Early blockbusters add drama to Confederate Division

The Louisville Long Rifles struck the first major deal of the 2018 season by acquiring star pitcher Max Scherzer from Toronto.

But the Dublin Guinness responded immediately and acquired Paul Goldschmidt in a blockbuster nine-player trade with Cactus Division leader Oakland.

Dublin, the reigning SL champion on a 10-game win streak that has forged a five-game lead over Louisville and St. Louis, sent Christian Yelich, Rhys Hoskins and Brett Gardner along with three draft picks and two prospects to Oakland.

The Athletes, up seven games in their division and tied with the Guinness for the SL’s best record at the time of the deal, included Michael Brantley, Trevor Rosenthal and Dominic Leone along with Goldschmidt.

Dublin’s response came after the Long Rifles struck their big deal, getting Scherzer along with Felipe Rivero and Chris Ianetta from the Tigers for a package of young talent that included Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and two-way Japanese star Shohei Ohtani as a player to be named later.

Season highlight: A-Rod declares independence as HR king

Alex Rodriguez turned in a memorable Independence Day and kept the celebration going the next day when he became the PGBL’s career home run leader.

Two days after hitting his 20th home run of the season at Oakland, Rodriguez hit his 600th and 601st career homers in the Toronto Tigers’ 9-6 win at Flagstaff on July 4. A day later in Toronto, A-Rod hit a two-out homer in the ninth inning to move ahead of Manny Ramirez for the all-time lead (dating back to 1995).

After sitting out all of 2015, Rodriguez looked to build on a career total of 579 and accepted the designated hitter role for the Tigers this season when the franchise relocated from British Columbia. His big first week of July started on the 2nd when he took the first pitch he saw from Oakland’s Sonny Gray out to center leading off the second inning, although the Tigers went on to lose 3-2.

Alex Rodriguez takes a curtain call after hitting his 600th career home run.

Alex Rodriguez tips his hat to the crowd after hitting the 600th home run of his career.

Home run No. 600 came in the sixth inning of a scoreless game in Arizona when he crushed an 0-1 pitch from Elk starter Alex Morgan for a two-run shot to to deep left to stake Toronto to a 2-0 lead. With the Tigers down 6-5 in the ninth, A-Rod banged an 0-1 delivery from Sergio Romo out to left to start a four-run rally as he joined Ramirez at 601.

Back in Toronto against Las Vegas, Rodriguez saved his historic blast for the end when he drove a 2-1 pitch from Pedro Strop down the left-field line with two outs in the ninth. The Gamblers finished off a 5-2 win but A-Rod had made his mark.

He would only hit four more homers with Toronto before getting traded to playoff-bound Tijuana in a deadline deal, the second midseason move of his career sending him to his sixth franchise in 22 seasons. He made his Tequila Swiggers debut on Aug. 2 and hit a two-run homer off Athletes closer Andrew Miller in the ninth inning of a 4-3 loss.

Rodriguez went on to hit 10 homers down the stretch to help Tijuana secure a wild-card playoff berth. He will enter 2017 looking to build on 616 career long balls.

A-Rod now has 2,874 career hits as the active leader, trailing only Derek Jeter (2,909) and Ramirez (2,874). With 1,821 RBIs, he needs just 23 more to surpass Manny as the career leader and he already holds the career marks for runs scored (1,762) and games played (2,648). Among active players, the next closest on the home run list is Calgary’s Albert Pujols (522), who joined the 500 club with a solo shot off Chicago’s Jared Hughes in an 8-2 home win on May 26.

A Rod debuted in 1995 with Chicago and played sparingly in his first two years but helped the Cardinals win the 1996 title. He hit 98 homers in six seasons with Chicago and then was traded to Charlotte, a franchise that relocated to Louisville after his first season with the Hornets.

He spent three years total with the Long Rifles franchise, totaling 114 homers before getting dealt to Vancouver after the 2003 playoffs when both Louisville and the Wildcats blew 3-1 leads in the League Championship Series.

Rodriguez hit 141 homers in three seasons with Vancouver, including career-best 59 in a Triple Crown season of 2006 that saw him win the first of his two MVP awards. But he got traded twice the following offseason, first to the Chicago White Stockings and then to Key West.

He played three full seasons with the Penguin, highlighted in 2008 by a 55 regular season homers and seven more in the postseason as he earned both his second MVP and second World Series ring. He remained with the franchise when it relocated to Dublin in 2010, totaling 131 homers with the club before a midseason trade moved him to B.C.

He hit 27 homers in the second half of 2010 with the Bucs, then added 30 in each of his first two full seasons with B.C. before managing four in each of the next two seasons, plagued by injury and suspicion.

Alex Rodriguez – PGBL career statistics

1995 Chicago .140 43 6 0 0 6 5 1 15 1
1996 Chicago .196 107 21 3 5 13 11 3 32 2
1997 Chicago .346 477 165 43 27 95 111 42 80 1
1998 Chicago .300 430 129 21 11 75 49 28 72 29
1999 Chicago .251 598 150 17 23 83 75 42 134 39
2000 Chicago .268 470 126 20 32 79 93 51 97 19
2001 Charlotte .259 629 163 37 33 118 98 85 168 13
2002 Louisville .265 619 164 29 31 103 90 71 128 31
2003 Louisville .257 534 137 16 50 104 116 60 126 4
2004 Vancouver .274 620 170 24 43 111 127 78 123 17
2005 Vancouver .274 603 165 31 39 99 98 71 143 28
2006 Vancouver .333 628 209 41 59 134 155 81 153 19
2007 Key West .289 523 151 21 32 109 102 85 128 16
2008 Key West .285 622 177 26 55 148 164 92 155 24
2009 Key West .297 576 171 39 31 92 95 65 124 21
2010 DUB-BC .250 559 140 27 40 99 107 76 121 28
2011 B.C. .277 573 159 26 30 83 99 62 109 3
2012 B.C. .237 608 144 23 30 93 98 80 152 5
2013 B.C. .258 194 50 4 4 22 26 24 40 6
2014 B.C. .297 64 19 6 4 13 10 7 15 1
2015 B.C. (DNP) - - - - - - - - -
2016 TOR-TIJ .230 573 132 24 37 83 92 76 188 2
Total 6 clubs .273 10050 2748 478 616 1762 1821 1180 2303 309


Tigers’ Strasburg retires final 26 in 1-hitter

Steven Strasburg treated the Toronto crowd with a dazzling performance, retiring the final 26 batters and striking out 15 in an 8-0 one-hitter against Vancouver.

The 26-year-old righty allowed a leadoff walk to Nori Aoki and a one-out single to Nelson Cruz in the top of the first. He escaped the early jam by getting Adrian Gonzalez to line to center and striking out Kris Bryant.

Strasburg (2-0, 2.08) struck out the side in the second and fanned six straight starting with the last out of the fourth. He ended the game by striking out Lorenzo Cain for a third time.

Vancouver hitters never even got to a 3-ball count after Wong’s walk; only five hitters even got to 2-ball counts as Strasburg threw just 108 pitches – 80 for strikes – to complete the game.

Carlos Gomez and Tucker Barnhart homered for the Tigers. Gomez drove in three runs, while Tyler Collins hit a two-run double and scored on a Yonder Alonso two-bagger to cap a five-run second.

Strasburg followed Las Vegas’ Cody Anderson with the second one-hitter of the season. Anderson had a no-hit bid dashed with one out in the ninth.

Bucs move to Toronto, change nickname to Tigers

VICTORIA, British Columbia — The Peter Gammons Baseball League no longer features two Maple Leaf franchises in British Columbia.

The B.C. Bucs have relocated to Toronto for 2016 campaign and will now be known as the “Tigers.” Ownership has decided the time has come to move away from the former nickname.

B.C. joined the PGBL as one of four expansion teams debuting in the 2004 season. Pittsburgh is the last of those four clubs to remain in its original location; Alabama moved to Compton in 2011 and San Diego moved to Twin City in 2014.

The Toronto Tigers are expected to announce additional details about the relocation, including a new official email address, at a later date.

Toronto now has its second franchise following the 2006 departure of the BlueBirds (now the London Arsenal), one of the league’s 10 charter members.BC Bucs 2016

With the departure of B.C., Vancouver is once again the province’s lone franchise. The Wildcats’ closest geographic rival is now the Calgary RoughRiders.

As the Bucs vacate B.C., Vancouver has decided to move its Triple-A farm team from Denver to Victoria and retain the Bucs’ nickname and logo (with an altered color scheme to match the parent club).