Category Archives: Baseball

Billy/Brad, I Have Your New “Moneyball” Idea Right Here

On Wednesday night, Jacob deGrom pitched seven dominant shutout innings, striking out 14 Marlins, en route to a Mets victory.  When it was time for Mets manager Mickey Callaway to reach into the bullpen in the Bottom of the 8th Inning, New York held a 6-0 lead.  The first reliever on whom Callaway called was journeyman southpaw Luis Avilan.

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As soon as Avilan entered, I thought, “The Mets are winning 6-0, and their ace pitcher dominated tonight.  As usual, the Mets have used 3 or more relievers in all of their games so far, and Avilan is likely the Mets’ worst reliever.  It would be wonderful if Avilan could pitch two innings to rest the other guys in the pen.”  OK, I admit that I was not necessarily thinking in grammatically correct fashion, but you see my point.

It should not be a big task for a manager to ask any MLB pitcher to throw two innings and allow five or fewer runs.  At least that is what I hoped or thought.  As it turns out, Avilan pitched a shutout 8th Inning before getting into trouble in the 9th.  He ultimately allowed 3 earned runs in the 9th; Robert Gsellman allowed another; and closer Edwin Diaz had to finish out the game.  Yes, it felt good to get the win, but it is nevertheless demoralizing to know that, even with a dominant pitching performance (and a 6-run cushion), the Mets had to use three relievers – closer included.  If the Mets needed three relievers in THAT game, when the heck will they be able to get by with two or fewer?

As a result of that game, I figure this is the perfect time for me to bring up what I believe to be the next frontier in “Moneyball”.  (I would say that this comment alone makes it 75% likely that Brad Pitt now becomes a regular BTB reader.)  Well, Brad (aka “Billy”), here is the next frontier in “Moneyball”:  You need pitchers who can pitch several innings.  This might seem obvious, but, year after year, starting pitchers are pitching only 5-6 innings.  Year after year, we see few relievers who are comfortable pitching more than one inning.  Apparently, Luis Avilan has historically been a disaster when asked to pitch more than one inning.  Lesson learned.  As it turns out, my “pitchers should be able to pitch more innings” idea might not be as obvious as one might think.

Anyway, let us do some quick math.  If we assume that the average SP goes 6 innings in a start, that leaves 3 innings for the pen.  This means that, forgetting about extra innings and Bottoms of the 9th that do not happen, a team must find 486 innings of relief over the course of a season.  The typical National League bullpen has 7 arms.  Therefore, those 7 pitchers must each pitch roughly 70 innings in a season….but who am I kidding?  Injuries and September call-ups happen, so teams will use up some of those 486 innings with some truly awful pitchers, as opposed to the standard level of “awful” we usually see with the back end of an MLB bullpen.

Nevertheless, for argument’s sake, let us stick with the “70 innings” number.  Does the number “70” sound like a lot of innings?  It does not for a starting pitcher, but it does for a reliever.  This dichotomy occurs because a pitcher’s fatigue depends not only on innings pitched but also on games pitched.  Making 70 1-inning appearances with 70 times warming up in the bullpen (and likely another 15 times warming up and not getting into games) takes a much bigger toll on one’s arm than making 12 6-inning starts or 10 7-innings starts (with the same number of times warming up as pitching in games).  I should note that no coach has put me on the pitcher’s mound since tee-ball, so I invite our resident pitching expert Rob Sartori to correct anything I am misrepresenting here.

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Assuming though that I do know what I am talking about, there is a lesson to be learned from these 1-inning pitchers and starting pitchers.  Would it not make more sense to have a bullpen full of guys who can throw 2 or 3 innings at a clip?  If so, a manager could manage the way in which my two high-school coaches did.  We would start every game knowing our starting pitcher and the two or three guys who would pitch in relief, if necessary.  Ideally, each reliever would throw two innings or maybe more.  Then, if a pitcher threw several pitches in a game, he would not be available during the next game.  Does this idea not make more sense than what we currently see in MLB?  Additionally, some days a pitcher “has it”, and some days he does not.  When a manager goes to 4, 5, or 6 relievers in a game; the probability that at least one reliever does not “have it” is great.  Also, if a pitcher clearly “has it” in a game, it would seem logical to have that guy throw several innings while he has his good stuff.

Yes, my idea does border on the “Moneyball” “closers are overrated” theory, in that I would not be a slave to bringing in my top reliever for any save situation.  I would be willing to make exceptions only for truly dominant closers, but “truly dominant closers” is close to an oxymoron.  I want to believe that Edwin Diaz falls in this category, but it is way too soon to say that.  In my mind, the only “truly dominant closers” in the modern-closer era have been Mariano, Dennis Eckersley, (at times) Trevor Hoffman, younger Craig Kimbrel, K-Rod in his Angels days, and that one year of Eric Gagne.  All other closers have been given the “You automatically get the 9th Inning in a save situation” honor simply because they were the best relievers on their teams; not because the so-called “closers” were actually dominant.  If a manager is going to take out a reliever who pitched well in the 8th inning, one of the guys listed earlier in this paragraph had better be warming up in the pen.

The key here is that I am sick of seeing relievers lose effectiveness late in the season because they have already made 70 to 80 appearances that year.  In fact, this breakdown can happen much earlier than that if a manager feels the need to go to guys night after night in April (as was the case last year with Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman and the previous year with Fernando Salas, all of the Mets).  Using a pitcher in more than half of a team’s games over any stretch is a recipe for long-term disaster.  I do not blame the 2018 Mets’ fall from grace (after an 11-1 start) solely on a tiring bullpen, but this factor certainly did not help matters.  Therefore, MLB teams could benefit from employing pitchers, unlike Luis Avilan, who can pitch several innings and would thus appear only once every three games or so.

Meanwhile, I would like now to return to the starting-pitcher part of the equation.  Obviously, having Jacob deGrom is a huge benefit to any pitching staff.  Jacob deGrom is one of my all-time favorite Mets to watch, and he is the best Mets pitcher whose prime I have had the privilege of enjoying. However, when people compare deGrom to Doc Gooden or Tom Seaver (or other teams’ greats, like Bob Gibson or Sandy Koufax), I cannot help but think of how many games those guys completed.  Those pitchers threw many more innings over the course of a season than pitchers including deGrom do nowadays.  Plus, it was not just Seaver and Gooden who were throwing many innings back in the day.  The other pitchers on the 1969 and 1986 Mets staffs (Koosman, Gentry, Darling, Fernandez, and Ojeda being the main ones) all regularly pitched 7, 8, and 9 innings.  Those pitchers would exit games when they started to become ineffective, not because of innings counts or pitch counts.

Along that line, if modern teams could alter their philosophies so that pitchers become accustomed to throwing 130 – 140 (I would even settle for 110 – 120) pitches in minor-league starts, perhaps we could cultivate a bunch more pitchers (like those mentioned in the previous paragraph) who can throw 7 – 9 innings in MLB starts.  These pitchers do not even have to dominate like deGrom.  In my rotation, I would gladly take a guy who regularly throws 8 or 9 innings and pitches to an ERA of 4.50.  After all, 6 innings and 3 earned runs is a quality start.  Therefore, prorate that to 9 innings, and the pitcher allows 4.5 runs.  No, these 4.50-ERA guys are nowhere near deGrom’s stratosphere in terms of success nor value, but there is certainly a place for the 4.5-ERA innings eater somewhere else in my starting rotation.  That place definitely earns a spot in my rotation before the 6-inning 4.50-ERA guy.  I would love to have any guy who keeps me from overworking my bullpen.  That provides a huge advantage in the next game or two when the bullpen is rested.  Plus, there is a long-term benefit of having a generally rested bullpen over the course of the season.

On that note, I think I have finished my “Moneyball” point.  Brad, I know you are reading this.  I really hope that Jennifer and you are making things work.  The two of you always go great together, and I personally would take Jennifer over Angelina every day of the week.  Jennifer is extremely good-looking and gets better with age.  Plus, she is very very funny.  In a related story, flame-throwing pitchers with nasty stuff are great, and a team needs guys like that.  However, you should also spend more time developing guys who can pitch well enough but can also pitch several innings.  I want relievers who can go 2 or 3 frames, and I want starters who can go 8 or 9.

Opening Day Matchups To Watch

If there is one thing guys will always be romantic about, it is baseball. I’ll be the first to admit it’s difficult to really express emotions about real life stuff, like those you care about and your deepest passions. But when it comes to a bat, a ball, and some expensive hot dogs on a summer day, I’ll scream my thoughts from the nosebleeds to whoever is listening.

There’s a few particular days where those emotions run high. Any Game 7, Yankees vs Red Sox/Mets (or any rivalry game for other fans), certain player’s final game, and of course, Opening Day.

And in case you live under a rock, today is Opening Day. I know this Sandlot scene is about July 4th and baseball, but I still feel it captures the beauty of baseball and the awe we absorb when the game comes around.

With that said, there are a few matchups that I think fans should be looking at today if they want to watch some good baseball:

Mets vs Nationals—Jacob deGrom vs Max Scherzer

  •  You can argue this is the best pitching matchup we’ll see all year. I expect Mad Max to be absolutely insane today with an abundance of talking to himself on the mound. It’s Opening Day (in case you didn’t hear me the first 12 times I said it) and the Nationals are being overlooked this year. He will not like that.

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  • With deGrom just getting his extension and the “pitching to preserve his arm” situation totally gone, we will see the best of deGoat too. The two best pitchers in baseball face off, be sure to at least watch a few moments of this one.

Giants vs Padres—Madison Bumgarner vs Eric Lauer

  • I am infatuated by the San Diego Padres. I love that Machado went there because there is nothing better than turnover in sports. Four or five years from now, I can finally see the Padres overtaking the NL West and the Dodgers finally coming down from their World Series runner-up marathon.
  • Eric Lauer is a great 23 year old prospect in his first Game 1 start. He is going up against a living legend in MadBum. That’s a tall task, and how he lives up to it will be telling not only of his future, but potentially the Padres too.
  • Seeing Bumgarner back on the mound fully healthy is great, and I really want to see him pitch well this year. But…not too well because I think he’s a great fit for the Yankees. The worse he pitches, the smaller the price gets at the deadline. Today is the first day we can evaluate where he, and the Giants, might be in July.

Cardinals vs Brewers—Miles Mikolas vs Jhoulys Chacin

  • There is really nothing exciting about Jhoulys Chacin, a career .500 pitcher with a near-4 ERA, but that is not the point. The Cardinals and Brewers, along with the Cubs, are going to be the key players in the best division in baseball this season. Today is the first today we’ll see these division rivals square off, and expect to see them battle it out game-by-game the rest of the way.
  • Miles Mikolas is a low-key stud. He started his career in San Diego and Texas before leaving to play in Japan for multiple years. Now back in the MLB with the Cardinals, he has legit ace potential. Coming off a year where he went 18-4 with a 2.83 ERA, he is somebody to keep an eye on to see if he can repeat his surprising 2018.
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Image via bnd.com

Rays vs Astros—Blake Snell vs Justin Verlander

  • Similar to the Mets and Nationals, this is the best pitching matchup you’re going to get in the AL (replace either of these guys with Chris Sale and you’ll hear the same thing).
  • The Astros aren’t going to surprise anybody, we know they’re really good. But the Rays were a dark horse last year, and they opened the eyes of the baseball world to the “Opener”. How they come back this year when people can plan for their strategy will be interesting.

Braves vs Phillies—Julio Teheran vs Aaron Nola

  • AL East division predictions go back and forth between these two teams. The sexy pick is the Phillies after an incredible offseason, but people forget how much talent the Braves have on the field. Their infield alone consists of Freddie Freeman, Ozzie Albies, Dansby Swanson, and Josh Donaldson. Like the Brewers and Cardinals, the madness starts today.
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Image via ESPN.com

Happy Opening Day everyone, baseball is finally back.

If You Aren’t Excited For Baseball Season You Can Kick Rocks

Tomorrow marks one of the most glorious days of the year: MLB Opening Day. Yeah, the Mariners already beat the A’s twice in Japan last week, which concluded Ichiro’s absolutely legendary career. But Thursday is the first time all 30 teams will be in action. Opening Day is always exciting because not only is the season starting, but you get to see every team’s aces go against each other. We’re talking matchups like Scherzer vs. deGrom and Verlander vs. Snell, in addition to seeing guys like Sale, Kluber, and Bumgarner throw. If that doesn’t make it move at least a little bit, then you’re not a baseball person, and I couldn’t feel more sorry for you.

Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of other great sports. I love March Madness, nothing compares to it. I just hope I don’t have to see Coach K’s smug face after yet another national championship, even though I would be happy for future Knick Zion (hopefully). The NFL is great, but we just saw Tom Brady win his sixth Super Bowl as he continues to absolutely dominate Father Time. And don’t get me started on the NBA, I won’t believe the Warriors aren’t gonna breeze through the Finals again until I see it with my own eyes.

Baseball gives you a game nearly every single day. There’s so much young talent, so many promising teams. The AL East has pro sports’ greatest rivalry, with the 100-win Yankees looking for revenge on the 108-win, defending-champ Red Sox for knocking them out of the playoffs last season. While those are two of baseball’s best teams on paper, don’t discount the Rays, who won 90 games in 2018.

The AL Central figures to still belong to the Indians and their forceful starting rotation, but they left major holes in their roster with the departures of Yan Gomes, Andrew Miller, and Michael Brantley. Don’t count out the Twins to give them a run for their money, as this division could be much more competitive than most anticipate.

The AL West is headlined by the 2017 champion Astros, with last year’s surprise team, the A’s, looking to make some noise once again. Perhaps Mike Trout and his record-breaking contract could propel the Angels to a wild-card spot? Lots of talent in this division, but it is still the Astros’ to lose.

Over in the National League, the NL East is going to be one of the most competitive and fun divisions in baseball. The Phillies had the best offseason in baseball, adding the likes of Jean Segura, Andrew McCutchen, David Robertson, J.T. Realmuto, and of course Bryce Harper. The Braves bring back the core of last year’s division championship team, as well as having added Josh Donaldson to the mix. The Nationals improved even with the loss of Harper, adding Patrick Corbin, Yan Gomes, Brian Dozier, and others to the mix as promising young prospect Victor Robles assumes Harper’s role in the outfield. Last but not least, the Mets made a plethora of moves to build around what could be baseball’s best rotation, including trading for Robinson Cano and Edwin Diaz, as well as signing Wilson Ramos, Jed Lowrie, and bringing back Jeurys Familia.

The NL Central will also prove to be one of baseball’s most entertaining divisions. In addition to the Brewers, who came within a game of the World Series last season, and the 2016 champion Cubs, the Cardinals added perennial MVP candidate Paul Goldschmidt and Andrew Miller to a team that won 88 games a year ago. This should prove to be one of the best division races in baseball.

Finally, the NL West looks like it still belongs to the Dodgers. Despite Clayton Kershaw starting the season injured, they’re still probably the deepest team on paper in the National League. Walker Buehler had an extremely promising rookie year, Corey Seager returns to play shortstop after missing 2018 with an injury, and the team signed AJ Pollock to replace Yasiel Puig in the outfield. Despite the Dodgers’ prowess, don’t count out the Rockies, led by superstars Nolan Arenado and Charlie Blackmon.

There’s nothing better than coming home to a baseball game on every single night. Summer nights spent at the stadium are an experience like no other. I get that it’s a long season, the games take hours to finish, and there can be a lot of time in between real action. But baseball is a beautiful game. I think Hall of Fame manager Earl Weaver said it best: “You can’t sit on a lead and run a few plays into the line and just kill the clock. You’ve got to throw the ball over the damn plate and five the other man his chance. That’s why baseball is the greatest game of them all.” Game 1 of 162 is finally here tomorrow. Lemme drive the damn boat!

Odell Beckham Jr.: The Second-Most Terrific New York Athlete Ever to Be Traded

Before I address the title of this article, please allow me a bit of preamble.

You might have seen the OBJ trade coming, but I did not.  Yes, there were trade rumors about Beckham at various times over the past two years, but, during this offseason, there was no considerable buzz about such a trade being a legitimate possibility.  Therefore, my brain is still processing the trade.  Do I like this trade or not?  I honestly do not know.

When I first heard about the Beckham trade, I was upset.  Odell Beckham Jr. is the most exciting player I have watched during my days as a Giants fan.  (I watched the tail end of LT’s career, so I did not truly get to experience his excitement.) OBJ is one of the best wide receivers in the NFL and one of the few players who can regularly turn his team’s down offensive day into a great offensive day with one or two plays.  Additionally, few players in the league make his teammates better than Beckham does.  The likes of Evan Engram and Sterling Shepard have been much more effective when defenses have to worry about covering the dynamic Beckham than when they do not.  For proof, watch footage from Weeks 1 and 2 of the 2017 seasons.  In Week 1, the Giants’ offense looked abysmal in Dallas, as Beckham sat on the sideline.  In Week 2, Beckham played a few plays, and the offense was much more electric on those plays than on the plays when Beckham did not play.  Simply put, one cannot easily replace Beckham’s on-field production.

However, we know that Beckham has caused chemistry issues with the Giants.  While T.O. and Antonio Brown waited several years in their NFL careers before causing off-field problems, Beckham started in Year 2.  We experienced his freak-out against Josh Norman in Year 2; the boat trip, kicking net, and comment that he does not care about his personal fouls in Year 3; his trip to France in Year 4; and his “Li’l Wayne” interview in Year 5.  I have lived on this planet long enough to know that trends are much more likely to continue than to stop.  Plus, if we know about all of the problems I have mentioned, what else is happening behind the scenes?  Nevertheless, we know that these issues are going to continue and will likely grow.  The Giants clearly felt that we had reached the point where the benefit of keeping him (all the good stuff I listed before) had fallen below the cost (all the chemistry stuff).

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Image via New York Post

Therefore, I commend the Giants for picking up a first-round pick this year, a third-rounder next year, and a solid safety in Jabrill Peppers.  The only question that remains for the Giants is “Where do they go from here?”  Did the Beckham trade happen because Eli told Dave Gettleman that the QB cannot win with Beckham’s huge ego and personality hovering over the team?  Possibly.  Did Gettleman pull the trigger because he had decided that it is time for a rebuild and that the Giants should either trade for Josh Rosen or draft Dwayne Haskins?  Hopefully.  Time will tell.  That said, you can read a million analyses about this trade on other sites.  I want to pivot now to the tangential topic referenced in this article’s title.

The New York Giants have traded a top-flight wide receiver in the prime of his career.  This is not a common occurrence in New York.  Teams in this metropolitan are usually big spenders and rarely trade megastars in their primes.  As a result, I have spent the past few hours thinking about how many players better than Beckham or of bigger star power than his have been traded away from New York teams in the primes of their careers, and my unofficial research places Beckham firmly in the #2 position on this list.  For now, I will keep you in suspense as to whom I have selected for #1 on the list.

When coming up with this list, remember that I am focusing solely on players who were traded from New York teams.  Thus, though Darryl Strawberry was an elite outfielder in 1990 (37 homers, 108 RBI: huge numbers back then), the fact that the Dodgers then signed him to a free-agent contract makes him ineligible for this list.  Similarly, John Tavares racked up 621 points in 9 years with the Islanders and also had a big hand in the team’s first playoff-series win (over Florida in 2016) since 1993….but the Maple Leafs signed Tavares as a free agent.  Thus, he too is ineligible for the list.

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Image via Los Angeles Times

In 2011, the Mets traded Carlos Beltran to the Giants (for Zack Wheeler), but Beltran was past his prime.  Plus, even in his prime, was he ever a candidate for “Best Outfielder in the Game”, as Beckham has been considered the best wide receiver in the NFL?  I would say not.  The Knicks once traded Patrick Ewing, and the Nets once traded Jason Kidd.  Both are those are all-time great players for their respective franchises, and both led their teams to two NBA Finals appearances.  However, both of them were also in the twilights of their careers when they were traded.  Neither player was involved with any “Best current player at his position” discussions when they were traded.  You could also make the analogous comments about Rangers defenseman Brian Leetch. Many people like to cite the Mets’ trade of Nolan Ryan as “the worst trade ever”, and that is a fair argument in hindsight.  The Mets did give up a guy who would go on to strike out 5000 batters, pitch 7 no-hitters, and pitch at a high level for more than 20 years.  However, when the Mets traded Ryan (and two other players) for Fregosi, Ryan was a decent-at-best pitcher whose control kept him from being anything great.  Thus, at the time of the 1971 trade, people did not think something monumental had happened.

The way I see it, there are only two players in Beckham’s territory.  One of those players is Darrelle Revis.  When the Jets traded Revis to Tampa Bay in 2013 for a 2013 first-round pick, he was considered the premier cornerback in football.  “Revis Island” was still a “thing” at that time.  However, there are two reasons why I put Beckham above Revis on my list.  First, Revis missed almost all of the 2012 season due to a torn knee ligament.  When an excellent NFL player suffers a major injury in his fifth season, it is natural for us to wonder if that player’s days as a star have come to an end.  (In hindsight, this was the case with Revis.  Revis was a solid player the next two years with Tampa and New England, but he was not the elite player he had been.)  Secondly, even if we ignore the injury factor, tie goes to the wide receiver over the shutdown cornerback. The receiver who makes big play after big play has much more star power than the corner who prevents the ball from ever coming his way.  Therefore, I consider Beckham to be a slightly better player and bigger star than Revis was at the times of their respective trades.

As a result, we are left with only one player dealt from a New York team when a bigger star and better player than Beckham is.  That player is “The Franchise” or “Tom Terrific”.  That player is Tom Seaver.  Unfortunately, we have recently learned the news that the greatest Met of all time now suffers from dementia.  However, many who watched Seaver pitch say that he is the best pitcher they have ever seen.  The guy dominated for the Mets from 1967 through 1977, as he was regularly among the league leaders in wins, strikeouts, ERA, complete games, and shutouts.  He had been the face of the 1969 “Miracle Mets”, and he remained their biggest star through 1977, when the Mets had fallen on tough times.  Sure, Beckham is a mega-star now, but many people in this world are mega-stars.  In 1977, when most people had no more than 7 TV channels, no computers, and minimal telephone capabilities; there were fewer mega-stars.  In this area, Tom Seaver was a mega-star.

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Image via NBC Sports

You might be thinking, “Well, he had already pitched 10 years when the Mets traded him to the Reds in 1977.  Wasn’t he on the decline?”  Not at all.  Seaver was pitching at a high level, and stayed at that level until roughly the time when the Mets brought him back from Cincy in 1983.  From what I have heard from my parents and other huge Mets fans of that day, nothing compares to the Seaver trade.  Most Giants fans agree that OBJ is one of the best receivers in the league, but plenty of Giants fans can see why the Giants made the trade.  Agree with the trade or not; the transaction is defensible.  That was not the case with Seaver.  Seaver was the only guy for Mets fans to hang their hats on, and the Mets traded him.  Fans were devastated and saw no silver lining in the move.

Granted, a part of me does wonder how the trade would have been received today.  After all, the 1977 Mets were a bad team who traded a top-flight player for four prospects.  No, none of those prospects materialized into anything great, but it is a regular occurrence today for bad teams to trade stars for prospects.  In 1977, there were fewer entertainment options, so I think that fans were more passionate about having their teams put together the best teams possible – the future be damned.  I have to admit that, while I am a big-time Devils fan, I have not watched them too much over the last month as I know that this year’s disappointing team is better off tanking.  Fans of all sports now realize that bad teams are usually better off tanking, but it is easier for us to “trust the process” in 2019 when we can binge-watch “Schitt’s Creek” and Harlan Coben’s “Safe” to pass the time during a bad Devils season.  Yes, I highly recommend both of those shows.  Ideally, the Devils will land the top pick in the draft, bring in Jack Hughes, and play at a level next year that makes me want to watch all 82 games again.

However, in 1977, what were you going to do to pass the time during a bad Mets summer?  There is only so much “American Bandstand” one can handle.  Therefore, Mets fans were going to be much more loyal to a bad 1977 team than they were to bad 2017 and 2018 teams. Thus, Tom Seaver remained a huge star, albeit on a bad team.  In fact, I would argue that Seaver was a bigger star relative to the 1977 sports world than Beckham is to the modern sports world.  If we could calculate WAR for star power, Seaver’s 1977 star-power WAR would be well above Beckham’s.  Plus, Beckham is one of the best current wide receivers, but Tom Seaver is one of the best pitchers of all time.  Big difference there.

Therefore, I consider the OBJ trade to be the second-most monumental trade of a New York athlete.  The trade of Tom Terrific ranks #1 on the list.  Let us hope that the Giants make more out of their two acquired draft picks and Jabrill Peppers than the Mets made out of the four prospects they obtained.

I Could Not Care Less About February Baseball Injuries

I could not care less about February baseball injuries.  (Side note: I cannot stand when people say “I could care less” when they mean “I could not care less”.)  Allow me to repeat myself.  I could not care less about February baseball injuries.

I make this point because it is apparently a huge story that Mets’ infielder Jed Lowrie is heading for an MRI for soreness in the back of his knee.  Notice that today’s date is February 24.  The Mets’ first regular-season game takes place on March 28.  Thus, we are five weeks from the start of the regular season.  Do I care that Jed Lowrie might miss a few weeks of Spring Training?  Of course not.  As I have discussed in the past, I could not care less about preseason games in any sport.  My main goal for any preseason is to have all of my team’s players be healthy when the regular season starts.

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Therefore, if we ultimately find out that Jed Lowrie needs surgery and is going to miss several months of the season, then we can then make a big deal out of his injury.  However, assuming that a severe injury is not the case, I view any time that Lowrie misses in the spring as time during which he will not suffer a season-ending injury.  Additionally, the guy has been in the league for more than 10 years.  He does not need five weeks of Spring Training games.  He will probably actually benefit by having a shorter Spring Training, in that he will likely feel better rested during the season.  Therefore, to summarize, I am in no way worried that Lowrie’s knee issue will have a negative effect on the Mets’ season.

Anyway, you might be wondering why some people (mainly on New York sports radio) are making a mountain out of the molehill that is Jed Lowrie’s injury.  I believe there are two main reasons for this:

  • Some people are incredibly eager for baseball season and thus are willing to make anything baseball-related a big story. I am not one of these people.  I would say that older people (so I guess this is the second time I am being ageist in a post) hold “pitchers and catchers” and “the start of Spring Training” in higher regard than younger people do.  This regard likely stems from the days when the World Series ended in mid-October instead of early November and when there was not 24-hour baseball coverage all offseason long.  Therefore, in a bygone era; to have any baseball coverage in mid-February, after four months of zero baseball, was a big deal.  Nowadays, baseball fans can find baseball coverage all the time from early November through the start of the next season.  Therefore, it is no longer as big a deal (at least to me) that teams are primed to start playing five weeks of meaningless games featuring primarily people who will spend the regular season in the minors.  No, for me (and for many others who are 37 years old or younger), the end of February means that March Madness is right around the corner.  I am also pumped that the stretch run to the Stanley Cup Playoffs takes place in March.  Yes, I will be excited for MLB Opening Day when it arrives, but you can spare me the Spring Training games and obsessive discussion about minor preseason injuries.

 

  • There are many “Woe is me” Mets fans who LOVE to wallow in their own sorrow. As a Mets fan myself, I cannot stand these people.  These are the fans who are saying, “Same old Mets.  It is only February, and guys are getting hurt.”  To quote the venerable Don LaGreca, these fans are “in love with their own sadness”.  These fans would rather be miserable than have good things happen to the Mets.  These are the fans who will cite the 1992 Bobby Bonilla signing and 1996 Carlos Baerga trade as reasons why the 2018 Cano trade (which I happen to love) is a bad move.  These are the fans who blame the Mets’ disappointing 2018 season on injuries, even though the Mets did not suffer considerably more games lost to injury (to quality players) than the average team did.  These are the fans who view the 2015 season as a negative because the team lost the World Series.  These are the fans who rue the Mets’ “bad luck” of the past five years while casually ignoring the fact that the Mets rode impeccable health (especially among their pitching staff) to the 2015 World Series in the team’s only “real” (aka “beyond the Wild-Card Game) playoff appearance over that stretch.   OK, I will stop there, because I would someday like to write a full article on “Woe is me” Mets fans.  I do not want to steal too much of future Mike’s thunder.

 

Oh, one more thing I should mention.  While I am a big fan of the Jed Lowrie signing; if he were to miss the entire 2019 season, how much would his absence hurt the team?  If the answer is “a lot”, then the team is not very good as it is.  Fortunately, I would argue that the Mets can withstand a Lowrie injury.  With Cano, Rosario, Frazier, Alonso, d’Arnaud, Nimmo, Conforto, Lagares, McNeil, and TJ Rivera; the Mets have depth for their non-pitcher/catcher positions.  Lowrie is a nice player, but the Mets can afford to be without him for a while….but why am I wasting any time talking about this February injury?

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I could not care less about February baseball injuries.  It is February 21; let us focus on Zion, “Bracketology”, and what the Devils are going to do at the Trade Deadline.

Mariano Rivera and the Rest of My Fictional 2019 Baseball Hall of Fame Ballot

Loyal BTB readers, I know that you have a burning question.  “Have the BTB editors been given official Hall of Fame ballots for 2019?”  Somehow, the answer to this question is “No”.  I would like to think that my ballot was lost in the mail.  I did move in August, so maybe the Hall of Fame has not been able to track me down at my new address.  Nevertheless, you readers all deserve to see my 2019 fictional ballot.

Last year, I wrote a post explaining how I view the “steroid guys”.  As a result, you probably know that I am voting again this year for Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Sammy Sosa, and Manny Ramirez.  Last year, I also wrote a post detailing the rest of my Hall of Fame vote .  Because I do not believe in dropping people off my ballot from one year to the next, you know that I am also voting this year for Larry Walker, Fred McGriff, Edgar Martinez, and Mike Mussina – all of whom were on my fictional 2018 ballot and are eligible for election this year as well.  Thus, you already know eight of the ten people for whom I am voting this year.

Fortunately, the voters did much good last year in electing Vladimir Guerrero, Jim Thome, and Larry Wayne Jones to the Hall.  You know that I did not agree with Trevor Hoffman receiving the nod, but, given that he had earned 74% of the vote (75% is needed for election) two years ago, I knew that it was a foregone conclusion that “Hell’s Bells” would ring in Cooperstown in 2018.

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Image via Sports Illustrated

Last year, I lamented the fact that, because all of the “steroid” guys have been clogging up the ballot for so long, there have been many years in which more than 10 deserving players have appeared on the general ballot.  Given that voters may vote for no more than 10 players per year, voters have been forced to leave off people for whom they would actually like to vote.  In that vein; last year, I wanted to put 12 people on my ballot, so I had to keep two of them off the list.  Thus, I decided to leave Curt Schilling’s and Jim Thome’s boxes unchecked.  My logic with Thome was that; while he is a definite Hall of Famer; 1) I did not feel that he needed to be a first-ballot HOFer, and 2) Since it was his first year on the ballot, I would have many more opportunities to vote for him.  (To the contrary, I did vote for first-year Larry Wayne, as I felt he was a true first-ballot guy.)  As for Schilling, I simply felt that he was the least qualified of the non-first-ballot guys.

As a result of the Jones, Guerrero, and Thome elections; we traveled through 2018 with 9 remaining guys on the ballot whom I have thought deserve to enter the Hall.  Therefore, if 2019 were to have brought no more than one deserving candidate, my logjam would have disappeared.  Unfortunately, I missed this mark by one.

The 2019 ballot has brought us two people – Mariano Rivera and the late Roy Halladay – whom I consider clear Hall of Famers.  In last year’s anti-Hoffman explanation, I did note that Rivera is the only modern closer for whom I would ever vote.  Had Rivera had a ho-hum postseason career; I would not have voted for him, but his postseason career is legendary.  The guy had 42 postseason saves, many of which were of more than one inning (141 innings pitched in 96 appearances), and an 0.70 postseason ERA.  I repeat, “an 0.70 postseason ERA”….over 141 innings…..in the postseason.  You know, against the best teams in baseball on the biggest stages.  141 innings equates to 2/3 of a regular-season load for a reliable starting pitcher.  Can you imagine a starting pitcher posting an 0.70 ERA up through the trade deadline?  Think of how excited we were about Jacob deGrom’s 1.6 – 1.8 ERA at various times last year.  Rivera’s numbers are incredible.

Additionally, do these three names ring a bell?  “Sandy Alomar”, “Luis Gonzalez”, and “Roberts Steal”?  They represent three of Rivera’s four blown postseason saves, and they are so well-known because it was such a rarity for Mo to blow postseason saves.  (Note: Mo’s fourth postseason blown save was in Game 5 of the 2004 ALCS, where he entered with 1st and 3rd and nobody out and allowed only the inherited runner on third to score.  As I mentioned in my “Jeurys Familia” article, why this blown save is given to Rivera and not the guy who put the runner on base is beyond me.)  Additionally, Luis Gonzalez handed Rivera his only postseason loss.  Therefore, among all the times Rivera entered tie games, he did not lose any for the Yankees.  (Note: the Yanks did ultimately lose the other three games in which Rivera blew saves, but the Yanks lost each of those games after the book was closed on Rivera.)

For the Yankees’ run of dominance from 1995 through 2012, there was no psychological edge in baseball greater than the Yankees knowing they had Mariano for the 9th and maybe 8th innings of postseason games (actually Mo was working the 8th innings in 1995 and 1996, but this is not the best time to be bringing up the guy who was working those 9th innings).  The Hall of Fame is about more than just numbers.  It is about dominance, especially on the big stage; and it is also a home of legends.  Mariano Rivera fits those criteria to a “T”.

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Image via CBS Sports

Anyway, with Mo earning the 9th spot on my ballot, I find myself in a tough position for the final vote.  Do I check Curt Schilling’s name or Roy Halladay’s?  For that answer, I will use the same logic I used last year.  While Roy Halladay is a Hall of Famer to me, he does not need to be a first-ballot guy.  Therefore, I am going to vote for Schilling, whose ballot days are closer to expiration.  I explained Schilling’s candidacy last year, and I will save my Halladay explanation for next year, when I can hopefully make room for him on my ballot.

Additionally, this year’s ballot has four other new guys whom I do not consider definite “No”s: Todd Helton (More than likely a future “yes” for me), Andy Pettitte (Likely a “no” as per my “Tier III” steroid rules), Lance Berkman (Leaning toward “no” but need to examine more closely), and Roy Oswalt (Almost certainly “no” but also need to examine more closely).  Similarly, there are two viable holdovers from previous ballots whom I have never truly considered due to lack of available spots.  Because I did not previously vote for these guys, I likely still will not, but I do not want to rule out these two individuals, Scott Rolen and Andruw Jones.  I will go into deeper analyses on these players next year, when hopefully I am writing about my REAL ballot!

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Image via Talking Chop

Lastly, as a Yankees hater, it is fun for me to see Travis Hafner, Kevin Youkilis, and Vernon Wells as first-timers on this year’s ballot.  First-timers on this year’s ballot are guys who last played in 2013, and would you look at who employed all three of those guys when they realized it was time to hang up their spikes?  The New York Yankees.  Too bad Lyle Overbay wasn’t even good enough to make it on the ballot.

That said, a much more prominent member of the 2013 Yankees did make it onto this year’s ballot, and he was the last player to wear #42 outside of April 15.  Mariano Rivera absolutely needs to be inducted into the Hall, and let’s hope that the voters elect several other guys on my list so that I can clear up this year’s logjam and avoid any in the future.

 

 

 

 

Why Barry Bonds Did Not Need Steroids To Get Into the Hall of Fame

In wake of Barry Bonds missing out on the Hall of Fame for yet another season, I decided to put this piece together that I’ve been thinking about for a while.

Barry Bonds is arguably the most polarizing figure in the history of professional sports. His historic stats paired with his shameful steroid allegations make for heated arguments between baseball purists and analytical feens. With the exception of Brady/Belichick multiple cheating scandals and Pete Rose’s gambling problem, Bonds is the most notable disgrace to sports due to the magnitude of his records.

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Image via barrybonds.com

First let’s go over what Bonds HAS done, in case anyone forgot. The iconic numbers we are all familiar with are:

2,935 hits, 601 2B, 762 HR, 1996 RBI, 514 SB, 2558 BB, .298 BA, .444 OBP, .607 SLG, 1.051 OPS, and 688 intentional walks. If you want to really dive into all these stats and see where they all rank, head here:

barrybondsstats.wtf/itshouldntbeallowed.wow

Bonds played his final game in 2007 at the age of 42. That year he was an All-Star and also broke Hank Aaron’s all-time home run record. Milestones and accomplishments aside he was relatively productive that year, playing in 126 games while batting .276, hitting 28 home runs and bringing in 66 RBI. He also led the MLB in OBP at .480 as well in walks with 132.

He finished with crazy numbers, but if it wasn’t for a little backroom drama, he would have finished with even better ones. Bonds, and many others, believe there was heavy collusion after that 2007 season to not sign him to any team because he was such a toxic distraction anywhere he went. Not only was he a bad teammate (he needed four lockers to himself and didn’t talk to anyone), but his perjury and steroid investigation was becoming too much for any team to handle or be associated with. With his play slowly declining, his worth no longer outweighed the risk.

But, let’s say somebody had taken a chance on him, thrown him in a comfortable DH role in the American League, and he rode out 1 year contracts until he couldn’t do it anymore. We would probably have seen the first, and only, 800 home run career. He would continue to Gretzky his intentional walk record (second is Pujols and it is not even a little close). He is behind Aaron in RBI by 301, and while I’m not sure he would’ve caught up to that I think it would’ve been close.

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Image via New York Times

My point is that like Tom Brady, there was really no end in sight for Bonds. He is already statistically one of the greatest player of all-time, but if baseball hadn’t turned a cold shoulder to him in 2007 then it would not even be a question.

Yet, he remains in the likes of players like Tony Womack, Eric Gagne, Jorge Posado, Fred McGriff, and the other 99% of professional players that never made it to the Hall of Fame. That’s the way it should be, in my opinion, for anyone who used steroids. You cheated, therefore your stats are simply not what they would be were you playing at everybody else’s level. It’s like when the 12 year old in Little League hit a growth spurt and was 6 ft 4 batting against little Timmy who didn’t reach puberty until sophomore year of high school. Like the 12 year old giant, Bonds and all the other players had an incredible STRENGTH advantage. Yes I get hitting a baseball is hard, but everybody else is playing the same exact game so don’t give me that argument.

I would like to raise the question of what if Barry Bonds never took steroids? Would he have been enshrined already in Cooperstown? Would he be locked into baseball immortality? I think yes.

I am basing that statement off this ESPN article which gives an in-depth timeline of Bonds’ steroid usage. In it, it suggests nothing started being fishy with him until 1998. Ironically, that is also the exact year you saw his stolen base numbers start to dip dramatically. People forget Bonds was a 40/40 player at one point, and even stole 52 bases one year. In 1997 he stole 37 bases, in 1998 he stole 28, and then in 1999 he stole 15. Every following year it went lower and lower. This drop off could certainly be attributed to old age, but I have a feeling that ESPN article and his decrease in speed is not a coincidence.

So, for the sake of argument, we are cutting Barry Bonds’ non-steroid career off after the 1997 season. That would put his statline after 12 seasons at the below:

374 HR, 1094 RBI, .288 BA, 417 SB, .406 OBP, and THREE MVP awards.

For reference, here are Hank Aaron’s numbers after 12 years:

398 HR, 1305 RBI, .319 BA, 149 SB, .375 OBP, and ONE MVP (He only won once)

Following the 1997 season, Bonds was 32. As stated above, he finished when he was 42. Let’s say the steroids not only let him hit the ball farther, but also gave him an extra year or two down the line in terms of career longevity. We will halt his steroid-less career at 40 then.

In order to predict his stats, I’ll take his annual career averages and add them onto 8 more seasons. Therefore:

HR: 31, RBI: 91, AVG: .288, OBP: .406, SB: I will not be counting because this is something that would decrease with age regardless of steroids, so I don’t think there’s a fair way for me to measure it.

Taking those averages and making 8 extra seasons out of those numbers, Bonds would finish with:

595 HR, 1822 RBI, .288 BA, .406 OBP and we’ll say one more MVP award, considering A-Rod was nasty and Griffey was dominating.

That would place Bonds in the TOP 10 in home runs. THE TOP 10! He would also be 21st on the RBI list, only 14 simple RBI behind Ken Griffey, Jr, who by the way received 99.32% of the Hall of Fame vote his first time around.

Bonds was a Hall of Fame caliber player his entire career, well before the steroids (again, presumably). He was headed to a first-ballot Hall of Fame ending, a member of Cooperstown forever. But, he got caught up with the wrong people, and probably got greedy.

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Image via Juice Heads

Would he be considered the greatest home run hitter of all-time? No, Hank Aaron and Babe Ruth would hold that honor still, the way it should be. Would our jaws be dropping at the sight of his 2001 stats? No, I doubt it. But would we be talking about how Barry Bonds, the man with the video game numbers, might be a forgotten member of the Mt. Rushmore of baseball? Nope.

Barry Bonds was going to be a Hall of Famer without steroids. 

Bonds went big when he chose to do steroids. It was a time when nobody thought anything would happen. Everybody was doing it, so what’s one more. But a lot of other players did not have the incredible gifts Bonds was given, that he was already putting on display on a daily basis. Look at his numbers with Pittsburgh and you’ll see. So when Bonds decided to start juicing, it almost made him TOO good that it became suspicious. He was already miles ahead of the rest of the MLB, and this put him well out of reach. That’s why he hit 73 HR, knocked in 137 RBI, batted .328, and got on base over half the time. That is not supposed to happen.

That is also why I firmly believe Bonds should never touch the Hall of Fame. He had a talent level people can only dream about, but he tainted it. He got too hungry. He went too big. People could know his name now like they know somebody like Jim Thome or Albert Pujols. Respectable legends of the game. But instead they look at his name and they instantly think cheater.

I personally think what a shame it is that a Hall of Fame career was blown because his ego got in the way. Even though he is the “Home Run King”, he’ll be chasing Hank Aaron’s legacy for the rest of his life.