I hadn't devoted a ton of attention to this year's Bizarro Hall of Fame possibilities because, honestly, I lost track of time and didn't realize that the announcement was today. In years past I've held off on this post rather than rushing to get it up, but I was so excited by the sheer number of players involved this year that I just had to write it as soon as possible.
The eleven players "inducted" this year equals the fifth-highest total in Bizarro Hall of Fame history, which dates back to 1978, and the most since 1992. The top five is now 1980 (29), 1979 (16), 1983 (15), 1988 (14), 1989 (11), 1991 (11), and 2013.
Jeff Cirillo – On June 29, 2004, Randy Johnson struck out Cirillo to become the fourth pitcher to record 4,000 career punchouts (in case you’re wondering, the pitch sequence went slider-slider-slider-fastball-slider-slider, according to the AP). Cirillo, a third baseman for the Padres at the time, was also the subject of Johnson’s 3,998th strikeout.
Royce Clayton – I never quite got past the image of Clayton as a young Giant – he came of age at the age of 23 as the shortstop for the San Fran squad that won 103 games but lost the division to Atlanta on the season’s final day – so much so that I completely forgot he ended his career with eight games in a Red Sox uniform in 2007 (to be fair, the logs suggest that his performance in these games was, in fact, forgettable). In seventeen seasons, he played for eleven different major league teams.
Jeff Conine – An original member of the Florida Marlins, Conine had a solid five year run in Miami, averaging just about 20 homeruns and 84 RBI a year from 1993-97. He was traded to Kansas City after winning the World Series with the Marlins in 1997, but eventually returned in August 2003 and became the only player to see action for the team in both of its Fall Classic appearances.
Roberto Hernandez – Every year, it seems like there are a couple closers who don’t get any love in the Hall of Fame voting. Hernandez and his 326 career saves (currently 13th on the all-time list) are at the top of that list this time around. Six times he nailed down more than 30 games in a season, with a career high of 43 for the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in 1999.
In 1997, Hernandez was one of three White Sox pitchers traded to San Francisco for a package of six prospects (including Keith Foulke and Bob Howry), a move that was derided at the time because the Pale Hose were viewed as giving up on the season despite being within easy striking distance of first place Cleveland at the time (they eventually finished six games behind the Indians).
Also, he gets a third paragraph because I have to mention that he went to high school in New Hampton, New Hampshire, for two years. We don’t have a ton of big-time athletes emerging from these here parts. Have to make note of it when it happens. (Thank you, Baseball-Reference, for the tip.)
Ryan Klesko – A fearsome slugger from 1995-2005, Klesko also stole 20+ bases in both 2000 and 2001, the only times he ever swiped more than six in a season. Unfortunately, he was a power hitter who played in the worst possible era to be a power hitter (it feels like anyone who hit 30 homeruns in the late 1990s and early 2000s is a suspicious figure, even though that mindset is patently unfair) and came onto the ballot at the worst possible time.
If nothing else, Klesko came away from his sixteen year career with a World Series ring, which he earned in 1995 by hitting .313 with three homeruns against the Indians. Oh, and he also made approximately $60 million as a player.
Jose Mesa – Immediately behind Roberto Hernandez on the all-time saves list is the one and only Joe Table, with 321. Four times he saved 40+ games in a season (for three different teams), including 1995, when he led the league with 46, had a 1.13 ERA, and finished second in the Cy Young voting (a distant second to Randy Johnson) and fourth in the MVP voting while helping the Indians to the franchise’s first World Series appearance since 1948.
He also trails Hernandez in the All-Important “Teams Played For” category, with a career total of eight (to Hernandez’s ten).
Reggie Sanders – I very rarely root for a player to become a Bizarro Hall of Famer (though I was devastated when Mike Morgan didn’t even make the ballot; a sham, that was), but I wanted Reggie Sanders to be here for no other reason than the fact that just looking at his career arc gives me such joy. He’s like a guy who gets out of an unhappy marriage and just decides to play the field: eight years in Cincinnati followed by one year engagements in San Diego, Atlanta, Arizona, San Francisco, and Pittsburgh. I still remember how happy I was when he stayed in St. Louis for a second season – “Aww, Reggie finally found someone who can make him happy. Good for him. I hope those crazy kids make it.”
Mike Stanton – There’s another guy named Brian Moynahan out there, a British journalist who has written a bunch of books about European history. I’m sure he’s a nice guy and I respect his productivity, but I still kinda hate him for having the same name as me.
What I’m trying to say is, I know how Mike Stanton must’ve felt the past couple years and think it was a quality move on the part of Giancarlo Stanton to change his name. Good on you, Giancarlo.
Also, to add to the “Underappreciated Relievers” theme we’ve got going here – while Stanton only had 84 career saves in 19 seasons, he did appear in 1,178 games. That’s the second-highest total for a pitcher in major league history, behind only Jesse Orosco. (Jose Mesa is tied for eleventh. Roberto Hernandez is 13th.) Of the top 15, five are Hall of Famers or likely to be (Dennis Eckersley, Hoyt Wilhelm, Mariano Rivera, Trevor Hoffman, and Goose Gossage) and five are Bizarro Hall of Famers (Stanton, Mesa, Hernandez, Dan Plesac, and Mike Jackson).
Todd Walker – I liked Walker when he played for the Red Sox in 2003. It always seemed like he spent more than a year in Boston. I think it’s because somewhere along the way, my mind sort of turned him and Mark Bellhorn into basically the same person. It’s not really something I can explain. I’m not even sure they were all that similar as players.
Rondell White – Even though he didn’t play all that much in 1994, White is one of those guys who, to me, represents the “what might have been” disappointment of the mid-1990s Montreal Expos. He was never a superstar, but always a nice player who would have been a key component in what should have been a decent stretch of competitiveness for Montreal.
Woody Williams – Williams was the Game One starter for the Cardinals in the 2004 World Series. He got rocked for seven runs in 2 1/3 innings, a fact that practically makes him an honorary member of Red Sox Nation in my book. I watched that game with my wife’s family – Yankees fans – in New York and let me tell you, it was nice to have seven runs on the board in the first three innings to help ease the tension.