Thursday, September 20, 2007
Baseball Moaning: Gagne, Thome, etc
I don't do this very often, but I have a little baseball-based ranting I need to do.
If you prefer my TV coverage...
Here's an article on Jeff Probst and "Survivor: China" for Zap2it!
Here's my recap of last night's "Kid Nation," which isn't necessarily good, but certainly isn't evil!
And one of these days I'm going to do a MovieWatch on "Eastern Promises" (I'm having a hard time cracking how much it does or doesn't matter to me that the ending doesn't work) and perhaps a couple words on "Juno" and "American Gangster," which I also caught earlier this week.
But follow through after the bump for a rant about Eric Gagne, a meditation on Jim Thome and whatever else I feel like adding.
No Pain, No Gagne -- Might Eric Gagne single-handedly kill my eager anticipation for the July 31 trading deadline? Heck, might Eric Gagne single-handedly kill the July 31 trading deadling for all of baseball? If so, that would be a very sad thing. It used to be that I -- like so many baseball fans -- would look at the gaps on my favorite team (the Red Sox for those who somehow don't know me) and try concocting imaginary deadline deals of my own. Last summer, with the Sox on the verge of what would become a disappointing third-place season, I even won a buck from Sepinwall for asking Sox part-owner Tom Werner about possible deadline deals during a TCA press tour session (under normal circumstances, my journalistic qualms would prevent such a thing, but Werner's two shows last fall with "Twenty Good Years" and "Happy Hour" and I refuse to feel bad about straying off topic).
This was the first year that I told anybody who'd listen that I didn't want the Red Sox to make a trade. They had the best record in baseball and no player on the market seemed capable of improving the Sox at any particular position. When the Sox ended up getting formerly top-drawer closer Gagne (a favorite from his healthier [chemically suspect] days on the Dodgers), I was concerned. In the winter, I'd have signed him to an incentive-laden deal, what with Papelbon planning to start, but in late July, he served no purpose. The conclusion I came to, with some expert help, was that the Red Sox won by keeping Gagne away from the Yankees, the team with the seemingly more suspect bullpen. Addition by subtraction from another team. Who knew that the Yankees would actually win the trade with addition via subtraction from the Red Sox?
The stats for Gagne are remarkable. Three blown saves, 14 runs in 14 innings. He has been directly responsible for losses on four days when the Yankees also won (though, amazingly, he hasn't blown any games against the Yankees), meaning that he's single-handedly cost the Sox four games of a lead that once felt insurmountable. And he's actually been worse than the statistics show. Look at the appearances in which he hasn't given up runs and you'll see that he was great in games the Red Sox were either already losing or games in which they eventually won by scores like 11-1 or 10-1.
The Red Sox are no stranger to less-than-profitable deadline deals involving middle relievers. But as much as Sox fans lament the eventual absence of Jeff Bagwell, Larry Anderson was good for 15 games, 22 innings and an ERA of under 1.25. If Eric Gagne had provided those sorts of numbers the Red Sox would have clinched the division already. I can't help but feel that Gagne's ineptitude has directly put more pressure on Hideki Okajima, who has been shut down with a "tired arm," and on Papelbon, who suddenly looks mortal again. I think his presence has put extra stress on the starters and probably disheartened the hitters. If somebody can come up with a midseason acquisition who has had a more directly negative impact on his team in the history of the game, please share.
As God is my witness, I'll never root for a midseason trade again.
Thome or Not Thome -- Is Jim Thome a Hall of Famer? The dude hit his 500th home run last week against the Angels in darned dramatic walk-off fashion and now everybody's debating whether or not the slugger belongs in Cooperstown. The simple answer is that anybody with 500 home runs belongs in the Hall of Fame and that's that, which will cause additional complications when Carlos Delgado gets to 500 home runs in a couple years. Is Carlos Delgado also a Hall of Famer then? Carlos Delgado has made two All-Star teams in his career. Jim Thome has made five, which isn't all that many in an age where the same people go back to the All-Star games over and over and over again. 500 home runs sure seems like a lot, but this is for a guy who hit 52 home runs and drove in 118 runs in a season and finished *seventh* in the MVP voting. Why did Jim Thome magically become a Hall-of-Famer this week with his 500th home run and yet Fred McGriff won't make it to Cooperstown, despite a far cooler nickname, just because he came up a half-dozen home runs short. Jeff Bagwell is 51 home runs short of 500, but he's far more obviously a Hall of Famer in my book. Then again, Jack Morris and Bert Blyleven belong in as well. Speaking of Thome, did you know that he's No. 3 all-time in strikeouts for a batter? That's impressive to me. Yup. He passed Andres Galarraga earlier this year. Sometimes I like looking at some of the odder leader boards, and it amuses me to see that Reggie Sanders stands at No. 21 all-time in strikeouts.
An Even Odder Career Leader Board -- I remember when Hoyt Wilhelm made the Hall of Fame that one of his claims to fame was that he was the all-time career leader in games played. At the time, that was awfully impressive. He currently stands at No. 5, behind the esteemed Dennis Eckersley, the perfectly respectable John Franco, the ageless Jesse Orosco (your all-time leader, with 1252, 182 more than Wilhelm, though you don't hear anybody saying Orosco belongs in Cooperstown) and, at No. 2 all-time, Mike Stanton. The immortal Mike Stanton. Granted that your Top 15 includes Lee Smith, Kent Tekulve (my favorite baseball card player ever) Rich Gossage and Rollie Fingers, but it also features Dan Plesac, Jose Mesa, Roberto Hernandez and Mike Timlin. There's totally nothing suspect about all of these pitchers throwing well into their 40s. Actually, as I think about it, it's less the fault of steroids and more the fault of Tony Larussa.
OK. Baseball blogging is out of my system.