Monthly archives: January 2005
Apparently, Barry Larkin, the soon-to-be forty-one-year-old, jilted Reds shortstop, is ready to pull a Jackie Robinson and hang 'em up rather than play for another team. Apparently, he's been offered backup mentor roles (Crash Davis to someone's Nuke LaLoosh), but he's leaning towards —"pretty close" to— retirement:
"I thought eventually I'd be able to say, yeah, I can do this. But I'm big on loyalty. I couldn't come to grips with making a 100-percent commitment (to another team)."
That's kind of a shame, because, in my opinion, Larkin is a certifiable future Hall-of-Famer. Given the way his career wound down and not much to grab hold of except the one MVP award, I'm not sure that the voters will see it that way. I think his Hall of Fame candidacy faces the kind of uphill battle that, unexpectedly, Ryne Sandberg's did until he was elected last month.
Larkin may face more of a struggle since he played an extremely important defensive position and although he won three Gold Gloves in the mid-Nineties, he is hardly ever mentioned among the great defensive shortstops, either among the current crop or throughout history. The same could be said of Cal Ripken, but Ripken is remembered as one of the greatest offensive shortstops of all time. Larkin was a very good offensive player, especially for a shortstop, but his numbers may not excite the voters.
Larkin was a very, very good all around player, which was even more impressive because he played an extremely important and challenging defensive position very well. But I', afraid that he was a player, like Tim Raines, who did so many things so well but not one thing in particular, that he will be overlooked by the voters.
Larkin never led the league in any offensive categories (a zero in Bill James's Black Ink Test). He did make a number of appearances in the top ten (scoring a 66 in James's Gray Ink test, compared to 144 for an average Hall of Famer). The other James tests are more encouraging (a 46.9 on the Hall Standards test compared to 50 for an average HoFer and a 118.5 on the Hall monitor, meaning that his enshrinement is more than likely). Also, every similar batter to him except one (Sweet Lou Whitaker), who is already eligible to the Hall, is either in (Sandberg, Cronin, and Reese) or is on the ballot (Trammell). And a couple of the not-yet-eligible ones should have strong support (Alomar and Biggio).
I foresee the future voters comparing Larkin to two men, Cal Ripken for offense and Ozzie Smith for defense, and seeing him coming up short on both accounts. I hope they realize that a Hall of Famer doesn't have to have one facet of the game that defines him, but given the way that they have voted on expansion-era players, I'm not sanguine (look at Bert Blyleven).
So what is Larkin's place in the pantheon of shortstop greats? Let's look at it a couple of ways. First, here are the top shortstops by career Win Shares (min. 500 games at short):
My prediction is that Larkin will suffer through a campaign similar to Gary Carter's. He'll get in, I think, but it will take him more than a year or two to do it. That is, unless the voters start to develop a more well informed approach within the next five years or so. Yeah, like that'll ever happen.
"If it were done when 'tis done, then 'twere well
We're told that the Cubs came out ahead because the O's, desperate to fend off the new, nearby Nationals' good PR, gave up too much to get Sosa while not requiring the Cubs to take on any of his salary. Sosa is not the player he once was, but he should remain effective in Baltimore.
The ultimate reason for his untenability in Chicago was not directly due to his decline. His decline, however, did make the silliness that occurred in the final game of the season enough cause for the Cubs to feel they needed to dump him.
The O's get a marquee player to go along with Miguel Tejada and Javy Lopez to help put fannies in seats. It's not as if Sammy will do much to help with the Orioles' biggest problem, pitching. Nor will he help them reach the summits that the Yanks and Red Sox will undoubtedly scale.
The Cubs trade a 500-homer, future Hall of Famer, and possibly one of the best players the franchise has had in its 135-year history. They apparently will fill his spot in right with Hairston, who was used by the O's in right 27 times last year and would be one of the worst-batting starting right fielders in the business. There are also rumors of the Cubs enlisting Jeromy Burnitz, but one most remember that they also lost their starting left fielder (Moises Alou). I just hope Sosa consults former Red Sox savior and current Cub shortstop, Nomar Garciaparra, before he leaves town.
Whatever happens to the Cubs, what is Sosa's place in the Cubbie pantheon? Here are the franchise leaders in career Win Shares. Sosa's eighth:
But Sosa had fewer seasons with the Cubs than any of the others ahead of him on the list. What if we look at Win Shares per season:
Then, Sosa is 19th. Sammy's place in Cub history is assured though he probably was never as good as the hype (Chuck D was right) or as bad as the Cub fans now believe him to be.
One thing the trade seems to presage that neither club will make the playoffs this year. They will both be involved in very different division and wild card races but I would not be surprised to see them finish with the same record.
MBBR got a mention in Jayson Stark's Top 10 Useless Info Nuggets of the Month. Actually, I got the number one slot with my Pass Me a Miller, Bud post:
1. And our grand-prize winner is a fellow named Mike Carminati, the author of the Mike's Rants column on the all-baseball.com Web site. After Damian Miller signed with the Brewers, Carminati pounced all over the biggest subplot behind that signing -- namely, that there will now be a Miller playing nightly at Miller Park.
I did say at the time that "Now, that is the height of triviality.
The Biggest Loser II
There was more activity on SABR-L regarding Pete Rose being on the most winning teams.
In any event, what is amazing is that Pete Rose came within just a few games, probably less than 10 wins (3500+ games played) from having a winning record for 24 straight years! Of course, someone could spin it that Pete was also one of the biggest losers, given that he probably lost 1500 games.
Re. Rose, his teams did have the most winning seasons recorded for a player all time, but he is just two seasons ahead of the likes of Doyle Alexander, Rick Dempsey, and Juan Pizzaro. Here are the ones with at least 18 winning seasons:
As for Rose's teams losing 1500 games, they actually lost 281 more. Here are the most team wins and then most team losses for a player's career:
The Biggest Loser
The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. What is called resignation is confirmed desperation… But it is a characteristic of wisdom not to do desperate things.
There's an email trail going on in SABR-L, the mailing list for the members of the Society for American Baseball Research, trying to find the "biggest loser". That is, the player with the most seasons exclusively on losing teams. Here are the results (note, mine differ from SABR-L since I list by a player's team-seasons and I don't include .500 seasons as losing seasons—They count as half a winning season in the percentages):
Kendall is a good bet to get off that list this year with the A's. Higginson is a good bet to break the "record". Win Mercer has to be the most ironic name in sport. By the way, that the Pirates, not the Marlins, Abraham Nunez, and the Brewers, not the Royals, Jeff D'Amico (though he was a "loser", too).
I included team winning percentage in the study to add depth to the loserdom. Here are the players that lag the farthest behind in that category (min. 5 seasons):
Barnie's luck improved somewhat (.438) as a manager. Charlie Gould was a member of the Cincinnati "Red Stockies" and enjoyed their winning streak for the better part of two seasons, 1869-70. I guess he "forgot" how to win. My friend Chris points out that Dick Harley and Crazy Schmidt were members of the team widely regarded as the worst in baseball history, the 1899 Cleveland Spiders.
Next, I took a look at the biggest winners, the players who spent the most seasons on winning teams:
You'll note that there are quite a few Yankees from the last decade or so. There are good number of Yankees and, unexpectedly, Orioles on the list. The active leader is the Braves' Chipper Jones. For those of you who don't remember Tom Burns, he was a long-time Cub—actually they were still known as the White Stockings back then—infielder from the nineteenth century.
Now here's the list by team winning percentage (min. of 5 team-seasons):
The highest team winning percentage (min. 5 years) for an active player is (.618) Orlando Hernandez followed by three Braves: Chipper Jones (.614), Mark DeRosa (.610), and Andruw Jones (.609). By the way, the worst active is Jamie Walker (.383), Eric Munson (.389), and boatload of players who were on the Devil Rays over the last five years (.395).
Finally, if you are not yet sick of this, I re-ran the data solely for Hall of Famers (i.e., those selected as players).
Here are the best by percentage of winning seasons:
Now the worst:
Here are the best by team winning percentage:
And the worst:
Finally here is a comparison between the totals and average for Hall of Fame members and all players overall:
By the way, the overall numbers are below .500 since losing teams tend to have more players. Therefore, it's not a zero-sum result.
So is team performance a criterion that influences Hall voters or just a happy byproduct of great individual performance? I ran a correlation between a Hall of Famer's wait, i.e., the time between retirement and his induction to the Hall (ignoring years prior to the first vote in 1936), and his team's performance. Do players on perennial winners gain entrance to the halcyon Hall more easily? Well, the correlation doesn't indicate it. Neither percentage of winning seasons nor team winning percentage had any relationship whatsoever to a short wait for induction.
Next, does longevity come from being on winning teams or vice versa?
Well, you can't stick around if you don't perform, but it does flatten out rather quickly. Apparently, players who wash out rather quickly are not involved with the best organizations, however.
Larry Mahnken over at The Replacement Level Yankees Weblog recently lost everything he owned in a fire. If you have ever enjoyed Larry's great analysis, please stop by a make a donation in his PayPal tip jar. Every little bit helps.
My Eagles finally made it to the Super Bowl, whipping the Falcons, 27-10, Sunday. That's the same score they lost in their last and only Super Bowl, XV to Oakland, twenty-four years ago. God that broke my young heart.
They'll meet the media darlings, Tom Brady and the New England Patsies, in Jacksonville on February for the Janet Jackson Boob Bowl. That got me to thinking about the other Super Bowls featuring two northeastern teams. The only two were these if you consider Baltimore to be in the Northeast (it’s borderline):
Given that baseball has had so many championships with northeastern teams—Wasn't Ken Burn's baseball documentary based on it (I still have visions of Mario Cuomo)—it seemed odd that there were just three such Super Bowls of the 39 so far.
Here are all the northeast-only World Series in baseball history. Funny, there were no teams from the hamlet of Foxboro involved, however:
Look at how annual New York City series ended after the Fifties. I guess that's what happens with expansion, expansion to new cities by both existing and new teams. Baseball has only witnessed four such World Series since the inception of the NFL-AFL championship that somehow became the Super Bowl.
One last thing: I hope the demons of 1914-15, when Philly teams lost to Boston ones, have left town with the 1918 demon that allegedly held sway over the Red Sox until this past season.
Oh, and GO EAGLES!
[That's "splitting hairs" in Spanish.]
The Carlos Delgado derby was won by the Marlins yesterday to the tune of four years and $52 M. Delgado is coming off his worst offensive season since 1997 and is 32, but even so I expect a big year from him—no reason, I just do. He'll be 37 when his contract ends, and I'll leave it to others to argue the merits of the contract length.
He's sure to be an upgrade over Jeff Conine, to whom the first base job fell after Hee Seop Choi was traded to the Dodgers. If Delgado matches his home run total for 2004 (32), a seven-year low that he accumulated while missing the entire month of June with injuries, he will establish a new high for Marlin left-handed batters, 31 set by Cliff Floyd in 2001.
Here are all the Marlins lefties to hit at least ten homers in a season:
Also, here are their switch-hitters who matched the feat. I don’t have left/right splits for each:
Some will say that this proves that a left-handed hitter cannot succeed in Pro Player. They point to Choi's eight homers at home last year.
Well, I think that's pure bunkum or maybe eyewash. Could be prattle. Choi hit just seven homers on the road and none in his last 31 games with the Dodgers. Besides, Floyd became an established player under the burden of Pro Player. In his two seasons since leaving the Marlins, it's not at as his home run totals went through the roof.
The Delgado signing, I think, goes a long way to making the NL East a four-team race, with no one team looking all that powerful going into 2005.
The Mets settled on Doug "Retirement Ball" Mientkiewicz after the lost the Delgado round robin. That's a rather large dropoff in talent. It may put the Mets behind the other three in many preseason picks. I think they will all end up in the 85- to 92-win range. If the Marlins can get their young starters to gel, they are the clear-cut favorites.
Iguchi To Bring Good Chi to Chisox?
The Sox say they imported him for defense and speed. I'm not so sure it's a wise decision. Iguchi does look like one of the better fielding second baseman in Japan, and even though he had just 18 stolen bases last season, he had 42 the season before and 44 in 2001. In 2004 he also had 24 homers, 89 runs batted in, a .333 batting average, a .394 on-base percentage, a .549 slugging average. His career highs in those categories are 30 home runs (2001), 109 RBI (2003), .340 BA (2003), .438 OBP (2003), and .573 Slug (2003). That all sounds pretty good, eh? 2003 was his breakout year, but 2004 is not that far off the pace.
However, consider that he had 90 strikeouts and just 47 walks in 574 plate appearances in 2004. He has eclipsed 100 Ks in three seasons with a career high of 121 (against just 28 walks) in 1998.
Also, Iguchi just turned 30 last month, so as he learns the American League over the next two years, his skills will probably start to atrophy.
Finally, after the failure of Little Matsui last season with the Mets should make everyone wary of middle infield imports from Japan. Compare Iguchi's stats to Matsui's in Japan and tell me who looks like the better bet. Actually, his career wasn't much different from another Japanese import, outfielder Tsuyoshi Shinjo, who was an unqualified failure on this side of the Pacific and who returned to Japan last year after three remarkably sub-par seasons at the plate in the majors. And Shinjo was a year younger.
After acquiring A.J. Pierzynski, who according to this San Francisco Chronicle article takes things incredibly literally or is the most obnoxious player in the majors, the White Sox seem to be on a roll. I wonder why the Twins win this division each year.
The Excuse Me Double Play
The latest in ESPN.com's stultifying series on baseball best is up at, well, you know where. The latest senior superlative in the yearbook project ESPN.com has become is the best to break up a double play. And the Insipidy, er, ESPY goes to Scot Rolen. I'm fine with that assessment. My problem is within the article itself.
They quote Andy Van Slyke in his lamentation that "these young whippersnappers don't break up the double play like we used to." I'm paraphrasing, of course. Actually he said:
"I worked at it. I used to take notes to remind myself about which guys (second basemen, especially) went which way. But it's a different game now. There is no longer an emphasis on that extra out, it's no longer imperative. Now the game is played to hit the ball over the fence. That extra out doesn't mean as much.''
It's good old fashioned "it was better in my day"-ism. Let's take a look at a derived total for runners on first and double play groundouts over time:
[Note: Runners at first are walks, hit by a pitch, and singles (H-2B-3B-HR)]. So did the AL collectively forget how to take out the shortstop in the Eighties? Yes, the totals have gone up since the Nineties, but that's meaningless.
Let's add in opportunities lost to stolen base attempts and see what happens:
Looking at it this way, this decade looks barely above average.
Now, keep in mind that Van Slyke was the man doubled off second when Mickey Morandini turned an unassisted triple play on September 20, 1992. Clearly, runners in the Eighties and Nineties were much less effective in stopping unassisted triple plays than they are today, right Andy?
Generalissimo John Franco is Still Pitching
The Astros signed 44-year-old John Franco today to a one-year contract to actually pitche for them next season. I guess the ineffectiveness of lefty Mike Gallo and the rest of his pen-mates in the playoffs last year were cause enough for Houston to sign a reliever who has not been effective since the last Bush's administration.
At least this forty-something pitcher did not cost them another $18 M, like 42-year-old Roger Clemens did. It made me wonder how many teams had multiple forty-year-olds on their roster. Here are the ones with the most:
The '47 White Sox had Luke Appling (40), Red Ruffing (42), Joe Kuhel (41), Thornton Lee (40), and Earl Caldwell (42). I can name the Wheez Kids ('82 Phils) by heart Pete Rose, Tony Perez, Ron Reed, and Bill Robinson. They also had a 39-year-old Joe Morgan.
As far as teams with multiple 40-year-olds on their pitching staffs, seven are tied with three:
So it's not as rare as I thought, but when you add in a 39-year-old outfielder in Craig Biggio, a 35-year-old catcher (Brad Ausmus), a 36-year-old first baseman (Jeff Bagwell), a 36-year-old utility infielder who always ends up starting wherever he goes (Jose Vizcaino), and a 36-year-old bench player (Orlando Palmeiro). That makes seven potential key players on the Houston roster that are at least 35 years old.
The record for players who are at least 35 is 13 for the 2002 D-Backs, but with some luck the Astros can catch them:
Aside from two World War II teams, all these teams are expansion-era.
Rip You a New Van Winkle
The Red Sox are continuing to put pressure Doug Mientkiewicz to hand over the ball from the World Series-clinching win. But in an added twist the team is taking preventative measures:
[President Larry] Lucchino also said the team is working on a policy to avoid another fight over, say, the ball that clinches the first Red Sox World Series repeat since 1916.
Besides the hubris that this statement displays, and the lack of concern for Denis Leary losing his one remaining nut, underneath it all Lucchino is really expressing his altruistic concern for this guy.
For all the whining that the baseball gods were against the Sox and their fans, it turns out that they were just innocent bystanders in the gods' hatred for Steven Manganello, a Red Sox fan who spent most of the playoffs in a coma. His state was caused by being hit by a cab in Tokyo on October 1. Though Mangallo awake before the playoffs were over, he remembers none of it.
It kind of reminds me of the scene in "Good Will Hunting" in which Robin Williams' character describes in wildly emoting detail how he missed the Carlton Fisk World Series homer because of a date with a girl. It's a new spin on the ultimate loser scenario.
Or as Matt Damon would say, "How do you like them apples?"
The [Insert Your Name Here] Angels of Anaheim
The major-league sports franchise associated with Los Angeles was the 1926 LA Buccaneers in the NFL. The Bucs were a road franchise that finished 6-3-1 and disappeared into obscurity.
Oddly enough, the NFL had a one-year rival, the first AFL, and that league fielded a team nominally from LA as well, the Wildcats. The Los Angeles Wildcats was also road team. They finished 6-6-1.
Now the Angels are trying to follow in these illustrious teams footsteps, renaming themselves the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim while staying in Anaheim. However, the city of Los Angeles does not want to be so honored.
They filed a brief yesterday to support Anaheim's lawsuit against the name change, claiming it violates their contract with the team. The brief calls the name change "improper", "misleading and confusing", and an "attempt to profit from the Los Angeles name they abandoned long ago." I guess, if 40 years is a long time. LA expects that its teams "play at home stadiums located within the…city limits." Silly LA.
Maybe the Angels will start shopping the location portion of their moniker around. How about Hollywood Angels of Anaheim? It sounds like the old Hollywood Stars, right? And maybe "Hollywood" since it's a section of LA is a name that can fly under the radar while be exploited.
Or maybe the Angels should follow the Japanese teams' lead and take on the name of their corporate sponsors. How about the Nippon Ham Angels of Anaheim?
It is the secret of the world that all things subsist and do not die, but only retire from sight and afterwards return again.
On May 26, 1999 Tony Saunders was just a 25-year-old Devil Ray lefty trying to rebound from a 6-15 season, one in which he went 16 straight starts without a win. He had combined for a one-hitter with two relievers on April 22, the only hit coming on a two-out Mike Bordick single, which sent Saunders to the showers. Saunders had had an up and down early season a lot of bad (9 runs to the White Sox in 4.1 IP in his start after the one-hitter, 6 runs in 3 IP to the Tigers in the next) and some good (the one-hitter and a three-hit, 7-K, 8-inning effort on May 15). On May 26, Saunders entered the third inning with a 3-0 lead against the Rangers at home, but as the inning ended the Rangers had tied the score (led by a leadoff homer to Roberto Kelly), and Saunders had left the game after breaking the humerus bone in his pitching arm.
Saunders was out for the season and was trying a comeback in 2000, when he broke the same bone again in minor-league game on August 24. He retired two days later saying, "It's so hard knowing you're done… I can't do it again."
Apparently, he can. Saunders signed to a minor-league contract with the Baltimore Orioles yesterday. Given the general quality of the Baltimore staff, I would say he has a decent shot of making the team.
Saunders has been out of baseball for five full seasons. This got me to thinking if he made the O's would it be such an unusual achievement. I mean, Salomon Torres and Joe Roa recently made it back to the majors after being away for four years. But then again, they were plying their trade in the minors, not retired. However, there's Jose Rijo, who was out of the game for five years and even received Hall of Fame votes but then returned briefly to the majors a few years back.
So I decided to look it up. I did a quick query and found that 359 men had five-year gaps in the major-league career but did make it back to the majors again. And they aren't all Minnie Minoso types: 151 were younger than Saunders will be if he does make it back (31).
As far as Saunders being young to attempt such a comeback, consider that Piggy Ward made it back to the majors after a five-year hiatus at age 22. Ward was a journeyman second baseman, who finally became a major-league starter in 1894 at age 27, playing 98 games mostly at second for the old Washington Senators. Unfortunately, he played a poor second base (5.11 Range Factor compared to 5.71 league average) and never played in the majors again.
Here are the youngest to complete a Saunders-like comeback:
By the way, given that Saunders broke his arm on May 26, he's been out of the majors for almost six seasons. Only 220 men have come back after layoffs of that length.
To carry this out to its most picayune conclusions, here are the men with 10-year gaps:
Finally, here are the players who missed fifteen or more straight seasons before coming back to the majors:
Schreiber was the Yankees BP pitcher for many years who pitched in relief on September 4, 1945 in a blowout against Detroit's Dizzy Trout. He threw 3.1 innings of no-hit ball but the Yankees lost, 10-0.
Charley O'Leary was a Browns coach pressed into duty on the last day of the 1934 season at age 51 as a oinch-hitter. He singled and later scored.
Street was the Cardinal manager in 1931 and inserted himself as a catcher for the last three innings of one game, a 6-1 loss to the Dodgers, on September 20. He does throw out the only man who attempts to steal against him, Babe Herman. As a player, he was Walter Johnson batterymate and appeared in Strange But True Baseball Stories, one of my favorites as a child, catching a ball from the top of the Washington Monument.
The inappropriately named Clay Touchstone was a wartime replacement for the White Sox. That was also the year that Babe Herman made it back to majors, also at age 42. (On July 8, he pinch-hit twice and on one hit tripped over first.)
Between A Rocket and a Hard Place
Roger Clemens is asking for a record $22 M in arbitration and if he doesn't get it, he may retire as the reigning Cy Young winner in the NL and a sure-fire, first-ballot Hall of Famer. The Astros are offering $13.5 M. Clemens earned $5 M last season ($3.5 deferred to 2006).
OK, you've heard all that, but what you may not have heard is that two more Astro starting pitchers, Tim Redding and Pete Munro, also were seeking arbitration money much higher than the team's offer (Redding: $1.4 M vs. $575 K; Munro: $1.1 M vs. $525 K). Redding made $395 K last season, went 5-7 with a 5.72 ERA (25% worse than the park-adjusted average), and was not used in the postseason. Munro was 4-7/5.15 (16% worse than average), but had one good start in two tries after being pressed into duty in the NLCS (his last available salary was $305 K in 2003).
The Astros' biggest problem in the playoffs was their thin starting rotation corps, something that has only gotten worse with Wade Miller leaving this offseason as a free agent. After Roy Oswalt (who asked $7.8 M in arbitration; the Astros offered $6 M) and Any Pettitte, there are a lot of question marks, and most of them a larger than which side, the player or the team, wins the outstanding arbitration cases.
Brandon Backe was just average during the regular season (5-3, 4.30 ERA—at the park adjusted league average) but looked great in the postseason: 1-0 with a 2.89 ERA in three starts. He'll be given every opportunity to garner a spot in the rotation.
That's three spots. Even if Clemens decides not to retire, that leaves them with one spot to be filled by Munro, Redding, Phils castoff Brandon Duckworth (1-2/6.86 in 2004), or Carlos Hernandez (1-3/6.43), none of whom inspire much confidence.
So where does that leave them? Oswalt has been a solid staff leader for four years, and even with a slight rise in his ERA last season (a career-high 3.49 23% better than average), he should remain so. Pettitte is rebounding from an injury but should be solid starter if healthy. The inexperience/lack of talent (depending on your point of view) at the tail-end of the rotation is a concern.
What of Rocket in 2005? Well, he is coming off his best season in the last six (even though I tabbed Randy Johnson for the Cy Young). I initially thought he was starting to lose it in the second half last year, but the numbers don't bear that out. He fell from awesome in the first few months to "just" very good in the second half, but even so, his strikeout numbers improved in the last two months of the season. Here are some of his more pertinent splits:
When a pitcher switches leagues, an adjustment of some sort, by either the league or the pitcher, is expected once the batters get to see the pitcher multiple times. However, Clemens gave no indication (or at most very slight indication) that the NL batters were starting to figure him out. He is 42, but he gives every indication that he still has gas left in the tank (witness his 21 Ks in 25 innings in the postseason).
Aside from the rotation issues (and a bullpen that often deserted them in the playoffs), the Astros have lost two regulars, CF Carlos Beltran and 2B Jeff Kent, to free agency. With Beltran gone, apparently Craig Biggio moves back to center and 28-year-old perennial prospect Jason Lane takes over in left (though there are rumors involving free agent CF Jeromy Burnitz). Jose Vizcaino, who took over for Adam Everett at short in the playoffs, now becomes the putative second baseman. With scant free agent remaining (Enrique Wilson, Rey Sanchez, and Ricky Gutierrez), he may be their best option. That's a big difference offensively at both spots.
Clearly, this team has some bigger issues than how many millions it will fork over to Roger Clemens in 2005.
Immortal mortals, mortal immortals, one living the others’ death and dying the others’ life.
When I was in Florida a week or so ago I visited a local sports museum, the Sports Immortals Museum, and even though it housed an interesting collection of artifacts I was left thinking more about the museum itself than anything in the collection.
The quote that sprang to mind was Dickens' description of Scrooge's home in A Christmas Carol, that it was "where it had so little business to be, that one could scarcely help fancying it must have run there when it was a young house, playing at hide-and-seek with other houses, and have forgotten the way out again." It had the some disorienting effect.
Visitors are greeted by a bronze Babe Ruth toting a sheaf of bats as if he were approaching the plate:
The entranceway is strewn with hand-painted baseball shaped stones with the names of an assorted array of heroes and an awning supported by two immense bats, one baring Ruth's signature and the other Gehrig's (and yeah, unfortunately, that's me):
After that buildup, the interior (At least on the first floor) appears, oddly, to be nothing more than a memorabilia shop, except for the flying Michael Jordan overhead:
We visited on a weekday, so that may explain why we were the only ones there, besides MJ. The person behind the memorabilia counter switched to the museum register, and after collecting our $5 admission fee, he escorted us via elevator to the introductory film. He explained that the seats in the, dare I call it, auditorium (there were four or five rows of four or five seats) were from a number of old stadiums. We sat in the Ebbets Field row, and the tour guide put in the video and left us to our own devices.
Anyway, the film described in a John Facenda-esque voice and strangely slick presentation how the Sports Immortals Museum was a multi-media, interactive, state-of-the-art omni-sport experience. As the film prattled on about the museum and what it takes to be achieve greatness in sport, I wondered what parallel universe I had fallen into because the film's museum bore no resemblance to the actual museum in which the film aired. Then I realized that all this was an expensive sales brochure for someone's dream. And that someone was Joel Platt, whose memorabilia collection was the museum.
As the film continued, I looked about the room as I got my first taste for a collection that the film told me was worth $50 million. The ticket says that the collection consisted of "over 1 million mementos". So I guess they are worth, on average, fifty bucks, which is odd because the cheapest thing I could find in the memorabilia shop was a signed Al Barlick Hall of Fame plaque card for about that much.
In the corner of the video room was a large frame with signed solo albums by every member of the Beatles, great sportsmen all, thrown together with little figurines from early Beatlemania-dom. Then I realized that this was a fan's idiosyncratic collection, someone's basement, made available to the world.
Then I took a shot of the Willie Mays statue that, along with Mickey Mantle, stared at me as I watched the film. Note that there is a frame of Nolan Ryan and Pete Rose cards wedged between the statues case and the wall:
As the film ended we were left to room the display cases on the third floor of the museum. Each room had a theme of sorts, usually an individual sport. The boxing room, for instance, had a Mike Tyson mask in a case along side a Jack Johnson display including his signature, and then a Frito-Lay large stand-up display with a "Man without a Face"-era Elijah Wood mugging with Rod Woodson.
There were plenty of things of interest. First, a rare Honus Wagner card:
The Carl Mays/Ray Chapman ball, which was re-christened "The Death Ball":
There was Rickey Henderson's record-breaking stolen base (single season record):
Then there were also a number of souvenirs wrested from old stadiums. First were the two cornerstones from Pittsburgh's Forbes Field (I only shot one):
Next was one from the "Old" Yankee Stadium:
Then seats from Ebbets Field and Connie Mack Stadium (What, none from the Vet?):
Then there were plaques and chachkes that ran from the sublime to the ridiculous. Here's are the team pictures for the two teams who faced off in the 1903 World Series, the 1904 Boston AL and Pittsburg (not the missing "h") NL teams. Honus Wagner is in the upper left-hand corner of the Pirates photo. Fred Clarke is the big picture in the middle:
There was a collection of Negro League jerseys, each displaying the litany of players who were employed by the team, though it was impossible to tell if they were game-worn jerseys or just replicas and if they were game-worn who wore it. Here's the KC Monarchs jersey that reads, "Satchel Paige was one of the greatest pitchers of All, Monte Irvin, [unreadable]. Buck Leonard, Josh Gibson, Satchel Paige were three of the greatest base ball [players] of all time."
There was an old time base ball game from 1888 that didn't look that much different from the games I played as a child at the Jersey shore (though it had no bat):
Various mementos from the Brooklyn Dodgers sole championship (for my father-in-law):
Then there was a display of various baseball-related heads, from likenesses of famous players to mascots:
Finally, the piece d'resistance was a scoop of dirt from Brandon Field, Joe Jackson's first field, displayed in a semi-opaque Tupperware container, ready for easy microwaving. Next to the dirt was the letter from the person who sent the dirt in. I'm sorry, it wouldn't fit in the picture. It reminded me of the stories I heard of old-world cathedrals claiming to have a splinter from the cross and a bone(s) from various popes, saints, and other religiousos:
After wondering around the display cases, we went back down to the ground floor to gape at the one-hundred- to two-hundred-dollar bats from the likes of Omar Moreno, Andy Van Slyke, and Mickey Tettleton. Oh, and there was the slightly-larger-than-life size statue of Shaquille O'Neal slamming a basket:
So if you're in Boca, it's definitely worth your time and the five-dollar admission price to check out the Sports Immortals Museum. For me, other than a few photos, I was left with a dissipated feeling. I enjoyed the mementos, but after seeing the sales video (did I mention Franco Harris was in it?), I couldn't help feeling a little sad for a place that dreamed to be more than it was and evidently didn't get there. They even have a display of signed copied of their Sports Immortals coffee table book, that had been reduced.
It's even sadder when I looked at the back if the ticket to read the "Sport Immortals 'Rules for Success'", which were:
1. Never lose sight of your dreams
They beat Frank Lopez's two rules in "Scarface" ("Never underestimate the other guy's greed" and "Don't get high on your own supply"), but I'm not sure if they apply to everyone who's found success in sport (Terry Forster did many a "Hail Mary" over rule 6).
I hope I'm not being too hard on Sports Immortals. The overall effect was an endearing one if a bit sad. I do wish them luck.
Man is an organism with a wonderful and extraordinary past. He is distinguished from the other animals by virtue of the fact that he has elaborated what I have termed extensions of his organism. By developing his extensions, man has been able to improve or specialize various functions. The computer is an extension of part of the brain, the telephone extends the voice, the wheel extends the legs and feet. Language extends experience in time and space while writing extends language. Man has elaborated his extensions to such a degree that we are apt to forget that his humaneness is rooted in his animal nature.
Times once were in this country that you could do anything and everything in your chosen line of business. Executives did come from the mailroom. Statesmen were philosophers, innovators, and massive perves (if Franklin is any indication), murderers (Burr), and connoisseurs of the moccachica (Jefferson). Ex-Presidents actually did lead productive lives continuing to serve their country (William Howard Taft became Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Andrew Johnson was a senator after being president, and Herbert Hoover lent is name to shanties that sprang up around the country, in which people lived in horrible conditions—thanks Herbie).
In baseball too, famous players returned to the minors to play out their careers in relative anonymity and Poughkepsie. Many early ones like A.G. Spalding, Connie Mack, and Charles Comiskey became moguls because of their involvement in the sport. But quicker than you can say "situational lefty", the specialists took over.
Now we are witnessing the last of a dying breed, which, er, died a couple of weeks ago. The last man to be a major-league player and umpire, Ken Burkhart, died December 29 at the ripe age of 89. Burkhart was a Cardinal farmhand, and his minor-league stops are a trip down memory lane for anyone who has looked at the Cardinals nonpareil organization between the wars (New Iberia anyone?).
He finally made it to the majors right at the end of World War II and registered an 18-8 rookie record. However, injuries and returning vets cut short his career. According to Baseball Library, his mechanics devolved to "an unusual shot-put delivery".
After his playing career was done, Burkhart became an umpire. Even though he was a reportedly excellent ump, who worked three World Series, six All-Star games (in four seasons), one NLCS, and back-to-back no-hitters on consecutive days in September 1968 (Gaylord Perry 9/17/68 and Ray Washburn 9/18/68) he will forever be remembered for a controversial miscall.
In the opening game of the 1970 World Series with the score tied 3-3 in the bottom of the sixth, the Reds had men at first and third (Bernie Carbo) and one out (Lee May on one of Brooks Robinson's diving plays). Pinch-hitter Ty Cline tapped a ball in front of home. Catcher Elrod Hendricks lunged forward, snared the ball, and dove back in time to tag Carbo, who was sprinting home, with his glove. The only problem was that replays showed that the ball was in Hendricks' throwing hand, not his glove. During the play Burkhart had gotten out of position and entangled with Hendricks. The Orioles went ahead to stay in the next half inning on a Robinson solo shot and won the Series, 4-1.
The play assured that Hendricks would be the O's bullpen coach for life, Carbo again would end up on the wrong end of a Series, in 1975 against his old team (the Reds), and that there would never again be another former player umpiring in the majors. Or maybe I'm overselling it.
Also, he once awarded a three-ball walk after he counted a balk as a ball (April 24, 1960—Cubs vs Giants). I guess he wasn't a very assiduous speller.
Adios, Ken Burkhart. We shan't see your like again.
Fair Balls and the Imaginary Imaginary Line II
I referred this issue to umpiring authority Rick Roder, who was extremely helpful and informative and also confirmed Andy's and my interpretation of the rules. Lacking a MLB Umpires Manual myself, I first asked if it was there.
This issue is not covered in the MLB Umpires Manual. I believe that most professional umpires would consider a ball that falls inside of the baselines between first/second and second/third to still be on the "infield" as far as this rule is concerned. Accordingly, this is how it is worded in the Jaksa/Roder manual:
Next, I asked him about the nebulous qualification for balls hit to the outfield:
I also have an issue with this section of the definition: "A FAIR BALL is a batted ball…that is on or over fair territory when bounding to the outfield past first or third base ". Given that the outfield is defined as "the area of the playing field most distant from home base" [i.e. in the definition of OUTFIELDER, of all places], there's a lot of gray area there. Does that include the cutout areas around the bases? If so, then aren't the infielders stationed, usually, in the outfield, technically? What if the ball hits the cutout over a drawn in shortstop and goes foul in front of third, is it foul or fair? Logically, it should be fair, but I don't think the rules are conclusive.
Regarding "A FAIR BALL is a batted ball…that is on or over fair territory when bounding to the outfield past first or third base ".
Rick's manual seems a wise investment, and once I clear it with the mighty Mike's Baseball Rants budget department (i.e., my wife), I am going to pick me up one.
Fair Balls and the Imaginary Imaginary Line
More adventures in wacky fair/foul ball calls:
Curiouser and curiouser, eh? Wait for it…
Spalding Grey Matter
The Library of Congress has a number of the old Spalding Base Ball Guides online.
Here's the index. They are required reading for all baseball fans.
Here's a great page that lists the "Chicago" games (i.e., shutouts) and extra-inning games for the NL in 1888:
Check out the batting ratios listed. They include the original "batting average", runs per game, from the old National Association of Base Ball Players days (1857-70):
The collection also has a set of indoor baseball guides, which I've never seen before. Check out the indoor fields:
And indoor bats:
Taking My Ball And Going Home II
The Times has an editorial on the Minky ball by Tulsa law professor Paul Finkelman.
His finding is that the ball belongs to neither of the warring parties but rather to either the Cardinals or MLB. He settles on MLB:
In the regular season, the answer is clear: the home team. Whether the home team owns the balls used in its park during a World Series game is a slightly more complicated question. But only slightly; if the home team does not own it, then Major League Baseball does.
Well, that's not much of a rationale. Who said the home team didn't own it anyway? Besides, MLB spokesman Carmine "Don't Call Me the Big Ragu" Tiso told the Globe that the ball is Mientkiewicz's. Therefore, doesn't Finkelman's line of reasoning actually support Minky's case?
My friend Murray makes a much more straightforward and convincing argument in an open letter he sent to the Times two full days before the editorial:
To the Editor:
All right, I'm convinced. It's the Cardinals' ball. If they wish to liberate it from Mientkiewicz, that's fine. However, the Red Sox have no claim to it. "All the news that's fit to print", huh?
On-Deck Coach II
I received the following email in reference to an entry from last June. As it deals with the rules, I found it quite interesting:
I came across your site and found you answered a question in part to what some of myself and fellow umpires where discussing the other night.
Here's my response:
On September 16, the Mets were forced to announce that they were firing manager Art Howe effective at the end of the season after the decision was leaked to the press, perhaps as a trial balloon in the court of public opinion. The Mets finished with a 71-91 record in fourth place in a rather mediocre NL East.
This came after a promising start for the Metsgoes. On July 7, they beat the division-leading Phils 10-1 to climb to within one game of the lead with one game left in the series. They lost the next game, 5-4, and within two weeks had fallen below .500 to stay.
So will the real New York Mets team please stand up? Is it the one left reeling in the shadows of the crosstown Yankees at the end of the season? Or is it the one that seemed so promising earlier in the season with David Wright still waiting in the wings? Is seems that owner Fred Wilpon thinks it is the latter but he is doing everything he can to spackle over the more egregious holes before the start of next season.
At the end of the season, the Mets hired former Expo GM Omar Minaya, who in turn hired former Yankee coach Willie Randolph as manager a month later. After declining arbitration to a slew of older players, the Mets signed free agent Pedro Martinez in the middle of December. Then they managed even to top the Yankees acquisition of Randy Johnson by swiping budding superstar Carlos Beltran for 7 years, $119 M. Their next target appears to be Blue Jay free agent first baseman Carlos Delgado.
So after potentially three major free agent signings, the Mets have to be top contenders in the NL East, right? After all they have promising young players on the left side of the infield in David Wright and Jose Reyes, arguably the best offensive catcher of all time in Mike Piazza, former Japanese player Kaz Matsui hopefully growing into his new role at second base in his second season in the majors, and a deep, rebuilt pitching staff.
Would a team coming back from a sub-.450 winning percentage or a fourth-place or worse finish in one season to make the playoffs in the next be that rare an event? Well, it's been done 83 times in baseball history. Here are the occurrences over the last 15 years:
If you want to look at a team, like the 2004 Mets, that did both, finished with a sub-.450 record, no higher than fourth, then there are just 17 teams in baseball history, though almost half are from the past 15 seasons:
So have the Mets done what's necessary to join this list? Can they make the playoffs in 2005? It helps that the NL East is a highly mediocre division. Assuming it will take at least 92 wins to nab the division title and/or a wild card spot, have the Mets improved by 21 games with the personnel that they have added? Will Delgado by the final piece to a Mets come back?
Here's a breakdown of the putative 2005 team assuming that they sign Delgado. Listed are the players' 2004 Win Shares for the Mets only, along with a projection for 2005. For most the projection is based on their 2004 WS total projected out to 162-game schedule depending on their expected playing time. This does not take into account improvements for younger players or declines for older ones, nor does it figure in injuries to key players. It just projects the team's 2005 Win Shares based on 2004 totals:
Notes: Delgado's projection based on 2004 WS plus 10% more playing time.
Adding up all the Win Shares projects to 87 wins for the 2005 Mets. Of course, this is anything but scientific, but it does tell us a couple of things. First, the Mets are vastly improved on paper (surprise!) but are far from division favorites (also surprise!). They do appear to be likely contenders. However, without some improvements over 2004 by a number of key players, they still seem to be short of a division crown.
If youngsters like Wright and Reyes fulfill their potential tags and veterans (Piazza, Delgado, Cameron, Matsui, Floyd) play like they have in years past, the Mets could very easily garner a division crown. However, if either of their top two starters, Martinez and Glavine, both of whom are aging and/or fragile, falter, and their rebuilt pen does not gel, it could be a disappointing season at Shea.
Either way, they'll probably beat the seemingly non-existent Phils this year.
Cats and Dogs Sleeping Together
Sheez, I go away for a couple of weeks and the whole baseball world went to heck in a handbasket. Witness:
The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
The friggin' Los Angeles née Anaheim née California née Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim?!? To quote Seinfeld, "Yeah, and I'm Jerry Cougar Mellencamp." Only in Hollywood (of Anaheim) could a name this ludicrous make any sense. I mean, we have withstood some silly stadium namings but we never had a team moniker qualified with "At Camden Yards" or "At Arlington".
It's worse than when Prince changed his name to an unpronounceable symbol and became first "The Artist Formerly Known As Prince" and then eventually shortened it to "The Artist", all the while refusing to "cover" songs by Prince in his concerts. At least he was doing it to tick off his record label. I'm not sure exactly whom the Angels are trying to tick off. Besides Prince is a hobbit, and they are a terribly unpredictable lot after all.
The LA Angels were a once-proud minor-league team in the old PCL, which once had major-league ambitions and was given a special "open" classification. They lasted over fifty years, until the arrival of the major-league Dodgers in 1958. Now they are the punchline to a joke.
Or rather the joke was letting this punchless palooka of a franchise win a World Series just because of a monkey, Gene Autrey's ghost, and every analyst's favorite underrated, pocket-sized player, David Eckstein.
You Gotta Have Breakfast with Carl Everett!
I only hope that it was a news reporter that purchased the tickets for the obnoxious nosh so that Carl can masticate with his favorite people. Just remember, fellows, no cell phones.
[By the way, the headline is inspired by "Lunch with Ed" by Dogzilla. You had to be there.]
Yankees Finally Acquire Johnson
In a saga that was years in the making and had a cast of thousand involved, Cecil B. Cashman finally pried Randy Johnson from the Diamondbacks. The Yankees will give the Unit $32 M over two years. Throw in the $9 M that they sent to Arizona, not to mention Javier Vazquez, Brad Halsey, and Dioner Navarro who went in the trade. That's a lot of cabbage even for the Yankees for a 41-year-old.
One could argue that the Yankees' current direction leads only to madness. Vazquez alone may make them regret the trade, no matter how bad he looked at the end of last season. Halsey and Navarro aren't the greatest prospects but the Yanks organization is so depleted, that they don't need the added strain. Besides, not even the Yankees can keep supporting a team payroll that is spiraling out of control, right? Then throw in Johnson's age, the fact that he missed a good deal of 2003, etc.
I say I don’t care. As a baseball fan, I can't wait to see the most dominant lefty since Steve Carlton pitch in Yankee Stadium. Andy Pettitte was a good pitcher in the Bronx, but we haven't seen anything like Johnson in Yankee Stadium since Ron Guidry's stellar 1978 season. Or was it Henry "Arthur" Wiggen's 1958 season with the Mammoths?
Here's a rundown of all the Yankee southpaws with at least 19 Win Shares:
That's a great list. It even has Luis Arroyo.
For context, Johnson had 26.8 Pitching Win Shares in 2004 and had a career-high 28.7 in 2002. That's a far cry from Guidry in 1978, but he also wasn't pitching in the Bronx then.
And there's always the added dimension of Johnson possibly facing former teammate Curt Schilling when the Red Sox play the Yanks. As if their series needed the added media frenzy.
Taking My Ball And Going Home
The more I hear about the World Series champion Red Sox, the less I find them to be the media-darling, Disney-sojourning, warm and cuddly baseball ambassadors that baseball fandom has declared them to be. I guess the fact that the Red Sox's 86-year drought was shorter than that of both Chicago teams but created the Karl Rove-ian misimpression that the Sox were history's dupes pretty much squelched it for me.
Now, Doug Mientkiewicz, a minor supernumerary with the juggernaut Wild Card team, happened to be the first baseman in game four of the World Series and caught the last out of the game. Mientkiewicz held onto the ball as the celebration ensued. He then spirited the ball away in his wife's purse reminding one of the perhaps apocryphal story of Jefferson Davis retreating from the confederate capital in a dress during the Civil War. The ball is currently in a safety deposit box and there it will remain barring the next escapade by Danny Ocean's nebulously numbered crew.
The Red Sox now say that the ball is there's while Mientkiewicz envisions using it to pay for his retirement. MLB has already said that it's Mientkiewicz's ball. But the Kinder and Gentler Empire will have none of it.
It'll be interesting to see if this goes to court. I wonder if there is a precedent for this. I know in football players get to hold onto balls with personal significance. I don't know if a quarterback gets to keep the football he used when he took a knee to end a Super Bowl, however. I would think that the team could be generous given that they have been saving for 86 years to buy off a player for a World Series ball. Maybe giving him the starting first base job would be enough.
If the Red Sox do pry the ball away from Mientkiewicz, where will it end? Will teams have players strip down as they saunter to the dressing rooms after the game to keep any potential souvenirs? How about full cavity searches? And who was the Evil Empire again?
The Rosy Sox
And more on those exemplars of baseball decency, the Red Sox. The Massachusetts Lottery is officially sponsoring the World Series trophy tour.
Wait a sec, isn't trafficking with gamblers bad? Leo Durocher was suspended for a season because of it. Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays were suspended "for life" (which became four years) after they retired as players because of their association with casinos.
Oh, but those were players, not owners. Owners can traffic with whomsoever they see fit. There's no conflict of interest there.
I wonder if they got the Mientkiewicz ball if the Sox would be able to fund the tour themselves. They are a cash-strapped organization after all. Maybe they should just charge the fans for seeing the trophy. It is all about the fans after all, right?
Hall-abaloo III: 2006 Preview
After reviewing the 2005 writers' Hall of Fame vote, I thought it would be interesting to look at next year's first-year class, a particularly weak one. Given that the nominating committee casts a rather wide net, here are the top candidates (min. 75 Win Shares):
I think that the 15 remaining players from this year's ballot will probably be joined by at least 12 of the potential cabdidates. Clark, Gaetti, Belle, Hershiser, Gooden, Jefferies, Guillen, Aguilera, and Wetteland should be locks. Given the caliber of player that gets run up the Hall flagpole to see if anyone salutes, there are another half-dozen that could join them.
That said, the ballot should be a bit longer than this year's rather short 27-man ballot though there is no clear-cut first-ballot Hall of Famer like Wade Boggs this year or Paul Molitor and Dennis Eckersley last year. Will Clark could sneak in but is just the third-best candidate by Win Shares behind Andre Dawson (340) and Bert Blyleven (339), who finished seventh and eighth in the writers' vote this year.
In 2006, the best candidates (according to Win Shares) will not be on the ballot. They have already been dropped from the ballot in previous seasons because the writers evidently found them lacking (unlike Willie McGee—huh?!?). They are Darrell Evans (363), Rusty Staub (358), Lou Whitaker (351), and Dwight Evans (347).
Of course, 2006 might be the only vote with any drama for some time given that 2007 features three extremely strong candidates: Cal Ripken (427 Win Shares), Tony Gwynn (398), and Mark McGwire (343). All seem excellent first-ballot candidates. 2008 features a great candidate in Tim Raines (390) but the drama there will be whether the voters can see his greatness or consign him to the Evansonian purgatory. Then there's Rickey Henderson, a sure-fire first-balloteer, in 2009.
So what are the odds next year for the four men who garnered at least 50% of the vote in 2005? They are: Bruce Sutter (66.67%), Jim Rice (59.50%), Rich Gossage (55.23%), and Andre Dawson (52.33%). Sutter should be a lock given that he was just 43 votes shy this year, right?
Let's take a look. Of the 80 men who amassed at least 60% of the vote in one year, 45 were elected the next year. That's only 56.25%. That's not too encouraging. Though of the candidates reaching 65%, 31 of 47 (65.96%) did go into the Hall the next year. So it seems to be far from a lock.
And for Bert Blyleven fans, those quixotic few, keep in mind that just 3 men out of 1571 have gained election after receiving less than 50% of the vote in the previous year.
As for the other three candidates, only seven of 83 candidates (8.43%) with between 50 and 60 percent of the vote made it in the next season. So what do I think will happen? I feel pretty good about Sutter, but I wouldn't be surprised if he was the only one enshrined in 2006, at least by the writers' vote. Then again Rice, Gossage, and Dawson all have better odds of making it than McGee has of staying on the ballot again.
Hall-abaloo II: Postmortem
Well, now we know that the 2005 writers' class will consist of Boggs and Sandberg, but there were a number of interesting developments in the voting. First, here's a quick review of the players on this year's ballot, their voting results for the last four elections, my prediction for each for this election, and the actual result:
You'll notice that a number of candidates, including Sandberg, reached a personal high in voting percentage this year. Besides the two that reached the magic threshold (75%), four reached the seemingly all-important 50% mark. Of the players no longer on the baseball writers' ballot, only Gil Hodges, whose high was 63.37%, has ever reached 50% without being eventually elected by some Hall body (and he may gain admittance in March when the Vets' vote is announced).
With two-thirds of the vote, Bruce Sutter looks like a good candidate for 2006, but has just three shots left. Rice, Gossage, and Dawson, the other three over 50%, all set personal highs this year. So did Bert Blyleven, whose Hall chances seem to be gaining momentum steadily each year.
Of the other nine players in Hall purgatory, those players that seem stuck on the ballot (Smith, Morris, John, Garvey, Trammell, Parker, Mattingly, Concepcion, and Murphy), only two set personal highs (Trammell and Morris). None seem like good bets for the foreseeable future.
Of the twelve new candidates, Boggs got the required votes, McGee got barely enough votes to remain on the ballot, and the rest went the way of the dodo. I had picked Strawberry as the one other candidate who would stick around at least for a year, but it ended up being McGee. I guess they let the off-field performance outweigh the on-field.
Overall, the short ballot helped a number of the more borderline candidates get extra support but didn't seem to do much for the tailenders. We'll have to wait a year to see if the players will retain and possibly build on the newfound support.
One note: I'm in vacation in Boca Raton. To quote Ferris Beuller, if you have the means I highly recommend it (where else can you see a well-manicured hedge one mile long that probably costs more than the average American family's income each year to maintain). First, I have to report that their burgers are nothing like you find in the store—they'll full of meat. Second, I visited the Sports Immortals museum/memorabilia store. It was an interesting place—the Honus Wagner card, Ray Chapman ball, dirt from Joe Jackson's first field, and keystones and seats from a number of olde tyme stadia. I want to post some photos along with more comments but am ensure whether I will be able to effect this with the various and sundry cocoanut shells et al that I have with me on vacation.
This is my site with my opinions, but I hope that, like Irish Spring, you like it, too.
About the Toaster
Baseball Toaster was unplugged on February 4, 2009.
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