Gone and mostly forgotten: Beck, McLemore passed over on HOF ballot

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rod beck.jpgOK, so I’m probably pretty unique in this regard, but one of my favorite things to do upon the annual release of the Hall of Fame ballot is to check who didn’t make the cut. Fortunately, this has become a lot easier with Baseball-Reference’s final year pages
New qualifiers for this year’s ballot last played in 2004. Chosen for inclusion were Roberto Alomar, Kevin Appier, Ellis Burks, Andres Galarraga, Pat Hentgen, Mike Jackson, Eric Karros, Ray Lankford, Barry Larkin, Edgar Martinez, Fred McGriff, Shane Reynolds, David Segui, Robin Ventura and Todd Zeile. So let’s see who was passed over from the 2004 list:
Rod Beck: Easily the biggest surprise, given his 286 career saves and sudden passing at age 38 in 2007. Beck was a three-time All-Star and he ranks 24th on the all-time saves list. Mike Jackson clearly had the better career of the two out of the pen, but given the notoriety each enjoyed during his career, it’s pretty stunning that Jackson, who never made an All-Star team, was chosen over him.
Mark McLemore: Played 19 seasons, which matches Galarraga, Larkin and McGriff for the most in the class. McLemore spent much of his mid-20s in the minors, but he was pretty much a regular from 1993-2001 and he certainly could have continued his career as a role player beyond 2004 had he wanted to. Hit .259/.349/.341 with 272 career steals.
Dave Burba: Burba finished 115-87, compared to 114-96 for Reynolds. His candidacy also should have gotten a huge boost by his 3-0 record and 2.14 ERA in 21 postseason innings.
John Vander Wal: Sadly, Vander Wal was 33 before anyone figured out he might be worth trying as a regular. One of the game’s best pinch-hitters during the first half of his career, he got 300 at-bats in his career just three times, yet he posted OPSs of 972, 806 and 818 in those seasons, which came at ages 34, 35 and 37. He finished up at .261/.351/.441 in 2,751 at-bats.
Brent Mayne: While he was a reliable part-time catcher for 15 years, Mayne will always be best remembered for getting a victory in an extra-inning game against the Braves in 2000. He worked a scoreless 12th for the Rockies, and he became the first position player to pick up a win in 32 years when Colorado scored in the bottom of the frame.
Mike Fetters: Entertaining and usually effective, Fetters and his intimidating stare lasted 16 years and combined on a 3.86 ERA and 100 saves in 620 appearances.
Todd Van Poppel: One of the most hyped prospects of all-time, Van Poppel did manage to get 11 seasons in despite being known as a bust throughout his career. He had a couple of nice years out of the pen with the Cubs in 2000 and ’01, but he finished up 40-52 with a 5.58 ERA.
Notables not qualifying for the ballot because they didn’t play 10 seasons include Rey Ordonez, Darren Dreifort, Billy Koch and Doug Glanville.

Jessica Mendoza and Chris Archer were great in the booth

Jessica Mendoza

Not news: Jessica Mendoza, who has been excellent on all of the ESPN broadcasts she has done since taking over for Curt Schilling, was excellent last night too.

She was great on the nuts and bolts, continued to show that she can describe hitting mechanics better than most color commentators — way more of them seem to be more comfortable talking about pitching — and was a seamless presence in the booth in terms of flow, timbre and all of the aesthetic aspects of broadcasting. If she has a fault thus far it’s that she leans on some cliches about hitters’ mindsets and desire to win sometimes. This puts her in with approximately 100% of all other color commentators in baseball now and throughout the history of baseball, of course, so it’s not really a demerit.

Ultimately, the true test of a good commentator is whether they (a) add insight; and (b) do so without distracting or upstaging the game. In this Mendoza is superior to most commentators in baseball and clearly superior to the “stop and listen to me” brand of analysts the major networks have employed on national broadcasts in recent years.

Indeed, the best compliment I think I can give Mendoza is that she was — in the literal sense, not the judgmental sense — unremarkable. Meaning: during the game and after there was nothing she said or did that was worthy of the highly-critical remarks almost every broadcaster gets, going back through Schilling, Kruk, Harold Reynolds Tim McCarver, Joe Morgan and everyone else ESPN and Fox have forced upon us in their history doing playoff baseball. I’m on Twitter during most playoff games and sometimes the broadcaster bashing is more interesting than the game. Mendoza gives the would-be bashers very little material.

At least those who would bash on the actual merits. There remains a group of deadenders who are irked by her very presence in the booth because she is a woman. The New York times rounds up some of the less mouth-breathery types today, but God knows there are many, many worse. Some of them even in professional media. At least for now. Whether you choose to ignore those people or choose to engage them — which, their dead end opinions notwithstanding can be a useful exercise in my view — know that they are out there being miserable and sexist as God and the First Amendment intended them to be.

While there are many who slam Mendoza on the faulty premise that she lacks credentials and experience in the booth, there was one person in the ESPN booth last night, at least for a while, who was a total TV noob. His name was Chris Archer. He pitches a bit for the Tampa Bay Rays. And lo and behold, he was pretty damn good himself.

Archer needs some polish for style — he has a lot of “ummms” and “uhhhs” about him — but his analysis is both sharp and quick. Meaning he was RIGHT ON the points when he needed to be without any of the usual prompting guests in the booth need from the play-by-play guy. At one point he even flowed into play-by-play and did a pretty good job of it.  Chris: if that pitching stuff doesn’t work out, you have a bright, bright future in television.

So, on the first night of the playoffs, there were no complaints about the broadcast. Mostly because the broadcasters weren’t the stars of the show. The game was. And it was complemented nicely by a couple of good voices.

And John Kruk.

NL Wild Card Game: Cubs vs. Pirates lineups

Jake Arrieta

Here are the Cubs and Pirates lineups for tonight’s Wild Card game in Pittsburgh:

CF Dexter Fowler
RF Kyle Schwarber
LF Kris Bryant
1B Anthony Rizzo
3B Tommy La Stella
2B Starlin Castro
C Miguel Montero
SS Addison Russell
SP Jake Arrieta

Cubs manager Joe Maddon wanted Tommy La Stella in the lineup over Jorge Soler or Chris Coghlan, so he starts at third base and Kris Bryant shifts to left field. Bryant started just four games in left field all season, compared to 136 starts at third base. Also of note: After batting Addison Russell ninth–behind the pitcher–116 times this season Maddon has him in the more traditional eighth spot tonight.

RF Gregory Polanco
3B Josh Harrison
CF Andrew McCutchen
LF Starling Marte
C Francisco Cervelli
2B Neil Walker
SS Jordy Mercer
1B Sean Rodriguez
SP Gerrit Cole

Pedro Alvarez started 119 games at first base for the Pirates and with right-hander Jake Arrieta on the mound he was the presumed starter tonight, but instead manager Clint Hurdle has benched the 27-homer slugger in favor of utility man Sean Rodriguez. Alvarez is vastly superior to Rodriguez offensively, especially versus a righty, but he’s also very shaky defensively. During the regular season Rodriguez started a grand total of one game at first base against a right-hander, so this qualifies as a hunch by Hurdle.