New York Yankees v Boston Red Sox

Derek Jeter ties Willie Mays on the all-time hits list

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Obviously they’re two different kinds of players, but it’s kind of cool to see Derek Jeter tie Willie Mays on the career hits list.

Number 3,283 came on a seventh inning RBI single last night during the Yankees 2-0 win over Boston.  It was his 195th hit of the year, which leads the majors. So, bone bruise in his ankle notwithstanding, he’s not just limping past people on the all-time hits list.

Jeter and Mays are tied for 10th* all time. Getting higher up the chart will have to wait until next year, however, as Eddie Collins stands 32 hits ahead, while the Yankees have 19 games to go.  Assuming a healthy and productive 2013, however, Jeter could pass not just Collins, but Paul Molitor, Carl Yastrzemski, and Honus Wagner.

If he wants to move higher, he’ll either need a new contract that takes him into 2014 or else he’ll need to exercise his 2014 player option and be still good enough to get regular playing time. If that happens, there lies Tris Speaker at fourth place and Stan Musial at third.

That seems like a reasonably possible place for Jeter to top out, leaving only Hank Aaron, Ty Cobb and Pete Rose ahead of him. Then again, no one really figured Jeter would have a 200-hit season at age 38 either, so who the hell knows how far he’ll go?

*Fun times: when I first wrote this early this morning I had Jeter and Mays at 11th. Why? Because when you go to Baseball-Reference.com and look at the hits leaders, that’s where they are, and dammit, as an Internety baseball writer, Baseball-Reference.com is the word of God.

However, I did not take into account Cap Anson. Baseball-Reference.com lists him as sixth all time on the hits list with 3,435 hits.  But they’re alone in this, however. Official statistics of Major League Baseball, the Elias Sports Bureau and the like don’t include Anson’s National Association totals, obtained in the first four years of his career in the 1870s. That’s over 400 hits he’s docked, putting him down in Wade Boggs/Rafael Palmiero land.  I spoke with Sean Forman of Baseball-Reference.com about it this morning, and he explained to me that while scholarly and research consensus on the matter consider the National Association to be every bit as much a major league as the National League was back in the day, Major League Baseball disagrees.

Should we feel bad for Major League Baseball’s refusal to recognize all of Cap Anson’s hits? Nope! And not because I have any insight into why his National Association hits should or should not be discounted. Rather, it’s because he was also a total jackwagon racist scumbag who bore large responsibility for baseball’s segregation, and if it meant docking him 3,000 more hits I’d do it in a second because he helped cost America the chance to see Satchel Paige, Josh Gibson and those guys play against Major Leaguers on a regular basis in their primes.

But I suppose that gets us rather far afield of statistics.

Marlins acquire starter Dan Straily from the Reds

CINCINNATI, OH - SEPTEMBER 3: Dan Straily #58 of the Cincinnati Reds throws a pitch during the first inning of the game against the St. Louis Cardinals at Great American Ball Park on September 3, 2016 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by John Sommers II/Getty Images)
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The Miami Marlins have acquired starting pitcher Dan Straily from the Cincinnati Reds. In exchange, the Reds will receive right-handed pitching prospects Luis Castillo and Austin Brice and outfield prospect Isaiah White.

For the Marlins, they get a solid starter who logged 191.1 innings of 113 ERA+ ball last year. Straily has moved around a lot in his five big league seasons — the Marlins will be his fifth club in six years — but it was something of a breakout year for him in Cincinnati. The only troubling thing: he tied for the league lead in homers allowed. Of course, pitching half of his games in Great American Ballpark didn’t help that, and Miami will be a better place for him.

Castillo is 24. He split last season between high-A and Double-A — far more of it in A-ball — posting a 2.26 ERA over 24 starts. Austin Brice is also 24. He pitched 15 games in relief for the Marlins last year at the big league level with poor results. He seemed to blossom at Triple-A, however, after the Marlins shifted him to the pen. White was a third round pick in the 2015 draft. He played low-A ball as a minor leaguer last year, hitting .214/.306/.301.

A mixed bag of young talent for the Reds, but stockpiling kids and seeing what shakes out is what a team like the Reds should be doing at the moment. For the Marlins: a solid mid-to-back end starter who may just be coming into his own.

Have Hall of Fame Voters actually made the PED thing More complicated?

Sammy Sosa
Associated Press
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The story coming out of this year’s Hall of Fame balloting is that the BBWAA voters are finally easing their antipathy toward players with performance enhancing drug associations.

Jeff Bagwell — the subject of unconfirmed PED rumors — made the Hall! Pudge Rodriguez, who was named in Jose Canseco’s book and who had a . . . curious physical transformation around the time PED testing came online, made it on the first ballot! Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, whose PED use was well-documented, saw their vote totals advance above the 50% mark, making their future elections look more likely!

It’s an interesting development, and one I’m obviously pleased with, but I wonder if the BBWAA’s new approach to PED guys, while far more forgiving than it used to be, has actually become more complicated in practice.

I ask this because I look way, way down the ballot and I still see Sammy Sosa scraping by with around 8% of the vote. I ask this because I still see Gary Sheffield at 13%. I ask this because when Mark McGwire was on the Today’s Game ballot in December, no one really stumped for him at all. I ask this because, even though Bagwell and Mike Piazza got in eventually, they still had to go through a lot of hazing first and I suspect, if they hit the ballot for the first time again tomorrow, the same arguments and delay would occur with respect to their cases.

In light of that, what I suspect has happened has not been a wholesale surrender of the anti-PED voters. Rather, I think it has been a transformation. One in which a moral test — did he use PEDs or not? — has been discarded as a threshold question and a scientific/physiological test — would he have been great even without the PEDs? — has replaced it. In essence, voters are becoming “PED discounters” in the aggregate. Making calculations as to whether a guy was, in their mind, a creation of PEDs or not.

Such an approach explains these new voting patterns as well as those in recent years.

  • Ivan Rodriguez may have been called out by Canseco and may have noticeably shrunk over an offseason, but his calling card was his defense behind the plate and voters, I suspect, have told themselves that such a thing is not PED-aided.
  • Bonds and Clemens may have been PED users, but each of them was undeniably talented and, if you discount for the PED use, hey, they’re still all-time greats.
  • Sammy Sosa’s case rests disproportionately on homers and, as everyone knows, PEDs = instant dingers, so no, he’s not gonna cut it.

And so on.

As I said, I’m glad that the strict moral test — did he use or not? — is losing its hold on Hall voters. But I do not think the “did PEDs make him who he was test?” is a good approach either. Baseball writers are in no better a position to assess the physiological and performance enhancements caused by pharmaceuticals than they are to be judges of character and morality. Given the identities of players confirmed to be PED users, the old eye test implicit in these cases is famously faulty (Neifi Perez, anyone?). The idea that PEDs only affect home run totals — and not, say, the ability for a player to take the abuse of the catcher position for 21 seasons — is crude and ignorant.

I suppose it’s naive to expect voters to completely disregard PEDs in their assessment of players. It’s a bell that cannot be unrung. But while we may, thankfully, be moving away from a moral test with respect to drugs, it’s been displaced by a scientific test that is no more reasonable in practice.