Tim Raines Hall of Fame induction reminds us why we write, Beltre hits No. 3,000, Altuve for AL MVP, trade deadline power rankings and more.

I don’t know Jonah Keri. I’ve never met him. I’m not sure we’ve even interacted on social media, but Keri has had an impact on me because of his writing. Particularly, Keri’s work that was so instrumental in helping Tim Raines make it to Cooperstown.

Raines put together a Hall of Fame worthy resume across 23 major league seasons. He hit .294/.385/.425, was a seven-time All-Star, won the 1986 batting title and swiped 808 stolen bases. Simply, Raines was the prototypical leadoff man, and arguably the greatest leadoff hitter in baseball history not named Rickey Henderson. He earned his plaque with his play on the field, first and foremost.

Unfortunately, Raines didn’t get the credit he deserved throughout the first nine years of his Hall of Fame candidacy. But with help from the baseball writing community, with Keri leading the vocal charge, Raines was finally enshrined in Cooperstown in his 10th and final year of eligibility.

In addition to his work at Sports Illustrated, CBS Sports, Grantland, Baseball Prospectus, dozens of other websites, and in his books, Keri made a lot of great arguments for Raines’ worth as a Hall of Fame (here’s just one example). He changed a lot of people’s minds about Raines’ place in baseball history, and truly played a major role in increasing Raines’ vote total, ultimately helping the retired speedster earn baseball’s top individual honor.

Raines knows how much Keri helped his cause, and he made sure to point it out during his induction speech Sunday. Keri, a Montreal native and lifelong Expos fan, was on hand for the ceremony and we caught a glimpse of him slumped in his chair, cap turned backwards and probably crying behind his sunglasses (though as Keri pointed out Tuesday, he was also in severe pain with a case of conjunctivitis).

Hearing Raines thank Keri in his induction speech was obviously a great moment for Keri, but it was also an inspiring one for those of us that write about sports. Few if any of us will ever help push a deserving but overlooked player over the top and into the Hall of Fame. But as Keri’s passion to help Raines shows us, when we do good work, it can have a real impact.

Three things we learned this week

1. Raines, Rodriguez and Bagwell were immortalized in Cooperstown

Tim Raines was a master at getting on base at the top of the lineup, and made opponents pay for letting him on by becoming the most efficient base stealer in major league history. He stole 808 bases (which ranks fifth all-time) in 952 attempts for an 84.7 percent success rate.

Ivan Rodriguez caught more games than any player in major league history, and did so well enough to win 13 Gold Gloves. The 14-time All-Star was also the 1999 AL MVP, a seven-time Silver Slugger and retired with a .296/.334/.464 career slash and 311 home runs in 21 MLB seasons.

Raines and Pudge both played for six different MLB franchises, but fellow honoree Jeff Bagwell spent his entire big league career with the Houston Astros (though he was traded from the Red Sox organization as a minor leaguer). Bagwell, the 1994 NL MVP, was a four-time All-Star and three-time Silver Slugger. He hit 449 career home runs in 15 seasons in the major leagues, and hit .297/.408/.540 in the process.

All three, along with longtime Atlanta Braves general manager John Schuerholz and former MLB commissioner Bud Selig, were immortalized in the National Baseball Hall of Fame over the weekend. It’s one of the best events of any baseball season, and a wonderful celebration of the game.

Also, if you’re a baseball fan and have never travelled to Cooperstown, go. It should be a bucket list item for anyone that loves the game.

2. Adrian Beltre reached historic hit No. 3,000

Adrian Beltre will be inducted into the Hall of Fame one day, and his list of accomplishments grew as the ceremony took place in Cooperstown.

Sunday, Beltre became the 31st player in MLB history to reach 3,000 hits when he laced a Wade Miley pitch down the left field line for a double. Beltre became the fifth player born outside the United States, and the first born in the Dominican Republic to reach 3,000. He was also the third primarily third baseman to reach 3,000 hits, joining George Brett and Wade Boggs.

In 20 MLB seasons, Beltre has hit .286/.339/.481 with 454 home runs, 1,607 RBI and 1,457 runs scored – all Hall of Fame worthy. He is also arguably the greatest defensive third baseman of his generation.

Beltre is one of just four players in MLB history with 3,000 or more hits, as well as 450 home runs and 600 doubles. The others? Hall of Famers Hank Aaron, Stan Musial and Carl Yastrzemski.

3. Jose Altuve is an AL MVP candidate

Time will tell whether or not Jose Altuve reaches 3,000 hits or makes it to Cooperstown, but if he plays anything like he has this season for the remainder of his career, the diminutive second baseman is a shoo-in for both.

In 103 games, Altuve is hitting .365/.426/.571 with 15 home runs, 61 RBI, 74 runs scored and 22 stolen bases. He leads the American League in batting average and on-base percentage, and is also atop the league leaderboard in hits (148), doubles (33), OPS+ (175) and total bases (232).

Altuve ranks second in wRC+ (170), wRC (94) and wOBA (.421) behind Aaron Judge, the longstanding favorite to win the AL MVP Award. Judge has outstanding numbers this season, including an MLB best 34 home runs, but the rookie slugger has cooled considerably of late.

In July, Judge hit .230/.364/.438 – a far cry from his .299/.425/.632 season slash – with seven homers and 13 RBI. Meanwhile, Altuve hit a sizzling .485/.523/.727 last month with four homers and 21 RBI. Altuve also closed the gap in fWAR. Judge has been worth 5.8 wins this season, the most in the big leagues. Altuve ranks second at 5.5.

It’s highly unlikely Altuve stays as hot as he was in July, and Judge will probably be better. But make no mistake, Altuve is a legitimate threat to win the AL MVP.


Jose Canseco, on Twitter Sunday

Jose Canseco played like a future Hall of Famer for the first seven years of his major league career. From 1985 (when he made his MLB debut as a 20-year-old) to 1991, Canseco hit .270/.348/.518 with 209 home runs, 647 RBI and 122 stolen bases. He led the majors in homers twice during that period, won the 1986 AL Rookie of the Year Award, 1988 AL MVP – when he became the first player in MLB history to hit 40 homers and steal 40 bases in a single season – and helped lead the Oakland A’s to the 1989 World Series title.

Unfortunately, injury and inconsistency ruled the rest of Canseco’s 17-year big league career, though he finished with 462 career home runs, which ranks 35th all-time. Of course, admitted steroid use torpedoed any chance Canseco would be considered for the Hall of Fame, and occasional bizarre off-field behavior, including legal troubles, have hampered him as well.

But he’s always a great quote.

Plays of the Week

No. 3,000 for Adrian Beltre.

Also, in the defensive play of the week category, Indians outfielder Austin Jackson made arguably the catch of the year Tuesday night in Boston.

Random MLB Power Rankings

Top 10 most impactful trade deadline deals

  1. Dodgers acquire SP Yu Darvish from Rangers
  2. Cubs acquire SP Jose Quintana from White Sox
  3. Yankees acquire RP David Robertson, RP Tommy Kahnle and 3B Todd Frazier from White Sox
  4. Yankees acquire SP Sonny Gray from Athletics
  5. Red Sox acquire RP Addison Reed from Mets
  6. Red Sox acquire IF/OF Eduardo Nunez from Giants
  7. Cubs acquire C/1B Alex Avila and RP Justin Wilson from Tigers
  8. Diamondbacks acquire OF J.D. Martinez from Diamondbacks
  9. Rockies acquire C Jonathan Lucroy from Rangers
  10. Royals acquire LF/DH Melky Cabrera from White Sox

The non-waiver trade deadline has come and gone, and buyers and sellers of all shapes and colors made deals intended to improve their clubs either in the short or long term.

Shortly after the deal was finalized, I wrote about how the trade for Yu Darvish made the Dodgers MLB’s dream team. Though his numbers are down this year, Darvish will anchor the L.A. starting rotation until Clayton Kershaw returns from injury. When Kershaw is healthy again, he and Darvish will be a formidable one-two punch atop the rotation, especially in the postseason.

The Cubs won’t be easy to beat, however. After getting the party started by trading for Jose Quintana at the beginning of the second half, Chicago struck for two important depth pieces, catcher/first baseman Alex Avila and lefty reliever Justin Wilson on the eve of the deadline. Avila is a pure luxury addition, but no team can ever have enough catching, and Wilson, who is sure to be a factor in late relief, particularly against left-handed hitters, could be the closer in waiting should Wade Davis leave via free agency.

Sonny Gray was the most talked about player leading up to the trade deadline, and he’ll help strengthen a Yankees rotation for the stretch run, along with lefty Jaime Garcia who comes to the Bronx after a one-start stint with the Twins. Of course, New York was also active earlier in the trade cycle as well, adding Todd Frazier, David Robertson and Tommy Kahnle from the White Sox.

By making the trade with Chicago, the Yankees forced the Red Sox to get creative in their pursuit for help at third base and in the bullpen, and Boston responded by adding versatile speedster Eduardo Nunez from the Giants and Mets closer Addison Reed, who will serve as Craig Kimbrel’s top setup man.

MLB Analytical League Leaders

Most baseball fans understand that catchers have an impact on a pitcher’s performance. Broadcasters and writers often refer to a catcher’s ability to “handle a pitching staff,” which includes a wide range of activities such as game-planning, pregame strategy sessions, in-game pitch-calling, and the ability to receive pitches in such a way as to make them attractive to umpires.

But most of those factors are immeasurable – something most analytical-minded baseball writers disdain. Fortunately, great baseball thinkers have made great strides in quantifying at least one of those contributions catchers made: pitch framing.

Baseball Prospectus developed a defensive metric, FRAA, or Fielding Runs Above Average, that helps us understand which catchers do the best job behind the plate. FRAA_ADJ is specifically designed to reflect the contributions catchers make in framing, blocking and throwing.

FRAA_ADJ (Fielding Runs Above Average for catchers)

  • Tyler Flowers, Atlanta Braves (17.1)
  • Yasmani Grandal, Los Angeles Dodgers (15.0)
  • Martin Maldanado, Los Angeles Angels (14.2)
  • Caleb Joseph, Baltimore Orioles (11.0)
  • Austin Hedges, San Diego Padres (10.7)
  • Christian Vazquez, Boston Red Sox (10.5)
  • Roberto Perez, Cleveland Indians (9.6)
  • Austin Barnes, Los Angeles Dodgers (8.6)
  • Jason Castro, Minnesota Twins (7.7)
  • Chris Iannetta, Arizona Diamondbacks (5.6)

Useless Info

Jon Lester recorded strikeout No. 2,000 Tuesday night. He is the 25th left-hander to reach the mark.

Braves infielder Ozzie Albies made his MLB debut Tuesday. Albies is 20 years old. He was born in 1997, which as Jon Tayler of Sports Illustrated noted, was the year the first Harry Potter novel was published, Tiger Woods won his first major, and Bartolo Colon made his big league debut, among other things. Albies is the first MLB player born in ’97, and thus the new youngest player in the big leagues.

MLB Stat of the Day pointed out that Jose Altuve’s .485 batting average in the month of July was the best for an MLB player in any month since Rockies star Todd Helton posted a .512 average in May, 2000.

Steve Pearce hit two walk-off grand slams for the Blue Jays last week, becoming the third player in major league history to hit a pair of walk-off slams in the same season. Alex Cheremeteff’s research told us Cy Williams did it with the Phillies in 1926, and Jim Presley turned the trick with the Mariners in 1986. Pearce’s were four days apart.

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