The Newest Hall of Famers Were Inducted into Cooperstown

Since 1936, baseball greats have been elected into the National Baseball Hall of Fame. That was no different on Sunday, as six legends turned Hall of Famers were inducted into Cooperstown. From the legendary Mariano Rivera, to the late Roy Halladay, Sunday was a day to celebrate these men and their accomplishments as Major Leaguers.

Their accomplishments on the field, and off the field is what makes them role models. Tohall of famers see players like Harold Baines, Lee Smith and Edgar Martinez get their special moment is truly remarkable, and a long time coming.

For Mike Mussina, who pitched for two American League East teams, it was definitely a special day for him, as those who doubted his ability to be enshrined in Cooperstown got to see him take the stage.

For the Halladay family, the Blue Jays and Phillies organizations and their fans, it was a day to remember a man who was a force on the mound. Roy Halladay will forever be remembered as a pitched no batter wanted to face.

Last, but not least, Mariano Rivera. The MLB saves leader was finally enshrined in Cooperstown, just north of the ballpark he called home. When Mo was warming up in the bullpen, the game was basically over.

The Class of 2019

This class consisted of six total players: four pitchers, and two batters. When it comes to Hall of Fame inductions, there is criticism when it comes to who does, and who doesn’t, get elected. This class, however, has a mix of some pretty amazing former players.

The Pitchers

Mariano Rivera – The lifelong New York Yankee made history in January, as he is the first and only player to be elected unanimously into the Hall of Fame. The Panamanian won five World Series rings with the Yankees, and is MLB’s all time saves leader, with 652. The 13 time All Star has a lifetime ERA of 2.21. The man known as Mo is a true Hall of Famer. Mariano Rivera went into the Hall with the Yankees logo on his hat.

Roy Halladay – The late and great starting pitcher was elected into the Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility. The former Blue Jay and Phillies pitcher was a force on the mound, winning two Cy Young Awards and pitching a no-hitter in the postseason for Philadelphia. The eight-time All Star had a career record of 203-105, and a ERA of 3.38. Doc, as he was known, has his number 32 retired by the Blue Jays. He is also in the Phillies, and Blue Jays, Hall of Fame. Additionally, Roy Halladay’s hat doesn’t have a logo on it, as he played for two teams in his career.

Mike Mussina – In his 6th year of eligibility, the former Baltimore Oriole and New York Yankee made it into the Hall of Fame. Mussina, a seven-time Gold Glove winner, finished his career with a record of 270-153, with an ERA of 3.68. He also was selected as an American League All Star five times, and is a member of the Orioles Hall of Fame. “Moose,” as he was known to fans, had eight seasons where he won 17 games or more. In his final season with the Yankees, he won 20 games. Like Halladay, Mussina does not have a logo on his hat.

Edgar Martinez Gets His Day in Cooperstown

After a very long wait, Edgar Martinez was finally inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame. The former Seattle Mariner was elected into the Hall of Fame in his tenth year of eligibility. The third baseman and designated hitter spent his whole career with the Seattle Mariners, and has his number 11 retired by the team.

Martinez was selected for seven All Star games in his career, and won five Silver Slugger Awards as well. In 2004, Martinez also won the Roberto Clemente Award. He has a lifetime batting average of .312, with 309 home runs and 2,247 hits. The Seattle Mariners Hall of Famer was finally honored in Cooperstown this past Sunday, to the delight of Mariners fans. His plaque has the Seattle Mariners logo on it.

The Honorable Mentions

Below are two great players who were elected into the Hall of Fame on the Today’s Game Committee ballot. These Hall of Famers were also honored on Sunday along with Rivera, Halladay, Martinez and Mussina.

Harold Baines – The former outfielder played from 1980-2001. The six-time All Star has a career batting average of .289 with 2,866 hits, 384 home runs and 1,628 RBI’s. In his 22 year career, he played in 2,830 games, most notably as a member of the Chicago White Sox. As a coach for the White Sox, Baines received a World Series ring in 2005. He also won the Silver Slugger Award in 1989, has his number 3 retired by the White Sox, and is in the Baltimore Orioles Hall of Fame. Harold Baines went into the Hall of Fame with the White Sox logo, as he played for the White Sox for 14 seasons, split over multiple seasons.

Lee Smith – The former Major Leaguer pitcher played from 1980-1997 and was a member of the Red Sox from 1988-1990. Smith pitched in 1,022 games, had 478 saves, with a 3.03 lifetime ERA. He was a seven-time All Star, three-time Relief Man of the Year, and was the saves leader four times in his career. Lee Smith went into the Hall of Fame with the Chicago Cubs logo, which is fitting since he pitched for the Cubs from 1980-1987.

Future Hall of Famers

In January 2020, another group of legends will be elected into the Hall of Fame. A year from now, they will forever be enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame. There will be many first timers on the ballot in 2020. Some of the most notable names are Josh Beckett, Derek Jeter, and Paul Konerko.

Of course, there will be a lot of returning names to the ballot. The most notable names are Curt Schilling, Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds, Manny Ramirez and Larry Walker. Now, if I had to choose between these guys, I’m going with Schilling and Walker. Schilling was amazing in the postseason. He was the co-MVP of the World Series as a member of the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2001. He also has a lifetime ERA of 3.46, with a 216-146 record. Walker, despite spending the majority of his career in Colorado, truly deserves the honor. He has a lifetime batting average of .313, with 383 home runs.

2019 MLB Top Five Catchers

Baseball’s catcher is arguably the most important position while playing the field. Also called “backstop,” catchers are similar to football’s quarterback, by which they are leaders and call the plays. They also suffer more literal welts than any other position, from regular foul tips to the rare bat to the head. The top five catchers in Major League Baseball are threats to the opposing teams both offensively and defensively.

There are just 18 catchers in baseball history that have been elected to the Hall of Fame.top five catchers
Just two of those 18 have played in this millennium: Mike Piazza and Ivan Rodriguez. Kansas City Royals catcher Salvador Perez has started the last five All-Star games for the American League. He is extremely durable. Since taking over as the Royals primary backstop in 2013, he has been healthy enough to play in no less than 129 games. Unfortunately, a UCL injury will sideline Perez this season. He will not make this list.

Top Five Catchers – 5 – Wilson Ramos (New York Mets) & Yasmani Grandal (Milwaukee Brewers)

Ramos began 2018 as Tampa Bay’s starting backstop. He was named as the American League starting catcher in the All-Star Game, only to miss the game with a hamstring injury. Later that month, the Phillies acquired him at the trade deadline. In 33 games with Philadelphia, Ramos went on a mammoth tear, posting a .396 on-base percentage and a .879 OPS. He is clearly one of the best hitting catchers in the game and will now be calling the signals behind home plate in Queens, New York.

Grandal is a consistent premier starting catcher. He differs from Ramos in that he is more durable and a better defender behind the plate. He has at least 426 plate appearances since being becoming a primary catcher in 2014. Grandal has upped his game in the past two seasons at the plate, eclipsing 100-hit, 50 runs and 20-double-plateaus. In the past three seasons, no other catcher has more home runs than Grandal and only Yadier Molina has more RBIs.

4 – Buster Posey (San Francisco Giants)

Before last year, Posey had started three straight All-Star Games for the National League. Posey is a former MVP, three-time World Series champion, and six-time All-Star. With that said, however, he posted his worst slash line as a pro in 2018, with career lows in nearly all major categories. Albeit, he was still named an All-Star. Posey sneaks into the 2019 edition of Top Five Catchers, but another down season could see him ousted by season’s end.

3 – Willson Contreras (Chicago Cubs)

The 26-year-old was a starter for the National League in his first All-Star Game last season. A native of Venezuela, Contreras was signed by Chicago as an international free agent in 2009. He did not blossom quickly, spending seven years in the Cubs farm system. He quickly heated up in the 2015 season for Double-A Tennessee, improving his OPS to .891 from .679 in 2014. Contreras was promoted to Triple-A to begin 2016 and posted a 1.035, which included 43 RBI in 55 games. In June of that year, he was called-up by the Cubs and took over the starting role to begin 2017. In two full seasons, he has hit 31 home runs and knocked in 128 RBI. Contreras is the least established as of the Top Five Catchers, but is viewed as one of Chicago’s most valuable assets and could position himself higher on this list by 2020.

2- Yadier Molina (St. Louis Cardinals)

Molina was the only unanimous lock of the Top Five Catchers. He has been an All-Star in 9 of the past 10 seasons and has won a Gold Glove in 9 of the past 11 years, including one in 2018. He is also a two-time World Series champion. Most impressive is Molina’s durability, playing in at least 110 games in every season during his 14-year career. At age-36, he is on his way towards being elected as the 19th catcher in Cooperstown.

1 – J.T. Realmuto (Philadelphia Phillies)

Realmuto was arguably baseball’s best catcher last season with the Marlins. He was named to his first All-Star Game and led all backstops in hits, runs, doubles, batting average, OPS, and WAR. He was traded to Philadelphia in early February for top pitching prospect Sixto Sanchez, Jorge Alfaro, a once touted catching prospect, another pitching prospect and international pool money. Realmuto’s HR, RBI, and OPS numbers have gone up in each of his four seasons. He is destined to continue that trend in 2019 with help from the best supporting cast he has been partnered with as a pro.

Which Active Red Sox Player Has the Best Chance at Cooperstown?

Cooperstown, New York remains as baseball’s hallowed grounds. It is there whereCooperstown past legends are forever remembered within the National Baseball Hall of Fame. This year, the Boston Red Sox are off to a historic start. Their roster is filled with many talented players. But which of those players has the best chance at going to Cooperstown and joining these hallowed few?

 

 

Craig Kimbrel

Earlier this month, Kimbrel became the youngest closer ever to reach 300 saves. He was also the NL leader in saves from 2011-2014 before joining the Red Sox in 2016. Throughout his entire career as a closer, he has recorded at least 30 saves in each season. In 2011, he was the NL Rookie of the Year and is a six-time all-star, including last season in which he had a 1.43 ERA and a 0.68 WHIP. The only active closers with more saves are Huston Street, Fernando Rodney, and Francisco Rodriguez, all of which are significantly older than Kimbrel. When all is said and done, I believe Craig Kimbrel will join Mariano Rivera, Trevor Hoffman, and Dennis Eckersley as the best to ever close.

Mookie Betts

Of any player on the Red Sox in the last decade, Betts has the highest ceiling. The combination of his power, speed, and defensive prowess have put him in the upper echelon of players in today’s game as well as team history. This season he is currently tied for first in home runs, second in average, second in doubles, first in slugging, and first in OPS league-wide. At age 25, Betts likely still has at least ten years of highly-productive seasons left. At the end of his career, Betts will have a good shot at making it to the Hall.

Chris Sale

Few left-handed pitchers have been as dominant in their early careers as Chris Sale.  Among active pitchers, he trails only Clayton Kershaw in career ERA, opponent average, and WHIP. That being said, Kershaw has 29 more career starts than Sale and is slightly older. His win-loss record is 95-59, which is lower than his contemporaries, however he was a part of some poor Chicago White Sox teams. While not even 30, I believe Sale still has the ability for 3-5 more dominant years and 7-9 more strong seasons. To make his way to Cooperstown, he’ll need to avoid serious injury and stay on competitive teams.

Dustin Pedroia

Of any Red Sox, Pedroia is the most intriguing to talk about in terms of Hall of Fame prospects. There is no question that he has remained the heart and soul of this franchise throughout his career, no matter the circumstance. However, he has begun to show signs of physical wearing down via frequent injuries, especially in the second half of his career. That being said, he has never batted lower than .278 in a season and has never committed more than six errors in a season. He is a 4-time Gold Glove winner, 4-time All-Star, a 2008 MVP, and the only Red Sox player other than Kimbrel to win Rookie of the Year. He will forever be remembered as the catalyst for the team in this era.

Cooperstown Breakdown

So who has the best chance of these four? The easy answer is that it depends. I think the best way of looking at Hall of Fame prospects is three-pronged. The first is did they win during their careers; was their impact big enough to yield pennants and championships. Between the four, only Pedroia has a World Series ring. However, all four have been a part of winning teams, even though they’re all in different parts of their careers.

The second, and most obvious, is their career numbers and stats. Frankly, I would not have written this article if it weren’t apparent that these guys had the accolades to be in the conversation.

That leads me to the last and most intriguing factor: their era and its comparables. In other words, what was the climate of baseball at their respective position in terms of character, performance, and competition? For Sale, he’s had Kershaw and Madison Baumgarner, as well as Justin Verlander. For Kimbrel, he entered the league as Rivera and Hoffman were leaving. Betts will always have the Mike Trout and Bryce Harper comparison on his back. Pedroia’s main counterpart throughout his career was Ian Kinsler, but Kinsler never really won anything. His other main comparison was always Robbie Cano, but Cano’s latest PED scandal will likely dampen his reputation a bit.

Given all these variables, I believe that Kimbrel has the best chance because there are few closers in his era to compare him to besides Aroldis Chapman, who has character problems of his own. If Betts and Sale can continue dominating and avoid the pitfalls of free agency, they could make it there too. Should Pedroia finish strong like I expect, he’ll always have my support too.

Show me your thoughts!

I ran a Twitter with a similar question last week, and this is what I gathered. Feel free to tweet with your thoughts or leave comments below. 

Your Guide to Baseball Hall of Fame Weekend in Cooperstown

The Baseball Hall of Fame will induct five new members on Sunday, July 30th, 2017 in Cooperstown, New York. The festivities are set to begin on July 28th and run through the 31st. Like the All-Star game and the World Series, Hall of Fame Induction Weekend is something every baseball fan looks forward to each year. Here are a few things to keep in mind if you are planning on attending the festivities.

Finding Parking Is Tough

Parking is going to be tough. Cooperstown has a population of about 2,500 people. LastBaseball Hall year about 45-50,000 people came to see Mike Piazza and Ken Griffey Jr. get inducted. You do the math. So if you are planning on coming it’s best to get into town early enough to find a spot. By early I mean 6am if you want to get a good spot. The later you are the farther you’ll have to walk from where you parked. We’re talking miles.

Finding A Hotel Is Even Tougher

Hotel and accommodations. If you didn’t book a reservation the week after last year’s induction weekend ended then you’re not going to find anything close to town. I booked a room seven miles outside of town the week after last year. Two months later they cancelled on me. By that time I had to look elsewhere and the best I could find was something 45 minutes away. That was in August. That’s how fast it fills up.

But Baseball Hall of Fame Weekend Is Worth It!

If you venture to Cooperstown for the weekend you won’t regret it. Every year there’s about three dozen or so Hall of Famers who do autograph shows throughout town. Prices vary but they’re not too expensive, depending on who you want. Dennis Eckersley, Pete Rose, and Goose Gossage will run you about $40-60 for a signed ball. Others like Greg Maddux and Randy Johnson demand up to $300 for a single autograph. If you Google “autograph signings Cooperstown 2017” you’ll find a list of companies sponsoring these signings. They list their prices and sell tickets in advance. I’ve already purchased about eight so I won’t have to stand in line as long. I suggest you do the same.

Non-Baseball Hall of Famers Are The Highlight

Last year as I walked down Main Street I met former Negro Leaguers, old ladies who played in the All-American Girls Professional League in the 1940s, and former MLBers who didn’t quite have the numbers to get inducted. THESE people are the ones you want to stop and talk to. In addition to charging very little (if at all) for their autograph (maybe $10 at the most), they tell the best stories. The original Frank Thomas, who played for the Mets in their first year in 1962, loves chatting with fans. Pedro Sierra, who played in the Negro Leagues in the early 1950s, signed a ball for me in the most beautiful handwriting I’ve ever seen on a baseball. George Foster, the NL MVP in 1977, has a great sense of humor. These are the people you want to seek out and talk to. They’ll chat with you all day!

In addition to the Baseball Hall of Fame itself, check out the many stores open all weekend. You’ll see a lot of junk but you’ll also see a lot of neat things. Yastrzemski Sports in the center of town has a treasure trove of baseball cards old and new. Across the street is Mickey’s, another great spot if you need a good baseball cap. And don’t forget the great places to eat up and down Main Street.

See you there! (Don’t forget sunscreen!)

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.