Memories of Monte Irvin

By Blaidd Drwg

Yesterday I as saddened to hear of the passing of Monte Irvin on the 11th of January at age 96. If you don’t know who Irvin was, he was a former NY Giant great and the first baseball Hall of Famer I ever met, back in the early 1980’s at a baseball card show at St. Peter’s College in New Jersey (I was probably 10 or 11 at the time). He appeared with another former Giant teammate Dusty Rhodes. I had the pleasure of sitting down with the both of them for about 20 minutes to talk baseball since there was no one there getting autographs. I remember Rhodes talking about how he became a tugboat captain after he retired from baseball and Irvin talked about his experiences in the Negro Leagues, which I knew very little about at the time. Thanks to Irvin, I became interested in Negro League history, which at the time, was not easy to find any information about and it is directly responsible for me being a long time supporter of the Negro League Museum in KC, a place that I sadly have not yet been to. Rhodes passed away in 2009 (not before I had a series of correspondences with him about his post-baseball career and I still have the letters that he sent – yep, we corresponded old school and I do have an unhealthy obsession with tugboats) and with Irvin passing on the 11th, we lost yet another link to the Negro Leagues.

I am sure that Irvin had no idea that a 20 minute conversation he had with a kid 30 years ago would have such an impact, and, frankly, I had not realized it myself until I reflected on my interaction with Irvin. A friend of mine sent me a link to an article on about Irvin’s passing, written by someone who actually knew him. I would suggest reading the article, but I wanted to include a snippet of it just to make a point about how much the Negro Leagues meant to Irvin:

There was a moment about a decade ago when I researched all the Hall of Famers who played in Newark for the New York Yankees farm team called the Bears, the Eagles and the turn-of-the-century Newark Indians. Joe DiVincenzo, the Essex County Executive had hung plaques for a ring of honor just above façade behind home plate at the Bears and Eagles baseball stadium in Newark.

Monte was one of them. He was in a wheelchair, and afterward I walked over to him and hugged him. Monte, being Monte, the conversation went like this:

“Listen,” he said, “I’ve got to tell you something. You can’t die.”

“Ever?” I said.

“Never,” he said. ”You are the last writer to ever see us play in the Negro Leagues. You die and that leaves nobody to tell our story. The kids won’t even believe we had a league. Don’t die.”

So in honor of Irvin’s passing, go read a book on tugboats, or the a book I highly recommend on the Negro Leagues, “When Only the Ball Was White.” Better yet, go make a donation to the Negro League Museum – a place that would not existed if it were not for the efforts of guys like Buck O’Neil and Monte Irvin and lets make sure a very important piece of American history does not get forgotten once those who were part of it are all gone.

Hall of Fame Eligibility

By Blaidd Drwg

The BBWAA is changing the procedure for voting for the Hall of Fame. Once you are on the ballot, you are now only eligible for 10 years rather than 15. This is going to create a bigger mess because of the mess that the BBWAA has already created.

Because there are a large number of idiots in the BBWAA who feel like they need to make a point about the sanctity of the game with their votes, there is a massive log jam of guys who should be inducted but haven’t been. How bad is it? For the guys still on the ballot that you can make a legitimate case for election, we have: Biggio, Piazza, Bagwell, Raines, Clemens, Bonds, Lee Smith, Schilling, Edgar Martinez, Trammell, Mussina, McGwire, Larry Walker and Sosa. That doesn’t count Rafael Palmeiro who is no longer eligible or newbies for 2015 Sheffield, Smoltz, Pedro Martinez and Randy Johnson. Steroids aside, that is 18 potential candidates on a ballot that can have a maximum of 10 names on it. It is only going to get worse and it probably won’t be until the 2019-2020 ballots that we don’t have a significant number of good new candidates joining each year. That means that there are guys that are going to miss out on enshrinement that absolutely deserve to be.

I also had a friend make the argument that a guy is a first ballot HOFer or not. My counter to that was, steroid issues aside, what do you do when you have 11 qualified candidates and only 10 spots on your ballot? If you figure we add 2-3 players a year to the Hall and 3-4 more qualified candidates to the ballot, how long before the backlog actually clears? This assumes that every ballot has 10 names on it anyway.

Besides this, have you ever seen the list of guys that were not “first ballot HOFers”? Here are some highlights with the number of years it took them to get elected:

Cy Young (2)

Rogers Hornsby (5)

Mel Ott (3)

Jimmy Foxx (7) – interesting side note, when Foxx retired, he was second on the all-time home run list behind Babe Ruth. It would be nearly 25 years before Willie Mays passed him.

Joe Dimaggio (3) – yep. The Yankee Clipper only drew 44.3% of the vote in his first year.

Roy Campanella (5)

Yogi Berra (2)

Robin Roberts (7)

Edie Mathews (5)

Juan Marichal (3)

Carlton Fisk (2)

Robby Alomar (2)


Blaidd Drwg’s Annual HOF Rant

By Blaidd Drwg

Hall of Fame ballots were sent out the other day and this may be the most stacked ballot in the history of the HOF voting, with no less than 8 legitimate HOFers (steroid argument aside) on the ballot and I would argue of the 36 guys who are on the ballot, at 10 of them deserve to be in the Hall, no questions asked. My list:

Greg Maddux

Tom Glavine

Frank Thomas

Barry Bonds

Roger Clemens

Mark McGwire

Craig Biggio

Jeff Bagwell

Rafael Palmiero

Mike Piazza

Considering I doubt that the BBWAA can pull its head out of its ass, I think that we see Biggio, Maddux and Glavine this year get elected, but that is it. The guys who are hurt most by the stupidity of the BBWAA are the fringe guys like Alan Trammell, Tim Raines, Curt Schilling and Mike Mussina. These guys are not going to get as much support as they should, and I wouldn’t be surprised if one of them ends up dropping off the ballot.

Speaking of which, this is thankfully the last year we have to hear about the Jack Morris as HOFer argument. I have expressed my feelings about that in the past, so it is time again to play spot the HOFer.  Which one of these guys would you vote for/suggest is a HOF pitcher?

  Regular Season         Post Season  
A 216-146 3.46 8.6 127 80.7   11-2 133.1 2.23
B 219-156 4.27 5.4 107 51.1   3-3 43.1 4.15
C 254-186 3.90 5.8 105 43.8   7-4 92.1 3.80
D 270-153 3.68 7.1 123 82.7   7-8 139.2 3.42


It is pretty obvious that players A and D were far and away better than the other 2 and A was very dominant in the post season (not that D was a slouch either). Player A is Curt Schilling, who received roughly half of the vote total as Jack Morris last year. Player D is Mike Mussina, who is on the ballot for the first time. Players B and C, forgetting the win total for the moment, look like they are roughly the same player. Player B? Kenny Rogers. Player C? Jack Morris. Still think Morris looks like a HOFer? Morris is arguably the 5th best pitcher on the ballot this year and there is no way in hell he should get elected before Maddux, Glavine, Schilling or Mussina.

The Veterans Committee is at it Again

By Bladd Drwg

The veterans committee gets to vote (and probably not elect) anyone this year again. Here is the blurb from of who they get to consider:

COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. — Retired managers Joe Torre, Tony La Russa and Bobby Cox will join holdovers George Steinbrenner and Marvin Miller on the Hall of Fame expansion era committee ballot next month.
Dave Concepcion, Steve Garvey, Tommy John, Billy Martin and Ted Simmons also are held over from the 2010 ballot, while Dave Parker and Dan Quisenberry have been added. Vida Blue, Ron Guidry, Al Oliver and Rusty Staub have been dropped.

The committee will meet at the winter meetings in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., and its vote will be announced there Dec. 9.

Torre and Cox retired as managers after the 2010 season and La Russa after leading the St. Louis Cardinals to the 2011 World Series title.

None of the players on the ballot really deserve to be in the hall, unless you consider Billy Martin as a manager, and then you can make a case for him. Concepcion, Garvey, John, Simmons, Parker and Quiz all were excellent players during their careers but were never quite good enough to be considered greats and the hall would actually be worse off for electing any of them.

There is an interesting argument with the other 5 names. Torre, LaRussa and Cox all had hall of fame managing careers. Torre won 2300 games and 6 pennants and 4 WS titles over 29 seasons. Cox won 2500 games, 5 pennants and 1 WS title over 29 years. LaRussa won 2700 games, 6 pennants and 3 WS titles over 33 years (and is the only one of the 3 to win a pennant with more than one team). They rank 5th, 4th and 3rd respectively in career manager wins, behind only John McGraw and Connie Mack. They are also the only 3 managers in the top 10 in career wins that are not in the HOF. All three should be but I would bet only one of them makes it this year and my money is on Torre.

Steinbrenner and Miller are interesting cases – one was an owner (Steinbrenner) and one was the head of the players union (Miller). Both had significant impact on the game – Miller with leading the players union into the era of free agency and Steinbrenner, well, for being Steinbrenner. I really think Miller has a stronger case than Steinbrenner but both should eventually make it to the Hall. Getting them elected, well that might be harder since neither was particularly well liked by a segment of the voters, so we may never see a plaque with their names hanging in the gallery.


For your viewing pleasure, a cartoon by the late, great Bill Gallo and his classic George Steingrabber character:


A Different Take on Hall of Fame Voting

By Blaidd Drwg

To become eligible to vote in the annual Baseball Hall of Fame election, you need to be a member of the Baseball Writers Association. To become a member of the BBWAA, you need to cover baseball and be voted in by a committee (which is why some of the more brilliant baseball writers out there, like Rob Neyer, are not part of the BBWAA). Once you are a member of the BBWAA, you are a member for life, even if you stop covering baseball.

This causes a ton of issues during the Hall of Fame election process since there are a large number of the 575 ballots that are in the hands of “writers” who either no longer cover baseball or no longer follow baseball. Most of the articles that you will read about the Hall of Fame voting process are about why someone is or is not voting for a particular player. recently posted an article by T.J. Quinn about the election process. This one was slightly different – Quinn is no longer turning in his ballot for what I think is a very good reason. It is a bit of a long read, but I recommend it.

Quinn questions whether he is qualified to vote, and it isn’t just about steroids:

Even before the issue of performance-enhancing drugs overwhelmed the annual conversation, I questioned my capacity to evaluate a player’s fitness for immortality. My only qualification, like all voters, was 10 years’ service as a BBWAA member. But nothing in my years as a beat writer covering the Chicago White Sox and New York Mets, and nothing in my years covering doping as an investigative reporter since has prepared me to evaluate the effect PED use should have on a player’s legacy.

He also makes a point that I think few who argue that the steroid players should not be in the hall consider:

The argument hits a serious roadblock, however, when it is applied retroactively. Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays, Hank Aaron and countless others have admitted they used amphetamines during their careers. If they used today and were caught, they would be suspended under baseball’s rules. I don’t know anyone who wants to think about pulling those beloved players out of the Hall, even though one of the few studies ever done on PED use showed that amphetamines clearly enhance athletic performance.

I have asked this question before, where do you draw the line? Do you take out the guys who admitted to cheating if you make the argument that you won’t vote for Barry Bonds because he cheated? Can you prove that Cal Ripken never took anything, despite him claiming he did?

Quinn also sums this up nicely:

I’ve heard other writers say they couldn’t wait for certain players to make the ballot so they could leave their names unchecked. Eddie Murray’s name came up that way more than once. I voted for Albert Belle because I thought he was one of the most dominant players of his era. He didn’t get enough votes to stay on the ballot, in large part because of the way he treated reporters. He cursed me out a handful of times, but he also asked me how my grandmother was years after she had a stroke. I tried hard not to let either element influence the way I evaluated his career; and to me, he belonged. Robin Ventura might have been my favorite player to cover, both with the White Sox and the Mets, but that wasn’t reason enough to vote for him.

But at the end of the day, the game, the Hall and journalism would be better served if voting was limited to a select group of veterans, historians and even journalists — if they’re the right journalists. Columnists and national writers who have devoted their careers to the game, not dabblers. That wouldn’t solve the problem of how to evaluate players in the age of modern chemistry, but at least the right group would be making the call.

I have to agree with him. The process has too much bias in it, which has led to a good number of substandard guys getting elected to the Hall because of poor evaluation of their careers and they were “liked” by the media.

I don’t know if there is a better system, but the one we have isn’t very good. Heck, I would be happy if the BBWAA changed its procedures so that if you have not been covering the game for 5 years, you don’t get to vote for the Hall of Fame. I will be honest, that is about as likely to happen as pigs flying.

2013 Hall of Fame Ballot

By Blaidd Drwg

This year the Hall of Fame ballot gets crowded and interesting. Steroids argument aside, you have two guys who statistically are among the 10 best players in the history of the game and 4 guys who have a strong case that they should be in the Hall, and those are just the guys who are on the ballot for the first time this year.

If I had a vote, my ballot would have the 10 name maximum on it this year and probably for the next 4 or 5 years. Here is how it would look (keep in mind the steroid questions are a non-issue for me):

The New Guys
Barry Bonds – No brainer, only some guys named Babe Ruth and Cy Young have higher career WAR’s than Bonds
Roger Clemens – Easily the most dominating pitcher of the last 40 years, which is saying a lot.
Craig Biggio – He was overshadowed by the gaudy power numbers of his era, but this is a guy who hit, took walks, stole bases and won 4 Gold Gloves as a second baseman. Heck, he even switched to the outfield when the team asked him to. Basically he was the 1990’s version of Robin Yount.
Mike Piazza – Arguably the best hitting catcher in MLB history. Not bad for a guy who was drafted in the 62nd round of the draft as a favor by Tommy LaSorda to Piazza’s father.
Curt Schilling – Forget the bloody sock in 2004. Schilling was among the best in baseball for the better part of a decade, should have won at least one Cy Young award and is probably the best post season pitcher in the 2000’s and maybe the last 50 years.

The Returning Guys
Jeff Bagwell – He needs to be in. The guy could hit and run and field and, unfortunately, got lost in the shuffle by playing his entire career in Houston.
Alan Trammell – Larkin is in, Trammell was better.
Rafael Palmiero – Do I need to say anything more than 500 HR and 3000 hits?
Tim Raines – I think last year was “The Rock’s” last, best chance. The ballot is too crowded and I don’t think he has enough support.
Mark McGwire – The guy was a masher but he was the modern version of Ralph Kiner.

Sadly, I think that Jack Morris will get in this season, despite being less than qualified and not even being better than another guy who should not be anywhere close to getting elected – David Wells. Don’t believe me, look it up. Wells and Morris had very similar regular season numbers and Wells was a better post season pitcher than Morris.

My prediction for election – Morris is the only guy who gets in because the writers are idiots and won’t vote for anyone they suspect might have been involved with steroids, even without proof.

Commencing countdown (Five), engines on (Four)

By Blaidd Drwg

Roger Clemens, regardless of your feelings toward him, is a hall of famer. With 7 Cy Young awards, an MVP, 354 wins and 4600 strikeouts, I don’t care what he may or may not have taken. Roger Clemens is also eligible for the hall of fame in 2013. That should be an interesting vote seeing as there are 6 legitimate new candidates for the hall (Bonds, Clemens, Piazza, Sosa, Schilling and Biggio) as well as at least 5 guys that are returning and should eventually make the hall (and I am not counting Jack Morris who I believe is not worthy of being a hall of famer). Needless to say, the next few ballots are going to be very crowded and just about all of the 11 guys who are on this year’s ballot who should get into the hall all have steroid questions floating over their head. That is going to make things very interesting.

Flash back to a couple of weeks ago when Roger Clemens announced that he was going to pitch one game for the independent Sugar Land Skeeters. Clemens is 50 and has not pitched in a game since 2007. My first thought when I heard this was, “He is trying to make a comeback to reset the clock on his HOF eligibility.” It makes sense – if he pitches in a MLB game this season, it would reset his eligibility, making his first year on the ballot 2018 instead of 2013. The 2013 vote is stupidly going to be a referendum on steroids, with the tyrant old school voters trying to make a meaningless point. You also have at least 3 potential HOFers on each of the next 4 ballots after 2013, so things may get a bit more crowded. Pushing his eligibility back to 2018 creates a larger buffer for a shift in attitude, and hopefully a shift in the voting to the newer members of the BBWAA.

This is of course speculation on my part, but considering Clemens had a successful start in his first appearance and is planning on making another start for Sugar Land, I could definitely see the Astros, who have absolutely nothing to play for, signing Clemens and putting him out on the mound for at least one game in late September. Stranger things have happened.

Time for Reggie to Shut His Trap

By Blaidd Drwg

I think Reggie Jackson just needs to stop talking. He recently had some things to say about a number of subjects in a recent Sports Illustrated interview. First off, he decided to comment about Alex Rodriguez:

“Al’s a very good friend,” Jackson said of the New York Yankees third baseman in the latest issue of Sports Illustrated. “But I think there are real questions about his numbers. As much as I like him, what he admitted about his usage does cloud some of his records.”

If someone such as Rodriguez or Bonds or anyone else that has been linked to PED use is voted into the Hall by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America, Jackson predicts there will be a boycott.

“If any of those guys get in, no Hall of Famer will attend,” Jackson told SI.

Maybe Reggie needs to start selling his candy bar again to keep him from having time to make stupid comments.

Ok fine, I have no problem that he believes that no HOFers will attend if someone who was actually caught with using or admits to using steroids gets elected. I however, don’t believe it is the case since most of the HOFers make a ton of money at the various autograph sessions held during election weekend. I also don’t like the “admitted usage clouds some of his records” line. We know that there was a rampant use of greenies in the 1960’s and 1970’s, which happens to encompass most of Reggie’s prime years. We are just about sure that Hank Aaron used them (although has never actually admitted it, but he doesn’t deny it either), so wouldn’t that mean the record was tainted anyway?

Where it gets interesting is when he was asked about Andy Pettitte:

Jackson, 66, left the door open a bit for himself in regards to Andy Pettitte. He thinks the Yankees’ left-hander eventually will be voted into the Hall, making Pettitte a different case compared to other alleged or admitted users.
“The question is going to be a guy like Andy Pettitte, who admitted that he got involved for a while, but who is so universally respected in the game,” Jackson told SI. “I think he’ll get in, but there will be a lot of (members) who won’t go.”
Jackson seemed to indicate to SI that if Pettitte were inducted into the Hall he still may attend.
“He’s an awfully good friend,” Jackson said. “I’ve known Andy since he was 20. I’ll leave it there.”

Maybe I am reading this wrong, but it sure sounds like Reggie is saying that it is OK to elect someone who has admitted to using steroids as long as they are well liked by people in the game of baseball. So basically, Bonds, ARod, Clemens and Palmiero – you are all out because we never liked you. Andy Pettitte, come on in because you are actually a nice guy.

Where he really pissed me off was when he got to the part about the current Hall of Fame enshrines:

“I didn’t see Kirby Puckett as a Hall of Famer,” Jackson told SI. “I didn’t see Gary Carter as a Hall of Famer. I didn’t see Don Sutton as a Hall of Famer. I didn’t see Phil Niekro as a Hall of Famer. As much as I like Jim Rice, I’m not so sure he’s a Hall of Famer.”

OK, I am fine with Sutton, Niekro and Rice not being HOFers. Sutton and Niekro were compilers and Rice had a pretty short peak, oh, sort of like Reggie’s one time teammate, Hall of Famer Catfish Hunter. Funny how Reggie does not mention him. Puckett was probably borderline, but he was still putting up an OPS+ of around 130 when he retired at age 35 from glaucoma. I do think had Puckett played even 3 or 4 more years at around league average, he would have gone from borderline to solid HOF selection, so we will forgive that one. Gary Carter – one of the 10 best catchers to play the game not a HOFer? He unfortunately played in the same era as Johnny Bench and he played most of his prime in Montreal. If either of those 2 situations had not happened, Carter would be remembered in a better light.

And for the finale:

Jackson didn’t think Bert Blyleven should be voted in, either.
“Blyleven wasn’t even the dominant pitcher of his era; it was Jack Morris,” Jackson said.

So many things wrong with that statement. Blyleven was 5 years older and had already racked up 122 wins before Jack Morris became a semi-regular on the Tigers roster in 1978, which, just based on the historical numbers for pitchers, meant that 1970-1978 would be Blyleven’s prime years and 1979-1992 were his decline years. Just a quick and dirty look at Morris and Blyleven between 1979 and 1992:

Blyleven 151-127 2582.1 1791 3.78 108 38.6
Morris 233-162 3378.1 2199 3.71 109 36.1

Blyleven did miss an entire season with an injury in 1991 and came back in 1992 at age 42 with little success and then retired. Morris has the edge in IP and Wins, which you would expect from a pitcher 5 years younger during that range, but Blyleven was actually as good, if not better than Morris over the 13 year period.

Then again, we all know the best pitcher of that era was Dave Stieb anyway.