2017 Player Comments

Garret Anderson (0.1). Anderson is unlikely to make the Hall of Fame, but his counting numbers mean he’ll be jumping out of encyclopedias as long as baseball retains its basic statistical shape. He finished 2nd in range factor at his position six times, and finished 3-2-2 in 1997-1999, respectively, in left field, right field, and center field. Ranks around 100th all time in most of the counting categories, 48th all time in doubles.

Anderson illustrates one of the logical absurdities that pop up – at both ends of the defensive spectrum – because of how WAR counts defense. He was, by all accounts, an above average fielder – one of the best at his position in the league – yet his career defensive WAR (BBR) is negative 4.6 games. Since replacement value is whatever produces a record similar to the expansion Mets, that’s an awfully negative statement.

I understand that the onus on the right end of the spectrum is heavily tilted towards offense, but how much of that is by choice? In other words, is left field unimportant defensively because it doesn’t matter, or because some teams choose not to care?

The other side of this particular coin is second base, where the logical disconnect goes the other direction. A lot of plays happen at second base – hence its perceived value – but the skill set required doesn’t imply a degree of difficulty matched by the higher volume.

Craig Biggio (2.1). Bigs is in the real Hall, having been elected in his third year of eligibility. He was never the clear best player in the league – Bill’s NHBA article notwithstanding – and he had the feel of a second fiddle more than a face of the franchise type, but he won four gold gloves, played in eight consecutive all star games, and lasted long enough to put himself way up most of the counting lists.

Kevin Brown (1.2).
Brown failed to receive 5 percent of the vote in the 2011 Hall election, his first. I think he’s an eventual Hall of Famer, but I would put the odds against him still being around to make the speech. We had a long, spirited discussion about his strikeout rates during last year’s GOR election. Here is a link to last year’s GOR if you want to read up on all that.

Pat Burrell (0.0). Where would he rank all time? I think he’s in the top thousand, maybe even the top 700-800, but I can’t really say for sure. His career WAR doesn’t rank among the top thousand. He finished his career with the 234th best ops ever (.834) and pulled up just short of 300 homers, but his only defensive value was something like the guy who holds the camera during a home orgy. It can be summed up as “he was willing to get out of the way.”

Burrell was the first overall pick in the 1998 amateur draft and made the majors in early 2000, after slashing .333-.438-.631 for AA Reading in 1999. He came up as a first baseman and played 58 games there as a rookie – about half his total games – but the Phillies moved him to left in order to play Travis Lee, then Jim Thome, then Ryan Howard. Burrell never played first again; those 58 games as a rookie were his career total.

He was a pretty bad outfielder – slow, with bad instincts and a weak arm – but he wasn’t Greg Luzinski. In strat terms he would have been a 3(+1) in a few years, a 4(+1) the rest of the time. Luzinski would have needed his own X-chart, like a pitcher hitting card. A Luzinski fielding card. If anyone makes one, I recommend that you use it for Hanley Ramirez, too.

Orlando Cabrera (0.0). He ain’t making the Hall unless they build on and double – maybe triple – the guard, but he made it to 2000 hits so I think he deserves to be on the ballot.

I mostly remember him for two things. First, he had a Denny Doyle-esque, magical season in 2004, when he came in to replace Nomah, hit .294, and helped the Sox win their first World Series since Babe Ruth was a pitcher.

Second, he drove in lots of runs for a guy who profiled as a bottom of the order hitter. He drove in 96 for the 2001 Expos, but the real fun season was 2007, with Anaheim. He hit .301, scored 101 runs, and drove in 86. His adjusted ops+ was 95, which turned out to be the second highest of his career. The year he drove in 96, his adjusted ops+ was 92. There must be a list to generate there .. best players who drove in more runs than their ops+ or something?

Mike Cameron (0.1).
Cam ain’t going to the real Hall, but he was a consistent, winning player for a surprisingly long time, for a surprisingly large number of teams. He played full seasons with at least 100 games in center field for six different teams, and at least 40 games in center field for eight teams.

I watched his four homer game. Two things: first, he missed a fifth by maybe 10-15 feet. He drove a ball to right center field in his final atbat that was caught right at the front of the warning track. Second, all four homers were off of curve balls.

Cameron was amazingly consistent. The M’s dumped him at 30 years old, thinking he was in decline, and at the time it looked like he was, but he was just getting started. He had a remarkable run of seasons in his thirties that look amazingly alike on the back of his baseball card, bouncing around the league but – like late-career Kenny Lofton – landing on a lot of good teams.

Do we think about Willie, Mickey and the Duke first when we think about center field? I know I do, and I think it colors my judgment about what a good center fielder actually looks like. It’s sort of like reading a Victoria’s Secret catalogue right before heading to Match.com.

Guys like Cameron and Lofton, Johnny Damon … they might lose a step or two, but they can still play out there for winning teams well into their thirties. They are the centerfield version of a great second wife. They don’t wear white and nobody throws a big wedding for ‘em, but they can keep you awfully warm out there in center field when you get tired of all the young “prospects” who don’t know what they are doing.

David Cone (1.0).
I actually think Cone will develop some momentum as a Hall candidate once he’s eligible for the old timers committees. His win total (194) won’t be such a detriment once the writers get used to the lower cumulative win totals being put up in recent years, assuming they don’t go back up again.

Cone, like a lot of pitchers, dirtied up his record a bit at the end. He was 180-102 (.638), 3.19 after the 1999 season, an adjusted era+ of 129. He wound up at .606 and 121.

Carlos Delgado (1.0).
Delgado is like Bobby Bonds or Chuck Klein. They are the contrarian candidates. Jack Morris, Rick Reuschel and Don Drysdale are pitcher versions, same idea.

If a contrarian candidate gets elected to the Hall of Fame, the discussion will be almost evenly divided between those who think “it’s about time” and those who think “what a joke.” If they are in, the majority of their ink will be about what crappy Hall of Famers they are. If they are out, the majority of their ink will be about what an injustice it is that they aren’t in.

They can’t win, and they can’t lose. Once in they are only remembered in mocking tones, but even if they never get in they will always jump out of the book. They don’t define the bottom of the Hall – that’s where the Frischian Candidates are (shut up Ludlum) – but the middle. They are the bottom line of the BBWAA Hall, and the line between C and D on the Hall of Fame tier structure.

J.D. Drew (0.0). I think Drew, among all the players whose reputations were stained by the greed of Scott Boras, was the most profoundly stained.

I would occasionally hear nice things about Drew, from people who dealt with him directly – and had no reason to lie – but those voices were always drowned out by the constant, grinding distain and mockery of the Jim Rome world of smack talk radio and the very loud internet voice of Boston homer – and Drew hater – Bill Simmons. Was he a good guy, or a bad guy? I honestly have no idea.

Jim Edmonds (1.1). Edmonds was a hell of a player – very stylish, in my memory – and I always liked him, but I don’t like him as much as some of the other BJOL guys do. Edmonds is a future Hall of Famer, I think, but he’s going to have to wait a while.

Nobody ever turned on a high fastball like Edmonds did, and we have all seen the over the head catches on Sportscenter. As a hitter I liken him to Will Clark, probably because they shared some physical traits and had similar swings. As a fielder he wasn’t fast, but he was fearless and he had tremendous instincts. He’s another one of those great second wife center fielders.

Julio Franco (0.5). I don’t completely discount Franco’s Hall of Fame chances, but he might need a loosening of the belt. It’s been a few years since anyone has called for a less exclusive Hall of Fame.

Tom Glavine (2.3) – I have Glavine as a high C level Hall of Famer, but an argument can be made that I have him too low – that he’s actually a B. He won 300 games and 2 Cy Young awards. He finished in the top 3 of the voting in 6 different Cy Young award elections. He won a World Series-clinching game with a 1-0 shutout, giving the Braves the only championship during their remarkable run, and their only championship in nearly 60 years.

His World Series earned run average, in 58 innings, was 2.16. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in his first eligible year, despite some stiff competition. Incidentally, he was a pretty good hitter, with a .186 career batting average. He had no power – 1 career homerun – but he drew over a hundred walks and laid down 216 sacrifice bunts. For context, only one 21st century player had more sacrifice bunts. I’ll put his name down at the bottom, so you can guess who it is. The next highest, after Glavine, had 180 and was also a pitcher. I’ll put his name down there, too.

I think Glavine’s best historical comp is probably Whitey Ford. Glavine was a poor man’s Warren Spahn or a rich man’s Eddie Plank, and the four of them were similar enough in style, handedness and success that they might be seen as a knot, if not a family. Are they the Mount Rushmore of the crafty lefty nation? It would seem strange to leave Tommy John off the hill, given his status as the namesake of a certain type of crafty lefty.

Speaking of Eddie Plank, was he the only major league player to die at Gettysburg? Did Eddie Grant die at Harvard, in the Argonne Forest, or on Electric Avenue?

Vladimir Guerrero (2.2)
Here’s a link to his Test. I had forgotten that Vladdie was a big base stealer at one time. He is one of just 6 players to reach 30 homers and 30 stolen bases in back-to-back seasons. I’ll put that list down at the bottom, too. He was one of two players to miss a 40-40 season by a single homerun. I’ll put that down there, though my guess is most of us know who the other guy was off the top of our heads.

Trevor Hoffman (0.6) –
It looks like he’ll sail into the real Hall of Fame … I’m not the one to make his case, though. I don’t think he meets the established standards for a BBWAA-worthy Hall of Famer. He never pitched even 90 innings in a season, and he only had a couple of sub-2 eras. His career era+ was 141 – a good number, certainly – but in San Diego, pitching one inning at a time?

For comparison, Mariano Rivera’s career era+ was 205.

I suppose he’s the first true one-inning closer. That’s something. One thing about him that impressed me was how he survived the loss of his good stuff. At one time he had a big fastball, but by the 1998 World Series I doubt he was hitting even 90 on the gun. He managed to pitch another dozen years after that, accumulating over 400 saves.

Jeff Kent (1.1) – When I do the Test, I don’t make any specific adjustments for PED use, but I take a lot of air out of the statistics for certain factors specific to the period. Three of those factors are direct hits on Jeff Kent.

  • He had an unusually long career for a player of his type and apparent level of ability.
  • He peaked unusually late. He hit 270 of his 377 career homers after he turned 30 – 299 after he joined Barry Bonds in San Francisco at age 29 – and he had a post-30 ops+ of 131 after a pre-30 ops+ of 106. His best five year WAR stretch came at ages 30-34, and over half his career WAR came during his age 32-37 years. His WAR pre-30 was 14.5, post-30 40.7. He drove in 100 or more runs 8 times, the first at age 29.
  • Despite superficially impressive numbers, both single season and career, he never led the league in anything. He had zero points of black ink. He only had 77 points of gray ink.

His 1.1 on the Test indicates a mid-level D candidate, a guy who is a bit more than 50-50 to eventually make the Hall of Fame based on their previous history. That’s probably fair, because by the time he becomes a serious candidate nobody is going to question the fact that his aging pattern was as suspicious as Pamela Anderson’s cup size when she moved to Hollywood.

I personally don’t care – or mind – if Kent makes the Hall of Fame, but Bobby Grich and Lou Whitaker might have a beef if he gets in before they do.

Derrek Lee (0.0) – He put up twin 131 ops+ numbers in 2002-2003, then his ops+ seemed to leap off its moorings. His ops+ movement between 2004 and 2010: -13, +56, -62, +18, -21, +37, -40. His 2005 season jumps off the page like Jim Gentile’s 1961, maybe … but Lee had another year in 2009 that, while it wasn’t as good as 2005, was good enough that it probably eliminates him from all the fluke-season lists.

Derrek’s father Leon and his uncle Leron both played in Japan for many years, and Derrek spent a lot of his childhood over there. Leon hit .308 with 268 homers in 10 seasons in Japan, while Uncle Leron hit .320 with 283 homers in 11 seasons. Derrek was 3 when his father moved to Japan, 12 when he returned, and he spent summers over there through high school. He still travels extensively, teaching baseball skills to children all over the world.

Kenny Lofton (1.3) – If Tim Raines was Rickey Henderson lite as an offensive player, then Kenny Lofton was Tim Raines lite. Lofton’s career pattern – several brilliant years early, then a long career at a lower level of production – matches up with Raines. Both were speedy revelations as rookies, then put up their best five year stretch shortly after (Lofton in years 2-6, Raines in years 3-7).

Lofton’s overall value was similar to Raines, depending on how you factor in his defense. WAR has them essentially even, while Winshares gives a significant advantage to Raines. I think Winshares has it right – that Raines was the more valuable player overall – but that’s mostly because I don’t buy into how WAR figures defense and position adjustments. There seems to be an assumption that, because some teams don’t care about defense in left field, it doesn’t matter. As a result, all left fielders are position-adjustmentally treated much like first basemen/designated hitters, while center fielders are given a far less demanding offensive “book” to cover. I don’t buy the premise.

Anyway …

Lofton may have been the most prolific second-wife center fielder of all time. He was the Liz Taylor of quickie baseball marriages and (mostly) amiable divorces. He switched teams nine times between 2002 and 2007. He was traded in midseason in 2002, 2003, 2004, and 2007. Every team that picked him up made the playoffs, too. He played in the postseason every year from 2001-2007 except 2005, when he hit .335 for the Phillies but, for some reason, they were unwilling or unable to find a suiter for him. He returned to Cleveland as a free agent twice, which I think makes the Indians Richard Burton. The Atlanta Braves, who acquired him in a trade earlier in his career, lost him back to Cleveland the following year. That either makes them Michael Todd, or makes Lofton Eddie Fisher and the Braves Debbie Reynolds.

Willie McGee (0.4) – I might as well reprint what I wrote last year; it’s not like his situation has changed.

He has no chance in hell at the moment, but there were years in the GOR where he would have been a contender. The MVP, three gold gloves, two batting titles, a rookie of the year award, and several postseasons give him considerable stage value, and he finished with well over 2000 hits. It’s not impossible that he will get the call someday.

Melvin Mora (0.0) – At the time he turned 30, he looked like a guy who was probably going to be out of the league by the time he was 32 or 33, having made between one and two million dollars. He wound up playing til he was 39 years old and walking away with over 40 million dollars. Whatever he did or didn’t do, who could possibly blame him? It takes an awfully stiff neck to turn down a thumb-rub like that.

If the pool is limited to full seasons only, Mora’s 2004 might make some fluke-season lists. He was almost as good in 2003, but in a partial season. His ops+ was 155 in 2004, 143 in 2003 – but only 117 in 2005, his second best full season.

Mike Mussina (1.7) – I rank the big four pitchers on the ballot Glavine-Schilling-Smoltz-Mussina in an accomplishment-based discussion, but I would rank them almost the exact opposite way in a value-based discussion. The highest ranked, according to the Test, is Glavine at 2.3 and the lowest is Moose, at 1.7. They are in a knot, wrapped tightly around the C grade.

Moose is more famous for his work with the Yankees, but if you ask me he was a far better pitcher with the O’s. His record with Baltimore was 147-81, 130 era+. With the Yankees he was 123-72, era+ 114.

He had the sickest splitter I have ever seen in the 1997 playoffs, when he outdueled Unit twice. It was almost bugs bunny-ish, the way it stopped and dropped. It was unhittable.

John Olerud (0.8) – A local kid – WSU was his college – Olerud was one of my favorite players. Some statheads like him even more than I do. Like Edmonds and a few other players, he gets overrated some by the decentralization effect of the high-offense era he played in. He had a big year with Toronto in 1993, another big year with the Mets in 1998, and a couple of good years with the M’s in the early 2000s – but that’s it. He was basically a league average hitter for his position the rest of his career, and his career 129 ops+ isn’t impressive for where he landed on the defensive spectrum. He was a good defender, which matters, but he wasn’t Keith Hernandez.

Those four years count, of course, and I think Olerud is a slightly below average D candidate for the Hall of Fame, roughly 40-60 to eventually gain admission according to historically established trends and criteria. I would be thrilled to see him make it. A lot will depend on how the voters see him; was he famous, or wasn’t he? He was on famous teams, but he was always sort of a quiet, unassuming presence, and not really a force.

One thing people might not realize about Olerud was how streaky he was within a season. He was mostly a guy who tried to drive the ball to center-left center, but occasionally he would get into a groove where he could pull just about anything the pitcher tossed up there. He would hit a rash of homers, never seeming to even swing hard … then it would be gone and he would spend the next couple of weeks hitting weak pops and corny cans to left center. Eventually the weak pops would turn back into line drives, then he’d pull one … and the cycle would repeat.

He never looked gassed, or intense, or sweaty. He was as smooth as melted caramel, trickling down a warm spoon. He always reminded me of that cartoon turtle, what was his name? He was always saying, “helooooooo …. Daaaaaay- vee …”

Magglio Ordonez (0.1) – Arod’s huge 2007 season shafted Magglio, who finished second in the American League MVP vote. Looking at the results, I noticed something strange. In the National League, five of the top seven players in the vote were white. In the American League, just one of the top twelve were white. Just two of the top twelve in the American League vote were born in the United States, while the top eight in the National League vote were all born in the U.S.

Ordonez averaged 32 homers and 118 rbi between 1999 and 2003. His only top five finish in either category was in 2002, when he finished 2nd in rbi with 135. He posted four consecutive .300-30-100 seasons, and missed a fifth by a solo homerun (29 hr, 99 rbi). His highest MVP finish during the run was eighth, and in two of the years (1999 and 2001) he failed to receive a single vote.

He has the barest of chances to make the Hall of Fame. It seems strange to say that about a career .309 hitter with well over 2000 hits and nearly 300 homeruns, but what else can I say? Magglio was probably a decent match for Ray Boone or Bob Johnson, somebody like that, once you let the air out of his numbers – and frankly I might be overstating his contribution. There is a lot of air in his numbers.

Rafael Palmeiro (1.3) – Will Clark beats Palmiero, based on my TBA formula, 5.77 to 5.68 runs per game. That’s before any adjustments are made for park context, league context, or pharmaceutical context. What the means is Clark, without any benefit of the doubt about PEDs or giving him any extra credit for doing most of his best hitting before the high-offense 1990s, was still a (slightly) more effective offensive player than Rafael Palmiero.

Tony Phillips (0.3) – If it was possible to put together an all-time great multipositional all star team, who would be on it?

Jorge Posada (0.9) – Posada was one of the most consistent hitters you could ask for, hitting between .268 and .281 eight times in his 12 year prime period, hitting 20 homers and driving in 80 runs in eight different seasons – only Mike Piazza and Yogi Berra did it more often, 10 times apiece (Johnny Bench also did it eight times) – and putting up an offensive WAR between 3.3 and 6.5 every year between 2000 and 2007.

Hip-hip was weirdly consistent getting on base. He put up onbase averages over .400 four times, but the rest of the time he was within a few percentage points of .360, ranging from .350-.374 except for one down year, when his oba was .341. Dave Fleming took some time to explain his take elsewhere on the site.

Manny Ramirez (2.6) –
I gave him an A on the fame question and B’s on the other impact questions and both career statistics questions. He only got C’s on what I might call the “winning” series of questions. He never won an MVP award. He never led the league in WAR or offensive WAR, and he never really came close. His black and gray ink were below the norms for the Hall of Fame.

Part of the problem was the size of the league, of course, but his player-only profile (leave out the personality) is that of a solid, C-level Hall of Fame candidate. I imagine he is perceived as more of a B-level candidate.

Manny being Manny was the 2000s version of a long, proud line of a specific player type: The hitting savant. The players share characteristics beyond their ability to square up the barrel of the bat on a baseball. Their primary shared characteristic is an obsession with hitting, almost to the exclusion of everything else. They tend to be bad fielders. They tend to have flaky personalities. They tend to have reputations as lovable eccentrics from a distance, and rank assholes up close. Their careers often end badly, and their reputations usually circle the drain along with their batting averages. Here are a few examples:

Pete Browning
Heinie Zimmerman
Joe Jackson
Hack Wilson
Jeff Heath
Ted Williams
Gus Zernial
Ferris Fain
Rico Carty
Dave Kingman

Teddy Ballgame, Heath, Fain, and Kingman were angry rather than buffoonish, so they should probably be considered cousins more than brothers. Wade Boggs, Pete Rose … they can be second cousins; their obsessions weren’t limited to hitting, but they had plenty of obsessiveness to go around.

Manny’s family line would be Browning, Zimmerman, Wilson, Zernial, Carty, and then Manny. I am sure I missed a few, and probably somebody obvious.

Edgar Renteria (0.4)
– I think his long term chances will come down to how his defense is perceived. His offensive career could be best described as “not disqualifying.” He had 2372 career hits and enough other stuff – stolen bases, .330 batting average seasons, 100 run seasons, even a 100 rbi season – to cover the offensive book for a gold glove quality shortstop with some big moments in the postseason.

Was he a good defensive shortstop? Are you asking me? Oh wait, I asked myself. Well, if I ask me, I would say “maybe, but the evidence is sketchy.” He won a pair of gold glove awards, but I doubt he deserved them. His range and error rates were consistently below average, and his double play data was poor. He played for several teams, and his below average numbers followed him around. His range factors in his two gold glove-winning seasons were a good 50 plays below average. Would you give a batting title to a player who had 50 hits below average?

Jose Rijo (0.1) – He had a modest little 4-game winning streak that began on July 25, 1995 and ended on May 3, 2002. He made 23 mound appearances in between, not losing a game for 2,473 days. Making the majors at 18 years old, according to BBR he was the 12,470th oldest player to debut in the major leagues. Belongs with Gary Nolan, Jim Maloney, Mario Soto, Jim O’Toole and Don Gullet on the Red’s all-time “dominant table game pitchers as long as you don’t play innings limits” team.

Rijo was a Reader’s Digest-condensed Hall of Famer. His career World Series era was 0.59, and he won the 1990 World Series MVP. His era+ between 1988 and 1994 was 147, based on an era of 2.63. He was 87-53 during his prime with the Reds, starting 192 games in 7 years. He was among the leaders in k/9 every year, and led the league in strikeouts the one year he pitched a full schedule.

Ivan Rodriguez (3.0) – His overall grade might be a little high. I chose the higher grade on every close call, and there were a lot of close calls. Pudge 2.0 was a B- player, I think – not quite a B, but far too substantial to be stuck in with the C’s. If I did his Test again tomorrow, in a bad mood, he might drop into the low 2’s. If I did decimals, or plus-minus like Bob used to do, he would probably be in the 2.6-2.7 range.

Dan spent a lot of time on him, more time than I will. My take on Pudge is that his defensive accomplishments were plenty to get him in the Hall of Fame but, absent whatever made him huge during the wrap-around years at the turn of the millennium, as a hitter he was like Renteria: just another guy, a compiler but never a force.

He was still a baby when he met Canseco, so we’ll never know how good a hitter he really was. He took a 158 point tumble in his ops (42 in ops+) the year he lost all the weight, and he was below 100 in ops+ the rest of his career. He was into his 30s by then, though, so it’s not fair to assume he would have never been a good hitter. Was he good enough to compare to the other BBWAA Hall of Famers? Honestly …. Probably not.

He was a winner, though, and I really hate putting him in a negative light. I might just put him at the top of my ballot and hope he wins this year, so I can stop worrying about the fact that he lost 40 pounds and 40 ops+ points in less than six months.

Curt Schilling (2.2) – What pitchers would rank ahead of him on a postseason all-impact team? How many of them never played for the Yankees?

Schilling’s closest historical comp is probably John Smoltz; well, Smoltz or Don Drysdale.

Gary Sheffield (1.7)
– The Dick Allen of the PED era, Sheff might be the missing link between the angry cousins and the multi-obsessives in my Manny Ramirez comment. As he matured he seemed to exorcize his demons, but in the end he was still just as sour as he had always been. It was like he went from being a brat to a prick to a curmudgeon. The whole time we kept expecting him to go postal, but he never really did. I’m sure he has a very nice lawn now, which we can all get the *%$# off of.

Lee Smith (0.6) – Like Hoffman he might be a Hall of Famer, but he wouldn’t make the top 500 pitchers in a value ranking. He was probably one of the top 500 based on his established skills, but he wasn’t used often enough to compare to all the guys who threw 200 plus innings a year. Electing one-inning closers is a little like electing kickers to the NFL Hall of Fame. A few should be in, but only a few.

John Smoltz (2.2) – He might be Schilling’s main competition for the pitcher slot on the non-Yankee postseason all-impact team, except he spread his goodness around, rather than stuffing most of it into one bloody sock.

He gets mixed reviews for his broadcasting skills; I personally think he’s terrific. I think he has a shelf life, like all the good color guys. There is only so much any single person has to say.

Sammy Sosa (2.0) – Without the juice, he was Chuck Klein or Jose Canseco. Even with the juice, he didn’t dominate. He didn’t lead the league in homers in any of his 60 homer seasons.

Matt Stairs (0.0) – He came up as a second baseman, then there was talk about him moving to third base. You know how many games he played in the infield (first base doesn’t count) in his 20 year career? One. One inning at second base. When did he play there? In 2001, with the Cubs at the age of 33, in his tenth season. He played one inning. Well, he stood there for one inning – he didn’t have any chances. He might have taken a throw from the outfield or something.

Stairs eventually played for 12 teams, but he never played for either New York or Los Angeles team. He did play a season in Chicago, for the Cubs. He retired in 2011, having played 20 years and made 19 million dollars. He may go down in history as the last player with a long career to not average a million dollars a year.

He was a strange choice to play first base. He was listed as 5-9, but that seems generous. He looked like a Keebler elf who spent too much time in the sample room, or that guy on your softball team who everybody calls “Spanky.”

Put him on the team with Johnny Bench, Phil Roof, and Ed “Carpet” Burns.

Dave Stieb (0.9) – From 1980-1990 Stieb started at least 31 games every year except one (25) and went 158-115 with an era of 3.29 (127 era+).

Stieb, like Rijo, missed several seasons before coming back to pitch. He had a modest little 4-game losing streak that lasted for 1,947 days between 1993 and 1998. He belongs on the Graig Nettles/Rick Reuschel all-star team of players who nobody can remember what order to put the vowels in his name.

Jason Varitek (0.3) – His career WAR is only 24 and his career offensive production, even without taking some air out for Fenway and the high offensive era, is in the mid-700s among the 2600 players who had at least 2000 career plate appearances. He was a terrific player, but it would be a hefty stretch to get him into the top 500 position players, let alone the top 300 or so where he would become a legitimate Hall of Fame contender.

I still think he might wind up being a fringe Hall of Fame candidate, because – well, Rick Ferrell. If Rick Ferrell is a Hall of Famer, Varitek’s name is going to come up in those fringy, “well, if this guy is in … “ sorts of arguments. Varitek did some cool things in the postseason; unlike most players with his metric profile, he does not score at 0.0 on the Test.

Not to beat it to death, but Varitek and Derek Lowe combined for just under 60 career WAR. Heathcliff Slocumb’s WAR in 1997, when the M’s traded for him, was -0.6. This … THIS is why we can’t have nice things.

Billy Wagner (0.4) – Wagner was, like Lee Smith and Trevor Hoffman, a consistent, effective one-inning closer for many years. He saved 422 games, and his career 2.31 era in just over 900 innings is a good bit more impressive than either Smith or Hoffman were able to put up. His career k rate is among the best ever.

A lot of people wonder why Wagner isn’t a stronger Hall of Fame candidate.

Wagner’s career postseason era is 10.03. That’s not a typo, and that’s an accurate reflection of how well Billy Wagner pitched in the postseason. He pitched in 1 division series, giving up 2 runs in 2 games, 1 inning (18.00 era). He pitched in one World Series, giving up 5 runs in 3 games, 2.2 innings (16.88 era). He pitched in six championship series, giving up 6 runs in 9 games, 8 innings (6.75 era).

You just thought, “Well, he wasn’t that bad in the championship series,” didn’t you? I did, while I was writing it. He was so bad in the other ones that a 6.75 era started looking good, didn’t it? Overall, he gave up 21 hits and 3 homeruns in 14 career postseason games, 11 1/3 innings. I’d have to check the box scores to see how many saves he blew, but he was the closer in six different postseasons without a single save. He did save three for the Mets in 2006 while giving up 6 runs in 6 games, 5 2/3 innings.

I’m a sucker for a big fastball, and I always liked Wagner. If he had pitched well in his big-game situations. I think he would be a strong Hall of Fame candidate.

But he didn’t. He melted under pressure like a wax candle in a microwave oven. He was more toothless than a meth-addicted hockey player. He blew up like a bottle rocket stuck in a lump of C4 and shot out of a cannon into a pile of gunpowder. He sucked worse than a redneck virgin with a gay brother.

He might get in anyway, but he’s probably going to have to wait for the old timers. He pulled just over 10 percent in his first time on the BBWAA ballot.

Larry Walker (1.4) – I think Walker is a legitimate Cooperstown candidate, but he’s below the C/D line and he ain’t going to get a reservation from the BBWAA. He’s going to have to wait in the bar. I doubt he’ll mind, though. He always struck me as a patient guy, a guy who wouldn’t mind spending some time wrapped around a drink, telling stories about the good old days when there were only two outs in an inning.

Bernie Williams (1.2) – Bernie would be below the D line had he played for anyone else but the Yankees, but he was a good ballplayer and one hell of a good first-wife centerfielder, a rarity in the modern game.

The Yankees slutted around with one second wife (Lofton in 2004) before stealing the Red Sox’ wife (Damon) to replace him. I have no idea how to metaphorically explain Melky Cabrera, but Damon was moved to make room (trophy wife? Or just a young bride who wouldn’t be so demanding?). Cabrera, after never being very good for the Yankees, moved to Kansas City and got a boob job while the Yankees went and got Detroit’s first wife.

While Bernie played his guitar.

Matt Williams (1.1) – He’s the meat in the middle of the Darrell Evans/Graig Nettles third base Hall of Fame candidate sandwich. If there was only one he would be a fairly obvious choice, but there are three of them. Which one do you pick?

Maybe they need to have one of those Highlander things, run around and chop off everyone’s head until there is only one. Or how about a reality show? The Hot Corner. Bring in all the borderline guys and vote them off the base until there is only one left, then toss that guy a plaque and make him give a speech.

Tim Wakefield (0.1) – This is how weak the incoming class of pitchers is. Wakefield is their best hope. He was tremendous in his 1992 rookie season, going 8-1 with a 2.15 era in 13 starts, 92 innings before completing and winning both his starts in the Pirates’ playoff loss to the Braves.

Wakefield wound up pitching 17 seasons with the Red Sox, mixing good years in with not so good years, ultimately winning 186 games and striking out over 2000 batters for them. He was awful in the playoffs after his initial success, going 3-7 with an era of 8 in 54 innings with the Red Sox.

Joe Niekro is the only knuckleballer on his full-career comps list, and only Charlie Hough landed on his age-44 comps list. I would have expected a few more on the age-44 list, given how few pitchers last to that age.

Javier Vazquez (0.1) – He was the guy with great stuff and better k/bb ratios who never seemed to get as much out of his talent as he should, or get as lucky as he deserved. In this narrow way he was the opposite of Mike Torrez, who always had terrible ratios and always seemed to get more out of his stuff than he really deserved.

Somehow they wound up in the same basic place: Torrez finished at 185-160, 4.07, Vazquez 165-160, 4.22. It was like two rabbits lit out from the briar patch in different directions, tore up completely different gardens, yet they wound up in the same fox’s stomach.

Dontrelle Willis (0.4)
– The .4 is all about the fame, ‘bout the fame, no numbers. Has anyone else noticed that he sits on the Fox Sports set like he used to stand on the mound, with his back to everyone? He never really turns his shoulders, either, to face who he’s talking to. He just turns his head and throws his words out like he’s curving them into his listener’s ears.

Rich Harden (0.0)
– I only listed him because it was a slow year for pitchers, and to mention that his career era+ through the age of 26 was 137. From 2005-2008 he was 25-9 in 348 innings, with 378 strikeouts and a 2.56 era (an era+ of 171). He was the pitcher version of Eric Davis, the “man, if he could only stay healthy for a full season” pitcher of the early 2000s. He never could, and he was done at 29 years old.


From the Tom Glavine comment –

Omar Vizquel was the only 21st century player with more career sacrifice bunts than Tom Glavine’s 216. Greg Maddux was 2nd to Glavine among pitchers, with 180.

From the Vladimir Guerrero comment –

Back-to-back seasons of 30 homeruns and 30 stolen bases: Bobby Bonds*, Alfonso Soriano**, Willie Mays, Barry Bonds***, Vladimir Guerrero and Ryan Braun.

*- missed 40-40 by a single homerun in 1973
**- Went back-to-back twice, in 2001-2002 and 2004-2005
***- Did it three years in a row, 1995-1997 (Bonds had a power/speed number of at least 30 in 9 consecutive seasons, 1990-1998)

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