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Because it's always baseball season

Posted by Chad Finn, Globe Staff  January 12, 2011 09:29 AM

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Playing a snowy nine innings while figuring the Sox will claim Max Ramirez on waivers from the Cubs any day now . . .

crimedog.jpg1. Didn't get a chance last week to weigh in on the Hall of Fame balloting, and admittedly, the moment to do so has probably passed. Yeah, as if timeliness is isn't going to stop me from being the last sports writer in America to chime in on one of my favorite topics. Besides, on days like today, when the world turns into a snow globe and summer seems so far awway, any baseball talk is good baseball talk, I say. So here are a couple of scattered thoughts to start off this long overdue and unapologically outdated monster-beast of a column . . .

The voting played out pretty much according to prediction. Roberto Alomar should have been in last year, but he paid his apparent one-year penance for the spitting incident, and the greatest second baseman of my lifetime not named Joe Morgan has his rightful place in Cooperstown. Would have been cool if Barry Larkin, who got 62.1 percent of the vote this time around and should make it next year, got elected at the same time as Alomar? Now that's an impressive double play combination . . . Bert Blyleven should have been in probably, what, a dozen years before he finally got in? Hell, make it 14 years. I despise the illogical subjectivity of the Hall of Fame waiting period in most cases -- so far as I can tell, he hasn't struck out another batter or thrown another meaningful knee-buckling curveball since his career ended in 1992, and yet he gained 62.2 percent in the voting since his first year of eligibility. That makes about as much sense as Murray Chass. But in the end, the early and ongoing mistake of overlooking his career was amended, and as Blyleven will surely mention in his speech, the validity of his candidacy -- and the absurdity of his delay -- was pointed out tirelessly and with logic rather than rancor by, most notably, Rich Lederer blyleven.jpgat Baseball Analysts. If you write about baseball on the internet, you can't help but take pride in the impact Lederer and several other terrific online writers had on Blyleven's overdue election. Next get-'im-in project for the progressive, insightful and convincing among us: Tim Raines, please . . . Thought Fred McGriff had a shot at being his generation's Jim Rice -- the great but perhaps not-quite-great-enough slugger who gets in eventually in part because of the fallout from the steroid era and the belief that his accomplishments were on the level. But after this year's vote, in which McGriff fell from 21.5. percent to 17.9, it's fair to presume he never gets there, despite those 493 homers . . . One who should get more support: Larry Walker, who batted .313 with 383 homers, 230 steals, and a career .965 OPS. The perception is that his fattest stats -- his three straight seasons from 1997-99 with an average of .363 or higher, namely -- were the result of playing his home games at Coors Field isn't entirely fair; his road OPS was .865 in his career, which is higher than the overall OPS of George Brett, Wade Boggs, Tony Gwynn, and Al Kaline, among others. In retrospect, he probably retired too early. In his final season, in 2005, he had a 130 adjusted OPS, with a .289 average and 15 homers in 367 plate appearances. He could still hit when he quit, just like another late-career Cardinal, Will Clark, who hit .345 with 12 homers and a 1.081 OPS in 197 plate appearances for the 2000 Cardinals . . . One who I'm glad is off the ballot: Kevin Brown. Comparing his case to Curt Schilling's -- his most similar career comp -- is like comparing Tom Brady to Dave Kreig because they've both thrown 261 touchdown passes. Schilling's Hall of Fame case will be built not on his regular season feats, which are borderline Cooperstown-worthy, but on his otherworldly postseason record, with the Legend of the Bloody Sock standing as the symbolic image. Brown was OK in the postseason -- he had a 4.19 ERA in 13 starts -- but his legacy is his Game 7 meltdown in 2004 against the Sox. His meltdown came as no surprise to Joe Torre, who described him in "The Yankee Years" as "a beaten man . . . he was never a fighter." Now there's something you won't read on plaque . . . John Olerud fell off the ballot in Year 1 of his candidacy, earning four votes (0.7 percent) after a 17-year career in which he hit 255 homers with a .295 average and an .863 OPS. Don Mattingly -- his most similar player from ages 31-34 -- earned 13.6 percent of the vote in his 11th year on the ballot after a 14-year career in which he hit 222 homers with a .307 average and an .830 OPS. Didn't realize they were so close. Donnie Baseball probably benefits more from his higher peak than his New York affiliation . . . Next year's ballot, save for borderline candidate Bernie Williams, looks like a 2008 tryout camp for the Atlantic League: Carl Everett, Javy Lopez, Vinny Castilla, Ruben Sierra, Jeromy Burnitz, Danny Graves, Phil Nevin . . . you get the gist. The most interesting name for Red Sox fans? Bill Mueller, who will forever be remembered here as the guy who made sure Dave Roberts didn't get stranded on second base. Bet he gets a couple of votes.

2. Someone on the MLB Network -- I think it was Ken Rosenthal, but I'm not 100 percent sure -- said half-jokingly last week that Andy Pettitte, baseball's preeminent hemmer and hawer when it comes to his future, is in danger of becoming baseball's version of Brett Favre. (I'll pause while you Mad Lib your own punchline here. We good? OK, moving along . . .) While there was some accuracy in the sentiment -- Pettitte is holding the Yankees hostage at this point, which is just fine from this perspective -- the reality is that the Brett Favre of baseball was really Pettitte's best old ex-friend Roger, he of the Goodness, Gracious entrance music. Pettitte? He's like Don Majkowski or Aaron Rodgers or . . . well, I can't find the analogy. Ryan Longwell?

3. Adios, Adrian Beltre. With apologies to Nick Esasky, you'll be remembered as our favorite one-and-done Sox player of all time. During a somewhat turbulent season in which not much went according to plan, there was fun to be found in watching you play and play hard every day, whether you were swinging and connecting from your heels (and sometimes, a knee), flashing a shortstop's range at third base, or threatening to annihilate Victor Martinez after he disobeyed your threats and rubbed your head anyway. The Sox did the right thing in bringing in Adrian Gonzalez, but you'll be missed around here. Oh, and those commission fees you're paying Scott Boras? Money well spent. Now we understand why those reported $70 million offers from Oakland were allowed to pass without much consideration. See you in Arlington on Opening Day.

4. As I'm sure you've been pleasantly reminded in the aftermath of his signing as Unofficial Lowrie Insurance with the Sox, Hector Luna was the second out in the eighth inning of Game 4 of the 2004 World Series. What's semi-interesting -- meaning it's interesting to me, dammit -- in flashing back to the moments before the moment we'd all be waiting for is that following Luna, those final for outs were all remarkably high quality players. Larry Walker -- the final out of the eighth inning -- and ninth-inning outs Scott Rolen, Jim Edmonds, and Edgar "There's a groundball/stabbed by Foulke" Renteria have combined for 8,305 major league hits and 1,214 homers. And that excludes Albert Pujols, who led off the ninth inning with a single and is apparently rather accomplished in his own right.

5. In case you missed it, the Reds have replaced Orlando Cabrera at shortstop with Renteria, who got a one-year, $2.1 million deal apparently on the merits of his improbably dazzling postseason rather than his shrimpy .707 OPS at age 34 next season. By my calculations, this pretty much guarantees that Reds general manager Walt Jocketty will make a terrible mistake with Julio Lugo next offseason.

davischili.jpg6. Love the Sox' hiring of Chili Davis as the PawSox' hitting coach, if only because every time his name is mentioned, we're reminded of this, arguably the best-pitched game we've ever seen. (For now, I proclaim a tie with Kerry Wood's 20-K one-hitter.) Wonder if he cops to having his eyes closed when he connected with Pedro's pitch? Because he totally did.

7. Even with the additions of more accomplished righty relievers Bobby Jenks and Dan Wheeler, I was hoping the Sox would bring back Taylor Buchholz, based on the success he had in Colorado in 2008 before undergoing Tommy John surgery as well as the theory that quantity of reasonable quality is never a bad thing in a bullpen since relief pitching is so unpredictable. Pretty sure the following words have not been structured in this order recently, but that's a smart signing by the Mets. Oh, well, at least we'll always have the memories. That sure was a magical 17 days Buchholz spent on the roster, wasn't it?

8. I didn't get the chance to write about this in last Friday's media column, but It was fascinating to watch the reaction to Steve Buckley’s revelation in his Boston Herald column that he is gay travel across various social and conventional mediums at the speed of a couple of clicks of a mouse. We’re comfortable presuming he is the first sports columnist ever to be discussed in relative depth on ‘‘The View.’’ Better still than the speed and magnitude of the reaction was the public tone. From Keith Olbermann to author Jeff Pearlman to CBS Sports rabblerouser Gregg Doyel, the reaction on Twitter, where Buckley was a trending topic for much of the day, was one of overwhelming encouragement. As someone who has been an admirer of Buckley’s work since he was the Portland Press Herald’s beat writer for the Triple A Maine Guides 20-some years ago, and we've e-mailed many times over the years to reminisce about those teams. Buckley's a great guy, and here’s hoping that messages of support and friendship continue to find him.

williamsrikcy3.jpgAs for today's Completely Random Baseball Card Of A Football Player:

9. In the wake of Williams's candid comments about the state of the Dolphins during a radio interview last week, I mentioned that I'd love to see Ditka's former football bride in the Fred Taylor role on the Patriots next season. (No, not the designated often-injured back a few cuts past his prime, wise-guy. As a genuine contributor/team yoga instructor.) Greg Bedard, our go-to guy for all things NFL here at the Globe, used to cover the Dolphins for the Palm Beach Post, and he passed along an interesting bit of insight, noting that former Miami coach Nick Saban loved Williams when he coached him. Saban, of course, is a Bill Belichick disciple/confidante. Here's hoping those dots connect and Williams continues his fascinating career in Foxborough next season. (As for his baseball skills: .211 average, four homers in 568 at-bats in Single A, with 46 steals in 63 attempts. Bo Jackson he wasn't.)

* * *

Rest in peace, Christina-Taylor Green. I wish I could think of something more poignant or profound to say, something like what Jeff MacGregor wrote here. But I just keep thinking about what her family is going through, that unimaginable grief that will be with them forever, and I begin thinking of my own daughter, just a couple of years younger and all innocence and hope and promise and optimism, just like Christina. And I get choked up again, and the words escape once more.

About Touching All The Bases

Irreverence and insight from Chad Finn, a Globe/Boston.com sports writer and media columnist. A winner of several national and regional writing awards, he is the founder and sole contributor to the TATB blog, which launched in December 2004. Yes, he realizes how lucky he is.

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