First Basemen of the 2000’s

On the Astros website today there was a fairly intense “discussion” about Lance Berkman. His leadership was called into question, which I think is a fair proposition, but also brought into question was his offensive production. While his leadership skills may be a perfectly valid
t1_berkman.jpgdiscussion worth having another day the hitting issue struck a nerve with me. As an avid Big Puma and Astros fan, I’ve made it a point to keep up with the statistical trends and tendencies of my favorite players. For example, I was aware that his otherworldly start in 2008 was bound to slow down, just as I was aware of how uncharacteristic his start to the 2009 campaign was. I know that Lance tends to be an every other year kind of player too, which bodes well for 2010. I’ve been a Lance Berkman fan since the team drafted him in ’97. My father and I followed his rise through the minor league system and anticipated his debut in 1999. I appreciate his “matter-of-fact” demeanor and the way he handles himself off the field. Is he the fiery go-getter that Craig Biggio was for 20 years? No, because that’s just not his personality.Lance says what’s on his mind and he’s genuine. He’s not going to fill the sports section with tired,one-line cliche’s. When a beat writer gets a quote from Berkman, you know it’s what he’s actually thinking, and I persoanlly respect that. Is he going to sprint out of the dugout to take his position every time? Probably not, but he does give all of his effort when it counts. Ok, the point of this entry isn’t a personality profile but a statistical breakdown of the best first basemen of the 2000’s…so here goes!

  

ouch.jpgThe first thing I needed to do was establish the actual peer group. I needed to come up with a finite number of elite level first basemen with whom I can compare Berkman’s offensive numbers. I chose to go with 10. Compiling the actual players for the List of 10 was a little more daunting than I thought it should have been. How hard can it be to come up with the List of 10 elite level guys for that time period, right? Well, fairly difficult. As you will see, I bent the rules a tad. Obviously, there’s Brad Lidge’s good buddy (see left) Albert Pujols, but also some guys you might not have considered; like Todd Helton, Justin Morneau, and Carlos Delgado (before the arthritic hip). Remember, I’m compiling a list of the best 1B from the 2000’s, not just the last three years. 

 

{I guess now would be a good time to include my disclaimer, I don’t claim that this is the final list on this issue, by any means! Surely, I’m forgetting a player or two…or three!!! I welcome civil discourse on the matter, as I’m sure there’s plenty I’ve forgotten. Oh, and while I am a Big Puma fan, there is no bias in the collection of the numbers. You get the point, right?}

Where were we? Oh, the List of 10! Even though Ryan Howard and Prince Fielder have only played  from 2006-2009, I decided to include them in the List of 10. I ultimately thought it was necessary to include them both in the list because, while their early numbers are outlandish they are, more importantly, quite consistent. That being the case, they obviously belong among the top sluggers in the game and therefore my List of 10. So, the full 10: Lance Berkman, Carlos Delgado, Prince Fielder, Adrian Gonzalez, Todd Helton, Ryan
howard.jpgHoward, Derek Lee, Justin Morneau, Mark Texiera
, and of course Albert Pujols. Now that we’ve established our List of 10, we need to decide how worth should be decided. So, I devised a way to give each player was an average score. I picked 9 offensive categories that I feel are all integral to run production: Runs, HR, RBI, AVG, OBP, SLG, OPS, SO, & BB. I felt like by spreading it out that way, a HR guy (Howard) couldn’t run away with it, or an AVG guy (Helton) couldn’t sneak away with it, but the best all-around 1B would be “honored”. So, I took an average of each players place on each list. For examlpe, Pujols was 1st in R, AVG, OBP, SLG, OPS, SO, 2nd in HR & RBI, and 3rd in BB; so I took those placements and that averaged a 1.5 Score (which was the highest, by the way). Make sense?

 

Ok, so now that we’re all on the same page, the standings were as follows:

Pujols: 1.5, Berkman: 3, Helton: 3.4, Howard: 4.5, Texiera: 5.3, Fielder: 5.4, Delgado: 5.5, Gonzalez: 8.2, Morneau: 8.2, Lee: 8.4

 

St+Louis+Cardinals+v+Houston+Astros+1t-nUEEEXdbl.jpgSo, what have we learned? I learned that D. Lee had a couple great years and has ridden that hype since then. I also learned that Justin Morneau is a fringe-great player. I learned that A-Gone needs to get the heck out of SD! I learned that Ryan Howard is a beast…well, I knew that already but I didn’t know he whiffed quite that much. Also, if you’ve followed baseball since 2001, then you know Albert Pujols is probably the best player on the planet. Obviously, my little test proved that as well since he doubled the score of the next guy. Look, Pujols is on another planet but Lance Berkman belongs in the conversation when you are talking about Superstar firstbasemen in MLB. His 162 game average line is: .300/.413/.559 34 HR, 112 RBI, and 104 Runs. Those are some fantastic numbers, especially when you consider the fact that he’s been top 3 in MVP voting just twice. Maybe it’s by his own choosing, but Lance doesn’t get nearly enough attention for the work he’s done. In my opinion, he’s underapreciated even by his own hometown. Maybe I’m just being defensive of “my guy”, but again the numbers are there to support my argument…at least I think they are.

 Hey, I hope this was an interesting read, and please feel free to leave any comments you like. MLB doesn’t have a tracker, so I don’t know your here unless you tell me…

Thanks for stopping by.

 

pumas.jpg Here is the spreadsheet I used to compile the data:

 

Name Runs HR RBI AVG OBP SLG OPS SO BB Years
                     
L. Berkman 104 34 112 .300 .413 .559 .970 113 105 2000-2009
C. Delgado 99 38 120 .280 .383 .546 .929 139 88 1993-2009
P. Feilder 95 40 111 .283 .382 .553 .935 130 86 2006-2009
A. Gonzalez 93 32 98 .281 .362 .506 .869 127 75 2004-2009
T. Helton 109 29 107 .328 .427 .567 .994 79 101 1997-2009
R. Howard 102 49 142 .279 .376 .586 .961 194 90 2006-2009
D. Lee 91 28 90 .284 .369 .504 .873 133 74 1997-2009
J. Morneau 89 30 116 .280 .350 .501 .851 100 65 2003-2009
M. Texiera 102 37 122 .290 .378 .545 .923 123 80 2003-2009
A. Pujols 119 41 124 .334 .427 .628 1.055 63 90 2001-2009

 

 

Ed Wade…Love him, hate him, but you probably aren’t indifferent.


Ed Wade Astros.jpgSince taking over as the Astros GM in 2007, Ed Wade has elicited strong reactions from the baseball community. Whether from Phillies fans or Astros fans, you’ll be hard pressed to find someone without an opinion of the career baseball man. The Phillies fans will either love him because they understand he took them to the threshold of a dynasty, or they will despise him because they don’t know any better. Astros fans, however, are a bit short sighted…and I’ll try to explain why we (Astros fans) need to give the guy a chance.

 When Ed Wade took over as Phillies GM in 1998 he took a team in need of a makeover. Not only were they bad, but they were used to being that way. The Phillies had reached the World Series in 1983 and 1993 but had not experienced consecutive winning seasons since the 1982-1983 campaigns; which was the end of a particularly dominant stretch that saw them in the playoffs 6 out of 8 years. However, after the 1983 season the Phillies failed to finish with a winning record in all but 2 of the next 14 seasons (1986 & 1993). Needless to say Phillies fans were in need of a change, and ownership brought in Ed Wade.

If Wade was going to be the answer, it wasn’t going to happen overnight (sound familiar Astros fans?). The Phillies posted a disappointing 217-269 record in Wade’s first three seasons (.447). Phillies management didn’t panic, publicly anyway, because Wade was charged with rebuilding the team through the farm system, which takes time (sound familiar Astros fans?). Once some of the draft picks had a chance to get to the big leagues, the team’s fortunes turned. Over his final 5 seasons the Phillies finished 2nd four times and 3rd just once. Luck, however, was not on their side as they missed the playoffs by 2 games in 2001, 5 in 2003, and just 1 in 2005 (losing the WC to the Astros). Keep in mind; the Braves were still in the process of winning 14 of 15 (1991 – 2005) division titles during Wade’s tenure.

How was he able to turn the tables? The draft! Wade was able to transform this perennial loser into the NL powerhouse with a steady influx of young talent. Sure, he made his fair share of blockbuster trades and big-ticket free agent signings, but the crux of the Phillies resurgence has been the draft. Don’t believe me? Take a look at his draft record with the Phillies:

Pat Burrell (Top 5 ROY),

Jason Michaels,

Ryan Madson,

Nick Punto,

Geoff Geary,

Brett Myers,

Marlon Byrd (Top 5 ROY),

Kameron Loe,

Chase Utley (4 time All-Star & Silver Slugger),

Taylor Buckholz,

Gavin Floyd,

Ryan Howard (’05 ROY, 2 time All-Star, ’06 MVP, ’09 LCS MVP),

Cole Hamels (All-Star, ’08 LCS & WS MVP),

Michael Bourn (Gold Glove),

Kyle Kendrick (Top 5 ROY),

J.A. Happ (Top 5 ROY),

Lou Marson,

and let’s not forget the now famous Rule 5 pick up;

Shane Victorino (All-Star, 2 Time Gold Glove winner).

What does all this mean for erstwhile Astros fans? Is this the year the team will become “viable” again? The Astros have had two fairly deep draft classes in 2008 and 2009 (at least it appears that way so far). We all know about Jason Castro, but you may not have heard about the 3 “featured” starters in Lexington (Jordan Lyles, Ross Seaton, and Brad Dydalewicz). The starting 5 there had a phenomenal season, but these three combined had the following combined numbers: ERA: 3.48, WHIP: 1.26, K/BB: 2.6, K/9: 7.6 (with Lyles as the real standout). These are very encouraging numbers from some names to watch in Corpus during 2010!

Even though Ed Wade isn’t constantly on ESPN or MLB Network talking about the pursuit of a free agent, doesn’t mean the team isn’t getting better. He’ll have three first round picks in this year’s draft, and it will be quite interesting to see what they can do with those. Despite the high payroll, the team does have a budget Wade has to stick with. Unfortunately, his budget is largely consumed by 3 players. As a side note, Carlos Lee’s no trade clause expires for 12 months after this season, so it will be very interesting to see if they are able/ willing to part with a guaranteed 30 HR & 100 RBI in LF. The point: Wade was brought here to rebuild, not maintain. Sadly, the rebuilding necessary was quite significant and it’s still underway, but we’re getting there! There is hope and it’s there because of the plan Wade and Heck put into action.

 


ball.jpgWill he always make the right move? No, but neither will Brian Cashman or Billy Beane. You just have to hope he’s right more than he’s wrong, and so far (here in Houston) he has been. We also have to trust that he, Heck, and Uncle D have a plan for the ball club…because there’s always next year, right..?

 

Bagwell: The Case For or Against…

In the interest of full disclosure let me first say that Jeff Bagwell is my favorite player. I love what Lou Gehrig, Mickey Mantle, Hank Greenberg, Ty Cobb, have meant to the game but those great ballplayers weren’t “my guy”. He was the guy I grew up rooting for. I played 1B because Jeff Bagwell did. So, if my asessment is tilted, forgive me…but I don’t think it will be.

For some Astros fans, the worst day in franchise history could be any number of heart breaking events, as we’ve suffered through countless “tragedies”. The Zambrano “no-hitter” on a “neutral” field… Losing the ’05 World Series…or Walt Weiss’ gut-wrenching stab stab of Eusebio’s line drive in the playoffs…maybe letting Nolan Ryan go up I-45 to get 5,000 K’s and his 7th No-No… Those are quite painful memories, but for me, the worst moment in franchise history occurred in Spring Training 2006 when Jeff Bagwell announced his retirement, though that Zambrano thing still makes me pretty angry….
bagwell_3.jpgA sad and unforgetful day for me, as are the others, but that one takes the cake.It was pretty terrible to see “my guy” broken like that. We all saw how beaten down he was the previous October but I, for one, was hoping against hope that he was going to be able to come back. Hoping that he was going to be able to get those last 51 homers that would assure his spot in Cooperstown… Sadly, he wasn’t able to do that. Ever the optimist, I have standing plans to attend his HOF induction ceremony, and I’m still holding out hope that he and Biggio will get elected the same year…you know, so I could save some money on gas.

bagsandbiggio_medium.jpg
 On to that HOF acceptance speech… As I’m sure you readers know, throughout the 1990’s Bagwell was one of the most feared hitters in the NL. His trademark stance produced some of the most picturesque homeruns you’ll ever see! His high-arching moonshots were awe-inspiring to opponents and fans alike. He was the anchor to one of the more productive offensive teams in all of baseball for the better part of the deccade. Unfortunately, the Astros couldn’t get past the best pitching staff in the 90’s to get a crack at the World Series, but oh well…right?

Now, of course there’s a white elephant in the room; the steriod cloud that hangs over all “big” guys from that same timeframe. Guilty or innocent, implicated or not, each of these players will be judged individually when the BBWAA gets a crack at their HOF eligibility. Jeff was a beanpole when he came up in 1992, and at that time teams were just starting to really incorporate weightlifting into their training regimine.

imagesCA9RN2TS.jpgYes, steroids were involved in some clubhouses, and one of Jeff’s teammates (and personal friend), Ken Caminitti, was an admitted user. However, Ken said he didn’t start using until 1996, well after Bagwell was an established slugger in the NL. I say all of this to say that while there is a haze over the whole era, there isn’t anything specific over Bagwell. He’s stayed out of the crosshairs since retiring, and I sincerely hope it’s because there hasn’t been anything concrete tying him to this mess.

Now, to the meat of what I want to talk about…STATS! So, I wanted to see how “my” guy stacked up against other HOF first basemen… I need to see if I should book my room for 2010, 2011, or just play it by ear… So, here’s what I came up with…

The current 18 Hall of Fame 1B are:

Cap Anson 1871-1897, Jake Beckley 1888-1907, Jim Bottomley 1922-1937, Dan Brouthers 1879-1904, Orlando Cepeda 1958-1974, Frank Chance 1898-1914, Roger Connor 1880-1897, Jimmie Foxx 1925-1945, Lou Gehrig 1923-1939, Hank Greenberg 1930-1947, George Kelly 1915-1932, Harmon Killebrew 1954-1975, Willie McCovey 1959-1980, Johnny Mize 1936-1953, Eddie Murray 1977-1997, Tony Perez 1964-1986, George Sisler 1915-1930, and Bill Terry 1923-1936.

In this class there are 4 members of the 500 HR Club, one member of the 3000 Hit Club, 5 players with over 1500 Runs Scored & 1500 RBI, 5 with over 500 doubles, countless All-Star appearances, and surprisingly only 13 MVP awards.

Out of the 18 enshrined first sackers Baggy ranks as follows:

Avg: .297, T-12th, Just a note, if you remove his final season (.250), his overall average bumps up to just above .300.

OPS: .948, 5th, only Gehrig (1.080), Foxx (1.038), Greenberg (1.017), and Mize (.959) have higher a career OPS than Bags. Bagwell was 4th in OBP and 5th in SLG% as well (Mize had a lower OBP of .397).

Hits: 2,314, 10th, Finishing ahead of names like Greenberg, Killebrew, and McCovey. 

Home Runs: 449, 6th, Killebrew, Foxx, McCovey, Murray, and Gehrig all out-homered Jeff…but 6th out of 18 isn’t bad.

RBI: 1529, 9th, on this list but he ranks 45th all time!

Runs:  1,517, 8th, Jeff is one of 33 players to have 1500 RBI and 1500 Runs scored. All eligible members of this club are in the Hall of Fame.

Doubles: 488, 5th, Top 60 All-Time. 

Power-Speed #: 278.64, Bagwell ranks well above any other current HOF 1B @ #32 All-Time. The next closest is Orlando Cepeda at #75.

Bagwell appeared in 4 All-Star games, won the 1991 NL-ROY, and was the unanimous choice for NL MVP in 1994. The strike-shortened season saw Bagwell go .368/.451/.750, 39 HR, 116 RBI in just 110 games!

As far as MVP voting is concerned, I think we need to remember that a players greatness shouldn’t be measured solely by the awards he wins (or doesn’t). After all, the baseball gods; Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig, combined to win just three MVP trophies between them (2 for Lou). Remember a guy named Barry Bonds..? He was busy winning 5 MVP awards during Bagwells career. I’m just saying that there’s only one MVP/ league each year and there are multiple future HOF’ers playing at any given time.

Look, the man deserves to be in the Hall of Fame. Is my opinion slanted a bit towards him? Yes I am. Am I right though? Look at the numbers and decde for yourself… In all of the important offensive categories he ranks very competitively with the other HOF’ers. Nobody ever said he was the best of all time, just that he belonged with them…especially when you factor in the variables of him playing in the Astrodome, his excellent baserunning skills, his superb defense on Astroturf, his leadership in the clubhouse, and the respect he comanded throughout the league. I hope They get in together for the sake of symmetry, but I’ll be there to see them both whenever it happens.

jeff_bagwell_ab1.jpg

Is it cold in here? Nah, it’s just a Bad Draft. (Part 1: 1992-1996)

I got into an interesting discussion with a fellow Astro fan today about the MLB draft, as it pertains to our beloved Astros. I’m not quite sure how it came up, but the result of the initial e-mails got me thinking… I wanted to see how the Astros drafted over the last 10-15 years, and who they could have drafted. As most people are aware, the Astros minor league system is pretty bare at all levels. This lack of talent stems from a number of different places, when  you win a lot and sign free agents, your draft position tends to be a bit low. That being said, if you don’t pick good players, it doesn’t matter where you draft. Anyway, I wanted to see how we got to this point, because not too long ago, the Astro farm was regarded as pretty darn good. Those days are long gone.
Now, before I get started I’ll address a few things: I know that there are many factors to consider when drafting amateur players, for instance, 
  • Some clubs won’t draft High School players unless they’re super-special… 
  • Other teams don’t want guys that will command big signing bonuses and are deemed “un-signable” (see: below for 1992 draft)… 
  • Some teams, like Houston, don’t want to pay much at all to new draftees regardless of their caliber… 
  • Teams won’t take guys based on their representation (see: JD Drew/Scott Boras). 

So, I go into this assessment knowing that those issues are/were real factors in deciding to pass on some guys, while opting for others. So, I guess what I’m saying is; take these criticisms with a grain of salt.

(Due to the potential length of this discussion, I’ll break it down to a couple different blog entries…you are welcome) Also to be fair, I’m only pulling results from the first 10 rounds. At that point, a whole lot of teams passed those players…
1992-1996
1992
 The Houston Astros had the 1st overall pick. In order to provide a little perspective, here are a few past #1 picks (there are a couple names you’ll know): Darryl Strawberry, Ken Griffey Jr, Chipper Jones, A-Rod, Pat Burrell, Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Hamilton, Joe Mauer. More recently Justin Upton, Luke Hochevar, and David Price. 
Well, add Phil Nevin to that list, because that’s who the Astros took number 1. Now, let’s see who else the Astros could have had with that pick… Jeffrey Hammods, Preston Wilson, Shannon Stewart, Jason Kendall, Johnny DamonJon Lieber, Todd Helton, and Jason Giambi. Oh, Matt Williams was a 4th rounder that year too. All of those guys had better careers than Nevin did.
Wait, I saved this one for last, Derek Jeter. Yup, that’s right, “the Captain” Derek Jeter was on the board when the Astro brass decided to take Phil Nevin. Just to provide a little back story, the Astros were initially interested in taking Jeter, but there were concerns about him going to college if the signing bonus wasn’t $1,000,000. After the Astros decided to use their pick on Phil Nevin, scout Hal Newhouser, quit baseball. He said that if he couldn’t convince the Astros to take this special player, he couldn’t convince them to take anyone. Oh, the Astros did pay a good amount to Nevin too, $700,000 was his bonus. The Astros missed out of Derek Jeter over $300,000. Nevin, although an All-Star in 2001, was twice a “Player to be named later”… Thats not #1 overall material.
1993
It’s hard to fault them for taking Billy Wagner 12th overall. Other players taken after that and before the next pick:Derek Lee, Chris Carpenter, Jason Varitek, Scott Rolen, and Jeff Suppan. Their 2nd and 3rd round picks were sent to the Pirates and Reds as compensation for the signings of Doug Drabek and Greg Swindell (thanks Uncle D). Overall, 1993 wasn’t a very good draft class.
1994
The first pick came at #17, another at #25, and #30 (from Mark Portugal). Ramon Castro, Scott Elarton, and Russ Johnson were the first round selections. Other could-have-beens from a second straight weak draft class: Troy Glaus, Aaron Boone, AJ Pierzynski, Javier Vasquez, Geoff Blum, and Carl Pavano. again, not a very good class overall… In fairness, Elarton was considered a very good prospect up until he actually got in the big leagues. Castro has been a good catcher in MLB…just not with the Astros.
1995
The Mariners took local kid Jose Cruz Jr #3 overall, and 16 teams passed up Roy Halladay…oops. Back to the ‘Stros, the 22nd pick belonged to them. We took a RHP named Tony McNight (he had an illustrious career that lasted all of 122.1 IP). Notable misses; Jarrod Washburn, Carlos Beltran, Sean Casey, Randy Winn, Ryan Dempster, Bronson Arroyo, JJ Putz, Russ Ortiz, AJ Burnett, and Mike Lowell.
1996
Eric Milton, Jake Westbrook, and Gil Meche were taken immediately after the Astros pick (Mark J Johnson @ #19) in the first round. Others missed opportunities:  Jason Marquis, Milton Bradley (good miss), Jimmy Rollins, Jeff Farnsworth, Alex Cora, Nick Johnson, Joe Crede, Brad Penny, Casey Blake, Mark DeRosa, and Justin Duchscherer. 
Okay, thats all for now… This is getting a little long now, so I’ll cut it off here… Please check back so you can find out what all of this means.

It’s that time again…

It’s Spring again!!! 

Well, not really… Atmospherically speaking we’re still a few weeks away from that official proclamation. In fact, in some parts of the country there are still sheets of ice covering lakes and ponds, parks covered with winter snow, and there are even some regions where the daily temperature hovers around freezing. Fortunately, baseball doesn’t care! 
It’s that magical phrase that excites every baseball fan and makes grown men giddy like school children on Christmas morning, “Pitchers and Catchers Report”. In other words, “It’s on” baseball fans!!! How can you not love Spring Training? Carlos Lee, Manny Ramirez, et al. notwithstanding… (I know for us lazy schlubs at home, we don’t have to do any of the actual “training” ourselves, so it’s easy to love it). It means that real live baseball is just around the corner. Summer is just around the corner (and for me that means my Cozumel vacation, but I digress). Lazy days with a cold drink and the radio, listening to a game (well maybe a laptop watching a game these days…but you get the point). 
No matter if you are in Kansas City, Pittsburgh, Atlanta, New York, Houston or Kalamazoo wherever; you are a World Series contender. Last year who could have predicted the Rays were going to play in the World Series? How about ’07, who knew the Rockies would have gone on a ridiculous tear to get into the World Series? Cardinals in ’06, Marlins in ’03… I think you get the point, anything can, and usually does, happen. Just because one team is better on paper does not mean they’re awarded the World Series trophy (that means you too Yankee fans). Injuries happen, trades happen, slumps, and career years all happen, and that’s what Spring represents! The hope that your team will be that team; the one that figures out the magical formula for winning that year. That maybe your guy will be that guy to have a career year. Your pitcher will be the next Cliff Lee, your last chance OF will be the next Josh Hamilton, or your no name draftee will be the next Roy Oswalt. 
Spring is beautiful because everything is new. It all has the promise to be better… Now, will it always be better? No, but there’s always that chance that it will…and that’s the hope that Spring provides. You gotta love it! The time for talking about it is over, now it’s time to do it! Play Ball!!!

The Best Second(Baseman) Ever…

Hello again!

Well, in case you missed it, Jeff Kent announced his retirement Wednesday and somewhere Barry Bonds shed a single tear. As his illustrious baseball career comes to a close, his car washing (motorcycle riding) career can begin anew! Anyway, all joking aside, the debate about his historical significance can now begin. Where does Kent rank all-time among other second baseman? Well, I’m glad you ask! Much to the chagrin of my wife, I spent a good portion of tonight crunching the statistics of HOF second basemen as well as a couple “no-doubt” guys, Biggio and Alomar. Now, before looking at the stats, and having been raised in the era of the home run (I’m 28), I have been conditioned to believe that anyone that played prior to 1989 is going to have inferior offensive stats to those that didn’t…provided their name wasn’t Williams, Ruth, Mantle, Cobb, etc… We all seem to have been conditioned that way, because when I was looking over some comments on the MLB message board, it seems that a large number of commentors made the same assumption. Well, we are all wrong.
There are currently 24 2B in the Hall of Fame. Some from the “Dead Ball” Era, some from what is considered the modern era, and one named Bill Mazeroski that just doesn’t belong (but thats another blog entry). For the sake of our discussion, I have included 3 more “HOF” names: Roberto Alomar, Craig Biggio, and Jeff Kent. Here is where Kent ranks:
Runs: 14th (Biggio #1)
Hits: 14th (Molitor #1, Biggio #5)
Doubles: 6th (Biggio #1, actual HOF’er is Nap Lajoie)
HR: #1 (With a comfortable lead over Hornsby and Biggio at #3)
RBI: #3 (Nap 1, Hornsby 2)
BB: #15 (Joe Morgan walked a LOT! Biggio #5)
SO: #2 (Biggio #1 wasn’t so good with the slider low and away)
B.Avg: #14 again… (Hornsby hit .358)
Slugging: #2 No surprise.
As an Astro fan, I am compelled by emotion, as well as statistics, to place Mr. Biggio at the head of the “overall’ class. However, guys named Rogers Hornsby and Nap Lajoie have a pretty strong case as well.
It looks like this has turned from a Kent retrospective to a Biggio love-fest, but I’m an Astro fan…what did you expect? Especially when the numbers back me up? I don’t want to diminish Kent’s career, but it just surprised me a bit to see that his cumulative numbers weren’t higher than they are. It just seems that we always hear about how we are living during the greatest offensive period in baseball history, but maybe it actually illustrates how great players like Hornsby, Lajoie, and Collins were. 
Regardless of how great Hornsby, Lajoie, and Collins were there is no doubt Kent should be enshrined, especially if Sandberg made it in as easily as he did… Notice you didn’t see Ryne-o anywhere on my breakdown there (man, I hate the Cubs…). So, we’ll see you in a few years Mr. Kent, you deserve it. Let us not forget, he hit what may be the biggest home run in Astro history! The walk-off job in game 6 of the 2004 NLCS against the Cardinals… It was epic! Thanks for the memories and the workmanlike attitude you brought to the park here in H-Town.
Thanks for stopping by, and tell your friends!

My First Blog Entry…

Hello, I’m Mike. I’m an Astro fan living near Houston and I’m not quite sure why I’m doing this…but I’m doing it anyway.

The major hot-button issue going on right now is the recent Hall of Fame balloting. Should Jim Rice have gotten in? Should Bert Blyleven gotten in this time or will he get in next year? Why in God’s name did Jesse Orosco get a vote? Why didn’t Rickey Henderson get 100% of the vote? These are all compelling issues, but I wont discuss them tonight.

As I was reading the message boards on the Henderson/ Rice elections, I saw where someone was taking this opportunity to take a swipe at Mark McGwire. Something to the effect of how he’s a proven cheater and this person couldn’t understand why any BBWAA member could ever vote for this guy, etc… Note: as I said before, I am an Astro fan through and through, so I have a very healthy hate in my heart for any and all things St. Louis and Chicago Cubs, so you know that what I am about to say is meaningful. As I read this comment I got a little testy. Why? Because in this “what have you done for me lately” society we seem to have forgotten what Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa did for baseball in the summer of 1998. We have forgotten that in the preceeding summers post-strike; attendence was dreadful and showing no signs of improvement. Interest in our National Pastime was waining and people were tuning out at an alarming rate. Baseball wasn’t on life support yet, but it sure was a slow and painful death.

Then came 1998, McGwire, Sosa, and the ghosts of Roger Maris and the Babe (Ken Burns eat your heart out!). It transformed a mundane and regular summer into a spectacular thrill ride that lasted four fantastic months. At the risk of sounding like Bob Costas, it was truly magical. ESPN assigned reporters to both sluggers and we got the live look-in every time they played. Here in Houston you couldn’t go anywhere without bumping into somebody without talking about chase; even here in the city of a rival (primarily because Sosa feasted off of Jose Lima that year)! Tape measure shot after glorious tape-measure shot we all stared in amazement that mere men could literally captivate a once jaded nation. We laughed at the Glavine/ Maddux “Chicks dig the Longball” commercials and after that season, and a heartbreaking playoff loss for my Astros…thanks to Walt Weiss, baseball was back!

Then came Canseco’s book (I know there was the report of Andro during the chase which was quickly dealt with in ’98 by MLB) and the “Steriod Era” was officially under way. Do I think McGwire and Sosa used performance enhancing drugs during that year? It’s highly probable. However, we still live in a country that provides you the right of being innocent until proven otherwise. Yes, both of them made fools of themselves in that waste of taxpayer dollars on Capitol Hill a few years ago (maybe instead of playing around with baseball players our elected officials should have been talking to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac) but there has been no official verdict on either of them. McGwire admitted to using Andro…whoopty doo. It was legal in his sport at the time he used it. Regardless of what the Olympics, the NFL, NHL, or Nascar say about their individual sports.

Just because MLB was afraid of the players union and didn’t tackle drug issues shouldn’t be Mark McGwire’s burden to bear, and ultimately I don’t think it will. What they allegedly did may have been borderline unethical, but it wasn’t actually illegal at the time. Honestly, I was surprised he garnered as much support as he did this time. Hopefully as time passes, more writers will remember his performance on the field more than they do his ridiculous performance on Capitol Hill. He deserves to be in the Hall of Fame…

I hope this was at least a little enjoyable for anyone that reads it… I’m normally funnier, so come back later and I’ll make you laugh…hopefully.

Go Astros 3rd place for sure!