Bill Madden of the New York Daily News wrote a column the other day explaining — among other things — why he checked off Placido Polanco’s name on his Hall of Fame ballot. Predictably, the reaction on social media has been anything but kind. There are two reasons for that: 1. While he was a fine player during his day, Polanco falls short of traditional Hall standards. 2. Social media is social media.
Let’s pause for a moment to define a pair of idioms:
“Maddening crowd” means that the crowd is driving one mad.
“Madding crowd” means that the crowd itself is mad.
Back to Madden’s opinion(s).
While his perspective was maddening to many of you, I found it interesting. (Calm down; I don’t view Polanco as being Hall-worthy either. No need to @ me.)
Madden noting that Polanco boasts the highest fielding percentage in history at both second base and third base was especially eye-opening. Does the stat itself need to be taken with a sizable grain of salt? Of course it does. Even so, Polanco having that dual honor is impressive. So are some of the Dominican infielder’s other accomplishments. He was a very good player.
Again, I don’t think he’s a Hall of Famer. Frankly, he’s probably not even borderline. He’s in whatever category exists just beyond borderline.
Which brings us back to the New York Daily News column and the ensuing howls from the madding crowd, They are what they are. Not everyone shares the same opinions on the great game of baseball, nor of the players who play it. That’s why Hall of Fame debates are fun. It’s also why they’re sometimes maddening.
Austin Wynns is a success story. The 27-year-old broke into the bigs with the Orioles this past summer, and he did so as a lightly-regarded prospect. An un-touted player in a nondescript system, he reached Baltimore with a ho-hum .699 OPS in parts of six minor-league seasons. Known primarily for his defense, he arrived having effectively blocked out every suggestion that he wasn’t good enough to reach the pinnacle of his profession.
“I never settled,” Wynns told me in September. “Every year, I had to prove myself. Through my grind, through my journey, I took every opportunity by the horns and rolled with it. I did everything I could.”
The ride wasn’t a smooth one. When you’re a 10th-round draft pick with limited offensive skills, there is no fast track. What there is is an unpaved road laden with traffic stops. Wynns just kept driving. Thanks to dogged determination and expensive off-season hitting lessons he was able to leapfrog every hurdle.
OK, I made up the part about expensive off-season hitting lessons. I did so as an excuse to point out that an industry swimming in money pays its minor-leaguers peanuts. (If the Save America’s Pastime act isn’t the most-disingenuously-named piece of legislation out there — at least in terms of sports — I don’t know what is.)
Having been a lower-round pick — and a senior sign to boot — the bonus money Wynns received was anything but life-changing. Pair that with meager wages and it’s safe to say that keeping his head above water has been a higher priority. That was especially true following his first professional season.
“I worked at CostCo — ‘morning merch’ — stocking liquor from 5 a.m. to 10 a.m.,” explained Wynns. “I needed money.”
To this day, he possesses earning potential beyond his chosen profession. Wynns has a degree in Criminology from Fresno State, and had his baseball career failed to gain traction, his backup plan was to be a private investigator or a detective. I asked the overachieving backstop if that’s his post-baseball plan.
“It’s always good to have that piece of paper,” was Wynns’s response. “Who knows where life is going to take you? You have to just worry about the day.”
RANDOM HITTER-PITCHER MATCHUPS
Seth Lugo hasn’t exactly been a fixture here at FanGraphs, but we have featured the Mets right-hander a few times recently. In October, his slider was included in our Learning and Developing a Pitch series. Just last week, in a similar and far-more-expansive piece, he told the story of his tennis-ball-container curveball.
Today we hear from the 29-year-old Centenary College product on a much different subject.
“I can swing it a little,” Lugo told me when asked about his hitting prowess. “I wouldn’t call myself a good hitter, but I’m not afraid to step in the box. I played some center field my last year of college, and I have a home run (at Citi Field, against Colorado’s Chris Rusin, in 2017).”
Despite the presence of a long ball on his resume, Lugo isn’t an advocate of elevating. At least not with a bat in his hand.
“I don’t like the launch angle stuff,” informed Lugo, who is likewise not a fan of the DH rule. “I’m an ex-starter, so I’ve worked on my swing. Driving that back knee and keeping your weight back to get to the pitch down… I mean, it helps you lift the balI, but it makes it harder to get to the pitch up. Launch angle… I don’t really even like the term.”
Paul “Big Poison” Waner is in the Hall of Fame with a 134 adjusted OPS and 74.7 WAR. His brother, Lloyd “Little Poison” Waner, is in the Hall of Fame with a 99 adjusted OPS and 25 WAR. Both were outfielders.
Jerry Weinstein is the recipient of Baseball America’s 2018 Tony Gwynn Lifetime Achievement Award. Currently employed by the Colorado Rockies, Weinstein has worn many hats within the game — both literally and figuratively — for over five decades.
Yokohama BayStars outfielder Yoshitomo Tsutsugo has reportedly expressed interest in taking his game from NPB to MLB. The 27-year-old left-handed hitter homered 38 times this year, and has gone deep 110 times over the past three seasons.
On Tuesday, Yoshihiro Maru was named MVP of NPB’s Central League. On Friday, it was reported that the 29-year-old outfielder will leave the Hiroshima Carp and sign a free-agent contract with the Yomiuri Giants.
Estrellas de Oriente, whose roster includes Francisco Mejia and Fernando Tatis Jr., is atop the standings in the 2018 Liga de Beisbol Dominicano. All six teams in the highly-competitive winter league have between 18 and 22 wins on the season.
Mary Pratt, who played for the Rockford Peaches and the Kenosha Comets in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League from 1943 -1947, celebrated her 100th birthday on Friday. Pratt lives in Massachusetts.
He’s not one of bigger names available, but Alex Wilson will almost assuredly add value to one of the 30 MLB teams next season. The reliable reliever was non-tendered by the Detroit Tigers this past week, despite a track record of dependability and durability. In four seasons with the AL Central club, Wilson averaged 62 appearances annually and had a more-than-respectable 3.20 ERA. Heading into his age-32 campaign, the Hurricane, West Virginia product represents a cost-effective option for teams in want of a no-frills bullpen depth.
In 1985, then-commissioner Peter Ueberroth said the following: “Baseball must remain free from any connection between it and gambling. That is vital.”
Fast forward to this past Tuesday. Commenting on the announcement that MLB will be partnering with MGM, current-commissioner Rob Manfred said that “sports gaming can be an important source of fan engagement.”
The long-term ramifications of this decision remain to be seen. MLB presumably believes they’re making a safe bet here — times change, and the Black Sox scandal was a century ago — but let’s at least be honest with the terminology. Calling gambling gaming doesn’t make it something other than gambling. It simply makes it gambling called gaming.
LINKS YOU’LL LIKE
What did a typical 2018 starter look like? Steven Martano gave us an answer at Beyond The Box Score.
RANDOM FACTS AND STATS
Billy Hamilton has slashed .356/.382/.493 in 77 career plate appearances at Coors Field.
Matt Wieters hit 22 home runs in each of the 2011 and 2013 seasons. Both years he homered 11 times batting right-handed and 11 times batting left-handed. Over his career, Wieters has homered exactly twice as often from the left side (90) as he has from the right side (45).
In 1968, Denny McLain finished the season 31-6. His Detroit Tigers teammate Jon Warden finished the season 4-1. McLain got his first win on April 21. The previous day, Warden saw his his record go to 3-0. He’d pitched three-and-a-third innings, with all of his wins coming in relief.
From 1992-1996, Cleveland Indians outfielder Kenny Lofton stole 325 bases and struck out 324 times.
From 1921-1930, Cleveland Indians shortstop Joe Sewell slashed .320/.397/.429 and struck out 95 times in 6,497 plate appearances.
In 1899, Sport McAllister pitched in three games for the Cleveland Spiders. He also played 79 games in the outfield, 17 at catcher, seven at third base, six at first base, three at shortstop, and one at second base. The Spiders finished with a record of 20-134.
In 1973, Carl Yastrzemski started 104 games at first base, 15 in left field, and… 32 at third base. Raise your hand if you didn’t know Yaz saw action at the hot corner.
David Laurila grew up in Michigan's Upper Peninsula and now writes about baseball from his home in Cambridge, Mass. He authored the Prospectus Q&A series at Baseball Prospectus from December 2006-May 2011 before being claimed off waivers by FanGraphs. He can be followed on Twitter @DavidLaurilaQA.