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Off-season reading material

Baseball greats get book deals, right? With the Hall of Fame class now set for 2019, I thought I would take a look at books that focus on those players’ careers. I was surprised to find that only on of the six has an autobiography already in print, and only one other has an announced release date for later this year.
Edgar

I’m not sure there would be much demand for a Lee Smith tell-all, or even a Harold Baines bio (although I would be interested in that one). Mike Mussina‘s humble disposition will probably prevent an autobiography from him. I heard an interesting story, and I don’t remember if it was on MLB Network’s coverage or elsewhere. Mussina tanked a grade in school so he wouldn’t be valedictorian. He didn’t want the spotlight.

There are a handful of Roy Halladay books geared toward younger readers:

Time will tell if a fuller examination of Halladay’s life will be offered, or if biographies of Smith, Baines, or Mussina will pop up.

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Fun Cards: “Baseball Immortals” Harold Baines

Baines

To say I was shocked when I clicked on the White Sox Cards blog this morning would be an understatement. It took a moment to register that Steve was talking about the actual National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum located in Cooperstown, and not a team Hall of Fame or perhaps the St. Michael’s High School Hall of Fame. While I have said in the past that I would not be upset by Harold Baines‘ induction, I never expected it to actually happen.

I’m still not mad.

Baines was a solid player for twenty-two seasons. He collected 2866 hits, good for #46 all-time and just 134 short of the “magic number.” As his former manager Tony La Russa said, “If it wasn’t for the strikes, he would have had 3000 hits.” The same argument is made by Fred McGriff apologists, so why shouldn’t it apply to Baines?

Every player ahead of Baines on the all-time hits list is in the Hall of Fame, save the permanently ineligible (Pete Rose), still active or recently retired (Adrian Beltre, Ichiro Suzuki, Albert Pujols), or steroid-implicated players (whose names I would rather not mention).*

I’m not mad that Baines will be inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2019, and I hope that his induction may pave the way for other borderline cases such as Dale Murphy and Dave Parker.

* Update: Omar Vizquel actually has 11 more hits than Harold, and I had overlooked him initially. Vizquel received 37% from BBWAA voters last year, and is eligible for nine more ballots as long as he does not drop below 5% support.

Retired Numbers: #3

Uniform #3 is retired by six teams for four Hall of Fame players and two players who have not (yet) been inducted into Cooperstown.


Dale Murphy, Atlanta Braves

Murphy is one of the most popular players not named Hank Aaron to ever wear the Braves uniform. In the early 1980s it seemed that the mild-mannered Murph was a surefire future Hall of Famer. Back-to-back MVP seasons, two other top-ten finishes in MVP voting, seven-time All-Star, five Gold Gloves, and 398 lifetime home runs. He is similar to Duke Snider and new Hall of Famer Ron Santo, and from age 28-35 he was most similar to Reggie Jackson. The question is, will he garner support from the Veterans Committee to finally get his due when his name is added to their ballots?


Babe Ruth, New York Yankees


Bill Terry, New York Giants


Earl Averill, Cleveland Indians


Harmon Killebrew, Minnesota Twins


Harold Baines, Chicago White Sox

Gypsy Queen – Harold Baines

Should he be in the Hall of Fame or shouldn’t he? The case for Harold Baines: he defined the DH position, he was consistent, he had a long career. The case against: he was a DH, he fell short of 3000 hits (by only 134), he was never dominant. Baines spent five years on the ballot before falling off during this most recent cycle garnering only 4.8% of the vote.

For the record, I would not have any problem with Baines in the Hall of Fame. He played the game as it should be played and just barely missed the “magic number” for hits. I’d be willing to assume that he would have picked up those 134 hits if there were no work stoppages in 1981 or 1994.

Reds-White Sox, June 19 photos

I was looking for tickets to Saturday’s game against the White Sox, but wasn’t really willing to pay the scalpers’ prices on them. So I decided to forgo the series. I’ve already seen the ChiSox a couple of times (once at Old Comiskey in 1989, again at New Comiskey in 1992). But as I was leaving work a couple of mornings ago, a co-worker asked if I wanted tickets to Friday’s game. I asked the question, of course, “How much?” His answer: “Free.” My answer: “Of course.”

My son had a baseball game tonight, so I knew I wouldn’t make it to the whole Reds game. As it turned out, I ended up umping the little leaguers because the high school kid they hired didn’t show up. I’m a terrible ump, and the little league game took about two hours to play. TWO HOURS FOR FIVE INNINGS. I was exhausted, but I knew we could still catch a few innings of the Reds game, so I dropped off my son, picked up my wife, and we were on our way…

We got to the game during the top of the seventh inning, just in time to see Jim Thome bat!

He ended up popping out I think. But hey, it was pure luck that we saw him at all…he was pinch hitting, and it turned out to be his only plate appearance of the night.

We also saw Jermaine Dye ground out…

…and Paul Konerko hit a long shot…

And some other stuff. I’m not sure. I was exhausted, still sweating from my umpire duties, but kept clicking away. Here’s a few of the other shots I took during the game…

Oh, and there was some dude standing down the first base line…I think there is some other blogger that thinks this guy should be a Hall of Famer or something…

One last thing. For those who are interested…THE REDS WON! Eat it, Steve. 🙂

Where is the support?

Yesterday I wrote about Jim Rice, Dale Murphy, and Dave Concepcion’s exclusion from the Hall of Fame. There are a number of other players on the ballot who are considered borderline candidates for the Hall. Some of them have been gaining support over the years, while others have not.

Andre Dawson, on the ballot since 2002, has risen from 45.3% to 65.9% this year. The Hawk became nationally known while playing for the Cubs in the late 1980s after spending the first part of his career in Montreal. He had a monster year in 1987, hitting 49 home runs and winning the MVP while playing for the last-place Cubs. He finished his 21-year career with 438 round-trippers, a more than respectable number for the pre-steroid era. (I’m really starting to hate that phrase.)

Bert Blyleven first appeared on the Hall of Fame ballot in 1998, receiving a paltry 17.5% of the vote. Blyleven has gained a great deal of support, finishing with 61.9% in 2008. The case for Blyleven is two-fold: he won a lot of games and struck out a lot of batters. In the modern era, the only eligible player for the Hall with more wins is Tommy John. Blyleven is also fifth on the all-time strikeouts list, with more K’s than Tom Seaver, Don Sutton, Gaylord Perry, Phil Niekro, Fergie Jenkins, and Bob Gibson (all HOFers). The case against him is his poor winning percentage. While he won 287 games, he lost 250.

Lately, relief pitchers have been getting a serious look by the voters. Goose Gossage was elected this year, Dennis Eckersley was inducted in 2004, and Rollie Fingers in 1992. Lee Smith is still trying to get his due. Despite being the all-time saves leader for retired relievers (Trevor Hoffman passed him in 2006 to become the record holder), Smith has gained very little support among Hall voters. In 2003, his first year on the ballot, Smith received 42.3% of the vote. This year, 43.3% voted for him. Evidently there are some who thought he was Hall-worthy five years ago, but they have been unable to convince their peers of that opinion.

Next on the list is Jack Morris, the most dominant pitcher of the 1980s. The former Tiger ace’s support has increased over the years, from 22.2% in 2000 (his first year of eligibility) to 42.9% on the most recent tally. Morris was a five-time All-Star, starting the game three times for the American League. Five times he finished in the top five voting for the Cy Young Award.

What about Tommy John? On the ballot since 1995, he has never received more than 30% of the vote, but has only once received less than 20%. He has one more win than Blyleven, but his strikeout totals are far less (47th on the all-time list). He received serious consideration for the Cy Young award in 1977 and 1978 with the Dodgers, and 1979 and 1980 with the Yankees.

One to watch in future elections is Tim Raines. He received 24.3% this year, his first year on the ballot. Raines spent the first decade of his career in Montreal, making it that much more amazing that he was as popular as he was. He was an All-Star every year from 1981 through 1987, starting in left field in 1982 and 1983. He was known for his speed on the basepaths, leading the National League in stolen bases from 1981 to 1984 and five times finishing in the top four. Raines is fifth on the all-time stolen bases list behind future Hall of Famer Rickey Henderson and current HOFers Lou Brock, Billy Hamilton, and Ty Cobb.

Harold Baines, never considered a viable candidate for the Hall, barely received enough votes to stay on the ballot another year. Ten other players will not appear on the ballot next year, failing to garner 5% of the vote: Rod Beck (1994 NL Rolaids Reliever of the Year), Travis Fryman (five-time All-Star), Robb Nen (15th on all-time saves list), Shawon Dunston (#1 overall pick in the 1982 draft, one of my personal favorites, and a great autograph signer through the mail), Chuck Finley (23rd on all-time strikeouts list), David Justice (1990 NL Rookie of the Year), Chuck Knoblauch (1991 AL Rookie of the Year), Todd Stottlemyre (2000 Branch Rickey and Lou Gehrig Memorial Awards winner), Brady Anderson (smacked 50 homers in 1996, but never got 25 in any other season), and Jose Rijo (1990 World Series MVP; never won more than 15 games in a season). Only Anderson and Rijo failed to get any votes at all.

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