On a Blockbuster Trade

Last year was a great year to be a Red Sox fan. This year, not so much.

After going all the way to a world championship in 2013, the 2014 Sox have stumbled and wheezed their way to a 39-49 record. They’re in last place in the AL East, behind even the similarly disappointing Rays; in fact, they have a worse record than the hapless Twins. Only the (surprisingly) terrible Rangers and the (unsurprisingly) terrible Astros are keeping them out of the AL basement.

Given how unwatchable my favorite team has been, I’ve basically treated the whole first half as a three-month nap. It’s given me a fresh appreciation for fans of terrible teams – I haven’t the slightest idea how they stick it out.

Anyway, it’s taken a blockbuster trade to rouse me from my slumber. It helps that this deal has nothing at all to do with the Red Sox, other than a familiar name heading one of the teams.

Let’s take a look.

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On Staying in Boston

I know I’m not breaking new ground by saying this, but it needs to be said: Players just don’t stick around like they used to. Thanks to free agency and the growing financial disparity between different teams, it’s far more common for a star player to move on to greener pastures than to stay and end his career in the city that made him famous. Just take a look at recent Red Sox history:

  • Nomar Garciaparra was the face of the franchise for the better part of a decade, joining Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez to form the “Holy Trinity” of shortstops. He was a Rookie of the Year, a two-time batting champion and a four-time All-Star. At the 2004 trade deadline, he ended up in Chicago as part of a four-team trade. The Sox won the World Series without him.
  • Pedro Martinez was one of the best pitchers Sox fans had ever seen, winning back-to-back Cy Young Awards and leading the league in ERA four times in his six years with the team. He signed with the Mets as a free agent right after that ’04 championship.
  • Manny Ramirez was one of the best hitters of his generation, a legendary slugger who made an All-Star roster every year of his Boston career and belted his 500th home run with the club. Just months after that historic shot, and less than a year removed from winning his second title with the Sox, he was traded to the Dodgers.

In the span of exactly four years, Red Sox fans lost two Hall of Fame-caliber stars and one beloved franchise icon. Granted, we also enjoyed two world titles in that time, so I’m not exactly complaining. Still, it hurt to see them go.

I bring this up today, of course, because the big news is that David Ortiz has signed a contract extension that will take him through the 2015 season, plus a vesting option for 2016 and a club option for 2017. Now, that’s still not a guarantee of anything – if the past decade has taught us anything, it’s that there are no guarantees – but it definitely looks like Papi will spend the rest of his career in Boston.

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On Weird Records

Baseball fans keep statistics on almost literally everything. We have to account for every out, every play, every baserunner and every run, no matter how obscure the source of each. Moreover, baseball fans love to celebrate statistical records: Pete Rose’s 4,256 hits, Barry Bonds’ 762 home runs (or Hank Aaron’s 755 if you prefer) and so on.

Among those celebrated records, some, like Cy Young’s 511 wins and Rickey Henderson’s 1,406 stolen bases, are considered unbreakable. That’s with good reason: the game would have to change completely for either of those to even be remotely within reach. Others, like Joe DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak, aren’t impossible to break, but they represent such incredible efforts that I doubt they’ll fall within my lifetime.

Not every unbreakable record is so famous, though. Some are only known to dedicated fans. Some are so silly that they’re almost unknown.

That doesn’t make them any less remarkable, though. Read on for some of baseball’s strangest, most unbreakable records.

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On FanGraphs: Adjusted Quality Starts

I wrote up a Community Research piece the other day on changing the definition of a “quality start” to better suit the realities of modern AL and NL baseball. Read all about it here.

On the Dregs of Cooperstown

As part of my previous piece on the BBWAA, I mentioned some of the most questionable choices the writers have made for the Hall of Fame. In so many ways, the Hall is more about the fringe members (and non-members) than the inner-circle guys, and the fact of the matter is that there are plenty of players (and non-players) who probably ought to be thrown OUT of the Hall.

So, that’s my mission today – to create an “All-Star” team of players, managers and executives who don’t belong in Cooperstown.

A brief disclaimer: None of the players I’m going to mention were, in any sense of the term, bad. They all played at least 10 seasons in the major leagues, and they all had their moments of greatness. They deserve to be recognized and celebrated. I just don’t think they were good enough to be even borderline Hall of Famers.

For the most part, I used the baseball-reference.com version of WAR to compile this list. Exceptions are noted.

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On Le Batard, Neal and the Privilege of Voting

On Wednesday, the Baseball Hall of Fame announced that three players – Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Frank Thomas – had been elected. Evidently it’s a good year for guys with ‘Thomas’ somewhere in their names. They’ll join managers Bobby Cox, Tony La Russa and Joe Torre in the Class of 2014.

On Wednesday, semi-serious sports site Deadspin.com also announced the name of the writer who’d surrendered his Hall of Fame ballot to Deadspin readers. That writer is Dan Le Batard, ESPN contributor and columnist for the Miami Herald.

On Thursday, the Baseball Writers’ Association of America announced that Le Batard’s membership would be suspended for one year and that he would not be allowed to vote in future Hall of Fame elections.

I can’t say I’m surprised by this news, but I am exceptionally disappointed.

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On the Hall of Fame Ballot: Just Missed

Well, we’ll see the results of the Hall of Fame voting tomorrow. In the meantime, here’s a look at the guys who were at least considered for my virtual ballot. Not all of them are Hall of Famers in my view, but all of them at least have a case, and it’s worth breaking them down in detail.

We start with a couple who are at once overwhelmingly qualified and incredibly questionable. Baseball!

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On the Hall of Fame Ballot: My Picks

In a way, I’m glad I don’t have a vote for the Hall of Fame.

Most years, I’d love to have a ballot. I’d love to crunch numbers, study careers and determine which 10 players most deserve baseball’s highest honor. Hall of Fame season is one of my favorite parts of the year, arguably more so than the baseball season itself, just because it’s so much fun to have these discussions.

This year, though, it’s simply overwhelming. I’d vote for 15 players if I could, maybe even 20.

When I look at a Hall of Fame ballot, I’ll start by eliminating the clearly inferior candidates, then examine the remainder in detail and determine which ones are truly Hall-worthy. I consider myself a fairly large-Hall guy, so I’m usually at or close to the maximum 10 votes. This year, as mentioned, I’m way over, and I’ve had to separate the players I think are no-doubt Hall of Famers from the guys who can wait.

Instead of dragging you through the whole process before I finally get to the good part, I’d rather lead with a celebration of 10 great careers. The hand-wringing and tough decisions can come later.

Here, in no particular order, are the 10 players I’ve put on my virtual Hall of Fame ballot.

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On Strict Constructionism and MVP Voting

This past Thursday, Major League Baseball announced that Miguel Cabrera had won the American League Most Valuable Player Award for the second consecutive season. This year’s race, much like last year’s, basically came down to Cabrera and Angels outfielder Mike Trout, who most observers agree were the top two players in the league. I would have voted for Trout, for the record, but Cabrera had a legitimately fantastic season and I take no issue with his winning the award.

In the wake of the announcement, several of the actual MVP voters have published their ballots, most of which had some combination of Trout and Cabrera in the first two spots. Trout slipped to third on a few ballots, mainly due to the presence of league homer champ Chris Davis; I suppose that’s defensible as well. He also got one fourth-place vote, one fifth-place vote and one seventh-place vote.

That lone seventh-place vote has been the cause of much consternation.

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On Baseball Players by State, 1-10

One of my favorite features of baseball-reference.com is the Bio section, which breaks major league players and managers down by their places of birth. In the spirit of America’s pastime, I’m using this data to review each U.S. State’s contributions to the big leagues, in order of statehood.

Note that because of the limitations of the database I’m using, only men who actually played or managed in the Major Leagues are listed here. I’d love to include great executives, writers, broadcasters and Negro League players, but I don’t have reliable birthplace information for them.

Without further ado, on to the first 10 states!

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