Nostalgia and Happy Thoughts About MLB

I’ve been as guilty as the next guy these past few weeks whining and griping about the money being shelled out for free agents, the leadership of commissioner Bud Selig, the haves getting richer and the have nots getting poorer, and a bunch of not so happy other baseball stuff. M Nor am I normally a nostalgic person but something about the cold weather, the snow, living in a hockey mad country and getting older has given me pause for thought recently. Despite my often quick to criticize attitude, I dearly love the game of baseball.

It began when I was six years old when the only game of the week was every third Saturday and was always the Yankees and always in French. A friend of mine was moving to Germany and he had an extensive collection of baseball cards which he, for reasons best known to him, decided that he would give to me. Those images leapt off the tiny pieces of cardboard, the statistics a foreign language to me. I would remove my baseball cards from their boxes and gaze longingly at the pictures of my heroes and imagine their exploits as only a child could. Baseball magazines were few and far between then, especially during the long offseason, and the local paper, such as it was, were want to cover baseball during the season, let alone the cold winter months.

Baseball was something that seemed to be mine and mine alone and my little insignificant transistor radio was my lifeline to the sounds if not the sights of major league baseball. The World Series was in October then and during the day, making my school days especially impossible to focus as I knew I was missing the games and could only imagine from newspaper accounts what they really looked, felt, sounded and smelled like. I had no idea if what I imagined was anything like the real thing but that was all I had to sustain me. I felt like the kid who loved jazz and didn’t like the rock and roll that all of his friends listened to each night-baseball was my secret almost forbidden pleasure.

Then the most wonderful thing possible happened in 1969, the Montreal Expos came into existence. Montreal was only a two hour drive and my father, God bless his soul, acquiesced a few times a year to my constant pleadings and while he wasn’t a fan and didn’t enjoy the game, would give me bus fare, some money for a bleacher seat, hot dogs and a drink, and send me on my way. My first major league game I was able to see only the centre fielder, (Adolpho Phillips), and the Cubs defeated us 10-9. I have that old tattered scorecard somewhere I think but every play is still in my mind and my first major league hot dog tasted better than anything I have eaten before or since. I wasn’t in heaven; I was in a place well beyond and above.

Each subsequent game saw my arrival at least four hours before the game began, (often the gates weren’t open yet but I always found a sympathetic security guard who would let me in as long as I was quiet. Sometimes I was able to see the players arrive on the team but but I was too much in awe to even think of asking for an autograph. There was so and so in street clothes-it never occurred to me that baseball players wore anything but their uniforms or that they ate or drank like the rest of us mere mortals. They didn’t walk on water it seemed, but put one foot in front of the other as we did.

Many years later I had the opportunity to cover the Triple A Ottawa Lynx for a website in Baltimore and then a website in Philadelphia. After each game it was my “job” to conduct clubhouse interviews and ask pertinent baseball questions to professional baseball players. I would return home after each game looking once again as the game before, “Like a six year old who had been given free reign of the local candy store”. My wife would shake her head but I knew she understood.

The Ottawa Lynx and Montreal Expos are no more and I can manage only a once or twice yearly visit to Syracuse or Pittsburgh. Those visits are more than special to me. Investors and card companies have taken the joy out of collecting of baseball cards but I still have a few boxes in the closet, digging them out on a cold winter’s day to sort them and look at them once again. MLB has come to my rescue for the past three season, allowing me to watch the game(s) of my choice from March 1st until the end of the World Series.

My little transistor radio has long disappeared and I still seldom meet someone to just sit and talk baseball. I think maybe that’s what writing about the love of my life is really all about, a subconscious connection to my baseball past and a chance to keep living that impossible dream.

Johnny Lindell: Pitcher Turned Slugger Turned Pitcher

Growing up during the 1950s in pre-Dodgers Los Angeles and rooting for the old Pacific Coast League Hollywood Stars, my baseball heroes were different from kids in New York, Chicago or St. Louis.
They pulled for the great Gotham center fielders, Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays and Duke Snider, the Cubs’ Ernie Banks or the Cards’
incomparable Stan Musial.

My favorites didn’t leave quite the same lasting impression on baseball historians. Still, at my early age, the Stars’ were good enough for me.

One favorite had an interesting if not spectacular major league career. Johnny Lindell, the Pacific Coast League’s Most Valuable Player in 1952, broke in with the Yankees in 1941 as a 24-year-old, knuckleball specialist. Before his career ended 13 years later, Lindell shifted to the outfield and then back to the mound. In addition to the Yankees, Lindell also played for the Cardinals, the Pirates and the Phillies.

Although Lindell’s pitching career started out promisingly in Newark where in 1941 he posted a 23-4 record for the Bears, Yankee manager Joe McCarthy wasn’t convinced that a knuckleballer could be effective in the bigs.

By 1943, McCarthy switched Lindell to the outfield where he put together back-to-back seasons leading the league in triples and, over the next six years hit .275 or better four times. In 1944, Lindell’s best season, he hit .300 with 18 home runs and 103 RBIs. During the 1947 World Series
against the Brooklyn Dodgers, Lindell was nothing less than spectacular. Starting in six of the seven games in left field, Lindell lead all series regulars by hitting .500

Then, abruptly, Lindell’s bat went cold. By 1950 the Yankees, understandably unimpressed with Lindell’s .190 average shipped him to the Cardinals who promptly sold him to the Stars. Once in Hollywood, Lindell played sparingly in right field and hit .247.

Then Fred Haney, the Stars’ manager, to give Lindell another go on the mound. In two late season
appearances, Haney saw enough to give Lindell’s conversion back to the hill a full chance during the 1951 spring training.

The experiment’s results exceeded Haney’s wildest expectations. Lindell, relying almost exclusively on his knuckleball, posted a 12-9 record and a 3.03 ERA. Haney also used Lindell as a substitute outfielder, first baseman and pinch hitter. The Stars voted Lindell, who hit an impressive .292 and slugged nine home runs, the team’s Most Valuable Player.

During his league MVP year in 1952, the Stars’ won the PCL title by five games over the second place Oakland Oaks. Lindell went 24-9 with a 2.92 ERA and led the league in strike outs with 190.

Although his batting average slipped to .203, Lindell remained such a threat at the plate that Haney occasionally inserted him in the clean up spot in the order even when he was pitching.

Lindell credits his catcher, Mike Sandlock, for his success. Even though official scorers charged Sandlock with 20 passed balls, Lindell was convinced that no one could have done better with his dancing knucklers.
And Sandlock, who averaged an assist a game had an outstanding arm. His .286 average earned him a promotion to the parent Pittsburgh Pirates in 1953 even though he was 38.

Lindell was also called up; Haney resigned to take the Pirates’ helm. Most observers correctly thought that the Stars were a better team than the abysmal 1953 Pirates.

Moving to Pittsburgh was an unhappy experience for all three. Lindell went 5-16 (4.71), although the company he kept did him no favors. Traded to the Phillies in midseason, Lindell went 1-1 before
hanging up his cleats for good. Sandlock hit .231 and was also out of baseball the following year.

Haney stuck it out with the Pirates until 1955. During his three seasons at the Pirates’ helm, the Buccos had a winning percentage of .353 and finished deep in last place each year.

Then, in what must have seemed to him like a miracle from heaven, Milwaukee (Henry Aaron, Eddie Matthews, Warren Spahn, Joe Adcock etc) tapped Haney to pilot the Braves. In Haney’s four seasons, the Braves finished second twice (1956 and
1959), won the National League pennant (1958) and the World Series (1957)

Lindell promptly returned to Southern California’s Newport Beach paradise where he played golf and fished until, at age 68, he died from lung cancer.

Possible Future: Weak Division Winners Will Miss Postseason

[Editor’s note: As a different picture may indicate, we’re trying something new around here. Starting today, regular contributors will have their own pictures. Today’s post is by Gerry Garte, who has been contributing articles every other Friday for the past couple of months.]

The following could be a story from the future.

Major League Baseball approved a policy this week that would require a division winner to finish at least one game over .500 in the regular season to advance to the division playoffs.

Should a division winner hold an 81-81 record or worse, that team would win the division, but would not be eligible to play in the postseason. To fill this vacancy, the league’s next best record would advance to the playoffs with a chance at the pennant.

Motivation for this rule quickly developed toward the end of this past season. Arizona had won in the NL West Division with a losing record of 80-82, while Houston, second in the NL Central Division, ended the season 90-72. Although the Astros were 10 games better than the Diamondbacks, their season was over. The D-Backs eventually lost in division play.

No team in Major League Baseball had ever won its division at .500 (81-81) or lower in a full, 162-game season, going back to when division play was established in 1969.

From 1969-93, each league was split into two divisions. The worst record by a division winner in a full season belonged to the 1973 Mets, who finished 82-79 (.509), not needing to make-up the final game.

After the leagues split into three divisions in 1994, the closest any division winner had previously come to a .500 record was the 2005 San Diego Padres, who finished 82-80 (.506).  The ’05 Padres’ season was my inspiration for this scenario.

As the past season ended, a mild uproar grew within the baseball community that an injustice had been done to the Astros. The D-backs understood. Many fervent fans and retired players supported a policy change.  It was well-covered by the media.  Union concerns in the matter were few and minor.

Many baseball people, including Hall of Famers, favored a winning record to a weak division winner. Their message was clear: only a winning record deserves a spot in the postseason.

Major League Baseball and its president, George Bailey, got the message.  The MLB rules committee of long-time baseball people offered their conclusion, as did and a separate executive panel. Eventually, it was determined that success would by measured only above the .500 standard. Mr. Bailey concurred, saying no one wanted a repeat of last season. The new policy is effective Jan 1.

Although a division winner with a .500 record or worse may not come along again for another 50 years, in the end, it appears that baseball set aside division history to embrace a higher standard.

We can dream.

Any player/Any era: Bob Feller

What he did: Feller, who died Wednesday at 92, won 266 games in a Hall of Fame career that spanned 18 seasons. I count him, along with Lefty Grove and Carl Hubbell, as one of the few great pitchers from the 1930s. More impressive, Feller missed nearly four full seasons in the middle of his career serving in World War II (and unlike many ballplayers who rode out the war playing on USO-organized teams, Feller saw combat.) After the war ended, he returned in peak form, winning 20 games his first two full seasons back in the majors. Impressive as all this was, in a different era, I think Feller may have won 300 games.

Era he might have thrived in: I’ve heard Feller might have benefited from the extended hiatus mid-career, that as a young flame thrower who won 107 games by age 23, he could have burnt out early had he played through the war. Therefore, I’m declining to place Feller in the Pitcher’s Golden Age of the 1960s, since Sandy Koufax flamed out throwing the 300-plus innings a year required then. Instead, as I wrote for Koufax, I’m putting Feller in a supportive atmosphere where he might be nurtured as a young hurler. He’s joining Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, and John Smoltz on the Atlanta Braves of the early ’90s. This way, Feller gets his 300.

Why: There are two major reasons Feller would thrive, namely that he’d get his four seasons lost to World War II back, and he’d probably play at least a few more seasons at the end of his career. Maddux, Glavine, and Smoltz all played into their 40s after spending their prime years with the Braves. I’m guessing Feller would follow suit, or at least last somewhere beyond age 37 as he did in real life. In fact, Feller was effectively done at 35, winning just four games his final two seasons. I don’t see that happening here. Getting to play a 162-game schedule instead of the 154 games he played during his career wouldn’t hurt his numbers either.

There’s no telling what World War II took away from Feller’s numbers, though considering that he won 20 games the three seasons before and 20 his first two full years after (with five wins tacked on at the end of 1945) he may have missed out on 80-100 wins easily. Sure, he may have blown out his arm sooner with no break, but if he didn’t, he might have had 350 wins. And Feller played his first six seasons before this in an era that strongly favored hitters. Just imagine what he’d do in a league and time where pitchers had the advantage.

Of course, in a more recent era, there’s no way Feller would have started in the majors at 17, as he did in 1936. Nobody wants the next David Clyde. My idea is that Feller signs out of high school, spends a few years in the minors (get this: in real life, he never played a day there) and then breaks in at 22, playing 20 or so years. Barring injury, I don’t see any way he falls short of 300 wins or 3,000 strikeouts.

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 Pujols, Bad News Rockies, Barry Bonds, Bob CaruthersDom DiMaggio, Frank Howard, Fritz 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 Jackson, Stan Musial, The Meusel BrothersTy Cobb, Willie Mays

Baseball in Minnesota: The Millers versus the Saints

I’m pleased to offer the latest article from regular contributor Joe Guzzardi, which offers a look at former minor league baseball club, the Minneapolis Millers.


The 2010 Minnesota Twins came and went from the playoffs so quickly that I didn’t have an opportunity to fit in the blog I wanted to post about its predecessor, the Minneapolis Millers.

The Millers were the minor-league team that played before the Washington Senators moved its franchise to Minneapolis in 1961 as part of baseball’s first expansion. Originally (1884) the Millers played in the Northwestern League which had teams in Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois, Indiana as well as Minnesota.

In 1902, the Millers became part of the new American Association. Then in 1915 when the neighboring St. Paul Saints also joined the American Association, the Millers and Saints’ legacy began.

Over the 59 years the Millers played in the Association, they compiled the best won-lost record of all the teams in the league. The second-best record over that span belonged to the St. Paul Saints who, in 1920, posted a 115-49 (.701) record. The Saints finished first in the American Association nine times and won the Little World Series in 1924.

Only seven miles separated the Millers’ Nicollet Park from the Saints’ Lexington Park which helped fuel the great rivalry between the teams.

Season high points were the holiday doubleheaders that featured morning-afternoon games with one in each park. These were known as “street car” doubleheaders since the fans would take a trolley across the river to watch the second game.

Throughout its history, the Millers had many great stars.

Seventeen members of the Hall of Fame– 15 players, one coach and one manager– passed through Minneapolis. They are: Roger Bresnahan (1898-99), Jimmy Collins (Player-manager 1909), Rube Waddell (1911-13), Urban (Red) Faber (1911), Bill McKechnie (1921), Zack Wheat (1928),George Kelly (1930-31), Ted Williams (1938), Billy Herman (Player-manager 1948), Ray Dandridge (1949-52), Hoyt Wilhelm (1950-51), Willie Mays (1951), Monte Irvin (1955), Orlando Cepeda (1957), Carl Yastrzemski (1959-60), Dave Bancroft (Manager 1933) and Jimmie Foxx (Coach 1958).

For the Saints, Charlie Hall pitched 16 straight wins in 1915 while he was backed at the plate and in the field by third baseman Chuck Dressen; Lefty Gomez, Ben Chapman, Everett Scott, Elmer Miller and Dusty Cooke all became New York Yankees while Duke Snider, Roy Campanella, Ralph Branca and Larry Sherry were all groomed for the Brooklyn Dodgers.

Both the Millers and Saints folded when the Twins came to Minneapolis. But in 1993 a reincarnated Saints team started play and has, despite its proximity to the Twins, fared well. Much of its success is attributed to Mike Veeck, son of Bill, and his colorful promotions.

The most well-known promotion featured a bobblehead doll known as Count von Recount that portrayed Minnesota Senate challenger Al Franken on one side and incumbent Norm Coleman on the other. Fans were asked to spin their dolls so that their preferred candidate would be facing an attorney who would tabulate their votes. Veeck was poking fun at the extended 2008 recount between Franken and Coleman.

My Minnesota friends who have seen the Chicago Cubs play the St. Louis Cardinals and the New York Yankees go against the Boston Red Sox say nothing topped the excitement generated when the Millers faced the Saints.

As they recalled it for me, anything could and most often did happen including fights that pitted player versus player, player versus fan, and fan versus fan. In one account, Millers’ manager Gene Mauch climbed into the stands in St. Paul to confront a fan whose remarks were “a bit too personal.”

Of course, the rivalry’s is easily explained. For more than a decade in the 1940s and 1950s, the Saints and Millers were the top farm clubs of the Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Giants, respectively.


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

Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? George Van Haltren

Claim to fame: Van Haltren hit .316 with 2,544 hits, 1.642 runs, and 583 steals in a career that spanned 1887 to 1903. Like other early greats, Van Haltren also pitched, going 40-31 with a 4.05 ERA, and he was unsurprisingly also known for his strong arm as an outfielder. I don’t know if Van Haltren’s been a serious candidate for Cooperstown since a campaign was waged for him in the early days of the museum, though his candidate page for the Hall of Merit lists him as one of the three best center fielders of the 1890s.

Current Hall of Fame eligibility: Under revised Veterans Committee rules that took effect in July, Van Haltren can be considered for enshrinement as a member of the Pre-Integration Era, for players who made their mark between 1871 and 1946. The committee will hold its next vote in two years, with inductions occurring in the summer of 2013.

Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? Personally, I’m partial to Van Haltren, partial enough that he was one of my picks in a ballot I cast for a recent project here, The 50 best players not in the Hall of Fame. Van Haltren received 10 votes, out of 63 ballots cast, tying him for 89th place with Jose Canseco, Charlie Keller, and Carl Mays among others, a disparate group, kind of the Gilligan’s Island of our results page.

We wound up with just one 19th century player in the top 50, shortstop Bill Dahlen, and I’m not sure if this bothers me, since I think the skill level was lower in baseball before 1900. Nevertheless, I voted for six players who had at least one season in the 1800s: Dahlen, Van Haltren, Pete Browning, Bobby Mathews, Deacon Phillippe, and Deacon White. I mostly went with names I knew, though Van Haltren seems to offer the complete package for a non-enshrined, 19th century great. I like his stats, the fact he pitched and hit, and his involvement in the Players League of 1890, an early, failed attempt by players to organize their own circuit.

In putting this post together, I emailed the other people who voted for Van Haltren, curious to hear their reasons. They told me a lot of what’s been said here. One voter pointed out that Van Haltren favorably compared to enshrined contemporaries Joe Kelley, Jim O’Rourke, and Fred Clarke. Joe Williams, chair of the chair of the Overlooked 19th Century Baseball Legends Project, Nineteenth Century Committee, for the Society for American Baseball Research, also sent me a newsletter on greats from the 1800s that I’d be happy to forward to anyone interested.

I’d heard before that Van Haltren was very similar to Jimmy Ryan, who played roughly the same years, also hit for good average, stole a lot of bases and had an OPS+ rating in the 120 range. I emailed Total Baseball author John Thorn, an expert on baseball before the modern era. I asked Thorn to help me differentiate between Van Haltren and Ryan and if he thought they belonged in Cooperstown.

Thorn replied:

Van Haltren and Ryan were both very good if not great ballplayers. A case can be made that either or both belong in the Hall of Fame. All the same, I believe that nineteenth century players– apart from perhaps Jim Creighton and Deacon White– are adequately represented in Cooperstown. The great area of neglect is in the pioneer group, as modern research has revealed several individuals to be of far greater importance to the development of the game than some who were mistakenly identified as primal figures– (Alexander) Cartwright principally, but also (Morgan) Bulkeley.

Whatever the case, I doubt my voters and I are the only people who may have overlooked early baseball greats.

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, Roberto Alomar, Rocky Colavito, Ron Guidry, Steve Garvey, Ted Simmons, Thurman MunsonTim Raines, Will Clark

Remembering Art Mahan


On paper, Art Mahan had a bad year in 1940. In his only season playing Major League Baseball, Mahan hit .244 with two home runs, 39 runs batted in, and an OPS+ of 73, abysmal numbers for a starting first baseman. His team, the Philadelphia Phillies, stocked with end-of-the-road veterans and players who would be minor leaguers for better clubs finished 50-103, 50 games out of first place. When it was over, Mahan would be sent back to the minors in Little Rock, Arkansas, never again to approach the majors. But 1940 was a good year for Mahan.

I interviewed Mahan in February for a book I’m researching on another Phillie from 1940, Joe Marty. At the time of our interview, Mahan was 96 and one of three living teammates of Marty, who played for the Chicago Cubs and the Phillies from 1937 to 1941. For an enchanting, somewhat surreal two hours, I spoke by phone with Mahan and his son Ed. It has to be one of my all-time favorite interviews, and I know it’s one I’m grateful I got. Mahan died last Tuesday at 97 of congestive heart failure at his daughter’s home in Rydal, Pennsylvania.

Mahan spent most of his life and his final years surrounded by what he got out of 1940: family. He met his wife Helen that year, a month into his big league career on a blind date arranged by a friend from Villanova, where he graduated from in 1936. Mahan and his wife had nine children and were married 54 years until her death in 1996. It helped the Somerville, Massachusetts native not regret missing his chance to play for the Boston Red Sox.

“Growing up in Somerville, which is just practically right outside the ballpark everybody wanted to be a Red Sox,” Mahan told me during our interview. “And so… I wanted to be a good ballplayer and play for the Red Sox. Unfortunately for me, just before I got out of college the Red Sox signed Jimmie Foxx. And there was probably at that time, no better hitter than Jimmie Foxx. And I’ll always say personally, if I had signed with the Red Sox, I would have never have met or married my wife and had the children.”

There were other benefits Mahan got from being a Phillie. His son Ed explained that as his dad was young and single in 1940, he sent much of his $6,000 salary back to his family, helping his brothers make down payments on their houses. He got to play with his best friend and roommate from the minors, Bobby Bragan. Mahan also played with Wally Berger and future Hall of Fame outfielder Chuck Klein.

“Chuck Klein, when I was going to high school and everything else, he was a great hitter,” Mahan told me. “And then when I was in high school also, a new rookie came up to the Boston Braves, Wally Berger, and then of course, years later, I just couldn’t believe that I’m sitting in the same dang dugout with Wally Berger and Chuck Klein. I’ll never forget that, and I still treasure it today.”

After spending 1941 in the minors, Mahan enlisted in the Naval Air at the outset of World War II. He didn’t see combat, spending most of the war as a physical fitness instructor in Rhode Island. After the war ended, 32-year-old Mahan became player-manager of a semi-pro club in Providence for the 1946 season. Thereafter, he moved his family back to Philadelphia, took a job as the baseball coach at Villanova in 1950, and was made athletic director in 1960. He worked in the latter position until his retirement in 1978.

I asked Mahan if he looked back fondly on his big league career.

“I loved playing,” Mahan said. “Even though it was one year, I loved every second of it.”

Still The Haves vs. The Have Nots In MLB

Here’s the latest article from Doug Bird, a Sunday contributor here.


The unsuccessful teams get the high draft picks, stock the farm system, and if they have chosen wisely (and with a bit of luck) eventually improve. This happened with the Atlanta Braves in the 1990s, the Oakland A’s, and more recently, the Tampa Bay Rays. But this success doesn’t always last as the draft picks become stars and often leave for greener pastures. The Bud Selig claims of parody is continuing to be nothing more than a bad pun. I contend that this is really the old smoke and mirrors and that any accountant worth his salt can make two plus two equal five.

Yes it’s true there are fewer and fewer repeat Major League Baseball champions, something which Selig claims is a true indicator of a level playing field and hope for fans irrespective of which team they are cheering for– almost every team since the implementation of the luxury tax has a legitimate chance at World Series glory.  Based on the last few seasons, and especially the 2010 season, who can really argue with him? But, two plus two always equals four, and everything comes out in the wash eventually.

The Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez pickups by the Boston Red Sox are the poster boy, double edged sword proof that, once again, all is not well in baseball and no one seems willing or able to come up with a formula which might finally make things right. Teams such as Boston  simply throw money at the problem. To be fair, Boston has a farm system filled with young minor league players who are attractive to teams like San Diego whose owners are unwilling to pay exorbitant prices to retain a franchise player. Paying such a high salary in order to keep him on the home team wouldn’t really get these small market clubs to the promised land anyway the logic being: If we can’t win with him, why keep him? But such a situation should not be a necessity of conducting business. Even paying fare wages does not allow these teams to compete with the Red Sox and Yankees.

Teams such as Tampa Bay are losing players as though they are conducting a giant fire sale, players who they groomed and nurtured through their formative years.  Teams such as Tampa Bay cannot afford to make mistakes with their draft picks, yet the success of said draft picks is only fleeting at best. Teams such as Tampa Bay sign players knowing that they have a very narrow window of opportunity for success and with success the risk of losing such players only increases. Success becomes unsustainable for these franchises as players who have enjoyed and been a vital part of winning teams usually bolt for greener money pastures.

Teams such as Boston or New York can afford such player defections because there are always those out on the open market who are nothing more than hired guns whose loyalty is only to the almighty dollar. These teams can simply up the ante as the situation dictates with little or no worry about the consequences and can simply outbid anyone else. Teams such as Boston or New York are also not bound by any rules other than the almighty dollar, a change in the rules which might level the playing field on international drafting. If they lose a valuable prospect, they have the means to simply go out and buy another.

I’m not knocking their organizations nor singling them out as both teams have impressive farm systems. Fixing the problem, however, shouldn’t be merely a matter of how much money you can throw at it to make it go away. Upping the ante merely at your discretion shouldn’t be the way to do business in a supposedly competitive field.


Email Doug Bird at

Why I’d Vote “No” on Bert Blyleven

Here’s the latest article from regular contributor Joe Guzzardi. One thing I like about Joe is that he is unafraid to take on unpopular ideas. We’re kind of kindred spirits in that regard. Here’s an idea that may have been accepted truth 10 years ago but places Joe in a distinct minority now.


Bert Blyleven just finished first on this Web site’s list of the 50 Best Players Not in the Hall of Fame. The 287-game winner is the favorite among baseball writers to be enshrined in 2011. Blyleven is even his own personal choice. A few years ago, he established a Web site to sell autographs but, more importantly, to lay out his case for Cooperstown.

Blyleven has steadily gained support in his 13 years on the Hall of Fame ballot for the Baseball Writers Association of America ballot, starting out at less than 20 percent of the vote his first three years, then improving almost annually, rising to a peak of 74.2 percent last year.

But if I were a BBWAA member, I wouldn’t vote for Blyleven. Here’s why. In his 22-year career, Blyleven finished with an under .500 record five times; .500 twice and one game over .500 three times. Sorry, spending roughly half a career without a winning record doesn’t cut it for me.

Another thing: Blyleven never finished higher than third on the Cy Young Award ballot and in 18 of his 22 seasons never ended among the top candidates. How can a pitcher who at no time in his nearly quarter of a century long career was never deemed to be the best pitcher in baseball for a single year be included among the best of all-time? My answer: He can’t.

The Hall of Fame simply cannot have pitchers as disparate in their talent as Tom Seaver and Blyleven as part of the same institution. I compare it to establishing a Millionaire’s Club, then giving membership to someone who only has $500,000.

I can hear the excuses now. Blyleven pitched on lousy teams, had terrible run support, and was injured, blah, blah, blah. Or Blyleven’s strike outs (3,701) and shutouts (60) rank fifth and ninth all-time. That’s impressive—just not impressive enough when included in his total body of work.

The other argument that always comes up in defense of marginal candidates: If so and so is in, then this guy has to be in, too.

Again, I’m apologizing. I evaluate each candidate against my own standards. If ESPN’s Buster Olney chooses to elect Blyleven or, frighteningly, Barry Bonds as he has promised to do that’s his business. You wouldn’t catch me doing it, though.

Would I want Blyleven in my starting rotation? Yes, I would. Is Blyleven a good guy? Yes, he is. His Web site also promotes finding a cure for Parkinson’s Disease and he’s an affable Minnesota Twins’ announcer. Is Blyleven Hall material? No, he’s not.

When it comes to the Hall of Fame, I’m an avowed, unapologetic restrictionist. In July, I proposed on this site that Cooperstown should permanently cap membership at 300 players, removing lesser enshrined players each year as new, better ones become eligible. Click here to see my presentation of this idea to the Forbes Field Chapter of the Society for American Baseball Research.


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

Hall of Fame project follow-up

It’s been an incredible week around here. For anyone just happening by, on Monday evening, I posted a voter-determined list of the 50 best baseball players not in the Hall of Fame. Since then, and Baseball Think Factory have linked to the story, and I’ve been deluged with comments and emails. I’m stoked to see the project having such an impact, and I want to thank everyone who voted and everyone who’s had a kind word to say.

I want to do a brief follow-up to address some questions that have arisen since publication. After that, I’ll offer a brief look at where I see this thing going in 2011. As mentioned before, there will definitely be another one of these projects.

First, the questions:

Why aren’t there any old-timers here? A few people have commented about the near total absence of 19th century ballplayers, save for Bill Dahlen. Pete Browning was involved in a four-way tie for 49th place with Dave Concepcion, David Cone, and Billy Pierce, though Concepcion and Cone won out in a run-off. I have mixed feelings. While I was bummed to see Browning fall, he was one of the few pre-1900 ballplayers I had on my personal ballot save for Dahlen, Bobby Mathews, Deacon Phillippe, George Van Haltren, and Deacon White. I simply didn’t think the skill level was as high back then. I also think a lot of us voted based on our personal biases, on the players we’d seen and the ones closest to our hearts. I don’t think that’s egregious for a Hall of Fame-related vote.

Why wasn’t there a ranking system? It would have complicated an already intense project. Originally, I was going to ask for 100 players, but I cut it down to 50, partly because I needed votes in under two weeks, and I felt 100 was asking too much. I also thought it was too much to ask people to determine rankings. I’d also say that a ranking system creates inequity, since a 50-point vote, say for first place, could counteract a ton of lower scores. I like all votes counting equally.

Players not on the ballot: The list of notables now stands at Eric Davis, Bob Johnson, Darryl Kile, Kevin Mitchell, Camilo Pascual, Vic Power, Double Duty Radcliffe, and J.R. Richard, plus all the write-in players. I invite anyone to tell me who else I missed.

Where do we go from here? I think this was an awesome debut for this project, but clearly, there’s plenty to improve on. First off, I plan to start the 2011 voting a lot sooner. I have this crazy idea to kick things off at the upcoming Society for American Baseball Research convention, in Los Angeles next July and stump for votes all weekend. We’ll still shoot for a December results post, but my idea is to allow more time for a stronger return rate on ballots and to get more people voting. The more people that vote, the fewer the ties, the better the rankings. Also, I’d like to get former players voting. If anyone has ideas on how to go about this, I’m game.

Thanks again to everyone who participated!