A look at just how excited people were about the 1986 rookie class at the time.
"This year is one of those that 15 years from now, a bunch of baseball people will be sitting around shaking their heads about because so much good talent came up all at once."
It's the goal of any general manager at the draft—maybe not in the collective sense, but certainly in each individual case—that, when their drafted talent finally makes it to the big leagues, baseball people will remember that time for years and decades to come. When multiple general managers reach their goal at the same time, it becomes a smorgasbord for baseball fans and quotes like the one above are uttered. Sure, they lack proper historical perspective at the time, but it certainly feels true to the speaker.
Gary Carter's greatest moment in baseball was not any single hit or play, but just saying "Yes" at the right time.
By this morning you have no doubt read countless stories about Gary Carter, his playing career, and his character both on and off the field. The links came flying furiously yesterday, because his passing had been a foregone conclusion for quite awhile. Sadly, in our business that means not only sorrow and sympathy but getting a head start on writing the obituary.
There was extra incentive to start early on Carter, because in this case there are no crocodile tears; he was an important and beloved figure in at least two baseball towns and a legitimate Hall of Famer (for more on this aspect of Carter’s career, see Jay Jaffe’s piece elsewhere on the site). His career .262/.335/.439 rates don’t look like much in our offensively bloated era, but he played in a difficult park at a more austere time. At his peak, which lasted (roughly) from 1977 through 1985, Carter hit .276/.349/.478. Give that a park and era adjustment and maybe grant the Kid a few points of production for the wear and tear of catching, and you have a real star. His OPS+ for those years was 129, his TAv about .300. That is to say nothing of his strong defensive abilities.
I don’t want to focus on Carter’s on-field achievements today, but of the crucial moment of team-building in which he played a key role. That was the day he was traded from the Expos to the Mets. This far removed, it is difficult to remember that the Expos were once a legitimate baseball team, not the bastard stepchild of MLB, existing to make salary-dumping deals such as that which sent John Wetteland to the Yankees for the immortal Fernando Seguignol and bundles of greenback dollars.
Talking arbitration with long-time baseball arbitrator, professor, and author Roger Abrams.
While looking toward the future with our comprehensive slate of current content, we'd also like to recognize our rich past by drawing upon our extensive (and mostly free) online archive of work dating back to 1997. In an effort to highlight the best of what's gone before, we'll be bringing you a weekly blast from BP's past, introducing or re-introducing you to some of the most informative and entertaining authors who have passed through our virtual halls. If you have fond recollections of a BP piece that you'd like to nominate for re-exposure to a wider audience, send us your suggestion.
More memories from a childhood's worth of ballplayers in Utah and Walla Walla.
Today we pick up where I left off last week in covering some of my favorite minor leaguers I saw in Salt Lake City, Utah (where I grew up) and Walla Walla, Washington (where my grandparents lived) during the late '70s and '80s. Some went on to have notable major-league careers, and one even reached Cooperstown. Others would earn less distinction, though they retain my considerable affection.
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With the retirement of a Yankee workhorse, the question of his place in history arises.
Unless you've been hiding under a rock, you know that Andy Pettitte gave word of his retirement on Thursday, and unless that rock was hiding under another rock, you probably know that this has been a likelihood ever since the television cameras found a moist-eyed Pettitte watching the late innings of Game Six of the ALCS, knowing that he wouldn't get another shot to put the Yankees on his broad shoulders and lift them into another World Series. The shame of it is that Pettitte had pitched so well in 2010, cruising through the first half (11-2, 2.70 ERA) like he never had in his 15-year career, at least until the fateful July day when he departed with a groin strain that cost him two full months. If that didn't hasten his decision to retire, it certainly lessened his will to put his body through the wringer one more time.
With Mario Mendoza being the patron saint of bad hitting, who should define replacement level?
Replacement level is something of a slippery concept. Of course, once you’ve gotten a grasp of its meaning and import, it’s not hard to hold on; I suspect that most people reading this article would defend the utility of replacement level to the death, at least until things got violent. Still, one suspects that holdouts might cotton to the concept more quickly if it employed a familiar baseline; the rather abstract nature of the term “replacement level” has been known to provoke a few scoffs from the anti-intellectual set.
Of course, given the elusive nature of “average” in baseball, replacement level better suits the sport for evaluative purposes. As Joe Posnanski wrote recently, “You could pick a really HIGH baseline—you could make your stat read Wins Below Willie Mays (WBWM) or Value Under Albert Pujols (VUAB). But that wouldn’t be much fun to do and would probably tell us more about Willie Mays and Albert Pujols than the players themselves.”
Upon further review, Kevin Brown's numbers reveal that he had a better career than credited.
A couple of weeks ago I wrote an article attempting to define the pitchers that best defined the most recent decade. The list certainly started a discussion as to the merits of some pitchers as well as one wondering about the lack of inclusion of others. This was the intended goal of the piece, as baseball memories are not developed in as confined a fashion as a decade, and so it was very possible that my list needed some tweaking. Merely as a way of framing the discussion, I offered that the starting pitchers who best defined the prior era of baseball could be grouped into a neat nonet: Greg Maddux, Roger Clemens, Pedro Martinez, Randy Johnson, Mike Mussina, Curt Schilling, Tom Glavine, John Smoltz, and Kevin Brown. Interestingly enough, in the comments and in personal e-mails, it seemed that many wanted to steer the conversation toward this group, debating the merits of the last pitcher mentioned—Kevin Brown.
Brown doesn’t have the Hall of Fame resume of Maddux, Clemens, Pedro, or Unit. He doesn’t have the pedigree of a Glavine or the playoff mystiques of Schilling and Smoltz, and his win total pales in comparison to Mussina’s high tally. Put together, it is very easy to make a case that these eight, not nine, pitchers were the era’s best. Few produce Jim Halpert double-takes when reading those names, the same of which cannot be said for Brown. For various reasons, Brown just does not pass the smell test of many as far as being considered one of the best pitchers in baseball’s toughest era. While I do not necessarily think of him as worthy of being enshrined in Cooperstown, I did thoroughly enjoy watching him pitch while growing up. With that in mind, don’t think of this as comparable to Rich Lederer’s campaign to get Bert Blyleven into the Hall of Fame, but rather a reminder that Brown was a great pitcher for a long time.
The 2006 class is a tough one to beat among a strong recent group of rookie classes.
Earlier this week, the folks at Beloit College released their annual MindsetList, a document designed to explain the cultural differences between the incoming class of college freshmen and the older faculty hired to teach them. The idea is to highlight the small and large ways the world has changed in the last 20 years by mentioning things that were true during the life span of oldsters that were never true for those under 20, e.g., the existence of things like a telephone cord, a country called Czechoslovakia, and a baseball commissioner not named Bud. For me, a man who fervently hopes Jamie Moyer comes back next spring to ensure I won’t have to face being older than every major-league ballplayer, this is always a time to reflect on youth and age, both in life and in baseball—especially so this year, since the current Mindset List includes a reference to the term Annus Horribilus, which I happened to use in last year’s BP Annual, but which I now know dates me almost as much as saying “23 Skidoo.”
A "Best-Of" team for notoriously unlucky, small-ball lovin' manager Gene Mauch
In 22 full seasons of managing, Gene Mauch’s teams led their leagues in sacrifice bunts 14 times and finished second thrice more. In many seasons, the race for the bunt title, such as it was, wasn’t even close. In 1979, Mauch’s Twins dropped one down 142 times—and those are just the successful bunts. There must have been many more attempts. The second-place team had just 79 bunts, and the league average was only 68. In 1982, the Angels had 114 bunts. The league average was 54. In 1986, the Angels had 91 bunts against a league average of 46.
But for shortstop Roy Smalley, who had 23 bunts in 1978, the players listed here didn’t do a great deal of bunting. The reason is simple: as eager as Mauch was to give up an out to move a runner over, these were his real hitters.
Sorting out the odder types among pitchers asked to start and relieve.
Last week, we took a look at swingmen, those pitchers that spend a decent amount of time in both the rotation and bullpen during the same season, doing so as a means of gauging the true expected performance differential when a pitcher shifts roles in either direction. The number of pitchers of this ilk have declined over the last few decades, but they still surface from time to time for one reason or another. Some are young prospects who, when called up, are instantly installed in the pen, to develop confidence, to get exposure, just help out in middle relief, or a combination of the three. At other times, putting young starters in the pen aids the team's efforts to limit their workloads. In certain situations, the ability to serve as both a specialist and emergency starter provides some additional utility to teams, as they don't need to sign Josh Towers to take a start, or dip into the farm system in the event of a doubleheader or an injury.