An amazing music video featuring a World Series game between the Cubs and the A's was unearthed recently.
It was 1992. The Oakland A's, behind Tony La Russa, Rickey Henderson, Dennis Eckersley, and the Bash Brothers, were only a year removed from a three-year run in the World Series. The Cubs, meanwhile, had been to the playoffs once in eight years, and Greg Maddux was only just beginning his stretch as the greatest pitcher alive. Away from sports, Garth Brooks had friends in low places, Pearl Jam was destroying the charts, and Uncle Jesse was breaking little girls' hearts all over the world. Not to be forgotten, Chicago Cubs fan Richard Marx was dreaming of a World Series win for the North Siders.
From this early-'90s potpurri, a music video was born. No, it wasn't "Jeremy" or even that silly Beach Boys video that had Uncle Jesse up on stage drumming. Not even close.
The Rickey conversation takes new turns, answering who's least like the speedster among active players, and most like him historically.
Rickey Henderson's much-anticipated Hall of Fame induction speech may have disappointed those who yearned for a proclamation of all-time greatness, perhaps accompanied by a bronze plaque hoisted high overhead. Instead, Henderson took his place among the game's greats with a performance on Sunday that balanced humor and humility, with nary a third-person reference to be heard.
Or why, as Rickey Henderson prepares to be inducted into the Hall of Fame, we shall not see his like again.
Rickey Henderson will be inducted into the Hall of Fame on Sunday, an honor that feels long overdue for the player who holds the all-time records for both stolen bases and runs, is a member of the 3,000 Hit Club, and is widely acknowledged as the greatest leadoff hitter of all time. "If you could split him in two, you'd have two Hall of Famers," wrote Bill James of Henderson nearly a decade ago. The bearded bard of sabermetrics was onto something, and not only with regards to Henderson's Cooperstown credentials. Scanning the horizon in search of a truly similar active player, one comes up with only fractional Rickeys, players who possess elements of Henderson's game-his speed-power combo, his keen batting eye, his basepath derring-do-but nowhere near to the exact same blend.
Before reviewing the full Class of 2009 for the Hall of Fame vote, there's little doubt who's at its head.
Last week, I discussed the Hall of Fame Veterans Committee ballot results, and previewed Clay Davenport's revisions of the Wins Above Replacement Player system, the underlying currency of my JAWS Hall of Fame analysis system. Today, I begin tackling the 2009 Baseball Writers Association of America ballot.
It's possible to be selfish and arrogant and help your team. If a player hits a home run in an arrogant matter, that's still worth at least one run. If Rickey selfishly stole second, that puts his team in a better position to score. Certainly, if he got himself thrown out all the time, he'd have been a detriment, but he was successful more than 75% of the time in his record-setting, 130-steal year. Baseball's one of the most individual team sports. The game's crux is a one-one-one battle, batter against pitcher, and even the most complex plays are serial actions--pitcher to batter to shortstop to first for the out. If everyone on a team was as good as Rickey and acted selfishly, they'd score 2,000 runs a year. In a strike-shortened season, where every game was rained out after the fifth inning. Playing in the Astrodome.
I'm a little ashamed to admit this now, but I used to hate Rickey Henderson. I grew up following the Giants and the Mariners, and Rickey beat the hell out of the Mariners on his way to making the Giants look stupid. And growing up in a rival city, you hear all the bad and not much of the good: Rickey's arrogant, but not that he's got a sense of humor.
Rickey changed baseball, too. Not for the better, unless you enjoy the motions of throwing back to first 20 times to make sure Edgar Martinez doesn't steal second late to ignite a come-from-behind rally in an 8-1 game the M's are losing.
We haven't seen much base-stealing lately, for reasons that manage to hurt the understanding of how great both players were. Ruth's marks don't seem so impressive when even the bat boy hits 10 out a year. And power has eclipsed speed. While some (Luis Castillo,Juan Pierre) have gotten into the 60s, it's largely forgotten that there were players like Henderson and Vince Coleman who reeled off a series of years where they swiped over 100 bases a year.
There were eight teams in the American League in 1918. On each team, there were about twelve to fourteen guys who got significant playing time (over 100 plate appearances). So figure about sixty regulars, and around hundred total non-pitcher batters who got playing time.
Rickey's back. The Dodgers are 49-44, three and a half games out of the Wild Card, but if their pitching were as bad as their offense they'd be the worst team in the majors. Paul Lo Duca (.307/.374/.438, .285 EqA) is having a good year, but when the All-Star catcher looks out at the rest of his team, he sees an offensive wasteland. At first base, Fred McGriff (.249/.318/.430, .261 EqA) was unimpressive before going on the DL. Up the middle, Alex Cora (.240/.281/.319, .213 EqA) and Cesar Izturis (.255/.290/.302, .210 EqA), who have gotten most of the playing time, are a combined black hole. Third baseman Adrian Beltre (.225/.286/.356, .227 EqA) has seen his star come crashing to earth after having once been one of the hottest prospects in the game. In the outfield, Shawn Green (.255/.317/.429, .262 EqA) is underachieving, and none of the combination of Mike Kinkade, Dave Roberts, Jolbert Cabrera, Chad Hermansen and Wilkin Ruan has been exceptional. Brian Jordan (.299/.372/.420, .282 EqA) had been the bets of the bunch, but a severe injury means his season and Dodger career are over. Faced with the option of buying or selling for the stretch run, the Dodgers made their move, trading for Jeromy Burnitz and plucking Rickey Henderson from Newark.
The Dodgers are 49-44, three and a half games out of the Wild Card, but if their pitching were as bad as their offense they'd be the worst team in the majors. Paul Lo Duca (.307/.374/.438, .285 EqA) is having a good year, but when the All-Star catcher looks out at the rest of his team, he sees an offensive wasteland. At first base, Fred McGriff (.249/.318/.430, .261 EqA) was unimpressive before going on the DL. Up the middle, Alex Cora (.240/.281/.319, .213 EqA) and Cesar Izturis (.255/.290/.302, .210 EqA), who have gotten most of the playing time, are a combined black hole. Third baseman Adrian Beltre (.225/.286/.356, .227 EqA) has seen his star come crashing to earth after having once been one of the hottest prospects in the game.
"I really have no timetable. The good Lord has blessed me with the health. I'm not going to give it up if I can still perform, compete and enjoy the game." --Rickey Henderson, Red Sox outfielder, asked how much longer he'd go