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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…

More hardware…

…now for the National League.  Full disclosure:  The Blowhard watches a whole helluva more American League baseball than National League.  This may be quick…

Most Valuable Player:

  1. Kris Bryant, Chicago Cubs
  2. Daniel Murphy, Washington
  3. Anthony Rizzo, Chicago Cubs
  4. Nolan Arenado, Colorado
  5. Freddie Freeman, Atlanta
  6. Joey Votto, Cincinnati
  7. Paul Goldschmidt, Arizona
  8. Yoenis Cespedes, New York Mets
  9. Buster Posey, San Francisco
  10. Corey Seager, LA Dodgers

10 guys is definitely steep here, as from what I can tell it’s Bryant and then 9 other guys to fill out the ballot.  Murphy 2nd?  Why not?  He led the league in OPS.  He was 13th in WAR?  Oh no!!  I can’t in good conscience put Arenado at #2.  Sure, his numbers are once again great.  But again…Colorado.  I felt like Murphs deserved to be higher than Rizzo and it feels like 2-4 is the next “tier” after Bryant.

5-7…MVP’s?  I don’t know.  These guys all had great years, but their teams were awful.  I have friends that would probably put Freeman 2nd, since he was 3rd in both OPS and WAR and well, it doesn’t matter that his team finished 26 and a half games out of first.  They also probably would put Jon Lester 3rd, since he is…Jon Lester.  You know who you are.

8-10 I was just throwing darts.  Even considered Wilson Ramos.  Ryan Braun had some decent numbers, but…

Speaking of Lester, he may well have been worthy of a top 10 nod, along with Max Scherzer.  And perhaps Madison Bumgarner.  Didn’t feel it here though.  If you do, I wouldn’t argue with it.  Like I said, the whole list was basically a crapshoot anyway.

Cy Young:

  1. Max Scherzer, Washington
  2. Jon Lester, Chicago Cubs
  3. Madison Bumgarner, San Francisco
  4. Johnny Cueto, San Francisco
  5. Kyle Hendricks, Chicago Cubs

Here’s a ballot that could use the 10 spots.  Not that all of those 10 could be considered the winner of the Cy Young.  But there were several others in the league that warranted “end of ballot” consideration.  These include, Noah Syndergaard, Clayton Kershaw, Carlos Martinez, Jake Arrieta and the late Jose Fernandez.  Perhaps Kenley Jansen and Mark Melancon too, if you like your closers.  We know I don’t though.

I see this as between just Scherzer and Lester.  And, of course, as a Boston homer, I would’ve loved to give this to Jon.  But after going deeper into the numbers there was no way I could do it.  Lester had a better ERA by about a half a run.  But that’s where it ends.  Max had a better WHIP by a smidge, pitched about 26 more innings, had one more win, almost 90 more strikeouts…and for those who like WAR, it was 6.2 to 5.3 in favor of Max.  The competition in their divisions were similar with one playoff or near playoff team, one average team and 2 putrid ones.  Plus the Cubs won their division handily and surely faced less pressure…not a major consideration, but it was all part of the equation that added up to Max.

Bumgarner and Cueto were a pretty clear next tier to me.  Hendricks got the last spot largely because he led the league in ERA by a healthy margin and was 2nd in WHIP by a slim margin.  Pushed him ahead of Noah for me.  But I didn’t lose a ton of sleep over 5th place.

Rookie of the Year:

  1. Corey Seager, LA Dodgers
  2. Kenta Maeda, LA Dodgers
  3. Trea Turner, Washington

Seager was the clear-cut choice here.  No other hitter played enough to qualify, while Seager played the whole year at a high level.  I don’t love putting Maeda second, not after 8 years of pitching in the Japanese leagues.  Yes, Japan is not the majors.  But it’s probably better than Triple-A teams stateside.  Either way, the rules say he is eligible for this award.  Since he was also around for a full season and put up some pretty good numbers on a playoff team, he gets the runner-up position.

Third place could have gone a few ways, but I picked Turner.  Showed great speed (33 steals) and good power (13 dingers) in about half a season.  Throw in the high average (.342) and that sealed up third for me.  Trevor Story was on his way to throwing up some monster numbers before missing the last 2 months or so with injury, but…Colorado.  Aledmys Diaz also threw up decent numbers before he missed the better part of the last two months himself.  And he was an All-Star, for whatever that’s worth.  Seung-hwan Oh had a very nice year in relief for the Cards.  After 9 years in Korea and 2 in Japan.  Plus…reliever.  Junior Guerra, Steven Matz, etc.  There were a bunch of NL rookies who offered pretty good contributions for a half or three-quarters of a year.

Manager of the Year:

  1. Dusty Baker, Washington
  2. Joe Maddon, Chicago Cubs
  3. Bruce Bochy, San Francisco

Between Baker and Maddon and I hate Maddon, so gimme Baker.  Nah, that’s not the reason.  But it’s hard to vote for a guy that won the division by 17 and a half games and was on cruise control for pretty much the whole season.  That’s what I think anyway.  Sure, he had to keep the team full of All-Stars focused and all.  Sometimes that can be hard (see Francona, Terry and Torre, Joe, among others).  But I went with Baker for the top slot.  Dusty took over for Matt Williams and guided the Nationals to 12 more wins…despite a MAJOR drop off from 2015 NL MVP Bryce Harper.

If you wanted to put Terry Collins of the Mets 3rd, that would be ok.  He had to deal with many injuries, specifically in his rotation, where among all his young studs 43-year-old Bartolo Colon ended up making the most starts.  The team suffered injuries in his lineup as well.  And Collins still got them to the playoffs.  Bochy didn’t necessarily have to deal with a boatload of injuries.  But he did have to deal with a subpar everything, other than Posey, Bumgarner and Cueto.  Either one works for 3rd for me.

That about sums it all up…

Time for some hardware…

…now that the Major League Baseball regular season has concluded.  Let’s get right to it, starting here with the American League:

Most Valuable Player:

  1. Mookie Betts, Boston
  2. Mike Trout, LA Angels
  3. Miguel Cabrera, Detroit
  4. David Ortiz, Boston
  5. Adrian Beltre, Texas
  6. Josh Donaldson, Toronto
  7. Jose Altuve, Houston
  8. Manny Machado, Baltimore
  9. Robinson Cano, Seattle
  10. Edwin Encarnacion, Toronto

10 guys seems a little steep here, but that’s what the official ballot holds.  So I only do what I’m told.  Anyway, these ten all had pretty good years, how do you decide?  I just went with the guy from the home team.  Ok, that’s not exactly true.  The way I see it, the award probably comes down to Betts or Trout.  Trout is probably still the best player in the league, probably in the majors.  But his team was awful.  I have trouble giving MVP awards to guys on bad teams.  I know that many feel differently, simply because how can one guy make a team playoff caliber essentially by himself?  Fair enough point, but it’s my ballot, so that’s what I’m going with.

Trout’s OPS was almost 100 points higher than Betts’ and if you believe in sabermetric stats like WAR, then you would see Trout was better than Mookie there as well.  Both are good defensive players.  Betts had about 40 more hits, but Trout had about 70 more walks.  Many of their other statistics were similar.  Betts had a deeper lineup of course.  Trout power dropped from 2015 and he walked more this year, likely because of what was around him.  If you choose Trout, I won’t hold it against you.  I just went with the guy on the playoff team.

So as you can see, other than Trout, all of the players listed are from playoff or near playoff teams.  Though I am not sure there were many other legitimate candidates.  Brian Dozier?  Nah.  Khris Davis?  Ummmm…

I would’ve loved to have given this to Big Papi, being that it is his last year and I am a homer.  But I have to say not playing the field has to hurt him a bit.  I am not opposed to giving DH’s the award, but a DH would have to be clearly separated from the pack for me to do so.  Kind of like when Ortiz finished 2nd in the voting in 2005 to Alex Rodriguez.  That year, I would have given the MVP to Papi.  He had sick numbers, but also a slew of clutch hits that for me put him over the top.  Oh well.  As for this year, Papi falls behind Miggy here because Miggy had an insane 2nd half to help keep his team in the mix.  And he played the field all year.  If you wanted to flip-flop them, I wouldn’t argue there either.

5-8 is probably the next tier.  Beltre finished strong, Altuve and Machado did not and Donaldson was basically in between.  That explains that order.  Cano and Edwin seemed like solid choices for the last 2 spots.  But if you stuck Nelson Cruz or someone else in there, it doesn’t matter to me.  Even Dozier, if it makes you happy.

Pitchers?  I’m not opposed to it.  But it would have to be another case in which one would have to be extremely dominant.  I mean, how can you justify voting for a starting pitcher that pitches maybe 35 games over an everyday player that plays over 150?  Or a closer that pitches like 70 innings over that same everyday player?  I could, but only in extreme cases.  And none fit that bill this year.

Cy Young:

  1. Justin Verlander, Detroit
  2. Corey Kluber, Cleveland
  3. Rick Porcello, Boston
  4. Chris Sale, Chicago White Sox
  5. Zach Britton, Baltimore

In reality, Verlander is 1, Kluber is 1A and Porcello is 1B.  It was that close.  Then Sale is a distant 4th.  As far as pure numbers, Verlander made more starts, pitched more innings, had way more strikeouts and had the better WHIP and ERA than both Kluber and Porcello.  He also gave up only 4 unearned runs this year, where the other two gave up 7 apiece.  Hey, that counts.  Again, sabermetrics tells us that Verlander was better there too (6.6 WAR to 6.5 for Kluber and 5.0 for Porcello).  Verlander “only” won 16, compared to Kluber’s 18 and Porcello’s major league leading 22.  But what sealed it for me was Verlander’s 2nd half 8-3, 1.96, .180 batting average against, which topped the 2nd halves of the other two by a decent amount (Kluber, 9-1, 2.52, .215; Porcello, 11-2, 2.62, .203).  More importantly, Justin got only 3.97 runs a game for support.  Kluber got 5.16 and Porcello 6.61.  Seems like he was working with less margin for error.

Sale went 3-7 in the second half, but his ERA was actually better (3.28 to 3.38 in the first half).  His innings, WHIP, K’s and everything else were much better than the remaining candidates, so he was an easy pick for 4th.  I don’t love taking relievers.  But Britton had an ERA well under one and didn’t blow any of his 47 save chances.  So there is something to be said for that.  In reality, Andrew Miller probably had a more dominant year.  But he wasn’t asked to close many games, so I have to give Britton the nod here.

Aaron Sanchez, Masahiro Tanaka, Cole Hamels, Jose Quintana and JA Happ with his 20 wins will get some love.  I saw them a step or more below all of the above however.

Rookie of the Year:

  1. Michael Fulmer, Detroit
  2. Nomar Mazara, Texas
  3. Gary Sanchez, New York Yankees

Fulmer runs away with this one.  He was 3 innings shy of qualifying for the ERA title, where he was leading for a stretch and would have finished third at 3.06, behind Sanchez at 3.00 and Verlander at 3.04.  Mazara was one of only two rookies who had enough plate appearances to qualify for a full season (Cheslor Cuthbert being the other).  Mazara started strong and cooled off a bit, but seemed like the best bet for 2nd.  Only 53 games and 201 at-bats for Sanchez and he gets 3rd?  Yup.  20 homers in those 53 games.  Among an otherwise quite barren Yankee lineup.  Good enough for me.  Cuthbert?  Nope.  Tim Anderson?  A shortstop, so maybe.  Max Kepler?  Meh.  Tyler Naquin or Ryon Healy?  Not today.

Manager of the Year:

  1. Terry Francona, Cleveland
  2. Scott Servais, Seattle
  3. Buck Showalter, Baltimore

TIIIITTTTOOOOO!!!  Yup.  Love Tito, but not being nostalgic here at all.  The Indians improved 13 wins from 2015, though their best player, Michael Brantley, totaled a mere 43 plate appearances during the 2016 season.  The lineup is clearly improved from 2015, but other than Jason Kipnis, Francisco Lindor and Carlos Santana, the rest of them are probably really platoon players on good teams.  Sure, Mike Napoli and Jose Ramirez had pretty good years out of nowhere.  But they also gave almost 250 plate appearances to an old and fat Jose Uribe.  Yan Gomes hit a solid .167 in about the same amount of chances.  The pitching is of course the strength, bullpen with Cody Allen and a dominant 2 months from Andrew Miller leading that charge.  The rotation was solid, with Kluber in the Cy mix as noted above.  But behind him, Carlos Carrasco battled injuries and after Danny Salazar had an All-Star start, he had his problem with injuries as well.  Some challenges there that Tito had to navigate as well.

Servais took over the Mariners this year and led them to 10 more wins.  It helped that Cano had a rebound year.  And Cruz is Cruz.  Kyle Seager is pretty good.  Not much else to write home about in that lineup.  As for the staff, Felix Hernandez made only 25 seemingly “un-King Felix” like starts.  Hisashi Iwakuma won 16, but with an ERA over 4.  Tijuan Walker never took that “next step”.  And after Steve Cishek became shaky at closer, they went to a young Edwin Diaz, who got the saves, but whose ERA did spike as well.  I’m not sure how Seattle improved so much actually.  Side note:  JA Happ went 4-6, 4.64 and Mark Trumbo hit 13 homers in 96 games for the 2015 Mariners.  Then Happ won 20 for the Jays and Trumbo hit 47 bombs for the O’s in 2016.  What?

Buck won 8 more games this year than last, with a lineup that seemingly only hit homers or struck out and a putrid rotation.  That’s good enough for 3rd for me.  And it doesn’t count him not pitching Britton in the wild card playoff game, which was inexcusable in my eyes.  People may ask, “where is John Farrell”?  After all, the Sox won 15 more games than 2015.  Farrell may well win the award in real life.  But when I spent all year trying to get him fired, I couldn’t put him in my top three.  They really should’ve won 5-10 more, but Farrell held them back.  I still believe that and still wouldn’t mind not seeing him back next year.  But I’ve beaten that like a dead horse.  I’d love to give Joe Girardi a vote.  I hate the guy and I hate the Yankees.  Another secret, I know.  But how he has kept that team in the playoff race until the last week or so the last few years, I have no idea.  Old team, half the pitching staff I’ve never heard of, his 2 best relievers were traded at the deadline this year, A-Rod circus, etc.  But they lost 3 wins from 2015, so it would be hard to justify a vote for him all that being said.  Texas won 7 more games for Jeff Banister this year, but he won the award last year and…that team is pretty good anyway.

Next:  The National League

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