Archive for January, 2014

Two Off-Season Departures

January 31, 2014

MLB.com indicates that two long-time stalwarts of the game are retiring. Michael Young and Lance Berkman were two players who made their name in Texas, although for different teams. Both had successful careers and were favorites of mine.

Michael Young

Michael Young

Young spent the bulk of his career with the Texas Rangers, playing third, a little second, and DHing. When the Rangers finally got to the World Series, they tried him at first a little. It reminded you that Young, while not a bad fielder, was in the line up for his bat. He ended up with short stints with a couple of  other teams, including my Dodgers, but his key years are with Texas. In 2005 he picked up a batting title and led the American League in hits. His triple slash line in .300/.346/.441..787 with an OPS+ of 104. He ended up with 2375 hits, 441 doubles, 185 home runs, and 3491 total bases. He holds several Rangers team records.

Lance Berkman

Lance Berkman

Berkman spent most of his career with Houston, with one year stops with the Yankees and Rangers, and a pair of years with the Cardinals. He started in the outfield, but spent a lot of time at first, then did some DH work in his two seasons in the AL. He won an RBI title in 2002 and led the National League in doubles in 2008. He made a World Series with Houston (which the lost to the White Sox) and then won a Series with St. Louis and might have won the Series MVP if not for David Freese’s late game heroics. His triple slash line is .293/.406/.537/.943 with an OPS+ of 144. He had 1905 hits, 422 doubles, 366 home runs, and 3485 total bases. In 2002 he finished third in the MVP race. He hit .410 in World Series play with a 1.084 OPS.

Both players will be missed. As to their Hall of Fame chances, I don’t know that either is that high, but I’d rate Berkman’s chances as better than Young’s. Whatever happens there, the game was better for having them around. Best wishes to both.

 

 

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The 49 Greatest Mets

January 29, 2014

ESPN has come up with another “greatest” list. This time it’s the Mets and it only goes 49 deep (not the usual 50). I suppose that’s because the Mets are only just over 50 years old. But when you consider the bottom of the list, you’d think they could put on someone like Ron Swoboda just to get it to 50.  You can find the list by going to ESPN and finding their New York page. Here’s some quick thoughts on it:

1. The top 10 are (in order) Tom Seaver, Dwight Gooden, Darryl Strawberry, Mike Piazza, David Wright, Jerry Koosman, Keith Hernandez, Jose Reyes, Cary Carter, and Carlos Beltran.

2. To make a team (four pitchers, one of which is left-handed) you get: Hernandez at 1st, Edgardo Alfonso at 2nd (he’s 11th on the list and the first player to spend significant time at second base–although he played at third as well), Reyes at short, and Wright at third. The outfield is Strawberry, Beltran, and Mookie Wilson (who is 15th on the list). Your starters are Seaver, Gooden, Koosman, and Al Leiter (who is 12th on the list). John Franco is the reliever (coming in at 14th), and the highest listed hitter whose position is already filled is Gary Carter, which makes him your DH.

3. I saw no major players left off, but I was surprised that Ron Darling (17 was higher than David Cone (18), but maybe that works for Cone’s Mets career.

4. Tug McGraw (19) finished higher than either Jesse Orosco (22) or Roger McDowell (41), which I liked.

5. I thought Tommy Agee was low at 25 and Ed Kranepool high at 26, although Kranepool had a lot of Mets records for a while. All were longevity numbers.

6. Jerry Grote, John Stearns, and Todd Hundley all made the list. I’d forgotten that Mets catching was reasonably deep.

7. And everybody’s favorite 1962 Mets player, Marv Throneberry was 49th. Ain’t that Amazin”?

Go take a look for yourself. If you disagree, take it up with ESPN.

Inherited Runners

January 28, 2014
ever need this when watching a game?

ever need this when watching a game?

Baseball has some strange rules. Some of them go so far as to make a mockery of statistics, giving out good stats for a failed performance. Take the following, for instance:

Our heroic pitcher, ole “Speedball” Smith has pitched a masterpiece. He’s gone eight shutout innings. He’s walked two, one of which was thrown out stealing. He’s struck out seven and allowed three hits, all singles. Now it’s the top of the ninth and here comes “Speedy” to open the inning. He’s greeted with a little roller that’s headed right to our second baseman “Butterfingers” Bungler. It’s close, but the runner slips into first just ahead of the throw for the fourth hit of the day for the bad guys.

It’s crisis time for our beloved manager “Sweatshirt” Grimes. It looks like “Speedy” is tiring, so out pops “Sweaty” to the mound. After a brief conversation he motions to the bullpen for his righty. In comes our intrepid reliever “Bicarb” Jones. He enters to the accompaniment of the organ grinding out “Plop, Plop, Fizz, Fizz, Oh, what a relief it is.”.  Jones takes a few warm up tosses, then fans the first batter. He strikes out the second, then grooves one to the third batter who proceeds to triple into center. The runner on first scores standing up. Then Jones strikes out the next batter and the half inning ends with us guys losing. And in the bottom of the ninth the team pops three straight pitches to the shortstop and the game ends with us still losing. Bummer, right?

But hang on a minute. There’s more bummer to follow here. Think for a moment about what happens to the stat lines of both pitchers in the situation above. “Speedball” picks up a couple of positive stats: strikeouts, innings pitched. He also gets a few negative stats: walks, hits, a run, and a loss. His ERA probably goes down after giving up one run in eight innings, but it’s possible it might go up depending on how early in the season we’re talking about. So it’s quite a mixed bag for ole “Speedy.”

Now take a look at what happens to “Bicarb’s” stats. He gets almost all positive. He gets  an inning pitched, he adds three strikeouts, and his ERA drops. His only negative is that he gave up a hit. In the situation above there was no save situation so he gets no “blown save” either. But he doesn’t get a “hold” either, you say. True, but there’s no “botched hold” stat to reflect “Bicarb” not doing his job well.

I’ve always disliked the “inherited runners” rule. I understand why it’s there and I understand how the “blown save” rule can assist in punishing the reliever who gives up the hit that scores the inherited base runner.  But sometimes the blown save rule just doesn’t apply and that seems a little unfair. Now I know that if “Sweatshirt” (in the situation above) is a good manager, he doesn’t let good ole “Bicarb” pitch much again if this is a common problem, but not every manager is Casey Stengel and only contemporaries are going to understand why Jones didn’t do a lot of pitching in the latter part of the season because his stat line won’t reflect the problem.

I have no idea how to change the rule. I accept that the guy who put the runner on base needs to have his stats adversely effected, but I kind of wish they’d dun the reliever’s stats also. Just a tirade for you to think about.

“They Nuked My Girl”

January 24, 2014
This was "my girl"

This was “my girl”

When I was in Viet Nam in the late 1960s we had this open spot on the post where we’d set up a ballyard. It wasn’t much of a ballyard. It looked out toward some barracks and a helipad. The helipad was in use and we had to stop more than one game while the choppers kicked up dust all over the field. Someone found a bunch of old metal poles that weren’t in the best of shape, but were more or less round. We found a guy who could weld them together to form a backstop frame, then somebody scrounged some chicken wire (and we all had enough sense not to ask where he got it) and managed to create a reasonably acceptable backstop. There wasn’t a lot of grass so we didn’t need a mower, but we still needed a shed. So lumber was found (again I knew not to ask where it came from), nails were procured and we put together a really ugly-looking shed that had four wall, a roof, a door with a couple of rusty hinges holding it on the shed. We found some paint, of course it was Army olive drab green, painted the thing, and we had our version of a baseball Taj Mahal. Inside we stored three bases we’d gotten through the USO, some chalk that someone had appropriated from a supply unit, a spreader that looked a lot like those grass spreaders you see used on suburban lawns all over the country (except it was also olive drab), and an umpire’s chest protector. And that was it.

Well, except for one thing. Moses (his real name) taped up a Playboy centerfold on the inside of the door. It was some obscure actress that never amounted to much in the movies. I don’t even remember her name. But, as he pointed out, it was nicer to look at than the spreader.

We played ball there for a while then came a big mortar attack that shredded a lot of the post (I wrote about the incident and its fallout in a post titled “They Mortared the Ballyard” on 30 May 2012), including my tent and the ballyard. After cleaning up our own messes, a bunch of us headed over to the ballyard to check on things. Moses was with us. There was shrapnel imbedded in the backstop, a mortar round had landed squarely on the spot where third base would normally reside, and of course the shack was a wreck. We figured it had been hit at least twice.

Moses got to the shack first and started pulling it apart. The spreader was in pretty good shape, the ump’s chest protector was a wreck, there was chalk everywhere, and there was a big piece of shrapnel stuck right in the center of one of the bases. It was awful. Then we heard from Moses, “They nuked my girl.”

This was a  crisis. We only used “nuked” when something was beaten up beyond repair. All of us ran over to him. He reached down, pulled up the remains of the centerfold, and started crying. There were three holes in the paper, one up around her head, one down close to her feet, and a third somewhere around her staple. (None were in a place for an off-color joke, which I would have lovingly stuck in at this point.) Moses was crying. “They nuked my girl,” he repeated.

Now you have to understand the position of the pin-up in the life of a GI in Viet Nam. Everybody had one. My unit officially allowed two, one attached to the inside lid of the footlocker, the other on the inside door of the wall locker. I had both. Mine inside the footlocker was Ruta Lee (picture above, but not the same shot I had). I met her at some event or other (a USO tour I think) where she’d signed a bunch of pictures, personalizing each, and I got one. The one in the wall locker was some centerfold whose name I don’t recall. But for us the pin-up was “my girl.” (and if you had pictures of two only one was “my girl”)  It didn’t matter you’d never met her (although I’d actually met Ruta Lee), or that you were never likely to meet her, or that she never even knew you existed, she was still “my girl”, and a curse could be leveled on anyone who said anything about her. And now someone had “nuked” a “my girl” We all knew at that point that the Viet Cong were the epitome of evil. (You can get a sense of this if you watch the movie “Stalag 17” and pay attention to “Animal” and his love affair with Betty Grable.)

Moses was inconsolable. We offered to find him another picture of the girl, but he wouldn’t hear of it. “Wouldn’t be the same,” he told us.

“What? We can find another copy of the same shot.”

He shook his head. “Doesn’t count. It wouldn’t be my girl.”

Somebody finally found him another copy of the same girl in the same pose (Actually it was me and this other guy. We stole it from a stack of Playboys to the USO Club.) and he put it back up in his locker. He never looked at her quite the same and eventually took it down and put up a centerfold of another woman.

We finally got the ballyard back to its former “glory.” We even put up a new shed and patched the ump’s chest protector. Chalk was harder to find, but someone did. We made sure to put up another pin-up shot. We had to find one and someone asked about my Ruta Lee shot. No way I was giving up “my girl” as a target for Charlie (I did give it up when I met my wife). So they stuck up a shot of Annette Funicello, which was still there when I left.

The Peace That Passes Understanding

January 22, 2014
our backstop's condition wasn't nearly this good

our backstop’s condition wasn’t nearly this good

I was a reporter for my High School newspaper. One of my jobs was to cover the school baseball team. It was a pleasant enough job. I had my score book, watched some decent high school baseball, and could sit in the sun and feel the breeze on my face. I had no visions of being Shirley Povich, so I could just enjoy the games alone.

And I stress alone. If we were lucky, there were 10 of us in the stands. There was an old wooden bleacher set up on the first base side that could hold about 50 or so people, another on the third base side, and room for lawn chairs to be set up behind home. I don’t know where they got the bleachers, but someone brought them in from somewhere else. They were an old wood with a few rotten places, but were, as a rule, sturdy. They’d once been painted because there were little patches of orange here and there on the seats. Orange wasn’t one of our colors, so that’s how we knew they were brought in from somewhere else. There were few lawn chairs, few fans in the stands. There were a couple of  reasons for this. It was a football town and the football team got everything. The football stadium had a new paint job every year while the baseball backstop had flecks of rust on it.  The baseball games usually started about 3:30 and fathers were working, mothers were home with other children or cooking. And, frankly, most families only had one car and dear ole dad had that at work. So a crowd of 10 was a big deal. Well, except for this one time.

I got to the ball field as usual and sat at my usual spot, on the home plate end of the first base bleachers (that was the home team side). I generally sat one row from the top so I could lean back between innings and soak up the sun, rest my back, and just generally goof off. There were a couple of other people already there, but it was the usual crowd. The game started. Harper, our ace, was on the mound (way back on 16 May 2012 I did a story about him). He struck out the first couple of guys, then had a pop out to end the inning. I started to lean back when I suddenly realized there were about 30 people in the stands and a handful more were wandering our way. Now that was unusual. And equally unusual, they were all male students. Not a parent in the lot. I knew a couple of the people sitting there, including the guy sitting directly in front of me. So I tapped him on the shoulder and asked, “What the heck is going on?” (after 50 years, all conversations approximated)

He looked up at me and nodded. “There’s gonna be a fight over at the graveyard at four. Elmore is gonna duke it out with Pettit. Most of us thought we’d sit here until they came by, then go over to the cemetery and watch.”

The ballpark sat in a lot owned by the school. That lot was about midway between the school building and the local cemetery. It was a common thing for two guys wanting to fight to head over to the cemetery so they’d be off school grounds and not subject to discipline. As long as there was no funeral going on no one seemed to care if the cemetery was used, so long as the fight was in one of the open areas rather than near a grave. Heck, the gravediggers sometimes came over to watch. I always wondered if they were trying to drum up business.

It’s too much to say either fighter was a friend of mine, but I knew both guys. I had a class with Pettit and several with Elmore. So now they were going to fight and a crowd was pausing on the way to the fight to watch a game.

Elmore showed up first. He had a couple of guys with him, sort of a latter-day posse. They were all, including Elmore, part of the local toughs. There weren’t any gangs around, but we’d all seen “West Side Story” and these were guys who liked to pretend they were in a gang. I had no idea if they “rumbled”, but I imagined that if they did, they did it to music. Elmore spotted me and wandered over to the bleachers.

I’d known Elmore for a couple of years now. Our High School comprised tenth through twelfth grades (ninth was in the Junior High) and Elmore was there when I got there. He was in his fifth year at the high school and had quite a reputation as a tough guy. He was smart enough to graduate, but he just didn’t care enough to do homework or finish tests. I’d helped him a little in class and he seemed to appreciate it, but ultimately he just didn’t care about school. Apparently his mom made him come.

“Hey, scoot over so I can sit,” he told me.

I obliged. “What’s up, Mike?”

“Gotta fight that dumbass Pettit. We’re on the way to the graveyard, but we’re early.” Apparently something was sacred about fighting at four rather than three forty-five.

“Oh. What’s it about?”

“An honor thing.”

That was the worst, an “honor” thing. It meant that there had been some sort of insult that had to be avenged and you just couldn’t let it go. It was irrational and angry and vengeful and  all that so you had to go to the cemetery to redeem your “honor.” Something about doing that in a graveyard seemed both screwy and acceptable at the same time.

“Family?”

Elmore looked over at me with one of those grins that angry people get when they laugh, “Yeah, my sister.”

I nodded. Damn. Worst kind of honor issue. “I didn’t know you had a sister.”

“Yeah. She’s twelve and bright.” He actually smiled a real smile this time. “She’s not at all like me.”

“Sounds like a nice kid,” was all I could manage.

“How’s the game going?” Elmore asked.

I’d been keeping score right along. “Harper got through the first inning without a hit.” I flipped over the scorebook. ” We did nothing in the bottom of the first.” Then I flipped the scorebook back over. “He’s got an out in the top of the second.”

“Harper’s good.”

I nodded, then pointed. Pettit had appeared. He too had his posse and was heading toward the cemetery.

“He’s early too.” I told Mike.

Pettit wandered by us, looked down at his watch, then motioned for his followers to head to the other end of the bleachers where they took seats. That made about 40 people on the bleachers.

Harper struck out the next two men (I’ve still got the score book, so I checked). Then we came to bat. The first guy singled, the next struck out, then the next guy popped a two-run homer to left field. The stands erupted. We tacked on another run before the bottom of the second was over.

Then Harper went to work. He pitched magnificently. He threw a shutout, giving up three hits, walking one, with 12 of 21 outs (seven inning games back then) being strikeouts. No one got beyond first. We added two more runs in the later innings and won 5-0. The crowd was roaring at every strikeout and every run. When the game ended with Harper’s final strikeout, the bleacherites stood and cheered. Harper grinned and waved at me. I gave him a thumbs up.

And the game was over and the fight was late. It was after five and there’d been no fight. I looked over at Elmore who was applauding as loud as everyone else. “So you fight now?”

“Huh? Oh, hell, I forgot that. Pettit, isn’t it? Yeah, that’s who it was.” Mike did a lot of fighting and Pettit was just another in a long line.

I shrugged and looked down the bleachers toward where Pettit was sitting. He was already up and heading back toward the parking lot where he had a car. He’d forgotten the fight, and so had Mike.

“Maybe I’ll catch him tomorrow,” Elmore said to me. “Heck of a game, wasn’t it?”

“Yeah.”

I started to leave. I had a story to write for the school paper.

“You got a car?” Elmore asked. He also had one.

“No. I’m walking.” I didn’t have a car.

“Well, come on with me and I’ll run you home.”

We wandered over to the parking lot. Pettit was already gone and Mike’s posse was disbursing too. The cemetery was between the school  and where I lived. We drove by it and no one was fighting. God love a good baseball game.

Baseball’s VIPs

January 16, 2014
Ban Johnson

Ban Johnson

A couple of posts back, the one on Judge Landis, I made the comment that he was one of the most important people ever in MLB. Well, that led some of my friends to send me emails asking who I considered the 10 most important people ever in the sport. As you know, I’m sort of a glutton for sticking my foot squarely into my mouth, so I decided to publicly respond to them.

First, let me be clear that “most important” has nothing to do with “best player”. Almost all of these people listed below and little or no actual playing time in the big leagues. So don’t be asking, “Where’s Gehrig?” or “Where’s Wagner?” or about other players. They may be terrific players but they aren’t as important in the grand scheme of things as the people I’m about to mention. As you read through the list, you’ll realize I’m big into origins.

Here are my 10 most important listed in alphabetical order:

1. Mel Allen–I suppose any announcer could have gone in here except for a couple of  points. Most of us get our games through the filter of someone in a booth at the stadium keeping us up on what’s going on, so a play-by-play man is not an unreasonable choice for a position on this list. I pick Allen for two specific reasons. First, he announced for the Yankees for years and thus became the primary voice many people heard. Second, when TV decided to add a second camera to games, Allen is supposed to be the guy who suggested adding the second camera in center field, thus showing the pitcher throwing to the batter in something like close up (the previous camera angle was high up behind home plate). It’s become the single most common angle from which most people see a game on television.

2. Alexander Cartwright–Cartwright is here to represent an entire group of people, the pioneers who invented the game as we know it. Somebody had to start putting the rules of the game into a form that became acceptable. It is possible that people like Duncan Curry or Daniel Adams, or William Wheaton should be here in his place. Cartwright certainly did not invent baseball, but was apparently prominent in one of the many attempts to codify the game. As the Hall of Fame has placed him in its midst, he’ll do for this spot, but I’m not certain he’s the best candidate.

3. Henry Chadwick–You a stat guy? Care about the statistics of the game? Well, Chadwick invented the box score and a number of the statistics we still use to determine the quality of play on the diamond. As the first prominent sports reporter his articles helped to popularize the game. Put those two things together and you have someone who belongs on this list.

4. William Hulbert–I don’t like Hulbert. As a human being he is crass, bigoted, vain, parsimonious. But he founded the National League and thus came up with a way to make baseball profitable enough for people to want to become owners and thus establish a stable (sort of) league that flourishes today.

5. Ban Johnson–Founder and first President of the American League. Was de facto lord of baseball until the arrival of the man below.

6. Kennesaw M. Landis–First and most powerful Baseball Commissioner. Ran baseball with an iron fist. Cleaned up the game after the Black Sox nearly wrecked it. He opposed integration, but supported the more lively ball and the farm system (and besides isn’t he what a Commissioner ought to look like?)

7. Marvin Miller–the Lincoln of MLB. When he took over the Player’s Association it was a joke. When he left the union it was a co-partner with the clubs. Whether you like free agency or not, Miller figured out how to free the players from baseball slavery and change the economics and the dynamics of the game. Of all the people on this list, he’s the only one not in the Hall of Fame (Allen is on the writers plaque).

8. Branch Rickey–changed the game twice. He invented both the farm system and brought integration to MLB. He is  arguably the most influential baseball man of the 20th Century.

9. Jackie Robinson–In 1884 Toledo had a black ballplayer. That lasted one year. John McGraw and others had tried to integrate the game and had failed. With Robinson baseball truly does become a game for all Americans.

10. Babe Ruth–in a game in trouble, Ruth takes over and changes forever the way it is played. With the emphasis on the home run over bunting and base stealing we get the game as it’s been played (plus or minus a rule or two) since 1920.

And Honorable Mention to people like John Montgomery Ward (first union), Fleet Walker (who was the first black player), Jim Creighton (apparently the first professional), Lip Pike (who made professionalism acceptable), Harry Wright (who made the modern manager’s job what it is today), Bill Veeck (who made the ballpark experience so much fun), and a host of others, some of which you may decide should be in the list of 10.

Inventing Baseball: A Review

January 14, 2014
Inventing Baseball cover

Inventing Baseball cover

Haven’t done a book review in a while, so let’s change that.

There’s a book out titled Inventing Baseball: The 100 Greatest Games of the Nineteenth Century. It’s edited by Bill Felber. Published by the Society for Baseball Research (SABR) in 2013, it has an introduction by John Thorn, then there are 100 short articles looking at 100 of the most important games of Nineteenth Century baseball. The games range from a game in 1833 through the American League’s earliest games in 1900. The articles are written, primarily, by members of the SABR Nineteenth Century Committee. There are 46 different authors, a couple of them female. All seem to know their stuff.

As with any work written by multiple authors, the quality of the articles is uneven. Some are well written, some not so much. With 46 authors you can’t expect them all to be Hemingway. But as a rule the articles work for their purpose. They describe games, or in some cases, a series of games, that were critical in bringing baseball to the 20th Century. By dealing with games like the 1833 game the book shows how long baseball, in its various incarnations, has been with us. There are articles about college games, the first New York versus Brooklyn game (which is a great article), exhibition games such as the confrontation between Cap Anson and Moses Fleetwood Walker, and championship games. All addressed chronologically. The book is well illustrated with a number of pictures I’d never seen before and a lot that were familiar. There is also limited box score information. Much of the information is taken from newspaper or personal accounts, but some box scores are available and worth looking at just to note the evolution of statistics.

If you are at all interested in Nineteenth Century Baseball, this book is worth owning. It’s available at both Barnes and Noble and Amazon.com for under $20. Both also have it available in their Nook and Kindle devices.

A Visit from Beyond

January 11, 2014
they didn't have sheets

they didn’t have sheets

Last night I was sleeping. About 2 pm, give or take, I heard a distinct cough. It woke me and I looked around. Imagine my surprise to see the spirits of John McGraw, Babe Ruth, and Ty Cobb standing at the foot of my bed. They called  me by name saying “We need your help.”

Now, not being a particularly spiritual man I was, to say the least, shocked. I looked around. My wife was sleeping, the cat was curled up on the bed, and there were McGraw, Ruth, and Cobb at the foot of my bed saying again, “We need your help.”

Ok, I’m a sucker for a good nightmare, so I figured I’d go along. “To do what?”

“We want you to fix the Hall of Fame.” It was McGraw doing most of the talking (of course it was).

“Me? Why me?”

“Because you are an influential blogger.”

Now that worried me. Not only were they deluded that I was influential, but they knew what a blog was. “You got blogs in the afterlife?” I asked.

“Quite a bunch.” This was Ruth interrupting as he wolfed down a hot dog. “Yeah, Gehrig calls his ‘Luckiest Ghost’ even.”

“But I’m not influential,” I pointed out. “Try Kortas. He does mostly poetry, but he knows baseball.”

“You want us to get our word out through someone that does poetry?” Cobb snarled the last word particularly nastily.

I looked into Cobb’s eyes and blanched. “I got maybe ten loyal readers and I’m not sure of the sanity of half of them. How about Kevin, or Bill, or Glen? Geez, they have blogs that get more hits than mine. And SportsPhD is smarter than me, just look at his handle,”

“True.” It was McGraw again. “But they’re not goofy enough to be susceptible to listening to ghosts.”

OK, they had me there so I figured I ought to listen.

McGraw began. “First, you have to tell the world that the Hall of Fame has got to define their terms completely so the voters know what ‘good character’ means.”

“I know what that means,” Cobb said, speaking for the first time. “It means you gotta be tough on the ball field and what you do off the field out of uniform doesn’t count.”

“No, Ty,” McGraw snarled (McGraw seemed to snarl a lot), “it means what the Hall Committee says it means and so far they’ve done a lousy job saying anything at all about it. They have to come out and be definite about what it means. They need to take a stand and tell voters what to do about steroids and those other fancy drugs.” He looked straight at me. “We’re not asking for a particular definition, just that they make one. It’s time for them to stand and deliver.” Both Ruth and Cobb saluted.

“OK,” I said. “Define terms. Got it.”

“Second, they have to expand the voting public.”

“The voting public?”

“Hey, nobody said you was hard of hearing.” This from the Babe.

“We’ve come to you to tell you that the voting is all wrong. Many members of the BBWAA haven’t covered baseball since I was managing,” McGraw told me. “Some of them haven’t seen a game since Cobb here was alive. How come they have a vote? Only members currently covering baseball, and I don’t mean just going to opening day and then not seeing another game all year and trying to pass that off as covering the game, get a vote. Everyone else doesn’t get a vote.”

“I thought I heard you say “expand” the voting public,” I commented. I was finally getting used to McGraw, Ruth, and Cobb being in my bedroom so I was getting correspondingly bolder. “You just cut the voters by a bunch.”

McGraw was obviously exasperated at me and I feared one of his tirades, but he only shook his head. “You finished?” he growled.

I nodded, knowing now to never interrupt John McGraw again.

“OK, then we open up the voting to radio and TV types who cover the game. You think the guys who call games don’t know a good player from a bad one? We let the governing people at SABR have some votes. You think they don’t know the game? I gotta admit I don’t understand WAR from Peace or adjusted whatever from maladjusted whatever, but they seem to know what they’re talking about. You got all that?”

I nodded again. I’d decided my earlier instinct to not talk when McGraw was holding forth was the best policy.

“Now, they gotta get rid of this 10 vote rule. How many guys did you tell your readers you would vote for, sixteen right?”

I was stunned. “You read my blog?”

“Yeah,” Ruth said. “We wuz looking over the shoulder of some guy reading it while he was eatin’ a jelly donut. Gee, I miss those. You got any?”

This time I shook my head. “Damn,” Ruth muttered.

McGraw took up his monologue again. “And you got to vote for 10 only. Wouldn’t you have liked to have a chance to vote for all 16, especially if it would help keep them on the ballot?”

“Of course I would.”

“And how many you want for next year.”

I thought for a second. “Probably 15 or so.”

“Then here’s your chance.”

“OK,”

“And you gotta tell them to quit counting blank ballots. Some jerk wants to send in a blank ballot, OK by us, but they gotta just set it aside and not count it in the tally. Got that?”

I nodded again.

“You gotta do this for us. You gotta do it for the game.  We’re getting hell from George Halas because his Hall of Fame does a better job of electing people. You know how hard it is to put up with a football man in full gloat?”

“And McGraw won’t let me beat him up,” Cobb said.

“We’re not supposed to do that in the hereafter,” McGraw said. For a second I thought Cobb was going to attack him. Ultimately he didn’t.

McGraw looked over at me. “You got all that?”

“Yessir.”

“Good, then go back to sleep.”

They were gone. I lay there stunned. I looked over at my wife and nudged her. “Hey guess what?”

She mumbled something that sounded a lot like “I’ve got a headache, dear”, but I nudged her again. She woke up, glared at me, then at the alarm clock. “You do know it’s 2:30, don’t you?”

“Guess what happened to me?”

“Can’t it wait ’til the morning?”

“No.” And I told her everything.

“You want me to buy that?” she asked.

“It’s true.”

“If you buy that, I’ve got a bridge in New Jersey you can buy. Now go to sleep.”

I lay there a while contemplating what just happened to me. Was it real? Was it a dream? I wasn’t sure, but suddenly I had a craving for a jelly donut.

A Baker’s Dozen Random Thoughts on the Newest Hall of Fame Vote

January 8, 2014

Here, in no particular order, are some thoughts on the just completed Hall of Fame voting cycle.

1. Congratulations to Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, Frank Thomas, Tony LaRussa, Bobby Cox, and Joe Torre. It’s certainly a much more formidable list than last year (and remember I like Deacon White).

2. Sorry for Craig Biggio. The Hall is the only place in baseball that doesn’t round-up. As I mentioned in the post just below it’s happened before (see Nellie Fox) so there’s no need to cry “foul” about not letting Biggio into Cooperstown “hallowed halls.”

3. Hey, Dan LeBatard, how about letting me have your vote next year? I know something about baseball and I’m willing to listen to the people who read me before I fill out the ballot. BTW, readers,  I can be bribed cheap.

4. So 16 people didn’t think Maddux was Hall of Fame worthy. Son of a gun. Actually, I can see something of a reason for it. If I had a ballot this year I might seriously consider leaving off Maddux. Before you scream, read on. Let’s say I have 11 people I think should be in and I’m afraid that one of them (let’s call him Don Mattingly) might drop off the next ballot without my vote. I know Maddux is getting in easily (unless everybody thinks like I do), so why not add the 11th guy and leave off Maddux? Maddux gets in anyway, and I get a chance to help one of my guys stay around until I can convince the others that Mattingly deserves to be elected. I have no idea if any of the non-Maddux voters thought that way, but I hope they did, because about any other rationale is absolutely stupid. And of course it also shows how damaging the 10 vote limit is at times.

5. I understand the BBWAA website indicates that 50% of voters chose 10 names for enshrinement. That alone should tell us how truly stacked is this ballot.

6. I also understand there was one blank ballot. I have two things to say to that person. First, quit sending in a blank ballot. If there’s no one worth voting for, don’t vote. And second, “You dope.”

7. To the guy who won’t vote for anyone from the “steroid era,” which I note he didn’t define by date, see the second part of number six above.

8. To the Hall of Fame I have the following piece of advice. Dump the vote only for 10 rule. Yutz.

9. I note of the holdovers, only Mike Piazza and Biggio actually saw their percentages rise. That’s probably good for both. It’s also very bad for everyone else whose staying on the ballot next year. Barry Bonds actually polled less than 200 votes (198).

10. I’m a big opponent of letting the PED guys in the Hall, but I also favored the election of both LaRussa and Torre. Frankly, I failed to connect the two men to the PED issue. I shoulda paid more attention. That’s my mistake, no doubt about it.

11. I’m sorry Jack Morris is now off the ballot, but not sorry that Rafael Palmeiro is also gone.

12. I’m stunned Kenny Rogers only got one vote. I thought he might end up right about the 5% line. I’m also stunned that Mike Mussina didn’t do better.

13. Next year should be equally interesting with Randy Johnson almost certain to make it and with Pedro Martinez showing up for the first time. It will be interesting to see how Martinez does in light of his low win total (219), a number that still matters to most of the writers.

3 More to Cooperstown

January 8, 2014

For anyone who hasn’t heard, the latest Hall of Fame results were announced. Greg Maddux is in. Tom Glavine is in. Frank Thomas is in. Craig Biggio missed by 2 votes (74.8%). Baseball always rounds up, except for the Hall of Fame (the same thing happened to Nellie Fox years ago). Congrats to Maddux, Glavine, and Thomas.