Results tagged ‘ Mark McGwire ’

Steinbrenner, Piniella under consideration for Hall

Former Yankees principal owner George Steinbrenner and one of his favorite lieutenants, Lou Piniella, were among 10 candidates announced Monday by the National Baseball Hall of Fame on the Today’s Game Era ballot that will be voted on Dec. 5 during the Winter Meetings in National Harbor, Md.

Steinbrenner was one of three executives along with former commissioner Bud Selig and longtime general manager John Schuerholz named to the ballot and Piniella one of two managers along with Davey Johnson. The other five candidates are former players who were passed over previously in elections by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America — outfielders Harold Baines and Albert Belle, first basemen Mark McGwire and Will Clark and pitcher Orel Hershiser.

Any candidate who receives votes on 75 percent of the ballots cast by the 16-member Today’s Game Era Committee will earn election to the Hall of Fame and will be inducted in Cooperstown, N.Y., July 30, 2017, along with any electees who emerge from the 2017 BBWAA election, which will be announced Jan. 18, 2017.

The Today’s Game Era was one of four Eras Committees identified in July when the Hall’s board of directors announced changes to the Era Committee system, which provides an avenue for Hall of Fame consideration to managers, umpires and executives, as well as players retired for more than 15 seasons.

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Steinbrenner purchased controlling interest in the Yankees in 1973 and oversaw the franchise’s path to seven World Series championships. An early adopter in baseball’s free agency era of the mid-1970s, Steinbrenner’s Yankees compiled a winning percentage of .565 and totaled 11 American League pennants in his 37 full years as the team’s owner. Steinbrenner was also influential in various marketing initiatives, including revenue-building enterprises such as cable television, the creation of the Yankees’ own network (YES) and the construction of the current Yankee Stadium, which opened in 2009, the year before his death at the age of 80.

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Piniella, 73, is being considered for his career as a manager, which included two stints with the Yankees, a team for which he wore many hats. “Sweet Lou,” a fan favorite, served the Yankees as a player, coach, manager, general manager and television analyst. In 23 seasons as a manager for the Yankees, Reds, Mariners, Rays and Cubs, Piniella won 1,835 games, the 14th highest total in major league history. He won a World Series in 1990 with the Reds in a four-game sweep of the Athletics and piloted the Mariners to an AL-record 116 victories in 2001. He won Manager of the Year Awards in both leagues, in 1995 and 2001 in the AL with the Mariners and in 2008 in the National League with the Cubs. Piniella batted .291 in his 18-season playing career and won World Series rings with the Yankees in 1977 and ’78.

The 10 Today’s Game Era finalists were selected by the BBWAA-appointed Historical Overview Committee (disclosure: I am the committee’s chair) from all eligible candidates among managers, umpires, executives and long-retired players whose most significant career impact was realized during the time period from 1988 through the present.

Eligible candidates include players who played in at least 10 major league seasons, who are not on Major League Baseball’s ineligible list, and have been retired for 15 or more seasons; and managers, umpires and executives with 10 or more years in baseball. All active executives age 70 or older may have their careers reviewed as part of the Era Committee balloting process, regardless of the position they hold in an organization, and regardless of whether their body of work has been completed.

The Today’s Game Era ballot was determined this fall by the HOC comprised of myself as well as 10 other veteran historians: Bob Elliott (Toronto Sun); Jim Henneman (formerly Baltimore Sun); Rick Hummel (St. Louis Post-Dispatch); Steve Hirdt (Elias Sports Bureau); Bill Madden (formerly New York Daily News); Jim Reeves (formerly Fort Worth Star-Telegram); Tracy Ringolsby (MLB.com); Glenn Schwarz (formerly San Francisco Chronicle); Dave van Dyck (Chicago Tribune); and Mark Whicker (Los Angeles News Group).

The 16-member Hall of Fame Board-appointed electorate charged with the review of the Today’s Game Era ballot will be announced later this fall. The Today’s Game Era Committee will meet twice in a five-year period, with the next meeting scheduled for the fall of 2018.

The Eras Committees consist of four different electorates: Today’s Game (for candidates who made their most indelible contribution to baseball from 1988 to the present); Modern Baseball (for candidates who made their most indelible contribution to baseball from 1970 to 1987); Golden Days (for candidates who made their most indelible contribution to baseball from 1950 to 1969); and Early Baseball (for candidates who made their most indelible contribution to baseball prior to 1950).

The Today’s Game and Modern Baseball eras will be considered twice each in a five-year period, with the Golden Days era considered once every five years and the Early Baseball era considered once every 10 years.

Mac, Gardy join youth corps to beat Angels again

The Yankees’ youth movement continued to pay early dividends Saturday night in a 5-1 victory over the Angels, although not all the faces who made important contributions were that fresh. Some hearty veterans did their part as well.

The Yanks came within an inning of their second straight shutout against an Angels club lingering in last place in the American League West. The Angels finally got on the board when Albert Pujols hit the first pitch Dellin Betances offered in the bottom of the ninth inning to left field for his 583rd career home run, which tied him with former Cardinals teammate Mark McGwire for 10th place on the all-time list.

That has been the only run given up in Anaheim by the Yankees, who have a chance not only to sweep this series in the finale Sunday but also the season series. They swept the Halos in a four-game set at Yankee Stadium in early June.

Luis Cessa limited the Angels to two hits, both singles, in pitching one batter into the seventh inning in his first major-league start. Obtained with fellow rookie Chad Green, who will start Sunday, from the Tigers in an off-season traded for reliever Justin Wilson, Cessa walked only one batter and struck out five to boost his record to 3-0 and lower his earned run average from 5.30 to 4.01.

The Yankees provided Cessa a 3-0 lead before he took the mound beginning with a solo home run by his catcher, Gary Sanchez, that started a two-out rally against Angels starter Ricky Nolasco. Youthful veterans Didi Gregorius and Starlin Castro kept the line moving with a single and double, respectively, before the more grizzled vet Brian McCann, who has settled in nicely as the designated hitter, drove both runners home with a single.

Big Mac was also part of the Yankees’ two-run sixth in which he put himself into scoring position with a stolen base, a first since 2012 for the weary-legged catcher by trade. After his single sent Castro, who had also singled, to third base, McCann took off to the surprise of Nolasco and swiped second. And Big Mac was not finished running. He barreled his way home on a single to right field by Aaron Judge, another newcomer from Triple A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre who has made a positive early impression.

McCann has been used as the DH to give the Yanks a long look at Sanchez behind the plate. He worked smoothly with Cessa and also showed off his strong arm by throwing out Kole Calhoun at first base in the sixth inning when the Angels right fielder drifted too far off the bag.

The fielding gem of the game, however, came from left fielder Brett Gardner, who had a brutal game offensively (0-for-5) but more than made up for it with his circus catch in the seventh to rob C.J. Cron of a home run. Gardner leaped high, reached over the wall and had to contend with two glove-wearing fans to haul in Cron’s drive and somehow kept his balance by leaning his lower back across the top of the fence.

It was a remarkable play on another remarkable night in Anaheim for a Yankees team trying awfully hard to get back into playoff contention.

Manny slinks away

The stunning news that Manny Ramirez is retiring from baseball comes appropriately while the Yankees and the Red Sox are playing each other in a series at Fenway Park. Ramirez was a big part of this rivalry for the better part of eight seasons.

His career came to an end Friday and, unfortunately, with another steroids-related issue that will stain his legacy. Just looking at the career statistics Manny left behind, a spot in the Hall of Fame should be assured for this eccentric but nonetheless remarkable hitter who despite the reputation as a sort of man-child turned into Albert Einstein once he entered a batter’s box.

Reports that Ramirez had failed yet another drug test allegedly resulted in his abrupt departure from the sport rather than face another suspension. Manny was set down for 50 games in 2009 for testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs. A second offense comes with a suspension of 100 games, so Manny probably figured what’s the point in hanging around to place one-third of a season for a Tampa Bay team that started the schedule with six straight losses while he went 1-for-17.

Make no mistake, however, that this is a big smudge on Ramirez’s hopes for Cooperstown. Look at the voting totals for Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro to see how voting members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America feel about whether PED users belong on plaques in the Hall of Fame gallery.

This is all very early, of course. Ramirez is not eligible for the Hall of Fame until the 2017 ballot. A lot can happen before then. But consider that Palmeiro tested positive once and McGwire was never tested but admitted he used anabolic steroids and figure out how voters may view Ramirez, who appears to have tested positive twice.

For Yankees fans, Ramirez was the Red Sox player they loved to hate, except for those from his old neighborhood of Washington Heights in upper Manhattan who came to Yankee Stadium to cheer Manny on. He loved playing against the Yanks, as his record against them attests. He batted .322 with 55 home runs in 861 at-bats against Yankees pitching, including .321 with 29 homers at the Stadium.

He was one of the greatest players to come out of New York City and should have joined the other Hall of Famers who came out of the five boroughs, such as Willie Keeler, Waite Hoyt, Lou Gehrig, Frankie Frisch, Hank Greenberg, Phil Rizzuto, Whitey Ford and Sandy Koufax.

Ramirez was also an icon in Boston as the Most Valuable Player of the 2004 World Series when the Red Sox won their first championship in 86 years and in Los Angeles where “Mannywood” was celebrated at Dodger Stadium in 2008.

And now it has all come to an end, quietly and shamefully.

Another holiday list

As each year comes to a close, baseball writers center on their annual responsibility of voting for the Hall of Fame. Ballots are mailed out to writers Dec. 1 and due back in the hands to the Baseball Writers’ Association of America by a Dec. 31 postmark.

So it is not just Santa Claus who makes a list and checks it twice come the Christmas season.

As secretary-treasurer of the BBWAA, I have conducted the election since 1995, the year Mike Schmidt was elected. I will be busy with Hall of Fame business the next few days but will find time to share some thoughts with Yankees fans about the election. Results will be announced at 2 p.m. Wednesday on bbwaa.com, baseballhall.org, MLB.com and the MLB Network.

The ballot contains 33 names this year, eight of whom spent a portion of their careers with the Yankees, including two of the most popular figures in the franchise’s history, first basemen Don Mattingly and Tino Martinez. Others on the ballot who spent time with the Yankees are pitchers Kevin Brown, Al Leiter and Lee Smith, outfielders Tim Raines and Raul Mondesi and first baseman John Olerud.

Mattingly has been on the ballot for 10 years and has never done better than 28 percent of the vote going back to his first year. To gain entry into Cooperstown, 75 percent is required. Mattingly was at 16.1 percent last year. Martinez, his successor at first base for the Yankees, is a first-time candidate this year. It is doubtful writers will find Tino’s candidacy all that compelling, any more than they did another Yankees fan favorite Paul O’Neill two years ago. Martinez’s goal should be to get five percent of the vote necessary to stay on the ballot, which players must do to stay in contention for the full 15 years of eligibility. O’Neill failed to do that and was dropped after one year.

Brown, whose time with the Yankees was filled with controversy, had a fine career, but New York fans rarely saw him at his best except when he pitched against the Yankees for the Rangers. Yankees fans know Brown for breaking his pitching hand in anger and his implosion on the mound in Game 7 of the 2004 American League Championship, the franchise’s worst moment.

Leiter started and ended his career with the Yankees but had his best seasons with the Blue Jays, Marlins and Mets. His 162-132 record and 3.80 ERA does not spell immortality.

Raines, on the other hand, is an interesting case. He came to the Yankees after years with the Expos and White Sox and was a key role player on the World Series title teams of 1996, ’98 and ’99. With 2,605 hits and 808 stolen bases, Raines has some Hall of Fame numbers, but after three years on the ballot he has done no better than 30 percent.

Smith, Olerud and Mondesi had limited time in pinstripes. Olerud and Mondesi are on the ballot for the first time and are not likely to get the five percent of the vote necessary to stay on the ballot. Smith, who pitched in only eight games for the Yankees in 1993, once held the major-record for saves with 478 but has yet to attract even half the vote in eight previous elections.

The favorites this time around are second baseman Roberto Alomar and pitcher Bert Blyleven, each of whom came close last year. Blyleven was on 74.2 percent of the ballots cast and missed by five votes. Alomar missed by eight votes at 397, or 73.7 percent.

The only player not to get elected when eligible the year after getting more than 70 percent in the vote was pitcher Jim Bunning. He was on 74 percent of the ballots in 1988 and missed by four votes. The next year, however, with a thicker ballot consisting of first-year inductees Johnny Bench and Carl Yastrzemski and fellow pitching greats Gaylord Perry and Fergie Jenkins, Bunning lost 34 votes and dropped 11 percent in his final year on the ballot. He was eventually elected by the Veterans Committee in 1996.
 
The most accomplished of the new names are first basemen Jeff Bagwell and Rafael Palmeiro and outfielders Juan Gonzalez and Larry Walker. Palmeiro and Gonzalez will have a rough time.

Despite being only the fourth player in history to get more than 3,000 hits and 500 home runs, Palmeiro is a long shot because of his positive test for anabolic steroids in 2005, the same year he testified before Congress that he had never taken them. Hank Aaron, Willie Mays and Eddie Murray, the only other members of both the 3,000 Hit and 500 Home Run Clubs were elected in their first years of eligibility.

Gonzales, a two-time AL Most Valuable Player, showed up in the Mitchell Report as a steroids user, which could hurt his chances for a big vote. After all, Mark McGwire with his 587 home runs has been on the ballot for four years and is hovering at 23 percent.

Bagwell, who had an amazing career (.297, 449 home runs, 1,529 RBI, 1,517 runs, .408 on-base percentage, .540 slugging percentage), never failed a drug test but faced suspicions of possible performance-enhancing aid after he felt in love with the weight room in the mid-1990s. Walker, like Bagwell a National League MVP, had some very good years in Montreal and then some monster years in Colorado. Will the Coors Field effect hurt his chances?

See, this voting stuff isn’t easy. After thorough study, I finally filled out my ballot.

Checks went to Alomar, Bagwell, Blyleven, Walker, Mattingly, Raines, Barry Larkin, Edgar Martinez, Fred McGriff and Jack Morris.

My take on Bagwell was that he is innocent until proved guilty. Larkin is following a path not dissimilar to another NL MVP middle infielder who took a few years to get to Cooperstown, Ryne Sandberg. Ask any Yankees fan who watched the 1995 Division Series about Edgar Martinez, who was simply one of the greatest right-handed hitters I ever saw. McGriff, who came through the Yankees system but was traded away, slugged 493 homers the clean way and made a major difference on the only Atlanta Braves team to win a World Series. Morris was the ace of every staff for which he pitched, including three teams that won the World Series – the 1984 Tigers, ’91 Twins and ’92 Blue Jays.

Let the arguments begin. I’ll be back after the election.

Time to toss Derby

Isn’t it time for Major League Baseball to retire the Home Run Derby? What started out as a friendly competition among sluggers during the workout day on the eve of the All-Star Game has morphed into a bloated, dog-and-pony show that has often been responsible for messing up some hitters’ swings.

There is no chance of this happening, of course, because ESPN loves it and years ago turned into a prime-time attraction, if one considers listening to Chris Berman screech away all night attractive. But if this is such a big deal, how come many of baseball’s top home run hitters don’t want anything to do with it?

There was a time when the big thumpers all regularly took their cuts, from Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa to Barry Bonds and Ken Griffey Jr. But now look. Alex Rodriguez is on the verge of hitting 600 home runs, and he stays away from the Derby. No Ryan Howard, either. And this year Albert Pujols has dropped out.

Why else would Robinson Cano be offered a berth? He is not a classic home run hitter. Cano can’t be faulted for being excited about wanting to compete because he only saw the fun in it not to mention the spotlight. The Yanks wisely thought otherwise and convinced the second baseman to pass on the opportunity.

The Yankees were concerned that the strenuous nature of the event could affect Cano. Hitting coach Kevin Long expressed his unease about Cano’s involvement.

“It’s just an exhausting process,” Long said. “It takes a lot out of you. It’s taxing. You see guys come back after the home run-hitting contest, and it affects their swing.”

Yankees general manager Brian Cashman and manager Joe Girardi convinced Cano that despite the honor of being selected to compete it is not worth the risk, particularly since he has been nagged by a sore lower back recently. It could explain his first real dry spell of the season. Cano  is 3-for-23 (.130) in July and has had a longer stretch of mediocre results dating to June 11 batting .236 with four home runs and nine RBI in 89 at-bats.

Robbie was out of the lineup Wednesday night for the first time this year. He was due for a rest. He’ll get another one the night before the All-Star Game. Now if MLB will just give the whole idea a rest.

Remembering a Yankee killer

With Ken Griffey Jr. having announced his retirement, Alex Rodriguez is now the active home-run leader in the major leagues. A-Rod pushed his total to 591 Thursday in the Yankees’ 6-3 victory over the Orioles. The next stop on the all-time list for Rodriguez is Sammy Sosa, very catchable in sixth place at 609. A-Rod would need to have a monster few months to catch fifth-place Junior at 630, but it remains possible. He has hit at least 47 home runs in a season five times, although not since his 54-homer year of 2007 when he won his third American League Most Valuable Player Award.

Probably most surprising about Griffey’s career is that he was an MVP only once, albeit unanimously, in 1997 when his former teammate, Yankees first baseman Tino Martinez, was the runner-up. Junior somehow got lost playing in Seattle and amid a crowd of contemporaries who used performance-enhancing drugs, as A-Rod himself admitted. The Sosa home-run race with Mark McGwire in 1998 and the growing dominance of Barry Bonds dropped Junior into the background after the turn of the century.

Yet Junior remained the most exciting player to watch since Willie Mays. Yankees fans will never forget , but would like to, his dash around the bases at the Kingdome on Edgar Martinez’s double that produced a walk-off Mariners victory over the Yankees in Game 5 of the first AL Division Series. I can still see third base coach Sam Perlozzo furiously waving Junior home, and his legs churning toward the plate concluding with a picture-perfect slide.

That was a time when I looked forward to Yankees-Mariners games like no other just for the pure pleasure of watching Junior Griffey patrol center field and take target practice at the right field seats. His fence-climbing catch of a Jesse Barfield drive remains one of the best catches I’ve ever seen at Yankee Stadium. His father, Ken Griffey Sr., made one of the greats, too, in left field that is also high on my list.

In retrospect, Griffey’s decision to go home to Cincinnati 10 years ago was a career mistake. He and pitcher Randy Johnson and manager Lou Piniella were the axis that saved major-league ball in Seattle. All eventually left, but none was missed more than Junior. Going to the Reds was a family decision for Griffey. Among his reasons was a desire to play for a team that had its spring training camp in Florida, which the Reds did at that time.

I thought at the time that if Junior had to leave Seattle the best landing place for him would have been Atlanta. The Braves were a winning organization with a terrific general manager-manager combo in John Schuerholz and Bobby Cox, plus the best pitching staff in the game and a spring training facility near Disney World in the backyard of Junior’s adopted residence of Orlando, Fla. Think of how many more World Series the Bravos might have won with Griffey. It might have been a different story for the Yankees in 1996 and ’99.

It’s too bad Junior had a dim view of the Yankees because he was made for the Stadium. He was reprimanded by manager Billy Martin as a youngster when his father played for the Yankees and never forgot it. It was a grudge Griffey should have dropped years ago. He paid them back over the years, batting .311 with 36 home runs and 102 RBI in 501 career at-bats against the Yankees.

The Braves couldn’t come up with a package for Griffey, so off to Cincinnati he went. I can remember when people thought he had an off year in 2000 when he hit .271 with 40 homers and 118 RBI. He never achieved those power numbers again. He had only one other comparable season with the Reds, in 2005 (.301, 35 homers, 92 RBI) as his career took no longer the path of Willie Mays but rather that of Mickey Mantle as injuries piled up higher than his statistics.

News of his retirement became obscured by the story out of Detroit about Armando Galarraga’s bid for a perfect game foiled by umpire Jim Joyce’s erroneous call. That can happen to the best of them. In a Yankees game 32 years ago Thursday, Lou Gehrig hit four home runs and Tony Lazzeri hit for the cycle. Topping the sports page, though, was John McGraw’s announcement that he was retiring after 30 years’ managing the New York Giants.

Griffey’s leaving the game deserved the same attention. He passed the home-run baton to a former teammate who last year finally achieved what always eluded Griffey, a World Series championship. A-Rod remembered Junior fondly.

“I came in at 17, right out of high school, and I got to see our Michael Jordan, our Tiger Woods, the best of the best,” Rodriguez said.

If you don’t believe that, get out tapes of that 1995 ALDS, the one in which Griffey punished the Yankees with a .391 average, five home runs, seven RBI and that mad dash home in the clincher. You will not see his like again.