Tag Archives: Baseball Hall of Fame

Ken Griffey Jr. is Living Proof That Nice Guys Finish First

15 Jan

By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

If a sportswriter or columnist like myself said that he or she didn’t have athletes they really liked to talk to or really disliked talking to throughout their careers, they’d be lying to you.

While as a journalist you’re not supposed to let your personal admiration or dislike for an athlete cloud how you cover their accomplishments on the field, we are human. We just have to work harder in those cases.

But sometimes, there’s an athlete so universally respected that you find yourself pulling for them…and you don’t care who knows it.

Ken Griffey Jr., one of the newest members of Major League Baseball’s Hall of Fame is one of those guys. The former Seattle Mariners/Cincinnati Reds centerfielder was just three votes shy of being an unanimous selection for the Hall of Fame by the Baseball Writers of America, breaking New York Mets pitcher Tom Seaver’s record. Los Angeles Dodgers/New York Mets catcher Mike Piazza will be joining him in the Hall’s Class of 2016.

Not only did Griffey deserve that honor, he is living proof that you can be a great player without being a self-centered jerk. As a player, Griffey was one of the game’s best center fielders and played with the outfield with the ferocity of a Frank Robinson, Roberto Clemente and a Pete Rose.

And I’m not ashamed to say that I genuinely liked him.

For a “nice guy”, Griffey put up some fierce numbers on the field. In a 22-year career, he hit 630 career home runs, ranking sixth on the all-time list. He ranks 15th all-time in runs batted in with 1,836 and had a .284 lifetime batting average. Defensively, Griffey was a 10-time Gold Glove winner who could run down any ball hit in the outfield even if it meant crashing into an outfield wall which he did on numerous occasions.

Unfortunately, it was those injuries from crashing into outfield walls that probably kept Griffey from threatening the all-time home-run record the way that Barry Bonds did.

From 1993 to 2000, Griffey averaged 43 home runs per year. But from 2001 to 2007, he spent a considerable amount on the disabled list with injuries. Had he been healthy and was hitting home runs at the same pace he did from 1993-2000, he would have easily surpassed both Barry Bonds and Hank Aaron. ‘

Had Griffey been the one to surpass Aaron, I believe that we’d have a completely different view of the home run record. A combination of Griffey’s “nice guy” persona and the absence of the cloud of steroid suspicion that still follows Bonds would have made his pursuit of the Home Run record a cause for celebration instead of consternation.

Back in 2008, when he was playing with the Cincinnati Reds, I caught up with Griffey at Citizens Bank Park and spoke to him about his career shortly before he reached the 600-home run milestone. He was nice enough to give me about 10 or 15 minutes of his time for a one-on-one after a game in the Reds clubhouse, something that rarely happens.

I asked him about his thoughts about hitting 600 home runs and he seemed almost embarrassed to talk about it. He was at peace with himself about his career and had no regrets about his injuries keeping him from being a part of the all-time home run race.

“Everything I did, I did for the good of the team,” Griffey said. “I went out there and played as hard as I could and that’s the most important thing. I can go in there and look at myself in the mirror and go, ‘you got hurt, but that’s part of the game.’

“If I did it jump roping, then you can say something. Everything I did, I did in front of people doing the thing that I love.”

I still can hear the standing ovation he received when he came out to pinch hit during that series at Citizens Bank Park. It’s rare that a player not wearing a Phillies uniform gets that kind of love from Philly sports fans.

At the time, Griffey said he wanted to be remembered for his defense and giving his best every time he stepped on the field. which is why he will have a statue in Cooperstown.

“That’s the one thing I try to teach my kids, don’t be a what-if,” Griffey said. “I can care less if you win or lose at that age; as long as you give me the effort. I know you’re going to give me that effort whether it’s on the field or off the field.”

At a time where ball playing knuckleheads and their antics rule the headlines, it’s a good to see a nice guy like Ken Griffey Jr. get his accolades.

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Pete Rose Should Be in the Hall of Fame, But Needs to Admit Gambling Addiction

15 Dec

By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

Pete Rose was recently denied reinstatement to baseball by MLB commissioner Rob Manfred. Photo by FoxSports.com.

Pete Rose was recently denied reinstatement to baseball by MLB commissioner Rob Manfred. Photo by FoxSports.com.

Pete Rose’s bid to get reinstated by Major League Baseball and restore his eligibility for Baseball’s Hall of Fame has come to a bitter end.

Baseball’s all-time hits leader was denied reinstatement back into MLB after being banned for life in 1989 for betting on baseball.

In a three-page statement, Manfred concluded that Rose “has not presented credible evidence of a reconfigured life either by an honest acceptance by him of his wrongdoing, so clearly established by the Dowd Report, or by a rigorous, self-aware and sustained program of avoidance by him of all the circumstances that led to his permanent ineligibility in 1989.”

There are a couple of disturbing, tragic things here in which there are no real winners here and it’s just sad for baseball no matter how you slice it.

Rose’ Hall of Fame career which includes a record-breaking 4,256 hits, a lifetime .303 batting average, three World Series rings, and 17 All-Star appearances is now and perhaps forever persona non-grata in baseball. Rose’s ongoing refusal to admit that he bet on baseball, which is typical of someone with an addiction, has always been the deal breaker.

While Rose has been rightfully banned from working with a team as a manager or in any other capacity in baseball, it’s just wrong to keep him out of Cooperstown. To me that’s the compromise that should have been made in this situation.

I think we all get the message that gambling in baseball is wrong. Rose’s non-participation in baseball for the last 26 years makes it very clear that if you compromise the integrity of the game you will not be in the game in any capacity.
Rose has paid the price for committing baseball’s ultimate sin and he needs to admit to himself that he has a serious mental health problem.

For all of Rose’s flaws and transgressions, he was one of baseball’s greatest players and that’s something you can never take away from him. Rose earned all those hits for what he did on the field. The man gave his all on the field and didn’t shortchange fans by not running out routine ground balls. Rose played the game with the same passion and fury as a Roberto Clemente and a Ty Cobb.

As far as I am concerned sports Halls of Fame whether it’s baseball, football, hockey or basketball, should be monuments to what that athlete did on the field or in the arena. It’s all about the contribution to the sport and nothing else should matter.

Given that the Baseball Hall of Fame has its share of disreputable characters, jerks, and knuckleheads who just happened to be great players, great broadcasters and great sportswriters, Rose would be in great company. This isn’t the Vatican and we are not canonizing saints.

American sports fans need to wake up to the notion that one’s ability to excel in sports doesn’t mean that they’re going to be people of high or low character. They are human beings who reflect the best and the worst of us.

All that said, it’s been long overdue for Rose to come clean and admit that he has a gambling problem. It’s an issue of Rose’s mental health and well-being. That’s something far more important than his reinstatement in baseball and the Hall of Fame.

One of the things that came out of Rose’s meeting with the commissioner was that he was still betting on baseball. Manfred’s report also said that Rose tried to deny it, but then admitted he was still doing it. That spoke volumes and it showed the commissioner that Rose is still denial of his problem.

People recovering from drug or alcohol abuse don’t show up in places where drugs and alcohol are present. A Las Vegas casino is the last place you should ever see an addicted gambler.

For his exploits as a player, Rose should be in the Hall of Fame, but for his own good he needs to acknowledge that he has a problem.

Thanks for the Memories: Phils Trade Jimmy Rollins to the LA Dodgers

12 Dec

By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

Jimmy Rollins surpassed Mike Schmidt on the Phillies all-time hits list  last June.  Photo by Webster Riddick.

Jimmy Rollins surpassed Mike Schmidt on the Phillies all-time hits list last June. Photo by Webster Riddick.

PHILADELPHIA—We all knew that Jimmy Rollins inevitable departure from the Phillies was coming back in June when he became the club’s all-time hits leader and he suggested that he’d be willing to waive his no-trade clause if the Phillies were truly committed to rebuilding during the press conference.

The Phillies traded Rollins to the Los Angeles Dodgers Wednesday night for minor league pitching prospects Zach Elfin and Tom Windle.

Rollins certainly left an indelible mark on the Phillies during his 15 years as a player and as a member of the community. He is among the team’s all-time leaders in hits, at-bats and doubles and as far as I’m concerned, Rollins is the best defensive shortstop in the team’s history and still one of the best in the National League.

But I think that Rollins’ greatest legacy to the Phillies is that he brought a swagger to the team that led eventually them to a World Series championship in 2008. That was something that I noticed about him even before 2007 when he said the Phillies were the team to beat.

When I first interviewed Rollins near the end of the 2004 season, he said it was his goal to see the Phillies become as a consistent a winner as the Atlanta Braves were during the 1990s.

Rollins was quite prophetic and he was one of the main reasons the Phillies owned the National League East from 2007-2011. During that time, the Phils won two National League pennants and a world championship.

At the start of the 2007 season, Rollins let it be known the Phillies and not the then defending division champion New York Mets. J-Roll got a lot of heat from the local and national media for making.

That season, Rollins put his money where his mouth was with an MVP season that helped lead the Phillies to the first of five straight division titles. Rollins batted .296, hit 30 home runs and drove in 94 runs. He set a major league record for plate appearances.

At just 5-foot-8, and 180 pounds, the switch-hitting Rollins had solid power from the leadoff position. He is one of six shortstops in baseball history to have 2,000 hits and four or more Gold Gloves. He is fourth on the major league career list in lead-off home runs with 46.

Last June, Phillies Hall of Fame third baseman, Mike Schmidt said the 36-year-old Rollins is a strong candidate to make it to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y.
“I think if Jimmy retired at the end of the (2014) season. I think he’d get serious consideration Hall-of-Fame consideration right now,” Schmidt said back in June.

Rollins will certainly have the opportunity to add to his numbers with the Dodgers, who also acquired Howie Kendrick from the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

During his time in Philadelphia, Rollins was definitely a fan favorite, especially among young African-American fans, whose older relatives had bad memories of the Phillies treatment of Jackie Robinson when he broke the color-line and when Dick Allen was a member of the team.

“That’s definitely a great thing and I’ve said it a number of times, you look around you don’t see many Black faces in the ballpark from back in the Veterans Stadium days,” Rollins said back in 2011. “Now you’re starting to see quite a bit more and it’s a good thing to bring that relationship and it’s important to this ball club to bring people together.”

But in the business of baseball, the Phillies are in rebuilding mode and are looking to develop younger ball players. Rollins, like most players of his age and experience, wants another chance to play for a winner and add to his legacy and that’s why he waived his no-trade clause.

One thing is for certain filling in Rollins shoes at shortstop will be a monumental task.

Done With Cooperstown and Hall of Fame Shenanigans

12 Dec

By Barry Federovitch

For the Chris Murray Report

 

Gil Hodges let the New York Mets to a World Series title in 1969.

Gil Hodges let the New York Mets to a World Series title in 1969.

The Baseball Hall of Fame lost a friend on Monday. Thanks to its arrogant, shortsighted vision, it won’t miss me or the many thousands who were stunned by another goose egg turned in by this year’s Golden Era Committee vote. But then the Hall never did get it right.

No one gets 100 percent of the Baseball Writers Association of America vote? A joke. But no one on a strong ballot of nine players and one executive (Bob Howsam) gets even 75 percent? Far worse and thus my decision to never again justify the Baseball Hall of Fame’s existence by entering its doors.

In particular, there is no joy in Mudville, where Gil Hodges has been emphatically shut out (receiving three or fewer votes of the 12 required), quite possibly forever, by a committee that seems to be applying 21st Century standards to a 20th Century icon.

You remember Hodges, right? The manager of arguably the most remarkable turnaround in the history of the game, the 1969 New York Mets?

As a Brooklyn Dodger, Hodges was, at one point,  late in his career 10th all-time in homers (370), with seven years of 100 or more and eight All-Star appearances. He was one of the rocks of the Boys of Summer, part of seven pennant winners and three world championships (two as a player and one as manager).

But what makes Hodges’ omission particularly galling is that he represents everything in terms of character that baseball claims to be about, while far transcending the numbers you might find in a media guide or on a website.

Hodges was a World War II hero, who lost two of his formative years to the game. At the time of his service (1944 and 1945), he was 19 years old and had already played in one game for Brooklyn in 1943.

After not stepping on the field for some 30 months because he was in the Pacific serving his country, he had to start all over again in 1946 and by the next year was stuck in a situation where the Dodgers (who had gone on with life while he was away) had to figure out what to do with him. So by the time he became a regular in 1948, he lost arguably 1,000 plate appearances and the kind of counting statistics that Veterans Committee members appear determined to use to keep him out of Cooperstown.

‘Determined’ is the operative word here given the great injustice that befell Hodges in the early 1990s when committee chairman Ted Williams disallowed a 12th vote by Roy Campanella on the basis that Campy was sick and not present at the committee meeting.

With Campanella’s vote, Hodges was a Hall of Famer, earning the required 12 of 16 votes. Without it, Hodges was left with 11 of 15 votes or just shy of inclusion (a similar predicament to Tony Oliva and Dick Allen yesterday, only they didn’t have any votes nullified).

Add that to the highest number of votes ever received by a player not voted into the Hall of Fame (over 1,000) and one has to wonder what Hodges did to antagonize people over the years.

One vote shy. And it appears as if the man who drove in the only two runs in Game 7 of the 1955 World Series will never get that vote.

How could a figure who received 50 percent or more of the BBWAA vote 11 times (of a possible 15 tries), not have his day in the sun, while so many who finished behind him eventually get included?

And it only gets worse if you look at his defensive legacy, which is greatly understated.
Hodges won three Gold Gloves at first base with the Dodgers at a point when baseball only awarded one for all of baseball (1957-59).

This was the beginning of the award and the twilight of Hodges being an elite player, which raises the question: How many Gold Gloves might he have won had the current rules of the award applied?

If we are going to punish the man for being part of the pre-steroid era (he has dropped to 75th all-time in homers in the last half-century), what is the other side of the coin?

Hodges became an elite first baseman defensively in 1949, when he led the National League in putouts, fielding percentage and double plays and was second in assists. He was first in at least one major defensive category six more times before the creation of the Gold Glove meaning he could have won as many as 10 Gold Gloves with at least a half dozen extremely likely.

Undeniably,  any conversation of the 10 greatest defensive first basemen of all-time must include Hodges. But technicality, rather than accomplishment, rules the argument against him.

Then again Hodges never was a master of timing.

He died two days before his 48th birthday, a year before a Mets team he largely made relevant won its second pennant under Yogi Berra. With Hodges as manager would the 1973 Mets have won a second world title? More importantly in this discussion, with Hodges in the public eye, might he have gotten those few extra votes to have made this a moot point?

Sadly, we will never know the answers to any of these questions and as the likelihood that Hodges is ever inducted begins to become extremely remote, we are left to ponder this: What good is a Hall of Fame without celebrating its game?

Every year, the Pro Football Hall of Fame inducts a minimum number of candidates. The powers that be in that sport lock themselves in a room until they come out with at least four people (and usually more). They build on the legacy of the past, refresh our love for the game, all without cheapening the award. Included on that list are Veterans Committee choices
Baseball, long ago stunned by cronyism and possible over-induction of candidates, has swung far too wide in the other direction, not only applying new statistical analysis to keep older players out, but suspicion of wrongdoing (see steroids) to create a backlog of worthy candidates that cannot be rectified.

Dick Allen? Should have been in long ago. Tony Oliva, one of the great hitters of the 1960s and a three-time batting champion? Same thing. And don’t get me started on Luis Tiant (a four-time 20-game winner, who has the most career shutouts of any non-Hall of Famer) or Jim Kaat (winner of 283 games and a 16-time Gold Glover) or Ken Boyer.

Once the BBWAA fails (which it has often this decade by not resolving the steroid argument) and the Golden Era Committee fails (which it has done twice consecutively by applying more difficult standards than it ever has in the past) then we arrive at this sad epitaph for the Hall of Fame itself.

Any shrine too snobbish or indecisive to celebrate itself is not worthy of our recognition and even more sadly, not worthy of the game we call our National Pasttime.

Today, there is no joy in Mudville because Cooperstown itself has struck out.

The Ultimate Spark Plug: Jimmy Rollins Becomes the Phillies All-Time Leader in Hits

15 Jun

Mike Schmidt Thinks Rollins could be an Hall of Famer

http://espn.go.com/blog/jayson-stark/post/_/id/819/jimmy-rollins-unique-hall-of-fame-case
By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

Jimmy Rollins surpassed Mike Schmidt on the Phillies all-time hits list in Saturday's 7-4 win over the Chicago Cubs. Photo by Webster Riddick.

Jimmy Rollins surpassed Mike Schmidt on the Phillies all-time hits list in Saturday’s 7-4 win over the Chicago Cubs. Photo by Webster Riddick.

PHILADELPHIA—When you’re writing the history of the Phillies between 2007 and 2011, a period that saw five National League East titles, one World Series title, and two National League pennants, you have to start with shortstop Jimmy Rollins.

Starting with the 2007 season, Rollins boldly proclaimed the Phillies as “the team to beat.” I remember everybody including a few of my colleagues in the media thought he was crazy. Rollins backed it up with an MVP season while leading the Phillies to the first of their five division titles.

After all, that’s what a lead-off hitter is supposed to do and Rollins was definitely the spark during that run.

“When it comes to the come down, he loves to be in that situation,” said teammate Ryan Howard.

Rollins solidified his place in Phillies history Saturday by becoming the team’s all-time leaders in hits with 2,335 hits surpassing legendary Phillies third baseman Mike Schmidt. The big hit came in the fifth inning of the Phillies 7-4 win over the Chicago Cubs Saturday in front of 31,524 fans at Citizen’s Bank Park.

In typical fashion, Rollins’ record-breaking hit came leading off an inning in which the Phillies scored three runs. It was reminiscent of how his MVP season of 2007 ignited the most successful run of postseason appearances in the history of the franchise.

He got it started.

“I was able to use that time to propel the team and be part of something special,” Rollins said. “I was able to pile up a bunch of hits, but at the end of the day, it was really more about winning championships. When you’re around one organization and you’re productive, you’re going to be able to accomplish some pretty cool things and this is one of the things along the way.”

Jimmy Rollins takes questions from the media after breaking Mike Schmidt's all-time hits record. Photo by Chris Murray

Jimmy Rollins takes questions from the media after breaking Mike Schmidt’s all-time hits record. Photo by Chris Murray

In 15 seasons in the red pinstripes, the 35-year-old Rollins has had a remarkable career with the Phillies and will no doubt have his number up on the Phillies Wall of Fame along with Schmidt and Richie Ashburn.

“I’ve had the opportunity to see a lot of hits first hand from Jimmy and he’s a special kind of player,” said second baseman Chase Utley. “I’m happy for him, it’s well deserved, playing a tough position for as many years as he has and to be able to have the success that he has is pretty special.”

Some observers including Schmidt believe that Rollins could be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. A recent ESPN.com article pointed out that Rollins is one of six shortstops in the history of baseball to have over 2,000 hits and four or more Gold Gloves. He is fourth on the major league list for career lead off homeruns with 46.

“I think right now Jimmy’s stock is pretty high right now,” Schmidt told reporters after watching Rollins break his record. “I think if Jimmy retired at the end of this season, I think he’d get some serious Hall-of-Fame consideration right now.

“He’s got two or three years. He’s got some work to do. If he does that work, if he plays 140 games, gets 160 to 180 hits or maybe even a strong year or MVP year, I think he’s almost first ballot consideration for the Hall of Fame.”

Rollins said he takes it as a compliment that a great player of Schmidt’s caliber sees him as a Hall of Famer.

“To hear that from him, it made me smile,” Rollins said. “I thought it was pretty cool. I got his vote. It shows how much (Schmidt) respects what I do on the field, what I mean to this team and what I mean to the organization and I will really appreciate it.”

If there is something even harder than making it to the Hall of Fame for Rollins was living up to the tradition of great players that have come out of the Bay Area of San Francisco/Oakland. Some of those Bay area players include Hall of Famers like Joe DiMaggio, Frank Robinson, Joe Morgan and Rickey Henderson.

Rollins, who grew up in Oakland, said there was hard to live up to the deeds ofthose legendary players from his hometown. He said he’s talked to some of those players over the years.

“I’ve been able to accomplish some things that they have and I’m very proud of that,” Rollins said. “In all honest y, there was a lot of pressure knowing that tradition. It was like am I going to ever live up to that? I’ve been able to accomplish some things that I’m proud of when I talk to them.”

 

Hall of Sham: Why The Exclusion of Bonds and Clemens from the Hall of Fame is Wrong

10 Jan

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report

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Barry Bonds was denied entry into the Hall of Fame on his first year of eligibility because of alleged steroids use.

After hearing about the decision not to select anyone for the 2013 Class of the Baseball Hall of Fame, I have come to the conclusion that the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y. is fast becoming a very bad joke.

It has become a shameful laughing stock because those who are charged with making the selections, the Baseball Writers Association of America have taken the stage and become the story, something we were trained never to do as journalists.

I’ve always felt that the Hall of Fame selection was biased on many levels having nothing to do with the game such as some players not getting along with sports writers or political reasons like the case of Curt Flood and Marvin Miller who both changed the game by advocating for the rights of the player.

I wonder why those guys aren’t in Cooperstown, yet?

On this year’s ballot, you had Barry Bonds, your all-time leader in homeruns; Roger Clemens, winner of the most Cy Young awards; Sammy Sosa, a man who had multiple 60-homerun seasons; Rafael Palmeiro, one of four players with 500 home-runs and 3,000 hits and Mike Piazza, one of the best hitting catchers ever.

And none of them got in. Not even Piazza who was never among those accused of using performance-enhancing drugs.

The guys from the Steroids Era warrant the most attention here because I find it utterly fascinating that baseball writers have become obnoxiously self righteous about denying these guys entrance into the Hall of Fame of a sport where the rules have often been bent. Just ask guys like Gaylord Perry and Whitey Ford, who did things to doctor baseballs or players who used amphetamines to gain a competitive edge.

The Baseball Hall of Fame is a motley crew of cheaters, virulent racists, gamblers and disreputable men and there’s even an accused child molester in the writer’s wing. It’s not necessarily a hallowed sanctuary for good behavior.

Roger Clemens won seven Cy Young Awards, but was denied entry into the 2013 Class of the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Roger Clemens won seven Cy Young Awards, but was denied entry into the 2013 Class of the Baseball Hall of Fame.

There was a Steroids Era in baseball because Major League Baseball was the only sports league in the world that had no rules against performance enhancing drugs. There were no testing procedures.  The union that’s supposed to look out for the player’s health and the league that’s supposed to maintain the integrity of the game did nothing about it, except to reap the billions of dollars in revenue.

Even though the drugs are against the law, everyone associated with the sport, including those writers who vote for the Hall of Fame, looked the other way while aging players late into their careers were putting up astronomical numbers.

And now those who vote for the Hall of Fame believe they are preserving the integrity of the game by denying Bonds, Clemens or Sosa entry into the Hall of Fame. Everybody wants to be an avenging angel after the fact.

Since PEDs in baseball were as pervasive as the Mitchell Report stated, the records will stand with no asterisks, teams will not be giving back pennants or World Series rings and owners definitely aren’t going to give money back to the fans who spent millions of dollars to see juiced up players.

Like it or not, Bonds and Clemens were the best players of their era even before they allegedly used performance-enhancing drugs. Denying them entry into the Hall of Fame amounts to nothing more than pettiness on the part of the writers.

If the Hall of Fame is supposed to be a keeper of the history of the game, there needs to be some honesty here. You can mention their deeds and the conditions under which they excelled and that baseball did not have a policy prohibiting performance-enhancing drugs and everyone in the sport deserves a share of the responsibility.

I say put the steroids users in the Hall of Fame because if nothing else they were at least competing against a level playing field given the pervasiveness of PEDs in the sport.

As it stands now, the Baseball Hall of Fame is a monument to the terminally self-righteous considering that you don’t have the all-time hits leader, the all-time home run king, it’s most successful pitcher, one of the greatest hitting catchers and two men who laid the foundation for baseball free agency.

There’s something wrong with that picture.