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Thursday, April 03, 2014

Posnanski: The Home Run Summer of ‘54

He would always say a doctor called him in 1952. Bauman would not even remember the guy’s name, but he said this doctor then showed up at his filling station and offered him a contract to play for a team called the Artesia Drillers in New Mexico. Bauman had never heard of them or Artesia or, really, New Mexico. But the doctor offered steady money — $600 a month — and he said people in the stands would give him some more. Bauman agreed on the condition that for $250 he could buy back his contract. The good doctor agreed.

It’s fair to say that they never saw anything quite like Joe Bauman in New Mexico. Artesia was named as such because in 1903 an artesian well was discovered there. That simple. People took pride in the baseball team. And Joe Bauman was the biggest thing in Artesia. He was 30 years old when he showed up, and he had honed his uppercut home run stroke, and those 19 and 20 and 21-year-old pitchers in the Longhorn didn’t stand a chance. That first year, Bauman hit .375 with a league-record 50 homers in 139 games. The second year, Bauman hit .371 with an even better league-record 53 home runs in 132 games. He led the all of organized baseball in homers both years. He earned enough money from what players called “fence money” to buy a car.

After the 1953 season was over, Bauman decided to buy out his contract and move 40 miles due north to Roswell. In Roswell, there was the lingering buzz of an alien landing, a Texaco station available at a good price and a right-field wooden fence, painted white, just 324 feet from home plate.

Good cripple hitter Posted: April 03, 2014 at 04:44 PM | 3 comment(s)
  Beats: history, joe posnanski, minor league baseball

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Posnanski: At WAR with Pedro

The W.A.N.D. (The Whiff Always Negates Defeat)

Somebody asked me this question on Twitter: If I could have any pitcher from any time pitch one game… who would I choose?

I immediately typed: Pedro. 1999… Any baseball pitching question can be answered, somehow, by: Pedro, 1999. I would actually like to answer ALL questions that way. When I go fill up gas, and the little pump screen asks: “Cash or Credit” I’d love to be able to type in: Pedro, 1999.

Anyway, the choice lit up the Twitter lines with the expected objections…

Am I the only one who gets kind of annoyed when people put some sort of finality stamp at the end of their opinions? You know what I mean by finality stamp — someone will not just say “Sandy Koufax in 1965 was quite sprightly.” No, they will say something like “Koufax. 1965. End of story.” Or: “Gibson. 1968. The end.” Or: “Carlton. 1972. Period.” Or: “Old Hoss. 1884. Goodbye.”

What are these emphatic termination words supposed to achieve? I mean YOU put those words there, right? I didn’t miss some mediator coming in and ending declaring your viewpoint supreme, did I? It’s not like you pulled Marshall McLuhan out of nowhere to confirm your opinion … YOU confirmed your opinion. How does that mean anything? Is this like the Internet equivalent of taking off your shoe and clomping it on the table like a gavel? Stop doing that. It’s stupid. Period. End of story. Goodbye.

Anyway there was one alternative to Pedro 1999 suggestion that I found interesting for a completely different reason.

The suggestion: Pedro in 2000…

Baseball Reference WAR values the 2000 season more because Pedro Martinez gave up fewer runs and fewer hits… Fangraphs WAR… deals with the three things that Fangraphs believes a pitcher can control: Strikeouts, walks and home runs… Fangraphs thinks 1999 was a clearly better season…

right now I lean just a touch more to the Fangraphs side. I think Pedro pitched a little bit better in 1999 than he was in 2000… [Tom] Tango, when looking at Baseball Reference WAR, at Fangraphs WAR will split the difference.

This would make Pedro’s 1999 and 2000 seasons almost EXACTLY EVEN.

Which, if you think about it, is a good way to end this. Period.

The District Attorney Posted: March 27, 2014 at 04:55 PM | 35 comment(s)
  Beats: boston, history, joe posnanski, pedro martinez, sabermetrics

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The Poscast Episode 5 - Numbers Game

Joe Posnanski and Michael Schur (Fire Joe Morgan, Parks & Recreation, Brooklyn Nine-Nine) both believe that the NL will be led by either this year’s aspiring superteam in Los Angeles, or last year’s aspiring superteam in Washington.  They admire the San Antonio Spurs-like continual success of the Cardinals.  They see the AL as more of a tossup.  Schur picks the Dodgers to beat the Tigers in the World Series.  Poz predicts the Nationals over the Red Sox.

Then, they draft numbers.

The District Attorney Posted: March 18, 2014 at 02:24 PM | 6 comment(s)
  Beats: gallimaufry, joe posnanski, michael schur, predictions

Posnanski: Cleveland Indians: The name

Pretty sure that cartoonist does Mallard Fillmore now.

in my national search of more than 300 national newspapers, I could not find a single mention of Louis Sockalexis in the entire year of 1915.

The story I grew up hearing — that the Cleveland Indians were named to honor Louis Sockalexis — is certainly untrue…

when Sockalexis joined the team in 1897, there WAS legitimate excitement. The stories of his baseball exploits were known everywhere. The curiosity of seeing a Native American athlete play ball was overwhelming. And people began calling the team in 1897, yes, the Indians. In his honor…

The fact that the 1897 Cleveland team was often called “Indians” was not directly the reason the team was officially named Indians in 1915. But it was part of the decision-making process…

I don’t believe the Indians were named to honor Louis Sockalexis, not exactly. But I do believe the Indians name could honor him. That choice is ours.

The District Attorney Posted: March 18, 2014 at 01:47 PM | 89 comment(s)
  Beats: history, indians, joe posnanski, louis sockalexis

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Posnanski: The Dutch Leonard Affair

Maximum Poz!

[Tigers owner Frank] Navin and [American League president] Ban Johnson handled the [Dutch] Leonard unpleasantness in a way that will be familiar to everyone who watches political movies or followed the Tony Bosch Biogenesis story — they paid him off… At the end of the season, Ban Johnson told [Ty] Cobb and [Tris] Speaker that they needed to retire…

When the players saw Dutch Leonard’s rather flimsy evidence — two alternately specific and vague letters that did not have any word of a fix, specifically cleared Cobb of laying down a bet and did not mention Speaker at all — there was some fury. The players demanded that Dutch Leonard come to Chicago so they could face their accuser. Leonard replied that, no, he would not come…

Well, that really set off Cobb, Speaker and [Smokey Joe] Wood… They believed (and were generally right) that if people saw the smoky evidence, they would side with Cobb and Speaker. By most accounts, it was Cobb and Speaker who asked [Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain] Landis to release all the records…

It’s clear from Leonard’s response that he had already won his fight. Leonard had received $20,000 for two letters and he had cast doubt on the legacies of the two men he blamed most for running him out of the game… “I got my revenge,” he told the writer Damon Runyon…

On January 16, 1927 Johnson made a long statement to the press. It was, to be blunt, a complete and utter meltdown by the once great man…

Johnson was going Joe McCarthy, saying he had all sorts of secret information he had no intention of sharing with Landis … but he definitely had it. And he saved his angriest stuff for Landis, calling his release of information an attempt for personal publicity and saying he had this whole thing under control before the commissioner butted in…

When Johnson appeared before Landis in a hearing that the papers hyped like it was a heavyweight fight, he had to admit that he had nothing. He had been bluffing. And he was a goner…

My sense, based on the way Ban Johnson lashed out at Speaker, is that he had a personal grudge or hidden reasons to believe Speaker was dirty. He may have been guilty but, based on what we can prove, he should never for have been included in this scandal…

As for Cobb… I do not believe the 1917 game was “fixed” as we might generally view that word. I think the ethics of the time were different and on September 25, 1919 the Tigers had motivation to win and the Indians did not… if this had all happened In Pete Rose’s time, I think Cobb would have been banned for life even if nothing else was proved… Cobb was a great player who obviously played to win. He lived in a time, however, where gambling on baseball was rampant and tore at the fiber of the game. I’m not persuaded that he was was above his era.

 


Friday, March 07, 2014

Posnanski: Gary Nolan Surgery

The Only Nolan pitched in 101 games as a 19-year-old, so yeah, what was Gary’s problem?

then the pain climbed to a higher plane. It was too much. [Gary Nolan] couldn’t handle it. The reporters asked him how much it hurt. “Enough to make you cry,” he said. Teammates rolled their eyes. Letters to the editor in the Cincinnati papers questioned his manhood.

“When’s Nolan going to pitch again?” reporters asked Sparky Anderson.

“Hell, I don’t know. Ask him,” Sparky barked angrily.

It was at this time that the Reds did one of the most bizarre things a baseball team has ever done. Reds executive Dick Wagner called Nolan and said they had figured out a way to fix his arm. They were sending Nolan to … a dentist. Yeah. A dentist. Some crackpot dentist had reached the Reds with the message that Nolan’s arm problems were clearly the result of an abscessed tooth. Nolan actually went to the dentist. The dentist actually pulled a tooth. This really happened, not in the Dark Ages but in 1972…

Then, in desperation, Nolan went to see Frank Jobe, orthopedic doctor for the Reds biggest rivals, the Dodgers. The Reds, of course, were opposed to this … but Nolan had reached the desperate point where he would try anything. He, like every other pitcher in baseball, had heard Jobe was different from other doctors. The first thing Nolan noticed was that Jobe took an X-Ray of Nolan’s shoulder from a different angle. This was new. And because of that, Jobe found what every other doctor had missed — a one-inch bone spur floating around in Nolan’s shoulder and slicing him every single time he threw a baseball…

For six or seven years, Nolan had been treated as something less than a man. He’d had his pain mocked and his toughness doubted. He’d been told again and again and again that the agony was all in his head, that it was his duty to pitch through it, and this false aura of fragility had come to define him in the eyes of American baseball fans.

Then, this soft-spoken doctor from North Carolina came back from the X-Rays and pointed at the source of all that pain — there it was, as real as a swing and miss strikeout.

“I have no idea how you pitched in that sort of pain,” Frank Jobe said to him. “You must have been in agony.”

Thirty-five years later, Gary Nolan could still recite those two sentences, word-for-word.

The District Attorney Posted: March 07, 2014 at 12:00 PM | 43 comment(s)
  Beats: frank jobe, gary nolan, history, joe posnanski, reds

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Posnanski: Me and Maddux

Shouldn’t it have been Kuiper’s card?

The District Attorney Posted: February 25, 2014 at 12:51 PM | 10 comment(s)
  Beats: greg maddux, joe posnanski, simulations, strat-o-matic

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Posnanski: A Hall of Fame Idea

I have been wondering whether Lenny Harris would only vote for pinch-hitters.

OK, so I’d like to throw out a new Hall of Fame voting system. It is based a little bit on the current system, a lot on old Bill James idea and a little bit more of something new…

We have four different groups vote on the ballot.

Group 1: The BBWAA. This election can be much like it is now.

Group 2: The living Hall of Famers. I’d actually be for expanding this group so that it is the living Hall of Famers AND anyone else who has ever appeared on the Hall of Fame ballot. I’d be happy if it was widened even more than that and include, say, radio broadcasters.

I’d be for expanding the group beyond just Hall of Famers because Hall of Famers have a habit of not voting for anybody… let’s start by saying it’s just current Hall of Famers. They deserve a say. And we can discuss any expansion of Group 2 later.

Group 3: A SABR-organized panel of baseball historians, researchers, analysts and experts on the game’s history…

Group 4. Fans. I have a very specific suggestion for the fan group. I don’t think an All-Star balloting system or gigantic Internet poll is the way to go.

Here’s what I would do: The basic membership for the Hall of Fame right now is $50. I’d cut that in half — but make it so that one of the perks for membership is getting to vote for the Baseball Hall of Fame…

each of the groups gets a ballot. They vote. And here comes our biggest change. Every player who gets more than half the vote is nominated for the Hall of Fame by that group…. And in order for a player to get into the Hall of Fame, they need to be nominated by at least three of the four groups.

The District Attorney Posted: January 11, 2014 at 01:12 PM | 59 comment(s)
  Beats: hall of fame, joe posnanski

Friday, January 03, 2014

Posnanski: The Massive Hall of Fame Post

The Hall of Great Americans used to be a big deal… it can happen!

There is a temptation to play games with the Hall of Fame voting. For instance, I’m a big supporter of Alan Trammell’s Hall of Fame case. So I could have, reasonably, left off a worthy player I know will get elected — someone like Tom Glavine — to give support to Trammell, who needs it more.

I didn’t do that. I decided that was not voting in the spirit of the Hall. I don’t believe i bring much expertise to the table here, but whatever expertise I do bring would be because I have spent a lot of time learning about baseball. I chose the 10 baseball players who I think are most worthy and and regretfully did not check the boxes of five others who I hope will stay on the ballot. No, it’s not ideal. But, realistically, the entire process seems broken to me. That’s a topic for another time…

Every year when I make my votes, I think hard about the steroid issue. My feeling now is that I will mark down a player a bit for acknowledged or demonstrated PED abuse during the era before testing — this is why I have [Barry] Bonds and [Roger] Clemens a little bit down the list — but it is not a disqualifier for me. My feeling is that players who used steroids before testing, well, I’m not happy about it, but it was weaved into the fabric of the game. When the Hall of Fame puts together a committee that unanimously elects Tony La Russa into the Hall of Fame — a man who for years managed the most infamous steroid-infused team of the time — I realize that there are different rules at play, and there should not be. Steroids were a part of the game. A sad part. But a part just the same.

I’m not opposed to changing my viewpoint if there’s a compelling enough reason to do so. As I’ve written before, I’d love for the Hall of Fame to take the lead and offer guidance. I think they should. In the meantime, though, I figure the only reason I have a vote is because I supposedly know something about baseball. I’ll vote based on baseball.

Poz ranks ‘em: Maddux, Thomas, Bagwell, Piazza, Schilling, Glavine, Bonds, Clemens, Biggio, Raines, (ballot ends here) Mussina, Trammell, L. Walker, E. Martinez, McGwire, (Poz’s personal Hall of Fame ends here) McGriff, Sosa, Palmeiro, Kent, Morris, Mattingly, L. Smith, L. Gonzalez, K. Rogers

The District Attorney Posted: January 03, 2014 at 02:56 PM | 42 comment(s)
  Beats: hall of fame, joe posnanski

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Posnanski: Time For a Hall of Fame Stand

And I say to him, “Go get ‘em, Joey.”

[Ted] Williams [‘s Hall of Fame induction] speech did not instantly grant Negro Leaguers entry into the Hall of Fame. Not even close. But it brought the subject to the surface… Over time, the Hall of Fame became a leader in celebrating Negro Leagues baseball… the Hall of Fame has done as much as anybody to keep alive the memory of the Negro Leagues, exactly what Ted Williams had asked for in 1966 (and exactly what my friend Buck O’Neil — who has a statue in the Hall of Fame — had fought for most of his life)... I bring this up… because it was a case where the Hall of Fame, though it was not easy, took the lead.

It’s time for that to happen again. It’s time for the Hall of Fame to take a stand on the Steroid Era.

Right now, the Hall of Fame is passing the buck. They are letting an unwieldy group of more than 500 baseball writers who never meet as a group sort out the Steroid Era by secret ballot. That’s no way to do things. If it had been up to the BBWAA, Satchel Paige would never have been elected to the Hall of Fame. There’s almost no chance he could have gotten 75% of the vote. Josh Gibson would have had even less chance because he never played in the Majors. Oscar Charleston? Turkey Stearnes? Smokey Joe Williams? There’s no chance 75% of the BBWAA in the 1970s would even have HEARD of them.

If the Hall had not inducted them, they would not have been inducted. The Hall would have remained as racist as baseball in the 1930s and 1940s. And it would not have been enough for them to say, “Well, we turned it over to the BBWAA and this is what they decided.” The Baseball Writers are good at some things — like electing the truly great players — but this is not an organization designed to deal with complex issues like race or PEDs. The BBWAA craves leadership. The Hall of Fame is supposed to provide it.

So far, they have not. They Hall of Fame won’t say or do ANYTHING to clarify things. And because of that, we are no closer to a a logical narrative about the Steroid Era than we were five years ago. There’s no consensus about how much steroid and PED use ACTUALLY affected power numbers (not just talk but actual study of the subject), no consensus over why steroid use should be viewed differently than amphetamines or other drugs, no consensus about the role the people who run baseball played in the era, no consensus about anything really.

No consensus and no consistency. Tony La Russa is unanimously elected to the Hall of Fame as a manager, one of his greatest players Mark McGwire is not. Why? People openly (or subtly) accuse players of steroid use though they never failed a test, were never involved in a public scandal and never showed up in any of the wild accusations that were thrown around. How can the Hall of Fame just sit back and let this happen to the game it represents?

It’s actually kind of disgraceful. The Hall of Fame is meant to celebrate the game, but their silence on this issue leaves baseball and the Hall open to this annual flogging of the game and some of its greatest players.

It’s time for the Hall of Fame to create a committee of experts (former players, executives, scholars, ethicists) to look into the Steroid Era, to make recommendations how the museum should proceed. They should be open to all possibilities and apply science and philosophy and logic to this issue. They should be leaders in moving the game forward. It’s time to stop sitting back while baseball writers (including yours truly) scattershoot their own particular ethical standards and argue about Barry Bonds. This is THEIR museum. It’s time for them to tell everybody what it stands for.

The District Attorney Posted: December 29, 2013 at 03:18 PM | 32 comment(s)
  Beats: hall of fame, joe posnanski, ped

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Posnanski: 100 Best Baseball Players, #73 Arky Vaughan

I only know Arky Vaughan because of the time I spent here on BTF. He’s still a top 5 shortstop of all time, and he even has a great baseball name. He really did get the short end of the fame stick, but it seems from what we know about him that he would be perfectly OK with that. I also took the Sporcle Hall of Fame quiz, and got 95 of the 237 players. I recognized another 60 or so (including some that I knew a ton about but didn’t have the name come to me while taking the quiz, like Stan friggin Musial). I guess that makes me somewhere between a type 3 and a type 4.

Somewhere in my files, I have this dead project I once worked on. The idea was to break up the players in the Hall of Fame into different ranks. That’s not original, I realize, except that these levels had almost nothing to do with how good the player was, how many home runs he hit, how many strikeouts he had. These levels were based entirely on recognition.

That is to say:

1 star Hall of Famer: A complete non-baseball fan would have heard of him.
2 star Hall of Famer: A nominal baseball fan would have heard of him.
3 star Hall of Famer: A moderate baseball fan would have heard of him.
4 star Hall of Famer: An intense baseball fan would have heard of him.
5 star Hall of Famer: Only Keith Olbermann has heard of him.


I have different people in mind to determine each level. At level one, for instance, was my late grandfather who every morning would proudly get the newspaper, carefully remove the sports section and then stuff it into a garbage can. I cannot be sure, but I suspect my grandfather had heard of Babe Ruth, Jackie Robinson and Lou Gehrig (mostly because of the disease). It is not entirely out of the question, though, that even these three eluded his sphere of knowledge. My grandfather was a brilliant man who read constantly and in five languages. He worked relentlessly to know as little as he could about sports.

At Level 2, I had my wife, Margo, who likes baseball — she actually took a history of baseball class in college one year and got a solid B — but does not particularly follow the details. She would not know, for instance, that Houston is now in the American League or who that young baseball player is in the Subway commercials (“Mike Trout? Is he good?”). But she will surprise you now and again with something picked up along the way about Walter Johnson or Rod Carew and she has a working knowledge of most of the big players. She could probably name 30 or 40 Hall of Famers if pressed, maybe even a few more. She has already made her opinion known that I rated Tony Gwynn way too low.

At Level 3, I used my buddy Pop Warner who is a baseball fan and can speak with some authority about pretty much ever great players of our lifetimes, which would encompass the past 40 or so years. Before that, he would have certain knowledge of some of the bigger names — Feller, Williams, DiMaggio, Mantle, Foxx, Greenberg, Cobb, Paige, Walter Johnson etc. — but might not know some great players like Paul Waner or Harry Heilmann or Eddie Plank. I don’t have those files anywhere nearby, but I think I figured that there were 60 some players Pop would be able to say something about, another 25 or 30 he might be able to recognize as baseball players, and the rest, well, no chance.

For the record:

There are 165 everyday players in the Hall of Fame.
There are 72 pitchers.
There are 27 executives.
There are 21 managers, four pioneers and 10 umpires.

So even my buddy Pops would not come close to knowing HALF the people in the Hall of Fame. If you took out the executives, pioneers, managers, Negro Leaguers and the pre-1900 guys he probably STILL wouldn’t know half.

Level 4 would be my buddy Vac, who has written a couple of fantastic historical sports books, heavy on the baseball, and he has a great sense of baseball history. He would have a working knowledge of 150-plus people in the Hall and at least a passing knowledge on two or three dozen more. I still think i could stump him on 30 or 40 Hall of Famers though.

Anyway, this was the fun way I was going to break down the Hall of Fame. And, there WAS some logic to the way the players sorted out. Sure, there were a few players who were probably more famous than they were excellent, and a few players who were more excellent than they were famous. But mostly it made sense.

Except for one. One player really broke the experiment. That was Arky Vaughan.


Monday, December 23, 2013

Joe Posnanski’s 100 Best Baseball Players: #76, Buck Leonard

The next time Leonard was approached by the big leagues was 1952 — five years after Jackie Robinson and others had crossed the line. Bill Veeck asked him to play for the St. Louis Browns. By then, Leonard realized it was too late for him. “I only wish I could have played in the big leagues when I was young enough to show what I could do,” he would say years later.

Instead, he went back in Rocky Mount, worked for the school district and helped out with the minor league team there. He was 65 years old when he was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. In interviews, he would exhibit little bitterness over never playing in the majors but there’s a quote from Dodgers’ scout Elwood Parsons that breaks the heart. Parsons, according to the author Larry Lester, was a police court bailiff and a chemistry instructor when Branch Rickey made him the first black scout.

“I was talking about Robinson, Campy (Roy Campanella) and Newk (Don Newcombe) making it with Brooklyn,” Parsons said. “I’ll never forget Buck’s eyes filling with tears when he said, ‘But it’s too late for me.’”


Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Posnanski: The 100 Greatest Baseball Players Ever

Ritter/Honig in on #1!

1. Every player is eligible. So, pre-1900 players, Negro Leagues players, legendary talents who never made it to the Majors, Japanese players, everybody is eligible.

2. I rank the players entirely on their play on the field (and whatever other subtle and helpful baseball qualities I could glean out of their careers)...

3. I rank the players using my own judgments — it wouldn’t be fun any other way…

Well, as Marty DeBergi says, enough of my yapping. The 100 greatest baseball players ever coming at you all month long. Let’s start the arguments with No. 100.

Number 100: Curt Schilling

The District Attorney Posted: December 03, 2013 at 06:06 PM | 68 comment(s)
  Beats: curt schilling, history, joe posnanski

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The Poscast with Joe Posnanski and Michael Schur - Ep. 1 - We’re Back

Now that Poz is with NBC, a Parks & Rec guest spot seems inevitable!

• Red Sox winning the World Series: Both agree that distinguishing World Series winners by whether the winner played the final game at home is not a thing.  Michael is a Red Sox fan, so he’s happy they won!

• Instant replay: They like the concept of more replays, dislike the “challenge” system.

• “Nickname” draft:

Poz - Earvin “Magic” Johnson
Schur - Walter “Sweetness” Payton
Poz - James “Cool Papa” Bell
Schur - Wayne “The Great One” Gretzky
Poz - “Mean” Joe Greene
Schur - Darryl “Chocolate Thunder” Dawkins
Poz - Walt “No Neck” Williams
Schur - William “Refrigerator” Perry
Poz - Elroy “Crazy Legs” Hirsch
Schur - Charles “The Round Mound of Rebound” Barkley

The District Attorney Posted: November 19, 2013 at 03:08 PM | 30 comment(s)
  Beats: instant replay, joe posnanski, michael schur, podcasts, red sox

Friday, November 15, 2013

Posnanski: Valuable by Any Other Name

More mindreading, which I didn’t like when Poz attempted to read the mind of anti-Pete Rose for the HOF folks, but I’ll throw it out there.

So here’s the explanation from Bill Ballou of the Worcester Telegram & Gazette, who voted Mike Trout 7th on his MVP ballot:

I am a strict constructionist re: “valuable”. If the award were Player of the Year, Trout would get my vote. I’m of the school that in order to have “value” you have to help your team be good, at least to the point of contending. The Angels didn’t truly contend. To fully develop that logic, players from non-contenders should not be listed on the ballot at all, but the BBWAA insists that we fill out all 10 slots, so I did, even though I did not think there were 10 worthy candidates from contending teams.

... Bill says he would have voted for Mike Trout had it been called the Player of the Year award. Others have said things like this too. “It’s not Player of the Year,” they say. “It’s most VALUABLE player. There’s a difference.”

OK, let’s pretend we could go back to the beginning and replace “MVP” with “POY.” Would people’s view of the award change? Would there be different winners through the years. I spent too much thought on this and decided: No way. Absolutely nothing would chance. If anything, I think it’s possible people’s view about the award would be even MORE slanted toward narrative and contending teams and so on.

Why? Look at those words. Player of the year. What do you think those words would mean to people if that was the actual name of the award? The word “best” is not in there. If anything that is more vague than Most Valuable Player. I can see the columns in my mind:

“So, you wonder why I voted Miguel Cabrera Player of the Year. Well, it’s right there in the name. It says ‘Player of the YEAR’ That means the player who had the biggest impact on the year. Who is that? Mike Trout? Playing for a team that did not even finish .500? Miguel Cabrera led his team to a division championship. That’s what a Player of the Year does.

“You will hear people say that the award should go to the player with the most value. They will come up with all those “value-based” statistics like VORP and BLURP and MORPY and PAJAMAS. But, notice, the award isn’t called the “Most valuable player” award. That might be Mike Trout. But it says ‘Player of the year.” And this year that’s clearly Miguel Cabrera.”

No, it’s not the word valuable. It comes down to this powerful feeling people have that one player should be able to do much more than one player can do. We like story lines. We like things that add up in our mind. We like to believe that if a player is TRULY great, he somehow will carry his team, any team, to victory — by himself, if necessary. It’s illogical, of course… But illogical or not, baseball is more fun with the idea that Miguel Cabrera put Detroit on his shoulders and took them to the playoffs while Mike Trout could not do the same in Anaheim. It doesn’t matter if the word is valuable or productive or worthy or crucial. It doesn’t matter if the award is called Most Valuable Player or Player of the Year or American Idol or The Oscar. Miguel Cabrera still would have won.

The District Attorney Posted: November 15, 2013 at 08:13 PM | 19 comment(s)
  Beats: awards, joe posnanski, mvp

Friday, November 08, 2013

Posnanski: The Finalists: Miller and Steinbrenner

“Cumberland”!  So formal!

Marvin Miller…

Comparable Hall of Famer: Bowie Kuhn, if by “comparable” you actually mean, “person who the candidate destroyed every single time they competed for anything.” As has been written before, putting Bowie Kuhn in the Hall of Fame but not Marvin Miller is like putting in Wile E. Coyote but not the Road Runner.

George Steinbrenner…

Comparable Hall of Famer: Best I can tell, there are eight men in the Hall of Fame primarily for being baseball owners — and they’re not an especially accomplished group. Bill Veeck certainly advanced the game in his own way. Barney Dreyfuss, in addition to owning the Pittsburgh Pirates, helped bring together the American and National Leagues. J.L. Wilkinson, owner of the Kansas City Monarchs, was a pioneer in many ways, including his near-obsession with introducing night baseball. Anyway, none of them are really like Steinbrenner. The closest might be Cumberland Posey, who owned the Homestead Grays of the Negro Leagues and would go to pretty severe extremes to build great baseball teams.

Hall of Fame executives are a mixed bag. People often ask: Who would you kick out of the Hall of Fame? I know they are talking about players and, sure, there are a bunch of players I could name. But there is absolutely no doubt that if I could boot people out of the Hall, I would start with Tom Yawkey and Bowie Kuhn and work my way down. It is an embarrassment that Tom Yawkey is in the Hall of Fame. Yawkey owned the Boston Red Sox for 44 years, and the Red Sox won exactly zero World Series championships under his leadership. They were the last team in baseball to have a black player. Jackie Robinson called him “one of the most bigoted guys in baseball,” and that was a pretty wide-ranging group in the 1940s and 1950s. If there was something like a Bizarro Baseball Hall of Fame, Tom Yawkey should be a charter member.

And Kuhn? His election is not as insulting as Yawkey but … why?...

Should owners or executives be inducted into the Hall of Fame at all? I have heard good arguments from people that they should not. They say: Put up exhibits detailing their contributions. But keep the Hall of Fame plaque room itself for people on the field. They say it muddies things up to have Tom Yawkey’s plaque next to Al Kaline’s. I can see that argument.

But there’s also the reality: The Hall of Fame DOES elect owners and executives and pioneers. Candy Cummings is in the Hall of Fame for maybe inventing the curveball, which he probably did not do. The Hall of Fame is in Cooperstown because of the myth that Abner Doubleday invented baseball there. Shoeless Joe Jackson hits right-handed in “Field of Dreams.” Maybe these things shouldn’t be. But they are.

and with that in mind, with the Hall of Fame filled with executives who influenced the game, there is a strong argument for Steinbrenner, and there is simply no viable argument against Marvin Miller. Steinbrenner certainly hurt the game at times in his long career, but if we are talking about owners who influenced Major League Baseball, he’s in the front row of the photograph. Should someone who was suspended from baseball for any period of time get inducted into the Hall of Fame? I say yes, if the balance of his career is Hall of Fame worthy. That’s why I’m very much pro Pete Rose for the Hall of Fame too.

As for Marvin Miller, it’s all been said before: It’s an embarrassment that Miller was not inducted while he was alive. It was, I believe, a leftover scar from the labor wars. He still inspires strong feelings from both sides now. I know this for sure; If you have a Hall of Fame with Tom Yawkey and Bowie Kuhn inside and Marvin Miller out … it’s better to be out.


Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Posnanski: Statistics in Broadcasting

Carpenter 3rd on my imaginary MVP ballot, FWIW.

During Monday’s game, St. Louis’ Matt Carpenter led off the game. They showed a graphic about Carpenter and talked about it for a few seconds. The graphic showed this:.

Matt Carpenter in first 8 postseason games: .100 average.
Matt Carpenter in last 7 postseason games: .300 average.

The idea was to point out — I guess — that Carpenter was hitting better in his last seven games than his first eight. Like a light turned on or something. But of course it actually meant almost nothing. What is eight games? What is seven? This is the ebb and flow of baseball. not any kind of trend, everybody knows that. And the numbers are so small, they bend to the slightest touch…

It feels to me that the broadcasts are overloaded with such needless minutia. You know, Matt Carpenter is the son of a high school baseball coach. He was a high school teammate of James Loney. He had some pretty serious injuries in college. He was a 13th round pick and was signed for $1,000. He was widely viewed as a non-prospect because of his lack of speed and lack of power. He might have been the best player on the St. Louis Cardinals this year.

Seriously … talk about THAT rather than giving us these dreary, pointless, meaningless, dreadful statistics. Talk about how good Matt Carpenter was this year; I don’t think that casual baseball fans know that he should be a legitimate MVP candidate. Or talk about how the Cardinals, after losing the great Albert Pujols in 2011 (just after the Cardinals won the World Series) they went into their farm system and major league bench and pulled out an eighth-round pick (Allen Craig), a 13-round pick (Carpenter), a 23rd-round pick (Matt Adams) and this year scored 21 MORE runs than the did that year.

But no. Instead it’s breaking down Matt Carpenter’s postseason into meaningless bite-sized portions…

And what bothers me most is that I think this is exactly why some people are anti-baseball stats. Heck, when you’re getting those distracting and often misleading stats jabbed in your face nonstop you should be anti-baseball stats. I think that’s why whenever you hear someone doing a satirical baseball statistic to prove what nerds we all are, they will say something like: “Oh, look, David Ortiz is hitting .293 on Tuesday day games against right-handed pitchers when the dew point is 60 degrees or lower and the defending American Idol winner has a T in his or her name.” That’s the cliche. But truth is that nobody who loves baseball stats cares about ANY of that stuff, even Ortiz’s batting average.That just matches the needless stuff they will say on television…

At some point during Game 5, David Ortiz reached base for the ninth consecutive time, tying a World Series record. I will admit that I wasn’t listening too carefully, but I thought I heard Joe Buck twice refer to the record without actually saying who held the record. Maybe he did mention that it was Billy Hatcher’s record, but I didn’t hear him do so. I certainly did not hear him expound on it. Maybe I missed it.

And that gets to the heart of things. The fact that David Ortiz tied the World Series record for consecutive times reaching base means almost nothing to me. I already use up way too many gigabytes in my brain remembering goofy baseball records — there’s no room in there for the “most times reaching base consecutively in a World Series” record. BUT I care that he tied Billy Hatcher. Just seeing that name takes me back to 1990 and one of the most preposterous World Series ever… Stop giving me statistics. Stop weighing the game down with numbers. Show me something. Tell me something. Take me somewhere. Big Papi has been absurd this World Series. He reached base nine times in a row. Incredible. Has that ever happened before? Yes. Was it a superstar like Papi who did it? No. It was a little baseball journeyman named Billy Hatcher who played for seven teams in 12 years and, for two glorious games in October, was about as good as a player can be. That’s what October can be. That’s what baseball can be.

The District Attorney Posted: October 30, 2013 at 12:37 PM | 24 comment(s)
  Beats: joe posnanski, statistics, television

Monday, October 21, 2013

Posnanski: Beltran

[Carlos Beltran’s] 2000 season was a nightmare. He couldn’t hit. He looked disinterested in the field. He got hurt. When the Royals tried to send him to Florida for rehab, he refused to go. Nobody was entirely sure why — it seemed like a language clash — but it seemed that Beltran was worried that once he went to Florida the Royals wouldn’t bring him back. His confidence was crushed. The language barrier still overwhelmed him. Teammates would talk about how miserable he seemed… A lingering image: Somebody once brought one of those toy remote control cars to the clubhouse — Beltran played with it for what seemed like hours. He just moved that car all over the clubhouse, running over discarded clothes, bumping it into teammates and sportswriters, he never took his eye off of it. He really was a kid in so many ways; you probably know that not long after that he got a pet monkey because he had dreamed that he got a pet monkey… He was a young man who, in many ways, seemed resentful of his own great talent. That talent led people to expect things from him. He didn’t like expectations. He would rather be playing.

That, I think, is when people started to wonder in Beltran even liked baseball.

All of that passed pretty quickly though. Beltran was a quietly great baseball player for Kansas City the next three years. From 2001-2004, Beltran hit 295/.365/.512 with 79 homers, 107 stolen bases, 12 caught stealing, he scored 100 runs and drove in 100 all three years. He made amazing plays in the outfield. Nobody outside of Kansas City seemed to notice — he didn’t make a single All-Star Team, did not get a Gold Glove award.

And few people inside Kansas City seemed to appreciate it… Beltran as so graceful, so smooth, so natural that people always thought he wasn’t trying hard enough. When he hit 29 home runs, people felt sure he should have hit 40. When he stole 41 bases in 45 attempts, people thought he easily could steal 60 if he was willing to take more chances. When he made absurd, preposterous, amazing catches look easy, people thought those catches WERE easy.

At some point toward the end of his Kansas City time, I went to see Beltran in Puerto Rico… Now Beltran was a star, and he was confident, and he comfortable speaking English, and he told me that his time in Kansas City was running out. The team was just not going in the right direction. He needed to move on and play in big games. “I don’t want to be a good player,” he said. “I want to be the best.”

It was the first time I had ever heard him talk like that. I asked him that question that had long haunted him: “Is baseball fun for you?” He was no longer that unsure kid. He looked out in the field where 16-year-old kids waited for him to hit. He explained that this was the GAME of baseball, this, hitting on a field in his hometown with his parents in the stands and the happy chatter of kids echoing through the park.

“Major League baseball,” he said. “That is business.” ...

In truth, Beltran has been good, but not legendary, in his postseasons since 2004… this offseason, when he’s being constantly compared with Ruth and Gehrig, he’s hitting .207… It seems to me a “Color of Money” overcompensation. For years and years, Paul Newman was one of Hollywood’s greatest actors. And, for bizarre reasons, he could not win an Oscar. He got beat out for “The Hustler,” for “Hud,” for “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof,” for “Cool Hand Luke,” for “The Verdict,” for “Absence of Malice.” That doesn’t even include “Butch Cassidy” or “The Sting” or, of course, “Slap Shot.”

At some point, everyone realized this was kind of ridiculous and so they gave Newman the Oscar for “The Color of Money” even though it was a pretty bad movie and Newman’s performance in it was generally uninspiring. The idea, I suppose, was to retroactively acknowledge the man’s greatness. I get that same feeling with Beltran. He will get some big hits in the postseason because he’s still a good hitter, and people will overstate the moment and call him a clutch conquerer. That’s OK, I think. He spent a lot of amazing years getting overlooked.

The District Attorney Posted: October 21, 2013 at 02:41 PM | 14 comment(s)
  Beats: astros, cardinals, carlos beltran, joe posnanski, mets, royals

 

 

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