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Saturday, January 4, 2014

The Greatest of People who are not Presently in the Baseball Hall of Fame

I write a lot about Expos stuff...because I miss them. I don't want to be bias though so I'm going to write a baseball piece about non-Expo related matters for a change.

I don't follow much baseball any longer (after 2004) but if it was from 1986 until 2004 then I know a lot about that era. Also, with internet these days it's becoming easier and easier to look into past eras (data logs, video logs, newspaper articles, etc.)

Alright, so other than Timmy Raines, here's a quick look at some other great mans that are not in the Hall of Legendary Fame.

Alan Trammell

I was more into the National League back int the day but I followed AL too. Two guys that were fixtures in the AL back in my day were a tandem of middle infielders in Detroit. The second baseman was Sweet Lou Whitaker and the shortstop was Alan Trammell.

Aside from Cal Ripken Jr., Trammell was the premier shortstop in the AL during the eighties and into the nineties. Over in the NL the main guy was Ozzie Smith. Let's look at these players career stat lines, even though Gold Gloves are an arbitrary judge-voted stat I will still include them. First look at the stat lines without the bias of knowing who's name is next to the stats:

Player A: .767 OPS, 1231 Runs Scored, 1003 RBI, 236/345 Stolen Bases, 4 Golden Gloves (in 9376 plate appearances)

Player B: .788 OPS, 1645 Runs Scored, 1695 RBI, 36/75 Stolen Bases, 2 Golden Gloves (in 12883 plate appearances)

Player C: .666 OPS, 1257 Runs Scored, 793 RBI, 580/728 Stolen Bases, 13 Golden Gloves (in 9396 plate appearances)

Players B and C are in the Hall of Fame, yet player A is not. The stats denote the following:

A: Trammell
B: Ripken
C: Smith

Now, I think defense is a huge part of the game and I think Ozzie Smith was a great player...(but, let me finish)...there's no way anyone can say that Ozzie Smith was a better player than Alan Trammell under any circumstances. I love Ozzie, but, he was a gimmicky guy, he'd take the field by doing a series of acrobatic flips and tumbles...

I admit this was a fan favorite gimmick and totally awesome but doing parlor tricks doesn't make you win more games. If people were voting for the Barnum and Bailey Circus Hall of Fame then I could understand why Ozzie Smith would be a first balloter while Alan Trammell is left out, but this is not the circus Hall of Fame, it's the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Smith and Trammell have similar plate appearances and played in the exact same era (albeit in opposite leagues), there is no conceivable way that Ozzie Smith is a first ballot inductee while Trammell  doesn't even get in. This is kind of absurd.

I dunno, maybe Trammell should have done a magic show or a couple of card tricks prior to taking the field to ensure the voters liked him better. Having an OPS over 100 points higher won't make you better than the Wizard of Oz, you needed a gimmick dude.

Mike Marshall

This one is cheating a bit because Mike Marshall did pitch for the Expos but either way Mike should be in.

Marshall pitched for 9 different teams in his career. He started with the Tigers then quickly went to Seattle, Houston, and then to Montreal...he pitched for 4 different teams in his first 3 years in the bigs. Why? Mike earned the label of "non-conformist" early on in his career and was not the type of guy coaches and management wanted around.

Mike Marshall has an interesting back story. He was a Man of the Science and he took a strange approach to pitching that most would not have considered. He took a fully full-on scientific approach to pitching. The physics and kinetics or the movements the arm makes while trying to achieve the right speed/movement/break on pitches are understandable to the human brain that wishes to observe them. Knowing the biology of the human arm will also help you understand how to manipulate it and operate it in a way that will not cause excessive damage to the arm.

Marshall perfected the pitch called the "Screw Ball" with his scientific approach to pitching. The pitch is basically a breaking ball that breaks the OPPOSITE direction of the throwing arm (a right handed pitcher would throw a pitch that broke away to the right of his arm instead of to the left).

I respect Men of The Science

His early coaches in Detroit, Seattle, and Houston told Mike not to throw this crazy ass science pitch because they viewed it as being retarded. Umpires and opposing coaches accused him of cheating or using a substance (spit, vassaline, root cream oil, etc.) to break the ball like that.

Marshall didn't want to stop throwing the pitch which he believed wasn't retarded and he knew wasn't cheating. This refusal won him the label of "non-conformist" throughout the league and almost got him blackballed by baseball.

The fourth team Marshall wound up with in his first 3 major league years was the recently added Montreal Expos franchise. Still in the expansion years and losing game after game, coach Gene Mauch told Marshall that he didn't give a shit what kind of pitch Marshall wanted to throw because the team wasn't going to be in contention in 1970 anyway.

Mike freely developed his scientific take on the screw ball and by 1972 was pitching over 100 innings out of the bullpen for the Expos while putting up ERAs of 1.78 (not bad). He went on to put up similar stats out of the pen for the Dodgers and even won the Cy Young award in 1974.

People who watch baseball now a days have to understand that pitcher use was different in these bygone years. Now a days a starter does 5 innings, then a middle man comes in to do 2 innings, then a set up guy comes in for the 8th, and finally a closer in the 9th. Even in a low scoring game of 2-1...we see a team use up to 5 pitchers.

Back in the day it was 4-man starting rotations, you had one or two good pitchers in the pen, and a bunch of bums to pitch in blowouts and meaningless/nothing-on-the-line games. Healthy starters used to get close to 400 innings pitched per year and some relievers used to get well over 100 innings per year.

The "best" relievers now a days are judged by the Saves stat...yet it is probably the most gimmicky and pointless stat ever. How many games are won and lost in the eight innings prior to the ninth? Is the ninth inning some sort of magic inning where if you keep the opposing team to a goose-egg in that inning you automatically win the game? No. There's nothing more special about shutting a team's hitters down in the 9th inning than the 4th inning or any other inning.

People fawn over 50 saves in a season from guys like Hoffman or Gagné...but some pitchers who achieved that only pitched fucking 55 innings all season long. What's next? The left handed specialist who pitches to 50 batters all year but has a 1.50 ERA is an all-star? I don't think so.

Marshall would work in close to 100 games a year, finish out 75 of them, get 12-15 wins, and rack up 20 to 30 saves. Mike pitched over 200 innings out of the bullpen the year he won the Cy Young. The year reliever Eric Gagné won the Cy Young out of the pen he pitched in only 82 innings and won only 2 games. Trevor Hoffman saved 53 games one year...but only pitched in 73 innings all season.

Can a reliever from that era make the Hall? Yes, Goose Gossage did...and truth be told Goose's career stats are pretty similar to Mike Marshall's and Goose never won a Cy Young in his career. Plus Mike Marshall was a Man of the Science too.

Goose is in, but Mike only received 1.5% of the vote when his name came up. Odd, in a way.

Dick Allen

Mike Marshall was labelled and stigmatized as being a "non-conformist" and trouble maker, another player, Dick Allen, was perceived under much worse labels. Dick's name around the league was never in good standing and it really hurt him when Hall of Fame voting came up.

His back story is interesting too and his label as a trouble maker was undeserved as well. Dick came up through the Phillies system at a time where Frank Thomas (no not THAT one, this Frank Thomas was an ugly white guy) was a fan favorite and recently added to Phillies organization. Frank was an old veteran guy of 35 years old and he was pretty old school. He'd make fun of the black guys on the team and the way they shook hands (soul shakin') by pretending to be down and offering up a hand for a soul shake...but then Frank would grab the kid's thumb and pull it back as hard as he could.

Dick Allen even as a "kid" was a pretty big dude, we're talking a low-center of gravity 5'11 187 pounds. When he was coming up in 1964 he didn't really care for the way Frank Thomas was abusing the trust of the sacred soul shake with the brothers on the team. He told the 6 foot 3 / 200 pounder Frank Thomas right to his fucking face that if he pulled that shit again with the soul shake that he'd get him back. 

Truth be told, Frank kept pulling the stunt and lo...Dick Allen got mad and apparently Thomas hit him with a bat...leading to a violent fight.

As told by that historian, Thomas was released and Allen was forbidden from talking to the press about the incident. The Philadelphia papers framed the altercation with Allen as the antagonist and Thomas as the protagonist. The fans in Philly took to booing and hating on Dick Allen every time he took the field in his home park of Connie Mack Stadium.

The label of Dick being a trouble maker took shape at that moment and it never let up. Allen had an OPS of OVER 900 in his rookie year (earning the rookie of the year award in 1964)...yet was the most hated player in Philadelphia history. That's kind of fucking ludicrous. It's abso-ludicrous.

Dick went on to have an OVER 900 OPS his whole entire career...finishing with a .912 career OPS. Yet his max Hall of Fame voting % only climbed to 18% at its highest point. Maybe he needed a gimmick too like Ozzie Smith...oh wait, he even had a gimmick.

Hey, listen to Dick's sweet singin' voice from his album. If you don't feel whimsical and begin remembering fond memories of a past love while listening to this song then you probably have no emotions: 

...and when Deceeeeember came and my dreams still echoed your name...

Jeez...he had a killer career and a gimmick, what do the voters want? No one can ever tell. You can see from his voice that he's a soft and caring guy. Obviously swimming in the fish bowl of hate which was Connie Mack stadium in the mid-sixties was difficult for him and the jeers didn't exactly roll off his back.

Dick took to writing things in the dirt while in the field. People saw this as a sort of protest from a trouble maker...but it wasn't that. He would write things like his mother's name while he played and listened to the boos...or sometimes he'd even write "boo" in the dirt.

This wasn't a trouble maker, this was a soft hearted guy trying to deal with constant emotional stress. His dirt scribbles were just something to regain his composure and to lean on. That's why he'd write something like his mother's name in the field..to lean on it.

Remember that Simpsons where Homer explains why he has no pictures of Maggie in his home? It was because they were where he needed them most...at his horrible job. The pictures were something for Homer to lean on at a place where he hated being. Dick Allen's scribbles were more along those lines than a trouble maker trying to provoke the fans as it was perceived back then.


Trammell, Marshall, and Allen were really good at baseball.