June 21, 2007

Sosa...yes. Sorry, world.

I’ve been reading a lot of the national columns lately and have to admit…I think I’ve made a deal with the devil.

Why you ask?

Are you ready for it? Sammy Sosa is a Hall of Famer, first ballot…no questions asked. Admittedly, I hate Sosa…HATE HIM, but his stats are so overwhelming that you could almost disregard the home run numbers and he’d STILL get in. Well, maybe not…the home runs are what really get him enshrined, but you know what I mean.

We all know by now that there are only five baseball players that have hit 600 (or more) home runs…Sosa being the latest addition, Barry Bonds, Hank Aaron, Babe Ruth and Willie Mays are the others. But did you realize that Sosa is the only one to have hit more than 60 home runs more than once?

Probably. And he did it three times!

Did you know that Sosa has seven years with 40 or more homers and he did it in six straight seasons? Ruth hit 40 or more in seven straight seasons. By comparison, Reggie Jackson (563 career bombs) NEVER hit 40 or more in back to back years and only has two season with more than 40.

Let’s look at some other notable numbers.

Sosa was an All-Star only seven times. HOWEVER, he has seven top ten MVP finishes. He won the MVP award only once (over Mark McGwire in 1998) and finished in the top ten in six straight seasons.

The guy was a scoring machine…PERIOD. Sosa played for some piss poor teams and STILL managed nine straight season with 100 or more RBI (a career high of 160 and a previous high of 158 are awe-inspiring). By comparison, Ruth’s best effort was eight straight and Jackson only had six 100-plus seasons TOTAL. During the afore mentioned nine year span, Sosa had six straight years with 100 or more runs scored. The seventh year…he scored 99. Incredibly, Sosa hit .289...16 points higher than his career average of .273.


Tim Kurkijan pointed out on ESPN that Sosa has more home runs at Wrigley Field than Babe Ruth had at Yankee Stadium. More impressive, Sosa has 545 home runs AS a Cub…and only one AGAINST them. “Mr. Cub” Ernie Banks has 512 as a Cub. North Siders might want to reconsider who is who.

So…I’ve gone this whole time without mentioning steroids. And that was on purpose...there is NO REASON to believe that a 39 year-old man CAN’T have an acne issue! In all seriousness, the longer this steroid debate rages (pun intended) on…Sosa’s numbers gain more legitimacy. You see…if MORE players get implicated (and remember Sosa hasn’t tested positive or admitted to ANYTHING), the more players like Sosa, Bonds, Palmeiro and McGwire become “one of the guys”. Except in this case...two get in and two are left out.



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June 17, 2007

Sheik Omar!

I realize this isn’t the sexiest Hall of Fame discussion surrounding the San Francisco Giants…but here goes.

I was watching the Red Sox take on (and beat) the Giants on FOX today and the announcers starting talking about whether or not Omar Vizquel is a Hall of Famer. Without hesitation…ALL three of the announcers agreed that he would make it in on the first ballot.

They compared his numbers (both offensive and defensive) to Ozzie Smith. They talked about the Gold Gloves (Omar has 11…9 straight at one point, compared to Ozzie’s thirteen consecutive). They even had a highlight reel cut together showing how both of them saved runs for their respective.

During the telecast, they even quoted former Cardinals skipper Whitey Herzog, who once said something along the lines of…“(Smith) might not knock in 100 runs in a season, but he’ll save you that many”. That could probably be said of Vizquel as well.

They did their homework. Good work, FOX statisticians!

As mentioned, the most compelling case FOR Vizquel’s enshrinement is the similarity between his numbers and those of Smith. Both slap hitters when okay career averages (.274 for Omar, .262 for Ozzie). Both of them amassed a good amount of hits (2500+ for Omar, 2460 for Ozzie). Should Omar play until he is 45 (he is 40 now), he’ll be at 3000 and virtually a LOCK for Cooperstown. Not bad for a guy who is in the lineup solely for his glove.


Omar SHOULD wind up his career as the leader for games played at shortstop. Not too shabby. When the Hall came calling for Carlton Fisk (a second ballot guy ONLY because of the competition he was up against)…EVERYONE cited his longevity at one position. Vizquel is already the career leader for being part of most double plays than any other fielder.

Yes, I, too was amazed that someone keeps track of that shit.

Fielding percentage…how ‘bout it? This is what the writers will look at. The awe inspiring fielding and Gold Gloves SHOULD speak for themselves (sorry Jim Kaat), but when push comes to shove…the Hall will look to those already enshrined for a basis of comparison.

Omar has a career .984 fielding percentage…nice! Compare that to the slick fielding “Wizard of Oz” (.978) and Omar’s inclusion is starting to look pretty good. Compare it to Luis Aparicio (.972) and Pee Wee Reese (.962) and you should start reserving room for Omar’s plaque. Omar also shares the American League record for consecutive errorless games at shortstop with Cal Ripken, Jr.

This guy is a no brainer, right?!?

Wrong.

The biggest reason why Omar Vizquel DOESN’T get elected into the Hall of Fame is that he will be GREATLY overshadowed by the other names on the ballot…there just aren’t enough votes to go around. When Omar is eligible for Hall consideration he could very well be going up against Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds, Greg Maddux, Craig Biggio, Randy Johnson, Tom Glavine, John Smoltz, Curt Schilling, Frank Thomas, Jim Thome, Mike Piazza, Sammy Sosa (I know…I know) Trevor Hoffman and Jeff Kent.

Honestly, I could probably add a dozen more names to that list…but not ALL of them would be as Hall worthy (and each of them is) as the ones I mentioned. Furthermore, you can’t rule out long time ballot standards getting their fair share of the votes. Hell, Bruce Sutter FINALLY made it in on his thirteenth attempt!

Granted, add Vizquel’s name to the above list and he is the only shortstop. HOWEVER…you should figure that when it is time for his name to come up for selection, Derek Jeter should have staked his claim as the “Best Shortstop EVER” and the gold standard for the position will be a 6’3” pretty boy with 300 career bombs. Not a 5’9” Venezuelan who couldn’t get his hands on Jessica Biel’s ass if he paid for it on eBay.

But I digress.

When it is all said and done…Omar Vizquel will find his way into Cooperstown. Not on the first ballot like Ozzie Smith…maybe not even on the fifth or sixth ballot like Luis Aparicio. But rather, thanks to the Veteran’s Committee…he’ll probably end up getting in like Pee Wee Reese did.

It’ll be a shame too…he was better than all three.



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June 14, 2007

"Louisiana Lightning" versus Sanford Brown Koufax...it's on!

At first glance, looking at Ron Guidry envokes only one thought…nice 'stache. Look into the numbers and you come up with something COMPLETELY different.

He was better than Sandy Koufax.

What? Better than Koufax…THE Sandy Koufax?!? You better believe it, bitch…and I'll tell ya why.

Koufax's Hall of Fame career was based on four GREAT years and potential. He left the league at the age of 30…and never looked back. Had he played ten more years and had an eight year span of greatness versus four…he'd be the best ever. No argument.

But he didn't…he left the game. So, take his numbers and stack them up against "Louisiana Lightning" and riddle me this…why is one one of the greatest lefties EVER and the other merely a footnote in Yankees history?


Let's start with the case AGAINST Koufax.

At first glance, Sandy finished his 12 year career with a 165-87 (.655 win percentage)…Guidry was 170-91 (.651). Sandy has 3 Cy Young Awards and 1 MVP Award, whereas Guidry has only one Cy Young. Arguably…Guidry never really had a chance to win an MVP award while playing for the Yankees. In 1978…EIGHT Yankees received MVP votes and "Gator" finished second overall to Jim Rice.


Here's the biggie…from 1955-1962 (yes, Koufax's first 8 seasons), Sandy was MEDIOCRE. Guidry never DIDN'T bring it.


Koufax's numbers 1955-1962: 68-60 (.531 percentage), 3.71 ERA and an average of 146 Ks per year. 1963-1966: 97-27 (.782), 1.86 ERA and an average of 307 Ks per year. I know the pitching mound was LOWERED in 1969 to give batters a better look at the ball (and thusly, more home runs and higher attendance)…but was it RAISED from 1963 to 1966?!? The 6'2" Koufax was a witch on the bump for four seasons. For you modern day guys…he was like Pedro Martinez at his absolute best. The rest of his career…he looked like Pedro's brother Ramon sans Jheri Curl.


Alright enough about Koufax…Guidry is the topic here, right? Right.

Guidry's 1978 season has been called by some the "most dominant year ever by a pitcher". He was 25-3 with a 1.74 ERA…not too shabby for 1978. His 248 Ks ranked him second in the AL behind Nolan Ryan's 260. Third on the list that year…Dennis Leonard with 183. Guidry led the league in ERA, Wins, Winning Percentage (.893) and Shutouts. On June 17, he struck out a Yankee-record 18 batters. This performance is usually cited as the launching pad of the Yankee Stadium tradition of fans standing and clapping for a strikeout with two strikes on the opposing batter.

And he led the Bronx Bombers to the World Series. Not bad for a guy who after three years in the bigs, finally getting a chance to be a full-time starter.

Guidry won 20 or more three times…the same as Koufax. Guidry also garnered five straight (1982-1986) Gold Gloves…Koufax had none. Four times Guidry was in the top five for Cy Young voting (he received votes in seven of his 14 years)…Koufax finished in the top five only four times (1963-1966 not surprisingly).

"Gator" was a big game pitcher too. In a day when Curt Schilling's (more on him later) bloody sock gets him mentioned in the same breath as some other great performances and virtually ushered into the Hall, Guidry beat those same Red Sox at Fenway Park in a one game playoff in 1978 to send his team to the playoffs. Oh…that victory also happened to be his 25th of the season. Eventual league MVP Jim Rice was 1 for 4 versus Ron that afternoon.

So there you have it…Guidry versus Koufax. I could've easily compared him to Jim Bunning or Don Drysdale…but the scales would be tipped COMPLETELY in Ron's favor. I wanted to make this a tough one and take on an icon.

Don't worry Drysdale and Bunning fans…your guys will get their comeuppance soon!



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No McGwire...No Shock

The Hall of Fame voting came and went and remarkably…Cal Ripken and Tony Gwynn made it while Mark McGwire did not. No surprises, right? Not from this guy. It's a shame that lost in the "did he" or "didn't he" do steroids debate, the hypocrisy of the Hall of Fame voters is going virtually unnoticed. Say what? Okay…pay attention. There are baseball writers out there who intentionally left their ballots blank to protest the "Steroid Era" and, more specifically, McGwire.

Let me get this straight… writers are protesting Major League Baseball's "Steroid Era" (post 1994) by NOT voting in McGwire, BUT…they are overwhelmingly (almost unanimously) voting in Ripken and Gwynn?!? I'm not saying Ripken and Gwynn used steroids (Hell, I'm not saying McGwire did or didn't), but weren't all three of them on their first ballot this year? I mean, doesn't that mean that they ALL retired in 2001? Doesn't that mean that all three of them played during the "Steroid Era"?

You following me?

If you're going to make McGwire the poster boy for steroids (and let's be honest…whatever dude was taking wasn't banned by baseball and therefore LEGAL in the sport), you've got to punish his brothers as well.

Let's look at Ripken's numbers post 1994. His .276 Batting Average is EXACTLY on par with his career average. His home runs, RBI and hits…all down. Clearly he showed the signs of decline after ending "the streak". Should he have hung it up after 2000 when he got his 3000 hit? Maybe...but why not stick it out another year and get the accolades. I used to be on the fence with Ripken…after looking at his numbers, I'm a fan.

Anthony Keith Gwynn on the other hand…let's look at his numbers post 1994. The .353 Batting Average is higher than his career .338…BUT his .371 between 1994 and 1997 (the same time that McGwire's numbers started to balloon is what puzzles me. Gwynn ended up with a paltry 135 home runs over his career…of course he hit 69 (more than half) of them between 1994 and 1999.

Let me put that into perspective…if I can.

Between 1994 and 2001, Tony Gwynn hit 51% of his career home runs. Mark McGwire belted 60% of his career bombs in that same period. I'm not saying Gwynn's numbers were inflated due to steroids…but his RBI totals of 90 and 119 in 1995 and 1997 do make you wonder considering his career best prior to that was 72.

Here's my point. If the Hall of Fame voters are going to leave Mark McGwire out of the Hall of Fame because of his alleged steroid abuse in the 1990s…they need to look at the stats of some of the players they are enshrining. Again, I'm not saying that anyone did or didn't juice up…I'm just suggesting the playing field be level. Are McGwire's numbers Hall worthy? Outside of some mammoth home runs and magical moments…probably not. Take into consideration that he was a twelve time all-star and you might have a case.

I look at it this way…subtract his home runs and you've got an oft-injured guy who hit .263 with 1626 hits, 1414 RBI and a mere 252 doubles. Compare those numbers to some guys who will NEVER make the Hall (Albert Belle for one) and all you can say is...UGLY.


So come on, baseball writers, quit hiding behind the "Steroid Era" bullshit…ESPECIALLY when you are going to be hypocrites and allow two others that played during the SAME EXACT TIME into the Hall with the third and seventh highest percentages EVER! I'd wager a majority of the guys bashing McGwire also jerked him off as he and Sammy Sosa were chasing Roger Maris. You got egg on your face, fellas, but no one did ANYTHING wrong. The ball and the players were juiced and YOU rode it all the way to the bank and loved it.

Admit it.

Next year...get it right and let in Goose, Hawk and Rice.




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el Tiempo del Tiante? Sure!

So let me get this straight, on the eve of the Hall of Fame votes being revealed...people are arguing back and forth about whether or not Bert Blyleven, Jack Morris or Tommy John deserve to enter the hallowed Hall?!?

Makes sense to me. Sure, put them in...but only AFTER you open the doors for Luis Tiant

I know, I know...no one is REALLY arguing John's name right now and Tiant isn't eligible until the verteran's committee gets ahold of him, but I digress. Let's look into some stats, ladies! And first, let me dispell the rumors that Tommy John belongs. He doesn't.

HOWEVER, he is about as deserving as Blyleven..if not moreso. Sure, the Dutchman is fifth All-Time in strikeouts (3701) and it isn't likely someone will get near 3500 any time soon (Greg Maddux is closest with 3169)...BUT, you give a number of players that many innings and Blyleven is merely a footnote. Ks is about ALL that Blyleven has going for him. He's got 287 wins (John has 288), but he also has 250 losses. 250 losses...fuck, he's in the top ten! However, it should be noted that the only player that has more losses (254) is Jack Powell and he, too, is not in Cooperstown...never will be.

Blyleven had one season with 20 wins...and he was 20-17 that year! Fuck, Dave Stewart did 20 Ws four years in a row! For the record, John did it 3 times between 1977 and 1980...a period where he won 80 games. Not too shabby.

Enter Jack Morris.. monster 'stache and all!

Morris was a gamer from the word "go". Top 5 in Cy Young voting five different times. He won 20 plus three times and had the most wins in the 80s with 162. Later in his career, Morris pitched one of the more memorable World Series games in the last 20 years...possibly the most memorable if not for Curt Schilling's bloody sock.

Look it up, kids...it was one for the ages.

What separates Morris from the herd is a quote I found online. He once told a female reporter..."I don't talk to women unless they're on top of me or I'm on top of them."

'nuff said.

So...that leaves El Tiante and I'll make it short and sweet. He should've been the first Cuban in the Hall of Fame (Jose Canseco should've been the second, but Tony Perez SOMEHOW beat them both to it). Okay, it boils down to the Big Red Machine versus steroid abuse versus, simply, being Luis Tiant.

The line on Tiant is impressive...229 and 172 over 19 seasons (one could argue he only pitched 15 COMPLETE seasons) and notched a .571 winning percentage. By comparison, Blyleven only won 53% of his games...as did Robin Roberts, a Hall of Famer. Tiant had four seasons with more than 20 victories and from 1973-1976, he had 80 wins. Unlike Blyleven...Tiant had a period where he WAS a dominant pitcher.

An interesting side not, his first start was a shut out versus the Whitey Ford and the Yankees in 1963! In 1968...batters hit .168 against Tiant. This was also the same season his ERA was a mind boggling 1.60.

Yikes!

Tiant was a character...and the Hall loves a good character. If it wasn't for character, does a guy like Ozzie Smith make it in?

Probably not...cue the flip. Yippeeee!

"Today...I am the greatest!"

I'm on a baseball kick…it's true. Even more true…I like stats and I love comparing them. I had a conversation over the weekend about who I thought was the "best ballplayer" I had ever seen. Now granted…I started watching baseball in 1981, but still, the choice was an easy one.

Rickey Henderson.

Here's the thing about Rickey that is the most fun to point out…people HATED him.

He was arrogant, self-centered and flashy. He was the first player that I remember to play wearing an earring, Oakleys AND a Jheri-curl…all at the SAME TIME!

Rickey's Hall of Fame credentials are unmatched when it comes to current players that are eligible for the Hall, but have yet to get in. Even better…he hasn't OFFICIALLY retired! Yet…Henderson stands to be the first player elected to the Hall WITHOUT having retired. Sure, some players didn't retire and made it in due to death (I'm looking your way Roberto Clemente)…but never (that I know of) has someone who hasn't retired been selected.

Statistician Bill James was asked if he thought Henderson was a Hall of Famer…his famous reply was "if you could split him in two, you'd have two Hall of Famers." As a baseball fan and memorabilia collector…that makes my lone run-in with Rickey all the appropriate. I was waiting for the Yankees bus to show up outside the Pfister in Milwaukee when, long before the bus showed up, Rickey showed up in a taxi. On his left arm was a white girl…on the right, a black girl.

Apparently Rickey found a way to make himself two Hall of Famers…at least for one night.

Another GREAT Henderson story comes from one of his FOUR stints with the Oakland A's. Team bookkeepers could not account for a ONE MILLION DOLLAR discrepancy in their finances. Eventually, this was traced to Rickey…he had a check for one million buckos framed and hanging on his wall.

Classy.


Let's look into the stats. Sure, Rickey was an All-Star in ten of his first twelve seasons, the MVP of the 1990 season (he SHOULD have been the MVP in 1981 as well) and the career leader in runs and steals…but the guy was more of a stud than even those stats imply.

Here's a gem. On July 29, 1989, Henderson stole FIVE bases off of Randy Johnson. This ended up being Rickey's career high (Henderson had eighteen FOUR steal games during his career), and one shy of the single-game steal record. Add to that…he was 0-0 in the game with four walks. By the way, Rickey used to hold the record for most walks in a career too…that was until the world decided to stop pitching to Barry Bonds.

In 2002, Henderson suited up for his EIGHTH team (he played for nine), the Boston Red Sox. Incredibly, from 1979-2001, Rickey Henderson had stolen more bases than the Red Sox had managed over the same time span: 1,395 steals for Rickey, 1,382 for the Boston franchise. Not surprisingly, Henderson is one of two players to have stolen bases in four separate decades, along with Ted Williams. Strangely, Williams only had 24 stolen bases in his entire career.

In 1982, Rickey swiped 130 bases…good for the most in a season. That season he had more steals that EIGHT American League teams did as a team! Currently, Kenny Lofton is the active leader for stolen bases…a mere 800 behind Henderson. Lou Brock, the former record holder for steals in a career…is 500 behind Rickey.

Steals aside…Henderson also had 81 lead-off home runs. Think about that for a second…27% of Rickey's home runs led off a game. His career total of 297 is more than some notable Hall of Fame outfielders (Ty Cobb, Honus Wagner, Roberto Clemente, Hack Wilson, Robin Yount and Kirby Puckett). His 3055 ranks 20 all-time. The only three players with more hits that aren't in Cooperstown…Pete Rose, Cal Ripken and Tony Gwynn.

I'll stop now, but suffice it to say…Rickey SHOULD garner the highest percentage of votes since George Brett and Nolan Ryan in 1999.



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June 13, 2007

Joey the Machine

It's Hall of Fame time, kids! That's right...it's that time of year where Major League Baseball announces the names of those eligible for the Hall of Fame. Right of the bat...this year's list gives us Tony Gwynn, Cal Ripken and Mark McGwire. Some notable holdovers from last year include Jim Rice and Goose Gossage.

Here's the deal, gang, Ripken and Gwynn are locks, but the numbers show that if one of them didn't have a certain streak (and some other players did)...we'd have a whole different Hall.

Enter Albert "Don't Call Me Joey" Belle:

Give my man a better relationship with the media and the longevity of one Cal Ripken and his stats rival Ruth, Aaron and Bonds...no shit.

Let's look at the numbers...provided Belle played in the same amount of games Ripken. Basically, what I did was unscientifically take Belle's number of games, divide them into Cal's and multiply Belle's stats. Not the BEST indicator of potential, but I'm here to plead a case...not win a Pulitzer.

Belle...through 3001 games instead of 1539.

HITS...3366 (good for 9th all-time). Did you know that EVERY player (37 of 'em) NOT named "Pete Rose" that has garnered more than 2800 hits and has been eligible for the Hall has made it in?!? Not in (yet)...but with more than 2800 hits: (Ripken, Gwynn, Rickey Henderson, Rafael Palmeiro, Craig Biggio, Harold Baines and Barry Bonds).

DOUBLES...758 (good for second all-time). More than Rose, less than Tris Speaker...'nuff said.

HOME RUNS...743. Do I need to go into this? 8 out of Belle's last 10 seasons (and in reality, he only played 7 or 8 complete seasons), he hit 30+. Oh...this includes 36 in 106 games in the strike shortened 1994 season...not too shabby. By the way, Hall of Fame sluggers Tony Perez, Orlando Cepeda, Ralph Kiner, Johnny Mize and Hank Greenberg ALL have fewers homers than Belle's 381.

RBIs...2416 (200 more than Babe Ruth, 120 more than Aaron). Over Belle's last 10 years, he knocked in 95+. Fuck...the guy was a machine.

AVG....295. Respectable. Trust me...there are FAR worse batting averages in the Hall. And yes, I'm looking at you Mike Schmidt and Reggie Jackson!


SLG....564. What do Stan Musial, Willie Mays, Mickey Mantle and Hank Aaron have in common? Yup...all of them have slugging percentages WORSE than Belle's.


MVP AWARDS...none. The year Belle finished second to Mo Vaughn...EIGHT points separated them. Anyone for an east coast bias? Belle's average was 17 points higher AND he had 11 more homers. 50 HR PRIOR to 1998 was pretty special, folks...give it up!

I'll stop as I know I just gave some of you a TON of numbers to digest. Sure they are all hypotheticals, but they support the point I am making...and that is all that matters. For a true test of Belle's worth, compare his ACTUAL career stats to Ralph Kiner and Hank Greenberg (both of whom had similar careers) and he dwarfs them.

Next up...Dale Murphy anyone? How about Jim Rice? Any other DOMINANT players you can think of for me to compare to the greats...I will! By the way, if anyone EVER wants to argue the numbers of Ryne Sandberg versus Craig Biggio, Jeff Kent and Roberto Alomar...step up.


***Note: Since this blog was originally written, Belle received less than 5% and was taken off subsequent ballots.***



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