Stan Musial

Stan Musial’s greatness undiminished by time

19 Comments

Stan Musial’s name doesn’t dot the record books anywhere near as frequently as those of Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron and Barry Bonds. Still, for consistent greatness, perhaps no one matched Stan the Man, who passed away Saturday at age 92.

– Excluding his one-year absence due to military service in 1945, Musial, who spent his entire career with the Cardinals, hit .310 or better every year from 1942 to 1958. That’s age 21 to age 37. He qualified for the NL batting title all 16 of those seasons, finishing first seven times, second twice, third four times, fourth twice and fifth once. He also finished third in 1962 at age 41.

– In addition to his seven batting titles, he led the NL in OBP six times, in slugging six times and in OPS seven times.

– He led the league in runs scored five times, hits six times, doubles eight times, triples five times, RBI twice, walks once and games played five times.

– He did all this while never striking out more than 46 times in a season. He finished his career with 1,599 walks and just 696 strikeouts.

– Musial played in 24 All-Star Games (in 20 seasons), tying Willie Mays for the most of all-time.

– Even 50 years after his retirement, Musial ranks 2nd all-time in total bases (6,134), 4th all-time in hits (3.630), 30th in average (.331), 22nd in OBP (.417), 19th in slugging (.559), 13th in OPS (.976), ninth in runs (1,959), sixth in RBI (1,951), third in doubles (725), 19th in triples (177), 28th in homers (475) and 13th in walks.

– Advanced stats: Musial ranks 12th all-time in Baseball-Reference’s WAR, ninth among position players. He’s third in runs created (2,562) and his OPS+ of 159 ranks 15th.

– Only Barry Bonds, with seven MVPs, has been more successful in the MVP balloting. Musial is one of eight players with three MVPs, and he has four second-place finishes to go along with them.

– Musial wasn’t particularly productive in the World Series, but his Cardinals teams won three of the four in which he played. He hit .256/.347/.395 with one homers and eight RBI in his 23 postseason games.

Musial ended up playing 21 full seasons, plus his 12 games as a 20-year-old in 1941. Never once did he finish with an OPS+ under 100. He ranked among the NL’s best hitters at both 21 and 41. He hit .300 18 times. Only Aaron, with 15, had more seasons with 300 total bases than Musial’s 13. Only Bonds, Ruth and Ted Williams, with 18 each, had more seasons with .900 OPSs than Musial’s 17.

Musial may have missed some milestones in finishing with 475 homers and 1,951 RBI, but his status as one of baseball’s very best hitters is cemented. The awesome nickname probably doesn’t hurt.

Yordano Ventura represented the best and worst of baseball’s culture

BOSTON, MA - AUGUST 28:  Yordano Ventura #30 of the Kansas City Royals delivers in the first inning during a game against the Boston Red Sox on August 28, 2016 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)
Adam Glanzman/Getty Images
1 Comment

It was reported this morning that Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura was killed in a car accident in the Dominican Republic. Former prospect Andy Marte was also killed in a separate car accident. Along with Jose Fernandez and Oscar Taveras, the baseball world has lost a lot of young, exciting talent in a very short amount of time.

Ventura was, like all of us, a complex human being. At his best, he was an exciting, talented, emotive pitcher who featured an electric fastball which sat in the mid-90’s and occasionally touched 100 MPH. At his worst, he was an immature, impressionable kid trying to fit in by exacting revenge against batters he felt had wronged him by slinging those electric fastballs at vulnerable areas of their bodies.

Baseball needed Ventura when he was at his best. It is players like him and Fernandez, not Mike Trout, that bring in new fans to the sport. To baseball die-hards, Angels outfielder Mike Trout is the pinnacle of entertainment because we know he’s an otherworldly talent. But to the average fan, Trout is just another player who hits a couple of homers and doesn’t do anything particularly interesting otherwise. Trout is milquetoast. Ventura was never an All-Star, but fans knew who he was because he made his presence felt every time he made a start. He was fun, if sometimes vengeful.

Ventura’s baseball rap sheet is rather lengthy for someone who only pitched parts of four seasons in the big leagues. Early in the 2015 season, Ventura found himself in a handful of benches-clearing incidents in quick succession. On April 12, he jawed with Trout, apparently misunderstanding the motivation behind Trout yelling, “Let’s go!” Though catcher Salvador Perez intervened, Trout’s teammate Albert Pujols ran in from second base and the benches cleared shortly thereafter. On the 18th, some drama between the Athletics and Royals continued. Ventura fired a 99 MPH fastball at Brett Lawrie, resulting in his immediate ejection from the game. More beanball wars ensued in the series finale the following day. Finally, on the 23rd, Ventura hit White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu with a 99 MPH fastball in the fourth inning. Ventura was not ejected… until after the completion of the seventh inning. Walking back to the dugout, Ventura barked at White Sox outfielder Adam Eaton and — you guessed it — the benches cleared. All told, Ventura was fined for his behavior with the Athletics and suspended seven games for the White Sox incident.

In August 2015, Ventura called Blue Jays outfielder Jose Bautista a “nobody” and accused him of stealing signs. He apologized shortly thereafter. Two months later, during his start in Game 6 of the ALCS against the Blue Jays, Ventura got into it with Jays first base coach Tim Leiper. Nothing happened beyond that, but apparently it was part of the Jays’ plan to try to put Ventura “on tilt.”

Most recently, in June this past season, Ventura hit Orioles third baseman Manny Machado with a pitch. Machado charged the mound and got in at least one punch before the players spilled out onto the field in a blob of royal blue and orange. Ventura was suspended for eight games.

Ventura was by no means a model of civility, but he was a product of baseball’s intransigent culture forcing players to assimilate or be ostracized. The old culture taught players to never show emotion. Hit a home run? Put your head down and circle the bases in a timely fashion or risk taking a fastball to the ribs. Players like Fernandez and Bautista — typically players from Latin countries — challenged those old cultural norms and are, as a result, the vanguard of the new culture. Ventura displayed aspects of each, the worst of the old culture and the best of the new. He was not a one-dimensional person; he was strikingly complex. At one moment willing to use a fastball as a weapon, the next stopping by some kids’ lemonade stand and giving out fist bumps. Baseball is made more entertaining and more interesting by its personalities and Ventura’s was a behemoth, for better or worse. His absence from the sport will be felt.

MLB remembers Yordano Ventura and Andy Marte

BOSTON, MA - AUGUST 28:  Yordano Ventura #30 of the Kansas City Royals delivers in the first inning during a game against the Boston Red Sox on August 28, 2016 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)
Getty Images
1 Comment

Following the tragic passing of 25-year-old Yordano Ventura and 33-year-old Andy Marte, both of whom were killed in separate car crashes on Sunday morning, players and executives from around Major League Baseball expressed an outpouring of grief and support for the players’ families and former teams.

Fans have gathered at Kauffman Stadium in memory of the former pitcher.