If you have read this blog for any length of time, you know that I love writing about players (and teams for that matter) that don’t get as much love as they should. After some doing some deep thinking while plunking three kids (including my son) at a Little League game on this borderline-oppressive for late May evening, it’s time for another one of those posts. So it’s time for you to get away from the madness of work (because I know that’s where you are reading this) and recognize some outstanding players that didn’t get all the kudos they deserved.
Harold Baines My pal Jim wondered when I was going to get toe the former Chicago White Sox great, so buddy this one is for you. Actually, he was a favorite of mine unless he played the New York Yankees, a team he absolutely owned. When you look up the term “professional hitter”, you probably will see a picture of Baines smiling and with his signature wiggling of the bat. For his career, he hit .289 with 384 home runs and an impressive 1,628 RBI’s with the Sox and four other teams over 22 seasons. Most impressive perhaps is his 2,866 lifetime hits, 43rd on the all time list, seven behind Babe Ruth. In eight postseason series, Baines hit .324 with five homers and 16 RBI’s. He had two top ten finishes for the American League MVP and was a six-time All Star. While he knocked in 100 runs or more only three times, he did exceed 90 RBI’s six times. He also seemed to drive in the big run whenever the game was on the line. I would say he and George Brett were the two guys I never wanted to see Yankee pitching face in the later innings. The only thing missing from his career is a World Series ring; he made one appearance with the Oakland A’s in 1990.
Chili Davis Before there was an Edgar Martinez as the prototypical designated hitter, there was Davis, the first Jamacian-born Major League ball player. The switch-hitter pounded out 350 career home runs with five different teams. He totaled 2,380 hits and 1,372 RBI’s while batting .274. He was never the best hitter on a team but you always had to be aware of his presence in the lineup. While he drove in over 100 runs only once, he did compile 90 or more RBI’s in a season six times. He was a winning player as he managed to grab three World Championship rings, one with the 1991 Minnesota Twins and two more with the Yankees in 1998 and 1999. In fact, his final season in the bigs was very memorable. In 1999, he had 554 at bats and clubbed 19 home runs to go along with 78 RBI’s and hit .269. He closed out his career as a World Champion. That’s not a bad way to end a fine career.
Lance Johnson You might think the heat is getting to me or that I am stretching this to get another player on this list. While I am toughing out the heat with some cold water, you are dead wrong about One Dog. Anyone who leads the league in a category five times in a six-year span is a darn good player. From 1991 through 1996, led his league five times in triples including an amazing 21 in 1996 with the New York Mets. Only Curtis Granderson‘s 23 three baggers in 2007 exceeded Johnson’s total over the past 33 years (Willie Wilson had 21 in 1985). He also led the AL in hits in 1995 with 186 for the White Sox and led the NL in the same category in 1996 with 227 for the Mets. That ’96 season was the best of his career as he drove in 69 runs while hitting .333. Johnson finished 18th in the MVP tally and made his only All Star appearance. Johnson retired after the 2000 season with 117 triples, 327 stolen bases and a lifetime .291 average.
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