Showing posts with label Jeff Bagwell. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Jeff Bagwell. Show all posts

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Former White Sox outfielder Tim Raines, two others inducted into Hall of Fame

Tim Raines with the Sox in 1995
Congratulations go out to former White Sox outfielder and coach Tim Raines, who was one of three people elected to baseball's Hall of Fame on Wednesday.

Raines, a six-time All-Star who ranks among the best leadoff hitters in the history of baseball, received support on 86.0 percent of the 442 ballots cast in his 10th and final year of Hall eligibility. He easily cleared the 75 percent threshold required for induction.

The switch-hitter finished with 808 career stolen bases, including a 90-steal season in 1983 as a member of the Montreal Expos. He also won a batting title with Montreal in 1986, hitting .334

Raines will no doubt go into the Hall wearing an Expos cap, but he was a productive player for the Sox from 1991-95. In those five seasons, he posted a .283/.375/.407 slash line with a combined 50 home runs, 98 doubles, 28 triples, 143 stolen bases and 277 RBIs.

His best individual season with the Sox came in 1993. He hit .306/.401/.480 with 16 home runs, 54 RBIs and 21 steals and was the left fielder and leadoff hitter for the AL West Division champions.

Raines will be joined in the Class of 2017 by former Houston Astros first baseman Jeff Bagwell and catcher Ivan Rodriguez, who played 21 years with six different teams, most notably with the Texas Rangers.

Bagwell received 86.2 percent of the vote, while Rodriguez received 76 percent of ballots in his first year eligible for induction.

There were two narrow misses. Relief pitcher Trevor Hoffman (74 percent) and outfielder Vladimir Guerrero (71.7 percent) are trending toward probable induction in 2018.

As Sox fans, we should probably get used to seeing former Sox players going into the Hall wearing a different cap than the Silver and Black. Last year, Ken Griffey Jr. went into the Hall as a Seattle Mariner. This year, Raines goes in as an Expo. Next year, Jim Thome's name appears on the ballot for the first time, and his 612 career home runs (134 with the Sox) will be hard for voters to ignore. However, he'll be going to the Hall as a Cleveland Indian.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz, Craig Biggio elected to baseball Hall of Fame

Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz and Craig Biggio were elected to baseball's Hall of Fame on Tuesday. The Hall will welcome four new players in the same year for the first time since 1955.

Johnson, Martinez and Smoltz were voted in on their first try, while Biggio was elected on his third attempt after falling just two votes shy last year.

Let's take a look at each of the four 2015 inductees:

Randy Johnson

I wasn't alive when Sandy Koufax was pitching, so Johnson is the best left-handed pitcher I've seen in my lifetime. He won 5 Cy Young Awards and finished second on three other occasions. He totaled 303 wins, 4,875 strikeouts and led his league in strikeouts on nine occasions. Johnson had six seasons of at least 300 strikeouts, and averaged 10.61 strikeouts per nine innings over the course of his career. His .646 career winning percentage is pretty darn good, too. Not too many pitchers have been more dominant.

Pedro Martinez

Here's the most remarkable thing about Martinez: He played from 1992 to 2009, an 18-year period that featured some of the most prolific offensive seasons in the history of the sport. Yet, his career ERA was a sparkling 2.93. The league average ERA during that period was 4.49. That goes to show how great Martinez was. He finished with a 219-100 career record, and he had a dominant six years in the middle of his career that saw him win three Cy Youngs and finish second on two other occasions. He went 23-4 in 1999, but I think his best year was actually 2000. He went 18-6 with a 1.74 ERA for the Boston Red Sox. A 1.74 ERA in the American League? During that steroid era? That's one of the better individual seasons I've seen from any player in my lifetime.

John Smoltz

Smoltz had an unparalleled career in my book. He won a Cy Young as a starter, went to the bullpen and led his league in saves, then returned to the starting rotation because that's what his team needed at that time. There aren't a lot of guys who have been great both as a starter and as a closer. Dennis Eckersley comes to mind, but even that isn't a parallel because once Eckersley went to the bullpen he stayed there for the rest of his career. Smoltz eventually returned to starting and continued to pitch effectively. But here's what makes Smoltz a first-ballot Hall of Famer: He went 15-4 with a 2.67 ERA in postseason play. I know the stat people don't like to talk about clutch, but you can't ignore that kind of performance on the game's biggest stages. You're not getting fat on 95-loss teams pitching in October. You're going against the best teams with the best lineups. Smoltz was a guy who was at his best when he went against the best.

Craig Biggio

Isn't it interesting that it took three years for Biggio and his 3,060 career hits to get elected to the Hall? It used to be that 3,000 hits was one of those magic numbers that made you a first-ballot lock. Not anymore. A couple other notable numbers about Biggio: He had 668 doubles, more than any other right-handed hitter in the history of the game. He also had 51 doubles and 50 stolen bases during the 1998 season, becoming the only player to have 50 doubles or more and 50 steals or more in the same year. Why did it take so long for him to get in? Well, I don't know. Some people think Jeff Bagwell, Biggio's longtime teammate in Houston, is a steroids guy, so perhaps Biggio is guilty by association in the minds of some.

This four-man class comes on the heels of last year's three-man class that included Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Frank Thomas.

All seven men who have been elected the last two years are worthy choices, but here's my takeaway: I find it interesting that five of the seven most recent inductees are pitchers. There are several notable hitters on the ballot, including Bagwell, Mike Piazza and Edgar Martinez, who have strong cases and are still on the outside looking in.

The steroids era didn't seem to change voter behavior in terms of pitchers. The great ones, for the most part, are still promptly getting elected to the Hall. Hitters? Not so much. Guys who would have been slam dunks in the past are having to wait now. Biggio is a prime example of that. He's not thought of as a steroids guy, but he still had to wait a couple years because the magical offensive numbers -- 3,000 hits, 500 home runs -- aren't as meaningful as they used to be.

Part of this preference for pitchers, of course, can be explained by the quality of pitchers that have come onto the ballot the past couple years. Maddux, Johnson and Martinez are the short list of the game's all-time greats. Glavine and Smoltz also are easy picks. There won't be an elite starting pitcher coming on the ballot as a first-timer next year.

We'll see if that allows for some of these hitters who are waiting their turn to finally have their day, or if the cloud of the steroid era still looms large.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Myth-busting: Single-team career stars are *not* becoming more rare

You know who played 3,308 career games all with the Boston Red Sox?


Indeed, Ken "Hawk" Harrelson's oft-mentioned former teammate, Carl Yastrzemski, tops a list of 36 players in major league history who have played at least 2,000 career games all with the same team.

If you've watched ESPN or MLB Network at any point during the last two months, you are no doubt aware that longtime New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter is retiring at the end of the season. Jeter is among those 36 players, having played each of his 2,610 career games (entering Thursday) in a Yankee uniform.

On a recent MLB Network broadcast, I heard one of the commentators note that Jeter has spent his entire career in New York. They added that in this era of free agency, "you just don't see that too often anymore." That's conventional wisdom. Heck, I think I've probably said things like that myself.

But every now and then I like to research the facts behind the conventional wisdom, just to see if they are accurate. In this case, they are not.

Of the 36 players on that list, 23 are players who have played in my lifetime. For the record, I was born in 1976.

So, that means between the years of 1901 and 1976, a span of 75 years, there were only 13 players who played 2,000 games or more all with the same team. In the 38 years since 1976, 23 players have played 2,000 or more games all with the same team

Contrary to conventional wisdom, it's actually more common nowadays for a player to have a long career with the same team.

I won't bore you by listing all the players on the list, but among the 36 are some star players I recall watching during my 1980s childhood: Tony Gwynn, George Brett, Robin Yount, Mike Schmidt, Cal Ripken.

Others, like Jeter, are names familiar to fans who have followed baseball over the last 10 or 15 years: Barry Larkin, Craig Biggio, Edgar Martinez, Chipper Jones, Jeff Bagwell, Todd Helton.

Don't get me wrong: Given the sheer volume of players who make it to the major leagues, it is still uncommon for a guy to spend a career that spans more than a decade in the same city. At some point, most guys get traded, or leave their original franchise via free agency. But the conventional wisdom that says single-team career stars like Jeter are becoming more and more rare is just plain wrong.

In fact, it wouldn't surprise me if this list continues to grow over the next decade. You can find examples of players who are candidates to join the list. Boston second baseman Dustin Pedroia has played 1,025 career games (entering Thursday). He is under contract with the Red Sox until 2021, when he will be 38 years old. How about Evan Longoria? He's played 807 career games (entering Thursday) and is under contract with the Tampa Bay Rays through 2023. There's two possibilities right there. I'm sure there are others.

You see, this old-school lament that "players just don't stay in the same place anymore" is not quite right. They didn't stay in the same place all that often back in the old days either. If I ever try to tell you otherwise, remind me I'm wrong. 

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The Hall of Fame voting is broken

The Baseball Writers Association of America announced it's 2014 ballot on Tuesday, so this is as good a time as any to point how derelict in its duty to elect worthy players the BWAA has been in recent years.

Among the first-time candidates are former Cubs and Braves ace, Greg Maddux, a four-time Cy Young Award winner with 355 wins to his name, and all-time White Sox great Frank Thomas, who collected two AL MVP awards and belted 521 home runs to go along with his .301 batting average and .419 on-base percentage.

With fellow first-timer, 300-game-winner Tom Glavine, it looks like there are three no-doubt Hall-of-Famers added to this year's ballot.

But what about the rest of the ballot?

Jeff Kent and Mike Mussina are two more additions who I think have pretty strong Hall cases. Kent ranks among the best-hitting second basemen of all time. Mussina didn't collect as many wins or pitch as many innings as Glavine, but you could argue they were better innings.

How much traction Kent and Mussina -- or even Maddux, Thomas and Glavine -- receive really depends on how the BWAA approaches the backlog of candidates on the ballot.

Among the holdovers are Craig Biggio, Tim Raines, Alan Trammell, Edgar Martinez, Curt Schilling, Jeff Bagwell, Mike Piazza, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa. I mention those players by name because they are the players I would vote for if I were a BWAA member. And if you could include more than 10 players on your ballot.

That's ignoring Rafael Palmeiro, Jack Morris, Lee Smith, Larry Walker, Fred McGriff and Don Mattingly. None of whom I'd vote for, even as a Big Hall supporter, but are other guys who have a strong statistical case (Palmeiro, Walker) or support from other corners (Smith, Morris).

How is it so many obviously qualified guys are getting left out?

If it were just a matter of the BWAA voters being stingy with who gains entry, that would be a good explanation. Except the voters have enshrined guys like Jim Rice (not that good), Tony Perez (also not that good) and Kirby Puckett (not good for long enough).

Part of it might also be a reluctance to render any verdict on baseball's Steroid Era, particularly with regard to Bonds, Clemens, McGwire, Sosa, Palmeiro and others.

This is another area where the logic gets fuzzy. Some of those players are suffering the steroid stigma when the evidence of PED use is flimsy and anecdotal at best (Bagwell, Piazza). Sometimes it's downright convoluted ("I think Bagwell was a 'roider, and that Biggio guy must have been, too!").

Other writers feel like it's just a great opportunity to grandstand, so submit ballots with no selections, thus demonstrating they don't really take the vote all that seriously. At least not seriously enough that we should pay attention to their nonsense. Just abdicate the duty if you don't want it.

Perhaps it will take a Veterans Committee to sift through some of these candidacies once more time has passed, though for my part, I don't think you can whitewash any steroid era, or pretend like it never happened.

The games were played, and for the most part they were with none of those players violating any MLB rules. They can't be replayed with any retroactive standard in place.

Though baseball, by and large, hasn't tried to follow professional cycling down that rabbit hole to nowhere, stripping its former champions of hardware with the largest effect being to taint the entire sport, the Hall of Fame seems willing to let column-writing voters test the institution's relevancy.

So it goes, I guess.