"It profits me but little that a vigilant authority always protects the tranquillity of my pleasures and constantly averts all dangers from my path, without my care or concern, if this same authority is the absolute master of my liberty and my life."

--Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Birthdays Today

The great Reds catcher, Johnny Bench, was born today in 1947.   Bench was the catcher on the Cincinnati Reds championship teams in the 1970s, and is generally thought of as the greatest catcher in baseball history, both defensively (he had a great arm) and offensively (he hit for power with a lot of RBIs).    His lifetime totals of 1091 runs scored, 2048 hits, 389 HRs, 1376 RBIs, a .267 average and an .817 OPS, are very very good for a catcher.  

However, a pet peeve of mine:  they aren't that much better than the Cardinals' catcher in the same era, Ted Simmons.  Simmons finished his career with 1074 runs scored, 2472 hits, 248 HRs, 1389 RBIs, a lifetime .285 average, and a lifetime .785 OPS.   So, slightly fewer runs scored (he played on much poorer teams with much poorer hitters around him), fewer HRs (he played in a bad hitter's park -- Busch Stadium in the 1970s was 414 to center, 386 in the gaps).   Simmons' career numbers are also better than Gary Carter of the Mets, who everyone later labeled as the best catcher of the next era in baseball, but Carter and Bench were easy Hall-of-Famers and Simmons didn't get a whiff.   Perception versus reality.  

Today is also the birthday of Larry Bird.   If I were making an all-time team in the NBA (my son and I do this all the time), I would have Wilt Chamberlain at center, Tim Duncan at power forward, Bird at small forward, Michael Jordan at shooting guard, and Magic Johnson at point guard.  

My second team:  Bill Russell, Karl Malone, Elgin Baylor,Kobe Bryant and Bob Cousy.  

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