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Happy Reds birthday, Jose Rijo!

Rijo

May 13, 1965

Jose Rijo appeared on the Hall of Fame ballot in 2001, receiving one vote, but was then disqualified from the ballot for the next seven years. Why? Because he came back to baseball! After sitting out for five years due to injuries, Rijo returned to the Reds in 2001 and 2002, though he was a shadow of his former self. He was an underrated pitcher during his career, only named to one All-Star roster and receiving Cy Young support in two seasons. His WAR in 1993 was 9.2, much higher than winner Greg Maddux (5.8), but he came in fifth in voting behind the Mad Dog, Bill Swift, Tom Glavine, and John Burkett. Part of the reason was obviously his low win total; Rijo had 14 victories, while the four pitchers ahead of him each won at least 20 games.

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Trading with a Rays fan in Indiana

Reds

I love blind trades. I sent a handful of Tampa Bay Rays cards to @JDaniel2033, a Twitter friend in Indianapolis, and he sent back a handful of Reds. Lots of Barry Larkin and Hal Morris cards, Jose Rijo, and Hall of Famer Tony Perez were included among them. But he also sent a vintage Reds card that I needed:

Carbo

Former Reds outfielder Bernie Carbo (who also played for the Cardinals, Red Sox, Brewers, Pirates, and Indians).

But he didn’t stop there. He also sent me a non-Reds card from 1972…

Morgan

Hall of Fame second baseman Joe Morgan!

There are a few players that are always welcome in my collection, whether they are wearing Reds uniforms or not, and that includes any of the Big Red Machine’s Great Eight.

Thank you for the awesome cards @JDaniel2033, and I will certainly be sending some more Rays your way whenever I come across them!

Falling off the ballot

Later today, the Hall of Fame Class of 2014 will be announced. Most people will be interested to see who receives the 75% support to gain induction, but in this age of the internet the likely outcome has already been revealed: Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Frank Thomas will fly in on the first ballot, with Maddux challenging Tom Seaver’s record of 98.6% support. Craig Biggio, Mike Piazza and Jack Morris are all in the gray area; I believe Biggio will likely get in this year. But I’m more interested in seeing who fails to receive 5% of the vote, thereby falling off the ballot for future consideration by the Baseball Writers Association of America.

This 5% rule has only been in effect since sometime in the 1980s; I have been unable to pinpoint the exact year it was introduced or enforced. Bobby Thomson was on the ballot for fourteen years (1966-1979) but never received even 5% of the vote in any single year; several other examples could be cited of players that hung around for a few ballots but only garnered a handful of votes.

Mattingly New York YankeesThe so-called “stacked ballot” this year puts several big names in danger of falling below 5%, such as steroid poster boys Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa, and the very popular (but not popular enough for Hall of Fame voters) Don Mattingly. Sosa, if he were to fall below the 5% threshold, would make history as the biggest drop in support between his first and second years on the ballot. Only two two-timers have lost more than 5% support between their debut and sophomore year on the Hall of Fame ballot. In 2013, Bernie Williams fell from 9.6% to 3.3% (losing 36 votes); in 2007, Orel Hershiser went from 11.2% to 4.4% (losing 34 votes).

[Update: Mattingly, McGwire, and Sosa all exceeded the 5% threshold. The only holdover to fall below 5% was Rafael Palmeiro, who was in his fourth year.]

Mattingly is in his fourteenth year, while McGwire is being considered for the eighth time in 2014. Several other players throughout the history of the institution have fallen below the 5% for support after more than two years of consideration.

One of the greatest oversights of the BBWAA is Dwight Evans, who was on the ballot for a measly three years (1997-1999). His percentage went up his first two years from 5.9% to 10.4%, but was dealt a blow in 1999 with only 18 voters checking his name for 3.6%. To be fair to the writers, that was a tough year with a lot of big names, including inductees Nolan Ryan, George Brett, and Robin Yount, and eventual Hall of Famers Carlton Fisk, Tony Perez, Gary Carter, Jim Rice, Bruce Sutter, and Bert Blyleven.

HernandezBobby Bonds, better known nowadays as Barry Bonds’ father, was considered by BBWAA writers eleven times, but never exceeded 10.6%. Rusty Staub hung around for seven years, but never topped 7.9%. The final stop for both Bonds and Staub, as well as multi-timers Fred Lynn and Graig Nettles, was 1997.

Keith Hernandez received enough support for nine tries on the BBWAA ballot, topping 10% of the vote twice, but finally falling below the 5% threshold in 2004. Ron Guidry also stuck around for nine ballots; his highest support was 8.8% in 2000 and he fell off in 2002.

Harold Baines hung on for five years, but his highest percentage was 6.1% in 2010 before falling to 4.8% in 2011. The six-time All-Star was somewhat of a trailblazer as a designated hitter, and collected 2866 hits in his 22-year career. Perhaps if the strikes of 1981 and 1994 never happened, he could have reached 3000. Never a dominant player, but very good at what he did.

A surprise to me was Bob Boone, who received more than 5% support from 1996-1999. In 2000, he finally dipped below the 5% line and was removed from consideration. Yet, Ted Simmons was dismissed after only appearance in 1994? For shame, writers. For shame.
Rijo
One of the strangest situations is that of Jose Rijo, who appeared on the ballot twice, but failed to receive 5% either time. In 2001 he received 1 vote for 0.2%. In July 2001, he signed a contract with the Reds and pitched in 44 more games during the rest of that season and 2002. His name came back up for Cooperstown consideration in 2008, but he failed to garner a single vote.

I will be sad to see Mattingly fall off the ballot, whether it happens this year due to a lack of support or next year after his eligibility runs out. His baseball cards always had a spot in my “Future Hall of Famer” shoebox when I was a kid, along with other eighties giants like Alan Trammell and Dale Murphy still waiting for that phone call.

Stadium Giveaway Baseball Cards

As a kid, one of the most exciting stadium giveaways to me was baseball cards. I recall begging my dad to take me to the game so I could get a team set that was only available at the park. He didn’t always comply. The first year I got the team set was 1988, and it allowed me to add the first Chris Sabo card to my collection. We went again in 1989, missed 1990 for some reason, then went back in 1991. The ’91 cards are especially nice because they celebrate the 1990 World Championship. I did not get cards in 1992 or 1993, as I drifted away from the hobby. I own a set of 1994 Kahn’s cards, but I honestly cannot recall if I got them in 1994 or more recently.

I have been picking up sets here and there that I missed out on as a kid. I lucked out by finding the 1986 Texas Gold cards on eBay for about a buck; in this area they are generally $25-50. I have not yet found a 1987 set in my price range, and have not sought out the early 1990s sets. I went away to college in the fall of 1994 and did not return to Cincinnati until 2006, so I missed out on a lot of giveaways in that time. Flea markets, card shops, and card shows have filled a few holes in my collection.

Rijo Kahns

Friday night, I picked up the 1996 set at Redsfest. There were several stars from the 1990 team, including World Series MVP Jose Rijo, Eric Davis, Chris Sabo, Barry Larkin, Hal Morris and Joe Oliver. Davis, Sabo, and Oliver all left the Reds for a time, but came back to Cincinnati by 1996; this would be Sabo’s final year in the majors. There are other familiar names: Reggie Sanders (who was supposed to be the next Davis), Jeff Brantley (who is now an annoying broadcaster for the Reds), Bret Boone (an underachieving second baseman at the time), and Ray Knight as manager. It’s an intriguing look at a team mostly past its prime, with some youngsters full of promise. They were good enough to win the NL West Central in 1995, and even good enough to triumph over the Dodgers in the NL Divisional Series. But no one had a chance against the Braves with Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine.

Sometimes I wonder if I would be a Reds fan today if I continued to follow the game in the mid-to-late 1990s.

Fun Cards: 2013 Topps Jose Rijo

1990 World Series hero

Former Reds pitcher and World Series hero Jose Rijo has evidently gotten mixed up with the wrong sorts of people since his retirement. Last summer, he was charged with laundering money for a suspected drug trafficker, after that man allegedly ordered that a journalist be kidnapped and killed.

I prefer to remember him as the 1990 World Series MVP.

Gypsy Queen – Jose Rijo

I always forget who won the 1990 World Series MVP. Billy Hatcher had such a great series offensively, but Jose Rijo’s pitching was definitely spot-on. I have a baseball from the Series, but have not had it autographed yet. I guess I’m holding out for Rijo (who was, by the way, the MVP). It just doesn’t seem right to have anyone else sign it.

Baseball in December!

They’re not on the field…they’re in the mail! GCRL sent over a nice stack o’ Redlegs, and will be receiving some Bluelegs (aka Dodgers) in return very soon. Here are some of the highlights (for me, at least)…

Jack Armstrong was selected to start the 1990 All-Star game at Wrigley Field on the strength of 11 first-half wins. He finished the season with 12 wins. Whoops! Oh well, the Reds still won the World Series in ’90 thanks to…

Jose Rijo. His dominance over the heavily favored Oakland A’s set the stage for the Reds’ sweep. Only 1 earned run allowed in 15 innings, a spectacular 0.59 ERA for the Series. He was deservingly named the MVP of the World Series.

Another starting pitcher in the rotation that years for the Reds was Tom Browning, but his best year by far was his 1985 rookie campaign, when he became the first pitcher since the 60s to win 20 games in a season. Had it not been for Vince Coleman‘s fleet feet, Browning would have easily walked away with the Rookie of the Year award. This card is actually a box bottom, which makes it extra-cool.

Barry Larkin had a good 1990 also, selected to his third straight All-Star game and winning his third Silver Slugger award behind a .301 batting average. In 1995, Larkin won the NL MVP, the last Red to accomplish that feat until…

Joey Votto took 31 of 32 first-place votes to win the NL MVP in 2010. Before Votto and Larkin there was…

George Foster. He had a monster 1977 season, but he didn’t run away with the award like Votto did. Greg Luzinski came in second that year. The first-place voting was Foster 15, Luzinski 9. 1977 was the sixth (and final) time a Cincinnati player won in the 1970s (Bench x2, Morgan x2, Rose and Foster). Who will be the next Cincinnati player to get that hardware? Could it be…

Jay Bruce? Not yet an All-Star, or even a Gold Glover, the young right fielder took his potential to the bank this off-season. The Reds signed him to a 6-year, $51 million contract (with a club option on a 7th year). Smart move? Only time will tell.

GCRL also included this pretty shiny refractory Bruce in the package. It’s cool to see these cards in person…the scan doesn’t do them justice at all.

Speaking of youngsters looking for hardware, it would be cool to see Johnny Cueto (or Edinson Volquez or Aroldis Chapman or Mike Leake) collect a Cy Young award one of these days.

Did you know that Reggie Sanders is one of only seven players to hit 300 home runs and steal 300 bases in his career? Can you name the other six?

But wait…that’s not all!

Oh my! O-Pee-Chee cards too!

The highlight of the box for me, though, was one of my “most wanted” cards…a 2005 Chris Sabo Topps Rookie Cup card. Cross that one of my list…

Those were not the only cards in the box…just a very small sampling of what GCRL sent my way. Thanks for the great box GCRL! Hope you like your cards when they arrive as well!

NOW…who’s next? What’s your favorite team? If you want to do a blind trade, just let me know!

What’s your favorite baseball season?

I can’t say I’ve ever been asked this question. Favorite team, favorite player, favorite baseball card…sure. But favorite baseball season? I had never even thought to answer this unasked question.

But the answer is an easy one for me. 1988. Hands-down, without a doubt. This was the first year I really paid attention to baseball. I had been collecting baseball cards for a few years before this, but besides watching a few Reds games on television and in person, I never really took notice of the game as a whole. In 1988 that all changed, with the emergence of some exciting rookies: Ron Gant, Mark Grace, and the eventual Rookie of the Year and still one of my favorite players, Chris Sabo. The excitement of the 1988 season continued in the postseason for me as I watched Kirk Gibson pull off the unthinkable pinch-hit home run off Dennis Eckersley in the World Series as the Dodgers went on to beat the Bash Brothers. I don’t care if you love or hate the Dodgers, that World Series was fun to watch.

The other two seasons that come to mind, but neither comes close to 1988 in my mind, are 1990 and 2010. 1990 saw the Reds go wire-to-wire, sweeping the Oakland A’s in the World Series behind the bat of Billy Hatcher and the pitching of Jose Rijo. It was a great time to be a Reds fan.

2010 was an exciting year as well, watching Joey Votto rise up as the next superstar produced by the Big Red Machine, seeing Jay Bruce and Drew Stubbs endure adversity and mature at the plate, and following the progress of the young pitchers, Mike Leake, Sam LeCure, Matt Maloney, and of course, the Cuban Missile Aroldis Chapman. Yes, the season ended on a sour note due to the manager’s foolish decision to start an injured shortstop in a playoff game, but it was a fun ride.

So what are your favorite baseball seasons, and why?

2009 Topps Jose Rijo

This year, several from the 1990 World Champion Reds team will be appearing at the Redsfest. Eric Davis, Chris Sabo, Joe Oliver, and Todd Benzinger will all be there. Even skipper Lou Piniella, who is now managing the Chicago Cubs, will be on hand to sign items for fans. One name that is missing is Jose Rijo, the MVP of the 1990 World Series. The Reds swept the heavily favored Oakland A’s, and Rijo’s pitching performance against his former team was nothing short of fabulous. Over 15.1 innings, Rijo only allowed 1 run on 9 hits. In Game 4, Oakland was only able to muster 2 hits off the right-hander.

It is certainly possible that Rijo will be added to the lineup of the Redsfest, and hopefully he will be as there is so much hoopla planned around celebrating the 1990 Championship.

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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