Jon Weisman of Dodger Insider has a nice perspective-inducing article today. He spoke with baseball historians John Thorn and Rob Neyer about Yasiel Puig and they noted how the sort of criticism he gets — “He’s unschooled! He’s undisciplined! He’s disrespectful” — is in keeping with a long, long baseball tradition. Indeed, some of baseball’s all-time greats got the same treatment.
Thorn on Ted Williams, who used to take practice swings in the outfield and didn’t adhere to the codes of the day about who talked to whom and how:
“He was thought to be nearly demented. He was absolutely in his own head. … Because we hold Williams in such reverence today, those who don’t have a grasp of the full history of the man will not recognize that he was made fun of when he was brought in.”
Neyer on Ruth:
“. . . the winter after the Red Sox traded him to the Yankees, the Reach Guide, which was the bible of the American League at this point, referred to Ruth as an undesirable and uncontrollable player and basically editorialized that the Red Sox were smart to get rid of him and the Yankees were stupid to pick him up. … The biggest issue was that he didn’t seem to care what the established rules of the game were, and he tried things that hadn’t been tried before.”
None of which is to say that Puig will be a Hall of Famer — it’s ridiculously early to say such things — but if he does become one, the start of his career and the treatment he gets from some quarters will have been in keeping with that experienced by many Hall of Famers who came before.
Following the Astros’ decisive 4-0 shutout over the Yankees on Saturday night, Justin Verlander was named the Most Valuable Player of the American League Championship Series. Hall of Fame outfielder and former MLB manager Frank Robinson handed the award to Verlander, who was beaming as he thanked his teammates and members of the Astros’ organization.
“I’ve got to say, it came down to the wire, and one thing kept going off in my head was Dallas,” Verlander told the crowd gathered at Minute Maid Park. “When he called me, he said that I won’t regret my decision to join the Houston Astros. And here we are right now, it’s the best feeling in the world. We’ve got four more wins to win a World Series, and I do not regret my decision to come here. This is the best feeling a player can have. So, thank you.”
Among a cast that boasted the likes of Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa and Dallas Keuchel, among others, Verlander was spectacular. He locked down a complete game win in Game 2, holding the Yankees to one run on five hits and a walk and striking out a postseason-high 13 batters. In Game 6, he saved the Astros from elimination with seven scoreless innings, helping propel the club to their eventual 7-1 finish that set up their series-clinching finale on Saturday.
The 34-year-old righty also took his place among some postseason greats. Thanks to an eight-strikeout outing on Friday night, his collective 136 postseason strikeouts are good for sixth-most in MLB playoff history, just a smidgen shy of Tom Glavine (143), Mike Mussina (145), Roger Clemens (173), Andy Pettitte (183) and John Smoltz (199). He also joined Bob Gibson, Curt Schilling and Sandy Koufax as one of just four hurlers to strike out 20+ Yankees in a postseason series.