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Remember the Names Baseball Lost This Year
ALSO: WITH ROOM ON BALLOT, ANDRUW JONES TOPS COOPERSTOWN CANDIDATES
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Did you know…
Now that he’s been reinstated from his year-long suspension, Trevor Bauer will wind up on somebody’s pitching staff but count the Dodgers out . . .
The record-setting 62nd home run ball hit by Aaron Judge in 2022 was sold for $1.5 million by Goldin Auctions in bidding that closed Saturday night. Cory Youmans, who caught the ball in the left-field seats at Globe Life Field in Arlington, TX, turned down a private offer of $3 million for the ball . . .
Kate Upton was such a huge Yankees fan before marrying Justin Verlander in 2017 that The New York Post ran a half-page ad in The Houston Chronicle that said, “Hey, Houston, we know who she’s really rooting for” during the 2017 ALCS . . .
San Diego faces a now-or-never situation in 2023, with Fernando Tatis, Jr. on a 14-year, $340 million contract, Manny Machado signed for 10 years and $300 million, and Xander Bogaerts inked for 11 years at $280 million. But Machado can opt out of his contract after the season and Juan Soto, another overpaid superstar playing out the string in San Diego, is virtually certain to become a free agent too . . .
Worst signings so far: Mitch Haniger (Giants) got $43.5 million after hitting 11 homers with 34 RBI in 57 games for Seattle at age 31 while Josh Bell (Guardians) got a two-year, $33 million deal after hitting .192 for SD plus two HR in playoffs . . .
With the DH now universal, couldn’t some team use Mike Moustakas, designated for assignment by the Reds, or Eric Hosmer, released by the Red Sox? . . .
Will Mets signee Kodai Senga be the next Hideo Nomo or the next Hideki Irabu? . . .
Do you think new Cubs shortstop Dansby Swanson will enjoy watching Freddie Freeman (Dodgers) and his old Braves teammates on television during the 2023 post-season?
John Sanders and Others Lost to the Major League Baseball Family in 2022
By Matthew Veasey
Over the last few years, I have taken on the somber but important responsibility of saying goodbye to those former players lost to Major League Baseball over the past calendar year. According to Baseball Almanac, the game has lost 89 former players during 2022 calendar year with one week remaining.
Hall of Fame starting pitcher Gaylord Perry (84), who won 314 games and tossed over 5,000 innings, was among those who passed away. Perry, a five-time All-Star, won the Cy Young Award in both leagues, with Cleveland in the American League in 1972 and San Diego in the National League in 1978.
We also lost Hall of Fame closer Bruce Sutter (69) this year. The six-time All-Star won the NL Cy Young Award in 1979 with the Chicago Cubs. He pitched in 661 games over a dozen seasons with three teams, registering 300 career saves. During his nine prime years of 1977-84, Sutter finished in the Top 10 of NL MVP voting five times.
Southpaw pitcher Curt Simmons (93) enjoyed a 20-year career that spanned 1947-67. He was a key starting pitcher for the Philadelphia Phillies and was the last surviving member of the ‘Whiz Kids’ team that won the National League pennant in 1950. I wrote on Simmons’ career earlier this month at my home website.
Maury Wills (89) enjoyed a 14-year big-league career, most famously as the Los Angeles Dodgers’ starting shortstop during the 1960s. One of the greatest base- stealers of his generation, Wills swiped 104 bags on his way to winning the 1962 National League Most Valuable Player award. He also won the All-Star Game MVP that year and was a seven-time All-Star overall.
Tom Browning (62) won 20 games as a rookie with Cincinnati in 1985 and finished runner-up in the Rookie of the Year voting. The southpaw was a 1991 NL All-Star and won 123 games over a 12-year career. But it was one game for which he will always be remembered. On September 18, 1978, at Riverfront Stadium in Cincinnati against the Dodgers, Browning tossed what at the time was just the tenth perfect game in MLB history.
A young star with the Dodgers early in his career, Tommy Davis (83) carved out an 18-year career that spanned 1959-76. He was an All-Star and finished among the top 10 in NL MVP voting with the Dodgers in 1962-63. Then in 1973-74, Davis resurrected his career with Baltimore, serving as one of the first successful full-time designated hitters.
He had just a .227 career batting average and slugged only .297, never hitting more than three home runs or driving in more than 36 runs in any individual season. But somehow, Dick Schofield (87) was able to enjoy a 19-year career spanning 1953-71. He received four at-bats and won a World Series as a backup infielder with the 1960 Pittsburgh Pirates. His son and namesake Dick Schofield played 14 seasons in MLB and his grandson Jayson Werth enjoyed a 15-year career.
During the four seasons 1960-63 over a 12-year career, Ralph Terry (86) was one of baseball’s top starting pitchers. That included a 1962 All-Star campaign during which the righty registered 23 victories. Terry tossed a complete-game, four-hit shutout on the road at Candlestick Park to beat the host San Francisco Giants, 1-0, in Game 7 of that year’s World Series.
John Stearns (71) was the second overall pick of the 1969 MLB Draft by the Philadelphia Phillies and debuted with them for one game in 1974. Dealt to the New York Mets as part of the trade that sent Tug McGraw to Philly, Stearns became a four-time NL All-Star catcher over a decade in the Big Apple 1975-84. After his playing career, Stearns was a long-time coach and minor-league manager with several organizations.
The youngest to pass away in 2023 was Anthony Varvaro. A righty reliever who pitched in 166 games with three teams over 2010-15, Varvaro was a key member of the Atlanta bullpen in 2013-14. Over those two years he pitched in 123 games: 6-4, 1 Save, 2.74 ERA, 1.188 WHIP, 114 hits over 128 innings.
After the 2016 season, Varvaro, a Staten Island native who was a teenager when the Twin Towers fell, retired from baseball, joining the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey Police Department. He was assigned to the World Trade Center, and five years later became an instructor at their police academy.
On his way for duty at the World Trade Center at the 9/11 commemorative ceremonies on September 11 of this year, Varvaro was killed in a head-on collision near the Holland Tunnel by a wrong-way driver.
I always like to remember one player who had very little impact on the field in Major League Baseball, but still enjoyed a moment in the big-league sun. This year, that player is John Sanders, who passed away at age 76.
Sanders never had an at-bat or played the field in a big-league game. But on Tuesday, April 16, 1965, at Municipal Stadium in Kansas City, Sanders had his moment.
Sanders had signed with the Athletics as an 18-year-old minor-league free agent from Nebraska. The terms of MLB bonus arrangements at the time meant that he had to be carried on the big-league roster in 1965.
In the second game of the season the host A’s trailed the visiting Detroit Tigers by 8-3 in the bottom of the 7th inning. Kansas City skipper Mel McGaha sent up Wayne Causey to pinch-hit for pitcher Wes Stock. After Causey laced a one-out single off 21-year-old Tigers rookie pitcher Denny McLain, McGaha inserted Sanders to pinch-run for Causey.
The next two batters for Kansas City, Bert Campaneris and Mike Hershberger, were each retired by the future two-time AL Cy Young Award winner and AL MVP McLain. Sanders trotted back to the dugout from first base and would never again set foot on a big-league diamond during an official game.
Three weeks later, the A’s tried to sneak Sanders through waivers to send him to the minor leagues. Instead, he was claimed by Boston. He enjoyed a strong season for the Red Sox A-level affiliate at Wellsville, then spent three more seasons in the minor leagues with the Mets organization.
Though his playing career ended after the 1968 minor league season, Sanders’ career in baseball was far from over. He got into coaching during the 1970s at the collegiate level, eventually becoming head coach at Nebraska where he would enjoy a two-decade long career that included three NCAA tournament appearances.
In 1999, Sanders landed the job as the Boston Red Sox’ rookie-level affiliate manager in the Gulf Coast League. He would remain in that job through 2002 and then serve as a scout for the Bosox through 2007 and then with the Los Angeles Dodgers into the 2010s. He was named to the Nebraska Sports Hall of Fame in 2002.
May all these former big-leaguers and the dozens of others lost to us this year rest in peace.
Matt Veasey is retired after serving three decades in Philadelphia law enforcement. You can find him as @PhilliesBell on Twitter providing Philadelphia Phillies news, history, and much more, as well as general baseball items of interest. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org
Andruw Jones Is The Most Deserving Hall of Fame Candidate This Year
By Dan Schlossberg
With all that hoopla surrounding free agents and trades this month, baseball fans may not be aware of a critical looming deadline.
The last day of the year, December 31, is the closing date for members of the Baseball Writers Association of America [BBWAA] to submit their written choices for the Hall of Fame.
Subtracting the 700 votes that went to Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, and Curt Schilling — controversial choices whose 10-year BBWAA limit expired — means that other deserving candidates can now get the consideration they deserve.
If the voters do their due diligence and fill out all 10 spaces on their ballots, Fred McGriff could have company on the dais in Cooperstown next July 23.
With no solid first-year candidates emerging, four former stars who finished well last year might even make the required 75 per cent of the vote.
They are Scott Rolen, whose 63.2 per cent led last year’s pretenders, plus Todd Helton (52 per cent), Billy Wagner (51 per cent), and Andruw Jones (41 per cent).
From this perspective — and I’ve been covering baseball since 1969 — all four deserve enshrinement. So do Jeff Kent, in his last year on the writers’ ballot; Gary Sheffield, whose 509 home runs represent a historic achievement; Andy Pettitte, who won more post-season games (19) than any other pitcher; and former MVP Jimmy Rollins.
All these players were caught in the logjam that broke up when the Bonds-Clemens logjam finally ended with their transition to the Contemporary Players Era Committee (where they were also sounded rejected).
The Class of 2023 ballot has 14 holdovers plus 14 newcomers, with Carlos Beltran and Francisco Rodriguez the best of the bunch. Chances that either succeeds — at least this year — are remote. Beltran’s alleged involvement in the 2017 World Series cheating scandal involving the Houston Astros will be hard to overcome, while K-Rod doesn’t stand out among his fellow closers.
And let’s forget about alleged PED users Alex Rodriguez and Manny Ramirez, who are both up for consideration. Cheaters have no place in the Baseball Hall of Fame.
For anyone to reach 75 per cent of the vote, electors need to fill out all 10 spots on their ballots — as they do when voting for Most Valuable Player. Listing 10 players does not mean an endorsement for all of them but merely the order of preference.
Ballots returned with just a handful of names skew the vote, strongly reducing the odds against anyone reaching 75 per cent. That’s why David Ortiz, the best DH in baseball history, barely made it last year, when he got 77 per cent of the vote.
Okay, readers may want to know my top 10 preferences. So here they are, with a short note of explanation:
Andruw Jones — Of the five outfielders with 10 straight Gold Gloves, he and the soon-to-be-eligible Ichiro Suzuki are the only ones not in Cooperstown. He had the highest WAR of any player on the Braves team that won a record 14 straight division crowns (and had seven Hall of Famers in 1995) and hit 434 homers, including a club-record 51 in one season. The five-time All-Star had five 100-rbi seasons but deserves election on his defense alone — just like Nellie Fox, Bill Mazeroski, and Ozzie Smith.
Todd Helton — A .316 lifetime hitter who had consecutive seasons with 400 total bases, he was a dangerous left-handed slugger even outside of Coors Field. If Larry Walker is enshrined, he shouldn’t be overlooked any longer. Helton also won three Gold Gloves at first base.
Scott Rolen — The seven-time All-Star won eight Gold Gloves at third base, which he played with distinction for the Phillies, Cardinals, and Reds. He also hit with power.
Billy Wagner — A diminutive strikeout artist, his 422 career saves rank second among left-handers. His 0.998 WHIP is the best by any reliever with 700 innings pitched.
Gary Sheffield — A nine-time All-Star who won a batting crown and World Series ring, he played third base and the outfield but was best known for his powerful bat. He hit 509 home runs but never fanned 100 times in a season.
Andy Pettitte — Though linked with steroids abuse, he apologized, finishing with 253 wins and a record 19 more in post-season play. Twice a 20-game winner, he won five World Series rings with the Yankees.
Torii Hunter — Almost as gifted in center as Jones, Hunter won nine Gold Gloves and went to five All-Star games during his 19-year career. He hit .300 twice and had two 100-rbi seasons.
Mark Buehrle — A five-time All-Star with four Gold Gloves, he won 214 games, one of them a no-hitter during his career as a durable starter for the White Sox and other clubs. He won at least 13 games in all but four of his 16 seasons.
9. Jimmy Rollins — An MVP and world champion, he’s the only shortstop with 500 doubles, 200 homers, and 400 stolen bases. A three-time All-Star who won four Gold Gloves, the switch-hitting Rollins was the key man on the powerful Phillies teams that reached postseason play nearly a dozen times.
Jeff Kent — Hit 351 home runs, more than any second baseman, and made five All-Star teams. This is his last shot before the Contemporary Baseball Player Eras Committee gets his name.
Former AP sportswriter Dan Schlossberg of Fair Lawn, NJ has covered Baseball Hall of Fame Induction Weekend since 2014. The author of 40 books, he writes for forbes.com, Latino Sports, and Sports Collectors Digest, among other outlets. Write him at email@example.com
“None of the Braves hitters is signed beyond his age-35 season and none is earning more than $22 million annually. The Braves also hold reasonable $20 million club options on Matt Olson and Austin Riley for their age-36 campaigns.”
–- Ken Rosenthal, The Athletic
Adam Wainwright and Yadier Molina formed a battery 328 times, an MLB record . . .
Molina and Albert Pujols were in the majors a combined 41 years, playing 5,304 games and combining for 21 All-Star appearances, 11 Gold Gloves, seven Silver Sluggers, three MVP trophies, and two World Championships. They will be first-ballot picks for the HoF Class of 2028 . . .
Pujols hit .323 with 18 of his 24 HR the second half, finishing with 703, 4th all-time. He and Molina both singled in their last at-bats, thrilling 48,515 fans.
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HERE’S THE PITCH is published daily except Sundays and holidays. Brian Harl [firstname.lastname@example.org] handles Monday and Tuesday editions, Elizabeth Muratore [email@example.com] does Wednesday and Thursday, and Dan Schlossberg [firstname.lastname@example.org] edits the weekend editions on Friday and Saturday. Readers are encouraged to contribute comments, articles, and letters to the editor. HTP reserves the right to edit for brevity, clarity, and good taste.