Wow, I can’t believe former Pro Bowl defensive tackle Kris Jenkins enrolled at Villanova University, joined the basketball team as a forward, and finished his senior year by hitting the game-winning shot in the National Championship Game. From blocking field goals and stuffing runs, to a magical run for college basketball’s biggest prize.
Take your top three from the myriad quarterbacks who began the season as backups, but have re-emerged as starters due to injury and/or incompetence. Personally, I’m rooting for Gabbert and Hasselbeck. I like Yates as well, but his situation is subject to change as Hoyer is further evaluated for his post-concussion symptoms this week.
If we assume that Ryan Fitzpatrick, who just had surgery, returns against the Texans on Sunday as expected, then Geno Smith doesn’t make the list.
Last night, the Texans, on the road against the then-undefeated Bengals, were down 6-3 when quarterback Brian Hoyer went down with a concussion. Hoyer’s status going forward is currently unknown, but while the Independent Neurological Consultants (Buzzword joke of the year, by the way) were looking at Hoyer, Houston’s defense forced Cincy to punt, and TJ Yates checked back into the league.
For those uninitiated with the Yates tale, this is TJ’s second stint with the Texans. The Marietta, Georgia native attended UNC, and was drafted by Houston in the 5th round in 2011. His rookie season was his most successful–relieving the injured Matt Schaub, Yates played in six games, starting five of them, and won Rookie of the Week for his playoff-clinching performance against Cincy in December, 2011.
That year, Yates led the Texans to their first ever playoff victory, when they beat the Bengals in the wild card round, 31-10. Houston lost the following week to the Ravens, and sadly for Yates, that was his last start in the league. He was later traded to the Falcons, and eventually ended back with the Texans after they released Ryan Mallet in October.
Will TJ Yates make another start–perhaps next Sunday against the Jets? This week will tell. But if Brian Hoyer can’t go, Houston should take solace–TJ Yates is a capable NFL quarterback. And unlike Andy Dalton, he’s won a playoff game.
It’s been a long time since Obscure Athletes has added to its critically unnoticed acclaimed Obscure Spotlight series: today we come out firing with Pokey Reese. The long-time speedster and 2-time gold glove-winning middle infielder played parts of eight seasons the Reds, Pittsburgh, and Boston, where he won a ring with the 2004 Red Sox.
Reese’s best day for the Sox came on May 8, 2004, when he hit two home runs, one of which was an inside-the-parker, off Kansas City’s Jimmy Gobble–More on Jimmy Gobble, coming soon to OA. Reese hit only one additional homer for the Red Sox, later that year.
Reese was better known as a defender, where he won back-to-back gold gloves in 1999 and 2000 for the Reds. Those were also Pokey’s best offensive seasons–in 1999-2000, he averaged 11 homers, 49 RBI, and posted a .271/.324/.727. Reese was also an above-average base stealer throughout his career, and he swiped 25 bases four times.
By the time he played for the Red Sox, Reese was used primarily as a late-game replacement, as a defender or pinch-runner. He appeared in 10 postseason games for the ’04 Sox, but batted just twice–he struck out and grounded out. Nonetheless, Reese was a key leader on the team which overcame 86 years of Championship drought, and suffers from the same forgetability problem shared by all those non-power hitters of the Steroid Era (Looking at you, Desi Relaford). This is why he remains one of my favorite Obscure Athletes of the past 20 years, and I hope we’ve jogged your memory of this defensive genius.
I am certainly never going to have a MLB Hall of Fame vote. But who are we kidding here? The Hall of Fame has become completely illegitimate in recent years, as old white guys have flexed their baby-boomer-longevity to keep voting against the man who is obviously the greatest hitter most people have ever seen. But that’s a different rant for a different time.
There are 42 players on the ballot this year, and a number of great first-time entries. In all likelihood, none of the guys I vote for will even appear on future ballots, let alone get into the HOF. But I say if some old, angry former baseball writer gets to say Barry Bonds doesn’t belong in the Hall, then I get to weigh in with my opinion on who SHOULD be in there.
Springer had a long and largely undistinguished career, pitching for ten teams over 18 season in the Big Leagues. He never played more than four seasons for any one of those ten. A reliever by trade, Springer started 27 games in the Majors, all in his first seven seasons. All said and done, Springer’s 740 appearances place him 75th in MLB history, and his 36-45 career record to go with his 4.52 ERA place him somewhere in the middle of the pack.
Ferndando’s 1999 season alone should put him in the Hall. That year, Tatis hit 34 homers and drove in 104 runs. He never hit more than 18 dingers in any other season. He had health problems throughout his 11-year career, and never played more than 114 games after that magical 1999 season. He never made an All-Star Game but he deserved to be standing on the Fenway grass that year, and get struck out by Pedro Martinez. He didn’t get the call to the All-Star game that year, but this year we give him the call to the Hall!
Sure, you may know that the 5-year, $50 million contract the Angels gave Matthews is one of the worst deals in baseball history, but that’s not his fault. Matthews just happened to hit the free agent market at exactly the right time, after his 2006 season with the Rangers. That year, his only all-star season, Matthews beat his career OBP (.332) by 40 points, and hit 19 home runs. His OPS was an impressive .866, and his flashy outfield play helped his cause in free agency as well. Matthews got 12 seasons in the Big Leagues, and his contract with the Angels lasted over a year after he played his last game.
I always had a soft spot for Randy Winn. When I was a kid one of my favorite video games was MVP Baseball 2005, and Winn always put up great numbers for the Mariners in the game. In real life, the best stretch of Winn’s career came down the stretch of ’05, when he hit 14 home runs in just 58 games, after he was traded by the M’s to San Fransisco. Sadly, Winn never appeared in a postseason game in his 13 seasons. But I say he belongs in the Obscure Athletes Hall of Fame.
When Ortiz was out of the Majors in 2008, I thought it was over for the righty. But alas, 2009 saw Ortiz come back to pitch for the Astros, and appear in 23 games. Russ’ greatest year was 2003, in which he led the league with 21 wins, and finished fourth in the NL Cy Young voting for the Braves. I’ll always remember how long he took between pitches, and his ability to walk batters while getting out of innings. He twice led the league in walks (including his ’03 All-Star appearance). 2008 proved to me that the world needs Russ Ortiz. And the Hall of Fame needs Russ Ortiz.