Lane Adams (Choctaw Nation) -- Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, OF
A 2009 Royals draftee, now at AAA in the Yankees system, Adams's main attribute has always been his speed. He has 189 stolen bags in 798 MiLB games. My California math tells me that's 38 steals per 162 games, which is fast. (No, really, California math -- I did it on my iPhone calculator, and Apple's headquarters are in California.)
The bat, alas, is another deal; his highest OPS was .765 at AA (318 games), and he's puttering along at .665 in AA (45 games.) So, it would seem, a Darin Mastroianni type at best. But, hey -- in six September games with KC in 2014, he had 3 AB (0 H, 2 SO), and scored as a pinch-runner! So's that's in the permanent record forever. Not bad!
Who did he score against? Funny you should ask, because it happens to be our next contestant ...
Joba Chamberlain (Winnebago Tribe) --
Cleveland Free Agent, P
Just released by Cleveland on Sunday, Joba (pronounced as in "the Hutt") was drafted in 2007 and arrived in New York a quick year later. Originally a starter (and speculated to be a possible Johan Santana trade chip), the Yankees moved him to the bullpen in 2010 and he hasn't started since. Joba has a respectable 3.81 career ERA, nice 8.8 SO/9, and rather ooky 3.7 BB/9. As Jabba would say, "control, control, you must learn control!" (Or Jar-Jar. One of those "Star Wars" critters.)
Is it over for Chamberlain? He's still averaging 93.4, but those walks, man ... anyhoo, thanks to him we have a fine memory from the 2007 ALDS. Chamberlain entered Game 2 with a 1-0 lead in the seventh and got two quick outs, stranding two inherited runners. "Genius" Joe Torre left the rookie in for next inning, and this happened:
Yes, the ghost of Bill Veeck summoned mighty swarms of annoying midges to throw Joba off his game, and it worked. Two walks, two wild pitches, a hit batter, and it was nearly a miracle Chamberlain only surrendered the one run. That was enough to tie it, and Cleveland would win in the eleventh. When the team signed Joba this offseason, they gently poked fun about "the bugs" on Twitter.
BTW, in 2008 Joba got one ROY vote (as did Nick Blackburn; Denard Span got three!) The winner was Evan Longoria. Coming in third was ...
Jacoby Ellsbury (Navaho/Colorado River Indian Tribes) -- Damn Yanquis, OF
Admittedly, my favorite player on this list, because born & raised in my home state of Ore-ee-gunn! Specifically Madras, a high desert town (I loves me some high desert) with views like this. (Scenery fail, Red Wing.)
A 2005 draft pick by the
Yankees' farm team Red Sox, Ellsbury was a speed and hitting threat from the start. In 2011, he went on a Joe Mauer 2009-style tear, stroking his career-high 32 dongs and finishing second in MVP voting only to the vile villain Verlander.
Since his inevitable signing with New York in 2014, Ellsbury's numbers have fallen off a bit. It could be due to the natural wear of time's grim claws. Or (as I see it) the price Yankees fans pay for their constant deals with the devil. Anyhoo, while he'll never steal 70 bags again like in 2009, Ellsbury remains a positive WAR player and still mans CF out there in front of Monument Park.
He was mentioned in the Santana rumor mill, too. Do we have a theme? Not really, but kinda, because our next player is also Twins-related ...
Kyle Lohse (Nomlaki) -- Texas, P
It's our own "Gardy bar the door" Kyle! Oh, sure, the Twins beat him up a little last Saturday, but still -- he was the first Texas pitcher in a week to go at least 5 innings. Kyle was a Cubs 29th-rounder in 1997, then traded to Minnesota, where he made the bigs in 2001. A sinkerballer, Lohse pretty much defined the supposed "pitch to contact" Twins philosophy of that decade; his career SO/9 ratio is a "meh" 5.8, and at his fastest hit 92 on the radar.
Some generous soul briefly glossed over his career here. In short, he's never been great for anyone, and never been terrible until last year, holding opponents in his 16 seasons to a respectable .761 OPS. And for a pitcher, he can really "swing the bat"! HAHAHA
Shane Victorino, OF -- Free Agent / Jerome Williams, P -- Memphis Redbirds (Native Hawaiians)
Ok, here's where we step into tricky territory. Are Hawaiians "Native Americans?" Well, they're indigenous, and they're Americans, so sure, why not? Except the U.S. government doesn't consider them so (it does indigenous peoples in Alaska.) But some Hawaiians want recognition as Native Americans (others do not.) Confused yet?
One thing's for sure; Hawaiians are not "Indians," which is more a geographical term than a genealogical one. It's like the difference between "Hispanic" and "Latino" (which one fella was kind enough to explain in a friendly comic.) Still, because there are differing opinions on what the status of Native Hawaiians should be, they'll both get a thumbnail.
Williams was drafted by the Giants in 1999, and actually signed a minor-league deal with the Twins in August 2007, though he never got called up. Kind of the "R" in WAR, you have to credit the man; since his Giants debut way back in 2003 he's amassed all of seven years' service time, yet he keeps plugging away; he signed on with the Cards AAA team last month.
Victorino was cut by the Iowa Cubs in May; not the first go-round for him. A 1999 Padres pick, the "Flyin' Hawaiian" got Rule 5ed to the Dodgers, then dumped back to San Diego, then Rule 5ed by the Phillies, who tried to give him back and San Diego said "keep him."
Worked out pretty well for the Phillies, whom Victorino helped to a title. Worked out fine for the Red Sox, too, when Victorino played with them (and Ellsbury) and won another Series. Another outfielder with range, speed, a good batting eye, and little power, Victorino might be done, but he's still at it.
What he'll never do again is use Bob Marley's "Three Little Birds" as his walk-up music. Sox fans had taken to singing it along with the P.A. system; last year, when he bid goodbye, Victorino said he'd leave the song behind.
And now I'll break my own injunction against stereotypes. What this collection of players represents is about what you'd expect from around 2% of the population (and not the richest 2% at that.) Current starters and former stars, some guys with fine careers and others who've been AAAA. But it does seem to be a random sample producing players who don't quit easy, doesn't it?
I'm sure that has more to do with the nature of baseball players then any resiliency produced by their indigenous heritage. Still, as I have an Ojibwe great-great-grandma back along the line, I'd like to think there's some stubbornness a kid learned from her and passed along. Because Lord knows -- I find giving up usually the least scary option!