With baseball season beginning next week, it’s going to be a great relief to have something other than politics to talk about in everyday conversation. Now I could use this opportunity to discuss my picks for the Divisional Champions (Nationals, Cubs, Dodgers, Red Sox, Indians, Astros), but I really haven’t been paying attention to how Spring Training has been going. There are a divisions where things should be interesting (AL and NL East, AL West), but it will probably come down to which team stays the healthiest over the season. And of course once the playoffs begin, it’s almost impossible to predict an outcome.
So what else is there to talk about?
Going back over all the World Series like this reveals a few fun bits of trivia. For example, from 1919 through 1921, baseball tried out a best-of-seven series. The Cardinals had a pretty good dynasty in the early 40s.
But picking a World Series MVP like this can also be a bit frustrating. Which stats are important? Runs batted in are downplayed these days, as being more the result of opportunity than of talent. But what about the World Series, where every run scoring opportunity takes on vital importance? What do you do when (as in 1950), it’s a short series and no player stands out? How about when the best player is on the losing side? In 1944, George McQuinn led everyone with a .438 average, seven walks, and five runs batted in – but for the losing St Louis Browns….
I guarantee if I do this list again in a few months, I’ll pick an entirely different set of MVPs.
It’s that time of year. After the Hall of Fame results have been announced, but well before Spring Training begins. There is practically nothing going on in the world of Baseball.
What’s a fan to do?
Back in 1995, SPORT magazine decided to give out an award to the player in the World Series who had the greatest impact on his team’s performance in the series. Johnny Podres won it that year, thanks to complete game wins in Games 2 and 7. It’s now decided by a group of broadcasters, sportswriters, and officials at the end of the last game, and the winner gets a new car in addition to the trophy.
But the World Series started in 1903. What if you went back and chose MVPs for all those earlier championships?
One could, thanks to the wonders of modern statistical analysis, simply choose the player with the greatest Win Probability Added, or some other goofy stat. That’s no fun at all. Here’s my entirely subjective list.
It’s official; Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines, and Ivan Rodriguez are going to join baseball’s Immortals. There’s so much writing about vote totals and percentages and other irrelevant numbers that it’s very easy to lose sight of the honorees.
So, without further ado, a brief recapitulation of their greatness:
Okay, now that we’ve gotten the “one and dones” out of the way, who’s left among the thirty four players on the ballot?
We can pretty much divide the remaining twenty one into three groups:
The Hall of the Really, Really, Really Good:
Jeff Bagwell, Trevor Hoffman, Edgar Martinez, Mike Mussina, Tim Raines, and Gary Sheffield are holdovers from last year. They are joined by Vladimir Guerrero and Ivan Rodriguez. There’s no one here that stands out as an obvious Hall of Famer like Ken Griffey Jr. did last year. You’ve got to dig into the numbers. They are all potentially worthy; it pretty much comes down to personal opinion. I think closers are overrated – so much for Hoffman. Mussina was never the best pitcher in his league, and really wasn’t that great – he was just very good for a long time. Sheffield never really stood out as a superstar, unlike Guerrero and Rodriguez….
It’s that time again – the Hall of Fame ballot has been released. Fans and writers are already debating the worthiness of holdovers Jeff Bagwell and Tim Raines, newcomers Ivan Rodriguez and Vladimir Guerrero, and the usual arguments over Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds.
But also on the ballot are a squadron of new names; many of which you’ve never heard of and will probably never hear again. But they have met the minimum requirements for nomination, and might get a vote or two from a friend. And when you’ve been in the Major Leagues for ten years (the required minimum for consideration), it’s kind of hard NOT to pick up a little fame along the way.
So let’s pause and tip our hats to these likely “one and done” candidates, because I’m sure we’d all wish we could at least get as close to Fame as they have.
Thank you for giving us a World Series between two teams so evenly matched that it went the full seven games, and had both teams score the exact same number of runs – 27 – in total.
Thanks to the weather, which was perfect for the games in November (mild temperatures instead of a seasonal chill), and even provided a rain delay at just the right time and of the right length to give everyone a chance to take a deep breath, relax, and regroup.
Thank you, Baseball, for not having a clock that allows a team with a lead to run things out and stall until time runs out. And for not having anything like a “sudden death” playoff or shootout to decide a winner after a certain amount of overtime has elapsed. Even if it takes 33 innings, you play until someone wins.
Thank you for having a century of consistent records and statistics, allowing us to debate which single play was the most dramatic ever, or which performance was the most outstanding – and have the numbers to back it up.
Thank you for a wonderful, amazing, exciting, heartbreaking, insane, joyous, and unforgettable World Series; one that helped us forget for a while the stupid vitriol of a presidential election campaign.
Except for the campaign ads during the broadcasts…..
But we’ll forgive you for that.
Well, the 2016 Major League Baseball All-Star Game has come and gone. The American League won by the score of 4-2. Not a particularly exciting game, but that’s baseball. Individual games, even All-Star Games, are rarely exciting. But you watch, because of the *possibilty* of seeing something exciting.
Anyway, my thoughts, in no particular order:
We’re at the “traditional” midpoint of the baseball season. That week or so between July 4 and the All-Star Game, when there are more games that have been played than there are games left to play. What can we tell about the pennant races to come? Which teams get to coast? Which teams still have a fight on their hands? Which divisions still have some excitement to look forward to?
The Game Must Go On: Hank Greenberg, Pete Gray, and the Great Days of Baseball on the Home Front in WWII
St Martin’s Press
(c) 2015 by the author
Pretty much every baseball fan is at least passingly aware of the effects of World War II on the game, if only that it kept some players from achieving milestone goals. Bob Feller didn’t get 300 wins, Ted Williams didn’t get 600 home runs, etc. And that since players were not exempt from the draft, teams reached so far down the barrel for talent that Pete Gray, a guy with one arm, actually played in the Major Leagues.
But there’s a heck of a lot more to it than just names and numbers in the reference books.