Back in April, I profiled some of the “stars” of the Atlantic League , which featured guys like Armando Benitez and Edgardo Alfonzo…just to name a few. Luckily for us, there are a variety of other independent leagues out there featuring former major league talent or perhaps simply names you might know.
As we continue our journey around the world of independent baseball, today we will focus on the Golden Baseball League. Formed in 2005, the Golden Baseball League features teams located primarily on the West Coast as well as Canada, Mexico, and now Maui. The GBL is set to open its season on May 19th. For more information, go to www.goldenbaseball.com
And with that, let’s begin the mini look into the players of the Golden League.
Bobby Hill, INF: The former Cub top prospect, who originally signed with the Newark Bears this winter, is now with the Outlaws. Hill was famously the centerpiece of the trade that netted the Cubs Aramis Ramirez and Kenny Lofton in 2003. After spending the 2005 season with the Pirates in a part time role, Hill never made it back to the majors.
Wayne Franklin, LHP: Wayne Franklin’s major league career was quite underwhelming. The good: he won 10 games in 2003. The bad: gave up THIRTY-SIX home runs in 2003; career ERA of 5.54; career WHIP of 1.54.
And on a side note, Franklin produced identical 6.39 ERA’s in 2004 and 2005. Enough said.
Matt Perisho, LHP: In 2000, the Rangers gave Perisho a chance to show what he could do at the major league level. And the results were UGLY. In 105 innings pitched, Perisho gave up 136 hits, 20 home runs, 86 ER, a whopping 1.933 WHIP, and to top it all off, a 7.37 ERA. Yuck.
Eri Yoshida, RHP: Hands down the biggest story in the Golden League today. Yoshida, a female knuckleball pitcher, is looking to become the first woman to pitch professionally in two countries. Normally there is very little hype around the Independent Leagues (save for Rickey Henderson), but Yoshida’s presence will certainly help the Golden League by bringing in fans and media attention.
Clint Nageotte, RHP: At one point, Nageotte was one of the Mariners’ best prospects. How highly regarded was Nageotte? From 2002-2005, Nageotte was listed as one of the top 100 prospects in baseball according to Baseball America. Despite all that promise, Nageotte only won one game in the majors and a brutal lifetime ERA of 7.78.
Larry Bigbie, OF: Bigbie is another example of a former Orioles’ top prospect gone wrong. Back in 1999, Bigbie was the Orioles first pick and seemed destined for a lengthy and productive career. However, that career never panned out. Bigbie was out of baseball by the 2006 season and by the end of the 2007 season, Bigbie was mentioned in the Mitchell Report, which outlined his use and connection to steroids.
Keith Ginter, INF: What a strange career. Ginter was nothing more than a utility man for the Brewers up until 2002, but he put it together offensively in 2003 and 2004. Ginter demonstrated that he could hit for power (33 HR in 2003 and 2004 combined) as he achieved career highs in at bats and games played. But after a very disappointing 2005 season, Ginter was out of baseball and stuck in AAA for years.
Ben Johnson, OF: Johnson’s legacy with the New York Mets is not the 30 at bats he recieved in 2007. Rather, it’s the fact that Johnson was a part of the deal that sent, gulp, Heath Bell to the Padres.
Byung-Hyun Kim, RHP: Armando Bentiez is a Newark Bear. BK Kim is a Orange County Flyer. The Independent Leagues: Where Infamous Relief Pitchers Happen.
Jackson Melian: Melian was one of the Yankees’ top prospects….all the way back in 1997.
Emiliano Fruto, RHP: Fruto had a cup of tea with the Mariners in 2006, but his real claim to fame is that he, along with Chris Snelling, was traded to the Washington Nationals in the deal that brought Jose Vidro to the Mariners.
Albie Lopez, RHP: During the Devil Rays first few years of existence, Albie Lopez was a consistent presence until his departure in 2001-to the eventual World Champions, the Arizona Diamondbacks. Lopez’s numbers were not spectacular, but he did enough to hang around the majors by doing whatever the team needed: whether that was starting or relieving.
Josh Womack, OF: Yup, this guy: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YngyMco72QA
Bill Pulsipher, LHP: And the only member of the famed Generation K to still be playing professionally is…Bill Pulsipher. His career was derailed by various injuries ranging from Tommy John surgery to anxiety/depression. You have to admire Pulsipher’s perseverance through all his trials and tribulations, but the name Bill Pulsipher will always leave a sour taste in the mouths of Mets fans.
Cha-Seung Baek, RHP: Like Clint Nageotte, Baek at one time was one of the Mariners top pitching prospects. However, a rash of injuries coupled with Baek’s underwhelming performance as a major leaguer prevented him from landing a contract this winter. Baek is now 30 years old and seemingly a long shot to ever return to the majors.