Thank you Graham for the invitation. I had a lot of fun and I look forward to next year’s voting.
Here is my contribution on Fred McGriff, who finished tied for 26th in this year’s voting.
When he retired in 2004, I thought Fred McGriff was a pretty solid bet to gain eventual enshrinement in the Hall of Fame. His overall mark of 493 home runs ties him with the immortal Lou Gehrig at tenth currently all-time for first basemen (Pujols should pass them both sometime in 2013.) His 2,239 games played as a first basemen place him third all time. In his fifteen seasons as a full-time player from 1988 to 2002, his 458 home runs, 1460 RBI, 2329 hits and 59.5 fWAR rank third, second, third and fifth respectively among first basemen. A five-time All-Star, McGriff was somehow not named an All-Star in 1989 and 1993, seasons in which he later won the Silver Slugger award. McGriff also won the Silver Slugger award in 1992. Though he never won an MVP award, McGriff did finish in the top ten of the voting six times.
At this time though, McGriff seems more likely to be inducted into the infomercial hall of fame than into Cooperstown. The time capsule that was his television commercial endorsement of a baseball instructional video set first aired in 1991 and aired over 100,000 more times unchanged as recently as 2006.
Photo Credits: Top Left, photo by John Bazemore, AP Top Right, photo by James Escher Middle Left, photo by Juan Ocampo/Dodgers Bottom Left, screencap by PitchersandPoets Bottom Right, photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
The award could go to any of the finalists (Price, Verlander and Weaver) and I would have no problem with it. It really is a tossup for me. Some were previously advocating Fernando Rodney before the finalists were announced. He had an outstanding season as well, but I would be hard pressed to give the award to a reliever given the respective seasons that Price, Verlander and Weaver had. So, why Price? Well, I predicted he would win the award in my preseason picks. He also led the AL in wins (tied with Weaver at 20), winning percentage (again tied with Weaver), and ERA. It’s hard to pick anyone over Verlander though, who led the AL in WAR, strikeouts, innings pitched, complete games and adjusted ERA+ while receiving the fourth lowest run support. Can I change my vote?
NL Cy Young: RA Dickey (Mets)
Last year’s NL Cy Young Award winner, Clayton Kershaw, had another outstanding season this year, leading the NL in WAR, ERA, and WHIP. My vote though goes to knuckleballer RA Dickey, who led the NL in strikeouts, innings pitched, complete games and shutouts, while also finishing second in wins and ERA. He also finished third in WHIP, mere percentage points behind Kershaw and Matt Cain.
Photo Credits: David Price, by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images RA Dickey, photo by Kevin C Cox/Getty Images
Today, less than 24 hours after being traded by the Braves to the Pirates for cash considerations, Drew Sutton was acquired by the Rays for the proverbial player to be named later. The switch-hitting Sutton, who has experience at all infield positions, had hit .267/.373/.363 in 37 games for the AAA Gwinnett Braves this season. He has a .258/.322/.403 slash line in 178 major league plate appearances with the Reds, Red Sox and Indians. Sutton will join the Rays in Tampa for tonight’s game against the Blue Jays.
In 2004, The Aviator starring Leonado DiCaprio as Howard Hughes won the Oscar for Best Picture. In 2004, the top song according to Billboard Magazine was Yeah! by Lil’ Jon, Usher and Ludacris. In 2004, President George W. Bush was named Time Magazine’s Person of the Year. In 2004, Justin Timberlake “inadvertently” flashed Janet Jackson’s full breast during a live broadcast of the Super Bowl Halftime Show. And on April 20, 2004, then 25-year old outfielder Rich Thompson made his first major league plate appearance as a pinch-hitter for the Kansas City Royals in a 15-5 blowout win over the Cleveland Indians. He grounded into a double play against catcher Tim Laker who pitched a scoreless top of the ninth inning.
Last night, now 33-year old Rich Thompson made his first MLB start as the Tampa Bay Rays left fielder. In the bottom of the third inning, 8 years and 25 days after his last MLB at-bat, Thompson made his second MLB at-bat.
He struck out. Looking.
… in his next plate appearance, he grounded a ball up the middle for his first hit and his first RBI as Sean Rodriguez scored on the play. He would go on to steal second base and then later third as well.
Thompson had been playing the past five seasons for the Philadelphia Phillies AAA affiliate, the Lehigh Valley IronPigs, where he is the franchise leader in games (468), hits (452) and stolen bases (134). In 29 games this season, he had hit .307 with 11 RBI and 7 stolen bases. The IronPigs manager, Hall-of-Famer Ryne Sandberg, had this to say of Thompson in a recent article by Philly.com, “He’s a guy you pull for. I pull for him as much as anyone, just for him to have that chance (to return to the majors).”
This past Wednesday, the Rays, beset by injuries to outfielders Sam Fuld, Brandon Guyer and Desmond Jennings, traded 25-year old minor league outfielder Kyle Hudson to Philadelphia for Thompson and immediately added Thompson to their 25-man roster. Sandberg himself told Thompson the news.
This documentary by tv2sports.com follows a day in the life of Rich Thompson - father, husband and professional baseball player.
I love what I do, and I feel very fortunate for the things afforded to me because of what I do, but being a professional baseball player has to be the coolest job ever.
First baseman Carlos Peña drove in the first and last runs of the game to lead the Tampa Bay Rays to a 7-6 walk-off victory over the division rival New York Yankees. Peña, who signed as a free agent this past winter after a year away from Tampa, hit a first inning grand slam off CC Sabathia, and then drove home the winning run in the bottom of the 9th with a drive off Yankee closer Mariano Rivera that hit the bottom of the left-center wall. Both hits came after the Yankees had intentionally walked the bases full.
I’ve mentioned before that I’m fond of the Rays alternate light blue jersey, which I have not yet added to my collection. I also kinda like the team. Not because they manage to contend against the big budget teams, but because they seem like a fun collection of guys. Their manager Joe Maddon is hipster cool too. They need a new place to play though.
I’ve watched two games inside the Tropicana Field dome. The lighting reminded me of a hospital waiting room, and it is unacceptable that the catwalks suspended over the field are actually in play. Here are the ground rules for the catwalks (source - Tampa Bay Rays website):
Batted ball strikes catwalk, light or suspended object over fair territory:
Batted ball that strikes either of the lower two catwalks, lights or suspended objects in fair territory: HOME RUN.
Batted ball that is not judged a home run and remains on a catwalk, light or suspended object: TWO BASES.
Batted ball that is not judged a home run and strikes a catwalk, light or suspended object in fair territory shall be judged fair or foul in relation to where it strikes the ground or is touched by a fielder. If caught by fielder, batter is out and runners advance at own risk.
Batted ball strikes catwalk, light or suspended object over foul territory: DEAD BALL
Photo credits Ben Zobrist, by Jim Davis/Boston Globe Josh Hamilton, AP Photo Kyle Farnsworth, by Jason Behnken/Tampa Bay Online
Rays closer Kyle Farnsworth warms up on the mound as he enters the game with two out in the top of the 9th inning. Farnsworth would retire the only batter he faced, catcher Kurt Suzuki, on a foul pop to third baseman Evan Longoria to seal the win for starter Jeff Niemann in this Rays’ 8-4 victory over the A’s on August 5, 2011.