A Few Musings on the Today’s Game Era Ballot

Will Clark
Credit: Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

On Monday, the ballot was revealed for the Today’s Game Era, featuring a combination of players, managers and an owner who will receive consideration for induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame:

Harold Baines, Albert Belle, Joe Carter, Will Clark, Orel Hershiser, Davey Johnson, Charlie Manuel, Lou Piniella, Lee Smith and George Steinbrenner are those receiving consideration for the class of 2019. Baines, Belle, Carter, Clark, Hershiser and Smith are included for their contributions as players, while Johnson, Manuel and Piniella are included for their roles as managers. Steinbrenner, who is the only candidate that is no longer living, is nominated for his role as former Yankees owner.

Voting will be taking place next month, December 9th at the Winter Meetings and it will be interesting to see just how the voting turns out for this.  If anything, there are a few close calls and some absolute no’s littering this list.

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Credit: DUANE BURLESON/AP

Let’s start with the players, as they will be the ones receiving the most scrutiny when the votes are tabulated. The two names that instantly peaked my interest are Will Clark and Orel Hershiser, two stars of the 1980’s and 1990’s. Clark has a pretty good resume: 137 OPS+(97th all-time), slash line of .303/.384/.497 and is 93rd all-time in OPS, 76th in Adjusted Batting Runs and Adjusted Batting Wins.

The biggest argument for Clark is not only the level at which he performed for so long (15 seasons with an OPS+ above 120, including seven consecutive seasons) but how he was able to help his team. Clark ended his career with a WPA of 46 (51st all-time) and a RE24 of 455.42 (59th all-time), numbers that show he consistently helped put his team in a situation to win.

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Credit: Robert Ringer-Getty Images

Hershiser might have an even bigger argument for induction than Clark. While his career ERA+ (112) and ERA (3.48) speak of a ‘good but not great’ pitcher, his place in history tells a different story. Hershiser is 95th all-time in WAR for pitchers and 114th in Win Probability Added while also being one of the top pitchers of his era. If you are someone who believes in a player’s peak being a large part of their place in history, Hershiser was an elite starter for a nice seven year span. In that period, Hershiser finished in the top five in the National League Cy Young voting four times (winning in 1988) and made three All-Star appearances.

From 1985 to 1991, Hershiser posted an ERA+ of 128, an ERA of 2.78, a FIP of 3.03 and a WHIP of 1.163. Throw in that he had a stellar career in the postseason (2.59 ERA, 2.83 WPA over 132 innings) and there is at the least a discussion on whether or not Hershiser is “Hall Worthy”.

Both Clark and Hershiser are members of the Hall of Stats (HallofStats.com), granted just barely. We can’t say the same for the other players on this list: Belle just didn’t play long enough, Baines was regulated to being a DH for most of his career (and wasn’t a dominating hitter like Edgar Martinez or David Ortiz was), and Carter falls well below the standard of a Hall of Famer.

 

It will be interesting to see how Lee Smith manages in this vote, since he was a player who stayed on the Hall of Fame ballot up until 2017, garnering up to 50.6% of the vote back in 2012. Smith had his proponents, those that believed in the longevity and career save total as arguments for his induction.

Credit: Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

When it comes to the managers on the list, there doesn’t appear to be a big separation between the three. Davey Johnson, Charlie Manuel and Lou Piniella all have fairly comparable winning percentages and playoff appearances and all three have been at the helm of a world championship team: 

Credit: Fangraphs.com

Jay Jaffe of Fangraphs.com took a look at this list and was curious as to why Jim Leyland was left off:


The inclusion of Piniella, as the top returning vote-getter, I can understand, but retaining Johnson and introducing Manuel, who spent far less time than any of the others in the dugout, while excluding Leyland, who won as many pennants as that pair combined, seems off. And it’s not like Leyland, who last managed in 2013, is a threat to return to a dugout, whereas Baker, who’s just a year removed from his last job, might still answer the phone.

AP Photo/Chris O’Meara

This leaves us with George Steinbrenner, the former owner of the New York Yankees. It’s easy to see both sides of the argument for George, and it shouldn’t be surprising that even in death he is a polarizing figure. The argument for is simple: he revitalized a Yankee’s organization that had fallen off in the late 1960’s-early 1970’s and turned them into a juggernaut in the late 1970’s-early 1980’s. During his tenure, the Yankees won seven World Series titles and 11 pennants.

The argument against is simple: his issues with former player Dave Winfield eventually led to Steinbrenner being banned from the game, starting in mid-1990 until 1993. Add in the circus he created in New York (ie. Billy Martin, Reggie Jackson, Ed Whitson, etc.) and it would appear to be enough to leave George on the outside looking in.   

Credit: Getty Images

If I was to take a guess as to how the voting will go, I would say there is a very good chance that no one will from this group will be making the trek to Cooperstown this upcoming summer, unless they are doing so for a vacation. Personally, it doesn’t feel like there is a candidate worthy or overlooked on this list.

That being said, I also wouldn’t be shocked to see any of the managers get the nod or even Lee Smith. Smith received the most support out of this group during his initial cycle on the BBWAA ballot and it wouldn’t surprise me to see him receive the same support moving forward. As much as I loved Will Clark and Orel Hershiser when I was a kid, they still feel like borderline Hall of Famers in my book and will probably fall short yet again.

The good news is that at the very least ‘the Hall’ is doing the right thing by giving some of these guys a second chance. A number of players fell through the crack here and while I wasn’t shocked to not see a Mark McGwire or David Cone on the list, those players feel like stronger candidates than the ones currently receiving support. We will know the fate of the hopeful soon enough, as the Winter Meetings are just a few weeks away.   

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Why I Can’t Be Bothered By Baseball’s Cheaters

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Over the last year I’ve had a few people tell me that my stance on baseball’s PED users almost makes it sound like I am okay with them cheating. With Milwaukee’s Ryan Braun being the first casualty of the Biogenesis scandal(he will be serving a 65 game suspension this year, which means his 2013 season is over with), it seems like the appropriate time to lay my cards on the table and just say what I really feel about the steroid mess we’ve dealt with these past 15 years. It’s a complicated debate that has no right or wrong answer, and really is not white and black as much as gray.

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Now, this isn’t the first time I’ve tackled this subject that quite honestly I am tired of talking about. There is this. And also this. Whoa, I guess that last one didn’t really quite pan out the way I thought. My bad. Anyway, there is a good chance that if you discuss baseball, even if it is just with your buddies while drinking a cold one, you have debated steroids in baseball, or just cheating. To be honest, I am a firm believer that cheating has always occurred in baseball and always will. There is no stopping that. Sure, you can try to weed out the bad seeds, and to a degree it works in the long run, but you will never catch everyone. So why is there such an uproar about cheating now than any other time in history? It’s simple; the cheaters knocked fan’s heroes off their pedestal.

Barry Bonds

Barry Bonds isn’t a likeable guy. Never has been. He has been a pain in the ass from day one. Don’t believe me? Just ask Tigers manager Jim Leyland. But the biggest offense Barry ever made was breaking Hank Aaron’s career home run record. Aaron not only was a great symbol of all that was great about baseball, but also baseball commissioner Bud Selig’s hero. Anyone remember when Barry broke the record? Bud was watching up in the box and if looks could kill he would have done just that to Bonds. I know in some circles Bonds’ record is ignored, but the honesty of the situation is this is the baseball world Selig created, so he only has to look into the mirror to place blame. Bonds, the poster boy for the ‘Steroids Era’, dethroning Aaron is exactly what happens when business men let greed control their business decisions. There are many who think this record is now tainted, but remember– for the longest time Roger Maris breaking Babe Ruth’s single season record was considered ‘tainted’ because it was done in more games. I’m not saying it was okay for Bonds to cheat; what I am saying is it was allowed to happen and is now part of baseball history.

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I guess that is what I need to clarify here. No, I don’t like that cheating was so glorified in baseball during this period. No, I do not feel like it was good for the game, even if it was profitable. But I’m not naive. There was cheating when Ruth played. There was cheaters when Mantle, Mays and Aaron were playing. Oh, I’m sorry, I’m not supposed to discuss greenies, am I? Because to be honest, amphetamine use was just as bad as steroid use. Both help you bounce back quicker from game to game. So why is that not as looked down on as steroids? There was just as much rampant use of greenies, but it was never shoved in anyone’s face. It wasn’t paraded around and used to ridicule those in charge. It was used behind closed doors and no one was the wiser. Baseball became a joke and it was the people in charge that were to blame and anytime that happens…well, when that happens those people with power use their power to make those players pay for being so ballsy.

Baseball 2006

That right there is why I quit caring if any baseball player used something they weren’t supposed to. When the higher ups in baseball decided not only to not take blame for any of the problems happening with their lack of a drug program, but then pointing fingers at players while not pointing any back at themselves, well, why should we care at that point? I’m not saying the players shouldn’t be blamed, or the players union. No, both shoulder a fair amount of that burden. But there is more than enough blame to go around, and to have the hierarchy of baseball act like they were disgusted, while making truck loads of money, well, I can’t just act like that is not one of the most hypocritical things I have ever heard. Bud Selig should have stood up, said he was just as much to blame for letting it go on as long as it did, and then profess to clean up the game. Instead, he acted sick to his stomach that these players would do such a thing. That is why I don’t care. But that isn’t the only hypocrisy going around baseball.

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A large portion of baseball’s Hall of Famer’s have also spoken out against steroid use, yet are just as bad about their cheating ways. So none of those Hall of Famers ever used greenies? No corked bats? No spitters or illegal pitches? Not so fast, Gaylord Perry. Perry is a known cheater and yet was welcomed into the Hall with open arms! So it’s okay to throw an illegal pitch, but dammit, those damn steroid users, they ruined the game! Newsflash guys: IT’S ALL CHEATING! You can’t excuse one and abhor the other. Here is the kicker to this whole thing–at some point, while trying so hard to not let in any steroid users, they are going to let in someone who never was on the radar. Never looked the part, never gave a hint they were using. But they’ll get in. Then, with all the other guys on the outside looking in, some not even having any proof against their supposed “guiltiness”, will realize that the system is flawed and that they got screwed. Just another reason why the arguments against steroid users have become a joke.

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So do I have a problem with players who use illegal substances in 2013? The honest answer is I just don’t care anymore. There is no way to ever catch everyone, and very few in the game can ever walk away saying they are a saint. Is it right? Nope. Not even a bit. But is it our reality? Yes, yes it is. I am not naive–this will still be going on in five years, ten years, fifteen. Major league baseball has a good testing program, and guys do get caught, right, Bartolo Colon and Melky Cabrera? Instead of just accepting that the system is working nowadays, Selig has gone out of his way to prove a point. Ryan Braun is just the first. Alex Rodriguez is on deck. But should we care? No, no we shouldn’t. Baseball has allowed this to be an issue, by ignoring it for so long. So let these guys use what they feel they need to. It soils the game, yes. But is it worse than gambling or racism has been for the game over the years? Nope. It’s just another chapter in a book on how if you aren’t cheating, you aren’t trying.

Hey Now, You’re an All-Star: How I Went Through the Possible Royals All-Star Selections & Loathed Smash Mouth

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This Saturday Major League Baseball will announce the selections to the 2013 All-Star Game that will be played at Citi Field on July 16th. This is always a rough road if you are a Kansas City Royals fan, as for years we can expect just one selection to the game, and sometimes it’s not even someone we want to cheer for(I’m looking at you, Mark Redman). In fact 2003 was the last year that the Royals had more than just one selection. A full listing shows that before Billy Butler was chosen last year, the Royals hadn’t even had a position player get selected since Mike Sweeney in 2005. To say we’ve had some lean years would be an understatement. So with the selections just a coupe days away, let’s look at some possible selections for the Royals and what the odds are they will get selected. Also, make sure Smash Mouth is running through your head while you read this.

1) Alex Gordon

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A month ago, this seemed like a lock. Most of us are aware that Gordon has been one of the most underrated players in baseball. Most of us can agree that A1 should have been selected for the All-Star Game back in 2011. Instead, Gordon is still searching for his first appearance, and this really seemed like the year it could happen. That is if the last month hadn’t been such a train wreck. While the Royals shook up their coaching staff and paid more attention to struggling youngsters Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas, Gordon numbers took a taildive. The fact that his numbers are still pretty good are a sign of just how good of a season Gordon was having. Gordon was so far ahead of the rest of the team statistically that it almost seemed like as long as we had Alex, anything could happen. A month later and now there is a big question mark as to whether or not Alex will get selected for the mid-summer classic. Like last year, when Billy Butler seemed deserving just as much on past play as his play in the first half of the season, Gordon should be selected just as much on his consistency over the last few years. I would say at this point there is still a chance Alex Gordon could be the Kansas City Royals All-Star selection.

2) Salvador Perez

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He hits. He throws. He leads the pitching staff. He blocks balls that no one else should even be near. He can jump buildings in a single bound…okay, maybe not that last one…I think. Salvador Perez might be the most complete Royal in a long, long time. As much as experts have touted Hosmer over the last few years as being a building block of this franchise, Perez is THE building block of this and future Royals teams. Perez’s argument for an All-Star selection is easy to see, but his biggest problem won’t be a slump, or even him missing some time due to a death in the family. No, Salvy’s biggest detriment against him going to Citi Field this month is who else could be picked behind the dish for the American League. Joe Mauer looks like he will get the fans vote. There is a good shot that Baltimore’s Matt Wieter’s will get in, and even a chance that Cleveland’s Carlos Santana could be an All-Star selection. If you counting on your fingers, that is three possible American League catchers on this team, and I highly doubt they will go for a fourth. Hey, there is still a chance Perez could get picked; he is not the secret he once was around baseball. Baseball people have noticed how good Salvy is and realize how good he is going to be for the forseeable future. But he might have to wait one more year. So we could see Salvy come July 16th; but don’t be surprised if he barely get’s passed over.

3) James Shields

James Shields

I know, I know. The numbers just aren’t really there for James Shields. Actually, he is the perfect example of how the ‘wins’ statistic is an overrated stat. The Royals so far just haven’t been very supportive of him offensively. The numbers stress that fact. But most of us Royals fans can agree that Shields has probably been the best pitcher on the revamped Royals pitching staff. When you consider that Shields pitched with a lead last week against Minnesota, it was the first time since April he had pitched with a lead of more than one run. One run. Shields has been as hard luck as they come. So despite the lack of run support, he is still worth being mentioned as a possible All-Star. He has pitched like the ace the Royals wanted him to be, and he has kept this team floating around .500 like they were hoping to be. Players and coaches can look past won-loss records if you are pitching magnificiently. Just ask Zack Greinke of 2009. Shields would be another case and I wouldn’t be shocked at all to see him selected for this year’s All-Star game.

4) Ervin Santana

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When Dayton Moore acquired Ervin Santana last winter, who would have thought he was in the conversation for an All-Star selection? Raise your hands. Not so fast, slap-nuts. Very few could have seen this coming. In fact I thought he would be injured by now. Goes to show you what I know. But Ervin has pitched above and beyond what we all expected, and has been a big part of why the Royals are still in the conversation in the American League Central. Santana has dealt with run support issues like Shields, but it hasn’t deterred him as much. Santana has averaged 7 innings a start this year and no one would have seen that coming as well. When it comes down to it, Santana has just as good a case for selection here as Shields. In fact, I am willing to say I think there is a great chance Ervin will be the selection for the Royals this year. If so, it will be a bonus for the Royals. If this happens, I can easily see Kansas City shipping him off at the trade deadline, flipping him for a bat in the outfield. Santana’s stock goes up if he is selected, and that might just be another reason why you could see him in New York on July 16th.

5) Greg Holland

Greg Holland

Remember that first week of the season? Remember all the “Royals fans” who wanted Holland gone? This is why that never happened and why certain “fans” should never be allowed to make decisions like that. Outside of that first week and a few very small hiccups, Greg Holland has been lights out for the Royals. Like insanely lights out. Go ahead, look at the strikeouts per 9 number. 15.1!!  31 innings, 52 strikeouts. I believe we call that dealing. Holland has been the steady closer the team has needed this year out of the pen, and the team has been rewarded for their patience. With those numbers, no one could blame Jim Leyland for picking him for the All-Star game. In fact, reading those numbers now makes me want him picked. Holland has made lots of fans ask ‘Joakim who‘ and showed why it was okay to let him leave this winter. Managers love relievers on the smaller teams for their All-Star selection, so I wouldn’t be shocked to see number 56 at Citi Field in just a few weeks.

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Sure, this All-Star game won’t mean as much to Royals fans, just because it isn’t in Kansas City. But it would still be a nice treat if more than one Royal could get selected. I tend to think it won’t happen, but there is an outside chance it could. It’s nice to know I can compile a list of five guys off this team that could have serious consideration. Tell me the last time that happened? Hopefully they’ll do the Royals justice and we’ll see more than the one selection at the mid-summer classic. Oh, and before I forget–to quote the band Smash Mouth: “all that glitters is gold, only shooting stars break the mold.”  Then again, don’t listen to them; they also have the lyrics “your brain gets smart but your head gets dumb.” Idiots.

 

A Night(or Two) at the Ballpark

This week I was able to be at the last two games of the Kansas City Royals 2012 season. I did this a few years ago, and had a blast, so why not do it again? Some people don’t get a chance to really take in the experience of being at the ballpark, so here is a look at two nights of baseball at Kauffman Stadium.

Tuesday night I ventured to KC for game 161 on the season. My seats were out in right field, which seemed like a blessing in disguise. There in front of me was a source of scorn for many a Royals fan this season, Jeff Francoeur. My girlfriend instantly asked me if I planned on heckling him, and I couldn’t tell her no. Then we noticed in front of us, a group of Frenchy fans. Yes, somehow they exist…and they looked like this.

Yes, people go out in public looking like this.

I hate to admit it, but this REALLY made me want to heckle Frenchy. Hey, the guy hit .235 this season. Trust me, he’s earned it. But once the game unfolded, I couldn’t do it. Why, you might ask? Because he actually went out and had a great game. By the time it was all said and done, Francoeur had a single, a homerun, and a great play in Right Field. But, that didn’t take away too much from my enjoyment. The Royals would rally back to win the game, and it proved my theory that any day at the ballpark is a good one. We were in a loud section, but I didn’t let it bother me. I should probably mention that I am normally not a loud fan when at the K. I like to sit and watch the game and how it unfolds, and take in the atmosphere. The game’s atmosphere was great, and at least I was in a part of the stands where people cared and knew what was going on. I go to a lot of games where no one knows anything that is going on, and they spend a lot of the game being loud and drunk. Thankfully, none of that Tuesday night, and with the win it also assured the Royals that they would have more wins than they did in 2011. Hey, you take what you can get. All in all, a fun night and now I was pumped for night two.

Now on to Wednesday’s finale. This time, I ended up sitting in Left Field, and was ready to witness a great ending to the season for the Detroit Tigers Miguel Cabrera. Coming into game 162, Cabrera led the league in Average, Homeruns, and RBI’s. That would be the Triple Crown folks, and no player had done it since 1967, when some guy named Carl Yastrzemski did it for the Boston Red Sox. I should mention right here that I was immensely happy that Johnny Giavotella was back in the line up for the Royals, as it seemed like manager Ned Yost was doing everything in his power that last week of the season to play Gio. I needed someone to cheer for besides Alcides Escobar, as my other favorites, Mike Moustakas and Salvador Perez were out of the lineup.

This game moved a bit slower than Tuesday’s game, but what we got was a pitchers duel, as Luis Mendoza showed why he has been one of the Royals best starters in the second half of the season. In the fifth inning, Tigers Manager Jim Leyland took Miguel Cabrera out of the game, and Kansas City fans showed why they are a classy bunch. A standing O for Miggy, as these fans realized that he was just minutes away from confirmation of him winning the Triple Crown. It was confirmed just a few innings later, and Royals fans again gave Cabrera a standing ovation, this from a fanbase that was ripped for booing Robinson Cano at the Home Run Derby. Of course, the national media failed to acknowledge this, as why ruin the nations first impression of us. When it was all said and done, the Royals stranded 11 runners on base and the Royals would fall to the Tigers, 1-0.

The one negative from my two games at the ballpark was an incident that happened in the 9th inning of Wednesday’s game. While going to the bottom of the 9th, Tigers Left Fielder Quintin Berry saw a little girl wearing a Tigers shirt near the railing in left and threw the ball over for her to catch. Only problem was another guy, probably early 20’s, reached over and snagged it, cheering as if he just did a keg stand. The little girl took off crying, while the jackass acted like he did something special. A number of people told the guy about the little girl, but he didn’t care. I have to admit, this disgusted me. At the end of the day, that ball would mean more to that little girl than it ever would for this selfish prick. Someone else got her a ball, but the damage was done. The fact this guy knew what he did and still didn’t care just shows you how some people don’t “get it”. I remember being a little kid. I would have LOVED to get a baseball at a game from a player. Hell, I still would. But I also realize that those moments mean more to kids than it ever could for us as adults. This jerk took that moment away from a young Tigers fan. I can only hope she doesn’t think all of us Royals fans are like that, because we aren’t. I had a talk after the game with the little girl’s dad, so I really hope they realize that he isn’t a proper representation of the Royals fanbase. I hope in the future I never see such a selfish act at the ballpark, but I know there is a chance it could.

So what did I take away from two game trek to the K? Like always, I had a blast at the ballpark. It will always be my home away from home, the place that brings out the little kid in me. I am a Royals fan, through and through, and am glad I got to enjoy that experience with people I love. About midseason this year, I decided that I as a fan want to see improvement from the team next year, and if that didn’t occur then I wasn’t going to head to the ballpark as much. It really pains me to say it, but we fans need to see a winner. Kauffman Stadium, 39 years later, is still one of the most beautiful ballparks in the majors, and would stack it up against almost any of the newer ones out there today. I will definitely go to a few games next year, but without improvement I don’t think I will as much. Hopefully, a year from now I’ll be talking about how foolish I was to lose trust in this organization and they will bring me more joy than pain. Either way, a night at the ballpark is always a highlight of the year for me. Two straight nights at the ballpark makes for a great story.

 

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