Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? Jose Canseco

Claim to Fame: Not long ago, Jose Canseco, a Major League outfielder for 17 seasons, was suspended from the independent AAA Mexican League for refusing a drug test, the latest in a sequence of wacky exploits of a controversial ex-superstar whom no one respects but by whom everyone is intrigued.

Since his last at-bat in Major League Baseball in 2001, Canseco has written two tell-all books, one a New York Times best-seller and the other barely successful enough for a Wikipedia page. He has appeared in reality television next to everyone from Donald Trump to Jenna Jameson. He has fought several E-list celebrities and sent his brother to fight another for him. And he has toiled in baseball’s independent leagues, hitting, pitching and even managing for teams like the San Diego Surf Dawgs, Long Beach Armada, Laredo Broncos, and Yuma Scorpions.

But before all that Canseco was a pretty good major leaguer, a six-time all-star and American League MVP in 1988, when he became the first player in MLB history to hit 40 home runs and steal 40 bases. His posted a career OPS+ of 132 and belted 462 career long balls, twice leading the league in dingers. That his totals were admittedly chemically-enhanced diminishes their luster, but Canseco’s accomplishments on the diamond should not be overlooked.

Current Hall of Fame eligibility: Canseco received six votes on the 2006 BBWAA Hall of Fame ballot, good for 1.1 percent and below the 5 percent threshold necessary to remain on the ballot. With superior players like Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro punished by voters for steroid use, it was no surprise that the already marginally-qualified Canseco, who has pronounced himself “godfather of steroids,” fell off the ballot immediately. He will one day be eligible on the Veterans Committee ballot, but given his lack of popularity in all baseball circles, shouldn’t be holding his breath for induction.

Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? Well, no he doesn’t, but statistically it’s closer than you might think.

In fact, Bill James’s Hall of Fame Monitor has him slightly above the level of a likely Hall of Famer, and his career WAR of 41.7 is better than a cast of Cooperstown inductees, two tenths of a win ahead of Jim Rice. Canseco also leads Rice in home runs, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, and OPS+, which accounts for the offensive climate in which Canseco played. Considering Canseco’s base-stealing ability and the fact that neither he nor Rice was known for defense, a statistical argument can easily be made that the Bash Brother was a better player than the Red Sox outfielder.

This example does more to reinforce the absurdity of Jim Rice’s Hall of Fame candidacy than to add credence to Canseco’s, but the fact that Canseco has better career numbers across the board than someone inducted only a few years ago at a similar position at least demonstrates that, if not for the steroid baggage, Canseco’s resume is not too far from Cooperstown-worthy. Canseco may be amusing off the field, but between the white lines he was nothing to laugh at.

Well, except for when that ball hit off his head and bounced over the fence for a home run. That was worth laughing at.

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

Others in this series: Adrian BeltreAl OliverAlan TrammellAlbert BelleAlbert PujolsAllie ReynoldsBarry BondsBarry LarkinBert BlylevenBill KingBilly MartinBobby GrichCecil TravisChipper JonesClosersCraig BiggioCurt FloodDan QuisenberryDarrell EvansDave ParkerDick AllenDon Mattingly,Don Newcombe,Dwight EvansGeorge SteinbrennerGeorge Van HaltrenGus GreenleeHarold BainesHarry DaltonJack MorrisJeff BagwellJim EdmondsJoe CarterJoe PosnanskiJohn SmoltzJuan GonzalezKeith HernandezKen CaminitiKevin BrownLarry WalkerManny RamirezMaury WillsMel HarderMoises AlouPete Browning,Phil CavarrettaRafael PalmeiroRoberto AlomarRocky Colavito,Roger MarisRon CeyRon GuidryRon Santo, Sammy SosaSmoky Joe WoodSteve Garvey,Ted SimmonsThurman MunsonTim RainesTony OlivaVince ColemanWill Clark

Joe Pate, His Brief Major League Career and the “Raw Raw”

During minor league’s heyday from 1920 to 1940, dozens of leagues and hundred of teams played baseball in every corner of the nation. Local kids made up many teams’ rosters. And some players, even talented ones, had little interest in moving up to the Major Leagues.

To many, especially those from rural areas, big city life had no appeal. Others didn’t want to part from their families and sweethearts. Some had to stay close by to help with the farm chores or earn extra cash from their part-time jobs.

For pitcher Joe Pate, it was all of those reasons and one more. Pate couldn’t throw his renown spit ball in the majors, at least not legally.

Pate, relying almost exclusively on his spitter, dominated the Texas League for eleven years.

Starting in 1920 while pitching for the Ft. Worth cats, Pate won 20 or more games three times and thirty games twice. But Pate consistently refused to go to the Philadelphia Athletics, the Cats’ parent team. Despite multiple pleas from Connie Mack, Pate wanted no part of it. Not only did the Texas native prefer to stay near to his ranch and rodeo hobby but the early A’s were a sad lot.

Beginning in 1915 and through 1921, the A’s posted records of 43-109, 36-117, 55-98, 52-76, 36-104, 48-106 and 53-100.

Finally, in 1926 as the revitalized A’s battled for an American League championship, Pate agreed to a promotion.

Pate’s career was short—two years—but possibly one of the most curious in baseball history. In 1926, Pate appeared in 47 games, posted a 9-0 record with six saves and a 2.71 ERA. The left hander helped keep Philadelphia in the pennant race for much of the summer although the A’s ended up in third place behind the New York Yankees and the Cleveland Indians.

The following year, Pate was finished. His record dropped to 0-3 with a 5.20 ERA. Pate returned to Ft. Worth where he pitched well before retiring to become an umpire.

Whether Pate threw the spitter during his successful 1926 season remained unclear. According to Ira Thomas, a catcher, said

“Pate didn’t need a spitter. I doubt if he threw three spitters in a game.”

Thomas and other of Pate’s contemporaries say that Pate’s “out” pitch was the “raw raw,” the term used in the day to describe a knuckleball.

Great players who became managers

The germ of this project was seeded a long time ago, probably around the time I read Earl Weaver’s book on managerial strategy for the second time. While I was continually struck by his outlining of basic sabermetric principles, I was also struck by his experience (or lake thereof) playing baseball.

In my mind, at that time, poor players and journeymen made the best managers. I couldn’t really remember many greats who also managed (aside from Frank Robinson, Ted Williams and Pete Rose) and those I could remember didn’t strike me as particularly good skippers.

However, I had no idea if this was true. I then stumbled upon a Branch Rickey baseball card and learned that he was also a failed player, yet went on to great success.

So, I first took a very anecdotal glance for Baseball Past and Present at the best managers of the game and their playing careers. I wasn’t satisfied that my analysis really got me anywhere besides some interesting information.

Since then, I’ve combed Baseball Reference and put together a spreadsheet that matches all 674 players who have managed a game in the majors with their playing careers. My first analysis of that data is below and focuses on players who earned at least 50 WAR and became managers for at least a short time. I was hoping to confirm one of my theses: that the majority of great players who became managers did so in baseball’s infancy (largely because of the player-manager and because modern players play longer).

100 WAR Players Turned Managers (PTMs)

Record: 4,763-4,842
Average Number of Years Managed: 6.2
Number of 100 WAR PTMs: 12

Twelve players who earned over 100 Baseball Reference WAR in their playing careers became managers. Of those 12, only Ted Williams and Frank Robinson began their careers after 1927. Mel Ott is the only other 100 WAR player turned manager who started his career after 1915. In fact, eight of the 12 had careers that started in 1907 or before.

In addition, 10 of these 12 players were, at one point in time, a player manager. Only Ted Williams and Walter Johnson saw their playing and managerial careers not overlap.

When looking at their managerial careers, Cy Young and Honus Wagner managed just 11 games combined (they went 4 – 7), Kid Nichols managed 169 games and Eddie Collins only helmed a team for 336 games. The rest managed for at least four seasons, with Frank Robinson (16 years) and Rogers Hornsby (14 years) managing the longest.

Tris Speaker rates out as likely the best manager. His .543 winning percentage is the second highest and he is one of two to win a play-off series/pennant/World Series (Hornsby was the other). Walter Johnson and Nap Lajoie have the highest winning percentage of the group at .550, but never reached the post-season. They are followed by Speaker and Ty Cobb (.519), discounting Collins (.521) for lack of experience.

In all, the 100+ WAR players turned managers are slightly below .500, being hurt demonstrably by the longest tenured of the group, Hornsby and Robinson, who combined for 1,988 loses.

 

90 WAR Players Turned Managers


Record: 1,551-1,247
Average Number of Years Managed: 9 (however 21 came from one Manager)
Number of 90-99.9 WAR PTMs: 3

Keeping with the trend, both Cap Anson and George Davis were player-managers who began their careers in baseball’s infancy.

Outside of Anson (.578 winning percentage and five pennants), Mathews and Davis were not particularly adept managers. They managed for three seasons apiece and, combined, went 256-300. That said, adding Anson’s sterling managerial record to the 100 WAR group brings the total 90+ WAR PTMs record to 6,314-6,089. A far cry from the below .500 work of just the 100+ crew.

 

80 WAR Players Turned Managers

Player (bRef page) WAR
Christy Mathewson HOF as player

87.7

Roger Connor HOF as player

87.2

 

Record: 172-213
Average Number of Years Managed: 2
Number of 80 WAR PTMs: 2

When we stretch to 80+ PTMs, we add two names: Christy Mathewson and Roger Connor. Both were player-managers who played during the turn of the century and managed quite poorly. Connor only managed for part of one season: his team went 8-37. Mathewson managed for three years and posted a .482 winning percentage. However, that was good enough for the eighth best winning percentage among 80+ WAR PTMs.

Adding Mathewson and Connor to the mix don’t move the needle much: the record of Hall of Fame players turned managers with 80+ WAR is 6,486-6,302.

70 WAR Players Turned Managers

Record: 3,426-3,036
Average Number of Years Managed: 7.8
Number of 70 WAR PTMs: 6

This group adds the first player who started his career after 1960 and became a manager (Pete Rose). Rose, like the five others in this cohort, was a player-manager at one point during their playing career. Another similarity to their higher WAR brethren: four started their careers before 1895 and Frankie Frisch started his career in 1919.

Fred Clarke is the managerial star of this group and the only player, so far, who can challenge Anson for managerial supremacy. His .576 winning percentage spread over 19 seasons resulted in four pennants and one World Series.

That said, the group is pretty evenly split: Clarke, Rose and Frisch had .500+ winning percentages, while the other three (Bill Dahlen, Bob Caruthers and Pud Galvin) had sub .500 winning percentages. Caruthers and Galvin didn’t get any run as managers, going 23-59 combined. As a group, though, the 70 WAR PTMs are nearly 400 games above .500 and raise the stellar players turned manager’s record to 9,912-9,338.

60 WAR Players Turned Managers

Record: 2,873-3,056
Average Number of Years Managed: 5.6
Number of 60 WAR PTMs: 8

Thanks to Alan Trammell, Buddy Bell and Willie Randolph, we have added three more players to the list who started their careers after 1960, were worth at least 60 WAR and became managers. There are now four such players with Frank Robinson (began his career in 1956) just missing the cut. However they are a distinct minority. Of the 31 managers with at least 60 WAR, just seven began their playing careers after 1940. In fact, 13 began their careers before 1900; 20 began their careers before 1920; and 24 players began their careers before 1940.

Of the eight 60 WAR PTMs, just three were player managers and more began their careers after 1970 than before 1900. However, as a whole, this group didn’t make particularly good managers. They combined to go below .500, with only Buddy Bell, Yogi Berra and Joe Cronin having significant managerial careers. Collectively, they have just four pennants and five play-off appearances between them with no World Series victories.

50 WAR Players Turned Managers

Record: 8,215-7,859
Average Number of Years Managed: 4.9
Number of 50 WAR PTMs: 25

Expanding the pool to 50+s adds 25 players turned managers, 17 of whom were player-managers. Oddly, only Tony Perez and Joe Torre started their careers during or after 1960, while eight began their careers before 1900 and 11 began their careers between 1903 and 1932.

Torre stands out in this group, winning as many World Series as the others combined; however he does have just the sixth best winning percentage.

Lou Boudreau really holds the group back. While he managed for 16 seasons, the second most of the group behind Torre, his winning percentage was just .487 and he had only one play-off appearance (of course he did win the World Series).

Carried mostly by Torre, this group has an impressive win total, but an incredibly short average tenure.

Summation

It does appear that great players who became managers skewed mightily toward the early parts of baseball. In fact, 46 of the 56 players with at least 50 WAR who became managers began their careers before 1940. Not surprisingly, as these were some of the best players of their time, a large portion also served as player-managers.

Of the 57 players with 50+ WAR who became managers:

  • 21 began their careers before 1900;
  • 11 began their careers between 1901-1920;
  • 14 began their careers between 1922-1940;
  • Four began their careers between 1945-1959; and
  • Six began their careers between 1960-1977.


In addition:

  • 40 were player-managers
  • 12 managed for just one season
  • Five managed for two seasons
  • 11 managed for three seasons
  • 10 managed for five or six seasons; and
  • Eighth managed for 14 or more seasons.

My favorite baseball photo

This is my favorite baseball photo. My friend Devin is on the left, I’m on the right, and that’s a cutout of Kevin Mitchell behind us. We’re at a game at Candlestick Park for our favorite team, the San Francisco Giants, sometime around the summer of 1990. I must be about seven. There’s a great story behind how this photo came to be.

* * *

I was born in Los Angeles in 1983. My mom’s from Northern California, my natural father’s lived most of his life in London, and when I was a few months old, we moved there. My natural father didn’t treat my mom well, and in September of 1985, she had enough. Telling him one day that she was taking me out to shop for fall clothes, she and I got on a plane instead and returned to California. My memories start a few months later in the living room of my grandparents’ house where we wound up. I remember my mom on the phone with my natural father. I remember wondering why I couldn’t talk to him. I remember the feeling of absence that lingered long after I had new family and friends. It would be 20 years before I saw him again.

Some people bounce from one sick relationship to another. My mom had been 20 when she met my natural father less than a year after dropping out of college to become a stewardess, being swept off her feet by a man at turns charming, manic, and self-destructive. My natural father may be the most enigmatic person I know, and I’ve spent much of my life trying to understand him. It’s one of the reasons I write. But my mom knew enough by her mid-20s to know she needed something different. She got back in college after we returned to California and fell in love with one of her professors, a kind, decent, and steady person. They’ve been married 25 years now.

My mom and dad bought a house on a quiet street in Sacramento a few months before their wedding. I met Devin a year or two later. He was a couple months older than me and lived around the corner with his mom, Nancy and his sister, Kenna. Devin quickly became my best friend, and in my family’s photo albums, we’re climbing trees, visiting amusement parks, and, in one of my favorite pictures, walking around his front yard in a cardboard box. I owe something to Devin and his mom, too.

* * *

When I think about who got me into baseball, I generally credit three people. There’s my grandfather who gave me a 500-page book of baseball history when I was eight which I read over the course of about three months. Then there’s my dad who gave me my first cards when I was three or four and in time, some of the books he’d had growing up. And then there’s Nancy, the tough woman who raised Devin and Kenna as a single parent. Nancy loved the Giants, tuning into their games regularly, and Devin and I followed suit, becoming fans of the World Series contending team San Francisco had at the end of the ’80s and their young stars, Mitchell and Will Clark.

One day at Devin’s house, I noticed a framed picture of him and Clark. It took me aback, and I wanted more information. Oh, Nancy told me, Will just stopped by. She loved to tell me stories like this. Later, I learned there was a cutout display at Candlestick that people could have portraits taken in front of for a fee, $10 or so. I had pins and baseball cards of the All Star first baseman with the black paint smeared under his eyes and the looping, Ted Williams-esque swing. I had a poster on my wall of animated, behemoth versions of Clark and Mark McGwire towering over San Francisco and Oakland for the 1989 World Series, the Battle of the Bay. Now, I had to have the photo as well.

There was one issue: money. It was always tight when I was young in the early years after my mom left my natural father, and while I never lacked for anything I needed, my family often didn’t have 10 extra dollars. I remember going to restaurants and being allowed to order the two cheapest things on the menu. I remember frugal Christmases and birthdays. My mom also was and is an avowed bargain hunter, one of the most savvy people I know at stretching the value of a dollar, and it would be almost antithetical to her to have paid $10 for that picture. But I think the solution that she and Nancy came up with was much better.

***

My mom took the photo atop this page. Candlestick used to allow people to snap their own photos for free from the sides of their displays, and if there’s been one thing I miss with the Giants’ move to a new stadium a decade ago, it’s that such practices are seemingly a distant memory amidst the more upscale culture of AT&T Park. Nancy and my mom both got photos that day, and while I was initially disappointed, since there was no display of Clark and the photo we got of Mitchell, Devin, and myself looked nothing close to real, it’s become one of my favorite childhood photos. Better than any $10 fake photo could, it captures the realities of my youth. Of not having a lot. Of close friendships. Of baseball.

I’m lucky and thankful to have the life that I do, a life filled to this day with family, friendships, and a game that gives me perspective on it all. It’s funny when I think about it. We could have paid $10 that day at Candlestick for an official picture, and I doubt we’d have gotten our money’s worth. I’ve learned that the best things in life, like the photo my mom took, sometimes don’t cost anything.

Observations thus far in spring training

I’ve been able to watch some spring training games over this past week and it’s a welcome return and signals the end of a long winter despite the snow and cold which continues to stick around up here in the north. I’ve spent the week merely observing and enjoying the game for what it is instead of the analysis which will follow every game once the real season begins. It seems that everyone sitting in the stands at least for the first couple of weeks until things get serious has the same attitude.

The announcers seem to be in mid season form already and even the annoying trend over the past few seasons of hiring former major leaguers instead of actual skilled announcers making inane comments and talk far too much hasn’t been bothering me as much as it will during the regular season. Yup, that’s how good it is to see baseball once again.

But I digress. Spring baseball is fun especially from Florida. In addition to the sights and sounds of the game there are the beautiful palm trees, birds nesting on the light standards and lots of older folks dressed in the t shirt of their favorite team, shorts, sandals and sun glasses. Some sit religiously keeping score but most are simply happy to sit in the sun and enjoy the day.

Games from Arizona seem a little more formal and the desert to the casual observer doesn’t afford many opportunities to observe the surroundings such as they are or the wildlife. The game seems more mercenary somehow. Perhaps it’s the traditionalist in me but baseball in March in Florida just seems more like the real thing.

Of course in this early going, many of the players I have seen won’t be with the team in the next week or two and by the middle of spring training the veterans seem to be bored and anxious to head north and get on with regular season. Averages and ERA don’t seem to have the importance and scrutiny they have once the regular season begins. At least not to management. The majority of the big league jobs have already been penciled in and it is only the backup spots or injury replacements that remain to be decided for most teams. Players often work on certain aspects of their game and are not overly concerned with specific results. The rookies however, need to hit .400 or pitch nothing but shutouts if they hope to crack the roster. For them, spring training is anything but a paid vacation. They have to impress for later or a later season call up.

Spring training is also a time in which players, managers and umpires get along and no one sweats the details. A close call which in the regular season would at the very least elicit comments from the dugout is met with silence or only a smile. A blown call on the bases might call for an under the breath metaphor but usually little else. There is time enough for frank on field discussions once the season really begins. Umpires, players and managers can afford to laugh off a mistake now. Everyone is getting back into the swing of things.

Players in March are trying to get in baseball shape and avoid injuries. The bad season of last year is only a distant memory. A good season is something to build on. Umpires are getting used to the speed of the game. Managers are getting used to press conferences again. Fans are enjoying the sun and a vacation from the cold. Writers have something current to write about. Life makes sense once again.

A Pittsburgh Perspective on the Andrew McCutchen Deal

For the last two seasons, when asked about the possibility of locking up Andrew McCutchen up long term, Pittsburgh Pirates’ General Manager Neil Huntington was purposely vague.

So the Pirates caught Pittsburgh by surprise with the announcement that the team signed McCutchen to a six-year contract worth $51.5 million with a club option for 2018 valued at $14.75 million. The deal included McCutchen’s first two free agency years.

Signing McCutchen was something the Pirates had to do—but for non-baseball reasons. The only thing that’s certain for the Pirates in 2012 is that it will endure its 20th consecutive losing season. Ticket prices have been increased. Last year’s second half fold put the team at an 81 game winning percentage lower than the 2010 John Russell-led squad that lost 105 games. By signing McCutchen, the Pirates can deflect the inevitable fan grousing about how ownership refuses to spend money. But since McCutchen was already on the squad, fans are skeptical that it will make any short term difference.

The Pirates had a rough off season making only marginal, at best, upgrades. The addition of Clint Barmes at shortstop is an improvement over the unpredictable head case, Ronnie Cedeno. Gone are catchers Chris Snyder and Ryan Doumit. Their replacement is 36-year-old Rod Barajas. Casey McGehee also joined the team which might help if Pedro Alvarez can’t improve on his .191 batting average.

Perhaps more significantly the Pirates couldn’t lure potentially productive players to Pittsburgh despite dangling millions in front them. Roy Oswalt didn’t return phone calls. Edwin Jackson turned down three years at $30 million to instead sign with the Washington Nationals for one year, $11 million.

Even though Derrek Lee hit .337 with seven home runs in 113 at bats for the Pirates, he had no interest in returning. According to Lee, he would rather retire and forego $6-8 million than play another season in Pittsburgh.

The Pirates pitching staff consists of five hurlers (Eric Bedard, Jeff Karstens, Kevin Correia, James McDonald and Brad Lincoln) who, in a competitive rotation, would be number three or four starters.

Let’s be honest. The ill-fated A.J. Burnett is a Yankee cast off that, coming off two terrible years, no other team wanted. He’s only around because the Pirates opted not to sign free agent Paul Maholm, five years younger than Burnett, 1.5 runs lower in 2011 ERA. Burnett is $2 million cheaper than Maholm would have been.

Luckily, the Pirates have All Star closer Joel Hanrahan to protect those hard earned and always tenuous late game leads. Somehow the Bucs must try to hold opponents to four runs or less since the team is no offensive juggernaut. The Buccos need more pop from the traditional power positions: left and right field, first and third base and catcher.

The sense around town is that there are so many Pirates’ holes to plug that McCutchen is only one tiny piece of the solution. And many long suffering fans are far from convinced about McCutchen’s worth. In the second half of the season, with his team falling off the cliff, McCutchen’s .216 batting average was awful.

Still, McCutchen is a skilled player with unlimited upside who has the gift of speed and power with tremendous outfield range. Last season, he hit 23 homers and drove in 89. McCutchen has the automatic green light and could steal 30-40 bases.

McCutchen’s guaranteed $51 million is great for him and, for the Pirates, an important symbolic gesture. Fans want this year’s team to succeed. If McCutchen leads the charge back to the top, fantastic. But we want results and not more talk about the minor league prospects, last year’s draft picks or the international signings. We’ve heard all that before—for two decades!

More will be known a mere 18 games into the season. The Pirates open with three at home against the National League East champion Philadelphia Phillies before going on the road for nine against the Dodgers, the Giants, the Diamondbacks then returning for six against the Cardinals and the Rockies. Along that path, they will likely face Roy Halliday, Cliff Lee, Cole Hammels, Clayton Kershaw, Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Ian Kennedy and Chris Carpenter.

Although the early road is tough, Bucco backers expect at a minimum 9-9. A break even record would be the first step to the elusive .500 mark.

Help support 826 Valencia with the BPP All-Time Dream Project

Editor’s note: I originally posted this at FirstGiving.com.

_______________

As founder, editor, and writer of a baseball website, I am continually amazed at the collaborative possibilities of the Internet. This is a Golden Age for reading and writing, one where anyone can make their voice heard and be a part of the creative process, one where more great content than ever is produced, much of it free. One of my pleasures operating a website is bringing as many people as I can into the fold and giving them an opportunity to write, and now, I’d like to help an organization with a similar philosophy.

826 Valencia is a non-profit based in San Francisco, with locations across the country that teach journalism to kids ages 6 to 18. While hundreds of volunteers regularly help out, more help is needed. An average of 85 students a day visit the various writing centers, and 826 constantly needs support: $100 buys a week’s worth of supplies for a writing lab; $500 can fund a workshop, and the list of necessities goes on. For more information, please visit 826valencia.org.

I’ve recently launched the BPP All-Time Dream Project having people vote on nine player all-time baseball dream teams. Voting runs through March 27, I’ll be posting results on April 15 in honor of Jackie Robinson Day, and because of the broad appeal of my subject matter, I’d like to make this about more than just honoring a handful of ballplayers. I’m recruiting an All Star lineup of writers for the results post of my project, I’ve hired an illustrator to produce trading cards for the players who get selected, and now, I’d like to give something back. As one man, I can’t do a whole lot on my own, though my experience has been that joining together with others allows for all sorts of possibilities.

I’ll get to the point. I’d like to use the appeal of the BPP All-Time Dream Project to gather donations for 826 Valencia. I’ve set a goal of $3,000 by my publish date, April 15. It’s a modest amount, but I believe it’s enough to make a difference.

Anyone can make a donation by visiting my page at FirstGiving.com.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t offer incentives for donations. Here they are:

Any donation: You’ll be listed in the final results post of my project as a donor to 826 forever noting your generosity.

$25: You’ll receive a free set of original trading cards produced for this post (right now, I’m limiting this to the first 100 people who make this donation, since I’ll be paying out of pocket on shipping.) You’ll also be listed in the final results post of my project as a donor to 826 forever noting your generosity.

$50: You’ll receive an original frameable print that gets produced for this project of the player of your choice. You’ll also be listed in the final results post of the project as a donor to 826 forever noting your generosity.

$75: You get a guaranteed post. I’ll write 1,000 words on a baseball-related subject of your choice for my website or any other. Got a distant relative who played baseball 100 years ago? I’ll research and write about him or her. I’ll illuminate your favorite baseball-related charity. I’ll do everything short of endorse someone for the Hall of Fame or promote hate. I’ll also personally call or email to thank you for your donation. And, of course, you’ll be listed in the final results post of my project as a donor to 826 forever noting your generosity.

That’s all I can think of for now. Please email me at thewomack@gmail.com with any thoughts or feedback. Thanks, and I’m excited to see how this goes.

Sincerely,

Graham Womack, founder and editor

http://baseballpastandpresent.com/

Anyone can make a donation by visiting my page at FirstGiving.com.

A birthday present from Freddy Sanchez

After 60 years of attending Major League baseball games, I finally caught my first foul ball. On a cold, rainy April night at PNC Park San Francisco Giants’ second baseman Freddy Sanchez sent a lazy fly into the deserted stands. I only had to elbow one guy out of the way.

Like most fans, I’ve been close before. Friends have regaled me with their good fortune. In 1960, a buddy snagged a foul of the Chicago White Sox Nelson Fox. The ball had been in play during the previous out. As my friend recreated the inning, with Whitey Ford on the mound and Yogi Berra behind the plate, Luis Aparicio flied out to Roger Maris who tossed the ball into Bobby Richardson. Then, Richardson whipped it around the infield to Bill Skowron, Gil McDougald and Clete Boyer.

By the time the ball landed in my lucky friend’s hands, it had been touched by four Hall of Famers and four other outstanding Golden Era Yankees.

I took my ball home and placed it prominently on my desk. After a week, I thought that the ball would be even cooler if Freddy autographed it. As a Pittsburgh Pirates employee I knew from Freddie’s years with the team that he’s a solid guy who I could count on to sign. By mid-May, the ball along with a return postage pre-paid envelope was on its way to San Francisco. But not long afterward, Freddy returned to his Arizona home to rehab after going on the disabled list.

June, July, and August passed—no baseball. As the months went by, I factored in that it would have to be time-consumingly forwarded from San Francisco to Arizona. I also made allowances for a bummed, injured Freddy following his flailing Giants’ being unenthusiastic about signing. Reluctantly, I downgraded the percentage of probability that I’d get the ball back from 100 percent to 75 percent and then to 50 percent.

When 2012 arrived, I dropped the probability to 10 percent. I had mailed it eight months ago! By then, I second guessed my wisdom in parting with the ball. Still, knowing Freddy’s reputation, I refused to set the likelihood at zero.

Eventually, Freddy rewarded my faith. In late February, the ball arrived inscribed as I had requested: “To Joe, Happy Birthday, Freddy Sanchez”

The blame didn’t rest with Freddy, as I knew it wouldn’t, but with—no surprise—the post office! When I purchased the return postage, the clerk warned me that not so much as a feather could be included with the ball since it would throw the weight off. The scales must work differently in Phoenix than they do in Pittsburgh. The envelope had multiple “insufficient postage” stamps emblazoned on it. Lesson learned—add a few bucks in extra frank to ensure you get your items back promptly.

My treasure is back where it was last April and where it will remain, safely atop my desk.

Any player/Any era: Eric Davis

What he did: In 1997, the Baltimore Orioles signed Eric Davis, but he appeared in just 42 games because he was diagnosed with colon cancer. However, he beat the odds and returned that year, eventually hitting the game winning homer in game five of the ALCS (let’s avoid what happened in game six). It was one of his two hits that series.

The Orioles brought him back in 1998 and he batted .327/.388/.582 and recorded a hit in 30 consecutive games (tied for the 29th longest streak in MLB history). He also went 35/37 in SB attempts, the 27th highest SB percentage in a season since 1951 (min. 20 SBs). He was the lone bright spot for a losing team with every regular over 30 that was fresh off a fantastic 90 win season. In reality, 1998 might be the last season there was optimism in Baltimore.

That’s why I remember Davis. You should remember Davis for many more reasons.

There have been 17 seasons in MLB history during which a player hit 20 HRs and stole 50 bases. Davis owns two of them. He also has the fourth highest stolen base success percentage in MLB history (min. 100 steals). His percentage, 84.1%, is behind Tim Raines, Pokey Reese and Carlos Beltran.

Davis burst on the scene in 1986 as a 24-year-old, batting .277/.378/.523 with 27 HRs and 80 SBs. From 1986-1990, Davis averaged a .277/.371/.527 line with 30 HRs and 41 SBs.

In 1990, he homered off Dave Stewart in his first World Series at bat. He also made a diving attempt at a ball in game four. The dive resulted in a lacerated kidney. He had surgery on that and his knee that off-season.

He appeared in 89 games the following season, which began an injury plagued trend.

Davis was so beaten down by injuries that he briefly retired after the 1994 season. He eventually made it back to the bigs and had that last gasp of brilliance for the Orioles in 1998 before retiring a few years later.

Era he might have thrived in: Davis could play in any era, but he would absolutely dominate the 1960s. Specifically, the St. Louis Cardinals had a glaring hole in right field and the need for someone to take the baton from Stan Musial.

Why: With Stan the Man in the twilight of his career, the Cardinals would need someone to bolster the offense. Adding Davis to a potent mix of Ken Boyer, Curt Flood, Tim McCarver, Lou Brock, Orlando Cepeda and others to replace the weak hitting Mike Shannon would be a boon to a team that perennially finished around .500.

If you normalize the career of Eric Davis to the 1962 Cardinals, he hits .283/.375/.506 with 305 HRs and 386 SBs. Putting his peak years during that era would provide 34 HRs and 50 SBs on average a season.

Having Davis in the fold would also likely stop them from trading for Roger Maris in 1966, who batted just .258/.330/.392 with an 111 OPS+ in his two seasons there.

Of course this assumes Davis wouldn’t need to benefit from modern medicine like he did in the late 90s. At the least, his peak would soften the blow for Cardinals fans when Stan Musial retired.

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: Al SimmonsAlbert PujolsBabe RuthBad News RockiesBarry BondsBilly BeaneBilly MartinBob CaruthersBob FellerBob WatsonBobby VeachCarl MaysCesar CedenoCharles Victory FaustChris von der AheDenny McLainDom DiMaggioDon DrysdaleDoug GlanvilleEddie LopatElmer FlickFrank HowardFritz MaiselGary CarterGavvy CravathGene TenaceGeorge W. Bush (as commissioner)George CaseGeorge WeissHarmon KillebrewHarry WalkerHome Run BakerHonus WagnerHugh CaseyIchiro Suzuki, Jack Clark, Jack MorrisJackie Robinson, Jim AbbottJimmy WynnJoe DiMaggioJoe PosnanskiJohnny AntonelliJohnny FrederickJosh GibsonJosh HamiltonKen Griffey Jr.Lefty GroveLefty O’DoulMajor League (1989 film),Mark FidrychMatty AlouMichael JordanMonte IrvinNate ColbertOllie CarnegiePaul DerringerPedro GuerreroPedro MartinezPee Wee ReesePete RosePrince FielderRalph KinerRick AnkielRickey HendersonRoberto ClementeRogers HornsbySam CrawfordSam ThompsonSandy Koufax Satchel Paige, Shoeless Joe Jackson, Spud ChandlerStan MusialTed WilliamsThe Meusel BrothersTony PhillipsTy CobbVada PinsonWally BunkerWes FerrellWill ClarkWillie Mays

Any Player/Any Era: Spud Chandler

What he did: In an eleven-year career punctuated by injury and military service, Spud Chandler compiled a 109-43 record pitching for the New York Yankees. Chandler made his major league debut in 1937 at age 29 and played his last game in the 1947 World Series. In between, he pitched with the ferocity of a Bob Feller or Bob Gibson and was one of the reasons the Yankees won seven pennants during his tenure with the team. In 1943, Chandler was voted American League MVP.

Era he might have thrived in: In one respect, Chandler fell into a pretty good situation pitching for the Yankees in the ‘30s and 40s. The wins came easily, but wins came easily for most Yankees pitchers then. Run support was rarely a worry for Chandler with his hard-hitting teammates, a group that included at various points in his career Lou Gehrig, Bill Dickey, Tony Lazzeri, Joe DiMaggio, Tommy Henrich, Joe Gordon, Charlie Keller and Yogi Berra. Yet, Chandler might have done better in another era. He had a shorter career than he deserved, given his pitching talent. In the interest of giving Chandler a longer career and longer-lasting fame, let’s transport him to the expansion Kansas City Royals.

Why: Chandler’s major league career started later and ended earlier than it should have. The bookends of Chandler’s career were his late promotion to the major leagues and his inability to pitch through pain and injury at the end. Projecting Chandler to another era should address one or both of these limitations.

Any time more recent than the 1940s would offer an improvement in medical care, which might allow Chandler to squeeze more productivity out of his talents. Make that time recent enough that the five-man pitching rotation was also the norm, and Chandler would benefit even more. Give Chandler the chance to pitch in the 1970s, following baseball’s rapid expansion to 24 major league teams, and there would be no excuse for keeping a good man down.

Chandler’s late arrival in professional baseball had two causes. One was that he attended college, something rare for a future major leaguer in the ‘30s, and he did so later in life than is typical. Weeks shy of his 21st birthday, Chandler enrolled at the University of Georgia where he not only played baseball, but as a football player he became part of one of the era’s most productive offensive backfields. Chandler spurned offers from the Giants and Cardinals to leave school early and pursue his baseball career. Chandler’s minor league career did not begin until the summer of 1932, after he had completed college at the age of 24. The second reason for Chandler’s late arrival in the big leagues was that despite showing major league ability in his early years in professional ball, he spent nearly five years in the minors, thanks to the depth of pitching talent in the Yankees organization.

Let’s project Chandler’s 1907 birthday ahead 40 years to 1947. Let’s not begrudge him his University of Georgia education or his football exploits, but let’s have him enrolling at the more typical age of 18, which would have him graduating in the spring of 1969. As a football player, he would even have the opportunity to earn some fame as a member of the Georgia Bulldog teams that played in the Cotton Bowl following the 1966 season and the Sugar Bowl on New Year’s Day 1969.

A two-sport college grad in 1969 could do a lot worse than to be drafted by the expansion Royals. The early years of any expansion team are a struggle. Expansion pitching staffs normally combine other teams’ castoffs with youngsters better suited to learning their craft in the minors. But the Royals rose above their class of ’69 expansion brethren in their ability to evaluate and develop young pitching talent.

For Kansas City, the castoffs included Wally Bunker and Dave Morehead. Bunker had had a brilliant start to his career as a teenager in the early ‘60s with Baltimore, and Morehead had posted six mediocre seasons with Boston. Both pitchers were given ample opportunity to grow into the role of Royals staff ace, but neither lasted long enough to figure in the eventual success of the team. In contrast, the young arms that Kansas City brought along in ’69 and the early ‘70s included considerable major league talent. As judged by length of career, ERA+ and career WAR, Jim Rooker, Dick Drago, Al Fitzmorris, Tom Burgmeier, and Paul Splittorff were above-average big leaguer pitchers. Fitzmorris and Splittorff went on to become two-fifths of the KC starting rotation in 1976, the first year they won the AL West, while Drago was traded for Marty Pattin, who became a strong contributor to the team’s efforts as both a starter and reliever for much of the ‘70s. The Royals sent Burgmeier and Rooker away in trades that did not benefit the team, just proving that their ability to judge talent was not infallible.

Player (career)

ERA+

WAR

Tom Burgmeier (1968-1984)

119

11.9

Dick Drago (1969-1981)

103

21.3

Al Fitzmorris (1969-1978)

101

14.2

Jim Rooker (1968-1980)

105

16.7

Paul Splittorff (1970-1984)

101

20.9

Spud Chandler (1937-1947)

132

26.0


The glory days of the Kansas City franchise were the ten seasons from 1976 to 1985, when the team won six division titles, two pennants and the 1985 World Series. Although the success of those Royals teams is largely attributed to their pitching, Chandler could offer a substantial upgrade. If a 24 year-old Chandler had been available to be called up in 1972 following a three-year stay in the minor leagues, he could easily slot into the Royals starting rotation and soon become the staff ace. He would turn 29 in September of 1976, just entering his prime for Kansas City’s first playoff run. Nine years later Chandler would still be the leader of the staff, as judged by his real-life 1946 season, the second-best of his career, at age 38. With Chandler’s talents on board, perhaps the Royals teams of the late ‘70s and early ‘80s could have enjoyed an even higher level of success.

Injuries are the other side of the story. Chandler’s career with the Yankees was one in which he struggled to complete a season in good health. An injury during his football days and the hard delivery of his sinking fastball put unusual stress on his pitching arm. The four-man rotation and the expectation to go nine innings conspired to limit what might have been a brilliant career. Although the Yankees made seven World Series appearances during Chandler’s time, Chandler played a meaningful role in only two of them.

Chandler’s last campaign was 1947. He began the season by faithfully taking the mound every four days and pitching complete games in each of his first 13 starts. But by mid-season his career was over, except for a lone September start and a brief, ineffective appearance in the Fall Classic. He would not return to the big leagues following off-season arm surgery.

These days, Spud Chandler is largely forgotten, while his rotation-mates Lefty Gomez and Red Ruffing have plaques in Cooperstown. However, Chandler’s career numbers compare favorably to those of Ruffing and Gomez in all ways but one. Chandler was better than Gomez and Ruffing in WHIP, ERA+ and winning percentage, but he pitched the fewest innings of the three by a large margin. He might have been well served by having the opportunity to play later in the century, in a more pitcher-friendly era, and for a team on which his talents would stand out against those of his teammates.

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: Al SimmonsAlbert PujolsBabe RuthBad News RockiesBarry BondsBilly BeaneBilly MartinBob CaruthersBob FellerBob WatsonBobby VeachCarl MaysCesar CedenoCharles Victory FaustChris von der AheDenny McLainDom DiMaggioDon DrysdaleDoug GlanvilleEddie LopatElmer FlickFrank HowardFritz Maisel, Gary CarterGavvy CravathGene TenaceGeorge W. Bush (as commissioner)George CaseGeorge WeissHarmon KillebrewHarry WalkerHome Run BakerHonus WagnerHugh CaseyIchiro Suzuki, Jack Clark, Jack MorrisJackie Robinson, Jim AbbottJimmy WynnJoe DiMaggioJoe PosnanskiJohnny AntonelliJohnny FrederickJosh GibsonJosh HamiltonKen Griffey Jr.Lefty GroveLefty O’DoulMajor League (1989 film),Mark FidrychMatty AlouMichael JordanMonte IrvinNate ColbertOllie CarnegiePaul DerringerPedro GuerreroPedro MartinezPee Wee ReesePete RosePrince FielderRalph KinerRick AnkielRickey HendersonRoberto ClementeRogers HornsbySam CrawfordSam ThompsonSandy Koufax Satchel Paige, Shoeless Joe JacksonStan MusialTed WilliamsThe Meusel BrothersTony PhillipsTy CobbVada PinsonWally BunkerWes FerrellWill ClarkWillie Mays