A Sad Day For a Second Baseman

A Sad Day For a Second Baseman
When the wider world impinges on the world of baseball, it’s time to take stock of our lives. We like to think of baseball as a game, the National Pastime (it’s still that even if the NFL is America’s Game), a child’s pursuit where men making millions are paid by people worth billions.

Yesterday during the terrible events in Tucson, AZ outside a Safeway supermarket you may have heard a nine-year old girl was killed. That nine year old, Christina-Taylor Green, happened to be the child of John Green, a scout for the Los Angeles Dodgers, who himself is the son of former big-league pitcher, manager and executive Dallas Green, who led the 1980 World Series Champion Philadelphia Phillies. Our hearts go out to the Green family.

Christina has fate would have it had already been noticed: she was a “9/11” baby, born on the infamous date of September 11, 2001. She had been featured in the book, “Faces of Hope: Babies Born on 9/11”. She had just been elected to the Student Council at her school. She was the only girl on the Canyon del Oro Little League team, and she played second base. She was a passionate dancer and animal lover. She wanted to attend Penn State University and help those less fortunate than she. A special person has been taken too soon from a world she surely graced with her presence.

It seems like very old news now to note the election of second baseman Robbie Alomar and pitcher Bert Blyleven to the Hall of Fame this week. Alomar, felt by many to be a sure thing, just missed last year, his first on the ballot. He was a dominant player who excelled on both sides of the ball at a premium position. During the 1993 World Series between the Toronto Blue Jays and the Philadelphia Phillies, my wife, not a baseball fan but a keen observer of talent, said to me “Mr. A is the best player out there” as Robbie tortured my Phillies with key hits and great defensive plays.

As for Bert Blyleven, it took him fourteen years to get the requisite 75% of votes. Bert, who does great work announcing Twins games, mostly qualified on his great longevity and his good results with many bad teams. He also, like Alomar, played on two World Series Champions (1979 Pirates, 1987 Twins) but his defining quality it seems to me was his 3,701 strikeouts, amassed during an era when players didn’t strike out as much as they do today. He had one of the truly dominant curveballs I have ever seen. Most right-handers are very careful about throwing the hook to left-handed hitters, but not Bert. Count didn’t matter. The batter didn’t matter. The situation didn’t matter. It was coming, you knew it, and they still couldn’t handle it.

Finally, let me make note that Houston Astros first baseman Jeff Bagwell, one of the most-feared hitters of his day, got only 41.7% of the votes in his first year on the ballot. Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt took issue with the voters, making a compelling case the Jim Rice is in the Hall, his statistics are very similar to Jeff’s, ergo Jeff should and will be elected to the Hall. Well, Mike, the one fly in the ointment is that like it or not, Bagwell has been linked to performance-enhancing drug use, and in the absence of conclusive evidence that he was not a user my feeling is that many voters are going to hold that against him. Like it or not, just or not. You can see it in the puny totals for more statistically compelling players like Rafael Palmeiro and Mark McGwire, whose involvement is certainly more clear-cut. It’s going to be an issue going forward as the players of The Steroid Era begin to come before the voters.

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