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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!

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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

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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