Julio Franco

Assessing the first time Hall of Fame candidates

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John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle has his Hall of Fame ballot, and he tweeted the first time eligibles who are on it. Here they are with my insta-take:

  • Carlos Baerga:  There were about six months in the mid-90s when people thought he was a mortal lock. Of course, back then people thought Pamela Anderson was all that too.
  • Jeff Bagwell: Should be a first ballot guy, no?
  • Bret  Boone: If you combined him and Aaron together and made them a catcher like Bob, maybe.
  • Kevin Brown: He’s someone who was a lot better than you remember and was always better than he got credit for. I’m not going to spend a ton of political capital making his case, but he’s got a better one than Jack Morris does.  He’ll also fall off the ballot due to lack of support after this year, I imagine.
  • Julio Franco: Can he skip straight to the veteran’s committee ballot?
  • Juan Gonzalez: No chance and not deserving, but I’m curious to see if the old school writers’ overvaluation of his RBIs and MVP Awards will outweigh the old school writers’ overreaction to his PED associations.
  • Marquis Grissom: He falls into the category of “I hope he gets one vote so he can always say he got a Hall of Fame vote, because I liked the guy.”
  • Lenny Harris: He wouldn’t even make the pinch hitter’s Hall of Fame. Longevity, man.
  • Bobby Higginson: I remember when my friends who are Tigers fans tried to talk me into him being a big freakin’ deal. That never really happened, but for a while there he was all the Tigers had.
  • Charles Johnson: If feels like everyone has forgotten about Charles Johnson. Really: when was the last time anyone talked about him?  Kind of crazy for a guy who, for a while anyway, was one of the best catchers in baseball.
  • Al Leiter: Another guy who was probably better than Jack Morris and will get no play whatsoever.
  • Tino Martinez: I can’t think of this guy without thinking about how idealized he was in the years after he left the Yankees. If I had a dime for every time a Yankees fan said “if only we still had Tino . . .” from 2002 until 2004. Him and Brosius could have formed a club.  Martinez actually spent his last year — 2005 — with the Yankees again. If they had won the World Series that year Martinez would probably be getting some moderate “he was a winner!” support.
  • Raul Mondesi: An argument could be made that his late career awfulness ruined it for “toolsy guys” everywhere. Any time I hear someone being described as having “great tools” — which you still do once in a while — I think of Mondesi.
  • Jon Olerud: He has an identical OPS+ — 128 — to Jim Rice. Both of them should have plaques in the Hall of Very Good.
  • Rafael Palmeiro: To the extent I have a coherent philosophy of steroids guys and the Hall of Fame, it’s this: if I think that they were good enough even without steroids (to the extent I can even tell that) I’d vote them in.  If I felt that steroids was the difference between Hall-level performance and merely good performance, I’d leave them off.  This approach has about a zillion problems with it, but I think it’s better than a blanket “never vote for ‘roiders” or a blanket “ignore all PED information” policy.  Among guys who have made the ballot so far, Palmiero is the closest case. I can’t help but think that he’d fall short of Cooperstown numbers without the juice. I also can’t help but acknowledge that he played in great hitting environments for most of his career too.  So if I had a ballot this year, I’d say no. I’d wait. Maybe we’d learn more about PEDs over time and I’d revisit, but for now I’d say no. I think the voters will give him the iciest of shoulders this year. He may not even get the 5% or whatever it is he needs to stay on.
  • Kirk Rueter: I can’t say I ever expected him to make a Hall of Fame ballot, but hey, if you hang around long enough . . .
  • B.J. Surhoff: He was one of many veteran pickups those title-run Braves teams made at the latter, less successful end of the line. In this I can’t make a fair assessment of him no matter how hard I try. He was pretty good for a while though, and versatile. He stands as the best argument for teams having up years and down years as opposed to winning all the time: constant winning spoils you and skews your impressions of otherwise good players. Don’t believe me? Ask Yankees fans to give a brief overview of Lance Berkman’s career. Many of them will describe some journeyman palooka to you.
  • Larry Walker: Another one who is way better than Jim Rice ever was, but who won’t get much support I fear. I haven’t thought terribly hard about him yet, but I could probably be convinced that he belongs.

We’ll obviously have a lot of time later this month to hash out the Hall of Fame arguments.  But it’s nice to get them started, no?

Orioles re-sign Michael Bourn to a minor league deal

TORONTO, ON - OCTOBER 04:  Michael Bourn #1 of the Baltimore Orioles hits a single in the fifth inning against the Toronto Blue Jays during the American League Wild Card game at Rogers Centre on October 4, 2016 in Toronto, Canada.  (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)
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The Orioles have re-signed outfielder Michael Bourn to a minor league contract with an invitation to major league camp, MASN’s Roch Kubatko reports.

Bourn, 34, joined the Orioles last year in a trade from the Diamondbacks on August 31. Though he compiled a meager .669 OPS with the Diamondbacks, Bourn hit a solid .283/.358/.435 in 55 plate appearances with the O’s through the end of the season.

Bourn, a non-roster invitee to camp, will try to play his way onto the Orioles’ 25-man roster. If he does make the roster, Bourn will receive a $2 million salary, Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports points out.

Shelby Miller is in the best mental shape of his life

PITTSBURGH, PA - MAY 24:  Shelby Miller #26 of the Arizona Diamondbacks pitches in the first inning during the game against the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park on May 24, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
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Diamondbacks starter Shelby Miller had about as bad a season as one can have. He was the headliner in the trade that sent 2015 No. 1 overall pick Dansby Swanson, All-Star outfielder Ender Inciarte, and highly-regarded pitching prospect Aaron Blair to the Braves. It was a trade that was pilloried at the time and continues to be pilloried to this day.

Miller didn’t do then-GM Dave Stewart any favors with his 2016 performance. He went 3-12 with a 6.15 ERA and a 70/42 K/BB ratio over 101 innings. That included a bout with mechanical failure, as he kept hitting the mound with his follow-through. He went on the disabled list. And after that, he was demoted to Triple-A. After getting fired, Stewart expressed remorse over acquiring Miller — or, more accurately, giving up Swanson to do so.

So, the 26-year-old Miller heads into 2017 without any momentum. To his credit, though, he’s going into the new season with a very positive perspective. Via Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports:

I’m just in a really happy place, away from the field, on the field. […]

Maybe it’s just the way I go about everything, trying to be positive in every single aspect of life. Baseball’s not perfect. I’m not perfect. I know bumps in the road are going to happen. Last year was obviously not just a bump, but a huge mountain. Right now, that’s completely behind me. I’m not worried about any of that.

I’m really ready for this year, ready to redeem myself so much.

Even pitching coach Mike Butcher sees the change in Miller’s mentality. “He’s not a different guy. But you can see there’s a presence in him. That’s what we need. Just be Shelby Miller. You don’t have to live up to anything. Just be yourself.”

Manager Torey Lovullo, too, praised Miller. “I saw a guy who had spent a lot of time taking care of his business in the weight room — he looks fantastic, in fantastic shape,” he said.

It sounds like Miller is not only in great mental shape, but great physical shape, too. Is it the “best shape of his life”? Only time can tell.