Showing posts with label Roger Clemens. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Roger Clemens. Show all posts

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Jeff Samardzija joins list of newly acquired White Sox starters to struggle on Opening Day

Jeff Samardzija had a pretty forgettable turn as an Opening Day starter for the White Sox on Monday. Sadly, that's been the state of things throughout history when the Sox have put a newly acquired hurler on the mound to kick things off.

Here are the guys who started a season opener in their first tour with the Sox:

David Wells (2001)
Arrival: Wells, a free-agent-to-be, was the big offseason acquisition for the Sox after they won a surprising division title in 2000. Mike Sirotka was sent to Toronto in a swap of lefties in which Chicago got the better end, but only because the guy they traded had a bum shoulder and never pitched in the majors again.

Opening Day: Wells was solid, giving up a pair of runs over six innings for a quality start in a 7-4 win against Cleveland.

The Season: Wells wasn't the missing piece for the Sox's rotation. The big pitcher gave up at least four earned runs in half of the 16 starts he made that year before an injury forced him out in June, conveniently after he dogged Frank Thomas for not being tough enough to play through a torn triceps.

Postscript: It was one-and-done for Wells and the Sox when the aging hurler went back to the Yankees, where he previously had his most successful seasons and would go on to have the best of his late-career run.

Jaime Navarro (1997)
Arrival: Navarro was the second-biggest free agent splash the Sox made before this year. The other was signing Albert Belle to what was then the richest contract in baseball. Navarro, who had won 29 games over the previous two seasons with middling Cubs teams, was given four years and $30 million as the less-costly alternative to either re-signing the Sox's own free agent Alex Fernandez, or luring Roger Clemens to the South Side.

Opening Day: Navarro pitched six innings against Toronto, gave up five runs -- three earned -- on five walks and seven hits that included a couple home runs. The Sox still prevailed, 6-5, with reliever Tony Castillo getting the win and Roberto Hernandez recording the save.

The Season: The only thing that would make Navarro's first start anomalous from his inaugural campaign with the Sox is that he struck out eight batters. He was not prolific in recording Ks the rest of the time, but was pretty good at issuing walks, hits and especially home runs on his way to a 5.79 ERA in just less than 175 innings.

Postscript: Navarro was maybe the worst free agent signing in Sox history. In a classic Jerry Manuel decision, the surly right-hander was given the ball on Opening Day again the next year. The walks, home runs and attitude kept getting worse. Stints of banishment to the bullpen over the next couple years did nothing to improve his over-6.00 ERAs. The last year of his contract was dumped on the Brewers in exchange for taking back Jose Valentin and Cal Eldred, who both had great moments with the Sox.

Ricky Horton (1988)
Arrival: Then-GM Larry Himes dealt Jose DeLeon to the Cardinals for Horton and an outfield prospect named Lance Johnson. DeLeon was part of an exodus of rotation stalwarts from the previous season as Himes also traded Floyd Bannister and Richard Dotson. Horton had done good work as a swingman for St. Louis, posting a 3.12 ERA starting 36 games and finishing 53 over the previous four seasons. The Sox planned to slot the lefty right into their rotation.

Opening Day: With the top three starters from the previous season gone, the start could have gone to prospects Jack McDowell or Melido Perez (acquired in the Bannister trade). Or journeyman Dave LaPoint, acquired from St. Louis the previous year. Or scrap-heap reclamation Jerry Reuss. Instead they went with Horton, who gave up five runs -- four earned -- in an 8-5 win against the Angels, gutting his way into the ninth before putting two men on and yielding to Bobby Thigpen for the save.

The Season: Horton had a nice April going 3-3 with a 3.43 ERA, but then the wheels fell off. He was thrashed his first three starts of May before being pulled from the rotation. By July his ERA was touching 6.00. By September he was a Dodger, where he did little to impress out of the bullpen, not even appearing in the World Series that year for Los Angeles on its way to a title.

Postscript: Horton was bad and out of baseball after a couple more years. That was probably fine for the Sox, who were really after Johnson in the DeLeon trade. It was Johnson that was in center field once the Sox broke through to win 94 games two years later with McDowell, Perez and Greg Hibbard (also in the Bannister trade) leading the rotation. More pitching was on the way for the resurgent franchise that was still in transition when Horton came and went.

Ed Durham (1933) / Sad Sam Jones (1932)
Arrival: Jones and Durham share an entry because they started openers back-to-back during the darkest days of the White Sox franchise. Jones was part of a package that included Bump Hadley and Jackie Hayes for Carl Reynolds, an outfielder coming off a disappointing year, and infielder John Kerr. Durham was traded for four guys, only one of whom appeared in the majors after 1933.

Opening Day: The then-39-year-old Jones started the 1932 campaign for the Sox with a complete game in a 9-2 win against the St. Louis Browns. He got the Opening Day nod with Hall-of-Famers Ted Lyons and Red Faber not being able to take the ball until later in the season. Durham tossed seven innings in a 4-2 win over the Browns on Opening Day the following year.

The Season(s): Jones had a respectable year, going 10-15 but with a respectable 4.22 ERA in that day. That would be pretty representative of the work the Sox would get from him, more sporadically, over the next there seasons. Durham, then just 25, might have appeared to a more promising long-term piece. But after reportedly injuring his arm in his Opening Day start, he labored to a 4.48 ERA in 23 more games -- 20 of them starts -- and was gone from baseball after the season.

The Postscript: It's the popular perception that the White Sox entered baseball's wilderness after the 1920 season when eight of their players were given lifetime bans for throwing the 1919 World Series. That's partly true in that the Sox were awful in 1921, but they did bounce back to 77-77 record the year after and finished above .500 in 1925 and 1926. The gutted Sox rosters of the early- and mid-20s were overall mediocre, but with Hall-of-Famers Eddie Collins, Harry Hooper and Ray Schalk, plus solid players like Johnny Mostil and Willie Kamm, they were mostly respectable.

That changed by the end of the decade, when Collins, Hooper, Schalk and Mostil saw their careers wind down with no replacements at hand. Over six seasons from 1929-1934, the Sox had a .377 win percentage. For six years they had a worse winning percentage than they had in any single season except 1948. It wasn't until 1936 when Luke Appling hit .388 that the Sox again posted a winning record.

The Sox were grasping at straws when they hauled Jones and Durham in to help fill out pitching staffs that were among the worst in baseball for half a decade.

When the Sox added Samardzija, they were in a more enviable position, already in possession of a left-handed ace (Chris Sale), a lefty who could be an ace on many teams (Jose Quintana) and yet another lefty prospect who could develop into an ace (Carlos Rodon).

Let's hope the current state of the Sox franchise continues its divergent path from the one taken by the early 30s Sox, while Samardzija recovers to pitch better for the Sox that anybody else on this list.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Frank Thomas, Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine elected to Hall of Fame

I'll admit it: I was nervous. I wasn't sure former White Sox slugger Frank Thomas would be elected to the Hall of Fame on the first ballot.

I was worried the Baseball Writers Association of America would hold a grudge against Thomas because he played a majority of his career games as a designated hitter.

Fortunately, common sense prevailed. Thomas was elected to the Hall of Fame on Wednesday; his name appeared on 83.7 percent of the 571 ballots cast. He was comfortably about the 75 percent threshold needed for election.

Thomas finished his career with a .301 lifetime batting average, 521 home runs, 1,704 RBIs, a .419 career on-base percentage and a .974 career OPS. He also won two MVP awards and finished in the top four of MVP voting on three other occasions. Nine times, he placed in the top 10 of the MVP balloting.

There's no question that is a Hall of Fame resume, and kudos to the voters for putting aside the silly anti-DH argument and giving Thomas his proper place in Cooperstown.

Thomas will be joined in the 2014 class by two other deserving honorees, pitchers Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine.

Maddux, the former Atlanta Braves and Cubs ace, earned the most votes from the electorate, appearing on over 97 percent of the ballots. He is eighth all-time on the wins list with 355. He won four consecutive Cy Young awards -- one with the Cubs and three with the Braves -- from 1992 to 1995. He also was the best fielding pitcher of his era, earning a record 18 Gold Glove awards.

Glavine, Maddux's former teammate with the Braves, totaled 305 career wins and won two Cy Young awards. The left-hander was also comfortably above the 75 percent threshold; his name appeared on just under 92 percent of the ballots.

The two former Atlanta pitchers will be joined by their former manager, Bobby Cox, at July's induction ceremony. Cox, Joe Torre and Tony LaRussa were elected to the Hall in December for their managerial successes. 

A couple of other interesting things about this vote: Craig Biggio just missed. His name was on 74.8 percent of the ballots. That means he was exactly two votes short of induction. More than likely, he'll get into the Hall in 2015, which will be his third year on the ballot. It's a little unusual for a player with 3,060 career hits to have to wait three years. I'm not sure what the reasoning was by those who did not vote for Biggio. He seems like a no-brainer to me.

It also was notable that both Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens actually lost support. Bonds went from 36.2 percent to 34.7 percent, while Clemens dropped from 37.6 to 35.4.

What's interesting is the voters seem to draw a distinction between Bonds and Clemens and some of the other steroids guys like Sammy Sosa, Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro. The latter three aren't getting near as many votes. Palmeiro, in fact, will fall off the ballot after only getting 4.4 percent of the vote this year. Sosa was at 7.2 percent, while McGwire got 11 percent.

Why are Bonds and Clemens different? Well, I think those two guys could have been Hall of Famers without using steroids. You look at their performances going back into the 1980s before all the steroid scandals started, and they seemed to be on the path to the Hall. In the case of these two men, the PEDs seemed to lengthen their careers and allowed them to put up unbelievable numbers into their late 30s and early 40s.

They aren't going to get into the Hall because that drug use taints their legacies, but there are some voters who are supporting them because their greatness is only partially attributed to steroids. Both Bonds and Clemens were elite players pre-steroids. They didn't really need to take that stuff, but for whatever reason, they chose to do so.

In the cases of Sosa, McGwire and Palmeiro, more than likely they would have just been ordinary players without the juice. At minimum, there's a perception their greatness was completely the result of steroids, and that's why they are getting little support from the electorate.

Lastly, I think it's time for the BBWAA to take a look at its own membership and review whether the guys who are voting on the Hall are qualified to do so. Right now, the standard is you have to have been a BBWAA member in good standing for 10 years in order to get a vote. Personally, I think the voters have made several errors in recent years. They've inducted some guys with marginal resumes, while making some guys who should be slam-dunk choices (like Biggio) wait.

You wonder how much baseball some of these voters actually watch. Are they really "baseball writers" anymore? Or are some of them former sports editors and former columnists who are no longer really in the industry? I wish I had a little more trust that these guys are all actually qualified to vote.

At least they got Maddux, Glavine and Thomas right. But you're allowed to vote for 10 guys each year, and it's not real hard to find other deserving players on that ballot who were left out again.


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.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Verlander-Darvish duel never materializes

Well, so much for the pitching matchup of the century, huh?

As early as last weekend, I was hearing some national commentators salivate over Thursday's scheduled showdown between Detroit ace Justin Verlander and Texas ace Yu Darvish.

It was understandable to a point. Darvish entered the contest with a 6-1 record and a league-leading 80 strikeouts. Verlander was off to a mediocre 4-3 start, but hey, that 1.93 ERA was nothing to sneeze at, right?

I think people were going a little over the top, though, when they claimed this pitching matchup was the biggest one in Texas since Nolan Ryan beat Roger Clemens 2-1 in 1989. Those two guys are 300-game winners. Both Verlander and Darvish have a ways to go before they can be considered in that class. (Although, I'll admit Verlander might be on his way.)

Much to the surprise of many experts, the Rangers defeated the Tigers 10-4 Thursday night. Neither pitcher was on top of his game, and Verlander was downright awful. He didn't survive the third inning, allowing eight earned runs. Darvish, meanwhile, was shaky early. He allowed four earned runs over his first four innings, but settled down to retire 15 of the final 16 Tiger hitters he faced. He threw a career-high 130 pitches over eight innings to earn his seventh victory of the season.

The third inning of this game lasted a lifetime. The Tigers got three runs in the top half off Darvish, before the Rangers responded with seven runs in the bottom half. During the third inning, Verlander and Darvish combined to throw 74 pitches, giving up 12 baserunners and 10 runs. So much for that pitcher's duel.

Word to the wise: Don't ever think you've got baseball figured out. When you expect an epic pitching battle, you're probably going to end up with a slugfest.

Jeff Keppinger walks!

It only took 141 plate appearances, but White Sox infielder Jeff Keppinger finally drew his first walk of the season Thursday night.

The offending pitcher was Angels right-hander Michael Kohn, who somehow was wild enough to walk Keppinger on four pitches. Not only that, the bases were loaded at the time.

Keppinger's walk in the top of the eighth inning forced in the eventual winning run in a Sox 5-4 victory. Yet another example of how you should expect the unexpected in baseball.