Lee Smith should have been inducted into the Hall of Fame a long time ago. He was the all-time saves leader when he retired, since passed by Mariano Rivera (who will likely be inducted this year) and Trevor Hoffman (inducted last year). Yet he never received more than 50% from the BBWAA. And that is why we need the Veterans Committee.
I know a lot of people are upset about Harold Baines (I’m not one of them), but the BBWAA is far from perfect and some players deserve a second look from a different body of voters. I’m especially glad Alan Trammell got that second look this past year, and I’m glad Smith is getting the nod in 2019. It will likely be a long time before a relief pitcher gets considerable attention by either the BBWAA or the VC after 2019, and I’m okay with that as I think the position—particularly how it is utilized today—is overrated by many.
While I was digging around for a photo to use, I came across this awesome custom 1980 Topps Lee Smith card at “Cards That Never Were.”
Am I the only person in the world that believes the Cy Young Award should be renamed the Greg Maddux Award? The Mad Dog was an artful pitcher, relying more on finesse than fastballs. It broke my heart when he left Chicago for Atlanta, but I was happy to see him return to the Cubs after his success with the Braves. Sixteen voters declined to put a check mark next to Maddux’s name in 2014.
Chicago Cubs legend Ron Santo was a long overlooked superstar, practically ignored by the BBWAA when he was on the Hall of Fame ballot. Initially dropped from the ballot in 1980 with a paltry 3.9%, he was added back in 1985, where he stayed until 1998. His highest percentage during that time came in his final year on the ballot, when he only received 43.1% support. It took the Veterans Committee another 14 years to make it right, electing Santo in 2012; sadly, the third baseman passed away in 2010 and was unable to enjoy the honor himself.
I grew up watching Ryne Sandberg man second base at Wrigley Field on WGN every day after school. From 1984 to 1993, he was an All-Star, and in 1984 was the NL MVP. It blew my mind when Sandberg didn’t even receive 50% support his first year on the Hall of Fame ballot. Perhaps coming out of retirement after one year hurt his status with the writers; it certainly didn’t help his statistics very much. On his third try, Sandberg received 76.2% of the vote.
Leo Durocher managed four teams in his career: the Brooklyn Dodgers, New York Giants, Chicago Cubs, and Houston Astros. It is from Durocher that we get the phrase, “Nice guys finish last,” although he didn’t say those exact words. The exact quote is, “The nice guys are all over there, in seventh place.”
Fergie Jenkins was the 1971 NL Cy Young Award winner for the Chicago Cubs, and nearly won the 1974 AL Cy Young with the Rangers. He received ten first-place votes for the award, while Catfish Hunter took twelve first-place votes. “Fly” was the first Canadian-born baseball player inducted into the Hall of Fame, gaining entry in his third year on the ballot in 1991.
The Chicago Tribune Book of the Chicago Cubs: A Decade-by-Decade History edited by Joe Knowles (2017)
No longer the “lovable losers,” the Cubs finally overcame their 108-year drought by winning the World Championship in 2016. With the team poised to make another run at the title this year, there is no better time to revisit the team’s rich history. The Chicago Tribune Book of the Chicago Cubs: A Decade-by-Decade History goes all the way back to the team’s beginnings as one of the charter members of the National League in 1876. Those first 24 years, during which they changed from the White Stockings to the Colts to the Orphans, are covered in just a few pages. Beginning with the 1900s, the book goes into much more depth, featuring several player profiles, decade highlights, and a “Team of the Decade” feature.
The Cubs were first called the Cubs in 1902, but that did not completely settle the name of the club. It was not until 1907 that the nickname was officially adopted due to the support of Frank Chance. Replete with photographs from the Tribune’s vast archives, this volume is a treasure trove for fans of baseball history, the Cubs in particular. Add to the player profiles a number of topical articles of interest, including “Tinker to Evers to Chance” and “Babe Ruth’s ‘called shot’,” and the history of the franchise comes alive.
Of course, the book features the all-time greats like Greg Maddux, Ernie Banks, Ryne Sandberg, and Fergie Jenkins, but there are also stories about lesser-known players, such as Jeff Pico, who held the Reds to only four hits in his big league debut, and Chuck Connors, who is better known for his role as “The Rifleman” on television. The decade break-downs conclude with the celebration of the Cubs’ World Championship in 2016.
But wait, there’s more! In a section called “Extra Innings,” The Chicago Tribune Book of the Chicago Cubs delves into everything else: the ballparks, the award winners, the postseasons, no-hitters, best and worst trades, and the legends, curses, and myths that surround the team.
Pound-for-pound (and it is a heavy one, measuring 9.5×11 and 344 pages), this is the best book on Chicago Cubs history on the market. Cubs fans will absolutely love it, regardless of the results of the 2017 season.
(June 28, 1949 – August 7, 2017)
Slugging outfielder and 1979 American League MVP, Don Baylor passed away today from multiple myeloma, a form of cancer of plasma cells. Baylor his 338 home runs in his career, was an All-Star in 1979, and won the World Series with the Minnesota Twins in 1987. He presided over the Boston Red Sox’s kangaroo court, and fined Roger Clemens $5 for giving up a single to Spike Owen on an 0-2 count during his 20-strikeout game in 1986. He was also the Colorado Rockies’ first manager.
We mourn the loss of former Oriole Don Baylor. Our thoughts are with his family. pic.twitter.com/ewkdpEDAmA
— Baltimore Orioles (@Orioles) August 7, 2017
Few have worn the Angels uniform with greater pride, loyalty and commitment and few have made a greater impact. RIP Groove. pic.twitter.com/MiwKw2Hkql
— Angels (@Angels) August 7, 2017
We are deeply saddened by the passing of former Yankee Don Baylor. He was a great man & we send our thoughts to his family & friends. pic.twitter.com/3t3UavXPs8
— New York Yankees (@Yankees) August 7, 2017
We're deeply saddened by the passing of Don Baylor, a beloved member of the '86 Red Sox. Our thoughts & prayers are with his family. pic.twitter.com/NmWT9qq9Db
— Red Sox (@RedSox) August 7, 2017
Sending love to the Baylor family today. RIP Don. pic.twitter.com/sXpafJ9L86
— Minnesota Twins (@Twins) August 7, 2017
Very sad to hear about the passing of my former teammate and friend Don Baylor. RIP 🙏
— Bert Blyleven (@BertBlyleven28) August 7, 2017
Very sad last few days as baseball loses 2 strong leaders of the past, Darren Daulton & Don Baylor. Two old school tough baseball players.
— Ken Singleton (@29alltime) August 7, 2017
— Dave Winfield (@DaveWinfieldHOF) August 7, 2017
We are deeply saddened by the passing of original Colorado Rockies Manager Don Baylor. pic.twitter.com/hYo61JP1sF
— Colorado Rockies (@Rockies) August 7, 2017
The #Cubs mourn the passing of former manager Don Baylor.
We send our condolences to his family and friends. pic.twitter.com/LJCwJVRD7O
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) August 7, 2017
— Arizona Diamondbacks (@Dbacks) August 7, 2017
— Jim Abbott (@jabbottum31) August 7, 2017
— Vladimir Guerrero (@VladGuerrero27) August 7, 2017
— Dontrelle Willis (@DTrainMLB) August 7, 2017
Don Baylor was a great coach, manager, player, mentor, and friend. Above all he was a tremendous human being. Rest easy "Groove".
— Raúl Ibañez (@RaulIbanezMLB) August 7, 2017
Thoughts and prayers go out to the Baylor family. Rest easy Groove!
— C.J. Cron (@CCron24) August 8, 2017
He always gave me confidence after a rough one,always ready to laugh, a great coach,a great friend,with both love and sadness RIP Don Baylor
— Huston Street (@HustonStreet) August 7, 2017
Detroit Tigers’ general manager Al Avila traded his son Alex Avila (along with Justin Wilson) to the Cubs. According to Jon Morosi, this is the first time in almost fifty years this has happened at the MLB level. The best reaction on Twitter, and perhaps the best Tweet of all-time:
Theo like "uhhh Justin Wilson please and the blood of your first born" pic.twitter.com/8oJd0MLTC8
— Zack Goldman (@DaRealGoldMan) July 31, 2017
Morosi failed to provide the last dad-sends-son-packing deal in his report, however. In 1968, another Al—Dodgers’ GM Al Campanis—dealt his boy Jim Campanis to the expansion Kansas City Royals “as part of a conditional deal.” Dad’s reasoning was that Jim was more likely to get playing time with the new team rather than the established Dodgers. Perhaps the elder Aliva wanted Alex to have a better shot at a ring. The Cubs are the defending World Champions, and currently sit atop the National League Central division, while the Tigers aren’t even playing .500 ball.