The Annual Cooperstown Call…

rockraines2

Tim Raines should finally get the call to Cooperstown this evening. (p/c: razzball.com)

No introduction, let’s get right to it.

My Hypothetical Ballot:

Jeff Bagwell
Tim Raines

  • I believe that Bagwell and Raines will be the only ones to get inducted this evening, and it’s long overdue. Bagwell wasn’t just a destroyer of worlds at the plate (.297/.408/.540, 149 wRC+ [weighted runs created plus, where 100 is average], 449 HR); he also registered a pair of 40 HR/30 SB seasons (1997, 1999) and finished with 202 stolen bases for his career. He’s seventh all-time in wins above replacement1 for first basemen and never fell under 4.0 WAR in a single season from his rookie campaign in 1991 to 2003, where he posted a disappointing 3.7 mark.
  • Raines played in the shadow of Rickey Henderson, but he was still the best at what he did in the National League. According to Fangraphs’ baserunning metric, which not only factors stolen base success rate but other elements such as taking the extra base, Raines is ranked second all-time behind Rickey at 100.4. He posted a 125 career wRC+ and registered a mark above 130 in nine of his seasons. Raines doesn’t have the fancy round number of 3,000 hits, but thanks in part to a .385 on-base percentage, he reached more times than Cooperstown residents Tony Gwynn, Lou Brock, and Roberto Clemente.

Barry Bonds
Roger Clemens

  • Since I started to really follow Hall of Fame voting, I’ve considered myself to be a “PED guy”. Fair or not, usage of performance enhancing drugs was accepted in that era, so I’ve accepted that as well. I also have an assumption that the offensive numbers were bloated partially because of expansion diluting the pitching pool, but that’s a research project for another day. Regardless, Bonds and Clemens were two of the best at what they did – PEDs or not – and while they won’t get in this year, it seems that they’re trending in a way that they’ll gain induction before their 10-year limit is up.

Edgar Martinez

  • Martinez is the greatest DH ever to play the game and has a lifetime slash of .312/.418/.515 and a career wRC+ of 147. I know that some may feel that because he didn’t play the field, he doesn’t deserve induction – which is ridiculous, considering that he had nearly twice as many plate appearances (8,672 PA) as the number of batters Trevor Hoffman faced in his career (4,388 TBF). Others think that the recently retired David Ortiz was better, even though Edgar has a 15-point edge in WAR (in almost 1,500 fewer PA) and a seven-point cushion in wRC+ (147 to 140).

Larry Walker

  • The case against Larry Walker is that he played most of his games at Coors Field. Those who believe that is a knock on Walker’s credentials must not understand park-adjusted data like wRC+, which says he was 40 percent above average (140 wRC+) for his career and had a three-year stretch from 1997-99 where he posted a 177, 159, and 167 despite those numbers getting knocked for the thin Colorado air. Regardless of ballpark, Walker could hit with the best of them, slashing .313/.405/.497 against same-handed pitching along with registering a 126 wRC+ on the road. Oh, and he wasn’t too shabby of a fielder in right, collecting seven Gold Gloves during his career.

Mike Mussina

  • A model of consistency in the offensive boom of the 90s, Mussina had nine full seasons of a 3.50 earned run average or lower, a career fielding independent pitching number (3.57) lower than his career ERA (3.68) – which when adjusted to his peers, was 21 percent better than the league average according to FIP- (79) – and a healthy strikeout-to-walk ratio of 3.58. He was overshadowed by guys like Pedro Martinez, the aforementioned Clemens, the Atlanta Braves’ trio, and Randy Johnson, but Mussina’s 10 years of 5.0+ WAR – including a seven-year stretch from 1995-01 where he matched or bettered that – shows that he was one of the best pitchers of his era.

Ivan Rodriguez

  • Pudge was the best catcher of his era, combining elite defense (317.1 Def score on Fangraphs, 84.9 higher than second place among catchers) with slightly above-average offensive value (104 wRC+). He had an eight-year run from 1997-04 where he was consistently above-average at the dish, despite barely reaching base via walks (5.0% career BB%). There’s the PED allegations with him as well, which I initially thought would hurt his chances, but he has a realistic shot to make it on the first ballot.

Curt Schilling

  • Curt Schilling has an absolutely awful view of the world, and the incident where he tweeted out a shirt that supported lynching journalists is absolutely despicable. I honestly think because of that he might not ever make it in, but his on-field credentials warrant inclusion despite his off-the-field flaws. Just by WAR, he’s ranked as the 20th best pitcher of all-time, and that includes the early 1900s hurlers who threw 300-400+ innings every season. His postseason career was outstanding, registering a 2.23 ERA in 19 starts, including a 1.12 mark in the Diamondbacks’ run to the 2001 World Series.

Manny Ramirez

  • By far the toughest choice on the ballot was choosing between Manny and Vladimir Guerrero. I think both are Hall of Fame talents, and see the latter being inducted in the near future. Ramirez is another PED guy, but he’s one who failed tests and was suspended with the system in place. Despite this, I think he should be Cooperstown bound simply because was one of the greatest hitters baseball has ever seen. He slashed .312/.411/.585 for his career, had a wRC+ of 153, and bashed 555 homeruns. From 1994 to 2010, he managed to only fall below a 140 wRC+ twice (1994, 2007) and closed the Cleveland chapter of his career with seasons of 172 and 181 wRC+. His 2008 Mannywood season is one of my favorites, as he registered a 210 wRC+ and hit 17 homeruns in 53 games with the Dodgers, then slashed .520/.667/1.080 in eight postseason contests.

Who Just Missed:

Vladimir Guerrero

  • Vlad might have been the most fun hitter ever, as there wasn’t a pitch he wouldn’t swing at and get his bat on. His offensive numbers (.318/.379/.553, 449 HR, 136 wRC+) are Cooperstown-esque and he possibly had the strongest RF arm of all-time (10+ OF assists from 1997-04), but there just wasn’t enough room to fit him and Manny on my hypothetical ballot, and I decided to go with the better hitter.

Gary Sheffield

  • Speaking of fun hitters, maybe Gary has a case for that. We all imitated his bat wiggle growing up and for good reason, because he was a special talent at the plate. He hit 509 homeruns, walked in 13.5 percent of his plate appearances – including back-to-back years in 1996-97 where he drew a base on balls over 20 percent of the time – and posted a 141 wRC+ for his career. PED links, poor defense, and his attitude make it seem like he’ll never get into Cooperstown, but I think that he deserves it.

Fred McGriff

  • I always flip-flop between wanting to support McGriff, but I do like the point that Tom Verducci made in his column about how nobody from the Steroid Era was harmed more than Tom Emanski’s favorite player. The difference between some of his statistics (both traditional and advanced) is larger than what it could be if it would have been a level playing field. (And although there is no links to McGriff and PEDs, it’s hard to be 100 percent sure of his innocence.) I don’t know if I’d ever vote for him unless there was an open spot on my hypothetical ballot, but I am (again) willing to listen to his case at least.

Previous Hypothetical Ballots:

  • 2016: Bagwell, Bonds, Clemens, Edmonds, Griffey Jr., McGwire, Piazza, Raines, Schilling, Trammell
  • 2015: Bagwell, Biggio, Bonds, Clemens, Johnson, Martinez, McGwire, Piazza, Raines, Trammell
1 – WAR calculated by Fangraphs.
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A Tradition Like No Other…

Corey Seager has a solid chance to join Fred Lynn and Ichiro as the only rookies to win MVP. (USATSI)

Corey Seager has a solid chance to join Fred Lynn and Ichiro as the only rookies to win MVP. (USATSI)

“It’s hard not be romantic about baseball.”

That quote especially rings true after the madness of November 2nd, when the Chicago Cubs broke their well-publicized championship drought with an 8-7 extra-inning victory in Game 7 of the World Series. As a St. Louis Cardinals fan, the result was anything but romantic, as it’s hard to find solace in your biggest rival succeeding. It’s even worse realizing that this could only be the beginning, with the franchise set to sustain their 2016 excellence for the next few seasons.

As someone who works in sports for a living, when it isn’t my team winning then I almost always want to see a good story being told. And while the Cubs’ triumph isn’t quite the underdog tale that the masses want you to believe, it still fits the criteria based on sheer notoriety of the curse.

Although the drought’s end means a key point of trash talk washes away, it also brings forth some incredible recollections of the fans’ relationship with their team and the faith they’ve had that this day would eventually come. Just read through Wright Thompson’s1 piece on those who passed away before witnessing their team’s glory or Wayne Drehs’ revelation that he postponed open heart surgery to experience history being made.

For some, sports serve as escape from reality. I said as much when I attended last Friday’s FIFA World Cup qualifier between the United States and Mexico, because it allowed me and many others to realign our focus on a diverse group that should truly represent our country, rather than the new leadership contingent that does2.

Writing serves as the same kind of diversion. Since providing a hypothetical MLB award ballot has become an annual tradition of sorts for yours truly, I figure that I continue that streak now since the Baseball Writers’ Association of America (BBWAA) announced its Rookie of the Year honorees last night.

AL Manager of the Year
1. Terry Francona, Indians
2. Joe Girardi, Yankees
3. Jeff Bannister, Rangers

NL Manager of the Year
1. Dave Roberts, Dodgers
2. Joe Maddon, Cubs
3. Dusty Baker, Nationals

I hate picking this award in particular because of the lack of available metrics to judge manager performance. Terry Francona3 gets the nod in the AL after guiding a banged-up Indians team to the league pennant. In the NL, I went with Dave Roberts also because of his success dealing with injuries.

AL Rookie of the Year
1. Gary Sanchez, C, Yankees (3.2 fWAR, 171 wRC+, 20 HR, .299/.376/.657, 4 DRS)
2. Michael Fulmer, RHP, Tigers (3.0 fWAR, 3.76 FIP, 3.06 ERA, 49.1% GB%, 13.9% K-BB%, 159.0 IP)
3. Edwin Diaz, RHP, Mariners (1.9 fWAR, 2.04 FIP, 2.79 ERA, 46.8% GB%, 33.6% K-BB%, 51.2 IP)

To win one of these after just 53 games’ worth of performance, either your competition has to be incredibly mediocre or you have to be incredibly good. Gary Sanchez was definitely the latter. In what seems – maybe just to me – 10 years in the minors (I wouldn’t have guessed that he was only 23), Sanchez was called up to the big leagues in August and never looked back, hitting at a clip that was only matched by Trout according to wRC+. That sort of excellence, regardless of how sustainable it may be, gave Sanchez the edge over Michael Fulmer4. Edwin Diaz is a slightly surprising pick for third here, but he could be the league’s next great relief ace, pairing video game-like strikeout numbers with an above-average groundball rate.

NL Rookie of the Year
1. Corey Seager, SS, Dodgers
2. Trea Turner, 2B/OF, Nationals (3.3 fWAR, 147 wRC+, 13 HR, 33 SB, .342/.370/.567, 5.4 BsR)
3. Aledmys Diaz, SS, Cardinals (2.7 fWAR, 132 wRC+, 17 HR, .300/.369/.510)

This was the easiest selection of the eight awards. Trea Turner is another guy who excelled in less than half a season – albeit propped up by a .388 BABIP – and was a clear second choice in my mind. I went with slightly biased selection of Aledmys Diaz for third, thanks in part to what he brought to the Cardinals in 2016. Diaz, who has my favorite swing in baseball, shored up a shaky shortstop position with elite-level (for SS) offensive numbers and defense that improved as the season went on. His numbers would been even better if it weren’t for an errant Andrew Cashner catching him in the jaw during the middle of the Cardinals’ playoff push.

AL Cy Young
1. Corey Kluber, RHP, Indians (5.1 fWAR, 3.26 FIP, 3.14 ERA, 44.5% GB%, 19.8% K-BB%, 215.0 IP)
2. Justin Verlander, RHP, Tigers (5.2 fWAR, 3.48 FIP, 3.04 ERA, 33.7% GB%, 21.8% K-BB%, 227.2 IP)
3. Rick Porcello, RHP, Red Sox (5.2 fWAR, 3.40 FIP, 3.15 ERA, 43.1% GB%, 17.6% K-BB%, 223.0 IP)
4. Chris Sale, LHP, White Sox (5.2 fWAR, 3.46 FIP, 3.34 ERA, 41.2% GB%, 20.7% K-BB%, 226.2 IP)
5. Jose Quintana, LHP, White Sox (4.8 fWAR, 3.56 FIP, 3.20 ERA, 40.4% GB%, 15.6% K-BB%, 208.0 IP)

There’s not really a bad decision between the top four, but I went with Corey Kluber to win his second Cy Young award because of the slight difference in FIP. If they found a way to split the award like Cady Heron does as with her Homecoming queen crown, I wouldn’t be opposed.

NL Cy Young
1. Jose Fernandez, RHP, Marlins (6.2 fWAR, 2.30 FIP, 2.86 ERA, 40.2% GB%, 26.9% K-BB%, 182.1 IP)
2. Clayton Kershaw, LHP, Dodgers (6.5 fWAR, 1.80 FIP, 1.69 ERA, 49.4% GB%, 29.6% K-BB%, 149.0 IP)
3. Noah Syndergaard, RHP, Mets (6.2 fWAR, 2.29 FIP, 2.60 ERA, 51.2% GB%, 23.5% K-BB%, 183.2 IP)
4. Max Scherzer, RHP, Nationals (5.6 fWAR, 3.24 FIP, 2.96 ERA, 33.0% GB%, 25.3% K-BB%, 228.1 IP)
5. Kyle Hendricks, RHP, Cubs (4.5 fWAR, 3.20 FIP, 2.13 ERA, 48.4% GB%, 16.9% K-BB%, 190.0 IP)

Yes, I write about Clayton Kershaw a lot. Yes, I debated on making the argument that his 149 innings pitched were better than anyone else’s this season. But I can’t do it this time around, especially with the passing of Jose Fernandez in September. It may seem like I’m riding a narrative by selecting him, but he absolutely deserved the recognition regardless of the tragedy. There is so much I can say about Fernandez, from his endless talent to his boyish enthusiasm for the game, but I’ll just remember the first (and only) time I saw him in person when I was working with the Hagerstown Suns, and how thankful I am for that moment now. Rest in peace, Jose.

AL MVP
1. Mike Trout, OF, Angels (9.4 fWAR, 171 wRC+, 29 HR, 30 SB, .315/.445/.550, 9.3 BsR, 6 DRS)
2. Mookie Betts, OF, Red Sox (7.8 fWAR, 135 wRC+, 31 HR, 26 SB, .318/.363/.534, 9.8 BsR, 32 DRS)
3. Josh Donaldson, 3B, Blue Jays (7.6 fWAR, 155 wRC+, 37 HR, .284/.404/.549)
4. Jose Altuve, 2B, Astros (6.7 fWAR, 150 wRC+, 24 HR, 30 SB, .338/.396/.531)
5. Manny Machado, 3B, Orioles (6.5 fWAR, 129 wRC+, 37 HR, .294.343/.533, 16 DRS)
6. Francisco Lindor, SS, Indians (6.3 fWAR, 112 wRC+, 15 HR, .301/.358/.435, 17 DRS)
7. David Ortiz, DH, Red Sox (4.4 fWAR, 163 wRC+, 38 HR, .315/.401/.620)
8. Adrian Beltre, 3B, Rangers (6.1 fWAR, 130 wRC+, 32 HR, .300/.358/.521, 15 DRS)
9. Brian Dozier, 2B, Twins (5.9 fWAR, 132 wRC+, 42 HR, .268/.340/.546, 5.5 BsR)
10. Miguel Cabrera, 1B, Tigers (4.9 fWAR, 152 wRC+, 38 HR, .316/.393/.563)

For five consecutive seasons, Mike Trout has been the best player in the American League. And for the fourth time during that stretch, he will more than likely not win its MVP. Since his outstanding rookie season in 2012, Trout has been worth 47.8 wins above replacement (48.5 if you include his 40 games in 2011) according to Baseball-Reference. Notable men in Cooperstown under that 47.8 mark include Jim Rice, Lou Brock, Phil Rizzuto, Hack Wilson, and Bill Mazeroski. A realistic argument can be made that Trout is a Hall of Famer right now, and no one would bat an eye – which makes it sadly humorous that he’ll only have a single MVP to his name during this five-year run.

Mookie Betts, who certainly had a season worthy of the award in a world without Trout, has the narrative and market by his side to edge out Trout and fellow finalist Jose Altuve. I also want to give a mention here in particular to Adrian Beltre, who was worth just over six wins at 37 years old and has now accumulated 81.3 fWAR in his career. If he isn’t inducted into Cooperstown, then just shut the whole place down.

NL MVP
1. Kris Bryant, 3B/OF, Cubs (8.4 fWAR, 149 wRC+, 39 HR, .292/.385/.554, 7.3 BsR)
2. Corey Seager, SS, Dodgers (7.5 fWAR, 137 wRC+, 26 HR, .308/.365/.512)
3. Nolan Arenado, 3B, Rockies (5.2 fWAR, 124 wRC+, 41 HR, .294/.362/.570, 20 DRS)
4. Daniel Murphy, 2B, Nationals (5.5 fWAR, 156 wRC+, 25 HR, .347/.390/.595)
5. Freddie Freeman, 1B, Braves (6.1 fWAR, 152 wRC+, 34 HR, .302/.400/.569, 9 DRS)
6. Jose Fernandez, RHP, Marlins
7. Clayton Kershaw, LHP, Dodgers
8. Noah Syndergaard, RHP, Mets
9. Joey Votto, 1B, Reds (5.0 fWAR, 158 wRC+, 29 HR, .326/.434/.550)
10. Anthony Rizzo, 1B, Cubs (5.2 fWAR, 145 wRC+, 32 HR, .292/.385/.544)

Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow is one of the best of the business, but I will always hold a little bit of a grudge against him for allowing Kris Bryant to fall into the Cubs’ laps. He gets my vote over Corey Seager, who has emerged as the leader of the shortstop renaissance we’ve witnessed over the last couple years. I panned the Nationals for giving up a draft pick to ink Daniel Murphy, but he carried his 2015 postseason momentum and exceeded expectations in a big way. And I can’t say enough about Joey Votto, who I would take over anyone in baseball – yes, even Trout – if my life depended on a single at-bat.

1 – In my opinion, Wright is the greatest sports writer on the planet.
2 – I’ve crafted multiple blog posts in my head about last Tuesday’s election, and I would like to eventually “put pen to paper” and share one, but it’ll be hard to find the time now that college basketball has started up.
3While I liked the Mike Matheny hire when it happened, I will always maintain that John Mozeliak’s greatest misstep as Cardinals general manager was when he didn’t ink Terry Francona for that position. Francona was at his best in last month’s postseason, as his bullpen management shined and was a big reason why the Indians were a game away from winning the Fall Classic. If Mozeliak hires Francona after Tony La Russa’s retirement, St. Louis has at least one more World Series title right now.
4 – It’s unfair to Fulmer that I think this way, but my selection of Sanchez also rests on the assumption that his potential “star” shines brighter than the Tigers right-hander. I look back at the 2009 NL Rookie of the Year race, where Chris Coghlan (2.7 fWAR, 127 wRC+ on a .365 BABIP) was selected over a future league MVP in Andrew McCutchen (3.4 fWAR, 122 wRC+). Since that season, McCutchen has been worth 37.5 fWAR compared to Coghlan’s 3.8 mark.
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Clayton and the Awful Narrative…

kershaw

Clayton Kershaw threw an absolute gem against the Cubs last night, quieting the ridiculous critics about his postseason “struggles”. (Mike Stobe / Getty Images)

I talk about Clayton Kershaw a lot.

A quick search yielded 69 tweets mentioning Kershaw and one blog post focused on the Los Angeles Dodgers’ star southpaw. It’s hard not to discuss him, considering that his excellence since 2008 has essentially made him a Hall of Fame lock with one NL MVP, three Cy Young awards, four seven-win1 seasons, and five years with an earned run average (ERA) south of 2.50.

When the calendar flips to October however, it’s not the accolades observers bring up with Kershaw, but rather the “failures”. Similar to Peyton Manning (who I’ve also discussed in the past), Kershaw is saddled with the narrative of being a postseason choker, despite only throwing 84 innings in the playoffs. 84 innings is essentially 14 starts, which is too small of a sample size to draw any conclusions from. If we did, then in 2013 we’d argue about the Pittsburgh Pirates’ Jeff Locke2 being one of the best pitchers in baseball and the Philadelphia Phillies’ Cole Hamels being replaceable.

With seven shutout innings last night and a two-out save last Thursday to send the Dodgers to the NLCS, Kershaw has quieted some of his detractors. But should those detractors have even existed? (No.) In a world where over two million people follow Skip Bayless and his asinine takes, unfair narratives have sadly become commonplace in our sports observations. Instead of staring at a high ERA number, a brief amount of research can show that poor managing and bullpen implosions with inherited runners have masked his strong peripherals (2.92 FIP, 2.68 SIERA, 21.7% K-BB%).

With all of that being said, I was curious to see whether there were Cooperstown-bound or residing pitchers that would have faced the same criticism if social media was around back then. And as I expected, Kershaw’s not alone in this department.

(Note: The following research is drawn from arbitrary endpoints, which I don’t typically like using, but Kershaw’s 84-inning postseason sample is virtually the same thing.)

Roger Clemens

1986-00 RS: 3435.0 IP, 244-133 W-L3, 3.02 ERA (149 ERA+), 3.03 FIP, 1.16 WHIP, 2.95 K/BB, 104.2 bWAR4
1986-005 PS: 83.1 IP, 3-5 W-L, 4.32 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 1.91 K/BB
Career RS: 4916.2 IP, 354-184 W-L, 3.12 ERA (143 ERA+), 3.09 FIP, 1.17 WHIP, 2.96 K/BB, 139.4 bWAR
Career PS: 199.0 IP, 12-8 W-L, 3.75 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, 2.47 K/BB

Clemens’ career 3.75 postseason ERA is inflated because of a poor opening stretch from 1986 to the 2000 ALCS. He gave up 10 hits and seven earned in his October debut against the California Angels and couldn’t get through five innings (4.1 IP, 3 ER) in Game 2 of the 1986 World Series against the Mets. However, after a poor 2000 ALCS (11.0 IP, 8.18 ERA), Clemens dominated the rest of the postseason with 17 shutout frames, allowing just three hits and two walks against 24 strikeouts.

Randy Johnson

1995-99 RS: 1004.2 IP, 79-26 W-L, 2.71 ERA (169 ERA+), 2.70 FIP, 1.08 WHIP, 4.22 K/BB, 32.8 bWAR
1995-99 PS: 60.2 IP, 2-6 W-L, 3.71 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 3.84 K/BB
Career RS: 4135.1 IP, 303-166 W-L, 3.29 ERA (135 ERA+), 3.19 FIP, 1.17 WHIP, 3.26 K/BB, 104.3 bWAR
Career PS: 121.0 IP, 7-9 W-L, 3.50 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 4.13 K/BB

Prior to his brilliant 2001 postseason, The Big Unit had his fair share of October struggles. In the 1997 ALDS against Baltimore, he gave up eight earned runs in 13 frames, despite compiling a 13:2 strikeout-to-walk ratio in Game 4. Johnson had better run prevention numbers the following year in Houston (14.0 IP, 3 ER), but was saddled with a pair of losses after the Astros mustered up just two runs in his starts. The K/BB numbers were again there in his lone 1999 start with Arizona (11 K, 3 BB); however, he was charged with seven earned runs over 8.1 innings after Bobby Chouinard allowed a two-out grand slam in the top of the ninth.

Greg Maddux

1989-95 RS: 1685.0 IP, 124-67 W-L, 2.54 ERA (156 ERA+), 2.84 FIP, 1.08 WHIP, 3.06 K/BB, 45.7 bWAR
1989-95 PS: 58.0 IP, 4-3 W-L, 4.66 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, 1.94 K/BB
Career RS: 5008.1 IP, 355-227 W-L, 3.16 ERA (132 ERA+), 3.26 FIP, 1.14 WHIP, 3.37 K/BB, 104.6 bWAR
Career PS: 198.0 IP, 11-14 W-L, 3.27 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, 2.45 K/BB

Maddux won four consecutive Cy Young awards during the aforementioned stretch and finished third in 1989, but didn’t find the same success over his first nine postseason starts. He allowed eight runs over four innings in his October debut and pitched poorly in Game 6 of the 1993 NLCS against the Phillies (5.2 IP, 5 ER, 4 BB, 3 K). However, Maddux moved past the early struggles by posting a 2.70 ERA and 2.73 K/BB in his final 140 playoff frames, while only allowing more than two earned runs in a trio of starts (2000 vs. STL, 2001 vs. ARZ, 2006 vs. NYM).

Steve Carlton

1967-78 RS: 3157.1 IP, 204-146 W-L, 3.04 ERA (120 ERA+), 3.11 FIP, 1.23 WHIP, 2.23 K/BB, 53.7 bWAR
1967-78 PS: 37.2 IP, 1-3 W-L, 4.78 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, 1.56 K/BB
Career RS: 5217.2 IP, 329-244 W-L, 3.22 ERA (115 ERA+), 3.15 FIP, 1.25 WHIP, 2.26 K/BB, 84.1 bWAR
Career PS: 99.1 IP, 6-6 W-L, 3.26 ERA, 1.48 WHIP, 1.65 K/BB

While his postseason debut in the 1967 World Series was strong (6 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 5 K), Carlton had a poor stretch of starts from 1976-78 that would have brought forth some backlash today from the Philadelphia media. He gave up four earned runs during that timeframe on three occasions and was touched up for five runs in 6.2 frames on Game 1 of the 1977 NLCS. Of course, Carlton righted the ship starting in 1980, with a 2.34 ERA in his final nine October starts.

In conclusion, even the best pitchers ever to play the game have had rough stretches in October. The “can’t pitch in the postseason” narrative is ridiculous considering the sample size and the unpredictability of the tournament. This is the same sport that has seen Josh Beckett win two World Series MVP awards and someone as mediocre as Jeff Suppan become a postseason hero 10 years ago.

So please, quit believing in false narratives. If history has told us anything, it’s that we should probably expect performances like Kershaw’s last night to happen more often.

1 – Determined by Fangraphs’ Win Above Replacement (WAR) number.
2 – Jeff Locke’s numbers since that early 2013 stretch: 511 IP, 123 ERA-, 115 FIP-, 7.4% K-BB%
3 – I hate using Pitcher Win-Loss record for anything, but I added it to my research simply because critics point to Kershaw’s postseason 4-6 mark in an attempt to solidify their narrative.
4 – Statistics used from Baseball-Reference.
5 – Selected timeframe runs through the 2000 ALDS.
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The Suite Turns 20…

20 years ago on Saturday, April 2, this man released one of R&B’s best albums. (p/c: billboard.com)

At first glance, I don’t look like your typical R&B enthusiast.

I grew up in a small podunk town in south-central Pennsylvania where there are just as many traffic lights as there are pizza shops. Country music probably serves as Everett’s favorite genre of music, and while I also enjoy it my passion has always resided in the rhythm and blues – or its more common term, R&B – category.

I can’t necessarily pinpoint an exact time of when I fell in love with the genre, but my tastes have stretched throughout its many deviations – from older stuff such as Marvin Gaye (who I would consider my favorite artist), to 90s classics from Boyz II Men, to the new “PR&B” subgenre that The Weeknd and How to Dress Well excel at. As a sophomore at Robert Morris University, I wrote an opinion piece for The Sentry on the impact R. Kelly has made for R&B, and was questioned at work the following day about how much I actually knew about Robert Sylvester Kelly. (I then proceeded to rattle off between 10 to 15 songs of his that weren’t his two most notable tracks, “Ignition” and “Bump ‘N Grind”.)

So while I’ve been an R&B fanatic for quite some time, I honestly can’t say the same about the subject of this post.

With Maxwell, I jumped on the bandwagon extremely late, first stumbling upon the 2009 single “Pretty Wings” before delving into the rest of his discography. That was about four years ago, three years after he released the album BLACKsummers’night, which was the first LP of a three-part trilogy. (After being told over and over that the second album from the soulful triumvirate was coming, it looks like that promise will finally be fulfilled this year.)

While albums such as Embrya, Now, and the aforementioned BLACKsummers’night have all gained acclaim from music critics, his debut Maxwell’s Urban Hang Suite has served as the vocalist’s magnum opus. Critics hail it as one of the founding projects of the neo-soul movement and it gained perfect ratings from review outlets such as AllMusic, Encyclopedia of Popular Music, Los Angeles Times, and Urban Latino, among others.

Urban Hang Suite also celebrates its 20th birthday this Saturday after spending two years between 1994 and 1995 being conceived. Because of the notable anniversary, I decided to put together a brief review of the classic LP, which doubles as my favorite album ever.

Urban Hang Suite features the tracklist on the front album cover. (p/c: audiocastle.cc)

The concept behind Maxwell’s Urban Hang Suite details the timeline of a relationship between the narrator and his lover, from its opening encounter (Welcome) to closing matrimony (Suitelady). Over the album’s course, Maxwell touches on subjects such as love, sex, and commitment, intertwining the themes with the narrative he created. It’s sophisticated, it’s sensual, and most of all, it’s so damn smooth.

After an instrumental intro in The Urban Theme, the LP begins with Welcome – a groovy opener that has Maxwell asking for an opportunity with a woman who has shut down his every move. He continues his pursuit on the funk-influenced Sumthin’ Sumthin’ and it seems as if our protagonist is starting to make some progress based on an increasingly confident voice throughout the song.

The woman’s guard begins to come down on Ascension (Don’t Ever Wonder), another upbeat number that has Maxwell recalling his feelings from when he first saw her. She succumbs to his persistent effort on Dancewithme, which also features a quicker tempo compared to what’s yet to come.

The mood shifts on …Til The Cops Come Knockin’, an after-hours classic that features some of the most sexually explicit lyrics from the album. Here is where Maxwell’s work pays off as the two share a passionate night together following their first embrace in the previous song. Whenever Wherever Whatever continues to put Maxwell’s affection for his counterpart in full display behind a soft acoustic guitar and tender lyrics such as “I’d give you the breath that I breathe, and if ever you yearn for the love in me”.

Lonely’s The Only Company (I & II) features a downtrodden Maxwell not withholding his emotions after the pair goes its separate ways. He’s at his most vulnerable here, somberly singing about aloneness and love lost. That feeling doesn’t last long however, as Reunion sees the couple reconcile (obviously). Maxwell had looked at moving past this woman, but realizes when he sees her again that she’s the best thing to come into his life.

Capitalizing on that revelation, Suitelady (The Proposal Jam) has Maxwell crooning to the woman about their night together in …Come Knockin’ before making the ultimate commitment by asking for her hand in marriage. It serves as the climax of Urban Hang Suite, while The Suite Theme closes the album blissfully with Maxwell and his fiancée celebrating their engagement over a few drinks. An instrumental of …Come Knockin’ is hidden at the end of the LP, serving as the conclusion to the couple’s evening.

There are two distinct themes on Urban Hang Suite – the pursuit and its outcome. The opening five songs feature upbeat production to demonstrate Maxwell’s confidence in completing his conquest, while the latter six bring forth vulnerability after he realizes his true feelings towards the woman. It’s a story arc that might come across as a bit overdone, but on Urban Hang Suite it’s executed beautifully with incredible performances from all contributors. Maxwell’s voice is straight out of a dream as he bounces between registers with relative ease, while the production is atmospheric, funky, and soulful.

Maxwell’s Urban Hang Suite might have not gotten me into the R&B genre, but it does serve as one of its biggest highlights. Thanks for crafting my favorite album, Maxwell, and please release blackSUMMERS’night this year.

Listen to Maxwell’s Urban Hang Suite on Spotify.

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Luther Vandross’ & Future’s Favorite Month…

I’m still not sure why the NCAA recognizes Villanova as a Round of 64 winner in 2010.

I fell into a One Shining Moment wormhole a couple of weeks ago.

With the exception of Jennifer Hudson’s 2010 performance (seriously CBS, why try fixing something that isn’t broke?), One Shining Moment is the cherry which tops the perfect hot fudge sundae that is the NCAA Tournament. March Madness – as it’s commonly referred to – has always been my favorite sporting event on the calendar. In high school, I remember watching games during gym class, and from 2010-2014 (my four undergrad years and one graduate year) I skipped all of my classes on the first Thursday and Friday and watched as many contests as I could from 3-4 monitors in my dorm room.

I’ve been to a pair of games as a fan, experiencing both the glory of victory (2015 First Four vs. North Florida) and the agony of defeat (2010 Round of 64 vs. Villanova). Last March, I worked the Second & Third Round contests held at the CONSOL Energy Center in downtown Pittsburgh, allowing me to gain some more insight on what happens beyond the broadcast that CBS, TBS, TNT, or TruTv provides. (Shameless plug: I did an interview here in the Altoona Mirror on last year’s Pittsburgh tournament games.)

So to capture the spirit of the thing, I decided to look at some of my favorite teams, moments, and games from my last 10 years experiencing the Madness. No analytics, no evaluation – just reminiscing on memories from the best month in sports.

(Disclaimer: Before I started at Robert Morris and fell in love with its basketball program, I rooted for North Carolina. That support completely waned during my undergraduate years, but because of my previous bias for the Tar Heels, I am eliminating them and RMU from consideration for these lists.)

Favorite Teams

2008 Davidson College Wildcats – #10, lost to #1 Kansas, 57-59, in Elite Eight

Who would have imagined that a scrawny guard from a mid-major conference would turn out to be the best basketball player on the planet eight years later? Steph Curry showed flashes of what he is today in the Big Dance of 2008, scoring at will against the most notable Cinderella in Gonzaga (40 points), Big East champion Georgetown (30 points), and Big Ten champion Wisconsin (33 points). While Curry’s performance was the story, senior point guard Jason Richards and junior post Andrew Lovedale also played big roles in the Wildcats’ run.

2010 Cornell University Big Red – #12, lost to #1 Kentucky, 45-62, in Sweet 16

For whatever reason, I find it incredibly difficult to root against an Ivy League team in this format. Cornell, behind its dynamic senior trio of Ryan Wittman (17.5 PPG, 4.0 RPG), Louis Dale (12.8 PPG, 4.7 APG), and Jeff Foote (12.3 PPG, 8.1 RPG), became the first Ivy to make the Sweet 16 in over 30 years with victories over Temple and Wisconsin. They were balanced and relatively deep (five players averaged over 6.0 PPG and nine played over 10.0 MPG), and had one of my favorite stories from that tournament in Foote – a one-time walk-on at Saint Bonaventure – who found his spot in Ithaca after his mother met the head coach in an emergency room.

2012 University of Kentucky Wildcats – #1, defeated #2 Kansas, 67-59, in National Championship

Sometimes the favorite can be likable. That’s what I thought about the 2012 Kentucky Wildcats, who lost just two games (one of which came on a buzzer-beating three at Indiana) en route to their national championship. Five players averaged double-figures and a sixth (senior guard Darius Miller) was at 9.9 points per contest. They marched through the bracket, winning each game in their region by double-digits, and were never really threatened in Final Four games against Louisville and Kansas. Teams this talented (six players were selected in the 2012 NBA Draft) sometimes run into various chemistry problems, but there was no instance of that in Lexington. Anthony Davis’s National Player of the Year campaign was the most dominant I have ever seen. (And Kentucky’s impressive run set the stage for an even bigger moment the next year.)

2013 Florida Gulf Coast University Eagles – #15, lost to #3 Florida, 50-62, in Sweet 16

This shouldn’t need an explanation. “Dunk City” captured the nation by storm in 2013, becoming the seventh 15-seed to win an NCAA Tournament game and the first to advance to the Sweet 16. They weren’t winning by the skin of their teeth either; Florida Gulf Coast held second-half leads of 19 against two-seed Georgetown and seven-seed San Diego State. Excluded from tournament eligibility until just the season prior, the Eagles were its ultimate underdog – if an underdog had a swagger like Jay-Z’s.

2015 University of Notre Dame Fighting Irish – #3, lost to #1 Kentucky, 66-68, in Elite Eight

I hated Notre Dame growing up, but there are times when biases subside because a team is so damn fun. That was this Fighting Irish team, who had the nation’s second-highest offensive rating of 120.4 (guess I lied when I said no analytics, oops) thanks to a starting five that all averaged 10.1 or more points per game. I was lucky to have the opportunity to watch this team in Pittsburgh and while they played Northeastern a little too close in the Second Round, their overtime battle with Butler was my favorite from the six Steel City games.

Favorite Moments

Jermaine Wallace’s game-winning three-pointer for #14 Northwestern State against #3 Iowa in 2006 Round of 64

Ali Farokhmanesh’s three-pointer for #9 Northern Iowa against #1 Kansas in 2010 Round of 32

Jordan Crawford’s game-tying three-pointer for #6 Xavier against #2 Kansas State in 2010 Sweet 16

Chase Fieler’s alley-oop dunk for #15 Florida Gulf Coast against #2 Georgetown in 2013 Round of 64

BeeJay Anya’s game-winning leaner for #8 North Carolina State against #9 LSU in 2015 Round of 64

Ending of NC State / LSU … Solid way to end a fun day of hoops.

A post shared by Ethan Woy (@ethanwoy) on

 

Favorite Games

#4 LSU over #1 Duke, 62-54, in 2006 Sweet 16

LSU’s defensive performance over the top team in the land is still something I’m in envy of to this day. The Tigers held Duke to just 27.7 percent shooting from the field and a 19.2 percent conversion rate from behind the arc, while Garrett Temple forced J.J. Redick into a 3-of-18 shooting performance in the latter’s final collegiate game. LSU held serve for most of the contest, but the Blue Devils were able to take a 52-51 lead with 3:32 remaining following a Redick trifecta. The Tigers’ defense tightened up after that, allowing just two points the rest of the way.

#2 Kansas State over #6 Xavier, 101-96 [2 OT], in 2010 Sweet 16

An epic game on its own right, the contest gains even more significance for me because Gus Johnson was on the call. His extravagant style is perfect for this slugfest of a bout as Kansas State’s Jacob Pullen and Xavier’s Terrence Holloway seemed to match each other shot for shot. Jordan Crawford’s game-tying three at the end of the first overtime deserves another mention here, becoming more notable of a moment thanks to Johnson’s frenetic scream after it was converted.

#14 BYU over #14 Iona, 78-72, in 2012 First Four

Despite going to a First Four game last year, I still dislike the concept of it because I’ve always been stubborn in regards to having the tournament at a 64-team cap. That being said, the tilt between BYU and Iona was extremely chaotic and just as exciting as the Cougars climbed out of a 25-point hole to stun the Gaels. Noah Hanstock’s three-pointer with 2:25 remaining provided BYU with its first lead of the contest, but it proved to be a dagger as an exhausted Iona team could only manage two points during the final stretch to complete its collapse.

#15 Lehigh over #2 Duke, 75-70, in 2012 Round of 64

Mercer’s 2014 victory over Duke provided us with the greatest post-game dance in NCAA Tournament history, but it was Lehigh’s win against the Blue Devils in 2012 that resonates more with me. The Mountain Hawks completed the sixth 15-over-2 upset (at the time) and second on the day thanks to a special performance by C.J. McCollum, who scored 30 points and pulled down six rebounds. John Adams’ throwdown with 1:59 left was the cherry on top as he avoided a foul attempt by Plumlee #2 and coasted in while a dejected Duke group could only stand and watch.

#8 Kentucky over #1 Wichita State, 78-76, in 2014 Round of 32

John Calipari was on SportsCenter yesterday following the release of this year’s bracket and he voiced some frustration with the Wildcats’ seeding, referencing their 2014 tilt with undefeated Wichita State as an example. The undefeated Shockers carried a six-point lead into halftime, but Kentucky answered with a 10-3 run to gain a 41-40 edge with 16:25 left in regulation. From there, the game featured six lead changes and two other ties while the difference settled between one and five points. We probably should have gotten this tilt in a later round as Coach Cal said, but to get it at all was a blessing in itself.

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An Attempt to Debunk the Ring Narrative…

The circle of life was completed last night as Peyton Manning pulled a Trent Dilfer to win his second championship. (p/c: Denver Post)

In my eyes, last night’s game meant little to Peyton Manning’s legacy.

I’ve written before about how I feel Manning is the greatest quarterback to ever play the game, and I didn’t need him to throw for five touchdowns last night to validate that. The pomp and circumstance of the Super Bowl is fascinating (and at times nauseating), and it is certainly the biggest sports spectacle that is put on a yearly basis… but yet, it’s only a single game. It doesn’t provide enough of a sample size to come to a conclusion about one’s career.

I don’t think postseason results should be completely ignored, however; instead – particularly in a quarterback’s case – they should be viewed with caution. Raw win-loss statistics don’t tell the entire story when there are factors such as opponent quality and supporting cast that should be taken into consideration.

Because Manning has only won two championships, his postseason resume isn’t viewed as highly as other signal-callers who have won more titles. That difference shouldn’t be held against him however, based on one of my favorite quarterback stats in adjusted net yards per pass attempt. This statistic shows how many yards one gets per passing play, with touchdowns and interceptions weighted appropriately.

(Passing Yards – Sack Yards + (20 * Passing TD) – (45 * Interceptions)) / (Passes Attempted + Times Sacked)

I did a quick comparison of ANY/A postseason numbers from quarterbacks who have won two or more championships during their careers. Manning’s 6.29 ANY/A sits fifth among the 12 signal-callers, ahead of guys who are regarded in playoff folklore such as Troy Aikman and Tom Brady.

Bart Starr – 9.00 ANY/A in 10 G – 2-0 in Super Bowl
Jim Plunkett – 7.25 ANY/A in 10 G – 2-0 in SB
Terry Bradshaw – 7.16 ANY/A in 19 G – 4-0 in SB
Joe Montana – 6.99 ANY/A in 23 G – 4-0 in SB
Peyton Manning – 6.29 ANY/A in 27 G – 2-2 in SB
John Elway – 6.15 ANY/A in 21 G – 2-3 in SB
Troy Aikman – 6.15 ANY/A in 15 G – 3-0 in SB
Eli Manning – 6.15 ANY/A in 11 G – 2-0 in SB
Tom Brady – 6.05 ANY/A in 31 G – 4-2 in SB
Roger Staubach – 5.89 ANY/A in 20 G – 2-2 in SB
Ben Roethlisberger – 5.81 ANY/A in 17 G – 2-1 in SB
Bob Griese – 5.42 ANY/A in 11 G – 2-1 in SB

Having the better quarterback doesn’t guarantee a Super Bowl victory – in fact, history has shown the opposite. Using the adjusted net yards per pass attempt statistics once more, I compared the starting quarterbacks of each Super Bowl and looked at whether the one with the higher regular-season ANY/A+ (same statistic, just scaled to an average number of 100 to take passing environment into context) was victorious.

(Disclaimer: ANY/A+ data was not available between 1920 to 1968, meaning the first three Super Bowls were not included in this research.)

The first run-through saw a 25-21-1 edge in favor of the worse quarterback. However, eight signal-callers’ (1972 Griese, 1974 Bradshaw, 1979 Ferragamo, 1982 Theismann, 1982 Woodley, 1987 Williams, 1990 Hostetler, 2012 Kaepernick) ANY/A+ statistic were skewed because of small sample sizes, so my next evaluation eliminated them from the sample. After doing that, the difference shrunk a tad but it was 21-18-1 towards the weaker signal-caller.

1969-2001 QB Match-Ups
2002-2015 QB Match-Ups

Below is a scatter plot of these numbers:

A couple of interesting trinkets I pulled from this research:

1 – Nine quarterbacks have posted an ANY/A+ of 100 or lower and made the Super Bowl. Six of those signal-callers [1980 Plunkett, 1986 Simms, 2000 Dilfer, 2007 E. Manning, 2008 Roethlisberger, 2015 P. Manning] ended up hoisting the Lombardi Trophy.)
2 – I forgot how poorly Ben Roethlisberger played during the 2008 season (95 ANY/A+), frustrating me even more that my Titans couldn’t get past the Ravens (and referees) in the AFC Divisional Round that year.
3 – Peyton gets criticism for only beating Rex Grossman in Super Bowl XLI, but Tom Brady doesn’t get the same backlash for losing to Eli Manning in XLII. Why does that matter? Well, Grossman posted a 97 ANY/A+ in 2006, six points higher than Eli’s 91 the next year. Combine Brady’s 142 ANY/A+ from the Patriots’ 16-0 campaign and you have a difference of 51 points – the largest in a Super Bowl match-up between quarterbacks.

So what is this looking to prove? That we shouldn’t be taking Super Bowl wins and losses as gospel. I’ve mentioned before that postseasons are mostly crapshoots and it’s strange to me that we let playoff narratives get in the way of assessment. Hopefully football fans won’t look at Peyton Manning’s career any differently after he won a second championship last night, because it never needed that affirmation.

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The Next Lou Whitaker…

Funny that this picture exists. I thought they canceled the 2004 World Series? (p/c: zimbio.com)

In 2001, Lou Whitaker received just 2.9 percent of votes on the Baseball Hall of Fame ballot, eliminating him from eligibility until this year, where he will be under consideration by the Veterans Committee.

For those unfamiliar with Whitaker, he played 19 seasons at second base with the Detroit Tigers, providing above-average offensive and defensive production throughout the majority of his career. He finished his career with 118 wRC+ and 68.1 fWAR – the latter number being the ninth-highest among all second basemen. (For comparison, Ryne Sandberg – a third-year inductee in 2005 – completed his career with 115 wRC+ and 60.9 fWAR.)

(Sidenote: I use a lot of metrics in my writing that the majority of the public might not find familiar because I find that they evaluate player performance better than traditional statistics. For a glossary on the ones I use, click here.)

Whitaker and Kenny Lofton (62.4 fWAR, received just 3.2% of votes in 2013) are two of the most baffling cases to fall off the Hall of Fame ballot after one season. Unfortunately, it seems like one of my all-time favorite players, Jim Edmonds, is about to join them.

The voting process is a mess to say the least, mostly because there is no concrete mindset on what to do with alleged and admitted PED (performance enhancing drug) users. This, along with the ridiculous 10-player limit, has backlogged the ballot to the point where cases like Lofton and potentially Edmonds will happen more frequently.

My personal biases admittedly come into play when discussing Edmonds, but when you look through his resume, it reads like a Hall of Famer’s. Without diving into advanced statistics (yet), Jimmy Ballgame can make his pitch for Cooperstown partially on his 392 homeruns and eight Gold Gloves (1997-98, 2000-05) from center field. Those numbers respectively rank eighth among centerfielders and tied for fifth among all outfielders all-time.

Breaking down his career from advanced metrics, Edmonds posted a 132 wRC+ (19th among CF), .385 wOBA, .243 ISO (7th among CF), and a 64.5 fWAR (13th among CF). He compiled five consecutive seasons (2000-04) of 140 wRC+ or higher (139 wRC+ in 2005) and six consecutive seasons (2000-05) of 6.0+ fWAR. Edmonds was worth 5.0+ fWAR in eight seasons (1995-96, 2000-05), while that number jumps to 10 years (1995-98, 2000-05) when it is lowered to 4.0+ fWAR.

If you look at the outfielders that were inducted so far in the 21st century, it can be argued that Edmonds was a better overall player than all but one of them. (Induction year and time on ballot in parentheses.)

Jim Edmonds (2016): 393 HR in 7,980 PA, .284/.376/.527, 132 wRC+, 317.9 FG Off, 73.3 FG Def, 64.5 fWAR

Andre Dawson (2010, 9th): 438 HR in 10,769 PA, .279/.323/.482, 117 wRC+, 314 SB, 230.3 FG Off, 59.5 fWAR
Tony Gwynn (2007, 1st):
3,141 H in 10,232 PA, .338/.388/.459, 132 wRC+, 410.5 FG Off, 65.0 fWAR
Rickey Henderson (2009, 1st):
297 HR in 13,346 PA, .279/.401/.419, 132 wRC+, 1,406 SB, 650.7 FG Off, 106.3 fWAR
Kirby Puckett (2001, 1st): 207 HR in 7,831 PA, .318/.360/.477, 122 wRC+, 204.9 FG Off, 44.9 fWAR
Jim Rice (2009, 15th): 382 HR in 9,058 PA, .298/.352/.502, 128 wRC+, 297.5 FG Off, 50.8 fWAR
Dave Winfield (2001, 1st): 465 HR in 12,358 PA, .283/.353/.475, 128 wRC+, 406.5 FG Off, 59.9 fWAR

And if the voters need postseason accolades, Edmonds can certainly provide those. In 64 playoff games, he posted a 124 wRC+ (and an above-average wRC+ in five of seven postseasons) thanks to a slash line of .274/.361/.513 and 13 homeruns. Did I mention Edmonds also has a couple of October moments?

So why is Edmonds about to fall off of the ballot? Most of it probably has to do with the backlog (which is another rant I might touch on in a different post), but I think some of it can be attributed to a sense of being “overshadowed” on his own team. Mark McGwire was still riding the momentum of back-to-back historic seasons when Edmonds was acquired from the Anaheim Angels in 2000, and a rookie phenom by the name of Albert Pujols was the big ticket the following season. Add Scott Rolen to complete MV3 in 2003 and you have multiple superstars that Edmonds had to “share” the spotlight with during the prime of his career.

Oh, and there was also that guy who played during the same timeframe too.

Hopefully Edmonds will get the call in 2031 by the Veterans Committee.

My hypothetical ballot: Jeff Bagwell, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Jim Edmonds, Ken Griffey Jr., Mark McGwire, Mike Piazza, Curt Schilling, Tim Raines, Alan Trammell
Others I’d vote in if no limits: Edgar Martinez, Mike Mussina, Gary Sheffield, Sammy Sosa, Larry Walker

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