It was a rough afternoon for the Grasshoppers, the current name of the team, who were taking on the Kannapolis Intimidators. The Intimidators are a White Sox affiliate. Instead of writing a post on the current squad, I am going to take a little bit of time and write about some of the great players who have passed through Greensboro over the years.
There are some teams that do a great job of recognizing their past teams and players inside of their stadiums, and for this, the Grasshoppers definitely get strong marks. Around the concourse of the field the team has banners that are broken down by decade that recognize different teams and players. The banners are very well done.
There has been organized professional baseball in Greensboro for more than 100 years, but with a short ten walk, and a little bit of reading, baseball fans can soak in all of the greatness that has happened in the city's baseball history. I took some notes, did a little supplemental research at home, and have assembled my top five Greensboro Minor Leaguers.
The list is deep and told in baseball cards as always.....
Jorge Posada - 1992 Greensboro Hornets
Posada played on the 1992 Greensboro entry along with fellow future Yankees Derek Jeter and Shane Spencer. In 101 games, Posada posted a .277/.389./472 line with 12 home runs, 22 doubles, 58 RBIs, and a surprising 11 stolen bases. Posada went on to play 17 seasons in the Majors, all with the Yankees, collecting more than 1,500 hits, 275 home runs, 1000 RBIs while helping the team win the World Series in 1998, 1999, 2000, and 2009. Jay Jaffe's JAWS system rates him as the 16th best catcher of all-time just behind Thurman Munson.
Don Mattingly - 1980 Greensboro Hornets
Mattingly's appearance in Greensboro marked his first full season in professional baseball after spending 1979 in the short-seasoned New York-Penn League. The Hornets boasted an infield with Donny Ballgame, future Twins fixture Greg Gagne, and Rex "Wonderdog" Hudler. Otis Nixon was also an infielder on the team and future Twins and Phillies pitcher Fred Toliver anchored the rotation. Overall a really deep team for the low minors. Mattingly managed to post a .358/.422/.498 line with 9 home runs, 32 doubles, and 105 RBIs. Overall, Mattingly would go on to play 14 seasons with the Yankees collecting 2,153 hits, 222 home runs, and 1099 RBIs. He won the 1984 American League Batting Title with a .343 mark and also won the 1985 AL MVP Award.
and now for the Top 5
5. Andy Pettitte - 1992 Greensboro Hornets
Pettitte pitched for the Greensboro Hornets during his second year in the Minors. After being drafted in the 22nd Round of the 1990 draft, Pettitte started his professional career the next summer with stops in the GCL and the New York-Penn League. For the Hornets, Pettite went 10-4 in 27 starts with a 2.20 ERA. Andy Pettitte would go on to pitch 18 years with the Yankees and Astros. Overall, he won 256 games and ended his career with 2,448 strikeouts. Pettitte was also an important part of the Yankees winning the World Series in 1998, 1999, 2000, and 2009 ending his career with a total of 19 postseason wins. 5 of those victories occurred in the World Series.
4. Robinson Cano - 2002 Greensboro Bats
Cano appeared on the 2002 squad along with Shelley Duncan and Dioner Navarro. The year marked a sort of a break out for Cano who was just 19 at the time, making him one of the younger players on the squad. In 2001, Cano's first season in the Yankees system, he posted a .231/.328/.361 line with just 3 home runs and 14 doubles in almost 250 at bats. In his lone season for the Bats, Cano hit .276/.321/.445 with 14 home runs, 9 triples, and 20 doubles. Cano is the lone active player on this list, but has put in 12 seasons so far with the Yankees and Mariners. He is 33 and already over 2,000 hits, 250 home runs, and is approaching 500 doubles. Jaffe's JAWS system already rates him as the 14th best second baseman of all-time and his peak 7 years of WAR already exceed the average Hall of Fame second baseman. His best seven years have already past Hall of Famers Ryne Sandberg, Craig Biggio, and Roberto Alomar measured by WAR. Should be in Cooperstown at some point in the future.
3. Curt Schilling - 1987 Greensboro Hornets
Schilling actually started out his career as a Red Sox, later traded to the Orioles for Brady Anderson. Schilling started 28 games for the Hornets that year and posted an 8-15 record. His 3.82 ERA wasn't terrible, but he also struck out 189 batters in 184 innings. The Hornets finished 30 games under .500 that season, so I am going to go ahead and overlook the 15 loses. The beginning of Schilling's Major League career also got off to a bit of a slow start. He ended up playing a total of 20 years, but only won 105 games during his first 12 years. His last 8 seasons, split between the Diamondbacks and Red Sox, netted him 111 wins. Schilling also surpassed 3,000 strikeouts, 11 postseason wins, and 3 World Series rings. Schilling is not in the Hall of Fame yet, but should get there one of these days...
2. Mariano Rivera - 1991 Greensboro Hornets and 1993 Greensboro Hornets
Rivera passed through Greensboro twice on his way up to the Yankees. However, he was a starting pitcher almost the entire time he was in the Minors. Overall, Rivera pitched 39 games for the Hornets during the two stops with 25 starts. His combined won-loss record of 5-9 is not great, but during his first appearance in the South Atlantic League he pitched 114 innings and struck out 123 hitters. His second time through he started ten games, only one once, and again had an excellent strikeout rate. Rivera is the first of three Hall of Famers on this list, or he will be soon, after a great 19 year career as the Yankees closer. He's MLBs all-time save leader with 652, but more importantly he was one of the greatest postseason pitchers in the history of the game. Rivera ended his career with 42 postseason saves and a 0.70 ERA.
1. Derek Jeter - 1992 Greensboro Hornets and 1993 Greensboro Hornets
Jeter also appeared twice for the Hornets and is by far the most popular former Greensboro player out there. Jeter first appeared for the team in 1992 closing out the year. Jeter actually spent part of the season with the GCL Yankees before playing 11 games with the Hornets. His .243/.378/.324 line was nothing to write home about, but it's also a really small sample size. In 1993 Jeter returned to Greensboro, but stayed the entire season posting a .295/.376/.394 line with 5 home runs, 11 triples, 14 doubles, and 18 steals. Jeter went on to play 20 seasons with the Yankees recording 3,465 hits, 260 home runs, 358 stolen bases, and won four rings.