Monday, January 2, 2017

Jimmy Collins -- Boston and Providence Manager, Winner of Boston's 1st WS in 1903


Photos: Jimmy Collins T206 front and back, from my collection

I wouldn't have known the importance Jimmy Collins had on the Boston and Providence teams if I hadn't looked him up. And I wouldn't have appreciated his HOF stats--which are not impressive just by looking at them online, especially baseball-reference's JAWS scores for him. I look up every player's stats when I do a blog entry on them, and I always use baseball-reference.com. I also sometimes look up the player on Wikipedia if the stats show me something that seems interesting, suspicious, etc. about that player. Since I mention it, you can look at Jimmy Collins' stats here and you can read about him on his Wikipedia page here.

Collins is on the card with the Minneapolis Millers, which--like Joe Kelley--I assumed meant he was playing in the minors at the time, waiting to be called up. (This is considered his RC.) But I forgot that the leagues then weren't like the leagues now. In short, there were no minor leagues. A player played for a team and the owners and managers (no GMs then, either) would trade them or release them. So a major league player could be traded to Minneapolis, which was in the American Association (a major league for a very short time in the Victorian Era). It was a good, quality league by 1909, though not as good as the majors. A comparison today would be that it was quality-wise at least as good as AAA, and would sometimes be in between AAA and the Majors.

Good leagues then--defined as leagues that had decent quality of play, and where the players and managers could make a decent living, even if they never left--included the Majors, the AA, the Pacific Coast League (notorious for tiny ballparks and big, affluent crowds, especially in California), the Eastern League (of which Providence, RI was a member), the Western League and the Southern League. Lots of T205s refer to the Triple-I League, which were the states of Illinois, Iowa and Indiana. That was also apparently a helluva league. The pay and play in these leagues would vary, with the Majors being at the top in quality, but not always in pay. (The Texas League and the Southern Leagues were often not of the best quality of play. Often, players having a good year would hit 60+ homers and drive in over 150 like clockwork, but then struggle when they advanced to a better league, with better quality players.) In fact, Joe Kelley, by 1907, had played and managed in the majors for about 15 years. But although he was offered Major League jobs, he left the majors and played/managed in Toronto, in the Eastern League, in 1907. He returned to the Majors with the Boston Doves of the National League, but returned to Toronto for 1909 and 1910. Why? More money, he said. The Eastern League was a decent league, and Toronto drew well and played well, so it paid well. So Joe Kelley's T206 is of him with the Toronto Maple Leafs (he's got a bat in his hands, like he's ready to swing or bunt, but he's also smiling, so it's obviously a pose, and he only managed that year anyway), and I assumed without looking it up that he was in the minors, waiting to get called up. Turns out, he was at the tail end of his managerial career, and he'd been done playing for awhile. (It's still his RC.)

Which brings us back to Jimmy Collins. He wasn't near the quality player Joe Kelley was, in roughly the same time span. Collins started playing in 1895 and was a much better defensive player than he was with the bat. (Then and now, you can make a good career in baseball in the Majors if you're great with the glove and at least a bit decent with the bat.) Collins became better than just a little decent with the bat. After averaging 6 homers a year with maybe 30-50 RBIs, and okay averages, he suddenly had 2 straight years of 132 and 111 RBIs and .346 and .328 averages, in 1897 and 1898. He had 3 more straight years of 90+ RBIs without breaking 100. Good numbers, but really good hitters hit for crazy high averages in the 1890s, with tons of hits and RBIs. Wee Willie Keeler and Billy Hamilton, for example, did that every year, and Joe Kelley had 5 straight years of crazy Runs Scored and RBI totals, while averaging about .360 for those 5 years. (There was an offensive explosion in the mid-1890s that nobody's ever explained to me. There was no expansion, and players for the first time almost universally wore gloves in the field, which you would think would make run totals go down, not explode.)

Anyway, Jimmy Collins never led the league in much (homers in 1898, with 15 and total bases that year, plus ABs and PAs another year, but that's it) and he retired with 1,999 hits, because nobody cared about totals and stats as much then (Sam Rice retired in the 20s with 2,987 hits, for example) and because there was no Hall of Fame to continue playing for. Collins's career stats are not impressive when you look at them on the page; he finished with just over 1,000 runs scored and just under 1,000 RBIs. These are essentially Al Oliver numbers (though Oliver's career stats are superficially better because he played a lot longer, but he was terrible defensively).

So I was thinking that Collins was yet another Veterans Committee disaster pick for HOF until I read up about him. Turns out, while he was playing, he was regarded as the best third baseman, especially defensively. It was said that he "revolutionized the position," specifically by his ability to field bunts. (Fieldwork used to be so bad that players would frequently lay one down to get one base. The shortstops were considered the better athletes and they were usually in charge of fielding bunts, even ones that hugged the line.) Collins had such good instincts that he was amongst the first to play in on the grass to cut down on the bunts. His defensive play, plus his very good to good to adequate hitting, made him the first third baseman to be inducted into the HOF in 1945.

And that's what the numbers don't show. They're not impressive now. In fact, JAWS says he's just the 20th best third baseman. But that's now. Until 1945, he was the best third baseman in the majors. He held the record for most putouts, in a short career, until Brooks Robinson broke it in the 1970s--over 60 years after he retired. While active, he was written about and spoken about as the best third baseman. For some reason, the position remained somewhat stagnant until the 60s, and even now there aren't that many in the Hall compared to other positions. A quick look at the 19 third basemen in front of him, according to JAWS, shows me that only Home Run Baker (another HOFer) played in the same era as Collins. Everyone else, from George Brett to Eddie Matthews to Paul Molitor to Wade Boggs to Mike Schmidt to Chipper Jones (#6) and Adrian Beltre (very quietly #5 all-time)--as you can see, they're all post-1950.

So the numbers lie. You can't judge something just by the numbers, or by your limited understanding of the numbers, or of the era the numbers accumulated in. You have to look into the numbers and understand the time in which they were amassed. On their own, the numbers look like nothing. But in the context of their time, they make him an obvious HOF choice. In fact, I wonder who the HOF Committee thought should be represented at 3rd by their first few choices in the years after the Hall opened in 1933.

But wait, there's more. Jimmy Collins was the Boston Red Sox's first-ever manager, in 1901. The American League first became a league after 1900. Collins was also playing and managing the Boston Red Sox when it won its first-ever World Series in 1903, beating Honus Wagner and the Pirates 5-3 in a best of nine series. Collins also managed Boston to another first-place finish in 1904, but John McGraw and the New York Giants refused to play them in another series. After that, though, things went bad between Collins and Boston's owners, to the extent that he was suspended a few times, accused of quitting on the team--and he was managing them to a last-place finish. So the team president hires Chick Stahl to manage the team, while Collins stays on as a player, which must've been awkward as hell. Stahl was feeling a lot of pressure and depression, and committed suicide after the 1906 season ended. Boston let Cy Young manage in 1907 and traded Collins away.

By 1909 Jimmy Collins was managing the Minneapolis Millers (and playing; he had 152 hits and batted .273), which is where he was when the T206 was produced. So this is another manager card and not a player card. (The T206s don't list position or title, and there are no stats or writing on the back. This is unique, because the T205s, also produced between 1909-1911, have writing and stats, making them the preferred card for some. I like those backs, but I don't like the fronts, or the thicker gold borders that chip very easily.)

In 1910 and 1911 he managed the Providence Greys, of the Eastern League, who played in a park in Olneyville, just up 95 from here. (The Greys were the first World Series winning team in general, winning it in the 1880s when it was a Major League team. It folded, surprisingly, soon thereafter, reappearing in a few years as a minor league team.) He took over for Hugh Duffy, a HOF player from Cranston, RI, also just up the road from here. And within a couple of years after Collins retired after 1911 and moved back to Buffalo, the Greys had another HOFer on its roster--a pitcher named Babe Ruth.


Thursday, December 29, 2016

Jake Stahl, Boston Red Sox Manager, M101-2 Sporting News Supplement October 24, 1912



Photo: from my collection

Just a quick post before my year-end comments. I'm posting this as a tip of the cap to my better half, who got me this for Christmas. I've wanted this for a few months now. It's a helluva image, and he's a former Red Sox manager and player besides. And doesn't he look thrilled?!?

I have six of these now. I'll maybe put them in one post sometime. These are awesome, huge sepia-toned photos of players and managers, owners and league presidents, from 1909 to 1913. They were supplements in The Sporting News, which is a large, newspaper / magazine-sized publication that started in the 1880s and is still around now. (It's still a big publication, too.)

They were printed on very fine, thin paper and inserted in the publication.You can find them now only on ebay and specialty websites and stores. They don't have a fixed value, pretty much whatever you'll pay for them, though of course the ones of Hall of Famers or the ones in the best condition will be worth more. They're rare enough that you can go to ebay, put in the player's name, and M101 Sporting News Supplement, and click the box for "sold listings," and you'll get it. (This one was $42.) You can't do that with any card made, say, since the 1950s. There's just too many of them, even of specific cards. These M101-2s aren't cards, of course, but they're sold and collected that way, and will be listed in comprehensive catalogs of baseball cards, especially vintage ones. They're blank-backed.

Jake Stahl had an interesting time of it, too. He won the 1912 World Series with the Boston Red Sox (Which had ended just a few weeks before this photo was published. Was it taken during the World Series? Would a manager look as dour as this during the Series?), and then was fired / quit the very next year. He had better things to do than to be insulted by the players and owners: He had a full-time job as part-owner of a large bank with his father-in-law, which paid a heckuva lot better than what he was making from baseball. He'd already left baseball once, the year before, and he happily left it again. But actual happiness was not to be. He had a breakdown in 1920 and went to a sanitarium in California, where he never recovered. In fact, he contracted tuberculosis and died from that in 1922, just 10 years after this photo was taken.

This from the Society for American Baseball Research, at sabr.org. The full address is here.

In 1903, Jake played 40 games as a rookie catcher behind Cy Young-favorite Lou Criger. He did not play in the subsequent 1903 World Series, and his keen disappointment at missing that opportunity became one of the key forces driving him throughout the remainder of his playing career.

In 1912, Jake skillfully managed the famous “Speed Boys” to an American League pennant-winning 105-47 season record. Ninety-eight seasons later, the 1912 won-lost season record still stands as the best in Red Sox history. His Boston team subsequently won the 1912 World Series from the McGraw-led New York Giants.

Garland Stahl was born on April 13, 1879, in Elkhart, Illinois, the third son of Henry and Eliza Stahl. Henry was a front-line Union veteran of the Civil War who survived the horrors of the bloodbath at Shiloh. After the war, Henry and Eliza opened a thriving general store in Elkhart. In naming her third son, Eliza used the name of one of her brothers-in-law, Garland.

After graduating from high school (which at that time went only to the 10th grade) and working at the family store, Stahl enrolled at the University of Illinois. His fraternity brothers nicknamed him Jake. University of Illinois football coach George Huff (who briefly managed Boston in 1907) encouraged him to try out for the team.

With forward passes not allowed yet, no offensive/defensive specialization employed, and only rudimentary protective equipment used, the resulting two-way game was particularly brutal. As he matured physically, Jake became both an outstanding running back on offense and a smart, quick lineman on defense. He had his best year as a junior in 1901, when he was named to the All-Western Conference football team. He was named captain of the Illinois football team in 1902. In his first formal leadership position, Jake was required to address not only his personal needs but the needs of the entire team. It was a skill he would continue to hone throughout both his baseball and subsequent banking career.

Huff also coached baseball at the University and encouraged Jake to join his highly successful squad. As the starting catcher, Jake batted .441 his sophomore year, and in his senior campaign, led Illinois to a Western Conference Championship.

Exhibiting an outstanding ability to organize and focus his efforts, Jake graduated with a law degree in 1903. Although his athletic and classroom activities clearly were his first priorities, Jake was no social wallflower in college. The University of Illinois yearbooks of the time contain two references to Jake’s social activities, including a poem describing his carriage ride with a young woman named Clara. Jake met his future wife, Jennie Mahan, at the university.

In the spring of 1903, as Boston suffered a potentially debilitating blow to their pennant hopes with the injury of their backup catcher “Duke” Farrell, team owner Henry Killilea hurriedly traveled to Chicago to sign Jake to an American League contract on the playing field immediately after a late-season university ballgame. Jake got into his first game on Opening Day and appeared in 40 games as a catcher for Boston in 1903, hitting .239. More importantly, Jake’s work enabled Boston to keep Criger fresh for the postseason. As noted, Jake himself did not play in the 1903 World Series. When pinch-hitting opportunities arose in both Games One and Four, Collins twice used the still-recovering Farrell (who had played in only 17 games the entire season) and the veteran outfielder Jack O’Brien (who hit .210 in 1903.) Jake’s personal disappointment was a key factor that helped shape the rest of his professional baseball career.

With Farrell fully recovered, Boston no longer needed Jake as a backup catcher. Ban Johnson, however, grateful for Jake’s role in Boston’s successful 1903 season (Boston’s World Series victory ensured the long-term viability of his new American League), envisioned Jake achieving long-term baseball success as first baseman. During the winter of 1903-04, Boston shipped Jake to the floundering Washington franchise. Johnson was in charge of the team until suitable owners could be found and converted Jake into a first baseman. He appeared in 142 games and finished the year with a .262 batting average, three home runs, and 50 RBIs. Even by Deadfall Era standards, these numbers were not exceptional, yet Stahl led the woeful (38-113) Nationals in all three categories.

In 1905, Johnson promoted Jake to manager. Having just turned 26 years old the day before the season began, he became the youngest player-manager in American League history. Employing the inclusive management style he used in college, Jake quickly won the support of the team’s veteran players. Coupled with a focused disciplinary approach emphasizing direct out-of-public-view communication with offenders, punctuated by demonstrations of potential physical force, Jake led the 1905 squad to 64-87 record. For a short time early in the season, Jake even had the team in first place. When the team returned from a successful road trip, Washington gave the team a rousing parade and celebratory dinner. More importantly, Johnson found new owners for the shaky Washington franchise. Stahl had become, in the words of one observer, “popular with the players, and so well liked by the club owners that it has been officially announced that he can retain his present berth until he voluntarily resigns.” In the offseason, Jake married his college sweetheart, the daughter of highly-successful businessman Henry Weston Mahan.

In 1906, however, things fell apart for Jake and the Nationals. Popular shortstop Joe Cassidy unexpectedly died of typhus at the beginning of the season and the team fell into a tailspin, finishing 55-95. Upset by the death of his close friend and consumed with trying to right the fast-sinking team, Jake completely lost his personal focus, finishing with the worst batting average of his career, .222. Jake took personal blame for the team’s disappointing 1907 performance, noting, “If I’d been able to hit .300 this year, as many of my friends predicted, we’d have been up in the first division, but I was a frost.”

The frustrated Washington owners replaced Jake as their manager during the 1906-1907 offseason, urging him to concentrate on playing first base. Seeing the team transition that Boston was undertaking, Jake asked to be traded back to Boston. Washington management declined, trading him instead to the Chicago White Sox. Jake refused to report and spent the 1907 season working in his father-in-law’s bank, managing the University of Indiana’s baseball team, and playing semiprofessional baseball in Chicago.

In 1908, Chicago traded Jake to Clark Griffith’s New York Highlanders. When Griffith resigned in midseason, Jake was traded back to Boston to play first base. As the future Boston stars (Wood, Speaker, Hooper, Lewis, Gardner) developed, the hard-hitting Stahl anchored the Boston lineup from 1908-1910. In 1910, Jake led the American League with 10 home runs and ranked fourth best in RBIs (77) and triples (16). He also stole 22 bases.

Despite his baseball success, Jake’s off-the-field banking successes were even greater and paid more. Given the financial uncertainties associated with a baseball career at the time and the fact that he had just started a family, Jake opted to retire. He served as vice president of the Washington Park National Bank on Chicago’s South Side. Attempts to lure him back to baseball in 1911 were fruitless.

After a change in ownership late in the disappointing 1911 season, new Red Sox team president Jimmy McAleer convinced Jake to come out of retirement. Both he and his father-in-law became part-owners of the club, Jake becoming the player-manager-owner of a talented but uninspired Boston club. Jake signed a two-year contract. Using the same inclusive management and disciplinary styles he used earlier in Washington, he effectively focused the previously-uninspired team. Boston ran away with the 1912 American League pennant. Jake finished the year with a career-high .301 batting average. Facing the New York Giants in the 1912 World Series, Jake both outplayed the Giants’ Merkle at first base, and, according to Connie Mack, consistently out-managed McGraw. Jake invested his winning World Series share in his father-in-law’s Chicago banks.

In 1913, Boston started slowly and Jake suffered a serious foot injury requiring the removal of part of a bone in his right foot. Although he continued to manage the team, he could not play first base. Within a tense atmosphere of newspaper reports claiming internal dissension within the team and rumors that Jake would replace him as team president, Boston president McAleer publicly demanded that Jake return to first base.

Upset that he was being publicly portrayed in the newspapers as somehow losing control of his team, conniving for personal gain, and shirking his first-base playing duties, Jake met McAleer in Chicago during a July road trip. In the heat of the moment, the Boston president released him, paying off the remainder of his contract.

McAleer’s hasty action was immediately condemned by much of the baseball community, including Ban Johnson, who called the move “hasty and ill-advised.” Bill Carrigan, one of the players that Jake often consulted with, was named the new Boston manager. In October, Jake announced he was through with baseball. Later that offseason, as part of another Boston front office change, McAleer himself was released as president.

For his nine-year major league career, Jake posted a .261 batting average with 894 hits, which included 149 doubles, 87 triples, and 31 home runs. He also stole 178 bases, with his single-season high of 41 in 1906.

Jake immediately began his second career as a full-time banker. With his father-in-law serving as president, Jake became vice-president and board member of Washington Park National Bank. Jake continued as vice-president until he assumed the presidency of Washington Park in 1919.

During his years of involvement, he put in long hours at the bank, helping it more than double its deposits in three years. But the hard work came with a heavy price: in 1920, Jake suffered a nervous breakdown and was placed in a Monrovia, California, sanitarium. Though he spent two years in California, Jake’s health gradually worsened and he contracted tuberculosis. With his wife and son at his bedside, Jake died on September 18, 1922. He was just 43 years old.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Chris Sale to Boston for Yoan Moncada, Kopech and Two Others; 2 Other Deals



Photos: The front of my Chris Sale autographed 2010 Bowman Sterling Prospect Autographs card (It's got an 8 surface because the autograph is on a thin, transparent sticker that's put on the card). The back of the card shows that Beckett graded the autograph a 10, which is perfect. So a 9 card and a 10 autograph. Not bad.

Read about the Red Sox / White Sox trade at this link if you're not inundated with it already.

In a nutshell (which some are saying Sale is, especially after he ripped up some White Sox throwback uniforms last year), this is a trade for a power lefty with the best ERA in the American League over the past five years. Visit his baseball-reference.com page here.

Here's why the Sox are excited to have Sale:

--All-time: #3 in K / 9, 2nd in Ks per walk and #10 in WHIP, all awesome control and power stats.

--He's only 27.

--He's team-controlled until the end of 2019. The last 2 years are team option years, for $12.5 million and $13.5 million each year. That's really cheap considering his ability. (Consider that Pablo Sandoval got paid $17 million last year not to play at all.)

--He supplants Price as the ace and now gives Boston perhaps the best 1-2-3 punch in baseball, with Sale, Price and (2016 Cy Young Award Winner) Porcello starting the first three games of any postseason series.

--He averages over 200 innings a year and has finished 3rd, 4th, 5th or 6th in Cy Young voting in the past five years. Also a 5-time All-Star, each of the past five years.

--He's led the league in complete games, Ks, and Ks per nine innings in the past few years.

--He's also led the league in hit batsmen the past few years. Why's that a good thing? Because it proves he pitches inside, and he pitches angry. (Remind you of anyone? Answer below.) That's good, because with half his starts at Fenway, and the Green Monster just 310 feet away, he has to pitch inside. He already does.

--You'd rather have a great thing, which Sale is, than 4 possibly great things. Think: Rose and Pavano for Pedro. (Another guy who pitched angry and inside, and hit a few batters. But he's in the HOF now.)

--The blue chip in the trade was Moncada, who the Sox spent $80+ million on, including a fine for signing a foreign player for so much money. Then he went 0-9 with 9 whiffs, looked terrible doing it, and seemed lost in the field. I saw him play a game in Portland last summer: he whiffed 5 out of 5 times, and looked terrible there, in Double-A. I also heard today that the Cuban League, where he (and Puig) excelled, don't test for PEDs, and that everyone comes out of there looking like King Kong. Then those guys (again, like Puig) come to the majors, and they're overmatched. He could be the next Robinson Cano ("Don'tcha know"), but I'm betting against it.

--The rotation now looks like this: Sale, Price, Porcello, Eduardo Rodriguez (who has shown flashes of excellence--and boorishness), and Drew Pomeranz, who with some rest may be the guy they hoped they were getting. (And thanks, Hayes, for reminding me of his existence this afternoon. An unforgivable mental blip.) If he falters, Clay Buchholz and / or Steven Wright will step in. Wright showed brilliance last year before he was injured (perhaps permanently) and Buchholz may be the only #5 guy in the league who has pitched a no-hitter and won 17 games, twice. Perhaps the best starting rotation in the majors, on paper. And Buchholz did well in relief last year, too.

Here's why it's a slight cause for concern:

--Sale's the guy who ripped up the very, very ugly White Sox throwback uniforms last year. Literally, he took scissors to all of the uniforms in the clubhouse, costing his team thousands and earning him a team suspension. Not to mention the ire of the organization. So he comes with ace stuff, but also a bit of an attitude. But wasn't that said about Pedro as well?

--Though he'll be just 28 in March, at the start of Spring Training, I'm a little concerned about all the innings he's pitched. He throws 95-98, for 200 innings a year the past 5-7 years. That may add up. Then again, Price has pitched more innings, and after a poor start, he finished very well. Plus, there are guys like Ryan, Clemens, Johnson, etc. who had no problem. We'll see.

--Moncada might be the real deal. Maybe not. But Kopech could also be the real deal, as he also throws 100+ MPH and has three plus pitches. Diaz, the forgotten man, also throws 100 and has a great upside. I'm not as familiar with Basabe, but it is very possible that the first 3 guys will become All-Stars, Kopech as a starter and Diaz as a closer. I'm betting they'll make it further than Moncada. And, again, I'll take a definite over four maybees, even three very high-ceiling, scary maybees.

But neither Pavano nor Rose turned out to be Pedro Martinez, right? Not even combined.

P.S.--In case you missed it, Mitch Moreland (think Napoli, but weaker on offense and Gold Glove on defense) just signed with Boston, pending a physical. This puts Hanley Ramirez at DH, and he's a good option at 1st during interleague play.

P.P.S.--And Travis Shaw and a few prospects you've never heard of are going to Milwaukee for Tyler Thornburg, a proven 8th-inning power set-up guy with closing experience. If Carson Smith is healthy, the Sox may have the best 7th, 8th and 9th guys in baseball--and a safety net if they tire of Kimbrel's act, as I already have.

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?