Category Archives: Pittsburgh Pirates Shirts

Steve Blass Jersey

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Chris Archer has struggled since his arrival in Pittsburgh, but how the story ends is largely in his hands.

Chris Archer flew into Pittsburgh and arrived at PNC park on August 1, 2018. The fans were mostly excited. I say “mostly” as a way of giving cover to the rising number of fans that love to promise they were ahead of the game in hating the trade. He walked into the clubhouse and was swarmed by players who were excited to have the Pirates management show belief in them by providing help they needed to reach the post season. Then came the media, and Archer masterfully spoke about his role with the young pitching staff and being part of the lore of the storied franchise. It was off to a great start.

He sat on the railing as he took in his first ballgame with his new teammates and signed autographs for over an hour pre-game. He spoke with Greg Brown and Steve Blass during one half of an inning from the dugout and, again, said all the right things. The city was popping for the guy and he was set to take the mound and start showing everyone the pitcher they just acquired.

He was set to face the St. Louis Cardinals and he struggled early but muscled through. In the second inning he had allowed runners to reach second and third with one out when he walked Matt Carpenter to load the bases. Nobody would have judged the trade a failure if this game went badly, but it felt somehow powerfully important when he proceeded to strike out Yadier Molina and Paul DeJong back to back to escape the inning. PNC erupted. Archer fist pumped and leapt off the mound. The other Pirates starters mimicked Archer from the dugout steps. Archer went on to give up five runs, four earned in only five innings.

Nobody wanted to overthink his first outing but, as we would all soon discover, that line: five runs, four earned, in five innings, would be what we could come to expect from the former all-star.

The Pirates recently picked up the first of two options to retain the services of Chris Archer for 2020. This decision was just about as close to a no-brainer as you can get in baseball. Here is a player that even with a 3-9 record and a 5.19 ERA, still has plus stuff and finished an ugly, and injury-plagued 2019 with a .08 WAR. The bottom line is, Archer is signed to a team friendly deal, and while he hasn’t provided the quality the Pirates hoped, he still has value to the Bucs both on the field and, potentially, on the trade market. Never underestimate the ability of other organizations to think they can fix a guy. Especially when they show signs of figuring things out after dropping a disastrous pitch from the repertoire: the two-seam fastball.

You see, much of the issue with Chris Archer is after all we’ve seen, we might just be getting to know what he really is. During the Huntington/Stark management era, the two-seam fastball (AKA sinker) was imposed on pitchers. Meant to effectively manage mediocre talent into effectiveness by preaching the concept of pitch to contact, the Pirates fell victim to believing their own BS for lack of a better way of putting it. The idea wasn’t entirely flawed but believing every square peg should fit into that exact same round hole was. Gerrit Cole famously preached about being unleashed in Houston to pitch his way and use his overpowering fastball to seek strikeouts, and he’s about to be able to show $260 million reasons he was right. On the other hand, the Pirates have resurrected almost as many careers as they have stunted during that era. The concept turned around the careers of Ivan Nova and J. A. Happ.

Nobody knows who will be making the calls next season, but I can say with certainty if someone says the words ‘pitch to contact’ during the interview, they probably aren’t getting a call back.

Chris Archer has a history of leading a staff and has shown the ability to get strikeouts as he posted 143 in only 119.2 IP. The potential for him to take off with a new philosophy guiding him is high and if he delivers the entire landscape of next season might be too.

The new management team will have no reason to keep Archer around should he start to show 2020 will be the same. They, unlike the previous administration, won’t have to prove the trade was a good one. There will be no need to try and wait for a perfect storm of trade value and team performance.

That pitching philosophy being eliminated could help many of the pitchers, or it could cause some to take a step back. Those who have thrived under that direction like Trevor Williams and Steven Brault, who actually went one game this season tossing 96 pitches (all but two were fastballs). A pitching philosophy of identifying and accentuating the skills of each pitcher on an individual bases, mixed with some fine-tuned analytics could be the rising tide that lifts all boats.

For Archer, the onus is on him. The excuses are gone. Now its time for Archer to move past saying all the right things and begin to execute. This time though, he should be allowed the opportunity to live and die with a skillset he trusts.

It was a big trade to be sure, and a complete off-character move for the Neal Huntington regime, but those days are over. It’s time to write a proper ending to the story for Mr. Archer. If he doesn’t turn in some good work early, it probably won’t end in Pittsburgh.

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PUERTO RICO (KDKA) — Vera Clemente, the widow of Pirates’ legend Roberto Clemente, has died at age 78.

Jason Mackey of our news partner the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported on the death of Clemente.

Jason Mackey

@JMackeyPG
According to reports out of Puerto Rico, Vera Clemente, Roberto’s widow, has passed away. On Nov. 1 the Pirates announced she had been hospitalized and was in “delicate health.”

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RELATED: Pittsburgh Pirates: Roberto Clemente’s Wife Hospitalized, In ‘Delicate Health’

Vera Clemente was hospitalized in “delicate health” according to the Pirates on November 1.

She spent several days at the Auxilio Mutuo Hospital in San Juan.

Pirates owner Bob Nutting expressed his condolences in a statement.

“We are deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Vera Clemente, the widow of the great Roberto Clemente and a cherished member of the Pittsburgh Pirates and Major League Baseball family,” the statement read. “Vera epitomized grace, dignity, and strength in the wake of heartbreaking tragedy and loss. Following Roberto’s passing, Vera raised their three sons into outstanding men, while also working tirelessly to ensure her and her husband’s shared vision of compassion, service, and love of others lived on forever. Vera was an amazing ambassador for the Pirates organization, our city, the game of baseball, and their beloved Puerto Rico. It is with very heavy hearts we send out condolences to Roberto Jr., Luis, Enrique, and the entire Clemente family. May they find comfort in knowing that Vera and Roberto are together once again.”

Vera Clemente was the chairwoman of the Roberto Clemente Foundation and a goodwill ambassador for Major League Baseball.

She is survived by her three sons, Roberto Clemente Jr., Luis, and Roberto Enrique.

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One of the many great things about baseball is that time can never run out. In baseball, a comeback is always possible. The game’s not over until you get the 27th out — or, sometimes, a lot more than that.

Extra-inning games are nothing unusual in Major League Baseball, of course. But some games in MLB history have truly gone to the extreme. Every once in a while, two teams meet on the field and produce a game far longer than a single game has any business going — even beyond the 20-inning mark.

MLB.com takes a look back at those marathon contests. Here are the longest games played, by number of innings, in Major League history since 1900.

1. May 1, 1920: Brooklyn Robins 1, Boston Braves 1
Length: 26 innings
The longest game by innings in Major League history could have gone even longer — after 26 innings, the game was called due to darkness. The Robins (the predecessors to the Dodgers) and Braves were tied at 1, and that’s how the game ended. The entire episode took just three hours and 50 minutes.

Brooklyn’s run came courtesy of leadoff man Ivy Olson, who lined an RBI single over Hall of Fame shortstop Rabbit Maranville’s head in the fifth. Boston’s Tony Boeckel drove in the tying run with a single to center in the bottom of the sixth. The teams traded zeros for 20 innings until night fell at Braves Field.

The next day’s New York Times story joked that umpire Barry McCormick “remembered that he had an appointment pretty soon with a succulent beefsteak. He wondered if it wasn’t getting dark. He held out one hand as a test and decided that in the gloaming it resembled a Virginia ham. He knew it wasn’t a Virginia ham and became convinced that it was too dark to play ball. Thereupon, he called the game, to the satisfaction of himself and (fellow umpire Bob Hart) and the chagrin of everybody else concerned.”

This game is unbelievable by today’s standards. Not just for its sheer length, but because of the pitchers’ duel that it contained. Both starting pitchers, Brooklyn’s Leon Cadore and Boston’s Joe Oeschger, pitched the entire 26 innings of the game. Somehow, they only allowed one run apiece.

“If a pitcher couldn’t go the distance,” Oeschger would tell the Sarasota Herald-Tribune decades later, “he soon found himself some other form of occupation.”

2 (Tie). May 8, 1984: Chicago White Sox 7, Milwaukee Brewers 6
Length: 25 innings
This is the longest game in MLB history in terms of time. It took eight hours and six minutes — and it had to be completed over two days.

The game began on May 8. With 14,754 fans in attendance at Comiskey Park, the two teams played 17 innings before the game was suspended at 1 a.m. with the score tied, 3-3. There was an American League rule that no new inning could begin after that time.

Milwaukee looked like it would win in regulation after taking a two-run lead in the top of the ninth inning. But down to their final out and facing Hall of Famer Rollie Fingers, the White Sox rallied to tie the score on a double by Julio Cruz and a single by Rudy Law.

Neither team scored again until the next day. When the game resumed, the Brewers took the lead again in the 21st inning on a three-run homer by Ben Oglivie. Somehow, Chicago managed to tie the game again in the bottom half, on RBI knocks by Carlton Fisk and Tom Paciorek, and the two teams played on.

In the bottom of the 25th — after a scoreless top half by Tom Seaver, on in relief — the White Sox ended the game with a bang. Harold Baines drove a walk-off home run off Chuck Porter to win it for Chicago.

2 (Tie). Sept. 11, 1974: St. Louis Cardinals 4, New York Mets 3
Length: 25 innings
The 13,460 fans who arrived at Shea Stadium on this Wednesday night in September had no idea what they were in for: A seven-hour, four-minute contest that wouldn’t end until 3:13 in the morning, becoming the longest continuous Major League game (by innings) where a winner was decided.

Jerry Koosman carried a 3-1 lead into the ninth for the Mets, but he gave up a game-tying homer to Ken Reitz with two outs. Neither team scored again until the 25th, when St. Louis’ Bake McBride — aptly nicknamed “Shake ‘n Bake” — made something happen with his wheels. McBride led off with an infield hit, then scored all the way from first on a wild pickoff throw by Hank Webb. With sunrise barely three hours away, the Cards held on for the 4-3 win. The Mets estimated about 1,000 fans were left in the stands.

“I figured I could get to third,” McBride said after the game, per The Associated Press report. “Then, when I turned second, I said to myself, ‘I’m going all the way.’”

Other historical footnotes: Yogi Berra, the Mets’ manager at the time, was ejected in the 20th inning, at about 1:30 a.m. Lou Brock came into the game with 105 stolen bases, but was caught trying for No. 106. Keith Hernandez appeared in only 14 games for the Cards as a rookie in 1974, and this was one. Claude Osteen pitched 9 1/3 scoreless innings in relief for St. Louis; Jerry Cram pitched eight scoreless innings in relief for New York. Fifty players appeared in the game, and about 180 baseballs were used.

Joe Torre, a Cardinals outfielder then, said afterwards: “That was the fastest 25-inning game I ever played.”

4 (Tie). April 15, 1968: Houston Astros 1, New York Mets 0
Length: 24 innings
The Mets, it seems, have a penchant for playing in historically long games. Six years before they played 25 innings in Flushing, they played 24 against the Astros in Houston. Incredibly, the game was scoreless until the bottom of the 24th, the longest any Major League game has ever stayed scoreless.

The six-hour, six-minute contest at the Astrodome began Hall of Famer Tom Seaver on the mound for the Mets and Don Wilson for the Astros. Both starters were at the top of their game. Wilson went nine scoreless and allowed only five hits. Seaver, who was in his second MLB season and a year away from leading the Miracle Mets to the 1969 World Series title, threw 10 shutout innings and allowed just two hits. Tom Terrific retired 25 straight batters between the bottom of the second and the bottom of the 10th.

As the teams marched on, they eventually set the record to that point for the longest night game in history, a note posted to the Astrodome scoreboard — along with some lighthearted messages to the fans who stuck it out. In the 20th inning, the scoreboard read: “We hope you are enjoying tonight’s third game as much as you enjoyed the first two.”

The game was finally decided when, with the bases loaded and one out in the bottom of the 24th inning, Houston’s Bob Aspromonte hit a routine ground ball to short. It could have been an inning-ending double play to send the game to the 25th. But it skidded off the Astroturf and through shortstop Al Weis’ legs, allowing the game’s lone, walk-off run to score.

“I just plain blew it,” Weis said after the game.

4 (Tie). July 21, 1945: Detroit Tigers 1, Philadelphia Athletics 1
Length: 24 innings
Before the White Sox and Brewers surpassed them four decades later, the Tigers and A’s had the AL record for longest game. This game, like the Robins and Braves’ 26-inning record-setter, ended in a tie.

The two teams met on a Saturday afternoon at Shibe Park in Philadelphia, and they played all 24 innings in a brisk four hours, 48 minutes. Both the Tigers and A’s used only two pitchers.

For the Tigers, Les Mueller handled the first 19 2/3 innings, allowing only one unearned run. Mueller was one of the many ballplayers just returning from military service in World War II when this game was played. With two runners on and two outs in the 20th inning, manager Steve O’Neill called on Dizzy Trout in relief. Trout had pitched 4 2/3 innings the day before, but he escaped the jam and pitched the final 4 1/3 innings of the game without allowing a run.

The A’s were still managed by the legendary Connie Mack, 82 years old and in his 45th season with the team. Mack let starting pitcher Russ Christopher go the first 13 innings; he allowed one run. Then Joe Berry came in to pitch the final 11 frames, and he held the Tigers scoreless.
Philadelphia’s only run came in the bottom of the fourth, when Buddy Rosar knocked an RBI single to left field. Detroit tied things up in the top of the seventh on a Doc Cramer run-scoring groundout. That’s how the score stayed until the game was called due to darkness.

4 (Tie). Sept. 1, 1906: Philadelphia Athletics 4, Boston Americans 1
Length: 24 innings
Connie Mack managed the A’s for so long, he was a part of two separate 24-inning games nearly four decades apart. Mack was only in his sixth season in Philadelphia when the first of those games took place before an estimated crowd of 18,000 on a Saturday afternoon at the Huntington Avenue Grounds in Boston — the home of the Red Sox before Fenway Park, when they were still called the Americans.

The A’s struck first with a run-scoring infield hit by Harry Lord in the top of the third inning. Boston answered in the bottom of the sixth, when Freddy Parent tripled to the wall in right field and Chick Stahl, in his last year as the Americans’ player-manager, drove him in with a single.

That was the only offense until the 24th inning, when the A’s broke open the game on a tiebreaking RBI single by Osee Schrecongost and RBI triples by Socks Seybold and Danny Murphy. As darkness started to fall, Philadelphia closed out the win.

Both starting pitchers — A’s rookie Jack Coombs and the Americans’ Joe Harris — pitched the entire game. Coombs was especially brilliant, yielding just the one run and striking out 18. Harris’ performance was of course nothing to sneeze at, as he was strong until the 24th and struck out 14 himself.

7 (Tie). May 31, 1964: San Francisco Giants 8, New York Mets 6
Length: 23 innings
A 25-, a 24- and now a 23-inning game for the Mets, who are the only MLB team to play three games of at least 23 innings. Unfortunately for them, they lost all three.

This tilt against the Giants, whose move to San Francisco in 1957 was one of the catalysts for the Mets becoming an MLB franchise, was played in front of 57,037 fans at Shea Stadium. It was the Mets’ first year at Shea — the then-lovable losers had just left the Giants’ old home, the Polo Grounds.

It wasn’t just your ordinary 23-inning game, though. It was the second game of a doubleheader. Yes, the Mets and Giants had already played nine innings (the Giants won, 5-3), when they took the field for 23 more. Their grand total of innings played on the day: 32.

In the 23-inning Game 2, the Giants jumped out to a 6-1 lead, including a first-inning RBI single by Willie Mays. But the Mets fought back and tied the game in the bottom of the seventh on a three-run homer by Joe Christopher. The next runs came 16 innings later, when the Giants prevailed.

In the top of the 23rd, Del Crandall ripped an RBI double to right field, and Jesus Alou followed with a run-scoring infield hit. The win went to a young Gaylord Perry, who pitched 10 scoreless innings in relief with nine strikeouts. In his book “Me and the Spitter,” the Hall of Famer would write that this was the game where “they saw Gaylord Perry throw a spitter under pressure for the first, but hardly the last, time in his career.”

7 (Tie). June 27, 1939: Brooklyn Dodgers 2, Boston Bees 2
Length: 23 innings
Not content with their MLB-record 26-inning matchup nearly two decades before, these same two clubs met again for 23 more in 1939. The Robins had since become the Dodgers, while the Braves were now in the middle of a five-year spell nicknamed the Bees. But though the names had changed, the result was the same: Just as in the first marathon, no winner was decided. Yes, the teams played 49 innings across those two games and ended up with two ties.

On this Tuesday at Braves Field, the Bees took a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the second inning on an RBI single by Hank Majeski and a sacrifice fly by Eddie Miller. The Dodgers got one back in the next half-inning on a run-scoring groundout by Mel Almada, and they tied the game in the top of the eighth on an RBI single by Ernie Koy. That was all for the scoring.

After five hours and 15 minutes, with the sun setting, the game was called. But the Bees would have won in the 13th if not for a cruel twist of fate. When Dodgers third baseman Cookie Lavagetto let a grounder go through his legs, pinch-runner Otto Huber was rounding third to score the winning run … when he tripped and fell over the base. He retreated to third, and a strikeout and groundout ended the threat.

Dodgers starter Whit Wyatt pitched 16 innings of two-run baseball, while Lou Fette started for the Bees and allowed two runs in nine innings. Neither bullpen allowed a run, with Boston’s Milt Shoffner turning in an especially strong relief effort, throwing eight scoreless innings to conclude the game.

22-inning games

There have only been eight Major League games of 23 innings or longer, while there have been nine at exactly the 22-inning mark. Here is a rundown of that next-longest tier of games.

April 17, 2008: Colorado Rockies 2, San Diego Padres 1
The April after their “Rocktober” run to the 2007 NL pennant — which began with a win over San Diego in a one-game tiebreaker to determine the Wild Card — the Rockies prevailed in a six-hour, 16-minute affair against the Padres at Petco Park. The game started as a pitchers’ duel between San Diego’s Jake Peavy, who threw eight scoreless innings and struck out 11, and Colorado’s Jeff Francis, who went seven scoreless.

No runs were scored until the 14th inning, when Brad Hawpe drew a bases-loaded walk to give Colorado a 1-0 lead in the top half, only for the Padres to tie the score on a Josh Bard RBI single in the bottom half. The teams played seven more scoreless innings until the 22nd, when Troy Tulowitzki drove the go-ahead double to deep left-center, and the Rockies held on.

Aug. 31, 1993: Minnesota Twins 5, Cleveland Indians 4
The AL Central foes clashed for six hours and 17 minutes at the Metrodome before the home team came away with the win. RBI doubles by Albert Belle and Jim Thome had given the Tribe a 4-1 lead in the eighth inning, but the Twins got two back in the eighth and tied the game at 4 on a Terry Jorgensen double in the bottom of the ninth. That’s where the score stayed for 11 1/2 extra innings, until in the bottom of the 22nd, Pedro Munoz ended the game with a walk-off home run off Jason Grimsley.

Aug. 23, 1989: Los Angeles Dodgers 1, Montreal Expos 0
This six-hour, 14-minute game at Montreal’s Olympic Stadium ended in favor of the visitors. No one scored until the 22nd and final inning, making this game second only to the 24-inning Mets-Astros 1968 tilt as far as longest scoreless start. The lone run was a homer by Rick Dempsey leading off the 22nd against Expos ace Dennis Martinez, who’d been called on in relief, his first appearance out of the bullpen since 1986 and his last until 1993. Los Angeles got strong pitching performances from Orel Hershiser, who shut out the Expos for the first seven innings, and a rookie John Wetteland, who did so for the final six.

June 3, 1989: Houston Astros 5, Los Angeles Dodgers 4
The Astros won their 24-inning game against the Mets, and they won this game, too, beating the Dodgers in a seven-hour, 14-minute contest at the Astrodome. The score was 4-4 after six innings, with the key knocks including a home run by Kirk Gibson for the Dodgers and a two-run single by Ken Caminiti for the Astros. After the sixth, the teams played the next 15 1/2 innings without another run. But in the bottom of the 22nd, Rafael Ramirez lined a walk-off single to right field to give Houston the victory.

May 12, 1972: Milwaukee Brewers 4, Minnesota Twins 3
The Brewers went on the road to Metropolitan Stadium and came away with a win over the host Twins after five hours and 47 minutes. Hall of Famer Rod Carew accounted for two of the Twins’ first three runs with a pair of run-scoring hits, while the Brewers’ Tommie Reynolds hit a game-tying two-run single in the seventh. After 14 innings of scoreless play, Milwaukee broke the tie in the 22nd on Mike Ferraro’s single off none other than Bert Blyleven, who was just 21 years old at the time. That was the Hall of Famer’s only relief appearance that season, and he didn’t make another until eight years later.

June 12, 1967: Washington Senators 6, Chicago White Sox 5
It took six hours and 38 minutes, but the home team finally prevailed at D.C. Stadium. The Senators and White Sox were tied 4-4 after nine innings, with Cap Peterson having hit two home runs for Washington, including going back-to-back with Frank Howard in the fourth. But Washington almost lost in the 10th after Don Buford knocked a go-ahead single for the White Sox. Jim King, though, came through with a game-tying sac fly in the bottom of the inning, and the score stayed tied until the 22nd. Paul Casanova came to bat for the Senators with the bases loaded and smacked a walk-off single to left field.

June 24, 1962: New York Yankees 9, Detroit Tigers 7
The Yankees would win the World Series in 1962, the last title of the Mickey Mantle dynasty, and they were also the winners of this seven-hour game at Tiger Stadium. The Yanks jumped out to a 6-0 lead in the top of the first — Mantle opened the scoring with an RBI single, Yogi Berra hit a sac fly, Moose Skowron had an RBI hit and Clete Boyer hit a three-run homer. But by the sixth, the Tigers had tied the game at 7, on Rocky Colavito’s run-scoring single. That was the last of the scoring until the 22nd inning, when Jack Reed’s two-run homer off Phil Regan gave New York the lead for good.

Still, the highlight of the game might have been Colavito’s offensive performance for the losing side. The Tigers’ cleanup hitter went an incredible 7-for-10 at the plate, making him one of just six players in Major League history with a seven-hit game, regardless of game length.

May 17, 1927: Chicago Cubs 4, Boston Braves 3
Boston’s Bob Smith was a hard-luck loser in this game at Braves Field — the hurler went all 22 innings but gave up the decisive hit to the Cubs’ Charlie Grimm in the 22nd. The Cubs, meanwhile, divided up the innings between three pitchers. The winner, Bob Osborn, entered in the ninth and tossed 14 scoreless frames, allowing only six hits. On the offensive side, Hall of Famer Hack Wilson had the most hits of any player in the game, going 4-for-8 for Chicago, including an RBI single all the way back in the fifth inning.

Aug. 22, 1917: Brooklyn Robins 6, Pittsburgh Pirates 5
You might remember Leon Cadore as the starting pitcher for the Robins who went all 26 innings in MLB’s longest game. Well, he also started this 22-inning game at Ebbets Field three years earlier, although he went only seven innings and was removed after the Pirates tied the game against him with a pair of runs in both the sixth and the seventh. Larry Cheney came on in relief and threw 13 scoreless innings, followed by Hall of Famer Rube Marquard, who entered in the 21st and pitched the final two frames.

For the Pirates, Elmer Jacobs pitched 16 2/3 innings in relief and allowed just one run … unfortunately, the winning run. In the bottom of the 22nd, Jim Hickman led off with his fifth hit of the day. He would score the walk-off run on a fielder’s choice, coming home all the way from second when Pittsburgh second baseman Jake Pitler hesitated in deciding whether to try to turn a double play on Otto Miller’s ground ball. One piece of trivia: This was one of Honus Wagner’s final big league appearances — the 43-year-old Hall of Famer, in his final MLB season, pinch-hit for the Pirates during the game.

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Ken Rosenthal tweets that Blue Jays VP of Baseball Operations and former Red Sox GM Ben Cherington is a candidate for the Pittsburgh Pirates GM opening.
According to MLB Network insider and senior writer at The Athletic Ken Rosenthal, Blue Jays VP of Baseball Operations – and former Red Sox GM – Ben Cherington is a candidate for the Pittsburgh Pirates’ Head of Baseball Operations opening.

Neal Huntington was recently fired as GM, with assistant GM Kevan Graves acting as interim GM. Travis Williams, former Chief Operating Officer of the NHL’s Pittsburgh Penguins, has been hired as Team President. Other rumoured candidates include Jays Senior VP of player personnel Tony LaCava, and former Red Sox and Orioles GM Dan Duquette.

Cherington obviously has an interesting resume as Boston GM from 2011-15, including helping to build the Red Sox World Series Champion team in 2013, although he resigned from Boston in August 2015 after Dave Dombroski was hired as VP of baseball operations. His Red Sox teams finished in last place in the AL East in 2012, 2014, and 2015.

Former #RedSox GM Ben Cherington has emerged as a candidate to be the #Pirates’ new head of baseball operations, sources tell The Athletic. Cherington, 45, was the Sox GM from Oct. 2011 to Aug. 2015, and has been the #BlueJays’ VP of baseball operations since Sept. 2016.

— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) November 8, 2019

He was hired in September 2016 to collaborate with Blue Jays GM Ross Atkins as VP of baseball operations in Toronto, with responsibility for player development. Given the success of players he either drafted, signed or helped to develop in Boston, including Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts, Rafael Devers, Eduardo Rodriguez, and Andrew Benintendi, as well as the young core developed here in Toronto of Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Lourdes Gurriel Jr., Bo Bichette, Cavan Biggio and Nate Pearson, it’s perhaps not surprising that the Pirates may have interest.

Ken Rosenthal previously tweeted over a year ago that Cherington could be interested in a GM gig that would allow him to “build an organization from the ground up”, but that he had withdrawn his name for consideration with the Mets and Giants.

Former #RedSox GM Ben Cherington withdrew from consideration for #Mets’ and #SFGiants’ openings, but remains interested in becoming a GM again in right situation. Wants to build an organization from ground up. Happy in current role as VP of baseball operations with #BlueJays.

— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) October 4, 2018

SNY’s Andy Martino also tweeted in October 2018 that Cherington was “in play” for the Orioles GM role which may still be appealing given the opportunity there to rebuild an entire organization?

Ben Cherington, another name who has passed through Mets’ radar, also said to be in play for Orioles. https://t.co/zr1gv57r8O

— Andy Martino (@martinonyc) October 16, 2018

Would the Pirates represent an opportunity for Cherington to completely rebuild a team and organization? Clearly, yes. They have a proud history, winning a total of five World Series Championships, but none since 1979 when Chuck Tanner managed the “We Are Family” team to a 98 win season and a Championship over the Orioles, on a team featuring Dave Parker, Willie Stargell, Bill Madlock, Omar Moreno, Burt Blyleven, John Candelaria and closer Kent Tekulve. The Pirates haven’t been back to the NLCS since 1992, when they lost to the Atlanta Braves, although they did win 280 games between 2013-15 with three consecutive early playoff exits.

The current team, which had a similar 2019 record as the Blue Jays at 69-93, features some pieces to build around, including 24-year old LF Brian Reynolds, 26-year old starter Joe Musgrove, 26-year old SS Kevin Newman, and 27-year old corner infielders in1B Josh Bell and 3B Colin Moran.

Potential trade chips include 31-year old CF Starling Marte (on a friendly $11.5 million dollar deal in 2020 with a club option for 2021), 28-year old RF Gregory Polanco who was on the 60-day IL after left shoulder surgery in September 2018, but is under team control until 2023, 26-year old set up man Keone Kela who will be an UFA in 2021, and potentially also 28-year old closer Felipe Vazquez (5-1, 28 saves, 1.65 ERA over 60 innings pitched with 90 Ks), although he may never pitch in MLB again given he’s facing criminal sexual assault charges and immigration issues, and his contract could be voided depending on the court ruling and league discipline. 31-year old former Tampa Bay Rays starter Chris Archer, who has been regressing since 2015, and pitched poorly for Pittsburgh in 2019, could also be moved as he is on an affordable $9 million dollar deal in 2020 with an $11 million club option for 2021.

Would Cherington be interested in rebuilding the Bucs under tighter salary constraints after working with big budgets for the larger market Red Sox, as well as with the Blue Jays at least in the earlier 2016-17 part of his tenure here?

The low-budget Pirates opened 2019 with a payroll of $74.8mn, but Spotrac has them committing $62.1 million at present using MLBTR’s estimates for arbitration salaries. Assuming no non-tenders, and that Vazquez’s $5.75 million contract is voided, plus $6-7m for the pre-arbitration players on the 26-man roster, the incoming GM might have approximately $30 million in additional salary budget if owner Bob Nutting is willing to return an Opening Day payroll, which was over $90 million each season from 2015-17. Perhaps that’ll be enough to lure him away from Toronto.

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The year was 1924 and, at long last, the Washington Senators shed the woeful distinction of being “first in war, first in peace, and last in the American League.” Compiling a record of 92-62 under their youthful player-manager, second-baseman Bucky Harris, those former-day Nats faced the New York Giants of John McGraw in the World Series.

It was not a case of no one giving the Senators at shot at victory, although the Giants were the Giants — and they boasted the best record in baseball. But like many teams that seem to have fate working in its corner — or dugout, as the case may be — these Senators had the look of a “team of destiny.” Especially after they forced a seventh game, despite aging ace Walter Johnson losing twice earlier in the Series.

That merely set up the theatrics of Game 7, deemed one of the more dramatic in Series history. The Senators fell behind 3-1 in the eighth inning and looked like goners until fate — that word again — intervened in the form of a pebble. Harris slapped a grounder toward New York third-baseman Freddie Lindstrom, who squared his body to catch it only to see the ball hit that pebble and bounce over his head. Two runs scored on the play, tying the game.

The 36-year-old Johnson entered the contest in the ninth and held the Giants scoreless through the 12th. In that inning, lightning struck twice. Earl McNeely stroked a grounder, once again toward Lindstrom, and again a pebble — the same pebble? — came into play. The ball skittered away from the future Hall of Famer, and catcher Muddy Ruel raced home with the winning run in the 4-3 clincher.

The Senators returned to the Series in 1925, but the magic was gone; they lost to the Pittsburgh Pirates in seven games. Eight years later, in 1933, the Senators, again led by a Boy Manager, 26-year-old shortstop Joe Cronin, won the American League pennant but fell to the Giants in the Series. That would be the last time a Washington team would grace the Fall Classic.

Until this year. And, just as in 1924, these Nats — the Nationals, now residents of the National League — had the markings of a “team of destiny.” For starters, they faced five elimination games and won them all. What’s more, they displayed an amazingly annoying proclivity to fall behind, only to come back. This started in the so-called “wild card” game with the Milwaukee Brewers and continued throughout their stutter-step through October.

Just as in ’24 with the American League Senators, this tendency reduced the team’s fan base to tenterhooks in the climactic seventh game of the Series. With the Houston Astros’ Zack Greinke spinning a masterpiece, the Nats entered the seventh inning down 2-0. And then it happened, as it always seemed to: Anthony Rendon hit a homer, halving the Astros’ lead. And then after a walk to Juan Soto (Greinke’s last hitter), Howie Kendrick, king of “Los Viejos” (The Old Ones), pinged one off the right-field foul pole … and suddenly the score was 3-2. The Nats would tack on a run in the eighth and two in the ninth for a historic 6-2 victory.

Historic for the fact that the home team won nary a game in this Series, but more so because a “team of destiny” broke a city’s 86-year drought. Immediately, these Nats are part of baseball’s rich lore.

Walter Johnson, Bucky Harris, and the Nats of ’24 would be proud.

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NEW YORK — It’s been quite a stretch for postseason hero Howie Kendrick. A week after helping to lift the Nats to the franchise’s first World Series title — and D.C.’s first since 1924 — Kendrick was honored with the Heart & Hustle Award at the Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association’s 20th Annual Legends for Youth dinner.

“Being chosen as a Heart & Hustle winner out of all the finalists, there were a lot of great guys this year, but I’m truly humbled they chose me,” Kendrick said in a recorded speech. “It’s truly an honor to be like [past winners]. They set the table. They laid the foundation, and I get an opportunity to represent something I’ve modeled my career after.”

We are proud to announce our 2019 overall Heart and Hustle Award winner, Howie Kendrick! pic.twitter.com/SMvExWl1Xk

— MLBPAA (@MLBPAA) November 8, 2019
The Heart & Hustle Award is voted on by Alumni and active Major League players, and it is presented annually to an active player who demonstrates a passion for the game of baseball and best embodies the values, spirit and traditions of the game. One player from each team was chosen, then fans, alumni and active players voted on an overall winner from that pool.

Not only did Kendrick hit the decisive homer in Game 7 of the World Series on Oct. 30, but he also became the first player in MLB history to hit multiple home runs in the seventh inning or later in winner-take-all games in a postseason. His grand slam in the top of the 10th inning in Game 5 of the National League Division Series against the Dodgers on Oct. 9 sparked the Nationals to the franchise’s first postseason series victory.

The two historic and unforgettable highlights added to what had already been an outstanding 2019 season for the 36-year-old Kendrick, who hit a career-best .344 with 17 homers and 62 RBIs. He has 1,722 career hits over a distinguished 14-year career.

Kendrick’s clutch postseason
Oct 31st, 2019 · 1:21
Kendrick’s clutch postseason
Kendrick wasn’t the only person honored at the packed dinner. Hall of Famer Tony La Russa was recognized with the 2019 Lifetime Achievement Award. A three-time World Series winner as a manager, La Russa’s 2,728 career wins trail just Connie Mack and John McGraw for most in MLB history. La Russa has dedicated countless hours to his Animal Rescue Foundation (ARF), where animals without a home can be kept and matched with potential owners, including military vets. The ARF has saved more than 42,000 cats and dogs.

“You are only as good as what you do to give back,” La Russa said. “My wife and I take that seriously.” In addition to La Russa, Hall of Famers Joe Torre (who introduced La Russa), Harold Baines, Andre Dawson and Lee Smith were among the baseball legends who attended the event.

The man himself.

Congratulations to Tony La Russa for receiving the Lifetime Achievement Award tonight at our #LFYDinner ✨ pic.twitter.com/JPzTfRBVTs

— MLBPAA (@MLBPAA) November 8, 2019
Two-time World Series champion and two-time All-Star Johnny Damon received the Association’s Brooks Robinson Community Service Award. Damon has been active with various charities both during his playing career and in retirement, and he said he always made a point — even leading teammates — to visit the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center when on the road in Baltimore.

“I always feel like you can give more to help out the people who can’t help themselves and to help out charities that are near and dear to my heart,” Damon said. “Sometimes you can’t recognize guys when they first come to Walter Reed, and then you see them five, 10 years later and you have a conversation with them, and they’re like, ‘I remember.’ And I think that’s the coolest thing ever.”

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SAN FRANCISCO (AP) – Felipe Vázquez earned his 27th save two days after fighting a teammate in the clubhouse and the Pittsburgh Pirates beat the San Francisco Giants 6-3 Wednesday night.

Pittsburgh got a welcome lift a day after reliever Kyle Crick had season-ending finger surgery following a scrap Monday with Vázquez.

Since an injury-plagued month of May for manager Clint Hurdle’s club, there have been so many other issues.

“There’s been some more miles on the tires since then,” Hurdle said before the game, when Pittsburgh went through extra defensive skill work.

Cole Tucker hit an RBI double for a key insurance run in the sixth, and Jose Osuna added a pair of doubles.

Jaylin Davis singled home a run, Corban Joseph had an RBI groundout and Mauricio Dubon drew a bases-loaded walk as the Giants got on the board in the fifth against starter Dario Agrazal before winner Michael Feliz (3-4) took over.

Adam Frazier and Kevin Kramer hit RBI singles in the second for the Pirates, who are 13-6 over their last 19 in San Francisco. Giants righty Logan Webb (1-2), making his fifth major league start, threw a pair of wild pitches that inning and was done after 4 2/3.

Stephen Vogt started a second straight day at catcher for San Francisco after hitting a two-run homer and driving in four runs in Tuesday’s 5-4 win. Manager Bruce Bochy had planned to start Buster Posey either Wednesday or Thursday, so he will be behind the plate Thursday afternoon.

Pittsburgh rookie Kevin Newman has a 17-game road hitting streak.

VOGEY’S VISIT

Former Giants and Pirates right-hander Ryan Vogelsong returned to the ballpark and wore his old Giants uniform to observe and work with San Francisco pitching coach Curt Young and the pitching staff.

“It’s good to see Ryan, isn’t it?” Bochy said, noting it’s more about “really just to have him around. He’s good for the players talking baseball. He’s got a great way about him. He provided leadership when he was here.”

Vogelsong played 12 major league seasons between the Giants and Pirates from 2000-2016, going 61-75 with a 4.48 ERA in 179 starts and 289 total appearances covering 1,190 innings.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Pirates: RHP Joe Musgrove (9-12, 4.67 ERA) threw on flat ground and the Pirates were still waiting to determine whether he would be fine to start Thursday against the Giants after he was scratched last Friday because of pain in his right foot. He hasn’t pitched since Aug. 31 at Colorado. … CF Starling Marte was out of the lineup for a third straight game nursing a tender left wrist. He is limited to pinch running. … RHP Nick Burdi underwent forearm surgery Wednesday in Dallas performed by Dr. Keith Meister. Burdi is expected to be fully healthy by the start of spring training.

Giants: RHP Reyes Moronta’s shoulder surgery in Los Angeles on Tuesday went better than expected. Doctors repaired his labrum but the capsule didn’t need a fix. … RHP Johnny Cueto played catch a day after pitching five scoreless innings in his first start since July 28 last year and returning from Tommy John surgery. His next outing is scheduled for Tuesday at Boston. … 3B Evan Longoria had the night off.

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Baseball fans will always remember Tim Wakefield as a Red Sox great, but for one summer in 1992, he was a beacon of hope in Pittsburgh.

In I992, the Pittsburgh Pirates were in the heat of battle for the National League East Pennant. There were no wild card slots, nothing to fall back on if you didn’t get it done in the regular season. The cash strapped club was already likely to lose superstar Barry Bonds after the season to free agency and it was becoming clear they didn’t have enough pitching to reach the promised land. Then came something different, someone different – a knuckleballer named Tim Wakefield. Wakefield was a former second baseman who was informed by a scout that he didn’t have the skillset to move past AA ball. When asked why he wanted to try to become a pitcher, he said “I just wanted to say I tried everything I could to make it.” It was an attitude like that which provided for a lengthy career and abundant success in the majors.

During this era of baseball Charlie Hough was probably the most well-known knuckleballer around. As with anyone who practiced the art, he was inconsistent, and you could just as easily see him blow up in the first inning as witness a nine-inning masterpiece. For real success you’d have to look back to Phil Niekro or Ted Lyons, so to say Tim arrived in the majors to fan-fare would be an overstatement.

The Pirates needed something though and the youngster has flummoxed hitters after he fully converted to pitching in 1990, culminating in a stunning start for the AAA Buffalo Bisons in 1992. Wakefield put together ten wins, six of which were complete games, with a 3.06 ERA all before July 31. The Bucs had seen enough and after called him up to the majors.

Tim walked in and picked up right where he left off pitching a complete game in his first contest against the St. Louis Cardinals, striking out ten and tossing 146 pitches. Yes, pitch counts weren’t really a thing back then but 146 was still rather unheard of for pitchers. If you saw Wakefield pitch though he simply looked like he was casually playing catch with an 8-year-old. Just flicked the ball toward the plate. Poor Don Slaught looked like he didn’t have a clue where the ball was going half the time, and the batters certainly didn’t.

As the Pirates pushed for the playoffs, Wakefield gave them exactly what they needed, a compliment to Doug Drabek and consistency. He started 13 games leading to a stellar 8-1 record and a 2.15 ERA. He showed up on “This Week in Baseball” (We didn’t always have the internet ok kids) teaching us his grip for his knuckleball. Even Bob Walk a fellow member of the rotation spent an afternoon trying to figure out how to throw the tantalizing pitch, even if it was all in fun. He was on top of the world, and a national story, even winning Rookie Pitcher of the Year honors from The Sporting News.

Next came the NLCS against the Atlanta Braves. Tim Started two games, both against a future Hall of Famer Tom Glavine. Wakefield bested Glavine in both contests, the first being a complete game five hitter. There was a solid chance he would have been named NLCS MVP if Stan Belinda hadn’t coughed up three runs in the ninth to break the hearts of the entire city, but that’s a story for another day.

In 1993, Wakefield was counted as one of the best young pitchers in the game and an anchor in the Pirates rotation. They had lost many players but still had a competitive core that needed every bet to play out. It didn’t. Tim simply blew up, walks were completely out of hand, he walked nine batters in a game on two separate occasions and ten in another. The Pirates were forced to send him down after losing his starting spot in the rotation.

Many people remember Tim for what he did after being released by the Pirates – contributing mightily to Boston Red Sox glory and rightly so. The Sox picked him up and immediately paired him with the aforementioned Phil Niekro who coached him to more effectively use his Knuckleball as an out pitch.

He would go on to finish a 19 year career with the Red Sox winning 200 games and appearing on the Hall of Fame ballot in 2017.

But for one summer Tim Wakefield was exactly what the Pirates needed, he was our star, our future and without him there might not have been a 1992 NLCS to have our hearts broken. He will always remain in Pirates lore both for what he provided down the stretch in 1992 and the mountain of what could have been here in Pittsburgh.

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A few weeks ago, I wrote about the Pirates’ middle infield situation, focusing largely on shortstop but eventually getting to second base. There, the Pirates have incumbent Adam Frazier, but given his penchant for slow starts, I’m not the biggest fan. I’d like to see the club give Cole Tucker every shot at winning the shortstop job, thus opening the door for Kevin Newman to move to second. Frazier could then revert back to his utility role of a few years ago, getting a start now and then at second and right field.

Thinking about the second base situation brought me back to the Pirates of my youth. In the late 1960s, the club had a future Hall of Famer patrolling the position in Bill Mazeroski. Never known as a major force at the plate – except for a certain World Series at-bat against Ralph Terry of the Yankees – Maz was a magician with the glove, turning the double play better than perhaps any second baseman who ever lived. It was his glove, and the single most impactful and dramatic home run of all time, that punched his ticket to Cooperstown.

The thing was, the Pirates had plenty more waiting in the wings. As Maz’s career wound down – he would play only 283 games total in his final four seasons from 1969-1972 — the Pirates had a cadre of outstanding young second basemen making their way through the system. In fact, they had so many that they had to deal a few of them away – and ultimately they dealt away the wrong one.

First to arrive in Pittsburgh was Dave Cash, who first saw full-time duty in 1971, when he played in 123 games and hit .289 in his age 23 season. But Cash had plenty of competition in the form of Rennie Stennett, who came up at age 20 in that World Series championship season of ’71 and merely hit .353 with an .834 OPS in 153 at-bats. And just about to enter the system at that time was yet another standout, this one who would make his mark with the Yankees in New York – Willie Randolph.

As it turned out, Cash would last only another couple of seasons in Pittsburgh, as he was dealt to the Phillies after the 1973 season in which he batted .271 in 116 games. Cash fetched pitcher Ken Brett, who had two solid seasons before he, too, was shipped out in a deal that also involved Randolph.

The Cash trade left the door open for Stennett, who would hold down the job for most of the next six seasons. A slashing-type hitter and an aggressive player all-around, Stennett provided solid offense for a few years at a position that wasn’t known for much offense. He’s perhaps best known for being the only player in major league history to go 7-for-7 in a nine-inning game, a feat he turned against the Cubs at Wrigley Field in 1975.

But Stennett was never the same after a game against the San Francisco Giants on Aug. 21, 1977. Going into the game, the free-swinging Stennett was batting a robust .336 with an .806 OPS and had just singled home a run in the eighth inning. But moments later, on a grounder hit by Ed Ott, Stennett took off from first and began his slide into second to break up a double play, oblivious to the fact that the fielder’s only play was to first base. Stennett came in hard and awkwardly, dislocating his foot and fracturing his fibula. “If you had seen it, it would have made you sick,” Pirates manager Chuck Tanner told Pittsburgh Press reporter Dan Donovan later. “Was it twisted 90 degrees? Easily. Probably more.”

Stennett would play another four seasons in the big leagues, and he finished with a respectable career .274 batting average, but he was never the same player after the injury.

As for Randolph, the Pirates – seemingly set at second base with Stennett – sent him to the Yankees in December 1975 with Brett and the enigmatic Dock Ellis for George “Doc” Medich. Medich, who wound up attending the University of Pittsburgh medical school, had won 49 games through his age 26 season and appeared to be just what the, er, Pirates needed. But in his only season in Pittsburgh, Medich was a disappointment, going 8-11 with a 3.51 ERA in 179 1/3 innings. In those days, a 3.51 ERA was not considered good.

In the end, though, Medich wasn’t a complete washout; the following March he was one of six players dealt to Oakland in exchange for three A’s – one of whom would be a major figure in the Pirates’ next World Series title: infielder Phil Garner.

Of the three second base prospects – Cash, Stennett and Randolph — Randolph wound up with the most stellar career. He spent 13 seasons with the Yankees and 18 seasons in the big leagues overall, finishing with 2,210 hits and a career .274 batting average. Even as late as his age-36 season he was still a force, batting .327 in 431 at-bats for Milwaukee in 1991. He would have looked awfully good in Black and Gold all those years.

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HALL OF FAMEThe Modern Era Ballot: Then and Now- Dwight Evans, Dale Murphy, Dave Parker
ByBobby MuellerPosted on November 18, 2019 COMMENTS
I grew up watching baseball as a kid in the 1980s. I remember the upright, very proper batting stance and perfect hair of Steve Garvey, the mustache and eye black of Don Mattingly, the powerful right arm of Dwight Evans, and the tall, gangly body of Dale Murphy. Tommy John was the soft-tossing veteran lefty whose career seemed to last forever. Lou Whitaker was the other half of the Trammell-Whitaker middle infield for the Detroit Tigers.

Sometime in the early 1980s, I saw an ad in Baseball Digest for one of the Bill James Baseball Abstracts. After reading the first one, I was hooked. I read every one thereafter, then the Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract book in 1985, Win Shares in 2002, and The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract in 2003. I found BaseballProspectus.com in the late 1990s and Baseball-Reference.com in the early 2000s and FanGraphs in 2009.

This exposure to Bill James and BP and FanGraphs changed how I looked at baseball and how I felt about the players I was watching. I realized the statistics I thought were important when I was watching baseball as a kid weren’t as important as I’d been led to believe.

Pitcher wins and hitters’ RBI and batting average were sent to the back of the line while FIP, on-base percentage, slugging percentage and wRC+ moved to the front. WAR, what is it good for? Valuing baseball players.

The players on 2019’s Modern Era Hall of Fame Ballot exist in a weird space for me. I grew up watching these players before I embraced advanced statistics, so in some cases there’s a significant difference between how I remember them as a kid versus how I consider them now. With that in mind, this week,I’ll go over each player on the ballot with assessments from Me as a Fan in the 1980s versus Me as a Fanalyst (combination fan/analyst) today. Today, it’s the outfielders—Dwight Evans, Dale Murphy, Dave Parker.

Right Fielder Dwight Evans

Me as a Fan: I was eight years old and living in Florida when I fell in love with baseball and the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1979. Why the Pirates? I’m not exactly sure. There were no major league teams in Florida at the time. The Atlanta Braves were the closest, but they didn’t interest me much.

My brother was a Dodgers fan and they always seemed so, I don’t know, elite, proper, and polished, which didn’t appeal to me. They’d had essentially the same classic uniform style for decades. I think, looking back, part of the reason I became a Pittsburgh Pirates fan was because they were everything the Dodgers weren’t. My brother liked the Dodgers, so I would like the opposite of the Dodgers.

The Pirates weren’t refined or polished. They had bright gold and black uniforms, with multiple variations. They had that pillbox cap. They had their own theme song (“We Are Family” by Sister Sledge). They were cool and funky and diverse, with the Panamanian center fielder Omar Moreno and African American players all around the diamond and the Dutch pitcher Bert Blyleven. They were the Melting Pot team of the 1970s. Also, they were really good.

What does this have to do with Dwight Evans? Nothing really, but I mention it because rooting for the Pirates made me a National League fan early on. That was a thing back then. Most kids I knew were one or the other, a National League fan or an American League fan, never both. So I focused on the National League in my early years of fandom, which meant Dwight Evans, playing for the Red Sox, wasn’t really on my radar.

That’s not to say I didn’t know who he was. I knew he was the right fielder for the Boston Red Sox for many years, but he wasn’t Carl Yastrzemski or Jim Rice, who were the big stars. My family moved to Seattle in 1981 and suddenly I became a fan of both leagues. I watched the Red Sox when they played the Mariners in the Kingdome. I saw Carl Yastrzemski when he was in his 40s. After Yaz retired, Jim Rice became the guy to watch in that lineup. Then Wade Boggs showed up and overshadowed Evans by winning batting titles seemingly every year.

My view of Evans when I was watching him play was that he was a good player, but he was no Carl Yastrzemski or Jim Rice or Wade Boggs. The thing that stuck out the most about him was his terrific throwing arm and epic 1980s mustache.

Me as a Fanalyst: Looking back with an analytic bent, I know Dwight Evans wasn’t as good as Yaz or Boggs, but I believe he was more valuable than Rice, who is already in the Hall of Fame. Evans wasn’t seen as a Hall of Fame type player at the time because he excelled in areas that weren’t properly valued in the 1970s and 1980s. He “only” hit .272, while Rice hit .298, yet Evans had a .370 on-base percentage in his career and Rice finished at .352. On-base percentage is much more important than batting average and the edge Evans had in on-base percentage made up for the edge Rice had in slugging percentage. They were near equals as hitters, but Evans was also an eight-time Gold Glove Award winner, while Rice was not an asset in left field and played about a quarter of his games at DH. 

Not only was Evans more valuable than Rice, he was more valuable than Hall of Fame right fielders Dave Winfield and Vladimir Guerrero, among others. Evans compares favorably on offense to the great Roberto Clemente. Both had over 10,000 plate appearances and the same 129 wRC+, which is an offensive metric that is adjusted for league and ballpark effects so players can be compared across eras. Their 129 wRC+ means they were 29 percent better than average on offense. Evans wasn’t the fielder Clemente was, but he hit as well as the great Roberto.

By Wins Above Replacement (WAR), Evans is the second-best player on the Modern Era Ballot. Another metric I like to use for Hall of Fame discussions is Wins Above Average (WAA). Rather than compare the player to a replacement-level player, WAA compares the player to an average player. To build up a high level of WAA, you have to put up some elite seasons. Evans is second in WAA among the players on this ballot and produced more WAA than Hall of Famer right fielders Dave Winfield and Vladimir Guerrero.

One final thing I like to consider with potential Hall of Famers is how many high-level seasons they had in their career. This chart from the FanGraphs glossary is a good baseline:

2-3 WAR—Solid season (2 WAR is average; 0 WAR is replacement-level)

3-4 WAR—Good season

4-5 WAR—All-Star season

5-6 WAR—Superstar season

6+ WAR—MVP season

Evans played 19 seasons, with 15 of those being above average (greater than 2 WAR). Seven of those 15 seasons were in the “solid-to-good” range (2-4 WAR); eight were in the “All-Star or better” range (4+ WAR). For me, he’s an easy Hall of Fame choice.

Center Fielder Dale Murphy

Me as a Fan: I watched Dale Murphy play more often than any other player on the Modern Era Ballot. In those days long before MLB.TV, the one team you could watch pretty much every day was the Atlanta Braves because they were on superstation WTBS. And they were always on. It didn’t make me a Braves fan because I had already pledged my lifetime allegiance to the Pittsburgh Pirates, but getting to watch baseball nearly every day was a special gift. Thank you, Ted Turner.

The best player on those early 1980s Braves teams was Dale Murphy, of course. He was a tall, lanky centerfielder who crushed baseballs to right field on a regular basis. That was something that not many players did at the time. He could also steal bases, with a 36-HR, 23-SB season in 1982 and a 36-HR, 30-SB season in 1983. He won the NL MVP Award both years, along with the Gold Glove and the Silver Slugger. It seemed like he could do anything.

There was also the sterling image of Dale Murphy. He was the “nicest guy in baseball.” Always upbeat, always positive, but not annoying about it. He had a squeaky-clean image, but unlike the squeaky-clean Steve Garvey, I didn’t dislike Murphy for it (Garvey’s image turned out to be not so squeaky-clean after all, but I didn’t know it at the time). Murphy was so good and so nice; it was impossible not to like him.

Me as a Fanalyst: At his peak, Dale Murphy was a 6-7 WAR player. He reached that MVP level (6+ bWAR) four times, which is tied with Dave Parker for the most such seasons of all the players on this ballot. Murphy also had two “superstar” seasons (5-6 bWAR) and two “solid-to-good” seasons. That’s basically his Hall of Fame case—eight above-average seasons out of the 19 he played, with six of those eight seasons being elite.

We can see how this plays out.

Pre-peak years, 1976-1979: 253/.310/.428 in 73 G/YR (-0.2 bWAR/year)
Peak years, 1980-1987: .284/.374/.517 in 153 G/YR (5.3 bWAR/year)
Post-peak years, 1988-1993: .234/.307/.396 in 110 G/YR (0.8 bWAR/year)
Did Murphy do enough during his peak to be a Hall of Fame choice? He falls a bit short for me. I think he’s comparable to Fred Lynn and Bernie Williams. There are worse center fielders in the Hall of Fame than that trio, but also a handful of players who rank above them (Kenny Lofton, Jim Edmonds, Jimmy Wynn, to name a few). At his best, Murphy was an elite player, but he didn’t maintain a high enough level for a long enough stretch to get my imaginary vote.

Right Fielder Dave Parker

Me as a Fan: Dave Parker could do it all. He hit for average, hit homers, stole bases, and had the best arm in baseball from right field, which he showed off in the 1979 All-Star game. I became aware of him that year, when he batted in front of my favorite player, Willie Stargell, on the Pittsburgh Pirates. Stargell was the leader of the team, the guy who handed out “Stargell Stars” to players who did great things during the season, but Parker was the best player on the squad.

He led the NL in batting average in 1977 and 1978. At the time, batting average was king. It was how the eight-year-old version of me judged players. Parker finished third in NL MVP voting in 1977, then won the award in 1978. In 1979, he won his third straight Gold Glove Award. He also averaged 19 steals per year for four straight years, despite his size (6-foot-5, 230 pounds according to Baseball-Reference.com).

As a young Pirates fan, I loved Willie Stargell more than any other Pirate, but it was Dave Parker who was bigger than life on the diamond. He dominated the game. He was also incredibly cool, with a full-faced beard and the nickname Cobra. He had a closed stance with his bat waving menacingly at head level ready to strike. Hence, the nickname. After taking a fastball to the face in 1978, he returned from the injury and wore a hockey mask in his first game back that made him look like a villain in a horror movie.

Then, all too soon, Parker’s light faded. After hitting .300 or better for five straight years, he hit .295 in 1980, then .258 in 1981, and .270 in 1982. Weight problems, injuries and, unknown to me at the time, cocaine use, contributed to Parker missing considerable time in 1981 and 1982. He played his last season with the Pirates in 1983 and hit just 12 home runs in 144 games. Then he signed a free agent deal with the Cincinnati Reds, where he was forced to shave his beard because of the team’s no facial hair policy. I stopped following him closely after that, but knew he had some good years with the Reds before finishing his career with stints in Oakland, Milwaukee, California, and Toronto.

Me as a Fanalyst: The Hall of Fame argument for Parker is the same as for Murphy—it’s all about his peak. Parker played 19 seasons, but just six were above average (per Baseball-Reference WAR). Four of those six seasons were MVP-level and they came in a five-year stretch from 1975 to 1979. During this time Parker averaged 150 games, 95 runs scored, 23 dingers, 98 RBI, and 17 steals, while hitting .321/.377/.532 (6.2 bWAR/year).

The slide began in 1980, when Parker was 29 years old. He slugged under .500 for the first time since 1976. This was the start of a long-term trend. After slugging .500 or better in four of the previous five years, Parker would reach that mark just once over his final 12 seasons (.275/.322/.444 from 1980 to 1991).

Predictably, as he aged his defense suffered. After 15 years in the National League, Parker moved to the AL in 1988, where he would soon become a full-time DH, hitting .264/.311/.416 in his AL years. That was still slightly above average on offense, but teams hope for more from a bat-only player.

Parker was really good in the mid-1970s. He was also one of the most exciting players in baseball to watch because he could do so many things so well. Unfortunately, he essentially had just one good season from 1980 on, so I don’t believe he’s Hall of Fame caliber.