February 25, 2009

Make some room up on the wall

It appears as though making it into the Hall of Fame is not the only excitement Rickey Henderson is going to have this season...the Oakland A's are planning on retiring his jersey number. Here's a story that appeared over at the San Francisco Chronicle.


"In another sign the A's are preparing to retire Rickey Henderson's jersey number, catcher Kurt Suzuki switched from No. 24 to No. 8 this spring.

A's equipment manager Steve Vucinich said there has been no official decision about retiring Henderson's number and noted that the team waited until the year after Dennis Eckersley was elected to the Hall to retire the closer's No. 43."


Read the rest of Susan Slusser's column HERE!

BallHype: hype it up!



February 24, 2009

The Kid is back in Seattle...color me nostalgic

In a day when money wins out, I’ll admit it, when a guy remembers his roots and goes back to where it all started to end his career…I grin.

Sure, the situations were different, but Eddie Murray did it. Willie McCovey did it. Even Hank Aaron did it. And proving there is some decency left in baseball, Ken Griffey, Jr. (allegedly having been advised by Aaron) is on his way back to Seattle.

The press conference has come and gone, but seeing that familiar Junior smile reminded me of a day from my youth...June 21, 1991.


You won’t find it in any history books. You won’t even find it over at Wikipedia because there is no significance to it whatsoever.

That being said, look it up at Baseball Reference and you’ll see that on June 21, 1991, Randy Johnson and his Mariners upended Chris Bosio and the Brew Crew 5-1.


You see, for my best friend E (check out his ramblings HERE) and me, one of our favorite summer pastimes was driving up to Milwaukee, hitting County Stadium and watching the Brewers. Immediately following each game, we took part in what would prove to be our second favorite pastime…hanging out OUTSIDE County Stadium for autographs.

As the score indicated, it was a pretty uneventful game. But we knew that once we descended upon the parking lot, it would be a whole different story.

Autograph hounds would swarm the players. Every single one of us knew that with every Dale Sveum and Darryl Hamilton that walked past us, future Hall of Famers Paul Molitor and Robin Yount were just around the corner.

On the other side of the parking lot, the Mariners were no different. If you could patiently wait through for Greg Briley and Dave Burba to pass, you’re bound to be greeted by Big Unit or Junior.

Add Seattle’s starting shortstop Omar Vizquel to the list that already included Molitor, Yount, Johnson and Griffey and we can now say that we saw FIVE potential Hall of Famers on the field that day. Outside of an All-Star game, when was the last time you can say that?

But did we see a sixth?

No, I’m not talking about Alvin Davis (even though I was HUGE on the former Rookie of the Year)…I’m talking about Seattle’s then starting third baseman Edgar Martinez.

Edgar Martinez a Hall of Famer? I can hear you scoffing now.

With Harold Baines not able to get more than six percent of the vote, how can “Papi” fair any better? Will he be the guy that forces the writers to forget their perceived bias against full-time designated hitters?

Who knows?

Martinez is eligible to enter Cooperstown in 2010 and regardless of the competition (other notable first-timers include Fred McGriff and Barry Larkin), he’s already getting a ton of support. But is it justified? Did Martinez do enough to garner consideration?

What do I think? I’m on the fence.

I mean, unlike some of the other players that have been chronicled here at The Hall…Martinez doesn’t SMELL like a Hall of Famer to me. He has no “magic numbers”, but should we overlook that in the case of the Martinez? After all, this is the same dude that, in 2004, Major League Baseball named their yearly DH awards after!

After a lengthy stay in the minors, Martinez proved that he was all hit and no field and that’s exactly why the Mariners CAUTIOUSLY took a chance on him.

Prior to the 1993 season, their cautious optimism won out when Martinez tore his hamstring and never fully recovered. Sure…this hindered his ability to be an every day fielder…but not his ability to be a full-time hitter. Two seasons later, he became the first (and to date, only) DH to win a batting title when he led the league with a .356 average.

But again, can a full-time DH find his way to Cooperstown? In the case of Martinez, I suggest you need to look at his qualifications first, then take into account the position he played.

At the forefront of his accomplishments is the fact that Martinez one of only SEVEN players that have 300 home runs, 500 doubles, a career batting average above .300, a career on-base percentage above .400 and a career slugging percentage above .500.

And who are the other six? Hall of Famers Ted Williams, Babe Ruth, Stan Musial, Rogers Hornsby and future Hall member Manny Ramirez…not exactly a bad crowd to be affiliated with.

Martinez retired with a career batting average of .312, seven All-Star game appearances, five Silver Slugger awards and two batting titles. While he never brought home an MVP award, he finished third in 1995 and sixth in 2000.

It is easy to speculate that if Martinez was an every day player…he might have taken home the award in either one of those seasons. In 2000, he batted .324 with a career best 37 home runs and a league leading 145 RBI…and was 37 when he did it!

In what was the best span of his career (1995 to 2001), Martinez had a batting average of .329. More than half (1196) of his career hit total (2247) came during this time.

In 1995 and 1996 Martinez topped 50 doubles, making him only the fifth player to accomplished back-to-back seasons of 50 or more doubles. During the afore mentioned seven year stretch, he averaged 42 two baggers a season.

Apparently batting behind the likes of Griffey, Alex Rodriguez and Ichiro had their benefits too. From 1995 to 2001, Martinez averaged 110 RBI and six times in those seven years, Martinez topped 100 RBI.

The guy is Seattle’s all-time leader in a number of their major offensive categories. He’s in their top ten in a slew of others. It’s even said that Martinez “saved Seattle baseball” with a series-winning double versus the Yankees in the 1995 American League Division Series.

So does the face of Seattle baseball, full-time designated hitter or not, deserve a plaque in Cooperstown?

Again…I’m on the fence.

We’re talking about a guy who wasn’t an every day player until he was 27 and because of that (and the hamstring injury)…his peak was much later than some of his contemporaries. He hit none of the magical milestones, brought home none of the prominent hardware and since the Mariners didn’t have much post-season success…neither did he.

Edgar Martinez is a guy who will probably stick around on the ballot for the entire 15 years that he’s allowed. After that, I suspect, his fate will be in the hands of the Veteran’s Committee.

Until then, I’ll have to remember that day in 1991 where I was snubbed by Unit (oh well) and E sent a horde of Griffey hungry autograph seekers in the direction of Alonzo Powell. I remember the cry of “hey, kids…there goes Junior” like it was yesterday.


BallHype: hype it up!

February 20, 2009

White Sox minor leaguer set to join elite company

Typically, I am not one to deviate from my self-imposed niche (whatever THAT is)...but E posted this over at his site and since it had the words "hall" and "fame" in it, I thought I'd re-post it for you all.

Enjoy.
Four more players from this picture have been nominated to join the six already in the Basketball Hall of Fame. The remaining three aren't already in because they're either a) not eligible until next year, or b) Christian Laettner.

My thoughts on this year's nominees:

MICHAEL JORDAN

Depending on your school of thought, probably the best basketball player ever. There's really no need to discuss him any further; he's one of the reasons basketball was invented. And while his bona fides are indisputable, he somewhat damaged his legacy by retiring twice and coming back both times, the second time to a different team in a different city, where he was merely an "All-Star". I won't even mention his attempt to play minor league baseball for the Chicago White Sox. An absolute lock; anything less than 100% of the vote is an insult.

DAVID ROBINSON

Excepting (unfortunately) Shaquille O'Neal, the dominant center during the '90s. He almost single-handedly drug the Spurs into the playoffs every year he played, and the one year he missed, the Spurs were so bad that they got the #1 pick and drafted Tim Duncan. Shoo-in.


JOHN STOCKTON

While he is not the greatest all-around point guard in history, there was no one better at passing the ball. The only player in history to have 1000 assists more than once (something he did seven times). After he broke the career assist mark, he tacked on another 5000 just for the hell of it. In fact, if it weren't for Stockton, Karl Malone wouldn't go into the Hall next year. And pretty good defensive player to boot, with at least 700 more steals than Jordan, Gary Payton and Alvin Robertson. This guy's numbers automatically put him in the Hall.


CHRIS MULLIN

The weakest of the four, Mullin was THE small forward in the late '80s/early '90s. A consistent top 10 scorer who would absolutely kill you from 3-point land. He was the man in Golden State's "Run TMC" days, but was shoved to the wayside once their offense was re-tooled for Sprewell and Webber. If anything, the fact that he went from one of the best players in the NBA to a third option in a year, a move from which he never recovered, hurts his chances in the Hall.

We'll find out in April who goes in.

Oh, Jerry Sloan, Don Nelson, Bernard King and Dennis Johnson are up for the Hall, too. But they're not in that picture, so who cares about them.

BallHype: hype it up!

February 11, 2009

(Insert your own title here)

I'm going to avoid all jokes and what not and suggest you read this from the New York Daily News regarding Roberto Alomar.

In papers filed in state and federal court, (former girlfriend Ilya) Dall said Alomar finally got tested in January 2006 while suffering from a cough, fatigue and shingles. "The test results of him being HIV-positive was given to him and the plaintiff on or about Feb.6, 2006," the $15 million negligence suit says.

Nine days later, the couple went to see a disease specialist who discovered a mass in the retired second baseman's chest, the court papers say.Alomar's skin had turned purple, he was foaming at the mouth and a spinal tap "showed he had full-blown AIDS," the suit says.

Foaming at the mouth...yikes! Something tells me that if you turn purple and need a spinal tap to figure out why, things aren't going to end well. I will spare you some of the other details as you can look them up for yourself over at Google.

In the meantime…truth or dare?

Dare you say?

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

Why? They’re lying to you.

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

He was pretty good.

But Roberto Alomar was better. Hands down.


Matter of fact, he might be the best modern day second baseman...even though Joe Morgan would tell you otherwise.

Some people might even go on to tell you that Alomar wasn’t ever the best player on the field for any of the seven teams he played for. Much like Morgan, I’d tell you that neither were Craig Biggio and Jeff Kent and they’re both Hall of Fame caliber middle infielders.

Let’s break this down…plain and simple.

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

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

  • Alomar lacks an identity. His longest stint with any team was five years with the Blue Jays.
  • As mentioned, Alomar was overshadowed on nearly every team he played for (Tony Gwynn in San Diego, Joe Carter in Toronto, Cal Ripken in Baltimore, Albert Belle and Manny Ramirez in Cleveland).
  • When he is eligible in 2010, he’ll likely be up against Tim Raines, Barry Larkin, Fred McGriff and Edgar Martinez. Granted, they’re not ALL Hall of Famers…but they’ll garner some attention and steal (pun intended in Raines' case) some votes.
  • And, unfortunately, the spitting incident with umpire John Hirshbeck.

Alomar was the type of player that, because he was so damn solid for nearly 17 seasons…people forget that he was a hitting machine.

From his second year in the majors (1989) until 2001, Alomar hit UNDER .295 only twice. He even had an impressive run of nine out of ten years where he hit .300 or better.

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


BallHype: hype it up!

February 9, 2009

Birds of a feather are supposed to do something, right?

After a weekend that brought us the Grammy Awards and the NFL Pro Bowl, two events known for interesting pairings…why are people shocked to find out that Alex Rodriguez might have failed a steroid test in 2003?

Allow me to explain.

The yearly Grammy abortion brought us such terrible pairings as Radiohead and the USC marching band and Justin Timberlake, Al Green, Boyz II Men and Keith Urban.


I know, I know…JT, Reverand Al and Boyz II Men isn’t THAT much of a stretch, but Keith Urban? Keith Urban?!? And what was with him playing with B.B. King and John Mayer later in the show?

And the Pro Bowl?

Where else can you see Drew Brees or Eli Manning airing it out to Larry Fitzgerald? I used to LOVE the NFL Pro-Bowl. Love it! Now…well, now I forget it is even on the air.
I can honestly tell you that (A) I forgot the Grammys were on this weekend until Saturday night and (B) I haven’t watched a Pro Bowl since Barry Sanders was dragging defenders into the endzone.

But how ‘bout this A-Rod story that’s been all over everywhere for the last two days…why are we surprised? Baseball teams are put together not by an awards show producer and not by a fan vote. They are put together by management convinced that if they can catch lightning in a bottle…they’ll win.

Or at least that was the idea when the Texas Rangers signed Alex Rodriguez to a multi-year contract on January 26, 2001.


Not even a year later, they brought back Juan Gonzalez to join him. And who were these two put together with? Rafael Palmeiro and Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez.

You see a pattern yet?

Let me spell it out for you…the 2002 Texas Rangers had four players on their roster that appeared on the infamous Mitchell Report. Reliever John Rocker was one and the others, you guessed it…“Pudge”, Gonzalez and Palmeiro.

Now, I’m no alchemist, but I’m willing to guess that the clubhouse chemistry there in Arlington was no different than in other ballparks. The scrappers (Michael Young and Gabe Kapler) hang out together, the Latin players (“Pudge”, Gonzalez and Palmeiro) hang out together and naturally (at least in my mind)…I’ve gotta think Rocker is hanging out with fellow crazy Carl “no one ever saw a Tyrannosaurus Rex” Everett.

I might be wrong about that last one…but I kinda have a feeling I know what circle the Dominican-raised A-Rod found himself playing cards before games and I'm guessing it didn't include a guy named Kevin Mench.

Guilt by association? Not always.

Suspect by association? Yes, for the most part. I mean, it isn't a coincidence that when Plaxico Burress shot himself in the leg, the dude that was with him that night (Antonio Pierce) was questioned. TYPICALLY, you can be judged by the company you keep. And often times, you're seen as guilty until proven innocent.

So where does that leave us? Do we treat Alex Rodriguez like the rest of the names listed in the Mitchell Report? What about those who Jose Canseco has outed in his books?

Who cares?

Of all the people I’ve mentioned (and yeah, I’m looking your way Thom Yorke, haha)…only one has tested positive at a time when baseball actually tested for steroids and human growth hormones. So why are we infatuated with A-Rod and his alleged positive test?

I mean, haven’t most of us gone ahead and suspected that EVERY professional athlete has probably done SOMETHING to help them excel? I know I have. And furthermore, I know I am not that concerned with a guy who might have tested positive for something that wasn’t even being tested for!

What I am MORE concerned with is the fact that of the 104 players that apparently tested positive in 2003…we’ve only heard one name. Why haven’t we seen the list? More importantly…why did we only see the one name, potentially the BIGGEST name in the first place?


As William Shakespeare once said..."something is rotten in the state of Denmark" and I guess only time will tell. And like so many other things that are discussed on this page…time will show how A-Rod is remembered.

Hall of Famer or "A-Fraud". Will he be the big name at the center of another potentially huge steroid scandal...or just the most popular footnote amid speculation?

Well, given the love affair that surrounds this guy (Hell, the University of Miami is naming their field after the guy), I’m thinking the latter.


And yes, I did manage to successfully reference Shakespeare, Carl Everett and Radiohead's impish front man all in the same breath. Your move, blog-o-sphere!

BallHype: hype it up!

February 3, 2009

So...who told them THAT was a good idea?

Didja hear the one about the guy who had it all, but sold his legacy to whoever would pony up the most bread?

No, I’m not talking about now former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich and his attempts to sell a vacant senate seat (oops)…I’m talking about former New York Yankees skipper Joe Torre. It seems like you can’t turn on the TV or radio without hearing about or seeing one of them.

And let’s face it…their hairlines aside, it’s becoming harder and harder to tell the two of them apart.
Their motives were simple. Blago was looking for sympathy on the eve of his eventual impeachment, while Torre is peddling his book. Both are in the midst of massive media tours and both of them seem to be completely oblivious to the damage they are causing each time they open their mouths.

Blagojevich is clearly crazy as he appears to not have a clue about the ramifications of what he did. His defense is that his actions were done as part of his duty to serve the citizens of Illinois.

Torre’s latest antics are harder to define.

By penning The Yankee Years, Torre pretty much ended any and all relationships he had with the Bronx Bombers by calling out owner George Steinbrenner, GM Brian Cashman and a gaggle of current and former players.

This guy won four World Series titles in New York and spent 12 years (the longest tenure for a Yankees skipper since Casey Stengel was at the helm) as the field general for baseball’s most celebrated franchise.

To understand how tough it is to remain employed by Steinbrenner, consider this…Billy Martin (941) managed HALF the games Torre (1942) did for the Yankees. And that was spread out over FIVE different stints in the Big Apple!

To say Torre’s place as a Yankee great wasn’t already reserved in Monument Park would be like saying Blagojevich isn’t foul-mouthed. Even in Los Angeles, all Torre needs to do is collect paychecks and when it is all said and done…go back to New York and secure his spot as the greatest manager they’ve ever seen.

You’re as much of a New York icon as Rudy Giuliani and Cooperstown has the space set aside for you, Joe…don’t mess it up!

But what if he already did? What if selling out the Yankees overshadows his twelve straight playoff appearances with that very club, a .605 winning percentage and two Manager of the Year awards?

What if The Yankee Years is just what the Dodgers need to decide to NOT pay attention to their skipper? I mean, if Torre is going to go public about his run-ins with Kevin Brown or David Wells…what possibly could a full season of Manny being Manny bring?

It doesn’t matter.

That’s right, I said it…it doesn’t matter. And no, not for the reasons you think.

For me, Torre’s managerial career is the icing on the cake of an already terrific career. Yeah…I said it. I think the Veteran’s Committee is getting it wrong by not inducting Torre into their exclusive club.

Why wait until he hangs it up? Put the guy in now.

His career .297 batting average, 2342 hits, MVP award and nine All-Star games (at three different positions, I might add) is impressive given his peers at the time. Take away their home runs and Torre stacks right up there with Orlando Cepeda (whom he was traded for prior to the 1969 season) and the Willies McCovey and Stargell.

All three are in Cooperstown.

His numbers are better than Ron Santo and yearly, for some reason, people bang THAT Hall of Fame drum. And if it wasn’t for one Johnny Bench and the Big Red Machine…it’s possible that people would be calling Torre the best catcher of the 1960s.



He certainly was the best hitting catcher…that’s for sure! I’d even argue that the best hitting third baseman of the 1970s ain't “This Old Cub”…it’s Joe Torre!

From 1961 to 1968 (before the move to third base), Torre hit .294…twice over .315. Post 1968…Torre hit .301 and during his MVP season of 1971, he torched National League pitching to the tune of a .363 batting average and 137 RBI.

The one bit of the puzzle that is lacking for Torre as a player, ironically, is the fact that he never suited up for a post season game. I mean, here’s a guy who has taken three different teams to the playoffs and he had nothing to show for it as a player.

The playoffs without Joe Torre is kinda like the playoffs without, unfortunately, Frank Caliendo!

So why wait until the aftermath of this book debacle to see where the Joe Torre chips fall. As the only manager with both 2000 wins (2151) and 200 hits (2342)…the guy deserves his place in Cooperstown.

Then, and maybe then, we can start getting back to normalcy where baseball players and managers are interviewed on SportsCenter and not Larry King and governors are interviewed on CNN and not The View.

And there you have it, gang…a post Super Bowl post with no mention of Ben Roethlisberger, Kurt Warner or Bruce Springsteen going all “The Grind” on a TV camera.


BallHype: hype it up!