Ivan Rodriguez

Image (1) maddux.jpg for post 5104

Deep Thoughts: which Hall of Fame candidates will be the most easily smeared next year?


A lot of people have asked me why Craig Biggio didn’t get into the Hall of Fame this year. I think it’s partially because while they now decry the PED era, a lot of Hall of Fame voters are warped by it and are having some trouble identifying great performances when they see it. They’re doing things like considering 3,000 hits and all the other stuff Biggio did well as ordinary rather than extraordinary.

But I also imagine a few voters are convinced he was a PED guy. Not because of evidence, but because he was teammates with Jeff Bagwell and Ken Caminiti who they suspect and know were steroids users, respectively.

We’ve heard this guilt-by-association argument before. A lot of people are skeptical of anyone who played on the Texas Rangers and Oakland Athletics of the late 80s and 1990s, for example (granted, with more reason than to be skeptical of Astros players). There’s this notion that, if you played with Jose Canseco, you’re compromised.

Because I’m bored today — and because I was inspired to do so by Twitter user Drew Neil — I look to the wonderful Oracle of Baseball to see which of the guys on the 2014 Hall of Fame ballot are most easily smeared as fellow travelers. Who played with players who played with Canseco, and what can we glean from this information?

  • Greg Maddux: Linked to Canseco via either Walt Weiss, Charlie O’Brien, Julio Franco or … RICH GOSSAGE, who played on the 1992 A’s with Canseco.  Assessment: Julio Franco was age-defying, Rich Gossage protests too much and Charlie O’Brien was Maddux’s personal catcher for crying out loud. Verdict: MADDUX WAS PROBABLY A JUICER.
  • Tom Glavine: Linked to Canseco via John Russell, Luis Polonia, Jay Howell, Mo Vaughn, Weiss, Mike Stanton, Glenn Hubbard, Shawn Green and many others. Assessment: The lack of a Gossage connection helps Glavine. As does the presence of Mo Vaughn, who surely counseled Glavine on the folly of trying to improve one’s physical conditioning. Verdict: GLAVINE WAS PROBABLY CLEAN.
  • Mike Mussina: Linked to Canseco via Luis Polonia, Storm Davis, Jeff Robinson, Alan Embree, Ivan Rodriguez and many others. But., more importantly, Mussina was teammates with Roger Clemens!  Assessment: Clemens is a knockout punch. Pudge is troublesome, as people like to speculate about him all the time. There’s Luis Polonia again. Hmmm … starting to wonder about him. Someone put a tail on him and find out where he goes. Verdict: MUSSINA WAS PROBABLY CLEAN.

There you have it. I think we are all better-informed Hall of Fame watchers now.  Oh, sure, there may be some error to this approach. But at least we’re absolutely, 100% sure of who these candidates teammates were, and not even every Hall of Fame voter can say the same thing.

Ivan Rodriguez to throw out first pitch before Game 4

ivan rodriguez tigers

It’s not quite Mariano Rivera throwing out the first pitch at Yankee Stadium before Game 3 of the ALDS, but this should be pretty cool: Ivan Rodriguez will throw out the first pitch tonight at Comerica Park.

Rodriguez signed with the Tigers as a free agent in 2004 when they were coming off a 119-loss season and three years later they reached the World Series.

Jim Leyland was the manager of that 2006 team and current Tigers who were also around then include Omar Infante, Ramon Santiago, and of course Justin Verlander.

Rodriguez announced his retirement in April, ending a 21-year career that included five seasons in Detroit.

Mike Baxter’s Saturday feat a first in nine years

Mike Baxter

Five-walk games typically happen once or twice per year, and Mike Baxter’s Saturday against the Padres was even more unusual than most.

Baxter, the Mets’ right fielder, became the first player since Florida’s Ivan Rodriguez on April 8, 2003 to go 0-for-0 with five unintentional walks in a game.

The 27-year-old Baxter entered the night with eight walks in 71 at-bats and 43 games for the season.

Baxter was the second player this year with five walks in a game, but the Royals’ Alex Gordon had eight plate appearances when he did it in a 15-inning game against the Cardinals back on June 17. Gordon was also the last player to go 0-for-0 with five walks in a game, pulling it off on July 30, 2008. However, he was intentionally walked twice in that game.

That Ivan Rodriguez was the last player to go 0-for-0 with five unintentional walks should surprise most (it certainly did me). The free swinging catcher had just 446 unintentional walks in 10,270 career plate appearances, a rate of one unintentional walk every 23 plate appearances. He was uncharacteristically patient in 2003, setting a career high with 55 walks (six intentional). His next highest total was 41 walks (also with six intentional) from 2004.

If you’re still interested in more walk trivia, know that Baxter is the 86th different player since 1918 with five walks in a game. Mel Ott has the high total, with four such games. Barry Bonds is alone in second with three (with at least one intentional walk in all three). The only active players with two are Gordon and Mark Teixeira.