IT SURE SEEMS WEIRD WATCHING THE ASTROS THESE DAYS WITHOUT JEFF BAGWELL IN THE LINEUP.
For so many years he’s been such a force in the batting order and on the field. Even when he struggles at the plate, he helps you win games. I’m not prepared to write him off, but if the upcoming surgery doesn’t do the trick and he is unable to return in a meaningful way he will be sorely missed. There has been a fair amount of debate lately as to whether Jeff is a Hall of Famer or not. I believe he is. As a matter of fact I think he should be a first ballot guy. Consider that he played his first 9 seasons in the Astrodome. If he spent those years in a more neutral park, he’d likely be at 500 plus home runs which would all but guarantee enshrinement. 1991 rookie of the year, ’94 MVP [only the third player in NL history to be the unanimous pick for MVP]. He is the only 1st sacker in Major League history with at least 400 long balls and 200 stolen bases. He is one of 7 first basemen in ML history to drive in 1500 and score 1500. His lifetime average is just a notch below 300. Generally considered among the best fielding first basemen in the game, he won a gold glove in 94 and probably deserved a couple more. His baseball instincts are as good as anyone I’ve played with or watched in the last 20 years. And one other thing. He is exactly the kind of player you want your young players to model when they come to the big leagues. Smart, accountable and ultimately professional. If he spent his career in NY, LA or ironically Boston there would be no debate.
Having just witnessed a 1-6 road trip to Atlanta and Florida it’s hard to pick a favorite in the N.L. East. The Braves are older and presumably more succeptible to injury. their starting pitching is well above average and their offense should be okay. I like the Marlins line-up over the Braves especially with the off-season addition of Carlos Delgado. They’ve got speed at the top, plenty of sock in the middle from both sides of the plate. If there is a question mark with either club, it may be the bullpen. The Marlins rotation stacks up with any in baseball right now. I’d have to make the Marlins slight favorites.
John Smoltz is the only pitcher other than Dennis Eckersely to win 150 and save 150. I believe if he can get to two hundred wins he’ll end up in Cooperstown, and I think he’ll get those forty or so wins he needs.
Here’s my least favorite pitcher’s excuse, " I didn’t want to get beat with my second best pitch" Funny, I thought the idea was to not get beat period. I don’t find any merit in that line of thinking. If you think about it,if this is sound strategy then every time a pitcher was in a critical situation he’d throw his so called "best pitch." Being predictable isn’t an attribute you aspire to as a pitcher. The reality is we dwell too much on pitch selection. The execution of the pich is far more important regardless of what you pitch you select.