I’m With Stupid (Again)by John Brattain
April 27, 2007
Early last December I did the first (and what I thought was the only) installment of this feature when the aforementioned Mr. Chalek dropped me a line about other players who might qualify. Realizing that I had, as with Toby Stern, struck gold I saved his e-mail for future reference. The first two choices were slam dunks, but I was having trouble selecting two others to add to the list.
So I went back to the source, and after a consultation with Eric, we narrowed down the list to our final two candidates. As a prelude, here’s how we prefaced our first foray into this topic:
Over the years there have been a number of stinkers inducted into the Hall of Fame. I was thinking (it happens) who might be the next head scratchers that might end up with non-dental plaque.
Don’t get me wrong, like the ‘stinkers’ alluded to earlier these players are bloody fine ballplayers; it’s just that you don’t think of them the same way you’d look at a true Hall of Fame player.
What I’m going to do with my candidates for the BBWAA’s and Veteran’s Committee’s “Oops I Did It Again Award” is try to come up with the argument used to vote for the player. If you think I’m out of my mind (I am just so you know), feel free to write me about why you feel my OIDIA Award might be the genuine Cooperstown article and gosh darn it, we might just print a few that don’t contain speculation about the canis genus and my mother, accusations of harboring an Oedipus complex, demands to engage in coprophagy before bench pressing a rack of Erigeron strigosus, and suggestions to engage in auto-erotic and anatomically impossible exercises.
So, without further ado but much doo-doo here are our four newly minted candidates for the illustrious OIDIA Award:
Player No. 1
It was hardly a blockbuster. On August 29, 1996 the Seattle Mariners, in an attempt to secure a playoff spot, acquired infielder Dave Hollins from the Minnesota Twins. Hollins was a useful player with a good batting eye and a touch of pop. Since his best days were clearly behind him the Mariners would send back the proverbial PTBNL (player to be named later). A little over two weeks later the Mariners completed the trade by sending a 20-year-old prospect who enjoyed a solid .322/.390/.511 with their Midwest League Single-A affiliate in Wisconsin.
The Twins had high hopes for him, but due to lack of defensive ability—something highly regarded by the Minnesota front office—he didn’t see consistent playing time. In fact, he never received as many as 450 at-bats with the Twins. In 2002 his lack of defense (he mostly DH-ed), plus an inability to hit southpaws (.203/.256/.381 in 118 at-bats that season) caused the AL Central champs to cut the 26-year-old lefty bat with a career line of .266/.348/.461 loose in December.
The Boston Red Sox signed him in late January to a one-year, $1.25 million contract and a Beantown legend was born. Since then, David Ortiz has averaged about 40 doubles and home runs per season and over 130 RBIs. In his first four seasons in Boston his OPS against LHP steadily improved: .674 (2003), .784 (2004), .894 (2005), .988 (2006) and has finished in the top five in AL MVP voting. He is also one of the most feared clutch hitters in the Junior Circuit and is .294/.391/.584 since donning the Crimson Hose.
Many feel he is a developing Hall of Famer, and who can blame them? Ortiz is just 31. If he were to average 27 dingers a year until he is 40 he’d be a member of the 500 club. His postseason résumé includes being a big cog in ending the Red Sox World Series drought, a batting line of .301/.383/.552 (in 143 postseason at-bats), was named ALCS MVP in their epic comeback from being down 0-3 to the Yankees after batting .316/.409/.789 with three home runs and nine RBIs in games 4-7.
He has the Hall of Fame moments on his résumé; now he just needs enough counting numbers to get votes. One thing to beware of: The BBWAA isn't kind to players with just one 50-home run season. They have yet to vote one in: Albert Belle, George Foster, Cecil Fielder, Brady Anderson, Greg Vaughn, Roger Maris (O.K. so he went a little overboard and hit 61, stop being so pedantic), Johnny Mize and Hack Wilson all got the thumbs down from the writers, and I don't see Luis Gonzalez making it. Mize and Wilson were later voted in by the Veterans Committee. The jury is still out obviously on Andruw Jones and Jim Thome.
Player No. 2
Bill James said a good place to look for Hall of Famers was key players on great teams. Beyond that, playing a key defensive position certainly helps. If you swing a potent bat from a position where defense is highly valued—even better. So, how about a catcher on a club that won a World Series, two pennants, and nine division titles during his tenure as the number-one catcher? (Although he was injured one of those seasons and didn’t play in the postseason.) A catcher who, during those championship campaigns batted .289/.339/.507 while popping 200 HR? How about a catcher, who, despite playing the most grueling defensive position on the diamond still hit better in the post season (.287/.337/.491 ... in 205 AB) than in the regular season? (.278/.324/.493) Would it help to know that he caught two, and quite possibly three future Hall of Famers? Or that he once copped an LCS MVP award after catching all seven games while batting .542/.607/1.000?
Sound like a Hall of Famer? Well that’s Javy Lopez.
Player No. 3
In this era when players have hit 70 home runs while others have had trifectas of 60-home run seasons, or for that matter, Gold Glove shortstops have enjoyed back-to-back 50-home run seasons, it’s easy to forget that there are other ways to win ball games. I grew up in an era when swiping 90 bases wasn’t an odd achievement, when leadoff men could wreak havoc with their batting eyes and blinding speed. I saw the best days of Rickey Henderson and Tim Raines—outfielders who could start a game off on the other team’s wrong foot and keep it there.
That era has come and gone and will most likely return again. Make no mistake though, on-base percentage coupled with great jumps and quick feet is a very valuable commodity. What though of a player who, while possessing those attributes, had still more to offer a club? Like Gold Glove defense in an era of Gold Glove giants like Ken Griffey Jr. Bernie Williams and Devon White?
During his prime, not only was he providing Gold Glove defense he was averaging over 100 runs scored and 50 stolen bases. He was far from a Punch-and-Judy slap-the-ball-the-other-way and-run-like-hell type batter. From 1993-2000 he hit .311/.388/.440 and created 187 more runs than an average player.
He is also a solid clutch hitter. He's had 2,663 career at-bats from the beginning of August to the end of the season—generally the time of year that separates the contenders from the pretenders. His regular season line is .299/.372/.423 yet from August 1 to the end of season he’s .306/.381/.428. On top of that he pilfered 222 of 266 bases—an 83.5% success rate (as opposed to a 77.6% success rate the rest of the time). When his clubs have needed him to ramp it up a bit for the stretch drive he indeed stepped up and did so 10 times. His clutch numbers:
Runners on .306 .375 .426 RISP .304 .379 .426 RISP/2 Out .281 .369 .387 Bases Loaded .285 .293 .447 Runner on, 2 outs .285 .354 .393 Runner on 3rd < 2 outs .411 .414 .607 Career .299. 372 .423
The only thing that lags is with the bases loaded. However that's where he's posted his highest situational slugging. In other words, when the sacks are juiced, he's looking to hit, not walk. Among active players he’s first in stolen bases, second in triples, sixth in runs scored, and has five stolen base crowns. He may well finish his career with 1,600 runs scored and 2,500 hits and 1,000 walks.
Kenny Lofton is so great a player he might karmically balance the good fortune of the club that was the beneficiary of the Jeff Bagwell-Larry Andersen trade.
Player No. 4
This one isn’t on the radar screen—yet, nor should he be there. However, last time we did this feature we said the following:
Speaking of the Wizard of Oz, Vizquel now has more career hits than Smith (2,472 to 2,460). When you consider that he garnered 171 base hits in his age-39 season and it’s not hard to see him possibly add 300-350 knocks to that total before he retires. Let’s face it, 2,800 hits from a terrific gloveman is bloody impressive.
When Vizquel was this player’s age he had just 1,238 hits and was a .268/.330/.340 hitter. Of interest our candidate at 31 (who is also a shortstop) is .288/.347/.403 to this point in time and has 1,795 hits. Since he is durable there is a possibility of 3,000 hits.
But there’s more to his career than that. While not in Vizquel’s league with the leather, he has copped a couple of Gold Gloves. He already has more home runs than the Vizard (which admittedly isn’t saying much) and almost as many doubles, topping 30 two-baggers seven times and 40 twice. He has a 100-RBI season and will likely finish his career well north of 1000 in that department. This year he should pass 1000 career runs without difficulty. Further, swiping 400 career bases doesn’t seem out of the realm of possibility. For that matter a 200 HR-400 SB career isn’t a stretch. If he’s as healthy and productive as Omar Vizquel has been from ages 31-40 he’ll have 3043 hits. Just for fun, let’s combine Vizquel’s numbers from age 31 on and add them onto our candidate's totals. If he hits like Omar Vizquel for the rest of his career he’ll have:
Runs Hits 2B 3B HR RBI 1617 3043 555 62 152 1000
Toss in the fact that he already has a World Series ring and played very well in both Fall Classics he’s participated in (.304/.373/.413) can you deny a good fielding shortstop with 3000 hits and possibly as many as 600 doubles, 200 home runs (assuming more power than Vizquel), 1,600 runs scored and 1,000 RBIs a plaque?
It’s a possibility for … Edgar Renteria.
The Whine Cellar
I’m debuting a new feature for this season. I think this is the Jays' best shot at the postseason in quite a few years (and despite some early hiccups I still feel that way) and was pondering whether to keep a record of my season-long angst—kind of as a form of therapy. Initially I thought about starting a separate blog to do this, but instead I decided it might be more fun to let folks watch me slowly go insane as the season progresses. Be forewarned, this will only appeal to Blue Jays fans, mental health professionals and the sort of people with a great deal of morbid curiosity (such as folks who used to attend public hangings).
As you can see by the title I will spend much time whining, bellyaching, sniveling, sobbing and sulking here. Think of it as Jays talk written by the love child of Richard Griffin and Jann Arden. I promise that there will be no facts, logic, rational thought, objective viewpoints or anything that might get in the way of… (well, you get the idea)
Oh, don’t worry, I will still do full articles dealing with the Jays because I know that under those blue caps with the interlocking NY and red caps with the olde towne “B” are people who secretly love the Blue Jays, but due to geography they feel a little camouflage is in order (not to mention my fellow hosers who are open and honest about their fandom).
Sometimes I will ramble like Grandpa Simpson, other days I’ll will probe the deepest, darkest recesses of my soul, and still other times I’ll spit short, sharp bits of venom at whomever has ruined my day (past examples include Joey McLaughlin, Tony Castillo—the all time leader in surrendering game-winning RBIs to players that are on the roster because of the Rule V draft—Mike Timlin, Joey Hamilton, Carlos Garcia and the sorry list of out-machines that manned second base during the post-Alomar era etc.)
Occasionally, I will hand out some props to those who have made my devotion worthwhile. I reserve the right to say a player is the worst thing ever to don a Blue Jays’ uni, issue a mea culpa the following week only to retract it the week after that. Conversely, I might say that so-and-so should be inducted into the Hall of Fame one week and demand his ass be shipped to Dunedin (or Pittsburgh) the next.
Consider yourselves warned (that includes the poor folks who have to edit my emotional outbursts).
This week: Relievers. Since Tom Henke was Toronto’s closer from 1985 to 1992 here are the ninth-inning wonders Toronto has employed since then:
1993: Duane Ward 1994: Darren Hall 1995: Tony Castillo 1996: Mike Timlin 1997: Kelvim Escobar 1998: Randy Myers 1999: Billy Koch 2000: Billy Koch 2001: Billy Koch 2002: Kelvim Escobar 2003: Aquilino Lopez/Cliff Politte 2004: Jason Frasor 2005: Miguel Batista 2006: B.J. Ryan. 2007: B.J. Ryan/Jason Frasor
Uh, yeah. Fifteen years, 12 closers. I do wonder about the mindset of these guys some days. You look at relievers: some are closers, others are setup men, others long relief or swing men. You often hear guys who struggle blame the fact that there are no clearly defined roles in the bullpen.
They say that they pitch best when they know their job. Evidently that doesn’t include closing because there were some major train wrecks here. But here’s my question: What makes closing so hard? It's the same bloody job no matter what your role is—Get. The. Other. Team's. Hitters. Out.
It doesn't matter whether you pitch the seventh, eighth, ninth inning or any combination of same—you have to do the exact same thing get the other team's hitters out.
If you're the long reliever your job is to Get. The. Other. Team's. Hitters. Out.
If you are a setup man your job is to Get. The. Other. Team's. Hitters. Out.
If you're a closer your job is to Get. The. Other. Team's. Hitters. Out.
For instance: Do you think it’s easier if you’re Mike Timlin and you’re facing Vernon Wells, Frank Thomas and Troy Glaus, in the bottom of the seventh, nobody out and you’re leading 2-1 in a game at the Roger Centre than it is to be Jonathan Papelbon and pitching to Sal Fasano, Royce Clayton, and John McDonald when you’re up 5-2 in the bottom of the ninth with nobody out at Fenway Park?
How can you state that you can get the middle of lineup out in the eighth but if you have to face the bottom of the lineup in the ninth you’re gonna have a Depends Moment? Why do having set roles mean so much? They don’t have that in the minor leagues. Do you think a 25 year old in Triple-A is going to go the general manager of the big club and say: “I can only pitch in very specific situations or I can’t be effective?”
No! He’s gonna say Just give me the #@*#!! ball and I’ll get anybody out at any time. Let me show you what I can do!” These guys have fought their way through high school, college and the minor leagues begging for the ball any way they can get it and they’ll show you what they’re capable of doing.
Now that they’re in the majors for a few years and they’ve got to be used ‘just so’ or they’ll have yellow sanitary stockings?
We hear about needing the ‘closer’s mentality’—but what kind of mentality did relievers have before the save rule became popular?
Right now, Toronto is going to be without B.J. Ryan for awhile. The Jays have got some terrific young arms with filthy stuff. But now they need to acquire a certain mentality to get three outs in the ninth, some times with a three run lead against the bottom of the lineup?
The save rule has really screwed things up. All to often the game will be on the line in the seventh inning but they’ll hold back their best reliever in case they’ve got a two-to-three-run lead in the ninth? We see the manager talk to pitchers brought into relieve. Can you picture a manager saying the following:
"O.K. son, bases are loaded and there's nobody out yet. Your job is to issue two walks, a strikeout and pop up while they bat around. I want you to leave guys on second and third and we'll bring in somebody else to get the third out—got it?"
"O.K., get this guy and we'll let you pitch the eighth. Since we've got a five run lead, make sure they can get two to four runs across so we can bring in our closer to get the save."
"The game's outta reach, our bullpen's exhausted and we don't want to use up our starter. Your job is to throw batting practice. If they get more than a 15-run lead we'll being in our first baseman to throw a few innings since he pitched in high school."
"They've got guys on second and third, two outs and Pujols is up. Since you'll be up third in the bottom of the inning your job is bunt any base runners over."
"Our setup guy left the bases loaded and there's two out in the inning. I know this isn't the ninth but since you've been trying to develop a circle-change I want you to throw nothing but that pitch until the game is over."
"Here's the plan: I want you let the leadoff guy hit a double off your slider. Walk the next guy on four pitches: two fastballs, a curve and a changeup. Wild pitch them over to second and third if the next guy tries to bunt them over. Once the bases are loaded—balk. That opens up first base when Delgado comes up so you've got some place to put him. Once he gets on we'll get up a guy in the bullpen but don't let that distract you. I want you to throw nothing but breaking stuff to Wright but no changeups. Make sure the at bat goes at least eight to nine pitches before you hit him on the thigh. Then we'll bring in...."
There’s gotta be somebody, somewhere in the organization who can get three freakin’ outs in the ninth without letting the other team toss up a crooked number on the scoreboard. All you need is the following mindset: Get. The. Other. Team's. Hitters. Out.
Our good friend, and THT stalwart, John Brattain passed away on March 24, 2009. John was a prolific writer, whose work can also be read at Sympatico/MSN Sports and Baseball Digest Daily. John's work was also featured at USA Today, MLBtalk, ESPN Insider, Baseball Prospectus, The Baseball Analysts and The Baseball Journals. Never afraid to express himself in any medium, he was also a frequent radio speaker.
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