Author Archives: platecoverage

A Vindictive President Destroys a National Institution


A story of a bombastic, vindictive man who brooked no challenge to his authority, had no tolerance for weakness, and hated whom he saw as “losers.” We’re speaking, of course, of Ban Johnson, founder and president of the American League.  READ MORE AT PLATE COVERAGE


Who’s in Command Here?!?


So if pitchers who strike out a lot of batters while walking few tend to be very good, is the converse always true? Are pitchers with lousy K/BB ratios… lousy?

Well, yes.

And no.

It depends.


Satchel’s Greatest Trick


To any qualified observer—players, coaches, even the owners who refused to grant him an opportunity to pitch in the majors—Satchel Paige was among the greatest handful of pitchers to ever take a mound. In his youth, Paige dominated with an overpowering fastball and extraordinary control. As the years and miles accumulated, he became the game’s greatest magician, flummoxing hitters with an unending variety of pitches and deliveries. Paige’s wit was a sharp as his control, his personality as big as the break on his curve. He took great pleasure in keeping people guessing, and he took his greatest secret with him to the grave… READ MORE

Koufax, Kershaw and the Power of Orthodoxy


Part of the Koufax orthodoxy, of course, is his legend: Retired at 30, at the height of his game, the height of his fame. And then, gone. He never hawked a book, lent his name, or became an autograph factory.Never a hint of scandal, a suggestion of bad behavior. He’d make his Spring Training visits to the Mets or the Dodgers, to see old friends and talk to the kids, and the press covered these casual afternoons like matters of state. Then he’d disappear again, go back to his life. Fifty years of repose; fifty years of grace; fifty years of dignity. Five decades, essentially, of silence. Baseball’s Garbo. All the while, his legend grew, until it overshadowed even his magnificent accomplishments on the mound. He’s not just the best pitcher in Dodgers’ history; he was—is—often mentioned among the greatest handful of pitchers of all time, more monument than man to generations of fans.

The thing is, it’s pretty clear that Clayton Kershaw, not Sandy Koufax, is the best pitcher in the history of the Dodgers’ franchise. READ MORE

Overlooked, but not for Long…


From my perspective, the best indicator for future success is past success. We had some tremendous performances in 2016 by guys relegated to teams tanking their way to a high draft pick. I don’t want to just run through a list of all-star players who played on bad teams. Instead, let’s look at guys who meet the following criteria:

  1. Good performance in 2016
  2. Played for a bad team…
  3. …at an underappreciated position.

That third criteria effectively eliminates the star positions: Shortstop, starting pitcher, and closer all have a sense of glamour even if their squad wasn’t that great. For that matter, the star quality of merely playing first base or center field is also too bright for our exercise. So given these restrictions, these are guys whose 2016 performance was overlooked due to things well outside of their control: READ MORE

Danny Goodwin: The Most Can’t Miss Prospect of All-Time


Only one player in the history of major league baseball was good enough to be selected first in the draft… twice.  He was chosen ahead of some of the best players in baseball history. And his story shows that extraordinary talent doesn’t guarantee extraordinary success at the Major League level.


Marvels of Engineering, Monuments to Kitsch: Ballpark Wonders, Oddities and Attractions


The Bat. The B&O warehouse at Camden yards. ‘The Big A’ at Angel Stadium. Those special flourishes, details, or attractions that make each ball park unique and serve as local touchstone (the guitar-shaped scoreboard at First Tennessee Park, home of the Nashville Sounds) or national icon (the ivy at Wrigley). Some are wonders of engineering (Safeco Field’s retractable roof); others are monuments to kitsch (the bobble head museum at Marlins Park). Some are awe-inspiring (the desert vistas at Camel Back Ranch-Glendale), while others are annoying (the drummer at Progressive Field). They are an indelible and indispensable part of the ball park experience… READ MORE AT PLATECOVERAGE.COM

Rollie Hemsley: The Long Journey to Sobriety


Rogers Hornsby himself couldn’t control the talented catcher, who drank himself off four teams before finding help — and eventually helping thousands of others. READ MORE AT PLATECOVERAGE.COM


Was Dixie Walker a Racist?


The only player to have been a teammate of both Babe Ruth and Jackie Robinson, Dixie Walker received MVP votes in eight separate seasons, finishing as high as second in 1946. Yet if he is remembered at all by today’s fans, it’s  for the charge that he was the player most responsible for trying to keep Jackie Robinson from joining the Brooklyn Dodgersa charge dramatized on the big screen in the 2013 film “42.” Walker has been characterized as a bigot for decadesbut is it a fair assessment of the man?. READ MORE

Just a Few Words About Jake Daubert


The forgotten MVP, there was never a player easier to root for than Jake Daubert.


dWAR Doesn’t Care One Bit About Your Reputation



Don Mattingly was a great first baseman.

Wasn’t he?


Let’s Give Away a Baseball Book! is giving away copies of “Baseball’s Most Baffling MVP Ballots,” by Jeremy Lehrman. Simply follow @plate_coverage on Twitter, and re-tweet the link below.  They’ll hold a random drawing when they reach 500 followers, and again at 1000 followers. How easy is that?

Visit Plate for more.

Bearing the Glory: Jackie Robinson’s 1949 MVP Award


Jackie Robinson was just named National League Most Valuable PLayer for 1949. Asked how he felt about the honor, how he felt on this, the greatest day of his professional life, Robinson said: “The sooner I can get out of baseball, the better.”

Imagine having the best day of your life taken from you like that. (READ THE FULL STORY ON PLATE COVERAGE)

This and That, Odds and Ends: Hall of Fame Edition


Curt Schilling’s legend was built on blood and guts and grit – but he seems intent on undoing it with bile and bigotry.

The HOF is populated by cheaters, gamblers, racists, drunks, and abusers of women. It’s also filled with kind, decent, generous men. One’s view on where Schilling lands on this character spectrum is irrelevant when assessing his qualifications as a player (well… unless of course you invoke the character clause).


The Selig Years, Pt. Three: Big League Baseball’s Current Position


No league in any major sport enjoys a similar position to MLB either domestically or internationally. While the NFL and the National Basketball Association (NBA) are extremely popular multi-billion-dollar industries with lucrative contracts for players largely funded by cable providers and strong Internet strategies, they do not monopolize all of organized football and basketball in the United States the way MLB does for baseball. The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) enjoys a close relationship with the NFL and the NBA, but it is independent of those professional organizations. Although college basketball and football function essentially as minor leagues for the NBA and the NFL, respectively, they are not affiliated with those professional leagues… (READ THE FULL STORY ON PLATECOVERAGE.COM)

The Other Side of Baseball’s Success Story


Bud Selig’s successor, Rob Manfred, will almost certainly continue to report on the financial health of baseball. While these reports may be factual, they do not quite represent the entire truth.

Part Two of our extended excerpt of “The Selig Years” from Will Big League Baseball Survive?: Globalization, the End of Television, Youth Sports, and the Future of Major League Baseball, by Lincoln A. Mitchell. (READ THE FULL STORY ON PLATE COVERAGE)

The Selig Years


“The Selig Years” from Will Big League Baseball Survive?: Globalization, the End of Television, Youth Sports, and the Future of Major League Baseball by Lincoln A. Mitchell. Used by permission of Temple University Press. © 2017 by Lincoln A. Mitchell. All Rights Reserved.

In January 2015, Bud Selig stepped down as commissioner of baseball. He had served in that position since September 1992, although for the first six of those years, he had been acting com­missioner. Selig’s tenure of slightly more than twenty-two years was the second longest in baseball history. Only Major League Base­ball’s (MLB’s) first commissioner, Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis, served longer.

When Selig took over as commissioner, there were twenty-six Major League teams. To make the play-offs, teams had to win one of the four divisions, as there were no wild cards. There was no interleague play during the regular season, and steroid use was extremely rare and almost never discussed.  (READ THE FULL STORY ON PLATE COVERAGE)

Baseball in the Dark: The Best Players Outside the Spotlight

How much does team success impact player reputation? Do we overrate players on famous teams, and overlook players on less successful clubs? Do players in large media markets get an unfair advantage when it comes to honors like the Hall of Fame?

While we might intuitively answer “yes” to these questions, author Brandon Isleib goes a step further in his new book, “Playing for a Winner.” Isleib seeks to quantify just how much team success – over the course of a single season and throughout a player’s career – influences how fans (and award voters) perceive player production. (READ THE FULL STORY ON PLATE COVERAGE.COM)

Plate Coverage: Year-end Round Up


Plate Coverage is ringing in the New Year by… taking a few days off.  But we’ll be back before you know it. In the meantime, check out some of our most popular stories and podcasts from the past year (well, five months – we’re still a new-born babe).

Visit Plate Coverage for More.

Linked on the Field, in Verse, and in the Corridors of League Power


The Poem only Hints at the Complex and Eternal Connection Between Tinker, Evers and Chance

It was intended as a trifle, a last-minute mad-dash of an assignment. An editor had told him he needed eight lines to fill before he could head to the ball park to cover a game.

And so, New York Evening Globe and Mail columnist Frank Adams wrote his tribute – lodged his complaint – about the trio that had so vexed his NY Giants. 

For many fans, Adams’ eight-line throwaway of a poem is all that remains of the famed trio – a shame, considering their immense impact on the game in its early years. They were the main players on baseball’s grand stage. READ THE FULL STORY AT PLATE COVERAGE

Joyful Chaos: David Nemec’s Old Time Baseball History and Trivia

I recently had the distinct pleasure of joining Ralph Tyko and Alan Blumkin on “David Nemec’s Old Time Baseball History and Trivia Podcast,” part of the Comfortably Zoned Radio Network.

The intent on my part, of course, was to plug the book.

That was the intent...

Just listen. And try not to smile from ear-to-ear (you will fail).


Who is the Most Intimidating Hitter in Today’s Game?


For a pitcher, deciding who gets the “Intimidator” label is easy: Guys like Gibson, Clemens, R. Johnson, Pedro. Guys who throw 95, with a mean streak.  Guys who throw with skull-cracking menace. Guys who stand you up, then knock you down.

It’s harder to define an intimidating hitter. It’s not about who the “best” hitter is—or else the list might begin and end with Ted Williams. Wade Boggs, Rod Carew and Tony Gwynn were superb hitters, but they were more frustrating than intimidating to pitchers. Sammy Sosa averaged 60 HR a season for four years, but his hop and smile didn’t intimidate anyone – meanness counts. At his peak, Edgar Martinez had no weakness as a hitter, but his preternatural calm seemed designed to lull, rather than panic. And it’s not just about size: Adam Dunn, Jose Canseco, and Dave Kingman could each launch a ball 500 feet; they were also out machines.


How Did Rick Porcello Go From Afterthought to Ace?

porcello-lede2_origRick Porcello went from league-average starter to Cy Young winner in one year. Unfortunately, it was a year too late to save Red Sox GM Ben Cherington’s job.

The Unluckiest Pitching Staff Ever Assembled


“Big Ed” Walsh, HOF right-hander for the Chicago White Sox, was an ornery sort. He wasn’t the type of guy who went in for small talk. If he had a problem with you, you knew it – and you didn’t want a problem with Big Ed. He intimidated opponents and teammates alike (he once threatened to kill his third baseman for misplaying a bunt – and his third baseman didn’t think Walsh was speaking figuratively).

He was also tougher than glove leather. Joe McGinnity, a stalwart contemporary, might have been known as the “Iron Man” – but Walsh was at least his equal in terms of endurance. In 1908, Walsh started a third of Chicago’s games, winning 40 and pitching 464 innings.

Big Ed was even better in 1910, leading the league in ERA (1.27), adjusted ERA (189), WHIP (0.820), SO/W (4.23), and saves (only five, but still). He fashioned seven shutouts, racked up 369.2 innings and generated 10.9 pWAR. For his efforts, he was rewarded with an 18-20 record, leading the league in losses (and, one assumes, withering glares at one’s teammates).


Colby Jack and the Luckiest Staff of All Time


“Colby Jack” Coombs was one of the best pitchers in baseball in 1910.

He was the luckiest pitcher in baseball in 1911. Maybe the luckiest of all-time.


The Library of Congress is a Digital Wonderland for Baseball Fans

1937-as-game_origThe gaunt, sad, sullen face of John Evers, the Chicago second baseman who had the metabolism of a hummingbird, the temper of a wolverine, and a near-pathological need to win; Ty Cobb upending Jimmy Austin at third-base, the Georgia Peach arriving with the force and intent of a mortar round; Honus Wagner, looking like he was sutured together by a grave-robbing mad scientist: Enormous hands at the end of long, stove-pipe arms; broad shoulders and barrel chest; a short torso supported by severely bowed legs that suggested he spent the off-season in the saddle.

These evocative images – and thousands more – are available… READ THE FULL STORY AT PLATE COVERAGE

Think the Verlander Cy Young Snub was Bad? Wait until You Read About the 1999 MVP Vote


As the author of a book about the most controversial MVP ballots of all time, I am often asked: “Which is the single worst MVP vote of all time?”

If you rank your terrible MVP selections based on the level of dishonesty, hypocrisy, or bureaucratic incompetence attendant to a vote, there is only one choice for the worst MVP vote of all time. READ THE FULL STORY AT PLATE COVERAGE

If We Had a 2017 HOF Vote, Pt. 2


Gary Sheffield: The swagger, the malice in the “bat wag,” the quickest, most violent swing in the game. Astonishingly, Sheffield also had one of the most level, controlled swings in the game. He was a hitting machine.

How bad was he with the glove? Put Manny Ramirez and Gary Sheffield in the same outfield, and you’re hoping they hit it to Manny. WAR estimates that over the course of his career, Sheffield’s defense rated 29 games worse than that of a replacement-level player. Of the 18,918 players cataloged on, only Adam Dunn rates worse.


If We Had a 2017 HOF Vote (Pt. 1)


He’s one of the 25 greatest hitters to ever step in the batter’s box. But when playing the outfield, Manny Ramirez looked like a man trying to remember where he left his keys. (READ MORE AT PLATE COVERAGE)

MLB Awards, Pt. 2: The Logic Escapes Me


“…The argument, made by several chroniclers of the game, is that there was no standout performance by a starting pitcher in the AL this year, opening the door for a standout reliever to claim the prize. The voters are literally saying “since we can’t pick between the two best pitchers in the league, we’ll give it to a third pitcher who wasn’t as good.”

It’s an absurd argument. Detroit’s Justin Verlander and Cleveland’s Corey Kluber were both excellent. Both have a claim as the best pitcher in the American League. Were they historically good? No. But they were the two best the league had to offer in 2016 (lest we forget, the Cy Young is a single-season honor, and players can only judged by their performance relative to the league that year). In other words, in what universe does it make sense to penalize a pitcher for being the best, but only the best by a little bit? Michael Phelps gets the gold whether he wins by .10 seconds or .01 seconds…”

Read the complete article at Plate Coverage.

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