Digging into the Hall votes

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Trammell.jpgStill reeling from the exclusion of Roberto Alomar.  In the meantime, let’s look down the ballot a bit, shall we?

Bert Blyleven: He received 400 votes. 405 votes were required this year. Five voters submitted blank ballots. I’m hoping they out themselves soon so they can be pilloried all right and proper.  My pique in the last post — saying that maybe Bert would never make it — may be a bit much, but at some point doesn’t opposition harden? Doesn’t a backlash to his much-publicized candidacy start to develop?  He probably makes it next year. He should have made it several years ago.

Roberto Alomar:  He received 73.7 percent of the needed 75.  Obviously he’ll make it, probably next year. For now, the “he’s no first ballot Hall of Famer” crowd can declare victory. Now if only the Hall voting rules made a distinction between first ballot and non-first ballot candidates . . .

Jack Morris:  52.3%.  Last year he got 44%.  He looks like he’s on a slow but steady climb.  Given all the squawking about him, however, I would have assumed he would have received more.

Barry Larkin: 51.6.  Not a bad showing for a first year candidate. I think he deserves to get in, and at least a majority of writers do too.  Guys who crack 50% in their first year tend to make it eventually.

Edgar Martinez: 36.2%. I wrote earlier that I won’t think it the end of the world if Martinez didn’t make it this year, and I am not crying that he didn’t. Still, 36.2% for a hitter of his caliber seems awfully low.  Are there that many writers out there who view a DH as unqualified for the Hall?

Mark McGwire and Alan Trammell: Each inched up only a tad — Trammell 17% to 22%, McGwire 22% to 23%.  More than even Blyleven and Alomar, the low vote totals for Trammell are something to be ashamed of. I understand the opposition to McGwire. I had thought he’d jump much higher than this based on several writers saying that they have changed their mind on him.  He may never make it. If there is to be any movement on his candidacy, it will be because he’s a nice, honest and approachable hitting coach who likes to talk about the past.

Tim Raines: 30.4%  A seven percent jump from last year.  He’s going to be a 12-15 year candidate I suppose.  Lump him in with Trammell as players’ whose treatment by the BBWAA is shameful.

Others of note:  Fred McGriff’s 21.5% in his debut is less than promising, but at least he hangs around for another year.  Don Mattingly and Dave Parker only received incremental gains, and don’t look to have any momentum.  Lee Smith ticked up a bit to 47%, but it’s a lukewarm reception. Probably should be too.  Dale Murphy actually slid down a percentage point.  Harold Baines remains above the 5% cutoff by the skin of his teeth.  Andres Gallaraga only got 4.1% and will be gone henceforth.

WTF? Seven voters thought Robin Ventura was a Hall of Famer. Maybe they mistook their ballot for the Hall of People Who Got Their Ass Handed To Them By Nolan Ryan That One Time. Ellis Burks and Eric Karros had multiple (read: 2) supporters.  Kevin Appier only had one vote. He struck me as at least a 4 vote man. No, 5.  Two people thought that Pat Hentgen and David Sequi were worth a vote.

David Sequi? I take that, more than anything listed above, as proof positive that the BBWAA should be disbanded and its remains dispatched via horseback to the four corners of the empire.

Playoff Reset: The AL Wild Card Game

Wild Card

Each day throughout the playoffs we’re going to be doing what we’ll call a reset. Not always a preview, not always a recap, but a generalized summary of where we stand at the moment and what we have to look forward tonight.

Today, of course, is Day One of the playoffs so we can really only look ahead, so let’s look ahead to what’s on tap in tonight’s one and only game.

The Game: Houston Astros vs. New York Yankees, American League Wild Card Game
The Time: 8:08 PM Eastern. Or thereabouts.
The Place: Yankee Stadium, New York
The Channel: ESPN
The Starters: Dallas Keuchel vs. Masahrio Tanaka

The Upshot:

  • Dallas Keuchel is the Astros’ ace and may very well win the Cy Young Award, but he’s (a) pitching on three-days’ rest; and (b) not in Minute Maid Park, where he is clearly superior compared to how he does on the road. At the same time, (a) the Yankees haven’t figured him out this year, going scoreless against him in 16 innings and striking out 21 times, including a poor performance against him in the Bronx a month or so ago; and (b) lefty sinkerballer types are basically the platonic ideal of a pitcher you want to throw against the Yankees to drive them crazy. While, historically, pitchers going on short rest in the playoffs fare poorly — in the past 20 years they are 18-37 — sinkerballers and extreme groundball pitchers fare much better than most. It ain’t a perfect setup for him, but you gotta like Keuchel here.
  • Meanwhile, Yankees starter Masahiro Tanaka has made one career start vs. the Astros: this year, back on June 27. He got beat up, allowing six runs in five innings, receiving no decision. Those disclaimers about past performance not being indicative of future results you see in financial services commercials should apply to this and all other past matchup stats you see in the postseason, however. One random start here or there — or two in Keuchel’s case — doesn’t tell us a ton. This is baseball and tomorrow is always another day. At least if you don’t lose the Wild Card Game. More of a concern for Tanaka: rust. He has pitched only once since tweaking his hamstring against the Mets on September 18 and it wasn’t a good outing. At least he’s rested?
  • Both teams are dependent on the longball but both teams have struggled at times on offense down the stretch, with the Yankees’ bats being particular quiet in the season’s last month or so. Someone needs to wake up A-Rod. And Jacoby Ellsbury, Brett Gardner, Chase Headley and Brian McCann for that matter too. Of course, all of that firepower may not matter. The playoffs often see offenses go quiet and pitching come to the fore. Both teams have decent bullpens — the Yankees’ far, far more than decent — and given Tanaka’s rust and Keuchel’s short rest, this one is very likely to come down to multiple innings of hard-throwing relief. That favors the Yankees if they can keep it close.
  • Both teams are basically stumbling into the postseason, with the Yankees having lost six of their last seven games. They’re also under .500 since the end of July. The Astros swooned themselves in the second half, going 11-16 in September before rebounding in the season’s last week. Good thing momentum generally isn’t a thing in the playoffs — remember those 2000 Yankees losing 15 of 18 before the playoffs started and then won the World Series! — because neither team here has much of it.

This is the Astros’ first playoff game in a decade. While the Yankees haven’t been in the postseason since 2012, there is a lo tof playoff experience here, making this an interesting study in contrasts from a storyline perspective. At least if you’re into storylines. Personally I’m not. I’m more into baseball games and in this baseball game, I think Keuchel is a tough draw for the Yankees, even on short rest, and that for New York to advance they’re gonna have to be a team they haven’t been for weeks and maybe months: one that lays off junk down low and hits the ball hard.


Mike Scioscia will return as Angels manager in 2016

ANAHEIM, CA - JULY 21:  Manager Mike Scioscia #14 of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in the dugout during batting practice before a game against the Minnesota Twins at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on July 21, 2015 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Jonathan Moore/Getty Images)
Photo by Jonathan Moore/Getty Images

It was assumed already, but Mike Scioscia made it official during Monday’s press conference for new general manager Billy Eppler that he will return as Angels manager in 2016.

Scioscia, the longest-tenured manager in the majors, has been at the helm with the Angels since 2000. There was a clause in his contract which allowed him to opt out after the 2015 season, but he has decided to stay put. He still has three years and $15 million on his contract, which runs through 2018.

Jerry Dipoto resigned as Angels general manager in July amid tension with Scioscia, so there were naturally questions today about what to expect with first-time GM Eppler in the fold. According to David Adler of MLB.com, Scioscia isn’t concerned.

“I think we’re going to mesh very well,” Scioscia said. “If we adjust, or maybe he adjusts to some of the things, there’s going to be collaboration that’s going to make us better.”

Eppler is the fourth general manager during Scioscia’s tenure with the team.

After winning the AL West last season, the Angels finished 85-77 this season and narrowly missed the playoffs. The team hasn’t won a postseason game since 2009.