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Randos Are Good Enough (Joe Randa Not Included)

This week's theme: fill the halls with good enough players that may not fit with other themes but deserve some recognition. It's a bit of a clearing house to let in some positions that have been underrepresented like catcher, utility players, left handed pitchers and stolen base masters. There are some players that don’t quite fit some of the past and future themes for posts but were that inspirations for the Hall of Good Enough like Darrell Evans and Mark Grace. Hell, while I’m at it, let’s throw in a whole 20-man roster worth of players and also finding a few more hidden gems.

The view of Target Field from above Home Plate. Picture by Bruce Valen.

Javy Lopez, C

Long-time catcher for the Braves, Lopez hit .328 with 43 home runs and 109 RBI in 128 games to break Todd Hundley’s single season record for home runs in a season for a catcher. Three-time All-Star, caught a Kent Mercker no-hitter, 2003 Silver Slugger, 2005 World Series Champion, 1996 NLCS MVP, nine seasons making the post season and two visits to the World Series. 260 career home runs and a career .287 AVG. Ivan Rodriguez was his contemporary as a catcher and played a thousand more games than Lopez, but only hit 50 more home runs in his career, although Pudge’s unequaled defensive prowess and longevity resulted in nearly a dozen more All-Star appearances.

Bill Freehan, C

I had to do a little extra research to find catchers to populate the Hall of Good Enough. It’s always fun to find players I’d never heard of that have resumes worthy of recognition even if they don’t have fame. A handy search of All-Star appearances brought up Freehan’s name which led to a bit more research and a few weeks later Brian Kenny just tweets it out that he believes Freehan and a couple other catchers who have fallen off the ballot deserved a shot at the Hall of Fame well before Yadier Molina, who was just named as a replacement to the All-Star team (despite having a much lower WAR and OBP this season to Francisco Cervelli). Kenny actually sent several tweets in favor of Freehan, much to the ire of Cardinals fans and members of the Molina catching family.

When it comes to fielding percentage, he was one of the best defensive catchers in history, he was the best AL catcher of the ‘60’s starting 7 and playing in 11 All-Star Games. Five time gold glover and MVP runner up in the Tigers 1968 Championship team in the year that he caught Mickey Lolich and Denny McClain. He was considered the quiet leader of the ‘68 Tigers in a year that he hit career highs in homers (25) and RBI (84). Carl Yastrzemski was the only hitter better than he during the ‘67 and ‘68 seasons and they were the only two players to be in the top 10 of MVP voting both seasons, when he finished third and second, respectively. In a bit of an oddity, in 1967 Freehan led the league in hit by pitch and intentional walks. 200 career homers, despite his .262 AVG, he still sported a .340 career on base percentage

Mark Grace, 1B

"Gracie" led the majors in hits and doubles for the ‘90’s and his defense at first was compared to Keith Hernandez. He should not be remembered for the Mark Grace avatar in the Diamondbacks giant head races that are rigged for his character to never win. I will always contend that they should just get a bunch of college kids liquored up, throw them in the suits and make them really race for a XXL tee-shirt from a package in the shape of a soda can. I’ve got some real gripes with ballpark races between innings that aren’t run in earnest. Over his 16 seasons he never hit 20 home runs or 100 RBI in a season, but he did total 2445 hits, a .303 AVG, .383 OBP and 511 doubles. Those 511 doubles are one more than Rickey Henderson and five more than Babe Ruth and ranks 54th all-time. Grace went on to be an announcer for the Diamondbacks, influencing the team to play a horribly cheesy song through the stadium after team wins, then he lost his job after a couple of DUI arrests.

Bucs vs. Nats at PNC Park. Picture by Marty Breit, 2018.

Lou Whitaker, 2B

When he reached 2,000 hits, 2,000 games and 200 home runs, the only other 2B to reach those milestones was Joe Morgan. Gold Glover from ‘84-‘86, all-star from ‘84 to ‘88. In 1984, he and Trammell became the first middle infield in 34 years to both hit over .300. Won the World Series for Detroit in ‘84. He and Trammell set a record for most games played together as a double play duo with 1,918 games played up the middle. 244 career homers, 2369 hits and .366 OBP. He went by the nickname "Sweet Lou," and not "The Whit Dog," although I think we can still get that going.

His 38 year old season he was the oldest player at the time to win a home run title and second oldest to hit 40 home runs. 414 career homers, .364 OBP despite a .248 AVG. In 1973 he was part of a Braves trio that was the first team ever to sport three 40 home run hitters with Evans (41), Hank Aaron (40) and Davey Johnson (43). Walked 1605 times vs 1410 strike outs. “Evans has attributed his resurgence at the place in that and subsequent years to his sighting of a UFO in the summer of 1982.” His 34 homers at the age of 40 broke the previous record for that age by eight dingers.

Jimmy Rollins, SS

J-Roll’s 2007 MVP season was one for the ages. He had over 200 hits, 135 runs, 35 doubles, 20 triples, 30 home runs and 40 stolen bases (212, 139, 38, 20, 30 and 41, respectively), an accomplishment that has never been equaled. He is only one of two players ever to reach more than 185 hits, 120 runs, 35 doubles, 20 triples, 20 home runs and 25 steals in a season, with Curtis Granderson in that same 2007 season. Three time All-Star, one time Silver Slugger, four-time Gold Glover, 2455 career hits, 231 homers, 470 steals,World Series Champion in ‘08 and NL Pennant winner in ‘09 with the Phillies. His 38 game hit streak is longest in Phillies franchise history.

National Anthem at Target Field. Picture by Bruce Valen.

Bert Campinaris, UTL

"Campy" was one of the great players to lead the league in errors for a season, illustrating the oddity of that statistic. An everyday player, he was considered a “supersub.” He was the first player to play all nine positions in a game. In the minors he would pitch from time to time as an ambidextrous pitcher. One day in 1967 he hit three triples in a game. He had 2249 career hits, and 649 stolen bases, was a three-time World Series Champion and a six time all-star.

Dale Murphy, OF/1B/C

Back to back MVP winner for ‘82 and ‘93, five time Gold Glover, four consecutive seasons with at least 36 home runs and 100 RBI. He had a consecutive game streak that spanned six seasons. His 31 career multi-homer games are more than Billy Williams, Hack Wilson and Carl Yastrzemski. Seemed to leave the party too early. He signed with the Phillies after 15 seasons with the Braves, just before Atlanta’s first trip to the World Series since the 1950’s. The Phillies later traded him during the 1993 season to the Rockies, before Philadelphia went on their own World Series run. Over his career he had 2111 hits, 398 home, a .346 OBP and was a seven-time All-Star.

Jack Clark, OF/1B

"Jack the Ripper," a man with a crappy career AVG and a great OBP, his personal reputation soured his stays with almost every team he played for. It wasn't for murder and mutilation, he was known as a spoiled free agent whose personality had him changing teams on bad terms every few years. He refused to play in the final month of the ‘84 season with the Giants after he had been sidelined with an injury which earned him a trade to the Cardinals. In 1985 the Dodgers decided to pitch to him late in the ALCS and he made them pay with a series winning home run to send the Cardinals to the World Series. After clashing with teammates in 1987, he left in free agency to the Yankees, he was later traded to the Padres in ‘89 for complaining about DH-ing. He played three years with the Padres before complaining about their front office and he was on his way to The Red Sox. In ‘92 it was learned he had lost millions from failed investments in a restaurant, a mansion, various reckless spending on tips and tabs and a drag racing enterprise. His career ended after he showed up a month late to the Expos and they had none of that. Despite his .267 AVG, he was onbase at a .379 clip over his career and 340 home runs while leading the league in walks three times.

Golden hour skyline view of Minneapolis from Target Field, by Bruce Valen.

Kenny Lofton, OF

A college basketball star at Arizona who thought he would be a PG star in the NBA, but excelled in baseball. Stolen base master of the 90’s and made many trips to the World Series. He lead the league in steals five straight seasons from ‘92 to ‘96, compiled 2428 hits with a .299 AVG, .372 OBP and 622 stolen bases to rank him 15th all-time among speedsters. His 1528 runs rank 61st all-time and are ahead of Hall of Famers Jeff Bagwell, Roberto Alomar and Wade Boggs. A six-time All-Star and four-time Gold Glover, Lofton went to the post season 11 times, played in the World Series twice, and stole 34 bags in playoff games.

Ken Singleton, OF

By far the greatest active play-by-play announcer for the Yankees, Singleton was mentioned as one of the great stars of his playing days in Up, Up and Away (about the Expos). He was traded from the Mets to the Expos for Rusty Staub after his second season in the league. A power hitting switch-hitter, Singleton won aWorld Series as a member of the Orioles. During his time with the Orioles he had a second and third place finish in AL MVP voting in ‘77 and ‘79 respectively. An on-base machine, he lead the league with the Expos in ‘73 at .425, but bested that in ‘77 with the Orioles at .438. A career .282 AVG, his OBP was an impressive .388, equal to Tony Gwynn. He had 246 home runs, was a three-time All-Star and was a two-time ALPenant winner.

Vince Coleman, OF

He was once scratched from an NLCS game because he got trapped in the field tarp before the game. In ‘85 through ‘87 he had over 100 steals each season, in ‘89 he was successful on 50 straight steal attempts to set a record. He lead the league in steals for the first six seasons in his career and he claimed the poor maintenance of the the Mets’ infield dirt at Shea Stadium kept him out of the Hall of Fame. He ended his time with the Mets by throwing a firecracker from his car at autograph seekers in L.A.. All five players ahead of Coleman (with 752) on the all-time stolen base rankings are in the Hall of Fame and Honus Wagner and Joe Morgan aren’t far behind him. He rocketed up the rankings in his first six seasons by leading the league each year. He won an NL Pennant in 1987 with the Cardinals and stole 13 bases over his three years in the playoffs.

Orel Hershiser, SP

Sandy Koufax raved “the key to Orel’s success is his constant striving for perfection.” 1988 was his signature season, leading the league in wins, complete games, shutouts and innings, was third in ERA with 2.26 and set the ER-less consecutive innings record with 58 innings. In the 1988 NLCS he started three games and earned the save in another and threw a Shutout in game two of the World Series and threw a four hitter to end the series. He finished that postseason with three shutouts and a 1.05 ERA and was the MVP of the NLCS and World Series. He had two more World Series seasons with the Indians and another with the Mets. He has 204 career wins, 68 complete games, and a 2.59 ERA over 6 years in the playoffs.

Night skyline of Minneapolis from Target Field, by Bruce Valen.

Fernando Valenzuela, SP

Fernandomania in 1980’s Los Angeles came out of nowhere from an anonymous little town in Mexico and roared to life with a left handed screwball. The pitch, not the personality. Valenzuela grew up the youngest of 12 children, 250 miles south of Arizona, his town was so remote that his parents didn’t learn that he was pitching in the majors, let alone dominating at the game until reporters descended on the town mid-way through his rookie season. He was an emergency starter for opening day of 1981 when Jerry Reuss was scratched with an injury and he threw a five-hit shutout. Over his first eight starts he won all eight games and only had a 0.50 ERA, threw 5 shutouts, 7 complete games, and 36 straight scoreless innings. By the end of his rookie season Fernando tied the rookie shutout record of eight that had stood unmatched since 1913 and won the Rookie of the Year and Cy Young awards. He won the World Series with the Dodgers that year.

Valenzuela went 255 consecutive starts with skipping a start spanning six and a half seasons. Valenzuela was the first player to be awarded a million dollars in arbitration. Two-time Silver Slugger, and a Gold Glover in 1986. He started the 1985 season with 41 innings without an earned run. In 1986 he had 21 wins and had an astronomical 20 complete games. His work load resulted in injuries and lowered quality for the second half of his career although he still recorded a no hitter in 1989 on the same day that Dave Stewart no-hit the Blue Jays, the only time two pitchers threw no-hitters in the league on the same day. He had 173 wins, 141 with the Dodgers over 11 years, and a career 3.54 ERA.

Mickey Lolich, SP

He won three games in the 1968 World Series to outshine Denny McLain and Bob Gibson who were ending two of the greatest pitching seasons in baseball history. Naturally right handed, as a toddler a motorcycle fell on his left shoulder. A doctor recommended that he throw left handed in order to straighten his injured arm and he used that left arm to lead his boyhood team to two national championship game finals in the Babe Ruth League. He briefly quit baseball in the minor leagues after he was hit in the eye with a baseball and temporarily lost his sight. His first full season as a starter in the majors he won 18 games and won 14 or more games for 11 consecutive seasons. In 1971 he led the league with 25 wins, 308 K’s and 29 complete games. Not the skinniest of baseball players, Lolich once said “I guess you could say I’m the redemption of the fat man. A guy will be watching me on TV and see that I don’t look in any better shape than he is. ‘Hey Maude,’ he’ll holler. ‘Get a load of this guy and he’s a 20-game winner.” In 1975 the Tigers traded Lolich to the Mets for Rusty Staub, who apparently is getting a lot of mentions this month in the Hall of Good Enough. He had a career 3.44 ERA and 217 wins. He never really got back to form after leaving the Tigers and after he retired he opened the Mickey Lolich Donut and Pastry Shop in Lake Orion, Michigan. The man was not shy about living up to stereotypes.

Bret Saberhagen, SP

"Sabes" came out of the gate hot as a 21 year old in 1985 with a 20-6 record and 3.48 ERA and just 38 walks over 235 innings. He won the World Series MVP award after a one run complete game start and a shut out in the series for two wins. After the series he was awarded his first of two Cy Young Awards. He had a down season the next year, but won Comeback player of the year at 23, just two seasons after winning the Cy Young Award. After another down season the following year, he won the Cy Young Award again in 1989. In 1992 he was traded to the Mets but his career was sidetracked by injuries and backlash after a practical joke of throwing a firecracker under a table of reporters backfired on him. In strike shortened 1994, Saberhagen had more wins (14) than walks (13). In 1998 he won his second Comeback Player of the Year award, this time with the Red Sox after he bounced back from a disastrous time of thin air and injuries with the Rockies. He finished his career with 167 wins and a 3.34 ERA over 16 years.

Bruce Valen and myself at a Twins game in 2017. Picture by Bruce Valen.

Dave Stieb, SP

An All-Star in five of his first seven seasons with the Jays, Stieb elevated the former expansion team into a winner by the end of those seven seasons. For Consecutive games in 1988 Stieb was one out away from no-hitters before giving up hits, the first player ever to lose back-to-back near-no-hitters. In 1990 he finally achieved a no-hitter, finished second in ERA, went to his seventh All-Star game and won a career-high 18 wins. He finished with 176 wins, a 3.44 ERA and seven All-Star games over 16 seasons. Unfortunately, by the time the Blue Jays won their first World Series, Stieb was unable to contribute and was traded to the White Sox before Toronto’s second Championship run.

John Franco, RP

The long-time Met converted more saves than any other lefthanded pitcher and fifth most save in MLB history, overall. In 1985, before becoming a closer, Franco won 11 straight games in relief. He started the 1987 season with a reliever’s no-hitter (27 straight hitters over several games without a hit or walk) retiring 31 of his first 32 batters, the lone base runner reaching on an error. His desire to stay with the Mets as their captain after the much younger Juan Benitez was installed as the new closer in 1999 probably kept him from surpassing Lee Smith as the all-time saves leader for a period of time.

Lee Smith, RP

The one-time, all-time saves leader, seven-time All-Star, first NL closer with 30 or more saves in four straight seasons. MLB record for not committing an error from ‘82 to ‘92. Three times the Rolaids Reliever of the Year, 3.03 ERA and 478 saves. He only twice made it to the playoffs, with the Cubs in ‘84 and the Red Sox in ‘88 and neither trip to October was any good at all, posting ERAs over 8.00 each series.

Jesse Orosco, RP

Jesse Orosco played so long that his picture on wikipedia is in the public domain.

All-time leader in games pitched, Orosco suffered through three last place finishes with the Mets and more losing seasons before he was the pitcher on the mound when they won it all in 1986. He joined the Mets as the player to be named later when they traded away Jerry Koosman, the man who was on the mound then the Mets won the 1969 World Series. For a time he was the closer for the Mets, but he was able to excel when moved to a set up role upon the emergence of Roger McDowell as the New York closer. In a July 1986 game, McDowell and Orosco both pitched in relief from the fifth inning to the end of the game, when one pitcher was on the mound, the other would play in the outfield and vice versa based on the pitching match ups.

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