Posts Tagged ‘Jim Leyland’

Picking the Winners for the Latest Vet’s Committee

October 7, 2016

Well, we have the newest version of the Veteran’s Committee getting ready to make its call for the Hall of Fame (5 November). The ballot is posted below and I always make my choices for enshrinement. This year is no different, but the way I’m going at it is.

Let me start with the players (Baines, Belle, Clark, Hershiser, McGwire). It’s not like there’s a bad player there, but there’s not much to be excited about either. McGwire has the steroid issue, Hershiser is known for one season (and more like two months), Clark was great for a few years and got hurt, Belle was a monster (ask Fernando Vina about it) but also got hurt, and Baines may be the ultimate in compiling numbers over a long, long time. It’s not like any of them is exactly a bad choice, it’s just that none of them are an inspired choice. I wouldn’t be overly upset if any of them got in, and in Albert Belle’s case I’d certainly tell him I’m all for him if he asked (I very much value my continued good health), but then again if none of them got in, I wouldn’t be overly upset either. So I guess all that means I wouldn’t, as a member of the committee, vote for any of them.

The managers are quite a different story. I loved Lou Piniella. He had fire, he had savvy, he could win with weaker teams. Davey Johnson seemed to win when he had good teams and lose with weaker teams. Like Piniella he won it all once (in 1986, before the current committee’s beginning date of 1988) and went to the playoffs a lot. But I’m setting both aside because I think the people who set up the ballot made a huge blunder here. Where the heck is Jim Leyland? Like Piniella and Johnson he made the playoffs a bunch and won it all once (1997). He’s a three time manager of the year winner, as is Piniella (twice for Johnson). Of course I’ll admit his winning percentage is lower than either of the others, but he spent time making the Pirates a winner and had to put up with Loria at Miami and still won a World Series. I’m not about to vote for the other two without being able to at least consider Leyland.

For the executives I know I would vote for John Schuerholz. He built winning teams in both Atlanta and Kansas City. Granted the KC team already had Brett and Willie Wilson and many of the others, but Schuerholz added the players necessary to get to the 1985 championship. The other two, Bud Selig and George Steinbrenner have decent cases (and I expect Selig to make it in November), but I have a personal preference for one executive at a time, so Schuerholz gets my nod.

When I first thought about this list I got a call from my son. We spent time talking about a lot of things, including the Vet’s Committee vote. He had a suggestion, which I pass along to you. Currently there are 4 Veteran’s Committees. He suggested pushing it to five. Now hear me out before you scream too loud, “They already have four and you idiots want to jump to five?” His idea was that the four current committees confine themselves to players and that a new fifth committee meet periodically (the frequency can be determined) to vote strictly on non-players (managers, owners, executives, contributors, Negro Leagues, etc.). This would allow the current committees to concentrate more on players while the new committee did all the others. Frankly, I think it’s a decent idea. They’ll never do it because then the current committees would never elect a player. In all the time they had the three previous committees they elected two total players: Deacon White and Ron Santo. They did elect a handful of non-players and taking those away would require the committees to focus on players. Maybe they wouldn’t elect anyone and maybe they shouldn’t. Anyway I thought it an idea worth passing along.

Three Outs Make an Inning

October 14, 2012

A Little League field (not mine)

Last evening, Jose Valverde had a bad night. Actually he’s had a couple in a row and hasn’t been overly effective the entire season. What Jim Leyland does with him for the rest of the playoffs is unknown to me and last I checked Leyland wasn’t asking for my advice (Dump him, Jimmy). But I can empathize with Valverde. I’ve  had bad days too.

Way back when I was in Little League baseball, they played it a bit differently. OK, they still used bats and ball, but the way the leagues were put together was different. Once you were on a team, you were there as long as you were eligible to play at the age level. There was no switching teams every year. That was good if you were on a decent team, bad if you were with a bunch of losers. Also you had four years at a particular age level instead of the current two years. The levels where I grew up were 6 year olds played t-ball, 7-10 were the next level, and 11-14 were the old guys. Basically, you spent the first year on a team as a scrub unless you were very good, started getting significant playing time your second season, then did most of the starting your last two years. Me?  I could run and could catch most balls so I spent the first two seasons of the 11-14 league as the center fielder. Then it was over to first base for the final two years.

I was usually the leadoff hitter. I was quick enough, but mostly I had a good batting eye. I almost never struck out, had a good on base percentage (which is a stat I’d never heard about), and could swipe second and third with the best of them. We did well, coming in second or first all four years. But there was this one day I had my Valverde moment.

I was 12, we were the visitors, and I led off sure I could get on base against this kid who was pitching for the other team. We’d faced him before and I’d done well. I don’t remember the exact stat line, but I know I had hit off him. So up I came, Mr Confident. He tossed three balls right over the plate, I took one for a strike and swung and missed the other two. Out one. OK, it wasn’t a great way to start a game, but I would have other chances.

The problem was that for the next eight batters I was the only out. My teammates smoked the guy. We got six runs off him. So there were two men on base when I came up again. Here was the first of the other chances and by God, I wasn’t going to go down on strikes this time. So I swung at the first pitch, knocked it on a line right back to the pitcher for out number two. Fortunately the two guys on base were alert and neither was doubled up to end the inning.

Well, that was bad, but the inning was still alive. So my teammates teed off again, plating 8 more runs. With a runner on first, here I came again, your number one first class designated rally killer. The first pitch was a swinging strike. It was over for me. I took the next two, not really looking at them. So the inning ended with 14 runs, a ton of hits, a few walks, an error or two, and three outs by the leadoff hitter, me.

I ended up back in the dugout. I have no memory of actually walking over there, but my guess is I wasn’t carried. My coach? He was a genius. He immediately pulled me from the game. I was in such shock that I was of no use in either the field or at bat (at least the latter was sure). Odds are I would have stood in center field in utter shock and let God knows how many balls go over my head, to my left, or to my right without even moving. So I sat in the dugout for the rest of the game not really paying attention (we won on a mercy rule in four innings, I think). I was absolutely and completely sure that my world had just ended.

I got over it. We had a good season (finishing second), I continued to leadoff and never again made two, let alone three, outs in the same inning for the rest of the season. And more importantly, it didn’t hurt me. I grew up, got married to a wonderful woman, had a son, have grandchildren, and have frankly had a pretty successful life, even if I did make all three outs in one inning.

By the time my son started Little League they had changed the rule, limiting each team to a maximum of five runs per inning (it was a local rule, not a  Little League sanctioned rule) which meant you could have a maximum of 10 batters an inning (five runs, three men on, two outs or four runs, three men on, three outs). That meant out of nine batters no one could make more than two outs in an inning. I used my three outs in one inning to remind players that they couldn’t, no matter how hard they tried, do worse in an inning than I did. It seemed to help some of them. It certainly got a few good giggles.

So if you’re ever coaching Little League (or managing Jose Valverde in the Majors) and one of your players screw up royally, feel free to use my story. Maybe it’ll help some kid. At least it should get you some laughs.