David Cone

IBWAA Hall of Fame Vote – Players From Last Year’s Ballot

With the induction of Mike Piazza and Ken Griffey, Jr. coupled with Alan Trammell having fallen off the ballot, some of the glut that has been there in year’s past is no longer there.  Still, there are a number of people on the ballot who are deserving of Hall of Fame induction.

Before addressing who I did and who I did not vote for, it should be noted that I am not one who believes steroids users should be inducted into the Hall of Fame.  However, I do believe there needs to be some evidence of usage if you are going to deny someone of a vote.  For far too long Piazza was denied induction despite the complete lack of credible evidence against him.  This fate has also befallen Jeff Bagwell.  And no, my opinion on this did not change with the induction of Bud Selig.  One mistake should not beget another.

For example, Jesse Haines is considered one of the worst selections in major league history.  However, he is not used as a door to induct any starter with a 200 wins and an ERA above 3.50.  If that was the case, David Cone and Dwight Gooden would be kicking themselves over retiring before getting those last six wins.

That is why I typically compare players to the average Hall of Famer at that position.  Saying someone is similar to the worst player inducted only serves to reduce the quality of the players inducted.  To compare everyone to the best of the best excludes players who had truly remarkable careers.  With that said, I compare players to the average with some caveats.  First, you should get extra credit for postseason play.  Second, you should get extra credit for doing something better than anyone has at that position.  Third, winning hardware and awards do matter.  Note, I only treat those as bonuses and not detractors.

With that long preamble, here are the players I voted for in last year’s IBWAA balloting.  After re-examining the respective cases, I am once again voting for the following players:

Larry Walker

Career Stats: 17 seasons, .313/.400/.565, 471 2B, 62 3B, 383 HR, 1,311 RBI, 230 SB

Advanced: 72.6 WAR, 44.6 WAR7, 58.6 JAWS

Awards: 7X Gold Glove, 3X Silver Slugger, 5X All-Star, 1997 NL MVP

While Mark McGwire was generally seen as the test for whether steroids players would be inducted into the Hall of Fame, Walker has been the test case for players that have put up terrific offensive numbers at Coors Field.  So far, Walker has been penalized for playing in Coors Field, and many people have disregarded someone who has been one of the best right fielders to every play the game.

In his heyday, Walker was not only an outstanding hitter, he was an outstanding fielder as evidenced by his Gold Gloves.  He was  one of the most complete players of his generation.  Despite that, he is being discounted due to Coors Field where players put up proverbial video game numbers.

Yes, Walker did benefit from playing in Coors Field.  In his career, Walker was a .381/.462/.710 hitter.  However, it should be noted that on the road for his career, Walker was a 278/.370/.495 hitter.  Furthermore, in his six years with the Expos at the beginning of his career, he hit .281/.357/.483.  Reggie Jackson, who was a first ballot inductee, was a career .262/.356/.490 hitter.  Walker’s road and Expos numbers compare very favorably to Jackson.

With the Jackson comparison, the MVP Award, the Gold Gloves, and the advanced stats, Walker should be inducted into Cooperstown.

Jeff Kent

Stats: 17 seasons, .290/.356/.500, 560 2B, 47 3B, 377 HR, 1,518 RBI, 94 SB

Advanced: 55.2 WAR, 35.6 WAR7, 45.4 JAWS

Awards: 4X Silver Slugger, 5X All Star, 2000 NL MVP

There are many good reasons not to vote for Kent.  He was a corner infielder masquerading as a second baseman.  The advanced stats certainly don’t match up to the standard for induction into the Hall of Fame.  All of this is very true, but I voted for him anyway.

The reason is Kent is the best slugging second baseman in major league history, and he’s the best hitter at the position next to Rogers HornsbyAmong second baseman, he’s hit the most home runs, fourth most doubles, third highest RBI, and the second highest slugging percentage. When you add the 2000 MVP to the picture, there is enough there to say Kent deserves induction into Cooperstown.

Curt Schilling

Stats: 20 seasons, 216-146, 3.46 ERA, 83 CG, 22 SHO, 22 SV, 1.137 WHIP, 3,116 K

Advanced: 79.9 WAR, 49.0 WAR7, 64.5 JAWS

Awards: 6X All-Star, 1993 NLCS MVP, 2001 WS MVP

Many could look upon Schilling’s career, and they could lament over a relatively low win total and high ERA.  However, that is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Schilling.

Looking at Schilling’s advanced numbers, he certainly has done enough to earn induction into the Hall of Fame.  His WAR and JAWS are above the average for Hall of Fame pitchers.  His 127 ERA+ is the same as Tom Seaver‘s.  In terms of more traditional stats, Schilling is in the Top 15 on the career strike out list.  He is also has the second best K/BB ratio among players eligible for the Hall of Fame.  These numbers alone should warrant induction.

On top of that, Schilling is the definition of a Big Game Pitcher.  In his postseason career, Schilling was 11-2 with a 2.23 ERA and a 0.968 WHIP.  In the World Series, Schilling was 4-1 with a 2.06 ERA and a 0.896 WHIP.  He has won an NLCS MVP and a World Series MVP.  He was a key member of three World Series winning clubs.  Between his postseason heroics and his regular season dominance, Schilling is a Hall of Famer.

Overall, if we are being honest, the reason Schilling won’t be inducted this year or the upcoming years will be a result of his post-career actions.

Mike Mussina

Stats: 18 seasons, 270-153, 3.68 ERA, 57 CG, 23 SHO, 1.192 WHIP, 2,813 K

Advanced: 83.0 WAR, 44.5 WAR7, 63.8 JAWS

Awards: 6X Gold Glove, 5X All-Star

At age 39, Mussina finally got to the elusive benchmark of 20 wins in a season.  Judging from that year, it appeared he had an extra couple of years left in him to go make a run at 300 like many in his shoes would have.  Certainly, with his conditioning and the like, he had at least three years left in him to get it, and if he had, he likely would have been elected into the Hall of Fame without much of a fight.

However, Mussina did not get to that magical number leaving us to examine what was an interesting and a very good career.

To appropriately view Mussina, it needs to be within the context of his era.  Mussina not only played during the Steroids Era, but he also pitched in a bandbox like Camden Yards for the majority of his career.  It is a huge reason why that despite his relatively high 3.68 ERA for Hall of Fame standards, Mussina has a career 123 ERA+.  His 123 ERA+ is the same as Juan Marichal who pitched in a different era, had a career 2.89 ERA, and was a inducted his fourth time on the ballot.

Mussian’s ERA+ is also much higher to first ballot Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan and his 112 ERA+.  What is interesting about that is despite being completely different pitchers with very different careers, Mussina and Ryan have similar cases from an advanced stat point of view.  Despite having pitched in nine more seasons than Mussina, Ryan actually trails Mussina in career WAR.  Ryan also trails Mussina in WAR7 and JAWS.

This is not to diminish Ryan’s career.  He was a first ballot Hall of Famer for a reason.  He was a 300 game winner with more strikeouts and no-hitters than anyone in baseball history.  Despite these tremendous stats, it is arguable that Mussina was a the superior pitcher to Ryan.  When you can create a valid argument why someone was a better pitcher than a no-doubt Hall of Famer like Ryan, you belong in the Hall of Fame; and ultimately, that is why Mussina belongs in Cooperstown.

The Piazza/Seaver Celebration Parallels

On August 11, 1992, the Mets had a day to honor Tom Seaver for being inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.  Considering he was the best pitcher in Mets history, you would think the honor of starting that game would go to Dwight Gooden, who was the only Mets pitcher who would break any of Seaver’s records.  David Cone was another terrific choice given how great a pitcher he was for the Mets.  Bret Saberhagen would have been fitting as he was a two time Cy Young winner and a former World Series MVP.  Even Sid Fernandez could have fit the bill as it was his Game Seven performance that helped prevent Seaver from winning one last ring in 1986.

Instead, it was Eric Hillman, who was making his first ever major league start on a dark and rainy night that drove away most of the fans who should have been there to celebrate with Seaver.  To be fair, that game would’ve been called almost any other night had it not been Seaver’s night.   Between the weather, and who was going to be honored, it was a difficult situation for a young pitcher. Hillman was up to the challenge pitching eight scoreless innings to help defeat the first place Pittsburgh Pirates.

With Monday’s rainout, the Mets will be in a similar position for Mike Piazzas number retirement ceremony.

It was supposed to be Noah Syndergaard.  Who better to celebrate the career of the Mets rock star catcher than to have the Mets rock star starting pitcher?  Who better to honor the power Piazza showed at the plate than the power pitcher who can routinely throw over 100 MPH?  The long haired starting pitcher dominating the opponents should have started the game honoring the long haired dominant hitter.  It was all too perfect to be true.  With the rain, it’s not going to happen.

Instead, the Mets are most likely going to get a spot starter making his first ever major league start similar to what happened with Eric Hillman on Tom Seaver’s night.  It just seems to go that way on a night when the Mets honor their Hall of Famers.

The start could to to Seth Lugo, who has pitched extremely well out of the bullpen in his four appearances this year.  Gabriel Ynoa could be summoned from the minor leagues to make his first ever start as could his Las Vegas 51s teammate Robert Gsellman.  Whoever it turns out to be, they have some large shoes to fill.  No, not Syndergaard’s, the 6’10” Hillman’s.  Whoever the Mets give the chance to make his first ever career start needs to go out there and put up a dominant performance like Hillman’s to allow the fans to celebrate deep into the night.

I Tuned In to Watch Terry Collins Manage

Given the fact that the Mets weren’t going to have any players playing tonight, I wasn’t as excited for the All Star Game. However, it was still a baseball game with the best players in the game, so naturally, I tuned in to watch. Here are some quick thoughts:

Very cool to name the AL & NL batting champs after Rod Carew and Tony Gwynn. Even better to do it at the San Diego All Star Game. 

Am I the only one who thought Collins was sitting Michael Conforto because the American League started a left-handed starter in Chris Sale?

The Terry Collins getting tired of the Royals’ hitters jokes after the Eric Hosmer and Salvador Perez homers were about as funny as Sophie’s Choice and as original as Carlos Mencia’s standup. 

I still can’t believe Collins let Jose Fernandez pitch to David Ortiz after Fernandez said he was going to groove one in to Ortiz in a game with World Series homefield advantage on the line. Fortunately, he didn’t, and Ortiz walked. 

Speaking of Ortiz, just go away already. I double down on those feelings after seeing how Tim Duncan retired today. 

love how Terry Collins lifted all the Cubs starters – Anthony RizzoBen ZobristKris Bryant, and Addison Russell – as the game got close and late. You don’t want the Cubs playing with the World Series on the line.

By the way, remember when the Mets announced to everyone they were signing Zobrist – even after he already agreed to a deal with the Cubs?

As I learned during Game 3 of the World Series, the home team tapes the Stand Up to Cancer signs to each seat with a generic statement like “Survivors.”  During the World Series, you could fill-out your own in the Jackie Robinson Rotunda. I was shocked there weren’t any “Tony Gwynn” signs in San Diego. 

Speaking of the signs, it was classy for Collins, Tim Teufel, and other members of the Mets to hold up signs for Sandy Alderson. I did wonder where the signs for Shannon Forde were. By the way, it was really classy for Daniel Murphy to hold up a sign for “Sandy Alderson” with the way Alderson let it be known he didn’t want Murphy around:

  
Speaking of Murphy, that Net Negative saved a run with a nice defensive play that Neil Walker doesn’t make. Just saying. It should be noted Murphy reached base in all three at bats, including being the first ever batter to be awarded first base after a replay in the All Star Game, as he’s clutch in the biggest moments. 

It was fun being able to root for Murphy again. It was also great seeing Carlos Beltran appear in the game in what is likely to be the last one for the future Hall of Famer. He joined David Cone as the only players to appear for the Mets and Yankees in an All Star Game. Note, remember this on Friday

Seeing the Jacob deGrom GEICO commercial reminded me of how great deGrom was in last year’s All Star Game

I was shocked Mark Melancon wasn’t wearing his Mets hat when Collins brought him into the game in the seventh. 

Nice to hear the blurb about how Terry Collins wanted to get at least one representative from each team in the game and then not pitch Jeurys Familia or Bartolo Colon. Apparently, he thought Mets fans were content seeing just him. But hey, at least the fans of the other 14 teams were upset with him. 

And that’s the thing, in essence, I tuned in to watch Terry Collins manage and try to figure out again why the Mets didn’t re-sign Daniel Murphy. In the process, the National League lost the game and homefield advantage in the World Series in a game that saw them leave 10 runners on base. 

In that sense, the game wasn’t too dissimilar than watching a Mets game. 

The Mets Have Four Aces

Lost in all the offensive struggles is the fact that this Mets team is built upon pitching.  As a franchise, the Mets always have and always will be built upon pitching.  It started with Tom Seaver, Jerry Koosman, and Jon Matlack in the late 60’s.  It was continued in the 80’s with Dwight Gooden, Ron Darling, Sid Fernandez, and David Cone.  The mantle was supposed to be picked up this year by the Mets young rotation.

However, the rotation has had some struggles.  Matt Harvey struggled mightily going 2-4 in May with a 5.91 ERA.  To a lesser extent, Jacob deGrom struggled in May going 0-1 with a 3.86 ERA.  The concern with deGrom was not so much the results but the seemingly precipitous drop in velocity.  These were to the two aces the Mets road all last year and into the postseason.  These were supposed to be the two aces this year leading the team while the younger starters developed.  Instead, the reverse has been true.

Noah Syndergaard has taken the next step this year.  He is 5-2 with a 1.84 ERA and a 0.958 WHIP.  He is throwing fastballs up and over 100 MPH, and more impressively, he is throwing sliders around 95 MPH.  He is as dominant a pitcher as there is in baseball right now.

Steven Matz was named the National League Rookie of the Month for the Month of May.  It was a well deserved honor after going 4-0 with a 1.83 ERA and a 0.757 WHIP.  In fact, if you take away his first nightmare of a start, a start he made after a long period of inactivity, Matz is 7-0 with a 1.51 ERA and a 0.932 WHIP.  Matz has been the pitcher everyone has imagined he would be and more since he burst onto the scene last year beating the Reds from the mound at the plate.

Overall, Syndergaard and Matz have taken the next step.  On almost any other rotation, they would be the unquestioned ace. That was the same thing that has been said for Harvey and deGrom.  On that front, there is some great news as well.  In Harvey’s last start, he went seven innings allowing only two hits, no runs, and one walk with striking out six.  In deGrom’s last start, he went seven innings allowing five hits, one run, and two walks while striking out 10.  More importantly, deGrom’s velocity is returning with him getting his fastball up to 96 MPH.

So yes, it appears like the 2016 Mets are continuing the franchise’s legacy of having great pitching.  With Syndergaard and Matz being ahead of schedule in their development coupled with Harvey and deGrom starting to return to last year’s form, the Mets rotation is stacked with four aces.  If you’re a baseball player or a poker player, you know four aces is next to impossible to beat no matter whatever else you have in your hand . . . even if that hand contains the deuce that the Mets offense was over the month of May.

Thor Trying to Avoid Tommy John Surgery

Going into the 2016 season, there is one fear each and every Mets fan has. We dare not speak its name, but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s still present. That fear is that a pitcher will get seriously injured. 

Looking at this year’s list of pitchers who could befall the dreaded “Verducci Effect,” Noah Syndergaard headlines that list. If Syndergaard was to suffer a season ending injury requiring Tommy John surgery? it would greatly hinder the Mets chances of winning not only the World Series, but also making it to the postseason. It’s something that not just Mets fans fear, but as Anthony DiComo of MLB.com reports, Syndergaard fears it also:

I’ve thought about it quite a bit. But I trust myself to put my body in the right situations to be able to perform at a healthy level. 

The fear is justified. Syndergaard threw 65.2 innings more last year. He throws over 95 MPH more than anyone in the game. He’s working to add the fabled Warthen Slider to his already dominant repertoire. Name a risk factor for UCL years requiring Tommy John surgery. Syndergaard meets most if not all of them. 

One risk factor not readily discussed is the team he plays for. Look at the projected Mets rotation when healthy: Matt HarveyJacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz, and Zack Wheeler. Put aside Syndergaard for a moment. What do the other four have in common?  They are all hard throwing pitchers under the age of 30 who have already had Tommy John surgery. 

Go outside this group. Since Warthen took over as the Mets pitching coach, the following homegrown Mets have sustained arm injuries: Jon Niese (shoulder), Dillon Gee (shoulder), Jeremy Hefner (two Tommy John surgeries), Rafael Montero (shoulder), Bobby Parnell (Tommy John), Josh Edgin (Tommy John), Jack Leathersich (Tommy John). There are more, but you get the point. 

Now, is this an organizational problem since Warthen took over, or is it just bad luck?  Could this all have been avoided?  Back in the 60’s and 70’s the Mets developed pitchers like Tom SeaverJerry KoosmanNolan Ryan, and Jon Matlack. These pitchers threw more innings than the pitchers today, and yet, Matlack was the only one of this group that suffered an arm injury. 

In the 80’s, the Mets had Dwight GoodenRon DarlingSid Fernandez, Rick AguileraRandy Myers and David Cone. Of this group, only Doc and Cone had arm issues. It should be noted that Doc had many other issues as well, and Cone’s problem was an aneurysm later in his career. 

In the 90’s, Generation K was a bust, and the Mets haven’t developed the caliber of starting pitchers like they have in the past until now. However, this generation seems to befall injuries far more often than their predecessors. Is it organizational?  Is it bad luck?  Is it preparation?  For his part, Harvey wonders what if:

I think now, there are things I could have done better in high school or in college to maybe prevent it. But I don’t know. I’m not saying [Syndergaard] works that much harder than everybody else, because we all work hard. I think as time progresses, guys pay more attention to stretching the shoulder, strengthening the shoulder. If I could go back — I don’t know if this would’ve prevented me from having [surgery], but if I could go back and really do 20 extra minutes of stretching and arm care, you never know what could happen. 

That’s the thing. We really don’t know why one guy suffers elbow and shoulder injuries while others don’t. Is it preparation?  Is it good genes?  Is it just good luck?  Much time, energy, and money has been spent on this issue, and yet pitchers still get injured. Pitchers get injured despite teams doing everything in their power to try to prevent it. 

It will help Syndergaard being in a clubhouse with players who have had Tommy John surgery. They each will have advice for him on why they suffered the injury and what they could’ve done differently. More importantly, Syndergaard appears to be a hard worker who takes the health of his arm very seriously.  There is no doubt he is doing everything he can do to avoid the dreaded Tommy John surgery. 

Based on what we’ve seen, if anyone can avoid it, it’s him. 

Editor’s Note: this article was first published on metsmerizedonline.com

Retire 17?

You know sometimes we forget about the impact Keith Hernandez had upon his teammates. 

After Hernandez left the Mets, David Cone switched his number from 44 to 17 to honor his former teammate. He would wear it again with the Royals. His fellow color commentator, Ron Darling, wore 17 while a member of the Athletics. Bob Ojeda and Roger McDowell did the same with their future teams. In fact, they occupied the number during Mike Piazza‘s early tenure with the Dodgers. This is interesting because Piazza wanted number 17:

When Piazza joined the Mets, John Franco gave him his number 31. It was a terrific gesture that was part of a full court press to make Piazza comfortable and to get him to resign with the Mets. Piazza’s chosen number,17, was taken by Luis Lopez. He’s one of the many who have had the number that drives Hernandez nuts. I’m assuming Piazza never asked for the number. 

With Piazza on the verge of being elected to the Hall of Fame, I presume the Mets would retire his number during the following season. We know that number will be 31. While Franco was a fine Met and a good closer, I’m sure there will be no groundswell to retire the number in his honor as well. 

Now if Piazza wore 17, I’m assuming the Mets would’ve told Luis Lopez to find another number. If Piazza’s number 17 was retired, there would’ve been a major groundswell to retire the number in Hernandez’s honor as well. We know there is one already amongst the fan base. Retiring Piazza’s number might’ve created an avenue to retire the number of a popular player and broadcaster. However, Piazza never got to wear 17, and it’s Hernandez’s fault. 

He left a tremendous impact with the fans and his teammates. The fans and his teammates wanted to honor him. It’s ironic this impact is what is preventing him from having his number retired. 

I Want it That Way

Somewhere in my house, I have a “Mojo Rising” t-shirt featuring the greatest infield ever. It became the anthem of the 1999 season. After Kenny Rogers forgot how to throw a strike, there was no more “Mojo Risin.”  I also stopped wearing the t-shirt. 

The following season seemingly every team adapted “Who Let the Dogs Out?” as their rally cry. I don’t know that I ever got that song out of my head. I knew something bad was going to happen when the Baha Men performed before Game Four of the 2000 World Series. My fears were realized when I watched David Cone struck out Mike Piazza. Luckily, after the 2000 World Series went away, so did the Baha Men. 

Speaking of the 2000 World Series, N’Sync performed the National Anthem at Game Three of the World Series. It was the wrong boy band. Clearly, this wrong choice set forth a catastrophic chain of events which led to the Yankees winning the World Series. That’s right. I’m blaming N’Sync. 

It seems Juan Uribe wants to right that wrong. He started blasting and dancing to the Backstreet Boy in the locker room. This is one of the reasons why Uribe is such a great addition. He keeps things loose in the clubhouse, and he keeps things fun. We all laughed when we saw it. It was fun. I can see this Backstreet Boys being a thing. 

Why not?  The dumbest things become a thing during a time when your team is winning. Earlier this year, it was the Citi Field raccoon:

 

Then, it was Yoenis Cespedes and the “Rally Parakeet“:
  
Finally, it was David Wright and his cookies:

  
These things take on a life of its own. Personally, I like the Backstreet Boys meme. First, it doesn’t seem as forced as the other ones. Second, it’s fun, and the Mets can have fun with it by blasting it on the loudspeakers. I think we should petition Uribe and the other Mets to use the Backstreet Boys for their walk-up music. It’s as organic as Robin Ventura playing “L.A. Woman” in the clubhouse leading to “Mojo Risin” t-shirts. Finally, the Backstreet Boys are there at the promised land:

Let’s let the Backstreet Boys lead us to heaven. They already seem to know the way. Lets Go Mets!