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Almost Cooperstown

Author: Gordon Kolier & Mark Kolier

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Baseball began in the U.S and is the professional sport that has the longest history. We launched Almost Cooperstown by noting that baseball contains a long history of players that for whatever reasons, have been shunned by the electors of the Hall of Fame. With less than 2% of the 19,000 players in the HOF, we feel there should be more players included. In these podcasts we discuss the HOF as well as all topics related to the game we love to watch and talk about.
29 Episodes
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No we don't actually HAVE a vote but if we did...On January 21 the votes for the 2021 Hall of Fame will be announced.  Hopefully the ceremony in Cooperstown, NY will take place this summer. Actual voters can vote for up to 10 players that have played 10 years in MLB and appear for the first time or remain on the ballot for a total of 10 years.  If a player does not receive 5% of all votes cast he drops off the ballot for the following year. At that point it's up to various committees (Veteran, Old-timer etc.) to vote a player in after his playing eligibility. 
As fans know, there was no Minor League (or college) baseball this past season.  To make things more challenging MLB has made the biggest changes in MiLB in nearly 60 years.  The farm systems developed by Branch Rickey in the 1930's are nearly unrecognizable today. There are many notable Minor League Baseball players like Michael Jordan and Tim Tebow (who will try again this season to be a NY Met). What kind of future does Minor League baseball have in the U.S.?  Should MLB consider supplying college teams with wood bats?  We're fans of Minor League baseball in general yet aware that there are many more entertainment options that put the future of MiLB in jeopardy. 
The last teams to come into MLB are now 23 seasons old (1998 the Rays and D'Backs).  For 60 years there were only 16 teams in MLB.  After the Dodgers and Giants moved in 1958, expansion really began to take off in 1961 with the Los Angeles Angels and another incarnation of the Washington Senators when the previous Senators team moved to Minnesota to become the Twins. With franchise valuations continuing to increase it's highly likely that baseball will further expand both domestically and internationally?  Where it goes next is still anyone's guess.  We track the history of MLB expansion in under 30 minutes.   
In the pre-1900's days of professional baseball teams did not travel all that far to play games which often were played on Sunday afternoon.  By 1901 with the birth of the American League, teams traveled by train and even by boat. No other sport to this day has scheduled road trips like baseball.  With a 162 game schedule, players still leave home and go on the road for as long as 2 weeks.  Sportswriters no longer get to travel on the team plane as they once did on the trains that would carry teams from city to city until air travel for MLB teams became the standard in the last 1950's.  The writers and players had a very different relationship during the days of train travel and some of the most quotable characters were baseball players providing juicy nuggets for famous and aspiring sportswriters.  Yogi Berra, Dizzy Dean, and Ralph Kiner are just a few of the most quotable players from the first half of the 20th century.  Today of course it's all about social media posts.  
A baseball game can be started with a few players,  ball and a bat.  Organized baseball started in the 1850s and there were no baseball gloves.  We don't talk much about gloves and catcher's equipment but we do talk about how far technology in baseball has come and how it impacts the game. Technology is not always about gadgets.  Think of 'Tommy John' surgery and how that procedure has impacted and will continue to impact the game.  How about robot umpires? The article Gordon mentioned can be found at: Baseball.physics.illinois.edu/trackingbaseballs.pdf
Just like the MLB season, we made it through this our last episode of Season 1.  We talk a bit about the excellent Dodgers-Rays World Series and reminisce over the short 60 game season.   If you have an idea for an episode you can email us at almostcooperstown@gmail.com or our Twitter feed @AlmostCoop Corrections: Bill Madlock won 4 batting titles in the NL only.  Brad Hand had 29Ks and 4BB is 2020 along with 16 saves.  84Ks in 2019.  Thanks so much for listening, we really appreciate it! Note: We will release episodes every other week until the season resumes in late March 2021.   
There was even a movie about it - Mr. 3000 with Bernie Mac.  Yes he actually swung a bat.  3,000  career base hits has been am almost guaranteed ticket to Cooperstown.  The only players that have 3,000 hits and are not in the Baseball Hall of Fame are either active, too recently retired or they have been associated with gambling or performance enhancing substances.  We talk about 3,000 career hits being more difficult to achieve as the game has changed and that 2,800 hits might be enough for induction - barring extenuating circumstances of course.  
Future Hall of Famers as you'd expect are not normally traded at the height of their careers.  But it does happen for a variety of reasons.  Being a future HOF'er, being traded and then winning a World Series with the new team has to be a very special feeling for both the player and the team.  It's actually surprising to consider how many HOF players have been traded during their careers.  Some trades work out better than others. 
We talked about the National League teams best player ever in the franchise in Ep. 20.  Since franchises can move around there are questions about teams like the A's (Philly, KC, and Oakland) and the 'new' Washington Senators (1961-71) who moved to Texas and the 'old' Washington Senators who moved to Minnesota in 1961 to become the Twins. Great players will always be great players in their era but it is challenging to compare players from the early 20th century to those in today's game since the game is played so differently.  
Having the designation of being a MLB 'best player in the history of the franchise' is both a fun and dicey topic. Some of them are true no-brainers but others are not as crystal clear. Franchise length has something to do with as well since how to compare the Cubs (pre-dating 1900) franchise with the Marlins (1993)? To be a best player in franchise history means the player was there for at least 7 or 8 years at minimum.  We went deep and will cover the AL in Episode 21. Correction:  Billy Williams of the Cubs is of course in the HOF! 
Great stretch runs like the ones we talked about in Episode 18 often have a corresponding team collapse that impacts the playoff race. There have been collapses over the years including our favorite team the @Mets. The Yankees-Red Sox race of 1978 - a great stretch run and a team collapse at the same time?  
For baseball fans their favorite team's stretch run is something that lives on and on even through generations.  Starting with the Miracle Braves of 1914 (they were in Boston at the time), we talk about some of the most memorable stretch runs over the past 120 years.  A great stretch run should be combined with a World Series victory.  We did not adequately mention the 2008 Phillies who came from behind (again) to beat our choking Mets and went on to win their second World Series overall and their first in 28 years.  
Sitting in the dugout for two hours, waiting for that tap on the shoulder, pinch hitters have always lacked job security. Now with the Universal DH it's a fair bet that there will be fewer pinch hitting appearances per game than any season in recent memory. We talk about the best PH's of all-time which isn't necessarily a list of players everyone will know. 
Since 1900 there have been hundreds of no-hitters thrown in MLB.  The most recent no-no from Lucas Giolito of the White Sox puts the ChiSox in 2nd place all time for no hitters by a team.  Who do you think is #1?  And can you name the one team that does not have a no-hitter? 
There are 333 individuals in the Baseball Hall of Fame 235 players, 35 Negro Leaguers, 31 executives but only 22 managers. Too few? Too many? Are there any current managers that are likely to be enshrined? This is probably the only time we will ever talk about managers as we like talking about players much more.  
In the modern era (1900) there have been 14 triple crowns won by 12 players. None in the National League since 1937. There have been some near-misses as well as controversy since the RBI was not even an official statistic until 1920.  
Over the years baseball has seen several significant rule changes that were instituted 'in the best interests of the game'.  MLB and the current commissioner Rob Manfred are concerned with all the strikeouts and have discussed the possibility of banning the infield shift. We don't agree. 
Every baseball generation has its all-time greats. Today's players are no exception.  We talk about 9 'no doubters' playing today who will have their plaque and be enshrined in Cooperstown.  There are also a host of players who either have not quite done enough yet or who will most likely fall short and truly be a part of 'Almost Cooperstown'. 
Baseball has provided some of the most colorful nicknames of any professional sport.  We talk about the great nicknames, the not-so-great nicknames and the surprising fact that there are not many active players with nicknames - good or bad.  
What makes a top tier fan base?  How about showing up for your team both in the season as well as ALWAYS showing up for playoff games.  Baseball has some historically great fan bases you might expect to be near the top of any list. But there might be a few surprises as we discuss our top 10 and all the others. 
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