MLB Favorites – My Lifetime

In a recent email thread with my two closest baseball guru friends, we sent missives back-and-forth noting our favorite baseball players in recent memory. More specifically, in our lifetimes – for this project, that spans the 80′s, 90′s, oughts and 10′s. I’m curious to see your favorites – here are MY players. Not the best, just my dogs by position:

Catcher: Mike Piazza. Never seen a catcher hit like that. Period. I hate to admit it, but Buster Posey COULD be on this list except for his extremely dry personality. Excellent player though. Ironically used to love Jason Kendall until he became the literal singles-est hitting player in baseball. Charles Johnson was a ton of fun but his zero bat grated on me when he was a Dodger. Great arm though. Also Benito Santiago was fun, both with the arm and late career at-bat.
Piazza
First Base: Don Mattingly. Gamer. Mustache that wasn’t wack. Awesome baseball cards. Looked great in a uniform. Sweet swing. Manager of my favorite team. Sold. Frank Thomas was just dope. Great, intimidating hitter. I liked Jeff Bagwell at the time, but less and less historically. Go figure. Fred McGriff was lean, dope follow-through, unassuming and just awesome. How do you not love watching Mark McGwire hit dingers, especially that 500+ blast off Randy of all people. Jesus. Mo VaughnCecil Fielder. Prince Fielder is on here too because he shows up every day, loves the game and hits boomers.
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Second Base: Craig Biggio, Roberto Alomar, Carlos Baerga, Jeff Kent.
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Third Base: there are sooooooo many ‘pretty good’ guys at this position; Wade Boggs, Matt Williams, Travis Fryman, Ken Caminiti, obviously Chipper Jones is a hall of famer, Jeff Cirillo nobody really excited here. Even UCLA-alum Troy Glaus was a masher but eh. Adrian Beltre is probably the only one that makes a list of ‘favorites.’
10_Adrian-Beltre
Shortstop: you’d think this position would be fun. A-Rod pretty much ruined that. And Tejada. And even Nomar. But Derek Jeter is amazing and carries it himself; Barry Larkin is on here for his play but not his persona. Cal Ripken obviously belongs BUT he was fairly boring, sorry Cal. Ozzie Smith and Omar Vizquel were fun, but I’m not a defense-first kind of guy, especially in the era in which we grew up. Rafael Furcal was a LOAD of fun for me, so he’s probably #2 behind Jeter, and Hanley Ramirez is fast approaching. Another 30 bombs – and a title? – this year and he leapfrogs Derek.
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Outfield: Kirby Puckett in center, Barry Bonds in left, Rickey Henderson in right is my dream outfield. Probably my top three favorite players of my lifetime (?) as well. It’s really hard to leave Ken Griffey Jr. out of my starting lineup but otherwise I’d use Rickey as DH and bat him leadoff, move Kirby over to his late-career RF and we’d have the best/most exciting team I could dream of. Otherwise, Tony Gwynn is on the club. Bo JacksonManny Ramirez was SO exciting and dominant for a period that he’s my big bat. Vladimir Guerrero is on the team, really fun to watch in all facets. Ichiro Suzuki was so poetic/artistic at the bat (and arm!!!!), he’s in. Tim Raines makes the club for sure as well. Darryl Strawberry pre-coke, Eric Davis without a doubt (30/80 club!!!!) I also believe Bryce Harper and Mike Trout are good enough to warrant what may fairly be labeled ‘premature’ inclusion here.
PUCKETT BONDSrickeysteal
Starting Pitchers: Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, Greg Maddux are guys I’d pay to watch pitch from now through eternity. In fact, I don’t think you can beat my club with those guys throwing every three days in my three man rotation (!!!!). Seriously though I have to include Nolan Ryan, Clayton Kershaw, Fernando, Hershiser, Kevin Brown, David Cone (who I like more post-retirement), David Wells (!!!), Felix Hernandez, Tim Lincecum, Barry Zito and pre-coke Doc Gooden. I really enjoy watching Adam Wainwright pitch but he kills the Dodgers so I’ll wait to include him formally, and though it might be premature, Jose Fernandez has some of the best ‘stuff’ I’ve seen since my three aces that I’m going to throw him in there.
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Closers: This list starts with Dennis Eckersley, continues to Eric Gagne and closes out appropriately with Mo Rivera.
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And of course, announcing any and all games would be the incomparable Vin Scully.
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UCLA Football: Jim Mora Stat.

THE BRUINS ARE NOW 16-0 UNDER JIM MORA WHEN LEADING AT HALFTIME.*

Honestly, great game and a nice coda to what was truly the strongest season of UCLA football I’ve seen. Better than McNown/Toledo, better than the Olson, the other Olson, Paus, Cowan or other ‘eras.’ Suffice it to say it hasn’t been the greatest run since ’98 but there were some moments.

Thing is, this is no ‘moment.’ Mora really did stamp this program and elevate it back to where it was at least during my time as a student. The enthusiasm, toughness, connectivity with his players – it’s all very endearing and inspirational, and the players love to play for him. More importantly, they’re awesome. AND fun to watch.

I saying yesterday that whether the Bruins are on offense or defense, I don’t want to get up to leave because there is so much excitement with that vast talent base. Speed, strength, attitude – are these really the Gutty Little Bruins? No, they’re not. And if Hundley comes back we’re literally a top five team next year with two(!) Heisman contenders.

It’s a ton of fun, and it’s because of Mora. Peterson didn’t want the job, Sumlin didn’t need it, Al Golden, for chrissakes, turned it down. So our fourth choice, an NFL retread and the son of an NFL caricature (playoffs?!?!) ended up being the best man for the job. And damn I love watching his teams play. I’m SO very excited for next year, and actually have genuine confidence that the Bruins are building something for the first time under my ‘watch.’

Hell yeah. Go Bruins.

*(From Gary Klein’s article in LAT today (print), though for some reason I can only find Hiserman’s recap online (which also includes that same stat in a real-time ‘blog’ when prior to conclusion of game


2014 MLB Hall of Fame Ballot Straw Poll

Below you will find the link to the2014 Hall of Fame ballot names from Baseball-Reference.com, along with a full range of statistical measures for all players on the ballot. ‘Years on Ballot,’ % of Ballots named in 2013, Bill James Hall of Fame Monitor (HOFm – the system is flawed, 100 is ‘likely’ in this metric) and Bill James Hall of Fame Standard (HOFs, in which 50 is the ‘average’ Hall of Famer, a score that exceeds that is considered superior than Hall of Fame average). This is definitely one of the more ‘crowded’ ballots I can remember, so I’ll make my piece snappy.

My opinions have not changed dramatically from last year’s lackluster HoF class. This new crop is pretty incredible, though. Here’s my “ballot” for 2014:
with apologies to Jack Morris on his final attempt, the crop of:
Greg Maddux

Frank Thomas

Tom Glavine
are first year shoo-ins for me. I’m sure Glavine will have the most pushback, but 300+ wins and reinventing himself as a late-career pitcher help greatly.

My next wave of entrants are holdovers that were slighted for one reason or another:
Craig Biggio
Mike Piazza
Barry Bonds
Roger Clemens
Tim Raines
Raines has been a lightning rod for a few years and I imagine he won’t get in for a while. That said, he’s one of the prototype leadoff hitters in the modern era and was completely overlooked in Montreal. The 80′s were a tough era for elites, and his measurables stack up well.

I think Jeff Kent and Mike Mussina eventually get in, but not this year. People hate Kent, but his numbers are top five ever as a second baseman. He’s in. Mussina is frustrating because he was never an Ace or even a Cy pitcher, but he racked up wins and had longevity in an era defined by arm injuries.

Curt Schilling is a total cusp guy for me, probably more than most, because of his postseason success as well as the few big years. I ultimately vote ‘no’ – because he’s an asshole? – because the stats just aren’t quite Hall-worthy.

Hideo Nomo will probably be enshrined eventually as a special contributor type, as he really ushered in the era of Asian crossover.

This crop deserves it’s own mention, because NONE of them receive my ‘vote’ in 2014 and they were all really good first basemen:
Jeff Bagwell
Don Mattingly
Fred McGriff
Mark McGwire

I could see myself likely ‘vote’ for McGwire in the future, but Bagwell – despite his similarities to the Big Hurt – just doesn’t have that brand recognition that I’d like. I’m probably shorting him and reserve my right to ‘vote’ him in down the road, but not now. My guess is he DOES ride with the first wave and get in this year, however. Mattingly somehow gets in on the Veterans Committee one day. His reputation as ‘everybody’s favorite player’ is just too strong, and when history shines back on him with the moustache in the pinstripes, he’ll be enshrined.

I refuse to listen to cases for:
Lee Smith

Alan Trammell
Edgar Martinez
because none of them were ever the best player at their position, much less Hall-worthy.

Regardless, good ballot and i’d love to hear your opinions.

http://www.baseball-reference.com/awards/hof_2014.shtml

Somebody talk me off the (Laker) Ledge

Okay, I was on a phone call this morning developing my Laker take for the ’13-’14 season and I need one of you true Laker heads to talk me off the ledge. Here goes.

While I am certain that D’Antoni was the worst possible choice for the makeup of last season’s roster and the collection of Laker bodies looks abhorrent this season when viewing the roster, I believe that the combination of the two (D’Antoni + scrubs) can lead to a 50+ win season and a low-tier playoff series.

Obviously this will not happen with defense, and frankly there are no Laker superstars sans Kobe, but take a look:
Nick Young – points in a hurry
Jordan Farmar – kid can play uptempo, will be starting point guard by mid-season
Steve Nash – the proto-D’Antoni player, make him 6th man and hold him to 25 minutes a game, he’ll drop 12/6 a night.
Steve Blake – showed last year that he can play a good tempo, maybe the only guy that performed under D’Antoni.
Xaviery Henry/Wesley Johnson/Darius Johnson-Odom/Ryan Kelly/Elias Harris – one or two of these athletic, young players can turn into a Boris Diaw/Toney Douglas/Wilson Chandler type, just chipping in double digits in points per night.
Chris Kaman – old, creaky, but still a top 15 center. Just get a double double each night.

This is where it gets nuts.
Pau Gasol I love you but thank the man for the rings & his service, and TRADE him for more athletes in exchange for allowing him to chase a couple rings.

Kobe Bryant comes back slowly (for him) in November/December, turns into Jordan45 from January – March and then KobeII from April – playoffs. That means he’s holding steady at 20+/5/4 for his return, and that’s playing it conservative. I truly believe that Kobe will never be less than great – he won’t allow it, he’d leave if he became meager. Most importantly, he buys into the system which means OTHER guys fall in line, and because he’ll essentially be the Coach on the Floor, he’ll finally get to achieve that oft-referred ‘extension of D’Antoni’ that he grew up in Italy dreaming of. . .

Again, I realize it’s a gonzo theory, but could it happen? Somebody talk me off the Laker Ledge here.

Dodger Homerun Question

In light of Juan Uribe‘s homerun last night (I would have LOVED to hear the Vin call, that’s another discussion), where does that rank in modern-era Dodger homeruns?

Obviously Kirk Gibson is number one.
For me, Steve Finley grand slam final day of season 2004 to give the Dodgers the NL West crown is memorable, as is the Four Straight Homeruns capped off by Nomar Garciaparra’s blast to win it in extra innings. Those were both regular season, though.

‘s off of Doc Gooden was actually the catapult for the ’88 playoffs in the Mets series, so that would have to be number two. . .

but are there any others in recent history that I’m omitting?

National Football League, 2013.

fine.i admit it.
i am *somewhat* piqued by the nfl this year.
NOT the jerk players, mind you, and DEFINITELY not the goodell-wishes-he-could-hold-tagilabue’s-jock ‘league’ but the fact that some good football is starting.

i like:
kaepernick. i’ve come around. disliking him soley because of the hat was really petty, even by my standards.
cam. just emailed you separately.
peyton. brady. brees. rodgers.
adrian peterson.
wide receivers with the stickiest gloves in history.
the SEAHAWKS, especially their coach.
the niners, and a west coast renaissance.
players that live and die by madden.
giovani bernard.
fantasy football.
pick ‘em leagues.
whatever happens with the jets.
alex smith. seriously.
marshawn lynch.
detroit lions offense finally firing on all cylinders because of
reggie bush.
eli manning. two rings!
raiders drafting jedeveon clowney.
the raiders dropping $49 million off the books heading into 2014.
hgh getting swept under the rug (again)
the super bowl in new york. in the middle of winter.
finding out if andrew luck is for real.
bo jacks- nee, cam newton.
smokin’ jay cutler.
the cowboys being average AGAIN.

Bryce Harper plays the game HARD

and then i had to throw this in, talk about a literal swing of beauty

and how awesome is this honestly, if i was like 15 this would be my ‘wallpaper’