All-Star Game Needs Some “Hambone”
As we get down into the final frames of the American League All-Star Game Final Vote, I want to thrust in my 2 cents worth for a guy who I think has paid his dues, and should get a chance to throw the rock in Kansas City next week. Sure I might a bit of bias since he did adorn the Rays colors for a spell in his career, but Jason Aaron (not for Hank) Hammel who stands 6 foot 6 inches definitely has had a season that set himself apart.
Sure a lot of the American League East fans kind of lost touch with “Hambone” after his trade on the last day of competing against fellow tall dude Jeff Niemann (6’8”) for the lone spot still unoccupied in the Rays rotation. Hammel traded the Rays sunburst for the purple and black of the Rockies, going where some pitchers’ ERA go to die. But Hammel, who was out of minor league options at the time and had a total of 28 MLB games in his cap buckled down and turned his pre-trade ERA of 5.90 during his Rays tenure to a more respectable 4.57 ERA in 350+ innings including an advancement of 7.5 wins above replacement in 2009-2012, more than any starter on the Rays or rockies not named (Ubaldo) Jimenez.
In the seasons since Hammel left the sunshine of Tampa Bay, he has started 78 contests, posted 25 victories and seen 332 hitters return to the dugout via the K. But it wasn’t until Hammel got himself a bit of a homecoming via a trade to Baltimore this season that he has again shown up on the AL east radar as a prominent hurler for the Orioles. So far in 2012, Hammel boasts a 8-4 record for the O’s along with 16 game started, a complete game, a shutout and 97 strikeouts even before the All-Star break. His 8 victories is top on the Baltimore staff at the writing of this blog, and his 3.43 ERA leads the O’s staff.
Maybe a bit of insight into Hammel might persuade you to cast a vote for “Hambone”.
*** Hammel has always been a firm supporter/active member of “Strikeouts For the Troops”, a charity stared by Giants P Barry Zito that donated money to troops overseas with each and every “K” posted during a start. (Got to love a guy who punches out hitters at the plate, and troops get the goods)
*** Hammel a self-proclaimed artists actually has some of his artwork on himself in the form of a baseball with flames coming off of it with a field in the background. Hammel has also been the artists on several of his former teammates and friend’s ink inspired artwork. (No word on if any of Josh Hamilton’s tats have Hammel markings)
*** During his Freshman and Sophomore years at Treasure Coast (Oregon) Community College, Hammel donned the team mascot, the Chukar Bird during the school basketball seasons. (No wonder he liked Raymond so much. I would run seeing a 6 foot 6 inch Chukar Bird coming towards me)
*** During his “Rays days”. Hammel, a closet budding Rockstar was beginning lessons on the acoustic guitar. Too bad he got traded, Evan Longoria could use a good guitarist on his Rays clubhouse band. ( No confirmation on if he was Rockies or O’s Clubhouse Rock Band eligible).
***Hammel is an avid golfer, and was the reigning champion from the Rays 2008 Spring Golf Tourney and never got to adequately defend his title in 2009. (I him hit it off the tee in the Rays 2009 Tourney, the ball screamed all the way down the fairway..saw .I swear.)
*** After baseball, Hammel hopes to again hit the books and get a degree in Graphic Design. He currently has an Associates Degree. (Good for him!)
Seriously, I got to know Hammel pretty well during his “Rays days”, and this is the kind of guy who not only deserves this shot, but has the moxey and confidence to bring his game to the next level with this kind of National exposure. To me, that is what the All-Star game is all about, the uncovering of new talent to a nationwide audience who can also begin to watch as a player grows and becomes a solid MLB fixture.
Sure Yu Davish might have a leg-up with all the hype surrounding his signing and exposure early on this season, but Hammel is the real deal, and Hambone is just the kind of pitcher this game needs to spice up the melting pot. So you know where my votes are going…….Hambone as many times as MLB will allow me.