Allen Craig

And That Happened: Sunday’s scores and highlights

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Cardinals 10, Brewers 1: The four-game sweep of the Brewers. Four RBI for Allen Craig. That’s six straight wins for the Cards, who are in their customary first place position in rather quiet fashion. The six first place teams right now: Boston, Detroit, Texas, Atlanta, St. Louis, San Francisco. Not many surprises there. I guess Boston would be the biggest one, and it’s not like they’re some Cinderella story. Viva Big Team Hegemony.

Braves 9, Mets 4:  A double, a homer and three RBI for Freddie Freeman. Reed Johnson drove in three two. Meanwhile Brian McCann is likely coming back today, and will take at bats away from Evan Gattis. Reed Johnson will continue to come off the bench. B.J. Upton and Dan Uggla, however, will continue to play every single day to no apparently effective purpose.

Twins 4, Indians 2: Mike Pelfrey: stopper. Or something. He pitched well and the Indians’ six-game winning streak comes to an end. Brutal stretch here for the Twins as the came off Detroit to play the hot Indians and now on to Boston. Had to win one in there somewhere lest this become the road trip from Hell which effectively ends the competitive portion of Minnesota’s season.

Nationals 6, Pirates 2: Clint Hurdle intentionally walked Adam LaRoche to get to Tyler Moore. Moore then hit a three run homer. Didn’t watch the game but I’n guessing there was a nice iso camera shot on Hurdle right after that. And that Hurdle knew it and just chewed his gum and stared straight ahead for a few seconds. Man’s a pro. He knows how to handle those situations. Oh, and Bryce Harper’s day ended early because of an Ump Show.

Athletics 5, Yankees 4: Not a great day for Andy Pettitte, giving up a couple of homers and walking four. The Yankees clawed back, however, only to see Josh Donaldson take Boone Logan into the upper deck in the eighth inning. Grant Balfour got into trouble late but held on.

Blue Jays 10, Mariners 2: I guess Toronto is going to win some games. And winning one in a blowout will help that embarrassingly poor run differential get better faster. Mark DeRosa hit a three-run homer. Melky hit a solo shot. Brandon Morrow was on point for eight innings.

Reds 7, Cubs 4: Was at a restaurant last night. In the bar there was some greatest highlights of the year kind of show. They showed Ben Revere’s amazing catch in center at Great American Ballpark against the Reds from earlier this year. I didn’t recognize the show as a past highlights show at first because I wasn’t really paying attention. Thought it was SportsCenter or something. My brain: “wait, the Phillies aren’t in Cincy, whaaaaa ….?”  It took me far longer to reconcile all of that than it should have. In other news, the restaurant I was in last night makes great, great martinis. Maybe that should be “in related news …”

Royals 6, White Sox 5: Late heroics in Kansas City. Billy Butler with a two-out, two-run double in the ninth to tie it on a pitch which, had he missed it, would have ended the game. Alex Gordon hit a bases-loaded single in the 10th to win it. The Royals have come from behind in 11 of their 17 wins this season. Also: the Royals have 17 wins this season. And a lot of people laughed when I picked them to finish ahead of the White Sox back in March.

Marlins 14, Phillies 2: Is this the end for Roy Halladay? Adeiny Hechavarria hit a grand slam and a bases-loaded triple off of him, and now he’s heading to the DL. This is the stuff of long absences and, in some cases, the end of a pitcher’s career. Let’s hope this isn’t a Brandon Webb or Johan Santana situation.

Rangers 4, Red Sox 3: I watched this one until it was 3-0 Red Sox and thought “well, Darvish has some good stuff, but he’s leaving things up, so this probably won’t end well.” It ended well, as the Davids Ortiz and Ross homers were all the damage the Sox would do, while Darvish struck out 14. He’s doing a lot of that striking out hitters thing lately.

Padres 5, Diamondbacks 1: Back to back homers by Jedd Gyorko and Will Venable and a solid outing from Edinson Volquez, as the camo-clad Padres win. The once-struggling Padres have won eight of eleven. Arizona is on a mini-skid.

Orioles 8, Angels 4: I feel like the O’s have been on the west coast for three years. OK, just checked: it was 11 games. And they won seven of them. Not too shabby. The Angels, meanwhile, continue their worst start in franchise history and have dropped seven of nine. Not that Seven of Nine is a bad thing at all.

Tigers 9, Astros 0: This was more of a snuff film than a baseball series. I kept wanting to throw a towel into the ring. The Tigers outscored the Astros 39-8 in the four-game series.

Rays 8, Rockies 3: If you give up three runs in Coors Field you can win as long as there aren’t runners on base. That’s what Alex Cobb did anyway. [Craig randomly looks at the box score, notices James Loney is hitting .398/.444/.532, spits coffee out all over the screen].

Giants 4, Dodgers 3: I have a houseguest from Los Angeles at the moment. We got home and watched some of the Dodgers game last night. It’s a month into the season and this Dodgers fan already has a feeling of inevitable blah, predicting the bad things like first-pitch-swing outs for Juan Uribe and stuff. The Dodgers have a new feel about them, but they also have an old feel about them.

Which current players are Cooperstown bound?

Miguel Cabrera
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With the election of Tim Raines, Jeff Bagwell and Ivan Rodriguez and with the Hall of Fame press conferences over, let’s wrap up Hall of Fame week with a look at today’s game and see if we can’t figure out who among current big leaguers are likely to get the call to Cooperstown one day.

The No-Brainers

I think it’s a 100% lock that, absent their being identified as international terrorist masterminds, the following guys are already in:

Albert Pujols — He’ll break 600 homers this season, is a three-time MVP, has a couple of World Series rings and will be above 3,000 hits before he’s done. He could’ve been hit by a bus five years ago and still would be a lock.

Ichiro Suzuki — Over 3,000 hits in this country, over 4,000 hits between here and Japan, with some added spice due to him breaking people of notion that only Japanese pitchers, and not hitters, could be effective in Major League Baseball. A first ballot guy, just like Pujols.

Miguel Cabrera — He has two MVPs, a Triple Crown and is approaching 500 homers and 3,000 hits already despite still being only 33 years-old. He may be beginning to descend from his career peak, but there is no reason at all to think that he doesn’t have several years of top performance left. He, like Pujols and Ichiro are already in.

Adrian Beltre — As recently as a couple of years ago I was convinced that voters would fail to appreciate his greatness, but something has changed recently in the way he is discussed by the baseball commentariat. His defense has been spectacular and has remained so even as he approaches 40 and, unlike what may have been the case a decade ago, it is widely appreciated. He’ll pass 3,000 hits this year.

Yadier Molina — I would’ve put him in the next lower category before Wednesday, but Ivan Rodriguez’s first ballot election shows that defense behind the plate carries more weight with the electorate than many considered it to. There’s also the fact that Molina has always been talked about as a Hall of Famer and has the respect of everyone he’s ever played with, often being cited as the heart and soul of the successful Cardinals teams of the past decade and change. Voters love that and that’ll do a lot to make up for the lack of typical Hall of Fame offensive numbers.

Justin Verlander — An MVP/Cy Young combo and a couple of other years when he could’ve easily won the Cy Young set Verlander apart, especially if his rebound 2016 presages a few more years of excellence. Assuming a normal decline, he’ll top 3,000 strikeouts will be between 225-250 wins one thinks. Wherever he ends up on those numbers, though, there is going to be — heck, there has to be — a rethinking of what a Hall of Fame starting pitcher looks like by the voters in the coming years. Guys like Mike Mussina and Curt Schilling are getting overlooked because they don’t have 300 wins and a boatload of complete games, with voters not yet grokking that the game has changed. By the time Verlander is on the ballot, I suspect that they will have fully grokked it and that his case will be easier than it has been for some others who came before. The guy to watch as this dynamic unfolds: Roy Halladay, who hits the ballot in two years.

 

Probably In, But People Will Argue

Carlos Beltran — His career stock has improved as he’s continued to an effective hitter late in his career, but I feel like he may not yet be fully appreciated by many due to the lack of hardware and rings and things. Overall, however, his numbers are comparable to several Hall of Famers. One thing a lot of people overlook in Hall of Fame careers is just how much playing for one team — which was once the norm due to the Reserve Clause — colors the narrative of a player’s case. Beltran is Billy Williams, right? Except without the entire career with the Cubs and the adoration of those fans to speak for him. As we’ve seen with Tim Raines, having someone stump for a guy is important. Which team’s fan base stumps for Beltran?

 

Probably NOT in, But People Will Stump For Them

Chase Utley — I feel like he’s just short, though that’s mostly due to him getting a late start in his career and not compiling some of the counting stats voters like to see. Was definitely the best second baseman around for a number of years and has the rate stats and defensive reputation. A good case can be made for him. But the same is true of Larry Walker, Alan Trammell and a number of other guys who haven’t gotten the Hall of Fame love.

Jimmy Rollins — Utley’s former teammate may have an opposite case: a lot of good counting stats based on being a regular at 21, but he has somewhat lackluster rate stats and secondary stats for a Hall of Famer.

Joe Mauer — If he had stuck at catcher he’d have a stronger case — and if he weren’t so unfairly denigrated by Twins fans and those who cover them his existing case would be more appreciated — but the odd arc of his career and setbacks due to concussions will likely make him fall short. There’s a very interesting statistical/historical case to be made for Mauer, but it’s not one that, barring an unexpected late career offensive renaissance, will get much of a hearing I suppose.

 

On the way, but need to pad their resumes

Clayton Kershaw — The only thing keeping him out of the “already in” group is the fact that he has only played for nine seasons and you have to have ten in order to be eligible. Yes, even after 10 his career will be super short, but what he has done in his nine seasons — three Cy Youngs and three other top-5 Cy Young finishes, four ERA crowns and three strikeout crowns, — has been pretty outstanding. I suppose that if he suddenly turned into a tomato can and spent a decade with ERAs in the 5s people would rethink him, but the smart money has him cruising in based on his first decade alone, padded with even merely good later years. And there’s no reason to think that his next couple of years will be merely good.

Robinson Cano — Only 12 seasons under his belt but already north of 2,200 hits and, barring serious injury, will likely finish his career at or near the top of most offensive categories for second basemen. He plays every dang day. Multiple All-Star selections and a lot of MVP votes. Barring a Dale Murphy-style falloff, I think he makes it.

Dustin Pedroia — Likely has it on peak performance already — the Rookie of the Year, the MVP, a couple of World Series rings for which he is given a large amount of credit — but he has only played 11 seasons, which is generally too short for Hall of Famers not named Koufax. Second baseman have historically fallen off younger than players at other positions, but if Pedroia, like Cano, avoids that and has a standard career decline, he’s Cooperstown bound.

Buster Posey — There are only eight years under Buster’s belt, but they’ve been great years. Someone besides Bruce Bochy will get credit for the Giants’ three World Series rings, and it’ll likely be Posey. That is, if his down 2016 season isn’t the beginning of an unexpectedly sharp falloff.

Mike Trout — The shortest tenure of anyone on this list, but the guy has already put together a Hall of Fame peak by the age of 25 and only needs to gain eligibility. If he falls off to merely very good starting now he’ll have already made it. WAR is a counting stat which accumulates over a career. By the time 2017 is over, he will likely have passed Hall of Famers Tony Lazzeri, Kirby Puckett, Orlando Cepeda, Larry Doby, Nellie Fox, Bobby Doerr, Mickey Cochrane and Tony Perez. In less than seven full seasons.

UPDATE: Joey Votto — I forgot him when I first published this. Which, I dunno, was maybe some weird unconscious impulse I had which channels what I think voters will do. We’ve come a long way in appreciating on-base ability and rate stats and eschewing RBIs and things when it comes to evaluating hitters, but I feel like, to some, Votto is an extreme case here. He shouldn’t be — he’s a career .313 hitter and has slugged to the tune of .536 — but the negative narrative that has been written by some in the media that Votto is too timid a hitter or that his taking walks somehow has hurt the Reds has had some annoying staying power. All of that said: he’s only got ten years in. If he continues doing what he’s doing, he’ll be a strong Hall candidate. If he has even one or two more years where he shuts the naysayers up and, say, finishes first or second in the MVP voting, he’ll be in. Alternatively: if the Reds ever trade him to a contender and people see how valuable his production is in a lineup with even a modicum of support, that narrative changes immediately.

Others

Ian Kinsler — Dustin Pedroia without the MVP and the rings? I suppose a lot of people would take issue with that, but they’re a lot more similar than you may suspect. Kinsler has a higher bWAR in the same number of seasons as Pedroia, even if he doesn’t have the same level of fame.

Max Scherzer — If he can keep up the peak he’s established over the past few seasons for a bit longer, or if he can show remarkable longevity, he could possibly make up for blooming a bit late.

Zach Greinke — Could go either way. We’ve likely already seen his best seasons — and his two best were, uncharacteristically for a Hall of Famer, several years apart — but if he has several more good ones, he’s in the conversation.

Felix Hernandez — I feel like 2017 will be key. Two years ago I’d have said he was well on his way, but two average seasons in a row at ages 29 and 30 could be the precursor to a less-than-Hall-of-Fame second act.

There are likewise several players who have begun careers which look a lot like guys who eventually made the Hall of Fame — Freddie Freeman, Anthony Rizzo, Chris Sale, Jose Altuve, Manny Machado, etc. etc. — but for the most part they’re just too early in the game to project. Let’s hold off on them for a few years, shall we?

I feel pretty good about this list thus far, however. What say you?

Josh Johnson retires from baseball

PEORIA, AZ - FEBRUARY 21: Josh Johnson #55 of the San Diego Padres poses during Picture Day on February 21, 2014 at the Peoria Sports Complex in Peoria, Arizona. (Photo by Mike McGinnis/Getty Images)
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Oft-injured pitcher Josh Johnson is retiring from baseball, ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick is reporting.

Johnson, 32, hasn’t pitched in the majors since 2013. The right-hander underwent his third Tommy John surgery in September 2015 but wasn’t able to bounce back.

Johnson spent most of his career with the Marlins, but also pitched for the Blue Jays in the big leagues, as well as the Padres in the minors. He retires with a career 3.40 ERA, 915 strikeouts across 998 innings in the majors, and two All-Star nominations. Johnson led the National League with a 2.30 ERA in 2010, finishing fifth in NL Cy Young Award balloting. One wonders what he could have accomplished if he was able to stay healthy.