My 2017 Baseball Hall of Fame Ballot

Barry Bonds. Here’s a thought from Joe Posnanski that I agree with: I don’t think the Hall of Fame should be a morally cleansed place where only the pure belong. I think the best baseball players should be in, plain and simple, and their stories — complete with their genius for the game and their moral failings — should be told. I think that’s the way history should be taught.

You can’t argue that Bonds wasn’t one of the greatest hitters ever – I think only Babe Ruth and Ted Williams were better. And, I would argue that Bonds had a Hall of Fame career before he started taking steroids. After 1998, Bonds was a career .290/.411/.556 hitter with 411 home runs, 445 stolen bases, and a 164 OPS+. Of course, Bonds then went on to destroy the record books and make a farce of the game – but even if you take out those years, Bonds should be in.

But the numbers alone are not enough for many voters. Bonds was arrogant, a jerk, just a terrible person in general. He is the antithesis of the Hall of Fame’s character clause. But it’s clear that after five years on the ballot, more and more writers are coming around to him.

2013: 36%
2014: 35%
2015: 37%
2016: 44%

And on this year’s version of the indispensable Baseball Hall of Fame tracker, he’s up to a whopping 69%.

Roger Clemens. If you divide all of Roger Clemens’ career numbers by two, he might still be a Hall of Famer: 177-92, 2458 innings, 3.12 ERA, 2336 strikeouts, 70 Wins Above Replacement, 3.5 Cy Youngs.

By WAR, Clemens’ 1997 (11.9) was the best season in the last 25 years, when he struck out a career-high 292 in 264 innings and had a 222 ERA+. Of course, Clemens had other legendary seasons:

1986: 24-4, 2.48 ERA, 8.9 WAR
1987: 20-9, 2.97 ERA, 9.4 WAR
1990: 21-6, 1.93 ERA, 10.6 WAR
1991: 18-10, 2.62 ERA, 7.9 WAR
1992: 18-11, 2.41 ERA, 8.8 WAR
1998: 20-6, 2.65 ERA, 8.1 WAR

Baseball-Reference considers a WAR over 5 to be at an all star level, and anything over 8 to be MVP level. Clemens had fourteen seasons with a WAR over 5 and six that were over 8.

A lot of younger fans will remember Clemens’ 2001 season, when he went 20-3 and won the Cy Young with the Yankees. It was a great season, yes, but that was when I first realized that wins don’t do a good job of measuring value. Mike Mussina should have won the Cy Young that year (really, you could make the case for a handful of other guys too). Moose pitched more innings, gave up fewer runs, walked fewer, struck out more, and had a much lower WHIP. But he went 17-11, which isn’t quite as sparkly as 20-3. Interestingly, Clemens had the reverse problem in 2005, when he had a 1.87 ERA but only went 13-8.*

*I remember that the Texas Rangers really wanted Clemens after 2005 and did this whole study where they determined that Clemens would have been 24-3 if he pitched for the Rangers that year. He would have undoubtedly run away with his 8th Cy Young.

Manny Ramirez. Right now, Manny is polling at around 28%, which is well below the 75% threshold and certainly due to his two failed steroid tests. Clemens and Bonds, for all of their faults, never failed a test.

My stance on steroids/PED’s is pretty subjective. I think most voters prefer to take a more black-and-white approach with failed tests and alleged violations, but here’s what I think: if  someone is a transcendent talent, and (in my judgment) a no doubt, slam-dunk candidate, then I vote for them. So I put in Clemens, Bonds, and Manny. I leave out Sosa, McGwire, and Palmeiro.

Manny was, maybe, the best pure right-handed hitter of all time. He finished his career with a .312 batting average and .585 slugging percentage – only Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Ted Williams, Jimmie Foxx, and Hank Greenberg have done that.

Jeff BagwellHere’s a thought: Jeff Bagwell is the best first baseman in the history of the National League.

There is an argument to be made. By WAR, he trails only Albert Pujols in the modern era (and if you include the American League, he trails only Pujols, Lou Gehrig, and Jimmie Foxx).

Bagwell dominated the league for the better part of a decade – from 1993 to 2002 he hit .306/.422/.574, a 158 OPS+ and averaged 35 home runs, 113 runs, 114 RBI’s, and 104 walks. He had a ridiculous 1994 season where he hit .368/.451/.750 and had 39 home runs in just 110 games. Bagwell is one of just six players to have a season with a .450 OBP and .750 SLG, along with Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Barry Bonds, Rogers Hornsby, and Mark McGwire.

While Bagwell has fallen short in prior years, he’s polling over 90% and should easily get in this year. This is great news! His support has skyrocketed in recent years:

2014: 54%
2015: 56%
2016: 72%
2017 (preliminary): 92%

Tim Raines. Raines is perpetually underrated. By WAR, he was the best player in the National League from 1983 to 1987. I would also argue that he was the best base stealer in baseball history – or at the very least, the most efficient.

Raines: 808 stolen bases, 146 caught stealing, 84.7% success rate
Rickey Henderson: 1406 stolen bases, 335 caught stealing, 80.8% success rate
Lou Brock: 938 stolen bases, 307 caught stealing, 75.3% success rate

There have been other efficient base stealers in history – Vince Coleman, Ichiro Suzuki, Carlos Beltran. But of those that have stolen 400+ bases, Raines has far and away the best success rate.

If you couple his base running with a career .385 on base percentage, 123 OPS+, and 69.1 WAR, then I think Raines has a clear case for the Hall of Fame. Yes, he never won an MVP and never hit more than 20 home runs. He was never viewed as the best player in the league. But, consider this: he finished with the same career WAR as Manny Ramirez even though he had almost 400 fewer home runs. He reached base more times than Tony Gwynn.

Like Bagwell, support for Raines has skyrocketed in recent years. He’s currently polling at 92% and should get in.

Ivan Rodriguez. Pudge is on the Mt. Rushmore of catchers. 14-time All Star, 13 Gold Gloves, an MVP, a .296 career batting average. Only Bench and Carter finished with a higher WAR as a catcher. Despite alleged steroid use, he’s polling at 84% and should get in on his first ballot.

Vladimir Guerrero. Man, I love Vlad. Let’s just take a moment to watch this.

One of the best bad-ball hitters of all time. He finished his career with a .318 average, 449 home runs, and a 140 OPS+. You finish your career with a 140 OPS+ and you’re getting my vote.

Edgar Martinez. Finished his career with a .312 average, a .418 OBP, and a .515 SLG. Even though he played in a massive offensive environment, his OPS+ was 147, higher than:

Harmon Killebrew
Mike Piazza
Alex Rodriguez
Chipper Jones
David Ortiz
George Brett
Al Kaline
Tony Gwynn

…and many others.

Trevor Hoffman. I go back-and-forth on this one. Whatever you think of the save, I think Hoffman was one of the best relief pitchers of all time. He wasn’t as dominant as Billy Wagner, but he was more consistent and had a longer career. For what it’s worth, I think Wagner should be in too, but I don’t have enough room for him on my ballot.

Mike Mussina. Every pitcher (except Roger Clemens) with 100 more wins than losses is in the Hall of Fame. Mussina finished 270-153. And, sure, wins and losses are not a great way to evaluate pitching, but I do think they tell a story over 20 years.

Look, if Mussina finished his career with 300 wins, then he sails into the Hall of Fame. And, if he sticks around for a bit longer, he probably gets to 300. He retired in 2008 when he was 39 years old, but he was coming off a remarkable season where he won 20 games. If he sticks around for three more years, and puts up three mediocre seasons, then he gets to 300. And I don’t think three mediocre seasons should be the difference between the Hall of Fame and borderline.

Mussina finished his career with an 82.7 WAR.That ranks 24th in history, and that includes about a dozen pitchers from the deadball and early 20th century who threw 400 innings a year and died of dysentery. Of the 23 pitchers ahead of him, 22 are in the Hall of Fame. The only one missing is Clemens.


Jorge Posada for the Hall

OK, so let’s start with this. I have a lot of fond memories of Jorge Posada. He was the most vocal of the ‘Core Four’, regularly yelling at his pitchers or getting ejected or starting brawls. He batted from both sides of the plate, never wore batting gloves, and peed on his hands to make them tougher. He was great.

Like Jeter and Rivera and Bernie and Pettitte, I grew up with Jorge. I chanted ‘Hip Hip Jorge!’ at Yankee games from the time I was eight until I was in college. He was on my bedroom posters. I walked around imitating his batting stance.

I asked some friends to tell me their favorite memory of Jorge Posada, and this is what they said:

Jon R: Favorite memory of Jorge is the bloop hit game 7 2003 ALCS. 

Adam: As a non Yankee fan, the thing I remember is the Sportscenter commercial.

Cooper: Best memory: some random game one summer when we were younger. Yanks down like 7 runs going into the 9th and we come back and win it with a walk off. Some new guy to the team is interviewed after the game and says Jorge gave them the pep talk going into the ninth that was essentially “we’re the Yankees, this is what we do!” And they f@&king did it. When I think of Jorge, there’s a lot of good, but that’s the first thing I think of every time.

Aaron SmallJorge was a great guy and teammate. Loved working with him as a pitcher/catcher relationship. We meshed well together. Smart catcher with a great knowledge of the game and of American League hitters. Enjoyed my two years with him. Great family man as well. Blessed to say that I had the chance to play with him.

Grace: Not sure I have a favorite memory.

Jon S: Walkoff against Texas.

Ben: Bloop vs. Pedro, especially after what happened earlier in the series.

David: He caught David Wells’ perfect game against the Twins, and he also hit the last ever home run in the Metrodome. And I loved how he never wore batting gloves. I really respected that. Even if he did pee on his hands.

Drew: I have an off the field one. There was a video they used to play on TV during rain delays where they would ask the players weird questions and I remember one with Jorge. He said he learned to move his ears because he was driving home and his glasses were falling off his face and he didn’t want to take his hands off the wheel, so he just willed his ear muscles to pull his glasses back up.

My favorite memory came on May 25th, 2011. I’ve talked about this game before. The Yankees were trailing the Blue Jays 4-3 in the ninth. Down to their last out, Curtis Granderson hit a single to tie the game. The next batter, Mark Teixeira, hit a single to win it. It was a wonderful night at the ol’ ballpark, and I was there, fresh off a hellish finals week to end my sophomore year of college.

The loudest roar of the night wasn’t the Granderson single. It wasn’t the Teixeira walk-off. No, the loudest roar of the night came when Jorge Posada stepped to the plate in the bottom of the ninth inning. He didn’t start the game, so he was pinch-hitting for someone, I can’t remember who, because it didn’t matter. And in a collective roar, the 50,000 fans at the ballpark hoped for one more magical moment in what would be his final season.

This was just a few days after he had pulled himself out of the lineup when he learned he was hitting ninth. Well, Jorge was never one to hide his thoughts. This was unacceptable to him. He sort of threw a tantrum in the clubhouse*, even though he was hitting just .176 that season, and that’s when we knew this was probably the end.

*Cooper: ‘Worst memory is how he was kind of a dick his last season with Joe G moving him down in the lineup.’

But the fans were on his side. Posada stepped into the batter’s box, double tapped his bat to home plate, and the crowd noise did not stop, and he ripped a 94 mph Frank Francisco fastball into the right-center gap for a double. Then he came out of the game for a pinch-runner, which eventually scored as the tying run.

I’ll always remember that sequence because it was probably louder when Posada WALKED TO THE PLATE than when he actually hit the double.

So, yes, I have good memories of Jorge, and I’m very clearly biased when I say that I think he belongs in the Hall of Fame.

I say this because this is the first year he is eligible, and we’re a month away from the vote. Unfortunately, there is about a .00001% chance he makes it, about the same odds that I make it. It’s just not going to happen, certainly not in his first year of eligibility. I’d be surprised if he gets more than 5% of the vote.

I also asked my friends if they think he belongs in the Hall:

Jon R: No, I don’t think he’s a Hall of Famer, but he deserves votes and consideration.

Cooper: I guess I’d have to look at the the numbers, but gut reaction is no.

Jon S: Yes for hall.

Grace: Yes he should be.

Ben: Strong no to hall.

David: I don’t believe he should be in the HoF. He was a very good and durable catcher for a long period of time, but I’m a small Hall kind of guy. In my opinion, he was never great. Yankees HoF for sure, but not baseball HoF.

I’m outnumbered, but dammit, I think he’s a Hall of Famer. And I think the math agrees with me.

As you probably know, it’s really difficult for a catcher to make the Hall of Fame. Only 17 have made it, but many of them are from a bygone era:


Roger Bresnahan
Buck Ewing


Mickey Cochrane
Bill Dickey
Rick Ferrell
Gabby Hartnett
Ernie Lombardi
Ray Schalk

Negro Leagues:

Josh Gibson
Biz Mackey
Louis Santop


Johnny Bench
Yogi Berra
Roy Campanella
Gary Carter
Carlton Fisk
Mike Piazza

So, only six catchers have made the Hall of Fame in the last 66 years. Again, it’s a tough bar to clear.

For the sake of comparison, let’s look at Posada’s numbers against those six guys, ranked by OPS+:

Mike Piazza: .308/.377/.545, 142 OPS+, 427 HR, 59.4 WAR
Johnny Bench: .267/.342/.476, 126 OPS+, 389 HR, 75.0 WAR
Yogi Berra: .285/.348/.482, 125 OPS+, 358 HR, 59.5 WAR
Roy Campanella: .276/.360/.500, 123 OPS+, 242, 34.2 WAR
Jorge Posada: .273/.374/.474, 121 OPS+, 275 HR, 42.7 WAR
Carlton Fisk: .269/.341/.457, 117 OPS+, 376 HR, 68.3 WAR
Gary Carter: .262/.335/.439, 115 OPS+, 324 HR, 69.9 WAR

Posada’s offensive numbers fit in quite comfortably with his peer group. And I think they also show one of Posada’s most underrated assets – his ability to walk*. His .374 career on-base percentage is second only to Piazza. He had four seasons with an OBP greater than .400. The other six guys had four seasons, COMBINED.

*I went to a game in 2004 where the Yankees won on a walk-off walk by Posada.

Posada became the Yankees’ full-time catcher in 2000, and for the next eleven years, he had an OPS above the league average, every single year, with only one extended stint on the DL in 2008. He made five All Star teams, won five Silver Sluggers, hit 20+ home runs eight times, and, of course, played in 125 additional playoff games and won five World Series.

But with catchers, you also have to factor in defense. The widely accepted notion is that Posada’s defense was not very good. And as a fan who watched literally hundreds, probably thousands, of games with Jorge Posada behind the plate, I would agree with that.

But I don’t think it was as bad as everyone thinks. Measuring catcher defense is more art than science, but I think the numbers are pretty close to reality. The all-time leaders in defensive WAR for catchers are Ivan Rodriguez (+28.7), Gary Carter (+25.5), Bob Boone (+25.3), and Jim Sundberg (+25.0). To me, that matches the eyeball test. Yadier Molina and Russell Martin lead active players.

Jorge Posada finished his career with a defensive WAR of +2.1, which, yeah, doesn’t put him in the upper echelon of defensive catchers, but it isn’t terrible either. It’s actually higher than Mike Piazza. And it was much higher in the early part of his career. His last few years were awful.

What I’m getting at is that I don’t think Posada’s defense was as bad as everyone thinks. And his offensive numbers were really good, better than some of his peers. He wasn’t as good as Bench, or Berra, but no one is.

I think we’ve set a standard that is too high for catchers. I say we add a few more to the Hall. Add Posada, add Ivan Rodriguez, and down the road, add Joe Mauer and Buster Posey and Yadier Molina.

Now let’s watch some of my favorite Jorge videos.

Game One in Cleveland

Tonight is the first night of the World Series. It’s in Cleveland.

I visited Cleveland back in 2013, as part of a road trip to Minnesota. One of my fondest memories from that trip was a conversation I had with John Adams, the guy who sits high atop the left field bleachers and bangs a drum. You can usually hear it on the broadcasts. He’s been a staple of Indians games since 1973.

John’s an incredibly nice guy, and we  talked about a lot of things. At one point I asked him what his favorite memory of this park was. He’s never seen the Indians win a World Series – in fact, they haven’t won since 1948, the year after baseball integrated. But they did reach two of them in the 1990’s.

He said: My favorite memory was right before the first pitch of the 1995 World Series.  The energy of the crowd was amazing. The Indians hadn’t reached the World Series in over 40 years. I banged the drum, and everyone went wild. It was the only show in town.

It was the only show in town.*

Tonight Cleveland returns to the World Series.


*Ironically enough, it’s not the only show in town tonight. The Cavaliers open up their season right across the street at Quicken Loans Arena. They’re raising their own championship banner.


Yesterday, Mark Teixeira announced his retirement after 14 seasons, the last eight with the Yankees.

I’ve gotten used to retirements by now. I used up everything I had when I saw Rivera and Jeter bow out in 2013 and 2014. And Teixeira is nowhere near the transcendent player that those guys were – he isn’t a homegrown player, he isn’t a Hall of Famer, he didn’t play on those championship teams in the late 90s and early 2000s.

But I’ve always liked Tex. And I will miss him.

I remember when the Yankees signed Teixeira on December 23rd, 2008. It was like an early Christmas gift – ’twas a cold December evening in my senior year of high school. The newswires brought good tidings, and the Yankees had their first baseman of the future. It was a massive contract – eight years, $180 million. At the time, it was the third largest contract ever signed by a player behind Jeter and A-Rod.*

*It’s now the 15th largest.

And for the first few years, he did not disappoint. In 2009, he led the American League in home runs, RBI’s, and total bases. He was #2 in the MVP voting, behind Joe Mauer. He was the #3 hitter on a team that won 103 games and the World Series. He didn’t play that well in the playoffs, but he did hit a dramatic, extra-inning walkoff home run in Game 2 of the ALDS. These were good times in Yankeeland.

On a warm May night in 2011, I saw him get absolutely mobbed behind second base after he hit a walk-off single.

The Yankees were trailing 4-3 going into the ninth. An odd series of events followed. Jorge Posada, in his final year, pinch hit for Eduardo Nunez and hit a double to right field, thanks to a misplay by the right fielder. Chris Dickerson pinch-ran for Posada. Then with two outs, Curtis Granderson hit a single into right that scored Dickerson to tie the game. Then Granderson stole second base. And then Mark Teixeira stepped up to the plate. And then this happened:

I’ll remember that night for two things. First, a great comeback win in the ninth. And second, the fan giveaway was… grass seed mix.

Tex had a weird knack for yelling obscenities after getting hit by a pitch. And, boy, did he get hit. He never stood particularly close to the plate, but somehow he was hit 36 times in his first three years as a Yankee. Like this. Owww:

And this. Owwwwwwwwww:

And sometimes he liked to yell at pitchers. Throw the ball over the plate!

Vincente Padilla hit him all the time:

Oh, Teixeira’s beef with Padilla was legendary. It went back to the early 2000s, when they were teammates in Texas. Padilla is a notoriously terrible person – he used to hit guys on purpose just because he wanted to, and then the opposing teams would retailiate, often by hitting Teixeira. Teixeira told Padilla to, like, stop hitting guys, and Padilla didn’t listen.

Tex: Padilla has no friends in the game because of his head-hunting ways.

Padilla: In this sport, as competitive ball players, we get pretty fired up. So I think, maybe, (Teixeira) picked the wrong profession. I think he’d be better off playing a women’s sport.

Hoo boy! Then Padilla accused Teixeira of having a vendetta against Latin players. Teixeira, of course, denied this:

Tex: I ask you guys to interview every one of my Latin teammates in this clubhouse right now and ask them. That’s why it is funny because it is completely erroneous. That’s a good word.

Padilla: He is always crying and complaining. If he has a base hit, he cries, if he doesn’t, he cries. I just meant that not even women complain as much as him.

Tex faced Padilla 19 times. He hit 3 homers and was hit 3 times.

They faced each other one final time in 2012, when Padilla was on the Red Sox. The Yankees were trailing 6-4 in the eighth. Tex was up as the tying run. And then this happened:

I was at that game. It. Was. Awesome. Tex milked that home run, and then some. He stared into the night and walked half way down the first line. It was the only time he ever did that.

Joe Buck’s call was perfect. Ripped! He got ’em! Tie game!

Tex was injured for most of 2013. He had a terrible, injury-plagued season in 2014. He was having a nice year in 2015 – 31 homers in 111 games – but then broke his leg and missed the rest of the season.

And now here we are in 2016, the last year of Teixeira’s contract, and the last year of his major league career. He’s having an awful year. But he’s shown glimpses of what he used to be. On Wednesday, he hit a home run and reached base four times. Last month in a game in San Diego, he hit two home runs, the second of which was his 400th career blast.

He still plays a great first base. Gold Gloves are pretty meaningless, but he’s won three as a Yankee, and he continues to be one of the best fielders in the league. I don’t know how many errors he’s saved Chase Headley by scooping up balls in the dirt that would have otherwise gone into the dugout. It’s been … a considerable amount.


He also looks a lot like Rachel Maddow:


And everyone on Twitter thinks he looks like a horse. I don’t really see it. But the tweets are hilarious.

Everyone gets old, and everyone leaves the game, sometimes with a bang, but most of the time with a whimper. Tex will be remembered as a good, solid player who may or may not have been worth the $180 million the Yankees paid him. I’ll just remember watching him play on those late, hot summer nights – his wide open stance, his weird bat waggle, his booming home runs, his frustrating groundballs into the shift, and his penchant for getting hit by pitches.

It was a good run in pinstripes, from that chilly December evening in 2008 to this frikkin hot August heat in 2016. Farewell, Marcus.

30 great baseball names

Ever notice how baseball players have a knack for having weird and funny names? Here are 30 of them that are rattling around my brain-thing.

Boof Bonser
Coco Crisp
Shigetoshi Hasegawa
Cheslor Cuthbert
Hee-Seop Choi
Stubby Clapp
Milton Bradley
Old Hoss Radbourn
Rusty Kuntz
Tim Spooneybarger
Heathcliff Slocumb
Three Finger Brown
Chief Bender
Catfish Hunter
Heinie Meine
Chicken Wolf
Dick Pole
Al Alburquerque
Placido Polanco
Goose Gossage
Rocky Biddle
Oil Can Boyd
Pokey Reese
Snuffy Stirnweiss
Ugeth Urbina
Greg Legg
Mark Clark
Boog Powell
Quinton McCracken
Johnny Dickshot

Top 10 baseball brawls

I would argue that baseball fights are the best sports fights. They are rare, the players aren’t obscured by helmets or pads, and you have a big ol’ field to play with. Most of the time, the benches empty, the pitchers run in from the bullpen, but punches aren’t thrown. But every now and then, you get a group of players/teams that really do hate each other, and we get to see a bunch of grown men fight each other without any sort of legal consequence. It is incredibly fun to watch.

We had an all-time great baseball brawl over the weekend, when Rougned Odor punched Jose Bautista in the face. In honor of that, here are my 10 favorite baseball fights of all time:

10) Coco Crisp vs. James Shields, 2008

Shields goes for a massive punch, but Coco Crisp evades it because he is a ninja.

9) Nolan Ryan vs. Robin Ventura, 1993

Nolan Ryan was 46 years old, Robin Ventura was 26. The old man wins.

8) Kyle Farnsowrth vs. Paul Wilson

You don’t normally see a pitcher charge a batter, but Kyle Farnsworth is certifiably insane.

7) Michael Barrett vs. A.J. Pierzynski, 2006

Everyone hates A.J. Pierzynski. Barrett’s punch to the face spoke for all of us.

6) Padres vs. Braves, 1984

Look at the fan at the 1:18 mark. He jumps onto the top of the dugout and throws a beer can into the ruckus.

5) Rougned Odor vs. Jose Bautista, 2016

You never see a player land a punch like that! One more time:


4) Pedro vs. Gerald Williams, 2000

I love the way Gerald Williams walks down the first base line, glances at his wrist, looks at Pedro, glances at his wrist again, looks at Pedro again, glances at his wrist one more time, then decides to charge the mound.

3) A-Rod vs. Varitek, 2004

You can read A Rod’s lips, and he is clearly saying something not nice.

2) Armando Benitez vs. entire Yankees team, 1998

Benitez dares the entire Yankees team to fight him. They do.

1) Clemens vs. Manny vs. Pedro vs. Zimmer, 2003

2003 ALCS, in the heat of the Yankees/Red Sox rivalry. Not the most violent of fights, but given the context of the game, it’s my favorite. RIP Zim.

If MLB was like the Premier League

You probably know about the incredible story of Leicester City, who just won the English Premier League at 5,000-to-1 odds, by far the most improbable sports championship of all time.

I’ve been thinking about the Premier League quite a bit lately, not just because of Leicester, but because I really like the rules. Teams are awarded three points for a win, one point for a draw, and zero points for a loss. There are no playoffs. The team with the most points at the end of the season wins. That’s it. And every year, the bottom three teams get relegated to a different league (and three new teams are added).

I like the Premier League rules because playoffs (especially in baseball) are a crapshoot. The baseball playoffs go against the very essence of the game, which is about building a deep team that can survive over the course of 162 games. In baseball, sometimes you have to lose the battle to win the war. Sometimes you have to skip a start. Weird stuff happens, but because of the sample size, the best teams tend to rise to the top by September.

And then you get to the playoffs. The game is totally different. Weird stuff happens, and then you have to go home. It makes the sport incredibly exciting, and I don’t hate the new system by any means, but it does sort of invalidate everything you’ve done for six months.

Anyway, I decided to go back twenty years and see what the baseball standings would look like each year if they used Premier League rules. This involved too many spreadsheets and hours on Baseball Reference. Yes, I’m insane.

The scoring: 3 points for a 9 inning (regulation) win, 1 point for extra innings, 0 points for a 9 inning (regulation) loss.

Welcome, everyone, to the hypothetical Premier League Baseball Championships. Here we go!


1. Cleveland Indians – 294 pts
2. Atlanta Braves – 284 pts
3. New York Yankees – 274 pts

The Indians (and the city of Cleveland) win their first championship since 1948. This 1996 team was awesome – they scored 952 runs and hit .293 AS A TEAM. Their lineup was deadly. Kenny Lofton, Manny Ramirez, Jim Thome, Albert Belle, and Julio Franco, to name a few.


1. Atlanta Braves – 293 pts
2. Baltimore Orioles – 280 pts
3. New York Yankees – 279 pts

After finishing second a year earlier, the ’97 Braves win the championship thanks in large part to great years from Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, John Smoltz, and randomly, Denny Neagle.


1. New York Yankees – 326 pts
2. Atlanta Braves – 318 pts
3. Houston Astros – 298 pts

In real life, the Yankees won 114 games in 1998, eight more than anyone else, so this one is a lot closer than I would have thought. The ’98 Braves weren’t too bad themselves – they won 106 games – but they won 104 of them in regulation (the Yankees won 105). This will be the only championship the Yankees will win in the 1990s or early 2000s.


1. Arizona Diamondbacks – 288 pts
2 (tie) Cleveland Indians – 284 pts
2 (tie) New York Mets – 284 pts

The second-year Diamondbacks come out of nowhere to win it all! But things are tight in the last week of the season. With two games to play, the Diamondbacks trail the Indians by two points. The DBacks win Games 161 and 162, and Cleveland loses both, so Randy Johnson gets his first and only ring. Schilling misses out.


1. Atlanta Braves – 284 pts
2. San Francisco Giants – 282 pts
3. St. Louis Cardinals – 277 pts

This is the best ending to a season ever, something people still talk about to this day.

On the last day of the season, the Giants – looking to win their first championship since 1954 – are ahead of the Braves by one point. The Braves won’t go quietly, and they beat the Marlins 18-0 to temporarily take a two point lead.  The Giants can still win if they beat the Rockies. But remember, this was 2000, at Coors Field, so the game was guaranteed to be bonkers and feature approximately eleventy trillion runs.

The Giants get off to a good start with two runs in the first inning. Curiously, they decide to sit Barry Bonds (and most of their regular starters). But starting pitcher Joe Nathan – yes, Joe Nathan – struggles in the bottom half of the first and allows two runs of his own. The game goes back and forth until the Giants take an 8-7 lead in the eighth.

And then we get to the bottom of the ninth. Giants fans are praying for this to end without incident. Braves fans are praying for a blown save. The Giants, oddly, call on Alan Embree to close out the championship. He walks some guy named Terry Shumpert. He hits Todd Helton. He allows a game-tying single to Dante Bichette.* Out of options, the Giants turn to – who else? – Bronswell Patrick, who serves up a game-winning sacrifice fly to Edgard Clemente. These are names of real baseball players.

*Technically, by our rules, the Giants season was over as soon as Bichette tied the game.

The Giants lose. The Braves win the championship by two points. Chaos in Atlanta.


1. Seattle Mariners – 334 pts
2. Oakland Athletics – 299 pts
3. St. Louis Cardinals – 282 pts

The Mariners completely dominate and have this thing locked up in July.


1. Oakland Athletics – 305 pts
2. New York Yankees – 304 pts
3. Atlanta Braves – 297 pts

Billy Beane famously said:

My shit doesn’t work in the playoffs.

But it does work using the Premier League rules! The 2002 A’s win it all by one measly point.

The Yankees and A’s trade places all season long, but Oakland is propelled to new heights after they win (and sometimes draw) twenty consecutive games. The Yankees try to make a run for it at the end of the season, and they win their last four games. But Oakland does too.


1. Atlanta Braves – 299 pts
2. New York Yankees – 297 pts
3. San Francisco Giants – 285 pts

Another close one. The Yankees are ahead by one point with five games to play. They can’t hold onto the lead. Braves win.


1. St. Louis Cardinals – 301 pts
2. New York Yankees – 297 pts
3. Boston Red Sox – 288 pts

The Red Sox have to wait for another year to break the curse. We don’t get to see the ALCS comeback, and no one remembers Dave Roberts or the bloody sock, and I for one am happy about all of that.


1. St. Louis Cardinals – 293 pts
2. Chicago White Sox – 283 pts
3. New York Yankees – 281 pts

Ugh, the Cardinals win again.


1. Detroit Tigers – 285 pts
2. New York Yankees – 280 pts
3. New York Mets – 278 pts

Tigers! Only three years after setting an American League record with 119 losses (which, in this universe, means they’d be relegated to the minors), they manage to make their way back into the league in 2005 and win it all one year later. They are the Leicester City of 2006.

(God, I hated this Tigers team. The Yankees were really good in 2006, but the Tigers took them out in the ALDS thanks to stupid Kenny Rogers and stupid Magglio Ordonez and stupid Placido Polanco)


1. Boston Red Sox – 289 pts
2. New York Yankees – 283 pts
3. Cleveland Indians – 274 pts

Finally, after 89 long years, the Boston Red Sox break the curse. It wasn’t easy – the Yankees were on their tail the whole year. But a 6-3 finish gives the Red Sox the championship.


1. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim – 299 pts
2 (tie) Chicago Cubs – 277 pts
2 (tie) Tampa Bay Rays – 277 pts

I totally forgot about this team, but the Angels win it in a landslide. The 2008 Angels weren’t that dominant, but they outperformed their Pythagorean win expectancy by twelve.


1. New York Yankees – 298 pts
2. Boston Red Sox – 283 pts
3. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim – 281 pts

The Yankees win their first championship in 11 years!


1. New York Yankees – 278 pts
2. Philadelphia Phillies – 275 pts
3. Tampa Bay Rays – 273 pts

The Yankees win their first championship in 1 year!

They come very close to blowing it, though. The standings on September 6th: Yankees 253, Phillies 218. The Phillies finish strong and cut it to three but can’t overtake the Yanks.


1. Philadelphia Phillies – 298 pts
2. New York Yankees – 295 pts
3. Texas Rangers – 285 pts

Lol, except they do one year later.

I’m sorry to say that, without knowing it, the Yankees absolutely blow it in the last week of the season. They have a five point lead with four games to play, but finish 0-2-2. The Phillies finish 3-0-1. Ugh.

By the way, the 2011 Phillies were good. This was the only year the Halladay/Lee/Hamels trio actually did something.


1. Cincinnati Reds – 284 pts
2. New York Yankees – 276 pts
3. Washington Nationals – 275 pts

Wait, what? The Cincinnati Reds win it all in 2012? I had to double check my math, but yes, that is indeed correct.

Reds fans aren’t exactly sure how this happened, and we aren’t either. Good years from Joey Votto and Johnny Cueto, I guess.


1. St. Louis Cardinals – 285 pts
2 (tie) Oakland Athletics – 280 pts
2 (tie) Detroit Tigers – 280 pts

Oh no, not the Cardinals again. They re-kindle their early 2000s magic to win their third championship in ten years. The post-Moneyball A’s make a nice run for it, but unfortunately, Billy Bean’s shit doesn’t work this year.


1. Los Angeles Dodgers – 282 pts
2 (tie) Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim – 281 pts
2 (tie) Washington Nationals – 281 pts

This is the closest race in years – three teams finish within a point of each other.

The Angels brutally collapse in the last week. With three games to play, they’re up by five points. The only way they can lose is if they finish 0-3, and either Washington or Los Angeles finish 3-0. And that’s exactly what happens. The Angels get swept by the Mariners on the final weekend and finish with 281 points. The Dodgers sweep the Rockies, including a gutsy start by Zack Greinke on the final day of the season. They finish with 282 points and the championship, their first since 1988.


1. St. Louis Cardinals – 292 pts
2. Pittsburgh Pirates – 279 pts
3. Los Angeles Dodgers – 272 pts

The Cardinals win their second championship in three years thanks to some awesome pitching – their 134 ERA+ is one of the highest marks ever.


A few things caught my eye about all of this nonsense.

One, there were only three years where the hypothetical Premier League championship winner matched the actual World Series winner – 1998 (Yankees), 2007 (Red Sox), and 2009 (Yankees).

Two, how about the Cardinals! What a dynasty. With their championship in 2015, they would have won four out of twelve.

Three, the Yankees were runners-up seven times.

Four, the 2010 Yankees should have won the World Series in real life. They probably do if they trade for Cliff Lee. That was a good team.

Five, the Giants are doing some voo-doo. They weren’t in the top three in 2010, 2012, or 2014, despite winning the real World Series all of those years.

Six, pick up sticks.

Seven, I’m tired. This was hard to do. Thanks for reading.

My response to Matthew Berry, five years later

In February 2010, I was a freshman at Boston College. One day, ESPN fantasy “expert” Matthew Berry came to give a talk on campus. I attended, because it was something to do and a chance to meet a semi-famous person from ESPN.

The esteemed Matthew Berry walked into the room to a nice round of applause, and the first thing he said was:

Hi, I’m Matthew Berry, and I hate the Yankees.

Everyone exploded into applause, with hoots and hollers and loud clapping all around. This is what happens when you go to school in Boston. Meanwhile, I sat and looked at the floor.

Berry spoke for an hour. I don’t remember much of what he said, other than the fact that he came across as a big, pretentious jerk.

At the end of his talk, he opened it up for questions. I immediately raised my hand. I was the first person to ask a question.

So I asked: Why do you hate the Yankees?

He gave a rambling answer about their arrogance and their bloated payroll and then he moved on.

The next day, while I was sitting in class, I got multiple texts from friends. Go to! So I did, and wouldn’t you know it, Matthew Berry wrote a column about why he hates the Yankees. He even referenced me!

After I gave my talk, during the Q-and-A session a young man asked me, very simply, why I hated the Yankees.

I was famous!

And then I read the column. And I don’t want to be hyperbolic here, but it was the worst thing I’ve ever read. Here’s the link, if you’re so inclined to read it. And even though it’s been five years, I’d like to go through some of Matthew Berry’s comments, line-by-line. Consider this my official response:

Hi Matt, Jeff here. OK, so you start out by saying that one time you went to a Yankee game and sat near some bratty kids with no parents in sight.

Apparently, they were just dumped there or something. I know baseball is America’s pastime and kids are cute, but let me tell you something, and I’m not gonna lie. These kids were superannoying.

I’m sorry you had to deal with that, I really am. I’ve sat near annoying people in New York and also Boston and Los Angeles and Philadelphia and lots of other places.

My life philosophy is generally people are good, but sometimes when I go to sporting events and look around at the loud, drunk, annoying people around me, I start to reconsider. So I know where you’re coming from.

They were discussing foul balls and bragging to one another about how many they had. This one had five, this one had three, a third had four, so on and so on.

Well, bragging is never good, but that’s what kids do sometimes. Then what did they do?

“Throw us a ball! Give us a ball! Hey, mister, we want a ball! Give us a ball! Hey, throw the ball here! We want a ball! Please, mister, throw us a ball!” On and on they went. “Hey, mister! Mister! MISTER! GIVE US A BALL!”

If you think that is annoying to read, imagine it being screamed during the game, constantly, inning after inning, directly behind you.

I mean, yes, it’s fairly annoying. Sometimes annoying things happen.

As the Blue Jays ran off the field, first baseman Carlos Delgado tossed the ball up into the stands. Many folks went for it, but I came down with it.

NICE. You did it, Matt. The kids wanted a ball, but you got one first.

The kids started yelling. “Can we have the ball? Hey, mister, we want that ball. Give us the ball! We’ve been yelling,” and so on. My father-in-law turned to me and said, “If you want to give the kids the ball, that’s OK.”

So what was your response?

Hells. No.

Wait, why?

My father-in-law was a softy. I’m not. And I was not going to give up Joe’s first foul ball in 65 years so some spoiled brats could add it to their collection. Just because you beg for something in an annoying manner does not mean your efforts are rewarded. Learned that while dating in high school.

OH HO HO, good one Matt.

Look, you got the ball, you deserve to keep it. You have no obligation to give it to the kids. In fact, if I was in your position, I’d definitely keep the ball because I’ve never caught one at a baseball game, and it’s one of my lifelong dreams.

But you can expect to hear some backlash. That’s just the way it goes.

Some wise guy a few rows behind the kids started a chant. “Give-the-kid-the-ball. Give-the-kid-the-ball.” It picked up steam. “Give! The Kid! The Ball! Give! The Kid! The Ball!” Soon, the whole section was chanting this. GIVE! THE KID! THE BALL! GIVE! THE KID! THE BALL!

Then the food bombardment started. Peanuts, hot dogs and beer were thrown at us. Repeatedly. Security was nowhere to be found. We asked folks to stop, which made it worse. We tried to ignore it. But the food, beer and insults kept coming.

Order was finally restored a half-inning later when the first-base umpire came over and handed the kids some balls. The kids bragged to us. “Told you we’d get a ball, a–hole.”

Look, I imagine this whole ordeal was annoying, but surely you wouldn’t hate on an entire organization because of a few loud, annoying, borderline-abusive kids?

And that’s why I hate the Yankees.

Wait, what? You hate the Yankees because you sat near some bratty kids at a game once? You, sir, are applying some supremely broad strokes based on your interaction with, what, three kids? They’re CHILDREN!

It’s not just the team and the way it is run. It’s not just its owner or the cheating, performance-enhancing drug users A-Rod and Andy Pettitte.

It’s the collective known as Yankee Nation.

There’s no such thing as Yankees Nation. I don’t know what you’re talking about. There is a Red Sox Nation, everyone knows that. It’s literally on the team website.

I came away from that game with a hatred of the Yankees and was absolute in this belief: Yankees fans are subhuman.

Well, that’s not very nice.

You mean to tell me that because these kids were annoying, you can safely assume that all Yankee fans, everywhere, are SUBHUMAN?

Everything the Yankees stand for was represented during that half-inning. Like the kids, they are spoiled and demanding and see things only from their self-indulgent point of view. Like the adults, they act out when they don’t get their way.

If by ‘act out’ you mean ‘sign some high-priced free agents’, then yeah, the Yankees do act out. But as I’ve written before – that, sir, is an attack on competence. The Yankees have money to spend, and the rules allow them spend their money to acquire players, and lots of times those players help the team win. That’s a great thing! Other teams have the money and choose not to spend it. Why wouldn’t you do everything in your power to improve your odds of winning?

By the way, the Yankees penchant for ‘acting out’ has probably hurt them more than anything. Yes, they’ve been successful, but they have also been burdened with lots of bloated contacts and an inept farm system.

What should have been a great day with my father-in-law was ruined.

Good, I’m glad it was.

Although my hatred is still alive, it has softened. Since that game, I’ve met Yankees fans who are reasonable, intelligent people, including friends, colleagues, friends of colleagues and colleagues of friends. 

And colleagues of friends of colleagues. And colleagues of my third cousin’s second wife. And colleagues of my friend’s twice-removed grandmother’s plumber.

You trying to no disrespect us? You sound like Jon Stewart doing a Donald Trump impression:

No disrespect here. Yankee fans are spoiled, entitled, self-indulgent dirtbags. Some, I assume, are good people. But most are scum of the earth. No disrespect.

But I’d say your best line of all comes at the end, the final flourish to let us know that Yankee fans can, in fact, be decent:

I’m even dating a woman who is a Yankees fan.

NICE. Way to subtly let us know that you’re off the market.

So, yeah, let me repeat again that your whole argument about hating the Yankees is based on a bad interaction with some kids at a baseball game. And a handful of other jerks who sat near you. Except you can’t just make assumptions on an entire group of people like that. That’s just wrong, Matt! And it really hurts my feelings, because I like to think that I am an intelligent, capable, not subhuman Yankee fan.

There are good people and bad people in this world. Some like the Yankees, some don’t. Some like the Milwaukee Brewers, and some don’t. And look, Matt, you can hate the Yankees all you want, because there are certainly legitimate reasons to hate the Yankees. Yours just happens to be wrong.

Your column in 2010 is one of the most insanely idiotic things I have ever read. At no point in your rambling, incoherent response were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought. Everyone is now dumber for reading it. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul.

RIP Yogi Berra


I originally posted this on Medium. Medium is cool! Perhaps I’ll start writing there more often.

I have this picture, framed and autographed, hanging in my room at home. You have Babe Ruth on the left, slightly hunched over, a year away from dying. And you have Yogi Berra, young and vibrant, about to start a remarkable career. I have this image burned into my mind. It’s started to fade over the years, but it’s always been there to greet me when I come home. Sometimes I give it a knowing nod, and it’s almost as if Yogi is staring right back at me, offering a brief nod of his own.

It’s funny how much you can know about a person without ever actually meeting them. Like, if you ever saw that person on the street, it would be really weird, because you know everything about them, and they don’t know anything about you. That was Yogi and me. I knew a lot about him. He didn’t know a whole lot about me. This is the opposite of a healthy and equitable relationship. But that’s the way it goes with the famous.

The guy lived a helluva life. I mean, seriously. He was a World War II veteran, a great baseball player, a 10-time World Series champion, a cultural icon. You know that Jim Valvano quote, the one that goes: If you laugh, you think, and you cry, that’s a full day. That’s a heck of a day. You do that seven days a week, you’re going to have something special. Yogi lived a full life.

A lot was written about Yogi today, and I loved reading about the stories and the moments from his life. I really liked this one, from the time Yogi was asked about meeting the Pope:

Reporter: I understand you had an audience with the Pope.

Yogi: No, but I saw him.

Reporter: Did you get to talk to him?

Yogi: I sure did. We had a nice little chat.

Reporter: What did he say?

Yogi: You know, he must read the papers a lot, because he said, ‘Hello, Yogi.’

Reporter: And what did you say?

Yogi: I said, ‘Hello, Pope.’

I also liked this one, from Lenny Shecter:

But that is not what I remember about him most. I remember most that the other ball players always complained that Yogi Berra would stand naked at the clubhouse buffet and scratch his genitals over the cold cuts.

That’s not the Yogi Berra they portrayed on Yankeeography!

I never met Yogi, I never knew Yogi, I never saw Yogi in real life. I never watched him play, never watched him manage, never even visited his museum. But he’s always held a special place in my Yankee heart. He was a great spirit who transcended the game.

I’ll be taking all of his Yogi-isms to my grave. When you come to a fork in the road, take it. You can observe a lot by watching. The future ain’t what it used to be.

And, no matter what, in sports and in life, it ain’t over ’til it’s over.

But of all the images of Yogi’s life, of all the things you could talk about, the one I’ll remember most is that picture hanging in my room. A raw rookie, standing next to baseball greatness. Unsure of what his life will be.  Forever young.


Porkchop on a stick

The Yankees are playing the Twins at Target Field this weekend, which reminds me of one of my all time favorite moments.

Back in 2010, the Yankees played their first-ever series at Target Field. The YES Network was fascinated by all of the different types of food at the ballpark. Namely, everything seemed to be on a stick.

Cut to Kim Jones, who is holding the very popular porkchop on a stick. All of a sudden, a Yankee fan appears in the background. And then this happens:

There are so many good things about this video. The guy making the sweeping motion with his mini-broom. The beer in his other hand. His friend that cheers him on. THE BITE. The slow-motion replay. Kim Jones’s reaction. I didn’t bite it! The battle between Javier Vazquez and Jim Thome going on in the background.

Of course, when I visited Target Field in 2013, I had to try one. It was very good.