Danny Knobler won’t vote for Bagwell, but he won’t tell you why


Danny Knobler of CBS has a Hall of Fame vote. This year he gives it to Roberto Alomar and Jack Morris.  Why not anyone else?

There are players I’m not voting for this year because I strongly suspect they built their credentials by cheating. And I’ve decided, after much consternation, that I’m not going to vote for them.

Who are they? I can’t tell you.

You’ll guess some of them. Rafael Palmeiro failed a test. Mark McGwire admitted he used.

But with others, it’s just strong suspicion, or word of mouth. It’s nothing I can prove, and nothing I’d feel professionally comfortable writing in a story … I’d love to debate them with you, because debate is what the Hall of Fame elections are about. But accusations without proof are not what our business should be about, and not what this country should be about.

Knobler goes on to say that just because he didn’t vote for someone doesn’t mean that he thinks that they took steroids. Just that some of them he didn’t vote for — but he won’t tell you who — fall under his suspicion. A suspicion the parameters of which he won’t define.  I’m going to assume that he’s talking about Bert Blyleven. Or maybe Lenny Harris. They should probably consult their lawyers.

Seriously, though, I can’t decide if Knobler’s justification for not voting for Jeff Bagwell — and really, who else is he talking about, given that he mentions McGwire and Palmiero by name elsewhere — is better or worse than those guys who have said “I need more time to consider Bagwell …” when there’s nothing reasonable to consider about his on-the-field case.

But whether it’s better or worse, I do know that it’s highly disingenuous. A Hall of Fame vote is a significant act. More significant than any given column some Internet columnist posts.  The matter is so delicate that his speculation can’t be printed, yet it’s OK to cast a vote based on that speculation? A vote that will help define the player’s legacy and baseball history?  OK, great.

Try this, Knobler: “I think it’s quite possible that Jeff Bagwell took steroids. I have no proof of it, but I think he did, and that’s enough for me to not give him my Hall of Fame vote.”

I don’t personally agree with that, but it’s not legally actionable. It’s an admission of a non-malicious, fact-free opinion, which we’re all entitled to have in this country, and which you’re trying to gussy up with your holier-than-though nameless non-speculation speculation.  It at least has the benefit of being a much clearer statement of what you’re doing. Plus it could also turn out to be correct (I have no idea if Bagwell used steroids or not).

The best part: if you share that opinion with people and freely admit that you’re helping decide who is and who isn’t a Hall of Famer based on that kind of reasoning, more fans will at least realize how irrational our current system of electing Hall of Famers is.  These writers don’t know anything better than you do and aren’t even willing to offer their informed opinions of the matter to you for your consumption.

At this point I’d almost be receptive to a fan vote. At least then we’d get a Hall of Fame someone likes.

Erik Johnson likely to open 2016 in the White Sox rotation

DENVER, CO - APRIL 09:  Starting pitcher Erik Johnson #45 of the Chicago White Sox delivers against the Colorado Rockies during Interleague play at Coors Field on April 9, 2014 in Denver, Colorado. The Rockies defeated the White Sox 10-4.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
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With the White Sox losing Jeff Samardzija to free agency, Erik Johnson will likely get a shot to contribute out of the rotation to open up the 2016 season, GM Rick Hahn said in a conference call on Wednesday, per a report from’s Scott Merkin.

“As we sit here today, I think it will be an opportunity for Erik Johnson to convert on sort of the return to form he showed back in 2015 when he was International League pitcher of the year for [Triple-A] Charlotte,” Hahn said. “Obviously, he got some starts in September and continued to show the progress in Chicago he had shown in the Minor Leagues over the course of the last season.

“So if Opening Day were today, then I think Johnson is penciled in to that spot in the rotation right now. In all probability, once we get closer to spring, there will be some competition for him to earn that spot. But if we were strictly looking at today, then I would think Johnson has the inside track on filling Samardzija’s innings.”

Johnson was called up from Triple-A Charlotte in September and made six starts, allowing 14 runs (13 earned) on 32 hits and 17 walks with 30 strikeouts in 35 innings. That followed up an impressive five months in the minors where he compiled a 2.37 ERA and a 136/41 K/BB ratio across 132 2/3 innings.

Baseball America, Baseball Prospectus, and each included Johnson on their top-100 prospect lists, ranking him 63rd, 67th, and 70th, respectively. The right-hander was selected by the White Sox in the second round of the 2011 draft.

Major League Baseball will investigate Yasiel Puig for his role in Miami nightclub brawl

Yasiel Puig
AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi

It was reported on Friday afternoon that Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig was involved in a brawl at a Miami nightclub. Details were scant at the time, but he reportedly left with a bruise on his face.

Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times reports that Major League Baseball plans to investigate Puig under the league’s new domestic violence policy for his role in the brawl. Citing a report from TMZ, Hernandez notes that Puig shoved his sister, “brutally sucker-punched” the manager of the bar, and instigated the brawl.

The Dodgers and Puig’s agent have thus far refused to comment on the situation.

Rockies shortstop Jose Reyes was the first player to be investigated under the league’s new domestic violence policy earlier this month, as he allegedly assaulted his wife. Reyes has pleaded not guilty after he was charged with domestic abuse in Hawaii.

As our own Craig Calcaterra pointed out, commissioner Rob Manfred does not need to wait for Puig to plead guilty or to be found guilty to levy a punishment.

Dayan Viciedo close to signing with Japan’s Chunichi Dragons

Dayan Viciedo
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Patrick Newman is reporting that the Chunichi Dragons of Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball and outfielder Dayan Viciedo are close to an agreement on a contract. Newman notes that the Dragons are close to signing pitcher Jordan Norberto as well.

Viciedo, 26, has struggled since making his major league debut in 2010 with the White Sox, batting an aggregate .254/.298/.424 with 66 home runs and 211 RBI in 1,798 plate appearances. He spent the 2015 season with Triple-A Charlotte (White Sox) and Nashville (Athletics), hitting a composite .287/.348/.450. While Viciedo can hit the occasional home run, he hasn’t shown the ability to do much else at the big league level. Given his age, he could prove himself in Japan and parlay that into a renewed shot in the majors in the future.

The White Sox signed Viciedo out of Cuba in December 2008, agreeing to a four-year, $10 million deal. The club re-signed him to one-year deals in 2013 and ’14 for $2.8 million each and $4.4 million ahead of the 2015 season.

Blue Jays sign J.A. Happ to a three-year, $36 million contract

J.A. Happ
AP Photo/David Zalubowski

Update (8:45 PM EST): Per Sportsnet’s Shi Davidi, Happ will get $10 million in 2016 and $13 million each in 2017 and ’18.

*’s Gregor Chisholm reports that the Blue Jays have signed lefty J.A. Happ to a three-year deal worth $36 million.

Happ, 33, had a rebirth as a member of the Pirates last season after starting the season with 20 subpar starts with the Mariners. He made 11 starts for the Buccos, boasting a 1.85 ERA with a 69/13 K/BB ratio over 63 1/3 innings.

Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported this past August that Happ’s newfound success had to do with a delivery tweak suggested by Pirates pitching coach Ray Searage. The Blue Jays are certainly hoping that adjustment is the full explanation for his success.

The Jays’ signing of Happ most likely signifies they won’t be pursuing free agent lefty David Price.

This will be Happ’s second stint with the Blue Jays. The Astros dealt him to Toronto in a July 2012 trade. He posted a 4.39 ERA with a 256/113 K/BB ratio in 291 innings with the Jays, then went to the Mariners in a trade this past December that brought outfielder Michael Saunders to the Jays.