Tuesday, July 28, 2009

HOF induction speeches

I'm a couple of days late on this, but here are a couple of links for watching the induction speeches to the Hall of Fame:

Rickey Henderson

Jim Rice

Judy Gordon, daughter of Joe Gordon


Friday, July 24, 2009

Mark Buehrle, Hall of Famer?

No, I'm not advocating or even predicting that Mark Buehrle will one day make the Hall of Fame. But with yesterday's perfect game, it's the perfect time to point out that he is on a Hall of Fame track.

Yes, he is on a Hall of Fame track, even though he's never really been an ace and has never struck fear into the hearts of opposing batters and managers.

So how is it possible? Because there are two ways to get into the Hall as a pitcher:

1. Dominate in your 20s, like Sandy Koufax, Dizzy Dean, Don Drysdale, and many others.

2. Be a workhorse in your 30s and 40s, like Early Wynn, Don Sutton, Phil Niekro, and many others.

Rare pitchers do both: Roger Clemens, Tom Seaver, Greg Maddux, etc. Those are the true greats of the game, the inner-circle Hall of Famers. The other guys are mostly outer-circle Hall of Famers (not Koufax and Dean, but the other guys).

Buehrle clearly did not dominate in his 20s, but he did win 122 games before turning 30. And he did it without missing time due to a major injury. From age 22 on, he has started at least 30 games per season every year. He's solid, dependable, and good.

And because he has good command of his pitches, he's the kind of player who could continue as an effective pitcher for a very long time. If he does that--if he wins 12-17 games per year for the next decade, he'll probably end up with 300 victories, or close to it. And that will make him a strong Hall of Fame candidate.

Will he? I have no idea. An errant line drive could end things suddenly. Or he could blow up like Barry Zito. But if the Mark Buehrle of the next decade pitches anything like the Mark Buehrle of the last decade, he can start preparing his induction speech.

(I'm not the only person to think of this. After writing this, I Googled "Mark Buehrle Hall of Fame" and found these others making the argument here and here and probably elsewhere.)

Friday, July 17, 2009

Ballplayer showing class? True!

Great to see a big star honor the game's past:

Ichiro, in St. Louis for his ninth All-Star Game, visited the grave of St. Louis Browns star George Sisler, whose single-season record of 257 hits was broken by the Mariners outfielder in October 2004.


"I wanted to do that for a grand upperclassman of the baseball world," Ichiro told MLB.com. "I think it's only natural for someone to want to do that, to express my feelings in that way."

I'm not sure if there's going to be a Hall of Fame debate about Ichiro due to the limited time he has spent in the U.S. major leagues, but he deserves induction in my book and this move just raises his stature in my eyes.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Voice of reason on steroids

Craig Calcaterra flags a voice of reason on the steroid issue: Bob Gibson.

Guys have always been cheating. Period. It just takes a little different form today. I'm just glad they didn't have steroids when I was playing. I don't know what I would have done. It's very difficult to go out and perform when you know the guy next to you is taking steroids or some kind of drug to make you perform better and not do it yourself, to let this guy get an edge on you . . .

. . . I don't know that I really criticize the guys. Whoever the first guy is that started it, that's the guy I criticize. The rest of the guys just followed suit. I don't think its OK. I'm not sanctioning it, but I understand why it happens.

Gibson's statement pretty much crystallizes my thoughts on the steroid issue. It should have been the players who policed it, because they knew what was really going on. But nobody -- or almost nobody -- stepped up to the media or the union to get the others to stop it. So it became an arms race.

Yes, I'm glad the arms race is over, but I don't really blame or want to vilify the players who shot up. Either does Bob Gibson.

The Anonymous All-Star

Great article in the New York Times about Andrew Bailey, the A's closer and sole representative to the A.L. All-Star team. You can forgive yourself for saying, Who? In fact, Bailey wasn't the only head-scratcher of an All-Star this year. I'm hard-pressed to name the teams represented by Freddy Sanchez, Hunter Pence, Josh Johnson, Ben Zobrist, and Brian Fuentes.

But that's what you get when you require that every team gets a representative. I'm happy for those guys, who may never get this chance again. But you can hardly call those guys "stars."

However, it's not as if past All-Star games featured only big stars and future Hall of Famers. Just taking a random gander at some past games, we find the following forgotten All-Stars:

1933 (the inaugural game): General Crowder, Oral Hildebrand, Sam West, Tony Cuccinello, Woody English, Jimmie Wilson
1941: Sid Hudson, Thornton Lee (immortalized in the great song "Van Lingle Mungo"), Marius Russo, Harry Danning, Lonny Frey, Hank Lieber, Eddie Miller, Al Benton
1965*: Max Alvis, Jimmie Hall, Bob Lee, John O'Donoghue, Turk Farrell, Sammy Ellis
1977: Wayne Gross, Jim Kern, Jim Slaton, Butch Wynegar, Willie Montanez, John Stearns
1989: Mark Gubicza, Greg Swindell, Tim Burke
1996 (the most recent NL victory): Roger Pavlik, Dan Wilson, Ricky Bottalico, Henry Rodriguez, Eric Young

One of the problems with the All-Star Game, in my opinion, is that the people picking the squad feel they have to reward every player who has put together a fine half-season, regardless of whether they're actual stars. I would prefer to see actual stars, even if they're having a bad season, rather than anonymous guys who put together a good few months. Sure, they'll feel snubbed, but if they really have what it takes to be a star, they'll earn their spot next year.

*Side note: Check out the firepower on the NL team that year: Aaron, Allen, Banks, Clemente, Mays, Robinson, Rose, Santo, Stargell, Williams; on the mound, Koufax, Drysdale, Marichal, Gibson. Wow. And it was a great game, too.