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Hall of Fame Should Consider These Five Braves
PLUS: FISHY SITUATION IN ANAHEIM, WHERE TROUT SEEKS TO CUT BAIT
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Did you know…
Is Luis Arraez losing the batting title after his early-season fliration with .400? As late as June 24, he was leading Freddie Freeman by 85 points but now both Freeman and Ronald Acuna, Jr. are chasing him for the NL lead . . .
Thanks to interleague play, Cleveland rookie Tanner Bibee started his first 19 games against 19 different teams . . .
Rich Hill, the 43-year-old southpaw released by the Padres, won’t be the oldest man in the majors unless somebody signs him for the final two weeks . . .
Another albatross squawking in San Diego is shortstop Xander Bogaerts, whose 11-year, $280 million deal will keep him there past his 40th birthday . . .
Minnesota shortstop Carlos Correa, who almost landed in San Diego last winter, is en route to his lowest batting average and highest strikeout total of his career . . .
The Chicago Cubs hardly got a good return on investment from former Yankees starter Jameson Taillon, whose bloated ERA has become an embarrassment on the North Side.
Five More Braves Who Belong in the Hall of Fame
By Dan Schlossberg
Can one team have too many players in the Baseball Hall of Fame?
That was the argument that kept Gil Hodges outside of Cooperstown far too long and also worked against Yankees shortstop-turned-announcer Phil Rizzuto. Another player pushed aside by too many inshrined teammates was Ron Santo, though he too eventually got in.
So let’s consider the Atlanta Braves, who were rewarded for their record 14-year title streak by the election of Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, John Smoltz, Chipper Jones, Fred McGriff, manager Bobby Cox, and general manager John Schuerholz.
All were worthy selections but weren’t the only ones who should have been considered.
Let’s go back to the ‘80s and Dale Murphy, who won five Gold Gloves, four Silver Sluggers, and two MVPs — which just happened to be consecutive. En route to 398 career home runs, he led the National League in home runs and RBIs twice each and the majors in total bases during the decade of the ‘80s. He also got MVP votes in seven different seasons and went to the same number of All-Star Games.
Never suspected of anything worse than chiding female reporters for entering the locker room, Murphy was the NL’s answer to Cal Ripken, Jr. — a teetotaler who didn’t smoke, drink, or swear. Since character is allegedly a big criterion in Hall of Fame selection, shouldn’t he be at the head of the class? We thought so.
A later center-fielder who comes to mind is Andruw Jones, one of five outfielders to win 10 consecutive Gold Gloves. Three of the other four (Willie Mays, Roberto Clemente, and Ken Griffey, Jr.) are already in Cooperstown and the fourth (Ichiro) will join them soon. Andruw also hit 434 home runs, 51 of them while setting a Braves franchise record in 2005, and had 10 more in post-season play. His batting average suffered a severe case of shrinkage over his last five years — after he left Atlanta — but his Cooperstown credentials were established long before that.
And let’s not forget Gary Sheffield, who gave the Braves two tremendous seasons while racking up the incredible total of 509 lifetime homers, plus six more in post-season. A nine-time All-Star who once won a batting crown, Sheffield was a rare contact hitter who also had good power. His .292 lifetime batting average is solid and he was versatile enough to play multiple positions, from shortstop and third base to the outfield. He couldn’t match Jones on defense — who could? — but he was a feared hitter wherever he went. Sheffield, by the way, still holds the Atlanta record of 132 RBIs in a season.
Both Jones and Sheffield are still on the writers’ ballot but a couple of other deserving candidates are not.
Leo Mazzone, the pitching coach during the 14-year run of divisional titles, was one of three men, along with Bobby Cox and John Smoltz, who were Braves for the entire time. A disciple of Johnny Sain, who served as Atlanta pitching coach before him, Mazzone imparted such revolutionary theories as having his pitchers throw twice between starts. An Old School guy whose charges avoided injury (except for the Tommy John surgery that sidelined Smoltz late in his career), Mazzone would be the first coach in the Hall of Fame — if Sain didn’t get there first.
Cooperstown has already cornered some team owners but has been remiss in missing Ted Turner. The founder of CNN and SuperStation TBS, Turner turned an obsession for yacht racing into a hands-on ownership regime that included participation in zany on-field promotions and a zest for anything that could help — including making himself manager for a day. He also spent money on free agents, bringing Andy Messersmith, Bruce Sutter, Al Hrabosky, and Gary Matthews to Atlanta. The namesake of Turner Field, which lasted 19 years, changed the way baseball was broadcast, bringing the game to a much wider audience.
The Baseball Hall of Fame would be wise to follow the advice of the sign of Ted Turner’s desk: “Lead, follow, or get the hell out of the way.”
Electing this quintet would be a giant step in the right direction.
Here’s The Pitch weekend editor Dan Schlossberg of Fair Lawn, NJ has been a Braves fan since 1957, when Lou Perini owned the team, Fred Haney was manager, and Milwaukee was its home base. Contact Dan via firstname.lastname@example.org.
Now Mike Trout Might Follow Ohtani Out The Door in Los Angeles
By Dan Schlossberg
Word leaked early this week that the Los Angeles Angels would be willing to move Mike Trout, the oft-injured superstar center-fielder with the highest contract in baseball history.
He’d have to give his permission, of course, but the three-time MVP could be all too eager to waive his no-trade clause, especially if his next destination were Philadelphia, New York, Boston, or anywhere closer to his South Jersey home.
Trout, 32, is an 11-time All-Star and two-time All-Star MVP who has hit .301 with 368 home runs in a career spent exclusively with the Angels. He has never reached the World Series, however, and has endured seven consecutive losing seasons.
That’s exactly the reason that Shohei Ohtani wants out. The two-way standout, whose pitching career in now on hold because of a torn UCL, is virtually certain to ride free agency out of town the minute the World Series ends.
He’ll command somewhere in the vicinity of $500 million and 10 years, pushing him past Trout for the highest overall contract as well as top annual average. Possible destinations include such wealthy teams as the Los Angeles Dodgers, both New York clubs, and his preferred West Coast landing spots of Seattle, San Francisco, and San Diego.
As for Angels owner Arte Moreno, it’s pretty obvious he’s going to start from Ground Zero. Task No. 1 will be paring payroll, which now ranks eighth in the majors at $226,531,667.
Take away either Ohtani and Trout and there will be plenty of money for GM Perry Minasian to dig deep into the free-agent market. Take away both and there may be no stopping the pennant-hungry Moreno.
The team missed a golden opportunity to start its rebuild by trading Ohtani prior to the Aug. 1 trade deadline. At that time, he was still capable of pitching as well as hitting and was even mentioned as a potential candidate for the Cy Young Award as well as the MVP he will certainly win — for the second time — this season.
Instead, Minasian made the fatal mistake of thinking he could rebuild on the fly. The veterans he brought in flopped, plunging the team deep into the depths of the American League West, and pushing Ohtani further away from the fold.
Waiting for him to sign could throw a stopper into the free-agent tank this winter. Once that enormous chip falls, the others will fall into place.
The Angels, originally a 1961 expansion team, have won only one pennant — during their world championship campaign of 2002 — but have won nine AL West division titles without advancing to the final round. The 2002 team was a wild-card entry.
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.
Thanks to his dancing knuckleball and ability avoid injury, Hall of Famer Phil Niekro holds the record for the most wins ever recorded by a pitcher in a single ballpark (292 in Atlanta Fulton County Stadium) . . .
Another Hall of Famer, Tom Seaver, pitched the 26th and last inning of the 8:04 Brewers-White Sox game on May 8-9, 1984 in relief . . .
Roger Maris was the only 60-homer man who never hit three in one game . . .
Alex Cobb not only lost a no-hitter with two outs in the ninth inning but threw 131 pitches while completing the game for San Francisco . . .
New Angels leadoff man Nolan Schanuel was on base eight times in one day a month after he was taken in the amateur draft.
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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.