Tag:Hank Aaron
Posted on: July 23, 2011 2:59 pm
 

Blyleven on K list: "Clemens did it illegally"

COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. -- One of the big reasons I've cast an annual Hall of Fame vote for Bert Blyleven for the past decade is because, until a few years ago, the Dutchman ranked third all-time on baseball's strikeouts list and ninth all-time on shutouts.

Chew on that one for awhile. It is beyond impressive.

Anyway, while Blyleven is still ninth in shutouts, he's now fifth in strikeouts after both Roger Clemens and Randy Johnson went around him.

"I look at Johnson, Johnson did it for real," Blyleven told me when we talked recently. "Clemens did it illegally, I think. It is what it is, kind of like Hank Aaron. It's a completely different thing but, you talk about Barry Bonds, to me, Hank Aaron is still the Home Run King. And I think good baseball fans, good baseball people, know that.

"They don't need an asterisk in Cooperstown. People know."

With the piles of circumstantial evidence surrounding Clemens regarding performance-enhancing drugs, and given the trial that was aborted earlier this month and is set to resume this fall, does it anger Blyleven to see Clemens' name now ahead of his on the all-time strikeout list?

"No," Blyleven says. "He had a great career, but it was at the point where Boston was letting him go. To be honest with you, if somebody told me in '92 when I went through my shoulder surgery, if someone told me they could inject something in there to make me continue my career, I may have tried it. Who knows?

"Who knows what an individual goes through? I personally never knew of anybody, even though it was around. You could see it in Mark McGwire and Jose Canseco in the late '80s. They hit all the home runs, the Bash Brothers ... you could see they were getting bigger and stronger, but I never imagined that it could ever help me. I didn't know anything about it.

"But that's also when weights were coming in. Oakland was the first club to put a weight room in their park. We never had weights. We had little five-pound dumbbells."

Likes: The last 10 days leading up to the July 31 trade deadline are always fun, but they're also so out of control. The ratio of bad rumors to stuff that really will happen is somewhere around 50 to 1. And I may be badly underestimating that. ... Hot summer days, but the 100-degree temperatures blanketing the country are out of control. Drink plenty of water, and stay safe.

Dislikes: Border's Books closing for good. I remember spending hours on Saturday afternoons at the original Border's location in Ann Arbor with my family. One of my mom and dad's favorite things to do back in the 1970s, and what a magical place it was. Books everywhere, from floor to ceiling.

 

Posted on: May 25, 2011 5:44 pm
Edited on: May 25, 2011 6:15 pm
 

The power of Zack Greinke

Zack Greinke, slugger?

You bet.

When Greinke smashed the go-ahead home run in white-hot Milwaukee's 6-4 win over Washington on Wednesday, here's guessing that one of the least surprised folks in Miller Park was the guy the Brewers are used to seeing jack baseballs over distant fences.

Prince Fielder.

See, Fielder and Greinke were summer teammates for a spell in their high school days during a handful of All-Star Showcase Games in Florida. Greinke graduated from Apopka High School near Orlando, Fielder from Eau Gallie High School in Melbourne, Fla.

"He played third base and hit in front of me," Fielder was saying of those summer games during a conversation last week. "He was good."

So good, in fact, that Fielder thought Greinke's main talent was with the bat.

"I didn't know he was a pitcher until senior year of high school," Fielder said. "I thought he was a third baseman. That's what he played in those Showcase games.

"He was always a top player as a third baseman. It was in my senior year that I saw him pitching one day on the news in Florida and I thought, 'Wow.'"

Who was the more prodigious slugger in those Showcase games, Fielder or Greinke?

"I know he raked," Fielder said. "But I don't remember him hitting any home runs."

Fielder then grinned, devilishly.

"No home runs," he said. "Tell him I told you that. No pop. Just a gap-to-gap hitter."

Alas, when I went looking for Greinke to do just that last Thursday in San Diego, he wasn't around. Because it was a night game on the West Coast and because Greinke was slated to start the next night as the Brewers opened their current homestand, he and Shaun Marcum had flown back to Milwaukee earlier that day so they could get a bit of extra rest.

And now that Greinke has some real, live street cred (not to mention bragging rights) as a bona fide slugger, Fielder is going to have to dig into his bag of tricks for another way to tease the 2009 AL Cy Young winner.

Greinke's blast against Jason Marquis on Wednesday was only his second homer in the majors. His other came for the Royals in Arizona against Russ Ortiz on June 10, 2005.

But given that Greinke, whose first seven seasons of pitching came in Kansas City, has a total of 32 career at-bats, one homer per 16 ABs is pretty impressive.

That career homers-to-at-bats ratio, incidentally, is the exact same as another Milwaukee icon.

Hank Aaron.

The Brewers now have won 13 of their past 16 games, and nine in a row at home -- their longest streak in the 11-year history of Miller Park.

 


Posted on: November 1, 2010 2:24 am
Edited on: November 1, 2010 2:27 am
 

Giants own firm grip on Series with 3-1 lead

ARLINGTON, Texas -- How good a position are the Giants in following their 4-0 whitewashing of the Rangers in Game 4 here Halloween night?

Teams that have taken a 3-1 series lead are 38-6 in World Series play.

And of those six teams that came back to win ... well, nobody's done it since the 1985 Kansas City Royals.

"We're one game away," Giants outfielder and postseason hero Cody Ross said. "We can all feel it. We can smell it, taste it, everything ... all the senses.

"We just have to keep grinding."

That, or keep pitching. With Tim Lincecum lined up to start Game 5, the Giants already have shut the Rangers out in two of these four games so far. Texas thus becomes the first team since the 1966 Los Angeles Dodgers to get shut out in at least two games during one single World Series.

A strong Orioles staff featuring Dave McNally, Jim Palmer and Wally Bunker pitched three shutouts against the Dodgers that fall.

A Rangers' lineup that led the American League in batting average and ranked fourth in both runs scored and on-base percentage has been completely overwhelmed.

"It's certainly pitching as advertised," Rangers manager Ron Washington said of Lincecum, Madison Bumgarner, Matt Cain and Co. "Those guys pound the strike zone. They've got good stuff. They've got velocity. They can spin the baseball, they can change speeds and they keep their defense engaged. And that's what you like to see out of pitching, keeping the defense engaged.

"They've done a great job. We've got to figure out some ways to put some runs on the board against them."

With Cliff Lee slated to start Game 5 on Monday, C.J. Wilson Game 6 on Wednesday and Colby Lewis Game 7 on Thursday, the Rangers have the starters they want going. But if they can't score, it's not going to do much good.

Likes: San Francisco closer Brian Wilson's "Aqua Man" T-shirt he was wearing Sunday. ... Hank Aaron in the house to present the Hank Aaron award to Cincinnati's Joey Votto and Toronto's Jose Bautista. Great to see Aaron still connected. ... Cooper's Old Time Pit Barbecue in Fort Worth. Biggest pork chops I've ever seen (thus the "Home of the Big Chop" monikor). And outstanding beef brisket. ... Lyle Lovett. ... Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central opening the Michigan state football playoffs with a 62-14 cruise over Dundee on Friday night.

Dislikes: Missing Halloween. ... The three minutes between innings of postseason games. Yes, baseball needs to make its money, but, yaawwwwn, man does that make these games stretch out.

Rock 'n' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"So many dragons lurking out in the fog
"So many crazy people mumblin' monologues
"It's not the tales of Stephen King that I've read
"I need protection from the things in my head
"Like...
"Vampires, mummies and the Holy Ghost
"These are the things that terrify me the most
"No alien, psychopath or MTV host
"Scares me like vampires, mummies and the Holy Ghost"

-- Jimmy Buffett, Vampires, Mummies and the Holy Ghost

Posted on: October 18, 2010 1:54 am
Edited on: October 18, 2010 1:54 am
 

Memo to Cole Hamels: Re. pitching Cody Ross

PHILADELPHIA -- Looking like Hank Aaron, Babe Ruth and Barry Bonds rolled into one, San Francisco right fielder Cody Ross belted another home run in the Giants' 6-1 loss to the Phillies in Game 2 of the NL Championship Series here Sunday, giving him three home runs in two games.

That ranks second-most in Giants history in LCS play. Jeffrey Leonard holds the record with four in 1987.

Meantime, with four homers in his last three postseason games, Ross is one of four players in Giants history with at least four in single postseason. The others: Barry Bonds hit eight in 2002, Rich Aurilia six in '02 and Leonard four in '87.

So, how might Phillies starter Cole Hamels want to approach Ross in Game 3 at AT&T Park?

"Don't throw it down and in," said Roy Oswalt, who did just that in surrendering Ross' fifth-inning blast Sunday. "The last three balls that he hit were in the exact same spot. Just bad pitches."

True. Each of the homers Ross smashed against Roy Halladay in Game 1 also were middle-in.

"I mean, throwing it right into his bat, pretty much," Oswalt said. "If you can make your pitches, you are going to do well. But if you miss down-and-in, that's pretty much where he's hitting them."

In Ross' third plate appearance Sunday night, he nearly got another one. He drove center fielder Shane Victorino all the way back to the warning track before Victorino hauled it in.

That was a fastball over the plate, too, but not quite as inside as the three Ross drove over the left-field fence.

Does Ross pretty much figure he's seen the last of the inside fastballs for awhile?

"I'm not really worried about where they're pitching me," Ross said. "I'm just trying to see it."

He's been doing a good enough job of that that the Philadelphia crowd has started giving him the business. Playing the villain isn't exactly a role Ross is familiar with, given his heretofore nondescript days with the Florida Marlins, but it's a role he'll take.

"That's what you want as a player," Ross said. "I know they're not going to cheer for me. It definitely doesn't make me feel like I should stop.

"I want to keep going. It's kind of a weird feeling."

Posted on: January 6, 2010 5:47 pm
 

Hall of Fame election, random thoughts

A few final random thoughts on Wednesday's Hall of Fame election results:

-- Though falling five votes short of election surely is agonizing, Wednesday also should be heartening for Bert Blyleven. At 74.2 percent of the vote and with two more years of eligibility, Blyleven -- who looked like a longshot a few years ago -- almost certainly is a lock.

And incidentally, you should have heard what Hall of Famer Hank Aaron said of Blyleven on Sirius/XM radio's MLB Home Plate channel Wednesday morning during an interview with hosts Seth Everett and Jim Duquette:

"I hit against him and if there was a finer pitcher than he was then, I don't know who it was," Aaron said. "I only went to bat maybe 10 or 15 times [against Blyleven]. I don't think I ever got a hit off of him. But he was quite a pitcher.

"I know that he didn't win 20 games, but sometimes you don't need to win 20. I think it's just a matter of how you carried yourself and what you did for your other teammates. Just to have him in that rotation for that many years with Minnesota, [he] was somebody that you didn't look forward to hitting against."

Aaron wasn't too far off in his memory. Lifetime, he was 0 for 7 against Blyleven with one strikeout.

-- I didn't expect former Cincinnati shortstop Barry Larkin to make it, though I do think he's deserving and I did vote for him. Within that, I thought his vote total would have been higher than 51.6 percent (he finished fifth).

-- In what essentially was the first true test of a designated hitter's place in the Hall, former Seattle DH Edgar Martinez notched only 36.2 percent of the vote, which placed him seventh overall.

A day earlier, during his retirement announcement, this is what Randy Johnson had to say about his former Seattle teammate's Hall of Fame chances: "I'm hoping he gets a lot of consideration. I know it's been debated whether a DH is worthy. During my time, I've never seen a better pure hitter than him.

"That's no disrespect to any teammates I've had or played against. I think anybody would agree who watched Edgar during that era how good he was. I'll be pulling for him because of what he meant while I was on the mound."

-- Tim Raines's 30.4 percent of the vote is ludicrously low. The guy reached base more times and scored more runs than Tony Gwynn. He wasn't anywhere near the hitter that Gwynn was, but Raines, together with Rickey Henderson, changed the way the leadoff slot in the lineup was viewed.

-- Glad to see Jack Morris' vote total increase to 52.3 percent (from 44 percent last year), but he's still way too far off for my liking. People need to get over his 3.90 ERA and look at the rest of his game. Nobody was more dominant than Morris throughout the 1980s and early 1990s.

-- The near-misses this year -- Blyleven and Alomar -- also will have their chances increase dramatically in the near future because the next two Hall of Fame classes just aren't very good.

Next year, among the names that come onto the ballot for the first time are Jeff Bagwell, John Franco, Kevin Brown, Rafael Palmeiro, Larry Walker and Juan Gonzalez.

In 2012, it's even worse: Bernie Williams, Ruben Sierra and Tim Salmon are the biggest names who come eligible.

Likes: Andre Dawson is a class act and a deserving Hall of Famer. ... Matt Holliday back in St. Louis. ... The film Precious. ... The DVD Revolutionary Road. ... Wilco (The Album). ... Lyle Lovett's Natural Forces. ... The shift in focus to college basketball in January. ... My wife's homemade pizza, on deck this Thursday night while the college football national title game between Alabama and Texas is played. ... Former Los Angeles Times rock critic Robert Hilburn's memoir Cornflakes with John Lennon. Some great stories and behind the scenes stuff. ... John Meacham's American Lion: Andrew Jackson and the White House, an excellent biography. ... Alicia Keys doing a version of Empire State of Mind on Stephen Colbert's show last month with Colbert rapping about the suburbs. Very amusing.

Dislikes: Christmas vacation is finished already?

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"Come on children, you're acting like children
"Every generation thinks it's the end of the world
"All you fat followers get fit fast
"Every generation thinks it's the last
"Thinks it's the end of the world"

-- Wilco, You Never Know

Posted on: July 26, 2009 8:16 pm
 

A Rose is a Rose is. ...

COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. -- A dominant question here for the past 20 years has been the specter of Pete Rose's status, and there appears to be no end in sight.

Commissioner Bud Selig deflected a question at the All-Star Game about possibly giving the banned Rose another hearing, saying his status remains "under review."

Here in Cooperstown this weekend, some wondered whether the number of Hall-worthy players stained by steroids could actually help Rose's candidacy in coming years.

"I don't know," Hank Aaron said. "I think the Pete Rose thing is a little different than the steroids. To me it is. From what I gather, from commissioner to commissioner before Bud Selig was in, they think that the [anti-gambling] rules were so obvious on the [clubhouse] doors. I don't know how they eliminate that, really.

"If I had been Pete, I think I would have asked for forgiveness many, many years ago. And I've got a feeling that this country, the most forgiving country in the world, people would say, 'Hey, everybody makes a mistake.' He made a mistake, let's go on with something else.

"I would certainly like to see him in. He belongs in."

Is it too late for forgiveness?

"His career has been one that, I think, he needs to be dead in the middle of all of this," Aaron said. "I know Pete, he's a friend of mine. I sometimes feel sorry that he hasn't made it yet."

One of Rose's ex-teammates, Hall of Famer Tony Perez, definitely misses him.

"Pete should be in the Hall of Fame," Perez said. "I always say he should b in the Hall of Fame."

Likes: It was a very emotional Dave Stewart who watched his boyhood friend, Rickey Henderson, be inducted into the Hall of Fame on Sunday. Stewart, the longtime major league pitcher, called it "one of the proudest moments in my life. I feel like my brother is going in." ... Former manager Sparky Anderson sitting next to former Yankees great Whitey Ford on the stage during Hall of Fame induction ceremonies Sunday. Sparky, Whitey, the shock of white hair atop each man's head ... perfect. ... The legendary Stan Musial was missed again -- he hasn't been able to travel here the last couple of years -- but they rolled a video of him playing Take Me Out to the Ballgame on his harmonica from several inductions ago and it was very well done. ... Wonder how Jim Rice would have done as a football player? The University of Nebraska offered him a scholarship back in the day. ... Former broadcaster Tony Kubek gave a very nice speech accepting the Ford Frick Broadcaster's Award. Among other things, he told Hank Aaron, "You've overcome, just like Jackie Robinson, Martin Luther King and President Barack Obama." Kubek also said of Cooperstown, "This place is magical. Somebody put this here with a purpose." ... And finally, congratulations to friend Nick Peters of the Sacramento Bee, inducted into the writer's wing of the Hall. Peters, recounting his days when he was named as Alaska's Sportswriter of the Year, quipped that the best thing about being in Alaska was that he could see Russia from his house.

Dislikes: Not here in Cooperstown, on Hall of Fame weekend. Pure baseball, and a terrific place.

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"Oh baby, don't it feel like heaven right now
"Don't it feel like something from a dream
"Yeah, I've never known nothing quite like this
"Don't it feel like tonight might never be again
"We know better than to try and pretend
"Baby, no one could have ever told me about this"

-- Tom Petty, The Waiting

Posted on: July 25, 2009 7:18 pm
 

Rickey and the art of speech-making

COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. -- Poor Jim Rice. While he eked into the Hall of Fame in his 15th and final year of eligibility, it is Rickey Henderson who is threatening to steal the spotlight in Sunday's induction ceremony.

Rickey being Rickey, some here are calling it one of the "most anticipated speeches" in the history of the Hall of Fame. Some even think it is the most anticipated speech.

Al Kaline simply smiled and shook his head Saturday afternoon when I asked him whether the Hall of Famers had been provided with translation booklets so they could understand what the always entertaining Henderson might say.

"He's a funny guy," offered Tony Perez. "Really, the way he talks. I just hope it's not too long."

"Everyone was talking about it last night," Hank Aaron said, chuckling.

As for Henderson, he didn't give much of a preview during a Saturday afternoon press conference, other than to say he would follow the suggestions of the Hall of Famers and keep it short and that it would include thank yous to those who have played an important part in his baseball development.

"My preparation for the speech is basically to not make a mistake and to not forget the people who helped you get to this point," he said.

As for his famous tendency to refer to himself as "Rickey", Henderson didn't do it at all in Saturday's news conference and suggested that that was overblown. Though, as he did, he referred to the fact that he rarely speaks of himself in the "third party." He did this multiple times (as opposed to referring to it correctly as the "third person.")

Rice did get off a terrific line himself, though, when someone asked each man to talk about something they appreciate in the other's game.

"I'm not going to say I appreciated Rickey," Rice said. "I hated Rickey. I called him 'Speedy.' I told (Boston pitchers) if he gets a base hit, he's going to steal second base, and then third, and if he gets a double, he's going to steal third.

"So the best thing you can do is hit him in the kneecap."

That elicited a roar from everyone, including Henderson.

Likes: Earl Weaver and Dick Williams sitting in lobby of Otesaga Hotel waiting for the golf tournament to come on television. ... Bob Gibson looks really good. Lean, healthy and he was even smiling on Friday night. ... The Saturday night gala they hold at the Hall Museum, complete with red-carpet arrivals featuring the Hall of Famers emerging from trolley cars, always is a highlight.

Dislikes: No Willie McCovey this year.

Posted on: June 9, 2008 11:27 pm
 

Griffey's 600th means even more today

Think about this for a minute:

It took Ken Griffey Jr. a total of 1,722 at-bats to move from career homer No. 500 to career homer 600, which he slugged on Monday night in Florida.

It took Barry Bonds only 710 at-bats to cover the same distance from 500 to 600.

Each man hit No. 600 when he was 38.

Think there was a level playing field?

Granted, Griffey has had his share of injuries, which is why nearly four years elapsed between No. 500, struck on June 20, 2004, and 600. He missed the second half of the 2004 season with a torn hamstring, and he missed nearly a month of the 2006 season with a strained knee.

It took Bonds barely more than one year to move from 500 to 600 -- from April 17, 2001, to Aug. 9, 2002.

The years can be skewed. Say one player stays healthy and the other is injury-plagued -- well, of course it will take longer for the player battling the disabled list.

But at-bats are a pretty good barometer.

I knew Bonds moved along at a breakneck clip in the early 2000s. But when I contacted home run guru David Vincent, who tracks homers for the Society for American Baseball Research and is the country's premier expert on the subject, even I was stunned.

The fact that it took Griffey roughly 1,000 more at-bats than Bonds to move from 500 to 600 is staggering. Even suspecting what most of us suspect about Bonds and the Steroid Era.

A junkie (home runs, not human growth hormone) could spend hours poring over Vincent's fascinating spreadsheets.

A handful of other relative home run numbers gleaned from Vincent's numbers:

Of the six members of the 600-homer club, nobody was even remotely as quick as Bonds in moving from No. 500 to 600. It took Babe Ruth 1,120 at-bats to do so, Sammy Sosa 1,605, Hank Aaron 1,402 and Willie Mays 1,981.

Time-wise, it took Ruth barely more than two years (Aug. 11, 1929, to Aug. 21, 1931) to go from 500 to 600, Aaron a little less than three years (July 14, 1968, to April 27, 1971), Mays nearly four years on the nose (Sept. 13, 1965, to Sept. 22, 1969) and Sosa a little more than four years (April 4, 2003, to June 20, 2007).

Of course, Sosa was out of the game in 2006 -- partly for reasons beyond suspicious -- else he would have gotten there more quickly.

Bonds finished -- if he is indeed finished -- with 762 home runs in 9,847 at-bats.

Griffey currently is at 600 in 9,045 at-bats. And had he not lost an estimated 450 games to the disabled list from the time he arrived in Cincinnati in 2000 through 2005, his number today undoubtedly would be far higher than 600.

Probably not as high as 762.

But at least Griffey almost certainly can look himself in the mirror today and know he is the first clean guy to join the 600 club since Aaron in 1971.

In a statistics-driven game that is still wiping the steroids muck off of the record book, some things are more important than the raw numbers.

 
 
 
 
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