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.

Breaking Down the Today’s Game Hall of Fame Ballot: Lou Piniella

TORONTO - JULY 9:  Manager Lou Pinella of the Cincinnati Reds looks on during batting practice prior to the1991 All-Star Game at the Toronto Sky Dome on July 9, 1991 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Rick Stewart/Getty Images)
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On Monday, December 5, the Today’s Game committee of the Baseball Hall of Fame — the replacement for the Veterans Committee which covers the years 1988-2016 — will vote on candidates for the 2017 induction class. This week we are looking at the ten candidates, one-by-one, to assess their Hall worthiness. Next up: Lou Piniella

The case for his induction:

He notched 1,835 wins, made seven postseason appearances, a won a World Series as a manager. That win total is good for 14th all time. Of the 13 men ahead of him, 12 are already in the Hall. The only who isn’t is Gene Mauch, who was under .500 for his career. Connie Mack and Bucky Harris are in that crowd and they were under .500 too, but Mack is kind of a special case as the all-time wins leader and Harris, well, I dunno, he hung around forever and the Veterans Committee was a different beast back in the 1970s. Point is, if you have Piniella’s win total and you’re over .500, as Piniella is, you’re probably getting in, at least eventually.

A lot of those wins came in some good places and at some good times, adding some psychological weight to that record. Taking the 1990 Reds to the World Series and beating the heavily favored A’s was a great story and, as the Reds’ last title for 26 years and counting, stands as a more memorable accomplishment than doing it someplace else. Likewise, his next job, in Seattle, coincided with the franchise’s best seasons thanks to the emergence of Ken Griffey Jr., Alex Rodriguez, Randy Johnson and Edgar Martinez under Piniella’s command. Mariners’ history fundamentally changed during the Piniella era and he will always be associated with that. Oh, and his 2001 team set the single season record for wins with 116. He made two playoff appearances with the Cubs too. That’s been eclipsed by the 2016 team’s exploits, but it was a pretty big deal at the time.

It’s also worth noting that Piniella likewise had a very fine playing career, with 18 seasons of 109 OPS+ hitting, a Rookie of the Year Award and a couple of World Series rings on his resume. That’s not enough by itself to get him in the Hall, but he presents a nice total package as a Baseball Man Supreme who has been thought highly of for close to 50 years now.

Oh, one other thing: he was colorful. He had a temper and a repuatation as kind of a red ass, with a good number of on-the-field incidents which stick in people’s minds. That sort of thing doesn’t necessarily make someone a good manager or a good person, but Piniella has been seen as a guy who mellowed with age and, at various times in his career, showed that he had a sense of humor about all of that stuff which makes it play a heck of a lot better. For Hall of Fame purposes, it certainly plays a heck of a lot more memorably.

The case against his induction:

His years in Tampa Bay weren’t all that great and, by the time his days in Chicago were over there was a sense that he was sort of running on fumes and padding that win total to get him into that top 14. In both places Joe Maddon eventually came along and did better things and, in some cases, undoing some bad things Piniella did. Some believe he should’ve won another pennant or two and, yes, some of those Mariners teams disappointed in the postseason. Some people look less amusingly on his temper tantrums over the years and, I suppose, one could characterize them a bit more sinisterly than I did above without being too dramatic.

Would I vote for him?

I think so. As I mentioned in the George Steinbrenner entry, when it comes to managers and executives, I put a lot of weight on whether one could tell the story of baseball in a guy’s era without mentioning his name. Piniella is no Joe Torre, Bobby Cox of Tony La Russa in that regard, but he’s pretty close to that group in terms of the figure he cut in the game and, as I mentioned, he’s critical to the story of a couple of franchises. Certainly the Mariners but also the 1970s Yankees as a player and, possibly, the 1990 Reds. I tend to be a softer Hall of Fame touch than a lot of people, so I get that people may disagree, but I’d put him in.

Will the Committee vote for him?

Hard to say. On the one hand, Piniella feels like the sort of baseball man that gets rewarded by the Veterans Committee. On the other hand, the Veterans Committee took ages to vote in some other notable managers such as Whitey Herzog, suggesting that maybe Piniella will have to wait. This is the first year for the new composition of the Veterans Committe, however, so it’s hard to say if they’ll be tougher or easier graders. He may be the hardest call of all of the guys on this year’s ballot.

Twins hire James Rowson as their hitting coach

BOSTON, MA - June 4: The Minnesota Twins logo is seen during the fifth inning of the game against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park on June 4, 2015 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Winslow Townson/Getty Images)
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The Minnesota Twins have announced that they have hired James Rowson as their hitting coach.

Rowson was the minor league hitting coordinator for the New York Yankees for seven of the last nine seasons, interrupted by a short stint with the Chicago Cubs as minor league hitting coordinator. He also worked at the minor league levels with the Los Angeles Angels. He played in the minors for the Seattle Mariners and Yankees.

Rowson replacesTom Brunansky, who was hitting coach for the past four seasons.