December 11, 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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Saturday, January 12, 2013
Twsenty years ago today was a great day in the history of the San Francisco Giants baseball franchise. It’s the day that the team was saved.
Well, that’s too melodramatic. The team would be around no matter what, but it wouldn’t be around in the Bay Area. On Jan. 12, 1993, Giants team owner Bob Lurie announced he was selling the club to a group of local businessmen led by Peter Magowan for the princely sum of $100 million.
This deal ended months of speculation that the Giants were destined to move elsewhere. It seems hard to believe now, but 20 years ago many thought the Giants were a team in trouble.
First, they typically weren’t a very good team. They had their moments—most notably winning the 1989 pennant—but they soon fell back to the pack, and by 1992 were 90-loss team.
Second and more importantly, they played in one of the worst stadiums in baseball history: Candlestick Park, a wind tunnel masquerading as a baseball stadium. The stadium deflated attendance figures, and when the team wasn’t very good, those figures could be quite low indeed.
Even in the pennant-winning 1989 campaign,the Giants were a middle-of-the-park fifth out of 12 National League teams in attendance. For the Candlestick’ers, that was a great figure. They’d been that high only once in the last 20 years. In 1990 they slipped to eighth place. By 1992, they were next-to-last in the NL.
Owner Bob Lurie purchased the club in the mid-1970s to keep it from moving to the virgin territory of Toronto, and in late 1992 announced in an emotional press conference that he was going to have to sell the club.
Originally, it looked like it was Florida-bound. St. Petersburg had already built a stadium in an unsuccessful attempt to lure the White Sox, and a group headed by Vince Napoli made a move for the Giants.
Lurie accepted, but NL owners nixed it. They wanted the team to stay put, if at all possible. OK, but that meant Lurie would need local backing willing to pay a steep price.
Twenty years ago today, he found that backing. It turns out that 1992-93 was a great offseason for the Giants. Not only did they keep their team, but they also signed the ultimate free agent, Barry Bonds. With him, the team won 103 games (but still finished eighth in attendance. Oh well, it was an improvement.).
After several more years in wind over-swept Candlestick Park, the team finally got a non-horrible place to play—actually a nice place to play, the place currently called AT&T Park. The Giants are now a highly profitable team.
Tampa did eventually get a team: the Devil Rays. As it turns out, the stadium that nearly lured the Giants in is another disaster, and between its sterile environment and the fact that not many live within an easy drive of the place, Tampa has the same attendance problems that the Giants used to have. That would’ve been a sad irony if the Giants escaped one dismal, fan-alienated place just to land in another one.
But it didn’t happen. The team stayed in San Francisco. And 20 years ago today that announcement was made.
Aside from that, many other baseball events today celebrate their anniversary or “day-versary” (which is something occurring X-thousand days ago). Here they are, with the better items in bold if you’d prefer to just skim.
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We've all been thinking about the Hall of Fame a lot lately. In fact, this is my second such post in as many days, but I have an idea that I think is worth considering. It grows out of a Rob Neyer post where he mentions not wanting to support a player who would not not have been a Hall of Famer without steroids. This pushes someone like Mark McGwire off the list, for instance.
But here's a question: If we're docking players who weren't clean, shouldn't we give extra credit to those who were?
Think about it for a minute. The stat that gets tossed around the most in Hall of Fame discussions is WAR, but PEDs changed where the bar was set. The definition of what constituted a replacement player was different than it would have been without all those players getting extra help.
The best example I can think of is Fred McGriff. He is defined by his consistency. While playing for the Blue Jays in 1988, McGriff was, according to FanGraphs, worth 7.2 WAR. In 2001 putting up almost identical numbers, he was worth only 3.8 WAR. That's still a good season, but the difference between 4 WAR and 7 WAR is the difference between an all-star and an MVP contender. How much of that perceived drop in value is the result of other players artificially raising the bar?
McGriff is a very marginal candidate now, but I've never heard him tied to PEDs. There's no reason to think he wasn't totally clean. And if he was clean and had played in a clean league, wouldn't he have been worth more? Maybe 70 WAR instead of 61?
There are others. Kenny Lofton, Craig Biggio, Jeff Bagwell. Pick a player who has a decent case and hasn't been tied to steroids at all and ask yourself how he might have been affected. From 1987 to 2002, Fred McGriff was almost exactly the same player every year. His value declined not because his performance changed (other than normal yearly fluctuations of course), but because offensive numbers around the league changed.
This is all getting very complicated. It's a debate we're going to be having for years and I wonder if, in a few years, we might regret that some players—like Lofton—fell off the ballot so quickly.