Posts Tagged ‘Lee Smith’

Nine Thoughts on the Class of 2019

January 23, 2019

Roy Halladay

The voters have spoken in both the Veteran’s Committee (whatever they call it today) and among the writers. There are six new member of the Hall of Fame. In keeping with my traditional use of nine, here’s a few thoughts on the class of 2019.

1. Congratulations to Harold Baines, Edgar Martinez, Roy Halladay, Mike Mussina, Mariano Rivera, and Lee Smith on their election to Cooperstown.

2. I’m gratified to see someone finally get all the votes in the BBWAA election. I’m certain Mariano Rivera shouldn’t have been the first (see, Ruth, Babe; Aaron, Henry), but I’m happy someone finally made it.

3. Mike Mussina came as close as you can to failing enshrinement. That’s a shame, he was a terrific pitcher who, like Sandy Koufax, quit when he seemed to still have plenty in the tank. I’d have liked to see more of him, but he made the decision he felt best for himself. So far, he doesn’t have the same glow as Koufax (as a pitcher who went out on top).

4. Harold Baines still is an awful choice, but I hope he, his family, and his fans enjoy the induction ceremony.

5. Both Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds failed inclusion again. They each got around 60% of the vote (actually 59.5 and 59.1). Clemens turned out to receive two more votes than Bonds. I’m not sure how you justify voting for one and not the other and I do not expect the 2 guys who did to explain it.

6. Which leads to the question, are they ever getting in? There are too many variables for me to make a valid prediction, but my guess (and that’s all it is) is that both will either make it in their 10th and final try so that the writers can say they punished them as long as the could, or that the writers will kick the can down the road and let the Veteran’s Committee make the call. That call will, of course, depend on who the preliminary committee puts on the ballot. That action should tell us what the keepers of the keys to the cathedral think of Clemens and Bonds.

7. Curt Shilling came closest to getting in of all the people not chosen. He’s moving steadily up and has three years remaining on the ballot. I think that bodes well for his election. Listen, I don’t think much of his politics, and I’d hate for him to espouse them at a Cooperstown ceremony, but enshrinement should be based on his career, not his politics.

8. Larry Walker has one year left on the ballot and made a major jump this time. Maybe he makes it in 2020.

9. Fred McGriff missed out for the 10th and final time. Look for him to appear on the next ballot for which he is eligible. With the support he got this time, there’s a good chance he gets in (see Smith, Lee).

 

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The Ending of Another Season: 2018

December 31, 2018

Shohei Ohtani

Most years I do an end of season post in nine points (because there are nine innings) with some random thoughts on the just completed year. Here it is for 2018:

1. Congratulations to the Boston Red Sox. Between 2001 and 2018 Boston has four World Championships. Between 1901 and 1918, the BoSox won five. I can’t help but wonder if they have one more in them or if they’ll follow-up the 2018 run the same way they did the 1918 run. After losing in 1919, they let Babe Ruth go. If they fail to win in 1919, watch to see if Mookie Betts is traded.

2. Speaking of Betts. He had a heck of an 2018 and seems poised to continue at the highest level for some time. I’m not a particular fan of his, but I like to see good players excel.

3. The Dodgers lost the World Series for the second consecutive year. Dave Roberts played all the percentages again and the Bums blew it again. Improvise, Dave, just once, will ya.

4. I got to watch the Angels a couple of times this year. Mike Trout is terrific and Albert Pujols used to be terrific. I wonder if the Angels might consider dropping him to sixth or so in the lineup. He’s no longer a three or four hole hitter. It’s a shame that the newer fans don’t get to see just how good Pujols was at his height.

5. And while we’re on getting to see stuff, it’s getting increasingly difficult to actually watch a game. They’re getting longer and longer and getting to be more and more the same. Lots of home runs, lots of strikeouts, and a mind numbing number of pitchers. I’ve come to the conclusion that the average Major League right-handed pitcher can’t throw a ball to a left-handed hitter and that lefties can’t throw to a right-hander. I wonder how someone who can’t get out a hitter who swings from the opposite side of the plate managed to make the big leagues. I keep waiting for a 25 man roster that includes four infielders, three outfielders, two catchers, and 16 pitchers. Is it just me, or do all the things designed to speed up the game end up slowing it down? It’s probably me. It usually is.

6. How much you want to bet that Christian Yelich is happy to be out of South Florida? Now the question becomes is 2018 a fluke for him?

7. Congratulations are also in order for Vladimir Guerrero, Trevor Hoffman, Chipper Jones, Jack Morris, Alan Trammell, and Jim Thome for making the Hall of Fame as the class of 2018.

8. Harold Baines made the Hall of Fame, along with Lee Smith. Does anyone on the 2019 Veteran’s Committee know how to read a stat sheet?

9. Shohei Ohtani did the best Babe Ruth impression since the Babe himself. Let’s see how that holds up.

That’s a bit of a look at the 2018 season. Now on to 2019 and we’ll see if MLB notices it’s the 150th anniversary of the 1869 Cincinnati Red Stockings, the so-called First Professional Baseball Team and if they bother to note it’s the 100th anniversary of the Black Sox Scandal. Don’t hold your breath waiting for either.

Stumbles

December 10, 2018

Lee Smith while with St. Louis

The latest iteration of the Veteran’s Committee just completed its voting for the Hall of Fame. We have two winners and a very close. Congratulations are in order for Lee Smith who was a unanimous selection for the Hall and for Harold Baines who made it in with the minimum vote. Lou Piniella missed enshrinement by a single vote.

How do I feel about this? I’ve come to the conclusion that the Veteran’s Committee stumbled again. It’s not like Lee Smith is a terrible choice. As a reliever he was good at his job, having at one time held the saves record. It seems “saves” are the one number that people fixate on when it comes to relievers and if you held the record, you had to be pretty good at your job. I recall that earlier I predicated Smith would get in, but I also noted he would not get my vote (as if he cares what I think). Over his years on the ballot, he managed to peak around 50% of the voting. So I ask myself if the Hall of Fame is strengthened by the addition of Lee Smith. Probably not, at least not significantly. Is it weakened? Maybe, but again probably not significantly. There are a lot worse players in the Hall of Fame.

Among those is Harold Baines. Baines was a good, solid player who at one time held the White Sox record for hits (I don’t know if he still does) and hit .289 with 384 home runs, 1628 RBIs, and 38.7 WAR, with a WAR peak of 4.3 in 1984 (the only time he was above 3.5–he had one 3.4). That 38.7 ties him with Juan Gonzalez and Magglio Ordonez, both of which should, apparently, start composing their Hall of Fame induction speeches (Yuck). At least Gonzalez won a couple of home run titles and was a two-time MVP. Baines managed to stay on the writer’s ballot less than 10 years and peaked around 6% of the vote. Asking the same question, “does the election of Harold Baines strengthen the Hall of Fame?” I get the feeling it doesn’t. Does it weaken the Hall, again, probably not, because there are worse players in the Hall of Fame now, but it doesn’t help.

Frankly, I’d have been much happier had the Baines/Piniella vote been reversed. Lou Piniella was a good player (although I’ll admit Baines was better), but he was also a fine manager. It seems the Veteran’s Committee stumbled again.

Thoughts on the 2018 Modern Game Ballot

November 14, 2018

Albert Belle and bat

A couple of days ago I posted the names from the Modern Game Veteran’s Committee ballot. I promised to make some comments later. Knowing how much you were dying to read them, I decided to carry out that promise.

The first two thoughts are both sides of the same issue. It wouldn’t hurt me if any one of the listed players (Harold Baines, Albert Belle, Will Clark, Joe Carter, Orel Hershiser, Lee Smith) made the Hall of Fame. It also wouldn’t make me jump for joy. It’s not a bad list. It also isn’t an inspiring one.

I look at Baines and Carter as solid players, excellent contributors to their teams and to the game, but I can say that about hundreds of players. Belle was a superior power hitter, arguably the most feared slugger in the game. Clark was a good and sometimes great players who helped his team. So did both pitchers. And so did a lot of other players.

For the managers (Davey Johnson, Charlie Manuel, Lou Piniella) my problem lies in the fact that their are other managers equally qualified for the Hall of Fame (Danny Murtaugh and Jim Leyland come to mind). All three have rings and both Johnson and Piniella also have rings as players (two in Piniella’s case). But as I read the rules the committee is allowed to consider only their managerial record.

Which brings me to George Steinbrenner, the only executive on the list. He was probably the most controversial man in baseball for much of his career as owner of the New York Yankees. Some of the controversy was overblown, much justified, much of his own making. He was abrasive, overbearing, and dedicated to winning. Apparently so was Sam Breadon of the Cardinals.

And much of my problem is that when I see this list, I see a hundred other players, fifty other managers, a dozen other executives and ask “why this list?” It seems to me if you have to ask why you probably don’t have a lot of genuine Hall of Famers on the list.

The Hall gives committee members five votes. This time I’ll use only one. I’ll hold my nose and vote for Steinbrenner. I think his contributions to the revival and continued excellence of the Yanks is both notable and worthy.

And as a guess, and it’s strictly a guess, I think the committee adds two new Hall of Famers: Steinbrenner and Smith.

The 2018 Modern Game Ballot is out

November 12, 2018

The latest iteration of the Veteran’s Committee has a ballot out. This time it’s the Modern Game Ballot which is supposed to look at very recent people. I’ll comment later, but here’s a look at the ballot without player/manager/executive commentary:

Players: Harold Baines, Albert Belle, Will Clark, Joe Carter, Orel Hershiser, Lee Smith

Managers: Davey Johnson, Charlie Manuel, Lou Piniella

Executive: George Steinbrenner

As a note, I presume from this that Marvin Miller is eligible for the ballot of the era just before this one. I am also informed (by the place where I found the list) that Johnson and Piniella are to be judged strictly on their managerial record, not their playing record.

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 Bad Century: Revival

May 15, 2012

Bob Dernier

After losing the 1945 World Series the Chicago Cubs went into a prolonged slump, a wander in the wilderness. It lasted 39 years (one less than Moses). For all that time, the Cubs were a team that produced really good players like Ernie Banks, Ron Santo, and Billy Williams, but continuously failed to advance to any kind of postseason. They were in contention a couple of times, most notably 1969, but failed, as usual, to pull off a victory. That finally changed in 1984.

The Cubs of 1984 were sometimes called the “Phillies West” because of a  major trade with Philadelphia that gave them just over half their starting lineup. They picked up all three outfielders from Philadelphia: Bob Dernier, Gary Mathews, and Keith Moreland (both Mathews and Moreland were part of the 1980 World Championship team) as well as the middle infield combination of shortstop Larry Bowa and second baseman and MVP Ryne Sandberg. Third baseman Ron Cey had also arrived from another team, this time the Dodgers, as did former Cardinal Leon Durham who held down first base. Only catcher Jody Davis had spent his entire big league career in Chicago. The pitching staff was put together the same way. Rick Sutcliffe came over early in the year from Cleveland (much the same way Hank Borowy had done in 1945, except Borowy came from New York) and won the National League Cy Young Award that season. Hall of Famer Dennis Eckersley, still a starter, was out of Boston, and Steve Trout had been across town with the White Sox. Warren Brusstar was part of the Phillies contingent and Scott Sanderson had been at Montreal. Even reliever Lee Smith was from St. Louis. But manager Jim Frey (also someone who’d come from another team, Kansas City) wielded all the trades and free agents and pick ups together so that they worked. The Cubs won 96 games, the NL East title and a had a date with the San Diego Padres for the NL crown. Even the first two games were in Wrigley Field. Things were so giddy that there was talk of activating Ernie Banks at the end of the season so he could sit in the dugout during the playoffs (they didn’t activate him, but he was allowed to sit in the dugout).

After two games it looked like the drought might be over. Chicago took game one 13-0 with Sutcliffe both pitching and contributing with one of five Cubs home runs. Game two ended 4-2 for Chicago, but the Cubs were in control from the beginning. All they had to do now was win one game in San Diego and the thirty-nine year World Series-less run would be over.

They lost game three 7-1, a game they’d led 1-0. Well, they still had two more chances. Then they made a major mistake; they decided to pitch to Steve Garvey. In a pivotal game four Garvey went 4 for 5 with five RBIs and a walk off home run as the Padres won 7-5. Which meant it all came down to game five.

Chicago got off to a three run lead when Durham popped a two-run home run in the first and Davis hit a solo shot in the second. San Diego got two of them back in the sixth on two singles, a walk to Garvey, and consecutive sacrifice flies. Then came the bottom of the seventh (the same inning as the later infamous “Bartman” game). With one out, Durham committed an error that tied up the game and from that point the pitching staff simply melted down (same as with the “Bartman” game). A single, a double, and an RBI hit by Garvey plated a total of four runs. The Cubs got two men on in the eighth and one in the ninth, but failed to score any of them. San Diego won 6-3 to secure a date with Detroit in the World Series, where the Tigers proceeded to dismantle them four games to one.

For Chicago it was a disappointment, but it was a critical turn around. After 39 years in the wilderness the Cubs had gotten to postseason. It’s now become a sporadic habit. After 39 non-playoff seasons, the Cubs have made the postseason with some frequency in the last 25 years. With the advent of a two-tier playoff system, they’ve even won a playoff series. It’s true they’ve never been back to the World Series and the Bad Century continues, but they’ve managed to move out of perpetual doldrums into occasional postseason play. For Chicago that’s a celebratory step up. And it’s the closest there is to a happy note on which to end this series.

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.