Jeff Bagwell

Jayson Stark makes a damn good point about the Hall of Fame ballot

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Today Jayson Stark makes a point about the Hall of Fame ballot that I hadn’t even considered: writers leaving suspected PED users off their Hall of Fame ballots are, perversely, making it harder for the suspected non-users like Fred McGriff and Dale Murphy to make the hall. How is that? Because not everyone thinks like they do, they’ll still vote for the Jeff Bagwells and Rafael Palmieros of the world, and thus you end up with a huge backlog of candidates:

For the first time ever, 10 slots weren’t enough for me to vote for all the players who fit my definition of a Hall of Famer. For the first time ever, I had to leave off the names of players I’ve voted for in the past — not because I’d changed my mind, but because that 10-player limit got in the way.

Because I wanted to vote for three first-timers — Jeff Bagwell, Rafael Palmeiro and Larry Walker — I had 12 names for 10 spots. So after agonizing for two weeks about how to deal with that challenge, I decided the fairest way was to rank them from 1 to 12.

That meant eliminating, with a case of massive heartburn, the two guys I ranked 11th and 12th — Fred McGriff and Dale Murphy. And so, because I’d voted for them in the past, that meant abandoning a voting philosophy I believe in. That truly stunk. But it also meant penalizing two players I firmly believe were clean, in large part because the Hall of Fame has no idea how to handle the guys who weren’t. That stunk even more.

Bagwell and Palmiero will still be on that ballot next year, and voters like Stark who don’t believe, regardless of what the PED evidence says, that McGriff or Murphy were better than them, will be obligated to vote for them lest they twist themselves in knots.  And just imagine what happens in a few years when Clemens, Bonds and a ton of other inner-circle talents enter the conversation.

Stark aims his ire at the Hall itself, believing that they need to do something with the ballot. It seems he’d have them take the character and morality clause out of the equation.  That may help, but I suspect that the current electorate would still vote against the PED users, believing that their newfound morality on the steroids issue outweighs the criteria set forth by the Hall.  Just a guess, though.

That stuff aside, Stark’s ballot is a good one and his reasoning — even when it comes to players I wouldn’t support — is sound.  Especially good stuff: his evisceration of the view that, on his merits as a player, Bagwell is not Hall of Fame-worthy.

Royals pay tribute to late Yordano Ventura during spring training opener

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - AUGUST 12: Yordano Ventura #30 of the Kansas City Royals delivers a pitch against the Minnesota Twins during the first inning of the game on August 12, 2016 at Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
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The Royals honored former pitcher Yordano Ventura prior to their first Cactus League game against the Rangers on Saturday. Ventura was killed in a car accident in his native Dominican Republic in late January.

Rangers’ third baseman Adrian Beltre and center fielder Carlos Gomez paid their respects to the pitcher with a floral arrangement that was laid on the mound. Both teams stood along the foul lines during a pregame video tribute that highlighted Ventura’s tenure with Kansas City. Following the game, Gomez spoke to the media about his relationship with Ventura, describing their frequent conversations during the season and commending the pitcher for having “the same passion that I had early in my career” (via WFAA.com’s Levi Weaver).

A plaque dedicated to the 25-year-old was also presented to club manager Ned Yost as a more permanent commemoration of Ventura’s contributions to the sport. Blair Kerkhoff of the Kansas City Star reports that the plaque will be mounted in the club’s spring training facilities alongside tributes to members of the Royals’ 2014 and 2015 playoff teams.

The full text of the plaque is below, via MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan:

A brother and a teammate, Yordano Ventura, passed away on the morning of January 22 in his native Dominican Republic, at the age of 25. He signed with the Royals as a 17-year-old, eventually making the big league team in 2013 as a 22-year-old. On most days, he could be found laughing and joking with his baseball family in the clubhouse. However, on days when he pitched, that smile was replaced by a quiet confidence and an intense fire, which he brought to the mound for every start. He had many highlights in his abbreviated career, not the least of which was throwing eight shutout innings in Game #6 of the 2014 World Series to force a Game #7 vs. San Francisco.

Gerrit Cole named Pirates’ Opening Day starter

BRADENTON, FL - FEBRUARY 19: Gerrit Cole #45 of the Pittsburgh Pirates poses for a photograph during MLB spring training photo day on February 19, 2017 at Pirate City in Bradenton, Florida. (Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images)
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Right-hander Gerrit Cole is set to take the mound for the Pirates on Opening Day, according to a team announcement on Saturday. It’s a spot that was most recently occupied by former Pirate Francisco Liriano, who made three consecutive Opening Day starts for the club before getting dealt to the Blue Jays last August.

The 26-year-old produced career-worst numbers during his fourth run with the Pirates in 2016, due in large part to bouts of inflammation in his right elbow. He finished the year with a 3.88 ERA, 2.8 BB/9 and 7.6 SO/9 over 116 innings before getting shut down in September to avoid further injury to his elbow. When healthy, however, Cole has been lights-out for the Pirates. Prior to his injury-laden campaign last year, he touted a career 3.07 ERA, 2.2 BB/9, 8.5 SO/9 and cumulative 10.2 fWAR from 2013 through 2015.

Cole will go toe-to-toe with the Red Sox during Boston’s home opener on Monday, April 3. Right-hander Jameson Taillon is scheduled to make the second start of the year, while fellow righty Ivan Nova will cover the Pirates’ home opener against the Braves on April 7. The Pirates’ third and fifth starters have yet to be announced.