From: The Boston Globe
The drumbeat of Pedro Martinez’s Hall of Fame candidacy resounded with the same air of anticipation and inevitability that accompanied a two-strike count when he occupied his stage at Fenway Park. The opportunity to reflect on his career is as much visceral and emotional as it is statistical; to remember Martinez on the mound is to recall a spectacle rarely matched, the unusual experience in which all parties – fans, hitters, the pitcher himself – knew that greatness and artistry were transpiring.
Yet for a time, as brilliant as Martinez was, he did not stand alone in Boston atop a baseball Olympus. For a time, Martinez enjoyed a peer whose performances nearly matched the pitcher for brilliance. Yet the fact that Nomar Garciaparra once occupied the same rarefied air as Martinez is now a largely forgotten footnote to a pre-championship era in Red Sox history.
Indeed, on a day when Martinez garnered more than 91 percent of votes from eligible members of the Baseball Writers Association of America for a landslide first-ballot election, Garciaparra just barely gleaned the 5 percent of votes needed to stay on the ballot beyond his first year of eligibility. In the late-1990s, the idea that Garciaparra wouldn’t even sniff the Hall of Fame seemed unfathomable.
He was as iconic a presence in many ways as Martinez, the stands at Fenway Park blanketed in equal measure by fans wearing No. 5 and 45, a shared tribute to the pitcher with boundless self-confidence based on an unmatched pitch mix and the shortstop with a million superstitions and quirks, who winged the ball across the diamond with a signature cross-body, sidearm delivery and who displayed a preternatural ability to hit the snot out of the ball.
Garciaparra was a force like few others in the game’s history. Between 1997 and 2003 – when he amassed a Rookie of the Year trophy, finished in the top five in AL MVP voting five times (topping out at second in 1998), made five All-Star teams, won consecutive batting titles with marks of .357 and .372 in 1999 and 2000 (becoming the first righthanded hitter to win back-to-back batting titles since Joe DiMaggio) – he donned the mantle of greatness.
“From 1997 to 2003, Nomar offensively, in the batter’s box, was just a different animal than most. It screamed Hall of Famer,” said Garciaparra’s former teammate and current WEEI radio host Lou Merloni. “In 2000, I’ve never seen anyone barrel up balls on the consistent basis he did that year. That was the most legit .372 I’ve ever seen in my life.
“He would go 2-for-5 with two lineouts. It was ridiculous. As far as the barrel-up rate, it was probably more like 75 percent of the balls he hit were on the barrel. It was just preposterous what he did that year. Everybody watching him would say the same exact thing: ‘I’ve never seen a guy barrel up the ball more than him.’
“I’ve seen his bats. He’s very superstitious, but I’d see him go for a year with two or three bats. You’d pick one of them up, his gamer. The ball mark – he used brown maple – the ball mark, there wasn’t anything on the label and there wasn’t anything on the end of the bat. Everything was within probably three inches of the barrel, every single mark that the ball made on contact. You could tell he used it for about two months. … It was unbelievable.”
It was the sort of skill set that permitted Garciaparra to commune with baseball legends. Ted Williams was mesmerized by the shortstop, believing that he possessed the skills to become his successor as a .400 hitter, a player who hit for average, displayed 30-homer power and a skilled baserunner who often delivered double-digit stolen base totals.
“Nomar was a uniquely gifted player, a six-time All-Star and two-time batting champ. He followed another great righthanded hitter, Joe DiMaggio. That’s an extreme, unique combination, plus he played a skill position at shortstop,” recalled Orioles GM Dan Duquette, who occupied the same role with the Red Sox for most of Garciaparra’s big league tenure in Boston. “He had all the skills [to be a Hall of Famer]. He got to the big leagues quickly, won the Rookie of the Year, won a couple of batting titles early in his career. It was just a matter of whether he could stand the test of time.”
He couldn’t, of course. Though Garciaparra came back in startling fashion from a 2001 season lost largely to wrist surgery with a pair of All-Star campaigns in 2002 and 2003, he suffered an Achilles injury during spring training in 2004 that set in motion both the end of his Red Sox career and represented the starting point of a late-career crumble.
Still, on a day that could have marked a formal closing of Cooperstown’s doors to him, it’s worth remembering a time when it seemed like Garciaparra was going to knock on the Hall’s gates, to remember a Hall of Fame-caliber peak that lacked the requisite longevity for enshrinement.
Garciaparra had an .882 career OPS, the best of all-time by a shortstop who spent at least half his career at the game’s most demanding position with at least 5,000 career plate appearances. How good is an .882 OPS for a shortstop? It’s better than Hall of Fame shortstops Arky Vaughan (.859), Honus Wagner (.858), Joe Cronin (.857), Barry Larkin (.815), Hughie Jennings (.797), Lou Boudreau (.795),Cal Ripken (.788) and Robin Yount (.772). Derek Jeter achieved an .882 OPS in just three of his 20 seasons.
Of course, league context is important, since Garciaparra thrived during the Nintendo Numbers era. But even relative to his league, he stood out from most of the Hall of Fame pack as measured by OPS+ (OPS relative to the league average, adjusted for parks, in which a 100 OPS+ is average). Among Hall of Fame shortstops, Garciaparra ranks only behind Wagner (151 OPS+) and Vaughan (136 OPS+), well ahead of Larkin (116), Jeter (115), Yount (115), Ripken (112) and Alan Trammell (110).
The crux of Garciaparra’s irrelevance in the Hall of Fame conversation is the brevity of his stardom. He was a singular force from 1997 to 2003, but while he remained a passably productive hitter after that peak, posting a .291/.343/.446 line with a roughly league-average OPS+ of 102, he averaged just 84 games over the last six years of his career from 2004-09.
He fell off a cliff rather than enjoying a gradual decline, and ended his career with just 6,116 plate appearances. There are position players in the Hall of Fame with fewer plate appearances, but none who played after 1957 (the last season of three-time MVP Roy Campanella’s career). His 44.2 career WAR (as tabulated by Baseball-Reference.com) wouldn’t be the lowest ever by a position player with a plaque in Cooperstown, but no position player who has played since Bill Mazeroski (retired in 1972 with 36.2 WAR) has been enshrined.
Still, the cavalier dismissal of his Hall of Fame case (particularly in light of the 10-vote limit at a time when a PED-era traffic jam has created an electoral mess) belies the time when Garciaparra clearly represented one of the game’s greats, when he and Pedro represented the same sort of first-name luminaries in Boston and the game.
“I knew when I was playing against a Hall of Famer or playing with one. It was just a step above. And there’s no question that he was that,” said Merloni. “If he had two more Nomar-type years and maybe a couple more after , or three more years, I don’t think there’s a question that he’s a Hall of Fame-type of talent. There’s no question that he was a Hall of Famer in his heyday. He just wasn’t there long enough.”
The fact that his career won’t conclude in the Hall does not diminish the idea that Garciaparra enjoyed a historic start to his career. And at a time when Martinez rightly will take his bows, it’s worth remembering the teammate whose career once merited an almost-equal measure of awe, and whose not-quite-Hall-worthy career now stands as a monument to the great separator of durability and longevity.
Curt Schilling appeared on the Hall of Fame ballot for the first time a year ago with overwhelmingly strong credentials for election: The 216-game winner ranks 26th all-time in wins above replacement for pitchers (17th-highest total since the live ball era began in 1920) and 15th all-time in strikeouts, including three 300-strikeout seasons; he’s got the best strikeout-to-walk ratio of any pitcher ever (well, not counting a guy named Tommy Bond who was 5-foot-7, born in Ireland and began his career with the 1874 Brooklyn Atlantics) and three 20-win seasons; and he led the league twice in wins, twice in innings, three times in starts, four times in complete games (his 15 complete games in 1998 is the highest total in the majors since 1991), twice in strikeouts and five times in strikeout-walk ratio. Schilling never won a Cy Young Award but finished second in the voting three times.
Of course, Schilling was also one of the greatest postseason pitchers ever, going 11-2 with a 2.23 ERA in 19 starts. His October legacy includes his iconic Bloody Sock Game in Game 6 of the 2004 American League Championship Series against the Yankees, a win in the World Series that year that helped end the long suffering of Red Sox fans, plus his dominant performance throughout the 2001 postseason when he allowed six runs in six starts as the Diamondbacks won the World Series. He helped the Red Sox win another title in 2007. His career 3.46 ERA in a hitters’ era gives him an adjusted ERA equal to Tom Seaver and Bob Gibson and higher than Hall of Famers like Jim Palmer, Juan Marichal and Bob Feller.
Schilling was great, he has the advanced metrics that scream Hall of Famer, and he was an iconic figure in the game while active. What more do you need to get elected to Cooperstown?
More than 60 percent of voters didn’t check Schilling’s name on their ballot.
Then there’s the pitcher who finished with the same career adjusted ERA as Schilling. His best ERAs, all in seasons where he pitched more than 210 innings, were 1.89, 2.38, 2.39, 2.58 and 2.69, all coming when offensive totals were exploding. The worst of those seasons had an adjusted ERA+ of 150. Since 1920, only five other starters had five or more seasons with at least 200 innings and an ERA+ of 150 or higher: Greg Maddux, Roger Clemens, Lefty Grove, Randy Johnson and Roy Halladay. This pitcher had another season where he went 18-9 with a 3.00 ERA and another where he went 21-11 with a 3.32 ERA while leading his league in innings pitched. He won more than 200 games. He had a 16-strikeout game in the postseason. His career pitching WAR of 68.5 is higher than Palmer, Carl Hubbell or Don Drysdale.
Kevin Brown got 12 votes in his one year on the ballot, not close to the 5 percent needed to remain on the ballot, and he was kicked to the curb alongside Raul Mondesi, Bobby Higginson and Lenny Harris. Thank you for your nice career, but your case has no merit. Heck, Willie McGee received twice as many votes. I mean, Willie McGee was a nice player, and even a great one the season he won the MVP Award, but he had about half the career value of Brown.
The Baseball Writers’ Association of America treats starting pitchers like they’re infected with the plague. They’ve elected one in the past 14 years: Bert Blyleven in 2011. And Blyleven, despite winning 287 games and ranking 11th all-time in WAR among pitchers, took 14 years to finally get in. Meanwhile, the BBWAA has elected three relief pitchers in those 14 years, so it’s not an anti-pitcher bias; it’s an anti-starting pitcher bias.
What’s happened here? How come no starting pitcher who began his career after 1970 is in the Hall of Fame? Leaving aside the case of Clemens, who would have been elected if not for his ties to PEDs, there are several issues going on.
1. The 1980s were barren of strong, obvious Hall of Fame pitchers. The BBWAA ignored the cases of borderline candidates like David Cone (pictured below), Dave Stieb, Bret Saberhagen (pictured above) and Orel Hershiser, and instead embraced Jack Morris, a lesser pitcher than those four but a guy with more career wins.
2. Comparison to the previous generation of starters. Including Blyleven, there are 10 “1970s pitchers” in the Hall of Fame. Here they are, listed in order of election year along with each pitcher’s 10-year peak period:
Bert Blyleven (2011): 1971-1980 Nolan Ryan (1999): 1972-1981 Don Sutton (1998): 1971-1980 Phil Niekro (1997): 1970-1979 Steve Carlton (1994): 1972-1981 Tom Seaver (1992): 1968-1977 Fergie Jenkins (1991): 1967-1976 Gaylord Perry (1991): 1967-1976 Jim Palmer (1990): 1969-1978 Catfish Hunter (1987): 1967-1976
These pitchers aren’t merely just great pitchers but products of their generation. The late ’60s and early ’70s produced the lowest-scoring seasons in the major leagues since the dead ball era. The average team in 1968 scored 3.42 runs per game, the lowest total since 1908. That was the notorious pitchers’ year, but 1972 didn’t see much more offense at 3.69 runs per game. This was also the period when pitchers were worked harder than they had been in decades, making more starts and pitching more innings. The 15-year period from 1963 to 1977 saw 62 different seasons where a pitcher threw 300 innings. The previous 15 seasons saw it happen just 13 times (six by Robin Roberts); the ensuing 15 seasons saw it happen just three times, two of those by knuckleballer Niekro. This period was the perfect time to ferment long careers with lots of wins. More starts and more innings gave pitchers the opportunity to get more wins. It’s no coincidence that the peak seasons of the above pitchers all occurred in roughly the same time span.
3. Speaking of wins … Hall of Fame voters love wins like Yasiel Puig loves driving fast. Morris has 254, a main reason he earned 67.7 percent of the vote last year despite his 3.90 career ERA. Schilling has 216 and Brown 211. The fixation on career wins — and 300 in particular — is the result of a unique generation of pitchers; it’s a standard previous pitchers weren’t held to. Bob Gibson won 251 games, Juan Marichal 243, Whitey Ford 236, Don Drysdale 209 and Sandy Koufax 165. Focus on the entire résumé, not just the win total. Schilling didn’t win 254 games, let alone 300, but he’s a far superior Hall of Fame candidate to Morris.
Let’s compare Tom Glavine to Mike Mussina, both appearing on the ballot for the first time. With 305 wins, Glavine appears to be the much stronger candidate than Mussina, who won 270 games.
Here’s what one voter, Dan Shaughnessy of The Boston Globe, wrote:
Glavine and Maddux were 300-game winners. Those are magic plateaus … unless you cheated.
The rest of the list of players I reject are good old-fashioned baseball arguments. (Craig) Biggio got 68.2 percent of the vote last year, but I don’t think of him as Hall-worthy (only one 200-hit season). Same for Mussina and his 270 wins (he always pitched for good teams) and (Lee) Smith and his 478 saves (saves are overrated and often artificial).
There you go. Glavine won 305 games, Mussina won 270, so Glavine is the easy choice. As an aside: I love the bit about Mussina pitching for good teams. As if Glavine didn’t pitch for good teams? Since when is pitching for good teams considered a demerit?
Plus, as Jason Collette pointed out, “Mussina pitched for Baltimore for 10 years — and Baltimore had losing records in five of those ten seasons. Yet, Mussina had a .645 winning percentage and won 147 of his 270 starts with the Orioles. The Yankees never had a losing record when Mussina pitched there and he had a .631 winning percentage with them. Mussina’s .645 winning percentage as an Oriole dwarfed the team’s .510 winning percentage in that same time.”
(Also, Shaughnessy is apparently voting for Morris because he won 254 games, which I believe is less than 270.)
Anyway, when you examine the numbers a little deeper, Glavine and Mussina compare favorably:
- Glavine: 74.0
- Mussina: 82.7
- Glavine: 118 (3.54 career ERA in the National League with great defense behind him)
- Mussina: 123 (3.68 career ERA in the American League with often bad defenses behind him)
5+ WAR seasons
- Glavine: 4
- Mussina: 10
- Glavine: 14-16, 3.30 ERA, 1.27 WHIP
- Mussina: 7-8, 3.42 ERA, 1.10 WHIP
The point here isn’t to detract from Glavine, but that Mussina has every bit the case Glavine does — or 95 percent of it, giving Glavine some extra credit if you wish for his two Cy Youngs. Glavine hung on and won 35 more games; Mussina retired after winning 20. That doesn’t make Glavine a superior pitcher.
4. Stingy voters. To a certain extent, the BBWAA voters have become tough on all candidates — not just starting pitchers and PED users.
As Joe Sheehan wrote recently:
Consider the recent history of Hall voting. The average number of players named per ballot declined steadily up until just last year. In 1966, which was the first vote in the modern era of BBWAA balloting (that is, in which there have been no years in which the BBWAA did not vote), there were 7.2 names listed per ballot. Ten years later, that figure was 7.6. By 2000, a year that featured two players voted in and a ballot with five others who would eventually be voted in (plus Jack Morris, still kicking around), the number was down to 5.6. There were more baseball players than ever before becoming eligible for the Hall, but the voters were becoming much more difficult to impress. That would remain the case for most of this century:
2001: 6.3 2002: 6.0 2003: 6.6 2004: 6.6 2005: 5.6 2007: 6.6 2008: 5.4 2009: 5.4 2010: 5.7 2011: 6.0 2012: 5.1 2013: 6.6
Remember, that downward trend is occurring despite an increasingly crowded ballot due to the split opinions on what do about the PED candidates. With as many as 15 to 20 legitimate Hall of Fame candidates on this year’s ballot it will be interesting to see if that 6.6 players per ballot increases further.
5. Timing. The starting pitching problem will be abated somewhat in upcoming elections. Maddux will get in this year, Glavine this year or next. Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez (pictured above) and John Smoltz (pictured below) then join the ballot next year. Johnson is a lock, and Martinez has the Koufax-esque peak value thing going for him, although with 219 wins he’s not a first-year lock. Smoltz is similar to Schilling in many ways, down to the career win total (213) and postseason heroics, so odds are he’ll face the same uphill climb.
I believe most Hall of Fame voters have the same goal: Elect the best players to the Hall of Fame, or at least the best ones they believe to be clean from PEDs. That issue is still stuck in the mud, the Hall itself refusing to give guidance to the voters. But electing Curt Schilling and Mike Mussina is simply an issue of understanding their greatness. They are among the very best pitchers in the history of the game. They deserve to be elected this year, alongside Maddux and Glavine.
Named after the Expo 67 World’s Fair, The Montreal Expos (French: Les Expos de Montréal) were a Major League Baseball team located in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, from 1969 through 2004, holding the first MLB franchise awarded outside the United States. After the 2004 season, MLB moved the Expos to Washington, D.C. and renamed them the Nationals.
The Expos started play at Jarry Park Stadium under manager Gene Mauch. The team’s initial majority owner was Charles Bronfman, a major shareholder in Seagram. Following the 1976 Summer Olympics, starting in 1977 the team’s home venue was Montreal’s Olympic Stadium. After a decade of losing seasons, the team won 95 games in 1979, finishing second in the National League East. The Expos began the 1980s with a core group of young players, including catcher Gary Carter, outfielders Tim Raines and Andre Dawson, third baseman Tim Wallach, and pitchers Steve Rogers and Bill Gullickson. The team won its only division championship in the strike-shortened split season of 1981, ending its season with a 3 games to 2 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers in the National League Championship Series.
In May 1992, Felipe Alou, a longtime member of the Expos organization since 1976, was promoted to field manager, becoming the first Dominican-born manager in MLB history. Alou would become the leader in Expos games managed while guiding the team to winning records, including 1994, when the Expos, led by a talented group of players including Larry Walker, Moisés Alou, Marquis Grissom and Pedro Martínez, had the best record in the major leagues until the strike forced the cancellation of the remainder of the season. After the disappointment of 1994, Expos management began shedding its key players, and the team’s fan support dwindled. Brochu sold control of the team to Jeffrey Loria in 1999, but Loria failed to close on a plan to build a new downtown ballpark, and did not reach an agreement on television and English radio broadcast contracts for the 2000 season, reducing the team’s media coverage.
In November 2001, MLB’s owners voted 28–2 to contract by two teams—according to various sources, the Expos and the Minnesota Twins, both of which reportedly voted against contraction. However, the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission, operator of Minnesota’s Metrodome, received an injunction requiring the Twins to play in the Metrodome during 2002, so MLB could not eliminate the Expos alone while preserving its 162-game schedule. In December, the Boston Red Sox accepted a purchase bid from a group led by John W. Henry, owner of the Florida Marlins, and so Henry sold the Marlins to Loria, and MLB bought the Expos from Loria. In the collective bargaining agreement signed with the players association in August 2002, contraction was prohibited through to the end of the contract in 2006.
On September 29, 2004, the date of Montreal’s last home game of the season, MLB announced that the Montreal franchise would move to Washington, D.C. for the 2005 season.The Expos played their final game on October 3, 2004 at Shea Stadium, losing by a score of 8–1 against the New York Mets, the same opponent that the Expos first faced at its start, 35 years earlier. The Washington team was named the Washington Nationals, and retained all the Expos’ records, player contracts, and minor league affiliates, as well as their spring training complex in Viera, Florida.
The rebirth of the Montreal Expos might look like this: a relocated ball club bought for $525 million playing in the American League East, its new home a $500-million open-air downtown stadium, an average attendance sitting at roughly 28,000 keeping it healthy.
That’s the vision described by Ernst and Young in a feasibility study conducted for the Board of Trade of Metropolitan Montreal and the Montreal Baseball Project, concluding that a new team “would be financially viable under a set of realistic assumptions, including a modest but competitive payroll.”
The findings were unveiled Thursday and a copy of the impressively thorough 62-page report was forwarded to Major League Baseball, where officials were reviewing it. Last month, commissioner Bud Selig said “I am paying close attention to it, it’s great,” when asked about the study.
Still, by no means is a return of “Nos Amours” to La Belle Province imminent – far from it actually – but the document offers a potential starting point for the pursuit of a team, and a baseball-only venue to house it.
“What we’re looking for in the next weeks is to see if the private sector is up to the task,” Michel Leblanc, president and CEO of the board of trade, said in an interview.
That this is being discussed seriously at all as the 10th anniversary of the Expos’ departure to Washington nears is remarkable, underlining exactly how much the environment has changed in a decade.
As the study notes, the business of baseball is much different now with increased revenue sharing among owners plus new revenue from national TV deals, advanced media and merchandising, not to mention a much stronger Canadian dollar, which ranged from 62-84 cents against the American dollar from 1994-2004 (the study is based on exchange rate at par but adds a decline to 90 cents “shows little impact on the viability of the study”).
Plus, the metropolitan Montreal area’s population of 3.8 million makes it the 15th largest market in North America, and the biggest without a baseball team.
Those and other factors – like an ownership that won’t alienate the fan-base – led the study’s authors to draw a parallel between a new team and stadium in Montreal and the Minnesota Twins and Target Field, describing both as “a good model” for the endeavour.
Both franchises were once pegged for contraction by Major League Baseball, but a new stadium and better business conditions have helped the Twins become stable and profitable. The same could happen for a new team in Montreal under similar circumstances.
Some of the key numbers underpinning the viability of a new club include the $525 million purchase fee, based on various valuations and conversations with eight current clubs to test ideas, the $500 million cost of an open-air stadium (a retractable roof adds $150-$180 million to the price) and an average paid attendance of 28,742 with a season-ticket base of 60 percent.
To anyone who remembers the dismal crowds in the Expos’ final years, those last figures seem particularly ambitious, but Leblanc says “Ernst and Young experts are convinced that number is realistic for Montreal.”
An online survey conducted by Groupe Leger of 1,589 Quebecers (with a margin of error of plus-or-minus 2.5 percent) and a telephone poll of representatives from 392 Montreal-based corporations gave credence to those projections, predicting an average attendance of 27,600-31,600 with a willingness to pay $25-$75 for tickets.
Additionally, 69 percent of Quebecers favoured baseball’s return to Montreal while 11 percent were opposed, 81 percent of businesses approved and 24 percent of businesses expressed interested in buying advertising, along with season tickets.
A downtown stadium near the corporate core is key to that, explained Leblanc, a lifeline the Expos couldn’t tap into because of the inconvenience of getting to Olympic Stadium.
Funding for the entire project would be a hybrid of private and public funds and a baseball-only venue is crucial because the study notes that Major League Baseball “has made it clear that a team returning to play at the Olympic Stadium would not be acceptable.”
The study envisions the club’s owners contributing 67 percent of the projected $1.025 billion cost to buy a team and build a ballpark, with governments providing the remaining 33 percent, while retaining ownership of the facility.
How the government receives the study will be worth watching.
Leblanc said preliminary discussions with various levels of government urged him “to do the work thoroughly” and then “they said, ‘We’ll look at this seriously.’”
Still, the plan is to start with business engagement before pursuing the political track and finally, trying to work with Major League Baseball. Leblanc explains the plan is to put every step in place progressively and for the moment, “we’ve got more homework to do.”
“We need to have a project that unites Montrealers and Quebecers in a positive way,” he added. “We want this to be something that gives Montreal some oomph.”
All those various pieces must be in place to get baseball officials onside, something that must happen since the stadium plans and the team acquisition must go hand in hand. No one’s building a baseball-only stadium without a real commitment.
There is no shortage of people in baseball who’d like to see it happen, and super-agent Scott Boras weighed in Wednesday at the winter meetings, naming New Jersey and Montreal as two possible homes for teams.
“I think Montreal would be a tremendous environment for baseball,” he told reporters. “I remember in 1994 — when you look at the attendance rates and the Canadian rivalry in baseball, I really think baseball was in a good place. Players enjoyed playing there. It’s a beautiful city.”
Last month, Blue Jays president Paul Beeston told Sportsnet that he’d “love to see baseball back in Montreal. It’s good for us, it’s good for Canada and the fans would really love it.”
Later he added, “The timing has to be right – if a team wants to leave, OK, or the league wants to expand. To be honest, 30 isn’t the ideal number of teams, 32 is a much better number. Because you play every day, 32 would really make it nice. And Montreal is a big market and a great city, it’s a world-class city and it’s got a history of baseball.”
The Blue Jays will play a pair of spring games against the New York Mets in March, the first action at Olympic Stadium since the Expos’ 9-1 loss to the Marlins on Sept. 29, 2004. It will be yet another chance to spur the process along.
“We heard about those comments (from Beeston) and were happy to hear the positive signals from him,” said Leblanc. “The two spring games are a great opportunity for Montrealers to show their love for baseball.”
The goal of having a team of their own once again remains way, way off in the distance, but maybe the feasibility study is the guide that helps get them there.
Hmmm… sleep with one eye open Tampa Bay Rays fans.
The NFL post-season officially began this evening, and the Patriots started off with a lil’ bit of gusto.
A surgically precise nuclear strike may be the effective description.
After a week of Tebowing in Tebowmania the clock struck midnight on Denver’s Cinderella story as their wunderkind anti-quarterback fall down go boom. Not that Tim Tebow played a completely inept game and certainly not that he was completely to blame, but Tom Brady came out looking like a first ballot Hall of Famer with something to prove.
Looking to win their first playoff game since the ‘magical’ run of 2007 versus San Diego, Brady threw for a touchdown to Wes Welker on the opening drive, setting up an NFL record five passing TD’s in the first half for the Pats who would score six passing TD’s over-all in a 45 to 10 rout.
As CBS’ Dan Marino said during the game’s halftime show, “The only way the Denver Broncos have a chance of coming back is if Brady goes and plays for the Broncos.”
The 6 passing touchdowns ties an NFL playoff record (The last quarterback to throw six touchdowns in a postseason game was San Francisco’s Steve Young in Super Bowl XXIX against the San Diego Chargers) while Rob Gronkowski’s 3 TD receptions ties a record for the same playoff feat. Brady, with Gronkowski, Hernandez, Welker and Branch set team highs for playoff performances. The Defense played easily their most outstanding game of the entire season. It was a loud and very obvious statement not only to Denver but to the rest of the remaining playoff teams.
In other news:
In my first effort to mention new Sox manager Bobby V., here are some slightly interesting tidbits courtesy of ESPNBoston.com.
Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine didn’t sound overly impressed Saturday when assessing the Yankees’ quick-strike addition of Michael Pineda and Hiroki Kuroda to their rotation. “They’re probably an upgrade from (Bartolo) Colon and (Freddy) Garcia. Probably. I don’t know. It seems it.” Valentine told the Providence Journal at a Jimmy Fund event in Boston. “Pineda, when I saw him the first half, he looked unhittable. Second half, he looked OK, (The Mariners) saw a lot of him and they traded him. Kuroda is a good pitcher — a year older than he was last year, pitching in the American League and not the National League, pitching in not a great pitcher’s ballpark (Yankee Stadium) from a great pitcher’s ballpark (Dodger Stadium).”
Valentine did make a couple of valid points there: Pineda had a 3.03 ERA and eight wins before the All-Star break and a 5.12 ERA and just one win after it; and Kiroda has a career 3-8 record and 4.33 ERA against American League opponents. One thing Valentine couldn’t argue was the Yankees’ rotation certainly got a lot deeper.
Also, Valentine did not confirm reports that the Red Sox had extended a spring training invite to catcher Jason Varitek, but he did mention Saturday he didn’t forsee a situation where either Varitek or veteran knuckleballer Tim Wakefield returned to the team without a role defined for them. “I couldn’t imagine having Wake come in and compete for a job, I can’t imagine that. Even ’Tek, for that matter. It’s not something I can imagine.” He called Varitek’s long-tenured situation with the club “unique” and said it “should be handled in a unique way.”
Varitek has not yet officially signalled his intention to retire.
Pedro Martinez had a message for the Red Sox on Friday night: They should not cut ties with Jason Varitek. Not now. Not ever. You have to keep him in Boston. He was our head, our captain. He should retire as a member of the Red Sox, and never leave.” Martinez said at a charity dinner in his honor at the Liberty Hotel. With former Sox general manager Dan Duquette in the audience, Martinez joked about resuming pitching in the big leagues for the Baltimore Orioles, where Duquette has landed as GM. Relating a story he said he’d never shared before, Duquette described how he and Martinez’s agent, Bob Gilhooly, came to terms on a new contract for Martinez at New York’s Waldorf Astoria hotel. They made the deal, Duquette said, under pressure from members of the Secret Service, who with their search dogs were impatiently waiting for them to exit their suite so they could prepare it for a soon-to-be arriving guest — President Clinton. They got the deal done, Duquette said, thanks to a Secret Service agent who said he was from Maine. “I don’t know who this guy is,” the agent said to his superior, gesturing at Duquette, who was sitting on the edge of the bed, “but he’s trying to sign Pedro Martinez. The President of the United States can wait.”
Martinez expressed his unending affection for Boston and called winning the 2004 World Series and the parade that followed the highlight of his career.
Sure, people will be debating this one for a while, but in the end, Justin Verlander had himself a fantastic season. But, so did Pedro Martinez in 1999. In fact, looking back at the various stats and research, Pedro had a better over all pitching season in 1999… but wasn’t voted the first starting pitcher since ‘The Rocket’ Roger Clemens in 1986 to win both the Cy Young and MVP awards in a single season.
That, I have a problem with.
- 1999 Pedro Martinez 2011 Justin Verlander
- ERA 2.07 2.40
- Wins 23 24
- Losses 4 5
- K’s 313 250
- WHIP .923 .920
- BB 37 57
- Innings 213.1 251
- WAR 8.3 8.5
Yes, Verlander threw his second career No-Hitter and was the American League’s answer to Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and eventually Clayton Kershaw. However, Pedro pitched a SABRmetric statistically stronger season in the midst of the steroid era, a season which again saw combined league home run totals reach new records, had that Hall of Fame inning in the All-Star Game at Fenway and was the American League’s answer to Randy Johnson.
Both won the American League pitching Triple Crown.
Both led their respective teams to 90 plus win seasons (and both made it to the ALCS)
Pedro finished 2nd in the BBWAA voting, with 8 First place votes (1 more than winner Ivan Rodriguez) and was intentionally left off 2 ballots cast.
Many of the ‘experts‘ who have spent weeks of expensive air-time on both radio and television debating the issue and who now proclaim “Well, now the precedent has been set” must be either retarded or just stupid. Verlander is one of several pitchers to win both awards including Kofax, Fingers, Blue (also the last switch-hitter to win an MVP), the aforementioned Clemens and most recently Dennis Eckersley. No, the precedent wasn’t set, it was just another salvo in the argument of ‘everyday’ players versus pitchers and the qualified standards of being ‘Most Valuable Player’. Of course, a lot of these experts are the same who contend that the award is not a popularity contest…. really? Ask Albert Bell about that… I’m sure he remembers who won the award in 1995.
1999 Nomar 1999 Ivan Rodriguez 1999 Manny 2011 Ellsbury 2011 Adrian Gonzalez 2011 Pedroia
AVG .357* .332 .333 .321 .338 .307
HR 27 35 44 32 27 21
RBI 104 113 165 105 117 91
OPS 1.002 .914 1.105 .928 .957 .861
SB 14 24 2 39 1 26
WAR 6.5 6.0 8.0 7.2 6.9 6.8
In ’99, Manny Ramirez, who had a statistically greater year with Cleveland than MVP winner Pudge Rodriguez did in Texas, finished third in the BBWAA voting behind Pedro. Nomar, winning the first of two consecutive batting titles, finished seventh while all played for 90 plus win playoff bound teams. This year, Ellsbury finished a solid second ahead of Toronto’s Jose Bautista (who’s 2nd half of the season really didn’t merit his finishing ahead of Granderson, Cabrera or perhaps even A-Gon) third place finish. Adrian Gonzalez in his first year with the Scarlett Hose finished seventh and I’m including Petey who came on strong in the 2nd half to accumulate a ninth place vote.
If anything, I think many will agree that the Red Sox collapse in September weighed like an anvil on Jacoby’s chances, which is unfortunate given he was one of the few players (Adrian’s ‘power outage’ but sustained average) who thrived during the season ending swoon. If the Sox had won just two more games, this blog post might just be moot.
With the age of Moneyball in what some have deemed its ‘twilight’ (especially under the terms of the new CBA) and the Bill James Sabermaticians now fully entrenched throughout MLB, more and more statistically curious tidbits of information continue to hit the mainstream. For example: Babe Ruth, arguably one of Baseball’s greatest players (as compared to marquee draw), won his only MVP award in 1923 (keep in mind it was a ‘league’ award as compared to the defunct Chalmers Award and pre-dated the current BBWAA MVP Award). Using todays metrics… Ruth should have taken the award 12 times. That’s eleven more times than he actually won it and all based on his actual factual numbers. Shout out to Brian Kenny on MLB Network’s Clubhouse Confidential for combing through the blinding historical numbers and keeping it entertaining. Would love to see his team take a look at Ted Williams lifetime stats.
As many of us in The Nation know, even if you did listen to all that Theo hype as he accepted the move to Chicago, Dan Duquette was the man who (seemingly under the cone silence) built the foundation for the 2004 World Champion Red Sox. Sure, Theo took her to the prom and Tito Francona helped deliver two of her children but Dan Duquette was the first to get into her pants and knock her up.
In a span of two days… a millisecond on the Hot Stove clock, Dan interviewed, re-interviewed, was offered and accepted the offer from the Baltimore Orioles to take over as chief of Baseball Operations / General Manager (full details not yet announced). Now, I think Double D is a smart baseball guy, sure he’s not too keen with the media (doesn’t have to be) but does his job and backs it up. Maybe that’s why I don’t quite get it.
First, let’s take a brief look at his credentials.
The Montreal Expositions: In 1987 he became Montreal’s director of player development and drafted players such as Marquis Grissom, Cliff Floyd and Rondell White while also signing Vladimir Guerrero, Javier Vazquez and Orlando Cabrera to name a few. Duquette replaced Dave Dombrowski as Expos’ GM in September of 1991, going on to acquire elite pitchers Ken Hill, John Wetteland, Jeff Shaw and traded for Pedro Martínez from the Dodgers for second baseman Delino DeShields. Duquette also built the infamous ’94 Expos team which had the best record in baseball at the time of the 1994-95 Major League Baseball strike.
The Boston Red Stockings: Duquette became the GM of his hometown Red Sox and built a baseball operations department which was upgraded at every level during his tenure with favorites such as Nomar Garciaparra and Kevin Youkilis being drafted into the system. Other notable draftees included future MLB shortstops David Eckstein, Adam Everett and Hanley Ramirez as well as second baseman Freddy Sanchez. The Sox traded over 35 players in Duquette’s farm system to staff the team including LHP Jorge De la Rosa who was traded for Curt Schilling and the afore-mentioned Hanley Ramirez who was later traded to the Marlins for Josh Beckett. Duquette is also noted for several major acquisitions that would ultimately play a part in the Red Sox 2004 World Championship, including knuckleballer Tim Wakefield in 1995, Pedro Martínez acquired from Montreal in 1997 as well as the 1997 trade with Seattle for both pitcher Derek Lowe and All-Star catcher Jason Varitek, the free agent signings of Manny Ramírez in 2000 and Johnny Damon in December 2001…
… In 1996 Duquette signed Jaime Moyer to a free agent contract and then traded him to Seattle for outfielder Darren Bragg when manager Kevin Kennedy didn’t pitch him much and Moyer expressed he didn’t like playing in Boston. Moyer went on to win 139 games in just over 9 seasons with the Mariners and achieved over 250 wins in his career…
… Duquette is also famously known for his quote about Roger Clemens in which he said that “we had hoped to keep him in Boston during the twilight of his career” in 1996 after Clemens left as a free agent following a 39-40 record over his last four seasons pitching in Boston (Clemens remains under indictment for lying to Congress that he used performance enhancing drugs (PED’s) beginning in the period immediately following his departure from Boston to Toronto) …
… The free agency losses of Clemens and first baseman Mo Vaughn were major points of discontent amongst some Red Sox fans, while he also did not resign Jose Canseco or Mike Greenwell (all of which proved to be wise moves).
So, you take the good and take the bad and there you have Dan Duquette.
Now, Dan has been removed from MLB since he was relieved of his duties by the Red Sox in 2002 following the sale to John Henry & Co. from the JRY Trust… so one might wonder, why now? Was it all this ‘Theo’ talk which made the sports talk rounds and saw miles of footage on ESPN, MLB Network and so on? Is it envy to the fact that when the experts say “Theo inherited a great team…” that the same experts usually omit the ‘from Dan Duquette’ part? I only ask because it is a very well-known fact that the Baltimore Orioles are, in todays vernacular, a Hot Mess.
Peter Angelos has, on many occasions, been regarded as a baseball owner you don’t want to work for and backed up by the fact that supposedly one or two candidates just recently declined the team’s offer for the GM position. Since he took over the team and put ‘his stamp on it’ way back in 1993 the O’s have, for the most part, sucked. Aside from the consecutive playoff years of ’96 & ’97, the Orioles have done little more than show up and trade marketable talent to bigger market teams who can pay the younger rising stars. Sure they sign older, declining stars with a possible upside who might put a few a$$es in the seats, but have done little to surround them with talent.
However…. Double D is taking over a young and fairly potent Orioles team which has shown streaks of brilliance in the last two seasons. With Buck Showalter already in place he has a manager who has mentoring and seasoning the kids as needed and has them ready for a real push in 2012. Can he find the veteran peices to compliment them? Well, since the budget in O-Town doesn’t look to be expanding, Dan will have to use his documented prowess to trade (or in some cases steal) or sign a few of those possible Wakefields and Pedro’s.
Baseball in general, nevermind in front-office dynamics, has changed in his decade away. He’ll have a limited pocketbook and a meddling owner to deal with as he tries to turn one of baseball’s oldest teams around and feed a starved fan base who’s turned, ironically, to the former Montreal Expos franchise residing in Washington D.C. in the guise of the Nationals. I’d wish him luck, but he’s back in the AL East and that’s just too bad.
To borrow a phrase from a slightly popular local music group…. It is indeed the same old song and dance, just different dance partners. Or to put in easier terms, “Same sh!t, different day”.
Anyone who is a ‘real‘ fan of the Red Stockings, meaning a member of the Nation since the dark days long before 2004, already know what all of this is. Red Sox ownership in their version of Spin Control. Sure, their Doctors of Spin are the equivalent of a mentally defective monkey humping a baseball but they apparently get the job done.
Regimes change, the excuses stay the same.
Has there been a need for this nuclear warfare in the aftermath of ‘The Collapse’? Of course not. Francona fell on the sword, took the blame and left town. Ah, but he do it in the way he was told to? Apparently not. Tito alluded to the problems which arose in the clubhouse (which the owners also alluded to) and the fact he was tuned out… but then dropped that little ticking time bomb of “I wasn’t sure the owners had my back…” And the Mass Destruction of Terry Francona had begun. Sinfully Disgraceful may be the only way to put it. Unnamed sources, personal matters… all disgusting. Of course they’re unnamed sources, they’re rats running about the sinking ship on fire trying to burn whatever they can for their masters in hopes of keeping their job once the flames are put out and the ship is righted. And the press? Using this fairly unconfirmed personal information about Tito’s mental health, medication and then his unfortunately distressed marriage? Well, the Boston press has been heavy-handed and taking liberties ever since Paul Revere proclaimed that little warning about the oncoming British. Especially the Boston Sports Press, which is a blessing and a curse as they are the best at what they do from both sides of the spectrum. And whose to say that even if the Sox hadn’t collapsed, if they made a decent run or perhaps won it all that Theo wasn’t leaving? The Cubs think he’s a hot commodity following the epic September fail? Imagine what hot sh!t Theo would have been if they’d won? This has been coming (remember the off-season back in the ’05-’06 days when he quit the job, took a vacation and then came back? It was because he was tired of having his toes stepped on…), it just didn’t have to end like this.
Or if history has shown us, maybe it did.
Let’s look at Boston’s divorce history (Bill Buckner, Manny and Grady Little aside). Pedro and Derek Lowe and even Johnny Damon pale in comparison to that nutty, paranoid Nomar. Then there’s Mo Vaughn and his drunken, truck flippin’ hung-over stripper lovin’ self. Wade Boggs defection to the Bronx Zoo was fairly quiet compared to The Rocket who was a drunk, fat bastard in the twilight of his career (remind you, he hadn’t hit the juice yet… and is still a bastard) or even the ousting of Joe Morgan. Dewey had a fairly amicable split for an in-house legend, unlike Jim Rice or Yaz. The 1970’s and early ’80’s was basically a huge divorce gone bad… Bill Lee, George Scott, Fergie Jenkins, Louis Tiant, Eck and let’s not forget Pudge Fisk. Of course the Patron Saint of the Red Sox, Johnny Pesky, could tell you how complimentary everyone was when Teddy Ballgame left town. Not cause he was here but because he was Ted’s friend and had a front row seat. (I’ll omit Babe Ruth because most of his behavior was, in fact, dead on juvenile delinquent true.)
Notice a lot of these names… they’re part of the lore. All easily recognized by one name. Ted. Fisk. Yaz. Rice. Rocket. Nomar. Pedro. Theo. Tito. The Red Sox are the embodiment of that old adage, “You build your heroes up just to tear them down.” But they’re hardly alone.
So, to David Ortiz (yeah, I’ll say it) and all you bandwagon Yankees fans (because the actual fans already know how it works) who want to remind us of the class and swagger a dynasty carries… f*@% you. Stop trying to take the ‘high road’ by ignoring the Steinbrenner Era or the legacy the Sons of Steinbrenner have already forged. Ask Dave Winfield, Don Mattingly, Joe Torre or most recently Mo Rivera or ‘Mister Yankee’ himself Derek Jeter. Yeah, the ‘Bombers have never had drama or been a soap opera… jacka$$.
Are the Sox still an elite team? Yes. Do they still have the talent to contend? Yes. Do they still have an ownership group committed to winning? No wins, no money.. so Yes. Is it time to change the ‘make-up’ of the team. Yes. But these are matters, some of them possibly drastic, best saved for the GM and field Manager… oh, wait.
I think at the end of the day, all the real fan can do is wish Theo all the best in Chicago (we’ll see you next season at Wrigley) and thank both he and Tito for everything they did to bring two WS titles home. Same to a number of faces from the wonderful October of 2004 which may be joining them… Papi, Wake and Tek.
Same Old Song and Dance.