Future Hall of Famers? It's Anyone's Guess
ALSO: AN HOMAGE TO BRAVES FIELD, A GREAT BALLPARK OF THE PAST
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The SABR chapter up in North Jersey is not the only one in our fine state. The Goose Goslin chapter is based in South Jersey (I'm on its rolls but am not really an active member).
Re: stadium fires. If you meant the 1911 fire in D.C. that burned down what was then most commonly called American League Park, Calvin Griffith didn't arrive in Washington until 1912 and the rebuilt stadium on the same site didn't begin to be called Griffith Stadium until circa 1920, a while after he became the owner.
I enjoy your Timeless Trivia, in any case.
— Andrew Sharp
The writer is a regular contributor to Here’s The Pitch.
SABR Analytics Research Awards voting is open through February 10! Everyone is welcome to vote to determine the winners. You can vote each day at ibwaa.com/sabr-voting.
Did you know…
Atlanta slugger Ronald Acuña, Jr. won’t play for Team Venezuela in the World Baseball Classic after fans harassed his family during a game in the Venezuela Winter League . . .
The Mets must know something about Japanese pitchers, signing Masato Yoshii, Hideo Nomo, Kazuhisa Ishii, Ryota Igarashi, Hisanori Takahashi, and Daisuke Matsuzaka before adding Kensai Senga this winter . . .
Signing versatile Brandon Drury, who came alive last year after vision correction, could be a bonanza for the Angels, who got him for two years at $17 million . . .
The only Boston player with an RBI title on his resume is Adam Duvall . . .
The Marlins are fishing around with free agent Yuli Gurriel, a Miami resident . . .
Mazel tov to new Astros GM Dana Brown, formerly scouting director for the Braves.
Who really belongs among next year’s new eligibles for the Hall of Fame?
By Jeff Kallman
Very well, I surrender. Since it seemed half or more of baseball world couldn’t wait to start speculating on next year’s Hall of Fame class—it took, oh, about five seconds after Scott Rolen was elected during January’s final full week—I might as well join the fun. (Don’t go there: Rolen’s the number ten third baseman, ever, says Baseball Reference, and say I.)
Well, it might have started as fun until I ran into crowds enough of Twins fans determined to see Joe Mauer not canonized in Cooperstown but drawn, quartered, broiled, and basted. Because he “didn’t live up to his contract,” meaning the eight-year, $184 million extension he signed in 2010.
That was the extension Mauer signed three years before the first of two concussions scrambled him from super catcher to barely replacement-level first baseman. Those packs of Twins fans saw nothing but the raw numbers from there and chose to ignore what even one concussion, never mind two, does to a player.
Concussion number one, three years after he signed the extension—foul tip into his face mask, August 2013. Concussion number two—incurred by way of a neck injury suffered when diving while chasing a foul ball, May 2018. Deciding that family life as a husband and father was more important than trying to keep playing the game he loved, Mauer retired after the 2018 season.
“Mauer underperformed his contract,” tweeted one such addlepated gnat. “Not a crime but neither is fans being pissed off about [return on investment].” As I couldn’t resist replying to him, here I thought Mauer suffered the brain injury. That’s potential Exhibit A in any argument against allowing fans a Hall of Fame vote. You almost don’t want to know who they’d elect to Cooperstown. (As if the old Veterans Committee and some of its successor bodies hadn’t done damage enough.)
News bulletin: Mauer’s concussion-abetted decline during his years at first base didn’t fracture his Hall of Fame case as a catcher. Baseball Reference ranks him the number seven backstop ever to strap it on.
My Real Batting Average (RBA) metric (total bases + walks + intentional walks + sacrifice flies + hit by pitches, divided by total plate appearances) has Mauer (.569 RBA) number three among every Hall of Fame catcher who played in the post-World War II/post-integration/night ball era. Only Mike Piazza (.613 RBA) and Roy Campanella (.587 RBA) are ahead of him. Behind the plate? He was worth 40 defensive runs above his league average.
That sounds like a peak value Hall of Fame catcher to me. The Twins moving Mauer out from behind the plate to first base full-time after concussion number one robbed us of a chance to know how long Mauer might have sustained his overall performance as a backstop. But it doesn’t damage him for deserving a plaque in Cooperstown. First ballot, even.
There should be no controversy, either, when Adrián Beltré makes it there, either, deservedly on his premiere ballot next December, too. BR ranks him number four among third basemen. He wasn’t just a power machine at the plate, he was the number two defensive third baseman of all time, his +168 defensive runs second only to Hall of Famer Brooks Robinson. RBA is kind to him among the same era’s Hall of Fame third basemen as well: his .533 is above Robinson (.458) and Paul Molitor (.510).
But Bartolo Colón? Seriously?
Yes, fans loved the guy, including me. Colón seemed ageless—until he wasn’t. Everybody, eleven teams worth, wanted him—until they didn’t. He was a good pitcher who could be great—now and then. He was a four-time All-Star—in a 21-year career. He won one Cy Young Award—which he shouldn’t have won, in 2005. (Johan Santana—who led the Show with a 2.80 fielding-independent pitching rate and a 0.97 walks/hits per inning pitched rate, as well as leading the American League with a 155 ERA+—should have won.)
He was nicknamed the Big Sexy—ironically. (I see my own alleged physique and think to myself, if he’s the Big Sexy then I’m George Clooney.) He gave a Petco Park audience, and the world once it went viral, a huge thrill with one of the most fluke hits of all time—his first and only major league home run, as a Met . . . in his 247th lifetime plate appearance. (It took the Big Sexy a day to round the bases. It would have taken me only an hour.) Otherwise, Colón was key evidence on behalf of making the designated hitter universal at last. (His lifetime slash line, and that’s including the freak homer: .084/.092/.107.)
You thought Jack Morris was an undeserved Hall of Fame entry? Colón’s career FIP is 4.15 (Morris: 3.94); his lifetime ERA is 4.12 (Morris: 3.90); the batting average against him lifetime is .268 (Morris: .247), and his lifetime run support was 4.8 while he was in the game. Colón’s credited with 247 wins lifetime.
With numbers such as those, not to mention that 68.5 percent of what he threw turned into ground or fly balls (and far more ground balls, making it a wonder his infields didn’t sue him for lost overtime), Colón didn’t win them all by his lonesome. Remove his undeserved Cy Young Award and his freak home run, and Colón would be at least as much a gold watch candidate as wrongful Era Committee electee Harold Baines was.
If you want to argue that the Fun Guys deserve a place in Cooperstown, I can name you a trainload of them who were no less fun for not deserving Hall of Fame plaques. (Jay Johnstone, anyone? Jim Bouton? Rick Dempsey? Moe Drabowsky? Roger McDowell? Jim Piersall?) And, several Hall of Famers who were Fun Guys (Yogi Berra, Roy Campanella, Whitey Ford, Ken Griffey, Jr., Willie Mays, Satchel Paige, and Warren Spahn come to mind at once) but just so happened to be Hall of Fame-great players, too.
The Big Sexy was one of the Fun Guys. But it doesn’t make him a Hall of Famer.
Jeff Kallman is an IBWAA Life Member who writes Throneberry Fields Forever. He has written for the Society for American Baseball Research, The Hardball Times, Sports-Central, and other publications. He has lived in Las Vegas since 2007, where he plays the guitar and writes music when not writing baseball. He remains a Met fan since the day they were born.
Wind and Distance Hampered Hitters at Old Braves Field
By Dan Schlossberg
As a rabid Braves fan since 1957, I have seen the team play in Milwaukee County Stadium, Atlanta Fulton County Stadium, Turner Field, and Truist Park (nee Sun Trust Park).
But I truly have regrets about missing games in Braves Field, home of the Boston Braves from 1915-1952.
A single-decked stadium that somehow seated 40,000, it was so vast that no one hit a ball over an outfield fence in its first 11 seasons. But the New York Giants hit four inside-the-park home runs in a single contest in 1922.
Braves Field dimensions were — in a word — ridiculous.
Although they were altered some 15 times over the years, one thing was constant: center field was truly going, going, gone, measuring 520 feet from home to the flagpole, which stood in fair territory. At times, the distance from home to deep center was — are you sitting down? — 550 feet.
Even Dave Kingman couldn’t have cleared it, though a trolley company did; Boston fans were able to ride streetcars right into the cavernous ballpark.
The distance was not the only problem hitters faced; a fierce wind blew in from the adjacent Charles River. Casey Stengel, who managed the team during the ‘40s, referred to it as his fourth outfielder and called it “Joe Wind.”
Built over a golf course, the ballpark also had other ghosts in its background. Horses and mules were buried alive along the third-base line during a construction accident and stayed there as long as the Braves, who finally left because the Red Sox were outdrawing them at Fenway Park, only a mile away.
Parts of Braves Field became part of the football stadium at Boston University, with the one-time ticket office turning into the BU’s campus police station.
Opened a year after the “Miracle Braves” won the only World Series of their Boston tenure, Braves Field even had an early edition of Bleacher Bums. Their 2,000-seat section of the right-field bleachers became known as “the Jury Box” when Judge Emil Fuchs owned the team.
You might remember the name: he was the guy who lured Babe Ruth as a gate attraction for one final season in 1935 but refused to name him manager — a post Ruth craved but never realized.
Ty Cobb, Ruth’s chief rival, was right about Braves Field. When he first saw it, he said, “No one will hit a home run out of this ballpark.”
Former AP sportswriter Dan Schlossberg of Fair Lawn, NJ has been covering baseball since 1969. His byline also appears in forbes.com, Latino Sports, USA TODAY Sports Weekly, Sports Collectors Digest, Memories & Dreams, and 40 baseball books. To book him as a speaker, contact email@example.com.
“My dad took me to my first big-league game at Yankee Stadium. Fans could go on the field after the game and we walked around the monuments, which were in fair territory.”
— Al Clark, major-league umpire from 1976-2001
During the last decade, major-league games have been played at Disney World, Fort Bragg, Las Vegas, Omaha, and Williamsport, Pennsylvania as well as Australia, Japan, London, Mexico, and Puerto Rico. BB&T Ballpark at Bowman Field, home of the Little League World Series, has just 2,366 seats but created enormous interest for the annual Little League Classic via television. The same rationale convinced Major League Baseball to carve a ballpark out of a cornfield for an annual game in Dyersville, Iowa, site of the 1989 film Field of Dreams.
New Mets pitcher Justin Verlander, starting his first year in the National League at age 40, brings 3 Cy Youngs, 9 All-Star selections, a best-in-baseball 244 wins, a 3.24 career ERA, and a gorgeous wife named Kate Upton . . .
The Braves have had a Caray in their broadcast booth since 1976 but will go without this year . . .
Sammy Sosa has homered in 45 different ballparks, a major-league record . . .
The advent of the first ballpark P.A. system, in the Polo Grounds on Aug. 25, 1929, eliminated the need for clubs to employ “megaphone men” to shout the starting lineups and provide other information for fans . . .
When the Dodgers played in Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, the distance down the left-field line was 250 feet — a perfect target for the “Moon Shots” of Wally Moon, a left-handed hitter who learned to golf the ball to he opposite field.
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I was going to joke about Colon, but the Royals announced they were bringing back full powder blue uniforms on Opening Day and it's now all I can think about.. For someone who writes a newsletter called Powder Blue Nostalgia https://powderbluenostalgia.substack.com/ it's a momentous day. Gettin' a little emotional around here...