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September 29, 2007

San Francisco decides fans aren't important

Unless you’ve been trapped in a mine for the last week (I was going to reference R. Kelly’s “Trapped in the Closet” here, but thought that would be tasteless)…you know that the San Francisco Giants made IT official.

They no longer want fans to come to 3Com, er, Pac, I mean…AT&T Park.

It seems every third rate baseball blog across the country traded in their ridicule of Rick Ankiel for a “didja hear the one about the Giants NOT bringing back Barry Bonds?!?”

Yeah…we did.

And we heard, rather, READ all about how he “ruined the game” and “needs an asterisk”. We also read about the tool who wanted to send 756 into space. What we DIDN’T read was the fact that even though the Giants have one of the worst records in the Majors (two losses separate them from the basement in the National League), they were one of the BIGGEST DRAWS in Major League Baseball.

Both at home AND on the road!

So, riddle me this…if people HATE Barry Bonds, why do they come out in droves to see the man? I mean, call me crazy, but I have a hunch that fans aren’t flocking to the ballpark to see Ryan Klesko (hooray!) or Lance Niekro (hooray?). Hell…can you NAME five members of the Giants that AREN’T named Barry and/or Bonds?!?

Now, before you tell me “San Francisco is a GREAT city (it is, by the way) and that’s why people go to AT&T”…look at the numbers. PRE-PacBell/AT&T Park, the Giants were lucky to get twenty thousand people to the park every night. Those are Kansas City Royals numbers, folks.

When the Giants moved out of Candlestick…that figure doubled.

Matter of fact, the Giants have surpassed the three million mark in attendance for eight straight seasons! After the Giants made their decision to part with Bonds, Bonds responded…“My understanding as far as business and corporations go is if you bring value to a company, you normally have a job. I believe I brought value to the company.”

Speaking of “bringing value”, it should be noted that when Bonds decided to become a full time home run hitter (alledgedly)…more asses parked themselves into the seats. Yes, you read right…as Bonds’ home run totals increased, so did attendance.

No surprise there, right?

BUT…as his home run totals increased, so did his status as one of the game’s most hated players. If you’re confused by that…I am too. For some reason, the Giants think it is a good idea to cut their ties with their latest meal ticket…and, yes, he WAS their meal ticket. Willie Mays (another Giant great who was ceremoniously ushered out of the Bay) hasn’t suited up for them since 1972. Between the two…no one really holds a candle to the popularity that either of them attained.

More interesting than the team that has let go two players that combined for 1230 (644 for Mays, 586 for Bonds) Giants home runs was General Manager Brian Sabean’s asinine "everybody has to go at some point" comparisons to when Ted Williams left the Red Sox or Ernie Banks left the Cubs.

Memo to Sabean…THEY RETIRED.

Neither Williams or Banks were injured, leading their team in home runs and let go despite bringing fans to the park. It should be noted that Bonds’ OBP (.480 to .351), SLG (.565 to .442) and OPS+ (170 to 104) were MUCH higher than the next best player on the field…Randy Winn. I guess it was nice that the Giants allowed Bonds to get his 756th as a member of their team...something tells me that the gate for the season was GOLDEN (pun intended) due to Bonds’ historic run at Henry Aaron’s record.

The big question…where will Bonds go? That’s a debate for the others out there in the blog-o-sphere to debate. My job is, and will continue to be, to bring up the merits of those that have more than likely been overlooked and maligned by baseball’s Hall of Fame.

Now…is this where I am supposed to give my playoff picks?!?

Ballhype: hype it up!

September 26, 2007

But does he SMELL like a Hall of Famer?

***Note: The following was submitted by E. Check him out HERE!***

Usually, these pages are reserved for discussing the Hall-worthiness of marginal players like Kent Tekulve and Ken Phelps...I myself still have hopes for Jack Clark and Jeff Leonard. But I thought I'd change it up a little, and talk about someone who actually WILL make the Hall sooner than later.

One of the previous entries discussed the Hall-worthiness of a couple of second basemen. I'd like to throw another hat in the ring: Craig Biggio, the newest (and, unless Bonds finds a new team next year, probably the last for a while) member of the 3000 Hit Club. Three thousand hits is one of the last hitting stats guaranteed to put you in the Hall, but I've been hearing a lot of buzz about Biggio NOT being good enough for the Hall. And I can understand this, because it's CRAIG BIGGIO.

When talking about the great players of this era, he's not a name that enters the discussion. He's not flashy, nor has he put up any super numbers; he's gotten where he is by being boringly consistent. He just doesn't pass the Hall of Famer "smell test."

However, I think he's a Haller...and a first ballot one, at that. And to make my case, I'll compare him to another converted middle infielder and 3000 hit Hall of Famer who played his entire career with one team: my arch-nemesis, Robin Yount.

These two are actually a pretty good comparison, as, by the time Biggio retires at the end of the year, they will have played the same number of years, and be close in games and plate appearances.

Yount is another case of a guy who kinda played in the shadows. Not flashy, not a great fielder, not particularly popular (playing in only three All-Star Games), playing on a not particularly-good, small-market team that would have 11 straight losing seasons after he retired...yet he somehow won two MVPs. Of the 3000 hitters...Yount's stats are some of the weakest. He was not a consistent power hitter, he didn't drive in a lot of runs, he didn't hit for average, he didn't steal bases. This guy didn't put up super numbers every year. He just went out there and put up the same stat line, year after year...not a great stat line, at that, but consistency DOES count for something.

And baseball writers realized the shallowness of his numbers, inducting him by a mere 12 votes. It didn't help that Nolan Ryan and George Brett, both 98% vote-getters, became eligible the same year.

But, he went in first ballot, nonetheless.

As far as stats go, Biggio is about as close to Yount as you can get. Their stat lines are remarkably similar, with a slight edge (I think) to Biggio. In fact, with the exception of hits, triples, and RBI, Biggio's numbers are better across the board in fewer games. I'm willing to give a pass on the RBI thing, because, while both players usually batted second in their respective lineups, Biggio batted behind a myriad of unremarkable squids (and pitchers). Yount batted behind Paul Molitor.

You tell me who's gonna have more RBI!

Biggio has some additional pluses in his column. He was a four-time Gold Glove winner, he played in all but three All-Star Games in the '90s, his 666 (and counting) doubles are good for fifth all-time, his 1840 and counting runs are good for 12th, and he will probably end his career as the all-time leading hit batsman.

Now, mind you, Biggio's great-but-not-awesome stats are somewhat skewed to the high side due to Biggio's high number of games and plate appearances.
To get an understanding what I mean...look at Ken Griffey Jr's numbers, and consider the fact that The Kid has played nearly 500 FEWER games than Biggio.

But, playing in every game didn't stop Yaz or Hammerin' Hank from going into the Hall...and shouldn't be a problem here.

Biggio also ranks 10th in outs, but considering that everyone (excepting Ralph Palmeiro) in the top 20 is in the HOF, it's a good thing to get out. His company on the strikeout list, where he currently ranks 11th, is not as Hall-worthy.

All that being said, I'll conclude my case by paraphrasing a comment I made in the Sandberg/Alomar debate: If you put Yount in, you gotta put Biggio in.

Plain and simple.

We'll see how it pans out in 2013.

Ballhype: hype it up!

September 19, 2007

The numbers game continues

Baseball is a game of numbers…so it should come as no surprise that when a milestone is met, the dates then become part of the lore.

August 4, 1984…Tom Seaver gets his 300 victory at Yankee Stadium on Phil Rizzuto Day. That same day, Rod Carew notches his 3000th hit.

May 1, 1991Rickey Henderson becomes the “greatest of all time” by surpassing Lou Brock’s all-time steals mark. Later…Nolan Ryan gets his seventh no-hitter. And speaking of milestones, Henderson would later become Ryan’s 5000th strikeout victim.

September 6, 1995Cal Ripken Jr. surpasses Lou Gehrig on the consecutive games played list.

Recently, we’ve seen some GREAT milestones as well…June 28 comes to mind. That’s the day that Frank Thomas hit his 500th home run and a few hours later Craig Biggio got his 3000th hit.

Now, given the fascination that baseball has with numbers…I’m confused by the TV coverage this past Sunday. Jim Thome knocks out his 500th in dramatic fashion…fair enough. Meanwhile, Todd Jones earned his 300th save and, for some reason, was compared favorably to what Thome accomplished.


You heard me…ESPN was actually trying to fool us into thinking that Jones' 300 saves was a milestone worth noting. Is it notable because 300 sure sounds like a lot of saves? Is it notable because he now sits twentieth on the all-time saves list whereas Thome now sits twenty third on the home run list?

Is it notable because he’s now tied with Hall of Famer Bruce Sutter?

My guess is that it is a combination of the three, but let’s be honest…any list where you rank BEHIND Doug Jones and Tom Henke doesn’t make you worthy of a milestone mention.

NOW…this is the point where, typically, I would break off and do some sort of side by side comparison of Sutter and someone like Trevor Hoffman or Mariano Rivera. All the while, I’d be making some snide comment about how Bruce Sutter doesn’t belong in the Hall of Fame. OR, better yet, if Sutter is in the Hall, why can’t Lee Smith or Jeff Reardon seem to get any votes…much less free parking when in Cooperstown?

I’ll be honest, it’s not worth my time…or yours.

Ballhype: hype it up!

September 16, 2007

Sure, he's in...but what cap would he wear?

Dear Readers…truth or dare?

Dare you say?

Fair enough. I want you to go outside RIGHT NOW and ask the first person you see who the BEST second baseman was over the last quarter century. And when they answer “Ryne Sandberg”…punch them in the face.

Why? They’re lying to you.

Unquestionably, Ryno was good. But he isn’t the BEST to play the position this side of 1980. I know, I know…Sandberg was the MVP in 1984. He once had the most home runs by a second baseman and nabbed nine straight Gold Gloves.

He was pretty good.

Roberto Alomar was better. Hands down.

Matter of fact, he might be the best modern day second baseman...even though Joe Morgan would tell you otherwise. Some people might even go on to tell you that Alomar wasn’t ever the best player on the field for any of the seven teams he played for. Much like Morgan, I’d tell you that neither were Craig Biggio and Jeff Kent and they’re both Hall of Fame caliber middle infielders. And yes...THAT Jeff Kent.

Let’s break this down…plain and simple.

The case for Alomar is an easy one…even easier when compared to the most recent Hall inductee at second base, Ryne Sandberg.

Here ya go:

  • Alomar went to twelve straight All-Star games (nine as a starter), compared to Ryno’s ten.
    Ten Gold Gloves over a span of eleven years is the most ever by a second baseman.
  • His .984 fielding percentage is a hair behind Sandberg’s .989.
  • His 2724 hits (and career .300 batting average) is the most by any EVERY DAY second baseman since Charlie Gehringer’s 2839. Gehringer was inducted in 1949. FYI…Sandberg finished with 2386 and a .285 batting average.
  • Even, Alomar’s OPS+ (a stat that I am not THAT high on, but some people are) of 116 is smack dab in the middle of the pack when you look at those already enshrined. For the record, Sandberg’s was 114. Joe Morgan...a surprising 132.
  • Alomar even slugged .347 in back to back World Series victories for the Blue Jays

And yes, for every “case for”…there is a case against:

  • Alomar lacks an identity. His longest stint with any team was five years with the Blue Jays.

  • As mentioned, Alomar was overshadowed on nearly every team he played for (Tony Gwynn in San Diego, Joe Carter in Toronto, Cal Ripken in Baltimore, Albert Belle and Manny Ramirez in Cleveland).

  • When he is eligible in 2010, he’ll likely be up against Tim Raines, Barry Larkin, Fred McGriff and Edgar Martinez. Granted, they’re not ALL Hall of Famers…but they’ll garner some attention and steal (pun intended in Raines' case) some votes.

  • And, unfortunately, the spitting incident with umpire John Hirshbeck.

Alomar was the type of player that, because he was so damn solid for nearly 17 seasons…people FORGET that he was a hitting machine. From his second year in the majors (1989) until 2001, Alomar hit UNDER .295 only twice. He even had an impressive run of nine out of ten years where he hit .300 or better.

Open your doors for Robbie, Cooperstown, I’ll be watching...all the while knowing that the best second baseman I ever saw play is getting his just desserts.

Ballhype: hype it up!

September 9, 2007

Jim Thome? Not so fast.

***Note: I've since revised this thing (slightly) since it was written in September 2007. Please check out a fresher take HERE!***

So we’re living in a juiced ball era (alledgedly)…I can accept that.

By the time the curtain closes on this current season, we’ll have seen Barry Bonds set the new home run record, two players (Sammy Sosa and Kenny Griffey) eclipse 600 and potentially four (Frank Thomas, Alex Rodriguez, Jim Thome and Manny Ramirez) surpass 500.

By my count, we’ll have 24 members of the 500 club and of the Hall eligible, all but one (Mark McGwire) is enshrined and another (Rafael Palmeiro) will be the unfortunate poster child for the steroid era given he tested positive.

Over the next couple of years, more players will hit the 500 mark then every before, but it’ll drop off. It’s kinda like the early 80s when, if you sneezed hard enough, another veteran pitcher hit his 300th victory.

Milestones are milestones, and they’re great, but let me ask this…is the 500 home run mark watered down? More specifically…is someone like Jim Thome a Hall of Famer? Now, by living in the Midwest, I’ve had the conversation with my peers…I’ve heard it talked about on the radio. People LOVE this guy.

I’m not convinced. The guy hit a bunch of bombs in an era when EVERYONE did. Confused by that statement? Let me put it in perspective…Jim Thome has led the league in home runs ONCE. If anything, Thome is the Webster’s Dictionary definition of “consistent”…not dominant. Never once, have I thought of dominant first basemen and come up with the name “Thome”.

Jeff Bagwell…sure. Todd Helton…most definitely. Frank Thomas…without a doubt.

The case for Thome reads like this:

  • He is a prolific power hitter that could very well end up in the top 12 on the home run list by the time he retires.
  • Nine 100+ RBI seasons, six 40+ home run seasons.
  • Career on base percentage over .400…not too shabby.
  • While he has no Gold Gloves to show for it, this converted third baseman is VERY overlooked as a fielder. Thome has a career fielding percentage of .994 at first base.

The case against:

  • Less than 2000 career hits is VERY underwhelming. Edgar Renteria has more hits than Jim Thome.
  • No MVP awards, only one top five finish (fourth in 2003).
  • Third on the all-time strikeout list.
  • No rings in two World Series appearances...a career .229 post season batting average. Heck...he wasn't even the best player on the Indians during his days in Cleveland.
  • There will be FAR too many more qualified first time inductees by the time Thome becomes eligible.

There you have it...Thome is very good, not great. Hall of Famer? Perhaps…but not on the first couple of ballots. In short, we’ve got a guy who smacked the Hell out of the ball, but was never the most dominant, much less feared, player of his era. And because of that, he'll get lost in the mix. Also, a fifth of his games played have been as a DH…and ask Harold Baines how that has helped HIS case to get into Cooperstown without having to open up his wallet.

***Note: The "is Jim Thome a first ballot Hall of Famer?" poll garnered the following results...Yes-41% (23 votes), No-59% (33 votes). I guess a number of you agree with me!***

Ballhype: hype it up!