By Bob Wirz
The average American Association player no doubt goes home at the end of the season with a list of ideas what he needs to do during the winter in order to improve the chances of taking his career to new levels in the future.
But what about those who have already proven themselves in the major leagues?
The two best examples among the league’s success stories are in their 30s, and they are far from content. Look at what likely Hall of Fame flamethrower Max Scherzer and 30-home run slugger David Peralta have done in the last few months through their continued striving for the golden ring.
Scherzer, whose first three professional starts after he left the University of Missouri were in the American Association (Fort Worth) back in 2007, has won three Cy Young Awards and could take home a fourth in a matter of days, told the media as the season was winding down for his Washington Nationals “this was the best season of my career”.
It is difficult to argue with the powerful right-hander since he led the National League with his 18 wins (18-7) and also topped the circuit in innings, complete games, WHIP, pitches and he became only the sixth hurler in either major league to strike out more than 300 hitters in a season since 1990.
But the Washington media predict that just like previous Decembers he will show up at the Nationals Fanfest and proclaim his goal again next year will be to improve.
As one writer said recently: “Never mind that he’ll turn 35 in July or that he has set such an exceedingly high bar for success that it’s almost impossible to believe there’s any room left for improvement. He is, quite simply, the most consistently dominant starter in baseball right now. And though logic suggests that one of these years it will no longer be true, there’s still every reason to believe the inevitable decline isn’t coming quite yet.”
Peralta is not completely satisfied yet because “I want to be a World Series champion”, the 31-year-old outfielder told The Arizona Republic recently, although he acknowledged the career highs of home runs (30) and runs batted in (87) after making adjustments last offseason pleased him.
“I think it’s from all the hard work I’ve been putting forward,” he told the newspaper, in explaining this season’s success. “It’s not just since the (last) offseason, but since I started playing Independent ball.”
Peralta had a brief fling as a pitcher in a rookie league with St. Louis in his late teen years, but it wasn’t until he got to the American Association when he was 24 and started swinging the bat that he drew attention. A .332 season with 70 RBI at Wichita in 2012 followed by hitting .352 with eight homers and 38 runs batted in for the first 42 games at Amarillo the next season got Arizona to purchase his contract, and he was in the major leagues before the next season had reached the mid-point.
As for the desire to win a World Series, “I’m not going to rest until it happens”, he told The Republic.
How About Paxton?
The third member of the top tier of American Association grads now in the majors also had an outstanding season and to better himself is reported to be working on a changeup.
Seattle lefty James Paxton, who started his professional career at Grand Prairie in 2018 and turns 30 next month, set a career high in innings (160.l) and strikeout/walk ratio (4.95), and threw a no-hitter.
Previously the chief spokesman for Baseball Commissioners Bowie Kuhn and Peter Ueberroth, Bob Wirz has been writing extensively about Independent Baseball since 2003. He is a frequent contributor to this site, has a blog, www.IndyBaseballChatter.com, and a book about his life, “The Passion of Baseball”, is available at Amazon.com (including Kindle copies), or at www.WirzandAssociates.com.