Cooperstown Should Welcome Jim McCormick
ALSO: WORLD BASEBALL CLASSIC UPSETS SYMMETRY OF 2023 SPRING TRAINING
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Did you know…
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Thanks to Jayson Stark for reporting that the 2022 Texas Rangers played more than 45,000 innings without a single immaculate inning (nine pitches, three outs) before suffering two involving the same three hitters in the same game . . .
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Those same Giants made Alyssa Nakken the first woman to coach on the field during a major-league game (at first base on April 12) . . .
Don Mattingly, now bench coach for the Blue Jays, has more wins and more losses than any manager in the history of the Miami Marlins . . .
Mike Brosseau, who once pinch-hit a home run against Aroldis Chapman to win a playoff series, led the majors with a .529 batting average and 1.755 OPS last year, when he also led both leagues with a dozen RBI in the pinch (four more than anyone else) . . .
Mookie Betts has more leadoff homers (35) than anyone in Dodgers history.
Forgotten Great? 19th Century Pitcher Was True Workhorse
By Paul Semendinger, Ed.D.
Can you imagine being a pitcher and winning 20 games in a season?
How about 30?
Let's stretch the realms of reality. Think of a pitcher winning 40 games in a season!
Let's make it even crazier... Imagine LOSING 40 games in a season.
It happened. It absolutely did. But it was a long long time ago.
As baseball fans are sometimes apt to do, I found myself looking at the lifetime statistics of various players. As I did this, I started to think of the Hall of Fame and the borderline candidates. I then began to wonder which player has the highest baseball-reference WAR who is eligible but not in the Hall of Fame and who also does not have a bit of controversy around him. That search led me to a forgotten star from the 1800s.
First, the following is a list of the players with the highest bWAR who are not in the Hall of Fame:
Barry Bonds (162.8)
Roger Clemens (139.2)
Alex Rodriguez (117.6)
Albert Pujols (101.6) - not yet eligible
Adrian Beltre (93.5) - not yet eligible
Mike Trout (82.4) - still playing
Pete Rose (79.6)
Curt Schilling (79.5)
Justin Verlander (77.6) - still playing
Zack Greinke (76.5) - still playing
All of those names were, of course, very familiar to me and (i would assume) all baseball fans. We know the reasons why they are not in the Hall of Fame. We've probably debated this time and again — for decades.
But then I came to the next name on the list:
Jim McCormick (76.2)
In my extensive reading about baseball over a lifetime, I had probably seen this name, but I didn't remember it and, as such, I determined that I needed to learn more about him.
Jim McCormick, born in Scotland but then from Paterson, New Jersey, pitched from 1878 to 1887. He pitched for such teams as the Indianapolis Blues, the Cleveland Blues, the Cincinnati Outlaw Reds, the Providence Grays, the Chicago White Stockings, and the Pittsburgh Alleghenys.
Over his 10-year career, he won 265 games while losing 214. His ERA was 2.43. Of course, this was a different time, but still, McCormick led the league in wins in 1880 and 1882 and in earned run average in 1883. He also twice led the league in innings pitched.
Those innings pitched totals marvel. In 1880, to lead the league, McCormick threw 657.2 innings. In 1882, he led the league by throwing a more modest 595.2 innings.
During that 1880 season, Jim McCormick won 45 games. That's amazing. But even more amazing is the fact that the season before that, in 1879, he lost 40 games. He went 20-40, 2.42 that season. He started 60 games and finished 59 of them.
I started to wonder about the one game he didn't finish ("You're taking me out, Coach? Me?") and then learned that he was the player/manager that season. He probably took himself out. The next year, he led all of professional baseball with 72 complete games.
McCormick won 20 or more games (a seemingly modest total, for sure) for eight consecutive years. In two of those years, he won over 30 games. And in another two, he won 40 or more games.
Yes, it was a different time and a different era, but still, I wondered, "Why isn't Jim McCormick in the Hall of Fame?" I wondered if there was controversy around him, like the players today who also aren't in, but I found none. In fact, he was a beloved player and the "idol of fans everywhere."
According to his SABR biography, McCormick was one of baseball's earliest throwers of the curve ball. But, then again, maybe the reasons are that they didn't just use pitchers back then differently, the game itself was different. For about half his career, McCormick didn't pitch from the standard distance of today — nor did he throw overhand. Yes, baseball was a lot different back then.
Still, other players from that era, including Cap Anson and King Kelly from the 1880 White Stockings, are in the Hall of Fame. If their records count, why not McCormick's?
According to Baseball-Reference.com, the players most similar to McCormick, Vic Willis and Old Hoss Radbourn, are both in the Hall of Fame.
Radbourn is a particularly similar pitcher as his career was in the same time period as McCormick’s (1881-1891). Furthermore, McCormick's lifetime WAR ranks slightly above Radbourne's all-time (76.2 to 75.4). In addition, when one looks at the other Hall of Fame measures on his baseball-reference page (Black Ink, Grey Ink, Hall of Fame Monitor and Hall of Fame Standards), McCormick ranks as a worthy enshrinee.
Jim McCormick passed away in 1918, more than 100 years ago. But, even though so much time has passed, it is still time to give him the honor he deserves and to open the doors to Cooperstown to this forgotten great from the past.
Dr. Paul Semendinger is a retired school principal who is now an Adjunct Professor at Ramapo College. Paul runs the Yankees site Start Spreading the News. His wonderful book, co-authored with Yankees great Roy White, From Compton to the Bronx, comes out on April 11, 2023.
‘World Baseball Classic’ To Wreak Havoc With Spring Training Again
By Dan Schlossberg
The World Baseball Classic is neither.
It doesn’t involved the whole world, does include entities that aren’t actually countries [Puerto Rico is a U.S. territory], and presents the biggest conflict of interest in baseball history.
None of the 30 managers like it but are prohibited from saying so by a gag order from the Office of the Commissioner.
This year, they will hate it more than ever.
As Joel Sherman of The New York Post points out, spring training will be played under the new rules mandating pitch clocks, bigger bases, fewer pickoff throws, and zero infield shifts. The poorly-scheduled WBC won’t follow suit, planning to operate under all the old rules.
The opportunity for confusion — by both players and umpires — will be unlimited.
Bad enough that players like Brandon Nimmo, a Wyoming native, will play for Italy because of his name. But the whole tournament has no business ruining spring training — especially for fans deprived of it in recent years by Covid-19 and the 99-day owners’ lockout?
I know: I skipped 2021 entirely, then went to Florida in 2022 for The Spring Training That Wasn’t. The owners and players settled on my last day of a trip planned months earlier.
With star players jumping from the majors into fabricated teams allegedly representing countries, the fragmented MLB teams should shave ticket prices off all exhibition games played between March 8, when WBC starts, through March 21, when it ends.
If fans like me had no interest in the tournament, why would we want to see an exhibition game between the Atlanta Braves and Dominican Republic WBC team, for example? But that’s exactly what they’ll get in North Port, FL on March 8.
And which rules would apply: the new rules coming into Major League Baseball or the junked rules still in use by the World Baseball Classic?
“Everybody better be preparing for what’s coming,” Mets manager Buck Showalter told Sherman, “because the learning curve’s going to be real short in the spring.”
Showalter has ordered a cache of pitch timers — maybe cuckoo clocks would have been better — that he’ll deploy in Clover Park, the club’s Port St. Lucie spring home.
In addition to different rules on different days during the 30-game exhibition slate, the one rule most in need of attention has been totally ignored.
That’s the “Manfred Man” — not the British musician but the imposition of an automatic runner on second base to start every half-inning (this commissioner is obsessed with pace-of-game issues). Even that rule wasn’t universal last year; it was suspended for the post-season, where an 18-inning game was an early — and welcome — by-product.
Fans want more baseball, not less. And vendors want to sell more hot dogs and souvenirs rather than shut because games have an artificial finish.
Improving the product is always good business but both the World Baseball Classic and the Manfred Man have the opposite effect. Some of the new rules probably do too.
Thanks mainly to the coronavirus, the World Baseball Classic has been on baseball’s back burner since it last reared its ugly head in 2017.
It might even work if played between the end of the November World Series and beginning of the December Winter Meetings. Players would be much better prepared and much more motivated, while teams seeking to sell tickets for the following season would bask in the free publicity.
But that’s asking a lot from the committees of 30-somethings who have the Commissioner’s ear.
Former AP sportswriter Dan Schlossberg of Fair Lawn, NJ has been covering baseball since 1969. He liked the game a lot better when there were two eight-team leagues, winners went right to the World Series, and playoffs occurred only when teams finished tied. Reach Dan via email@example.com.
“It sucks but what are you gonna do? Once the season starts, they’re not gonna wait for you to catch up.”
— Mets manager Buck Showalter, complaining that new rules regarding pitch clocks, pickoffs, shifts, and base size won’t apply in the World Baseball Classic
Mets players likely to leave the team for the World Baseball Classic during spring training include Pete Alonso, Jeff McNeil, Francisco Lindor, Eduardo Escobar, Starling Marte, Brandon Nimmo, Omar Narvaez, Carlos Carrasco, Jose Quintana, Adam Ottavino, and Brooks Raley . . .
With incoming new rules in mind, Mets manager Buck Showalter promises plenty of intra-squad scrimmages before the exhibition schedule starts late next month . . .
The end date of the WBC is March 21, just nine days before the March 30 openers for all teams . . .
Twenty different countries will participate in the tournament, mercifully played once every three years (but not since 2017 because of Covid).
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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.
Nimmo is from Wyoming