Any player/Any era: Bad News Rockies

What he did: This is slightly different than usual here. Today’s column isn’t about how one player would fare, but rather a group of them. Months ago, I wrote a post transplanting some of the best hitters in baseball history to the 1999 Colorado Rockies, proposing they could have hit .400 on that club which boasted five 30-home-run hitters and hit .288 as a team. Today, I’m going in a different direction, rounding up some hard-luck, misfit players, transplanting them all to Coors Field at the height of the Steroid Era. My theory is those circumstances could have made pretty much anyone at least a decent hitter.

The cast: I’ll temporarily depart from the usual format of “Era he might have thrived in” and “Why.” Here are my guys:

C – Mickey Tettleton: A two-time All Star, Tettleton essentially did three things. He hit home runs, he didn’t hit for much average, and he struck out. That’s going to be a common thread for this club, but there’s at least one great year in Tettleton.

1B – Tony Clark: Like a lot of the players here, Clark was something of a baseball nomad, playing for six clubs in his 15-year career. Generally, he was solid for a few years and then abysmal for one or two, before repeating the cycle. That makes him perfect for this club.

2B – Tito Fuentes: I was chatting with a new reader today, telling him how my dad and I used to have epic wiffle ball games on our front yard when I was young. My dad impersonated fearsome hitters he named Mail Murphy and Mickey Mammoth, but when he wanted a change of pace, he brought in his spray hitter, Tito Fuentes. I think it was to help me out when I was struggling. He picked the right guy in Fuentes, who hit .268 lifetime with an OPS+ of 82.

SS – Ray Oyler: I considered going with other famously inept shortstops like John Gochnaur, Don Kessinger, or Paul Popovich (who was more a second baseman) but am electing to go with a hitter so offensively challenged it earned him his own fan club with the Seattle Pilots in 1969. If we transport the lifetime .175 hitter to this club, he’d have a good year, at least by his standards.

3B – Enos Cabell: Years ago, Bill James wrote about Cabell as an essentially worthless player, but he’d be one of the best contact hitters on this team.

OF – Rob Deer: For much of his career, Deer’s weight and batting average were about the same, and the only year he cracked .250 was 1988, a weak year for offense. On these Rockies, those numbers would rise, and Deer would resemble a star. He’d be Dante Bichette.

OF – Dave Kingman: Like Deer and Tettleton, Kingman homered and struck out aggressively without much of a batting average, and like Clark, he made his way around the bigs. But in 1979, already five teams deep in his 16-year career, he hit 48 home runs with a decidedly un-Kingman-like .288 batting average. Playing that season on these Rockies, he might have MVP-caliber numbers.

OF – Jesus Alou: I recently saw a blog listing Alou as one of the 20 worst baseball players ever, primarily on the strength of his career OPS+ of 86 and puny WARP3 scores. That seems a little harsh. Alou had one of his best seasons in 1967, a dark year for hitters. On the ’99 Rockies, that year is gold.

The numbers: I’ll offer two charts, the first with each player and an actual season they played.

Tettleton 1992 157 525 82 125 25 0 32 83 122 137 .238 .379 .469
Clark 2001 126 428 67 123 29 3 16 75 62 108 .287 .374 .481
Fuentes 1971 152 630 63 172 28 6 4 52 18 46 .273 .299 .356
Cabell 1978 162 660 92 195 31 8 7 71 22 80 .295 .321 .398
Oyler 1967 148 364 33 76 14 2 1 29 37 91 .207 .281 .264
Kingman 1979 145 532 97 153 19 5 48 115 45 131 .288 .343 .613
Deer 1988 135 492 71 124 24 0 23 85 51 153 .252 .328 .441
Alou 1967 129 510 55 149 15 4 5 30 14 39 .292 .316 .367

And, with the help of the stat converter on, here is how these players’ numbers project for the ’99 Rockies.

Tettleton 157 571 126 171 34 0 44 128 167 137 .299 .455 .590
Clark 126 463 101 158 37 4 20 112 80 108 .341 .435 .568
Fuentes 152 691 104 233 38 8 5 86 24 46 .337 .366 .437
Cabell 162 729 158 264 42 11 10 122 30 80 .362 .390 .491
Oyler 148 397 56 106 20 2 1 48 51 91 .267 .351 .335
Kingman 145 564 132 185 24 6 58 157 55 131 .328 .388 .700
Deer 130 536 109 168 33 0 31 132 69 153 .313 .398 .549
Alou 129 556 91 195 20 5 6 51 19 39 .351 .378 .437

Of course, I have no idea how this team would do defensively, and I’m guessing there wouldn’t be much pitching. A 6.01 team ERA helped sink the ’99 Rockies. Beats me how to overcome that on this team in this era. Short of bringing in Lefty Grove or Sandy Koufax, these Rockies would have to get it done at the plate, and even Grove or Koufax might struggle here.

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 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

Tommy, Home Plate Is Over Here!

This post was written by Joe Guzzardi, who contributes articles here every Wednesday and Saturday.


During the mid-1950s when the New York Yankees consistently fielded championship-caliber teams, Whitey Ford anchored the pitching staff.

But each year, the Yankees would have a hurler pop out from obscurity, pitch effectively for one or two seasons, then get dumped off to Kansas City or some other baseball Siberia.

Among them were Bob Grim who in 1954 won 20 games as the American League Rookie of the Year; Johnny Kucks, 18-9 in 1956 and the complete game, 9-0 winner of the seventh World Series game against the Brooklyn Dodgers; Tom Sturdivant who posted back-to-back 16-8 and 16-6 seasons in 1957-1958 and Bob Turley whose 21-7 1958 record garnered him the Cy Young Award.

In 1955, the Yankees former bonus baby Tommy Byrne turned in his career best season, 16-5. Byrne’s outstanding performance after being recalled from the minor league Seattle Rainers where he won 20 games got named the Associated Press Comeback Player of the Year.

Byrne was on his second Yankee tour. Because manager Casey Stengel could not tolerate Bryne’s slow, deliberate pitching style and because the lefty had trouble finding the plate, in 1951 the Yankees’ skipper dispatched him to the lowly St. Louis Browns.

With the Browns, Byrne pitched one of the most remarkable games in baseball history. On August 22, 1951 Byrne (4-7) walked 16 batters in a 13 inning defeat and tied the previous American League record set in 1915 by the Philadelphia A’s Bruno Haas. On that fateful August day, Byrne also broke his own personal record of 13 walks he established during a June 1949 start for the Yankees.

Byrne’s 1951 line: IP 12.2; H 11; BB 16; SO 5

Remarkably Leo Kiely, Byrne’s Boston Red Sox opponent was no control artist either. Although Kiely (4-2) was credited with the 3-1 win, his line was almost as ugly as Byrne’s:

IP: 12.1; H 10; ER 1; BB 8; SO 8

In an interview with the Baltimore Sun years later, Byrne recalled his game against the Red Sox:

“After walking the bases loaded in the 13th inning, I made a 3-and-2 pitch that was borderline. I recall that that the umpire said ‘ball,’ and in came the deciding run. It may have been a strike, but I guess he was getting tired.”

Byrne won 15 or more games three times during his career. But he could never get the hang of throwing the ball over the plate. His strike out (766) to walk (1,037) ratio of 0.74, compiled over 1,362 innings is one of the worst in baseball history. Byrne led the league in walks three consecutive seasons (1949-1951) and in hit batters an astounding four straight times (1948-1951).

Despite his wildness, Byrne managed to finish up with a winning record. Over 13 seasons with the Yankees, Browns, Chicago White Sox and Washington Senators, Byrne posted a 85-69 mark and played with five World Championship Yankee teams

While Byrne’s managers were always reluctant to send him to the mound where anything might have happened, they no qualms about using him as a pinch hitter. As a batter, Byrne hit .238 with 14 home runs including a grand slam.

Byrne, it should be noted, was a beloved figure. During World War II, Byrne served in the Mediterranean as a gunnery officer on the destroyer USS Ordronaux. A graduate of Wake Forest University, Byrne eventually became the town’s mayor.

Before his 2007 death at age 87, Byrne was induced into several Halls of Fame: North Carolina Sports, Baltimore City College, Wake Forest University Sports and the Maryland Sports. Byrne was also presented the Wake Forest Birthplace Society Distinguished Service Award and in September 2007, was held on the grounds of the Wake Forest College Birthplace Museum.

More than anything else, I admire Byrne for inventing the “Kimono” pitch.

Never heard of it? Byrne, defying all the laws of human physiology threw the “Kimono” from behind his back. To the frustration of batters and umpires, Byrne toyed with the “Kimono” during spring training in 1954. When camp broke and the teams went north, Commissioner Ford Frick outlawed it.

Frick no doubt concluded that if Byrne couldn’t throw the ball over the plate from a traditional wind up, he certainly couldn’t do it from behind his back. So in the interests of batter safety, the “Kimono” pitch died a quick death.


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

Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? Ted Simmons

I’m pleased to present another first here: one of these columns by a guest poster. Today’s edition of Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? is written by Rory Paap of I generally am against others writing this feature, since I don’t want to create a dumping ground where anyone can go to campaign for their favorite player. I’d like to preserve at least some objectivity. However, Rory approached me a few weeks back wanting to write about Simmons, and since he’s done some fine guest posts here, I obliged. Don’t count on this being a trend.


Claim to fame: Simmons replaced All Star Joe Torre, as the Cardinals’ full-time catcher in 1971, and caught a Bob Gibson no-hitter that year. He also holds the record for most intentional walks by a catcher with 188 (tied for 18th all-time for any hitter), well ahead of the best catcher of all-time, Johnny Bench (135). Simmons was a switch-hitting catcher who could really hit.

Current Hall of Fame eligibility: Simmons just appeared on the Veterans Committee ballot for Cooperstown, and it was announced Monday that he received less than half of the vote. Prior to this, Simmons made just one appearance on the Baseball Writers Association of America ballot, receiving 3.7 percent of the vote in 1994 which disqualified him from future ballots.

Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? First off: even if he does not, he deserved a heck of a lot more consideration that one ballot and less than 5 percent of the vote. And now to the does he; shall we?

There are ten catchers-– Bench, Yogi Berra, Roger Bresnahan, Roy Campanella, Gary Carter, Mickey Cochrane, Bill Dickey, Carlton Fisk, Gabby Hartnett and Ernie Lombardi-– currently enshrined for their merit as catchers, which eliminates Buck Ewing, Rick Ferrell and Ray Schalk who were inducted for varying reasons not necessarily related to their Johnny Bench-ness. Schalk, for example, was inducted because of his defensive prowess in the early 1900’s, easy to deduce given his career .656 OPS. I use Bench, because he’s clearly the gold standard, and the best two-way– meaning offensive and defensive machine– catcher of all time. He won 10 gold gloves and 2 MVP awards.

As it turns out, Bench would ultimately be a huge obstacle for Ted Simmons’ HOF candidacy. Ted’s prime years came during Bench’s illustrious career, and he also played during the careers of Fisk-– whose longevity at the position helped his candidacy-– and Carter.

The only hardware he collected was a single Silver Slugger award, but that award wasn’t first doled out until 1980 when most of his best seasons were already behind him. He did appear in eight All-Star games and finished in the Top-10 of MVP voting three times. It was certainly hard to get recognition with the other future Hall members in the league at his position at the same time as he, while also playing on mostly not very good teams.

In terms of counting stats, he has more hits and doubles than any of them, and would be in the top five in runs, home runs, RBI, batting average and walks at the position. He’s also seventh among these men – again, whom are all Hall of Famers – in career Wins above Replacement (WAR) at +50.4 wins, and in exactly zero statistical category of the before mentioned stats plus triples, on-base percentage (OBP), on-base plus slugging (OPS), fielding percentage at catcher, caught stealing percentage and OPS+, does he come last. His career 117 OPS+ is right in line with Carlton Fisk and 2 points better than Gary Carter’s 115. And though he didn’t display quite the power as Bench, Carter and Fisk, his number of walks per strikeouts (1.23) and contact rate in general was far better than theirs.

Other than being overshadowed by Carter and Fisk, and Bench especially, the other knock on Simmons must have been the number of games he caught. All said and done, he only caught about 72% of the games he played, well below most of the other Hall of Fame catchers, though not lower than Bresnahan’s 68%. But upon further review of his career, I found something interesting, and that may have cost him a plaque in the Coop.

After 1983, Simmons would play five additional seasons but never catch 50 percent of his games played again. In fact, he only caught an average of ten games per season through his retirement after the 1988 season. One might be led to believe those final years helped to pad his stats, but that’s misleading. More accurately, they pulled down his peripherals and gave the writers, who would knock him off the ballot in just one try, a chance to see a broken down catcher look mostly hopeless at the plate while an emerging star, Gary Carter, looked brilliant.

Had Simmons retired after 1983, he may have left baseball with a much better impression and a greater chance at making the Hall of Fame with 13 seasons under his belt. His WAR would have been better (53.2), good for sixth on our list of ten HoF catchers. He still would have been third in hits, sixth in runs, seventh in home runs, second in doubles, fifth in walks, and fifth in batting average. His OPS+ would have been a shiny 124 – that’s approximately 25% better than league average – which would have tied him with the great Roy Campanella, one of two catchers (Yogi being the other) to win three MVP awards. What’s more, he would have caught 87% of the games he’d played, perfectly acceptable for admission into Cooperstown as a backstop.

It’s almost unfortunate, but Simmons did indeed play those final five seasons, and they cannot be simply erased for the purpose of strengthening his hall case. Even so, for me, his decent defense, probably comparable to both Carter and Fisk, coupled with outstanding offense – both of which he was able to sustain for a significant number of years in his peak seasons – is enough to get him into Cooperstown. It may even be enough to put him in the class of the top-ten catchers of all-time who are either already enshrined, or already eligible. The fact that he was dropped off the ballot so quickly is indefensible, and the fact that he’ll now get another shot is a blessing.

This guest post was written by Rory Paap of

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 GarveyThurman MunsonTim Raines, Will Clark

The 50 best baseball players not in the Hall of Fame

Major League Baseball may have the most elite Hall of Fame in sports. More than 17,000 men have played professional baseball dating back to the 19th century, but in 75 years of elections, just 292 people have been enshrined in Cooperstown. The list of great players passed over time and again continues to grow, and with Hall of Fame voting season once more upon us, I figured it a good time to ask: Just who are the best players not in Cooperstown?

UPDATE, 1/6/2014: VERSION 4.0 OF THIS PROJECT IS OUT (and here’s Version 3.0 and Version 2.0)

Rather than base this on my opinion or some all-powerful stat, I decided to go a different direction– I sought votes from fellow baseball writers, researchers, and anyone else interested. I created a 300-player super ballot and began sending it out on November 22. In all, 63 people voted between the 22nd and December 4, including yours truly. The only rules were to vote for 50 players and to not pick anyone who’d played in the last five years. There wasn’t any ranking system required. Total number of votes received determined a player’s place on the list.

What follows is our list of the 50 best players not enshrined– not 50 players who need a plaque tomorrow, just the 50 best not there, whether they belong in Cooperstown or not. I’ll voice my opinion as I discuss these players. I invite anyone to make their own determinations. I’m also listing the 250 other players who received at least one vote and 34 who appeared on the ballot but got no votes.

The top 50 players are as follows, with their vote totals in parentheses:

1. Bert Blyleven (56 votes out of 63): A 287-game winner in his 22-year career, Blyleven has appeared on the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA) ballot for the Hall of Fame 13 times and fell just shy of induction last year. He was never a high-profile pitcher in his era, like Nolan Ryan, Tom Seaver, or Steve Carlton, but the more Blyleven’s stats are looked at, from his 90.1 WAR to his 60 shutouts to his 3,701 strikeouts, the more he seems like a clear choice for Cooperstown. He shouldn’t be long for this list.

UPDATE, 1/6/2014: VERSION 4.0 OF THIS PROJECT IS OUT (and here’s Version 3.0 and Version 2.0)

2-Tie. Roberto Alomar (55): Like Blyleven, Alomar may get the call for Cooperstown from the writers next month, but it’s not as certain, due to some messy personal issues. Nevertheless, in his prime, Alomar was perhaps the game’s best second baseman.

2-Tie. Ron Santo (55): Santo was a lock for the top 10 here even before his death from cancer on Friday, being named on 52 of the 59 ballots cast before the day he died. A nine-time All Star and five-time Gold Glove-winning third baseman, Santo ranked with Billy Williams and Ernie Banks as a cornerstone of the Chicago Cubs in the 1960s. He’s gone, but never forgotten.

4. Alan Trammell (54): Trammell was never spectacular, save for 1987 when he hit .343 with 28 home runs and 1o5 runs batted in, good for a runner-up finish in American League Most Valuable Player voting. Otherwise, he was the quietly consistent shortstop for the Detroit Tigers for the better part of 20 years. With 2,365 hits and a .285 lifetime batting average, he was also one of the best offensive shortstops in baseball history.

5-Tie. Jeff Bagwell (53): Bagwell might not have been the best first baseman of his generation, but he couldn’t have been far off hitting 449 home runs with a .297 lifetime batting average. More impressively, he played a good chunk of his career in the cavernous Astrodome and thrived. During his National League MVP season in strike-shortened 1994, he hit .373 at home with 23 home runs and 58 RBI in just 56 games.

5-Tie. Shoeless Joe Jackson (53): Jackson would have been in the Hall of Fame 70 years ago had he not been banished for helping throw the 1919 World Series. As it stands, Jackson hit .356 lifetime, had a swing Babe Ruth copied, and put up his best power numbers in his final season before being banned, 1920. Had Jackson played out his career, I could have seen him mirroring Tris Speaker, another sweet-swinging Deadball Era outfielder who increased his slugging numbers in the ’20s and was one of the first players in Cooperstown.

7. Tim Raines (50): I consider Raines a poor man’s Rickey Henderson and were it not for a well-documented cocaine problem early in his career or a platoon role with various teams in the latter part, Raines might also be in the Hall of Fame. Even so, he led the National League in stolen bases from 1981 through 1984 and finished with 808 steals for his career, good for fifth best all-time. Aside from that, he had 2,605 hits, 1,517 runs and a .294 career batting average.

8. Barry Larkin (49): Similar to Trammell, Larkin was a quiet, consistent shortstop who played his entire career for one team, the Cincinnati Reds. He may have boasted greater star power, winning the NL Most Valuable Player Award in 1995 and belting 33 home runs the following year, though he never became a superstar.

9. Edgar Martinez (48): Martinez redefined the value of having an excellent designated hitter, as he became a vital part of the Seattle Mariners success in the mid-1990s. During the 1995 season when Seattle went on its run to the American League Championship Series with Ken Griffey Jr. mostly out of commission and Alex Rodriguez a young non-factor, Martinez may have been the team’s most important player, hitting a league-leading .356 with 29 home runs, 103 RBI, and a 1.107 OPS.

10. Pete Rose (47): Were this my list, I’d have Rose and Shoeless Joe first and second, no question. Both would have been easy selections to Cooperstown had they not been banned for gambling-related issues. Rose owns the all-time hits record, 4,256 and had a wonderfully, hyper-competitive style of play, rightfully earning the nickname “Charlie Hustle.” Still, I think some voters here assumed every pick needed to be someone they would vote in the Hall of Fame. I wanted people to make their picks on playing merit, and if this project runs again, I’ll make my approach clear from the outset. I’ll be curious to see if Rose and Jackson rise in the standings.

11. Dick Allen (46): A 2002 book on the 100 best players not enshrined ranked Allen first, and while that’s higher than I would personally tab him, Allen surely belongs somewhere near the top. As a young ballplayer in the 1960s, Allen was one of the premier hitters in baseball, and he bounced back from a mid-career lull to win the 1972 American League MVP. He retired with 351 home runs and a .292 career batting average, and had he not had such a famously surly personality, I suspect Allen would have had his place in Cooperstown 20 years ago.

12. Dwight Evans (45): Evans was the highest-ranked pick that I didn’t have on my personal ballot, and I found myself wondering while I was counting votes why I took Dom DiMaggio and not Evans. While both were superb outfielders for the Boston Red Sox, if I had the pick of either in their prime, I’d take Evans, no question. He offers the better all-around game, particularly with his power.

13. Ted Simmons (44): Simmons has long been a favorite in the baseball research community, ranked by Bill James as the 10th-best catcher all-time. Simmons was an afterthought on the Veterans Committee ballot this year, though we ranked him highest of any player he was up against there. In fact, we gave him more than twice as many votes as the player the Vets voted for most, Dave Concepcion.

14. Lou Whitaker (43): It’s fitting Whitaker would be on this list with his double play partner and Detroit Tigers teammate Trammell. Perhaps if they both get into Cooperstown, their plaques can hang beside one another. That will hinge on the Veterans Committee, which has a stated task to find players overlooked by the BBWAA but often opts for players who garnered significant support with the writers. Whitaker received 2.9 percent of the vote his only time on the writers ballot, despite ranking among the best second basemen of his generation.

15. Larry Walker (42): Walker is Chuck Klein or Lefty O’Doul for a newer generation, another player who put up gaudy numbers in a hitter’s era in a ballpark clearly favoring batters. Seeing as Klein needed almost 30 years after his career ended to make the Hall of Fame, and O’Doul isn’t enshrined, I think there’s a chance Walker might not get in, at least for awhile. That would be unfortunate since Walker also played outstanding defense early in his career, with an arm that could throw out slow runners at first base from his perch in right field. The fact Walker played at the height of the Steroid Era doesn’t help his chances either.

16. Fred McGriff (38): This is another pick I personally flubbed. For some reason, I chose the wrong Mc, going with Tug McGraw when I’d have been better suited to honor All Star first baseman McGriff. How does one take a relief pitcher, even a fine one, over a player with 492 home runs? Luckily, enough fellow voters recognized McGriff’s value to negate my gaffe. That’s one benefit of doing this sort of project via committee.

17-Tie. Will Clark (37): Call me cheesy, but I’m Thrilled about this pick. I grew up in Northern California when Clark was starring for the San Francisco Giants, and to this day, he remains my all-time favorite player. I made a case for his induction after the Giants won the World Series last month. I’ll say here briefly that Clark hit .303 lifetime, offered good power, and provided underrated defense at first base. He finished a distant 17th his only year on the Cooperstown ballot in 2006, receiving 4.4 percent of the vote. At the very least, he deserved more consideration.

17-Tie. Dale Murphy (37): Like Clark, Murphy is another fan favorite. When I included him in a now-outdated list from May 2009 of the 10 best players not in the Hall of Fame, I wrote: “If character counts, Murphy should have been a first-ballot inductee. The Atlanta Braves outfielder and devout Mormon deserves a spot on the All-Time Nice Guy squad, being a throw-back player who never drank and instead did things like answer children’s questions in a regular newspaper column. He also hit 398 home runs and won back-to-back Most Valuable Player awards.” I’d add that Murphy was the best player on some abysmal Braves teams and had comparable numbers to several Hall of Fame outfielders, including Duke Snider.

17-Tie. Luis Tiant (37): If Blyleven gets voted into the Hall of Fame in January as expected, the hunt may be on to find the next underrated pitcher researchers can get behind and promote for Cooperstown. My vote is Tiant, who went 229-172 with a 3.30 ERA and was one of the best pitchers of the 1970s. During his 19-year career, Tiant won 20 games four times and at various points, led the league in ERA, shutouts, WHIP and SO/9 innings.

20-Tie. Mark McGwire (36): I was happy to include all the openly-acknowledged black sheep of the Steroid Era who’ve been retired longer than five years, even if I want them nowhere near Cooperstown. Most of these guys enjoyed a good day at the polls here. Even Jose Canseco got 10 votes, four more than he received his only year on the BBWAA ballot. McGwire fared best with his 583 home runs and former single season record. I’m not sure if it was considered by voters here, but McGwire also has a career OPS+ of 162, tied for 12th all-time.

20-Tie. Joe Torre (36): Torre will almost certainly be one of the first men from this list to receive a Hall of Fame plaque, courtesy of his recently-ended managerial career, one of the best in baseball history, I think. Before that, Torre was an All Star catcher and first baseman, winning the 1971 National League MVP award when he led the circuit with 230 hits, 137 runs batted in, and a .363 batting average. Lifetime, he hit .297, all the more impressive when considered his career spanned 1960-1977, largely a time ruled by pitchers. In another era, he may have hit .320.

22-Tie. Bobby Grich (34): One of our voters, Josh Wilker included Grich in his memoir, Cardboard Gods. Wilker wrote of Grich, “As far as I know, Grich never tangled with Galactus or Modok or the Red Skull; he did once scream at Earl Weaver for pinch hitting for him too often when he was a rookie, but no blows were thrown by either man. Mostly, Grich quietly went about his job, over the course of his career creating a body of work bettered by only a few second basemen in major league history.” Among this body of work: 224 home runs, six All Star appearances, four Gold Gloves, and a career WAR of 67.6.

22-Tie. Keith Hernandez (34): This list is loaded with first basemen, perhaps because there are so many good ones not enshrined. Hernandez isn’t the only former MVP first baseman or perhaps not even the best defender at his position, though he’s certainly one of the top three or five. Hernandez was simply a very good player for the majority of his career, save for a rapid decline at the end.

24. Gil Hodges (33): Hodges may be the original sentimental favorite among non-enshrined players. Perhaps the best defensive first baseman in big league history, with 370 home runs to boot, Hodges fostered his image as a core member of the iconic Boys of Summer Brooklyn Dodgers and became a tragic figure with his death at 48 in 1972. Since then, he’s had unsuccessful try after posthumous try at Cooperstown. Hodges may not be the best player outside the Hall of Fame, but together with Santo, I suspect he might be the most revered.

25-Tie. Tommy John (32): He played 26 seasons and won 288 games despite needing a year off in the middle for ligament surgery so monumental it was later named after him. More impressive, he won 20 games three times after returning to play.

25-Tie. Tony Oliva (32): Oliva won three batting titles and led the American League in hits five times in seven years between 1964 and 1970 before injuries hampered his career. Together with Matty Alou, teammate Rod Carew, Roberto Clemente, and Pete Rose, Oliva was one of the best hitters of the pitcher-dominated 1960s.

27. Don Mattingly (31): Had Donnie Baseball sustained the pace from early in his career, 1984 through 1989 when he won a batting title and an MVP and perennially hit .300, he’d have made Cooperstown, no question. But Mattingly is another fine player whose career permanently shifted course after injury problems. That’s kind of the norm among first basemen on this list.

28-Tie. Jim Kaat (30): In 25 seasons that spanned five decades, from the waning days of the Eisenhower Administration to the Reagan Years and five presidents in between, Kaat won 283 games and 16 straight Gold Gloves.

28-Tie. Rafael Palmeiro (30): I recently chronicled Palmeiro’s troubled bid for the Hall of Fame. Barring a last-minute change of heart from the BBWAA, Palmeiro looks to be the first member of the 3,000 hit club since 1952 to not be inducted into Cooperstown on his first ballot. Even with 500 home runs as well, Palmeiro appears doomed, at least with the writers, for his positive steroid test in August 2005 and his vehement denials before Congress just months prior that he’d ever used.

28-Tie. Dave Parker (30): Another supremely talented player whose career was seriously affected by drug abuse, Parker made my May 2009 list. I wrote then, “This guy’s a Veteran’s Committee pick waiting to happen. If Jim Rice and Orlando Cepeda can get into the Hall, Parker should too. He had better career numbers than those players for hits, doubles, runs batted in, runs scored, and stolen bases.”

31-Tie. Albert Belle (29): Belle got little support the two years he appeared on the writers ballot for the Hall of Fame, consequences of his boorish behavior, his peaking during the Steroid Era, and his early retirement due to injuries. He still might have been the fourth best hitter in baseball for the full decade of the 1990s, after Barry Bonds, Ken Griffey Jr. and Frank Thomas. His defense was something awful, the reason he has a defensive WAR for his career of -6.6, but in his prime, Belle was generally good for 30-50 home runs a year, north of 100 RBI, and a .300 batting average or better.

31-Tie. Ron Guidry (29): Guidry had a relatively short career, 14 seasons, but he made the most of his time, going 170-91 lifetime and posting one of the best pitching seasons ever, 1978, when he went 25-3 with a 1.74 ERA, nine shutouts, and 248 strikeouts.

31-Tie. Minnie Minoso (29): Minoso did a little bit of everything well, batting above .300 eight full seasons, hitting 198 home runs, stealing 205 bases, and winning three Gold Gloves, among other things. With the help of two promotional stunts years after he retired, Minoso also managed to come to the plate in five different decades.

34. Steve Garvey (28): There are a lot of similarities between Garvey and Mattingly. Like Mattingly, Garvey looked like a sure bet for Cooperstown in his early seasons, winning the 1974 National League MVP, his first full season and taking home the Gold Glove at first base that year and the three that followed. But around 1980, his career took a sharp turn

35. Ken Boyer (27): A seven-time All Star, five-time Gold Glove-winner, and the 1964 NL MVP as he helped carry his St. Louis Cardinals to a World Series title, Boyer may have been the best third baseman of his generation aside from Brooks Robinson. Lifetime, he posted 282 home runs, a .287 career batting average, and a 58.4 WAR ranking.

36-Tie. Jack Morris (26): One of the better pitchers of the 1980s and early ’90s, Morris went 254-186 lifetime with a 3.90 ERA and is best remembered for his 10-inning, 1-0 shutout victory for the Minnesota Twins over the Atlanta Braves in Game Seven of the 1991 World Series.

36-Tie. Lee Smith (26): At one point, Smith’s 478 saves were the big league record, though it’s long since been eclipsed. But with the vote totals Smith has posted in Hall of Fame voting the last few years, consistently receiving at least 40 percent of the vote with six more years of eligibility after this one, it appears he could be the next closer in Cooperstown.

38-Tie. Kevin Brown (25): Brown’s name surfaced a few years back in the Mitchell Report as a possible user of performance enhancing drugs. That, and his less-than-endearing personality might smother his chance of staying on the Hall of Fame ballot beyond this year, despite his 211-144 career record and string of dominance in the late 1990s.

38-Tie. Dan Quisenberry (25): Like Smith, another great closer, only one who received far less support on the Hall of Fame ballot his only year eligible. Quisenberry’s relatively short 12-year career and 244 saves may have relegated him to 3.8 percent of the vote in 1996, and he died of brain cancer two years later. Nevertheless, he remains a popular figure in the baseball research community.

40-Tie. Bill Dahlen (24): Aside from Shoeless Joe, Dahlen was the only Deadball Era player to crack the top 50. And if there’s any eligible player from the early days of baseball who could best represent it, Dahlen may be the one. A longtime shortstop in a time where players were generally done in their early 30s, Dahlen hit .272 lifetime with 2,461 hits. Modern research shows he has one of the highest WAR rankings of non-enshrined players at 75.9.

40-Tie. Darrell Evans (24): Evans definitely isn’t the most appealing pick at first, from his .248 lifetime batting average to his modest defensive credentials to the fact he generally played for poor teams. But Evans had phenomenal longevity, hitting at least 10 home runs in 19 of his 21 seasons, belting 34 dingers at age 40, and finishing with 414 homers lifetime. He also walked a lot before it was popular and racked up a respectable WAR rating of 57.3.

40-Tie. Roger Maris (24): In 1978, Los Angeles Times columnist Jim Murray wrote, “The baseball writers are sometimes loathe to reward a guy for a single, incandescent, virtuoso performance over one season. They prefer a guy who keeps doing a predictable thing over and over again. Hank Aaron, who piled up 755 home runs, 30 to 40 at a time over 20 years, will go in the hall by acclamation. Roger Maris, who hit 61 one season, more than anyone ever hit in one season, will never make it.” But what a season it was, 1961. Maris won the American League MVP the previous year as well. Much as I respect Murray, I have no problem voting on the basis of one great year or two. I included Smoky Joe Wood in my top 50 largely for this reason.

43. Orel Hershiser (23): Hershiser won 204 games lifetime, but did his best work early on, going 19-3  with a 2.03 ERA in 1985 and then reaching his pinnacle in 1988. Among his accomplishments that year: a 23-8 record, 2.26 ERA, 58 scoreless inning streak, MVP awards for the NLCS and World Series, and, of course, the National League Cy Young. Hershiser struggled with injuries over the next few years and was never again as dominant.

44-Tie. Graig Nettles (22): Very similar to another third baseman of the 1970s and ’80s, Darrell Evans, Nettles offered good power and not much average, with 390 home runs and a .248 lifetime batting line. In contrast to Evans, though, Nettles won a few Gold Gloves, played on markedly better teams, and managed a slightly superior WAR ranking of 61.6.

44-Tie. Buck O’Neil (22): In September, I interviewed Sports Illustrated writer Joe Posnanski who spent a year traveling the country with O’Neil near the end of his life. Posnanski later wrote a book, The Soul of Baseball: A Road Trip Through Buck O’Neil’s America. I asked Posnanski if he considered O’Neil the best Negro League player not enshrined. While I didn’t excerpt it in the interview I published in September, I’ll relay it here. Posnanski told me:

I don’t think he’s the best player. I think he’s the singular spokesman for the Negro Leagues and the voice of the Negro Leagues. I mean, he was a very, very good player, and he was a very, very good manager, and he was a very, very good scout, and he was a very, very good coach, you know the first black coach. I think his case for the Hall of Fame– which I thought was an absolute slam dunk case– revolved around a lifetime in baseball. He was a good player. He won a batting title, almost won another one. He was definitely a good player, but it was not his playing that made him this sort of slam dunk Hall of Fame person. I think it’s the fact that he lived this extraordinary baseball life and contributed to the game on so many different levels. I really don’t know if you could find anybody, certainly not many people in the history of the game who contributed to baseball so many different ways as Buck O’Neil did.

44-Tie. Jimmy Wynn (22): Someone commented here about a year ago, listing Wynn as one of the 10 best players not in the Hall of Fame. I took a look at his stats, noted his .250 batting average, and thought to myself it was crazy talk. But the more I’ve come to understand about how Wynn’s numbers were stunted playing home games in the Astrodome during the 1960s, the more I’ve respected how much he might have thrived in a different era. I don’t know if I could vote Wynn into Cooperstown on the basis of hypothetical projections, but I think it’s a shame he received no votes his only year on the Hall of Fame ballot, 1983.

47. Thurman Munson (21): A seven-time All Star, three-time Gold Glove-winning catcher, and American League MVP in 1976 when he led his New York Yankees to the World Series, Munson appeared on-track for Cooperstown until his death in a small plane crash on August 2, 1979 at 32. The customary five-year waiting period was waved so Munson could appear on the ballot in 1981, the only person I know of besides Roberto Clemente and Darryl Kile to get this exemption since the custom was adopted in 1954. Surprisingly, Munson received just 15.5 percent of the vote, and though he went the full 15 years of eligibility with the writers, his candidacy never again got as much support.

48. Bill Freehan (20): Like Simmons, Freehan was one of the best catchers in baseball, only he played outside a major media market and in an era when back stoppers like Johnny Bench, Carlton Fisk, and Munson commanded the spotlight. Quietly, Freehan put together a fine career. Playing solely with the Tigers, he won five Gold Gloves and was an All Star 11 of his 15 seasons.

49-Tie. Dave Concepcion (19): The starting shortstop for the Big Red Machine in the 1970s, Concepcion played all 19 years of his career in Cincinnati, making nine All Star teams, winning five Gold Gloves, and even finishing fourth in NL MVP voting in 1981 when he led the Reds to a first-place finish.

49-Tie. David Cone (19): At 194-126, Cone boasted a .606 career win-loss percentage and a beefy lifetime SO/9 rate of 8.3. He also won 20 games twice and took home the 1992 AL Cy Young Award.

(Editor’s note: There was a four-way tie at 49th place between Pete Browning, Billy Pierce, Concepcion, and Cone, with each player receiving 19 votes. In a tiebreaker runoff held late Sunday night and much of today, voters selected Concepcion and Cone for the final two spots.)

UPDATE, 1/6/2014: VERSION 4.0 OF THIS PROJECT IS OUT (and here’s Version 3.0 and Version 2.0)

Players who received at least 10 votes, in alphabetical order: Harold Baines (18), Ross Barnes (13), Buddy Bell (12), Vida Blue (15), Bobby Bonds (17), Pete Browning (19), Jose Canseco (10), Joe Carter (10), Bob Caruthers (14), Norm Cash (13), Eddie Cicotte (15), Rocky Colavito (12), Gavvy Cravath (13), Dom DiMaggio (13), Wes Ferrell (11), Curt Flood (17), Jack Glasscock (12), Juan Gonzalez (15), Dwight Gooden (15), Heinie Groh (10), Stan Hack (17), Babe Herman (12), Paul Hines (10), Frank Howard (14), Charlie Keller (10), Fred Lynn (12), Sherry Magee (14), Carl Mays (10), Tony Mullane (13), Don Newcombe (14), Lefty O’Doul (12), John Olerud (13), Al Oliver (17), Billy Pierce (19), Vada Pinson (17), Willie Randolph (14), Bret Saberhagen (11), Reggie Smith (17), Rusty Staub (10), Vern Stephens (11), Riggs Stephenson (10), Dave Stieb (14), Fernando Valenzuela (13), George Van Haltren (10), Deacon White (13),  Maury Wills (14), Smoky Joe Wood (17)

Everyone else who received at least one vote: Babe Adams (7), Joe Adcock (5), Matty Alou (1), Kevin Appier (3), Buzz Arlett** (1), Dusty Baker (3), Sal Bando (6), Hank Bauer (2), Don Baylor (6), John Beckwith (7), Mark Belanger (1), Charlie Bennett (7), Wally Berger (4), Joe Black (1), Tommy Bond (3), Bob Boone (2), Larry Bowa (1), Bill Buckner (5), Charlie Buffington (2), Lew Burdette (5), Ellis Burks (2), Brett Butler (5), Dolph Camilli (3), Phil Cavarretta (5), Cesar Cedeno (6), Ron Cey (7), Hal Chase (3), Cupid Childs (1), Jack Clark (6), Harold Clift (3), Vince Coleman (4), Jack Coombs (1), Cecil Cooper (4), Walker Cooper (1), Wilbur Cooper (7), Jim Creighton (3), Lave Cross (1), Jose Cruz Sr. (6), Mike Cuellar (2), Roy Cullenbine** (1), Al Dark (2), Jake Daubert (1), Willie Davis** (1), Paul Derringer (1), John Donaldson (1), Mike Donlin (2), Brian Downing (2), Larry Doyle** (1), Luke Easter** (1), Mark Eichhorn** (1), Bob Elliott (3), Del Ennis (3), Carl Erskine (2), Ferris Fain** (1), Cecil Fielder (4), Chuck Finley (1), Freddie Fitzsimmons (4), George Foster (6), Jack Fournier** (1), Bud Fowler** (1), John Franco (9), Bob Friend (1), Carl Furillo (4), Andres Galarraga (7), Ned Garver** (1), Kirk Gibson (8), George Gore (8), Mark Grace (6), Ken Griffey Sr. (1), Mike Griffin** (1), Charlie Grimm (1), Marquis Grissom (1), Dick Groat** (1), Pedro Guerrero (4), Mel Harder (3), Tom Henke (3), Tommy Henrich (4), Tommy Holmes** (1), Ken Holtzman (1), Willie Horton** (1), Elston Howard (9), Dummy Hoy (1), Bo Jackson (5), Sam Jackson** (1), Home Run Johnson (7), Bob Johnson** (5), Sad Sam Jones (2), Doug Jones** (1), Bill Joyce (1), Wally Joyner (2), Joe Judge (1), David Justice (1), Benny Kauff** (1), Ken Keltner (2), Jimmy Key (2), Johnny Kling (2), Ted Kluszewski (6), Jerry Koosman (4), Harvey Kuenn (6), Mark Langston** (1), Don Larsen (4), Tommy Leach (2), Sam Leever (5), Al Leiter (2), Duffy Lewis (2), Bob Locker ** (1), Kenny Lofton** (1- Editor’s note: Lofton was not eligible because he’s been retired less than five years, but someone wrote him in), Mickey Lolich (7), Herman Long (1), Davey Lopes (3), Dick Lundy (4), Dolf Luque** (1), Sparky Lyle (7), Bill Madlock (9), Sal Maglie (3), Firpo Marberry** (1), Marty Marion (2), Pepper Martin (4), Dennis Martinez (5), Bobby Mathews (2), Dick McBride** (2), Jim McCormick (5), Willie McGee (2), Tug McGraw (4), Stuffy McInnis (1), Ed McKean (1), Denny McLain (5), Sadie McMahon** (1), Dave McNally (2), Hal McRae (2), Cal McVey (7), Bob Meusel (4), Wally Moon (1), Dobie Moore (2), Bobby Murcer (4), Buddy Myer (1), Robb Nen (1), Bill Nicholson (1), Joe Niekro (1), Alejandro Oms (5), Tip O’Neill (3), Jesse Orosco** (1), Dave Orr (2), Amos Otis (2), Mel Parnell (2), Lance Parrish** (3), Dickey Pearce (6), Jim Perry (1), Deacon Phillippe (6), Lip Pike (3), Spottswood Poles (7), Boog Powell (2), Jack Quinn (1), Rick Reuschel (7), Allie Reynolds (5), Hardy Richardson (4), Dave Righetti (3), Red Rolfe (2), Al Rosen (6), Schoolboy Rowe (3), Jimmy Ryan (4), Johnny Sain (2), Wally Schang** (1), Herb Score (3), Jimmy Sheckard (5), Urban Shocker (3), Roy Sievers (2), Ken Singleton (5), Joe Start (6), George Stone (1), Harry Stovey (6), Darryl Strawberry (5), Ezra Sutton (6), Frank Tanana (2), Kent Tekulve** (1), Roy Thomas** (2), Bobby Thomson (4), Luis Tiant Sr.** (1), Cecil Travis (5), Hal Trosky (5), Quincy Trouppe (1), Dizzy Trout (1), Jesse Tunnehill** (1), Johnny Vander Meer (4), Mo Vaughn (2), Hippo Vaughn** (1), Bobby Veach (4), Robin Ventura (6), Mickey Vernon (6), Dixie Walker (2), Fleet Walker (2), Bucky Walters (7), Lon Warneke (1), Guy Weyhing (1), Frank White (4), Roy White (1), Will White (1), Bernie Williams** (1- Editor’s note: Williams was not eligible because he’s been retired less than five years, but someone wrote him in), Cy Williams (2), Ken Williams (2), Matt Williams (2), Wilbur Wood (2), Rudy York (1)
(** = Write-in candidate)

Appeared on the ballot, didn’t receive any votes: Dale Alexander, Dick Bartell, Bret Boone, George J Burns, George H Burns, Jeff Burroughs, Ben Chapman, Jim Davenport, Patsy Donovan, Jim Gentile, Hank Gowdy, Ozzie Guillen, Guy Hecker, Larry Jackson, Sam Jethroe, Charley Jones, Dave Kingman, Carney Lansford, Greg Luzinski, Elliott Maddox, Tino Martinez, Frank McCormick, Irish Meusel, Clyde Milan, Wally Moses, Jack Powell, Jeff Reardon, Joe Rudi, Manny Sanguillen, Mike Scott, Cy Seymour, Germany Smith, Vic Wertz, Todd Worrell

People who voted

  1. Myself
  2. Bobby Aguilera of Baseball Reality Tour
  3. Brendan Bingham, reader
  4. Doug Bird, a Sunday contributor on this Web site
  5. Charles Beatley of Hawk 4 The Hall
  6. Bill Bell, reader
  7. Tom Bradley, member of the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) and Retrosheet New York
  8. Bob Brichetto, reader
  9. Zach C., reader
  10. Michael Clair of Old Time Family Baseball
  11. Ev Cope, put together a list of names for the Veterans Committee to consider in 2008
  12. Craig Cornell, reader
  13. Jennifer Cosey of Old English D, member of the Baseball Bloggers Alliance (BBA)
  14. Victor Dadras, reader
  15. Paul Dylan, reader
  16. Charles Faber, reader
  17. Eugene Freedman, SABR member, Baseball Think Factory contributing author
  18. Gerry Garte, SABR member, contributes articles every other Friday here
  19. Daniel Greenia, who wrote a “Fixing the Hall of Fame” series for Dugout Central and who authored a bi-monthly column for Bill James in the 1980s
  20. Hank Greenwald, former San Francisco Giants announcer, SABR member
  21. Joe Guzzardi, SABR member, Wednesday and Saturday contributor here
  22. Wayne Horiuchi, avid sports card collector who has one of the most extensive game-used/autograph Hall of Fame collections in America
  23. Tom Hanrahan, reader
  24. Douglas Heeren, reader
  25. Jason Hunt of Jason’s Baseball Blog, BBA member
  26. Dave Lackie, reader
  27. Jimmy Leiderman, 19th century photography researcher
  28. Bruce Markusen of The Hardball Times, freelance writer living in Cooperstown.
  29. Dan McCloskey of Pickin’ Splinters
  30. Robert McConnell, reader
  31. Ryan McCrystal of Wahoo’s Warriors
  32. Bill Miller of The On Deck Circle
  33. Andrew Milner, member of SABR and Baseball Think Factory
  34. Cyril Morong of Cybermetrics, SABR member
  35. Rory Paap of, occasional contributor here
  36. David Pinto of Baseball Musings, member of the Internet Baseball Writers Association of America (IBWAA)
  37. Gary Plunkitt, reader
  38. Repoz
  39. John Robertson, SABR member
  40. Bob Sawyer, reader
  41. Peter Schiller of Baseball Reflections
  42. John Sharp of johnsbigleaguebaseballblog
  43. Steven Sheehan, Ph.D., associate professor of history, University of Wisconsin-Fox Valley
  44. Daniel Shoptaw of C70 At The Bat, founder of the BBA
  45. Christopher Short, “Brooklyn Dodger fan for their existence”
  46. Scott Simkus of Outsider Baseball Bulletin
  47. Mark Simon, researcher and contributor
  48. Gary B. Smith of and a writer for Sports Illustrated from 1995 to 1997 (not to be confused with longtime SI writer Gary Smith)
  49. Sean Smith of Baseball Projection
  50. Aaron Somers of Blogging From The Bleachers, BBA member
  51. John Swol of Twins Trivia, member of SABR, the BBA and MLB Hall of Fame
  52. Dan Szymborski, contributing author to Baseball Think Factory and
  53. Brad Templemann of Baseball In-Depth
  54. Jacob Thompson, reader
  55. Alex Vila, reader
  56. Vinnie, reader
  57. Shawn Weaver of Cincinnati Reds Blog, BBA member
  58. Gregg Weiss, reader
  59. Matt Welch, Editor in Chief, Reason (magazine),
  60. Josh Wilker of Cardboard Gods
  61. Joe Williams, chair of the Overlooked 19th Century Baseball Legends Project, Nineteenth Century Committee, SABR
  62. Jena Yamada, reader
  63. Devon Young of My First Cards, IBWAA member

Thanks to everyone who voted and helped this project. To anyone who missed it, don’t fret– I may make this an annual thing.

UPDATE, 1/6/2014: VERSION 4.0 OF THIS PROJECT IS OUT (and here’s Version 3.0 and Version 2.0)

Expanding MLB Playoffs: Good Idea or Another Bad Bud Selig Move?

Here’s the latest guest post from Doug Bird, a regular Sunday contributor here.


Many people are aware of my opinion of the job baseball commissioner Bud Selig has done during his tenure but for this article I will put aside those opinions and take an objective look at the proposal, discussing the pros and cons as I see them. The feeling is that this will happen despite any negative views one might have and as I am in a positive mood this week I thought I would put pen to paper and take a good hard look at might happen.

The proposal to add two more teams to the playoffs, (one in each league), seems to be scheduled to begin for the 2012 season.   It’s only a proposal and the speculation at this point of when and how many teams is  There have been seasons previous in which a team finishing second has a better won-lost record than any of the other division winners yet fails to make the playoffs. These teams have been unfairly eliminated from playoff contention through no fault of their own, clearly deserving of a post season berth based on their talent and success.  Save for the introduction of the wild card, the American League East with its three powerful teams, would have seen the elimination of two of them on a regular basis, despite their better than average records.

The addition of a wild card team in each league has been very successful from a competitive viewpoint with fewer teams seeing their playoff hopes all but finished by the end of April each season.  The wild card has also given hope to teams who play in a division whereby one team gets off to a terrific start and finds itself with an almost insurmountable division lead by the all star break.  Fans in the majority of major league baseball cities are able to read about, listen to and watch crucial games well into September.  This has been very beneficial for attendance figures, marketing strategies, sales of merchandise and keeping the focus on baseball after the start of seasons by other major sports.

The wild card keeps more players and playing better as they are involved in crucial games much longer into the season. Even professionals with all their ability and pride of game can have difficulty focusing intently on games which are long past meaning anything other than the padding of personal statistics.  Despite what many of us believe, baseball players are only human and humans need to be focused properly and have a goal to perform at the optimum of their abilities.

The cons of the current wild card and the possibility of adding more teams to the playoff picture is one of the watering down of major league talent and the corporate motivations behind the expansion. Pre-wild card, a team with a barely above .500 record was unlikely to qualify for the post season. Certainly it did happen but only rarely and this team was usually quickly eliminated from further advancing. The strong survived and the weak were vanquished, a natural and logical occurrence.  There were no safeguards to prevent this from happening nor should there have been. This, as someone once said, is why we play the game.

The wild card has allowed this to occur much more frequently than in the past, with a season of 83-85 wins– barely over .500– allowing for the real possibility of these weaker teams becoming World Series champions.   There is no advantage gained by finishing first, aside from home field advantage which isn’t important in my opinion. As  the other major sports have shown for many seasons, the incentive to field a highly-talented  team and spend the dollars to acquire good players becomes less and less as more playoff teams are added. Business logic certainly dictates the philosophy: Why spend money if you don’t have to? As a greater number of teams realize this, more and more teams will attempt to present a group of players with only one or two stars amongst them backed up by the necessary warm bodies to fill the other positions. The owners will make more money while spending far less as the revenue generated from an expanded season will sell more television and radio time and fill stadiums well into late October. Any additional playoff teams will only serve the owners and fill their pockets.

I am neither in favor of the wild card nor an expansion of this system. Individual division standings become far less important with teams competing with other teams outside of their division as the season progresses. I am not in favor of this proposal but I am learning to live with those in charge. Baseball is still the best game there is and nothing will change that.


Email Doug Bird at

Fondly Remembering Gil McDougald

Here’s the latest guest post from Joe Guzzardi, on a Yankee infielder who retired near the top of his game. Derek Jeter, take note.


While I was writing my post about Derek Jeter earlier this week, New York Yankee great Gil McDougald died.

Reading McDougald’s obituaries, I couldn’t help but think about one major difference Jeter’s will have. Both are career Yankees with special on-field accomplishments that played critical roles in their teams’ World Series Championship years. McDougald famously and willingly played three infield positions with equal skill.

But McDougald never entered into nasty contract negotiations at the end. When it appeared the Yankees would not protect McDougald in 1961 during the first expansion draft, he walked away after ten seasons without regrets. Among McDougald’s motivations were that he wanted to be closer to his wife Lucielle and their seven children.

An interesting footnote to McDougald’s retirement is that Los Angeles Angels owner Gene Autry, a fan of his, begged him to join his newly formed team. As an inducement, Autry promised McDougald that when his playing days were over he would turn over to the managerial reins from Bill Rigney. But because McDougald knew he couldn’t perform up to his standards as a player and he admired Rigney, he declined.

One of McDougald’s former teammates said something about him that sent me deep into my baseball library.

Pitcher and Cy Young Award winner Bob Turley: “Before I was traded to the Yankees, Gil and I played against each other in the minors in the Texas League. He was always one of the most serious guys out there, and he loved to win. But Gil was also a person who got along well with everyone. He was always in good spirits.”

In 1958, Sports Illustrated published a series titled “Big League Secrets.” In it, Sal Maglie, Roy Sievers, Del Crandall, Richie Ashburn and McDougald explained how they plied their crafts.

McDougald told readers how from each of his three positions he executed the pivot, fielded the bunt, applied the tag and made the long throw.

As an example of what Turley meant when he spoke of his old infielder’s competitiveness, McDougald told reporter Robert Creamer how he executed the pick-off play:

I can’t stand to see this play go more than two throws. It’s sort of an obsession with me, especially if I’m in it, because if it goes more than two throws, we did it wrong. The runner should never, never get away in a rundown, no matter how great he is.

As much as I admire Jeter, I’m a product of my time. I miss talented, underrated, underpaid team-oriented players like McDougald. The era of a player who will play 599 games at second base, 508 at third and 284 at shortstop without missing a beat are long gone.

I wish McDougald had more financial leverage. But he played in the baseball’s Golden Era which had to be more satisfying to him than living in a 30,000 square foot Florida mansion like Jeter’s.


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 results post will be Monday

My apologies.

If there’s one thing conducting a Hall of Fame group project for the first time has taught me, it’s that there was a lot I didn’t know going in. Yesterday, I got my latest lesson: Count votes as they come in. I waited until yesterday evening to start going through the 60-odd ballots, and I realized I needed more time than expected. A lot more time. I’m going through ballots by hand, and I got through 12 in a little over three hours.

The good news is that there’s a strong variation in picks already, a core of consensus choices and dozens of outlying players with a few votes at most. The bad news is that I can’t share the results today, as I had promised.

I have decided to publish the voting results Monday afternoon, sometime after the Veterans Committee pick or picks are announced (if there are any.) I figure this should still be topical until the Baseball Writers Association of America announces in January who it will enshrine and will hopefully have long life on search engines. I also think it will be interesting to see if any of our top 50 will be formally inducted into Cooperstown in the summer of 2011.

Don”t worry if any of the Vets picks are in the top 50. My understanding is that no new picks will be in the Hall of Fame until the induction ceremony next summer. I will make this as clear as I can in the post.

Any player/Any era: Frank Howard

What he did: I mentioned Howard a few months back in a column on Harmon Killebrew. Both were 1960s sluggers whose batting averages suffered because their career peaks occurred while pitchers dominated. Killebrew got into Cooperstown, on his fourth try with the writers, because despite his .256 career batting average, he smacked 573 home runs (back when that meant something.) Howard was an afterthought on the writers ballot, his .273 clip and 382 homers good for 1.4 percent of the vote his only year eligible, 1979. But if he’d played 30 years earlier than he did, Howard might have been a Hall of Famer, too.

Era he might have thrived in: Howard joins Killebrew and Jimmy Wynn as another player who would have triumphed in the 1930s. Like Wynn, Howard was a Hall of Famer in everything except his era.

Why: In the Killebrew column, I ran his numbers through the stat converter on, seeing how he’d do playing every year of his career on the 1936 Indians. I found Killebrew would have 687 home runs and a .300 batting average. Doing the same for Howard, he comes out with 469 home runs and a .325 batting average. It’d make him the poor man’s Foxx, who hit .325 with 534 home runs. Foxx needed seven years on the Cooperstown ballot before being enshrined in 1951, but this was mainly because he was inducted in the early days of Hall voting, when the ballot was packed with greats. In other words, I think Howard gets in with the writers, too.

We can take this one step further. Howard and Foxx have similar career trajectories, each debuting young and sitting the bench their first few years before blossoming. We can take Howard’s career, 1958 to 1973, and superimpose it onto the first 16 seasons of Foxx’s, 1925 to 1940. It’s not unreasonable to assume Howard would have played a few more years in this scenario, since he’d be over draft age and in his late 30s as younger players would start leaving for World War II. Foxx got in a few extra seasons this way, and while the results weren’t pretty, it added to his totals. He even pitched a little in 1945. Perhaps Howard would reach 500 home runs, too, finishing out in these years.

Of course, the major benefit for Howard is that his best seasons, 1968 through 1970 are transported to the 1935 Philadelphia Athletics and 1936-37 Boston Red Sox. Here’s how his numbers would look for those years:

1935 A’s (’68) 150 615 115 202 34 4 54 154 66 134 .328 .397 .660
1936 Red Sox (’69) 153 613 164 217 21 2 59 164 126 91 .354 .467 .684
1937 Red Sox (’70) 153 573 118 187 17 1 51 165 154 119 .326 .467 .627

This is opposed to his actual totals of:

1968 Senators 158 598 79 164 28 3 44 106 54 141 .274 .338 .552
1969 Senators 161 592 111 175 17 2 48 111 102 96 .296 .402 .574
1970 Senators 161 566 90 160 15 1 44 126 132 125 .283 .416 .546

The huge boost in stats mostly has to do with the fact that Howard would be hitting in one of these greatest times for hitters instead of one of the worst (1968 might have been the worst year for hitters since the Deadball Era, so bleak that the height of the pitchers mound was lowered from 15 inches to 10 the following year.) My guess is Howard would have held his own with the likes of Earl Averill, Hank Greenberg, and Chuck Klein. One can only wonder if those men would have fallen short of Cooperstown playing in Howard’s actual 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 Jackson, Stan Musial, The Meusel BrothersTy Cobb, Willie Mays

How Derek Jeter Can Save Face: Quit Now While He’s Still Ahead!

Here is the latest guest post from Joe Guzzardi, a regular Wednesday and Saturday contributor.


Several years after he retired, Mickey Mantle told reporters that his one baseball regret was he played too long. In his final 1968 season, Mantle hit .237. Had Mantle retired in 1967, when his .245 batting average made it clear to all he was finished, he would have ended his career with a .302 average instead of .298

Mantle’s hindsight provides a good object lesson for Derek Jeter should he care to learn from it.

Jeter, according to all accounts, has two choices: to accept the 3-year $45 million contract the New York Yankees have offered (or some compromise between that and the $22 million, five year deal he’s seeking) or test the free agent market.

But Jeter has a third and much better option: to retire now before he embarrasses himself by playing out the string as a 41-year-old bench warmer and the inevitable object of baseball ridicule. Joe DiMaggio retired as a Yankee at 36. Jeter should too.

No doubt Jeter would have a hard time making the decision to hang it up. But if, as we are repeatedly told, Jeter treasures his image, then he should project how the media will be talking about him in 2013, when he’s batting about .225 as an occasional designated hitter.

All Jeter has to do is watch how the ESPN talking heads have described the iconic but also aging Brett Favre: “useless,” “washed up,” and “the Vikings biggest problem.” If Jeter substitutes his name for Favre’s in those searing evaluations, he’ll get the picture.

But, you’re asking, what about the tens of millions that Jeter will leave on the table if he retires?

I assume Jeter has had sound financial advice during the 10 years when he has earned nearly $200 million plus millions more from endorsements. Judging from his 30,000-square-foot home he built in Tampa, Jeter doesn’t have any worries. (See it here.) If worst comes to worst, Jeter could always rent out rooms.

But I’m confident that Jeter could talk the Yankees into a comfortable package to not play that would allow him to easily meet his monthly mortgage obligations.

Jeter should approach Hank Steinbrenner with the suggestion that at a salary of, for example, $4 million annually he be named roving scout, Yankee good will ambassador, spring training batting instructor, assistant to the president, bench coach or any other of the innocuous non-jobs that abound in baseball. Jeter would serve at his own pleasure; do pretty much whatever he wants, whenever he wants to. When Jeter wants to travel with the team and hit fungoes, that’s great. If he wants to sit in a corner office with his feet up, that’s fine too.

While it will be disappointing to Jeter not to get 3,000 hits, missing that goal means little since Jeter is a lock for the Hall of Fame. Nothing is less appealing to fans than players who linger too long to reach a milestone that’s insignificant in the big picture. The difference between Jeter’s 2,926 hits and 3,000 won’t alter his legacy.

My proposed solution provides Jeter a dignified way out that allows him to gracefully step aside, protect his status as a Yankee all time great yet still get the bonus income he feels he’s owed for his years of dutiful service.

If you ask me, that’s a lot better for Jeter than being maligned in the press every day for the next three seasons as another player who didn’t recognize when it was time to say good-bye.


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