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December 3, 2012

Pebble Hunting

A Hall of Fame Brochure for Ryan Klesko

by Sam Miller

A year ago, while Hall of Fame voters were considering their ballots, a brochure supporting the candidacy of Juan Gonzalez showed up in our mailbox. We showed you this brochure and discussed the meaning of such a brochure, and then Juan Gonzalez got four percent of the vote. This year's ballot, then, has no Juan Gonzalez, but it has many other players who deserve brochures but, so far as we can tell, have not had brochures made for them. This is a brochure for one of them. It's a brochure for Ryan Klesko, whom you should definitely vote into the Hall of Fame. (It's up to you, but you might want to review the Juan Gonzalez brochure before you move on.) 

Page 1. The Cover

Page 2. The Introduction

"Youth fades," Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote. "Love droops; the leaves of friendship fall; A mother's secret hope outlives them all." Ryan Klesko's mother is certainly evidence of this. When Klesko was nine years old, his mother went to the backyard of their Westminster, CA home and started digging. She built a pitching mound for Klesko to throw off of. But to whom would he throw? Not to his father, who injured his leg in an oil field. So his mother strapped on the gear and got into the squat. She caught him three times a week, even as he started throwing harder and harder—92 mph by high school. He once crossed her up and hit her on the shin with a pitch; she had to go to a doctor and "couldn't walk for a week."

Is Ryan Klesko a perfect person? Probably not. Is he the best baseball player of his generation? Not literally. Does his 23.7 career WARP raise the standards of the Hall of Fame? For closers, yes. But let's put him in the Hall of Fame anyway. Don't do it for him. Do it for his mom. His mom sounds like a peach, and I bet his mom would be really happy if her son was in the Hall of Fame. Confused, probably. Probably suspicious at first, and certainly confused for a long time, but when she sees him giving his induction speech at Cooperstown and there's an expensive plaque that somebody definitely made, she'll probably figure what's done is done and just go with it, and in that moment she'll be very happy. 

Do it for his mom. 

Page 3. Testimonials

Grady Little (Major-league manager, 32nd-best winning percentage all-time): 
"The best left-handed hitter I've ever seen." source

Tony Gwynn (Hall of Fame baseball player, 135 career home runs):
"When he gets on base, it's like watching Rickey Henderson." source

Baseball America (Trusted source of player evaluation): 
"Better baseball player than Ivan Rodriguez, Chipper Jones, Jeff Bagwell, Jim Thome, Mike Mussina, Kenny Lofton and nearly all other baseball players." source

Atlanta Braves Club Official (Insider):
"Well, he hasn't killed anybody out there yet." source

Unnamed Scout (No reason to lie): 
"I don't know why any righthander would pitch to him." source

Bleacher Report (Irresponsible Web Site):
"A player I have long suspected of being a juicer [but] ... there is nothing there that suggests he used performance enhancers." source

Page 4. Accomplishments

1. In the summer of 1988, Klesko made the U.S. Junior Olympic team as a pitcher. According to Klesko, he threw 93 or 94 mph, but after throwing nine shutout innings against a team with three future first-round draft picks, he strained a ligament in his elbow. He continued to have arm soreness in his senior year of high school and dropped from the first round to the fifth, where he was selected by the Braves, who made him a first baseman full time. Eighteen months later he was Baseball America's no. 3 prospect overall, as a hitter. He has talked, post-retirement, about going back to the minors and trying to pitch. Which is to say that Ryan Klesko and Babe Ruth have an awful lot in common. (Babe Ruth was a great pitcher and a great hitter, and he is in the Hall of Fame.)

2. There's very little doubt that Pedro Martinez is going to make the Hall of Fame. You don't think so? You want to argue with this? You are crazy, son. You are out of your head, you jerk. Pedro Martinez was so good that he's a lock for the Hall of Fame and might have been the best pitcher ever. Well guess who wasn't so impressed? 

Gregg Jefferies wasn't so impressed. And neither was Ryan Klesko. 

3. He is tied for the third-most splash hits in AT&T Park history, behind Barry Bonds and Pablo Sandoval. Bonds is in the Hall of Fame. Sandoval's bat is in the Hall of Fame, and Sandoval himself is in the ProSource.net Hall of Fame for eating Supreme Protein bars instead of candy. 

4. He overcame adversity. "Throughout his youth, Klesko had been hounded by respiratory problems -- so much that he had to carry an inhaler around to prevent an attack. Offseason sinus surgery finally remedied that." Other people who had asthma: Jim "Catfish" Hunter, and possibly Bob Gibson. Both are in the Hall of Fame. Klesko would be perhaps the first hitter with asthma to make the Hall of Fame. 

5. His other nickname was "Bam Bam," just like every other baseball player in history including all the Hall of Famers.

Page 5. In Fine Company

Ryan Klesko had a higher OBP than: 

Ryan Klesko had a higher slugging percentage than: 

Ryan Klesko hit more home runs than:

Ryan Klesko had more hits than: 

Ryan Klesko drew more walks than: 

Ryan Klesko had a higher batting average than: 

There are only 38 other players in history who can say all those things. Of the 22 who are retired and eligible for the Hall of Fame, 14 have been inducted, while others (Bagwell, Walker, Edgar Martinez) still might be. It's a home run!

Klesko had as many 100-RBI seasons as Rod Carew, scored 100 runs as often as Ron Santo, hit 30 home runs as often as Tony Perez and had a better fielding percentage than Ozzie Smith, Bill Mazeroski, Brooks Robinson and Willie Mays combined. Stolen bases weren't a big part of his game, but he did steal three times as many bases as Joe DiMaggio, while getting caught stealing fewer times than Rickey Henderson. He produced more WARP than Bruce Sutter, Rich Gossage, and Rollie Fingers.  

Ryan Klesko's Baseball-Reference page can be sponsored for $70. Hall of Famer Morgan Bulkeley's Baseball-Reference page can be sponsored for just $10. 

But he is much more than just numbers. Please continue reading on Page 6.

Page 6. Renaissance Man

1. Decorated his own condo, including "retro toaster," "beige chenille sofa," "an imposing four-poster canopy bed of dark wood, adorned with decorative scrollwork," and a "Midori green Oceanside glass tile that frames the bathroom mirror and forms the backsplash." "I think I did a pretty good job," he said.

2. He is an active supporter of important political causes, such as Agriculture Commissioner JB Powell's campaign. You should know that Powell's opponent is a special interest lobbyist, and

we don't need that kind of curveball in charge of our food safety.

3. Friends with famous actor Emmanuel Lewis and famous country western singers Travis Tritt, Rhett Akins and Daryle Singletary, and the rock band Boston. 

4. Kills hogs with Brad Penny

5. Practically a cop

As the van tears up the driveway, its doors swing open. The cops spring out of the vehicle as if their seats were on fire and dash toward the house. A team of snipers carrying AR-15 assault rifles surrounds the small, run-down house. One officer totes a boomer, a tool designed to break open doors. Others are armed with MP5 semiautomatic weapons and with handguns. Ryan Klesko, the 24-year-old left-fielder for the Atlanta Braves and an honorary deputy sheriff for Palm Beach County, Fla., waits for the last officer to exit the van and then follows closely behind, his cheek full of chewing tobacco and his eyes glowing with anticipation. Lots of people enjoy watching the TV show Cops. Klesko prefers the real thing.

Charles McCutcheon, the sheriff of Palm Beach County, presented Klesko with an honorary deputy's badge earlier this year. Klesko is proud of the badge and is determined to replace it with the real thing. He plans to take the necessary exams to become a reserve officer in the sheriff's department. "Then I'll actually get paid for my work," he says.

6. Involved in other business ventures

Former Atlanta Braves slugger Ryan Klesko, a stalwart during the franchise's glory days, pointed a loaded gun at an ex-business partner's head and threatened harm to him and his family, a lawsuit filed last month in Houston County claims.

Plaintiff James McDaniel, of Kathleen, said the alleged incident occurred last June in the parking lot of a Warner Robins Waffle House.

Wait what. Uh. Actually, the case appears to have been dismissed earlier this year. (Klesko's lawyer did not respond to an interview request.) Which means that Klesko gets credit for all the businessing and none of the alleged gun-pointing. 

Page 7. Ryan Klesko Gives Back

Ryan Klesko is a generous person who has given his time and resources to various causes, some charitable but some just because he's a good friend and relative. He pitched batting practice to the Braves after he retired, and has also thrown batting practice for high school, college, and San Francisco Giants batters. He is willing to throw even his cutter. 

He founded the Blue Ryno Foundation, which helped the families of terminal ill children. Through Klesko's Kids Korner, he gave Padres tickets to kids with cancer. He won the Padres' Chairman's Award for community spirit. He bought his mom a condo. And at his 1,600-acre ranch in Georgia, he "hits a home run for clean air": 

Klesko and fellow baseball player John Smoltz received a letter from the Georgia Forestry Commission’s Carbon Registry, confirming that their 1,600-acre Big “K” Tree Farm is the first forest carbon sequestration project to be registered on the Georgia Carbon Registry. 

Page 8. Ryan Klesko's Famous Quotes

Page 9: The Back Cover

In conclusion: moms.

Sam Miller is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Sam's other articles. You can contact Sam by clicking here

Related Content:  Hall Of Fame,  Ryan Klesko

11 comments have been left for this article.

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