Ron Guidry and Don Mattingly’s best years compare well to new Hall of Famers

9 01 2014
Ron Guidry, photo I took in 1977 with his daughter

Ron Guidry, photo I took in 1977 with his daughter

Congratulations to Greg MadduxTom Glavine and Frank Thomas on their election to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

All three were elected on the first ballot and rightly so (to the extent that the screwed-up Hall of Fame selection processes have created this stupid first-ballot-election category).

Ron Guidry and Don Mattingly will probably never make it into the Hall of Fame, but you can see that they belong there when you compare them to this year’s Hall of Famers. They aren’t better, especially when you factor longevity, which has become unduly important in Hall of Fame voting. When you measure players at their best, though, Guidry and Mattingly clearly were comparable to this year’s Hall of Famers.

I wish I could make the same case I did three years ago, comparing Ron Guidry to Maddux or Glavine as I did when Bert Blyleven made the Hall of Fame. (Guidry was significantly better than Blyleven except for longevity.) Read the rest of this entry »





Joe Torre should have made the Hall of Fame as a player

15 12 2013


Catching up on off-season Yankee news:

Joe Torre is a Hall of Famer — finally

I actually intended to write a post sometime this year making the case for Joe Torre‘s election to the Hall of Fame. But the Expansion Era Committee chose Torre to enter the Hall of Fame this year, along with his managing peers Tony LaRussa and Bobby Cox.

All three managers are clear Hall of Famers, ranking third (LaRussa), fourth (Cox) and fifth (Torre) on the all-time wins list for managers.

Torre was a strong candidate for the Hall of Fame as a player and probably should have been chosen on that basis, regardless of his performance as a manager. He and Elston Howard were the best catchers of the 1960s and most people who were best of their era at a position are in Cooperstown. He was a nine-time All-Star and most eligible players who’ve made that many All-Star teams are in the Hall. He also was MVP in 1971 (after moving to third base), leading the league in batting, RBI and hits.

No Hall of Fame catcher topped Torre’s career figures in all of the triple-crown categories (.297, 252 HR, 1185 RBI) as well as his 2,342 hits, and each of those figures ranks in the top half of all Hall of Fame catchers. Among third basemen, only George Brett topped Torre in all four categories, and his totals again measure up as a Hall of Famer compared to the third basemen in Cooperstown. And he won a Gold Glove as a catcher, so he wasn’t being kept out of Cooperstown because of defensive deficiencies (though he wasn’t good defensively at third). Read the rest of this entry »





Wrapping up the 2013 season: Congrats to Red Sox, Mo, Pettitte

2 11 2013

Reflections on the 2013 season:

Hat tip to the Red Sox!

Something that Red Sox fans and Yankee haters don’t understand is that Yankee fans (most of us anyway, in my experience) don’t hate the Red Sox the way that Red Sox fans and Yankee haters hate the Yankees.

Yes, when the Yankees are playing the Red Sox, I hate them and revel in every win against them (and felt pain at this year’s losses). But when they’re not playing each other, the Red Sox are among my favorite non-Yankee teams. And certainly this year, when they played classy after last year’s debacle and all of the nation was feeling “Boston strong,” I enjoyed watching the Red Sox play and win. (I think sports get exaggerated as healing for a city, but I got caught up in the Yankees’ near-win after 9/11, and I was glad to see Boston have this to feel good about.)

I’m a cancer survivor who enjoys the success of Jon Lester. I’ve always enjoyed watching David Ortiz play (well, maybe not always; 2004 wasn’t so enjoyable) and enjoyed both his post-Marathon exhortation and his post-season hitting (and walking) binge this year.

If the Hall of Fame ever starts admitting players who’ve been tainted in the performance-enhancing-drugs scandals, I’ll probably be cheering for Big Papi to get his place in Cooperstown. The Hall of Fame needs some DH’s and Papi might deserve to be the first pure DH to win enshrinement.

Of course, the Red Sox hired a good manager and acquired some good players, but mostly I think this year established once and for all that Bobby Valentine is a horrible manager.

Farewell to Mo!

I’ve blogged before about why Mariano Rivera is one of the most unique baseball players ever and why he’s one of the most incomparable pro athletes ever in any sport.

I might not take note again of Mo’s retirement except for the post by ESPN’s Jim Caple (I considered not linking to it here because it was pure click-bait, but I believe in linking, so I did) that twisted and selectively used stats to pretend that Rivera and closers in general are overrated.

I presume Caple was not watching the post-season, where Koji Uehara was the biggest reason that the Red Sox beat the Tigers to make it to the World Series.

Here’s how important closers are (and specifically how important Rivera was): The Atlanta Braves of the 1990s had a strong offense, including certain Hall of Famer Chipper Jones. They had three certain Hall of Fame starting pitchers in their prime (Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and John Smoltz) and some other pretty good pitchers and players.

The Yankees of that period had Derek Jeter, a certain Hall of Famer in his prime, and some pretty good players and some pretty good pitchers (Roger Clemens would be a sure Hall of Famer if not tainted with suspicion of using performance-enhancing drugs). But they didn’t have anything as fearsome as that Braves rotation. Except for Mo. The Braves had weak closers (until Smoltz moved to the bullpen, when the team was on the wane). And the Braves won one World Series to four for Rivera in the same stretch (and another later, when Mo was still going strong and the Braves’ starters had scattered).

ESPN should have higher standards than publishing ignorant click-bait nonsense.

Farewell to Andy Pettitte

I noted the first time he retired that Pettitte had a strong case for being a Hall of Famer but wouldn’t make it. In his return to the game, he added a few wins, but he still won’t make it. He has more post-season wins than anyone and a better career than quite a few Hall of Fame pitchers. But he’s borderline as a Hall of Fame candidate, even if he wasn’t tainted by use of human growth hormone. I reserve my Hall of Fame outrage for those who absolutely belong in Cooperstown.

But as a Yankee fan, I remember Pettitte’s 15 years in pinstripes fondly. He always pitched with grit and class.

Good riddance to A-Rod

When the Yankees traded Alfonso Soriano for Alex Rodriguez after the 2003 season, I said I’d rather have Soriano over the next seven seasons (the time remaining on A-Rod’s 10-year contract). Well, A-Rod won two Most Valuable Player awards for the Yankees and finally contributed to a World Series championship in 2009 after (and before) several post-season disappointments.

The Yankees won four World Series and played in six in the 10 years before A-Rod arrived. They made it to one World Series on his his watch. He also had two drug scandals. That’s not a successful tenure, not for one of baseball’s best-ever players on the most successful sports franchise ever.

One of A-Rod’s most memorable moments as a Yankee was a fight he didn’t even start, when Jason Varitek of the Red Sox followed A-Rod down the first-base line after Bronson Arroyo hit A-Rod, probably on purpose. A-Rod didn’t charge the mound, but he was jawing at Arroyo on his way to first base, as many hitters do after being hit. Varitek was certainly OK to stay between the hitter and the pitcher in that situation, but if there’s going to be a fight here, the guy who got hit by the pitch should start it.

Amazingly, Varitek hit A-Rod with both hands while still wearing his catcher’s mask and helmet. It was perhaps the most cowardly punch in the history of baseball fights. Can you imagine the outrage if Jorge Posada, protected by his catching gear, had taken a swing at Big Papi (or even Manny Ramirez)? But because a guy who was widely liked was swinging at the most-hated player on the most-hated team, Varitek was lauded for his grittiness and his leadership. It showed as clearly as anything how universal the A-Rod hatred was.

And the dust-up with Arroyo had an equally bizarre second chapter: In Game 6 of the 2004 American League Championship Series, A-Rod hit a weak grounder with Jeter on first base and one out, with the Red Sox leading 4-2. Arroyo fielded and was reaching to tag A-Rod near first base. A-Rod swatted the ball away and was called safe and Jeter raced home to make it a one-run game.

But after Terry Francona argued, the umpires conferred and reversed the call, invoking a weird rule I’ve never seen cited before or since: You can’t knock the ball out of a guy’s glove with your hand. Base runners always try to kick the ball loose and you can knock the everloving crap out of a catcher (think Pete Rose) to knock the ball loose, but you can’t swat it. So A-Rod would have been fine to run right through Arroyo, but not swat his glove.

But it was A-Rod. And the Red Sox were about to sweep the Yankees on their way to breaking their supposed Curse. So there was no outrage about the stupid rule.

I tried to be sympathetic to A-Rod. If he hadn’t cheated — again — I might have at least had mixed feelings about him. But I  wish the Yankees had never made that trade. I wish they had not extended his contract. I presume and hope we’ve seen the last of A-Rod in pinstripes. I was glad to see Soriano return as A-Rod’s Yankee career was wrapping up.

Jeter’s coming back

I was giving some thought to a blog post wondering whether four such great players as A-Rod, Rivera, Pettitte and Jeter had wrapped up their careers the same year with the same team before. If A-Rod’s really done, it’s still a valid question. Might be a valid question anyway to ask just about Rivera and Pettitte. But Jeter‘s not done yet.

I’m not sure how I feel about him signing for another year. I’d like to see him return to his 2012 form. I’d like to see him get another crack at the post-season. I’d like to see him make a run at 4,000 career hits. But I’m doubtful that any of that is possible.

When the 2012 season ended, Jeter had an outside shot at Pete Rose’s all-time hit record. But his long return from injury this year, followed by new injuries, makes me think his career’s about over. If he has another good year or two in him, I’ll be glad to see him back. If he comes back to struggle, I won’t like watching that.

Shake off the tough calls

I hated the way Game 3 of the World Series ended: with umpire Jim Joyce giving a run to the Cardinals that they didn’t earn. I think Joyce made the wrong call. I think even as the obstruction rule is written, it was Allen Craig’s step toward second base that put Will Middlebrooks in his path. Middlebrooks was nowhere between third base and home, so Joyce should not have called obstruction. While Craig didn’t seek out Middlebrooks to get the call, the fact that Joyce called it could result in runners deliberately colliding with fielders who aren’t in their way, trying to get bogus obstruction calls.

Baseball should rewrite that rule to specify that incidental contact with a fielder who’s not between the bases is not obstruction.

Even if that was the right call, it was bizarre and tough, an unfair outcome to the Red Sox (though the catcher never should have thrown the ball).

But champions shake off the bad calls and the tough calls, as I’ve noted before here (and as the Yankees didn’t do after that Arroyo-A-Rod call in 2004). Game 3 was the last game the Red Sox lost. Of course, they wouldn’t necessarily have won the game if Joyce hadn’t given the Cardinals the winning run. The game would have gone into extra innings, and it was anyone’s game. But if the Red Sox had won that game and the next two, their fans wouldn’t have had that wonderful celebration in Fenway.

Losers whine forever about bad calls. Champions overcome them.

2013 in review

Given their injuries, the Yankees made a decent showing. They hung in there in April and May, took over first place with a strong run in June and July, then faded in August. Even though they remained in the wild card chase well into September, they never looked like a champion.

I enjoyed three Yankee games, watching them play in Yankee Stadium, Camden Yards and Target Field. I got to see two Rivera saves and Sabathia’s 200th win.

 

Looking ahead to 2014

If Jeter, Mark Teixeira, Curtis Granderson return healthy and in top form, and if the Yankees re-sign Robinson Cano, they should be good next year. But how likely is that? They have some decent (but not great) starting pitching, and Dave Robertson might be ready to step into the closer role. But mostly 2015 feels like a rebuilding year to me.

I’d like to see the rebuilding come from a strong farm system. The dynasty of the ’90s was built heavily on homegrown talent: Jeter, Rivera, Pettitte, Jorge Posada, Bernie Williams.

But I’m not aware of that kind of talent in the minors now. I expect some trades and free-agency signings. Optimism doesn’t abound.





Tommy John belongs in the Hall of Fame as a member, not a special guest with his surgeon

26 07 2013

Tommy John, photo linked from mlbreports.com

The Hall of Fame is recognizing Tommy John’s undeniable fame Saturday, but not by inducting him as a member. What could more clearly illustrate how farcical Hall of Fame selection has become?

John will be honored with the surgeon who pioneered Tommy John surgery, Dr. Frank Jobe. That’s fine, and certainly Jobe deserves to be honored by the Hall of Fame. But, as I’ve noted here before, Tommy John deserves to be a full-fledged Hall of Famer based on his pitching career but especially based on his role as the trailblazer who showed about 500 other pitchers the way back from an injury that used to end careers. It’s called Tommy John surgery, for crying out loud!

But let’s set aside the surgery for a while. Tommy John is a clear Hall of Famer based on his credentials, however you examine the record:

With the exception of Roger Clemens, who’s being kept out of Cooperstown because of allegations about performance-enhancing drugs, every eligible pitcher who played in the 20th Century with as many wins as Tommy John is in the Hall of Fame (and more than 30 pitchers with fewer wins than John are in the Hall of Fame). Read the rest of this entry »





A champion like Bernie Williams would be a sure Hall of Famer in football or basketball

13 01 2013

If Baseball Hall of Fame selection worked the way the Pro Football Hall of Fame and the Basketball Hall of Fame selections work, Bernie Williams would be heading for Cooperstown someday. Instead, he dropped off next year’s ballot, getting only 3 percent of the vote from the Baseball Writers Association of America last week.

The most comparable NFL teams to the Bernie’s Yankees were the San Francisco 49ers of the 1980s and ’90s, the Pittsburgh Steelers of the 1970s and the Green Bay Packers of the 1960s.

I’ll leave the 49ers out of this consideration for a couple reasons:

  1. Their titles were more spread out, four titles in nine years, five titles in 14 years. With a wider spread of years, they had more turnover of players. In fact, they have two quarterbacks from that era, Joe Montana and Steve Young, in the Hall of Fame.
  2. More of their players remain in Hall of Fame consideration. Charles Haley is a finalist this year. Maybe Roger Craig, John Taylor, Ken Norton or Randy Cross will make it someday, too. So it’s harder to say how many 49ers will eventually make it to Canton. (Montana, Young, Jerry Rice, Ronnie Lott,  and Fred Dean are already in the Hall of Fame, along with Coach Bill Walsh and three players who made most of their case for the Hall of Fame with other teams, Deion Sanders, Rickey Jackson and Richard Dent).

Instead, we’ll examine the Steelers and Packers. The Yankees won four championships in five years (and made two more World Series in the next three years). The Steelers won four championships in six years. The Packers won five championships in seven years (and played for the title the year before winning their first championship). So all three teams won at least four championships over six years. These were some of the greatest dynasties in sports history.

Here are the Steelers from that era in the Hall of Fame: Mel Blount, Terry Bradshaw, Joe Greene, Jack Ham, Franco Harris, Jack Lambert, John Stallworth, Lynn Swann, Mike Webster (plus Coach Chuck Noll). That’s nine players, or 41 percent of the 22 starters (with only one full-time placekicker and no full-time punters in the Hall of Fame, we don’t need to count them). That’s close to a complete list, but some people still are campaigning for L.C. Greenwood.

Here are the Packers from that era in the Hall of Fame: Herb Adderley, Willie Davis, Forrest Gregg, Paul Hornung, Henry Jordan, Ray Nitschke, Jim Ringo, Bart Starr, Jim Taylor, Willie Wood, plus legendary Coach Vince Lombardi. That’s 10 of 22, and Dave Robinson is a finalist this year who could make it 50 percent of the starters. And don’t count out Jerry Kramer, a five-time All-Pro who threw maybe the most famous block in NFL history.

Let’s say that the eight daily position players, the designated hitter, the five starters and the bullpen ace are equivalent to the starters on the football team, 15 people playing roles that give you a shot at the Hall of Fame. So if the Baseball Hall of Fame selections worked the way that the Pro Football Hall of Fame does, 40 to 50 percent would mean six to eight Yankees from the 1990s would make the Hall of Fame. Read the rest of this entry »





Baseball Hall of Fame voting is screwed up, steroids or not

10 01 2013

Baseball Hall of Fame voting is even more screwed up than voting in real elections.

OK, I get why Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Sammy Sosa didn’t make the Hall of Fame. There’s the drug thing (though a jury actually acquitted Clemens of perjury when he denied use).

Jayson Stark wrote a good piece for ESPN about how baseball needs to come to terms with the steroid era and how that should be represented in the Hall of Fame. But I think yesterday’s vote showed how screwed up Hall of Fame voting is, period. Even the votes on people not tainted with drug suspicion make no sense.

The Baseball Writers Association of America and veterans committees have made the Hall of Fame selection a laughingstock for generations. The football and basketball Hall of Fame selections always make more sense (though there’s always room for argument in any such voting). But baseball voting is a head-shaker every year.

For this post, we’ll set aside Bonds, Clemens and Sosa, along with Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro. Whether you agree or not, everyone understands why baseball writers vote against people who are tainted with suspicion of using performance-enhancing drugs. If the voting did make sense, you could certainly understand a few years of “no” votes for suspected cheaters (character and integrity are among the voting criteria).

And, for this post at least, we’ll mostly set aside my own usual rants about the voters’ prejudice against Yankees. Other than Clemens and the usual dissing of Don Mattingly (13 percent this year), players who played their great years for the Yankees don’t figure in this year’s voting. So I’ll note the ridiculous votes on other candidates who fell short of the 75-percent vote needed for induction (all stats from Baseball Reference): Read the rest of this entry »





I cross the streams, discussing Hated Yankees and journalism

11 12 2012

“Don’t cross the streams,” we were warned in “Ghostbuster.” It can be bad.

But I crossed the streams today, mentioning this Hated Yankees blog in a journalism workshop today, then continuing the discussion later on the Twitter account I usually use for discussions of journalism and not for my opinions about the New York Yankees. That’s the topic of this blog and the related @hatedyankees Twitter account.

My Hated Yankees identity creeps into my journalism workshops occasionally for two reasons:

  1. As an example of why a journalist would use a personal Twitter account separate from the account you use for work, I mention that I launched @hatedyankees because I didn’t want to annoy or bore journalists who hated the Yankees or didn’t care about baseball with my tweets about the Yankees. But I did want to tweet about the Yankees (it was October 2009 when I launched the Twitter account and this blog, chronicling and celebrating the Yankees’ drive to the World Series title that year.)
  2. I mention my 2009 blog post about why Don Mattingly belongs in the Hall of Fame as an example of a bad headline for search engines. I didn’t understand SEO well then and my headline, “You be the judge: Who’s a Hall of Famer?” didn’t help people find my blog because it didn’t include the name most likely to be used in a Google search by someone who would be interested in my post. Read the rest of this entry »







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