June 30, 2009

"The Machine" keeps on keeping on

Back in March, The Hall pointed out that Albert Pujols "is 31 home runs away from 350, 23 RBI from 1000 and 53 runs from 1000."

Well, with two home runs against the Giants Tuesday night, "The Machine" sits one long ball away from 350. More impressive...with 30 this season, he became the first player to start his career with nine straight seasons with 30 or more homers.

Yikes.

Also, his 30 home runs marks only the tenth time a player has hit 30 prior to the All-Star break. Barry Bonds holds the record with 39, Mark McGwire is next with 37. My guess is Pujols is sitting somewhere near 34 or 35 by the time MLB takes its break.

“It’s not what you did last year. It’s what you’re going to do this year. That’s more important," Pujols once told reporters.


Well, so far "this year", Pujols is on pace to smash his career high in home runs (49), RBI (137) and OPS+ (190). If he continues on this torrid pace...he's likely to bring home his third MVP award.

Remind me again why everyone is so enamored with Alex Rodriguez surpassing Bonds' career home run totals?

It's clear to me, that "Phat Albert" is much more the complete player and barring another errant leak or Selena Roberts investigation...he's every bit as likely to end up as the greatest overall hitter of his generation.


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June 29, 2009

Enter Sandman

One of the fun things about previewing milestones at the start of the season is watching them unfold throughout the year.

With a 4-2 victory over the Mets Sunday night...Mariano Rivera become only the SECOND member of the 500 save club.

"I don't look for records or things like that," Rivera told reporters. "I'm not here for that. I'm here to play baseball and win World Series. If it happens, it happens. But I don't come here to chase records."

Trevor Hoffman is the all-time leader with 571 saves, so it remains to be seen if Rivera can actually reach whatever record ends up being set. What is certain is this...it's going to be a long, long time before someone gets near either one of them.

As it stands, the next active reliever is Billy Wagner with 385 and after that...you're looking at Troy Percival with 358. Thing is, Wagner might not hit 386 and Percival might stay stuck at 358 since both have been hampered with injuries.

Who has a chance at joining Hoffman and Rivera in the 500 Club?

Even though he notched a quarter of his career total of 228 saves in one season, Francisco Rodriguez is young enough at 27 to give them a run for their money.

So congrats to Rivera as you continues to secure his spot in Cooperstown, and let's all meet back here in eight years to see where K-Rod is at.


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June 26, 2009

Meet the Venezuelan Hit King

On the same night when the "King of Pop" died...Omar Vizquel became the "Venezuelan Hit King".

I know, I know...dumb seque. But the fact remains...with a single in the first, Vizquel surpassed Luis Aparicio on the all-time list with 2678 hits.

"Finally. Wow. I feel 100 pounds lighter," Vizquel told reporters following the game. "I can go out and enjoy the game again and forget about everything else."

Hopefully, this all but cements Vizquel's case for the Hall of Fame.


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June 22, 2009

Talkin' baseball with C.J. Wilson

Now, I’m not a tech savvy guy at all…the furthest I get into the world of technology is this site and listening to some of my favorite podcasts on my iPod while mowing the lawn.

Current Texas Rangers relief pitcher C.J. Wilson, on the other hand, has quite a reputation as being “the guy” when it comes to all things "tech" (iPods, computers, etc). I had a chance to talk to him a little about baseball, past teammates and the L.A. Lakers.

HOVG: With the latest release of the iPhone 3GS, I’ve gotta ask...are you getting one?

CJ: I don't like the iPhones. I need a keyboard so I can text accurately, so I use a Sidekick.

HOVG: Alright, I had to get that out of the way. It seems every interview with you online talks about three things…you being a technology nut, Tommy John surgery and being a “free spirt”. I’d like to try and take it a different direction…if at all possible. In your first game, you give up a single to the only batter you faced…then in the next inning, you get lifted for a pinch hitter. You’re down 12-5…why not let you hit?!? You were quite the hitter in college, right?

CJ: Why not let me hit? It's a puzzling question that I still am upset about five seasons later.

HOVG: Would you ever petition (Rangers manager) Ron Washington to let you hit in some ballgames or, as a reliever, is that a moot point?

CJ: I'm a decent hitter, but realistically, (I won’t hit) until I'm a starter or a National Leaguer. American League closers don't get a lot of at bats, so I'm just going to take my batting practice homers and call it what it is...unfortunate.

HOVG: I spoke with Ranger great Fergie Jenkins who, while in Chicago, came to the mound to “Canadian Sunset”. Rollie Fingers told me that if he played today…he’d opt for no music just to make the opposing hitters nervous. What plays when you take to the bump…and why?

CJ: My song this year is "Call Me Up" by Chromeo. It's a really fun jam and hopefully it makes our crowd feel positive and energetic. I've strayed away from former metal songs because our crowd just isn't into it and they get bummed. Energy is contagious, and it's better to have the crowd behind you in that regard.

HOVG: And speaking of coming out of the bullpen, the Rangers are off to a good start…what’s it like being part of, arguably, one of the better relief staffs in the American League? Is it easier to stay loose in the bullpen?

CJ: The entire team dynamic is better this year, and I think the bullpen has always been a source of fun for me. We're like a team within the team. It's pretty impossible to accurately characterize the bullpen lifestyle, so I'll just say that you never really know what to expect…but somehow you get used to it.

HOVG: Let’s talk teammates. You’ve had the pleasure of sharing the clubhouse with some of the game’s greats. Let’s play word association with some of your more colorful teammates...starting with former pitching coach Orel Hershiser.

CJ: Scoreless innings streak. He had tons of ideas on how each pitcher could improve.

HOVG: 2005 teammate, starting pitcher Kenny Rogers.

CJ: Awesome guy and super helpful to me in my rookie season. He also had a lot of advice when he left town and we would run into each other.

HOVG: 2007 teammate,closer Eric Gagne.

CJ: The single player I learned more from than any other player.

HOVG: 2006 teammate and polydactyl Antonio Alfonseca.

CJ: Weirdest body in baseball.

HOVG: Current teammate Omar Vizquel reached a milestone the other night when he tied Luis Aparicio’s mark for most hits by a Venezuelan. Is it safe to call Omar the best shortstop of all-time?

CJ: I think with the "best shortstop ever" discussion, it all comes down to Ozzie Smith versus Omar.

HOVG: Across the diamond…who has been the toughest out for you?

CJ: There are a lot of tough outs, but for whatever reason (Yankees outfielder) Nick Swisher keeps getting hits off me. The last two have been infield singles…it's really frustrating. (NOTE: Swisher has five hits in twelve at bats against Wilson…a .417 batting average)

HOVG: Is there anyone, living or dead, that you would like to go head-to-head and battle?

CJ: The players I would've liked most to play against are Ted Williams, Willie Mays and Babe Ruth

HOVG: Alright, enough baseball. Your Lakers just won their 15th championship…are they the NBA’s best franchise ever given the way the won this last one?

CJ: The two best NBA franchises are the Celtics and the Lakers. It's impossible to compare teams of different eras, but I'll say that Phil Jackson is the best pro basketball coach of all time.


HOVG: As a midwest guy...I agree about Phil.

C.J. Wilson is a native of New Port Beach, California. He has spent his entire career with the Texas Rangers both as their closer and set-up man.


In 2003, his season in Double-A Frisco was cut short due to an elbow injury. Subsequent Tommy John surgery kept him out the entire 2004 season. In 2005, Wilson was able to return to Frisco in before being called up to the majors later that season. He’s been a fixture in the Ranger bullpen ever since.


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June 19, 2009

It's so, Joe!

With a 3-2 victory over Oakland Thursday night, the Los Angeles Dodgers continued their league-wide dominance and increased their lead in the National League West to NINE games.

Why is this of any significance?

Prior to the season beginning, The Hall put out its
Milestone Preview for the NL West and stated "off the field, manager Joe Torre is 44 wins away from leapfrogging Sparky Anderson and Bucky Harris and moving into fifth place on the all-time list."

Last night...was win number 44. Congrats, Joe...see you in Cooperstown!



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June 18, 2009

It seemed like only 37 years ago!

On June 18, 1972, colorful Oakland A's owner Charlie Finley holds baseball's first ever "Mustache Day." Finley agrees to pay $300 to each of his players for growing mustaches by Father's Day.

Reggie Jackson had started the trend by reporting to spring training with a mustache...the first major leaguer to do so since Wally Schang in 1914.

For more on "Mustache Day"...visit the
Baseball Hall of Fame's website.

To read my interview with Rollie Fingers (a member of Oakland's famed "Mustache Gang")...click
HERE!


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Sammy got some 'splainin' to do

***Note: When the news of Sosa's alleged steroid use broke, you knew E would be back with something to say. Check out his normal ramblings HERE! Read my Sosa post HERE.***

To the astonishment of no one, the pesky leak that keeps trickling out the names of the 104 MLB players that tested positive for steroids in 2003 has revealed that Sammy Sosa was a steroid user.

Sosa has always denied this, even going so far as to forgetting how to speak English when directly asked about it before Congress. He even managed to not perjure himself, because the "illegal steroids" he claimed to never have used aren't illegal in the República Dominicana where Sosa hails from.

However, they are banned in the league in which he plays baseball, so there's that.

Now begins the discussion on whether or not Sosa is Hall-worthy.

On paper, his numbers speak for themselves. His ridiculous string for 60-plus homer seasons alone makes him eligible. But now that this steroid thing is out there, his chances are greatly decreased.

The sports writers have already shown what they think about 'roiders, taking a resounding pass on Mark McGwire, who has never been confirmed as a user, but has always been suspected.

Mind you, even if McGwire could provide a clean test for every day he played, I still wouldn't induct him. And I actually LIKE McGwire. And now Sosa has that same taint on him.

But the thing that must be remembered is that steroids don't make you a better player; they only make you a bigger player. Taking steroids is not suddenly going to turn you into a premiere home run hitter. The talent has to be there. The steroids only improve the physical aspect, not the skill.

Take Jason Grimsley: heavy, HEAVY steroid user, absolute shit player.

Any performance bump needs to be backed with natural ability. Take me, for example. I'm 5'10", a buck 70. If I were on steroids, I'd get bigger all right, right in my fucking gut, maybe even grow some nice b-cup breasts.

With some physical effort, I could probably get to be pretty strong. But I still couldn't put a bat to a fastball, much less knock it over the fence 600 times.

So, yes, there are a lot of All-Star-caliber players who have been revealed as steroid users. But how much did steroids improve their performance?

How would they have done on talent alone? Would they have been complete garbage without, or just slightly diminished versions? If Sosa had hit a "mere" 30 homers a season, he'd still have 500-plus, which is nothing to sneeze at.

Maybe we need a "steroid curve," something on which we can judge juiced players' actual performance against their "what if" performance. Subtract 300 off every one of Barry Bonds' stats, and he's still one of the greatest players ever.

And there are others who would pass a similar test.

The problem with that starts to show when you go back in the history books and compare the stats of today's supremely fit players against Hall of Famers that weren't as fit. Hank Aaron, an unremarkable guy, my size, put up the greatest stat line in history.

Babe Ruth, whose bulk was mostly gained from eating, drinking, and smoking constantly, put up numbers that took 80 years of trying to surpass.

Mickey Mantle, who drank himself through two livers, hit a third of his 536 homers off of a destroyed knee.

Sandy Koufax pitched four of the greatest seasons ever with an arthritic arm that was in constant pain. Add some sort of "doping factor" to the stats of these less-than-stellar physical specimens, and they dwarf those of today's enhanced superstars.

But, there is no curve for determining Hall-worthiness.

You have to go by the numbers as they are: Do Sosa's stats put him in the Hall? Mos def.

You then have to weigh that against an opinion of whether or not someone who "skewed" their stats should be in the Hall: Does the fact that Sosa used steroids to enhance his performance put him in the Hall?

Not so much.

It will be interesting to see how it all pans out in 2013, when Sosa, Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds, and Mike Piazza, all Hall of Fame-level players and all alleged steroid users, become eligible for Hall induction.

It will be the first true test of the Steroid Era for Hall induction, and whether or not any of them make it in will shape the future of the Hall.

Ya know, back in the day, potential Hall of Famers used to retire with honor and dignity in public, tearful ceremonies at the ballpark.

Nowadays, potential Hall of Famers retire after no one wants them anymore via press release and couldn't get into a ballpark on Free Admission Day.

I think that says a lot.


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A night of milestones in Texas

If you've been following The Hall at all, you know that the Lonestar State was poised to play host to to two milestones Wednesday.

First...Astros catcher Ivan Rodriguez did his part and squatted behind the dish for his record setting 2277th game.

Unfortunately, he had one of his worst nights in memory in front of his old team by going one-for-five, made two throwing errors and saw the Rangers steal three bases. Yikes.

"That happens," he said following the game. "I got a base hit...so it wasn't as bad a game as what you're saying."

Across the diamond, Omar Vizquel did his part by getting his first hit (a fifth inning single) since June 7th. With that hit, he tied Luis Aparicio's mark of 2677...the most by a Venezuelan born player.

"I never thought I'd be involved in a situation like that," Vizquel said. "So many good players have come from our country."

With only 11 starts at short this season...it is unknown when we'll actually see Vizquel break Aparicio's mark.



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June 17, 2009

Sammy Sosa used steroids...crickets break the silence

I have a confession to make (buckle up, Mom)...I'm on steroids.

It's true.

I went to the doctor, er..."immediate care physician" earlier tonight and was diagnosed with "Dermititis, nonspecific". Nice work , "Dr. Eric"...way to pin it down there! I'm glad my normally underwhelming insurance assured I only pay 95 cents for my future addiction to Prednisone.

ANYWAY, my dermatological issues aside, and since I'm not "Johnny This is What's Going on in My Life", I only bring up my own steroid issues to shamelessly segue into another.

A New York Times article is claiming that Sammy Sosa (who, currently, is "calmly" waiting for his call from Cooperstown) is listed among the same 104 names that claimed A-Rod's purity before the season started.

I'm outraged!

What about the magical season of 1998?

What about the world's most beloved Dominica...zzzzzz.

Seriously, folks...are you THAT shocked? Why is it that if you do a Google search about Sosa and steroids you get hundreds upon hundreds of articles about how Sosa is another black mark on the game?

Why are we surprised at this point? Tell me the sun is going to rise in the East tomorrow and I would be MORE shocked than if you told me Sammy Sosa is guilty of using PEDs.

That being said...I'm going ahead and RE-post (with some minor editing) something I wrote nearly two years ago when one of my least favorite players eclipsed the 600 home run mark. Unfortunately, I feel the same way today as I felt then.

Enjoy.

I’ve been reading a lot of the national columns lately and have to admit…I think I’ve made a deal with the devil.

Why you ask?

Are you ready for it?

Sammy Sosa is a Hall of Famer, first ballot…no questions asked. Admittedly, I hate Sosa…HATE HIM, but his stats are so overwhelming that you could almost disregard the home run numbers and he’d STILL get in.

Well, maybe not…the home runs are what really get him enshrined, but you know what I mean.

We all know by now that there are only six baseball players that have hit 600 (or more) home runs…Barry Bonds, Hank Aaron, Babe Ruth, Willie Mays and Ken Griffey, Jr. are the others. But did you realize that Sosa is the only one to have hit more than 60 home runs more than once?

Probably. And he did it three times!

Did you know that Sosa has seven years with 40 or more homers and he did it in six straight seasons? Ruth hit 40 or more in seven straight seasons. By comparison, Reggie Jackson (563 career bombs) NEVER hit 40 or more in back-to-back years and only has two season with more than 40.

Let’s look at some other notable numbers.

Sosa was an All-Star only seven times. However, he has seven top ten MVP finishes. He won the MVP award only once (over Mark McGwire in 1998) and finished in the top ten in six straight seasons.

The guy was a scoring machine…PERIOD. The guy was as "Ruthian" as anyone, and nowhere can I find a synonym that cleverly uses his name to the heighten the feats of others.

Sosa played for some piss poor teams and still managed nine straight season with 100 or more RBI (a career high of 160 and a previous high of 158 are awe-inspiring). Again, Ruth's best was eight straight and Jackson only had six 100-plus seasons total.

During the aforementioned nine year span, Sosa had six straight years with 100 or more runs scored. The seventh year…he scored 99.

Did you know that Sosa has more home runs at Wrigley Field than Babe Ruth had at Yankee Stadium? More impressive, Sosa has 545 home runs as a Cub…and even one AGAINST them.

“Mr. Cub” Ernie Banks has 512 as a Cub. North Siders might want to reconsider who is who.

When I wrote this in June, 2007...I went through the whole thing without mentioning steroids. And that was on purpose.

There was no reason to believe that a, then, 39 year-old man couldn't have an acne issue!

In all seriousness, the longer this steroid debate rages (pun intended) on…Sosa’s numbers gain more legitimacy. You see…if/when more players get implicated, the more players like Sosa, Bonds, Rafael Palmeiro, McGwire, Rodriguez and Manny Ramirez become “one of the guys”.

I guess we'll see if the Hall of Fame Class of 2013 becomes one of the best ever with Roger Clemens, Bonds, Sosa, Craig Biggio and Mike Piazza (among others) or if all will get scrapped and writers elect (see what I did there?) to make a point and enshrine Mike Lieberthal and Todd Walker.


***Following the news of Sosa's alleged misconduct, I asked you..."is Sosa still a Hall of Famer"? 42% of you said "yes", 14% said "no" and 42% said "Hell no". So there you have it. We'll see.***


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June 16, 2009

"Pudge"...meet "Pudge"

If you follow The Hall on Twitter (and if you aren't...why not?), you know that tonight was the night when Ivan Rodriguez tied Hall of Famer Carlton Fisk as the all-time leader in games played behind the dish.

That's right..."Pudge" is now tied with "Pudge".

The current Astros catcher caught his record-tying 2226th game against the very team that signed him as a 16 year-old back in 1988...the Texas Rangers.

"I'm very pleased," Rodriguez told reporters following the milestone game. "It's an unbelievable record to tie Carlton Fisk. I respect him a lot and to be able to get to his mark is an honor for me. I saw him and the way he works and takes care of himself and was able to play that many games, and I tried to follow his steps and tried to keep myself in good shape. Look where I am. I tied him, and it will be an honor to be able to break it and establish a new record."

"I-Rod" is the all-time leader in hits among catchers and sitting at 2650 hits, it remains to be seen if he's got enough in him to be the first to see 3000.

As it is...he's also ranked first all-time among catchers in doubles, putouts and with his 13 Gold Gloves and 14 All-Star Games, he's poised to enter Cooperstown as the greatest catcher ever.

Yes...ever. And to think, in March...Trevor Hayes wondered if the former MVP Rodriguez was going to find a job.


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June 14, 2009

Tejada and Berkman reach milestones

Earlier in the season, we saw Jermaine Dye and Paul Konerko hit their 300th home runs back to back. And in an effort to one up the Chicago duo (probably not really...but whatever), Miguel Tejada and Lance Berkman combined for a pair of milestones Saturday night against Arizona.

Tejada became the 29th shortstop to reach 2000 hits with a single in the sixth. Two batters later, Berkman became just the seventh switch-hitter with 300 or more home runs.

Berkman also became the second member of the Astros to hit hit 300th homer this season, with
Ivan Rodriguez reaching that plateau last month in Chicago.

The record for most home runs by a switch-hitter is held by Mickey Mantle at 536. The other switch-hitters with 300 or more homers are Eddie Murray (504), Chipper Jones (416), Chili Davis (350), Reggie Smith (314) and Ruben Sierra (306).


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June 13, 2009

Ozzie vs. Omar...who ya got?

I realize that in the wake of Randy Johnson’s 300th win, Tom Glavine being released by the Braves and John Smoltz poised to make his return to the big leagues…this isn’t the sexiest Hall of Fame discussion.

But did you know that Texas Ranger Omar Vizquel is one base knock away from tying Hall of Famer Luis Aparicio for most hits by Venezuelan born player?

Yeah…I didn’t think so.

I was watching the Rangers take on Boston last weekend and as they talked about Vizquel closing in on Aparicio on the “most hits by a Venezuelan” list (they made no mention of him closing in on “most hits by a shortstop”), I was reminded of a similar situation almost two years ago.

You see, then, I was watching the Red Sox face off against the Giants and the announcers were talking about whether or not Vizquel is a Hall of Famer. Without hesitation, all three of the announcers agreed that he would make it in on the first ballot.

They compared his numbers (both offensive and defensive) to Ozzie Smith, talked about Vizquel’s 11 Gold Gloves (9 consecutive at one point) and again, compared his to Ozzie’s thirteen in a row.

They quoted former Cardinals skipper Whitey Herzog (who once said something along the lines of…“Smith might not knock in 100 runs in a season, but he’ll save you that many”), and even had a highlight reel cut together showing how both he and Vizquel saved runs for their respective teams.

As mentioned, the most compelling case for Vizquel’s enshrinement is the similarity between his numbers and those of Smith.

Both are slap hitters with okay career averages (.273 for Omar, .262 for Ozzie). Both of them amassed a good amount of hits (2676 and counting for Omar, 2460 for Ozzie). And both of them had some success in the post season.

I know it’s a long shot and not likely, but should Vizquel play until he is 45 (he is 42 now and a backup in Texas), he’ll be closing in on 3000 and virtually a lock for Cooperstown.

Not bad for a guy who, since 1989, has been in and out of the lineup solely for his glove, right?

When the Hall came calling for Carlton Fisk (a second ballot guy only because of the competition he was up against), everyone cited his longevity at one position, so is it safe to say the conversation will be the same for Vizquel?

He is currently the leader for games played at shortstop and is the career leader for being part of most double plays than any other fielder.

Not too shabby.

Fielding percentage…how ‘bout it?

This is something the writers will look at…and, frankly, they should.


The awe inspiring fielding and sheer volume Gold Gloves should speak for themselves (sorry Jim Kaat), but when push comes to shove…the Hall will look to those already enshrined for a basis of comparison.

Vizquel has a career .985 fielding percentage at shortstop…nice!

Compare that to the slick fielding “Wizard of Oz” (.978) and “Little O’s” inclusion is starting to look pretty good. Compare it to Aparicio (.972) and Pee Wee Reese (.962) and you should start reserving room for Omar’s plaque.

At one time, he also shared the American League record for consecutive errorless games at shortstop (95) with Cal Ripken, Jr.

This guy is a no brainer, right?!?

Wrong.

The biggest reason why Omar Vizquel won’t get elected into the Hall of Fame on his first try is that he will be greatly overshadowed by the other names on the ballot.

There just won’t be enough votes to go around.

When Vizquel is eligible for Hall consideration he could very well be going up against Randy Johnson, Ken Griffey Jr., Tom Glavine, John Smoltz, Jim Thome, Trevor Hoffman and Gary Sheffield.

Honestly, I could probably add a dozen more names to that list…but not all of them would be as Hall worthy. Furthermore, you can’t rule out long time ballot standards getting their fair share of the votes.

Hell, Bruce Sutter finally made it in on his thirteenth attempt and it took Jim Rice fifteen tries!

You can look at Omar Vizquel and see that he is the only shortstop to come around in some time that is Hall worthy. However, if you figure that when it is time for his name to come up for selection, Derek Jeter will have staked his claim as the “Best Shortstop Ever” and the gold standard for the position will be a 6’3” pretty boy with 300 career bombs.

Not a 5’9” Venezuelan who couldn’t get his hands on Minka Kelly’s ass if he paid for it on eBay.

But I digress.

When it is all said and done, Omar Vizquel will find his way into Cooperstown. Not on the first ballot like Ozzie Smith…and maybe not even on the fifth or sixth ballot like Luis Aparicio. Hopefully, and unlike Pee Wee Reese, he’ll be there before the Veteran’s Committee gets its say.

Any way you slice it…he was better than all three and deserves his spot on the wall.


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June 5, 2009

10 units about Johnson's 300

That sound you heard Thursday was a gorilla of monster proportions finally getting removed from the back of Randy Johnson.

That’s right.

As it was first mentioned back in April here at The Hall, Johnson achieved the Grand Daddy of all pitching milestones…300 wins. With a 5-1 victory over the Washington Nationals, the five-time Cy Young award winner became the 24th player to notch 300 wins.

Here are ten things you might not have known about Johnson’s 300 victories.



7566
From his first victory (a 9-4 win on September 15, 1988 against Pittsburgh) to his latest…7566 days have passed. In that time, baseball went from having 26 teams to 30. The Angels went from California to Anaheim to Los Angeles (by way of Anaheim) and most notably…the Montreal Expos (Johnson’s first team) packed up and moved to Washington DC (Johnson’s latest victim). Incidentally, DC not only welcomed a baseball in that time, but they also welcomed four different presidents.

2709
Sure, we all know that with 4845 strikeouts, Johnson is second all-time. But did you know, that in his 300 victories, he struck out 2709 batters? All-time, that total alone would rank him 21st all-time…ahead of such notables as Tom Glavine (2607), Warren Spahn (2583), Bob Feller (2581) and Sandy Koufax (2396).

300
Sure…300 stands for the number of victories thrown by Johnson. 164 of them were home victories, while 136 were achieved on the road. Two victories came out of the bullpen. On July 20, 2001, Johnson stepped in and finished a game that had been postponed from the day before. He chalked up 16 strikeouts in 7 innings, technically setting the record for the most strikeouts in a relief stint. It should be pointed out that in those 300 victories…Johnson has startling 1.84 ERA. By comparison, Greg Maddux has a 1.82 ERA in his 355 wins.

102
In a July 9, 2004 game against his current team the Giants, Johnson hit 102 miles per hour on the radar gun. For the record…this is the fastest pitch recorded in a regular season baseball game. The fastest pitch recorded by a Major Leaguer (103 mph) was by Mark Wohlers in a 1995 Spring Training contest. Wohlers, coincidentally, is NOT one of 560 players that has shared a clubhouse with Johnson.

82
At 82 inches tall (or 6’10”), Johnson is the tallest 300 game winner in history. Before him, Steve Carlton, Roger Clemens and Gaylord Perry shared the distinction at 6’4”. During batting practice in 1988, Johnson, then with the Montreal Expos, collided head-first with outfielder Tim Raines. Because of his height, Raines exclaimed, "you're a big unit!" The nickname stuck.

41
With his first win at Nationals Park, Johnson now has victories in 41 different ballparks against all 30 MLB teams. The only parks he is winless in are Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium (0-1), Memorial Stadium (0-2), New Busch Stadium (0-1) and Citi Field (0-1). With some time, he should be able to knock two off that list. With a time machine…he might be able to get the others.

36
With the 36th pick overall in the 1985 draft, the Montreal Expos selected Johnson from the University of Southern California. Some notables that were drafted before him…Will Clark (2), Barry Larkin (4), Barry Bonds (6) and Rafael Palmeiro (22).

20
On May 8, 2001, Johnson became only the third pitcher to record 20 strikeouts in a game when he squared off against the Cincinnati Reds. But because the game went into extra innings, it was not categorized by MLB as an "official" 20-strikeout game.

2
“The Big Unit” holds the honor of being one of five pitchers (Cy Young, Jim Bunning, Nolan Ryan and Hideo Nomo are the others) to have thrown a no-hitter in both the American and National League. Of his two “no nos”, one is a perfect game…a feat only 16 other pitchers have accomplished. In case you were wondering…Young and Bunning each have a perfect game, whereas Ryan and Nomo do not.

1 (tie)
A career .128 hitter, the lanky “Unit” has hit only one home run. It happened September 19, 2003 against the Brewers and came off of future teammate Doug Davis.

1 (tie)
In what can only be termed “a freak accident”, Johnson struck and killed a dove in a Spring Training game on March 24, 2001. The unlucky bird swooped across the infield just as Johnson was releasing the ball and ended up dead amid a "sea of feathers". The official call was "no pitch”. Check out the video on YouTube HERE.


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June 4, 2009

On the Eve of 300

On the eve of Randy Johnson potentially becoming baseball’s 24th 300 game winner, I had the privilege to put together the thoughts of three former players…Gary DiSarcina, Doug Glanville and Brian McRae.

Enjoy.

HOVG: Each of you had varied success against Johnson. Is there a certain at bat that sticks out in your mind?

GD: I remember my first at bat in the one game play-off in Seattle (in 1995). I was hitting second behind Tony Phillips. Tony struck out and as we walked past each other...he told me that I better get my ass ready to hit because Randy's fastball was unhittable. The first pitch Randy threw me was a fastball in for a called strike. The ball came in looking like a blur and it actually made a sound when it passed by me...sound like a "fffffffffttttttttt". It was the first time I ever heard a ball make a sound when I was hitting. RJ was absolutely untouchable that day.

BM: I don't really remember any one at bat, (but) when you looked ahead to who you'd be facing in a few days and saw Randy Johnson's name you wanted to make sure you got your hits a few days before you saw him.

DG: I think the at bat that sticks out in my mind was my first time I faced him in spring training when he was with Seattle. He was coming off of back surgery and as a young player, I hadn’t even been in the big leagues yet, I saw my name in the line-up against Johnson and I almost had a heart attack. But I grounded out in the first at bat…then I hit a triple to right-center. I had arrived!

HOVG: Each of you hit a home run off of Johnson. What can you tell me about that hit?

GD: It was in the Kingdome and it was a close game. I think we were losing by a couple of runs and I led off the inning late in the game. He had me down to an 0-2 count and he threw a slider that didn't slide but stayed in the middle of the plate. I hit a line drive into the left center gap that just made it over the wall for a home run. It was a good feeling to hit a home run against any pitcher, since I hit so few, but to hit it off a quality pitcher like Randy made it extra special.


DG: Funny enough, I thought I would match up well against Johnson after I hit against him a few times. I always liked power pitchers even though he had finesse to go with it. I hit him well and for a while, there were a couple of pitches he threw that I just missed that I thought “I could hit a homerun off of him one day.” So on one of the easiest swings I took against him, the ball went out. Nothing like putting a legend in “the book.”

BM: It was an inside-the-park job...nothing special.

HOVG: As a fan, you hear sometimes about a pitcher “tipping” his pitches. Did Johnson ever do this?

BM: We never picked up anything, but it wouldn't have mattered much if we knew what he was throwing.

GD: We did know that he tipped his pitches. His glove would be squeezed tighter when he would throw his fastball and his glove would be flared open when he threw his slider or change up. It didn't really matter to the right handed hitters, but the left handed hitters in our line-up liked to know when his slider was coming so they wouldn't bail on it.

DG: There were many times that we actually knew what was coming by the way he changed his glove. To give you a sense of how dominant he was in his prime, you still couldn’t hit him because he could spot the ball so well and, of course, 100 miles per hour is 100 miles per hour. He also does not get a lot of credit for his intelligence on the mound. He had fantastic control and if a pitch wasn’t working well early in the game, he would move to another part of his selection. By adding a split or even some sort of curve…drove you crazy.

HOVG: Lastly, how would you rank Johnson overall?

DG: He was probably the best I ever faced, even though I had success against him. (He was) the ultimate combination of power, control, planning, adaptation. It is hard to choose one “best”, but he is going to get a lot of votes from me.

BM: Best left-handed pitcher I faced. The best pitcher I faced was Pedro Martinez. I had good numbers against him too!

GD: RJ was definitely in the top five of toughest pitchers I have ever faced. He was right up there with Nolan Ryan, Roger Clemens and Pedro Martinez. I have a lot of respect for Randy and his ability to still be pitching at his age. I enjoy watching him compete against kids almost half his age and still dominate against them. He was one of the fiercest competitors I have ever faced and he brought the best out of everyone he faced. One of the things that surprised me about him was the command he had of all his pitches. I am also impressed with his desire to battle through so many serious injuries and rehab his way back into the starting rotation of a big league team. He is a sure fire Hall of Famer and it will be a well deserved honor for him when he is elected into Cooperstown.

Gary DiSarcina is a veteran of 12 major league seasons…all with the California and/or Anaheim Angels. He was an All-Star in 1995 and carried a .224 batting average against Johnson. In 2005, he was inducted into the UMass Athletic Hall of Fame. Currently, DiSarcina is the manager of the Lowell Spinners of the New York-Penn League.


Doug Glanville was a first round draft pick of the Chicago Cubs in 1991. In nine major league seasons, he managed a .293 batting average against the 6’10” lefty. Glanville is currently a consultant with Baseball Factory, a high-school player development program. He writes guest columns for The New York Times on baseball and sports in general.


Brian McRae is a second generation player, having followed in the footsteps of his father…Hal McRae. In 1992, they became the fourth father-son combination to serve as manager and player. McRae carries a .162 lifetime batting average against “The Big Unit”. McRae currently finds himself in and out of the broadcast booth as part owner of WHB 810 AM in Kansas City.

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June 2, 2009

Moyer gets to 250...finally

In what was his sixth attempt to achieve the milestone, Phillies pitcher Jamie Moyer locked down win Number 250 Sunday night in Philadelphia against the Washington Nationals.

"I really wasn't concerned about how many attempts,” the 46 year-old told reporters following the game. “I was concerned about creating consistency with myself.”

But it wasn’t until 1996 when Boston traded him (and his 66-77 career mark) to Seattle that Moyer created that consistency.

You see, the Mariners became the sixth team for the lefty and having been released twice by Texas and once by St. Louis, no one would have ever pegged him as baseball’s 46th 250 game winner…much less a future Hall of Famer.

Yeah, I said it…we might be looking at a guy who could take up residency in Cooperstown.

Fourteen seasons with double digit wins is pretty remarkable considering all but one were achieved after the age of 30. And of the 45 pitchers with more victories, only Phil Niekro (17), Nolan Ryan (14) and Gaylord Perry (14) had more double-digit seasons after they turned 30.

What about the 10 other lefties with more than 250 wins?

All but four (Tom Glavine, Randy Johnson, Tommy John and Jim Kaat) are in the Hall of Fame. Glavine (with 305 wins) and Johnson (299) will get there and you certainly can make a case for John and Kaat making it in someday courtesy of Veterans Committee.

And if you don't think 250 wins is impressive, after Moyer, there are only two other active pitchers with more than 200 wins…Andy Pettitte (220) and John Smoltz (210). You've gotta wonder...is 250 wins the new 300?

The biggest knocks against Moyer would be his career ERA of 4.22, lack of strikeouts (only 2278 in 3800 innings pitched) and little to no hardware in his trophy case. But when you throw out the high ERA and compare his career numbers to the averages of the 67 pitchers in Cooperstown, he fits.

So how much longer can Moyer play?

His body doesn’t really seem to show the signs of letting up. I mean, let’s face it, even though he was never a fireballer, he was consistent...and there have been plenty of pitchers (especially lefties) who, as long as they can find the strike zone, will find a job.

Does he have a shot at surpassing Hall of Famer Bob Feller (266), Jim Palmer (268) and Fergie Jenkins (284) on the all-time wins list? And if he does, will he suffer the same fate as Kaat, John and Bert Blyleven and watch the Hall of Fame induction from home?


So let me know…does Moyer have what it takes to get enshrined? I’m on the fence (hedging toward “no”) when you look at the big picture, but when you consider those he pitched against…you could do much, much worse.


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