Bob Hazle – A Milwaukee Hero Who Stormed the National League

Always a Braves' fan-atic.

Always a Braves’ fan-atic.

Heroes are more often born out of circumstances than planning.  That was the case with one of my boyhood baseball heroes, who – aided by circumstance – took the National League by “storm” in 1957.   I’m talking about Bob “Hurricane” Hazle, who more than held his own in terms of heroics on the Milwaukee Braves’ 1957 pennant (and World Series) winning squad.  In fact, for a couple of months that year, Wiffle (R) Ball games in and around Milwaukee saw as many youngsters emulating Bob Hazle as were patterning their stances after Braves’ stars and future Hall of Famers Hank Aaron and Eddie Mathews.  Note: I was a six-year-old baseball fanatic and Milwaukee native when the Braves became Milwaukee’s team in 1953 – and a fan-atic by 1957. 

 What can you say about Hurricane Hazle? He came up to the Braves at the end of July, and for the rest of the year, nobody could get him out. I’ve never seen a guy as hot as he was – ever. …. I don’t know what happens to suddenly make a minor league ballplayer into Babe Ruth, but Hazle was right out of “The Twilight Zone.” We were hanging in there pretty well before he arrived, but he just picked us up.

                         Hall of Famer Eddie Mathews

                       From the book “Eddie Mathews and the National Pastime”

Hurricane Hazle’s Milwaukee Story

Bob "Hurricane" Hazle ... still a treasured autograph.

Bob “Hurricane” Hazle … still a treasured autograph.

On July 11, 1957, the Milwaukee Braves – who had finished just one game behind the NL Champion Dodgers in 1956 – brought a 44-35 record (three games behind the league-leading Cardinals) into a game against the Pirates (in Pittsburgh).  One the very first play in the bottom of the first inning, Braves center fielder Billy Bruton, chasing down a fly ball to shallow left by Pirates’ lead-off hitter Bill Virdon, collided with shortstop Felix Mantilla (the ball fell in for a double). Both Mantilla and Bruton were knocked out of the game. Mantilla was back on the field in a few weeks, but Bruton – who had an eight-stitch cut on his lip and, even worse, a torn ligament in his right knee – was out for the season and headed for surgery.

Braves’ fans (including this soon to be ten-year-old) were devastated.  Bruton was the team’s leadoff hitter and a slick fielding center fielder, who had led the NL in stolen bases three of the past four seasons. The hopes for catching the Stan Musial-led Cardinals now seemed out of reach.

Bruton’s injury led to a series of moves that saw 2B Red Schoendienst move to the leadoff spot, Hank Aaron move to center field, Andy Pafko to right field and journeyman outfield Nippy Jones (who hadn’t played in the majors since 1952) move from the Triple A Sacramento Solons (PCL) to a reserve (1B/OF) role with the Braves. Even catcher Del Crandall found himself taking a few turns in the outfield. Also in the mix was emerging power hitter Wes Covington, a stabilizing regular in left field.

Bob Hazle first picked up the nickname “Hurricane” during a 1954 stint in the Venezuelan winter league; a response to the fact that his home state of South Carolina was hit by Hurricane Hazel that October.  The nickname resurfaced when he took the National League “by storm” in 1957.

Still the Braves’ felt they needed more. So, in late July, they called up Bob Hazle, a 26-year-old outfielder who was hitting .279-12-58 at with the Triple A Wichita Braves. The 6-foot, 190-pound left-handed hitter was initially slated to spell the 36-year-old Pafko (the Braves’ outfield was now Covington in left, Aaron in center and Pafko in right).  Hazle got in his first game on July 29 – as he sacrificed in a pinch-hitting role.  On July 31, with the Braves (59-41, and one tie) in basically a dead heat with the Cardinals (58-40),  Hazle got his first start in right field.

Hazle went one-for-four in his first start in right field for the Braves (a 4-2 win over the Pirates), but there was much more to come. In 21 August games, Hazle hit .493 (33-for-67), with four home runs, 21 RBI, 16 runs scored and 11 walks versus just eight strikeouts. By the end of August, the Braves were 79-48 – and held a 7 ½ game lead over the Cardinals.

Kept the card, too!

Kept the card, too!

Hazle slowed down a bit in September, but still hit over .300 (.317), with two home runs, 10 runs scored and five RBI (seven walks and seven strikeouts) for the month.  The Braves, with the help of their new right fielder, finished the season at 95-59, eight games up on the Redbirds. (In the games in which Hazle appeared, the Braves played .659 ball, while their winning percentage in games – for the entire season – in which Hazle did not appear was .591.)

Hazle ended the season hitting .403 in 41 games with 12 doubles, seven home runs, 27 RBI, 26 runs scored and 18 walks versus just 15 strikeouts – as well as praise from his teammates for playing a key role in bringing the World Series to Milwaukee – not to mention a lot of love from Wiffle Ball-playing youngsters.

Unfortunately, like many hurricanes, things calmed down considerably once the storm blew through. Hazle hit just .154 in the World Series, but did go two-for-four with a run scored (from the leadoff spot) in the decisive Game Seven – won by the Braves 5-0 behind Lew Burdette.  He got off to a slow start in 1958 – hampered by a couple of beanings and an ankle injury – and his contract was sold to the Detroit Tigers on May 24. At the time, he was hitting just .179, with no home runs and five RBI in 20 games.  With the tigers that season, he put up a  .241-2-5 line in 43 games. Hazle spent 1959 and 1960 back in the minors, before retiring as a player at the age of 30.  Notably, he did retire with a .310 career average (in 110 games over three seasons).

 Bob “Hurricane” Hazle – The Back Story 

Bob “Hurricane” Hazle was born. Robert Sidney Hazle, in Laurens, South Carolina, on December 9, 1930. He was the last of six children (four sons) in the Hazle family. Of the four Hazle sons, three (Robert, Joseph and Paul) signed professional baseball contracts, but only Bob made it to the major leagues.  (Paul made it as high as the Norfolk Tides (B-level, Piedmont League), while Joe made to the Double-A Chattanooga Lookouts of the Southern Association.  

Bob Hazle was a Hurricane long before he got the nickname – earning sixteen sports letters in high school (baseball, football, basketball and tennis). Hazle, who graduated from high school in 1949, signed with the Cincinnati Reds in 1950 (reportedly choosing to pass on a football scholarship to the University of Tennessee).  While in the Cincinnati system, he was selected to the Texas League all-star team in 1951), when he hit .280 with the Double A Tulsa Oilers as a 20-year-old. 

Military service, however, interrupted this promising start (and a potential callup to the Reds), as Hazle spent two years in the Army – returning to Tulsa in 1953, where he hit .272 with three home runs in 57 games. In 1955, Hazle hit just .224 with four round trippers at Triple A Indianapolis in 1954 – a discouraging season.  However, he bounced back with a .314 average and 29 home runs at Double A Nashville in 1955  – earning a late-season callup to the Reds (three hits in just 13 MLB at bats.)

Prior to the state of the 1956 season, Hazle and pitcher Corky Valentine (who had a 6-14, 4.81 MLB record over 1954-55) were traded to the Milwaukee Braves for 34-year-old first baseman George Crowe (who had hit .281 with 15 home runs the previous season). The Braves assigned Hazle to their Triple-A team in Wichita, where he hit .285-13-46 in 124 games – despite a mid-season knee injury that hampered his mobility. He was back at Wichita in 1957 and was hitting .279-12-58 when the Braves called him up following Billy Bruton’s injury. And the rest, as they say, is history.

BBRT Note: Bob Hazle died on April 25, 1992, in Columbia, South Carolina, of a heart attack.  

 

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Grounding Into Double Plays – Well Worn Path to HOF?

Chase utley Dodgers photo

Photo by apardavila

In 2016, Dodgers’ second baseman Chase Utley became the first qualifying player (502 plate appearance) since 1997 to complete an MLB season without grounding into a single double play. Ironically, Utley accomplished this feat in the first year of enforcement of what is informally known as the “Chase Utley Rule” – establishing new restrictions related to slides intended to break up double plays. The 37-year-old Utley hit .252 in 565 plate appearances (512 at bats), with 14 home runs and 52 RBI.  (See an explanation of the circumstances behind and impact of the new rule at the end of this post.)

Using a combination of baseball-reference.com and Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) resources, BBRT was able to find only nine qualifying batters (at least 3.1 plate appearances per game played by their teams) who completed a season with zero double plays grounded into (GIDP). Three of those came during the strike-shortened 1994 season. Note; GIDP records only go back to 1933 in the NL and 1939 in the AL.   Here’s the complete list – sorted by number of plate appearances – with each player’s batting statistics for the year.

Augie Galan, OF, Cardinals, 1939 … (748 Plate Appearances/646 At Bats) .314-12-79, with a league-leading 133 runs scored and an NL-best 22 stolen bases.

Craig Biggio, 2B, Astros (NL), 1997 … (744 PA/619 AB) .309-22-81, with 47 stolen bases and a league-leading 146 runs. Biggio played in all 162 games that season and also led MLB in hit-by-pitch (34).

Dick McCauliffe, 2B/SS, Tigers, 1968 …. (658 PA/570 AB) .249-16-56, with a league-leading 95 runs scored.

Chase Utley, 2B, Dodgers, 2016 … (565 PA/512 AB) .252-14-52.

Pete Reiser, Dodgers, OF, 1942 …. (537 PA/480 AB) .310-10-64, with 89 runs scored and a league-leading 20 steals.

Rob Deer, OF/1B/DH, Brewers (AL), 1990 … (511 PA/444 AB) .209-27-69.

Ray Lankford, OF, Cardinals, 1994* … (482 PA/ 416 AB) .267-19-57.

Otis Nixon, OF, Red Sox, 1994* …. (461 PA/398 AB) .274-0-25, with 42 steals.

Rickey Henderson, OF, A’s, 1994* … (376 PA/296 AB) .260-6-20, 22 steals.

*=Strike-shortened season.

Very Honorable Mention – Norm Cash

cashTigers’ 1B Norm Cash broke into the major leagues on June 18, 1958.  From that date until his third at bat in the second game of a May 9, 1961 double header, Cash did not ground into a single double play.  From the start of his major league career, he played 214 games (and part of a 215th), logging 663 plate appearances and 543 at bats, without grounding into a single twin-killing. In 1960, Cash played in 121 games without grounding into a double play, but his 428 plate appearances fell short of making the above list of “qualifying” batters.

On the other side of the coin, no one has grounded into as many double plays in a season as Red Sox’ outfielder Jim Rice, who hit into a record 36 twin killings in 1985.  Rice followed up that season by grounding into 35 double plays in 1985 (MLB’s second-highest total). Rice was an All Star in both years, hitting  .280-28-122 in 1984 and .291-27-103 in 1985. Rice, in fact, led the league in GIDP four consecutive seasons (1982-85), but made the All Star team in three of them. In 1983, he led the league in GIDP (31), but also led in home runs (39) and RBI (126), while hitting.305.  To put some perspective around Rice’s record 36 GIDPs in 1984, Don Buford grounded into just 34 double plays in his 10-season MLB career (1,286 games, 5,347 plate appearances, 4,553 at bats) – an MLB record career-low of one GIDP every 134 at bats,

Phillie’s OF Richie Ashburn led the league in fewest times grounding into double plays (among qualifying hitters) a record six times (1951-52-53-54-58-60). The speedster, for you trivia buffs, also led all MLB hitters in base hits in the decade of the 1950s (1950-59) and led all MLB outfielders in putouts over that same period. For more on this Hall of Famer, click here.

Sixteen-season MLB infielder Miguel Tejada led his league in most times grounding into double plays a record five times – 2004, 2005, 2006, 2008, 2009. Notably, 2007 – the year that breaks the string of GIDP leading years – is the only year between 2004 and 2009 that Tejada did not make the All Star team.

Grounding into Double Plays – Well Worn Path to the Hall of Fame

Lots of games equal lots of GIDP.

Lots of games equal lots of GIDP.

A list of career leaders for grounding into double plays can, of course, be misleading – since their leadership is based on the length of their careers. Cal Ripken, Jr. leads the way with 350 GIDP in 21 MLB seasons.  The active leader is Albert Pujols, with 336 GIDP in 16 seasons (the only active player in the top five overall). Also in the top five are Pudge Rodriguez (337 in 21 seasons), Hank Aaron (328 in 23 seasons) and Carl Yastrzemski (323 in 23 seasons).  Notably, seven of the top eight players on the GIDP list are in the Hall of  Fame (Rodriguez going in this year).  The exception is the still active Pujols, and there is little doubt the Hall is saving him a spot. In addition, those already named, the GIDP top eight includes Hall of Famers: Dave Winfield (319 in 22 seasons); Eddie Murray (315 in 21 seasons); and Jim Rice (315 in 16 seasons). At numbers nine and ten are Julio Franco (312 in 23 seasons) and Harold Baines (298 in 22 seasons).

Three players have hit into a record four double plays in a single game: Tigers’ LF Goose Goslin (April 28, 1934 – in four at bat versus the Indians); Mets’ 3B Joe Torre (July 21, 1975 –  in four at bats versus the Astros); and Tigers’ DH Victor Martinez (September 11, 2011-  in four at bats versus the Twins).

The San Francisco Giants hold the team record for hitting into double plays in a nine-inning game – seven on May 4, 1969 (versus the Astros).  The Giants hit into inning-ending double plays in the first, third, seventh and ninth innings; and additional double plays in the fourth, fifth and eighth. Third Baseman Bobby Etheridge hit into two double plays, while C Dick Dietz, RF Frank Johnson, LF Jim Ray Hart, 2B Ron Hunt and P Juan Marichal hit into one each.   The Giants out hit the Astros 9 to 6, but lost 3-1.

The 1990 Red Sox hold the MLB team record for double plays grounded into in a season (175), while the 1945 Cardinals grounded into an all-time low (since records were kept) 75 double plays. Every member of the 1990 Red Sox starting linup hit into at least 10 double plays (led by Tony Pena with 23), while the 1945 Cardinals had only one player on the entire team that hit into 10 double-killings (Whitey Kurowski, ten).

THE “CHASE UTLEY” RULE

In the bottom of the seventh inning of Game Two of the 2015 Dodgers/Mets National League Division Series, the Dodgers (trailing 2-1) had Enrique Hernandez on third and Chase Utley on first – with no outs and Howie Kendrick at the plate. In what would turn out to be a controversial play, Hendrick hit a groundball that was taken by Mets’ second baseman Daniel Murphy. Murphy flipped to SS Ruben Tejada, who was taken out of the play by Utley – with a slide some thought was well wide of the bag. (Utley was originally ruled out, but – on review – the call was reversed.) After the play, Tejada was taken from the field with a broken leg. After the season, MLB put a new rule into place (to protect fielders). The rule, informally known as the “Chase Utley Rule,” requires that base runners breaking up potential double play “make a bonafide attempt to reach and stay on the base” – basically prohibiting runners from altering their path to the bag for the purpose of making contact with the fielder.

 

 

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Inside the Park Home Runs – Prince Fielder over Rickey Henderson

Prince Fielder – had as many inside-the-park home runs in his career as Rickey Henderson and Maury Wills combined.

One of the most exciting plays in baseball is the inside-the-park home run – a mad dash around the bases, often ending in a head-first slide, as outfielders scramble for the ball and infielders try to make the perfect relay to the plate. In this post, Baseball Roundtable would like to take a look at some of the interesting statistics surrounding this exciting play.

As noted in the header, Prince Fielder had as many career inside-the-park homers (two) as Rickey Henderson (one) and Maury Wills (one) combined.  Henderson and Wills, however, recorded 1, 992 stolen bases to Fielder’s 18.

Here are just a few bits of inside-the-park home run trivia.

Jesse Burkett. Photo; Charles M. Conlon

Jesse Burkett. Photo; Charles M. Conlon

Jesse Burkett holds the record for career inside-the-park (ITP) home runs with 55.  The left-handed hitting outfielder hit 75 total home runs over sixteen MLB seasons (1890-1905), with 55 of those being ITP. Note: Hall of Famer Burkett was a three-time batting champ, who topped .400 twice while with the NL Cleveland Spiders (.405 in 1895 and .410 in 1896). The AL career ITP home run record belongs to Ty Cobb (46), while the NL record goes to Tommy Leach (48).

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Tom McCreery holds the record for most ITP home runs in a game with three – for the NL Louisville Colonels on July 12, 1987.  McCreery hit a total of five home runs that season. In addition to McCreery, forty-five MLB players have hit two ITP home runs in a game, but only four have accomplished that feat more than once (twice each): Dan Brouthers; Jesse Burkett, Ed Delahanty and Roger Bresnahan.

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Ed Delahanty, playing first base for the Philadelphia Colts (Phillies) on July 13, 1896, earned a place in the record books by blasting a record-tying four home runs in a single game. To date, only 16 players have accomplished that feat. Delahanty’s four-homer day is unique in that two of his round trippers were inside-the-parkers.  He is the only one of the 16 members of the four-homer club to have ITP homers included in their one-game total. Twenty of Delahanty’s 101 MLB home runs (16-season MLB career) were of the inside-the-park variety.

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Known for power (not speed), Babe Ruth had ten inside-the-park home runs and ten steals of home; while teammate Lou Gehrig has ten inside-the-park homers and 15 steals of home.

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Roger Bresnahan is the only player to hit two ITP home runs in a single game in both leagues – May 30, 1902, for the AL Baltimore Orioles and June 6, 1904, for the NL New York Giants. Bresnahan hit a reported 13 ITP home runs out of 26 long balls in a 17-season (1897-1915) MLB career.

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Luke Stuart of the St. Louis Browns and Johnny Lemaster of the San Francisco Giants are the only two players to hit ITP home runs in their first MLB at bats (August 8, 1921 and September 2, 1975, respectively.)

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ClementeThere have been plenty of inside-the-park walk-off (run-off?) home runs, and plenty of inside-the park Grand Slams, but there has been only one inside-the-park walk-off Grand Slam – and that belongs to Roberto Clemente. It came on July 25, 1956, with the Pirates’ Clemente batting against the Cubs’ Jim Brosnan in the bottom of the ninth and the Pirates trailing 8-5. There were no outs and Pittsburgh’s Hank Foiles, Bill Virdon and Dick Cole were on base.  Clemente drove a ball to deep left that hit near the light standard and rolled along the warning track to center.  All three runners scored and Clemente ran through the coach’s stop sign at third base, beating the relay (Solly Drake to Ernie Banks to  Hobie Landrith).

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Pete Milne had a brief MLB career (three seasons, 47 games, 65 plate appearances) with the Giants (1948-50). He hit only one home run in the majors, but it was a significant. It was the only pinch hit, inside-the park Grand Slam ever (April 27, 1949).

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The most recent player to hit two inside-the-park homers in a single game was Minnesota Twins’ shortstop Greg Gagne (October 4, 1986). This, of course, means Gagne had as many ITP home runs in that game as Rickey Henderson and Maury Wills had in their combined careers.

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Ichiro Suzuki hit the only inside-the-park home run in an All Star Game (2007).

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Sam Crawford holds the single-season record for inside-the-park home runs, with 12 ITP home runs (of his NL-leading 16 dingers for the Reds in 1901. Fifty-one of Crawfords 97 career home runs stayed in the park. As  you might expect, the AL record for a season (9) belongs to the Tigers’ Ty Cobb. In 1909, he led the AL with nine homers and all nine were inside-the-park.  Overall, 46 of Cobb’s 117 home runs were of the ITP variety.

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Ten players have hit ITP home runs in the World Series. The most recent was hit by Kansas City Royals’ SS and leadoff hitter Alcides Escobar, who hit it on the first pitch in the bottom of the first inning of the first game of the 2015 World Series.

For my Twins Fan Readers

The first Twins’ inside-the-park homer was hit by none other than Harmon Killebrew (July 4, 1961). Killebrew, by the way, recorded as many career inside-the-park home runs as teammate and speedster Rod Carew – one. Tony Oliva, Tom Brunansky and Greg  Gagne share the team career lead with three each.  Sam Rice holds the franchise record, with 21 ITP home runs for the old Washington Senators.

In 2016, there were 5,610 home runs hit during the MLB regular season. Of those, just nine were inside-the-park.  Who had them? Byron Buxton, Twins; Stephen Drew, Nationals; Brett Lawrie, White Sox; Eduardo Nunez, Twins; Tyler Naquin, Indians;  Anthony Rizzo, Cubs; Jean Segura, Diamondbacks; Dansby Swanson, Braves; Ryan Zimmerman, Nationals.

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Here are the inside-the-park totals for a few of MLB’s biggers home run hitters (600+). Barry Bonds (762, three inside-the-park); Hank Aaron (755, one  inside-the-park ); Babe Ruth (714, ten inside-the-park); Alex Rodriguez (696. zero inside-the-park ); Willie Mays (660, six inside-the-park); Ken Griffey, Jr. (630,  three inside-the-park ); Jim Thome (612, zero inside-the-park  ); Sammy Sosa (609, two inside-the-park  ).

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Final note: Changes in the game – smaller ballparks, bigger gloves, livelier baseballs, speedier outfielders and more –  have made the inside-the-park home run an increasingly rare occurence. A Society of American Baseball Research study, in fact, found that the percentage of home runs that were of the inside-the-park variety dropped from about 35 pecent in 1901 to to less than 25 percent by 1920 to between three and four percent by the 1950s to one percent (or less) since the 1960s.  So, if you happen to see an inside-the-park round tripper, savor that rare bit of excitement.

Info Sources:  Baseball-reference.com;  Baseball-almanac.com; Society for American Baseball Research.

 

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Book Review … Seinsoth – The Rough and Tumble Life of a Dodger

 seinsothbookSeinsoth … The Rough and Tumble Life of a Dodger

By Steven K. Wagner

$29.95

Sunbury Press, Mechanicsburg, PA; November 2016

Available at:  Sunbury Press, Amazon.com and bookstores.

Steven Wagner’s very personal telling of Bill Seinsoth’s story of triumph and tragedy will leave you wondering what might have been and wishing you had enjoyed the pleasure of crossing paths with Seinsoth – the ballplayer and the young man. You’ll also likely be convinced – as I was – that Bill Seinsoth packed a lot of life into his 22 years.  An inspiring tale, well told.

                                                            Baseball Roundtable, 2017

 Adversity – Triumph – Tragedy. That is the all-too-short life story of Bill Seinsoth, well- told in Steven K. Wagner’s book “Bill Seinsoth – The Rough and Tumble Life of a Dodger.”

 William Robert Seinsoth was born (Los Angeles, California; April 7, 1947) to be a baseball player.  His father William Welty Seinsoth was a left-handed pitcher who spent 13 seasons in the minor leagues (and earned a brief call up to the American League St. Louis Browns). Bill Seinsoth (son) carried on the family tradition as a hard-throwing, hard-hitting left-handed pitcher and first baseman. Like so many youngsters of his era, young Bill longed to be a major leaguer. He spent most of his life scorching a path toward that goal – starring on every team at every level he ever played in.  Seinsoth, in fact, had the brass ring of major league stardom on the edge of his fingertips when he lost his life – at just 22 years of age – in a tragic automobile accident. Along the way, Bill Seinsoth overcame obstacle and injury. Steven Wagner has chosen to share Bill Seinsoth’s story with readers.  It is a story of courage, good nature and triumph in the face of adversity, of consistent excellence on the ball field and, in the end, of unexpected tragedy.

Wagner tells Seinsoth’s remarkable story not just in his own (Wagner’s) words and well-researched statistics, but also in the words of Bill Seinsoth himself, as well as those of his family, friends, coaches and teammates.  In the book, we hear from: Seinsoth’s family and friends; his high school and college coaches; professional scouts and managers; teammates that went on to the major leagues like Bill “Spaceman” Lee, Bob Boone, Ron Cey, Tom House (and more). There are even cameo appearances in Seinsoth’s life by the likes of Tommy Lasorda and O.J. Simpson. It’s a very personal tale and Wagner will leave you wondering what might have been and wishing you had enjoyed the pleasure of crossing paths with Bill Seinsoth.  You are also likely be convinced – as I was – that Bill Seinsoth packed a lot of life into his 22 years.

There is no doubt that adversity had a way of finding Bill Seinsoth.  Here are just a few examples of the trials he faced: beleaguered by parents who believed he was just too talented a player and pressured the Seinsoth family to pull him out of Little League and Babe Ruth League baseball; slashed twice (high school and college) by knife-wielding assailants; had his nose broken three times in one year (baseball and surfing); suffered a broken wrist and severe eye injury when hit by pitches in college; and, the ultimate tragedy,  lost his life at age 22 in an automobile accident while driving home following his first season in the minor leagues.

Through all of this he persevered and triumphed – California Interscholastic League (high school) Player of the Year; College World Series Most Outstanding Player award and All American recognition; Alaska Goldpanners (collegiate summer league) MVP; first-round draft pick of the Los Angeles Dodgers.  But I’m getting ahead of myself.   You’ll need to read the book to get the full details, but here are a few highlights.

“Bill was not just a great baseball player, but a complete person who faced adversity and hardship – and there was much of it – with grace, dignity and a broad smile.”

Tommy Hutton – Twelve-season major league 1B/OF, long-time baseball broadcaster and Bill Seinsoth’s cousin.  From Bill Seinsoth – the Rough and Tumble Life of a Dodger.

seinsothllWagner takes us through Seinsoth’s Little League years, where he was far and away the best player on the field.  In fact, his dominance was so clear that a number of parents demanded the eleven-year-old (nicknamed “No-Hit Seinsoth”) be pulled from the League). The animosity grew to such a level (the family’s mail box was blown up four times) that Seinsoth did leave Little League early, a scenario that was repeated at the Babe Ruth League level.

“I remember one occasion when the opposing team just flat out asked him not to pitch. They were terrified of batting against him.”

Chris Arnold, six-season major league infielder and Little League teammate of Bill Seinsoth. From Bill Seinsoth – The Rough and Tumble Life of a Dodger.

We also get a look at Seinsoth’s high school career – where he was a standout at both baseball and basketball at Arcadia High.  In 1965, he led his basketball team in scoring and the baseball squad to a California Interscholastic Federation title.  That season, Seinsoth went 15-1, with a 0.72 ERA on the mound (145 strikeouts in 116 1/3 innings pitched) and hit .390. In the playoffs, he logged five complete-game victories.  Seinsoth was named CIF Player of the Year – a portent of many recognitions to come.

“He was the best I ever coached. He was dominating, intimidating. He was a man playing with boys.”

 Lani Exton, Bill Seinsoth’s high school baseball coach.  From Bill Seinsoth – the Rough and Tumble Life of a Dodger.

seinsothadultFrom high school, it was on to college at the University of Southern California (1966-69), where he played under legendary coach Rod Dedeaux (eleven national titles and 28 conference championships, six-time College Coach of the Year and Collegiate Baseball Magazine Coach of the Century). Seinsoth had a brilliant run at USC – where he played with such future major leaguers as Bill “Spaceman” Lee, Tom House, Jim Barr and Brent Strom. At USC, Seinsoth was selected as the Most Outstanding Player of the 1968 College World Series, earned All American recognition and was named the USC team captain.  Seinsoth showed the depth of his toughness in the face of adversity in 1969. Early in the season, after crushing a single and a home run in the first game of a doubleheader against Oregon State, Seinsoth took a fastball to the head (above the right eye) in his first at bat of the second game. The blow knocked him unconscious. Rushed to the hospital, he had fifteen stitches to close the wound over his right eye and suffered a blood clot behind the eye that resulted in double vision. He missed just five days (two games) on his way to a .368-14-52 season.

“He (Bill Seinsoth) knew he was good, but he never let you know that he knew he was good. He had that confidence, he was ‘The Natural.’ There wasn’t anything he didn’t do well.”

Jerry Merz, Bill Seinsoth’s freshman baseball coach at USC.  From Bill Seinsoth – The Rough and Tumble Life of a Dodger.

While in college, Seinsoth also played for the Alaska Goldpanners of the Alaska Baseball League – among the premier collegiate summer baseball leagues.  His teammates included such future major leaguers as Dave Kingman, Bob Boone, Jim Nettles, Bill Lee, Brent Strom and Tom House.  How did Seinsoth do in this competitive league?  In 1967, he was the Goldpanners’ MVP.  In three seasons (149 games) with the Goldpanners, Seinsoth hit .341, with 23 home runs and 122 RBI

Baseball was a family passion.

Bill (William Robert) Seinsoth came by his baseball prowess naturally.  His father – William Welty Seinsoth – was a switch-hitting, left-handed pitcher who logged 156 victories (130 losses) and a 3.22 ERA in 13 minor league seasons. He also hit .254 with a 31 home runs during his minor league career.   His best year was 1942, when he went 24-10, with a 2.79 ERA for the Class A New Orleans Pelicans, while also hitting .248 with two home runs. In 1944, Seinsoth was briefly called up to the American League Saint Louis Browns, but did not get into a game.

After college, Seinsoth was – for the fifth time – selected in the MLB Draft.  (Between 1965 and 1969 he was drafted by the Astros, Orioles, Dodger and Senators.)  When the Dodgers made him the eighth overall (first-round) pick in 1969, Seinfoth – born to be a ballplayer and, apparently, also born to be a Dodger – signed.

“I can’t think of any shortcomings (Bill Seinsoth) had. He was a good ballplayer. He had power, he could do everything.”

Tommy Lasorda, former manager, Los Angeles Dodgers. From Bill Seinsoth – The Rough and Tumble Life of a Dodger.

He spent his first (and only) minor league season with the Dodgers’ Bakersfield farm club, where his teammates included Ron Cey, Tom Paciorek and Steve Yeager.   In that season, Seinsoth showed his power potential, hitting.276, with 10 home runs and 37 RBI in 80 games. He was on his way.

Then tragedy struck.  Driving home after his final game of the 1969 minor league season, Seinsoth was killed in a single-car accident along a dangerous stretch of Interstate 15 in the Mojave Desert.  (Note: Seinsoth’s Bakersfield teammate Ron Cey, who went on to stardom with the Dodgers, was slated to make the trip with Seinsoth, but had to cancel.)

His ball playing prowess is reflected in his statistic and awards, but Bill Seinsoth’s status as a person may be better reflected in the recognitions that came after his death: establishment of the Bill Seinsoth Memorial Baseball Scholarship Fund and the Bill Seinsoth Award (for highest batting average each season) at USC; the Bill Seinsoth Memorial Award at Arcadia High School; The Alaska Goldpanners’ Bill Seinsoth Night and Bill Seinsoth Memorial Game in 1970.

“One thing you know more than anyone is how much better the world is because your son passed this way.”

Ronald Reagan, then Governor of California, in a letter to the Seinsoth family.  From Bill Seinsoth – The Rough and Tumble Life of a Dodger.

___________________________

BBRT Talks to Author Steven K. Wagner

What prompted you to write Seinsoth’s story?

I grew up in Arcadia, California, and everyone knew of Bill Seinsoth. In fact, he and I were on the same Little League team, the 7-Uppers, although five years apart. So, I never knew him personally. He was a god to us Little Leaguers, and we all expected him to play for the Dodgers someday. When he died his death hit everyone in Arcadia and indeed Southern California hard. In the early 1990s, I wrote a story on him for the Los Angeles Times, and that got the ball rolling. The feedback was good and the notion to someday write a book stuck with me.

What most impressed you about Seinsoth as a ballplayer and a person?

Everyone liked Bill Seinsoth.  Through dozens of interviews, I never found one person who disliked him. He had intensity for baseball that players found contagious, and everyone respected him. One USC Trojan put it succinctly: You wanted to play well so that Bill Seinsoth thought you were good.

He was friendly, likable, charismatic, athletically gifted and, as the late owner of the Alaska Goldpanners once said, would give you the shirt off his back. He also would destroy your team with the bat if he got the chance. There was nothing not to like about Bill Seinsoth, and that he never had the chance to reach his full potential is a tragedy. That he was around to share his capabilities and his persona for 22 years is a blessing.

Other books by Steven K. Wagner: Perfect: The Rise and Fall of John Paciorek, Baseball’s Greatest One Game Wonder. (Reviewed here.)

About Steven K. Wagner

Steven K. Wagner has worked as a freelance journalist since 1989. He began his career with the Monmouth Sun-Enterprise in Oregon and worked for the Oregon City Enterprise-Courier and Portland Daily Journal of Commerce before joining United Press International. He has also worked for the Portland Oregonian and has freelanced extensively for the Los Angeles Times, Oklahoma City Oklahoman, Seattle Times, Baseball America and numerous other newspaper and magazines. He is also a lifelong fan of the national pastime.

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Member: Society for American Baseball Research (SABR); The Baseball Reliquary; Baseball Bloggers Alliance.

They’ll Do – In a Pinch

Saint Louis Cardinals photo

Home of baseball’s most prolific 2016 pinch hitters. Photo by Stefan Ogrisek

On April 8 of this past season, the Cardinals put major league baseball on notice that 2016 was going to be the Year of the Pinch Hitter in Saint Louis.  On that day, the Cardinals came to the plate in the top of the seventh inning trailing the Braves 4-3. Here’s what followed:

  • In the seventh, with one out and the bases empty, St. Louis manager Mike Matheny sent Jeremy Hazelbaker up to pinch hit for pitcher Jaime Garcia. Hazelbaker homered to right on a 1-0 count, tying the game.
  • In the eighth, with the scored tied (4-4) and Cardinals’ 1B Matt Adams leading off, Matheny went to the bench again – sending Aledmyz Diaz up to pinch hit for Adams. The result? A home run to left on a 1-0 count, giving Saint Louis the lead.
  • In the top of the ninth, with one out and no one on, Matheny again called on a pinch hitter. This time it was Greg Garcia hitting for pitcher Kevin Siegrist. Garcia hit a 2-1 pitch to right field for the Cardinals’ record-breaking third pinch hit homer of the game.

Hazelbaker, Diaz and Garcia were the only pinch hitters used by Matheny that day, and they all went deep.  It was rookie Hazelbaker’s second MLB home run; rookie Aledmys Diaz’ first MLB round tripper; and Garcia’s first homer of the year and just the third home run in his three MLB seasons.  Talk about pushing the right buttons!

The record for pinch hitters used by a team in an MLB games is nine, shared by three teams.

Dodgers (versus Cardinals) on September 22, 1959 – In this contest, won by the Cardinals 11-10, the Dodgers used nine pinch hitters over the final five innings. Those pinch batters went three-for-eight (with a walk), scored two and drove in five. The big blow was a three-run pinch homer by Frank Howard in the top of the nint

Expos (versus Pirates) on September 5, 1975 – Montreal used nine pinch hitters in a 5-2 loss to the Pirates in the second game of a double header. The first pinch hitter was called upon in the fifth inning. Overall, the pinch batters went two-for-eight (both singles) with one walk and one run score

Braves (versus Expos) on September 21, 1993 – In their 18-5 trouncing of the Expos ( in Montreal), the Braves apparently wanted to give everyone a chance to play. They didn’t use their first pinch hitter until the sixth inning – when they were already leading 14-3; and they used six pinch batters in the seventh, when they scored four times to stretch their lead to 18-5. Overall, Braves’ pinch batters went three for six (two doubles) with one hit-by-pitch and two walks.  The pinch batters scored four runs and drove in three. Note: Seven of the Braves’ nine pinch hitters stayed in the game. The only defensive position not occupied by pinch hitter at some time during the game were pitcher and catcher.

That April 8, 2016, trio of pinch-hit home runs for the Cardinals were the first three of the Cardinals’ MLB-record 17 pinch-hit home runs during 2016.  For the season, ESPN.com stats show the Cardinals led all of MLB not just in pinch-hit home runs, but also in pinch hits (81), pinch-hitting average (.333), PH RBI (51), pinch hitters’ on base percentage (.393) and runs scored by pinch hitters (46). At the other end of the spectrum, no team had fewer pinch hits in 2016 than the Minnesota Twins (9-for-62), while the lowest team PH average belonged to Tampa Bay (.124). The White Sox, Royals, Rangers and Reds also completed the season without a single pinch-hit home run; with the White Sox getting an MLB-low three RBI from pinch hitters.

How dominant were the Cardinals pinch hitters? Saint Louis’ .333 pinch hitting average was 49-points higher than the second-best Mets (.282); and 124-points higher than the 2016 MLB pinch-hitting average.  The Mets also finished second to St. Louis in PH home runs (with 13, four behind the Cards) and PH RBI at 51 (ten behind the Redbirds).  The NL team pinch-hitting average production was seven homers and 33 RBI; while the AL (with the DH) averaged two homers and 11 RBI. The Cardinals’ 81 pinch hits were 20 more than runner-up Colorado and their 151 PH total bases outdistanced the runners-up (Mets and Rockies) by 49.

Now, let take a look at a few 2016 individual pinch hitting stats.

Phil gosselin photo

Phil Gosselin – led MLB with 20 pinch hits in 2016.Photo by Keith Allison

Most pinch hits:  Phil Gosselin, Diamondbacks – 20 hits. (77 PH at bats – .263 PH average); Ichiro Suzuki, Marlins, 15 pinch hits (57 PH at bats – .255 PH average).

Pinch-hit home runs: Jeremey Hazelbaker, Cardinals – 4; Matt Joyce, Pirates – 4.

Pinch-hit RBI: Matt Joyce, Pirates – 15; Matt Adams, Cardinals – 13.

Pinch-hit average (minimum 10 PH at bats); Brandon Nimmo, Mets – .500 (six-for-12); Tyler White, Astros  – .462 (six-for-13).

 

Werth Every Penny

Jayson Werth, deserves special recognition for delivering in the pinch in 2016.  In four pinch hit appearances, Werth delivered three hits – including one double, two home runs and six RBI.

Here are your single-season all-time pinch hitting record holders.

Pinch hits in a season: John Vander Wal, Rockies, 1995 – 28.

Pinch-hit HR in a season: Dave Hansen, Dodgers, 2000 – 7; Craig Wilson, Pirates, 2001 – 7.

Pinch-hit RBI in a season: Joe Cronin, Red Sox, 1943 – 25; Jerry Lynch, Reds, 1961 – 25; Rusty Staub, Mets, 1983 – 25.

Lenny Harris – 212 Pinch Hits

harrisLenny Harris may be the king of the pinch hitters. Harris holds the records for: most pinch hit appearances and PH at bats in a single season (95 and 83, Mets, 2001). He also holds the career records for pinch-hit: at bats (804); and hits (212 – no other player has more than 175). In an 18-season, eight-team, MLB career (1988-2005), Harris appeared in 1,903 games, 883 of those (46.4 percent) as a pinch hitter. He was a true utility player playing 50 or more games at every position except CF (three games), pitcher (1 game) and catcher (zero).  Harris does not, however, hold the record for career pinch-hit home runs.  That belongs to Matt Stairs with 23 (MLB career,1992-2011).

 

Gene Stechschulte – a Rarity.

In MLB history, 119 players have hit a home run in their first-ever MLB at bat. Of those 119,  29 hit that long ball on the first MLB pitch they ever saw. Out of that 29, six were pinch hitters.  Finally, our of that six, Gene Stechschulte of the Cardinals is the only pitcher to hit a home run, as a pinch hitter, on the very first MLB pitch he saw.

It came on April, 17, 2001 – as you might expect – in a blowout. The Cardinals were trailing the Diamondbacks 15-1 in the sixth inning, when Redbirds’ manager Tony La Russa sent Stechschulte to the plate with one on and two out. It was only Stechschulte’s second professional at bat – and the two-run dinger was his second professional extra base hit.  Stechschulte had one minor league at bat (in 204 games) and hit a double. In his MLB career, Stechschulte batted just five times – collecting a home run and a single.   Stechchulte was no stranger to the batter’s box, however. In 1995, as a pitcher/shortstop at Ashland University, Stechschulte hit .391, with 15 home runs and 58 RBI.

 

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Member: Society for American Baseball Research (SABR); The Baseball Reliquary; Baseball Bloggers Alliance.

Richie Ashburn – Stats and Stories from a “Rich” Career

“To be voted the most valuable player on the worst team in the history of major league baseball is a dubious honor for sure.  But I was awarded a 24-boat with a galley and sleeping facilities for six. After the season ended, I docked the boat in Ocean City, New Jersey, and it sank.”

Hall of Famer Richie Ashburn – 1962 NY Mets (40 wins-120 losses) MVP

ashburnToday (December 8, 2916) is the 55th anniversary of the day the New York Mets acquired future Hall of Famer Richie Ashburn from the Chicago Cubs. It’s also the first anniversary of Baseball Roundtable’s initial blog post about Ashburn – truly one of the great characters of our national pastime. BBRT has come across a few additional facts and tales about Richie Ashburn – also known as Putt-Putt, Whitey and the Tilden Flash.  With that in mind, BBRT is presenting an expanded look at the career of this talented Hall of Famer – a career that is rich not only in statistics, but in uniquely entertaining stories.  So, read on if you’d like to learn more about the player  who led all of MLB in base hits in the 1950s and is also credited with hitting a foul ball that broke a female fan’s nose and then (in the same at bat) rapping a second foul ball that hit her as she was being carried from the stands on a stretcher.

Ashburn’s MLB  career covered 15 seasons with the Phillies (1948-59), Cubs (1960-61) and Mets (1962). The 34-year-old outfielder was nearing the end of his MLB career when he joined the Mets (in fact, his 1962 season with the Mets would be his last in the major leagues), but he brought significant credentials to the expansion franchise. Ashburn was a four-time All Star, two-time batting champion and had led the NL in walks four times, on-base-percentage four times, hits three times, triples twice and stolen bases once. BBRT Note: For a look at MLB’s expansion drafts – and the early and interesting picks, click here.

Richie Ashburn was noted for his speed, bat control and sparking outfield defense.  In his fifteen-year MLB career (12 with the Phillies), he achieved a .308 average and collected 2,574 hits (2,119 singles), but only 29 home runs. He topped 200 hits three times, hit over .300 nine times, stole 234 bases (topping 25 in three seasons) and legged out 109 triples. Here are a few stats that caught BBRT’s eye:

  • Ashburn’s 1,875 hits were the most by any player in the 1950s. (Nellie Fox was second and Stan Musial third.) Ashburn led the league in hits three times during that span
  • Ashburn played more games than any other player in the 1950s – 1,523 – leading the league in games played twice
  • The speedy center fielder also recorded more outfield put outs than any other MLB outfielder in the decade (4,496) – leading the league in OF puts outs in eight of the ten years
  • During his career, Ashburn led the NL in outfield put outs nine times, OF assists three times and OF double plays three times
  • 27.6 percent of Ashburn’s career home runs (eight of twenty-nine) were inside-the-parkers
  • In 14 of his 15 seasons, Ashburn hit more triples than homers.

For the Mets, Ashburn proved a valuable pick-up – literally, since after the season, he was chosen as the MVP of the 40-120 Mets, who finished 60 1/2 games behind the Giants. (The Mets’ dismal performance has been suggested as part of the reason for Ashburn’s decision to retire.)  In his final season, Ashburn was also the Mets’ only All Star team selection. He finished the year with a .306 average in 135 games, collected 119 hits (102 singles) and 81 walks (for a .424 on base percentage) and surprised a lot of people with a career-high seven home runs. The 1962 season was, in fact, the only year in which Ashburn didn’t hit more triples than round trippers.

Richie Ashburn is the only player in MLB history with four seasons of at least 500 outfield put outs.  

But all of this (not to mention Ashburn’s 3 ½ decades as a Phillies’ broadcaster), is not the sole reason BBRT is featuring him in this post.  The fact is, Ashburn’s career is “rich” in unique baseball stories.

  • Ashburn began his minor league career (at the age of 18) as a catcher with the Utica Blue Sox of the Class A Eastern League. Ashburn’s father had groomed him as a catcher, figuring that position offered the fastest path to the major leagues. Ashburn, however, proved too “fast” for that path. The story has it that on one groundball hit to the right side, Ashburn tossed off his mask, came out from behind the plate and didn’t just back up the play at first base, but beat the runner there and took the throw for the putout. It wasn’t long before Ashburn was moved to the outfield.

In his two minor league seasons, Richie Ashburn hit .342, with 245 singles, 38 doubles, 18 triples and four home runs. (305 hits in 243 games).

  • On August 17, 1957, as the Phillies took on the Giants in Philadelphia, Ashburn lined a foul ball into the Press Box behind third base – hitting Alice Roth (wife of the Philadelphia Bulletin’s sports editor Earl Roth) in the face, breaking her nose. The game was stopped momentarily as Mrs. Roth was attended to – and eventually taken from her seat on a stretcher. Play resumed and on the very next pitch, Ashburn hit another foul ball – which hit the now prone, stretcher-bound Alice Roth in the leg.
  • Ashburn made it to the Phillies as a 21-year-old in 1948 and was the only rookie on the NL All Star team. Ashburn hit lead-off, collected two hits (singles, of course), stole a base and scored a run in the NL’s 5-2 loss.  Ashburn hit .333 in 117 games his rookie campaign (a broken finger cut into his playing time), collected 154 hits (131 singles), played outstanding defense and led the NL with 32 stolen bases. He finished three in the Rookie of the Year balloting – won by Braves SS Alvin Dark.
  • On June 12, 1958, Ashburn – known for heads up play in the field – helped engineer a shortstop-catcher-third base-center field double play.  The Phillies were playing the Dodgers and, in the bottom of the third, the Dodgers had 1B Gil Hodges at the plate with RF Carl Furillo on at third base and C Johnny Roseboro at second. Hodges grounded to Phillies’ SS Chico Hernandez, who threw to the plate to get Furillo, Roseboro had made a move toward third and catcher Joe Lonnet fired to third baseman Willie Jones. Meanwhile, Ashburn had come in from center field (behind the retreating Roseboro) and took a throw from Lonnet – tagging Roseboro to complete a 6-2-5-8 double killing.

 

Yellow Tango, Outfield Tangle

In his final MLB season (as a Met), Ashburn found himself playing in center field, often behind second baseman/shortstop Elio Chacon, who did not speak English. Despite Ashburn’s calls of “I got it.  I got it.”, there were times when Chacon would range into center field, resulting in a misplay or collision.  Finally, Ashburn picked up the phrase “Yo la tengo” – the Spanish equivalent of “I got it.”  The problem appeared solved – until a game in which a fly ball was headed for the no-man’s land in short left-center.  Ashburn rushed in, pounded his glove and confidently declared, “Yo la tengo.” As expected, Chacon pulled up. Unfortunately, left fielder Frank Thomas continued charging in, colliding with Ashburn, while the ball fell in between them. As they got to their feet, the story goes, the non-Spanish-speaking Thomas asked “What the *** is Yellow Tango?”, while Mets’ manager Casey Stengel just shook his head in the dugout.  BBRT note:  The incident is credited as being the inspiration for the name of the alternative rock band Yo La Tengo – originally established by long-time Mets’ fan Ira Kaplan and Georgia Hubley.

After retring as a player, Ashubrn enjoyed a long career (more than three decades) as a Phillies’ broadcaster and also wrote baseball columns for the Philadelphia Bulletin and Philadelphia Daily News. (Ashburn passed away on September 9, 1997 – heart attack – after broadcasting a Phillies/Mets game in New York.) He was inducted into the Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia Hall of Fame in 1997 and the Philadelphia Sports Hall of Fame in 2004.

In 1998, the Phillies established the Richie Ashburn Special Achievement Award recognizing a member of the Phillies’ organization for exhibiting the loyalty, dedication and passion demonstrated by Ashburn during his career (both on- and off-the-field) with the Phillies.

Richie Ashburn’s MLB Record

Games Played – 2,189; hits – 2,574; average – .308; doubles – 317; triples – 109; home runs – 28; runs – 1,322; RBI – 586; stolen bases (234); walks – 1,198.  

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Member: Society for American Baseball Research (SABR); The Baseball Reliquary; Baseball Bloggers Alliance

Baseball Stocking Stuffers – Gene Rye, John Schuerholz and Mickey Mantle

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Happy Holidays to all!  To kick of the season, BBRT is providing an alternative to the usual in-depth posts found here. Instead I am posting are a trio of stocking stuffers focusing on the most powerful one-inning display of batsmanship ever (Gene Rye); the Today’s Game Era Hall of Fame ballot (John Schuerholz, Bud Selig); and my favorite comic book (Mickey Mantle).

ONE POWERFUL INNING

Gene Rye. Photo: Society for American Baseball Research.

Gene Rye. Photo: Society for American Baseball Research.

Boston Red Sox outfielder Gene Rye came by his nickname naturally – the 5’ 6”, 165-pounder was known around baseball as “Half Pint.”  However, for one inning of one game, this small-of-stature ballplayer carried professional baseball’s biggest and most powerful bat.  On August 6, 1930, playing for the Class A Texas League Waco Cubs (against the Beaumont Exporters), Rye became the first (and still only) professional ballplayer to hit three home runs in a single inning.

It came about in the bottom of the eighth inning – which opened with Waco trailing Beaumont 6-2 and Rye leading off.  The left-handed swinging Rye took Gerald Mallet deep to left for a solo round tripper.  That blast sparked the Waco offense and the team batted around – bringing Rye to the plate for a second time in the frame, now facing reliever Walter Newman with Waco up 9-6 and two men on base. Rye upped the lead to 12-6, this time pulling the ball over the right field fence.   Beaumont may have decided the game was out of reach because Newman was still on the mound when Rye came up for a third time in the inning – with the bases loaded. In his third at bat of the inning, Rye again pulled the ball over the right field wall for a Grand Slam. By the time the inning was over, Waco had scored 18 runs and held at 20-6 lead. (They would eventually win 20-7.)  Gene “Half Pint” Rye (whose real name was Eugene Mercantelli) had set the professional records for home runs (3), total bases (12) and RBI (8) in an inning.  Rye still holds all three records – although the RBI record for an inning has since been tied by:  Ken Myers of the Class C (Sunset League) Las Vegas Wranglers on May 2, 1947; Armando Flores of the 1952 Class B (Gulf Coast League) Laredo Apaches on June 25, 1953; Lance Junker of the Class A (California League) Redwood Pioneers on June 30, 1983; and, at the Major League level, Fernando Tatis of the Cardinals on April 23, 1999.  All four of these players tied the single-inning RBI mark by virtue of two Grand Slams in the inning.

Rye, who began his professional baseball career in 1925 (at age 18), had been on the rise when he fashioned his record-setting inning. In 1928, he hit .289 with 12 home runs for Winston-Salem in the Class C Piedmont League. In 1929, he moved up to the Class A Waco squad and  hit .284, with 19 round trippers.  In 1930 – the season of his three-homer inning – the 24-year-old Rye hit .367 with 26 home runs.

Not surprisingly, Rye’s emerging power attracted interest at baseball’s highest level.  In 1930, Half-Pint Rye found himself playing for the Boston Red Sox. However, a broken wrist in Spring Training limited his effectiveness and he played in only 17 games (.179 average with no home runs and one RBI) before being sent to the minors in June. He played in the minors until 1936, but never made it back to the major leagues.

BBRT note:  In his big inning, Rye nearly hit for the “Home Run Cycle” – a solo, two-run, three-run and Grand Slam homer.  Only once player – Tyrone Horne – had his for the Home Run cycle in a single game.  You can read that story here.

BBRT on the Today’s Game Era Hall of Fame Ballot

John Schuerholz - unanimous selection on BB HOF Today's Game ballot. Photo by The SABR Office

John Schuerholz – unanimous selection on BB HOF Today’s Game ballot. Photo by The SABR Office

BBRT was two-for-three in predicting electees on the Today’s Game Era Hall of Fame ballot.  BBRT predicted three of the ten candidates would get the necessary 75 percent support: Executives John Schuerholz and Bud Selig, and manager Lou Piniella. Schuerholz and Selig made it. Piniella finished third in the voting, but received only seven of the 12 votes necessary. You can read BBRT’s take on the entire list of candidates here. 

As far as the results. Schuerholz – with his fine work with the Royals and (especially) the Braves was an easy pick.  Like many “old-schoolers,” I had reservations about Selig (especially given how his contraction talked affected Minnesota), but MLB did flourish (and work through some tough challenges) during his tenure as commissioner.  I also thought Piniella’ 23 managerial seasons, 1,835 wins and three Manager of the Year Awards should have earned him at least 75 percent support. (Piniella has the 14th most managerial wins in MLB history. Thirteen of the 14 managers ahead of him are in the Hall of Fame – as well as a host of those who trail him.  Looking to recent history, for example, Piniella has 236 more wins than Tommy Lasorda, 264 more than Dick Williams, and 355 more than Earl Weaver.

Note: For BBRT’s take on the traditional BBWAA player HOF ballot (results announced next month), click here.

My Favorite Comic Book

mantlec1Twenty-five years ago this month (December 1991), Magnum Comics released the first issue of Mickey Mantle Comics – dedicated to exploring the life (in comic book form) of this Yankee icon. The comic book also included a section on the Boston Braves’ “Super-Sub” Sibby Sisti, as well as Mantle and Sisti commemorative post cards. On its inside back cover, Magnum Comics previewed upcoming issues on Brooks Robinson and Duke Snider.mantle2

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Member: Society for American Baseball Research (SABR); The Baseball Reliquary; Baseball Bloggers Alliance.

Baseball Hall of Fame – Today’s Game Era Ballot

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Baseball Hall of Fame photo

Photo by candyschwartz

In addition to the traditional Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA) Hall of Fame voting, each year a group of candidates is considered by one of the Hall’s “Era” Committees, which include: Today’s Game (1988-present); Modern Baseball (1970-87); Golden Days (1950-69); and Early Baseball (1871-1949). This year, the Today’s Game Era Committee is considering a group of five players, three managers and two executives for membership in the Hallof Fame.

In this post, BBRT will look at the Today’s Game candidates, commenting on how BBRT would vote (if I had a ballot) and speculating (predicting) on the Committee’s likely action.  If you would like BBRT’s detailed take on this year’s traditional ballot (34 players), click here.  

First, the Election Process—

Before getting into the Today’s Game nominees – a bit of background on the process.  The BBWAA Historical Overview Committee is responsible for identifying the ten candidates on each ballot and election requires that the candidate be name on 75 percent of the ballots cast by the 16 members of the Today’s Game Era Committee –  To be eligible for consideration by the Today’s Game Era Committee, candidates must have made their greatest contribution to the national pastime between 1988 and 2016.  In addition:

  • Players must have played in at least ten major league seasons and no longer be eligible for the traditional BBWAA ballot;
  • Managers and umpires must have served at least ten years in MLB and be retired for at least five years or over the age of 64 and retired for at least six months; and 
  • Executives must be retired from MLB for at least five years, although active executive over age 69 are also eligible.

Nominees for consideration by the Today’s Era Committee are:

  • Players … Harold Baines, Albert Belle, Will Clark, Orel Hershiser, Mark McGwire.
  • Managers … Davey Johnson, Lou Piniella.
  • Executives … John Scheurholz, Bud Selig and George Steinbrenner.

Now, let’s look at each candidate and how BBRT sees thier chances.  Spoiler Alert:  If BBRT had a ballot, I’d vote for: Lou Piniella, John Scheurholz and (as a Minnesotan, reluctantly) Bud Selig.  I anticipate the same results in the Comittee vote,with Harold Baines as a possible dark horse candidate.

PLAYERS—–

Harold Baines (OF/DH) – 1980-2001

Harold Baines photo

BBRT would love to see a HOF Class that included Baines (Harold Baines, above) and (Tim) Raines. Photo by Keith Allison

Harold Baines had a 22-season MLB career. He was a six-time All Star and two-time winner of the Designated Hitter of the Year Award. He is in the top 50 players all time in hits with 2,866 (45th) and RBI with 1,628 (32nd). Baines, with a .289 career average, hit .300 or better in nine seasons. He was a steady source of power with 384 home runs, never reaching 30 in a season, but hitting 20-29 home runs in ten campaigns.  He drove in 100+ runs in three seasons and scored 1,299 runs in his career. Baines hit .324, with five home runs, 16 RBI and 14 runs scored in 31 post-season contests.  Harold Baines played for the White Sox (1980-1989, 1996-1997, 2000-2001); Rangers (1989-1990); A’s (1990-1992); Orioles (1993-1995, 1997-2000); and Indians (1999).

Tough call here.  I’d like to see a year in which (Tim) Raines and Baines made the Hall of Fame – and Baines has some strong overall numbers.  However, the fact that he played more than half his games at DH works against him.  (To be elected as a DH, BBRT contends you to be more than a very good hitter, you have to be an exception batsman.) Close call, but BBRT would pass on Baines this year. I believe future Era Committees – after more DH’s (like, perhaps, Edgar Martinez) make the Hall – may give Baines stronger consideration. Still, Baines is my dark horse candidate.  If the Committee is inclined to select a player, I believe it will be Baines – it’s hard to ignore 22 seasons and nearly 2,900 hits.

Harold Baines’ best season:  Baines’ best MLB campaign may have been 1999, when – at age 40 – he made his final All Star team and hit .312, with 25 home runs and 103 RBI, playing for the Orioles and Indians. That season, Baines also hit .357 (5-for-16), with one home run and four RBI in four post-season (ALDS) games. 

Albert Belle (OF) – 1989-2000  Nickname: Joey

Albert Belle was a five-time All Star in a 12-season MLB career.  Belle was a power hitter who could also put the ball in play (381 career homers, .295 average). He led his league in runs scored once, doubles once, home runs once, RBI three times, total bases three times and slugging percentage twice.  He is the only player to hit 50 doubles and 50 home runs in the same seasons (1995 – 52 doubles and 50 homers, both league-leasing). He hit 30 or more home runs and drove in 100+ runs in eight straight seasons. He retired with 1,239 RBI and 974 runs scored. Belle also hit .405-6-14 in 18 post-season games.  Belle played for the Indians (1989-1996); White Sox (1997-1998); and Orioles (1999-2000).

A degenerative hip condition cut Belle’s career and chances on the traditional Hall of Fame ballot short (not to mention corked bat and issues with the media).  Those same factors would keep BBRT from voting for Belle and I also believe are likely to preclude his getting the 75 percent vote he needs from the Committee. Two or three more solid seasons (getting to the 1,500 RBI or 450 home run mark) would have been helpful.

Albert Belle’s best season:  In 1995, Belle hit .317 and led the AL in home runs (50); RBI (126); runs scored (121); doubles (50); total bases (377); and slugging percentage (.690). Note:  The following season Belle went .311-48-148, with 124 runs scored – but only led the league in RBI.  But what a pair of powerful campaigns.

Will Clark (1B) –  1985-2000  Nickname: Will the Thrill

Will Clark was a six-time all Star and one-time Gold Glover in 15 MLB seasons.  He was a career .303 hitter, with 2,176 hits, 284 home runs and 1,205 RBI.  He led his league in runs and RBI once each.  Clark hit a career high 35 home runs in 1987 and topped 20 home runs six times and 100 RBI four times.  He hit .300 or better ten times, including .301 in his final season (130 games split between the Orioles and Cardinals). In that final campaign, he hit .344-2-6 in eight post season games for the Cardinals. Overall, Clark played in 31 post season games, hitting .333-5-16.Clark played for the Giants (1986-1993); Rangers (1994-1998); Orioles (1999-2000); and Cardinals (2000).

Clark had a fine career, but BBRT thinks he’ll fall short of the 75 percent mark.

Will Clark’s best season: In 1989, with the Giants, Clark hit .333, with 23 home runs, 111 RBI and a league-leading 104 runs scored – finishing second in the NL MVP balloting. He was also MVP of the NL Championship Series, hitting .650, with two home runs and eight RBI in five games.

Orel Hershiser (SP) – 1983-2000   Nickname:  Bulldog

Orel Hershiser logged 18 season on the MLB mound – winning 204 games (150) losses, with a 3.48 ERA and 2,014 strikeouts in 3,130 1/3 innings.  Hershiser capturing the 1988 Cy Young Award (23-8, 2.26). He led his league in wins once, winning percentage once, complete games once, shutouts twice and inning pitched three times. Hershiser also won a Gold Glove in 1988 and a Silver Slugger Award in 1993 (when he hit .356 in 34 games for the Dodgers).  Hershiser was a 20+ game winner once and won 15 or more games in six seasons. He was a strong 8-3, 2.59 in 22 post-season games (18 starts).

BBRT does not see Hershiser getting 75-percent support. From 1985-1989,Hershiser was one of the top pitchers in  the game. Over those five seasons, he was 87-56, with a 2.69 ERA. He was, indeed, a “Bulldog” or, maybe more accurately, a workhorse. He pitched more than 230 innings in each of those seasons,  leading the league in innings pitched in 1987, 1988 ansd 1989.  All that work may have contributed to his 1990 shoulder surgery.  Then, from 1990-2000, Hershiser went 106-86, 4.17.  Note: Hershiser also led his league in losses twice and was above .500 in just nine of his 18 seasons. Hershiser played for the Dodgers (1983-1994, 2000); Indians (1995-1997); Giants (1998); ansd Mets (1999).

Hershiser may fall a handful of victories short of the Hall.

Orel Hershiser’s best season:  In 1988, Hershiser led the NL in wins with 23 (eight losses), complete games (15), shutouts (8), innings pitched (267), while recording a 2.26 ER and 178 strikeouts. That season he also set an MLB record, throwing 59 consecutive scoreless innings and earned the NL Championship Series and World Series MVP Awards.

Mark McGwire (1B) –  1985-2001  Nickname: Big Mac

No doubt about McGwire’s numbers: 583 home runs, 1,414 RBI, 1,167 runs scored (.263 average).  McGwire was the 1987 Al Rookie of the Year, a 12-time All Star, a three-time HR champ (a high of 70 in 1998, followed by 65 in 1999). He also led his league in slugging percentage four times, total bases four times, on base percentage twice – and even won a Gold Glove in 1990.  Yes, the numbers are there – but so is the PED controversy.  BBRT doesn’t think the voters are yet ready to forgive and forget.  McGwire played for the A’s (1986-1997) and Cardinals (1997-2001).

Mark McGwire’s best season: In 1998, McGwire hit .299, with a league-leading 70 home runs and 147 RBI.  He also led the NL in walks (162); on-base-percentage (.470) and slugging percentage .752).

MANAGERS —–

Davey Johnson (1984-2013 … 17 seasons) 

After a 13-season playing career, Davey Johns managed 17 seasons in the majors. He put up a 1,372-1,071 won-lost record and his .588 winning percentage is 12th among managers with at least ten seasons at the helm. Johnson led the Mets to the 1986 World Series Championship – and made the post-season a total of six times.  He was name NL Manager of the Year in 1972 and 2012.  He finished in the top three in Manager of the Year voting seven times. During his playing career, Johnson was a four-time All Star and athree-time Gold Glover (2B). He finished with a .261 average, 136 home runs and 609 RBI. In 1973, Johnson hit 43 home runs, 42 as a second baseman (the single season record for the position).

I think the presence of Lou Piniella on the ballot (with nearly 500 more managerial victories than Johnson) dampens Johnson’s chances for election.

Lou Piniella (1986-2010 … 23 seasons)   Nickname: Sweet Lou

Lou Piniella photo

Photo by mikelachance816

Lou Piniella managed (Yankees, Reds, Mariners, Devil Rays, Cubs) for 23 seasons.  His 1,835 wins (1,713 losses) are the 14th most wins by a manager in MLB history. He led the Reds to the 1990 World Series Championship and his teams made seven post-season appearances.  He also managed the Mariners to an AL record 116 wins in the 2001 season.  Piniella was named AL Manager of the year in 1995 and 2001 (with the Mariners) and the NL Manager of the Year in 2008 (Cubs). He finished in the top three in Manager of the Year voting six times.

Piniella also had an 18-season MLB career as a player, hitting .291, with 1,705 hits, 102 home runs and 766 RBI. He was the 1969 Rookie of the Year with the Royals and made the post-season five times with the Yankees (two WS Championships). Piniella hit .305-3-19 in 44 post-season games.

Adding Piniella on-the-field career to his 1,835 wins and three Manage of the Year Awards and BBRT would vote him in.  (Actually, he’d get my vote on his managerial record alone).  I believe the Committee will also vote him in, but it will be close.

EXECUTIVES—–

John Schuerholz

jOHN sCHUERHOLZ BRAVES photo

John Schuerholz built winners in Kansas City and Atlanta. Photo by The SABR Office

John Schuerholz began his MLB front office career with the Baltimore Orioles in 1967 as an Administrate Assistant to Minor League Clubs. He later spent 22 years in the Kansas City Royals’ operation: Farm Director (1967); Scouting Director (1977-1980); Assistant General Manager (1981); and General Manager (1982-1990).   While he was GM in Kansas City, the Royals became the first AL expansion team to win the World Series (1987).  Scheurholz went to the Atlanta Braves as General Manager in 1990 and held that position until 2007.  From 2008-2016 (when he became Vice Chairman of the team), he held the position of Braves’ President.  While Schuerholz was GM of the Braves, the team won 14 Division titles and the 1995 World Series Championship (making Schuerholz the first GM to win the WS title in both the American and National Leagues).

Schuerholz built consistent winners – and he would get BBRT’s vote for the Hall.  I predict the Today’s Game Era Committee will agree.

Bud Selig

Allan “Bud Selig” was MLB’s ninth Commissioner – serving as Acting Commissioner from 1992-1998 and Commissioner from 1998-2015.  Selig presided over two rounds of expansion, the establishment of interleague play, the creation of the Wild Card, strong increases in MLB revenues and attendance, and the development of the World Baseball Classic.  He also headed MLB during the 1994 baseball strike, had to deal with the PED issue, and introduced revenue sharing.

Selig’s tenure was not without controversy. The 1994 players strike led to the cancelling of the World Series for the first time since 1904. In 2001, Selig also voiced support for the contraction of two teams.  Selig also was criticized for declaring the 2002 All Star Game a “tie” after 11 innings and for not being proactive enough, early enough on the PED issue.

Other notable changes in MLB during Selig’s tenure as Commissioner: World Series home field advantage going to the league that wins the All Star Game (2003); introduction and expansion of instant replay (2008/2014); and the transfer of the Milwaukee Brewers from the American League to the National League (1998) and the Houston Astros from the National League to the American League (2013).

Before becoming Commissioner, Selig was team owner and president of the Milwaukee Brewers. (In 1970, he purchased the failing Seattle Pilots and moved them to Milwaukee.)  Under Selig’s leadership, the Brewers won seven Organization of the Year Awards.

BBRT predicts Bud Selig will get voted into the Hall – his years as Commissioner were truly historic.  BBRT, however, would cast my vote for Selig with reluctance.  (As a Minnesotan, I still have not forgiven Selig for that “contraction” episode.)

George Steinbrenner

George Steinbrenner purchased the New York Yankees in 1973 – and led the team until his death in 2010.  Under his ownership the vaunted Yankee franchise won 11 American League Pennants and seven World Series Championships.  Steinbrenner, known as a “hands-on” owner, was no stranger to controversy.  He  changed managers twenty times in his first 23 seasons as owner; he was a free-spender, credited (or criticized) by many for driving up the free agent market; he was quick to criticize players publicly if they did not live up to his expectations; he was suspended from baseball twice. How controversial was Steinbrenner?  In the summer of 1990, Steinbrenner was featured on the cover of NEWSWEEK magazine, heralded as the “most hated man in baseball.”

You cannot argue with Steinbrenner’s success on the field.  As an owner, he did what it took to buiild winning teams.  However, his leadership style and the controversies that surrounded him will likely keep him from getting 75 percent of the Committee’s votes.

I tweet baseball @DavidBBRT

Member: The Society for American Baseball Research (SABR); The Baseball Reliquary; Baseball Bloggers Alliance. 

BBRT Looks at the 2017 Baseball Hall of Fame Ballot

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It’s official – the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA) Hall of Fame ballots are out and the debate(s) can begin.  This year’s traditional ballot includes 15 holdovers from last year, along with 19 newcomers.  The basic rules for eligibility are that a player must have played at least ten seasons and be retired for at least five years. A player can remain on the ballot for up to ten years, but must receive at least five percent of the vote in the preceding year’s ballot to  remain eligible after the first year on the ballot.  Each voter can vote for up to ten candidates.  Election requires that a player be named on at least 75 percent of the ballots cast.

In this post, we’ll take a look at how BBRT would vote – if I had a ballot – as well at whom BBRT expects the BBWA to vote in.  Notably, BBRT tends to be less stingy then the BBWAA voters.  I’ll list a full roster of ten candidates (in order of my preference) who would receive my vote.

Spoiler Alert:  BBRT anticipates that four players will be elected.   I’m fairly confident about one first-timer (catcher Ivan Rodriguez) and two returnees (pitcher Trevor Hoffman, outfielder Tim Raines).  I also think 1B Jeff Bagwell has a very good chance to get the 75 percent necessary (he reached 71.6 percent a year ago), but he may be hurt by the fact that Tim Raines is in his last year on the ballot. Some of the more conservative voters may feel a need to choose between the two.  However, I’m including Bagwell on my list of projected inductees.  First-timer Vlad Guerrero is my dark horse for 2017.   I believe is is HOF-worthy, but BBWAA voters are notoriously tough on ballot newcomers.  BBRT note:  Last year, BBRT correctly predicted Ken Griffey, Jr. and Mike Piazza would be elected.  However, I also incorrectly predicted a third inductee – Trevor Hoffman. 

BBRT’s Halll of Fame Ballot – If I Had One – With the Players Listed in BBRT’s Order of Preference.

Group One – Should Be No Doubt

Ivan Rodriguez (C – 1991-2011) – First year on the ballot.  Nicknames:  Pudge/I-Rod.

Ivan Rodriguez baseball photo

BBRT’s top choice on this year HOF ballot. Photo by Keith Allison

Ivan Rodriguez played 21 MLB seasons, putting up 2,844 hits, a .296 average, 311 home runs and 1,332 RBI. He was a 14-time All Star, 13-time Gold Glove Winner and won the AL MVP Award in 1999. Notably, his 2,749 hits as a catcher are the MLB record for the position. If any of the first-timers on the ballot capture the necessary votes, it’s likely to be I-Rod – with his combination of leather (13 Gold Gloves) and lumber (seven Silver Slugger Awards).  The BBWAA has, in the past, shown a tendency to demand more of “First-Ballot” candidates, but BBRT thinks Rodriguez has the goods and that the BBWAA will agree.  Rodriguez played for the Rangers (19991-2002 and 2009); Marlins (2003); Tigers (2004-2008); Yankees (2008); Astros (2009); and Nationals (2010-2011).

Ivan Rodriguez’ best season:  In 1999, as a Ranger, Rodriguez hit .332, with 35 home runs, 113 RBI and 116 runs scored in 144 games – earning a Gold Glove, Silver Slugger Award and the AL MVP Award. 

Trevor Hoffman (Relief Pitcher, 1993-2010) – Second year on the ballot, 68.3 percent support last year.

Trevor Hoffman baseball photo

His 601 saves should open the doors to the Hall this year. Photo by SD Dirk

In BBRT’s opinion, Trevor Hoffman should have been elected in his first year on the ballot. He is one of only two relievers in MLB history to reach 600 saves (601) – trailing only Mariano Rivera (652) all time. Hoffman and Rivera, in fact, are the only closers to reach 500 saves. (Note: Hoffman was also the first pitcher to reach the 500- and 600-save mark.)

Hoffman led the NL in saves twice and reached 30 or more saves 14 times (with a high of 53 in 1998). He had a career record of 61-75, with a 2.87 ERA over 1,089 1/3 innings in 1,035 games – averaging 9.4 strikeouts per nine innings. Hoffman, by the way, made his final All Star team at the age of 41, in a season in which he recorded 37 saves for the Brewers.  Hoffman pitched for the Marlins (1993); Padres (1993-2008); and Brewers (2009-10).  Hoffman’s 600 saves should be enough for the Hall..

Trevor Hoffman’s best season: In 1998, Hoffman appeared in 66 games for the Padres, converting 53 of 54 save opportunities.  On the season, he was 4-2 with a 1.48 ERA, striking out 86 hitters in 73 innings, while walking just 21. He was selected to the NL All Star team, finished second in the Cy Young Award voting and seventh in the MVP race.

Group Two – Debatable, But Clearly Deserving Support (and would have BBRT’s vote)

Lee Smith (Relief Pitcher, 1980-970) – 15th and final year on the ballot, 34.1 percent last year. Note:  When the HOF election rules changed from 15-year eligibility to 10-year eligibility, Smith was one of the players already on the ballot to be grandfathered in at the 15-year limit.

BBRT firmly believes Lee Smith has earned his place in the “Hall.”  However, last year, Smith got only 34.1 percent of the vote, just a slight increase over his 30.2 percent of the previous year.  While BBRT feels Smith has a strong case for the Hall, he’s not likely to make the 40-point leap it will take to get in. But consider his case.

Smith’s 478 saves put him third on the all-time list (he was number-one when he retired after the 1997 season). Smith led his league in saves four times and made seven All Star teams.  He recorded ten seasons of 30 or more saves and three campaigns of 40-plus saves.  Smith reached 30 or more saves in a season with four different teams (Cubs, Cardinals, Orioles, Angels). He had a 3.03 lifetime ERA and 1,251 strikeouts in 1,289 innings pitched.  Smith is also one of only three pitchers with more than 800 games finished lifetime (Mariano Rivera and Trevor Hoffman are the others).  Couple all of this with the third most saves all time and Smith gets BBRT’s vote.

Smith pitched for the Cubs (1980-1987); Red Sox (1988-1990); Cardinals (1990-1993); Yankees (1993); Orioles (1994); Angels (1995-1996); Reds (1996); and Expos (1997).

Lee Smith’s best season:  In 1991, as a Cardinal, Smith went 6-3, with a 2.34 ERA, 47 saves, 73 innings pitched, 67 strikeouts and just 13 walks (five intentional). He was an All Star, finished second in the Cy Young Award voting and eighth in the MVP balloting.

Mike Mussina (Starting Pitcher, 1991-2008) – Fourth year on the ballot 43.0% last year. Nickname: Moose.

Mike Mussina built a 270-153 record, with a career 3.68 ERA and 2,813 strikeouts over 18 seasons. While only a 20-game winner once (in his final season, at age 39), Mussina won 18 or 19 games five times, leading the AL with 19 wins in 1995. In his first three full seasons  in the major leagues (1992-94), Mussina put up a .700 or better winning percentage each year (.783, .700, .762). His record over that span – for the Orioles – was 48-16.

Mussina was a five-time All Star and a seven-time Gold Glove winner. He recorded a .650 or better winning percentage in nine seasons, with a career (and league-leading) high of .783 in 1992. While the lack of a Cy Young Award on his resume may hurt him, he finished his career 117 games over .500 – and history says 100 or more wins than losses should be good for a ticket to the Hall. Mussina appeared in 23 post-season games, with a 7-8 record and a 3.42 ERA. He pitched for the Orioles (1991-2000) and Yankees (2000-2008). BBRT believes Mussina deserves (and will eventually be awarded) a spot in Cooperstown, but is unlikely to close the gap between 43 percent and the necessary 75 percent in this year’s voting.

Mike Mussina’s best season:  Mussina may have saved his best for last.  In his final season (as a Yankee), at age 39, he recorded his first twenty-win campaign.  That year, Mussina went 20-9, 3.37 – and proved his durability by leading the AL in starts with 34, logging his 11th season of 200 or  more innings pitched and earning his fifth Gold Glove

Jeff Bagwell (First Base, 1991-2005) – Seventh year on the ballot, 71.6 percent last year.

bagwell

BBRT thinks it should be “Baggy’s” year.

In his 15-season MLB career, Bagwell collected 2,314 hits; smashed 449 home runs; stole 202 bases; and put up a .297 average. He also earned a Rookie of the Year Award (1991); a Most Valuable Player Award (1994); one Gold Glove; and four All Star selections.  He twice recorded seasons of 40 or more homers and 30 or more steals.  Bagwell drove in 100 or more runs in eight seasons, leading the league with 116 RBI in 1994 and reaching a high of 135 in 1997. He led the NL in runs scored three times, with a high of 152 in 2000. His .297 career average was bolstered by six seasons over .300. Bagwell was also one of MLB’s most durable and dedicated stars, playing in all 162 of the Astros’ games in four seasons and in at least 155 games in ten of his fifteen MLB campaigns.  Bagwell, who played his entire career with the Houston Astros, stands a good chance of reaching the 75 percent threshold in 2017.

Jeff Bagwell’s best season: Bagwell won the NL MVP Award, a Silver Slugger and a Gold Glove in 1994, when he hit .368, with 39 home runs and 15 steals.  He also led the NL in RBI (118) and runs scored (104) in the strike-shortend campaign. (The Astros played 115 games.)

Tim Raines (Outfield, 1979-2001) – Tenth and final year on the ballot, 69.8 percent last year. Nickname: Rock.

BBRT is predicting (hoping) Tim Raines makes it in his last year on the ballot.

BBRT is predicting (hoping) Tim Raines makes it in his last year on the ballot.

Tim Raines returns for his tenth – and final –  year on the ballot.  After getting 69.8 percent last year, Raines should gain enough votes for induction in 2017.

Raines hit .294 over his 23-season MLB career, collecting 2,605 hits, 1,571 runs scored, 170 home runs, 980 RBI and 808 stolen bases (fifth all time). He was a seven-time All Star; led the NL in stolen bases four consecutive years (1981-84); had a streak of six seasons with at least 70 steals; won the NL batting title in 1986 with a .334 average; led the league in runs scored twice and doubles once. How much of a threat was Raines on the bases?   Over 23 seasons, he averaged 35 steals a year (and that included six seasons in which he played in less than half his team’s games).  Over his MLB career – from age 19 to 42 – Raines averaged 52 stolen bases for every 162 games played. In 34 post-season games, The Rock hit .270 with one home run, six RBI, 18 runs scored and three steals. Raines played for the Expos (1979-1990 and 2001);White Sox (1991-1995); Yankees (1996-1998); A’s (1999); Orioles (2001); and Marlins (2002).

Tim Raines’ best season:  Despite his  1986 batting title (.334 average), BBRT thinks Raines’ top season was 1983 (Expos) – 156 games, 179 hits, .298 average, league-leading 133 runs scored, 11 homers, 71 RBI, league-leading 90 steals.

Group Three – Get BBRT’s Vote, but Possible BBWAA Reservations are More Understandable

Jeff Kent (Second Base/Third Base/First Base, 1992-2008) –  Fourth year on the ballot; 16.6 percent last year.

BBRT believes Jeff  Kent is a deserving candidate.  Kent holds the all-time MLB record for home runs by a second baseman (351 of his 377 career round trippers were hit while playing second base). He has a healthy .290 career batting average; his 1,518 RBI are 54th all time; and his 560 doubles 27th.  Kent, in fact, has nine more career RBI than Mickey Mantle.

Kent was a five-time All Star and the 2000 NL MVP.  As primarily a middle infielder, he hit 20 or more home runs in 12 seasons (a high of 37 in 2007) and topped 100 RBI eight times. He hit .276, with nine home runs and 23 RBI in 49 post-season games. Kent has the credentials, but BBRT has a hunch the writers will make keep him on the bench – a couple of Gold Gloves, at this traditionally defense-oriented position, would have really helped his case.  Kent played for the Blue Jays (1992); Mets (1992-1996); Indians (1996); Giants (1997-2002); Astros (2003-2004); and Dodgers (2005-2008).

Jeff Kent’s best season: With the Giants in 2000, Kent put up these stats:  159 games; 196 hits; .334 average; 33 home runs; 125 RBI; 114 runs; 12 steals. His performance earned him the NL MVP Award.

Vlad Guerrero (Outfield/Dedsignated Hitter – 1996-2011) – First time on the ballot. Nicknames: Vladdy/Vlad the Impaler. 

When your nickname is Vlad the Impaler, you better put up some solid offensive numbers – and Vlad Guerrora did. BBRT’s dark horse candidate for induction this year (the stinginess of the writers with votes for first-timers may hurt him), Guerrero put up a .318 career batting average (2,147 games over 16 seasons), 449 career home runs (including eight seasons of 30+ and a high of 44 for the 2000 Montreal Expos) and 1,496 career RBI.  Guerrero had 13 seasons with a batting average of .300 or better (a high of .345 in 2000), 10 seasons of 100+ RBI, six seasons of 100+ runs scored and four campaigns of at least 200 hits.  Known (sometimes criticized) as a free swinger, Guerrero actually never struck out 100 times in a season.

In 2002, Guerrero missed joining the 40/40 club by one home run – hitting .336, with 39 home runs, 111 RBI and 40 stolen bases. He led his league in hits once, runs once and total bases twice, while making nine All Star squads and earning eight Silver Slugger Awards – and the 2004 AL MVP Award.   Guerrero hit .263-2-20 in 44 post-season contests.  Guerrero played for the Expos (1966-2203); Angels (2004-2009); Rangers (2010); and Oriioles (2011).

Vlad Guerrero’s best season: In 2002, Guerrero his .336 for the Expos, leading the NL in hits (206), while bashing 39 home runs, stealing 40 bases, driving in 111, scoring 106 and drawing a career-high 84 walks (versus 70 strikeouts).  He also led the NL in total bases with 364.

Edgar Martinez (Designated Hitter/Third Base, 1987-2004) – Fifth year on the ballot, 43.4 percent last year.  Nickname: Papi.

We’ve seen some prejudice against designated hitters in past voting, but Edgar Martinez clearly, and expertly, defined the DH role. In fact, in 2004, MLB renamed the Outstanding Designated Hitter Award the Edgar Martinez Outstanding Designated Hitter Award.

In an 18-season MLB career, Martinez was named to seven All Star teams; won a pair of batting titles (hitting a high of .356 in 1995); topped 100 RBI in six seasons (leading the league with 145 in 2000); and scored 100 or more runs five times (leading the league with 121 in 1995). He finished his career with a .312 average; 2,247 hits; 1,219 runs; 1,261 RBI; 309 home runs; and 514 doubles.  Martinez played his entire career for the Mariners.

Edgar Martinez’ best season: One of two here, In 1995, Martinez led the league in batting average (.356), runs scored (121) and doubles (52 doubles), adding  29 home runs and 113 RBI.  In 2005, Martinez put up a .324 average, 37 home runs, league-leading 145 RBI and 100 runs scored.

Larry Walker (OF, 1989-2005) – Seventh Year on the Ballot, 15.5 percent last year.

BBRT’s tenth – and final – selection, came down to Larry Walker’s three batting titles versus Billy Wagner’s 422 career saves – and it was a tough call. Back to BBRT’s admiration for “lumber AND leather,” Walker’s seven Gold Gloves were the difference maker. If you could cast 11 votes, Wagner would also get a BBRT nod.

Walker played 17 MLB seasons and retired with 2,160 hits, a .313 average and three batting titles.  Between 1997 and 2001, he hit .350 or better in four of five seasons. The five-time All Star hit 383 home runs (a high of 49 in 1997) and stole 230 bases  (a high of 33 in 1997).  Walker’s years in hitter friendly Colorado may be hurting his vote totals, but BBRT believes if you add his Gold Glove defense to a trio of batting titles, you have a Hall of Famer. Walker played for the Expos (1989-1994); Rockies (1995-2004); and Cardinals (2004-2005).

Larry Walker’s best season: In his 1997 NL MVP year (Rockies), Walker hit .366, with a league-leading 49 home runs. He drove in 130 runs, scored 143, rapped 46 doubles (led the league in total bases at 409 and slugging percetage at .720) – and even threw in 33 stlolen bases and a Gold Glove.  

___________________________________________

So, there are BBRT’s ten choices.  Now, let’s look briefly at the remainder of the ballot – in alphabetical order – since just making it on the ballot deserves recognition.

Casey Blake (3B/1B/OF, 1999-2011) – First year on the ballot.

Blake had a .264 average, with 167 home runs and 616 RBI over 13 MLB seasons. A solid utility player, his best season was 2004, when he hit .271-28-88 for the Indians.  Blake played for the Blue Jays (1999); Twins (2000. 2001, 2002); Orioles (2001); Indians (2003-2008); Dodgers (2008-2011).

Barry Bonds (OF, 1986-2007) – Fifth year on the ballot, 44.3 percent a year ago.

No doubt about Bond’s credentials – .298 average, 2,935 hits, MLB-record 762 home runs, 1,996 RBI, MLB-record 2,558 walks. He was also a 14-time All Star, his league’s MVP a record seven times, and eight-time Gold Glove winner.  In 2001, Bonds hit .328, with an MLB-record 73 home runs and 177 RBI. And, I could go on.  Still, there are those PED’s – and elephant in the room that will keep Bonds out of the Hall.  We can expect him back on the ballot next year.  Bonds played for the Pirates (1986-1992) and the Giants (1993-2007).

Pat Burrell (OF, 2000-2011) – First time on the ballot.

Bureell hit .253 over 12 seasons, but showed some pop – 292 home runs and 976 RBI over 1,640 games. Burrell, whose nickname was “Pat the Bat,” hit .282, with 37 home runs and 116 RBI for the Phillies in 2002.  He had four seasons of 30+ home runs for the Phillies and finished seventh in the 2005 NL MVP balloting. Burrell played for the Phillies (2000-2008); Rays (2009-2010); and Giants (2010-2011).

Orlando Cabrera (SS/2B, 1997-2011) – First year on the ballot.

Cabrera was a two-time Gold Glover at shortstop, who could hold his own at the plate (.272 career average, with 123 home runs and 854 RBI).  He also flashed some speed, with 216 steals, including five seasons of twenty or more. His best year was 2003 (with the Expos), when he played in all 162 games and hit .297, with 17 home runs, 80 RBI, 95 runs scored and 24 steals.  He played for the Expos (1997-2004); Red Sox (2004); Angels (2005-2007); White Sox (2008); A’s (2009); Twins (2009); Reds (2010); Indians (2011); and Giants (2011).

Mike Cameron (OF, 1995-2011) – First time on ballot.

Cameron was a three-time Gold Glove centerfielder with a bit of speed and pop (278 career home runs and 297 stolen bases to go with a .249 average over 17 seasons). Cameron’s best season was 2011, when he was an All Star for the Mariners, hitting .267-25-110, with 38 steals and a Gold Glove. Cameron playeds for ther White Sox (1995-1998); Reds (1999); Mariners (2000-2003); Mets (2004-2005); Padres (2006-2007); Brewers (2008-2009); Red Sox (2010-2011); and Marlins (2011).

Roger Clemens (Starting Pitcher, 1984-2007) – Fifth time on the ballot, 45.2% last year.

Like Barry Bonds, Clemens has Hall-worthy stats:  354 wins, 4,672 strikeouts, seven Cy Young Awards, 1986 AL MVP. Clemens was a five-time 20-game winner (led the league in wins four times), seven-time ERA leader, five time league leader in strikeouts. Clemens also has 12 post-season wins, with 173 strikeouts in 199 post-season innings. His best season was 1986, when he went 24-4. 2.48 and won both the Cy Young and AL MVP Awards for the Red Sox.  Yes, he’s got the numbers, but the PED controversy stands between him and the Hall. Don’t think the BBWAA is ready yet, but he’ll continue on the ballot. Clemens pitched for the Red Sox (1984-1996); Blue Jays (1997-1998); Yankees (1999-2003, 2007); and Astros (2004-2006). .

Carlos Guillen (SS/2B/3B, 1998-2011) – First time on the ballot.

Guillen was a three-time All Star and put up a .285 average with 124 home runs and 660 RBI over 14 MLB seasons. His best season was 2007 (Tigers), when he hit .296, with 21 home runs and 102 RBI.   Notably, he was coming off a 2006 season, when he went .320-19-85 for Detroit. Guillen played for the Mariners (1998-2003) and Tigers (2004-1011).

Derek Lee (1B, 1997-2011) – First time on the ballot.

Derek was a first basemen who could flash leather (three Gold Gloves) and lumber (331 career home runs) and – in his prime – a little speed (from 2002 through 2005, he stole 67 bases). Led finished with a .281 career average (15 seasons), 331 home runs and 1,078 RBI. In his best season (2005, Cubs), he led the NL in hits (199), average (.335) doubles (50), slugging percentage .662) and total bases (393).  He also had 46 home runs, 107 RBI, 120 runs scored and 15 steals – and he earned a Gold Glove.  Lee has a good chance of returning for a second year on the ballot. Lee played for the Padres (1997); Marlins (1998-2003); Cubs (2004-2010); Braves (2010); Orioles (2011); and Pirates (2011).

Fred McGriff (1B, 1986-2004) Tenth- final year – on the ballot – 20.9 percent last year.

Known as “Crime Dog”, McGriff  was five-time All Star; who bashed 493 career home runs (led his league twice, hit 30 or more  home runs in a season ten times); topped 100 RBI eight times (career total 1,550); and put up a  .284 career average over 19 seasons.   In 2001, at age 37, he had perhaps his best season – splitting time betweeen the Rays (then Devil Rays) and Cubs – going .306-31-102.  McGriff is not likely to get in this time, despite his 493 round trippers (seven more certainly would have helped his case, as would a couple of 40+ HR seasons.  First base is just a highly competitive spot when it comes to the HOF.  McGriff was a top slugger at his peak (1988-93), but for most of his career more of a steady power source.  He played for the Blue Jays (1986-1990); Padres (1991-1993); Braves (1993-1997); Devil Rays (1998-2001, 2004); Cubs (2001-2002) and Dodgers (2003).

Melvin Mora (3B/OF/SS, 1999-2011) – First time on the ballot.

Mora was a two-time All Star, who surprised a lot of people with his .340-27-104 season for the 2004 Orioles.  Over 13 seasons, he averaged .277, hit 171 home runs and drove in 754.  Mora topped 25 home runs twice, 100 RBI twice and a .300 average twice.  His best campaign was the 2004 season already noted. He was also a .400 hitter (six-for fifteen) in nine post season games for the 1999 Mets .He played for the Mets (1999-2000); Orioles (2000-2009); Rockies (2010); and Diamondbacks (2011).

Magglio Ordonez (OF, 1997-2011) – First tie on the ballot.

I expect Ordonez, a five-time All Star, to stay on the ballot for more than one year.  Over his fifteen MLB season, Ordonez was a hitting machine – .309 career average, 294 home runs, 1,236 RBI. Further, in his best season (207 Tigers) he led the AL with a .363 average, hit 28 home runs, drove in 139, scored 117, collected 216 hits and smacked a league-leading 54 doubles.  Ordonez hit over .300 eleven times, launching 30 or more home runs four times, driving in 100+uins seven times and scoring at least 100 runs four times. He played for the White Sox (1997-2004) and Tigers (2005-2011).

Jorge Posada (C, 1995-2011) First time on the ballot.

Posada is a five-time All Star, who hit .273, with 275 home runs and 1,065 RBI in 17 seasons with the Yankees (solid numbers for a backstop). Perhaps more critical to Posada’s chances for the Hall are his 125 post-season games – .248-11-42 – and four World Series Championships. Then there is also that 2007 season, when he hit .338, with 20 home runs and 90 RBI.   I expect he will back on the ballot next year.  Posada played his entire MLB career for the Yankees.

Manny Ramirez (OF – 1993-2011) – First Year on the ballot.

Manny Ramirez played 19 MLB seasons, collecting 2,574 hits, a  .312 batting average, 555 home runs and 1,.831 RBI. Ramirez was a 12-time All Star and led the AL in average (2002), home runs (2004) and RBI (1999) once each.  Ramirez won nine Silver Slugger Awards, including eight consecutive (1999-2006), hit .285 with 29 home runs in 111 post season games and was the 2004 World Series MVP.  Ramirez clearly put up HOF-caliber numbers, but two PED-related suspensions will hurt his chances. Not this year, but he’ll be back.  Ramirez played for the Indians (1993-2000); Red Sox (2001-2008); Dodgers 2009-2010); and Rays (2011).

Edgar Renteria (SS, 1996-2011) – First time on ballot.

Renteria is a five-time All Star, three-time Silver Slugger winner and two-time Gold Glover. Over a 16-season MLB career, he hit a credible .286, with 140 home runs, 933 RBI and 1,200 runs scored. Renteria’s game also included speed on the base paths.  He stole 294 bases, including a high of 41 for the Marlins in 1998.  Renteria also hit .252, with three home runs, 23 RBI and nine steal in 66 post season games.  He was the MVP of the 2010 World Series (with the Giants), hitting .417 (seven-for-seventeen) with two home runs and six RBI.  He’s got a chance to return to the ballot. Renteria played for the Marlins (1996-1998); Cardinals (1999-2004); Red Sox (2005); Braves (2006-2007); Tigers (2008); Giants (2009-2010); and Reds (2011).

Arthur Rhodes (SP/RP, 1991-2011) – First time on the ballot.

If endurance were the key quality, Arthur Rhodes would have a shot at the Hall of Fame.  He lasted 20 years in the major leagues – running up an 87-80, 4.08 ERA record, with 33 saves. Rhodes was an All Star – for the first and only time – in 2010 (at age 40). That season, he went 4-4, 2.29, with 50 strikeouts in 55 innings (69 games) for the Reds.  His best season may have been 2001, when (as a Mariner) he appeared in 71 games, going 8-0 with a 1.72 ERA and three saves. That season he struck out 83 batters in 68 innings.Over his career, Rhodes took the mound for the Orioles (1991-1999); Mariners (2000-2003, 2008); A’s 2004); Indians (2005); Phillies (2006); Marlins (2008), Reds (2009-2010); Rangers (2011); and Cardinals (2011).

Freddy Sanchez (2B/3B/SS. 2002-2011) – First time on ballot.

Sanchez was a three-time All Star in his ten season MLB career, which was cut short by shoulder and back injuries. Sanchez’ chances to remain on the ballot will similarly cut short by injury.  However, it is notable that he retired with a .297 career average, three All Star Selections and the 2006 NL batting title (.344 for the Pirates).  His best year was 2004, when he hit an NL-leading .344, with six home runs, 85 RBI, 85 runs scored and 200 hits – as well as a league-leading 53 doubles. Sanchez played for the Red Sox (2002-2003); Pirates (2005-2009); and Giants (2010-2011).

Curt Schilling (Starting Pitcher , 1988-2007) – Fifth year on the ballot, 52.3 percent last year.

Schilling is a six-time All Star, with 216 career wins (three seasons of 20 or more wins) over a 20-season MLB career. He recorded 3,116 strikeouts (three seasons of 300 or more whiffs), led his league in wins twice, complete games four times, innings pitched twice and strikeouts twice. He was also the 2001 World Series co-MVP – and has an impressive 11-2, 2.23 ERA post-season record (19 starts). He is on the cusp for the HOF. However, his outspoken views, Mike Mussina’s 270-win total (likely he will gete in before Schilling) and the lack of a Cy Young Award may be working against Schilling’s vote-getting capacity. His best season was 2001, when he went 22-8 for the Diamondbacks (with a 2.98 ERA).  That year, he lead the league in wins, starts (5), complete games (6), innings pitched (256 2/3).  He’ll be back for another shot. Schilling pitched for the Orioles (1988-1990); Astros (1991); Phillies (1992-2000); Diamondbacks (2000-2003); and Red Sox (2004-2007).

Gary Sheffield (OF/DH/3B/SS, 1988-2009) – Third year on the ballot, 11.6 percent last year.

Sheffield is a nine-time All Star (in 22 MLB seasons) with 509 career home runs (topped 30 home runs in a season eight times , with a high of 43 in 2000); a 292 career average (hit .300+ in eight seasons); and 1,676 RBI.  He also won 1992 NL batting title (.330); topped 100 RBI eight times; topped 100 runs scored seven times. His best season was 1996 (Marlins), when he hit .314, with 42 home runs, 120 RBI, 188 runs scored and 16 steals.  Sheffield has the offensive numbers, but defensive questions and the shadow of PEDs are likely to keep him on the outside looking in.  He should return fo the ballot.  Sheffield played for the Brewers (1988-1991); Padres (1992-1993); Marlins (1993-19998); Dodgers (1998-2001); Braves (2002-2003); Yankees(2004-2006); Tigers (2008); and Mets (2009).

Sammy Sosa (OF, 1989-2007) – Fifth year on the ballot, 7.0 percent last year.

Sosa hit 609 home runs in 18 MLB seasons – winning two HR titles, topping sixty three times and also hitting 50 one year.  In the four seasons from 1998 to 2001, Sosa averaged 60 home runs and 149 RBI per season. His career numbers include a .273 average, 609 home runs, 1,667 RBI, 1,475 runs scored and 234 stolen bases (a high of 36 steals in 1993). Sosa was the 1998 NL MVP (Cubs), led his league in home runs twice, runs scored three times, RBI twice.    His best season was 1998 (Cubs), when he hit .308, with 66 home runs, a league-leading 158 RBI and league-leading 134 runs scored – and even tossed in 18 stolen bases. So, why is the seven-time All Star not in the Hall?  The PED shadow has darkened his chances.  He’s very close to being dropped from the ballot, but may gets a small boost this year. Sosa played for the Rangers (1989, 2007); White Sox (1989-1991); Cubs (1992-2004); and Orioles (2005).

Mike Stairs OF/1B, 1992-2011) – First year on the ballot.

Mike Stairs enjoyed a 19-year MLB career, hitting .262, with 265 home runs and 899 RBI.  His place on the ballot recognizes his ability to fill a role at the major league level. His best season was 1999 (A’s), when he hit .258, but slugged 38 home runs and drove in 102. In his career, Stairs hit 20 or more home runs six times and topped 100 RBI twice. Stairs played for the Expos (1992-1993); Red Sox (1995); A’s (1996-2000); Cubs (2001); Brewers (2002);  Pirates (2003); Royals (2004-2006); Rangers (2006); Tigers (2006); Blue Jays (2007-2008); Phillies (2008-2009); Padres (2010); and Nationals (2011).

Jason Varitek (C, 1997-2011) – First time on the ballot.

A three-time All Star, Varitek caught an MLB-record (tying) four no-hitters.  His resume also includes a Gold Glove and Silver slugger Award (both in 2005) and three All Star selections. For his 15-seasn MLB career – all with the Red Sox –  Varitek hit .256, with 193 home runs and 757 RBI. His best season was 2003, when he hit .273, with 25 home runs and 85 RBI. In his Silver Slugger/Gold Glove year, he hit .281, with 22 home runs and 70 RBI.

Billy Wagner (RP, 1995-2010) – Second year on the ballot, 10.5 percent last year.

Wagner is a seven-time All Star, who amassed 422 saves (fifth all-time) in a 16-season MLB career.  He had nine seasons of 30 or more saves; a career ERA of 2.31; 1,196 career strikeouts in 903 innings; and 47-40 won-lost record.  His best season was 2003, when he went 1-4, 1.78 for the Astros, saving 44 games amne fanning 105 batters in 86 inings.  BBRT thinks he belong in the Hall (based on his 400+ saves) – and hopes that momentum starts to build.  Wagner played for the Astros (1995-2003); Phillies (2004-2005); Mets (2006-2009); Red Sox (2009); and Braves (2010).

Tim Wakefield  (SP/RP, 1992-2011) – First Year on the ballot.

Wakefield didn’t make the majors until age 25, and still logged 19 MLB seasons. He finished with 200 wins (180 losses), a 4.41 ERA and 23 SAVES.  While those numbers are not likely to put Wakefiled in the Hall, a 19-year MLB career is to be celebrated.   His best year was 1995, when he went 16-8, 2.95 for the Red Sox and finished third in the Cy Young Award balloting. Wakefield pitched for the Pirates (1992-1993) and Red Sox (1995-2011)).

Coming Soon – A Look at the “Today’s Era” ballot.

I tweet baseball @DavidBBRT

Member: Society for American Baseball Research (SABR); The Baseball Reliquary; Baseball Bloggers Alliance.

 

 

 

Heavy Metal – A Gold Glove and Sliver Slugger in the Same Season

Ivan Rodriguez won the Silver Slugger and Gold Glove Awards in the same season a record six consecutive years. Photo by raisethejollyroger dot com

Ivan Rodriguez won the Silver Slugger and Gold Glove Awards in the same season a record six consecutive years.
Photo by raisethejollyroger dot com

It’s MLB’s awards seasons and we are all hearing a lot about the major awards like Rookie of the Year, Manager of the Year, Cy Young Award and MVP.  In this post, I’d like to look at some of the recognitions that have garnered less publicity – the Silver Slugger (for the season’s best offensive performance at each position) and the Gold Glove (for the season’s best defensive performance at each position). If you follow BBRT, you know that I am particularly partial to players that can flash “leather and lumber.”  So, this post will focus primarily on players who, in 2016, captured what BBRT terms “MLB’s Heavy Metal Double Play” – winning a Silver Slugger and Gold Glove in the same season.

Note: If you’d like to see BBRT’s key award predictions (made in October before the finalists were announced), click here.

This past season, four players earned both a Gold Glove and a Silver Slugger:  Rockies’ 3B Nolan Arenado; Cubs’ 1B Anthony Rizzo; Royals’ C Salvador Perez; and Red Sox’ RF Mookie Betts.  Let’s take a look at the performance of each of these well-rounded athletes – as well as players who have won a Sliver Sluggers and Gold Glove in the same season in the past.

Nolan Arenado – Third Base, Rockies

Nolan Arenado photo

Nolan Arenado – fourth consecutive Gold Glove, second straight Silver Slugger. Photo by jenniferlinneaphotography

Let me start off by saying that the Rockies’ 25-year-old 3B is my current favorite player.  I’ve always been partial to third base – Hall of Famer Eddie Mathews was my childhood hero and remains my favorite player of all-time – and nobody plays the hot corner better than Arenado.  This is his fourth MLB season and his fourth Gold Glove. This season, he led all 3B in assists (378) and Defensive Runs Saved (20). In addition, he won the Fielding Bible Award as the best defensive 3B in MLB and had the highest (very statistically driven) SABR Defensive Index (SBI) among National League 3B (only the Rangers’ Adrian Beltre had a higher SBI).

On offense, Arenado earned his second straight Silver Slugger Award by hitting .294, while leading the league (for the second season in a row) in both home runs (41) and RBI (133). He also finished second in the NL in runs scored (116).

 

 

Anthony Rizzo, First Base, Cubs

Anthony rizzo cubs photo

Anthony Rizzo joins the “Leather and Lumber” club. Photo by apardavila

The 27-year-old Cubs’ 1B picked up his first Gold Glove and first Silver Slugger in his sixth MLB season. In the field, he led all MLB 1B in assists (125) and Defensive Runs Saved (11). Like Arenado (see above), Rizzo also won the Fielding Bible Award as the game’s best defensive 1B in 2016 and had the highest SABR Defensive Index among first sackers.

At the plate, the left-handed hitting Rizzo hit .292, with 32 home runs and 109 RBI – making his third straight All Star squad.  It was Rizzo’s third straight year with 30+ home runs and second consecutive seasaon of 100+ RBI.

Salvador Perez, Catcher, Royals

Photo by Keith Allison

Sal;vado Perez – fourth Gold Glove, first Sliver Slugger. Photo by Keith Allison

In 2016, Royals’ backstop, 26-year-old, Salvador Perez picked up his fourth consecutive Gold Glove and made his fourth consecutive All Star team. Perez led all MLB C in assists (77), had the AL’s second-best caught stealing percentage 42.9%) and was second only to the Giants’ Buster Posey in Defensive Runs Saved (11 to Posey’s 12). He also had the highest Society for American Baseball Research Defensive Index among catchers (tied with the Tigers’ James McCann at 8.7).

At the plate, Perez earned his first Silver Slugger Award, hitting .247, with 22 home runs and 64 RBI.

 

 

 

 

 

Mookie Betts, Right Field, Red Sox

Mookie Betts photo

Mookie Betts – Does it all. Photo by Dennis Heller

Mookie Betts (now 24-years-old) won his first Gold Glove and his first Silver Slugger award in his third MLB season (second full season). Betts led all MLB RF in putouts with 346 and was second in assists with 14.   He led all of MLB in Defensive Runs Saved at 32, ten ahead of second-place finisher, White Sox’ RF Adam Eaton.

At the plate, Betts hit .318, with 31 home runs, 113 RBI, 122 runs scored and 26 steals – a true five-tool star.

 

 

 

 

 

So, there are your 2016 “Heavy Metal Double Play” winners.  Now, here’s an update on those who have won both awards in the same season in the past. (The past, by the way, goes back to 1980, when the Silver Slugger Award was established.  Since 1980, the combination of a Gold Glove/Silver Slugger has been achieved 178 times by 98 different players.  You’ll find a complete list of the players who have earned recognition as the offensive and defensive leader in their respective leagues later in this post. (I’m also including lists of 2016’s individual Silver Slugger and Gold Glove winners). Since the Silver Slugger is awarded to three outfielders annually regardless of their position (LF, CF, RF), the Silver Slugger and GG/SS combo lists in this post do not break outfielders out by position.

  • The fewest GG/SS combo winners in a single season is one – Dodgers’ 1B Adrian Gonzalez in 2014.
  • The most players to achieve the GG/SS combo in a season is nine – back in 1984: Lance Parrish, C, Tigers; Keith Hernandez, 1B, Mets; Eddie Murray, 1B, Orioles; Ryne Sandberg, 2B, Cubs; Lou Whitaker, 2B, Tigers; Mike Schmidt, 3B, Phillies; Buddy Bell, 3B, Rangers; Dave Winfield, OF, Yankees; Dale Murphy, OF, Braves.
  • Ivan Rodriguez (C), Ken Griffey, Jr. (OF) and Barry Bonds (OF) each won the double (Silver Slugger/Gold Glove) crown in a season an MLB-record seven times.
  • Ivan Rodriguez won the SS/GG combo for his position a record six consecutive seasons (1995-1999).
  • Roberto Alomar (2B) is the only player to win the single-season Gold Glove/Silver Slugger combo with three different teams (Blue Jays-1992; Orioles-1996; Indians-1999, 2000)
  • Mike Hampton is the only pitcher to win the Silver Slugger and Gold Glove in the same season (Braves – 2003).
  • Scott Rolen (3B) is the only player to win the SS/GG combo in a season in which he played for two different teams (2002, Phillies/Cardinals). Rolen was traded from the Phillies to the Cardinals on July 29. He played 100 games for the Phillies and 55 for the Cardinals in his only SS/GG combo season.
  • Adrian Gonzalez (1B) and Matt Williams (3B) are the only players to capture a SS/GG single-season combination in both the AL and NL. Gonzalez – Dodgers-2014; Red Sox-2011. Williams – Indians-1997; Giants-1993-1994.
  • The only team to have three SS/GG winners in the same season is the 1993 Giants (Robby Thompson (2B), Matt Williams (3B), Barry Bonds (OF).
  • Outfielders have achieved the SS/GG combo most often (66 times), but if you factor in the potential to outfielders to achieve three combos each season, second baseman have been most successful, putting up 28 SS/GG seasons.
  • The top team in terms of SS/GG seasons is the Yankees (13).
  • In the NL, the Rockies, Nationals/Expos, Giants, Cubs and Cards have each had a league leading nine SS/GG winners.
  • The White Sox are the only teams to never have a player win a Gold Glove and Silver Slugger in the same season.

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Full List of Same Year Gold Glove/Silver Slugger Winners by Season

2016

Nolan Arenado, 3B, Rockies

Mookie Betts, Of, Red Sox

Salvador Perez, C, Royals

Anthony Rizzo, 1B, Cubs

2015

Jose Altuve, 2B, Astros

Paul Goldschmidt, 1B, Diamondbacks

Dee Gordon, 2B, Marlins

Nolan Arenado, 3B, Rockies

Brandon Crawford, SS, Giants.

2014

Adrian Gonzalez, 1B, Dodgers

2013

Yadier Molina, C, Cardinals

Paul Goldschmidt, 1B, Diamondbacks

J.J. Hardy, SS, Orioles

Adam Jones, OF, Orioles

2012

Adam LaRoche, 1B, Nationals

Robinson Cano, 2B, Yankees

Chase Headley, 3B, Padres

Andrew McCutchen, OF, Pirates

2011

Adrian Gonzalez, 1B, Red Sox

Brandon Phillips, 2B, Reds

Adrian Beltre, 3B, Rangers

Troy Tulowitzki, SS, Rockies

Jacob Ellsbury, OF, Red Sox

Matt Kemp, OF, Dodgers

2010

Joe Mauer, C, Twins

Albert Pujols, 1B, Cardinals

Robinson Cano, 2B, Yankees

Troy Tulowitzki, SS, Rockies

Carl Crawford, OF, Rays

Carlos Gonzalez, OF, Rockies

2009

Joe Mauer, C, Twins

Mark Tiexiera, 1B, Yankees

Ryan Zimmerman, 3B, Nationals

Derek Jeter, SS, Yankees

Matt Kemp, OF, Dodgers

Ichiro Suzuki, OF, Mariners

Torii Hunter, OF, Angels

2008

Joe Mauer, C, Twins

Dustin Pedroia, 2B, Red Sox

David Wright, 3B, Mets

Grady Sizemore, OF, Indians

2007

Russell Martin, C, Dodgers

Placido Polanco, 2B, Tigers

David Wright, 3B, Mets

Jimmy Rollins, SS, Phillies

Carlos Beltran, OF, Mets

Ichiro Suzuki, OF, Mariners

2006

Derek Jeter, SS, Yankees

Carlos Beltran, OF, Mets

2005

Jason Veritek, C, Red Sox

Mark Tiexierea, 1B, Rangers

Derrek Lee, 1B, Cubs

Andruw Jones, OF, Braves

2004

Ivan Rodriguez, C, Tigers

Jim Edmonds, OF, Cardinals

2003

Brett Boone, 2B, Mariners

Edgar Renteria, SS, Cardinals

Alex Rodriguez, SS, Rangers

Mike Hampton, P, Braves

2002

Todd Helton, 1B, Rockies

Scott Rolen, 3B, Cardinals/Phillies

Eric Chavez, 3B, A’s

Edgar Renteria, SS, Cardinals

Alex Rodriguez, SS, Rangers

2001

Todd Helton, 1B, Rockies

Ichiro Suzuki, OF, Mariners

2000

Roberto Alomar, 2B, Indians

Darin Erstad, OF, Angels

1999

Ivan Rodriguez, C, Rangers

Robert Alomar, 2B, Indians

Larry Walker, OF, Rockies

Ken Griffey, Jr., OF, Mariners

Shawn Green, OF, Blue Jays

1998

Ivan Rodriguez, C, Rangers

Rafael Palmeiro, 1B, Rangers

Ken Griffey, Jr. OF, Mariners

1997

Ivan Rodriguez, C, Rangers

Craig Biggio, 2B, Astros

Chuck Knoblauch, 2B, Twins

Matt Williams, 3B, Indians

Larry Walker, OF, Rockies

Barry Bonds, OF, Giants

Ken Griffey, Jr, OF, Mariners

1996

Ivan Rodriguez, C, Rangers

Roberto Alomar, 2B, Orioles

Ken Caminiti, 3B, Padres

Barry Larkin, SS, Reds

Barry Bonds, OF, Giants

Ken Griffey, Jr. OF, Mariners

1995

Ivan Rodriguez, C, Rangers

Craig, Biggio, 2B, Astros

Barry Larkin, SS, Reds

1994

Ivan Rodriguez, C, Rangers

Jeff Bagwell, 1B, Astros

Craig Biggio, 2B, Astros

Matt Williams, 3B, Giants

Wade Boggs, 3B, Yankees

Barry Bonds, OF, Giants

Ken Griffey, Jr., OF, Mariners

1993

Robby Thompson, 2B, Giants

Matt Williams, 3B, Giants

Jay Bell, SS, Pirates

Barry Bonds, OF, Giants

Ken Griffey, Jr, OF, Mariners

1992

Roberto Alomar, 2B, Blue Jays

Larry Walker, OF, Expos

Andy Van Slyke, OF, Pirates

Barry Bonds, OF, Pirates

Kirby Puckett, OF, Twins

1991

Will Clark, 1B, Giants

Ryne Sandberg, 2B, Cubs

Cal Ripken, Jr., SS, Orioles

Barry Bonds, OF, Pirates

Ken Griffey, Jr., OF, Mariners

1990

Benito Santiago, C, Padres

Ryne Sandberg, 2B, Cubs

Kelly Gruber, 3B, Blue Jays

Barry Bonds, OF, Pirates

Ellis Burks, OF, Red Sox

1989

Ryne Sandberg, 2B, Cubs

Eric Davis, OF, Reds

Kirby Puckett, OF, Twins

Tony Gwynn, OF, Padres

1988

Benito Santiago, C, Padres

Ryne Sandberg, 2B, Cubs

Andy Van Slyke, OF, Pirates

Kirby Puckett, OF, Twins

1987

Don Mattingly, 1B, Yankees

Ozzie Smith, SS, Cardinals

Tony Gwynn, OF, Padres

Eric Davis, OF, Reds

Kirby Puckett, OF, Twins

Andre Dawson, OF, Cubs

1986

Don Mattingly, 1B, Yankees

Frank White, 2B, Royals

Mike Schmidt, 3B, Phillies

Tony Gwynn, OF, Padres

Kirby Puckett, OF, Twins

1985

Don Mattingly, 1B, Yankees

Ryne Sandberg, 2B, Cubs

Lou Whitaker, 2B, Tigers

Tim Wallach, 3B, Expos

George Brett, 3B, Royals

Willie McGee, OF, Cardinals

Dale Murphy, OF, Braves

Dave Winfield, OF, Yankees

1984

Lance Parrish, C, Tigers

Keith Hernandez, 1B, Mets

Eddie Murray, 1B, Orioles

Ryne Sandberg, 2B, Cubs

Lou Whitaker, 2B, Tigers

Mike Schmidt, 3B, Phillies

Buddy Bell, 3B, Rangers

Dave Winfield, OF, Yankees

Dale Murphy, OF, Braves

1983

Lance Parrish, C, Tigers

Eddie Murray, 1B, Orioles

Lou Whitaker, 2B, Tigers

Mike Schmidt, 3B, Phillies

Dale Murphy, OF, Braves

Dave Winfield, OF, Yankees

Andre Dawson, OF, Expos

1982

Gary Carter, C, Expos

Mike Schmidt, 3B, Phillies

Robin Yount, SS, Brewers

Dale Murphy, OF, Braves

Dave Winfield, OF, Yankees

1981

Gary Carter, C, Expos

Manny Trillo, 2B, Phillies

Mike Schmidt, 3B, Phillies

Andre Dawson, OF, Expos

Rickey Henderson, OF, A’s

Dwight Evans, OF, Red Sox

Dusty Baker, OF, Dodgers

1980

Keith Hernandez, 1B, Cardinals

Cecil Cooper, 1B, Brewers

Andre Dawson, OF, Expos

Willie Wilson, OF, Royals

____________________________________

Your  Gold Glove/Silver Slugger combo winners listed alphabetically:

Alomar, Roberto … 1992; 1996; 1999; 2000

Altuve, Jose … 2015

Arenado, Nolan … 2015; 2016

Baker, Dusty … 1981

Bagwell, Jeff … 1994

Bell, Buddy … 1984

Bell, Jay (SS) … 1993

Beltre, Adrian (3B) … 2011

Beltran, Carlos (OF) … 2006; 2007

Biggio, Craig (2B) … 1994; 1995; 1997

Mookie Betts (OF) … 2016

Boggs, Wade (3B) … 1994

Bonds, Barry … 1990; 1991; 1992; 1993; 1994; 1996; 1997

Boone, Brett … 2003

Brett, George … 1985\

Burks, Ellis … 1990

Caminiti, Ken … 1996

Cano, Robinson … 2010; 2012

Carter, Gary … 1981; 1982

Chavez, Eric … 2002

Clark, Will … 1991

Cooper, Cecil …1980

Crawford, Brandon … 2015

Crawford, Carl … 2010

Dawson, Andre … 1980; 1981; 1983; 1987

Davis, Eric … 1987; 1989

Edmonds, Jim … 2004

Ellsbury, Jacob … 2011

Erstad, Darin … 2000

Evans, Dwight … 1981

Goldschmidt, Paul … 2015

Gonzalez, Adrian … 2011; 2014

Gonzalez, Carlos … 2010

Gordon, Dee … 2015

Green, Shawn … 1999

Griffey, Ken Jr. … 1991; 1993; 1994; 1996; 1997; 1998; 1999

Gruber, Kelly … 1990

Gwynn, Tony … 1986; 1987; 1989

Hampton, Mike … 2003

Hardy, J.J. … 2013

Headley, Chase … 2012

Helton, Todd … 2002

Henderson, Rickey … 1981

Hernandez, Keith … 1980; 1984

Hunter, Torii … 2009

Jeter, Derek … 2006; 2009

Jones, Adam … 2013

Jones, Andruw … 2005

Kemp, Matt … 2009; 2011

Knoblauch, Chuck … 1997

Larkin, Barry … 1995; 1996

LaRoche, Adam  … 2012

Lee, Derrek … 2005

Martin, Russell … 2008

Mattingly, Don … 1985; 1986; 1987

Mauer, Joe … 2008; 2009; 2010

McCutchen, Andrew … 2012

McGee, Willie … 1985

Molina, Yadier … 2013\

Murphy, Dale … 1982; 1083; 1984; 1985

Murray, Eddie … 1983; 1984

Palanco, Placido … 2007

Palmeiro, Rafael … 1998

Parrish, Lance … 1983; 1984

Pedroia, Dustin … 2008

Salvador, Perez … 2016

Phillips, Brandon … 2011

Puckett, Kirby … 1986; 1987; 1988; 1989; 1992

Pujols, Albert … 2010

Renteria, Edgar … 2002

Ripken, Cal, Jr. … 1991

Anthony Rizzo … 2016

Rodriguez, Alex … 2002; 2003

Rodriguez, Ivan … 1994; 1995; 1996; 1997; 1998; 1999; 2004

Rolen, Scott … 2002

Rollins, Jimmy … 2007

Sandberg, Ryne … 1984; 1985; 1988; 1989; 1990; 1991

Santiago, Benito … 1988; 1990\

Schmidt, Mike … 1981; 1982; 1983; 1984; 1986

Sizemore, Grady … 2008

Smith, Ozzie … 1987\

Suzuki, Ichiro … 2001; 2007; 2009

Thompson, Robby … 1993

Tiexiera, Mark … 2005, 2009

Trillo, Manny … 1981

Tulowitzki, Troy … 2010; 2011

Van Slyke, Andy … 1988; 1992

Varitek, Jason … 2005

Walker, Larry … 1992; 1997; 1999

Wallach, Tim … 1985

White, Frank … 1986

Whitaker, Lou … 1983; 1984; 1985

Williams, Matt … 1993; 1994; 1997

Wilson, Willie … 1980

Winfield, Dave … 1982; 1983; 1984; 1985

Wright, David … 2007; 2008

Yount, Robin … 1982

Ryan Zimmerman … 200

 

2016 Silver Slugger Award Winners

Catcher:  Salvador Perez, Royals/Wilson Ramos, Nationals

First Base:  Miguel Cabrera, Tigers/Anthony Rizzo, Cubs

Second Base: Jose Altuve, Astros/Daniel Murphy, Nationals

Third Base:  Josh Donaldson, Blue Jays/Nolan Arenado, Rockies

Shortstop:  Xander Bogaerts, Red Sox/Corey Seager Dodgers

Outfield:

Mike Trout, Angels/Mark Trumbo, Orioles/Mookie Betts, Red Sox

Charlie Blackmon, Rockies/Christian Yelich, Marlins/Yeonis Cespedes, Mets

Pitcher:  Jake Arrieta, Cubs

DH:  David Ortiz, Red Sox

_______________________________________________________________

2016 Gold Glove Winners

Catcher:  Salvador Perez, Royals/Buster Posey, Giants

1B:  Mitch Moreland, Rangers/Anthony Rizzo, Cubs

2B:  Ian Kinsler, Tigers/Joe Panik, Giants

3B:  Adrian Beltre, Rangers/Nolan Arenado, Rockies

SS:  Francisco Lindor, Indians/Brandon Crawford, Giants

LF:  Brett Gardner, Yankees/Starling Marte, Pirates

CF:  Kevin Kiermaier, Rays/Ender Inciarte, Braves

RF:  Mookie Betts, Red Sox/Jason Heyward, Cubs

Pitcher:  Dallas Keuchel, Astros/Zack Greinke, Diamondbacks

 

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