Tag Archives: Cooperstown

Shocker! When Baseball Legends Have to Beg!

30 Dec

The Baseball Hall of Fame voting process sucks.  We all know that.

Somehow Alan Trammell will never get a sniff of Cooperstown while Ozzie Smith makes it in on the first ballot.  Yet, for a good part of their careers, many a GM would’ve gladly traded light hitting Ozzie for a shortstop like Trammell who (for his time) was a slugger at the position and not a horrible fielder.

I’ve always wondered why athletes tend to avoid talking up their own hall of fame-worthiness beyond clichés like “I know what I did” or “if God wants me in” or “my numbers stack up against my contemporaries”.  And now I know why.

Bert Blyleven, who I’ve been back and forth on myself until recently, is now an online columnist for NBC Sports.  Either he or his employers decided it would be a good idea for him to do a column touting his worthiness.

Here’s the link:

Bert did a good job trying to stay classy and he makes some good points, but somehow it just feels like a wrong move.  An understandable one given the idiotic way baseball voters evaluate who is or isn’t a Hall of Famer, but still wrong.

What Blyleven should have done was let others do his dirty work.  Here’s a link to a recent Joe Posnanski column that convinced me once and for all that Blyleven is in fact a Hall of Famer:

If I were Blyleven, I’d have my fan club president print out the Posnanski column, laminate it (do people still do that?) and send it off to every Hall of Fame voter along with a nice gift.

Read Posnanski’s column and I dare you to make a compelling case that Bert doesn’t belong in the Hall of Fame.

Besides, he’s my second favorite Burt/Bert of the 70s.  He’s just below Burt Reynolds and just above the Baltimore Colts’ Bert Jones.  

See full size image

For that, he surely deserves to be forgiven for not getting 13 more wins to make his Cooperstown case air tight.

Is This The Last Great Season For Derek Jeter?

19 Sep

Derek Jeter

Enjoy it now, Yankee fans.  This will be Derek Jeter’s last great season.

Growing up a non-Yankee fan in the New York area, nothing has grated at me more over the years than the intensity of the man crush that typical Yankee fans have on Derek Jeter.  It reminds me of those old SNL skits about the Chicago Bears fans who think that  “Da Bears” and Mike Dikta can do anything.  

Jeter can do no wrong in the eyes of love struck Yankee fans.  And the annoying thing to a Yankee hater like me is that on or off the field, it often seems true although to be fair he has at times failed in the clutch.

I’m a bit of a contrarian and nothing scares me more than group think, so I’ve had a hard time accepting the fact that Jeter is a such a special player to begin with.  For years I thought that he was an OK fielding, good hitting shortstop who won the career lottery by being able to play in New York.  And for years, I’ve patiently waited for Jeter’s inevitable decline.

Yes, Yankee fans, even Derek Jeter will tail off due to the passage of time.  He can’t play (at least at a high level) forever.

This season, Jeter is 35 and having a terrific year.  Annoyed by this, the only course of action available  to me was to tell myself that this HAD to be his last great year.

So, I started by taking a look at Hall of Fame shortstops.  It was then that I realized that there simply weren’t many who were comparable to Jeter, at least as a hitter.  For many years, baseball simply didn’t demand offense from the position.  Sure, you have Honus Wagner and some other all time greats from the very early days of the game who have huge offensive stats, but I didn’t feel like that was a fair comparison.

The three relatively modern players who seemed closest to Jeter as hitters were Ernie Banks, Robin Yount, and Cal Ripken.  Banks hit over 500 homers and clearly had way more power than Jeter or the rest.  Yount won two MVPs compared to none so far for Jeter.  And Ripken, we’ll it’s the streak that printed his ticket to Cooperstown, of course.

Feeling that Banks might not be the fairest of comparisons, I also decided to take a look at Barry Larkin.   Larkin played short as a fixture for the Reds for many years and has career numbers within shouting distance of Jeter.  Larkin may even end up in the Hall some day keeping Ripken and co company.

So let’s take a look at Jeter’s possible future by seeing what Banks, Yount, Ripken and Larkin managed to do at bat after hitting the age of 35.

As I noted earlier, Banks isn’t the best comparison.  For one, he had way more power than Jeter, but more significantly he stopped playing shortstop at 30.  From ages 33-36, Ernie Banks was still pretty much Ernie Banks as a hitter.  But at 37, he hit a wall.  He still had his power.  Hitting 32 homers as a 37 year old and 23 the next year, but his batting average took a dive.  His highest average from age 37 on was .253, which is about 20 points lower than his career average.  Banks finished out his career in 1971 getting in only 39 games as a 40 year old.  The year before, he’d played in 72 games.

Moving on to Yount, who I initially thought might be a better comparison to Jeter than Banks.  Only, it turns out Robin Yount was done at shortstop at age 28 despite winning an MVP at the position in 1982.  What jumped out at me about Yount, is that the two time MVP was out of the game at 37.  Jeter’s just two years from being 37.  For Yount, 1989 was his last great year.  He was 33 and it was the last of four straight .300 seasons.  At 34, Robin Yount dipped to .247 and never hit higher than .264 afterwards.

So what about Ripken?  The iron man’s last great season came in 1996 at the age of 35, which was also his last year at short.  Ripken hit 26 home runs while driving in 102 and batting .278.  Those may not seem like amazing numbers now, but from a historical prospective that’s a lot of offense from a presumably steroid-free shortstop.  In the next two years that followed, the games played streak went on, but in Ripken’s last three years he couldn’t stay on the field.  From age 38 to 40, he played 86, 53 and 128 games in each season.  Clearly, Ripken’s age had broken down the iron man.

Finally, we go to Barry Larkin.  Larkin may be the fairest comparison of all.  Larkin played only shortstop, like Jeter.  And like Derek Jeter presumable, Larkin only played for one club his entire career, the Cincinnati Reds.  Larkin’s last truly great year was in 2000 at the age of 36.  He batted .313 in the 102 games he played in.  The next year he played in 45 games.  At the age of 38 he played in 145.  In the final two years of his career while his batting average was within shouting distance of his career average, he played in only 70 and 111 games.  He was done at 40.

So, what conclusions can we draw?  A few, I think. 

First, Derek Jeter is a pretty unique guy.  Not even some of the contemporary greats like Banks, Yount and Ripken managed to last at shortstop as long as he has.  Derek Jeter belongs in the Hall of Fame. 

Second, Barry Larkin is way more like Derek Jeter than I realized.  Imagine if he’d played in New York…

Third, as you get older it gets tougher to stay on the field.  Yount was done at 37.  The others all went on way beyond that.  Banks, Ripken and Larkin were able to post respectable numbers into their late thirties.  But, all three of them missed significant time.

So, here’s the conclusion.  Each year that goes by, it gets tougher for Derek Jeter to produce another great year.  His numbers  might not decline, but he may find that he’s not able to stay on the field.

I’m not wishing ill on Derek Jeter.  I’ve come to respect him for his accomplishments on the field and (now that I’m a dad) for being a role model off the field.  But, the simple truth is this is very likely Derek Jeter’s last great season.  So, whether you’re a Yankee fan or not, take time to enjoy Jeter now.

Sandberg Says Sosa Shouldn’t Go To Hall of Fame! But, Why Is Sandberg In The Hall??

24 Jun

Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg said in a recent sports radio interview that Sammy Sosa shouldn’t make the Hall of Fame due to Sosa’s use of performance enhancing drugs.  Sandberg made the point that baseball’s Hall  lists integrity as one of the voting criteria for election to Cooperstown.  Rightly, Sandberg feels that Sosa and others like him who cheated the game should not be rewarded with sporting immortality.

I could not agree more with Ryne Sandberg.  It was brave of him to say it.  I’m glad he said it.

Then, I got to thinking.  Why exactly is Ryne Sandberg in the Hall of Fame?

In parts of 16 seasons, Sandberg hit 282 home runs with 1,061 RBI, a .285 batting average and a .344 on base percentage.  Not horrible by any stretch.  In addition, he managed to win about 30 Gold Gloves.

Still, a lot of guys had offensive stats like him and didn’t make the Hall anywhere as easily as Ryno.  And some worked at much tougher positions that Sandberg.

Sandberg contemporary Lou Whitaker played second for Detroit for 19 seasons.  He didn’t win an MVP like Sandberg, but he did win a Rookie of The Year Award and won a World Series unlike Sandberg.  Whitaker hit 244 homers, knocked in 1,084 runs, batted .276 with a .363 on base percentage.  Whitaker didn’t win the 300 Gold Gloves that Sandberg managed to win in just 16 seasons, but he did win three as well as four Silver Sluggers as the AL’s second basemen with the most pop in his bat.

It’s no slam dunk that Whitaker has a better Hall case than Sandberg, but they’re clearly in the same range.  Yet, Sandberg got in relatively easily and Whitaker has never gotten a serious sniff from Cooperstown.

And you don’t have to go much further.  Take a look at Whitaker’s double play partner all those years in Detroit.  Alan Trammell’s stats include 185 homers, 1,003 RBI, .285 and .352.  And this was all in an era in which shortstops didn’t need to contribute much to the offense.  Yet, Trammell’s vote total seems to decline every year and didn’t start out with much Cooperstown support to begin with.

We all know Joe Torre as a future Hall of Famer due largely to his managerial success with the Yankees.  Yet, Torre’s stats as a player don’t look all that much different than Sandberg’s.  18 seasons, 252, 1185, .297 and .365.  Torre has never threatened to enter the Hall as a player.

Frankly, Sandberg’s career stats don’t even dwarf Ray Durham, who in 14 seasons put up 192, 875 along with a .277 batting average and .352 OBP.  Ray Durham was a respectable major leaguer but he’s rarely confused with a baseball immortal.  So, why are even his stats within shouting distance of Sandberg’s?

I guess there’s a few answers for that one.  Seems to me that Sandberg was undeniably talented.  He won a lot of gold gloves and was beloved in Chicago.  His really good years were on a different level than most of the other guys on this list and that helped his legend grow.  The one MVP year didn’t hurt him at all either.

It’s not that Sandberg wasn’t a good player.  He was.  Chicago knows their baseball.  And again, he did pile up Gold Glove Awards year after year.

It’s that Sandberg’s prime if you really look at it was too short to have merited getting into the Hall so quickly.

On Sandberg’s page of baseballreference.com his page sponsor’s quote is that Ryno was the best Cub the sponsor ever saw. 

Guess he never saw Ron Santo, Ernie Banks, or Billy Williams to name just a few…  And by the way, Santo’s not in the Hall of Fame.

PS – here’s a link to Ryne Sandberg’s stat page:


What Tom Glavine & The Ayatollah Have In Common!

19 Jun






“It’s over, Johnny.”

I love that expression.  I’m sure it’s from a movie.  Which one?  Not a clue and I’m too lazy to use this Internet thing to look it up.  Regardless, “it’s over, Johnny” are words to live by.

Unfortunately, most people don’t.  The hardest thing to know is when to quit while you’re still ahead.  Everyone struggles with this.  Politicians/dictators and athletes are no exception.

Word today is that Tom Glavine won’t be pitching this year, but he’s not yet ready to retire.   Guess he’s trying out the full time dad thing first to see how much he likes it, which is fine.

Glavine’s had a great career.  I’ve referred to him previously here as perhaps the second best pitcher named Tom ever.  Two Cy Youngs, over 300 career W’s and consistency beyond belief are his calling cards to the Hall of Fame.

The last five or so years of Glavine’s career have not surprisingly NOT been among his greatest seasons.  The truth is Glavine hasn’t been the real Tom Glavine for a long time.  He’s still a serviceable major league pitcher, but the question is for how much longer?   He’s finally started to get hit with injuries and post 40 that’s a bad sign.

Glavine’s made millions.  He’s no longer the pitcher he was.  It’s his right to continue on as long as someone will let him play in the majors.  If he had any sense though, he’d hang them up now.  It’s not going to get better and if he thought the way the Braves shoved him aside was bad, wait til some other teams decide he’s got nothing left.  They’ll cut him so fast it will make his head spin.

Dictators, excuse me, supreme leaders like athletes can get an over-sized belief in themselves.  This is what happens when no one will say no to you.  We all need people to check us or we’d all slip into a little self-delusion.

Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is suffering from some delusion.  Amid all the recent street protests in Iran he gave a speech yesterday insisting the Iranian election was free from any irregularities.

Hmmmmm….  The vote was a massive land slide in the current president’s favor and yet thousands & thousands smell a rat and are taking huge risks to express their displeasure publicly.  Seems to me that the Ayatollah has a credibility problem.

Much of this he has brought on himself of course.  The supreme leader blessed the election results way too early and the result seemed beyond the bounds of common sense.  It seemed plausible that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad may have won the election, but a landslide?  Those two things tipped people off to the possibility of a fix, which in turn pissed people off.

While Tom Glavine is fighting an unwinnable battle against aging, the Ayatollah is fighting a couple of unwinnable battles of his own.  Khamenei is fighting a two front war and we remember how well that worked out for Hitler in WWII.

The Ayatollah is battling the march of technology.  For all their annoying qualities, things like Twitter & Facebook as well as the general presence of the Internet are proving very hard indeed to put down.  In time past, a society could be relatively closed.  With the advent of the Internet, we are all more connected than ever before.  There’s good and bad in this, of course.  In the case of the current situation of Iran, we’re seeing how the Internet can help people better their lives (hopefully).

The second front Khamenei and his boy Ahmadinejad face is the collective will of their people.  Sounds very Soviet-era, right?  Be that as it may, once a nation’s people get to the boiling point it’s very tough to fight against that.  Many a dictator and their repressive regimes have learned that the hard way.

Khamenei was unable to quash the concerns of the Iranian people about their election early on either through logic or force.  For a period of time, the protests will undoubtedly continue and perhaps grow.

Ultimately, the Ayatollah may survive politically.  But the genie is out of the bottle.  Iran may not face change immediately due to the protest movement, but rest assured it’s over for the current system.

It’s just a question of how much time it has left.

Both Tom Glavine and the Ayatollah would be wise to get out while they’re still ahead.

WTF Is Baseball Going To Do About The Hall Of Fame Now? I’ve Got The Answer! (You’re Welcome!)

8 Feb

Baseball has some problems.  It may not be the biggest of its many challenges, but perhaps baseball’s most intriguing  problem right now is its Hall of Fame situation and I’ve got the answer.

Let’s rewind.  Remember when Mark McGwire captured America’s fascination by hitting home runs by the bushel?  Eventually, he even broke Roger Maris’ all time one season home run record.  Not only did he break it, but he and Sammy Sosa engaged in a riveting chase that brought many back to baseball.  McGwire was a class act the whole way.  He was terrific to Maris’ family.  While they might not have wished for Roger’s mark to be overtaken, the Maris Family couldn’t have asked for anyone to be more sensitive to them while doing it.

McGwire was a clear Hall of Famer.  He broke one of the game’s most cherished records with class.  He was going to end up among the top five or so home run guys of all time.  There was no doubt at the time that Big Mac was going to Cooperstown on the first ballot.  And from what we knew at the time, he deserved it.

Of course, it didn’t last long.  Soon enough we figured out that Big Mac was a big cheat.  Suddenly his treatment of the Maris Family didn’t feel so good anymore.  Then, to seal his fate, he struck out in front of Congress.  He looked foolish and very guilty.  Since then, Big Mac has basically been in hiding.

Since then, Big Mac has been no where near Cooperstown either.  In the few elections that McGwire has been eligible for, Hall of Fame voters have given him precious little support.  Based on the numbers alone, he should be in.  Now that we know that some portion of those amazing stats are artificial, baseball’s keepers of Cooperstown seem determined to keep Mark McGwire out.

Barry Bonds is currently having troubles with the Feds, who seem determined to get to the bottom of his steroid usage.  While not yet convicted, you’d be hard pressed to find too many people now who don’t think Barry cheated.  With one year out of the game, Bonds has to wait at least another four years before being eligible for the Hall.  Given the cloud he’s under and the reaction to McGwire’s candidacy, it’s not looking good for Barry to go in on the first ballot (which his numbers would merit) or perhaps forever.

Today, comes the revelation that the game’s best current hitter, A-Rod, tested positive for steroids back when he played for the Rangers.

So, in the next decade or so, baseball will be faced with what to do with Mark McGwire who was the closest thing to Babe Ruth in our time, Sammy Sosa who hit over 600 home runs,  Barry Bonds who broke Aaron’s career mark and now Alex Rodriguez who may yet pass Bonds.

That’s a problem, people.  How do you keep McGwire out but someday elect Bonds or Alex Rodriguez?  How can you have a Hall of Fame that doesn’t include those guys?  Who were truly the best clean players of this era?  We’ll never know and that’s yet another problem.

Here’s the solution.  Go the route of South Africa.  Baseball should establish a truth commission.  Players would be able to come before it and admit how they cheated.  Once they had done that, Hall of Fame voters would be instructed that they could not use allegations or rumor or even admitted abuse of steroids or HGH against those players.  Player who came clean would only be judged on what they did on the field, which would keep things simple.

If McGwire or Bonds or Sosa decided to tell the truth, than any one of them would only be judged on their numbers and gain easy access to Cooperstown.  If one of them refused to admit anything, that’s ok too.  It’s their choice after all.   But, voters would not be instructed to have to disregard allegations or rumors of cheating.

Players would have their fate in their own hands.  It would be up to them to decide if they thought coming clean would be worth the better shot at Cooperstown. 

Finally, Cooperstown should create an exhibit on baseball  in the ’90s and on that addresses steroids and HGH.  It should tell the full history of how guys like Sosa, Bonds and McGwire and even A-Rod ended up tainted by it.  It should note that we’ll never know what numbers are fully real and which are artificial, but that at least some of the game’s stars came clean when given the chance.

Jim Rice Deserved The Hall Of Fame More Than Rickey Henderson!

13 Jan

Good news today for me as a big part of my childhood was validated.  I grew up in the New York area rooting for the Red Sox.  My Junior High memories consist largely of fending back the taunts of the many Yankee fans who were my classmates during the awful summer of ’78.

One of the few things that got me through those lean Red Sox years was the knowledge that my team had Jim Rice on it.  Sure, the Yankees had Reggie and he absolutely had a flair for the dramatic.  But, I knew from the mid-70s to the early 80s that my team had the most feared slugger in the game on it.  Rice could hit for power and average.  Reggie?  Well…. He hit for power and drama.

After waiting 15 inexcusable years, Jim Rice made the Hall of Fame today.  In doing so, Rice proved that my childhood memories of his greatness and all it meant to me were real.  Rice is a baseball great.  He was an all timer in his heyday and it was documented and ratified today by Cooperstown.  About time!

Maybe it’s the heady air of baseball Olympus, but let me say one more thing.  Jim Rice deserved the Hall of Fame more than Rickey Henderson.

Yes, OVERALL, Henderson is clearly more of a slam dunk as a Hall of Famer.  He is, without a doubt, one of the best lead off men in the history of the game.  It likely comes down to him, Pete Rose or  Ty Cobb.  In contrast, Rice’s career came to a relatively early end due to series of injuries that prevented him from putting up numbers that would have more than solidified his case.

But you know what?  Back in the day, how many of us would have taken Jim Rice over Rickey Henderson if given the chance?  That’s right.  A whole lot of us. 

I love the sabermetric approach to baseball.  I think Bill James is one of the smartest minds ever to waste his time studying baseball & am thankful he did.  Due to James and his ilk, we know so much more about the game.  I’m a big believer in on base percentage.

That all said, I remember the era that Rice played in.  Back in those days, there weren’t that many guys who could do what he could.  Forty homers, .320 batting average and a ton of RBIs meant something in the 1970s.  It meant intimidation and teams working hard to beat you.

Rickey, though amazing and clearly disruptive to other teams, was never viewed or game planned against as Jim Rice was when both were at their best.  Knowing what we know know about the important of on base percentage, etc, maybe those 70s  & 80s managers and baseball executives were wrong to value Rice more than Henderson.  But, they did.  That has to count for something.

No matter what else Rice’s shortcomings (hitting into double plays, not the greatest defensively), no one ever doubted Jim Rice came to play.

Can the same be said of Rickey?  I don’t think so.  In the rush to make Rickey a first ballot HOFer, everyone seems to have forgotten Rickey’s Yankee tenure.  While in pin stripes, Henderson became unhappy about his contract, which resulted in him clearly dogging it to protest. 

That’s a first ballot hall of famer?

Jim Rice had to wait 15 long years and Rickey Henderson gets in on  one ballet with nary a mention of the fact that for certain stretches of his career he simply didn’t show up to play. 

No one ever said it was a fair world.

My point isn’t that Henderson isn’t a first ballot guy.  My point isn’t that Henderson didn’t accomplish more his career.

My point is that after being made to wait for far too long, Jim Rice finally came home today.  And due to his long and unwarranted  journey through the Cooperstown wilderness, Jim Rice deserved today even more than Rickey Henderson.

Scandal! How Did These Guys Get Into The Hall Of Fame Before Gossage?!

29 Jul

Sorry to rain on Rich Gossage’s Hall of Fame parade, but I’d like to know just how come it took so long to get the Goose into the Hall of Fame.  Gossage has been incredibly gracious about the whole thing and I admire him for it.

I, not being Goose Gossage, don’t have to be gracious.  I’ve never been a Yankee fan.  In fact, I’m a card carrying Yankee hater, but I also believe myself to be capable of making unbiased calls on our all important Hall of Fame debates.

The reality is that Goose Gossage belonged in the Hall of Fame way before he actually got in.  To me, there are two ways to get into the Hall.  Actually, there are three ways and Gossage accomplished all three.

First, you can be a compiler.  This is a player with a long, consistent career who ends up putting up some very big career numbers.  Check that off for Gossage, who played over twenty years and was usually in the discussion of the top closers in the game.

Second, you can just be the top dog.  That category is reserved for the Ruths, Mantles, Mays, Seavers and Koufax types.  This is the kind of player who is simply the very best at his position for a very long time.  Check that off for Goose too.  Gossage was debatably the top closer in the game from the mid 70s through the mid eighties.

Finally, you can be a game changer or as they more typically say in football, a game breaker.  This is the kind of guy who strikes fear into his opponents’ hearts and singlehandedly changes the way the game is played.  Think LT in football.

Gossage was that in baseball.  He was an intimidater.  You knew that if your team didn’t put runs up before he got into the game you sure as hell were not likely to score any more once he got onto that mound.  In that respect, Gossage is very similar to today’s Yankee closer, Mariano Rivera.  Of course, Gossage was doing it two innings or more at a time…

So, by all my standards, Gossage was a clear Hall of Famer sincethe very moment he became eligible.  Yet, somehow the Goose didn’t make it in for nine long years.

Let’s take a look (and some admittedly cheap shots) at the guys who beat Gossage into Cooperstown and grade them as better or worse picks for the Hall than Goose Gossage:

Class of 2000 – This is the first year Gossage is eligible (if I counted backwards properly)

Tony Perez – RBI machine, but lots of guys in his position in the Big Red Machine’s lineup would probably be able to say that.  Outside of one or two truly great years, was he even ever the third best player on his own team (remember he played with Bench, Morgan and some guy named Pete Rose…)?  ADVANTAGE: GOOSE

Carlton Fisk – all time leader in most catching categories because he played for about 100 years, definitely one of the top 10 catchers ever.  Impacted the game both on offense and defense in a very critical position.  ADVANTAGE: FISK

Class of 2001

Dave Winfield – great athlete, played all three major sports, very good hitter for a long time, but he wasn’t Reggie Jackson as George Steinbrenner can tell you.  I agree with George for once!  ADVANTAGE: GOSSAGE

Kirby Puckett – may he rest in peace, great player who was on pace for some great numbers prior to his eye injury,  Championship Center Fielder on two Twins’ World Series Champs  ADVANTAGE: TIE

Class of 2002

Ozzie Smith – great defensive shortstop, couldn’t hit that much until later in his career.  Am always amazed at how easily Smith got in.  Sure he was The Wizard, but it should have taken him much longer to get to Cooperstown.  Consider that Alan Trammel will likely never get into the Hall, yet during their primes you probably wouldn’t have traded Trammel for Smith even up.  Trammel was way more valuable.  ADVANTAGE: GOOSE

Class of 2003

Eddie Murray – super consistent slugger, yet never hit for a truly amazing amount of home runs in any given year.  ADVANTAGE: MURRAY (But just slightly)

Gary Carter – I go with the Fisk argument here again.  A catcher with his offensive ability is a rare thing.  ADVANTAGE: CARTER

Class of 2004

Paul Moliter – the man could flat out hit.  If not for injury and some youthful foolishness, who knows what his numbers could be.  Interesting thought that essentially he, like Gossage, was a specialist for much of his career, yet that didn’t hurt him in the Hall vote as much as Goose.  ADVANTAGE: MOLITER

Dennis Eckersley – amazing career as a quality starter and then transitioning to a modern day bullpen ace.  Still, with all that, in my book you take care of the people who blazed Eck’s trail first.  ADVANTAGE: GOSSAGE

Class of 2005

Ryne Sandberg – hit great for a second basemen.  Had an amazing ten year run and then, poof!  He was done.  ADVANTAGE:  GOSSAGE (who had about double his run in baseball)

Wade Boggs – tough to argue with his lifetime batting average and the handful of batting titles.  ADVANTAGE: BOGGS

Class of 2006

Bruce Sutter – sure, he perfected a pitch that changed the game.  And sure, he was dominating.  But, he played about half as long as Gossage.  Gossage’s prime lasted longer and Sutter was never clear cut better than Gossage.  If the baseball gods were fair, they would’ve gone in together.  But, since, they’re not…. ADVANTAGE: GOOSE

Class of 2007

Tony Gwynn – like Boggs, only better.  No argument here.  ADVANTAGE: GWYNN

Cal Ripken Jr – how do you argue against a guy who breaks Gehrig’s record and “saves” baseball.  Plus, he revolutionized the position of shortstop and paved the way for guys like A-Rod, Nomar and oh yeah, Jeter.  ADVANTAGE: RIPKEN

Will This Comeback Story End In 300 Wins and the Hall of Fame?

9 Jul
In a totally unexpected development, Mike Mussina has been the Yankees’ best pitcher this year. Moose looked done last year after continuing his streak of mediocre pitching seasons in his late 30s. At his lowest point, he was bumped from the starting rotation. Many (myself included) figured Mussina was never coming back.
We were very, very wrong. Currently, Mussina stands at 11-6 with a respectable 3.64 ERA.  At 39, Mussina is up to 261 career wins. Will he get to 300 and does he need to in order to clinch the Hall of Fame?
As we did yesterday with Randy Johnson, let’s compare Mike Mussina to two recent members of the all exclusive 300 victory club Roger Clemens and Greg Maddux as well as Johnson.
But first, let’s figure out what Mussina has to do to get to pitching’s most glorious career milestone. So far this year, he’s racked up 11 wins and is more than half way to his first ever 20 win season. Since this is my blog, you are gonna have to trust me when I say that Mussina won’t get 20 this year. I put the over/under on him at 15 wins.

Baseball is a funny game and it has a way of catching up to people. Mussina, given his recent pitching history, has pitched way too well this year. Don’t give me that stuff about him finding a different way to pitch this year. The man is 39. He is what he is. Either injury of bad luck will keep his second half from being as good as his first half. I know. The baseball gods have spoken to me. (PS-they say hello)

So, let’s say me and the baseball gods are a little off and Mussina wins 17 games this season. That would put him at 267.  Mike Mussina would be just 33 wins away from immortality.  Shockingly and tantalizingly close, but next year, Mussina will be pitching at age 40…

Here’s how Clemens and company did post 40.  Roger Clemens won 17 games at 40, then 18 at 41 and finally 13 at 42 before going into permanent part time service.  Interestingly, Clemens ERA went down each of those years before setting in at under 2.00 for his 13 win campaign.  Maddux in his two full seasons as a forty year old so far won 14 and 15 games with ERAs around 4.20.  Not horrible, but not vintage Maddux.  As for Johnson, the big lefty won between 16-17 games for each of his first three season in his forties until he was able to make only 10 starts last year as a 43 year old.

As good as all three future Hall of Famers have been, the reality is that all of them slowed down in their 40s whether due to age, injury or choice.  Mussina began his slowing down process in his 30s.  Don’t believe me?  Here are Mussina’s numbers for the last four seasons prior to this one:

  • Age 35: 12-9, 4.59
  • Age 36: 13-8, 4.41
  • Age 37: 15-7, 3.51
  • Age 38: 11-10, 5.15

 Verdict # 1: Mike Mussina will not make it to 300 wins.

Give him credit though, he’s a lot closer than anyone would have imaged last year.  That said, in order to get to 300, he’ll have to go another three years with 10-15 wins each season.  If he was Maddux or Clemens or Johnson, I’d bet the house on him.  Mussina has never been in those guys’ class and so I’m betting against him to join their exclusive club.

So if Mussina doesn’t win 300, is he a Hall of Famer?

In my opinion, there are two kinds of Hall of Famers and both have legitimate paths to Cooperstown.  The first is the no brainer.  Guys who were so talented and so dominant that there’s no argument whether their career spanned many decades (Willie Mays, Ted Williams, Hank Aaron) or was cut short  (think Lou Gherig or Roberto Clemente or Sandy Koufax as the extreme case of a short but breathtakingly brilliant career).

Then, the second legitimate path to the Hall of Fame are the compilers.  Baseball is one heck of a tough sport.  Hitting its magic numbers like 300 wins, 3,000 hits or 500 home runs are amazing feats of talent and consistency.  Some of the guys who surpassed those milestones where never confused with being the absolute best at their position, but they deserve a great deal of credit for getting there nonetheless and have a rightful place in the Hall.

Back to Mike Mussina.  Is Mike Mussina a “no brainer” candidate?  Let me give you the “no brainer” answer – NO!

So, in order for Mussina to get in he’s going to have go the compiler route.  In these days of relief specialists, pitch counts and relief specialists, it’s tough enough to win 15 never mind 20 games in a season.  In order to win 300 in a career a player has to average 15 wins for 20 seasons (two decades worth).  Mussina may get as close to 300 as anyone other than Randy Johnson may get for a long time.  All of that said…

Verdict #2 – Mike Mussina just won’t get into Cooperstown without 300 wins

The challenge will be that Hall of Fame voters haven’t adjusted their thinking.  In their minds it’s not the all impressive 250 win club.  It’s still 300 or bust.  Absent any Cy Youngs, missing a twenty win season (or two or three) and with an ERA that was very rarely below 3.00,  Mussina simply won’t get in as a no brainer or a compiler.

And you know what?  I’m OK with that.

Mike Mussina has been a very good major league pitcher for a long time, but he’s never been the game’s top ace or even his league’s or his division’s and sometimes not even his team’s #1.  Mike Mussina deserves an awful lot of respect but until Jack Morris, Curt Schilling and maybe even Bert Blyleven get busts in Cooperstown, I won’t be making many arguments on his behalf.

Mike Piazza Can’t Dodge His Past!

21 May

Mike Piazza retired today.  Starting out as a 62nd round draft choice, Piazza through hard work (and a secret pact with the devil – ok so I’m conjecturing…) turned himself into one of the greatest catchers to ever play the game. 

While never known for his throwing arm, Piazza was at points in his career praised for his ability to call games to get the best results out of his team’s pitchers.  So, he wasn’t a complete wash out on the defensive end of things.  But, clearly it was his hitting that made him a serious candidate for Cooperstown.  Piazza retired with a .308 batting average, over 400 home runs and as the all time leader by far in home runs hit by a backstop.

What Piazza didn’t retire as was as a Met.  You wouldn’t know that from his retirement statement in which he thanked all the fans and organizations he was part of.  A classy move to be sure, but he took special pains to highlight his time with the Mets.  He praised the Metropolitan fans and called his time with the Mets the happiest of his career.  Guess he’s fitting himself for a Mets cap when the Hall of Fame inevitably comes calling in a few years.

There’s just one problem.  Piazza isn’t a Met.  Mike Piazza is a Dodger.  And I should know.  I’m a Mets fan after all.  Sure, Piazza spent a few more years in Flushing than in LA, but he made himself into an all star in La La Land.

When you look back at his career stats, you may be surprised by just how good Piazza was for his first four years in NY.  That great start gets lost a little bit by the three mediocre and injury plagued seasons that followed.  I distinctly remember being very supportive of cutting ties with Piazza when the Mets decided to go with another Italian-American catcher in Paul Lo Duca.  Piazza’s final two years in San Diego and Oakland were solid for a guy at his age, but nothing near his prime.  And so, you’re left with a guy who’s last true great season came at the turn of the Millennium.

Contrast that with his time as a Dodger.  Five full years in Dodger Blue.  Five great years.

It’s no contest.  Mike Piazza is a Dodger.

Despite Piazza’s happy memories of NY, the Hall of Fame better get it right.  When it comes to deciding on his cap, the Hall needs to base its decision on the fans’ memories not Piazza’s.  His cap has to be Dodger Blue.