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Baseball history tidbits

Monday 6/19/23

When Bobby Grich played, there was no one--and I mean no one--who talked about him as a potential future Hall of Famer. Now, he has many supporters for the Hall of Fame, and his candidacy is the subject of many discussions among baseball fans with an interest in the games past and historians.

The argument for Grich is one of modern metrics. Without them, there's no argument to be made. Not that he wasn't a fine, winning ballplayer, who had two seasons where he was among the best players in the game. The argument is two-pronged: there's Grich's WAR of 71.1, which is very good, but then again, if you don't think that WAR itself if very good, that number might not mean much to you.

The other number is his OPS+ of 125, which is strong for a second baseman. In the strike-shortened season of 1981, Grich actually led the league in that category, with a mark of 165.

Let's look at Grich in a different way. It's not a perfect way--call it an anecdotal way with statistical backing. As I said, Grich was a second baseman. Mickey Mantle wasn't. Different offensive expectations based on their respective positions.

Mantle considered himself an embarrassment after what most people view as his last Mantle-like season, which was in 1964. The Yankees won the pennant, but that was it for an era. The oft-injured Mantle--well, Mantle was almost injured, but now he was missing a lot of games-hung on through the 1968 seasons. Remember: he thought he was embarrassing himself. He didn't give the fans what they expected or paid for. These were miserable years for him.

Do you know what his OPS+ was for those last four years? 137, 170, 150, 143. That's when it was generally believed he wasn't that good and he thought he was poor. That shell of that player was still much better than Bobby Grich.

Rickey Henderson stole home 4 times. Carlton Fisk stole home 3 times. You know who was awesome at stealing home? The best ever? Jackie Robinson. He stole home 19 times, despite his MLB career obviously getting a late start for all of the wrong reasons, and only playing eleven years. You could say that he had it down.

When you think of Ron Guidry, you think of the 1970s. You may just think of 1978, not because Guidry wasn't excellent in other years, but because he was so excellent that season. It can be strange to think that he was dominate in 1985 of all years, and a Cy Young contender. Then he was never the same pitcher again.

If the playoffs existed in 1985, I think the Mets could have won the World Series. I would have picked them before those playoffs started.

Hank Aaron was teammates with Robin Yount and Gorman Thomas, which feels odd. It is also odd that the two greatest home run hitters in the game's history in Aaron and Babe Ruth returned to the city's in which their careers started to finish those careers. I wonder, for instance, how Ruth looked at Boston having come back after all of that time. What his thoughts were, what brought on memories and what those memories were like, and how they contrasted with what he knew was the last chapter of his playing life. I don't think enough is made of these returns, especially Ruth's, about which a work of historical fiction could be written.

Were I a catcher, I'd want to wear a batting helmet without earflaps backwards on my head, with my mask stretched over it. I'd not want this fancy helmet/cage contraption. Backwards, flapless batting helmet, mask. Classic catcher stuff. I think I'd feel like less of a catcher in the cage contraption. If I was a catcher, I'd want to feel as much like a catcher as possible.


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