Date: Mon, 28 Jan 2008
To: cooch at joncouture dot com
Now, I realize that you are probably a Giants fan first and foremost, but I came across the following story today:
I don't know if they'll have changed the picture by the time you see the article, but this is the one that I saw:
Now, the point of this is that I'm wondering who thought this article was a good idea? In the photograph, he looks slightly scared, or confused, or both - doesn't have the intense look or confidence that is dripping off of Peyton or his dad, and then the article goes on to talk about how he would rather go antique shopping than go to sporting events when he was younger, among other savory tidbits about Growing Up Manning.
Granted, I'm no sports commentator. But really? The eve of the biggest game of your career yet and you give an interview to the New York Times advocating your Mama's Boy side? There are many possibilities here, not the least of which is that people reading the NYT don't watch football, but that seems a vague assertion nullified by the notion that the article is being published in the first place.
|Subject: Jim Rice HOF column|
Date: Mon, 14 Jan 2008
To: jcouture at s-t dot com
Having spent some time catching up on my reading, I happened upon your column this morning and was outraged. Jim Rice not worth of the Hall of Fame? First, I must ask you. How old are you and just how much of Rice's career did you actually see?
I ask this simply because I am sick and tired of reading and hearing people make their judgments purely by looking at numbers that have become so skewed by the recent steroid-enhanced numbers of the past 13 years or so that it robs legitimate HOF candidates like Rice of their deserved place in history. In addition, the emergence of sabermaticians into the game has resulted in an attempt to rewrite history by using specific, ridiculous statistics to try and back their claims. You can try all you want to try and prove that Roy White was a more productive player than Rice, as one book suggests. But anyone who saw the two play would suggest the author was popping pills. Rice didn't walk as often as some other players because he was up there doing what a power hitter is supposed to do - drive runners in.
In reality Rice's numbers, when compared to his peers of the era of the mid '70s to mid '80s, shine quite brightly. But someone wise once said, "You just know it when you see it." And the stories of Rice's dominance and the downright fear he put into managers and pitchers alike during the period of 1975-86 should further his case for the Hall. Goose Gossage himself, the best short reliever of the time, said that, though he feared no one on the field, Jim Rice came closest.
You mentioned Mike Schmidt (one player) as being more dominant than Rice during the period of '75-'86. "(Rice, it bears noting, had 430 more hits in those 12 seasons)" - your parentheses, not mine! It bears noting? Hello! Perhaps that could be a reason for the vast difference in their batting averages, which you failed to note, during that time. I mean, 430 hits is the equivalent of two great, and close to three decent seasons for any player - even in today's crazy offensive game. I would even argue that base hit totals are perhaps one of the only categories where you can fairly compare apples to apples from era to era. Even with that being said, you mentioned one National League player. Forgive me, Rice was the most feared right-handed hitter in the American League during that period.
Aside from that, you are looking at intentional walk totals to determine how dominant a player was because you never saw him yourself. In case you don't recall, the Red Sox of the mid to late-1970s had some of the best offensive lineups in history, nevermind of the era. I mean, they had a guy (Butch Hobson) hit 30 homers and knock in 112 runs from the No. 9 spot, for crying out loud. It was simply a game of pick-your-poison. They had guys like Fred Lynn and Hall of Famers Carl Yastrzemski and Carlton Fisk surrounding him in the lineup. I don't think many people were offering intentional walks to the Sox at that time. And it was also during this time that Brewers (that's right, Jon, the Brewers were once in the American League) manager George Bamberger once intentionally walked Rice with the BASES LOADED.
Guys like Schmidt, George Brett, Dave Winfield and Eddie Murray all had more intentional walks because there was no one else following them in the lineup who posed as legitimate a threat. Do you think Barry Bonds would have collected as many free passes as he did if maybe a guy like Alex Rodriguez or Matt Holliday were following him instead of Jeff Kent or Benito Santiago did for San Francisco in recent years. And yes, Fred Lynn was as good at that time as the two I mentioned.
And double plays are a moot point. The all-time leader in double plays is Henry Aaron. Rice played on teams that got on base. Therefore he had many more opportunities to hit with a runner on first base and he hit the ball hard - double plays were inevitable. He grounded into 36 in 1984 - a record - but he also drove in 122 runs and his career batting average with runners on base was .313. So I think he probably succeeded far more often than he failed in that situation.
You also mentioned that he only won one MVP during his career. Well, he finished in the top five five times, the last time in '86 when he hit .324 with 200 hits, 20 homers and 110 RBI and 16 outfield assists. He was an eight-time All-Star and a power hitter who was a consistent .300 hitter in an era, Jon, when power hitters were more likely to hit .250 than .300. Compare his numbers to guys like Kirby Puckett and Tony Perez and he certainly deserves election. Puckett's career was cut short by an eye injury, but look at his numbers and realize he never was a truly feared player. A perennial All-Star, sure, but not a truy dominating force. Perez earned election despite hitting 3 fewer home runs and playing nearly a decade longer than Rice - and his batting average pales in comparison.
Also, you compare Manny Ramirez' defense of the wall to be as good as anyone's. I beg to differ. First of all, Yaz played the wall better than anyone and Rice mastered it after him. He had a strong and accurate throwing arm, leading the league in outfield assists in 1983 with 24. And he played hurt (EVERY DAY). Rice never would have asked for a day off and refuse to pinch hit, as our friend Manny has only too often. He led the league in games played in 1978 with 163 - including the one-game playoff with the Yankees.
I am not going to begrudge you your opinion - you are certainly entitled to that much. But try to look a little further into a player's career than the very same arguments and a quick scan of his statistics without trying to find out the real story. In other words - DO YOUR HOMEWORK! I myself am only 31 years old and to be fair, caught only the final five years or so of Rice's career. But I consider myself a pretty fair student of the game and have done my share of reading about the game's past in order to appreciate what the true stories are. I've also talked to enough people who have seen Rice play in his prime to make a fair determination.
Anyway, I'd love to hear back from you on this. No hard feelings. I used to be a stringer there for a while, but I think you started there just after I left. It's been almost six years since I've sat down and written anything like this, but after reading this column I just had to respond.