Archive for the ‘tony gwynn’ tag
First off: I’m not a “small hall” guy. (How can you, when looking at the litany of obscure players the Veteran’s Committee has already enshrined while the current ballot has literally a dozen names that you can make an argument for?) So naturally I want to see enshrinement for a larger number of the “marquee” names in baseball’s history. I view the Hall of Fame as a museum dedicated to the game, and recognizing all the eras of the game for better or for worse. I’m for expanding the current ballot and If I had a vote i’d be maxing out the 10 names with a desire to put a couple more guys on.
I’m also distinctly of the opinion that maybe the era of baseball just prior to today’s is underrepresented in Cooperstown. Specifically, my theory is that the massive boom in offense that the game has seen in the last 20 years coupled with a distinct shift in the way pitching staffs are managed has led to voters and fans to discount and dismiss the accomplishments of players specifically from the 1980s.
MLB.com has a show called “Prime 9,” where they list the best 9 players/teams related to certain topics. Recently they showed the “Best 9 players of the 1980s” by position, and it led me to use that list as a starting point for a discussion of marquee players from the 1980s and to decide whether or not the decade is under represented in Cooperstown.
Here’s Prime 9′s top player by position and their Hall of Fame status. Throughout this entire article, Blue == Hall of Fame players while Red == non-Hall of Fame Players.
- RF: Dwight Evans: fell off HoF ballot on his 3rd attempt in 1999. Max votes: 10.4% in 1998.
- CF: Dale Murphy: fell of HoF ballot on his 15th attempt this year in 2013. Max votes: 23.2% in 2000.
- LF: Rickey Henderson: 1st ballot HoFamer in 2009 with 94.8% of the vote.
- SS: Cal Ripken Jr: 1st ballot HoFamer in 2007 with 98.5% of the vote.
- 3B: Mike Schmidt: 1st ballot HoFamer in 1995 with 96.5% of the vote.
- 2B: Ryne Sandberg: 3rd ballot HoFamer in 2005 with 76.2% of the vote.
- 1B: Don Mattingly: on current ballot, his 13th attempt. Max votes: 28.2% in 2001, his first year on the ballot.
- C: Gary Carter: 6th ballot HoFamer in 2003 with 78% of the vote.
- SP: Jack Morris: on current ballot, his 14th attempt. Max votes: 67.7% this year.
Four of the Nine players listed as “Best of the Decade” are not in the Hall of Fame. I think there’s something wrong here. I know Morris is incredibly polarizing and probably never gets in, while the other three guys (Evans, Murphy, Mattingly) each had knocks against them related to durability and peak that prevented them from being enshrined. Perhaps these are future Veteran’s committee picks.
I know the above list is arguable; perhaps those players aren’t necessarily the “best” at their positions for the decade. So lets talk about the leading candidates per position who didn’t make the Prime-9′s list, and their own HoF status. The MLB show didn’t distinguish between SP and RPs so I’ve separated them out below, nor did they distinguish between the OF positions like they did for the team selected above.
I’ve included the guys in the above “Prime 9″ list in the lists below for ease of analysis by position.
(Coincidentally; as you read the vote percentage totals, keep in mind that a voting percentage of less than 1% means that the player got only a handful of votes from the 500+ votes tallied each year, a woefully small number).
- Dwight Evans: fell off HoF ballot on his 3rd attempt in 1999. Max votes: 10.4% in 1998.
- Dale Murphy: fell of HoF ballot on his 15th attempt this year in 2013. Max votes: 23.2% in 2000.
- Rickey Henderson: 1st ballot HoFamer in 2009 with 94.8% of the vote.
- Andre Dawson: 9th ballot HoFamer in 2010 with 77.9% of the vote.
- Tim Raines: on current ballot, his 6th attempt. Max votes: 52.2% this year.
- Dave Parker: fell of HoF ballot on his 15th attempt this year in 2011. Max votes: 24.5% in 1998.
- Fred Lynn: fell off HoF ballot on his 2nd attempt in 1997. Max votes: 5.5% in 1996.
- Kirk Gibson: fell off HoF ballot on his 1st attempt in 2001 with only 2.5% of the voting.
- Dave Winfield: 1st ballot HoFamer in 2001 with 84.5% of the vote.
- Kirby Puckett: 1st ballot HoFamer in 2001 with 82.1% of the vote.
- Tony Gwynn: 1st ballot HoFamer in 2007 with 97.6% of the vote.
- Pedro Guerrero: fell off HoF ballot on his 1st attempt in 1998 with only 1.3% of the voting.
- Jim Rice: 15th ballot HoFamer in 2009 with 76.4% of the vote.
- Daryl Strawberry: fell off HoF ballot on his 1st attempt in 2005 with only 1.2% of the voting.
- Jack Clark: fell off HoF ballot on his 1st attempt in 1998 with only 1.5% of the voting.
- Andy Van Slyke: fell off HoF ballot on his 1st attempt in 2001 without receiving a single vote.
This makes for 16 total outfielders on the “Best of the decade” list. Of those 16 outfielders, 10 are not in the Hall of Fame. Would you say that the position is under-represented in the Hall if only 6 outfielders from an entire decade of the sport are enshrined? Maybe, maybe not. To say nothing of the fact that 2 of these 6 HoFame 80s outfielders (Rice and Dawson) were heavily criticized upon enshrinement for being voted in based on remnants of “old man” statistics.
Jack Clark you say? 50 Career WAR. That’s nothing to shake a stick at. Higher than a number of Hall of Fame hitters. I remember him being more of a power hitter than he turned out to be. He just couldn’t stay healthy; only 5 seasons where he played close to a “full season” in 18 years in the league. I remember him fondly from my childhood; my family is from San Francisco and I always rooted for the Giants as a kid.
- Cal Ripken Jr: 1st ballot HoFamer in 2007 with 98.5% of the vote.
- Ryne Sandberg: 3rd ballot HoFamer in 2005 with 76.2% of the vote.
- Garry Templeton: fell off HoF ballot on his 1st attempt in 1998 with only 0.4% of the voting.
- Ozzie Smith: 1st ballot HoFamer in 2002 with 91.7% of the vote.
- Alan Trammell: on current ballot, his 12th attempt. Max votes: 36.8% last year.
- Robin Yount: 1st ballot HoFamer in 1999 with 77.5% of the vote.
- Lou Whitaker: fell off HoF ballot on his 1st attempt in 2001 with only 2.9% of the voting.
- Dave Conception: fell of HoF ballot on his 15th attempt this year in 2008. Max votes: 16.9% in 1998.
Lots of baseball pundits have lamented Whitaker’s fate, while plenty others vociferiously argue for Trammell, who had the misfortune of being both the 2nd best offensive SS (to Ripken) and the 2nd best defensive SS (to Smith) of his era simultaneously, thus being overshadowed by both. Conception was about an equal at the plate to Ozzie Smith but only about half the Gold Gloves, but still seems like he deserved a bit more credit than he got in the voting.
- Mike Schmidt: 1st ballot HoFamer in 1995 with 96.5% of the vote.
- Wade Boggs: 1st ballot HoFamer in 2005 with 91.9% of the vote.
- George Brett: 1st ballot HoFamer in 1999 with 98.2% of the vote.
- Paul Molitor: 1st ballot HoFamer in 2004 with 85.2% of the vote.
- Terry Pendleton: fell off HoF ballot on his 1st attempt in 2004 with only 0.2% of the voting.
- Tim Wallach: fell off HoF ballot on his 1st attempt in 2002 with only 0.2% of the voting.
- Buddy Bell: fell off HoF ballot on his 1st attempt in 1995 with only 1.7% of the voting.
Four first ballot hall of fame 3rd Basemen played in the era (even if most consider Molitor primarly a DH later in his career) which is saying something considering there are only 12 full time 3rd baseman in the Hall from all of history. The all-star game starters for the entire decade were almost entirely Schmidt, Boggs and Brett. The others I fully acknowledge are “stretches” but did each have several all-star appearances during the decade.
- Don Mattingly: on current ballot, his 13th attempt. Max votes: 28.2% in 2001, his first year on the ballot.
- Steve Garvey: fell of HoF ballot on his 15th attempt this year in 2007. Max votes: 42.6% in 1995.
- Eddie Murray: 1st ballot HoFamer in 2003 with 85.3% of the vote.
- Keith Hernandez: fell off HoF ballot on his 9th attempt in 2004. Max votes: 10.8% in 1998.
- Mark McGwire: on current ballot, his 7th attempt. Max votes: 23.7% in 2010.
Not much to say here: There seemed to be a definite lack of quality first basemen for the decade; only one is enshrined in the Hall. Many of the all-star 1B appearances early in the decade went to aging stars Rod Carew and Pete Rose, who by that point in their long careers had been moved to first base for defensive purposes. McGwire’s issues are obvious (and he’s clearly more well known for his exploits in the 1990s, so its arguable if he even belongs in this 1980′s centric discussion).
- Gary Carter: 6th ballot HoFamer in 2003 with 78% of the vote.
- Carlton Fisk: 2nd ballot HoFamer in 2000 with 79.6% of the vote.
- Lance Parrish: fell off HoF ballot on his 1st attempt in 2001 with 1.7% of the voting.
- Benito Santiago: fell off HoF ballot on his 1st attempt in 2011 with 0.2% of the voting.
- Darrell Porter: fell off HoF ballot on his 1st attempt in 1993 with zero (0) votes.
- Tony Pena: fell off HoF ballot on his 1st attempt in 2003 with0.4% of the voting.
- Bob Boone: fell off HoF ballot on his 5th attempt in 2000. Max votes: 7.7% in 1996.
- Terry Kennedy: fell off HoF ballot on his 1st attempt in 1997 with exactly one (1) vote.
Yes, I’m really stretching for 1980s catchers. Basically Carter made the all-star team every year for the NL while Fisk made half the All Star Starts for the AL during the same time. The backups were generally catchers having a decent first half, many of whom never made an other all-star team. Boone was better than you remember, hence his hanging around the bottom of the ballot for a few years.
- Lee Smith: on current ballot, his 11th attempt. Max votes: 50.6% in 2012.
- Bruce Sutter: 13th ballot HoFamer in 2006 with 876.9% of the vote.
- Dennis Eckersley: 1st ballot HoFamer in 2004 with 83.2% of the vote.
- Rich Gossage: 9th ballot HoFamer in 2008 with 85.8% of the vote.
- Jeff Reardon: fell off HoF ballot on his 1st attempt in 2000 with 4.8% of the voting.
- Tom Henke: fell off HoF ballot on his 1st attempt in 2004 with 0.6% of the voting.
- Dan Quisenberry: fell off HoF ballot on his 1st attempt in 1996 with 3.8% of the voting.
- Kent Tekulve: fell off HoF ballot on his 1st attempt in 1995 with 1.3% of the voting.
- Willie Hernandez: fell off HoF ballot on his 1st attempt in 1995 with 0.4% of the voting.
I’m not going to vociferously argue for Relievers/Closers to be inducted, since I think they’re mostly overrated in terms of their contributions to wins. But I will say that a couple of these guys were far better than you remember. Take Tom Henke: career 157 ERA+, which was better than either Sutter or Gossage PLUS he had more career saves (311 for Henke compared to 310 for Gossage and 300 for Sutter). How exactly are two of these three guys Hall of Famers while Henke got exactly 6 votes out of 515 his first time on the ballot? These voting patterns just seem drastically inconsistent.
All the above though pales in comparison to what we’re about to see.
- Jack Morris: on current ballot, his 14th attempt. Max votes: 67.7% this year.
- Steve Carlton: 1st ballot HoFamer in 1994 with 95.6% of the vote.
- Dave Stewart: fell off HoF ballot on his 2nd attempt in 2002. Max votes: 7.4% in 2001.
- Frank Viola: fell off HoF ballot on his 1st attempt in 2002 with 0.4% of the voting.
- Rick Sutcliffe: fell off HoF ballot on his 1st attempt in 2000 with 1.8% of the voting.
- Dave Steib: fell off HoF ballot on his 1st attempt in 2004 with 1.4% of the voting.
- Bob Welch: fell off HoF ballot on his 1st attempt in 2000 with 0.2% of the voting.
- Brett Saberhagen: fell off HoF ballot on his 1st attempt in 2007 with 1.3% of the voting.
- Orel Hershiser: fell off HoF ballot on his 2nd attempt in 2007. Max votes: 11.2% in 2006.
- Dwight Gooden: fell off HoF ballot on his 1st attempt in 2006 with 3.3% of the voting.
- Mike Scott: fell off HoF ballot on his 1st attempt in 1997 with 0.4% of the voting.
- Rick Reuschel: fell off HoF ballot on his 1st attempt in 1997 with 0.4% of the voting.
- Fernando Valenzuela: fell off HoF ballot on his 2nd attempt in 2004. Max votes: 6.2% in 2003.
- Nolan Ryan: 1st ballot HoFamer in 1999 with 98.8% of the vote.
- Denny Martinez: fell off HoF ballot on his 1st attempt in 2004 with 3.2% of the voting.
- Bert Blyleven: 14th ballot HoFamer in 2011 with 79.7% of the vote.
- Jimmy Key: fell off HoF ballot on his 1st attempt in 2004 with 0.6% of the voting.
- Ron Guidry: fell off HoF ballot on his 9th attempt in 2002. Max votes: 8.8% in 2000.
- John Tudor: fell off HoF ballot on his 1st attempt in 1996 with 0.4% of the voting.
- Roger Clemens: on current ballot, his 1st attempt. Max votes: 37.6% in 2013.
Here is where I think I really have a problem with the Hall of Fame treatment players in the 1980s; I think the entire generation of Starting Pitchers has been generally underrated and overlooked. Look at this list of pitchers and look at the number of guys who failed to even stay on the ballot for more than one season. Meanwhile, you can argue that the three guys who ARE on this list who are in the Hall of Fame (Carlton, Ryan and Blyleven) all actually “belong” to the 1970s; they just happened to have longer careers that bled into the 1980s. Clemens appears here because his late 80s debut was so strong but clearly he’s a player of the 90s, and his reasons for non-inclusion thus far are obvious.
Do you mean to tell me that NONE of these other 1980′s starters merits inclusion to the Hall of Fame? That an entire decade of starting pitchers doesn’t historically merit inclusion? I’m not going to argue that all (or most) of these players belong, but it is kind of shocking that so many of the leading pitchers of that era were given so little consideration.
My biggest beef may be with Saberhagen. Here’s the side-by-side stats of Saberhagen and a Mystery pitcher we’ll identify in a moment:
|Mystery Player||165||87||2324 1/3||2396||2.76||131||50.3|
Pretty close, no? Saberhagen contributed more WAR and was nearly this player’s equal in ERA+, which adjusts to the eras. Mystery player’s W/L record is better … but then again, havn’t we learned that wins and losses are meaningless stats now? A couple more facts here: Saberhagen won two Cy Young awards while the Mystery player won Three. Saberhagen led the league in ERA just once while Mystery player did it 5 years in a row.
The Mystery player here (if you havn’t already guessed) is none other than Sandy Koufax. Now, I’m certainly not saying that Saberhagen is the equal of Koufax, certainly not when you look at Koufax’s last 5 seasons or his 4 no-hitters. My point is this: Koufax was a first ballot hall of famer … and Saberhagen got 7 votes out of 545 ballots. Saberhagen may not be a Hall of Famer but he deserved to be in the discussion longer than he was.
Others have mentioned the lack of support for Dave Steib, who had a relatively similar statistical case to Saberhagen. Similar career bWAR (53.5), similar ERA+ (122), and similar injury issues that curtailed his career. Steib’s award resume isn’t as impressive (zero Cy Youngs but 7 All-Star appearances in his first 11 seasons), and he was basically done as an effective player by the time he was 33.
There are some other surprises on this list too. Jimmy Key you say? Go look at his career stats and you’ll be surprised just how good he was. 186-117, a 3.51 ERA (which sounds mediocre) but a career 122 ERA+. A couple of stellar seasons (two 2nd place Cy Young votes). I’m not saying he’s a hall of famer, but I am saying that he was better than you remember. There’s absolutely pitchers in the Hall with worse ERA+ than Key’s.
Coincidentally, you can make the argument that many of these players really “belonged” to a different decade, if you wanted to really just focus this discussion on the 1980 decade.
- Fisk, Boone, Conception, Parker, Lynn, Rice, Garvey, Carlton, Ryan, Reuschel and to a certain extent Winfield were really players who mostly “belong” in the 1970s.
- Blyleven and Brett’s careers equally spanned both the 70s and 80s.
- Gooden, Van Slyke, Puckett, McGwire, Clemens and Pendleton had careers that started the late 80s but who flourished mostly in the 1990s.
But, I think the point is made, especially when it comes to pitchers. So I left all these players in.
Here’s a couple other ways to look at the best players of the 1980s. Here’s a list of the top 20 positional players by “Win Shares” for the decade (data cut and pasted from an online forum). As with above, blue=hall of famer while red indicates not.
1. Rickey Henderson 289
2. Robin Yount 274
3. Mike Schmidt 265
4. Eddie Murray 250
5. Tim Raines 246
6. Dale Murphy 244
7. Wade Boggs 237
8. Dwight Evans 230
9. George Brett 229
10. Keith Hernandez 221
11. Pedro Guerrero 221
12. Cal Ripken 219
13. Alan Trammell 219
14. Gary Carter 215
15. Jack Clark 213
16. Lou Whitaker 205
17. Andre Dawson 204
18. Ozzie Smith 204
19. Paul Molitor 198
20. Dave Winfield 193
Most HoFame pundits lament the lack of support for Raines specifically, but it is interesting to see how high up both Murphy and Evans fall on this list.
Now, here’s Pitcher WAR accumulated in the 1980s. I took this data from a posting on BeyondtheBoxScore blog back in 2010, who was arguing (of course) why Jack Morris didn’t deserve to be in the hall of fame. However, the table here also illustrates nicely who were really the best pitchers of the decade, and most of these guys are in the list above.
I’m not sure why he ran this list to 21 players; perhaps he really likes Mark Gubicza.
Notice the same 3 names appear here as appeared above for Hall of Fame starters. Also notice the surprisingly high appearances of players like Soto and Higuera; I didn’t even include them in the above analysis, perhaps providing my own bias because certainly I wouldn’t have included these two in any conversation about the best pitchers of the 80s. But the point is now made statistically; of the 20 best pitchers by WAR for the entire decade, only 3 are enshrined in the Hall.
I havn’t done this analysis for other decades but I’d be surprised if other decades were so underrepresented. Think about how many obvious hall of famers pitched in the 1990s; Just off the top of my head: Clemens, Mussina, Maddux, Glavine, Smoltz, Johnson, Pedro, Schilling and perhaps eventually Hoffman and Rivera. Maybe guys like Cone and Pettitte deserve more thought. Lee Smith is still on the ballot. That’s a lot of names for one decade as compared to what’s happened to the 1980s guys.
So, after all this, do we think the 1980s players are underrepresented in the Hall? I count 17 positional players, 3 relievers and 3 starters from the era. Perhaps the answer is, “there’s plenty of positional representation but the Starters are not fairly represented.”
Why are there so few starters from this era enshrined? Did we just see a relatively mediocre time period in baseball with respect to starting pitchers? Did we just get unlucky with the longevity and injury issues related to the best pitchers of the era (Hershiser, Saberhagen, Steib)? Did changes in bullpen management that came about in the 90s (lefty-lefty matchups and more specialized relievers) combined with increasing awareness/sensitivety to pitch counts (100 pitches and you’re out) contribute to this fact? If you’re a starter and the assumption is that you’re pitching 9 innings no matter what your pitch count is, you’re going to approach the game differently and pitch with a different level of effort than if you knew you were getting the hook after 100 pitches and/or in roughly the 6th or 7th inning. Did this contribute to more mediocre-appearing ERAs for starters of this era? Is that a good argument to use, as compared to 90s’ and modern pitchers who go all-out for 7 innings and then sit (versus starters of the 90s, who would often face the 3-4-5 of the opposing team a FOURTH time in the late innings while sitting on 140 pitches)?
What do you guys think?
Recently, I read a pundit who talked about how a huge percentage of baseball prospects come from relatively few states; California (mostly Southern California at that), Texas, Florida and Georgia. The Baseball America guys once talked about an “All North Carolina” team and how good it would be (BA is based in Durham, NC). It got me thinking: how good of a team could you put together of prospects with ties to Virginia? Having grown up in Virginia and having had the opportunity to play with and against a number of guys with pro ties over the years, I thought it’d be interesting to put together the “All Virginia Team.”
Using mostly the handy Baseball-reference pages, I looked up players who were either born in Virginia, went to a Virginia-based high school, or played baseball at one of Virginia’s universities. There’s also the fantastic Baseball Cube website (www.thebaseballcube.com) that has very in-depth player databases searchable by high schools that shows every player on a professional or NCAA team by school, which sometimes has better records than B-R.com. The players here had to be active in the Majors in 2012, though as it turned out there’s enough guys with Virginia ties to make a full starting team. Feedback is welcome.
Here’s a roster:
- C: Brandon Inge (born and HS in Lynchburg, college at VCU)
- 1B: Mark Reynolds (HS in Virginia Beach, college at UVA)
- 2B: Will Rhymes (college at W&M)
- SS: Ryan Zimmerman (HS in Virginia Beach, college at UVA)
- 3B: David Wright (born in Norfolk, HS in Chesapeake)
- LF: Michael Cuddyer (born in Norfolk, HS in Chesapeake)
- CF: B.J. Upton (born in Norfok, HS in Chesapeake)
- RF: Justin Upton (born in Norfok, HS in Chesapeake)
Backups: Brandon Guyer OF (HS in Herndon, college at UVA), Rich Thompson OF (college at JMU), Jeff Baker Util (HS at Garfield in Woodbridge), Brandon Snyder IB/OF (HS at Westfields in Chantilly). Erik Kratz C (college at Eastern Mennonite)
Ok, so we’re a little weak up the middle. Zimmerman played SS in college but I can’t find a legitimate shortstop out there. Rhymes was just signed by the Nats to a minor league deal and isn’t likely to make the opening day 25-man roster save for injury. Inge hasn’t caught regularly in a few years. But how about the hitting prowness of this lineup? BJ Upton-Cuddyer-Zimmerman-Wright-Justin Upton-Reynolds is a pretty powerful group. Coincidentally, I put in Kratz because I find it amazing that someone who played baseball at Eastern Mennonite is actually in the big leagues. By B-R’s records, he’s the SOLE alumni of that university to have ever even played professional baseball.
- Justin Verlander (born outside of Richmond, HS in Goochland, college at ODU)
- Mat Latos (born in Alexandria)
- Daniel Hudson (born in Lynchburg, HS in Virginia Beach, college at ODU)
- Joe Saunders (born in Falls Church, HS at West Springfield, college at Va Tech)
- Tim Stauffer (college at University of Richmond)
Backup starters: Danny Hultzen (born and raised in Bethesda, college at UVA); an exception to my “active in 2012″ rule but clearly the most high-profile tied-to-Virginia prospect in the game right now. John Maine (born in Fredericksburg, HS in Stafford) had a decent stint starting for the Mets, but he’s yet to get back to the majors after a shoulder surgery in 2010).
A pretty good 1-2 punch, including arguably the best pitcher in the game. Hudson has some potential. Saunders is more of an innings eater lefty, but he’s made a pretty good career for himself already. Stauffer had elbow surgery in August 2012 and probably isn’t ready for opening day, but he’s the best I could find.
- Bill Bray (born and HS in Va Beach, college at W&M)
- Javier Lopez (HS at Robinson in Fairfax, college at UVA)
- Michael Schwimer (born in Fairfax, HS at St. Stephens in Alexandria, college at UVA)
- Sean Doolittle (college at UVA)
- Sean Marshall (born and HS in Richmond, college at VCU)
- Cody Eppley (college at VCU)
- Sean Camp (born in Fairfax, HS at Robinson in Fairfax, college at GMU)
Not bad depth here; I suppose Marshall could close, Bray be the loogy, Camp be an 8th inning guy, Eppley a 7th inning type and the rest be middle men. I like how Sean Camp was born, raised, went to high school and played baseball in college without ever leaving Fairfax.
Other random Virginia School trivia:
What’s the best producing college in Virginia? Pretty easily its UVA, with 117 pro players in B-R’s database and 30 guys reaching the majors. Virginia Tech, ODU, Richmond and VCU are all grouped a bit behind UVA in terms of pro player development. Amazingly little Liberty University has matriculated 59 players to the pro ranks.
At current, UVA has 6 active alumni in the majors. William & Mary, ODU and Richmond have 2 each, and a slew of lesser baseball-playing universities have one each (all of which are mentioned above).
What’s the best producing High School in Virginia? Pretty clearly the high schools in the Virginia Beach/Chesapeake area have been producing some serious baseball talent lately, but even the Upton brothers ended up going to different high schools. Both Virginia HS in Bristol and First Colonial HS in Virginia Beach list 8 pro player alumni with 2 pros each.
Closer to home in Northern Virginia: Garfield has 7 total players with Pro experience in the database, 3 of which have MLB experience. Robinson HS in Fairfax has 6 pros/3 MLB experince. Fairfax HS also has the same; 6 pros, 3 with MLB experience.
Of course, these numbers pale in comparison to some of the baseball factories in the major baseball-producing states Florida and California. Hillsborough HS in Tampa boasts 41 pro alumni and 10 with MLB experience, including Gary Sheffield, Dwight Gooden, Carl Everett and our own Elijah Dukes. Lakewood HS in Orange county has 57 pro alumni and 12 MLB experienced players, though not nearly of the name quality of Hillsborough’s graduates. Sarasota HS in Florida also boasts 57 pro player alumni, 14 MLB pros including our own Ian Desmond. There’s a HS in Oakland called McClymonds that has two Hall of Fame alumni (Frank Robinson and Ernie Lombardi), a host of other famous names from 60s and 70s but which hasn’t generated a pro player since the mid 1970s. Lastly Polytechnic HS in Long Beach has 47 pro alumni but an astonishing 18 guys with MLB experience, headlined by Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn and possibly future hall of famer Chase Utley.
Who is the Greatest player to have Virginia Roots? You could make arguments for Verlander, Wright, Zimmerman or the Upton brothers (probably in that order), but how about one Lou Whitaker, born in Brooklyn but somehow ended up matriculating from HS in Martinsville, Virginia, where he was drafted in the 5th round by Detroit. Billy Wagner (born in Tannersville, HS in Tazewell and college at Ferrum) is another guy from Virginia with a long, successful career. Long-time Oriole Al Bumbry was born in Fredericksburg, went to HS in King George and attended Virginia State.
However, there’s only one Hall of Famer with Virginia Roots that I can find: Eppa Rixley, born in Culpepper, HS in Charlottesville and he pitched for UVA before being signed as a free agent by Philadelphia. He ended up pitching 21 years in the majors and was selected to the Hall of Fame by the Veteran’s committee in 1963 shortly after he died.
(Editor’s Note: you may feel free to stop reading now; Below here is all pretty obscure stuff and only probably interesting to myself and my dad, or people who happen to grow up in the area and are familiar with Vienna baseball. In fact, I kind of got into a rat-hole of reminiscing for this section, thinking back to the good old days. I won’t be offended .
My Personal experiences growing up and playing in Northern Virginia: I played Vienna youth leagues from 1977 til 1989, played in Vienna Babe Ruth and graduated from James Madison HS in Vienna in 1989 for reference.
The best player from Northern Virginia in my youth experiences was one Pete Schourek, who was two years older than me and graduated from Marshall HS in 1987. An enduring memory from my youth was watching Schourek blast a home-run to the townhouses beyond the RF fence at Marshall against Mike Nielsen (the ace of my own high school) in 1987. Schourek turned down a scholarship offer to Auburn and took 2nd round bonus money from the Mets. Schourek’s career lasted 10 years in the majors and his best season was an 18-7 year that resulted in a 2nd place Cy Young finish. The word at the time was that the Dodgers wanted to draft him as a hitter; his power from the left-hand side was quite superior. I often wonder if his would have made it as a hitting prospect; he had such natural lefty power in high school.
Other notable pro players from the 3-4 year period right around my draft year who I played against at various points:
- A.J. Hernandez, who was the star of the local Herndon/Reston/McLean Babe Ruth all-star teams that had Vienna’s number year after year in the late 80s. He played one year of low-A ball.
- David Carroll, a tall, rangy left-hander who dominated Chantilly baseball for years. He was a 6th round pick in 1991 and made it to AAA before washing out. We played against Carroll’s teams in the Credit Union in the early 90s.
- Lonnie Goldberg, who was on the same HS team as Schourek at one point; played at George Mason, drafted in the later rounds and played 5 seasons of minor league ball.
- Bill Pulsipher, who was a dominant player in the area and was drafted in the 2nd Round by the Mets in 1991 out of Fairfax HS. He made the Mets rotation by age 21 and looked decent before getting injured and spending the rest of his MLB career struggling in the bullpen. His b-r.com page shows his drive; he was still playing professaional Indy ball as late as 2011. His 1991 Fairfax HS team also had one Brian Buchanan, who was a 1st round draft pick after attending UVA and played 5 years in the majors. Imagine; one high school team with a 1st and a 2nd round draft pick in this area. Amazingly Fairfax HS didn’t win anything more than its District during this time.
- Robin Jennings: a 1990 graduate of Annandale who did a year of community college and the got drafted under the old Draft-and-Follow rules by the Cubs. He played in parts of four major league seasons spread across 12 minor league seasons, including his last minor league season with the Washington organization in 2007 at the age of 35, fully 4 years after last appearing in a uniform.
Goldberg and Schourek, along with Marshall’s #2 pitcher Steve Makranczy led Marshall to back-to-back state championship games in the late 80s. Steve played on a number of fall teams with me and still plays in the local DCMSBL league. Schourek still suits up for teams in the Industrial League, and according to a couple of random friends, plays in an ultra-competitive basketball league along side other former Division 1 players in the area.
Speaking of my own HS of the time; I was always amazed we didn’t fare better. Thinking back to 1988, my HS started an entire team of guys who either went pro or played division 1 somewhere. The 3 leading pitchers played at Radford, BYU and GMU respectively, our starting catcher went to BYU. Our 1B played at William & Mary. Our middle infield combo both played at UVA. Our 3rd baseman was a full ride player at NC State. In the OF, one guy played at GMU and went pro, another guy played at Montomery College. That’s a LOT of talent on one HS team for this area, and they never advanced in the Regional tournament.
The best local player of my draft year (1989) was a fellow by the name of Doug Newstrom, born in Quantico and who went to HS at W.T. Woodson in Fairfax. He went to Arizona State and was a 7th round pick after his Junior year but never made the big leagues. Newstrom was the cornerstone of a Woodson team that went undefeated in 1989 and won the state championship (they also won in 1990). My personal experience playing against Newstrom; the fall-league baseball teams of that time period were essentially city-specific all-star teams of the guys who didn’t play football, and the competition was great. The Woodson varsity team to-be in the spring of 1989 got all their guys together to get a “test run” of their team and they romped to the fall league 16-18yr old championship game. Our Vienna-based team was a rag-tag collection of guys who attended Madison, Marshall, Oakton, Paul VI and O’Connell but who had Vienna zip codes, but we were good and we also reached the championship game. It was on a cold November day at Falls Church High School. We faced off against Woodson’s ace (Mark Bauch, the same guy who would go 13-0 the following spring en route to the Virginia State championship) and promptly knocked him out in the first inning without retiring a batter, racing to a 6-0 lead. Our pitcher (Jeff Ford, who attended Oakton and played college ball at a small school somewhere) tried to keep the Woodson team at bay throughout the 7 inning game, but they fought back. In the bottom of the 7th trailing 6-5 and with two outs, the Woodson team put a couple guys on and Newstrom came to bat. Newstrom connected on a towering drive to right field; I thought he had just hit a walk-off homer. Our right fielder (Steve Paasch, another Oakton graduate) reached over the RF fence, jumped and caught the ball for the 3rd out and the championship. It was one of the two or three best games I was ever a part of.
Editor Update: my memory apparently failed me: turns out Newstrom was actually a year behind me (he was born just a few months after me but was a school year behind). He led Woodson to a 2nd consecutive VA state title in 1990 before committing to ASU. I got a nice shout-out from one Rob Paine months after this post with a link to this great feature of Newstrom, with a great photo.
Best player from my high school Alma Mater (James Madison HS in Vienna): probably one Mike Wallace, who was picked straight out of high school, was in the majors by 22, and out of the majors by 26. Wallace seems like he should have played longer; he was a lefty with decent numbers both in the majors and in his final seasons in the minors. But he was retired at 28. He signed on with MASN as a baseball pundit in 2011. However it is worth mentioning one Jay Franklin, who graduated from Madison HS in 1971 and was the 2nd overall pick in that year’s baseball draft. He tore up the Northwoods league and earned a call-up to the majors as an 18 year old. I’m guessing he got hurt though, because he missed the entire 1972 season. He appeared in four more minor league years before retiring at age 24, having just reached AAA. Another guy who seems like he should have played longer.
Baseball-reference.com’s records are somewhat spotty on my high school; they list only 7 pro players and 2 major leaguers from my HS, but we know there are several more with pro experience, just counting guys I’ve directly played with (among others; Chris Burr and Billy Emerson). BaseballCube lists 28 guys in their database, though not all played pro. David Driver with The Vienna Patch did an article on Wallace in October 2012 and discussed several other Madison grads who have made the majors, some of whom are not correctly attributed in B-R.com either. One such player is Jim McNamara, who I’m familiar with because he used to substitute teach while I was attending the high school and he was famous for being manipulated into wasting an entire period talking about his baseball playing days instead of teaching any material.
Best player ever from my college Alma Mater (James Madison University): probably one Billy Sample, born and raised in Roanoke and who played at JMU from 1974-1976. He was drafted in the 10th round, played for a decade or so and hung ‘em up in 1986. Mike Venafro was born in Takoma Park, went to Paul VI in Fairfax and then JMU before putting together a 7-year career in the majors, retiring back in 2006. JMU is actually a pretty decent baseball school; we’ve made the NCAA tournament 11 times and several times recently, and made the College World Series in 1983 (getting blasted by eventual champion Texas and Stanford for a 2-and-out appearance; the wikipedia page is funny, JMU has no “notable players” listed. Coincidentally; look at some of the talent playing in that tournament: Bonds, Schiraldi, Clemens, Larkin, Sabo, McDowell, Incavilia. Three future Hall of Famers). However I can only find one JMU alumni who appeared in the majors in 2012; the aforementioned Rich Thomas, who appears to be a 4th/5th outfielder.
Best player I played with or against post youth/High School: After high school we played in a local amateur league for a year, then put together an entry into the Credit Union, which was a powerful amateur league in the area (which is now part of the Industrial League). After a brief baseball hiatus spent mostly playing softball (there was no 19+ league in DCMSBL at the time; you had to be at least 30 to play in the league for many years), I’ve been playing consistently in the DCMSBL since 1998.
In the early 90s, we had a local guy named Kevin Gallaher pitch for us periodically. He had Vienna roots, went to O’Connell and then played at St. Bonaventure (none of which btw is on his baseball-reference page but is on his baseball Cube page). I got to catch Gallaher here and there and he had pretty good stuff. Apparently his stuff got better his senior year at college and he was a non-drafted FA signee. Gallaher made it to AAA before calling it quits at age 29. His next move: to appear on the reality TV show “Married by America” (it didn’t work out: his bride-to-be left him at the alter).
In the Credit Union, we played against some serious talent, but I was too young to remember most of them. A couple notable names that I do remember were Steve Norwood, brother of the infamous Buffalo Bills kicker Jeff Norwood, who played alongside his father Del Norwood on the Apple team. Norwood was a local legend, a longtime coach at W&L in Arlington (he won 10 straight district titles in the 60s and 14 overall at the school; the field is named after him) and had to be in his 70s at the time but could still throw a knuckle-ball by the semi-pro calibre players of the Credit Union. Local legend amateur player Pete Groves pitched against us in the league; he now leads the Fedlock teams that have won many national MSBL titles (he supposedly reached AAA but I can’t find any records of him playing pro). We picked up a random guy off a wait list named John Bonfield who had pitched at Yale; he was one of the better pitchers i’ve ever played along side. He could throw 8 different pitches but had a failing for “enforcing the unwritten rules of the game” at the most unideal time. He once purposely hit a guy who he thought was stealing signs with the bases loaded in a close game.
In MSBL, the best players I played against didn’t necessarily have direct professional ties. The Gouveia siblings (brothers of former Redskin Kurt Gouveia were feared sluggers in the league). Garland Cooper was competitive against players half his age; he played in the Valley league but never pro. Ira Holland (who played college at Howard and was drafted before returning to school) was probably the most feared hitter in the league in the early 2000s; guys from that era still ask us about him. The ace pitcher of my current team Jason Martino signed out of HS but only played one year of rookie ball before getting set aside by his drafting team.
Anyway; if you’ve read this far, I hope you enjoyed my own little personal history of playing ball in this area.