Posts Tagged ‘Barry Bonds’

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.

Vacating Awards

July 25, 2013

Now that Ryan Braun is officially a scumbag (now there’s a really scientific term) some people want to take away his MVP Award. I remember the same thing happening when Ken Caminiti came clean (OK, it’s a bad joke) about juicing and the same kind of thing happened. there seem to be three options running around. Some thoughts on each.

1. Take the award away and give it to the runner-up. Are you kidding? What makes anyone think the runner-up isn’t guilty of the same offense? Maybe he is, maybe he isn’t. But in this age of PEDs, how exactly do you tell?

2. Vacate the award. This means you simply take away the award and don’t hand it out that year, which is kind of like saying that Gone With The Wind shows the KKK favorably and we can’t have that, so the Best Picture Award for 1939 goes to no one. The problem with this is that it completely downgrades the other players. “Sorry, no one but Joe Scumbag was good enough to win the award this year and he’s a jerk so he can’t win it.” Really?

3. Leave it alone. Thank you, rational people. Look, I think Braun and the other PED boys are first rate jerks, but you can’t just go around taking awards away because we decide they broke some sort of code. If you do that how far back do you go? Barry Bonds used steroids in his final four MVPs, therefore he’s a jerk. And we can’t have a jerk winning an MVP so we take away the other three he won back before we suspect he was juicing. That’s silly, isn’t it? Besides, where do you stop and what kind of offenses are to be included? Is Cobb to be stripped of his Chalmers (bet they won’t be able to find the car) because he was a racist and we think that’s just awful?

There’s an article on NBCnews.com that mentions some bigwig in Tulsa, Oklahoma who was a Klansman in the 19-teens and ’20s (when a whole lot of people were) and has a street and a couple of buildings named after him. Some want to take his name off those things (especially the street) because he was a Klansman. Others argue that it makes his KKK membership define him and that he was more than just a Klansman, he was a real civic leader. The article is worth reading even though it isn’t about sports. Don’t know what’s right there, but it does seem to me that baseball is in the same fix. We’ve decided that certain conduct (PED use) is offensive and players should be punished for doing it. Fine by me. But don’t be vacating or stripping awards. Don’t forget that some of them, like Caminiti’s, will be posthumous, and the guy has no chance to defend himself.

Obviously I favor leaving the awards alone but I understand those who don’t. Feel free to disagree.

The Best of the Giants

May 27, 2013
Will Clark

Will Clark

It’s been a while since I stuck my foot deep in my mouth and picked an all-time team for a franchise. So it’s time to do it again. I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time this month dealing with the Giants, especially the New York version, so it seems like a good franchise to work with now.

A few caveats first (you knew I’d do that, right?). Let me start with a simple disclaimer: I’ve never been a particular Giants fan. Growing up supporting the Dodgers, there’s not a lot of nice things to say about the Giants (only the Yankees are as deep in perdition as the Giants). That means I’ll admit to being less than confident about my choices, but it’s the best I can do using only research and a few memories. Second, I put together a 25 man roster that does not mirror a Major League roster, but it’s my list and I get to do it my way. There are nine infielders, five outfielders, two catchers, and nine pitchers. I decided to go with three bullpen men and six men who were primarily starters. I also picked a manager (bet you can guess him). Finally there are no players whose primary career is before the advent of the mound. There are som really fine Giants prior to 1892, like Roger Connor, Tim Keefe, Mike Tiernan, but they play a game that is different, so different I decided to drop them from consideration.

So with all that said, here we go diving in where God knows what we will find. Each list is alphabetical.

The Infield:  Will Clark, Al Dark, George Davis, Art Fletcher, Frankie Frisch, Travis Jackson, Jeff Kent, Johnny Mize, Willie McCovey.

Did you ever notice that the Giants have produced an inordinate number of quality first basemen? I chose McCovey, Mize, and Clark (and Cepeda spent a lot of time at first) and left out Hall of Fame first sackers Bill Terry and George Kelly. Frankly, I didn’t really have to think that hard about it. The only hard choice was Mize, who spent significant time with both St. Louis and the Yankees. I decided he was in. If they’ve had great first basemen, they’ve had mediocre third basemen. I went with Fletcher as the only third baseman because the rest of the list was Fred Lindstrom and Jim Davenport and guys like that. OK, maybe I should have considered Sandoval, but as a rule I like to stay away from current players because we don’t know how they’re stay with their team will go (but see Posey below). Short and second were mixed bags. Frisch, Kent, and Larry Doyle stood out but there wasn’t much below them. Short on the other hand had more quality players, but no one at the level of either Frisch or Kent. I left off Dave Bancroft and added Dark which may strike some as odd, but I suppose it’s merely a personal preference. And of course Jackson (who was in the top 10 Giants in WAR, which surprised me) played third toward the end of his career. 

The Outfield: Barry Bonds, Orlando Cepeda, Monte Irvin, Willie Mays, Mel Ott.

There is Bonds (whatever you think of him as a person or as a steroids user), there is Mays, and there is Ott. Everyone else is a huge drop, a really huge drop. You could make an argument that across the three outfield positions (left, center, and right) the Giants may have the best starting outfield ever. But you need backups and at the point you get past the big three you end up with a lot of quality outfielders. Cepeda’s knees sent him to first, but he began in the outfield. Irvin was a converted middle infielder who lost several years to segregation. Both are just short of the top-tier. I had to leave out both Felipe and Matty Alou, which I was sorry to do because I’d liked both when they played. Jeff Leonard and Kevin Mitchell were good for too short a time to be considered at the top.

The Catchers: Roger Bresnahan and Buster Posey.

OK, who else was there? Look at the Giants’ list of catchers and tell me you like anyone better. As a rule, Giants catching has been very weak. Buck Ewing is excluded as a pre-1890s player.  Hank Severeid maybe, but if that’s the best you can do then we’re stuck with these two. I hesitate to pick a current player like Posey, but it’s a really weak position and Posey has the advantage of coming to the Giants and they win a World Series. Then he gets hurt and they falter. Then he’s healthy again and they win another World Series. That’s a pretty good legacy, isn’t it?

The Starters: Carl Hubbell, Juan Marichal, Christy Mathewson, Joe McGinnity, Gaylord Perry, Amos Rusie.

You know, you could make a pretty fair five man rotation for the Giants just using pitchers whose last name began with the letter “M”. You could dump those bums Perry and Rusie and insert Rube Marquard and Sal Maglie and still have a darned good staff. I didn’t. I have a feeling that in a few years both Lincecum and Cain will be getting some consideration on lists like this.

The Bullpen: Rod Beck, Rob Nen, Hoyt Wilhelm.

Not the strongest part of the Giants history. Wilhelm made the Hall of Fame, but his tenure with New York was relatively short. Most of his Cooperstown credentials are from other teams. Nen and Beck are simply one, two in saves, so why not?

The Manager: John J. McGraw.

Surely you saw that coming.

So there it is in all its glory; for good ,bad, or indifferent. I think it’s a pretty fair list, but I’m sure a lot of people will disagree. Feel free to do so. (I have this nagging feeling I’ve left somebody out).

From New York to Frisco

October 23, 2012

Giants Logo

So it’s the Giants, is it? They’ve had a long and distinguished history. Interestingly enough they’ve never played Detroit in the postseason. Of all the original American League teams from 1901 the Giants have played each except for Detroit and the team now in Baltimore (via Milwaukee and St. Louis). How have they done?

Frankly, the Giants have, as a rule, been a disappointment in postseason play (I reference here only the 20th and 21st Century teams, not the successful 19th Century team.). In 1904 they won a pennant then refused to play Boston in the World Series. In 1905, under great public pressure, they changed their mind and bested Philadelphia in five games. It was their last win until the 1920s. They made the World Series each year from 1911 through 1913 and proceeded to lose all three. They lost again in 1917, going 0 for 4 for the teens.

They did better in the 1920s. From 1921 through 1924 they won consecutive National League pennants. In World Series play they beat the Yankees in the first two “Subway Series” in 1921 and 1922. Then they lost to the Yanks in 1923 and to Walter Johnson and the Senators in 1924. That was it for John McGraw’s tenure as manager.

In the 1930s they got back to the World Series on three occasions: 1933, 1936, and 1937. They won the first (against Washington), then dropped two Subway Series to Lou Gehrig’s Yankees.  For the 1940s they did nothing. The decade was doubly painful because they saw their status as New York’s premier NL team be eclipsed by the Dodgers.

In 1951 they won the most famous of all playoff games and finally got back to the World Series. I’ve always been amazed at the number of people who think that either Bobby Thomson’s home run won the World Series, or that the Giants went on to coast to a World Series victory. They didn’t as the Giants hashed the Series in six games. They were back again in 1954 when they pulled off one of the great upsets ever by knocking off the 111 game winning Indians in four games.

And that was it for the New York version of the Giants. In 1958 they headed for San Francisco. They won the pennant in 1962 and faced the Yankees in a “Jetliner Series”. They lost in seven games on a smoking line drive by Willie McCovey that Bobby Richardson speared (The ball was hit so hard I always wondered if it dislocated Richardson’s shoulder). And then they went into hibernation. For the rest of the 1960s, most of the 1970s (one playoff appearance that they lost), and the 1980s they were dismal. In 1989 they made a second San Francisco World Series losing the “Bay Area Classic” to Oakland in four games (interrupted by an earthquake).

Then it was back to the boondocks until 2002. They won the NL pennant that year, had the Angels on the ropes in game six of the World Series, and managed to hash another playoff run. That finally changed in 2010 when they blew Texas out of the Series and claimed their first championship in San Francisco.

So it’s a very mixed bag if you’re a Giants fan. You lose more than you win, but your wins are as glorious as they are for any other team. And like Detroit, you can put together a heck of a team. Here’s a sample of what they Giants could put in the field over the years: an oufield of Mel Ott, Willie Mays, and Barry Bonds (before his head got big); an infield of Willie McCovey, Frankie Frisch, Al Dark, and Matt Williams; and Roger Bresnahan behind the plate. And the pitching? Try this staff without leaving the letter “M”: Christy Mathewson, Joe McGinnity, Rube Marquard, Sal Maglie, Juan Marichal. And of course that leaves out Carl Hubbell and company. They’ve even got a great pair of managers in John McGraw and Leo Durocher. Not bad, right?

So good luck to the Giants (You have any idea how hard that is for a Dodgers fan to type?). Win or lose I hope they play well. Most importantly, I hope it’s a great Series.

Kick, Mule

February 27, 2012

Mule Suttles

I don’t suppose there’s anyone who doesn’t believe that Josh Gibson was the ultimate power hitter in the Negro Leagues. And I won’t dispute that. I will, however, point out that the leader in documented home runs is Mule Suttles (other sources say Turkey Stearnes).

George Suttles was born in Louisiana in 1900. He had little formal education, not uncommon for a black man in turn of the 20th Century Louisiana (Huey Long and the free text books were 25 years in the future). He was a coal miner and did some semipro ball playing until he was 21. He got a cup of coffee with the 1921 New York Bacharach Giants (one hit in four at bats in a single game) then went back to semipro ball. In 1923 he caught on with the Birmingham Black Barons of the Negro National League. This time he stayed around. He put in three years with Birmingham before heading to St. Louis where he finished his Negro National League career.

In 1930 the Negro National League folded and he went to the Eastern Colored League’s Baltimore franchise (not the Elite Giants) in time to watch the ECL go under also. He went back to St. Louis to play for the Stars in the newly reformed NNL After 1931, it too folded and Suttles settled in with the East-West League’s Detroit Wolves and Washington Pilots. Want to guess what happened to the East-West League?

By 1933 he was back in the new NNL (this time it stayed around). He began with the Chicago American Giants, then in 1936 he went to the Newark Eagles, where he stayed through 1940 He spent 1941 with the New York Black Yankees, then went back to Newark in 1942, finishing his career with Newark in 1944. Retired, he did some umpiring, then retired from baseball. He died in 1966 and made the Hall of Fame in 2006, forty years after his death.

Mule Suttles was a big man for his era, 6’3″ and 215 pounds (officially). By the end of his career he’d put on weight and may have been closer to 250 than 215.  He carried a 50 ounce bat (by comparison, Babe Ruth’s was 54 ounces) and was immensely strong, hence the “Mule” nickname. He made the East-West All-Star game numerous times, being one of its most effective hitters. He’s credited with a .412 batting average in the game, an .883 slugging percentage, and is supposed to have hit the first home run in the All-Star game. he played left field, but spent much of his career at first base. He wasn’t overly fast, but was known for his good hands. In close games in late innings, Suttles coming to bat elicited the cry “Kick, Mule” from both fans and teammates.

As with all Negro League players, his numbers are spotty. Baseball Reference’s Bullpen has some stats on him. They are incomplete but give something of a picture of  his skill. In 763 documented games he hit .327, slugged .571, had 894 hits, 257 walks, in 2731 at bats. Again no OBP is given but 894 plus 257, divided by 2731 gives a partial OBP of .421 for an .992 partial OPS. There are 133 home runs, 167 doubles, 561 runs, and  493 RBIs that are documented. The same page gives his 162 game numbers as 119 runs, 190 hits, 105 RBIs, 35 doubles, 28 home runs, and 10 stolen bases. 

Suttles is a good example of a fairly common type. He’s a big slugger who hits for power and decent average. He’s an every year All-Star, but his teams usually fall short of the championship. Ralph Kiner is one of those, so is Rudy York or Hal Trosky or Barry Bonds. York made it to a World Series, but his team (Boston) lost. So did Bonds. There are a number of others like Gil Hodges or Ted Kluszewski, some currently playing. One of the most interesting things about studying the Negro Leagues is how quickly you discover they’re made up of the same kinds of players as the white leagues. I find that important because it reminds me just exactly how much alike baseball players are in their skills, black or white. That reassures me that maybe we really are all in this together.

So What Happens Next?

January 11, 2012

Now the Hall of Fame voting is over. We can sit around and cuss and discuss the results. Your favorite get in? Good for him. Your favorite still on the outside looking in? Sorry about that. But there’s always next year for him (unless the Mayan thing is right). So maybe it’s time to start talking about next year’s Hall of Fame election.

I understand the dilemma of the voters. You’re going to have people with truly astounding numbers on the list. You’re going to have people who are admitted or suspected PED users. You’re going to have people on the list that were great players prior to the PED controversy who got better when PED’s were suspected. What do you do? I’m a bad person to ask for advice, because I’m not privy to all the nuances of the Mitchell Report, the BALCO testimony, and God knows what else. But, of course, that’s never stopped me before, so why should it now?

There are, in broadest terms, three groups of players when it comes to PEDs: those we’re sure didn’t use them, those we’re sure did, and those we don’t know about. And the key word there is “sure.” Because other than a few admissions (Mark McGwire,  AndyPettitte, etc), most of the players we’re “sure” about are really people we highly suspect used PEDs. 

In some ways the decision has already been made by the failure of McGwire and Rafael Palmiero to receive enshrinement in Cooperstown.Thus I find the questioning about what will happen next year a little odd. Perhaps its the presence of Barry Bonds on the list or the knowledge that Alex Rodriguez lurks just a few years down the road that leads to the questioning. Because I do find it strange. If a decision has been made on McGwire and Palmiero then why is there a question about others? I know Palmiero got caught with his hand in the cookie jar so I can  see a difference, but McGwire was being held out before he admitted anything (“I’m not here to talk about the past.”).

This isn’t an argument to keep the bums out, but to try to figure out why we’re still asking the questions. Somehow you can’t have one standard for McGwire, another for Bonds. I say that while admitting Bonds was a better player without PEDs. So that leads to the problem of what to do with quality players like Bonds and Clemens who were probable Hall of Fame inductees before they allegedly got into PEDs. Frankly, I think the one cancels out the other (using PEDs cancels out quality prior to PEDs) but others will disagree. 

So maybe the solution is simple. No PED user (and here the word “suspected” must come into play) can get in on his first five tries, then maybe that’s penance enough and he can be voted in. Maybe that’s a bad idea, maybe it should be one year or two or ten (or maybe the plaques ought to mention it). But in fairness to the guys who no one believes used them there has to be some difference made. Besides the idea of being a “First Ballot Hall of Famer” is so ingrained in us that to keep these players from that title is fitting. Do we really want to let their names be uttered positively in the same sentence with the likes of Stan Musial or Jackie Robinson?

I know this rambles and the solution is only vague, but that reflects how much I’m torn by this issue. I really don’t want these jerks in Cooperstown beside Musial and Robinson, but I understand the impact of the players and their numbers.

Game Six: Back in the Saddle Again

August 15, 2011

It’s tough enough to have a great career, even tougher to have two. Actors really have a problem with it. What do you do after standing on a sound stage and being called “the greatest who ever was” then finding your career over? Well, if you’re Ronald Reagan you go into politics. If you’re Gene Autry you buy a baseball team and try to get it to the World Series. His team managed that in 2002.

Gene Autry, Angels owner

2002 

Back when baseball first expanded in 1961, old-time singing cowboy Gene Autry, with hits like “Back in the Saddle Again” and “Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer,” took interest and bought the team in Los Angeles. Over the years the location name changed, but the team nickname remained the Angels. Apparently he was a heck of an owner, loved by both fans and the players. He died before the 2002 World Series, but the mantra for many of the players was “win one for the cowboy.” By game six on 26 October, the Angels were on the verge of losing one for the cowboy. Down three games to two they were back home against the San Francisco Giants. Fourteen game winner Kevin Appier and a batting order that had only two .300 hitters and only two players with 25 or more home runs were tasked with keeping the Angels alive for game seven.

Four innings in neither team had scored, then the Giants exploded for three runs in the fifth, chasing Appier on a two run homer. Reliever Francisco Rodriguez threw a wild pitch bringing home the third run. They picked up another run in the sixth on a Barry Bonds homer. They got one last run in the seventh on two singles and a stolen base. Nine outs from closing out the World Series, San Francisco led 5-0.

With one out (now eight outs to go) Troy Glaus singled. Then with a second runner on, first baseman Scott Spiezio hit a three run shot to cut the Giants lead to 5-3. San Francisco got out of the inning with no more damage, got a lead off walk in the top of the eighth, then three consecutive outs brought the Angels back to bat. Now six outs from wrapping up their first World Series victory since moving to San Francisco in 1958, the Giants faced center fielder Darin Erstad. He homered to cut the lead to 5-4, then two singles and a Bonds error put runners on second and third, bringing up Glaus again. He ripped a double scoring both runners and putting the Angels ahead 6-5. That ended the Angels scoring and the Giants went in order in the ninth. That set up game seven, which the Giants lost 4-1 after taking a 1-0 lead. Glaus was the MVP and the cowboy had won.

The Series may be most famous for the “Rally Monkey” and the thundersticks, but it was, at the time, portrayed as something of a morality play. You had the good guys, they were called the “Angels” for God’s sake, versus the bad guys, reasonably enough called the “Giants” (generally the bad guys in most mythology).  The Angels had tiny David Eckstein, the Giants had big, bad, ugly, evil Barry Bonds with his bloated head and steroid-induced (at least according to some) power. It was easy to root for the Angels and tough to root for San Francisco. In best morality play justice, the good guys won.

This is the final installment of my look at game six of the World Series. I still want to look at a couple of the LCS games of note. Great games aren’t confined to the World Series and I want to feature some of those also.

1910: Shoeless Joe

July 30, 2010

Joe Jackson at Cleveland

On this date one hundred years ago, the Philadelphia Athletics sent Joe Jackson (“Shoeless Joe”) to Cleveland. Jackson was signed by Connie Mack in 1908. He played a handful of games in both 1908 and 1909, decided he hated Philadelphia, the big cities, and the travel, so he returned to South Carolina and did not report in 1910. By the end of July, Mack gave up on him and sent his contract to Cleveland. Jackson reported to Cleveland, got into 20 games and hit .387 with a home run, four stolen bases, and 29 hits. This time he stayed around and became a star. In fairness to Jackson, he was only 18 in 1908.

I’ve made a point of staying away from posts dealing specifically with Jackson for a reason. He is one of the most polarizing figures in baseball history. Only Pete Rose and Barry Bonds rival him as a controversial player. I feel my job here is to inform, not confront. You want confrontation, go visit a political blog. Lots to “confront” about. Having said that, it’s time to deal with Shoeless Joe.

Let me start by saying I’d have given everything I ever had, including my first-born, to have been Moonlight Graham and gotten into just one Major League game. Jackson got that chance and threw it away. I have, therefore, little sympathy for him. He was a star, the idol of millions (whether one of them ever said “Say it ain’t so, Joe” or not), a great ballplayer and he decided he wanted more money. Well, Joe, so do I, but I’m not willing to compromise certain principles for it. Now I know there are a lot of defenses of Jackson. Let’s take a look at some of them:

1. He was underpaid. So what? I’m underpaid. My wife is underpaid. My first-born (who I was willing to give up a paragraph or two ago) is underpaid. Most of you reading this are underpaid. Does that make it OK to, in Jackson’s case, throw the World Series? Surely not.

2. He was too stupid to know what he was doing. Oh, really? What did he think they were giving him the bribe money for, his looks? Besides unlettered and stupid are two different things. There’s ample evidence that Jackson was illiterate, but also evidence he wasn’t stupid. He had a meal routine that belies stupidity. He always ate with a teammate. If the waitress came to him first he’d tell her he hadn’t decided yet and to get everybody else’s order and come back. He’d then listen to what they ordered and get one of the same things. If he wasn’t first, his response was “I’ll have what he’s having.” That’s not a stupid man there. In fact that’s rather clever.

3. Comiskey was a jerk. Got me there; Comiskey was a jerk. But Comiskey isn’t the one throwing games. Comiskey’s human qualities are not in question here, Jackson’s are. And to my mind, Jackson is as big a jerk as Comiskey and two wrongs don’t make either man right, or less of a jerk.

4. Jackson played OK in the series. That’s sort of right. But if you break down his series by at bats you see he doesn’t come through in crucial situations. His home run, as a simple example, is after the final game is already lost. He drives in six runs, but all in games the Sox win or in meaningless situations (like the home run). I’ll give you that Gandil and Cicotte and Williams are greater villains in losing games, but that doesn’t make Jackson any kind of hero.

So there, I’ve said my piece. Obviously I don’t like Jackson and have no wish to see him in Cooperstown. I accept that some other people do. It’s a free country. They’re entitled to be wrong.

Knocking Yourself In

May 27, 2010

I’ve just invented a new stat, actually two. OK, I just heard that “Oh, God, not another one” groan. Bear with me here. I have high hopes for this one. Other people have gotten a lot of Benjamins off their stats. I hope to gain at least a couple of Abes off mine.

There’s been a lot of talk among baseball nuts about the RBI as an overrated stat, and I’ll admit that it can be such. But it also has value. So I started looking at the stat and remembered a lot of consternation back in the early 2000s when opposing teams would walk Barry Bonds with a man on base, thus cutting down on his chance to pick up an RBI (or two or more it he parked one). That led me to ask myself  “Self, I wonder how many of Bonds’ RBIs are himself (a homer) and how many are somebody else.” Self didn’t know, so I decided to look it up and in doing so came up with the following stats (drum roll,please). The first is RBI’s-not self (RBI-NS–catchy, right). Basically you take the player’s home runs and subtract them from his RBI’s giving you RBI-NS (remember, when the lawsuit comes, you heard this here first). For Bonds, as our example, you get 1996 minus 762 for a total of 1234 (honest to God) total men Bonds drove in who were already on base when he came to bat. 

The second stat is, and you knew this was coming,  percentage of RBI’s that are not self (%RBI-NS–equally catchy, right?). This is figured by dividing the RBI-NS number by the total number of RBIs. In Bonds’ case that’s 1234 divided by 1996 for a 62% total (rounded). That means 62% of Bonds’ RBIs are men already on base.

I think these stats have some value because they do let you know how much the team contributed to a player’s RBI total. They also give you some new ways to compare players directly (of course they don’t account for things like high scoring eras or park effects). And finally, I think they are fun to note.

So here’s a look at some of the totals as of 25 May 2010 (for active players). I took every player with 500 home runs and the next four down (Lou Gehrig, Fred McGriff, Stan Musial, Willie Stargell) because I was curious about Gehrig and Musial. What I found was an almost numbing consistency. Of the 25 players with 500 or more homers, Mark McGwire has only 59% of his RBIs being someone other than himself (that’s the low). Of the same group, Eddie Murray has the highest percentage (74%) of his RBIs being someone other than himself. Everyone else is in the 15 point range between them. That’s not much of a swing. Pick a player, pick an era, pick a team, and you get pretty much the same numbers. Ruth? 68%. Aaron? 67%. Mantle? 64%. Ted Williams 72%. All darned close to each other. Of all the guys I tried, Musial had the highest percentage at 76%, with Gehrig next at 75%. Those kind of figure because each had a ton of RBIs and less home runs than the guys above them on the homer list, which should be expected. After all, the 500 home run guy with the highest percentage is Murray, the guy with the lowest home run total.

Now that I did all this (“You have to get out more,” I hear you say) I decided to look at a couple of Deadball Era players, Cobb and Wagner. Of course each has a ton of RBIs and almost no home runs. Cobb’s %RBI-NS is 94%. So is Wagner’s. Then I did Cap Anson and got 95%. So this stat is skewed in the Deadball Era, but is still fun to look at.

Feel free to use it, (if you’re silly enough) to check on any player you want. Just send the $5.00 to me care of wordpress.

Greatness vs. Winning

March 10, 2010

Right after the Super Bowl there were all these comments to the effect that you couldn’t call the losing quarterback a true great of the game until he won and won a bunch of titles. That works in tennis, but football isn’t tennis. In tennis one player stands out there (unless you’re doing doubles) and takes on one other player. It works also in boxing where one heavyweight matches up one-on-one with another heayweight. But football isn’t boxing either. It’s a team sport and so is baseball.

You hear the same kind of comments about baseball. Barry Bonds wasn’t really very good, after all he never won one. Ernie Banks? Nice little player but he never got to a World Series, let alone won it. Again it’s a team sport and the last time I checked both Bonds and Banks played only one of the positions on the field and batted in only one of the positions in the lineup. If neither was successful in winning a World Series maybe part of the problem is that they had a bad year, but maybe it’s also that the guys around them weren’t good enough to propel a team to a championship. So lay off the stars, fellas, it’s not all their fault. I agree that a player’s primary purpose in a sport is to win. And that works in individual sport. But in a team sport like baseball you have to have a bunch of other guys around who can play a little bit or you’re going to put up great numbers and watch your team lose. Take a look at Jimmie Foxx in 1935. He leads the AL in home runs, slugging, has 118 runs, 185 hits and his A’s finish dead last 34 games out. In 1987 Andre Dawson wins the MVP with a great years an the Cubs finish dead last 18.5 games out and would have been third in the other division. You can put together a pretty decent team of players who never won a World Series. An infield of Willie McCovey, Rod Carew, Ernie Banks, and George Kell; an outfield of Ted Williams, Billy Williams, and Andre Dawson; a battery of Gabby Hartnett and Don Sutton is going to win a lot of games (they’re all in the Hall of Fame) but not one of them ever won a World Series (Sutton was on the 1988 Dodgers, but was gone before the Series). Does that make them a bunch of bums? Of course it doesn’t.

Besides if you base everything on winning a championship you end up with some startingly stupid conclusions. Did you know that Scott Brosius was a greater third baseman than both Mike Schmidt and George Brett combined? Well, he won three rings, and each of them only has one. So if winning makes greatness, he has to be greater. Bet you didn’t know that old timer Goose Goslin was a greater left fielder than either Bonds or Ted Williams. He has two rings. Their total? Zero. Paul O’Neill is greater than Hank Aaron four rings to one and Andy Pettitte is greater than Cy Young, Walter Johnson, and Lefty Grove combined five rings to four. And of course ultimately that makes Yogi Berra the greatest of all because he has 10 rings, more than anybody else.

Nonsense, you say. You’re right, it is nonsense. A player’s greatness has to be measured in conjunction with his team, but his play is only a part of the whole. Don’t confuse greatness with ultimate success if you’re dealing with a team sport.