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Cooperstown 2018…

In honor of The Baseball Hall of Fame announcing their latest inductees in a little bit, the Blowhard will lay his “vote” out here.

I’ll rehash real quickly that I am not discriminating against the “steroid guys”, per usual.  The era was the era, everyone was probably doing something, Major League Baseball ignored the issue, blah, blah, blah.

I’ll also reiterate that if I feel the same as I did about a player from last year (or previous years), I will probably just reference (ie: copy) what I wrote in that appropriate previous year.  No need to reinvent the wheel here.  Guessing this may apply to a number of players.

Oh, and somehow Jack Morris and Alan Trammell got in through the veteran’s vote recently.  I can’t even talk about these atrocities.  Ok, it’s not that bad.  But neither belong in the Hall.

In any event, 33 names on the official ballot.  I added one write-in of my own.

Elected:

Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens-I’m not sure why we even need to keep talking about these guys.  They may be two of the biggest dirtbags not only in the history of baseball, but also in the history of humankind, but they are also indisputably Hall of Famers.  Their vote totals continue to rise and they will undoubtedly get in someday.  But enough already.  Put them in this year and we can be done with them.  Thank you.

Manny Ramirez-You may have to include Manny with the two bozos above.  Not exactly the best dude or best teammate or any of that.  He is clearly not the sharpest tool in the shed.  But he clearly could at least do one thing and do that one thing unbelievably well.  Hit.  Manny is also indisputably a Hall of Famer.  He will also likely get in someday, but the 23.8% vote from last year is laughable.  Since Manny actually failed a couple of drug tests, this is no question being held against him.  And maybe it should be…but just temporarily I would hope.

Vladimir Guerrero-Changed my mind on this one from last year.  I wrestled hard with this one in both years, since I think he is right on the edge.  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.  I wouldn’t be bothered either way on Vladdy.  Hopefully he just gets in this year in real life and I won’t have to hem and haw on him again next year.

Chipper Jones-Hit for power and average.  Showed some speed early in his career.  Switch-hitter.  More career walks than strikeouts.  Played on winning teams for the majority of his career.  Postseason numbers are pretty good, and he had a lot of opportunity in the postseason of course.  No Gold Gloves in his trophy case, but he managed to stay at third base the majority of his career.  Former Most Valuable Player.  I’m not sure I need to say more.

Pete Rose-Here’s my write-in again.  King of all dirtbags.  But a Hall of Fame baseball player.  Simple as that.

Fantastic careers, but falling a smidge short:

Jim Thome-The numbers are gaudy, led by the 612 career homers.  I expect that alone will punch his ticket to the Hall, if not today, then maybe next year.  But he never finished higher than 4th in the MVP voting.  Only a 5 time All-Star (although I will allow that he was at a tough 1B/DH position, where good candidates get left out yearly).  Despite the 1,700 plus walks he earned, he did strike out over 2,500 times.  And on those Cleveland Indian teams where he made his bones, I am not sure he was even close to being the most feared hitter in the lineup at any time.  You could throw in the fact he DH’d a ton, but at least he had the numbers for that.  Just doesn’t feel like a Hall of Famer to me.

Johan Santana-Admittedly, this one is a stretch.  I don’t believe he will ever get in, as the career was just too short.  In that short time he was pretty dominant, but also admittedly, not “Sandy Koufax dominant”.  Shoulder and Achilles injuries eventually torpedoed his career, amid several comeback attempts.  These are of course a factor in evaluating his candidacy.  But I just don’t think his career should be overlooked, that’s all.  In the five year stretch between 2004 and 2008, Johan won 2 Cy Young’s, finished third two other years and fifth the other.  Threw a no-hitter.  Won a pitching Triple Crown.  Produced significant results during his career, but again, not enough.  If he remains on the ballot next year, he may drop down a category on my list.  But for now let’s keep him here.

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

Trevor Hoffman-5 votes short last year, so I’d be surprised if he didn’t get in today.  What I wrote last year still applies today:  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-No change from last year’s comment:  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.

Edgar Martinez-No change from last year’s comment:  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-No change from last year’s comment:  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.

Fred McGriff-No change from last year’s comment:  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-No change from last year’s comment:  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-No change from last year’s comment:  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-No change from last year’s comment:  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-No change from last year’s comment:  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-No change from last year’s comment:  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 Thome or Vladdy.  Nor do many of his other career totals.

Scott Rolen-Numbers were worse than I remembered and didn’t do a whole ton after age-31.  Rookie of the Year award, 7 All-Star Games and 8 Gold Gloves I suppose gets one some love.  The .158 average in 16 games (over 5 series) in the NLDS can’t possibly help though.  The rest of the postseason numbers don’t stick out either.  Nice player, no Hall though.

Andruw Jones-If Andruw retired after his age-29 season in 2006, he may have had a decent shot at the Hall.  Based on both his offensive and defensive prowess.  He didn’t, however, and sunk his chances with a pretty disastrous final 6 seasons.  “Disastrous” may actually be being kind.  Jones hit 92 homers in those 6 years, but did little else, but apparently stop doing ‘roids and get fat.  And I think stop caring, but I don’t know if I can prove that.  Anyway, no.

Johnny Damon-If Johnny stayed in New York after his age-35 season in 2009 and played 5 more years or so, we may be talking about him getting his 3,000 hit and thus pretty much automatically sending him to Cooperstown (see:  Biggio, Craig).  Instead, he quibbled about dough, played two mediocre seasons in Detroit and Tampa, then finished with a terrible half-season in Cleveland and fell short by 231 hits.  Solid player for a long time, loved him as part of the “Idiots” that helped win the Sox the World Series in 2004.  This really should be his only year on the ballot.

Omar Vizquel-Omar is going to get some serious love because “well, Ozzie Smith is in and Luis Aparicio is in and Vizquel’s numbers are comparable/better…”  And sure, he deserves consideration.  Absolutely a defensive whiz at shortstop, who got better offensively as his career progressed.  He may even get in someday, perhaps by the same group who let in Morris and Trammell this year.  But I’m not buying in.  Here is another one though, that if he got to 3,000 hits, he may be in automatically.  He fell 123 short.  That he got even that close is due in part to the fact that he played until he was 75 years old.  Ok, slight exaggeration there, but Omar is just another decent player that is not a Hall of Famer.

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

Carlos Zambrano, Jamie Moyer, Chris Carpenter, Livan Hernandez, Orlando Hudson, Kevin Millwood, Kerry Wood, Carlos Lee, Aubrey Huff, Hideki Matsui, Jason Isringhausen, Brad Lidge-Zambrano may have been on track early in his career, but then fell apart mentally and physically and was done at 31 years old.  Moyer only sniffed the neighborhood of 300 wins because he pitched for 60 years.  Carpenter blossomed later in his career with the Cardinals, but couldn’t stay healthy.  Lee’s numbers were better than I remembered, but for the era he played in, they fall woefully short still.

The rest?  Livan had a 4.44 career ERA.  Wood showed promise early and had a couple of great years over the course of his career, but Hall of Fame?  We aren’t counting Matsui’s Japanese stats.  Hudson, Millwood, Huff, Izzy and Lidge were largely mediocre players with occasional highs.

Well, I suppose it is an honor to be at least included on a Hall of Fame ballot…

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Red Sox Offseason Primer-Conclusion

We’ve covered the pitching, let’s move on to the rest of the roster:

Catchers (3):

Sandy Leon, Blake Swihart, Christian Vazquez

No need to rock the boat here.  Other than having Vazquez take more playing time away from Leon, that is.  Last year, they essentially split time and hopefully that will be adjusted a smidge in the upcoming year.  It would appear that these two will be the tandem again.   I can live with that.  Defensively, they are a solid duo.  They threw out about 40% of base stealers, an impressive number in this era.  Swihart at one point was a “can’t miss” prospect.  Think that one missed.  He will be 26 in April and catchers supposedly do develop late.  But he has been injured in recent years and also jerked around by the team position-wise.  His bat was his primary asset as a potential pretty good offensive catcher, but .190 in almost 200 at-bats in Pawtucket last year does not inspire confidence.  I’m not sure if he has options left.  If he does, he will likely go back to Pawtucket.  If not, it wouldn’t surprise me if he played a ton in the spring to try to pump up his value and then shipped elsewhere before the season starts.  Too bad.

Infielders (9):

Xander Bogaerts (SS), Rafael Devers (3B), Marco Hernandez (UT), Brock Holt (UT), Tzu-Wei Lin (UT), Deven Marrero (UT), Dustin Pedroia (2B), Hanley Ramirez (1B), Sam Travis (1B)

This is where some work needs to be done.  Based on what the rest of the 25-man roster would look like all around at this very point in time, it would appear 7 of these 9 would have to make the squad.  With Pedroia out injured until around June, that would seemingly leave everyone else but Lin on the major league roster.  Not ideal.  Bogaerts and Devers obviously set on the left side of the infield.  Ramirez, in this scenario, remains the designated hitter.  That puts Travis full-time at first.  And a combination of Hernandez, Holt and Marrero holding the fort at second until Pedroia comes back.  Ugh…

Dave Dombrowski insists that Hanley will be ready to play first base next spring.  That may well be true in a physical sense.  But does anyone really think that Hanley will be up for that plan?  Travis looks like he may be able to hit a little.  But I’m not sure he is the full-time solution.  I don’t think the Sox think he is either.  And that is a positive, because it would seem to spur the team on to make a major move involving a 1B or DH.  Or an outfielder, but we will cover that in a second.

Speaking of second, I can even live with that combination of stiffs at second base for 60 games or so until Pedroia comes back.  Does it really makes sense to go out and (re)sign a guy like Eduardo Nunez to a decent sized deal when you are locked into Dustin for like 14 per until 2021?  I think not.  I’d personally try to move Pedroia, but the knees, age, contract and 10/5 veto rights pretty much make that impossible.  Dombrowski has been talking up Marco recently.  But maybe that’s for trade purposes, who knows?

The move to be made at 1B/DH?  Could be Eric Hosmer.  But I’m not sure I want to spend a ton of dough on a good glove but someone who (other than batting average) may not even be a better hitter than what you had there last year in Mitch Moreland.  Carlos Santana?  Meh.  Again, would seem to be too much money for not much of an upgrade.  I don’t care how many home runs Logan Morrison had last year, he’s probably the last guy I want them to sign.  Lucas Duda?  Surely, you jest.

Hopefully there are some big bats that may be available that we don’t know about.  Because I can’t say I totally love the names being thrown out there now.

Oh, and Xander?  Part of me (actually, most of me at the present time) wants to unload him now.  Underachievement for the last year and a half.  Frustrating.  But the rest of me tells me they have to keep him.  25-year-old shortstop that presumably has his best years ahead of him.  Push comes to shove, I’d probably deal him in the right situation.  But it has to be EXTREMELY right.  I’m not giving him away.  Though I really wanted to last year…

Outfielders (4):

Andrew Benintendi (LF), Mookie Betts (RF), Jackie Bradley (CF), Bryce Brentz (LF/RF)

On the surface, Benintendi-Bradley-Betts left to right would seem to suffice, right?  But when teams are searching for a power bat, that bat may be in the outfield.  Which would necessitate some sort of adjustment to this outfield alignment.

And no, even though Brentz hit 31 homers in Pawtucket last year, he is not the “power bat” that the Sox are looking to add.  Or he shouldn’t be anyway.  It’s a nice story, since Brentz was designated for assignment last summer and anyone could have claimed him for nothing.  But a nice story is all it is.  Dombrowski has been talking Brentz up as the 4th outfielder too.  But I’m not even buying that at this time.

Obviously, newly minted National League Most Valuable Player Giancarlo Stanton is the hot name out there for the power bat.  All sorts of reports on him this past week…he wants to play on the West Coast and won’t approve of a trade to the Sox; that his reps are trying to get him to Boston because they think it will be the best fit, on and off the field; the Marlins want the world for him, even though he has almost 300 million left on his contract and on and on.

Stanton is the easy answer.  He plays right field though.  Right field in Fenway?  I suppose if that’s what he wants.  You could move Mookie back to center and keep Benny in left.  Maybe Stanton would agree to play left and then you would move Benny to center.  Giancarlo could of course DH, but he may not be ready to do that.  Either way, if he comes here, those “problems” will likely work themselves out.

I’m all for Giancarlo, even if the price is somewhat high.  I suppose it depends what “high” is, but the Sox should explore all options to get this done.  J.D. Martinez?  Ok…it’s only money for him I suppose.  And the Sox print money.  If it’s a fallback option, I guess you could do worse.  Other names?  Haven’t heard much.  Again, you never know who may be available, so maybe it’s a name we haven’t heard yet.

Any way you slice it, a big bat is absolutely imperative.  The Sox never really replaced David Ortiz last year.  Huge hole there, to state the obvious.  Where that bat comes in positionally, it doesn’t really matter.  Things could be maneuvered to make it work.  Bradley is one way things can be maneuvered.  I’d look to move him.  His ceiling has been reached.  Especially offensively.  His glove is nice, but can Mookie or Benintendi do at least 90% of that?  I think so.  And that should work out fine.  There has been rumored interest in JBJ.  If that is truly the case, I would strike while the iron is hot.

I’d actually like two bats, even if one is a little inferior to the other.  Can’t have enough power.  But, all in all, this may be the only move the Sox have to make.  Some tweaks to the pitching staff, sure.  But the big bat should be the one move the Sox should be all in on.  Anything else after that should be gravy, no?

Red Sox Offseason Primer

The General Manager meetings started Monday.  I know the World Series has barely ended.  And all of the 2017 awards have not been handed out yet.  But free agency has technically started.  So let’s take a look by position group to see who the Red Sox currently have and what they potentially could (should?) do.

The 40-man roster presently stands at 37.  If they want to protect any prospects from the Rule V draft, they will have to do so by November 20th.  But since Dave Dombrowski has basically traded all their prospects, they may not have to add anyone.  This is not to bash Dombrowski, just to state a fact.  I probably would have done the same thing as him.  In any event, after scanning MLB.com’s list of the Top 30 Sox prospects and comparing it to the list on Soxprospects.com of eligible Rule V players, the top prospect eligible (at #16) is some lefty pitcher named Jalen Beeks.  Yup, someone most have never heard of, including myself.  He did go 11-8, 3.29 between AA and AAA last year and is only 24.  So maybe he takes up a spot.  But I’m not searching for other players that may occupy the three open spots.  Doesn’t appear to be any no-brainers that NEED to be protected, but what do I know?

Let’s just dive right in:

Starting pitchers (10):

Roenis Elias, Brian Johnson, Henry Owens, Drew Pomeranz, Rick Porcello, David Price, Eduardo Rodriguez, Chris Sale, Hector Velasquez, Steven Wright.

Hey, don’t yell at me because Elias, Johnson and Owens are listed first.  Blame the alphabet.  I think most of us hope that none of these guys are in the rotation at any point during the season.  Actually, I read somewhere that Johnson may be in the bullpen next year because he is out of options.  That sounds awesome, no?  Yeah…

In any event, barring health concerns, it appears the five starters are set heading into the season:  Sale, Price, Pomeranz, Porcello and E-Rod.  Presumably, Wright will have to make the squad as well.  So there’s seven guys already that are locked in to begin the year.  Not entirely a bad thing considering the time bomb that Price’s elbow is.  Plus, you can count on E-Rod having to miss time with…something.  And does anyone expect Pomeranz to hold up for a full season next year?  Not to mention that Johnson doesn’t exactly stay healthy often himself.

If Price can approach a return to past All-Star form, then it’s not a bad rotation, with a little bit of depth.  But what if he doesn’t?  One also has to factor in that with the heavy workload Sale had last year, in addition to his annual second half regression, even he has some question marks going in.  You may not know what you get out of any of these guys.

As for the rest…the way Velasquez was used at the big league level last year pretty much indicates he is a mop-up dude…maybe Elias is too.  Maybe the Sox think more highly of Elias than most others do though.  He was hurt pretty much all year, then they squeezed him back into a roster spot late.  I have no idea why Owens is still on the roster.  At some point in the past he was not only one of the Sox’ top prospects, but also one of the top prospects in all of baseball.  That ship seems to have sailed however, what with his pathetic performance all of last season.  Which included a demotion to AA.  Where he walked 55 guys in 57 innings.  Yikes!

All in all, it looks like the Red Sox hands are tied here.  There will be no major free agents coming in.  Maybe E-Rod gets thrown in a deal, but I’m not counting on it.  I think you will see all of these characters in camp.  And then probably the aforementioned seven breaking camp with the team.  And I believe the Sox brass will be satisfied if that is the case.

Relief pitchers (11):

Matt Barnes, Heath Hembree, Williams Jerez, Joe Kelly, Craig Kimbrel, Austin Maddox, Robby Scott, Carson Smith, Ben Taylor, Tyler Thornburg, Brandon Workman.

The Sox will probably bring another five or so fringe major league relievers into camp once the moves this winter are all said and done.  But if Wright and Johnson make the club as swingmen, then that leaves only five spots open in the ‘pen.  Some of the extra relievers will be signed to minor league deals, so they can stick with Pawtucket and be called up later if necessary.  Think Blaine Boyer types.  Any way you slice it, there are always a lot of arms in Spring Training.

As for the five spots?  As of right now, seems easy.  Barnes, Kelly, Kimbrel, Smith and either Hembree or Workman.  I’d take Workman, but if he still has options left, which I don’t know if he does, then he goes to Pawtucket.  I imagine Jerez and Taylor will start at Pawtucket as well.  The club seemed to love Maddox at the end of the year, especially since they included him on the postseason roster.  But I am sure he has options left, which puts him in the minors to start the year.  Scott is fungible and likely has options himself.  Thornburg of course should be in the ‘pen to start, and recent reports indicate that he may be ready for the start of Spring Training, but I’m not counting on that.  How can anyone after his saga last year?  There’s probably a pretty good chance they take it slow with him anyway.

I’m not expecting any major moves here this winter either.  Not even a semi-major move, something like bringing Addison Reed back.  I expect them to sign several more relievers, as noted above.  But none that will move the needle.

I think the pitching staff that ended last year will be the bulk of the pitching staff that starts 2018.  I believe that, especially in the bullpen, that the Red Sox feel that getting a couple injured guys back at full strength will account for any upgrades that need to be made.  If Smith and Thornburg get back to where they were before their injuries, then they may have a case.  Time will tell on all of that.

What SHOULD the Sox do on the staff?  Believe it or not, I’m ok with throwing all of the above bodies up there, adding those fringe bullpen arms as well and then seeing what sticks.  I’m not sure a major move needs to be made anywhere on the pitching staff.  Don’t get me wrong, I don’t LOVE everyone listed, probably not even half of them.  But they can get by with these guys.  After all, they did win 93 games last year with plenty of time missed by a few significant pitchers noted above.

I’d say anything major being done with this team needs to be done to the offense…which we will cover soon…

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