Results tagged ‘ John Olerud ’

Tough Hall ballot for former Yankees

Last week’s Hall of Fame election was a tough one for those players with ties to the Yankees. Of the eight players on the ballot who spent time with the Yankees, five failed to get the five percent required to remain in consideration and were dropped. The three players who will remain on the ballot next year did nothing to improve their chances of election anytime soon, if ever.

With a record total of 581 ballots submitted by Baseball Writers’ Association of America members with 10 or more consecutive years of service, 436 votes were needed for election to satisfy the 75-percent requirement. Second baseman Roberto Alomar with 523 (90.0 percent) and pitcher Bert Blyleven with 463 (79.7) were the only ones to make the grade; Alomar in his second time on the ballot and Blyleven in his 14th and next to last time.

Kevin Brown, who pitched for the Yankees in his later years after having been a Yankees Killer with the Rangers early in his career, did the best of those who wore the pinstripes that failed to make the cut, with 12 votes, which reflected only 2.1 percent of the ballots cast. First baseman Tino Martinez, one of the franchise’s most popular players, got 6 votes (1.0 percent), and pitcher Al Leiter and first baseman John Olerud received 4 apiece (0.7). Shut out entirely was outfielder Raul Mondesi.

Brown has become sort of a darling of the SABR (Society of Baseball Research) set, who love his statistics. I admit Brown had a better career than a lot of people may think (211-144 record, 3.28 ERA, 2 ERA and WHIP titles, 6 All-Star appearances), but the Hall of Fame is for the great, not just the very good. Brown’s time with the Yankees was one of the areas that worked against him. His impact was less than minimal; it was non-existent. Martinez also falls into the very good category, as did his old buddy Paul O’Neill, who was a one-and-done candidate four years ago.

The others had their moments in the sun, which is why they were on the ballot in the first place, but Cooperstown just was not to be their destination.

As for those who remain, the outlook is not good, since each lost ground in the voting. Reliever Lee Smith, who pitched in eight games for the Yankees in 1993, is stuck below 50 percent. He might have been expected to get to the half-way point in this year’s election but instead fell to 45.3 percent – two percent below his 2010 showing. He has up to six more years for consideration (players may stay on the ballot up to 15 years provided they get 5 percent of the vote each year), but he appears to be going backward.

The same holds true for outfielder Tim Raines, whose candidacy is based more on his high-profile years with the Expos and White Sox rather than his role-playing time with the Yankees. I would have thought that appreciation for Raines’ record as a leadoff hitter would have heightened after Rickey Henderson’s election in 2009, but Rock is also moving in reverse. He went from receiving 37.5 percent of the vote last year to 30.4 percent this year. Time at least is on Raines’ side; this was only his fourth year on the ballot.

Very much like Smith, time is running out on Don Mattingly, the Dodgers’ new manager whose entire playing career was spent with the Yankees. The 2011 election was Donnie Baseball’s 11th year on the ballot. He fell from 16.1 percent last year to 13.6 percent this year. Mattingly has never done better than the 28.2 percent he got in his first ballot year of 2001. He is down to less than half of that now and has only four years possibly remaining for consideration.

The 2012 ballot will feature another Yankees favorite, Bernie Williams, the switch-hitting center fielder and cleanup hitter on four World Series championship teams. This is just a hunch, but he is bound to do better than the first-year candidates with Yankees pedigrees this time around.

Another holiday list

As each year comes to a close, baseball writers center on their annual responsibility of voting for the Hall of Fame. Ballots are mailed out to writers Dec. 1 and due back in the hands to the Baseball Writers’ Association of America by a Dec. 31 postmark.

So it is not just Santa Claus who makes a list and checks it twice come the Christmas season.

As secretary-treasurer of the BBWAA, I have conducted the election since 1995, the year Mike Schmidt was elected. I will be busy with Hall of Fame business the next few days but will find time to share some thoughts with Yankees fans about the election. Results will be announced at 2 p.m. Wednesday on bbwaa.com, baseballhall.org, MLB.com and the MLB Network.

The ballot contains 33 names this year, eight of whom spent a portion of their careers with the Yankees, including two of the most popular figures in the franchise’s history, first basemen Don Mattingly and Tino Martinez. Others on the ballot who spent time with the Yankees are pitchers Kevin Brown, Al Leiter and Lee Smith, outfielders Tim Raines and Raul Mondesi and first baseman John Olerud.

Mattingly has been on the ballot for 10 years and has never done better than 28 percent of the vote going back to his first year. To gain entry into Cooperstown, 75 percent is required. Mattingly was at 16.1 percent last year. Martinez, his successor at first base for the Yankees, is a first-time candidate this year. It is doubtful writers will find Tino’s candidacy all that compelling, any more than they did another Yankees fan favorite Paul O’Neill two years ago. Martinez’s goal should be to get five percent of the vote necessary to stay on the ballot, which players must do to stay in contention for the full 15 years of eligibility. O’Neill failed to do that and was dropped after one year.

Brown, whose time with the Yankees was filled with controversy, had a fine career, but New York fans rarely saw him at his best except when he pitched against the Yankees for the Rangers. Yankees fans know Brown for breaking his pitching hand in anger and his implosion on the mound in Game 7 of the 2004 American League Championship, the franchise’s worst moment.

Leiter started and ended his career with the Yankees but had his best seasons with the Blue Jays, Marlins and Mets. His 162-132 record and 3.80 ERA does not spell immortality.

Raines, on the other hand, is an interesting case. He came to the Yankees after years with the Expos and White Sox and was a key role player on the World Series title teams of 1996, ’98 and ’99. With 2,605 hits and 808 stolen bases, Raines has some Hall of Fame numbers, but after three years on the ballot he has done no better than 30 percent.

Smith, Olerud and Mondesi had limited time in pinstripes. Olerud and Mondesi are on the ballot for the first time and are not likely to get the five percent of the vote necessary to stay on the ballot. Smith, who pitched in only eight games for the Yankees in 1993, once held the major-record for saves with 478 but has yet to attract even half the vote in eight previous elections.

The favorites this time around are second baseman Roberto Alomar and pitcher Bert Blyleven, each of whom came close last year. Blyleven was on 74.2 percent of the ballots cast and missed by five votes. Alomar missed by eight votes at 397, or 73.7 percent.

The only player not to get elected when eligible the year after getting more than 70 percent in the vote was pitcher Jim Bunning. He was on 74 percent of the ballots in 1988 and missed by four votes. The next year, however, with a thicker ballot consisting of first-year inductees Johnny Bench and Carl Yastrzemski and fellow pitching greats Gaylord Perry and Fergie Jenkins, Bunning lost 34 votes and dropped 11 percent in his final year on the ballot. He was eventually elected by the Veterans Committee in 1996.
 
The most accomplished of the new names are first basemen Jeff Bagwell and Rafael Palmeiro and outfielders Juan Gonzalez and Larry Walker. Palmeiro and Gonzalez will have a rough time.

Despite being only the fourth player in history to get more than 3,000 hits and 500 home runs, Palmeiro is a long shot because of his positive test for anabolic steroids in 2005, the same year he testified before Congress that he had never taken them. Hank Aaron, Willie Mays and Eddie Murray, the only other members of both the 3,000 Hit and 500 Home Run Clubs were elected in their first years of eligibility.

Gonzales, a two-time AL Most Valuable Player, showed up in the Mitchell Report as a steroids user, which could hurt his chances for a big vote. After all, Mark McGwire with his 587 home runs has been on the ballot for four years and is hovering at 23 percent.

Bagwell, who had an amazing career (.297, 449 home runs, 1,529 RBI, 1,517 runs, .408 on-base percentage, .540 slugging percentage), never failed a drug test but faced suspicions of possible performance-enhancing aid after he felt in love with the weight room in the mid-1990s. Walker, like Bagwell a National League MVP, had some very good years in Montreal and then some monster years in Colorado. Will the Coors Field effect hurt his chances?

See, this voting stuff isn’t easy. After thorough study, I finally filled out my ballot.

Checks went to Alomar, Bagwell, Blyleven, Walker, Mattingly, Raines, Barry Larkin, Edgar Martinez, Fred McGriff and Jack Morris.

My take on Bagwell was that he is innocent until proved guilty. Larkin is following a path not dissimilar to another NL MVP middle infielder who took a few years to get to Cooperstown, Ryne Sandberg. Ask any Yankees fan who watched the 1995 Division Series about Edgar Martinez, who was simply one of the greatest right-handed hitters I ever saw. McGriff, who came through the Yankees system but was traded away, slugged 493 homers the clean way and made a major difference on the only Atlanta Braves team to win a World Series. Morris was the ace of every staff for which he pitched, including three teams that won the World Series – the 1984 Tigers, ’91 Twins and ’92 Blue Jays.

Let the arguments begin. I’ll be back after the election.

Jeter top New York hit maker

Derek Jeter’s leadoff single to right field Wednesday night off Cliff Lee was career hit No. 2,877 for the Yankees shortstop and captain, and it was a big deal.

Coming in the same week in which Jeter passed Babe Ruth on the career list, this time he pushed ahead of Mel Ott and in so doing now has the most hits of any player while playing for a New York team, not just the Yankees but also the Mets and the former New York Giants and Brooklyn Dodgers. That covers a lot of territory.

Not all of the Babe’s 2,873 hits were for the Yankees. He also played for both Boston teams, the Red Sox and the Braves. In Ott’s case, all of his 2,876 hits were with the Giants in a 22-season career spanning 1926 to 1947. No player wearing a New York uniform had more hits than Ott, a record he held for 63 years until Wednesday night.

Just last year, Jeter surpassed Lou Gehrig as the Yankees’ franchise hit leader, which was rarified air enough. Now this. Think about the long history of major league baseball in New York City, much richer than even the supposed hot beds of St. Louis and Boston, and now Derek Jeter stands heads and shoulders over all the hit makers.

There are 203 players in the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Of that total, 92 played a portion of their careers for at least one of the New York teams. The city has seen some of the greatest hitters ever, from the Babe and Lou to Joe DiMaggio and Jackie Robinson, from Willie (Mays), Mickey (Mantle) and the Duke (Snider), on to Don Mattingly and Keith Hernandez.

Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio and Mantle all won batting titles as did fellow Yankees Snuffy Stirnweiss, Paul O’Neill and Bernie Williams. Other batting champions in New York were the Dodgers’ Robinson, Jake Daubert, Zack Wheat, Pete Reiser, Dixie Walker and Carl Furillo and the Giants’ Mays, Larry Doyle and Bill Terry, the last National League player to hit .400 (.401 in 1930). No Mets player has led the league in batting, but Dave Magadan and John Olerud came close.

Ott won no batting titles, either, even though he was a career .304 hitter. Ott’s specialty was the long ball. His total of 511 was the NL record for 20 years before Mays passed him in 1966. Ott led the league in home runs six times, and the NL trophy for the annual home run champion is named after him. He also had 488 doubles and 72 triples and hit .295 with four homers and 10 RBI in 16 World Series games.

Ott would have fit very well into today’s game as an on-base specialist. He led the NL in walks six times, walked more than 100 times in 10 seasons and had a career .414 on-base average. A left-handed batter, Ott took advantage of the short right field dimensions at the Polo Grounds utilizing a quirky hitting style in which he lifted his right leg as he started his swing. Copying that style years later was the Japanese slugger Sadaharu Oh of the Yomiuri Giants.

In his last six seasons in the majors, Ott wore two hats for the Giants as a player manager. A soft-spoken man from Louisiana with a demeanor not unlike that of Gehrig, it was Ott to whom Leo Durocher came up with his famous line, “Nice guys finish last.”

Ott never did finish last, and when he did finish his career he was first among New York players in total hits. Now that distinction belongs to Derek Jeter, another nice guy who doesn’t finish last.

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