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Sorry Dan Shaughnessy, Edgar Martinez was “feared”

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Remember back when Jim Rice was on the ballot for the Hall of Fame and his supporters liked to talk about how “feared” a hitter he was? If not, trust me, they did it all the time.

They sort of had to, you see, because there was an unsettling dissonance about Rice’s Hall of Fame case that they needed to resolve. For much of Rice’s career people thought of him as a Hall of Fame guy and talked about him as such. But later, when people took a fresh look back at his career, it really didn’t look all that strong for a Hall of Famer. So a lot of Rice voters decided to push the idea that Rice was the most “feared” hitter of his era and claim that that put his borderline-at-best case over the top.

Unlike some other baloney-filled, dissonance-resolving arguments like, say, Jack Morris “pitching to the score” (note: he didn’t), the “Jim Rice was feared” thing was hard to counter. There was no real evidence for it. He wasn’t intentionally walked a ton, but that’s not necessarily definitive of anything, as he often had strong hitters behind him. Mostly, though, it was hard to counter because even if you did analyze it objectively, anyone pushing the “fear” thing would simply reject the evidence and argue back from authority. Like Dan Shaughnessy famously did in this 2008 column after my friend Rob Neyer took issue with the “fear” narrative:

Guess you had to be there. Or maybe talk to some of the players and managers who were there. Rice was dominant. Rice was feared.

Whatever. Rice got in and no one died so everyone let it go.

Flash forward to today. The Boston Globe’s Hall voters all released their ballots and the rationale for their votes. The highlight: Shaughnessy has referenced “fear” again! This time, however, he did so to justify not voting for a player:

Edgar Martinez stays on the outside for me, and not because he was a DH. Just never thought of him as a dominant, feared hitter in his era.

Hmm. What happened to talking to the players and managers who were there, like Shaughnessy said we should do back in 2008? Seems he didn’t bother to do that this time and, instead, decided to just go with what he subjectively thought. That’s sort of . . . inconsistent. But let’s give him the benefit of the doubt. Maybe he was too busy to ask around! So let’s help him out, shall we?

    • Ken Griffey Jr.: “He carried the team for a period of time. He was one of the most feared hitters in the game for 10-plus years.”
    • Paul Molitor: “He [Edgar] was one of the most feared right-handed hitters for a long time in this league. The amount of respect he has from peers speaks to the value of the offensive player he was.”
    • Pedro Martinez: “Believe it or not, the guy that I hated facing the most wasn’t a guy that really did well against me. It was actually a guy that didn’t do that well … The toughest guy I faced I think — with all due respect to all the players in the league — was Edgar Martinez.”
    • Randy Johnson: “Edgar Martinez is, hands down, the best hitter that I’ve ever seen. I’m glad I didn’t have to face him too much”
    • Mariano Rivera: “The toughest – and thank God he retired – Edgar Martinez. Oh my God. I think every pitcher will say that, because this man was tough.”

Sorry it’s only five examples, but I figured that since four of them are Hall of Famers and one of them will be, it’s a pretty decent set.

Whatever the case, as I said above, “fear” is a pretty dumb thing on which to base one’s Hall of Fame vote. But Dan Shaughnessy is a Spink Award winning journalist with decades of experience in the business, so far be it from me to tell him how he should exercise his right and his honor to cast Hall of Fame ballots. If he says fear matters, dadgummit, fear matters.

But Jeez, Dan. If you are gonna use a dumb basis, at least be consistently dumb, will ya? Or at least listen to what you said a few years ago and “maybe talk to some of the players and managers who were there.” Because they seem to have some opinions different than you do on the matter.

Cardinals beat Brewers, both clinch postseason berths

Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports
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ST. LOUIS (AP) Harrison Bader tripled and homered to help the St. Louis Cardinals clinch a postseason berth on the final day of the regular season with a 5-2 win over Milwaukee, and the Brewers also earned a playoff spot Sunday via help on the West Coast moments later.

St. Louis (30-28) will be the fifth seed in the NL and open a three-game wild-card series at San Diego on Wednesday. By winning, the Cardinals avoided having to travel to Detroit for two makeup games Monday. St. Louis finished the regular season with 23 games in 18 days as it made up a slew of postponements caused by a coronavirus outbreak in the clubhouse.

“You had to throw some of the expectations out the window not knowing what to expect after taking those couple weeks off and all those doubleheaders and so many new guys,” Cardinals first baseman Paul Goldschmidt said. “It was very different, very fulfilling to make the playoffs.”

The Brewers (29-31) locked up the eighth seed and a third consecutive postseason berth after the Padres beat San Francisco 5-4 in a game that ended about 15 minutes after St. Louis’ victory. The Giants finished with an identical record as the Brewers but lost out on a tiebreaker due to an inferior intradivision record.

“It’s fitting for 2020 and everything we went through,” Brewers left fielder Christian Yelich said. “It felt just as good as past years. This year’s a unique one. There’s so many challenges we had to go through on a daily basis behind the scenes, things you don’t deal with in a normal year.”

Milwaukee will face the top-seeded Dodgers in Los Angeles in a three-game series that also starts Wednesday.

The Brewers haven’t had a winning record at any point this season. Milwaukee and Houston will be the first teams ever to qualify for the playoffs with a losing mark.

“It’s a celebration,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. “We’re in the playoffs. That’s how you see it. There’s no reason to apologize for getting into the playoffs.”

Cardinals starter Austin Gomber allowed one run, one hit and two walks and struck out three over four innings.

Giovanny Gallegos (2-0), Genesis Cabrera and Alex Reyes combined to pitch the final five innings. Reyes got his first save.

“We’d have been happy getting in as the eight seed,” Cardinals manager Mike Shildt said. “We’d have been happy being the one seed, but people can say we got in if there was no expanded playoffs so that’s even another feather in this group’s cap.”

Brett Anderson (4-4) surrendered a triple to Bader and a walk to Tyler O'Neill to start the third inning before departing with a blister on his left index finger. Anderson opened the season on the injured list with a blister on the same finger and did not make his debut until Aug. 3.

Freddy Peralta replaced him a day after being activated from the paternity list, and O’Neill promptly stole second. Kolten Wong then hit a line drive off Peralta’s leg that Peralta threw into right field to score Bader and O’Neill.

Paul Goldschmidt and Paul DeJong each added RBI singles to push the St. Louis lead to 4-0.

After Milwaukee scored in the top of the fifth, Bader hit his fifth home run of the season.

“That was a big counterpunch,” Shildt said of Bader. “Got them on their heels again.”

THREE TIMES THE FUN

Yadier Molina grounded into a triple play in the eighth inning when he hit a one hop grounder to Jace Peterson at third base in the eighth inning. It was Milwaukee’s first triple play since Sept. 23, 2016, when Cincinnati’s Joey Votto lined out to first base. Molina was also the last Cardinals player to hit into a triple play when he grounded out to third base at Boston on Aug. 15, 2017.

TRAINING ROOM

Brewers: Counsell said it was too early to prognosticate Anderson’s status after departing with the blister.

Cardinals: St. Louis president of baseball operations John Mozeliak announced that RHP Dakota Hudson will have Tommy John surgery on his right elbow Monday. Hudson went 3-2 with a 2.77 ERA in eight starts before leaving his start on Sept. 17 at Pittsburgh with right elbow discomfort after two innings.

UP NEXT

Brewers: The Brewers head to Los Angeles and will likely be without two of their top starters in Anderson and Corbin Burnes, who sustained a left oblique injury on Thursday.

Cardinals: This will be the fourth postseason series between St. Louis and San Diego, who faced each other in 1996, 2005, and 2006 in the Division Series.