Posts Tagged ‘Don Mattingly’

Modern Era Ballot: Everyday Players

November 22, 2017


Part two of my look at the latest Veteran’s Committee effort. This time the Everyday Players.

Let me begin by reminding you which everyday players are on the list: Steve Garvey, Don Mattingly, Dale Murphy, Dave Parker, Ted Simmons, Alan Trammell.

Garvey is most famous for all his years with the Dodgers as a first baseman. He won an MVP, two All Star game MVP Awards, was twice the NLCS MVP, and led the Dodgers to the World Series three times, winning one, and the Padres to a single Series (losing it). He holds the NL record for consecutive games played, hit .294, and has 2599 hits (What? He couldn’t have hung on for one more hit?).

Mattingly was the Yankees first baseman for much of the 1980s and 1990s. He won a single MVP Award, had his number retired by the Yanks, tied the record for consecutive games with a home run, holds the record for most consecutive games with a hit (not part of the home run record), holds the record for grand slam homers in a season (since tied), and has managed both the Dodgers and the Marlins.

Murphy is a two-time MVP while playing outfield for the Braves. Originally a catcher, he made a successful transition to the outfield. He ended his career with 398 home runs and 1266 RBIs. He was, according to his Wikipedia page, elected to the World Humanitarian Hall of Fame (had never heard of it).

No one ever was going to elect Parker to a Humanitarian Hall of Fame. He also won an MVP Award while with Pittsburgh along with a World Series championship. He later served as the designated hitter for the “Bash Brothers” Oakland A’s team of the late 1980s and early 1990s, winning another championship. He also won two batting titles and an RBI crown. He was also suspended for drug use.

Simmons was one of the first power hitting catchers, following the likes of Yogi Berra and Roy Campanella. He was miscast as a catcher and eventually ended up a designated hitter in the AL after starting his career in St. Louis. At the end of his career he also played first base with Atlanta. He ended up with 248 home runs, 1389 RBIs, and a .285 average.

Trammell was a superior shortstop for the Tigers. He led them to the World Series title in 1984 (against Garvey’s Padres), winning the Series MVP. He was second in the MVP race in 1987. A lot of people thought he should have won. Later he managed the Tigers, producing no winning seasons.

Those are short notes about each player highlighting some of their career, and post playing baseball activities. Not a bad player in the lot. In fact it the committee picked all of them I wouldn’t be sorry. Having said that, each has distinct problems that have kept them out of the Hall.

With four votes left on my mythical ballot I can’t pick ’em all, so I’ll take three: Trammell, Simmons, and Mattingly. To the others: better luck next time, fellas.

Pitchers next.


Modern Era Ballot Released

November 10, 2017

The latest iteration of the Veteran’s Committee for the Hall of Fame just released the ballot for the “Modern Era” Committee (that’s the most recent retirees). Here they are in the order that shows up on the Hall of Fame website (it’s alphabetical):

Steve Garvey

Tommy John

Don Mattingly

Marvin Miller

Jack Morris

Dale Murphy

Dave Parker

Ted Simmons

Luis Tiant

Alan Trammell

Committee members will vote in December and are allowed to vote for up to five people.

Commentary to follow.


Thoughts on the Class of 2015

January 7, 2015

Yesterday the Hall of Fame chose Craig Biggio, Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, and John Smoltz for enshrinement. It’s being touted as the largest class chosen by the writers since 1955 and one of the largest ever. Here are some thoughts on the election.

1. Nothing in the world wrong with the four candidates elected. All have solid cases for enshrinement and I’m glad to see each get in.

2. Mike Piazza was the candidate who came closest to election without getting a plaque. I’m not quite sure what to do with Piazza. I personally think he’s Hall worthy, but I understand that many of the writers are worried about PED issues. Apparently less are worried each year and less are worried than are worried about either Clemens or Bonds. Writers seem not to know what to do about catchers. Of all catchers currently in the Hall only Johnny Bench is a first vote member. That means that Yogi Berra, Yogi Berra for God’s sake, isn’t a first ballot Hall of Famer. Neither is Roy Campanella, nor is Carlton Fisk, nor Gary Carter. And I suppose I can probably push that out all the way to Joe Mauer (who I think will make it). I’m not certain why this is true. My guess is that catchers put up smaller numbers than players at other positions and no one’s quite sure how you quantify catching stats, so there’s a certain reluctance to add them to the Hall of Fame. That’s also a guess on my part.

3. Staying with Piazza a moment, it looks like he will become the test case for PEDs. If he gets in, and so far his trajectory is toward election, then we’re going to have to face the issue head on. Because if he says, after he’s in (not after he’s elected, but after the ceremony makes it official) that “Yeah, I used the stuff,” then they can’t throw him out and they can’t say “No PED users in the Hall” because they’ve already got one. That will force the door open for the others. In all that I don’t mean to imply that I know or believe that Piazza was a PED user, merely that there is doubt in some minds.

4. I don’t understand the Bonds/Clemens votes. If you think PED use is not a disqualifier for the Hall of Fame, surely you believe they have the numbers for election. If you think PED use is a  disqualifier surely you don’t vote for either. I’m not quite sure why they ended up with different vote totals (206 for Clemens and 202 for Bonds). Did four voters actually think Clemens should get in and Bonds not? I guess so. And I further guess that the BBWAA is very unpredictable. BTW, I note that my “strategic voting” idea from last year (“How the heck did someone not vote for Maddux?”) is now being gloried in by some of the voters. I take full credit. 🙂

5. On a personal level in my post on my ballot I voted for 10. Seven of them ended up being the top seven vote getters. The other three all received enough votes to remain on the ballot.

6. That’s not quite true. It was the 15th and last chance for Don Mattingly. He didn’t get in and now must wait for the Vet’s Committee. Alan Trammell (who I chose) faces the same situation next year with Lee Smith and Mark McGwire (who I didn’t select) one year later. Smith has benefit of the 15 year rule, while McGwire does not.

7. Of the first timers on the ballot, Gary Sheffield and Nomar Garciaparra were the only one’s who got enough votes to stay alive for next year (and Garciaparra did it by only 0.5% of the vote). It doesn’t bode well for either in subsequent years, but I’m glad each stayed alive so we can take another year to review their cases for election. Right now I’m inclined to pass on Sheffield and I frankly don’t know what to do with Garciaparra.

8. Now on to 2016 and the arrival of Ken Griffey on the ballot. Also available next year will be Trevor Hoffman, Jim Edmonds, Mike Lowell, and David Eckstein. I don’t expect much support for either Lowell or Eckstein, but will be most interested to see how Edmonds does.

9. Finally, again congratulations to this year’s new Hall of Famers. Enjoy the moment, guys.


Changing the Hall Vote

July 28, 2014

On this, the 100th Anniversary of the opening of World War I, I note that the Hall of Fame just announced that it is changing the voting for election to the Hall. I was going to do something akin to what I did for 28 June, but decided to go another way.

Currently players receiving a minimum vote can remain on the Hall ballot for 15 years. Beginning with the next election that will change to a maximum of 10 years. As I seem to be on a Hall of Fame kick anyway, here’s some thoughts on the change.

1. I’m glad to see they’ve grandfathered in Don Mattingly, Lee Smith, and Alan Trammel. They are the only people currently on the ballot who have been there for more than 10 years. I think if you’ve passed the 10 year limit and were expecting to get 15, you should get the 15.

2. I wonder how much it will affect guys who are close to 10, but not there yet. Tim Raines now has three years left, not eight. I’ll be interested to see if his vote total, and others like him, takes a significant jump based on writers who weren’t voting for him (or others)  on the idea that they had plenty of time left to get inducted.

3. I like the change that makes the list of voters public. I wish they’d gone a step further and forced the ballot to become public.

4. Making the writers sign a pledge to do their own voting rather than foist if off on others (Hello, Dan LeBetard) is also a good idea. I just wish they’d cut out some of the deadwood writers who haven’t covered baseball in eons.

5. It will make it certain that a decision on the PED boys will occur quicker. Mark McGwire now has two years left, not seven. Sosa has eight, not 13. Ditto for guys like Clemens and Bonds. It will be interesting to see if any of them takes a sudden jump in vote totals because of this. On a personal note, my best guess here is that the writers will kick them down the road to the Veteran’s Committees and let them make the hard choices.

6. They still didn’t change the 10 person vote limit. A writer still only gets 10 votes per ballot.

Would be interested to hear other comments on the changes, either in comments below or on your own blog. If you do comment on your own blog, be sure to let me know.

And finally, congrats to the newest inductees.


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.


2014 Hall of Fame Picks

December 3, 2013
Edgar Martinez

Edgar Martinez

After taking some time to digest the new Hall of Fame ballot for 2014, it’s time to share with my adoring public (that would be you, team) my choices for enshrinement in Cooperstown. Remember, each voter is allowed to pick ten candidates, but may pick less. It’s a dumb rule because sometimes (not very often) there’s more than 10 good candidates, but it’s the rule. Believing that if they’re going to give me 10 votes, I’m going to take them. Here’s my list of 10. the new guys first.

Greg Maddux: If you have to ask why, you haven’t been paying attention.

Tom Glavine: see comment on Maddux above.

Frank Thomas: I’m tempted to make the same comment I just made on the two pitchers, but there’s more to Thomas that should be said. He was a leader in the fight against steroids, even trying to put together a voluntary anti-steroid testing. It failed, but it was a good effort. I think he played enough first base that his subsequent years as a designated hitter won’t be held against him. Besides, in this year of Auburn miracles (Thomas played tight end at Auburn) shouldn’t a former Auburn Tiger get in? 🙂

Jeff Bagwell:  Best 1st baseman in the last 25 years not named Pujols. Apparently worries about steroids have hurt him.

Craig Biggio: Got the 3000 hits that seems to be an automatic entry into Cooperstown. Played three positions (second base, catcher, and center field) and did credibly at all three. There seems to be no steroid questions about him. His team got to a number of playoffs without winning a championship. He did OK in some of the playoff series, not so good in others.

Mike Piazza: Best hitting catcher of the last 25 years, maybe ever (if you’re looking strictly at hitting). It’s his catching that is in question. He was considered sub par, but did lead his league in both putouts and assists a couple of times (and also in errors and passed balls). There are steroid questions about him, but no allegations that have been even vaguely substantiated. That makes him something of a poster boy for the whole steroid question. Did he or didn’t he?  I don’t know, but I’m guessing no. That makes this a vulnerable choice if he gets in and it’s later proved he took them.

Edgar Martinez: The ultimate DH. The knock is always that he didn’t do anything but hit. Well, neither did Ted Williams or any number of other marginal outfielders like Rickey Henderson. Got hung up in the Mariners minor league system (and you wonder why they don’t win) and came up somewhat late. Hit for average and for power. Before his legs gave out, he was getting better in the field, but was never going to be first-rate at third.

Don Mattingly: Over at “The On Deck Circle” website, Bill Miller makes an excellent case for Mattingly. Let me suggest you read it (see the blogroll at the right of this page for a link). I want to add one thing only to it. I’ve been concerned that Alan Trammell’s failure as Detroit manager has inhibited his chances for the Hall of Fame because it’s the last thing most of the writers saw him do. That’s a shame. By the same logic, Mattingly’s recent success with LA should not be used as a reason to add him to Cooperstown.

Jack  Morris: Big time pitcher from the 1980s and 1990s. I’ve  supported him for years and am not about to change my mind when it’s his last hurrah on the ballot.

Larry Walker: Gets knocked for his time in Coors Field , but was a great outfielder with a tremendous arm wherever he played. He hit well in Montreal in the early part of his career. Won an MVP while in Colorado. He hit better in Denver (who doesn’t?) but maintained good average and power numbers in visiting ballparks.

All of this brings me to the part of this year’s voting that I hate. I have to leave off a number of quality players that I might otherwise vote for enshrinement in Cooperstown. I think it’s a shame to leave out Tim Raines, Fred McGriff, Mike Mussina, Curt Schilling, Alan Trammell, and Jeff Kent, but I only get 10 votes (what an absurd rule). Maybe next year, fellas.

Which leads me to the man I don’t know what to do with: Hideo Nomo. I want to make a very fine distinction here. I believe Nomo is a Hall of Famer. I do not believe he is a Hall of Fame quality pitcher. He was a good pitcher, a solid pitcher. He won the Rookie of the Year award. He has a perfect game. He was good, just not great. So I cannot see putting him into Cooperstown as a player. But as a contributor to the game he is extremely important. Without him Ichiro Suzuki does not win an MVP or a Rookie of the Year award. Hedeki Matsui does not become a World Series MVP. Yu Darvish does not become one of the most feared pitchers in the American League. Without Nomo blazing the trail no Japanese player is going to get a chance to shine in the Major Leagues. And I  suppose it’s fair to add players from Korea and Taiwan to that list. Nomo is for East Asian players, in a very real sense, the equivalent of Jackie Robinson for black American players or Roberto Clemente for dark Latin players. He simply wasn’t as good a player as either Robinson or Clemente. It becomes, simply, a question of great player versus important player. I hope that Cooperstown will find some way to create a special ballot so Nomo can be acknowledged as the most important Japanese player in the history of Major League Baseball. But I won’t hold my breath waiting.


2013 Awards: Managers

September 30, 2013
Babe Ruth with Giants manager John McGraw

Babe Ruth with Giants manager John McGraw

Although there’s still a game left in the regular season (and isn’t it strange that the “play-in” game counts as regular season so that two sets of players get an extra game to pad their stats?) it’s time for me to begin my annual look at the upcoming awards season. As usual, I’m giving you two picks for each award: who I think will win and who I would vote for if I had a vote (sometimes it’s the same guy). I’ll drop these in over the next several weeks (not four posts in a row). This time it’s Manager of the Year.

National League: I think this is essentially a two-man race. In late June the Dodgers were dead in the water and in September they clinched their division title with a great 50 game run. Don Mattingly will (and should) get credit for a lot of that.  On the other hand, the Pirates hadn’t produced a winning season in 20 years. Manager Clint Hurdle led them not only to a winning season but to a playoff spot. I think Mattingly, because it’s a prime franchise, will garner several votes, but I expect Hurdle to win the award. I know I’d vote for him.

American League: The AL is much more wide open. I think there are six candidates that can pick up votes. Joe Maddon at Tampa and Bob Melvin at Oakland did great jobs with teams that were supposed to do well, but don’t really have great stars (quick name two Athletics not named Donaldson). Joe Girardi at New York was supposed to do well, but his team was wretched. But I expect him to garner some votes because the problem was injuries not mismanagement. Considering all the Yankees injuries having this team in a playoff hunt with a week to go was damned good work.  Did you know that the last time Kansas City had a winning record was 2003 and that the time before that was 1993? Ned Yost led the team to a winning record in 2013 (what is it with the Royals and seasons ending in 3?). That should get him a some votes (I’d put him third). But I think the real race will come down to the men at Boston and Cleveland. Last year Boston lost 93 games and this season John Farrell led them to the best record in the AL. A year after a second consecutive third place finish, Boston let Terry Francona, the only Boston manager to win a World Series in the lively ball era, go. After a year in the broadcast booth, this year he took Cleveland, which lost 94 games last season, to the playoffs. Boston still had a number of quality players from the last few years while Cleveland had nothing last year and very little this year. I think the glitz that is Boston will get Farrell the manager award, but I’d vote for Francona.

Other awards to follow as the muse directs.


Voting for the Hall, 2013 Version

November 30, 2012

With the new Hall of Fame ballot finally official, it’s time to weigh in on who should make the pilgrimage to Cooperstown for enshrinement. The official rules allow a voter to pick up to 10 candidates. Believing that you should vote as many times as they’ll let you, I always take all 10 votes. Sometimes there aren’t really 10 guys I think should be in, but I like to take the time to acknowledge a particular favorite, or to try to insure that a player remains on the ballot for another year so that he gets a better look the next time. I know that’s not the way the vote is supposed to go, but I still like doing it that way. I’ll get to them in a minute, but I want to comment on two other aspects of Hall voting first.

The Steroids issue clouds this entire ballot and will do so for some time. On a personal level I would never vote for someone I was sure or heavily suspected had used the damned things. I know others disagree, but that’s my position. So it means that guys like Barry Bonds (Mark McGwire, etc.) would never appear on my ballot, unless I could be convinced that the steroid allegations were wrong. Much of the defense of these guys comes down to the “character clause” in the Hall of Fame criteria. The argument seems to go something like this, “There are  con men, and thugs in the Hall so what’s a little steroids among players?” The problem is that it is different. Being a con man or a thug doesn’t impact the way the game is played in the same way that steroids do. If Ty Cobb  was a thug (and I have no problem agreeing with those who say he was) it didn’t change how he hit the ball or how he ran the bases. If Hack Wilson was an alcoholic (and he probably was) it meant that he was out of the game early because he could no longer perform. Steroids do the exact opposite of alcohol in that they prolong a career artificially. And frankly if you know your baseball history (and I presume that if you read this site, you do) then you know the “character clause” was put in place to keep out the likes of Joe Jackson, whose actions materially harmed the game, not some slug of a human being who could hit anything. From its beginning the clause was meant to deal directly with what was going on during games, not with what a player was doing off the field. In that sense, it’s very poorly worded. And I’m aware this argument isn’t the most clearly worded paragraph I ever wrote, but this is more of an emotional issue than it is a rational issue.

Another problem I have with the Hall vote is who votes. You ever meet one of these guys? Some of them are great guys, some are jerks. In other words they are about like most people. And like most people they know very little about the history of the game. They may know one team, but seldom know the others well. Sure they can read a boxscore, but we all know that it doesn’t really give you more than a cursory feel for what went on. Further, it’s “writers” who do the voting, not “media” types. Bob Costas doesn’t get a vote. Neither does Vin Scully. You think they don’t know as much about the game as the “writers”?  Sure they do, but they are excluded from voting. I’d like to see the voting system changed. I’ve suggested before the SABR guys do the job, but I’m not sur they aren’t so steeped in stats that they can’t see the non-statistical aspects of the game.  I saw on ESPN some guy (forget who) suggest that the writers (expanded to include electronic media also) pick 10 players off the ballot, then a committee of experts vote on who gets in (the NFL does something close to that) with a minimum number of people having to be  chosen. I think there are holes in the plan (like a minimum number having to be elected) but it’s worth a close look. To me the big problem is deciding who is and who isn’t an “expert” (I’m absolutely sure I and my readers are. So maybe we should be the group.).

So there’s my soap box. Below are my picks for this year. I know you’ve been dying to find them out, so here they are (alphabetically). Feel free to disagree with any of them (or with the two points above). It’s a free internet and you have the right to be wrong.

1. Jeff Bagwell–In my opinion, Bagwell is the best 1st baseman of the last 25 years who is eligible for the Hall (Pujols isn’t yet). His numbers are good enough to make it. I’m going to leave it at that because Bill Miller at “The On Deck Circle” makes a case for Bagwell on his blog (see blogroll at right) and I’m not going to be  able to top Bill’s commentary.

2. Craig Biggio–I always thought that Bill James had it wrong by making Biggio the best player of his era, but not by much. He was a good hitter, got the magic 3000 hits, could play the outfield, second base, catch, and do all of them well. He helped his team to a number of playoff spots, but they never won a ring. I don’t hold that against him.

3. Edgar Martinez–Enough already with the “he’s only a  DH”. How many really great hitting/fielding combinations are there in the Hall? Do you think Ozzie Smith is in because he could hit or that Ted Williams is in for his ability to field the Green Monster? Guys who could do only one thing well are all over the Hall of Fame. Paul Molitor is in and he was primarily a DH. Martinez was a superb hitter, had power,  and got hung up in the Mariners minor league system (no wonder they seldom win). Once he got to the Majors, he could hit anything.

4. Don Mattingly–Was always a favorite of mine. He hit well, played a good enough first base, and was a team leader. His career is short (as are a lot of Cooperstown inductees) but much of it was superior. It’s enough for a Dodgers fan to support a Yankees player (forget where he now manages) for the Hall, but Mattingly gets my vote.

5. Jack Morris–One of the best “money” pitchers I ever saw. He’s going to get a lot of support for his 1991 World Series performance, but he was better than just one game. He led three teams to the World Series (Detroit, Minnesota, Toronto) and each won. He pitched well in two (not the Toronto victory). He is the victim of one of the more convoluted arguments in Hall of Fame voting. The same people who claim he shouldn’t be in because of his high ERA are many of the same people who tell us that ERA is an overrated stat (Make up your minds, folks).

6. Mike Piazza–Best hitting catcher I ever saw, which is tough for a Roy Campanella fan to say. The knock on him is that he wasn’t much of a catcher. Well, he led the league in putouts, assists, errors, passed balls. Quite a mixed bag. As he aged he became known as a good handler of pitchers, especially as young hurlers. I’m not sure how true that was, because it seems to be said of a lot of aging catchers. Whether true or not, he gets onto my ballot for his hitting.

7. Curt Schilling–Two words: bloody sock. OK, there’s more. He was an ace (or co-ace) on three World Series winners, won a lot of games, struck out a ton of batters, and was one of the leading anti-steroids spokesmen. He is, however, something of  a loud mouth. Put a (bloody) sock in it, Curt.

8. Tim Raines–Will someone please explain to the writers that Raines was a great player?

9. Alan Trammell–Overlooked and underappreciated. I wonder how much his disastrous managing stint in Detroit hurts his chances?

10. Larry Walker–I don’t want to hear about Coors Field. He played wonderfully in Montreal, hit well in any park, and had a cannon masquerading as an arm.

So that’s my list. I really miss not being able to vote for Kenny Lofton, Julio Franco, Jeff Conine, and Bernie Williams. I’m not sure any of them belong in Cooperstown, but all meet one of the two categories I mentioned in my first paragraph. Maybe next year, fellas.


Random Thoughts for the Midpoint of the 2012 Season

June 13, 2012

As I will be gone for the period leading up to the Fourth of July, I decided to post my midseason thoughts a little early, realizing that they may be out of date by the Fourth.

1. The American League East is starting to come around to what we expected. Tampa and New York are in first, Toronto is falling back. The strange teams are Baltimore and Boston. Did you really think Baltimore would be only one game out this late in the season or that Boston would be last? Both fooled me. Of course if you think about it Buck Showalter is a heck of a manager and the Red Sox are really starting to age. So maybe I shouldn’t have been fooled.

2. Whatever happened to Detroit? Weren’t they supposed to run away with the AL Central and then pummel the opposition in the playoffs? There are three aspects to baseball: offense, defense, and pitching. Someone forgot to tell Detroit you had to be able to catch and throw the ball. Oops. I’m not surprised by what’s happened to the Twins, but I’m saddened. They traditionally do more with less than anyone else and it’s finally caught up to them. Joe Mauer has his average back above .300, but the power seems to be gone. He’s 29 and that’s getting into the age range where catchers start imploding. And Justin Morneau seems to suffer a power drought also, although his average has begun climbing in the last month. Even Ron Gardenhire, a really good manager, isn’t going to get this team into contention.

3. So Albert Pujols was a bust was he? OK, he’s no longer Superman, but he’s not Clark Kent either. It looks like he’ll keep the Angels in contention and maybe get them to either a division title or a wildcard. Can Texas be stopped? Maybe. They remind me a lot of the 1950s-1960s Yankees. The ’50s-’60s Yankees had a series of good enough pitchers who could hold the other team down until the hitters simply bashed the opposition to death. Sound like the Rangers? The difference is that Texas has no Whitey Ford and I don’t know how much that will hurt them when the season draws down. Right now, Josh Hamilton is my MVP.

4. Does anyone understand what’s going on in the National League East? I’m not surprised that Philly is in trouble. Other than their pitching they weren’t all that strong anyway. The team is aging and Chase Utley can’t stay healthy. Hunter Pence isn’t going to be able to carry them and Jim Thome is apparently through (although I’d like to see him catch Sosa on the home run list). It seems the Mets have peaked (sorry, Bill) but maybe I’m wrong on that. I say that because I’m not really sold on either Washington or Atlanta so it’s possible the Mets will come back to win the division. If either they or the Nationals do, it will be one of the season’s great stories. And R. A. Dickey, my current Cy Young favorite is another great story for 2012. I’m not certain a knuckleballer can maintain the pace Dickey is setting.

5. OK, tell me you had Pittsburgh. Sure you did. Me too. I think the Pirates will fall back, but maybe they’ll finally finish over .500 this season (and I’ve got this great bridge in Brooklyn that I’ll let you have for a song). I still think the Cardinals take it, but Cincinnati might prove me wrong. Geez, is Joey Votto having a great season. I guess he’s my MVP right now, but then Lance Berkman was my MVP midway through last season.

6. The Dodgers are in first. Read that again. The Dodgers are in first. See what happens when you get rid of Frank McCourt and his wife. Maybe Magic Johnson is really “magic”. Actually it’s a really weak division and Arizona was a fluke last season. Maybe San Francisco can catch LA (please, God, anybody but the Giants) but they’ve still got to learn to hit. I’ve never been a particular fan of Tim Lincecum, but I’d hate to think he’s through already. So right now, is Don Mattingly manager of the year?

7. As of now my choice for biggest surprise of the year is LA and Detroit gets the nod as the biggest disappointment.

8. There used to be a saying that whoever was in first on the Fourth of July would win the pennant. As we’ve gotten more and more playoffs that saying has gone the way of the dinosaur. My guess is that about half the teams currently in first will win the division and maybe one or two others will get a wildcard. Don’t ask which because I don’t have a clue.


Some Thoughts on the Hall of Fame Vote

January 10, 2012

In no particular order, a few comments on the recently concluded Hall of Fame voting.

1. Congratulations to both Barry Larkin and Ron Santo. I have no problem with either making it to Cooperstown. I just wish Santo had still been alive to appreciate the moment.

2. It seems conventional wisdom was right. Of the new guys on the list, only Bernie Williams managed to hang on until next year with a whopping 10% of the vote. That doesn’t bode well for him next year when a bunch of heavy hitters show up on the ballot.

3. Doomsday for Jack Morris. I know he has 2 years left on the ballot, but next year is the first of the big guns from the late 1990s and early 2000s and he’s going to get lost in the shuffle. And in 2014 Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine are on the ballot. Morris has no chance of getting in over them and the writers almost never elect 3 or more candidates.

4. No love for Edgar Martinez again. I don’t think the DH is the best idea since canned beer or the worst since Disco either, so we have to live with the fact it exists. The idea that a one-dimensional player has no place in the Hall of Fame begs the question what are Ted Williams, Ozzie Smith, Bill Mazeroski, and almost every pitcher who ever made it doing there? They all did one thing really well. If Maz doesn’t turn the double play better than anyone ever, does he get it? If Smith isn’t a great fielder is he getting in on his hitting? If Williams doesn’t hit a ton, is he getting in?  Martinez also did one thing well.

5. As more and more relievers pile up more and more saves, Lee Smith’s chances for the Hall dim.

6. I still wonder what will happen to Don Mattingly’s chances if the Dodgers start doing well. Will a successful stint as a manager help his chances for Cooperstown? I think failure in the dugout has hurt Alan Trammel.

7. Saw that Juan Gonzalez fell off the ballot. That does not bode well for big hitters with steroid allegations. Although Gonzalez was the weakest of the crew in question, once you start dropping one of the off, it becomes easier to drop the others. It will be interesting to see how that translates to the next few years.

And now a couple of questions about the next couple of years.

1. Will the revulsion about steroids lead to a backlash that puts in non-steroid users (or at least people who have no current taint of use) who might otherwise have to wait a while before election? I’m wondering here about Curt Shilling specifically.

2. Will Nomo be afforded Jackie Robinson-like status in 2014?  He didn’t have nearly the career Robinson had, but his impact for Asian players is as great.

3. Will Mike Stanton survive the 2013 ballot? Set up men get no glory and little press. Stanton is one of the best ever. How will that translate to votes for the Hall? Frankly, I don’t think he’ll do very well.