Supporters of Beltran will argue that his post-season performance should inform his candidacy. That notion is also relevant for players like Andy Pettitte who started more than a full season's worth of games in the post-season. Beltran's post-season record probably should be taken into account, but so should everybody else's from this era. However, this record should not only be taken into account, but should be viewed in its proper context. One striking line from Beltran's post-season resume is that he has played in 38 post-season games, but none in the World Series. The great post-season performers from previous generations either played all their post-season games in the World Series like Babe Ruth or Mickey Mantle, or, like Reggie Jackson and Steve Garvey, played a good proportion of their post-season games in the World Series.
These changes also have not addressed the major problem facing the All-Star Game-that it is a relic from another era and no longer meets the needs of fans or players. In an era of interleague play and widespread access to televised baseball in one form or another, the logic underlying an All-Star Game is not evident. Fans wishing to see how a great American League pitcher like Justin Verlander or Mariano Rivera fares against a National League star like Bryce Harper or Buster Posey no longer have to wait until the All-Star Game and hope for that matchup. Since the advent of interleague play, hose matchups may occur during the regular season when the Yankees play the Giants or the Tigers play the Nationals. The fans may have to wait a year or two for a specific matchup, but the regular season now has a great deal of interleague play.
On the surface, these three could not have been more different. Blue was an African American from Louisiana, Hunter a country boy from North Carolina, and Holtzman was from St. Louis and retired with more wins than any other Jewish pitcher in baseball history. It has been more than 25 years since any of these pitchers has thrown a pitch in the big leagues and their respective places in baseball history are now secure. Hunter became a Hall of Famer and a beloved figure in North Carolina before passing away in 1999 at the far too young age of 53. Holtzman’s name occasionally crops up in connection with his longtime friend and teammate Reggie Jackson and was briefly a manager in the Israeli baseball league, but is generally remembered as a solid and dependable pitcher, but not much more than that. Vida Blue is remembered as the guy who had all the talent in the world, but could never entirely get it together.
Last week when Gary Carter, the Hall of Fame catcher and catalyst of probably the most famous rally in baseball history, died at only 57 years old, the baseball world mourned the passing of a great and beloved ballplayer. I found myself more saddened than I might have expected by his death. This is partially due to the arc of Carter’s career and life dovetailing so well with my life as a baseball fan. Carter was one of the few, maybe only, Hall of Fame players whose first baseball card came out the year I started collecting. His best years, from the late 1970s to the mid 1980s corresponded with my most youthful and intense period of being a baseball fan. He was not a fully formed star like Johnny Bench or Reggie Jackson when I first became aware of baseball, but he began his career at a time when my infatuation with baseball could still be described as childlike wonder.
The current Oakland Athletics, based upon a cycle of constantly trading players for prospects while explaining that behavior away by noting their small market size, appear to be at a turning point. It is possible that they will be allowed to move to the San Jose area, thus potentially expanding their market size, while competing with the San Francisco Giants in an area that has long been populated largely by Giants fans. This might catapult the A’s into a larger market. Similarly, they might be able to build a new stadium as their current ballpark feels like Candlestick Park without the charm, but neither of these strategies will work in the short or medium term unless the Athletics can put a better, and better presented, product on the field.
Decisions about where a player signs have impacts the rest of that players career. For example, if Prince Fielder were to sign with the A’s, which is very unlikely, his career batting numbers would be far less impressive than if he signed with the Cubs. These decisions also have an impact on how that player’s career is understood even after that player is retired. While it is likely that debating how good retired players is more interesting to fans than to the players themselves, these questions effect things that players presumably care about such as their chance of getting elected to the Hall of Fame and how marketable they are in retirement.
The question of what active players will eventually get elected to the Hall of Fameis a fun one which can generate numerous articles and even more hours of debate. However, this topic also raises some interesting questions about the Hall of Fame itself and what defines a Hall of Fame ballplayer. Perhaps the most easily overlooked aspect of this discussion has to do with how many active players will end up in Cooperstown.
When looking back on Jackson’s career many words come to mind, but underrated is not one of them. However, at least with regards to awards voting, Jackson, through a combination of being unappreciated and unlucky, may not have received his due. Jackson finished in the top ten in MVP voting six times, while only winning the award once in 1973. In 1973, when he won the MVP, Jackson played in 151 games hitting .293/.383/.531 for a league leading OPS+ of 162, stealing 22 bases while only being caught eight times for a team that easily won its division. He also played a decent right field and led his leagues in homeruns (32) and RBIs (117). It was a great year for a great player which was properly recognized by the BBWAA. It was not, however, his best year.
Gary Sheffield’s retirement immediately ignited some discussion about his Hall of Fame qualifications. Sheffield’s candidacy is interesting because it raises a number of questions about the Hall of Fame and upon what criteria members should be selected. Sheffield’s numbers were very strong, but his links to steroid use, the era in which he played, the number of teams for which he played and various controversies which followed him for most of his career make him less of an automatic selection.
In 37 years, Steinbrenner delivered seven world championships, countless tantrums, headlines and managerial firings, several horrendous trades, as well as several brilliant ones, one never-ending desire to win and hundreds of millions of dollars in support of that goal, but never a dull moment. That is the record on which the man should be judged. Baseball will miss him.
1982 was the year the wheels came off for the New York Yankees. Following a string of eight straight seasons of .500 or better which included four pennants and two World Championships, the Yankees lost more than half of their games and did not make it back to the post-season until 1996. This was the longest such period in Yankee history since they acquired Babe Ruth from the Red Sox. 2010 may turn out to be the year the wheels finally come off for the Red Sox.
Piniella is a baseball lifer who was a good, but not great player and a great, if controversial, manager, who has been associated with an impressive range of baseball moments and people. He played alongside Harvey Haddix a few years after his 12 inning perfect game loss, and Don Mattingly as he was becoming one of baseball’s top hitters. Piniella, who later earned a reputation for being a fiery and excitable manager himself, played for Billy Martin during his first three stints as Yankee manager. Sweet Lou made a cameo in one of the best baseball books ever written, Jim Bouton’s Ball Four, and made a game saving, of often overlooked, play in the outfield preserving a Yankee victory in one of the most famous baseball games ever played, the one game playoff between the Yankees and Red Sox in 1978. He played for two expansion teams in the same year, including one that does not exist anymore, and two World Series winners.
The ninth inning: I am signing off for the night, unless something dramatic happens. Was fun chatting.
Bottom of the eighth: It has been that kind of series for Swisher. Jeter, as we were just reminded, is the all-time post-season hit leader. For what it is worth the all time non-Yankee World Series hit leader is the Fordham Flash-Frankie Frisch.
Top of the eighth: I don’t think too many Yankee fans thought Damaso Marte would be a big part of their post-season success. At this phase of his career, Rivera gives up runs, but rarely melts down. It is beginning to rain in the Bronx, but not yet in Northern Manhattan. I assume Selig will allow this game to be finished tonight.
Bottom of the seventh: With the bottom of the Yankee lineup completely silent, this is probably their last scoring opportunity. If this ends tonight, A-Rod will have had a strange series. Much fewer big hits than in the ALCS, but in the middle of a lot of rallies. Cano looks about as bad as a big league hitter can look. He makes Texeira look like Reggie Jackson.
Top of the seventh: The Phillies need baserunners here, but if the good Joba has shown up, it could be a short inning for them. This is likely Joba’s last batter, so he could salvage a disappointing season here. A walk to Victorino is not the way Joba wanted to end his season. Perhaps Marte can bail him out. The need to go to Marte in the 7th all but ensures that Rivera will be asked to get six outs. Girardi has said that Rivera is ready to do this, but even for Rivera six outs is a lot, particularly if this lead gets smaller. The way Marte has been throwing, he might be able to get through the eighth which would make Rivera even stronger in the ninth.
Bottom of the sixth: Swisher had seemed to have lost his ability to draw walks this World Series before this at bat. That had been one of his biggest strengths during the regular season. With Hairston in the number two hole, a bunt from Gardner makes less sense.
Top of the sixth: This is a very important inning for Philadelphia. If Pettitte gets through the middle of the lineup without giving up a run, the countdown of outs can begin in earnest. With all the attention on the starting pitching, little attention has been paid to how the Yankees will use their bullpen, but I would assume, and hope, that Girardi will use Chamberlain and Robertson to get to Rivera, spotting Marte against Utley and Howard. The Phil brothers may be done for the year. Reggie Jackson just breathed a sigh of relief. Howard’s home run was kind of inevitable, but it may not be enough. Neither Pettitte or Martinez pitched particularly well, but Pettitte pitched better. He did about as well as the Yankees could have hoped. If the Yankees hold on, it will be a victory won by their bats. With the lefties out of the way for at least an inning, if Joba is throwing well, he can them to Rivera.
Bottom of the fifth: For what its worth, Girardi’s best move as manager this year may have come in spring training when he put Jeter back in the leadoff spot. Girardi should get credit for looking at OBP rather than simply batting Jeter second because he is a middle infielder. On a related note, Jeter may break the all-time Yankee stolen base record next year. It is currently held by none other than Rickey Henderson. The Phillies need a loogy to get Matsui out here. Another RBI by Matsui and this game will get very short very quickly for the Phillies. That plan did not work out so well for Philadelphia. Turns out the Yankees are pretty good even though Cliff Lee beat them twice. Posada this series seems to have a principled position that he only gets hits in clutch situations.
Top of the fifth: Pettitte’s control problems tonight have made this a tough game for him. The Phillies have real power and they Yankees still need at least nine more outs before Rivera. Rollins hit into a rare double play, so Pettitte survived another inning. With all the ink about how Pedro has become a wily, clever pitcher, Pettitte is for the third time in as many starts getting by without his best stuff.
Bottom of the fourth: With Hairston in the number two spot, the Yankee lineup has a different feel. It puts a little pressure on Posada-Gardner to contribute a little bit today as the top half of the lineup is not as solid. Robinson Cano is now literally not hitting his weight. Nice to see Mayor Bloombers who, as it turns out actually did need to spend all that money to get reelected yesterday, enjoying the game. It is a shande that the mayor of New York is a Red Sox fan.
Top of the fourth: Another injury for the Yankees. The Yankees have a useful bench, but not actual depth. They have pinch runners, good defensive ballplayers, but nobody who can really hit other than Gardner, who was already in the lineup. Hairston is a big downgrade from Damon. If Pettitte can follow one half inning in which the Yankees score by shutting down the Phillies, it would change the tenure of the game a lot. Tim McCarver just said that too much is made of pitchers starting on three days rest. If he really felt that way, maybe he should have talked about something else during the last 48 hours.
Bottom of the third: Gardner looked terrible against Martinez. He is a better player than that. Martinez has probably gone through 50 pitches and is not yet through the third. It will be interesting if Manuel has to patch it together tonight because if it goes well, he will have to do the same thing tomorrow night. This is Texeira’s moment, let’s see how he does. A seal on every rock for A-Rod. Nice bit of hitting by Matsui.
Top of the third: What would the announcers talk about if Pettitte were going on four days of rest. It seems like they have discussed this ad nauseum. It is a convenient topic because and an easy way to explain a potential bad outing for Pettitte, but there is no way to prove this. If Pettitte pitches well, will anybody say it was because he was on short rest? If Ruiz scores, will Yankee fans stop eating Dunkin’ Donuts?
It is interesting watching a series where so many key players, Texeira, Howard, Cano etc. are slumping but where the managers are doing so little. Manuel and Girardi get some credit for not panicking, but this is also a result of the post-season rosters and stability of both lineups. The Yankees and Phillies do not have a lot of plan Bs. However, if Pena pinch runs with none out in the seventh, Girardi will be making a big mistake.
Bottom of the second: Amazing to see A-Rod not take strike one as he seems to have done ever plate appearance this series. Walking A-Rod in front of three Yankee lefties could be trouble, but Cano seems to have checked out for the series. Has anybody noticed how both Matsui and Damon have swings any decent Little League coach would change right away? Getting to Pedro early is big for the Yankees, but they now need to get the big inning, which they have had trouble doing through much of the post-season.
Pedro made one mistake to Matsui, but gets credit for keeping the Phillies in the game. A two run lead is unlikely to be enough in this game.
Top of the second: Pettitte is throwing a lot of pitches and not getting ahead of too many hitters, but if he is going to walk anybody, Werth is the guy. Tim McCarver just mentioned that the Yankees have quieted Philadelphia’s left-handed bats. That may come as news to Chase Utley. Pettitte looks like he is struggling, but that is kind of the look he has on his face all the time when he is pitching.
Bottom of the first: Texeira is having the kind of series where a fly ball to the warning track counts as a successful at at bat. The Yankees benefit more from coming back to their park because Matsui’s bat is a real asset. Without Molina as Burnett’s personal catcher, the Yankee lineup is as deep as it should be. Gardner in the number nine spot may even be an improvement on Melky.
Top of the first: The left side of the Yankee infield is interesting for many reasons. One is that both Jeter and A-Rod have strong arms and limited range. Utley’s first at bat will set a tone. The Yankees would be foolish to throw at him and probably won’t. Nice first half inning for the Yankees.
Pre-game: The national media, being both Yankee-centric and Yankee-phobic, seems to have already written the Yankees’ obituary. You would not know from listening to the analysis or reading most newspapers that even if the Yankees lose tonight, tomorrow’s game will pit CC Sabbathia against either Cliff Lee on two days rest or a whatever combination of pitchers Charlie Manuel can put together.
My sense is that Pettitte needs to start off strongly, but so does the Yankee offense. Pettitte is, at this point in his career, against a lineup like the Phillies’, good for six innings and four runs. If he does that, the game will be decided by the Yankee offense and Pedro’s pitching. Pedro is a bit of a wild card here as he could either be very strong or out of the game by the fourth inning. If is is a low scoring game, the Phillies may win, but if it is high scoring, the Yankees should come out on top.
The problem with the All Star Game is not that it is meaningless, it is that it isn’t baseball. More accurately the All Star Game is not a baseball game. The All Star Game is a fun mid-season break. The Future’s Game, fan fests and the like can be great events. Even home run derbies have some value as pure spectacle, but the game itself isn’t really a baseball game.
Perhaps Bush hopes or believes that at least for the foreseeable future, scholars and others will borrow a line from the former Chinese Prime Minister Zhou Enlai who when asked, in the late 20th century, what he thought of the French Revolution said it was too early to tell. Perhaps Bush believes that, as the now back in fashion economist John Maynard Keynes wrote more than eighty years ago, "in the long run we are all dead." More likely, as a baseball fan, Bush is placing his faith in the frozen ice ball theory. This theory, alternately attributed to one of two left-handed pitchers from the 1970s, Bill Lee or Tug McGraw, is essentially that in millions of years the sun will go supernova, the earth will turn into a frozen ice ball and nobody will care what Reggie Jackson, Tony Perez or anybody else did against Tug McGraw or Bill Lee with two men on in the World Series. It is probably true that several million years from now, nobody will be around to care about how bad a president George W. Bush was, but I wouldn't want to hang my legacy on that.