Since there are those that I suspect of using my work as a basis for their own anyway, perhaps we can make this constructive if I post my own Hall of Fame ballot with yays or nays and brief reasons why:
- Brady Anderson-No way.
- Harold Baines-A good player and a nice man, but no Hall of Famer.
- Rod Beck-No.
- Bert Blyleven-I’ve been swayed. He’s waited long enough and should be elected.
- Dave Concepcion-No—-Concepcion Doesn’t Cut It.
- Andre Dawson-I can understand the argument for not putting him in, but I’d vote yes.
- Shawon Dunston-No way.
- Chuck Finley-No.
- Travis Fryman-No.
- Goose Gossage-Absolutely. Should’ve been in long ago.
- Tommy John-If Blyleven gets in, John will have a strong case. I was for John before I was for Blyleven. That he revolutionized the game by being the first to return and thrive from the ligament replacement surgery that now bears his name should enhance his candidacy over the top and get him in.
- Dave Justice-If he’d lasted until 41-42 and had some strong years, he’d be a viable candidate, but no.
- Chuck Knoblauch–No.
- Don Mattingly-When baseball allowed Kirby Puckett into the Hall because of his career-ending injury to his eye and postulated what he would have achieved had he not gotten hurt, Don Mattingly had some ammunition to say that he too should have been afforded the same courtesy because of his back problems. Mattingly’s too humble and classy to do that; I’d vote no.
- Mark McGwire-I’d vote yes.
- Jack Morris-Yes. Morris is a Hall of Famer.
- Dale Murphy-In looking at his numbers, he’s quite close; like Mattingly, he doesn’t quite make it.
- Robb Nen– Respectable, gutsy career, but no.
- Dave Parker-Fine player and leader, but no Hall of Famer right now. I might be able to be swayed eventually to support him.
- Tim Raines-Definitely not on the first ballot. Maybe after waiting a few years.
- Jim Rice-We’ve gone over this numerous times. Rice should’ve been in long ago.
- Jose Rijo-No.
- Lee Smith-The "stat-compiler" argument applies more so to relievers than it does to any other pitcher or player. Closers who are elected should be dominant; guys who make the other team start packing their gear when they enter the game; I’m talking about Gossage, Bruce Sutter, Rollie Fingers and Mariano Rivera. Smith was something of a journeyman who was a good closer, but no Hall of Famer by any stretch of the imagination.
- Todd Stottlemyre-No.
- Alan Trammell-Yes. Trammell was underrated as a player and is a Hall of Famer.
I’ve gone on about the Hall of Fame candidates and their credentials (or lack thereof) in a previous blog—-How About Some Baseline Criteria For Hall Of Fame Eligibility?—-but there are some things that need mentioning about the upcoming results.
- Cal Ripken is kind of degrading the process by saying he’s going to vote for a non-candidate like Brady Anderson—-Ripken Supports Anderson. Brady Anderson is not even anywhere close to being a legit part of a Hall of Fame conversation. Voting for one’s buddies based on nothing more than that is kind of insulting to the institution of the HOF. For someone like Ripken, who prided himself on his work ethic and honor, it’s a sham. Ripken’s reputation is taking a beating with the allegations of selfishness from such respected baseball men as Davey Johnson and the new Braves GM Frank Wren. Now this is making him seem even more interested in Cal Ripken’s views than the reality of Brady Anderson’s accomplishments (which are strongly suspected to have been aided by PEDs). He was Ripken’s friend. So? Is that a HOF criteria now?
- Do two wrongs make a right? There are two arguments for Tim Raines’s candidacy for the HOF: 1) he was as good a player as Lou Brock was and Brock is in the Hall, so Raines should also be in; or 2) Brock really doesn’t belong in the Hall other than setting the stolen base record and getting 3,000 hits, so putting Raines in based on Brock’s accomplishments isn’t a valid reason for enshrinement. If I had a vote, I wouldn’t vote for Raines.
- Jim Rice belongs in the HOF—-Rice Belongs—-and I’m beginning to be swayed about Bert Blyleven. The more I look at his numbers, the more I see that he was a dominating pitcher who was stuck on some bad teams.
- One note about the Giants-Patriots game tonight. It seems to me that the Giants are being peer-pressured into going all out to win this meaningless (to them) game. It’s going to be on the air over four different channels simultaneously and the players are being inundated with the "history" and "ESPN Classic" ****. If any of their star players get hurt in losing tonight (and they are going to lose—-42-10 is my guess), they’re going to be sorry next week in Tampa Bay, which is a winnable game for them.
- Kansas City Royals sign Miguel Olivo to one-year deal.
Olivo’s a hothead who never walks and strikes out too much, but he has some pop in his bat (16 homers in each of the past two years in a tough home park to hit homers); hits lefties very well; is one of the best throwing catchers in baseball and takes charge of the pitching staff. The other Royals catcher, John Buck, has power and also bats right-handed, but hits righties well enough to make feasible a platoon between two right-handed hitting catchers. For two catchers who are going to hit in the back end of the lineup, 30 or so homers and great defense is a pretty good deal as long as they aren’t asked to do more than they’re capable of.
- Astros sign Darin Erstad to one-year deal.
In looking at Erstad’s stats, I had to do a double take at Erstad’s 2000 season—-Erstad Stats—-the numbers are ridiculous for a guy who’s been somewhere between a pretty good player and injury prone throughout his career. Erstad’s carved out a well-deserved reputation as a great defensive player in the outfield and at first base and as a kamikaze on the field throwing his body around with abandon. That type of attitude has caught up to him now that he’s in his thirties as he’s always hurt; but as a backup first baseman and outfielder, he’s a good pickup at a low price. The Astros are making all of these moves for position players, but has anyone in Houston noticed that heinous pitching staff that they’ve depleted even further with their flurry of moves for offense? No matter how many runs they can score, teams that can’t pitch don’t contend.
Despite Mark Prior’s extensive injury history since his appearance on the scene in 2002-2003 as the swaggering, strutting flamethrower who dared hitters to try and hit his pitches, he is still a great signing at a ridiculously low price for the Padres. A pitcher who has had the success of Prior agreeing to a $1 million base salary with over $2 million more in incentives says that he’s intent on proving he’s healthy again, willing to take a low salary in order to do it, and wants to pitch close to his hometown. There is still going to be the question of which Prior they’re going to get. Are they going to get the confident and cocky Prior? Or are they going to get the guy who has been suspected of PED use, looked like he was afraid to throw the ball and inspired the quizzical looks, head shakes and bewildered question of, "What happened to this guy?" Even with the positive atmosphere and clean start that Prior’s getting with the Padres, it doesn’t automatically guarantee that this marriage is going to be a success; and it also doesn’t mean that the Padres are going to contend next season.
As I have said regularly, the Padres are a cheap organization masquerading as a frugal one with a "plan". The Padres needed a power bat in their lineup for 2008, they traded for the shot Jim Edmonds. They needed starting pitching and instead of making a run at a bigger name like Johan Santana or Dan Haren, they chose to take inexpensive fliers on Randy Wolf and Prior and re-sign Greg Maddux. Are the Padres confident that this roster is going to be able to compete in the tough National League West next season? The Dodgers are going to be better; the Diamondbacks are going to be better; the Rockies are the defending National League champions and the Giants can’t possibly be much worse than they were.
Best case scenario, the Padres get a repeat performance from their stellar bullpen next season; their starting pitchers are able to keep them in games and turn close games over to that bullpen and Kevin Kouzmanoff morphs into the wrecking crew he was in the minor leagues and is able to protect Adrian Gonzalez and provide the Padres with a power bat.
Worst case scenario, the bullpen will take a step back (which is what I expect). Trevor Hoffman is 40, his stuff has been gradually diminishing for years and you can’t fool hitters in the big leagues forever; Heath Bell is a journeyman who might fall back into the up and down pitcher he was all those years with the Mets. Greg Maddux is a six inning/85 pitch pitcher (whichever comes first) who was awful in September; Chris Young tires toward the end of every season after a brilliant start; Wolf hasn’t had a healthy full season since 2003; Peavy’s motion has always concerned me and Prior is still a question mark. If Kouzmanoff doesn’t start hitting with power consistently and Gonzalez has no one to protect him in the lineup, how are they going to score runs? Their outfield has no power and Michael (The Right Hook) Barrett did nothing at the plate after joining the Padres last season. This team is going to have problems contending unless everything goes exactly right.
Are they really expecting Wolf and Prior to suddenly get healthy simultaneously and pitch 180, or even 150 effective innings next season? A team that relies on numbers as heavily as the Padres should know that big seasons for Prior and Wolf are highly unlikely; they also know that they’re taking big leaps of faith with their ancient and injury-riddled roster. I keep hearing about how "smart" the Padres are, but in looking at the moves they’ve made, I have to wonder, is this all hype or does it stem from looking at stats from 2003 and expecting similar production in 2008? If that’s the case, those prognosticators and the Padres may be in for a rude awakening next year because to me, they look like a .500 team.
I’m working on my baseball preview and am faced with the dilemma of what to write about the Minnesota Twins. The book has to go to press at in mid-January at the latest to ensure that it’s going to be finished and available for purchase on Amazon and Barnes and Noble before the season starts. The problem isn’t where Johan Santana goes; people understand when they read a book that it cannot be updated if a player is traded during spring training, but Santana being a part of the Twins or another team drastically affects that team’s projected finish. So the question becomes how many wins can Santana be counted on to add to a team?
It’s not an exact science, but there are ways to look at the situation and guess what he’s going to bring to his current or new team. (I’m sure there are sabermetric calculations to that effect, but I’m dubious about that stuff.) Let’s say with the Twins, Santana can be counted on to go 17-10 next year. If they trade him to the Yankees or Red Sox, Santana’s spot in the rotation would be taken by, for example, Phil Hughes or Jon Lester. How many games would Hughes or Lester win in the big leagues if they’re given 32 starts? A low number would be 9-10; a high number would be 14-15. So if the Twins were going to win 87 games with Santana’s 17-10 record, they would win 80 without Santana. 87 wins probably isn’t going to cut it in the American League Central with the Tigers and Indians as divisional opponents, nor is it going to get the Twins a Wild Card spot.
The Red Sox are probably going to win at least 93-95 games next year as they are currently constituted; do they even need those eight more wins that Santana might give them over Lester? With the Red Sox bullpen and lineup, Lester isn’t going to have to do much more than go out to the mound every fifth day and give a modest six-plus innings to win 15 games. Are the 20-22 games Santana would win with the Red Sox that imperative to their season? And the playoffs are no guarantee either because Santana was so dominating in 2006, yet lost in the first game of the playoffs to Barry Zito, essentially finishing the Twins before they even got started.
The same principle applies to the Yankees. These are two teams that are likely to be in the playoffs anyway (although right now, the Yankees bullpen is a huge question mark and they are intending to give prominent roles to rookie pitchers and have a new manager, so they’re not as assured of that spot as the Red Sox are; but the Yankees are steadfastly intent on building from within, so that can go both ways.) This is vastly different from a team like the Mets or the Mariners, who have also been linked with Santana. Right now, the Mets are an 86 win team and Santana wouldn’t be replacing a current starter like Hughes or Lester, he’d be stepping into an empty hole; the Mariners are a team that is, at best, an 85 win team. Both the Mets and Mariners would jump to a mid-nineties win team with the addition of Santana, which should assure a playoff spot.
If Santana isn’t traded by mid-January, I’m going to have to move forward with the Twins either having him or not having him and calculating my evaluation based on both eventualities. I still think that Santana will be traded before the season starts; but either way, the Twins are probably not a playoff team even with Santana and that’s the way I’m going to go forward. There’s no way to predict a player’s movement and what he’ll add to every team that has an interest in him, but it can be mentioned in a sentence or two as a possibility.
Where does a healthy competitiveness end and stupidly adhering to some code of honor begin? Here in New York (and presumably everywhere that anyone has a passing interest in the NFL) there has been a non-stop debate as to whether the New York Giants should play all out to try and prevent the New England Patriots from a perfect regular season. There seems to be a split in what the Giants obligation is to themselves and others who have a vested interest in the Patriots getting or not getting the perfect record. There are justifiable arguments on both sides of the fence.
For those that believe in the Spartanism of sports, they’re going to want the Giants to play to win no matter the cost; those that believe in the big picture will realize that this game means nothing—-absolutely nothing—-to the Giants; those that don’t want the record to be broken (the remaining members of the Miami Dolphins 1972 team) for selfish purposes simply want to remain in the public consciousness as the only team that got through an entire season without a loss or tie. While these are understandable reasons for making their case, the Giants have only one obligation to themselves and their fans and that is to be healthy and in good enough shape to play at their best in the first playoff game in Tampa Bay the following week; nothing more, nothing less.
As important as it is for teams to play to win for things to appear to be on the up and up, this game is the equivalent of a pre-season game for the Giants; and if that means Eli Manning, Brandon Jacobs, Michael Strahan, Plaxico Burress and Antonio Pierce have to sit and watch as the Patriots win 42-10 over the Giants second and third stringers, so be it. For a coach as intense and disciplined as Giants coach Tom Coughlin, this is a tough call to make, but the right one is to do what is best for his employers and no one else. That is who his allegiance is to and that should dictate who plays and who doesn’t.
Other games involving the Tennessee Titans and Washington Redskins have playoff spots on the line against teams that have nothing to play for either and the same circumstances apply. No team owes any other team anything; if the teams that need the Indianapolis Colts to beat the Titans and the Dallas Cowboys to beat the Redskins have such a problem they should have won more games during the season so they wouldn’t be in this predicament. The Giants, Cowboys, Colts and Patriots won enough games so they have the choice to play their starters or not; the decision is a simple one and that is to do what is in their own rational self-interests.
This type of situation applies to baseball as well because I have been a vocal opponent of a player having an individual achievement like a consecutive game streak because the player’s self-interests suddenly oppose what might be in the team’s best interests. When Cal Ripken was young and one of the top ten players in baseball, it made sense to continually write his name in the lineup day in, day out; when he was older and could have done with some more frequent rest days or days as a DH rather than in the field, the streak got in the way of the manager making decisions in the best interests of his team.
It also applies when teams (over)pay for free agents. There was head-scratching and confusion at the Royals signing of journeyman lefty Ron Mahay to a two-year, $8 million contract; the argument is that the Royals don’t have tons of money to spend, so why spend what they do have on someone like Mahay? My answer is that I don’t care who a team signs for whatever amount of money as long as signing someone they want doesn’t interfere with them signing or trading for someone they need. By that I mean as long as Mahay doesn’t prevent the Royals from trading for or signing another starting pitcher and a power bat, then who cares? If the questionable signing doesn’t impede the team from filling other more pressing needs, then what’s the difference? (A notable exception to this is when a player who really can’t play is signed to a ridiculous contract when no other team was going to offer him anything close to what he got from the offending team; that’s not the case with guys like Mahay, who’s a pretty good lefty reliever, which is something of a luxury for a frugal team.) That’s why it’s so silly to give teams a hard time when they spend a certain amount of money on questionable talent; if it’s not a hindrance to other, more imperative moves, what’s the difference? Any sports organization has one obligation: to their own personal interests; no more, no less.
It’s hard to know what to make of the Roger Clemens video statement denying PED use—-Clemens Statement Story—-but as cynical as I am, I can’t help but hope he’s telling the truth. The reality is it’s still difficult to disbelieve the statements of former Clemens trainer Brian McNamee that he injected Clemens with the drugs. Clemens is looking (right now) at the disillusionment of his fans and downgrading of his accomplishments; McNamee was looking at prison. Clemens is wealthy enough not to have to worry about his family’s future; I doubt McNamee is in a similar position. If Clemens is subpoenaed by congress, goes to Capitol Hill and makes his denial under oath with a threat of perjury hanging over his head, then his denials will gain far greater weight.
The retraction from the Los Angeles Times after the paper reported that Clemens’s name was in the Jason Grimsley statement, but really wasn’t, has given the pitcher fuel to point out that he was accused once and proven to be innocent in that case; but one thing has nothing to do with the other. They’re two separate incidents and guilt or innocence in the Grimsley statement doesn’t necessarily correspond directly with the Mitchell Report either way. It’s still hard to believe Clemens’s denials until he has something other than his baseball legacy to lose. Namely, his freedom.