Daily Dose: Hamels, Phillies keep rolling

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Last week I wrote about why Cole Hamels’ disappointing win-loss record and bloated ERA misleadingly showed a big decline compared to last season when in reality he’s been nearly as good with just a lot less luck. Hamels was nice enough to make me look smart Tuesday night, hurling a complete-game, two-hit shutout for a 1-0 victory over the Giants.
Even with that masterful outing Hamels is still just 8-8 with a 4.26 ERA, but as noted last week nearly all of the underlying numbers that make up his performance are just as good and in some cases better than they were last year. He’s every bit the same stud as last season, Cliff Lee is 5-1 with a 1.80 ERA since joining him in the rotation, and the Phillies have now won 15 of 20 games.
While the defending champs look awfully scary after building a large enough lead to coast down the stretch, here are some other notes from around baseball …


* Monday’s trading deadline nearly came and went without any big action, but just as the clock was about to strike midnight the Dodgers made a pair of moves to pick up Jim Thome and Jon Garland for the final month. Thome is obviously a big name and put up big stats for Chicago with 23 homers and 74 RBIs in 107 games, but there’s no designated hitter in the NL and he hasn’t played first base regularly in years.
Immediately after the trade was announced Monday night Thome explained that he’s not physically capable of being anything more than an emergency option at first base and general manager Ned Colletti later confirmed that he’s being brought in strictly to serve as a pinch-hitter and possible DH for the World Series. That crushes Thome’s fantasy value while leaving James Loney’s mediocre upset intact.
* Along with sending marginal prospect Justin Fuller to the White Sox to get Thome as a bench bat the Dodgers also shipped a player to be named later that’s believed to be Tony Abreu to the Diamondbacks for Garland and enough money to cover his remaining 2009 salary and $2.5 million buyout for 2010. Abreu is an intriguing player now that he’s healthy again, but at that price the move was a no-brainer for L.A.
Garland recovered from a rough first few months to post a 3.45 ERA over his last 12 starts, but at 29 years old he’s well established as merely an innings eater. Garland is 8-11 with a 4.29 ERA and 83/52 K/BB ratio in 168 innings overall, has had an ERA under 4.20 just once since 2002, and features one of the worst strikeout rates in the league. Not a bad pickup for the Dodgers, but not worth much for fantasy teams.
AL Quick Hits: Carlos Carrasco was rocked in his MLB debut Tuesday, allowing five hits and a walk to the first six batters he faced … Michael Young will undergo an MRI exam after leaving Tuesday’s game with a strained hamstring … Sean Rodriguez will be a nice AL-only sleeper next season after coming to the Rays as the player to be named later for Scott Kazmir … On a related note, Andy Sonnanstine rejoined the rotation Tuesday in Kazmir’s old spot … Grady Sizemore may choose to have elbow surgery before the end of the year to guarantee that he’ll be ready for 2010 … Jose Guillen returned from the disabled list Tuesday after sitting out since mid-July with a torn knee ligament … Adam Jones exited Tuesday’s game with an ankle injury that looked relatively serious … Ken Griffey Jr. missed Tuesday’s game with a sore left knee … Carlos Pena blasted his MLB-leading 39th homer Tuesday to go along with just 38 singles.
NL Quick Hits: David Wright returned from the disabled list Tuesday after two weeks on the sidelines thanks to a Matt Cain beaning … St. Louis has reportedly extended closer Ryan Franklin’s contract through 2011 … Nate McLouth (hamstring) is slated to begin a rehab assignment Thursday at Single-A … Jose Contreras will make his Rockies debut Saturday … John Maine (shoulder) has begun a throwing program in the hopes of pitching again this season … In an effort to keep his workload in check, Mat Latos will be shut down for the year after making one more start Saturday … As expected, Jason Giambi joined the Rockies as a bench player Tuesday … Arizona acquired Kevin Mulvey from Minnesota as the player to be named later from Friday’s trade for Jon Rauch … Kyle Lohse (groin) threw a 40-pitch simulated game Tuesday and reported no problems … Johan Santana (elbow) and Oliver Perez (knee) both underwent successful surgeries Tuesday morning by the same doctor.

Great Moments in Not Understanding The Rules

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Bill Livingston of the Cleveland Plain Dealer is a Hall of Fame voter. In the past he has voted for players who used PEDs, but he’s never been totally happy with it, seeing the whole PED mess as a dilemma for voters.

On the one hand he doesn’t like voting for users and doesn’t like harming those who were clean by shifting votes away from them, but on the other hand, he doesn’t want to pretend history didn’t happen and that baseball hasn’t been filled with cheaters forever. What to do?

This year he decided to abstain altogether. A fair and noble act if one is as conflicted as Livingston happens to be. Except . . . he didn’t actually abstain:

Major league baseball will confer bronzed immortality on a few players Wednesday when the results of the national baseball writers’ balloting for the Hall of Fame will be announced.

I had a 2017 ballot. I returned it signed, but blank, with an explanatory note.

A blank ballot, signed and submitted, is not an abstention. It’s counted as a vote for no one. Each “no” vote increases the denominator in the calculation of whether or not a candidate has received 75% of the vote and has gained induction. An abstention, however, would not. So, in effect, Livingston has voted against all of the players on the ballot, both PED-tainted and clean, even though it appears that that was not his intention.

This is the second time in three years a Cleveland writer has had . . . issues with his Hall of Fame ballot. In the 2014-15 voting period, Paul Hoynes simply lost his ballot. Now Livingston misunderstood how to abstain.

I worry quite often that Ohio is gonna mess up a major election. I guess I’m just worrying about the wrong election.

Hall of Fame voters are making news, not exercising democratic rights

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Associated Press
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Last month the Baseball Writers Association of America voted to make all Hall of Fame ballots public beginning with next year’s vote for the 2018 induction class. In the past 24 hours or so, as this year’s Hall of Fame voting period comes to a close, a lot of folks have been talking about that. Most notably in Jayson Stark’s piece over at ESPN regarding next year’s brave new public world.

Stark is pro-transparency on the ballots, as are the vast majority of BBWAA members who voted on the public ballot measure (it passed 80-9). Not everyone Stark quotes in his article is on board with it, though:

“I’ve already seen a lot of people change their votes from one year to the next,” said one of the strongest dissenters to this decision, USA Today’s Bob Nightengale. “People have changed their votes based on public opinion.”

Two other sources in the story, Scott Miller of Bleacher Report and a voter who asked to remain anonymous equated their Hall of Fame vote with democracy and invoked the sanctity of the secret ballot. “The No. 1 reason I was against this rule is that in this country, it’s a democracy, and everyone has a vote on different things. And I hate to see a blanket rule that forces everyone to go in one direction,” Miller said. Here’s what the anonymous guy said:

“To me, a secret ballot is a fundamental of democracy. You should be able to vote your conscience without having to explain your vote. But once it’s public, you’re open to public pressure. And that’s not what we want in a democracy. We’re not elected representatives. We’re chosen to be part of a voting group.”

This is ridiculous of course. Voting for the Hall of Fame is not exercising democratic rights. It is making news and making history. Hall of Fame voters are making decisions which will fundamentally alter baseball history and which matter greatly to a large number of baseball fans. They are not advancing their own or society’s interests at the ballot box the way citizens do on election day. Despite the fact that the form of their action here is, technically speaking, a ballot, they are making news in the same way a GM makes a news with a trade, the commissioner makes news with a rule change or a team makes news by winning a World Series.

Would any of these voters — who are credentialed members of the media, by the way, and like to style themselves as truth-seeking members of the Fourth Estate — accept silence from the people who make the news on the beat they cover? Would they be content if the newsmakers whose acts they chronicle demanded anonymity the way they themselves do now? Of course they wouldn’t. And if they got the same silent treatment they’d prefer to give, they’d write one of those petulant little columns they love about players who “duck the press” after a game.

Suck it up, journalists. Act the way you expect the newsmakers you cover to act and own your decisions. Don’t pretend for a moment that you’re not the subject of, and not the reporter of, the story when Hall of Fame season comes around.