Botany Bay Plantation — Edisto Island, South Carolina

Hotelier John Meyer died on New Year’s Day, 1977.  In his will, he left an enormous (4,687 acres) parcel of land called Botany Bay Plantation to the State of South Carolina, with the proviso that it would remain the property of his wife until her death.  Margaret Meyer Pepper maintained (and improved) the land over the next 30 years, until her death in 2007.  Late this summer, it was opened to the general public for the first time.

There are a number of places in the world called Botany Bay (and somewhat confusingly, at least to me, adjacent to the BBP property is another plot of land referred to as Botany Bay).  If you are going to call something Botany Bay, it better be something special.  Edisto Island’s Botany Bay Plantation certainly qualifies.

You can read more about it on the South Carolina DNR website.  Also, there were several newspaper articles about the site written when DNR began allowing public access.

I visited the BBP Wildlife Management Area for the first time this week.  It’s winter, so the visible wildlife is limited, but it’s easy to see the potential for viewing scores of species (especially birds) once the weather gets warmer.  Basically, this place is a mix of an undeveloped beach (about two miles in length) and coastal wetlands, along with a forest of pine, oak, and palmetto, and some agricultural fields.  It’s a natural game preserve (there will be some limited hunting and catch-and-release fishing allowed).

I’m going to go back in the spring.  For now, here are some pictures I took.  I’m not the most talented of photographers, and my camera is not exactly top of the line, but they give you at least a hint of what this area is like.  Most of them are of the beach.  Also included is a photo of a 19th-century icehouse (that looks a little like a church; the builder obviously believed in stylized icehouses).

00120021004005023024029030008020016013011021022018

No hoops until next year for The Citadel

Of course, next year isn’t that far off.  The Citadel’s next game is another non-conference battle, at home against Bethune-Cookman on January 3.

The Citadel lost to Michigan State by 14, and lost to South Carolina by 14.  However, the Bulldogs played a much better game against the Spartans than they did against the Gamecocks.  South Carolina managed to increase the tempo to a faster pace than The Citadel would have liked (although not quite as fast as the Gamecocks would have preferred).  The Citadel could not take advantage of the helter-skelter play to knock down more open three-point shots.  To win the game the Bulldogs had to make several more threes than USC, and a 7-6 made 3FG advantage was never going to be enough.  It didn’t help that South Carolina was unexpectedly good at shooting free throws (28-33).

The officiating favored the Gamecocks’ defensive style, which is basically a version of the “five guys press and foul, the refs can’t call ’em all” system famously run by Rick Pitino at Kentucky, only Pitino had multiple future NBA players with which to work.  The Citadel never seemed able to adjust to this (even after USC sleepwalked through the game’s opening five minutes).  I would have liked to have seen some of the Bulldogs get more aggressive (I did appreciate Cosmo Morabbi’s approach in this respect).  A poster on The  Citadel’s message board made what I thought was a good point; the Bulldogs needed to set some backcourt picks to “punish” the Gamecocks as they continued to harass the man bringing the ball up the court.

Still, it wasn’t a terrible effort by the Bulldogs, as opposed to the laughable “atmosphere” at Colonial Life Arena.  I wass amused to read that the reported attendance was 9493 (it was less than that by at least a third).  There wasn’t anything original about the Gamecocks’ pregame, from the intros (which featured a player introduced as a starter who actually didn’t start) to the band playing “Sweet Caroline” (this ongoing sports tribute to Neil Diamond must stop).  USC also cranks up Zombie Nation like every other school in North America.  It’s just so…tired.

There was nothing imaginative or innovative about any of it, the crowd was dead…that reminds me.  I honestly am not sure how many of the people at the game were rooting for either of the two schools, because I can’t believe that as much as 40% (or more) of the “crowd” was there for The Citadel, but that’s what it looked like with all the people who showed up wearing blue collared shirts.  Surely some of them were just Gamecock fans, but if you’re a Gamecock fan, shouldn’t you be wearing garnet and/or black?  It was really hard to get a read on the fan ratio because of this (along with all the empty seats).

I took a picture of the scoreboard when The Citadel first took the lead, just for posterity.  I took it quickly, just in case South Carolina scored before I could snap it (as it turned out, I need not have worried).  Here it is:

0032

The Citadel plays South Carolina in hoops for the 100th time

First, I want to comment on The Citadel’s game against Michigan State.  I don’t believe in moral victories, but I do believe in moral non-embarrassments, and the Bulldogs did well in that category.  I am used to watching The Citadel get annihilated when facing a quality opponent , especially on those rare occasions when the game is on TV.  Watching the Bulldogs play a reasonably competitive game against a ranked team was somewhat disorienting.

Speaking of TV, the game against MSU was one of just three contests The Citadel will play this season that will be televised.  (The second of the three will come Saturday against the Gamecocks.)  That needs to change.  With all the games that are televised these days, I think it is critical that The Citadel gets its fair share of exposure.  Three games per season is not going to cut it.  Recruits, even those who are considering a military school, want to play TV games.  I think it would also foster more alumni interest in the program.  Plus, Vegas would get more action on our games.  Okay, maybe that last one isn’t as big a deal.

I would suggest to Ed Conroy (not that he needs my suggestions) that he do everything he can to get OOC games that will be on TV.  John Chaney did something like this years ago at Temple.  The Citadel is hindered a bit in its ability to schedule out of conference, though, by the Southern Conference’s 20-game league schedule, which is ludicrous for a league like the SoCon (16 would be a better number of conference games).

Conroy’s already off to a decent start by playing Big 10 teams.  What I like about playing the Big 10 schools is that if you play one, you will either play a game on national television (on the Big Ten Network) or play a Big 10 school at home (like Iowa earlier this season).  I think 2-for-1s (and even 3-for-1s in some situations) are well worth it if the games on the road are televised.

From what I gather, the SEC’s new mega-deal with ESPN is going to result in a huge increase in TV games for that league (including a lot of ESPNU matchups).  Hey, if playing Mississippi State or Georgia results in another TV game, I say start up the bus and tell the driver to head to Starkville or Athens.

Incidentally, have you ever noticed that a lot of SEC basketball arenas look kind of dark on TV?  It’s a strange phenomenon.  I guess the good lighting is reserved for the football practice fields.  Speaking of dimly lit buildings, that brings us to Saturday’s game against the Gamecocks…

Tomorrow the Gamecocks and Bulldogs will meet in basketball for the 100th time.  A scintillating series, it is not.  South Carolina has won 76 of the previous 99, but the greatest of the 99 meetings was without question the 1989 clash won by The Citadel.  It’s without question the greatest because this is my blog, and I say it is.  Besides, I was there, one of the 7,857 in attendance that February night.

Both teams entered the game with 15 victories on the season.  The Gamecocks were driving to a rare NCAA berth (which they got despite losing to the Bulldogs; South Carolina would lose in the first round of the NCAAs to North Carolina State).  South Carolina led throughout most of the first half and pushed the margin to 11 on a 25-foot three-pointer by Troy McKoy at the buzzer.

The Gamecocks seemed to have all the momentum, but that changed quickly in the second half as The Citadel gradually got back in the game.  The Bulldogs trailed 71-65 with 9:30 to go when they went on a 13-2 run to grab a five-point lead.  The Citadel led 82-78 with just over a minute to play when Patrick Elmore grabbed a rebound.  Two passes later, the ball was in the hands of Ryan Nesbit on the near baseline.  Nesbit (coach Randy Nesbit’s younger brother) was 3-for-4 from three-land already in the game, but the situation didn’t call for a three.  It called for holding on to the basketball.  Ryan Nesbit didn’t care; he was hot.  Up went the shot.  It was a classic “No No No Yes Yes Yes” moment, as he swished the three to give The Citadel a seven-point lead with 1:01 remaining.

The Citadel managed to overcome some nervous free throw shooting (missing the front end of two 1-and-1s) and outlasted the Gamecocks, 88-87 (South Carolina hit a three with one second left, but the Bulldogs successfully inbounded the basketball and the game ended).  South Carolina lost the game despite shooting 54% from the field, including a sizzling 9-11 from behind the arc, and a solid 74% from the foul line.  Terry Dozier scored 25 points on 10-13 shooting and Brent Price added 22.

However, the Gamecocks were outrebounded 34-31 and committed two more turnovers than the Bulldogs.  The Citadel shot almost as well from the field as USC did and made eight three-pointers of its own, and also had the edge in free throws, as South Carolina had to resort to fouling down the stretch.  Six different Bulldogs finished in double figures in scoring.  A seventh, James Stevens, added eight points, the last of which was a free throw that provided The Citadel with its 88th, clinching point.

That game would wind up being the last victory of Ed Conroy’s playing career.  If he is to beat South Carolina for his next victory as a head coach, his team will need to play even better than it did against Michigan State.  South Carolina is 7-1, although the one loss was to the College of Charleston.  As the game notes for South Carolina say (in a tone that could be construed as dismissive):

South Carolina holds a significant edge over The Citadel in nearly every statistical category. The Gamecock offense
averages nearly 20 more points per game than the Bulldogs, while also holding a dominating edge in rebounds
(+10.6), opponent turnover average (+9.1) and steals (+7.5).

Of course, the points-per-game number is a touch misleading, since The Citadel averages 12 fewer possessions per game, and one goal for the Bulldogs in this game will be to try to keep things at a slower pace.  The opponent turnover average is no joke, though.  South Carolina is second nationally in turnovers forced and in the top ten in turnover rate.  The Gamecocks’ FG% defense is an outstanding 37.7% and USC also does a good job on the boards.  On offense, South Carolina is a very good three-point shooting team (40%), although oddly it does not have a lot of assists on its made baskets.  South Carolina has had some issues with injuries and academics and may only be able to suit up nine players on Saturday.

To pull the upset, The Citadel must avoid the turnovers that have plagued previous Gamecock opponents.  Keeping the game at its preferred pace will be key to doing that.  The Bulldogs must defend well along the perimeter (Michigan State may not have been a great test in this respect).  If it can keep the game close, The Citadel has a chance, as South Carolina is not a particularly good foul shooting team.  It’s the one statistic in which the Bulldogs have a decided advantage.

I was there 20 years ago next February when the Bulldogs pulled off a stunner.  I would very much enjoy a repeat of that result.  I can’t think of a better Christmas present.  Just in case, though, I did some shopping today.

10 reasons why The Citadel will beat Michigan State

1.  The Citadel threw the UC Davis game just to make the Spartans overconfident.

I mean, let’s get serious here.  Do you really think the Bulldogs were trying to play defense in the first half?  UC Davis shot 78% from the field.  Most teams couldn’t do that if the other team didn’t show up.  UC Davis had an eFG of 69% for the game.  Clearly, The Citadel was just setting a trap for Michigan State.  Having the Spartans win their last game by 58 points (over Alcorn State) was just an added bonus.

2.  Drew Neitzel isn’t playing in this game.

Neitzel did play in the only meeting between the two schools, which came two years ago during the 10th of Neitzel’s 11 seasons in East Lansing.  Michigan State edged The Citadel 73-41 in a game marred by biased officiating, courtesy of Big 10-friendly refs.  There is no other logical way to explain how the Spartans won that game.

3.  The Citadel gives up fewer points per game than Michigan State and commits fewer turnovers per game as well.

These are true facts.  You can look them up.  The Citadel averages 61.1 possessions per game, the 15th-slowest pace in the country, but I don’t think that is particularly relevant.  Neither is the fact that Michigan State ranks in the top 40 nationally in possessions per game (at 74.9).

4.  The Citadel’s school colors are similar to those of North Carolina.

Speaking of the Tar Heels, you can’t tell me that the Spartans won’t be traumatized when a team wearing light blue and white saunters onto the court at the Breslin Center (even if the contest against the Heels was at Ford Field).  Did you watch that game?  Mercy.  You can bet that the players at Rhode Island and Columbia are upset they can’t get a shot at MSU.

You know, if you squint Demetrius Nelson looks a little like Ed Davis…

5.  Idong Ibok could start at center for the Spartans.

Ibok is a native of Lagos, Nigeria.  He’s 6’11”, 260.  According to MSU’s game notes, Ibok (a redshirt senior who has already graduated; he made the Academic All-Big 10 team last season) has started 17 games in his career.  So far this season, he has played in six games (one start) and scored two points.

That kind of starting history/stat line bears an eerie similarity to that of Augustine “Gus” Olalere, who played for The Citadel in the early 1990s and who was also from Lagos, Nigeria.  So, it looks like The Citadel was about 17 years ahead of Michigan State on the recruiting trail.  Advantage:  Bulldogs.

(Don’t forget about Love Ishie, too.)

6.  The Citadel has never lost a game that was televised by the Big Ten Network.  The Citadel has also never lost a game broadcast nationally in high-definition.  I’m quite sure Dave Revsine will mention these two facts repeatedly during the game.

Incidentally, Steve Smith (former Spartan) is going to be the analyst for this game, which reminds me that we have a serious Steve Smith problem in our country.  Not only is there the ex-Spartan hoopster Steve Smith, soon to be impressed with the greatness that is basketball at The Citadel, but on Sunday night the NFL game will feature not one but two teams with wide receivers named Steve Smith.

Then you have the Steve Smith who used to play for the Raiders and Penn State, and the Steve Smith who coached third base for the Phillies this past season (since canned), and the Steve Smith who played basketball for La Salle and for about an hour in the NBA, and a host of other sports-related Steve and Steven Smiths (not to mention ESPN screamer Stephen A. Smith and ASU fixer Stevin Smith).  Basically, we have too many Steve Smiths.  I call for a moratorium on naming your kid Steven or Stephen if your last name is Smith, especially if you are athletic and there is a risk he could inherit your genes.

7.  The Citadel is a better free-throw shooting team.

The Bulldogs are shooting a solid 72% from the line thus far, while the Spartans are a mediocre 65% from the charity stripe.  In a close game, advantage Bulldogs!

8.  Michigan State has a lot of guys afraid to shoot the ball.

You can tell this is the case just by looking at the assist statistics.  MSU ranks 7th nationally with 19 assists per game, a sign that players would rather have their teammates shoot than take the initiative themselves.  Against Alcorn State, the Spartans had a school-record 35 assists, evidence of a timid squad.

Conversely, The Citadel averages less than 10 assists per game, which is in the bottom 40 nationally.  Obviously the Bulldogs have a lot of aggressive players who aren’t afraid to take big shots.  As Bill Raftery would say, Onions!

9.  The Spartans don’t seem to have a lot of personality.

According to MSU’s game notes, senior guard Travis Walton “loves candy”.  The other factoid listed about Walton is that he’s the team’s strongest player, but c’mon.  He’s a senior, and the best tidbit they can come up with is that he “loves candy”?  Weak.  You can’t win unless your players have more personality, like Bulldog freshman guard Cosmo Morabbi.

10.  This has been a tough year for the State of Michigan.

Let’s face it.  If there is going to be a year in which The Citadel beats Michigan State in hoops, this is the one.  Talk about bad karma…

Longtime rivals UC Davis and The Citadel to play Monday night

Before writing a little bit about Monday night’s game, I just wanted to briefly comment on the results of The Citadel’s first two SoCon games.  First, it’s great to actually win a conference road game (or any road game, for that matter).  I also think it’s good that the team is probably a little disappointed it didn’t pull off the road sweep.  Expectations may be gradually increasing for this team.  This happens when in one year you go from a 30-point loss at UNC-Greensboro to a 7-point win in the same building.  Holding UNCG to 5-29 from beyond the arc was also a welcome development (struggling down the stretch from the foul line, not so much).

I will say this.  The SoCon owes The Citadel a couple of makeup calls against Elon in both football and basketball (actually, in football three or four makeup calls are in order).  I can’t say I was upset to see Elon choke away a potential FCS berth by losing to Liberty.  Elon should never have been in a position to get a bid in the first place, because it was given a win over The Citadel by hilariously inept Southern Conference officiating.  Just desserts and all that.

The hoopsters’ matchup at Elon featured a really convenient (for the Phoenix) shotclock reset situation at the end of the game.  Nice.  No telling what the umpiring will be like at Riley Park for the first SoCon series of the year.

Okay, on to the battle with the Aggies…

I’ve been trying to figure out how this matchup (the first ever between the two schools) came to be ever since the hoops schedule came out.  My best guess is that UCD was going to have to play Presbyterian in Clinton, S.C., anyway (in a return game from last season) and figured if it had to travel all the way to South Carolina, why not make it a two-game trip.  I don’t know if this means a journey to Davis is in the cards for The Citadel in the next couple of years.  If it is, I hope the team doesn’t spend too much time at the Robert Mondavi Institute for Wine and Food Science.

The institute is just part of a sprawling campus scene at UC Davis, which is one of those schools nobody on the east coast has ever heard of that just happens to have 30,000 students.  It’s part of the UC system, along with fellow Big West schools Irvine, Riverside, and Santa Barbara.  It’s located in Davis (surprise!), which is a city of about 60,000 near Sacramento.  Davis is a haven for bicyclists, and for toads.  Seriously.  From a Wikipedia entry (and remember, wiki is never wrong):

Davis’ Toad Tunnel is a wildlife crossing that was constructed in 1995…Because of the building of an overpass, animal lovers worried about toads being killed by cars commuting from South Davis to North Davis, since the toads hopped from one side of a dirt lot (which the overpass replaced) to the reservoir at the other end. After much controversy, a decision was made to build a toad tunnel, which runs beneath the Pole Line Road overpass which crosses Interstate 80. The project cost $14,000. The tunnel is 21 inches (53 cm) wide and 18 inches (46 cm) high.

The tunnel has created problems of its own. The toads originally refused to use the tunnel and so the tunnel was lit to encourage its use. The toads then died from the heat of the lamps inside the tunnel. Once through the tunnel, the toads also had to contend with birds who grew wise to the toad-producing hole in the ground. The exit to the toad tunnel has been decorated by the Post-Master to resemble a toad town.

The Wikipedia entry also refers to Davis as being “known as a strongly leftist-liberal town,” which after reading about the toad tunnel shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise.

UCD started off as a farm for UC Berkeley (basically, an extension service) and gradually morphed into a free-standing university, being officially established in 1959.  It’s still an agricultural school (hence the nickname “Aggies”) but has added several other academic disciplines.  In reading about UCD I noticed that it has an Army ROTC program, which is apparently the largest of its kind in the State of California.

UC Davis is in its sixth year as a Division I school after a successful run in NCAA Division II.  Last season the Aggies finished last in the Big West with a 1-14 record (9-22 overall).  UCD lost 13 of its last 14 games and completed the campaign sporting an RPI of 283.  Over the last three seasons the Aggies are 2-33 in road/neutral contests.  The Citadel can relate to those types of numbers.

This season, UCD is 3-6, with wins over Loyola-Marymount, Tulane, and Cal State-Bakersfield, and losses to UW-Milwaukee, Iowa State, South Alabama, Portland, Arkansas, and Sacramento State.  The Aggies are a really good free throw shooting team (81.8%, which is currently third nationally) and have a very nice assist/basket ratio (70%, also third nationally).  They have not been a strong defensive team, allowing opponents to shoot 47.5% from the field.

The Aggies average a little over 70 possessions per game.  It will be interesting to see which team controls the tempo, as The Citadel has averaged just over 60 possessions per game.  Few teams have collectively played their games at a slower pace than the Bulldogs.

UCD has three players averaging in double figures in scoring.  Joe Harden is a 6’8″ guard (!) averaging 15 points and 8 rebounds per game.  Dominic Calegari is a 6’10” forward who can shoot the three.  He’s 16-31 from beyond the arc so far this season (and a career 40% 3-point shooter).  Vince Oliver, a 6’3″ guard, is averaging 10.8 points per game.  Mark Payne is another tall guard (he’s 6’7″) who leads the team in assists, with 5.3 per game (he also boards at a 5.6 clip).  The Aggies employ a nine-man rotation.

I’m not sure what to make of UCD, a tall team that doesn’t rebound particularly well and has no shotblockers.  Defending the three could be a challenge for The Citadel, and the Bulldogs definitely don’t want to send the Aggies to the foul line.  If the Bulldogs can keep UCD from having a good night from beyond the arc, The Citadel can win this game.  The other factor to consider is the layoff.  Neither team has played a game in the past nine days.

To be a Hall of Famer — the 2008 ballots (Part 3)

In the first two parts of this series, I took a look at the pre-1942 nominees ballot and the post-1943 ballot.  Part 3 covers the BBWAA vote, which this year features only 23 players.  First, a brief summation of the results of the first two elections…

Boo.

However, in the case of the post-1943 ballot it’s a “I’m not surprised” booing situation, because it is by no means shocking that no one was elected.  The natural tendency of some of the Hall of Famers to favor exclusivity in admitting new members to their club, plus the restrictions on voting (the you-can-only-vote-for-up-to-four rule) combined to make it practically impossible for any candidate to get the required 75% of the vote.  Ron Santo came closest, with 39 of the 48 votes he needed, but that’s not really that close.  Santo’s reaction was predictable, as he would like a return to the system that elected Bill Mazeroski.  Of course, it was the election of Mazeroski that led to the current system.

At this point, it seems doubtful to me that Santo will ever get elected, at least in his lifetime.  The same is true of all the other men on the ballot, with the exception of Joe Torre, who will presumably be enshrined whenever he decides to quit managing.  As I’ve stated before, the failure of the VC to already elect Torre shows a complete disregard by the voters of the Hall’s own rules for considering nominees.

The pre-1942 committee did elect someone, Joe Gordon.  I have no problem at all with Gordon’s election, as he is a solid choice.  I am concerned that the voters came very close to electing Allie Reynolds, who in my opinion was one of the weaker choices on the ballot, and that the most qualified of the nominees, Bill Dahlen, got less than three votes.

Since it appears that the committee is not inclined to support the candidacy of any player who started his career prior to 1920, perhaps the Hall should consider a special committee (similar to the Negro Leagues Committee from 2006) for those players, to wrap up that era and make it easier on the VC to focus on post-Dead Ball era players.

On to the BBWAA ballot…

Harold Baines:  He played forever, but if I’m going to support the candidacy of a DH-type he needs to put up a little more than a career 120 OPS+.  Baines led the AL in slugging in 1984.  That’s the only time he ever led the league in a significant statistical category.

Jay Bell:  I don’t think he will get 5% of the vote (you need 5%+ to remain on the ballot), but he was a good player for quite a long time — underrated, really.  What I remember most about him was there was a two-year stretch where Jim Leyland would have Bell sac-bunt in the first inning whenever the leadoff man reached base.  I mean he did this every time.  I never understood that.

Bert Blyleven:  He’s up to almost 62% in the balloting, so he’s probably going to get elected in the next few years.  It appears that the bulk of the BBWAA membership has come around on his candidacy, which is good.  I understand the problem with trying to evaluate him (I think he has one of the more unusual pitching careers in MLB history), so I’m not going to criticize the writers for not electing him yet.  If you’re still not sold on him, just consider all those shutouts.  He’s ninth all time, and he’s going to stay in the top 10 for many, many years to come.

David Cone:  The “hired gun” is on the ballot for the first time.  He might get to 5% and hang around for another year, although he’s not going to get in the Hall unless some future Veterans Committee elects him.  I think he would be getting a lot more votes if he hadn’t moved around so much, and if he had managed to get to 200 wins.  His closest comp is Dwight Gooden, which is interesting, although I think Cone had a better overall career than Doc.  Gooden, incidentally, got 3.3% of the vote in 2006 and fell off the ballot.

Andre Dawson:  He’s up to almost 66% in the balloting and is going to get in.  I support his candidacy, despite the .323 OBP.  I think people sometimes evaluate him as a corner outfielder and forget he won four of his eight Gold Gloves as a centerfielder.  He’s a very close case, but he also gets bonus points on the character issue and for having a cool nickname.  When he was active, I think the majority of baseball fans thought of him as a future Hall of Famer.  Of course, you could also say that about Steve Garvey…

Ron Gant:  He’s not a Hall of Famer, obviously, but he did finish in the top 6 in the MVP voting twice, which I bet would surprise some people.  Gil Hodges never finished in the top 6 of the MVP voting.

Mark Grace:  It wouldn’t surprise me if some Veterans Committee of the future elected him, since Mickey Vernon got serious consideration by this year’s VC, and Grace was a similar player.  That’s not saying it would be a good decision, of course.

Rickey Henderson:  Everyone awaits with great anticipation his enshrinement speech.

Tommy John:  This is his last year on the ballot.  I go back and forth on his candidacy, to be honest…he was a very good pitcher for a long time, but for me his playing career tends to be a borderline-no situation.  Then you have the operation that bears his name, for which some people give him extra credit, while others quite reasonably suggest that the credit belongs to Frank Jobe.  However, it’s also true that the rehabilitation (obviously unprecedented at that time) came through John’s hard work (and was mostly developed by him, apparently), and that aspect of the surgery and recovery may be underappreciated.

If he were elected, it would in part be as a pioneer, which means no one else could really compare his career to John’s as a way of saying “if him then me” when it comes to the Hall.  I think that works in his favor.  He’s not going to be elected this year, but a future VC is going to seriously consider him, and rightfully so.

Don Mattingly:  Some of the people supporting his candidacy have been known to argue that if Kirby Puckett is in the Hall, so should Mattingly, because their batting statistics are similar.  Of course, they never seem to mention that Puckett was a centerfielder and Mattingly a first baseman.  Comparing a first baseman’s batting stats to those of a borderline Hall of Fame centerfielder is not the way to get your man in the Hall.

Mark McGwire:  I would vote for him.  The rules were the same for him as they were for everyone else, which is to say, there were no rules.  You have to evaluate him by the era in which he played.  In that era, he’s a Hall of Famer.

Jack Morris:  One game doesn’t make up for a career ERA+ of 105.  He was a workhorse, but he was never an elite pitcher.  Guys like Tommy John and Bert Blyleven (just to name two pitchers also on the ballot) pitched a lot longer and were more effective.

Dale Murphy:  Like Dawson, a lot of people forget that Murphy played the majority of his career as a centerfielder, including the bulk of the six-year period (1982-87) during which he was arguably the best player in baseball.  Murphy’s career was short, which hurts him, and the argument against him is that his peak wasn’t long enough to offset that.  I think it’s close.

There is something else about Murphy that doesn’t get discussed much, but I think is worth mentioning.  Murphy was a Superstation Star, perhaps the first.  Everyone around the country could follow the Braves via TBS, even when they were bad, as they were through much of Murphy’s time with the club.  Because of that, along with his reputation as an individual of high character, Murphy has to be one of the most popular players of his era, and maybe of any era.

Personally, I think it’s possible that the success (and in some cases, existence) of programs like East Cobb Baseball can be traced to kids following and being inspired by the Braves, and the main, if not only, reason to follow the Braves in the mid-to-late 1980s was Dale Murphy.  It’s worthy of study, at least.  That type of influence on the game should be recognized.

Jesse Orosco:  He was his league’s oldest player in each of his last five seasons.

Dave Parker:  There is a five-year doughnut hole in his career which is basically going to keep him out of the Hall of Fame.  It’s nobody’s fault but his, though.

Dan Plesac:  I’m not familiar with his TV work, but I understand it’s good, so I’m looking forward to seeing him on the new MLB Network.

Tim Raines:  Raines got less than 25% of the vote his first time around with the writers, in part because he played his best years in Montreal, the Witness Protection Program of baseball, and in part because he is compared to Rickey Henderson.  That’s a tough comparison for just about anybody, so Raines loses out.  Never mind the fact that Raines was better than Lou Brock, who is already in the Hall.  Raines was a truly great player, and belongs in Cooperstown.  I think he will eventually get there, but it’s going to take a while.  I’m hopeful the BBWAA votes him in sometime in the next decade.

Jim Rice:  In my opinion, he would already be in the Hall if he hadn’t annoyed enough writers (or carried a rep as being difficult) so that a significant percentage of them won’t vote for him out of spite, as opposed to not voting for him because his career is borderline for a Hall of Famer.  I am inclined to support his candidacy, because I think his peak was very high, higher than some saber-stats would suggest.  I don’t feel that strongly about it, though, which evidently differentiates me from a lot of folks in the online baseball community, some of whom think the world will end if Rice is elected.  It won’t, trust me.  Now if Mo Vaughn is elected, all bets are off…

Incidentally, I am less sure than most about Rice’s election this year being an inevitability.  I think it will be very close.

Lee Smith:  Trying to define a Hall of Fame relief pitcher is difficult.  Of the relievers already enshrined, I would rate all of them above Smith except maybe Bruce Sutter, who is a questionable selection to say the least.  On the other hand, among other eligibles and active pitchers, I would only rate Mariano Rivera as being clearly ahead of Smith.  Ultimately, I can’t support Smith’s candidacy, mainly because he never “seemed” like a Hall of Famer to me.  I reserve the right to reconsider…

Alan Trammell:  The biggest injustice in the balloting the last few years, easily, is Trammell not even being close to election.  His problems are at least twofold:  he played at the same time as Cal Ripken Jr., essentially, and then after his career ended the ARod-Nomar-Jeter triumvarite appeared on the scene, closely followed by Miguel Tejada.

He suffers in comparison to Ripken, and his batting stats don’t measure up to the new wave of shortstops that followed him.  He also got jobbed of the 1987 MVP award, which would have helped his case (he did win the World Series MVP award in 1984).  In the New Historical Baseball Abstract, Bill James rated him the 9th-best shortstop of all time, which struck me as a reasonable placement.  In the last BBWAA election, the 9th-best shortstop of all time got 18.2% of the vote.

The 10th-best shortstop, according to James, is Pee Wee Reese.  Curiously, Reese was not elected by the BBWAA, but by the Veterans Committee.  The BBWAA also failed to elect another great shortstop, Arky Vaughn.  This doesn’t bode well for Trammell’s chances on the BBWAA ballot, not to mention those of Barry Larkin, who becomes eligible for election next year.

Greg Vaughn:  What I remember most about Vaughn is in that magical year of 1998, before everyone decided 1998 didn’t really happen (although royalty checks for several books about that season were cashed anyway), he hit 50 home runs and got a place in a really good article by Gary Smith in Sports Illustrated.  Smith decided to go watch the great home run chase, and got super-lucky, because in three consecutive games he attended games in which Vaughn, McGwire (in the same game), Ken Griffey Jr., and Sammy Sosa all homered.

Mo Vaughn:  He’s not going to make the Hall of Fame, but at least he has Albert Belle’s MVP award.

Matt Williams:  Would he have hit 62 homers in 1994?  We’ll never know.  Could he have stayed at shortstop and put up similar offensive numbers?  We’ll never know.

I don’t have a vote, but if I did, my ballot:  Rickey Henderson, Tim Raines, Alan Trammell, Bert Blyleven, Andre Dawson, Dale Murphy, Mark McGwire, Jim Rice.

What I expect:  Rickey and probably Rice will make it.

To be a Hall of Famer — the 2008 ballots (Part 2)

In Part 1 of this 3-part series, I took a look at the candidates from the ballot for players who began play in 1942 or earlier.  In this post, I’m going to discuss the ballot for players who began play in 1943 or later (and who have been retired for at least 21 years).  Part 3 will concern the BBWAA ballot.

In the case of this ballot, it’s very important to understand the process of selecting (or not selecting) players for enshrinement.  The reason the procedures were changed (for the umpteenth time) after the last Veterans Committee election was due to the fact that no one was getting elected.    The powers that be at the Hall weren’t happy about that, so the process was streamlined.  Only Hall of Fame players and managers will vote for the players on this ballot (previously, Spink and Frick winners also voted).  That cuts the list of potential voters down to 64 (from 80+).

To be elected, a candidate has to be named on 75% of the returned ballots.  Assuming all 64 ballots were submitted, that would mean a candidate would have to be listed on 48 ballots.

The good news for candidates this year is that that the final ballot has been cut to 10.  In the last election, for example, voters had to choose from among 27 players.  This time a winnowing-out process by a pair of different committees reduced the field of candidates to 21, and from there the living Hall of Famers submitted preliminary ballots, resulting in further reducing that number to 10.  It would seem easier for the voters to develop a consensus resulting in at least one player being elected when the number of candidates is limited.

There is one catch, though, and it’s a significant one.

Voters can vote for up to four candidates.  They can’t vote for more than four.  That strikes me as potentially disastrous, if the goal is to elect somebody.  In last year’s election, when no candidate got 75% of the vote, the average ballot contained 5.96 names.

Let’s say, for example, that in the last election a voter cast a ballot listing Tony Oliva, Dick Allen, Jim Kaat, Maury Wills, Gil Hodges, Joe Torre, Vada Pinson, and Ron Santo.  Well, this time around all eight of those guys are on the ballot again, but the voter would only be able to vote for four of them.  If he decides that his “top four” are Oliva, Allen, Kaat, and Wills, that’s one less vote for the other four (including Santo, who came closest to election last time).  The elector’s vote would essentially count against the Hodges-Torre-Pinson-Santo group.

Ron Santo got 57 votes in the last election (out of a possible 82).  There is no guarantee that all 57 of those voters considered him to be one of their top four candidates.  The same is true for the other candidates, of course, including the three other players to receive greater than 50% of the vote in the last election (Kaat, Hodges, and Oliva).

I think by limiting the electors to four choices, the Hall risks another shutout.

All ten of the nominees appeared on the ballot for the prior election.  In fact, the top six vote-getters in that election are on this ballot, along with the 8th-place finisher (Pinson), 11th-place finisher (Tiant), 13th-place finisher (Al Oliver), and 17th-place finisher (Allen).  The most surprising omission may be Don Newcombe, who did not even make the list of 21 candidates on the preliminary ballot (Newcombe finished 7th in the last election, with just over 20% of the vote).  Other players from the ballot for the last election who did not make the “semi-finals” despite being eligible were Curt Flood, Sparky Lyle, and Bobby Bonds.

Roger Maris, Minnie Minoso, Ken Boyer, Mickey Lolich, Thurman Munson, and Rocky Colavito were on last year’s ballot and made this year’s preliminary ballot, but did not make the final 10.  The players who were on the preliminary ballot who did not appear on the ballot for the last election were Steve Garvey, Bert Campaneris, Mike Cuellar, Ted Kluszewski, and Lee May.

Okay, on to the ten candidates.  I’m going to start by stating that there is one guy on this list who absolutely should be in the Hall of Fame, more so than any of the other players, and I think the electors should draw some criticism for not already electing him.  I’m talking, of course, about Joe Torre.

Maybe you thought I was going to say Ron Santo, and I’ll get to him (he belongs in the Hall too)  — but to me, the one guy who you just have to vote for if you are an elector is Torre.  Let’s go to the rules for election for the post-1943 candidates.  Rule number 6-B, to be precise:

Those whose careers entailed involvement as both players and managers/executives/umpires will be considered for their overall contribution to the game of Baseball…

So when the electors are considering Torre, they are to take into account his complete contribution to the game, which includes his borderline Hall of Fame career as a player AND his no-questions-asked Hall of Fame career as a manager.  If the electors are supposed to vote based on his entire career in baseball, is there any doubt that they should be voting for him?

Of course, that was also true in the last election, and in the last election Joe Torre received less than 32% of the vote.  Basically, two out of every three voters disregarded his managerial career.  (For all I know, all of them did, and the guys who voted for him did so because they thought just as a player he was Hall-worthy.)

I realize there might be some hesitation from some of the voters who are unsure whether to consider his managerial career (particularly when he’s still active).  I would tell them that from a practical standpoint, it doesn’t matter if Torre goes into the Hall classified as a “player” or a “manager” — there is no real distinction, a point proven by the fact that both managers and players are voting in this election.  This is something that Joe Morgan or one of the other leaders among the Hall of Famers probably needs to emphasize to his fellow voters.

What is a bit contradictory to this is the possibility that the voters are applying managerial credit to Gil Hodges and not Torre.  At least, that could be the explanation for the continuing support for Hodges’ candidacy (61% in the last election).  It probably isn’t the full explanation, however.

Hodges is most likely getting credit as a player/manager/icon.  As a player, he is similar to a raft of non-Famer first basemen, like Boog Powell and Norm Cash (or Tino Martinez, perhaps an apt modern comparison).  The difference is Hodges’ status as a beloved symbol of the Brooklyn Dodgers.  After all, nobody ever wrote a book called Praying for Roy Sievers.

I would like to support Hodges’ candidacy.  I respect the consistent support he received from a large portion of the BBWAA during his time on that ballot (in his final year, he received 63.4% of the vote).  He was obviously an impressive man.  The facts are, though, that his playing career doesn’t measure up, and his managerial career, tragically, isn’t long enough to compensate.

Ron Santo is (at worst) one of the seven greatest third basemen of all time.  You could argue he’s as high as fifth-best.  If you go by the rankings in Bill James’ New Historical Baseball Abstract (which ranks him sixth), the seventh-best second baseman of all time is Ryne Sandberg.  The seventh-best shortstop is Ozzie Smith.  The seventh-best first baseman is Harmon Killebrew.The seventh-best catcher is Bill Dickey.  The seventh-best center fielder is Junior Griffey.  You get the idea…

Now, that doesn’t mean that the position of third base is as strong historically (in terms of number of great players) as those other positions.  Maybe it isn’t.  It’s certainly an undervalued position as far as Hall of Famers go.  Despite the relative paucity of players at that position in the Hall, however, Santo would rank in the upper half of third basemen so honored.  However, in his final year on the BBWAA ballot, Santo only received 43.1% of the vote.

He hasn’t been elected because of the era in which he played (depressing offensive stats across the board), general confusion over how to evaluate third basemen, and the fact that the Cubs never made postseason play during his career, despite having three current Hall of Famers on the roster with Santo for much of that time.  As far as the too-many-Famers-already argument, I think it’s inherently lame.  It’s not like there is a quota on how many Hall of Famers can be on a team at any given time.  The fact the Cubs could not get over the hump during that period (or any other over the last 100 years) is just a testament to the fact that having a collection of great players isn’t enough.  You generally have to be solid across the board to be a championship team.  The strength-of-the-chain-is-only-its-weakest-link concept applies in baseball, because in 162 games, that weak link is going to eventually be exploited.

Santo also played his entire career with Type 1 diabetes, which even today would be very impressive.  Perhaps he should get some consideration for that as well.  His case doesn’t really need it, though.

Vada Pinson is a guy who doesn’t really compare to any other player, which in a way is a point in his favor.  His similarity scores list Steve Finley as his best comp, but Pinson was better than Finley.  Bill James wrote in one of his books that Pinson was as a player essentially at the halfway point between Roberto Clemente and Willie Davis (who are both in his similarity score list as well).  James reported in the New Historical Abstract that Pinson was actually two years older than was believed (he was 23 in 1959, not 21).  This in part explains why he never rose to the heights expected of him after his first three seasons in the National League.  He still managed to fashion an outstanding career.  I’m not quite sure he has Hall of Fame numbers, but you could make a very good case for him.  It should be pointed out that for about two-thirds of his career, he was a center fielder.  Pinson spent 15 years on the BBWAA ballot; he never received more than 15.7% of the vote.

Pinson was probably a better player than Al Oliver, though.  Oliver could hit (.303 lifetime average) but didn’t walk much.  Oliver played centerfield for about a third of his career, first base for about a third, and left field/DH for the remainder.  He compares to Steve Garvey; Oliver was a better hitter and maybe a better all-around player (it depends on how good a fielder you think Garvey was).  Oliver was only on the BBWAA ballot once, in 1991.  He received 19 votes (4.9%) and was dropped from future ballots.

Dick Allen never received more than 18.9% of the vote from the BBWAA electorate, despite very fine career batting totals (career OPS+:  156), albeit in a relatively short career.

Of course, that doesn’t begin to tell the Dick Allen story.  I don’t think any player’s Hall of Fame case is quite as polarizing as that of Allen.  His numbers are generally outstanding, but he never seemed to improve his teams, short-term or long-term.  Despite his hitting prowess, he got traded frequently, almost always for lesser players (including Jim Essian twice).  He missed a lot of games during the heart of his career due to injuries, was suspended for following the ponies at the expense of a doubleheader in 1969, and walked out on the White Sox with two weeks to play in 1974, when Chicago was still involved in a pennant race.  He was, in short, disruptive.

My sense is that people who don’t remember Allen (the majority of baseball fans) are more supportive of Allen’s candidacy than people who were on the scene, so to speak (although there are exceptions).  Allen received 11 votes (13.4%) in the most recent Veterans Committee election.  I’m guessing that he gets a similar percentage this time.

Maury Wills isn’t the most popular guy around, either.  Wills finished fifth in the last Veterans Committee election (receiving 40.2% of the vote).  That’s a similar percentage to what Wills got in the 1981 BBWAA vote.  The next year, his vote total dropped by almost half (163 votes to 91); he never approached his high-water mark in votes again.

Wills stole 104 bases in 1962 — you may have read about it — and his Hall of Fame candidacy has fed off that one year.  That’s about all it can feed on, because once you get past 104, you’re left with a leadoff hitter who didn’t walk and had no power, and who was a decent but not great defensive shortstop.  Plus, if Gil Hodges and Joe Torre are getting credit for their managerial careers, surely Wills has to get negative credit for his.

There are two pitchers on the ballot.  Jim Kaat won 16 Gold Gloves and 283 games in a long career that was extended several years by his conversion into a reliever.  He later became a respected broadcaster.  Kaat was a very good pitcher for a long time, but here I think the expression “compiler” does apply somewhat.  I’ve seen other players saddled with that unfairly (Bert Blyleven, for example), but Kaat does seem to fit the bill.  Kaat never received as much as 30% of the vote in 15 BBWAA elections, but he received a surprising 63.4% of the vote in the last Veterans Committee election, suggesting that he may indeed have a Cooperstown plaque in his future.  If that happens, it won’t be a tragedy.  Kaat is quite close to the border, and a case could be made he crosses over it.

Luis Tiant received just over 18.3% of the vote in that particular election, in line with the vote in his final BBWAA ballot.  Tiant actually got over 30% of the BBWAA vote in his first go-round, in 1988, but the ballot was swamped with distinctly better pitchers the next year, and Tiant’s vote total crashed, never to recover to its initial level.

Tiant had a career ERA+ of 114 in just under 3500 innings.  His closest Similarity Scores comp is Catfish Hunter, only you could make a good argument that Tiant was better than Hunter.  That’s something for Tiant backers to emphasize, since Hunter was actually elected by the BBWAA, and not the Veterans Committee.  Very rarely has the BBWAA elected a borderline candidate (most of those get put in the Hall by the VC).  However, Jim Hunter is one of the exceptions to the rule.

He’s yet another guy who is quite close.  I think he’s just on the wrong side of the line, but the line is really hazy.  Being somewhat famous will help El Tiante’s cause.

Tony Oliva, on the other hand, isn’t famous.  That probably has hurt his cause a bit.  For whatever reason, I get the impression he may be the least known (to the general public and/or casual baseball fan) of the ten nominees; it’s either him or Pinson.  That’s too bad, because he was quite a player.  In his rookie season he led the league in hits; in his second season he was the runner-up for league MVP.  He was named to the All-Star team in his first eight seasons.  He led the league in batting three times, in slugging once, in doubles four times, and added another runner-up finish in the MVP voting in 1970.  For eight years, he was on a no-doubter Hall of Fame track.

He had bad knees, though, and his career went downhill after 1971.  He played in only 10 games in 1972, and finished his career as a DH.  In that role, however, he was not nearly as productive as he had been as a regular position player.  Oliva basically had eight great seasons and three other seasons as a league-average batting DH.  That’s not enough for a lot of people, including the majority of BBWAA voters (his vote totals peaked at 47.3% in 1988).  Interestingly, he seems to have a solid base of support from the Hall of Famers.  Oliva got 57.3% of the vote in the last VC election.  I have a sneaking suspicion that he could be surprisingly close to election this time around.

If I were voting, Torre and Santo would get my vote.  I would seriously consider Kaat, Tiant, Pinson, and Oliva.  As to what I think will actually happen, I think there is a decent chance that no one is elected again.  If anyone is elected, it’s going to be Santo.  We’ll find out on December 8.