The Astros Experience

OK, so our older daughter, Elizabeth, is overcome by Senioritis and ready to leave for college and our younger daughter, Katie, is taking driving lessons, and the other day I went for a painful stretching session at the gym, and, no, I’ve never felt older.

Yes, age, as Satchel Paige probably said, is a matter of mind over matter, if you don’t mind, it don’t matter.

But I do mind. Ow.


In the Athletic

We are up to No. 38 on the Baseball 100. A couple of people have said, “Wow, you’re almost home free.” Well, that’s not true. But I can now confirm that this thing will definitely go deeper than my previous effort, which ended at 30.

But that’s all I can guarantee.

It is looking like we will be announcing a new PosCast format in the next week or so. I can’t go into details just yet, but let’s just say that we’re keeping the nonsense. In fact, I guess it’s fair to say that we’re expanding the nonsense.


Astros Talk

I do not believe that the Houston Astros used a buzzer system to steal signs in 2019. I just don’t. I’m not saying they were morally incapable of it or that they deserve benefits of doubt or even that Jose Altuve’s bad neck tattoo excuse makes sense — all that stuff is hypothetical and emotional.

But I do not believe they used a buzzer system. There is no tangible evidence that they did. Major League Baseball looked into it and determined they didn’t. The charge that they did use a buzzer comes from shadowy whispers and dubious video study; nobody has put any weight or factual force or behind the charge.

No, I don’t think the Astros used buzzers.

And I do think that it is time for Major League Baseball to forcefully, explicitly and unequivocally say exactly that, to say that the Astros did not cheat in 2019 and all statements to the contrary are false and irresponsible unless they come with new evidence.

We are in the middle of the feeding frenzy portion of this Astros cheating thing. Every crisis has one. It’s the point where everybody — the media, the others in the industry, everybody — piles on and tries to push the story as far as it can go. One person suggests taking away the 2017 World Series, the next person suggest barring the Astros from postseason play for three years, the next person suggests giving all the players involved a one-year suspension, the next person suggests it should be a five-year suspension, the next person suggests pulling the Astros off television, the next person suggests taking the Astros away from Houston, on and on, there will be no end to the wrath, not until this portion of the crisis fades.

And it is the responsibility of MLB to try and get to the point where the crisis starts fading. There’s only so much the commissioner Rob Manfred and his people can do … but my argument here is that they have to do EVERYTHING THEY CAN to get baseball moving forward.

Take a look at this Twitter poll I did:

Now, please don’t misunderstand what I’m saying here — it’s a stupid Twitter poll with only my followers and it does not have any credibility. But 88% of the people in this poll — in this feeding frenzy part of the crisis — voted that they think the Astros definitely or probably used a buzzer system.

Now, what are the chances that 88% of the 4,350 people who voted on Twitter feel this way but, say, only 30 percent of actual baseball fans do. I’d say the chances are pretty small. Fifty percent of fans? Again, I’d say pretty small but let’s go with it; if 50% of baseball fans think that the Astros cheated in 2019 (based on only the flimsiest of accusations) that is an enormous problem for the game. Everyone knows baseball’s most precious commodity is credibility. If someone believes the Astros cheated in 2019, they also believe one of two other things.

  1. MLB is too incompetent to catch them.

  2. MLB does know but is covering it up somehow.

Both are very bad.

And that’s why I think it’s imperative for MLB to come out and defend the 2019 Astros. You have baseball players all around the league just saying, point blank, that they think the Astros used buzzers. You have players all over the league screaming that MLB should withdraw the immunity they gave the players and punish them. You have an endless stream of media questions and stories about it. Social media is overwhelmed by it all.

There are many who think that MLB did not punish the 2017 Astros hard enough — I would agree but nobody can say that there were no punishments. Three managers lost their jobs over it as did a general manager. There were fines and draft-pick penalties. The players were given immunity, and you can argue about that. The Astros did not get stripped of their 2017 title, and you can argue about that too.

But I think sooner or later people will move on from 2017.

They will not move on from 2019, though, not as long as people believe that the Astros got away with it. Yes, MLB has sort of, kind of, halfway, cautiously suggested that they believe, at least at this time, that the Astros did not cheat in 2019. The commissioner said at one point in his report that the investigation “revealed no violations of the policy by the Astros in the 2019 season or 2019 Postseason.”

And the other day Manfred said: “I can tell you the evidence on this issue was as consistent in the direction that nothing was going on as the evidence was consistent in the direction that there was inappropriate behavior in '17 and ‘18.”

But people aren’t buying it because MLB is not putting any thunder behind the statement. Whatever force was behind the convoluted “evidence on this was as consistent as evidence on that” statement was lost entirely because it began with Manfred saying “Can I tell you for 100 percent certain that it didn’t happen? No, you can never know that.”

I don’t think that’s right. Sure, you can never know anything for sure, but you can come pretty damn close to knowing. MLB needs to be confident enough in the veracity of its investigation, in the truthfulness of its witnesses and in basic common sense to say to everyone (perhaps in a joint statement with the MLBPA):

We all know that the Astros cheated in 2017. It is regrettable and it has hurt the game immensely. The Astros have been punished for that. People will disagree on the terms of that punishment, and we respect that, but we believe that we have been both firm and fair.

However, MLB will not stand for unsubstantiated allegations thrown against the Astros in subsequent years. MLB has investigated and found that the Astros definitively did not use buzzers or any other form of sign-stealing equipment in 2019. If anyone has evidence to the contrary, they are more than welcome to present it. But for people, particularly those inside the game, to unfairly throw around charges based on nothing but speculation and anger is irresponsible and goes against what MLB stands for.

I will make this as clear as day: The Astros did not illegally steal signs in 2019.

It would take some courage for the commissioner to do that — he would be sticking his neck out there a bit. But that’s what the situation calls for: Someone sticking their neck out there. for the game.

Now, you might say: Well, maybe he doesn’t believe that. And if that’s the case, then baseball has an even bigger problem. If MLB even slightly suspects the Astros of cheating in 2019, they must get to the bottom of it because sooner or later that will come out and the damage could be irreversible. There is no room for ambiguity on this.

But I don’t think that’s the case. I don’t think the Astros used buzzers. I think this is a made-up story that sounds somewhat plausible while the Astros’ trustworthiness is at an all-time low — there is almost NOTHING you could charge the Astros with at this moment that would give people pause. Did the Astros actually cause global warming? Sure. Wouldn’t surprise me.

And look, I don’t like what the Astros did any more than anybody else, and I think they’ve handled it about as poorly as possible. I would have preferred a stiffer punishment for 2017. I would have preferred owner Jim Crane to take responsibility and reshape his franchise beyond just firing a couple of guys named in the report. I would have preferred that the Astros didn’t retain essentially the same front office that might have been behind the whole thing.

But I don’t think the Astros used buzzers, and I think Jose Altuve’s homer off Aroldis Chapman was real and genuine, and in my view, it’s time for Manfred and others in MLB and the MLBPA to stand up and say so.

The Wonder of Novak

I am exhausted. Yes, it was one thing to talk about how hard it would be to write 100 intensive essays about the 100 greatest baseball players ever … but actually doing it? It’s roughly five times harder than I expected. There are three main reasons for this.

  1. I thought I would be able to lean a lot more on the essays written in previous Baseball 100 attempts. But the truth is that, other than a couple of early ones, I’ve basically been writing these things from scratch.

  2. I thought I would keep the essays to 2,000 words. That’s why I predicted at the start that this thing in total would have roughly the same number of words as Moby Dick. See, Moby Dick has 206,052 words. That’s about what I was expecting to hit with 100 essays. But most of these essays are running at 3,000 words, some of them 4,000 words. And now that I’m getting to the greatest of the great, it’s not like I can cut back.

  3. The pace is more excruciating than I expected. I wrote a bunch of essays before we even got started to give myself a bit of a cushion. But because these run EVERY SINGLE DAY that cushion has withered and withered and now the gap is uncomfortably small. And this is only adding to my panic.

I mean, look, you don’t need to hear my bellyaching. You have your own problems, and they’re undoubtedly more significant than a sportswriter complaining about writing a Christy Mathewson essay. But I’m just being honest. I’m pooped.

At The Athletic

It has been a week and a half since the last newsletter — apologies for that — so there have been a bunch of Baseball 100 essays that have run since last time. I know that I have been linking those individually but today I’m just going link the main page. At the bottom of that page, there are links for all the players.

I’m told that The Athletic is working on a cool new landing page as well as a few other treats. Will keep you updated.

I also wrote a column after the Chiefs won the Super Bowl (those words still look out of place).

Stuff I’m Doing

Heading to Kansas City Thursday for the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum centennial announcement — which I think will be pretty spectacular. Commissioner Rob Manfred will be there. That should be interesting.

NLBM President Bob Kendrick and I were going to try to squeeze in something fun — a public tour or a conversation — but it doesn’t look like we will be able to do that. We will both be there at the museum Thursday night for the unveiling of the Graig Kreindler Art Exhibit, which should be pretty spectacular.

A Few Words

I’ll save most of my thoughts on this for later, but you have probably seen MLB float the idea of a new postseason plan. Basically, in this plan, they would add two more wildcard teams in each league (making it 14 out of 30 teams in the playoffs) and they would give the top team a bye. Then there would be best-of-three series with all three games played at the higher-seed ballpark

The second part of the plan is that the top two non-bye teams would get to choose their opponent. This draft apparently would be part of some kind of reality TV show.

I don’t want to get too deep into this now but it’s fair to say that I absolutely hate every single part of this. I know that this could get me tabbed as an old man shouting at clouds, but considering it’s the idea of an old man shouting at clouds I’m willing to take the chance.

I’m all for change. I’m all for DRASTIC change. I think baseball could use some vibrant new ideas, even uncomfortable ones.

But nothing in this plan interests me. Nothing.

Four more playoff teams? Yuck. I loathe it on every level. It rewards mediocrity. It makes the regular season less meaningful. It guarantees that, within a short period of time, a team with a losing record will not only make the playoffs but will probably get hot and win the World Series.

And what GOOD will it do? I suppose the goal is to make more teams compete, a worthy cause, but you know what? It won’t. You think teams are going to work harder to compete for the chance to play three games at a better team’s ballpark? Nah. Do you think the Chicago White Sox or Anaheim Angels would have been big spenders down the stretch in an effort to catch the 78-84 Rangers for the honor getting to go to Yankee Stadium for three games? Give me a break.

Here’s the deal: If you really want to do this, to add playoff teams, then you need to go all in. It makes absolutely no sense to play 162 games to eliminate about half the teams in baseball. If you’re going to do this, cut the season down to 120 games. Or 100 games. Or 81 games. Play a big postseason tournament with seven-game series all the way. Turn MLB into the NBA. I don’t think that’s a winner of a plan, but at least that would be a plan. This is nothing.

The second part, the choosing of your opponent, is simply the stupidest idea I’ve heard floated from MLB in a long time. It’s not stupid because it’s edgy or new. I wish it WAS edgy and new. No, it’s stupid because it will be absurdly predictable — unless there’s some odd circumstance, teams will ALWAYS just choose the team with the worst record — and it’s stupid because we’re talking about whether the second-best team in the league wants to play the fifth, sixth or seventh best team. WHO CARES?

There are so many cool, interesting, fresh, challenging ideas out there to make baseball more appealing to new fans. This idea will accomplish nothing good for the game. And, I totally expect MLB to do it.

The wonder of Novak

When Novak Djokovic was a young and still erratic player, he became somewhat famous around the tennis circuit for his tennis impressions. He could basically impersonate any player’s service motion, forehand, backhand, mannerisms between points etc. — Federer, Nadal, Williams, Graf, Sampras, McEnroe, you name it.

You might not expect that to be much of an act, but it was pretty funny. Djokovic even then had such a keen eye for detail and such a unique ability to physically take on the form of other players that it was surprisingly good. Great players were known to watch his impersonations and then say out loud, “Do I really do that?”

Eventually, he stopped doing it — publicly at least — because some people got offended by it.

Anyway, this picture of Djokovic doing tennis impressions came to mind two Sundays ago when he beat Dominic Thiem in five grueling and somewhat odd sets at the Australian Open.

First, there is something to be said about Thiem, who comes ever closer to finally breaking through not only for himself but for his entire lost generation of tennis players. Thiem has become an extraordinary player who, at his best, can blast anyone, including the Big Three, off the court with his serve, his ferocious forehand, his savage backhand down the line. He lost in straight sets to Rafael Nadal at the 2018 French Open, in four sets to Nadal at the 2019 French Open and in five sets to Djokovic in the 2020 Australian Open. The breakthrough does seem near.

But not yet. No, the story again was Djokovic and there is history to be discussed.

This was Djokovic’s eighth Australian Open championship, which is a record (but, then again, so was seven Australian Open titles). As far as the grand slam thing goes, Djoker now has 17, Rafael Nadal has 19, and Roger Federer has 20. That race gets tighter. The three of them have won the last 13 grand slams, and Nadal will, of course, be favored to win in Paris, and Federer seems to have at least enough magic left to make another run at Wimbledon.*

*Their domination simply cannot be overstated.

— The three of them have won 14 of the last 15 Australian Opens.

— The three of them have won the last 14 of the last 15 French Opens.

— The three of them have won 15 of the last 17 Wimbledons.

— The three of them have won 12 of the last 16 U.S. Opens.

Djokovic has the wind at his back now. He is younger than Roger and Rafa, and he still seems to be finding higher levels. The three-way conversation about the greatest ever tennis player is fun but ultimately futile — they each have their case and their fans will not let go. Federer got there first, set the bar for tennis genius, and is regularly called “GOAT” by his competitors. Nadal brought a new force into the game, he owned Federer for most of their careers, and he is inarguably the most dominant clay-court player in the game’s history.

And Djokovic? He came along third, after the other two had framed the argument, but he is the only one of the four to have held all four titles at the same time, he is 13-6 in finals against Federer, he is 15-11 in finals against Nadal (including the only straight-set victory Rafa ever suffered in a Grand Slam final), and he has every chance (and every intention) of winning the most grand slam titles by the time he’s finally done.

He has a chance, statistically and logically, to make the argument his and his alone.

There is something more tangible, though, that I noticed about Djokovic as he plodded his way through that five-set match against Thiem: It seems to me that Djoker, unlike Roger or Rafa, has the ability to become someone else on the tennis court.

That is to say, Roger Federer is always Roger Federer. He spots his serve like no one ever has. He moves with such perfect rhythms, it’s as much like dancing as tennis. His forehand can end points from anywhere in the stadium, in the later stages of his career he turned his backhand into its own gorgeous weapon, and nobody commands the net like he does. He does surprising things — tweeners between the legs, no-look shots into the open court, drop shots that land and sink into the ground — but he himself is never surprising.

Rafael Nadal is always Rafael Nadal. He plays every point like it is his last. He makes his opponent hit three, five, eight balls that would be winners against almost anyone else. He hits his shots with such vicious topspin that each one must feel like a boxer’s body blow, and he attacks moments of weakness like few ever have. He grunts and sweats and plods and opponents know that he will never stop, never, and that might just be the scariest feeling in sports.

It is nothing but a compliment to say that they are who they are.

But Djokovic is different, He — more than the other two, more than any player in this game’s long history, I would argue — is amorphous, adaptable, variable. He changes from point to point. The great tennis impressionist transforms before your very eyes.

He can play some of Federer’s game — twice in the match against Thiem, he faced a break point that, had he lost, probably would have cost him the match. Both times, he served and volleyed. “That not really what I do,” he said after the match ended, except that it is what he does when the time is right. He is a genius at the net when the situation calls for it. He loves facing his opponent just on the other side of the next, two of them barely 10 feet apart, in a game of quick-draw.

He can play Nadal’s game — sometimes, against Thiem, he just stood a few feet behind the baseline and chased down anything and everything Thiem smashed at him. It was awe-inspiring to see him return fire until Thiem, mentally exhausted, deeply frustrated, tried a shot that even he did not quite have the talent to pull off.

He can be offensive or defensive. He can punch or counter punch. He can beat you with his serve, he can beat you with his return. Djokovic also has his own game — the closest thing he has to a tangible style — where he returns serves right at your feet, takes hold of the point, never lets it go, moves you from side to side to side to side until you wilt.

He has so many choices of what kind of tennis player he can be — I sometimes wonder if this is at the heart of the frustrations he often shows on the court. Numerous times a match, Djokovic will look up to his coaching box, not for emotional support but to complain about something that doesn’t easily or obviously connect to the action.

“Why is he screaming at them?” you will think after an opponent hits a winner against him or when he hits a shot just wide.

My best guess, much of the time, is that he’s complaining about the persona and his team had chosen, as if to say, “Well, if I knew he was going to play like THIS I would have been someone different today.”

During the Thiem match, Djokovic had a brief and inexplicable loss of energy. He still doesn’t know what happened exactly. He won the first set with his usual breathless tennis, and the second set was 4-4 when he had a bit of a meltdown and got broken — it didn’t help that he was given two time-violations by a perhaps overzealous chair umpire. He promptly lost six games in a row and his shots lost all their shape and power. He did not look angry. He looked beaten.

When Djokovic was young, at the same time he was famous for his impersonations, he would occasionally lose energy and flat give up. He did this once against Federer, who held it against him for a long time. But Djokovic evolved like few athletes ever have. He went vegan, became something of a fitness nut, hardened his mind, and became utterly ruthless. People call Rafa the great warrior, and he is, but it is Djokovic who has the better five-set record now at 30-10 (Nadal is at 22-12).

And so Djokovic found his energy and found himself — or more to the point found who he needed to be — and he took the fourth set, and then he got his service break in the fifth set and he calmly and professionally served it out. Thiem does get closer. Young players like Alexander Zverev and Stefanos Tsitsipas and Daniil Medvedev surely will have their day. Nadal and Federer each have life left in them.

But until further notice, it is Novak Djokovic’s world and will remain so until someone can summon a game he cannot counter.

Rankings and Chiefs

Hi everybody! All apologies for this week’s newsletter being a couple of days late but, hey, you try writing 100 very long baseball essays in 100 days. No, really, please, can you try it because I am thinking more and more that I will need all the help I can get.


In The Athletic

You can actually find all the links for the Baseball 100 on this page — but a few of you have asked me to continue to link individually so here we go:

No. 66: Robin Yount

No. 65: Ernie Banks

No. 64: Johnny Mize

No. 63: Steve Carlton

No. 62: Smokey Joe Williams

No. 61: Arky Vaughan

No. 60: Pete Rose

No. 59: Reggie Jackson

No. 58: Jeff Bagwell

No. 57: Rod Carew

No. 56: Joe DiMaggio

We’ll get back to that last one in just a minute.

I also wrote this memory of the legendary Chiefs founder Lamar Hunt who, oddly, became something close to a friend.


Other Stuff

— Lots and lots and lots and lots of people ask me, pretty much every day, if I plan to turn the Baseball 100 into a book. It’s flattering, there have been some big hitters who have approached me about it. I don’t know the answer yet, and frankly, I am too overwhelmed with the writing to think much about it yet. But I will be done with the writing (one way or another) over the next few weeks and then I will start thinking about what a baseball book could look like. More on this as it develops!

— The audiobook for The Soul of Baseball is out — more than a decade after the book was published — and I have to tell you: It’s spectacular. The book is read by a Kansas City native named David Sadzin, and he’s so wonderful. I hear the words I wrote in an entirely different way, which, well, it’s hard to even describe that feeling.

Hoping to do an event for it at the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum sometime soon. More on this as it develops!

— There might be an exciting/horrifying bit of news on the PosCast (depending on your point of view). More on this also as it develops!

— I want to say something about my friend Mike Schur, whose work of art “The Good Place,” just aired its final episode this week. I remember when Mike first started developing the show in his mind, and he wouldn’t go into details but he told me that it was a strange idea and a risky idea and (most tantalizingly) that he had to do a lot of reading and studying for it.

In so many ways, I think “The Good Place,” was a journey for Mike, a way for him to try and make sense of the world and the universe, to make sense of what it is to be human, to make sense of our times, while also getting in a bunch of Jacksonville Jaguars jokes. Watching the final episode, I cried like everybody else and felt happy like everybody else and, mostly, I thought about how lucky we are that in this time and place where there’s money and fame and status in playing it safe, in hammering the hot take, in trolling for hits and talking nonsense for the headlines it might get you, a sweet and kind and glorious show like “The Good Place” can still happen.


The Baseball 100 Rankings

I don’t know if you’ve noticed this but it seems like some people disagree with how I’ve been ranking the players on the Baseball 100. This, of course, is not only reasonable, it’s actually quite right. My rankings are terrible. ALL rankings are terrible — except your own. The very idea that you could not only choose the 100 greatest players but also rank them in exact order is ludicrous.

And yet: Here we are.

I will not lie: I’ve been waiting for today, for No. 56 on the list. It feels like my big reveal. You see, as I told you from the start, I spent hours and hours working on the numbers and I mentioned that it began with a formula that I developed with my good friend Tom Tango, a WAR-based formula that takes numerous other things into account. This is all true, and it’s also true that most of the complaints people have had about the rankings are really complaints they have about WAR.

Q: How could you rank Jeff Bagwell ahead of Tony Gwynn?

Short answer: Because Jeff Bagwell had 10 more career WAR and had a seven-win advantage in peak WAR, because Bagwell by the numbers was a much better overall hitter (lots more power, got on base more), a better fielder (at a less-valuable position) was even a better base runner even with fewer stolen bases. And there weren’t enough advantages for Gwynn to make up the difference.

Q: How could you rank Gaylord Perry ahead of Sandy Koufax?

Short answer: Because Perry had 40 more career WAR, had a HIGHER seven-year peak by WAR, and while Koufax did have his share of advantages, particularly in the postseason, it wasn’t quite enough to overtake Perry (there were only a couple of places apart).

But the truth is that even those short answers don’t quite get at what I’ve been trying to do with the Baseball 100. I didn’t tell all of it when I said that I worked for hours and hours on the numbers. See, these aren’t exactly rankings. Yes, there’s a general order, from great to greater to even greater to greatest.

But what I’ve been trying to do is not RANK the player. I’ve been trying to connect the player to a number. I know that sounds weird and perhaps stupid, but I really have tried to do this with every player. It isn’t always obvious. It isn’t always even logical. All I can say is: I’ve tried.

For example — and I really did think someone would pick up on one part of this but, best I can tell, nobody has — remember how Topps used to number their baseball cards? Those numbers seemed entirely random but if you looked close you found that the superstars would have their numbers end in double-zero, the big stars would have their numbers end in 0 and 5.

I have tried to do that. That’s why Ichiro is No. 100. That’s why Koufax ix No. 70, Pete Rose is No. 60, etc. That’s why Gwynn is No. 95 (I almost made him No. 94 to signify the year he almost hit .400 but thought he was too good not to have his number end in 5).

I tried hard to give each player a number that I thought made sense. Mike Mussina was 99 because that was the year he finished second in the Cy Young (to the incredible Pedro season).

Mariano Rivera was given No. 91 because of Psalm 91, the Psalm of Protection: “Surely he shall deliver thee from the snare of the fowler, and from the noisome pestilence.”

Phil Niekro was given No. 83 because it is a prime number (and the sum of five consecutive prime numbers) which seemed to me to fit his pitching style.

Derek Jeter was given No. 79 because it is what is called a “happy prime,” and that sounded like a match. Also, 79 is the atomic number of gold. Also, ‘79 was the year Jeter started playing ball.*

*I also considered making Jeter 80 to give him a star number and making Carlton Fisk No. 79, but I thought this worked better.

Ernie Banks was 65 because (A) It ends with 5 which is a star number; (B) It is the magic constant in a 5 x 5 magic square (C) It was a year when Banks played in 163 games and finished THIRD in the league in games played behind two teammates, Ron Santo and Billy Williams. I love that one.

And so on. I couldn’t do quite make it work for every player. But whenever I could do it, and the order was about right, I did it. Maybe at some point at the end, I’ll print all of the number connections. It can be like that final scene of “The Usual Suspects.” Then again, I might never do that because some of them are REALLY out there.*

*Yes, I do realize that this is now a challenge, and I’m imagining all of you going all Russell Crowe on me to come up with connections.

I have to say that I did think people would pick up a pattern by now, looking back at it, I realize that I’m a lunatic and there was no way for ANYBODY to pick up the pattern.

Anyway, all that ends today because today the secret is out. I put Joe DiMaggio No. 56. I went back and forth on it — the rankings had him probably 20 or 25 spots higher and I didn’t move anyone else quite that much. But then I thought that the point of these rankings is to connect the player with a number, and if I put DiMaggio at 31 or 43 or something like that, who would even notice? Who would care about the number?

It seemed to me that the very best number for DiMaggio is No. 56. It’s his number. And so he got it.

There is a lot more of this number connecting to come in the next few weeks. I understand that some people might not like it this way and might prefer a more straightforward ranking so they can clearly and vividly scream about ranking Player X 22 spots ahead of Player Y. I apologize. Please feel free to scream anyway.


Chiefs and Chopper

The Kansas City Chiefs are in the Super Bowl. You might have heard something about this, I don’t know.

I just want to tell you that it’s pretty much madness around this house because, as I think I mentioned, our oldest daughter Elizabeth rather suddenly and thoroughly fell for the Chiefs sometime late last year. She spent the first 17 years of her life rebelling against all sports. She spent the last year and a half turning into me as a teenaged football obsessive. I don’t see this as growth.

But it has been enlightening. Mike Schur often calls his son William, “my jerk son,” because William has lived a charmed sports childhood. He likes the Patriots, the Red Sox and the Dodgers. He doesn’t know anything about losing.

Of course, as a Clevelander, I would argue that Mike doesn’t know about losing either because even though his childhood did have the lousy Patriots (who still went to a Super Bowl) and the heartbreaking Red Sox (who still went to a World Series), he also had the Celtics who won a lot. In Cleveland, we had none of it.

But this is getting off the point: It has been enlightening to watch my daughter, who is so much like myself, get to root for a WINNING TEAM. It is like watching my younger self if just one time the opposite thing had happened — if Brian Sipe had thrown that Red Right 88 pass into Lake Erie like he should have or if John Elway had thrown an interception on the drive or if Ernest Byner had not fumbled the football as he headed into the end zone.

Of course, none of those things happened. And Elizabeth is my jerk daughter who knows nothing at all about losing.

She’s intensely happy and deeply nervous. She’s so excited that she can barely hide her giddiness and she’s so scared the Chiefs will lose that she doesn’t even want to talk about it. She scans Kansas Chiefs Chiefs social media non-stop every minute in order to find pieces of news that will make her feel less nervous, less worried, more certain. I remember that feeling so well; you look everywhere for a hint that things will turn out OK.

One thing that she does that I highly recommend: She spends a lot of time trying to figure out how to create the PERFECT Super Bowl party. This is both a distraction and a healthy way not to lose your mind with fear. Elizabeth has spent a lot of time deciding exactly what food to get, what decorations to use, where everyone in the family will be allowed to sit. We have spent the week asking her to approve various recommendations.

“Should we have pretzels at the Super Bowl watching?”

— “Warm pretzels are fine. Hard pretzels are gross.”

“What sort of wings shall there be?”

— “There can be various kinds but none of those gross healthy wings.”

“Pizza bites or Pizza Bagels?”

— Bites, obviously.

And so on. It’s very funny to see her preparing. She doesn’t care one bit about the strategic ins and outs of the game. She doesn’t want to talk at all about what sort of defense the Chiefs need to play to stop the 49ers running game or how the offensive line will need to protect Patrick Mahomes. She’s in charge of the karma.

Hall of Fame Time!

The Hall of Fame announcement comes out Tuesday! It’s always exciting when that happens. I’ll tell you who I voted for here and, at the end, I’ll make my Hall of Fame predictions. But first … let’s catch up a bit.

At The Athletic

The Baseball 100 continues on to the background music of joy and fury. That’s what you want, right? I realize that I’ve never explained the system Tom Tango helped me come up with because the rankings are not at all my focus for this series. Each of these essays really are lovingly crafted and the the entire point of this loony exercise.

But I will tell you that the system is WAR based — peak WAR and career WAR — thrown in with a bunch of other factors thrown in such as era, postseason performances, all-around skill, impact on the game and so on.

I tell you this for two reasons.

  1. For all those people who are furious about the rankings, most of the time you can just look at WAR and pretty quickly figure out why the player is ranked around there. It’s really not that mysterious.

  2. As we get closer to the top players, I think and hope it will become clear that I’m not so much ranking the players as assigning them numbers. That might not make sense now but I think it will very soon.

Anyway, to catch you up:

No. 72: Robin Roberts

No. 71: Bert Blyleven

No. 70: Sandy Koufax

No. 69: Monte Irvin

No. 68: Gaylord Perry

No. 67: Hank Greenberg

I also wrote a little something about the Browns new coach Kevin Stefansky and what we can learn from his press conference (spoiler: not much).

Magi-Fest

I had such a blast at Magi-Fest in Columbus over the weekend. I was there in part to sell my book, which I might have mentioned, called The Life and Afterlife of Harry Houdini. But mostly I was there because it is such a joy to be around magic and magicians. I even bought a couple of tricks that I’ll be happy to perform for you if I happen to run into you …

All right — Hall of Fame Time!

This was, in many ways, the oddest ballot that I’ve filled out in my 15 or so years of being a Hall of Fame voter. It was odd, illogically, because it wasn’t odd at all, it was what a Hall of Fame ballot SHOULD be.

That is to say that unlike the ballots of the past few years, there was not a glut of overqualified candidates. I had never really thought about how those overstuffed ballots actually made it easier to vote in so many ways — I didn’t have to think too hard about whether Sammy Sosa or Gary Sheffield or Omar Vizquel or others were Hall of Famers because to me they were clearly not among the Top 10 players on the ballot. The only real decision I had to make was whether this guy or that guy was No. 10 or No. 11.

But on this ballot, well, I see only five players who I would consider slam dunk candidates — and even those five include three controversial players who many others would not vote for.

My Slam Dunk Five include:

Derek Jeter. Yes, for people who appreciate WAR, it must feel strange that the two players elected unanimously will be a shortstop with 72.4 bWAR (88th all time) and a reliever with 56.2 bWAR (229th all-time). But, in a larger sense, Jeter should be elected unanimously — as should have probably 25 others from Aaron to Yaz. You can’t go back and right wrongs from the past, no, but there’s no viable reason I know to pass on Jeter as a Hall of Famer.

Barry Bonds. Yes, I know. I’ve written about this a jillion times. I think the Hall of Fame should include the greatest baseball players ever, flaws and cheats and personality deficiencies inclusive. I appreciate that others disagree and am not looking to convince anyone that I’m right. I know all the reasons to not vote for Barry Bonds. But to me, it’s simple: Bonds was the greatest baseball player of my lifetime. How much of that was real and how much wasn’t — none of us know for sure. His extraordinary play, that we do know.

Roger Clemens. Yes, I know. I’ve written about this a jillion times. Same as last guy. But I will add that I tend to believe that Clemens, in addition to being the greatest pitcher of my lifetime, is actually under-appreciated as a pitcher. If you take the career of Pedro Martinez and add it to the career of Johan Santana, you still don’t get to Roger Clemens.

Larry Walker. Yes, he got hurt a lot. Yes, his numbers were inflated by Coors Field. But he was a five-tool force of nature who should have been elected long ago. Will he get elected now? More on that in a bit.

Curt Schilling. With his incredible strikeout-to-walk ratio and his all-time postseason performances, I would have put him in the Hall before Tom Glavine, John Smoltz, Roy Halladay or Mike Mussina. But I appreciate he only has himself to blame for people who don’t want to give him the honor.

After that, I’m left with five votes — if I want them. And, yes, I want them because I’m a big Hall of Fame guy. I’m more of a big Hall of Fame guy now than ever because of the way the Hall of Fame’s veteran committees are just electing players like it’s going out of style.

Look: While the BBWAA is dithering over superbly qualified Hall of Fame candidates like Walker and Edgar Martinez and Tim Raines (not to mention some of the greatest players in the game’s history like Bonds and Clemens), the Vet’s committees have elected Ted Simmons, Lee Smith, Harold Baines, Alan Trammell and Jack Morris in just the last three years, not to mention Bud Selig and Marvin Miller. We’re comically keeping a tight lock on the front door and the back door is WIDE OPEN.

I think in many ways the Vet’s Committee has it more right than the BBWAA does. I mean, no, I wouldn’t have voted in Harold Baines, among others, but think how cool it will be for the fan who grew up loving Harold Baines to see that name in the plaque room. How cool is it to think, “Wow, I got to see a Hall of Famer!”

So, to be honest, if I had an unlimited ballot — if it was a pure “Yes or No” vote like my friend Derrick Goold has suggested — I might vote Yes for 15 players on this year’s ballot. But alas, I have 10. So I voted for 10.

My other five votes went to:

Scott Rolen. He — like Kenny Boyer, Graig Nettles and, for the longest time, Ron Santo — faces the third-base conundrum. A great fielding third baseman is just not considered in the same way as a great-fielding shortstop. Up to this year, Omar Vizquel as a great fielding shortstop who couldn’t hit much, was getting twice the support of Rolen, a great fielding third baseman who was also a superb power hitter. Rolen’s 25-win advantage in WAR didn’t seem to sway people.

Todd Helton. Like with Walker, people will overlook Helton’s incredible numbers (.316/.414/.539 — this even AFTER he declined his last four seasons) because of Coors Field. They shouldn’t: He was a fantastic first baseman, he walked 160 more times than he struck out, he is 19th all-time in doubles and 40th all-time in extra base hits. Sure, he was much better at Coors Field than on the road, but that was HIS JOB. If you play for the Rockies you have to take advantage of Coors or you won’t last long.

Manny Ramirez. Yes, I see the argument that Ramirez’s case is different from Bonds and Clemens because he actually tested positive for PEDs — twice. I can see the argument that while what Bonds and Clemens (and Sosa and McGwire) did was wrong and clearly cheating, it was tacitly encouraged by MLB and the player’s union while what Ramirez did was defiantly against the rules.

But I do think there’s a counter-argument to be made: Ramirez paid a price for his cheating. He was suspended for 50 and then 100 games. There’s a principle that says that once you pay for your transgression, you are supposed to be able to go on. I think that’s one of the problems people have with Bonds and Clemens — they never had to pay a price for whatever they did, and so denying them the Hall of Fame seems like a suitable punishment.

Anyway, that’s all pretty complicated ethics, and I’m no ethicist. Manny Ramirez was one of the greatest hitters I ever saw, an absolute genius at the plate, and even if he was a defensive fiasco and a knucklehead his teams somehow ALWAYS won.

Gary Sheffield. He, like Ramirez, was a genius at the plate. He bashed 500 home runs and walked 300 times more often than he struck out and was just about the scariest hitter ever to face. He was a defensive liability, which just crushes his WAR total (bringing it down to 60.8), but I’m not entirely convinced that he hurt teams quite that much defensively. And as a hitter: Incredible. He’s 29th all-time in WAR runs batting, placing him just ahead of Chipper Jones and Ricky Henderson and Edgar Martinez and Mike Schmidt.

— Sammy Sosa. The last choice for me came down to Sosa and Andruw Jones. I hated having to make the choice. Jones’ incredible centerfield defense along with his home run power makes him a fascinating Hall of Fame candidate. But Sosa’s 600-plus home runs and the enormous impact he had on the game when matching homers with Mark McGwire in the Summer of ‘98 makes him a fascinating candidate. Sosa has been connected with steroids — his name was leaked as one of 104 players who tested positive in 2003 when the results were supposed to remain anonymous — while Jones’ has not. I can see how you would fervently argue for one over the other but to me I find it a virtual toss-up. I took Sosa because over four years, from 1998-2001, he AVERAGED 61 homers per season. No one else, not even Ruth, Bonds or McGwire, did that.

With an unlimited ballot, I would definitely vote for:

— Andruw Jones. The career was short and the hitting went South at age 30, but he was some kind of centerfielder.

— Billy Wagner. I’m simply not pro-reliever for the Hall of Fame. If I could go back and redo the Hall of Fame, I think the only relievers I’d want in there would be Rivera and Hoyt Wilhelm. But there have been numerous other relievers put in the Hall of Fame, and I’d probably take Billy Wagner as soon as I would take any of them. He was an absurd force of nature, and he retired at the very top of his game, and if I had enough votes I would give him one.

With an unlimited ballot, I might vote for:

— Bobby Abreu. I used to call him the MBGPIBH — Most Boring Good Player In Baseball History. And he WAS boring, taking all those pitches, fouling off all those pitches, etc. But he was really good too. Through age 32, he hit .302/.412/.507, bashed 205 homers while stealing 271 bases, he was good for 100 runs and 100 RBIs pretty much every year, and he was a dazzling fielder for many of those seasons. he did decline rapidly from that point on but I can see a good argument.

— Jeff Kent. I have never been in love with his Hall of Fame case, but he does have more homers than any second-baseman ever, and he did win that MVP (even if it should have gone to Bonds) and I certainly get it.

— Omar Vizquel. Vizquel is one of those players that many baseball fans want to wish into being even greater than he was. He was a dazzling defensive shortstop who made so many wonderful plays — nobody made the barehanded plays like him — and he cracked 2,877 hits and that FEELS like a Hall of Fame career. There are many complicating factors including his 82 OPS+ and 45.6 WAR but his enshrinement into Cooperstown would make so many people happy.

All of which leads us to the big question: Who WILL get elected? What will this ballot look like?

— We know Derek Jeter will get elected and I would be stunned if it isn’t unanimous.

— I think Larry Walker will get elected. If you are a devoted follower of Ryan Thibodaux’s Hall of Fame tracker, you know that it projects to be nerve-shatteringly close. It could come down to one or two votes on either side. But I actually believe he will make it with small margin to spare for two reasons.

  1. This ballot is so much leaner than the ballots over the last few years and Walker’s name stands out in a way that it didn’t before.

  2. It’s his last time on the ballot, which should bring along a few stragglers.

Anyway, we’ll see if I’m right.

— I don’t think Schilling will quite make it this year, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see him break 70 percent, putting him on the doorstep for next year.

— I don’t think Bonds or Clemens will make much progress this year.

— I don’t think Bobby Abreu will get the 5 percent necessary to make next year’s ballot.

— I do think that Scott Rolen and Omar Vizquel will each take pretty giant leaps forward, followed by Sheffield, Helton, MannyBManny and Wagner.

— I wonder if Alfonso Soriano will get a vote. I mean — 400 homers, 289 steals, a 40-40 season, a .500 career slugging percentage, will that get him a single vote? Ah the mysteries of the Hall of Fame.

Hinch and HOF Part Deux

Lots to cover in today’s newsletter, so let’s get to it.


At The Athletic

The Baseball 100 rolls along. I don’t know if you like for me to individually link to each Baseball 100 story or would just prefer clicking on the Baseball 100 page, but I’ll keep on linking until you tell me to stop.

No. 79: Derek Jeter

No. 78: Clayton Kershaw — I was surprised to get more backlash about where I ranked Kershaw than where I ranked Jeter … but so it was.

No. 77: Miguel Cabrera

No. 76: Willie McCovey

No. 75: Justin Verlander

No. 74: Frank Thomas

No. 73: Brooks Robinson

I was glad that Brooks Robinson ran today … after that Astros mess yesterday. He might just be the nicest man to ever play Major League Baseball.

I also wrote a little something about the Browns’ giving the reins to Paul DePodesta and letting him try Moneyball II in Cleveland.


What I’m Doing

— I’ll be in Columbus from Thursday, January 16, through Saturday to take part in the awesome magic convention Magi-Fest. I believe the event is sold out, but if you’re in the area — it’s really a lot of fun. Magicians from all over the world come and talk about magic, performance, wonder, I love it so much. I’ll talk a bit about this book I wrote, don’t know if I mentioned it.

— Last week, I turned 53. I am not super happy about it but, yes, it is better than the alternative and I am supposed to be getting a ping pong table as my gift, which is awesome.


Hinch by Hinch

I’m not going to rehash the whole deal, but there is one thing about the Houston Astros sign-stealing scandal that has me stumped. If you read the report — which is about as scathing as any of these kinds of reports I’ve read — you know that A.J. Hinch was suspended for a year by MLB (and later fired by Astros owner Jim Crane) though he, and I’ll quote, “neither devised the banging scheme nor participated in it.”

He was, however, well aware of every aspect of it. This is not in dispute.

And this leads to the part that I can’t quite figure: If he knew about it, how did he feel about it? According to the report, he strongly disliked it and “attempted to signal his disapproval of the scheme by physically damaging the (sign-stealing) monitor on two occasions, necessitating its replacement.”

OK, he disliked it enough that he was willing to do some vandalism. But the report goes on to say that he neither tried to stop his players from doing it or even took time to “notify players or (Alex) Cora that he disapproved of it.”

How does this work again? How can you make sense of BOTH of those actions? I mean, he was the team’s MANAGER. You’re telling me that he looked at his options and thought that the best he could do was destroy Astros equipment to express his disapproval of a widespread cheating program? What about the option of just telling his players to stop?

This vexing question has been bugging me a lot. Why would Hinch smash the monitor but not just order his players to stop? There’s something missing here. It is, you might say, a donut inside a donut.*

*Knives Out not getting an Oscar nod still depresses the heck out of me.

I have come up with three theories. I readily admit that any of them could be true, all of them could be true, and it’s even possible that none of them could be true though that seems unlikely. The point is, I don’t know. I don’t have any inside information here. I’m speculating because it’s driving me crazy.

Possibility 1: Hinch is lying.

Well, I use lying in the broadest sense — he could be hedging or covering up or not telling the whole truth. And he could be flat lying. It’s possible that Hinch didn’t smash the monitor at all, though that seems pretty easy to track.

A more likely scenarios is that, yes, he smashed the monitor but it was NOT to express disapproval of the cheating. Maybe he was mad after a loss and thought his players were too distracted by their cheating. Maybe he didn’t think his players were cheating hard enough. Maybe he was mad about Knives Out not getting an Oscar nomination.

There are countless reasons he might have smashed the monitor; so he absolutely could be fabricating the idea that he did it to show how angry he was about the cheating. You can’t write off that possibility: Hinch has hardly covered himself in glory in his public statements. He has lied and covered up in agonizing ways — I mean, look at this statement he made in 2019 during the ALCS when the Yankees charged the Astros with sign-stealing by whistling:

"Man, I'm glad you asked that question, and I thought it would come up today. We talked about this the other day, and in reality, it's a joke, but Major League Baseball does a lot to ensure the fairness of the game. There's people everywhere, if you go through the dugouts and the clubhouses and the hallways, there's like so many people around that are doing this. Then when I get contacted about some questions about whistling, it made me laugh because it's ridiculous. Had I known that it would take something like that to set off the Yankees or any other team, we would have practiced it in spring training, because apparently it works even when it doesn't happen."

That he said this after he KNEW the Astros had been sign stealing all during the 2017 World Series run by hitting garbage cans tells you that he’s capable of saying anything. There are so many people around baseball who admire Hinch, think he’s a great guy, and I found him to be charming when he played for the Royals and in various other interviews.

But as pal Michael Schur says: “Winning is one helluva drug.”

So, yes, it’s possible that Hinch basically invented the whole smashing monitors theme to try and make himself look better.

Possibility 2: The players didn’t respect or listen to Hinch.

There is one line in the report — already quoted — that kind of stopped me cold. It’s that part that states Hinch did not “notify players or Cora that he disapproved.” Why did they specifically mention Cora here? On the one hand, it’s obvious that Commissioner Rob Manfred has concluded that Cora is the ringleader here. Do not be surprised if, when it’s done, Cora is permanently banned from baseball.*

*Even if he isn’t permanently banned, I don’t believe Alex Cora will ever manage in the big leagues again.

But on the other hand there’s this: Cora was Hinch’s FIRST YEAR BENCH COACH. He had been a broadcaster before when Luhnow hired him.

You’re telling me that Hinch was out there smashing monitors but he would not have even one conversation with his own bench coach about it, not even one, “Hey, man, I think this sign-stealing system is out of control, we need to stop that stuff.”

Or was Hinch afraid of Cora? Was Cora the de facto manager the club? Did those two not like each other?

Or let’s take it one step further: Was Hinch so wildly disrespected and disregarded by his players (and specifically team leader Carlos Beltran, who is the only player mentioned in the report) that he knew he couldn’t actually get them to stop cheating? Did his ineffectiveness in the clubhouse leave him with no choice but to make a symbolic (and stupid) gesture of smashing the monitor?

And by the way, doesn’t smashing the monitor, in fact, tell the players that Hinch disapproved? Or did he do it secretly?

Possibility 3: The scheme was being run by the front office all along.

The report somewhat clears Astros GM Jeff Luhnow of any participation in the scheme — a point Luhnow made a bit too strongly in his defiant and generally terrible “I am not a cheater … they are” statement.

Luhnow insists he knew absolutely nothing about it (MLB did not back this as strongly, saying only that they found no evidence that he knew). He insists that if he had known “I would have stopped it.” You can write your own commentary on that.

But if it is indeed true that the Astros front office — which seemed to run every aspect of the operation — was unaware, then we have to go with one of the first two options: Hinch was almost certainly either lying or powerless. He either approved of the scheme (and made up stuff to say that he didn’t) or he did not feel like he had the sway in the clubhouse to stop it.

But we have to consider the third possibility — the thing that really fills the donut hole — that this whole thing was front-office sanctioned.

Add that one simple element, and suddenly you can understand why Hinch would have felt powerless. You can understand why he would only feel free to express his frustration by bashing the monitor. You can understand why he wouldn’t feel empowered to say anything even to his own bench coach, who was hired directly by Luhnow. You can understand why MLB would have suspended Luhnow for a year and why Crane would have fired him minutes later.

Obviously this is the most controversial theory because, as the report says, no evidence emerged that shows Luhnow knew anything, and Luhnow fervently denies knowing anything, and Hinch obviously didn’t say any of this to the commissioner and so on.

But if you’re a fan of Occam’s razor, the principle that the simplest answer is most likely the right one,” well, it’s clear what the simplest answer is here.


HOF: The Almosts

These were the players who had really fantastic careers but didn’t quite make it to the final round of on my ballot.

Adam Dunn: I just love the Big Donkey. Yes, even with 462 home runs, I knew that I would not vote for him. But from 2005-2008, he did one of the coolest things in baseball history: He hit exactly 40 home runs each year. This is a man who knew what he was about. He walked, he struck out, he hit home runs. That’s it. He practically invented the whole idea of the three-outcome player.

I once wrote a piece about how Adam Dunn and Willie Bloomquist were precisely the opposite player, and I should go back and find that.

Jason Giambi: He could have made it all the way to the final round — he’s one of the best hitters I ever saw — but in the end I knew that his career was not quite enough. From 1999-2002, he hit .326/.452/.612 and averaged 39 homers and 125 RBIs per season. What a force. In 2000, he won the MVP. He was better in 2001. But shortly after that he turned 32 and hit just .238 and slugged .474 the rest of his career.

His brother, Jeremy, looked like he might become a pretty special hitter (he didn’t), and it was kind of funny because neither of them had any interest in playing defense. We used to joke about how there must have been baseball bats in every room in the Giambi household when they were growing up but just one glove that they kept in a shoebox they could never find in the garage.

Raúl Ibañez: Well, I said it all here. He remains one of my favorite people in the world.

Paul Konerko: He ended up with some pretty elite numbers — more homers than Andre Dawson, more RBIs than Robin Yount, more total bases than Wade Boggs, more extra base hits than Roberto Clemente — and he did it by just going out there day after day after day and doing what he did. There was nothing at all fancy about Konerko. He just hit his 30 home runs — a few more some years, a few less others — drove in his 100 RBIs, did the best he could at first base and on the bases (he did not have a natural knack for either), and earned the enduring respect and admiration of everyone around him.

Cliff Lee: He’s one of the best I ever saw. He began as a hard-throwing and wild lefty thrower. He finished his career as a pitching guru. At his best, he hypnotized batters. I think the best thing that can be said about him is what his manager Charlie Manuel said after he threw a complete game against the Yankees in Game 1 of the 2009 World Series: "Most of the time when he starts a game, and he's in control of the game, and everything around it he's controlling -- he's throwing strikes and he's getting the ball, what I call he handles the flow of the game, if you know what I mean. Everybody about it. The flow of the game, the way the game goes. Not only does he have command of the game, but he has the flow of the game. To me he sets the tone by his rhythm, getting the ball back, and he knows what he's going to throw. I like the way he pitches. I like everything about how he goes about it. But that's part of his success, too, is the fact that's how he handles the game." I don’t know what any of that means, but I agree with thoroughly.

Andy Pettitte: He has some big fans among the Hall of Fame voters, and it’s easy to understand — he won 256 games against just 153 losses, he started more postseason games than any pitcher ever and was often fantastic in those starts, he was a key figure in EIGHT World Series, etc. He’s lower on the list for me than others, I admit. But it was unquestionably an amazing career.

Alfonso Soriano: What a strange and wonderful blend of talents and flaws. Soriano is one of just four players in baseball history to hit 40 homers and steal 40 bases in a season (and he fell one home short from doing it in an earlier season). But do you know what team he did it for? You probably don’t: It was for a bad Nationals team, his one year in Washington.

He basically never walked. He had as many homers as walks in four different seasons, putting him the same company as famous non-walkers Dave Kingman and Juan Gonzalez. He was, by the numbers and reputation, an atrocious fielder except for a couple of years in the middle of his career when he was suddenly good and was being pushed for a Gold Glove. He made the All-Star team in seven of his first eight seasons and never made it again. He hit more than 400 homers in his career, stole almost 300 bases, is in the top 60 all-time in extra base hits and yet might not get one Hall of Fame vote.

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