(CBS New York/CBS Local) — Pitching wins championships, as they say. And this weekend in Cooperstown, New York, pitching was immortalized in the Baseball Hall of Fame. The class of 2019 included four pitchers — two starters and two relievers — among its six inductees. Each deserved the honor for his accomplishments.
The inductees included New York Yankee Mariano Rivera, possibly the best closer the game has ever seen, along with Mike Mussina, a consistent starter across his many seasons in New York and Baltimore.
One of Mussina’s former clubs — the Orioles — has seen better days. But Saturday offered a glimmer of hope with the debut of top overall pick Adley Rutschman, the switch-hitting catcher.
Chicago White Sox fans will enjoy a different view at home games. Guaranteed Rate Field extended the protective netting out to the foul poles to protect patrons from future encounters with foul balls.
This week’s Baseball Report reviews the latest Hall of Fame class, checks in with the 2019 top overall draft pick, and looks at the new netting in Chicago.
Hall of Fame Class of 2019
This year’s six-man class includes four pitchers — Mike Mussina, Mariano Rivera, Lee Smith, and the late Roy Halladay — among its six inductees. The other two players — Harold Baines and Edgar Martinez — spent much of their careers collecting hits as designated hitters.
Rivera is widely considered the best closer in the history of the majors. He is also the first unanimous inductee into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Rivera pitched 19 seasons with the Yankees, relying on a mean cut fastball to collect an all-time League-record 652 saves. The 13-time All-Star also helped lead the Yankees to five World Series titles.
Another of MLB’s better closers, Smith found success across his 18 seasons mostly with the Chicago Cubs, Boston Red Sox and St. Louis Cardinals. Originally a starter, in the days when moving to the bullpen felt like a demotion, he collected 478 saves and 1251 strikeouts over 1289.1 innings pitched.
Rivera’s teammate for many years with the Yankees, Mussina played more than half his 18-year career in Baltimore. The five-time All-Star and seven-time Gold Glove winner won 270 games between the two clubs, tallying 2,813 strikeouts and 785 walks over 3,362 2/3 innings.
The other starting pitcher of the 2019 class, Halladay had his life tragically cut short in a post-retirement plane accident. The eight-time All-Star pitcher for the Toronto Blue Jays and the Philadelphia Phillies amassed 203 wins and 2117 strikeouts along with two Cy Young Awards during his time in the majors.
The first pick in 1977, Harold Baines played 22 seasons with for the White Sox, Texas Rangers, Oakland Athletics, Orioles and Cleveland Indians. Knee problems forced the one-time right-fielder into a DH role. He still cranked out 2,866 hits and 1,628 RBI, making him one of only 17 players in MLB history to get both 2,800 hits and 1,600 RBI.
Martinez, who played third base and DH for the Mariners from 1987 to 2004, made the Hall of Fame in his final year of eligibility. He hit a career .312 with 309 home runs and 1261 RBI, and was one of the few batters fellow inductee Mariano Rivera didn’t like to face.
All six players were enshrined in Cooperstown on Sunday.
Orioles Top Pick Debuts
The Orioles don’t have much to smile about this season. As of Monday, the team has limped to a 31-67 mark. The second-worst record in baseball puts them a scant 33 games behind the American League East-leading Yankees, with little chance of climbing out of the cellar.
But help may be on the distant horizon. Adley Rutschman, the first pick in the 2019 MLB Draft, made his professional debut this weekend. Playing DH for the team’s Gulf Coast rookie-level affiliate (the GCL Orioles), he went 1-4 with a home run. Rutschman will likely play again for the GCL Orioles before stepping up to the Aberdeen IronBirds in Class A Short Season.
The switch-hitting catcher out of Oregon State was considered the best prospect in almost a decade. He batted .427 over 52 college games this past season, knocking out 16 home runs.
How those numbers translate to the Majors won’t be known until next season, at the earliest. But the prospect of better baseball in the somewhat near future should offer Baltimore fans some solace in the meantime.
White Sox Protective Netting
The danger of the batted ball has become all too real this season. On June 10, a woman was hit in the head by an Eloy Jimenez foul ball during a game between the White Sox and Washington Nationals. She was the second to be struck in two weeks. In late May, an Albert Almora Jr. foul ball hit young girl in the head at a Chicago Cubs game against the Astros in Houston.
Monday night the White Sox became the first MLB team to provide protective netting to the foul poles. The team upgraded Guaranteed Rate Field over the All-Star break but have been traveling the last week and a half. Tonight’s home game against the Miami Marlins is its first of the season’s second half.
Other teams have also taken, or at least proposed, action. The Nationals extended their netting, though not as far as the poles; the Texas Rangers will do the same next season. The Pittsburgh Pirates have also announced protective netting improvements without specifying the particulars.