Tag Archives: Keith Hernandez

The Baseball Hall of Fame’s New Ballot Eligibility Rule

The Baseball Hall of Fame announced today that candidates for election will only be allowed to stay on the ballot for ten years rather than fifteen. Three players who have already been on the ballot for more than ten years (Here they are, along with my opinion on whether or not they should be elected: Don Mattingly-no, Alan Trammell-yes [it seems that in a number of cases of fringe Hall of Famers from the 1980s (Keith Hernandez and Lou Whitaker come immediately to mind) voters have ignored defensive excellence when considering players’ candidacies, and Trammell has certainly suffered from this trend], Lee Smith-yes, though he almost certainly will not be elected because voters have thus far generally been prejudiced against one-inning closers [i.e., Hall of Famers Rollie Fingers, Bruce Sutter, and Goose Gossage fall into a different category]. I understand that saves are a fairly meaningless stat and that the way closers are used makes no logical sense because a manager should use his best reliever when the game is on the line, which is not always the ninth inning, but it is not closers’ fault that they are used this way. They are now an integral part of the sport and voters should treat them as such, but, like kickers in football, their odd role results in prejudice from voters.) will be allowed to finish out their fifteen years if necessary.

This is a good change. While the reason for making it is questionable (its goal is clearly to get controversial figures from the steroids era such as Barry Bonds [who should be in] and Roger Clemens [who shouldn’t] off of the ballot as soon as possible), the move itself is logical because if a player is such a borderline candidate that they have not been elected during a decade of eligibility, they probably do not deserve to be in the Hall of Fame. One player whom the change really hurts, though, is Tim Raines, who should be in but is a controversial case because his statistics look much better from a sabermetric view than a traditional one, and voters haven’t yet quite caught up to sabermetrics’ obvious superiority. Raines loses five years of eligibility during a time when many more recent excellent cases will continue to come on the ballot, so it will be a tight squeeze for him as he now only has three appearances on the ballot left. But this one example is not enough to make the change a bad decision.

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Terry Collins Needs To Go

The Mets had an excruciating 1-0 loss to the Yankees last night that epitomized their up-and-down season. They got a tremendous pitching performance from Jacob de Grom, who was making his major league debut. de Grom got through seven innings in less than 100 pitches, and only allowed one run, which, as I am about to explain, was not really his fault.

The loss was especially frustrating for two reasons: First, the offense was unable to give de Grom any kind of support. This has been a Mets trademark since at least 2005 in Pedro Martinez’s starts; the ace pitches well and the offense falls asleep. The Mets were shut out for the second game in a row, which is never acceptable.

Second, and most importantly, the one run that de Grom gave up should never have scored. In a tight ballgame, it is essential for every player on the field to play their part, and the Mets defense last night failed to do so. The player who scored the run, Brian McCann, should have been erased on an inning-ending double play in the seventh inning, but, as Keith Hernandez noted during SNY’s broadcast of the game, Daniel Murphy didn’t charge the ball before throwing it to second base, and David Wright made a lazy throw to first that McCann barely beat out. These two mistakes are not excusable, but they were compounded by one that was completely preventable. The next batter up hit a line drive to left-centerfield that went all the way to the wall, allowing the slow-footed McCann to score all the way from first. However, as Gary Cohen pointed out, if Juan Lagares had been playing centerfield instead of Chris Young, the ball would have been cut off before it reached the wall and the throw from the outfield would have arrived quicker (both because the distance would have been shorter and because Lagares has the best outfield arm on the team), making it impossible for McCann to score.

This leads to the question, why wasn’t Lagares playing? Mets manager Terry Collins has left him out of the lineup for the past two nights even though he is one of the best outfielders in the entire league and he has been the Mets’ second most consistent hitter after Murphy. There is no way that any of the other three outfielders should be starting ahead of Lagares, let alone for more than one game in a row. But Eric Young, Jr. has had a good week getting on base even though his advanced statistics are horrible, and Chris Young and Curtis Granderson both have big contracts, so Collins pencils them into the lineup automatically. This is terrible managing. In the case of Young, Jr., Collins shows that he is not a sabermetrically-minded manager, which is a problem because the Mets have been built by a sabermetrician general manager, Sandy Alderson, so Collins is failing to take advantage of the resources he has been given to win games. In the case of Chris Young and, especially, Granderson, they have underperformed consistently over a long enough stretch of time that they do not deserve to have guaranteed starting spots.

This mismanagement is the latest example of how Collins’s decisions have been hurting the Mets all year. He has consistently made questionable decisions regarding the use of the bullpen, and his management of the lineup has been guided by outmoded “baseball wisdom” instead of solid logic. Collins has done a good job as a caretaker manager over the past few seasons while the Mets have slowly been rebuilding themselves into a contender, but now that they have a decent team that could legitimately challenge for a playoff berth this year (yes, everyone is pointing towards next season as the time when the Mets will be serious contenders, but with the way the National League is shaping up this year they could have a shot, as they are currently only 3.5 games back of first place; certainly having a winning season is a very reasonable expectation), they have no room for errors such as Collins’s questionable decisions.

Therefore, just as the Mets have been bringing in new blood from AAA over the past few weeks, it is also time for them to make a managerial change. Terry Collins needs to go. I would personally bring up Wally Backman from Las Vegas (he has managed Vegas to a 29-11 record thus far this year) as interim manager for the rest of the season to see whether he is a worthy candidate for the full-time job, but at this point I would be happy with anyone other than Terry Collins.

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Visiting the Baseball Hall of Fame

Today I visited the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York for the first time since my eighth birthday. I don’t remember much about the museum itself from that visit, only that I had a milkshake for the first time ever. I loved them immediately and actually had three that day–two chocolate and one chocolate chocolate-chip. I also remember being surprised and disappointed that there were no fast food chains in town because I was wanting to have lunch at McDonald’s and supper at Wendy’s (how said that I had already been trained to assume that these chains were ubiquitous!). There are still no chain restaurants along Cooperstown’s main strip, which now makes me happy.

The "Jumbo Burger" and  chocolate milkshake from the Cooperstown Diner. I got a chocolate shake for old times' sake even though now I prefer vanilla when drinking one with a meal.

The “Jumbo Burger” and chocolate milkshake from the Cooperstown Diner. I got a chocolate shake for old times’ sake even though now I prefer vanilla when drinking one with a meal.

Anyway, it was good to get back to see the artifacts. Both Cooperstown and the Hall itself were packed because it is prime tourist season, and I saw many families with children who looked about the age I was on my first visit. It pleases me that the ritual of visiting is one that continues through the generations. Many people were wearing gear from their favorite teams, which was also neat. It gave the town a central meeting-place kind of vibe; we all had our individual allegiances, but ultimately we have our love of the game to unify us. I was planning to buy a new Mets cap, and was happy to find one for only $9.95 at one of the numerous shops selling sports memorabilia.

There are a number of players that I think deserve to be in the Hall of Fame that are not (Mike Piazza, Pete Rose [even if he did bet on baseball], Craig Biggio, Keith Hernandez…), and visiting did not make me change my mind about any of the players that I just mentioned, but reading through the amazing statistical achievements on the plaques of those who are members did make me feel that the Hall should be more exclusive than I’ve wanted it to be in the past.

Me in front of the Hall. I'm wearing my Keith Hernandez shirt because he should be a member.

Me in front of the Hall. I’m wearing my Keith Hernandez shirt because he should be a member.

Here are some of the photographs I took during my visit, most of them Mets-related:

An old Wrigley's gum ad. Who knew that chewing Wrigley's "gives an added firmness--a vigor, to the whole body"?

An old Wrigley’s gum ad. Who knew that chewing Wrigley’s “gives an added firmness–a vigor, to the whole body”?

Tom Seaver's plaque.

Tom Seaver’s plaque.

The Tom Seaver display.

The Tom Seaver display.

Nolan Ryan's plaque. Seven no-hitters! Unbelievable.

Nolan Ryan’s plaque. Seven no-hitters! Unbelievable.

Gary Carter's plaque. R.I.P.

Gary Carter’s plaque. R.I.P.

A close-up of Gary Carter's plaque detailing his importance to the 1986 Mets.

A close-up of Gary Carter’s plaque detailing his importance to the 1986 Mets.

Long-time Met broadcaster Bob Murphy's plaque in the broadcaster's wing.

Long-time Met broadcaster Bob Murphy’s plaque in the broadcaster’s wing.

Casey Stengel's retired number from Shea Stadium.

Casey Stengel’s retired number from Shea Stadium.

A portrait of Tom Seaver (as a Red, alas) by Andy Warhol.

A portrait of Tom Seaver (as a Red, alas) by Andy Warhol.

The Mets 1969 World Series ring.

The Mets 1969 World Series ring.

The Mets 1986 World Series ring.

The Mets 1986 World Series ring.

A sign celebrating Jesse Orosco's record for games pitched.

A sign celebrating Jesse Orosco’s record for games pitched.

Two members of the Mets current broadcasting team in the baseball card section.

Two members of the Mets current broadcasting team in the baseball card section.

A display celebrating Pete Rose's all-time hits record. At least the Hall acknowledges his existence.

A display celebrating Pete Rose’s all-time hits record. At least the Hall acknowledges his existence.

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Left Field Cards and Some Thoughts on Obsession

I just read an article by Paul Lukas (http://espn.go.com/blog/playbook/fandom/post/_/id/6053/the-coolest-baseball-cards-of-the-year) about Left Field Cards (http://www.leftfieldcards.com/index.html), an art project by Amelie Mancini that consists of quirky sets of baseball card-esque postcards. I love paper culture, and I love baseball, and I love the nostalgia evoked by baseball cards (I collected them avidly as a boy), so I absolutely love these cards! Their retro style is aesthetically pleasing, and I appreciate their hand-made quality. I also like that Mancini has depicted four Mets (Keith Hernandez, Dwight Gooden, Nolan Ryan, and Kevin Mitchell) in only thirty cards.

But what I especially love about Left Field Cards is the inspiration for the project. Mancini’s biographical statement reads in part that

“She moved to New York in 2006 and didn’t know what a curveball was until a couple of friends took her to Shea Stadium one evening of [sic–Mancini’s slight misuses of English make her story even more lovable] 2007. The Mets lost that night to the Phillies, but Amelie fell hard for America’s national pastime, becoming increasingly obsessed with the game and eventually making it one of the center themes of her work. Fascinated by baseball cards, she decided to print her own and started Left Field Cards in 2011.”

I am always drawn to stories of people’s obsessions, and I think that the tale of Mancini’s discovery of baseball is beautiful (Lukas’s article gives further details). For many years as a teenager and younger adult I was jealous of stories like hers, of people who just had a passion grip them completely and let it become Their Thing. I wanted the same kind of experience; I was obsessed with finding an obsession (Sorry! I couldn’t help myself.). It took me way too long to realize that I already had an obsession–books, both reading and collecting them. So now I worry about cultivating my obsession instead of acquiring one, but I still find stories of other people’s obsessions powerful. It feels like we are part of a club, that even if I know nothing about the subject of someone else’s obsession, I know a little something about them and how they feel. There is a sense of community that forms via these stories, and making connections to one another is one of the essential aspects of living a satisfying life.

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