Yogi Berra said, “It ain’t over ’til it’s over.” Yogi, spring training is over.
BASEBALL STARTS TOMORROW.
The 2015 regular season is in the books, but the narrative is far from over. Clayton Kershaw struck out 300 batters, the first time a pitcher has reached that mark since 2002. Another cheater reached the 500-home run mark. And Max Scherzer pitched two no-hitters this year; the last pitcher who did that in the regular season was Nolan Ryan in 1973.
The National League Central is sending three teams to the postseason, but the Reds will be watching from home. Johnny Cueto, traded to the Royals in July, will attempt to put Kansas City over the top after the team fell to the Giants last year. The upstart Houston Astros, powered by Dallas Keuchel, will try to derail that plan. There are only two teams in the playoffs that I despise, so I fully expect a Yankees/Cardinals World Series this year.
I will post a few more highlights cards for the World Series winners and award winners as they are announced, but the regular season cards are finished. 125 “revamped” cards, 13 “highlights” so far, and 18 All-Star cards. Prior to the “revamped” design, 65 cards were posted, along with ten Will Ferrell cards plus four tribute cards to legendary players who have passed away. Add to that 200 “preseason” cards, and I would say 2015 was a busy year for TWJ cards.
You can see all the cards at TWJ cards on tumblr. Plans are already underway for an even better set in 2016.
(May 12, 1925 – September 22, 2015)
The man known as much for his sayings as his abilities on the ballfield, the legendary Yogi Berra has passed away at the age of 90. One of the greatest catchers in the history of the game, he is famous for many sayings, most notably, “It ain’t over ’til it’s over.” But before you quote Berra, keep in mind that he also said, “I really didn’t say everything I said.”
A few weeks ago, I set out on a mission to discover who was the greatest player at each position on the baseball diamond. I decided on a mixture of traditional statistics and modern metrics, threw in a few decimal points here and there, and came up with a system of ranking players. I decided not to include the “steroid” guys, so don’t expect Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, or Ivan Rodriguez to pop up on any of these lists. Over the next several days, I’ll be revealing some of those results, starting today with the backstop.
The number one guy on this list was really no surprise to me. Who in the world would doubt that Johnny Bench was the greatest to ever wear the tools of ignorance? His final score was 262.36, taking into account not only his offensive production, but his defensive contributions, awards, and midsummer appearances. Yogi Berra (255.05), Carlton Fisk (233.45), Gary Carter (229.3) and Mike Piazza (223.86) round out the top five in that order (if awards and All-Star seasons are included in the calculations…more on that later), but the big surprise is in the bottom half of the top ten.
Only three more Hall of Famers appear in the number 6-10 slots: Gabby Hartnett (#7, 204.08), Bill Dickey (#9, 202.25), and Roy Campanella (#10, 189.55). The sixth greatest catcher of all-time is the current Executive Vice President for Baseball Operations, Joe Torre. Granted, he was not a career catcher, retiring the gear after the 1970 season and moving to first and third base. Regardless, Torre’s offensive output was impressive, scoring 206.33 in this project.
The eighth greatest catcher of all-time took over catching duties for Torre when he moved to the infield. Ted Simmons hit 248 home runs and drove in 1389 runs over a 21-year career while keeping a .285 average, all pretty impressive numbers for a guy who crouches for a living. How was Simmons rewarded for his work behind the plate? One year on the Hall of Fame ballot, only 17 votes for 3.7%, the year Steve Carlton was ushered in with 95.6%. Is Simmons the most overlooked full-time catcher in history?
Back to the inclusion of awards and All-Star appearances. About halfway through the project, I decided I was being a bit unfair to old-timers who never had a chance to win an MVP or be invited to the All-Star game. So I made another column that omitted those calculations, and what happened surprised me. Bench still comes out on top, but Berra got knocked down a few notches. In fact, only one player was replaced in the top ten list. Without awards, the top ten is Bench, Fisk, Carter, Berra, Piazza, Simmons, Dickey, Torre, Hartnett, and Lance Parrish. Campanella actually dropped six spots on the list without his three MVP awards and eight All-Star seasons.
So perhaps Parrish is the most underrated backstop in history? I would never personally support Parrish as a Hall of Famer, but the numbers are there to give his supporters some room to argue. In the case of Simmons, however, I believe the Hall of Fame voters should be charged with a passed ball.
All seven men who have been honored with the retirement of uniform #8 are in the Hall of Fame, and two served as catchers for the New York Yankees.
Bill Dickey, New York Yankees
Dickey played 19 seasons in the Bronx, going to the World Series nine times (and winning eight). Elected to the Hall of Fame in 1954, his uniform number was retired in 1972 when Berra, who also wore #8, was selected for enshrinement in Cooperstown.
Yogi Berra, New York Yankees
Cal Ripken, Jr., Baltimore Orioles
Carl Yastrzemski, Boston Red Sox
Gary Carter, Montreal Expos
Joe Morgan, Cincinnati Reds
Willie Stargell, Pittsburgh Pirates