March 30, 2009

Milestone Preview: American League West

The Hall of Very Good is proud to announce what could be the start of great partnership. Dr. Aaron Perlut, Chairman of the Board of the American Mustache Institute will be on board from now until the foreseeable future to lend his expertise and commentary to all things mustache.

Perlut has been championing mustaches since the age of seven and is completing a certification in the acclaimed Nuclear Mustacheology program at the Richmond, Virginia-based ITT Technical College’s Medical Wing.
He's also been steadfast in building a life foundation focused on fighting for those like him...Mustached Americans who’s only care was to be treated and accepted as other non-mustached Americans.

Last July, Perlut and the American Mustache Institute gained national attention with their endorsement of the THEN wonderfully mustachioed Jason Giambi to be voted to the All-Star team.

It is no coincidence that after Giambi shaved off the ‘stache, he upset the Yankee Gods (including Don Mattingly, Thurman Munson and Goose Gossage among others), found himself unsigned for 2009 and banished to the AMERICAN LEAGUE WEST.


LOS ANGELES ANGELS OF ANAHEIM
What jumps off the page first when looking at Angels this season is not that they have the longest team name in baseball…it’s the way that they just seem to continue to win.

At the forefront of that winning is manager Mike Scioscia. Scioscia has 803 wins in his nine seasons (an average of 89 per year) and could end this season with the highest winning percentage among active managers. Braves skipper Bobby Cox is sitting at .557…Scioscia is not far behind at .551.

All-World rightfielder Vladimir Guerrero is continuing his assault on immortality this season as well. “The Impaler” is only eight home runs from 400 (he should surpass that sometime before Mother’s Day) and if he gets 25 this season…he’ll have 25 or better in each of the last 12 years.

Also worth mentioning, Guerrero has yet to hit below .300 in a season. With a .323 career batting average, he is fourth behind Albert Pujols (.334), Ichiro (.331) and Todd Helton (.328) on the active list.

In a few more seasons, we’ll be talking about Vlad as a 500 homer, 3000 hit guy.


OAKLAND ATHLETICS
Making his way back to Oakland, and therefore making the Athletics relevant to the Milestone Tracker is the afore mentioned Jason Giambi.

This season, Giambi is hoping to regain his pre-Yankees (and steroid aided) form as he continues his march to and past 400 home runs. He’ll start this season with 396 dingers and will more than likely surpass 400 by mid-April.

It remains to be seen if “Giambino” will enter the season mustached or not. As Perlut would be quick to point out…Giambi hit 100 points higher WITH the lip sweater. So growing it back is obviously something to consider.


SEATTLE MARINERS
While they are not picked by many to compete, the Mariners will be exciting to watch if only to see Ken Griffey, Jr. and Ichiro cement their place in history.

It’s not likely that “Junior” will get to his fourteenth All-Star game or bring home his eleventh Gold Glove, but Griffey enters 2009 as the active leader in hits (2680), runs (1612), home runs (611), RBI (1772) assuming Frank Thomas is done…runs created (1934).

As far as true milestones, all Griffey has in his sites is surpassing Hall of Famers Frank Robinson (1812), Dave Winfield (1833), Ted Williams (1839) and Carl Yastrzemski (1844) to move into twelfth place all-time on the RBI leaderboard.

Last season, Ichiro became the youngest player to notch 3000 hits…1278 while playing in Japan and 1805 in Seattle. If Ichiro gets 200 hits and 100 runs this season, he’ll pass Willie Keeler and Lou Gehrig with having the most (nine) seasons with more than 200 hits and 100 runs.

As it is…he’s the only Major Leaguer to start his career with eight straight seasons of 200 hits, 100 runs and a batting average of .300 or more.

And if Ichiro at the plate isn’t enough to keep an eye on, he also started his career with eight straight Gold Gloves and All-Star appearances.


TEXAS RANGERS
Josh Hamilton exploded onto the scene last year in a big way, but it is a couple of lower profile Rangers (Omar Vizquel and Andruw Jones) that are approaching milestones.

Vizquel is on top of the active list for games played (2680) and at bats (9745) and second (behind former teammate Griffey, Jr.) on the hits list. And it isn’t likely that he’ll be able to surpass him, but “Sheik Omar’s” 11 Gold Gloves puts him behind only Ozzie Smith’s 13 on the Gold Glove tally board.

Jones has gone from perennial MVP candidate to MIA in the last couple of years and it is not likely that the his latest change of scenery will help. As it is, he’s only 31 and sitting at 371 home runs and while it is not likely…getting to 400 home runs this season is not entirely out of the question.

Of course, he’ll have to improve on that abysmal three home run output from last season.

The National League West is next and should wrap things up. In the meantime, feel free to check out Milestone Previews of the American League East, American League Central, National League East and National League Central.



BallHype: hype it up!

March 25, 2009

Milestone Preview: American League Central

Thanks to the magic of facebook (yes, I’ve FINALLY succumbed to its wiles), I’ve been able to re-connect with some old friends. One of them is an old buddy of mine named Jeff, who, in 1996, joined me on a trip to Cleveland for Spring Break. It wasn’t the ideal destination, but we made the most of it.

We ate sandwiches at a toll plaza in South Bend after we determined that swinging by Notre Dame would be too much of a hassle.

Closer to C-Town, we were pulled over by a cop who thought we were “joy riding”. It was after two in the morning and we were driving a BMW with Illinois plates, so I suppose we COULD have been joy riding…but alas, we weren’t.

We were just lost.

Once we found our way, we hit The Flats (where a waitress showed us her well-placed shamrock tattoo), the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and since it was March, we walked around a vacant and cold Jacobs Field. But more on that place later.

So, with all apologies to the guy who slammed me for not including any milestones for the milestone-less Pittsburgh Pirates, here comes the AMERICAN LEAGUE CENTRAL.


CHICAGO WHITE SOX
The heart of the Sox lineup is poised to do some great things this season...historically speaking. They are getting older, sure, but with that age comes some milestones.

Now, I’m going to be the first to say that when I wrote a while back criticizing Jim Thome, I might have been a touch misguided. I’m not going to take back the statements where I said he wasn’t dominant or feared, but the longer he sticks around, the more apt he is to make me eat my “he’ll get lost in the mix” comments regarding his first ballot Hall of Fame candidacy.

This season, the Peoria native enters the season with 541 home runs. He’ll likely jump over Harmon Killebrew’s total (573) this season and, along with Alex Rodriguez, is inching closer and closer to the 600 mark.

Thome is 12 RBI away from hitting 1500 and aside from Harold Baines (1628) and Andre Dawson (1591), everyone who has 1500 or more RBI and is Hall eligible…has had their ticket punched.

This last stat I bring up only because I was criticized in the past for mentioning it. Thome is 116 strikeouts away from passing Sammy Sosa (2306) and becoming second all-time to Reggie Jackson’s 2597 Ks.

Surrounding Thome in the Sox lineup are two hitters that are both two long balls away from reaching 300 for their career…Jermaine Dye and Paul Konerko. Last year, Dye hit his second in Game 5…Konerko in Game 11.


CLEVELAND INDIANS
On April 4, 1994, President Bill Clinton christened the then Jacobs Field by throwing out its first pitch. Fans of that inaugural contest watched six sure-bet Hall of Famers: Eddie Murray (enshrined in 2003), Ken Griffey, Jr., Randy Johnson, Manny Ramirez, Omar Vizquel and Jim Thome. Also on the field were such notables as Edgar Martinez, Kenny Lofton and Albert Belle.

Now, fifteen years later, the now Progressive Field is in the middle of the pack as the fifteenth oldest stadium. In its time, “The Jake” has hit its own milestones.

Between June 12, 1995
and April 4, 2001, the Indians set a record by selling out 455 straight games. Demand for tickets was so great that all 81 home games were sold out before opening day on three separate occasions.

The Indians have since "retired" the number 455 in honor of the sellout record.


DETROIT TIGERS
Lost in all the Manny Ramirez and Alex Rodriguez hubbub of late is the fact that Gary Sheffield is putting up one gem of a career.

A major leaguer at 18, Sheffield got off to a quick start by getting both his first hit and first home run with the same swing of the bat. Now, 498 home runs later…Sheffield is on the cusp of becoming the twenty-fifth player to hit 500 long balls. Something tells me that, again, he'll waste no time and get number 500 out of the way in the Tigers first series against Toronto.

Also worth mentioning...Sheffield comes into 2009 with 1633 RBI. Everyone who is Hall eligible and has more RBI than “Sheff” is enshrined in Cooperstown.

Throw out Barry Bonds and Sheffield is third on the active list for runs scored (behind Griffey and Rodriguez) and hits (behind Griffey and Vizquel).


KANSAS CITY ROYALS and MINNESOTA TWINS
Like I did previously with the Pirates, I could make something up here. However, I’m fresh out of any good Kevin Seitzer and Kent Hrbek references to make it worth anyone’s while.

The American League West is next. In the meantime, feel free to check out Milestone Previews of the American League East, National League East and National League Central.


BallHype: hype it up!

March 23, 2009

"Zero regrets"...Schilling officially done

"This party has officially ended. After being blessed to experience 23 years of playing professional baseball in front of the world's best fans in so many different places, it is with zero regrets that I am making my retirement official."

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

When I read last June 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 in October 2007...PRIOR to Game Two of the Red Sox-Rockies game.


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 with the likes of fellow fireballer Clemens as far as starting pitchers go. Take into account that there will be a slew of position players (Barry Bonds, Craig Biggio, Sammy Sosa and Mike Piazza) 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?!?

BallHype: hype it up!

Milestone Preview: National League Central

The first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament are in the books and given my record (I have 12 of the 16 teams remaining) I’ve become certain that two things are true.

First, we’re living in Oklahoma forward Blake Griffin’s world. The dude is good…damn good.

I hope whatever sorry excuse for an NBA franchise doesn’t draft this kid and ruin him. He can either be Tim Duncan or Chris Washburn (not likely), so let’s see what team miraculously drops to number one and snags him. If the ball bounces their way, how good would he look next to Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Jeff Green in OKC?

Second, I’m an idiot for ever filling out a bracket. It’s true. I’ve never won…never will. I’m convinced of it.

But maybe it’s the blind optimism of all the Chicago Cubs fans I’ve had to share time with that has corrupted me. Here’s a team that has gone a century without winning a championship and me, having never won a pool in my life, I continue to drop five bucks every March.

Which brings me to the NATIONAL LEAGUE CENTRAL.


CHICAGO CUBS
The “Loveable Losers” haven’t won a World Series since 1908, so clearly, that would be the number one milestone for them to achieve. Talk to any Cubs fan and “this is the year”…we’ll see.

On the field of play, there are some milestones that are a little easier to attain. Alfonso Soriano starts the year with 270 home runs and barring injury, he’ll surpass 300 by the time 2009 comes to a close.

Manager Lou Pinella is sitting at 1701 wins…good for fourteenth place on the all-time list. While there is no chance he moves up on the list this season, his win total is pretty noteworthy considering the three active managers that he trails…Tony LaRussa (2461), Bobby Cox (2327) and Joe Torre (2151).

1701 wins is also of note because of the thirteen managers that are Hall eligible and ahead of Pinella on the all-time wins list...only one (Gene Mauch) is NOT enshrined. Not too shabby.

While not a milestone, the Cubs are doing something pretty cool and pretty monumental on May 3. Before the “North Siders” take the field against the Florida Marlins, they’ll retire number 31 for Fergie Jenkins and Greg Maddux. Each hurler won a Cy Young Award and combined for 300 victories while wearing the pinstriped 31.


CINCINNATI REDS
Since I mentioned former Reds skipper Lou Pinella, I feel obligated to mention current Reds skipper Dusty Baker. Baker (1236) enters the season just behind Whitey Herzog (1281) and Billy Martin (1253) on the all-time wins list. And outside of a serious collapse (which is possible) and Baker getting the axe (which would then be probably)…he’ll move into the top 30 on the career list.


HOUSTON ASTROS
Last week, Houston inked catcher Ivan Rodriguez to a one-year deal and automatically entered themselves into the milestone watch. The Astros now have four, count ‘em FOUR hitters approaching 300 home runs. And the amazing thing…they’ll all get them this season. In order they are: “Pudge” (295), Lance Berkman (288), Carlos Lee (281) and Miguel Tejada (271).

Already the career leader for hits and Gold Gloves for a catcher, it’s of note to mention that Rodriguez is poised to leap frog a number of Hall of Famers on the career doubles. I’d name them all, but let’s face it…we’re talking doubles and that really isn't a stat that snags the headlines.


MILWAUKEE BREWERS
Did you hear the one about the all-time saves leader being let go by his former team via fax and signing with the Brewers in the off season? If so, you know that Trevor Hoffman will be closing games for the “Brew Crew” and putting the finishing touches on his plaque in Cooperstown.

Hoffman is also 28 games away from becoming baseball’s all-time leader in games finished. As a side note…can we please get Lee Smith into the Hall of Fame before Hoffman and Mariano Rivera pass him up in every statistical category?


PITTSBURGH PIRATES
I heard a rumor once that Bobby Bonds' kid Barry started his career in Pittsburgh and once his career got going, he, well...nevermind.


Next!


ST. LOUIS CARDINALS
When 2008 came to a close, Albert Pujols became the only player in Major League history who started his career with eight consecutive seasons with a .300 batting average, 30 or more home runs and 100 RBI. The only other players to accomplish the 100 RBI feat…Al Simmons, who did it in eleven straight and Ted Williams, who stalled after eight.

All in all, “Prince Albert” is 31 home runs away from 350, 23 RBI from 1000 and 53 runs from 1000. And oh yeah, he just turned 29. Check out what Nick Underhill had to say about “The Legend of Pujols” over at his site.

Cardinals manager LaRussa continues his climb toward second place on the all-time wins list. He’s 302 behind John McGraw, so check back sometime in May or June 2012 to watch this play itself out.

And for those of you who were sucked in with the NCAA Tournament reference at the top, my Final Four is Louisville and Villanova with Memphis topping Oklahoma in the final. However, like the Cubs winning the World Series, it won’t happen.

The American League Central is next. In the meantime, feel free to check out Milestone Previews of the American League East and National League East.


BallHype: hype it up!

March 18, 2009

Milestone Preview: National League East

As David Letterman used to say, “ladies and gentlemen, wake the kids, phone the neighbors”…because I’m about to pull off an internet first, gang.

Check it out over at Google, surf the Wikipedia…wherever. I guarantee you that this is the first time the names Matt Stairs and Ron Villone are going to make anyone’s season preview. Ever. You see, Stairs and Villone have the chance to do something special…tie Mike Morgan on the list for the most franchises played for.

For the record, I’m giving the edge to Villone. Currently a non-roster invitee of the Mets, he’s played for 11 teams and if he take the bump at Citi Field…he’ll tie Morgan with 12.

And with that…let’s move on to the NATIONAL LEAGUE EAST!


ATLANTA BRAVES
Year in and year out, the Braves always seem to have something to look forward to. In 2007, manager Bobby Cox (currently fourth on the all-time managerial wins list) became the all-time leader in ejections.

Last year, future Hall of Famer Tom Glavine brought his 300 wins back to “Hotlanta” and with 305 under his belt…he enters this season as the active leader in victories. Every time he takes the mound, his strikeout and innings pitched total inches him closer and closer to the greats of the game.

I’m not sure what I can say about Chipper Jones that I didn’t say last week. Chipper is already in Hall of Fame territory based on his accomplishments as one of the game's elite switch hitters. By the time August is here, he should have eclipsed 2400 hits.

Also closing in on 2400 hits (and 500 doubles) is Garret Anderson. Quietly, the newly acquired Anderson has put together a solid career. By this time next season, we’ll be talking about 2600 hits and 300 home runs. As a side note…I’m pretty sure he’s the only player to have played for the California, Anaheim and Los Angeles Angels.

FLORIDA MARLINS
The youngest team in the majors (26.1 years old at the start of the 2009 season) has next to nothing to look forward to on the milestone front. But for those of you who are counting down the games until Wes Helms plays in his 1000th…you’re in luck!



NEW YORK METS
Even though their pitching staff has, in recent years, included Glavine, Pedro Martinez and Billy Wagner, the Mets aren’t giving us anything to watch for out on the hill this year.

That being said…raise your hand if you ever thought Carlos Delgado was going to be a member of the 500 home run club. After Gary Sheffield hits number 500 (which should come in the first week of the season), Delgado is up next. The slugger has 469 home runs and should, barring injury, close out the Mets’ first season at Citi Field with a milestone.

PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES
Winning the World Series should be a milestone in itself, but when the Phillies will take the field April 5 for their home opener against the Braves, they’ll be doing so with baseball’s oldest current player…Jamie Moyer. Interestingly enough, Moyer (born November 18, 1962) is the only current player besides Randy Johnson (September 10, 1963) that was alive when John Kennedy was assassinated.

A class act, Moyer is four wins away from 250 for his career and he should surpass Hall of Famer Bob Gibson (251) on the all-time list sometime before Memorial Day. On the flip side, by the end of this season, Moyer will end up second on the all-time list for home runs allowed. Moyer is currently at 464 while the career leader, Robin Roberts, is sitting at 505. Here’s hoping Jamie suits up for 2010!

WASHINGTON NATIONALS
The Nationals enter their fifth season since re-locating from Montreal with little to no fanfare. For the four Adam Dunn fans out there, you’ll be glad to know that he’s 22 homers away from 300 for his career and if he gets to 40 this season, he’ll have done so for six straight seasons. Only Babe Ruth did it more consistently when he hit 40 out in a record seven straight seasons.

The National League Central is next up on the docket. Feel free to check out the American League East Milestone Preview HERE.

Until then, Viva Ron Villone…I hope the Mets play you, then trade you to your thirteenth franchise!

BallHype: hype it up!

March 16, 2009

Milestone Preview: American League East

Now that we’ve all got the Comedy Central Roast of Larry the Cable Guy in our rearview mirrors…it’s time to focus on the upcoming baseball season.

It would be cliché to say that this year, just like every other season, begins with a clean slate…but I’d be lying to you. Rather I’ll tell you this...just like every other season, we’ve got a number of milestones that look to be eclipsed. From now until the start of the season, The Hall of Very Good will be breaking now each division, team by team, and lay out what milestones you SHOULD be watching for this upcoming season.

For example, did you realize that Randy Johnson is within shouting distance of becoming only the second player ever to notch 5000 strikeouts? Clearly not as monumental, but did you know that both the Houston Astros have three players that are inching closer and closer to 300 home runs?

Let's start with the AMERICAN LEAGUE EAST

BALTIMORE ORIOLES
It pains me to say it, but since Cal Ripken, Jr. saved baseball in 1995, packed up his 3184 hits and retired following the 2001 season, Baltimore hasn’t had much to cheer about. Sure, Rafael Palmeiro notched his 3000th hit as an Oriole, but given the way he ended his career, I’m not sure “Monument City” is about to put up a plaque to honor his accomplishments.

BOSTON RED SOX
Last season at this time, we’d be counting down the games until Manny Ramirez joined the 500 home run club. This year, there is no Manny and, more than likely, no Curt Schilling (3116 Ks) gearing up to surpass Pedro Martinez (3117), Bob Gibson (3117) and Fergie Jenkins (3192) on the all-time strikeout list.

In their place is slugger David Ortiz and his 289 home runs. It’s safe to say that he’ll get his 300th sometime in early to mid-May. Should Ortiz slump early on…I’m wagering number 300 comes the weekend of June 12-14 when the Sox travel to Philadelphia. The last two seasons, “Big Papi” has hit his 11th home run of the season off former Oakland (and current Phillies) hurler Joe Blanton.

Newly acquired John Smoltz looks to draw some attention as he and his surgically repaired shoulder take the bump to add to his 3011 strikeouts. Currently fourth on the active list, he is not very far from overtaking Schilling (3116) and Martinez (3117).

NEW YORK YANKEES
Considering we don’t actually know the severity of Alex Rodriguez’s hip injury, it’s hard to speculate how far up the home run ladder, “A-Rod” will climb. If he wasn’t starting the season injured…I’d say that moving up five spots on the all-time list and surpassing Frank Robinson was a probability.

So here's a pop quiz, hotshot…who is going to be the next member of the 3000 hit club? If you answered "Derek Jeter" you’d be right. Sure, he’s currently at 2535 and listed as seventh on the active list, but let’s be honest…Barry Bonds isn’t getting those last 65 hits anytime before Jeter gets his next 465. And the other five (Ken Griffey, Jr., Omar Vizquel, Gary Sheffield, Ivan Rodriguez and Luis Gonzalez) are either (A) not every day players or (B) not currently under contract.

Mariano Rivera is 18 saves away from joining Trevor Hoffman as the only two closers with 500 saves. Next on the active list…Bill Wagner with 385. Savor save number 500 baseball fans…it’ll be a while until we see it again. Saves are tricky to predict because it’s all dependant on how the Yankees fair this season. If you’re curious, Rivera has been awarded with his 18th save as early as May 29 (in 2004) and as late as August 6 (in 2007).


TAMPA BAY RAYS
The 2008 American League champion Rays will have two reasons to follow their bullpen beginning in a couple of weeks. Closer Troy Percival (352 saves) is 15 saves away from surpassing former all-time saves leader Jeff Reardon (367) for seventh on the all-time saves list. I’d make a prediction as to when he’ll top the bearded one, but given he has Jason Isringhausen (himself only 7 saves away from becoming the 22nd player to get 300 saves) battling him for the closer job…I think I'll I’ll pass.

TORONTO BLUE JAYS
Ummm…third baseman Scott Rolen is 28 home runs from 300. Does that suffice?

No?!? Damn.

Sure, manager Cito Gaston has led his Jays to four AL East crowns and back-to-back World Series titles in 1992 and 1993, but jumping up and down when he gets win number 50 this season and passes up Buck Rodgers to become 70th on the all-time list for wins would be a little much.

Later this week, I’ll cross another division off the list…stick around. In the meantime, surf on over to Comedy Central and enjoy the roasting of the very unfunny Dan Whitney.

BallHype: hype it up!

March 13, 2009

The Great Emancipator, the Carson Crusher and Chipper

Over the last month, I’ve come to grips with the fact that the story I am about to re-tell is more than likely (“more than likely” equating to about 100%) not true.

That being said…I’m going to share it anyway.

Last month, I took my family on a pilgrimage to Springfield, IL to celebrate the 200th birthday of Abraham Lincoln. We hit all the sites; the Lincoln Museum, his family home and of course…the tomb. But it wasn’t amid those tourist attractions where I had my brief brush with celebrity.

A famous person in Springfield this side of Lincoln’s funeral in 1865? Sure…why not!

Philadelphia Phillies outfielder Jayson Werth (looking eerily like Australia’s resident “party kid” Corey Delaney) is from the state’s capital, downtown is typically crawling with government officials and on this weekend…I had breakfast with former power hitting third baseman Matt Williams.

I know what you’re thinking…the Matt Williams who was part of the 2001 Arizona Diamondback championship team?

Yes. THAT Matt Williams.

It was Sunday morning and my family (and presumably his given the kid at the table) were taking advantage of the Baymont’s complimentary continental breakfast. As is customary when I travel, I had Raisin Bran (I would never PAY for Raisin Bran mind you) and I believe Williams had some toast.

Maybe it was yogurt…I’m not certain but that’s not the point.

The rest of the morning and afternoon I couldn’t get the thought out of my mind that at one point Williams appeared to be heading toward “legend” status. This guy terrorized opposing pitchers. The team surrounding him his one year in Cleveland was fantastic. His 1999 100-win Arizona team gave opponents nightmares.

The dude had ten straight years with 20 or more home runs (he ended his career with 378), four Gold Gloves and appeared in five All-Star games.

There are also plenty of folks out there that believe that Williams would’ve topped Roger Maris’ 61 home runs had the strike not occurred. Minus some injuries and the 1994 strike robbing him of immortality, who knows how Williams’ career would’ve played out?

As it is…378 round trippers is nothing to sniff at. Looking at those already enshrined in Cooperstown, they would place Williams third all-time at his position behind Eddie Mathews and Mike Schmidt. But as we know…a slew of home runs do not necessarily get you a plaque on the walls.

The reason this tale is of worth is not because I eventually was able to convince myself that the “Carson Crusher” was NOT in Springfield that morning. I mean, while he LOOKED like Williams, he was far too short and, frankly, why would he stay at a Baymont given the other options?

I tell it because sometimes I need to be reminded that since baseball came back from the strike thanks to Cal Ripken, Jr. and his remarkable, well publicized streak, we’ve had the honor of watching one of this generation’s best third basemen.

And no, Yankees fans…I am not talking about Alex Rodriguez.

I’m talking about Larry Wayne Jones, Jr. or “Chipper” as we’ve come to know him.

Initially a shortstop and occasionally a left fielder…Chipper has anchored the hot corner for the Atlanta Braves for 80% of the games he’s played. But why doesn’t he get mentioned in the same breath as baseball’s elite?

Here’s a guy who isn’t stuck in a smaller market. Atlanta is on the East coast and TBS (or the Turner Broadcast System to you high brow muckety-mucks) carried “America’s Team” from 1972 until 2007 so obviously Jones got his fair share of exposure.

He hasn’t bounced around from team to team every year a la Matt Stairs or Royce Clayton (both played for 11 teams)…he’s been with ONE team since he was selected with the first overall pick in the 1990 amateur draft. There is absolutely no need to look at the transaction wire to see where Number 10 is suiting up next.

And arguably, while he is currently one of baseball’s best hitters going into this upcoming season…he is possibly the greatest switch hitter the game has ever seen. With all apologies to Mickey Mantle and Eddie Murray…it’s Jones who holds the distinction of being the ONLY switch hitter to have a career batting average of .300 (currently .310) and 400 or more home runs.

Add to that the fact that Jones’ 2008 league leading batting average of .364 is only one tick off of Mantle’s season best .365 for a switch hitter and you’ve got more than just a great hitter from both sides of the dish…you’ve got one heck of a ball player.

12 out of the last 13 seasons, Jones has hit .295 or higher. He has 14 straight seasons with 20 or more home runs and eight straight seasons (nine total) of 100 or more RBI.

And speaking of streaks, Jones also played in a startling ELEVEN straight post seasons from 1995 to 2005.


Incidentally (perhaps coincidentally), the Braves brought Atlanta their lone World Series championship in Jones’ rookie year, 1995. That post-season, he hit .364 and finished second in the Rookie of the Year voting to Hideo Nomo. As a sidenote, Nomo lost his only start that post-season as the Dodgers were swept by the Reds.

Four seasons later, in 1999, Jones brought home the MVP trophy when he hit .319 with 45 home runs and 110 RBI. He also swiped 25 of 28 bases! And not to sound like a broken record, but in 12 of his 14 seasons…he’s nabbed some MVP votes.

For his career, Jones has belted 408 home runs…third most for a switch hitter behind Mantle (536) and Murray (504). And as an attempt to bring this train back around to the Matt Williams opener, Chipper has 330 as a third baseman.

By the end of 2010, he’ll have easily surpassed 1500 RBI and 2500 hits. His career OPS of .956 is 22nd all-time and the only player ahead of him that is Hall eligible and NOT enshrined is Mark McGwire.

The six-time All-Star holds most of the ATLANTA Braves team records and is situated alongside Hank Aaron and Mathews atop many of their franchise records. In a season or two…he’ll have eclipsed most of Mathews’ numbers except home runs. It’s safe to say he’ll never touch what “Hammerin’ Hank” did.

That being said…the dude is a lock for Cooperstown. He could retire today and waltz in without any more icing needed for the top of the proverbial Hall of Fame cake.



Chipper Jones is, without a doubt, the best third baseman since that other converted shortstop-turned-third baseman saved baseball.

And to the fella in Springfield, if you were Matt Williams…I’m sorry my daughter spilled orange juice on your shoe. If you weren’t…well, please let Kellogg’s know that I apologize for only partaking in their “two scoops of raisins” when I can get it for free.


BallHype: hype it up!

March 12, 2009

Cooperstown's Calling: Pedro Martinez

The last two days, I've posted Trevor Hayes' Hall of Fame feature "Cooperstown's Calling"...here's number three!

"Using the World Baseball Classic as an audition for a big league roster spot doesn't seem necessary for a future Hall of Famer.

But at 37 years old and in an uncertain economy, it's come to this for three-time Cy Young Award-winner, World Series champion and 3,000-strikeout club-member Pedro Martinez.
With pinpoint control and sheer power, Martinez has constructed a compelling case for enshrinement in Cooperstown. But like many aging stars, he wants to hold on for another year."

Read Part Two of "Cooperstown's Calling" HERE! Check out what the Hall of Very Good had to say about Pedro in January HERE.

BallHype: hype it up!