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January 25, 2001

From The Mailbag

Dave Parker and Box O'Rocks

by Baseball Prospectus

NOT GETTING HIS DUE

It seems obvious to me that the attention Dave Parker receives in comparison to other players, and particularly to Jim Rice, has much to do with where they played. When Parker was the focal point of his team it was when he played for the Pirates. I think it's fair to say that the Pirates are as underexposed a team as the Red Sox are overexposed due to the relative size of the media markets in which they play. Let's face it, the big coastal markets like Boston, New York and L.A. get far more media exposure generally, regardless of the topic, than other cities/markets do. And the Boston Red Sox are the most identifiable baseball team besides the Yankees. As a result, Rice got far more attention from the press than Parker solely because of where he played, and that makes him stick in our consciousness. I don't think it's necessarily what these guys did as much as where they did it.

--JK

It's certainly easier to get attention when you play for a large market, especially when the market is as baseball-friendly as Boston. On the other hand, as a lot of other readers have pointed out, playing in Boston didn't make any difference for Dwight Evans. Evans is arguably more qualified for the Hall than either Parker or Rice, but he was dropped from the ballot after just two years.

--Michael Wolverton

When you mentioned that "Mystery Player X" had a fantastic corner outfield arm, I immediately assumed you were talking about Dwight Evans. Then I looked up his numbers...

Evans: 385 HR, 483 2B, 4230 TB, 2446 H
Parker: 339 HR, 526 2Bm 4405 TB, 2171 H

Evans has a huge edge in HR, and was a better defender. If we're going to talk about the Parker as a candidate, Dewey is deserving of a mention.

--JC

You're absolutely right about Evans. I focused on Parker only because he's still on the ballot. Someone should write a column about all the players who in recent years have inexplicably failed to receive enough votes to even stay on the ballot: Evans, Darrell Evans, Bobby Grich, etc. Unfortunately Lou Whitaker joins the list this year.

--Michael Wolverton

Maybe the mainstream media - even the mainstream sabermetricians - ignored ignored Dave Parker, but not everyone did.

The real scandal is how Lou Whitaker was dropped from the ballot. I defy any writer who voted against him - or anybody else, for that matter - to name ten players who had better careers at second base. And no cheating with active players the jury's still out on or guys like Rod Carew who spent half their careers at an easier position.

--Dan McLaughlin

I agree with a lot of what you said in your column, but I don't agree with your reasoning regarding Parker and Rice. You give the thumbs up to Rice, partly because you believe he was better than Tony Perez. But you give thumbs down to Parker largely because he didn't live up to expectations during what should have been his peak years.

I know that's only part of what you wrote about the two players, but I think it raises another possible reason behind the inconsistency of the treatment of Rice and Parker in HOF discussions. Rice is held up to the standards of existing HOF inductees. By contrast, Parker is held up to the (extremely high) standards of his own first five years. I think Jayson Stark may have been guilty of this in his Hall of Fame column. Stark compared Rice to other players, ultimately deciding against him because he was deemed too similar to non-HOFer Dick Allen. But Parker is given seemingly little consideration, with the explanation that he "was a great hitter at times but didn't maintain the discipline to sustain his greatness."

I completely agree with you about Whitaker.

--Michael Wolverton

AROUND THE LEAGUE

I have to admit that I'm completely in the dark about my White Sox's maneuvers. I can't figure out what they intend to do with Jose Valentin. I heard that they're shopping Herbert "The Dairyman" Perry for a CF, and if they do that, then signing Valentin makes absolutely no sense to me--he's a man without a position. And if Joe Crede is ready, then I'm Bill Melton.

I happen to believe that unfortunately both Perry and Valentin had career years last year (actually, Valentin has done as well with the bat in the past, just not better), and the Hose will decline just for that reason. It would have been nice to sign Charles Johnson, but there's no reason to think he'd hit .240 next year, and Josh Paul ought to give them that, even if he's got no pop.

I'm also skeptical about their so-called pitching surplus. Last year, they were begging for middle relievers and low-level starters, and the best they could do was guys like Rocky Biddle, who couldn't get my grandfather out (although to be fair he was an excellent semi-pro ballplayer with MLB prospects).

--RE

From what I know about the Sox' intentions about Jose Valentin, I wouldn't be surprised to see him play a good amount of third base, with some spot duty at short against tough right-handed pitchers, and a few spot starts in center (where he has some winter experience to rely on). Making him a rover still brings to the fore that the Sox won't be doing the really smart thing, which is to keep Royce Clayton and Chris Singleton off the field as much as possible.

Don't bet on Josh Paul to hit .240, let alone a useful, power-laden .240. He's an organizational favorite, but that's it.

As for the pitching surplus, they have discarded Aaron Myette and Kevin Beirne, which makes them that much more reliant on Jon Garland, Kip Wells, Mark Buehrle or Biddle up front, with the wave of '99 led by Jon Rauch due to start arriving later on. Don't get down on the Sox' pitching prospects just yet: they've got a lot of guys with a lot of talent, and a partial month's worth of experience is a less than representative sample of what any of them are capable of. That said, they are pitchers, and some of them will fail. The key here is that the Sox have a number of them to take a look at. This isn't like the Royals and Jose Rosado or the Tigers and Jeff Weaver, where the team has one good pitching prospect and he'd better turn out OK. Strength through numbers is the only way to go in pitcher development, because it will always be easier to remember the successes than it will be to remember the Rod Boltons.

--Chris Kahrl

Scott Servais is not going to make the 2001 Tigers squad. Say it with me: we wouldn't waste a roster spot on a has-been, never mind a never-was like Servais. After all, this is the Tigers, the most well-managed team in the majors, that we are talking about here.

That said, who is Box O'Rocks? Is that Randy Smith? Mr. Pitchback? Is that Ilitch or Phil "Phailure" Garner?

--GT

While you raise the correct point about Scott Servais' value, I regret to say that the Tigers are not the kind of team that would give Box O'Rocks a break. Having never actually swung a bat, Box is sort of a latter-day Eddie Gaedel. There isn't a pitch thrown that he doesn't have the courage to take, and he'll crowd the plate as long as the batboy pushes him a little closer. Bill Madlock has already made it clear that he likes his hitters hacking, so if Box O'Rocks were to sign with los Tigres, I think we could expect Mad Dog to wig out as he shouts at Box to make contact day after day, while Box silently takes pitch after pitch, working the count.

His legendary patience aside, Box O'Rocks has other skills. Although he has less value against the running game than Dave Nilsson (just barely), as a receiver he gets uniform praise from his pitchers: he lets them call their own games, and has always deferred to their judgment.

Sadly, Box doesn't win many friends. He's not quotable, and while there has been speculation that there's a language barrier of some sort, since no one has heard a single word come from the stony depths of Box's implacable cardboard exterior, there is the possibility that he's mute.

There's also the past controversy over the true age of Box O'Rocks when he signed his first contract. While some scouts insist that his interior dates to the Cretaceous period, sixteen-year old cardboard is generally only found in basements or bachelor pads. The union has not issued a formal statement, and since nobody can identify which country Box comes from, there are no official records to confirm or deny his age.

The mystery of Box O'Rocks remains a mystery, and while he's a deserving candidate for a job over people like Scott Servais, there are plenty of deserving minor league catchers who deserve consideration first: Tom Wilson, Mandy Romero, Creighton Gubanich, Adam Melhuse, Danny Ardoin, Kevin Brown or Tim DeCinces. Those guys can play, and deserve a few breaks.

--Chris Kahrl

We'd love to hear your thoughts on anything baseball-related at info@baseballprospectus.com. We'll publish the best of what we get frequently at www.baseballprospectus.com.

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