Wednesday, January 11, 2017

(S)Chilling Moments

(S)Chilling Moments

Why Curt Schilling Belongs In Cooperstown: Part II

In November of 2012, I wrote a piece about the Hall of Fame candidacy and worthiness of former Red Sox ace Curt Schilling, where I (incorrectly) predicted that Schilling would be a first-ballot Hall of Famer.

Here we are four years later, and I make the same case.

Curt Schilling deserves induction in 2017, and here's why:

During his 20-year career, Schilling amassed just 216 career wins against 146 losses. He never won a Cy Young Award (a victim of the steroid era). But his numbers still pop out of the page at you. He finished third in Strikeout to Walk ratio, his 3,116 strikeouts rank 15th all-time. His pitching WAR, according to an article by Deadspin writer Tim Marchman, is on par with Bob Gibson and Steve Carlton. A six-time All-Star, Schilling led the National League in strikeouts in 1997 and 1998, and also led Major League Baseball in wins during the 2001 and 2004 seasons. In 1993, Schilling earned the NLCS MVP award by pitching to a 1.69 ERA with 19 strikeouts over two games. In 2001, he posted a 22-6 record with a 2.96 ERA as the Arizona Diamondbacks went on to defeat the New York Yankees in what many people consider to be among the greatest World Series of all time, and what I consider to be one of the worst days of my childhood. Schilling's postseason success that year, including going 4-0 with a 1.12 ERA and winning his only decision, led to him being named the World Series Co-MVP along with Hall of Famer Randy Johnson. Schilling won 23 games the following year.

After a sub-par 2003 season, Schilling signed with the Boston Red Sox, where he broke my heart again. He posted a 21-6 record and led the league with a league-leading .778 winning percentage. His 21 wins also led the league. During the playoffs, Schilling won his only start against the Angels in the ALDS. Then came his magical performance in the ALCS against the Yankees. After a disastrous Game 1, Schilling famously pitched Game 6 on his injured ankle, where he hurled seven strong innings, giving up just a single run on four hits with four strikeouts. He was the runner-up for the American League Cy Young Award. His 2005 season was spent recovering from his injuries as he posted an unimpressive 5-5 record with a 5.69 ERA. He rebounded in 2006, starting the season 4-0 with a 1.61 ERA, and finishing the season 15-7 with a 3.97 ERA. In his final season, he went 9-8 with a 3.97 ERA before retiring due to age and injuries. On June 7, 2007, he came within one out of a no-hitter. During the four-year period from 2001-2004, arguably his most dominant stretch, Schilling was 74-28 with a 3.11 ERA. By comparison, Randy Johnson went 67-33 with a 2.70 ERA during that same time period. His 2.06 ERA in the World Series is the third lowest of a pitcher in the World Series, behind Bob Gibson (1.89) and Sandy Koufax (0.94). His 8.6 strikeouts per nine innings among pitchers with 3,000 or more innings ranks third, behind Nolan Ryan and Randy Johnson, and Sandy Koufax.

Schilling led the league in Games Started in 1997, 1998, and 2001, in winning percentage in 2004. He led the league in WHIP during both the 1992 and 2002 seasons.

Schilling was never the "best" pitcher in the league. He finished as the runner-up for the Cy Young Award three times and finished fourth in 1997. He only won 216 games over 20 years, three fewer than Pedro Martinez did in 18 years. Nevertheless, his numbers speak for themselves. For a period of time, Schilling was one of the best pitchers in baseball, and as someone who watched him repeatedly dominate to postseason when the games matter the most, I am adamant that Curt Schilling is a Hall of Famer.

In Defense of Bud Selig

A Second Look at Selig

Former Commissioner Deserving of Induction

Last month, the Veteran's Committee announced that former Commissioner Bud Selig will be a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame class of 2017. Selig joins Atlanta Braves executive John Schuerholtz, who built the formidable Braves teams of the 1990s, including the teams that lost to the New York Yankees in both the 1996 and 1999 World Series.

While Schuerholtz's selection was met with near-universal praise, that of Selig was met with the opposite, with many fans blaming him for the steroid scandal that plagued Major League Baseball in the 1990s and 2000s and continues today, albeit to a lesser extent than in the past. 

Selig first rose to prominence in 1970, when he purchased the first-year Seattle Pilots franchise and moved them to Milwaukee. He would spend the next 22 years as owner. He then moved into a front office role, eventually being named acting Commissioner in 1992, before being officially elected to the office in 1998.

As Commissioner, Selig oversaw incredible revenue growth in Major League Baseball. He instituted re-alignment and the Wild Card rounds (both first and second), he created inter-league play 20 years ago, consolidated the offices of American and National League President into Major League Baseball in 2000, instituted instant replay, and created the World Baseball Classic. He also instituted the highly controversial Home Field Advantage rule for the winner of the All Star Game, which lasted for 13 years before being shelved this past winter as a condition of the new Collective Bargaining Agreement. Selig presided over 21 years of labor peace in baseball.

However, many criticized him fiercely for his role in the steroid era during his term. In addition, his refusal to act on a Mets ownership change in 2011 during Fred Wilpon's ponzi scheme financial problems  which decimated the club, while simultaneously forcing Frank McCourt to sell the Dodgers, gained him a fair amount of criticism from fans. His unprecedented 211 (later reduced to 162) game suspension for Alex Rodriguez's second steroid admission in 2013-14 had him fall out of favor with many fans. 

Despite his obvious shortcomings as Commissioner, Selig oversaw a period of great growth and success in Major League Baseball, and his Hall of Fame election, though rightfully controversial, is well-deserved.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

A National Treasure

A National Treasure

Baseball Needs to Keep the Tradition

I am a longtime Yankees fan, who for my entire 20 year life has watched the team play game after game under the American League's 1973 rule 5.11.

A hitter may be designated to bat for the starting pitcher and all subsequent pitchers in any game without otherwise affecting the status of the pitcher(s) in the game. A Designated Hitter for the pitcher, if any, must be selected prior to the game and must be included in the lineup cards presented to the Umpire-in-Chief. If a manager lists 10 players in his team’s lineup card, but fails to indicate one as the Designated Hitter, and an umpire or either manager (or designee of either manager who presents his team’s lineup card) notices the error before the umpire-in-chief calls “Play” to start the game, the umpire-in-chief shall direct the manager who had made the omission to designate which of the nine players, other than the pitcher, will be the Designated Hitter.

Year after year, CBA after CBA, the debate rages on: Should the National League adopt the designated hitter? Should the American League drop it? Fans of both styles of play have very strong opinions about it. As a fan myself, so do I. 

We need National League Baseball.

Pure baseball.

Please understand that I am not suggesting that the American League should eliminate the DH. I enjoy the extra offense and the chance to see power hitters and offense in the lineup. But National League Baseball is real baseball. The game the way Babe Ruth played it. The way Don Larsen played it. The way Walter Johnson played it. The way it was meant to be played.

Why is it that pitchers, whom some people consider the best athletes on the field, can't hit their way out of a paper bag? Or successfully bunt their way on base? These people are obviously amazing athletes or they wouldn't be playing in the major leagues, so why can't they compensate? Managers have to make tough decisions on whether to leave them in the game and for how long? Bench players get more playing time as pinch hitters for pitchers. The game is overall better with National League baseball staying the way it is. 

Yes, pitchers will get hurt. Yes, pitchers will continue to strike out. Yes, fans, owners, and others may complain. 

But in the end, Bartolo Colon, Carlos Zambrano, and Madison Bumgarner should be allowed to continue to hit. There is an option for pitchers to go to the American League as free agents if they so dread wielding the bat, but for those pitchers above, as well as countless others who at least enjoy trying to get that elusive hit or occasional home run, why ruin the game? 

Critics argue there are two leagues, playing by two sets of rules. And they are right.

That's what makes the MLB the best sports league. The NFL, NBA, and NHL have a unified set of rules, making their conferences and leagues identical, and therefore just for show. Don't turn the MLB into that as well. Don't cater to the "casual fan", who would probably be watching or doing anything else besides baseball were the option open. Don't cater to the generation of people too spoiled by an era of steroids and cheating, desperately begging for more offense. 

Cater to the tradition and strategy that actually makes the game different, and makes the game interesting. Eight other players go up ready to clobber home runs over the fence, Make it so one actually has to bunt, has to swing the bat and barely get that blooper over the second baseman's head. Make Inter-League play more entertaining by letting the fans see pitchers hit, like we do now. Because in the end, baseball made a great decision in 1973 to adopt the designated hitter.

And the National League countered with an even better decision to stay out of it.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Rocket Man!

Rocket Man

It's Been A Long, Long Time

With all of this controversy surrounding the resurgence of disgraced Yankees slugger Alex Rodriguez, as well as the upcoming number retirement of Andy Pettitte, the time has come for the Yankees to ask a very important question.

You see, every year I sit and wait, like so many other fans, to see who the Yankees invited to their annual Old Timers' Day. It is a time to celebrate and commemorate the great moments of past Yankees, especially, as Yankees radio announcer John Sterling says, World Champions, All Stars, and even a few Hall of Famers. While I am well aware that he will never be the latter, it is time to bury the proverbial hatchet and invite Roger Clemens to the 2016 Old Timers' Day festivities.

Clemens, seen here with the Yankees, has been absent from team functions since his retirement in 2007. Photo courtesy of RealClearSports

Clemens spent six seasons with the Yankees, during which he amassed an 83-42 record and a 4.01 ERA, good for a .664 winning percentage. Not to mention a 7-4 postseason record, coming through when it counted most.

Full disclosure: I loved Roger Clemens. As a kid, I practically worshiped the man for all of the "super-human" success he had. Well, time has passed and I have lost that childlike innocence. I'm not stupid. I know full well that the reason for his success was more than likely caused by some form of performance-enhancing drugs, and as much as it pained me to learn, we all need to look ahead as well as what's past.

Last year, the San Francisco Giants hired Barry Bonds, Major League Baseball's home run king, as an advisor. The St. Louis Cardinals hired Mark McGwire as hitting coach in 2010, though he is now with the Dodgers. The Chicago Cubs hired Manny Ramirez as a hitting consultant.

The Yankees have embraced A-Rod, arguably the biggest cheater of all-time, as one of their own again. Never mind that Rodriguez, who has a career .263 postseason batting average, has been a perennial playoff choker, and the only player in baseball history to end his team's season two consecutive years with a strikeout. Yet Clemens remains locked out. Clemens, the two-time World Series Champion. 

On a hot summer day in 2016, John Sterling (or Michael Kay) will call out his stats. "He was the ace of the Yankees staff..."; "His 20-1 start to the 2001 season..."; or even "His intense demeanor on the field..." will be remembered. But most of all, he will be back in the one uniform where he belongs, Yankee pinstripes.

So I'm calling for Hank and Hal Steinbrenner, Randy Levine, and Debbie Tymon, (who organizes the annual event) to end the boycott! You let A-Rod back in after he wronged you several times.

It's time to give Clemens the same treatment.

(Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images) Courtesy of CBS Cleveland

Monday, February 16, 2015

In Defense of Andy Pettitte

Recently the Yankees announced that they would retire the numbers of three of the greatest players in franchise history, and give them plaques in Monument Park. Bernie Williams, Jorge Posada, and Andy Pettitte. Posada, a decent Hall of Fame case notwithstanding, and the great Bernie Williams have certainly earned the honor. Pettitte, however, raised many questions, due to his use of the banned-substance Human Growth Hormone (HGH). Many were appalled at the notion that the Yankees would knowingly honor a cheater.

But is Pettitte a cheater? That answer isn't what you might think.

Pettitte admitted in a 2007 press conference that he did, in fact, use HGH in 2002 in order to heal his ailing elbow quicker and return to form in time to pitch again during the season. There is no question about that. He was never banned or suspended for the incidents.

Because he never used a banned substance.

HGH was not banned by Major League Baseball until January 2005, nearly three years after Pettitte used it. Furthermore, it does not appear to have given him an edge, as his win total actually decreased from 15 to 13 during the season, due in part to his injury. There is no evidence that Pettitte benefited at all from his use of the HGH.

His numbers speak for themselves, 256 wins against 153 losses, and 19 postseason victories (an MLB record). His 2,020 strikeouts in pinstripes are a Yankee record, 219 wins third all-time, and 438 games started tie for first with Whitey Ford. His 148 wins from 2000-2009 were the most of any pitcher during the decade, and he played a vital role in five World Series Championships (1996, 1998, 1999, 2000, and 2009).

And according to the rules, he really did do it all clean.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Le's Go Mets! W-O-R!

When the Yankees moved to WFAN-AM in October, it marked the end of a 27-year partnership between New York's premier sports radio station and the Mets.

However, soon the Mets found a new home, WOR-AM, the Conservative radio station of New York City, and it was announced that Mets executives and the Wilpons had inked a 5-year deal to air games on the station.

Apparently, the station reluctantly agreed to bring the beloved radio voice of the Mets Howie Rose back, but Mets executives borderline forced them to retain Rose, 60, who is a living, breathing Mets history book.

Recently, it was also announced that Josh Lewin would return on what was only described as a "short-term deal". Rose and Lewin, now in their third year together, instantly meshed.

And then there was one.

The Yankees have power and influence in New York, due in large part to their success and the hard-nosed, my-way-or-the-highway style of the Steinbrenner family. When they moved to WFAN, John Sterling and Suzyn Waldman moved with them.

The Mets do not, with Wilpon's lack of backbone in forcing decisions. And it is why I am writing this now.

For nearly 30 years, Ed Coleman, WFAN's Mets reporter, broke vital news on the team, including David Wright's new contract. He is beloved by fans, players, and management.

But apparently, not by WOR.

Coleman will likely not move to WOR to cover the Mets, staying at WFAN to report.

Coleman is 65 years old, and he has been with the team for a long time. He serves as a fill-in broadcaster when Lewin or Rose are unavailable, he hosts pre-game and post-game shows, he reports on team news, and he has shown that he still has a sharp mind, and a passion for the game that is unrivaled.

Why would anyone want to break that up?

And so, my plea to WOR-AM 710 is very simple.


Don't break up a good thing.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

One Giant Loss

One Giant Loss

Giants' Season Over: But Who's To Blame?

The New York Giants kill me sometimes. After an 0-6 start, they rebounded, gave me hope as they seemingly came to be a formidable contender, but ultimately were done in once again and now stand with another playoff-less season. So who is to blame for this mess. It runs far deeper than one guy. It runs higher than a player or a coach. But it is something that can be fixed by 2014.

There are three key areas that cannot be overlooked for Big Blue to have a winning season and return to the glory that they once held.

First off: The Giants' offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride, as anyone and everyone who watches knows, a proponent of the "run and shoot" offense. It does work, but it requires a RUNNING GAME in order to work. According to ESPN, the Giants as a team have 1,052 yards as of today. They need new running backs by 2014 to be a formidable opponent.

Second: The Giants' offensive line needs to be fixed in the draft. They need to find a replacement for David Diehl, who will turn 34 early next season and is an impending free agent.

Third: Their secondary needs an overhaul. Antrel Rolle, who is owed $7 million in 2014, has just 5 interceptions for 23 yards. If he starts slow, he may be released. He is owed a lot of money in their cap.

Corey Webster, in decline at age 32 next year, is owed just $1 million. He should be the first player released after the season ends. A new cornerback should be drafted in 2014 to take his place.

Their running game needs a new face. Brandon Jacobs and Andre Brown added a well-needed boost, but if David Wilson cannot return, the Giants need to draft a new running back in April.

If Jerry Reese wants this team to return to glory, these areas will be addressed in April's draft.