Mike Piazza to Hall as Dodger or Met?

Now that The Dude has officially called it quits, the discussion begins: will Piazza go into the Hall as a Dodger or a Met? First off, The Dude goes down as the best hitting catcher in the game. He was crappy behind the plate and couldn’t throw out a special olympics hurdler, but man, could he hit. So in my eyes, there’s absolutely no question that he’s a Hall of Famer — first balloter at that. So does he go in wearing that Dodger cap, or the Mets shrouds?

Piazza was drafted by the Dodgers, started his career with the Dodgers, and first made his name as a Dodger. He was a relative of Tommy Lasorda’s — how much more Dodger can you get than that? And if it weren’t for the Dodgers and Lasorda, Piazza might never have been a professional baseball player. Piazza was the Rookie of the Year with the Dodgers, finished second twice in MVP voting with the Dodgers, and was an All-Star in all five full seasons he played in LA. The Dude hit over .318 in every full season with the Dodgers, including a ridiculous .362 in ’97. When Piazza was at his peak, it was with the Dodgers.

On the other hand, a larger part of Mike Piazza’s career was played with the Mets. Piazza played seven full seasons in New York, and spent the most part of ’98 there as well, the year he was traded. He duplicated his 40-homer season in his second year with New York and hit over 33 dingers with them four straight years. His skills declined as the years in New York went on, but Piazza was still an icon there. Most importantly, The Dude led the Mets to the World Series in 2000.

So when it comes down to it, how will The Dude be remembered? I think it’s as a Met, and I think that’s how he should go into Cooperstown. He spent a longer part of his career there, reached a World Series there, and was an All-Star there. And recent history tends to stand out more than ancient history, which is what the Dodgers are in his career. It’s a tough call, but I think The Dude goes in as a Met.

Oh yeah, and if Piazza makes it into the Hall first ballot, second ballot, or before McGwire, Bonds, Clemens, etc., that’s going to upset me. It shouldn’t be so subjective. As long as there’s a place for Mike Piazza in the Hall — which there is — he belongs in the same category as all the aforementioned characters — the steroids wing of the Hall. They were all legends of the game during the same time period and all belong in the same group.

Jon Lester and Fluke No-Hitters

I feel as if I’m not allowed to say anything negative about the guy because he overcame cancer. I mean no ill-will towards Jon Lester, and I certainly respect him for having dealt with such a severe issue and making it to the major leagues where he’s even won a Game 7 in the World Series. But I’ll judge him like any other pitcher, because that’s exactly what he is. And while throwing a no-hitter in the Majors is no small feat, I still don’t think too highly of Lester’s longterm prospects, though he clearly has the propensity to dominate in single games. So with that in mind, I would like to present some of the biggest fluke no-hitters in the history of the game. After all, in 10 years, I expect Lester’s name to be on the list. Joe Sports Fan essentially did the same thing a month ago so I’m taking a lot of their work here.

    Jose Jimenez – a career record of 24-44, he spent most of his short career as a reliever for the Rockies. Still, he was good enough to turn the trick for the Cardinals against the D-Backs in ’99.
    Bud Smith – One of the shortest shelf lives ever, Bud threw a no-no against the Padres for the Cardinals, and only managed to last one more year in the bigs. At least the Card parlayed him into Scott Rolen at the trade deadline.
    Astros, Party of six – It’s just strange to see such a good hitting team like the Yankees get no-hit by not just one pitcher, but a combination of six different arms including the likes of Peter Munro and Kirk Saarloos.
    Hideo Nomo (at Coors) – In the middle of Coors’ heyday and the Blake Street Bombers, Nomo did the unthinkable throwing a no-hitter for the Dodgers in Denver. Probably won’t ever be done again. He proved it wasn’t a fluke by throwing another one later in his career.
    Anibal Sanchez – He threw one for the Marlins while I was having a fantasy football draft in September two years ago. While he certainly had good stuff, injuries have kept him down, and you probably won’t remember this name in five years.
    Jon Lester – Dominated a Royals team in ’08, allowing just two base runners. In 10 years, he’ll be just a note in Red Sox history. Or at least that’s my guess.

There are plenty more on the list, so feel free to add one if you can think of it. And as rare as the accomplishment is in history, there’s definitely proof that you don’t have to be an exceptional pitcher to make it happen. You just have to be exceptional on one given day.

Terrible Jersey: Albert Belle, Indians

Life just hasn’t been the same since Marco stopped adding to the Terrible Jersey Hall of Fame on his old blog, Just Call Me Juice. It was a great, creative idea for a recurring feature, and the epitome of what makes sports blogs so much fun. In fact, one of my blogging highlights was making it into the HOF with my Ki-Jana Carter Bengals jersey. Anyway, when I saw this beauty in the checkout line at Costco, I immediately perked up and bolted to shake this man’s hand. I had to congratulate him for such a fantastic jersey, and he was quite pleased that his shreds were making me so excited. So here it is:

There are so many aspects of this situation that make this jersey great. For one, it’s older than hell; it’s been 12 years since Belle played for the Indians, and around 10 years since he was really relevant. The fact that the guy was wearing it in 2008 makes it that much better. But most importantly, it’s Albert Belle. Albert freaking Belle. Who has an Albert Belle jersey? And who that at one point wore an Albert Belle jersey would still wear it given Belle’s recent history? Man, add all this up, and you can see why I was so thrilled. Too bad he wasn’t having any of my trade offers. I was figuring a case of Bud Light and a 12-pack of croissants would do the trick. No such luck.

Building an MLB Team with One Pitcher and One Hitter

The fine gentlemen of MLB FanHouse had a good roundtable going in which they asked the question: if you were building a team and had your choice of one pitcher and one hitter to start with, who would they be? There’s obviously no right or wrong answer, and there’s several different factors to take into account. Is your goal to win a World Series this year? Do you just want to make the playoffs for the next several years? Do you want to win a World Series in five years? Are you choosing marketable players that can be good team icons and put asses in seats? There’s a lot of different directions to go here, and since this question intrigued me so much that I asked a bunch of people who they’d choose, I felt it was about bleeping time I posed it here. So there’s the question: which hitter and which pitcher would you select to start your team with? I’ll tell you my choices.

If I were building a team, I’d start with Josh Beckett and Albert Pujols. I’m not saying Beckett’s always the best pitcher in the game nor a guy that’s going to post Cy Young numbers year-in and year-out. But Beckett has proved beyond a reasonable doubt that he is the best post-season pitcher in the game, no questions asked. For as much as he gets hit around during the regular season, he shows his best stuff and elevates his game to unhittable during the playoffs. I figure I can scrap together enough Paul Byrds and Carlos Silvas to keep me afloat in the regular season, and then I’ll have Beckett to one-up me in every playoff series. He’s the ultimate hammer in the playoffs, and I’d want him on my squad more than any other pitcher, more than the Johan Santanas and Jake Peavys who are consistently better during the regular season.

As for hitters, I still consider Albert Pujols the best in the game. He’s still young, and he’s performed at a nearly unprecedented level through the first seven years of his career. The only time he fell off the wagon was last year because of injuries, most notably his elbow. Man, if he can OPS me 1.000 with a bum elbow, imagine what he’ll do when he gets that bad boy fixed. Pujols is consistently the top hitter in the game and single-handedly makes a lineup more productive than any other hitter in baseball. He plays just fine at first base and can even move on the bases. And every single year, he quietly puts up outstanding numbers.

I don’t need to go young to start my team and hope a 22 or 23-year-old will become what these guys already are. These guys are both young at only 28-years-old. They each have at least three-four years of peak performance ahead of them, if not much more. I’ll take these two studs and take my chances. Moreover, I’ll take Beckett and Pujols and see you in the World Series, thank you very much.

Braun: Brewers Didn’t Expect to Win

For anyone who’s played team sports, you know that attitude is just as important as talent. If you’re well-prepared to win, focused on winning, and believe you’re going to win, there’s a good chance you’re going to win. But sometimes teams really don’t approach games with a winning mentality, and sometimes they’re just going through the motions. Maybe it’s because of money issues, maybe because the team’s performance isn’t all that important to an individual, or maybe because partying is more important than winning. Whatever it may be, resident LBS stud Ryan Braun felt that his team didn’t expect to win this weekend.

“I almost felt like this series, we didn’t expect to win,” Braun said after the Brewers dropped their fifth consecutive game and ninth in a row on the road.

“We were competing; I know everybody tried hard. But it’s not about trying hard. You’ve got to expect to win. I almost feel like we never really expected to win any of these games. I just kind of had that feeling.

“It’s just a feeling. Every time we were winning, I just didn’t feel we expected to win. It was like we were just content to be there and compete. I don’t think we necessarily expected to win.”

And why do we care what Ryan Braun says? Because he’s one of the best hitters in all of baseball, and he went deep on possibly the best starting pitcher and best closer in the world over the last two days. And he couldn’t hit off of yours truly in high school, going 0-for-4, and every time I see him go deep it’s a swift kick in the ass for my self-esteem. But honestly, what he describes could be a reality. What he’s talking about is the same reason I didn’t have the Rays finishing ahead of the Orioles even though I thought they had more talent. Just having good players is one thing, proving you can win is another. And Braun is also talking about guys stepping up against the best competition, showing you belong with the big-boys like the Red Sox. Maybe that is the problem with the Brewers because they certainly are better than what they’re doing.

Jason Giambi’s Slump-Breaking Thong

Roids, HGH, non-apology apologies aside, this is what makes Jason Giambi a fun guy. In a recent interview with Portfolio, Jason Giambi said that he wears a Golden Thong whenever he needs to break out of a slump:

The deepest, darkest secret harbored by the New York Yankees first baseman is that whenever he is in a prolonged hitting funk, he wears a gold lamé, tiger-stripe thong under his uniform. “I only put it on when I’m desperate to get out of a big slump,” he confides.

Over Giambi’s checkered career in the Bronx, he has left the “golden thong” in the lockers of slumping teammates Derek Jeter, Bernie Williams, Johnny Damon, Robin Ventura, and Robinson Cano. “All of them wore it and got hits,” he reports. “The thong works every time.”

I’m just hoping Giambi hasn’t actually seen them put it on, nor dance around the clubhouse with it. And I love that mix by the way; Bernie Williams seems too mild-mannered and woman-chasing averse to wear it, and Robin Ventura just seems too old for it. Giambi: Party like a rock star, hammer like a porn star, rake like an All-Star. There’s only so long that crap lasts. Eventually it catches up to you, and that crap doesn’t fly in New York. That, and the lack of “help” I’m sure has contributed to Giambi’s decline. But that golden thong undoubtedly taken from Bull Durham is fantastic. If he could ever convince Mariano Rivera to wear it … well god bless him.

Barry Bonds Now Starring in Rap Videos

Since nobody’s interested in picking up the slugger, he’s gotta figure out new ways to occupy his time. Apparently Baroid has figured out what to do in between curls at the gym and hacks at the cages. As AJ mentioned at Deadspin, Barry’s now making cameos in music videos. Check him out around the 0:45 mark:

I’m sure you’re all more interested in the cameo by my cousin, Chris Brown, but seeing Barry in a music vid is pretty funny. Of course when it comes to athletes making music video appearances, nothing tops TJ Cummings in Missy Elliot’s Work it vid. One day we’re seeing him score 15 in a UCLA basketball game, next thing you know he’s the it thang for Missy. Weird how things work.