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.