Article from the archives—2011 Baseball Hall of Fame election results: Alomar, Blyleven elected; Larkin, Morris close

Let’s take a look back on the 2011 Hall of Fame election and what my surely genius and insightful thoughts on it were.

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Another year of Hall of Fame voting and excitement is in the books, and so begins another round of review, second-guessing and ridicule about who was elected—and who was not.

Roberto Alomar made 12 All-Star teams and won 10 Gold Gloves. (Wikipedia).

With 90.0 percent of the vote, Roberto Alomar was selected to the Hall of Fame in his second go-around on the ballot, jumping from 73.7% last year. Blyleven, in his 14th year of eligibility, received 79.7% of the vote.

Both are worthy inductees. Alomar hit .300 with 2,724 hits, 210 home runs and 474 stolen bases in 17 major league seasons, earning a spot on 12 All-Star teams, as well as 10 Gold Glove Awards and four Silver Sluggers. In the playoffs he flourished as well, batting .313 in 230 post-season at-bats.

Blyleven does not have the accolades to his name (only two All-Star selections), but he has the numbers to back up his election. With 287 wins, 3,701 strikeouts and 242 complete games, Blyleven compiled a career that, though it did not scream “Hall of Fame” while he was playing, developed into a Cooperstown-worthy career nonetheless.

Two other players received at least 50% as well, Barry Larkin and Jack Morris, indicating that they too will one day be elected—especially considering they both received a higher percentage of the votes this year than last. Their Hall of Fame chances increase even more considering the lackluster crop of newcomers arriving next year, with the best player being, perhaps, Bernie Williams.

There were a few newcomers whose performances, or lack thereof, were relatively surprising. John Franco, who had 424 saves and a 2.89 ERA in his 21-year career, received only 4.6% of the vote, meaning he won’t be on the ballot again next year. Even though the cloud of steroids hangs over his head, Rafael Palmeiro’s 11% of the vote is quite low—especially considering fellow alleged ‘roider Mark McGwire received 23.5% of the vote in his first year. Jeff Bagwell actually did surprisingly well, garnering 41.1% of the vote.

Now, it is time to compare my predicted results to the actual voting results. The following are the players I said were going to be elected: Bert Blyleven and Roberto Alomar. I was correct (most people probably guessed those two, so there is not much to brag about).

I claimed there would be 19 holdovers from this election to next year’s, with that list including Barry Larkin, Jack Morris, Lee Smith, Fred McGriff, Edgar Martinez, Tim Raines, Jeff Bagwell, Alan Trammell, Mark McGwire, Rafael Palmeiro, Larry Walker, Don Mattingly, John Franco, John Olerud, Kevin Brown, Dale Murphy, Juan Gonzalez, Harold Baines and Tino Martinez. I was off by five—there are only 14 holdovers, with Harold Baines, John Franco, Kevin Brown, Tino Martinez and John Olerud falling off the ballot.

When looking at the actual percentages, I was off by a bit, as well. For example, I said Fred McGriff was going to get 40.9% of the vote—he really received only 17.9%. I said Rafael Palmeiro was going to receive 23.5% of the vote, while he garnered only 11%. Perhaps most egregiously of all, I said John Olerud was going to receive 13.5% of the vote, when he actually received 0.7%.

Olerud, who finished with 58.2 WAR in 17 seasons, does have a small group of Hall of Fame supporters. (Wikipedia).

I was close on a few, however. For example, I claimed Dale Murphy would get 12.5% of the vote and he actually received 12.6%. As well, I said Larry Walker was going to garner 19.5% of the vote and he received 20.3%. On average, I was about 4.34% off on each person. Now, the percentage difference is a bit more glaring—the average percentage difference between my projected vote totals and the actual vote totals is about 47.21%—that will happen when one predicts John Olerud will get over 10% of the vote and he receives less than 1%.

Finally, to wrap this up, I am going to post who I would have voted for if I were a member of the Baseball Writers Association of America. These are in no particular order.

Roberto Alomar
Bert Blyleven
Jeff Bagwell
Barry Larkin
Tim Raines
Lee Smith
Larry Walker
Rafael Palmeiro
Fred McGriff
Dave Parker

I also would have voted for Mark McGwire, Edgar Martinez, Alan Trammell and potentially Dale Murphy, Don Mattingly and John Franco but a Hall of Fame voter can select a maximum of 10 players. I voted for Palmeiro and not McGwire because the latter already has his cabal of voters, while Palmeiro does not—I wanted to help give Palmeiro a bit of support in his first year of eligibility.

That wraps up another round of Hall of Fame speculation, surprise and—maybe for some—despair. Roberto Alomar and Bert Blyleven will join the already-inducted Pat Gillick at the Hall of Fame induction this summer at Cooperstown.

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I have since revamped my method for predicting Hall of Fame numbers. Back then, I considered how well statistically similar players performed in the voting, however that obviously does not produce an accurate number. Now I look more at how the player performed in recent elections and how well other players with similar vote totals did in their elections, as well. That produces less wonky results.

Article from the archives—31-year-old Amaury Sanit makes major league debut

I wrote this back in 2011, when 31-year-old pitcher Amauri (then spelled Amaury) Sanit made his big league debut with the Yankees. The hurler spent only four games in the majors, but after an escape from Cuba and a rocky road up the minor league ladder, he finally made it.

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Following his big league stay, Sanit played in the Mexican League. (Wikipedia).

It always tickles my tailbone whenever an “old” career minor leaguer makes his major league debut. These grizzled veterans are the epitome of dedication, never giving up long after many of their younger, fresh-faced counterparts have been promoted to the big leagues and established themselves at that level.

New York Yankees pitcher Amaury Sanit is one such “old guy.” At 31 years old, he was one of only a few tricenarians still toiling in the minor leagues—most guys his age, if they haven’t had a taste of the majors, stop playing by then. But not Sanit.

He made his debut on May 12 against the Kansas City Royals and pitched 4 2/3 innings of relief after starter Ivan Nova struggled. He allowed three runs on four hits and two walks, while striking out two batters (including the very first man he faced, Jeff Francoeur) and though he did not pitch particularly well—he left the game with a 5.79 ERA—he still accomplished what every minor league baseball player dreams of accomplishing—he played in the major leagues.

His story really begins in Cuba, where he was born in 1979. In his native land, Sanit pitched seven seasons, going 25-25 with 58 saves and a 4.11 ERA in the Cuban Serie Nacional. He was a solid pitcher who was one of the better closers of his era.

 In 2003, he made the perilous trek from Cuba to the United States. The Yankees signed him in 2008 and he pitched two games for their Dominican Summer League team—a group comprised of teens and young adults…and one 28-year-old Cuban defector. He moved stateside in 2009 and pitched for three teams and performed well with each—combined, he posted a 3.16 ERA with 10 saves.

Then he got in trouble with the law—the laws governing baseball, that is. During the 2010 season, Sanit was caught using much-maligned performance enhancing drugs, which earned him a 50 game suspension. For a 30-year-old minor leaguer, such an event can be the death knell for a professional career.

Not for Sanit, however. He bounced back from his transgression and pitched well to start the 2011 minor league season, winning two games and striking out 24 batters in 16 1/3 innings.

And then he got the call that 100 percent of all minor leaguers yearn for, but only a small percentage receive. Amaury Sanit, after years of playing baseball in various countries all over the world, is now a major leaguer.

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Sanit allowed 10 earned runs in 7 big league innings, giving him a 12.86 ERA.

Kazuo Matsui brought me headaches.

Infielder Kazuo Matsui was a star in Japan, finishing with over 2,000 hits and a .291 batting average. He was signed by the Mets at a time when Japanese ballplayers were novel and new and making waves—it was the era of Ichiro Suzuki, Hideki Matsui (no relation) and Kaz Sasaki. New York tried their hand at a few, inking the likes of Masato Yoshii, Tsuyoshi Shinjo and Satoru Komiyama. But those were half steps; the Mets hadn’t yet dipped into the pool of Japanese superstars. Until Matsui.

He ended up hitting .256 in 239 games with New York.

I found this little blurb hiding in one of my folders. I wrote it when I was 15 or so.

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Kaz Matsui: Was he a waste, or is it just me?

Kaz Matsui finished with nearly 2,900 professional hits and more than 1,500 runs scored. (Wikipedia).

Mets fans, you may like this article. Any others … well … you may not really care.  

Now, as many of you know (or not), I’m a big Mets fan. They are the team I follow the most. I watch their games. I read up on their statistics. And when I see a Met not living up to our expectations, it hurts. It really does.

And, Kaz Matsui is really not living up to our expectations. He was supposed to be an Ichiro-esque player, and he has—it’s a struggle for me to say this—not.

Now, I know it takes some people a few years to become acclimated to the Major League Baseball style, but you don’t have those few years when you’re a 27-year-old rookie! You should be in, or at least entering, your prime by now. And now, Kaz is hitting .230 on the season.

And it’s not just the fact that his average is low, either. Matsui has not shown the power or speed abilities that he showed over in Japan. What happened to 36 home run Kaz Matsui? Where did 62 stolen base Kaz go? My bet is they went with his health, which has not been very good these past two years.

I know he’s been hurt, but that really can’t be an excuse, because when he’s healthy, he not showing anything either.

Well, I’ve ranted long enough. Kaz just isn’t doing what he’s supposed to be doing. That’s all right.

 Jeff Keppinger will be ready to take over his spot any year now.

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Coincidentally, Keppinger never had much of an impact with the Mets, spending only 33 games with the club in 2004.

Article from the archives—Adrian Beltre: What 1,000 runs scored means for Rangers third baseman

On April 14, 2011, Adrian Beltre—a future Hall of Famer who was anything but a sure thing at that point—scored his 1,000th career run. It’s not a huge feat, as mentioned in this article, but I decided to memorialize it with some prose anyway. Usually I wouldn’t post something like this, because really all it does is announce something (that happened 10 years ago), but there were enough fun facts and trivial information throughout that I thought you’d enjoy reading it.

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Adrian Beltre turned it on in his 30s after slashing just .271/.327/.459 in his teens and 20s. (Wikipedia).

Just the other day, on April 14, Texas Rangers third baseman Adrian Beltre scored his 1,000th career run. Oh, you didn’t hear about it? Well, that’s to be expected—the feat wasn’t particularly well-publicized and run milestones don’t seem to garner much attention anyway.

What, then, makes the 33-year-old Beltre’s 1,000th crossing of home plate meaningful, or worth noting, or so valuable that one should put metaphorical quill to parchment and expound upon the landmark?

First, it’s a pretty impressive feat, even if it’s not particularly rare—he joins a club with 29 other active members and over 300 members overall. The active crew is riddled with greats like Derek Jeter, Chipper Jones, Albert Pujols and Ichiro Suzuki—that’s a pretty good fraternity to be in.

Most importantly, however, it signals that the Dominican third sacker could be quietly putting together a Hall of Fame career.

Third basemen with 1,000 runs, 2,000 hits and 300 home runs are a pretty rare breed—only four have posted those numbers since 1980, with Beltre and Cooperstown shoo-in Chipper Jones amongst the flock. Compare that to first basemen: In that span, more than twice as many initial sackers have posted those types of numbers. Clearly, third sackers with even decent power and hit-ability—by first base’s standards, at least—are hard to come by.

And Adrian Beltre is one of them, placing him in an elite group.

Of course, that is not to say that if Beltre were to retire today he would be a Hall of Famer—sure, among his positional peers he is in a supreme cabal, but to the untrained eye, he is still only decent.

Since third basemen don’t often reach the “milestone” numbers like 500 home runs and 3,000 hits with regularity, they are often underappreciated and even considered inferior to players at other positions on the diamond. They are somewhere between the historically uber-defensive shortstop and second base positions and the uber-offensive first base and right field positions. Being caught in that in-between segment of the baseball spectrum is one of the reasons why third base is an underrepresented position in the Hall of Fame.

And that’s why Beltre needs to keep adding to his career totals and accolades before he can rightfully claim a spot in Cooperstown.

Yes, he has three Gold Gloves and three Silver Sluggers, but a couple more of each wouldn’t hurt. Sure, he’s been an All-Star twice and, though All-Star appearances aren’t always a huge indicator of a Hall of Fame career—Robin Yount was only selected to three and Bert Blyleven to two—it wouldn’t hurt for him to tack on a couple more to his resume, lest he toil on the ballot for over a decade as 2011 Hall of Fame inductee Blyleven did.

And while accolades are nice, they don’t mean nearly as much if statistics aren’t there to back them up. Yes, 2,000 hits and 300 home runs are good—fantastic, even, for third basemen—but they don’t jump out at voters and the layperson. Fellow hot corner specialist Gary Gaetti had over 2,200 knocks and 360 longballs to boot and, though he is fondly remembered, no one is clamoring for his induction into the Hall of Fame.

Because of the position he mans, it is hard to say what Beltre needs to do to gain Cooperstown membership. Mike Schmidt earned election after hitting 548 home runs and playing great defense, yet Ron Santo entered the Hall, albeit after a long wait, with 342 dingers and defense that was only slightly above average, according to Defensive WAR. It’s a variable position with variable “rules” for induction.

Instead, let’s look at what he is on pace to achieve, according to famed Sabermatrician Bill James’ projection system called the “Favorite Toy,” and see if those numbers are enough to earn him the most prestigious call in all of baseball.

Chipper Jones finished with 468 home runs and 2,726 hits. (Wikipedia).

Using the tool, we find that Beltre is projected to hit 403 home runs and finish with 2,765 hits. He’s heading towards nearly 1,500 RBI and over 1,300 runs. Now those are Hall of Fame numbers and notably, they are not digits constructed from fantasy—they are what he is on pace to achieve per the extrapolation system.

In the history of the game ever, only four third basemen have hit over 400 home runs. Only three have collected at least 2,700 hits. Yet not one has combined such power numbers with those hit totals—something Beltre is statistically projected to do.

Chipper might be the first to join that club—he stands only 80 hits away from 2,700 and he already has over 450 moonshots—but Beltre, being half of that guild of two, would be a no-doubter for the Hall if he reached those numbers.

Now, that’s not saying he has to reach those marks to be a Hall of Famer. He could as easily collect 2,400 hits and whack 350 home runs and one day earn election, but he’d have to wait a few years, just as Ron Santo did. (Coincidentally, Beltre is most statistically similar to Santo through age 32, according to Baseball-Reference.com).

However Beltre’s career turns out, it’s hard to believe I’m talking about his blooming Hall of Fame prospects. To think: This was a guy people thought was washed up in 2005!

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Beltre went on to score a lot more than 1,000 runs in his career and beat the projections set forth in the article handily. He is the only third baseman, and just one of 11 players, to finish with over 400 home runs and 3,000 hits. Having done so, he ranks among names like Hank Aaron, Willie Mays and Stan Musial.

Article from the archives: Lastings Milledge—From Mets top prospect to wash-up in Japan.

Lastings Milledge was a top prospect in the New York Mets system who spent 433 underwhelming games in the major leagues. In an attempt to resuscitate his career, he signed to play in Japan following the 2011 season. This article is from that time.

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Milledge batted .257 in two years with New York. (Wikipedia).

How many times have New York Mets fans heard this one before? “He’s a can’t-miss top prospect.”

Or this: “He’s a true five-tool player.”

Or how about, “Expect to see him in the starting lineup for a long time.”

Such anti-prophetic words are often spewed by sources in the know or blogosphere pundits throughout the whole of Mets nation. And such words so very often end up being completely untrue.

Such is the case of Lastings Darnell Milledge, who but a half-decade ago went from being the Mets star outfielder of the future to an arrogant kid with a ‘tude who strikes out too much, walks too little and who cannot quite handle that breaking pitch.

Oh, how highly touted he was! Baseball America ranked him the 86th-best prospect in all of baseball before the 2004 season, when the 19-year-old young man had just seven professional games under his belt.

Then, after hitting home runs like Piazza and stealing bases like Cedeno and hitting for average like Olerud that year, his stock soared higher and he was ranked the 11th-greatest blue chip in all the land for 2005—a mighty honor for one who was not yet legally able to drink!

And it just kept getting better for the baseball wunderkind, who had legs like a gazelle and arms like Paul Bunyan and eyes like a hawk. He hit for average, and oh, how he hit! He walloped home runs, and oh, how they flew! He stole base after base after base, and oh! Not even the greatest of diamond thieves could manage the thefts he managed on an almost daily basis!

Lastings Milledge was a true five-tool player, a consummate superstar in the making. After an incredible, even superhuman 2005, Baseball America named the future Willie Mays the ninth—yes, the ninth—best prospect anywhere in the nation, from sea to shining sea.

He had accomplished all his amazing feats year after year playing at levels beyond his age. It’s not often a youngster of such incredible skill graces the presence of Double-A, and it is even rarer for a 21-year-old kid—yes, a kid—to start a season at Triple-A, the highest level of professional baseball below the major leagues.

And yet, that is exactly what Milledge did in 2006. This phenom was, after all, one of the best players in the minor leagues—Baseball America said so. He was, after all, compared to major leaguers like Adam Dunn and the Mets’ own David Wright, when both players were veritable superstars themselves.

His impending superstardom, however, would not be so easily reached.

Milledge’s best season was with Washington in 2008. He had 14 home runs and 24 steals. (Wikipedia).

He began the season at Triple-A and, to the complete shock of those following him, had hiccups along the way. It’s OK, we all thought—even the mighty Ruth wavered now and then—he is after all (gulp) human.

Lastings Milledge—merely human? Perish the thought! This lad was the Mets saving grace, it was he who would lead them to World Series victory after World Series victory, toppling the Yankees and Red Sox and whoever the American League would so foolishly throw in their way.

And yet his batting average was merely normal, his power just pedestrian and, perhaps a new eye prescription was needed, but it seemed as if, by the looks of things, he had lost a step, or a half a step, or just an eighth of a step on the basepaths.

But lo, it couldn’t be!

He was the ninth best player in the minor leagues! The trek to glory and fame and unrelenting stardom would not be interrupted by this, this mere aberration of a minor league performance!

And so, on May 30, 2006, the boy they called Lastings arrived at the major league stage.

And he tanked.

Oh, how glorious his first six games had been—the boy-man among man-boys hit .316, including a home run that tied a match against those most hated of foes, the San Francisco Giants.

After his heroic feat, the lad merely answered the call that had beckoned so many budding stars in the past. He had made his mark on the major leagues, and the ballpark denizens loudly, joyfully acknowledged their new favorite player, this new face of a most wonderful of chapters in Mets history.

He merely wished to acknowledge those who acknowledged him, he only desired to extend his hand to the mortals whom he held captive, entranced. It was a truly humanitarian gesture, those high-fives he delivered to the men, women and children in the front row, this god among men interacting with those of such a lower caste than he.

But while the fans wanted his hand, the Giants manager—and some of the press—wanted his head. How could such a thing be? But it was so.

Apparently, the youngster in his eagerness to please those for whom he played, had broken one or two or many unwritten baseball rules. He had exhibited a purported arrogance, a supposed hubris, and the Giants manager did not take kindly to it. At all.

Perhaps it was the fallout from his incident against the Giants that spelled his doom, or perhaps he was called up too soon, but Lastings Milledge never quite performed as well as he did for the Mets in those first six games.

No, from then on, the initiate from Florida hit a meager .231 with an on-base percentage of only .305 and a slugging percentage of .359. The hero, the quick and powerful and everything wonderful hero, had fallen, but not completely.

2007 was a whole new year. The mighty Milledge had taken some knocks during his first sojourn in the majors, and his minor league record was standard, but he was still Lastings Milledge—the kid who just last season was the ninth best prospect in all of baseball.

Ever considered a comeback? Milledge is still only 36. (Wikipedia).

Such an incredible talent does not just fade away. It may dim, ever so slightly, but it should return to normal.

Milledge had an offseason to work out the kinks from the previous year. He ironed out the wrinkles, he became acclimated with major league culture, he was ready to take on the big show once and for all. He had to have been—he was Lastings Milledge, after all, right?

Wrong. His statistics were merely pedestrian once again, and even the loving throngs who supported this rising star grew impatient with he who was to deliver so much as he delivered so little.

He flew and slugged his way through the minors, and nothing could get in his way. The restless masses wanted immediate results from this young fellow at the major league level, but he couldn’t deliver. Everything, now, was getting in his way. He was only 22, but his ship, it seemed, had sailed.

Milledge was a brightly-lit bulb, burning too hot for his own good. His tungsten core ripped and tore and so his bulb was no more. He ebbed and dimmed and flickered out, and made the New York faithful shout:

“Lastings Milledge, go away. We want not you here to stay.”

And so, the superstar in the making-turned-pedestrian ballplayer-turned-disappointment was traded away, never again to wear a New York Mets uniform.

He bounced around the major and minor leagues in the seasons to follow, playing most recently for the Chicago White Sox in 2011.

And oh, how the mighty have fallen. The giants have crumbled. The colossuses have tumbled.

Lastings Milledge, he who was to be a cog in the New York Mets outfield for years and years—a name fathers’ children years from now would recognize and revere and remember so fondly—was cast aside by all of Major League Baseball following the 2011 season.

No reasonable offer to play was presented to him. No one on this side of the Pacific Ocean wanted his services.

And so, the former ninth-best prospect in all of baseball, the former speedster who could hit for power and average is now in Japan, just another major league castoff, looking to reclaim what once was and trying anew to become what could have been.

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In 2012, his first season in Japan, Milledge batted .300; by the time he left in 2015, his mark had fallen each year to a low of .220. He concluded his 15-year professional career in 2017 with the independent Lancaster Barnstormers, still just 32 years old.

Article from the archives—Former top prospect Chris Lubanski: Forgotten first rounder now toiling in indy ball

Chris Lubanski hasn’t played professionally since 2011. This piece is from that year.

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Eight years ago, in 2003, the Kansas City Royals drafted a highly-touted outfielder out of Kennedy-Kenrick Catholic High School in Norristown, Pennsylvania named Chris Lubanski.

Nearly a decade later, that once top-prospect is still toiling in the minor leagues, though he is no longer on any affiliated team—rather, he is exhibiting his craft with the Chico Outlaws of the independent North American League.

It would be unfair to say that Lubanski fizzled in the minors like so many prospects do. In his first professional season, 2003, he hit .326 and in 2005, he slugged 28 home runs while driving 116 runners home. As recently as 2007, he was named the fourth-best prospect in the Royals farm system by Baseball America.

In 2007, he hit .259 with 15 home runs for two teams—not awful as a whole, but he hit just .208 in 49 games for the Royals Triple-A club in Omaha.

The following season, his struggles continued at the highest level of minor league baseball, as he hit only .242. In 2009, he hit .272 overall … but only .227 at Omaha.

But you said he didn’t fizzle, you’re thinking. Well, he really didn’t.

In fact, in 2010 he signed with the Toronto Blue Jays and spent the entire season with their Triple-A team, the Las Vegas 51s. That year, he hit .293 with 17 home runs and 57 RBI in only 100 games. He finished third on the team in home runs, behind Brett Wallace’s 18 and J.P. Arencibia’s 32.

2010 was a career renaissance for Lubanski, who had, from 2007 to 2009, seemingly lost his way. But, unfortunately, bad news and bad luck followed Lubanski after his comeback year.

He became a free agent following the season, was signed to a minor league contract by the Florida Marlins and—despite his resurgent 2010—was released before the 2011 season began. And no new major league team came knocking.

Lubanski was never a bad player. He showed plus speed and plus power at all minor league levels and, as proven by his 2010 season, showed that he could bounce back well from extended struggles.

And yet, that call from the big league club never came. He fell victim to a curse that befalls too many minor leaguers: Though he performed well at the lower levels, he faded when it really, really counted. And when he got his career back on track, it was too little, too late.

So today, Lubanski no longer plays in any major league organization. Today, he plays for an independent team, the Chico Outlaws, with whom he is hitting .284 with two home runs in 24 games.

And that call to the majors that this former top prospect was sure to receive at some point, eventually, one year, becomes more and more distant, and more and more of just a dream.

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Lubanski was signed by the Philadelphia Phillies in August 2011 and spent 19 games with their Double-A club. He hit .189 to end his professional career.