Baseball 2010: An Old-Timer’s Game
It has often been said that baseball is a young man’s game.
And truth be told, major league baseball is in a transition period now, with many of the game’s stars of the ’90’s and the early part of this century giving way to a whole new crop of young and talented players.
Over the past couple of years or so, we have witnessed the retirements (or the virtual retirements) of Greg Maddux, Roger Clemens, Tom Glavine, Frank Thomas, Randy Johnson, NOMAR!, Jeff Kent, Gary Sheffield, and Pedro Martinez, to name a few.
Meanwhile, other former stars, such as Ken Griffey, Jr., David Ortiz, and Manny Ramirez are clearly close to the end of the line.
In their place we have seen an enormous influx of exciting new players who are still just 27-years old or younger. This group represents the vanguard of a new, (hopefully) post-steroids generation. This list includes several young players who will some day end up in the Hall of Fame.
Most of these names are already very familiar to you: Joe Mauer, Hanley Ramirez, Ryan Braun, Justin Verlander, Tim Lincecum, Miguel Cabrera, Justin Upton, Matt Kemp, Clayton Kershaw, Zach Greinke, Prince Fielder, Dustin Pedroia, Evan Longoria, Felix Hernandez, Ryan Zimmerman, and David Wright.
Even younger players such as Stephen Strasburg, Jason Heyward, Brian Matusz, Matt Wieters, and Ike Davis are also on the way, or have arrived within the past year.
Yet there is a group of graying players for whom Father Time seems to have given a free pass, at least as of this writing. These players, all at least 36-years old (which is like 65, in baseball years), show no signs of slowing down.
Actually, in some cases, they did show signs of slowing down, but appear to have caught a second wind. Several of them are either obvious future Hall of Famers, or should, at the very least, merit some consideration regarding their Hall worthiness.
So here they are:
1) Jorge Posada: Through tonight’s game against Baltimore, Jorge has produced some impressive numbers. He is hitting .316 with five homers and 12 RBI, while slugging over .600. At age 38, he keeps himself in excellent shape, and the Yankees are committed to giving him extra rest throughout the season. For these reasons, I believe Posada will continue to produce at a high level throughout this season.
Posada has played in parts of 15 seasons, and, aside from a few World Series rings, he has put up some nice numbers in his career. He has hit 248 career homers, driven in 976 runs, hit 346 doubles, has a career batting average of just under .280, with a .380 on base average.
He is 7th all-time on the Yankees career doubles list, ahead of Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra and Bill Dickey. He is also 8th on the Yankees career home run list, just three behind Graig Nettles for 7th place.
Posada also has five Silver Sluggers to his credit, has played in five All-Star games (with a sixth all but assured this year), and he has finished in the top ten in MVP voting twice.
A serious argument could be made that Posada just might belong in the Hall of Fame.
For now, he will have to remain content hitting the stitching off of baseballs.
2) Mariano Rivera: “Mo” has not allowed an earned run so far this season. He is a perfect 6 for 6 in save opportunities. His WHIP is 0.57. He is now 40 years old, pitching just like he did back when he was 30. An obvious Hall-of-Famer, there really isn’t any reason to spend time rehashing his career numbers. The only question is, will his greatness ever end?
3) Andy Pettitte: (No, I didn’t intend this to be Yankee night, but here we are.)
Believe it or not, he is off to the best start of his 16-year career. Through his first four starts, he is 3-0, with 22 strikeouts in 28 innings. His ERA is 1.29, and his WHIP is 1.07. Clearly, the soon-to-be 38 year old Pettitte isn’t just hanging around waiting for the playoffs to begin.
That’s when he really excels.
Pettitte now has a career record of 232-135, a .632 win-loss percentage. He has finished in the top 10 in Cy Young award voting five times. And he has 18 career post-season victories. At this point, his resume probably isn’t quite that of a Hall-of-Famer. But if he continues to pitch this well for another 2-3 years, we’ll have to take another look.
4) Jim Edmonds: Now playing for the Brewers, Edmonds was actually out of major league baseball last season. But he earned his way onto the team this spring, and I’m sure the Brewers are happy he did.
So far this season, Edmonds (now approaching 40 years old), has hit better than .300, including a .340 batting average against right-handed pitching. He has slugged almost .500, and he has scored 10 runs. As part of a platoon, he gets most of the playing time, and he has made the most of it.
Edmonds would get my vote for the Hall of Fame as well. His defense in center field alone would merit some consideration (eight Gold Gloves and several circus catches.) But he also has 383 career home runs, 421 doubles, over 1200 runs scored, and nearly 1200 RBI’s. Only a few center-fielders in history have combined his defensive prowess with his offensive statistics.
5) Ivan (Pudge) Rodriguez: Although recently side-lined with a back problem, when Pudge has played this season, he has been excellent. In 56 at bats for the Washington Nationals, he is hitting a mere .410 with 23 hits, including 7 doubles and 10 runs scored.
Not bad for a 38-year old catcher who happens to be a life-time .300 hitter with over 300 home runs, 13 Gold Gloves, and 14 All-Star game appearances. A first-ballot Hall-of-Famer, to be sure.
6) Jamie Moyer: Pitching for the Phillies, the 47-year old (!) Moyer is off to a 2-1 start, with a respectable 1.278 WHIP. He has fanned 11 in 18 innings.
Although Moyer now has 260 career wins, he is in the Tommy John-Jim Kaat class of pitchers. That is to say, he has put together a fine career, but falls just short of belonging in The Hall.
7) Ichiro Suzuki: Perhaps because of his physique and his unique style of play, it’s easy to forget that Ichiro, now at age 36, is not that young anymore. But he is off to his usual start this season, hitting around .310 with six stolen bases and 13 runs scored. Ichiro is in such great physical condition that, although he is slowing down a bit, he should remain a productive, above-average player for another couple of years.
Although I listed Ichiro as an overrated player in a prior blog-post, I still believe he will, and should be, elected to the Hall of Fame someday.
Each of these seven players not only continues to be highly productive, but they provide an invaluable link between the younger players, and all those who came before. It’s how baseball’s greatness is continually perpetuated from one generation to the next.
If there are other worthy performers who you believe should be included on my list, please let me know.
And, as always, thanks for reading.
Eight Reasons Why the Red Sox Stink in 2012
Personally, I have nothing against the Red Sox. It is true that, as a Mets fan, I did get my biggest baseball thrill from watching the Mets beat the Red Sox in the 1986 World Series. Yet I’ve never felt any animosity towards the proud Red Sox franchise. In fact, I always root for the Red Sox to defeat the Yankees.
Still, a fact is a fact, and there is no denying that the 2012 version of the Red Sox are the least enjoyable, not to mention the least successful, Red Sox team I have witnessed in many years.
Not being a regular viewer of Red Sox games (though when I lived up in Maine for 20+ years, I often listened to WEEI, Red Sox radio), I haven’t paid close attention to the BoSox relative failure this year, aside from occasionally looking at the A.L. standings.
So I decided to examine a bit more closely why the Red Sox, despite their prodigious payroll, fanatical fan-base, and the bewildering wizardry of stat guru, Bill James, this team stinks.
Here are eight items I came up with:
1) Red Sox pitchers are giving up too many bases on balls. As of this writing, Red Sox pitchers have surrendered 370 walks this year. Only four A.L. pitching staffs have walked more batters. The Yankees pitching staff, by way of contrast, have walked the fewest. They can’t score if you don’t put them on.
Josh Beckett 01:38, 23 July 2008 . . PhreddieH3 . . 1,943×2,936 (2.01 MB) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
2) The Red Sox pitching staff is starting to show its age. They are now the third oldest group of pitchers in the A.L. Obviously, some pitchers age faster than others. The Yankees staff is actually a bit older. But Red Sox pitchers appear to be exhibiting a bit more wear and tear thus far than their New York counterparts.
Josh Beckett, for example, is 32 going on 36. And Clay Buccholz, whom some Red Sox fans still maintain is a rising star, recently turned 28-years old.
In fact, the Red Sox currently have just one pitcher on their staff, the combustible Felix Doubront (4.70 ERA) under the age of 25.
3) The Curse of the Piano. What, you thought that just because the Red Sox won two World Series in the past eight years, that they’d no longer be cursed? Well, no one told the Babe, a moulderin’ in his grave. Perhaps you’ve never hear of the curse of the piano? Well, unless someone drags the Babe’s old piano out of the pond up in Sudbury, this “other” curse might just linger for another century.
4) Bobby Valentine is entirely miscast as a Major League manager. In fact, he would be miscast as a manager at any level. A manager, like a teacher, is a father figure (assuming the male gender, of course.) Bobby V. is not a father figure. He is the odd uncle who comes over on Christmas afternoon with his latest exotic girlfriend, this one from Saigon, the last one from the Philippines.
Always too quick to put little brother up on his shoulders (narrowly missing the overhead fan by mere inches), he always has an odd anecdote to tell about a business deal that narrowly went sour. When he finally leaves around 7:45 p.m., he’s had one too many, and his hugs are awkward, and strangely tearful. His girlfriend will do the driving, and you know as you wave to them as they back out of your dad’s icy driveway, you won’t see or hear from him again until next Christmas.
Wally the Green Monster (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
5) Wally the Green Monster, the Red Sox’ mascot, has been having some problems of his own. After a torrid, three-year affair with Bernie Brewer, followed by a brief, drunken fling with the Milwaukee Sausages, Wally the Green Monster had just about settled down with the Swinging Friar (San Diego.)
But it turns out that the Swinging Friar had a few secrets of his own. Apparently, he’s been seen leaving some local San Diego hot spots with the always unpredictable Stomper (Oakland), himself recently recovering from an addiction to powdered, fried dough.
Word is that Wally has been so depressed lately that he’s usually hung over and asleep inside the Green Monster until the 8th inning, when misty-eyed and reckless, he starts to undress for the fans in the center field bleachers during the bizarre routine of the disembodied voice of Neil Diamond singing “Sweet Caroline.”
Socks (Photo credit: scalkins)
6) Their socks. They’ve been the Red Sox now for over a hundred years. Perhaps it’s time to change those socks?
When either of my sons goes a couple of days without changing theirs, the stench is unbearable. Why should it be any different for Major League baseball players who sweat in theirs all day long?
So, in keeping with the Sox recent advances into the 21st century (a Facebook page!), here’s a look (see pic) at what the BoSox are considering for their players next season. David Ortiz is already on record endorsing the new look saying, “My toes get cold in April and in October. Those little toes on the socks look toasty and warm. I hate New England weather.”
7) Their Offense: Despite the fact that the Red Sox are among the league-leaders in runs scored, there are some problems here as well. For starters, Carl Crawford, a huge disappointment since he joined the Sox (his on-base percentage in his last 160 games played is .293), is about to undergo Tommy John surgery Tuesday. Meanwhile, Jacoby Ellsbury, who enjoyed an MVP-caliber season last year, currently sports a .309 on-base percentage to go along with his one home run and six stolen bases. Last year, he had over 30 steals and 30 homers.
The injury bug, then, has seriously affected the Red Sox ability to add to their already very respectable run totals.
Dustin Pedroia of the Boston Red Sox on deck in Fenway Park in 2008 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
8) Their Enthusiasm: It hasn’t been this boring to watch the Red Sox play (and I don’t very often) since the heady days of Phil Plantier, Bob Zupcic, Jody Reed, and Luis Rivera. The Red Sox have finished below .500 just three times since 1992. This year could be their fourth finish below .500 in 20 years.
Worse, it is hard to say that any of the players on the field look like they’re enjoying themselves. Sure, losing sucks, but you’re not likely to play any better if your approach is the same as the man who gets to go to work in the West Virginia coal mines, earning a tiny fraction of what the players make. Gone are team leaders like Varitek, Wakefield, Millar and Damon, guys that could both lighten up the clubhouse and/or lead by example.
For the sake of the Red Sox and their fans, some of the veterans on this team (and it can’t be just Dustin Pedroia) have to step up and lead by example, while demonstrating to the kids that playing baseball can still be fun, even if you are expected to take home obscene amounts of cash.