December 6, 2013
Get It Now!Hardball Times Annual is now available. It's got 300 pages of articles, commentary and even a crossword puzzle. You can buy the Annual at Amazon, for your Kindle or on our own page (which helps us the most financially). However you buy it, enjoy!
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Friday, July 20, 2012
Red Sox 3, White Sox 1: All Cody Ross does is hit three-run homers. The walkoff one here was his third in two days.
Mets 9, Nationals 5: David Wright hits a two-run and a three-run homer. He's like a poor-man's Cody Ross! R.A. Dickey is the first player in the NL to notch 13 wins.
Rays 6, Indians 0: And David Price is the first pitcher in the AL to 13 wins as he allows only two hits in seven shutout innings. Jose Molina -- Jose Molina! -- stole a base. Remember when I said that the Red Sox needed to be fined for allowing Adam Dunn to swipe one? The Indians should be fined and flogged.
Cubs 4, Marlins 2: The Cubs beat Mark Buehrle in his return to Chicago. They went 5-1 on the homestand. I feel like writing posts today about how they should add pieces at the deadline for their playoff run. OK, maybe not, but not a bad week for the Cubbies.
Mariners 6, Royals 1: Jesus Montero was -- dare I say it? -- a triple short of the cycle. Felix Hernandez was quite Felix Hernandezy, allowing one run over eight innings
Orioles 4, Twins 3: Read the box score for the details of this game if you want them. I'm far more fixated on this post-game quote from Buck Showalter regarding the Twins offense: "That's a pretty tough lineup to go through." There's an epidemic in baseball these days. And epidemic in which everyone feels the need to say nonsense about something in an effort to appear to be showing respect. I appreciate the polite impulse, but really, people.
Reds 7, Diamondbacks 6: The Diamondbacks were up 6-0 after they finished batting in the sixth. Then Brandon Phillips woke up and hit a three-run homer in the sixth and a two-run double in the seventh and then scored the go-ahead run.
Tigers 5, Angels 1: The Tigers have won 10 of 12. The rest of the American League probably wishes they'd killed them when they had the chance.
Braves 3, Giants 2: The Braves had three hits total. Two of them were homers. Efficiency, baby.
Athletics 4, Yankees 3: A dog of a game. Literally. The A's have won 11 of 13.
Padres 1, Astros 0: Edinson Volquez tossed his first career shutout in one-hitting the Astros.
Better late than never. This weekend, at the annual Hall of Fame Cooperstown induction ceremony, the late former Cubs third baseman Ron Santo will gain his plaque.
When a player has a such a high honor for his career, it’s nice to look back on his playing days. I did something like this for Barry Larkin back in January when the BBWAA voted him in. Now let’s do it for Ron Santo.
Below is a list of his career highlights. They are his personal bests and worsts, milestones achieved, great games he appeared in. And just because I find it interesting, I'll throw in some odd or bizarre games Santo happened to be on hand for. Here they are, in chronological order:
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5,000 days ago, a rather impressive baseball trade went down. Two teams swapped players—both of whom turned out to have rather impressive careers. At the time, neither were big names by any means. One was a prospect trying to break into the majors. The other was still trying to prove he could hit well enough to stay in the majors.
5,000 days ago, on Nov. 11, 1998, the Reds traded Paul Konerko to the White Sox for Mike Cameron.
Konerko had barely played in the majors. In 81 games, he’d hit .214 with just 11 extra base hits. But he was a well-regarded prospect at first base. And the White Sox needed someone to put at first. Longtime All-Star Frank Thomas, never much of a defender, was shifting to DH. The Sox used Wil Cordero at first in 1998, and they wanted to do better than that. Konerko seemed to fit that bill.
As for Cameron, he’d done a good job when handed the starting job in center field in 1997, hitting well while providing spectacular defense. But in 1998 he regressed badly. He could still field, but he batted just .210 without much power or many walks. Chicago had some young outfielders emerging named Carlos Lee and Magglio Ordonez, and Cameron was expendable.
The Reds already had Sean Casey at first base, and they liked him an awful lot. So Konerko was expendable. They had a veteran center fielder in Reggie Sanders, but at age 30 he'd had a down season in 1998. Time for some new blood.
The trade ended up working well for both teams. Konerko established himself as a South Side fixture. Though he’s had some epic slumps, he’s also hit for them. 5,000 days later, he’s still with the team and is one of the most popular players in franchise history. Whatever his defensive and base running liabilities, Konerko has always hit. Even now at age 36, he’s still hitting well.
As for the Reds, trading for Cameron helped turn their team around. They nearly won the Wild Card in 1999, thanks largely to an improved defense anchored by Cameron in center. After a terrible campaign at the plate in 1998, Cameron rebounded and remained a quality all-around player for years.
What’s more, Cameron’s arrival made Reggie Sanders redundant, and Cincinnati traded him to San Diego for Greg Vaughn. In 1999, Vaughn bashed 45 homers for the Reds, guiding their offense in their play-off near-miss.
Cameron only spent the one season in Cincinnati. In the following offseason, he was the centerpiece of the package deal the Reds sent to Seattle for Ken Griffey Jr. By metrics like WAR, Cameron was a far better player than Konerko – 43.2 WAR to 25.5 – but Cincinnati got Cameron for only one year. In fact, by WAR Cameron was more valuable than Griffey after their trade, but that’s not the trade having its “day-versary” today.
The day-versary trade was Konerko for Griffey, which happened 5,000 days ago today.
Aside from that, many other baseball events today celebrate their “day-versary” or anniversary. Here they are, with the better ones in bold if you’d prefer to just skim.
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Although Ron Santo died nearly two years ago, his spirit is the one that most pervades this year’s Hall of Fame Induction Weekend. As someone who has long argued for Santo to make the Hall of Fame, it’s especially satisfying for me to see him finally receive the honor, even if it has to come after his passing at the age of 70.
Santo’s presence will certainly be felt at Sunday’s induction ceremony, but it will also pervade the Fenimore Art Museum in Cooperstown on Saturday morning and afternoon. Beginning at 11:30 a.m., the Cubs will host an open reception in honor of Santo. Several of his former teammates are expected to attend, including Randy Hundley and Glenn Beckert, and will mingle with fans. The reception is free to the public, though visitors are encouraged to make a small donation to the Cubs.
The reception is a wonderful idea, and a fitting tribute to a Chicago legend and icon. Santo has become so well known that you’ve probably read and heard most everything relevant about his career, but I’ve tried to uncover some interesting and little-known tidbits about the great third baseman while researching his Hall of Fame file and wandering through the Internet. Here are a few tidbits:
*During the winter of 1964-'65, Santo told the Cubs that he wanted to move from third base to shortstop in the spring, as a way of filling a void left by the departure of veteran shortstop Andre Rodgers. The Cubs, who had traded Rodgers to the Pirates, initially indicated that bonus baby Don Kessinger and the versatile Jimmy Stewart would be the leading candidates to replace Rodgers.
“I’ve asked the Cubs for permission to shift to shortstop,” Santo told the Chicago writers. “I am confident that I can play the position and will be of greater value to the team at shortstop than I am at third base.”
Let’s keep in mind that Santo was coming off arguably his finest season (with a .962 OPS), so it’s somewhat striking that he volunteered to make such a change. Deciding to take him up on the offer, the Cubs worked Santo out at shortstop during the spring of 1965. But they ultimately decided to go with a combination of Kessinger, Stewart and journeyman Roberto Pena. Santo played every one of his 164 games at his accustomed position of third base.
How would Santo have fared at shortstop? He certainly had the soft hands and the strong throwing arm required to handle the position, but it’s doubtful that his range would have held up over a full season. Still, it’s nice to think of a star player who volunteered to switch positions, especially in today’s age when teams practically need a federal proclamation to switch a player’s position for the good of the team.
*In the early 1960s,the Cubs seriously considered trading Santo to the Dodgers. Early in 1962, the Cubs discussed a trade that would have sent Santo to Los Angeles for a package of Frank Howard, right-hander Stan Williams and infielder Dick Tracewski. The rumors swirled so heavily in April that they began to take a toll on Santo. At first, he laughed off the rumors, before eventually giving them some credence.
The rumors even created a controversy, which turned out to be a false alarm. After the Cubs played the Dodgers, a report circulated that Los Angeles’ third base coach, Leo Durocher, had spent some of the game yelling at Santo, needling him that he was about to change uniforms. The report infuriated Cubs GM John Holland, who hinted that tampering charges might be filed against Durocher.
As it turned out, there was nothing to the story. Santo said that he and Durocher had casually talked about the trade rumors, which Santo had already heard about for days, but that “Leo the Lip” had not yelled at him or needled him in any way.
Of course, the trade never did take place. Santo remained a Cub, and was eventually joined by Durocher, who became his manager in Chicago.
*Finally, a lighter note. We all know that Santo was extraordinarily popular in Chicago. Yet, I did not know that his popularity made him something of a Chicago food king. He was so beloved, in fact, that he successfully started his own pizzeria, which was based in the suburbs and was known by the rather obvious name of “Ron Santo Pizza.”
Santo’s pizza venture represented his first foray into the food and restaurant business. The pizza apparently caught on in the Chicago area, as the Cubs sold the brand at Wrigley Field during the late 1960s and early '70s. At the ballpark, it was served as a personal size pizza, featuring the usual sauce, cheese and a few slices of sausage. As a lover of pizza, I wish that I'd had a chance to sample the Santo brand, but the pizza never made it to my home town in Westchester County.
Hall of Fame Weekend news and notes
Here are some additional signings that will be taking place in Cooperstown this weekend. Pete Rose will be signing at Safe at Home, Denny McLain will appear at Paterno Brothers Sports, and fomer Yankees (Ron Blomberg, Elliott Maddox and Roy White) will be signing at Seventh Inning Stretch. All the memorabilia shops are on Main Street.