A look at 10 new managerial candidates, and a conversation with Mets manager Terry Collins.
The All-Star break is coming into view, yet no managers have been fired this season. In fact, there have been only a few reports of any of the 30 major-league skippers even possibly being in trouble. But it will eventually happen. Some owner will finally get fed up, drop the axe, and his club will begin a managerial search.
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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.”
The Andrew McCutchen extension might help heal those still smarting over the post-Bonds era in Pittsburgh.
From 1986 through 1992, the Pirates enjoyed the services of a five-tool outfielder on his way to becoming one of the game’s all-time greats. But with two All-Star Game appearances and two MVP awards already in hand, the then-28-year-old Barry Bonds left Pittsburgh to sign a record contract worth $43.75 million over six years with the Giants.
Jonah Keriwrote last June about the parallels between the early years of Bonds’ career and those of Andrew McCutchen. Since Bonds chased the money in San Francisco in the midst of his athletic prime—one that ultimately lasted longer than anyone might have expected back in 1992—the Pirates have struggled to find a player with the potential to impact a game in as many ways as the young Bonds could. McCutchen brings a combination of power and speed, coupled with discipline and instincts, which parallel Bonds’ talents better than anyone who donned the black and gold in the 17 seasons between them.
What kind of production do teams receive from players tabbed to replace superstars?
Earlier this week, Mariano Rivera arrived at the Yankees' spring training facility in Tampa, Florida, and caused a stir by strongly hinting that the 2012 season would be his final one. The 42-year-old, who has served as the Yankees’ closer since 1997, has shown no signs of slippage, with four straight seasons of ERAs under 2.00 backed by stellar peripherals—strikeout and walk rates better than his career numbers, even—and high save totals. Late last season, he surpassed Trevor Hoffman as the all-time saves leader, and with five World Series rings in hand, the only real challenge that remains is for him to convince manager Joe Girardi to allow him a cameo in center field.
As in the AL, the Central division is as tight as can be, while in the East two Mets are predicted to take home some hardware along with their division flag.
Today we reveal the Baseball Prospectus staff predictions for the division standings and the major player awards (MVP, Cy Young, and Rookie of the Year) in the National League, along with the staff picks in some fun miscellaneous categories.
Each staff member's division standings predictions may be found later in the article. Here, we present a wisdom-of-the-crowds summary of the results. In each table you'll find the average rank of each team in their division, plus the results of our pre-season MVP, Cy Young, and Rookie of the Year voting.
Barry Bonds won't be a San Francisco Giant next season, and that makes some people far too happy.
On Friday, the Giants held a press conference to announce that their sub-.500 team, with its mediocre offense, was going to play the 2008 season without its best hitter. From the press reaction, you would think that they'd announced that the AT&T Park press box was going to be redesigned, with every spot getting a Barcalounger and a personal flat-screen TV.
Returning to a subject from this past winter, Dan digs in to discuss the all-time greats.
"It is the best game because the players look like us. They are not seven feet tall, they don’t weigh 350 pounds, and they don’t bench-press 650. We can relate to them. We can see them—they’re not obscured by some hideous face mask, and they don’t play behind a wall of Plexiglas—we can touch them and we can feel them. I see Greg Maddux with his shirt off, with his concave chest and no discernible muscles, and I marvel: This is one of the six greatest pitchers in the history of the game? I see Tony Gwynn with his shirt off and I see a short, fat guy with the smallest hands I've ever seen on an athlete, and I wonder: 'This is the best hitter since Ted Williams?'...They are regular guys, at least most of them, who just happen to be really, really good at something that everyone else is not."
--Tim Kurkjian, from chapter one of Is This a Great Game, or What?: From A-Rod's Heart to Zim's Head--My 25 Years in Baseball
The past might be a foreign country, but at the moment, where 756 is concerned, we're still well within its borders. What does the gang think of Barry Bonds' achievement?
Maury Brown: There ought to be one word that comes to mind when taking in Bonds' place as the all-time home run king. Maybe that word is 'confused.' Or cloudy, muddy, murky... take your pick. In the history of sports, I don't think anyone has ever faced the dilemma of asking whether or not a record was legitimately set or not. Barry Bonds has forced us to look at that issue with arguably the most revered and sacred of records in baseball. After all, the record has been achieved, and controversy be damned, he hasn't failed a drug test, nor has he been indicted by the Feds, nor has some mountain of evidence landed in George Mitchell's lap that makes one think that Bonds is going to be the focus of his soon-to-be published report.
Whether it's an aid or not, there's something else remarkable about an elbow brace.
You don't know Mark Silva, but you know his work. As a certified orthotist, Silva is one of the top builders of custom sports braces for athletes. He's made them for football players in his work with the San Francisco 49ers, and he's made them for baseball players, including Rickey Henderson and Mo Vaughn. It's the brace that Barry Bonds wears while batting that Silva is best known for.
On Monday, an article was published regarding the brace, first at Editor and Publisher (a specialty publication covering the newspaper industry), purporting that the brace worn by Bonds was an illegal aid that helped Bonds hit home runs. The assertions of the author, Michael Witte, were on their surface difficult to believe, but I wanted to know more about this brace. What was it made of? Who made it? Could it possibly help Bonds hit? (I should note here that e-mails to Mr. Witte remain unanswered at the time of publication, and I was unable to find a phone number for him.)