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Travesty…

…you may think this piece is about the New England Patriots debacle Sunday against the Miami Dolphins?  No.  No.  No.  Well, the word used for this title does fit, but that’s a story for the next column involving NFL picks.

There was another travesty that happened on Sunday.  Different sport.

We are still a few weeks away from my annual Baseball Hall of Fame column.  But I felt the need to comment based on what happened over the weekend.

The “Today’s Game Era Committee” voted Harold Baines and Lee Smith into Cooperstown on Sunday.  Yup, these guys are now Baseball Hall of Famers.  Immortals.  Amazing.  Simply amazing.

Wait, who the hell is the “Today’s Game Era Committee”?  Welp, this is part of the old Veterans Committee.  “Part”?  Yup.  “Today’s Era” covers players 1988 to present.  The “Modern Era Committee” covers 1970-1987.  The “Golden Days” covers 1950-1969.  Lastly, “Early Baseball” covers 1887-1949.  I guess if you were good before 1887 you are out of luck.  But I digress…

Either way, these separate committees apparently have different years they can vote on guys and this year was the “Today’s” turn.  But also apparently, these committees are just as useless as the old Veterans Committee.

Why?

For starters, the Modern Committee elected Jack Morris and Alan Trammell last year.  Also…not Hall of Famers.

I believe that part of the reason the Veterans Committee was revamped was to stop guys from voting in players that shouldn’t be in the Hall.

Oops…looks like that isn’t working.

Listen, Baines and Smith (and Morris and Trammell) were very good players.  They were for a very long time.  But this has become the problem with Cooperstown.  It is becoming the “Hall of Very Good”, instead of the Hall of Fame.  Too many “decent” players are getting in now.  The place is totally getting watered down.

Add in the fact that there are legitimate Hall of Famers on the outside looking in.  Yes, based mostly on the whole steroid thing.  But still.  Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds are no-brainer Hall members, with or without the ‘roids.  Manny Ramirez too.  And in my eyes, Pete Rose belongs for all his issues.  Rafael Palmeiro probably also.

That’s just for starters.  My point is if guys like Baines and the most recent “committee” guys are in, don’t players like Sammy Sosa, Mark McGwire, Larry Walker, Fred McGriff, Gary Sheffield and Dale Murphy get in automatically?  May as well put Steve Garvey, Don Mattingly, Al Oliver and Bernie Williams in too.  And those are only the hitters.  I didn’t mention Edgar Martinez, because he likely gets in this year anyway.  I don’t love it, but others do, so that’s ok.  But guys like Todd Helton are eligible this year for the first time too.  To me, Helton isn’t a Hall guy, but maybe based on these current circumstances, he is?

As for pitchers, guys like Curt Schilling and Mike Mussina now should be locks.  And for the hell of it, let’s just add Jim Kaat, Denny Martinez and Luis Tiant.  John Franco?  Billy Wagner?  Ron Guidry?  Tommy John pitched until he was 87 years old, won 288 games and had a surgery named after him.  Why the hell doesn’t that get him in??

You get my point.  Absolutely silly.  Simple as that.  Let’s just let everyone in.  That will solve everything…well, I guess it will keep a lot of people happy anyway…

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2018 MLB National League All-Stars

As promised, the NL squad is below.  32 players are selected.  20 are supposed to be position players and 12 are supposed to be pitchers.  I’ll stray from that a bit, as we always do here.  Similar to the AL, 19 position players and 13 pitchers for the NL this year, but the reasoning is different.  The Blowhard, in all seriousness, had problems coming up with the 32 players needed for the NL team.  Each team is represented, as we know.  Again, I don’t necessarily love this rule, but for all those spots, I suppose every team should have SOMEONE there.  But there was one NL team that truly had ZERO real candidates.  You’ll find that out soon enough.  (S) for the starter.  Comments below each position.

C:  J.T. Realmuto, Mia (S), Francisco Cervelli, Pit

There were surprisingly several candidates at this position in the National League.  But I’m sticking with my 2 catcher maximum.  After Realmuto was a victim of taking only two catchers in the two previous years, he is the clear-cut starter this season.  After that?  HAD to go with Cervelli to back up.  The Pittsburgh Pirates really do not have any candidates at all.  Cervelli has missed some time with a concussion but has a .876 OPS when he has played.  The only other Pirate player worth considering was their closer, Felipe Vazquez.  17 saves are great.  But a 3.47 ERA and a WHIP of almost 1.35 is not.  As for other dudes…Yadier Molina could have a case.  Buster Posey always has a case.  But Posey’s numbers are down from previous years.

1B:  Freddie Freeman, Atl (S), Jesus Aguilar, Mil, Paul Goldschmidt, AZ, Joey Votto, Cin

Aguilar is a nice story, but I’m going Freeman to start.  Goldy started slow but is on fire recently.  Votto’s power is down, but he’s still having a nice year.  If you wanted Brandon Belt instead, fine.  Jose Martinez?  Sure.  I won’t argue about the last slot.  Take whoever you want.  Except for Eric Hosmer.  Wow, that was a dumb contract the Padres gave him.  And he ain’t doing much to earn it.

2B:  Javier Baez, ChC (S), Scooter Gennett, Cin, Ozzie Albies, Atl, Asdrubal Cabrera, NYM

Baez by a slim margin over Gennett to start.  Guess Gennett’s 2017 season was not a fluke, huh?  Albies had a strong first half.  Asdrubal?  Yup.  Deserved.  If you wanted to take a fifth first baseman over him, I wouldn’t complain.  But I’m keeping him on my squad.  And no, he isn’t the only Met, if you can believe that.

3B: Eugenio Suarez, Cin (S), Nolan Arenado, Col

This is it for third base in the NL.  And this year Arenado is NOT being penalized for playing in Colorado.  Suarez’ overall numbers are simply better.  And Max Muncy’s 20 dingers in 196 at-bats are nice.  But not sure that gets him on.

SS:  Brandon Crawford, SF (S), Trevor Story, Col

And…this is it for shortstop in the NL.  Story is being penalized for playing in Colorado.  Trea Turner?  Not this year.

OF:  Matt Kemp, LAD (S), Nick Markakis, Atl (S), David Peralta, AZ (S), Rhys Hoskins, Phi, Bryce Harper, Was

Matt Kemp?  Nick Markakis?  What year is this?  Actually, even though these guys have been around forever, Kemp has actually made only two All-Star teams and Markakis…ZERO.  So good for them with what they are doing this season.  Peralta?  Yikes!  But he was really the best option for the last starting spot.  I had actually originally picked Odubel Herrera instead of Hoskins…then I realized Hoskins was now pretty much an outfielder and doesn’t play much first base anymore.  So I swapped them.  Plus, I wanted to say that I picked Odubel, Aaron Altherr and Hoskins as All-Stars from the Phillie outfield in consecutive years.  That seems a little crazy, no?  Bryce…hmmm, I know.  Tough call.  .218 average would knock just about everyone else out of it.  But power is there and OPS is too.  So I said what the hell?  Plus…Brandon Nimmo?  Kyle Schwarber?  Anyone from above I left off?  I don’t think so.

P:  Max Scherzer, Was (S), Jacob deGrom, NYM, Aaron Nola, Phi, Jon Lester, ChC, Miles Mikolas, StL, Patrick Corbin, AZ, Sean Newcomb, Atl, Mike Foltynewicz, Atl, Kyle Freeland, Col, Josh Hader, Mil, Sean Doolittle, Was, Brad Hand, SD, Kenley Jansen, LAD

Ouch.  And…ouch…again.  Take a look at the names on this list again.  Max gets the start since the game is in his home park.  But you could seriously give deGrom the ball.  I don’t think a lot of people know what kind of season he is having because his team sucks so bad.  Nola has had a nice first half as well.  The rest?  Ok.  But most of the names are certainly underwhelming.  It’s almost like I had to take Freeland because he is a starting pitcher from Colorado and with his numbers (8-6, 3.18), you have to take that into consideration.  Newcomb has backslid a bit.  Mikolas is the Cards rep.  Folty has fewer innings than most starters.  Corbin and Lester have been solid.  But who’s next, Ross Stripling?  Nope.

Hader was the only middle man taken on both teams.  But he did close when the Brewers regular closer, Corey Knebel, was out.  And you can’t scoff at 83 strikeouts in 44 2/3 innings and a 1.21 ERA.  In fact, there is another middle guy on his team that probably deserves consideration in Jeremy Jeffress.  Hand is the Padres rep.  People have been on the Kirby Yates bandwagon.  Not me.  Doolittle belongs.  Jansen isn’t quite as dominant as he has been in previous years, but he’s still the guy to close it out if it gets to that point.  Kyle Barraclough and Adam Ottavino probably deserve consideration as middle guys as well.  But I’m not doing that.  Maybe Raisel Iglesias as another closer.  But I’m going with these guys.

Aaaaaah…feels good to be on time…for once!

Opening Day Is When?

March 29th, to be exact.  Thursday.  In March.  Boy, that sure crept up fast.  I suppose that’s what happens when it is basically still winter up here in the Northeast and baseball is not top of mind when it’s 30 degrees out and plenty of snow remains on the ground.  Not to mention the fact that the Bruins and Celtics are having great seasons, thereby keeping the focus on them for a while…possibly until both are out of the playoffs.

Perhaps also the expectations for the Red Sox aren’t as high this year either?  I don’t know.  I’m not that high on them anyway.  I’m not sold on the rookie manager.  Too many question marks on the pitching staff, especially relating to injuries…or injury risks.  Didn’t necessarily love the J.D. Martinez deal.  Hanley…everything about him.  The Yankees lineup looks prodigious…and have young potential stars on the way to boot.  Some of this stuff we’ve been through before.  Rest assured, we will get into more detail on my hesitations in the paragraphs that follow.

Listen, the Sox should be plenty good this year.  They should be in the mix for the playoffs…of course.  And for the money that the players are getting, they’d better be.  Alex Cora HAS to be better than John Farrell, right?  If he rejuvenates the younger players in the lineup, that alone is a huge win.  You know, those young players who were supposed to be the future stars and the core of this team for years to come?

So anyway, let’s start with a quick look at the roster.  No, it is not officially set yet, but it’s close enough.  In all likelihood, the roster was pretty much set before the spring even started, for all intents and purposes.  Basically just had to be adjusted a little for any spring injuries and for those who need a little more time to recover from previous offseason surgeries and whatnot.

Now let’s be honest, I did not watch a whole ton of spring training baseball.  But I read all the box scores!  And more importantly, I stayed away from all those “feel-good” stories that come out every March.  Didn’t need those influencing my feelings.  Because you all know how I feel for the 72nd guy on the roster.  Root like hell for whoever that may be!  In any event, because Spring Training results are fairly useless, we probably didn’t miss much.

Let’s get to it, in usual Blowhard fashion, we break down the roster by position, using the 40-man roster as a base, but adding in non-roster invitees (NRI) where appropriate:

Rotation (5):

In:  Chris Sale, David Price, Rick Porcello, Brian Johnson

DL:  Drew Pomeranz, Eduardo Rodriguez

DL/Suspension:  Steven Wright

In limbo:  Hector Velasquez, Marcus Walden (NRI)

Minors:  Jalen Beeks, Roenis Elias

Comments:  If Pomeranz and E-Rod aren’t out long, then the starting five should be more than acceptable.  But that’s the big part of the problem.  Those two aren’t the healthiest hurlers around.  They could be out only a week or two, or we could see them in June.  No one ever knows with them…E-Rod specifically.  Price has apparently had a nice spring.  But are we out of the woods on his elbow yet?  Not so sure.  Johnson is in the Opening Week rotation because of all these injuries.  But how about HIS injury history?  Marcus Walden is only noted here because he may actually be the #5 guy at the start since Hector has been less than stellar this spring.

Bottom line?  Lot’s of holes here.  If the starters remain in good health, it could be a top rotation.  But what are the chances of that happening?

Bullpen (7):

In:  Craig Kimbrel (closer), Carson Smith, Joe Kelly, Matt Barnes, Heath Hembree

DL:  Tyler Thornburg, Austin Maddox

In limbo:  Bobby Poyner (NRI), Tommy Layne (NRI)

Minors:  Brandon Workman, Robby Scott, Chandler Shepherd, Ty Buttrey, Williams Jerez

Comments:  There seem to be some other guys hanging around camp, like William Cuevas, but we don’t need to talk about guys like him.  They won’t be going up to Boston for Opening Day.  Anyway…lots of questions here as well.  Kimbrel was dominant last year, let’s hope he can do it again.  But the rest?  Smith resurfaced at the end of last year, but let’s see how he handles a full season now.  I am no fan of Kelly and Barnes so I don’t even want to talk about them.  If Thornburg can regain his health, that SHOULD help.  Then again, he has pitched in Milwaukee his whole career.  Who knows how he adjusts to the AL East?  Workman has been a huge disappointment this spring and I have no idea what the hell is wrong with late-season darling Maddox.  He hasn’t pitched all spring it looks like and I haven’t even heard his name mentioned.  I have heard Poyner’s name mentioned, as he has apparently turned some heads.  But the Sox had to go sign Layne in the middle of the spring.  That can’t be good.

There will be a lot of bodies on and off the pitching staff all year-long.  But I don’t love all the questions right out of the gate.  If I had to guess, Sale, Price, Porcello, Johnson, Velasquez, Walden, Poyner, Hembree, Kelly, Barnes, Smith and Kimbrel head to Boston at the start.  In case you were worried, there is one open 40-man spot for one of Walden or Poyner and another spot can be opened when someone like Dustin Pedroia goes on the 60-day DL.  Or someone like Chandler Shepherd gets designated for assignment.  But, as you know, I’m the only one that cares about the last 40-man roster spot…

Next:  The bats

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