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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Celebrating Royals History

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Credit: @JermaineDye on Twitter

Over the weekend, the Kansas City Royals celebrated a number of their legends in the 50th season of the team’s existence. The New York Yankees were in town and while the series didn’t go as much of us would have liked (the Yankees took two out of three from the Royals) it did give the broadcast team the chance to catch up with some Kansas City greats.

The most interesting return was the trio who once roamed the outfield for the Royals. Jermaine Dye, Johnny Damon and Carlos Beltran are considered part of the best outfield in Royals history and were able to sit down and discuss their time in Kansas City:

 

It was great to see these three back at Kauffman Stadium, especially considering their place in Royals history. They also weren’t the only legends that made their back:

 

Over the last few years, the history of the Kansas City Royals has been pushed back a tad as the team on the field was putting up winning baseball. But now that the team is struggling, it’s a perfect time to remember their history and welcome back some of the greats with open arms. I know for me, losing baseball goes down a bit smoother when you get to hear Bret Saberhagen discuss his time in Kansas City.

The Pine Tar Game

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Today marks the 32nd Anniversary of the infamous ‘Pine Tar Game’ between the Kansas City Royals and the New York Yankees. To celebrate this memorable game, I decided to watch the entire game. I realized once I started, that watching a game from 1983 was amusing to say the least. So with that said, here is a thoughts column on a game that will forever live in baseball lore.

  • Ooooooo, 80’s graphics! My son couldn’t grasp why the graphics were so bad. I told him that was the best we had at the time. He said that was sad.
  • Bert Campaneris was still playing in 1983?
  • The Yankees announcers are horrid. Yes, it was a different period, and I realize that. But it’s amazing to listen to just how bad the commentary was back in this era. There is literally no statistical analysis at all. In fact, Phil Rizzuto has discussed so far moustaches, buttons on the jersey and the tobacco in Leon Roberts mouth. The sad part is they are probably on par with Steve Physioc. Yes, Phys is that bad.
  • I realized this when I watched the 1985 World Series recently, but I have really gotten used to having all the information on the screen during the game. The only part that drives me crazy is not being able to see the score and outs at all times! We sometimes tease that there can be too much information on the screen but at the same time it has become a vital part of our baseball watching experience.
  • Steve Balboni without a moustache is blasphemous. Although without the lip hair he has a passing resemblance to John Belushi.
  • U.L. Washington still has his toothpick in his mouth. The. Entire. Time.
  • I almost forgot Don Slaught spent some time in Kansas City. I keep picturing Slaught with that guard covering his face after he had gotten hit in the face later in his career.
  • Since I didn’t see Dave Winfield until later in his career, I think I forgot just how crazy athletic he was. He is playing center field in this game and a few innings in it makes total sense.
  • Trash talking on Municipal Stadium in Cleveland…beautiful!
  • John Wathan should be in the Royals Hall of Fame. Yes, Wathan wasn’t a great player, but he was a solid part of these Royals teams in the 80’s and has stayed in the organization throughout the years, whether he was managing or scouting. To me, Wathan is a guy transcends any numbers he compiled in his career.
  • Frank White was pretty damn graceful on defense. I don’t think I am saying anything you didn’t already know.
  • There is a lot more discussion in the broadcast about strategy and I like that. Part of the beauty of baseball is the mental back and forth that goes on between the two teams as they decide what is their best move in a close game.
  • Skoal Bandit tote bag day at Yankee Stadium? Pretty sure you wouldn’t get a tobacco company to sponsor any giveaway at the stadium in this day and age.
  • Lou Piniella(seriously, I thought he had retired yyyyyyyyyears before this) made a catch that was very reminiscent of Nori Aoki. In fact the route Piniella took was straight out of Aoki’s playbook.
  • There has been some talk about the Royals needing pitching. Within a year of this game, the Royals would have Bret Saberhagen and Mark Gubicza, two young pitchers in their farm system, in the majors. By 1985 you can add Danny Jackson to that list. Pitching was a big part of that 1985 championship team.
  • There aren’t enough pitchers who throw sidearm in the majors these days. Take note, youngsters.
  • Don Baylor scares me. I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t want to meet him in a dark alley in the 80’s. I’m pretty sure I still wouldn’t want to today.
  • Let’s go to replay…oh yeah, they don’t have that yet…
  • Every generic 80’s song used for these games used a synthesizer. People loved their moog’s back in the 80’s.
  • Amos Otis might be one of the most underrated players in Royals history. He wouldn’t quite be on the Royals ‘Mount Rushmore’, but he would be pretty damn close.
  • Don Mattingly as a defensive replacement? Wonder if Balboni was higher on their depth chart in 1983.
  • I know it’s Rizzuto, but do you need to ask whether or not Willie Mays Aikens was named after Willie Mays?
  • Brett vs. Gossage is such a classic matchup. Is the modern day equivalent Aroldis Chapman vs. Bryce Harper or Mike Trout?
  • Brett just seemed so locked in there against Goose. It seemed like no matter what Brett was going to drive a pitch during that at bat.
  • If you are a lip reader, don’t watch George’s mouth after he runs out. I noticed a plethora of four letter words spewing from his mouth.

 

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The funny thing about this game is that this situation will never happen again. The whole reason the pine tar rule was even in the rulebook was so the tar wouldn’t muck up the baseballs. Having pine tar on the bat does absolutely nothing to the ball if hit. This game is now one of the most famous games in history and will probably be discussed for hundreds of years to come. If you want to know more about the game, there is a new book out this week called “The Pine Tar Game: The Kansas City Royals, The New York Yankees and Baseball’s Most Absurd and Entertaining Controversy” by Filip Bondy. You can get it on Amazon by clicking here. You can also watch this game in its entirety down below. Trust me, it is worth your time.

 

The Ken Harvey Memorial Blooper Reel(Or Some of the Funniest Baseball Bloopers I’ve Ever Seen)

Cincinnati Reds v Houston Astros

Baseball plays 162 regular season games for every team. Then add at the minimum 20 playoff games. With that amount of action, something silly, weird or gross is bound to happen. Bloopers are almost as much a part of the game as popcorn, cracker jacks, and the drunk girl at a game who climbs into the fountains…

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Anyway, I love bloopers. So here are a list of weird, funny or out and out strange things that have happened at the ballpark.

Kevin Seitzer Wishes He Was a Hoover

We all hate the little dribbler down the line. Time is spent waiting to find out whether the ball is going to stay fair or go foul. If that doesn’t work, you try to blow it foul…

Not great audio, but you get the point. Seitzer tried pulling a “Lenny Randle” and failed. But he tried and trying is half the battle, or something. Welcome to Cliche Island. Seitzer was at least creative in his attempt to get the ball to go foul. If only he was that creative while working with Eric Hosmer’s swing in 2012…actually, he might have the better gig now in Toronto.

Phillip Wellman & His Flashbacks

Look, managing a baseball team is hard work. You have to keep track of 25 guys. You then have to remember their names. All of them. You have to pay attention for an entire game. You must make sure someone knows to refill the jug of water. Most of all, you must completely go crazy arguing a call on the field and do it in a creative way.

No one knew who Wellman was before this. Actually, no one does now. But if you mention the minor league manager who uses a rosin bag as a grenade, people remember. That guy. I’m not sure what he is up to nowadays. But I do know the bar has been raised for manager arguments with umpires. Speaking of…

Lloyd McClendon is Taking His Base & Going Home

This is one of my favorites. Sure, you can go crazy like Lou Piniella or Earl Weaver. You can kick dirt, cuss like a sailor, and yell till your face looks like that one kid from Willy Wonka who just HAD to chew that bubblegum-

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-OR…you can just walk off with a base. Like former Pirates manager & current Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon.

Personally, I like the quiet and methodical plan. It does go to show you that yes, you can steal first base.

David Ortiz vs. A Phone

This isn’t a blooper as much as a major meltdown. Look, I hate AT&T’s service as much as anyone, and god forbid you ever have to actually call them, but defiling the bullpen phone might not have been the answer to his problems.

Few things to learn from this. One, Ortiz really believes he knows the strike zone. Like, REALLY. Two, do not sit near him when he loses his mind, or you might end up with part of a phone in your eye(Dustin Pedroia is VERY lucky). And third, I now see that he not only acts like Tony Montana, but sounds like him as well.

Jose Canseco FINALLY Uses his Head

This is a classic. To be fair here to Jose, he wasn’t exactly known for his defense. Also, his career was on the downside at this point anyway. Plus, Cleveland’s old stadium sucked. It was so bad they filmed the movie “Major League” in Milwaukee and acted like it was Cleveland. We knew better.

This is what Jose Canseco will forever be known for. Or for steroids. Or for trying MMA.

Probably not that last one. God, Jose. I’m trying to remember a time where you weren’t a joke. Just admit it was Ozzie doing all these things and all is good.

Ruben Rivera runs…He Runs so far away…

Ruben Rivera was a former top prospect for the Yankees that never really panned out. I have to assume baserunning had something to do with it…

The funny thing is, I remember a play close to this happening when I was in Little League. For the sake of me deciding to be a nice guy, a kid on the other team(who I won’t name) couldn’t figure out which way to run. His entire team was yelling at him to go the other way. Instead, he continued to try and take a detour. But this was in Little League. Rivera did this in a major league game. The bad part is, Jean Segura did something like this just this past season.

Just want to reiterate here, these are major leaguers. Who don’t know how to run the bases. Yikes.

BEES!!!!!

I wish Alfred Hitchcock had written about bees instead of birds. Or maybe this was punishment for Padres fans to have to watch Sterling Hitchcock pitch. I’m picturing Ron Burgundy covering this story…

By the way, cool beekeeper outfit. I should add that to my wish list for Christmas. Just a month away, folks!

Chris Getz Blooper

I typed that into YouTube. This is what popped up. I agree, YouTube!

I’m still surprised Getzie wasn’t on the BioGenesis list…

When Ed Whitson takes his shirt off, you know business has just picked up…

Maybe the greatest baseball brawl of all time is this classic between the Braves and Padres back in 1984. I’m thinking there was more fighting than baseball being played in Atlanta that night.

Pascual Perez with a bat. Ed Whitson without a shirt. A Craig Lefferts sighting. And the smooth styling’s of Todd Rundgren…

They just don’t make baseball brawls like they used to…

Ken Harvey, you are simply the best

There is a reason that this article was named after Ken Harvey. The former Kansas City Royals first baseman really felt like the human blooper. Like this.

Harvey also once got tangle up in the tarp at Kauffman Stadium. There isn’t video of this, so here is an awesome picture.

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Harvey also once(or twice) got hit in the back with a relay throw. Once again, no footage, but it really made you wonder why that guy kept getting to play in the field. So thank you, Ken Harvey. We miss the utter lunacy of having you on the Royals.

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The man they call Pence

No list of odd and strange is complete without something from Hunter Pence. Enjoy.

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