It’s nice to know that Major League Baseball has arranged its annual calendar so that we never go more than a week or two without something to talk about. Less than two weeks after the last awards are given out, the Hall of Fame ballot is announced.
This year, we’ve got a couple of no-brainers in the first-timers (Mariano Rivera and Roy Halliday), some likely to make it in this time (Edgar Martinez and Mike Mussina). the usual problematic holdovers (e.g. Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds), and a whole bunch of other very good players who may or may not get in, but deserve some respect and honor.
Just an aside: Some of the criticism of Edgar Martinez is that he was a designated hitter, and as technically a ‘part-time’ player, he shouldn’t be included among The Greats. But Mariano Rivera, who was also a ‘part-time’ player, is nonetheless one of the All-Time Best? I don’t get it….
Then there are the “one and done” guys, who probably won’t last more than one year on the ballot. They made it to the ballot by being good enough to last ten or more years in the major leagues.
There’s really not much to say about some of them, but let’s give them a salute anyway.
Rick Ankiel broke into the majors in 1999, appearing in nine games for the Cardinals. As a full-time starter the next year, an 11-7 record with 194 strikeouts in 175 innings earned him second place in the NL Rookie of the Year voting. He started Game 1 of the NLDS that year – and something happened. He lost control of his pitches. After continued wildness in the early 2001 season, he dropped through the minors in the hopes of recovering his effectiveness. He did – but it was with the bat, not with his arm. He returned to the Cardinals in 2006 as an outfielder. An injury early on ended his season. He came back the next year, and did quite well in limited duty. A few more years as an average outfielder, bouncing around from team to team, concluded his career.
Jason Bay played for five teams over eleven years. He was the NL Rookie of the Year in 2004 when he hit .282 for the Pirates. Despite not joining the team until May, he still led NL rookies in home runs (26), RBIs (82), extra base hits (54) and total bases (226).
Starting as a pitcher for the Seattle Mariners in 1999, Freddy Garcia came in second to Carlos Beltran in the AL Rookie of the Year voting thanks to a 17-8 record. In 2001, an 18-6 record with a league-leading 3.05 ERA was good enough for third place in the AL Cy Young Award voting (Roger Clemens and Mark Mulder were 1-2). In the middle of the 2004 season, he was traded to the White Sox, where, in 2005, he started and won Game 4 as the Sox won their first World Series since 1917. After 2006, he was traded to the Phillies where a shoulder injury effectively limited the rest of his career. He bounced around a few teams, and made his last MLB appearance with the Braves in 2013.
Jon Garland was another star pitcher for the White Sox in the early 2000’s. He made the All Star Team in 2005, and threw a complete game to beat the Angels in Game 3 of the ALCS that year.
Travis Hafner played first base and DH’d for the Indians for most of his career. His best year was 2006, when he led the AL in slugging (.659) and OPS (1.097) while tying the record for most grand slams in a season with six.
Ted Lilly pitched for six teams over fifteen years. He made the All Star team in 2004 with the Blue Jays and in 2009 with the Cubs.
Derek Lowe spent 17 years pitching as a reliever and then a starter. He made the All-Star team twice, in 2000 and 2002 (when he also finished third in the Cy Young Award voting). He got the win for the Red Sox in Game 4 of the 2004 World Series.
Darren Oliver was another one of those useful journeyman players. He pitched for nine teams over 20 years, and was part of the Texas Rangers’ pennant winners in 2010 and 2011; in the latter year he was the winning pitcher in Game 5 of the World Series.
An outfielder, Juan Pierre spent 14 seasons in the big leagues with seven teams, mainly as a leadoff hitter. He batted .295 for his career, banged out 2,217 hits and stole 614 bases (18th on baseball’s all-time list). Pierre had four 200-hit seasons and three 100-run seasons. From 2003 through 2007 (five straight years), he never missed a game. He was on the World Champion Marlins team in 2003; he hit .333 in the series.
Placido Polanco was a solid infielder over his 16 year career, finishing with a .297 average, 2,142 hits, and three Gold Gloves. With the Tigers in 2006, he was named MVP of the ALCS when he hit .529 over the four games. The next year, he set a record for most games at second base without an error, and actually finished the season without one, becoming the first everyday second baseman in MLB history to do so. He is one of two players (Darin Erstad is the other) to win Gold Gloves at more than one position.
Vernon Wells spent twelve of his fifteen seasons patrolling the outfield for the Toronto Blue Jays, where he is second all-time for the team in career hits, doubles, runs, RBI and total bases, and fourth in home runs. He made the All-Star team three times.
Kevin Youkilis was part of the Boston Red Sox during their championship years in 2004 and 2007. He made the All-Star team three times, and came in third in the AL MVP voting in 2008.