McGriff's career gets even better with age

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040717_mcgriff_vmed_2p.standard[1].jpgFred McGriff will be eligible for the Hall of Fame next year, and the folks in Tampa (his home town, and where he currently works) are already banging the drum for his induction.

His basic numbers are pretty good — 493 homers, 1,550 RBIs, a .284 average. Further research by Rays VP Rick Vaughn makes them look even better, noting that all eligible players with similar triple crown category numbers are in and that McGriff compares very favorably with other first baseman in the Hall, as well as those in his era.

As good as McGriff was — and he was very, very good — the mention of his name has never sparked the imagination of casual baseball fans. As a player, he was quiet and classy. He didn’t court trouble or attention. He didn’t win any MVP awards. He just smashed 30-35 home runs and drove in 100 runs every year for 19 seasons.

Over a 15-year stretch from 1988-2002, McGriff was sixth in home runs, trailing Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Rafael Palmeiro and Ken Griffey Jr. Over the same stretch, only Bonds and Palmeiro drove in more runs.

And one more thing: Of the players mentioned above, only Griffey and McGriff have never been connected to steroids.

Whatever you think of juicing, it has become quite clear that Hall of Fame voters do care, and are prepared to punish anyone connected to steroids or suspected of using them. Just ask Mark McGwire.

So in contrast, will voters reward McGriff for a resume that is perceived to be clean? The Crime Dog tells the New York Times that he’s not sure it should matter:

“I think even without those guys being accused of this and that, my numbers stack up pretty good against those guys,” McGriff said. “It’s not like they were that much better. If you really start to look at the numbers, I was still right there.”

Well said, Fred.

Mets leaning on Jay Bruce, Neil Walker as Lucas Duda insurance

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - MAY 12:  Pinch hitter Lucas Duda #21 of the New York Mets walks back to the dugout after striking out for the first out of the ninth inning against Clayton Kershaw #22 of the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium on May 12, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.  The Dodgers won 5-0.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
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The Mets have begun working outfielder Jay Bruce and second baseman Neil Walker at first base as potential insurance in the event Lucas Duda continues to experience back discomfort, Mike Puma of the New York Post reports. Duda has been sidelined recently due to back spasms and missed all but 47 games last season as a result of a stress fracture in his lower back.

Manager Terry Collins spoke about Bruce’s work at first base on Sunday, saying, “I liked everything I saw today. “It looks like he’s got the athleticism, he’s got the hands, he’s got the arm angle. He made some throws in our drills that you wouldn’t expect an outfielder to be able to make, but yet he does. If that’s where we have to go, I think we’ll be fine.”

Bruce has only three games’ worth of experience at first base at the major league level, but still has high expectations for himself. He said, “I am going to work at it. I want to give myself a chance and the team a chance. I am not going to go over there and be a butcher. It’s just not the way I go about my business on the baseball field and it wouldn’t be fair to the team if I wasn’t capable to do it, so I am going to work at it and we’ll see what happens.”

The Mets made Bruce available via trade over the offseason but didn’t get an offer that whet their appetite. As a result, Michael Conforto appears to be the odd man out in the Mets’ crowded outfield.

Jason Kipnis diagnosed with a strained rotator cuff

CLEVELAND, OH - NOVEMBER 02:  Jason Kipnis #22 of the Cleveland Indians celebrates after scoring a run on a wild pitch thrown by Jon Lester #34 of the Chicago Cubs (not pictured) during the fifth inning in Game Seven of the 2016 World Series at Progressive Field on November 2, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis has been diagnosed with a strained rotator cuff in his right shoulder, MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian reports. Kipnis has received a cortisone shot and will be shut down from throwing for the next four to five days.

There’s a lot of spring left, so it’s perfectly sensible for the Indians to play it safe with their star player. The club already had Kipnis on a shoulder strengthening program.

Kipnis, 29, helped the Indians to the playoffs after batting .275/.343/.469 with 23 home runs, 92 RBI, 91 runs scored, and 15 stolen bases in 688 plate appearances during the regular season last year. He then helped the Indians reach Game 7 of the World Series against the Cubs, where they were eventually stopped, as he provided a .741 OPS including four homers and eight RBI in 15 playoff games.