Howard Herman | Designated Hitter: Making more Berkshire County connections to the World Series champions
Once again, it is time to play the Six Degrees of Pittsfield in baseball game. If you watched the World Series, you know what I'm talking about.
Steven Strasburg was the most valuable player in the World Series. His two wins, including that stellar performance in Game 6, earned him the Willie Mays Trophy and that sweet Corvette.
But before he was "Steven Strasburg," he was a hotshot product who dominated teams that played at Wahconah Park and Joe Wolfe Field.
In 2007, he was a pitcher with the NECBL's Torrington Twisters. The San Diego State product came with the reputation of being a star pitcher. He played for the late Tony Gwynn at San Diego, and was a starter in college.
But when he came to the NECBL, the Twisters had Strasburg pitching out of the bullpen.
He had eight saves in 2007, three of them were against the old Pittsfield Dukes.
The first time anybody in Berkshire County saw Strasburg pitch was on July 7, 2007, when he picked up his fourth save of the season to preserve a 1-0 win over the Dukes. Strasburg struck out two but had to pitch out of a jam of his own making.
With two outs in the ninth, Tyler Stampone singled and went to third on Scott Savastano's double. But Strasburg got Chester Wilson to strike out to end the threat, and the game.
He came back to Pittsfield on July 25, and notched his seventh save in a 4-1 win. It was a 1-2-3 ninth.
Sam Shaughnessy, the son of Boston Globe columnist Dan Shaughnessy struck out to lead off the ninth. Adam Tempesta grounded out for the second, and Matthew Zablan struck out to end the game.
Strasburg played twice against the North Adams SteepleCats, picking up a save with a 1-2-3 ninth inning in a 3-1 win in Connecticut. But Strasburg made his Joe Wolfe Field debut at the tail end of the NECBL season. He pitched a perfect eighth, but the game had already been decided with the SteepleCats leading 8-4. Former Williams College standout Max Pinto struck out, Ozzie Borrell grounded to first and Michael Moras struck out to end the game.
In 13 games, Strasburg had eight saves, a 1-0 record and a 1.29 earned run average. He gave up eight singles and two doubles in 14 innings, and opposing hitters batted only .185 against him.
So you can say you saw Steven Strasburg when.
The World Series win by the Washington Nationals marked the first time that the visiting team had won four games. It was an historic performance by the Nats.
Washington had its share of former Pittsfield Mets in its organization. Already mentioned in this space were Williams graduate Mark Scialabba, former Pittsfield Mets outfielder Tripp Keister and former Pittsfield Dukes player Matt Adams. Adams, by the way, did not play against Strasburg in the NECBL.
Add to that list, Brian Daubach and Billy Gardner Jr.
Daubach, who played for the 1992 Mets and later came back to town to manage the Can-Am League's Pittsfield Colonials to the league championship series, left Pittsfield in 2011 for a job with the Nationals. He has been there ever since. Once a manager at Harrisburg of the Eastern League, he is the hitting coach for Triple A Fresno.
Gardner was Daubach's boss as manager in Syracuse, when the Nationals had their Triple A team there. But Gardner is now a roving minor league instructor. Gardner was a coach in Pittsfield in 1991, working under manager Jim Thrift.
Gardner's father, Billy Sr., once managed the Minnesota Twins.
Reading out-of-town newspapers last week, we discovered that Dan Duquette's enforced retirement from baseball might just be shorter than many thought.
It was reported in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that the general manager-less Pirates are kicking the tires on Duquette.
"Every ending is a new beginning," Duquette said to me when the Baltimore Orioles did not renew his contract after the 2018 season. "I'm looking for another opportunity."
Duquette is considered more of an old-school baseball guy, but he would be quick to disabuse you of that.
Back in April, Duquette spoke to the Rabbit Maranville Chapter of the Society for Advanced Baseball Research, and talked about the use of advanced analytics.
"We used analytics with the Expos extensively, because we had to put together a competitive team and we didn't have the resources other clubs had," Duquette said, in response to a question. "We had to sharpen our pencils very carefully. We used analytics, and we developed our own analytics formula while I was with the Expos, with a couple of consultants.
"That 1994 [Expos] team that had the best record in baseball with one of the lowest payrolls. I think we were second in payroll and first in wins, which was a testament to the organization. We had done a lot of work with analytics."
One area where Duquette said the analytics should not be the be-all and end-all is in scouting and player development. Duquette, who worked as a scouting assistant with the Milwaukee Brewers under Harry Dalton, calls the men and women who cart radar guns and notebooks to high school, college, minor and major league games as important a factor as what comes from watching video and what might come out of a laptop.
"Scouts are part of the fabric of the game. [They are] talent evaluators," he said. "A lot of clubs are administratively evaluating talent, and it's going in that direction. But there's still a value of having people in the field, identifying good talent."
Duquette would replace Neal Huntington, who was fired last month. Huntington spent a dozen years as the Pirates general manager.
If the Pirates were to hire Duquette, it would end up being one Amherst College graduate replacing another.
And the real irony here is that Pirates owner Bob Nutting is — wait for it — a Williams graduate.
Somehow, it always circles back to Berkshire County, doesn't it?
Howard Herman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, at @howardherman on Twitter, or 413-496-6253.
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