Cooperstown 2017

The Baseball Hall of Fame will announce their latest inductees later today.  As usual, I have my own opinion as to who is worthy of entry into the Hall.  Also as usual, those opinions are likely better than at least half the clowns that actually vote for the honor.   To wit, what about the writer that came out a couple of weeks ago and said he wasn’t voting for Curt Schilling anymore because he was offended Schill called Hall of Fame voters “scumbags”?  Well, I guess that comment was the tip of the iceberg anyway.  Yeah, the writer is playing the “character” card now.  But Schill’s character hasn’t really changed, probably over his entire life.  And it didn’t stop the writer from voting for him earlier in Schilling’s candidacy.  You may think that Schill isn’t worthy regardless.  And you will find out below if I think Schilling should be enshrined or not.  But that particular writer’s behavior seems kind of silly to me.

Last time I wrote on this topic a few years back, I ranted on the whole steroid thing.  I promise I won’t do that again.  But the short story is that I won’t exclude anyone from that era.  I refuse to guess on who was using and who wasn’t…like some of these voters are wont to do.  I just assume everyone was doing something to chemically enhance their bodies to improve performance.  Even if it was just one solitary legal supplement.  Players are always trying to take the next step and to also gain any edge they can.  Sure, some went overboard.  But I have to believe everyone was dipping in to some degree.

Moving on, let’s get down to business.  34 names on the official ballot.  I added one write-in of my own.

Elected:

Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens-Speaking of “scumbags”, these two are probably at the top of the list.  But their Hall of Fame talent is undeniable.  It’s time to give these guys their plaques.  It may not happen this year, but it will undoubted happen someday.  May as well be now.

Manny Ramirez-You may be able to include Manny in the class above.  But I am not sure he was actually a “scumbag”.  Sure, he pushed the Red Sox traveling secretary down once, which may fit the description.  And was stupid enough to get caught taking ‘roids…more than once.  Of course he had many other smaller “incidents” that made people shake their heads.  But was he really a bad person?  Or just kind of living in an alternate universe?  I say the latter.  He was also f’n great.  My sense is that he will get in eventually, but will have to wait along with Bonds and Clemens for a while.  But how can you keep him out forever?

Ivan Rodriguez-Pudge is yet another one that is linked to steroids.  I know, it’s a long list.  So again, this for sure will keep him out of the Hall this year.  And maybe for longer than the three above.  His career OPS is a smidge under .800 (.798).  That’s not ideal, but remember he was a catcher.  Close to 3,000 hits (2,844), over 300 bombs (311), 14 time All-Star, 13 time Gold Glover (you know I don’t love this award, but 13 is hard to argue against), MVP award in tow (though it should have gone to Pedro, as two writers left Martinez off their ballots entirely…but Pudge did win it, so it counts), threw out 46% of base stealers for his career, blah, blah, blah.  This isn’t a Hall of Famer?

Pete Rose-Here’s my write-in again.  He may even surpass Clemens and Bonds on the dirtbag meter.  He got caught gambling as a manager…probably as a player too…but you can’t tell me gambling isn’t rampant across all locker rooms in any sport.  Maybe not to his degree, but still…I’m putting him in for what he did on the field.  You can leave him out because of his character.  That’s the beauty of America…ability to make a different choice.  But…he belongs in the Hall.

Fantastic careers, but falling a smidge short:

Vladimir Guerrero-I wrestled with this one since it is his first year on the ballot.  I reserve the right to change my mind on him down the road.  Hit for average, power and even stole some bases in his prime.  Cannon for an arm, however inaccurate it could be sometimes.  The end came quick though.

Jeff Bagwell-Speaking of the end coming quick.  Similar numbers to Vlad, but based on the era he played in, I feel like the numbers come up a little short.  I’ve felt this way for years, so I’m unlikely to change course on him going forward.  Don’t feel bad for him though.  He will likely be enshrined this year in real life.  So I won’t have to think about his candidacy again really.

Pretty damn good careers, but we can’t induct everyone:

Trevor Hoffman-Because of the 600 plus saves, people like to kind of add him in with Mariano Rivera a little bit.  Rivera (career 82-60, 2.21, 1.000 WHIP, dominant postseasons) vs. Hoffman (career 61-75, 2.87, 1.058 WHIP, not much to see in the postseason, however, not dominant).  I don’t see it.  But the 600+ gets him in today anyway.

Curt Schilling-Not because of his mouth or politics or tweets or any of that stuff.  But because there were too many career ups and downs for my liking.  Despite any postseason heroics.

Tim Raines-The Montreal years were great.  The rest?  Not so much.  Too much mediocrity for me.  But looks like he will get in today as well.  I hope at his induction he re-tells the stories where he kept a vial of coke in his back pocket during his heyday, so he only slid headfirst so he wouldn’t break it.  Those were fun times!

Edgar Martinez-Edgar gets a ton of support.  But as a DH only for the bulk of his career, the numbers have to be extravagant for me to put him in.  Like say…David Ortiz-like.  And they aren’t quite that.

Mike Mussina-Good pitcher for a long time.  He won 20 games in his final year.  Funny thing is, if he stuck around for maybe 3 more years and won 30 more games, the 300 wins and 3,000 K’s (ended 187 shy) would have put him in automatically.

Lee Smith-Maybe the Red Sox years scar me.  I remember Big Lee being far from automatic.  Then they went and signed Jeff Reardon to replace him.  Career ERA (3.03) and WHIP (1.256) simply too high for a Hall of Fame closer.

Fred McGriff-The Crime Dog was a solid player pretty much from beginning to end.  But that does not make you a Hall of Famer.

Jeff Kent-His position of 2B helps him here.  But he can probably thank the SF years of batting cleanup behind Bonds for keeping him on the ballot every year.

Larry Walker-Colorado effect.  I don’t know why he keeps getting the support.  Why no love for Vinny Castilla, Dante Bichette or Andres Galarraga?

Gary Sheffield-I really didn’t think too hard on this one.  There’s usually a reason a great talent bounces around and plays on 8 teams.  Didn’t we all see it coming when he came up with Milwaukee as a youngster, they asked him to play third base, he didn’t like it, and as a result fired balls into the stands on purpose?

Billy Wagner-I like Wagner better than Hoffman actually.  But Hoffs pitched in almost 200 more games.  If Wags stuck around for a couple more years, would he have gotten Hoffman-type support?

Sammy Sosa-I said I wasn’t going to discriminate against steroid users…or alleged steroid users.  And I’m not.  609 homers is nice.  But almost half of them (292) came in a 5 year stretch…of an 18 year career.  His .878 career OPS doesn’t even compare to Bagwell or Vladdy.  Nor do many of his other career totals.  With only 7% of the vote last year, maybe this is the year he dips under 5% and falls off.  Then we don’t have to talk about him anymore.

Are these guys seriously on a Hall of Fame ballot?:

Mike Cameron, J.D. Drew, Jorge Posada, Magglio Ordonez, Derrek Lee, Tim Wakefield, Edgar Renteria, Melvin Mora, Carlos Guillen, Casey Blake, Jason Varitek, Orlando Cabrera, Pat Burrell, Freddy Sanchez, Arthur Rhodes, Matt Stairs-Matt Stairs?  Casey Blake?  Tim Wakefield?  I personally don’t know how these guys even get on the ballot.  Lifetime achievement award I guess.  Posada may actually get more than 5% of the vote and stick on next year’s ballot I am afraid.  Just because he was on a bunch of winning Yankee teams.  People around Boston actually think Varitek should be legitimately considered.  Fun fact:  Pudge threw out 46% of base stealers for his career, as noted above.  Varitek?  23%!  But they are on the same ballot.  Yuck.

One more note:  How does Javier Vazquez not warrant a spot on the ballot this year?  Don’t get me wrong, Vazquez is nowhere near a Hall of Famer.  But compared to some of the swill on the list above, his omission is kind of surprising.  Another fun fact that only I care about:  Vazquez is 30th all-time in strikeouts.  He retired at age 34 after a decent season (13-11, 3.69).  He was 464 K’s shy of 3,000.  There are only 16 pitchers that finished with over 3,000 career K’s.  14 are in the Hall, 1 should be (Clemens) and 1 may someday be (Schilling).  Now, Javier’s other numbers were mediocre at best.  But if pitched 3-4 more years, he would have gotten to 3,000 and could have been an interesting trivia answer, if Ron and Schill eventually get in the Hall and make it 16 for 16.  Seems to me this alone should give him a spot on the ballot anyway.

I know, only I care about this.  Vazquez probably even doesn’t…

Time for more picks…

Well, Wild Card Week was fun, huh?  Oh wait…the games were brutal.  Nevermind…

Not only were the games tough to watch, but my one pick against the grain of the New York Giants upsetting the Green Bay Packers was woefully off.  The G-Men actually looked pretty good early.  But when they couldn’t get into the end zone and kept dropping passes, I think we all knew how the game was going to turn.

Let’s leave that all behind us and move on to the current week’s games:

Seattle at Atlanta (-4.5):

Atlanta had a week off last week, while Seattle played…ok, they didn’t expend much effort against the Lions, but they still had to play.  Seattle is 3-4-1 on the road.  They have to travel cross-country.  They don’t have Earl Thomas.  The Seahawks played a little unevenly down the stretch, while Atlanta won their last 4.  Matt Ryan is probably going to be the MVP.  Blah, blah, blah.

I don’t care about any of that.

The Falcons are a good team.  They scored 540 points this year, 71 more than 2nd place New Orleans and 99 more than 3rd place New England.  But they play their games indoors or in excellent weather…ideal conditions, of course.  Ask Peyton Manning if that helps.  You can also ask Peyton if it inflates the value of certain players (him), but that’s a story for another day.

Guess what?  The Falcons also gave up 406 points.  6th most in the NFL.  The top 5?  New Orleans, San Francisco, New York Jets, Cleveland, San Diego.  YIKES!  Does anyone else see this?

The ‘hawks found a running game last week.  Doug Baldwin is grabbing everything.  Russell Wilson remains dangerous.  The Seattle defense can’t be set back by one player, can they?  It’s the playoffs.

This Seattle team and coaching staff knows the playoffs.  The same can’t be said for the Atlanta side…yet anyway.

The way it adds up?  Seattle, 38-27.

Houston at New England (-16):

Believe me, I have flashed back to the 2010 Divisional playoff game between the Patriots and New York Jets.  Where the Jets took down a 14-2 Pats team.  After the Pats demolished the Jets a month earlier.

Because of that I ponder, can the Texans show up and make it a game?

Well, the J-E-T-S were 11-5 that year.  Mark Sanchez was a bum, but he only had to manage the game, make no mistakes and watch the running game and defense win it with him in the sidecar.  Which is essentially what happened.

The Jets running game and defense of that year is better than the Texans’ version this year.  No doubt in my mind.

There were two key plays early on the Patriots side that were uncharacteristic and costly in the scheme of things.  First, after marching down the field, Tom Brady floated a ball to a running back that can’t catch (BenJarvus Green-Ellis) that was picked and returned a long way.  Second, backup tight end Alge Crumpler dropped a pass in the end zone, with that drive then only resulting in a field goal.  If the same things happen in the first quarter Saturday with LeGarrette Blount and Matt Lengel, then will I be a little nervous.  But only then.

Nothing else really to talk about here.  New England, 34-10.  It could be more.  But the Pats will just try to “get through” this one.  And Belichick won’t want to run up the score on a former loyal lieutenant in Billy O’Brien once it presumably gets out of hand early.  If Eric Mangini was the Texans coach, I may have predicted 66-3…

Green Bay at Dallas (-4.5):

No question Green Bay is on a roll.  6 straight wins to close the year and last week’s hammering of the Giants.  Aaron Rodgers is also on a roll, as we all know.

Things get a little tougher for the Pack this week.  Wait…a LOT tougher.

Part of me says that a rookie QB (Dak Prescott), a rookie RB (Ezekiel Elliott) and an average (at best) head coach (Jason Garrett) are not a good mix for the Cowboys as they enter the playoffs this year, despite a 13-3 regular season record.

But these kids are not normal rookies.  And the team can win despite the coach if they have the talent…against lesser competition for sure.  Look at what the Raiders did for Jack del Rio this year as one example.

The Packers’ defense stinks, especially the secondary.  Giant receivers were wide open all day behind them last week, as noted above, the G-Men just didn’t take advantage of the situation.  Dez Bryant, Jason Witten, Cole Beasley and the rest aren’t likely to follow suit.

The Pack also have zero running game and no Jordy Nelson.

The run is over.  Dallas 37-24.

Pittsburgh at Kansas City (-1):

Toughest game to predict.  Now there is going out on a limb.  #2 vs #3, 1 point spread, weather concerns, etc.  Nice job Captain Obvious.

If you asked me before the commencement of the playoffs that as a Patriot fan who was I most nervous about in the AFC, I would have said Pittsburgh.  Hands down.  Now?  Not so sure.  I normally would have kept laughing off Andy Reid, Alex Smith and the Chiefs as a whole.  But they have crept into my head a little.

The Steelers won 7 in a row to end the regular season and then beat the Dolphins in their Wild Card game last week.  None of the 8 games were against juggernauts however.  Their defense seems to be subpar.  But Ben Roethlisberger, Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown scare the bejesus out of me.

Tyreek Hill is someone to be concerned about and Travis Kelce has had a helluva year.  Spencer Ware in the backfield though?  Meh.  KC’s defense is undoubtedly better than the Steelers’ this year, but not exactly dominant.  I suppose that could be partly because Justin Houston hasn’t played much this year due to injury and Derrick Johnson is out.

The Chiefs were 6-2 at home for the season, but it appears that playing at Arrowhead hasn’t scared many teams off.  The 2 losses were to Tampa Bay and Tennessee, fringe playoff teams for sure, but still…they shouldn’t be winning games at a historically tough place to play.  KC also narrowly beat the Jaguars and Saints at home this year too.  Not what you would expect.

So…I don’t know.  But in the end I am going with my gut.  Pittsburgh, 27-24.  I’m not sure the weather will have a ton of influence on the game on the field.  Reid will undoubtedly have clock management issues.  Smith will check down all day.  And all that…

Last week:  3-1 (2-2 against the spread).

Claude can…stay??

Yup, you heard that one right!

Let’s face it, this year’s version of the Boston Bruins isn’t making a long Stanley Cup run with Mike Babcock, Joel Quenneville, Toe Blake, Claude Julien or even Scotty Bowman as the coach.  All one needs to do is look at the personnel to make that assessment.

You can thank Donnie Sweeney and Cam Neely for that…with an assist to the (not so) dearly departed Peter Chiarelli.

As the B’s stumble along in their state of mediocrity, with an unfathomable and unacceptable home record of 9-10, let’s also address the real reason Claude is going nowhere:

The contract.

I know, I’ve said it time and time again.  There is now about a year and a half left on it.  Jeremy and Chaz Jacobs are not eating that, I can assure you 100%.

MAYBE if the B’s do not make the playoffs for the third year in a row, especially if they choke down the stretch similar to the last two years, Julien gets gassed after the season.  But something tells me he is here going into next season as well.

Why?

Good question.  But in reality, as stated above, does it matter who the coach of the team is with this roster?

I think not.

I have come to accept this all as fact.  Claude has had a nice run here.  But as I’ve also said for some time, the team needs a new voice.  Sometimes the coach just somehow wears out his welcome.  Players tune him out.  Or they don’t exactly follow the plan anymore.  It happened with Terry Francona and the Red Sox.  It happened with Doc Rivers and the Celtics.  Francona and Rivers had the same core for years and things just changed.  In Rivers’ case, admittedly the eventual parting had a lot to do with the more talented players aging and Rivers not wanting to stick around for a rebuild.  In Francona’s case, he seemingly kept softening, the players got too comfortable and eventually took advantage of him.

Side note:  You may ask, “Why has it not happened to Bill Belichick yet then?”  My opinion is that the Patriots have kept a strong core there that keep buying in (and winning) every year.  Since the roster is so large, the assistant coaches have more interaction on a day-to-day basis with individual players…therefore different voices.  Maybe above all, roster turnover in the NFL is somewhat drastic.  So…many reasons, I suppose.  Maybe I’m wrong…

Back to Claude…it is time to go, but what’s the difference?  Donnie Hockey recently said he isn’t ruling out a coaching change.  But that was a bunch of crap.

The Bruins are clearly in transition.  They are trying to balance at least one playoff round gate to line the Jacobs’ pocket with trying to integrate some kids.

Although…Claude isn’t integrating them fast enough from what I can see.  Austin Czarnik and Brandon Carlo have played decent roles this year thus far.  And Frank Vatrano has contributed since he came back from injury.  David Pastrnak?  Doesn’t count.  And he should have been playing more the last couple of years anyway.  The likes of Noel Acciari, Anton Blidh and Danton Heinen don’t see the ice enough when suited up.  Joe Morrow is on the roster, but there is a good chance he is actually dead.  Etc.

The fact of the matter is Claude will still go to the Dominic Moore, Tim Schaller and Riley Nash types before the youngsters.  Where is the Merlot Line when you need it?!

As long as Sweeney keeps these veterans around, Claude will do it.  As long as the Jacobs’ won’t let him go, Claude will do it.

I think Sweeney and Neely know this.  And they are ok with it based on the circumstances.  As long as Claude gives some of the kids SOME ice time, the fringe vets contribute and stay competitive and the better players on the roster carry their weight…this seems to be ok with everyone.

Including me.

Because I have begun to think that Claude is here for just the transition, barring unforseen circumstances.  Maybe through next year.  By then, some of the youngsters above will have hopefully established themselves.  Other youngsters are on the way and may break through.  The latter group includes 2016 draftees like Charlie McAvoy, Trent Frederic and Ryan Lindgren.  2015 draftees like Jakob Zboril, Jake DeBrusk and Zach Senyshyn.  Other past draftees like Matt Grzelcyk, Rob O’Gara and Zane McIntyre.  Random other dudes like Sean Kuraly.  This does not include Malcolm Subban…what appears to be the colossal waste of a first round pick.  In any event, some of these dudes need to hit, right?

Claude doesn’t play kids, we know that.  He is probably humoring Sweeney and Neely by playing a few.  But once his contract is up and some of these kids hit, someone else will be coach.  I am convinced of that.

You may say, “Why can’t they deal some of those kids and get some established players/stars?”  I may say “easier said than done.”  Though I’d sign off on that too.  I have no idea what others think of these kids though.  So I am not sure a deal is coming.

I am no genius.  Far from it.  But I feel like I see the Neely/Sweeney plan.  You have the core veterans locked up for the next several years, partially due to Chiarelli handing out no-movement clauses like candy, but nonetheless.  These players include:  Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, Brad Marchand, Tuukka Rask, David Backes and Torey Krug.  For better or for worse, all those dudes will be making at least 5.25 per year for the next several years, with various degrees of no-trade protection.  Maybe Matt Belesky and his 3.8 per through 2019-2020 is here too.  But thankfully he can be dealt if necessary.  Pastrnak has to be considered core too, but they will need to sign him when he becomes a restricted free agent after this year.  I imagine at this point Carlo is part of the core as well, but is locked up at less than 800k through 2018-19.  Perhaps Vatrano, who is signed through next year.

The rest?  Zdeno Chara’s contract is up after next year.  I have to believe they will keep him around until the end at this point, but it’s hard to see them re-signing him…at any significant dollars anyway.  Hopefully they will lose either Adam McQuaid or Kevan Miller in the expansion draft.  (If they go the three defensemen protection route, Z and Krug have to be protected with their “no moves” and Carlo is ineligible, same is true for Colin Miller and Morrow I believe, for whatever that is worth.  That means there is only one spot left for Quaider or Kevan).  God can only hope Jimmy Hayes goes in the expansion draft,,,maybe Anton Khudobin as well.  They’ll be out there anyway.

Then some kids come up and make a difference…under a new coach…as the franchise starts ascending again.

Is all of the above enough to make the franchise great again?  Not sure.  A move in free agency or by trade for another stud D-man won’t hurt.  But on offense and in net it may just be enough…if enough kids pan out of course.  And if the new coach encourages goal scoring more than Claude does.

So if this is the plan, and I truly feel like it is, why bother with a new coach at this very point in time?  I just don’t see it.

I have resigned myself to the fact that Claude will be here the rest of this year and possibly (probably?) all of next.  And you should too.

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