Archive for November, 2009

The January Vote

November 30, 2009

In January the Hall of Fame will announce it’s newest members as voted on by the baseball writers. There are 26 names on the ballot. Writers are allowed to vote for up to 10, but may leave the ballot blank.

This is one of the more interesting ballots in a long while. There is no clear-cut sure-fire gotta-go-in player on the ballot, but there are a lot of really nice players that show up on this one. On the theory that I would get 10 votes if I was a baseball writer, here’s the 10 men I’d support, in alphabetical order:

Roberto Alomar-arguably the finest 2nd baseman of his era.

Bert Blyleven-why the heck hasn’t he gotten in already?

Andre Dawson-the revelations of the steroid era make his numbers look even better than they did when he retired.

Barry Larkin-heck of a shortstop, good hitter, pretty fair team leader, and an MVP.

Edgar Martinez-the epitome of a DH. They even named the award after him. Great, great hitter.

Don Mattingly-the personification of grit and determination on the ballfield. Short career, but great numbers in the career.

Fred McGriff-OK, he didn’t make it to 500 homers, but there’s no taint of steroids on him. Led league in home runs twice, key component on the Braves winning teams of the 1990s. He gets dispensation from those horrid baseball drills commercials he made. As a spokesman, Fred made a great 1st baseman.

Dale Murphy-2 time MVP, great hitter, good center fielder, just short of 400 home runs.

Tim Raines-has a batting title and was a great baserunner. His nomad phase will probably hurt his chances.

Alan Trammell-OK, ignore the managing and look at the player. He was  great shortstop and a fine hitter, losing the MVP vote to George Bell once.

There are a couple of others I’d like to see there (Morris, Ventura, Lee Smith), but I only get 10 votes.

 

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Adding Managers and Contributors to the Hall of Fame

November 29, 2009

Below I’ve already made known my preference for Marvin Miller in the Hall of Fame. There are a number of others being considered on the December ballot. Some of them ought to be enshrined.

At SportsPhd there’s a good overview of the candidates, so I’ll simply add that I agree with him on managers. Tom Kelly won 2 World Series’ with teams that were underdogs and few legitimate Hall of Fame candidates. Danny Murtaugh did the same thing in the 1960s and 1970s. He had more Hall of Fame players, but he also has the advantage of leaving, seeing the team collapse, and having it revive upon his return. This at least leaves the impression he made a significant difference in the team. I think he did.

Of the contributors I like Colonel Ruppert who gave us the original Yankees dynasties, Howsam who built 2 great teams, and Ewing Kauffman of the Royals. Kauffmann? Well, at least when he was paying the checks the Royals got George Brett, Frank White, and a couple of trips to the World Series (winning in 1985). Once he left the stage, the Royals have collapsed. That ought to be worth remembering.

Blowing the Series in 2 innings

November 28, 2009

OK, how many of you looked at the title and decided it was about the Cubs? It’s OK to admit it. You’re right.

In 1929 the Chicago Cubs made the World Series and faced off against the Philadelphia Athletics (now of Oakland).  The A’s won the first two games at Wrigley, then the Cubs won the third games, the first at Shibe Park in Philly. That set up game 4. The Cubs raced to an 8 run lead and stood a good chance of squaring the series. Then came the bottom of the 7th. The A’s ran off 10 runs in one inning and took the game 10-8. There are a lot of places on line where you can get a blow by blow of the biggest inning in World Series history, so I want to make only a couple of short observations about it. First, Hack Wilson, Cubs center fielder lost 2 balls in the sun (why didn’t they get him an umbrella or something?) that led to the big inning and pinch hitter George Burns made two outs in the inning. As far as I can tell he’s the only man to ever make 2 outs in the same inning in World Series history.

A much less remembered inning in the same series occurred the next game. The Cubs raced to a 2-0 lead and stood ready to get back in the series as the A’s batted in the bottom of the 9th. Pinch hitter Walt French struck out, then Max Bishop singled and Mule Haas parked a two-run home run to tie the game. Catcher Mickey Cochrane grounded out, followed by an Al Simmons double. The Cubs intentionally walked Jimmie Foxx to set up a force at each field base, then pitched to Bing Miller. Miller promptly doubled, sending Simmons home with the run that won both the game and the series.

So twice two days apart (there was no game on Sunday), the Cubs had a World Series game victory sewed up and let both games slip away in a single inning.

 

Upcoming Hall of Fame voting

November 25, 2009

In a couple of weeks the veteran’s committee will set down to vote on the latest Hall of Fame list. On that list will be a number of managers, umpires, and contributers who a panel of experts has deemed worthy of consideration. One of those names is Marvin Miller’s.

For years Miller was head of the player’s union. There seems to be a belief that he is a jerk. Maybe he is, maybe he isn’t. I don’t know the man. What I do know is that he is the most significant non-player in recent baseball history. His leadership of the player’s union led to a number of changes in baseball, some good, some not so good. You hated the strikes, blame Miller (and a lot of other people too). You think salaries are inflated, blame Miller (and a lot of other people too). You like free agency and giving ball players a little freedom to move around and maybe make a team a little more competative, praise Miller.

You see that’s the problem with Miller. He’s done things that make the fans furious, but he’s also made it possible for teams to pick up quality players they might not otherwise get. Yes, he’s had a lot of help in both those things, from owners who are Neanderthals and owners who are enlightened, players who think of themselves and players who think of the good of the game. Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? I certainly think so. Is he going to be elected? Don’t bet the farm on it.

 

The First BoSox Dynasty (Finis: 1918)

November 24, 2009

It was a heck of a year, 1918. The War to End All Wars finally ended. The greatest tragedy of the 20th Century was finally over. Communism solidified itself in Russia. The Red Sox won the World Series, something that wouldn’t happen again for over 80 years.

Much of the 1916 team was gone. Ed Barrow, who would later get to the Hall of Fame as architect of the Yankees dynasty, was manager, Former A’s player Stuffy McInnis was at first base, both Larry Gardner and Duffy Lewis were gone. But the big change was that Barrow had figured out what to do with Babe Ruth. Now Ruth split time between the outfield and the mound playing 59 games in the field and 20 on the hill. He went 13-7, getting a decision in every game he pitched, and led the league in home runs and slugging percentage, the first Red Sox to lead the AL in the latter category.

The Sox beat Cleveland and Tris Speaker by 2.5 games and went into the World Series against Chicago as a favorite. They won in 6 games although being outhit by the Cubs .210 to .186. There were no home runs and a Cub win in game 6 by a 3-0 score was the closest there was to a blowout. Ruth and Carl Mays both won 2 games, including a 1-0 game one matchup between Ruth and Hippo Vaughn. The Cubs finally brought Ruth’s consecutive scoreless inning streak to a close in the 8th inning of game 4, but lost 3-2.  In one of those quirks that makes baseball so intereesting, in 6 games no player managed to have more than 2 RBIs, with 5 players doing so).

The Sox fell to 5th the next year and began to dismantle the team. By 1922 almost all the dynasty players were gone to places like New York (Ruth, Mays, Bush, Sam Jones and Scott), Chicago ( Hooper), Cleveland (McInnis). The next time the Red Sox would win a pennant, Ted Williams would be in Left Field.

The First BoSox Dynasty (Apex: 1915-16)

November 23, 2009

With the collapse of the Philadelphia dynasty after 1914, the Red Sox assumed the mantle as the American League’s premiere team. It was a position they would hold through 1918. In that period they would play in and win 3 World Series. The first 2 were in 1915 and 1916.

There were some significant differences in the 1915-16 Red Sox and the team that won in 1912. Catcher Bill Carrigan was now the manager, Everett Scott had moved to shortstop and the pitching staff had a major overhaul. Joe Wood was still around, but Rube Foster (no, not THAT Rube Foster) and Ernie Shore were now the aces. Babe Ruth (yes, THAT Babe Ruth) was now the lefty. Interestingly enough, the Sox appear to have experimented at least a little with a closer. Carl Mays pitched 36 games, but started only 6 and led the league with 6 saves (a stat that hadn’t been invented yet). They faced Philadelphia in the 1915 World Series and won it in 5 games losing only game 1 to Grover Cleveland Alexander (who, frankly didn’t look much like Ronald Reagan). Most of the games were close, only game one being decided by more than one run, but the Sox outhit the Phillies .264 to .162 and hit 3 of the four home runs (Harry Hooper led with 2).

The 1916 team was substantially the same team except that they had traded center fielder Tris Speaker to Cleveland (where he would win the 1920 World Series as the player-manager). The only other major change saw former A’s shortstop Jack Barry installed as the new second baseman. By 1916 Mays was  a starter and Ruth was the team ace with 23 wins and 170 strikeouts. He was 3rd in wins and 2nd in strikeouts, losing to Walter Johnson in both cases.

They again took the Series in 5 games, Brooklyn winning only game 3. The first 3 games were close, but Boston began to pull away in the last two games. Ruth began his record setting run of consecutive scoreless innings pitched in this Series, winning 2 games. As an aside, Brooklyn wore what has to be the ugliest uniforms in Major League history. Maybe we all owe the Sox a vote of thanks. If Brooklyn had won, we might have been stuck with those ugly uniforms for years.

The Sox fell back in 1917, finishing 2nd by nine games. The dynasty wasn’t over quite yet. A couple of quick fixes and the stage was set for 1918.

 

The First BoSox Dynasty (Interlude: 1912)

November 22, 2009

The first major American League dynasty was the 1910-14 Philadelphia A’s. In the period they made 4 World Series’, winning 3. The one they missed was 1912.

The Red Sox won the AL pennant by 14 games and went into the World Series against the New York Giants. By now most of these guys are obscure, so let’s take a moment and list them. The infield: Jake Stahl (who also managed), Steve Yerkes, Heinie Wagner, and Larry Gardner. The outfield was Duffy Lewis, Tris Speaker, and Harry Hooper. Bill Carrigan caught, Clyde Engle, Hick Cady, and Hugh Bradley were the only bench players who appeared in 40 or more games. The staff as Joe Wood, Hugh Bedient, Buck O’Brien, Charley Hall, and the only lefty was Ray Collins. No one else pitched 20 games.

It was a good series, famous for a tie, for Josh Devore’s great catch, and good pitching, but game 7 became an all-time classic. It wasn’t the first game 7, there had been one in 1909 (and in 1903 there had been a game 7, but it was a best of nine series that went 8), but it became of of the most famous of all Series games.

The score was 1-1 at the end of nine and the Giants put across a run in the 10th. The bottom of the 10th contained 2 of the most famous plays in dead ball history. Giant outfielder Fred Snodgrass dropped a fly ball (the “Snodgrass Muff”), and a foul pop dropped between catcher Chief Meyers and first baseman Fred Merkle (of 1908 fame). The “Muff” put a runner on, the foul gave Speaker another chance at the plate and he singled home the tying run. Two batters later Gardner’s sac fly ended the Series.

Boston couldn’t stop the A’s either of the next 2 seasons, although the other Boston team (the Braves) did win in 1914, but this series set the stage for the great run of 1915-18 that brought the Sox 3 World Series wins.

 

The First BoSox Dynasty (Fall and Rise)

November 21, 2009

In 1903 the Red Sox won the first Word Series. Although there was no Series in 1904, they finished first in the American League again Then in 1905 the wheels came off. In the next three years they finished 4th, last, and 7th (next-to-last). What happened?

To start with the pitching didn’t pan out. In 1904 five men (count ’em, 5) pitched every inning of every game. Of those five, only Cy Young, the oldest of  the crew at 37, continued on to a solid career. Bill Dinneen, the hero of ’03, went 11-14 in 1905, 8-19 in ’06, and was traded in 1907. Only Tannehill had another 20 win season for the Sox (1905 with 22 wins).

The hitting hadn’t been that great anyway, and continued to deteriorate. Take a look at the catcher. In 1904 Lou Criger, intrepid backstop, hit .211. It was downhill from there. He hit .198 in 1905. How to solve the problem? Bring in Charlie Armbruster, who managed to hit a whopping buck forty-four. So back to Criger who hit .181 and .190 over the next two seasons. This is the worst example of what happened, but the hitting problems were pretty much team-wide.

It began to change in 1909. The Sox picked up Bill Carrigan to catch (he could at least hit .200), Tris Speaker became a regular. The next season Harry Hooper and Larry Gardner became regulars, and in 1910 Duffy Lewis joined the outfield. That set the stage for 1912.

 

1906: The Greatest Upset Ever

November 20, 2009

When the regular season ended in 1906, the Chicago Cubs had the most wins in Major League history, they had the highest winning percentage in Major League history,  and led the National League in most pitching categories. Then came the World Series. They managed 2 more wins, unfortunately, they needed four.

Their opponents were the crosstown Chicago White Sox. The Sox had the worst hitting team in World Series history.  They were dead last in batting average, hits,  and home runs  (In all of Major League baseball only the Braves had a lower average or less hits and no one at all had less power.). They could pitch, leading the league in shutouts and saves (with all of 9) So how did they win?

To begin with they were in the middle of the pack in runs scored and led the league in walks. So they were able to maximize their baserunners and produce runs when they needed. Also, don’t forget those 32 shutouts. That’s a third of their win total.

Looking at the numbers, the series should have been a blowout in the Cubs’ favor. It wasn’t. They lost game one 2-1, won the only blowout (7-1) in game two, then split the next two before dropping games 5 and 6 by scores of 8-6 and 8-3. The Sox figured out how to hit the Cubs pitchers and the Cubs failed to hit at all. Actually neither team hit above .200 for the series (there were no home runs), and only the White Sox hit triples.

The series was something of a fluke, the White Sox went back to 3rd place in 1907 and 1908, while the Cubs won the next 2 World Series, but for one year the weakest team in Series history won it all.

A good book on the subject is When Chicago Ruled Baseball by Bernard A. Weisberger.

 

Some Thoughts on the 1903 World Series

November 19, 2009

By this time nobody who saw the first World Series is around to tell us about it. But it’s important to look at it for a moment. It’s important as the first, but it’s more important because it gave legitimacy to the American League. Boston’s victory over Pittsburgh meant that the National League could no longer argue that the new league didn’t play “Major League” baseball. The new American League was shown to be the “Junior Circuit” in longevity only.

It’s appropriate that Cy Young threw the first pitch in World Series history, getting Ginger Beaumont to fly out to Center Fielder Chick Stahl.  It’s also appropriate that Honus Wagner had the first RBI (Tommy Leach scoring the first run).  The first home run came in the 7th inning when Jimmy Sebring, the Pirates Right Fielder hit an inside the park special.

The winning pitcher was Deacon Phillippe. By now Phillippe is mostly obscure, but the man won 189 games and picked up  a ring  in 1909 (did they give out rings in 1909?)  But the big series star was Bill Dinneen, who picked up 3 wins for Boston (Phillippe also had 3 wins in a losing cause). Dinneen’s career totals 170 wins and 177 loses, but this series belonged to him. BTW after his playing days, Dinneen went on to serve a number of years as a well respected umpire.

So it’s a series to remember, unfortunately, no body does.