Thursday, December 22, 2016


It's hard to believe that the annual Hall of Fame elections are here again. That means it's time for my annual predictions. (...And for the record, some of them have actually come true in years past!)

There are thirty-four players on the primary ballot, nineteen of which are first-year candidates. Several of these hopefuls won't get enough support for consideration in 2018. These include: Matt Stairs, Freddy Sanchez, Carlos Guillen, Melvin Mora, Jason Varitek, Pat Burrell, J.D Drew, Mike Cameron and Derek Lee.

There are at least four first-year candidates who should get enough votes to return to the ballot in 2018. One or two of these players may actually be enshrined in the coming year. Players I believe will return to next year's ballot are Manny Ramirez and Jorge Posada. Posada's five World Series rings will definitely hold some sway over voters and Ramirez put up an impressive batch of statistics in spite of all those "Manny Moments." But Posada's numbers are not of the first-year enshrinement variety. And Manny's adventures with steroids will undoubtedly keep him out of the Hall--for the time being at least.

The two first-year players I believe have a very good shot at induction are Ivan Rodriguez and Vladimir Guerrero. Rodriguez has more hits and Gold Gloves than any catcher in history. He also has an AL MVP Award to his credit. Guerrero was one the best hitters in the majors over a thirteen-year span, averaging 33 homers and 107 RBIs per season from 1998 through 2010. Though he led the league in errors as a right fielder nine times, he currently ranks among the top thirty of all time in assists and double plays. 

Front runners from last year's primary ballot include Tim Raines, Trevor Hoffman and Jeff Bagwell. Bagwell led the class of non-inductees with 71.6 percent of the vote. Raines, now in his tenth year of eligibility, garnered 69.8 percent. Hoffman, who is second on the all time saves list, netted an impressive 67.3 percent in his first appearance on the ballot. 

In July 2016, the Hall of Fame announced changes to the Era Committee system. Time frames were restructured to decrease the frequency of pre-1970s consideration. As a result, the "Today's Game Era Committee" will make its debut in 2017. The ballot includes players, managers and executives from 1988 into the twenty-first century. The players being considered are Harold Baines, Albert Belle, Will Clark, Orel Hershiser and Mark McGwire. Lou Piniella, Bud Selig and George Steinbrenner are among the managers and executives on the list. 


It's a tough call, but I believe that Ivan Rodriguez will make it. I also feel that George Steinbrenner has a legitimate shot. Like him or hate him, "The Boss" did more for the Yankees than any owner in history. His 11 pennants and 7 World Series titles definitely support that claim. In regard to last year's leading candidates, I'll go out on a limb and predict that Jeff Bagwell--arguably the greatest player in Astros history--will get the additional votes he needs this time around.     


Monday, December 12, 2016

TOUGH LUCK LOSERS: Pitchers Who Deserved Much Better in the Win Column


A spit-baller, Walsh holds the record for lowest lifetime ERA with a 1.82 mark. He led the league in that category during the 1910 campaign yet still managed to lose 20 games. The White Sox scored just 456 runs all season (second worst in the majors) rendering Walsh's 1.27 ERA virtually meaningless on multiple occasions. Between 1907 and 1912, Walsh averaged 374 innings of work per year. By 1913, his arm was shot. He was enshrined at Cooperstown in 1946.


Born Irvin Key Wilhelm, this journeyman right-hander despised his nickname. He lasted through nine big league seasons nevertheless and set a minor league record with 72 consecutive scoreless innings. He deserved a better fate in 1908, losing 22 games in spite of his sparkling 1.87 ERA. The Brooklyn Superbas lost over 100 games that year and were outscored by a collective margin of 141 in an era when runs were at a premium.


Scott spent his entire career with the White Sox. He was big for the era at 6-foot-1, 235 pounds. Hailing from Wyoming, he carried the nickname of "Death Valley." Scott lost a league high 21 games in 1913 though he posted a handsome 1.90 ERA. He gave up just 2 home runs all season. His teammates--deadball standouts Hal Chase, Buck Weaver and Shano Collins among them--managed to score just 486 runs--worst in the American League.

1904 -- 1905

Between 1904 and 1908, Howell compiled a collective ERA of 2.02. He had the misfortune of playing on one of the worst teams in the majors. With lackluster offensive support, he lost 21 games in 1904 and 22 more the following year. His collective WHIP average of 1.07 in those two seasons indicates that he should have won far more often. Extremely versatile, Howell appeared in over a hundred games as an infielder and outfielder.


Largely forgotten today, Rucker was one of the top left-handers of the Deadball Era, winning 13 or more games in seven consecutive seasons. In 1912, the hapless Brooklyn Dodgers consistently failed to put runs on the board when Rucker was pitching. Rucker led the league with 6 shutouts and posted a 2.21 ERA yet somehow managed to lose 21 games. He spent his entire career in Brooklyn and retired with an even-.500 record.


The Senators were so star-crossed, they inspired the popular saying: "Washington--First in War, First in Peace and Last in the American League!" The second winningest pitcher of all time behind Cy Young, Johnson felt the poignancy of that statement in 1909, when he lost 25 games while posting a miserly 2.22 ERA. The Senators dropped a total of 110 games in '09, including a run of 11 in a row from August 26 to September 6.   


A little known Hall of Famer, Rixey was outstanding during the Deadball Era. When the lively ball arrived, he kept right on winning, accumulating a lifetime total of 266 victories. In 1917, the reliable southpaw made 18 appearances in Philadelphia's Baker Bowl, a hitter's paradise that featured a 281 foot foul line in right field. Rixey fared remarkably well in spite of the hazard, accruing a spectacular 2.27 ERA. The Phillies didn't have the offense to back him up, however, and Rixey absorbed 21 losses. 


"Long Tom" Hughes won 20 games for Boston in 1903 and pitched in baseball's first World Series. Two seasons later, he was toeing the rubber for the lowly Washington Senators. The Capital City crew finished 23 games below .500 that year and Hughes absorbed 20 losses in spite of his 2.35 ERA. 


Thursday, December 1, 2016

EPILOGUE TO PERFECTION: How Perfect Game Pitchers Fared After Their Moment of Glory (Concluded)

May 18, 2004

Long time ace of the Mariners staff, Johnson was playing for the Diamondbacks when he completed his masterpiece. He struck out 13 Braves opponents, nearly tying Sandy Koufax's perfect game record of 14. Johnson won 16 games in 2004 at the age of 40 and led the NL with 290 strikeouts. After his perfecto, he won his next five starts, giving up a combined total of 12 earned runs in 31.1 innings. A first ballot Hall of Famer, he captured five Cy Young Awards during his career. He currently ranks second on the all time strikeout list. 

July 23, 2009

Pitching in Chicago against Tampa Bay, the left-handed Buehrle used 116 pitches to subdue the Rays offense. In the ninth inning, center fielder DeWayne Wise climbed up the wall to rob Tampa's Gabe Kapler of a home run. In his next start, Buehrle completed another 5.2 perfect innings, extending a streak of 45 consecutive batters retired. This was a record that stood until 2014. The highly durable Buehrle won 10 or more games in fifteen straight seasons. He made no fewer than 30 starts per year in that span. In addition to his perfect game, he also threw a no-hitter. 

May 9, 2010

Oakland's Dallas Braden lasted just five seasons in the majors and ended up with a 26-36 record. In spite of his mediocrity, he was perfect against the Rays on the above mentioned date. Only 12,288 fans were on hand to see this Mother's Day game, which lasted just 2 hours and 7 minutes. It was Braden's first complete game. In his next outing, he gave up 4 runs on 7 hits in a 5-1 loss to the Angels. He finished the season at 11-14.

May 29, 2010

Halladay's masterpiece occurred just 20 days after Dallas Braden's, marking the shortest time between perfect games in major league history. During his sixteen-year career, Halladay led the league in complete games seven times and shutouts on four occasions. Traded from Toronto to Philadelphia before the 2010 campaign, his crowning achievement came against the Marlins. He posted a 21-10 record that year and narrowly missed another perfect game against the Reds in the NLDS. He ended up walking one batter, becoming the only perfect game pitcher to toss a no-hitter in the same season. 

April 21, 2012

Humber's perfect game against the Mariners at Safeco Field was the third of its kind in White Sox history. The 29 year old Humber used just 96 pitches to polish off his opponents. The last out of the game was a full count check-swing strike. The ball was dropped by catcher A.J. Pierzynski, who promptly threw to first base. Among the most unlikely candidates for a perfect game, Humber finished the 2012 season with a 6.44 ERA. He was even worse the following year with a 7.90 mark and a 0-8 record. It was his last season in the majors. 

June 13, 2012

Before the above mentioned date, no Giants pitcher had ever tossed a perfect game. Cain turned the trick against the Astros. He piled up 14 strikeouts, tying the record set by Sandy Koufax in 1965. Cain's outfielders offered a show of support with spectacular catches in the sixth and seventh innings. 2012 was Cain's all around best season as he posted a 16-5 record with a 2.79 ERA. Since then, he has logged a .355 won/loss percentage. He made just 21 starts in 2016.

 August 15, 2012

Hernandez's perfecto was the third of the season--the first time this had ever happened. The Mariners ace struck out 12 Rays opponents and used 113 pitches. He felt pretty good that day, confiding to writers afterward that he was thinking about a perfect game from the second inning on. After the historical effort, he yielded just 1 earned run in his next 17 innings of work.  Generally considered to be one of the best pitchers in the American League, "King Felix" has earned six All Star selections and a Cy Young Award. He is carrying a a 3.16 lifetime ERA into the 2017 campaign.