- What difference does it make what position Jeff Kent played?
In certain cases defense can be a determining factor (or the factor in the case of Ozzie Smith) for a player getting into the Hall of Fame; if a catcher puts up the offensive numbers to get into the Hall while enduring the physical stress; dealing with the pitchers; calling a game; and running the team on the field, then his offensive numbers shouldn’t be expected to be as good as a player from another position; but the constant talk about Jeff Kent being at or near the top of all the offensive numbers for a second baseman is perplexing because it shouldn’t matter. Kent was (at best) an average defensive second baseman; his defense or position shouldn’t be a factor in whether he is or isn’t voted into the Hall of Fame.
If Kent is elected, it will be because of his bat; but would he be such a sure-fire HOFer if he had been positioned 50 feet to the right and played first base instead of second? What if he was shifted 110 feet to the left and was playing third base? Would he then be such a great candidate based on his offensive numbers? I can’t believe that Kent would’ve been much better or worse with the glove at another position than he was at second base; and if that’s the case, then his defensive position should have absolutely nothing to do with whether or not he’ll receive the sport’s ultimate honor.
Let’s say Kent was a third baseman instead of a second baseman; would he then be referred to in such a reverential tone? Ron Santo’s career numbers are very close to Kent’s, but Santo’s still waiting for the Hall of Fame call that he deserves and he was a five-time Gold Glove winner at third base; Kent wouldn’t have been a Gold Glove third baseman just like he wasn’t a Gold Glove second baseman. What would happen then?
There’s a difference between a player who is a second baseman and a player who’s playing second base. Ryne Sandberg was a second baseman; Roberto Alomar was a second baseman; Bill Mazeroski was a second baseman; Jeff Kent was a player whose bat needed to be in the lineup and second base was as good a place as any to put him since he could do the least amount of damage defensively and play the position passably, try hard and turn a good double play while driving in plenty of runs. This is why the positional argument doesn’t make sense anywhere but catcher.
Let’s take another example. What if a team looks at a Nick Swisher-type hitter and his power/on base combination and says, “we need a center fielder; he’s not that great at the position, but I’ll live with his defense as long as he hits 25-30 homers and gets on base at a .350-.370 clip.” So, he plays center field for the rest of his career and ends up with 400 homers and numbers similar to those of Jim Edmonds. Edmonds has a case for being a Hall of Famer with his offensive numbers and superlative defense; but the Swisher-type player’s below average center field play would keep him from getting any recognition despite his offensive numbers. He wouldn’t get any support as a Hall of Famer because it would be known that he wasn’t a good center fielder; he was just out there through necessity and that there was nowhere else to put him. But say someone said, “let’s make him a second baseman” and he worked very hard, learned to turn the double play and ended up in the same ballpark defensively as Kent; what would the view of him be then? Would he be called a “great hitting second baseman” and get support because of a random position switch?
Kent is being given credit for something that had very little to do with his defense and a great deal to do with what was convenient. He wasn’t a bad defensive second baseman, but he shouldn’t be given credit for playing that position since his defense wouldn’t have been any worse had he been playing first base, third base or left field. In most cases, players are either elected because of their all around game or because of their bats and with Jeff Kent, his average defense shouldn’t enter into the equation because he wasn’t a second baseman, he was a guy playing second base who happened to put up big numbers while there.
- Mark McGwire’s estranged brother hawks a book proposal:
Until Jay McGwire slithered out of the brush, the only brother of Mark McGwire I was aware of was the failed NFL quarterback Dan McGwire. Let me say right here that the only way this book “detailing” Mark’s PED usage is going to see the light of day is through self-publishing or print-on-demand; even if that’s the case, no one’s going to buy it. The story itself has become tiresome; I don’t think anyone who previously might’ve been interested in the story is paying close enough attention now to want to read a book that sounds like the juiciest (heh) bits are going to be in the proposal and on the dustjacket; and Jay McGwire’s motives are, shall we say, dubious given his statements. The most laughable of which is the following (culled from ESPN.com):
“Mark is a man I think most would like to forgive because his reason
wasn’t nefarious — it was for survival,” he wrote, according to the
proposal. “My bringing the truth to surface about Mark is out of love.
I want Mark to live in truth to see the light, to come to repentance so
he can live in freedom — which is the only way to live. “
There’s a self-righteous and dogmatic nature to the above statement that looks designed to cast Jay in a newly-found religious light; the transparency of this entire charade is clear: Jay McGwire saw that Kirk Radomski got a book deal as the interest in this sordid affair wanes to the point of non-existence and is trying to cash in and use buzzwords as “repentance” and “freedom” to garner attention for his proposal. A few years ago, a publishing house might’ve rolled the dice with a small printing of this manuscript to see if anyone bought it, but the state of the publishing industry along with the economy is going to land this book proposal not in the slush pile, but in the circular file where it belongs.
- Mets sign Freddy Garcia to a minor league deal:
The Mets and Yankees were said to be the last two teams standing for Freddy Garcia as he decided where he wanted to try and play; the Mets were probably the choice because Garcia saw a better chance of making the starting rotation in Queens. This is a low risk signing for the Mets that shouldn’t be seen as anything more than throwing something at the wall and hoping it sticks.
Garcia was remarkably durable during his first eight seasons with the Mariners and White Sox and that workload and durability has caught up to him as he’s pitched poorly in 14 games over the past two years for the Phillies and Tigers. Garcia’s injury issues also popped up in the Venezuelan Winter League as he tried to prove to interested teams that he’s finally healthy. The reports have insisted that Garcia’s recent health woes are muscular and not structural; we’ll see.
Garcia’s mechanics were never particularly smooth (he makes a very long circle with his arm as he draws it back and lands on a stiff front leg with little leg drive), and he’s going to be 34 in June. Even if he makes the Mets rotation and stays relatively healthy, I wouldn’t expect much use from him. If the Mets think this is going to solve the problem of the middle of their rotation, they’re in for a big surprise; continuing to pursue Oliver Perez or Ben Sheets and making sure they get one of them would be the wisest course of action with or without Garcia.