Thursday, July 25, 2013

Personal Hall of Fame, Part 2: Deadball Era

This is the second in a series of six posts where I'm revealing my personal Hall of Fame one era at a time.

I've determined era based on when each player's star shined the brightest—although in marginal cases, I've assigned some players based on where they fit best due to the all-era teams format—but their entire careers provide the basis for selection, rather than just time spent in a specific era.

My personal Hall consists exclusively of players (no managers, executives, pioneers or umpires) based on their careers in Major League Baseball only.

For a more complete explanation of this series and for my 19th century inductees, please see Part 1.

An * denotes an actual Hall of Famer.

All-Deadball Era Team/Personal Hall Inductees (1900-1919)

C - Roger Bresnahan* (1897, 1900-1915)
1B - George Sisler* (1915-1922, 1924-1930)
2B - Eddie Collins* (1906-1930)
SS - Honus Wagner* (1897-1917)
3B - Frank Baker* (1908-1914, 1916-1919, 1921-1922)
LF - Joe Jackson (1908-1920)
CF - Ty Cobb* (1905-1928)
RF - Sam Crawford* (1899-1917)
P - Walter Johnson* (1907-1927)
P - Christy Mathewson* (1900-1916)
P - Pete Alexander* (1911-1930)
P - Eddie Plank* (1901-1917)

C - Wally Schang (1913-1931)
1B - Frank Chance* (1898-1914)
2B - Nap Lajoie* (1896-1916)
SS - Bobby Wallace* (1894-1918)
SS - Bill Dahlen (1891-1911)
SS - Joe Tinker* (1902-1916)
3B - Jimmy Collins* (1895-1908)
3B - Heinie Groh (1912-1927)
LF - Fred Clarke* (1894-1911, 1913-1915)
LF - Zack Wheat* (1909-1927)
LF - Sherry Magee (1904-1919)
CF - Tris Speaker* (1907-1928)
CF - Max Carey* (1910-1929)
RF - Elmer Flick* (1898-1910)
P - Ed Walsh* (1904-1917)
P - Vic Willis* (1898-1910)
P - Rube Waddell* (1897, 1899-1910)
P - Mordecai Brown* (1903-1916)
P - Addie Joss* (1902-1910)
P - Joe McGinnity* (1899-1908)
P - Eddie Cicotte (1905, 1908-1920)

While seven of my 30 19th-century inductees were players not in the actual Hall, only five of 32 here fit that description. Another thing worth noting is 30 is not necessarily my magic number per era. I'm simply trying to check myself to see that there's some balance across eras and positions, but I have no intention of making things completely equitable. In fact, this era only represents 20 years compared to 29 for the 19th century, so relatively speaking the latter period is perhaps a little underrepresented. 

I don't think I need to make much of a case for Joe Jackson. He's not in the real Hall because he's ineligible. Since I don't care about such things, he's a slam dunk.

Eddie Cicotte, also banned from baseball along with Jackson as a result of the 1919 "Black Sox" scandal is not quite as cut and dried. In fact, he's about as close to a borderline yes for me as there is. The fact he was enjoying a late-career prime when he was banned by a judge-turned-commissioner who completely ignored a court decision in making his own is definitely a factor.

There are many who believe Wally Schang was the best catcher of his era, but it's hard for me to say with certainty that he was better than Roger Bresnahan. Still, considering he was arguably as good, and that makes him at worst second best among his contemporaries, there's a place for him in my personal Hall. 

Bill Dahlen is one of the first examples of players on the borderline of eras. He could have just as easily been on the 19th century team. There's really nothing to read into that, although it does remind me basing this on retirement year might have been an interesting idea. Oh well, no turning back now. Until the recent slew of "controversial" (we'll just leave it at that) candidates came on the ballot, Dahlen ranked first all-time in WAR among eligible non-Hall of Fame position players. 

Heinie Groh is another non-Hall of Famer who many historians consider among the best of his era at his position. In Groh's SABR bio, Sean Lahman says so with certainty, citing historian Greg Gajus' suggestion he would have won 1-3 MVPs, at least a half-dozen Gold Gloves, and been named to perhaps eight all-star teams. I probably place a little more emphasis on being the best (or among the best) at one's position in one's era, but I tend to agree with this assessment.

I've written about Sherry Magee several times here, but the bottom line is I rank him among the top 15 all-time at a pretty loaded (and important to this blog) position, left field. There are at least 15 players at each position in my personal Hall, so he's a pretty easy call, in my book.

Hall of Famers from this era who didn't make my cut are Ray Schalk, Rube Marquard, Rabbit Maranville, Jack Chesbro, Harry Hooper, Johnny Evers and Chief Bender.

Next Up: Part 3 - Live Ball Era

Monday, July 22, 2013

Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me

I caught the area premiere of the Big Star film "Nothing Can Hurt Me" last night at the Brattle Theatre in Cambridge.

Im probably not alone here, but a big reason I'm drawn to documentaries about artists or athletes or other figures who "might have been" are the tales of adversity. Big Star's story, particularly that of the band's founder but lesser-known star Chris Bell, is no exception. 

I'm a huge fan of Bell, and ever since my pal Lee highly recommended I check out I Am the Cosmos, I've felt I could say with certainty it's better than anything Alex Chilton ever did post-Big Star. 

I don't say this because I feel you have to support one co-leader over the other. In fact, as the film touched on, Chilton's support is a big reason the "I Am the Cosmos" single was released in the first place (with the album of the same name coming out 13 years after Bell's death). Chilton also adds beautiful backing vocals to "You and Your Sister" in what has to be considered the final collaboration between two unsung musical geniuses. 

Regardless, and although the Chilton-led band released two great albums following Bell's departure, it's safe to say Big Star wouldn't have been Big Star without Chris Bell. 

So, like I said, it's the stories of adversity, particularly those that tug on my heart strings that reel me in when I take in such a documentary. One such moment from this thoroughly fascinating and highly enjoyable film really stands out to me. 

Bell's brother and sister sit on the couch of their family home as Bell's sister Sara struggles to put her feelings about her brother's career and life into words for the interviewer. She definitely has regrets, and hesitates as she seems to let the word resentment slip out of her mouth. David, her older brother, takes the pressure off by calmly interjecting, "You'd rather have him instead of having the music out there."

It's impossible to take issue with such an assessment coming from a loved one. Personally, I suppose I wish Bell and his family could have had the best of both worlds.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Personal Hall of Fame, Part 1: 19th Century

A few months ago, there was much discussion on Twitter and via email between myself, Adam Darowski of the Hall of Stats, Bryan O'Connor of the Replacement Level Baseball Blog and Ross Carey of the Replacement Level Podcast (no relation to Bryan) about our "personal Halls of Fame." I use the quotation marks because I've always thought it kind of a silly exercise to name a personal Hall of Fame. But, then I realized "silly exercise" (there I go with those quotes again) pretty much describes most of what I write about. Besides, if you're going to have an opinion on what current candidates should and shouldn't be inducted, you have to have a basic definition of a Hall of Famer. What better way to reach that end than to characterize every player in history as either worthy of the honor or not. 

As I've worked through this exercise, which has included a lot of back-and-forth between Adam, Bryan, Ross and myself, my opinion of how big the Hall should be has evolved to some extent. 

There's always been this idea that some folks are small Hall guys (believing the Hall was meant to include only players of the caliber of Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, Walter Johnson, Honus Wagner and Christy Mathewson) while others are big Hall supporters. I've always considered myself more or less in the latter camp based on the fact there are so many non-Hall of Famers I support. 

Then, I realized there are probably as many or more players in the Hall who don't belong as players outside the Hall who do. In fact, when my three aforementioned fellow bloggers and I initially shared the first drafts of our personal Halls, all of us chose fewer players than have been honored by the actual Hall. 

We've all since tweaked our lists, in my case based on the influence of my fellow Hall fanatics, but also because I needed to take a closer look at a bunch of guys before making final determinations. I'm glad I did, because in the end, I realized my personal Hall was basically identical in size to the one in Cooperstown—just with a somewhat different mix of players—and, to me, that feels about right. 

So, consider me a "Just right" Hall guy, because the current size of the Hall of Fame is pretty much exactly as it should be, in my opinion. 

Now that I've explained that, this will be the first in a series of posts where I'll be revealing my personal Hall in the form of five separate All-Era teams, plus a group of more recent players I'm lumping into what I consider an in-progress era. The idea behind doing it this way is to make sure there's sufficient representation for each position in each era.

My personal Hall consists exclusively of players (no executives, pioneers or umpires) based on their careers in Major League Baseball only. In the future, I hope to incorporate Negro Leaguers as well as pioneers and players whose careers pre-dated and/or overlapped with the beginning of the Major League era, but I'm not quite there yet. I don't, however, have much interest in determining what does and doesn't constitute a Hall of Fame executive or umpire.

The rules I apply to my All-Time Teams posts are not in play here, but some of the basic philosophies behind those rules are. That is, the size of the teams will vary depending on the length of the era and, of course, the worthiness of the candidates. However, there will be at least a starter and, with possible exception, a backup at each position for each all-era team. 

Also, inclusion on a specific all-era team is based on the era in which each player's star shined the brightest—although in marginal cases, I've assigned some players based on where they fit best—but their entire careers provide the basis for selection, rather than just time spent in a specific era. 

Got all that? Good. Let's get started.

An * denotes an actual Hall of Famer.

All-19th Century Team/Personal Hall Inductees (1871-1899)

C - Buck Ewing* (1880-1897)
1B - Cap Anson* (1871-1897)
2B - Bid McPhee* (1882-1899)
SS - George Davis* (1890-1909)
3B - John McGraw (1891-1906)
LF - Ed Delahanty* (1888-1903)
CF - Billy Hamilton* (1888-1901)
RF - King Kelly* (1878-1893)
P - Cy Young* (1890-1911)
P - Kid Nichols* (1890-1906)
P - John Clarkson* (1882-1894)

I should point out the distinction between starters and reserves is really meaningless. I just thought it would be interesting to present the players in this all-era teams format. To be really clear, this is not an attempt to add a tiered structure to my fictitious institution. 

In the early part of this era, a two-man starting rotation would suffice, but since the two best 19th century pitchers (Young and Nichols) began their careers near the end of the century, a three-man rotation seems more appropriate.

C - Charlie Bennett (1878-1893)
1B - Dan Brouthers* (1879-1904)
1B - Roger Connor* (1880-1897)
1B - Jake Beckley* (1888-1907)
2B - Ross Barnes (1871-1877, 1879, 1881)
SS - Jack Glasscock (1879-1895)
SS - Hughie Jennings* (1891-1903, 1907, 1909-10, 1912, 1918)
3B/C - Deacon White* (1871-1890)
LF - Jesse Burkett* (1890-1905)
LF/1B - Harry Stovey (1880-1893)
CF/LF - Jim O'Rourke* (1872-1904)
CF/LF - Pete Browning (1882-1894)
RF - Willie Keeler* (1892-1910)
RF - Sam Thompson* (1885-1898, 1906)
P - Tim Keefe* (1880-1893)
P - Amos Rusie* (1889-1901)
P - Old Hoss Radbourn* (1880-1891)
P - Pud Galvin* (1875, 1879-1892
P - Al Spalding (1871-1878)
P - Clark Griffith (1891, 1893-1907, 1909, 1912-14)

There are seven guys here who are not in the Hall of Fame as players. That includes John McGraw, who's in as a manager, but seriously deserves the honor for his playing career, seeing as he's the best pre-1900 third baseman (not including Deacon White, who played more games at third, but who I consider more of a catcher because his best years were there). 

Speaking of catchers, Charlie Bennett gets added to my Hall. By all accounts, he was one of the best defensive catchers of the 19th century. Add to that a career OPS+ of 119 and the fact he was the all-time leader in games caught through 1896 and we have a player whose career was sold short by the actual Hall.

Bid McPhee is the only 19th-century second baseman in the real Hall of Fame. I've added Ross Barnes, who had a short but dominant career and is probably the greatest position player in the history of the National Association. The quality of the league that preceded the National League is sometimes called into question, but I think honoring its greatest player—who continued his dominance through the NL's inaugural season, before illness derailed his career—is defensible.

My justification for Al Spalding is similar. He was the National Association's greatest pitcher and added one fantastic season in the NL before re-directing his baseball efforts to the front office. He's in the Hall of Fame as an executive, but I'm honoring him for his role as one of the two greatest players of professional baseball's formative years.

By sabermetric standards, Pete Browning and Harry Stovey probably fall a little short, but it's more because of their lack of longevity than peak performance. The latter is what earns both these outfielders a place in my Hall. 

What jumps out at me about Browning, besides a 163 career OPS+, are his 27.2 wins above average (WAA) over 5315 plate appearances (a low total that's partially due to a short career, but the era's shorter seasons played a big role too). By comparison, Hall of Famer Ralph Kiner—another player whose candidacy is based on peak rather than longevity—was good for 25.8 WAA over 6256 plate appearances, and it took 7831 PA for Kirby Puckett to reach 25.3 WAA.

Stovey's batting record is covered in black ink, having led the league in home runs five times, triples and runs four times, total bases three times, and slugging and stolen bases twice. By Bill James' Black Ink test, Stovey scores more than twice as high as the average Hall of Famer (56 to 27). In an era that metrics like WAR have a tougher time measuring a player's true value, dominating the league in the way Stovey did just shouts Hall of Famer to me.

Jack Glasscock is kind of a fringe sabermetric darling—to the extent that he gets a lot of support from those of us who care about the 19th century—but the historians like him as well, many of whom consider him the greatest defensive shortstop of his era. The latter point is reinforced by advanced defensive metrics, although he actually ranks second to Germany Smith among 19th century shortstops in WAR fielding runs. Additionally, he was also an offensive player on par with Alan Trammell, as his career 112 OPS+ attests.

I'm not going to explain my justification for every actual Hall of Famer I've decided isn't worthy of the honor, but I have no problem omitting Tommy McCarthy. Hugh Duffy, Joe Kelley and Monte Ward were tougher calls, but let's just say they fall a little short, in my opinion. Mickey Welch is the only casualty among pitchers, while his status as one of only five pitchers to reach 300 wins before 1900 perhaps shows I do not hold sacred such milestones.

Friday, July 12, 2013


I've started writing recently for a new site on the interwebs called BeerGraphs. A spinoff of the fantastic baseball statistics site FanGraphs, BeerGraphs is dedicated to the analytics of beer.

But, although the impetus of the site was Beers Above Replacement, BeerGraphs' proprietary style-indexed measure of a beer's quality, it's not all about bringing statistics to beer. In fact, the BarelyBeer blog is more about experiences around beer that ultimately lead to a review of a particular brew.

While I may write an analytical piece here and there, BarelyBeer is where I'll focus more of my efforts. Here are the two posts I've written for the site so far:

The Real McCoy
is a recap of a Father's Day visit to Pawtucket's McCoy Field, being pleased to find one decent craft selection there, and a review of Wachusett's Green Monsta IPA.

Drinking for Charity
is about my first tasting of Trillium's OneBoston IPA, a great beer for a great cause.

OneBoston IPA

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

The Flagrant Fan: Portland Sea Dogs and New Friends

The family and I road-tripped it to Portland, Maine this past weekend to take in a Sea Dogs game, but also to meet up with a couple friends from the baseball blogging community.

Normally, I would write a brief post about such an adventure, but my pal William Tasker of The Flagrant Fan did a pretty darn good job of writing about it himself. So, I'll just link to his post here and add a few of my own comments:

The Flagrant Fan: Portland Sea Dogs and new friends

I'll reiterate William's sentiment that Bryan O'Connor, of The Replacement Level Baseball Blog, and his wife were excellent hosts, as were their two kids, who played well with Little Chuck.

Unbeknownst to me prior to the trip, Bryan's sister works for Maine Beer Company, so the visit included my first tastings of Lunch and MO, and both were excellent.

Lunch is their IPA, which is my favorite style, but I actually liked MO, a pale ale, a little better. The upfront citrusy aroma of MO was more dominant, which is actually a quality I love in my favorite IPAs. In fact, I'm prepared to put MO in a category with Dale's as my two favorite pale ales. For now, I'm just throwing Lunch in a category with many other very good IPAs, but not one of my absolute favorites.

Lastly, I want to share a little discussion the three of us had—in one of the rare moments we had to talk baseball rather than chase toddlers—regarding our perspectives as fans of rival teams. Bryan is a Red Sox fan. William and I are Yankees fans.

Bryan talked about why—although he has softened a bit—he can't seem to shake the attitude which is typical of most Red Sox fans towards the Yankees.

When the Yankees were in the midst of their run of three consecutive World Series victories—and four out of five—in the late '90s and early '00s, despite the fact there were plenty of stars on those teams, it was always a Jose Vizcaino or a Luis Sojo (I'll add Jim Leyritz and Chad Curtis) who came up with the big hits.

Fast forward to the Yankees' current season of imminent demise, and it's washed-up players like Vernon Wells and Lyle Overbay who seemed to save their season in the early going. Bryan's point—if I'm interpreting it correctly—is it gives fans of other teams the feeling that, no matter how the Yankees' roster is constructed, they somehow find a way to always be successful.

I can understand how that would be frustrating, even ominous. On the other hand, William commented that this year's Yankees team is one of his least favorite in recent memory to follow. I wondered why, since to me, this season has offered Yankees fans the unique feeling of getting to root for a team that's kind of an underdog. William's response was to point out that he knew it was only a matter of time before the shoe would drop, so to speak.

He was right, of course, but I failed to see it that way. On the other hand, my opinion also points to the fact I went into this season with a somewhat indifferent attitude toward this year's team, in that I knew I wouldn't be terribly upset with an outcome that didn't live up to typical Yankee standards.

I suppose, perhaps, these perspectives provide a little insight that Bryan is on the emotional end of the fan spectrum, William is on the pragmatic end, and I'm somewhere in the middle. Which is just an observation, of course, although it may have something to do with where the three of us fall on the age spectrum as well.

Anyway, I had a fantastic time meeting up with my fellow bloggers this weekend, and I look forward to future occasions of a similar nature.