Friday, July 21, 2006

Hometown Heroes

A little something different today. No pseudo-intellectual pretension. Today I'm going to cast my votes for Major League Baseball's "Hometown Heroes" program. Unlike their all-Century team promotion a few years ago, there is no timely reason for MLB to do this thing now, but it looks like a lot of fun. Each team has five nominees for "all-time hero." The criteria includes "leadership, character, and on-field performance." My personal criteria-- I will close my eyes and picture each team and see who I visualize in uniform. After doing that I will check my initial impression with the five nominees and settle on a final decision. Here we go:

Angels-- Wow, a tough one out of the shoot. I actually see Mike Scosia managing in the 2002 World Series. Forcing myself to visualize a player, I see Scott Spezio (on the strength of his World Series homer). Thinking of the old days, I actually see Brian Downing. Let's go to the nominees:

Jim Abbott, Don Baylor, Rod Carew, Chuck Finley, Tim Salmon

Abbott is angling for the inspirational vote, but I have negative impressions of him from his time as a Brewer. Actually, three of these five guys have Brewer baggage with Baylor and Carew one-time Milwaukee hitting coaches. Chuck Finley is inelgiable because he got beat up by Tawny Kitaen. That leaves Salmon.

Astros-- I picture Nolan Ryan in that awful 80s uniform.

Nominees: Jeff Bagwell, Craig Biggio, Larry Dorker (as I used to call him), Nolan Ryan, Jimmy Wynn

Bags and Biggo are too joined at the hip to pick one over the other. Dorker has a terrible name, and I don't know who Jimmy Wynn is. So I'll go with my initial impression.

A's-- I see Jose Canseco. Given his situation, I doubt he was a nominee. Let's find out:

Dennis Eckersley, Lefty Grove, Rickey Henderson, Catfish Hunter, Reggie Jackson

No Canseco, no McGwire. (We'll see if McGwire is a Cards nominee a bit later). Hunter and Jackson are arguably more Yankees than A's. Henderson literally didn't know who his teammates were (when with the Mets he told John Olerud he had once played with another guy in Toronto who wore his helmet in the field. Olerud said "Yeah, that guy was me."). That combined with his poker game with Bobby Bonilla during the NLCS in 2000 disqualifies him from the leadership criteria. It's tough to compare Eck and Grove-- two different eras, one a reliever and one a starter. Eck gets the tie-breaker because he actually had a cool mullet.

Blue Jays-- I see Paul Molitor but block it out and see Joe Carter hitting the World Series winner in '93.

Nominees: Roberto Alomar, Joe Carter, Tony Fernandez, Pat Hentgen, Dave Stieb

Pat Hentgen may be one of the more underrated players of all-time (and Roy Halladay might prove to be as well), but that in itself disqualifies him from being an all-time hero. I think the Jays hero has to come from the World Series teams of '92 or '93, which narrows it down to Alomar and Carter, and I see Alomar as more of an Oriole, so I'll stick with my initial pick.

Braves-- Lots of great players but Hank Aaron clearly stands out.

Nominees: Hank Aaron, Chipper Jones, Phil Niekro, John Smoltz, Warren Spahn

Okay these nominees are ridiculous. This is supposed to encompass a franchise's entire history, so the Milwaukee Braves should be better represented. Eddie Matthews should be on instead of Jones, Lew Burdette should be one instead of that knuckleballer Niekro, and Greg Maddux should be on instead of Niekro or Smoltz. Obviously, Aaron wins here.

Brewers-- Duh.

Nominees: Cecil Cooper, Rollie Fingers, Jim Gantner, Paul Molitor, Robin Yount

I can't argue with the nominees. Molitor would have made it interesting if he had stuck around, but you've got to go with the guy with the statue.

Cardinals-- I see Ozzie Smith, but a second later I realize that I should be seeing Stan Musial.

Nominees: Lou Brock, Bob Gibson, Stan Musial, Albert Pujols, Ozzie Smith

Wow, what a list. Even though he's only been around for about five years, I do think Pujols belongs, though you have to think that without steroids, he'd be out and McGwire would be in. With apologies to all of the others, I'll stick with Stan the Man.

Cubs-- You've got to go with the guy called Mr. Cub.

Nominees: Ernie Banks, Fergie Jenkins, Ryne Sandberg, Ron Santo, Billy Williams

O.K., forget Billy Goats. If you want to know why the Cubs never win the World Series compare this list with the Cardinals' list. For a franchise that has been around this long to have a list like this is inexcusable. I know there are Hall of Famers on this list, but still. Sosa is also conspiciously absent. I'll stick with my first impression and go with Banks.

Devil Rays-- Woo boy. This is the only major league franchise I have never watched on TV. I picture Rocco Baldelli, because I picture a "This Week in Baseball" segment in which his teammats pranked him by replacing his jersey with one that said "Rocco" on the back, a la Ichiro.

Nominees: Wade Boggs, Carl Crawford, Roberto Hernandez, Aubrey Huff, Fred McGriff

Boggs may be from Tampa, and he got his 3,000th hit as a D-Ray, but come on, you can't pick him. Ditto for McGriff, who used to watch Braves games in the D-Rays clubhouse whenever he could. I wouldn't know who Hernandez is if you wouldn't have told me about his first name, and I don't know much about Huff. I do know that Crawford is always among league leaders in stolen bases. Even though no one cares about stolen bases anymore, he wins by default.

Diamondbacks-- I see Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling holding co-World Series MVP awards in 2001.

Nominees: Jay Bell, Luis Gonzalez, Randy Johnson, Todd Stottlemyer, Matt Williams

Big Unit.

Dodgers-- Jackie Robinson

Nominees: Roy Campanella, Sandy Koufax, Pee Wee Reese, Jackie Robinson, Duke Snider

Tough break for Koufax, who would win with most other teams, but Robinson is the greatest hero in the history of baseball, much less the Dodgers.

Giants-- I see Dusty Baker's kid almost getting run over. Then I see Willie Mays.

Nominees: Barry Bonds, Juan Marichal, Willie Mays, Willie McCovey, Mel Ott

It'll be interesting to see how Bonds fairs in the voting, but my money is on his godfather.

Indians-- I see Jose Mesa pitching in 1995 with fan John Adams beating that drum in the bleachers.

Nominees: Earl Averill, Larry Doby, Bob Feller, Nap Lajoie, Tris Speaker

You've got to love a team that lists guys who played from 1929-41, 47-59, 36-56, 1896-1916, and 1907-28, respectively. At least nobody has any unfair advantage by virtue of being fresh in fan's memory. It's a tough call for me between Doby and Feller. I'll go with Doby as the first black player in the AL, he is one of baseball's all-time unsung heroes.

Marines-- I see Ken Griffey Jr. running into a wall.

Nominees: Jay Buhner, Ken Griffey Jr., Edgar Martinez, Jamie Moyer, Ichiro Suzuki

I used to love Edgar Martinez and always made sure he was on my fantasy team, but that is only because I love the name Edgar. I'll stick with Griffey.

Marlins-- I see Livan Hernandez and Eric Gregg in '97. I'll resist making jokes about how Gregg should be the Marlins hometown hero out of respect for the recently departed.

Nominees: Josh Beckett, Luis Castillo, Jeff Conine, Robb Nen, Dontrelle Willis

Maybe if Willis didn't pitch so horribly in the WBC I'd be sympathetic to him. Jeff Conine, despite not doing anything terribly noteworthy, was once named Mr. Marlin because he played in the franchises first 1000 games or something. That has to count for something.

Mets-- I see Gooden and Strawberry, but I know I should be seeing Tom Seaver.

Nominees: John Franco, Tug McGraw, Mike Piazza, Tom Seaver, Darryl Strawberry

Franco gets extra credit for being a true hometown hero and wearing a New York Sanitation Department shirt, but he loses credit for alleged Mob ties. Seaver.

Nationals-- I don't see any Nationals, so I switch to trying to visualize Expos. I don't visualize any Expos.

Nominees: Gary Carter, Livan Hernandez, Brian Schneider, Rusty Staub, Jose Vidro

Ouch. Screw it; I'm writing in Hubie Brooks.

Orioles-- I see Ripken's victory lap in '95.

Nominees: Eddie Murray, Jim Palmer, Cal Ripken Jr., Brooks Robinson, Frank Robinson

Here is another list befitting a long time franchise. The O's haven't won a ton of championships, but this shows why they are more respectable than the Cubs. I'll stick with Ripken.

Padres-- I see Tony Gwynn Sr.

Nominees: Brian Giles, Tony Gwynn, Trevor Hoffman, Randy Jones, Dave Winfield

Who the heck is Randy Jones and who let Brian Giles on this list? I guess when one of your all-time sluggers (Ken Caminitti) and your all-time wins leader (Eric Show) died of drug overdoses you don't put them on the list. I feel like Benito Cerrano (Santiago to others) would be on the list if not for his steroid issues. It's a moot point though, I guess because Gwynn wins easily. I just wish they would have put "Sr." next to his name on the ballot.

-- I see Mike Schmidt.

Nominees: Richie Ashburn, Steve Carlton, Chuck Klein, Robin Roberts, Mike Schmidt

This is another franchise that should have a better list considering how long they've been around. I'll stick with Schmidt. He gets an extra bonus for not getting mad when a radio host at my former station accidentally called him "Mike (expletive)" during a live interview.

Pirates-- I think even without the recent All-Star game tribute I'd see Roberto Clemente.

Nominees: Roberto Clemente, Ralph Kiner, Bill Mazeroski, Willie Stargel, Honus Wagner

A great list, but like Jackie Robinson, Clemente's heroism transcends baseball so he's an easy choice

Rangers-- I swear I'm not making this up. I see Steve Buchele. Then I see Nolan Ryan.

Nominees: Rusty Greer, Ivan Rodriguez, Nolan Ryan, Jim Sundburg, Mark Texeira

Jim Sundburg? You might as well put Steve Buchele on the list. Too bad the Angels didn't put Nolan Ryan on their list; I could see him winning with three teams.

Red Sox-- Ted Williams

Nominees: Roger Clemens, Jim Rice, Ted Williams, Carl Yastrzemski (I cut and pasted that one), Cy Young.

Cy Young is a guy who everyone knows, but how many people know what teams he played for? I vaguely thought he was on the Philadelphia A's. Turns out he was on the Cleveland Spiders, St. Louis Perfectos, St. Louis Cardinals, Boston Americans, Boston Pilgrims, Boston Red Sox, and Cleveland Naps. The choice remains Ted Williams.

Reds-- Pete Rose

Nominees: Johnny Bench, Joe Morgan, Tony Perez, Frank Robinson, Pete Rose

Nice of the Reds to put Rose on the ballot, but I have to change my initial pick and go with Bench. Rose has the on-field performance down, but lacks in the other two categories.

Rockies-- Larry Walker

Nominees: Dante Bichette, Vinny Castilla, Andres Galarraga, Todd Helton, Larry Walker

Helton would be a solid pick, but I'll stick with Walker

Royals-- George Brett

Nominees: George Brett, Amos Otis, Bret Saberhagen, Mike Sweeney, Frank White

I'll stick with Brett

Tigers-- Alan Trammell (though I probably should see Ty Cobb).

Nominees: Ty Cobb, Charlie Gehringer, Hank Greenberg, Al Kaline, Alan Trammell

Cobb was a great player, but obviously no hero. I'll stick with Trammell, though I'm probably guilty of generational bias over Greenberg and Kaline.

Twins-- Kirby Puckett

Nominees: Rod Carew, Kent Hrbek, Harmon Killebrew, Tony Oliva, Kirby Puckett

Puckett over Killebrew because he was part of two World Series teams. Big Train Johnson should be on this list, but they discriminated against Senators.

White Sox- Ozzie Guillen, then Carlton Fisk

Nominees: Luke Appling, Harold Baines, Nellie Fox, Minnie Minoso, Frank Thomas

Yuck. I'm writing in Guillen.

Yankees: Too much overload.

Nominees: Yogi Berra, Joe DiMaggio, Lou Gehrig, Mickey Mantle, Babe Ruth

Jeez, the hardest for last. Berra is an obvious to be eliminated. I consider Ruth the greatest ever (he had more homers than some teams had when he played), but he had character issues. Mantle might have had more homers than Ruth if he stayed healthy, but ditto on the character issues. Gehrig had an impeccable character and had one of the greatest speeches in American history and was also a pretty good player. DiMaggio was a cultural icon and also a great player, though he had a bit of a dark side. I think I'll go with Gehrig because he best exemplified heroism.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

sports suck

6:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Angels list is missing Wally Joyner, dammit.


6:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Angels list is missing Donnie Moore. I still care about stolen bases.

7:05 PM  
Blogger Azor said...

I gather that no one made it past the Angels (okay, I guess Filliam made it to the D-Rays).

2:27 PM  
Blogger Azor said...

I should say anonymous 2 made it to the D-Rays.

2:28 PM  

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