Off Base
Grasping at Straws

January 12, 2009, 9:45 p.m. On a day in which we honor the Hall of Fame class of 2009, we also celebrate the Dodgers signing of Shawn Estes. The latter occurring because, apparently, Atlee Hammaker wasn't available.

And while it seems as if Estes has been retired the five years required for Cooperstown eligibility, it turns out that's not the case. He actually was in organized baseball in 2008 (well, San Diego anyway), and come to find out, Estes has managed to throw almost 175 innings during the last four seasons, winning nine games, recording an earned run average below 5.00 each time.

And while it only seems like nine years since Estes has been below the league average for ERA, managing the feat with one 1/100th of a point to spare …uh, check me on that one. It has been nine years.

But look, 1997 was a mighty impressive year in the then young life of Mr. Shawn Estes. 19-5 with a 3.18 is nothing to sneeze at. You may not be able to summon the memory, but 19-5 with a 3.18 is not to be sneezed at. It shouldn't be used as reasoning to make the man a Dodger either, but OK.

And lest we forget, in case you missed it, Juan Castro is back in blue, sporting a new minor league contract. So we have that to turn cartwheels over this fine day.

I know I should be grateful. I mean, talk about your natural segues. Lob one in, why don't you. Shawn Estes, Juan Castro, National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. Just perfect...

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The Hall with It: Finally! Finally, finally, finally, the Baseball Writers Association of America, in its infinite wisdom, has elected Jim Rice. It doesn't matter by how many or by how few, the point is the man is in. And it's a wonderful thing.

I've been making the case for Rice, Bert Blyleven, Dave Concepcion, and to a lesser extent, Steve Garvey and Jack Morris, in this space for years, and I'll take what I can get. I am absolutely tickled about Jim Rice. And while I've always thought him to be worthy independent of comparisons, forgive me while I trot out the "if fill-in-the-blank is a Hall of Famer, then fill-in-the-blank should be too” line. If Orlando Cepeda is a Hall of Famer, then Jim Rice is too.

Rice’s lifetime numbers bettered Cepeda’s in hits, runs, homers, RBIs, batting, OBP, slugging, All-Star Game appearances, and for good measure, outfield fielding percentage, in one less season. Rice led his league in homers three times and RBIs twice; Cepeda led his in homers once and RBIs twice. Both were MVPs.

But like I said, Rice is Hall of Fame-worthy on his own merits. He was the American League's single most feared hitter of his era, a total and complete stud Red Sox player, and a simply great hitter. A great hitter.

Now, let’s clear up two things about Jim Rice once and for all. First, he wasn’t “sullen.” He was a sensitive black man playing in Boston during the 1970s. He had a hell of a lot more conversation to contribute than, oh say, Steve Carlton, whose silence gave the world Tim McCarver.

And let's put this BS about Rice being a weak defensive player to bed too. He struggled with the glove early while playing in Fenway. Wade Boggs did too, if you recall. Rice developed into a fine left fielder. Solid. You don’t get the full representation of a player’s abilities from the record books, and you certainly don’t get it by perpetuating crap. You had to watch the man play. Jim Rice was a great, great, great player, a Hall of Famer in every way imaginable.

Now, about Bert Blyleven. The unexplainable delayed-reaction concept that applied to Rice might work to Blyleven's advantage soon enough, but let's stop for a minute and examine these numbers. We're talking 287 wins and 3701 strikeouts. 287 and 3701! Hello?!

Moreover, 16 of the top 20 men on the career innings pitched list, where Blyleven ranks 14th with 4970, are in the Hall of Fame. Bobby Mathews, Tommy John, Roger Clemens and Greg Maddux are the others. Maddux is the lone earthling with more innings of baseball thrown than Blyleven who's not in the Hall. Think about that for a minute.

These next items are stunning. Blyleven is the only retired-five-years man in the strikeouts top ten list not yet enshrined. To review, that's 3701 K's, fifth all-time, behind Nolan Ryan, Randy Johnson, Clemens and Carlton. Of the six eligible hurlers who've passed Walter Johnson's 3509 strikeouts, a record which stood half a century, only Blyleven waits for the Hall call.

Then there's the little matter of Blyleven's 60 shutouts, ninth best in baseball history. He's the only guy in the top 20 in the category still on the outside looking in. For comparison, the Big Unit leads active pitchers with 37. This stuff just blows my mind.

And since when is longevity a bad thing? Right, since Don Sutton and Phil Niekro. But at least they got in. Longevity is a good thing, OK, it just is. And innings pitched, shutouts, strikeouts and wins are huge deals. Guys at the top of these categories are now and have always been Hall of Famers. Always...

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Media Savvy: Speaking of the Hall, check this out. In tossing out the notion that Andruw Jones' career is in jeopardy, as if to say it might be over, ESPN.com's Buster Olney also considers Jones' chances at a Hall pass:

"All of this begs a question: If Jones is in the last days of a career which has included 371 homers, 1,131 RBIs and a lifetime average of .259, how would you gauge his chances for the Hall of Fame? I wrote in a news story Saturday that Jones is a borderline Hall of Fame candidate, and this generated a lot of response, many writing along the lines that this confirms I'm an idiot."

Do I really need to say it? Draw your own conclusions.

Next, if you can make it all the way to end of this paragraph, by Joe Sheehan of SI.com, note the item comparing Manny Ramirez to Milton Bradley:

"I love Manny Ramirez as a player, and I'm on record making the argument that the off-field problems that predicated his trade from Boston to Los Angeles last summer may have been overstated. (At this point, six months and a lot of conversations later, I don't know if I still hold that position, but it's not relevant here, regardless.) It's not clear, however, that he's worth twice as much or more per season than the other guys in this pool. More than the others? Sure, he's the best player out of this bunch, even granting the poor defense and the advanced age. He's also the most likely, save perhaps for Dunn, to sustain his performance over the next three years. With all that, though, there's just no way he's worth twice as much per season as Bradley is. He's not worth three times what Burrell will make. You're not paying for his Hall of Fame past, remember; you're paying for his future."

Actually, Manny is worth twice as much as Bradley, and it shouldn't need explaining even in the least. But I'm game. I'll give it a few seconds of deep thought. Manny's played seven more seasons than Milton, so to be fair, let's just take the nine they've been in the sport at the same time, from 2000 to 2008.

Games played: Manny 1254, Bradley 817. Hits, 1460 to 803. Doubles, 304 to 170. Homers, 329 to 103. RBIs, 1043 to 399.

Sixteen postseason homers and 48 postseason RBIs for Manny since the year 2000, four and eight for Bradley. So yeah, Manny's worth twice Bradley's salary. And then some. Gee, ya think?

Statue for Sandy: The Koufax in bronze campaign continues. Please Vote “Yes on 32.” And tell a friend…

Remember, glove conquers all….

 

 

 

 

 

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