Saturday, December 18, 2010

Dear Santa-MMA Edition

Dear Santa,
I've been good this year for the most part. I watched both seasons of Ultimate Fighter, bought a few TapOut t-shirts and began blogging about MMA. I try not to ask for too much this year, because I am very lucky and blessed. I have a beautiful wife, vivacious daughter and lovely extended family. I'm just going to ask you for a few things, Santa. I know that there are other forces at work in the universe, but if you can make them happen, I would appreciate it.
-Kimbo Slice reality show. Please Santa, from the one season he was on Ultimate Fighter, I'd love to hear him do commentary. I'd just love to see him live his life. If David Hasselhoff is worthy of his own reality show, surely Kimbo Slice's would be more entertaining.
-WEC/UFC merger to bring about better fights. For a while, UFC was like Raw and WEC was like Smackdown! UFC was the pageantry and the big names. WEC was the place where you would see the good fighting. Now that they're merging, let's hope they bring their top-level talents and their talents bring their A-games.
-Strikeforce's continued success. UFC seems to have really dropped the ball on some recent cards. While UFC's fighters have rolled around for 15 minutes, Strikeforce has showcased top talent who have brought submissions, knockouts and fights like Billy Evangelista vs. Waachim Spiritwolf.
-Continued role models for my daughter. I talked ad nauseum this year about how I wanted to see female fighters in the UFC. I am happy to point at women like Miesha Tate, Sarah Kaufman and others and to take their principles of sports(wo)manship.
-Fighters stop using PED's. I know they all try to be the best of the best, but you can only do so much with what God gave you. They will be tested and they will be found out. It's just silly.
-Cain Velasquez's success. I see him becoming a breakout star in the Spanish-speaking world. When I saw my live local MMA, there were plenty of Mexican-Americans and Hispanics in the crowd. And to the rest of the world, can we stop pronouncing his name Vel-as-kwez. It's pronounced Bel-as-kez.
-My wife would like more Ryan Bader. And I would like more Roxanne Modafferi.
-A shower for Chris Leben. If he doesn't, can he at least look like he does?
-Josh Koscheck to explain where his hair color comes from. Surely it cannot exist in nature.
-A judging overhaul. It is ridiculous watching a fight that should have been at least split and then hearing 30-27 in the fighter's hometown. This judging really needs some oversight. Right now, there are some very unqualified judges working in the industry. This needs to be fixed.
Thank you Santa.
Hope to see you Christmas Eve.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Why Cliff Lee Does Not Mean We Are Champions... Yet

I don't know if anybody here remembers 2006. It was the year I got married, I was settling into my new job, and I was enjoying my last few days of Bachelorhood. '06 was a special year, because that was the year that the Mavericks made the NBA Finals. The first two games, it went perfectly. And then something happened. The city of Dallas began to prepare their parade route. We were the laughingstock of the sports-talk world. We hadn't won anything, yet here we were planning our parade route. And sure enough, the Mavericks had a collapse of epic proportions and the Miami Heat were the champions.

Now it's 3 and a half years later. I have a beautiful wife and daughter, still at the same job and watched as the Phillies signed Cliff Lee. A lot of doom and gloom people are saying, "The year is over. The Phillies are going to be unbeatable." The season hasn't even begun. Here are 5 reasons why we are not champions... yet.

1. The Bullpen- There were some Phillies who pitched pretty decently last year: Brad Lidge (2.96 ERA, 27 saves), Ryan Madson (2.55, 6-2 record), Jose Contreras (3.34, 6-4). But Lidge's "Lights Out" name is easily interchangeable with "Liftoff." Danys Baez went out and pitched a 3-4 record with a 5.48. And somehow Charlie Manuel still put him in the game. While the bullpen has moments of brilliance, there are moments where they lack that consistency. This isn't 1897. These starters aren't going to be expected to finish every game.

2. The outfield-The outfield was uncharacteristically disappointing. Shane Victorino batted .259. That was the lowest in his time with Philadelphia. Raul Ibanez had a disappointing first half (.243), but had a good second half (.309). Jayson Werth was .186 with Runners in Scoring Position. While he's somebody else's problem now, who's going to replace him? Dom Brown? Ben Francisco? As much as I love the puns (and the fact he was ejected from a game he wasn't playing in), Ross Gload?

3. Jimmy Rollins-You know I love you, Jimmy. Passionately. You were the '07 MVP. I drafted you on my fantasy team. I fought to get you; you were the only Phillie I fought for like that. (Nobody fought me for Kyle Kendrick. Sorry, Kyle.) Maybe it was my fault for drafting you. (Of course, if I was bad luck Adam Wainright would have not won 20 games.) Jimmy, you were injured and all, but you batted .243. You batted .241 in the leadoff spot with a .322 on-base %. As you led off a game, you batted .194. You were .346 in '07 as the first batter. That's the Jimmy I want. We need you to be on base more than 2 for every 10 games. Jimmy, you're my hero, and if biologically possible, I would have your babies. But I need you to step up next year.

4. Age-Roy Halladay is 33. I'm not entirely sure if he's human, as he seems to not age. 2 Cy Youngs, different leagues. He's the active leader in winning %. But how long can he maintain this total, utter dominance?

Roy Oswalt is 33. He's finished in the top 5 in Cy Young voting 5 times (and in my opinion, he deserved '04's Cy Young more than Roger "Bloody Gauze" Clemens) . Oh, yeah, and he's #5 amongst active players in winning %. But he's 33. How many good seasons does he have ahead of him? Of course, if the pitching thing doesn't pan out, there's always Left Field.

Cole Hamels will turn 27 on 12/27. ERA-wise, he pitched his best year last year, even though he had a 12-11 record (Thanks, Phillies offense). I'm not really too concerned about his age, but can Hamels anchor a rotation by himself? He did a pretty decent job in '08, but for everybody applauding '08, you have to remember '09.

Cliff Lee is 32. While I think we have some good years ahead of us, I don't think him on our team is an automatic World Series bid. That's a lot of money and a lot of years to put into a 32-year old. Yes, the guy went 22-3 on a team that finished 81-81. I will follow him wherever I am able, but there are too many unknowns here.

5. "Second base" (The Unknown)-This past year, the Phillies' number one enemy was second base. Not Chase Utley (whom I am trying to name my next kid after), but the actual base. Injuries hit us like Cody Ross in the NLCS. It seemed the culprit was second base. A lot of players seemed to have been injured rounding the base. Our team can look great on paper, but until we play the first game, there is nothing for sure.

So Phillies fans, right now, we have to be odds-on favorites to win the World Series. But remember, just because we have a rotation unparalleled in baseball history, we are not holding up our trophy just yet. The Phillies will have a lot of hard work ahead of us in the coming year. We have the target on our back; they are going to try to defeat us harder.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

UFC 124 Preview

Very few fights get me excited anymore. I remember freaking out over Anderson Silva-Forrest Griffin. I remember being pumped up for Dan Henderson-Michael Bisping, Rashad Evans-Rampage Jackson, the first time Brock & Frank Mir fought (the first UFC PPV I ever bought). But very few fights get me excited BEFORE THE FIGHT. This is one of those that actually has me excited. I always enjoy the Ultimate Fighter coaches going at it, but this is special.
Welterweight Championship bout: Georges St-Pierre (20-2) (c) vs. Josh Koscheck (15-4)
MMA's biggest hero going against MMA's biggest villain. How do you not love GSP? He's quiet, yet powerful. He exemplifies everything good in the sport. He doesn't run his mouth and speaks only in the Octagon. And how do you not love to hate Josh Koscheck? Is there anybody on the planet who is better at getting into a fighter's head? I loved him showing up in boxer briefs, pulling the cars next to GSP so he could barely get in his car and the fight with the "male nurse." Personality-wise, are there any fighters more opposite? Here's what I see. GSP hasn't lost since '07 and is quite possibly the greatest fighter of our generation (the Spider excluded). Is Koscheck good? Absolutely. Do I think he is good enough to be GSP?I don't think so.
Winner: GSP
Heavyweight bout: Stefan Struve (20-4) vs. Sean McCorkle (10-0)
Struve is known as "Skyscraper" because he is 6'11". The Dutch native has fought some really big fights, but always seems to lose when he faces somebody of a higher caliber (like Roy Nelson or Junior Dos Santos). McCorkle has been to a decision once and made it to the 2nd round two additional times. McCorkle is working on his rise to the top, and I see the Dutch Skyscraper as being a stop on his rise.
Winner: McCorkle
Lightweight bout: Jim Miller (18-2) vs. Charles Oliveira (14-0)
Oliveira looked awesome last fight. He submitted Efrain Escudero and ended up winning "Submission of the Night." Oliveira is coming off two consecutive "Sub of the Night" performances. This is his to walk away with.
Winner: Oliveira
Lightweight bout: Joe Stevenson (31-11) vs. Mac Danzig (19-8-1)
Both of these fighters have been inconsistent recently. Stevenson has won 2 out of his last 5, while Danzig has won 1 of his last 5. Both are winners of The Ultimate Fighter. While this fight is not inspiring me, I do think the fighters here are evenly matched. Not really sure why, but I want to say Danzig.
Winner: Danzig
Welterweight bout: Thiago Alves (17-7) vs. John Howard (14-5)
Huh? This is a serious fight? I wouldn't want to watch this fight with somebody else's eyes. Alves is on a 2-fight losing streak (and is still somehow #4 on's Welterweight list). Howard has just lost once, but neither of these really inspire me to watch this fight. Alves is good, but I don't know what the appeal is to fighting John Howard. Something tells me that Alves is too good of a fighter to lose two in a row.
Winner: Alves

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Hall-of-Fame Veterans Committee Ballot

I'm going to take a break from my topic of MMA to talk about my other passion in the sports world-baseball. This is every player on this year's ballot (aside from Marvin Miller & Pat Gillick). Enjoy...

Billy Martin
When I think of the name Billy Martin, I think of this clip from Seinfeld. Billy Martin was a larger-than-life fiery manager.

Why he belongs:

Few managers ever achieve iconic status. Think of an iconic manager. Off the top of my head...

Tommy Lasorda
Casey Stengal
Earl Weaver
Tony LaRussa
Connie Mack
John McGraw

Those are all big names. If I ask the casual baseball fan if they've ever heard of Billy Martin, chances are, they say yes. Billy Martin managed 5 teams. He made the playoffs with all but one of them (And that was the Texas Rangers). Even with the Rangers, he finished in second place, a team that had best finished in 4th. He made an MVP out of Jeff Burroughs, Harmon Killebrew, Thurman Munson & Don Mattingly, a Cy Young winner out of Sparky Lyle & Ron Guidry, a Rolaids Relief Award for Goose Gossage and a Rookie of the Year for Mike Hargrove. Look at the A's team he had in the early 80's. The guy won with that team and aside from Rickey Henderson, there were not a lot of recognizable names. His teams' average finish was 2.3 place, good enough to be tied for 34 on the all-time list. What's even more impressive is that out of the managers above him, only two managed more seasons than him (Joe McCarthy & Earl Weaver). He also finished 240 games above .500, good enough for 20 on the all-time list. Only 4 people higher than him are not in the Hall-of-Fame: Tony LaRussa (still active), Joe Torre (ineligible), Bobby Cox (ineligible) & Davey Johnson (another one I think the Hall owes us an explanation for).

Why he doesn't belong...

This section hurts, but it is necessary.

Quite frankly, I don't consider him Hall-worthy. Billy Martin is an iconic figure. But what is he iconic for? Getting sued by the Cubs for breaking a pitcher's cheek bone? Fighting his pitcher in a Detroit alley? Flipping off the camera for his 1972 baseball card? Telling his pitchers to hit batters and then talking about it to the press? Feuding with his owner and star player? Fighting with a marshmallow salesman in Minneapolis? He made Ty Cobb look like Mother Teresa at times. (I'm kidding; there was no contest. Cobb was an awful human being.)

So the argument is that the Hall of Fame is purely on their on-field accomplishments. Well, let's look at his numbers. He had 1253 wins in his career. While that sounds impressive, that only puts him at #34 on the all-time list. To put this in perspective, Bruce Bochy has 21 more wins. So if Billy Martin makes the Hall-of-Fame, so does Bruce Bochy. Matter of fact, so do Dusty Baker, Jim Leyland & Gene Mauch. He has a World Series. So do 68 other managers in history. Does that make Pat Moran worthy of the Hall? (Moran was the manager of the '19 Reds, who were on the losing end of the Black Sox scandal.) 2 pennants make him eligible? Sweet! Wash [Ron Washington] is halfway there.

I just don't think that Martin has the numbers.

Vida Blue
As a kid I remember my favorite names: Archi Cianfrocco, Pete Incaviglia, Dale Sveum, Steve Beuchele. (This was before I discovered Jack Glasscock.) But one of my favorite names as I would peruse my baseball cards as a kid was Vida Blue.

But does a really cool name make him Hall-of-Fame worthy?

Why he belongs:

Does one year put you in the Hall-of-Fame? If it does, 1971 was a year that legends are made of. An MVP and Cy Young Award in the same season. Look at this list of names who have accomplished this feat: Dennis Eckersley (Hall-of-Fame), Roger Clemens (HGH purgatory), Willie Hernandez (relievers are the Hall's red-headed stepchildren), Rollie Fingers (Hall-of-Fame), Denny McLain (?), Sandy Koufax (Hall-of-Fame).

3 20-win seasons
6 All-Star Games
Top 10 finish in ERA & Wins 6 times each
#95 on All-time Win List
#88 on Innings Pitched List
#54 on Strikeouts List (above names like Dazzy Vance, Catfish Hunter & Whitey Ford)
#57 on Shutouts List lists similar players as Hal Newhouser, Catfish Hunter & Don Drysdale

Why he doesn't belong:

Does one season put somebody in the Hall-of-Fame? Then why isn't Roger Maris in the Hall-of-Fame? Or Tip O'Neil for 1887 (He batted .435 with 167 runs)? What about Tom Brown's 1891 (scored 177 runs with 106 steals)? Lefty O'Doul had 254 hits in 1929 batting .398. George Foster had a great 1977, winning the NL MVP and hitting 52 home runs. Guy Hecker went 52-20 in 1884, with 385 strikeouts. What about K-Rod's 2008? One season does not a good career make.

His Cy Young season in '71 was stuff legends are made of. But what about '77 where he led the league in losses, hits and earned runs (19)?

The year he got the highest percentage of the vote on the regular ballot was 1993 with 8.7%. He was the 18th-highest vote-getter that year. Only one player was elected that year (Reggie Jackson). Three would go on to election (Phil Niekro, Orlando Cepeda & Tony Perez). The voters that year thought 17 players deserved in the Hall-of-Fame more than Vida Blue. To me, if the BBWAA only saw 8.7% believe Blue belonged in the Hall-of-Fame, what's changed?

My verdict...

I am still not sure on this one. Baseball Reference's Hall of Fame Monitor has him at 114. (~100 is a Hall-of-Famer) The other three on the Hall of Fame statistics have him below the standards. My answer is a very painful no.

Dave Concepcion

It's very easy for certain players to get lost in the shuffle. How about an infield that had two Hall-of-Famers, the greatest player of his generation (not in the Hall because he was his own worst enemy), and a Hall-of-Fame catcher to boot? Find for me a better infield in baseball history than the '75 Reds

'07-'08 Cubs-Frank Chance, Johnny Evers, Joe Tinker, Harry Steinfeldt (3 Hall-of-Famers)

'21 Giants-High Pockets Kelly, Frankie Frisch, Dave Bancroft, Heinie Groh (3 Hall-of-Famers, but anywhere near the '75 Reds Level?)
'32 Yankees-Lou Gehrig, Tony Lazzeri, Frankie Crosetti, Joe Sewell (3 Hall-of-Famers and a former all-star)
'55 Dodgers-Gil Hodges, Jim Gilliam, Pee Wee Reese, Jackie Robinson (2 Hall-of-Famers, a 2-time All-Star and a guy who SHOULD be in the Hall-of-Fame)
'09 Yankees- Mark Teixeira, Robinson Cano, Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez (maybe this one is premature, but we have a certain Hall-of-Famer, a steroid era victim and two possible Hall-of-Famers)
Looking at all those infields, it's hard to top any of those with the 1975 Reds. Tony Perez at First Base (Hall-of-Fame), Joe Morgan at Second Base (Hall-of-Fame), Pete Rose at Third Base (Should be in the Hall-of-Fame, but we know that story) and at Shortstop, Dave Concepcion.
Why he belongs:
He was part of the best infield of all-time and one of the best Shortstops of all-time. The guy was money in the playoffs, batting a career .297, batting over .300 in 4 of his 9 series. Let's look at his career numbers. 2326 hits (good enough for #130 on the all-time list). While that may not look so impressive, here's some players he has more hits than: Jim Bottomley, Eddie Mathews, Bobby Wallace, Kirby Puckett, Kiki Culyer, Joe Cronin, Mike Schmidt, Willie Stargell, Joe DiMaggio and Willie McCovey. These aren't cupcake, shrub-type names. These are ALL Hall-of-Famers, and some are recognizable household names. He has more hits than Joe DiMaggio, one of the most iconic figures in baseball history. When you compare him to similar players, lists Bobby Wallace, Pee Wee Reese & Luis Aparicio (all Hall-of-Famers), Alan Trammell (still on the ballot and should be a Hall-of-Famer), Edgar Renteria (a man who definitely has a case) & Tony Fernandez (one of the best Shortstops of his era).
9 All-Star Games. That is something only 92 people have ever achieved. He started 5. That's one of 87. So who else has 9 appearances? Albert Pujols, Bobby Doerr, Don Drysdale, Joe Gordon, Jimmie Foxx, Bob Gibson & Goose Gossage. 5 starts? Roy Campanella, Lou Gehrig, Chipper Jones & Jackie freakin' Robinson. (All those are Hall-of-Famers or sure future Hall-of-Famers.)
5 Gold Gloves at Shortstop. Only 68 people have won 5 or more Gold Gloves at the same position. People with more Gold Gloves than Concepcion at Short? Ozzie Smith (Hall-of-Famer), Omar Vizquel (hopefully future Hall-of-Famer), Luis Aparicio (Hall-of-Famer), Mark Belanger (offense not really strong enough to make the Hall-of-Fame) & Derek Jeter (future Hall-of-Famer).
And what does it say that a guy played in 2488 games, good enough for #54 on the All-Time list? What about 8723 At Bats (good enough for #85)? A guy showing up and doing his job? A guy like that screams Hall-of-Fame to me.
Why he doesn't belong:
This one hurts, as Concepcion was one of my favorites. While he has good career numbers, he never had a season that stood out. He never had 100 runs. He never had more than 170 hits in a season. His career high in Home Runs was 16. He never had more than 84 RBI's. He only hit .300 three times (and only one of those he had more than 500 At Bats). Career-wise, he missed 1,000 runs by 7. 101 total Home Runs and 950 RBI's. And probably the most damning, a lifetime Batting Average of .267.
He only finished in the top 10 in batting average once, hits once, doubles once, triples once, and RBI's once. He is #19 on the all-time Grounded into Double Play list. (Of course, being at the top of that list doesn't disqualify you from the Hall; the top 7 are in the Hall or on their way). He is also #83 in singles (which allegedly is looked down on today), but being high on that list shouldn't look bad. All but 1 of the Top 36 are or will be in the Hall-of-Fame.
The highest he ever finished in MVP voting was #4 in 1981, behind Mike Schmidt, Andre Dawson & George Foster. He only received votes three times and each one of those years, he was behind a teammate.
The highest he ever finished in the Hall-of-Fame balloting was 16.9% in 1998. Concepcion was #12, receiving 80 votes. Don Sutton was the only player elected that year (other than Veterans Committee electees). 4 players above him would go on to election in other years (Jim Rice, Bruce Sutter, Tony Perez & Gary Carter).  According to the Hall voters that year, 6 players deserved to go in the Hall-of-Fame more than Concepcion: Ron Santo, Steve Garvey, Jim Kaat, Tommy John, Dave Parker & Bert Blyleven. My personal opinion is that all six of those do belong, and I hope that they get there someday.
At the end of the day, you look at a guy who spent his entire career with one team. Also, the man's number is retired for his team. If a number retired doesn't tell you about the guy's value to his team, take a long hard look at it.
Steve Garvey
I was born in 1980. It is very hard for me to examine a player's career and say whether he belongs in the Hall-of-Fame or not, unless he played in my era. Robin Yount, George Brett, Nolan Ryan, these were all players I watched as kids and will tell my grandkids about seeing them live. But what about the guys I never saw live? Dave Concepcion, Ryne Sandberg, Ron Santo (Rest in peace)? What can I really say about them? All I have are the players' numbers and anecdotes of their time. One such man for me is Steve Garvey. Garvey's last year was the season I turned 7.

Why he belongs:

Here is what I see when I look at Garvey's numbers. 2,599 hits. (#76) 1,143 runs. (#205) 440 doubles. (#107) 272 home runs. (#165). 1308 RBI's. (#97) In 11 Postseason series, he batted .338, his lowest series being .200. He was an NLCS MVP & All-Star game MVP twice each.

He played in 160 games nine times, leading the league 6 times. He still holds the National League record for Consecutive games played. He got 200 hits 6 times, 2 in which he led the league. He had 100+ RBI's 5 times. He hit over .300 7 times. He is one of 71 players to play in 10 All-Star Games. Only 5 players above Steve Garvey are not in the Hall-of-Fame (Pete Rose, Elston Howard, Mark McGwire, Del Crandall & Bill Freehan). He started 9 games, something only 25 people have done. Everybody else who has started 9 All-Star Games is in the Hall-of-Fame or on their way.
Why he doesn't belong:
Honestly, I look at these stats and I don't see why he's not in. His wife wrote a tell-all book. He fathered some kids outside his marriage. He would not be the first Hall-of-Famer to live a tumultuous life (Ty Cobb, Dennis Eckersley, Enos Slaughter).
The most votes Steve Garvey ever got on a Hall-of-Fame ballot was 42.6% in 1995. The player elected that year was Mike Schmidt. 3 other people received more votes than Garvey: Phil Niekro, Don Sutton & Tony Perez (all Hall-of-Famers). Steve Garvey received more votes that year than Jim Rice & Bruce Sutter, both recently elected in the Hall-of-Fame.
Does Steve Garvey belong in the Hall-of-Fame? I don't see how you can't put him there.
Ron Guidry
Some of these guys on the Veteran's Committe Ballot, I look at and say "Of course. Hall-of-Famer" or "Really? THIS guy on the ballot?" This is one of those in the middle for me. I can't make much of a decision on this one.
Why he belongs:
1978. The pitcher went 25-3. That's an .893 Winning percentage. That's good enough for #6 on the All-time list for a single season. And nobody higher than him has 20 wins. If that's not good enough for you, he had 16 complete games and 9 shutouts, a 1.74 ERA, beating the second place pitcher by nearly half a run.  In the playoffs, he was great, 5-2 and a 3.01 ERA, including being 3-1 in the World Series with a 1.69 ERA. 5 Gold Gloves is also pretty impressive. Only 9 pitchers have reached that mark. He finished in the Cy Young voting 6 times.  4 of those times, he was in the top 5, including winning it in 1978.
One thing stands out to me. His career winning percentage is .651. That means that he gave your team the best bet for winning. This is good for #26 on the all-time list. This is better than Letfy Gomez, Dizzy Dean & Jim Palmer. To me, wins and winning percentage still mean something. He finished in the top 10 in ERA 6 times, leading twice. Top 10 in wins 7 times, leading twice. Top 10 in Winning percentage and strikeouts 7 times each.
Why he doesn't belong:
Guidry was magic for a few years. I guess what kills him is he wasn't so much magic after those years. He finished his career with 170 wins, good enough for #178 on the All-Time list. If the wins make him eligible, then Tim Wakefield and Jamie Moyer are leaping for joy right now. His career ERA was 3.29, good enough for #287 on the all-time list. His innings pitched were #260. His complete games were tied for #424. Shutouts were #161. None of those numbers really stand out to me. To me, a Hall-of-Famer is higher than that in comparison to other players.
4 All-Star games are good, but don't scream out to me Hall-of-Famer. Also, according to, comparative players include Lefty Gomez, Sandy Koufax (!) and Roy Halladay. But remember, Halladay's career isn't over, neither is CC Sabathia's or Roy Oswalt's.
The other damning stain on his career is the previous Hall-of-Fame voting. The year he received the highest percentage of votes was 2000.  Carlton Fisk & Tony Perez were elected that year. Guidry received 8.8% of the vote, good enough for 17th place that year. Only the top 6 are now in the Hall-of-Fame (Fisk, Perez, Rice, Carter, Sutter & Gossage). That means that 11 players deserved to get in the Hall-of-Fame more than Guidry. Those 11 players should be elected before him, according to the voters. What's changed?
I'm still in the middle. Yes, Guidry had some great years, but I don't know if he was THAT great.
Tommy John
Name for me a pitcher who gets mentioned more on ESPN than Tommy John. Cy Young? Tommy John is quickly becoming a name synonymous with baseball. Now, let's be honest. Tommy John is known for a surgery that was performed on him. He is no greater than Lou Gehrig is for being diagnosed with ALS (commonly known as Lou Gehrig's disease). Maybe the doctor who performed the surgery should be in the Hall-of-Fame. Why not? But this is not about him. This one is about Tommy John.
Why he belongs...
288 wins. Only one other eligible pitcher has more wins that is not in the Hall-of-Fame (HOF)-the mysterious Bobby Mathews. (Can somebody explain to me why Mathews is not in the HOF?) Yes, he played for 26 seasons. His debut game was in September of 1963. To put that in perspective, that is nearly 16 1/2 years before I was born. His last game was May 25, 1989, five days short of my 9th birthday. 288 wins. That's good enough for 26. Wanna know who he has more wins than? Robin Roberts, Fergie Jenkins, Jim Palmer, Bob Feller, Bob Gibson, Juan Marichal. (Not just HOF'ers, but some of the greatest of all-time.)
He is #56 in Games Pitched. He is one of the few starters in the sea of relief pitchers. That's more games than Warren Spahn, Steve Carlton & Pud Galvin. Only 19 pitchers saw more innings. If you look at that list, only two qualified pitchers haven't made it (There goes that Bobby Mathews again. And Bert Blyleven who should go in this year.)
On the all-time strikeout list, he's #50. That's better than Jim Palmer, Grover Cleveland Alexander & Dazzy Vance. When it comes to Games Started, he's #10. Only two pitchers higher than him are not in the HOF (Roger Clemens & Greg Maddux). Matter of fact, you have to go down to #17 before you find a pitcher who qualifies but is not in the HOF (Jim Kaat, but Jamie Moyer will be a different story for a different time).
He's #195 on the complete game list, which may not seem impressive until you remember that the reliever was coming into play more in his career. Looking at his shutout numbers, he is #26. That's Roger Clemens numbers. That's above Whitey Ford, Addie Joss, Phil Neikro, Robin Roberts & Red Ruffing. compares him with Robin Roberts, Fergie Jenkins, Bert Blyleven, Early Wynn, Burleigh Grimes, Tom Glavine, Don Sutton & Eppa Rixey. Those are all either in the HOF or on their way there (Blyleven is a forgone conclusion and Glavine is not yet eligible).
I know what you're thinking. "So the guy played a lot of years and complied a bunch of stats. So what?" There were 3 20-win seasons, being in the top 10 6 times. He was in the top 10 in Winning% 9 times, leading twice. He was in the top 1o in Walks/Innings Pitched 12 times, leading once. He was in the top 10 in shutouts 7 times, leading 3 times. In 26 seasons, he only finished in the Top 10 in walks and earned runs once. He also finished Top 10 in HR's/IP 12 times, leading 3 times. He also finished in the Top 10 in losses twice. He finished top 10 in ERA 6 times. And to top it all off, he finished in the Cy Young balloting 4 times, coming in 2nd place twice.
How does that not scream Hall-of-Famer?
Why he doesn't belong...
4 All-Star games don't look good to HOF voters.
While he did give up few walks, he gave up quite a few hits. (#10 on the All-time List, but you have to go #16 before you see somebody not in the Hall, except for that pesky Bobby Mathews.)
Honestly, I have no idea why he isn't in.
Tommy John is indeed one of the greatest pitchers of his era and a truly great player. It's embarrassing that he's not in the Hall-of-Fame.
Al Oliver
I must preface this by saying I am an Arlington native. That city's history can be divided into "Before Nolan Ryan" and "After Nolan Ryan." A lot of press comes the way of the teams post-Nolan Ryan. There were indeed some great players: Pudge Rodriguez, Juan Gonzalez, Kenny Rogers, Rafael Palmeiro, Will Clark. But it's hard to remember that pre-Nolan Ryan, there were some great players, too-Toby Harrah, Gaylord Perry (HOF), Fergie Jenkins (HOF), Jim Bibby, Mike Hargrove (Rookie of the Year), Jeff Burroughs (MVP), Buddy Bell, Bert Blyleven (Future HOF), Mickey Rivers and Al Oliver.

Why he belongs...

2368 games played, good enough for #86 on the All-Time List. 9049 At bats, good enough for #64. 1189 runs good enough for #171. While not too impressive, it's still more than Pie Traynor, Yogi Berra & Chuck Klein. 2743 hits, #52 on the All-Time List. There are only two people eligible for the HOF who are higher than Oliver who aren't in: Harold Baines (who is still on the ballot) & Vada Pinson (your guess is as good as mine). 1326 RBI's, #88. That's more than Paul Waner, Paul Molitor & teammate Roberto Clemente.

The biggest case for Oliver's enshrinement is his career doubles numbers, 529, #32 on the All-Time List. Of the 31 players higher than Oliver, only 8 are not in the HOF: Pete Rose, Craig Biggio, Barry Bonds, Luis Gonzalez, Rafael Palmeiro, Pudge Rodriguez, Jeff Kent & Manny Ramirez, none of which are eligible (This is Palmeiro's first year of eligibility). Al Oliver has more doubles than 3 of the greatest hands-down players of all-time: Frank Robinson, Ted Williams & Willie Mays. Those are some names to be better than.

So he piled some impressive career numbers. What about his individual seasons? Well, let me get to those. Al Oliver was a 7-time All-Star, starting in 1. He won the batting title in 1982, becoming the first and one of two Expos in history to lead the league in batting average. (Tim Raines is the other one.) 9 times in the top 10 in batting average. 9 times in the top 10 in hits, including leading in 1982. Top 1o in doubles 9 times, finishing in the top 3 7 times, leading twice. RBI crown in 1982. He was in the balloting for MVP 10 times, finishing as high as #3 in 1982.

He won a World Series in 1971 and made the playoffs 4 times in an era where only 4 teams made it, not 4 from each league. lists similar players such as Zack Wheat, Joe Medwick, Enos Slaughter (gotta love that irony) and Roberto Clemente (!), all HOF'ers.

Why he doesn't belong...

Let's face it. Doubles are not sexy. Chicks dig the long ball. Oliver was a great doubles hitter, but home runs, not so much. At 219, he is at #255. While it's not bad, it's just not what the HOF looks at (even though he's tied with Jim Bottomley).

Oliver also always seemed to be shadowed by other players. In '72, he finished 7th in MVP voting, behind Willie Stargell. In '73, he finished 23rd, behind Willie Stargell. In '74, he finished 7th, the highest Pirate. In 76, he was #12, the highest Pirate. In '77, he was #16, behind Dave Parker & Bill Robinson. In '78, he was #14, the highest Ranger. In '80, he was #11, the highest Ranger. In '81, #16, the highest Ranger. In '82, tied for #3 the highest Expo. In '83, finished #19 behind Andre Dawson & Tim Raines.

In 1991, Al Oliver faced the BBWAA for the first time. He received 4.3% of the vote. What has changed?

So this is a lot of gray area. I think, gun to my head, yes, he is a Hall-of-Famer. The guy was a prolific hitter and a great player in his time.

Ted Simmons

This is a confusing one here. I don't know exactly where I stand on this one.
Why he belongs...
We have some impressive career numbers here.
2456 games (#62 on All-time list), #14 in appearances as a catcher
8680 At Bats (#87 on All-time list)
2472 Hits (#96)  That's more than Mickey Mantle, Lloyd Waner & Eddie Mathews
483 Doubles (#68) More than Brooks Robinson, Reggie Jackson & Joe Morgan
1389 RBI's (#71) More than Johnny Bench, Duke Snider & Roberto Clemente
8 All-Star Games
Finished in the MVP Balloting 7 times
Those are some impressive numbers. He had some good seasons. 100 RBI's 3 times. .300 average 8 times.
Top 10 in Batting Average 6 times
Top 10 in Hits 4 times
Top 10 in Doubles 8 times
Top 10 in Doubles 6 times lists similar players as Carlton Fisk, Gary Carter, Joe Cronin, Yogi Berra & Ryne Sandberg, all Hall-of-Famers.
Why he doesn't belong...
Manny Sanguillen, Johnny Bench, Carlton Fisk. Out of the 7 years, Ted Simmons was on the MVP ballot, Simmons' highest finish was 6th place. Not only that, only in one year (1977) was he the highest catcher in the ballot. Not only was he not considered one of the top players, he wasn't even the top at his position. He was the highest player on his team 3 out of 7 ballots.
While he had good seasons, the categories he ever led the league in was Intentional Walks in '76 & '77 and Grounding Into Double Plays in 1973.
The only year Simmons was on the HOF ballot was 1994. That year he was in 26th place for the voting, good enough for 3.7%.
Simmons has one thing going for him. He was a catcher. But even then, he wasn't the greatest catcher of his era. My vote is a no.
Rusty Staub
So it's come down to my final one, Rusty Staub. This is a player I never got to see play, so all I have to go on are his numbers and first hand accounts.

Why he belongs...

The biggest argument 2951 Games played. That sounds "meh" until you put it in perspective. That's #12 on the All-time list. Everybody above him is a HOFer or should be (Pete Rose & Barry Bonds). You have to go to #19 before you find somebody who is not in the HOF (Harold Baines) or shook his finger at Congress (Hi, Rafael), #28 until you find somebody not currently on the ballot not in the HOF (Graig Nettles).

9720 At Bats. That's #33 on the All-Time List. Staub is the highest player on the list not in the HOF or the current HOF ballot.

1189 Runs. While not exceptional, still good enough for #171.

2716 Hits. That's #57. Wanna know who has more hits that's not in the HOF? Harold Baines, Vada Pinson, Roberto Alomar & Al Oliver. With the exception of Pinson, all others are on the ballot this year. That's also more than Ted Williams, Jimmie Foxx & Reggie Jackson.

499 Doubles. That's #52. Mark Grace is the only eligible baseball player not in the HOF or not currently on the ballot. That's more doubles than Al Kaline, Mel Ott & Lou Brock.

292 Home Runs. While that's #134 now, remember that there are 85 players above Rusty Staub who played after 1986. Less than 5 years ago, Staub was a lot closer to the top. This players is getting compared with a bunch of juiced-up roadheads, and that's simply not fair.

1466 RBI's, #54. That's tied with Ed Delahanty. That's more than Eddie Mathews, Yogi Berra & Robin Yount.

1255 Walks, #48. While walks are not necessarily a big plus (ask Eddie Yost), it still shows his ability to reach base.

So while those are good career numbers, what about his single seasons? Top 10 in runs twice. Top 10 in hits, batting average & RBI's 4 times each. Top 10 in doubles & walks 6 times each.

Why he doesn't belong...
6 All-Star Games (1 start) are good, but not great.

He finished in MVP voting 7 times, never finishing higher than 5th.

In HOF voting, the highest percentage he ever received was 7.9%. What's changed?

I think Rusty Staub should someday be a Hall-of-Famer. He's just waiting for a few people at his level to get in to prove his worth.