Sunday, August 25, 2013

The Saga of Carl Mays part 1: The Boston Years

Being part of a crumbling dynasty must be a dreadful feeling.  Imagine joining the Denver Broncos as John Elway is retiring.  Being drafted by the Edmonton Oilers just after Wayne Gretzky and Mark Messier have left.  Signing with the Lakers as Magic Johnson announced his retirement.  The worst part is probably the fact that winning in the organization is so natural that  no one can imagine anything but a contender and everyone expects that the winning will continue forever.

The Red Sox were the best American League team from 1900-1918.  The Red Sox had won the first World Series over the Pirates in 1903.  They followed that with a first place finish in 1904 but there was no World Series because McGraw and the Giants refused to debase the NL pennant by facing an inferior league.  The Red Sox went through a brief rebuilding from 1906-1911 as the Tigers and Athletics fought over the top spot but by 1912 the Red Sox dynasty was in full bloom.  They would win the World Series in 1912, 1915, 1916 and 1918. Their 5 World Series wins in the first fifteen World Series played was by far the best.  Only the Ahletics' three (1910, 1911 and 1913) came even close.  The years that they weren't reaching the World Series they were usually finishing second.

Their cast of characters read like a Hall of Fame roster.  Tris Speaker, Duffy Lewis and Harry Hooper were the greatest trio of outfielders anyone had ever seen.  The pitching staff of Dutch Leonard, Ernie Shore, Herb Pennock and Babe Ruth were almost unhittable.  Unfortunately for Red Sox fans, and very similar to the Cubs' experience, the end of the dynasty came much more quickly than anyone expected.  As Speaker was sent to Cleveland after the 1915 World Series win and Ruth (and most of the team) were shipped to New York after the 1919 season, the remnants of the team were a shell of the recent glory days.  It crumbled almost overnight.

1918 saw the Red Sox beat the Cubs in the World Series.  1919 saw the team go from first to 6th and the glory days of Boston were over.  No one told the Red Sox they were done. They all expected to be right back at the top.  Carl Mays had come to the Red Sox in 1915, the same day as Babe Ruth.  They arrived in the same car.   Reported to the ballpark together.  Were issued their uniforms together.  Then Ruth got to pitch and Mays got to mostly sit and watch. 

His first year in Boston was below what he expected.  He finished with a 6-5 record but the years that followed were spectacular. He won 18 games in 1916 but lost 13 and every one of those loses were painful to him, like a personal failure 13 times.  He went 22-9 in 1917 and 21-13 in 1918.  He was one of the reasons that the Red Sox dominated but he was the opposite of Ruth.  While Ruth made sure everyone knew what he had done and who he was, Mays didn't want recognition.  Mays wanted wins.

Mays was one of those extremely competitive pitchers who did not accept losing and did not accept mistakes by the fielders behind him.  Mays took every loss like a knife to his heart and every win as the inevitable result of hard work, his own hard work and certainly not the team's.  To Mays, as the pitcher, the game was his.  The fielders were just extras who would find a way to screw it up for him.  When Mays lost it was the fault of the fielders who made an error or the hitters who didn't hit.  The curve ball that didn't break, allowing Joe Jackson or Ty Cobb to crush a hit was somehow someone else's fault.  He is what most people would call a sore loser.  He just wanted to win and he would do anything to win.

His teammates hated him and the feeling was mutual.  As far as he was concerned they could all go to hell.  If a player made an error Mays wouldn't wait until they reached the dugout to discuss it.  The reaction was immediate and hateful.  More than once he screamed at his infielders for errors in front of the entire stadium.  If an outfielder threw to the wrong base or missed the cutoff man allowing a runner to advance Mays would stand on the mound and glare at the offending player.  This was his game and he would start it up again when he knew that the outfielder was properly shamed for his mistake.  He flat out refused to pitch if Jack Barry was playing at second base.  An unidentified teammate was quoted as saying "I was never on a club that a fellow was disliked as much as Mays."

The hatred wasn't contained to his teammates.  The league as a whole despised him.  He had a long running feud with several players including Ty Cobb and Tris Speaker.  He had a reputation for throwing at batters. He had a reputation for cutting, scuffing, mashing and scratching the ball before throwing the pitch causing it to break in unpredictable directions.  He had an unusual side arm motion and when he leaned into the delivery it was almost an underhand throw that made it even more difficult to pick up the flight of the ball.  Most players in this league could not stand Carl Mays.



As the 1919 season progressed the frustration in the Red Sox locker room increased.  No one could quite figure out what the hell was wrong with this team and as the powerful White Sox streaked towards infamy, the Red Sox lingered around the middle of the league.  Mays started the year winning his first two starts of the season but it went south quickly. 

He didn't even have to pitch in the game to get into trouble at the park.  In the Memorial Day doubleheader in Philadelphia he was angry that the Athletics fans were pounding on the tin roof of the dugout.  He  came out of the dugout and launched a ball into the stands grazing a woman and hitting a fan in the head.  When fans got angry he came back out of the dugout and punched a fan in the face.  By the time the Red Sox left town there was a warrant for his arrest.

When he took the mound on July 13th his season was officially a disaster.  He had dropped to a record of 5-10.  The Red Sox, defending champions, were facing the White Sox, featuring the infamous Joe Jackson, Chick Gandil, Happy Felsch, Swede Risberg and Buck Weaver.  This game was done almost before it started as Chicago scored four in the first. 

Mays went back out in the second inning and things continued going poorly.  With a runner on first Mays delivered to the plate.  When the runner took off for a steal attempt the first baseman screamed out "He's going!" and there was a flurry of movement.  Mays delivered the ball to the plate as quickly as he could while Wally Schang, behind the plate, shifted his weight to make a throw to second.  The pitch smacked Schang's glove and he immediately rifled the ball down to second base  to try to get the stealing runner.  Mays turned to watch, hoping they would catch the base stealer.  The last thing he needed with this White Sox lineup was a runner in scoring position.  Then he felt something explode in his head like a bomb.  The throw from Schang drilled Mays right in the back of the head.

Mays was fuming.  He retired the side.   Walked off the mound.  Walked to the clubhouse, packed his things.  Walked out the door.  Walked to the train station and didn't stop until he got off the train.  Before he left the locker room he told a teammate who came looking for him to tell the manager he had gone fishing.  That was essentially what he did. He took the train to Boston, cleaned out his Fenway locker and went to stay with his in-laws in Pennsylvania.  He told the press he had thrown his last pitch for the Red Sox.

This was the craziest thing a player had done to this point in the league.  To not only walk out on a team in the middle of the year but then to tell the press that you want to be traded was insane.  This was before collective bargaining, before free agency, no-trade clauses and before unions.  There were  no trade demands.  There were no players' rights.  You played where you were told to play when you were told to play and if you didn't then you didn't play again ever for anyone.  Mays could have very well killed his own career.  Amazingly he didn't

There was still a fight at the top of the league and several teams were looking for pitching to make that final push to the pennant.  Among the teams were the Indians, White Sox and Yankees.  Every team made an offer to the Red Sox and every team swore they had the deal done.  Then Ban Johnson, the American League President, stepped in and made a ruling.  Mays was suspended and no trade could be made until Mays returned to his team, paid a fine and served an additional unpaid suspension.  According to Johnson, no team could trade for Mays because he was designated as a non active player until he served his punishment.  Meanwhile, the Red Sox ignored the decree by Johnson and announced a trade to the Yankees.

The Indians were furious.  When Johnson had told the league to stop the trade talks they stopped but they were willing to give up more than the Yankees did to get him.  The most furious of all was Charles Comiskey, White Sox owner.  He actually did have a trade in place that would send Mays to the White Sox (imagine the difference in the 1919 World Series if Mays had been on the White Sox, although check back in two weeks to find out why it may have been the same outcome) but when Johnson announced that Mays could not be traded he also stopped trade talks.   Comiskey and Johnson had a long history of hate towards each other that will be explored more thoroughly in a later post but the decision by Johnson to step in led to all out chaos in the entire league.

While the National League sat back and laughed at the ridiculous AL situation, the owners in the AL not only tried to undercut each other by getting Mays in a trade, they were now split on whether Ban Johnson should actually be the President of the League.  A meeting was called to discuss whether Johnson still held the faith of the league owners.  Comiskey (Chicago), Jacob Ruppert and Til Huston (New York), and Harry Frazee (Boston) demanded that Johnson step down.  Charlie Somers (Cleveland) (not surprising since Johnson owned stock in the team), Phil Ball (St.Louis), Clark Griffith (Washington), Connie Mack and Ben Schieb (Philadelphia) and Frank Navin (Detroit) told the other three teams to keep their mouth shut.

Johnson made a ruling that the Mays' trade to the Yankees was null and void and issued a court injunction to forbid him from playing.  The Yankees and Mays ignored it.  Johnson's authority was ruined and he remained as little more than a figure head for the rest of his tenure.  Meanwhile, pitching for the Yankees, Mays turned his season around and went 9-3 for the Yankees leading them to their best finish in team history to that point.

The story of Carl Mays doesn't end here.  In fact it gets better.  Check back next week for The Saga of Carl Mays Part 2:  The Death Pitch.

Trivia Question:
Babe Ruth played on 10 teams that reached the World Series (1915, 1916, 1918, 1921, 1922, 1923, 1926, 1927, 1928 and 1932).  Of those ten years, how many seasons was Carl Mays a teammate of Ruth's?

Answer to Last Week's Trivia Question:
Hope and TJD were both close to having the correct answer last week, however, both were incorrect.  TJD guessed 7 total Cy Young Awards.  Hope guessed three.  Hope's answer of three was correct in that there were three separate Tigers' pitchers who won MVP's, however, the question was the total number of awards.  TJD's guess of 7 would have been correct had I counted MVP awards for pitchers prior to the Cy Young. Since the question was how many times had a Tigers pitcher won the Cy Young Award the two MVP awards in 1944 and 1945 did not count. Denny McLain won the Cy Young in 1968 with a 31-6 record.  He followed that up by sharing the 1969 Cy Young with Mike Cuellar of the Orioles.  The next Tigers' Cy Young winner was not until their amazing 1984 season when their closer Willie Hernandez went 9-2 with 32 saves and 1.92 ERA.  Finally, Justin Verlander won the 2011 Cy Young.  The correct answer was 4.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

The Home Stretch 2013: American League

With just under two months left in the season we can clearly separate teams that are legitimate contenders from the teams that are playing out the string. We can also start to see that some players we expected to be difference makers are having an average, below average or just horrible season. Here is a review of where we stand so far this year in the National League as well as a mid season report card on how my original predictions have helped prepare you for the season and how I have led you astray:

American League East:
Heading into this season it appeared that any team had a chance to win this division and that this was the closest division in baseball.  My final predictions from top to bottom were Blue Jays, Rays, Yankees, Red Sox, Orioles.  Here is where my predictions stand:

Blue Jays: 
When we reviewed Toronto, I told Blue Jays fans to expect the best, especially from Jose Reyes.    Unfortunately, Jose Reyes has been hurt for the greater part of the season and did not return until late June.  Without Reyes and with a somewhat surprisingly shaky pitching staff, the Jays have languished in last place.  The Jays were able to win 11 straight in mid June and climb back to within 6 games of first but a poor series in Boston to end the month hurt them in the standings.  The Jays are long out of the race and will need to look to next year.  In the annual preview you may recall that I mentioned it may be the last chance for Rickey Romero.  Unfortunately Romero has pitched in only two games, both starts, and lasted a combined 4 1/3,  He allowed six runs in the four innings and was charged with a loss in both.  Romero is currently in the minors trying to find the formula that made him a top prospect in the majors.  Fortunately for the Jays fans the ownership seems to believe in sticking it out with this group.  After a year of playing together next year could be a drastic improvement.
First Half Grade: D- (this is not at all what they had planned)

My original preview had the Rays third behind New York and Toronto but after severe injuries to the Yankees, the final prediction was the Rays in second behind Toronto.  The Rays hovered in the middle of the division for most of the season but are still within striking distance, even having spent some time in first place.  Joe Maddon has again found ways to win despite losing major pieces of the team in the off season.  Even with David Price suffering through injuries, Fernando Rodney no where near as effective as last year and Evan Longoria hurting his leg in late June, the Rays have stayed near the division lead.  In the yearly preview I mentioned that it was time for James Loney to step up and he has.  As of the end of June, Loney had a .309 average, 9 HR and 39 RBI.  That has since gone up to .314 with 10 HR and 55 RBI.
First Half Grade: B (about as expected but overcoming the injuries to Longoria and Price makes me believe Maddon will never run out of magic tricks.)

This has been a tough year for the Yankees.  People were not exactly ecstatic when the Yankees picked up Travis Hafner, Vernon Wells and Lyle Overbay. The three less than appreciated players did a lot to keep the Yankees in the pennant race, although they slowed down after mid June.  For the most part the players you expect to be great (Sabathia, Cano, Rivera) are great but Pettite, Phil Hughes and Ichiro are well below what the Yankees need.  Although Brett Gardner has not done great things as I had predicted, he is having a solid season hitting above .280 at the end of June (although that has now dropped to .270).  The big issue for the Yankees all year has been injuries.  Jeter, Texeiria, Granderson, ARod and Youkilis have all missed the majority of the season.  Given the A-Rod distraction and the patchwork lineup, what this season has shown more than anything, is the talent of manager Joe Girardi.  Even with all this, they are still not out of the playoff race yet.  They are a long shot to make it but there is always that Yankees mystique.
First Half Grade: B+ (although the numbers don't reflect it this team has achieved better than could be expected with the number of players missing time.  It is not a playoff team but they should be proud of what they have accomplished with so little consistency).

Red Sox: 
I told you at the beginning of the year that any team could win this division but Boston was probably the least likely of all.  I told you that this was a rebuilding year but so far I have been completely wrong.  The Red Sox have led the division most of the season and have had somewhat surprising success.  Their offense is being led by Pedroia and Ortiz.  I had told you in the season preview that it was time for Jon Lester and Clay Bucholz to step up.  Fortunately for the Red Sox, both of them have.  There are two issues looming over the Red Sox: injuries and closer.  The team has seen Lackey, Lester and Bucholz struggle with injuries which could mean struggles in the late parts of the long season.  Their big pickup at the trade deadline was Jake Peavey who is amazing when healthy but rarely healthy.  The closer position is currently up in the air.  With Joel Hanrahan out Andrew Bailey was asked to fill the role but it did not work out.  Koji Uehara is currently the closer but how he will handle the rest of the year could define how this season ends for the Sox.
First Half Grade: A (Well above expectations but injuries could prove costly in the long season)

Last season the Orioles some how found a way to win.  Close games, extra innings, dramatic wins.  They did it all with a rotation that was never truly set.  I told you in the preview that this was not a formula that can work again and that the instability of the rotation was a reason the Orioles were unlikely to compete for the top spot again this year.  The Orioles have already used 14 starting pitchers, their closer is 3-7 and has not had the same success as last year, and Matt Wieters is struggling at the plate.  So they're in last place right?  Actually, thanks to Chris Davis, Adam Jones and Manny Machado the Orioles are only 2.5 behind the Wild Card and with the Red Sox injuries the Orioles are poised to make a charge.  I had told you not to expect too much from Manny Machado but I could not have possibly been more wrong.  Machado can seemingly do everything.  The absolute star of the season to this point is Chris Davis he leads the league in Home Runs and is already past the 100 RBI mark.  The lesson you should take away from all this:  Never question Buck Showalter EVER!
First Half Grade:  A (They are fighting for a Wild Card spot and if Wieters can find his swing this team is dangerous)

American League Central
In the preseason preview I told you that the division would look this way at the end of the season:  Tigers, Royals, Indians, White Sox, Twins.  The Tigers looked like they would run away with the division.  There are both surprises and disappointments in this division. Here is where my predictions stand:

The Tigers are now starting to break away from the rest of the division but the Indians hung around much longer than expected.  Detroit's offense is about where we thought it would be.  Although Prince Fielder is not on pace to be the MVP as I predicted, his numbers are strong.  On pace for the MVP award, however, is Miguel Cabrera.  Although he has fallen slightly behind Chris Davis in Home Runs, he is still in the running for a second straight Triple Crown and could be a serious threat to Hack Wilson's 190 RBI (or Hank Greenberg's 183 AL Record.  That's right.  I found another way to get Hank Greenberg into an article.)  Austin Jackson struggled through some injuries early but the combination of Jackson and Hunter at the top of the lineup has been a big part of the Tigers success.  Torii Hunter, although not putting up Cabrera type numbers, continues to be a positive influence on the team and should receive a few votes as MVP for his leadership.  The biggest pleasant surprise for the Tigers in Max Scherzer.  At 17-1 it would be hard to find a pitcher who deserves a vote ahead of Scherzer for the Cy Young at this point.  The big issue for the Tigers is closer.  They have already gone through several, including another attempt to get Jose Valverde back on track, but have yet to find an answer.  The results of their decision on who will close will decide their fate in history.
First Half  Grade:  B+ (the closer situation is the only thing keeping this team from being complete)

This had been a huge disappointment of a season until the All Star Break.  They certainly are not out of the playoff race and they have started to turn things around, but this team was in danger of falling by the wayside.  The Royals sent their top prospect, Wil Meyers, to Tampa Bay in exchange for Wade Davis and James Shields.  The Royals made an organizational decision that they were close to the playoffs and the pitching would put them over the top.  Although Shields and Davis have pitched relatively well the offense has not supported them, leading to average numbers.  Ervin Santana has pitched well but has not been enough to lead the Royals to the top of the division.  For the division preview I told you that the Royals success was dependent on their young players meeting their potential together.  The start of the season did not have anywhere near the results they expected leading to the firing of the Hitting Coach and replacing him with Royals legend George Brett.  Winning 16 of 18 has put them right back in the race for a Wild Card spot and possibly even the divison.  The Royals are still within striking distance but the bats will need to stay hot if they are going to make the playoffs.
First Half Grade: C (With the exception of the last month the Royals' offense has been very disappointing)

Indians:  Cleveland is a very interesting team.  Justin Masterson at 13-8 is the best pitcher on the team.  No other pitcher has more than 8 wins.  Ubaldo Jimenez has an ERA over 4.00 but has a winning record.  Mark Reynolds is tied for the team lead in Home Runs but is hitting .215, passed the 100 strikeout mark by the All Star Break and was just released.  The closer position has been in flux but Chris Perez has 17 saves.  Michael Bourn, Jason Kipnis and Drew Stubbs have been running all over the base paths but the team Home Run numbers are not particularly impressive.  What the Indians are doing is what good winning teams do.  They find ways to win without relying on the Home Run.  There is an old cliche that says "speed never slumps" and the way the Indians are playing they are using it to their advantage.  The Indians are definitely for real.  A four game sweep by the Tigers hurt but if they can get consistent pitching from Jimenez and the closer position the Tigers may have a season long competition.
First Half Grade: B+ (Terry Francona has this team playing well and believing they can win)

White Sox: My season preview told you that the White Sox might want to start looking at rebuilding.  I told you it would be tough for Tyler Flowers to fill the shoes of Pierzynski, that Dunn's numbers would come down, that Chris Sale would not have the same success as last year, that Jake Peavey needed to stay healthy and that Paul Konerko would be his normal spectacular self.  As of the end of June I can see that I was right on nearly all of these.  At the beginning of August, Dunn has  good power numbers but is hovering around .200 and over 100 strikeouts.  Chris Sale is only 7-11 but his ERA is good and his strikeout numbers are high.  Tyler Flowers is hitting near .200, has allowed 7 Passed Balls and has seen the White Sox pitchers make 23 Wild Pitches.  Finally, Konerko has been good for a normal human but below his normal superman numbers.  White Sox GM Ken Williams, who never admits defeat, has just about thrown in the towel and may be looking to start rebuilding by selling off some pieces.  This team sent Jake Peavey and Alex Rios away in trades making it clear that they are in the early stages of rebuilding.
First Half Grade: F (the White Sox are struggling badly and dealing with injuries in the pitching staff.  This team may look completely different by next season.)

Twins: I will start the Twins first half recap by saying simply this:  I was wrong.  I'm sorry.  The Twins are very similar to the Indians in many ways.  Their numbers are not eye catching.  They are not a team that anyone really looks at in the playoff picture but the Twins hung in contention much longer than expected.  At the end of June they were only 5.5 out of the Wild Card and 7 games behind Detroit.  Realistically they are not going to be a playoff team but they are definitely having a good, fun season.  Joe Mauer has come back healthy and is hitting like his old self.  Also, thankfully, Justin Morneau is having a good season.  His power numbers are not quite where the Twins want them but he has been playing consistently and his average is at .265.  We can only hope that Morneau has recovered from his health issues that have slowed him in the last few years.  Honestly, baseball in Minnesota is better with Morneau in the lineup (though he may end up as a season waiver trade).
First Half Grade:  C- (Much better than expected but still not a legitimate playoff contender).

American League West:
This division is the one that looks least like what I had expected  at the start of the season.  At the beginning of the year I told you it would look like this: Angels, Athletics, Mariners, Rangers, Astros.  I also told you that there would be a major separation between the Angels and the rest of the division.  Here's how my predictions are shaping up:

Angels:  The thing that I had mentioned could be their downfall has been.  Their pitching, especially the bullpen, has faltered.  The surprising thing is the lack of run production by the offense.  Josh Hamilton has had a horrible season, although he was starting to heat up at the end of June.  Pujols was dealing with a foot injury since opening day that slowed his production and now has ended the year prematurely.  In the preseason I wondered if this was the last chance for Joe Blanton.  His 2-10 record and 5.07 haven't helped his case at all and he has lost his spot in the rotation.  He seemingly pitches very well for the first four or five innings and then hits a poor stretch that does him in and Angels fans have voiced their displeasure.  Jared Weaver's injury and C.J. Wilson's performance below his normal quality, have hurt the Angels.  Jason Vargas, picked up from Seattle for Kendrys Morales, is injured and may not be back this season while Ryan Madson, signed to be the closer, still hasn't appeared in a game. Howie Kendrick injured his knee at the end of July and landed on the DL.  With all those negatives it would be hard to expect a team to stay in contention.  The Angels have fallen 13 games behind Oakland and 12 behind the Wild Card leader.  Without Pujols or Kendrick don't expect a miracle charge from the Angels. 
First Half Grade: F (they just can't seem to avoid beating themselves)

I have to start off this part the same way I did with the Twins.  I apologize to all A's fans for questioning the team's chances.  In the preview article I told you that the A's had lost too many people from last season and had not replaced them with reliable players.  I was clearly wrong on this.  Coco Crisp, Bartolo Colon and Brandon Moss are having great seasons and although Cespedes and Reddick's numbers don't reflect it the same way they did last season, they are making significant contributions to something special happening in Oakland.  The A's are once again fighting for the division lead.  Injuries, especially to Crisp have led to them falling off but they are still the favorite for this division.
First Half Grade: A (just like last year they are just finding a way to win)

Even more so than the A's and Twins, I was way off on my season prediction with Texas.  I told you in the season preview that the Rangers had little chance to make the playoffs.  By consistently losing key players, specifically Hamilton and Michael Young, and with reported in-house fighting, the Rangers looked to be a team on the verge of implosion.  The Rangers are getting great contributions from newcomers Justin Grimm and Leonys Martin as well as getting the normal contributions from Nelson Cruz, Adrian Beltre and Ian Kinsler.  Mitch Moreland is finally having the type of season the Rangers have expected of him.  Last season the Rangers got off to the same quick start but wilted down the stretch.  Keep an eye on Yu Darvish who is off to a great start but last year faltered badly in the second half.  Also keep an eye on the the offense as Nelson Cruz was among the players suspended for the rest of the season for PED use.  The Rangers lost a big part of their offense without Cruz.  They picked up Alex Rios from the White Sox but he may not be enough to replace Cruz.
First Half Grade:  B+ (There is still a long way to go in the season but so far the Rangers have certainly surprised me).

The Mariners are about where everyone thought they would be.  There was a slight possibility, if Texas and Oakland faltered, that the Mariners could surprise us but it hasn't happened.  Felix Hernandez has been strong and Hisashi Iwakuma has been a big surprise.  Injuries to Mike Morse and Franklin Gutierrez and no everyday player hitting as high as .280 as of the end of June, the Mariners have fallen into their normal position at the bottom of the division.  It would take a major turn around to see the Mariners make a jump into serious contention.
First Half Grade: D (this team had a chance to surprise us but the offense in the first half was dreadful)

Let's all be honest about this.  The Astros are a bad team right now.  The good news is they are not as bad, through the first half, as we thought they would be.  As of the end of June they were 17 games behind first place and 13 out of the Wild Card.  There are some strong performers on the team who make this a fun team to watch but there is only one truly great player on this team:  Jose Altuve.  Altuve is one of the best second basemen in the league but gets very little attention because of how bad the team is. 
First Half Grade: F (They are not as bad as we expected but they are a long way from good)

Updated postseason picks:
AL East:  Red Sox
AL Central: Tigers
AL West: Rangers
Wild Cards: Rays, Royals

Wild Card Round:  Royals over Rays (James Shields will beat his old team)
ALDS: Tigers over Rangers
ALDS: Red Sox over Royals
ALCS: Tigers over Red Sox

World Series: Dodgers over Tigers

Updated Awards picks:
MVP: Miguel Cabrera, Tigers
Cy Young: Max Scherzer, Tigers

There were no correct answers to last week's trivia question, although TJD did get half of the answer correct. Fred Lynn of the Red Sox won the MVP and Rookie of the Year award in 1975.  It would not happen again until 2001 when Ichiro Suzuki of the Seattle Mariners won both the Rookie of the Year and MVP award.
Max Scherzer of the Tigers should get plenty of votes for the Cy Young Award.  How many times prior to this season has a Tigers' Pitcher won the Cy Young Award?

Saturday, August 10, 2013

The Home Stretch 2013: National League

With just under two months left in the season we can clearly separate teams that are legitimate contenders from the teams that are playing out the string.  We can also start to see that some players we expected to be difference makers are having an average, below average or just horrible season.  Here is a review of where we stand so far this year in the National  League as well as a mid season report card on how my original predictions have helped prepare you for the season and how I have led you astray:

This division is the most disappointing division in the NL.  Heading into the season it looked like the Nationals and Braves would have a tight race to the finish with a slight chance that the Phillies would make a run.  It hasn't turned out that way at all.

Few teams have been more disappointing to this point in the season.  With Dan Haren, Wilson Ramos, Ross Detwiler, Strasburg and Harper all dealing with health issues and Jayson Werth struggling, the Nationals had to fight to reach .500 at the end of June.  Although they got off to a slow start and the Braves took off to a big lead out of the gate, the Nationals started to look better immediately before the All Star Break.  With Harper back for the start of July it appeared they may be poised to make a run.  It didn't happen.  They entered play on 8/10 15.5 behind the Braves and 9 out of the Wild Card.  A week ago I would have said it is not impossible for them to make a run but with the strength of the Reds and Pirates ahead of them and the continued poor play, it will be difficult.  At 9 games out their only hope is to get hot and for the Cardinals, who are starting to show signs of pitching problems, to collapse.
First Half Grade: D- (the injuries have hurt but below expectation performances have hurt worse)

The Braves started off 15-5 in their first 20 games and Justin Upton looked like he was on pace to have the greatest offensive season in history.  After their hot start the Braves cooled off quite a bit and allowed the Phillies and Nats to hang around.  A 14 game winning streak has allowed them to open a 15.5 game lead in the division and essentially wrap things up.  The big names (Justin and B.J. Upton and Jayson Heyward) have cooled off but the team is being led by Freddie Freeman, Chris Johnson and Evan Gattis.  I questioned the pitching at the start of the season but I was definitely wrong in that interpretation.  Tim Hudson and Kris Medlen have not had the spectacular season you would expect but Mike Minor has been a big surprise.  Tim Hudson will be out for the rest of the season so they will need to find a replacement.  The Braves are clearly a post season team but how their pitching staff will perform against other playoff teams will be the question.
First Half Grade:  A+ (The Braves have exceeded all expectation to this point and are starting to show signs of clicking on all cylinders.  Watch out for their starting pitching, especially now that Hudson is out).

In the preseason preview I told you that the Phillies were one of those teams that may get dismantled if they were not in the playoff race by July.  For whatever reason, although they are not in the playoff race and not playing well, the Phillies made no moves at the trade deadline, despite significant interest in Michael Young.  The Phillies have turned old before our eyes and the young players did not fit in the way they had hoped, although Dominic Brown is finally having the season the Phillies wanted from him for the last three years.  Couple that with the struggles of Cole Hamels and the injury to Halladay and this is not what we have come to expect from the Phillies over the last decade.  With the talent on this team they could probably have gotten plenty of prospects for a quick rebuilding process if they made some smart trades.  Apparently they decided to keep their core together for one more run next year, though the way they have played since the trade deadline must have them questioning their judgement.  The Phillies have fallen even farther out of the race since the trade deadline and have even fallen behind the Mets.
First Half Grade:  D (With Dominic Brown performing as they had hoped he would over the last few years, it is disappointing that the rest of the team is not matching his performance)

The Mets had one bright spot coming into the season: David Wright.  After the World Baseball Classic he was being called Captain America.  Then he got hurt before the season even started.  Then Johan Santana got hurt and it is questionable whether or not he will ever pitch again.  Then, late in June, Lucas Duda was placed on the DL.  Fortunately Wright has come back healthy and was one of the representatives at the All Star Game in New York.  The other representative, and starting pitcher, was Matt Harvey who became the best pitcher in the National League over the first half of the season.  Dylan Gee has been a big surprise in the starting rotation as well.  They are showing signs of improvement and are currently in third place in the disappointing division.  They are not a playoff team but with Harvey and Gee they may be moving in the right direction.
First Half Grade: D (they are threatening to actually improve themselves over the next few years)

The season started with the assumption that Giancarlo Stanton was auditioning for the trade deadline.  Instead he got hurt early and the expected big draw for Miami was out.  Since his return Stanton is hitting below .250 and his power numbers are well below expectations.  If the Marlins expected to use Stanton as bait to gain a ton of prospects they  must be disappointed.  Their pitching is horrible with no starting pitcher holding a winning record as of the end of June.  There is little to look forward to in the second half for Miami fans, except the start of the Dolphins training camp.
First Half Grade: F (this is a wasted year in Miami)

The thing you can never predict when making preseason predictions is injuries.  My preseason pick for the World Series champions have been destroyed by them.  This division is nothing like what I expected in March and April but the final month and a half looks like it will be a great race.

I picked Cincinnati to win everything this year.  Within the first week Johnny Cueto, Ryan Ludwick and Nick Masset all suffered injuries that was followed with missed time by Ryan Hannigan.  Since then Cueto has been on and off the DL and Jonathan Broxton has developed arm issues.  Even with their ace on the shelf the Reds are still holding one of the Wild Card spots, although the certainty of them making the postseason is slowly eroding.  The second half of the season last year was where the Reds got red hot and stormed to the best NL record.  This season does not look like it will end up the same way.  They are very pleasantly surprised with the pitching of Mike Leake and Homer Bailey but losing Cueto has been devastating.
First Half Grade: B- (Dealing with the number of injuries they have had, it is amazing they are still in a playoff spot).

I told you in the preseason predictions that the Pirates would make the postseason for the first time since 1992.  I thought they would be a good team but I had no idea that they would be this good.  At the end of July the Pirates held the best record in baseball and first place in the very close NL Central.  Even with A.J. Burnett and Wandy Rodriguez on the DL for most of June the Pirates are still clicking on all cylinders.  The Pirates have to be careful. The last two seasons the Pirates have entered the All Star Break in playoff contention and collapsed very quickly afterwards.  They will need to stay focused to avoid a third straight year, although they seem to be improving as the second half goes on so the collapse at this point would be shocking.  So far, Starling Marte and Andrew McCutcheon have been the leaders while Russell Martin has been a great addition.  Jason Grilli was quietly having a great season as their closer but is out for an unknown period.  Taking four out of five against the Cardinals to end July was a great step towards making sure they play in October but the Cardinals and Reds are not out of this yet.
First Half Grade: A+ (they are even better than anticipated)

Without Rafael Furcal at the top of the lineup and without Cris Carpenter in the rotation or Jason Motte in the bullpen I told you that the Cardinals would be an average team.  I was completely wrong.  The entire lineup is hitting led by Yadier Molina, who was having the best year of his great career until landing on the DL at the end of July  The rotation is being led by Wainwright along with Lance Lynn and Shelby Miller.  Meanwhile, Edward Mujica is having a great season as closer.  The Cardinals have needed a late season run the last two years to make the playoffs.  This season they are setting themselves up to make the playoffs early.  They are not set yet.  They lost four out of five to the Pirates at the end of July and Miller and Lynn have started to fall off a bit. (Miller left his last start after being hit on the elbow by a line drive so we will have to wait and see what happens there).  They will likely be a Wild Card but if their pitching continues to struggle they may need to fight off Arizona to make it.
First Half Grade:  A+  (even with major injuries the Cardinals are ahead of the strong Reds and hanging with the Pirates)

The Cubs are moving in the right direction for the future, although the first half numbers may not show it.  They definitely have a lot of young talent but some of them are struggling and trying to find their way.  Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo have potential to be stars in the league but will need to start making adjustments.  The Cubs are clearly not competing for a playoff spot this year but they are definitely looking forward to good things in the near future.  They made a strong statement by keeping their young players at the trade deadline instead of listening to offers for players like Samardzija.
First Half Grade:  C (They aren't great but they aren't terrible.  The second half will be where they take stock of what they have and start to look to improve for next year)

The big highlight for the Brewers in the first half of the season was Shortstop Jean Segura.  He has led the league or been near the top of the league in hitting since day 1.  Unfortunately, he has little support in the lineup.  The pitching has been a sore spot as well with Marco Estrada leading the team at 4-4 (although an ERA just under 5.00) and Kyle Lohse (7-7) equaling Estrada's winning percentage.  The Brewers are likely heading into a rebuilding mode.  The season took a bad turn for the Brewers when Ryan Braun was suspended.  Milwaukee will need to try to redefine itself without their franchise player.
First Half Grade:  F (The Brewers are only six games ahead of the Marlins for the worst record in the NL).

Suddenly this is one of the most interesting divisions in baseball (second only to the AL East).  The division was so tight heading into the All Star Break that anyone had a chance to win.  Since then the Dodgers and Diamondbacks have pulled away and Los Angeles is threatening to run away with the title.  Before the season I thought the standings would look like this: Giants, Dodgers, Padres, Diamondbacks, Rockies.  Here's how I was right and even more how I led you astray:

The Giants team has been built around clutch hitting and strong pitching.  So far this season the Giants' pitching has struggled.  Because of the poor performances of Zito and Lincecum (though to be fair Lincecum has occasional flashes of his old form) and the average start of Cain, the Giants are looking up from the basement.  Losing six in a row at the end of June, including a three game sweep by the Dodgers, didn't help.  To this point only Buster Posey, Madison Bumgarner and Marco Scutaro are performing up to expectations.  Sergio Romo has been good but has not been the sensation he was last year (he hasn't had the opportunities to shine that he had last year).  Overall, the team has not seemed to click the way they did last year and are just sort of coasting through the season.
First Half Grade:  F (few players have performed to expectations so far)

The team has had injuries to Kemp, Crawford, Kershaw, Billingsley, Greinke, Beckett, Capuano, Puig and Ramirez.  They have had disappointing results out of League and Jansen in the bullpen.  They have had a rotating lineup and despite the theory that they had 9 legitimate starting pitchers entering the season they somehow were short on pitching for most of the first half.  They have also had two bench clearing brawls against two separate division rivals and they've had to constantly defend Don Mattingly as their manager. Still, they are getting healthier and with Hanley Ramirez, Puig and Ryu leading the way the Dodgers have completely rebounded.  They cut Arizona's lead to five games at the end of June and were 4.5 games ahead at the start of August.  As bad as the first half was for the Dodgers they are still a legitimate contender and are looking to be improving as the season goes on.
First Half Grade: B- (They have struggled but are getting healthy.  The NL needs to look out for them in the last two months.  This group has a lot of fight in them and they aren't afraid to get dirty.)

The Padres were one of my picks for a potential surprise team before the season started but then Chase Headley got hurt, Carlos Quentin started World War III with the Dodgers and the pitching staff was shaky. Despite all that, the Padres were even at .500 at the end of June and had a chance to challenge for the division.  Since then they have fallen off at the same time the Dodgers caught fire and have fallen completely out of the race.
First Half Grade:  C- (They have fallen out of the race and have to decide how close they really are to being a contender in the near future)

In the season preview I told you that Paul Goldschmidt would need to step up to fill Upton's shoes if Arizona was going to compete.  Fortunately for them Goldschmidt has done just that with 27 Home Runs, including a walk off game winner on 8/9.  In addition to Goldschmidt, Patrick Corbin has been spectacular at 12-3.  The D-Backs got out to a fast start but have slowed lately allowing the red hot Dodgers to pass them. Despite a slow second half the team is still only 4.5 out of the Wild Card and 5.5 behind the Dodgers.  With the Cardinals experiencing pitching issues and the Dodgers winning at a pace that is unlikely to continue through the end of the season, Arizona could very easily become a playoff team.
First Half Grade:  B- (They are better than I anticipated but are a long way from a lock for the playoffs).

Of all the predictions I made preseason this is the one that was farthest off.  I predicted that the Rockies would be one of the worst teams in the league, out of contention by May and sending pieces of the team in all directions come July.  Instead, they got off to a fast start and were 2 games behind Arizona and 5 1/2 out of the Wild Card spot at the end of June.  Dexter Fowler, Carlos Gonzalez, Troy Tulowitzki and Michael Cuddyer are carrying the team's offense.  Jorge de la Rosa and Jhoulys Chacin are having strong seasons on the mound.  Losing 9 out of 10 to start the month has dropped them 12 games out of the Wild Card and 13 out of the division so it would take a miracle to climb back in the race but they definitely had a terrific season to this point.
First Half Grade: A (They are certainly way better than I would have anticipated.  The second half is looking much less successful).

Post Season Predictions updated for Second Half:
NL East: Braves
NL Central: Pirates
NL West: Dodgers
NL Wild Cards:  Reds, Diamondbacks

Updated Playoff Predictions:
Wild Card: Reds over Diamondbacks
NLDS: Dodgers over Braves
NLDS: Pirates over Reds
NLCS: Dodgers over Pirates

Updated Awards Pick:
MVP: Andrew McCutcheon, Pirates
Cy Young: Patrick Corbin, Diamondbacks

 Last year Mike Trout of the Angels won the Rookie of the Year and came very close to winning the MVP award.  This season Yasiel Puig of the Dodgers is probably the favorite for Rookie of the Year and should get quite a few votes for MVP as well.  The first Rookie of the Year Award winner was Jackie Robinson in 1947.  Since the introduction of the Rookie of the Year Award only two players have won the MVP and Rookie of the Year in the same season.  Who are they?
First, an apology.  I failed to congratulate TJD and Hope for their correct answers on the Hall of Fame article's trivia question. 
Last week's question was: How many combined MVP's did Carl Hubbell strike out in his 1934 All Star Game performance?  The answer was 6.  Ruth won the MVP in 1923.  Gehrig won the MVP in 1927 and 1936.  Jimmie Foxx won the award in 1932, 1933 and 1938.  Although there were only six awards there were chances for each of the five to win more.  For most of Ruth's career there was a rule in place that players could not win more than one MVP and the award was not given routinely until 1930.  Because of this rule Ruth only won one MVP (meaning the year he hit 60 Home Runs he received 0 votes for the award).  In addition, when Foxx won the MVP in 1933, the award very easily could have gone to Joe Cronin for his performance leading the Senators to the World Series as player/manager.  Simmons also could have won in 1929, 1930 or 1931 as the A's dominated the AL.  

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Who Did It Better?: You Decide

Before there was King Felix's reign in Seattle, King Carl ruled the Polo Grounds in New York.  Carl Hubbell was the dominant pitcher in either league in the 1930's, only Lefty Grove of the A's and Red Sox came close.  Hubbell started the second ever All Star game in his home stadium and faced a great collection of talent.  Of the nine players in the American League starting lineup (Charlie Gehringer (2B, Tigers), Heinie Manush (LF, Senators), Babe Ruth (RF, Yankees), Lou Gehrig (1B, Yankees), Jimmie Foxx (3B, Athletics), Al Simmons (CF, White Sox), Joe Cronin (SS, Senators), Bill Dickey (C, Yankees), Lefty Gomez (P, Yankees) all nine would end up in Cooperstown at the end of their career.  So would Hubbell, of course, but when a Hall of Fame player faces off against a Hall of Fame player someone has to win and someone has to lose. 

The game started off poorly for Hubbell.  It looked like he would be more of a pawn than a king in this game.  Charlie Gehringer led off the game with a single to center and took second when Hubbell's teammate, Wally Berger made an error.  Hubbell then walked Heinie Manush and there were two on with no one out and three of the greatest hitters the game has ever known coming up in a row.  Each one by themself would be enough to give a pitcher a heart attack.  All three of them in a row would be the stuff of nightmares.

First was Babe Ruth.    He had already hit 699 career Home Runs, including 13 so far this year and had hit one in the last game before the break (he also had a double and drove in 4 lifting his season average to .300 to end the first half).  He certainly was not threatening to hit 60 Home Runs this year but there was still lethal power in that bat and with two men on base Ruth was sure he could make an impact on the game.  Suddenly Hubbell's screwball started to work. He almost completely abandoned the fastball and curve. "The thing to do was, you might just show them those pitches but don't get anythng over the plate with the screwball."  Hubbell said. Hubbell threw five screwballs and Ruth struck out swinging.  As he walked back to the bench Lou Gehrig walked to the plate.  The two teammates were not exactly on speaking terms personally but this was professional and Ruth probably muttered something about watching out for that damn screwball catching the front corner of the plate.

Gehrig was at the top of his game and was definitely one of the most feared hitters in baseball.  Gehrig was on fire this year.  He came into the All Star Break with 21 doubles, 24 Home Runs, was hitting .367 and had driven in an almost unheard of 91 RBI just half way through the season.  If Ruth terrified a pitcher Gehrig would make most pitchers want to curl up in a ball and cry.  At least doing that would avoid the pain that was seemingly inevitable because if you don't throw the ball he can't hit it out of the park.  But Hubbell had to make a pitch at some point.  "Gehrig, if I can keep that ball down, keep those breaking balls down I can get him to hit the ball on the ground there's a chance for a double play and I can get out of the inning."  Gehrig ruined his plans.  Hubbell worked Gehrig and gained the advantage.  He had the best hitter of the year off balance and Gehrig went down swinging.  Manush and Gehringer pulled off a double steal moving the runners to second and third.  Hubbell didn't care.  The runners were meaningless right now.  Two outs and still two men on base.  Not just two outs but two straight strikeouts of two straight Hall of Fame players. 

Gehrig shook his head and headed back to the dugoout.  On the way back to the bench he passed the beast.  Jimmie Foxx, the big "Double X".  Gehrig may have told the two time reigning MVP in the absolute prime of one the greatest careers in history, swing away because if you catch hold of one it will go a long way.  In the days before weight training was an accepted part of the training for a baseball player Foxx's arms were gigantic.  They didn't make uniforms big enough for arms the size of sequoias so Foxx cut the sleeves.  He carried his 44 ounce bat up to the plate and was ready to take a few cuts at Hubbell's screwball.  Foxx swung away and tried to send one to the deepest parts of the Polo Grounds.  Instead, he let loose a cut that would have made the mighty Casey proud but hit only the air.  Strike three.  And three first ballot Hall of Fame players went down on strikes.  It was an amazing thing and it was only partly done. 

In the bottom of the first the National League got off to a fast start.  Frankie Frisch, the Fordham Flash and manager of the St.Louis Cardinals, led off the game with a Home Run to right field.  The next three batters went in order and Hubbell took the slow walk back out to the mound with a 1-0 lead. 

This was his park.  This was his crowd.  This was his home.  This was his mound.  He owned this place and he owned these batters.

Al Simmons stepped in, took a few practice cuts and prepared to swing away.  He was swinging a hot bat at .348 for the year with 58 RBI on the year but he had been stuck on 13 Home Runs for a week.  He faced off against Hubbell and followed the example of Ruth, Gehrig and Foxx before him.  He walked back to the dugout after swinging through strike three.

Up next was Joe Cronin.  The "boy wonder" manager of the Washington Senators.  The sporting world thought Senators owner Clark Griffith was  nuts when he decided to give Cronin the manager job at the start of the 1933 season but Cronin and Griffith laughed all the way to an American League pennant.  It would be the last trip to the postseason for Washington baseball until 2012.  Cronin was having a slightly off year so far, he came into the break hitting only .289, but he was still dangerous.  Hubbell took care of him with ease.  His fifth straight strike out of a fifth straight Hall of Fame member. 

The All Star Game was designed to display the best against the best to see who would create the most magical memories.  Hubbell created the first truly special All Star Game moment, one that is still considered among the great achievements in baseball history.  Hubbell's streak of strike outs would be broken when Bill Dickey, the Yankees catcher, hit a single in the at bat folllowing Cronin.  King Carl ended the second inning by striking out Lefty Gomez.

Hubbell pitched a total of three innings and faced 13 batters (all of them future Hall of Fame members) and struck out six of them.  He left the game with a 1-0 lead although Dodgers Pitcher Van Lingle Mungo would blow the save and take the loss in the game.  Leave it to a Dodger to ruin a Giant's big moment.

Nothing like this would happen again in an All Star Game for another 66 years.  The 1999 All Star Game was a celebration of the All Century Team and it took place at historic Fenway Park.  The pregame ceremony was one of the great moments in All Star history.  One by one legends poured onto the field:  Stan Musial, Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Frank Robinson and Ted Williams mingled with Tony Gwynn, Ken Griffey Jr and Cal Ripken.  The biggest moment of the night came when the game started. Pedro Martinez, like Hubbell in 1934, pitching in front of his home crowd started the game by striking out Barry Larkin (future Hall of Fame member), Larry Walker (fighting for a batting title), and Sammy Sosa (in the middle of another 60 Home Run season). 

His American League teammates scored twice in the first with RBI singles by Jim Thome and Cal Ripken and Pedro walked back out to the mound to face the most feared hitter in the game, Mark McGwire.  Like the last three, McGwire went down on strikes.  Four in a row.  One more and he would tie Hubbell's record. 

At the plate was Matt Williams.  He didn't give Martinez a chance to strike him out.  He grounded the first pitch to Roberto Alomar at second base and when Alomar couldn't handle it Williams was safe on an error.  Jeff Bagwell battled for six pitches and as Bagwell swung through the final pitch Williams was thrown out trying to steal for a double play.

Hubbell had struck out five straight Hall of Fame members in a row.  Martinez had struck out 5 of 6 batters at the prime of their careers.  There is a debate of which was more impressive.  Undoubtedly, Hubbell's was more impressive for several reasons:

1. The 1934 All Star Game was taken very seriously.  In recent years it has evolved into a friendly exhibition but there were still very deep seated hard feelings between the leagues in 1934.  When Hubbell accomplished his feat the batters were not up there swinging for the fences to launch a tape measure Home Run.  These batters were trying to win a game. 

2. A strike out now is accepted and almost expected of a big power hitter, whereas, at the time of Hubbell's accomplishment a strikeout was much less acceptable.  In the entire 1934 season Ruth would strike out 63 times, Gehrig only 31, Foxx 75, Al Simmons 58 and Cronin 28.  By comparison, in the complete 1999 season Larkin would strike out 57 times, Walker 52 times (these two are comparable to Cronin, Gehrig, Ruth and Simmons), Sosa 171 times, McGwire 141 times and Bagwell 127 times. 

3. Bagwell struck out but he swung at a pitch he never would have normally considered swinging at.  With Williams on base the hit and run was put on.  When Williams, not a strong base stealer, took off for second Bagwell had to try to make contact no matter what.  If he didn't Williams would be hung out to dry for sure.  Bagwell swung through a pitch well outside the strike zone that he desperately was trying to foul off.

4. The overall format of the league was different in 1934.  There was still a lot of animosity between the leagues (the baseball wars had only ended about 30 years before and wounds were still fresh.  Because of the animosity between the leagues it was less common (though not unheard of) to have trades between American and National League teams.  This was long before free agency so players were not choosing what team they wanted to sign with every few years and it was before interleague play so the only chance anyone from one league had to face someone from the other league was in the World Series.  Hubbell had never faced most of these batters before (he had faced Cronin the year before in the World Series) so Hubbell had to learn what they liked to hit quickly.  Martinez had been in the National League for several years before moving on to Boston.  He had faced these batters in his National League seasons and also faced some of them in Interleague Play on an almost yearly basis.  Martinez knew these hitters and knew what they liked and where they liked it making Hubbell's feat even more amazing.

Clearly based on these statistics and the over all philosophical approach to the game at the time of Hubbell's accomplishment, his is the better of the two.

Of the five players struck out by Pedro Martinez in the 1999 All Star Game there was a combined total of four MVP's (Barry Larkin (1995), Larry Walker (1997), Sammy Sosa (1998), Mark McGwire (none) and Jeff Bagwell  (1994) among them.  Of the five players struck out by Carl Hubbell (Lou Gehrig, Babe Ruth, Jimmie Foxx, Al Simmons and Joe Cronin) how many combined MVP's were there in the group?

The innaugural class of Hall of Fame inductees were elected in 1936 and comprised six members:
Honus Wagner (SS)
Babe Ruth (OF)
Christy Mathewson (P)
Walter Johnson (P)
Ty Cobb (OF)
No player has ever received a 100% vote for the Hall of Fame (shockingly there were apparently some writers who felt these five were not Hall of Fame players).  Ruth and Wagner appeared on identical 95.1% of the ballots.  Christy Mathewson appeared on 90.7, Johnson 83.6 and Cobb 98.2.  There has been a tradition among sports writers that because none of these all time greats received a 100% vote, no player will ever receive 100%.  Because of this tradition players like DiMaggio, Mays, Jackie Robinson, Tony Gwynn (and any other player you can name who would define a Hall of Fame player) did not receive a 100% vote on the Hall of Fame ballot.