I hope each of you are hanging in there as the off-season cold has sunk its teeth into Chicagoland. The calendar has officially flipped into December and despite the reality that spring training seems so far away, baseball has remained in the news as Major League clubs continue to make moves to bolster their respective rosters. The hot stove is churning, so warm your hands next to the fire and that will get us through the weeks and months ahead.
The 2014 season was a strong season in many ways for the Cougars. Obviously, this year’s Kane County squad displayed the most dominant season in franchise history, winning the Midwest League championship and setting numerous records including 91 regular season wins. The accolades extended into the off-season as the Cougars were named “Team of the Year” by both fans and MiLB staff in the annual MiLBY Awards. You can read the full article HERE.
But it’s also worth noting that this year’s Cougars baseball success extends all the way up to the Major League level, as it’s done every year since 1993 when Brad Pennington – a member of our inaugural ’91 team – became the first Cougar to reach the big leagues on April 17, 1993. Pennington became the first of what is now 128 former Cougars to play in at least one game in the Major Leagues. It’s a great list that continues to grow and we actually display the full list on our press box wall, located on the ballpark concourse behind home plate.
Here are some interesting facts, figures and a few opinions on the Major League side of Cougars baseball in 2014.
– Four of our alumni – Bo Schultz (’10 Cougar), Justin Marks (’10), Aaron Brooks (’12) and Lane Adams (’11-’12) made Major League debuts in 2014. Schultz debuted with our current affiliate (Arizona Diamondbacks) while the other three players debuted with a recent affiliate of ours in 2011 and 2012, the Kansas City Royals.
– By my count, a total of 36 former Cougars played in at least one Major League game during the 2014 season. I’ll post the full list at the bottom of this blog but the names range from All-Star superstars Miguel Cabrera and Nelson Cruz to several under-the-radar players such as Josh Wilson and Max Stassi.
– Just two Cougars from the ’90’s decade appeared in at least one Major League game in 2014. That would be pitcher AJ Burnett (’98 Cougar), who endured an 18-loss season for Philadelphia but recently agreed to terms with Pittsburgh in what will likely be his final season. The other Cougar is Alex Gonzalez (’96) who only played in 9 games with Detroit in April before being released.
– Which former Cougar has been with the same big league club the longest? It appears as if that would be ’03 Cougar Andre Ethier, who has been with the Los Angeles Dodgers for 9 years dating back to his big league debut with them in 2006. Ironically enough, Ethier has been in the hot stove discussion as a possible trade candidate for the Dodgers.
– Four Cougars (Miguel Cabrera, Nelson Cruz, Sean Doolittle and Tyson Ross) were named to the Major League All-Star Game in July. This was the 18th straight Major League All-Star Game to include at least one former Cougar dating back to the 1997 mid-season classic. That summer, Florida catcher Charles Johnson was the first of our alums to be named a big league All-Star. How long ago was that? All you have to do is look at the complete All-Star roster that year, a squad that included the late Tony Gwynn, Chipper Jones, Cal Ripken, Jr., Albert Belle, Barry Larkin and Dave Justice, to name several. Young Yankees pitcher Mariano Rivera was a first-time All-Star that season, too.
– Some of our biggest alumni continue to add more and more ammunition to their star-powered careers. Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera posted his 11th straight season with 100 or more RBI while batting .300 or better for the sixth straight season. Los Angeles Dodgers infielder Adrian Gonzalez set a career high with 116 RBI while winning his second Silver Slugger Award and fourth Gold Glove as the best defensive first baseman in the National League. Closer Huston Street split his season between the Los Angeles Angels and San Diego Padres, saving a total of 41 games in 2014. Street now has 275 saves, good for 30th on the all-time MLB list. San Francisco Giants pitcher Santiago Casilla is a 3-time World Series champion, being a vital part of the Giants’ crowns in 2010, 2012 and 2014. And Baltimore’s Nelson Cruz reached 40 home runs and 100 RBI for the first time in his career.
– A couple of our alumni made enormous strides in 2014. That list must start with Kansas City Royals rookie pitcher Yordano Ventura, who went 14-10 with a .320 ERA in 31 games, while striking out 159 batters. Ventura started 4 post-season games and pitched in 2 games of the World Series as the Royals came up just one win shy of winning the World Series. San Diego Padres pitcher Tyson Ross was a first-time big league All-Star and won 13 games while posting an impressive 2.84 ERA.
Baseball Winter Meetings Update
Be sure to follow next week’s Baseball Winter Meetings as the hot stove could be smoldering with trades and acquisitions across Major League Baseball. Several of our staff will be in San Diego for the meetings and while there, we’ll have updates on the Cougars’ Facebook page and Twitter feed. This will be the third winter meetings to ever be held in San Diego and the first one since 1985.
As always, thanks for reading and for your support of Cougars baseball!
Full list of Kane County alumni who appeared in the Major Leagues in 2014:
Lane Adams (’11-’12) – Kansas City Royals
John Baker (’03) – Chicago Cubs
Josh Beckett (’00) – Los Angeles Dodgers
Ronald Belisario (’02) – Chicago White Sox
Aaron Brooks (’12) – Kansas City Royals
Corey Brown (’08) – Boston Red Sox
AJ Burnett (’98) – Philadelphia Phillies
Jared Burton (’03) – Minnesota Twins
Miguel Cabrera (’01) – Detroit Tigers
Trevor Cahill (’07) – Arizona Diamondbacks
Santiago Casilla (’03-’04) – San Francisco Giants
Michael Choice (’10) – Texas Rangers
Nelson Cruz (’03) – Baltimore Orioles
Sean Doolittle (’07) – Oakland Athletics
Andre Ethier (’03) – Los Angeles Dodgers
Pedro Figueroa (’09) – Texas Rangers
Adrian Gonzalez (’01) – Los Angeles Dodgers
Alex Gonzalez (’96) – Detroit Tigers
Ian Krol (’10) – Detroit Tigers
Justin Marks (’10) – Kansas City Royals
Vin Mazzaro (’06) – Pittsburgh Pirates
Cliff Pennington (’05) – Arizona Diamondbacks
Gregorio Petit (’05) – Houston Astros
Anthony Recker (’06) – New York Mets
Henry Rodriguez (’07) – Miami Marlins
Tyson Ross (’08) – San Diego Padres
Bo Schultz (’10) – Arizona Diamondbacks
Justin Sellers (’06) – Cleveland Indians
Max Stassi (’10) – Houston Astros
Dan Straily (’10) – Oakland Athletics, Chicago Cubs
Huston Street (’04) – Los Angeles Angels, San Diego Padres
Yordano Ventura (’11) – Kansas City Royals
Ryan Webb (’05) – Baltimore Orioles
Jemile Weeks (’08) – Baltimore Orioles, Boston Red Sox
Josh Willingham (’01) – Minnesota Twins, Kansas City Royals
Josh Wilson (’01) – Texas Rangers