Did An All-Star Team Just Retire?

(Game date: Oct. 7, 2018) — A number of well-known players have given their notice and hit retirement following the 2018 season, and the quality of talent now leaving the rosters of the 20 clubs leaves one to wonder whether or not an All-Star Team could be fielded among their numbers?

We think so.

Catcher – Bill Ross #55

Bill Ross most recently played two seasons for the Boston Brawlers, but spent most of 2018 on the DL with a rupture Achilles.  But he was indeed an All-Star — a total of 11 times in both leagues.

The 1998 draft pick first played for the Ohio Oxen organization before he was claimed off waivers by Kingston. Injuries hampered his progress, but undeniably he had great years playing for Nevada, then later for Chicago.

With a career .268 average, 256 HR, 710 RBI, over 1,000 hits and 715 runs, he has put up impressive numbers that garnered several awards over the years: two MVP awards (one in each league), a Platinum Glove, nine Gold Crowns, and two playoff MVP awards.

Ross remains one of the top batters to ever play for the Chicago Pit Bulls, holding all-time and season records in several hitting categories, including career average (.286), OBP (.421), slugging (.565) and of course OPS (.986), as well as single season (6.1) and career WAR (29.4).

First baseman – Miguel Tafoya #41

The Toronto Nomads first baseman spent his entire career with that organization, playing in 15 seasons and swinging his bat many, many times for them. So many, in fact, he holds the club all-time record for at bats with 3,505. “Miguelito” also holds the club all-time doubles record (220), and is 2nd behind Eric Tessier in several other career batting categories.

Tafoya looks less certain to see the HOF than catcher Bill Ross does, but still earned a respectable three trips to the All-Star Game, three Gold Crowns at 1B and DH, and a Platinum Glove. His debut season, 2005, saw him earn Rookie of the Year honors, after hitting .285 and knocking 13 long balls.

He was only the second Toronto player to hit for the cycle, doing so against Kingston on June 10, 2008, while he was in his prime. Lately, Tafoya had been relegated to a bench role, and even spent some time in 2017 down in AAA-level while the Nomads juggled players at the first bag. This year the club acquired Brian Chambliss and Tafoya, who still had another year on his contract, saw the writing on the wall, opting to retire.

Another All-Star first baseman who retired recently was Victor Gomez, also from Toronto. Gomez spent most of his 10-year career with Chicago, where he was a Rookie of the Year and 2-time playoff MVP in addition to earning two trips to the All-Star game. Toronto had signed him to a minor league contract, looking for a solution to first base woes plaguing them since last season.

Second baseman – Jim Read #52

“Cleveland Jim” Read, from Cleveland, Tennessee, retired after 8 years in the Bull League at age 35.  However, despite putting up solid offensive numbers and earning a defensive award in his second year, with Boston, he failed to be selected to the All-Star game.

In the 2009 playoffs, again with the Brawlers, he was named Elimination Round MVP, and two years later won a Bull Cup with Montreal. A platoon infielder much of his career, the 2002 first-round pick failed to launch to Boston’s expectations.

But, he certainly had all-star talent, even if he was never selected to an All-Star team. In 2009, Read batted .306 on a 51-game season, in which he made 41 starts. He legged out 7 triples, a career-high, and led the Lake League.  But the LL All-Stars were a tough field to break into that season, with Ricky Terrazas, Justin Good, Ron Alder, Barry Janmaat, Alex Viramontes, and a Narushi Ohata in his prime.

Third baseman/Shortstop – Antonio Morales #14

We’ll count Morales for both 3B and SS, even though he played just 21 games at the hot corner, but this long-time Boston Brawlers shortstop was a fixture on the LL All-Star team for four consecutive years, from 2011 to 2014.

In 10 seasons he his double-digit home runs in four seasons, including his Rookie of the Year debut in 2010. He was recruited out of the Dominican Republic as a third baseman but quickly found himself more capable as a shortstop.

Morales completed 10 seasons as a pro, and played at top level from his debut until 2017, when Boston made some moves and optioned him to AAA-level Laval, where he played 20 games. He was there for 6 more this year, finally completing 2018 on the Brawlers 25-man roster but only managing a .169 average.

Outfield – Michel D’Argent #27, Narushi Ohata #35, Martin Sumner #62

Two of the three retiring outfielders this season saw service as an all-star, D’Argent (1, 2011 with Toronto) and Ohata (10, 2004-2012 with Toronto and Ohio, 2014 with Hamilton). But Sumner played just one season, and not very well.

Still, Ohata’s 10 appearances more than make up for Sumner’s dearth of them.  “Turbo” Ohata also claimed two MVP’s, three Bull Cup rings, four playoff MVP awards, and was named best hitter at DH or outfield a total of 8 times.

D’Argent’s career was less illustrious, but he still made solid contributions and appears on the Toronto club career leaderboards in several batting categories.

Starting pitchers – Lien-Ying Li #55, Jordan Cabrera #48

Two starting pitchers retiring this year have had trips to the All-Star game. In the case of Lien-Ying Li, the Taiwanese righty had his trip in 2008, six years into his 13-year career with the California Tidals.

Li was also part of two Bull Cup-winning Tidals teams, and won the Sandy Koufax Award in 2012. Despite this, he is a Hall of Fame long-shot, though he holds Tidals career records for win (79), WAR (25.2), starts (179), complete games (39), shutouts (8), innings (1,332.1), and strikeouts (1,111) and was very popular during his time there. The club could retire his number as one of its top pitchers.

For Cabrera, who also made just a single all-star appearance, he also played 13 years in the Bull League but with far less lofty accolades. A back of the rotation man for Seattle for much of the time, the last six years of his career was marked by short stints bouncing around the leagues. His All-Star appearance was in 2008, the same year as Li, during his best career season, a 7-3, 3.48 effort that saw him reach a career high WAR of just 2.5.

A number of other players retired as well, and among the bigger names was Hong-ryul Oh, a catcher who had been assigned to AAA-level Brampton, in the Toronto Nomads organization, during much of 2018, hitting just .177 in his last big league year. Oh was a 4-time all-star, but his best years were with the San Diego Seagulls. During four seasons with the Gulls he hit at least 20 home runs, and 56 or more RBIs.

Many of this year’s crop of retirees will fade from the memories of baseball executives and fans, but for these players, the memories will live on, particularly of those exciting all-star appearances.

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