Discover more from Here's the Pitch: the IBWAA Newsletter
More Yankees The Hall Should Consider
PLUS: ATLANTA NATIVE MATT OLSON THRIVES FOR HOMETOWN TEAM
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Topps thought so little of Maury Wills as a prospect that he wasn't even offered the $5 to sign to be on a baseball card. So after winning the MVP in 1962, he ended up in the little 1963 Fleer set, but not on a Topps card.
— Andrew Sharp
While I agree there are too many playoff spots, allowing mediocre teams into the playoffs, I also LOVE the 3-game wild-card round. You have elimination games on DAY TWO of the post season. That immediately gets fans engaged. You’re not wrong, Dan Schlossberg, but your argument has a real Grampa Simpson energy. No matter how many, or few, teams are in the playoffs, it’s a crapshoot of randomness. Whichever team gets hot (see 2019 Nationals, 2021 Braves, 2022 Phillies) can make a run. I’m watching the wild-card standings daily and am all in. You’re right, it doesn’t encourage teams to “go for it” but it brings more meaningful September games to more fan bases. And more joy for more people is always better, right?
— Jay Wade Edwards
[Editor’s Note: Not necessarily. Anything that compromises the integrity of the World Series is a bad idea, no matter how much revenue it brings in. Also, the 2021 Braves were not a wild-card team but a division champion. — D.S. ]
Did you know…
Advance NL playoffs note: with his division-clinching win Wednesday, Atlanta’s Spencer Strider is 7-0 lifetime against Philadelphia in his short career . . .
Zack Wheeler had allowed three homers in a start only twice in 223 career games before Tuesday, when the Braves dinged him for six runs on three homers . . .
Atlanta Braves center-fielder Michael Harris II, last year’s NL Rookie of the Year, hit .163 with a .246 OBP and .244 slugging percentage in 38 games through June 6. In his first 78 games since, he hit .349 with a .377 OBP and .562 slugging percentage . . .
If Atlanta right-fielder Ronald Acuña, Jr. reaches 40 homers and 200 hits, he’ll be the 35th player to reach both marks in the same season and first since Miguel Cabrera, his childhood idol, in his 2012 Triple Crown campaign . . .
After signing a six-year extension that will take him through his age 42 season, Yu Darvish has been a bust for the Padres with a 4.56 ERA in his first 24 starts . . .
Now that he’s out for the year with the same injury that former teammate Justin Verlander incurred earlier this season with the Mets, it’s worth wondering whether Max Scherzer was damaged goods before his trade to Texas.
Non-Playing Yankees Worthy of Hall of Fame Consideration
By Paul Semendinger
In my article a few weeks ago, I listed some legendary players, all former New York Yankees, who are not yet in the Hall of Fame. Today I'll look at some other greats of the game affiliated with the Yankees who also deserve consideration for baseball's most hallowed ground.
A Hall of Fame Coach?
There are no coaches in the Baseball Hall of Fame. Why is that? I believe it is time for baseball to recognize the great coaches in the game's history. In this regard, there might never have been a greater pitching coach than the legendary Johnny Sain, who coached for a host of teams, including the Yankees, in his long career from 1961 through 1977. Sain's reputation for getting the most out of his pitchers is legendary. The pitchers who worked under him, including Whitey Ford, often gave Sain credit for helping them achieve at their highest levels.
A Hall of Fame Manager?
Four long-time Yankees managers are in the Hall of Fame (Miller Huggins, Joe McCarthy, Casey Stengel, and Joe Torre). Is there room for one more? Ralph Houk provides an interesting case. As a manger, Ralph Houk led the Yankees to three World Series and two World Championships. In his long career as a manager, for the Yankees, Tigers, and Red Sox, Houk won 1,619 games. Today that number ranks 21st all-time, but when he left managing Houk's total ranked in the top ten all-time among Major League managers. In his career, Houk won more games than Hall of Famer managers Tommy Lasorda, Dick Williams, and Earl Weaver — all his contemporaries. In addition, Lasorda and Williams each also won only two World Series and Earl Weaver won only one World Series. It seems that Ralph Houk's record stands up well in comparison.
A Hall of Fame Executive?
Gene Michael was the Yankees executive, in the roles as general manager, vice president, and senior advisor, who was the primary architect of the great Yankees teams of the mid-to-late 1990s. Gene took over the decision-making of the Yankees when the team was mired in last place and rebuilt the franchise into the sport's most dominant team. His record as a general manager and team executive in this period is unmatched if one considers wins, pennants, and championships. Many baseball experts considered Gene Michael one of the smarted baseball executives of his time. It was Gene Michael who made the Yankees into the powerhouse and the sport's most successful team of the last quarter century.
Two Hall of Fame Owners?
Dan Topping and Del Webb owned the Yankees in the period from 1945 to 1964. In that period, the only years that the Yankees did not reach the World Series were 1945, 1946, 1948, 1954, and 1959. In that twenty-year period, the Yankees went to the World Series a remarkable fifteen times. Over that span, the Yankees won ten World Championships. This was the greatest era in Yankees history. It was one of the most remarkable sustained periods of success for any team in any sport - ever. It seems that there is a strong case for both of these men to be in baseball's Hall of Fame.
A Hall of Fame Announcer?
John Sterling has called Yankees games on the radio since 1989. That is a long and remarkable tenure, but the most impressive part of his career was the fact that he called a remarkable 5,060 consecutive games for the Yankees from 1989 to 2019. That record of dedication and consistency seems worthy of a Hall of Fame nod. John Sterling's signature calls including, "It Is High, It Is Far, It is Gone" and "The Yankees Win!" are some of the most famous signature phrases in the sport's history.
It seems that in addition to many worthy former players, the Yankees also have some other worthy candidates for the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Let the debates begin!
Dr. Paul Semendinger runs the Yankees site Start Spreading the News. His published books include From Compton to the Bronx, The Least Among Them, and Scattering the Ashes. Over the summer, Paul helped pitch his baseball team in Ridgewood, New Jersey to the league's championship. Paul can be found on Twitter @DrPaulRSem
Matt Olson’s Power Propels Braves To Early NL East Title Clinch
By Dan Schlossberg
For those Braves fans who cringed when the team let Freddie Freeman walk away after 12 years, the bad news has become good news.
Matt Olson, obtained from the Oakland Athletics and signed to an eight-year, $168 million contract extension the next day, is more than holding down the fort, thank you.
Entering play today, he leads the majors with 51 home runs, 128 runs batted in, and a .619 slugging percentage.
Not bad numbers for anyone, but especially for someone whose previous power peak was 39 homers in 2021.
Olson has now hit more home runs this season than anyone in Atlanta Braves history not named Andruw Jones. His next home run will give him exclusive occupancy at the head of the team’s single-season list.
"I thought Matt would be the guy to break the record,” Jones said last weekend in Atlanta when his No. 25 was retired. “He’s just got that swing. I’m pulling for him and hopefully he can break it.”
Olson, 29, grew up in Atlanta rooting for both the Braves and two players named Jones, Andruw and Chipper.
“I watched him growing up and know the kind of player he was,” Olson said of Andruw, who won 10 straight Gold Gloves for his play in center field. “It's cool to be mentioned with him.”
Olson is the sixth player in franchise history with at least 80 extra-base hits and is only four short of Gary Sheffield’s Atlanta club record for runs batted in.
The 6’5” first baseman is on pace for 56 homers and 143 RBIs. He is just one of 15 players since 2000 to reach the 50-homer mark and the first left-handed hitter in the NL to hit 50 since Prince Fielder in 2007.
Olson hit eight home runs in the first 12 games in September. If he continues at that torrid pace, he could wind up with 60. Even if that happens, though, Olson isn’t likely to win MVP honors over teammate Ronald Acuña, Jr., who leads the majors in hits, runs, and stolen bases while closing in on the first 40/70 season in baseball history.
While Freeman hits for a much higher average than Olson, the latter generates more power and run production. He’s also younger and less expensive than the man he replaced.
Although Olson has not missed a game this season, a day or two of rest is possible now that Atlanta has clinched its sixth straight division title. That, by the way, is the longest active streak in the majors.
The Braves are now pushing for home-field advantage in the playoffs and World Series. All it takes is possession of the best record, which they already have.
Former AP sportswriter Dan Schlossberg of Fair Lawn, NJ is the author of 41 baseball books, including The New Baseball Bible. Catch his byline in forbes.com, Memores & Dreams, Sports Collectors Digest, USA TODAY Sports Weekly, and other outlets. His email is email@example.com.
Hall of Famer Jesse Burkett had a record 55 inside-the-park home runs . . .
Hank Aaron had two home runs in a game 61 times and three home runs in a game once . . .
Because the Braves played in both Milwaukee and Atlanta during Aaron’s career, he is not the career home run leader in either city (Eddie Mathews hit 452 in Milwaukee, as opposed to Aaron’s 398 and Chipper Jones, Andruw Jones, and Dale Murphy all hit more than Aaron’s 335 home runs in Atlanta) . . .
Although Rafael Palmeiro hit 569 home runs in a career divided among the Cubs, Rangers, and Orioles, he never led his league . . .
Duke Snider hit the last of his 407 career home runs 20 days before Barry Bonds was born.
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HERE’S THE PITCH is published daily except Sundays and holidays. Benjamin Chase [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.