The Baseball Report Volume IV Issue 11
August 16, 2000
From The Editor,
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Baseball's New Class by Emily Liner
The Rookie of the Year races, in both leagues, are quite interesting this year. Several new players fresh from the farm systems are turning heads in baseball. As of August 7, 2000, Seattle's Kazuhiro Sasaki, Oakland's Jeff Tam, and Kansas City's Mark Quinn were the hottest rookies in the AL. In the NL, St. Louis' Rick Ankiel, Atlanta's Rafael Furcal, and Houston's Mitch Meluskey were the favorites.
For the curious, "a player shall be considered a rookie unless, during a previous season or seasons, he has (a) exceeded 130 at bats or fifty innings pitched in the major leagues; or (b) accumulated more than forty-five days on the active roster of a major league club or clubs during the period of a twenty-five player limit (excluding time in the military service)."
In the AL, thirty-two years old relief pitcher Sasaki has a 2-5 record and a 4.03 ERA. He is tied for second in the league with twenty-seven saves. In a recent ESPN.com poll asking who should win the award, he won with over fifty percent of nearly twenty-two thousand votes. If he were to win it, he would be the second oldest player in history.
Tam is also a relief pitcher. The Baseball Prospectus chose him as the AL half-season Rookie of the Year. He has a 3-3 record, two saves, and a 2.93 ERA, and is tied for ninth in the league with fourteen holds. He has given up just a single home run so far this season. He will turn thirty years old on August 19th.
Designated hitter and occasional outfielder Quinn is twenty-six years old. He is MLBtalk.com's current pick to win the AL award. He is doing well in several offensive categories with a .284 batting average, a .817 on base plus slugging percentage (OPS), fourteen home runs, fifty RBIs, and fifty runs.
Other players that could win the award in the AL are Oakland's Terrence Long, Texas's Mike Lamb, Minnesota's Mark Redman, and the Chicago White Sox's Kelly Wunsch. Twenty-four years old Long, a centerfielder, is batting .275 with a .776 OPS, eleven home runs, forty-six RBIs, and sixty-seven runs. Designated hitter and third baseman Lamb, who turns twenty-five on August 9th, is hitting .300 with a .774 OPS, five home runs, thirty-six RBIs, and fifty-two runs. Twenty-six years old starting pitcher Redman has a 10-5 record with a 4.58 ERA. Wunsch, a twenty-eight years old relief pitcher, has a 3-3 record, one save, a 2.76 ERA, and leads the AL with twenty holds.
In the NL, twenty-one years old Ankiel, a starting pitcher, is MLBtalk.com's current pick to win the NL award. He has a 7-7 record, one hold, and a 4.01 ERA. Among pitchers who have pitched enough innings to qualify for the ERA crown, he is sixteenth and the lowest rookie. Opposing batters are hitting .231 against him. He was the Baseball Prospectus' choice for NL half-season Rookie of the Year.
Shortstop and second baseman Furcal, the youngest player in the majors, leads all rookies in the majors with a .318 batting average. He also has a .806 OPS, twenty-six stolen bases, and fifty-six runs, but no home runs and only twenty-one RBIs. Although he missed several games earlier in the season because of a strained hamstring, he recently broke Ty Cobb's ninety-four year old record for most stolen bases by a nineteen year old.
Meluskey, a twenty-seven years old catcher, is having a good year despite some injuries. Earlier in the season he was placed on the disabled list for elbow tendonitis and a sprained ankle. He is currently disabled with shoulder tendonitis, but should return soon. He has a .295 batting average, a .889 OPS, eleven home runs, fifty RBIs, and thirty-six runs.
Philadelphia's Pat Burrell, Los Angeles's Matt Herges, and the New York Mets' Jay Payton could also win the NL award. Burrell, a twenty-three year old first baseman, is batting .266 with a .867 OPS, thirteen home runs, fifty-two RBIs, and thirty-six runs. Thirty years old starting pitcher Herges has an 8-1 record, four holds, and a 3.13 ERA. Centerfielder Payton, age twenty-seven, is batting .291 with a .763 OPS, nine home runs, thirty-six RBIs, and thirty-eight runs.
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42 =…? by Josh Murphy
A few years ago, Major League Baseball decided to retire league wide number 42, worn by Jackie Robinson. MLB retired 42 because of the historical significance and importance that Robinson had on the game. Babe Ruth is undoubtedly the most well known figure in baseball history. He is a legend in the game, and his everlasting popularity has been unmatched by anyone. His number deserves the same fate as 42.
In 1919, the Black Sox scandal ravaged the baseball world. Baseball instantly lost great amount popularity. Fans doubted the integrity of the game. Even after Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis expelled eight Chicago White Sox players for life fans still had their qualms about the game.
In 1920 George Herman Ruth was traded to the Yankees and converted from pitcher to right fielder. Once the Babe was in the lineup on an everyday basis, he homered at an alarming rate. He broke the record for home runs by hitting a then unheard of 29 homeruns, this in an era where hitting 15 in a year earned a player slugger status. He then followed that year up by almost doubling that total to 54, followed by years of 59 and 60 home runs. When Ruth hit 60, he hit more home runs than any team in baseball, let alone any player.
The impact that Ruth had on the game went far beyond his home runs, though. He was also a diplomat for the game. He was one of the first athletes to appear in advertisements on a regular basis. Ruth often visited sick children in hospitals. At the ballpark, he would sign autographs right up until the game started, taking the time to converse with fans.
If it was not for Babe Ruth, MLB might have completely imploded from the Black Sox scandal. His home runs and amazing popularity with fans helped save the national pastime, thus creating a more profound impact on the game than anyone, even Robinson.
Indeed, Robinson was a great ballplayer and humanitarian. What he did is very much worthy of Hall of Fame status. However, many other people could have been the first African-American to play baseball. Branch Rickey could have chosen anyone in the Negro Leagues at the time. He could have chosen Josh Gibson, Satchel Paige, Roy Campanella, Willie Mays, etc.
Nobody knows what would have happened if Robinson were not the first African-American chosen. One of the aforementioned could have brought African-Americans into the game with the same class that Robinson had, or they could have failed miserably where he thrived. Luckily, Robinson was the first and he did it with an extreme amount of class and dignity. If it were not for Robinson, MLB would not be the same today.
However, the same rings true for Ruth as well. The difference between Ruth and Robinson is that Ruth was alone in his category. Nobody in his era could swing the bat like Ruth did. Nor could anyone bring the same publicity to the game, both inside and outside the ballpark. Ruth helped not only to revive the game from the Black Sox scandal, but also to bring it to an unprecedented height of popularity. If not for Ruth, baseball might not exist today. MLB should retire his number 3 throughout the league for these simple reasons. With the Babe, MLB might not exist, and Jackie Robinson would never have been heard from.
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Playing The Short Hop by Michael Frankel
Pitching, Pitching, Pitching
"Four months into the season, the Cardinals still have used just five starting pitchers. If they can keep this up for two more months, they'll be only the second team since 1905 to make it through a season with that few starters. The other, according to the Elias Sports Bureau's Ken Hirdt: the '66 Dodgers -- with Sandy Koufax (41), Don Drysdale (40), Claude Osteen (38), Don Sutton (35) and Joe Moeller (8)" wrote Jason Stark on espn.com.
And pitching is dead…right.
True, no team plays with a four-man rotation. True, no team has starters who throw complete games on a regular basis. True, pitching now is as good as ever.
Tune in to the local highlights on any given night, and there are highlights of Pedro Martinez, Roger Clemens, Greg Maddux, Randy Johnson, and Tom Glavine, not to mention all the great relievers.
The five above are the elite of today, and certainly rank up there among the all time greats. Not many previous eras saw five guys like these at one time. Sure, every period has its share of dominating pitchers, second tier dominating guys like David Cone, John Smoltz, Ron Guidry, Mel Stottlemyre, Denny McClain, etc.
The point is, the top level of pitching has not changed. Roger Clemens would be good in any era. Greg Maddux would have achieved Hall of Fame credentials pitching in the 1920's. Similarly, Warren Spahn would have been just as good pitching today.
Rather, the real reason pitching numbers have worsened today is two-fold. First, there are 30 teams today, each with pitching staffs of at least 11. That equals 330 pitchers, not counting the 12 man staffs or AAA injury replacements. Second, teams have invested much more in pitchers. After all, a team paying a pitcher millions of dollars will do everything it can to protect its investment. That means protecting the player's arm and watching pitch limits and rest days.
Not every team has an ace pitcher, let alone a pitcher that will stand out among the ages. In fact, how many franchises have had three pitchers that reached elite, let alone one?
With such an immense number of pitchers in the game, the number of elite pitchers has not changed. The top of the pyramid remains the same. Instead, it is the base that has expanded. Truthfully, the base consists of the lower level pitchers who, with a lesser number of teams and smaller pitching staffs, would still be in the minor leagues. Those pitchers have simply taken prominence due to their amount. In the end, the increase in major league pitcher spots has given these pitchers jobs.
The fact is that the number of pitchers per team has increased through the years as well. Simply put, players are investments. After investing millions of dollars into one man's arm, it only makes sense to protect that arm by watching pitch counts and rest days between starts. Simply put, this means less starts per season and thus less win opportunities, as well as fewer innings thrown. Win numbers then, could be nowhere near the same.
Era's have been hurt just as much by the modern era. Pitchers have been hurt as a result of an ever-shrinking strike zone. What Warren Spahn threw for a strike may have been a ball today. Hitters then, have a smaller area to zone in on. As a result, there re more hits, more walks, more base runners, more runs, and higher era's.
Sure, smaller ballparks and stronger hitters, advanced technology and specialized training all effect pitchers. ERA's for the most part have risen. Yet, the elite pitchers era's, the top era's in the league every season, for the most part remain similar. The effect of these factors is felt largely by the more prominent, lower level pitchers.
Pitching in general has not changed. True, the game has progressed from a fast ball game to a breaking ball game. The modern era has ushered in closers, lefty specialists and poorer starters. By no means though has the quality of the top starters decreased. They pitch today just as they pitched 20 years ago, 50 years ago, and 100 years ago. They will continue to pitch for years to come because Roger Clemens would be Roger Clemens in any era. So would Walter Johnson. So would the call-up from AAA…he just would not have been called up 40 years ago.
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Submitted by reader Yankeebuzz@aol.com on Volume IV Issue 9, "Bring Back Rose" by Josh Murphy:
Before arguing to let Pete Rose into the Hall of Fame you should read the entrance requirements. Unlike HOF's in other major sports the Baseball HOF specifically talks about conduct OFF the field that is detrimental to the game. Most of this language became very important after the Black Sox gambling scandal in 1918 which almost ended the game of professional baseball forever.
Sorry, but gambling by managers, players, or anyone who is connected with the game is the most serious issue that effects the long term confidence the general public has in baseball.
Pete was a great player but there's no room for known gamblers in the HOF. A strong statement needs to be made that gambling by baseball professionals can end baseball as we know it, and the punishment must be severe! Sorry Pete but you don't belong in the Baseball HOF!
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copyright 2000 The Baseball Report