July 17, 2008

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LONGSHOTS: Hall-worthy or not the latest question on Schilling
by Dave Long

When Curt Schilling went down for the count in 2008 a few weeks ago it started a lot of chatter about him and the Hall of Fame. The question was, if this was a career-ending injury, had he done enough to warrant entry to baseball’s Hall of Fame in Cooperstown?

To some he’s a no-brainer. To others, with “just” 216 career wins, it was an “are you kidding me?” resounding NO. Personally, I’m on the fence. On one hand, those 216 are paltry by Hall standards. Only a handful of starting pitchers are in with fewer wins. But he has a sensational post-season résumé that just jumps out at you when you look at his stats.

But to some extent, the latter clouds the issue too. With three playoff rounds now the expanded format gives today’s pitchers a big edge in that category. Luis Tiant has 13 more wins than Schilling and a similar big-game pitcher reputation, but isn’t in. Why? Partly because he couldn’t augment his credentials as Schilling has, because even the two-round format didn’t start until halfway through his career.

Then there are on-the-cusp players never getting any playoff action at all because they were never on teams good enough to get there. Which, given the Yankees’ dominance from 1947 to 1964, meant almost every pitcher in the American League during that time. That was the case for Jim Bunning, who had 224 wins and 184 losses playing mainly with Detroit and Philadelphia in the 1950s and ’60s. He did eventually get in, but after a 25-year wait and only after the Kentucky senator had become a political star. An argument for another day, of course, is why Bunning is in and Tiant not in, when Luis has more wins, four 20-win seasons to Bunning’s one, a better winning percentage and virtually the same ERA and number of appearances.

The short answer is the ambiguous nature of the voting process, which brings us back to Schilling. And I’ll add another familiar name to this conversation as well: Pedro Martinez. He has said he might retire at the end of the year. So I’ll ask: are his 212 wins Hall-worthy? At first glance, in a win neighborhood with Kevin Brown (211), Vida Blue (209), Andy Petitte (211) and Rick Reuschel (214), I’d say no.

But there’s more to it and here are five ways to look at it before deciding:

Piling up the Numbers: I’m not as big on this one as many people. It says 300 wins, 500 homers or 3,000 hits and you’re in, no questions asked. And it seems like a pretty good standard because those are impressive milestones to be sure, although the home run benchmark will be tested by the steroid era issue. This one, however, can be more about consistency and durability than sheer greatness, like with Don Sutton, Phil Niekro and Tommie John, who got 324, 318 and 288 wins respectively by lasting forever. The first two are in and were very good pitchers but never considered great at any time in their careers. Sutton won 20 just once on mostly good teams and didn’t get over .500 until his ninth season. Niekro won 20 three times, lost 20 twice and pitched until 46. John is an annual contender for the Hall who was nine games under .500 after 40 while hanging on until 46. I’d take both Schilling and Pedro over these guys in a heartbeat.

If He’s Not In, How Can This New Guy Be In? I use this standard for any third baseman who comes up from now on. Is he better than Ron Santo, a very good player for the Cubs in the 1960s who was a good fielder with better offensive numbers than Brooks Robinson, who sailed in? I’ll do the same with the old Yankee Graig Nettles, who while hitting only .248 has more home runs than any third baseman not in. He was also a great fielder, whose 1978 World Series was as good as Robinson’s in 1970. In this category are Jim Kaat, Bert (Be home) Blylevin and John, who all have more than 280 wins. And it will soon include Mike Mussina, who now has 261 and counting.

If He’s In How Can He Not Be? I use this when considering Jim Rice. As while he had fewer homers than Nettles (bet you didn’t know that!) I compare him to Kirby Puckett. The latter was a much better fielder and hit 20 points higher, but how in the name of Rogers Hornsby does a Hall of Fame middle-of-the-order hitter have fewer homers (207) than Nashua’s Rico Petrocelli? Plus he had five fewer 100-RBI seasons than Rice and no MVP. Not saying he doesn’t belong, just, if he does, Rice does too. Here we’ve got Hal Newhouser — 207-150 with a 3.07 ERA and seven All-Star games in the ’40s — and Don Drysdale — 209-166, 2.95 ERA, nine All-Star games, one Cy Young. I think Schilling and Pedro are both better than these guys who are real borderliners to me.

GreatestaAt Peak: This is the measure I mostly use and why I’d vote for Sandy Koufax every time, despite his having just 166 wins, because he had the greatest five-year period of pitching I’ve seen. Pedro fits here because his years in Boston were the most similar to that since I’ve been watching. Some would say he was better. To me it’s about wins, innings and runs allowed, and Koufax demolishes Pedro in two of those categories. It’s also why Rice should get in. He was the most-feared American League hitter for 10 years and I vote on greatness more than overall numbers before crashing quickly.

Intangibles: Whitey Ford won “just” 236 games on great Yankees teams but he has 10 World Series wins. John Smoltz is on the bubble with just 210 while going to the playoffs 14 straight years. But he did lose four seasons (and as many as 70 wins) while a closer, so he’s close. Schilling’s 216 wins normally wouldn’t be enough, but in being 10-2 (Ford was 10-6) in post-season when it counts most, to go along with memories of the bloody sock in the year they finally won it, he has a decent shot.

When I add it up — despite the win total, Pedro is more of a no-brainer. He absolutely was the best on the planet for seven years or so, while Big Curt was among the best. So I’ll probably be on the fence with him for a while longer. Or at least until Tiant gets in — because if Catfish Hunter and Bunning are in, there’s no way Luis shouldn’t be.

But that’s an argument for another day, as is my final answer on the clutch Mr. Schilling.

Dave Long can be reached at dlong@hippopress.com. He hosts the Absolute Sports Experience at Billy’s Sports Bar in Manchester each Saturday from 10 a.m. to noon that is broadcast live on WGAM – The Game, 1250-AM Manchester, 900-AM Nashua.


7/10/2008 Baseball season has actually started

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6/26/2008 Boston turnaround makes NBA green with envy
6/19/2008 Letters from the NBA finals
6/12/2008 A Father's Day letter to dad
6/5/2008 Twenty-one and six are the lucky numbers for the Cs
5/29/2008 Sometimes a bat is just a bat
5/22/2008 Some questions for folks right up there in the front row
5/15/2008 Numbers don't add up to supposed Fenway
5/8/2008 Cavalier attitude nearly derails first meeting with LeBron
5/1/2008 I'm so old,I remember ...
4/24/2008 Sox Line-ups, Celtics and ESPN investigations are in the mail bag
4/17/2008 Show me the way to that All-Star Game
4/10/2008 For C'ing a great time ahead as playoffs arrive this spring
4/3/2008 Bill James and the stats for 2008 — Take Two
3/27/2008 Drowning in the NCAA office pool
3/20/2008 Whether forecast is right or not is the question
3/13/2008 Comment sparks wonder over just what I did
3/6/2008 New hires, new trades in pro sports
2/28/2008 Celtics issues far from black and white in the early days
2/21/2008 Congressional ineptitude muscles in on steroid hearings
2/14/2008 Basketball rounds into form under the cover of Pats football
2/7/2008 A giant win leaves Patriots fans feeling blue
1/31/2008 Foxboro lads earn pats on the back, and old Celtics mystique makes sense
1/24/2008 Mail bag asks about Rice, the hall and wild-eyed liberals
1/17/2008 Peyton manning the fort back home as Pats take on Chargers
1/10/2008 Grumpy old Dolphins are lost at sea on this one
1/3/2008 The primary concern is getting a clear picture
12/27/2007 The annual sports awards close out 2007
12/20/2007 Holiday gifts for the deserving and not so deserving
12/13/2007 Jets land in Foxboro as pat go number 14
12/06/2007 To include or not to include Ellsbury — that is the questione
11/29/2007 Yanked from the sports pages in the Big Apple
11/22/2007 Here's what I'm thankful for at Thanksgiving
11/15/2007 Waiting game leads to a series of random thoughts
11/8/2007 OK — it's week nine and I'm ready to talk
11/1/2007 Finally a little shut-eye for a sleep deprived nation
10/25/2007 A rocky mountain high for Red Sox Nation
10/18/2007 Time to go to the mailbag
10/112007 Who'd more popular, Patriots or Red Sox
10/4/2007 IA weekend chock full of nuts, chokes and great moments
9/27/2007 I hate to say I told you so...
9/20/2007 Media and fan bias shades the severity of sports crime
9/13/2007 All round baseball week starts with a look at leaders
9/6/2007 It's Superbowl or bust for Pats in 2007
8/30/2007 The race is on as baseball enters September
8/23/2007 Spine vs. lack of spine theme for school board debate
8/16/2007 Time for thoughts from the summer mailbag
8/9/2007 Will this three make it big in Boston?
8/2/2007 Trading places all in a day's work for Boston GMs
7/26/2007 Getting out of a slump; an ameteur golfer can feel Sox' pain
7/19/2007 Does second chance guarantee a great outcome?
7/12/2007 Masse still a honeymooner in local baseball culture
7/5/2007 Brown Monster a big Fisher Cat hit
6/28/2007 Rambling along with some random thoughts
6/21/2007 The future is now for the C's come Thursday night
6/14/2007 Homers create bonds among fans for generations
6/07/2007 Sox win by losing two of three this weekend
5/31/2007 Lutz of things to think about
5/24/2007 Down 2-0 M’s for playoff payoff
5/17/2007 Baseballs' conventional wisdom is for the birds
5/10/2007 The Rocket lands in Gotham during Monarchs' playoff break
5/3/2007 Raiders say "No Moss" in fight with talented wideout
4/26/2007 A little history on the ancient Sox and Yanks rivalry
4/19/2007 Lessons to be learned from Robinson, Monarchs and I-Man
4/12/2007 A few questions for the sports gods
4/5/2007 Stanton his case on a variety of current topics
3/29/2007 Sox spring back into action on Monday
3/22/2007 A guide for having fun on NCAA hockey weekend
3/15/2007 The madness of March kicks off on Thursday
3/8/2007 Jumping through hoops after an odd season
3/1/2007 A trip to the mail bag for Hippo Sports
2/22/2007 Six degrees of Muhammed Ali
2/15/2007 Monarchs rule as streak reaches 12
2/8/2007 Talking a good game ahead on all-sports WGAM
2/1/2007 Manning the Super Bowl watch more difficult in '07
1/25/2007 Winning and what else matters in college coaching
1/18/2007 ESPN polls are fanning the flames of national lunacy
1/11/2007 Patriots marching to MIami promised land
1/4/2007 Predictions for 2007
12/28/2006 REcognizing the best on the national front
12/21/2006 Present under the tree for all
12/14/2006 Mailbag open for busines at a time filled with questions
12/07/2006 Lions and Gators and Bears, oh my
11/30/2006 Does Fenway frankness roll to the negative side?
11/23/2006 Turkeys and thanks as the big day arrives
11/16/2006 Green-around-the-gills Celts looking to earn some respect
11/9/2006 Blame game reaches new local low
11/2/2006 A week of highs and lows in sport
10/26/2006 Curses! The U is foiled again
10/19/2006 Time for a trip to the sports mailbag
10/12/2006 U turns Granite Stare around on football
10/05/2006 James' gang riding into town to face the Celtics
09/28/2006 Words to describe a lost Red Sox season
09/21/2006 Football Friday can't stack up to Saturday
09/14/2006 A lesson to be learned in remembering a somber day
09/07/2006 Usual pat choice to win AFC East questioned
08/31/2006 Whining won't yank AL East away from NY
08/24/2006 Spring forward or fall behind for Sox
08/17/2006 Trash talking abounds in the Empire over Sox and Pats
08/10/2006 Monarchs call press conference to crown new leader
08/03/2006 Deadly Fenway duo leave mark on history
07/27/2006 Word of the wise gets lost in sports translation
07/20/2006 Looking beyond the Big Three
07/13/2006 Cream rises to the top of baseball talk at the Dot
07/06/2006 Greetings and salutations toThe Nation at mid-year
06/29/2006 Being dealt is a consequence of the trade
06/22/2006 A year later, Boudreau's cup runneth over
06/15/2006 See dogs and cats battle for a different fan experience
06/08/2006 Not Bad Anymore league makes a comeback
06/01/2006 Luck goes Sox way with Lowell in Massachusetts
05/25/2006 Pitching in to help the Sox trade a few places
05/18/2006 Going to school by cutting Red Sox payroll
05/11/2006 Columnist blows his mind; here are the results
05/04/2006 Yanks stormed Manchester 37 years ago this week
04/27/2006 Regular crowd nowhere to be found come playoff time
04/20/2006 Questions and answers from the mailbag
04/13/2006 Local sports teams spring into action
04/06/2006 Predictable Red Sox season lies ahead
03/30/2006 Analyzing this and that as Pats roster shrinks
03/23/2006 A week of following the bouncing balls
03/16/2006 The beginning of four days of basketball bliss
03/09/2006 Many miss the central point of the story
03/02/2006 Better late than never to jump through local hoops
02/23/2006 Celtic green means raw, not envy as it once did

02/16/2003 An issue that is all black and white
02/09/2006 Nomar curses from the UL's Sullivan
02/02/2006 Super memories from 40 years of watching the big game
01/26/2006 A certain uniformity to the inquiries in the mailbag
01/19/2006 Sudden end to Pats' season leave just one thing to do
01/12/2006 Pats on the back for the football team
01/05/2006 Predictions for Manchester Sports 2031
A lesson for Leo the Lip and nice guys everywhere

Chop House opening is Berra of good news
Event-filled weekend missed en route to evil empire
Hero’s death lays to rest misuse of the word
Saint Theo ascends to new heights in The Nation
Santa sack filled to the brim with sports
Patriots march through injuries toward threepeat
Sports talk should be on the air
Stars shine brightest when winning is in the mix
The Demonization of Johnny Damon

Thirty-seven topics and so little space
Too many holes in Sox for repeat
Trip to the injured list makes it a long weekend for local scribe
Turkeys and giving thanks take center stage this week
Yanked from the edge of your seat