Saturday, December 26, 2015

If I had a vote...

     If I had a Hall of Fame vote, what would I do with it?

     The ballots for this year's Hall of Fame nominees have been distributed, and hopefully returned in the timely manner that is required for a full and total tally for this year's potential inductees.
Rules changes over the past couple of years has narrowed the ballot down, lowering the eligibility to ten years, and requiring a minimum percentage to be carried over to the following year's ballot.
     That being said, there were thirty-two players on this year's ballot.

     Some media members who do vote have released their final ballot. If I had a vote, this is how I would have voted, and why.
     First off, the first list of names that I would have eliminated right away are:
  • Brad Ausmus
  • David Eckstein
  • Garrett Anderson
  • Jason Kendall
  • Luis Castillo
  • Mark Grudzielanek
  • Mike Hampton
  • Troy Glaus
  • Mike Lowell
  • Mike Sweeney
  • Randy Winn
     All of the above had productive major league careers. A few were even All-Stars. But as good as they may have been, they were not among the greats of the game.

     The next list contains players that I had a hard time eliminating from my mythical ballot. These were multiple All-Stars, league leaders, perennial MVP candidates, but they are just not at that level that would make me cast a vote for them over a more deserving player.
     That list is:
  • Alan Trammell
  • Nomar Garciaparra
  • Jim Edmonds
  • Billy Wagner
  • Edgar Martinez
  • Lee Smith
     With the exception of Trammell, each of these players should be on the ballot in 2016.

    Now we get into the grey area of the voting. There are no parameters that have been set forth by the voting committee as to any sort of criteria there may be for induction to the Hall of Fame. Well, beyond the required playing time, and five years removed from active duty. The voting is totally subjective. While baseball is driven by statistics (as is this humble blog) there is more anecdotal evidence used to ascertain a player's greatness. Stuff that is between the lines, the intangibles that separate one player from another.
     Luck, happenstance and opportunity also play a big factor in determining where a player winds up playing his career, be it major market or small market.

     But there are also ways that a player can improve their performance, or enhance it in some way. I am referring to the steroid use that has run roughshod over the game and caused statistical anomalies over the past twenty years.
     Some players were discovered, and subsequently suspended. Many more were suspected but never proved. A few were all but discovered, but by timing and circumstance, were able to skate by without punishment.
     One thing that a subjective vote does, is give the voter the ability to play judge and jury in these cases. As such, the following players, whose statistical performances put them in the elite players of the game, would be left off of my ballot.
     Those players are:
  • Barry Bonds
  • Sammy Sosa
  • Mark McGwire
  • Roger Clemens
     A few of them admitted to steroid use, some have denied it, some even diverted attention by naming teammates who were using steroids. At any rate, the above players are off of my ballot for performance enhancing reasons.

     The next player that will not be on my ballot is Gary Sheffield.

     A talented player? Yes. One of the greats? Yes. Steroid user? Not sure, but not my reason.
My reason?

     He cheated.

     He was drafted in the first round of the 1986 draft by the Milwaukee Brewers, the sixth overall pick of the draft. Dwight Gooden's cousin was a hot shot infielder out of Tampa, and was fast tracked to the Brewer's infield, making his debut in 1988, splitting time with Dale Sveum at the end of the season.
     Gary struggled a bit at the plate and in the field, so the Brewers tried him at third base, where he didn't want to play. Shortstop was his position, and he made a race issue out of the fact that Bill Spiers was given the shortstop job, while Sheffield remained at third base. Sheffield even admitted that he was purposefully making errors at third base in order to force a trade from Milwaukee. That trade happened in 1992, and Sheffield was on his way to San Diego.
     My problem with him, and with the Brewer's ownership, as well as MLB is: Why was there no punishment involved? Like a two-year old throwing a tantrum, Sheffield got what he wanted, a trade out. The Brewers got what they wanted, Sheffield gone. But what about the fans of the Brewers? Did they get compensated in any way for the atrocious and malicious errors made by Sheffield? How did this not affect the sanctity and integrity of the game?
     Was this a black spot on the Selig regime in Milwaukee, and then onto the commissioner's office?

     Nonetheless, as a player has admitted that they did not put forth their best effort on the field, I have no compelling reason for them to be on my imaginary ballot. So sorry Mr. Sheffield. No vote for you.

     OK. That's out of the way. I present to you, bottom to top, the ten players that would have my theoretic Hall of Fame ballot vote:

  1.  Tim Raines.. An offensive force in the early and mid-nineties. Won the batting title in 1986. Was part of the collusion settlement in 1987. Was forced to sit out until able to re-sign with the Expos on May 1, 1987. Proceeded to hit a grand slam on his first day back in the majors. Scored 100 or more runs six times in his career. Stole 70 bases or more in six consecutive seasons.

    1. Curt Schilling.. Won 216 games, finished 2nd in Cy Young Award voting 3 times in 4 years. 6 time All-Star who led the league in wins twice.

8. Larry Walker.. Obviously benefited form playing a substantial amount of time in Colorado, but also had one of the best throwing arms in right field during his playing career. Between 1997 and 2001 averaged .357, winning 3 batting titles and 1 MVP in the process. Was a five time All-Star and has won seven Gold Gloves.

    1. Jeff Kent.. While he never led the league in any offensive statistic, he did drive in runs, and a lot of them at that. He drove in 100 or more runs in six straight seasons, and in eight out of nine seasons. All while playing second base, a position not known for offense. Won the MVP Award in 2000. Was a five time All-Star.

    1. Fred McGriff.. Offensive star of the nineties, anchoring the clean-up spot for the Braves and the Padres. He drove in 100 or more runs on eight occasions, and hit 30 or more homers in ten different seasons, leading the league twice. He was a five time All-Star.

    1. Mike Mussina.. This one was a tough one. I am not a Yankees fan, and I know that I do have a sort of a non-Yankee bias, but Mussina's stats made me open my eyes. Apart from being the last major leaguer to win 20 games in his final season, he also finished with a very impressive .638 winning percentage. He only won 20 games once, but did win 15 or more games ten more times, while pitching in an era of offensive dominance and relief pitcher prominence.

    1. Trevor Hoffman he was the main guy, the top closer in the game. The first one to 500 saves. That was BM of course (Before Mariano). He saved 30 or more games on fourteen occasions. He finished second in Cy Young Award voting twice, and was as high as seventh in MVP voting. He had five seasons where he finished with an ERA below 2.25.

    1. Jeff Bagwell had eight consecutive years of driving in 98 or more, and nine out of ten years with the same. Won the MVP Award in 1994, when he hit .368. He scored 100 or more runs in six straight years, and scored 88 or more runs in eleven straight years. He finished in the top 10 in MVP voting in six years.

2. Mike Piazza Is widely regarded as the greatest hitting catcher of all time. He hit over .300 in nine consecutive seasons, and had seven top 10 MVP vote seasons. He hit 30 or more home runs in nine seasons, drove in 90 or more runs in ten straight seasons and was a twelve time All-Star.

  1. Ken Griffey Jr. aka Junior. The natural. The number one draft choice of the Seattle Mariners in the 1987 draft, he made his much anticipated debut in 1989, and didn't disappoint. A five tool player, he was a phenomenal player to watch. Injuries in the middle of his career led to a lot of 'what-if' conversations, but he still winds up in the rarified grouping of the All-Time greats. For the record, nine 30 home run seasons, eleven 90 RBI seasons, eight 90 runs scored seasons, one MVP, five other top 10 MVP seasons.

So, for your perusal, my humble list for the Hall of Fame.

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Monday, December 14, 2015

Pete Rose and the decision...

       (Note that I originally posted this on March 17, 2015, and any additional edits will be in blue)

    The problem with Pete Rose not being in the Hall of fame is a multi-layered one.. For the record, Pete is mentioned and has displays in Cooperstown, but has not been inducted as a 'Hall of Famer'.
            You cannot deny his impact on the game, his accomplishments, his style of play, his gamesmanship. One also cannot deny that he broke the cardinal rule. Broke it, period.

            Okay. We've all taken issue with the various things that he was alleged to do. Namely, betting on baseball. For many years, Pete denied each and every allegation leveled at him on this front. And who was asking about these allegations? Generally, it was sports writers. Pete would get belligerent in some of his responses to the same questions.
            So, after getting nowhere with his reinstatement attempts, he decided to write a tell-all expose on himself, called "My Prison Without Bars" in which he spends at least two chapters picking apart the now infamous Dowd Report. The same report which gathered evidence of Pete's betting on baseball, and the basis for Commissioner Giamatti's lifetime ban. Two chapters.
            In the next chapter, after railing against the report that said he bet on baseball, Pete admitted that he bet on baseball.
            He claims that he only bet on his team, and only bet on his team to win. Noble is his wagering.
            But, there's where I have a couple of issues...
            Let's try this scenario. You're a bookie. Every day you get a call from Pete, or his associate, betting $10,000 on the Reds to win. Every day, except for one. On that day, a certain pitcher is pitching for the Reds. Pete lays off that day, and picks up the next day with the $10,000 bets to win. Until the next time that pitcher's spot comes up in the rotation...
            True, Pete is betting on his team to win. But those non-bets are also sending a message to those who notice such things and patterns. While not directly doing so, he is essentially consorting with the gamblers. Is a non-bet the same as a bet against your team?
            And, following that same vein, let's say that you're Pete, and star outfielder Eric Davis is a little dinged up, could play today and give you 90% or give him a day of rest and have him 100% the next game. Or...knowing that the pitcher going tomorrow is the guy that you don't bet on, use him today instead...Or change your bullpen strategy because of the bet/non-bet on today's game.

            So it's not a simple did Pete bet, it's OK if he bet on his team to win, not to lose, etc. But did it effect his playing days?

            In the book "Pete Rose: An American Dilemma" by Kostya Kennedy, it is revealed that Pete lost a 'ton of money' on the 1984 World Series.

            OK, let's go back to Pete's playing days with the Big Red Machine. The manager, George "Sparky" Anderson was 'like a father' to Pete. What does Pete do in return? Well, in the '84 World Series, Sparky was managing the Tigers. If Pete lost a ton of money on the Series, he bet heavily on the team that lost, the Padres. Essentially, he bet a ton of money on his 'father figure' to lose.

            According to Pete's revelation (finally coming after many years of denial) Pete only began betting on baseball after his playing days were over. I don't believe him. I find it convenient that he was able to control his gambling impulses as long as he did. Pete's a gambler. Gambler's look for advantages. Who better to spot and gain advantages than someone involved in the game.
            It may be as simple as noticing an opposing player with a slight limp during batting practice. Or knowing that the opposing starting pitcher had a few too many at the bar the night before. Or it could be that he knew Johnny Bench hit that particular starting pitcher pretty well. Things like that. An avid gambler would find it hard to pass on that action.
            So let's say that he was eligible for the Hall of Fame balloting. Who would have voted for his induction? The baseball writers. The same ones that he was issuing denials to for a dozen years or so. They wouldn't have voted him out after the revelations of what many knew all along, that has never been done.

            Are there undeserving players in the Hall of Fame right now?
            Yes, I think. One or two that are undeserving, but were voted in by the players via politics.
            Are there people in the Hall of Fame that did things worse that Pete did?
Maybe. There are drunks, abusers and racists in the Hall. Some were horrible people that's true. But none that violated the sanctity of the game.      
            The racists may have hurled racial taunts, insults and epithets as quickly and as easily as breathing air. that doesn't make it right. And we all know that it took until 1947 to have a re-segregated game. But I'm pretty sure that the owners more than the players were to blame for that egregious happening.

            Right now, in his life, the worst thing that can happen to him is reinstatement into baseball. He makes more money by being the anti-Hall of Famer. He said in an interview that I saw that not being in the hall of Fame has cost him around thirty million dollars. Yet every induction weekend he sets up an autograph session on Main Street across the street from the Hall of Fame n the lovely hamlet of Cooperstown.

            But, at this point, we really cannot believe anything that Pete tells us. He thinks he's telling us what we want to hear. And some want to believe him that they may lose the objectivity.
           Here's a few things that Pete was derelict or misleading in mentioning...
  • He was called to the Commissioner's office in 1989, but Pete said it had nothing to do with gambling. Then he later said that it did
  • He said he didn't know a bookie named Ron Peters . Then we found out he used to leave tickets for Peters at Riverfront.
  • He said he didn't place ANY bets with bookies, but Sports Illustrated had a dozen witnesses to the contrary.
  • He said he wasn't involved in a Pick Six bet that won over $250,000. Then it turns out he was, and that led to the IRS investigation that sent him to prison.
  • He said he didn't sell off his baseball memorabilia. And then we discover that he was changing jerseys every inning to have nine available to sell when he broke the hit record.
            Admittedly, I have not been a fan of his, but that goes back to the 1973 playoffs and his fight with Bud Harrelson. But that shouldn't matter. The answer to the question that everyone has been asking him is right here in this text.

            Yes he bet on baseball. Yes he did it while an active player. Pete was active through the 1986 season as a player. He 'lost a ton of money' betting on the 1984 World Series. He was a 22 year major league veteran. He should have known better.

            In fact, according to Dan Gutman's book, "Baseball Babylon", Pete had been investigated as early as 1970 for his gambling issues, but nothing came to light. 
            He wrote,"He had a lot more [money] in 1970. That's when baseball began a continuing investigation to keep track of what Rose was up to."

            If baseball had uncovered enough evidence in 1970, and this is a stretch here, but it is feasible that if Pete were suspended then, if only for a year pursuant to the rules, that today we would be talking about the great career Ray Fosse had. Like I said, it's a stretch...

            And for the record, Rule 21(d) reads:
    "Any player, umpire or club, or league official or employee, who shall bet any sum whatsoever, upon a baseball game in connection with which the bettor has no duty to perform, shall be declared ineligible for one year.
     Any player, umpire or club or league official or employee, who shall bet any sum whatsoever upon a baseball game in connection with which the bettorhas a duty to perform, shall be declared permanently ineligible."

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Sunday, December 6, 2015

1985 and I-70

            The 1985 Series will be remembered for a call at first base, where umpire Don Denkinger, in the bottom of the ninth, ruled Jorge Orta of the Royals runner safe at first, when he was obviously out. The aftermath following that incorrect ruling led to an historic rally by Kansas City to win Game Six, and that momentum carried them to a Game Seven victory, beating the cross-state Cardinals in the Series.

            But how did we get there?

            The Cardinals paced the National League East winning 101 games, barely finishing ahead of the Mets, who won 98, and were with them through most of that summer. The biggest lead the Cardinals had that year was 4 games.
            The Cards relied great defense, surprising offense and strong pitching that got them to the top of the East in June. They led the league in batting, runs scored and stolen bases (led by Vince Coleman's league record 110 steals).
            John Tudor was their ace, winning 21 games with a sub-2.00 ERA. Joaquin Andujar also won 21. This was the year of Whitey Herzog's 'bullpen by committee" who compiled 44 saves, which was second in the league to the Cubs.
            That being said, Dwight Gooden of the Mets had one of the all-time great pitching seasons that year. The 21 year old went 24-4 with a miniscule 1.53 ERA, the lowest since Bob Gibson in 1968, and was a main reason that the Mets battled until the last week of the season. He, Darryl Strawberry and Gary Carter all have very strong years.
            The Dodgers, the NL West champions, won 95 games and had an easier pennant chase, finishing ahead of the Reds by 5 1/2 games. The Dodgers had the best pitching staff ERA in 1985, and were buoyed by Orel Hershiser going 19-3, with Fernando Valenzuela picking up 17 wins. Jerry Reuss and Bob Welch each won 14 games, and both had a sub-3.00 ERA.
            Their offense was led by Pedro Guerrero, who had a 32/87/.320 slash line. No Dodger drove in more than 100 runs.
            They hit first place in mid-July, and never looked back.

            In the AL, the Royals outlasted the Angels for the pennant, winning the division by 1 game. They hit first place for good on October 2nd, beating the second place Angels with 5 games left, and won 4 of those next five to win outright.
            They had strong pitching, led by Bret Saberhagen's 20 wins, Charlie Liebrandt won 17, while Mark Gubicza and Danny Jackson each had fourteen. Dan Quisenberry had 37 saves out of the pen.
            George Brett led the offense with a 30/112/.335, and Steve "Bye Bye" Balboni hit a team record 36 homers that year, a record that still stands...believe it or not.
            In the East, Toronto led the way to the first American League title won by a non-American team. They won 99 times, beating  the Yankees by 2 games at the end. But it wasn't really that close. Toronto hit first place for good on May 12th, and despite losing 5 of their last 6 games, were still able to best the Yankees at the end.     
            The Blue jays had the most impressive outfield that year, with Lloyd Moseby (18/70/.259/37 SB), Jesse Barfield (27/84/.289/22 SB) and Jorge Bell (28/95/.275/21 SB) all superb defensively as well. They had 3 starters that won at least 14 games. Dennis Lamp went 11-0 out of the bullpen with 2 more saves for good measure. And they had 3 relievers that saved 10 or more games.

            So, let's delve into the numbers, AL offense first.

            The first number that I reach is the overall raw number, which is the straight numbers entered at face value. This means not being compared to any other players, team or league performances. Just the player's season as a whole. Most times, these replicate themselves in the same order when I compare these performances to the league's performances. In this case, a team that has a strong offensive lineup may inflate a player's numbers, where a weaker team may deflate to some degree. So a strong performance on a weak team will be highlighted in this way.
            The same thought goes into my comparison against the player's individual team, and then combining the averaging those to get a truer number.
            So, the raw numbers (and the number against the league) for the AL offense top 10 are:
  1. Don Mattingly                        Yankees
  2. Rickey Henderson      Yankees
  3. George Brett               Royals
  4. Eddie Murray              Orioles
  5. Cal Ripken                  Orioles
  6. Dave Winfield            Yankees
  7. Wade Boggs                Red Sox
  8. Carlton Fisk                White Sox
  9. Jim Rice                      Boston
  10. Kirk Gibson                Tigers

            The numbers against their team averages are:
  1. George Brett               Royals
  2. Eddie Murray             Orioles
  3. Don Mattingly            Yankees
  4. Carlton Fisk                White Sox
  5. Kirk Gibson                Tigers
  6. Rickey Henderson      Yankees
  7. Lance Parrish              Tigers
  8. Pete O'Brien                Rangers
  9. Phil Bradley                Mariners
  10. Harold Baines             White Sox

            Before I go into the overall number, we'll look at the pitching numbers next, using the same parameters as mentioned above, the top 5 overall performers in the AL were:
  1. Bret Saberhagen          Royals
  2. Ron Guidry                 Yankees
  3. Charlie Liebrandt        Royals
  4. Donnie Moore             Angels
  5. Dave Steib                  Blue Jays

            And their performances against their teams:
1.      Bert Blyleven             Indians/Twins
2.      Charlie Hough            Rangers
3.      Mike Moore               Mariners
4.      Greg Harris                Rangers
5.      Bret Saberhagen         Royals

The BBWAA voting was as follows, first the MVP:
  1. Don Mattingly            Yankees                      35 145 .324
  2. George Brett               Royals                         30 112 .335
  3. Rickey Henderson      Yankees                      24  72  .314  80 SB
  4. Wade Boggs               Red Sox                        8   78  .368
  5. Eddie Murray              Orioles                         31 124 .297
  6. Donnie Moore             Angels                         8-8       1.92     31 SV
  7. Jesse Barfield              Blue Jays                     27  84  .297  22 SB
  8. George Bell                 Blue Jays                     28  95  .275  21 SB
  9. Harold Baines             White Sox                   22 113 .309
  10. Bret Saberhagen          Royals                         20-6     2.87

And the Cy Young vote went:
  1. Bret Saberhagen          Royals                         20-6     2.87
  2. Ron Guidry                 Yankees                      22-6     3.27
  3. Bert Blyleven              Indians/Twins             17-16   3.16
3.   Dan Quisenberry         Royals                         8-9       2.37     37 Svs
5.   Charlie Leibrandt        Royals                         17-9     2.69
     (there was a tie in the voting for 3rd place)

The final numbers that I reached were:
1.      George Brett        
2.      Bert Blyleven
3.      Bret Saberhagen
4.      Don Mattingly
5.      Rickey Henderson

In the National League, the top 10 offensive players, according to the raw numbers were:
  1. Pedro Guerrero           Dodgers
  2. Willie McGee              Cardinals
  3. Dale Murphy               Braves
  4. Darryl Strawberry       Mets
  5. Tom Herr                    Cardinals
  6. Gary Carter                 Mets
  7. Dave Parker                Reds
  8. Ryne Sandberg           Cubs
  9. Jack Clark                   Cardinals
  10. Mike Marshall             Dodgers

And measured against their teams performances, the rankings are:
  1. Dale Murphy               Braves
  2. Pedro Guerrero           Dodgers
  3. Darryl Strawberry       Mets
  4. Dave Parker                Reds
  5. Gary Carter                 Mets
  6. Ryne Sandberg           Cubs
  7. Tim Raines                  Expos
  8. Bob Horner                 Braves
  9. Mike Schmidt             Phillies
  10. Mike Marshall             Dodgers

Over to the pitching, the raw numbers showed:
  1. Dwight Gooden          Mets
  2. John Tudor                  Cardinals
  3. Bob Welch                  Dodgers
  4. Orel Hershiser             Dodgers
  5. Rick Reuschel             Pirates

Against their team averages, we get:
  1. Rick Reuschel             Pirates
  2. Dwight Gooden          Mets
  3. Dennis Eckersley        Cubs
  4. John Tudor                  Cardinals
  5. Bob Welch                  Dodgers

Then the BBWAA voters choices for MVP were:
  1. Willie McGee             Cardinals                    10  82 .353 56 SB
  2. Dave Parker                Reds                            34 125 .312
  3. Pedro Guerrero           Dodgers                      33  87  .320
  4. Dwight Gooden          Mets                            24-4     1.53
  5. Tom Herr                    Cardinals                     8   110 .302
  6. Gary Carter                 Mets                            32 100 .281
  7. Dale Murphy               Braves                         37 111 .300
  8. Keith Hernandez         Mets                            10  91  .309
  9. John Tudor                  Cardinals                     21-8     1.93
  10. Jack Clark                   Cardinals                     22  87  .281

And the Cy Young vote was:
  1. Dwight Gooden          Mets                            24-4     1.53 (unanimous)
  2. John Tudor                  Cardinals                     21-8     1.93
  3. Orel Hershiser             Dodgers                      19-3     2.03
  4. Joaquin Andujar          Cardinals                     21-12   3.40
  5. Fernando Valenzuela  Dodgers                      17-10   2.45

My final numbers were:
  1. Dwight Gooden
  2. Dale Murphy
  3. Rick Reuschel
  4. Pedro Guerrero
  5. Darryl Strawberry

            In a way, the term Most Valuable is very subjective, and will always be that way. The best player in the league should be the player that means the most to his team, and may have intangibles that don't translate well into numerical data. Does the league's MVP need to be from a contending team? Maybe. Maybe not. There have been palyers that have won the award for a last place team, so why were they the MOST valuable.
            Keep in mind, that the MVP may not translate into the best overall player in the league. It's not a Player of the Year award.
            If we were to look at the overall best players in each league for 1985, using just the raw numbers, which give us a flat look at the outright performances, the top 5 in each league were:
            In the offense rich AL
  1. Don Mattingly
  2. Rickey Henderson
  3. George Brett
  4. Eddie Murray
  5. Cal Ripken

And the pitching rich NL:

  1. Dwight Gooden
  2. John Tudor
  3. Bob Welch
  4. Pedro Guerrero
  5. Willie McGee

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