Trevor Hoffman 2011 Topps – Sully Baseball Card of the Day for May 16, 2017

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I am going to compare Trevor Hoffman to Gwyneth Paltrow.

Seriously.

Follow me.

Look, Trevor Hoffman is going to be in the Hall of Fame. The 7 time All Star and one time All Time Saves leader got 74% of the Cooperstown vote last year. It was his second time on the ballot and there is no doubt that he will get the handful of votes to get over the hump.

And when that inevitably is announced next January, Trevor Hoffman will indeed be a Hall of Famer. He will always have that title. Hoffman will be at the ceremonies and get the standing ovations when he is introduced.

I will not protest, nor be angry. It isn’t as if he was a bad pitcher. I just wouldn’t have voted for him if I had the vote.

I would be one of the 26%. Now remember there is a HUGE gray area between “Hall of Famer” and “Worthless player who should be cut.” And anyone who got in clearly had a fine career that at least 3/4 of the contemporary voters felt was worthy of inclusion.

Now there are some Hall of Famers who I would not necessarily have voted for. Don Sutton comes to mind. As does Bill Mazeroski. Bruce Sutter does too. But they are all in the Hall of Fame. And while I don’t agree with the vote, I am not about to get my torch and pitchfork and storm Cooperstown.

I don’t think Trevor Hoffman belongs in the Hall of Fame. It has nothing to do with the fact that he was a reliever. I love that Hoyt Wilhelm, Dennis Eckersley, Rollie Fingers and Rich Gossage are in and Mariano Rivera is not far behind.

But a reliever is a specialist and needs to be looked at differently than a starting pitcher. A Hall of Fame reliever needs to be the person who comes into the big game and shuts down the opposition. Sure Gossage and Rivera had a few post season meltdowns, but the also had their highlights.

Hoffman was the first pitcher to get to 600 saves. But he also did so when the role of the closer was reduced to 1 inning where they had to preserve a 3 run lead. A pitcher with an 18.00 ERA could, theoretically pile up the saves.

Hoffman often had solid seasons with ERAs in the low 2’s and the 1’s. Yes, he was an effective reliever.

He also had many many MANY high profile disaster losses. Let me put it this way. He played for the small market San Diego Padres for the bulk of his career, which means he was not guaranteed the post season chances of a Rivera or Eckersley who made many Octobers or the nomadic Fingers and Gossage.

In his 12 postseason games, he saved 4 games, blew 2 saves and lost a pair.

A small sample size to be sure but he came up small in some of the biggest moments in Padres history.

He lost the elimination game in the 1996 Division Series, blew a save in Game 1 of the 1998 NLCS and blew the save and lost the critical Game 3 of the 1998 World Series.

And those games do not include the blown save for a Wild Clinching game in 2007 and later a blown save in the one game 2007 playoff game. Twice in 5 days, the Padres handed the ball to Hoffman for a chance to make the playoffs. Both times he blew the lead.

Does that mean he was bad? Of course not. But if we are going to say he was one of the elite players, shouldn’t a specialist whose job it is to close out close games have a more reliable record in the big close games?

The pitcher he most resembles according to Baseball Reference is Lee Smith. He also had a wonderful career and briefly held the All Time Saves record.

What hurt HIS chances? The fact that in the few post seasons he did pitch in, he lost multiple times.

How is Hoffman different? I would argue that Billy Wagner had as impressive career as Hoffman and his vote total hasn’t cracked 11% yet.

But Hoffman will get in.

So what does this have to do with Gwyneth Paltrow?

She is an Academy Award winner. That title will follow her for all time. “Oscar Winner Gwyneth Paltrow joins the cast of…” this and that for all time.

She won for Shakespeare in Love which came out in 1998, the same year Hoffman served up Scott Brosius’ homer in the World Series.

Should she have won? I don’t think so. Cate Blanchett was much much better in Elizabeth. That is also the only time Paltrow has ever been nominated. So if they gave it to Blanchett that year, Paltrow would not have the title “Oscar Winner.”

Now the Academy has made it up to the brilliant Blanchett, who has won not one but two Oscars since then. But Paltrow still has her statue.

Do I think she deserves it?

No.

Would I have voted for her?

No.

Does it upset me?

Eh, no. She is obviously an actress with talent and has worked for a while. So I am not going to get mad. I just shrug and say “Well, I wouldn’t have voted for her but congrats to her.”

That’s the reaction I will have for Trevor Hoffman. He will be in Cooperstown. I will call him “Hall of Fame closer Trevor Hoffman” and do so with no snark.

He earned it, even if I don’t agree with it.

 

Pedro Borbon 1980 Topps – Sully Baseball Cardof the Day for April 7, 2017

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First of all, let me get this out of the way.

Pedro Borbon and Manny Mota were never teammates. The scene in Airplane! when Ted Striker hears the echo in his head and announced “Pinch Hitting for Pedro Borbon… Manny Mota… Mota… Mota.” is hilarious but not 100% accurate.

Borbon was a famous reliever, Mota was a famous pinch hitter, the joke worked.

For years, I was trying to figure out when they were teammates… because as we all know, Airplane! was best known for its historical accuracy.

I can’t lie to you. I was a little disappointed when I found out they were never teammates.

Borbon was a Domincan player before the huge wave of Domincans came over to the US. He bounced between the Cardinals and Angels organization and made his big league debut in 1969 with California. Then a trade with Cincinnati brought him to glory.

OK, maybe not right away. He bounced between the minors and the majors in 1970 and 1971. But Cincinnati was building something special and manager Sparky Anderson was aiming to use his bullpen creatively and effectively. In 1972, the right handed Borbon became part of the pen.

Borbon was a workhorse, throwing at least 121 innings every year from 1972 to 1977. In that time, he only made 3 starts. He didn’t walk many and gave Sparky Anderson plenty of flexibility in his relief corps.

And man he loved playing for the Reds. When he fought with the Mets during the 1973 NLCS, he put a Mets cap on by mistake after a brawl. Seeing his error, he tore the hat to shreds like a mad man.

In the 1975 NLCS, he threw a 1-2-3 tenth inning that clinched the pennant and sent the Reds to the World Series. The won the 1975 and 1976 title and when Tom Seaver arrived in 1977, the good times seemed to be promised forever. But the Reds missed the playoffs in 1977 and after 1978, Pete Rose and Sparky Anderson were both gone.

The Reds contended in 1979 but midway through the year, Borbon was struggling. He was traded to San Francisco, in time to be printed for this Topps card. A furious Borbon supposedly placed a hex on the Reds, saying they won’t win a World Series if anyone from the front office was working there.

As it turned out, the final front office mind was axed just before the Reds won the 1990 World Series.

Just saying.

He had a cameo with the Cardinals in 1980 but then played his final game. His son, Pedro Jr., made a name for himself in the majors, saving a game in the 1995 World Series.

Borbon passed away in 2012, a beloved Red to the end… albeit one who never played with Manny Mota.

Gregg Olson 1993 Topps – Sully Baseball Card of the Day for April 6, 2017

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Did you know that Ken Griffey Jr. did not win the Rookie of the Year?

Despite having a fine rookie campaign, that honor went to Gregg Olson. He has a name you probably forgot, or maybe thought was the catcher when the Braves went to the World Series. (That was GREG Olson, one G).

But at one point, Gregg Olson looked like he was going to be one of the dominant closers in all of baseball. For a while he was.

The Nebraska native became a star pitcher at Auburn University in the mid 1980’s. He had a good fastball but his curveball was simply unhittable. The Orioles, in their late 1980’s funk, had the 4th pick in the 1988 draft.

There were plenty of good players to choose from that year. Andy Benes went first overall. Steve Avery was third. The likes of Robin Ventura, Alex Fernandez, Tino Martinez, Jim Abbott, Royce Clayton, Ed Sprague, Marquis Grissom, Darren Oliver and Charles Nagy were all still on the board.

Baltimore selected Olson and he made the majors the same year he was drafted. He pitched well in 11 innings of relief for the dreadful parent team.

In 1989, Frank Robinson’s Orioles stunned all of baseball by contending for the AL East crown until the final weekend of the season. The season did not start well for Olson, who let up 3 runs in 2 innings in his first appearance.

But he settled down, piling up scoreless inning after scoreless inning. He posted a 1.20 ERA in May and a 0.77 ERA in June and took over the closer role from Mark Williamson.

The team had young pitchers like Jeff Ballard, Pete Harnisch and Ben McDonald. They also had some kid named Curt Schilling, but he wasn’t in their plans.

The rotation looked like one that would contend for a while. And Olson would be the anchor in the backend of the bullpen. He finished the season with 27 saves and a 1.69 ERA, good enough for 6th in the Cy Young vote. He received 26 of 28 first place votes for Rookie of the Year. Tom Gordon got one, Griffey got the other.

The Orioles would fall out of contention in 1990 and 1991 but posted winning seasons in 1992 and 1993. In each year, Olson found himself among the league leaders in saves, making the All Star team in 1990. His ERA’s of 2.05 in 1992 and 1.60 in 1993 kept him in the conversation for best firemen in the American League.

Then he tested the free agent waters and went to Atlanta, the reliable pennant contender with a history of closer issues. Olson looked to be the final piece of a championship puzzle. (And no, he was not a teammate of the other Greg Olson.)

But injuries derailed his season, where he posted a 9.20 ERA in 14 2/3 innings. And a strike ended the season prematurely.

Between 1995 and 1997, Olson wandered through the major league woods. The once dominant closer played for the Indians, Royals, Tigers, Astros, Twins and Royals again in a 3 year span, not distinguishing himself at any stop.

At age 31, he signed with the new expansion Arizona Diamondbacks where he had a nice comeback season. He saved 30 games for Buck Showalter’s squad and posted a respectable 3.01 ERA in the middle of the steroid era.

In 1999, the Diamondbacks made the post season and Olson saw his only October ball in his career, pitching in 2 games of the Division Series loss to the Mets. After 2 seasons in Los Angeles, his career ended with his release on June 29, 2001.

A vagabond after his days in Baltimore, he is an Oriole fan favorite. He was inducted into the Oriole Hall of Fame in 2008 and etched his name into Orioles lore with a nice piece of relief work.

On July 13, 1991, Bob Milacki, Mike Flanagan and Mark Williamson all held the mighty Oakland A’s hitless over 8 innings. Olson pitched the ninth, got the save and clinched the combined no hitter.

Lots of relievers compile saves. How many get to clinch a no no?