Monthly Archives: November 2010

Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? Roberto Alomar

Claim to fame: Alomar might have been the best second baseman of his generation. In his prime, he was certainly the best all-around player at his position, a franchise cornerstone and an integral member of many playoff teams. An All Star 12 of his 17 seasons and a 10-time Gold Glove winner, Alomar batted .300 lifetime with 2,724 hits, 210 home runs, and 474 stolen bases and a career WAR of 63.5. While he declined his final three seasons and quit at 37 in March 2005, just shy of 3,000 hits, his Cooperstown case would be certain were it not for some onerous personal issues.

Current Hall of Fame eligibility: Alomar fell just shy this past January in his first year on the Cooperstown ballot for the Baseball Writers Association of America, receiving 73.7 percent of the vote. He’s on the ballot for the second time this year and will have 13 more tries should he again miss the 75 percent of the votes he needs for enshrinement.

Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? It’s going to be an interesting year for Hall voting. One can only guess how many candidates will fall short. My guess is Jeff Bagwell, Kevin Brown, Rafael Palmeiro, and Larry Walker all miss out, though Bagwell should get in soon, and I think Walker will eventually. Their numbers seen good enough, their images sufficiently clean, though players like them (All Stars whose careers were curtailed by injuries) rarely get in first ballot. Brown and Palmeiro’s best bet is the Veterans Committee. With the exception of Alex Rodriguez, Barry Bonds, and Roger Clemens, I doubt the writers will enshrine any player connected to steroids.

Alomar is a different case. I think he may have the best shot of any recent player at being enshrined this year, and it’s hard to name another second baseman from his era who could do everything he could as well as he did. Craig Biggio couldn’t hit for the same average, Lou Whitaker couldn’t hit for the same power, and Jeff Kent couldn’t run as fast. In his prime, from 1992 through 2001, Alomar hit better than .300 nine of 10 years and batted above .320 five times. He also played effectively in the postseason, hitting .313 lifetime with 4 HR and 33 RBI in 58 games.

The question is if the writers are willing to look past some things. There’s the late career decline, his underwhelming lifetime OPS+ of 116, and his negative defensive WAR, a sign his glove may have been overrated. Then there’s the incident from 1996 where he spit on umpire John Hirschbeck during a game. Hirschbeck reportedly called Alomar last year to wish him good luck with the Hall of Fame voting, though I suspect some writers still ding him for the episode.

More significantly, two women have sued Alomar, claiming he was HIV-positive and had unprotected sex with them. It’s not for me to speculate whether Alomar is guilty or innocent, though if it’s true, Alomar wouldn’t be the first HIV-positive athlete in a Hall of Fame, thanks to Magic Johnson. That being said, Magic went about his disclosure in November 1991 in an entirely different manner, becoming an advocate and eventually, a champion over his affliction. No one’s perfect, of course, but right now, Alomar looks far from a champion.

Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? is a Tuesday feature here.

Others in this series: Al OliverAlbert BelleBert Blyleven, Billy Martin, Cecil TravisChipper JonesDan QuisenberryDave ParkerDon Mattingly, Don NewcombeGeorge SteinbrennerJack MorrisJoe CarterJohn SmoltzKeith HernandezLarry WalkerMaury WillsMel HarderPete Browning, Rafael Palmeiro, Rocky Colavito, Ron Guidry, Steve GarveyThurman MunsonTim Raines, Will Clark

A Card Collector’s Journey

I’m pleased to present this guest post from Gerry Garte, a regular contributor here.

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Dwight Eisenhower was President when I first started collecting baseball cards. From year to year, I had the biggest stars of the day – Mantle, Mays, Berra, Banks, Aaron.  A small pack of Topps cards cost a nickel, gum included. My collection lived on a 25-cent weekly allowance, plus benefits.

Neighborhood guys and cousins had baseball cards. We’d trade players or flip for them. It was usually closest to a wall or curb wins. Leaners were great.

After Roger Maris hit an amazing 61 home runs in 1961, his card became prized. I had two. One of the neighbor boys offered to swap 12 marbles for my extra Maris. Transaction accepted. Funny thing, nearly 50 years later I still have the marbles.

The cards were a neat hobby, but like most kids, I never thought of their long-term value. Keeping a card in nice condition was not one of my concerns.

By age 16, baseball cards were like bicycles – left behind. So I yielded closet space. Long story short: None of the cards survived my high school years.

In the mid ‘80s, I went to a couple of sports card shows. It had been about 20 years since the early cards. I’d buy one or two cards at a time, spend maybe $10.

I met Enos Slaughter at a Raleigh, NC, show. He is a 1985 inductee into the Baseball Hall of Fame. I got the gentleman’s autograph and was honored to be shaking the hand of a Hall of Famer.

My son, Benjamin, was born in 1991. When he was about 9, I introduced him to baseball card collecting. I was hoping he’d catch the bug as I had 40 years earlier. Turns out, the bug just winged him. But for the second time, it caught me flush.

After we had put together a great set of 1991 cards (year born), I took it from there.

Newly divorced, but with a steady job, I reverted to age 10. I decided – because I could– to buy all 587 cards in the 1961 Topps basic set — the great Maris year.

This time, I focused on the condition of the card. To ensure authenticity and condition, all cards were graded.  It helps avoid getting cheated.

The authentication services I trust most are PSA, SGC and BVG (Beckett). Their service determines if the card is fraudulent or has been tampered with — trimmed, re-colored, etc. Also, it renders a rating or grade for the physical condition and appearance of the card.

It took several years to complete the set. The journey was its own joy. I don’t know what it cost me, but two years later the set sold on eBay for enough to pay off the bills and buy the son a used Jeep. It was an investment in baseball history.

Three years later, I did it again. This time, I had a complete set of graded 1955 Bowmans (320 cards) auctioned off. The pay-off was smaller – due to condition, popularity and size — but the search was just as much fun.

In childhood, baseball had become imbedded. As an adult, seeing Major Leaguers from the ‘50s and ‘60s on baseball cards is a pleasant way of renewing memories and appreciating the game and life as it was.

As the country transitioned from Ike to JFK, I kept up with my world as best I could. I’d check the box scores daily. On Saturdays, after pick-up games at the schoolyard, I’d hurry home to catch Dizzy Dean and Pee Wee Reese call the game of the week. I’d be engrossed, centered in front of the black-and-white TV set, with my baseball cards close by.

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Email Gerry Garte at garte@comcast.net

Sometimes The Vote Is For Best Player, Sometimes Not

I’m pleased to present the latest guest post from Doug Bird, a Sunday contributor here.

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Traditionally, the winners of baseball’s major post season awards are those who have played on winning teams. The voting for best position player, (MVP) and best pitcher, (CY Young), has usually been heavily influenced by the success, or failure, of the team for which an individual plays  The logic being that a particular team might not have enjoyed the success it did had it not been for the play of this individual. Conversely, no matter how important a player might be to a team with a losing record, that team would have had an unsuccessful season with or without him. Any player could have filled his role or so goes the argument. Both opinions are certainly valid.

The 2010 awards once again followed this trend-with one exception, an exception which bodes well for the future. Certainly, no one can really argue with the choices of Roy Halladay, Joey Votto, (well maybe Albert Pujols), and Josh Hamilton. All had excellent seasons and played for winning teams, all were key contributors to their teams’ success. All were team leaders and winning might have been very difficult if not impossible without them.

Roy Halladay gave the Phillies a tried and trusted staff ace, capable of a complete game victory every time he took the mound. He had accomplished this season after season with the Toronto Blue Jays but the Blue Jays continued in their frustrating lack of post season appearances. He was the best pitcher in the league and perhaps all of baseball stuck on a team which was not going to make the playoffs no matter how many games he won or how well he pitched. He was awarded the AL CY Young award in 2003 and the NL CY Young award in 2010. In 2003, the voters decided that he was the best pitcher in the league regardless of the lack of success his steam enjoyed that season, and in 2010, the voters were able to combine personal success and team success in giving him the award. His stats were simply too good to ignore using either criteria and he received all 32 first place votes.

Josh Hamilton was healthier than he had been in years previous, (he still missed almost a month of the season), and still had numbers which could not be ignored by the voting press. All facets of his game were well above average and the Texas Rangers rode on his back all the way to the playoffs. Yet, one could certainly argue, without the bat of Vlad Guerrero behind him,  would Hamilton have enjoyed the offensive numbers he did in 2010? But, MVPs shouldn’t be judged on hitting stats alone and the tremendous contributions made by Hamilton on defense and with his speed on the base paths made him certainly the best all around player in the league. Let’s not forget the swagger or presence a player such as Hamilton brings to the game either, one of those intangibles which don’t show up on the score card but make everyone else on the team that much better.

Joey Votto certainly had the stats to qualify for MVP in the NL but I suspect it was what he meant to the Cincinnati Reds who were a surprise NL central division winner. Their obvious weaknesses were clear in their being swept aside in round one of the NL playoffs.  The baseball writers were taken by surprise all season long by the Reds and felt obligated to come up with a reason.  A healthy and fierce competitor such as Scott Rolen and  the experience of Orlando Cabrera certainly made a difference in 2010 but the player the press settled on was the one who got Cincinnati over the top and gave the Reds the marquee player to get them over the top and into the playoffs. The only real slump the reds went through was the times Votto missed due to injuries. When Votto returned, the collective sigh of relief from players  and fans was audible. Sometimes, writers tire of giving the MVP award to the same player year after year. Albert Pujols is that best player in the NL year in and year out. Votto won his MVP award by being the best offensive player in the NL in 2010 from a strictly numbers consideration and having his best season when his team had its best in several seasons.

Felix Hernandez of the Seattle Mariners was awarded the 2010 AL CY Young award because without him, Seattle would have been even more of an American League doormat than with him.  Writers voted him this award because they couldn’t believe any other pitcher could have enjoyed the success of Hernandez with a team as bad as the 2010 Mariners. The writers awarded Hernandez for his season long effort and perseverance. Any hope of any in season success for the Mariners rested solely on his shoulders. No other starter gave the team much of an opportunity to win games and Hernandez had to win games for his team without much support from his fellow players. He had to be perfect and then some. Other AL CY Young candidates at least had the luxury of playing for teams which could win even when they themselves were not sharp that start. Their teams could win games without them. Seattle could not.

The 2010 baseball award winners proved that  awards can be given out using different criteria for different players. But, that’s what can make them fun isn’t it.

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Email Doug Bird at d.bird@rogers.com

For Your Consideration: Lefty O’Doul, Pitcher, Slugger, Manager and Baseball Good Will Ambassador

I’m pleased to present this guest post from Joe Guzzardi. I recently announced that I’m asking readers, other baseball writers, and anyone else interested to vote on the 50 best players not in the Hall of Fame. Today, Joe writes about one of the 300 players on the super ballot for this project. My SABR chapter has organized a letter-writing campaign to get Lefty O’Doul inducted to Cooperstown as an ambassador to the game. Joe suggests he may be worthy for much more.

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As you work your way through Graham Womack’s list of 300 potential Hall of Fame inductees, those outstanding players who may merit induction, eventually you will come to candidate #204, Lefty O’Doul.

Once you do your O’Doul research, you’ll learn that he contributed in four different facets of baseball: pitching, slugging, managing and spreading good baseball will throughout the world.

After limited success (1-1, 4.40 ERA) as a pitcher for the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox from 1919-1923, O’ Doul developed a sore arm. The Red Sox sent O’Doul to the Pacific Coast League and converted him into a slugging outfielder who became one of the most outstanding hitters in baseball history.

Back with the New York Giants in 1928, O’ Doul hit .318 as a platoon player. Then, in 1929, O’Doul led the National League in batting with a .398 average, 254 hits, 32 home runs with 122 RBIs and 152 runs scored. O’Doul’s hits total broke Rogers Hornsby’s 1922 National League record which was eventually tied by Bill Terry in 1930.

Despite hitting .383 with 22 homers in 1930, O’Doul was traded to the Brooklyn Robins, now the Los Angeles Dodgers. In 1932, he batted .368 for the Robins to win another league batting title. After a slow start in 1933, when he batted just .252 through 43 games, O’Doul was again traded, this time back to the Giants. He rallied to hit .306 during the balance of season, but played just one more year before his career ended in 1934.

That began the third phase of O’Doul’s career—the most successful manager in PCL history. O’Doul piloted the San Francisco Seals through 1951. After his stint with the Seals ended, O’Doul also managed the San Diego Padres, 1952-54; Oakland Oaks, 1955; Vancouver Mounties, 1956; and the Seattle Rainers, 1957. O’Doul ranks ninth on the all-time victory list for all minor league managers with a 2,094-1,970 record and, in 1945, was elected as the Sporting News Minor League Manager of the Year.

While managing the Mounties O’Doul, age 59, went to bat against the Sacramento Solons during a regulation game. When the Solon manager Tommy Heath foolishly pulled in his outfielders, O’Doul knocked the ball into deep center field for a triple and later scored.

Among his hitting pupils during his many years managing were Joe and Dom DiMaggio, Ted Williams, Willie Mays and Willie McCovey.

O’Doul is not only a legend in San Francisco where his thriving restaurant is the oldest continuous sports bar in the country but also in Japan where he spent years organizing barnstorm baseball games that featured American All Stars like Lou Gehrig, Frankie Frisch, Al Simmons and Lefty Grove. Eventually, O’Doul helped oversee the construction of Tokyo’s Korakuen Stadium, Japan’s baseball mecca.

Will O’Doul, who died in 1969 at age 72, be one of your 50 choices for enshrinement? After all, O’Doul’s .349 career batting average is the fourth highest in baseball history. And in 2002, the Japanese Hall of Fame elected O’Doul as its only American member.

O’Doul is worthy. The question is whether he outshines the other candidates you’re evaluating.

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Joe Guzzardi belongs to the Society for American Baseball Research, as well as the Internet Baseball Writers Association of America. Email him at guzzjoe@yahoo.com

Hall of Fame project FAQs

The Hall of Fame project I announced this week is going outstandingly. More than 60 people have said they’ll vote, and as I write these words on Friday evening, 12 people have already gone to the virtual polls including Josh Wilker of Cardboard Gods (the first person to vote– two hours after I sent out the ballot), David Pinto of Baseball Musings, and Mark Simon, a researcher for ESPN New York. I’m excited to see where this thing goes, and I invite anyone who’s interested to email me for a ballot. Anyone is eligible to participate. For more information, go here.

I wanted to take a minute and address some questions. A few people have voiced common themes, and I wanted to offer clarification for any like-minded individuals who haven’t spoken up. I think it’s better to deal with these things sooner rather than later.

Here are some FAQs:

I don’t believe there are 50 players who belong in the Hall of Fame. Can I vote for 12? Please vote for 50. This isn’t going to be a list of 50 players who deserve induction, simply the 50 best who aren’t enshrined. If we wind up with 25 players who have no business near Cooperstown, so be it. I actually think it makes for more interesting writing.

Can I vote for current players? No. Please only vote for anyone who hasn’t played past 2005. We’re going with the same five-year waiting period the Baseball Writers Association of America observes for its Hall of Fame voting. Feel free, though, to vote for anyone who’s played before then. There are many 19th century ballplayers and obscure greats on my 300-player super ballot.

You didn’t include (so-and-so) on the ballot. May I vote for him? Absolutely, write-ins are welcome. So far, it’s been pointed out I forgot Tony Taylor, J.R. Richard, and Vic Power, and some of the submitted ballots have included other write-ins. It makes sense. More than 17,000 men have played in the majors and about 300 are in Cooperstown. I almost certainly forgot several deserving players.

Do players need to have played a certain number of years to qualify? No. While Cooperstown generally requires players to have at least 10 years service time for induction, there are no such constraints here. Bo Jackson, eat your heart out.

When do you need this by? Right now, the deadline is December 1 at 9 p.m. PST, but I’m considering extending voting by one week for an awesome reason I can’t disclose yet. But trust me, if it comes through, our project will get even better. More to follow.

Any player/Any era: Stan Musial

Claim to fame: There’s no better player to write about this Thanksgiving than a baseball legend who turned 90 on Sunday. In his 22 years with the St. Louis Cardinals, Stan Musial established himself as one of the most beloved players in baseball history. Even now, nearly 50 years after his Hall of Fame career ended in 1963, Musial remains an iconic figure. A public campaign for Musial led to an announcement on November 17 that he’ll receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor in the country.

In a sense, though, I think Musial is underrated. Sure, there’s the universal adoration in the baseball world and the celebration of his impressive stats, like his .331 lifetime batting average, .976 OPS or 3,630 hits, among the best numbers ever. Still, I don’t know if it’s understood that Musial had one of his best seasons– 1946 when he was National League MVP and led the Cardinals to a World Series title—in a year that favored pitchers. If we transport Musial and his .365 batting average that season to a great year for hitters, he might have hit .400.

Era he might have thrived in: It’s really not a question of what year Musial might have hit .400 in, but how many different ones would have allowed it. Here are five sure bets:
1. 1901 with the Philadelphia Athletics
2. 1925 with the St. Louis Browns
3. 1930 with the Philadelphia Phillies
4. 1936 with the Boston Red Sox
5. 1999 with the Colorado Rockies

Why: First, we have to look at what Musial lost in 1946. Baseball was returning from World War II, and even Musial, who played through most of the war, missed the 1945 season serving in the navy. Returns from long breaks generally favor pitchers, possibly due to timing issues that hitters encounter getting back into gear—just look at the gaudy pitching numbers every April and May. In 1946, this lasted for a season, with each National League team averaging 3.958 runs per game (by contrast, in 1930, the NL average was 5.684 runs.) World War II signaled the shift in baseball from the hitter-happy 1920s and ’30s to a game where less runs were scored, fewer players hit .380, and pitchers came to dominate.

Musial had another thing working against his numbers in 1946. While he played on a championship club, it hit a modest .265 with just three players over .300: Musial, Enos Slaughter, and Whitey Kurowski. Slaughter, like Musial, turned in a stellar season and later made Cooperstown, but in another era, Musial might have had a superior teammate to boost his average higher. After all, Babe Ruth had Lou Gehrig, Ty Cobb had Harry Heilmann, and Willie Mays had Willie McCovey. In the arrangement here, Musial could be teammates with Napoleon Lajoie on the Athletics, George Sisler on the Browns, or Jimmie Foxx on the Red Sox, among other Hall of Famers.

If we plug Musial into any of these teams he thrives. Obscenely. With the help of the stat converter on Baseball-Reference.com, here are his stats from each club:

Year G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB BA OBP SLG
Real ’46 totals 156 624 124 228 50 20 16 103 7 73 .365 .434 .587
1901 Athletics 138 595 148 245 54 22 18 123 8 78 .412 .482 .667
1925 Browns 155 666 163 272 60 24 20 136 9 87 .408 .479 .661
1930 Phillies 155 686 182 292 64 26 21 152 9 93 .426 .497 .687
1936 Red Sox 155 684 180 290 64 26 21 150 9 93 .424 .495 .686
1999 Rockies 163 730 200 316 70 28 23 167 10 101 .433 .504 .700


(If the Colorado numbers make anyone wonder how well other all-time greats might have done with the ’99 Rockies, check out this post from July.)

There are probably many other teams Musial could have hit .400 on. He was a .400 hitter in everything except his era. In life, he’s been something more.

Any player/Any era is a Thursday feature here that looks at how a player might have done in an era besides his own.

Others in this series: Albert PujolsBarry Bonds, Bob CaruthersDom DiMaggioFritz MaiselGeorge CaseHarmon KillebrewHome Run Baker, Jack Clark, Jackie Robinson, Jimmy Wynn, Joe DiMaggio, Johnny FrederickJosh HamiltonKen Griffey Jr.Nate ColbertPete Rose, Rickey Henderson, Roberto Clemente, Sam Thompson, Sandy KoufaxShoeless Joe JacksonThe Meusel BrothersTy Cobb, Willie Mays

Bobby Knight Calls Dick Groat the “Best” Basketball Player

I’m pleased to present the latest guest post from regular contributor Joe Guzzardi on Dick Groat who, like Dave DeBusschere, Danny Ainge, and a few other people listed below was a baseball player who also played basketball. Or was it the other way around?

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During last week’s pre-game analysis of the 2K Coaches vs. Cancer basketball tournament featuring the University of Maryland and the University of Pittsburgh, Bobby Knight provided ESPN’s color commentary.

After reviewing the strengths of the Terps and Panthers, Knight without prodding said about the Panthers’ broadcaster, “The best basketball player in Madison Square Garden is Dick Groat.” When Bobby Knight calls someone the “best basketball player” that’s serious flattery.

While the 70-year-old Knight didn’t say so the 80-year-old Groat, an All-American baseball and basketball player at Duke University, may have been one of his childhood heroes. In 1952, Groat won the U.P.I. National Player of the Year award after averaging more than 25 points per game. On the strength of his collegiate success, Groat was the fourth round draft choice of the Ft. Wayne (now Detroit) Pistons and averaged a respectable 12 points per game during his only season.

Groat is one of twelve athletes who played baseball and basketball professionally. The others are Chuck Connors, Gene Conley, Bill Sharman, Howie Schultz, Ron Reed, Danny Ainge, Frankie Baumholtz, Dave DeBusschere, Mark Hendrickson and Cotton Nash.

But also in 1952, straight off the Duke campus, Groat was signed by the Pittsburgh Pirates’ Branch Rickey. As much as the Pittsburgh native loved basketball, Groat’s dream had always been to play for the Pirates. Since summer is baseball season, basketball had to wait.

One of only a small number of players who never spent a day in the minor leagues, shortstop Groat was instantly productive (.284) for the horrible 1952 Pirates (42-112).

After a two year stint in the Army, Groat gave up his NBA career to focus on baseball. Gradually, as the Pirates added Bill Mazeroski, Roberto Clemente and pitchers Vernon Law, Bob Friend and El Roy Face developed, the Pirates worked their way up the National League standings.

By 1960, their World Series championship year, Groat was the Pirates’ captain, the National League’s batting champion and the Most Valuable Player. Although the Pirates expected to win several more titles, it was not to be. In 1961, the team fell to sixth place 75-79. Although the Pirates rallied to a 93-68 record in 1962, General Manager Joe Brown to the surprise of baseball insiders, traded three of his starting four infielders within the span of a week: first baseman Dick Stuart, third baseman Don Hoak and Groat.

The St. Louis Cardinals sent pitcher Don Cardwell to the Bucs for Groat. The trade favored Pirates. In his first season as a Cardinals, Groat hit .315. And in 1964, he led the Cards to the World Series title. Groat was also a two-time Cardinals’ All Star.

In his four years as a Pirates, Cardwell posted a 33-33 record with a 3.38 ERA.

Groat, who longed to one day manage the Pirates, was so disappointed by the trade that he broke off all ties with the team until 1990, the thirtieth anniversary of the 1960 upset of the New York Yankees.

Today, Groat is a regular around Pittsburgh. An outstanding golfer, an announcer for Pitt basketball and a frequent guest at Pirates’ events who never turns down autograph requests, Groat is an all-around great guy. As Knight called him, “a gentleman”.

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Joe Guzzardi belongs to the Society for American Baseball Research as well as the Internet Baseball Writers Association of America. Email him at guzzjoe@yahoo.com

Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? Billy Martin

Claim to fame: The fiery manager of the Bronx Zoo New York Yankees in the 1970s, Martin also did well in stops at Minnesota, Detroit, Texas, and Oakland. He thrived wherever he went, having just three losing seasons in 19 years and going 1,253-1,013 overall. Despite this, he is remembered perhaps as much for his off-field antics, his many firings at the hands of George Steinbrenner (they even once did a commercial making light of it), and his alcohol-related death in 1989 at 61.

Current Hall of Fame eligibility: Martin is on this year’s Veterans Committee ballot, along with Steinbrenner and two of their best pitchers in those years, Ron Guidry and Tommy John. The committee will announce its voting results at the annual winter meetings in Orlando, Florida on December 6.

Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? My short answer is yes. Martin did well in too many stops, and his record should speak louder than his questionable character (on a side note, was it really terribly worse than many men already enshrined?) The same should be said of Dick Allen, Dave Parker, and Albert Belle, in my book. But then, controversial figures generally have a hard time getting into Cooperstown. I’d vote for all four of these men, but I don’t know how many other people would.

Traditionally, the committee, in its various forms over the years and the Hall of Fame in general prefers establishment-friendly candidates. It’s why I figured Whitey Herzog would get voted in last year after he, Martin, Danny Murtaugh, and Gene Mauch appeared on the ballot. It’s the same reason I think Steve Garvey will get in this year. When in doubt, Hall of Fame voting is generally conservative, particularly with the Veterans Committee in recent years, and I suppose arguments could be made for or against this.

All this being said, if Martin were to get into the Hall of Fame, he’d have a spot in one of its most exclusive wings. This summer, Herzog became just the 20th person enshrined as a manager. Men like Connie Mack, John McGraw, and Casey Stengel are there. Al Dark, Bill Rigney, Charlie Grimm and many others are not. There are so many solid managers not in Cooperstown that a few months back I suggested there be a hybrid wing for skippers who also played.

Technically, Martin could qualify for this too since he played 11 years in the majors, making the American League All Star team in 1956 and serving as one of Mickey Mantle’s running partners on the Yankees of the Stengel-glory-years 1950s. Still, I think Martin’s managerial credentials should be sufficient to earn him a plaque.

Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? is a Tuesday feature here.

Others in this series: Al OliverAlbert BelleBert BlylevenCecil TravisChipper JonesDan QuisenberryDave ParkerDon Mattingly, Don NewcombeGeorge SteinbrennerJack MorrisJoe CarterJohn SmoltzKeith HernandezLarry WalkerMaury WillsMel HarderPete Browning, Rafael Palmeiro, Rocky Colavito, Ron Guidry, Steve GarveyThurman MunsonTim Raines, Will Clark

Vote on the 50 best baseball players not in the Hall of Fame

Anyone who reads this Web site regularly may know that I write about the Hall of Fame fairly often, at least on a weekly basis and that my first post on the subject was a list in May 2009 of the 10 best players not in Cooperstown. Since I wrote that post, I’ve found many, many more deserving players, and now, I’d like to expand to something bigger.

I want a list of the 50 greatest players who aren’t enshrined, and rather than simply base this on my opinion or career WAR rankings (or some other trendy stat that will be outdated in a few years), I want to try something different: I’d like this to be based on the votes of people who frequent this Web site and other baseball writers.

I’ll keep a master tally of all the votes and base rankings off of which players get the most votes. I want at least 50-100 people to vote. The more votes and the broader the range of voters, the better the players will be separated in the rankings. Anyone is eligible to vote, and I would be happy to link in the post to any fellow baseball writer who participates.

So here’s how this will work: I’m compiling a super ballot of 300 non-enshrined players that I intend to send out this evening  (write-in candidates welcome, too.) Voting will last until December 1 at 9 p.m. PST. I’ll post the results on December 3, ahead of the Veterans Committee’s announcement on December 6 of who it will be inducting in 2011 and the Baseball Writers Association of America’s announcement in January of its picks.

If anyone reading would like to participate, please send me an email at thewomack@gmail.com or leave a comment here and I will email a ballot this evening. And if anyone happens to read this after today, please feel free to reach out to me. As long as it’s before December 1, I have no problem providing a ballot.

Let the games begin

I’m pleased to present the latest guest from Doug Bird, who recently began contributing Sunday posts here. Today, Doug writes about an ever-fun offseason topic: trades and free agency.

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No, not the real games, or maybe they are come to think of it.  It’s the offseason and that brings silly trade rumors, players crying about their lousy $15 million per season for four years offer, owners hiring the same old merry go round of managers and GMs and claiming that every player in their minor league system is a potential superstar.

Most writers for the more popular baseball publications are at it again-spreading ridiculous trade rumors as if they were talking about the upcoming fantasy baseball season or trading bubble gum cards with six year olds. Unfortunately, while  occupying their time with these “I have a column due today and I have to write something” stories, they often miss real and legitimate possibilities. They continually fall for the “no one is untouchable on this team if the right offer came along” feeds from various GMs and owners. Case in point this week: the Justin Upton trade rumor. Few teams wouldn’t want to have this star player as part of their roster and it is obvious to me that the Diamondbacks have no real interest in trading their best player. We hadn’t considered trading our best player but hey,  give me four or five of your top players and I think we can work something out.  If Arizona had put Upton on the market initially, perhaps these rumors would have some merit, but that was obviously not the case here.  Yes, Arizona need a lot of improvement  in most areas but giving away your future is not the way any competent GM would choose to go. No one is going to meet their demands but many columnists insist on quoting rival GMs complaining the demands for Upton are ridiculous.

We have players turning down huge contract offers, money which even in today’s inflated market are eye opening, with their agents comparing them to Babe Ruth in his prime. Of course, these players and agents are well aware that certain owners will pay these inflated contracts and have a history of massive overpayments.  These same owners  discover that trading these overvalued and under productive players two years from now is next to impossible without having to pay his salary as well.  Florida traded Dan Uggla, a good power hitter if nothing else, and a player who put up these numbers in a pitchers park, because of his salary demands, only to sign a mediocre catcher who had a career year in 2010 in a hitters park, (John Buck), to a contract even sillier. Adrian Beltre is once again asking for a multiyear contract and owners are, once again, listening and bidding on his services. Beltre is a very good player in a market where good third basemen are few and far between, but– and a very large but here– everyone from owners to the casual fan knows his history. Time and time again, Beltre puts in a lackadaisical effort, puts up poor numbers, until the walk year of his contract. He then becomes the player the owner hopes he would have been all those previous seasons. Yet, someone this offseason will give him what he wants.

The end of the 2010 season saw an unprecedented number of managerial openings.  Many of the old guard stepped down, making for a sad but interesting changing of the guard. Many years of baseball expertise and experience retired or fell by the wayside and it will be interesting to see if owners and GMs will give opportunities to long serving non major league managerial personnel or simply follow the old rule of hiring a name manager who had failed in other organizations. The Cubs hiring of Mike Quade and the Blue Jays hiring of John Farrell  are examples of how thing should be done. The Pirates hiring of Clint Hurdle and the Mariners hiring of Eric Wedge are merely more of the same. The Dodgers have hired a bench coach with no managerial experience and another former Yankee legend and the Mets can’t seem hire anyone. Everyone seems to want the fiery Bobby Valentine yet he doesn’t want any of them-but he wants to return to big league managing. Japan doesn’t have a big league team it seems just yet.

The GM meetings seem, every year, to be merely an excuse to garner a few days in the warm sunshine. No one wants to trade their minor league players who, judging by the teams own personnel decisions, aren’t ready for the majors or aren’t good enough. Yet few are willing to part with any of them for a genuine proven big leaguer. The publicity machines continually spit out features about this can’t miss and that can’t miss yet rarely are they deemed good enough for the bigs except in the worst organizations.

Spend big money on the farm system yet rarely use it or spend  even bigger money on free agents. I guess it’s a case of who blinks first-or who believes Scott Boras and who doesn’t.

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Email Doug Bird at d.bird@rogers.com

Names from the Cleveland Buckeye’s Past: Sam Jethroe and Eddie Klepp (Who’s He?)

I’m pleased to present this guest post from Joe Guzzardi, who regularly contributes Wednesday and Saturday articles here. Due to technical issues, today’s post is a little later than usual but worth the wait. It highlights Sam Jethroe, a forgotten Negro League great, and Eddie Klepp, who also played in that league– as a white pitcher.

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Last week, at our SABR Forbes Field Chapter fall meeting, Stephanie Liscio, president of the neighboring Cleveland Jack Graney Chapter, talked about her new book, Integrating Cleveland Baseball.

Cleveland, whose Indians was one of baseball’s first integrated teams, with the addition of Larry Doby on July 2, 1947, had to cope with their city rivals, the Negro American League Buckeyes. The two teams competed for the African-American fan’s support.

Liscio, a Ph.D. candidate at Case Western Reserve University, chronicled the dismal history of Cleveland’s Negro League baseball teams. All failed until the Buckeyes which in 1945 became the world champion Negro League team and won the Negro American League pennant in 1947. One of Liscio’s major focuses is the role played by the African-American Cleveland newspaper, the Call & Post, efforts to integrate Major League baseball.

During her presentation, Liscio talked about Eddie Klepp, a white pitcher who in 1946 joined the Buckeyes as part of an experiment (some say a stunt) in integrating Negro League baseball.

Klepp turned out to be an unfortunate choice. His career was limited to a few innings pitched and was sandwiched in between two stretches for larceny and burglary.

Another Buckeye made a more lasting and positive impression. Before joining the major leagues in 1950, Sam “The Jet” Jethroe was the premier base stealer in the Negro League and led the league in batting average in 1944 and 1945. In six seasons with the Buckeyes, Jethroe had a .342 career batting average and was been selected to the East-West All-Star game four times.

When Jethroe joined the Boston Braves in 1950, he was named the National League Rookie of the Year. By that time, Jethroe was at least 32 and remains the oldest player to win the Rookie of the Year award. In two of his three seasons in the majors, he led the NL in stolen bases. In the first year Jethroe accomplished this, when he posted 35 steals in 1950, he fell just shy of swiping 10 percent of the bases in his league, a feat only a handful of ballplayers have accomplished.

By 1952, Jethroe’s production dropped dramatically. Although he rallied with a .307 batting average in Toledo in 1953, Jethroe’s career was over. Signed by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1954, Jethroe appeared in only two games.

At the end of his major league career, he had accumulated a .261 average, 49 home runs, 181 RBIs and 98 stolen bases in 442 games.

I recommend adding Integrating Cleveland Baseball to your library.

Liscio has a limited number of discounted copies available. Contact her directly. Otherwise you can order from Amazon or the publisher, McFarland.

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Joe Guzzardi belongs to the Society for American Baseball Research as well as the Internet Baseball Writers Association of America. Email him at guzzjoe@yahoo.com

The Name Game

I’m pleased to present this guest post from Gerry Garte, who recently began contributing here. Today, Gerry writes about the many names for the Florida Marlins’ home park. As a bonus, in honor of Thanksgiving, Gerrys closes with a Baseball: Past and Present first: a poem. Long ago, sportswriters like Grantland Rice published books of verse, but that kind of thing has been curiously absent from the blogosphere, sports media in general, and definitely this Web site.

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It was a couple months ago when I first saw the huge Sun Life Stadium sign. I had gone to see the Marlins face the visiting Cardinals.

About 23 years before that, the stadium had opened as Joe Robbie Stadium, new home of the Miami Dolphins in northwest Dade County.  Joe Robbie was owner of the Dolphins when they joined the American Football League in 1966. In 1970, he hired Don Shula away from the Baltimore Colts.

Unlike most stadiums that have been built in the past 30 years, Joe Robbie Stadium was built solely through private funding.

At the time, my parents lived about seven or eight miles directly east of the stadium. When the Dolphins had a night game at home, a roaring stadium crowd could often be heard at my folks’ house.

Mr. Robbie had the stadium built to also accommodate a future MLB club. In 1990, he passed away. But three years later, after the Marlins gained admittance to the National League, they played their baseball at Joe Robbie.

In 1996, the name-changing craziness started. Since then, the stadium has had six different names: Pro Player Park, Pro Player Stadium, Dolphins Stadium, Dolphin Stadium, Land Shark Stadium and now Sun Life Stadium.

No other current ballpark in Major League Baseball has had near as many name changes.

Here’s a quick rundown of current baseball stadiums that have endured name changes:

Angels:  Anaheim Field to Edison International Field of Anaheim to Angel Stadium of Anaheim

A’s:  Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum to Network Associates Coliseum to McAfee Coliseum back to Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum

Blue Jays:  Skydome to Rogers Centre

Diamondbacks:  Bank One Ballpark to Chase Field

Giants: Pacific Bell Park to SBC Park to AT&T Park (Editor’s note: The Simpsons recently made light of this in the SABR-themed episode, “Moneybart.”)

Indians:  Jacobs Field to Progressive Field

Royals:  Royals Stadium to Kauffman Stadium

White Sox:  new Comiskey Park to U.S. Cellular Field

In 2012, the Marlins will be moving to their own stadium, located at the downtown site of the former Orange Bowl, which housed the original Dolphins and the University of Miami. Hopefully, whatever name is chosen for the stadium (currently Marlins Ballpark) will stick.

I know money talks when stadium name-changes are discussed. But for my money and my memory, it’s best to keep name changes to a minimum.

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In celebration of the great American holiday, Thanksgiving, I offer a poem:

Giving Thanks

The coast of New England, a harvest grown strong
The pilgrims of Plymouth work hard and work long.
A festival of feast, for thanksgiving they pray
Gathered in worship, with faith they did stay.
America’s birth, its patriotic splendor
The fourth of our Thursdays in the month of November.
–Gerry Garte
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Gerry Garte belongs to the Society for American Baseball Research. Email him at garte@comcast.net

Any player/Any era: Willie Mays

What he did: After last week’s column where I took a non-Hall of Famer, Jack Clark and saw how he would compare to Joe DiMaggio by playing his career, I went another direction. Willie Mays is one of the greatest players ever, possibly the greatest– I rate him second to Babe Ruth. What may not be appreciated about Mays is he played much of his career in an era ruled by pitchers. A .302 hitter lifetime, Mays might have batted .330 in Ruth’s time. And if Mays were matched season-for-season with Barry Bonds, baseball might have a different home run king.

Era he might have thrived in: We’ll plug Mays into every season of Bonds’ career from 1986 through 2007, since their career spans line up almost perfectly, and we’ll give Mays credit for the time he lost 1952-53 for Korean War service. By doing this, Mays easily overtakes Ruth in home runs, and depending how one looks at it, might have enough to beat out Hank Aaron’s 755 home runs or Bonds’ 762.

Why: There are two big reasons Mays sees a boost. First, he gains two solid seasons of production for the time he missed with Korea. Second, his career peak occurs 1996 through 2000, one of the greatest offensive periods in baseball history, instead of 1961 through 1965, one of the bleakest. He also plays his entire career with 162-game seasons, instead of just from 1961 on. Bottom line, in a better time for hitters, Mays might have arguably the best offensive numbers in baseball history. I also have greater appreciation now for Mays’ real numbers, which were hard-won.

There are a few ways to forecast Mays’ numbers here. Lately, I have been using the stat converter on Baseball-Reference.com which can adjust numbers between different eras. Using this tool, I went year by year for Mays, converting the 1951 New York Giants to the 1986 Pittsburgh Pirates, the 1952 Giants to the 1987 Pirates, and so on.

Here’s how it comes out for Mays:

Year G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB BA
86 PIT (51) 126 477 58 127 22 5 20 66 7 57 .266
87 PIT (52) 147 544 116 170 27 7 34 101 17 76 .313
88 PIT (53) 147 526 92 152 25 6 31 84 15 69 .291
89 PIT (54) 159 570 103 181 31 12 38 95 7 61 .318
90 PIT (55) 160 598 114 182 18 13 50 118 24 77 .304
91 PIT (56) 159 595 99 170 27 8 36 83 40 68 .286
92 PIT (57) 159 591 103 183 25 19 33 89 36 71 .310
93 SF (58) 160 636 128 224 32 12 32 102 34 84 .352
94 SF (59) 111 426 93 135 32 3 26 78 20 49 .317
95 SF (60) 142 561 109 185 28 12 28 106 24 60 .330
96 SF (61) 161 598 137 184 33 3 42 131 19 85 .308
97 SF (62) 162 622 132 190 36 5 50 143 18 79 .305
98 SF (63) 157 612 133 203 35 8 42 119 9 71 .332
99 SF (64) 157 595 140 188 23 10 52 129 21 90 .316
00 SF (65) 155 566 130 187 22 3 55 123 9 81 .330
01 SF (66) 152 554 101 161 30 4 38 105 5 71 .291
02 SF (67) 141 494 91 136 23 2 23 77 7 54 .275
03 SF (68) 147 522 111 170 23 6 27 103 14 79 .326
04 SF (69) 117 417 74 128 19 3 15 68 6 55 .307
05 SF (70) 139 484 94 145 15 2 29 83 5 82 .300
06 SF (71) 136 446 102 142 30 6 22 76 29 141 .318
07 SF (72) 92 267 45 76 14 1 10 28 5 75 .285
TOTAL 3186 11701 2305 3619 574 150 733 2107 371 1635 .309
REAL 2992 10881 2062 3283 523 140 660 1903 338 1464 .302


(On a side note, I arrived at Mays’ 1952 and 1953 totals by taking his 162-game averages if he’d played every year of his career on the 1987 and 1988 Pirates, respectively. I then converted to 147-game seasons, the average number of contests Mays gets in here. It’s a conservative estimate if Mays keeps healthy, which he mostly did in early seasons. On another side note, Mays strikes out 1,612 times in this version of his career.)

The 2,305 runs would be most all-time, the 733 home runs third, and the 2,107 RBI also third, impressive totals all. I had some questions if the stats were dependent on Bonds being in the lineup with Mays. While there are some interesting writing possibilities on them as teammates, that isn’t what this column is about, and I wanted a way to swap out Bonds for Mays. I didn’t want Mays’ numbers simply to seem like a byproduct of playing besides Bonds. Thus, I emailed Cyril Morong, a stats whiz and an occasional commenter here and the kind of person who might know this.

Cyril wasn’t sure, though he offered something when I asked if Mays could out-homer Bonds. Cyril wrote:

I think he has a good chance. In his career, his HR% was 6.07. The league average during his time was 2.42. So that is a ratio of 2.51. During Bonds’ time, the NL HR% was 2.8%. That times 2.51 is 7.02. If he had that % during his career of 10881 ABs, he gets 763

I clarified that in this arrangement, Mays has 11,701 at bats, and Cyril ran new calculations and found Mays finishing with 822 home runs. Assuming Mays would have done this free of steroids (which I’m saying he would), maybe there’s hope another hitter like him sets a real record in the right era.

Any player/Any era is a Thursday feature here that looks at how a player might have done in an era besides his own.

Others in this series: Albert PujolsBarry Bonds, Bob CaruthersDom DiMaggioFritz MaiselGeorge CaseHarmon KillebrewHome Run Baker, Jack Clark, Jackie Robinson, Jimmy Wynn, Joe DiMaggio, Johnny FrederickJosh HamiltonKen Griffey Jr.Nate ColbertPete Rose, Rickey Henderson, Roberto Clemente, Sam Thompson, Sandy KoufaxShoeless Joe JacksonThe Meusel BrothersTy Cobb

My Evening With Bob Costas, MLB Network and the 1960′s Pirates

I’m pleased to present the latest guest post from Joe Guzzardi, a regular contributor here. Today, Joe writes about attending the premier showing for recently uncovered footage of Game 7 of the 1960 World Series.

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The stage: Forbes Field, October 13, 1960
The scene: Seventh World Series game, bottom of the first inning, Pittsburgh Pirates at bat against New York Yankee starter “Bullet” Bob Turley.

In the top of the first, Cy Young award winner Vernon Law retired the Yankees, one-two-three. Bobby Richardson lined out to shortstop Dick Groat, Tony Kubek popped out to Bill Mazeroski and Roger Maris fouled out to Don Hoak.

Before Turley, who had won game two, threw a pitch Casey Stengel had ordered double barrel action in the bull pen with lefty Bobby Shantz and right hander Ralph Terry furiously warming up.

Whether Turley fell apart when he saw Stengel perched on the top of the dugout stairs to yank him at the slightest sign of trouble or just didn’t have it, he came out faster than a sore tooth in the second. New hurler: Bill Stafford. (See Stengel poised to give Turley the hook here.)

While the game is most famous for Mazeroski’s ninth inning home run, having two pitchers warm up before the starter has thrown a pitch may be without precedent.

How Stengel mishandled his pitchers was one of dozens of insights, this one provided by Richardson, during MLB.com’s premier showing at Pittsburgh’s Byham Theater of the lost Bing Crosby tape of the famous seventh game.

Richardson, the lone Yankee present, Dick Groat and Bill Virdon were on stage with host Bob Costas. In the audience were catchers Hal Smith and Bob Oldis, Bob Friend, El Roy Face, Joe Christopher and Law. All including special guests Franco Harris, Nathaniel Crosby and archivist Robert Bader got rousing applause throughout the evening. Smith, whose two out, three run homer in the bottom of the eighth briefly put the Pirates ahead 9-7, got a standing ovation.

Ironically Mazeroski, recovering in the hospital from kidney stones, was absent.

For fifty years, baseball historians have been unable to explain why Stengel overlooked Whitey Ford, one of the most successful World Series pitchers in the game’s annals, in favor of journeyman Art Ditmar for the crucial Game One.

Ford was certainly not tired. His last regular season outing was on September 28 when he pitched five innings against the Washington Senators. By October 5, Game One, Ford had six days rest.

Stengel’s fatal choice of Ditmar killed any chances the Yankees had to win the series. Shelled in the first and fifth games, Ditmar’s series line was: 0-2; ERA 21.60

Ford, who in a normal rotation would have started games one, four and seven, ended up pitching complete game shutouts in the third and sixth contests. Ford’s line: 2-0, ERA 0.00

Richardson, when asked directly by Costas why Stengel chose Ditmar, could not explain it. And again, when Ford warmed up briefly in the seventh game but never got the call, Costas asked why. Richardson’s reply: “Good question.”

Pirates’ announcer Bob Prince shared the game call with the Yankees’ Mel Allen. Both worked alone but brilliantly and never missed a beat. The actual game only took 2:36 but the edited version in black and white with no graphics, no replays, no commercials and which segues immediately from one inning to the next runs just over two hours.

The batters didn’t step out of the box or wear batting gloves; the pitchers worked fast.

MLB.com will broadcast the game nationally on December 15. The two-DVD set will be available for purchase December 14th and includes the game and the Pittsburgh pre-game tape that includes all of Costas’ witty exchanges with the Pirates and plenty of his own entertaining insights.

I’ve already placed my order!

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Joe Guzzardi belongs to the Society for American Baseball Research, as well as the Internet Baseball Writers Association of America. Email him at guzzjoe@yahoo.com

Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? Rafael Palmeiro

Claim to fame: 500 home runs. 3,000 hits. Steroids.

Current Hall of Fame eligibility: Palmeiro becomes eligible for enshrinement in 2011 through the Baseball Writers Association of America, meaning its members will vote on him for the first time in coming months.

Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? I was tempted to simply write “No” and move on to other more enjoyable things. I have no desire to see a Palmeiro plaque in Cooperstown, and the idea of him giving an induction speech triggers my gag reflex. But there are a few things that should probably be said here.

First, were it not for steroids, Palmeiro would be a sure bet for Cooperstown. No member of the 3,000-hit club has failed to be a first ballot selection since Paul Waner in 1952, and Palmeiro is also one of just four players in this group with at least 500 home runs. Palmeiro also boasts a career batting average of .288, an OPS+ of 132 and a Wins Above Replacement ranking of 66.0, all things which put him in line for Cooperstown. Baseball-Reference.com lists him above on three of its four Hall of Fame ranking tools.

But, of course, Palmeiro was named as a steroid user in Jose Canseco’s memoir Juiced, subsequently denied before Congress with a defiant wave of his finger that he’d ever used, and had a positive test a few months later in August 2005 that effectively ended his career. A finger wave has never been so damning or potentially haunting to his Hall of Fame case. I suspect it’s the image at least 70 percent of the BBWAA will reference as they decline to vote for him.

I wouldn’t be surprised if Palmeiro stays on the ballot a full 15 years, consistently receiving votes from the 10-20 percent of the electorate that says there’s no proof he used steroids besides that positive test or that he was doing anything different than many other ballplayers. Some may also say that 500/3,000 is 500/3,000 regardless of how it’s accomplished, that if it was so easy with steroids, then why didn’t more players accomplish it? After all, Sammy Sosa, Mark McGwire, and even Barry Bonds did not.

Still, I don’t see Palmeiro as more than an afterthought or a pariah, only the latest McGwire, Dave Parker, or Dick Allen to come before voters. Historically, these types of players have a loyal core of support but rarely get enshrined. And why should they? I believe Cooperstown can make its own rules, that no one is required to be enshrined. I’d vote for Parker or Allen, flawed individuals who were also very talented, but if baseball wants to do its best to forget Palmeiro, McGwire, or any other member of the Steroid Era, so be it.

Why Palmeiro and Co.’s exploits should be celebrated in any Hall of Fame is beyond me, though a Steroid Hall of Fame might be something worth considering. More on that some other time.

Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? is a Tuesday feature here.

Others in this series: Al OliverAlbert BelleBert BlylevenCecil TravisChipper JonesDan QuisenberryDave ParkerDon Mattingly, Don NewcombeGeorge SteinbrennerJack MorrisJoe CarterJohn SmoltzKeith HernandezLarry WalkerMaury WillsMel HarderPete BrowningRocky Colavito, Ron Guidry, Steve GarveyThurman MunsonTim Raines, Will Clark

Searching for the next Aubrey Huff

The November 15 issue of Sports Illustrated carried a short but interesting piece, Attention Shoppers, about how teams capitalized in 2010 signing cheap veterans like Aubrey Huff and Darren Oliver. The article speculated who the next of these players could be, offering possible candidates like free agent pitchers Frank Francisco and Aaron Harang and Cubs outfielder Kosuke Fukudome, who’s signed through 2011.

This got me thinking, and I have a few more players in mind:

Carlos Pena: After hitting .196 in 2010, Pena is unlikely to reap a large payday in Tampa Bay with teammate Carl Crawford also due to hit free agency and the Rays possibly needing all available funds to resign him. Pena, who’s a free agent, could do well to sign a Huff-esque 1-year deal in a hitters park like Texas, whose first baseman this year, Justin Smoak, didn’t hit much better. With a resurgent 2011 season, the 32-year-old Pena could score a contract next offseason to cover him the rest of his career.

Matt Murton: Is Murton the next Cecil Fielder? Like Fielder, Murton left a nondescript career stateside and became a star with the Hanshin Tigers in Japan. Fielder followed his 38-home-run, 1989 season for Hanshin by hitting 51 homers for the Detroit Tigers in 1990. Murton’s .349, 214-hit Japanese debut ought to be more than sufficient to get him a job with any number of MLB teams.

Jorge Julio: One of many ex-big league relievers currently in the independent circuit (which, I’ve noted before, is packed with veterans), I like Julio’s prospects more than Armando Benitez or Antonio Alfonseca, among others. Julio saved 36 games for the Baltimore Orioles in 2003 and was an effective middle reliever as recently as 2008, before he had delivery problems. Due to turn 32 in March, he’s young enough to rebound and spend several more years in big league bullpens.

Elijah Dukes: If Mike Williams can get a job in the NFL, his baseball equivalent deserves another shot in the MLB. Dukes is another supremely talented prospect who’s found himself out of the bigs due to personal problems. Like Williams, Dukes is 26 and could have a lot left if he gets his head straight and finds a supportive team. As it stands, the speedy outfielder is overqualified for his current environs, the independent Newark Bears.

Erubiel Durazo: Even though he’ll be 36 in 2011 and has bounced around Mexican ball in recent years, I haven’t forgotten Durazo. He was once supposed to be big in Oakland, and while he never met the hype in three injury-plagued seasons, he hit .281 in his career with 94 home runs. An AL team could seemingly do worse than to use Durazo as a pinch hitter or a DH.

Jose Guillen: For shoppers, free agent outfielder Guillen is like a week-old steak marked to bargain basement prices. Due to turn 35, coming off a .258 season with a below-average OPS+ of 98, and implicated in an HGH scandal, he’ll come cheap. There’s the chance he could recreate his power-hitting numbers of old and be the 2011 version of Vlad Guerrero. But things could also go horribly wrong.

Who else belongs here?

I Need A GM, A Manager, A Right Fielder, A Catcher And An Ace Starter

I’m pleased to present the latest guest post from Doug Bird, who recently volunteered to start contributing Sunday articles here.

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The hunt for a new manager has begun for several major league teams with some having signed their new field boss and others still going through the interview process. Those teams with a settled upon GM and manager and money to spend can now set their sights on the 2010 free agent class. Those who haven’t still have some work to do.

There are teams which need too many major league caliber players still to be contenders and would not be helped by signing either of the two big name free agents, Cliff Lee and Jayson Werth. There are self proclaimed we don’t spend money teams whose philosophy will keep them from any free agent pursuits other than spare parts. There are teams which will overpay by a ridiculous amount for players who had a great 2010 season but are unlikely to repeat such a performance.

As has been proven many times with lessons seldom learned, a sound and successful baseball organization begins with ownership that is committed to more than the bottom line and a GM who understands the game and recognizes what players his team needs to be and remain competitive. There are many GMs who don’t grasp this concept either because of their own incompetence, monetary restrictions imposed on them, or unknowledgeable owners who meddle in the day to day operations of the franchise. Any one of these three will prove disastrous to the franchise. A combination of these three factors will lead to a team which is uncompetitive year in and year out. Baseball should be more than a business and more than a hire a friend to run the team enterprise. GMs and managers are fired because the franchise is unsuccessful only to be hired by another organization hoping that those fired will have somehow become knowledgeable during their time on the unemployment line. Successful career minor leaguers are often overlooked or hired to run a franchise which is hopelessly untalented and then blamed for the inevitable failure to come.

Now comes the offseason and with it the free agent frenzy, especially for starting pitchers this year. How valuable is an ace starter? C.C. Sabathia and Johan Santana, (not a free agent by the technical definition), proved that owners and GMs consider them to be priceless and will offer contracts of a length and amount which none could ever live up to. A starting pitcher, no matter his talent, plays only once every five games and won-lost records are highly team dependent, not solely a result of a starting pitchers ability. This, of course, can change dramatically if a team reaches the playoffs, (Cliff Lee), but getting there takes twenty five players as the Giants proved during the 2010 World Series. Sometimes a contract is offered to ensure that a division rival is unable to secure the services of a player, subtraction by addition.

Position players are often over valued based on rival players salaries, many who become underproductive. The reasoning for a high salary demand for mediocrity , at least with agents, uses the logic of if a certain player is paid $15 million per season and hit .250, my client who hit .260 must be worth even more money. Many teams seems to hold this underproduction as relevant and are willing to pay for mediocrity or a player who is solid but not franchise saving. Signing a free agent marquee position player makes sense only if you are close to being a legitimate contender or wish to keep that status. A Jayson Werth, Andre Beltre, or Victor Martinez won’t help a failing franchise reach the playoffs. For some franchises it seems to depend on the market and whether you, as an owner or GM want this years’ free agent marquee players as a showpiece to the casual fan or feel that they are the one missing piece. Baseball has long proven that one player seldom puts you over the top-unless that player is the one missing piece on an aging franchise, a player who can also handle the pressure which a big contract often brings. Or maybe a last grasp at the playoff straw.

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Email Doug Bird at d.bird@rogers.com

How Bill Mazeroski Got From Hollywood (the Stars) to Pittsburgh (the Pirates)

I’m pleased to present the latest guest post from Joe Guzzardi, a regular contributor here. Today, Joe looks at how Hall of Fame second baseman Bill Mazeroski got to the majors.

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On Saturday the MLB Network, led by Bob Costas, will be in Pittsburgh to tape a Pirates special that will accompany the December 15 broadcast of Bing Crosby’s recently discovered seventh 1960 World Series game film.

The 1960 Pittsburgh Pirates lovefest continues!

Saturday’s event at Pittsburgh’s Byham Theater is the fourth grand celebration honoring the Buccos. In June at PNC Park, most of the living players brought back for the occasion received an on-the-field standing ovation and a post-game private party. On September 5, the Pirates unveiled a statue of Bill Mazeroski outside PNC. Then, on October 13, the annual Forbes Field gathering took place with the players again flown in.

The 1960 Pirates are synonymous with Mazeroski, the home run hitting, bottom of the ninth inning, seventh game hero.

Mazeroski’s road to Pittsburgh fame began in Hollywood, California. And in the July 11, 1956 Sporting News, a short blurb announced the trade that sent Mazeroski from the Pacific Coast League Stars to the Pirates. The magazine noted:

While Hollywood fans adopted a ‘wait and see’ policy, local press, radio and TV observers generally hailed the Pittsburgh recall of three players and optioning of four Pirates to the Stars as possibly beneficial to both sides. Called up to the Pirates were Hollywood’s three top players—Cholly Naranjo (7-6), southpaw Fred Waters (4-3) and second baseman Bill Mazeroski, brilliant 19-year-old double play maker and the club’s leading hitter at .316

In return the Stars received a sorely needed third baseman Gene Freese plus catcher Danny Kravitz, second baseman Spook Jacobs and southpaw Luis Arroyo.

‘Pittsburgh fans, I’m sure,’ commented Hollywood manager Clay Hopper, ‘will see a polished second baseman who is a master at the double play.’

As a Pirate, Naranjo was a complete bust, 1-2, 4.46 in his only season; Waters, fractionally better with a 2-2, 2.89 ERA over two seasons.

As for those traded to the Stars, they eventually returned to the Pirates. Freese was a moderately useful part time infielder with some power. Sent from the Pirates in 1958 to the St. Louis Cardinals, Freese also played for the Philadelphia Philies, Chicago White Sox, Cincinnati Reds and Houston Astros before retiring with a .254 average and 115 home runs.

Kravitz was a fourth-string catcher behind Smokey Burgess, Hal Smith and Bob Oldis. Although he was a member of the 1960 Pirates National League pennant winning team, he only batted six times and got no hits.

Jacobs’ major league career, such as it was, ended in Pittsburgh where here he hit .162 in 11 games.

Of the four former Stars, only Arroyo achieved real success but not in Pittsburgh (two seasons, 6-14, 4.89). After a detour with the Cincinnati Reds in 1959, Arroyo landed with the New York Yankees. During his four seasons of outstanding relief, Arroyo compiled a 22-10, 3.15 ERA with one All Star Game appearance.

The trade did neither team any immediate good. The 1956 Pirates finished seventh, 22 games back of the Brooklyn Dodgers. The Stars, in its next to the last year of existence, finished a distant fourth behind the Los Angeles Angels, Sacramento Solons and Portland Beavers

Hopper’s prediction about Mazeroski was right on the money, however.  As evidence of the “polish” Hooper referred to Mazeroski, a seven-time All Star, holds baseball’s career record for most double plays turned, 1706.

As for Maz’s historic 1960 home run, it ranks as the all-time high point in Pittsburgh sports’ history and one of the most dramatic moments in baseball.

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Joe Guzzardi belongs to the Society for American Baseball Research, as well as the Internet Baseball Writers Association of America. Email him at guzzjoe@yahoo.com

Buying a box of baseball cards

When I was about seven and used to get a dollar a week for allowance, I remember once saving a few months to buy a box of baseball cards. I had started buying packs of Topps, Donruss, and Fleer maybe a year before, a pack or two at a time from the grocery store or card shop, and the idea of getting a few dozen packs at once enthralled me. I saved with resolve, my nylon wallet increasingly stuffed with ones even during times I wanted to break and buy a pack. It felt like Christmas when I got that box (1991 Fleer), and the last of the packs couldn’t have gone unopened more than a few hours.

That scene repeated itself a few times the rest of my childhood until I grew out of spending my allowance on trading cards. I’m 27 now and haven’t collected since middle school, but last Friday, I got a reminder of the past. I have been working as a delivery driver the past few months, and on my San Jose route last week, I spotted a sign for a baseball card store near one of my stops. Intrigue, plus desire for a quick break, got me in– one simply does not see many pure baseball card stores anymore, since the bottom for the market fell out around the time I hit adolescence. Even my old card shop in Sacramento had to start holding Magic card contests at the shop, the sports cards tucked almost apologetically into a corner of the display cases.

The San Jose shop was pretty barren, and I was somewhat amazed it was still in business and relatively free of Magic, which I never got into. There was a pretty good selection of vintage cards, with the likes of Mantle, Mays, and Koufax available if one was willing to hand over at least $100. I don’t make that kind of money, and I get leery of buying counterfeits. But behind the case of Hall of Famers were a few boxes of cards, including a 36-pack box of 1990 Score for $10, which I bought along with a July 4, 1983 copy of Sports Illustrated with Dale Murphy on the cover.

The nice thing about the card market having collapsed is that I can pay the same price now that I would have paid in second grade. In fact, with inflation, it’s probably cheaper. One might say the cards don’t have any value. That’s true in a literal sense, but I’m reminded of a series of Calvin & Hobbes strips where the family house is burglarized, and a distraught Calvin can’t find Hobbes (who he simply misplaced.) Calvin’s mom tells him Hobbes wouldn’t have any value to thieves, but a tearful Calvin remarks, “I think he has value.”

Back in the car, I opened maybe 10 or 15 packs before going on with my delivery route. I’ve opened most of the remainder, moving at a curiously slower pace than I would have 20 years ago. I’ve been enjoying getting players who were once icons to me: Will Clark, Ken Griffey Jr, Nolan Ryan, so many others. I’m not sure what their value is today, but it was worth ten bucks for the blast from the past. Would if I could, I’d reach back in time, and give the box to the seven-year-old version of me.

Any player/Any era: Jack Clark

What he did: Clark was the best thing going on some abysmal San Francisco Giants teams of the late 1970s and early ’80s, a two-time All Star outfielder who hit 20 home runs five times in San Francisco. I wrote a column last week transporting Joe DiMaggio to this ball club, and a reader commented, “Very interesting. In effect, he becomes kinda, sorta, an upscale Jack Clark, during his Giant tenure but with more sustained consistency and fewer injuries.” Thus, I got to wondering: How good might Clark have been if he’d played during DiMaggio’s time?

Era he might have thrived in: While DiMaggio makes a go of it at Candlestick Park, we’ll plug Clark into all 13 seasons of Joltin’ Joe’s career between 1936 and 1951. Clark’s numbers would almost certainly rise.

Why: I have this idea. As much a legend as DiMaggio was, a part of me thinks he was overrated, that his numbers weren’t that amazing since he was on some supremely talented Yankee teams and played half his career before World War II, a renaissance for hitters. I have this idea that there’s a talented non-Hall of Famer who played in a less-friendly time for hitters and/or on a worse team or in a crappier ballpark who could have made Cooperstown or eclipsed DiMaggio’s numbers if he’d had his career. I call this, “Searching for Joe DiMaggio.”

It’s no simple task, certainly. After running some conversions for Eric Davis, Fred Lynn, and Al Oliver among others, I’ve yet to find an inactive, non-Hall of Famer with the combination of DiMaggio’s batting average, slugging, and staying power, though Clark makes a respectable poor man’s version.

In real life, Clark played 18 seasons from 1975 through 1992. To plug him into DiMaggio’s 13-year career, I started Clark’s career at 1977 and removed his ’84, ’85, and ’86 seasons for World War II service.

Here’s a breakdown of how Clark comes out:

G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA
1936 (77) 129 410 76 116 19 4 15 61 55 69 .283
1937 (78) 148 596 119 205 52 9 29 130 57 68 .344
1938 (79) 136 530 109 166 29 2 30 112 73 90 .313
1939 (80) 121 437 96 139 22 9 25 102 83 49 .318
1940 (81) 143 573 107 167 31 3 28 95 73 65 .291
1941 (82) 149 546 99 157 31 3 28 114 92 87 .288
1942 (83) 128 472 82 130 25 0 20 66 73 75 .275
1946 (87) 125 397 79 113 22 1 33 90 128 132 .285
1947 (88) 143 477 78 120 14 0 27 89 113 134 .252
1948 (89) 143 451 85 123 21 1 29 105 147 138 .273
1949 (90) 109 326 61 93 13 1 26 64 109 87 .285
1950 (91) 133 467 79 124 18 1 28 91 100 126 .266
1951 (92) 77 251 32 58 11 0 6 33 60 83 .231
Total 1684 5933 1102 1711 308 34 324 1152 1163 1203 .288


Under this arrangement, Clark adds 20 points to his batting average and loses 16 home runs in playing five fewer seasons with nearly 1,000 less at-bats. He’s probably still not Hall of Fame-worthy, but the man who received just 2.5 percent of the vote his only year on the Cooperstown ballot probably would at least inspire more debate.

Of course, for these numbers to be legit, one must assume Clark doesn’t have greater health problems playing in an earlier era or that he doesn’t platoon playing his final seasons for Casey Stengel, who liked to use outfielders part-time depending on who was pitching. It’s a testament to DiMaggio that he got as much playing time as he did or put up MVP-caliber numbers after returning from World War II. A long break generally doesn’t favor hitters, but injuries got to DiMaggio more in the later part of his career than rust from his war-time sabbatical.

Still, I’ll keep looking to see if I can find an inactive, non-Hall of Famer like DiMaggio. There has to be someone, and I invite anyone to send their suggestions.

Any player/Any era is a Thursday feature here that looks at how a player might have done in an era besides his own.

Others in this series: Albert PujolsBarry Bonds, Bob CaruthersDom DiMaggioFritz MaiselGeorge CaseHarmon KillebrewHome Run Baker, Jackie Robinson, Jimmy Wynn, Joe DiMaggio, Johnny FrederickJosh HamiltonKen Griffey Jr.Nate ColbertPete Rose, Rickey Henderson, Roberto Clemente, Sam Thompson, Sandy KoufaxShoeless Joe JacksonThe Meusel BrothersTy Cobb