Modern Era Ballot: Everyday Players

November 22, 2017


Part two of my look at the latest Veteran’s Committee effort. This time the Everyday Players.

Let me begin by reminding you which everyday players are on the list: Steve Garvey, Don Mattingly, Dale Murphy, Dave Parker, Ted Simmons, Alan Trammell.

Garvey is most famous for all his years with the Dodgers as a first baseman. He won an MVP, two All Star game MVP Awards, was twice the NLCS MVP, and led the Dodgers to the World Series three times, winning one, and the Padres to a single Series (losing it). He holds the NL record for consecutive games played, hit .294, and has 2599 hits (What? He couldn’t have hung on for one more hit?).

Mattingly was the Yankees first baseman for much of the 1980s and 1990s. He won a single MVP Award, had his number retired by the Yanks, tied the record for consecutive games with a home run, holds the record for most consecutive games with a hit (not part of the home run record), holds the record for grand slam homers in a season (since tied), and has managed both the Dodgers and the Marlins.

Murphy is a two-time MVP while playing outfield for the Braves. Originally a catcher, he made a successful transition to the outfield. He ended his career with 398 home runs and 1266 RBIs. He was, according to his Wikipedia page, elected to the World Humanitarian Hall of Fame (had never heard of it).

No one ever was going to elect Parker to a Humanitarian Hall of Fame. He also won an MVP Award while with Pittsburgh along with a World Series championship. He later served as the designated hitter for the “Bash Brothers” Oakland A’s team of the late 1980s and early 1990s, winning another championship. He also won two batting titles and an RBI crown. He was also suspended for drug use.

Simmons was one of the first power hitting catchers, following the likes of Yogi Berra and Roy Campanella. He was miscast as a catcher and eventually ended up a designated hitter in the AL after starting his career in St. Louis. At the end of his career he also played first base with Atlanta. He ended up with 248 home runs, 1389 RBIs, and a .285 average.

Trammell was a superior shortstop for the Tigers. He led them to the World Series title in 1984 (against Garvey’s Padres), winning the Series MVP. He was second in the MVP race in 1987. A lot of people thought he should have won. Later he managed the Tigers, producing no winning seasons.

Those are short notes about each player highlighting some of their career, and post playing baseball activities. Not a bad player in the lot. In fact it the committee picked all of them I wouldn’t be sorry. Having said that, each has distinct problems that have kept them out of the Hall.

With four votes left on my mythical ballot I can’t pick ’em all, so I’ll take three: Trammell, Simmons, and Mattingly. To the others: better luck next time, fellas.

Pitchers next.


Modern Era Ballot: the Contributor

November 20, 2017

When I listed the ballot for the Modern Era Hall of Fame Veteran’s Committee, I commented that I would have more to say later. Well, it’s later and this is the first of three looks at the ballot.

Marvin Miller, Player’s Union

When Marvin Miller took over the Player’s Union, no one outside the union noticed (probably a lot of players didn’t notice either). By the time he retired, the union had reached something like equality with the team owners. Miller shows up this year on the Modern Era Veteran’s ballot.

For good or bad, Marvin Miller made the Player’s Union what it is today, a potent force in baseball, not just in labor negotiations, but in a lot of MLB areas. Want to add more games? Check with the union. Want to more double headers? Check with the union. That’s Miller’s doing. I am totally comfortable in calling him one of the 10 most important people in baseball history. I remind you that “important” is not a synonym for “great.” As far as I know, Miller didn’t play baseball at all (except maybe as a kid), but he revolutionized the game by creating something like labor parity in the sport.

Apparently he wasn’t a particularly likeable guy. Even a lot of the players didn’t like him, but he made them money and gave them power. He’s been on the Hall of Fame ballot before and was never elected. There’s a line of thought that believes that he was so disliked by the baseball community (including a lot of players) that no one wanted to see him on the stage to receive his plaque and then have to listen to his speech. Maybe it’s so, maybe it isn’t. But to date he’s not gotten in. Now that he’s gone on to whatever reward labor organizers get he’s going to receive another chance.

The members of the Veteran’s Committee get five votes for enshrinement. If I were a member, Marvin Miller would easily get mine. I think he definitely deserves to be in Cooperstown.


Win Some, Win Some

November 17, 2017


One of Yogi Berra’s MVP Trophies

With the announcement of the MVP Awards last evening, the major awards season for MLB came to a close. In earlier posts I indicated who I thought would win the Manager of the Year, Rookie of the Year, Cy Young, and MVP Awards for both leagues. Now a couple of thoughts.

For the first time ever, I think, I got them all correct. I just went eight for eight which is absolutely astounding for me. I generally get about two out of three right. I’d like to pat myself on the back, but I do have short arms.

To be clear the picks I made (and did I tell you all my picks were right?) were the picks I thought would win, not necessarily the picks I thought ought to win. I would have voted for seven of the eight.

The one I wouldn’t have voted for? Stanton. I would have cast my vote for Joey Votto, who I thought had just an astoundingly good season. Without him, Cincinnati would have finished last (OOPS!!). OK, they would have lost 120 games. I’ve always liked Votto and will be interested to see his final statistics when he hangs up his uniform for the last time. It will also be interesting to see how a first baseman with limited power does in Hall of Fame voting.

Anyway, congratulations to the 2017 postseason award winners. Now on to the controversies about to erupt over the Hall of Fame voting (both vets and regular picks).

RIP Bobby Doerr

November 14, 2017


Bobby Doerr

Just saw that Hall of Fame second baseman Bobby Doerr died. He was 99.

Doerr arrived in Boston in 1937 and remained there for his entire career (excepting a stint during World War II that cost him 1945). He was part of the 1946 pennant winning team and participated in the 1948 one game playoff that propelled Cleveland to its last World Series win. For his career, which ended in 1951, his triple slash line reads .288/.362/.461/.823 with more walks than strikeouts. His WAR (BBREF version) is 46.1. He made the Hall of Fame in 1986 and was one of the major players quoted in David Halberstam’s The Teammates: A Portrait of a Friendship. At his death he was the oldest living Major League player and the last to play in the 1930s.

RIP, Bobby.

Modern Era Ballot Released

November 10, 2017

The latest iteration of the Veteran’s Committee for the Hall of Fame just released the ballot for the “Modern Era” Committee (that’s the most recent retirees). Here they are in the order that shows up on the Hall of Fame website (it’s alphabetical):

Steve Garvey

Tommy John

Don Mattingly

Marvin Miller

Jack Morris

Dale Murphy

Dave Parker

Ted Simmons

Luis Tiant

Alan Trammell

Committee members will vote in December and are allowed to vote for up to five people.

Commentary to follow.


2017 Gold Gloves

November 8, 2017


Gold Glove Award

After all these years I still associate “Golden Gloves” with youth boxing. It was a big deal when I was younger (although I had enough sense not to participate). But the baseball people now use s version the term for their “All Glove” team. This year’s roll out of the post season awards begins with the Gold Gloves. Here’s this year’s team (American League listed first):

pitcher Marcus Stroman/Zack Grienke

catcher Martin Maldonado/Tucker Barnett

first base Eric Hosmer/Paul Goldschmidt

second base Brian Dozier/DJ LeMahieu

shortstop Andrelton Simmons/Brandon Crawford

third base Evan Longoria/Nolan Arenado

left field Alex Gordon/Marcell Ozuna

center field Byron Buxton/Ender Inciarte

right field Mookie Betts/Jason Heyward

If you’re keeping track, in the AL the Twins, Royals, and Angels all put two players on the squad. In the National League both the Diamondbacks and Rockies place two players on the team.

2017 Awards Finalists Announced

November 7, 2017

MLB, which went to the policy of announcing three finalists for its major postseason awards a couple of years ago, just announced the 2017 finalists. In case you missed any of them, here are the lists (all lists alphabetical):

American League Manager of the Year: Terry Francona, A.J. Hinch, Paul Molitor

National League Manager of the Year: Bud Black, Terry Lovullo, Dave Roberts

AL Rookie of the Year: Andrew Benintendi, Aaron Judge, Trey Mancini

NL Rookie of the Year: Josh Bell, Cody Bellinger, Paul DeJong

AL MVP: Jose Altuve, Aaron Judge, Jose Ramirez

NL MVP: Paul Goldschmidt, Giancarlo Stanton, Joey Votto

AL Cy Young: Corey Kluber, Chris Sale, Luis Severino

NL Cy Young: Clayton Kershaw, Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg

On a personal note, all the players I picked as winners earlier are still alive. And on another personal note, I still hate this finalists idea.


Curses, Foiled Again

November 2, 2017

Snidely Whiplash

So congratulations to the Houston Astros on winning their first ever World Series. I have in-laws in Houston, so I know, admittedly from a distance, what the city has gone through and am glad to see the town finally have something to celebrate. Having said that, as a loyal Dodgers fan I can’t say I’m happy. Anyway, here are some random thoughts on the Series.

1. I’m already hearing “What went wrong with the Dodgers?” Actually, that’s pretty easy. Houston went wrong with the Dodgers. The Astros are a very good team. They run the bases well (although they don’t steal a ton of bases), the field well, they hit and hit for power well. They even have a pretty fair bench. They staff is decent and the bullpen is better than the announcers on TV would have us believe. A good team that can do most everything well as an opponent–that’s what went wrong with the Dodgers.

2. Both managers had incredibly quick hooks. By rule in order to be the winning pitcher, a starter must pitch five innings. In the entire Series (14 starters) Kershaw went 5 innings once, so did Keuchel, Wood,  and McCullers. Verlander did it twice. That’s six of 14 (43%). I’m beginning to wonder if modern pitchers can actually pitch. To get an edge a gnat couldn’t fly through, the managers change pitchers after almost every at bat at certain points. Tell me why a guy is a big league pitcher if he can’t get out at least one man from each side of the plate. The spirit of Tony LaRussa is alive and well. I’m beginning to think that there are managers who think the ideal roster is eight guys in the field (somebody’s gotta cover second), 17 pitchers, and to heck with the bench. Where’s Terry Francona when we need him?

3. They got it right by anointing George Springer the MVP. What a great Series he had. A lot of World Series MVP’s then slip back into obscurity or mediocrity. Springer is a wonderful player and I hope he doesn’t slip into either.

4. When the Dodgers got Yu Darvish from the Rangers the press trumpeted that they’d just sealed a World Series. How’d that work out, guys?

5. When the Astros got Justin Verlander from the Tigers the press trumpeted that they’d just sealed a World Series. Well, one outta two for the press. And thank God they only showed Kate Upton once (I think).

6. Great pitchers sometimes have bad games. Christy Mathewson was 5-5 in World Series play. Whitey Ford ended up 10-8. The last game Sandy Koufax pitched was a World Series game. He lost. I’m afraid that Clayton Kershaw is going to be known more for his awful game 5 outing than for the good job he did in both games 1 and 7. The “He can’t win when it counts” mantra is fast becoming a significant part of his legacy. I think that’s a shame. He’s already faced with the Koufax legacy and “he can’t win when it counts” isn’t helping him get beyond it.

7. OK, I like the home run as much as anybody else (and I’m not a chick), but can’t somebody manage to keep the ball in the park? This is getting to be too much. The Dodgers struck out 65 times (and Houston 54). It seems the game is trying to devolve into a homer/strikeout game with little in between. By contrast both teams together walked a total of 43 times; less than either team struck out.

8. Wasn’t Culberson a revelation in the playoffs? I hope he sticks.

9. Can either team repeat next year? Sure. Both are fine teams that can be right back at it in October next year. Of course there are a lot of other teams who are good enough to dethrone both.

A Crushing: Final Blow

October 30, 2017

Down three games, the 1932 Chicago Cubs would need four consecutive wins to pull out the World Series victory. They started well in game four.

Game 4

Wilcy Moore

In game four Chicago sent Guy Bush to the mound. He didn’t make it out of the first inning. two singles, a hit by pitch and the bases were loaded for Lou Gehrig. A long fly plated the first New York run. Another walk sent Bush to the showers and brought in Lon Warneke who got the two outs to finish the inning.

The Yanks responded with Johnny Allen on the mound. He did even worse than Bush. With two outs he gave up a three run home run to Frank Demaree. A single and an error brought up Billy Jurges who singled to bring in a fourth Cubs run. That was all for Allen. His replacement was veteran pitcher Wilcy Moore. Moore was a member of the 1927 and 1928 World Series teams and had won a game in the ’27 Series. He got the final out to end the inning. At the end of one, the score stood Chicago-4 and New York-1.

The Yankees crept closer in the third with a Gehrig double and a Tony Lazzeri home run. In the sixth they took the lead. A walk and a double brought up Gehrig with two outs. He singled to put New York ahead 5-4. The lead lasted for one out. In the bottom of the sixth a Charlie Grimm single and two errors gave the Cubs a run and tied up the score.

The tie also lasted for one out. In the top of the seventh, New York scored four runs on a double, an intentional walk, and three back-to-back-to-back singles. Joe Sewell’s single, the middle of the three hits, drove in two runs with Earle Combs and Babe Ruth supplying the other key hits. They added four more in the ninth on home runs by Combs and Lazzeri plus an RBI double by Ben Chapman.

Down 13-5, the Cubs tried to rally in the ninth. A Billy Herman single and two defensive indifference calls put Herman on third for a Woody English grounder that got both the first out and a run. A strikeout and a fly to right ended the threat, the inning, the game, and the series. New York won by a final score of 13-6.

After the Cubs took a 4-1 lead, Wilcy Moore had done a great job holding the fort through the sixth, giving up only one earned run. Then Yankees bats took over, put the game away, and let reliever Herb Pennock finish the game by giving up only one inconsequential run.

The 1932 World Series certainly wasn’t a tight, great Series. New York swept Chicago in convincing fashion. The Yanks outhit the Cubs .313 to .253, getting 37 runs to Chicago’s 19. Babe Ruth had two homers, including the famous “called shot” of game 3, to go with six RBIs, four walks, and six runs scored. Lou Gehrig was even better. He hit a Series leading .529 with three home runs, eight RBIs, and nine runs scored. For Chicago, only Riggs Stephenson was close in average (.444) and tied Frank Demaree with four RBIs. Billy Herman scored five runs.

The Cubs staff had an ERA of 9.26 and walked 23 men (with 26 strikeouts). New York, in contrast, posted an ERA of 3.00 with only 11 walks to go with 24 strikeouts. Charlie Root, Bush, and Jakie May all posted ERA’s north of 10.

So on the surface the 1932 looks like a thorough thrashing by New York. And of course it is. But let me point out that, in defense of the Cubs, Chicago actually led in two of the games, and was tied in the fifth inning or later in the other two. It’s not like the Cubs simply rolled over in the Series. They were quite competitive in each game, but only for a while. The pitching simply couldn’t hold the Yankees in check over nine innings and the Yanks could hold them down long enough for the New York bats to respond.

Ultimately none of that mattered. It is still remembered as Babe Ruth’s last World Series. More than that, it is remembered for Ruth’s most famous and most controversial home run. Somehow, because it’s the Babe, that makes sense.




A Crushing: The Called Shot

October 26, 2017

Game three of the 1932 World Series became, over the years, one of the most famous of all World Series games. It is still talked about in a way that most games aren’t. In the center of it all was Babe Ruth.

Game 3

Charlie Root

Game three was played 1 October in Chicago. The Cubs sent long time hurler Charlie Root to the mound. He was ineffective and, as usual for this Series, runs crossed the plate in the first inning. An error by shortstop Billy Jurges put Earle Combs on base. A walk to Joe Sewell, brought up Babe Ruth, who promptly homered to put New York up 3-0.

Root was able to staunch further damage and Chicago was able to get a run back off Yanks pitcher, veteran George Pipgras. A walk to Billy Herman and a Kiki Cuyler double made the score 3-1.

Both teams scored in the third inning. New York got one run on a Lou Gehrig home run to make it 4-1. A Cuyler home run followed by a Riggs Stephenson single and a Charlie Grimm double cut the score to 4-3. Then they added one more in the fourth on a Jurges double and a Tony Lazzeri error that let Jurges score. That made it 4-4 going into the fifth.

Ruth at bat

The inning began with a Sewell ground out. That brought up Ruth. He and the Cubs had been at odds for the entire Series. It seems that he liked Mark Koenig, who’d been a former teammate on the “Murderer’s Row” Yanks of the 1920s. Koenig now played for Chicago and because he hadn’t been there the entire season was voted less than a full share of the World Series take. Ruth, and most everyone else, thought Koenig had been instrumental in the Cubs pennant drive and felt he wasn’t given a fair shake. So he and the Cubs were at each others throats during the Series. So with the score tied he faced off against Root.

And it’s here that legend takes over from fact. Root threw a strike, which Ruth took. Then a second strike, which the Babe also took. Then Ruth gestured with his hand, pointing to center field. Root threw another pitch and Babe Ruth, being the Babe, smashed the ball deep over the wall in center field for a 5-4 lead. He’d “called his shot” and put the Yanks ahead to stay. To top it off, it would be his last World Series homer.

Great story, right? There’s even a picture showing it (see just above). Well, maybe. But all the picture shows is Ruth gesturing. It’s too blurry to tell it he’s pointing or simply lifting his arm. Is he pointing to center field? Is he pointing at Root? Is he pointing at the Chicago dugout? Is he giving the middle finger salute to the Cubs? Frankly, I don’t know and neither does anyone else. Knowing what I know about Ruth I wouldn’t be surprised if it was the middle finger. Charlie Root went to his grave swearing Ruth never called the shot. Joe Sewell swore Ruth did. The Babe never said. Whatever actually happened, here’s an artist’s rendition of the moment.

Ruth calling his shot (the catcher is Gabby Hartnett)

With the Yankees now ahead, Root had to deal with Lou Gehrig. The “Iron Horse” proceeded to send another homer into the stands, this one in right field. It was all for Root. In came Pat Malone, who managed to get out of the inning without more New Yorkers crossing the plate. Both teams managed one more run in the ninth. An error and a double gave the Yankees seven runs and a Gabby Hartnett home run gave the Cubs a final tally of five.

In all the press about Ruth’s homer, a number of good performances were overshadowed. Gehrig’s follow-up home run had finished the shell-shocked Cubs and Hartnett’s home run, along with Cuyler’s, were totally lost. Pipgras had pitched well for eight innings (Herb Pennock pitched the ninth and picked up a save). And Root was forever tagged as the man who gave up Ruth’s called shot. Worse, from a Chicago point of view, the Cubs were down three games to none with game four scheduled for the next day.