Archive for October, 2015

2015 Veteran’s Ballot Announced

October 9, 2015

According to “This Week in SABR”, the email notification I get each weekend the 2015 Veteran’s ballot is out. Here’s the list in the order they give it:

Doc Adams, Sam Breaden, Bill Dahlen, Wes Ferrell, August “Gerry” Hermann, Marty Marion, Frank McCormick, Harry Stovey, Chris von der Ahe, Bucky Walters.

Several are holdovers from the last Segregation Era ballot but some are new. FYI and commentary to follow at some point.

Nine Random Thoughts on the 2015 Season (Country Music Version)

October 8, 2015
Albert Pujols as a Cardinal

Albert Pujols as a Cardinal

As baseball plays nine innings in a game, it seems reasonable to look at the just concluded regular season by noting nine more or less random aspects of it to the tune of some Country Music titles and lines.

1 Back in the Saddle Again.  There were a lot of team surprises this season for fans who hadn’t seen their team win in a long time. The Mets and Rangers, who’d done good work earlier in the century returned to prominence. No one expected them to win their division, but here they are getting ready for playoff games. Same is true of the Astros, who only a couple of years ago were the worst team in MLB (and just broke a six year run of losing seasons). And while we’re at it don’t forget the Yankees weren’t supposed to be very good this year (and Joe Girardi will still get no credit). You could say that the AL playoff game might have been the surprise game of the year. And my son is happy to see his Twins get above .500 for the first time in a while.

2. He’ll Have to Go. Last season Matt Williams was National League Manager of the Year. This season he got fired. Strange how that works, isn’t it?

3. Don’t Worry About Me. It was great to see the return of Albert Pujols to something like his old self. OK, it was only for half a year, but it reminded us just how good Pujols was in St. Louis and why Anaheim paid so much to get him.

4. Please Help Me I’m Falling. What happened in Detroit and in DC? Both were picked to do well and both collapsed. Detroit could at least argue that the players who weren’t hurt got old. Washington couldn’t argue that. Considering everything, including picking up Papelbon, the Nationals gave an entirely new meaning to “choke.”

5. With Every Heartbeat I Still Think of You. Although no one ascended to Mount Rushmore heights, a lot a milestones were reached this season. David Ortiz picked up his 500th home run, Albert Pujols slugged his 560th, Clayton Kershaw became the first pitcher in 10 years to notch 300 strikeouts, Zack Greinke’s ERA was Gibsonesque (is that a word?), Ichiro Suzuki got within one halfway decent season of 3000 hits (and he pitched an inning), and Alex Rodriguez, like Suzuki, got within one season of a milestone. In Rodriguez’s case it’s 700 home runs (stated without reference to steroids and without intending to spark debate about either Rodriquez or steroids).

6. Trailers for Sale or Rent. I don’t remember a trade deadline that was so meaningful to so many. Hamels, Cespedes and Tulowitzki were key to the championship runs of the Rangers, the Mets, and the Blue Jays. And Latos was one of the things that came close to costing the Dodgers their shot at a pennant. There have surely been more meaningful deadlines but I can’t remember any recently. Feel free to correct me if you do remember a recent one.

7. Am I That Easy to Forget?  Miguel Cabrera is one heck of a ballplayer, isn’t he? He just won his fourth batting title and no one noticed. The four wins puts him in some elite company.  Ty Cobb, Ted Williams, Rod Carew, and Wade Boggs are the only American Leaguers with more than four batting titles. Cabrera’s home run total was way down this year and maybe his period as a power hitter has come to an end, but he can still hit. Of course there are a lot of other superior ball players giving the game a try right now. One of those is Adrian Beltre, and you can also say a lot of the above about him. His home run total was also down, but try and imagine the Rangers in the playoffs without him.

8. One by one, they’re turning out the lights. If all those players who reached, or got within reach, of the milestones mentioned in #5 above, have gotten to those milestones, it means that we’re seeing the end approaching for a number of truly fine players (Kershaw and Greinke excepted–they’re still in mid-career). That’s a shame. All of them have given fans wonderful (and sometimes not so wonderful) memories. For some it’s a short wait for a call from Cooperstown. For others it’s a longer wait and possibly a call that never comes. But you gotta admit, they were and are great to watch.

9. Poor, Poor Pitiful Me. This has been a year of absolutely dominant pitchers. Sometimes you can’t help but feel sorry for the hitters. And you know, Dodgers left-handers whose last names start with “K” are pretty good, aren’t they?

On to postseason.

Congrats to the 2015 Winners

October 6, 2015

By now we know who’s left standing after baseball’s regular season. Ten teams still have a chance at a World Series title. Here’s a short congratulatory post for them.

National League

So the Pirates and the Cubs square off to see who gets to play St. Louis. One of the better baseball stories of the last several years is the resurgence of Pittsburgh. And for Chicago, who hasn’t been even sporadically decent over the 15 years of this century we have a chance to see if they can carry through. Either winner gets the only 100 game winner in the league, the Cardinals. St. Louis reminds me a lot of the 1995-2005 Yankees (although New York won it all a lot more frequently). There just aren’t a lot of stars on this team. But it’s a quality team whose parts mesh well together to create a formidable combination.

Then my Dodgers get to play Bill Miller’s Mets (one of us gets bragging rights, Bill) with home field. We’ll see just how important a late season acquisition (Cespedes) was. We’ll also see just how far two pitchers can take a team. As it’s not the Cards, Kershaw actually has a decent chance of winning his game. And BTW unless you’re a diehard Mets fan like Bill, don’t tell me you had the Mets when the season started.

American League

It turns out Kansas City wasn’t a fluke. They’ll host one set of games while Toronto gets the other. I can’t imagine the Royals creating quite the same excitement as they did last season, but, as with the Pirates, it’s good to see a team revive after years in the dumps. You know, you could make an argument for Troy Tulowitski as the AL MVP based on how much he helped Toronto over the hump (kinda like Cespedes in New York). I wouldn’t; but I won’t be surprised if someone does. I certainly didn’t have either Texas or New York when the season began. Both were surprises (especially the Rangers). And nobody had the Astros, the surprise team of the year.

So good luck to all of them, especially my Dodgers. I hope they win, but even if they don’t I want to see an exciting, well-played postseason.

My Own Little Hall of Fame: Class of 1920

October 1, 2015

The year 1920 saw “A Return to Normalcy” in the United States. At least that’s what Presidential candidate Warren G. Harding called his election. Well, I’m not sure how “normal” the 1920s were, but they did see a change in baseball. The Deadball Era ended and the home run took center stage. The US moved toward a return to isolation in world affairs and much of the nostalgia that as evident in the World War I era was gone. With it went much chance of electing any really old-time players to a 1920 Hall of Fame. But that doesn’t mean an 1890s player couldn’t get in. Here’s the Class of 1920 with commentary to follow:

Frank Chance

Frank Chance

Frank Chance was a player-manager for the turn of the century Chicago Cubs. Beginning as a catcher and moving to first base, he piloted the Cubs to pennants in consecutive years 1906 through 1908 and again in 1910. He won two World’s Championships and his 1906 team holds the record for wins in a single season.

Now the commentary:

1 That’s all? You’re kidding, right? Wish I was. The 1920 and 1921 classes are particularly weak among players. It will straighten out some in 1922, but right now is not a particularly strong period for retired players. I’ve committed to adding at least one person (player or contributor) a year and this is the best I can do for 1920. This shows me why it’s wise that the true Hall of Fame does not require the writers (or vets committee) to elect at least one person per year.

2. Chance? Frank Chance is, to me, one of those players who stands at the very edge of Hall of Fame quality. He’s pretty good for a handful of years, but his career is really short and his peak isn’t all that high. As a manager he’s better and that gives him a push he wouldn’t get if he was being evaluated strictly as a player. Additionally he was extremely well-known in the era, without reference to the poem.

4. You sound like you’re trying to convince yourself as well as us. That’s because I am. This isn’t much of a class and I acknowledge that, but every Hall of Fame has down periods when the true greats of the game are either in the Hall or not yet eligible. In 1920 you’ve got one of those times. Best I could do was Chance and without the managerial experience I’m not sure I’d take him. His period of playing excellence is pretty short and the peak isn’t all that great (as I said earlier) so his managerial years weigh heavier on his selection than anyone else I’ve chosen except John McGraw (other than guys chosen strictly as managers like Frank Selee). I think part of the problem is that it’s Chance’s first opportunity to make this Hall of Fame and he’s certainly not, in the modern sense of a first timer being special, a first try inductee. Of course I’ve argued that first time induction shouldn’t be seen as a test of true greatness (after all Joe DiMaggio and Yogi Berra weren’t first timers–in fact Bench is the only catcher to ever be a first ballot winner) and a Hall of Famer is a Hall of Famer (one of the main reasons I don’t like limiting the number of players a voter can check on his ballot). So staying true to the positions I’ve staked out on this blog, I pick Chance on the first ballot.

5. Next year (1921) Fred Clarke shows up among everyday players and as a manager as does A’s stalwart Danny Murphy. My guess is one is in and one is toast.

6. By now the statistics are beginning to standardize. I’m seeing the same ones over and over and the numbers are beginning to agree wherever I look (but not yet entirely). Life is getting a bit easier for me in this regard.

7. By now the nostalgia craze is pretty much over, as I mentioned above. That bodes poorly for guys like Cal McVey, Lip Pike, and any number of National Association players like Dave Orr. On the other hand 1890s players are still at least semi-well known so their chances aren’t dead yet (but they’re on life support). Also Nat Strong’s New York “league” of black teams and Rube Foster’s Negro National League are just beginning to form and it will make it just a bit easier to determine which black players will be considered for this Hall.

8. The 1921 list of eligible everyday players looks like this: Roger Bresnahan, Cupid Childs, Fred Clarke, George Davis, Mike Donlan, Jack Doyle, George Gore, Dummy Hoy, Bill Joyce, Bill Lange, Herman Long, Bobby Lowe, Johnny Kling, Tommy McCarthy, Danny Murphy, Dave Orr, Hardy Richardson, Cy Seymour, Roy Thomas, Mike Tiernan, George Van Haltren. Not a bad list, four Hall of Famers (Bresnahan, Clarke, Davis, McCarthy) on it and a host of decent players, but again not a just “got to have” list (except probably for Clarke and I’ve dealt with Davis previously).

9. The 1921 list of pitchers: Bob Carruthers, Jack Chesbro, Dave Foutz, Clark Griffith, Brickyard Kennedy, Sam Leever, Tony Mullane, Deacon Phillippe, Jesse Tannehill, Doc White. Again not a bad list (with 2 HofF types–Chesbro and Griffith), but not one you just want to go out and embrace either. Griffith still has his managerial phase to consider (see below) and also his ownership phase. So he’s got a better chance as a contributor than as a pitcher. And then there’s that Pirates staff of 1900. A lot of good pitchers, but no really outstanding one. Still not sure what will happen here.

10. And the contributors list for 1921: Bill Carrigan, Jim Creighton, Clark Griffith, Tim Hurst, Hughie Jennings, Cal McVey, Lip Pike, Henry C. Pulliam, George Stallings, William R. Wheaton. That’s 4 managers (Carrigan, Griffith, Jennings, Stallings), 4 pioneers (Creighton, McVey, Pike, Wheaton), a league president (Pulliam), and Hurst who was both an umpire and a manager. Griffith shows up again, but I want to wait until into the mid-1920s (when his Senators start winning) to make a final decision on him. I may have done a disservice to the pioneers by not putting one of them in during the World War I nostalgia period because that’s dried up and I don’t see (at least with a short look) it occurring again during the 1920s (maybe when the Great Depression hits in 1929).