Wednesday, November 23, 2016

2017 HOF Ballot Part 1


Photo: from bbstmlb.com

VotesPlayerPercentage
315Jeff Bagwell71.6%
307Tim Raines69.8%
296Trevor Hoffman67.3%
230Curt Schilling52.3%
199Roger Clemens45.2%
195Barry Bonds44.3%
191Edgar Martinez43.4%
189Mike Mussina43.0%
150Lee Smith34.1%
92Fred McGriff20.9%
73Jeff Kent16.6%
68Larry Walker15.5%
51Gary Sheffield11.6%
46Billy Wagner10.5%
31Sammy Sosa7.0%

Above you have the players still eligible for the Hall of Fame. These guys have struck out on past voting, with the percentage they got during last year's vote.

In 2017 I expect Bagwell, Raines and Hoffman to get over the 75% hump, though I don't expect any of them to go crazy and reach, say, 95%. Bagwell has those whispers of PEDS use, but now that Piazza is in, this shouldn't be a problem. Piazza's whispers were louder, though one look at Bagwell in his rookie year, and then him looking like King Kong in later years...well, whatever. As I've said before, the writers can't moralize when they vote, as many of them would fail morality tests of their own. And Bagwell has never been accused by MLB for using PEDs. So he gets a pass with me. One of the best sluggers, defenders and taker of a walk that you're likely to ever see.

Key stats: Career .408 on-base %; 449 homers and 1529 RBIs; .540 slugging %; .948 OPS; 128 HBP. Top-50 career in every positive offensive stat, and JAWS says he's the 6th-best 1B ever. 'nuff said.

Raines, as I've written before, was overshadowed by Rickey Henderson his entire career, and there was that vial of crack cocaine that shattered in his back pocket in a slide at home, all caught on national television. Oops. (I'm pretty sure crack was on MLB's banned drug list at the time.) But he's worthy of the HOF, and would've been in already had he not played at the same time as Rickey.

I'm not crazy about closers making the HOF, but Hoffman does have over 600 saves. Not too many closers deserve it. Mariano will in a few years, and maybe the writers are waiting to put him in first. He deserves it more than Hoffmann, as did the Eck. I'm not convinced of Hoffman's dominance, exactly, but he should get in for career value at the position. Lee Smith should not, because Hoffman dominated more than Lee Smith ever could. I never felt Hoffman was elite during his entire career.

Clemens and Bonds are this generation's (and maybe all-time's) kings at their positions, and should eventually get in. I'd rather see that sooner than later. Neither has been accused by MLB as having used PEDS, though of course both did. I'll fall back again on my stance that writers should not moralize. They were the peak value and career value greats, and should be in, although they were also both greatly disliked by ballplayers and writers while they played. But look at the numbers.

Mussina and Schilling both deserve to be in, as well. I have played that tune before and won't again now. They're both all-time great pitchers and are ranked 28th and 27th by JAWS. I'd take Schilling over Mussina anyday. The Moose might be a Veterans Committee (or whatever it's called now) pick.

The rest are a no-go, even Sosa. Caveat there, as he and McGwire straight-up saved baseball in the mid-nineties and are now treated as lepers. But baseball bureaucrats have the right to be hypocrites.

Next up: New players on the 2017 HOF ballot.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Mantle ($1.135M) and Musial Rookies Sold This Week


Photo: from psacard.com

This is what a million dollar card looks like. Specifically, this is what a $1,135,000 card looks like. Of course it's a Topps 1952 Mickey Mantle, in PSA 8.5 condition, and it's beautiful. It sold just today at auction. This is a record for a '52 Mantle--and it'll fall soon. A 1952 Mickey Mantle in Perfect 10 condition is due to be auctioned soon. It'll threaten to become the most expensive card ever, outselling the T206 Wagner. Stay tuned for that!

Also selling this week:


Photo: from psacard.com

A beautiful 1948 Bowman Stan Musial RC in PSA 9 condition, this week for $45,289. Or, more than half what most professionals make for a whole year. Shockingly under-rated player and card. Musial cards are so under-rated that even I can afford some mid-grades with no problem. That's a sin.

So click on the pics and see these beautiful cards! (Go to psacard.com and go to the bottom of the site for the market news. Click on the Mantle pic there to see the back--also beautiful!) And wonder what you would feel like if you had them--or the money to afford them.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Red Sox 2016



Photo: David Ortiz at the White House, from his Wikipedia page. Just click here.

Yes, I know it's been a long time. Inexcusable, considering the good season. There were lots of entries I could have made here, and I was about to, but then something relevant came up. Also I didn't want to write an entry about how the season ended, considering the abrupt turnaround and the much-improved play. So...

--Let's start it off with a trivia question: When Randy Johnson won his 300th game, for what team was he pitching for? Answer towards the bottom of the column.

--Yes, a disappointing end, but let's remember what they've been the last few years. Bottom line: A much-improved team that now should make the playoffs regularly for a long time to come. And now those who played in a playoffs for the first time (which was almost all of the offensive players, especially those whose offense was . . . well, offensive) will be better prepared for next time. The Big Bs were all shut down this time, but they won't be next time.

--And it looks like Pedroia was playing with a bum knee for much of the season. Didn't know that. But when a player has major surgery a few days after his season ends, that's what that means. Pedroia himself had a resurgent year, and has entered himself into potential HOF talk. Amongst this generation's second basemen, his career is building up to be one of the best.

--Baseball-reference and JAWS say Pedroia's the 19th-best ever, and his fielding % is 4th-best, ever. (Click on the link for his page and stats.) Is there another second basemen you'd rather have? I'll take a leadoff batter with a .350+ OBP, 200 hits and great defense. Can't count the number of times this year I saw him make a great play going up on the ball, rather than just down. Amazing defense.

--And it looks like Betts, Bogaerts, Bradley and Benetendi will be good players for a long time. I have a 10 baseball and a 10 autograph of Betts and Bradley, by the way. Look at the blog about Betts's ball by clicking here.

--Don't be surprised if Ortiz has a tough time, at first, getting into the Hall. He's a DH, and he's got a cloud of PEDS suspicion, especially with HGH. True, his name (and the others) were not supposed to be leaked from the Biogenesis report--but it still was there. And I don't know that the country's sportswriters revere him like those in New England do. But I do think he'll eventually get in.

--If he does, Edgar Martinez should, too. But Ortiz was better. And he wasn't exactly the defensive liability that Edgar Martinez was. Ortiz could play first base if you were truly desperate, but I wouldn't have put Edgar Martinez on the field under any circumstance, especially at third base.

--His F-bomb after the Boston bombing will win over some of the out-of-New England writers, and his extreme popularity with other players and with the media cannot be ignored. That kind of stuff shouldn't matter with the writers' HOF vote, but it always does.

--It's a good thing, though, that the umpires don't do the voting. Ortiz, in all honesty, would make the HOF of Home Plate Whining at Umpires. And, for a few years there, the HOF of Contract Whining.

--Bradley may be one of the streakiest hitters of all-time. Not too many batters have led their league in longest hitting streak, as Bradley led the American League this year with his 29-gamer, and yet still finish at .267 or so for the year. In the playoffs this was especially frustrating.

--Any STATS employee or sabermetrics virtuoso, please feel free to look that up and leave a comment. Who has the lowest batting average of anyone who led his league that year with the longest hitting streak? My guess: Jackie Bradley, Jr. 2016.

--Worthless stat that just popped in my head: What player had the lowest batting average and yet led his league in homers? Answer: Tony Armas, Boston, .218. In the mid-80s, maybe before your time.

--I've met him--Jackie Bradley, that is, not Tony Armas--and spoken with him twice. Good guy, very soft-spoken. I'm glad he's finally made it. (Made the two autographs I have of him worth more, too.)

--The Sox may have the MVP and Cy Young on the same team for the first time since 1986. (Roger Clemens won both that year.)

--While we're at it, the trivia answer from the top: Randy Johnson won his 300th while pitching for the San Francisco Giants. (!) Yeah, I wouldn't have guessed that, either. I just happened to be on his baseball-reference page before I started this column. I wanted to see who was greater, Clemens or Johnson. Answer, Clemens, and it's not close, both in peak value and in career value. Both are top-10.

--And don't even bother telling me that one took PEDS and one didn't, because I don't believe that either one of them could've pitched that long, at that level, and that hard, without some help. I know Nolan Ryan just had Alleve, but still...he may have benefited from the same stuff that apparently helped Mantle and Ruth, if you catch my drift.

--Every time Bogaerts swings at a pitch low and (way) outside, he needs to drop and give me 20. Right there at the plate, like Willie Mays Hayes.

--The entire Boston team in 2016 may have been one of the streakiest ever. Without that 11-game winning streak, they may not have made the playoffs at all.

--And at least Ortiz got to go out at Fenway.

--Goodbye, Big Papi. It won't be the same without you.

--And good luck to Tito Francona and Mike Napoli. And Lester and Lackey, too, if they make it.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Mookie Betts Autograph and Ball

My better half got me a Mookie Betts autographed ball last Xmas. Here it is:


It came with a certificate of authenticity (COA), but it was from the same ebay company that sold it. You probably know that you can't trust a COA from a company that certifies its own product, unless that company is a professional and trusted authenticator, like Beckett, JSA / DNA, etc. This company wasn't one of those. My better half, who has never bought an autographed collectible, didn't know that, and was also understandably pacified with the COA itself. The COA said:

"This certificate of authenticity guarantees the Rawlings Official Major League Baseball signed by Mookie Betts to be 100% genuine, being hand signed [sic] in person by Mr. Betts himself."

Sounds good, right? But what exactly is guaranteed to be genuine here? If you read it closely, the thing said to be genuine isn't the autograph, it's the baseball itself. Again, it says that the COA "...guarantees the ... baseball signed by Mookie Betts to be 100% genuine..." Whether by mistake (which I prefer to think) or by design, the COA sounds like it says it guarantees the autograph to be authentic, but it doesn't. It says the ball is a genuine Rawlings, which of course it is. Rawlings is the sole company that makes baseballs for Major League Baseball, and the commissioner's name is on it, but don't you want the COA to be for the autograph?

So I emailed the ebay company and asked if there was another COA or LOA (which really is what that was--a letter of authenticity; a certificate is usually a label or a card) that authenticates the autograph itself. The guy said No, but that he guarantees the autograph, or he'll give the money back.

I should mention here that the ball with autograph cost $70. Most Mookie Betts autographed balls, without a 3rd-party COA (like JSA) costs over $100, so this was a bargain. The ball looked really good to me--no smudges, dirt, cuts, etc. The autograph looked really good, too--no smudges, or blips, etc. Nice and clean with a good flow and solid contact.

After about an hour of research on ebay, comparing this to other authenticated Mookie Betts autographed baseballs, I decided this one was also genuinely his, and that I should send it out for authentication. (I did this just after I opened the gift on Christmas Day, before we continued opening things, because I'm an obsessive loser like that.)

So I saved up, because this stuff isn't cheap, and after a couple months I sent it to JSA (one of the three major 3rd-party authenticators, and JSA never sells anything--it only authenticates.) It took them about a month to say that it was, in fact, an autograph signed by Mookie Betts himself.

This cost $55. Not bad.

Then JSA sent it to Beckett, which grades the ball and the autograph. I wanted this done because this was the first autographed baseball bought for me by my better half, and because the ball and autograph looked good enough to grade, to better estimate its value and to protect them.

(I am violently upset with myself for allowing balls with Tim Wakefield and Jason Varitek autographs to fade from the sun. Now I have to replace those. Daniel Bard also--infamously, among my friends--autographed a ball and then smudged it to hell when he gave it back to me. I got back in a long line with a separate baseball to get another autograph, but got stopped just before I got to his table by an overly strict woman who said he was leaving. When I explained what happened, and that I'd been in line twice, she said she didn't care. [This was at Pawtucket's HotStove, where new players sign for free, usually in the beginning of January, when it's about four degrees. And the PawSox don't turn on the heat, either. Luckily Daniel Bard turned out to be...well, Daniel Bard. I still have the damn ball, too. Anybody want it?)

But I digress. So Beckett took another month to grade the ball and autograph--and its website somehow managed to screw up my account info., so that they had to mail me a separate invoice, and the regional sales manager had to email me when the ball was done and it was coming back to me.

This cost another $40. And I paid $18 to reimburse them for shipping and another $10 for insurance. By the end, you can see this isn't cheap: $70 (which my better half paid for the ball) + $55 + $40 + $18 + $10, for a total of  $193, plus the $28 I paid to ship and insure, for a total of $225.

Yeah, $225 to authenticate, encapsulate, grade the autograph and grade the ball. And that's with no guarantee that the ball and autograph were graded highly! (I've sent over 100 cards to SGC to get graded and slabbed, with no guarantee of what they'll say it is. Suffice it to say, I've won some and I've lost some. One big win was the Jim Bottomley 1933 Goudey, which you can find here.)

Now the ball looks like this:


As you can see, all's well that ends well: JSA said the autograph was authentic, and Beckett said that the ball and the autograph were both a perfect 10! That means that, by definition, even Mookie Betts himself won't have a Mookie Betts autographed baseball (or, to be more precise: an autograph and a baseball) in better condition than mine! I can actually say that nobody in the world--Yes, not even Mookie Betts himself!--will have a better Mookie Betts autograph, nor a better ball to have the autograph on!--than mine.

If he ever turns out to be a Hall of Fame player, this will be worth a ton. As it is, it's worth about $500, from some internet sales on authenticated and graded autographs and baseballs, on ebay and other sites, including auction houses. And Betts hasn't been to an All-Star Game yet, nor a playoff game. Once he does...

So here's another picker success, done in tandem with my better half. We spent $225 and it's worth about $500, for a profit of $275. Not bad, even by the standards of the Pickers themselves.

Don't worry, honey--I'm never going to sell it! But it's good to know the value in case we ever have to, right?

Monday, June 27, 2016

Sox 4 Games Out on 6.26.16


Photo: from the great Sox/Giants game on 6.7.16. This is just after Chris Young contorted himself by somehow moving his arm out of the way, mid-slide, to avoid a tag by Brandon Belt. Ortiz was out at first, but by staying out of the double play, the tying run scored.

So it has become obvious that the Sox will not contend in the American League East without some drastic changes. Despite the awesomeness of last month, one 30-day span does not make a whole season, and the offense could not have possibly kept up that incredible pace.

In fact:

--no offense will literally score 6+ runs every game, especially when the starting pitching puts it into a deep hole right away. I think this offense could be better than it is--and not leave the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth without scoring--but it won't if it feels pressure to do too much in every at-bat. A player will hit better when there's no stress or pressure on him--but there is pressure on him if his starter has given up a few runs in the first or second inning already. That's why the Sox won so many games last month: they scored in the first inning constantly and put pressure on the other team. Now other teams are doing that to the Sox.

--and that's not the fault of the offense. Sure, this offense has had some blips, especially the White Sox / Wright game, which actually was the offense's fault, as Wright pitched 9 great innings. But that was an anomaly. (And the White Sox left the bases loaded twice without scoring while losing a later game.) Simply put, the bad starting pitching has put more pressure on the offense, which tightens the batters up and makes them worse.

--if the starting pitching improves, the offense will improve.

So how to make the starting pitching improve?

The face and stats make it clear that the answer isn't this guy:



(Photo from my own camera. Saw this on my DVRed game on NESN and I couldn't resist.)

So who is the answer?

Well, I was in Pawtucket today, to watch who may be the only answer there: Henry Owens. Sadly, he continues to do the same thing: 2-0 and 3-1 on everybody, thereby becoming predictable and giving up lots of hits and walks and throwing too many pitches, and he's out of the game before the end of the 5th. (See: Eduardo Rodriguez and Clay Buchholz.)

He's not the answer, and won't be. He's been given a few years of chances and he hasn't changed. This pains me to say, as I have an autographed and slabbed RC of his, but it is what it is. He won't be any better than he is. I hope he proves me wrong in his September call-up, but he won't. Again. This is especially bad because his performances don't even make him good trade bait. He might be enticing for someone who wants to deal a reliever, or some bench help, but you won't get starting pitching for him.

So who can bring a top-flight starter?

Well, Bogaerts, Betts or Bradley could, but no way do you trade any of these guys. They'll bring butts to the stands even if the Sox aren't making the playoffs. These guys are All-Star caliber core players for many years, as they're all young and cheap. None of them are making more than $600,000 this year. (As opposed to Sandoval, who's getting $17 million this year not to play at all.) In baseball economics, they are very cheap, and will be until 2020. So they stay. So who?

Nobody wants Rusney Castillo, of course. He hit a seeing-eye single today and made a nice running catch, his back to the plate--but he also threw to third when he had no shot at the guy, thereby allowing the batter to get to second base. That reminded me of Tom Hanks in A League of Their Own, who told a sobbing woman she can't throw to third and allow another runner (the tying run in the movie) to reach second base. If he knew that, wouldn't a star of the Cuban League, who's been playing ball all of his adult life? That's the kind of basic knowledge Jerry Remy said Castillo didn't have, and he said it last year. Castillo is a $70+ million waste of a Triple-A roster spot. That especially sucks because I have his rookie card in gem 10 condition. (Anybody want it?)

I would've said a package of Swihart (who can hit, and play left and catch decently) and Brock Holt and Rutledge may have been enough to send to the cash-strapped A's (Billy Beane loves cheap versatility) for Rich Hill, but all of those guys are injured, and nobody's desperate enough to take three guys just off the DL. (By the way, check out how well Hill is doing, and see the blog I wrote at the end of last year, saying the Sox were crazy to let him go, and for nothing!) Maybe they can get better and play really well before the Trade Deadline at the end of next month, but that's a lot to ask.

That package isn't enough for Sonny Gray, but I'm not interested in him, anyway. Though Hill is in his mid-30s, he's a resurging junkballer, and those guys can pitch into their early-40s. I think Sonny Gray is damaged goods and is looking at his best days in the rearview mirror.

It's a long shot, but I'd be willing to part with Hanley Ramirez, but he's not cheap, so the A's wouldn't want him. But how about him and all of the aforementioned guys, and a lot of money, to the Marlins for Jose Fernandez? Ramirez likes Miami, but they've probably tired of him there. Remember when the Sox traded him there for Josh Beckett and a throw-in named Mike Lowell? That trade won 2007.

Well, I hate to say it, but for a #1 or #2 starter, you're going to have to deal away Andrew Benintendi and / or Yoan Moncada. Certainly these guys--and even one of these guys--are too good to part with for the likes of Rich Hill, but they are good enough chips to get a solid #2 or even a #1 on a really bad team. I'd rather trade these maybes than the definite Yeses of Bogaerts, Betts and Bradley any day. Remember how Brian Rose and Carl Pavano were the best young starters in all of baseball, and the Sox traded them both for Pedro Martinez? Do you remember that local fans at the time were in an uproar? But how did that turn out?

Unfortunately here, it's a lot easier to trade starting pitching for starting pitching, than it is to trade an infielder and an outfielder for starting pitching, but it's still doable.  Benintendi and Moncada are thought of so highly in baseball that they could swing a #1. If the Sox are going to land one, these guys (or, hopefully, just one of these guys, and don't ask me which one) are going to have to be flipped. It's worth doing, especially for a good pitcher who's still decently young, and under some control.

If the Sox were to turn them both over for Fernandez--who the Marlins are rumored to be dealing--that would be a helluva thing. They're cash-strapped, too, and certainly a combination of Benintendi and / or Moncada, plus Hanley Ramirez, Swihart and either Holt or Rutledge would get Fernandez from Miami. Maybe throw Christian Vazquez, too, as much as I like his defense. But he's never going to hit, and I'm not as happy with his pitch-calling and strike-framing as others are.

Anyway, to get a #1 or a #2, I would try to do these.

Until then, the starters need to walk fewer, keep their pitches down, get ahead in the count and stop being so predictable. The offense needs to hit with RISP and do all those little things that haven't been done consistently since that game mentioned in the beginning of this (long) blog entry.

By the way, notice how the slide started when the Sox lost Carson Smith for the season, and Brock Holt for over 6 weeks? Brock Holt is the player the sabermetricians don't have a stat for, but he gels this offense, and does every single little thing very well. I saw him today, too. He got on base 3 times.

Time to call him up.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Sox 28-17 on May 24, 2016

A few things as we bask in the glory of the recent success:

--A few years ago (or during the first half last year), who would've thought JBJ would hit in 28 straight? With his offense and defense, he's probably one of the best players in the game. According to WAR, anyway.

--But keep in mind that he's been doing for a few months what Mike Trout has been doing for a few years.

--And I'm wondering why JBJ got so suddenly better, if you catch my drift.

--I hated to say that, because I spoke to JBJ for a short time a few years ago, at the Pawtucket Hot Stove League, and he's a very nice, soft-spoken guy. And he signed two baseballs for me, in the perfect spot, in a perfect marker with perfect handwriting.

--And, yeah, I'm sending those bad boys to JSA and then to Beckett ASAP.

--My comment a few spots ago holds true to Ortiz as well, who's having a resurgence with his power numbers at an age in which even the immortals (besides Bonds, of course) were beginning to feel it. I'm just sayin'.

--I was afraid for a moment there that the baking powder thrown at Ortiz after his game-winning double was actually the remaining HGH powder for both of them.

--Sorry.

--Carson Smith, who could've given the Sox three 7-9 guys that maybe rivaled the Yankees, is now out for at least a year after Tommy John surgery. What a shame. Wasn't last year his rookie?

--Not only are their 9 through 3 guys--Bradley, Betts, Pedroia and Bogaerts--very good hitters, but they're also all very fast. And great defensively. Few teams can boast four 9 through 3 hitters like that.

--To prove the point, the Sox scored three runs today when guys scored from first on a double. Your Sox of old would go 1st to 3rd on a double.

--I'll say about Christian Vazquez what I said about Bradley the last two years: with that great defense, all he has to do is slap-hit .250 and that'll be enough to make him a good big-leaguer.

--Clay Buchholz has to go.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Sox 6-4 After 10 Games in 2016

Well, now it's 6-5 after 11 games, the early afternoon of the Patriots Day game. Here's what it looks like to me so far:

--Hanley Ramirez has shockingly impressed. Not only is he much better at first base than anyone could have (or should have) expected, but he's also got a much better attitude. He has hustled and gestured more so far this year than he did all of last year.

--He's hitting over .300, but his OPS is about .850. That should improve as we go.

--If the Sox go 6-4 every 10 games, they'll finish 97-65, which will be plenty to win the division.

--If the bullpen and/or starting rotation doesn't implode first.

--Like it just did, now, on 4.18.16. Patriot's Day, no less.

--I haven't seen anyone throw as many balls with 2 strikes on the batter as Kimbrel does. He gets paid for situations like today, and he K'ed 2, but only after he struck out the first guy, walked the next two, and allowed a base hit. He allowed all 3 runners to score, and gave up one of his own.

--That's not going to get it done, though the Sox can't expect to win 1-0, either.

--Tazawa, Uehara and Kimbrel are overworked. They need Carson Smith back, fast.

--The Christian Vasquez thing, about him being much better with the pitchers, might be a tad over-rated.

--But he's the best they've got on stealing strikes.

--Can you remember the last time Sox tickets were available this easily? Season-ticket packages, too.

--But when you finish last 3 of the previous 4 years, that'll happen, even with a ring thrown in.

--If the Sox are near .500 a month from now, Farrell will be shown the door.

--And Carl Willis, too.

--I'm 0-1 at Fenway so far this year. Wish me luck tomorrow.