The On Deck Circle

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Archive for the tag “Tim Raines”

Best Position Players Not In the Hall of Fame: All-Time Team

“Tis the season, for Hall of Fame voting.

That means, of course, that today must be Cyber-Monday, the day in which I spend around six hours in my sweat-pants — pot of coffee at-the-ready — poring over statistics, analyzing the career records of various retired players…oh, wait, I do this all the time anyway.

Here are the ground-rules for my list of Best Retired Players Not Already in the Hall of Fame:

1)  No 19th century players.  In my opinion, the baseball writers / bloggers / historians, etc., have spent more than enough time picking over the skeletal remains of that century, regarding baseball.  As it says in a pretty famous book, “Let the dead bury the dead.”

2)  The player not only has to be retired; he also has to have appeared on the BBWAA HOF ballot at least once since he’s been retired.

3)  The player has to meet basic Hall of Fame requirements, such as having played at least ten seasons in the Majors, can’t have been deemed ineligible due to “legal” issues (do you hear me, Pete Rose?), etc.

And that’s basically it.  So let’s get started.

Jeff Bagwell

Jeff Bagwell (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

1B  Jeff Bagwell:  (1991-2005)  A no-brainer.  Baseball-Reference.com (I’ll  constantly be referring to this invaluable website throughout) has Bagwell listed as the sixth greatest first baseman of all-time.  Thirty-eight players have reached the 30 (homers) – 30 (steals) club in baseball history.  You know how many of them have been first basemen?  Just one.  Jeff Bagwell.  And he did it twice.

Bagwell’s career OPS+ of 149 is tied for 36th best in baseball history, at any position.  He was an outstanding base-runner, a very good fielder, could hit for both power and average, and was durable, leading the league in games played four times.

His 1,788 runs created is tied with HOF’er Al Simmons for 39th all-time, ahead of such immortals as Mike Schmidt, Cal Ripkin, Jr., Reggie Jackson and Eddie Mathews.

Bagwell was the N.L. Rookie of the Year in 1991, and the league’s MVP in 1994.

Last year, Bagwell was named on 56% of the ballots cast by members of the BBWAA.  Apparently, the other 44% were a bit scared off by “rumors” that Bagwell might somehow have been associated with the steroids scandal.

Yet the fact remains that no evidence has surfaced that Bagwell had anything to do with steroids at all.  Hopefully, another 20% of the BBWAA will come to their senses this year and vote Bagwell into The Hall where he clearly belongs.

2B  Bobby Grich:  (1970-86)  Baseball-Reference (from here on out, B-R), ranks Grich as the 8th best second baseman of all-time.  The seven listed immediately ahead of him, and three of the four directly behind him, are all in the Hall of Fame.  Grich’s 67.3 WAR is higher than the average of the 19 second basemen in The Hall.

A four-time Gold Glove winner, Grich was an excellent defensive second baseman.  He also had good power for a middle infielder, slugging 224 career homers, including a league-leading total of 22 in the strike year of 1981 (100 games played), and 30 homers in 1979.

Only six second basemen in history have a career OPS+ better than Grich’s mark of 125, and each of them is in the Hall of Fame.  Playing for both the Orioles and the Angels in his 17-year career (1970-86), Grich possessed one of the best combinations of offense and defense ever by a second baseman, and certainly belongs in the HOF.  (All apologies to Lou Whitaker, my second choice.)

SS Alan Trammell:  (1977-96)  Bill James ranked Trammell as the 9th best shortstop of all time.  B-R has him ranked in 11th place.  So let’s compromise and call him the 10th best shortstop ever.  Now, if you are among the top ten players in one of baseball’s most difficult defensive positions, it seems logical that you belong in The Hall, doesn’t it?

Alan Trammell’s career WAR of 67.1 is exactly the same as recent HOF inductee Barry Larkin.  It is also better than 13 other shortstops already in the HOF.  Trammell and his keystone mate Lou Whitaker were each always among the best defensive players at their respective positions in their era.

Trammell was the best player in the A.L. in 1987, batting .343, with 205 hits, 109 runs scored, 28 homers, 21 steals and 105 RBI (and his usual stellar defense), but finished second to George Bell in MVP voting due to Bell’s gaudier power numbers.

Trammell won several Gold Gloves, posted a solid .285 career batting average, slugged 185 homers and 412 doubles (shortstops were not yet necessarily expected to be dangerous hitters, as would become the norm a bit later), and played his entire 20-year career (1977-96) in Detroit.

This year will be Trammell’s 12th on the HOF ballot.  Last year, he was named on 36.8% of the ballots.  Perhaps the BBWAA will take a more serious look at Trammell’s career this time around and give him the boost he needs to make it into The Hall before his eligibility runs out in just a few more years.  He certainly belongs there.

English: St. Louis Cardinals third baseman Ken...

English: St. Louis Cardinals third baseman Ken Boyer in a 1955 issue of Baseball Digest. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

3B  Ken Boyer:  (1955-69)  As perhaps many of you already know, third base is the least represented position in the HOF.  Only eleven third basemen are in The Hall, and it took Ron Santo’s drawn-out induction last year to get the number that high.  Ken Boyer should be inducted to make it a dozen.

Boyer is rated by B-R as the 14th best third baseman of all time.  Of the 13 players listed ahead of Boyer, three are either currently active or have recently retired, one — Edgar Martinez — wasn’t really a third baseman at all, and all but one of the rest of them are already in The Hall.  Only Graig Nettles is as qualified as Boyer to stake a claim on this list.

Ultimately, I chose Boyer because I believe his overall game was a hair better than Nettles’ was, and because Boyer was selected to play in eleven All Star games in 15 years, while Nettles was chosen six times in 22 seasons.

For a solid decade, 1955-64, Boyer was always one of the best players in the N.L.  In 1964, the year in which the Cardinals defeated the Yankees in the World Series, Boyer led the league with 119 RBI and was named N.L. MVP that season.

A five-time Gold Glove winner, Boyer ranks 20th all-time in assists as a third baseman.  Boyer also hit for solid power (282 homers), had very decent speed (68 triples), and finished his career with a respectable .287 batting average.

Boyer was dropped off of the BBWAA’s HOF list after receiving just 11.8% of the vote in his final year of eligibility in 1994.  Yet, as of this writing, Boyer remains the best third baseman not in the Hall of Fame.  Perhaps some day, a future Veteran’s Committee will endorse his induction into the HOF.

C  Ted Simmons:  (1968-88)  Simmons HOF candidacy was always hurt by the fact that his career largely occurred during what can now be considered a Golden Age of catchers.  In the 1970’s and into the ’80’s, there was no shortage of World Class catchers:  Johnny Bench, Carlton Fisk, Thurman Munson, Gene Tenace, Bob Boone, Darrell Porter, Jim Sundberg and Gary Carter, among others, each donned the so-called tools of ignorance.  Ted Simmons had a fine career, but was overshadowed by some of these other catchers.

Still, B-R ranks Ted Simmons as the 10th best catcher of all-time.  Simmons was an underrated defensive catcher, though no match for several of the others I’ve listed above.  But more to the point, Simmons was a catcher who could really hit.  Here are his batting averages from 1971-80:  .304, .303, .310, .272, .332, .291, .318, .287, .283, and .303.

After switching leagues at age 31, leaving the Cardinals for the Brewers, Simmons caught fewer and fewer games every year, becoming increasingly a 1B / DH.

Despite the competition at his position and in his league, Simmons was named to eight All Star teams in his career.  Only one catcher, Pudge Rodriguez, has ever hit more career doubles than Simmons’ total of 483, and his 1,389 RBI is also the second highest total of all time by a player whose primary position was catcher, surpassed only by Yogi Berra.

Strangely, Ted Simmons was only on the BBWAA HOF ballot for just one year, 1994, in which he received just 3.7% of the vote.  Looking back nearly 20 years later, it’s difficult to understand how Simmons could garner such little support for such an excellent career.

Thus, Ted Simmons remains the best catcher not in the Hall of Fame.  (Apologies to Joe Torre, my second choice.)

LF  Tim Raines:  (1979-2002)  In my opinion, after Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines is the best player not in the Hall of Fame.  And other than Rickey Henderson, I believe that Tim Raines was the best top of the order, base-stealing, run-producing player of the past eighty years.

Tim “Rock” Raines stole 808 bases in his career, leading the league in steals four times.  He stole at least 70 bases in a season in each of his first six years in the Majors.  Significantly, he never led the league in times caught stealing.  By way of comparison, Lou Brock led the league in steals eight times, but also led in times caught stealing seven times.  Raines career stolen base success rate of nearly 85% is one of the best in MLB history.

But Raines was also an excellent all-around run producer.  He created exactly 1,636 runs in his career, the same total as Tony Gwynn, and more than Joe DiMaggio, Roberto Clemente, Willie Stargell, and former teammate Andre Dawson.

Of the seven left-fielders ranked ahead of Raines by B-R, five are in The Hall.  The other two are Barry Bonds and Pete Rose (see the link to an article about Pete Rose below.)  There are 13 left-fielders who rank behind Raines who are in The Hall. Clearly, Raines has more than a legitimate case to be enshrined in The Hall.  Until that day arrives, however, he will remain the best left-fielder not in the HOF.

CF  Jimmy Wynn:  (1963-77)  Frankly, although I’ve always been a fan of Jimmy Wynn, I didn’t expect him to be my center-fielder on this list.  But I am happy to say that he fits the bill.  B-R ranks Wynn as the 15th best center-fielder ever.  Each of the 14 listed ahead of him are either already in The Hall, are currently active, or have only recently retired.  Kenny Lofton (ranked 8th) appears on the HOF ballot for the first time this fall.

I’ve made this argument before, but let me briefly state it one more time.  If you took HOF’er Jim Rice and placed him in the Houston Astrodome for the majority of his home games, and you put Jimmy Wynn in Fenway Park for the majority of his, then Wynn would be in The Hall, and Rice would be remembered as a very solid player along the lines of say, Joe Carter.

In 1967, for example, the entire Astros team hit just 93 home runs.  Jimmy Wynn hit 37 of those homers, representing an astounding 40% of all of the Astros homers that season.  The aging Eddie Mathews and a very young Rusty Staub each hit 10 homers that year, good for second place on that team.

Meanwhile, flashing ahead ten years, Jim Rice led the A.L. with 39 home runs.  But among his teammates, George Scott hit 33, Butch Hobson hit 30, Yaz hit 28, Fisk hit 26, and Fred Lynn hit 18. The BoSox as a team that year hit 213 home runs in ’77.  Therefore, Rice’s 39 represented just 18% of the team total.  Obviously, then, time and place matter a great deal when attempting to judge a given player’s value.

Aside from Jimmy “Toy Cannon” Wynn’s enormous power, Wynn was an on-base machine, reaching at least 90 walks in a season nine times, including a league-leading 148 walks in 149 games in 1969.

Wynn’s career lasted from 1963-77, spent almost entirely in the N.L.  His career OPS+ of 129 is, perhaps a bit ironically, one point better than Rice’s career mark of 128.

If Kenny Lofton fails to be voted into The Hall this year, his first year on the ballot, then he will become the best center-fielder not in The Hall.  But unless that happens,  Jimmy Wynn will remain the best one not in the HOF.

RF  Larry Walker:  (1989-2005)  I know what you’re going to say.  Two Words:  Coors Effect.  I’ve already written one entire blog-post about why Larry Walker belongs in the HOF.  But briefly, both before and after he played his home games at Coors Field, he was always an outstanding baseball player.

B-R ranks Walker as the 9th best right-fielder ever.  His career WAR of 69.7 almost perfectly matches the 69.5 average of the 24 players in The Hall at his position.

As a fielder, Larry Walker was credited with 150 outfield assists, good for 12th place among all outfielders in baseball history.  He won seven Gold Gloves for his fielding.  He won those Gold Gloves as both a member of the Expos and the Rockies.

Walker was an excellent base-runner.  Among those who saw him play, it was rare that anyone ever saw Walker make a base-running mistake.  He slugged 471 doubles and 62 triples in his career, always ready to take the extra base on an unsuspecting outfielder.  He also stole 230 bases in his career, posting a respectable 75% success rate in that category.

Walker could hit for both average and power.  His career line of .313 / .400 / .565 places him among the greatest right-fielders in history, as does his career OPS+ of 141 (which takes into consideration a player’s time and place.)  Although Walker clearly hit better at Coors Field (and why, precisely, should that be held against him?) he also hit very well pretty much everywhere else.

In the final 144 games of Walker’s career, which he spent with the Cardinals after leaving Colorado, the 38-year-old Walker posted a batting line of .286 / .387 / .520 with an OPS+ of 134, fine numbers for a player on the verge of retirement.

In some cases, a player is almost completely a product of his environment.  Dante Bichette comes to mind.  In other cases, though, an already great player uses his environment to his advantage.  Larry Walker belongs in the latter category.  One other place Larry Walker belongs is in the HOF.  Until that happens (and Walker will be on the ballot for the third time this year), Walker will remain the best right-fielder not in the HOF.

DH  Edgar Martinez:  (1987-2004)  I’m not a big fan of the Designated Hitter rule, but I am a fan of Edgar Martinez.  Quite simply, Edgar Martinez is one of the greatest right-handed hitters in baseball history.  Edgar appeared in just 564 games as a third baseman out of 2,055 games played, so he can be said to have been a player without a legitimate defensive position.  There was a time I would have held this against him, as, apparently, many BBWAA voters still do.

The fact remains, however, that Edgar Martinez was simply the best pure D.H. in baseball history.  Martinez hit .312 for his career, winning two batting titles along the way.  He hit 514 doubles, 309 home runs and drove in over a hundred runs six times.  His career OPS+ of 147 is the same as HOF’ers Mike Schmidt, Sam Thompson, Willie McCovey, Willie Stargell and future HOF’er Jim Thome.

Martinez played his entire 18-year MLB career with the Seattle Mariners.  Given the evolving way in which the D.H. position is being used these days — some teams have begun rotating their regular players through the D.H. to give them more rest — it is possible that Edgar Martinez will go down in history as the best Designated Hitter of all-time, regardless of whether or not he eventually makes it into the Hall of Fame.

So those are my choices for the nine best players not in the Hall of Fame.  Do you agree or disagree with my choices?  I’ll be interested to find out.

Next time, I’ll examine the best pitchers who are not in the Hall of Fame.

Billy Hamilton, and the New Stolen Base Record

On Tuesday night, Reds prospect Billy Hamilton, a shortstop with the Double-A Pensacola Blue Wahoos, set a new professional baseball record for stolen bases in a season.  He now has 147 steals in 2012.

Hamilton broke the old record set in 1983 by Vince Coleman, then an outfielder on the Cardinals Single-A Macon baseball team.  Coleman, of course, went on to steal over 100 bases in each of his first three MLB seasons, and he led the N.L. in steals in each of his first six years.  He also led the N.L. in times caught stealing three times during that period (1985-90.)

Coleman went on to steal 752 bags in his career, sixth best all-time.  More impressively, Coleman’s successful steal percentage for his career was about 81%.

Yet Vince Coleman ultimately was not a very valuable baseball player.  His career WAR was just 10.5, and he never reached 3.0 WAR in any of his 13 seasons.  His career OPS+ of 83 is even less impressive.  Coleman never reached 25 doubles or even seven home runs in a season, and despite all the plate appearances he accumulated, especially in his first half-dozen years, he reached a hundred runs scored just twice.

All of which brings us back to Billy Hamilton.  (And yes, it is a bit ironic that he has the same name as a famous 19th-century baseball player who also stole a lot of bases.)

While his stolen base totals are impressive, there are four things that will enable Hamilton to be a truly valuable MLB player.

1 On-Base Percentage:  If he knows how to draw a walk (say, 70-80 per year), those walks will add significant value, as long as he can hit above .275.

 2) Gap power:  Even though reaching first base appears to be a virtual automatic double with him, he should still (in his prime) be able to drive the ball into the gaps and leg out at least 25-35 doubles and double-digit triples.  50-60 extra base hits per year should be his baseline.

3) Stolen Base percentage:  Loads of steals are nice, but the goal is not simply to reach second base (or even third base), it is to score runs.  A caught stealing is much more harmful than a stolen base is helpful.  If he can steal at something very nearly at (or, preferably, above) an 80% success rate, then all the running will be worthwhile.  If he gets caught 30% or more of the time, then this is all much ado about nothing.

 4) Defense:  Will his quickness on the base-paths translate into good range in the field?  Will he end up being a defensive asset?  If so, then he becomes much more valuable.  If not, then we are looking at a fast guy without a real position, and that means a glorified pinch-runner.

At least three out of these four aptitudes will be necessary for him to be a useful ball player.  Two will allow him to hang around for a while.  One means a future career as a pinch-runner who ends up back in Triple-A for good before he turns 30.  On the other hand, if he hits all four of the above benchmarks, then we might be looking at the next Kenny Lofton or Tim Raines.

It’ll be interesting to see how much the Reds allow him to develop as an actual baseball player before he is let loose on the base-paths.  They might be sorry if they rush this kid before he is ready, because though he’d be fun to watch with the one skill he was born with, he’ll be a lot more useful when he is truly Major League ready.

2012 Baseball Hall of Fame Vote Analysis

Let’s try to sift through the wreckage of the 2012 BBWAA Hall of Fame vote, and

Barry Larkin, Cincinnati Reds, 2004, by Rick D...
attempt to reconstruct the debacle.  Maybe we’ll find a black box or something.

1)  Reds shortstop Barry Larkin received 86.4% of the vote, easily exceeding the 75% he needed for induction into the Hall of Fame.  One of the top ten shortstops of all time, he is a worthy addition to the Hall of Fame.

2)  Jack Morris received 66.7% of the vote.  He has a couple of years left on the ballot, and stands a good shot at getting elected before his time is up.  His career WAR was 39.3, the second lowest among the 14 players on the ballot who survived the cut.  Morris received 382 votes.  Brad Radke, career WAR 40.9, received just two votes and fell off the ballot.  Morris had a mustache.  Radke didn’t.  BBWAA voters like men with mustaches.  They think it makes them look tough, you know, like a Hall of Famer should.

3)  Forty-four percent of the American public believes that the world is less than 10,000 years old.  This is the same percentage as BBWAA voters who left Jeff Bagwell’s name off of their HOF ballots.  One has to wonder if they are, in fact, the same people.

4)  Lee Smith, a relief pitcher who specialized in taking naps before his 9th inning cameos, received 50.6% of the vote.  Apparently, this means that about half of the voters believe the save is a crap statistic, and they are correct.

5)  Tim Raines got 48.7% of the vote.  What’s interesting here is that no one mentions anymore that Raines was part of a cocaine scandal that rocked baseball back in the 1980’s.  It was a very big deal at the time.  Yet Raines now has a real chance of someday getting into the HOF.  What are we to make, then, of all the hullabaloo surrounding the PED scandal of recent times?  My guess is that it’ll ultimately go the way of all American scandals, including Watergate, the Iran-Contra affair, etc.  The public doesn’t so much forgive.  It simply forgets.

6)  Alan Trammell:  Sometimes I think HOF voters are just kind of lazy.  Why bother taking a look at a guy like Trammell’s numbers year after year?  He just didn’t, you know, feel like a Hall of Famer when he was playing.  Yet his career WAR (66.9) is better than Ozzie Smith, PeeWee Reese, Luis Aparicio, and Ernie Banks, not to mention Phil Rizzuto and Rabbit Maranville.  In fact, Trammell’s career WAR is only slightly below Barry Larkin’s 68.9.  I’m not saying that Trammell was as good as Larkin, but he is clearly legit Hall material.  So why did he receive just 36.8% of the vote?  Ask the voters.

7)  The Designated Hitter rule came into being in the American League in 1973, the same year that Tony Orlando and Dawn dominated the singles charts with “Tie a Yellow Ribbon ‘Round the Old Oak Tree.”  While Tony Orlando and Dawn are long since gone, the D.H. remains, a relic of the age of Nixon.  The bastard child of Commissioner Bowie Kuhn and A.L. President Joe Cronin, it remains with us today, an oddity largely rejected by the BBWAA, who gave Edgar Martinez, the greatest D.H. ever, just 36.5% of the vote.

8)  Fred “Crime Dog” McGriff received just 23.9% of the vote.  If he’d hit just seven more career home runs, he would probably have doubled that vote total.  Writers look at their hands a lot, and the BBWAA writers noticed that they have ten fingers, so they can only think in terms of numbers divisible by ten.  493 (home runs) is not divisible by ten.  500 home runs would be.  Thus the low vote totals for Crime Dog.

9)  Larry Walker (22.9%) played during an era where we were all buried in an avalanche of three-run home runs and 14-10 ball games.  For a while, he called Coors Field home.  Coors Field was to the baseball fan what the Best Little Whorehouse in Texas would be to a group of college under-grads, the ultimate venue to enjoy a bacchanal of pure lust and carnal pleasure.  Larry Walker is being penalized for having been in the wrong place at the wrong time, and nothing’s going to change that.

10)  Mark McGwire (19.5%) – The ultimate example of how our culture is like a pair of tectonic plates crashing into each other, causing massive earthquakes and unending destruction.  We wanted massive biceps, towering home runs, Ruthian records, immortal legends.  We got all of that.  We also wanted Scouts Honor, drug-tested teachers, lock ’em up law and order, and family values.  We got some of that, too.  But the natural tension between the two caused a fissure to develop into which  McGwire’s reputation dropped, wordlessly and without a murmur from a society that demanded his creation, and his demise.

Four other players, Don Mattingly, Dale Murphy, Rafael Palmiero, and Bernie Williams all received enough votes to remain on the ballot to fight another day.  Thirteen other players dropped off the ballot.  One of those players, Bill Mueller, actually received four votes for the Hall of Fame.  Every society has a subculture, and every subculture has a lunatic fringe.  Baseball is our little subculture, and, apparently, Bill Mueller voters are our lunatic fringe.

That’s as far as I care to go with this.  Let me know your thoughts about today’s voting results.

Best Regards, Bill Miller

Publicity photo of the musical group Tony Orla...

Image via Wikipedia

50 Best Players Not in The Baseball Hall of Fame

Jeff Bagwell

Image via Wikipedia

Here’s a nod to Graham Womack’s baseball blog, Baseball Past and Present. He is currently putting together a list, based on votes from his readers that he is tabulating, of the 50 best players not currently in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

This project also fits in well with my recent series, “Cleaning Up the Hall of Fame.” 

This is the list I submitted to him for consideration.  I chose not to include either Pete Rose or Shoeless Joe Jackson because everyone knows that both of them would already be in The Hall, if not for their alleged ethical / legal indiscretions.

The first five players on the list would receive my vote for the Hall of Fame.  Some of the other 45 players might ultimately get my vote as well, but I am undecided at this point.  After the first five, they are in no particular order.

1)  Jeff Bagwell
2)  Barry Larkin
3)  Alan Trammell
4)  Ron Santo
5)  Tim Raines
6)  Minnie Minoso
7)  Dale Murphy
8)  Reggie Smith
9)  Dave Parker
10) Gil Hodges
11) Dwight Evans
12) Lance Parrish
13) Al Oliver
14) Graig Nettles
15) Willie Randolph
16) Edgar Martinez
17) Ted Simmons
18)  Eric Davis
19)  Darryl Strawberry
20)  Lee Smith
21)  Sparky Lyle
22)  Dan Quisenberry
23)  Carl Furillo
24)  Jimmy Wynn
25)  J.R. Richard
26)  Boog Powell
27)  Larry Walker
28)  Rusty Staub
29)  Luis Tiant
30)  Thurman Munson
31)  Dick Allen
32)  Jack Clark
33)  Will Clark
34)  Don Mattingly
35)  Roger Maris
36)  Rocky Colavito
37)  Bobby Grich
38)  Tommy John
39)  Jim Kaat
40)  Tony Oliva
41)  Vada Pinson
42)  Bobby Murcer
43)  Fred McGriff
44)  Rick Reuschel
45)  Bobby Bonds
46)  Ron Guidry
47)  Keith Hernandez
48)  Ken Boyer
49)  Kevin Brown
50)  Wes Ferrell
There are, of course, many other players that could have been included on this list.  If I do this again next year, I am sure I will change my mind about certain players.
Who would you add or subtract?  I’m curious to know which of my choices you think are the worst, and which players you would have chosen instead.
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Underrated / Overrated: Baseball and Other Stuff – Part III

fairytale of new york

Image by late night movie via Flickr

Back in March, and again in April, I did a couple of posts that I had intended to turn into a regular series called “Underrated / Overrated – Baseball and Other Stuff.”

For better or worse, other blog-post topics relegated this idea to the bench for several months.

But I am here today to tell you that we are back in business.

The idea was to combine in each post people and things in baseball that are either overrated / underrated along with something or someone from the wider world outside of baseball that is overrated / underrated.

Thus, the prior pair of posts went something like this:

Overrated:  Field of Dreams

Underrated:  Eight Men Out

Overrated:  The Revolutionary War

Underrated:  The French and Indian War

Overrated:  David Wright

Underrated:  Ryan Zimmerman

And so on and so forth.

The first two posts in this series were well-received and have generated continuous traffic to my website during the course of this year.  Apparently, people like to measure their likes and dislikes against those of others.  It’s always prime fodder for a debate.

So here begins the third chapter in Underrated / Overrated – Baseball and Other Stuff. Hope you enjoy it.

Overrated:  Abbott and Costello “Who’s On First” is the best schtick they ever performed.  For many years, I got a kick out of this one.  Then one day, it just stopped being funny.  And it occurred to me, hey, maybe these guys just aren’t that funny after all.

Underrated:  Elvis Costello – One of the most consistently creative talents in Rock music for over 30 years now.  You don’t think he can still knock you down and stomp all over you?  Listen to this 30-second clip from a song called “Needle Time” from an excellent album called “Delivery Man.”  Buy it.  Download it.  Play it loud.  You WON’T be able to sit still.

Overrated:  Lou Brock – His 75% career success rate as a base-stealer is decent, but unspectacular.  He stole 939 bases in his career, but he was thrown out over 300 times.  That’s 300 needless outs he made, possibly costing his team run-scoring opportunities.  In fact, he led the N.L. in  caught stealing seven times.  He also struck out at least a hundred times in a season nine times.  His career OPS (.753) and OPS+ (109) are decidedly unspectacular.  Career WAR:  39.1

Underrated:  Tim Raines His career stolen base success rate was an excellent 84%.  The Rock stole over 800 bases in his career, but was caught just 146 times.  He never once lead the league in times caught stealing.  He also never struck out even 90 times in any one season.  His career OPS (.810) and OPS+ (123) are obviously better than Brock’s marks.  Career WAR:  64.6

Overrated:  Friday Nights – Every one gets home from work tired and cranky after a long week.  You rush around on the way home getting last-minute errands done, the traffic is heavy, and you still don’t even know what you’re going to do about dinner.  You badly want to relax and unwind, but the kids are fighting and the dog needs to go out for a walk.  And, oh fuck, it just started raining out.

Underrated:  Sunday Mornings – There is a fleeting moment early Sunday mornings when you are drinking your coffee, reading your newspaper (or a baseball blog), and the kids are miraculously quiet.  Maybe you’ll go to the park later.  Maybe you’ll sort through some old baseball magazines in the garage.  You might even wash and wax the car.  You feel nearly whole and human again, before the Monday morning American grind pulverizes you for another week.

Overrated Christmas Song:  The Little Drummer Boy – Not even David Bowie and Bing Crosby could rescue this damned slow death-march of a song.  Cloying, boring and melodramatic all at the same time,  like a Russian poet standing in front of a Tsarist firing squad, the end can’t come soon enough.

Underrated Christmas Song:  Fairytale of New York (The Pogues) – The most cynical,  unusual, and unabashedly romantic Christmas song you’ll ever hear.  Pogues front-man Shane McGowan‘s duet with the late Kirsty MacColl is one for the ages.  If you’ve ever been to NYC with someone you love at Christmastime, you’ll be able to feel the cold, the wind, and the delicious warmth of possibility in this one.  Hold your cursor over the above pic, and join us at the bar.

Overrated: The Babe Ruth Yankees – The Yankees won four World Championships in the fifteen seasons Ruth wore pinstripes:  1923, ’27, ’28, and ’32.  Good, certainly, but by way of contrast, Mickey Mantle’s Yanks won seven world series.  But I would never call The Mick’s Yanks underrated, so…

Underrated:  The Joe Rudi / Sal Bando Oakland A’s – This team won three consecutive World Series:  1972-74, but they also had to win the A.L. Championship series each time.  Ruth’s Yanks never had to go through that extra round of playoffs.  Also, Ruth’s teams played before baseball was integrated, so the degree of competition was watered down in his era.  Finally, there were more teams competing for the World Championship in the 1970’s (24), than there were in Ruth’s day (16.)

Overrated:  New Year’s Eve – The shrimp ring has gotten rather soggy and warm by the time that damn crystal ball finally descends into the throng of frozen drunks in Times Square.  There are about four cops and 12 security cameras for every poor bastard who just paid eight dollars for a glass of sparkling wine at the bar in lobby of the local three-star hotel .  Meanwhile, you are already half asleep on the couch, zoning in and out of the Dick Clark Pantomime Zombie show.

Underrated:  Labor Day – No, this is NOT a day that was intended to celebrate all Americans who happen to be employed.  It was specifically intended to recognize the legacy of Organized Labor, meaning the trade unions.  There was a time when working class Americans were overwhelmingly Democrats, and the Labor Unions ensured these men and women a livable wage for a hard days work.  The American working class can trace its hard, precipitous decline to the undermining of Labor Unions which began in the early ’80’s, and has continued unabated on a downward trajectory ever since.  Both major political parties are to blame.

Overrated:  Andy Pettitte‘s Playoff Performances – In his career, Pettitte has posted a 19-10 record in the playoffs, with a 3.83 ERA, and a 1.304 WHIP.  In 265 innings, he has surrendered 271 hits, has struck out 173 batters, and has averaged 5.9 K’s per nine innings.  Solid performance, but not as good as…

Underrated:  John Smoltz‘s Playoff Performances – In his career, Smoltz has posted a 15-4 record in the playoffs, with a 2.67 ERA, and a 1.144 WHIP.  In 209 innings, he has surrendered just 172 hits while striking out 199 batters.  He has averaged 8.6 K’s per nine innings.  He also has four saves to his credit.  Few pitchers in history can match those playoff numbers.

Overrated:  Climate-Controlled Offices – You get to breath recycled air all day.  The hum of the machinery supplies the white noise that is the dull, mind-numbing soundtrack of corporate America.

Underrated:  Screens – You get to enjoy the fresh air while keeping the bugs out.  Great invention.

Overrated:  Willie Stargell – Everyone loves Pops Stargell.  I love Pops Stargell.  Here are Stargell’s career numbers:

475 home runs, 1,540 RBI, 2,232 hits, .282 batting average, .889 OPS, 1,195 runs scored, two home run titles, five 100 RBI seasons.  Career WAR:  57.5. First ballot Hall of Famer, 1988.  Fine, his numbers merit HOF induction.  But how are they substantially different from, say…

Underrated:  Fred McGriff – It is becoming increasingly apparent that Crime Dog will have to pay for a ticket to the Hall out of his own pocket if he wants to get in the door.  Yet, here are his career numbers:

493 home runs, 1,550 RBI, 2,490 hits, .284 batting average, .886 OPS, 1,349 runs scored, two home run titles, eight 100 RBI seasons.  Career WAR:  50.5. I suppose Stargell was a little better than McGriff overall, but not by much.  So where’s the love for Fred McGriff?

Overrated:  Grace Slick – Former lead “singer” for Jefferson Airplane / Starship.  Bellowed out her vocals like a foghorn in heat.  Stoned baby-boomers mistook her cat-wailing for aggressive sexiness.  As artistically satisfying as listening to a domestic disturbance in the kitchen of your neighbors apartment.

Underrated:  Chrissie Hynde – The Pretenders lead singer / songwriter set the standard for confident, strong-yet-vulnerable sexiness among female Rock stars.  Her band, the Pretenders, exemplified the energy of the post-punk New Wave sound of the early ’80’s, the most underrated period in Rock n’ Roll history.  Several of Hynde’s songs have become classics of Album Oriented Rock (AOR) radio.  And they are as listenable today as they were a generation ago.

Well, my friends, that completes the third edition of Underrated / Overrated.  I hope you found it entertaining.  I look forward to reading your comments.  Thanks for having a look, Bill

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