his part, Moss claimed he was spat on, but he was suspended for a week anyway.”
Moss, who caught in the big leagues from 1946-1958, later managed the Detroit Tigers to a 27-26 record in 1979 before being replaced in mid-June by Sparky Anderson.
LINKS YOU’LL LIKE
Former MLB and current KBO outfielder — he’s spent the last three years with SSG Landers — Shin-Soo Choo announced that he will be retiring from professional baseball following the 2024 season. Jee-ho Yoo has the story at Yonhap News Agency.
Bryan Murphy explored the San Francisco Giants’ outfield depth at McCovey Chronicles.
RANDOM FACTS AND STATS
Jake Burger slashed .305/.370/.636 and went deep 21 times in home games this past season. He slashed .198/.251/.407 and went deep 13 times in road games.
J.T. Realmuto slashed .306/.364/.587 and went deep 14 times in road games. He slashed .198/.257/.320 and went deep six times in home games.
Esteban Yan had three career MLB plate appearances and a 1.000/1.000/2.500 slash line. The right-handed reliever had a home run and a sacrifice hit with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in 2000, and a single with the St. Louis Cardinals in 2003.
In 1959, Milwaukee Braves right-hander Lew Burdette allowed 38 home runs and issued 38 walks. He made 39 starts and threw 289-and-two-thirds innings.
In 1977, California Angels right-hander Nolan Ryan allowed 12 home runs and issued 204 walks. He made 37 starts and threw 299 innings.
The New York Mets signed Pedro Martinez to a free agent contract on today’s date in 2004. The Hall of Fame right-hander — on the heels of a World championship season with the Boston Red Sox — went 32-23 with a 3.88 ERA for the Mets over the next four seasons.
The Detroit Tigers signed Darrell Evans to a free agent contract on today’s date in 1983. The veteran corner infielder won a World Series ring with the Tigers in 1984 and went on to finish his 21-year career five years later with a 120 wRC+ and 61.1 WAR. Bill James has called Evans the most underrated player in baseball history.
Players born on today’s date include Rudy Pemberton, who slashed .336/.395/.515 over 152 career plate appearances while appearing in 12 games for the Detroit Tigers in 1995 and 40 for the Boston Red Sox in 1996-1997. The only player with 100 or more plate appearances and a higher batting average in the last 50 years is Tony Gwynn, who batted .338.
Also born on today’s date was Curtis Pride, an outfielder who played for six teams from 1993-2006. Born deaf, Pride is now the head baseball coach at Gallaudet University and MLB’s Ambassador for Inclusion.