Wednesday, January 08, 2014

The Bizarro Hall of Fame: Introducing the Class of 2014

Every year, I write a small post celebrating the players who appeared on the Hall of Fame ballot but did not receive any votes. With this year’s six inductees, the Bizarro Hall of Fame now boasts 222 members.

For the record, I successfully predicted four of the six inductees (Mike Timlin, Paul Lo Duca, Richie Sexson, and Ray Durham) and whiffed on three others (Eric Gagne, Armando Benitez, and Jacque Jones).

Sean Casey – Owner of one of the best nicknames in Bizarro-land, The Mayor enjoyed a good run with Cincinnati from 1999-2005, batting over .300 four times, hitting twenty homeruns three times, and scoring 100 runs twice. He was named to three All-Star Games for the National League, going 0-2 in two appearances in the Midsummer Classic. The 1999 Hutch Award winner, Casey hit .432 for the Detroit Tigers in the 2006 postseason, including a .529 mark in the World Series.

Ray Durham – For six years in a row, from 1997-2002, Durham scored more than 100 runs and stole more than 20 bases each season for the Chicago White Sox. He was traded to Oakland in July 2002 and failed to surpass either barrier in any of his final 6 ½ seasons (though he did come close with 95 runs scored in 2004). He had one final big power surge in San Francisco, hitting 26 homeruns and driving in 93 for the Giants in 2006. Over the course of his fourteen year career, Durham played 15,712.1 innings in the field, all but one of them at second base.

Todd Jones – I mentioned in my Bizarro preview that while both Jones and Armando Benitez fit the profile for inclusion, Benitez seemed more likely, especially considering Jones came out right after the ballot was announced and said he didn’t belong. That seemed certain to get a couple votes thrown his way. In the end, though, I had it backwards, and Jones joins Roberto Hernandez and Jose Mesa in the Bizarro Division of the 300 Saves Club. (Fun fact: there are nearly as many members of the 300 Saves Club in the Bizarro Hall of Fame (3) as there are in the actual Hall of Fame (4).)

The 2000 Rolaids Reliever of the Year, Jones had six 30-save seasons, including two with 40-plus. (In four of those years, he had an ERA over 3.00.) Though he played for eight teams in sixteen seasons, all but one of those 30-save seasons came as a member of the Detroit Tigers (the other was with Florida in 2005, when he also posted a career-best 2.10 ERA). As Casey’s teammate on the 2006 Tigers, he saved 37 regular season games (with an average of 3.9 strikeouts per nine innings) and four more in the playoffs, when he did not allow an earned run in 6.2 innings.

Paul Lo Duca – Don’t ask me why I find this amusing/interesting, but I do: Lo Duca and Mike Piazza both played for the Dodgers, Marlins, and Mets, in that order, before finishing up with other random teams (the Nationals for Lo Duca, the Padres and Athletics for Piazza). It’s just weird, like Piazza was traded in 1999 and Lo Duca eventually took over for him, then decided that he must follow the same path. He even had a lite version of Piazza’s “good offense/what is this “mitt” and what am I supposed to do with it?” approach to the game, frequently finishing among the positional leaders in putouts, assists, errors, double plays, passed balls, stolen bases allowed, and caught stealing.

Richie Sexson – When Reggie Sanders became a member of the Bizarro Hall last year, I remember writing that while I tried never to root for specific players to make it, there was something reassuring about having him in the group and being able to write about him because I always enjoyed his status as a baseball vagabond. Sexson was the same way: it’s not that I really wished something like this upon him, but that a Bizarro Hall without him and with Jeromy Burnitz just felt wrong. For whatever reason, those two (and Geoff Jenkins, who didn’t make the ballot this year; he joins Rich Garces and Mike Morgan as notable snubs) are always paired together in my mind, to the point that I sometimes get them confused (this says more about my mind than it does about any similarities between the two).

Sexson had a nice career, with six 30 homerun seasons and six 100 RBI seasons, but he really came up against the era in his turn on the ballot. Even though he is listed at a lanky 6-foot-6 and 205 pounds, anyone who hit for power and drove in runs in the late 1990s and early 2000s is going to draw a lot of suspicion, warranted or not (see: Burnitz, Greg Vaughn, Phil Nevin), which is a killer if that person was a low-to-mid-level star.

Mike Timlin – In the aforementioned preview, I noted that Timlin was basically Mike Stanton or Mike Jackson. It is comforting to know that the Bizarro Hall now has a triumvirate of Mikes to build a bridge to its various shaky closers.

Timlin is notable for having four World Series rings (1992-93 Blue Jays, 2004 and 2007 Red Sox) but it’s also worth noting that the manager’s failure to bring him into a game at the right time might have cost him a realistic shot at a fifth. After a decent regular season (6-4, 3.55 ERA, 65 strikeouts and only nine walks in 83.2 innings) in 2003, Timlin was dominant for the Red Sox in the playoffs, allowing just one hit to go with two walks and eleven strikeouts in 9.2 innings against the Athletics and Yankees. In the eighth inning of ALCS Game 7, of course, Grady Little was slow to pull Pedro Martinez, who gave up three runs to tie the game and lead to an eventual Yankee win. Timlin was the second man out of the pen, after Alan Embree, walking his only two batters of the postseason (one of them, fellow Bizarro Ruben Sierra, intentionally) to load the bases before getting out of the inning, then pitching a perfect ninth to keep hope alive in Boston. Had he come in earlier, who knows how the rest might have played out.


Thursday, December 26, 2013

The Boston Celtics and Revising the Draft Lottery

On one of the Boston sports talk radio stations this morning (I’m not sure which one; both sets of hosts were on vacation and it’s almost impossible to tell the difference between the various fill-ins), they were talking about potential changes to the NBA draft that would feature a set rotation where each team would pick in a specific slot every year. Basically, each team gets a top six pick every five years, guaranteed (unless they trade it), which would seem to be a lot better than the lottery system that is currently in place. That high pick would be followed the next year by a low pick, then a few mid-to-low range ones, then eventually back into the upper levels.

The thing I thought was funny about this was that one of the hosts expressed his dislike for the potential revisions by repeatedly mentioning that it would be thirty years in between number one picks for the Celtics. If they didn’t get it in the first year, he said, he might never see it at all! The horror!

This made me laugh because in nearly thirty years of the Lottery Era, the Celtics HAVE NEVER HAD THE FIRST OVERALL PICK. In fact, that honor has gone to just sixteen teams since the New York Knicks in 1985:

Cleveland – 2013, 2011, 2003, 1986

New Orleans – 2012, 1991 (Charlotte)

Washington – 2010, 2001

Los Angeles Clippers – 2009, 1998, 1988

Chicago – 2008, 1999

Portland – 2007

Toronto – 2006

Milwaukee – 2005, 1994

Orlando – 2004, 1993, 1992

Houston – 2002

New Jersey – 2000, 1990

San Antonio – 1997, 1987

Philadelphia – 1996

Golden State – 1995

Sacramento – 1989

New York – 1985

Under this system, that same host might also have to wait thirty years for the Celtics to draft second (last time they actually did: 1986, or 27 years ago), third (1997, 16 years ago), fourth (never, infinity years ago), or fifth (2007, six years ago). Or he could be excited by the fact that the team could be able to land a top five talent every few years (if they drew the short straw and came out behind number one in the rotation, they would still receive the 6, 2, 5, 3, and 4 picks every few years until the top spot came around). It just seemed like a very strange argument against something that would probably actually benefit the local team, at least.

(Also, I haven’t gone into greater depth on this – surely someone has – but with all the talk of tanking around Boston this season, I found it interesting that only one team, the San Antonio Spurs, has gone on to win a championship after drafting first overall. Four others, by my count, reached the NBA Finals – Cleveland, Orlando, New Jersey, and Philadelphia – but did not win. I know the tanking emphasis is more on receiving a top five pick than going all-in on getting the number one spot, but this is a good reminder that taking a player at the very top of the draft guarantees you absolutely nothing.)


Thursday, November 28, 2013

The 2014 Bizarro Hall of Fame Preview

The 2014 Baseball Hall of Fame ballot was released this week, prompting former Bus Leaguer Michael Lortz to shoot me a link and suggest a few possible new members of the Bizarro Hall of Fame, whose membership includes anyone listed on the real Hall of Fame ballot who does not receive any votes.

I don’t usually do a preview for the Bizarro Hall of Fame, mainly because it’s difficult to predict; all it takes is one rogue voter to completely upend the process. The last time I tried, I correctly pegged Brady Anderson and Jose Rijo as likely candidates, which was good. I also suggested Travis Fryman, Shawon Dunston, and Todd Stottlemyre, which is bad because now I keep finding myself thinking that Stottlemyre is actually a Bizarro Hall of Famer when he’s really just a guy who got a random Hall of Fame vote.

This year, however, there was clamoring* to produce such a preview. So I tried to use common sense and reasoning to come up with a few names who might be the newest members of the Bizarro Hall.

*One guy. There was one. And he was kind of lukewarm on the idea.

One important thing to remember going in: most of the time, there are six or fewer new additions. Nine times since 1997, there have been three or fewer. Last year? Eleven. So it could fluctuate quite a bit.

First thing to do is consider the ballot. There are nineteen first-timers on it this year, with a handful of them likely to reach the real Hall of Fame. Let’s get those guys out of the way first: Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux, Mike Mussina, and Frank Thomas. I can also talk myself into Jeff Kent, though he will likely wait a few years if he gets in at all. It may ultimately be the Joe Gordon Plan for Mr. Kent. Either way, he’s not a Bizarro.

That leaves fourteen possibilities. The first that stood out to me was Mike Timlin, a reliever closely identified with two teams (Toronto and Boston) who pitched a lot (1,058 career games), closed when needed (141 saves), and won a few World Series rings (four). I was all set to predict a vote in his favor, largely based on his time with the Red Sox and importance to the team’s bullpen during two championship runs, until I realized he’s basically Mike Stanton (we will also accept Mike Jackson as an answer). There’s always a chance, but I think Timlin ends up a Bizarro.

If Timlin is Stanton, then Todd Jones and Armando Benitez could well be Roberto Hernandez and Jose Mesa, 300 save guys who were never really regarded as lockdown closers. The voters appear to have a definition of “Hall of Fame reliever” in their minds, as illustrated by Bruce Sutter (innovation of the splitter), Goose Gossage (hard-throwing badass), Rollie Fingers (held the saves records at the time of his induction; I’d also like to believe his mustache played a role), Hoyt Wilhelm (dat knuckler), and Dennis Eckersley (an exceptional starter before a multi-year stretch as a dominant closer). Four of those guys have 300 saves, while Wilhelm had 227 in a different era, but all had something different that made them cool and got them elected.

Earlier today, I would have argued that neither Jones nor Benitez was in possession of that certain something extra that would convince someone to vote for him; the latter in particular was, if memory serves, always a train wreck waiting to happen (though that could well be a result of his time spent with the Mets in New York, where the spotlight is hotter than anywhere else and mistakes are grossly magnified).

I still think Benitez is in; he fits the Bizarro reliever mold. Jones, however, is potentially a different story. Michael tweeted at me earlier today to check out the tweets of ESPN’s Jayson Stark, who passed along the fact that Jones issued an “official release” stating that he didn’t even belong on the Hall of Fame ballot. This is a brilliant maneuver that I like to call the Jim Deshaies Plan, after the journeyman lefthander who led a campaign to get himself a Hall of Fame vote after landing on the 2001 ballot. Usually players who get just one vote are condemned, in my worldview, to a life of anonymity and the “what might have been?” that comes from a near-brush with Bizarro greatness. No such sad fate befell Deshaies, who was able to enjoy the best of both worlds. Jones may be playing a variation of that plan (hereby called the Todd Jones Corollary) in which he uses humility to suggest he doesn’t deserve a vote, which could thereby result in him being awarded one anyway. I applaud Todd Jones while still hoping that he earns Bizarro honors. He probably won’t, though.

Now, speaking of relievers: Eric Gagne…Gagne is a wild card, in theory. One of the most dominant relief stretches ever from 2002-04 (152 saves and the 2003 National League Cy Young award), but he was eventually named in the Mitchell Report and admitted to using banned substances (and we all know how the writers feel about that). No chance he is a Hall of Famer, even without PEDs (his peak was amazing, but way too short), and almost none that he stays on the ballot next year, but does someone decide to pitch him a courtesy vote or two? I asked more or less the same question of Brady Anderson several years ago. It seemed in question because he had that 50 homer season, tainted though it might have been. Ultimately, the voters spoke and made him a Bizarro Hall of Famer. The more I think about it, the more I see the same happening with Gagne.

And now, speaking of steroids: Paul Lo Duca…the four-time All-Star catcher had one exceptional season (25 homers, 90 RBI, .320 batting average) as Gagne’s teammate in 2001 and was later named in the Mitchell Report. If Gagne is a possible Bizarro, then Lo Duca should be a slam dunk.

Many will be tempted to include Luis Gonzalez in the steroid conversation, and one story I found said that he was included on the list of players who tested positive in 2003 (that list is invalid because it also included David Ortiz. I may be biased in certain cases), but I worry about our tendency to witch hunt players that we think MIGHT have done something naughty. Jeff Bagwell is a perfect example – he’s got Hall of Fame numbers, seemed to be a quality person, but he’s never garnered sufficient support because he LOOKS like he might have used steroids. That’s not right. In the end, though, it doesn’t matter what I think. It’s all about how the voters view it. I’ve never gotten the same “no chance” vibe from Gonzalez as I did from Brady Anderson, so I’m gonna say he doesn’t make it as a Bizarro (and kick myself when proven wrong).

On the other hand, I don’t ever recall any PED allegations at all when it came to Richie Sexson. He was too much like Adam Dunn – just naturally a large human – to seem like he needed something extra. Sexson still won’t make the Hall of Fame, though, because he was a power hitter in the late 90s and early 00s, and power hitters from that era are not looked upon kindly (see Greg Vaughn and Phil Nevin, to name two). For that reason, I think he is a Bizarro.

Moises Alou is in the same boat as Sexson: a few great seasons and a really exceptional career. He always struck me as a much bigger name than Sexson, though, which is why I think he has a real shot of not only getting some votes, but sticking on the ballot for a while.

While we’re talking about good players who probably will fall into some in-between world that exists between the real and Bizarro Halls of Fame, let’s mention Hideo Nomo and Kenny Rogers. First, regarding Nomo: no Bizarro pitcher has two no-hitters on his resume (Mike Witt did have a combined effort with Mark Langston in addition to his perfect game) and I don’t think Nomo will be the first, especially because of the excitement he engendered upon arriving in Los Angeles. Someone will vote for him, and they should; I hope he sticks around the ballot for a few years. Likewise, I think Rogers escapes Bizarro induction by virtue of his perfect game – the only player in the Bizarro Hall with a perfecto to his credit is Witt, who was a decent pitcher but not a great one – and the fact that he won 219 games in his career, a number that will still matter to a lot of people (only one Bizarro pitcher has more: Frank Tanana, who had a career record of 240-236).

There are two guys on the ballot who fall into the “decent player, good person” category: Sean Casey and J.T. Snow. The former’s nickname was “The Mayor”, the latter saved Dusty Baker’s three-year-old son from being run over by a base runner during a game in the 2002 World Series. Andrew Rosin made the point on Twitter that if any player stands to benefit from the continued backlash against PED users, it’s Casey, and I’d feel comfortable including Snow in that analysis as well. I’d say they both receive a couple votes.

Finally, we come to the last two: Jacque Jones and Ray Durham. Both were good players – Durham was eight homeruns shy of a career 200-200 and Jones had four twenty homer seasons on his resume – but neither was particularly memorable, as far as I can remember. Michael thinks Durham is a worthy Bizarro candidate, while Andrew has mentioned Jones. While neither is a slam dunk, and could in fact benefit from the same benignity as Casey and Snow, I think I’ll predict Bizarro inclusion for both.

This year, with nineteen newcomers to the ballot, there could be anywhere from zero to fourteen Bizarro Hall of Famers. At this point, I’m going with seven: Mike Timlin, Armando Benitez, Eric Gagne, Paul Lo Duca, Richie Sexson, Jacque Jones, and Ray Durham.


Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Birthday Baseball

Growing up as a baseball fan with a late October birthday, it was always disappointing that I never got to see a game on that day. My only hope, albeit a slim one, was the World Series. I’ll never forget when an earthquake struck San Francisco before Game 3 of the 1989 Series, delaying the action for nearly two weeks and making Brian’s Birthday Baseball a very real possibility. Alas, Oakland took no pity on the Giants, finishing off a four game sweep on October 28, just two days short.

This year, Game 6 is scheduled for October 30, which means I could have the opportunity to celebrate a Red Sox world championship on my birthday. That would, of course, be great. But this timing also made me think about if I’ve ever seen a game on my birthday, and how often I’ve come close.

For starters, here are the World Series that came close, ending on October 27 or 28 (I only went back as far as 1969, when divisional play began; it seems reasonable to assume that late October baseball would have been very unlikely at least without the extra round of playoffs):

October 27: 1985 (seven games), 1986 (seven games), 1991 (seven games), 1999 (four games), 2002 (seven games), 2004 (four games), 2006 (five games), 2008 (five games)

October 28: 1981 (six games), 1989 (four games), 1995 (six games), 2007 (four games), 2011 (seven games), 2012 (four games)

The 2009 World Series deserves honorable mention: it didn’t wrap up until November 4, when Andy Pettitte beat Pedro Martinez in Game 6, but October 30 conveniently fell on a travel day between Games 2 and 3. Not sure it mattered anyway, since watching a Yankees-Phillies Fall Classic was not high on my list of things to do at that point.

In the end, there were two professional baseball games played on October 30: Game 3 of the 2001 and 2010 World Series. The first was one of the most emotional dates in postseason history; President George W.Bush took to the Yankee Stadium mound about seven weeks after the September 11th terrorist attacks and delivered a picture perfect first pitch, right down the middle. I don’t remember watching it live (I was probably working), but finding it on YouTube this afternoon gave me chills. It was an incredible moment in what turned out to be a classic Classic.

Game 3 in 2010 was slightly less important, unless you consider the first World Series win in Texas Rangers history a monumental event. This was actually the only game San Francisco lost in either of its championship runs. It’s like the universe was giving me a “my bad” fist bump for the near-miss in 1989.

With a little luck, next week I’ll be celebrating another day of Brian’s Birthday Baseball, with a side of World Champion Boston Red Sox.


Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Brian Anderson Loves Rhode Island, Wishes Maine Didn't Exist

During Game Three of the America League Division Series between the Red Sox and Rays, one of the members of the broadcast team (may have been Brian Anderson) was talking about Brandon Workman, who recorded the final two outs of the eighth inning, and mentioned that he had started the season at Triple-A Pawtucket.

One problem: Workman actually began the year with the Portland Sea Dogs, Boston’s Double-A affiliate, where he went 5-1 with a 3.43 ERA and 74 strikeouts in 65.2 innings over 11 games. He was promoted to Pawtucket in early June and spent about a month there before making his major league debut on July 10.

A small error, sure, and one that I wouldn’t have even thought twice about…if they hadn’t done the exact same thing in last night’s Game Four.

Xander Bogaerts was making his first postseason plate appearance, as a pinch-hitter for Stephen Drew, and again Anderson (I think) said that he had begun the season with Pawtucket. And again, he was dead wrong: Bogaerts played 56 games with the Sea Dogs before earning a promotion to Pawtucket in mid-June, then to Boston two months later.

One time, I figure, is an honest mistake; twice, though, makes me start wondering what else they might have gotten wrong, and I hate doubting my broadcasters like that*. Do some more thorough research, fellas, and we’ll all live happier lives.

*I have to be honest here: Dennis Eckersley worked a lot of Red Sox games this season and I enjoyed him greatly even though he was constantly throwing out stats and numbers that made me say, “Wait, that ain’t right…” My wife, on the other hand, despises him. She says he’s annoying.

Actually, there was one other thing from Bogaerts at-bat that made me question if the guys in the booth really had any idea that the minor leagues existed at all. Bogaerts was facing Rays reliever Jake McGee and the subject of his splits against lefties came up. Anderson (again, I think; I apologize if it was actually Joe Simpson) noted that since he had reached the majors so late, he only had a small sample size of 15 at-bats to consider.

That’s all well and good, except it ignores the fact that Bogaerts had 168 plate appearances against lefties in the minors* this season, hitting .309 and walking (28) more than he struck out (26). He didn’t homer as much, but his slugging percentage was actually a bit higher thanks to his double and triples.

*To be honest, I’m not sure if that number includes the 18 plate appearances in the majors. Either way, though, he had a decent body of work to evaluate this season.

I know there’s no real point to this. I’m just a random dude sitting on his couch in New Hampshire, criticizing a guy who has one of the coolest jobs in pro sports. But maybe that is the point, in the end: if a schlub like me knows enough to immediately call bullshit on statements like these, I figure they should know enough not to make such avoidable errors in the first place.


Saturday, October 05, 2013

Ranking the Potential 2013 World Series Matchups

I was thinking about it the other day, and with so many historic teams still alive in the playoffs, there is a good chance that this year’s World Series will feature an exciting matchup. So I decided to rank them according to my very complex system (the main criteria: does my gut say, “Hey, that would be cool,” when I think about the matchup in my head?)*

*It should be understood up front that I want the Red Sox to reach and win the World Series. That should be apparent if you’ve read some of the stuff I’ve written over the past few years. (If you haven’t: I’m a Red Sox fan. Not a crazy one who loses sleep over the team or plans his life around games or anything, but I do always want them to win the World Series.) Home team bias aside, however, I think all four potential matchups would be good from a historical perspective as well.

1. Boston Red Sox vs. Pittsburgh Pirates – Not only are these two old school franchises that go back to the origins of the modern major leagues, they were the opposing teams in the first World Series in 1903. A seven game Series between the Bucs and the Sox would be un-be-liev-able.

Also, on a personal note, my mother-in-law was born in Pittsburgh and her mother still likes to talk about the team that beat the Yankees in 1960.

2. Boston Red Sox vs. St. Louis Cardinals – Major League Baseball is determined to sell the Braves as the natural rival for the Red Sox due to their shared history in Boston, but a real case can be made that the Cardinals belong in that role. The two teams have played in three World Series (1946, 1967, 2004), with the first two going seven games and the third ending Boston’s 86 year championship drought. If they meet again this season, both would be looking for a third ring in the past decade.

3. Boston Red Sox vs. Los Angeles Dodgers – Boston and Brooklyn played in the 1916 Series that is mostly known (to me, anyway) as “the second consecutive World Series won by the Red Sox”. It kinda tends to fade into the background of all the other history for both teams and get overlooked. This would be an incredible matchup, though, simply because half of Los Angeles’ regular lineup used to play for Boston (Nick Punto, Carl Crawford, Adrian Gonzalez, and Hanley Ramirez).

4. Boston Red Sox vs. Atlanta Braves – The Red Sox and Braves both called Boston home until the early 1950s, when the latter fled to Milwaukee. They never played in the World Series, but did combine to win five in seven years from 1912 to 1918.

5. Tampa Bay Rays vs. Pittsburgh Pirates – The Rays have only played in one World Series, against the Phillies in 2008, let’s be honest: it would be kinda cool to see them play any of the four remaining National League teams in the Fall Classic. They’re probably third on my list of teams I’d like to see win a championship, behind the Red Sox and the Pirates. Given that (and both teams’ limited payroll and periods of historic futility), this option may be the best of the bunch.

6. Oakland Athletics vs. Los Angeles Dodgers – The A’s beat the Dodgers en route to a third consecutive title in 1974. The Dodgers returned the favor in 1988, with Kirk Gibson’s dramatic walk-off homerun off Dennis Eckersley in Game One serving as the iconic moment of the series. The only down side is that the long awaited rubber match could never live up to the examples of the first two…right?

7. Detroit Tigers vs. St. Louis Cardinals – Like Red Sox-Cardinals, this one spans multiple generations, from Dizzy Dean and Hank Greenberg in 1934 (won by St. Louis in seven) to Bob Gibson and Denny McLain in 1968 (won by Detroit in seven) to Albert Pujols and Justin Verlander in 2006 (won by St. Louis in five). They are also two of the better teams of the past decade, with five World Series appearances and two championship (both by the Cardinals) between them since 2004.

8. Oakland Athletics vs. Pittsburgh Pirates – They’ve never played in the World Series, but it would be interesting to see for similar reasons to the Rays-Pirates possibility, a couple of low payroll underdogs fighting it out on a national stage.

9. Tampa Bay Rays vs. St. Louis Cardinals – The problem with the lack of history for the Rays is that while I would like to see them win a World Series (provided they don’t have to go through the Red Sox to do it), there aren’t a lot of matchups that I look at and instinctively say, “Oh, that would be great to see.” Beyond that first one with the Pirates, it basically comes down to which potential opponent resonates more with me.

10. Detroit Tigers vs. Los Angeles Dodgers – This originally started out a lot lower, around number 15, but has grown on me the more I’ve thought about it. The individual team history is there, though they haven’t played in the postseason, but the main sell is the possibility of matchups between the two pitching staffs. Justin Verlander vs. Clayton Kershaw and Max Scherzer vs. Zack Greinke is interesting enough, even before you consider that they have to face the likes of Miguel Cabrera, Hanley Ramirez, and Yasiel Puig.

11. Tampa Bay Rays vs. Los Angeles Dodgers – I’ve always liked the Dodgers, I think because I like Sandy Koufax. Sometimes it’s just that simple.

12. Detroit Tigers vs. Pittsburgh Pirates – The only time these two teams played in the World Series was 1909, when Ty Cobb and Honus Wagner were the main players. Pittsburgh won in seven, the third consecutive year in which the Tigers had lost the Series.

13. Oakland Athletics vs. St. Louis Cardinals – These two matched up in the Fall Classic in 1930 and 1931. The A’s won the first behind a few guys named Mickey Cochrane, Jimmie Foxx, and Lefty Grove, while the Redbirds rode Frankie Frisch, Jim Bottomley, and Burleigh Grimes to victory in the second. Eighty-two years later, WHO SHALL HAVE VENGEANCE?

14. Tampa Bay Rays vs. Atlanta Braves – This is as good a place as any to put these guys. (The Braves don’t interest me at all, either this year or historically. I don’t know why.)

15. Oakland Athletics vs. Atlanta Braves – It would be just like the 1914 World Series, except both teams have since moved twice. Also, I just noticed that the Boston Braves played the Philadelphia Athletics in the 1914 Series and the Boston Red Sox played the Philadelphia Phillies the next year. That amuses me.

16. Detroit Tigers vs. Atlanta Braves – Seriously, I don’t know what it is about the Braves. I can’t wait to think of a reason I like them in about ten minutes that totally throws this carefully thought out ranking into disarray.


Wednesday, October 02, 2013

First Overall Picks As Teammates

I’m not exactly sure what made me think of this (it might have been when I realized that Tim Beckham had made his major league debut this season), but I recently found myself wondering how many times a team has fielded more than one first overall draft pick in the same season.

Turns out, it’s one of those things that isn’t really rare but still happens often enough to be interesting: since the draft began in 1965, twenty different teams have employed forty combinations of number one picks in the same season, with 18 of those combos spanning multiple years.

A few interesting things that stood out:

1. The 1995 Seattle Mariners (my friend Chris’s favorite team, for sentimental reasons) hold the record for most number ones on a team, with four: Tim Belcher, Andy Benes, Ken Griffey, and Alex Rodriguez. Belcher and Benes were both starting pitchers, so regrettably there was never a time when all four were on the field at the same time, and Griffey missed half the season with a broken wrist, but there were three games in which three players appeared:

May 25: Griffey started in center, batted third, and went 0-4; Rodriguez started at shortstop, batted seventh, and went 2-3 with an RBI and a run scored; Belcher started and gave up three runs on five hits in 5.2 innings.

September 11: Griffey started in center, batted third, and 1-2 with a homerun and three walks; Rodriguez was a ninth inning defensive replacement; Belcher started and gave up three runs on eight hits in 5.1 innings.

September 20: Griffey started in center, batted third, and went 2-5 with a homerun;  Rodriguez was a ninth inning defensive replacement; Benes started and gave up two runs on five hits in seven innings.

2. Three former number ones appeared for the Tampa Bay Rays on September 20, 2013. David Price started and allowed two runs on nine hits in five innings; Delmon Young struck out as a pinch-hitter in the 11th inning; Tim Beckham (in his second major league game) entered as a pinch-hitter in the 14th inning and went 0-3.

3. One other team had three number ones: the San Diego Padres. Where the examples mentioned above could point to specific games, however, the Padres had three players who were teammates for parts of three seasons: Bill Almon, Mike Ivie, and Dave Roberts.

1974: Almon (16); Ivie (12); Roberts (113)
1975: Almon (6); Ivie (111); Roberts (33)
1977: Almon (155); Ivie (134); Roberts (82)

Call me lazy, but I’m gonna go ahead and assume that those three fellas played together a bunch of times during those seasons, especially 1977.

Also, I just noticed this and don’t dare investigate further because doing so would almost certainly destroy my brain, but that 1977 Padres team also featured and outfield of George Hendrick (first overall pick in the January phase of the 1968 draft), Dave Kingman (first overall pick in the secondary phase of the June 1970 draft), and Dave Winfield (drafted fourth overall in 1973, so of course he’s the only Hall of Famer).

4. No player drafted first overall has played for the Marlins since the franchise came into existence in 1993. The team selected Adrian Gonzalez first in 2000, but traded him to Texas with two other players for Ugueth Urbina three years later. Ironically, Gonzalez later became the first number one to play for the Red Sox when he was traded to Boston in 2011. Fellow 1993 expansion team Colorado has employed just one former number one, Matt Anderson in 1995.

5. At least five first overall picks had the middle name Wayne: Tim Belcher, Chipper Jones, Jeff King, Dave Roberts, and Mike Moore. That seems like an awfully high number for a name that I don’t think of as insanely popular.

Arizona Diamondbacks

Atlanta Braves
2000-02: Chipper Jones, B.J. Surhoff

Baltimore Orioles
1997-2000: Harold Baines, B.J. Surhoff

Chicago White Sox
1981-82: Bill Almon, Harold Baines
1983-87: Floyd Bannister, Harold Baines

Cincinnati Reds
2003-05: Ken Griffey, Paul Wilson
2007: Ken Griffey, Josh Hamilton

Detroit Tigers
1994: Mike Moore, Tim Belcher
1995: Mike Moore, Phil Nevin

Houston Astros
1981: Mike Ivie, Dave Roberts

Kansas City Royals
1997-98: Jeff King, Tim Belcher

Los Angeles Angels
1991: Floyd Bannister, Shawn Abner
1998: Phil Nevin, Darin Erstad
1999-2000: Tim Belcher, Darin Erstad

Los Angeles Dodgers
1991: Darryl Strawberry, Tim Belcher

Minnesota Twins
2006: Joe Mauer, Phil Nevin
2008-11: Joe Mauer, Delmon Young

New York Mets
1987: Bill Almon, Darryl Strawberry

Oakland Athletics
1983-84: Jeff Burroughs, Bill Almon
1990-92: Harold Baines, Mike Moore

Pittsburgh Pirates
1985: Tim Foli, Bill Almon

San Diego Padres
1974-75, 1977: Mike Ivie, Dave Roberts, Bill Almon
1976: Mike Ivie, Bill Almon
1978: Dave Roberts, Bill Almon
1989-91: Shawn Abner, Andy Benes

St. Louis Cardinals
2000: Shawon Dunston, Andy Benes

Texas Rangers
1981: Jeff Burroughs, Floyd Bannister
1982: Floyd Bannister, Mike Moore
1983-85: Al Chambers, Mike Moore
1994, 1996-99: Ken Griffey, Alex Rodriguez
1995: Tim Belcher, Ken Griffey, Andy Benes, Alex Rodriguez

Tampa Bay Rays
2009-10: David Price, Pat Burrell
2013: David Price, Delmon Young, Tim Beckham

Texas Rangers
1973-75: Jeff Burroughs, David Clyde
2005: Phil Nevin, Adrian Gonzalez
2009: Kris Benson, Josh Hamilton

Washington Nationals