The 7Poundbag Core Four are back and the talk is all about their favorite personal players, the first MLB game they ever went to and is Ichiro a first ballot Hall of Fame lock and Ken Griffey Jr… best centerfielder ever? And, it all gets wrapped up like a Christmas present with a bow as the talk turns to a rules discussion…
Archie, Sandy, Steve and Joe rapping baseball at the round table…
1) Ichiro Suzuki… 1st ballot Hall of Fame?
Archie: After 10 consecutive years as an AS, 1 MVP, ROY, sitting just below
the 3000 hit club, leading the league 7 times in hits, .317 lifetime BA, and
NEVER struck out 100 times in a season, and all this AFTER playing in Japan
until he was 27. He sure as hell gets my vote for 1st ballot HOF.
Joe: Ichiro is a 10-time MLB All-Star, 10-time Gold Glove winner, the all-time record holder for hits in a season (262 in 2004) and has a .319 career batting average and as of 10/3 had 2844 hit and 1303 runs scored.
That’s the positives… the negatives… primarily a singles hitter, he has just over 100 HRs for his career and has only averaged about 24 doubles a year, doesn’t walk much (40 a year average).
3000 hits is, historically, a ticket into the Hall, therefore, I think if he gets to the 3000 mark then it’s a slam dunk he is in. But, he still needs 166 hits and I’m not so sure he can get them… the Yankees probably release him this off-season, and, if they don’t then he’s only going to be spot starter and bench player. If, the Yanks do release him then which team is going to sign a slap hitter who is over 40-years-of-age?
My thinking? He’s in the Hall with 3000 hits and he may be a 1st ballot HOFer even without the 3000 hits but strange things have happened when players only excel at one thing and singles don’t usually impress voters. First round, ultimately, depends who is on the ballot with him and whether he does get those 3000 hits. I believe he’ll get his fair share of votes just not so sure he’ll get the 75% needed to get elected first time around.
Sandy: Not a 1st ballot, but he should get in the HOF. He was a great singles hitter, had many gold glove awards and he had a good arm, but that’s about it.
Steve: Ichiro is most definitely a Hall of Famer. Rookie of the Year AND Most Valuable Player in 2001. Had 200 or more hits in nearly every season with the Mariners. Ironically, it was not until he joined the Yankees where his statistics started to take a decline. He put Japanese baseball back on the map, and really brought the International game into the Major Leagues. Absolutely, Ichiro Suzuki is a first ballot Hall of Famer.
2) Do you remember your 1st MLB game… how old were you, who were you with and who did you see play?
Archie: I was grown (25yrs) before I was able to witness my first MLB game in person. My boss, one of his
sons, and I went to Atlanta’s Fulton County Stadium and watched the Braves take on the Mets. Braves won 6-5 and Chris Chambliss hit a 3 run bomb to help win. Dale Murphy went 2 for 4 with a double. I think it was late ’82.
Joe: No… not specifically, but, I can narrow it down. I believe the year was either 1959 or 1960, which meant I was about 10 or 11, and, the team the Yankees were playing was either the Cleveland Indians or the Chicago White Sox although I couldn’t tell you the score or much else from the game except that I was thrilled to be there.
Why? Because it was a real MLB game and my mom had taken me there… the big ball park, all the people, a real major league game with real major league players… hot dogs and peanuts… that stuff I can remember… the score, who was playing… not so much but like I said I can narrow it down.
Again, why is that? Because of an incident that occurred during the game. I remember one player specifically… Minnie Minoso. Minoso at the time was either with the Indians or the Sox.
I remember we were sitting in the bleacher area down the right field line… why I remember that I haven’t the foggiest but I do… and some older “men” who had slugged down a fair amount of beers… at the time I didn’t know it but in retrospect I later did understand that they had… were very loud, with their noise being directed at the right fielder… Minnie Minoso. These “men” were saying all sorts of rude things at Minoso… calling him by name and saying things like he was a ham and egger and certain other derogatory references… although I don’t recall them using any racial slurs.
After a while, I asked my mom why they were yelling at the player and saying the stuff they were saying and she just sighed and told me to ignore those men and that they were just stupid.
I do remember one other specific thing about the game… at the end of the game we exited the Stadium by going onto the field and through a gate in center field. Actually setting foot on a major league ball field… and the Yankees’ field no less… was one big thrill for one little kid.
My second ever game was much better and I remember a lot more… It was around 1963 or 1964 and the Minnesota Twins played a doubleheader versus the Yankees at the Stadium. Mickey Mantle hit at least two homers. I always remember it as more for some reason… go figure.
Sandy: It was in Houston and they played Cincinnati, I was with my husband , but can’t remember the year, but it was a long time ago.
Steve: I do remember my first Major League Baseball game. It was 1987, I was 7 years old, it was at the old Busch Stadium between the St Louis Cardinals and Montreal Expos. My father took me to that game. I remember it well, actually. Ozzie Smith scored the go ahead run in the 8th inning, and, the Cardinals had a big inning and won the game 7-3.
3) Who is your favorite baseball player of all time? Why? (Note: Not asking for who you think is the best player of all time… although they could be one and the same.)
Archie: Ah hell, this is cheesy peasie nice and easy for me. Chipper Jones #10 on his back #1 in our hearts. Chipper was so clutch against the NL East the other teams were happy to see him retire. He even named one of his sons Shea after the stadium he owned in New York. AND, he left in style. No prolonging career trying to recapture anything or none of that horseshit. He
announced his retirement and stuck to it.
Joe: I became a Yankee fan because my mom was a Yankee fan… I was raised in a
single parent household and that was who she rooted for, so, that was who I rooted for. And, when it came time to get me my first baseball glove, for whatever reason, she got me a Bobby Richardson model. Bobby was now my favorite player. For those who aren’t aware… Bobby was a decent enough second baseman for the NY Yankees in the late 1950s to the early 1960s. But ,what made Bobby my “hero” forever and was also his greatest claim to baseball fame, was that he won the 1960 World Series MVP after hitting .367/.387/.667 with 12 RBIs including 2 doubles 2 triples and a grand slam HR and is the only player to do it for the losing team… damn Pirates!
Bobby was the player I rooted for back then and, in some ways, he’s still my favorite player. Mickey Mantle was a very, very, very close second.
Sandy: I have to say Clayton Kershaw, I’ve been a Dodger fan a long time. I did like Koufax and Kershaw is close to him. but still has a way to go. I’ll stick with Kershaw unless a better pitcher comes along, but I don’t expect that to be any time soon.
Steve: No question about it, Greg Maddux. As a pitcher growing up in the nineties. I watched Maddux’ mechanics and admired his pin point control. I grew up as a Braves fan, so, when he made the move to Atlanta in 1993, I was beyond ecstatic. Maddux was the one guy who I always wanted to see pitch. I finally got that opportunity in his second term with the Cubs later in his career, when I saw him pitch and beat the Milwaukee Brewers. At 30 years old, I was like a kid in a candy store.
4) If the baseball gods bestowed upon you the power to make one new rule for MLB what would it be?
Archie: Man this one is tough. When I think about all the things that have already been changed it is hard to dicker with the game much more without losing integrity of the original game. To that effect I guess I would have to say, “No more rule changes ever!”
Sandy: Geez, there are so many rules that I would change, but I will go with allowing a hitter to run to first on a strike-out if the catcher drops the ball and 1st base is empty. Seems to me that you are trying to reward a hitter for striking out, doesn’t make much sense. Bad Rule!
Steve: GET RID OF ALL REPLAY!!!!!! I hate it, and have hated it since the day it was established. You don’t have that growing up, you don’t have that in High School, and you don’t have it in college. Do away with replay.
Umpires are human, and make mistakes. It happens, get over it. and keep playing. The percentage of games that an umpire actually will cost a team a game with a particular call is less than 1 percent. Look at the NFL, they have replay and STILL get it wrong most of the time.
5) Where do you rank Ken Griffey Jr. among the all time greats? And, was he the best center fielder ever?
Archie: I do not have him in my top 15. Why you may ask? Well for one, he just could not stay healthy. Out of 22 season he only had 6 seasons where he played 150+ games. He had less than a .300 batting average. While he did make 13 AS appearances some of those were just fan based and suspect at best. He did break the 600 HR mark and he did make some remarkable plays in
the field. But he was nowhere close to being the best CF ever. That honor still belongs to the “Say Hey Kid”.
Joe: When I was knee-high to a grasshopper… just a kid… NY had three baseball teams… the NY Giants, the Brooklyn Dodgers and the NY Yankees. And, each of the teams had a premier centerfielder… Willie Mays, Duke Snider and Mickey Mantle… all of whom are in the top ten of the all-time players at the position.
Duke Snider from 1949 through 1957 had nine years that would match up with almost anyone who has ever played the game… including five consecutive years of 40 or more while also putting up top five numbers in slugging percentage, RBIs, doubles, and triples. He was adequate in the field.
Mickey Mantle is often considered the best switch hitter to have ever played the game. He won three MVP Awards. Mantle was fast and used that speed to cover one of the largest center fields in the AL. Injuries kept the Mick from achieving greater career statistics than those that he had when he retired. Still at the time of his retirement he was recognized as one of the all-time great home run sluggers.
And then there was Willie Mays… Willie may have been the prototypical centerfield of all time. He was one of the best 5-tool players to ever play the game… he had speed, a great arm, was an excellent fielder and hit for power and average. He retired with 660 home runs, 1903 RBIs, 338 stolen bases and a career .302 batting average. And, Mays is the all-time leader in putouts in center field as well as fifth in assists, and second in double plays as a center fielder.
Other top ten centerfielders were Tris Speaker who had a lifetime .345 batting average as well as was fifth all-time in hits and the all-time leader in doubles with 792. Ty Cobb called Speaker the best he ever played the game with.
Joe DiMaggio’s career was cut short due to injuries and war. He missed three years of his prime
during World War II. DiMaggio only played 13 seasons, but he made the All-Star game in every year he played. DiMaggio, like Mantle, won three MVP Awards and posted a .325 career batting average. DiMaggio had a great arm and his defensive numbers include 153 outfield assists. He never finished lower than 5th in any year in outfield assists.
Ty Cobb holds the lifetime batting average record at .366, hit over .400 three times. He is fourth all-time in doubles, second all-time in triples, and fourth all-time in stolen bases. Baseball historians say Cobb wasn’t a defensively great fielder but was no liability in the field either. He is second all-time in outfield assists and recorded 105 double plays.
And then there is Griffey he hit a career total of 630 home runs in career… sixth all-time. He won an MVP and from 1993 to 1999 there might not have been a more consistent and better center fielder in baseball. Griffey at one time was considered a real possibility to beak the career HR record before he was plagued by injuries towards the later part of his playing days. His defense was better than adequate and he used his speed an agility well in the field to run down long shots that most players would never think about catching. I once saw a game where he made three spectacular running catches deep in center each better than the previous. Unfortunately, his injuries made him into a right fielder towards the end of his career.
So, as I see it these are some of the best center fielders to ever play the game and I rank them like this… 7 – Snider, 6 – Griffey, 5 – Mantle, 4 – Speaker, 3 – Cobb, 2 – DiMaggio and 1 – Mays.
Sandy: There are a lot of things to consider when placing players among the best and I’m not sure what they all are, but I still think Griffey is among the top 20 and was a very good CFer, but perhaps not the best.
Steve: Griffey is definitely up there as one of the best center fielders to play the game. Is he the best? You would have to compare him to guys like Mickey Mantle, and Willie Mays. I don’t think he is ahead of those two guys. So no, he is not the best CF ever. I would probably rank Griffey all time in my top 30. It would be a stretch for me to, go any higher than that. He was dominant in his prime in the nineties, but did not have that much success towards the end of his career, and found himself on the disabled list more often than not.
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