posted on Nov, 21 2005 @ 10:37 PM
If Nolan Ryan is a "cult leader," then Dave Kingman should be one, too. Whenever Kingman came to the plate against my team in a crunch situation, I
was scared to death. I'm sure you were, too. When he retired, before Steroid Ball, he was #5 all time in HR-to-AB ratio, trailing only Babe Ruth,
Ralph Kiner, Harmon Killebrew and Ted Williams... and you could make a good case Kiner shouldn't have counted, since he barely played 10 years.
But, of course, Kingman was a one-dimensional player who had enormous liabilities. He is one of only two players, I believe, who had more than double
the average rate of errors at his position for his career, and this was true both in LF and at 1B, which is pitiful. He was no kind of baserunner.
He struck out like it was an artistic feat. Despite his enormous career HR %, he had a laughable career on-base percentage... and I can tell you from
following him during his last 3 years, with the A's, that he drew some intentional walks because he was still hitting about 35 HR per year, the most
ever for a player at career's end.
Above all, Kingman is one of those baseball guys whose funeral will someday be held in a men's fitting room... with room left to spare. It's well
known the only former MLB players at Ty Cobb's funeral were HOF'ers Mickey Cochrane (who belongs there, and is probably still one of the 5 greatest
MLB catchers ever) and Ray Schalk (who belongs in the HOF like I do). Cobb had supported both men in his/their final years because they were down on
their luck... Cochrane having been so ever since he was hit in the head and nearly killed in 1937, while he was the Tigers' player-manager. He lay in
a coma and near death for some time afterward.
Anyway, those are the ONLY two guys who played in MLB against Cobb that attended his funeral. I suspect Bonds will get a similar turnout at his
funeral. So will Kingman.
Ryan, by contrast, became a rugged Texas hero in his final years, and was a better pitcher in his late 30's and early 40's (for whatever reason) than
he'd ever been as a wildman in previous years. THAT, I think, is why there is now a Ryan cult. People don't remember--or won't remember--how
dreadful a pitcher he was for most of his career, walking himself into one jam after another.
YO, PEOPLE! Go take a look at the all-time Top 10 or Top 100 leaders in career walks allowed. Ryan is as far ahead there as Reggie is in batters'
strikeouts, or as Rickey is in SB's. And bases on balls are killers, which is why so many Dominican and Puerto Rican players have terribly
compromised their careers by continuing to play ball the way they learned it "on the island"--i.e., by almost never taking a walk. (The saying, which
we've all heard announcers laugh about, is, "You don't get off the island taking bases on balls"; well, you'd get back on the island swinging at
garbage on my team, I promise.) The same goes for pitchers, like Ryan, who dish walks out like they're Kool-Aid. Who told all these people that
walks are trivial???
Casey Stengel said, "Oh, those bases on balls! They will kill you." He knew what he was talking about, and that's why a lot of people don't think
Ryan even belongs in the Hall. I think he belongs, but I think he's a FAR below average member. And a whole lot of guys who otherwise would have
been Hall members will not be because they almost never took walks, and as a result failed to create a lot of runs they easily could have created, and
got on base about 1,000 less times than they could have, had they taken walks when offered and forced pitchers to throw them good pitches.
We have way too many pitchers, hitters and fans today who do not afford nearly enough respect to the base on balls. Pitchers and hitters will, in the
long run, pay a big price for their disrespect.