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Fun Cards: “Baseball Immortals” Tim Raines

Raines

Time was running out for Tim Raines. In his tenth and final year on the BBWAA ballot, the National League’s answer to Rickey Henderson in the 1980s was finally given a place in Cooperstown. It has shocked me how little support the stars of the 1980s received. Some had to wait several years to get in (such as Raines’ teammate Andre Dawson), while others were never given their due by the BBWAA (like Lou Whitaker, who fell off the ballot after just one year). Some had to wait for the Veterans Committee to set things right. The 1980s have been disrespected, and that’s totally not tubular.

The announcement for the 2018 class comes tomorrow…who will join Veterans Committee selections Alan Trammell and Jack Morris on the Hall of Fame stage this year?

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Hall of Fame “most recent” streaks

I love this time of the year, when the latest immortals are enshrined into Baseball’s Hall of Fame. Of the 18,493 players who have made it into a Major League Baseball game, only 217 have been considered worthy enough to be called Hall of Famers. Ken Griffey Jr. and Mike Piazza were in the spotlight this past weekend.

Griffey

Griffey last played for my Reds in 2008, and if you trace the Reds’ rosters backwards, there was a Hall of Fame player all the way back to 1956 when Frank Robinson made his debut, an impressive 53 consecutive years of at least one Hall of Famer on the field. Interestingly, Tony Perez twice played the role of “bridge” player, first between Robinson and Johnny Bench in the 1960s, then between Bench and Barry Larkin in the 1980s.

This got me thinking about other teams and their Hall of Fame “most recent” streaks. Counting only players, the Tigers have the longest streak, starting with Sam Crawford all the way back in 1903 through their most recent player inductee Al Kaline, who was last active in 1974. That’s 72 straight years of at least one Hall of Fame player on the field, a feat that is absolutely amazing. Although I think Lou Whitaker and Alan Trammell should have plaques in Cooperstown, they don’t (yet…keep your fingers crossed for the Veterans Committee).

Crawford

Here’s the run down of the current thirty franchises (with Montreal in the place of Washington, who hasn’t fielded a Hall of Famer yet).

72 years: TIGERS 1903 (Crawford)-1974 (Kaline)
53: REDS 1956 (Robinson)-2008 (Griffey Jr.)
47: ORIOLES 1955 (Brooks Robinson)-2001 (Cal Ripken)
28: ASTROS 1980 (Nolan Ryan, Joe Morgan)-2007 (Craig Biggio)
28: PIRATES 1955 (Roberto Clemente)-1982 (Willie Stargell)
24: BRAVES 1985 (Bruce Sutter)-2008 (Tom Glavine, John Smoltz)
21: ROYALS 1973-1993 (George Brett)
20: BREWERS 1974-1993 (Robin Yount)
15: TWINS 1984 (Kirby Puckett)-1998 (Paul Molitor)
11: METS 1998 (Mike Piazza)-2008 (Pedro Martinez)
5: RANGERS 1989-1993 (Ryan)
4: EXPOS 1994-1997 (Martinez)
3: ATHLETICS 2006-2008 (Frank Thomas)
3: PADRES 2006 (Piazza)-2008 (Greg Maddux)
3: CUBS 2004-2006 (Maddux)
3: INDIANS 1999-2001 (Roberto Alomar)
2: MARINERS 2009-2010 (Griffey)
2: DIAMONDBACKS 2007-2008 (Randy Johnson)
2: BLUE JAYS 2007-2008 (Thomas)
2: YANKEES 2005-2006 (Johnson)
2: RAYS 1998-1999 (Wade Boggs)
1: PHILLIES 2009 (Martinez)
1: RED SOX 2009 (Smoltz)
1: GIANTS 2009 (Johnson)
1: CARDINALS 2009 (Smoltz)
1: DODGERS 2008 (Maddux)
1: WHITE SOX 2008 (Griffey)
1: MARLINS 1998 (Piazza)
1: ANGELS 1997 (Rickey Henderson, Eddie Murray)
0: ROCKIES

The Yankees’ most recent streak will obviously hop up once Derek Jeter is enshrined; Wade Boggs will be the beginner (1993), with Jeter wrapping up in 2014. Though they could get an earlier bump if the voters do the right thing and put Mike Mussina where he belongs; he was in the Bronx from 2001-2008. The Astros will be unaffected by Jeff Bagwell‘s potential induction, as his career ended before Biggio’s.

Raines

Tim Raines could have an impact on the Expos, bringing them down to a one-year streak (2001), while keeping the Marlins at one year (2002), a few years later than Piazza’s week there. His four games in Baltimore will not affect the Orioles, as they occurred in 2001, which is currently the end of their streak. But should Vladimir Guerrero be ushered in, the O’s will get dropped to a one-year streak (2011), as will the Rangers (2010). The Angels, meanwhile, would get a boost to six years (2004-2009), and the Expos would be extended to 2003 and would be unaffected by Raines’ 2001 return.

Trevor Hoffman could extend the Padres’ streak backwards to 1993, but would reduce the Brew Crew to a two-year club (2009-2010).

The Famer-less Rockies’ only chance at dropping the goose egg comes in the form of Larry Walker, who spent ten years in Colorado. In my estimation he has a much better chance than Todd Helton, whose entire 17-year career was spent with the team, but it’s still a longshot.

Who is the greatest left fielder of all-time?

Musial

Breaking the 300-point barrier is a milestone in this project. Only two infielders eclipsed this mark: Cal Ripken and Mike Schmidt. In left field, two more join that exclusive group, with Stan Musial (341.07) beating out Ted Williams (305.68) for the top spot. Carl Yastrzemski lands in the #3 spot with an equally impressive 291.24.

Yaz

The rest of the top ten consists of Rickey Henderson (258.67), Al Simmons (237.28), Jim Rice (215.39), Willie Stargell (213.66), Goose Goslin (212.29), Joe Medwick (212.06), and Billy Williams (208.43). Notice anything about that list? All have been inducted into the Hall of Fame. Despite the contention of many that Jim Rice does not belong in Cooperstown, he seems to fit right in with his peers in right field.

Raines

The first non-Hall of Famer in my list of left fielders is Bob Johnson (192.02) at #12, slightly ahead of the supposed second-best leadoff hitter of all-time, Tim Raines (#13, 191.61). Perhaps we are overrating Raines’ career a bit, giving him too much credit for being second-best when he truly pales in comparison to his contemporary Henderson?

Brock

I have long heard that Lou Brock was a big mistake, that the only reason he ever made the Hall of Fame was his 3000 hits (despite being such a prolific base stealer). When all the statistics are plugged into the spreadsheet, Brock ranks #16 behind Johnson, Raines, and George Foster (#14, 190.99). Now, I’m a huge Reds fan, and would love to see Foster get some more recognition for his career, but I don’t think it was a Hall of Fame career.

Dunn

Adam Dunn, who has an outside shot at 500 career homers (sitting at 406 as he enters his 13th season), falls dead last on my list of twenty-nine left fielders with a very low score of 131.37. Without a major surge, it is doubtful Dunn will ever have a plaque hanging in Cooperstown.

1986 Quaker Chewy Granola Bars Cards #10-18

In 1986 Topps teamed up with Quaker to issue a 33-card set full of superstars, including a nice handful of future Hall of Famers. This week, we’re looking at the cards in the set; today we have cards 10-18…

1986 Quaker Chewy Granola Bars 10-18

This page almost looks like a dream line-up of 1980s stars…first baseman Don Mattingly, second baseman Ryne Sandberg, third baseman Mike Schmidt, shortstop Ozzie Smith, outfielders Darryl Strawberry and Tim Raines, and pitcher Fernando Valenzuela. Pete Rose was nearing the end of his career, having just broken Ty Cobb‘s hits record in September 1985. Many thought Nolan Ryan‘s best years were behind him, but he would actually pitch two more no-hitters in the next decade.

The Hall of Fame count for this group is four: Ryan, Sandberg, Schmidt, and Smith. Raines will probably join that group eventually, and really should already be there. As the premiere leadoff hitter in the National League, Raines was a seven-time All-Star for the Expos and is currently fifth on the career stolen base leaderboard. He received 52.2% of the vote in 2013 for Cooperstown, more than double the support he received in his first year on the ballot.

Retired Numbers: #29 & #30

Three Hall of Famers, and one guy who might be the best non-steroid player outside the Hall (that won’t get voted in this election)…


Tim Raines, Montreal Expos

Raines was the National League’s answer to Rickey Henderson in the 1980s, the best leadoff hitter the senior circuit had to offer and a speedster on the basepaths. Still waiting for his call from Cooperstown, Raines received 37.5% of the vote last year as his support grows. It will be interesting to see how that vote changes in the years to come as some clear-cut Hall of Famers come onto the ballot (Greg Maddux, Randy Johnson, Ken Griffey), as well as some of the more controversial names (Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens).


Rod Carew, California Angels


Rod Carew, Minnesota Twins


Nolan Ryan, California Angels


Orlando Cepeda, San Francisco Giants

The Hawk flies high

So the Hall of Fame vote was released today, and “The Hawk” was the only player who got the required 75% for election. Blyleven fell five votes short; Alomar was eight votes shy of induction. I still don’t get the aversion to voting for Bert. I guess the Alomar snub had something to do with the spitting incident. Larkin’s 50% is a good start; I predict 2012 to be his year. Raines only got 30%…I don’t get that. And don’t even get me started on Dale Murphy. Seriously, don’t.

For those who did not receive the required 5% to stay on the ballot for next year…I’m not surprised. None of them should receive serious consideration for Cooperstown. It’s a great achievement to play in the Major Leagues, and they should be very proud of that.

Here’s the breakdown of the vote:

Andre Dawson 420 (77.9%)
Bert Blyleven 400 (74.2%)
Roberto Alomar 397 (73.7%)
Jack Morris 282 (52.3%)
Barry Larkin 278 (51.6%)
Lee Smith 255 (47.3%)
Edgar Martinez 195 (36.2%)
Tim Raines 164 (30.4%)
Mark McGwire 128 (23.7%)
Alan Trammell 121 (22.4%)
Fred McGriff 116 (21.5%)
Don Mattingly 87 (16.1%)
Dave Parker 82 (15.2%)
Dale Murphy 63 (11.7%)
Harold Baines 33 (6.1%)
Andres Galarraga 22 (4.1%)
Robin Ventura 7 (1.3%)
Ellis Burks 2 (0.4%)
Eric Karros 2 (0.4%)
Kevin Appier 1 (0.2%)
Pat Hentgen 1 (0.2%)
David Segui 1 (0.2%)
Mike Jackson 0
Ray Lankford 0
Shane Reynolds 0
Todd Zeile 0

The Baseball Hall of Fame

Today is the day a bunch of guys who believe in the old adage “the pen is mightier than the sword” get to decide who should be immortalized forever in Cooperstown. And today is also the day a bunch of us guys who know better than those guys are going to complain about their decisions. We could do better, and through our obsessive habit of collecting baseball cards or memorizing statistics or however else we may manifest our love for the greatest sport ever invented, we will forever immortalize in our own minds the greats that the BBWAA ignores.

So the question is, who is on your fake ballot? Remember you can only pick 10 guys. Here is my list, in the order that I would put them in:

Dale Murphy
Tim Raines
Bert Blyleven
Barry Larkin
Roberto Alomar
Alan Trammell
Don Mattingly
Andre Dawson
Jack Morris
Dave Parker

The reason that the Murph is at the top of my list is because I believe he is the most glaring omission from the Hall of Fame. No, he didn’t reach the “magic numbers,” but for a time he was one of the best players in baseball. Never the best, but one of the best. There was never a doubt in my mind, and there still isn’t, that Dale Murphy belongs in the Hall of Fame.

The same can be said about all the guys on that list except Parker. I would vote for him every time, but I won’t be upset if he never makes it. I will be upset if Murphy doesn’t make it…in fact, I’m upset he’s not in right now. I know that he won’t get the call today, and probably never will from the BBWAA. He will have to wait for the Veteran’s Committee and hope that they do the right thing. But he should be there.

Raines is second on the list, even though I believe he is even more deserving than Murphy. He hasn’t been on the ballot as long as Murphy, and that’s why Murphy’s position is higher, but Raines absolutely should have a plaque in Cooperstown.

Of the first-timers on the ballot, Larkin and Alomar are the only two that I would vote for, and not just because I only have 10 spots on the ballot. Fred McGriff just doesn’t do it for me. Maybe in a few years I’ll change my mind, but he just misses the mark in my opinion. I like the guy and don’t have anything against him, and won’t throw a fit if he is enshrined, but I won’t vote for him (at least not yet). Same goes for Edgar Martinez. It has nothing to do with the DH role that he played…I just never ever ever considered him a Hall of Famer.

When I was a kid I had my baseball cards separated into shoeboxes – stars, rookies, Hall of Famers, future Hall of Famers, and commons. Some of the guys I had in my FHOF shoebox shouldn’t have been there (Tommy John, Steve Garvey), but if they were even a borderline candidate, that’s where they went. McGriff was never in that box, and neither was Edgar. Nor was Galarraga, and it blows my mind that some people are thinking about voting for him. And Kevin Appier? Are you kidding me?

We’ll know the results later today, and while I expect two returnees (Blyleven, Dawson) and one newcomer (Alomar) to garner enough votes, I would really like to see this guy go in on the first ballot also…

Who is on your make-believe ballot?

Steroids vs. cocaine

Baseball is going through a crisis right now. Some of the brightest stars in the game over the past two decades have been implicated in the steroid scandal. The names of Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, Mark McGwire, and Roger Clemens are irrevocably associated with performance enhancing substances, some illegal under the law of the land.

It brings to mind the cocaine scandal of the 1980s. Several players were called before a Pittsburgh grand jury to provide testimony regarding their relationship with the drug. Some of the brightest stars of that time–Vida Blue, Dave Parker, Keith Hernandez, and Tim Raines–went on the stand and testified under oath to what extent they were involved with the drug.

Some say Parker’s chances for the Hall of Fame were harmed by his drug abuse. The former Pirates slugger received 24.5% of the vote in 1998, his second year on the ballot, but that is the highest level of support he has ever received. This year he came in at 15.1%, twenty votes more than he received last year, but still far short of the 75% needed for election.

The subject of the cocaine scandal has come up lately as Tim Raines appeared on the ballot for the first time. The former Expos star, who is fifth on the all-time stolen base list, received 24.3% of the vote in his first year, which is not a terrible showing. However, not many have risen from that level to induction by the BBWAA vote.

There are two main differences between the steroid scandal today and the cocaine scandal of 1985:

1) Steroids “help performance rather than hamper it, corrupting the legitimacy of results and records” (“Remembering the pain of the Pittsburgh Drug Trials”).

2) The players involved are immensely bigger stars and more likely Hall of Fame candidates. Who would you rather have on your team, Vida Blue or Roger Clemens? Keith Hernandez or Mark McGwire? Dave Parker or Barry Bonds? If you look at numbers alone, disregard what illicit activities they may have been involved in, the steroid users will get the nod nine times out of ten.

To read more on the Pittsburgh drug trials, check out the link above and the Wikipedia entry.

Fun cards, part 2 (the autographs)

As mentioned earlier, I printed some of my created “fun cards” and sent them to the players for autographs. I would print two copies and asked them to sign one, telling them they could keep the other. In my experience, cardstock worked much better than glossy photo paper for the printing. Here are a few of those autographed “fun cards” (click on a thumbnail for a larger image)…

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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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