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  1. We may be deprived of current player baseball news due to the lockout, but the Minnesota Twins provided an update on their team Hall of Fame Thursday when it was announced Ron Gardenhire, Dan Gladden, and Cesar Tovar would join the ranks. The trio will become the 35th, 36th, and 37th members of the Minnesota Twins Hall of Fame. The organization began the Hall of Fame with its inaugural class back in 2000. In the 22 years since, we’ve seen names like Bert Blyleven, Torii Hunter, Zoilo Versailles, and Justin Morneau added to the ranks. The lone player to be elected but not inducted was Chuck Knoblauch back in 2014. Ron Gardenhire served the Twins as a manager for 13 seasons. He posted a .507 winning percentage owning a final record of 1,068-1,039. His wins trail only Tom Kelly for most all-time in team history. During six of Gardy’s 13 seasons as manager, the Twins won the American League Central Division. Gardenhire’s high win total came in 2006 when Minnesota recorded 96 wins. The team was strapped in the postseason, having recently lost starting lefty, Francisco Liriano. He went on to win the American League Manager of the Year award in 2010 when the Twins ripped off 94 victories. Ron Gardenhire will always be synonymous with the strong divisional Twins clubs of the 2000s. Dan Gladden may now be most known for his work with Twins Radio but has been a member of the organization for 28 years. Winning two World Series rings in Minnesota, Gladden operated as the leadoff hitter and owns the club record for postseason runs scored and stolen bases. Gladden crossing home plate in the bottom of the 10th inning during Game 7 of the 1991 World Series gave the Twins their second World Series. A staple on Twins Radio, Gladden is coming up on an opportunity to land himself as the fourth-longest tenured broadcaster in club history. Cesar Tovar has long been advocated for enshrinement by fans and now will finally get his due. Playing eight seasons for the Twins, Tovar racked up MVP votes in five consecutive years from 1967-1971. A speed threat, Tovar is third all-time in stolen bases for the Twins and ranks seventh in triples. While position players pitching may have become a thing now, Tovar became the second player in American or National League history to play all nine positions in a single game on September 22, 1968. The Minnesota Twins announced that on-field ceremonies would take place pre-game on August 20 and 21st at Target Field before Minnesota’s tilts with the Texas Rangers. What are your favorite memories of Gardy, Gladden, and Tovar? Who would you like to see inducted next season? View full article
  2. The trio will become the 35th, 36th, and 37th members of the Minnesota Twins Hall of Fame. The organization began the Hall of Fame with its inaugural class back in 2000. In the 22 years since, we’ve seen names like Bert Blyleven, Torii Hunter, Zoilo Versailles, and Justin Morneau added to the ranks. The lone player to be elected but not inducted was Chuck Knoblauch back in 2014. Ron Gardenhire served the Twins as a manager for 13 seasons. He posted a .507 winning percentage owning a final record of 1,068-1,039. His wins trail only Tom Kelly for most all-time in team history. During six of Gardy’s 13 seasons as manager, the Twins won the American League Central Division. Gardenhire’s high win total came in 2006 when Minnesota recorded 96 wins. The team was strapped in the postseason, having recently lost starting lefty, Francisco Liriano. He went on to win the American League Manager of the Year award in 2010 when the Twins ripped off 94 victories. Ron Gardenhire will always be synonymous with the strong divisional Twins clubs of the 2000s. Dan Gladden may now be most known for his work with Twins Radio but has been a member of the organization for 28 years. Winning two World Series rings in Minnesota, Gladden operated as the leadoff hitter and owns the club record for postseason runs scored and stolen bases. Gladden crossing home plate in the bottom of the 10th inning during Game 7 of the 1991 World Series gave the Twins their second World Series. A staple on Twins Radio, Gladden is coming up on an opportunity to land himself as the fourth-longest tenured broadcaster in club history. Cesar Tovar has long been advocated for enshrinement by fans and now will finally get his due. Playing eight seasons for the Twins, Tovar racked up MVP votes in five consecutive years from 1967-1971. A speed threat, Tovar is third all-time in stolen bases for the Twins and ranks seventh in triples. While position players pitching may have become a thing now, Tovar became the second player in American or National League history to play all nine positions in a single game on September 22, 1968. The Minnesota Twins announced that on-field ceremonies would take place pre-game on August 20 and 21st at Target Field before Minnesota’s tilts with the Texas Rangers. What are your favorite memories of Gardy, Gladden, and Tovar? Who would you like to see inducted next season?
  3. Once again, it's that time of year and December 1 saw my inbox being hit with the yearly IBWAA Hall of Fame ballot. Although this isn't part of the official BBWAA vote to enshrine players in Cooperstown, there's plenty of crossover between voting parties and many of the same principles are the same. At this time the IBWAA allows voters to select up to 12 candidates. You can find my 2018 ballot here, and my 2019 selections here. As was the case last year, I wound up with a ballot less than the maximum amount. The IBWAA has cleared a backlog of candidates already enshrining Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens. Although I could've included more players I had previously left off, I chose to stay the course. When sending my ballot back to the IBWAA I wound up with four holdovers and the expected unanimous selection who makes his first appearance. Here we go: Curt Schilling: 79.7 fWAR Bloody sock nonsense aside, Schilling is a three time Cy Young runner-up, and six-time All Star. He struck out 3,116 batters in his career and owns a 3.46 ERA while totaling more than 200 wins. Three World Series rings, an MVP, and a 2.23 postseason ERA do him favors as well. Since voting for him last year, Schilling has made plenty of splashes in the media. He's not well liked off the field, but the character clause is among the most dated pieces of inclusion into the Hall of Fame. On baseball merit alone, he's worthy of the nod. Derek Jeter 73.0 fWAR The Yankees Captain enters the ballot as a near-lock for unanimous selection. He had an incredible career with significant accolades in both the regular season and playoffs. Over-glorified in part because of the market in which he played, Jeter will go down as one of the best to ever play the shortstop position. What he lacked on defense he contributed with his bat. The 14-time All-Star and five-time World Series winner will forever be one of the most celebrated Yankees of All-Time. Scott Rolen 70.1 fWAR Vastly under appreciated, Rolen started as a Rookie of the Year winner, and went on to tally eight Gold Glove awards. He was a seven time All Star and among the best to ever field the Hot Corner. With an .855 career OPS, his bat more than does enough to supplement what was an exceptional defensive career. Larry Walker: 68.7 fWAR Although he played the field plenty, Walker also turned in a nice run spending time in both the infield and outfield. He was the 1997 NL MVP and made five All Star games. His glove netted him seven Gold Gloves and his bat produced three Silver Slugger awards. Walker finished his 17 seasons with 383 homers and drove in over 1,300 runs. Andruw Jones 67.1 fWAR Jones's 17 year career is often going to be questioned as he held on for five uninspiring seasons to closer out his time as a big leaguer. That aside, the 10 year stretch from 199-2007 was one for the ages. With 10 Gold Glove's and five All Star appearances, he was easily among the greatest in the game for a decade. For more from Off The Baggy, click here. Follow @tlschwerz
  4. Roy Halladay is an overwhelming first ballot Hall of Famer in the esteemed eye of the BBWA. And Johan Santana wasn't worth a vote last year by Mr. Stark or any other prominent media member of the BBWA who have published their ballots. That’s total crap. Here are the two guys’ peaks: Halladay peak 2002 to 2011: 148 ERA+, 170 K/year, 1.11 WHIP, 3.12 FIP, 219 IP Santana peak 2002 to 2010: 150 ERA+, 198 K/year, 1.08 WHIP, 3.27 FIP, 198 IP Halladay pitched more innings but that makes Santana's K's even more impressive (9.0 K/9 vs. 7.0 K/9). The awards are similar. The peak is not quick, it's 8-9 years. I’m not saying that Halladay wasn’t better – there’s value to doing it longer and Halladay likely wins on that. But its narrow and to not even discuss Santana but view Halladay as a shoo-in? Ridiculous. Halladay was arguably not the best pitcher during his peak, Santana was. And even that longevity is suspect. Halladay pitched in five other seasons and Santana in three. Here are those numbers: Halladay non-peak: 87 ERA+, 70K/year, 1.45 WHIP, 4.36 FIP, 92.1 IP Santana non-peak: 82 ERA+, 67K/year, 1.53 WHIP, 4.64 FIP, 82 IP While Halladay comes out better, those numbers are not markedly different. So the difference between HOF Halladay and One Ballot Johan is that Halladay pitched parts of five other seasons where he was a slightly better below-average pitcher? That’s crap and begs the question why the two guys, from the same era, are viewed differently. There are two answers to that: (1) Halladay gets the attention because of his tragic demise, which is a stupid and false narrative. Tragic demises should be irrelevant to the HOF unless the player was on a humanitarian mission that robbed him of a chunk of his career - like Roberto Clemente. An Roy Halladay decidedly wasn't on a humanitarian mission and should actually be castigated for the manner of his death. Roy Halladay died when he crashed his private plane while high on a morphine and methamphetamine speedball. He could have killed someone, it's no different than drunk driving. Would we feel so bad if that plane had landed on someone's house and killed a kid? Decidedly not a tragic death in any sense that matters to the Hall discussion. Even stranger, the BBWA didn't consider Santana blowing out his arm when he was near the top of his game tragic. While trivial in the real world sense, Santana's tragedy is more applicable from a HOF stance: Santana was robbed of the chance for a strong mid 30s peak while we know Halladay didn’t have that in him because we watched him shrivel, retire, and then start piloting planes while high. Yet Halladay is somehow more tragic? ​(2) Halladay succeeded on the East Coast while Santana was injured in his time on the East Coast. The BBWA pays better attention to smaller markets today with the dawn of social media and fantasy baseball but the 2000s were a period when the East Coast dominated the national discourse. Johan's excellence with the Twins slipped under the radar to an extent (and cost him at least one Cy Young) while Halladay was always in big markets and got the headlines. Santana also got hurt with the Mets when he did head to a big market, further tainting his legacy in the pea-sized minds of the BBWA. Its regionalism and sensationalism and its crap. I'd just like one of these baseball writers to man up and say "We got last year wrong." Fat chance but it would be nice to hear after three months of “Halladay is a shoo-in” while the 2nd greatest Twins player of the past 25 years remains unheralded.
  5. Baseball quite literally is not making ballplayers like Joe Mauer anymore. In fact, he’s potentially the last of a bygone era, during which striking out was still frowned upon by coaches and downright despised by some players. Joe Mauer hates striking out — so much so he struck out just once in high school. Even as Major League Baseball evolved into a game with more pitchers throwing harder and nastier pitches than ever before, Mauer refused to change his approach and was good enough to not only get away with it, but force defenses to adjust to him just as Barry Bonds before him. Mauer received one of the most extreme defensive outfield shifts in baseball, and he got his hits despite it. Of the top 21 seasons in overall strikeouts in MLB history, Mauer played in 15. He struck out more than 100 times just once, and his OPS+ was under 100 in just two seasons of his career. But some still think Mauer was overpaid given the expectancy for him to catch full-time. Addressing Mauer’s Haters Mauer, a soft-spoken, Minnesota-nice guy, has his share of haters who think he should have cowboyed up and got behind the plate to earn his $23 million every year despite a concussion issue that not only threatened his career but his life off the field. An issue that reappeared this season upon a dive for a ball at first base and might be responsible for Mauer’s indecision regarding his playing future. Mauer’s haters should know over the course of his career, the Twins paid Joe just $374,856.42 more per win above a replacement player than the Marlins and Tigers paid Cabrera, and the Tigers still owe him at least $154 million. The Twins paid just $728,825.30 more per win above a replacement player than the Cardinals and Angels have paid Pujols, who’s still owed $87 million. If you average the WAR of both Cabrera and Pujols over their last seven years across the remaining years of their contracts, their cost per win above a replacement player balloons to $381,619.65 and $80,136.39 more per WAR than Joe, respectively. Not being overpaid relative to his fellow first basemen won’t make Mauer a first-ballot Hall of Famer like Pujols and Cabrera, but it doesn’t hurt. The Hall of Fame Question Most will say Mauer’s six All-Star appearances and 2,123 hits aren’t enough. Most will say he never won a playoff series. Most will say his 55.1 career Wins Above Replacement (WAR) isn’t even as good as another former Twin (David Ortiz, 55.3) despite it being top-100 all time amongst Hall of Fame position players and 151st all time in MLB history, according to Baseball Reference. Mauer’s integrity and humility are Hall-of-Fame caliber, however. Unlike Ortiz, who failed a 2003 performance-enhancing drug test, Mauer’s legacy is unquestioned and untarnished. Although Mauer only played in the post-steroid era of Major League Baseball (the drug policy as we know it was first implemented and enforced in 2004), he’s someone who might have benefited from steroids and had an “opportunity” to use them after sustaining a knee injury in his rookie season. At 21, Joe knew better, and at 28, when his body struggled recovering from surgery and then fell ill with pneumonia, Mauer probably never even considered using steroids. Mauer came back in 2012 to lead the league in on-base percentage (OBP), beating his 2011 OBP by 56 points (.420). His .351 OBP in 2018 is the worst of his career and was still the 50th-best in baseball and 10 percent better than the MLB average (.318). He was top-10 in league OBP and batting average seven times and top-10 in Adjusted OPS+ six times in his career. Mauer’s .3063 career batting average is, ironically, identical to his Hall of Fame manager’s, good for 138th-best all time. But Paul Molitor has 1,196 more hits than Joe. Regardless, Mauer’s career batting average is sandwiched between Hall of Famers Ernie Lombardi and George Kell, and is better than that of the next-best hitting catcher of his era, Buster Posey (.306). Mauer’s the only catcher ever to win three batting titles, too. But what makes Hall of Famers is their relative dominance of their respective eras. Barry Bonds didn’t have to beat Babe Ruth in career home runs; he just needed to dominate his era like Ruth his. Mauer is a Hall of Famer given his place amongst his peers. When compared to his peers, from 2004 to 2018, Mauer’s batting average ranks ninth, between Mike Trout and Buster Posey. His OBP is twelfth, between Hall of Famer Chipper Jones and Bryce Harper. His Weighted Runs Created (WRC) is tenth, whereas Posey ranks 94th. On an All-MLB 2004–18 Team, Mauer would clearly be the catcher, and he’s probably the fourth-best first baseman of his generation, behind Miguel Cabrera, Albert Pujols, and Joey Votto — all first-ballot Hall of Famers. Mauer’s numbers aren’t first-ballot-Hall-of-Fame worthy, but the way he represented the game of baseball and himself on and off the field is worthy of first-ballot consideration, which he’ll receive. Joe might even be a victim of the Hall of Fame shrinking the length of time players stay on the ballot from 15 years to 10. Mauer won’t be eligible for induction until 2023 at the earliest, but judging from the lack of retirees expected this season, he could benefit from a lack of competition. We don’t know if this is Adrian Beltre’s final season, and if it isn’t, Mauer could be sharing the ballot with holdovers from previous years, not including Bonds or Roger Clemens, who will fall off the ballot in three years. Even if Joe isn’t voted into the MLB Hall of Fame by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America, he will most certainly get support from the Hall of Fame’s Veterans Committee. One way or another, Joe Mauer is a Hall of Fame player. Personally, I’d like to see if he’s a Hall of Fame manager.
  6. The announcement of Johan Santana's well-deserved selection to the Minnesota Twins Hall of Fame as well as the round-and-round Twitter and blog conversation about MLB Hall of Fame selections got me thinking: Who is in the Twins Hall of Fame that might surprise and who are other deserving candidates. I'm going to begin with a couple of caveats. First, I'll only be talking here about players in the Twins Hall of Fame. Front-office personnel and managers (well, manager) are wonderful and important parts of the Hall - just outside the scope of the following exercise. Second, my own generation and experience of being a Twins fan colors my perceptions as they do for all of us. So, I was 11 and 15 for the two World Series runs. Puckett, Hrbek, Gagne - they were my guys. The older generation - Killebrew, Oliva, Carew, etc. I saw some of but mostly know the history. AND I haven't lived in Minnesota since 1993. Nowadays that's no big deal. MLB.tv allows me to feel like I see and know all the Twins. But there was a hole in the 1990s and early 2000s where I only saw Twins games when they visited where I was living or happened to be on ESPN (not often). So there are some, not holes exactly, but weaker spots in my own visceral Twins fandom. See: Brad Radke. The following chart shows the playing members of the Twins Hall of Fame: Name Tenure Career WAR Twins WAR Twins Pennants/ Rings MVP/Cy Name Tenure Career WAR Twins WAR Harmon Killebrew1961–74 60.4 60.5 Rod Carew 1967–78 81.1 63.7 Tony Oliva 1962–76 43 43 Kent Hrbek 1981–94 38.4 38.4 Kirby Puckett 1984–95 50.9 50.9 Jim Kaat 1961–73 45.3 30.5 Bert Blyleven 1970–76 96.5 49.3 Bob Allison 1961–70 33.9 33.9 Earl Battey 1961–67 18.7 17.5 Frank Viola 1982–89 47.4 27.2 Zoilo Versalles 1961–67 12.5 14.6 Gary Gaetti 1981–90 42 27.1 Rick Aguilera 1989–99 20.7 15.5 Brad Radke 1995–2006 45.6 45.6 Greg Gagne 1983–92 26.3 17.9 Jim Perry 1963–72 38.7 26.2 Camilo Pascual 1961–66 37.8 33.5 Eddie Guardado 93–03, 08 13.3 9.5 Torii Hunter 97–07, 15 50 26.2 Michael Cuddyer 2001–11 16.6 12.4 Johan Santana 2000-2007 50.7 35.5 using BREF WAR, including WAS as MIN We all know there are factors other than WAR, such as World Series banners and Cy Young Awards or MVPs. Incidentally, the only Twins with 2 of those latter awards are Harmon with 2 MVP awards and the latest addition, Johan, with 2 Cy Young awards. As I said above, this look at Brad Radke was a bit of a surprise for me. If you had asked me to name the top 10 Twins in career WAR, I don't think I would have named Brad Radke. But here he is in 5th place. For me I think that has a lot to do with the timing of my own Twins watching as I said above. For most of Radke's career, I did not watch many Twins games. I knew he was very good. But I think he was under-appreciated, at least by me. What about you? Which brings me to my question. I will be writing a few follow-ups to this post and wonder what you think about these questions: Who is missing here? Who should next be added? If the Twins were to embrace the entire history of the Washington Senators franchise as part of their own history, who else might be added to a Hall of Fame? If we take retired numbers to be a sort of "inner circle," who will next be added to that group? Those with retired numbers are printed in red above. What do you think about future members of the Twins Hall of Fame? I'll let you know what I think in a few days.
  7. In June 1989 the MInnesota Twins completed what would be one of their most well-rounded drafts and one that aided in bringing a second World Series title to the organization. In the first four rounds they nabbed Chuck Knoblauch and Scott Erickson (two pillars of the 1991 team) as well as Denny Neagle (who the Twins would trade to Pittsburgh for 20-game winner John Smiley in efforts to replace the departing Jack Morris for the 1992 season). In the tenth round they would land future Rookie of the Year outfielder Marty Cordova, then pitcher Mike Trombley, who provided nine years of service for the organization, in the fourteenth. Oh, and even the Twins’ long-time utilityman, Denny Hocking, was selected in the fifty-second round. It was a good yield, to be sure, but the Twins passed over on one player who would have made that draft class legendary.Earlier that spring, 18-year-old James Howard Thome, all of six-foot-four and fungo thin, was manning shortstop at Illinois Central College. The Limestone High School graduate from just outside of Peoria, was getting little interest from within the professional baseball ranks. The summer after high school Thome attended a St. Louis Cardinals camp and was dismissed. Dozens of scouts would be at the junior college games, mostly looking at players on the opposing team. One scout, Ellsworth Brown, had noticed him. He saw him in high school and followed him around the state’s junior college circuit. Brown was working for the Minnesota Twins. Several years prior, he had scouted Kirby Puckett and eventually signed the center fielder. Brown could recognize hitters no matter the shape. He believed, in spite of the obvious positional limitations, that Jimmy Thome would indeed hit. Download attachment: Thome.PNG He tried to convince everyone above him that this kid would hit. For their part, the Twins’ higher ups told him that they didn’t believe Thome could play shortstop. There are eight other positions, Brown informed them. According to Terry Ryan, then the team’s scouting director, power was a high priority in the draft. It was the reason the team spent the second round pick on a little remembered outfielder out of Riverside, California by the name of John Gumpf. Other picks were spent in search of power. As Brown was trying to convince his superiors that Thome would be worth the investment, the Cleveland Indians had a scout named Tom Couston who was also enamored of Thome’s hit tool. After spending a game with the intention of tracking an opposing player, Thome caught his attention by hitting rockets all over the field. According to Couston, Thome was seen running a 5.2 down the line to first, which is a full-second slower than the average left-handed major leaguer. Couston also had timed Thome running a 6.8 60-yard dash time so he was confident there was enough athleticism to find him a position. Watch this kid hit, was the mantra Couston repeated to his bosses. With Couston’s endorsement, the Indians opted to draft Thome in the thirteenth round of the 1989 draft, with 332 players drafted ahead of him. They offered $10,000 to sign him. He asked for $15,000. They agreed. Two rounds prior, the Twins drafted Dan Masteller, a first baseman out of Michigan State, who saw a spattering of starts in 1995. A round later, they drafted a catcher, Alvin Brown, who eventually converted to being a pitcher in the Tigers organization. They drafted outfielders and middle infielders, leaning more towards athleticism than power. Eventually they tabbed two hulking first baseman in the later rounds hoping for some slug. None, of course, would compare to Jim Thome. Needless to say, the draft is filled with stories of scouts saying they begged their bosses to draft so-and-so, whether it was Mike Trout or Albert Pujols or Jim Thome. With every great player comes the tale of a scout who believed in him when others doubted. It is hard to say what his career trajectory would be had the Twins listened to Brown and drafted Jim Thome. The Twins obviously had Kent Hrbek at first but you could easily see them shifting Hrbek to the DH spot in 1993 or 1994 and allowing a young Thome to learn first. Had the Twins drafted him, the mid-to-late 1990s could have been radically different. Instead of shoehorning Dave McCarty at first or experimenting with Scott Stahoviak for several seasons, they would have had 40 home run potential locked in. It’s possible they never trade for David Ortiz or try to draft Travis Lee (which means they don’t get Matthew Lecroy either). Thome’s presence with the Twins would not have fixed the dreadful pitching problems but it could have been improved considering he wouldn’t be in a Cleveland uniform blasting white missiles into the blue seats at the Metrodome. At the same time, it’s possible Thome never fulfills his destiny if he were drafted by Minnesota. After all, Thome credits a lot of his success to working with Charlie Manuel while in AAA Charlotte. It was Manuel who gave Thome is iconic pre-pitch bat point, a move he borrowed after watching The Natural. It was after that season that Thome’s home run power arrived. Then again, hitters hit. It would likely be a matter of time before he sandblasted baseballs all across the universe no matter what uniform he was in. Fortunately, MInnesotans did get to witness Thome’s Hall of Fame power up close and firsthand. While he was in the twilight of his career and moving at the speed of a glacier, Jim Thome could still melt baseballs like no other. The 600th home run milestone was achieved in a Twins uniform and that moment will forever be associated with the organization. Still, what if Terry Ryan and others listened to Ellsworth Brown when he described Thome’s hitting abilities all those years ago? How different would the Twins’ franchise look today? While we can all dream of an alternate history, in the end, Jim Thome reaches the Hall of Fame, he will don a Cleveland Indians hat, just the way the baseball gods intended. Click here to view the article
  8. Earlier that spring, 18-year-old James Howard Thome, all of six-foot-four and fungo thin, was manning shortstop at Illinois Central College. The Limestone High School graduate from just outside of Peoria, was getting little interest from within the professional baseball ranks. The summer after high school Thome attended a St. Louis Cardinals camp and was dismissed. Dozens of scouts would be at the junior college games, mostly looking at players on the opposing team. One scout, Ellsworth Brown, had noticed him. He saw him in high school and followed him around the state’s junior college circuit. Brown was working for the Minnesota Twins. Several years prior, he had scouted Kirby Puckett and eventually signed the center fielder. Brown could recognize hitters no matter the shape. He believed, in spite of the obvious positional limitations, that Jimmy Thome would indeed hit. He tried to convince everyone above him that this kid would hit. For their part, the Twins’ higher ups told him that they didn’t believe Thome could play shortstop. There are eight other positions, Brown informed them. According to Terry Ryan, then the team’s scouting director, power was a high priority in the draft. It was the reason the team spent the second round pick on a little remembered outfielder out of Riverside, California by the name of John Gumpf. Other picks were spent in search of power. As Brown was trying to convince his superiors that Thome would be worth the investment, the Cleveland Indians had a scout named Tom Couston who was also enamored of Thome’s hit tool. After spending a game with the intention of tracking an opposing player, Thome caught his attention by hitting rockets all over the field. According to Couston, Thome was seen running a 5.2 down the line to first, which is a full-second slower than the average left-handed major leaguer. Couston also had timed Thome running a 6.8 60-yard dash time so he was confident there was enough athleticism to find him a position. Watch this kid hit, was the mantra Couston repeated to his bosses. With Couston’s endorsement, the Indians opted to draft Thome in the thirteenth round of the 1989 draft, with 332 players drafted ahead of him. They offered $10,000 to sign him. He asked for $15,000. They agreed. Two rounds prior, the Twins drafted Dan Masteller, a first baseman out of Michigan State, who saw a spattering of starts in 1995. A round later, they drafted a catcher, Alvin Brown, who eventually converted to being a pitcher in the Tigers organization. They drafted outfielders and middle infielders, leaning more towards athleticism than power. Eventually they tabbed two hulking first baseman in the later rounds hoping for some slug. None, of course, would compare to Jim Thome. Needless to say, the draft is filled with stories of scouts saying they begged their bosses to draft so-and-so, whether it was Mike Trout or Albert Pujols or Jim Thome. With every great player comes the tale of a scout who believed in him when others doubted. It is hard to say what his career trajectory would be had the Twins listened to Brown and drafted Jim Thome. The Twins obviously had Kent Hrbek at first but you could easily see them shifting Hrbek to the DH spot in 1993 or 1994 and allowing a young Thome to learn first. Had the Twins drafted him, the mid-to-late 1990s could have been radically different. Instead of shoehorning Dave McCarty at first or experimenting with Scott Stahoviak for several seasons, they would have had 40 home run potential locked in. It’s possible they never trade for David Ortiz or try to draft Travis Lee (which means they don’t get Matthew Lecroy either). Thome’s presence with the Twins would not have fixed the dreadful pitching problems but it could have been improved considering he wouldn’t be in a Cleveland uniform blasting white missiles into the blue seats at the Metrodome. At the same time, it’s possible Thome never fulfills his destiny if he were drafted by Minnesota. After all, Thome credits a lot of his success to working with Charlie Manuel while in AAA Charlotte. It was Manuel who gave Thome is iconic pre-pitch bat point, a move he borrowed after watching The Natural. It was after that season that Thome’s home run power arrived. Then again, hitters hit. It would likely be a matter of time before he sandblasted baseballs all across the universe no matter what uniform he was in. Fortunately, MInnesotans did get to witness Thome’s Hall of Fame power up close and firsthand. While he was in the twilight of his career and moving at the speed of a glacier, Jim Thome could still melt baseballs like no other. The 600th home run milestone was achieved in a Twins uniform and that moment will forever be associated with the organization. Still, what if Terry Ryan and others listened to Ellsworth Brown when he described Thome’s hitting abilities all those years ago? How different would the Twins’ franchise look today? While we can all dream of an alternate history, in the end, Jim Thome reaches the Hall of Fame, he will don a Cleveland Indians hat, just the way the baseball gods intended.
  9. Officially sent out on December 1st, the Internet Baseball Writers Association of America has began accepting 2018 Hall of Fame Ballots. This is now my third year voting, and I'm proud of the privilege to induct players alongside fellow bloggers and other smaller outlets. Linked here, you can find my 2017 ballot as well. Before diving into the selections, I'd like to lay out a few notations. Both Vladimir Guerrero and Edgar Ramirez have previously been honored, which is why the remain off the current ballot. Despite the ability to vote for up to 15 candidates, I have previously elected to vote just 10. This year, I felt the need to expand that number a bit. Finally, here is my stance on steroids and performance enhancing drugs as they relate to the Hall of Fame. For players I have voted previously, I will denote them as such with an asterisk. I will also be using the same explanation as the previous vote. With that out of the way, let's get into it. *Barry Bonds: 164.4 fWAR It's a no brainer. The all-time home run king (762) is arguably the best player to ever step on the field. A seven-time MVP, eight-time Gold Glove winner, and 14-time All Star, Bonds did it all. *Roger Clemens: 133.7 fWAR The Rocket is one of the greatest pitchers to ever grace the mound. He's won seven Cy Young awards, claimed an MVP as a pitcher, and was invited to 11 All Star Games. His 4,672 strikeouts were buoyed by leading the big leagues five separate times. *Trevor Hoffman: 26.1 fWAR At one point the All-Time saves leader, Hoffman's 601 career saves still rank second, trailing only Mariano Rivera. His career 2.87 ERA was is dazzling, and the seven-time All Star has a place in the Hall. *Fred McGriff: 56.9 fWAR The Crime Dog spent many of his early season among MVP discussions. Despite never winning won, he finished fourth in 1993. He was elected to five All Star games and won three Silver Slugger awards. It's his 493 career home runs that get him over the top and into the Hall however. *Mike Mussina: 82.2 fWAR Pitching his entire career in the AL East, Mussina was a household name for Yankees and Orioles fans. Making five All Star games, and winning seven Gold Gloves, Mussina has his fair share of awards. Totaling 270 wins, and just over 2,800 strikeouts, Mussina comes up just short of the guaranteed numbers. *Curt Schilling: 79.7 fWAR Bloody sock nonsense aside, Schilling is a three time Cy Young runner-up, and six-time All Star. He struck out 3,116 batters in his career and owns a 3.46 ERA while totaling more than 200 wins. Three World Series rings, an MVP, and a 2.23 postseason ERA do him favors as well. Since voting for him last year, Schilling has made plenty of splashes in the media. He's not well liked off the field, but the character clause is among the most dated pieces of inclusion into the Hall of Fame. On baseball merit alone, he's worthy of the nod. *Larry Walker: 68.7 fWAR Although he played the field plenty, Walker also turned in a nice run spending time in both the infield and outfield. He was the 1997 NL MVP and made five All Star games. His glove netted him seven Gold Gloves and his bat produced three Silver Slugger awards. Walker finished his 17 seasons with 383 homers and drove in over 1,300 runs. Andruw Jones 67.1 fWAR Jones's 17 year career is often going to be questioned as he held on for five uninspiring seasons to closer out his time as a big leaguer. That aside, the 10 year stretch from 199-2007 was one for the ages. With 10 Gold Glove's and five All Star appearances, he was easily among the greatest in the game for a decade. Chipper Jones 84.6 fWAR An eight-time All Star, MVP and World Series winner, and a batting title to boot, Larry Wayne Jones was among the greatest third basemen to ever field the position. While he falls short of the 500 HR club, and the 3,000 hit club, it's a no-brainer that he deserves enshrinement in Cooperstown. Scott Rolen 70.1 fWAR Vastly under appreciated, Rolen started as a Rookie of the Year winner, and went on to tally eight Gold Glove awards. He was a seven time All Star and among the best to ever field the Hot Corner. With an .855 career OPS, his bat more than does enough to supplement what was an exceptional defensive career. Johan Santana 45.3 fWAR After suffering injuries and setbacks, it was apparent that Santana's career carried on much after his time had come. That being said, there's an argument to be made that there was no more dominant pitcher for a seven year stretch than what Santana brought to the table. In that time, he owned a 2.88 ERA, racked up 111 wins, and tallied 1,500 strikeouts. Two Cy Young awards were supplemented with four All Star games, three ERA titles, and a Triple Crown. While it wasn't lengthy, calling it anything but astounding would be selling him short. Jim Thome 69.0 fWAR A five-time All Star and a Silver Slugger Award recipient, Thome's accomplishments are more apparent in the numbers. His 612 career home runs rank 8th all time, and his .956 OPS across 22 seasons is remarkable. A giant for the Phillies and Indians, Home even posted a 1.000+ OPS at the age of 39 with the Minnesota Twins. The slugger should have no problem finding his plaque in Cooperstown. For more from Off The Baggy, click here. Follow @tlschwerz
  10. This time of year, especially with the free agent market moving as slow as it is, puts the Hall of Fame in the spotlight. Although the Hall tends to do more bad than good in the press (yes Joe Morgan, you're at fault here), the ballot does get us to some intriguing talking points. I've written plenty about my stance on voting and who should get in, and I'll share my IBWAA ballot in the coming weeks. In 2017 though, the HOF highlights the need for the universal DH. A quick look at the timeline of Sporting News' Ryan Spaeder will hint that he's on a crusade he shouldn't need to be embarking upon. As with Tim Raines a year ago, Edgar Martinez has been the cross taken up with Spaeder and some other writers around the baseball community. On the ballot in his 9th year (of 10 eligible), Martinez is drawing eerily close to missing his opportunity to be voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. In 2017, Martinez received 259 votes (58.6%). He needs to jump just over 15% in his final two ballots to reach enshrinement, and that it looks like an uphill battle remains a sad development. While the BBWAA has voted previously to expand the possible votes from 10 to 12, the Hall of Fame shot the motion down, and a stacked ballot continues to haunt players that are simply left out. While the IBWAA did the right thing and inducted Martinez in 2016 alongside former teammate Ken Griffey Jr., the BBWAA has yet to follow suit. Over the course of his 18 year career, Martinez was a seven-time All Star, five-time Silver Slugger, and racked up two batting titles. He owns a career .312/.318/.515 slash line, and he's one of very few players that can claim more walks (1,283) than strikeouts (1,202) to their credit. The one detractor everyone seems to point at when considering Martinez comes down to two different numbers. First, the amount of games he played in the big leagues (2,055). There's nothing wrong with that number, but it's the 560 games started in the field that apparently holds him back. The simplest way to address that argument is to flat out call it wrong. Even if Edgar Martinez was the worst defensive first or third basemen in the majors for those 18 seasons, he would've been among the greatest hitters to ever play the game. At 65.5 career fWAR, there's just five third basemen with a higher mark in their career. One of them is retired, and based upon his merits in the game should be in the Hall when eligible (Alex Rodriguez). Two of them are still currently playing, and should be Hall of Fame locks (Adrian Beltre and Miguel Cabrera). Another is on the ballot and isn't given enough credit, despite much of his value coming on defense (Scott Rolen). The final name is Graig Nettles. Looking at the landscape we just explored, Martinez has compiled an fWAR number on par with every Hall of Fame third basemen already enshrined, and did so solely by the production of his bat. Again we reach the crossroads of the designated hitter becoming disrespected. It's at this point, and upon the induction of Martinez, that the game needs to change. In the National League, on a nightly basis, pitchers embarrass themselves at the plate. Failing to get down a bunt, flailing away, or having to stand in for the first time since high school is not something that should take place in a big league game. While Madison Bumgarner is hitting his one or two longballs a year, he's still a terrible hitter that has no business ever batting over a big league offensive player (yes, that was silly Bruce Bochy). The game of baseball has changed in 2017, and even earlier than that to be fair. Managers use closers in high leverage situations as opposed to just the 9th inning, platoons give offenses a tactical advantage, and shifts seek to steal away would be base hits. Specialty play is something that game has embraced for the better, except when it comes for the players to be recognized after they are done. It's not the fault of Trevor Hoffman, Billy Wagner, or Lee Smith that they pitched one inning a night. The were the by-product of the save, and in turn, were exceptional at the task they were called upon to complete. Martinez may have been able to hack it in the field longer than he did, but wielding just a bat, he was among the best in the game. It's time those things are remembered when the votes are cast. Looking ahead to the class reveal on January 24th, I fear Martinez will be staring his final year of eligibility in the eye. It's a situation I can't imagine the beloved David Ortiz will find himself in (steroid accusations or otherwise), and it's disgusting that the Mariners star has to shy away from what he was as well. Edgar Martinez was, on a nightly basis, designated to hit and that's exactly what he did. We're long past due on enshrining him for that greatness, and in turn, allowing baseball to embrace the specialty across both leagues. For more from Off The Baggy, click here. Follow @tlschwerz
  11. 10 seasons into his Major League Baseball career, Joe Mauer was a number one overall pick playing for the hometown team, and owned the title of being the best catcher in the sport. Across that span, he had played in 1,178 games slashing .323/.405/.468. With awards piling up, it seemed certain a career was destined to be capped off with a Hall of Fame ceremony, the a traumatic brain injury occurred. Things have been different since, but in 2017, the Twins long tenured star is forcing us to reconsider. There's next to no argument that can be made against Mauer's first ten years in the big leagues being among the best we've ever seen from a catcher. He piled up three batting titles, and MVP award, three Gold Gloves, four Silver Sluggers, and six All Star Game appearances. Despite playing arguably the most demanding position on the diamond, he was among the best players on either team on a nightly basis. Since 2013, Mauer's post playing accolades have become murky. Dealing with the lingering effects of a career-altering injury, he's been a shell of his former self. Forced into a positional switch playing first base, he profiles oddly for the position as he's never been the traditional power hitter. From 2014 onwards, his slash line has dipped to a more human .275/.360/.388. There have been no awards handed out, and he has put forth just one season above 1.6 fWAR (the current one, in 2017). Now, looking at his career arc as a whole, Mauer presents an interesting case for Hall of Fame enshrinement. First and foremost, the largest caveat remains that his playing career is not over, and may be far from reaching that point. With another year left on his current deal in Minnesota, and good reason to continue playing (at least briefly) beyond that, we're not in a place for definitive conclusions. That being said, 2017 has presented us an opportunity to take another look at what could become a compelling case. Knowing what the numbers are, Mauer likely is never going to hit the "automatics." While he'll surpass 2,000 hits, he won't reach 3,000. He's not going to hit 500 homers, and and he may not even reach 1,000 RBI. His case for a plaque really never hinged on those targets anyways though, so let's take a look at what matters. Assuming he never wins another, Mauer's three batting titles put him in rare air. he's only the third catcher in history to win a batting title, the first since 1942, and the only ever for the America League. With three batting titles to his credit, only 14 players in the history of the sport have repeated as winners more often than the Twins star. Somewhat of a throw in for his batting title years (and one extra), he also has four Silver Slugger awards. Looking at his MVP award, Mauer also profiles rather favorably. Getting the nod in 2009, he became the first catcher to accept the honor since Ivan Rodriguez in 1999. Only 17 catchers have ever taken home the hardware, and only five have done so since 1970. Most backstops are brought in for their defensive acumen, or the ability to hit for power. Mauer combined both in 2009, and as a catcher, was a threat both with the bat and the glove. That takes us to arguably the most compelling award, the Gold Glove. Mauer tallied three of them behind the plate. Only 11 catchers in the awards history have won more Gold Gloves than Mauer. Three is an impressive total on its own, but it's what Mauer is positioned to do in 2017 that takes thing up a notch. Joining Placido Polanco and Darin Erstad, the Twins (now) first basemen, would be just the third player in history to win a Gold Glove at two different positions. He would also be the first player in history to win Gold Gloves at catcher, and any other position. Statistically speaking, Mauer is going to have a hard case to make. Since 2013 and going forward, his career is far from what it was. However, he'll likely still end his time in the majors with a solid .300+ average, and his fWAR will still do some good. Currently he has composed a career mark checking in above Hall of Famers such as Ralph Kiner, Kirby Puckett, Phil Rizzuto, Roy Campanella, and Lou Brock. What needs to be his calling card however, is what could have been, and the hardware that is. There's no telling whether or not Mauer can put up another Gold Glove caliber season at first base. He's still young enough, and has looked incredible in the role this year. Whether or not that happens depends on usage and how he ages. Right now though, assuming the award is properly distributed in 2017, the Minnesota natives case for The Hall just got a lot more interesting. For more from Off The Baggy, click here. Follow @tlschwerz
  12. http://www.metro.us/_internal/gxml!0/r0dc21o2f3vste5s7ezej9x3a10rp3w$5vi54zaadl731t8p227qiq7zh2dinyv/Screen%20shot%202016-06-02%20at%207.jpeg The 2017 inductees into the Baseball Hall of Fame will be announced Wednesday, January 18th.Which players from this year's ballot are deserving of a plaque in Cooperstown? Player 2016 voting percentage Years on ballot Jeff Bagwell 71.6% 6 Barry Bonds 44.3% 4 Roger Clemens 45.2% 4 Trevor Hoffman 68.3% 1 Jeff Kent 16.6% 3 Edgar Martinez 43.4% 7 Fred McGriff 20.9% 9 Mike Mussina 43.0% 3 Tim Raines 69.8% 9 Curt Schilling 52.3% 4 Gary Sheffield 11.6% 2 Lee Smith 34.1% 14 Sammy Sosa 7.0% 4 Billy Wagner 10.5% 1 Larry Walker 15.5% 6 Ivan Rodriguez Manny Ramirez Vladimir Guerrero Mike Cameron J.D. Drew Jorge Posada Magglio Ordonez Derrek Lee Tim Wakefield Edgar Renteria Melvin Mora Carlos Guillen Casey Blake Jason Varitek Orlando Cabrera Pat Burrell Freddy Sanchez Arthur Rhodes Matt Stairs
  13. http://www.espn.com/media/mlb/2001/0810/photo/a_boudreau_i.jpg As the Twins currently have a manager who was a Hall of Fame player and as the Minnesota Wild has hired someone named Boudreau, I figured a question about a Hall of Fame player who managed named Boudreau was mildly topical... In his 16 major league sasons as a manager, Hall of Famer Lou Boudreau managed 16 eventual Hall of Famers. Who were they?
  14. Cochrane was a Massachusetts native and a left-handed hitter who debuted with the Philadelphia Athletics in 1925, at age 22. He hit .331/.397/.448 as a rookie, and finished 10th in the MVP race (though it’s worth pointing out that offense was so ridiculous in the twenties that that line, which would be the stuff of MVP talk now or even a few years ago, was good for a 108 OPS+). After a slight dip the following year, Cochrane took over as probably the best catcher in the game, year in and year out, from 1927 through 1935, his age-32 season. For those nine seasons, Cochrane started an average of 122 games a year, all at catcher, batting .322/.423/.490, good even in those heady days for a 134 OPS+, in 4,980 plate appearances. He won two MVP awards--one in 1928 with the Athletics, one in 1934 with the Tigers (who he also managed)--and was known as an excellent defensive catcher. The All-Star Game didn’t exist until 1933, and Cochrane lost out to fellow Hall of Famers Rick Ferrell and Bill Dickey that first year, but was selected in ‘34 and ‘35. While he played only 71 games over the next two seasons and suffered a head injury from a hit-by-pitch in May 1937 that ended his career at just 34, Cochrane was elected to the Hall of Fame by the BBWAA in 1947, with 79.5% of the vote. At the end of the last millennium, he was (perhaps kindly) listed 65th on The Sporting News’ list of the 100 greatest baseball players. Mauer, it turns out, has had similar success, for similar reasons. From 2006-2013, Mauer put together an eight-year stretch that looks a lot like Cocrhane’s 9-year run: .327/.410/.473 (139 OPS+), catching an average of just 93 games a year thanks to the availability of the DH and his ability to play first, but playing an average of 126 of them, winning an MVP award and making six All-Star teams. In all, adjusting for eras and such, Cochrane probably had (even) more patience than Mauer and (even) less home run power, but the parallels between the two are astounding. Some selected career numbers (with Mauer’s through Monday the 18th), with the most fun parts highlighted: http://i.imgur.com/xiwXJaM.png They’re lefty-hitting catchers with good defensive reputations who hit for high averages, drew walks and had gap power. Both had one season where they uncharacteristically hit home runs (Cochrane had 23 in 1932, while Mauer, of course, hit those 28 in 2009), and altogether have matched each other in that category almost exactly. Maybe most interestingly, and certainly most importantly: Cochrane played in an era when it was a lot easier to get on base and score runs, but adjusting for that, Mauer has been exactly as effective with the bat as Cochrane was, in about a hundred more plate appearances than Cochrane got for his whole career. Cochrane remains a bit ahead on both common measures of WAR--largely driven by the fact that Mauer gets a significant negative position adjustment from spending time at first and left, whereas 5 innings in left in 1932 represented the whole of Cochrane’s career non-catching experience--but Mauer could well catch him this season, or next. Cochrane has those two MVP awards to Mauer’s one, of course, though with only eight teams in the American League, he faced almost literally half the competition Mauer has, and it’s worth noting that in both of Cochrane’s MVP years, he accumulated just 4.0 WAR, so Mauer was nearly as valuable in his one MVP year (7.8 WAR) as Cochrane was in both of his. Mauer also had solid cases to win the award in 2006 and/or 2008. Then, there’s the thing I haven’t mentioned yet: Cochrane played in five World Series (three with the Athletics, two with the Tigers), and his teams won three of them. He didn’t play particularly well in the postseason, overall, and it was a lot easier to make the Series back then for essentially the same reason it was easier to win an MVP, but anyway, there’s no denying that five Series appearances in just 11 full seasons was a major part of Cochrane’s resume, and one that Mauer can’t compete with. Anyway, there’s no real doubt that Cochrane is a better Hall candidate, and overall player, right now, than Mauer, whether on the numbers alone or with the superlatives. The thing is that it’s close--very, kind of eerily close, right at the moment--and Cochrane’s career was essentially over at Mauer’s age, so whatever Joe contributes from here on out is gravy. Mauer has already essentially had a full career as a Hall of Fame catcher, plus whatever he adds from here on out. Even with Piazza, there are only thirteen Major League catchers in the Hall of Fame--and frankly, at least three of them were mistakes (Ferrell, Roger Bresnahan, and Ray Schalk, all with significantly less career WAR than Mauer already has). I think that this is a wrong that needs correcting, and along with Ivan Rodriguez, I would put in Ted Simmons, Bill Freehan and maybe Jorge Posada. I’d also put Mauer in, even if he retired tomorrow. He wouldn’t get in, of course--but I think the comparison to Cochrane shows that he’s a lot closer, based on historical standards, than people typically think. Who knows what the BBWAA will do anymore, but a couple more solid years really should be enough to seal his induction, eventually.
  15. For the Twins, the ballot was void of any Minnesota presence. In upcoming years, the most closely tied name will be that of Jim Thome. While he won't go in as a member of the Twins, he provided plenty a bright spot in Twins Territory as he rounded out his career. It's not Thome though who is the next most likely Twins player to gain consideration for enshrinement. For Minnesota, an opportunity may be presented when Torii Hunter is first eligible. It's almost guaranteed he will be inducted into the Twins Hall of Fame, but despite the potential to reach Cooperstown, he should fall short. Hunter has a better resume than that of Jim Edmonds, but it's not 70% better, which is what will be needed to reach enshrinement. Edmonds fell off the ballot after missing out on the needed 5% this year, Hunter will likely do better. Regardless, don't expect him to break the Twins drought. No, instead that honor could most likely go to a player twho is still a member of the Twins. 32 year-old Joe Mauer is the Minnesota Twins next most likely candidate for Hall of Fame consideration. Had he not been given the injury hand he has been dealt, and still was behind the plate, I'd feel good about forecasting him as a first-ballot type player. As things stand currently, he presents a very strong case with a few more years left to push the needle one way or another. At this point in time, Hall of Fame voting principles don't seem to rely heavily on the golden numbers. While 3,000 hits, 500 home runs, and other milestones seemingly should guarantee induction, other factors such as character and performance enhancers have muddied the waters. For Mauer though, those numbers will be left out of consideration entirely. Sitting currently at just under 1,700 hits for his career with just over 115 home runs, Mauer's case for the Hall will be built on some different principles. As a catcher, Mauer garnered four All-Star appearances, an MVP award, three Gold Gloves, and four Silver Slugger titles. He was arguably the best in the game, at one of its most demanding positions for the first seven years of his big league career. Following concussion issues, Mauer's game has been transformed. He's become a relative shell of the hitter he once was, and has had to adapt to playing an entirely new position. Despite the downturn in production, Mauer still owns a career .313/.394/.451 slash line and can claim three batting titles to his credit. Most importantly for Mauer's prospects regarding the Hall of Fame, is how the story ends up being written. As the 2016 season kicks off, Mauer will be 33 years old. Under contract for the Twins until 2018, there are probably at least another 400 plus hits in his bat, and production that could be boosted by some lineup changes. Should Mauer trend back towards what he once was, or at least to an high average and contact hitter, he should be seen favorably in the eyes of voters. If the trend of a dipping average combined with mediocre peripheral numbers continues, Mauer's longevity could actually hurt him down the stretch. Hanging on and compiling stats while diluting and distancing from the catching days likely won't do him any favors. At the end of his career, Joe Mauer is not going to be Mike Piazza. He could (and likely should) surpass the 2,127 hits of the Mets backstop. Mauer probably will lay claim to a better average and on-base percentage. He's going to have the MVP and batting titles to his credit, and his Gold Gloves should make a difference. He isn't the power hitter his current position is expected to be though, and the injuries that have changed the course of his career will be held against him Sometime within the next ten to twelve years, Joe Mauer is going to get his turn on the Hall of Fame ballot. He's not a lock the first time around, but expecting him to come up with 75% of the vote through the first half of his voting eligibility is far from a fool's proposition.
  16. With the winter months dominating the calendar at the present time, one of the highlights of the offseason has been the Hall of Fame voting. With Ken Griffey Jr. being a guaranteed lock heading into the reveal (even despite three clueless voters), it was a question of who would join him during enshrinement in Cooperstown this summer. After the dust settled, we now know that honor will go to Mike Piazza.For the Twins, the ballot was void of any Minnesota presence. In upcoming years, the most closely tied name will be that of Jim Thome. While he won't go in as a member of the Twins, he provided plenty a bright spot in Twins Territory as he rounded out his career. It's not Thome though who is the next most likely Twins player to gain consideration for enshrinement. For Minnesota, an opportunity may be presented when Torii Hunter is first eligible. It's almost guaranteed he will be inducted into the Twins Hall of Fame, but despite the potential to reach Cooperstown, he should fall short. Hunter has a better resume than that of Jim Edmonds, but it's not 70% better, which is what will be needed to reach enshrinement. Edmonds fell off the ballot after missing out on the needed 5% this year, Hunter will likely do better. Regardless, don't expect him to break the Twins drought. No, instead that honor could most likely go to a player twho is still a member of the Twins. 32 year-old Joe Mauer is the Minnesota Twins next most likely candidate for Hall of Fame consideration. Had he not been given the injury hand he has been dealt, and still was behind the plate, I'd feel good about forecasting him as a first-ballot type player. As things stand currently, he presents a very strong case with a few more years left to push the needle one way or another. At this point in time, Hall of Fame voting principles don't seem to rely heavily on the golden numbers. While 3,000 hits, 500 home runs, and other milestones seemingly should guarantee induction, other factors such as character and performance enhancers have muddied the waters. For Mauer though, those numbers will be left out of consideration entirely. Sitting currently at just under 1,700 hits for his career with just over 115 home runs, Mauer's case for the Hall will be built on some different principles. As a catcher, Mauer garnered four All-Star appearances, an MVP award, three Gold Gloves, and four Silver Slugger titles. He was arguably the best in the game, at one of its most demanding positions for the first seven years of his big league career. Following concussion issues, Mauer's game has been transformed. He's become a relative shell of the hitter he once was, and has had to adapt to playing an entirely new position. Despite the downturn in production, Mauer still owns a career .313/.394/.451 slash line and can claim three batting titles to his credit. Most importantly for Mauer's prospects regarding the Hall of Fame, is how the story ends up being written. As the 2016 season kicks off, Mauer will be 33 years old. Under contract for the Twins until 2018, there are probably at least another 400 plus hits in his bat, and production that could be boosted by some lineup changes. Should Mauer trend back towards what he once was, or at least to an high average and contact hitter, he should be seen favorably in the eyes of voters. If the trend of a dipping average combined with mediocre peripheral numbers continues, Mauer's longevity could actually hurt him down the stretch. Hanging on and compiling stats while diluting and distancing from the catching days likely won't do him any favors. At the end of his career, Joe Mauer is not going to be Mike Piazza. He could (and likely should) surpass the 2,127 hits of the Mets backstop. Mauer probably will lay claim to a better average and on-base percentage. He's going to have the MVP and batting titles to his credit, and his Gold Gloves should make a difference. He isn't the power hitter his current position is expected to be though, and the injuries that have changed the course of his career will be held against him Sometime within the next ten to twelve years, Joe Mauer is going to get his turn on the Hall of Fame ballot. He's not a lock the first time around, but expecting him to come up with 75% of the vote through the first half of his voting eligibility is far from a fool's proposition. Click here to view the article
  17. Recently, the Baseball Hall of Fame announced the ten finalists who are on the Veteran’s Committee’s Golden Era Ballot. Three former Twins players are on the ballot, Luis Tiant, Jim Kaat and Tony Oliva. Today, I’m going to post several of the reasons that Oliva should be considered a Hall of Famer. At the end, I’ll let you know how you can help Oliva’s case.On December 8, the 16-person Veteran's Committii will vote on which of the ten players from the Golden Era should be elected. Like the Baseball Writer’s vote, to gain enshrinement in Cooperstown, a player will need 75% of the vote (or, 12 votes). Tony Oliva is a Twins legend. He is a member of the Minnesota Twins Hall of Fame and is one of the five best players in team history. However, he was not voted into the Hall of Fame after 15 years on the Baseball Writers’ ballot. In fact, he never accumulated more than 47.3% of the vote. However, thanks to the Hall of Fame’s addition of this Golden Era vote, Oliva has another chance. As Twins fans, we can certainly support one of ours being awarded the greatest honor a baseball player can receive. The Case For Oliva Players are to be considered or judged based on several criteria including record, ability, integrity, character, sportsmanship and contributions to the team. However, it all starts with record as a player since there are a lot of people of high character and integrity in the game. So, let’s start with his playing career. Oliva had cups of coffee with the Twins in 1962 and 1963. In 1964, he was the American League Rookie of the Year and won the league batting title when he hit .323. In 1965, he hit .321, becoming the only player in team history to win back-to-back batting titles. In 1966, he led the league in hits for the third straight year but his .307 batting average was second behind Frank Robinson. In 1971, he hit a career-high .337 for his third and final batting title. He led the league in hits five times, and four times he led the league in doubles. Three times he finished in the top five in MVP voting. Five times he finished in the top ten. All-Star appearances mean different things to different people these days, but the reason it was called The Golden Era is because so many of baseball’s elite players came from that era. To have been selected for eight straight All-Star games, from 1964 through 1971, tells us how great he was in the era. The Twins actually released Oliva in 1961 because he was so bad defensively in the outfield. However, he turned around his defense in right field enough to earn a Gold Glove Award in 1966. He was known to have had one of the strongest arms in baseball. Oliva’s peak was from 1964 through 1971 (ages 25-32). Unfortunately, he was able to play just ten games in 1972 because of his knees. I wanted to see where Oliva ranked during that eight year stretch compared to his contemporaries. His triple slash line for that time frame was .313/.360/.507 (.867). That is an adjusted-OPS+ of 140. In other words, he was 40% better than the average player for that stretch.His .313 batting average was tied with Pete Rose for fourth in MLB, behind Roberto Clemente (.334), Rico Carty (.322), and Matty Alou (.314). It was best in the American League, ahead of teammate and roommate Rod Carew’s .306 average.Because he was such an aggressive hitter, his on-base percentage ranks 31st from that time frame, but it is 13th in the American League.That said, he was third in the American League with 90 intentional walks. Only sluggers Harmon Killebrew and Frank Howard were intentionally walked more often in the AL. That is a sign of the respect opponents had for him.His slugging percentage is tied for 10th in MLB for that time frame. However, in the American League, only Frank Robinson, Harmon Killebrew and Frank Howard rank ahead of him.His OPS was 14th in baseball, sixth in the American League (top five – Frank Robinson, Harmon Killebrew, Carl Yastrzemski, Frank Howard and Mickey Mantle).His 1,455 hits was behind only Rose (1,554), Lou Brock (1,552), Billy Williams (1,516) and Clemente (1,460). In the AL, Brooks Robinson’s 1,313 hits was second to Oliva.His 278 doubles was best in MLB from 1964-1971.His 46 triples ranked 12th in MLB and fourth in the American League.His 177 home runs ranked 15th in all of baseball and eighth in the AL.His 719 RBI was 13th overall behind 11 Hall of Famers (and just ahead of three more). That RBI total ranked fourth in the American League (leader was Harmon Killebrew).He was 10th in MLB with 711 runs scored, which ranked second in the American League.Many think that the knee injuries completely derailed his career. Sure, it slowed him down, but he was still pretty good. After playing in just ten games in 1972, Oliva became the Twins DH in 1973 and played in 374 games over the next three seasons. In those three years, he hit a combined .283/.338/.401 (.740). That may sound somewhat pedestrian, especially in comparison to those first eight full seasons. However, with an adjusted OPS+ of 109, he was still nine percent better than the average player. So, did he fade after the injuries, and after he turned 32? Sure, a little. He was still a very good player. Despite hobbling when he walked. Despite Rod Carew’s stories of Oliva crying himself to sleep at night in pain, or limping to get ice, he still continued to play at a very high level. That said, there will always be the question of What If... with Tony Oliva’s career. His career hitting line, from 1962-1975, is .304/.353/.476 (.830) which equates to an adjusted-OPS+ of 131. He accumulated 329 doubles, 48 triples, 220 home runs and 947 RBI. Post-Playing Career Oliva came to the United States from Cuba for an opportunity to play baseball and earn a living. However, he got married in South Dakota and has made Bloomington his home for 50 years. He has remained active in the organization. In fact, many may forget that he was that Twins first base coach in 1985 and their hitting coach from 1986 through 1991. I think most Twins fans would agree that was a pretty good stretch for the Twins. Since then, he has been a special adviser for the Twins. He has spent time in Ft. Myers as an instructor as well as going around to the minor league affiliates to do much of the same. He is very active in the community, often representing the Twins at events. Currently, he is an Analyst on the Twins Spanish Radio network and a minor league instructor. Seemingly all Twins fans have a good Oliva story. For me, the first one was in 2001 while in Cooperstown for Kirby Puckett and Dave Winfield’s Hall of Fame Induction weekend. Just walking through the streets of Cooperstown, Oliva was chatting with fans and taking pictures. I happened to be in a store when my brother got his picture taken with him. In the last fifteen years, Oliva has had many honors bestowed on him. His #6 was retired by the Twins. He was part of the inaugural Twins Hall of Fame class. He was also named to the Latino Baseball Hall of Fame. In 2011, the bronze statue of Oliva was dedicated outside of Gate 6 at Target Field. In short, he has been an ambassador of the game of baseball in the Upper Midwest for half of a century. His joy permeates a room when he is at the front sharing stories of his playing days, his Twins Caravan trips and more. He exudes integrity and character. What Can I Do? As we mentioned at the start, YOU can help Tony Oliva get votes. You can mail a letter to the Golden Era Veterans Committee about why you think Tony Oliva should be in the Hall of Fame. The best way to influence the voting committee is by sending letters in support of Tony. VoteTonyO is working to send over 13,000 pieces of mail from fans, but more is needed. There are two things you can do to help the effort: 1. Mail pre-stamped VoteTonyO postcards VoteTonyO has designed and printed 8,000 custom postcards that are pre-stamped and pre-addressed. All you have to do is write a short message on the back and mail them in. These postcards are available for fans at no cost. To request postcards, email , providing your mailing address and desired quantity (in increments of 25). 2. Mail your own letter If you have more to say to the Hall of Fame voters about why Tony should be inducted, mail a letter to: Baseball Hall of Fame Attn: Golden Era Committee 25 Main Street Cooperstown, NY 13326 Don’t forget to write “VoteTonyO” on the front and back of the envelope. The vote is on December 8th, so you will need to get your letter or postcard as soon as possible. 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  18. On December 8, the 16-person Veteran's Committii will vote on which of the ten players from the Golden Era should be elected. Like the Baseball Writer’s vote, to gain enshrinement in Cooperstown, a player will need 75% of the vote (or, 12 votes). Tony Oliva is a Twins legend. He is a member of the Minnesota Twins Hall of Fame and is one of the five best players in team history. However, he was not voted into the Hall of Fame after 15 years on the Baseball Writers’ ballot. In fact, he never accumulated more than 47.3% of the vote. However, thanks to the Hall of Fame’s addition of this Golden Era vote, Oliva has another chance. As Twins fans, we can certainly support one of ours being awarded the greatest honor a baseball player can receive. The Case For Oliva Players are to be considered or judged based on several criteria including record, ability, integrity, character, sportsmanship and contributions to the team. However, it all starts with record as a player since there are a lot of people of high character and integrity in the game. So, let’s start with his playing career. Oliva had cups of coffee with the Twins in 1962 and 1963. In 1964, he was the American League Rookie of the Year and won the league batting title when he hit .323. In 1965, he hit .321, becoming the only player in team history to win back-to-back batting titles. In 1966, he led the league in hits for the third straight year but his .307 batting average was second behind Frank Robinson. In 1971, he hit a career-high .337 for his third and final batting title. He led the league in hits five times, and four times he led the league in doubles. Three times he finished in the top five in MVP voting. Five times he finished in the top ten. All-Star appearances mean different things to different people these days, but the reason it was called The Golden Era is because so many of baseball’s elite players came from that era. To have been selected for eight straight All-Star games, from 1964 through 1971, tells us how great he was in the era. The Twins actually released Oliva in 1961 because he was so bad defensively in the outfield. However, he turned around his defense in right field enough to earn a Gold Glove Award in 1966. He was known to have had one of the strongest arms in baseball. Oliva’s peak was from 1964 through 1971 (ages 25-32). Unfortunately, he was able to play just ten games in 1972 because of his knees. I wanted to see where Oliva ranked during that eight year stretch compared to his contemporaries. His triple slash line for that time frame was .313/.360/.507 (.867). That is an adjusted-OPS+ of 140. In other words, he was 40% better than the average player for that stretch. His .313 batting average was tied with Pete Rose for fourth in MLB, behind Roberto Clemente (.334), Rico Carty (.322), and Matty Alou (.314). It was best in the American League, ahead of teammate and roommate Rod Carew’s .306 average. Because he was such an aggressive hitter, his on-base percentage ranks 31st from that time frame, but it is 13th in the American League. That said, he was third in the American League with 90 intentional walks. Only sluggers Harmon Killebrew and Frank Howard were intentionally walked more often in the AL. That is a sign of the respect opponents had for him. His slugging percentage is tied for 10th in MLB for that time frame. However, in the American League, only Frank Robinson, Harmon Killebrew and Frank Howard rank ahead of him. His OPS was 14th in baseball, sixth in the American League (top five – Frank Robinson, Harmon Killebrew, Carl Yastrzemski, Frank Howard and Mickey Mantle). His 1,455 hits was behind only Rose (1,554), Lou Brock (1,552), Billy Williams (1,516) and Clemente (1,460). In the AL, Brooks Robinson’s 1,313 hits was second to Oliva. His 278 doubles was best in MLB from 1964-1971. His 46 triples ranked 12th in MLB and fourth in the American League. His 177 home runs ranked 15th in all of baseball and eighth in the AL. His 719 RBI was 13th overall behind 11 Hall of Famers (and just ahead of three more). That RBI total ranked fourth in the American League (leader was Harmon Killebrew). He was 10th in MLB with 711 runs scored, which ranked second in the American League. Many think that the knee injuries completely derailed his career. Sure, it slowed him down, but he was still pretty good. After playing in just ten games in 1972, Oliva became the Twins DH in 1973 and played in 374 games over the next three seasons. In those three years, he hit a combined .283/.338/.401 (.740). That may sound somewhat pedestrian, especially in comparison to those first eight full seasons. However, with an adjusted OPS+ of 109, he was still nine percent better than the average player. So, did he fade after the injuries, and after he turned 32? Sure, a little. He was still a very good player. Despite hobbling when he walked. Despite Rod Carew’s stories of Oliva crying himself to sleep at night in pain, or limping to get ice, he still continued to play at a very high level. That said, there will always be the question of What If... with Tony Oliva’s career. His career hitting line, from 1962-1975, is .304/.353/.476 (.830) which equates to an adjusted-OPS+ of 131. He accumulated 329 doubles, 48 triples, 220 home runs and 947 RBI. Post-Playing Career Oliva came to the United States from Cuba for an opportunity to play baseball and earn a living. However, he got married in South Dakota and has made Bloomington his home for 50 years. He has remained active in the organization. In fact, many may forget that he was that Twins first base coach in 1985 and their hitting coach from 1986 through 1991. I think most Twins fans would agree that was a pretty good stretch for the Twins. Since then, he has been a special adviser for the Twins. He has spent time in Ft. Myers as an instructor as well as going around to the minor league affiliates to do much of the same. He is very active in the community, often representing the Twins at events. Currently, he is an Analyst on the Twins Spanish Radio network and a minor league instructor. Seemingly all Twins fans have a good Oliva story. For me, the first one was in 2001 while in Cooperstown for Kirby Puckett and Dave Winfield’s Hall of Fame Induction weekend. Just walking through the streets of Cooperstown, Oliva was chatting with fans and taking pictures. I happened to be in a store when my brother got his picture taken with him. In the last fifteen years, Oliva has had many honors bestowed on him. His #6 was retired by the Twins. He was part of the inaugural Twins Hall of Fame class. He was also named to the Latino Baseball Hall of Fame. In 2011, the bronze statue of Oliva was dedicated outside of Gate 6 at Target Field. In short, he has been an ambassador of the game of baseball in the Upper Midwest for half of a century. His joy permeates a room when he is at the front sharing stories of his playing days, his Twins Caravan trips and more. He exudes integrity and character. What Can I Do? As we mentioned at the start, YOU can help Tony Oliva get votes. You can mail a letter to the Golden Era Veterans Committee about why you think Tony Oliva should be in the Hall of Fame. The best way to influence the voting committee is by sending letters in support of Tony. VoteTonyO is working to send over 13,000 pieces of mail from fans, but more is needed. There are two things you can do to help the effort: 1. Mail pre-stamped VoteTonyO postcards VoteTonyO has designed and printed 8,000 custom postcards that are pre-stamped and pre-addressed. All you have to do is write a short message on the back and mail them in. These postcards are available for fans at no cost. To request postcards, email , providing your mailing address and desired quantity (in increments of 25). 2. Mail your own letter If you have more to say to the Hall of Fame voters about why Tony should be inducted, mail a letter to: Baseball Hall of Fame Attn: Golden Era Committee 25 Main Street Cooperstown, NY 13326 Don’t forget to write “VoteTonyO” on the front and back of the envelope. The vote is on December 8th, so you will need to get your letter or postcard as soon as possible.
  19. For the last three years, the Murphy family has tried to answer a single question: how can we help get Tony Oliva in the Hall of Fame? http://votetonyo.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/VoteTonyO_Tony_Oliva_Official_Fan_Club-300x200.jpg The Vote Tony O Team No one asked them to answer that question. Not the Twins. Not Tony himself. They weren't deputized or drafted. They chose to do it themselves, coming together in a kitchen to found Vote Tony O to find out, "how can we help get Tony Oliva in the Hall of Fame?" That's not an easy question to answer, and as someone who writes more than he takes action, I'm a little worried that I can't do much. After all, baseball writing focuses on providing clear and concise answers to clear and concise questions. Which player won the game? Which team lost the trade? Who's washed up? Who's the future? There's a quick answer to each of those questions and a swath of data to support any answer you give: box scores and power splits, defensive metrics and pitch mapping. But when it comes to addressing Hall of Fame worthiness, things get trickier. For instance one advanced measure, which analyzes an array of statistics and contexts, puts Tony ahead of no-doubt-legends like Joe DiMaggio and Frank Robinson, but behind such faded who-the-hecks as Gavvy Cravath and Harry Stovey. "The numbers are easy", says Mike Murphy, one of Vote Tony O's spokespeople. "[They've] all been a record since 1976, but it's a little bit harder for us to quantify what Tony means to the community." Fuzzy though the quantification is, it's certain that Tony Oliva means a lot to his communities. He is and has been a role model for Cuban players coming to America. He served as a cornerstone of the Twins for the past 50 years as a player, a coach on both World Series winning clubs, and an announcer for our increasingly diverse fan base. Above all, he stands out as an indefatigable ambassador for the game, the team and life itself. Over the years Murphy and his family have seen this more than most people. "Tony loves being Tony. Tony loves being the guy that people want to come up and meet and touch and get an autograph. He loves everybody that comes up to him; he bends over backwards for these people, and it's because he truly enjoys it. " http://stmedia.startribune.com/images/630*359/twin1104oliva.jpg Again, anyone who has seen Oliva around the Twins in recent years knows it. Though the team has hardly been a bastion of good vibes, Oliva is often the greatest source of entertainment. He smiles. He beams. He radiates a love of the game that would insulate an ice fishing cabin in International Falls, and embodies a passion that those who fixate on questions about winning and losing too often forget. But the Murphy's won't forget that passion, because they can't forget one of the rare times Oliva was dispirited rather than optimistic: winter 2011, the last time Tony was up for election. Mike Murphy remembers the push to the ballot. Remembers they day of the announcement. Remembers how "exactly the way you think it would be in your head, [that] was the way it was. You know the clock ticking and nobody talking, then depression sets in. "And the weird thing was Tony wasn't depressed he didn't get into the Hall of Fame. He's at peace with it; he's fine. That part's not a big deal. I'm sure he wants it, but the fact that he isn't in there? He's okay with it. "The part that disappointed him and bothered him was that he felt that he let his fans down...This is 35-ish years after the last baseball game he played. He was disappointed not because he didn't make it, but because he let his fans down." So while others might shake their heads and moved on with their lives, the people behind Vote Tony O have taken up a three year campaign to push for Oliva's induction. They tweet. They promote. And they inundate the Hall of Fame with over 14,000 post cards highlighting Tony's achievements, ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character and contributions to the game. According to Murphy, that has been the real drive of the group, focusing on "the character of the guy, the integrity of the guy, and re-shining some light. Hopefully we can pick up those last four votes and put him over." Four more votes, that's all Oliva needs. Twelve out of sixteen members of the veteran's committee. Former colleagues, executives and writers who know the game and its history, who should understand the effect that Oliva has had. And even though the votes belong to those men, and the honor of selection belongs to the players, the Murphy's know that the institution isn't just the property of the gatekeepers or the honorees. "It's a museum. It's a New York State museum. It's a public thing, and frankly as a baseball fan: it's my museum." And even if you dispute Oliva's credentials (or refuse to consider him until after Gavvy Cravath gets his due), the leaders of Vote Tony O believe it's important to speak your mind. "It's our museum," repeats Murphy. "If [fans] feel strongly about anybody on that list be it Gil Hodges or Jim Kaat, I think it's their responsibility to let [the Hall of Fame] know. Nobody is really right and nobody is really wrong. But what we know as a fact is that an awful, awful lot of people think that Tony Oliva should be in the Hall of Fame, and that's what we [want] to share with those 16 guys." So, how can we help get Tony Oliva in the Hall of Fame? Simple: do whatever we can. The Vote Tony O website has a wealth of post cards that you can print and mail to the Hall of Fame (also linked to here for your clickable perusal). The baskets of cards are dumped out in front of the committee members and makes for a rather effective image (as noted by former committee member Tommy Lasorda). So here's what you do 1. Click on the links to find the post card you like. 2. Print one (or preferably more) off. 3. Add a personal memory. 4. Address it to: Baseball Hall of Fame Attn- Golden Era Committee 25 Main Street Cooperstown NY 13326 5. Attach a stamp to the card. 6. Drop it in the mail. Whether you stood beside him at the Cuban sandwich station at Target Field, or held out a ball for an autograph at the Metrodome, or cheered with the Knothole Gang in the Old Met's bleachers on a Saturday afternoon, I think you'll agree that Tony Oliva is an integral part of what Minnesota baseball is. http://media.townhall.com/Townhall/reu/d/2011%5C98%5C2011-04-08T182219Z_01_MIN04_RTRIDSP_0_BASEBALL.jpg Thank You, Tony Whether you appreciated his friendly demeanor, or his clutch performances, or his bad-ball hitting, or his mentorship, or his courage in simply being a man of color in minor league towns that kept him separate and unequal, I think you'll agree it's time to stand up and say "thank you" to Tony Oliva. Whether you want to recognize a player who never got his due, or acknowledge the role he played in cementing baseball as an international game, or just want him to savor the game's greatest honor before (like Ron Santo and Buck O'Neill) it's too late, I think you'll agree it's important to call on the Veterans Committee to "Vote Tony O". Do your part: click, print, sign, lick a stamp, and make yours the 14,001st plea for the Veteran's Committee to Vote Tony O. Well...14,002nd. I already sent mine.
  20. I never booed Derek Jeter. I had never thought of him as the best player in baseball either. He's been in the majors for a long time and had a lot of success, no matter how it is measured. Upon reaching 3000 hits, it has become certain that he will be elected to the Hall of Fame. The question, to me, is whether he will get the highest percentage of votes or perhaps if he will be elected unanimously. Does Jeter deserve to be in the Hall of Fame? I don't think anyone seriously disputes that. He has over 3400 hits, five rings, five Silver Sluggers, and five Gold Gloves. His durability has resulted in counting numbers that are top of the class. He has been a model citizen under the microscope of the New York media. There is no hint of PEDs or illicit drugs. No one has mustered a harsh word against the man. Defensive metrics show a less-than-great defender. Jeter never won the MVP, but he has been in the Top Ten in that balloting eight times. To top off all the other honors, Jeter has been at his best in post-season. He's won several post-season honors and seems to have made a lot of key plays when the spotlight was the brightest. If I had a vote for the Hall of Fame, I'd vote for Jeter. I really can't see a reason not to vote for him, except for spite. He's had a great career and deserves the accolades.
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