And That Happened: Thursday's scores and highlights

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Rockies 5, Reds 1: Jose Contreras had to leave the game in the
third inning with angina or dropsy or consumption or whatever the hell
it is that 86 year-old people get all the time. Didn’t matter though,
because at this point the Rockies could probably put the 1985
Hackensack Bulls in the lineup — including both Richard Pryor and John
Candy in their current conditions — and still keep winning. Case in
point: Jason Giambi, your starting first baseman yesterday. He hasn’t
played much since coming to Colorado, but against all odds he’s done
well when given the chance (1-3, 2B 2 RBI yesterday). When Giambi
started hitting home runs with those mid-90s A’s teams I used to get
him confused with Matt Stairs. Now that his career is winding down and
he’s providing some fat guy pop off the bench, I’m starting to get him
confused with Matt Stairs again.

Nationals 8, Phillies 7: The Phillies almost came back in the
ninth inning, scoring five runs but falling just short. How much you
wanna bet that Charlie Manuel is secretly happy that they didn’t score
seven that inning, thereby forcing him to figure out what to do with a
one-run lead in the ninth?

Royals 7, Tigers 4: Four straight wins for the Royals. Four
straight games in which Yuniesky Betancourt took a walk. Coincidence?
Well, yeah, probably, but that doesn’t make either of those things any
less amazing.

Marlins 13, Mets 4: Yesterday Bud Selig,
in response to a question about competitive balance, said “By the way,
there have been teams with high payrolls and have drawn a lot of people
who have been stunning disappointments.” I wonder who he was talking
about? The game story described the Mets as “listless.” That’s fine,
but how are they fixed for hap?

Blue Jays 3, Twins 2: Another painfully small crowd in Toronto
last night. No hockey to report. Hmmm, why might they not have drawn
well . . . I’m going with Cirque du Soleil’s Ovo,
which was playing at the Grand Chapiteau at Port Lands. It is, after
all, a headlong rush into a colorful ecosystem teeming with life, where
insects work, eat, crawl, flutter, play, fight and look for love in a
non-stop riot of energy and movement, and that sounds way better than a
late season Jays’ game, doesn’t it?

Braves 9, Astros 7: ESPN’s little teaser feature had this game
on the sidebar yesterday, saying “another solid pitching duel tonight,
with Derek Lowe towing the mound for ATL.” How the hell does one “tow a
mound?” Toe a rubber maybe? And screw it, they were wrong about the
pitching duel anyway: Roy Oswalt got bombarded for six runs on ten hits
in two innings. Derek Lowe’s tow truck must have broken down too,
because he wasn’t a ton better (5.2 IP, 9 H. 5 ER).

Angels 3, Mariners 0: John Lackey pitched a five hit shutout,
striking out seven — he got Ichiro twice, which is kind of amazing —
and walking one. Branch Rickey Award winner Torii Hunter hit a two run
homer. Probably worth noting that this west coast game ended before the
eastern time Steelers-Titans game did. Even better, it didn’t end with
the losing team not having a chance to play offense. I’d list all the
other reasons why it was superior to football, but I’m going on a trip
next week and therefore won’t have the time to get to them all.

No, New York players do not get an unfair bump in Hall of Fame voting

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Angels owner Arte Moreno said something interesting yesterday. He was talking about the retired former Angel, Garret Anderson, and said “If he would have played in New York, he’d be in the Hall of Fame.”

The initial — and, I would add, the most on-point — response to this is to note that, for however good a player Anderson was at times, no definition of the term “Hall of Famer” really encompasses his legacy. He was OK. Pretty good on occasion. Nowhere near a Hall of Famer, and I don’t think you need me to go over the math to establish that. The only way Anderson would ever sniff the Hall of Fame one day is if we sent Tony La Russa back in time to manage him for several years and then brought him back from the past to strong-arme the Veterans Committee.

The more interesting question to me is the matter implied in Moreno’s comment: that players in New York get an unfair boost when it comes to the Hall of Fame.

I get why he might say that and I get why people might believe it. New York gets all the press. If you can make it there you can make it anywhere and, my God, people in New York will not let you forget it for a second. East Coast Bias™ and all of that.

Except it’s baloney, at least as far as the Hall of Fame goes.

I think it’s fair to say that, yes, if you play in New York, your reputation gets elevated more than if you played elsewhere, but I think there are limits to that what that elevation gets you. You’re more famous if you knock in 100 as the third-best guy on a Yankees team or if you are involved in a notable game or series or controversy as a Met, but it doesn’t mean you get some extra helping hand from the BBWAA five years after you retire.

At least one guy I know, Adam Darowski, has taken a rough look at this on the numbers. He has determined that, by at least his measure, Yankees players are the fourth most underrepresented contingent in Hall of Fame voting. Red Sox are fifth. Mets are in the middle of the pack. It may be more useful to think of this without reference to any numbers, though, and look at it in terms of who is and who isn’t getting some sort of unfair bump.

If there was a New York Premium to Hall of Fame consideration, wouldn’t Bernie Williams, Willie Randolph, Ron Guidry, Elston Howard, Don Mattingly, Roger Maris, Jorge Posada, David Cone, John Franco, Keith Hernandez, Andy Pettitte and a bunch of other guys of that caliber get more support than they’ve historically gotten? I’m not saying all of those guys deserve to be in the Hall, but they all have better cases than Garret Anderson and none of them got in or appear to be getting in any time soon. They are close enough on the merits that, one would think anyway, an aura of New Yorkness surrounding them would have carried them over the line, but it never did.

Meanwhile, almost all of the most borderline Hall of Famers are old, old, old timers who were either poorly assessed by the Veterans Committee or who had the good fortune of being good friends with Frankie Frisch. Again, not a ton of Yankees make that cut. A whole lot of Giants do, but I suppose that’s another conversation. The questionable Hall of Famers of more recent vintage represent guys from all over the big league map. The only Yankee I can think of in relatively recent years who raised eyebrows was Catfish Hunter, and I suspect more of that was based on his legacy with the A’s than with the Yankees, where he really only had one great season.

Here’s what I think happens, practically, with New York players: If you play in New York, merely good and notable performance makes you huge in the moment and in casual remembrance, but your historical legacy is often written down a bit as a function of overall team success. Also — or, maybe, alternatively — it’s a matter of every good Yankees era being defined by such a big meagstar — Ruth, DiMaggio, Mantle, Reggie, Jeter — that the really good, even Hall of Fame-worthy guys who played with them are overlooked to some degree. Which, when you think about it, kinda sucks even worse for them because their megastar teammate is, thanks to the rings, in some ways getting elevated by team success while the lesser stars are denigrated because of it.

Which is not to say that we should cry for New York players. Paul O’Neill will never have to pay for a steak dinner in Manhattan for the rest of his life and, thanks to all of his friends in the press, Andy Pettitte’s obituary won’t mention his PED use at all while Barry Bonds’ obit will mention it in the first graf. It’s getting to the point where if you can simply avoid infamy and not suck for a five-year stretch you can get your number retired and a place in Monument Park.

But New York players aren’t getting unfair consideration in Hall of Fame voting. Indeed, I think they’re probably getting graded a bit too harshly.