Posts Tagged ‘Hideo Nomo’

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.

The Set Up Man

July 30, 2012

I can think of few people in baseball that get less credit for what they do on the field than the set up men. No one knows who they are. For a long while there was no stat exclusive for them. Now we have the hold. It’s not much of a stat, but it’s better than nothing. In the upcoming couple of Hall of Fame votes there are, as I mentioned in the Hideo Nomo post below, a couple of people I will be interested to see exactly how they do. One was obviously Nomo, this is about the other, a set up man.

Mike Stanton

Mike Stanton was a premier set up and one batter lefty (like Paul Assenmacher,as another example) for a lot of years. He came up in 1989 with the Braves and stayed around into 2007 with Cincinnati. Along the way he won three of five World Series in which he appeared. For his career he was 68-63 with a 3.92 ERA. He walked 420 men, struck out 895, and gave up 1086 hits in 1114 innings pitched. His WHIP was 1.352 with an ERA+ of 112 and 84 saves. In 1993 he had 27 saves in his only full season as a closer.

As with Nomo, there’s no real number to hang your argument for the Hall of Fame on, is there? Well, the 112 ERA+ is pretty good, but there are a lot better. His WHIP isn’t bad, but again there are a lot better. What Stanton did, was keep his team in games. He served as the bridge between the starter and the closer and he did it pretty well. It was, and as pointed out above, still is a fairly thankless job (from a fan point of view, not from the dugout point of view). Stanton did it well but in doing so never was in a position to put up the eye-popping numbers that grab fans and writers attention and make him a household name. And without that recognition he’s doomed to never make it into Cooperstown.

Ultimately that’s probably fair. I stated in the Nomo post that I wouldn’t vote for Nomo for Cooperstown despite the good things I said about him. The same is true for Stanton. But I’d like to see him hang around on the Hall of Fame ballot for a while, just so we can get a chance to remember him and look over his numbers. Maybe that will help give fans a sense of how important he was to winning teams.

The Pioneer

July 27, 2012

It’s early, about six months early, to talk about the next Hall of Fame voting, but it will be one of the more interesting votes in a long time. Most of the verbage and ink will be about the steroid guys and what to do with them. But I want to concentrate on two other men, two men who have little chance of ever being elected to the Hall of Fame. Two men that I think should get a good look before leaving the ballot, because they represent two modern trends in baseball that are now commonplace. Here’s my argument for one of them.

Hideo Nomo at the top of his windup

Hideo Nomo won’t appear on the ballot until the next year. His last game was in 2008, but it’s still a good time to discuss him. His numbers are as follows: 123 wins, 4.24 ERA, 1918 strikeouts and 908 walks in 1976 innings pitched, a WHIP of 1.354, ERA+ of 97 and a no-hitter. He was also the National League Rookie of the Year. Not exactly Hall of Fame numbers, right? I concur, but let me make two points about Nomo.

First, he got to the major leagues at age 26 after a successful stint in Japan. In Japan he was very good. It got him his tryout in the US and he made the most of it. I didn’t look too hard for his Japanese numbers because even if I found them, I have no idea how to interpret them. Is an MLB win equivalent to three wins in Japan, or is it two, or maybe four? I don’t know. How do 1918 strikeouts in the US compare to his strikeout total in Japan. Again, I don’t know. Is Japanese baseball more or less equal to Major League baseball or is it Triple A or Double A? As long as there is no criteria for comparison it’s useless to worry about Nomo’s numbers in Japan. And I don’t think it’s fair to say “Well, let’s look at other Japanese players and see how they did” because they’ve been a very mixed bag. Some have been great (like Suzuki), others like Hideki Matsui have been superior, and still others like Hideki Irabu have been busts. That’s true of non-Japanese players too. But there is universal agreement that Nomo was very good in Japan and that 26 is late to start a Major League career. So maybe his numbers would be better if he’d come up through a Major League system. We’ll never know.

And second, I think his impact on the game is much greater than his numbers. Without trying to compare him to Jackie Robinson directly (Robinson was a much better player) Nomo holds much the same status in Japan as Robinson does here. Without Nomo the influx of East Asian players (Japan, Korea, Taiwan) simply isn’t possible.   I’m old enough to remember Masanori Murakami with San Francisco in the 1960s (I think I heard him pitch once on the radio), but that was the sum total of Japanese players in the Majors until Nomo arrived. Now there are dozens of them and Nomo’s success is a major reason. He showed American owners, players, and fans that Japanese players were good enough to compete at the highest level.

I think he should be remembered for that. He opened up Major League baseball to entire group of new players and somehow he ought to be commemorated. Is he a Hall of Fame member? Despite what I just wrote, I wouldn’t vote for him, but I’d love to see Cooperstown put up some sort of exhibit that included him and acknowledged his importance. Until they do, I’d like to see him hang on the Hall of Fame ballot.