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Straight Out of Left Field

The Clubhouse Confidential producers have been calling my number again. Last Thursday, I taped a “Cooperstown Justice” spot, a recurring feature that’s right in my wheelhouse. Drawing from my recent two-part Keltner All-Stars series — which highlights the best players at each position not in the Hall according to JAWS — I talked up the cases of four players snubbed by voters, namely Dick Allen, Ted Simmons, Bobby Grich, and Bobby Bonds.

Alas, news of Hall of Famer Gary Carter’s passing broke in the short window of time between taping and airing, and MLB Network chose to pre-empt the show and cover that instead, so who knows when it will air. Ironically, I had mentioned Carter in the context of Simmons’ case; the Seventies and Eighties produced three Hall of Fame catchers in Johnny Bench, Carlton Fisk, and Carter, but Simmons would be a worthy fourth to add to that bunch. I penned my own Carter tribute for Friday’s lead at BP. He was never my favorite player — I rooted against him pretty vehemently, at times — but when the time came to review his Hall of Fame case, I gave him a full endorsement in this space:

I was never a fan of Gary Carter. For some reason, I always found him annoying, though I can’t really put my finger on why. It probably had something to do with his earnest, gung-ho attitude combined with the fact that I rooted against the ‘86 and ‘88 Mets as hard as any teams I ever rooted against. That said, I am absolutely convinced that Gary Carter is a Hall of Famer. I had an unshakeable feeling of watching a Hall of Famer in the prime of his career when I watched him, and I’ll wager that was a consensus perception among those of you reading this right now. If you thought about the question of who was the best catcher in the National League after Johnny Bench declined, there simply wasn’t any other credible answer besides Gary Carter.

I was invited back to Tuesday’s Clubhouse show and got to record two segments, both of which are up at MLB.com. The first, which builds upon Monday’s column at BP, discusses the wave of declining production among left fielders, a position that should rank among the game’s offensive heavyweights based upon Bill James’ defensive spectrum. My working theory was that the White Sox winning the 2005 World Series with light-hitting Scott Podsednik in left field set an example that other teams followed, but in fact, left field production was already on the wane. Also contributing to the trend, in my theory, is the fact that once Moneyball exposed the market inefficiency in on-base percentage, A’s general manager Billy Beane turned towards defense and others followed in his wake. Here’s that segment:

For the other segment, a Mr. Inside/Mr. Outside spot in which we kicked around the issues of the day, I debated Al Leiter, who spent parts of 19 seasons in the majors, including seven full ones with the Mets and four partial ones with the Yankees that bookended his career. Off camera, after I introduced myself to Leiter, he joked, “Don’t take this the wrong way but you look like a ’70s porn star!” referring to my infamous mustache. Cracked everybody up.

Once the laughter had died down and we were on set with host/moderator Brian Kenny, we discussed which team had the best offseason and why, whether it was a good idea for the Rays to put rookie phenom Matt Moore on an innings limit, whether the A’s signing of twice-suspended slugger Manny Ramirez was a good move, what A.J. Burnett’s season stats with the Pirates would look like, and whether the Nationals should start the year with Bryce Harper on the major league roster. The spot was somewhat less rousing than my previous tête-à-tête with Larry Bowa. I struggled to get a word in edgewise against Leiter — who can talk and talk and talk — and Kenny; there was one point where I was flailing as I tried to make my point. Still, good times:

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