Keith Hernandez deserves to be in the Hall of Fame. I’m not just saying that as a hopelessly biased Mets partisan – it’s actually true.
The most important reason why Keith should be in the Hall is that he was the single greatest defensive first baseman of all time. If I have to convince you of that, you’re probably on the wrong blog, but his record eleven consecutive Gold Glove Awards might be a start. As the 2012 book Reasoning with Sabermetrics put it, “Sometimes, there is a consensus as to the best player at a particular position, particularly when he played during our lifetime. That seems to be happening with defense at first base and Keith Hernandez.” The Hall has made room for all-time great defensive players at other positions, even when their offensive output was well below average. Ozzie Smith at short, Bill Mazeroski at second, and Ray Schalk at catcher are indisputably in the Hall solely on the basis of their D. Keith should be too.
But his D isn’t all: his offense was good enough too. Unlike the Wizard (career 87 OPS+), Maz (84), and Schalk (83), Keith could swing the stick. With his bat alone, he fits right into the bottom-tier of Hall of Fame first basemen. His career OPS+ was 128, which is comparable to Eddie Murray (129), George Sisler (125), Jake Beckley (125), Jim Bottomley (125), and Tony Perez (122), and well above Hall of Fame oopsie George Kelly (109!!).
So if Keith is a borderline Hall of Famer for his bat, and the GOAT with the glove, why did he fall off the ballot after nine years without ever receiving serious consideration? His involvement in the Pittsburgh drug trials probably played a role, but a major reason that he wasn’t taken seriously as a candidate is because he was a first baseman and he didn’t hit dingers. Keith’s skill set didn’t match that typically associated with his position, and so he was sadly overlooked. But despite not fulfilling the archetype of a slugging first baseman, Keith should be assessed on his own terms as a baseball player. When you do so, his greatness becomes apparent.
This valuable lesson is applicable to beer drinking. Tonight I enjoyed my first Sierra Nevada Celebration Fresh Hop IPA of the season. If you’ve never had the pleasure, Celebration is Sierra Nevada’s seasonal Christmas beer and it is nothing like a Christmas beer.
The only remotely Christmassy thing about it is the gorgeous label, which features barley, hops, and poinsettias ringing an inviting winter scene, consisting of a cabin in a peaceful and silent, snow-covered Sierra meadow. The cabin lights are glowing, a fire is roaring, and I’m sure beers are being cracked inside. When you crack this one, it emerges as a deep copper color, with a fluffy head and aggressive lacing. Although the aroma doesn’t jump out of the glass, it evokes a pine forest just like the one on the label. The first sip brings waves of flavor, but nothing like you might be expecting if you’re anticipating a Christmas ale. There are no spices here, no raisin or toffee sweetness. Instead you are met with a hit of bitter grapefruit rind and pine sap, followed by just enough honey sweet malt to offset the bitter rush, and then a long finish with lingering dryness on the tongue like unsweetened grapefruit.
In contrast to the current vogue for IPAs with the tropical fruit flavors found in hops like Citra, Amarillo, and Mosaic, this one is full of classic pine and grapefruit C-hop flavor, from the ample amounts of Cascade, Centennial, and Chinook. It’s very bitter, but each sip leaves you wanting more. At its heart, Celebration is an O.G. West Coast IPA. And it’s an all-time great craft brew. Just try not to think of it as a Christmas beer.
Scouting Report (20-80 scale)
Comp: the legend himself, Keith Hernandez.