We lost or first member of the 2012 Tacoma Rainiers to another team, as outfielder Darren Ford has signed a minor league contract with the Pittsburgh Pirates. Ford was a minor league free agent and he is one of the first to be signed in all of baseball.
Ford played one year for Tacoma, hitting .273 with a .326 on-base percentage. He had four homers and 33 RBI in 70 games, playing only a half-season because a broken finger suffered in a hotel room door mishap left him in the disabled list until June 15.
Ford’s game is speed. He stole 26 bases (in 40 attempts), and his speed in center field allowed him to be a superior defensive player, covering more territory than just about anybody I’ve ever seen out there.
Defense in center field is a priority in Tacoma, because the deep outfield fence means there is extra acreage to cover. I will be curious to see if the Mariners sign a speedy minor league free agent to play center for Tacoma – none of the likely returning outfielders are true center fielders (remember, Trayvon Robinson is out of options and unlikely to come to Tacoma).
The Double-A center fielder was Denny Almonte, who hit .249/.331/.401 this year (and I haven’t heard any reports – good or bad – on his defense). Almonte did steal 24 bases in AA, which means he is either a fast or a smart baserunner – you can swipe 20+ bags in the lower minors with smarts alone, because pitchers aren’t nearly as good at holding runners close.
We’ll see what happens, it is very early in the off-season.
One other word on Ford: you might feel as if you didn’t get to know anything about him at all. Darren very politely turned down each and every interview request he received, all season long – and there was a time when he had a lot of them, when he was tearing up the PCL in late June and early July. He told me he didn’t want to go on my show, because he “just isn’t into that.” Ford was very friendly and polite, and totally not into any media stuff whatsoever. He would happily answer my questions off-the-record, about stealing bases or other aspects of the game. I wonder how he would handle the media in the majors.
Not much happening today, but we have a few inks:
- The Mariners announced they are building their own academy in the Dominican Republic.
- A former scout and current writer has a glowing report on Nick Franklin.
- Rumors! Speculation! Gossip! Larry Stone on the Mariners and Josh Hamilton.
- Former Tacoma Tigers shortstop Walt Weiss was named manager of the Colorado Rockies.
- John McGrath has a pretty neat story on a Curtis High School graduate who is the San Francisco Giants travelling secretary.
- Even though the stadium would have been built anyway, they put the hotel tax ballpark funding plan on the ballot in El Paso as a “proxy vote” – and it passed in a landslide. El Paso, here we come. All I ask of you is to please put the visiting team up in a quality hotel with restaurants in walking distance. See you next year!
- Oh, my. An imaginative fellow named Jim Baker photoshopped a bunch of 1930s-40s baseball comics and turned them into, for lack of a better term, baseball pulp fiction. That description doesn’t do it justice – just check it out yourself.
I’ll be back tomorrow if any news warrants it, and if not then we’ll have a full weekend recap on Monday.