Archive for November, 2018

Thoughts on the 2019 Hall of Fame Ballot

November 23, 2018

Mike Mussina with the Orioles

Alright, I know you people have been breathlessly waiting to see who I think the writers ought to add to the Hall of Fame. Well, not being one to disappoint, at least not too often, here we go. As usual, I figure if they’re going to give me 10 votes, I’m going to take them.

In no particular order:

1. Mariano Rivera–if you have to ask why, you haven’t been paying attention.

2. Todd Helton–will be hurt by playing in Coors Field and being a gap power guy, but he was a good first baseman and an excellent hitter. I think he ought to be in, but I also think it may take a while. His WAR is 61.2.

3. Roy Halladay–first off, the playoff no-hitter will help a lot. Not getting a ring may offset that. His 65.5 WAR will help, as will the two Cy Young Awards (and two runners-up). I’m not sure whether his death will lead to a sympathy vote or not. It seems to help some guys and not help others. I also think that some of the writers will focus on his two seasons with 20 wins, while on the other hand, he never won an ERA or strikeout title.

4. Lance Berkman–frankly I’m not convinced Berkman is a Hall of Famer, but he’s a player I really liked and I’d like to see him get a second (and third, and…) chance so the writers can get more  time to evaluate him. A winner with both Houston and St. Louis and a valuable member of the 2011 World Series winner. He also has an RBI title and one doubles crown (both with Houston).

And the holdovers:

5. Edgar Martinez–sorry, guys, but designated hitter is a position and he was the best at it. It’s also his last chance before the Veteran’s Committee.

6. Mike Mussina–has a lot of good stats, both traditional and new age. For the old guys, he has a lot of wins. For the new guys his WAR is 82.9. He has one wins title and one 20 game win season (not the same season). A knock on him is that he was never a member of a championship team.

7. Curt Schilling–certainly was a member of championship teams, three of them. He is instrumental in breaking “The Curse of the Bambino” (if you believe in things like that), and he has the “Bloody Sock” (which is kinda like the “Bloody Shirt” after the Civil War). He also led his league in both strikeouts and wins twice. His WAR is 80.6, which exceeds a lot of Hall of Fame pitchers. But he has political opinions that are, in some quarters, unacceptable. He’s not being chosen for the Hall of Great Political Scientists, fellas. There are a lot greater rogues in the Hall than Schilling. I think it will probably hurt him at least one more time.

8. Scott Rolen–a much better third baseman than most people realize. He followed Mike Schmidt, wasn’t Schmidt (neither was anyone else), and was never forgiven for it. He did pick up a ring in 2006 with St. Louis (and had a fine World Series). I’ll bet most people don’t know his WAR is 70.2. He was a Rookie of the Year, but never led his league in any major hitting category, but he does have seven Gold Gloves and unlike a lot of winners, deserved most of them.

9. Larry Walker–super arm and a terrific hitter, but he, like Helton, played a lot of his career in Coors Field. He won an MVP and two batting titles there. He also moved to St. Louis late in his career and did well. He hit .357 in his only World Series (a loss). Unfortunately, he has no huge home run number nor RBI number to impress writers, but a 141 OPS+ and 72.7 WAR ought to get someone’s attention.

10. Jeff Kent–has an MVP, but it was controversial at the time. Has a lot of home runs for a second baseman, but wasn’t all that great a second baseman. He made one World Series (two years following his MVP year) and had a good series, but the team lost. He has the advantage of being arguably the best second baseman of his era. Not sure that’s enough to get him elected, certainly not this time.

So there it is, my list. And if they don’t all make it, the writer’s are wrong (and I’m, of course, right). My guess is we’ll see about 3 elected this time (just a guess).

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Beltre Retires

November 21, 2018

Adrian Beltre

I note that Adrian Beltre, third baseman for the Texas Rangers announced his retirement. He came up with the Dodgers, bounced over to Seattle, then a year in Boston before settling in with Texas. He finished as high as second in the 2004 MVP race and made a total of four All Star games.

For his career his triple slash line is .286/.339/.480/.819 (OPS+ of 116) with 3166 hits, 646 doubles, 477 home runs, 1707 RBIs, and a lot more strikeouts than walks. His WAR is 95.7. He led his league in homers, doubles, and hits once each and never in the same year. He currently has more hits than any other foreign-born player and is 16th on the all time list. His nearest active competitor is Albert Pujols who is 84 hits behind. His 5309 total bases is 14th ever, he’s 11th in doubles, 30th in home runs, and 24th in RBIs. Among non-pitchers, his WAR is 26th.

Adios, Adrian, we’ll see you in Cooperstown in five years.

 

2019 Hall of Fame Ballot Released

November 20, 2018

The Hall of Fame has just released its ballot for election in January 2019. There are 20 new guys plus 15 holdovers. Here’s the list in the order shown on the Hall of Fame’s website.

New guys: Roy Halladay, Todd Helton, Andy Pettitte, Mariano Rivera, Rick Ankiel, Jason Bay, Lane Berkman, Freddy Garcia, Jon Garland, Travis Hafner, Ted Lilly, Derek Lowe, Darren Oliver, Roy Oswalt, Juan Pierre, Placido Polanco, Miguel Tejado, Vernon Wells, Kevin Youkilis, Michael Young

And the returnees: Edgar Martinez, Mike Mussina, Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds, Curt Schilling, Omar Vizquel, Larry Walker, Fred McGriff, Manny Ramirez, Jeff Kent, Gary Sheffield, Billy Wagner, Scott Rolen, Sammy Sosa, Andruw Jones. Martinez and McGriff are the only two in their final year.

More later.

The Tragedy of Pearl Webster

November 16, 2018

Pearl “Specks” Webster (from his Wikipedia page)

Pearl (his real name, not a nickname) Franklin Webster was a Negro League player whose entire career occurred prior to 1919. He was good, not necessarily great. His death 100 years ago today was a tragic result of World War I and its aftermath.

Webster was born in 1889 in Missouri and became a leading catcher and sometime first baseman in the early Negro Leagues (the period before Rube Foster set up the Negro National League). He shows up in 1911 as a catcher for the Chicago Leland Giants, then moved to the American Giants (also of Chicago). He also put in time with the Brooklyn Royal Giants and the Lincoln Stars along with a couple of Cuban League teams. He played several games at first and served in the outfield, primarily left field, but was mostly a catcher. In 214 verified games he hit .301 with an OBP of .368, a Slugging percentage of .382, and an OPS of .750 (OPS+ of 129). He had 248 hits, 149 runs scored, and 90 RBIs. His WAR is 5.9, but remember the lack of verified games in the Negro Leagues. The Seamheads website (from which I got all his numbers) puts his stats into a 162 game context which gives him a yearly total of 188 hits, 113 runs, 68 RBIs, and four home runs, with an average WAR of 4.5.

In 1918 he was 28 and in the midst of a fine season with Hilldale when Uncle Sam came calling. He was drafted into the United States Army (18 July 1918), trained, and sent to the 807 Pioneer Infantry one of the black units in France. Being in a “pioneer” unit means he was most likely a combat engineer of some type, but I don’t know his job exactly (pioneer units also have cooks and supply personnel, etc.). He served honorably and survived the war. What he didn’t survive was the Influenza Pandemic that was, caused largely by the war, raging across the globe. He contacted the disease while still in the army and still in France. It was fatal. He died 100 years ago today. I’m not certain if he is buried in France or not.

Pearl Webster died because he went to war. It may have been the flu that killed him, but he was only in France because of World War I. He was far from the last casualty, and certainly wasn’t the only Negro Leaguer who died (Ted Kimbro. a third baseman, also died [also of flu] and there may have been others). It’s tough to tell what the baseball world lost when Webster died, but he’s certainly a tiny part of the larger tragedy of the First World War.

2018 MVPs

November 15, 2018

Christian Yelich

The final big award was announced tonight. In the National League Christian Yelich of the Brewers was named MVP. For the American League the winner was Mookie Betts of the BoSox.

Both were big favorites and were listed first when MLB announced the finalists. I suppose someone could make a case for others, like Baez in the NL or Martinez in the AL, but both winners were excellent picks. Congrats to both.

2018 Cy Young Award

November 14, 2018

Blake Snell

MLB just announced the league winners for the Cy Young Award. For the National League it’s Jacob DeGrom; Blake Snell for the American League.

In some ways you have a split among the voters. The AL people went with the guy who led the league in both wins (21) and ERA (1.89), two very traditional stats. He also led the AL in pitching WAR. DeGrom, on the other hand had a league leading ERA (1.70), but a terrible win-loss record (10-9) and was second (to Nova) in pitching WAR.

It seems that the writers are willing to embrace the newer stats to some degree, but still look seriously at the traditional stats. Whichever you prefer (and I kinda like the mix of both new and traditional), congrats to both pitchers on their victory.

BTW Snell was not listed first in the initial announcement of nominees. There went that theory.

Thoughts on the 2018 Modern Game Ballot

November 14, 2018

Albert Belle and bat

A couple of days ago I posted the names from the Modern Game Veteran’s Committee ballot. I promised to make some comments later. Knowing how much you were dying to read them, I decided to carry out that promise.

The first two thoughts are both sides of the same issue. It wouldn’t hurt me if any one of the listed players (Harold Baines, Albert Belle, Will Clark, Joe Carter, Orel Hershiser, Lee Smith) made the Hall of Fame. It also wouldn’t make me jump for joy. It’s not a bad list. It also isn’t an inspiring one.

I look at Baines and Carter as solid players, excellent contributors to their teams and to the game, but I can say that about hundreds of players. Belle was a superior power hitter, arguably the most feared slugger in the game. Clark was a good and sometimes great players who helped his team. So did both pitchers. And so did a lot of other players.

For the managers (Davey Johnson, Charlie Manuel, Lou Piniella) my problem lies in the fact that their are other managers equally qualified for the Hall of Fame (Danny Murtaugh and Jim Leyland come to mind). All three have rings and both Johnson and Piniella also have rings as players (two in Piniella’s case). But as I read the rules the committee is allowed to consider only their managerial record.

Which brings me to George Steinbrenner, the only executive on the list. He was probably the most controversial man in baseball for much of his career as owner of the New York Yankees. Some of the controversy was overblown, much justified, much of his own making. He was abrasive, overbearing, and dedicated to winning. Apparently so was Sam Breadon of the Cardinals.

And much of my problem is that when I see this list, I see a hundred other players, fifty other managers, a dozen other executives and ask “why this list?” It seems to me if you have to ask why you probably don’t have a lot of genuine Hall of Famers on the list.

The Hall gives committee members five votes. This time I’ll use only one. I’ll hold my nose and vote for Steinbrenner. I think his contributions to the revival and continued excellence of the Yanks is both notable and worthy.

And as a guess, and it’s strictly a guess, I think the committee adds two new Hall of Famers: Steinbrenner and Smith.

2018 Rookies of the Year

November 13, 2018

Ronald Acuna

The Major League Baseball postseason awards are currently being announced. They started with the rookies and the 2018 Rookie of the Year for the National League is Ronald Acuna with Juan Soto finishing second and Walker Buehler finishing third. For the American League, the winner is Shohei Ohtani with Miguel Andujar second and Gleyber Torres third.

Shohei Ohtani

For what it’s worth, I have no particular problem with the choices but I also think this wasn’t just a great year for rookies. Otani was probably the easier choice, after all he’s being compared to Babe Ruth as a hitter/pitcher combination (he probably isn’t). What I find more interesting is that when the nominees were announced, they were listed in the order they finished. If that holds true, I can predict Christian Yelich and Mookie Betts and MVPs and Jacob DeGrom and Corey Kluber as Cy Young winners. I’m thinking about getting down a quick bet.

Anyway, congratulations to both players and here’s hoping both have long and distinguished careers.

The 2018 Modern Game Ballot is out

November 12, 2018

The latest iteration of the Veteran’s Committee has a ballot out. This time it’s the Modern Game Ballot which is supposed to look at very recent people. I’ll comment later, but here’s a look at the ballot without player/manager/executive commentary:

Players: Harold Baines, Albert Belle, Will Clark, Joe Carter, Orel Hershiser, Lee Smith

Managers: Davey Johnson, Charlie Manuel, Lou Piniella

Executive: George Steinbrenner

As a note, I presume from this that Marvin Miller is eligible for the ballot of the era just before this one. I am also informed (by the place where I found the list) that Johnson and Piniella are to be judged strictly on their managerial record, not their playing record.

The War to End All Wars

November 11, 2018


Hell” by George LeRoux

Today marks the end of World War I, one hundred years ago. At 11 am in France, the guns fell silent and an armistice took over. Ultimately a peace treaty was worked out and the guns remained silent until a greater, but not more significant, war broke out.

As with everything else, the war touched baseball in a number of ways. Here’s a sampling of how:

1. The 1918 season was shortened to 140 games from the standard 154. It led to some funny statistics as the season was simply chopped down without being reworked. Some teams played more games than others, some played one team a lot of times, other teams not so many.

2. A lot of great and good players were away from the diamond during the season. Many were in the military, others were off at “war work.” The government allowed players to join war-related industries (like ship building or munitions making) in lieu of actually joining the military. Many players took up the offer. Some of them found that “war work” generally consisted of playing exhibition games for the rest of the workers.

3. A handful of owners, notably Charles Comiskey, thought using the “war work” option was “shirking” and held it against their players when they returned to the field after the war. A number of 1919 “Black Sox” were in this category and some scholars feel it further soured the team’s relationship with their owner.

4. The careers of some players were changed. Grover Cleveland Alexander played a handful of games, went off to the war (not to war work) and saw combat. He suffered “shell shock,” which added to his drinking problem, was to plague his pitching for a number of years. The 1918 season was also the first year in which Babe Ruth played more games in the outfield than he did on the mound. Some of that had to do with Ed Barrow noting the Babe’s hitting prowess, but Duffy Lewis was off to war and the Red Sox needed outfield help.

5. Former New York Giants infielder Eddie Grant was killed in action while a training accident drastically shortened the life of Hall of Famer Christy Mathewson.

There are more, lots more, effects, but this should give you a short taste of how much this early 20th Century catastrophe changed the world, but also changed American sport.

“The Trench”–Otto Dix