Tuesday is the big night and we are breathless with anticipation. It’s the night we learn the identity of every big league baseball team’s “Franchise Four.” The nation is agog.
I love these contrived events and polls. It’s like the Mount Rushmore game. In Boston sports we have settled on Ted Williams, Bill Russell, Tom Brady, and Bobby Orr. And we believe no city can match our guys.
But who would you choose for the Red Sox? Who will it be when the Franchise Four of the 115-year-old Boston Red Sox is unveiled on Fox?
I’m betting we get Williams, Carl Yastrzemski, Pedro Martinez, and David Ortiz. The first two are obvious and unimpeachable. The latter two are recent and wildly popular. So who cares about Cy Young, Jim Rice, Roger Clemens, or Wade Boggs? Right?
MLB announced this goofy campaign back in April. Ever desperate to get clicks on its website, the league bosses urged fans to go online, study the ballot of their favorite team, and select the four “most impactful players” in team history. Eight players were featured on every team ballot. The eight Red Sox candidates were the aforementioned Williams, Yaz, Pedro, Papi, Rice, and Young, plus Carlton Fisk and Dwight Evans.
Swell. But how did the MLB folks arrive at those names? And why the continued Hub hatred for Clemens and Boggs? With all due respect to Dewey, Boggs and Clemens were far more “impactful” in their Red Sox tenures. Clemens won 192 games and three Cy Youngs for the Red Sox. No Sox pitcher won more games than Roger Clemens. Boggs was a career .338 hitter for the Sox, winning five batting titles and cracking 200 or more hits in seven consecutive seasons on his way to Cooperstown. And still there is no love for the Chicken Man.
According to MLB (balloting closed May 8, by the way), individual team ballots were assembled by “a blue ribbon panel” in consultation with the 30 ballclubs: “panelists were MLB’s Official Historian, John Thorn, and representatives from MLB’s official statistician, the Elias Sports Bureau; MLB Network; and the Baseball Writer’s Association of America.’’
Charged with this difficult task, the blue-ribbon panel made some interesting choices. The panel clearly had issues with some of the Steroid Boys. Alex Rodriguez, for example, does not exist on any ballot, despite his 672 career home runs. Check the Seattle Mariners’ Franchise Four ballot and you will find Alvin Davis and Jay Buhner, but no A-Rod. It’s the same with Texas. Rafael Palmeiro made the cut, but not A-Rod.
The blue ribbon panel had no problem including Barry Bonds on the Giants’ lofty ballot. But Clemens does not exist. Not with Boston, Toronto, Houston, or New York.
Woe to Yankees fans who had to select four names from a ballot that included Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Yogi Berra, and Whitey Ford. Something tells me The Mick is not going to make the cut. I’m betting Yankees voters went with Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio, and Jeter. Try to imagine a franchise in which Mickey Mantle is not one of the four most impactful players. On the other side of the coin, we have the Tampa Bay Rays’ ballot, which includes Carlos Pena, Ben Zobrist, Scott Kazmir, and B.J. Upton.
Some scoundrels are welcome. We already know that Reds fans have anointed Pete Rose, along with Johnny Bench, Joe Morgan, and Barry Larkin as their Franchise Four.
For baseball folks, this is a fun parlor game. Think of your favorite team, try to imagine the eight guys nominated, then go the website and see how you did. I guessed correctly on six of eight Orioles — Frank and Brooks Robinson, Cal Ripken Jr., Eddie Murray, Jim Palmer, and Dave McNally. But I had Mark Belanger and Scott McGregor instead of Paul Blair and Boog Powell.
Now try the Cubs. Cheatin’ Sammy Sosa walks hand-in-hand (awkwardly) with Mordecai “Three Finger” Brown. Now look up the Giants. And the Tigers. Check out the San Diego Padres, where Nate Colbert and Adrian Gonzalez are remembered with Tony Gwynn and Dave Winfield.
You’ll notice that the Twins include their Washington Senators forebears (Walter Johnson is on the Twins’ ballot), just as the A’s find a place for Philadelphia A’s Jimmie Foxx, Lefty Grove, and Al Simmons. The Washington Nationals pay homage to their Montreal Expos forefathers, listing Vladimir Guerrero, Dennis Martinez, Rusty Staub, and Gary Carter alongside Ryan Zimmerman.
There’s another monumental vote result scheduled to be announced by Fox before the All-Star Game on Tuesday night. The four “Greatest Living Players” will be feted along with the Franchise Fours. The ballot for Greatest Living Players includes Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Tom Seaver, Sandy Koufax, Rickey Henderson, Pedro Martinez, Johnny Bench, and Barry Bonds.
Again, I ask. Why Bonds and no Clemens? And where on earth is Frank Robinson? I love Rickey Henderson and Johnny Bench . . . but no Frank Robinson? No Bob Gibson?
And no Clemens or A-Rod? Anywhere? It’s like they don’t exist.
Sorry to interrupt your beach day with this cheesy and contrived topic. But I love this stuff and I can’t wait for the results to be announced Tuesday night.