SportsProf

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Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Random Thoughts -- Would be Hall of Famers and Such

Beautiful day, time to relax at lunch, and the following thoughts have come to mind:

1.  Is there anyone who crunches the "what if" numbers in sports?  For example, Hall of Fames are populated with people who were in the right place at the right time.  Some perhaps only made it because their teams won championships and rode the coattails of the starts of those teams.  Others ended up with the dumb luck of playing with also rans and, as a result, their numbers suffered.  Alternatively, the measurements used then didn't underscore the value of players to their teams, with the result that had they played today they would have made a lot more.

In baseball, off the top of my head, three names come to mind.  Two played on so-so teams during their careers; the third was (clearly) a non-steroid user in a sea of juicers who put up good, if not outlandish, numbers.  In the 1970's, the Angels had a lefty named Frank Tanana, who was a lefthanded counterpart to Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan.  Tanana was a very good pitcher, good enough to go something like 240-250 for his career.  The guy was durable, threw in the 90's in the 70's and then in the 70's in the 90's (after an arm injury).  The Angels teams were terrible; Ryan also had played for the Mets and went on to pitch for good Houston teams and the Rangers.  Tanana did not enjoy a similar fate.  I wonder if, were to anyone run the numbers in a "relative" performance speaking (such as, what would the guy's numbers have been had he been surrounded by players who played for a hypothetical .500 team) what they would have looked like.  Most likely, to me, 300 victories and a berth in the Hall.  He was that good, better than Bert Blyleven if you ask me.  A second was Darrell Evans, a third baseman for the Braves who wore thick glasses, was a below-average fielder, but who hit about thirty home runs a season for a short while.  Yes, he hit about .240 in a season I remember well, but he also walked about 100 times.  So, his on-base percentage approached about .400 if it didn't exceed it.  Now, the top OBP guys then, perenially, were Joe Morgan and Mike Schmidt, both in the Hall.  That's not to suggest Evans deserves a berth; he doesn't, but it does suggest that perhaps his compensation suffered because he hit .240 or so and teams didn't value OBP then the way they do now.

Finally, this is my semi-annual pitch for Fred McGriff, who played on very good Blue Jays' and Braves' teams, to make the Hall.  While the prototypical slugger (or poseur, such as Brady Anderson) in the 90's doffed a body that resembled someone in the WWE, McGriff kept the age-old, lithe-thin body type and fell a hot streak short of hitting 500 homers.  I do recall at times that he was criticized for not showing enough power, but it's pretty clear that he didn't cheat.  The sad part of it is that Hall of Fame voters are so suspicious of all players of that era that they don't search for players who "couldn't have cheated."  I don't know how big that roster is, but it would appear that McGriff wasn't on it.  Which means, then, that he should be in the Hall, both for his accomplishments and being honorable.  Period.

In football, it's a bit harder, but Randall Cunningham comes to mind as the poor soul with a ton of talent who got stuck quarterbacking Buddy Ryan's Eagles.  Ryan, you recall, knew nothing about offense, had weak wide receivers and a starting running back (Keith Byars) who was known principally for his ability to catch the ball out of the backfield.  It was a good thing that Cunningham was an amazing athlete -- there were times that he had to run for his life.  The argument here is that if Randall Cunningham had a coach with a small modicum of offensive sensibilities, he could have been Colin Kaebernick decades ago and perhaps changed how multi-faceted QBs are viewed.  Instead, his career suffered because Ryan cared almost exclusively about defensive and, as a result, didn't win a single playoff game in Philadelphia.

2.  The English Premiership needs a salary cap before Russian oligarchs and Middle Eastern oil magnates go on huge spending sprees to outdo one another, leaving smaller-market teams without such patrons woefully unable to compete.  Make the cap high enough, sure, but otherwise the Premiership will suffer markedly from the disparity.  After all, people don't want to watch a team that loses more than it wins 20 seasons running.  The Pittsburgh Pirates, I am sure, have a loyal fan base, but they have not been able to compete meaningfully, even in a division that doesn't have a grossly overcapitalized franchise.  Then again, it doesn't look like it's going to be a great year for either the New York Yankees or Boston Red Sox, the closest thing Major League Baseball has to Man City and Man United.

3.  That's it for now!

2 Comments:

Blogger Phil L said...

Prof

Couldn't agree more about Randall Cunningham. An incredible athlete, not least his ability as a punter!

As a Brit and a rugby player, I always fantasised about what he could have done on a rugby field.

I remember he was the one athlete capable of turning the tables on the New York Giants' defense in that era. For so long, offenses had to set up to cope with Lawrence Taylor. Against the Eagles, however, they had to use a 'spy' (LT, Carl Banks) to follow Cunningham around.

Fantastic games...

5:02 AM  
Anonymous The Sports Curmudgeon said...

Prof:

The big ‘What if?” for Hall of Fame status is the case of Bill Mazeroski. What if he had popped out to short with the bases loaded in the ninth inning of the World Series against the Yankees? If so, he would still be paying admission to get into the Hall to see all the exhibits.

11:58 PM  

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