Rating the Greatest Baseball Players of All Time

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Saturday, February 08, 2014
 
Resuming a dormant series:

1970s Hall of Fame voting was a mixed bag.  The BBWAA did a good job with their votes, and a Negro Leagues committee was formed to deal with those players and did a fantastic job.  The Veterans' Committee, however, opened a time of great shame for those people.

1971 was the first year for the Negro Leagues Committee and they took the very logical step of electing Satchel Paige to the Hall.  Paige was the most well-known of the Negro Leaguers and a well-qualified athlete, and was an excellent choice.  The BBWAA was not as successful, with no one reaching the 75% level.  Yogi Berra came fairly close in his first year on the ballot with 67%, but that wasn't a good showing for the greatest catcher to this time (some would still say the best ever).  Not a good showing for the writers that the three-time MVP could not garner enough votes for election.  300-game winner Early Wynn was also close but short in his third try at 66.7%.  Ralph Kiner, in his ninth try, came in at 59% as the other candidate to draw a majority of votes.

It was the VC that coughed up a hairball this time.  They elected SIX men to the Hall.  Executive George Weiss along with players Jake Beckley, Chick Hafey, Harry Hooper, Joe Kelley, Rube Marquard, and Dave Bancroft got the vote.  Weiss was reasonable as execs go, and Beckley and Kelley were fine players from the turn of the century.  Bancroft, a fine shortstop, was a decent selection.  Hooper and Marquard were "Glory of Their Times" selections, as interviewees in that classic book who got a boost from the fame of the publication.  As HOFers, they are not the best choices.  Hafey is one of the worst choices ever, a short-career slugger with era-inflated stats.  He is one of the "Frisch selections," as Frankie Frisch began to be the most influential voice on the committee and started lobbying for the election of the guys with whom he played.

The Hall acted to place limits on the number of guys the VC could elect, and that put the brakes on somewhat.  Frisch would still run amok for some time.  Things went better in 1972.  The Negro Leagues Committee picked Josh Gibson and Buck Leonard, two more excellent selections, and Sandy Koufax joining the BBWAA ballot swelled the voting as Koufax, Berra, and Wynn all gained election.  Koufax remains the youngest man ever elected, because he retired at such a young age.  The VC made fewer selections but just as poor, picking exec Will Harridge, and two poorly-qualified players in Lefty Gomez and Ross Youngs.  Youngs was another short-career slugger from an offensive ear, and Gomez failed to win 200 games lifetime in spite of pitching for the dynastic Yankees.  At least Gomez and Koufax made an interesting pair for induction.

1973 saw the election of Monte Irvin from the Negro Leagues, and Roberto Clemente in a special election after his sudden and untimely death.  A trio of aces in Warren Spahn, Whitey Ford, and Robin Roberts all hit the ballot in the same year, and only Spahn gained election.  Ford, Kiner, Gil Hodges, and Roberts all drew at least 50% of the vote, so several were close.  The VC picked umpire Billy Evans, 19th century pitcher Mickey Welch, and another Frisch special in George "High Pockets" Kelly.

The sting of having to wait a year was eased for Whitey Ford when he was elected along with teammate and buddy Mickey Mantle.  Roberts, Kiner, Hodges, and Bob Lemon in his 10th outing got over 50%.  Cool Papa Bell got the Negro Leagues vote, and the VC gave us umpire Jocko Conlan, 19th century guy Sam Thompson, and Frisch special Jim Bottomley even though Frisch had died by this time.  His legacy was still alive.  Ford and Mantle sharing the podium was fun.

Ralph Kiner finally edged over the 75% mark in 1975, with Robin Roberts just short and Lemon and Hodges over 50%.  Judy Johnson got the Negro Leagues vote while the VC elected Bucky Harris as a manager, plus Earl Averill and Billy Herman, two pretty good choices.

Roberts and Lemon got the votes in 1976, Oscar Charleston finally got his due, and Roger Connor got an overdue nod from the VC.  The VC gave us two more odd selections, offering up another umpire in Cal Hubbard plus another Frisch special, Freddie Lindstrom.  Lindstrom?  Really?  Complaints about the VC were getting very loud by now.

Ernie Banks was elected in his first try, and a group was pushing for the top that included Eddie Mathews, Gil Hodges, Enos Slaughter, Duke Snider, and Don Drysdale all above 50%.  Pop Lloyd and Martin Dihigo were elected by the Negro Leagues Committee, which then declared its work done and voted to disband.  If only all committees were so effective.  The VC picked manager Al Lopez, 19th century pitcher Amos Rusie, and a big question mark in Joe Sewell.

The worst for the VC was in 1978.  The BBWAA gave up a solid pick in Eddie Mathews, the Vets went with exec Larry MacPhail, and with pitcher Addie Joss.  Joss does not qualify as a Hall of Famer, because one of the qualifications is to have played in ten seasons.  Joss played in nine.  The VC voted to suspend the rules for him.  It was a big and ridiculous overstep.  The move hurt the Hall and further damaged the reputation of the Veteran's Committee.  It was a group proudly waving the proverbial finger at the Hall of Fame.

In 1979 the BBWAA had a can't-go-wrong pick with Willie Mays, and the VC again dithered with exec Warren Giles, a decent pick, and a short-career slugger in Hack Wilson, a mediocre pick.  They had done much worse.  The 1980 vote got first-timer Al Kaline and finally picked Duke Snider on his 11th try.  The VC made two more mistakes by picking Tom Yawkey and Chuck Klein.

So, it was a good decade overall for the BBWAA and an excellent decade for the Negro Leagues Committee.  The Veterans' Committee almost undid all that good work, all by themselves.  A decade like the VC had is why people often want to redesign the Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.


Sunday, August 11, 2013
 
Our look at voting for the Hall of Fame moves into the 1960s.  The early to mid 1950s had been an era of clearing up a backlog and electing some deserving candidates, moving the Hall in a good direction.  But as the end of the 1950s approached, most of the top candidates had been inducted, the lull caused by the Second World War had set in, and the baseball writers (BBWAA) was having trouble electing anyone.  Due to an apparent dearth of candidates, voting had been switched to the BBWAA voting every other year, alternating with the Veteran's Committee (VC) voting on older players and executives.  That was going pretty well, with Hall historian Lee Allen helping the VC to round up some worthy candidates for consideration and filling in some missing history.

1961 was a VC year, and the group elected 19th century player Sliding Billy Hamilton and another leadoff hitter, Max Carey.  Carey was a bit marginal, but not a terrible pick.  In 1962 Bob Feller and Jackie Robinson both got their first consideration on a HOF ballot, and both gained election.  Oddly, Robinson received only 78% of the vote.  Lingering racism?  Perhaps.  In a switch-up, the VC also voted this year, rather than alternating, and picked manager Bill McKechnie and player Edd Roush.  The VC voted again in 1963 and elected 19th century pitcher John Clarkson, 20th century pitcher Eppa Rixey, and outfielders Elmer Flick and Sam Rice.  Rice had been running about 50% in the BBWAA ballots, and his VC election would, hopefully, help clear the decks.

In 1964, the BBWAA decided to give the runoff a try again after the initial vote failed to have anyone reach 75%.  Luke Appling came in at 71%, Red Ruffing 70%.  The top 30 were listed on the ballot, with the top poller to get into the Hall.  Appling got 94%, Ruffing 91%, but only Appling got in.  Meanwhile, the VC elected six:  manager Miller Huggins, 19th century guys John M. Ward and Tim Keefe, plus Red Faber, Burleigh Grimes, and Heinie Manush.  The 1965 version of the VC added just one, 19th century pitcher Pud Galvin.

With 1966 the BBWAA decided to return to an annual vote.  They also got a prod.  The VC elected Casey Stengel, who had finally retired, and the BBWAA elected Ted Williams, who surprised everyone by using his induction speech to lobby for election to the Hall of Negro League stars such as Satchel Paige.  That project would get underway shortly.  The 1967 vote had Red Ruffing and Joe Medwick tied at the top, with Ruffing winning the runoff for election.  The VC picked Branch Rickey and, in a big hiccup, Lloyd Waner.

On the 1968 ballot Joe Medwick was elected without a runoff, and the VC picked Kiki Cuyler and Goose Goslin.  They were starting to let in way too many 1920s OF, and it would get worse quickly.  The 1969 BBWAA vote elected Stan Musial and Roy Campanella, with the VC going for a couple of marginal pitchers in Stan Coveleski and Waite Hoyt.  VC picks were going downhill.  In 1970 the BBWAA elected Lou Boudreau, and the VC hit a new low by putting in Ford Frick as an executive, plus Earle Combs and Jesse Haines.  None of those three has a strong case.

As we move into the 1970s, the BBWAA will do well and the Negro League Committee will form and do a fine job, while Frankie Frisch gains leadership on the VC and takes it further and further down.  It's a sad era.


Saturday, August 10, 2013
 
In our fourth installment we will be looking at the voting in the 1950s.  After some lurching back and forth about defining the Hall, it was during this era that the Hall really came into its own, and became a respected institution.  We have some very smart votes during this time period, with just a few  hiccups.

In the 1951 BBWAA vote, Mel Ott and Jimmie Foxx were elected as a very strong class.  In 1952 Harry Heilmann and Paul Waner got the call.  In 1953 the BBWAA selected Dizzy Dean and Al Simmons.  You could argue with Dean's election due to his short career, but he excelled at the "fame" part.  Here we see the BBWAA doing a solid job of moving people through the ballot and generally selecting deserving candidates.

In 1953 we also have the first voting by the new Veterans Committee.  As usual with a new electorate, there is a desire to stake out their own territory.  The VC selected the first umpires for Cooperstown, choosing NL veteran Bill Klem and AL arbiter Tommy Connolly.  They also chose as "executives" Harry Wright, from the very beginnings of baseball, and Ed Barrow, arguably the first "general manager" as we understand the term today.  They also picked old-time players Chief Bender and Bobby Wallace, both marginal selections, but they were trying.

In 1954 the BBWAA selected Rabbit Maranville, Bill Terry, and Bill Dickey.  In the weird logic of the voters, they bypassed Joe DiMaggio and Hank Greenberg in doing so.  1955 brought a bonanza of four choices:  DiMaggio, Ted Lyons, Dazzy Vance, and Gabby Hartnett.  The VC selected the deserving Home Run Baker and the questionable Ray Schalk.  In 1956, Hank Greenberg and Joe Cronin were elected by the BBWAA.  The BBWAA, having done such good work, promptly decided to go to every-other-year voting.

On one level, it was reasonable to do this.  The voters had done a great job of working through the backlog of good candidates, and the war had thinned out the candidate list through that era, an effect felt in the results.  However, that war effect was washing out, an outcome the BBWAA did not foresee.  They probably should have, with the Jackie Robinson/Willie Mays era underway, and other big stars like Hank Aaron and Ernie Banks were emerging.  Those guys would change the shape of things in the very short run.

What was decided was that the VC would fill in the BBWAA off-years.  In 1957 the VC selected player Sam Crawford and manager Joe McCarthy.  With the 1958 BBWAA ballot, no one was elected.  154 men received votes, including the still-active Warren Spahn.  Only Max Carey reached 50%, and he was at 51%.  So, it was over the the VC for 1959.  They chose Zack Wheat.  Back to the BBWAA for 1960 for...nobody.  Edd Roush topped the list at 54%.  In fairness, they were not looking at many spectacular candidates.  In a less complimentary analysis, the voting was a mess.  In 1960, Lefty Grove got six votes.  Grove had been elected in 1947.  Possibly those six voters had intended to vote for Lefty Gomez and either spelled it wrong, or illegibly, or made a typo.  Still, six votes for a guy already elected.  The best guys actually awaiting election were likely shortstops Arky Vaughan and Luke Appling.  They should have been obvious, perhaps, but the best of the rest were arguable candidates like Johnny Mize, Goose Goslin, and Red Faber.  No one was blowing the doors off the place.  That would change.


 
When last we left the Hall voting, the baseball writers (BBWAA) charged with doing the voting had elected 12 players to Cooperstown's museum, while various committees of voters had elected seven early executives (including the first president of the NL and AL, respectively), two managers (the redoubtable John McGraw and Connie Mack, even though Mack was still active), and three 19th century players, all in time for the Hall's opening in 1939.  Following the special election in 1939 of Lou Gehrig, after he was diagnosed with the fatal disease that still bears his name, they declared it a job well done and did not vote again until 1942, a three-year gap.  It is there we pick up our story in this third essay.

The 1942 vote saw Rogers Hornsby elected with 78% of the vote.  Since Hornsby's last big league play had been in 1937, five years before, some would think it was his first time on the ballot, but this is not the case.  This was the fifth time Hornsby had been named, on each ballot taken so far.  In these early days, there was not always a hard-and-fast rule about not voting for active players, though that was now widely observed, and no five-year waiting period.  At any rate, Hornsby was an obvious selection and still got just 78%.

The only other players above 50% in voting were Frank Chance and Rube Waddell, both at 58%.  72 players drew votes, and while Hornsby was most qualified guys like Frankie Frisch and Mickey Cochrane did not draw enough votes to be elected, and several 19th century players drew votes but not enough for enshrinement.  By this time, most of the voters had not seen these old-timers, and the memory of guys like Ed Delahanty and Kid Nichols had faded.

And again, the next vote was scheduled for three years down the road, in 1945.  This was THE moment for the "small Hall" argument.  Cooperstown was never more exclusive than it was at this point.  If you believe in a Hall only for the greatest of the great, this was that moment in history.  All was about to change.

Commissioner Landis died in 1944, and they quickly arranged a committee meeting to elect him to the Hall.  It followed precedent, with both first league presidents already with plaques.  And a crossroads had been reached.

Without realizing it, the Hall had reached a tipping point.  For only the very best, or a wider membership?  With World War II drawing to a close, the museum officials were realizing more visitors would come if players were inducted.  A broader Hall made better business sense.  But, with every-third-year voting and a backlog of candidates, the BBWAA was having a hard time electing anyone.  The 1945 vote came and...no one reached 75%.  Frank Chance was closest at 73%, coming seven votes short of election.  Rube Waddell, Ed Walsh, Johnny Evers, Roger Bresnahan, Miller Huggins, and Mickey Cochrane, in order, got at least 50%.  95 players, including the still-active (but off at war) Joe DiMaggio received at least one vote.  Voting was a mess.

So, an "old-timers committee" was formed to vote on 19th century players, and they voted in a cartload, ten names in all:  Wilbert Robinson, a 19th century player but elected mostly for his managing, and nine players:  Roger Bresnahan, Dan Brouthers, Fred Clarke, Jimmy Collins, Ed Delahanty, Hugh Duffy, Hughie Jennings, King Kelly, and "Orator" Jim O'Rourke.  They ranged from the great to the very good, but none of these guys was a BAD choice.  However, not all of them were up to the established standard.  And electing Bresnahan as a 19th century guy was stretching the definition of the term a bit, though he did start his career in 1897.

That eased the backlog a bit.  Bresnahan had been fifth in the BBWAA voting, Collins 8th, Delahanty 9th, and the others had also received some votes.  Also, the BBWAA decided to go back to yearly ballots.  So they took a vote again in 1947, and promptly elected nobody.  Frank Chance was again tops, this time with 71%.  A total of 76 guys received votes.  So they decided to have a runoff vote, and vote again on the top 20 guys...only it was 21 because of a tie for 20th.  This time, Chance got only 57% of the vote, so no one was elected again.

The situation was becoming untenable, with gridlock settling in for the ballot.  Even Lefty Grove and Charlie Gehringer couldn't break through to get elected.  There was an impasse between the "wait your turn" school, which wanted to see the guys getting the most votes already get elected first, versus those (a minority at this time) who wanted to elect the newer, more qualified guys.  As a result, no one was getting elected.

What happened now was what has historically happened:  a committee was selected to break the backlog of no one getting elected, and they elected to many, changing the standards of the Hall.  Eleven more were added to the Hall.  Chance and poem-mates Joe Tinker and Johnny Evers, who had collected at the top of the voting lists, were all elected, as were pitcher/executive Clark Griffith, plus Jesse Burkett, Jack Chesbro, Tommy McCarthy, Joe McGinnity, Eddie Plank, Rube Waddell, and Ed Walsh.  This group included some of the weakest inductees of all time, particulary McCarthy and Chesbro.  The "small Hall" argument was effectively rendered moot forever in one fell swoop.  However, it did clear the decks for the ballot.

The decks were cleared so effectively that four players were elected by the BBWAA in 1947.  Carl Hubbell, Frankie Frisch, Mickey Cochrane, and Lefty Grove all got the required 75%, and Pie Traynor fell just short.  Charlie Gehringer, Rabbit Maranville, Dizzy Dean, and Herb Pennock also got at least 50%.  Only 39 players received votes, so the casting of ballots was much tighter.  That's how people get elected.

The number of voters was also down.  In 1947 only 161 cast ballots, down from a high of 274 in 1939.  For the 1948 vote that number went down to a new low, 121.  That remains the fewest number of ballots ever cast by the BBWAA in a Hall election.  They also elected a weak class, Herb Pennock and Pie Traynor.  No one else reached 50%, even though there were many better-qualified candidates.  Pennock posted a career 106 ERA+. Traynor a 107 OPS+.  In the meantime, the ballot included Al Simmons, Charlie Gehringer, Paul Waner, Jimmie Foxx, and others.

In 1949, the second-smallest BBWAA electorate ever (153) elected no one.  Charlie Gehringer led the voting at 67%.  They tried the top 20 runoff again, and this time Gehringer got in with 85% of the 187 ballots.  Not sure why more voted in the runoff, or how that worked, but someone did get elected even if it took them two tries.  The old-timers committee met again and elected Mordecai "Three-Finger" Brown and Kid Nichols.  Brown had just died in 1948, though Nichols was still alive.  This continued the Hall's fascination with death that remains to this day.

In 1950 the BBWAA elected no one.  This time they did not have a runoff.  Mel Ott got the most votes with 69%, and also over 50% were Bill Terry, Jimmie Foxx, Paul Waner, Al Simmons, Harry Heilmann, and Dizzy Dean.  What to do?  We'll see what happens in our next installment.


Wednesday, August 07, 2013
 
Part 2:  The Voting Begins.

Bill James calls the Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum "a self-defining institution that has failed to define itself."  This is true, although the Hall has tried, and tried, and tried.  The first vote was scheduled for 1936, with the rule that 75% of voters must choose a great for him to gain election, They also added rules limiting voters to listing no more than ten names, and split the ballot into two parts, for 20th century players and for 19th century players.  A smaller group was commissioned to be this "Veterans' Committee."  There was no listing of who was eligible, just these divisions and the instructions to send in those ballots.

And they voted.  Boy, did they vote.  They voted for guys who had just retired, guys who were already dead, and guys who were still active.  Lou Gehrig, still playing first base every day for the Yankees, the 1936 AL leader in home runs, and the 1934 Triple Crown winner, got 51 votes.  He would win the 1936 AL MVP award.  Babe Ruth, who had retired midseason 1935, got enough votes to be elected.  Mickey Cochrane, also still active, got even more votes than Gehrig.  Jimmie Foxx, Pie Traynor, Frankie Frisch, Lefty Grove, Al Simmons, all still active, all got votes.  Hal Chase, thrown out of baseball for gambling, got votes.  Shoeless Joe Jackson, banned from baseball in the Black Sox scandal, got votes.  A total of 47 players got at least one vote in the regular balloting.

With all that, it may be a bit of a surprise they actually agreed on anyone.  They did, and quite well, with five players passing the 75% milestone to become the famous first class: Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, Honus Wagner, Christy Mathewson, and Walter Johnson.  Cobb was on the ballot of 222 of the 226 who cast their votes.  Ruth and Wagner each got 215 mentions, Mathewson 205, Johnson 189.  Nap Lajoie got 65% support, Tris Speaker 59%.  Cy Young got 49%, his support divided between the 20th century and 19th century ballots.

Young was fourth on the Veteran ballot, where no one polled at 75% on the 78 ballots cast.  57 different players drew votes here, spreading out the support too thin to settle on one, with Cap Anson and Buck Ewing drawing the most support at 50%.  That group would have to wait for things to sort themselves out.  Still, even with a messy process the BBWAA did manage to get five very highly qualified members into the Hall their first time out.  It was as good an outcome as they could have dreamed.  Success!

So, the next year, they went at it again.  This time, they agreed not to vote for players still active.  With the five most obvious choices off the board, the votes became even more spread.  The number of ballots declined to 201, but the number of players receiving votes went up to 113, including such luminaries as Red Dooin, Bugs Raymond, Shano Collins, and Marty Bergen.  But again, the results were good, as three men received the requisite 75%; Nap Lajoie, Tris Speaker, and Cy Young.  In addition, Pete Alexander, Eddie Collins, Willie Keeler, and George Sisler all drew more than 50% support, giving the voting for the next session a focus: that has always been a point for the Hall voting.

The Veterans' vote changed focus from 19th century players to pioneers of the game.  One committee selected John McGraw as a manager, the first field general to be selected, and the "Centennial Commission" chose Morgan Bulkeley, the first National League president; Ban Johnson, the first American League president; Connie Mack, still active as a manager but a manager since the beginning of the AL; and George Wright, the top player on the original acknowledged professional team, the 1869 Cincinnati Red Stockings, as well as a manager and player in the early days of the National League.

In 1938 262 BBWAA members cast their ballots, with voting up again.  The larger poll numbers diluted votes, and only one player reached 75%, Pete Alexander at 81%.  George Sisler, Willie Keeler, Eddie Collins, Rube Waddell, Frank Chance, and Ed Delahanty all reached the 50% plateau.  120 players drew at least one vote.  The Centennial Commission selected two "pioneers," Alexander Cartwright, one of the early players and rule-setters of the game; and Henry Chadwick, a newspaperman who did much to popularize the game and set up consistent rules.

One more vote remained before the opening of the Hall, and 274 members of the BBWAA participated, electing George Sisler, Eddie Collins, and Willie Keeler.  108 players received votes.  The Old Timers Committee returned to work, selecting 19th century players Cap Anson, Buck Ewing, and Old Hoss Radbourn, plus player/executives Al Spalding and Charles Comiskey.  Candy Cummings was also selected, presumably because he is sometimes (falsely) credited as inventor of the curveball.

So, Cooperstown had its first induction class, a solid cross-section of the greats and developers of the game.  There were plaques to show, there was memorabilia to peruse, there were greats to spice up the proceedings.  All was good.  Also in 1939 came word that Lou Gehrig had contracted a disease which would not only end his career, but would soon end his life.  The BBWAA gathered to hold a special vote, and elected Gehrig to the Hall in a special ballot.

With the new museum open, the BBWAA considered its business at a close.  They agreed to vote again, but three years hence.  The next vote would wait until 1942.


 
Part 1:  Introduction

The mistake that most people make when thinking about the past is that the way things are now is the way things have always been.  They ignore technology changes, attitude changes, all kinds of differences.  For this reason, history remains a mystery to many people; therefore, they are doomed to repeat it.

Biblical example:  there is a verse that is often translated to the effect of "through a mirror darkly."  It is from one of Paul's letters (epistles) in the New Testament.  "Now, we see through a glass, darkly; then, we shall see face to face." is how some translations read.  It refers to the difference between how we see God now, and how we will view Him in the afterlife.  But it makes little sense to us today, who are used to looking in our modern mirrors, which transmit images so well.  In the time Paul was writing, there was no such technology; the best mirrors were reflections off of water or the like.  Glass for windows and mirrors, like we have today, came about nearly 1000 years later.  Paul was making a comparison between seeing a reflection in a pool of water versus seeing something face to face.  Big difference.

Well, it's a jump from that to something as relatively unimportant as the Hall of Fame voting, but the comparison is there.  We think the rules of the voting, five years after players retire, various committee setups, have always been the same.  This is not the case.  The only consistent rule for the Hall has been the 75% supermajority needed for election.  Everything else, literally everything, has changed in over 75 years of voting.  Including having a vote every year.

To give credit where credit is due, there are two major sources for this research.  The first is the model for all of us who would do baseball research, Bill James, and his book on the Hall of Fame, alternatively titled "The Politics of Glory," or "Whatever Happened to the Hall of Fame," depending on which edition you pick up.  It is an invaluable volume for understanding Cooperstown and how it came to be what it is.  The second is the invaluable on-line resource www.baseball-reference.com and its complete list of Hall of Fame voting results.

Through a variety of circumstances, baseball officially adopted Cooperstown as the birthplace of the game in spite of the provably false nature of the story.  It was expedient to accept it, and so it became the official story.  Then, the city fathers of Cooperstown got the idea to created a museum dedicated to baseball, including a "Hall of Fame" to honor the greatest players.  As it developed, the voting for the Hall would provide annual publicity for the museum, and annual induction ceremonies would provide a reason for people to visit the sleepy hamlet in central New York.  It was a perfect arrangement for what James has referred to as, "a museum conceived by an accountant."

To select the players for this Hall of Fame, the directors of the museum decided to poll those who had day-to-day contact with the game and the people who played it; the media.  Since there was no such thing as television, and radio was in its infancy and not regularly covering baseball games yet, that meant the most vibrant media of the time, the newspapers.  As it happened, those who covered the game had already gathered into a sort of trade guild, the Baseball Writers' Association of America (BBWAA).  This group had been deeply involved in the sport, and had been for many years, so they were as good a panel of experts as could be found.  The museum directors agreed with the BBWAA that the writers would conduct the vote, insisting only that to induct a player there must be a 75% agreement.  All other arrangements were left up to the writers themselves.

The opening of the museum was set for 1939, the supposed "centennial" of the Doubleday game in Cooperstown in 1839, when the young army officer was actually on duty rather than inventing baseball.  The voting began in 1936, so there would actually be members of it and plaques to view when the doors would open.  And so, in 1936, we truly begin our story, which will continue in the next installment.


Saturday, August 03, 2013
 
The February 16 birthday team is not in a promising position.  No Hall of Famers, seven guys with ten years, 16 more with five years.  Looks like depth but no great height to the talent.

Lineup:
1Jerry Hairston Sr. 3B
2 Herbie Moran, CF
3 Eric Byrnes, LF
4 Bobby Darwin, RF
5 Terry Crowley, 1B
6 Bill Pecota, SS
7 Barry Foote, C
8 Tim Cullen, 2B

Bench:  Don Landrum, OF; Ben Sanders, OF; Creepy Crespi, IF; Bob Didier, C.

Rotation:
1 Carl Lundgren
2 Bill Sanders
3 Glenn Abbott
4 Tommy Milone

Bullpen:  Dwayne Henry, Howie Judson, Manny Delcarmen, Ramon Troncoso, Sergio Mitre, Alex Ferguson.

Actually not too bad, at least not as bad as some birtdhay teams we've seen.  It's a respectable lineup and decent rotation.


Sunday, July 28, 2013
 
Baseball fans know that the Hall of Fame inductions this weekend were rather an anticlimax.  Three new members were inducted this afternoon, but all three have been dead since before World War II.  All were selections of the various "Veterans' Committee"s that used to be one entity, but now have become several committees looking at several different groups of people.  Certainly 19th century star Deacon White is a fine addition, umpire Hank O'Day was well-known in his time, and so was longtime Yankee owner Jacob Ruppert, who was a chief architect of the dynasty.

With no living inductees, however, comes limited interest.  Fewer people come; the attendance of the Hall of Famers themselves was also down.  Crowds were smaller.  It's not particularly good for the Hall, a museum which depends on visitors, or the community, which largely does the same.  So, eyes fall on the people who do the voting for the largest block of players, those likely to still be alive, the Baseball Writers Association of America.  That group, the BBWAA, did not manage to elect anyone in their ballot, the biggest reason for the lack of a living inductee for the ceremony.

Now, I have seen BBWAA members trying to throw this on the players, for steroid use, as the stars of the Steroid Era hit the ballot.  "Oh, those evil men, using those nasty drugs, we can't vote for them, that's why no one was elected!  It's their fault!"

Well, yeah.  Steroids are certainly the reason why Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, who otherwise would have been first-ballot selections, were not elected.  Neither reached 40%, with 75% the voting percentage needed for election.  It has also kept many people from voting for other viable, yet imperfect candidates such as Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, and Rafael Palmeiro.  I understand why those guys have not been elected.  Certainly, in the absence of a steroid taint, Bonds and Clemens would have been at the podium this summer.

But what of Craig Biggio?  He collected 3000 hits, played key up-the-middle defensive positions (catcher, second base, center field) and played for many successful teams, as well as playing his whole career with the same franchise.  No mercenary is he.  Is he suspected of steroid use?  Hardly seems the type.  Yet he fell short, polling 68%.  The only reason I can fathom is that ":first-ballot" nonsense.  Did some voters identify Biggio as not good enough for first-ballot selection?

No Jack Morris?  He has been slowly climbing up the vote totals for several years, and had reached 67% last year, a level which nearly always heralds election the next year.  Yet he managed only the slightest of increases, to 68%.  Did the sabermetric backlash against his election keep him out?

What of Jeff Bagwell?  Did steroid whispers keep him on the outside, at 60%?  The same for Mike Piazza, at 58%?  Neither of those guys has ever been credibly mentioned as drug users, yet there are enough whispers about muscular builds that it seems neither of these qualified gentlemen could must sufficient support.

What of Tim Raines, at 52%?  Is the second-greatest leadoff hitter of all time not good enough for Cooperstown?  Or, perhaps, did his own illegal drug use keep him off some ballots?  Or Curt Schilling, with 216 wins and post-season heroics, but 39% of the vote?  Or reliever Lee Smith, stalled out with 48%, actually lower than the previous year's 51%.

No, I don't think the BBWAA's failure to elect anyone has to do with the stench of drugs, and a lack of candidates who don't reek of it.  Oh, that's part of it, but it is part of a bigger problem of the paralysis of the voting.  And it's a problem the BBWAA has faced before, a problem of its own making.  The group is hoist by its own petard, again.

No, the BBWAA has become unable to elect anyone because of an oversupply of good candidates, not a lack of them.  There are many reasons for this.  The faction of the voters that refuse to vote for anyone below the level of, say, Mickey Mantle has a lot to do with it.  Those are the voters that wish to establish a very high standard for the Hall that has little to do with the Hall's history.  Then there are those voters who wish to keep the Hall "clean," and refuse to vote for anyone who has even a hint of a steroid allegation against them.  They want to make sure no steroid user even enters the Hall, ignoring the almost certainty that a steroid user is already enshrined, and even if it means keeping out those indicted merely by whisper and innuendo.

And then there is the collective inertia of such a large voting body.  Perhaps you didn't know that over time, the BBWAA has voted for fewer and fewer candidates on its ballots.  It's almost a straight-line graph, with some blips in it, that shows how many candidates have been listed per ballot over time.  At the very beginning of the voting process, the normal was nearly ten per ballot.  Some years, it was more than ten, which is probably due to some election anomalies.  In time, the average has slipped, from 9 in the 1950s to 8 in the 1960s, dropping to 7 in the 1980s, to a low of 5.1 on the 2012 ballot.  Some of the voters, bucked this trend, as the 2013 average bumped up to 6.6 names per ballot, actually the highest total since 2003, and the last time it had been higher was 1999.  Someone was trying.  It wasn't enough.

The biggest reason is that the BBWAA has tied themselves in knots by overflowing their own ballot with qualified choices.  There are SO MANY good candidates on the ballot, it is difficult for even the voters who are trying hard to sift through their choices to pick out the good ones.  The membership has tried to raise the bar for election, but at the same time many of those elected recently are marginally qualified:  Bruce Sutter, Goose Gossage, Jim Rice, Andre Dawson.  If those guys, why not Lee Smith?  Why not Fred McGriff?

At the same time, fully qualified candidates like Tim Raines are turned away, and a guy like Kenny Lofton can't even get enough votes to stay on the ballot when he's better than several players already in the Hall.  The BBWAA has successfully tied itself and its ballot up in knots.  On next year's ballot, there will be 14 candidates who are Hall of Fame worthy by any definition, and a total of 24 who could be added to the Hall with no drop in quality of the enshrined.  That doesn't include the four guys who dropped off of last year's ballot who fit one or both definitions.  Even if you exclude some of them for steroid concerns, there are more than enough worthy candidates to fill any ballot.

Fortunately, next year's ballot includes at least one guy who should be a foolproof choice, Greg Maddux.  Biggio, back for his second try, should get in.  Yet, I am not confident the BBWAA can climb out of the hole it has dug for itself.  The power-that-be at the Hall have made adjustments before when this happened, usually by making changes at the Veteran's Committee level.  This year, all that got them was three long-dead inductees.  Maybe next year we can get a couple of guys who have been dead for a little less than 70 years.


Wednesday, July 17, 2013
 
The February 15 team has one Hall of Famer, eight guys with ten major league seasons, and 17 more with five years.  We have a chance here for our best team in awhile.

Lineup:
1 Sliding Billy Hamilton, CF
2 Russell Martin, C
3 Ron Cey, 3B
4 Nate Schierholtz, RF
5 Hal Lee, 1B
6 Dee Miles, LF
7 Charlie Irwin, 2B
8 Alex Gonzalez, SS

Bench:  Charlie Reilly, IF; Rick Auerbach, IF; Don Kelly, OF-3B; Bobby LaMotte, IF; Mark Davidson, OF.

Rotation:
1 George Earnshaw
2 Jimmy Ring
3 Johnny Cueto
4 Melido Perez

Bullpen:  Ugueth Urbina, Barry Jones, Joe Hesketh, Mitchell Boggs, Joe Moeller, Chuck Estrada.

Decent pitching, and a few good guys in the lineup though we ran out of depth after a few positions.  This group would make a decent showing.


Monday, July 15, 2013
 
The Valentine's Day edition of our series has ten players with ten years in the majors and eleven more with five years.  We'll see what that gets them.

Lineup:
1 Candy LaChance, SS
2 Earl Smith, C
3 Tim Jordan, 1B
4 Len Gabrielson, LF
5 Joe Gerhardt, 2B
6 Arthur Irwin, 3B
7 Larry Milbourne, CF
8 Lou Sylvester, RF

Bench:  Kelly Stinnett, C; Morgan Murphy, C; Benny Zientara, IF; John Marzano, C; Claude Berry, C; Jack Lewis, IF.

Rotation:
1 Pretzels Getzein
2 Red Barrett
3 Dave Dravecky
4 Oscar Judd

Bullpen:  Takashi Saito, Damaso Marte, Will McEnaney, Tyler Clippard.

One thing this team has is backup catchers; lots and lots of backup catchers.  Not much else, though.


 
No Hall of Famers for the February 13 team, six guys with ten major league years, 14 more with five years.  Looks a little thin on talent.  We'll see.

Lineup:
1 Eddie Foster, 2B
2 Sal Bando, 3B
3 Bill Bradley, 1B
4 Matt Mieske, RF
5 Emmitt Seery, LF
6 Jerry Browne, CF
7 Kevin Stocker, SS
8 Fritz Buelow, C

Bench:  Pete Castiglione, IF; Tuck Turner, OF; Guy Zinn, OF.

Rotation:
1 Harry Kelley
2 George Gill
3 Dick Hughes
4 George Gill

Bullpen:  Donnie Moore, Frank Williams, Logan Ondrusek, Wayne Lemaster.

Suspended:  Hal Chase.

This team already sucks, but I won't let Chase and his gambler friends anywhere near it.  Got to have some standards.  Feel sorry for Bando and Bradley, two good players, to get thrown in with this sorry bunch.


Wednesday, June 26, 2013
 
Well, we have a number of players born on the same day as Abraham Lincoln.  Nine players with ten major league years, then 16 more with at least five years, so we have some depth, as well as one Hall of Famer, even though it is a weak one.

Lineup:
1 Dom DiMaggio, CF
2 Chet Lemon, RF
3 Chick Hafey, LF
4 Earl Sheely, 1B
5 Lenny Randle, 2B
6 Jim Fogarty, 3B
7 Joe Garagiola, C
8 Mike McGeary, SS

Bench:  Chick Fulmer, IF; Enzo Hernandez, IF; Chris Snyder, C; Dave Revering, 1B; Kiddo Davis, OF.

Rotation:
1 Pat Dobson
2 Don Wilson
3 Monk Dubiel
4 Tim Redding

Bullpen:  Don Stanhouse; Ray Corbin; Jerry Walker; Steve Mura, Dennis Springer.

Not a bad team at all:  pretty good lineup, decent pitching.  Not a great team but a contender in their good years.


 
Not optimistic about the February 11 team.  We have only four players with 10 major league seasons, then 13 more with at least five years in the majors.  Looks like we might be a little thin on talent.

Lineup:
1 George Hausmann, 2B
2 Jimmy Ryan, CF
3 Ben Oglivie, LF
4 Ollie Brown, RF
5 Brian Daubach, 1B
6 Hal Rice, C
7 Tom Veryzer, SS
8 Red Shannon, 3B

Bench:  Todd Benzinger, OF-1B, Leech Maskrey, OF, George Alusik, OF-1B, John Patterson, IF, Brent Butler, IF; J.R. Towles, C.

Rotation:
1 Ray Collins
2 Sammy Ellis
3 Brian Matusz
4 Yank Terry

Bullpen:  Matt Lindstrom, Ed Walsh (the second one),  Brian Eversgerd, Kevin King, Willie Smith.

Yep, not much here.  Ryan was a fine 19th century player, but there is just very little of quality in this team.


Monday, June 24, 2013
 
The birthday team for February 10 boasts a Hall of Famer, though in my opinion the weakest HOFer ever voted in by the BBWAA.  14 guys with 10 years in the majors, and 10 more with five, so this club should have some depth.  Let's take a look:

Lineup:
1 Lenny Dykstra, CF
2 Curt Welch, RF
3 Lance Berkman, 1B
4 Alex Gordon, LF
5 Randy Jackson, 3B
6 Cotton Tierney, 2B
7 Jim Keenan, C
8 Cesar Izturis, SS

Bench:  Ralph Hodgin, OF; Lenny Webster, OF; Alberto Castillo, C; Ruben Mateo, OF; Kevin Sefcik, IF.

Rotation:
1 Herb Pennock
2 Allie Reynolds
3 Billy O'Dell
4 Jim Barr

Bullpen:  Larry McWilliams, Bobby Jones, Hiroki Kuroda, Jeanmar Gomez, Bob Logan.

Pretty good staff, led by some old Yankees and Giants, and a decent lineup.  This team would do pretty well, and is one of our better units so far.  Not a great team, but a solid contender.


Saturday, June 15, 2013
 
Hi there!  Miss me?  Got a little busy there for a while, but now seems like a good time to pick up with the birthday boys, and we are at February 9.  A look at the list shows 11 guys with 10 or more years of major league experience, and ten more with at least five years.  Let's see if the quantity translates into quality.

Lineup:
1 Charley Bassett, 2B
2 John Kruk, LF
3 Vlad Guerrero, CF
4 Vic Wertz, RF
5 Heinie Zimmerman, 3B
6 Pete O'Brien, 1B
7 Specs Topcorer, SS
8 Dioner Navarro, C

Bench:  Todd Pratt, C; Clete Boyer, IF; Mookie Wilson, OF; Aki Iwamura, IF; Buzz Boyle, OF.

Rotation:
1 Tex Hughson
2 Jim Nash
3 Roy Mahaffey
4 Eddie Solomon

Bullpen: Erv Palica, John Urrea, Pat Underwood, Doug Linton.

Pitching is a little thin, but the lineup is pretty good.  Being able to go Kruk-Guerrero-Wertz there is pretty solid.  Outfield is shaky defensively.  Infield defense should be solid.


Sunday, April 21, 2013
 
The February 8 birthday team doesn't look too promising:  no Hall of Famers, guy with most experience has 12 major league years, six guys have ten years, ten more have five.  Not a lot here.

Lineup:
1 Hoot Evers, LF
2 Bert Haas, 3B
3 Bug Holliday, CF
4 Willard Marshall, RF
5 Bob Oliver, 1B
6 Don Haffner, 2B
7 Steve Dillard, SS
8 Charlie Householder, C

Bench:  Butch Niemann, OF; Joe Cassidy, IF; Felix Pie, OF; Buddy Blattner, IF; Adam Piatt, OF.

Rotation:
1 Fritz Peterson
2 Aaron Cook
3 Fred Blanding
4 Jim Parque

Bullpen:  Joe Black, Burke Badenhop, Cookie Cuccurullo.

Not much catching, thin on the lineup and the pitching staff.  Decent outfield, though.


Thursday, April 18, 2013
 
The February 7 birthday team doesn't have any Hall of Famers but it does have depth:  12 players with ten years of major league service and 13 more with five years.

Lineup:
1 Charlie Jamieson, LF
2 Tom Daly, 2B
3 Al Smith, RF
4 Carney Lansford, 3B
5 Mel Almada, CF
6 Spike Shannon, 1B
7 Damaso Garcia, SS
8 Pat Moran, C

Bench:  Endy Chavez, OF; Andy Reese, OF-IF; Adrian Brown, OF; Charlie Reipschlager, C-OF; Benny Ayala, OF; Eliezer Alfonso, C; Humberto Cota, C;

Rotation:
1 Earl Whitehill
2 Burt Hooton
3 Juan Pizarro
4 Scott Feldman

Bullpen:  Dan Quisenberry, Brad Hennessey, Dave Borkowski, Charlie Puleo, Seth McClung.

Playing Garcia out of position at SS, and Shannon out of position (he's an OF) at first.  So, a lot of players/depth, but not always at the positions you need.  Decent lineup, very good rotation, this team would be a contender, especially with a near-Hall of Fame ace reliever.


 
The February 6 birthday team will not be very deep, with just 11 players holding five years in the majors, but it does feature the best player in baseball history.

Lineup:
1 Frank LaPorte, 2B
2 Smoky Burgess, C
3 Babe Ruth, RF
4 Richie Zisk, LF
5 Dale Long, 1B
6 Glenn Wright, SS
7 Pedro Alvarez, 3B
8 Chad Allen, CF

Bench:  Goldie Rapp, IF.

Rotation:
1 Babe Ruth
2 Bobby Mitchell
3 Mike Morrison
4 Travis Wood

Bullpen:  Bob Wickman, Bill Dawley, Mark Hutton, Walt Hutzinger, Kanekoa Texeira.

Not sure what to do on those days when Ruth has to switch over to be the ace of the staff as well as RF; maybe one of the pitchers can play the outfield.  Pretty good lineup, though.


Saturday, April 13, 2013
 
The February 5 birthday team should be one of our best, if a bit short on depth.  Two Hall of Famers, nine guy with ten years of major league experience, but only eight more with five years.  It should work out.

Lineup:
1 Roberto Alomar, 2B
2 Roger Peckinpaugh, SS
3 Hank Aaron, RF
4 Don Hoak, 3B
5 Lee Thomas, 1B
6 Max Flack, LF
7 Chuck Diering, CF
8 Mike Heath, C

Bench:  Bill Rariden, C; Norm Miller, OF; Jack O'Brien, OF-3B; Vic Correll, C.

Rotation:
1 Jack Lynch
2 Al Worthington
3 Chris Brock
4 Roberto Rodriguez

Bullpen:  Eric O'Flaherty, Ryan Webb, Cy Buker, Javier Martinez.

Excellent lineup, though not much pitching at all.  With offense from Aaron, Alomar, and friends, I think they would have success anyway.


 
The February 4 birthday team has no Hall of Famers, just four guys with ten years in the big leagues, and 15 more with five years.  Not expecting much here.

Lineup:
1 Doc Miller, RF
2 Lefty Davis, CF
3 Possum Whited, 1B
4 Germany Shaffer, 2B
5 Steve Brye, LF
6 Eddie Ainsmith, C
7 Lou Say, 3B
8 Rob Picciolo, SS

Bench:  Chris Bando, C; Chris Coste, C-1B; Gary Allenson, C; Stan Papi, IF; Jeff Gardner, IF.

Rotation:
1 Joe Sparma
2 Rollie Naylor
3 Doug Fister
4 Rankin Johnson

Bullpen:  Dan Plesac, Max Leon, Pat Perry, John Frascatore.

A good reliever in Plesac, but he's about the only quality pitcher.  Not much of a lineup, either.  This team would have trouble in a decent minor league.


Sunday, March 24, 2013
 
The February 3rd birthday team has no Hall of Famers, but seven guys with ten years in the majors and nine more with five years.  That's kind of in-between:  let's see what we've got.

Lineup:
1 Skip Schumacher, LF
2 Bake McBride, RF
3 Fred Lynn, CF
4 Lucas Duda, 1B
5 Joe Stripp, 3B
6 Eric Owens, 2B
7 Dick Tracewski, SS
8 Lou Criger, C

Bench:  Jim Dyck, LF-3B; Wayne Comer, OF; Chicken Hawks, 1B-OF; Newt Randall, OF; Celerino Sanchez, 3B.

Rotation:
1 Slim Sallee
2 Joe Coleman
3 Harry Byrd
4 Buck Ross

Bullpen:  Mike Wallace, Joe Klink, Freddie Tolliver, Don Kaiser.

Well, a decent team, but not much depth.  Very thin bench, not much of a bullpen.  Lineup and rotation aren't bad, though.


Saturday, March 23, 2013
 
The Groundhog Day birthday team has ten guys with ten years, sixteen more with five years, and a Hall of Famer.  We've got us some depth here, friends.

Lineup:
1 Don Buford, LF
2 Willie Kamm, 3B
3 Red Schoendienst, 2B
4 Melvin Mora, CF
5 Max Alvis, 1B
6 Ray Demmitt, RF
7 Mike Garbark, C
8 Adam Everett, SS

Bench:  Travis Snider, OF; Otis Miller, IF; Bill Abstein, 1B; Buddy Biancalana, IF; Walt Kuhn, C.

Rotation:
1 Wes Ferrell
2 John Tudor
3 Scott Erickson
4 Orval Overall

Bullpen:  Dale Murray, Warren Brusstar, Pat Clements, Sheldon Jones, Manny Sarmiento.

Lots of third basemen, but not lots of power.  Had to switch several guys to positions that were not their main spots, tried to be logical about it.  Could have gotten Snider's bat in the lineup by putting Kamm at short and moving Mora back to the infield, but this seemed to make more sense.  Might do it differently on a different day.


 
A new month:  the February 1 birthday team.  Five guys with ten years and nine more with five years, no Hall of Famers.  Does not look like a deep or terribly talented team.

Lineup:
1 Rich Becker, LF
2 Austin Jackson, RF
3 Carl Reynolds, 1B
4 Tim Naehring, 3B
5 Paul Blair, CF
6 Hector Luna, 2B
7 Danny Thompson, SS
8 Billy Sullivan, C

Bench:  Harry Bemis, C-1B; Lew Brown, C-OF; Ron Woods, OF; Joe Connolly, LF; Jim Kelly, RF; Hal King, C-PH.

Rotation:
1 Kent Mercker
2 Brett Anderson
3 Joe Harris
4 Pete Wood

Bullpen: Ernie Camacho, Cecilio Guante, Phil Norton, Bob Smith.

Hmm.  The ace starter spent most of his career as a reliever, and the #3 starter was 3-30 lifetime.  That's not a good rotation.  The pitchers will probably benefit from that strong defensive outfield, but not much hitting.


Thursday, March 21, 2013
 
The January 31 birthday team is packed:  three Hall of Famers, nine guys with ten years, 14 more with five years.  No shortage of talent here.

Lineup:
1 George Burns, 1B
2 Tim Hendryx, LF
3 Jackie Robinson, 2B
4 Ernie Banks, SS
5 Tex McDonald, RF
6 Jim Manning, CF
7 Bob Ferguson, 3B
8 Fred Kendall, C

Bench:  Yuniesky Betancourt, IF; Rafael Santana, IF; Pinky Hargrave, C; Dave Cochrane, OF-IF.

Rotation:
1 Nolan Ryan
2 Hank Aguirre
3 Josh Johnson
4 Charlie Robertson

Bullpen:  Ted Power, Jim Willoughby, Duke Maas, Bob Apodaca, Brad Thompson.

Thin in the outfield, but with Burns at the top of the lineup and Robinson and Banks to center around, this is a solid team.  Ryan heads a good staff.


 
The January 30 birthday team has a lack of depth.  only three guys have at least ten years of major league service, eleven more have five years.  This won't be one of our best teams.

Lineup:
1 Sandy Amoros, LF
2 Davey Johnson, 2B
3 Walt Dropo, 1B
4 Jorge Cantu, 3B
5 Charlie Neal, SS
6 Vin Campbell, CF
7 Jeremy Hermida, RF
8 Jordan Pacheco, C

Bench:  General Stafford, OF-IF; Nick Evans, OF-1B; Dave Stegman, 1B; Dave Moates, OF.

Rotation:
1 Tony Mullane
2 Brooks Lawrence
3 Mickey Harris
4 John Patterson

Bullpen:  Joe Kerrigan, Doc Watson, Joel Davis, Hipolito Pena

A halfway decent lineup, though Pacheco is a bit of a stretch at catcher.


Monday, March 18, 2013
 
The January 29 birthday team shapes up as one of our worst.  Only seven players have ten or more years in the major, and just five more have five years.  No Hall of Famers either, so few stars and no depth.

Lineup:
1 Steve Sax, 2B
2 Mike Aldrete, LF
3 Hank Edwards, RF
4 Alex Avila, C
5 Dick Burrus, 1B
6 Bill Rigney, SS
7 Hack Simmons, 3B
8 Art Allison, CF

Bench: Ray Hayworth, C; Bill Kreig, C-OF; Lance Niekro, OF-1B; Miguel Ojeda, C; Jim Tyrone, OF.

Rotation:
1 Jason Schmidt
2 Bobby Bolin
3 Bill Voiselle
4 Jair Jurrjens

Bullpen:  John Habyan, Brian Edmondson, Tony Pierce.

Some talent here, but very, very thin.  At least we had a catcher.  Several, in fact.


 
The January 28 birthday team is our first in a while to have a Hall of Famer, albeit a 19th century player.  We've got ten guys with ten years in the majors, eleven more with five years.  We have a chance at a decent team for the first time in several birthdays.

Lineup:
1 Pete Runnels, 2B
2 George Wright, SS
3 Magglio Ordonez, LF
4 Jermaine Dye, RF
5 Bill White, CF
6 Lyle Overbay, 1B
7 Lyn Lary, 3B
8 Vacant

Bench:  Ducky Holmes, OF; Larvell Blanks, IF; Junior Spivey, IF; Hank Arft, 1B; Tsuyoshi Shinjo, OF, Jacob Cruz, OF.

Rotation:
1 Bill Doak
2 Bob Muncrief
3 Tom Hughes
4 Emil Yde

Bullpen:  Frank Arellanes, Joe Beckwith, Wesley Wright, Nate Jones, Bob File.

I couldn't find a single catcher.  Other than that, it's a decent team.


Saturday, March 09, 2013
 
The January 27 birthday team doesn't look promising either:  is January just a bad birthday month for baseball players?  No Hall of Famers, just four guys with ten major league years, 15 more with five years.  Looks very thin.

Lineup:
1 Bibb Falk, LF
2 Al Wickland, CF
3 John Lowenstein, RF
4 Phil Plantier, 1B
5 Charlie Duffee, 3B
6 Angel Berroa, SS
7 Gil Hatfield, 2B
8 Ken Huckaby, C

Bench: Otis Clymer, OF; Bob Borkowski, OF; Bob Barrett, IF; Stew Hofferth, C.

Rotation:
1 Gavin Floyd
2 Milt Gaston
3 Bill Burns
4 Bob Emslie

Bullpen:   Fred Heimach, Rusty Meacham, Bert Inks, Nick Willhite.

Yep, it's thin.  I am not impressed.  Sorry, Mr. Falk, this team has let you down.


 
The January 26 birthday team does not look promising:  only three guys who played ten major league seasons, and 13 more with five seasons.  No Hall of Famers, of coruse.  Looks like we may not have much to work with here.

Lineup:
1 Charlie Gelbert, SS
2 Bob Nieman, LF
3 Johnny Frederick, CF
4 Rick Schu, 3B
5 Andres Torres, RF
6 Jeff Branson, 2B
7 Rip Russell, 1B
8 Tubby Spencer, C

Bench:  Esteban German, IF; Hick Cady, C; Bob Uecker, C; Jemile Weeks, 2B; Ben Koehler, OF.

Rotation:
1 George Blaeholder
2 Kaiser Wilhelm
3 Tim Pugh
4 Ryan Rowland-Smith

Bullpen:  Brandon Medders, Dick Mauni, Hector Noesi, Eli Cates.

Yes, not much here.  This team would have some trouble even in the minors.


Friday, March 08, 2013
 
This one could be very bad.  Three players with ten years, and a high of 13 years.  15 more players with five years.  Not expecting good things here.

Lineup:
1 Junior Moore, LF
2  Jose Macias, 3B
3 Danny Richardson, 2B
4 Ed Goodson, 1B
5 Les Nunnamaker, C
6 Gary Holman, RF
7 Mel Roach, CF
8 Ted Kazanski, SS

Bench: Yip Owens, C; Juan Castillo, IF;

Rotation:
1 Vern Ruhle
2 Wally Bunker
3 Fred Glade
4 Brian Holman

Bullpen:  Derrick Turnbow, Dale Mohorcic, Balor Moore, Ed Head, Dan Serafini.

Very not pretty.  Richardson the only decent player in the lineup, just a couple of pretty good pitchers.


 
The January 24 birthday team is another one that looks a bit thin.  Six guys with ten years, fourteen more with five, no Hall of Famers.  We might have a rough go here.

Lineup:
1 Johnny Dickshot, LF
2 Cliff Heathcoate, RF
3 Wally Judnich, CF
4 Dave Brain, 3B
5 Buck Congalton, SS
6 Pinch Thomas, C
7 Neal Finn, SS
8 Earle Gardner, 2B

Bench:  Ted Cox, 3B; Sandy Valdespino, OF; Andy Dirks, OF.

Rotation:
1 Flint Rhem
2 Scott Kazmir
3 Atlee Hammaker
4 Dick Stigman

Bullpen:  Neil Allen, Rob Dibble, Tim Stoddard, Jim Lindsey, Franklin Morales, Curly Ogden.

No much here, but any team with Johnny Dickshot isn't a total loss.


Thursday, March 07, 2013
 
The January 23rd birthday team has ten guys with ten years in the majors, and twelve more with five years.  No Hall of Famers.  Let's see how this shapes up.

Lineup:
1 Sam Jethroe, CF
2 Chico Carrasquel, SS
3 Erubiel Durazo, 1B
4 Charlie Spikes, RF
5 Wily Mo Pena, LF
6 Kurt Bevacqua, 3B
7 Bill Regan, 2B
8 Benny DiStefano, C

Bench:  Joey Amalfitano, IF; Rip Cannell, OF; Jack Saltzgaver, IF; Garry Hancock, OF; Johnny Sturm, 1B;

Rotation:
1 Red Donahue
2 Frank Sullivan
3 Randy Gumpert
4 Jeff Samardzija

Bullpen:  Mark Wohlers, Alan Embree, Don Nottebart, Bobby Burke, Juan Rincon.

Decent lineup, but not much pitching and a thin bench.  Not much catching either.


Saturday, March 02, 2013
 
The January 22 birthday team does not look promising;  no Hall of Famers, only five players with ten major league years, just ten more with five.  I am not optimistic here.

Lineup:
1 Chone Figgins, 3B
2 Amos Strunk, CF
3 Leon Roberts, LF
4 Carlos Ruiz, C
5 Jeff Treadway, 2B
6 Wayne Kirby, RF
7 Bobby Young, 1B
8 Irv Ray, SS

Bench: Ira Thomas, C; Bill O'Neill, OF.

Rotation:
1 Mike Caldwell
2 Ubaldo Jiminez
3 Jim Hughes
4 Jimmy Anderson

Bullpen:   Dave Leonhard, Diomedes Olivo, John Milligan, Josh Spence.

Yep, not so much.  A couple of decent players, but an awful lot of replacement-level guys.  This club isn't going anywhere.


 
The January 21 birthday team has no Hall of Famers, but eleven players with ten or more years in the majors and eleven more with five years.  Let's take a look:

Lineup:
1 Lew Fonseca, 1B
2 Danny O'Connell, 2B
3 Rusty Greer, LF
4 Mike Tiernan, RF
5 Sam Mele, CF
6 Bill Stein, 3B
7 Johnny Oates, C
8 Jose Uribe, SS

Bench: Darryl Motley, OF; Emil Batch, 3B; Benny Meyer, OF.

Rotation:
1 Mike Krukow
2 Andy Hawkins
3 Mike Smithson
4 Joe Benz

Bullpen:  David Smith, Bob Reynolds, Blix Donnelly, Chris Hammond, Alan Benes.

Not a bad team, but not much hitting depth.  A lot of pitchers, though no stars.  Probably a contender and maybe a winner in a good year.


Thursday, February 21, 2013
 
The January 20 birthday team has no Hall of Famers, but seven guys with ten years in the majors and 14 more with five years, so we have some players to work with here.

Lineup:
1 David Eckstein, 2B
2 Marvin Benard, CF
3 Brian Giles, LF
4 Geovany Soto, C
5 Earl Smith, RF
6 Gene Stephens, 1B
7 Jimmy Outlaw, 3B
8 Ozzie Guillen, SS

Bench: Ernie Courtney, 3B-1B; Everett Mills, 1B; Denny Sothern, OF; Kevin Maas, OF; Cecil Espy, OF.

Rotation:
1 Camilo Pascual
2 Joe Dobson
3 Dave Boswell
4 Bill James

Bullpen:  Bill Scherrer, Matt Albers, Franklyn German, Al Gould.

Not bad.  We've had better, we've had worse.  Weakest point is the bullpen.


Sunday, February 17, 2013
 
The January 19 birthday team may be our worst yet:  no Hall of Famers, the most experienced player has just 13 years, five guys reached 10, 13 more got five.  This could be rough.

Lineup:
1. Chris Stynes, 2B
2 Orlando Palmeiro, CF
3 Rip Radcliffe, LF
4 Phil Nevin, 1B
5 Chris Sabo, 3B
6 Dib Williams, SS
7 Fred Valentine, RF
8 Ed Sadowski, C

Bench: Anybody?

Rotation:
1 Jon Matlack
2 Rich Gale
3 Arlie Pond
4 Jeff Juden

Bullpen: Byung-Hyun Kim, Amaury Telemaco, Anthony Young, Ken Frailing.

Banned from this team:  Chick Gandil.

Not as bad as I had feared, though there is no depth.  A few decent people for the lineup and the staff.  There have been worse teams already.


Sunday, February 10, 2013
 
The January 18 team has six players with ten years in the majors and ten more with five years.  That's usually a sign of a lack of depth:  no Hall of Famers, also a bad sign.  Let's look closer.

Lineup:
1 Brady Anderson, LF
2 Curt Flood, CF
3 Eddie Moore, 2B
4 Mike Lieberthal, C
5 Pinky May, 3B
6 Billy Grabarkewitz, SS
7 Billy Sharp, RF
8 Brett Lawrie, 1B

Bench: Lou Koenecke, OF; Zeke Wrigley, IF; Danny Clark, IF; Charlie Eden, OF.

Rotation:
1 Scott McGregor
2 Wandy Rodriguez
3 Carl Morton
4 Michael Pineda

Bullpen: Mike Fornieles, Bill Sampien, Dave Geisel, Brian Falkenborg.

A decent team, but not a winning one.  Fair lineup, fair rotation.  Bench and bullpen are thin.


 
The January 17 birthday team has five guys with ten years in the majors and twelve guys with five years.  We may be a little short here, but the list will tell.

Lineup:
1 Hank Lieber, CF
2 Jerry Turner, LF
3 Chili Davis, RF
4 Darrell Porter, C
5 Brad Fulmer, 1B
6 Tyler Houston, 3B
7 Don Zimmer, SS
8 Denny Doyle, 2B

Bench: Harry Bay, OF; Dick Brown, C; Pete LaCock, 1B-OF; Milt Scott, 1B; Emmanuel Burriss, IF.

Rotation:
1 Lum Harris
2 Rob Bell
3 Blake Beavan
4 Jocko Thompson

Bullpen:  Mark Littell, Jeff Tabaka, Scott Mullen, Mike Malaska, Tyler Schleppers.

Not a bad lineup, but hardly any pitching.  This is the worst staff we've seen so far.


Friday, February 08, 2013
 
The January 16 team has some serious talent, with two Hall of Famers and another in the making.  11 guys with ten major league years, another 12 with five years.  This should be one of our better birthday teams.

Lineup:
1 Dave Stapleton, 2B
2 Jimmy Collins, 3B
3 Albert Pujols, 1B
4 Jack Cust, LF
5 Mark Trumbo, RF
6 Jimmy Macullar, CF
7 Art Whitney, SS
8 Marty Castillo, C

Bench: Steve Balboni, 1B; Buck Jordan, 1B-3B; Alredo Amezaga, IF-OF; Bob Ramazzotti, IF; Jo-Jo Morrissey, IF; Reid Brignac, IF.

Rotation:
1 Dizzy Dean
2 Jack McDowell
3 Erskine Mayer
4 Ferdie Schupp

Bullpen: Ron Villone, Jim Owens, Ron Herbel, Marv Goodwin, Matt Maloney.

That outfield defense is going to be horrific, and we don't truly have a catcher.  Castillo does have at least a little experience.  The pitching is all right and there's offense, but I am not confident about catching the ball.


 
For the January 15 birthday boys, no Hall of Famers (though there's one guy I think should be), six guys with ten big-league years, 13 more with five years.  Let's take a closer look:

Lineup:
1 Delino DeShields, 2B
2 Ray Chapman, 3B
3 Bobby Grich, SS
4 Matt Holliday, LF
5  Tony Solita, 1B
6 Johnny Rucker, RF
7 Tom Oliver, CF
8 Jerry Narron, C

Bench:  Rance Mulliniks, IF; Dick Culler, IF; Luis Alvarado, IF; Mike Mansell, OF.

Rotation:
1 Steve Gromek
2 Jock Menefee
3 Joe Genewich
4 Armando Galarraga

Bullpen:  Mike Marshall, Wayne Gomes, Ray King, Grover Lowdermilk.

Some good hitters in the lineup, but not much depth.  With three middle infielders, one has to play third.  The rotation isn't much.  This team would not win many games, I'm afraid.


Tuesday, February 05, 2013
 
The Jan. 14 team doesn't look very impressive:  no Hall of Famers, just four guys with ten major league years, twelve more with five years.  Let's look closer:

Lineup:
1 Derrel Thomas, 3B
2 Erick Aybar, SS
3 Wayne Gross, 1B
4 Smead Jolley, LF
5 Russ Scarritt, RF
6 Dave Marshall, CF
7 Pete Daley, C
8 Dave Campbell, 2B

Bench: Paddy Livingston, C; Ron Clark, IF; Logan Forsythe, IF.

Rotation:
1 Sonny Siebert
2 Mike Pelfrey
3 Steve Cooke
4 Curry Foley

Bullpen: Terry Forster, Art Decatur, Hank Gornicki.

Ouch.  Pretty rough group.


 
Looking over the January 13 birthday boys, there are no Hall of Famers, five guys with ten major league seasons, and ten more with five seasons.  This will not be one of our better teams.

Lineup:
1 Bama Rowell, 2B
2  Steve Mesner, 3B
3 Fred Schulte, RF
4 Kevin Mitchell, LF
5 Billy Jo Robidoux, CF
6 Orlando Miller, 1B
7 Ron Brand, C
8 Mike Tyson, SS

Bench: Goat Anderson, IF-OF; Mike Milosivitch, IF; Jud Smith, IF-OF.

Rotation:
1 Bob Forsch
2 Elmer Dessens
3 Larry Jaster
4 Kevin Foster

Bullpen: Akinori Otsuka, Steve Comer, Odell Jones, Les Cain, Bob Galasso.

Yeah, not much of a team, even though I did see Odell Jones throw a one-hitter in triple-A once.  Couple of good hitters, Forsch is a good pitcher, but not much to work with here.


Saturday, February 02, 2013
 
The January 12 team looks a little thin on top talent.  No Hall of Famers, no one with more than twelve years of major league experience.  Seven with at least ten years, and 21 more with five years, so it's deep but not wide.

Lineup:
1 Ed Swartwood, CF
2 Bobby Crosby, SS
3 Henry Larkin, LF
4 Joe Hauser, 1B
5 Mike Marshall, RF
6 Tim Hulett, 2B
7 Casey Candaele, 3B
8 Admiral Schlei, C

Bench: George Browne, OF; Andy Fox, IF; Terry Whitfield, OF; Juan Bonilla, IF; Tom Kinslow, C; Ed Stevens, 1B.

Rotation:
1 Randy Jones
2 Togie Pittinger
3 Dontrelle Willis
4 Nat Hudson

Bullpen: Chris Ray, Rich Loiselle, Luis Ayala, Dan Daub, Ivan Nova.

Looks like a team that would win some 1930s minor league pennants.  Hauser and Candaele, in fact, were minor league stars.


 
The January 11 team has two Hall of Famers, a total of eight players with ten years in the majors, and ten more with five years.  We'll have some good front-line talent but perhaps a lack of depth.  Let's take a look:

Lineup:
1 Max Carey, CF
2 George Pinckney, 3B
3 Elmer Flick, RF
4 Lloyd McClendon, C
5 Warren Morris, 2B
6 Jermaine Allensworth, LF
7 Roy Hughes, 1B
8 Rey Ordonez, SS

Bench: Neil Berry, IF; Dan Norman, OF.

Rotation:
1 Silver King
2 Schoolboy Rowe
3 General Crowder
4 Harry McIntire

Bullpen: Don Mossi, Jim McAndrew, Donn Pall, Ed Murphy.

Some front-line talent, but very thin.  Afraid this team wouldn't win a lot of games, and would struggle to reach .500.


Thursday, January 31, 2013
 
The birthday team of January 10 has two Hall of Famers, but one of them is a "contributor" more than a player.  Seven guys with ten years and twelve more with five years so there's not a lot of depth.  Let's take a look:

Lineup:
1 Chick Stahl, CF
2 Adam Kennedy, 2B
3 Del Pratt, 3B
4 Willie McCovey, 1B
5 George Wright, RF
6 Jim Lindeman, LF
7 George Strickland, SS
8 Johnny Peacock, C

Bench: Jack Dittmer, IF; Jack O'Neill, C; Tom Dolan, C-OF; Mario Diaz, IF.

Rotation:
1 Jim O'Toole
2 Rich Dotson
3 Chuck Dobson
4 Cliff Chambers

Bullpen:  Ted Bowsfield, George Pierce, Milt Watson, Rick Bauer, Larry Hardy.

A great cleanup hitter, a decent starting rotation, but not much depth.


Sunday, January 27, 2013
 
This doesn't shape up as the best of birthdays for baseball players:  no Hall of Famers, just five guys with ten major league years, and just nine more guys with five.  Nobody has 100 homers, only one guy with 100 wins and that's just 107.  Take a look:

Lineup:
1 Otis Nixon, CF
2 Stan Javier, LF
3 Joe Wallis, RF
4 Phil Mankowski, 3B
5 Brandon Boggs, 1B
6 Ivan DeJesus, SS
7 Jack Bliss, C
8 Pat Rockett, 2B

Bench: Ferrell Anderson, C

Rotation:
1 Ralph Terry
2 Harley Payne
3 Ken Cloude
4 Dave Keefe

Bullpen:  Jay Powell, T.J. Mathews, Tony Pena, Bob Duliba, Kiko Calero, Julio Navarro.

Yep, not a scary team at all.  Good speed, the outfield defense will be strong, and a pretty good bullpen, but no power and lousy starting pitching.  This group would have trouble winning a triple-A pennant.


Saturday, January 26, 2013
 
The January 8 team has one Hall of Famer, but it's Bruce Sutter, perhaps the worst HOFer.  Ten guys with ten years, 13 more with five.  Let's see what we've got:

Lineup:
1 Mike Cameron, CF
2 Randy Ready, 2B
3 Jason Giambi, 1B
4 Walker Cooper, C
5 Gene Freese, 3B
6 Jeff Francouer, RF
7 Jim Busby, LF
8 Reno Bertoia, SS

Bench: Willie Tasby, OF; Brian Johnson, C; Jim Donahue, C-OF;  Marv Rickert, 1B-OF; Wilbur Howard, OF; Matt LaPorta, 1B.

Cameron, Giambi, and Cooper are three very good players.  The outfield defense would be terrific.  It's not a bad lineup.

Rotation
1 Carl Pavano
2 Jeff Francis
3 Geremi Gonzalez
4 Chauncey Fisher

Bullpen:  Bruce Sutter, Brian Boehringer, Dick Kelley, James Russell.

Not much pitching, though.  Don't think you'd win a lot of games with this rotation, even with the killer closer.


 
The team of 1/7 births includes one Hall of Famer, 13 with ten years' service, and 21 more with five years.  Lots of depth on this club.

Lineup:
1 Al Dark, SS
2 Kevin Mench, LF
3 Johnny Mize, 1B
4 Alfonso Soriano, CF
5 Edwin Encarnacion, 3B
6 Tony Conigliaro, RF
7 Jim Lefebvre, 2B
8 Al Todd, C

Bench: Dick Schofield, IF; Kitty Bransfield, 1B; Craig Shipley, IF; Brayan Pena, C; Joe Keough, OF.

That's a decent lineup, certainly one that could win a pennant.  Some real power here.

Rotation:
1 Jon Lester
2 Ross Grimsley
3 Allan Anderson
4 Jim Hannan

Bullpen:  Jeff Montgomery, Francisco ("K-Rod") Rodriguez, Eric Gagne, Dad Clarke, Jhoulys Chacin.
Not a great rotation, though plenty of lefties, but a very deep bullpen.


Friday, January 25, 2013
 
The birthday team for January 6 has one Hall of Famer, nine players with at least ten years of major league service, and twelve more with five years.  It shapes up like this:

Lineup:
1 Lenny Green, CF
2 George Shoch, LF
3 Lee Walls, 1B
4 Phil Masi, C
5 Marlon Anderson, 2B
6 Chuck Workman, RF
7 Joe Sullivan, 3B
8 Ruben Amaro, SS

Terrible lineup:  good thing the starting pitching is good or they'd never win a game.

Rotation:
Early Wynn
Don Gullett
Ralph Branca
Joe Lake

Bullpen:
Norm Charlton
Casey Fossum
Tom Ferrick
Jose de Jesus
George Grant


Tuesday, January 22, 2013
 
The team with birthdays on January 5th:  No Hall of Famers born this day, but a lot to work with anyway.  17 guys with at least ten big league seasons, eleven more with five.  No problems filling slots here.

Lineup:
1 Milt Thompson, LF
2 Bill Dahlen, SS
3 Riggs Stephenson, RF
4 Benny Kauff, CF
5 Ron Kittle, 1B
6 Art Fletcher, 3B
7 Jim Gantner, 2B
8 Luke Sewell, C

Cheating a little putting Kittle at 1B, but it gets us another power bat.  Not a great lineup, but a decent bunch of hitters.  This is a birthday team that could actually win a pennant if all the players were at least near their primes.

Bench: Bob Dernier, OF; Henry Cotto, OF; Earl Battey, C; Bill Hunnefield, IF; Joe Grace, OF; Fred Marsh, IF; John Russell, C.

Actually got some depth on this squad.

Rotation:
1 Bob Caruthers
2 Charlie Hough
3 Danny Jackson
4 Jack Kramer

That's a pretty good rotation.  You could win a pennant with that rotation.  And, if you needed a fifth guy, the first two relievers could fill the slot.

Bullpen:
Jeff Fassero
Mark Redman
Rube Foster
Chris Nabholz
Tom Kelley

Not super-talented, but usable pitchers.


Sunday, January 20, 2013
 
January 4, like the third, is a quantity not quality day.  Seven players had ten years in the majors, twelve more had five.  Again, no Hall of Famers.

Lineup
1 Alex Metzler, LF
2 Darryl Boston, CF
3 George Selkirk, RF
4 Al Bridwell, 3B
5 Ossie Vitt, 1B
6 Tito Fuentes, 2B
7 Tommy Corcoran, SS
8 Herman Franks, C

Bench: Blondy Ryan IF, Scott Sizemore IF, Jason Bourgeous OF.

Rotation
1 Ted Lilly
2 Jay Tibbs
3 Bob Spade
4 Ken Reynolds

Bullpen
Don McMahon
Tom Gorman
Paul Gibson
Kevin Wickander

Again, a minor league pennant winner.  Not a great team in the majors.  Did manage to fill every position.


 
The January 3 birthday team has few stars, and no Hall of Famers, but nine players with ten or more years and ten more with five years.  Quantity more than quality.

Lineup
1 Frenchy Bordagaray, CF
2 Buzz Arlett, LF
3 Gus Suhr, 1B
4 Darren Daulton, C
5 Bill Cissell, 3B
6 Barney Gilligan, RF
7 Luis Sojo, 2B
8 Luis Rivera, SS

Bench: Virgil Stallcup IF, Roy Brashear 1B-OF, Ed Sauer OF

Rotation
1 AJ Burnett
2 Sid Hudson
3 Cliff Melton
4 Bart Johnson

Bullpen
Gary Lavelle
Mark Dewey
Russ Swan
Brian Allard

Looks like a team that won a minor league pennant in the 1920s.


 
The team of birthday boys from Jan. 2 has no Hall of Famers, but several good players, including a number of recent vintage.  Nine played at least ten years in the majors, and seven more at least five.

Lineup
1 Royce Clayton, SS
2 Bill Madlock, 2B
3 Edgar Martinez, LF
4 Red Kress, 1B
5 Pinky Whitney, 3B
6 Jim Essian, C
7 Merlin Kopp, RF
8 George Jackson, CF

A lot of infielders and a decent catcher, but not really any infielders.  Putting Edgar in the OF is stretching it, but there isn't anyone else:  Kopp and Jackson, the others listed, barely played at all.  Madlock, Kress, and Whitney were all mostly third basemen, and Edgar was that mostly before becoming a DH.  Sadly, this isn't the sort of grouping where you can make trades.

Bench:  Ryan Garko, 1B; Sam Crane, IF; Ted Gullic, IF.

Staff
Starters:
1 David Cone
2. Jeff Suppan
3. Greg Swindell
4. Garrett Stephenson

Bullpen:
Scott Proctor
George Boehler
Bobby Reis

That's three starting pitchers with at least 100 wins, a pretty good group.  Not much after that.


 
All-star teams by birthdays:  today, the team of players born on the initial day of the year, January 1.

Two Hall of Famers, Hank Greenberg and Tim Keefe, share this birthday.  Nine players who played ten years in the majors share a Jan. 1 birthday, and seven more with at least five years.  This team is a pretty good one on the birthday scale.

Lineup:
1 Ethan Allen, CF
2 Hugh Nicol, RF
3 Earl Torgeson, 1B
4 Hank Greenberg, LF
5 Fernando Tatis, 3B
6 Sherry Robertson, 2B
7 Tom Downey, SS
8 Dave Zearfoss, C

Not bad in the OF and corner infield, but we're stretching in the middle infield and Zearfoss is a reach as a catcher.  Those first five guys aren't bad, though.  Might lead off Nicol, who was very fast, but he wasn't that good at getting on base.

Bench:  Hack Miller and Lynn Jones, OF; Foster Castleman, IF

Staff:
Tim Keefe
Lamarr Hoyt
Ned Garvin (the earlier one)
Carl Schieb
Bob Owchinko

It's Keefe, who won over 300, and nobody else who won 100 games in the majors, although Hoyt did win a Cy Young (that he didn't really deserve).  Schieb and Owchinko were both used more as relievers, but there's not a lot of depth here.  They would start over the other guys.

This team would score some runs, and would be OK on the mound part of the time, but defense would be a problem.


Saturday, September 10, 2011
 
Top ten third basemen of all time:
1. Mike Schmidt
2. Eddie Mathews
3. Wade Boggs
4. George Brett
5. Brooks Robinson
6. Ron Santo
7. Chipper Jones
8. Frank "Home Run" Baker
9. Scott Rolen
10. Graig Nettles
Honorable Mention: Sal Bando, Darrell Evans, Ken Boyer.


 
Book Review: The Big Show: Charles M. Conlon's Golden Age Baseball Photographs. Published 2011 by Abrams.

It's a picture book: well, more accurately, it's a photography book. Conlon was a newspaper proofreader who dabbled in photography as a hobby, when one day the editor of the New York Telegram asked him to take some shots of baseball games and players, to be published in the newspaper and in the annual Spalding's Guides. What followed was a career that lasted from 1904 to 1942 and produced the most memorable collection of photographs in baseball history.

Many of Conlon's photos were printed in the 1993 book Baseball's Golden Age, but this is a different selection, though by the same authors. Constance McCabe has prepared the photos for publication, and brother Neal McCabe provides the captions. Roger Kahn writes the foreword, as Roger Angell did for the first book.

The photographs are often stark and frequently stunning. Each takes up the better part of a page, with the captioning to the side. The black-and-whites are stunningly reproduced. Most are posed shots, but there are some action pics, and I find those the most compelling. A good photograph reveals much about the subject. That often seems the case here.

In these pages you will find pictures of the well-knowns, like Babe Ruth, Joe DiMaggio, and Rogers Hornsby, and those you have likely never heard of before, like Buddy Gremp, Al Spohrer, and Jackie Hayes. Most are players, but there are also umpires, managers, and a traffic control officer at a Yankees game. You will find Kid Nichols at the end of his career, Amos Rusie in a picture from after his career had ended, and DiMaggio as a rookie.

One of my favorite parts of the book is how the subjects on facing pages often complement each other. Several times we get a set like on pages 66 and 67, one of a young Hank Gowdy in 1911, the other of a veteran Gowdy in 1936 as a coach. We also get sets of Vince DiMaggio and brother Joe on facing pages, both from 1937. There's Herb Pennock in 1916 facing a Pennock from 1934. And, another favorite, the Bob Feller of 1937 across from the Walter Johnson of 1916. Sheer joy.

The captions convey myth more than information. The story of the invention of catcher shin guards by Roger Bresnahan is repeated with his photograph, even though it is provably false. Still, the book is more about myth than truth, and imagery over cold hard fact. It is a spectacular collection of photographs from a century past. I think you will enjoy it.

Disclaimer: I received a free review copy of this book, and thus did not pay for it. The list price is $35, but it is available from various retailers such as amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com, walmart.com, and others for about $10 less.


Friday, July 29, 2011
 
Another list, this time the top ten catchers of all time:

1. Johnny Bench
2. Yogi Berra
3. Gary Carter
4. Ivan Rodriguez
5. Mike Piazza
6. Bill Dickey
7. Carlton Fisk
8. Joe Torre
9. Roy Campanella
10. Ted Simmons
*11. Mickey Cochrane


Thursday, July 14, 2011
 
With a nod to Derek Jeter getting his 3000th hit, the top ten shortstops in baseball history (through 2010).

1. Honus Wagner
2. Alex Rodriguez
3. Cal Ripken
4. Arky Vaughan
5. Ernie Banks
6. Pee Wee Reese
7. Luke Appling
8. Joe Cronin
9. Lou Boudreau
10. George Davis

Jeter's defense is what holds him back on this list: he comes in at #13. He could move up, but this year's performance so far does not bode well for that.


 
That completes a top 250: next we will look at some lists of top by position.


 
Number 250: Stan Hack.

Hack was a .300 hitter with walks, a leadoff man, a bit unusual for third basemen. A lifelong Cub, Hack joined the team in 1932 at age 22 as a part-timer. Woody English was the regular in those days, but Hack played some, pinch-hit, and even appeared briefly in that October's World Series. He played less in 1933, but became the regular in 1934 and pushed English to the background. He started on the 1935, 1938, and 1945 pennant teams, and scored 100 runs in six consecutive seasons.

Hack led the league in hits twice and stolen bases twice, and received support for the MVP award in eight different seasons. He has never gotten much Hall of Fame consideration, because leadoff men get overlooked with the overemphasis on the RBI column. But he was a good one.

Hack earned 132.43 ratings points.

Hack's stats: .301 average, 2193 hits, 1239 runs, .394 on-base.


 
Number 249: Kevin Appier.

He never won 20 games in a season, so it doesn't seem he should be this good. However, he pitched for a lot of bad teams in Kansas City, not going elsewhere until he was in his thirties. He also pitched quite well for a number of years. Pitchers are affected by the players around them more than any other players, so sometimes you get the good pitcher masked by the poor team.

Appier reached 200 innings eight times, and 180 three other times. He was durable and effective. The Royals' 1987 1st round draft pick delivered performance year after year.

Appier earned 132.57 ratings points.

Appier's stats: 169-137 record, 3.74 ERA, 121 ERA+.


 
Number 248: Hack Wilson.

With only twelve years in the major leagues, and only nine of those with 100 games played, Wilson owes his Hall of Fame election to peak value. He led the league in home runs four times and RBI twice, and put together a 1930 season that remains one of the most remarkable of all time. His 56 homers stood as a National League record for years, and his 191 RBI remain the single-season standard. The feat is tainted somewhat by its happening in the offensive peak of its time, but is nonetheless impressive.

Wilson was a short, stocky fellow who moved surprisingly well and played a solid center field in his prime. That prime was shorter than it could have been. His .319 average in two World Series is a plus, though.

Wilson earned 132.68 ratings points.

Wilson's stats: .307 average, 244 HR, 144 OPS+.


 
Number 247: Don Sutton.

Sutton pitched most of his career for the Los Angeles Dodgers. He was signed by the Dodgers in the pre-draft days of 1964, and was in the rotation of the 1966 NL champs, Sandy Koufax's last year. Sutton was 12-12 but ably filled a rotation spot, then was suddenly thrust into a leading role when Koufax and later Drysdale retired. Sutton was about an average pitcher through 1971, when he hit his prime at age 26 and went 17-12 with a 2.54 ERA. He won 19 in 1972, with a 2.08 ERA in arguably his best year. Sutton continued to anchor the Dodgers' rotation, as part of the 1974, 1977 and 1978 pennant winners. He got his only 20-win season in 1976, with 21 victories. That year was his best showing in the Cy Young voting, at third. He led the league in ERA in 1980, then left the Dodgers as a free agent and went to Houston.

Sutton pitched well in 1981 and started 1982 well, but went to Milwaukee at the end of August for three minor leaguers to champion the Brewers' pennant drive. Sutton went 4-1 down the stretch to help lift the Brewers to the postseason, then to the brink of World Series victory. He slumped in 1983, was better in 1984, and then was traded to the A's after the season. He went to the Angels for the 1985 stretch run, and pitched for them in the 1986 ALCS. He was released by the Angels after 1987, and then picked up by the Dodgers after 1988 but was finished, going 3-6. He was released in August.

Sutton was never spectacular, but he was reliable, taking his turn time after time. He rarely missed a start, and was never injured for an extended period. Blessed with one of those reliable arms, Sutton steadied many a rotation in his career, and was in great demand as a veteran influence up to the end of his career at age 43. His career ERA+ was only 106, but that was lowered partly by hanging on as that "proven veteran."

Sutton earned 132.69 ratings points.

Sutton's stats: 324-256 record, 3.26 ERA, 3574 K, 58 shutouts.


 
Number 246: Jim Rice.

South Carolina native Jim Ed Rice spent all sixteen years of his major league career with the Boston Red Sox. He led the league in homers three times, RBI twice, won the 1978 MVP award and finished in the top five of voting six times. He was productive and obviously well-respected by people around the game.

His election to the Hall of Fame was opposed by a vocal minority, who pointed to mediocre defense, a poor batting record in road games, and a lack of overwhelming statistical evidence. Nonetheless, he did gain election, and certainly qualifies on the fame issue.

Rice earned 132.75 ratings points.

Rice's stats: .298 average, 382 HR, 1451 RBI, 128 OPS+.


Sunday, July 10, 2011
 
Number 245: Bob Elliott.

Elliott began his career as a right fielder but ended up spending most of it at third base. He started out in Pittsburgh with the Pirates, then was dealt to Boston at the end of 1946. He won the 1947 NL MVP, followed by the Braves winning a surprise 1948 NL pennant. That was his only World Series, but Elliot was a solid power hitter and a pretty good third baseman. The San Diego native was on seven All-Star teams. He drove in at least 100 runs in six seasons. Elliott carried a rep as a clutch hitter and an RBI man.

Elliott earned 132.9 ratings points.

Elliott's stats: .289 average, 2061 hits, 382 doubles, 1195 RBI.


 
Number 244: Jack Stivetts.

Stivetts was a 19th century pitcher who was a major leaguer for just eleven years. Pitchers threw out their arms pretty quickly in those days. He was an above-average pitcher and hitter, and that moves him up the list.

Stivetts led the league in ERA in 1889, his first year as a major leaguer. He pitched over 400 innings each of the next three years, then pitched some more as a regular starter with ERAs that were not impressive, but still better than normal for the era. He spent his career with St. Louis and Boston, with a few games in Cleveland.

Stivetts earned 133.11 ratings points.

Stivetts's stats: 203-132, 120 ERA+, .298 average, 106 OPS+


Friday, February 25, 2011
 
You may notice some changes: I have converted the rating system to WAR, Fangraphs version, from WARP of Baseball Prospectus. WARP kept changing, apparently due to whim, and WAR has the current cache'. So, I bowed to pressure.

The trouble is, Fangraphs does not have WAR for pitchers posted past the 1970s. So, WAR from then back comes from Baseball-reference.com, and is somewhat different. I am a bit disturbed by the differences, but not enough to worry about. While these rankings are written implying confidence, this system is subject to prejudices like any other.

But what fun is not being sure? So, we will charge ahead, using the system with what I hope if a minimum of my own prejudices. Remember to keep in mind, this is just for fun. It's only baseball. Only, that is, the greatest game in the world.


Tuesday, November 23, 2010
 
50 Best Non-Hall of Famers.

Hi, folks, it's been awhile. I've been working on re-doing my rankings list, which has been slow going. I got frustrated with the Baseball Prospectus WARP system, decided to switch to WAR, and ran into complications with the different versions of that. I concluded that the Fangraphs version was better than the one used by Baseball Reference.com, but it is less user-friendly and does not have numbers for 19th century and early 20th century pitchers. Such is the life of the researchers.

At any rate, I am writing again because someone has posed a question that is right in the wheelhouse of a blog like this: the 50 best non-Hall of Famers. Colleague Graham Womack of the blog Baseball: Past and Present poses the question, and well, it's too interesting not to respond. So, here goes.

1. Jeff Bagwell. Bagwell becomes eligible this year. His MVP year, 1994, was interrupted by a strike/lockout. He was excellent for many years, but that was his only year of really standing out. Not sure how writers will react to that.

2. Ron Santo. Our first pick that gets to the heart of this balloting. In a 15-year career, Santo never won an MVP or played in the postseason, and got overlooked. He also played in an era which decreased offense, holding down his stats, though he played in Wrigley Field, a hitters' park. He led the league in walks four times and on-base average twice, not stats that were monitored closely when he played. He was an excellent defensive player, and won five Gold Gloves. Santo finished fourth in the 1967 MVP vote, a year he really should have won, but the Cubs were just third. He is one of the Hall's great injustices.

3. Albert Pujols. Still active.

4. Pete Rose. Rose, of course, is not eligible for the Hall: he is suspended from the game due to gambling on it. Rose has lobbied to be reinstated, but whether his behavior warrants it, or whether writers would vote for him even if he was, is open to question. What is not questioned is his greatness. Based on the numbers, he is certainly a Hall of Famer.

5. Tim Raines. Another of the Hall's great injustices, Raines was never appreciated by the members of the BBWAA. He should have won two or three MVP awards during his career, but never finished higher than fifth in the voting. In three ballots, he has drawn only lukewarm Hall support. This is a guy who should be an obvious Hall of Famer, but his skills as a premier leadoff man are not widely appreciated.

6. Roberto Alomar. Alomar figures to make the Hall this year after falling just short last year, but he faces the same problems as Raines: he was not as valued by the writers as his actual value on the field. Alomar also could easily have won an MVP, but never did. Strong defensive players with a broad range of offensive skills, or in other words good all-around players, are the most often overlooked in MVP and Hall voting. The same is true for Santo, and for many other overlooked players on this list.

7. Bert Blyleven. Eminently deserving.

8. Rafael Palmeiro. Eligible for the first time this year, steroids will likely keep him out of the Hall.

9. Mark McGwire. Sort of the poster boy for steroids, at least as the Hall goes.

10. Will Clark. Yes, he fits that strong defense, good all-around hitter that writers say they like, but don't vote for when the chips are down. Clark spent most of his career in pitchers' parks, holding down his overall stats, but he was excellent.

11. Bobby Grich. Grich is the epitome of the terrific player who cannot win a vote like this. His batting averages were never very high, but he was a tremendous defender, drew lots of walks, hit for good power, and "played the game the right way." But, with a .266 career batting average, he will never get into the Hall.

12. Alan Trammell. Another of the Hall's great oversights, and for the same reason as the others. Some Veteran's Committee someday may correct some of these, but I won't hold my breath.

13. Dick Allen. An often disagreeable sort, and Bill James has gone to great lengths to point out why he doesn't belong. Others have had a go at refuting James, however, and at this point I am an agnostic.

14. Barry Larkin. Falls into that same category of overlooked players, but based on his vote total from last year he will eventually make it into the Hall.

15. Albert Belle. Want to talk about feared hitters? Here's a feared hitter. Belle also wasn't bad defensively, at least when he was younger. His career was cut short but he was terrific: he deserved the 1995 AL MVP over Mo Vaughn.

16. Charlie Bennett. My first 19th century player listing. Bennett would be a tough choice, as he did not have even 1000 career hits, but it was a different game then. Bennett was a catcher back when catchers did not have equipment like shin guards and face masks, and catching was a tough business. Catchers didn't play every day then. Bennett was a great, and so beloved in Detroit they ended up naming the ballpark after him. He threw out the first pitch of the season in Detroit when the American League returned a franchise to the city, every year until he died.

17. Edgar Martinez. Tough as it will be to elect a player who was almost exclusively a DH for much of his career, they already elected Paul Molitor.

18. Keith Hernandez. As obnoxious as I find him on commercials, he was one of those good hitters/excellent defenders that we find overlooked here.

19. Deacon White. Another 19th century guy, he goes back to the very beginning of organized leagues. White was largely a catcher, but they also played him at third base and the outfield to keep him in the lineup. His nickname (given name was James) indicates the high regard for his character.

20. Dwight Evans. Yes, excellent defense, strong hitter. Robbed of the 1981 AL MVP, a common theme here.

21. John Olerud. A player in the Hernandez mode, a Gold Glove level, batting champion first baseman. Olerud also had good power, and should have won the 1993 AL MVP.

22. Bucky Walters. He did not reach 200 career victories, but had the period of dominance that usually propels such pitchers into the Hall, with his 49 wins in 1939-40 and the 1939 NL MVP. It didn't work for him like it did Dean and Koufax, however.

23. Kevin Brown. He goes on the ballot this year, but won't draw much interest. His 211 wins and lack of a Cy Young won't help, though he easily could have won multiple Cys, especially in 1996 and 1998, and was the ace for two unlikely World Series teams, the 1997 Marlins and 1999 Padres.

24. Bill Dahlen. A turn of the century (19th/20th) shortstop who was excellent defensively and a good hitter. Yes, just the type.

25. Joe Torre. A borderline HOFer as a player, he will eventually get in as a manager with his Yankee rings. He was a mediocre defensive catcher, but a fine hitter.

26. George Gore. A 19th century outfielder with a .301 career average, it's a surprise the early Hall voters missed him. Then again, early stats were spotty until the Baseball Encyclopedia project came out in 1969.

27. Jim Wynn. A short outfielder with speed and excellent power, plus good defense, whose stats were held down by playing in the cavernous Astrodome in the 1960s, then Dodger Stadium in the 1970s. He looks terrific with neutralized stats.

28. Robin Ventura. Sort of a Ron Santo-lite, Ventura was excellent defensively and a middle-of-the-order hitter. He would help balance the lack of third basemen in the Hall.

29. Ken Boyer. Another excellent defensive third baseman who could hit. He did win an MVP, but it hasn't helped his Hall candidacy.

30. David Cone. The kind of solid pitcher honored many times by the Hall, but not recently.

31. Bernie Williams. To me, the image of the Yankees of the 1990s and the key to their success. I know the shortstop gets the attention, but I think it was about Bernie. This is a fudge, because he won't be eligible until next balloting cycle, but I think he will be overlooked.

32. Ned Garver. A quirky pick, as he had a losing record for his career, but that was due to playing for terrible teams like the St. Louis Browns and Kansas City A's. In 1951, when he won 20 for the Browns, he was the best pitcher in the league.

33. Paul Hines. A 19th century outfielder, he was the NL's best player in 1878 and 1879.

34. Ted Simmons. A good hitter who was average defensively, but was valuable because he could catch. He lost value in the second half of his career, when managers stopped using him at catcher.

35. Heinie Groh. An overlooked early-20th century player, he was a third baseman who would play second base (or maybe shortstop) in today's game. A little guy who was excellent defensively and a good hitter, he was the NL's best player in 1917 and 1918.

36. Cesar Cedeno. Got off to such a good start at a young age that people were disappointed he didn't turn into Willie Mays. He still had a good career, but people felt it wasn't quite good enough, somehow.

37. Matt Williams. Another strong defensive third baseman, he had excellent power though not very good on-base skills.

38. Lance Parrish. A symbol of the difficulty of evaluating catcher defense. He had a strong arm, but was very big and not exceptionally mobile. He could hit, but evaluating him is a matter of deciding how good his defense was, and that's not easy.

39. Lou Whitaker. Like his double-play partner Trammell, Whitaker got overlooked. What is it about the 1980s Tigers?

40. Bret Saberhagen. Saberhagen was always terrific when he could pitch. Not sure why Dean and Koufax got in, but guys like this were overlooked.

41. Darrell Evans. Excellent defensive third baseman, good power, lots of walks, but a low batting average. Hall voters don't like guys like this.

42. Bob Elliott. "Mr. Team" got a 1947 MVP, but not much Hall support. Another third baseman though he also played the outfield, he got MVP votes while active but drew almost no Hall support for some reason.

43. Brett Butler. The very picture of a leadoff man, but the Hall does not like leadoff men in general (unless your name is Lloyd Waner). Another excellent defender.

44. Stan Hack. A double-whammy: a leadoff man and a third baseman. Never did draw much Hall support: not sure why he didn't, but George Kell did. Hack played for the Cubs, but did so in the 1930s when they still won pennants.

45. Shoeless Joe Jackson. I would never vote for him, but there's a case he was a good enough player. Sure, he was a bit of a patsy in that whole gambling thing, but it looms large.

46. Fred McGriff. I wonder if he will look better, or worse, as time passes. He is one of those guys Hall voters might look at down the road and say, "Hey, this guy deserves it."

47. Orel Hershiser. Had a three-year run, 1987-89, as the best pitcher in the NL. Bad luck and poor support in the bookend years made that less obvious then his terrific 1988 season.

48. Pebbly Jack Glasscock. 19th century shortstop, tremendous defender.

49. Buddy Bell. Another excellent defensive third baseman who could hit.

50. George Foster. People remember how he struggled in New York, in his mid-30s, and forget how incredible he was in Cincinnati in his prime. Again, a true feared hitter.

Whew. An interesting list, if I do say so myself. I wouldn't necessarily vote for all of these guys myself, if I had a vote, but each has a case and each is better than some players already in the Hall. The players are roughly in my ranking order, but if I did it again next week the order might be different. I'll go with this for now.