Joe Posnanski Newsbeat
Tuesday, May 21, 2013
Also known as THE WILL TO WIN.
The other day, I was watching the visiting announcing crew call a Kansas City Royals game, when Jeff Francoeur came to the plate. Before it even began, I knew what was coming. The announcers started to praise Francoeur. You know, it was all the usual stuff—great leader, plays terrific defense, bat coming around, wonderful guy. And, suddenly, a question came to mind.
What player in baseball do you think has the most ANT—Announcer Nonsense Talk—spoken about them?
By ANT, I’m not just referring to stuff announcers say. I’m referring to a sort of universal praise that does not tie to logic or anything tangible but instead to a sort of whimsical hope and powerful narratives. I remember in a playoff game against the Cleveland Browns, John Elway once dropped back, almost fell down, ran into his own offensive lineman, almost fell down again, flipped a short little pass to Mark Jackson who broke and avoided like 49 tackles on his way to a long and ridiculous touchdown catch. As soon as it ended, the announcer shouted: “John Elway did it again!”
You know ANT when you hear or read it—it is when people start speaking in broad generalities about a player (“This guy just wants it more”) or when they start over-crediting a player for dubious achievements (pitcher wins and RBIs tend to be the sweet nectar of Announcer Nonsense Talk) or when they start to turn sports achievement into life achievement (“That was just a courageous pitch!”). And like I say, it’s not only announcers who do this—far from it. You see it everywhere. I’ve spent plenty of time writing ANT.
Derek Jeter has been the recipient of a lot of ANT through the years—I coined the word Jeterate based entirely on this—but Jeter is a legitimately great player, one of the best shortstops ever, and he is a consummate professional worthy of respect and admiration. So you can understand why people would want to tack on some nonsense talk to make the record even more sterling. For a while, David Eckstein seemed to be the worldwide leader of ANT, but, heck, the guy is 5-foot-6, can’t really run, can barely throw the ball across the infield, and yet he was a shockingly good baseball player for a handful of years. In 2002, he finished 11th in the MVP voting and deserved it, maybe deserved even a little more. So, yeah, you could see why he got so much ANT. When a player defies logic or sparks intense emotion, nonsense talk often seems the only way to capture the awesomeness of it.
Tim Tebow has probably had more ANT spoken about him than anyone, ever.
But back to baseball … and Jeff Francoeur. At this moment, Jeff Francoeur is hitting .209 with five walks and one home run. We are about a quarter of the way through the season, so you can multiply those numbers by four to get a sense of where he would finish the year at this pace. He has an OPS+ of 48. The Pitch FX numbers show he can’t catch up to the fastball, can’t recognize the slider and cannot stay back on the change-up. He’s O-swing percentage—that is, his percentage of pitches he swings at outside the strike zone—is at a staggering 44.6%, a career high in a career of hacking. It is the third-highest percentage in baseball, behind only legendary free swingers Pablo Sandoval and Alfonso Soriano.
Those guys, however, tend to be bad-ball HITTERS. Francoeur, no, not so much on the hitting part.
Wednesday, April 03, 2013
Bryce Harper was robbed.
We just don’t have the endurance to wait. We want same day delivery. We want instant downloads. We want stream, we want push notifications, we want instant analysis. We are a refresh button society, and we pound that thing over and over to get the latest, the very latest, the absolute latest … and then we hit the refresh button again.
In other words, hey, look, every team in baseball has played at least one game now.
It’s time for our early season baseball awards:
American League MVP: Matt Wieters, Baltimore
Many people expected Matt Wieters to be a superstar the day he arrived in the big leagues. You might remember those “Matt Wieters Facts” that (like Chuck Norris facts) were circulating for a while – my favorite being, “Matt Wieters is the reason I comes before E except after C.” He became an outstanding player in 2012. He won his second Gold Glove Award – he has developed into a brilliant defensive catcher – and he hit 23 home runs.
But he emerged in 2013. In his one game, he hit a double and a homer, walked twice, drove in two runs, scored two more and led the Orioles to victory over Tampa Bay and into a first place tie in the American League East (and people thought Baltimore would fade in 2013!). Wieters led the league in batting average (.800), slugging percentage (2.000) and OPS (2.800).
Monday, March 11, 2013
There should be a hotline for former star athletes to call. They would use it just for emergencies, just for those moments when they have this interesting thought but are not sure if they should make that thought public. For instance, before doing an interview like this with Newsday, Goose Gossage might call the hotline.
Goose: So, I’m thinking about talking again about how you can’t compare Mariano Rivera to relievers of our time.
Hotline: Don’t do it.
Goose: No, this time I’m going to talk about how great Mariano Rivera is, you know, how he’s a great guy. I mean, I’ll say it over and over again.
Hotline: Don’t do it.
Goose: “No, it’s OK, I’ll keep saying that Mariano Rivera is great, really great, but you can’t say he’s the greatest because he’s used in a different role than guys from our time, you know, like me. But he’s really, really great and all, it’s just that just guys from our time, you know, like me, would have been just as great if we were used the Mariano way. I guess what I’m trying to say is that while he’s super great, he might not be any better than guys from our time, you know, like me, if Rivera had been used the way we pitch. But he’s great.”
Hotline: “Don’t do it.”
There is no such hotline, sadly… The reason I think it was unfortunate is, well, there are actually two reasons, one obvious, the other perhaps less so.
The obvious reason is that it diminishes Goose Gossage to talk this way. Goose Gossage was a great pitcher. A truly great pitcher. Gossage is in the Hall of Fame, he’s widely remembered, he does not need to go around telling people how great he was or how he wasn’t used the way pitchers today are used. I think it cheapens him to do so, especially when he uses the beloved Mariano Rivera for effect. Rivera has been gracious and classy and respectful. Gossage shouldn’t use him as a prop… If Gossage was using the platform to fight for the Hall of Fame causes of other great relievers of his day—Dan Quisenberry, John Hiller, Sparky Lyle, Lee Smith, etc.—that would be one thing. But you don’t get the sense from Goose’s proclamations that he’s all that interested in new people joining him in the Hall. This kind of talk about Rivera is self-serving and should be beneath him.
But the second reason, the less obvious one, is why I wish Gossage would quiet down: When Gossage talks about Rivera like this, it’s only human nature to start making some comparisons. And Gossage won’t look good in the comparisons…
For Rivera to match Gossage in the basic numbers, he would have had to pitch 278 more innings—all those multiple innings that Gossage pitched—and he would have to allow 201 more (a tidy 6.51 ERA). He would have had to walk 350 or so batters in those innings, while allowing 42 home runs. And he would have had to do all that in a much lower scoring run environment. I’m guessing here, of course, but I think he could have managed it.
And as far as the ease of pitching one inning—Gossage has called it easy in the past—the Goose pitched exactly one inning 249 times in his career. His ERA in those outings: 3.75…
Gossage’s greatness stands the test of time. He was part of the bridge that took us from the 1950s and 1960s, when relievers were used sporadically and like pawns on a chess board, to now, when closers are celebrated and paid like kings. He was of his time, and that’s a good thing. If he had been used like a modern closer, sure, he probably would have more saves, but he might not be in the Hall of Fame. He might have been like Jeff Reardon or Billy Wagner or John Wetteland—great pitchers who lit up the sky and then burned out in their mid-to-late 30s.
You know, if you just want to talk saves, Gossage does suffer. He blew 112 of the 432 save opportunities he had. Rivera has blown only 73 of the 681 chances he’s had. It’s not an entirely fair comparison, Gossage’s save opportunities were different from Rivera’s. But it’s a comparison we make because Gossage can’t just say “Mariano Rivera is a great and timeless relief pitcher” and leave it at that.
Wednesday, February 06, 2013
You could be loooooooved, but you’re way out of liiiiiiiine….
Today is a great celebrity birthday day—Babe Ruth, Ronald Reagan and Bob Marley were all born on February 6. Also Zsa Zsa Gabor and Axl Rose and Tom Brokaw. America and the world would be a poorer place without them…
Ruth is, quite easily, the best hitter AND the best pitcher born on February 6. The second-best hitter is Smoky Burgess or Richie Zisk, and while they were both good hitters they were obviously a million miles from Ruth. But the second best pitcher is probably Bob Wickman, who did save 267 games. But—and I find this amazing—he threw FEWER INNINGS than Ruth, who was only a pitcher early in his career but still went 94-46 with a 2.28 ERA and was pretty close to unhittable in his three World Series starts…
There are a few players before 1900 who were very good hitters and pitchers, probably highlighted by Monte Ward… Kid Gleason was not Hall of Fame caliber either way, but he was a pretty good pitcher (won 138 games), a pretty good hitter (1,946 career hits) and then he was the beleaguered manager of the 1919 White Sox… Smoky Joe Wood was absolutely a Hall of Fame caliber pitcher—there are those who still push for him as a Hall of Famer because one incredible season and a couple of very good ones—and after a serious injury he returned as a hitter, and was good… Wes Ferrell is probably the best hitting pitcher other than Ruth—but he never did get 200 plate appearances in a season. He hit 38 career home runs, nine of them in 128 plate appearances in 1931. He was also a very good pitcher in a high-scoring era—he is not in the Hall of Fame but he IS in the Baseball Think Factory Hall of Merit.
... Here, for fun, are the teammates who have combined for 100 homers in a season:
1. Mantle-Maris, 1961: 115
2. Barry Bonds-Rich Aurilia, 2001: 110
3. Ruth-Gehrig, 1927: 107
4. Mark McGwire-Ray Lankford, 1998, 101
5. Alex Rodriguez-Rafael Palmeiro, 2002, 100
Yes, who can forget that Bonds-Aurilia power combination?
Tuesday, January 29, 2013
“The lesson to learn might be that we screwed this thing up.”
Less than a year after leaving Sports Illustrated for the MLB/USA Today startup Sports on Earth, columnist Joe Posnanski is on the move again: He just agreed to a contract with NBC Sports.
Friday, January 11, 2013
Jeff Idelson has learned, in his tumultuous time as President of the Baseball Hall of Fame, that you can’t ever get too caught up in the moment…
I ask [Idelson]: The character clause is obviously vague—do you think the Hall of Fame should clarify the clause to offer guidance to voters?...
Idelson says something a little bit unexpected: “Everyone should understand that ‘character’ is not to be used as a moral compass, but refers to how they respected the game, how they treated the game, how they used that character in the contributions they made to their teams.”
Maybe this is common knowledge … but I had never actually heard the Hall of Fame clarify that character should not refer to morality and instead should ONLY refer to baseball. It makes sense, of course, but if this is what the Hall of Fame means by “character” then I would argue that it should be written in the BBWAA guidelines that way. Because I think some voters DO look at character beyond the baseball diamond, and they hide behind the character clause when they do so. What this version of the character clause means for PED users … hard to say. On the one hand, the steroid question is obviously DIRECTLY tied to respect for the game, how they treated the game and so on. On the other hand, I hear people say all that time that even though steroids weren’t policed at all by Baseball, it was “against the law.” If the character clause refers only to baseball, that shouldn’t be part the conversation.
Wednesday, January 09, 2013
To all you Hall of Famers out there, happy birthday!
we’re looking at players’ first year on the Hall of Fame ballot, their percentage and what happened to those players.
More than two votes but less than 5%—176 players.
... [Ralph] Kiner first appeared on the ballot in 1960… He got three votes… He got fewer votes than Nick Altrock, who was once a good pitcher and by then had started to perform comedy routines with Al Schact (the “Clown Prince of Baseball”). He got fewer votes than Bing Miller, Max Bishop, the Catcher Who Was A Spy Moe Berg, Hal White, Joe Dugan, Jimmie Wilson and a pitcher named Orval Grove who went 63-73 with a 3.78 ERA. Listen to this: Ralph Kiner in 1960 got fewer votes than Lefty Grove. You ask: What’s wrong with that? Grove was perhaps the greatest left-handed pitcher of all time. True. But there’s this: Lefty Grove was ALREADY IN THE HALL OF FAME, had been since 1947…
Kiner is just an extreme example of what happens all the time in the Hall of Fame voting… When Jack Morris went on the ballot in 2000, 77.8% of the voters said that he was NOT a Hall of Famer. A year later, more than 80% voted that he was NOT a Hall of Famer. But over time, a lot of people looked more closely and the vote turned his way. I don’t agree with Jack Morris as a Hall of Famer, but I absolutely do agree with him deserving to have his case heard over time. I would say that guys like Lou Whitaker, Dwight Evans, Kevin Brown and others deserve the same chance to get the years to help them make their case.
5% to 10%—27 players.
... I wonder when Joe Torre will get into the Hall of Fame. We KNOW he’s going in as a manager, so let’s get that done already. He was a really, really good player with a legitimate Hall of Fame case. He became, as we know, a legendary manager with four World Series rings. Let’s stop waiting and put him in already.
10% to 20%—18 players.
... I didn’t vote for Dale Murphy this year because I thought there were 10 players on the ballot better than him and, anyway, he’s not getting in through the BBWAA. I hope the veteran’s committee, in whatever form, will stop pontificating about Deacon White and other players who are long gone and start thinking about who were the best players of the last 40 or 50 years who have been overlooked.
20% to 30%—15 players.
....if you get between 20 and 30% on first ballot you have about a 50-50 shot of getting into the Hall of Fame… it will be interesting to see how [Mark] McGwire and [Sammy] Sosa and others are viewed after [Barry] Bonds and [Roger] Clemens get in. I don’t know when Bonds and Clemens get in, by the way. It won’t be for a few years. It might not be for a decade. But it will happen, I think.
30% to 40%—7 players.
...If Luis Tiant retired two years earlier, I believe he’s in the Hall of Fame right now. But he stuck around those two years and got jobbed by the timing. He got a lot of support in his first year—he looked like a sure Hall of Famer, not unlike his contemporary and comp Catfish Hunter. Then he was washed away by a historic rush of 300-game winners who came on the Hall of Fame ballot, and his vote totals plunged.
50% to 75%—16 players.
... Every player who got 50% on first ballot is in the Hall of Fame.
Joe Posnanski speculates:
Nobody is getting into the Hall of Fame through the Baseball Writers door this year. I mean, yes, it’s possible—POSSIBLE—that Craig Biggio will slip into the Hall by a few votes. But I don’t think so. Not this year. Not on this crazy ballot…
I don’t know if this year’s ballot blackout will cause… administrative changes—looking ahead, I sort of doubt it. As weird as this year is, it’s really something of a one-year aberration… I think if any rule will be tinkered with, it will be the player-vote limit… I wouldn’t be surprised if it went up to 15 for next year’s ballot.
As for the rest … I don’t think there will be Hall of Fame voting changes. I think, instead, players who are better than at least half of the players in the Hall of Fame will keep getting overlooked and underappreciated and measured against an impossible and imaginary standard.
Then the Crickets, Blowfish, or whoever they are vote a bit.
I don’t have a ballot and am glad that I don’t. This whole thing is a mess. The idea that Craig Biggio or Curt Schilling might go into the Hall of Fame but Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens won’t is ridiculous. If results on the field don’t matter, then this becomes a beauty contest, backroom politics, a vote for prom king and queen supervised by the faculty to make sure that the right candidates succeed.
Today is only the beginning. The process is going to become harder and harder as science moves stem cells around and creates synthesized genetic athletes in the future. (OK, what do we do about this Jason Bourne?) What should be legal? What shouldn’t? If I have laser surgery, say, to give me the same eyesight as Ted Williams, am I cheating? The BBWAA and the Hall have to look for a way to accommodate its history and this future and dole out asterisks or italicized comments where necessary. Something has to change.
If I had a vote, I think I would cast my ballot in protest for Pete Rose—and only Pete Rose—every year until that change was made in the criteria for selection.
BALLOT: Pete Rose.
Football writer here!...
I suppose if you want to write off an entire period of your sport’s history as The Steroid Era, cast a pall of suspicion and disgust over a decade’s worth of sports memories, and basically say that everything exciting and delightful that happened in baseball from about 1988 to 2002 was squirted from a syringe into the bloodstream of some villainous cad, you can keep a generation’s worth of all-time greats out of the Hall of Fame for being maybe-slightly guiltier than everyone else of a crime no one bothered to accurately define or enforce.
What’s that? You say that’s what many voters are perfectly willing to do? O-kay. Well, let me just concentrate on the Pro Football Hall of Fame and cast all my votes for Cris Carter.
BALLOT: Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa.
Edit: Link fixed. Jim
Monday, December 31, 2012
Let’s begin by celebrating 15 players who I predict are making their one and only appearance on the [Hall of Fame] ballot.
I was always strangely fascinated by the fact that Jeff Conine was a world-class racquetball player. That’s how he was always described, too, as “world class.” Conine was a good big-league player who hit as high as .319, hit as many as 26 homers, drove in 105 RBIs one year, but it was this world-class racquetball thing that blew my mind. As good a baseball player as he was, it seemed a waste to me that he wasn’t able to take his place as one of the world’s elite racquetball players.
Since he stopped playing baseball, Conine has apparently begun competing in triathlons and Ironman competitions. He’s really an extraordinary athlete.
I will always remember fondly how Roberto Hernandez handled failure… He would be sitting and waiting by his locker when the reporters came in. He’d have a cup of beer by his stool. And he would be ready to answer every question. No, I didn’t have it tonight. Yes, I take the blame for this loss. No, I don’t think we will let it carry over. Yes, I feel like I let my teammates down. Then, he would wait until all the questions were answered, take his beer, and prepare his mind for tomorrow. It was the best attitude I ever came across in sports.
What’s interesting about [Mike] Stanton is that he pitched forever as a lefty specialist and he really wasn’t all that good against left-handed hitters. I mean he was only slightly better against lefties than righties… Stanton was actually quite miserable in his one-out appearances. He went 6-18 with an 11.70 ERA, gave up 159 hits in 77 2/3 innings. It is true that when the games are split up 1/3 of an inning at a time, it’s kind of hard to determine what is good or bad. I will point out that his 11.70 ERA is the highest for any pitcher with 125 or more one-out appearances.
But, hey, he made a living… He cashed more than $30 million in big league checks, which sure as heck isn’t bad for a 13th round draft pick who started one big league game in his career.
How does this guy:
.292/.355/.407, 44 stolen bases, 5 homers, 84 runs scored, 63 Ks, brilliant centerfield defense
Become this guy:
.264/..336/.525, 8 stolen bases, 34 homers, 103 RBIs, 94 Ks and, yes, brilliant centerfield defense.
Steve Finley was a shape-shifter… The three years Finley stole more than 25 bases, he hit 5, 8 and 10 home runs. The six years he hit 25-plus homers, he never stole more than 22 bases and only once did he steal more than 16. He was one kind of player. Then, suddenly, he was another kind of player.
One way Finley was a pioneer: He was one of the first to shift to the harder (and, perhaps, easier to shatter) maple bats.
The District Attorney
Posted: December 31, 2012 at 03:47 PM | 80 comment(s)
hall of fame
sandy alomar jr.
Sunday, December 23, 2012
Joe Posnanski and Michael Schur discuss Hall of Fame voting in the context of steroids (have we touched on that subject yet?), and then run down the ballot. Both believe the HOF should have an “inner sanctum”; in its absence, Schur believes in a first-ballot distiction. Thus, as I understood it, their 2012 ballots would be:
Poz: Bagwell, Biggio, Bonds, Clemens, McGwire, Piazza, Raines, Schilling, Trammell, L. Walker (I’m taking his statement that he voted for Edgar “in the past” as a sign he didn’t this time. He also wasn’t clear about McGwire, Piazza and Sosa.)
Schur: Bagwell, Bonds, Clemens, E. Martinez, McGwire, Palmeiro, Piazza, Raines, Sosa, L. Walker
Finally, a “superpower” draft.
Schur: Time travel
Poz: Stop time
Poz: Speak any language
Schur: Omniscience (!)
Poz: Seeing the future
for his generous support.
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