Archive for October, 2015

The 1980 NLCS: All the Marbles

October 29, 2015

With the NLCS tied at two games each, Philadelphia and Houston squared off in the Astrodome for game five of the 1980 series. The winner went on to the World Series, the loser went home. For both teams winning would be a unique experience. Houston had never been to a World Series and Philadelphia hadn’t been to one since 1950.

Del Unser

Del Unser

Game 5, 12 October

To send the Astros to the World Series, Houston put Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan on the mound. Philly countered with rookie Marty Bystrom, who hadn’t pitched in the NLCS and was 5-0 in six total Major League games. At the beginning it looked like a bad choice. Astros lead off man Terry Puhl singled to start the bottom of the first, stole second, and came home on a Jose Cruz double. That put Houston up 1-0. But it didn’t hold up for even one inning. In the top of the second a single and walk put Manny Trillo on second and Garry Maddox on first. A ground out moved both up one base with two outs. Phils catcher Bob Boone singled off Ryan to plate both runs and put Philadelphia up 2-1.

That held up through the top of the sixth as Bystrom matched shutout inning for shutout inning with Ryan. In the bottom of the sixth, Denny Walling lofted a fly to left that Greg Luzinski misplayed into two bases for Walling. Then an Alan Ashby single tied up the game 2-2. In the bottom of the seventh Houston exploded for three runs as Puhl singled, came home on a Walling single after Cruz walked. A wild pitch by Phils reliever Larry Christenson brought Cruz home. Art Howe then tripled to score Walling.

But this was game five in 1980 and, well, it wasn’t extra innings yet, so Philadelphia came back in the top of the eighth. Three consecutive singles loaded the bases for Pete Rose. He coaxed a walk out of Ryan to make the score 5-3. A Keith Moreland ground out scored the second run. A single by Del Unser, playing right after pinch hitting earlier, and a triple by Trillo gave the Phils a 7-5 lead with six outs to go. They got two. Singles by Craig Reynolds and Puhl put runners on first and third and back-to-back singles tied the game at 7-7.

Philly got a  man as far as third in the top of the ninth but failed to score. Houston went in order in the bottom of the ninth and for the fourth game in a row, and four of five, the NLCS went into extra innings. With one out, Unser doubled. An out later, Maddox doubled plating Unser with the go ahead run. With Dick Ruthven now on the mound, a popup, a liner, and a long fly to center finished off Houston 8-7 and sent Philadelphia to the World Series, where they defeated Kansas City four games to two. Trillo was chosen NLCS MVP.

It was a great series of games, with four of five going into extra innings. Philly outhit Houston .289 to .233, but scored only one more run (20-19).  There was a major difference in the two team’s walks and strikeouts. Philly struck out 37 times and walked 13, while Houston struck out 19 times and walked 31. Greg Luzinski had the only homer for either team (in game 1) but Houston had five triples. Houston had a team ERA of 3.49, just slightly more than Philadelphia’s 3.28, while Philly pitching gave up 40 hits to the Astros’ 55.

Individually Manny Trillo led Philly hitters (players who appeared in all 5 games) by hitting .381 and racking up eight hits. Luzinski and Trillo both had four RBIs while Luzinski and Rose each scored three runs. Steve Carlton’s eight walks led both teams, while Nolan Ryan’s 14 strikeouts easily outpaced everyone else (of course it did).  Tug McGraw picked up two saves (and took a loss) and Dick Ruthven’s 2.00 ERA led Philadelphia starters with five or more innings pitched. Joe Niekro’s 0.00 ERA over 10 innings led all starters.

For a long time now, I’ve said that the 1991 World Series was the best I ever saw. But I’m not sure that for drama, emotion, and utter excitement that the 1980 NLCS wasn’t its equal.

The 1980 NLCS: Games 3 & 4

October 27, 2015

The Astrodome hosted the third and fourth games of the 1980 NLCS. Houston was neither a hotbed for baseball nor noted for quality sports teams in general. The Astros had been around since the 1960s but were not noted for their winning ways. they had three chances to change that.

Denny Walling

Denny Walling

Game 3, 10 October

For game three, the Astros started Joe Niekro. He faced Phillies starter Larry Christenson.  Christenson started only 14 games in 1980, but was 5-1 with a decent walk to strikeout ratio. Both men were excellent. Through six innings no one scored and nobody got beyond second base. Christianson gave up only three hits and Niekro was equally good. In the seventh, the Phils pinch hit for Christianson and brought in Dickie Noles to replace him. Essentially nothing changed. Noles gave up one hit in one and a third inning and Niekro kept chugging along. By the tenth inning there was still no score, Tug McGraw replaced Noles, Niekro kept pitching, and still no one had reached third. In the eleventh, Niekro finally yielded the mound to Dave Smith. Smith allowed a hit and intentionally walked Larry Bowa, but Philadelphia failed to score. Joe Morgan led off the bottom of the 11th with a triple and finally a baserunner reached third. A pair of intentional walks loaded the bases and set up the force play everywhere. Denny Walling, who’d started at first and moved to right field later in the game, came up with no outs. He lofted a long fly to left that scored the first run of the game. It gave Houston a 1-0 victory and a 2-1 lead in games. For the game the Phillies pitchers gave up only six hits, but walked eight (several of them of the intentional variety). Houston allowed seven hits and only two walks. It was an excellent pitching duel that left Houston one win from the World Series.

Manny Trillo

Manny Trillo

Game 4, 11 October

Down two games to one, Philadelphia brought back ace Steve Carlton in hopes of setting up a game five showdown. Houston countered with 12 game winner Vern Ruhle. The two teams traded zeroes until the bottom of the fourth when Enos Cabell led off with a double and went to third on a groundout. A walk put runners at first and third. Art Howe hit a long sacrifice fly to left that scored Cabell and provided the game’s initial run. A triple and single in the bottom of the fifth put the Astros up 2-0.

The Phillies finally broke through in the eighth when consecutive singles put men on first and second. Pete Rose drove in the first Philadelphia run with another single, both runners advancing on the throw to the plate. An infield single scored the second run to tie the score and put Rose on third. A Manny Trillo fly brought Rose home with the go ahead run. Philly was now six outs from tying up the NLCS. They got three. A leadoff walk in the bottom of the ninth put the tying run on base. A ground out and a Terry Puhl single tied the game at 3-3 and for the third straight time the game went into extra innings.

With one out in the top of the tenth, Rose singled. After a second out, Greg Luzinski doubled plating Rose and Trillo followed with another double that scored Luzinski. Now up 5-3, Philadelphia brought in Tug McGraw to close the game. A strikeout and two fly balls accomplished the goal and the Phillies had tied up the NLCS at two games each. A deciding game five the next day would determine who went to the World Series.

Although it did not lead to any runs, the top of the fourth gave the 1980 NLCS its most memorable play. With runners on first and second and no one out, Garry Maddox hit a soft sinking liner to pitcher Ruhle. Ruhle claimed he caught it, then threw to first to double off the runner (Manny Trillo). The first base umpire ruled McBride out but home plate umpire (and Hall of Famer) Doug Harvey said Ruhle didn’t catch the ball. Without calling time, the Phillies manager Dallas Green came onto the field. While he was starting to argue the call, Art Howe, Houston first baseman and current possessor of the ball, raced down to second and tagged the bag, arguing that the runner on second, Bake McBride who was currently standing on third without having returned to second, was out. The second base umpire agreed and called McBride out (making it a triple play). The problem was that the umpiring crew couldn’t agree on whether Ruhle caught the ball or not. After a 20 minute argument and consultation the umps ruled a double play and allowed McBride to return to second with both Maddox and Trillo out. Umpire Harvey ruled that his call of no catch “put the runner (McBride) in jeopardy and he advanced on my call,” an erroneous call. No one was quite sure what happened most people argued there was either one or three outs, but not two. The ruling stood and McBride went back to second with two outs. Larry Bowa then grounded out to finish a totally bizarre half inning.

 

The 1980 NLCS: The games in Philadelphia

October 23, 2015

Back in 1980 the League Championship Series’ were a best of five with one team hosting the first two games and the other getting game three and the if necessary games. In 1980 that meant the first two games were played in Philadelphia with the follow-up games coming in Houston.

Greg Luzinski

Greg Luzinski

Game 1, 7 October 1980

For game one the Phillies started Hall of Fame pitcher Steve Carlton on the mound while Houston countered with Ken Forsch. Although neither pitcher did particularly well (there were several hits by both teams), there was no scoring until the top of the third when, with one out, Jose Cruz and Cesar Cedano hit back to back singles. After a second out, Gary Woods, playing for regular right fielder Terry Puhl, laced a single scoring Cruz with the games first run. The run held up through the fourth and fifth innings. In the bottom of the sixth Phillies first baseman Pete Rose singled and two outs later Greg Luzinski slugged a ball to deep left center to plate both runs and give Philly a 2-1 lead. In the bottom of the seventh Garry Maddox singled. A bunt sacrifice and a stolen base put him on third with Carlton due up. The Phils sent up Greg Gross to pinch hit. He banged a single to left that scored Maddox. With Carlton out of the game Philadelphia went to its closer Tug McGraw in the eighth. He set Houston down in order and when Philadelphia failed to score in the bottom of the eighth, he took a 3-1 lead into the ninth. A walk put a man on first where he stayed as McGraw finished off Houston to give the Phillies the win. It was the last time in the NLCS that the game would end with the ninth inning.

The big heroes were Carlton, who pitched seven innings giving up one run, and Luzinski who powered the winning runs across the plate. Luzinski was injured for much of the year and failed to produce big numbers. Driving in the winning runs served as something of a redemption for him.

Dave Bergman

Dave Bergman

Game 2, 8 October 1980

Game 2 saw Nolan Ryan take on Dick Ruthven. Neither pitcher had put up stellar numbers during the season, but both began the game pitching well. In the top of the third a walk, a sacrifice, and a Terry Puhl single scored Houston’s first run. It held up until the bottom of the fourth. Mike Schmidt and Greg Luzinski hit back to back doubles to score Schmidt and tie the game. One sacrifice later a Maddox single scored Luzinski to put Philadelphia ahead 2-1. That scored lasted until the top of the seventh when, with two outs, Ruthven committed one of those baseball sins that haunt teams. He walked the opposing pitcher. Puhl immediately followed the walk with a double that scored Ryan to tie up the game. Both teams picked up one more run in the eighth and were blanked in the ninth, leading to a 3-3 score going into the first extra inning of the NLCS. It was a long, long inning, especially for Philly. Puhl led off the top of the 10th with a single. A bunt sent him to second, then Joe Morgan was intentionally walked. Jose Cruz singled to score Puhl, then a fielder’s choice by Cedeno led to out two, but scored a second run for Houston. With two on Dave Bergman, who’d come in to play first in the eighth inning, tripled to score both Cruz and Cedeno to make the score 7-3. The Phils weren’t through yet. A single, a walk put runners on first and second. A fly produced the first out, then a grounder to short got the second out, but the inability to complete the double play scored a fourth Philadelphia run. Another walk brought the tying run to the plate, but Schmidt flew out to Puhl in right to give Houston a 7-4 victory and even the NLCS at one game apiece.

After a day off, the Series would resume in Houston. It was now a simple best two of three series with Houston having home field for all three games. None of them would finish in nine innings.

 

the 1980 NLCS: Philadelphia

October 21, 2015
Lefty

Lefty

Unlike the Astros, the Philadelphia Phillies were, by 1980, something like perennial contenders. They’d made playoff runs in the late 1970s and by 1980 were in one again. Much had changed from those 1970s runs.

After a 30 game stint at the end of 1979, manager Dallas Green was in his first full season as manager. He led a team that finished first, second, or third in almost every major hitting category. It was also a team whose pitching numbers were all over the place.

Part of the problem with the pitching was that the staff was made up of one all-time great and a bunch of other guys. The other guys included starters Dick Ruthven (17 wins), Bob Walk (11 wins), Randy Lerch, Larry Christianson, and Nino Espinosa. Those were all the men who started a dozen or more games. Lerch and Espinosa had losing records; Ruthven, Walk, and Lerch all gave up more hits than they had innings pitched; and Espinosa walked more men than he struck out. Their combined WAR was 2.8. Of course Steve Carlton made up for much of the pitching problem. He went 24-9 with an ERA of 2.34 (ERA+ 162). He led the league in strikeouts ( by more than 80), wins, ERA+, and pitching WAR (10.2). At the end of the season he’d add his third Cy Young Award to his resume.

The bullpen featured ex-Mets hero (and Faith Hill’s father-in-law) Tug McGraw. He put up 20 saves with a 1.46 ERA (260 ERA+), and struck out 75 in 96 innings. Ron Reed and Dickie Noles had a handful of saves and as a whole, the bullpen was equal to, and some might say better, than the starters.

The infield consisted of one of the better known keystone combinations of the era and two potential Hall of Famers at the corners. Larry Bowa was a longtime member of the Phils. He hit .267, stole 21 bases, didn’t walk a lot. His OPS+ stood at all of 71 and his WAR at 0.7. The second baseman was Manny Trillo. He hit .292, had an OPS+ of 104, and was fourth on the team with 3.4 WAR. Cincinnati refugee Pete Rose held down first base. He couldn’t do much in the field anymore, but could still catch the ball. He hit .282 with 12 stolen bases, 185 hits (a critical stat for him), 95 runs scored, on OPS+ of 94, and -0.4 WAR (but +0.6 OWAR). Mike Schmidt at third had a beast of a year. He led the National League in home runs with 48, RBIs with 121, in total bases, in slugging, OPS, OPS+ (171), and had 8.8 WAR. At the end of the season he’d add the MVP to his list of accomplishments. As a third baseman he wasn’t all that great, but was taking a long, slow road toward improvement. Backups included John Vukovich, Luis Aguayo, and Ramon Aviles. Additionally, 38-year-old Tim McCarver got into six games, two at first ( and the rest as a pinch hitter).

The catcher was Bob Boone. Known more for his fielding than hitting, he was considered a good handler of pitchers and had a caught stealing rate of about 33%. Offensively he hit only .229, but logged nine home runs. His backup was Keith Moreland, who got into 62 games in his rookie campaign (he’d played in 15 total games the previous two years). He hit .314, and a 113 OPS+ (0.6 WAR), and was such a good catcher that he ended up playing 1226 games, 169 as a catcher.

The outfield  was in a bit of turmoil with five men getting into 100 or more games (and later Cubs darling Bob  Dernier adding 10 games). Much of the problem lay in left field. Regular left fielder Greg Luzinski banged up his knee and only got into 106 games. And when he was in, he wasn’t producing all that well. He hit .228 with 19 home runs (but did have 56 RBIs), struck out 100 times (but ended up with an OPS+ of 113), and finished with 0.4 WAR. And to top it off he wasn’t much of an outfielder. The problem was his replacement wasn’t much better in the field. Lonnie Smith was called “Skates” for a reason (he looked like he was on ice in the outfield). He did hit well. going .339, with 33 stolen bases (13 caught stealings), 69 runs scored, a 130 OPS+, and 2.3 WAR. Garry Maddox and Bake McBride held down the other outfield positions. Both were much better fielders than either left fielder. McBride hit .309 with 87 RBIs, 116 OPS+, and 3.2 WAR. Maddox had 25 stolen bases, hit .259, hit 11 home runs, had an OPS+ of only 80 (with 1.9 WAR), but was probably the finest center fielder in the league. The other outfielder with 100 or more games was Greg Gross. He hit .240 with no power, but, along with Del Unser, was used as a pinch hitter.

As with Houston, the Phillies were a flawed team. Beyond Carlton the starting pitching was suspect. The infield was better at defense than at offense (Schmidt excepted), and the outfield was in disarray (at least a little–Luzinski was back by the playoffs). They were favored, but not by a lot.

The 1980 NLCS: Houston

October 19, 2015
The Express

The Express

Over all the years I’ve watched baseball, the 1980 NLCS is still the most exciting playoff series I’ve seen. There have been some other fine series’ and a number of very good World Series contests (especially 1991), but for sheer sustained suspense there’s nothing to match this set of contests between the Houston Astros and the Philadelphia Phillies.

The Astros finished second in 1979, but in 1980 managed to tie the Los Angeles Dodgers for the West Division title. A one game playoff sent them on to the NLCS. Manager Bill Virdon, the old Pirates center fielder, was in his sixth (fifth full) season at the helm. With him in charge, the Astros (with a one season hiccup in 1978) managed a steady climb to a division title. The 93 wins was a team record.

The infield consisted of former utility man Art Howe (later A’s manager and a major figure in both the Money Ball book and movie) at first, Hall of Famer Joe Morgan at second, Enos Cabell at third, and Craig Reynolds at short. Howe’s status as a utility man meant he only had 77 games at first (and just over 30 at the other three infield slots). He hit .283 with 10 home runs (his only season with double figure homers), 46 RBIs, a 129 OPS+, and a 1.8 WAR. Morgan was at the end of his career. he hit only .243, but had 11 home runs and 24 stolen bases (with six caught stealing). As usual he walked a ton (a team leading 93 walks), had a good OPS+ (115), and fifth on the team (fourth among hitters) with 3.6 WAR. Cabell contributed 21 home runs and hit .276, but only had a 90 OPS+ and a -0.2 WAR. Additionally he wasn’t much of a third baseman. Reynolds, on the other hand, was a pretty good shortstop. In 135 games he managed only 17 errors (about dead in the middle of the league). He hit only .226 with neither power nor speed, but did manager a positive WAR of 0.5. From the bench Danny Heep, Denny Walling, and Dave Bergman spelled Howe at first. Walling got all three homers the trio provided, 29 of 38 RBIs, and led the group at .299. Their combined WAR was 2.9 (with Walling leading the pack at 0.9). Rafael Landestoy did most of the backup work for the other infield positions, hit .247, but stole 23 bases (and was caught 12 times), and produced 1.4 WAR.

The heart of the offense was the outfield. Terry Puhl held down right field and led the team in WAR with 6.2. He hit .282 with a team leading 13 home runs (it was the Astrodome after all).His 55 RBIs tied for third on the team, as did his 27 stolen bases. He had a 124 OPS+. Cesar Cedeno patrolled center field and led the starters with an OPS+ of 147 (5.0 WAR). He hit .309, had an OPS of .854, 73 RBIs, 154 hits, 48 stolen bases, and 10 home runs. The OPS, average, and stolen bases led the team. Jose Cruz was in left field. He hit .302, had 11 home runs, a team leading 91 RBIs, 36 stolen bases, and managed to led the team with 185 hits. His OPS+ was 127 and his WAR topped out at 4.8. The 24 year-old backup was Jeffrey Leonard. He hit only three homers and had 20 RBIs to go along with a .213 average. He was not yet the slugger he became at San Francisco.

Alan Ashby did the bulk of the catching, logging 116 games. He hit .256, scored 30 runs, and knocked in 48. His backup was Luis Pujols who hit all of a buck 99. Way down the list of everyday players was current Giants manager Bruce Bochy who, at 25, caught 10 games.

They caught a staff that was supposed to be the strength of the team. Joe Niekro was the ace. He went 20-12 with an ERA of 3.55 (ERA+ 93). His WHIP was 1.355, and he gave up more hits than he had inning pitched. His WAR was 0.9 (hardly inspiring for an ace). Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan had a standard Nolan Ryan year. His record was one game over .500 (11-10), his ERA was in the mid-threes (3.35) with an ERA+ of 98. He walked 98 and struck out 200. He finished second in strikeouts (in the previous eight years he’d finished 1st seven times). The 200 strikeouts were second on the league (by 86 to Steve Carlton). Ryan’s WHIP was 1.297 and his WAR 1.5. Verne Ruhl was 12-4 with a 2.37 ERA (ERA+ of 139), a 1.111 WHIP (3.2 WAR), but only 55 strikeouts in 159 innings. Ken Forsch had a losing record at 12-13, but a 3.20 ERA (103 ERA+). He’d also given up more hits than he had innings pitched, helping result in a 1.219 WHIP and 2.6 WAR. Which brings me to J.R. Richard. He should have been the ace, maybe the best pitcher in baseball, but his health caught up with him. On 30 July he collapsed with a stroke, effectively ending his career. Any speculation as to how much he might have helped Houston in the rest of the regular season (or playoffs) is just that, speculation. Swingman Joaquin Andujar took his place, starting 14 games. He put up a 3.91 ERA (ERA+ of 84) with a 1.434 WHIP and 0.0 WAR.

Joe Sambito held down the closer spot. In many ways he was a typical reliever of the era. He had 17 saves in 64 appearances and pitched 90 innings (just under one and a half per outing). His ERA was 2.19 with an ERA+ of 151 (2.0 WAR), and he struck out 75 with a WHIP of 0.963.  Both Dave Smith and Frank LaCorte picked up double figure saves with Smith posting an ERA+ of 171. At 2.6 his WAR was actually higher than Sambito’s and by the end of the regular season he was doing as much closing as Sambito.

Although a good team, the 1980 Astros were flawed with a weak hitting infield and few quality pitchers. They’d taken an extra game to win the West and few chose them to win the pennant. They faced Philadelphia in the NLCS>

 

 

 

What Went Wrong with the Dodgers?

October 18, 2015

As a diehard Dodgers fan I was saddened, but by now inured to their inevitable fate. So I asked myself, “Self, what went wrong this time?” Let me point out a number of things.

1 The Mets are pretty good. In a lot of ways the Dodgers didn’t lose, the Mets simply won (and congrats to both Bill and Glen). It’s a good team and good teams tend to win. So in many ways the answer to what went wrong with the Dodgers is that the Mets played better ball.

2. An over reliance to two pitchers won’t, as a rule, get you a championship. Yeah you can pull it off if you’re the ’63 and ’65 Dodgers (Koufax and Drysdale) or the 2001 Diamondbacks (Johnson and Schilling), but you’re not going to do it very often. All the other team has to do is beat your big guys once or twice (in this case the Mets beat both Kershaw and Greinke once each) and your team has nothing to back up the big guns. On point the ’65 Dodgers were in trouble until Claude Osteen turned things around in game 3. This year’s Dodgers didn’t have an Osteen.

3. It helps if you know how to trade something other than ball cards. The Dodgers pickups and losses before the season began and after it started weren’t inspired. They got rid of Dee Gordon. You know Gordon, don’t you? He hit .333, stole a league high 58 bases, had a league high 205 hits, had 4.9 WAR (BBREF version). In 2014 he played for LA. In 2015 he played for Miami. And the Dodgers got Howie Kendrick who hit a reasonable .295 but with 137 hits, six stolen bases, and all of 1.1 WAR. They also got Jimmy Rollins. I don’t want to imply he’s old, but he has to remember where he was when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor (and he probably shouldn’t have won the MVP he won). His numbers were .224, 12 stolen bases, 116 hits, and -0.1 WAR. Then there was the Latos deal. Seriously? They expected Matt Latos to put them into the World Series? Heck, I coulda done that bad and would have done it a lot cheaper. Then they traded for Chase Utley. I like Utley but he’s as old as Rollins and equally over the hill.

4. This is a team that doesn’t hit all that well. In a fifteen team league that led in home runs, but were 13th in hits. They were second in walks, but 11th in doubles and fifth in total bases. They were tenth in batting average. Kershaw and Greinke had a WAR over 7.5. Next on the team was Adrian Gonzalez at 3.9 tied with Justin Turner.

I could go on, but I’m tired and I’ve vented long enough. There are a lot of things LA has to fix (not least of which is resigning Greinke) in order to repeat as West champs. I’ve been a Dodgers fan so long I know better than to hold my breath.

The 2015 Veteran’s Committee Election: the Contributors

October 16, 2015

This year the Hall of Fame Veteran’s Committee is charged with making a decision on the worthiness of four contributors for enshrinement at Cooperstown. Here’s a short look at each.

Doc Adams

Doc Adams

Daniel “Doc” Adams was a medical doctor who can be legitimately designated as one of the founders of baseball. An early member of the Knickerbockers, he served as club president, later serving (and heading) the committee that drafted a set of rules under which the National Association of Base Ball Players operated. He claimed credit for inventing the shortstop position (although we have no contemporary evidence he did). It is provable that he did help foster a series of rules that made the game work much like the modern game.

Samuel Breaden

Samuel Breaden

Sam Breaden was a successful auto dealer who purchased a part of the St. Louis Cardinals in 1917. In 1920 he took control of the team and the team that had been a perennial loser since the 1880s became a National League powerhouse and arguably the second most successful franchise (behind the New York Yankees) in baseball. While owner his team won nine pennants and picked up a World Series victory six times. He understood and utilized the talents of initial manager Branch Rickey by moving Rickey to the front office. He further understood Rickey’s idea of a “farm system” would benefit the Cardinals, and ultimately all of baseball. He made Rogers Hornsby, the team’s star player, the manager and the Cards won a pennant and a championship. He later moved Hornsby to another team when it became evident the manager was alienating the entire clubhouse (not to mention disagreeing with Breaden over exhibition games). In 1947 he joined NL President Ford Frick in stifling a player revolt in St. Louis over the arrival of Jackie Robinson in the majors. He sold the team in 1947.

August Hermann

August Hermann

August “Gerry” Hermann was a wealthy Cincinnati political figure who purchased part interest in the Cincinnati Reds in 1902. He became chief of baseball operations and team President. In 1903 he helped broker the “Cincinnati Peace Treaty” that ended the war between the National League and the new American League. He was chosen President of the National Commission, the executive group that ran baseball, and remained President until the Commission was dissolved in 1920. He is sometimes, erroneously, called “The Father of the World Series.” He did push for the reinstatement of the World Series after it was not played in 1904 and had backed Barney Dreyfuss in creating the original Series in 1903. He remained owner of the Reds until 1927.

the statue on Chris von der Ahe's grave

the statue on Chris von der Ahe’s grave

Chris von der Ahe may have been the most colorful man to ever own a Major League team. He ran a grocery and saloon and in 1892, seeing an opportunity to make money on tickets and selling beer, purchased the St. Louis Browns (now the Cardinals). Knowing nothing about baseball when he initially purchased the team, he built a successful franchise that won four consecutive American Association pennants in the 1880s by listening to his manager (Charles Comiskey) and having a shrew knowledge of finance. He is alleged to have invented the ballpark hot dog and to have established the first recreational area at a ball park (it was a beer garden). Both of those statements may or may not be true. In 1891 he moved his team to the National League (the American Association folded), but the team was unsuccessful competing in the new league and he was forced out as owner in 1898. The statue accompanying this blurb originally stood in front of the Browns stadium in St. Louis and is currently located above von der Ahe’s grave.

Again, where do I stand on these four? I have personal rule that, as a rule, I don’t like to see more than one contributing non-player elected to the Hall of Fame in a single year. It’s not hard and fast, so I’m quite willing to bend it this time. “Doc” Adams is an easy call for me as one of the true pioneers of the game and Hermann deserves to be in for his handling of the “League War” of 1901-03, his determination to reestablish the World Series, and for his leadership of the National Commission. Although the Black Sox scandal happened on his watch, as the Cincy owner he was more than willing to overlook the innuendos of fixing because he believed his team had genuinely won fairly. I think eventually Breaden ought to go in, but not this time.  And as for von der Ahe, frankly I don’t have any idea exactly how to separate a character like him from his baseball achievements (but, heck, how many owners have a stadium statue?). He’s one of the more fun people in baseball to study, but I don’t think that makes him a Hall of Famer.

That concludes this year’s look at the Vets ballot. Fell free to either agree or disagree.

The 2015 Veteran’s Committee Election: the Everyday Players

October 14, 2015

Continuing along with my look at the people appearing on this year’s Hall of Fame Veteran’s Committee ballot, here’s the four everyday players.

Dahlen while with Brooklyn

Dahlen while with Brooklyn

Bill Dahlen played shortstop for the Cubs, Giants, Dodgers, and Braves between 1891 and 1911 inclusive. He was one of the better fielding shortstops of his era, an era noted for lousy fields, gloves that were a joke, and lots of errors. He hit .272 for his career with a .358 slugging percentage, .382 OBP, a .740 OPS, and an OPS+ of 110. He had 1234 RBIs, including a National League leading 80 in 1904. He managed 2461 hits, 413 of them for doubles, 163 for triples, and 84 home runs for 3452 total bases. He walked 1064 times, while striking out 759. All of which got him 75.2 WAR (BBREF version). He appeared in the 1905 World Series without getting a hit and his team won the 1904 NL pennant.

"Slats"

“Slats”

Marty Marion was a key component of the 1940s Cardinals pennant runs. As the shortstop he held down a key defensive position well and in 1944 pickup an MVP Award, mostly for his fielding and leadership. For his career, his triple slash line is .264/.323/.345/.668 with an OPS+ of 81. He had 1448 hits, 272 doubles, 37 triples, 36 home runs, for 1902 total bases and 31.6 WAR. Playing with the Cards from 1940 through 1950 inclusive he helped lead them to four pennants and three World Series championships. In Series play he hit .231 with two doubles, a triple, five runs scored, and 11 RBIs. In 1951 and 1952 he played a little bit with the Browns and finished his career there.

Frank McCormick

Frank McCormick

Frank McCormick was a stalwart of the late 1930s-early 1940s Cincinnati Reds, and as such was a teammate of fellow nominee Bucky Walters. While Walters won the 1939 NL MVP Award, McCormick won the 1940 Award. He was considered a good first baseman who played from 1937 through 1948 with a 12 game cup of coffee in 1934. Most of his career was with Cincinnati. His triple slash line reads .299/.348/.434./.781 (OPS+ 118). He had 1711 hits with 334 doubles, 26 triples, and 128 home runs for 2481 total bases and a 34.8 WAR. In 1939 he led the NL in RBIs (and had 954 total), and three times led the NL in hits (1938-1940), and picked up a doubles title in 1940. In postseason play (1939 and 1940) he hit .271 with an RBI and a pair of doubles. He scored three runs.

Harry Stovey

Harry Stovey

Harry Stovey played baseball in the 19th Century mostly in a league that no longer exists. His career began in 1880 with the Worcester Ruby Legs and ended in 1893 in Brooklyn. In between he played for Boston in the National League, the Boston Player’s League franchise, and most of his best years with the Philadelphia American Association team. He led the Player’s League in stolen bases in 1890 (the only year for the PL) and led the AA in stolen bases in 1886, the first year stolen bases totals are available for the league. It is important to note that stolen bases were figured differently in the era, but Stovey still led the league. He also won four triples titles, five home run titles, four runs scored titles, and an RBI title at various times in his career. His triple slash line reads .289/,361/.461/.822 (OPS+ 144). He managed 1771 hits (in much shorter seasons than the modern game), 347 doubles, 177 triples, and 122 home runs for 2832 total bases and 45.1 WAR. He scored 1492 runs, had 908 RBIs, and at least 509 stolen bases (the stolen base total is both incomplete and, as mentioned earlier, figured differently). He never played a postseason game.

So where do I stand on each for the Hall of Fame? If I had a vote I’d easily give one to both Dahlen and Stovey. McCormick I’d easily leave out. And Marion is a problem for me. On the one hand, he was one of my grandfather’s favorites (although I never saw or heard him play) so I have a tug toward him that I don’t have toward the other three. He’s also one of those guys who derives much value from his glove, and those guys never get much support for the Hall of Fame (although there are exceptions). He’s a major part of four pennant winners and three champions. But there just seems to be something missing here. So I guess I’m ambivalent towards Marion and in that case will err on the side of caution and not vote for him. I suppose it’s also fair to say that if you’re ambivalent about the Hall of Fame qualifications of a player, he probably isn’t a Hall of Famer.

 

 

The 2015 Veteran’s Committee Election: the Pitchers

October 12, 2015

It’s that time of year again; the time of year each of you breathlessly await my take on the Veteran’s Committee vote for the Hall of Fame. So as not a disappoint a loyal (?) following here’s the beginning of this year’s take on the ballot. I’m starting with pitchers, of which there are two on the ballot. And a committee member is limited for voting for five nominees (and can vote for any number lower, including none).

Wes Ferrell

Wes Ferrell

Wes Ferrell is the better of the Ferrell brothers who played baseball in the 1930s. Rick, the brother, is in the Hall and that should make Wes an easy choice, but of course it doesn’t or he’d already be enshrined. He played from 1927 through 1941 mostly with Cleveland and the Red Sox (with late career trips to New York, Brooklyn, DC, and the Braves). He amassed 193 wins and 128 losses (for a .601 winning percentage. His ERA was 4.04 (ERA+ 116). His WHIP is 1.481 with a pitching WAR of 48.8. He walked more than he struck out (1040 to 985) and gave up more hits (2845) than he had innings pitched (2623). By way of compensation, he was a good hitter, going .280/.351/.446/.797 for a triple slash line and an OPS+ of 100 (hitting WAR 12.8). He had 38 home runs and 208 RBIs.

Bucky Walters

Bucky Walters

Bucky Walters started Major League Baseball life as a third baseman with the Phillies. He wasn’t bad, but by 1934 he was heading to the mound where he eventually became a fulltime pitcher. In 1938 he was traded to Cincinnati and became the team ace. He led the Reds to both the 1939 and 1940 World Series getting two wins in the 1940 victory over Detroit (and the 1939 National League MVP Award). He stayed around through 1948, then had a four inning stint with the Braves in 1950 to polish off his career. He went 198-160 for a .553 winning percentage. His ERA was 3.30 with an ERA+ of 116. His WHIP was 1.750 with a pitching WAR of 46.4. He walked 1121 men while striking out 1107 and gave up 2990 hits in 3105 innings. As a hitter his triple slash line is .243/.286/.344/.630 (OPS+ of 69) with 23 home runs and 234 RBIs (and 7.8 WAR). Because he spent several years as an infielder, his fielding numbers are significant (at least for the first few years). He committed 39 errors in 1271 innings and 204 chances as an infielder.

Neither man is a terrible choice for the Hall of Fame, but as I’ve only got five votes I think I’ll pass on both this time.

RIP Dean Chance

October 11, 2015
Dean Chance

Dean Chance

Just saw that 1960s pitcher Dean Chance died. He became primarily famous for winning the 1964 Cy Young Award back when they only gave out one award, not one per league. It was the one in the 1963-1966 period that Sandy Koufax didn’t win and Chance later said he got used to being jokingly called “Not Koufax.” He later did good work with the Minnesota Twins in a couple of their playoff runs. He ended up 128-115 over an 11 year career.

RIP, Dean.