This Great Game Comebacker

The Week That Was in Baseball: December 24-30, 2012
The New Us Who Would TGG Put into the Hall of Fame?
Are the Blue Jays Really for Real? Is Jeffrey Loria Really That Crazy?

We’re Back!
After roughly two years in the remaking, This Great Game is wearing a brand new suit; what’s underneath has also changed. The look and feel of our site, which we debuted back in 2005, has undergone a wall-to-wall renovation with all new content and imagery that is bound to enhance our standing as one of the world’s preeminent baseball history sites.

The Yearly Reader has been redressed in more comprehensive, cohesive wear, minus the maddening pop-ups. Ed Attanasio’s They Were There section full of interviews with ex-major leaguers has been enhanced. We’ll continue to spout from our soapboxes via the Comebacker page and Opinions section. There’s a new TGG YouTube page full of some of the most entertaining baseball-related clips you’ll find. And if you like lists, stick around for awhile, because we’ve got them: The Teams section has been greatly expanded to include the lists of the best hitters, pitchers and most memorable games for each major league team, as determined by TGG’s improved statistical indexes. Additionally, there’s a budding new section called Lists, which contains countdowns of some of baseball’s more trivia-oriented, starting with the ten most memorable home runs, the ten most dominant seasons by a hitter and the five least deserving MVP recipients.

How did we get to this point? You can find that out, too, with our newly written autobiography of sorts, It Was Twenty Years Ago Today….

As typical for a refresh, we’ve worked up to the last minute to ensure that every “i” has been dotted and every “t” crossed, so let us know if we skipped a beat anywhere. Otherwise, enjoy the new TGG where, with apologies to the Carpenters, we’ve only just begun.

If We Had a Hall-of-Fame Vote
Here it comes folks. The most highly anticipated Hall-of-Fame vote will be revealed on January 9, with first-time nominees Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Sammy Sosa—all major focal points of the steroids era—ready to discover where they stand among those holding the keys to Cooperstown. The star-loaded ballot also includes first-timers in 3,000-hit man Craig Biggio, slugging catcher Mike Piazza and outspoken championship pitchers Curt Schilling and David Wells; holdovers from previous ballots will include Jack Morris, Jeff Bagwell, Lee Smith, Tim Raines and, of course, Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro.

Now comes something really dangerous: What would TGG’s Eric Gouldsberry and Ed Attanasio do if they were given HOF voting powers? Well, here’s your answers:

Barry Bonds
Eric: Yes. Ed: No.
In Eric’s eyes, Bonds was already Hall of Fame-worthy when he began juicing up around 1999, per the solid timeline of evidence and testimony revealed over the years. Ed says no on the principle that he would not vote for anyone who took steroids.

Roger Clemens
Eric: Yes. Ed: No.
Ed sticks to his guns and says Clemens is not deserving for his juiced past. For Eric, the evidence on Clemens is murkier than with Bonds; when did he do it, and for how long? His feeling here is that the majority of Clemens’ 354 wins must have come cleanly, so the benefit of a doubt is given.

Sammy Sosa
Eric: No. Ed: No.
Agreement on a good player who cheated to become great. And let’s face it, Sosa excelled because of the PEDs; no other player has ever bloated to power in so obvious a way. Sosa’s been linked to the (not-so) secret 2003 list of players who tested positive, and perhaps most damning of all, he refuses to say whether he took steroids—only stating that he’ll answer when he gets elected into Cooperstown. Ain’t happenin’, brother.

Craig Biggio
Eric: Yes. Ed: No.
The common wisdom is that anyone with 3,000 hits gets an automatic pass into the Hall (unless you cheated—sorry,
Rafael Palmeiro), but Ed says not so fast, my friend. Biggio’s .281 average doesn’t sit well with him—while for Eric, Biggio’s 3,060 career knocks, 1,844 runs (15th all-time) and 668 doubles (fifth all-time) does.

Mike Piazza
Eric: Yes. Ed: Yes.
True, Piazza was below average defensively—opposing baserunners occasionally ran at will on him—but no other catcher consistently powered the ball with such authority and with solid batting averages (he holds a career .308 mark). Rumors abound over Piazza; was he on steroids? Was he gay? (Yeah, and the Playboy wife is just a front.) The only thing proven above is the hard stats. We’d vote him in.

Curt Schilling
Eric: No. Ed: No.
Three 20-win seasons, three times striking out 300 batters, three World Series rings, his refreshing candor and his bloody sock will appeal to many HOF voters, but his inconsistency and injury record keep him from meeting the threshold of greatness, in our eyes.

David Wells
Eric: No. Ed: No.
A poor cousin of sorts to Schilling, with the same outspoken personality and knack for being at the right place, right time, appearing in 11 postseasons. No current Hall of Famer has a higher career earned run average than
Red Ruffing (3.80), and we doubt voters will likely raise the bar with Wells (4.13).

Jack Morris
Eric: No. Ed: No.
All those wins, all those innings and those three rings—yes, we get that. We also get that his 3.90 career ERA is also higher than Ruffing’s. It could be argued that
Dan Petry was a more effective pitcher during Morris’ height of fame in Detroit.

Jeff Bagwell
Eric: No. Ed: No.
A product of the steroid era, Bagwell would get no votes from us—not as an indictment on any supposition that he took PEDs, but that his often voluminous numbers came during a time when they were relatively easy to earn.
Albert Belle, Juan Gonzalez and Mo Vaughn put up equally frightening numbers during the same time…and just how far did they get with Cooperstown voters?

Tim Raines
Eric: No. Ed: Yes.
Thumbs up for Raines from Ed, who likes what “Rock” did at the plate (.294 average, 2,605 hits), on defense (six times leading outfielders in fielding percentage) and especially on the basepaths (808 steals, 1,571 runs). For Eric, Raines falls into the
Tony Oliva/Vada Pinson category: A great career start, but too soon of a fade to be considered for the Hall.

Don Mattingly
Eric: No. Ed: No.
Alas. Everyone loves Donnie Ballgame, but you simply can’t earn HOF status stat-strapped by a bad back for half of your career. Ed envisions a future where Mattingly gets in should he rise to the occasion and wins rings as manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers; we’ll see.

Edgar Martinez
Eric: No. Ed: No.
Ed’s personal HOF rules state that you need to play at least 20 years just to be considered for Cooperstown; Martinez played 18. Eric cites the case of
Buzz Arlett, who might have had a great career had the designated hitter been around 80 years ago; anyone who plays only 34 games in the field over his last ten years (as did Martinez) just doesn’t seem deserving, regardless of how good he hits.

Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro
Eric: No. Ed: No.

Toronto, Up…
Almost every year, there’s a mid-market team that, essentially, “goes for it,” bulking up on talent during the offseason to let the big boys know that they mean business. Last year, it was the Miami Marlins; before that, it was the Seattle Mariners and Chicago Cubs. All three of those teams ultimately failed to deliver on their starry-eyed aspirations.

Let this be a warning to the Toronto Blue Jays. Baseball’s ultimate middle-class team, the Jays have neither been awful nor terrific since winning back-to-back world titles in the early 1990s—and with each 81-81ish result, the urge has become greater to break out of the rut and upshift from third gear. But what Toronto has done so far this winter merely hasn’t been to accelerate onto the freeway, but to jam straight to the autobahn and attempt hyperdrive. The Jays’ initial move was a sonic-boom transaction, pilfering away with most of the Miami Marlins’ pricier players (more on the Marlins in a moment), followed by the snagging of NL Cy Young Award winner R.A. Dickey from the New York Mets.

Timing is everything. With Dickey, Josh Johnson and Mark Buehrle adding significant value to a rotation decimated by major injury in 2012, and with Jose Reyes adding sound support to an existing power-laden lineup highlighted by Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion, the Jays sense that the time is now in an AL East currently featuring an aging New York Yankee team, a staggered Boston Red Sox squad trying to bounce off the canvas, an overachieving Baltimore roster and a financially-challenged Tampa Bay payroll. The Jays will certainly be baseball’s most carefully watched team out of the gate; the question is, will they be forgotten by August, as were the Marlins, Mariners and Cubs before them?

…Miami, Down
While Blue Jay fans are fired up, baseball fans in Miami are fed up. Maybe Marlin owner
Jeffrey Loria and his front office lieutenants viewed their cost-slashing move with Toronto as sound fiscal policy, but the combination of timing—a year after opening a splashy new ballpark for which Florida taxpayers are billions on the hook for, and Loria’s reputation for caring more for the bottom line than the bottom of the NL East standings—is, in a word, ballsy.

Loria has to know that things will get worse in Miami before it gets better. Not just on the field, where the Marlins are pegged at upload time to field a payroll below $40 million—easily the majors’ lowest—but also at the gate and on the street, where long-standing mistrust and disgust of Loria has hit an all-time high. (If Vegas sportsbooks had an over-under figure for Marlin attendance in 2013, we’d think it would be around 1.7 million—and remember, that’s tickets sold, not those actually in the ballpark.)

Relations between the Marlins and the community at large have gotten so bad, the only way Loria will win the fans over is either by selling the team, lucking into five straight World Series titles, or by asking the body-painted table dancers at the ballpark’s Clevelander club to start hawking beer in the stands. Unfortunately for much more deserving Miami baseball fans, neither will happen.

We Wish You a Merry Christmas, and an Unhappy Old Jail Cell
When most moms ask their husbands to help put the Christmas goodies under the tree late at night, the response from the dad usually is: “Okay.”
Andruw Jones’ response was to drag his wife down the stairs while verbally threatening to kill her. Or so says the police report on the former major league slugger after being arrested on Christmas Day in his Gwinnett, Georgia home. Jones was freed on bail, but his legal problems are probably just beginning—and that could play havoc with his plans to play this coming season in Japan.

Happy Holidays From the Mets (and Who’s R.A.?)
How quickly the New York Mets forget. They released a holiday video featuring the finest moments of the 2012 season. Curiously, none of the highlights included Cy Young Award winner
R.A. Dickey, recently traded to the Blue Jays. Goodbye, R.A.; it was nice forgetting you.

Will They be Rocking the Kazmir Again?
The Blue Jays got Dickey; The Los Angeles Dodgers got
Zack Greinke; the Detroit Tigers resigned Anibal Sanchez; and the Cleveland Indians have their pitcher in…Scott Kazmir? Okay, so maybe four years ago this might have been a nice deal, but now? After a trade from Tampa Bay to Los Angeles of Anaheim back in 2009, Kazmir—once upon a time the Rays’ best pitcher—fell off the charts as he plunged into the depths of the minors with shoulder issues. Last year, he was buried away in the independent Atlantic League toiling for the Sugar Land Skeeters—yes, the same team Roger Clemens crashed for a few late-season starts, performing much better than Kazmir (3-6, 5.34 earned runs average in 14 appearances). Needless to say, Kazmir is not getting Greinke money; the Indians have signed him to a minor league pact.

The Comebacker's Greatest Hits: Click here to look at the TGG Comebacker archive going back to the start of the 2008 season.

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