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Michael Bates 

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September 26, 2012 5:00 am

The Platoon Advantage: Is 12 Enough for Ichiro?

27

Michael Bates

Ichiro Suzuki's major-league career has been great, but, because of where he was born, it will be short. Will it be enough for Hall of Fame voters?

Despite what has been a tremendous week for Ichiro Suzuki (he hit .533/.563/.867 from September 19th to 24th), there's been understandable speculation that one of baseball's most iconic figures is coming toward the end of the line. Not that he has to, but if he retires at the end of the year, Ichiro will finish somewhere north of 2600 hits in 12 Major League seasons, with two batting titles, the single-season record for hits, in excess of 450 stolen bases, 10 (consecutive) Gold Gloves and All-Star appearances, a Rookie of the Year award and an AL MVP.  It's a short but storied MLB career, and it's going to lead to a lot of questions about whether Ichiro belongs in the Hall of Fame.

There's no doubt that, at his peak, Ichiro was a Hall of Fame-level talent.  The problem, of course, is that his career in the majors began when he was 27. If he retired this year, Ichiro would finish with fewer than 2000 games.  Historically, the Hall of Fame has found a place for players with short careers.  Indeed, 48 players who played the majority of their careers in the 20th and 21st centuries have made the HOF despite finishing below that playing time threshold.  These players even include inner circle Hall of Famers like Joe DiMaggio, Jackie Robinson, Arky Vaughan, Hank Greenberg and Home Run Baker.

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September 5, 2012 8:42 am

The Platoon Advantage: Shaving an Icon

7

Michael Bates

What's a 'stache? Maybe immortality.

I was flabbergasted when I heard the news today, relayed by Craig Calcaterra at Hardball Talk, that Keith Hernandez was considering shaving his mustache.  It's not that facial hair is invariably a good thing, but it does give its wearer additional texture and makes him more interesting.  Hernandez's soup-sopper has been a part of his face since the 1970s and has been an iconic representation of the man and what he stands for.  Let's be honest, without the mustache, Keith Hernandez would be no more loved and appreciated today than his baseball doppelganger, John Olerud

Both are undeniably fine ballplayers.  Smooth-swinging lefty first basemen with line drive swings, excellent patience, and slick gloves.  Heck, they played the same number of years, finished within 60 hits and 15 runs scored of one another, and are separated by one point of OPS+ (Olerud 129 vs Hernandez 128). 

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August 15, 2012 5:00 am

The Platoon Advantage: At What Price Revolution

9

Michael Bates

The Red Sox aren't the first team to fight with their manager, and they won't be the first to regret it, either.

OK, stop me if you've heard this before:

A controversial and attention-seeking manager of a major market team antagonizes a popular leader on a team that was expecting to contend for the pennant and faces a revolt in the clubhouse, resulting in team meetings, front office involvment, and bold pronouncements.  And the whole drama plays out in the press.

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The Twins are the type of team that usually sells aggressively at the deadline, but they stood pat. Why?

“What the hell?”

That's what I wondered all yesterday as the Twins sat on their hands, refusing to deal Denard Span, Josh Willingham, Justin Morneau, Jared Burton, or Glen Perkins. As the Phillies divested themselves of Shane Victorino and Hunter Pence: "What the hell?" As the Astros sent away Chris Johnson: "What the hell?" As the Cubs traded Ryan Dempster, Paul Maholm, Reed Johnson, and Geovany Soto: "WHAT the hell?" As the Marlins sent Gaby Sanchez packing:  "WHAT THE HELL?"

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MLB lets everything go dark for two whole days after the All-Star break. That's a mistake.

I got back into town last night just before the first pitch of the All-Star Game, after spending a week at a cabin in the Internetless north woods of these United States.  As such, my last seven days has been much more of this:

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Was Jose Valverde cheating when he faced the Reds this weekend? If he was, his excuse ranks up there with the best of them.

Baseball history is full of cheaters who excelled at their craft.  I'm not talking about PED users, for the most part.  I'm talking about guys who scuffed baseballs, stole signs, corked bats, and threw games.  And the vast majority of these men were never caught, though some, like Whitey Ford and Gaylord Perry, were happy to brag about getting away with it for decades.

But thankfully, baseball is also full of cheaters who were absolutely terrible at cheating, get caught easily, and then make terrible excuses none of us believe.  It is into this latter camp, gratefully, that Jose Valverde might fall.  Valverde, as most of the baseball-loving world knows by now, appeared to spit into his glove during the ninth inning against the Reds.  The video was posted online, and later tweeted about by Dallas Latos, the wife of Reds pitcher Mat Latos.

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Just because he might get 3,000 hits doesn't mean voters can't put up a fight.

I like Johnny Damon.  I really do.  He’s been a perfectly good player, or better, for a lot of years.  But as much as I like Johnny Damon, I love the Hall of Fame much more.  I love the Hall of Fame even though it refuses to love me back, what with its induction of Jim Rice, its refusal to tell BBWAA voters that PEDs were far too pervasive to ban an entire generation, and its inconvenient location preventing yearly pilgrimages.  I love the Hall of Fame, so I will defend it from Johnny Damon.

Johnny Damon's biggest supporter for the Hall of Fame, interestingly enough, is Johnny Damon.  Damon told Tyler Kepner, "I think even if you look at my numbers now, how high I am on the runs list [33rd], how high I am on the doubles list [43rd], and you also have to take into account the ballparks that I've played in.  I've played in some pretty tough ones for left-handers.  If I played in Yankee Stadium my whole career, my 230 home runs turn into 300, easy.” He is also 56th all-time with 2,730 hits.  Damon also makes "a case for being a clean player in our generation." 

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April 18, 2012 3:00 am

The Platoon Advantage: All Done With All-Time Teams

51

Michael Bates

There's not much to be gained by ranking across generations.

I have a confession.  I suppose it’s not a very juicy confession.  But all the same, I feel like I need to confess that I love All-Time teams.  Or, at least, I used to love them.  I used to make them when I was bored in school in the backs of my notebooks.  All-Time Twins.  All-Time Yankees.  All-Time Guys Named Mike.  And I was a sucker for other people’s All-Time teams too.  Babe Ruth made a team of what he thought were the greatest players in baseball history back in the 1930s and named Hal Chase and Ray Schalk to it.  Walter Johnson, and Rogers Hornsby and Ty Cobb published their dream teams too.  Cobb put Buck Weaver at third base, while The Big Train honored both Chase and Johnny Kling.  One of my first baseball books I owned as a kid was an old library book from 1963 that listed Pie Traynor as the greatest 3B in history.  I’d read any of that stuff.

Which is why I was excited to hear about Graham Womack’s All-Time Dream Project, which asked fans to vote on the greatest players in baseball history and got heavy-hitting writers like Craig Calcaterra, Josh Wilker, and Dan Szymborski to write about them.  Graham’s project, which is also raising money to run journalism workshops for kids, is great.  And I don’t want to take anything away from it.  But in the afterglow, Craig wrote about how the results illustrated that we may be overvaluing the past, saying “We get locked into older things first, and it’s that much harder for us to appreciate more recent greatness….  I think [voters] pick Rogers Hornsby over Joe Morgan because their father said he was the best and because the pictures of him are in black and white and, boy, if that ain’t history, I don’t know what is.”  

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CJ Wilson has temporarily curtailed his Twitter activities after revealing Mike Napoli's phone number, but we have the skinny on what else he had in the works.

Mark Saxon is reporting that after tweeting out former batterymate Mike Napoli’s phone number over the weekend, CJ Wilson has decided to take a little break from Twitter. It’s probably a smart decision for him to take some time to cool down, to reconsider what he did, maybe to apologize to Napoli and pay a fine to Major League Baseball.

Twitter is a wonderful medium for networking, for sharing instant reactions to news and events, and for trying out material. Interacting with other fans enriches the experience of watching games. It’s like being at a bar with a thousand or so of your closest friends, but without the hassle of actually having to meet anyone. It’s the best way for fans to interact with their favorite players and to build interest in the game on both a local and national level.

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March 1, 2012 5:50 am

Bates' Dugout Motel: Valentine Speaks!

12

Michael Bates

Bobby Valentine holds a presser and says that everything you know about the game is wrong.

Bobby Valentine was kind enough to spend a few minutes in front of a microphone on Tuesday, which he is usually reluctant to do, and proceeded to cast aspersions in the way of the Yankees, Derek Jeter, and the Captain’s famous 2001 flip to Jorge Posada to beat Jeremy Giambi. “We’ll never practice that,” Valentine told reporters. “We’ll never practice that. I think he was out of position and I think the ball gets him out if he doesn’t touch it, personally. But the Jeter-like simulation today is the [establish] what the first baseman and third baseman do as the ball is coming in.” So, in one foul swoop, Valentine essentially called Jeter’s defining moment unnecessary and questioned whether Jeter was even in the right place.

I’m aware that this borders on baseball sacrilege, but it’s conceivable that Bobby is right. Jeter does seem to be way out of position, and it’s also possible that the throw would have come through in time, given that it seems to be relatively on-line. That shouldn’t diminish the fact that it was a very athletic play, and it may very well have saved the Yankees’ bacon in 2001, but it may be represent an unnecessary embroidering of the Jeter legend.

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February 8, 2012 2:26 am

Bates' Dugout Motel: Who's Your Baseball Boyfriend?

6

Michael Bates

We use expert boyfriend criteria to pare down the list of possible Baseball Boyfriends and arrive at the only possible selection.

Yesterday on the Twitters, word spread like wildfire of Baseball Boyfriends, a new CBS Fantasy Sports app that “is a single draftee fantasy sports mini game designed for girls. Pick your boyfriend for the season, dump him if he can't perform and pick up a new BBBF. Boyfriends [sic] earn you points daily. Girl with the most points at the end wins.”

I was disappointed to find out that men, gay or straight, did not seem to be welcome in this fantasy league.  Also, as the father of a very young girl, I was a more than a little concerned about the way that the stats are presented to women, as if they assume that the women who play their game can’t handle statistics that aren’t on crumpled notebook paper covered in hearts.  After all, there are women who play in my leagues, which tend to have a very stark presentation of the players and relevant stats, and these women regularly kick my ass. What a shame that the opportunity to pick a baseball boyfriend wasn’t afforded to me as well.

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