Friday, February 26, 2016

Best players of the last 30 years, #26: Scott Rolen

Every player in this countdown is someone I believe deserves to be a member of the Hall of Fame. Of the 30 players who'll be featured here, 11 of them have already been voted in; others will get in without much trouble once they're eligible. A fair number are having or soon will have a hard time because of connections (sometimes substantive, sometimes not) to performance-enhancing drugs. Absent PED problems though, and especially among the hitters on this list, very few of these players are going to face many obstacles on their path to Cooperstown. An exception to that is Scott Rolen.

Rolen won the National League's Rookie of the Year Award and eight Gold Gloves for his work at third base. He was named to the All-Star team seven times, and was the second-best player on a World Series winner. Despite those accomplishments, he is going to be nowhere near to the 75% of the vote needed for induction when he lands on the ballot at the end of 2017.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Best players of the last 30 years, #27: Miguel Cabrera

Even for baseball fans who don't get too caught up in them, numbers tend to be at least part of what the game means to them. More than any other sport, baseball is connected to its own history. By the time I began following baseball in 1986, it had been 19 years since Carl Yastrzemski won the Triple Crown (which means he led his league in batting average, home runs, and RBI). That was already the longest stretch MLB had ever had without a Triple Crown winner. Two-and-a-half decades later, we were still waiting, and the Triple Crown had long since grown into a mythical accomplishment to me, something I wasn't sure I'd ever see happen. 

Friday, February 12, 2016

Best players of the last 30 years, #28: Tom Glavine

The crafty lefty is one of many notable archetypes from the world of baseball. Not as famous or well-regarded as the slugger, the speed merchant, or the flamethrower, the crafty lefty is a pitcher (left-handed, of course) who doesn't seem to have the same tremendous physical gifts some possess, who doesn't have a fastball that lights up the radar gun, but who somehow still gets a lot of guys out, presumably with a mixture of wits, wiles, and voodoo magic. According to the popular view, a crafty lefty doesn't have as much talent as most other pitchers, but on the right day, or even for the right season, a crafty lefty can become the most frustrating pitcher in the world to face. If the crafty lefty puts things together like that just not upon occasion, or for a good year or two, but is instead able to do it over and over again for two mostly uninterrupted decades of success, were they really a crafty lefty?

If so, Tom Glavine was arguably the greatest crafty lefty in baseball history.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Best players of the last 30 years, #29: Wade Boggs

Wade Boggs led MLB with a .357 batting average in 1986, the year I fell in love with the game. He won the AL batting crown for each of the first three seasons of my fandom, and because batting average was king back then, I figured Boggs must be the best hitter in the game. If you led the league in something, the number would be italicized on the back of your trading card, and the far right side of Boggs' card, where batting average was found, always seemed to be filled with that wavy print. It wasn't until almost a decade later that I began to consider the value of walks, and to recognize that on-base percentage was a much better statistic than batting average. Did this new knowledge lead me to realize I'd been wrong about Boggs being the best? Nope. It turns out that in addition to lining singles and doubles all over the American League, Boggs walked his ass off too, and nobody was better at the plate in my nascent years as a fan.

Monday, February 8, 2016

My favorite movies of 2015

Movies rarely mean as much to me as they used to. I don't think that's a commentary on the quality of movies being made, as much as a commentary on me. It used to be that almost every year brought multiple movies I wanted to own, so I could revisit them again and again. In recent years though, I more often walk out of a theater thinking, That was very well done, instead of, I loved that! I'm an incredibly fortunate person. I was raised well by loving parents, I'm married to my best friend, I remain closer to my other important friends than most people my age, I have a good job, my wife and I have the means to travel some. Fortunate as I am, life doesn't leave me with the same time or energy for caring about movies it used to, and I miss that sometimes. And while I'm very happy in my grown up life, I've clung tightly to parts of my childhood too. My favorite movie of 2015 is a reminder that I don't ever have to let go of it completely.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Best players of the last 30 years, #30: Mark McGwire

It was half my lifetime ago, but 1998 remains more vividly drawn in my memory than any season before or since. Baseballs were flying over fences at a record clip. Not one, but two players were making a run at the single-season record in all of sports. Baseball fans were coming out of the woodwork, and they were all having a blast. Many fans and writers have since concluded that the summer of 1998 was a dark time in baseball's history. They didn't feel that way at the time though. The players most closely associated with that season were made into pariahs, but that was years later. In the moment, those players were gods. Hindsight has led many to pretend that summer wasn't awesome. Not me though, I remember. Meanwhile, even among those generally willing to look past the PED stuff and judge a player by their production, Mark McGwire has become an underrated player.