Two new pieces for Tuesday

Hi everyone,

At some point, this will resume being an active website and not simply a landing pad for my various freelance pieces. I miss writing here, though paid work has taken precedence the past few months. I also haven’t found myself inspired to write here in some time. As I think I’ve said before, I prefer writing when I’m inspired than forcing myself to post words.

That being said, I have two freelance pieces out today that may be of interest.

First, David Ortiz’s impending retirement motivated me to write about how Edgar Martinez’s Hall of Fame candidacy could use more support. The Hall of Fame’s rule change last year that players get 10 years on the writers ballot instead of 15 years hurts Martinez perhaps as much as any candidate.

I also have a piece out for Sports Collectors Daily about Ross Barnes. I doubt many fans have heard of him [though he’s probably well-known to many who frequent this site], but his memorabilia does brisk sales. I looked into why this is.

Anyhow, happy reading.

Talking baseball with Leon Lee

I have a new freelance piece out in Sacramento’s alternative weekly paper. I interviewed a local baseball fixture named Leon Lee. Anyone who’s read You Gotta Have Wa may know of Lee being one of the first Americans to star in Japanese baseball. He also is the father of former All Star first baseman Derrek Lee and the brother of ex-MLBer Leron Lee.

I interviewed Lee about a collegiate wood bat summer league he’s helping launch. We also talked a bit about his efforts to get more minorities playing baseball, since the rate is at historic lows.

As always, feedback on my piece is welcome and appreciated.

The eternal Jack Morris debate

My latest for Sporting News is out. My editor suggested Jack Morris this week, and while I sometimes wonder what else can be said about one of the most written-about, polarizing candidates in years, he still makes a good subject.

I also welcomed another chance to share my Veterans Committee research from earlier this year. Look for a link to it toward the end of my column.

Anyhow, a link to my column can be found here. As always, feedback is welcome and appreciated.

Bartolo Colon and the historically unusual 2015 World Series

Latest edition of “Cooperstown Chances” just dropped for Sporting News. I wrote about Bartolo Colon and a possibly rare historical occurrence with the just-concluded World Series: There might not have been any future Hall of Fame players in it. With enough time for various Hall of Fame-related committees to act, this almost never happens.

Anyhow, a link to my piece can be found here. As always, feedback’s welcome and appreciated.

Parsing David Wright’s Hall of Fame case

I have a new article up at Sporting News today, reviewing David Wright’s Hall of Fame case. My takeaway: Wright was on-track for Cooperstown before injuries derailed him.

Regular readers here might remember that I predicted last year that Wright would be a future Hall of Famer. Wright’s not the first bit of crow I’ve already had to eat off that post. Now I know how Bill James must have felt after attempting to predict 25 years worth of Hall of Famers in The Politics of Glory…

Minnie Minoso and rule exceptions for the Hall of Fame

I have a new piece up at Sporting News, exploring Minnie Minoso’s Hall of Fame chances.

In my piece, I talk about the times the Hall of Fame has made exceptions to its rules. I cite the cases of Satchel Paige, Casey Stengel, and Lou Gehrig, as well as the three times I know of that the Hall of Fame has waived its five-year waiting period after the death of a player: Roberto Clemente, Thurman Munson, and Darryl Kile.

Because my piece was about Minnie Minoso, I held back on some other exceptions that I felt may have bogged the narrative down and wouldn’t have been of interest to most Sporting News readers. But because people who frequent this site are awesome and know the crap out of baseball history, I’ll post the other exceptions here:

Addie Joss: Hall of Famers are required to have played 10 seasons, though the Veterans Committee credited Joss for going to spring training in 1911 shortly before he died of meningitis. The committee exercised similar discretion with Ross Youngs, a Hall of Famer who died young and had just eight seasons with 500 plate appearances.

Mass inductions: These have happened more than people may know in Cooperstown’s history, both officially and unofficially. There are the well-known examples, such as the Special Negro League Election Committee of 2006 and the Old Timers Committee in existence from 1939-1949. Then there are other more obscure examples.

The Old Timers Committee led to the 1953 creation of the Veterans Committee, which initially met every other year. Committee chairman and Sporting News publisher J.G. Taylor Spink resigned in frustration in 1959, calling in his resignation letter for the enshrinement of more 19th century and Deadball Era stars. After no one was inducted at the 1960 Hall of Fame Weekend, the Veterans Committee began voting annually and soon lowered its waiting period for players from 30 years of retirement to 20. Many old-timers were quickly inducted.

I quoted Spink’s letter and talked a bit about this era in a piece I did for The National Pastime Museum on Hank Gowdy’s brief time as a popular Hall of Fame candidate. It’s a forgotten, misunderstood era of Hall of Fame voting. Bill James mistakenly attributed the spate of 19th century selections to Cooperstown librarian Lee Allen in his 1994 book, The Politics of Glory.

Red Ruffing: I mentioned recently in a piece about Ruffing that he’s the reason the Baseball Writers Association of America resumed voting annually after a decade of voting every other year. The BBWAA asked the Hall of Fame permission in 1967 to hold a special election to reconsider Ruffing, after a number of problems were discovered with the 1966 vote.

Steroids: My friend Scott Lindholm of Beyond The Box Score thinks, as I do, that there could eventually be a mass induction for Steroid Era players. Lindholm told me in an email, “Until some direction is given, it’s going to be a free-for-all, with players like Rafael Palmeiro singled out for punishment.” That said, the Hall of Fame has already shortened the amount of time the BBWAA can consider a player from 15 years to 10, presumably to get steroid-related candidates off the writers ballot sooner.

I was on Canadian radio

I had a cool first in my sportswriting life today.

I was the type of kid who used to call into sports talk radio shows. I have a distinct memory of calling into a national show during the spring of 1994 at age 10, getting hung up on because of my young age, and then calling back, voice shaking, so I could say that I thought the Houston Rockets weren’t getting enough respect.

In college, I did a few obligatory stints on the radio, since it’s college, and everyone who’s interested can do it. I could re-enroll in college right now and have my own radio show within two weeks.

Of course in recent years, I’ve done podcasting. That’s kind of the grown up equivalent of college radio. It’s fun and no one listens, and a person can kind of say whatever. I think I’ve podcasted from the bathroom before.

Until now, though, I’d never been an invited guest on a professional radio station. 1310 News in Ottawa just had me on “The Ed Hand Show” to discuss my Joe Carter piece for Sporting News.

I’ve tried to get on the air different places for my work for this site in recent years, though no one’s bit. Writing for a national publication seems to open doors, though.

I enjoyed going on the show. It was flattering to be asked detailed questions about Hall of Fame history and my thoughts on if Joe Carter goes in.

Carter is revered in Canada, maybe more than people in the states understand. When the producer called me, just before I went on the air, he told me one of the station staff had come in wearing a Carter jersey that morning.

Anyhow, for anyone who’s interested, audio should be up here at some point.

Has Fenway Park cost David Ortiz home runs?

A lot has been made of Boston Red Sox slugger David Ortiz recently hitting his 500th home run. Personally, I’ve wondered how much of Ortiz’s legend has been burnished by Fenway Park. Many hitters have famously benefited from it. Wade Boggs hit .369 there lifetime and .306 at all other parks. I doubt Bobby Doerr would be in the Hall of Fame or that Ted Williams would have hit .400 in 1941 without calling Fenway home. If that latter statement sounds blasphemous, consider that Williams batted .428 at home in 1941 and .380 on the road.

Ortiz is an interesting case. I looked at his splits at, and on one hand, he’s had a .986 OPS at Fenway, healthily above his .925 lifetime clip. His slash at Fenway? A robust .306/.408/.580. But it turns out Fenway Park may have cost Ortiz homers. In fact, if he’d played the last 13 seasons for the Toronto Blue Jays, he might have close to 600 homers. Lifetime, he’s homered once every 13.5 plate appearances at Toronto’s Rogers Centre, versus once every 19.8 PAs at Fenway.

There’s no way to know exactly how many homers Ortiz would have if he’d gone from the Minnesota Twins to Toronto instead of Boston after the 2002 season, but I have him somewhere around 591 homers, good for ninth on the all-time list. As it stands, Ortiz is 27th right now.

My math is quick and dirty and probably a little irrational, but it goes something like this. Ortiz has 201 homers in 3,984 lifetime plate appearances at Fenway. Meanwhile, he has 39 homers in 509 plate appearances at the Rogers Centre in Toronto. Taking Ortiz’s home run rate in each park and giving Ortiz 3,984 lifetime PAs in Toronto and 509 in Fenway, he’d go from 240 homers between the two parks to about 331.

Regardless, Ortiz may eventually get into the Hall of Fame if the furor over steroids dies down. He’s one of the greatest designated hitters ever, no matter where he spent the past 13 seasons.

How aware were HOF voters of Red Ruffing’s 3.80 ERA?

In my Sporting News piece Tuesday on Mike Mussina, I questioned how aware Hall of Fame voters were of Red Ruffing’s lifetime 3.80 ERA, highest in Cooperstown. My hunch: not much. I suspect this because the Baseball Writers Association of America voted Ruffing into Cooperstown in 1967, two years before the publication of MacMillan’s Baseball Encyclopedia.

As Alan Schwarz explained in his 2004 book The Numbers Game, lifetime stats for older players weren’t widely disseminated before David Neft and his team at Information Concepts, Inc. spent several years rebuilding baseball’s stat records for their landmark 1969 encyclopedia. The 1951 Official Encyclopedia of Baseball, for one, listed just batting averages for hitters and win-loss records for pitchers.

It’s part of the reason that when Ruffing was elected in 1967, he suggested that all 200-game winners, lifetime .300 hitters and 20-year players be automatically enshrined. Such statistics were fairly easy to find. [There was also still some support during the ’60s for the concept of automatic enshrinement, even after the Hall of Fame forbid it in 1956.  The BBWAA simply wasn’t inducting many players in these years.]

Granted, publications at least occasionally published more in-depth stats, most notably perhaps The Sporting News with its “daguerreotypes” that it periodically ran for older players. It carried one for Ruffing on March 4, 1967, two weeks after the BBWAA voted him in, listing his 3.80 ERA as well as a range of other stats.

But I couldn’t find a mention of that 3.80 ERA in the archives at, and I’m curious how many of the 292 Hall of Fame voters in 1967 knew of it. In fact, the bigger issue with Ruffing’s candidacy, from both newspaper and Sporting News stories that I came across, seems to have been his win-loss record: that he had more wins than just a handful of pitchers enshrined; that he had poor records in his early years with the Boston Red Sox, then a perennial American League doormat; and that he fared better with the powerhouse New York Yankees. The Sporting News also made several mentions of Ruffing’s fine postseason numbers.

Anyhow, it’s telling to me that several of the pitchers with the highest ERAs in the Hall of Fame got in before 1969. For the ones enshrined in the years immediately following, I’d point out that momentum for induction often takes several years, even decades and that some of these pitchers could have built a critical mass of support before their lifetime ERAs were well-known.

Consider this list of the 10 highest lifetime ERAs in Cooperstown, compiled with the help of’s Play Index tool:

Player Lifetime ERA Year inducted
 Red Ruffing  3.80  1967
 Ted Lyons 3.67  1955
 Jesse Haines 3.64  1970
 Herb Pennock 3.60 1948
 Waite Hoyt 3.59  1969
 Tom Glavine  3.54  2014
 Early Wynn 3.54  1972
 Burleigh Grimes 3.53 1964
 Dennis Eckersley 3.50 2004
 Robin Roberts 3.41 1976

[Also, and this is mostly for my friend Adam Darowski, I suspect that Wes Ferrell was denied induction more due to character issues than his 4.04 ERA. I can only imagine the precedent that may have been set had Ferrell had a less volatile personality. Jamie Moyer can curse Ferrell’s memory in a few years when his 4.25 ERA gets him quickly turned down by Hall voters.]

Perhaps the BBWAA was willing to look past some things with Ruffing. That March 4, 1967 Sporting News carried another interesting tidbit, noting:

Without [Cleveland Plain Dealer sports editor Hal Lebovitz’s] help, Red couldn’t have been elected this year. Here’s why:

After Ruffing failed to gain enshrinement in 1966, Lebovitz [then president of the BBWAA] discovered certain discrepancies in the ballots. Some ex-players who were no longer eligible were listed. It was rightly reasoned that several of them possibly received votes that might otherwise have gone to Ruffing and others.

So, the BBWAA petitioned the Hall of Fame executive committee for a special election this year. The request was granted and Ruffing received one more opportunity. It was to be his last, until the need for a run-off prolonged the process.

The rest you know.

The BBWAA had voted every other year for the preceding decade, causing a backlog of players comparable to the current ballot, and I had wondered what prompted the shift. I wouldn’t have put money down that Ruffing caused it, but then, the BBWAA and the Hall of Fame have occasionally made up the rules as they’ve gone for players they wish to honor. That’s a post for another time, though.

Ted Williams and Joe Garagiola pick their all-time teams

I’m a sucker for all-time teams. I’ve visited this topic a few times here, including when I had readers vote on an all-time dream lineup in 2012. I also know of these lineups elsewhere, such as when long, longtime Fred Lieb produced a few, divided by era, for his wonderful 1977 memoir, Baseball As I Have Known It.

Here are a couple more all-time teams I wasn’t aware of, from a March 28, 1983 edition of The Sporting News. In it, legendary hitter Ted Williams and famed broadcaster Joe Garagiola offer competing all-time American League and National League squads.

First, Williams’ AL team:

  • P: Bob Feller
  • C: Bill Dickey
  • 1B: Jimmie Foxx
  • 2B: Bobby Doerr
  • 3B: Brooks Robinson
  • SS: Luis Aparicio
  • OF: Joe DiMaggio
  • OF: Mickey Mantle
  • OF: Frank Robinson

And here’s Garagiola’s NL team:

  • P: Howard Pollet [Editor’s note: Who?]
  • C: Johnny Bench
  • 1B: Pete Rose
  • 2B: Jackie Robinson
  • 3B: Ken Boyer
  • SS: Dave Concepcion
  • OF: Hank Aaron
  • OF: Willie Mays
  • OF: Stan Musial

It’s curious to see the biases of eras reflected in each man’s picks, as well as the inconsistencies. For instance, Williams goes with former teammate Foxx over Lou Gehrig but chooses Feller over another man he played with, Lefty Grove. Garagiola meanwhile takes Howie Pollet [who I had to look up] as his hurler, clearly a tongue-in-cheek pick, but chooses Dave Concepcion over another ex-mate Marty Marion, who may have been a defensible pick on some level, at shortstop.

Course, the men are each somewhat beholden to their contemporaries, with little love for other eras. How Babe Ruth or Ty Cobb don’t make Williams’ team is beyond me. Same goes for Honus Wagner, Mike Schmidt, and any number of first basemen aside from Pete Rose on Garagiola’s squad. [It’s probably as good a time as any to remind that in the seasons Rose primarily served as a first baseman, he was worth a cumulative -12.9 Wins Above Average. I wouldn’t want Rose manning first on the ’83 Giants, let alone my all-time squad.]

Granted, Williams and Garagiola were working without, which I think could enable me to pick two killer teams based on all the leftover players here. I respect that Williams and Garagiola were both seemingly going from memory. How did anyone win arguments before the Internet?

All the same, it’s always fun to see these teams, and these exercises are meant to be fun and cursory anyhow. I’d be curious to see who a prominent former player might tab for his all-time squad today.

Catch me at The Sporting News

Just a quick note to say that I’ve signed on to write a weekly column for The Sporting News entitled “Cooperstown Chances.” It’s more or less a relaunch of my “Does he belong in the Hall of Fame?” series here from a few years ago.

I’m extremely honored to land this gig and excited, too. There are a backlog of good players I didn’t get to while writing my previous column here. I’m also interested to revisit the cases of players I wrote about before, with a few more years of analytic experience under my belt.

Anyhow, my first column just went live. It’s on Trevor Hoffman.