Buster Olney’s Hall of Fame selections are buried in his column today. He doesn’t explain his picks there, but I think it’s safe to say that no one will have a ballot quite like his:
Roberto Alomar, Rafael Palmeiro, Tim Raines, Jack Morris, Jeff Bagwell, and Mark McGwire.
There’s obviously no PED stigma for Olney (which he has explained in the past). In some ways he’s tough (no Blyleven) in other ways he’s lenient (Palmeiro, Morris). Buster always seems to be thoughtful about these matters, so I’d be curious to hear his arguments. I’ll say this much: before seeing this ballot, I would have assumed that there was little if any overlap between the people who would vote for both PED users and Jack Morris.
In other Hall news, Rich Lederer, who has been farther out in front of the Bert Blyleven candidacy than anyone — and whom Jon Heyman has specifically called out in his own writing about the Hall of Fame — writes a sharp and highly-detailed rebuttal to Heyman’s stuff. No matter where you fall on the Blyleven/Morris continuum, it’s definitely worth a read. And I’d say that even if he didn’t link HardballTalk with approval near the end.
And yes: I realize we’ve been extremely Hall of Fame-heavy this week. For better or worse, however, it’s really all that’s going on.
With the 2017 World Baseball Classic around the corner, Team Israel has reportedly reached out to Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis, per MLB Network’s Jon Morosi. Tournament rules stipulate that a player’s roster eligibility can be achieved in one of several ways: they were born in the country in question or hold citizenship/permanent legal residence there (or are simply capable of qualifying for citizenship), or one of their parents was born in the country or holds citizenship/permanent legal residence there.
For Kipnis, it’s the latter. Kipnis’ father, Mark Kipnis, is Jewish. That gives Kipnis the status he needs to suit up for Team Israel, despite the fact that he is a practicing Roman Catholic. He has yet to confirm or deny his participation in the competition.
Fifteen players have confirmed for Team Israel so far, including Mets’ infielder/outfielder Ty Kelly and free agents Sam Fuld, Nate Freiman, Jason Marquis and Jeremy Bleich. Per MLB.com’s Chad Thornburg, eight minor leaguers will also appear for the team. Like Kipnis, at least three other major leaguers are eligible for Team Israel’s roster but have yet to accept or decline involvement in the WBC: Dodgers center fielder Joc Pederson, Mariners infielder/outfielder Danny Valencia and free agent left-hander Craig Breslow.
Free agent first baseman James Loney has reportedly signed a minor league deal with the Rangers, per FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman. The deal includes an invite to spring training and a $1 million salary if he makes the major league roster in 2017.
Loney picked up a one-year stint and starting role with the Mets in 2016, slashing .265/.307/.397 with nine home runs in 336 PA. While his numbers were down a hair from the .280/.322/.357 batting line he produced with the Rays in 2015, he provided the Mets with a necessary, if underwhelming upgrade over an injured Lucas Duda through most of the season.
The 32-year-old infielder is expected to have some competition at first base, with at least five other candidates in the mix: Jurickson Profar, Ronald Guzman, Ryan Rua, Joey Gallo and Josh Hamilton. Rumor has it that the team is planning on platooning Rua and Profar in 2017, barring any impressive breakouts or injuries during spring training, though Loney could still provide the club with some veteran depth and a decent left-handed bat off the bench.