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.

 

Willie Randolph 1992 Topps – Sully Baseball Card of the Day for May 15, 2017

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The Yankees retired Derek Jeter’s number last night. There is little debate to whether or not number 2 should be hanging in Monument Park. Over the recent years, the Yankees have been a little “Retirement Happy” with their jerseys.

Sure, Torre, Rivera and Jeter deserve it. Ron Guidry… OK fine. Bernie Williams? Alright, he was underrated and it isn’t like players are clamoring to wear 51.

But Jorge Posada? Andy Pettitte? Really?

No single digit jerseys are left. Only 11, 12, 13, 14, 17, 18 and 19 exist for numbers below 20. So what I am saying is that there is no need for the Yankees to retire any more numbers.

BUT, if you MUST consider retiring another number (besides 13 for A-Rod), perhaps one of the top 12 in Yankee history for WAR should be considered. That would be Willie Randolph.

Randolph may have been born in the Carolinas but he grew up in Brooklyn and was a classic New York success story. A star at Tilden High School, he was drafted by the Pirates in the 7th round of the 1972 draft.

By 1975, he had his first taste of big league ball in Pittsburgh. Surrounded by veterans like Al Oliver and Willie Stargell as well as rising stars like John Candelaria and Dave Parker, Randolph might have fit in perfectly with the squad that ultimately became the World Champion “Fam A Lee” of 1979.

He even made his first post season appearance in the 1975 NLCS with Pittsburgh. But that off season, the Pirates made a truly terrible trade. The sent Randolph and Dock Ellis packing to the Yankees for Doc Medich. Ellis had a fine season and helped the Yankees win the pennant.

Randolph became a steady presence in the Bronx for the next 13 seasons. His solid play and stolen base total put him in the All Star team for 1976 and again appeared in the post season. This time, as a starter, he made it all the way to the World Series.

In 1977, he was an All Star again, having a better all around offensive season. In the post season, with the Yankees trailing in the 9th inning of Game 5 of the ALCS, facing elimination, Randolph hit the game tying sacrifice fly and eventually the Yankees would win the pennant.

He reached base 3 times, including a homer, in the Yankees Game 1 victory in the World Series, one the Yankees would eventually win.

Randolph was en route to maybe his best season ever when injuries derailed his 1978. He didn’t play in the post season but his fill in Brian Doyle did admirably and the Yankees won again.

In 1980, Randolph led the league in walks, won his first Silver Slugger and became one of the leaders on the team in the wake of Thurman Munson’s death the year before. The 1981 post season saw an unexpected power surge from Randolph who clubbed 3 homers that October.

After 1981, the post season runs dried up in the Bronx and the turmoil continued. Managers were fired at a quicker pace than one a year. Superstars came and went and despite putting up winning seasons year after year, the Yankees seemed rudderless.

Along with Don Mattingly and Dave Winfield, Randolph became one of the steady forces on the team. Ultimately he and Ron Guidry, the last remaining members of the World Championship teams on the roster, were named Co-Captains. His steady play led to another All Star appearance in 1987 but no more playoff spots.

As was Steinbrenner’s way in the 1980’s, he coveted other people’s stars more than respecting his own. Just as he feuded with Mattingly and sent private investigators to snoop on Winfield, Steinbrenner became infatuated with Steve Sax, the second baseman of the World Champion L. A. Dodgers.

Sax was signed to a long term deal shortly after the 1988 World Series and Randolph, whose contract had also expired, suddenly saw himself no longer a member of the team he was supposed be the captain of.

The Dodgers, now with a new hole at second base, signed Randolph and he returned the favor by making the 1989 All Star team.

In 1990, when injuries ravaged the World Champion Oakland A’s infield, Randolph was sent packing to Northern California and wound up playing in the 1990 ALCS and World Series.

As this Topps Card shows, he wound up with Milwaukee in 1991 and had his final excellent season. The 36 year old Randolph batted .327 with an OPS of .798 over 512 plate appearances. He played 1992 for the Mets before retiring.

Almost right away, he became a fixture in the Yankees coaching staff, winning more World Series rings with the 1996, 1998, 1999 and 2000 Yankees as well as the 2001 and 2003 pennant winners.

He finally got his managing chance with the Mets and led them to Game 7 of the NLCS in 2006. Had Carlos Beltran doubled off of Adam Wainwright in the 9th, the Mets would have won the pennant and probably won the World Series. Randolph would have been the prince of New York the way Joe Torre had been a decade earlier.

Instead they fell short and had their epic collapse in 2007 leading to his firing midway through the 2008 season. He later coached for the Brewers and Orioles.

Randolph has great success with the Yankees as a player and a coach, being one of the most respected figures in the team’s history and having links to many different Yankee legends. As it stands, he has a plaque in Monument Park, as well he should.

But should number 30 be retired? Is it right that Posada, Pettitte or Roger Maris have their numbers up there and Randolph doesn’t? His co captain Ron Guidry has been honored but not Randolph?

It is worth a thought.

Cecil Cooper 1978 Topps – Sully Baseball Card of the Day for April 13, 2017

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I will say it.

Cecil Cooper should have been a beloved Red Sox player. Think of the era where he emerged from the Boston farm system.

It should have been home grown Cooper at first, Burleson at short, Rice and Lynn and Evans in the outfield and Fisk behind the plate and Yaz at DH.

Eventually homegrown Butch Hobson and native New Englander Jerry Remy plucked from the Angels filling out that lineup.

Instead he is one of the most loved Brewers of all time, one even mentioned in the movie Mr. 3000.

One of 13 children being raised in Texas, he came from a baseball family. His dad played in the Negro Leagues and his brothers were semi pro players. A star high school player, Cooper was drafted by the Red Sox in the 1968 draft. The Cardinals picked him in the 1971 Rule 5 Draft but returned him.

Between 1971 and 1973, be bounced between the Red Sox and the minors. In 1973, he played on the Pawtucket squad with Jim Rice, Rick Burleson and Juan Beniquez. By 1974, Cooper was an every day player in Boston.

From time to time, Cooper showed brilliance with the bat. In a 14-6 trashing of the Yankees on May 21, he reached base 6 times, drove in 3 and scored a pair.

Then in 1975, Cooper had to fight for at bats, but by May was in the lineup for good. He fit in with the team that came within a run of winning it all. Fred Lynn and Jim Roce each could have won the MVP that year. Evans and Fisk were superstars. Lee and Tiant were aces. Wise was solid. The bullpen was deep.

And Cooper was a steady first baseman with power and gave the lineup depth with Beniquez and Bernie Carbo off the bench.

In June, he hit .366 and posted an OPS of .894. In July, he homered 6 times and had a 1.077 OPS. Cooper kept the bats going with a .337 average and .975 OPS.

But in September he was hit in the face with a fastball and later went into a slump. Jim Rice later broke his wrist. Had the Sox had Rice and Cooper in full strength, maybe they score 2 more runs in Game 7 of the World Series.

After a good but not spectacular 1976 season, Cooper was traded in an ill advised deal. Bernie Carbo, who found himself on the Brewers in 1976 was traded back to the Sox along with fan favorite George Scott.

At first it looked like a decent deal for the Red Sox as Scott made the 1977 All Star Team. But by 1978, “Boomer”‘s bat was fading and after 1979, he was out of baseball.

The Red Sox began a revolving door of first basemen between 1978 and 1987.

Scott started in 1978. Bob Watson did the honors in 1979. Tony Perez took over for 1980 and 1981. Wade Boggs played first in 1982. Dave Stapleton did in 1984. Bill Buckner did the honors in 1984, 1985 and 1986.

Between 1977 and 1986, one man held the first base spot in Milwaukee. Cecil Cooper was a rock for the Brewers as the names kept changing in Boston.

In 1979, as Scott was dumped by the Red Sox, Cooper led the league with 44 doubles, batted .308, smacked 24 homers and drove in 106, making the All Star Team.

He was an All Star again in 1980 with his 122 RBI and 335 total bases leading te AL. His OPS was .926 and the Gold Glove and Silver Slugger finished 5th in the MVP vote.

Cooper led the league in doubles in the strike shortened 1981 season. Then came 1982.

Along side future Hall of Famers Rollie Fingers, Robin Yount and Paul Molitor (and Don Sutton too for good measure) , Cooper was overshadowed by his teammates. But he remained a power at the plate.

He made the All Star team again, smacking 205 hits, 32 homers, 121 RBI and finished with a .313 average.

Down the stretch as the Brewers fought Baltimore for the AL East crown, he batted .318 in August and .306 in September. He went 3 for 4 in a key 14-0 blowout over the Yankees that helped the Brewers approach the division title.

On the final day of the season, the Orioles and Brewers were tied and the winner would win the East.

In the 6th, with the Brewers clinging to a 3-1 lead, Cooper homered off of Jim Palmer to extend the lead to 4-1. Then in the 9th, with the Orioles pulling out all the stops, Cooper got an RBI double off of Mike Flanagan and scored on Ted Simmons’ homer that capped the 10-2 blow out.

In the ALCS, he clocked the go ahead opposite field single that put the Brewers up for good in the Game 5 clincher. He later homered in Game 3 of the World Series against St. Louis and drove in a run in Game 7 of the World Series.

The Brewers lost the World Series, but Cooper kept his All Star ways going. He led the league with 126 RBI in 1983 and finished 5th in the MVP vote.

Cooper made one more All Star Game in 1985 before wrapping his career up after the 1987 season.

After his playing career ended, he worked as a coach and a minor league manager before getting a shot to manage the Houston Astros in 2007. They had a winning season under his watch in 2008 but he was fired after a disappointing 2009.

Cooper is beloved in Wisconsin where he is in the Brewers walk of fame.

That’s all great.

He should have been a beloved Red Sox star.