Thursday, August 16, 2007
Updated: August 17, 10:44 AM ET
Don't forget about these remarkable performances
By Jayson Stark
It has already been a great year to be a historian. Or at least it's been a better year to be a historian than to be, say, Neifi Perez.
Well, historic homer No. 756 may have come and gone. But that doesn't mean there isn't lots of cool history out there that could still be made. It's just that Barry Bonds won't be the fellow making it. Anybody complaining about that?
So what big feats are out there on the horizon, you ask? You're about to find out. Let's take a look at five that have dodged the radar screen so far:
The 150-150 Club
When we focus on Alex Rodriguez's stupendous season, it's funny how we tend to zero in on all those home runs he hits -- as opposed to the part of his season that's really historic.
So what's that part? It took loyal reader Aaron Byrd-Leitner to point it out to us, but it's quite a feat. Here we are, with only a month and a half to go, and A-Rod is still just about on pace to join a group that hasn't held a meeting in more than half a century:
The 150-150 Club.
That's 150 RBIs and 150 runs scored in the same season. Through Wednesday, A-Rod's numbers projected to 155 RBIs and 146 runs over a full season. So with just a minor spurt in run-scoring, he can cash that 150-150 daily-double ticket. And not to suggest it's been a while since anyone has collected on one of those tickets -- but all of the players in history who have ever done it aren't exactly alive at the present time.
Who was the last man to go 150-150? Ted Williams in 1949 (159 RBIs, 150 runs).
And here's the group before the Splinter: Babe Ruth (three times), Lou Gehrig (twice), Joe DiMaggio, Jimmie Foxx, Al Simmons and Chuck Klein. And that's it. Whew. Not what you'd call an anonymous group.
Run production is what men like A-Rod are paid for. And if he's outproducing the entire population of living baseball players, past and present, he can probably cash his next few paychecks with a clear conscience. Now if he can just get himself proclaimed an official True Yankee
2007 Season Stats
The 50-50 Club
One of the sharpest scouting minds we know was talking the other day about Marlins shortstop Hanley Ramirez -- and uttered a sentence we can't get out of our heads:
"Other than Alex Rodriguez," he said, "Hanley Ramirez may be the best all-around player in the game."
Yes, sir. He really said that. About Hanley Ramirez.
Now if we posed that question to most of America -- "Who's the best all-around player in the game not named A-Rod?" -- how many answers do you think we'd hear before Ramirez made it into the conversation? Sheez, for that matter, how many other shortstops do you think we'd hear before Ramirez made it into the conversation? He sure wouldn't be the first name uttered. We can all agree on that, right?
But maybe, if Ramirez completes his journey to the 50-50 Club room between now and October, that conversation could change a bit.
This particular 50-50 Club -- 50 stolen bases, 50 doubles -- is about as exclusive a group as you'll run across. OK, it's not as exclusive as the 511 Win Club, but it's close.
Craig Biggio (50 SBs, 51 doubles in 1997) is one member. To find another, you have to power up the way-back machine all the way to 1912, to drag in Tris Speaker (52 SBs, 53 doubles). But that's the entire membership -- just those two.
Ramirez actually missed joining them by only four doubles last year, as a rookie. And now he's charging in that direction again. Through Wednesday, he was on pace for 51 steals and 48 doubles. So only one extra gapper every three weeks would get him there.
Brian Roberts, incidentally, also has a shot. He currently projects to 47 doubles and 50 steals, so we wouldn't want to leave him out of this opus. But while Roberts is clearly as underrated as any second baseman around, it's Ramirez who appears destined to become one of the biggest stars in this sport.
Earlier this season, another scout predicted this guy could become "an all-time great." So pay attention. This march to history just might not be the last for Hanley Ramirez.
2007 Season Stats
The 20-20-20-20 Club
Curtis Granderson and Jimmy Rollins might not be the two most conventional leadoff hitters in baseball. But we're finding out this season that that's actually a good thing.
Granderson led the league in strikeouts last season. But so what? Rollins has never walked 60 times in any season. Big deal. They both offer other attributes that compensate nicely for the portions of their games that might not fit the "Brett Butler Theoretically Prototype Leadoff Hitter Handbook."
For one thing, Rollins and Granderson top all leadoff men in baseball in runs scored -- which is a helpful talent for a leadoff hitter. But a big reason they score all those runs is because they make an impact on the game in so many different ways -- potentially historic ways, in fact.
The 20-Double, 20-Triple, 20-Homer, 20-Steal Club has been reached by only two players in the history of baseball. One was a man whose nickname suggests he was destined to be a 20-20-20-20 guy -- the immortal Wildfire Schulte in 1911. The other was a fellow named Willie Mays (1957). Well, somebody had better send those guys an IM -- because company appears to be coming.
Rollins is not only on pace to join that club -- he's practically there right now. He already has blown by 20 doubles, 20 homers and 20 steals. So all he needs is five more triples in his final 42 games, and he's in. Considering he spewed out four in seven games a couple of weeks ago, we like his chances.
Granderson, on the other hand, still needs one triple, four homers and six stolen bases. So he has a lot of churning on those bases to do. But it sure is funny how it's Grady Sizemore who makes those Sports Illustrated covers, while the AL Central leadoff man who is currently fourth in the league in slugging happens to be Granderson, not Sizemore.
"When you're talking about players like Rollins and Granderson, that's the wave of the future, man," said one scout. "That's the speed-power package we're all looking for."
Yep. Too bad you only find that package about once a century.
|Jimmy Rollins is on pace this year to rack up 86 extra-base hits. Can you name the only two shortstops in history who have ever gotten more extra-base hits in a season? (Answer later.)
The 0-for-162 Club
Before we let Granderson leave the room, we have to alert you that he has his eye on more than just that 20-20-20-20 vision.
How many times has Granderson grounded into a double play this season? That would be, well, none. In 507 trips to the plate and 459 official at-bats.
So he's a month and a half away from accomplishing something that has been done by only one other player -- and by no American Leaguers -- in the division-play era: making it through an entire 162-game season without a GIDP. Only Biggio (zero GIDP in 619 ABs in 1997) has gone un-doubled through a full season in all those years.
All Granderson has to do is keep heading for home plate at his current rate, by the way, and he also would accumulate more at-bats (627) this season without a double-play ball than any hitter since GIDPs became an official stat in 1939.
So can he do it? Remember, we're talking about a guy who, as we might have mentioned, can really motor, who mashes a slew of doubles, triples and homers -- and who strikes out about as often (112 times) as he hits a ground ball (119 times). So if you could design the perfect human to avoid getting mired in GIDP-dom, you might just design him.
Our only question, then, is this: What should the Tigers give him if he makes it through the season without getting doubled up? A double cheeseburger?
2007 Season Stats
The 0.80 Club
If we told you there was a relief pitcher out there who was on the verge of compiling the lowest ERA by any National Leaguer in history (60 innings or more), who would you guess that might be?
Billy Wagner? Trevor Hoffman? Takashi Saito?
Nope. Wrong. Wrong. And wrong again.
Would you believe Kevin Cameron?
Naaaah, he's not the guy who directed "Titanic." He's actually a rookie Rule 5 pick who has been hanging out in the Padres' bullpen all season -- and compiling a spiffy 0.80 ERA, which computes to five runs (four earned) all season, in 33 appearances.
If the Padres keep using Cameron at his current, carefully plotted rate, he would wind up pitching 60 innings this season. And if he does, while keeping that bagel lodged in front of his ERA, he's on pace to break a record that has stood since the Woodrow Wilson administration -- when Ferdie Schupp racked up a 0.90 ERA for John McGraw's 1916 Giants.
Matter of fact, if Cameron throws another 16 straight scoreless innings, he could even take a run at Dennis Eckersley's all-time single-season ERA record of 0.61, for the 1990 A's.
And if he breaks either of those records, that's just the beginning. Heck, then we might even be able to find 10 or 12 living Americans who could distinguish him from Mike Cameron, James Cameron, Cameron Diaz or the president of Cameroon.
San Diego Padres
2007 Season Stats
July may be in our rearview mirror, but the hunt for bodies to trade for goes on -- not real successfully, but it goes on nonetheless. "We've been watching the waiver wire with bated interest," said an executive of one team. "But nobody is letting any pitching worth a [hoot] get through." As always, we've been trying to maintain a list of players who have made it through waivers this month -- and those who haven't. Since hundreds of players have hit the waiver wire, we're confining this extremely partial list to players whose names were filling up Rumor Central before the trade deadline:
Pitchers who have cleared: Steve Trachsel, Jose Contreras, Josh Towers, Odalis Perez.
Position players who have cleared: Troy Glaus, Jack Wilson, Pat Burrell, Dmitri Young, Omar Vizquel, Jeff Conine, Mike Piazza, Wily Mo Pena, Jason Lane.
Pitchers who were claimed and withdrawn: Jon Garland, Javier Vazquez, Dan Wheeler, Chad Qualls, David Riske, Kei Igawa, Matt Thornton.
Position players who were claimed and withdrawn: Miguel Tejada, Mark Loretta, Jacque Jones, Scott Hatteberg, Richie Sexson, Mike Lamb, Corey Patterson.
Ready to rumble
• Barry Bonds may be saying (this week) that he wants to play only in San Francisco next season, but don't bet your copy of "Game of Shadows" that he'll get that wish. Giants officials, coaches and even players have been telling their friends all over the sport they have to nudge Barry out the door next year. "It's not just about the team," said one NL executive who has gotten an earful from the Giants' brass. "It's about the perception of the team. All you ever see, or hear about, is him." And don't think it's only the front office that feels that way. "We're like the E Street Band," quipped one Giants player recently. "Nobody even knows the rest of us are here."
• We're still being told that Ichiro Suzuki's contract extension in Seattle had no connection with the resignation of Mike Hargrove as manager. But not many people in baseball seem to believe that. Ichiro's teammates have told their buddies that his issues with Hargrove went deeper than anyone has ever let on publicly. And it appears that the Mariners' No. 1 attraction was very close to deciding in midseason that if Hargrove was back next year, he wouldn't be. But Ichiro is "very close" to new manager John McLaren, said one hooked-in baseball man, and McLaren has made it a point to build that relationship. So when asked if there was a direct link between Ichiro's extension and the Hargrove/McLaren managerial flip-flop, the same baseball man replied: "Absolutely. I don't have any doubt it's connected."
• So who's the National League Manager of the Year? Bob Melvin? Lou Piniella? Charlie Manuel? They've all injected themselves into the conversation. But one scout says: "They're all the runners-up. The manager of the year is [Washington's] Manny Acta. Look back on everybody's projection for that team. Look at the quality of their rotation, the patchwork staff and all the high-maintenance guys on that club. Now look at how hard they're playing, how seamless it's all been and that it's all being done in less-than-ideal conditions in that ballpark. That's your manager of the year." If Joe Girardi won that award last season based on how his team played after it bottomed out in May, there isn't much difference between Girardi's case and Acta's, is there? Over the Nationals' past 75 games, they have a better record than the Mets.
• We're not sure Manuel has much of a shot at being Manager of the Year, but there's now more of a chance the Phillies will bring him back than anyone expected. "That club is really growing on me," one scout said. "Charlie has done a great job, despite what their fans think. That team has the best makeup of any club in that division, even with all the injuries they've had. And that's a tribute to the manager."
MLB needs to do one of two things with its amateur draft, in the wake of No. 27 pick Rick Porcello's $7.3 million contract with the Tigers, coming out of (gulp) high school. Either it's time to negotiate a system of formal slotting for draft-pick bonuses -- a concept big league players would heartily endorse, incidentally -- or it's time to bag the draft completely. But doing it this way, and allowing the Scott Borases of the agent world to manipulate the system at will, is pointless. "We're inviting suicide with this thing," grumbled one scouting director. "After the way this went down, nobody is going to sign before Aug. 15 next year. They'll all hold out."
MLB did its best to shove its unofficial slotting system down the pipes of clubs and agents. But it was obvious way back on draft day that teams like the Tigers, Yankees and even the Devil Rays had no intention of playing along if it meant not signing their picks. And that left scouting directors all over the sport unhappy, whether their teams were playing along with the system or not. "Either there is a rule, or there isn't," said an official of one club. "Once the Tigers went over the slot, it was basically all over. You can't have a rule that's selective. Either you have one or not." Instead of lecturing the teams that did what they had to do, MLB officials ought to second-guess each
other for not attempting to negotiate a formal slotting system into the new labor deal.
So was Porcello worth the money? "He's good," said one scouting director. "But I don't think he's that good. He's not [Joel] Zumaya or [Justin] Verlander. Let's put it that way. He doesn't have that kind of breaking ball." But another longtime scouting director disagreed (kind of), saying: "This kid is as good as Josh Beckett was coming out of high school. But does that mean he's worth it? I don't know. I thought Matt White [signed by Tampa Bay a decade ago for $10 million] was the best high school pitcher I'd ever seen. And he never threw a pitch in the big leagues."
• Can someone explain why the Tigers and Yankees weren't scheduled to play a single game against each other before Aug. 16 -- and then will have their entire eight-game season series crammed into the next 12 days? As challenging as it may be to fit this schedule into a six-month maze, shouldn't it be a priority for teams to have their matchups more spaced out than that? The Blue Jays played all six of their games against the Tigers between Opening Day and April 15. How much healthier was that Tigers team than this one? And playing the Yankees in May bore zero resemblance to playing them now. Just because it's logistically easier to squish those home-and-home series together doesn't make it better for competitive balance.
• The Yankees continue to say they haven't ruled out the idea of phenom Joba Chamberlain's heading back to the rotation next year. But one scout says that if they want Chamberlain to make an impact in the big leagues anytime soon, that's a lousy idea. "I saw him twice [in the minor leagues] this year, and he wasn't ready to pitch in the big leagues as a starter," the scout said. "But in the 'pen, it looks like he has the mentality to relish the closer's role, or to be what Mariano [Rivera] used to be for [John] Wetteland. He's pretty impressive in the eighth inning right now. And that team is going to need another closer sometime. Mariano isn't going to pitch until he's 50, is he?"
• It's increasingly clear the Twins aren't going to re-enact their 2006 miracle this season. But one AL executive says nobody should be misled by the way this season has short-circuited. "That team should be really good next year," he said. "They'll get [Francisco] Liriano back. Matt Garza is a stud. [Kevin] Slowey is really good. [Scott] Baker is solid. And I'm assuming they'll have Johan [Santana] back. Who's got a better [rotation] than that? So if I were picking the American League Central for next year right now, I'd probably pick them."
• And finally, here's our injury of the week: Marlins manager Fredi Gonzalez had to be treated by the trainer for a bloody nose after slamming face-first into the glass door of a New York City Starbucks last weekend. After the bleeding stopped, Gonzalez went back to inspect the damage. "The coffee was still on the glass," he told the Palm Beach Post's Joe Capozzi. "And you could see my noseprint." Needless to say, that's not what they mean when they say, "Wake up and smell the coffee."
|Alex Rodriguez (91 in 1996, 87 in 2001) and Robin Yount (87 in 1982)
Headliner of the week
From the Chicago sports-parody Web site, theheckler.com:
"Contreras' wife awarded 10 mph on fastball in divorce settlement"
Jayson Stark is a senior writer for ESPN.com. His new book, "The Stark Truth: The Most Overrated and Underrated Players in Baseball History," has been published by Triumph Books and is now available in bookstores. Click here to order a copy.