The Futility Infielder

A Baseball Journal by Jay Jaffe I'm a baseball fan living in New York City. In between long tirades about the New York Yankees and the national pastime in general, I'm a graphic designer.

Monday, January 08, 2007


Beating the Deadline

With all kinds of deadlines bearing down upon me, I'm in a rush to finish my JAWS series before the Hall of Fame announces the voting results on Tuesday. Today's installment covers the 13(!) outfielders on the ballot, including personal favorites Eric Davis, Jay Buhner, Paul O'Neill and Tony Gwynn. It's been ages since I offered much in the way of Yankees content, so here's what I had to say about Paulie:
The lopsided Buhner trade may have hurt the Yanks, but they more than made up for it a few years down the road when they swiped Paul O'Neill from the Reds--Jim Bowden's first trade as GM--for Roberto Kelly. To that point, just after the 1992 season, the 29-year-old O'Neill had hit .259/.336/.431 in five full seasons and change, with a 28-homer, 8.6 WARP season in 1991 but other years worth about five or six WARP. Upon arriving in the Bronx, a new hitter emerged; instead of trying to pull the ball to hit for power, O'Neill used the whole field. The results were night and day, particularly against lefties:
      ----vs. LHP----    ----vs. RHP----
CIN .215 .270 .326 .277 .361 .472
NYY .264 .333 .418 .321 .396 .524
The fiery O'Neill became a key figure in the Yankees' resurgence. From 1993-1998, he averaged 8.9 WARP a year, including 11.5 WARP in the strike-abbreviated 1994 (remember, WARP3 adjusts for schedule length), when he hit .359/.460/.603 and won the AL batting title. His water-cooler punishing ways and intense refusal to surrender a single at-bat may have been derided by opposing fans, but when it rubbed off on a team you got nothing less than the take-no-quarter 1998 Yankees. Though his stats took a definite downturn after 1998, he was an integral part of the team's four World Championships and five pennants in a six-year span, producing some of the signature moments of that run, and it's notable that they haven't won it all since his departure. He'll have to pay his way in to Cooperstown, but the guess here is that he'll settle for counting the rings.
Tuesday's installment will cover the pitchers, of which there are mercifully few as compared to the outfielders.

Last Friday's appearance on XM 175's Hot Stove felt like a huge success; I talked for about 30 minutes with host Chuck Wilson, who was a delight -- so receptive to the angle I bring to the ballot and so well-prepared to talk substantially about the serious candidates. If every voter brought that kind of preparation to the ballot as he brought to the discussion, the Hall electorate would be a much more credible body. I'm hopeful that I'll get a chance to share a clip of our discussion.

Just after doing XM, Will Carroll invited me to record a spot on BP Radio which you can hear here (my segment starts at 20:00 or so). Also, I'll be hosting a chat at BP a couple hours after the results are announced, so drop by with your JAWS-flavored questions and whatnot.


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