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Sports Then and Now



2022 Baseball Hall of Fame Inductions: Better Late Than Never 1

Posted on July 24, 2022 by Dean Hybl

The 2022 Baseball Hall of Fame induction class is quite interesting as it includes a recent star with a questionable history and then several greats from past eras who waited far too long for Hall of Fame induction.

Minnie Minoso is among the seven inductees into the Baseball Hall of Fame for 2022.

Based on career numbers and post season success, there seems little doubt that David Ortiz has the credentials to enter the Baseball Hall of Fame. However, given that many other greats from recent eras with similar association with the steroid era have been shunned by the Hall of Fame electorate, it seems a bit odd (and perhaps hypocritical) that Ortiz is being inducted in his first year of eligibility.

It seems clear that the reason Ortiz is being inducted in the same year that Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens roll off the ballot after a decade of receiving below the voter threshold is related almost totally to likeability. Even before they became the poster boys for the steroid era, Clemens and Bonds were seen as surly and self-absorbed. They were unquestionably among the top talents of their era, but that was not enough for either of them. When their bodies started the natural breakdown associated with baseball players in their 30s, they fought back with banned substances and ultimately posted otherworld numbers into their 40s.

The career of Ortiz is quite different. He was an inconsistent power-hitter in six seasons with the Minnesota Twins. In 2002 he posted career-high numbers in home runs (20), RBI (75), Slugging Percentage (.500) and OPS (.839), but still struggled against left-handed pitchers (.203 average, .637 OPS) and was released following the season in a cost-cutting measure.

As they say, “the rest is history”. Ortiz signed with the Boston Red Sox as a free agent in December 2002 and quickly became a key component of the most successful era of Boston Red Sox baseball in 100 years. He helped the Red Sox break the Curse of the Bambino by winning the 2004 World Series and ultimately won three World Series rings with the Red Sox.

Ortiz was one of the most consistent sluggers in baseball from 2003 until his retirement in 2016. He averaged 34.5 home runs and 109 RBI in 14 seasons with the Red Sox.

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Hall of Famer Tony Oliva 0

Posted on July 17, 2022 by Dean Hybl
Tony Oliva

After waiting for 45 years after his retirement, the Sports Then and Now Vintage Athlete of the Month is finally taking his rightful place as a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Before injuries cut short his Hall of Fame worthy career, Tony Oliva was one of the best hitters in baseball and combined with Hall of Famers Rod Carew and Harmen Killebrew to make the Minnesota Twins a perennial American League contender during the late 1960s.

Discovered on the baseball fields of Cuba by a Minnesota Twin scout, Oliva came to the United States in 1961 and within three years the American League Rookie of the Year. There have been many great MLB players from Cuba, including a new generation of stars today, but it is hard to argue that there has been a better player from the island in MLB than Oliva.

Read the rest of this entry →

Early Wynn: 300 Game Winner 0

Posted on August 01, 2020 by Dean Hybl
Early Wynn

The Sports Then and Now Vintage Athlete of the Month pitched in four decades, was a veteran of World War II and is one of only two pitchers to finish with exactly 300 career victories.

Hall of Famer Early Wynn began his career as a 19-year old in 1939 by pitching three games for the Washington Senators. After spending the 1940 season in the minors, he went 3-1 with a 1.58 ERA in a brief stint in the majors in 1941.

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Wake Up Baseball Fans – WAR is Fake and Meaningless 3

Posted on July 28, 2018 by Dean Hybl

Mike Trout is a great player, but sabermetrics thinks he is one of the greatest of all-time.

Mike Trout is a great player, but sabermetrics thinks he is one of the greatest of all-time.

As a baseball fan who has been paying attention to baseball stats since the early 1970s when my primary motivation to learn to read was so I could read the statistics on the back of baseball cards, I have reached my limit with those baseball “stat geeks” who have taken the game I love and turned it into a mathematical equation that seems more designed to show how smart they are rather than really identifying who the best baseball players are.

I started reaching my limit over the last several years when the sabermetrics craze has minimized some baseball greats while pushing others to a higher level, regardless of what their real statistics say.

The greatest example of this is Los Angeles Angels star Mike Trout. If you judge baseball based simply on sabermetrics, you will likely try to argue that he is the greatest baseball player since Babe Ruth, heck, maybe even better.

Now, don’t get me wrong, Mike Trout is a great player, but I am not yet ready to consider him in the same conversation as some of the all-time greats.

Earlier this year, there was an article claiming that Trout was on his way to having the greatest single season in baseball since Ruth. That sounds amazing, but at the time he was hitting .below .300 and was not ranked among the league leaders in home runs or runs batted in.

What the sabermetrics folks have done is change the definition of what is considered important in judging the success and greatness of a baseball player.

For generations, batting average, home runs, extra base hits and runs batted in were the primary stats used to judge greatness. Heck, those were most of the stats listed on baseball cards when I was growing up. Secondary to those would be things like runs scored, on base percentage and slugging percentage.

Beginning in the mid-1980s with the publication of Bill James Baseball Abstract and continuing at a greater pace as fantasy baseball (originally known as rotisserie baseball) started building in popularity, there has been a growing desire among some baseball fans to look at the value of players in different ways.

Bill James originally devised the idea of “win shares” and that concept has been taken to a greater extent through sabermetrics with what is now considered by some baseball fans as “THE” measurement statistic of a player’s value known as WAR (Wins Above Replacement).

While I am not going to pretend to know enough about WAR to explain how it is computed, it is very clear that at some level WAR is designed to reward players who do more than just get base hits, drive in runs and hit home runs. Players who score well in WAR tend to get on base a lot, score runs and are quality defensive players.

In 2012 there was quite an uproar when the old school baseball definition of greatness clashed head-on with the new school definition of value for the American League Most Valuable Player Award.

At first glance, the 2012 AL MVP voting should have been a “no brainer”. Detroit Tigers slugger Miguel Cabrera had an amazing season in becoming the first American Leaguer since Carl Yastrzemski in 1967 to win the triple crown (lead the league in home runs, batting average and RBIs). Read the rest of this entry →

Time to Put Luis Tiant in the Baseball Hall of Fame 2

Posted on July 26, 2015 by Dean Hybl

Luis Tiant won 229 games during his Major League career.

Luis Tiant won 229 games during his Major League career.

With the induction this weekend of John Smoltz, Pedro Martinez and Randy Johnson to the Baseball Hall of Fame the committee has again sent a mixed message about what constitutes a Hall of Fame pitcher.

Johnson completed his career with 303 wins to rank 22nd all-time, but neither Martinez or Smoltz rank in the top 75 in career pitching victories. With 219 career wins, Martinez is tied for 76th in baseball history. Smoltz completed his career with 213 wins to rank tied for 89th.

Of course, the argument for both Martinez and Smoltz is that at their best, they were elite pitchers and worthy of Hall of Fame recognition.

While that argument can certainly be justified for Martinez, the numbers don’t quite work out that way for Smoltz.

Using the six seasons in which they won the most games as a benchmark, Martinez averaged a 19-6 record with a 2.28 ERA and 270 strikeouts. The average numbers for Smoltz were a 17-9 record with a 3.14 ERA and 221 strikeouts. Just as comparison, Johnson’s six top seasons averaged 20-7 with a 2.72 ERA and 330 strikeouts.

The numbers for Martinez and Johnson are comparable to many Hall of Famers, but the peak year stats for Smoltz appear rather pedestrian and are not especially better than those of several pitchers with comparable career numbers, but no Hall of Fame plaque.

One pitcher who has received increased support for the Hall of Fame in recent years, but has yet to earn his spot in Cooperstown is former Boston Red Sox great Luis Tiant.

During his 19 year major league career, Tiant posted a 229-172 record (.571 winning percentage) with a 3.30 ERA and 2416 strikeouts. His win total is greater than that of 23 Hall of Famers, including not only Martinez and Smoltz, but also Jim Bunning, Catfish Hunter, Don Drysdale, Bob Lemon and Sandy Koufax. Read the rest of this entry →

Remembering “Mr. Cub” Ernie Banks 1

Posted on January 24, 2015 by Dean Hybl

"Mr. Cub" Ernie Banks has passed away at the age of 83.

“Mr. Cub” Ernie Banks has passed away at the age of 83.

The baseball world lost a legend with the passing Friday of Hall of Famer Ernie Banks at the age of 83.

Though “Mr. Cub” was most associated with the team for which he played his entire 19 year career, for fans outside of Chicago he is likely best remembered for his famous line “Let’s play two”, which epitomized his love for the game and acceptance as one of the superstars of the first full decade in which African-Americans played in the major leagues.

Since it has been 44 years since his retirement and 56 years since he was the dominant player, and back-to-back MVP winner, in baseball, it is easy to forget just how great a player Banks was.

After a stint in the U.S. Army and time with the Kansas City Monarchs of the Negro American League, his contract was sold to the Chicago Cubs in 1953 and he made his major league debut late that season. The lanky 6-foot-1, 180 pound shortstop moved into Wrigley Field for good in 1954. He finished second to Wally Moon (Hank Aaron was fourth) in the Rookie of the Year voting as he hit .275 with 19 home runs and 79 RBI.

Many like to point to Cal Ripken Jr. as the pioneer of the power hitting shortstops, but Banks was blasting long balls while anchoring the Chicago infield three decades before Ripken entered the league. He blasted 44 home runs in 1955 to set a new record for shortstops in a season, but eclipsed that mark in 1958 when he led the league with 47 home runs and 129 RBI to win his first MVP award.

He followed that up with another monster year in 1959 (45 HR, 143 RBI) to win his second straight MVP award. In 1960 he claimed his second home run title as he hit 41 home runs with 117 RBI. He also won the Gold Glove award for his fielding prowess at shortstop.

Though Banks was just 29 and would play for another decade, he would never again reach such illustrious power numbers. Read the rest of this entry →

  • Vintage Athlete of the Month

    • Hall of Famer Tony Oliva
      July 17, 2022 | 2:15 pm
      Tony Oliva

      After waiting for 45 years after his retirement, the Sports Then and Now Vintage Athlete of the Month is finally taking his rightful place as a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame.

      Before injuries cut short his Hall of Fame worthy career, Tony Oliva was one of the best hitters in baseball and combined with Hall of Famers Rod Carew and Harmen Killebrew to make the Minnesota Twins a perennial American League contender during the late 1960s.

      Discovered on the baseball fields of Cuba by a Minnesota Twin scout, Oliva came to the United States in 1961 and within three years the American League Rookie of the Year. There have been many great MLB players from Cuba, including a new generation of stars today, but it is hard to argue that there has been a better player from the island in MLB than Oliva.

      Read more »

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