June 20, 2008

Is it the end?

"22 years ago June the Boston Red Sox picked a Freshman Pitcher from Yavapai Junior College (the best JC team in the nation btw!) in the 2nd round of the (Last!) January Draft. 3 World Series rings, 3k innings plus later, there’s a chance it’s all over."

THAT is what greeted Red Sox Nation when they logged on to Curt Schilling's website this morning.

Admittedly, when I read earlier in the week that Schill's rehab had reached a "plateau"...I was optimistic. I mean, here's a guy who seemingly has looked career ending injuries in the face and much like how he treated the 2001 (or 2004 for that matter) Yankees, did what he always has done...he threw the ball.

Hard.

Schilling has met nearly every challenge put in front of him and I had no reason to think that this one would be any different. I wrote the following last October...PRIOR to Game Two of the Red Sox-Rockies game. I think it is a fine time to relive it...whether Curt's career over or not.

Curt Schilling was scheduled to take the bump. Prior to the 2004 season, Schill was brought in to do EXACTLY what Josh Beckett was brought in to do a couple years later. HOWEVER…the media, for some reason, was pretty much writing him off. Apparently his blood soaked star had fallen.

Memo to newswriters...Schilling was Josh Beckett BEFORE Beckett was Beckett.

He was the NLCS MVP in 1993 with the Philadelphia Phillies. Almost ten years later (in 2001), he followed it up by being named the World Series Co-MVP alongside Randy Johnson. I won’t even mention the “bloody sock” (maybe) or his postseason winning percentage.

Curt is good…DAMN good.

That being said, is he Hall of Fame good?

My buddy E talks about the “smell test”. Does a player pass the Hall of Fame smell test? If so, you look deeper and see whether or not he is worthy. EXAMPLE: a guy like Tim Raines smelled like a Hall of Famer at one point…now he smells of Kenny Lofton. Since we’re talking lead off hitters (for some reason) a Rickey Henderson smells like fine wine aged to perfection.

That being said…Schilling smells like a rose.

216 victories, 3116 strikeouts, FOUR top five finishes in the Cy Young voting, six All-Star games…not too shabby for a kid out of Anchorage, Alaska. When it comes to his strikeout to walk ratio…only one pitcher was better and he last toed the rubber in 1884. He died, ironically enough, in Boston.

All that said…if you look closer, Schilling, like Raines, doesn’t smell as good as you would initially think.

True, his postseason stats are phenomenal…but you can’t induct him on that alone. Sure, they warrant mention, but induction based SOLELY on that…um, no. If so…open the doors to Bernie Williams, Cooperstown!

216 wins, while impressive, only ranks him eighth among all active pitchers. Four of the seven ahead of him on the list (Roger Clemens, Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Randy Johnson) are WAY ahead and certain Hall of Famers. The other three (Mike Mussina, David Wells and Jamie Moyer) couldn’t pass the “smell test” if they carried Pedro Martinez around in a headlock.

Add to the 216 wins that Schilling’s win percentage is .597 and you’ve got, over the span of his career, a very good pitcher…not a great one.

Strikeouts. Schilling’s four years of 290-plus Ks are crazy good. Of the 13 pitchers with MORE than Schilling’s 3116, only Bert Blyleven is not in the Hall, while Unit, Clemens and Maddux will surely go in when the time comes. Consider that 1228 of his strikeouts came in the afore mentioned four 290-plus years, and that he’s only got ONE 200 K season outside of that…the 3116 seems kinda suspect.

What I’m saying is this…give me 12 to 15 years of 200 or more strikeouts and I’d be MORE impressed than Curt’s five years of 200-plus scattered over a twenty year span.

I liken to Schilling to Sandy Koufax…kinda. Both of their legend has been based on a handful of select years. Koufax, however, did his in consecutive years at the end of his career before he fell victim to an arthritic wing.

Schilling spread his out over a couple of decades.

He was a stud in 1997, 2001, 2002 and 2004 (an 83-30 record and 1031 Ks)…but that was about it. You COULD make an argument that outside of the win/loss record (8-9), Schilling was on his way to a GREAT 2003 season before he got injured...which happened WAY too often.

Curt was, undoubtedly, MUCH better over the second half of his career compared to the first. Hell, he’d even agree to that and he doesn’t like ANY of the unfavorable press he gets!

Koufax, over his last four seasons, notched a 97-27 record and 1228 strikeouts. So, yeah, not EXACTLY the same, but Sandy had nearly 200 more innings pitched than Curt.

Watching Curt Schilling work, he carries himself like a sure-bet Hall of Famer who is winding down a great career…but so did Jack Morris. Putting him into perspective, he starts to come across like many of the pitchers that have made it into the Hall over the last 20 years…he’s a guy with some longevity, a handful of years of greatness and some postseason success. And that's not a TERRIBLE thing...just ask Don Sutton, Phil Niekro or Gaylord Perry.

Arguably, he wasn’t always the best pitcher on his staff and only a few times would he have been considered one of the most dominant pitchers in the league. He never brought home the hardware that Cooperstown LOVES to look at (a la Robin Yount’s TWO MVP awards), but he was solid. He has a respectable ERA (3.46) a couple of World Series rings and is a great character.

First ballot guy…probably not. He’ll be competing (potentially) with the likes Clemens, Maddux and Glavine as far as starting pitchers go. Take into account that there will be a slew of position players also vying for their enshrinement and it might take Schilling a while to get through the doors.

Let me know what you think…how does Schilling smell? Does he pass the test or just get tossed aside like some bloody, old sweatsock?!?

***Note: In October when I first asked "is Curt Schilling a first ballot Hall of Famer?" here were the results...Yes-10%, No-90.***

BallHype: hype it up!

June 10, 2008

It finally happened, kids!

I'll admit it, I thought it was pretty cool last year when Jim Thome, Frank Thomas and Alex Rodriguez all hit number 500, but in the past two weeks…we witnessed, arguably, something more impressive.

Of course I am talking about Manny Ramirez quietly hitting number 500 and, finally, Ken Griffey, Jr. doing what we’ve been waiting for for the last twelve years…hitting home run number 600.

Since he reached his milestone first…we’ll talk about Ramirez first.

Manny has quietly been one of the best (if not THE best) hitters in the game for each of his fifteen seasons. Considering he’s NEVER hit less than .290 in any full season that he’s played (incidentally, Ramirez has the fourth highest career batting average of anyone in the 500 Club)...I’m not sure why he gets such a bad rap.

Tell me it is because he’s a bad fielder and I’ll tell you that if I can get a guy with the potential to hit 40 home runs, knock in 120, hit .320 AND allow my team to get an equally dangerous bat in the lineup at DH…and I’ll take his fielding every day of the week.

Tell me he’s a bad teammate and I’ll point out the watch he gave Dustin Pedroia for winning the American League Rookie of the Year last year.

Tell me the guy is flighty and I’d agree. I’ll follow it up by reminding you that he is durable, keeps his mouth shut, absolutely a monster in the clutch AND certain to be the first dreadlocked player in Cooperstown.

Now…on to the other guy.

Unless you lived under a rock, you know that Ken Griffey, Jr. became the sixth player to hit 600 home runs. Of course, as mentioned before…you would have been hard pressed to find substantial press leading up to it.

Maybe the mainstream media was keeping it “hush hush” so Junior wouldn’t be jinxed. Maybe they just forgot about “The Kid”.

Junior’s list of accomplishments are sick and I could go on and on…but I’ll leave that to SportsCenter. They’ve spent the last couple of weeks NOT building up to number 600…perhaps now they can spend some time appreciating it.

Take his durability out of the conversation, and you really can’t come up with a reason to NOT call him one of the best all around players of the last 20 years.

Of the other 23 members of the 500 Club, Griffey’s .289 career average is better than Eddies Murray and Mathews, Willie McCovey and eight others.

His 1729 RBI puts him eleventh among those with more than 500 bombs. Compare him to contemporaries Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire and they pale in comparison.

Remarkably, the once slender Griffey hit 40 or more home runs in seven seasons. Memo to world…Frank Robinson did it once, Reggie Jackson twice.

Junior will bring a ton of Gold Gloves with him to Cooperstown as well…ten to be exact. He won one EVERY year in the 90s and among the others in the 500 Club, only Willie Mays and Mike Schmidt have as many.

Put both Ramirez and Griffey together and you’ve got a duo that rivals very few that have played at the same time. We’re living in a fortunate age right now…let’s hope it stays this way for some time.

BallHype: hype it up!

June 7, 2008

Reminder...the Kid is good

***Note: E is back. Check out his normal ramblings HERE!***

It must be the Year of Apathy in baseball.

First, you have Frank Thomas, the greatest player to ever call himself a DH gets shuffled around so much in a week that no one knows (or cares) what team he plays for.

Then, Mike Piazza, possibly the greatest hitting catcher ever, retires, and no one notices.

Now, Ken Griffey, Jr., the player with the greatest potential in the history of baseball, gets within a home run of 600, something only five (six if you care to count Sosa, and I don't) players have done, and no one outside of Cincinnati seems to care. I think part of the problem may be that I don't think people realize that Junior is still playing.

No one noticed when Sosa passed 600 for the same reason.

And while these would appear to be similar cases of inflated number apathy, they're not. Sosa is, well, frankly, a dirty player. You don't go from a guy who hit 60 home runs in his entire tenure with the White Sox and Rangers to a guy who hit nothing but 60 home runs a year with the Cubs without being dirty.

When asked before Congress if he had used steroids, he replied, "F*** GASPAR GOMEZ AND F*** THE F***ING DIAZ BROTHERS! F*** 'EM ALL!!" He may not have actually said that, but it's more entertaining than the "No hablo Ingles" bit he actually used. This from a guy who, two years earlier, got suspended for using a corked bat.

That is one shifty mother.

Junior, on the other hand, has always had a clean record.

He's never been named in any of the random gossip that seems to implicate players on a weekly basis. Everything Junior has done appears to be due to talent, not only as a hitter, but as a fielder, having won a Gold Glove every year of the '90s. Here's a kid who may legitimately have been the best player in baseball.

Then he got traded to Cincinnati...and hasn't played a full season yet.

He became so injury-prone that he makes Mark McGwire look like a picture of health. And he has not gotten healthier, becoming seemingly more brittle (and fatter) with each injury. This for a guy who's only 38 years old.

And it's these injuries that have been happening on a yearly basis for nearly a decade that make us forget what a great player Griffey is/was. I don't think anyone knows when he's actually playing. Even though he played most of the season last year (having gotten his injury out of the way before the season started), I think most people forget that he's closing in on some milestones because they don't know if he's in baseball anymore.

I myself had taken for granted that he might not be injured and didn't know he was playing until I heard about the "599" thing. I also think that, because it's been nearly a decade since Griffey was any kind of force in baseball, people forget how good Griffey used to be.

Despite losing at least three seasons worth of games to injury, his numbers already make a strong case for the Hall of Fame. No where near as good as, say, someone like Hank Aaron's numbers, but consider that while Aaron played three more years than Griffey currently has, he had 3300+ more at bats. Give Griffey that many more at bats and consider what his stats might look like.

Yeah: Kid's a monster.

But, his stats being what they are, he is closing in on some milestones. He's 275 RBI from 2000, something only three other players have done. He's 395 hits from 3000. And he's got that whole home run thing, too.

Crossing my fingers, I'm hoping Griffey can make it through the rest of the year (and his career) uninjured.

He's been healthy thus far. And, he is only 38.

A lot of these records are within reach. I just hope he can get to them.

Oh, and in baseball related post-script to this story, earlier here in the Hall, Jesus was quick to give out this year's Bo Diaz Award to John Marzano. I think he's going to regret his choice when hears about what happened to Geremi Gonzalez, the pitcher who broke Sosa's corked bat.

That's a Bo Diaz winner if I've ever seen one!

BallHype: hype it up!