Ken Rosenthal's Hall of Fame ballot is A-OK

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Trammell.jpgKen Rosenthal says that he usually limits his Hall of Fame ballot to two or three elite candidates, but this year he votes for nine guys:
Roberto Alomar, Barry Larkin, Edgar
Martinez, Fred McGriff, Bert
Blyleven, Andre Dawson, Tim Raines, Lee Smith, and Alan Trammell. 
Rosenthal is only one voter, but since he has so many guys in it I want
to talk about, let’s use his ballot as the jumping off point.

At the outset, let me say that the fact that he included Alan Trammell
— my first and truest baseball love — entitles him to absolution for
any of his past ballot sins. Seriously Ken, you could dedicate the rest
of your life to getting guys like Dave Parker and Bernie Williams
elected and I won’t go too hard on you in light of that Trammell vote.

But beyond my baseball crushes, there’s a lot to like here.  It’s a big
ballot, sure, but it makes sense. Larkin and Alomar seem like
no-brainers to me. You know my thoughts on Blyleven. As I said
yesterday, I won’t cry if Martinez doesn’t make it this year because
people still need to screw their DH-heads on straight, but I think he
belongs.  In my mind Raines is a sure Hall of Famer too, for all of the reasons Joe Posnanski outlined a couple of weeks ago.

Which brings us to McGriff, Dawson and Smith. I’m going to put off
talking about Smith for now because I’m not sure I have really come to
grips with what to do with one-inning closers who were anything short
of uber-elite like Eckersley, but I promise to devote some thoughts and
words to the subject soon. So, for the time being no on Smith.

That leaves Dawson and McGriff. I think they’re much closer calls than
the others and I’m not 100% sure what I’d do with them if the ballot
was staring me in the face today. Let’s talk through this.

I think I’d lean yes on McGriff. Given that he straddled the low-offense
80s and high-offense 90s, his statistical case flies under the radar,
with his best seasons coming in lower run-scoring environments. 1989
was his best full season (1994 may have been his absolute best but was
cut short). That year he hit .269/.399/.525 with 36 homers. That may
elicit a yawn by more recent standards but at that time those were MVP
numbers. If he had played in places outside of Toronto and San Diego
during those early years he probably would have actually won one.

Dawson: I loved the Hawk. Great man. Got royally screwed over by
collusion and should have made a hell of a lot more money in his career
than he did. Was under-appreciated for what he was in his time, but may
be a bit overrated now if that makes any sense.  Ultimately I don’t
think I could pull the lever for him due to his .323 on base percentage
which would be historically low for a Hall of Fame outfielder, and
lower than the average player of his day. And I’m not buying Dawson and
Rosenthal’s argument that he could have had a higher OBP if he had been
told it was important. Not making outs is pretty fundamental to the
game, and that’s what OBP is. I don’t think a player as smart as Dawson
needed anyone to tell him that.  Upshot: Dawson makes my Hall of Very,
Very Good, but he does not make my Hall of Fame.

The last slot on Rosenthal’s ballot was empty, and he says who it could
have been but wasn’t: Mark McGwire. Like I said, I’ll accept this in
light of the love for Trammell, Blyleven and his refusal to put Jack
Morris on his ballot, but I think McGwire belongs. I will point out,
though, that Rosenthal’s comment on the matter — “The more we
learn about the Steroid Era, the better we understand just how
deeply performance-enhancing drugs were entrenched in the
game’s culture” — suggests that he and maybe others will soften on
McGwire over time and realize that he was a man of his time. That,
though he probably cheated, he was doing it in a league full of
cheaters, and thus didn’t have some obscene advantage like is currently
portrayed.

So like I said: good ballot. Not perfect — none is — but one that I could almost see myself filling out.

Reds sign Ryan Raburn to minor league deal

DENVER, COLORADO - APRIL 10:  Ryan Raburn #6 of the Colorado Rockies rounds the bases on his solo home run off of James Shields #33 of the San Diego Padres to take a 4-2 lead in the seventh inning on April 10, 2016 in Denver, Colorado. The Rockies defeated the Padres 6-3.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
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Veteran infielder/outfielder Ryan Raburn has a minor league contract with the Reds, the club announced on Sunday. The deal was reported last week, but had been pending a physical. It includes an invitation to spring training, where Raburn is expected to compete against Desmond Jennings for a major league utility role. According to the Cincinnati Enquirer’s C. Trent Rosecrans, there’s a $900,000 base salary waiting for him if he makes the big league roster by Opening Day.

Raburn, 35, is coming off of a down year with the Rockies in 2016. He slashed .220/.309/.404 for the team last season, clubbing nine home runs as he struggled to stay above the Mendoza line. Raburn was stationed in left field for much of the season, but also saw some time at DH, first base and right field toward the end of the year. Assuming he can turn out a production rate that skews closer to the .301 average and .936 OPS he put up with the Indians in 2015, however, the Reds should have little trouble finding a place for him off the bench or as a platoon option with Scott Schebler in right field.

Dexter Fowler unhappy with President Trump’s attempts to institute a travel ban

CLEVELAND, OH - NOVEMBER 01:  Dexter Fowler #24 of the Chicago Cubs looks on during the first inning against the Cleveland Indians in Game Six of the 2016 World Series at Progressive Field on November 1, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
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ESPN’s Mark Saxon reports that new Cardinals outfielder Dexter Fowler isn’t a fan of President Trump’s ongoing effort to institute a travel ban. Trump signed Executive Order 13769 on January 27, 2017, which limited incoming travelers from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. However, a temporary restraining order was placed by Judge James L. Robart following Washington v. Trump.

Fowler’s wife was born in Iran. Fowler said that her sister delayed her return from a business trip to Qatar to avoid potentially being detained. Fowler and his wife have also delayed traveling to visit her relatives in Iran.

Fowler said, “It’s huge. Especially any time you’re not able to see family, it’s unfortunate.”

The response by Cardinals fans was predictably terrible. Via the BestFansStLouis Twitter account:

One of the commenters wrote, “He signed a contract with the Cardinals so that makes him property of stl cardinals and mlb so he needs to keep his mouth shut. His personal opinions, problems, beliefs and political views should be kept to himself as long as he’s under a mlb contract…” He continued, “It’s not our fault he married someone from another country.”

Fowler caught wind of this and other responses to his statement, so he tweeted:

Fowler, of course, is one thousand percent correct.

These same “stick to sports,” “keep your politics out of my sports” people either said nothing or cheered when athletes and coaches espoused political views from the other side of the spectrum. Like when Patriots quarterback Tom Brady hung a “Make America Great Again” hat in his locker. Or when reliever Jonathan Papelbon played a pro-Trump song in the clubhouse. Or when former NFL head coach and ESPN commentator Mike Ditka said last year, “Obama’s the worst president we’ve ever had.”

Even Saxon and Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch have received myriad “stick to sports” comments simply for acknowledging that Fowler made a comment on the matter.

As we’ve pointed out here countless times, it is impossible to separate sports from politics. It is irresponsible to pretend like it’s even possible. Sports and politics intersect in so many ways, including race, religion, gender, sexuality, and class. This particular situation with Trump’s executive order impacts baseball quite a bit as Fowler’s individual situation shows. He’s certainly not the only player to have a loved one who came from one of the seven aforementioned countries. Non-white players are also much more likely to have a bad experience at the airport — consider how often players are at the airport during the season — and their family and friends may be subject to one of the many ugly ICE raids that have taken place over the last three weeks.

Kudos to Fowler for speaking up and kudos for Saxon and others for reporting on it. This is certainly not a time during which we should pretend we can keep sports and politics separate.