December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas!

Is it just me...or does David Wells look good in red? Anyway...Merry Christmas, gang!

Or in the case of our Jewish Hall of Fame friends Sandy Koufax and Hank Greenberg...enjoy your Thursday!



BallHype: hype it up!

December 7, 2008

Game Over

"He makes it look easy. You wish there was another league he could get called up to." - Dwight Gooden on Greg Maddux

13 years, 3 different trials and THIS is what we get…9 to 33 years in prison?

After all the garbage we’ve had to endure (the white Bronco, Kato Kaelin, the dude with the Rollie Fingers mustache)…we can’t even get a REAL sentence?!?

What’s even worse is that O.J. Simpson NOT going to jail for life for, what he claims, “confronting friends” was EVERYONE’S top story on the same day that (arguably) baseball’s best right-handed pitcher of the live-ball era announced he was hanging it up.

But I’m not surprised.

Regardless of his accomplishments (and there were PLENTY), Greg Maddux has never really been in the spotlight. I mean, here’s a guy who never evoked a “can you believe you did THAT” response from anyone. There were never any “Manny being Manny” moments…he never got hit with any weapons charges.

He never threw a perfect game, much less a no-hitter.

He was more professor than pitcher...looked more like an astronaut than an ace. There was no “Mad Hungarian” slapping of the glove…no Jonathan Papelbon glare.

And not that it is the benchmark of how you should rank a guy, but he only made the cover of Sports Illustrated once.

Once.

355 career wins (eighth all-time), eight All-Star game selections (three starts) and 35 post season games and he only makes the cover once?

By comparison, the afore mentioned Simpson made the cover NINE times. Maddux’s stiffest competition in the “best righty of the live ball era” category, Roger Clemens, fronted SI seven times.


But he doesn’t need to be on some magazine to prove his worth. If you’re curious as to how good Maddux was…just look at his stats and marvel at how many things you DIDN’T know about the guy.

At 355-227, Maddux carried a career winning percentage of .610. Every Hall eligible pitcher 100 games over .500 is enshrined.

Throw out the six games he pitched in 1986 and he only had THREE losing seasons out of 22. And of those 22 seasons, Maddux had 13 or more wins in all but two…a feat matched by no other.

He won his four Cy Young Awards in four consecutive years (1992-1995). During that time, he notched a 75-29 record and a 1.98 ERA. It is worth mentioning that along with that miniscule ERA comes another historic footnote. During the live-ball era, there have only been five pitchers to have full-season ERAs under 1.65… Bob Gibson (1968), Luis Tiant (1968), Dwight Gooden (1985) and Greg Maddux.

Twice.

In 1997, you could take off your shoes and count the number of batters (20) that Maddux walked on your fingers and toes. During one stretch (1994-1997), Maddux threw 890 innings, walking 102 and striking out 686.

To say he was a “control pitcher” is an insult to the phrase. Maddux was THE control pitcher of his generation. Joe Morgan once said that Maddux “could put a baseball through a life saver if you asked him."
And the Braves, Cubs, Dodgers and Padres did...740 times. More than all but three pitchers (Cy Young, Nolan Ryan and Don Sutton) in history.

Never a power pitcher, his 3371 strikeouts rank him tenth all-time. Of the Hall eligible pitchers ahead of him, only Bert Blyleven does not have a plaque in Cooperstown. "Mad Dog" was crafty.

In 2006, Maddux matched Jim Kaat’s record by earning his sixteenth consecutive Gold Glove. Not to remain tied atop any leader board…he brought home the hardware in both 2007 and 2008 bringing his total to 18.

I could go on and on for days chronicling what Maddux has done…but I won’t.

I will, however, predict that Maddux will quietly be the first unanimous Hall selection when he is eligible in 2014. And as a sidenote, keep an eye on the class of 2014…it could shape up to be a crowded, crowded field depending on how this offseason plays out.

BallHype: hype it up!

November 13, 2008

Just the fax, man...just the fax

I’d love to tell you that I’ve been so busy with work or other projects that I haven’t been able to fulfill my duties here…but it would be a lie. Fact is, even with all that has happened since we’ve last talked (the World Series, etc.) I’ve had precious little to say.

Oh…and I’ve rekindled my unhealthy relationship with John Madden via my Playstation. Damn you, John Madden! Damn you straight to Hades you marbled-mouthed old fool!

Okay, now that I’ve cleared the air…there was ONE thing that got my blood boiling. What is it you ask? Click this link (HERE) and then come back on over…I’ll wait.

5

4

3

2

1

Alright…are you back?

Good.

Really, San Diego…by fax? You relieved (pun intended) the most prolific closer in Major League Baseball history via FAX?!? This is a guy that, and here comes the shameless plug, Jeff Montgomery told me was “obviously” a Hall of Famer.

Why the disrespect San Diego? Was the four million Hoffman was asking for too much?


By comparison, the 41 year-old Hoffman’s 30 saves were better than high priced counterparts Todd Jones (18 saves, $7 million), Jason Isringhausen (12 saves, $8 million) and Eric Gagne (10 saves, $10 million).

Sure, Hoffman had an off year. But you know what Padres…so did you! Next time, you release a guy by fax…recognize the fact that he saved 30 of your 63 victories. And somehow, I don’t think the four saves he blew keep you from the playoffs.

Alright, all that being said, let’s get to the REAL reason I posted this diatribe. That’s right…here’s more from Monty!

Regarding former teammate George Brett:
“George Brett was a great teammate for anyone to have the opportunity to play with. It didn’t matter if you were a September call up or a veteran player, George helped make you feel comfortable even in tough times. When he got his 3000 hit I gave him a desk clock with Lou, The Ultimate Professional, Congratulations on number 3000, Monty engraved on it as I felt that “The Ultimate Professional” summed him up best. Lou was his nickname.”

Toughest out:
Harold Baines (Hall of Famer or not, he was my toughest out), Don Mattingly, Kirby Puckett and Cal Ripken to name a few.”

Surprisingly easy out:
“He wasn’t an easy out but I had very good success against Joe Carter until he hit two homers against me late in my career. One was when I was pitching my third or fourth night in a row and one was a mop up game. I only remember this about Joe because he is my current neighbor and someone told me the statistics.”

Regarding Jim Edmonds and his Hall of Fame chances:
“I agree with you on Edmonds . If you could measure the plays he made on defense that not many others have a way of making, it would certainly add to his credentials.”

Batter (past or present) that Monty would have loved to have faced...but never got the chance:

“Pete Rose or Babe Ruth”

Regarding his All-Star appearances:
“Of my three All-Star Games, 1993 was the best as we won, I pitched well, and I loved going to Baltimore since I had several friends there and my family would normally come in from Ohio.”

Major influences:
“Pete Rose was the player I tried to play like as a kid. My Dad was usually the one I would call for advice about my career.”

On his predecessor in Kansas City…Dan Quisenberry:
“I knew Quiz had put up some great numbers and never thought of myself as one who would eclipse his save total. I was fortunate to have been given the opportunities and worked hard to stay healthy.”

Prediction for 2009:
“I will not be surprised if K-Rod blows out his arm next year.”

Yikes.


Maybe whatever team decides they want to break the bank on K-Rod should just drop the four million on Hoffman. It MIGHT just be a better decision.

BallHype: hype it up!

October 14, 2008

The Age of the Closer?

Remember the long ball?

Yeah…it wasn’t THAT long ago that “chicks dug the long ball” and freaks of nature like Mark McGwire and Barry Bonds graced the cover of every sports magazine across the country.

As of late, we’re seeing more and more of Jonathan Papelbon and Mariano Rivera than their slugging counterparts. We’ve seen both K-Rod and Trevor Hoffman as the lead story on SportsCenter a few times.

Heck…three of the last five Hall of Fame induction ceremonies have included closers!

We’re living in the “Age of the Closer”, gang…get used to it.

Hoffman’s 554 saves have become the pitching equivalent of Bonds’ 762 round trippers. K-Rod’s 62 saves earned him a nightly countdown on ESPN akin to homerun chase of 1998.

Pretty impressive stuff until you think about it.

I mean, Lee Smith (the former all-time saves leader) wasn’t exactly Hank Aaron on the mound and Bobby Thigpen (the former record holder for saves in a season) was no match for the mythos of Roger Maris. And let’s face it…closing out a 4-2 game still isn’t as sexy as knocking one out of the park and winning that same game 5-4, right?

But regardless of the recent balloon in saves, it isn’t like they’re growing on trees.

Allow me break it down.

One of the most celebrated numbers in the game is 500 home runs and there are 24 players who have eclipsed that total. Give the average baseball fan a few minutes and he can name a number of them. On the other side of the coin are the 23 pitchers with 300 or more wins.

Both are MILESTONE numbers! You get to those numbers and you’d be hard pressed to find anyone that would disagree with your Hall of Fame credentials.

So what is the equivalent for the closer? Is there one?

Recently, I had the privilege to talk with former Major Leaguer and member of the Kansas City Royals Hall of Fame Jeff Montgomery and he shared some insight on that very topic (and a few others)…what is the milestone for closers?

“300 saves used to be the milestone mark when closers were two or three inning guys but 400 will be the new mark as most good closers will reach the 40 save per year mark even on mediocre teams,” Montgomery said.

He’s right.

As recent as 1994 (when Goose Gossage threw his last pitch), there were only five closers that had eclipsed that magic number of 300 saves. Currently, there are 21 pitchers with 300 or more career saves with Montgomery being one of them with 304.

“The fact that managers started using closers as ninth inning specialists in the late 80’s and early 90’s (as LaRussa did with Eckersley) with so much success has allowed season save numbers to escalate dramatically.”

But will this inflate the number of closers in Cooperstown and will it make people look at the accomplishments of Rollie Fingers, Goose and Bruce Sutter and wonder why they are enshrined?

“Not really,” Montgomery responded. “The one great year will not get anyone any votes for the Hall…Goose and company were established, long term dominant relief pitchers.”

So who gets in?

“I think Lee Smith should be considered for the Hall as well as John Franco. Obviously Rivera and Hoffman will get in with their totals both being north of 500 at their retirement and (that) should help Smith and Franco’s cases for election. If (Billy) Wagner returns and surpasses the 400 mark he should be considered also.”

Smith is at 478 and held the all-time saves mark for thirteen years, but so far…the most support he’s gotten for induction to the Hall was this past year when he garnered 45%.

Franco is (quietly) fourth on the all-time list with 424, but more importantly, he has the most saves ever by a left hander and is one of three with more than 300. Add to that that he is second all-time in games finished (Smith is number one) and third all-time in games pitched…and you’ve got a serious contender for induction in 2011.

After that, it’s a crapshoot since there is going to be some tough competition out there sucking up Hall of Fame votes and only time will tell what the magic number (if there is one) ends up being for relievers to get their piece of the pie.


***Jeff Montgomery played thirteen seasons in the Majors…twelve of them with the Kansas City Royals. He is a three time All-Star, a member of the Kansas City Royals Hall of Fame and their all-time leader in games pitched, games finished and saves. “Monty” resides in the Kansas City area and lends his expertise to Sports Radio 810 WHB-AM.***


BallHype: hype it up!

September 8, 2008

Long time friend...first time reader

I don’t do requests…it’s true.

Sure, there have been instances where I’ve asked for ideas or suggestions, but generally, I don’t pay attention to the “you should write about about so and so” emails.

Until now.

Sorta.

I got an email from a friend earlier in the week. I was shocked. I hadn’t heard from him in a couple of years and to top it off, I had no clue he knew about this site…much less what a “blog” was. Suffice it to say, after the standard pleasantries, there it was…”you should write a little more about the Cubs in your blog.” Ugh.

The Cubs? Really?!?

Had this dude actually read my site? Outside of Lee Smith, I can’t say I’ve really trumpeted many Cubs (I’m looking your way “Ryno”) as Hall of Famers. But I had a plan. I had an idea on how I could fulfill BOTH of our wants.

Jim Edmonds.

Yeah…”Jimmy Baseball”! He’s a Cub still, right? Admittedly I’ve been kicking Edmonds around for a while now…I just haven’t been motivated enough to write about him.

There were a few avenues to go down. I started by comparing him to contemporary outfielders like Steve Finley and Luis Gonzalez. Both guys who, in my mind, would illustrate what I already thought…Jim Edmonds DOES NOT belong alongside those enshrined in Cooperstown because, frankly, not one of the three belongs in the same sentence as the sleepy New York town.

Sure, Edmonds is good. He’s a world champ, a four-time all-star and twice he’s finished in the top five in the MVP voting. But Hall worthy? No way. The fact that he’s never finished in the top five in any major statistical category cemented my opinion. (NOTE: Jake has added a couple of statistics that I obviously overlooked in the comments section below. That being said...my opinion hasn't changed.)

But then I remembered…you CAN go into the Hall based on your defense (a la Bill Mazeroski or Ozzie Smith) and Edmonds did bring home eight Gold Gloves in a nine year span. With this guy…defense was the delicious dessert at the forefront and his batting was the icing.

At the plate, Edmonds has 379 career home runs (more than Joe DiMaggio, Ralph Kiner and Tony Perez), a .285 career batting average with five seasons above the .300 mark.

Barring injuries (and honestly, couldn’t we say that about a bunch of players), Edmonds could be nearing 500 bombs and 2500 hits versus where he’ll end up…closer to 400 and 2200.

He is good…just not great.

On paper, his stat line is comparable to a player that, for some reason, still has a weird groundswell of support…Dick “Richie” Allen.

At first thought, the two couldn’t have been more opposite. If you look at their fielding accomplishments alone, you wouldn’t even continue the comparison. Allen had more errors in his first two full seasons (67) than Edmonds has had over his sixteen year career (51).

Sure, they played different positions. Edmonds has primarily been a centerfielder whereas Allen played everywhere. The guy was a hired stick who would have been a terrific DH had he played in the American League and not started his career ten years prior to the implementation of the role.

Allen was once quoted as saying “I can play anywhere…first, third, left field, anywhere but Philadelphia.” It is ironic that in 1977, Dick walked away from baseball after the Oakland A’s tried to make him what he should have always been…a designated hitter.

I’m sure that didn’t help the public’s perception of Allen.

So, back to Edmonds. Jim has always been seen as a “good guy”…he is liked and hasn’t come close to sniffing a controversy. Allen was HATED. It got so bad in Philadelphia, that when he took the field, he became John Olerud-like by donning a batting helmet to protect his skull from the batteries and other debris being hurled by the Phillie faithful.

But, enough about that. I mentioned these guys are similar (and Baseball Reference would agree)…but how?

Well, without getting into TOO much depth, their stat lines are virtually as identical as the number they both wore. Career batting average, on base percentage and slugging slightly favors Allen (.292, .378 and .534) when compared to Edmonds (.285, .377 and .527). The totals swing in Edmonds favor. Jim has Dick beat with runs, hits, homers and RBI (1201, 1874, 379 and 1171 compared to 1099, 1848, 351 and 1119) but did play in a few more games. Allen hit 30 or more home runs six times and only three times, knocked in 100 or more. Seven times, Allen hit better than .300 and six times he finished in the top ten among the league leaders.

Clearly, you can see that the comparison is pretty much a wash, but Allen did garner some hardware.

“Richie” brought home his only MVP award in 1972, his first of three seasons with the White Sox and, like Edmonds, he only finished in the top five in MVP voting twice. Also like Edmonds, you could point at a few other seasons where they were on the short list of the league’s elite.

However, UNLIKE Edmonds…Allen was a man on an island.

Edmonds played alongside the underrated duo Garrett Anderson and Tim Salmon while with the Angels and then, with the Cardinals, was plugged into lineups that included Mark McGwire, Albert Pujols and Scott Rolen.

The best player Allen played alongside during his first stint with the Phillies…Johnny Callison.

Who?

EXACTLY.

While with the Cardinals in 1970, Allen was in the same lineup as Lou Brock and Joe Torre...but they’re not exactly McGwire and Pujols now are they? The best lineup Allen ever saw was in 1975 and 1976 when, during his second stint in Philly, he was paired up with Mike Schmidt and Greg Luzinski.


"He was the greatest player I ever managed, and what he did for us in Chicago was amazing," Allen's White Sox manager Chuck Tanner said. "In Pittsburgh I had guys like Willie Stargell, Dave Parker, Phil Garner, Bill Madlock, but in Chicago it was Dick Allen and, what, Bill Melton? There just wasn't a lot of talent there. With Dick...well, we were able to battle the Oakland A's, one of the greatest teams ever. Without him we simply weren't a first division team."

Allen’s impact on the game was much like Albert Belle’s. Both were guys that swung a big stick, but weren’t necessarily favorites of the media (Allen was at least a hit with his teammates) and that was reflected in how they were received when up for enshrinement.

Dick Allen spent fourteen years on the Hall of Fame ballot hovering between 3.7% (1983) and 18.9% (1996). During that span, his vote totals were constantly eclipsed by notable “almost” Hall of Famers Ron Santo, Joe Torre and Tony Oliva even though the numbers would show that he was better. Unfortunately, this carried over to the Hall of Fame Veterans Committe as well. As recent as 2007, Allen received only 13.4% of that vote. You can't say the guy wasn't consistent.

How will Edmonds fair when he is up for election five years after he makes that last diving catch in deep center.

Only time will tell.


***For more on the case for (and against) Dick Allen's inclusion in the Hall of Famer, check out Dick Allen (for) the Hall of Fame HERE***


BallHype: hype it up!

August 28, 2008

Is consistency good enough?

Recently, I asked visitors here who most deserves a plaque in Cooperstown…Mike Mussina, Gary Sheffield, Jim Thome, Omar Vizquel or Billy Wagner and surprisingly, 64% of you picked Mike Mussina.

It was a landslide really and two guys who I’ve already tabbed as future Hall members (Thome and Vizquel) were easily bested. Thome ended up with 39% of the vote…Vizquel got 50%.

Eventually, they’ll both get in, but I’m not so sure about “Moose”.

It’s fitting that we're delving into Mussina's career with this historic week as the backdrop. And no, I don’t mean that because the recently completed Little League World Series originates from Mussina’s birthplace Williamsport, Pennsylvania…but rather, the Democratic National Convention is going on.

Huh?

Think about it…Mike Mussina is a little like Hillary Clinton, isn’t he? Yes…no? I mean, personality differences aside, they’ve got some things in common.

Regardless of how their careers eventually pan out, they’re both overshadowed.


Naturally, Hillary will never eclipse the success of her husband Bill, or most recently, Barack Obama. Thanks to her writers, she delivered a great speech Tuesday night, but by the time the DNC winds down…it’ll be an eventual footnote to history.

Mussina could be lights out (and he has a NUMBER of times) throughout an entire season, but given his teammates…no one will ever remember his Herculean efforts. In Baltimore, he was never the star…Cal Ripken was. Did you know that on the night that Ripken tied Lou Gehrig’s consecutive game streak, Mussina was on the hill?

Of course you didn’t as THAT wasn’t the story that night. No body cares about a guy going for his sixteenth victory in early September when someone else is about to play in their 2131st consecutive game.

What about Moose’s career in New York? Has he ever been the marquee guy? Not a chance with teammates like Roger Clemens, Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter also donning the pinstripes.

And let’s be honest, regardless how long either one of them end up spending in the Big Apple…both Mussina and Clinton look uncomfortable in a Yankees cap.

Now, I could go on about pantsuits or take this in the opposite direction about how Clinton and Mussina are NOT alike…but I won’t. Frankly, and without naming any names, I absolutely can’t stand the one and the other is a rather boring, right handed hurler with six Gold Gloves.

The question at the heart of this debate is simple…is Moose a Hall of Famer? Again, 64% of you said “yes”…but why?

On paper, we’re looking at a guy who has 266 wins (a solid fourth on the active list), an absolutely sick 64% (coincidence?) winning percentage, close to 2800 Ks and a career ERA of 3.68. And, as mentioned, he has six Gold Gloves and is five times an All-Star.

Not too shabby.

Solid right? Grab your nearest dictionary and it is Mike’s face next to the word “consistency”. He’s been in double digits in wins for seventeen straight years. Matter of fact, there are only five pitchers who have had longer streaks. Four are in the Hall of Fame (Cy Young, Warren Spahn, Don Sutton and Steve Carlton) and the other (Greg Maddux) is about to have his twenty year streak snapped.

And remember when I mentioned Mussina’s winning percentage? It should also be noted that there are only six pitchers with as many victories as Moose and a better winning percentage. Four are in the Hall (Lefty Grove, Christy Mathewson, Grover Cleveland Alexander and Jim Palmer) and the other two (Roger Clemens and Randy Johnson) are pretty much all but set to be enshrined.

He has the credentials if you compare some of his stats with those already enshrined in Cooperstown, but…it’s that consistency that is also the biggest knock on Mussina’s otherwise spectacular career.

Never a twenty game winner…Mussina has finished with nineteen wins twice while with Baltimore and three other times he has finished with eighteen. Even better, outside of his rookie season, Mussina has only had one LOSING campaign. He was 11-15 in 2000…his last season before suiting up for the Yanks.

Let’s look at awards.

I mentioned the six Gold Gloves (sixth most among pitchers), but if Jim Kaat’s sixteen have taught us anything…who cares about Gold Gloves earned on the mound? And as long as Greg Maddux is still drawing air, Mussina won’t even be heralded as the best fielding pitcher of his time.

What about the Cy Young Award? Negative.

Mussina supporters will point to the EIGHT times (over a ten year span) that he finished in the top six for the honor. They’ll continue and tell you all about how he was the runner up to Pedro Martinez in 1999. But the problem with all that is simple. In 1999, Martinez was a unanimous choice…getting ALL 28 first place votes. His 23-4 record, 2.07 ERA and 313 Ks is one of the greatest seasons in the modern era. Mussina had a very Moose-like 18-7, 3.50 ERA and 172 strikeout year.

I should go on and point out that if you take away 1999, Mussina has only garnered 72 Cy Young points in those seven other years he was in the top six. To put that into perspective, that paltry amount of points (or votes if you will) wouldn’t EVER get you the Cy Young Award, much less allow you admittance to the Temperance Tavern Museum (look it up, gang) in Newcomerstown, Ohio.

Mussina has appeared in the post season seven times, twice advancing to (and losing) the World Series. Overall, he has a 7-9 record and a 3.42 ERA. Give him a post season resume like Curt Schilling or Jack Morris and we’re having a different discussion.

Even as a five time All-Star, Mussina’s greatest feat in the Mid Summer Classic was NOT playing in the 1993 contest.

Much like the Bert Blyleven debate, could Mussina be approaching 300 wins had he played for a winner? Maybe. But it isn’t like he was terrible when playing for the Orioles from 1991 and 2000. His career record while in the orange and black WASN’T for the birds (sorry) as he was 147 and 81 with, again, a 64% winning percentage.

To bowl me over and consider enshrining you, you’ve got to DO something, BE a somebody. Mussina is simply not that guy. Do a Google search and the most interesting thing you’ll find ISN’T a bloody sock or five World Series rings…it’s crossword puzzles and hopefully, after today, some lame comparisons to Hillary Clinton.


As the poll indicated, I'm in the minority here. Chime in...let me know what you think.

BallHype: hype it up!

August 10, 2008

"I'm intercontinental when I eat French Toast"

So here we are. We’re deep into the second half of the baseball season, in the midst of the 2008 Olympics and I’ve got next to nothing write about.

Or do I?!?

I mean, I don’t care about what Michael Phelps is going to do (or not do) in Beijing, I can’t name any of our gymnasts and unless Bird, Magic and Michael come back to take on the world…the “Redeem Team” isn’t really getting me excited.

However, all the hype about Summer Games has me thinking “international” and waxing nostalgic about conversations I’ve had, things I’ve seen and most importantly…other blogs I’ve read.

A number of weeks back…my man Nick Underhill wrote on HIS
SITE that Ichiro Suzuki wasn't worth the all hype.

I disagreed with him as I’ve had this conversation a number of times. Yes, what you’re thinking is correct and I’m exactly how you picture me…I’m one of those dorks who, when out with the “gang”, is talking baseball past rather than that particular night’s highlights.

I love the numbers…I love the stats. But unfortunately, Nick may have been right to an extent.

And I hate it.

The other night when Ichiro got career base knock number 1722 (he’s now at 1743)…very few media outlets made a big deal out of it. And why would they? At 1722…he was right between Cy Seymour and Cupid Childs on the all-time list.

Who?

Exactly.

Then why all the fuss? Why the Hall of Fame talk for a guy who TECHNICALLY isn’t even eligible for the National Baseball Hall of Fame?

Well, beside the fact that his numbers are sick (and yes, we’ll get to those later)...hit 1722 was number 3000 for his career. That’s right…add his career numbers with the Orix Blue Wave and the Seattle Mariners and you’ve got a guy who was SECOND fastest to three grand.

Ty Cobb did it in 2135…Ichiro got his in 2175. By comparison, it took Hall of Famers Roberto Clemente and Wade Boggs close to 300 more games to get their 3000.

Ichiro’s career already reads like that of a Hall of Famer and he’s two years shy of being eligible.

In 2001 (Ichiro’s first year in the majors), he became the first player in more than fifty years to lead the league in both batting average and stolen bases. His 242 hits is a rookie record and helped pace him to become only the second rookie to win both the MVP award and Rookie of the Year honors.

In 2004, he broke George Sisler’s 84 year old record of 257 in a season. Ichiro ended up with 262.

Ichiro set the American League record of 45 straight stolen bases without being caught in 2007. For his career, Ichiro is sitting at 307 stolen bases…506 if you count his games with Orix.

Ichiro has won the Gold Glove award in each of his seven years in the majors. He has also been selected to play in all eight All-Star games he’s been eligible for…starting all but one.

If Ichiro gets 200 hits this year, he’ll tie Wee Willie Keeler’s record of eight straight seasons with 200 or more hits in a season. When he accomplishes this…he’ll be the only player to ever do it in his first eight seasons. In his first seven seasons, he's led the league four times and finished second the other three. In two of those second place finishes, he was a combined four hits behind the league leader.

And speaking of streaks, he is also poised to have scored 100 runs for the eighth straight season.

The knock on Ichiro (if there is one) is that he is a singles hitter…and nothing more. He's led the league in singles each of his seven years in the majors and 81% of his hits have been just that...singles.
By comparison, 79% or Rod Carew's hits were singles...Pete Rose and Tony Gwynn hit singles 76% of the time.

So what’s the problem with hitting singles? Unlike the other three, it’s been said that Ichiro COULD be a power hitter if he chose to.

After that, a lot of people point at his 117 OPS+ as being unsatisfactory even though it bests Hall of Famers Robin Yount (115), Cal Ripken (112) and Ryne Sandberg (114). Rose, arguably of one of the best hitters of all-time, has a career OPS+ of 118. Future Hall members Roberto Alomar and Craig Biggio are at 116 and 111 respectively.

See what I am getting at?

But let’s say that Ichiro hangs it up after this season…he wouldn’t have the mandatory ten years at the Major League level. Should that be reason enough to keep him out?

I don’t think so.

Ichiro is primed to be the guy who opens the Hall doors to our neighbors from across the Pacific. He was the first Japanese player to become an every day player at the Major League level…the previous imports were all pitchers.

Combined, Ichiro carries a career .340 batting average. He is currently at .331 in the Majors (two league batting titles and two other top four finishes), and had a career .353 average overseas.

Similar to the recent Negro League players that have made their way to Cooperstown, it is time for the museum to recognize more players that never had the chance of playing in the Majors. This thing is, after all, the NATIONAL Baseball Hall of Fame…not the MAJOR LEAGUE Baseball Hall of Fame.

And while I realize that the word “national” would, by definition, NOT include international players, can’t we all agree that regardless of whether or not he hits any of the mythic Major League milestones…Ichiro belongs?


BallHype: hype it up!

July 25, 2008

Hooray for Saturday!

A lot of kids growing up get excited for the normal made up holidays…Valentine’s Day, Halloween, the last day of school. Me…I always got jazzed up about the day the Hall of Fame announcement was made.

Sure, it doesn’t have some fancy name or some wing at the Hallmark store dedicated to it, but it was, for a couple hours in January…my Christmas.

Well, TECHNICALLY, Christmas was Christmas…but you get the idea.

Then, after six months of thinking about it, we get what amounts to New Years Eve, a relative’s wedding or basically any other “holiday” where someone stands up and makes some clichéd speech about what an honor it is and how they never thought they would make it.

This weekend, we get the pleasure of hearing what I am sure is going to be another in a long line of self indulgent speeches when Rich “Goose” Gossage takes center stage.

Gossage is a guy who went from 33% of the vote to close to 86% in eight years. Somehow he convinced 300 votes that all of a sudden he was good enough to become the next great reliever to be inducted into the Hall. Apparently he wasn’t only a top notch closer…he’s a wizard! Heck, he’s not even the lone “Goose” to be elected into Baseball’s hallowed halls!

In my estimation, he was on the right ballot at the right time.

For some reason, voters don’t seem to want to enshrine Jim Rice or Andre Dawson and they live by some wacky code that SOMEONE needs to be voted in. But in an age of “did he” or “didn’t he”…the Hall wasn’t about to open its doors to the likes of Mark McGwire or Tim Raines. I get it.

Which brings me to what I saw recently on ESPN. Buster Olney and Buck Showalter were given five names of current Major Leaguers and were asked what they thought about their chances.

The names were no-brainers…Mike Mussina, Billy Wagner, Jim Thome, Omar Vizquel and Gary Sheffield. Let’s break ‘em down.


MIKE MUSSINA

To me, “Moose” is an interesting case. On paper, you see a HUGE winning percentage (.637), a brilliant 263 and 150 record and close to 2800 Ks. His career ERA is 3.69 and one could argue that had he not toiled for more than half of his career in Baltimore…he would be as much of a Hall candidate as Tom Glavine. HOWEVER, Glavine had five seasons with more than 20 wins. Mussina, while he’s hit double digits in wins seventeen straight years, has yet to eclipse 20. The Cy Young award has eluded Mussina as well. Unfortunately, six top five finishes and no hardware doesn’t make for the best Hall of Fame case. Showalter, said Mussina is a Hall of Famer…Olney disagreed. I’m with Olney on this one. Outside of wins and consistency, and this sounds stupid to say, Mussina just hasn’t SHOWN me anything spectacular.


BILLY WAGNER

Wagner should eclipse Eckersley on the all-time saves list this season and enter next year’s campaign firmly in fifth place all-time, third on the active list. That being said, he’s still WELL behind Trevor Hoffman, Mariano Rivera and Lee Smith AND is a guy who has never led the league in saves. By comparison, Hoffman has only led the National League twice, but he has nine seasons with more than 40 saves. Rivera has led the American League three times and has six seasons with more than 40 saves. Wagner has two. I’m not saying that Wagner isn’t a premier closer…I’m just saying that if Lee Smith can’t get a sniff at a time when Bruce Sutter, Eckersley and Gossage are…Billy Wagner is going to have a rough time competing for the writer’s affection with the likes of Hoffman and Rivera still out there. As for Olney and Showalter…they split again. Showalter was a “maybe”, while Olney “agrees” with me.


I’ve made the case for Thome and over the last year…he hasn’t done anything to make me feel otherwise. He’s got 526 home runs and barely 2000 hits. He’s going to have to do PLENTY more to sway me. Again, Olney and I are “no” votes…Showalter, predictably, was a “yes”.




Again, this is a drum I’ve beaten before and is one of those guys that I LOVE to bring into the conversation when it presents itself. Not surprisingly, Olney, Showalter and I agree across the board with “Sheik Omar”. As much as I would hate to see him hang it up…I think Omar needs to ride off into the sunset before he ruins his storied career.


GARY SHEFFIELD

Now…here’s a guy who, in all honesty, deserves his own column. Does he pass the smell test? Not sure…he plays alongside some FANTASTIC players. Matter of fact, he’s been overshadowed by plenty of them, but has put up some amazing numbers. A .294 career average, 2570 hits, 487 home runs and 1600 RBI puts him in a similar league as Willie McCovey, Mike Schmidt, Willie Stargell and Ernie Banks. HOWEVER…that’s where some of the similarities end unfortunately since each of the afore mentioned have bettered Sheff’s three top five MVP finishes by taking home the award at least once. I could go on and on about Sheffield (and I might just do that in the near future), but it is interesting to note that the nine time All-Star only once led the league in a major statistical category…he batted an NL best .330 in 1992. So…what did the ESPN experts think? Olney said “yes” and Showalter, for some reason, disagreed. Me? I agree with Buster…not Buck.

So what about you? I’ll put each up for vote…and you tell me what you think!

BallHype: hype it up!

July 24, 2008

Happy Anniversary you crazy bat, you

"I played 20 years in the major leagues, I did some good things, and the one at-bat I'm remembered for is an at-bat in July."
-George Brett

Unless you've been trapped in a cave (all apologies to those actually trapped in caves), you know that today is the 25th anniversary of the infamous "Pine Tar Game".

You know the story, my hero George Brett hits a home run off of Rich "I'm EVERYWHERE Nowadays" Gossage, he circles the bases, goes back to the dugout, Yankees skipper Billy Martin questions the legality of the bat, then...mayhem.

Apparently there was too much pine tar on the bat, but the funny thing...it wasn't lifelong troublemaker Martin who started the melee.

It was Graig Nettles.

Gossage has gone on record saying, "Graig knew the rule. The ump did his job. Everybody thought it was silly, but it's in the rules." Rule 1.10 (b) to be precise.
And here is that rule: the bat handle, for not more than 18 inches from the end, may be covered or treated with any material or substance to improve the grip. Any such material or substance, which extends past the 18-inch limitation, shall cause the bat to be removed from the game. Umpire Tim McClelland ruled that Brett's bat had "heavy pine tar" 19 to 20 inches from the tip of the handle and lighter pine tar for another three or four inches.

But did the extra pine tar aid Brett in HITTING the home run? Not likely. And that was the finding of American League President Lee McPhail who ordered the game be resumed.

So, three weeks, four days, four hours and fourteen minutes later the "Pine Tar Game" was resumed. The Royals ended up winning after closer Dan Quisenberry spent all of twelve minutes shutting down the Yankees to preserve the 5-4 victory.

And if you ever doubted the seriousness of the game...the Yankees "voiced" their disapproval by playing pitcher Ron Guidry in centerfield and left hander Don Mattingly at second base.

BallHype: hype it up!

July 16, 2008

This is the "last season at Yankee Stadium"...since when?!?


The All-Star break has officially come and gone…did you hear the one about this being the “last season at Yankee Stadium”?

If you didn’t…I’m pretty sure you’ve been in a coma. And if you did…you should have made a drinking game out of it. Hell, you’d have been more tipsy than David Wells throwing a perfect game had you decided to imbibe.

All that aside, I can’t bash the All-Star game. Some of my fondest moments as a lifelong baseball fan have come as a result of the Mid Summer Classic. Suffice it to say…I was ecstatic when I heard about FOX’s super hyped “Red Carpet” special PRIOR to the game.

This thing promised to feature everything you could ever want leading up to an All-Star Game…Hall of Famers, All-Stars and no Ryan Seacrest. Seacrest is officially everywhere now, right?!?

So here goes.

6:00pm CST The season long love affair with Yankee Stadium continues with this opening montage. Something tells me that if this game was played in Flushing…we wouldn’t get Darth Vader doing the voiceover. Odds are we’d get some James Earl Jones knock off LONG before we heard from the real deal. I don’t even want to think about the voiceover the last season at Riverfront or Veterans Stadium would have garnered.

6:01pm “Emerald green grass”…shown VIVIDLY in glorious black and white highlights.

6:02pm There’s Don Larsen’s no-hitter and Chris Chambliss blasting through the fans after his memorable walk off home run. Think we’ll see David Cone’s perfect game? Thought not.

For the record, I have no desire to EVER go to New York. That being said…I’d just about sell my soul for about an hour in Monument Park.

6:03pm “We celebrate these memories and look to make one more” says Darth Vader. Obviously this was edited long before the over fellating of Josh Hamilton and his Home Run Derby performance Monday night.

6:04pm Here’s that red carpet we’ve heard all about! Wait…this thing is sponsored by Chevy? Who knew?!?

They just informed us that a cab ride from Bryant Park to Yankee Stadium is twenty bucks? According to MapQuest…we’re looking at a three mile ride. Three miles for twenty bucks…why so cheap, New York!

And there’s A-Rod in a suit…pretty much destroying ALL belief that this is a “live” event.

Eck minus the mullet…I don’t like it.

Mark Grace ladies and gentlemen! Some would call Grace a Hall of Famer…not me. Sorry, Bushaw.

6:05pm Apparently New York is the home for some memorable parades.
1945…the Japanese surrender ending World War 2. 1960…JFK makes his way to the Big Apple. This past January…the Giants win the Super Bowl. Tuesday night…this disaster.

Yes…it’s taken all of five minutes to sour me.

6:06pm Oh, Mark Grace is making Joan Rivers jokes. These things are both as clever and timely as Monica Lewinsky references or the two guys being interviewed…Whitey Ford and Yogi Berra. My lame jokes aside, imagine the tail that Ford and Berra inherited just by hanging out with Mickey Mantle.

6:07pm Oh…it’s A-Rod again and yes, I will avoid any and all Madonna references. What I won’t avoid is the fact that he says he’s excited to see Hank Aaron, Willie Mays and Willie McCovery.


McCovery?!?

6:08pm A-Rod just thanked the “good Lord” for his fan support. Nothing wrong with that I suppose…but how about thanking the fans for that support, hmmmmm?

6:09pm Did she just say “RYAN” Sandberg? On a side note…I don’t know how I feel about Ryno. Met him once…meh.

6:12pm This red carpet is full of ALL the All-Stars…including the North American VP of Chevrolet Ed Peper. Cha-ching!

6:13pm Did someone mention this thing was at Yankee Stadium? If not, my favorite (no joke) baseball player of all time, George Brett, was just asked about the “pine tar incident” which happened to occur at Yankee Stadium. As a nine year-old in 1983, I had NO freaking clue what this thing was all about. All I knew was that there was my hero freaking out and Goose Gossage and Billy Martin being involved. I cried.

6:14pm Jonathan Papelbon just referenced the need for him to be riding in the “Pope Mobile”. Classic.

Apparently there was some flack about Papelbon saying he’d close out the game if asked and that is what drew the ire (this time) of the Yankees faithful. Personally, I’m on the fence. Papelbon can be lights out…but Mariano Rivera looks like a cross between a zombie and a burn victim. And let’s face it…who wouldn’t want Ghost Rider on the bump in a close game?

6:15pm It’s nice to see some fan had the foresight to bring out some newspaper with a “PAPELBUM” headline. Stay classy, New York.

6:16pm Did they really just introduce Mayor Michael Bloomberg as New York’s “ultimate closer”? Why...did John Franco die?!?

6:17pm Oh look…as we head off to break, there’s Reggie Jackson situated right in front of a “Fringe” banner. How convenient.

6:20pm Okay…I’m confused. We’re twenty minutes in and so far, no mention of Jo…nevermind, there’s Josh Hamilton now.

6:21pm You know, I’m not sure if you knew this or not, but Hamilton had a substance abuse problem. Combine that with the talk about this being the last year of Yankee Stadium and somehow I’ve found my two least favorite pieces of information of the last decade.

6:24pm Finally, we get to hear from Reggie Jackson and to no one’s surprise, he is quick to reference his three home runs in the 1977 World Series. I mean, I’ve NEVER heard him talk about that…have you?

6:26pm “Mr. November” Derek Jeter just referenced this season as being the last one at Yankee Stadium. Has someone alerted the media? I’m not sure this has been publicized enough.

6:30pm Ooooh, highlights from the “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” contest (sponsored by Baby Ruth) judged by William Peterson and Bernie Williams. I mean, who would YOU have judge it? Please shoot me.

6:31pm Hooray…a 9-11 reference! I was wondering how long this would take.

6:32pm This “parade” was just called the “greatest collection of baseball stars in history”. Take THAT Hall of Fame induction ceremony!

6:33pm We just learned that Chipper Jones apparently became a switch hitter because his dad was a Mickey Mantle fan. Fair enough…why the stupid nickname, Larry?

6:34pm Hey look…Chase Utley and his dad! Nevermind…it’s only Mike Schmidt. And surprise, surprise, Schmidt just referenced Pete Rose. Give is up Mike…he’s not getting into the Hall of Fame.

6:35pm Hmmm…there’s Ben Sheets situated in front of another “Fringe” banner. What’s this “Fringe” show I’m, seeing so much about?

6:39pm Ugh…a shot of Terry Francona in the Yankees clubhouse. I think I’m going to be sick.

6:40pm Mark Grace just told us it would be “un-American” for him to NOT talk to a Cub. And who does he talk to…Kosuke Fukudome.

Grace just talked to “Mr. Cub” Ernie Banks who said he never played at Yankee Stadium. A two second search over at Baseball-Reference shows that Banks was the starting shortstop in the 1960 All-Star Game. Incidentally, that was the THIRD to last All-Star Game played at Yankee Stadium.

6:42pm Some dolt just told Hank Aaron that he “did a lot of winning”. Memo to world, Aaron appeared in THREE post season series in 23 seasons. Oh, and here’s a brain bender…Aaron appeared in 25 All-Star Games in those 23 seasons. Figure THAT one out, gang!

6:43pm What…Spike Lee is at a New York sporting event. Who knew?!? Good thing he was on hand to mention this being the “last season at Yankee Stadium”.

6:48pm Why do people feel the need to talk to Make-a-Wish kids like they are puppies?

6:51pm Willie Mays loves hearing himself talk. Something tells me that he could (and would) take 20 minutes to explain to you how to spell his name and he STILL wouldn’t have made any sense.

6:52pm David Duchovny is giving his Yankee Stadium memories (apparently this is the last year) and there was no mention of the upcoming X-Files movie. How does that happen, FOX?

6:55pm Last night Bon Jovi performed some All-Star Game concert. Nothing says “New York” like New Jersey! Just ask the Giants and Jets!

6:56pm Before this extravaganza was put to bed, we’re reminded again about this being the last season at Yankee Stadium. Since when?

6:57pm And if that wasn’t enough we were greeted with an abortion of a rendition of Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York” sung by a bunch of random New York turds: Regis, Michael Strahan, some sidewalk vendor, future sidewalk vendor Lawrence Taylor, Whoopi Goldberg, a bunch of others and for some reason Darryl Strawberry.


What…was Roger Clemens not available?!?

I’d love to give some insight about the game, but why bother? It was a long, long night.


BallHype: hype it up!