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Did You Know?
Surprised to learn the heavy-hitting Houston Astros hit more home runs (123) on the road 2017 than they did at hitter-friendly Minute Maid Park (115) . . .
When the Cubs beat the Phillies, 26-23, on Aug. 25, 1922, Chicago nearly blew a 25-6 fourth-inning lead . . .
John Sterling, still going strong at age 84, broadcast 5,058 consecutive Yankees games until his streak ended in July 2019 . . .
More than just a curiosity, ambidextrous pitcher Pat Vandeitte posted a 2.57 ERA in 15 bullpen appearances for the 2018 Dodgers . . .
Veteran left-hander Rich Hill has signed with the Boston Red Sox seven different times.
Andruw Jones Deserves Cooperstown Niche
By Dan Schlossberg
My favorite baseball writer is Jayson Stark. I love his irreverent style, his knowledge of the game, and his commentaries in The Athletic and on the MLB Network.
Upon publication of the 2022 Baseball Hall of Fame ballot, Stark insisted that Andruw Jones should not be admitted to the gallery of plaques.
I strongly and emphatically disagree with my fellow graduate of Syracuse University’s terrific Newhouse School of Journalism.
Stark says he won’t vote for Jones because he faded when he hit his 30s — suffering a syndrome called Advanced Athletic Age that also afflicted Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Warren Spahn, Steve Carlton, and a host of other Hall of Fame incumbents.
Jayson conveniently forgets that Jones was a big-league star at age 19, hitting home runs in his first two World Series at-bats and playing the dickens out of center field. Dave O’Brien, who also writes for The Athletic, says Jones was not just good but the best center-fielder he ever saw.
O’Brien also points out that power of the player, whose 434 home runs including a franchise-record 51 in 2005, the year he also led the National League with 128 runs batted in and finished a close second in voting for Most Valuable Player.
If Ozzie Smith is in Cooperstown because of his defensive excellence, O’Brien says, Jones belongs too — plus he produced prodigious power that the spray-hitting Smith did not. In fact, Jones is in rare company with 10 consecutive Gold Gloves.
Of the four other outfielders who did that difficult feat, Roberto Clemente, Willie Mays, and Ken Griffey, Jr. are in the Hall of Fame and Ichiro will join them the minute he becomes eligible.
Without Jones as their center-fielder, the records of Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, and John Smoltz would not have been so good — or the record of the Atlanta Braves during the time Bobby Cox was manager and John Schuerholz was general manager. Those men also owe their Cooperstown plaque to the man from Curacao.
On the current Hall of Fame ballot, which lists 13 newcomers plus 17 holdovers from last year, Jones and Gary Sheffield (509 home runs) are easy picks. It’s also easy to eliminate suspected steroids cheats Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Sammy Sosa, Manny Ramirez, and Alex Rodriguez and the equally-repulsive Curt Schilling, whose inflammable political pop-offs make him an unworthy member of a club reserved for honor and respectability.
At least Andy Pettitte apologized early for his drug abuse, so he deserves a “yes” vote, as Pete Rose would have had he not lied about gambling for 25 years.
For the defense-only crowd, maybe “yes” on Scott Rolen and “no” on Omar Vizquel, the poor-man’s Ozzie Smith and lately accused of multiple sexual harrassment cases.
Jeff Kent, who hit a lot of home runs for a second baseman, and pitchers Tim Hudson and Mark Buehrle, both 200-game winners, are border-liners, along with flame-throwing left-handed closer Billy Wagner.
There’s one other “yes” vote among the Schlossberg choices: former Colorado Rockies first baseman Todd Helton, who hit .316 with 369 home runs over 17 seasons but made the “mistake” of spending his entire 17-year career in the rarefied air of Denver. If Larry Walker is in, there’s no logical reason to keep Helton out.
They round out this year’s choices, with Andruw as the top of the list.
Former AP sportswriter Dan Schlossberg of Fair Lawn, NJ covers baseball for forbes.com, USA TODAY Sports Weekly, Sports Collectors Digest, Latino Sports, Ball Nine, and Here’s The Pitch, among others. His e.mail is email@example.com.
Steve Cohen = 21st Century George Steinbrenner
By Dan Schlossberg
The other owners should have seen this coming: by throwing bags of bullion out of airplanes, Steve Cohen has pushed the salary spiral into the stratosphere. For everyone.
In a sport where everyone knows what everyone else is getting, Cohen’s spendthrift ways have widened the disparity between richer and poorer, big market and small market. While his Mets may prosper — at least at the gate — the Reds, Pirates, Rays, and other clubs are approaching economic disaster.
Cohen is George Steinbrenner at his worst: a rich, overloaded owner willing to open his pocketbook in a sky’s-the-limit bid to buy a pennant.
During his days as owner of the Yankees, Steinbrenner was always the loudmouth who out-shouted and out-performed all other owners, landing such big fish as Catfish Hunter, Goose Gossage, Reggie Jackson, and Dave Winfield — to cite four Yankee free-agent signees who reached Cooperstown — and many more.
Now Cohen, less than a week after giving carte blanche to brand-new general manager Billy Eppler, has added Max Scherzer, Sterling Marte, Mark Canha, and Eduardo Escobar — to the tune of $254.5 million so far.
That puts the Mets on track to become the first team in baseball history with a $300 million payroll (at the moment, it projects to $265 million but arbitration raises and further free-agent activity are a certainty whenever the lockout ends).
When one owner — any owner — behaves this way, it is bad for baseball. It forces every other owner to follow in the folly, signing over-the-hill players to big bucks just because they have big names.
What else would explain why Justin Verlander, nearly 39, would get a two-year contract for $50 million after missing all of 2021 with Tommy John surgery? And Scherzer, who cited a “dead arm” as his reason for bowing out of an elimination game in the NL Championship Series, getting three years at an annual average of $43.3 million? Never mind that he’s 38 and not likely to add a fourth Cy Young award to his trophy shelf.
The other signings smack of desperation too. Anxious to close the 11.5-game gap that separated the Mets from the World Champion Braves in the NL East, Eppler gave Eduardo Escobar $20 million and Mark Canha $26.5 million, both spread over two years, and Starling Marte a whopping $78 million for four years.
Marte can play center field, a long-time Mets sore spot, and supply speed, a commodity that left when Javy Baez signed with Detroit. But his play in center has declined — not surprising for someone pushing 34 — and Escobar will never win a Gold Glove at third.
Cohen, who complained bitterly on Twitter when Steven Matz rejected his overtures to sign with St. Louis, should have sucked up his losses, which also included Noah Syndergaard and soon-to-depart Michael Conforto in addition to Matz and Baez.
That’s the nature of the free agent game. But bullies with billions don’t always play fair.
Too bad my pressbox colleague Joel Sherman of The New York Post didn’t point that out. In his first column commenting on the Scherzer signing, he wrote, “I have always wondered what would happen if one of the extremely rich people who owns a baseball team used their outside wealth to essentially enjoy the heck out of their club regardless of cost. We might be finding out.”
Never mind that Scherzer will hit age 40 in the last year of his deal. Or that we have a Commissioner who could and should cancel the contract “in the best interests of baseball.” Or that both the owners and players are so greedy that can’t decide how to divvy up billions in profits — and to save the game from a shutdown just when it is recovering from Covid.
If anything good comes out of the stalled Collective Bargaining Agreement talks, how about a limit on the number of free agents any one club could sign? In a game with revenue sharing, wouldn’t player sharing make sense too?
In the meantime, here’s hoping Steve Cohen can stop gloating and start realizing that the teams who spend the most don’t always win. All he has to do is look at the payroll of the current world champions; the Atlanta Braves ranked 14th in the league last year and needed only six games to beat the Los Angeles Dodgers, a team whose payroll was $100 million higher. Apparently, development of homegrown talent helps.
Former AP sportswriter Dan Schlossberg of Fair Lawn, NJ covers baseball for forbes.com, Latino Sports, USA TODAY Sports Weekly, Sports Collectors Digest, Here’s The Pitch. His e.mail is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Taking a big chance, the Braves signed former San Diego relief ace Kirby Yates, who once led the NL with 41 saves but also had two Tommy John surgeries and won’t be able to pitch until mid-season. He got two years plus a club option for $8.25 million . . .
Atlanta’s Marcell Ozuna led the NL in homers, rbi, and total bases in 2020, missed most of 2021 with legal problems, but can play in 2022 once he forfeits 20 games of pay for violating MLB’s domestic violence policies . . .
Before the Mets went wild in padding their payroll, the 2015 Dodgers paid their players the most at $297.9 million . . .
If he averages 100 pitches per game in 2022, Max Scherzer will earn $13,541.67 a pitch and $202,492.21 per inning, based upon his career average of 214 innings per season.
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