Archive for November, 2013

A Dozen Things You Should Know About Bobby Bragan

November 29, 2013
Bragan in catching gear

Bragan in catching gear

1. He was born in Birmingham, Alabama in 1917. He was born Robert Downs, but his father died when he was young. He was  adopted by a step-father, thus changing his last name to Bragan.

2. He spent one semester in Howard (now Samford) College, then signed with the Class D Panama City Pelicans for $65 a month.

3.In 1940 he became the Phillies regular shortstop, a position he held the job into 1942. Late in the season he became the Phils backup catcher.

4. In 1943 he was traded to Brooklyn. He spent both 1943 and 1944 as a backup infielder and catcher. He later credited his manager, Leo Durocher, with instilling in him the desire to be a big league manager.

5. He spent all of 1945 and 1946 in the military.

6. On his return to baseball, he was one of the Dodgers players who signed the petition to keep Jackie Robinson off the team. He demanded a trade if Robinson was brought onto the team. As the 1947 season wore on, he saw the abuse Robinson received, saw Robinson’s reaction to it and changed his mind. He rescinded his trade request and became one of Robinson’s best friends on the team. They remained friends until Robinson’s death.

7. He batted one time in the 1947 World Series, driving in the winning run in game six.

8. After playing only nine games in 1948, Bragan was offered a chance to manage the Dodgers’ Fort Worth minor league team. Fort Worth won the Texas League championship in 1948, then won the Dixie Series (a postseason series pitting the Texas League champion against the Southern Association champ). He remained in Fort Worth through 1953. In 1953 he moved to California to manage the Hollywood Stars, a Pirates minor league club. His team finished first in 1954. It got him the chance to manage the Pirates in 1956.

9. He was unsuccessful, although he did help Roberto Clemente ease his way into the Majors. In 1958 he got the Indians managerial job but lasted only three months.

10. He later coached third for the Dodgers, was director of the Houston farm system, managed the Braves, became President of the Texas League, and was for three seasons President of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues.

11. In 1991, he formed the Bobby Bragan Youth Foundation which promotes scholarships for high school students to attend college.

12. Prior to his death in 2010 he was elected to both the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame and Texas Sports Hall of Fame.

Bragan is a hero of mine. He rose above his prejudices, made attempts to mend the racial system in the US, and became devoted to helping others through education. That’s a heck of a legacy and it makes Bragan a much greater man than a ballplayer. I think he’d like that epitaph.

Bragan's grave

Bragan’s grave

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Hall of Fame Ballot Published

November 26, 2013

The Hall of Fame published its writer’s ballot for the 2014 (January) election. Here’s the list in the order (alphabetical) presented on the Hall of Fame website and the MLB website:

M. Alou, J. Bagwell, A. Benitez, C. Biggio, B. Bonds, S. Casey, R. Clemens, J. Cruz, R. Durham, D. Easley, K. Foulke, E. Gagne, T. Glavine, L. Gonzalez, S. Hatteberg,  J. Jones, T. Jones, J. Kent, J. Lieber, E. Loaiza, P. LoDuca, G. Maddux, E. Martinez, D. Mattingly, F.  McGriff, M. McGwire, K. Mercker, J. Morris, M. Morris, M. Mussina, T. Nixon, H. Nomo, R. Palmiero, M. Piazza, T. Raines, R. Rincon,  K. Rogers, C. Schilling, R. Sexton, L. Smith, J. T. Snow, S. Sosa, S. Stewart, F. Thomas, M. Timlin, A. Trammell, S. Trachsel, J. Vidro, L. Walker, and D. Young. Nineteen names are new.

2013 Awards: Follow Up

November 25, 2013

The 2013 awards for Major League Baseball are done. Previously on this site I weighed in on them. I told you who I thought the writers would select for Rookie of the Year, Manager of the Year, the Cy Young Award, and MVP. I also told you who I thought should win. So that gave me eight cracks at getting something right. Here’s a review of what I wrote.

Rookie–I predicted that Jose Fernandez and Wil Myers would win. I also said I’d vote for both. In all four cases I was correct.

Manager–I predicted that Clint Hurdle and John Farrell would win, but that I would vote for Terry Francona. I was right in three of the four cases, missing the writer’s choice of Francona.

Cy Young–I suggested the writers would pick Max Scherzer and Clayton Kershaw and said I’d also pick both. Nailed it.

MVP–I suggested that writers would go for Miguel Cabrera and Andrew McCutchen. My picks were Cabrera and Paul Goldschmidt. I went three for four, getting Goldschmidt wrong.

So I ended up going 14 for 16, missing one personal choice and one writer’s choice. That’s really good for me, a lot better than I normally do. I’m stunned (but obviously not into silence). 🙂

 

RIP Michael Weiner

November 22, 2013

Saw the Michael Weiner, head of the Player’s Union, died yesterday of cancer. He was 51. He was the fifth director of the MLBPA. He joined the union in 1988, became general counsel in 2004, and assumed the directorship in 2009. He was head of the union when the last agreement was signed in 2011. RIP

The Case for Danny Murtaugh

November 20, 2013
Murtaugh with Roberto Clemente

Murtaugh with Roberto Clemente

When I finished my post on the 2014 Veterans Committee managers ballot, I commented I would let Tony LaRussa and Joe Torre appear on my ballot, but neither of the other two candidates. I received a handful of emails from friends questioning my assertion that I’d take Danny Murtaugh over Bobby Cox. They pointed out that Cox won more than Murtaugh if you considered division titles and that his winning percentage was higher than Murtaugh. So in answer to them, here’s my case for Danny Murtaugh.

First a brief aside to tell you a little about Murtaugh. He managed a long time ago and many of you won’t remember him. He got his start managing Pittsburgh (the only team he ever managed) in the last half of 1957. He replaced Bobby Bragan (who shows up in the recent movie “42” as the Alabama born catcher who changes his mind about being traded). Pittsburgh had a losing record (36-67) when Murtaugh took over. He went 26-25 for the rest of the season. It wasn’t much but it was a winning record. He got the Pirates to second the next season. losing to the Braves (later Cox’s team) by eight games. The team slipped back to fourth in 1959, but maintained a winning record. In 1960 they won the World Series, then slid pack into the pack through 1964 when Murtaugh retired because he was sick. He moved to the front office and returned briefly to managing in 1967 when the Pirates were 42-42. He managed to keep them at .500 then returned to the front office at the end of the season. After Pittsburgh fired their manager just before the end of the 1969 season, Murtaugh was called on again to take the team. He managed the team to a division title in 1970 and the World Series title in 1971, then retired again. Finally, he was brought back late in 1973 (going 13-13) and stayed through the 1976 season, winning division titles in both 1974 and 1975 and finishing second in 1976. He died in December 1976 and had his number retired in 1977.

Now why Murtaugh for the Hall of Fame?

1. He has two World Series titles. That’s impressive enough, but if you look at the dates (1960 and 1971) it gets even better. He does it with two almost entirely different teams. The only 1960 holdovers still around in 1971 are Roberto Clemente and Bill Mazeroski, and Maz only plays 70 games (Dave Cash is the primary second baseman) and bats all of once in both the NLCS and the Series, getting a hit in the NLCS. So with very different talent Murtaugh wins.

2. He does it in two eras. It’s a very different game in 1960 than in 1971. The pitching revolution has occurred, there have been two rounds of expansion.

3. He has two seasons in which he manages his team to less than .500. They are 1963 and 1964 and in the latter year he’s 80-82.

4. He manages in five full seasons in which there are two rounds of playoffs. He reaches the playoffs in four of those (1970-1971, 1974-1975).

5. He was instrumental in easing Roberto Clemente’s way in the beginning of his career. He became a mentor and confidant. But in fairness, Bobby Bragan also did those things in Clemente’s earliest days in the Majors.

6. On 1 September 1971, he put nine American black and dark-skinned Latino players on the field at the same time, something that had never happened before. The team won the game.

So I think Murtaugh deserves a spot in Cooperstown. With his two World Series wins, I think he deserves it over Cox.

2014 Veteran’s Committee: the Executives

November 17, 2013
Steinbrenner

Steinbrenner

Here’s a few comments on the two executives listed on the newest Veteran’s Committee Ballot.

Marvin Miller is the most important non-player in baseball since Kennesaw Mountain Landis, Frank Jobe not withstanding (For those who don’t know, Jobe is the Tommy John Surgery doctor and someone I’d support for the Hall of Fame.).  As executive director of the Player’s Association he changed the economics of the game. Players got the freedom to change teams, to make a lot of money, and, as a fringe benefit of more money, a chance to train fulltime instead of work at a “real” job. He was also, apparently, an absolute jerk of a human being. Even the players didn’t particularly like him. But this isn’t a contest for “Miss (or Mr.) Congeniality”, it’s a vote for the Hall of Fame. I think Miller absolutely belongs. Now that he’s dead and won’t get to make a speech, maybe they’ll finally let him in.

George Steinbrenner bought the New York Yankees in 1973 and owned them until his death in 2010. No one would ever accuse him of being a “hands off” owner. Steinbrenner took personal charge of returning the team to its 1920s-early 1960s glory. He was one of the first owners to understand and use the new economic program Miller had instituted with his successful challenge of the reserve clause. Steinbrenner, with a huge budget, brought in free agent after free agent. Some of them worked, some didn’t. but he continued putting pieces together until his team picked up pennants from 1976 through 1978, winning the World Series in 1977 and 1978, then picking up a division championship in 1980 and a pennant in 1981. Between 1990 and 1993 Steinbrenner was banned from running the Yanks (but not stripped of his ownership) for paying gamblers to find out anything unflattering they could about one of his players (Dave Winfield). Apparently it was using gamblers that got Steinbrenner in trouble. In 1993 he was reinstated for day-to-day running of the Yankees. His teams won further championships in 1996, 1998-2000, and 2009. There were also pennants in 2001 and 2003.

There is no question that Steinbrenner was one of the more influential men in baseball for 30 years, but I don’t think the Hall should install more than one executive a year and this year Miller is much more significant. I know the one a year criteria is arbitrary, but it’s the way I look at the issue. This is a Hall that should be dominated by players. I’m all for executives, managers, umpires, and other contributors getting elected, but I don’t want their numbers to overwhelm the players.  This particular ballot is heavy with both managers and executives and they may put in up to four or five non-players and no players (I have no idea what will actually happen). So for me Miller is in and Steinbrenner isn’t for this year.

2014 Veteran’s Committee: the Managers

November 14, 2013
LaRussa as Cardinals manager

LaRussa as Cardinals manager

And now my look at the four managers on the newest Veteran’s Committee Ballot. Again, they are listed alphabetically.

Bobby Cox did something I’ll bet a bunch of you don’t know. He managed the Toronto Blue Jays to a division title. Cox is so tied to Atlanta that most people don’t know he spent part of his managerial career in Toronto. In the beginning he was less than successful. He managed Atlanta between 1978 and 1981, never finishing above fourth and producing one winning season (1980). He managed four years in Toronto finishing second in 1984, then breaking through to win the American League East in 1985. Up three games to one against Kansas City, the Blue Jays lost three in a row to end their season (and the Royals won the World Series).

He returned to Atlanta as general manager in 1986. The team wasn’t all that successful, but as general manager he picked up a number of players for the team that were instrumental for future Braves teams. In 1991 he appointed himself as Braves manager and remained until his retirement in 2010. His first team (in his second stint with Atlanta) went from last to first in the National League and squared off against Minnesota in one of the great World Series’ ever. They lost, but it was the beginning of a great run in the NL. Cox’s Braves made 15 playoff appearances, won five pennants, and the 1995 World Series. During his career he was four-time Manager of the Year, once in the AL and three times in the NL (one of only four to win the award in both leagues). His career winning percentage was .556.

Ton LaRussa is the third winningest manager ever behind only John McGraw (2nd) and Connie Mack. He is also one of the four managers to win Manager of the Year in both leagues (Jim Leyland and Lou Piniella are the others). He began his managerial career late in 1979 with the Chicago White Sox. He brought one AL Western Division title to Chicago in 1983. The ChiSox started slow in 1986 and he was canned.

Oakland picked him up for the last 45 games of the year and he stayed there through 1995. He won a division title, two pennants, and the 1989 World Series with Oakland. In 1996 he went to St. Louis where he immediately won a division title. By his retirement at the end of the 2011 World Series he had won five division titles, one pennant, and the 2006 and 2011 World Series. This gave him 14 playoff appearances, six pennants, and three world championships. He secured four Manager of the Year Awards and had a career winning percentage of .536. He was also known for being so obsessed with the “book” that he would change pitchers between pitches and slowed games to an absolute crawl. Because he continued to win, his system has become common.

Billy Martin is the oldest of the four managers and is also the only one not living. He played in the 1950s, primarily for the Yankees, then began managing in 1969 with the Minnesota Twins. He took them to a division title, but they lost to Baltimore in the first American League division playoffs. He got into a fight with one of his players and was fired. He picked up his next managing job in 1971 with Detroit. He picked up a division title in 1972. He was fired in 1973 for ordering his pitchers to learn the spit ball. Texas picked him up to complete the season. He stayed into 1975 when he was fired after a confrontation with the owner. He was picked up by the Yanks, his dream job. He spent four terms with the Yankees, winning a pennant in 1976. His team was drilled by the Cincinnati “Big Red Machine”, but won the 1977 World Series over the Dodgers. He clashed with Yankees owner George Steinbrenner (more on him in another post) and resigned in 1978. He was rehired for the last 55 games of 1979 then was dumped again after his infamous fight with a marshmallow salesman. He also spent time in 1983, 1985, and 1988 as New York manager. Between his 1979 and 1983 terms in New York, he managed Oakland to a 1981 split season division title. He died on Christmas Day 1989 in a truck accident. Over his career he won two pennants, one World Series and took his team to five playoff appearances. He ended with a .553 winning percentage. For most of his managerial career there was no Manager of the Year Award (it began in 1983). Over his career he was known to overwork his pitching staff and thus cut short the careers of several of his starters.

Joe Torre was probably the best player of the group, winning and MVP award in 1971. He began managing the Mets in early 1977 as player-manager. He remained in New York through 1981 finishing as high as fourth in the 1981 split season. He was picked up by Atlanta (replacing Bobby Cox) in 1982 and promptly won a division title. He lost the playoff and his team regressed each of the next two seasons. In the broadcast booth from 1983 through 1990, St. Louis picked him up late in the season. He stayed there until early 1995 when he was fired. In 1991 he got the Cardinals as high as second.

In 1996 he replaced Buck Showalter (who had just won a division title) as Yankees manager and won the World Series. He won consecutive World Series’ in 1998-2000, lost the Series in 2001 (and 2003),  picked up division titles in 2002 and 2004-2006, and won two Manger of the Year Awards. In 2008 he left New York, ending up in Los Angeles (and in a slew of TV commercials). He stayed three years winning two division titles. For his career he made 15 playoff appearances, won six pennants, and four World Series titles. His career winning percentage is .538. Torre was, by his own account, a miserable manager with the Mets, a “genius” at Atlanta, and lucky with the Yankees. The labels were applied when some reporter asked him why he was doing so well with the Yanks (proving Torre also has a good sense of humor). He was good enough as a player to be a borderline Hall of Famer, but he’s supposed to be considered here strictly on his managing career.

All of which brings me to the obvious question, “so what do I think?” Well, I have no problem with any of these managers being enshrined. Each has a valid case as a Hall of Fame candidate (I think Martin’s is weakest). But if I had a ballot, I’d vote for  two of these men only: LaRussa and Torre. Both were proven winners with multiple championships. LaRussa has the distinction of being third in wins among managers. For Cox and Martin I have two words: Danny Murtaugh. Murtaugh has as many championships as Cox and Martin combined, two. And another two words would be: Tom Kelly. He has twice as many wins as either Cox or Martin (as does Ralph Houk). Until the men with more championships get in, then I can’t see voting for either Cox or Martin. And let’s be honest about it, championships count. If they don’t you have to ask yourself where’s Charlie Grimm (1200 wins .547 winning percentage, but no World Series titles)?

The Composition of the Veteran’s Committee for the 2014 Ballot

November 12, 2013
Cooperstown's number one attraction

Cooperstown’s number one attraction

Before completing my look at the 2014 Veteran’s Committee Hall of Fame ballot, I want to point out something. The website for the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown has a list of the members of the committee that will vote on the next Hall of Fame ballot. It consists of six former player and two former managers who are currently Hall of Fame members. There are four current executives and finally four “historians” (actually one guy from Elias and three writers). This committee faces a far different problem than the other Veteran’s Committees.

First, here’s a list of the committee members:

Players–Rod Carew, Carlton Fisk, Joe Morgan, Paul Molitor, Phil Niekro, Frank Robinson

Managers–Whitey Herzog, Tommy Lasorda

Execs–Paul Beeston, Andy McPhail, Dave Montgomery, Jerry Reinsdorf

“Historians”–Steve Hirdt (the Elias guy), Bruce Jenkins, Jack O’Connell, Jim Reeves

Let me state that I have no problem with the particular people who are on the committee.

But if you look at the list and then take a look at the ballot, something leaps out at you (or at least it did to me). The committee is composed of people who played with, played against, know personally, saw play, or otherwise have personal reference to the people on the ballot. That’s not bad, exactly, it’s just different from the other two ballots (1876-1946 and 1947-1972). The other ballots consist of players, executives, umpires, managers, and what have you that the committee, however it’s constituted, may not have seen or known. It’s probable that some of the 1947-72 ballot listees were seen on TV or at the park by the committee. It’s even possible that a couple of the older members of the committee (like Morgan, Niekro, and Robinson) might have played with or against people on the ballot, but it’s not likely that they would have seen or known all of the people involved. And of course the 1876-1946 ballot could be full of people no one alive today ever saw play (take this season’s sole player-inductee, Deacon White as an example).

I do not think this necessarily taints the viewpoint of the current committee, I merely think it should be noted. Morgan played with Dave Concepcion. LaSorda managed against Concepcion. I trust the integrity of both men to make a rational decision about Concepcion and others (like Garvey who LaSorda managed and Morgan played against). But I think that fans should be aware of the unique nature of this ballot when it comes to things like the “eye” test.

The results of the balloting will be announced 9 December. Also the Hall of Fame website indicates the writers ballot will be announced  25 November and the results announced 8 January. The Spink and Frick awards will be announced 10 (Spink) and 11 (Frick) December.

2014 Veteran’s Committee: The Everyday Players

November 11, 2013
Garvey bobblehead

Garvey

Continuing with my look at the people chosen for the 2014 Veteran’s Committee Ballot, here’s an alphabetical look at the four everyday players appearing on the ballot.

Dave Concenpcion was the shortstop for the 1970s “Big Red Machine.” He usually batted seventh and played a very good shortstop. He gets credit for inventing the “hop throw” to first on Astroturf (that’s where you toss the ball to deliberately hit the turf in front of first and let it hop into the first baseman’s glove). He came up in 1970 and played through 1988. He hit .267 with 2326 hits, 993 runs, 950 RBIs, 101 homers, and 321 stolen bases. But it was mostly as a defensive whiz that he made his name. His defensive WAR is 20.9 (Baseball Reference.com version of WAR) and he led the National League in assists, putouts, double plays, range factor, and fielding percentage at various times during his career.

He was very good in postseason, hitting .297 with 30 hits (17 in the World Series), 13 runs (six in the Series), two homers (one in the Series), and 13 RBIs (all but one in the World Series). His team participated in four World Series’ winning the last two.

Steve Garvey was the face of 1970s Dodgers pennant winners. He played first base, women called him handsome, he won an MVP award, they called him “Mr. Clean”. He was generally considered the best player on one of the premier teams of the era. Well, maybe, but he had competition for best player on his team. You could make a case that Ron Cey, or Reggie Smith, or both were better. Garvey got to the Dodgers in 1969 as a third baseman who couldn’t throw. They moved him to first and his career took off. He hit .294 with 2599 hits (come on, Steve, hang on for one more hit, will ya?), 1143 runs, 1308 RBIs, 272 home runs, and an OPS+ of 117. He set a record by having no errors at first one season (1984) and was first in fielding percentage five times and range factor twice. There’s a caveat to all that. He didn’t throw well, so he tended to take everything hit his way rather than flip to the pitcher covering. Anything he could get to he caught, but he was noted for not getting to nearly as many balls as other first basemen (specifically Keith Hernandez). He was traded in 1983 to San Diego and was a major player on a team that won the Padres’ first ever pennant. He holds the NL record for consecutive games played (it’s fourth all time).

In postseason play he was, like Concepcion, very good. He hit .338 with 75 hits (36 in the World Series), 32 runs (13 in the Series), 11 home runs (only one in a World Series). He won co-MVP in the 1981 World Series, and his performance in both the 1978 and 1984 NLCS garnered MVP honors. His teams played in five World Series’ winning one, the one in which he was MVP.

Dave Parker started well, floundered on drugs and a new contract, then became an excellent player again. He got to Pittsburgh in 1973, becoming the right field replacement for Roberto Clemente. He wasn’t that good, but he did well enough. He led the National League in hitting in both 1977 and ’78, winning the MVP in the latter season. He got a big contract (for the era) in 1979, then saw his numbers slip. The complaints were that he got complaisant when he got the new contract, he got fat, he got into drugs. All that got him sent to Cincinnati in 1984. He managed to pick up an RBI title while with the Reds, but his hitting average dropped and his strikeout totals rose. In 1988 he moved to Oakland, becoming the designated hitter for a two-time pennant winning team. He had a decent 1990 in Milwaukee, then his final year was a miserable 1991 stretch in both Toronto and Anaheim. He ended hitting .290 with 2712 hits, 1272 runs, 1493 RBIs, 339 homers, and an OPS+ of 121. Parker had a great arm (again, not quite as good as Clemente’s but great nevertheless), leading the NL once and coming in second in assists a number of times. He also led in errors and double plays. He made a famous throw to cut down a runner in the All Star Game.

In postseason play he wasn’t nearly as good as either Concepcion or Garvey. He hit .234, had 26 hits (15 in the World Series), 11 runs (four in the Series), and three home runs (only one in the Series). His teams won the World Series in 1979 and 1989, dropping the one in 1988. The ’88 Series was easily his worst.

Ted Simmons was a 1970s catcher with the St. Louis Cardinals. He wasn’t all that good a catcher, but he could hit a ton. His primary problem was that he was a contemporary of both Johnny Bench and Carlton Fisk. Behind those two he got lost in the shuffle. After a couple of cups of coffee, Simmons became a regular in 1970, staying with the Cards through 1980. He hit well, made a handful of All Star Games, and wasn’t a bad catcher. He led the Nl in assists, errors, stolen bases allowed, and caught stealing at various times. A truly mixed bag. In 1981 he went to Milwaukee and stayed through 1985. By ’84 he was doing more DH work than catching. He got into his only World Series in 1982, losing to his old team, St. Louis (and his replacement, Darrell Porter, was named Series MVP). He spent his last three seasons in Atlanta and retired after the 1988 season. For his career he hit .285, had 2472 hits, 1074 runs, 248 home runs, 1389 RBIs, and an OPS+ of 118.

His postseason play was limited to two seasons, 1981’s strike year and 1982. He hit .186 in the postseason with three home runs (two in the 1982 World Series)11 hits, and eight RBIs.  He hit .174 in his only Series, but it was a reasonably productive .174.

So where do I stand on putting any of these four into this year’s Hall of Fame class? Again, I wouldn’t be overly upset if they all four made it and, frankly, could live with it if none of them got in. Both Garvey and Parker proved to be mild disappointments to a lot of people. Both started strong, particularly Parker, then tailed off rapidly, too rapidly to be really first-rate Hall of Famers. I looked at the Black and Gray Ink stats at Baseball Reference.com for Parker and found him to be almost exactly the Black and Gray Ink definition of a midline Hall of Fame player. The average Hall of Fame player has 27 Black Ink, Parker has 26. The average Hall of Fame player has 144 Gray Ink, Parker has 145. This year I think I’ll pass on both. The same is true for Concepcion. He’s good, and I think this election would help the candidacy of Omar Vizquel (who I think should be in). But not this year, Dave. Simmons, on the other hand, I’d vote to put in.

2014 Veteran’s Committee: the Pitchers

November 7, 2013
Quiz

Quiz

If you look at the 2014 (the date the players are inducted, not the date the committee votes) Veteran’s Committee Ballot, there are two pitchers on the list. One was a starter, the other a reliever. Here’s a look at both (alphabetically).

Tommy John. That’s not a ballplayer, that’s a surgery, isn’t it? And that in many ways is the problem with Tommy John the player. Great pitchers have hooks. Sandy Koufax won five consecutive ERA titles. Cy Young won 500 plus games. Nolan Ryan struck out a gazillion batters. Tommy John had surgery. When your greatest hook is that you had your arm fixed, your Hall of Fame case takes a shot across the bow. Having said all that, let me remind you that John was a very good pitcher. He started with Cleveland in the mid-1960s, didn’t do much, was sent to Chicago (the White Sox, not the Cubs) and teamed with Gary Peters as the next great left-handed duo. Well, Peters got hurt, and so did John and the ChiSox didn’t do much. John won a high of 14 games with Chicago, had one ERA under two (1.98) and ended up traded to the Dodgers. He missed all of 1975 due to the surgery he made famous. He came back in 1976, went 10-11, then won 20 for the first time in 1977. He joked he was 34, but his arm was only two. He had another good year with LA, then went to the Yankees. He won 20 games two times, then was traded to the Angels. He had one year at Oakland, then ended up back with New York finishing his career in 1989.

For his career, John was 288-231 (.555 winning percentage), had an ERA of 3.34, and had 46 shutouts. He walked 1259 batters, struck out 2245, gave up 4783 hits, all in 4710 inning pitched. His WHIP is 1.283 and his ERA+ is 111. A sinker ball pitcher who threw a ton of ground balls, his high in strikeouts was only 138, which he did twice. He played in postseason five times, going 6-3 with two wins and one loss coming in the World Series. He was lifted early in game six of the 1981 World Series and his replacement gave up the losing runs. It was the deciding game of the Series. In three World Series appearances, his team never won.

The other pitcher on this year’s ballot is Dan Quisenberry, the Kansas City reliever. He was a right-handed closer who got to KC in 1979. He took the closer’s role the next season and led the Royals in saves for the next six seasons. He led the American League in saves five times, four in a row, which is still the record (it ties Bruce Sutter who did it in the National League). By way of comparison, Mariano Rivera only led the AL only three times. He started poorly in 1986, did worse in 1987, and in 1988 was traded to St. Louis. No longer the closer, he pitched through 1989 with the Cards, then went to San Francisco. He got into five games, tore his rotator cuff and retired. He wrote poetry in retirement and died of brain cancer in 1998,

For his career, Quisenberry was 56-46 with an ERA of 2.76, and 244 saves (sixth all time when he retired). He walked 162, struck out 379, gave up 1064 hits, all in 1043 innings pitched. His WHIP is 1.175 and his ERA+ is 146. He faced 4247 batter in his 1043 innings, or just over four batter an inning pitched. He averaged 1.5 innings pitched per game, meaning he frequently pitched more than just the ninth inning. In postseason play he had three wins, two in the World Series (including the “Denkinger blown call” game six of 1985) and four loses (two in the Series). He picked up three saves (only one in the World Series). He walked nine and struck out eight in postseason (six of the walks and three of the strikeouts coming in Series play). His 1985 team won the World Series.

So where do I stand on letting either man into the Hall of Fame? I can make a case for both, and frankly wouldn’t be upset if either or both made it to the Hall. John has a lot of wins, is instrumental in getting five teams to the playoffs. Quisenberry has the record for most seasons leading his league in saves and is arguably the best reliever of his time. But both have negatives. John was almost never seen as the ace of his staff and Quisenberry’s save number (the most significant number, ultimately, for a reliever) isn’t all that high. So this year, I think I’d pass on both for the Hall.