Frank Robinson 2006 Topps – Sully Baseball Card for October 11, 2017

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Is it possible for a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame to be underrated? Can someone who has achieved the highest honors in the game look around and say “Man, they just aren’t giving me my due”?

It is a hard sell, I admit. But it is possible that the great career of Frank Robinson, whose influence stretched over six decades, has been somewhat under valued.

Born in Texas but raised in Oakland, as a high school student played basketball with Bill Russell and baseball with Vada Pinson and Curt Flood.

As a 17 year old, he signed with the Reds and would attend Xavier University when he wasn’t playing. He made minced meat of the minor leagues, smacking homers and hitting for a high average.

By age 20, he was starting for the Reds and led the league in runs scored during his Rookie of the Year winning campaign.

Year in and year out, he would hit 30 or more homers, keep his average over .300 and see his RBI total hit triple digits.

In 1961, he led the Reds to the World Series and won the Most Valuable Player. Nobody knew it then, but he also consistently led the league in OPS then as well.

The year after his MVP season, he led the league in on base and slugging while hitting 39 homers and driving in 136 runs.

Unbeknownst to anyone, he consistently was in the top 10 of WAR in the National League. Advanced metrics showed he might even have been better than his eye popping numbers would indicate.

He had a .925 OPS in 1965 when he also hit 33 homers and drove in 113 when the Reds figured he was washed up and sent him off to Baltimore.

Can you imagine if Frank Robinson was part of the Big Red Machine? Well, instead he went to Baltimore, won the Triple Crown, had an OPS of 1.047 and became the first to win MVPs in both leagues.

Oh yeah, he led the Orioles to the World Series title, their first ever including their years as the St. Louis Browns.

He continued putting up solid traditional numbers and terrific advanced metrics into the 1970’s and played on a total of four Orioles pennant winners and two World Series champs.

After bouncing between the Dodgers, Angels and Indians, he became a player manager for Cleveland. He was the first ever African American manager in MLB history, fulfilling what Jackie Robinson had lobbied for in his final public appearance.

Jackie Robinson and Frank Robinson were not related by blood but they are tied together by their legacies. Robinson became the first African American manager in both the American and National League. He took over the Giants in the 1980’s and they contended until the last weekend in 1982.

Later in 1988, he was named the Orioles skipper and won the Manager of the Year when they stunned baseball by challenging the Blue Jays until the final weekend.

When MLB took over the Expos in 2002, Robinson was installed as manager in a hopeless situation. The Expos, despite no money and no support, were surprise Wild Card contenders late into the 2002 and 2003 seasons.

When the club moved to Washington, they were in first place for much of the first half of the season before fading to Atlanta. He managed one more season before becoming an executive for MLB.

He was a Rookie of the Year, won the NL and AL MVPs, was a 14 time All Star, won a pair of World Series, took home the Triple Crown, the Gold Glove was named manager of the year and had his number retired by three organizations.

He was 57 hits shy of 3,000 while finishing with 586 homers and lifetime batting average of .294 and an OPS of .926.

He was a pioneering player, an all time great and blazed trails in the dugout over several generations.

His career spanned from his playing against Jackie Robinson to managing Vladimir Guerrero.

As an All Time great and influential figure in baseball history, he has to be considered one of the biggest.

For that reason, as odd as it seems, I believe this Hall of Fame titan may be underrated.

Sean Doolittle 2016 Topps Chrome – Sully Baseball Card of the Day for August 11, 2017

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Last night Sean Doolittle earned his 7th save as a member of the Washington Nationals. He was aided by a circus catch by left fielder Andrew Stevenson.

The Nationals acquired Doolittle in July to fill their holes in the bullpen and push them past the Division Series for the first time since the team was called the Montreal Expos.

In fact here is an odd fact. There have been three major league franchises in Washington DC. The original Senators who existed from 1901 to 1960, the expansion Senators who existed from 1961 to 1971 and the Nationals who have been there since 2005.

Not once in the history of Washington MLB has a pitcher thrown a clinching out in a post season series. The only post season series ever won by a Washington team was the 1924 World Series. The Senators beat the Giants in the 12th inning of Game 7 on a walk off double by Earl McNeely.

So basically the Nationals are asking Sean Doolittle to do something no other Washington pitcher has ever done.

Doolittle is a talented pitcher who excelled in the 2014 season when Grant Balfour’s defection and Jim Johnson’s ineffectiveness opened up the closer role. Doolittle, who had been a middle reliever for the 2012 and 2013 AL West champs saved 22 games to an ERA of 2.73 in 62 2/3 innings. He struck out 89 and walked only 8 and helped the A’s into the Wild Card game.

It also got him a multimillion dollar contract and an All Star game berth. Injuries have hampered his 2015 and 2016 seasons but he is back as an effective reliever and one the Nats need.

Now if you follow the podcast and the blog, you know that I know Sean Doolittle.

Are we so close that we have sliced our hands, pressed our palms together and said “Our blood with flow in both of our veins”?

No. But only because it creeped him out when I asked him to do it.

Do I know him well enough to send a text of the Lego Ghostbusters Ecto-1 my kids built at Christmas? Sure. He’s a cool guy who loves movies, got my kids autographed hats and took a few selfies with my cousin Jack who is a huge baseball fan.

His fiancee, Eireann (sic) Dolan is a very funny writer and TV personality who stumbled across my podcast. She introduced Sean to my podcast and the rest is history.

When I was at their place recording a podcast, Eireann offered me lemonade with mint in it. I told her I didn’t like mint in my lemonade. She gave it to me anyway. I drank it because I am a good guest. But I swear to GOD if she ever offers me lemonade with mint in it again, there will be hell to pay.

Both Eireann and Sean are goofballs. Sean got dressed up as Chewbacca for the opening of Force Awakens and is quite funny in the A’s commercials he would appear in. Eireann was a regular on CSN California with her hair that changed color more often than a mood ring.

They are also good people. They raise awareness and money for veteran issues, making sure brave men and women who serve our country have access to the health benefits. Their work with Operation Finally Home gets many vets into housing while Swords to Plowshares helps get them jobs.

The two have done work with Syrian refugees, sponsoring a Thanksgiving dinner for 17 families in Chicago. And they were instrumental in making the A’s first LGBTQ Pride Night an unqualified success.

Good people who are goofballs. One happens to throw the ball very well with his left hand. You can guess which one.

OK, here is Sean on my podcast talking about Unicorns and Juggling.

Here is Eireann talking about the trade from Washington.

Here is Eireann as a guest on my 1,000th podcast.

And here is me and Sean because… why not?

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Dusty Baker 1986 Topps – Sully Baseball Card of the Day for July 31, 2017

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With Hall of Fame Weekend over, we get back to the business of baseball. Now I am a Red Sox fan and I am still hoping they can win this year. Although I am getting less and less confident of their chances.

If they can’t win, I hope the Washington Nationals can. There are many reasons for that. Friend of the podcast Sean Doolittle is now on the team. The city of Washington has not had a pennant since 1933 nor a World Series champ since 1924 when the Senators were there. The fact that I have to phrase that so specifically makes me want to simplify it.

It would be the franchise’s first title, including the time as the Montreal Expos.

And oh yeah, I believe it will put Dusty Baker into the Hall of Fame. And Dusty Baker being enshrined as a Hall of Fame manager will be great for the game and wonderful is seeing all the people it will drive crazy.

Johnnie B. Baker Jr. is a California native who was drafted by the Atlanta Braves in 1967. In 1968, the 19 year old Dusty made his debut in the majors. He had brief cameos in 1968, 1969, 1970 and 1971 in Atlanta before finally becoming a regular outfielder in 1972. He batted .321 with an OPS of .888 in 503 plate appearances, swatting 17 homers along the way.

Throughout the mid 1970’s Baker was a solid offensive performer for Atlanta, being a 20 homer and 20 steals man in 1973. He was on deck when Henry Aaron his home run number 715.

As good as he was in Atlanta, he became a star in Los Angeles when he arrived as a Dodger in 1976. He went to the Dodgers in a trade involving Lee Lacy, Tom Paciorek, Jim Wynn, Ed Goodson and Jerry Royster.

In 1977, he smoked 30 homers, batted .291 and had an OPS of .876. In 1980, he finished 4th in the MVP vote. He made the 1981 and 1982 All Star Teams, winning the Gold Glove and Silver Slugger in 1981.

He excelled in October. Over his 4 NLCS appearances, he batted .371 with an OPS of 1.047 in 17 games He was less successful in the World Series, posting only a .579 OPS over 18 games. But he was part of the 1981 World Championship team.

The end of his career saw him bounce between the Giants and the A’s. His final manager was Tony LaRussa, a skipper with whom he would clash later in his career.

After his career ended as a player, he found himself in Roger Craig’s coaching staff for the Giants.

Eventually he would be named manager. With the arrival of Barry Bonds, he would win 103 games in his first year at the helm. It would be the first of three Manager of the Year awards he would win in San Francisco.

The Giants would win the 2002 pennant as well as Division Titles in 1997 and 2000 under Dusty. They would also play to the final weekend or sometimes the final day in 1993, 1998 and 2001.

Since then, he has brought the Cubs, Reds and Nationals to the post season. There is no denying that teams have played well under him. If he wins a World Series, then this amazing resume will be prologue.

Of course there have been some collapses in his career. I do not count 1993 as a collapse. The Giants played winning ball down the stretch and won 103 games. The Braves simply won so many games that there was no stopping them. Plus Atlanta should have never have been in the West.

But the Giants did indeed collapse in the 2002 World Series. And the image of Dusty Baker giving the game ball to Russ Ortiz in Game 6 when the Giants had a 5-0 lead was embarrassing premature celebrating.

Forget Steve Bartman. His handling of the Cubs pitchers and his bullpen management with a Cubs pennant on the line in 2003 was borderline insane.

The Reds blew a 2-0 lead going back home in the 2012 Division Series. They would end the 2013 season with a 6 game losing streak and fall in the Wild Card Game. Also his pitching management in last year’s Division Series loss to Los Angeles was, um, interesting.

And oh yeah, he puts together a lineup evidently by throwing darts at a dart board. Baker dismisses the importance of on base percentage by saying he doesn’t want to clog the bases. This has made him a target for the sabermetrics crowd.

While Baker has won playoff spots everywhere he has managed, talk to the fans of those teams. My dad, a rabid Giants fan, has his face blanch when I mention his name. We agree that letting his 3 year old son run onto the field during the 2002 World Series was nowhere NEAR his dumbest decision that October.

And with all that in mind, I want him in the Hall of Fame. Dusty Baker is a great character and beloved by his players. And all of those things that make him a POOR manager in so many people’s eyes makes me want to have fun and get him a plaque.

So Go Nats! If the result will be Dusty Baker is in the Hall of Fame and people everywhere shake their heads and think “Oh man, I can’t believe it”, then it will all be worth it.