Don Mattingly outperformed most Hall of Famers of his era

29 10 2012

Twenty hitters who played with Don Mattingly have made it into the Baseball Hall of Fame. He was better than most of them. It’s past time for the baseball writers to recognize that Mattingly belongs in the Hall of Fame.

When I’m making the case for Yankees who belong in the Hall of Fame, I don’t compare them to marginal Hall of Famers. Wherever you draw the line for who belongs in the Hall of Fame, some players who belong in will be very close to the line, as will some who don’t belong in. The differences between the players on opposite sides of the line will be small. And reasonable people can disagree over who belongs on which side of the line. So when you start comparing someone who’s not in the Hall with the people close to the line, you have a losing argument. You have to compare your overlooked candidate to the clear Hall of Famers who are nowhere near he line.

A few years ago, I noted that Mattingly’s career statistics and achievements were nearly identical to Kirby Puckett’s. That’s a pretty compelling argument, since Puckett was a first-ballot Hall of Famer whose achievements are universally regarded as worthy of Cooperstown.

But maybe you would argue that the Puckett comparison is an oddity, a coincidence that somehow doesn’t capture Kirby’s greatness. So I compared Mattingly to all his contemporaries in the Hall of Fame. And he still holds up well. By every measure except longevity, he’s better than most of them. And even with a shorter career than most, his career statistics are comparable to several Hall of Famers from his era. Read the rest of this entry »

Getting swept sucks; salute the winners and enjoy what we’ve had

19 10 2012

Being swept sucks.

I don’t want to dwell on this year’s sweep of the Yankees, which I enjoyed even less than the 2004 American League Championship Series. At least that series was a lot of fun for three games.

Let’s just concede that the Tigers kicked the Yankees’ asses this year. No excuses for injuries or bad calls. Excuses might work if you lost in seven games, but even then they mostly just make you a whiner and a bad loser. When you don’t win a game, you salute the winner, appreciate the highlights of getting to the sweep and lose with some class and dignity.

You start looking to next year and hoping for hot-stove deals (a trade with Miami would be nice). You enjoy the World Series with a little less stress since your team’s not playing. And, if you’re a Yankee fan, you should appreciate how long we’ve been due to be swept.

This is the first post-season sweep of the Torre and Girardi generation of Yankees. Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera still haven’t been swept in the post-season. In fact, the last time the Yankees were swept in the post-season, George Brett took Goose Gossage deep for the exclamation point in the 1980 League Championship Series. Read the rest of this entry »

The 2012 Yankees need to study the 1996 Yankees and 1985 Royals

15 10 2012

The Yankees are pretty much dead now, having lost two games at home and facing Justin Verlander in Detroit in Game 3, right?

Not really.

The Yankees lost two home games to the Atlanta Braves in 1996 and were facing Tom Glavine in Game 3. Glavine is a sure Hall of Famer who won the Cy Young Award two years later. Verlander is well on his way to Cooperstown and won the Cy Young and Most Valuable Player awards last year. Glavine was 15-10 with a 2.98 ERA in 1996 and three wins already in that year’s post-season. Verlander was 17-8 with a 2.64 ERA and two wins in the first round of this year’s post-season. (All these stats come from

The Yankees beat Glavine, won the next three games and launched a dynasty with their first world championship under Joe Torre and Derek Jeter. Read the rest of this entry »

Derek Jeter’s post-season career: One of the best seasons in baseball history

14 10 2012

My Derek Jeter rookie card

Derek Jeter was rolling along with another outstanding post-season until he fractured his ankle Saturday night.

Now, if the Yankees are going to win their 28th World Series, they will have to do it without either of the sure Hall of Famers who led the way to their last five titles. Mariano Rivera, the best relief pitcher in baseball history, went down for the season earlier this year. Andy Pettitte is the last man standing from the Joe Torre dynasty, but he appears likely to fall short of Cooperstown immortality (especially if the Yankees keep wasting his outstanding post-season starts this year).

With Jeter unable to add further to his many post-season records this year, let’s take a look at his October mastery, which has really added a full season to his 18-year career. (All the stats I cite here come from Read the rest of this entry »

Ibañez hitting for A-Rod: Strategy you never see in the National League

11 10 2012

That great strategic move that tied — and eventually won — Game 3 of the American League Division Series Wednesday would never happen in the National League.

National League managers almost never pinch-hit for a great hitter, even one who’s struggling. I debunked the myth of National League strategy a couple years ago and won’t repeat the detailed case here. Suffice it to say the the move Joe Girardi made was strictly an American League call. NL managers use their pinch-hitters primarily to bat for pitchers, usually an easy call. Or they hit for the weakest hitters in their linup.

But sending Raúl Ibañez in to hit for Alex Rodriguez, who has 647 career homers? No National League manager would ever do that.

The Orioles pitched three right-handers last night. Without the designated hitter, Ibañez and/or Eric Chavez certainly would have been used to pinch-hit for the pitcher earlier in the game (the ninth spot in the batting order came up in the eighth inning). Chavez did play Wednesday, but A-Rod would have played third base, rather than DH, if the pitchers were hitting, so Girardi would have had two outstanding left-handed pinch-hitters to use.

Trailing 2-1 in the bottom of the 5th, the second time the 9th spot came up, Girardi might have pinch-hit with either Chavez or Ibañez. That’s one of the few tough calls NL managers have, a little early to hit for the pitcher, but with a man on base and a good bullpen, a pinch-hitter would have been likely. By the eighth inning, Girardi absolutely would have pinch-hit trailing 2-1. Given the dramatic homer that Ibañez hit the last week of the season, he likely would have gotten the call if Girardi still had both him and Chavez available. Would he have hit the homer to tie the game less dramatically in the 8th? Who knows? He would have been facing a different pitcher. Might he have stayed in the game to hit again in extra innings? You can’t say.

But the gutsy call of pinch-hitting for a multi-time Most Valuable Player? That’s strictly an American League call.