Tuesday, January 29, 2013

My Suggestions for PED Punishment

Whenever news comes out about players being found guilty of using a Performance Enhancing Drug, I usually have mixed feelings.  On one hand, I am disappointed in that it is another black eye for the game and in a sport that has had it's fair share throughout history.   But, on the hand, I glad to see it because I know MLB is trying to get rid of PEDs and make sure the sport clean.
If you haven't heard the latest, a Miami clinic has been named from an investigation by MLB and the federal government in supplying PEDs to current MLB players as recently as this past season.  Some of the players named are no big surprises such as Alex Rodriguez and Melky Cabrera. But there is a couple new names mentioned with PEDs, Texas Rangers' Nelson Cruz and Washington Nationals' Gio Gonzalez.  Rodriguez is named the most among the findings. Here is a link to the complete article: http://www.miaminewtimes.com/2013-01-31/news/a-rod-and-doping-a-miami-clinic-supplies-drugs-to-sports-biggest-names/

Now is the time for MLB to make a stand and implement a new punishment system for those who have been found guilty of using PEDs.  Obviously the current punishment of 50 games after the first positive test, 100 games after 2nd and lifetime ban after the third is not strict enough.  I suggest something much harsher. I don't think a season long suspension after one positive test and a lifetime ban after the second is a big enough deterrent. If these individual players chose to set themselves apart from their team, they should be punished with suspensions/bans in terms of games and with individual glory and accolades.
If they decided use PEDs in order to have a longer career and make more money, that is all they should get out of the game. They should not be rewarded for any individual honors.  Hall of Fame? not a chance. I would not stop there.  The guilty should no longer to be allowed to win any seasonal honors too.  Cy Young, MVP, Gold Glove and Silver Slugger - all forbidden.  I am not talking about the one season they are caught, be ineligible for any individual honor for the rest of their careers.  All Star game?  If we are celebrating the game's best and a player has cheated his way there, he shouldn't be celebrated.
2012 Topps Update
We, as fans, can have a say in this too.  If we really want the game to be clean, we should never vote for a player to the All Star game who previously been found guilty of using.  Melky Cabrera should not get one vote next year for the game.  We can do more. We should not buy any more their jerseys or other memorabilia.  Just force them to become footnotes of the game and mostly forgotten after years.
2012 Topps
As for Alex Rodriguez, if these latest allegations are true, has proven to be a habitual user and liar and should be punished accordingly.  Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis made an example of Shoeless Joe Jackson and the seven others after the Black Sox Scandal and A. Bartlett Giamatti with Pete Rose in 1989.  It is time for Bud Selig to do the same with Alex Rodriguez, a lifetime ban.   Set an example and say no matter how big of a star a player is, no one is above the game.  The players' association will likely fight it as it will set precedence for future bans, but doubt the New York Yankees will do much. I am guessing there is people in Yankee front office is trying to find an out in his contract and this could be it. Rodriguez has five more well paid years left and is no longer the player he once was, or at least what we thought was and Yankees don't want that burden anymore.  They will be a better team without him or his contract around.

Commissioner Bud Selig could leave a lasting legacy on the game in implementing a very strict PED punishment system. He would also set a new standard for all sports in terms of punishment, so any future player would have to think long and hard about using.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Brothers as Teammates

With the Atlanta Braves trading for Arizona's Justin Upton this week, he will join his brother, B.J. as teammates in 2013.  This is a cool feat, but not as rare as you may think it is. There has been over 100 sets of brothers as teammates in Major League Baseball history including players who ended up in the Hall of Fame. Ken and George Brett of Kansas City, Chris and Tony Gwynn of San Diego, Billy and Cal Ripken Jr. of Baltimore, to name a few.
I will name some more of the notable ones:

Tommie and Hank Aaron (Milwaukee/Atlanta Braves: 1962-65, 68-71).  Tommie managed only to hit 13 career home runs, but combining it with big brother's 755, they hold the MLB record of most career home runs for brothers.

Jim and Gaylord Perry(Cleveland Indians: 1974-75).   The Perrys are the only brothers to each win a Cy Young award. Jim won the award in 1970 for the Minnesota Twins while Gaylord won the Cy Young twice: 1972 with Cleveland and 1978 with San Diego.

Dizzy and Paul Dean(St. Louis Cardinals: 1934-37). The always confident, Dizzy, predicted for 1934 season: "Me an' Paul are gonna win 45 games".  He was right. Paul finished the season with 19 wins and Dizzy with 30.
1983 Donruss HOF Heroes

Paul and Lloyd Waner(Pittsburgh Pirates(1927-40. Boston Braves, 1941. Brooklyn Dodgers, 1944).  The Waners are the only brothers to each make the Hall of Fame.  Paul was nicknamed Big Poison and Lloyd, Little Poison.

Jesus, Felipe and Matty Alou(San Francisco Giants: 1963). All three had long MLB careers but only were teammates for only a brief time in 1963. For three games, the entire Giants outfield consisted of an Alou.

Roberto and Sandy Alomar Jr (San Diego Padres,1988-89. Cleveland Indians,1999-2000. Chicago White Sox,2003-04) . The Alomars are the only brothers to each win an All Star game MVP.  Sandy in 1997 and Roberto in 1998.

Here is a complete list of brother teammates: http://www.baseball-almanac.com/family/fam6.shtml

Friday, January 25, 2013

Cincinnati Reds ..fun and random facts

This week Major League Baseball announced that the 2015 All Star game will be played at Cincinnati's Great American Ballpark.  This will be fifth time that Cincinnati will host the Midsummer's Classic. Previously in 1938 and 1953 and Crosley Field and 1970 and 1988 at Riverfront Stadium.  Because of this honor, I will give some random facts about the Cincinnati Reds and some of its players.

-Cincinnati Reds are recognized as first official professional baseball team.  The first game was played in 1869 and were then known as the Red Stockings.

-Because of this recognition, each season, the first game of professional baseball was played at Cincinnati from 1876-1989. Only twice it did not occur, 1877 and 1966, and it was because of rainouts.

-Their first World Series was won in 1919, but has a tarnished legacy.  This is the year of the Black Sox scandal, where several members of Chicago White Sox took money to throw the World Series

-On May 24, 1935, the first official night game took place at Cincinnati's Crosley Field. Reds beat the Philadelphia Phillies 2-1

-In 1938, Johnny Vander Meer pitched consecutive no-hitters. June 11 vs Boston and four days later vs Brooklyn Dodgers. The only pitcher ever to throw back to back no hitters.

-Baseball's first televised game was between Cincinnati and Brooklyn at Brooklyn's Ebbets Field.
1957 Topps

-Slugger Ted Kluszewski played for the Reds 1947-57. He was mostly remembered for not wearing sleeves as a part of his uniform

-During the McCarthyism of the 1950s in America, the Reds officially changed their name to the Cincinnati Redlegs.

-1970s were the most successful period for the franchise as they won six divisional titles, four National League pennants and two world Series titles. They were led by their potent lineup called the Big Red Machine. Players included Pete Rose, Johnny Bench, Joe Morgan, Tony Perez and others.

-Overall Cincinnati has won 11 Divisional titles, nine National League pennants and five World Series championships.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Baseball Card of Week: 2001 Legends of NY #111 Lou Gehrig

2001 Legends of NY #111 Lou Gehrig
This week's card was a part of set released in November of 2001 by Upper Deck.  The Legends of New York set was made to help honor the brave people who is there in need for the ones from the 9/11 tragedy.  It was a 200 base set that features the great players and moments from the New York teams- New York Yankees, Brooklyn Dodgers, New York Giants and New York Mets.  Randomly inserted within the packs were memorabilia cards that features a piece of jersey or bat from these NY greats or autographed cards also.  Also randomly inserted is the United We Stand set that depicts the true heroes from New York-the policemen/women and firemen.

As for the Lou Gehrig card itself.  Obviously Lou Gehrig is one of the all time greats from a New York team, but if you look at the card, you will see the number 4 in the upper left hand corner. This is Gehrig's uniform number as each player in the set shows his uniform number, if applicable.  Why is this significant?  Today, January 22, in 1929, the New York Yankees announced that they would start putting numbers on the back of the uniforms, the first team to do so.  Originally the numbers were given to where the player was at in the batting order.  Lou Gehrig batted 4th and Babe Ruth 3rd.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

In Memoriam: Earl Weaver and Stan Musial

Saturday was a sad day for the game of baseball as two hall of famers passed away. Earl Weaver and Stan Musial.
1981 Donurss

Earl Weaver was the manager for the Baltimore Orioles from 1969-82 and then again in 1985-86.  During his time with the Orioles, they won four American League pennants and one World Series title while accumulating a record of 1,480-1,060.  Weaver's managerial philosophy was pitching, defense and wait for the three run home run, which usually worked as the Orioles won 100 games in a season five times. Weaver was also ahead of his time when he used his entire roster and had index cards filled with stats for player matchups.  He was best known for being fiery as he was ejected more than 90 times in his career, even one day on both ends of a doubleheader, but also had a good sense of humor.  One of his former pitchers, Dan Stanhouse, he dubbed "full pack" because it took a full pack of cigarettes to get through one of his games.  The "Earl of Baltimore" was truly on of the game's best managers.
1960 Topps

There is a hall of famers and then there is Stan "The Man" Musial.  Mostly because he played out of the limelight of the east coast, he is often overlooked on the national scale. But he does belong in the same class as Joe Dimaggio, Ted Williams, Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays as his stats and awards prove it.  Musial was a 24-time All Star, 7-time NL batting champion, 3-time NL MVP and World Series champion.  Musial's career stats include: .331 avg, 475 home runs and 1,951 RBIs.  To show how consistent of hitter he was, exactly half of his 3,630 career hits were at home and on the other on the road.  He did all this with humility, as he one of the most liked players.  During retirement, he always had a harmonica handy for any time he got a request to play "Take Me Out To The Ballgame":  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x3qWXMrvLrM 

Friday, January 18, 2013

2013 World Baseball Classic preview

With the World Baseball Classic rosters being released on Thursday, I will give you some of my thoughts on the tournament, teams and specific players.

First of all, I love the idea of an international tournament for the game of baseball.  One of  the things that I enjoy about baseball is that the players, very good ones too, come from all over the world.  Players such as Miguel Cabrera from Venezuela, Robinson Cano from the Dominican Republic, Andruw Jones from Curacao, Ichiro Suzuki from Japan, Shin Soo-Choo from South Korea, Grant Balfour from Australia,  prove that the game is very diverse.
I was quite disappointed when the International Olympic Committee decided not have baseball as an Olympic sport anymore. WBC is a great idea as a replacement and may end up being a better platform for the game at the end.  Baseball wouldn't get lost among all the other sports during the Olympics and while here, it would stand alone just like the FIFA World Cup does. Also, if it was played as a part of the Olympics, there would be a constant conflict of players taking a break from the regular season to play for their respected countries, like hockey does.  The other option is too use amateurs or minor leaguers, but frankly as fans, I think we all want to see the world's best play each other.

As for the 2013 tournament, I am not going to make any predictions, at least not yet.  Just like any other baseball tournament or short series, it will come down to pitching. The difference here, in this tourney is that it is staged during the time of year when it is normally spring training.  So, the pitchers will not be in season form and because of it, there is a strict pitch limit on each pitcher as no one wants to see a pitcher lose part of or the whole 2013 MLB season.  Because of this, the WBC crown is open for the taking for many countries.  Speaking of the teams, here is some quick thoughts on some of the teams after looking at their rosters.
2009 Topps World Baseball Classic #3

Team USA has a solid roster, but alot of big names are not participating especially among the pitchers. No Justin Verlander, David Price, Jered Weaver, CJ Wilson, Matt Cain, Clayton Kershaw ,etc.  R.A. Dickey and Ryan Vogelsong anchors the staff that is loaded with relief pitchers.  Which is likely a good idea because of the pitch counts and the amount of stressful innings that the pitchers will face that normally don't have this time of year.  The lineup is pretty good with Ryan Braun, Joe Mauer, Mark Teixeira, David Wright and Jimmy Rollins. It has flexibity with utility guys in Ben Zobrist and Willie Bloomquist.  Looks like manager Joe Torre build a team of grinders in trying to win as oppose to getting the biggest names.
2006 Upper Deck World Baseball Classic

Venezuela, on the other hand is loaded with stars. Felix Hernandez and Anibal Sanchez are going to lead the pitching staff.  For the hitters, Miguel Cabrera is the leader of which maybe the best infield of the tourney which also include World Series heroes Marco Scutaro and Pablo Sandoval plus Asdrubal Cabrera and Elvis Andrus. Others hitters include OFs Carlos Gonzalez and Martin Prado and catcher Salvador Perez of Kansas City.. Venezuela could be the team to beat.

Puerto Rico, Mexico and the Dominican Republic each will have a good number of major league stars and will field solid teams that could compete for the title.  Canada and Cuba could make a name for themselves too.
2008 Topps WBC
I haven't mentioned yet the champion of the previous two World Baseball Classics- Japan.  This year's squad doesn't include pitching stars Daisuke Matsuzaka and Yu Darvish from the past, but even though I am not familiar with the names on the team, I am pretty confident that the Japanese will have a solid team.  They usually have a team that can pitch, defend and manufacture runs that is needed to win a short series.
If you want look at a couple possible future stars in the game, look no further than the Netherlands.  Infielder Jurickson Profar is considered by many as the number one prospect in the game. He came up late last season as a 19 year old to the Texas Rangers and made an immediate splash when he hit a home run in his very first at bat.  Profar's immergence may make Elvis Andrus expendable for Texas.  Also playing for the Netherlands is IF Xander Bogaerts. He is regarded as a future star for the Boston Red Sox, even though it may not be until 2014 at the earliest.
It looks like it will be another exciting World Baseball Classic and I will certainly be watching. 

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Baseball Card of the Week: 1977 Hostess Mark Fidrych

Each week I am going to write about a specific baseball card and will be one from my own personal collection. The card could either be something that is just fun, historic, newsworthy or a recent pick up for myself.
For the initial card, I will discuss one that falls a bit of each of the categories:  1977 Hostess #46 Mark Fidrych. 

Mark "The Bird" Fidrych was a pitcher from 1976-80, all with the Detroit Tigers. But it was the 1976 season is when he became a pop sensation in baseball.  Fidrych, who got his nickname from his similarities to the Sesame Street character, sold out stadiums with his on the field antics to go along with his successes as a big league pitcher.
Fidrych would do things on the field that was never seen before or since. He would get down on his hands and knees and pat down the dirt on the pitching mound, or before throwing a pitch, he would talk to the ball to get it where he wanted to go.  Fidrych would also pace around the mound telling himself to calm down and after a fine play by one of his defenders, he was known to go up to him in the field and thank him personally.  While doing all of this, Fidrych was racking up the wins. He won the 1976 American League Rookie of the Year and was the starting pitcher for the AL in the All-Star game. He finished the season with a 19-9 record and an ERA of 2.34.  But, unfortunately, early on in 1977 season, Fidrych hurt his shoulder and was never the same.

As for the card itself, Hostess Brands made recent news from their announcement of going out of business.  This generated some interest for the baseball cards that they produced in the past.  From 1975-79, Hostess Brands put panels of three cards as backs to their family size packs of Hostess treats.  The sets would have a total of 150 cards each year and included all of the day's tops players.  Some players are a bit harder to find because they were placed on the least popular Hostess snacks only.  Modern collectors find it difficult to get these in nice condition as it was up to each individual(usually a kid) to cut the cards off the boxes in a precise manner.  Since the years of their release, these sets have become one of most recognizable and popular food issue baseball card sets.
Both Hostess Brands and Mark Fidrych were a popular part of American culture and now are fond memories for those who are old enough to lived it.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

The Players who followed Jackie Robinson

I just finished watching the new trailer for the upcoming biopic on Jackie Robinson,  42.  It stars Chadwick Boseman as Jackie Robinson and Harrison Ford as Dodgers general manager Branch Rickey.  More on this a bit later.  It got me thinking of the other players who helped break the color barrier. Everyone knows that Robinson was the first overall and Larry Doby of Cleveland was the first in the American League later in 1947. But what about the players who followed these pioneers?  They have largely been forgotten, but their experiences were not much easier than Robinson and Doby.  So, I am going to name a few of them and their accomplishments in the majors in order to give them some recognition.

Satchel Paige:  Signed with Cleveland in 1948 after a legendary career in the Negro Leagues at the presumed age of 42. He became the first Negro pitcher in the majors and helped lead Cleveland to the World Series title. He later pitched for St Louis Browns from 1951-53, making two All-Star games.

Willard Brown:  Signed with St Louis Browns in 1947 along with Hank Thompson. Brown is considered widely as one the best home run hitters in Negro League history. Josh Gibson gave him the nickname, "Home Run" Brown.  When Brown and Thompson debuted with the Browns, it was the first time black players played together in the majors. Brown was also the first black player to hit a home run in American League history.  But after becoming frustrated with racial slurs and playing on a poor team,  he returned to the Negro Leagues after just a month in the majors.
1954 Topps

Hank Thompson:  Debuted with Willard Brown for St Louis in 1947. He also played only briefly with the Browns. He did, however, sign with New York Giants in 1949 along with Monte Irvin. By becoming a Giant, Thompson was the first player to integrate two different franchises and also the first black player to play in both the American and National Leagues. Couple of other firsts he is credited for is when he faced Brooklyn's Don Newcombe, it was the first time a black hitter faced a black pitcher in MLB history and in 1951, along with Irvin and Willie Mays, they became the first all black outfield.
1957 Topps

Don Newcombe:  Debuted with Brooklyn Dodgers in 1949.  Had a successful career with Dodgers which included  Rookie of the Year, MVP and Cy Young awards.  He along with Doby, Robinson and Roy Campanella were the first black All-Stars in 1949. Also in 1949, he was the first black player to start a World Series game.

Roy Campanella.  Debuted with Brooklyn in 1948. Had a Hall of Fame career which included eight All-Star game appearances, three National League MVPs and a World Series championship.  Unfortunately, his career ended after being paralyzed in a car accident during the 1958 season.

Joe Black:  Also played for Brooklyn and debuted in 1952.  Black was the NL Rookie of the Year and during the 1952 World Series, became the first black player to win a World Series game. He later played for Cincinnati and Washington before retiring 1957.

Sam "The Jet" Jethroe:  After seeing Jackie Robinson success with Brooklyn, Branch Rickey signed Jethroe to play for the Brooklyn's minor league club, Montreal Royals in 1948. Didnt make his Major League debut until 1950 when he was traded to the Boston Braves. At the age of 32, Jethroe won the NL Rookie of the Year

Minnie Minoso:   Debuted with Cleveland in 1949 and later starred with Chicago White Sox. He  played on nine All-Star teams and won three Gold Gloves.
1954 Topps

Luke Easter:  Played with Cleveland from 1949-54, he was known for his power.  His home runs were known as "Easter Eggs".  Unfortunately he battled knee injuries throughout his career and never realizing a full career.

There is a few of the pioneers who blazed the trail for future black players in the Major Leagues.  Each of these players made an impact on the game in some way.  And here is a trailer for the movie, 42, that will be released in April : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I9RHqdZDCF0

Friday, January 11, 2013

Baseball Lexicon: Wally Pipped

One of my favorite terms in the game is used when a player has been described as or is about to be Wally Pipped. It's origin is also a nice little piece of history also.
1992 Conlon

Wally Pipp was a 1st basemen who played from 1913-28, primarily for the New York Yankees. He was a known as a solid player with decent power.  Pipp managed to lead the American League in home runs twice, which he became the first Yankee player to do so.
On June 2, 1925 he went to his manager, Miller Huggins, complaining about a terrible headache.  Huggins told him not to worry, take the day off and be back in the lineup the next day.  Pipp's replacement on that day? None other than Lou Gehrig.  Gehrig went on to play the next 2,130 consecutive games for New York, which was at the time, a MLB record.  Pipp was sold to Cincinnati Reds before the 1926 season and later described the situation as "I took the two most expensive aspirin in history."

So you all better be careful when taking a day off from work.  Your replacement maybe so good that you will get Wally Pipped. 

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

A 2014 Hall of Fame Vote From Outside the Norm

Well, the 2013 Hall of Fame voting has come and gone with no one selected by BBWA. This is not too surprising for me.  We all knew going in that none of the PED guys were going to be selected. While others just dont have the stats or awards and in the case of Biggio, many voters still use the "selected on first ballot" for the elite of the elite. He will likely get in next year.
Speaking of 2014, lets take a look at the newcomers on the ballot. Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, Frank Thomas, Mike Mussina and Jeff Kent.  Another star studded class to go with 2013 holdovers that the BBWA has to decide on.  I am not going to debate the merits of these players as we all are pretty familiar with them. On the otherhand, I will give a vote for another first timer for 2014 that will likely get overlooked- Hideo Nomo.
1995 Topps Stadium Club

Hideo Nomo??  You all are likely thinking I have officially fell off my rocker, but please hear me out.  In order to be on the ballot, a player must be play ten seasons in MLB.  Nomo has done this,but I fully admit if you look at his stats (123-109 record, 4.24 ERA and 1.918 career strikeouts) and his other accomplishments(rookie of year, NL All-Star and 2 no-hitters), he is not even close to being a candidate for Cooperstown.  He gets my vote in the pioneer category.  A pioneer is described in baseball as a person whose innovations helped move the game forward or starts a trend in the game.  Nomo was the first Japanese player since Masanori Murakami(1965 SF Giants) to play in MLB and many has followed in his footsteps in varying degrees of success.
Before Nomo made his debut in 1995, the prevailing thought was that Japanese players were not good enough to play in the Major Leagues. His immediate success and the media coverage that went along with it, reminded many of another Los Angeles Dodger rookie pitcher-Fernando Valenzuela from 1981. Nomo went on to start the All Star game for the National League and won the Rookie of the Year, edging out future Hall of Famer, Chipper Jones. For the next several years, he was a mainstay in the Dodgers starting rotation before moving onto different clubs.  We all knew from Nomo that a Japanese player can play in the majors. In 2000, Kaz Sazaki became the next Japanese player when he suited up for the Seattle Mariners and the following year, Ichiro Suzuki became the first everyday player from Japan.  Since, 40+ more players have done the same.
One can make an argument that Nomo's accomplishments was a benefit for Japan much more than for MLB. I have to disagree with. Yes, Nomo's success legitimized the Japanese player and the Nippon Professional Baseball(NPB) league. MLB also reaped the benefits of Nomo. Along with subsequent all star caliber players that followed Nomo, MLB also has grown financially from the Japanese fanbase and now considers Japan as a viable source for revenue.
So if you consider Nomo's trendsetting decision to play in USA to go along with his playing career, I will give Nomo a vote for 2014 Hall of Fame class. Will he get enough of the 75% votes for entry? No, I highly doubt it will happen. Voters will look at his MLB stats only and plus with all the big names on the ballot with him, Nomo will be pushed to the side. It is far more likely, that Nomo will not reach the 5% vote minimum in order to stay on the ballot. If that happens, he will have to wait until he is eligible for the veteran's committee. But that is okay. Time is on his side. With every future Japanese born player in the majors and every win for Japan in the World Baseball Classic, it is a vote for Hideo Nomo down the road.

Friday, January 4, 2013

My Hall of Fame Ballot

Here is my Hall of Fame ballot for the 2013 induction. A voter is required to select up to ten players and can select none if chooses to do so.  According to the Baseball Hall of Fame, the requirements are detailed in this link: http://baseballhall.org/hall-famers/rules-election/bbwaa .  So, here is my ballot:

Craig Biggio:. In addition to his 3,000 hits, he is 5th all time in doubles and made all star teams seven times and won seven silver sluggers. While moving from catcher to 2nd base and then to centerfield.

Curt Schilling:  216-146 record. 3,116 strikeouts and 3.46 ERA. He owns the highest strikeout to walk ratio in history(3,116Ks-711BBs) and his considered one of the best post season pitchers ever. Won 3 World Series titles(2 with Red Sox and 1 with Arizona) and won the 1993 NLCS MVP with pennant winning Phillies.  

Jack Morris:  He is the anti-stat guy.  If elected he would have one of the highest ERAs(3.90)  in Cooperstown. He never reached 300 career wins(254) nor 3,000 strikeouts(2,478) which are usually hall of fame guidelines. He did however lead 3 franchises (1984 Tigers, 1991 Twins and 1992 Blue Jays) to World Series crowns. He is all-time leader in AL in all the major statistical categories for pitchers during the decade of the 1980s.  So if a players is considered the best at his position in the league for a decade. Isn't that what the Hall of Fame is all about?

Tim Raines:  He was the Rickey Henderson of the National League during the 1980s. Because of this comparison, Raines is widely overlooked. He, however, has a higher batting average than Henderson and is the all time leader in stolen base made percentage. If you compare him with Hall of Famer Lou Brock. Brock has the 3,000 hits and Raines doesn't mostly because Brock was more of a free swinger. If you include walks, Raines has more combined career hits and walks than Brock. Raines fell off stat wise pretty quickly late in his career. Was it because of playing on astroturf for so long? or did the steroids era go in affect and Raines skills became less useful? Who knows, but if he didn't play at the same time as the greatest leadoff man(Henderson) did, he wouldn't probably be in by now.

Alan Trammell:  6 time All-Star. 4 time Gold Glove winner. 3 time Silver Slugger winner. but no MVP. If he had won the MVP in 1987(he finished 2nd to Toronto's George Bell despite leading the Tigers to 1st place finish over the Jays), he would be labeled as "MVP Alan Trammell" and be considered more of a candidate to others ala Barry Larkin.  In addition, Trammell was one the first power hitting shortstops in the majors which as since become common and also teamed with 2nd baseman Lou Whitaker to become the longest double play tandem in major league history. If Tinkers to Evers to Chance is in, Tramm and Sweet Lou should be also.

Fred McGriff( .284 avg 493 HR 1,550)5 time all star and 3 time Silver Slugger winner. If McGriff had hit just seven more HRs, he would be considered a lock for the Hall of Fame. I think close enough works well here. He posted ten 30 home run seasons and eight 100-RBI seasons, yet never had that monster season to hang his hat on. He was a very consistent hitter for a long time while competing in the steroid era.  Braves catching fire after acquiring McGriff in 1993 and becoming division champs helps his case also.

Almost in(but not):
Dale Murphy, Edgar Martinez and Larry Walker.  If the Hall of Fame is the "hall of very good", these guy would be automatic. But, I don't think their numbers quite reach Hall of Fame standards. Murphy was a 2time MVP and perennial all star in the 1980s, but wasn't great long enough. Martinez is considered the greatest designated hitter ever. but I find it hard to vote for a guy who rarely takes the field. Walker was very good player, but how much was his numbers aided by playing in Coors Field. If any of these guys make the hall, it wouldn't bother me much. There are already lesser players inducted in from my viewpoint.

Wait and see:
Mike Piazza and Jeff Bagwell. These two sluggers had hall of fame careers but are under the cloud of suspicion of performance enhancing drugs. Even though they were never named or found guilty of any wrongdoings. I am going to take the wait and see approach to see if anything surfaces with Bagwell and Piazza. Their silence speaks volumes for me. If they were clean players, wouldn't you think they would deny all allegations when asked, yet they say nothing. I have confidence that they would receive enough votes to stay on the ballot and can be voted in later.

steroids maybes: Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds. These 2 greats were implicated with steroids by others but still deny usage. Many people believe they both had hall of fame careers before they allegedly started using PEDs. So if they eventually get in, I think I am ok with it. But right now would not get my vote.

Steroids definite nos: Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa and Rafael Palmiero. These alleged PED users had great stats, but I believe their hall candidacy is based only by these skewed numbers. They were not the all around players of Clemens or Bonds. If these three never used PEDs, they would not even be considered for induction.

There is where my voting lies. Who I think I will actually get in? If I was a betting man, I would guess Biggio and Schilling would get in. Morris would likely just get enough of the votes since he was so close last year.  It would not shock me if no one gets voted in. Every voter has their own distinct view of each player. It could be possible where all the votes are spread out so far, no player would reach the 75% needed to be elected in. We would all find out next week and end the discussion for another year.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Hank Greenberg: The 1st Jewish Superstar

2011 Topps

On the day that what would have been his 102nd birthday, I am going talk about one of the most overlooked Hall of Famers, Hank Greenberg. He was one of the top sluggers of the 1930s and 40s while living as a proud Jew during the height of anti-Semitism and in a city, Detroit, where it was even more common. There were Jews who played in the majors before Greenberg, but none at his level and some even changed their name to hide their heritage.

Jews were always thought to be destined for jobs such as lawyers, doctors and such.  Never to excel in field of athletics. Greenberg changed that forever and many Jewish kids looked up to him for that. He constantly was ridiculed by fans with religious slurs and even by opposing players also. The New York Yankees were known to call up players from minors just to taunt Greenberg. This all made him want to work harder and not let his fans down.
Late in the 1934 season and in the middle of a pennant race, he further endeared himself to the Jewish community when he announced that he would not play on Rosh Hashanah(Sept 10-Jewish New Year) or Yom Kippur(Sept 19-Day of Atonement). After discussing his situation with a rabbi, he ended up playing on Rosh Hashanah but not on Yom Kippur.
For the 1938 season, Greenberg was chasing Babe Ruth's prestigious season home run record of 60. He had 58 with five games to go. Many believe he was pitched around and never had a chance to break the record because baseball didn't want a Jew to hold the home run record. He ended with 58. Greenberg, himself, denied these allegations.  
After missing four years for fighting in World War II, he came back and led the Tigers to their 4th pennant and 2nd World Series title during Greenberg's tenure in Detroit. But prior the 1947(his last) season he was traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates. Coincidentally, it was the same season that Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier while playing for the Brooklyn Dodgers. Greenberg saw what Robinson was going through and offered his help to Robinson in anyway he can.
Upon his retirement, he worked in the Cleveland Indians and Chicago White Sox front offices. While helping these teams become winners, Greenberg was known to sign many Negro league players.  In addition to his help in equality, Greenberg was on the forefront in player labor issues.  He was one of the leaders in establishing the players' pension plan and also was a witness for Curt Flood's lawsuit against MLB's reserve clause, which helped make free agency possible.
So, when you watch your favorite teams play now and see a Jew play a prominent role, please stop and think Hank Greenberg helped to make it possible. Also, if you come across the dvd, "Life and Times of Hank Greenberg", I would recommend viewing it to learn more about Hammerin Hank.