Posts Tagged ‘David Ortiz’

Padding Time

June 19, 2018

Way back when I was a little kid, my grandfather, who was by trade a tenant farmer, got a job as a gravedigger. It was far enough back that you still used a shovel to dig the grave. He worked on an hourly wage scale, but sometimes they had to work overtime. They didn’t have overtime wages at the cemetery where he put in his time, so if the crew had to work late the owners would allow them to take a day off when their overtime hours reached eight. So, of course, if there was a grave to be dug late in the day, they’d move a little slower and manage to go an hour over. The crew called it “padding time.”

Baseball has that, sort of. One of the all-time greats, Albert Pujols, is doing “padding time” now. He’s a shadow of his former all-star self. He’s still a decent player, but nothing like what we saw 10 years ago when he was the greatest first baseman I’d ever seen. Right now he’s simply “padding” his career stats and moving up the list on a lot of statistical charts. Currently he’s tied with Jimmie Foxx for 22nd in runs scored, 27th in hits (less than 20 from Rod Carew), 11th in doubles (three from David Ortiz), seventh in home runs all of four behind Ken Griffey, within shouting distance of Lou Gehrig and sixth on the RBI list (and Barry Bonds is only one RB beyond Gehrig), and eighth in total bases (a long way from Pete Rose in seventh).

Now that’s not a knock on Pujols. He’s a great player who is the “padding time” mode and it’s not the first time a player’s done that. Rose, to some extent, did it when trying to pass Ty Cobb in hits.  There’s nothing either immoral or illegal about it and it’s well within baseball’s acceptable traditions.

But it comes with a built-in problem. There are a lot of fans, most of them in California, who will know and remember Pujols only as a nice ball player and not recall the wonderful athlete that became arguably the second greatest St. Louis Cardinals player ever (behind Stan Musial). And that’s a shame. It’s not Pujols fault so much as it’s the fault of the fans, but nonetheless it is bound to happen.

I think that part of the aura that surrounds players like Ted Williams and Sandy Koufax is that there is no “padding time” for either of them, or at least not much with Williams. He’d been falling off for a few years, but there was no collapse into mediocrity for “Teddy Ballgame” and the last homer in the last at bat is the stuff of legends. For Koufax, there’s no long slow decline as his curve doesn’t and is fastball isn’t. For those who saw both and can watch the film of both, there’s no watching a great become a former great. Barry Sanders is like that in football, as is Jim Brown.

It’s kind of painful to watch, but I wouldn’t trade getting to see Pujols, even at half the player he was, perform.

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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.

Cooking the Stats

September 13, 2015

Let me start by offering congratulations to David Ortiz for his 500th home run. It’s quite an achievement. In the history of Major League Baseball 26 other men have done it out of the thousands who’ve played. Last night ESPN kept running a note across the bottom of the screen reminding us he’d done it. They also kept telling us that he joined Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle, and Reggie Jackson as the only 500 home run hitters with three World Series championships. And it’s that I want to deconstruct.

It’s true as far as it goes, but it’s another case of ESPN cherry-picking stats. Others do it too (heck, I’ve done it) but ESPN seems to take great delight in doing it. I got an idea, ESPN, let’s change just one number, just a little. How’s about guys with 500 home runs and four championships? Geez, that leaves Ruth, Mantle, and Jackson, doesn’t it? Better idea, how about guys with 500 home runs and five championships? Same list as four, right? Want to stretch it out to six? That leaves out Reggie. And seven? How about eight? At eight we lose everybody because both Ruth and Mantle have seven.

Or we could move the home run number a little. How about 525? That leaves out Ortiz. 550? Now we’re down to Ruth and Jackson. 600? Just the Babe. And if we add another qualifier, say batting .300, then again it’s just the Babe.

My point is that Ortiz has just accomplished a great feat and to me it gets somewhat diluted by making these kinds of artificial comparisons. Celebrate the feat, guys. Congrats, Papi.

A Year’s End 9 Inning Celebration

December 31, 2013

So the year is ending, is it? Well, good riddance to bad rubbish. In many ways 2013 was a lousy year. The weather, the politics, the expenses, my wife broke a leg (which is now healed fine). But baseball provided some good moments. Here, in honor of nine innings and in no particular order, are some moments, both good and bad, that I remember.

1. The Dodgers made the playoffs and promptly hashed it. If you’re a Dodgers fan like me, this is a good sign.

2. The Miguel Cabrera/Mike Trout controversy stayed around. Isn’t it great that there are two players this quality in the Major Leagues today so we can debate the meaning of greatness?

3. Biogenesis. Who ever heard of them? I wish the whole PED issue would just go away, but I know it won’t.

4. Mariano Rivera did finally go away. That’s the wrong kind of going away. Never a Yankees fan, but it was a joy to watch Rivera perform. He was good, he had class, he had style. Name five other players you can say all that about.

5. The Red Sox won the World Series. OK, I’m not a BoSox fan either, but they’re a good team, a good organization, and David Ortiz is one heck of a hitter.

6. Clayton Kershaw proved why it’s now alright to mention his name in the same breath as you mention Sandy Koufax’s.

7. Albert Pujols proved mortal again. I hope it’s not the end of the line for the finest first baseman I ever saw.

8. Mike Matheny got his Cardinals to the World Series. Finally he can begin to move out from under Tony LaRussa’s shadow.

9. The Hall of Fame put in Deacon White and Jacob Ruppert, both of which I’d been pushing for, but left out everybody else except an ump and three managers. Are you kidding?

Hopefully, you have your own list of nine. These are mine. May you have a better 2014 than you had a 2013.

Some Thoughts on the 2013 World Series

November 4, 2013

A few random thoughts in no particular order:

1. Congrats to the Red Sox.

2. Both teams had the best record in their league so we finally got to see the two best, not two hottest, teams play each other.

3, Can we knock off with this dynasty stuff? Three wins in 10 years, none of them consecutive, doesn’t make for a dynasty. If you think it does, then the Cards are also a dynasty having two wins in six years (2006 and 2011). It’s a nice team, but not a dynasty.

4. It wasn’t a particularly well-played Series. Lots of errors and bone head plays.

5. Isn’t it interesting that David Ortiz is finally getting his due. The other victories (although Ortiz was instrumental in 2004’s ALCS) seemed to hold up other players as the rock of the Red Sox. There was Schilling, there was Ramirez, there was Damon and Pedroia. There was always someone other than Ortiz getting the most credit for the victories (again leaving aside the 2004 ALCS). Now finally Ortiz gets to step front and center. Having just said all that, I still don’t consider him a Hall of Famer at this point.

6. It will be interesting to see how both teams do in the offseason. The Cards have to decide on Beltran and find out if Chris Carpenter can still pitch. The BoSox have to figure out what to do with Drew and Ellsbury. Wouldn’t it be interesting to see St. Louis go after both? Ellsbury leading off in St. Louis (with current leadoff man Carpenter hitting 2nd) would add a new dimension to the Cards lineup and Drew hits better than Kozma. I have no idea where Ellsbury will go, if anywhere, but Detroit could certainly use an infusion of speed in that lineup. Frankly, I think the loss of Ellsbury and Drew will hurt Boston more than losing Beltran will hurt St. Louis. But then maybe all of them will stay where they are. These things are impossible to predict (Heck, maybe my Dodgers will end up with a couple of them).

7. Finally, I don’t expect to see a repeat next year.

A Dozen Things You Should Know About Walter Johnson

July 21, 2011

The Big Train

Presuming that most fans know something about the true greats of the game, I like to do this simple numbered format to point up things about top rung players. It beats delving into long paragraphs about things you already know. So going from obscurity to the antithesis of same, here’s a list of things you ought to know about Walter Johnson:

1. He was born in Kansas in 1887, moved to California with his parents, and ended up in Idaho where he pitched Minor League ball.

2. The “Big Train” was signed in July 1907 at age nineteen by the Washington Senators.

3. He wasn’t an instant success. He went 32-48 in his first three seasons. He did, however, have 395 strikeouts in 663 innings.

4. He hit his stride in 1910, going 25-17 with an ERA of 1.26 and 313 strikeouts (almost doubling his “K” total in one season). His ERA+ for the season was 183, and it was to get even better.

5. In 1912 and 1913 he won over 30 games each season, leading the American League in the latter year. He was to lead the AL in wins five more seasons, the last time in 1924.

6. He won strikeout titles every year from 1912 through 1919, then again in 1921, 1923, and 1924. He won the pitching triple crown (wins, ERA, strikeouts) in 1913, 1918, and 1924. The latter year he was 36 years old.

7. The Senators won two pennants while he pitched (1924 and 1925), winning one World Series (’24). Johnson went 3-3 with a 2.56 ERA and 35 strikeouts over 50 innings. He is one of only two Senators/Twins pitchers to win a road game in the World Series (George Mogridge is the other–see an earlier post).

8. When he retired he had 3509 strikeouts, 705 more than the second place pitcher (Cy Young). The record stood until 1983. He’s currently ninth. No hitter currently ranked in the top 96 in batter strikeouts faced Johnson. Babe Ruth, at 97th, has the highest strikeout total of any hitter who faced Johnson (Ruth’s highest single season total was 93 in 1923). Johnson compiled his strikeout total against players who didn’t regularly strikeout 150 times a season. Jimmie Foxx, whose rookie year was 1925, is next among hitters Johnson faced at 104th on the list (12 strikeouts ahead of David Ortiz).

9. Johnson retired after the 1927 season with 417 wins, 279 losses, an ERA of 2.17, a winning percentage of .599, the 3509 strikeouts mentioned above, 1363 walks, a record 110 shutouts, two MVP awards (1913 Chalmers Award and 1924 MVP), and an ERA+ of 147, fifth all-time, and third to Pedro Martinez and Lefty Grove among starters who pitched from 60’6″ (Reliever Mariano Rivera and 19th Century starter Jim Devlin are also both ahead of Johnson).

10. After his retirement he managed the Senators, didn’t do very well, managed the Indians (also without much success), did some announcing on the radio in 1939, and was in the initial class of the Hall of Fame.

11. He got into politics a little after his retirement (What? Playing for the Senators wasn’t punishment enough?). He was a county commissioner in Maryland and ran twice for Congress, losing both. He died in 1946 and is buried in Maryland.

12. In 1969’s Centennial of Professional Baseball voting, he was chosen both the greatest right handed pitcher ever and the greatest Senators player.

Best of a Decade

January 1, 2010

Yesterday I commented on a variety of the top baseball things of the 200’s. Today I give you my all-decade team. These are my choices for best of the decade. One proviso, no one tainted by the steroids scandal can make the team, so no Bonds, no Sosa, no Palmeiro, no Clemens, no Rodriguez. I’m making no judgement on guilt or innocence, but exclude the player until such time as we can determine if his numbers are bogus. If they aren’t, I’ll be glad to change the list, but until then, here they are. The outfielders are designated A, B, and C. The order is alphabetical and nothing else should be construed from the order.

1b-Albert Pujols. This may have been the easiest choice of all. Maybe the greatest First Baseman I’ve ever seen and I can go back to Gil Hodges and company. It’s been a great era for First Basemen and Pujols is clearly the best.

2b-Chase Utley. It’s not been a great era for Second Basemen, but Utley is the best of the lot. He’s a good fielder and a first rate hitter with some speed and power. He does have a tendency to tail off a bit at the end of a season and gets hurt a lot.

ss-Derek Jeter. Yankees captain and sparkplug. Not as good as some people seem to think (he is not the second coming of Honus Wagner) but still one heck of a shortstop. Seems to be on the downside of his career, but still putting up excellent offensive numbers. He may be next to 3000 hits.

3b-Chipper Jones. The Braves seem to want to move him to the outfield but always end up putting him back at third. Good bat, but now in the decline phase of his career.

Outfield A-Torii Hunter. Superb centerfielder. Also a good hitter. Seems to be a positive influence in the clubhouse.

Outfield B-Manny Ramirez. I get a little tired of his act and I cringe when the ball is hit his way, but wow can he hit the ball. World Series MVP and major contributor to breaking an 80 years plus championship drought in Boston.

Outfield C-Ichiro Suzuki. An absolute hitting machine. Most hits in one season, speedy, good fielder, helped make Japanese players more acceptable to US audiences. Between US and Japan he may end up with 4000 hits.

Catcher-Joe Mauer. May become the greatest hitting catcher ever. Certainly already among the best. Also a fine defensive backstop. Has 3 batting titles (no catcher has more and only 1 has as many as 2) and an MVP.

DH-David Ortiz. Dominent DH for much of the decade. Lots of power, little speed, not much of a fielder, but crucial to Boston winning in 2004 (when he was league championship MVP) and in 2007. Seems to be deeply on the downside of his career.

Pitcher-Randy Johnson. I saw Spahn, Koufax and Carlton so it’s tough to call him the greatest left hander I ever saw, but he is very, very good. Three Cy Young Awards in the decade, one World Series win and the MVP to go with it, and lots and lots of wins and strikeouts. He’s through now and I hope he hangs it up (I’ll get to see him in Cooperstown quicker).

Closer-Mariano Rivera. The best postseason closer ever, although he botched game 7 of the 2001 World Series and 2 chances to close out the 2004 AL championship. Still he’s just better than anyone else, and he’s not bad in the regular season either.

There they are, team. So who’d I forget?

End of a Decade

December 31, 2009

Today marks the end of the decade whose first three numbers are 200. A lot of people are doing their all-decade this and that. Who am I to go against the tide? So here’s my choice for baseball’s all-decade whatever.

Story of the decade: Has to be the steroid issue. It has tainted the statistics, the record book, awards, and the Hall of Fame voting. Frankly I don’t trust much of anything that happened in the first few years of the decade.

Franchise of the decade: I was tempted to go with the Yankees, who won 2 World Series’ and lost another, but finally decided to go with the Red Sox. They won 2 World Series’, completed an improbable comeback in 2004, and in general took a franchise that hadn’t won in 80 years and picked up multiple rings.

Player of the decade: Albert Pujols easy. No steroid taint (at least not yet, PLEASE GOD), great numbers, a ring, and one of the greatest home runs I ever saw (sorry, Brad Lidge). An honorable mention here to Joe Mauer who may end up the greatest hitting catcher ever. We’ll have to watch that closely.

Pitcher of the decade: Mariano Rivera. What he did in the late 90’s he’s continued to do for this decade. His team didn’t win as often, but as a rule that wasn’t his fault. An honorable mention here also is in order. This time to Curt Schilling. Better pitchers in the decade, but his influence on the winning Red Sox should be noted (and he had a heck of a 2001 World Series).

World Series of the decade: Speaking of the 2001 World Series, it gets my vote as the best of the decade. Several great games including the three in New York and a memorable game 7. One of the few times Rivera failed.

Playoff series of the decade: 2004 American League championship. Down 3 games to none, the Red Sox roar back to win the series 4 games to three. That had never happened before. What a great series and what a great showcase for David Ortiz.

Cinderella of the decade: 2008 Tampa Bay Rays. Came out of absolutely no where to get to the World Series. Would have been a better story if they’d won, but still a nice tale for the grandchildren years from now.

Bonehead of the decade: The tied All Star game. YUCK!!! Then they compound it by making an exhibition game determine home field for the World Series. Incredible.

Footnote player of the decade: Wasn’t sure what to call this, but it’s basically a hymn to those players you love to watch, but know aren’t really going to be anything but a footnote in baseball history. For me it’s David Eckstein. Love the guy’s intensity, his grit, his resolve. His winning the MVP for the 2006 World Series was an all-decade highlight for me.

Hall of Fame vote of the decade: Putting in a whole boatload of Negro League players at once. Great of baseball to finally recognize the depth of quality play in the Negro Leagues beyond just the most famous names and to finally recognize the executives that made the Negro Leagues work. It also gave the Hall of Fame its first female member in Effa Manley.

Manager of the decade: Terry Francona who wins 2 World Series’.