It's The Common Man's birthday, and if you haven't already bought him a present, maybe you'll buy a book from him. Here are the 10 best players with whom TCM shares the anniversary of his triumphant birth:
Heinie Manush - Manush debuted in 1923 ad led the AL in HBP his first two years with 17 and 16, then he never got hit more than 6 times in a season again. It begs the question of whether he changed his stance or approach. He led the league in hitting (.378) in 1926 and settled into a long and productive career, though he's by no means deserving of the Hall of Fame, which he was inducted into in 1964.
Tony Oliva - One of the five best players ever out of Cuba, and probably the most talented. Led the AL in batting each of his first two seasons, and hits in each of his first three. Actually led the AL in hits five times, doubles four times, runs once, slugging percentage once, and batting average three times. His catastrophic knee injury in 1972 ended his chances of the Hall of Fame. Man, if only knee surgery was better back then.
Stephen Strasburg - Current pitching deity.
Mike Witt - Witt was a good pitcher for a lot of the early 1980s (and even pitched a perfect game on the last day of the 1984 season), but a sensation in 1986, when he put up a 2.84 ERA in 269 innings. He finished with more than 2000 innings and a 3.83 ERA that was 5% better than league average once you adjust for ballpark.
Charles Johnson - Wasn't his 2000 great? .304/.379/.582. Dude lived off of that for the next four seasons.
Bengie Molina - Solid defensive catcher, retired after 2010. Still slowly trying to make his way home.
Sam Weaver - You really can't trust 19th centruy stats; they're not good for much of anything. Weaver lost 31 games for the Milwakee Grays in 1878. He had a 1.95 ERA in 383 innings. But he allowed 214 runs, only 83 of which were earned. He did have a hell of a mustache.
Mickey Stanley - It's hard to remember, given his .248/.298/.377 batting line, that Mickey Stanley was not bad at baseball. He played during a terrible offensive period, and was often above average. Plus he won four gold gloves, and was shifted to SS during the 1968 World Series because Ray Oyler was so terrible.
Heinie Mueller - He lasted four years and was actually pretty ok for a utility guy, but his career was completely sidetracked by World War II, and by the time he got back, he never got back out fo the minors.
Don Black - He won 10 games for Cleveland in 1947, and won the World Series with them in 1948 despite not actually being any good at all. That's kind of an accomplishment.
Red Kleinow - Former catcher for the old Highlanders who really was not any good, adn led the AL in passed balls in 1906.
Alexi Casilla - For all his considerable faults and maddening inconsistency, at least he doesn't get thrown out on the bases.
Finally, on a day with so much tragedy, TCM wants to take a moment to reflect on how lucky he is privileged enough to care so much about something as trivial as baseball, and that people seem to like that he does.
Pitcher of the Night: Edinson Volquez, 9 IP, 1 H, 3 BB, 5 K, 0 R
Last night was a terrific one for Volquez, obviously, but his numbers scream out as a Petco illusion. Despite a 3.34 that's 8% better than league average once we account for park, he's leading the NL in walks, letting an incredible 13.6% of batters have a free pass (more than 5 per nine innings). And he's allowing far fewer fly balls to carry over the wall. He'd be a great trade candidate going into his final arbitration year.
Hitter of the Night: David Wright, 2-5, 2 HR, 5 RBI, BB
Something tells me the Mets aren't going to need to hear about moving the fences in again for a while. Wright is having his best offensive season, hitting .353/.443/.586. He's approaching 6 wins above replacement this year and should probably (with apologies to Andrew McCutchn) be considered the MVP favorite fi there's ny justice in this world.
Big Hit of the Night: Cody Ross
His third homer in two nights is a three-run, game winner onto the top of the Monster.
Trade Bait of the Night: Paul Maholm, 8 IP, 5 H, BB, 4 K, 1 R
Maholm has never been the ace envisioned when he was drafted #8 overall in 2003 and had a strong dbut as a 23 year old in 2005. But he's plenty serviceable as a back end starter and has a 0.89 ERA across his last 30.1 innings. Get him while he's hot.
Rays: David Price, 7 IP, 2 H, 3 BB, 7 K, 0 R
This may wind up being Price's signature season. He's striking out almost a batter an inning, is tied for the MLB lead in wins, and a sparkling 141 ERA+. And the Rays have him for 3 more seasons.
Rays: Luke Scott, 2-4, HR, 2 R
Scott must be heating up with campaign season really gearing up. He's hitting .400/.432/.829 with 3 homers in his last 9 games.
Braves: Dan Uggla, 0-3, R
Uggla, on the other hand, is ice cold. Since June 20, he's hit .113/.259/.169.
Reds: Aroldis Chapman, 1 IP, 0 H, 0 BB, 2 K, 0 R, Sv
Chapman has now struck out 21 of the last 29 batters he's faced, and has struck out 49.4% of batters he's faced this season. He's never getting out of the bullpen again.
Reds: Brandon Phillips, 2-4, HR, 2B, 2 R, 5 RBI
Phillips is having another perfectly Phillips-ian season, .290/.332/.444, 105 OPS+. And he's pretty impossible not to like as a player, even as you continue to marvel at how bad his contract is going to look.
Diamondbacks: Henry Blanco, 2-3, HR, 2 RBI
TCM had no idea that the 41 yrs old Blanco was still hanging around. Have catcher's mitt, will travel. The former Twin (remember that?) hits his 1st homer of season, and perhaps the last of his 15 year MLB career.
Mets: R.A. Dickey, 7.1 IP, 10 H, BB, 5 K, 4 R
Dickey does what Dickey do. Nothing to add except that he's tied with Price in stupid pitcher wins.
Tigers: Max Scherzer, 7 IP, 3 H, 4 BB, 9 K, 1 R
Does anyone anywhere understand this guy? He's striking out 11 batters per nine innings, and he's just barely not terrible. Then he does something like this, and you dream on him again.
Mariners: Jesus Montero, 3-4, HR, 4 RBI
Patience, people. He's 22.
Mariners: Felix Hernandez, 8 IP, 8 H, 1 BB, 3 K, 1 R
Ho hum, leading the AL in innings and strikeouts. 2.82 ERA. No injury problems. Under contract through 2014. Comes with his own sidekick (Larry Bernandez). Impossible not to salivate at the prospect of watching him work.
Cubs: Alfonso Soriano, 2-4, HR
You know who doesn't suck this year? This guy. .274/.328/.498 (122 OPS+). If he didn't have two more seasons on his contract, you might actually be able to get something for him.
Orioles: Wei-Yin Chen, 7 IP, 6 H, BB, 5 K, 3 R
Maybe it's not Bruce Chen, but all Chens that give the Twins fits.
Twins: Cole De Vries, 6 IP, 5 H, BB, 5 K, R
De Vries is making the most out of the short window he's getting to make an impression, and almost certainly will be in the rotation for the rest of the year.
Red Sox: Clay Buchholz, 8 IP, 6 H, BB, 6 K, 1 R
In his last 10 starts, Buchholz has a 3.31 ERA.
White Sox: Jose Quintana, 8 IP, 5 H, 0 BB, 2 K, 0 R
We haven't talked at all about this guy, but holy cow. Another great performance amkes him 4-1 with a 2.30 ERA.
A's: Yoenis Cespedes, 2-3, HR, 2 RBI, BB
.293/.352/.523 on the year, but his value is severely curtailed by DHing and playing LF lately. He could just be a guy if he can't stick in center.