Ken Burns Owes Ty Cobb’s Family a Redo

Ken Burns’ Baseball first premiered on PBS in the fall of 1994. For many, it marked their birth for the love of the game. The documentary, however, is not without flaws. Burns’ portrayal of some ballplayers angered historians. The worst was his portrayal of Ty Cobb, who he painted as a racist and self-centered ballplayer. In light of an insightful biography debunking many of the myths surrounding Cobb, Ken Burns owes it to Cobb’s legacy to revise the episode containing flawed information.

Released in 2015, Charles Leehrsen’s Ty Cobb: A Terrible Beauty was met with praise.Ken burns owes Allen Barra of The Boston Globe called it “a major reconsideration of a reputation unfairly maligned for decades.” What makes Leehrsen’s biography strong is its detail to accuracy and corrections. Baseball fans were abhorred by Cobb when they saw in Burns’ documentary. Burns’ documentary claimed that Cobb assaulted blacks, bullied his teammates, and abused his wife and children. These inaccurate claims stemmed from a biography released in 1994 called Cobb: A Biography. Its author, Al Stump, worked as Cobb’s ghost writer for his autobiography before Cobb’s death in 1961. Initially, Stump’s biography gave readers a look into Cobb’s turbulent life and quickly became a bestseller. Since Stump’s death in 1995, however, historians have discovered a number of issues with the book. Stump allegedly fabricated details to create interest and drive up sales.

Among the biggest inaccuracies is that Cobb opposed integration. In fact, he championed it. He said the Giants’ Willie Mays was the only ballplayer he’d pay money to see play. Additionally, Cobb likely didn’t sharpen his spikes to intimidate opposing players. These myths were born out of Ken Burns’ Baseball. However, it’s not fair to fault Burns. Like many baseball fans at the time, he trusted Stump’s biography and used it as a basis for the documentary. In fact, one baseball expert recently stated he would welcome the opportunity to explain himself. According to a Facebook message posted by Ty’s granddaughter, Cindy Cobb, writer Daniel Okrent, who initially commented on Cobb for the documentary, wrote that Leehrsen’s 2015 biography of Cobb “led me to re-assess my view of Cobb, and if Burns ever does an update, I’ll insist on the opportunity to say so!”

Ken Burns Owes It To Cobb’s Family To Set the Record Straight

In 2010, Ken Burns released “The Tenth Inning” as the next chapter in the series. After the Cubs won the 2016 World Series, Burns hinted he might add their historic win to the next chapter. If Burns were to create another chapter, it would be the perfect time to address the inaccuracies of “The Third Inning” that include the inaccurate details about Cobb. It is only fair to Cobb’s legacy and surviving family members.

Ken Burns owes it to Cobb’s family to revise his documentary to reflect newfound information.

PawSox Hall of Fame Class of 2017 Announced

Former Pawtucket Red Sox and Boston Red Sox players Carlton Fisk and Mo Vaughn, along with former PawSox and Red Sox manager Joe Morgan, have been selected asPawSox Hall of Fame 2017 PawSox Hall of Fame inductees.

The second-ever PawSox Hall of Fame class was once again chosen by a 15-person panel, which includes club executives, print and broadcast media members, long-time fans, and historians.

Ben Mondor, the late long-time PawSox owner, along with former Pawtucket Red Sox and Boston Red Sox legends Wade Boggs and Jim Rice, both National Baseball Hall of Fame players, comprised the inaugural 2016 PawSox Hall of Fame inductees.

Details on events surrounding this season’s PawSox Hall of Fame ceremonies will be announced early in the 2017 season.

“The PawSox Hall of Fame recognizes the most impactful figures in club history,” said PawSox Executive Vice President/General Manager Dan Rea.  “We are especially pleased that our fans have the opportunity to celebrate some of our franchise’s greatest names, and we look forward to another special event this season.”

Carlton Fisk played just one season with the Pawtucket Red Sox in 1970 when the club was the Double-A Eastern League affiliate of the Red Sox.  However, once Fisk arrived in Boston for his first full season in 1972 he earned American League Rookie of the Year honors and went on to play 24 seasons in the majors with the Red Sox (1969, 1971-80) and the White Sox (1981-93).  He retired with the most games caught (2,226) and most HR (351 of career 376) of any catcher in MLB history and he is one of only three catchers with more than 300 HR, 1,000 runs scored, and 1,000 RBI.

Fisk became the 13th catcher to be inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 2000 and was selected for the Red Sox Hall of Fame in 1997.  He was the all-time Red Sox leader in games caught (990), until that mark was broken by Jason Varitek in 2006. A 7-time All-Star for Boston (1972-74, 76-78, 80), he appeared in 11 All-Star Games overall including his last in 1991 with the White Sox at the age of 43.  His 12th-inning, game-winning home run in Game 6 of the 1975 World Series at Fenway Park is remembered as one of the most dramatic moments in baseball history.

Fisk, who will turn 70 this December, was born in Bellows Falls, Vermont and went to the University of New Hampshire on a basketball scholarship.  He committed to baseball after being selected in the 1st round of the 1967 draft by the Red Sox.

Mo Vaughn was a popular player for the PawSox for parts of three seasons (1990-92) and went on to a stellar 12-year Major League career with Boston (1991-98), Anaheim (1999-2000), and the New York Mets (2002-03).  He finished his big league career with a .293 average along with 328 HR & 1064 RBI in 1512 games.  Mo was a three-time American League All-Star with the Red Sox (1995, ’96 and ’98) and the American League MVP in 1995 when he hit .300 with 39 HR & 126 RBI.  The “Hit Dog” followed that up with a sensational 1996 campaign for Boston batting .326 with career-highs of 44 HR & 143 RBI.

Vaughn, who will turn 50 this December, was born in Norwalk, CT and starred at Seton Hall University.  He was chosen by the Red Sox in the 1st round of the 1989 draft and began his pro career with Double-A Portland that year.  He spent all of 1990, at the age of 22, with the PawSox posting a .295 average with 22 HR & 72 RBI in 108 games.  He would split the 1991 season between Pawtucket and Boston, returned briefly to Pawtucket in 1992 for 39 games, but then spent the rest of his career in the majors.

From 1996-98 with the Red Sox he hit .315 or higher and averaged 40 homers and 118 RBI.  After the ’98 season he signed a free agent contract with the Anaheim Angels where he hit 30-plus homers and knocked in over 100 runs in both 1999 & 2000.  He missed the entire 2001 season due to injury and was traded to the New York Mets that off-season.  A knee injury ended his career just 27 games into the 2003 season.

Since he left baseball, Vaughn has found a niche in business across a variety of platforms.  In 2004 he founded a real estate company (OMNI New York LLC) that, among other things, rehabilitates distressed housing in the New York City boroughs.  In 2010 he launched a trucking company called Mo Vaughn Transport in Ohio.  Mo most recently became the face of a big-and-tall clothing company called MVP Collections.

Joe Morgan is the dean of PawSox managers spending nine years as PawSox skipper from 1974-1982 while compiling a franchise-most 601 career managerial victories.  He is the only man to win the International League’s Most Valuable Player and Manager of the Year Awards.  His MVP came in 1964 with Jacksonville (the IL affiliate of the St. Louis Cardinals) and his Manager of the Year came with Pawtucket in 1977.

Morgan was an infielder with three different IL clubs…Charleston in 1961, Atlanta in 1962-63, and Jacksonville in 1964-65.  He managed three different IL affiliates as well with Columbus in 1970, Charleston in 1971 & ’73, and Pawtucket from 1974-82 posting 845 wins as an IL skipper.

Morgan, now 86, is a native and lifelong resident of Walpole, MA who attended Boston College where he played both hockey (an All-American while leading the Eagles in scoring his junior year) and baseball (elected team captain his junior year).  His first professional baseball contract came with the Boston Braves and the lefty hitting infielder/outfielder played parts of four seasons in the majors with five different clubs.

 

After his 9th and final season as PawSox skipper in 1982, Joe was a Red Sox scout (1983-84) and then a Red Sox coach (1985-88).  During the 1988 All-Star break, with Boston hovering around the .500 mark under John McNamara, Morgan was promoted to interim manager on July 14, 1988.  The Red Sox promptly won their first 12 games under Morgan (and their first 20 home games in a row) and rode “Morgan’s Magic” to the 1988 AL East pennant.  From 1988-1991 with Boston, “Walpole Joe” posted a 301-262 record along with two AL East Division titles (1988 & 1990).

Morgan was inducted into the Boston Red Sox Hall of Fame in 2006 and the International League Hall of Fame in 2008.

 

Schilling’s Numbers Are Not Hall of Fame Worthy

Curt Schilling is no stranger to controversy. In recent years, the former Red Sox ace has found trouble over the way he expresses his controversial beliefs. The debate has increased since becoming eligible for the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2013. Most Bostonians would vote for Schilling’s induction in a heart beat, but it’s not up to us. It’s up to the Baseball Writers Association of America and right now they’re not too fond of Schilling. I wouldn’t vote him in because Schilling’s numbers don’t warrant induction.

Much of the debate swirling around Schilling centers on his behavior. Many argue that hisSchilling's Numbers reputation for being hard to work with as well as his hardline political views are keeping him out of the Hall of Fame. That very well may be true. For me though, my opinion that he doesn’t deserve induction isn’t based on who he is or what he thinks. It’s the fact that his numbers, while strong, aren’t stellar enough to deserve induction.

Schilling has respectable numbers. He struck out over 3,000 batters, won more than 200 games, and played on three World Series-winning teams. Being a six-time All-Star, a World Series MVP, and winning 20 or more games in a season three times isn’t anything to forget about either. These numbers and accolades reflect an extraordinary career but fall short for many reasons.

First, there’s plenty of other pitchers that aren’t in the Hall of Fame who posted much stronger career stats than Schilling’s numbers. Luis Tiant, another former Boston ace, had more 20 game-winning seasons and retired with a lower ERA. Jim Kaat not only played in four different decades, but also racked up 283 wins and 16 Gold Glove Awards. Then there’s Tommy John, a four-time All-Star whose name is synonymous with career-saving surgery for pitchers. While none of these three men topped 3,000 strikeouts, or played a key role in winning a World Series, their contributions to baseball outweigh Schilling’s.

Going back to Schilling’s numbers, it’s his post-season stats that most people focus on as justification for induction. He won eleven games in the post-season, was named the 1993 NLCS MVP, and the 2001 World Series MVP. There’s also the bloody sock! Again, these stats are amazing, but no so much that they merit a place for him in Cooperstown. Additionally, Schilling isn’t the only one to accomplish such great feats (except for the bloody sock, that WAS an amazing). Jack Morris, who won four World Series titles, was the 1991 World Series MVP after throwing 10 innings in Game 7 to win it for the Minnesota Twins. By the way, Morris had much better numbers than Schilling and he’s not in the Hall of Fame either.

Schilling’s Numbers Don’t Warrant Induction

Schilling is a long ways away from crossing the necessary 75% threshold for induction. He received only 38.8% of the votes in 2013, and 39.2% last year. He might gain more votes if he decided to tone down his political views, but he’s entitled to say what he wants.  However, he can’t control the way others respond to him, including the Hall of Fame voters. If he had stronger numbers, voters might choose to shrug off his views and vote him in. But Schilling doesn’t have the numbers.

Playing Major League Baseball is for the exceptional. But induction into the National Baseball Hall of Fame is for the elite. Curt Schilling was no doubt an exceptional player.

But among the elite? No.

The Hall of Fame Case for Manny Ramirez

The latest Baseball Hall of Fame ballot was released on Monday, and it features Red Sox icon Manny Ramirez as a headliner. Few athletes have electrified Boston more than Ramirez, whose talent was outrageous, but failed drugs tests and off-field antics will likely keep him out of Cooperstown. Nevertheless, let’s take a closer look at his case.

Manny Ramirez

Manny Ramirez played in parts of 19 seasons, mainly with Cleveland, Boston and the Dodgers. His career slash line of .312/.411/.585 is otherworldly, and only seven men have outperformed his .996 OPS. Manny hit 555 home runs, more than Mickey Mantle, Jimmy Foxx or Ted Williams. He also drove in 1,831 runs, good for 18th all-time. In every way, Manny Ramirez was one of the greatest hitters ever to grasp a bat.

Manny Ramirez, Soul of the Red Sox

Perhaps more importantly, the charismatic outfielder helped bring two World Series championships to Boston, a city that yearned for just one. Along with David Ortiz, Manny defined a generation at Fenway Park, forming arguably the greatest three-four punch in modern baseball history. Ramirez made 12 All-Star teams; won nine Silver Slugger Awards; and was named MVP of the 2004 World Series. He was also the American League batting champion in 2002, and the home run king two seasons later. That illustrates just how dynamic he was at the plate.

In any other era, such numbers and achievements would have made Manny Ramirez a lock for the Hall of Fame. But his career overlapped a dark period for the National Pastime, which was blighted by performance-enhancing drug abuse. Ramirez failed three tests and served two suspensions in his career. The first came in May 2009, when Manny used a women’s fertility drug to aid his production. Though it came late in his career, one can only question the validity of so many numbers compiled through the years. That may be difficult for Ramirez to overcome.

The Long Road to Cooperstown

If superior players like Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens are kept outside the Hall of Fame due to steroid allegations, then Manny Ramirez has little hope. At first glance, the evidence against those players is far sketchier than it is against Ramirez. Bonds received just 44% of the vote last year, his fourth on the ballot, while Clemens got 45%. Players need 75% to join the Hall of Fame. It’s a rocky road for anybody tainted by PED innuendo.

Manny Ramirez has admitted his mistakes. He’s even displayed a willingness to help younger players avoid similar pitfalls. As an instructor with the Chicago Cubs, Ramirez has been praised by Theo Epstein, whose life he routinely made difficult with the Red Sox. While those steps deserve praise, history says they won’t affect Hall of Fame voting numbers. Mark McGwire has enjoyed a renaissance as a coach, but his Cooperstown support slumped to just 12% last year. There’s little hope he’ll ever be elected.

If you add in Manny’s often prickly attitude, an uphill struggle awaits. People don’t easily forget a star outfielder roughing up a travelling secretary, for instance, and these things matter in a voting context. My best guess is that Ramirez receives around 25% of votes this year. That’s obviously inadequate, but it’s also a poor base from which to build support in subsequent years, sadly.

To anyone who watched the Red Sox during their golden rise in the 2000s, the suggestion that Manny Ramirez wouldn’t one day have a plaque in the Hall of Fame seems absurd. He was one of the most dominant hitters of his era, of any era. But poor decisions along the way will likely curtail his ride to Cooperstown. And that’s a real shame for all involved.

Ortiz Leads Red Sox All-Star Team

As David Ortiz leads Red Sox All-Stars to San Diego next week, Red Sox Nation will cheer for an AL victory. Six Red Sox players have been chosen for the 2016 American League All-Star team at Petco Park in San Diego. This will be the first All-Star game for all but two of the chosen Red Sox players. Here are your 2016 Red Sox All-Stars (Player numbers are current as of July 8th).

David Ortiz will be playing in his tenth, and final, All-Star game this year as he closes in onOrtiz leads Red Sox finishing a historic season. Ortiz is leading the American League with 34 doubles and a .429 on base percentage. He’s also hitting .337 with a .677 slugging percentage. Despite pleas to reconsider, Ortiz insists that he’s retiring—stating that he can no longer tolerate the pain in his feet and ankles. Ortiz should be a shoe-in for induction in the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2021.

Craig Kimbrel has struggled in recent weeks, but has accumulated 17 saves this season. This will be his fifth All-Star game.

Kansas City’s manager Ned Yost chose Steven Wright for this year’s All-Star game, his first. However, Wright probably won’t be the starting pitcher. Wright has developed a nasty knuckleball that rotates slower than planet earth, deceiving batter after batter. He’s leading the league in complete games (3) and has a 10-5 record overall.

Mookie Betts finally made the All-Star team for the first time despite a spectacular 2015 season. Betts currently leads the American League in plate appearances (401), at-bats (374), and total bases (197). Betts has only made one error in 179 defensive chances too.

Jackie Bradley Jr. has revived what was once seen as a floundering career. After hitting .189, .198, and .249 over the last three seasons, respectively, Bradley Jr. is hitting .293 with 14 home runs. In 197 defenses, Bradley Jr. has made only one error. I wouldn’t be surprised if he gets the Gold Glove Award for this season’s defense.

After missing last year’s All-Star game by a narrow margin, Shortstop Xander Bogaerts will finally get his chance to show the rest of the league how good he is. Hitting .332 this season, Bogaerts has emerged as a Red Sox fan favorite. While not known for his power, Bogaerts is a clutch hitter who comes through when needed most.

The 87th All-Star Game will take place on July 12th, 2016 at 7:30 Pacific time. Boston will be smiling down on San Diego as David Ortiz leads Red Sox All-Stars on the field to take on the National League.

Boggs Was One of Boston’s Best

More than two decades after playing his last game for the Boston Red Sox, Wade Boggs had his number retired at Fenway Park last night. The ceremony felt long overdue, as Boggs was one of Boston’s best hitters in franchise history.

Boggs Was One of Boston’s Best…

Fans and media tend to overrate hitters who drive runs while underrating those who score themBoggs Was One of Boston's Best. He was destined to be under-appreciated, then, for Boggs was one of Boston’s best table-setters, an on-base machine who often put himself in scoring position via doubles (he clubbed 578 for his career). Batting in front of prolific RBI men such as Jim Rice and Dwight Evans, Boggs averaged 100 runs scored per 162 games and twice led the majors.

Everyone knew Boggs was a tremendous hitter, but few understood his true worth as a ballplayer. His gaudy OBPs and plus defense at the hot corner (which wasn’t recognized until later, when he won back-to-back Gold Gloves in his late 30s) made him incredibly valuable. Baseball-Reference defines an MVP-caliber season as one where a player accrues at least eight wins above replacement, which Boggs did every year from 1985 to 1989, yet never finished higher than fourth in MVP voting. Moneyball was still two decades away, and nobody had WAR to tell them he was the American League’s top position player in 1986, 1987, and 1988.

That might not have been the case had he played elsewhere, however. He was helped immensely by Fenway Park, whose Green Monster allowed him to wait back on pitches until the last possible second, at which point he would flick his wrists and stroke another double or single off the wall in left. Nobody did this better than Boggs, who holds the highest Fenway average of all-time at .369. He was most proficient at this before the EMC Club–then called the 600 Club—was erected in 1989, altering the wind currents within the park and making it much less favorable for hitters. It’s no coincidence that Boggs never won another batting title after 1988.

…And Baseball’s Best

Age and the 600 Club caused Boggs to tail off a bit in the early ’90s, but his final year in Boston—1992—was the worst of his career. He slumped to .259/.353/.358 as the Sox sunk to last place. His contract was up and Lou Gorman, Boston’s general manager at the time, let the 34-year-old walk, even though he was just one year removed from a .332/.421/.460 campaign worth 6.4 bWAR.

That proved to be a terrible mistake, as Boggs found a second wind with Boston’s arch-rivals, the New York Yankees. Boggs batted .313/.396/.407 in his five years in pinstripes, making four All-Star teams and helping the Bombers to a championship in 1996—10 years after his previous World Series bid ended in agony. Following his New York stint he returned home to finish out his playing days in Tampa Bay, where he ended his career on a high note by batting .301 and notching his 3,000th hit on his 118th, and final, home run.

Boggs retired in 1999 as one of the five best third basemen in baseball history. His .328 lifetime average is the second-highest of anyone who debuted after World War II, while his .415 OBP ranks fifth among players who have debuted since 1945 and appeared in at least 2,000 games. He was an eight-time Silver Slugger winner, a five-time batting champion, and an All-Star every year from 1985 to 1996. His most impressive accomplishment, however, was batting .401 over a 162-game span from June 9th, 1985 to June 6th, 1986.

Boggs was one of Boston’s best hitters—perhaps second only to Ted Williams—and top third baseman. It’s a good thing he was finally recognized for it.