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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…

Gross…different sport…

…so now it’s up to Clay Buchholz.

Think about that for a second.

Ok, that’s enough of that.  Now get your head out of the oven.

The good news?  This series is not over.  The Red Sox are coming back home and that, in and of itself, should create a glimmer of hope.  Cleveland is barely a .500 team on the road.  They also score about a run and a half less per game away from their friendly confines.  Their offensive numbers overall are much worse on the road, though the pitching splits are admittedly pretty similar.  But Josh Tomlin should not be unbeatable either.

You would assume the Sox offense will wake up at Fenway.  Well, they certainly can’t be any worse.  The only guy who has shown up so far is Brock Holt.  I suppose Andrew Benintendi too.  But that is it.  Similar to Cleveland, the Sox’ offensive numbers spike upwards at home.  Though not the same as the Indians, their pitching stats do get worse at Fenway.

The bad news?  Where do we start?

The Sox obviously have a good team and have the capability to not only come back in the series, but also take three in a row to win it.  But does anyone have that vibe now?  I don’t.

After winning 11 in a row to seal up the AL East, the Sox dropped 5 of their last 6 regular season games.  This obviously cost them home field, at least for this series.  How big was that really?  Didn’t think it was a huge deal before the series.  Feeling like that was the wrong assumption now.

People may write off the end of the season too.  Players were tired, they wrapped up a playoff spot and lost focus, home field wasn’t THAT important, etc.  But most of the regulars played most of those last 6 games.  So John Farrell must have though they still did have something to play for.  And then they didn’t get the job done in that respect.

This may have carried over to the first 2 games of this series.  We have seen an alarming number of brain cramps and bad plays in a mere two games:  Dustin Pedroia with an uncharacteristically brutal error in Game 2.  Benintendi being lazy on a fly ball in Game 1, allowing a catcher to tag from first to second.  Jackie Bradley Jr. with some terrible throws from the outfield, not to mention some horrific at-bats.  Sandy Leon with a bad throw or two.  David Price walking a the #9 hitter Roberto Perez, who hit .183 this season, TWICE in two at-bats.  Rick Porcello giving up three bombs in one inning.  Maybe even Marco Hernandez not taking third on a loose ball at the plate in the eighth inning in Game 1 (though there was only 1 out and he may not have made it, so maybe I’m being picky on this one).  This is only to name some.

Has the season-long farewell tour caught up to David Ortiz as well?  Especially with all of the events last week?  Perhaps.

More bad news?  You got it!  Due to Corey Kluber’s performance in Game 2, the Cleveland bullpen will be fresh for Game 3 on Sunday.  Specifically Andrew Miller and Cody Allen.  So if Tomlin gets ripped, Terry Francona can do a similar thing Sunday that he did Thursday.  And doesn’t everyone expect Buchholz to get blasted too?  So Game 3 could very well play out exactly like Game 1.  Not good for the Sox.

I would very much like to blame John Farrell for this series.  But I can’t really.  His two “aces” lasted 7 2/3 combined innings.  His offense completely shut down.  He has seemed to make the right bullpen moves.  People may have complained about moving Holt to 2nd in the batting order and Xander Bogaerts down to 6th, but Holt has performed.  I’m honestly not sure what else he could have done differently across the board.  As much as I would like to bash him, I really can’t.

One thing I would consider though:  Moving Benintendi to center and inserting Chris Young in left for Game 3.  Bradley is 0-6 with 5 strikeouts.  Probably would be 0-7 with 6 K’s if he didn’t get hit by a 0-2 pitch in his last at-bat Friday.  He doesn’t look right any way you slice it.  But what else can you do with the team?  Not much I am afraid.  Just have to hope the home cooking helps win Game 3.  Then maybe bring Porcello and Price back on short rest and hope the results in their second starts in the series are vastly different than their first ones.  Though how can we really expect that with Price’s career futility in the postseason?

I’m not packing it in, but it really does look like a lifeless team now, no?  And then to have to rely on Buchholz.  Yikes!  But we’ve seen them do it before.  Just have to hold out some hope for that.

The best thing about coming back to Fenway?  No more shots of LeBron James and the rest of the Cavalier clowns in their luxury box.  Please TBS, how many times did we really have to see that?

Speaking of TBS…I think we’ve had enough of them too…

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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