Yankees have more borderline Hall of Fame contenders than any other team

10 01 2016

Each year when the Baseball Hall of Fame votes come out, I applaud for the new Hall of Famers (Ken Griffey Jr. and Mike Piazza this year). But then I quickly turn to the players who didn’t make it.

Who came tantalizingly close (Jeff Bagwell and Tim Raines this year)? Who fell short in his final year on the writers’ ballot (Alan Trammell this year)? How close is someone with just one more year left on the ballot (Raines close, Lee Smith too far from the 75-percent threshold for election)? Who moved closer to election, likely to make it in a few years (Curt Schilling)?

I’ve always been fascinated by the bizarre and inconsistent (or consistently biased) decisions about borderline contenders made by Hall of Fame voters — the Baseball Writers Association of America and the various Veterans Committees that have decided on players not chosen by the writers.

My most frequent topic on this blog is Yankees who belong in the Hall of Fame. But I’m going to roll around baseball in this post to recognize Cooperstown contenders from other teams.

Of course, I’m more convinced by the arguments for the Yankees. And, if a guy’s not in the Hall of Fame, the arguments aren’t persuasive yet to the voters. The best players discussed here are less than automatic. No Griffey, Derek Jeter or Greg Maddux in the group.

In addition, I won’t deal with the all-time greats who are being kept out of Cooperstown because of gambling or drug scandals: Pete Rose, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens. I dealt with them in last week’s post suggesting a Scoundrels Committee to decide how to deal with the great players who are tainted by scandal. I will, though, address the borderline players tainted by drug suspicions: Those whose numbers once would have made them certain Hall of Famers, but they became borderline either because of inflation of power figures during their careers or because of speculation about how much drugs inflated their own numbers.

This look at borderline players around the league will show that the anti-Yankee bias in selection is huge. I will go team by team and mention all the borderline contenders. I doubt I’ll leave out anyone with a real shot at Cooperstown, but your round-up of borderline contenders certainly won’t be identical to mine.

With a few exceptions, I won’t dwell much on the case for a particular candidate, but will look for articles or blog posts where other writers have made the case and link to them. I won’t bother linking to articles about suspicions of performance-enhancing drugs. I presume you remember the accusations, whispers, etc. in those cases.

Some players will show up under multiple teams. I won’t try to name contenders in all the teams where they played, but will mention some on teams where they made notable contributions.

Here’s what I consider a borderline candidate: anyone who doesn’t make the Hall of Fame in his first five years on the writers’ ballot, but whose career achievements resemble at least some Hall of Famers. The time on the writers’ ballot was shortened in 2014 from 15 years to 10 (though three players approaching 15 years were grandfathered in, giving Trammell, Smith and a few others another year or two).

The second path to the Hall of Fame, if the writers didn’t vote you in, used to be called the Old-Timers’ Committee, then the Veterans Committee. Now committees in rotating years consider retired players (and managers and other contributors) from three eras, pre-integration (before 1947), the “Golden Era” (1947-72) and the Expansion Era (post-1972, which is an odd cut-off point, given that baseball expanded in 1961, ’62, ’69 and ’76, but not in ’72. I presume after a while the Expansion Era will be broken into two eras, though I doubt they will call the second one the Steroid Era. I don’t expect the era committees to last long. I anticipate yet another overhaul in the Veterans Committee structure.

For purposes of this post, I consider a player a borderline candidate if he’s likely to have sports writers (or bloggers such as me) making a case someday that he should get consideration by a Veterans Committee.

I give no consideration here to Pre-Integration Era candidates. As I explained in my series on continued racial discrimination in the Baseball Hall of Fame, that era already has too many borderline candidates already in the Hall of Fame. Maybe some who didn’t make it are better than some who did, but those who didn’t aren’t as deserving as dozens of post-integration players who aren’t in the Hall of Fame.

Baseball closed the door in 2006 on further selections from the Negro Leagues. Unless a Scoundrels Committee opens the door for players banned for gambling, which shouldn’t allow much, if anyone, beyond Shoeless Joe Jackson, we should be done with Hall of Fame selections of white guys from the Segregation Era.

I’ll address contenders from the Golden Era (doesn’t the choice of that name say a lot about the people filling the Hall of Fame?) and Expansion Era, both of which have strong contenders for consideration in the coming years. But don’t expect the committees to let many players in. The 2014 Golden Era Committee whiffed on naming any of its 10 finalists to the Hall as did last year’s Pre-Integration Era Committee (rightly).

The 2014 Expansion Era Committee’s 12 ballot choices in 2014 included only six players. The committee elected only three managers: Bobby Cox, Tony LaRussa and Joe Torre (though Torre’s achievements as manager and player could be weighed together, and he was a worthy candidate as a player, lasting 15 years on the writers’ ballot, but didn’t get in, a perfect example of a borderline contender).

I won’t deal with managers here, but that might be a topic for a future post.

American League East

Boston Red Sox

Hall of Fame voters love the Red Sox, so Schilling will make it to Cooperstown eventually, but I’ll address him more as a Diamondback.

Luis Tiant (who gave the Yankees a couple decent years toward the end of his career) was one of the candidates rejected in 2014 by the Golden Era Committee.

Some Red Sox fans contend that Dwight Evans should be in the Hall of Fame (a point I discussed last year with Jim Brady), and I really liked Evans. But there are several Yankees (and players from other teams) with stronger cases for Cooperstown. He blossomed unusually late in his career. I think he has a better shot, though, than Reggie Smith, an earlier Boston outfielder who’s definitely in the borderline category.

Red Sox fans won’t think of Bill Buckner as a borderline Hall of Famer, and he just lasted one year on the ballot. More on him in the Dodgers section.

Fred Lynn appeared bound for the Hall of Fame, starting his career with nine straight All-Star seasons. But he flamed out and Hall of Fame voters place an inordinate value on longevity. He has no chance.

Baltimore Orioles

Rafael Palmeiro is remembered better for his defiant assurance to Congress that he never used performance-enhancing drugs, and then failing a drug test, than for his play on the field. It’s interesting that Clemens was prosecuted for lying to Congress, based on the testimony of an admitted drug dealer, but Palmeiro wasn’t prosecuted based on physical evidence. Did the prosecutors think he thought after his testimony that maybe it was time to try performance-enhancing drugs?

Palmeiro is one of those players who moves from automatic to barely borderline, based on drug suspicions. Along with Hank Aaron, Willie Mays and Alex Rodriguez, Palmeiro’s one of only four players to pass 500 homers and 3,000 hits, but he played in an era of such performance enhancement that he made only four All-Star teams. Whatever stats he achieved, he was just one of the juicers.

Fun fact about Palmeiro: He won a Gold Glove in 1999 after playing only 28 games at first base and DH’ing 128 times. He’ll have to settle for that as the biggest honor he won but didn’t deserve.

Even after voters start allowing a few drug users in, if they ever do, I doubt Palmeiro will make it. If voters start allowing juicers into Cooperstown, it will be based on speculation of how great they were before they juiced or would have been without juicing. Palmeiro might be the easiest guy to dismiss his Hall of Fame numbers as completely a result of drugs.

For clean players, the Orioles have several pitchers who came up just short of normal Hall of Fame standards, most notably Mike Mussina (also a Yankee), Dennis MartinezDave McNally and Mike Cuellar.

Hall of Fame voters love longevity, so Moose definitely has a shot (he polled in the low 20 percents his first two years on the ballot and was up to 43 percent this year). I’d be surprised if either McNally or Cuellar makes it, but not outraged. They were great pitchers, but played in an era of many greater pitchers, and neither achieved the longevity that Hall voters demand (that’s an even stronger bias than the voters’ anti-Yankee bent).

Bobby Grich had a nice career, but was only on the Hall of Fame ballot for a year. He has no shot. Boog Powell won an MVP, but didn’t hit enough homers (339) to make the Hall of Fame as a one-dimensional slugger.

Toronto Blue Jays

Joe Carter probably won’t make the Hall of Fame but probably should. A guy with ten 100-RBI seasons and a World Series-winning homer has a shot at winning support someday from a Veterans Committee. I watched him play in the minors with the Iowa Cubs (he went to the Indians in the Rick Sutcliffe trade), and was a fan his whole career.

Fred McGriff ended seven homers short of 500, which at one time was a sure ticket to Cooperstown. I don’t recall that anyone ever suggested the Crime Dog was a juicer, but he played in an era when homers were devalued. It definitely hurts him that he didn’t quite make it to 500. He hasn’t reached even 25 percent of the writers’ vote yet (21 percent this year). Carlos Delgado finished 20 homers behind McGriff in an era of inflated slugging numbers. He was off the ballot in a year. John Olerud is even a longer-shot Blue Jay first baseman, who didn’t get even 1 percent of the vote his only year on the ballot. But the Blue Jays have had an impressive list of borderline candidates at first base.

This is one of three teams where Jack Morris should get a mention, but his Hall of Fame pitch is based mostly on his years with the Tigers and Twins, so I’ll address it more there.

I don’t see David Wells or David Cone making the Hall of Fame, but both had years with the Blue Jays and Yankees that push them into the borderline territory.

Tampa Bay Rays

The Rays have hardly been playing long enough to have any players awaiting the call from Cooperstown, but Jose Canseco had his last All-Star season in St. Petersburg. And Palmeiro might get the call before Canseco, whose great play was too short-lived. And he gets no credit for admitting his drug use, because he snitched on so many other players.

A.L. Central

Kansas City Royals

Bret Saberhagen's autograph on a ball belonging to my son Mike.

Bret Saberhagen’s autograph on a ball belonging to my son Mike.

I love Bret Saberhagen, and few multiple Cy Young winners don’t make the Hall of Fame, but he really had only one other great year. You need a tragic end to your career to get in the Hall of Fame with just 167 wins. (Dizzy Dean won 150, Sandy Koufax 165.) Sabes became just an average pitcher, or worse, most of the final decade of his career.

Cone, won his Cy Young in Kansas City, probably has a bit better shot at the Hall of Fame, but he’s not likely to get there, even with a 20-win season and a perfect game for the Yankees.

Frank White was a great fielder, but substantially less a hitter than two other contemporaries at second base: Willie Randolph (a Yankee for whom I don’t make a Hall of Fame case) and Lou Whitaker (more on him later). White will have to settle for his eight Gold Gloves and the Royals Hall of Fame.

Dan Quisenberry is a long shot for selection by an Expansion Era Committee someday. He made the 2014 ballot, but didn’t win election. He was baseball’s best reliever for a six-year stretch (when Hall of Fame relievers Bruce Sutter, Rollie Fingers and Goose Gossage were in their primes). But voters normally demand a longer career than Quiz had.

Minnesota Twins

Morris absolutely belongs in the Hall of Fame, and he’ll get there someday. He peaked at two-thirds of the writers’ votes (75 percent are required), and players who get that close with the writers always get in eventually. I bet he gets in on his first chance under the Expansion Era Committee.

He maybe pitched the best World Series game ever, a 10-inning shutout duel over John Smoltz that looms bigger in a way than Don Larsen’s perfect game because it was in Game Seven.

Morris is the easiest eventual Hall of Famer to project among those who were passed over by the writers.

Jim Kaat actually might as strong a case for the Hall of Fame as Morris. With 283 wins, he has a record of longevity that normally gets pitchers into Cooperstown.

Bert Blyleven was a contemporary of Kaat’s with just four more wins (Kaat’s wins slowed down when he moved to the bullpen for his final five seasons, robbing him of the chance to reach 300 wins). Blyleven was a borderline candidate who made the Hall of Fame on his 14th year on the ballot. But Kaat had more 20-win seasons and Blyleven never won a Gold Glove. Kaat won 16 Gold Gloves, which was a record until Greg Maddux broke it.

The Golden Era Committee rejected Kaat in 2014, but two of his 20-win seasons came in the Expansion Era, so he might get a shot with another committee.

Tony Oliva, a three-time batting champion and eight-time All-Star, didn’t play long enough to reach the career totals Hall of Fame voters like. He was one of the 10 candidates rejected by the Golden Era Committee in 2014. I showed last year how much better he was than several white outfielders in the Hall of Fame.

Frank Viola and Kent Hrbek had some great seasons with the Twins, but neither played long enough or played at his peak long enough to have a valid case for Cooperstown.

Cleveland Indians

I mentioned Tiant in the Red Sox section, but he pitched well for the Indians, too, including winning the 1968 ERA title.

Kenny Lofton‘s primary claim to the Hall of Fame is as a base stealer. He ranks 15th all-time with 622 steals. But steals rarely get a player into the Hall of Fame. Six of the players ahead of Lofton on the list aren’t in Cooperstown yet. Raines, fifth on the list, will probably make it, but gets his last shot on the writers’ ballot next year. Bert Campaneris, just ahead of Lofton on the list with 649 steals, led the league seven times (to five for Lofton) and Willie Wilson and Vince Coleman, outfielders whose careers overlapped with Lofton, had more steals and neither lasted a year on the writers’ ballot. Same as Lofton. None of them will be honored at Cooperstown.

Carter probably has a stronger shot than fellow Cleveland outfielders Albert Belle or Rocky Colavito. I’ll discuss Julio Franco with the Rangers. But I don’t see any Indians likely to move across the Hall of Fame border.

Chicago White Sox

Three White Sox, Minnie MiñosoBilly Pierce and Dick Allen, were among the 10 players by the 2014 Golden Era Committee. Miñoso belongs in the Hall of Fame, and I think he’ll make it someday.

Allen had some great years, including an MVP season for the White Sox, but his career numbers didn’t reach automatic Hall of Fame standards. I think some African American and Latino players of his time perhaps got unfair reputations as malcontents, but Allen got one, and that holds you back when you’re a borderline contender. Allen had a similar career to Ron Santo (a White Sox teammate in 1974), and Sant0’s in the Hall of Fame. In my series on racial discrimination in Hall of Fame selections, I showed how Allen was easily as good as or better than white first and third basemen who made the Hall of Fame as borderline candidates.

Harold Baines came up 134 hits short of 3,000, which would have ensured him Hall of Fame selection. Instead, the anti-DH bias was too powerful to overcome. He lasted just four years on the ballot. If Edgar Martinez can’t get into Cooperstown, Baines doesn’t have a shot.

Kaat had two of his 20-win seasons for the White Sox.

Detroit Tigers

The Tigers have one of the biggest fields of valid Hall of Fame contenders.

Of course, Morris had more of his great years for the Tigers than any other team.

Frank Tanana won almost as many games as Morris, but has no shot at the Hall of Fame. More on him in the Angels section.

Trammell and Lou Whitaker were the absolute best offense/defense shortstop/second base combo of their time.

My Cal Ripken autograph

My Cal Ripken autograph

Barry Larkin, who overlapped careers with Trammell for 11 years, made it into the Hall of Fame his third year on the ballot. Neither was the best shortstop of their time; that was Cal Ripken Jr. But Trammell and Larkin had highly similar careers (Trammell had more hits, RBI and Gold Gloves, and other numbers were very close). Larkin was probably better, but you simply can’t explain why the writers elected Larkin in his third year on the ballot and never gave Trammell even 50 percent of the vote in 15 years on the ballot.

Whitaker was the best second baseman of his time in the American League. Ryne Sandberg was better in the National League. But you simply can’t defend the fact that neither of the Tiger infielders is in the Hall of Fame. I expect some Expansion Era Committee to admit them together one day.

Mickey Lolich, Norm Cash, Bill Freehan, Harvey Kuenn and Colavito are Tigers of the 1960s worthy of Hall of Fame consideration but unlikely to make it.

If you don’t remember the 1960s, you probably think Freehan is a stretch, but he and Yankee Elston Howard were the best American League catchers of their time. And best catchers of an era usually make it.  I don’t think any catchers between Yogi Berra and Johnny Bench will make it to Cooperstown (not counting Joe Torre, who was enshrined as a manager and the only N.L. catcher comparable to Freehan and Howard). But you can make a case for Freehan. He wasn’t much of an offensive player, but he was about as good as Rick Ferrell, a Hall of Fame catcher elected mostly for his defense. I could find only one eligible person with more All-Star selections than Freehan (11) who’s not in the Hall of Fame, except those being kept out for gambling or drugs.

Gary Sheffield played for eight teams, including two years with the Tigers. I discuss his Hall of Fame chances under the Marlins.

Darrell Evans got 414 homers. You used to be automatic if you made it to 500, but you needed other qualifications if you were in the 400s and Evans didn’t have strong enough other qualifications. He lasted just one year on the writers’ ballot.

Cecil Fielder, who later played for the Yankees, had a four-year stretch for the Tigers where he appeared Cooperstown bound. But he ended well short of Hall of Fame career standards and didn’t get even 1 percent of the vote his only year on the ballot.

Kirk Gibson doesn’t have Hall of Fame stats, but he has Hall of Fame fame. Though often injured (the reason his stats fell short), he was one of the most feared hitters of his time. And damn, he hit two of the most famous World Series homers, off Hall of Fame relievers Goose Gossage and Dennis Eckersley.

They should rename the place the Hall of Stats if they’re not going to admit a player of Gibson’s actual fame (and I don’t think they ever will).

A.L. West

Oakland A’s

JuicedDave Stewart was a dominant pitcher, winning 20 games four years in a row, and pitching in three straight World Series (he was 10-6 in post-season play). But he lacked the longevity that Hall of Fame voters demand, winning only 168 games.

Mark McGwire and Jose Canseco are being kept out of the Hall because of PED’s. Vida Blue fell short of usual Hall of Fame standards because his cocaine addiction curtailed his career.

If the Baseball Hall of Fame rewarded cornerstone players on championship dynasties the way that the basketball and football halls do, Bert Campaneris, Sal Bando, Joe Rudi and Ken Holtzman might get into Cooperstown, but they mostly didn’t play long enough to compile the career stats the Baseball Hall demands. Campy might have the best shot to get in someday.

California/Anaheim/Los Angeles Angels

Angels Hall of Famers tend to have long careers that include several great seasons in Anaheim but long stretches with other teams as well: Nolan Ryan, Reggie Jackson, Rod Carew (and someday Albert Pujols).

Their best borderline Hall of Fame contender, Don Baylor, would fit that mold, too. He falls a little short of Hall of Fame standards as a player (even not accounting for the anti-DH bias and the anti-Yankee bias he faces for three solid years in New York). And he’s well short of Hall of Fame standards for a manager, despite a Manager of the Year award in 1995. But Expansion Era Committee rules allow consideration of both careers together. With his managing career added to his playing career, and with admiration for the eight times he led his league in being hit by pitches, I could see Baylor finally making it to Cooperstown, though I don’t expect it.

He hit an 11th-inning grand-slam homer for the Yankees in old Comiskey Park (that I called as he came to the plate) to beat the White Sox, 12-6, in 1983 in one of the best games I ever saw live.

Bobby Grich, as I mentioned in the Orioles section, has no chance. Same with Frank Tanana, though he won 240 games. He never won 20 games and didn’t get a vote his only year on the ballot. Chuck Finley made it to 200 wins on the nose, but had no other notable qualifications and didn’t even get 1 percent of the vote his only year on the ballot.

Oddly, I don’t see anyone from the 2002 Angels championship team with a shot at the Hall of Fame. World champions without Hall of Famers, as I noted last year, are rare.

Texas Rangers

I think Palmeiro, Juan Gonzalez and Canseco have no chance at the Hall of Fame unless drug-tainted players start getting consideration, and they might not even make it then. Several juicers will be ahead of them in line. Ivan Rodriguez, also a steroid user from that team, was clearly the best defensive catcher of his generation and a good offensive player, and gets his first shot on the writers’ ballot next year. If voters start letting PED users into Cooperstown, or if a Scoundrels Committee brings some order to consideration of players tainted by scandal, he would probably be in the second or third wave of players accepted. He definitely has the best chance of the drug-tainted Rangers (other than Alex Rodriguez, who’s still playing, but will go into the Bonds-Clemens category of all-time greats who may get a break someday because they were so great before they were thought to start juicing).

As much as the Hall of Fame loves longevity, it does take more than that to get into Cooperstown. Franco played until he was 48 and played 23 seasons. But only three of those were All-Star years, all with the Rangers, including a batting championship in 1991. But he still didn’t get any votes his only year on the Hall of Fame ballot.

Kevin Brown, Kenny RogersBuddy Bell and Al Oliver had respectable careers, but I don’t see any of them making the Hall of Fame.

Seattle Mariners

Edgar Martinez is the most obvious borderline Hall of Fame candidate from Seattle. But he faces a strong bias of Hall of Fame voters: their disdain for the designated hitter.

Martinez’s .312 batting average is Hall of Fame quality, with 2,247 hits and 309 homers. He got 43 percent of the vote from the writers this year, far short of the 75 percent he needs for election. He has just three years left on the writers’ ballot, and I expect his best shot will be with a Veterans Committee. I expect after years of bias, a committee someday will want to recognize one of the best DH’s ever.

Houston Astros

I think Bagwell will make the Hall of Fame, probably next year (he was tantalizingly close this year, his sixth eligible year, with 71.6 percent). He never was actually accused of using steroids, but suspicion that he might have has kept his Hall of Fame vote totals down. Bagwell was hurt by having his best year cut short by the 1994 strike. He had a shot to catch Roger Maris‘ record of 61 homers before McGwire did four years later.

Rusty Staub has no chance. He was on the writers’ ballot six years without reaching 10 percent of the vote. At 2,716 hits, you might think initially that he could have hung on another 2-3 years to make it to 3,000 hits and punch his Cooperstown ticket. But he topped 100 hits only once in his last seven years and got only 12 hits in 1985, his last year. Staub wrung every hit out of his career that he could, and it wasn’t enough.

Jim Wynn, Jose Cruz and Joe Niekro had nice careers, but didn’t reach Hall of Fame standards.

National League East

New York Mets

Two of the Mets’ best borderline Hall of Famers started their careers appearing to be locks for Cooperstown. The difference between baseball’s drug users of the 1980s and those of the 1990s and 21st Century was that cocaine and other recreational drugs eventually ruined performance, rather than enhancing it.

Dwight Gooden and Darryl Strawberry ended their careers as borderline Hall of Fame contenders (Gooden closer to the border), based on their stats. But based on their wasted potential, they really have no shot at ever getting in. A borderline candidate needs some voters to give him a break, and players who wasted this much potential will not get breaks. (Of course, Gooden and Strawberry count as borderline contenders for both the Yankees and the Mets, but their Yankee years were toward the end, when they were trying to salvage their careers.)

Keith Hernandez is kind of in the same category, though he didn’t soar as high or fall as far. His appearance on Seinfeld is a favorable post-career contrast to Gooden’s and Strawberry’s prison terms. But Hernandez doesn’t have as strong a Hall of Fame case as Don Mattingly, who’s not in the Hall, so I don’t ever expect to see him in Cooperstown.

Jerry Koosman won 222 games, so that makes him a borderline Hall of Fame contender. But he had none of the other qualifications that a pitcher in the low 200s needs, and lasted just a year on the ballot.

Thankfully, Dave Kingman (a Yankee for eight games in 1977) hit only 442 homers. If he had made it to 500 before the PED era, he might have made the Hall of Fame, and such a one-dimensional player really doesn’t belong there. He didn’t get even 1 percent of the writers’ votes his only year on the ballot.

Boston, Milwaukee and Atlanta Braves

With the 1950s underrepresented in the Hall of Fame and today’s old-timer selection structured by eras, Lew Burdette is a top contender to receive the Golden Era Committee’s nod someday. He’d be another Yankee in the Hall of Fame, too, having pitched two games for the 1950 Yankees before being traded to the Boston Braves for Johnny Sain.

Dale Murphy never reached 25 percent of the writers’ vote, but he’s a prime candidate for the Expansion Era Committee. Three of the best hitters of the 1980s — Murphy, Gibson and Mattingly — aren’t in the Hall of Fame. I think Mike Schmidt was the only hitter of the 1980s who was more feared by pitchers and managers than these three. George Brett and Eddie Murray were similarly feared. Murphy, with back-to-back MVP awards in 1982 and ’83, five Gold Gloves, two titles each in homers and RBI, might have a better shot than Gibson or Mattingly to make the Hall of Fame.

Sheffield is unlikely to make the Hall of Fame, but the Braves were one of several teams he starred for. I discussed Darrell Evans with the Tigers, but he contributed to the Braves, too. Bob Elliott lasted three years on the ballot. I don’t think he’ll get Golden Era Committee consideration. David Justice and Terry Pendleton had some good years for the 1990s Braves, but barely reached the borderline area. Neither got a second year on the writers’ ballot.

Philadelphia Phillies

My Steve Carlton autograph

My Steve Carlton autograph

The Phillies’ almost-dynasty that won five division titles and a World Series from 1976 to 1983 included three first-ballot Hall of Famers, Mike Schmidt, Steve Carlton and Joe Morgan (though Morgan was a Phillie only in 1983 and was elected mostly for his achievements on the Reds). Pete Rose would have been a fourth certain Hall of Famer from those Phillie champs if he hadn’t gambled.

Those Phillies don’t have a strong cast of borderline Hall of Fame contenders, though. Kaat, as I noted earlier, will probably make Cooperstown someday. He pitched for the ’76-’79 Phillies, but never won more than 12 games (and that was a losing season for a division champion). If Kaat is elected, it will be for longevity and for his excellence with the Twins and White Sox.

I discussed Dick Allen, a Phillies star from the 1960s, in the White Sox section. If he makes the Hall of Fame, it will be for his White Sox years and his contributions to the 1960s Phillies. But he returned for mediocre 1975-76 seasons toward the end of his career.

Greg Luzinski was a one-dimensional slugger who had four straight All-Star seasons for the Phillies in the ’70s. But he fell well short of Hall of Fame career standards and lasted only one year on the ballot.

Tug McGraw was a closer for two World Series teams, the 1973 Mets and the 1980 Phillies, but he didn’t last a year on the Hall of Fame ballot. His son may make the Country Music Hall of Fame someday, but Daddy’s not making it to Cooperstown.

That Phillies team had four multiple Gold Glove winners (in addition to Schmidt and Kaat and not counting Morgan, who won his with the Reds). Bob BooneLarry Bowa, Garry Maddox and Manny Trillo combined for 20 Gold Gloves, but only Boone lasted more than one year on the ballot, and he fell off after five, without ever getting 10 percent of the vote.

Maybe Boone is a long shot for Cooperstown, with a similar career to Rick Ferrell, a weak-hitting defensive standout who played a long time and made it to the Hall of Fame. Boone can’t get much extra credit for his mediocre managing career, and you don’t get extra credit for sons who were good players (but also not Hall of Famers).

Boone was, at best, the fifth-best catcher of his time. Johnny Bench, Carlton Fisk and Gary Carter are all in the Hall of Fame. Thurman Munson was a better catcher and belongs in the Hall of Fame, but won’t make it. Ted Simmons wasn’t as good defensively as Boone and caught almost 500 fewer games (he eventually moved to first base and DH). But Simmons was a much better hitter than Boone and played longer (21 seasons vs. 19).

It’s hard to make a case that a guy who was the fifth or sixth best catcher of his time belongs in the Hall of Fame, especially if players ahead of him aren’t there yet. But Hall voters love longevity, and since Ferrell made it, you can’t say Boone won’t. I’d be surprised, though.

Schilling is the only star from the 1993 World Series team with a shot at the Hall of Fame, but I’ll deal with him under the Diamondbacks.

The stars of the 2008-9 Phillies haven’t reached Hall of Fame consideration yet.

Washington Nationals/Montreal Expos

Raines, as I discussed yesterday, might be poised to make the Hall of Fame next year. If not, he’ll be an easy call for an Expansion Era Committee.

Dennis Martinez pitched long enough to rack up 245 wins without ever topping 16 in a season. He lasted just one year on the writers’ ballot.

Florida/Miami Marlins

Sheffield and Kevin Brown of the 1997 Marlins championship team (both also were Yankees) have little shot at the Hall of Fame.

Sheffield passed 500 homers, which used to mean automatic enshrinement. But Sheffield is seventh on the list of known PED users (and likely to be passed in April by David Ortiz) in career homers. He’s not going to see Cooperstown, except as a tourist.

Brown, who pitched for six teams, including the Yankees, didn’t have a great enough prime or pitch long enough to make it to the Hall of Fame.

None of the stars from the 2003 champs are eligible yet for Hall of Fame consideration.

National League Central

Chicago Cubs

The Cubs are a pretty good team on which to be a borderline Hall of Famer (understanding that just being borderline means most of the candidates from any team don’t get in, or wait a long time).

Roger Maris' autograph, with some St. Louis Cardinals teammates, on a ball belonging to my son Joe.

Roger Maris’ autograph, with some St. Louis Cardinals teammates, on a ball belonging to my son Joe.

Both the Cubs and Yankees had an outfielder who had an incredible season in which he set an all-time power record that stood for decades. Each led his league in RBI twice. The Cub led his league in homers more times, but the Yankee had more career homers. The Yankee won two MVP awards; the Cub never did. Both had shortened careers and didn’t reach the career totals that normally get you into the Hall of Fame. Hack Wilson, the Cub, was elected to the Hall of Fame by the Veterans Committee 45 years after his career ended. Roger Maris, the Yankee, is still not in the Hall of Fame 48 years after his career ended.

The 1960s Cubs never won anything. They finished tenth once, ninth once, eighth twice and seventh three times before having their second winning record in 1967 (one of the seventh-place teams finished 82-80). The Cubs finished third in 1967 and ’68. The first year of division play, they had an epic collapse and finished second to the New York Mets. It wasn’t the worst decade a team ever had, and they certainly improved toward the end, but it was an awful decade.

That team had four Hall of Famers playing in their primes, all for four or more years of that decade: Ernie Banks, Billy Williams, Ron Santo and Ferguson Jenkins.

That total doesn’t count Lou Brock, whom the Cubs stupidly traded to the Cardinals for Ernie Broglio in one of baseball’s worst trades ever, before he blossomed into a star (but everyone saw him as a great prospect). And it doesn’t count Robin Roberts, who made his last nine starts for the 1966 Cubs at age 39. And it doesn’t count Richie Ashburn, who had a decent 1960 season for the Cubs at age 33 in 1960 but was pretty bad in 1961 before spending his last year with the hapless 1962 Mets.

Four Hall of Famers played some of their best years with the Cubs of the 1960s. Banks was an automatic Hall of Famer, elected his first year on the ballot. Williams, elected in his sixth year on the ballot, and Jenkins, elected in his third year, were certain Hall of Famers, but Santo was clearly borderline.

And let me be clear: I loved the Cubs in the 1960s. They were my second-favorite team behind the Yankees. My mother grew up in Chicago and we visited my grandmother there several summers, always taking in a Cubs game. Wrigley Field was the first ballpark I visited, and I saw 6-8 games there before I visited my second park. I will weep tears of joy for Mom if the Cubs ever win a World Series.

But I’m talking facts here, not emotion. In that same decade, the Yankees played in five consecutive World Series, winning two of them and taking two more to seven games. That Yankees team had three Hall of Famers: Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra and Whitey Ford.

The next decade (and the first couple years of the 1980s), the Yankees had a similar stretch, playing in four World Series in six years and winning two, plus winning a fifth division title. That Yankees team had three Hall of Famers, too: Reggie Jackson and Catfish Hunter, both of whom were elected to Cooperstown more for their achievements with the Oakland A’s, and Goose Gossage, who played seven of his 22 years in New York. I don’t count Gaylord Perry, who made eight starts for the 1980 Yankees.

I was glad to see Santo elected to the Hall of Fame. I liked his consistency as a player and loved his goofy enthusiasm as a broadcaster. I admired his courage in living with severe diabetes. But Santo was the definition of a borderline Hall of Fame candidate.

From those Yankees teams of the 1960s and ’70s, Maris, Elston HowardRon Guidry, Munson, Tommy John, Sparky Lyle and Graig Nettles were either comparable or clearly better Hall of Fame candidates than Santo. Nettles, in fact, was also a multiple-Gold-Glove third baseman with more homers than Santo in overlapping careers, and a home run title, which Santo never won.

I don’t count Kaat and Tiant, who were borderline Hall of Fame contenders on those Yankee teams, because their Hall of Fame credentials were achieved with other teams.

Santo had the good fortune of playing on a team whose borderline candidates have a better shot at making the Hall of Fame. Everyone loves the Cubbies.

Bruce Sutter and teammate Willie Hernandez were among the Cubs who signed this ball, which my father gave my mother in the 1970s. Hernandez matched Sutter with a Cy Young Award and also was an MVP.

My Bruce Sutter autograph.

This makes it mysterious that Lee Smith, who played eight of his 18 years with the Cubs, has topped 50 percent only once in his 13 years on the writers’ ballot. Writers don’t know what to do with great relievers. Bruce Sutter (Cub on the right side of the Hall of Fame borderline) was elected in his 13th year on the ballot, Goose Gossage (also a Cub, but not for prime years, as Sutter and Smith were) in his ninth year, Rollie Fingers in his second, Dennis Eckersley in his first. (Eck also was a Cub, but as a starter; and his bullpen career was nowhere near borderline.)

All were contemporaries of Smith, and maybe it will be tough to get five relievers from the same era into Cooperstown. But it was the era when closers became dominant and valuable, and, as I documented in yesterday’s post, Smith was as good as any of them, maybe better than some already in Cooperstown.

Smith is unlikely to get elected next year in his final year on the writers’ ballot. But he should be an easy call for a Veterans Committee. He’ll eventually illustrate my point about Cubs having a good shot as borderline Hall of Fame candidates, but he’s already taken longer than he should.

Sammy Sosa is the only other ex-Cub of note I can think of with a shot at the Hall of Fame, and he’s in the PED group. He’s so closely linked with McGwire that I think they might go in together if either of them ever gets a Cooperstown moment.

My Rick Reuschel autograph.

My Rick Reuschel autograph

I address Buckner under the Dodgers, though he spend eight years each with the Dodgers and Cubs. Mark Grace has no chance and didn’t get a second year on the ballot. Rick Reuschel (a Yankee briefly in 1981) won 214 games but doesn’t have enough other Hall of Fame credentials. He didn’t get even 1 percent of the writers’ vote his only year on the ballot.

St. Louis Cardinals

McGwire‘s shot at the Hall of Fame depends on two things:

  1. Whether Hall of Fame voters ever forgive any PED users at all. Unless they do, he has no shot.
  2. If voters speculate about the careers players would have had without juicing, McGwire probably loses out. Clemens and Barry Bonds appeared headed to sure Hall of Fame induction before juicing, so they could make it someday. But McGwire had leveled off after a couple strong early years, so he’s not going to Cooperstown unless voters eventually forgive drug use entirely and just honor the careers that players had.

Curt FloodCurt Flood should be a Hall of Famer. He had seven straight Gold Gloves, two 200-hit seasons and six seasons hitting better than .300 when he refused to accept a trade to the Phillies. That’s an unfinished Hall of Fame career, but a worthy start. His courage in challenging baseball’s control of players’ careers started baseball down the path to free agency. He should be in Cooperstown for the combination of what he did on the field and what he tried to do in the courtroom. Flood is another example (like Maris and Gibson) of the Hall of Fame voters’ stubborn refusal to consider a player’s actual fame at all.

Flood was a better centerfielder than Jim Edmonds, who did play a full career without topping 2,000 hits or 400 homers. He was on the ballot for the first time this year, not even reaching the 5 percent level needed to stay on the ballot. Willie McGee, another Cardinal centerfielder, lasted two years on the ballot and won’t make the Hall of Fame.

Ken Boyer is the very definition of a borderline Hall of Fame candidate. He played only 15 years, not long enough to cross the performance thresholds than ensure enshrinement. But he was one of the best third basemen of his day, not quite Brooks Robinson or Eddie Mathews, but comparable to Santo, who eventually made it. Boyer was an MVP (for a World Series champ), an RBI champ, a five-time Gold Glove winner and six-time All-Star. But he was rejected in 2014 by the Golden Era Committee. Santo and Boyer both played 15-year careers, with closely similar career numbers across the board. Santo’s career totals are a little better, Boyer’s peak a little better, with post-season success Santo never had a shot at. But Hall of Fame voters value career totals more than peak and don’t value post-season at all. Still, I see Boyer getting in someday.

Ted Simmons wasn’t a good enough catcher or batter to make the Hall of Fame. Longevity might have given him a long shot, but he got only one year on the writers’ ballot. As an indication of how Hall of Fame voters love Cardinals, he actually made the 2014 Expansion Era ballot over several more worthy candidates, but he didn’t get elected.

Tim McCarver is a more famous Cardinals catcher, who won the Hall of Fame’s Ford Frick Award in 2012, despite being perhaps the most annoying, inane broadcaster in baseball history. Despite some longevity as a catcher (a 21-year career spanning four decades), McCarver has no shot at making the Hall of Fame as a player. But the Frick Award reflects the Hall of Fame’s consistent preference for longevity over quality. Simmons had eight All-Star seasons to only two for McCarver, and Simmons’ batting achievements far surpassed McCarver.

I dealt with Hernandez under the Mets, Lee Smith under the Cubs and Reggie Smith under the Dodgers.

Cincinnati Reds

Among borderline Reds contenders, Davey Concepcion may have the best shot, as the greatest shortstop of his era, but he fell short on the 2013 Expansion Era ballot. Ted Kluszewski, Vada Pinson, Ken Griffey Sr. (who spent a few years as a Yankee), George Foster, Randy Myers and perhaps a few more, if they were even borderline, clearly fell on the wrong side of the border.

Lou Piniella had a respectable career as a player (playing his best years for the Yankees) and an even better career as a manager (winning a World Series with the Reds). I’d call him not even a borderline contender for the Hall of Fame as a player, but definitely borderline as a manager. Given the Expansion Era Committee’s ability to consider combined careers, he has a shot.

Pittsburgh Pirates

I wouldn’t complain if Dick Groat someday is a Golden Era Committee selection to the Hall of Fame, but I don’t expect him to get in.

Roy Face lasted 15 years on the writers’ ballot, so I suppose he might make it one day, if the Golden Era Committee starts considering relievers of that time. His 18-1 season in 1959 is his best credential and probably not enough to get him in.

As I noted last year, Oliver and Matty Aloe compare well to white outfielders of the 1920s in the Hall of Fame, but neither has a shot at the Hall of Fame now.

The Pirates’ best two other borderline candidates may be kept out because of recreational drug use:

  • Bill Madlock won four batting titles and hit .305 for his career, which would put him in Cooperstown for sure, even though he fell short of the long-career totals normally required. But he was involved in the Pirates’ drug scandal of the 1980s. I compared him to white borderline Hall of Famers in October. He was better than them, but I doubt he’ll ever get his Cooperstown moment.
  • Dave Parker is more in the category of Gooden and Strawberry, a player who appeared Cooperstown-bound early in his career, but declined as he became addicted to cocaine and fell short of the usual statistical standards. He ended up closer to Hall of Fame standards than Strawberry and about as close as Gooden. But in all cases, their deliberate waste of potential will keep them from ever getting the good-will bump that sometimes pushes a player like Santo onto the Cooperstown side of the border. I was surprised that Parker even made the 2013 Expansion Era Committee ballot, but he didn’t come close to election.

And, if you think a player who receives less than 10 percent of the writers’ vote isn’t really a borderline Hall of Fame contender, consider the Pirates’ Bill Mazeroski. He didn’t top 10 percent until his sixth year on the ballot and peaked at 42 percent his final year on the writers’ ballot. But he was elected in 2001 by the Veterans Committee.

Milwaukee Brewers

I discuss Sheffield elsewhere, but the Brewers were the first of his many teams.

I mentioned Simmons in the Cardinals section.

Cecil Cooper is the only other Brewer I can think of with a shot at Cooperstown. But it’s a long shot. He received no votes his only year on the ballot.

N.L. West

Los Angeles Dodgers

The Dodgers contend with the Tigers for second place behind the Yankees among Hall of Fame contenders.

From their 1950s champions, Gil Hodges got Golden Era Committee consideration in 2014, but was rejected. Especially given the explicit instructions that a managerial career can be considered along with the playing career, the manager of the 1969 Miracle Mets and a slugging and fielding star of the 1950s Dodgers who was an eight-time All-Star might finally make it into the Hall of Fame.

The Gold Glove started in 1957, a decade into his career, or Hodges might have won 10-12 in a row, rather than just the first three. But first-base Gold Gloves mean nothing for Hall of Fame selection. Hernandez won 11 and Mattingly nine, and neither is in Cooperstown. In fact, Eddie Murray (with three) is the only first-base Gold Glover in the Hall of Fame.

From the 1960s Dodgers champions, Maury Wills never got the credit he deserved from Cooperstown for transforming the game by the way he stole bases (I compared him last year to white borderline shortstops in the Hall of Fame, and he belongs). Luis Aparicio and Lou Brock are in the Hall of Fame heavily for their base-stealing, but Wills had a more profound effect on how the game was played. He’s one of the most outrageous non-Yankee examples of the Hall of Fame voters’ adamant bias against players who didn’t achieve some elusive standard of longevity and the voters’ stubborn ignoring of actual fame and impact on the game over dry and selective analysis of numbers. He was on the 2014 Golden Era Committee ballot, so he’s getting consideration. But the committee rejected all 10 candidates.

I doubt that Tommy Davis, a two-time RBI champ and offensive star of the Dodgers’ 1960s dynasty, makes it to Cooperstown. He wouldn’t be an awful Veterans Committee choice someday, but Wills and the others turned down in 2014 were better.

Tommy John deserves his place in Cooperstown as much for his Dodger play as for the great seasons he gave the Yankees. And his comeback from Tommy John surgery was as a Dodger. But he was snubbed by the Expansion Era Committee in 2014. He’s gracious enough, though, to visit the Hall of Fame as a guest.

In the same era, it’s kind of surprising, considering the hype they received when they played, that no one from the Dodgers’ fabled infield that stayed together through the 1970s has made it to Cooperstown, and most aren’t even borderline contenders. Bill Russell (three times an All-Star) wasn’t even close to a borderline Hall of Famer. Ron Cey (six straight All-Star selections) and Davey Lopes (four straight) were perhaps within sight of the borderline, but neither has a reasonable case for Cooperstown. Steve Garvey (10 All-Star selections, including eight in a row) appears likely to be a choice someday, but he fell short on the 2014 Expansion Era Committee ballot.

With 2,715 hits, Buckner, a Dodger outfielder in the 1970s, came tantalizingly close to the magical 3,000-hit mark that assures election for players without drug or gambling issues. But he really had no shot at 3,000. Buckner retired at age 40 after the 1990 season, but had only eight hits that year. He hadn’t topped 100 hits since 1987, so he really wasn’t within reach.

Buckner finished in the territory where some players make the Hall of Fame, but others don’t. Lou Gehrig had only six more hits than Buckner, but he had the record for grand slams and that consecutive game streak. And a Triple Crown. Just four hits behind Buckner in all-time hits is Billy Williams, who, like Buckner, won a batting championship for the Cubs. Williams and Gehrig both hit more than 400 homers, more than twice as many as Buckner.

Rusty Staub, just one hit ahead of Buckner, and Dave Parker, three hits behind, are more comparable to Buckner, and neither is in the Hall of Fame.

Buckner hit .289, drove in 100 runs three times, topped 200 hits twice, won a batting championship, all credentials that push him solidly into the borderline area, but not across the line. He was an All-Star only once. It’s not the World Series groundball that’s keeping Buckner out of the Hall of Fame.

Reggie Smith is another borderline contender from the 1970s Dodgers, but didn’t get even 1 percent of the vote his only year on the ballot.

More recently, Fernando Valenzuela and Orel Hershiser were two of the best pitchers of the 1980s, but haven’t come close in Hall of Fame voting.

Even with six All-Star selections and a Cy Young Award, Valenzuela won only 173 games, not enough to meet the Hall’s longevity standard, unless tragedy cuts your career short. He lasted only two years on the ballot. But he was incredibly good for several years and Fernandomania was a level of fame that I could see an Expansion Era Committee rewarding someday. But, as I’ve noted in the cases of Roger Maris, Tommy John and Kirk Gibson, Hall of Fame voters rarely care about actual fame.

Hershiser also won a Cy Young and also spent only two years on the Hall of Fame ballot. But he won 204 games and broke Don Drysdale’s scoreless-innings streak. I think Hershiser has a better shot than Fernando of winning an Expansion Era Committee nod someday.

I discussed Kirk Gibson under the Tigers, but his most famous moment, and his MVP trophy, came as a Dodger.

The Dodgers are yet another team where Sheffield merits a mention.

San Francisco Giants

Hall of Fame voters have been kind to Giants through the years. The most notable Giant contenders are both named Bonds.

Barry Bonds, like Clemens and Rose, doesn’t belong in this discussion of borderline contenders. Read about him in the Scoundrels Committee post.

Bobby Bonds is absolutely a borderline contender, though. He played only 14 seasons (one as a Yankee) and never reached Hall of Fame standards for career stats. But he was the best (until his son came along) at combining power with speed.

His five seasons combining 30 steals with 30 homers were three more than the centerfielder he succeeded and could otherwise never measure up to, Willie Mays. And those don’t include two seasons when Bonds hit 26 homers and stole more than 40 bases. Barry Bonds is the only player who has matched his father’s five 30-30 seasons.

With 461 career steals, Bobby Bonds is only 51st all-time, which won’t get you into Cooperstown. But no one in the top 50 in stolen bases had over 300 homers (except Barry). Bobby Bonds had 332.

I would not be surprised if a Veterans Committee someday recognized Bobby Bonds’ combination of speed and power, matched only by his son.

Other borderline Giants have little shot at the Hall of Fame. I’d be surprised if Jeff KentKuenn, Chili Davis or Darrell Evans ever get elected. Will Clark and Jack Clark didn’t really approach Hall of Fame standards for first basemen. In their own era, Mattingly and Hernandez were clearly better, and neither of them is in Cooperstown yet. Bobby Murcer, the Yankee centerfielder traded for Bobby Bonds in 1974, was an All-Star for the Giants and reached borderline territory, but lasted only a year on the writers’ ballot.

San Diego Padres

For an expansion team that’s played in only two World Series, the Padres have an amazing number of no-doubt Hall of Famers. Only Tony Gwynn played his whole career in San Diego, but a slew of Hall of Famers played significant years for the Padres: Ozzie Smith, Dave Winfield, Rollie Fingers, Goose Gossage, Gaylord PerryRickey Henderson, Roberto Alomar, Willie McCovey. There wasn’t a cameo in the bunch. Perry won a Cy Young for the Padres. All but Henderson and McCovey were All-Stars as Padres. Henderson stole 66 bases in less than two full seasons and McCovey had two 20-homer seasons, both past their primes, but still contributing.

By contrast, the Royals were an expansion team the same year, have had a more successful history (winning two World Series, playing in four and winning more division titles). But the Royals have only George Brett in the Hall of Fame, plus end-of-career bows from Perry (four wins for KC), Harmon Killebrew (14 homers) and Orlando Cepeda (one homer).

Despite all their certain Hall of Famers, the Padres have few borderline contenders. Randy Jones won a Cy Young in 1976 and finished second the year before, but he pitched only 10 years and finished with a record of 100-123. He got no votes and won’t get future consideration.

Ken Caminiti won an MVP (even Gwynn never did that; Caminiti is the only Padre MVP), but his career fell far short of Cooperstown standards (didn’t reach 2,000 hits, 300 homers or 1,000 RBI). And if he were close, his drug use would keep him from getting in.

As noted earlier, Kevin Brown and Sheffield have little or no Hall of Fame shot.

Nettles should be in the Hall, but mostly for his Yankee play, and I doubt he’ll ever make it. Garvey, a member of that 1984 Padres World Series team along with Nettles and Gossage, is probably the borderline Padre with the best shot at eventual enshrinement.

Trevor Hoffman was on the ballot for the first time this year and got 67.3 percent of the writers’ vote. He’s not borderline. In another year or two, he’ll add to the ranks of sure-thing Hall of Famers from the Padres.

Colorado Rockies

Despite (or perhaps because of) Coors Field’s friendly effects on batting statistics, no Rockies are in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

And I don’t think that’s likely to change for a while. Larry Walker had a similar career to Orlando Cepeda, a Veterans Committee selection. But Walker hasn’t reached 25 percent in the writers’ vote in his five years on the ballot (15.5 percent this year). I don’t think his stats will ever have the value for Hall of Fame voters that Cepeda’s did. I don’t think Walker was ever suspected as a steroid user, but he played in that era, and offensive stats from the 1990s simply don’t carry as much weight as similar stats from other eras. Add a second discount for the Coors Field effect, and I don’t think Walker will make it. But a three-time batting champ who also had a homer crown, seven Gold Gloves and an MVP could be attractive someday to an Veterans Committee.

Andres Galarraga actually surpassed Walker in career homers, hits and RBI (though he had lower batting, on-base and slugging averages). Galarraga led the league once in batting and homers and twice in RBI and won two Gold Gloves. And he returned from cancer treatment to become an All-Star again. I could argue that he should have as good a shot at the Hall of Fame as Walker, but his achievements also received the Coors Field discount, and he lasted only one year on the ballot.

Todd Helton might be the first Rockie to make the Hall of Fame. But he’ll be a borderline contender at best, and I don’t see him overcoming the Coors Field discount on borderline stats.

Arizona Diamondbacks

Luis Gonzalez racked up some good numbers, but they didn’t stand out in an era of inflated power numbers. He didn’t reach 1 percent of the writers’ vote his only year on the ballot.

Schilling whined that his conservative political views were keeping him out of the Hall of Fame. That’s ridiculous, of course. Baseball writers don’t tend to care a lot about politics, and I bet many who do are conservative (as are many of the ballplayers they elect to the Hall of Fame). Steve Carlton was a first-ballot Hall of Famer and a loony conspiracy theorist political extremist. Also a much better pitcher than Schilling.

Schilling is the classic profile of a pitcher who’s certain to make the Hall of Fame but has to spend a few years on the ballot. His 216 wins are low for a Hall of Famer, just seven wins more than Don Drysdale, who was elected in his 10th year on the ballot.

Schilling won 20 games three times and Drysdale did it twice. But Drysdale won a Cy Young Award and Schilling never did. Schilling finished second three times, twice to teammate Randy Johnson. Drysdale also pitched in tandem with a much greater teammate.

Schilling has been on the ballot only four years, reaching his highest level, 52.3 percent this year. Someday, he will make the Hall of Fame. His post-season prowess (11-2, co-MVP of the 2001 World Series, plus the “bloody sock” game) will count in his selection more than post-season performance will ever count for a Yankee.

But he’ll have to wait. And here’s why:

  • Pitchers with careers like his always have to wait.
  • Politics aside, Schilling is widely regarded as a jerk, so no one’s going to vote for him earlier than they would have for Drysdale or a similar pitcher.
  • As non-baseball negative matters go, his government-funded business failure, bordering on a scam and certainly countering his political bombast, is a way bigger deal than his conservative politics, but probably a tiny factor, if at all.
  • Schilling’s work as an ESPN commentator doesn’t help him one bit. Every time he opens his mouth or tweets, he reminds you of his arrogance, without impressing you one whit with his knowledge. That shouldn’t keep him out of the Hall of Fame, but it’s not going to hurry things up.
  • And, let’s be honest, Schilling isn’t just conservative, he’s a bigot and an extremist.

On the other hand, people of all political beliefs, certainly every father, cheered how Schilling stood up for his daughter. His outspoken nature is part of the package with Schilling and it’s not all working against him, if that counts at all, in Hall of Fame voting.

Yes, Schilling will certainly have his day at Cooperstown. But you have to be a Diamondbacks, Phillies or Red Sox fan to be bothered that he’ll have to wait a few years.

Yankees’ borderline candidates

The Tigers have 13 borderline candidates who haven’t made the Hall of Fame: Sheffield, Morris, Fielder, Gibson, Trammell, Whitaker, Evans, Tanana, Lolich, Cash, Freehan, Kuenn and Colavito.

The Dodgers are one behind with a dozen: Sheffield, Gibson, Kevin Brown, Hershiser, Valenzuela, Tommy John, Garvey, Buckner, Reggie Smith, Tommy Davis, Wills and Hodges. If you think Lopes or Cey are borderline, the Dodgers might be tied or ahead, but I don’t count them.

I’m not saying those 23 borderline contenders (Gibson and Sheffield played for both) will make it. I’d be surprised if more than seven make it. (I’d guess Morris, Trammell, Whitaker, John, Garvey, Wills and Hodges. Maybe Hershiser.) Borderline contenders don’t make it more often than they do, and take a long time to get there.

My Thurman Munson card

My Thurman Munson card

We can argue whether this is an illustration of the fact that the Yankees have produced (or acquired) more great players than other teams, or whether it’s evidence of anti-Yankee bias. It’s probably both. But the Yankees have more valid borderline Hall of Fame contenders than the Tigers and Dodgers combined:

  • Bernie Williams, Mattingly, John, Ron Guidry, MunsonNettlesMaris, Elston Howard and Allie Reynolds all have solid Hall of Fame cases. They were among the best of their eras at their positions, match up well with contemporaries in the Hall of Fame and/or others at their positions in the Hall of Fame. And at least John, Maris and Reynolds have unique achievements that add to their fame. All but Mattingly have championship credentials and extensive post-season play (and Donnie Baseball excelled in his only post-season series). These nine Yankees absolutely belong in Cooperstown (and at least two or three will make it eventually).
  • My Dodger and Tiger lists included players like Sheffield, Brown, Gibson, Morris and Evans whose Hall of Fame credentials included achievements with other teams. So the Yankee list needs to include at least Sheffield, Brown, Mussina, Wells, ConeRaines, Gooden, Strawberry, Baylor, Tiant and Bobby Bonds. This group is more borderline than those above, but I expect two or three will make it to Cooperstown eventually. Raines looks almost certain. Mussina probably has the next-best shot.

That brings us to 20 borderline Yankee Hall of Fame candidates, but we’re not done yet.

We need to count Yankees who clearly fell short of Hall of Fame standards, but had careers comparable to the borderline contenders I named from other teams: Fielder, Ken Griffey Sr., Lyle, RogersRandolphMurcer, Mel Stottlemyre.

If Piniella ever makes Cooperstown on his combined managing and playing careers, both included important years as a Yankee. He would go in more as a manager than a player, so I’m not counting him here, but he deserves mention.

Even if you dispute a few of these choices (and if you do that, the Dodger and Tiger totals could start dropping, too, as we’d eliminate their most marginal contenders), the Yankees have about 25 or more borderline candidates.

I don’t count Lee Smith, Kaat or Burdette, whose Yankee appearances were just cameos.

If the Yankees had way more Hall of Famers than any other team, this huge lead in borderline contenders might just reflect their huge lead in world championships, the fact that they’ve been the best team in history by far and have had more great players than anyone else.

But you know what? The Yankees don’t even have the most Hall of Famers. Only 19 Hall of Fame players were primarily Yankees, fewer than their 27 world championships (more than double any other team’s total). The list of Hall of Famers linked above will also include seven Yankee managers and executives. The Giants, with eight world championships (three of them too recent to have any players in the Hall of Fame) have 19 Hall of Fame players from their time in New York and another five from San Francisco. And several other teams are in the teens, much closer to the Yankees in Hall of Fame players than in world championships.

Few things are more predictable than which borderline Hall of Fame contenders will finally get their calls from Cooperstown, but I feel confident saying this: Contenders who didn’t play home games in Yankee Stadium will continue to fare better than those who did.

Source note: Unless noted otherwise, statistics cited here come from Baseball-Reference.com.

Who’d I miss? Borderline Hall of Fame candidates are about as subjective as anything you can discuss in baseball. Whom did I miss here?

Style note: The Hall of Fame has had various committees and rules through the years to elect players who were passed over by the Baseball Writers Association of America as well as umpires, managers, executives and other baseball pioneers. I am referring to them all in this series as the Veterans Committee unless the specific context demands reference to specific committee such as the current era committees. Baseball-Reference.com has a detailed history of the various committees.

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In late and extra innings, the Royals win again and again

28 10 2015

The Royals’ Game One win in 14 innings, after coming from behind on Alex Gordon‘s ninth-inning homer, was special. But not really. Coming back, scoring in late innings and prevailing in extra innings are what these Kansas City Royals do in the post-season.

Starting with last Sept. 30’s wild card game, the Royals have:

  • Come from behind 7-3 after seven innings and 8-7 in the bottom of the 12th to beat the Oakland A’s.
  • Beat the Los Angeles Angels, 3-2, in 11 innings in Game One of the 2014 Division Series.
  • Beat the Angels 4-1 in 11 innings in Game Two.
  • Beat the Orioles 8-6 in 10 innings in Game One of the 2014 American League Championship Series.
  • Scored two runs in the ninth inning to beat the Orioles 6-4 in Game Two of the ALCS.
  • Trailed the Orioles 1-0, but scored in the fourth and sixth innings for a 2-1 win in Game Three of the ALCS.
  • The Royals took and kept leads in all three of their wins and didn’t play any extra innings in the 2014 World Series, which they lost to the Giants. They came tantalizingly close, though, with Gordon reaching third base with the potential tying run in Game Seven. In the context of this outstanding run, Madison Bumgarner‘s ability to shut the Royals down in the late innings truly stands out.
  • Fell behind the Houston Astros 4-2, then scored two runs in the sixth and one in the seventh to win 5-4 in Game Two of the 2015 Division Series.
  • Trailed the Astros 6-2 after seven innings, then scored five runs in the eighth inning and two in the ninth to win 9-6 in Game Four.
  • Trailed the Astros 2-0 after three innings before winning 7-2 in the deciding Game Five.
  • Trailed the Toronto Blue Jays 3-0 before scoring five runs in the seventh inning and one in the eighth to win 6-3 in Game Two of the 2015 ALCS.
  • Blew a 3-1 lead to enter the eighth inning tied, then scored the winning run in the eighth after a rain delay to clinch the ALCS in Game Six.
  • Tied Game One of the 2015 World Series on Gordon’s ninth-inning homer, then beat the New York Mets 5-4 in the 14th.

The Royals’ bullpen has won 13 games in this amazing run, not just because of excellent late pitching but because the offense never gives up.

If this isn’t the best stretch of comebacks and late-inning and extra-inning heroics in post-season history, I’d like to know what is.

And don’t forget: This builds on a strong, but distant, tradition of late-inning excellence from a generation ago that includes the Game Six comeback in the 1985 World Series and George Brett’s memorable 1980 homer against Goose Gossage, trailing 2-1 and giving the Royals a 4-2 win and a series sweep.

When it comes to the Royals, opponents better heed the advice of Yankee legend (and former Met manager) Yogi Berra: It ain’t over till it’s over.





The Kansas City Royals’ amazing 9-game post-season winning streak

12 10 2014

Update: It’s an 11-game winning streak now. While I blogged about making it to the World Series, I won’t be updating this one further. But I’m glad no one has reason to think I jinxed the winning streak by writing about it.

 Time for another post on the Royals (maybe not the last of this post-season).

The Kansas City Royals are on an incredible nine-game, 29-year post-season winning streak. Let’s take a look at those games:

1985 World Series

Game Five

The Royals trailed 3-1 and Game 5 was supposed to be the Cardinals’ chance to celebrate their World Series championship on their home field. But this Royals team has also trailed 3-1 to the Toronto Blue Jays in the American League Championship Series. It was a scrappy team that didn’t give up when it fell behind.

Danny Jackson, a 23-year-old lefthander who won 14 games for the Royals, faced off against 35-year-old Cardinal veteran Bob Forsch, who would win 163 career games for the Cardinals, but only nine that year.

Each pitcher gave up a run in the first. That was the last run Jackson would give up, and the last full inning Forsch would pitch. An RBI single by Buddy Biancalana and a two-run triple by Willie Wilson chased Forsch in the second inning. Jackson scattered five hits and three walks in pitching a complete game for the 6-1 victory. The Royals got a chance to play again back home in Kansas City.

Game 6

Ah, Game Six.

This game should not be remembered for a bad call, though it had a couple of them, neither of which had a significant impact on the outcome of the game.

In the bottom of the 4th inning, Frank White got a one-out bunt single for the Royals. He then stole second, possibly on a busted hit-and-run play. The throw beat White easily, but Ozzie Smith tagged White high on his chest, after his foot was safely on the base. But White was called out. You can see it at about the 57-minute mark of the game video below. The replay clearly showed he was safe, and announcer Tim McCarver, a former Cardinal whose St. Louis favoritism always showed, noted casually that Smith had tagged White high, after his foot reached the bag. But Royals manager Dick Howser didn’t argue and TV showed only one replay. Pat Sheridan, who was at the plate, hit a groundball single to right field that almost certainly would have scored the speedy White, who stole 10 bases that year and 178 in his career (a guy who can bunt for a single can score from second on an outfield single). Tough luck. Bad calls are part of baseball. Play on.

Instead of being tied 1-1, the Royals trailed 1-0 when they came to bat in the bottom of the 9th inning. Charlie Leibrandt of the Royals (the hard-luck loser of Game Two, which I watched) matched zeroes for seven innings with the Cardinals’ Danny Cox, an 18-game winner. The Cardinals scratched out a run in the eighth on a single and a walk, followed by Brian Harper’s RBI single, pinch-hitting for Cox. Lefthander Ken Dayley pitched a scoreless eighth inning for the Cardinals.

The bottom of the ninth started innocently enough, with Jorge Orta hitting a ground ball to first baseman Jack Clark. Cardinals reliever Todd Worrell (more on him later) covered first base and the throw clearly beat Orta in a bang-bang play. But umpire Don Denkinger blew the call. Herzog, Worrell and Clark argued vehemently, but with no replay, they couldn’t change the call any more than Howser would have been able to change the fourth-inning call if he’d argued. The calls were examples of two of the most-blown calls in baseball: throw beats runner so he’s called out even though the tag was high and ball beats runner to the bag by an instant (or vice versa) and umpire misses it because it’s almost impossible to watch a ball hitting a glove and a foot hitting a bag at the same time when they are about eight feet apart.

A USA Today review of this year’s replays midway through the season showed that 318 calls had been reversed on review after being challenged by managers. So bad calls happened a lot before replay. Good teams played on and won games.

It’s also worth noting that, as bad calls go, this one was about as inconsequential as you can get on multiple accounts:

  • It was the lead-off hitter, rather than the potential third out. A potential third out means you should have gotten out of the inning. Whether the lead-off hitter gets on or out, you still need to get more outs to end the game.
  • The winning run scored with one out, so if you replay the inning without Orta’s bogus single, the Royals have still scored the tying run, with Lonnie Smith coming up. He hit .333 in the series.
  • The bad call was at first base, rather than at home plate, where it costs you a run, or at second base (as the bad call on White was), where it costs you a runner in scoring position. When you’re screwed on a bad call at first base, you have to give up an extra-base hit, a huge error or multiple little things (singles, walks, hit batters, errors, wild pitches, sacrifices, etc.) for the bad call to result in a run. And by the time those other things happen, the bad call is never the main reason the run scored.

And those little things that happened after the bad call were an amazing, exhilarating (for a Royals fan or neutral baseball fan) mix of good and bad plays by the Royals’ role players. The Royals had a stellar, if young, pitching staff that year, but no pitchers hit in the inning. Their offensive superstar, having one of his best seasons, was George Brett, who didn’t come to bat in the ninth inning. White, Smith and Wilson were all All-Stars in multiple seasons and none of them hit in the ninth either. Hal McRae was another multi-year All-Star, and perhaps the best designated hitter of the 1970s and ’80s, and he would come to the plate, but he drew an intentional walk, playing a minimal role. The only All-Star who would play an important role in the Royals’ ninth-inning comeback was a defensive star, Jim Sundberg, a six-time Gold Glover and three-time All-Star who hit only .245 for the 1985 Royals. And he botched his assignment in the ninth. As did some Cardinals All-Stars. Both managers tried different maneuvers, some that worked, some that didn’t.

Let’s go through that inning, play by scrappy play:

Orta was not scheduled to lead off the ninth. Sheridan, who platooned in right field with Darryl Motley, was the scheduled hitter. Sheridan, who hit lefthanded, had started against the righthanded Cox. So Howser sent the righthanded Motley in to hit against Dayley. But Cardinals manager Whitey Herzog countered with Worrell, a righthanded rookie.

The Cardinals had no single closer that year. Jeff Lahti saved 19 games and had an ERA under 2.00. He had already saved Game Two and warmed up in the ninth inning of Game Six, but never came in. Dayley had 11 saves and a 2.76 ERA and two saves against the Dodgers in the National League Championship Series. Herzog had become enamored with Worrell, a late-August call-up who would still be eligible for (and win) Rookie of the Year in 1986. Worrell saved five games in September of 1985 and had saved Game One and pitched briefly in Game Five. So Herzog brought him in with an opportunity to be on the mound when the Cardinals won the World Series. Howser countered with Orta, a left-handed batter who had platooned at designated hitter with veteran McRae for much of the year. Orta got his only hit of the series on the bad call.

The next batter, Steve Balboni, had led the Royals with 36 homers, but he was also a likely strikeout candidate, leading the American League with 166 strikeouts. Worrell got Bonesy to loft a high pop foul over by the Royals’ dugout. Clark should have caught the ball, but misjudged it, then was distracted by Porter, who also came over to see if he had a play. The ball bounced harmlessly on the top step of the Royals’ dugout.

Both the Denkinger and Clark mistakes gave the Royals extra chances, but the Clark mistake, which was not scored an error, was more costly. Denkinger’s mistake put the potential tying run on first base. When Balboni used his second chance to send a ground-ball single to left, Clark’s error allowed the potential tying run to move into scoring position and put the winning run at first. Instead of bases empty and two outs, the two mistakes combined left the Royals with no outs and runners at first and second. Backup shortstop Onix Concepcion pinch-ran for Bonesy.

McRae was on deck to pinch-hit for Sundberg, but Howser decided he wanted a bunt to advance the runners. McRae had only two sacrifice bunts all season. Sundberg had only four. Howser sent Sundberg up to bunt. I’m not a big fan of the sacrifice bunt. Outs are precious and I prefer to make the defense work for them. My preference would have been to take three shots at getting the tying run home from second. But Howser stayed with the bunt, even with two strikes. Sundberg laid down the bunt, but Worrell fired to third to force Orta. This time he was correctly called out.

Sundberg was not a fast runner. He had been thrown out stealing on his only two attempts in 1985 (no doubt on busted hit-and-run plays). For his career, he had 20 stolen bases and 621 runs in 16 seasons, less than 40 runs a year (and 38, in fact, in 1985). The Royals’ backup catcher, John Wathan, had three years earlier set the single-season stolen-base record for catchers, with 36, a record that still stands. I fully expected Howser to send Duke in to pinch run, but he didn’t. Yet.

The next scheduled batter was shortstop Biancalana, whose name and weak hitting had been mocked by David Letterman in his Buddy Biancalana Hit Counter (a take-off on the hit counters used to track Pete Rose’s chase of Ty Cobb’s all-time hit record). Biancalana, who split time with Concepcion during the season, reached the peak of his career in the 1985, getting most of the time at shortstop in the post-season, with 43 plate appearances to only one for Concepcion. His .278 World Series batting average was nothing special, but it was 90 points higher than his regular-season average.

Even with his meager batting average, Biancalana had only five sacrifice bunts during the 1985 season and only 15 in his major-league career. I don’t think Howser would have used him even for a squeeze play if Sundberg’s bunt had worked. Which makes the bunt even more puzzling: If it had succeeded, first base would have been open for the Cardinals to walk Hal McRae (maybe Howser would have pinch-hit someone else).

But McRae came up with the tying run on second, with 1,000-plus career RBI, 70 in a platoon role in 1985 and an RBI crown just three years earlier. From 1976 to 1985, baseball followed a ridiculous practice of alternating years with and without the DH in the World Series. Pitchers hit in the odd years, so McRae had come to the plate only twice in the World Series, grounding out with the bases loaded in Game Four and being hit by a pitch in Game One. As a Royals fan, I was ready for him to jump on the opportunity and bring Concepcion home.

But Porter and Worrell apparently got crossed up on a pitch. The ball got away from Porter and the runners advanced, giving Kansas City the same result as they had sought with Sundberg’s bunt: runners at second and third, one out. The umpire’s mistake had just put the potential tying run on first base. Porter’s passed ball put the winning run in scoring position and advanced the tying run to third. Again, a much bigger part of the inning than the bad call.

Herzog chose to walk McRae intentionally, which set up a possible series-clinching double play. McRae’s run wouldn’t matter, though loading the bases raised the risk of walking in the tying run. Still, Herzog preferred to take his chances with the next pinch-hitter.

The next scheduled hitter was Royals closer Dan Quisenberry, who had relieved in the eighth inning, after Leibrandt gave up the Cardinals’ only run. Dane Iorg came to the plate as the Royals’ fourth pinch-hitter of the inning, including Motley, who didn’t actually hit.

And now Wathan went in to pinch-run, but for McRae, instead of Sundberg. If the thinking in using Wathan to run for McRae was because he could break up the double play, that certainly overlooked McRae’s famous 1977 slide into Willie Randolph in a Yankees-Royals post-season showdown. But this McRae was eight years older, and maybe Howser thought Wathan could get down to second base faster. Fine, run for McRae. Lynn Jones and Greg Pryor also were available to pinch-run, both undoubtedly faster than Sundberg. Jones had a triple and a double in his three World Series at-bats and undoubtedly would have hit if Howser needed another pinch-hitter. Howser left his catcher at second base with the potential winning run.

At the plate, Iorg was familiar to the Cardinals. He had played for the Cardinals from 1977 until being sold to the Royals in May 1984. He’d never played more than 105 games in a season and never had more than 80 hits in a season. But he was a respected role player. He’d hit 9 for 17 in five games of the 1982 World Series for the Cardinals.

Iorg wasn’t a great pinch hitter, but he pinch-hit a lot, 69 hits in 282 career pinch-hit at-bats. In 1985, he was only 4 for 27 as a pinch-hitter for the Royals, a worse batting average than Biancalana, the guy he probably hit for most often, since pitchers never hit then in the American League. But he’d hit respectably as a spare outfielder, with a couple games each at DH and first base. With a .255 average, 60 hits and 30 RBI for the year, he was the logical pinch-hitter against a righthander.

Iorg won a special place in Royal lore forever with his single to rightfield against Worrell. Concepcion raced home easily with the tying run and third-base coach Mike Ferraro waved Sundberg home, too. Andy Van Slyke had a gun in right, and I thought he’d nail Sundberg at the plate. But he got a good jump from second, chugged home hard and slid home head-first, ahead of Porter’s tag.

In just five plate appearances, 11 Royals were scheduled to hit, announced as pinch-hitters, actually hit or pinch-ran in the ninth inning. The bad call was not as important to the outcome of the inning as the two legitimate singles Worrell gave up, the pop foul Clark misplayed or Porter’s passed ball. But the Cardinals and their fans whined loud and long about the call, exaggerating it in baseball legend way beyond its importance to the outcome of the game or the series.

The call most certainly didn’t cost the Cardinals the World Series. However big the bad call was to Game Six, the Cardinals had a chance to come back. The Big Red Machine was devastated by a Game Six loss a decade earlier, when Bernie Carbo’s three-run pinch-hit homer tied the game for the Boston Red Sox and Carlton Fisk’s extra-inning homer stayed fair to win it. And the Reds regrouped to win the next night.

Watch the ninth inning here:

Watch all of Game Six here:

Game Seven

The Cardinals were set up perfectly for Game Seven. Herzog had his choice of 21-game winners. John Tudor had held the Royals to one run in Game One and shut them out in Game Four. Tudor was 21-8 in the regular season, with a 1.93 ERA and a league-high 10 shutouts. He’d have won the Cy Young Award, if not for the historic season Dwight Gooden had for the Mets. Joaquín Andújar was 21-12 in the regular season, his second consecutive 20-win season, but had not been effective in the post-season. He had lost to the Royals’ Bret Saberhagen in Game Three. Though Tudor would be pitching on short rest, Herzog went with his ace, who was on a roll.

Game Seven should have been, and appeared likely to be, a pitching duel for the ages. Saberhagen also was a 20-game winner and would win the A.L. Cy Young Award (Ron Guidry probably should have won, but Sabes had a great year and was the exciting 21-year-old breakthrough star). Saberhagen had given up just one run on six hits and a walk in the Royals’ Game Three win in St. Louis, getting the Royals back into the series after two losses in Kansas City. His wife gave birth to their first child, a son named Drew, the night of Game Six.

The umpires’ clockwise World Series rotation moved Denkinger behind home plate.

Through the first inning and a half, both pitchers looked sharp, Tudor just giving up a single to Brett, Saberhagen giving up a single to Clark. Balboni walked in the bottom of the second. Then Motley, whose only involvement in Game Six was to be announced as a pinch-hitter, blasted a homer to give the Royals a 2-0 lead.

In the third inning, Tudor began to unravel. He walked Smith, gave up another single to Brett, then gave up a double steal. After Frank White walked, the bases were loaded. Then Tudor walked Sundberg to give up the third run. In the regular season, Herzog might have given Tudor time to work through his wildness, but with Saberhagen looking dominant, he had to use a quick hook. He brought in Bill Campbell, and Tudor took his frustration out on an electric fan in the clubhouse, cutting his finger. Campbell gave up a single to Balboni and the Royals led 5-0. Biancalana got the only intentional walk of his career, bringing up Saberhagen with the bases loaded and two outs. Sabes struck out swinging, about the only thing that went wrong for the Royals.

Saberhagen put two more zeroes up on the scoreboard and Lahti came in to replace Campbell after Sundberg singled leading off the fifth. After singles to Balboni and Motley, the Royals led 6-0 and Saberhagen was batting. He tried to advance the runners with a bunt, but Clark threw to Ozzie Smith to force out Motley. Lonnie Smith followed with a double, scoring Balboni and Saberhagen. Then Wilson drove Smith home and the Royals led 9-0.

Ricky Horton replaced Lahti and gave up a single to Brett, his fourth hit of the game already. After Horton threw two balls to White, Herzog turned to Andújar. I was puzzled by the move at the time, but I guess he thought he couldn’t keep burning through his bullpen in the fifth inning. He needed his best remaining pitcher, someone to stop the bleeding for a few innings, just in case the Cardinals could mount some sort of offense against Saberhagen.

It didn’t quite work out that way. After fouling off several Andújar pitches, White singled home a run. The Royals led 10-0. If it were a softball game, they would have won by the 10-run rule. But the Cardinals had to keep playing.

Denkinger called ball three on a pitch that was clearly inside, with Sundberg checking his swing. Andújar angrily charged toward the umpire to protest. Herzog charged out of the dugout to take the lead in the argument, while teammates restrained Andújar. Pretty quickly, Herzog turned the argument to the night before. He had seen enough and dropped f-bombs in an obvious intentional move to get thrown out of the game. Even after leaving the field, Herzog returned to continue the argument. Surprisingly, Andújar was not ejected for his initial reaction to the call.

When order was finally restored, Andújar threw ball four, also inside, and again immediately reacted angrily. His Wikipedia entry says Denkinger “misread a gesture by Andújar” to Porter. But that’s BS. The video shows Andújar reacting immediately to the call, the same way he did after ball three. He was furious, perhaps more at Herzog than Denkinger, and didn’t have any intention of sticking around any longer in this blowout. Teammates and coaches restrained him and it took about three of them to pull him off the field.

Forsch came in to pitch, and his wild pitch allowed Brett to score the 11th run. Finally Forsch and Dayley shut down the Royals’ offense, but the Cardinals could muster only five singles off Saberhagen. Van Slyke was the only Cardinal to reach second base, when he and Terry Pendleton singled back-to-back in the seventh.

With two out and an 11-0 lead in the ninth, Brett came over to the mound to talk to his pitcher. He wasn’t talking strategy or trying to settle the young pitcher down. He instructed Sabes to come his way after the final out. Brett wanted to be the first to embrace the winning pitcher. And he was. The Kansas City Times front page with that photo hangs in my office wall this month, until the Royals’ season ends.

You gotta love it

Here’s a short video of Saberhagen’s pitching and the celebration:

Watch all of Game Seven here (Jim Sundberg’s at-bat in the fifth inning starts at the 1:37:55 mark):

1986-2013

The 29 years between post-season games were mostly miserable for Royals fans. Saberhagen had another Cy Young season in 1989 and Brett won another batting title in 1990. The Royals were good and still exciting in the Bo Jackson years, but then wasted good years by Kevin Appier and Mike Sweeney. David Cone, Johnny Damon, Carlos Beltrán and Zack Greinke teased Royals fans with their talent before moving to better teams. Wathan and McRae (and a lot of others) took their turns as managers, without success. McRae’s son, Brian, played five years for the Royals.

Baseball expanded the playoffs, from two teams in each league to four and then five. But the Royals were never good enough to make the cut. Twenty-eight seasons passed without a post-season game. Then came …

2014

OK, I won’t go into as much detail on the 2014 games, because anyone who’s made it this far has fresh memories of all the games. Just a quick comment on each:

Wild-card game

I feared I would bitterly blame Ned Yost for losing the one-game wild-card playoff with the A’s for wasting too many outs on bunts (when his base runners were perfectly capable of stealing their way into scoring position). But the Royals prevailed. My oldest son, Mike, flew down from the Twin Cities to watch the game in person. My youngest son, Tom, wrote a guest post on what it meant to finally watch the Royals play and win a post-season game.

The A’s led this game 2-1 after one inning and the Royals came back to take the lead. The A’s led 7-3 after six innings and the Royals came back with three runs in the eighth and one in the ninth to tie. The A’s led 8-7 after the top of the 12th. And the Royals got two runs in the bottom of the 12th to win, with a Salvador Pérez base hit bringing home the winner.

I wonder how many teams have come from behind three different times in a post-season, including in the ninth and extra innings. As incredible as this post-season run has been, that might have been the best game. Mike says it’s the best game he’s ever attended, and I took him to a lot of good ones.

For Kansas City fans, which my sons are (I’m a Chiefs fan and cheer for the Royals if they’re not playing the Yankees), this was the first post-season win in any pro sport since 1994.

Angels series

Game one

Because the Royals are the wild-card team, both of their American League playoff series this year have started on the road. Game One of the Division Series in Anaheim was a well-pitched game, with starters Jason Vargas of the Royals and Jered Weaver of the Angels each giving up a run in the third and fifth innings and the bullpens pitching scoreless ball until Mike Moustakas, batting ninth in the Royals’ lineup, started his incredible post-season run with his 11th-inning homer.

Game Two

Starters Matt Shoemaker of the Angels and Yordano Ventura of the Royals were even better in this game, each giving up just one run. Game Two also went to extra innings, tied 1-1. Eric Hosmer delivered another extra-inning homer, following a Lorenzo Cain single. Pérez continued his extra-inning success with an RBI single and the Royals won, 4-1.

Game Three

This game was, on a smaller scale and with no ejections, a counterpart to Game Seven in 1985: an easy win following a nail-biter. The Royals led Game Three 3-1 after one inning, 5-1 after three and 7-2 after four. They cruised to an easy 8-3 win in front of the home fans. Hosmer and Moustakas homered again and Alex Gordon had a three-run double. Cain made back-to-back amazing catches.

2104 A.L. Championship Series

Game One

OK, it was back to extra innings: Both starters, James Shields for the Royals and Chris Tillman for the Orioles, were ineffective and neither made it to the sixth inning. The Royals blew a 4-0 lead and a 5-1 lead. But again the bullpens were strong, each pitching scoreless seventh, eighth and ninth innings to go to the 10th with a 5-5 tie.

Gordon opened the 10th with a homer, the third different Royal to homer in extra innings this post-season. After a walk to Perez, Moustakas added his second extra-inning homer. Closer Greg Holland, who’s been stellar this post-season, finally allowed a run, but still nailed down an 8-6 win. (Like Saberhagen in 1985, Holland and Cain have welcomed new babies during the 2014 post-season.)

Game Two

The Game Two win took only nine innings, but it took the full nine. The teams were tied 4-4 going into the ninth. Moustakas had homered in the fourth, so I was miffed that Yost had him bunting after Omar Infante led off with a single (Terrance Gore pinch-ran; as in 1985, pinch-runners have played a role for the Royals). Moustakas successfully advanced the runner, though. Then Alcides Escobar doubled Gore home. Lorenzo Cain, who’s made brilliant plays in the outfield throughout the playoffs, added an RBI single. Holland nailed down the win and the Royals go home with a 2-0 lead in the series.

Tom has made it to both Baltimore games. Tom, Mike and their brother, Joe, and I have been texting like crazy during this incredible run (just the last six games; none of us had mobile phones in 1985, of course).

What’s next?

Of course, the Blue Jays and Cardinals each had two-game leads in 1985, so any Royals fan knows it’s not over. But I like the Royals’ chances. This scrappy team reminds me of the 1985 Royals. Each had lots of heroes, rather than just riding the back of a dominant player. And, whatever happens, this nine-game winning streak has been a delight: four extra-inning wins, two ninth-inning wins and a ton of memories for two generations of deserving fans.

Source note: Statistics and some game details for this post came from Baseball-Reference.com.