How did one of the Hall of Fame's least-qualified members end up enshrined?
Several months ago, I received an email concerning Hall of Fame third baseman Freddie Lindstrom, whose career spanned from 1924 to 1936, who was voted into the Hall of Fame in 1976, and who passed away in 1981. The email was from Andy Lindstrom, one of his three sons, who took issue with something I had written back in 2010 about his father's route to Cooperstown in the context of my discussion of the latest round of changes to the Veterans Committee. Specifically, I wrote:
A closer look at Lance Berkman's Hall of Fame candidacy.
Last week, Lance Berkmansuggested that the end was nigh. "I don't want to rule anything out," he told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch's Joe Strauss while in the midst of a rehab assignment. "But if you asked me right now I'm leaning toward not playing next year."
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Which players' sluggish seasons are dragging their contending teams down?
Finishing what we started last week, we’ll complete our trip around the diamond to identify the most glaring issues at each position among contenders, the ones where teams standing pat at the July 31 trading deadline run the risk of torpedoing their chances at the playoffs via their complacency. Given the expansion of the postseason to include a second wild card, I'm defining that to mean every team within one game of .500 through the close of play Saturday, July 28—mainly due to the stubbornness of a certain carmine-hosed ballclub—which means that I have had to adjust my selections since I began working on this a week ago. Similar to last week, that adds up to 19 teams within 6 1/2 games of a playoff spot.
Which players around the league are sucking so badly that they're killing their teams?
With just over a week to go before the July 31 non-waiver trading deadline, we bring you this semi-annual reminder that complacency in the face of adversity is the potential undoing of every manager and general manager. For reasons rooted in issues beyond a player's recent performance—contract size, longer-term track record, clubhouse chemistry—teams all too often fail to make the moves that could help them win, allowing subpar production to fester until it kills a club's post-season hopes. In 2007, I compiled a historical all-star squad of ignominy for our pennant race book, It Ain't Over 'Til It's Over, identifying players at each position whose performances had dragged their teams down in tight races: the Replacement-Level Killers. The concept has become a semiannual tradition—near the trading deadline and the opening of spring training—with an eye toward what teams can do to solve potentially fatal problems.
How do the Hall of Fame cases of Vladimir Guerrero, Johnny Damon, and Manny Ramirez stack up?
The waning days of a great player's career are rarely pretty, but it's one thing for that career to peter out with a smattering of at-bats amid a late-season farewell tour, quite another when the sudden realization of doneness is reached early in the season, suggesting that the player has taken things a bridge too far. Perhaps because teams have grown more rational when it comes to filling out the designated hitter slot and thus willing to spend less money on aging veterans, this spring found a handful of former star outfielders scrambling for jobs. Once given the chance to see if they have anything left to offer, they struggled. In light of myriad "Is he a Hall of Famer?" questions I've received via Twitter as they pertain to these cooked players, I figured it was time to round up a few for a quick JAWS-based look.
Jay is back, and he still hates the teams you root for. Yes, even the Dodgers.
Six weeks ago, when I accepted an offer to start a new blog at Sports Illustrated's website, I was delighted to find that my new employers were willing to allow me to retain some involvement with Baseball Prospectus. Not only did I wish to continue working with this fine staff and its readers in some capacity, but I also really wanted to finish something I'd started—namely, my multi-installment Hate List.
The Orioles have the best record in the American League, but is this another early-season mirage?
Don't look now, but with Thursday's win over the Royals and losses by both the Rangers and Red Sox, the Orioles assumed the American League's best record at 25-14. They've built a modest buffer against at least some of the usual suspects, leading the Rays by one game in the AL East standings, the Blue Jays by four, the Yankees by four and a half, and the Sox by six and a half. It's the Orioles' best record at this juncture since they started 26-13 in 2005 and held onto first place in the division until June 23, 72 games into the season. Of course, that hot start turned out to be just another mirage, one of so many over the past 14 seasons en route to yet another losing record. Hell, the O's haven't even won 70 games since 2006. Does this hot start mean that Buck Showalter's bunch has turned the corner?
Josh Beckett's alternating good and bad seasons resembles the career of a former major leaguer.
On Tuesday—his 32nd birthday, coincidentally—Josh Beckett fired seven innings of four-hit shutout ball against the Mariners, taking advantage of one of the league's weak-sister offenses to rack up a season-high nine strikeouts. The outing pared Beckett's ERA by exactly a run, from 5.97 to 4.97, and more importantly, it allowed him to put an embarrassing sequence of events in the rear-view mirror. The Red Sox had scratched Beckett from his May 5 start due to a stiff latissimus dorsi muscle; the decision was made three days in advance because the Sox wanted to prevent a minor injury from getting worse. On the day of his next turn, a report surfaced that Beckett had played a round of golf the day after the announcement—hardly beyond the pale for a pitcher between starts, but questionable conduct for a player who was supposed to be recuperating.
Andy Pettitte's return to the Bronx is marred by the weak-hitting Mariners.
On a gorgeous 79-degree Mother's Day at Yankee Stadium—the kind of day fit for a storybook—Andy Pettitte made his return to a major-league mound following an absence of nearly 19 months. Revered by the fans for his contributions to seven pennant-winners and five world champions, the 39-year-old lefty received huge ovations every time his name came over the public address system prior to the game. Pettitte pitched into the seventh inning and left little doubt that he could help the 2012 Yankees, at times showing glimpses of his vintage self, but alas, he could provide no storybook ending to that setup, making a couple of crucial mistakes against a weak-hitting Mariners lineup. Meanwhile, his pinstriped teammates looked as flat as day-old soda against Mariners starter Kevin Millwood, no spring chicken himself at age 37, and the Yankees fell 6-2.
Don Mattingly's affinity for the bunt could be keeping the Dodgers from scoring more runs.
Like many a Dodger fan, I found myself pulling out clumps of hair on Tuesday night. The Dodgers—a first-place team at 19-10 to that point, surprisingly—were facing the Giants (14-15) in L.A. Despite having Clayton Kershaw on the hill, they were on the short end of a 2-1 score, because with a man on base in the second inning, their ace left a high fastball to Brett Pill a bit too far out over the plate, and Pill drove it 384 feet into the left-field bleachers. The Dodgers had plated a run against Ryan Vogelsong in the bottom of the second thanks to a pair of doubles, but they could get no more, and as the innings passed, the situation grew more desperate.
Manager Charlie Manuel's bullpen management has been doing Philadelphia no favours this season.
They may have entered the year as favorites to win their sixth straight NL East flag, but with every passing day, the Phillies look increasingly like a team whose time has passed. Over the weekend they dropped two out of three to the division-leading (!) Nationals and fell into the NL East cellar. On Monday, they suffered a shocking 5-2 loss to the Mets when Jonathan Papelbon surrendered a three-run pinch-homer to Jordany Valdespin, a pinch-hitter collecting his first major-league hit. On Tuesday, they blew a three-run lead against the Mets thanks to sloppy defense and ultimately fell 7-4. The skid dropped their record to 14-17, matching their worst start of the past six years, which came via their division-winning 2007 team. Their offense is wheezing, and while their star-studded rotation may be in reasonable shape, their manager is suffering from rigor mortis when it comes to handling his bullpen.
Which NL starters are off to a worse start than the Angels' not-yet-sluggy first baseman?
On Wednesday, I examined a half-dozen American League hitters who are off to chillier starts than even Albert Pujols in an attempt to shine a light on a handful of developing stories centered around underperforming players. Of course, none of those hitters has the track record or the job security of the Angels' newest marquee attraction; neither do seven billion other people on Earth. In other words, they're a wee bit more likely to find themselves riding the pine or worse if they continue to flounder, and at the very least, their small-sample struggles—and for this the threshold is 70 plate appearances, not long enough for any key hitter statistic to stabilize—are worth your attention.