Ohioans rejoice: LaPorta, Stubbs get callups

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One move was overdue.  The other was more about the thrill of finally getting Willy Taveras out of the Cincinnati lineup.  On Wednesday, the Indians added 2007 first-round pick Matt LaPorta to their roster, while the Reds called up 2006 first-rounder Drew Stubbs.

 

Bypassed when Ryan Garko, Ben Francisco, Victor Martinez all were shipped off, Matt LaPorta finally received his promotion when fellow youngster Trevor Crowe landed on the disabled list.  The 24-year-old was up briefly earlier this year, batting .190/.286/.286 in 42 at-bats.  He was hitting .299/.388/.530 in his first season in Triple-A, but the Indians held off on promoting him because of some indecisiveness over where to play him.  A first baseman in college, LaPorta was moved to the outfield when drafted by Milwaukee.  The Indians didn’t have Prince Fielder blocking him when they picked him up for CC Sabathia, but they left him in the outfield originally, only starting to give him more time at first base as this year went along.  He projects best at first base, but he could continue to shift between positions in the majors.

 

While it’s LaPorta’s bat that will carry him, Stubbs was chosen to replace the injured Taveras because of his defense in center.  It was still a surprise to see him picked over Chris Heisey, who played center in Double-A before joining Stubbs at Louisville.  Heisey has shown the better bat all year long, even though he’s faded recently.  Stubbs has struggled mightily of late, posting a .194 average in 62 at-bats this month.  He’s hitting .268/.353/.360 with 46 steals in 54 attempts for the season.

 

Stubbs stands 6-foot-4 and weighs 205 pounds, so the strength should be there.  He also strikes out like a power hitter, with 104 Ks in 107 games this season.  Unfortunately, he’s totaled just three homers in 411 at-bats.  Last year, he had seven in 470 at-bats.  That his defense in center is truly exceptional should make him a long-term regular, but there wouldn’t seem to be any star potential here, unless we’re talking fantasy baseball.  He’s not quite the burner that Taveras is, but he is an excellent basestealer, something that could land him a spot at the top of the order for the Reds next year.  The audition comes now, and if he’s impressive enough, then the team could eat the second year of Taveras’ deal.

 

As an aside, this isn’t the first time LaPorta and Stubbs have been connected.  LaPorta starred for the Gators and Stubbs for the Longhorns when Florida and Texas met in the finals of the 2005 College World Series, won by Texas.

Tim Raines, Jeff Bagwell, Ivan Rodriguez to be inducted into the Hall of Fame on Sunday

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This Sunday three players will be honored in Cooperstown as Tim Raines, Jeff Bagwell and Ivan Rodriguez become the 313th, 314th and 315th members inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Executives Bud Selig and John Schuerholz will be inducted as well, making it 316 and 317.

Raines was quite possibly the NL’s best player in a five-year span from 1983-87.  WAR thinks so, placing him ahead of Mike Schmidt, Tony Gwynn and Dale Murphy, all of whom got more plaudits at the time. Raines hit .318/.406/.467 during that period and averaged 114 runs scored and 71 steals per year. During those five years, only Rickey Henderson scored more runs (572-568) and only Wade Boggs had a better OBP (.443 to .406). That Raines had to wait until his last year of eligibility was in large part due to him being a very similar player to Henderson. Which is kind of an unfair comparison — Henderson is one of the best players of all time — but that’s how the voters operate sometimes.

Bagwell likewise had to wait a bit longer than he should’ve, mostly due to thus far evidence-free beliefs that he used PEDs. On the merits, Bagwell was one of the best first basemen of all time, with a career line of .297/.408/.540, 449 homers and 1,529 RBI. Between 1994 and 2001, he averaged — averaged! — a line of .306/.428/.589, 37 homers and 120 RBI while playing in perhaps the worst hitters park in history in the Astrodome.

People whispered about Rodriguez and PEDs just as much as they did Bagwell, but he got in on the first ballot, suggesting that the BBWAA is getting over its hangups. He is also clearly deserving of induction. Rodriguez, the 1999 AL MVP, was named to 14 All-Star teams and he won 13 Gold Gloves. He finished his career with a .296/.334/.464 line, 311 homers and 1,332 RBI. His 2,427 games caught is a major league record. He was, without question, the best defensive catcher of his era and many believe he was the best of all time. If he’s not, he’s in the top two or three.

As for the executives: we’re long on record as believing that Bud Selig’s induction is a disgrace. It was nonetheless a foregone conclusion, as the Hall of Fame has tended to view induction as part of retiring commissioners’ severance package. If there was any remaining doubt about him getting in, the fact that the committee which elected Selig was, more or less, hand-picked by people loyal to Selig and/or Major League Baseball put it to rest.  John Schuerholz is clearly deserving as he was one of the top executives of the past half century, starting out with the Orioles and then building winners in both Kansas City and Atlanta, sustaining those organizations’ success for far longer periods than most teams experience it.

Beyond those two, ESPN’s Claire Smith will be on the stage to accept the 2017 J. G. Taylor Spink Award, given to baseball writers. She is the first woman to be given baseball writing’s highest honor.  Athletics broadcaster will be honored as the Ford C. Frick Award winner for broadcasting. Smith passed away in 2005.

The ceremony will be held on a big lawn a mile south of the Hall of Fame. If you’re in the neighborhood, admission is free and lawn chairs and blankets and things are welcome. If you’re not in the neighborhood, the festivities will be broadcast live on MLB Network and will be shown via webcast at http://www.baseballhall.org.

Aaron Judge broke a tooth celebrating the Yankees walkoff win

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Brett Gardner hit a walkoff homer last night, giving the Yankees a dramatic 11-inning win. A grand celebration ensued. And then a trip to the dentist presumably ensured for Aaron Judge.

Seems that Judge broke a tooth during the scrum, as Gardner’s helmet — which was bouncing around, not on Gardner’s head — bounced up and smacked Judge in the mouth. Judge quickly went to the clubhouse and wasn’t available for comment afterward. If he was, he likely would’ve said “Thith wath a great win. Gardner juth looked for hith pitch and put a good thwing on it.”

Judge is expected to make the start tonight for the Yankees.