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Remembering those left off the ballot

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Craig did his thing, running down the first-timers included on this year’s Hall of Fame ballot. But how about those players left off. That’s always the first thing I look at when the ballot comes out. So let’s take a trip down memory lane with those not worthy of being included with possible immortals like Lenny Harris and Kirk Rueter.

Wilson Alvarez (14 years) – The first pitcher to take the mound for the expansion Devil Rays in 1998. Health problems prevented Alvarez from ever truly living up to expectations, but he ended his career with a 102-92 record and a 3.96 ERA. His ERA+ is 112, compared to 98 for Rueter. Rueter, on the other hand, won 28 more games while pitching nearly 150 additional innings.

Cal Eldred (14 years) – A big-time prospect with the Brewers in the early 1990s, Eldred broke down not long after throwing a league-high 258 innings as a 25-year-old in 1993. Overcoming several surgeries and pitching with a screw in his elbow, he eventually resurfaced with the Cardinals and posted a 3.41 ERA in 171 1/3 innings out of the pen between 2003-2005.

Jeffrey Hammonds (13 years) – The fourth overall pick in the 1994 draft, Hammonds was a big-time underachiever until hitting .335/.395/.529 with 20 homers and 106 RBI for the Rockies in 2000. His lone years in Coors Field earned him a three-year, $21 million contract from the Brewers, and he promptly fell flat on his face. He his just 22 homers in five years after his career season.

Greg Myers (18 years) – The long-time backup catcher pulled off one of the surprises of the decade when ht hit .307/.374/.502 with 15 homers in 329 at-bats with the Blue Jays as a 37-year-old in 2003. Sadly, he hurt his ankle in April 2004 and missed the rest of the season. He had just 18 at-bats that year and 12 in 2005 before calling it a career. For what it’s worth, he had 27 more RBI than Harris in almost 900 fewer career at-bats.

Jose Offerman (15 years) – Briefly one of the game’s highest-paid players, Offerman was actually very good in the first year of the big four-year, $26 million contract he signed with the Red Sox, making his second All-Star team in 1999. However, things went south quickly from there. Never a very good middle infielder, he lost all of his value once his legs started to go. He was still playing in the Atlantic League as late as 2007, but his role in a bench-clearing brawl in which he charged the pitcher with his bat after being hit by a pitch effectively ended his career.

Paul Quantrill (14 years) – Quantrill led or tied for his league lead in appearances each season from 2001-04, and he was among his league’s most valuable relievers in the first three of them. The fourth didn’t go so well, as he racked up a 4.72 ERA in 95 1/3 innings for Joe Torre’s Yankees. When he was at his best, Quantrill got grounder after grounder and never walked anyone. In his All-Star campaign in 2001, he issued just five unintentional walks in 83 innings.

Rey Sanchez (15 years) – Long one of the game’s best defensive shortstop and weakest hitters, Sanchez played for nine teams in 15 seasons and batted .272/.308/.334. He’s one of eight players in the expansion era to come in with at least 5,000 plate appearances and an OPS+ under 70, joining Neifi Perez, Tim Foli, Ed Brinkman, Alfredo Griffin, Sandy Alomar, Mark Belanger and Ozzie Guillen.

Ugueth Urbina (11 years) – Having fanned 97 batters in 79 2/3 innings in 2005, Urbina had plenty left in his arm before his attempted murder conviction in Venezuela ended his career. He saved 237 games and went to two All-Star games in 11 seasons.

Former MLB player Andy Marte also killed in car accident

GOODYEAR , AZ - MARCH 06:  Andy Marte #15 of the Cleveland Indians looks on from the dugout during the spring training game against the Milwaukee Brewers at Goodyear Ballpark on March 6, 2009 in Goodyear, Arizona. The Brewers defeated the Indians 17-7.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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Compounding the tragic news of Yordano Ventura‘s passing is a report that fellow Dominican and former MLB infielder Andy Marte was also killed in a car accident in the Dominican Republic early Sunday morning. The report was confirmed by Marte’s agency, J.M.G. Baseball, as well as Marte’s former MLB clubs. No further details have been released so far.

Marte, 33, appeared for the Braves, Indians and Diamondbacks from 2005 through 2014. He was ranked in the top 10 MLB prospects by MLB.com in 2005 and held a career .218/.276/.358 batting line, 21 home runs and a .634 OPS over seven seasons in the majors. He signed with the KT Wiz of the Korea Baseball Organization after the 2014 season, slashing .312 with 42 home runs in 206 games.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to Marte’s family and teammates during this terrible time.

Yordano Ventura and Jose Fernandez were two of the most promising arms in MLB

PHILADELPHIA, PA - JULY 3: Starting pitcher Yordano Ventura #30 of the Kansas City Royals throws a pitch in the first inning during a game against the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park on July 3, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Hunter Martin/Getty Images)
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Baseball lost two incredible pitchers in the last four months, both to horrible and unforeseen tragedies. Jose Fernandez and Yordano Ventura were among the most talented and promising pitchers in MLB, two young arms that drew both accolades and criticism for their performance on the mound.

Ventura signed with the Royals in 2008, blazing through several tiers of their farm system before he was called up to replace an injured Danny Duffy in late 2013. He secured his rotation spot the following spring and finished a solid 2014 campaign with a 14-10 record, 3.20 ERA and 2.4 fWAR in 32 starts for the club. During the Royals’ World Series run later that year, Ventura dedicated his performance in Game 6 to Cardinals’ prospect Oscar Taveras, who was killed in a car accident in the Dominican Republic just two days earlier.

In four years with the Royals, Ventura pitched to a 38-31 record, 3.89 ERA and 6.5 fWAR. While his command and overall production rate waned, bottoming out in 2016 with a 4.45 ERA and 1.85 SO/BB rate, his dynamic pitch repertoire still kept him front and center in the Royals’ pitching staff. He brandished an electric fastball that, at its lowest point, hovered around 96.6 m.p.h. and, at its best, topped out around 102.6 m.p.h.

Like Ventura, Fernandez made an instant impression in the major league circuit. He earned Rookie of the Year distinctions in 2013 after delivering a 12-6 record, 2.19 ERA and 4.1 fWAR with the Marlins. Despite undergoing Tommy John surgery in his sophomore year, he recovered to take on a full workload in 2016 and stunned the league with a 16-8 record, 2.89 ERA, career-high 253 strikeouts and 6.1 fWAR.

Ventura developed a reputation for brushing back hitters, which escalated in some cases to volatile bench-clearing brawls. In 2015, he was ejected for three altercations in three consecutive games and served a seven-game suspension. Halfway through the 2016 season, he earned another eight-game suspension after plunking the Orioles’ Manny Machado in the back with a 99 m.p.h. heater. Some speculated that his aggressive behavior on the mound was excused — or, at least, made more palatable — by his talent and track record, while others called for a more heavy-handed approach from the league.

Fernandez, too, found himself at the center of speculation after reports emerged that painted the 24-year-old as a “clubhouse difficulty,” citing attitude problems that damaged relationships between the pitcher and Marlins players and staff. On the field, he was occasionally chastised for failing to adhere to some of baseball’s unwritten rules, most notably when he showed his elation after hitting his first career home run off of the Braves’ Mike Minor in 2013.

It’s impossible to predict where Fernandez and Ventura’s careers would have taken them. We mourn them not for their actions on the mound or their potential as star pitchers, however, but for their inherent value as people who were loved and respected by their families and teams. Major League Baseball will be worse off for their loss.