RUMBLINGS CIRCULATED ABOUT JACOB NOTTINGHAM’S CALL-UP TO BREWERS

Rumblings on onetime Redlands High catcher Jacob Nottingham began on Sunday night. Milwaukee Brewers’ catcher Manny Pina was headed for the 10-day disabled list, among a flurry of other moves.

Those rumblings were Redlands’ baseball observers — parents, coaches, former players, ex-teammates, observers from all corners of the city, you name it — that included social media attention.

On July 8, Nottingham was recalled to the Milwaukee Brewers. He was expected to share catching duties with Erik Kratz over the next week.

Nottingham may be the Brewers_ catcher of the future (Sean Flynn, Houston Chronicle).
Redlands’ Jacob Nottingham returned to the major leagues, called by the Milwaukee Brewers on July 8. He started one day later, getting a double and single for his first two MLB hits.

Sure enough, Nottingham was placed in the lineup — batting eighth, in fact — in Milwaukee’s game at Miami. He would be facing Marlins’ pitcher Jose Urena while catching Brewers’ pitcher Chase Anderson.

Nottingham, a catcher who spent a few days with the Brewers earlier in the season over a similar situation, had been recalled again. He was hitting .303 with 10 HRs at Class AAA Colorado Springs.

He’s the Brewers’ No. 25 prospect, according the MLB Pipeline.

This could be no ordinary Redlands Connection. Perhaps, it’s just the latest.

Nottingham singled off Urena, who fed him an 89-mph off-speed, hitting it to left field off the end of the bat. Next time up, against Javy Guerra, Nottingham drilled a double to left field.

In the end, Miami beat the Brewers, 4-3.

Milwaukee, which held a two-game lead over 2016 World Series champion Chicago in a rough-and-tumble National League Central Division race, could be the surprise force in 2018.

Nottingham, along with a bevy of other Milwaukee youths, might be a vital cog in the expected summer duel with the Cubs and St. Louis Cardinals.

Nottingham-to-the-big-leagues is big news.

Redlands has produced previous major leaguers, including undrafted second baseman Julio Cruz (Mariners, White Sox, Dodgers), Seattle’s 1980 13th round pick southpaw pitcher Ed Vande Berg (Mariners, Dodgers, Indians and Rangers), plus Angels-Blue Jays catcher Dan Whitmer (a 1978 Angels’ draft pick), who worked Detroit’s bullpen when the Tigers won the 1984 World Series.

When the Houston Astros drafted Nottingham at No. 167 overall in the sixth round in 2013, it didn’t take long for Nottingham to sign on June 14.

After a couple seasons in the Astros’ chain, Houston needed pitching at the major league level. On July 23, 2015, they traded Nottingham to the Oakland A’s in exchange for southpaw pitcher Scott Kazmir, who was 108-96 with a 4.00 ERA over a dozen MLB seasons.

Traded for by A’s legendary Billy Bean, who authored Money Ball in the early 2000s.

But it was hardly the end of Bean’s transaction activity surrounding the Redlands prospect. Between 2015 and 2016, Nottingham was shipped to the Milwaukee Brewers.

Brewers’ General Manager David Stearns dealt outfielder Khris Davis (166 home runs, .248 average over 5 MLB seasons) to Oakland. Davis, who would go on to smoke over 40 home runs in the next two seasons for the A’s, has 21 bombs so far this season.

That’s how highly Milwaukee must’ve viewed Nottingham’s potential.

On Nov. 20, 2017 Nottingham’s minor league contract was purchased. The Brewers placed him on the 40-man roster, the ultimate payoff for any off-season transaction.

Nottingham was one of five catchers – by far, the youngest on Milwaukee’s roster.

Over a five-year span with a handful of teams ranging from Rookie Ball to Low Class A to High Class A to Class AA, Nottingham had blasted 43 home runs and hit .238 (.325 OBP) in 424 professional games.

Upon his call-up to the Brewers in April, Nottingham received the full treatment. His father, Greg, was spotted being interviewed on the Brewers’ TV network.

Brewers’ history is traced back to the 1969 season when the American League expanded to two teams, the Seattle Pilots and Kansas City Royals. When the Pilots’ support floundered prior to the 1970 season, the were sold to a group in Milwaukee, which included eventual baseball commissioner Bud Selig.

When baseball needed to even up its 30-team alignment in 1998 — there were, at one point, 16 N.L. teams and 14 A.L. teams — the Brewers were shifted to the National League to evenly align the leagues.

Other than a playoff season in 2008 (wild card) and 2011 (N.L. Central Division title), the Brewers’ post-season appearances have been limited.

As for Nottingham, he had one final swing in the Brewers’ loss in Miami. That he struck out against Marlins’ closer Kyle Barraclough is only part of the story.

Against Barraclough’s 95-mph fastballs, Nottingham unloaded back-to-back swings that were hard-core, all-out powerful, home run-conscious hacks that would’ve tied the score if only he’d connected.

He’s a true Big Leaguer.

Nottingham’s call-up, most likely attracting attention from all corners of his hometown, got the rumblings rolling.

Next stop is an N.L. Central Division showdown between the second place Cubs and first place Brewers. That showdown would have true Redlands Connections if Tyler Chatwood, a Redlands East Valley prospect, were pitching for Chicago with Nottingham catching for the Brewers.

REDLANDS CATCHER PLAYED ROLE IN MONEY BALL

Redlands Connection is a concoction of sports memories emanating from a city that once numbered less than 20,000 people. From the Super Bowl to the World Series, from the World Cup to golf’s U.S. Open, plus NCAA Final Four connections, Tour de France cycling, major tennis, NBA and a little NHL, aquatics and quite a bit more, the sparkling little city that sits around halfway between Los Angeles and Palm Springs on Interstate 10 has its share of sports connections. – Obrey Brown

Jacob Nottingham, a four-year Varsity catcher-designated hitter, might’ve been in the rarest of positions for a Redlands High School athlete in 2013. The 6-foot-3, 200-pounder had apparent legitimate scholarship offers to play football at Arizona or Oklahoma.

What an opportunity!

Ranked No. 2 in Redlands’ citywide football – trailing that of highly successful city rival Redlands East Valley, especially considering that donning a Sooners’ uniform might’ve been right there with the Wildcats’ football supremacy over Nottingham’s Terriers.

REV had sent guys to football juggernauts like UCLA, Oregon, Utah and Washington, at least among the major universities. It might seem like Oklahoma football would’ve trumped all of that.

Sooner football lore stands firmly ahead of the Bruins, Ducks, Utes and Huskies.

Nottingham may be the Brewers_ catcher of the future (Sean Flynn, Houston Chronicle).
Redlands’ Jacob Nottingham may be the Brewers’ catcher of the future (Photo by Sean Flynn, Houston Chronicle).

Nottingham, though, who played on a couple of the same Terrier baseball teams as my son, Chet, also loved catching. Batting. Ninety feet instead of 100 yards. Every day instead of once a week. He chose to chase the pro diamond dream over the college gridiron.

Redlands has produced other major leaguers.

Included on that list is undrafted second baseman Julio Cruz (Mariners, White Sox, Dodgers), plus Seattle’s 1980 13th round pick southpaw pitcher Ed Vande Berg (Mariners, Dodgers, Indians and Rangers), not to mention Angels-Blue Jays catcher Dan Whitmer (a 1978 Angels’ draft pick), who worked Detroit’s bullpen when the Tigers won the 1984 World Series.

Who knows? If Nottingham had chosen football, he’d have likely been college teammates at some point with future Heisman Trophy winner Baker Mayfield.

But when the Houston Astros drafted him 167th overall in the sixth round in 2013, it didn’t take long for Nottingham to sign on June 14.

Even as a minor leaguer, Nottingham turned some heads. He was front and center in a couple of Money Ball transactions.

Money Ball definition: One of baseball’s newest and most notorious activities away from the diamond. It’s the art of dangling a major league product to a pennant-chasing franchise, but for the right cache of minor league prospects.

Nottingham was, apparently, just such a prospect.

NOTTINGHAM NETS KAZMIR FOR ASTROS

After a couple seasons in the Astros’ chain, Houston needed pitching at the major league level. They were in a heated pennant race. So they traded Nottingham to the Oakland A’s in exchange for southpaw pitcher Scott Kazmir, who was 108-96 with a 4.00 ERA over a dozen MLB seasons.

Scott Kazmir
Scott Kazmir, a veteran southpaw with a dozen years in major league baseball, landed at another team in a Money Ball exchange for Redlands product Jacob Nottingham (Photo byline unknown).

That July 23, 2015 move came when Houston’s Class A Lancaster team was hosting the Stockton Ports, the California League Class A affiliate of the A.s

All Nottingham had to do was switch locker rooms at the JetHawks’ stadium. Instead of heading to his Lancaster digs, he took the Stockton bus.

Traded for by A’s legendary Billy Bean, who authored Money Ball in the early 2000s, Nottingham was in a new stratosphere.

Billy_Beane_-_General_Manager_Oakland_As_(5964095428)
Billy Beane, the legendary “Money Ball” general manager of the Oakland A’s, was responsible for both trading for and trading away Redlands catcher Jacob Nottingham in notable deals. Photo by Oakland A’s

That wasn’t the end of his Beane’s transaction activity surrounding the Redlands prospect, either. Perhaps regarded as a future Oakland payoff at the MLB level, forget it. During the off-season between 2015 and 2016, Nottingham was shipped to the Milwaukee Brewers.

NOTTINGHAM NETS DAVIS FOR A’S

In return from the Brewers, Oakland received outfielder Khris Davis (145 home runs, .248 average over 5 MLB seasons), who would go on to smoke over 40 home runs in the next two seasons for the A’s.

Oakland Athletics
Oakland’s Khris_Davis, who has struck over 80 home runs in two seasons for Oakland, came to the A’s from Milwaukee by way of a trade … for Redlands’ Jacob Nottingham. Photo by Keith Allison

That Nottingham could fetch such nice prizes seems amazing.

Money Ball was certainly hot & heavy surrounding the Redlands prospect.

On Nov. 20, Nottingham kept smoking it to the top. The Brewers purchased his minor league contract, thus placing him on the 40-man roster – the ultimate for any prospect. He was one of five catchers – by far, the youngest on Milwaukee’s roster.

Over a five-year span with a handful of teams ranging from Rookie Ball to Low Class A to High Class A to Class AA, Nottingham had blasted 43 home runs and hit .238 (.325 OBP) in 424 professional games.

Think about this: Nottingham was a 2015 Quad Cities River Bandits (Midwest League) teammate of Alex Bregman, who played a part in the 2017 Houston Astros’ World Series championship.

Another Quad Cities teammate, Derek Fisher, slugged five HRs for the 2017 Astros.

Pitchers Joe Musgrove (7-8, 4.77 ERA), Frances Martes (5-2, 5.80), David Paulino (2-0, 6.52) and Raymin Guduan (0-0, 7.56) also logged MLB time with the series champs … off that River Bandits’ squad.

Another hurler, Daniel Mengden was one of those shipped to Oakland from Houston in the July 2015 Nottingham-Kazmir deal. Mengden finished 2017 with the A’s – 3-2, 3.17 ERA – while looking squarely into Oakland’s 2018 future as a starting pitcher.

By the time Houston had slipped past the Dodgers in the World Series, Nottingham was on a Brewers’ team looking to climb into contention. Heading into spring training, he was on the Brewers’ 40-man roster, claiming the organization’s 17th best prospect.

Beane. Kazmir. Davis. Mengden. Money Ball. Nottingham. A Redlands Connection.

 

 

 

 

PART 4: HALL OF FAME CONNECTIONS INFILTRATES FAMILIES

Redlands Connection is a concoction of sports memories emanating from a city that once numbered less than 20,000 people. From the Super Bowl to the World Series, from the World Cup to golf’s U.S. Open, plus NCAA Final Four connections, Tour de France cycling, major tennis, NBA and a little NHL, aquatics and quite a bit more, the sparkling little city that sits around halfway between Los Angeles and Palm Springs on Interstate 10 has its share of sports connections. – Obrey Brown

Check out the earlier parts first if you haven’t yet!

After getting his college degree at Humboldt  State (Calif.) – Giants and A’s country, incidentally – my baseball-loving son Danny moved away to Tallahassee, Florida. Master’s degree. Marriage to Sara. Job. Career. A son, Elliott. While he claimed that his baseball interests died a little because he had no one around to share it, I’d long suspected that baseball’s PED controversies chipped away at how he viewed baseball.

“I don’t think it’s fair, Dad, that those guys are kept out of the Hall of Fame.”

I blame the unfairness and ineptitude of the media for killing Danny’s baseball love. I think he does, too.

Danny, plus my youngest son, Chet, aren’t advocating PED use. All they see is a widespread dose of unequal justice. They see media corruption. In other words, the players didn’t do any more wrong than the media did in failing to properly cover the corruption. How can they be allowed into the selection process when they failed at their own reporting assignments?

By voting those same players – Sammy Sosa, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, et al – as MVP or Cy Young winners, that fraternity of media was also part of the problem. It’s some of the more disgusting acts of hypocrisy. Many held out their votes for the Hall of Fame.

Many of those media types show up on TV, or as columnists, or on blogs, nodding, saying, “See? See? We told ya.”

They watched Verducci, “Game of Shadows” and Jose Canseco break the stories, or write their books. In effect, they got scooped. They piggy-backed on their research to stand up against PED users.

Jose Canseco (Photo by Wikipedia Commons)
Maybe Jose Canseco was as much of a hero off the field as he was on the field – using PED, then later confessing to the process. (Photo by Wikipedia Commons)

Where were they when it counted? As sports editor of a small-city newspaper, I relied on their expertise and frontline coverage to properly present readers with stories. I wasn’t in MLB clubhouses like they were.

They’re not guardians of the Hall of Fame gates as they proclaim themselves. In fact, it wasn’t until after all of those golden on-field moments took place when they took action. Too late.

It’s a simple fact for Danny: Baseball’s over, at least in his mind. The sport has lost a fan.

Chet continues to surge ahead. His love for the game continues. His disgust for the Hall of Fame criteria, however, has increased. For the media. For the Hall voters, he’s spewing out total acrimony. Each January for the past few years, Chet seethes over the perceived injustice.

Brown_Chet
My son, Chet, doesn’t like the current Hall of Fame practices, but he still loves the game.

He questions Selig’s own 2017 induction, claiming that it was under his watch that baseball’s PED involvement had surged to unforeseen heights.

How dare Selig be allowed in while Bonds, among others, has been kept out. If the media, Commissioner’s office, not to mention each team had done its respective jobs, PED usage would’ve been exposed early enough and, perhaps, stamped out.

I don’t think Chet’s the only one that feels this way.

Previous Hall inductees Bobby Cox, Tony La Russa and Joe Torre should’ve and could have known. La Russa fronted for McGwire with the media. He took up on McGwire’s side, pushing away media that dared to assault the single season HR record holder. For years, too.

Until McGwire confessed.

Torre and Cox, too, had guys in their clubhouses – Sheffield, Canseco, Man-Ram, A-Rod, plus others – that enhanced their playing efforts by using PED. World Series championships were claimed with “dirty” players on their rosters.

Weren’t those managers also part of the problem? Let’s give them benefit of the doubt.

Perhaps they didn’t encourage PEDs. But it was happening under their very noses. In their clubhouses. Did nothing to help clean up their sport.

Somehow, they all got a Hall pass to Cooperstown.

You almost get tired of hearing the refrain from voters, or the observers that don’t have a vote but want to interfere.

“Bonds was on his way to the Hall of Fame until 1998. But …”

There is no “but.”

What’s left is a mess. Millions like Danny and Chet continue to, perhaps, fret at the notion that suspected PED users Jeff Bagwell, Mike Piazza and Ivan Rodriguez have been inducted. Meanwhile, some of baseball’s brightest stars have been left out.

It’s a deeply personal conclusion to a saga that won’t go away.

PART 1: HALL OF FAME CONNECTIONS INFILTRATES FAMILIES

Redlands Connection is a concoction of sports memories emanating from a city that once numbered less than 20,000 people. From the Super Bowl to the World Series, from the World Cup to golf’s U.S. Open, plus NCAA Final Four connections, Tour de France cycling, major tennis, NBA and a little NHL, aquatics and quite a bit more, the sparkling little city that sits around halfway between Los Angeles and Palm Springs on Interstate 10 has its share of sports connections. – Obrey Brown

Here is how baseball’s Hall of Fame PED controversies has affected me, my family and, perhaps, a generation of baseball fans:

The raucous, unfair and unprofessional behavior of around 500-plus voting media members has rendered the process as complete buffoonery. It’s a cartoon of mass proportions. While the media continues to swing and miss in all its political coverages – whether you lean politically left or right – its Hall of Fame contributions may be among the most shameful display of professional conduct.

It’s almost as if the Hall-selecting committee exhibits no code of conduct.

It’s deep and personal when the likes of Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens are kept out of the Hall. Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa, plus Rafael Palmeiro and Manny Ramirez. Jose Canseco could’ve had a shot. And Gary Sheffield, plus Alex Rodriguez.

On Jan. 22, 2018, four more players were elected by the Baseball Writers Association of America. None of the afore-mentioned claimed a spot, though A-Rod is not yet eligible.

My son, Danny, collected all their baseball cards in the early 1990s. Born in 1984, the kid followed my lead into following a sport in which many fathers and sons enjoyed together. Danny bought, traded and craved baseball cards.

Danny mug
My son, Danny Brown, was a rabid baseball fan who, perhaps, stepped away from the sport once inequality of media bias started to stain the Hall of Fame.

That little guy, age eight on up, adored those cards.

He memorized their stats.

We went to games, seeking autographs afterwards.

When it was time for the World Series, or the playoffs, or a huge pennant race game, we had the TV on full bore.

My youngest son, Chet, had pictures. Cards. Autographs. Autographed balls. He stared relentlessly at TV screens whenever Bonds came to bat. On those trips to the ball park, there were no trips to the rest room or snack bar when the Giants’ lineup was only a couple players away from Bonds’ spot in the batter’s box.

As the PED drama played out, dozens of players were spotlighted for using performance enhancing drugs. In the cases of the afore-mentioned players, it’s possible they’ll never be inducted into the sport’s greatest showcase.

I remember Danny saying to me, “Dad, I don’t know who to believe any more. It’s like they’re taking my childhood heroes away.”

Eight years younger than Danny, Chet completely bought in – BIG TIME – to the San Francisco Giants. At a time when Bonds was asserting himself into baseball’s home run chase, Chet was like millions of others.

Barry Bonds (Photo by Wikipedia Commons)
Barry Bonds, a San Francisco treat, was considered a traitor to the game by almost every other baseball fan other than the Giants. There are plenty that believe he belongs in Cooperstown. (Photo by Wikipedia Commons)

Watching. Admiring. Enjoying those magical moments.

Milestone moments like 500 home runs. 600. 660, tying Willie Mays. 700. Then 715, cracking the Babe. Finally, 756, working his way past Hank Aaron.

He was almost at the game against Washington when Bonds slugged No. 756. I wouldn’t let him, nor his sister, Kelli, go to a night game by themselves. They went up to the Bay Area to stay with my mom and grandparents. Kelli was just 18. Chet wasn’t yet 14. Imagine letting two kids at that age loose on the subway train – alone in The City. With all those vagabonds? Not at night. It was hard enough letting them go in daylight hours.

Meanwhile, I was on the road with Danny, heading for Tallahassee, so I could drop him off at Florida State.

I’d picked the game after – a day game – in trying to predict when Bonds would go deep for No. 756. Got them game tickets. Airline tickets. They missed seeing the record-breaker by a day. By the way, Bonds wasn’t in the Giants’ lineup in that game.

To this day, I’m kidded and reviled for being such a bad father.

A few years earlier, Chet had been at World Series Game Six. October 2002. Angels and Giants. In Anaheim. Leading 3-2 in games, anticipating the Giants’ first World Series championship since 1954, he watched Bonds strike a massive HR off Frankie “K-Rod” Rodriguez. It was a Hall of Fame moment.

It wasn’t so pretty to watch a 9-year-old boy crying after the game. The Giants had blown a 5-0 lead. They lost. One day later, the Angels claimed the World Series trophy.

Chet, like millions of others, was in total awe of Bonds. His swing. His power. His complete dominance of pitchers, some of whom may have been using PEDs.

Hall of Fame selectors missed their chance to cover the story when it was taking place. They cannot now re-enact their mistakes by voting to keep the top candidates from their chance at glory.