November 29, 2007

Is it Hall of Fame time already?

The 2008 Hall of Fame ballot was released the other day and it is about the most underwhelming collection of players in a long, long time.

It’s a shame really.

I mean, baseball is, as a sport, kinda teetering right now. Popularity is at an impressively high level…YET, public perception is one George Mitchell report away from being worse than one could ever conceive!

Which brings me back to this year’s Hall of Fame class. We need a year like last year’s Cal Ripken and Tony Gwynn class rather than the “well, someone had to be elected, right?” ceremony that awaits us in 2008. Frankly, I’m more excited for any sequel to “Two Girls…One Cup” than I am the 2008 Hall of Fame class. At least with that, you have willing participants being fed a mouthful of you-know-what instead of whoever the writers present us with as being a baseball immortal.

Who are the first ballot front runners? Tim Raines, David Justice…Rob Nen? Shoot me now.

I could make a case for “Rock” if (and it’s a BIG “if”) Rickey Henderson did not exist, was already in the Hall of Fame OR Andre Dawson was already enshrined. Henderson was roughly THREE TIMES the player Raines was and Dawson was more of the face of the baseball north or the border than anyone else. And let’s face it…Raines was pretty much only an Expo, right? I implore you to tell me who else he played for, when AND what he might have done with those teams that is worth mentioning.

The holdovers are intriguing and it is on that list where you’ll find the class of 2008. Most notably…Goose Gossage, Jim Rice, Andre Dawson and Mark McGwire are getting plenty of attention.

Last name first…McGwire won’t get in because of the steroid implications. It probably wouldn’t be the best PR move for baseball to elect someone to the Hall that is routinely mentioned in the “did he” or “didn’t he” steroid debate. Besides, and this is probably the best case for NOT voting him in…his stats weren’t that great. In short, McGwire wasn’t a Hall of Fame player…plain and simple.

Rice and Dawson, both of whom are guys that I support wholeheartedly, are probably going to fall short as well.

Again.

Dawson has seen his vote totals go from 45% in his first year of eligibility (2002) to a high of 61% in 2006 and back down to 56% last year. In that time, both Bruce Sutter and Ryne Sandberg have jumped past him on the list and waltzed into Cooperstown.

Similarly, Jim Rice (who many consider the “most feared” batter of the 70s) has gone from 29% in 1995 to his high of (roughly) 64% in both 2006 and 2007. Rice getting in would be a tip of the cap to the Red Sox franchise and a fitting compliment to their 2007 Championship season. He is beloved by the “Nation” and would certainly bring the crowds to sleepy Cooperstown, New York.

What about the perennial “why not this guy” Bert Blyleven?

Well, like Tommy John (another great “why not”), if he wasn’t elected yet…he won’t be now. And, unfortunately, as much as I like (and support) Jack Morris…I almost have to put him in this same category.

So…the guy with the best chance of being the lucky recipient of the “we had to pick SOMEONE” award is Gossage. Process of elimination, right?

Right?!?

Goose is a head scratcher though. For the life of me, I can’t figure out where this ground swell of support is coming from. It isn’t like he ONLY played for the Yankees. If he did…I could understand why such a colorful character would even be talked about.

On paper, his stats were good. HOWEVER, if you compare him with some of his contemporaries…he is the Vince Coleman to Sutter’s Raines. And that is, of course, if you look at Rollie Fingers as being the Rickey Henderson of the bunch.

To me, Gossage isn’t even the best reliever on the ballot this year…especially with both Lee Smith and Rob Nen up for consideratin. Now, I’m not saying they SHOULD be in the Hall…I’m just saying they are more “Hall worthy” than Goose. But that’s only if you look at the stat line.

The key to being a Hall of Famer is dominance. In short, you need to be THE dominant player (if not one of the most dominant players) at your position during the time you played. Gossage clearly was very, VERY good…but “dominant”?

Sutter supporters would disagree the loudest…but who cares? He’s already in the Hall.

What about Dan Quisenberry, Jeff Reardon, Tug McGraw or Kent Tekulve?

Look at their numbers during the same time that Gossage played. I mean, Goose only led the league in saves THREE times (with only two years with more than 30 saves)…and one of those years, he tied with Quisenberry. Quisenberry, I might add, led the American League in saves five out of six years in the early 80s…right at the same time Goose was said to have been at his peak.

Gossage did get Cy Young consideration five times between 1975 and 1984. However, in that same span…Fingers, Sutter, Sparky Lyle and Willie Hernandez each took home the Cy Young award. Hell, Quisenberry (again) had five top five finishes in a six year span and he dropped off of the Hall ballot after appearing only once.

And yes, I know…any monkey who laces up the spikes can get “Cy Young consideration”. But when you talk “dominance”…you have to take that into consideration.

So is Gossage a Hall of Famer? Frankly…I’m not sure how he garnered 71% of the vote last year. However, the writers seem to like him and (like I said before), this year could belong to him and Rice (maybe)…but only time will tell.

Over the next two months, the HoVG will be examining more of the players that might (but shouldn’t) be overlooked on the current Hall of Fame ballot. If you’ve got something to say about Harold Baines, Andre Dawson, Lee Smith or even Don Mattingly…I’d like to hear from you!

Drop me an email at
hallofverygood@yahoo.com and who knows…your words might just end up on this website!

***Note: I had a poll on the site asking about whether or not you thought Goose should be inducted this year and I'm surprised...78% of you thought he should. Let's see if your opinions match those of the actual voters.***



Ballhype: hype it up!

November 19, 2007

Isn't the horse dead by now?

It’s seems like everyone and their brother is talking about the Barry Bonds indictment nowadays.

Unfortunately, I am not any different.

However, unlike MOST of the stuff I’ve been inundated with, I am not as eager to convict Bonds, throw him in prison and rip him of his accomplishments. It’s all a little asinine if you ask me…even worse if you put it in the context of the game Bonds’ plays (played?).

So what are we dealing with here? The way I see it (and I’m no legal expert), is that Bonds MIGHT have perjured himself (i.e. “lied”) about KNOWINGLY taking steroids. You know that whole, “do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, etc.”…yeah, they’re contending Bonds did not.

Perjury is a tough nut to crack though. I mean, it IS possible Bonds stated the facts as far as he knew them. Not probable…but possible. I suspect that if they don’t cop a plea, Bonds’ lawyers will go that route.

Which brings me to Rafael Palmeiro.

Here’s a guy who sat in front of Congress and emphatically denied the use of steroids. Then, six weeks later, he failed a drug test. Months after that…he was suspended by Major League Baseball.

Huh?

Wait a second…you mean to tell me that he denied usage in front of Congress, failed a test administered by Major League Baseball. but was never charged with perjury? Yup. Not enough evidence apparently.

But what about his stats…surely they’ve removed them from the record books, right?

Last time I checked, Palmeiro’s name resides, most notably, both on the 3000 hit and 500 homerun lists. Heck, Palmeiro is only one of FOUR players to have done both! Where’s that same asterisk that everyone is screaming for in regards to Bonds? I guess Palmeiro isn’t the star that Barry is.

What about slugger turned Surreal Lifer Jose Canseco’s numbers? What about the late Ken Caminiti’s 1996 National league MVP award? These are guys who have also admitted to steroid use, but have not had any of their numbers or accolades stripped from them.

Jason Giambi has publicly admitted to using steroids, but he’ll be there in the spring when the New York Yankees start prepping for the 2008 season.

So, again, why is there a public lynching-like atmosphere surrounding Bonds and whether or not his 762 should have a huge asterisk next to it?

Answer: Bonds was TOO good.

That’s right…the guy was a stud before and more of a stud after he started (alledgedly) juicing. How much better did it make him? Who knows? Who cares, really?

Over the last few seasons, I have heard PLENTY of writers and “experts” say “Bonds was a Hall of Famer BEFORE he started using steroids”. Regardless of how the whole perjury thing plays out, I wonder now if those same writers will take their own words into account in five years when Bonds is Hall eligible.

Surely, a conviction can’t cloud their judgment, right?

In 1980, Fergie Jenkins was found to be in possession of both cocaine and marijuana. He was banned for life by then Commissioner Bowie Kuhn. The next year (thanks to an arbiter), Jenkins was back in the Majors. Then, in his third year of eligibility, Cooperstown opened its doors…ironically the same year that Gaylord Perry waltzed in.

Perry admittedly doctored baseballs throughout his storied career and even helped pen his aptly titled autobiography “Me and the Spitter”. I guess engaging in an illegal activity on the mound is okay if you make jokes about it.

If Bonds is found guilty of perjury, he could, like Jenkins, be banned from baseball. Granted, Bud Selig isn’t exactly the best in making decisions (anyone remember the 2002 All-Star game?)…but maybe he’ll surprise us. Sure, it took a FEDERAL GRAND JURY (and not Major League Baseball) to go after Bonds, but who knows…maybe Bud will change his stripes.

If so, Bonds’ numbers will SURELY get that asterisk that the world is clamoring for, right?

Right?!?

I’m not so sure.

Last time I checked, Pete Rose still holds the all-time hits record. Is it because he was banned because he gambled on baseball games as a manager and not as a player? Perhaps. I have a really, REALLY hard time believing that once Rose was hired on as a full-time manager (remember, he WAS a player-manager first) was when he decided to start gambling hard core cold turkey though. Something tells me that it doesn’t work that way.

Wait…maybe it’s because Pete Rose bested noted sonofabitch Ty Cobb? More than likely, it is because gambling (while as a player OR a manager) isn’t as much of a game changer as steroids or HGH COULD be.

Or not.

“Shoeless” Joe Jackson, while not the ONLY member of the 1919 Chicago White Sox to get banned for their involvement in throwing the World Series is the most notable since, more than likely, he would be in the Hall of Fame otherwise. While the extent of Jackson’s involvement is not known…he and his teammates were involved in game fixing. But nowhere are their numbers emblazoned with baseball’s scarlet letter, er, asterisk.

So, again, why the outcry for Bonds?

Here’s a guy who has been accused of perjuring himself in front of a grand jury. He did NOT fail a drug test administered by Major League Baseball, nor did he (alledgedly) take any substances that were at the time on the MLB’s banned list.

Quite simply, he was a great player who did whatever he could to be the BEST ever. He made no bones about it and made himself TOO good for everyone’s liking. It’s okay that some of these other guys took steroids…they weren’t threatening any records like Barry did.

As Nick Underhill pointed out, Roger Maris’ 61 homers was marred because people didn’t want to accept the fact that he (not Mickey Mantle) bested Babe Ruth. As a society, we accepted that, in 1998, Mark McGwire could beat Maris, but when Bonds did it…something OBVIOUSLY wasn’t right.

Before Bonds even broke Hank Aaron’s all-time record…people were already heralding Alex Rodriguez as the next home run king. It doesn’t matter that he’s 250 behind…“he’s gonna get there” praised the minions. I guess it is always better to be the guy who replaces the guy who replaced the guy.

Until then, Barry Lamar Bonds is MY home run king and a first ballot Hall of Famer…no questions asked. Should he be convicted of perjury and/or banned from Major League Baseball…my hope is that his numbers still reside where they are today.

The guy can bring it…always could. He just got too good for public consumption.




Ballhype: hype it up!

Joe Nuxhall: 1928-2007

***My buddy Johnny P asked me if I was going to write anything about Joe Nuxhall passing. My answer was "nope"...so I put him up to the challenge. Here goes!***

Baseball has lost an icon.

Joe Nuxhall, who will forever hold the record as the youngest Major League Player of all time, passed away last week at the age of 79 after a fight with cancer.

To many around the nation, Joe was that 15 year-old kid who debuted for the Cincinnati Reds in 1944 and pitched a long time ago. For Reds fans, he was also one-half of the voice of the Reds on radio, teaming full-time with Hall of Famer Marty Brennaman in 1974 for 31 unforgettable years.

For those 31 years, Reds fans invited “Marty & Joe” into our cars, living rooms, rec rooms, and garages to talk to us about our Reds. He was our friend. It didn’t matter the “conversations” were one-sided, Joe was still there to tell us about our team. If the Reds weren’t doing too good (which seemed to happen a lot lately), we’d hear him talk about his golf game, or ask Marty how his tomato plants were doing.

While other announcers like Vin Scully mastered the English language at describing baseball, Nuxie’s folksy way hit a homerun with Reds fans. He was himself from the moment he stepped into the radio booth in 1967, and Reds fans loved it. He described many hits as going into right, er left-center field. Home run calls were simply “Get up, get up, get outta here!” Long pauses were the norm. He was to Reds fans what Harry Caray was to Cubs fans.

Joe’s post-game interviews with the “Star of the Game” were always memorable because he never asked a question. Joe would simply say to the “star” “You talk about the homerun you hit…” That was the cue for the player to start talking. We’re still waiting for his first question. His sign-off “This is the old lefthander rounding 3rd and heading for home, good-night everyone” at the end of each broadcast became his trademark, and now is on the exterior of Great American Ball Park.

In an era when it’s easy to not like certain players because of various reasons, it was hard not to love this kid from Hamilton, Ohio. Nobody, no one, ever said a negative word about Joe. I suspect he’s the kind of guy that would mow your lawn or shovel your walk if you asked him to.

Baseball may have lost this icon, but Heaven has gained a good one. Without a doubt, the Old Lefthander has rounded 3rd and headed to Heaven.

For a touching video tribute to Joe Nuxhall, check THIS out.

Ballhype: hype it up!