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Hall of Merit
— A Look at Baseball's All-Time Best

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Tony Phillips, Chili Davis and Willie McGee

All eligible in 2005.

Tony Phillips

Chili Davis

Willie McGee

John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: September 08, 2007 at 07:48 PM | 30 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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   1. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: September 08, 2007 at 07:53 PM (#2516773)
Of the three, Phillips appears to be the best. I don't see any of them as HoM worthy, though.
   2. Crispix reaches boiling point with lackluster play Posted: September 08, 2007 at 08:13 PM (#2516787)
I'm surprised that Tony Phillips has been retired for that long. My surprise can be attributed entirely to having confused him with Tony Clark for so many years, though.
   3. OCF Posted: September 08, 2007 at 11:22 PM (#2516905)
About Willie McGee and the 1985 MVP:

It's not unique. (I was going to say "unprecedented" but maybe McGee is the precedent.) In many way, McGee 1985 is eerily similar to Ichiro, 2001.

Of course, it was indefensible. Even on the Cardinals, I thought that John Tudor and Ozzie Smith each had cases as good as McGee's. But the moment you mention Tudor, you run into the big problem: Tudor was (properly) a near-unanimous second in the Cy Young voting. Lets put it another way: among starting pitchers since WWII, including all of the ones who did win MVP awards, can you find a better MVP case than Gooden 1985? Gibson 1968 might be about as good.

As for McGee's 105 RBI in 1987: he batted fith most of that season, behind Jack Clark. That RBI total has a whole lot to do with Clark's ~.460 OBP.

---

Now: what is the best team you could field if the criteria included that they would take the field in utterly blank uniforms with no identifying marks, and you had to instantly, unfailingly identify who they were from any half-second camera pan or from sitting in the upper deck. McGee's got a shot at that CF job, right? (Pictures do exist, but I'm afraid to look.)
   4. GregD Posted: September 09, 2007 at 12:12 AM (#2516950)
Now: what is the best team you could field if the criteria included that they would take the field in utterly blank uniforms with no identifying marks, and you had to instantly, unfailingly identify who they were from any half-second camera pan or from sitting in the upper deck. McGee's got a shot at that CF job, right? (Pictures do exist, but I'm afraid to look.)
No doubt. He might be the most easily identifiable skinny player ever. Not just his strange face and neck, but he had a very distinctive stride, too. Most of the other players whom I could recognize by shadow were immensely fat. You didn't need any name on the back to figure out who Mo was, for example.
   5. Paul Wendt Posted: September 09, 2007 at 12:44 AM (#2517012)
identify who they were from any half-second camera pan or from sitting in the upper deck. McGee's got a shot at that CF job, right?

The camera pan may be a close-up, I suppose
So McGee has one of the most distinctive looks by portrait and by silhouette.
Dennis Rodman may give him a run for the money.
   6. TomH Posted: September 09, 2007 at 12:56 AM (#2517023)
...if he were in color
   7. Paul Wendt Posted: September 09, 2007 at 02:00 AM (#2517062)
Chili Davis -
Did he learn baseball in Jamaica? learn cricket? depart before he could learn?

Davis was unusually consistent. 16 consecutive seasons with only one exception to 134-158 games played (1994-95 prorated). 9600+ plate appearances (600+/season). In the last of those 16 seasons he hit 30 home runs for the first time, ruining a trivia question. (prorated 37 hr in 1994 but that doesn't ruin a trivia question)

It appears that he thrived as a designated hitter, batting somewhat better in his thirties than in his twenties.
Still productive in his final season at age 39, OPS+ 115 in 554

Number 52 all-time in walks, his highest rank in a performace statistic.
Number 72 in plate appearances at 9996.

Similar to Dwight Evans as a batter, but not as good. To make them very similar replace Davis' sophomore slump (age 23) and Evans' career year (age 29) with full seasons at their career averages.
   8. Paul Wendt Posted: September 09, 2007 at 02:15 AM (#2517072)
Chili Davis may be the best long-time player of my time who remained almost unknown to me. Partly by geography and partly by bad timing, he appeared practically out of nowhere on the October stage with the champion '91 Twins and '99 Yankees.

Play a little better than Chili Davis and you overcome usually-bad teams on the West Coast.
   9. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: September 09, 2007 at 12:32 PM (#2517198)
Chili Davis was the first person that I ever saw break a bat over his leg in the early Eighties.
   10. Rafael Bellylard: Built like a Panda. Posted: September 09, 2007 at 12:50 PM (#2517204)
McGee always had a look on his face like "who farted?".
   11. sunnyday2 Posted: September 09, 2007 at 12:51 PM (#2517206)
Did anybody see the video recently where some horse name Hoof Hearted won some horse race? You can imagine what his name sounded like all the way around the track.
   12. Random Transaction Generator Posted: September 09, 2007 at 05:06 PM (#2517327)
McGee's got a shot at that CF job, right?

Devon White had a very distinguishable run/jog when he tracked down fly balls. It was like watching a gazelle or a large deer, very lithe, very smooth, never seemed hurried (even when he was chasing down that flyball in the 1992 World Series).
   13. Dr. Chaleeko Posted: September 10, 2007 at 01:26 PM (#2518097)
Rickey had a very distinctive gait and way of moving (and a distinctive stance)---and the snatch catch. Pete Rose would be easily distinguishable too, I think; he just had a look and kinesthetic presence...and very hairy arms.

Actually Keith Hernandez had peculiar (and ineffable) mannerisms that would make him easy to spot...if you know what I mean, then when I say that it's something to do with his thumbs and with his the stiffness of his lower legs, you'll picture it easily.

Then there's Nomar....

I bet there's lots of Phils, Royals, O's, Cards, and Pirates fans who could easily spot Lonnie Smith if all they saw was a quick shot of a guy approaching a line drive.

Oh, and Jim Kaat's near-unique I-just-sucked-on-the-sourest-lemon-ever face would probably be an easy one to pick out of a baseball lineup. And Randy Johnson would be pretty easy to spot. Someone like Larry McWilliams with the ur-herky-jerky windup might be easy.

Actually, Mike Lowell would be easy to spot too, if you all you saw was a very brief clip of him fielding a thight-to-waist high chopper. He has this very relaxed way of transitioning the ball to his throwing hand, where his glove hand goes dead afterward and just falls to his side, whereas most guys seem to keep the glove hand active. It's unmistakably Lowell.
   14. Greasy Neale Heaton (Dan Lee) Posted: September 10, 2007 at 01:41 PM (#2518127)
I'm sort of surprised nobody's mentioned Tony Pena as a choice for catcher. I've never seen anything quite like his catching stance.
   15. Amit Posted: September 12, 2007 at 03:38 PM (#2521295)


Now: what is the best team you could field if the criteria included that they would take the field in utterly blank uniforms with no identifying marks, and you had to instantly, unfailingly identify who they were from any half-second camera pan or from sitting in the upper deck. McGee's got a shot at that CF job, right? (Pictures do exist, but I'm afraid to look.)


I was recently in an office with a blown up live action shot of a game at Camden Yards. The only player on the field I could identify was Frank Thomas (even in context). He'd have to be on that team.
   16. Dr. Chaleeko Posted: September 12, 2007 at 05:53 PM (#2521520)
Yes, very true about F. Thomas. I remember when he came up that he was easily the biggest, strongest, most fearsome looking player I had ever seen. With players so big these days and particularly with more very tall players these days, it's hard to remember just how imposing Thomas was. But usually the tall guys were built like Strawberry: slender, lean, muscled but not what you would call huge guys. Thomas looked like a bear, a sequoia trunk, the real godzilla, whatever you want to say, but he wasn't just a mountain of a man, he was a Denali or an Everest of a man. In 1990, we hadn't seen so many guys like him. Frank Howard was something like the prototype, but Thomas had grown up in the weight-lifting era, played in the same backfield as Bo Jackson (IIRC) and was just a giant man in every way. He must have one hell of a handshake.
   17. Yeaarrgghhhh Posted: September 12, 2007 at 06:05 PM (#2521540)
I don't think McGree's MVP was indefensible. I think Gooden deserved it, but McGee did have a 150 OPS+ and over 50 steals as a CF. It wasn't AL '96 or '06 bad.
   18. sunnyday2 Posted: September 12, 2007 at 06:38 PM (#2521592)
F. Howard was of course a hoops guy, not football. Ditto Conley, DeBusschere and most of the 2 sport guys back then. That tells you something. Now it's F. Thomas and Bo, and Jordan can't get around on a fastball. Is it baseball's changed or the other 2?

Howard, BTW, was all-Big Ten at Ohio State. You'd think a guy could do that, could play D on a baseball diamond, but I guess not. 'Course hoops wasn't as quick then either. Part of the changes. Still, he was no oaf.
   19. ronw Posted: September 13, 2007 at 12:08 AM (#2522092)
Its pretty easy to spot Babe Ruth or Jackie Robinson in any group photo, but it might just be because they were icons.

Hank Greenberg was a Frank Thomas/Frank Howardesque big player for his generation. I also think Honus Wagner would have been pretty easy to spot.

And of course the pinch hitter would be Eddie Gaedel.
   20. phredbird Posted: September 13, 2007 at 12:22 AM (#2522131)
today's most recognizable player to me is vlad guerrero
   21. Joey Numbaz (Scruff) Posted: September 13, 2007 at 01:00 AM (#2522225)
"Lets put it another way: among starting pitchers since WWII, including all of the ones who did win MVP awards, can you find a better MVP case than Gooden 1985? Gibson 1968 might be about as good."


I just ran Gooden's numbers. That 1985 certainly holds up well.

The starting pitcher seasons I've found that were better:

15.0 Walter Johnson 1913
12.8 Walter Johnson 1912
12.4 Roger Clemens 1997
12.2 Steve Carlton 1972
12.3 Walter Johnson 1914
11.9 Walter Johnson 1918
11.9 John Clarkson 1889
11.7 Sandy Koufax 1966
11.7 Dwight Gooden 1985

Gibson in 1968 was 10.9. Don't forget, these include hitting.

That's pretty damn good company. I haven't run Pedro, Maddux and RJ yet, of course, so one of them may have a season in there too. By comparison, Clemens 1986 scored 9.0.

Remind me to repost that when Gooden gets his own thread. That season is 23% of his career pennants added.

I think Bucky Walters is a decent comp for Gooden. Gooden hit a higher peak, and Walters was better in the #3 and 4 years, but overall, they are pretty close.
   22. Joey Numbaz (Scruff) Posted: September 13, 2007 at 01:01 AM (#2522232)
Dizzy Trout is also a good comp for Gooden.
   23. Joey Numbaz (Scruff) Posted: September 13, 2007 at 01:04 AM (#2522239)
Also, for his career, ERA+ understates Gooden, as his defenses were pretty bad. As bad as the defenses of Bobo Newsom for example, who bounced around for a lot of bad teams. I get Gooden's DRA+ at 114.
   24. Joey Numbaz (Scruff) Posted: September 13, 2007 at 01:06 AM (#2522243)
Tudor's 1985 hits at 8.9, which is often good enough to win the Cy Young Award. It was just as good as Mike Scott's 1986, for example.
   25. Dr. Chaleeko Posted: September 13, 2007 at 01:14 PM (#2522843)
I bet that Ray Dandridge was easy to spot. Every story you read talks about the bow legs and the squat frame.
   26. Yeaarrgghhhh Posted: September 13, 2007 at 01:36 PM (#2522864)
Based on post 22, maybe the MVP was indefensible.

Was McGee the guy who ran without really moving his upper body, or am I thinking of someone else?
   27. sunnyday2 Posted: September 13, 2007 at 04:28 PM (#2523122)
Kirby.
   28. BDC Posted: September 13, 2007 at 04:37 PM (#2523134)
Then there's Nomar....

Two of my odder baseball-watching experiences: 1) returning from an overseas trip in 1990, going to a ballgame at Yankee Stadium, and seeing an absolutely unmistakable Willie McGee in center field in an Oakland uniform;

2) driving through Chicago in 2004 after having been in the North Woods of Wisconsin, far from a TV set, for two weeks, stopping for pizza, looking up at a TV and seeing what had to be Nomar Garciaparra in a Cub uniform, going through his usual antics at the plate.
   29. OCF Posted: September 13, 2007 at 08:38 PM (#2523477)
...what had to be Nomar Garciaparra in a Cub uniform, going through his usual antics at the plate.

Agreed: the chance that you could have been mistaken about that identification is zero.

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