RIP to the HBP Maestro

Don Baylor died over the weekend. It can’t be said enough, but screw cancer.

For many, Don Baylor will be remembered as the 1979 AL MVP, the first DH to earn the honor, even if further examination shows he was not the most meritorious selection in the award’s history. Others will remember him for his undeniable leadership skills, both during his days as a player for six different AL clubs and then as a manager of two different NL teams. Still other fans might recall him as one of baseball’s most imposing figures, whether in the batter’s box or on the basepaths, where he was remarkably nimble for a man so solidly built.

But to me, none of that is what defines Baylor. The essence of Baylor was the pivot.

Don Baylor is No. 4 on the all-time hit-by-pitch list, and second among players whose career took place when the world was in color. Yet Baylor’s got a legitimate stake on the modern-day crown, given his higher rate of HBPs than Craig Biggio and the fact that Biggio’s post-19th century record was helped by PEDs (his enormous, space-age-fibered elbow guard was unquestionably a Plunking Enabling Device). And, most important, lil’ Craiggy didn’t perfect the pivot.

Of Baylor 267 career HBPs, an imaginary 86 percent were of the exact same type. The pitcher would deliver a fastball up and in, and Baylor would rotate his shoulder inward about three inches, allowing the ball to catch him on the soft space (to the extent Baylor’s body had any soft areas) on his upper back, while satisfying the rule mandating the batter try to get out the way while not actually doing anything to get himself out of the way. Baylor was as interested in getting out of the ball’s path as Pete Rose was of verifying the ages of his spring training conquests.

And after each plunking, Don would saunter down to first, no hesitation, no glares at the pitcher who just gifted him a base and absolutely no rubbing. The ball was the only participant in the exchange to suffer any damage.

No one took a hit by pitch like Baylor did, at least in my baseball-watching lifetime. And now that he’s gone, perhaps MLB can make it possible that no one ever has to.

The idea that batters need to make an attempt to get out of the way of inside pitches to earn an HBP has simply never made sense. It should be the pitcher’s responsibility to avoid hitting the batter, not the batter’s obligation to bail him out for his wildness.

It’s a simple change, and one that would be easier for the home plate ump to determine. If a pitch hits the batter on a ball that’s anywhere inside the vertical plane of the batter’s box, the batter gets first. And if the batter is hit anywhere outside the box, it’s simply a ball or strike, depending on the pitch’s location. C’mon Rob, don’t just be open to talking about considering the idea of a change. Do it for Don.

After that, then we can find a way to honor fellow weekend loss Darren Daulton, perhaps with a rule requiring at least one World Series participant per decade be comprised of oddballs, cranks and future felons.

TBtB: the Results

As revealed over at BTF, the name chosen as the new moniker for the San Francisco Giants is China Basin. You are cordially invited to use this in all future internet conversation.

  1. San Francisco Giants – China Basin
  2. Texas Rangers – The Ballpark in Arlington
  3. San Diego Padres – Mission Field
  4. Boston Red Sox –  Fenway Park
  5. Washington Nationals – Nationals Park
  6. Tampa Bay Rays –

TBtB: Texas Rangers

Part 2: Texas Rangers
The next stop on our cavalcade of taxpayer palaces is Arlington, the hyphen in the Dallas-Fort Worth metro area. We’re going here next because the venue is in danger of soon meeting the wrecking ball, on account the old ballyard has already been hosting pro ball for more than two whole decades.
Among the very first of the retro parks, it was long known by the clunky The Ballpark in Arlington, a name that would fit nicely in front of a gated subdivision, a place the McMansions Suck woman would ridicule. The Chalets on Kensington. The Cottages of Red Hill. The Ballpark in Arlington. It has sported two other forgettable names before landing its current moniker, the even clunkier Globe Life Park in Arlington. All of the iterations have what must be a city-mandated “in Arlington” appendage. I doubt any makes the cut in our exercise.
However, coming up with a suitable replacement might be a little tricky, given the location. Arlington doesn’t have the rich history of a San Francisco, or even that of Dallas or Fort Worth. It’s a city that seemingly only exists to support pro sports teams and to employ Baseball Think Factory’s Bob Dernier. We may need to get a little more creative on this one, or at least extend our reach throughout the Metroplex.
Make your case for a new name below, and try to avoid any Cowboys references. Virtually the entire internet doesn’t like that, as far as I can tell.

Ballpark History

Built: 1994
Capacity:  48,114
Name: Globe Life Park in Arlington (previously: The Ballpark in Arlington Ameriplex Field in Arlington, Rangers Ballpark in Arlington)
Other Ballparks used by Club inCurrent City  Arlington Stadium (1972-1993)
Distinctive Features: The grassy hill in center that serves as batter’s eye, where teenagers scramble to retrieve homers blasted to straightaway center.
Ballpark Highlights:  In just the 54th game ever played there, Kenny Rogers threw a perfect game for the Rangers.
On June 12, 1997, Texas lefthander Darren Oliver delivered a pitch to San Francisco’s Darryl Hamilton, officially kicking off interleague play in Major League Baseball.
On July 1, 2006, Gary Matthews Jr. made one of the most incredible, and lucrative, catches in recent baseball history, robbing Houston’s Mike Lamb of a homer.
In 2010, in the 39th season of Texas baseball, Ranger fans finally got to witness a home postseason victory with a 7-2 win over the Yankees in the American League Championship Series. Texas had lost its first seven home playoff games, including two in the team’s ALDS win over the Rays.

50 Shades of Gray Matter

I am troubled. Deeply troubled. On an almost-daily basis, I engage in self-destructive behavior. I know it’s not healthy for me. It doesn’t satisfy me, but still I can’t help myself. I’m powerless to control this insatiable demon.

I don’t know if there’s a support group for people with my addiction. So, this may be the closest I come.

My name is Dan. I am a Yahoomasochist.

Far too frequently, I defy every informed instinct I possess, and wade into the comments section of a frontpage story on Yahoo. Or, I’ll follow a not-so-helpful link from a friend into the deeper recesses of the internet, a place entirely void of any shred of humanity. The Deplorables website, for instance. I routinely check in on the Facebook updates of a former colleague who can only be described by the clinical term, batshit crazy.

I can’t say why I do it. Am I hopeful that this time, the assembled commentariat will surprise me with a lively and intelligent discussion? Or am I just looking for carnage, the accident on the opposite side of the interstate that I simply can’t avoid staring down.

In either case, the voyage only leaves me feeling angry, ill, or merely hopeless. It’s tempting to respond, as a few brave souls occasionally do, but their words of wisdom, logic or simple sanity are swept away by the tidal wave of horrific spelling, random capitalization and faulty logic. Oh, and the racism, sexism and all the other delightful isms.

Many of these commenters can only be described as professionally stupid. There’s simply no way one could reach that level of ignorance without actively working at it. This is not just obliviousness to fact and reason, but being introduced to the concepts and voluntarily and forcefully opting out.

But if they’re stupid, what does that make me? I’ve got to trudge up three flights of stairs (no elevator service here), just to reach breathtakingly moronic.

Please help.

Commenting is now open.



TBtB: Giants voting thread


We have selected four potential names as a replacement for the replacement for the replacement for PacBell Park, which, as corporate names go, wasn’t half-bad. They are listed below.

If you’d like to vote, you’ll need to visit Baseball Think Factory. Registration is pretty easy and painless, and your identity is secure if that’s important to you. My “handle” over there is or SoSH U at work.

Choose one of the four choices, then add in the full name you prefer. If you like Pacific, but think it should be Pacific Grounds, choose C, then write in the preferred full name.

Further debate on the merits of each choice will continue to take place in the nominating thread.

And, it should go without saying that we are restricting this to one vote per person. And, just so you know, I’ve got Kobach on speed dial and that SOB is just itching to dig up some irregularities.

  1. China Basin
  2. Golden Gate
  3. Pacific
  4. West Bay

What About Bobby?

Sometime in the recent past, before the Hall of Fame again modified its eras for Veterans Committee consideration, I sent a letter to a member of the previous screening committee. At the time, it was sent to the Expansion Era Committee, though that era is now called the Modern Baseball time frame, encompassing players whose peaks fell between 1970 and 1987.

I have no idea if that letter ever reached its intended target. So, what the hell, I’m going to repost it here, on the extraordinary off chance it finds one of the members of this crucial but overlooked Hall body. That group meets again this year, to put together the list of 10 names the voting committee will consider for Hall induction in 2018.

Dear xxx,

I’m writing to you based on your position on the Historical Overview Committee for the National Baseball Hall of Fame. I believe you and your fellow committee members have an opportunity to review the case of a ballplayer from that era who badly warrants a fresh take on his career: Bobby Grich.

I was a baseball fan during Grich’s career. I remember when he signed with the Angels as one of the biggest names in that first free agent class. Neither an Orioles nor an Angels fan, I seemed to lose track of him after that. I don’t think I was alone.

So when I read, several years back, that Grich was a deserving Hall of Famer, I was stunned. It wasn’t until I gave him a second look that I realized the second baseman was not just a legitimate candidate for Cooperstown, but clearly worthy of joining the other all-time greats in the HoF.

Here we have a quality defensive infielder, who once joined Brooks Robinson and Mark Belanger to form perhaps the greatest infield defense ever assembled. The four Gold Gloves he won speak very clearly about his reputation with the leather.

But he wasn’t just a glove. He combined good patience with excellent power throughout his 17-year career. Sure, his batting average is a little low for a Hall of Famer, and almost certainly obscured his credentials when he first hit the ballot back in 1992. But we know better now that BA isn’t the most useful stat when determining a player’s offensive value. Grich’s lifetime on-base percentage of .371 and his slugging percentage of .424, compiled in an era before balls were flying over the fence at record rates, would be laudable for a leftfielder. For a second baseman with a great glove, they’re simply excellent.

A comparison with the premier second baseman of his day, Joe Morgan, illustrates this nicely. Sure, Grich comes up short across the board when compared to Little Joe, but his line of .266/.371/.424 in 8220 plate appearances is not that far behind Morgan’s .271/.392/.427 slash line, though Morgan’s career was obviously much longer. However, one doesn’t need to be as good as Joe Morgan to be a Hall of Fame second baseman, otherwise Cooperstown’s second base roster would run just three players deep. It’s possible that playing at pretty much the same time as an all-time great second sacker like Morgan further muted the perception of him. We saw that happen with Tim Raines, though Rock was fortunately able to escape Rickey’s considerable shadow in his last gasp with the BBWAA.

You may not be convinced that Grich is, in fact, Cooperstownian timber. I understand. What’s undeniable, however, is that he’s never really gotten a good look from the electorate. He was gone after just one vote. The candidacies of other players under your purview, such as Steve Garvey and Dave Parker, got 15 years of consideration from the BBWAA, and each time these fine players were found to be not quite good enough.

Your screening committee does incredibly important work. You have a chance to allow the historically overlooked to get a second look from a fresh set of eyes. No one deserves that fresh look more than Grich, a great player and respected professional who, through no fault of his own, fell through the cracks the first time he was eligible.

I hope when you set out to put together this year’s ballot for the committee, you take another hard look at the full career of Bobby Grich. I’m confident if you do you will find him quite worthy of a place on the ballot for the Modern Game Committee to fully examine.

Thank you for your time and consideration.




Dan Markham

Taking Back the Ballparks – San Francisco Giants

Welcome to the initial nominating thread of Taking Back the Ballparks, where today’s palatial, taxpayer-funded ballyards will be reclaimed from Fortune 500 companies, in-pocket politicians and onerous owners, and returned to the fans who fill them. Over the course of however long this takes, we’re going to select new, distinct and appropriate names for each of the 30 major league ballparks instead of the corporate-sponsored monstrosities they currently call themselves. And, in some cases, we might determine the old sobriquet was just fine.

To get this series started correctly, we’re going right to the stadium in most need of a permanent moniker makeover: AT&T Park, a ballpark that’s already had more legal name changes than a member of the extended Kardashian Klan.

One of the absolute gems* of the HOK era, the stadium has been an upgrade over the Giants previous home in every way but one. Candlestick was a glorious name for a ballpark, either in its full or nicknamed version (the Stick). AT&T will never be anything but the name of a phone company.

Now, you can fix that. In this thread, suggest a replacement for the Giants stadium, and make a case why this new name is preferable. Given the source material (San Francisco and the Bay Area and a history-rich franchise), there should be no shortage of potentially evocative names just waiting to be tapped.

In two weeks, we’ll close nominations here, at BTF and anywhere else that might piggyback onto this exercise. With the help of a few other Primates, we’ll select up to four finalists from the nominees and we’ll begin a full vote to be taken exclusively at BTF.

• By all other accounts. As with the case with most of the parks, I haven’t been there, so I can only go on the reports of others. The baseball writing staff at the Washington Post just slotted it No. 1 among the MLB 30, for instance.


Ballpark History

Name:  AT&T Park (previouslyPacific Bell Park, SBC  Park)

Built: 2000

Capacity: 41,915

Other ballparks used by club in its current city:  Candlestick (aka 3Com Park), 1960-1999, Seals Stadium 1958-1959)

Distinctive Features: As many as you’ll find anywhere. The Coke Bottle and Glove in Left; 24-foot high brick wall in right; McCovey Cove.

Ballpark Highlights: Giants have played in four World Series since park opened in 2000, winning three. However, none of the title-clinching games took place there, nor was the Game 7 loss to Anaheim in the 2002 Fall Classic.

Matt Cain threw baseball’s 22nd perfect game there in 2012

Neifi Perez scored on an infield fly.

Ruben Rivera engaged in “the worst baserunning in the history of the game.”

Barry Bonds played a lot of games at the place.