Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Congratulations Hawk

This could quite possibly be the final post ever at Fack Youk, as I'm afraid the furor over this afternoon's Hall of Fame voting results will cause the internet to explode some time later today.

Andre Dawson was the sole player elected by the BBWAA, being named on 420 of 539 ballots for 77.9% of the vote. He received just 15 votes more than the necessary 75%.

Even closer to that 75% cutoff were Bert Blyleven and Roberto Alomar. Unfortunately for them they were on the wrong side of 3/4, with Byleven falling an agonizing five votes shy (74.2%) and Alomar just eight votes short (73.7%). The good news for them is that no one has ever failed to be elected after gaining that much support.

In my opinion Blyleven and Alomar are without doubt Hall of Famers, so there will assuredly be some people angry that they're out and Dawson - a borderline candidate - is the one who got in. And that says nothing about other more deserving candidates: Tim Raines, Barry Larkin, Alan Trammell, Edgar Martinez, or even Hawk's comparable contemporaries like Dale Murphy and Dave Parker.

Personally, I don't have a huge problem with Dawson getting in. He's assuredly a borderline candidate, but he had a helluva a career: MVP, Rookie of the Year, 8 time All-Star, 8 Gold Gloves, 4 Silver Sluggers, and some impressive power numbers that have him in the company of baseball's all-time greats. He also spent his best years playing in relatively obscurity in Montreal, where the concrete-like turf punished his knees to the point that he first moved from CF to RF, and then eventually to DH.

On the flip side, Dawson's career OBP is just .323, lower than the league average over the course of his career. There's no way to sugarcoat that. Whether that's enough to outweigh the positive aspects of his career is for you to decide. The writers didn't think so - not this year at least. Your mileage may vary, and probably does.

For now though, congratulations to the Hawk on his induction. We'll have more later on the rest of the ballot, and I'm sure several others elsewhere will have plenty to say about all of this.

A Fitting Send-Off For The Big Unit

Randy Johnson's retirement announcement was originally supposed to take place today at some point. However, neither Randy nor any of his advisors realized that the Hall of Fame voting was also planned for this afternoon. As a result, they scrambled to rearrange the event for 7:00PM last night.

I happened to be watching the end of SportsCenter at that point and they directed people to ESPN News for the announcement, which I foolishly assumed would be some sort of a press conference. Instead, it was just a conference call. And a particularly disorganized one at that.

Randy came on just after 7:00 but in a moment of poetic justice, reporters kept joining the call, drowning out his official announcement with a series of beeps and at one point, a phone ringing in the background. They broke the call for a couple of minutes and then re-started it at about 7:05. He seemed all too happy to announce that this would be the last time he would take questions from MLB reporters and said that he didn't regret the way he treated other people during his career but did regret the way he was portrayed, as if those two weren't inextricably linked.

The horror stories about Johnson you'll hear from members of the media are numerous so it's sort of fitting that his aversion to them (holding a conference call) overshadowed what should have been a fairly significant announcement. Not many tears are shed over the way athletes treat reporters but the consensus is that Johnson was one of the worst.

Of course, Yankees fans don't have very fond memories of the Big Unit. Perhaps I was more naive about baseball back when they acquired following the 2004 season, but I expected him to be pretty awesome when he came to the Yankees. I think most people were in the same boat. The gap between the AL and NL didn't seem so large at that point and our view of aging players was badly skewed by steroids, even if we didn't fully realize it yet.

Johnson came to symbolize the worst of what the Yankees were about this decade - a guy who they acquired just past his prime who was still being paid like he was in the middle of it. Even with his flat sliders and surly temperment, Johnson wasn't that bad in 2005, picthing 225 innings to a 3.79 ERA. But he stumbled out of the gate a bit, giving up 15 runs in his first four starts, including 5 in a loss at Fenway Park. Although it probably wasn't fair, Yankees fans expected immediate dominance and instead they got mediocrity, starting off the relationship on the wrong foot.

The Big Unit finished out his '05 season with 5 consecutive wins but gave up 9 hits and 5 runs in 3 innings against the Angels in Game 3 of the ALDS. The following year started off better for Johnson but went downhill fast, a herniated disc in his back sapping his once legendary velocity and action and dragging his ERA down to an even 5.00. He made a start against the Tigers in the '06 ALDS but was tagged with the loss after allowing 5 runs in 5 2/3 innings.

Shortly thereafter, Johnson was headed back to the desert in exchange for Ross Olhendorf, Luis Vizcaino, Steven Jackson and Alberto Gonzalez, an impressive haul for a 42 year old pitcher with a back injury coming off a poor season.

Taking off the Pinstriped glasses, it's hard not to appreciate the uniqueness of Johnson's career. He has the most strikeouts per innings pitched of all-time among pitchers with 1000 IP and 100 decisions. Four consecutive Cy Young awards.

He was stiltishly tall and awkward, almost bird-like in his wingspan. By his 26th birthday he had accumulated all of 10 career wins but somehow managed to reach 300. He walked 416 batters from in the three years from 1990-1992 but only 978 in his final 16 seasons. He was a menacing presence -more feared than respected - but that's how he wanted it to be.

Hall Of Fame Day

Good morning Fackers. The Hall of Fame voting results will be announced at 1:30 this afternoon; prepare yourselves for tearing of garments, gnashing of teeth, righteous indignation, some variation of stats vs. scouts, and the like.

Much like post-season awards, I can't get too worked up about the Hall of Fame. I think there are people who are in who shouldn't be. I think there are people who aren't who should be. And I think several members of the BBWAA are morons. But it's a museum for all intents and purposes, and I can't get myself too angry over who is enshrined in a museum meant to honor baseball's history. That said, there is one player up for nomination this year who I believe absolutely should be in, and who I believe likely won't get in (again). And if he doesn't get in later today, I'll likely be compelled to share some thoughts on that.

In the meantime, Joe Posnanski published his ballot at Sports Illustrated yesterday, and I urge you to give it a read. Like virtually everything else he authors, the article is long, insightful, and well thought out. You don't have to agree with all of Joe Pos' decisions - I don't - but it's awfully, awfully hard to argue with him. He clearly put a ton of thought into his choices and he offers compelling arguments for or against all the candidates worth consideration. Have a look, and we'll be back when the results are announced.