Jeff Kent

Jeff Kent Baseball Hall Of Fame Case

Based upon his receiving just 18.1% of the vote last year, it does not seem like Jeff Kent will get anywhere close to the 75% threshold for Hall of Fame induction. Unfortunately, it does not appear as if he is going to get the push he needs to get anywhere close to that 75% in any of the subsequent three years meaning he will one day need to have his case reassessed by the Veteran’s Committee.

Now, there are viable reasons to overlook Kent’s candidacy. After all, his 55.4 WAR puts him below the 69.4 WAR of the average second baseman. The same can be said of his 35.7 WAR7 and 45.6 JAWS. Assessing just those numbers, you could say Kent belongs just in that proverbial Hall of Very Good, but not the Hall of Fame.

However, there is more to his case, and it merits a deeper look.

First and foremost, there are the homers. In his career, Kent hit 377 homers with 351 of them coming as a second baseman. That mark is the best among second baseman in Major League history. In terms of Hall of Fame eligible players, that puts him ahead of Rogers Hornsby, Ryne Sandberg, Joe Morgan, and Joe Gordon, each of whom are Hall of Famers.

There’s more to it. Mike Piazza is the all-time leader in homers at the catcher position. Cal Ripken Jr. is the all-time leader in homers by a shortstop. Mike Schmidt is the all-time leader in homers at third. They are all in the Hall of Fame. Right now, looking across every position, the all-time home run leader at a position was inducted into the Hall of Fame when there was no PED issues.

That was the case with Lou Gehrig at first and Hank Aaron in the outfield. The only exception to this rule has been Kent.

There’s more to Kent’s offense than just homers. His 562 doubles were also the fifth most at the second base position putting him behind Hall of Famers like Biggio and Charlie Gehringer but ahead of Hornsby, Roberto Alomar, Billy Herman, Frankie Frisch, and Morgan. Breaking it down, Kent is the only Hall of Fame eligible player in the top ten in doubles at the second base position who has not been inducted.

Going deeper, Todd Helton and Kent are the only Hall of Fame eligible players at their position to be in the top five all-time in doubles (not implicated with PEDs) not inducted into the Hall of Fame. That was cemented with Ted Simmons recent election by the Veterans’ Committee.

While considered an out of date stat, Kent’s 1,518 RBI are the third  most at the position. All of the Hall of Fame eligible second baseman in the top 10 are in the Hall of Fame except Kent. Again, barring PEDs, the top three Hall of Fame eligible players in RBI have been inducted. All except Kent.

In terms of RBI, there is more to it. Right now, the only non-PED implicated Hall of Fame eligible players who have at least 1,500 RBI not inducted into the Hall of Fame are Fred McGriff and Carlos Delgado. Essentially, if you are a non-1B with 1,500 RBI, you were inducted into the Hall of Fame.

Kent is also second all-time in slugging at the position. Again, every clean Hall of Famer in the top two in slugging at their position has been inducted into the Hall of Fame. He’s also fourth in OPS. As you can assume, every clean Hall of Fame eligible player in the top five in OPS at their position have been inducted.

It’s this type of production which arguably makes Kent the second best offensive second baseman all-time to Hornsby. That would also make Kent the best at his position in the post World War II Era. It is one of the reasons why he was the 2000 National League MVP.

A second baseman winning the MVP is a rare feat indeed. In fact, there have been only 10 second baseman in Major League history who have done that. With the exception of Dustin Pedroia, who is not yet Hall of Fame eligible, everyone second baseman who has won the award is in the Hall of Fame. That’s everyone except Kent.

Really, the only reason Kent is not in the Hall of Fame is his abrasive personality and his defense. Honestly, there is not much to defend his defense, which was admittedly subpar. However, we should take into consideration Kent has turned the 11th most double plays among second baseman in Hall of Fame history. That is more than Sandberg and Biggio.

Also, for what it is worth his total zone rating is higher than Alomar’s. That’s not insignificant when Alomar is considered a very good defensive second baseman.

There’s one other factor to consider with Kent’s Hall of Fame case. He was an excellent postseason player. In 49 postseason games, he hit .276/.340/.500 with 11 doubles, nine homers, and 23 RBI. Prorated over a 162 game season, those numbers would equate to 36 doubles, 30 homers, and 76 RBI.

That is high end production in games which matter most. Speaking of which, in his only World Series appearance in 2002, he would hit three homers.

Overall, in his 17 year career, Jeff Kent established himself as the second best offensive second baseman, and really, he was the premier slugger at the position. For those efforts, he put up stats which would have been otherwise Hall of Fame worthy, and he would win an MVP award. While he may not be a proverbial first ballot Hall of Famerr, he is someone who has put together a career worthy of induction.

Mets Blogger Roundtable: The Mets Who Got Away

With Jacob deGrom receiving his contract extension, it appears he is going to be a Mets pitcher during his prime, and it sets the stage for him to join David Wright and Ed Kranepool as Mets for life. With that being the bulk of the list, there is a host of Mets players who got away. The most famous of which was Tom Seaver who headlined the Midnight Massacre. Putting Seaver aside, the Mets bloggers discussed those players who got away:

Michael Ganci (Daily Stache)

Honestly in recent memory John Olerud comes to mind. He had one of the best pure swings I can remember. Other than that I guess you have to bring up Daniel Murphy and Justin Turner, but who saw those coming?

Michael Baron

Daniel Murphy is the most recent Met to have gotten away. And, I’ve heard there are people in the front office who would like a mulligan on that one as well. Having him in 2016 and 2017 would’ve been huge, and not having him kill the Mets in DC would have been huge too.

Allison McCague (Amazin’ Avenue)

To me the most egregious example of a Met getting away is Justin Turner, simply by virtue of how little it would have cost to keep him. Of course, it was impossible to know that he would put up the numbers he did after leaving the Mets, but unlike the Murphy situation where it was a choice not to sign the player as a free agent, they non-tendered a perfectly serviceable utility man just because they didn’t want to pay him and trashed his character on the way out for good measure. I think a dark horse candidate in this conversation, however, would be Collin McHugh, who changed his approach after joining the Astros by throwing his fastball less often and his off-speed pitches more often to much greater success than he ever had as a Met. And now he remains a key piece in the Astros bullpen as they head into another season where they will likely make a push for the postseason.

Michael Baron

I’ll give you Justin Turner for sure. What irks me is he’s a good guy and even in the form he was in when he was here, was a valuable piece for the solution. That he evolved thanks to the tutelage of Marlon Byrd while he was here makes it even worse, since this version of Justin Turner would‘ve unquestionably transformed the Mets.

Metstradamus (Metstradamus Blog)

Darren O’Day … just because we lost the Rule 5 pick because Omar Minaya didn’t want to put Mike Pelfrey on the disabled list. That still triggers me.

James Schapiro (Shea Bridge Report)

Joe Hietpas! Got to take the field, but then left without ever getting to bat…he’s Moonlight Graham!

Mark Healey (Gotham Baseball)

Olerud; he was a far superior player to Todd Zeile. Just look at his seasons 2000-02; think he would have helped? In my opinion, if Mets have Olerud, they win 2000 World Series. My God, remember the Zeile farewell tour? Infamnia!

Tim Ryder (MMO)

I’m gonna hesitantly go with Melvin Mora. The guy he got traded away for, Mike Bordick, was a fine pickup and helped that 2000 team get over the hump, no doubt. But Mora went on to have a solid little career and Bordick was back in Baltimore via free agency the following season.

Greg Prince (Faith and Fear in Flushing)

The Mets let 18-year-old Paul Blair go to the Orioles in the minor league draft of 1962. Blair played 18 seasons in the majors, winning eight Gold Gloves as the premier AL center fielder of his generation.

Then again, had the Mets kept Blair, they wouldn’t have needed to trade for Tommie Agee prior to 1968, and Agee robbed Blair in the 1969 Series, so all’s well that ended well, perhaps.

Pete McCarthy (OABT)

I thought Nolan Ryan was the only answer to this question, but there are some fun ones in here. Yay Mets!

Mark Healey

Far be it from me to disagree with you Pete but Ryan wanted out as much as the Mets were frustrated with him. It wasn’t so much that they traded Ryan and he became a Hall of Famer after it’s what they traded him for.

Metstradamus

Scott Kazmir would like a word.

Mets Daddy

There is always going to be a part of me who wonders what would have happened if the Mets kept Darryl Strawberry. He would have one good year in Los Angeles before everything fell apart for both him and the Mets. For those who forget, the Mets opted to replace him with Vince Coleman, who was detestable as a Met, and it lead to a series of poor decisions which built as bad and unlikable a Mets team as we have ever seen. For Strawberry, his personal problems were far worse than anything the Mets encountered.

Looking at everything, there are a number of mistakes like trading Jeff Kent for Carlos Baerga, but that at least indirectly led to the team signing Robin Ventura. Murphy leaving transferred the balance of power back to the Nationals.

But overall, the one which comes to mind right now is Matt Harvey. For Harvey, it was more than trading him for Devin Mesoraco. It was everything. The 2013 version looked like future Hall of Fame. The 2015 version looked like a staff ace. The ramifications of that 2015 season were far reaching, and we never saw Harvey return, literally and figuratively.

Before you go away from this piece, please sure you click on the links and visit the sites of those who have taken their time to contribute to this roundtable.

Also, a very special congratulations to Pete McCarthy and his wife on the birth of their baby girl!

 

Mets Should Never Hold Onto Prospects, Make Trades, Or Sign Free Agents

Looking at this past offseason, the Mets have traded away much of their future to improve the 2019 team. Top prospects Jarred Kelenic and Justin Dunn were part of a package for Robinson Cano and Edwin Diaz. Ross Adolph, Scott Manea, and Luis Santana were traded for J.D. Davis. Finally, Adam Hill, Felix Valerio, and Bobby Wahl were traded for Keon Broxton.

There has been some debate on each of these moves. Whereas many saw the Mets undervaluing assets, there have been a contingent who have justified the deal under the auspices of how not all prospects work out.

To a certain extent, there is validity to the prospects not panning out. With respect to Generation K, only Jason Isringhausen had a successful career, and that was as a reliever not the front line starter we expected him to be. Outfielders Fernando Martinez, Lastings Milledge, and Alex Ochoa weren’t even so much as a part-time player. Relievers like Eddie Kunz did nothing. The list goes on and on . . . .

Of course, this overlooks the prospects which have had successful careers. Tom Seaver was a Hall of Famer. David Wright, Jose Reyes, Darryl Strawberry, Dwight Gooden, and Edgardo Alfonzo were all-time Mets greats. As we know, that list is much longer than that. It also includes Nolan Ryan, which was a trade which lives on in Mets infamy.

That was a trade of a young player who hasn’t figured it out for a past All-Star Jim Fregosi. While prevailing wisdom is that trade was a Mets disaster, the school of thought were you trade young players for proven Major League talent would be fully onboard with that deal. That does beg the question why people are against keeping prospects and are not against the Mets making trades.

Looking over Mets history, this team has made many horrible trades. In addition to the aforementioned Ryan for Fregosi trade, we have also seen several other poor trades in Mets history:

There are several others which have blown up in the Mets faces. In addition to that, there have been trades for players which have greatly under-performed for the Mets. In addition to the aforementioned players, you can include Roberto Alomar, Willie Mays, Joe Torre, and a litany of others did not perform when wearing a Mets uniform.

With the Mets losing valuable young players and with the team getting veterans who have not performed, you have to wonder why the Mets don’t just operate on the free agent market. Of course, the reason there is the extensive failures the Mets have made on that front. The list is well known, and Mets fans can cite them in their sleep – Jason Bay, Bobby Bonilla, Luis Castillo, Vince Coleman, George Foster, Oliver Perez, and many, many others.

Point is, no matter which way you look, you see a history of failures when it comes to the Mets organization. Their prospects always fail. They only trade for veterans in decline. Every free agent signing is a bust.

Of course, that’s not remotely the truth. When looking at each area, the Mets have had plenty of successes and failures. The goal for every General Manager is to have more success than failures and for those failures to not come back and bite you. That’s what defines periods like the 1980s Mets and also the period immediately thereafter.

So in the end, when judging moves, do it on their own merit and not because you believe the Mets prospects fail, trade acquisitions production declines, and every free agent is a bust.

2019 Baseball Hall of Fame Class Lowers The Bar

Mariano Rivera, Edgar Martinez, Roy Halladay, Mike Mussina, Lee Smith, Harold Baines – that is the 2019 Baseball Hall of Fame class. It is the largest Hall of Fame class this century, and it is the largest Hall of Fame class since 1964 when there were seven players inducted into the Hall of Fame.

It is quite the interesting class made all the more interesting by the surprise choices of the Veterans’ Committe (or whatever they call themselves now) and because of the fact Rivera became the first ever player unanimously elected to the Hall of Fame. It should be noted there were rumors about Lou Gehrig who was inducted in a special election after his ALS diagnosis and retirement.

Another reason why this Hall of Fame class is so interesting is because it has lowered the bar for future Hall of Fame elections.

When looking at starting pitchers, the average Hall of Famer had a 73.4 WAR, 50.1 WAR7, and 61.8 JAWS. Put another way, your average Hall of Fame pitcher had a strong and prolonged peak surrounded by seasons where he was a good starting pitcher.

Of course, those numbers are derived almost by accident. Before modern voting, voters would elect anyone who hit the magic number of 300 wins. Other factors like Cy Young awards, 20 win seasons, ERA, strikeouts, and other standards would apply. That said, as we have moved into this current era of voting, more advanced statistics are used to adjudge candidates.

In fact, it was the justification to push for the election of Bert Blyleven. For his part, Blyleven amassed a 95.0 WAR in his career putting him well above the threshold. His induction also paved the way for someone like Mussina to get inducted into the Hall of Fame.

In his career, Mussina only had 20 wins once, and that was in the final year of his career. Mussina never won a Cy Young award and was never in the top three. He was just a five time All-Star. Belying those numbers was greatness. Mussina had an 83.0 WAR and a 130 ERA+. Simply put, he was great, and it was due to modern numbers we have been able to recognize that greatness and see a push for his induction.

The questionable candidate is Halladay, who actually garnered a higher percent of the vote than Mussina. Behind Halladay’s two Cy Young Awards and no-hitter in the 2010 NLDS was a pitcher who fell short of the Hall of Fame standards. His 64.3 WAR and 57.5 JAWS was close but below standards. It should be noted his 50.6 WAR7 did crack the list making him a more than justifiable, albeit borderline candidate.

The Hall of Fame isn’t harmed inducting a player of Halladay’s caliber, especially with his peak years meeting the standard. What is curious is how someone who should’ve been a borderline candidate was inducted on the first ballot with 85.4 percent of the vote while Mussina, a better pitcher over his career, barely cleared the 75 percent threshold in his sixth year on the ballot.

With respect to Rivera, there was no doubt he was a Hall of Famer. He’s the All-Time leader in saves, and he has all the postseason exploits to bolster his case. He also leads all relievers in baseball history in WAR, WAR7, JAWS, and entrance music. He was clearly the greatest at what he did, and there was no debate. Literally, there is no debate as he received 100 percent of the vote.

Where things became dubious was the election of Smith. During his time, Smith was a feared closer who had the most saves in baseball history until he was surpassed by Trevor Hoffman, who was another dubious selection.

When it came to Smith and Hoffman, the cases were basically made on the amount of saves and superlatives like dominating. However, in the grand scheme of things, they didn’t measure up to other great relievers. Respectively, each fell far short of the 38.1 WAR, 26.5 WAR7, and 32.3 JAWS the average Hall of Fame reliever had amassed.

Inducting both Hoffman and Smith has lowered the bar to the point where we cannot be sure where it is going. Is it going to be a 475 career saves standard asking to 300 wins or 3,000 hits? Who knows? But at a certain point, someone is going to have to figure out the line because with recent inductions, Billy Wagner‘s case is all the more justified as are cases for players overlooked in voting like John Franco and Jeff Reardon. Coincidentally, at one time Reardon battled back-and-forth with Smith to claim that all-time saves record.

As troubling as that may be, the election of the designated hitters into the Hall of Fame may be the most troubling.

Looking at the proverbial magic numbers, neither Martinez nor Baines clears the mark despite both of their job duties being JUST hitting. Previous Hall of Famers who spent more time at DH than as a fielder, Frank Thomas and Paul Molitor, did clear each of those marks with Thomas having over 500 homers and Molitor having over 3,000 hits.

For both hitters, there have been cases spelled out, but at their core, they were just hitters, which should thereby negate any argument over whether defense should count against someone like Jeff Kent.

It should be noted Kent had more games played, hits, doubles, triples, homers, RBI, stolen bases, and sacrifice flies than Martinez despite playing one fewer year. He had more doubles and stolen bases with having a better batting average and slugging percentage than Baines while having the same OBP. Yet, somehow voters are not enticed to vote for Kent because he had poor defense, and he was cranky with the media.

Ponder that for a moment, Kent put up all-time great numbers at second base including being the all-time leader in homers as a second baseman, but he’s not going into the Hall of Fame now because he was a poor defender. Meanwhile, Martinez and Baines are being rewarded for just hitting and never having to field.

As bad as that may seem for Kent, who cannot find a way to crack 18.1 percent in his sixth year on the ballot, imagine how Fred McGriff feels. Like Kent, he was dinged for defense and even base running, and yet, he’s not a Hall of Famer despite hitting nearly 500 homers and being one of the most clutch hitters all-time.

While they’re overlooked, Larry Walker and his seven Gold Gloves and an OPS+ just behind Martinez’s is being penalized for playing in Coors Field. Of course, Martinez is not facing the same penalty for playing in the Kingdome. Same thing can be said for Andruw Jones and his 1o Gold Gloves and 434 homers. Really, we have discovered defense does not matter whatsoever even if Walker has a higher WAR than Martinez.

The point is the Hall of Fame standards have been driven down. You no longer have to be among the greatest relievers of all-time. You just have to be good in your era. You don’t have to be a complete ballplayer. You just have to hit. That’s a lowering of standards, and if those standards are now universally applied, there should be a bevy of previously borderline or overlooked candidates who should now be inducted into the Hall of Fame.

Be Careful Using Harold Baines To Justify Inducting Edgar Martinez

In what was a complete shock to nearly everyone, Harold Baines was elected by the Today’s Game Era Committe, which is just another name for what we’ve always known to be the Veteran’s Committee, to the Baseball Hall of Fame. What is interesting is Baines never cracked 10 percent in the vote, and one point, he was five percented and left off the ballot all together.

In his 22 year career, Baines hit .289/.356/.465 with 2,866 hits, 488 doubles, 49 triples, 384 homers, and 1,628 RBI. He was a DH more than he played in the outfield, and he amassed a 38.7 career WAR. He was a six time All Star and one time Silver Slugger.

Considering how there is a push to get Edgar Martinez elected into the Hall of Fame, in some circles, the Baines election puts Edgar’s case over the top with voters going so far as to say it’s “ridiculous” to have Baines in the Hall and not Edgar.

The latter goes too far. While many can agree Baines does not belong in the Hall of Fame, it should not mean other undeserving candidates should be elected because there is a worse player already inducted into the Hall of Fame. If we play that game, there is no limit to who gets inducted next. Just look at this year’s ballot.

Last year, Jeff Kent received 14.5 percent of the vote. His high was 16.7 percent in 2017. Kent is stagnating at low levels despite his having the most home runs ever hit by a second baseman. His career 55.4 WAR is the 20th best among second baseman in MLB history. That puts him ahead of renown Hall of Famers like Bill Mazeroski, Johnny Evers, and Tony Lazzeri. It’s also way ahead of Bucky Harris and his 15.2 WAR.

Using the Baines/Edgar narrative wouldn’t it be ridiculous to have Harris in the Hall of Fame but not the all-time home run leader among second baseman?

There’s also Fred McGriff. The Crime Dog is in his last year of eligibility. Considering he only received 23.2 percent last year, it would seem his chances are stark. However, his careeer numbers are far better than Frank Chance, Jim Bottomley and High Pockets Kelly. Wouldn’t it be ridiculous to have that trio in the Hall of Fame but not McGriff.

You can go up and down this Hall of Fame ballot and make similar assertions for Billy Wagner, Larry Walker, Scott Rolen, or Andruw Jones. Each one of these players received under 50 percent of the vote, and each one of these players were arguably better players than Edgar Martinez.

Overall, the point is if you’re going to make one bad decision on Baines, that should not be used to justify the induction of another player. Instead, Baines’ induction needs to be compartmentalized and judged for what it is. A player like Edgar Martinez needs to be inducted or not inducted by his own merits.

Ultimatly, this is the Hall of Fame. This shouldn’t be a race to the bottom. It needs to be the best players to ever play the game . . . even if there is the occasional mistake letting in a player like Baines.

2018 IBWAA Hall of Fame Ballot

With the Hall of Fame results to be released tomorrow, this is my official IBWAA Hall of Fame ballot.  Unlike the BBWAA, the IBWAA has a 15 player limit, and the IBWAA will not continue voting on a player after they have reached the 75% threshold.  That remains true even if the player remains on the BBWAA ballot.  This year that applies to Vladimir Guerrero (who I voted for last year and would’ve again this year) and Edgar Martinez.

CF Andruw Jones

Stats: 17 seasons, .254/.337/.486, 1933 H, 383 2B, 36 3B, 434 HR, 1289 RBI
Advanced: 62.8 WAR, 46.4 WAR7, 54.6 JAWS
Awards: 5x All Star, 10x Gold Glove , Silver Slugger

With the average Hall of Fame center fielder having a 71.2 WAR/44.6 WAR7/57.9 JAWS, the one thing that stands out to you is Jones had about as good a seven year stretch of baseball than any center fielder in the history of the game.  Really, it was a tremendous nine year stretch of his career where he completely dominated.

From 1998 – 2006, Jones average season was .270/.347/.513 with 35 homers and 104 RBI.  In addition to being a middle of the lineup hitter during this stretch, he won nine consecutive Gold Gloves.  It goes a long way towards explaining how he put up 54.5 WAR during that stretch.  There are few center fielders who have dominated the sport on both sides of the ball for as long as a stretch as this.

There are some other finer points to consider with Jones.  Every Hall of Fame eligible center fielder who has hit at least 400 homers is in the Hall of Fame.  Every Hall of Fame eligible outfielder that has won at least 10 Gold Gloves has been elected to the Hall of Fame.  With Jones joining Willie Mays and Ken Griffey, Jr. as the only center fielders to hit over 400 homers and win 10+ Gold Gloves, he should also join them in the Hall of Fame.

3B Larry Jones

Stats: 19 years, .303/.401/.529, 2726 H, 549 2B, 38 3B, 468 HR, 1623 RBI
Advanced: 85.0 WAR, 46.6 WAR7, 65.8 JAWS
Awards: 1999 MVP, 2008 Batting Title, 8x All Star, 2x Silver Slugger

When it come to Chipper, the question isn’t whether he’s a Hall of Famer, but rather how high should he rank on the list of all time third baseman.  With the exception of triples and stolen bases, he is in the top 10 in every offensive category at the position with him being ranked second in runs and RBI and third in homers.  No matter what statistic or measurement you look at, Jones is going to be a first ballot Hall of Famer.

2B Jeff Kent

Stats: 17 years, .290/.356/.500, 2461 H, 560 2B, 47 3B, 377 HR, 1518 RBI
Advanced: 55.2 WAR, 35.6 WAR7, 45.4 JAWS
Awards: 2000 MVP, 5x All Star, 4x Silver Slugger

When looking at the newer parameters of WAR, WAR7, and JAWS, Kent falls well short of meeting Hall of Fame induction standards as the average Hall of Fame second baseman has posted a 69.4/44.5/56.9.  Really, Kent only comes close on the JAWS, but it’s not really that close.  Even with him falling short there, he still deserves induction into the Hall of Fame.

Looking at Kent’s career, you can make the argument this side of Rogers Hornsby, he is the best offensive second baseman in Major League history.  Certainly, you can make the case he’s the top slugger with him being the all-time leader in homers for a second baseman and second all-time in slugging.  In addition to that, he’s fourth all-time in doubles and third highest in RBI.

Every Hall of Fame eligible second baseman who has at least 445 doubles is in the Hall of Fame.  Every Hall of Fame eligible second baseman with at least 252 homers is in the Hall of Fame.  Every Hall of Fame eligible second baseman with at least 1200 RBI is in the Hall of Fame.  Every Hall of Fame eligible second baseman who has slugged at least .470 is in the Hall of Fame.  Well, that’s true for everyone except Kent, who is still awaiting induction.

One last note on Kent.  He is just one of 10 second baseman to ever win the award.  With the exception of Dustin Pedroia, who is still active, Kent is the only one of these players not in the Hall of Fame.  That should change as Kent certainly has merited induction.

LF Hideki Matsui

Stats: 10 years, .282/.360/.462, 1253 H, 249 2B, 12 3B, 175 HR, 760 RBI
Advanced: 21.3 WAR, 21.3 WAR7, 21.3 JAWS
Awards: 2x All Star, 2009 World Series MVP

A more detailed analysis of Matsui’s Hall of Fame case was previously published.  To put it succinctly here, as a professional, Matsui hit .293/.387/.521 hitter with 2,655 hits, 496 doubles, 508 homers, and 1,654 RBI.  If that all happened in the United States, he would be a no-doubt Hall of Famer.  However, due to the collusion and gentleman’s agreements between MLB and NPB, Mastui was never going to get the chance to spend his entire career in the MLB.  He should not be penalized for that.

1B Fred McGriff

Stats: 19 years, .284/.377/.509, 441 2B, 24 3B, 493 HR, 1550 RBI
Advanced: 52.4 WAR, 35.8 WAR7, 44.1 JAWS
Awards: 5x All Star, 1994 All Star Game MVP, 3x Silver Slugger

If McGriff only hit seven more home runs in his career, we would likely not be having this conversation because before the Steroid Era, hitting 500 homers was an automatic ticket into the Hall of Fame.  Perhaps knowing this, McGriff held on until he was 40 to try to get those homers.  It is a testament to him he was a productive hitter before his age 40 season.

Looking at all the numbers, it is fair to say McGriff has fallen short of 500 homers because it is assumed he was a clean player in another wise dirty Steroid Era in baseball.  He fell short because the players struck in 1994, which was when he was in his prime.

But looking at his advanced numbers, McGriff really falls short because of his defense.  That seems odd at a time when voters are pushing to elect Edgar Martinezto the Hall of Fame.  But that’s a debate for another day.  What is up for debate is his -18.1 dWAR and how reliable the defense metrics are, especially at first base, and whether those numbers can reliably be used to keep someone out of the Hall of Fame.  With the advent of DRS and UZR, it could be well argued dWAR is not reliable enough.

There’s some other considerations at play.  With the exception of Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro, both of whom have taken PEDs, every Hall of Fame eligible first baseman with at least 490 homers is in the Hall of Fame.  The same goes for first baseman with at least 1,520 RBI.  Also, with the exception of players who are known to have used PEDs, every eligible first basman with at least 1,300 walks is in the Hall of Fame.

In addition to the regular season numbers, it should be noted McGriff was at his best when the stakes were at their highest.  For proof of that look no further than the 1993 season when he helped the Braves overcome a nine game deficit in the NL West.

But it’s more than the tangential evidence there.  As previously noted, McGriff bettered his career numbers with RISP, RISP with two outs, and high leverage situations.  Combine that with McGriff being an excellent hitter in the postseason (.303/.385/.532) with him putting up extraordinary World Series numbers (.279/.385/.605), and there is more than enough to make up for the fact McGriff never got those last seven homers . . . that is unless you want to count his 10 postseason homers.

RHP Mike Mussina

Stats: 270-153, 3.68 ERA, 2813 K, 1.192 WHIP
Advanced: 83.0 WAR, 44.5 WAR 7, 63.8 JAWS
Awards: 5x All Star, 7x Gold Glove

Given his being healthy throughout his entire career, and his coming off his only 20 win season, it does make you wonder why Mussina didn’t stick around long enough to get to 300 wins.  Arguably, he was 2 – 3 years away, and it would have only taken him until his age 41 season to get there.  Unfortunately, he didn’t stick around, so we have to have a more nuanced debate with his not reaching a magic number.

Now, the thing that really sticks out with Mussina is his career 3.68 ERA.  If he was indeed inducted, that ERA would be the third worst ERA by a starting pitcher with only Red Ruffing and Jack Morris.  Ruffing was only elected in a special runoff election after his time on the ballot expired, and Morris was inducted by the Veteran’s Committee.

However, lost in that ERA is the circumstances surrounding it.  Mussina not only pitched in the Steroids Era, but he also pitched the majority of his career in a hitter’s park like Camden Yards.  That’s where Mussina’s 123 ERA+ comes into account.  That mark matches Juan Marichal and puts him just ahead of Hall of Famers Eddie Plank, Bob Feller, and Don Drysdale.

There are some more considerations as well.  Aside from Roger Clemens and his complicated case, Mussina and Mickey Lolich are the only eligible pitcher with at least 2800 strikeouts not in the Hall of Fame.  Mussina and Tommy John are the only pitchers with 270 wins and over 2,000 strikeouts not in the Hall of Fame.  Mussina is the only pitcher with 270 wins and at least 2,300 strikeouts not in the Hall of Fame.

Combining that with his having a higher WAR, WAR7, and JAWS than the average Hall of Fame pitcher (73.9/50.3/62.1), and Mussina is well worthy of induction.

3B Scott Rolen

Stats: 17 years, .281/.364/.490, 2077 H, 517 2B, 43 3B, 316 HR, 1287 RBI
Advanced: 70.0 WAR, 43.5 WAR7, 56.8 JAWS
Awards: 1997 Rookie of the Year, 7x All Star, 8x Gold Glove, Silver Slugger

If we were basing it just off the WAR, WAR7, and JAWS, then Rolen would be an easy Hall of Famer as his marks surpass those of the average Hall of Fame third baseman (67.5/42.8/55.2).  However, judging from the voting on Rolen, many aren’t.  Instead, we hear many knock Rolen for not being that great, for being a complier, etc.

Looking at the criticism of Rolen, you begin to really understand why there are fewer third baseman in the Hall of Fame than at any other position.

Lost in any criticism was Rolen was a truly great defensive third baseman.  That’s evidenced by his three Gold Gloves that only trail Brooks Robinson and Mike Schmidt at the position.  He wasn’t Robinson with the glove, no one is, but he was a better hitter (122 OPS+ to 104 OPS+).  He wasn’t Schmidt with the bat, no other third baseman was, but Rolen was a better fielder than Schmidt (20.6 dWAR to 17.6 dWAR).  And you can certainly argue Rolen deserved more Gold Gloves with his being a better defender than players like Ken Caminiti and Mike Lowellwho won the award during Rolen’s prime.

Ultimately, Rolen did not have the bat that screams Hall of Famer, but he still had a 122 OPS+, which would rank him tied for eight amount the 16 third baseman already inducted into the Hall of Fame.

Overall, Rolen had a long and great defensive career, and he was better at the plate than how he is viewed upon by current writers.  With his defense and advanced stats, Rolen merits induction into the Hall of Fame.

Curt Schilling

Stats: 20 years, 216-146; 3.46 ERA, 3116 K, 1.137 WHIP
Advanced: 79.9 WAR, 49.0 WAR7, 64.5 JAWS
Awards: 6x All Star, 1993 NLCS MVP, 2001 World Series MVP

As we all know Schilling is not doing himself any favors with his being a lightning rod in an post playing days, which includes his tweets about lynching the media.  However, even with all that he does to shoot himself in the foot, it is still a matter of when and not if he gets inducted into the Hall of Fame.

When compiling the list of the greatest postseason pitchers of all-time, Schilling is on that short list with pitchers like Bob Gibson.  In the postseason, Schilling was 11-2 with a 2.23 ERA and a 0.968 WHIP.  There are many things you can take away from Schilling’s postseason career – striking out the first five Braves he faced in the 1993 NLCS, pitching three games in the 2001 World Series, the bloody sock, and breaking the Curse of the Bambino.

All of those were great, but consider that in Schilling’s postseason career, he pitched in four elimination games.  His team won all four of those games with Schilling going 3-0 with a 0.34 ERA.  Schilling allowed no more than two earned in any game, pitched at least seven innings in each start, had two complete games, and one five hit shutout.  Basically speaking, if your life was on the, you wanted Schilling on the mound.

But Schilling was more than postseason greatness.  He has the best strikeout to walk ratio of anyone ever eligible for the Hall of Fame.  He is 15th all-time in strikeouts, and everyone not named Clemens, who has 3,000 strikeouts is in the Hall of Fame.

He has the advanced stats to be inducted as well with his WAR and JAWS being higher than the average Hall of Fame pitcher (73.9/50.3/62.1).  His 127 ERA+ ties him with Tom Seaver and Gibson and puts him ahead of pitchers like contemporary and fellow big money pitcher John Smoltz.

Simply put, Schilling was a great pitcher well deserving of induction into the Hall of Fame regardless of whatever trouble he has created in his post playing career.

1B Jim Thome

Stats: 22 years, .276/.402/.554, 451 2B, 26 3B, 612 HR, 1699 RBI
Advanced: 72.9 WAR, 41.5 WAR7, 57.2 JAWS
Awards: 5x All Star

With the Steroids Era, the fascination with 500 homers has certainly gone by the wayside.  In fact, of the 27 sluggers in the 500 Home Run Club, 12 of those players played during a time tainted by the steroids era.  Many will point out how McGwire, Palmeiro, Sammy Sosa, and Gary Sheffield have not been inducted as proof positive of 500 homers not meaning the same thing anymore.

However, it could also be argued that doing it clean means all the more.  In fact, hitting 600 clean is even more astounding.  Given Thome never being implicated, he would certainly fall in that astounding category.

Really, you would be hard pressed to find a reason not to put him in.  His advanced stats are those of a Hall of Fame first baseman.  Even if you were to argue he played a lot of time at DH, it was really only 32% of the time.  Moreover, Thome hit 407 homers when he wasn’t a DH.  That alone would put him in the Top 20 among all-time first baseman.  As it stands, with the extra 205 homers, he’s second best all-time among players whose primary position was first base.

Overall, Thome was the epitome of a slugger, and he should be inducted into the Hall of Fame.

RF Larry Walker

Stats: 17 years, .313/.400/.565, 471 2B, 62 3B, 383 HR, 1311 RBI
Advanced: 72.6 WAR, 44.6 WAR7, 58.6 JAWS
Awards: 1997 NL MVP, 5x All Star, 7x Gold Glove, 3x Silver Slugger, 3x Batting Title

One of the main reasons Walker is not in the Hall of Fame already is because there remains a double standard regarding his candidacy.  Many a writer is willing to look the other way on steroids use, but will hold playing in Coors Field against Walker despite his legally playing there.  It’s also despite the fact his numbers are good enough regardless of his years at Coors Field.

For example, Walker has a 141 OPS+ and a 140 wRC+.  Both OPS+ and wRC+ stabilize offensive statistics for the park and league a player plays his games.  For every number above 100, that player is that much better than the league.  Using Walker as an example, he was 40% better than the average player during his playing time.Those numbers put him ahead of Hall of Fame right fielders like Reggie Jackson, Al Kaline, Tony Gwynn, Roberto Clemente, Dave Winfield, etc.

The Reggie Jackson parallel is an interesting one.  If you were to buy into Walker being a Coors Field creation, consider he hit .282/.372/.501 away from Coors Field (h/t CBS Sports).  Reggie Jackson, who was a no-doubt first ballot Hall of Famer, hit .262/.356/.490, and Reggie didn’t win any Gold Glove Awards.  Walker’s non-Coors slash line would compare favorably to a number of other Hall of Fame right fielders as well.

The point being is Walker wasn’t Coors Field creation.  Rather, he was a great hitter who played great no matter what ballpark he played.  Ultimately, Walker was a great hitter, fielder, and he was a great base runner.  He could do it all, and players that can do it all belong in the Hall of Fame.

IBWAA Hall of Fame Ballot

I have my Hall of Fame vote scattered through a few posts detailing why I voted for those still on the ballot, who I reconsidered, and who among the the first time candidates I voted.  I also explained why I would vote for players already inducted by the IBWAA.  Pulling those lists together, here is my ballot:

  1. Tim Raines
  2. Jeff Bagwell
  3. Jeff Kent
  4. Mike Mussina
  5. Curt Schilling
  6. Larry Walker
  7. Fred McGriff
  8. Vladimir Guerrero

Also, here is the reason I did not vote for Ivan Rodriguez.  In addition to Rodriguez, Jorge Posada, Jason Varitek, Billy Wagner, and Trevor Hoffman ultimately fall short in my book.

Changing My Mind on Fred McGriff

Overall, I have decided to vote for Vladimir Guerrero, Jeff Kent, Mike Mussina, Curt Schilling, and Larry Walker on my IBWAA ballot.  If they were up for IBWAA vote, I would have also voted for Tim Raines and Jeff Bagwell while not voting for Edgar Martinez.  In looking at Kent, Mussina, and Walker, I went back over their careers, and I re-assessed whether or not I should vote for them.  Ultimately, I did.  I did the same with players I did not vote for, and as a result, I added one to my ballot:

Fred McGriff, 1B

Stats: 19 seasons, .284/.377/.509, 2,490 H, 441 2B, 24 3B, 493 HR, 1,550 RBI, 38 SB

Advanced: 52.4 WAR, 35.8 WAR7, 44.1 JAWS

Awards: 3X Silver Slugger, 5X All Star

During Hall of Fame voting, many times you will hear about a player being a compiler.  There are two ways you can define compiler: (1) someone who put up a number of counting stats over a very good but not great long career; or (2) Fred McGriff.

Arguably, McGriff was never a truly great player.  In fact, from a WAR perspective, he only had three seasons that you would rate him at superstar or MVP level.    If you take out the partial seasons he played in his first and last year, McGriff averaged a 3.1 WAR.  Basically, this means for most of McGriff’s career, he was a very good, but not quite All Star caliber player.  In that sense, his five All Star appearances seem right on the money.

Like Guerrero.  McGriff’s advanced statistics were held down by his perceived poor base running and defense.  Certainly, McGriff was no Keith Hernandez out there.  In fact, despite his appearance on the Tom Emanski videos, McGriff was not a particularly good first baseman.  Certainly, his .992 fielding percentage was nothing special as far as first baseman go.  It goes a long way in explaining why McGriff had a -18.1 dWAR in his career.  With that said, I am not sure how reliable that -18.1 figure is.

One of McGriff’s contemporaries at first base was the man who replaced him at first base in Toronto – John Olerud.  In Olerud’s playing days, he was considered a very good first baseman who won four Gold Gloves, and in reality, probably should have won more.  That notion has been reinforced by some advanced metrics.  For his career, Olerud’s dWAR was -2.

When reputation and advanced metrics agree a players is a good defensive player at his position, and dWAR completely disagrees, it gives you pause as to whether the calculation is entirely correct.  Assuming McGriff was only half as bad as dWAR suggested, his career WAR would increase to 61.5, which would leave him only 4.4 WAR short of what the average Hall of Famer was.  In fact, you could conclude McGriff was a poor first baseman that merited a negative dWAR and still have him reach the average WAR for a first baseman.

Despite all this hand wringing, the fact remains McGriff probably falls short of being a Hall of Famer due to his defense, and yes, defense matters.  With that said, there are two other factors which give McGriff the benefit of the doubt.

First, McGriff was a money player that was typically at his best when there was a lot at stake.  Using the baseline of his .284/.377/.509 career slash line, here are McGriff’s stats in big situations:

  • RISP: .277/.403/.479
  • RISP, two outs: .241/.399/.421
  • High Leverage: .290/.385/.500

Typically speaking, McGriff was at a minimum slightly better in pressure situations.

Another example of how good McGriff was in pressure situations was the 1993 season.  At the time the Braves acquired McGriff, the Braves trailed the San Francisco Giants by nine games in the National League West Standings.  Over the final 68 games of the season, McGriff would hit an astounding .310/.392/.612 with 19 homers and 55 RBI.  Essentially, McGriff was Yoenis Cespedes before Cespedes was Cespedes.  The Braves needed each and every single one of those homers as they finished one game ahead of the Giants in the standings.

Granted, that was just one season.  However, McGriff’s clutch hitting was also evident in the postseason.  In 50 postseason games, McGriff was a .303/.385/.532 hitter with 10 homers and 37 RBI.  His clutch postseason hitting helped the Braves win their only World Series with the vaunted Greg MadduxTom GlavineJohn Smoltz rotation.  In the 1995 postseason, McGriff hit .333/.415/.649 with four homers and nine RBI.

Overall, his postseason play combined with the question marks surrounding the defensive statistics that push his WAR outside Hall of Fame averages is enough for him to get my vote even if it is my the narrowest or margins.

There is one other small factor at play.  Anyone who saw McGriff towards the end of his career knew he was sticking around to try to get to 500 homers.  At the time, 500 homers was a golden benchmark which led to almost automatic Hall of Fame induction.  Well, McGriff didn’t get there as he fell seven home runs short.  He fell seven home runs short because he began his career in a de facto platoon with Cecil Fielder.  He fell seven home runs short because of the 1994 strike.   He fell seven home runs short because there were pitchers juicing while he wasn’t.  He fell seven home runs short because he was washed up at age 40.  Ultimately, he fell seven home runs short because he just wasn’t good enough to get those seven home runs.

Do you know where he would rank on the all-time home run list with those seven extra home runs?  11th.  Do you know where he currently stands on the list?  11th.  Ultimately, seven home runs over the course of a 19 year career is about one-third of a home run per season.  One-third of a home run per season doesn’t amount to much.  If that is the case, seven home runs should not be the line of demarcation between him being a Hall of Famer and him not garnering much support.

With or without the seven home runs, you can justify voting for McGriff who had a good career for almost all of his 19 seasons.  He has certainly done enough to justify being inducted into Cooperstown.

 

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.

That’s How You Finish Out the Regular Season at Home

Growing up, my family did not always go to Opening Day.  It was sometimes difficult for my Dad to get off of work, and even if he could, we had my mother insisting that my brother and I could not miss a day of school just to go to a Mets game.  What eventually happened is that my father, brother, and I usually found ourselves going to the last game of the season, which usually falls on a Sunday.

When you go to Opening Day, there is always hope.  Even when your team stinks, you can find some reason for hope. I remember thinking back in 1993 that the 1992 Mets season was just a fluke.  Bobby Bonilla was certainly going to be better.  Howard Johnson was back in the infield where he belonged.  This could be the year Todd Hundley and Jeff Kent break out.  The team still had Dwight Gooden, Sid Fernandez, and Bret Saberhagen with John Franco in the bullpen.  It turns out the 1993 team was even worse than the 1992 team.

The last game of the season always has an interesting feel to it.  When we went to the final game of the season, it was more of a farewell to an awful season.  Being ever the optimist, we still had hope for a bright future with Pete Schourek throwing eight brillant innings to cap off a Mets six game winning streak.  It seemed like 1994 was going to be a big year in baseball.  It was, but that’s a whole other story.

There was the devastating 2007 finale.  Heading into that game, most Mets fans believed that despite the epic collapse, the Mets were going to take care of the Marlins.  They just snapped a five game losing streak behind a brilliant John Maine performance and the offense coming alive to score 13 runs.  Even better, the Phillies seemed to be feeling the pressure a bit with them getting shut down by Matt Chico and a terrible Marlins team.  The sense was if the Mets won this game, the Phillies would feel the pressure and lose their game.  Even if the Phillies won their game, the Mets would beat the Phillies and return to the postseason like everyone expected.

After Tom Glavine laid an egg, which included out and out throwing a ball into left field trying to get Cody Ross, who was going to third on the original throw to home.  At 5-0, the Mets were still in the game.  David Wright was having a torrid September.  Carlos Delgado and Carlos Beltran were big game players.  I don’t think Moises Alou made an out that entire month.  With that in mind, I turned to my father, and I said to him, “If the Mets allow one more run, the game is over . . . .”  As the words left my mouth, Jorge Soler allowed a two run double to Dan Uggla.  Sure, they would play eight and a half more innings, but the collapse was over right then and there.

That 2007 finale hung over the 2008 finale.  Mets fans were probably a bit more optimistic than they had a right to be.  The day before Johan Santana took the ball with three days rest, and he pitched a complete game three hitter.  The Mets had Oliver Perez going in the finale.  Back then, this was considered a good thing.  The offense was clicking again.  However, that bullpen was just so awful.  The Mets were relying on Luis Ayala to close out games, and believe it or not, his 5.05 ERA and 1.389 WHIP was considered a steadying presence to an injury ravaged bullpen.  Beltran would hit a huge home run to tie the game, but the joy wouldn’t last.  Jerry Manuel, just an awful manager, turned to Scott Schoeneweis to gave up the winning home run to Wes Helms (Mets killer no matter what uniform he wore), and then aforementioned Ayala gave up another one that inning to Uggla to seal the deal at 4-2.

Fittingly, the last out was made by Ryan Church.  He was the same Mets player the Mets flew back and forth to the West Coast despite him having a concussion.  Remember the days when the Mets didn’t handle injuries well?  Nevermind.  In any event, I was one of the few that stayed to watch Tom Seaver and Mike Piazza close out Shea Stadium.  Many disagree, but I thought it helped.

Last year, was just a celebration.  The Mets had already clinched the NL East, and they were off to their first postseason since 2006.  The only thing left was the Mets winning one more game to get to 90 wins.  The 90 wins was window dressing, but the shift from 89 to 90 is just so satisfying.  It means more than 86 to 87 wins or 88 to 89 wins.  That 90 win mark is an important threshold for the psyche of teams and fans.

This year was something different altogether.  In terms of pure baseball, the Mets entered the day tied with the Giants for the first Wild Card with the Cardinals just a half a game behind (tied in the loss column).  The night before the Mets had seen Sean Gilmartin and Rafael Montero combine to put the team in a 10-0 hole that the Las Vegas 51s just couldn’t quite pull them out from under.  Still, that rally had created some buzz as did Robert Gsellman starting the game.  However, there was the shock of the Jose Fernandez news that muted some of the pregame buzz.

After the moment of silence, there was a game to be played, and it was just pure Mets dominance.

Gsellman would pitch seven shutout innings allowing just three hits and two walks with eight strikeouts.  More amazing than that was the fact that he actually got a bunt single.  For a player that can only bunt due to an injury to his non-pitching shoulder, the Phillies sure acted surprised by the play.  Overall, it was a great day by Gsellman who was helped out by the Mets offense and a little defense along the way:

 

It was that type of day for the Mets.  After Saturday’s pinch hit home run there was a Jay Bruce sighting again on Sunday.  On the day, he was 2-4 with two runs and a double.  It was easily the best game he had as a Met.  His second inning double would start the rally that ended with James Loney hitting an RBI groundout.  Then, as  Cousin Brucey would say, “the hits just keep on comin’!”  No, that was not just an allusion to the Phillies pitchers who hit three batters in the game.  It refers to the Mets offense.

Curtis Granderson hit a fourth inning solo shot to make it 2-0.  It was his 30th of the year making it the first time  the Mets have had a pair of 30 home run outfielders since, really who even knows?  In the fifth, T.J. Rivera plated a run with an RBI single.  Later in the fifth, Jose Reyes would the first of his two RBI bases loaded walks.  Overall, the big blow would come in the seventh off the bat of Asdrubal Cabrera:

The grand slam put the capper on not just the game, but a pretty remarkable season at home where the Mets were 44-37 on the season.  The Mets also hit 193 homers at home, which was the most ever hit at Citi Field, and more than any the Mets ever hit at Shea Stadium in any one season:

In the eighth, the Mets just poured it on with some of the 51s getting into the game.  Gavin Cecchini was hit by a pitch, Brandon Nimmo and Ty Kelly walked, and Eric Campbell got another RBI pinch hit.  Throw in a Michael Conforto two RBI double, and the Mets would win 17-0.  Exiting Citi Field, you got the sense this was not the last time you would see this team at home.  As it stands now, the Mets back to being a game up on the Giants, and the Cardinals fell to 1.5 games back.

There haven’t been many final games to the season like this one, and I’m not sure there ever will be.  Overall, it was a great way to close out the regular season at Citi Field.  However, for right now, it is not good-bye like it was in 1993, and it certainly isn’t good riddance like it was in 2007.  Rather, this game had more of a feeling of, “See you again soon.”