Yesterday my wife and I visited Sun Trust park and watched the Red Sox, despite a shaky (but scoreless) performance from Nathan Evoaldi, take game one of their 3 game set with the Atlanta Braves 8-2. The game was much closer than the score would indicate and it wasn’t until the Sox added two in the top of the 8th to give a bit of a cushion and 3 more in the 9th that it was comfortable.

It was a grand day for baseball. The huge amount of RedSox fans in attendance meant that it had the feel of a home game for the Alex Cora’s team and there were competing cries of “Let’s go Redsox” and “Let’s go Braves” on a regular basis and everyone was focused not only on a great game but the playoff implications of a game that could be a preview to this year’s World Series making it a great day for Baseball in General and for the Red Sox who won the game and the Braves who sold out the park in particular.

Meanwhile while key games in pennant races continued to be the focus for baseball, the NFL with its season about to start discovered that the Colin Kaepernick and the kneeling controversy continues to be the gift that keeps on giving:

Nike selected former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick as the face of its “Just Do It” campaign, which is celebrating its 30th anniversary.

Darren Rovell of ESPN reported the choice of Kaepernick, who started the movement to kneel during the United States national anthem to protest racial injustice in August 2016.

In one respect this move by Nike, the official sneaker of the NFL. might make some business sense when you consider the demographic targets for on overpriced sneakers made in Vietnam and China are not likely to be all that upset about protesters kneeling for the National anthem.

Alas this isn’t the case for the NFL. Not only is this move likely to spark even more protests by players which, while embraced by the playsers association and ESPN, will serve to enrage their customer base even further but Nike has guaranteed that the for the rest of the week the lead story for those covering the NFL will not be the opening of the season and the various teams, players and stars but the whole Kaepernick protest business which is the last thing a league that whose ratings are already in decline needs.

Of course in fairness the NFL was already in this position to some degree as the Washington Post noted in a story written before Nike’s Kaepernick anouncement:

In May, the owners of the NFL’s teams were gathered at a hotel in the Buckhead district of Atlanta. As a high-ranking official from one franchise made his way to a coffee break before the meetings began, he wondered what the group would do that week about the national anthem dilemma that had so vexed the league since President Trump inflamed a national controversy last fall about players’ protests during the anthem.

“What we can’t do,” the official said, “is get to next season and still be in this position.”

However, with the opening of the 2018 season days away, that is exactly where the league finds itself.

The Washington Post, not withstanding their mendacious attempt to blame Trump for the players actions, was exactly right about the NFL’s situation before Nike signed Kaepernick and made it worse.

Perhaps the NFL should have thought of this before it decided to allow the Kaepernick protests to go unchallenged. If they did the conversation this week might be about Brady, the Eagles QB situation and the new contract for Aaron Rogers rather than who kneels and who stands. And you better believe that with election day only weeks away, President Trump and the GOP will take full advantage of the gift of idiocy of their opponent in this matter.

FYI in case your interested at yesterday’s Atlanta Braves Boston Redsox game A group of local school children sang the national anthem to start the game and an opera singer followed up with a resounding rendition of God Bless America during the seventh inning stretch. Nobody kneeled during either song and thus nobody other than me found it worth mentioning.

If you turned in early to the Red Sox Seattle game you saw a lot of offense.

You saw the Mariners put up 4 in the top of the first and the Red Sox answer with five. Then Mariners put up six more meaning that Red Sox starter Stephen Wright, who had given up a single run in his last game against the very same team, had given up 10 earned runs before the book was closed on him, Nelson Cruz with two 3 run HR’s and a single to drive in seven on those 10 doing most of the damage.

It didn’t stay that way.

The same Seattle pitcher Wade Leblanc who had shut out the Red Sox in that same game against Wright would give up one in the fifth. J. D Martinez would hit a 2 Home run in a 3 run Red Sox 6th and then a key single in a five run seventh with the bases loaded and then three in the 6th and then in the seventh went on a tear to score five more.

As I’m writing this the score is 14-10 with one out in the bottom of the 8th, now the top of the ninth. Seattle is coming to the plate and while it looks very good for the Rox Sox they will still have to get those three final outs before Seattle scores 4 to get that win.

And that is why Baseball is better than Basketball, Hockey, Football or Soccer and it isn’t even close.

No matter how big a lead you have you still have to get those outs before you can celebrate, and no matter how bleak it looks, you team will still have a chance to score as many runs as you can before that third out is recorded.

No Clocks, no taking a knee, no pulling a goalie, no LeBron sitting down because he knows its hopeless. As long as you still have a single out yet to be given your team is not done.

That’s baseball and that’s why it’s the best.

Oh and the Sox won 14-10

An interesting thing happened to me the day before yesterday.

I work in a place with a lot of people who are either under 30 or not from the new England and are going absolutely mad about the upcoming world cup and completely excited at the prospect of it coming to the US in 8 years.

During the conversation about sports I causally mentioned the Red Sox being in first place and how it is such a change from the time of the Curse of the Bambino.

Now there was a time not all that long ago that if you said “The Curse” in New England every single person regardless of age knew what you were talking about without having to mention Babe Ruth, the Yankees or “No No Nanette

They had no idea what I was talking about.

Yesterday I expanded the experiment, at work I randomly asked almost two dozen people two questions.

  1.  If I say “the curse” to you what am I talking about?
  2.  If I say “the curse of the bambino” what am I talking about?

Of the two dozen people I asked two people knew at once what the curse was, two more realized what I was talking about when I mentioned “the bambino”.

The rest didn’t have a clue.

Just 14 years ago that would have been unthinkable.  For generations the curse of the Bambino was an integral part of being a New Englander.  It would not even have been necessary to include “of the Bambino”  just reference to “the curse” would have been enough for heads to nod.  Books were written about it.  Plays were made about it.  HBO’s real sports did a full show on it.

and it was the reason why in New England, Bucky Dent’s middle name isn’t Earl.

To say “the curse” was an obsession would be the ultimate understatement.  When 2004 began you would have been hard pressed to find a single man woman or child in New England that didn’t know what the curse was.

Then this happened

and this the next day

and this a few days later

and this

and then finally the following week.

a few days later my sons and I were part of the 3 million people who poured into Boston for this

It was the biggest thing you ever saw in the area.  We have won two more World Championships (2007 & 2013) and as of today two years after the retirement of Big Papi the Red Sox sit in first place and are likely to win over 100 games this year.  It’s a great time to be a Red Sox fan.

But it seems like nobody cares anymore.

It’s been just under 15 years later and I can be in a place full of people who live in New England who have no idea what I’m talking about when I bring up the curse and that is going to grow when you consider that high schools and colleges around New England will graduate tens of thousands of students this year who have no memory of a time when the Red Sox were not Champions. 15 years ago every single caller on sports talk radio would be in a state of excitement with the Red Sox neck and neck battle of titans in the AL East on the 100th anniversary of Babe Ruth’s last World Series win in a Red Sox Uniform.  Nothing else would have mattered

On Thursday night the 1st place Red Sox were about to start a 4 game series against the surprising 1st place Seattle Mariners.  An epic battle, yet what was the topic of conversation on the home station of the Red Sox as I drove in…An interview with Tom Brady’s wife and Brady’s interview with Oprah!

It was typical.  During the Sox amazing run if you turned on sports talk radio you were much more likely to hear about Tom Brady not showing up for voluntary workouts and should the Celtics make a play for Lebron James than Red Sox talk.  On the late night drive a few days ago I actually heard a guest state that the only reason a host mentioned the Sox at all is that the station compels him to because they carry the games.

If the Red Sox had not won that world series in 2004 or 2007 or 2013, this would not be the case but with victory came comfort and with comfort the loss of collective memory of the shared frustration that united us here in New England.

In the last hour of the week I noted four guys talking sports at work, none of them were discussing the Sox Seattle series or the game in progress (The Red Sox would win 2-1 despite a nail biting 9th) all they were interested in was Russia beating the Saudis at the world up and if that Russian team was the real thing or not..  As I listened to them for a brief moment I found myself missing the curse that was the common bond that bound six states and everyone in it together…

… but then I remembered all those wonderful moments from 2004 and that regret disappeared overwhelmed by a wave of pure joy that come over me faster than you can say: “Big Papi”

The curse was a cultural milestone but I’ll take winning any day.

Closing thought. I wonder how much larger over the norm the graduating classes of 2023 will be in New England and if anyone will realize the reason why?

By John Ruberry

“Baseball is a lot like life. It’s a day-to-day existence, full of ups and downs. You make the most of your opportunities in baseball as you do in life.”
Longtime Detroit Tigers broadcaster Ernie Harwell.

For the 2018 Chicago White Sox, so far there have been a lot of downs. The South Siders, at 12-30, have the worst record in baseball. If their current pace continues, the Sox will lose 117 games and end up just a few games ahead of the most hapless teams since MLB expanded its schedule to 162 games, the 2003 Detroit Tigers and the 1962 New York Mets.

Guaranteed Rate Field, home of the White Sox, has been anything but sweet for them. Their record is a pitiful 5-16 there so far this season.. On a cold afternoon in April, just 974 fans were in attendance as the host dropped a game against the Tampa Bay Rays. It was at home when the team’s sole 2017 all star, right fielder Avisail Garcia, suffered a hamstring industry which placed him on the disabled list. Just two nights ago left fielder Nicky Delmonico was put on the DL after his right hand was broken after getting hit by a pitch. And it was on the South Side last month when reliever Danny Farquhar collapsed in the dugout when he suffered a severe brain aneurysm, which knocked him out for the season.

On the upside, the team slogan for 2018 is “Ricky’s Boys Don’t Quit,” a reference to manager Ricky Renteria, a patient man–that’s the type of skipper the Sox need–Ricky Renteria. While plagued by some bad baserunning miscues, the White Sox aren’t infected by laziness. It’s just that they don’t have very many good players. First baseman and designated hitter Jose Abreu is the only South Sider batting over 300. MSN Sports listed the best player so far this season for each team, for the Sox they chose right hand starter Reynaldo López, who coincidentally starts at home this afternoon against the Texas Rangers. His ERA is a 3.50, but his record is 0-3 with 46 innings under his belt, which led its writer Greg Papke to opine that it “shows how abject the team is that he has failed to win a game despite those solid numbers.”

Team statistics betray the awful truth. The White Sox rank next to last in Major League Baseball in ERA and runs scored and they’re at the bottom in WHIP, that is, walks plus hits per inning pitched.

“Ricky’s boys don’t quit, as the Sox marketing plan insists,” the Chicago Tribune’s Paul Sullivan remarked last week, “but neither do they score nor pitch.” The White Sox were expected to perform poorly this year, but not this badly. Last season they lost 95 games, but they ended last September one game over .500.

Back to the good news:: The White Sox are only nine games out of first place, but they play in MLB’s worst division, the American League Central, which the Cleveland Indians, at 22-22, leads. And the Sox are only a half-game behind the team ahead of them in the Central standings, the Kansas City Royals, who obviously are also enduring a horrible 2018.

But help is on the way. Last summer the White Sox traded their ace, Chris Sale, to the Boston Red Sox for several prospects, including Yoan Mocada, who is their starting second baseman this season, and hard throwing starter Michael Kopech, who is currently pitching in AAA and is expected to join the Sox later this season. Also last summer the White Sox traded another starter, Jose Quintana, to the Chicago Cubs for two of that organization’s top prospects, Eloy Jimenez and Dylan Crease.

Earlier this decade the Houston Astros, who the White Sox swept in the 2005 World Series, went through a similar rebuilding process. Now they are the reigning World Series champions. In 2011 the Astros lost 106 games, in 2012 they dropped 107 games, and the following season 111 games.

Then the upswing began.

UPDATE 7:20pm EDT: My post must have been good luck for the White Sox. The heretofore hard luck López pitched eight shutout innings this afternoon against the Rangers while giving up only two hits. His record is now I-3.

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

It’s been an amazing year for Boston Sports.

Last Year the Red Sox Won their Division, the Patriots went to the Superbowl, the Bruins are tied for the lead in their division with 3 games to go and the Celtics, even without their Superstar Kyrie Irving are in 2nd place in their division with a chance to be the #1 seed with five days to go.

This year is starting just as good the Boston Red Sox after losing their opener thanks to one wild inning have won five straight, the team has yet to commit an error in the field and no starting pitcher on the staff has an ERA above 1.70 and that’s with Eduardo Rodriguez, Drew Pomeranz or Steven Wright all starting the season on the DL

In the days before the Red Sox broke the curse of the Bambino a 5-1 start with their ace carrying an ERA of under 1.00 there would be no other story in the state. Newspapers would be hailing the teams start, TV shows would be talking about the upcoming series with the Yankees with bated breath and the phone lines of sports talk radio would be full of optimists proclaiming this being the year and naysayers noting that their big free agent signing JD Martinez is hitting .200 and has yet to go yard and proclaiming the limited offense in the opening games as a harbinger of doom.

But in this post curse era none of that is happening.

What is the number # 1 topic on Boston sports radio, on TV and in the papers: The Patriots.

What are the Patriots doing with their off season moves. Will Belichick trade more players for draft picks or draft picks for players. Why did they let Brandon Cook and Danny Amendola go? Will Grok retire? Is Brady planning to retire before 45, will they Draft a quarterback and why the hell DID the Patriots sit Malcolm Butler in the Superbowl?

Oh the Celtics and Bruins get some mention in passing and if either get to the conference finals the might get more but even on WEEI the home station of the Red Sox the only thing I hear in my drive to work or my drive home is Patriots Patriots Patriots.

Now to be fair the Patriots are an incredibly newsworthy topic, they are the longest running dynasty in the history of football and have arguably the best coach and best player in the entire history of the league and as the end of their time together gets closer they will become even more newsworthy than they are now.

But I submit and suggest if David Ortiz, Curt Schilling and their gang of idiots had not broken the curse 15 years ago, there is no way that the Patriots offseason would be a bigger story than the Red Sox start and when I turn on the radio looking for news of how the Red Sox when my workday ends, I would certainly find it.

Closing thought, I wonder if they’re seeing the same thing in Chicago.

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Finally might I suggest my book Hail Mary the Perfect Protestant (and Catholic) Prayer makes an excellent Gift.

The most important sign of spring has arrived, the grapefruit league is now in full swing and the Boston Red Sox have started Spring 6-2.

Over the last year all I heard on local sports radio was how the Yankees (6-1 so far this spring) are the team to beat how their acquisition of slugger Giancarlo was going to make all the difference and unless the Red Sox put together a deal for someone like J. D. Martinez they were doomed.

Well the Red Sox have Martinez now but it’s my opinion that even before Boston picked him up, they were well positioned to not only repeat as Division Champions but to Challenge the both the Yankees and the Astros (who despite winning the World Series last year seem to be getting little attention) this year and you only have to look at the stats to see why.

On the mound the fact is that other than Chris Sale, 2017 was a disaster for the Boston Pitching Staff.

We lost our knuckleballer Steven Wright, who had gone 13-6 the previous year to injury after only 24 innings vs the 156 2/3 he pitched the season before

David Price found himself injured making only 11 starts vs 35 the year before and while effective out of the bullpen saw his innings drop from 230 to 74 2/3.

Meanwhile Rick Porcello followed up his CY Young season with one his worst season ever setting personal worsts for Hits, Runs, Earned Runs and Homeruns given up.

At the bat things weren’t all that much better if you look at the numbers.

The team batting avg of .258 was only 3 points above the MLB avg
The team was dead last in the AL in Home Runs hitting only 168 the whole season. last in the AL No Red Sox player hit 25 home runs last season for the first time in a quarter century (1992).
They were near the bottom in total bases in the AL (only the Angels, White Sox and Toronto had fewer)
And if that wasn’t enough they were 3rd in the AL and 4th in the majors in hitting into double plays.

Yet despite this not only did the team win 93 games and the division but anyone who watched them last year will remember the excitement particularly in the late innings as the team always managed to come back to win. All during the regular season someone always manged a key hit, a big steal just when the team needed it.

And this was despite Dustin Pedroia, Xander Bogarts, Jackie Bradley, Hanley Ramirez and even Mookie Betts all having seasons far below their production of the previous year.

How do you think the RedSox would do in 2018 if even half of those players returned to their 2016 ways, not to mention if they get back the nearly 300 innings lost from Price and Wright and Porcello had even an average year instead of a Cy Young one?

I submit and suggest that it would be more been enough to win the division again even without a JD Martinez. With him the East will be theirs to lose and with solid pitchers behind Chris Sale to help carry the load there is no reason why Boston shouldn’t go a lot farther than they did last year in the playoffs.

To be sure there are some wild cards, a new manager, how you fit Martinez in the lineup and questions about a rookie third baseman and Pedroia’s advancing age, plus you never know where or when the injury bug will strike.

But it seems to me the smart money this year is on Boston to repeat and challenge the Yankees and Astros come the post season.

It’s certainly not going to be a boring year.

Today at Drudge there is talk that baseball players upset that at a time of falling attendance are not spending a fortune on overpriced free agents are thinking about taking action:

One day after commissioner Rob Manfred shrugged off the sluggish free-agent market for Major League Baseball players this winter as a blip, and one week after Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen suggested players ought to consider whether to strike, one of baseball’s most prominent agents issued a manifesto Friday that hinted players might not simply ride out the remaining four years of the current collective bargaining agreement.

“The players are upset,” wrote Brodie Van Wagenen, co-head of CAA Baseball. “No, they are outraged. … Their voices are getting louder and they are uniting in a way not seen since 1994.”

That was the year of baseball’s last player strike. The calendar has turned to February, and more than 100 players remain available in free agency, including such stars as Jake Arrieta, Yu Darvish, Eric Hosmer and J.D. Martinez.

Van Wagenen raised the possibility of a boycott in spring training.

“There is a rising tide among players for radical change,” he wrote. “A fight is brewing. And it may begin with one, maybe two, and perhaps 1,200 willing to follow.”

I remember the players strike, it nearly destroyed the sport and at a time when fans have plenty of other alternatives baseball would be well advised to take advantage of Football pissing on their demographic and reinforce their connection with the fans rather than acting like spoiled brats.  In fact they might even look worse that the football idiots who while wrong headed can claim to be kneeling on principle rather than striking over a few million less.

If big market teams like the Red Sox are sensible enough to realize they have an excellent nucleus that scored a ton of runs and came back over and over again then the more power to them.

And if small market teams have decided that a single big free agent isn’t going to be enough to win that’s fine too.

Of course if a team thinks Arrieta, Darvish, Hosmer or Martinez is worth the cash that’s fine too but consider this example:

 Boston has actually offered something more in the vicinity of $125MM over five years, per Michael Silverman of the Boston Herald (via Twitter). Obviously, that’s a far sight more than what had been reported a few days back — and generally within the range of what might reasonably have been anticipated for Martinez entering the winter.

That sounds like an awful lot of money to me but apparently Martinez thinks he’s worth more.

As we covered recently, Jon Heyman of Fan Rag reported less than a week ago that Martinez is preparing to wait for those numbers to move northward. The veteran slugger is said to want six years with an annual value at or above the $30MM rate. That’s a massive ask — well over the six-year, $150MM prediction that MLBTR made entering the winter.

want to offer him $125 million that’s on them, and if Martinez wants to decide that it’s not good enough that’s his right too.

But if the Major League players are stupid enough to strike because a JD Martinez isn’t getting that 6th year then they deserve all the trouble they are going to get from it.

Rob Foldy/Getty Images

“All I was saying was that a losing team, plus bread and circuses, was better than a losing team and a long, still silence.”

Bill Veeck

While Tom Brady prepares for his eighth trip to the Superbowl in 16 years (not counting the season he spent injured) to close his season Tim Tebow who won a playoff game against the Steele’s before being crushed by Tom Brady’s Patriots in what would be his final NFL start is about to start a season in Major League Training camp:

Tim Tebow is about to receive his most significant exposure yet to top-level baseball competition. The Mets announced Friday that they have invited Tebow to Major League Spring Training, giving the former college and professional football star another opportunity to stride forward in his baseball career.

Tebow is among 13 non-roster invitees to Spring Training — a list that also includes blue-chip first-base prospect Peter Alonso (ranked as the Mets’ No. 7 prospect by MLB Pipeline) former Nationals catcher Jose Lobaton and Drew Smith, the reliever the Mets acquired for Lucas Duda last July.

Tebow put up respectable numbers last season in the minors and the taste of the Majors in spring training certainly can’t hurt his development and while he would be a longshot to make the Major league squad he will likely sell quite a few tickets this spring.

Of course there are those who have made a career hating Tebow for his unapologetic very public Christianity who aren’t going to be too happy and there are a few who figure that the Mets a planning on Tebow to financially salvage a season brimming with low expectations.

Taking that cynicism even further, you could see Tebow’s spring training invite as a test run of sorts for the Mets in preparation to bring him up for a promotional tour later in the season if the Mets are out of the playoff race and looking to sell some tickets in August and September.

Given it’s the job of teams to sell tickets there’s nothing wrong with that idea plus while his numbers in the NFL were never impressive his teams had a regular habit of winning games he started.

And if things don’t work out in the next two years with the Mets there’s always the Orlando team of the XFL in 2020.

As the world series gets ready to start (I’ll be cheering for Dave Roberts and the Dodgers) I think it’s a good time to revisit an issue hanging over baseball.

I’m not a fan of the steroids era in baseball, I think it put players in a position where they had a choice of a chance to make millions or not and, in my opinion risked their health in making the wrong choice. I also think that baseball took too long to clean itself up and put in rules to change things.

Nevertheless I think it’s time to put Barry Bonds in the Baseball Hall of Fame and have seven good reasons for doing so.

First of all let’s remember that before he got on the juice it must be remembered and acknowledged that he had already put up Hall of fame stats. He was one of the most exciting players in the game, in the field, at the plate and on the basepads. He had won 3 MVP’s If he had retired before the start of the 20th century there is no question that he would have been a first ballot hall of famer.

Second of all his post 2000 stats didn’t take place in a vacuum. Bonds was hardly the only player juicing I don’t doubt that there were plenty of people on the mound who he faced that were juiced, plenty of people in the field defending against him who were juiced, yet he not only put up monster stats, he put up monster stats beyond all of those other players who were juicing just as much as he was.

Third of all it hits me that a lot of the backlash against Bonds is that frankly he seems a bit of an arrogant ass. As true as that might be his job as a baseball player was to produce runs and boy did he do so.

Fourth of all in the end Baseball never suspended him for breaking the rules, nor has he been convicted of any crime. All of the games he played in were legal games that counted in the standings and unless you want to alter the record of every single game ever played no about of outrage will strip him of a single hit, run, homer or walk.

Fifth of all I think he’s already been punished. By every rational standard Barry Bonds should have been signed after the 2007 season yet he remained unsigned despite leading the league in walks and onbase percentage. His breaking of the all time HR record is the least celebrated performance (and holding of the all time walks both intentional and unintentional) are consigned to the dustbin of history. He is likely the least celebrated great player in the history of the game

Sixth of all I can’t get over the stats on walks. In the 21st century Barry Bonds came to the plate 3465 time and of those 3465 times pitchers walked him either intentionally or unintentionally 1379 times. If those had been hits that would come out to a batting avg of .397 without taking a single swing. That’s over a freaking seven year period (one of which was shortened by injury) and it’s without flexing a single steroid enhanced muscle.

Seventh of all I think the game can’t get the steroids era behind it until we vote Bonds in, acknowledge of all the juicers he was the greatest beyond compare and be done with it. I think the best way to do so would be to do it sooner rather than later. it’s the best thing for the game in the short and long run.

I think these seven reasons good reasons should be enough to carry the day.

Now here is the one bad reason why I think the sportswriters, still outraged by Bonds will eventually vote him into the Hall:

Voting Bonds into the Hall of Fame would be the final and most effective way for those who hate him in the game to humiliate him one more time.

It has been said that the reason why Bonds started juicing was because he felt upstaged in both financial and fan recognition by players like McGuire and Sosa who had produced power by steroids. This grievance drove him right up until his last at bat. I might be wrong but in my opinion said mentality is now comfortable to him. He can point to his stats, his success and the game’s unwillingness to acknowledge him as one of the greatest ever to play as proof that Baseball was out to get him and humiliate him.

He has now been on the ballot 5 times and in 2017 drew 53.8% of the vote. Next year it’s likely that Clipper Jones, Trevor Hoffman and Vlad Guerrero (and hopefully Omar Visquel) will make it in while he slowly inches up toward 60% in his 6th year on the ballot. By the time Ichrio makes in on the first ballot Bonds will likely be in his 13th year of eligibility and might have finally broken the 70%.

Can you imagine how he will feel if he finally makes it in say his 14th year squeaking by with 75.1% of the vote? Can you picture him getting on the stage at Cooperstown and having to thank all those who kept him off the ballot for so many years for acknowledging what he had already done and grudgingly let him in the door?

I think that is their last chance to put the knife in, it’s a cruel and dishonorable reason to do it, which is why I suspect it will be the reason why it will be done.

Yesterday I wrote about Nolan Ryan greatness in reference to Chris Sale’s 300 Strikeout season. Today it hit me that Ryan is a great example of the follies of convention wisdom. The subject deserves a little more elaboration.

Of all the outs a pitcher can produce a strikeout is the most valuable, in my opinion even more than a double play. A runner can score on a double play, but without an error by the catcher a runner can’t score on a third strike nor can a runner advance on a strikeout without trying to steal a base. With no outs and runners on a strikeout makes an inning ending double play possible and with one a strikeout means that you don’t have to play your infield in, risking a hit getting through.

Nolan Ryan struck out 5714 in his career, he is the ultimate strikeout pitcher in baseball history and to understand just how good he was consider this.

While Ryan struck out 300 men five times in the AL since the DH was adopted he also struck out 300 men the year before (1972) for a total of six 300+ strikeout seasons including one at age 43 (1990). As you do ponder those numbers consider that Bob Gibson, Tom Seaver, Roger Clemens, Gaylord Perry, Don Sutton, Bert Blyleven, Chuck Finley, David Cone, Frank Tanana, Mike Mussina, CC Sabathia, Jim Bunning, Greg Maddux, Phil Niekro, Ferguson Jenkins, John Smoltz, and Cy Flipping Young, all on the top 24 all time strikeout leader list, never managed to do it once.

But believe it or not there was a time when people actually argued if Ryan was a great pitcher, let alone a Hall of Fame caliber pitcher, consider this from The Bill James Baseball abstract’s 1985 edition:

I may get kicked out of the sabermathmatics union for saying this but it seems to me we’ve got to start taking Ryan a little more seriously as a great pitcher. He has had six straight winning seasons (through 1984), which I didn’t expect either, but anyways he is now about twenty wins better than the teams he has pitched for. That doesn’t break any records but it is comparable to man of the pitchers listed here.

Remember when this was written Ryan had already been in the majors 18 years, had already won a world series, won 231 games, held the MLB record for most no hitters with five (he would throw two more) and was already the all time strikeout leader with over 3800k’s. In fact if he had retired that year he would still hold the record for no hitters and would be currently 4th all time in strikeouts (behind Randy Johnson 4875, Clemens 4672 and Steve Carlton 4136).

Yet here was one of the best minds in baseball stating in print that calling Nolan Ryan a great pitcher was a controversial opinion at at the time to many it was.

Of course while the experts argued the fans who saw him pitch got it. I watched him pitch at Fenway once. Everyone in the stands knew we were in the presence of greatness. He pitched deep into the game leaving behind a collection of dumbfounded hitters before giving the game to his bullpen who would give up the lead and then the game to the Red Sox to the delight of the fans.

It wasn’t until he became the grand old man of baseball that people would eventually come around and recognize Ryan for the all time great that he was. The writers got when he was eligible for the hall of fame in 1999 98.8% of the voters had him on their ballots tied with Tom Seaver for the highest percentage of votes all time. Only Ken Griffey Jr’s 99.3% in 2016 would beat it.

If you told Baseball expect’s in 1984 that this would be the case they’d have laughed you out of the room.

Nolan Ryan career is the best example of one of my favorite sayings. Conventional Wisdom is always right, up until the moment it isn’t.

I suspect we’ll have a lot of use for both this example and this saying over the next 7 years.


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