Who the heck is Barry Stanton?

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Since that ESPN ballot started making the rounds, complete with a guy named Barry Stanton voting for B.J. Surhoff and Tino Martinez of all people, the most frequent question populating my email box and Twitter feed is “who the heck is Barry Stanton?”

Some folks over on this BTF thread did some Googling, and it was discovered that Barry Stanton spent 25 years or so writing for the Journal-News of Westchester, New York, just outside of New York City.

The fact that he’s from Westchester is a possible explanation for his vote for Surhoff, who was a Westchester prep star.  The fact that he likely got his BBWAA ticket covering the Yankees or the Mets might explain the Tino Martinez vote. I’m sentimental sometimes myself, so I guess I understand it even if I don’t approve.

Oh, and then there’s this.  Seems Stanton left his job eight years ago after he was caught plagiarizing a Posnanski column. Ouch.

To be clear: I don’t link it to slam the guy or to discredit his ballot on that basis. The guy lost his job and I assume learned his lesson. There are few mistakes in life that people should be expected to pay for forever, and lifting some prose is not one of them. And hey: given the nature of his Hall of Fame ballot, one thing we know for sure about Stanton is that, in this instance, he’s not copying anyone.

That said, a lot of people marvel at the breadth of the BBWAA’s Hall of Fame electorate.  There are guys voting there who haven’t covered baseball for years.  One is a political cartoonist in Montreal. Another is a college football writer.  This one was found to have committed journalism’s greatest sin. In light of all of that, is it crazy to ask whether it’s worth the BBWAA’s time to reconsider who gets a vote and who doesn’t?

The BBWAA is hyper-selective at who gets to vote for awards: only 28 or 30 guys each, all actively baseball writers.  They get it right for the most part too.  The Hall of Fame has hundreds of voters from all over the place, and they’re increasingly screwing the pooch.  Isn’t there a happy medium to be found? Is it time to look for one?

Jorge Soler diagnosed with strained oblique, Opening Day in doubt

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Royals outfielder Jorge Soler has been diagnosed with a strained oblique, making it likely that he begins the regular season on the disabled list, Rustin Dodd of The Kansas City Star reports.

The Royals acquired Soler from the Cubs in December in exchange for reliever Wade Davis. Over parts of three seasons with the Cubs, Soler hit .258/.328/.434 with 27 home runs and 98 RBI in 765 plate appearances.

When he’s healthy, Soler is expected to find himself in the Royals’ lineup as a right fielder and occasionally as a designated hitter.

Report: Cardinals, Yadier Molina making “major progress” on contract extension

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Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports reports that the Cardinals and catcher Yadier Molina are making “major progress” on a contract extension. Molina told the team he won’t discuss an extension during the season, hence the rapid progress.

Molina is entering the last guaranteed year of a five-year, $75 million contract signed in March 2012. He and the Cardinals hold a mutual option worth $15 million with a $2 million buyout for the 2018 season. The new extension would presumably cover at least the 2018-19 seasons and likely ’20 as well.

Molina is 34 years old but is still among the most productive catchers in baseball. Last season, he hit .307/.360/.427 with 38 doubles, 58 RBI, and 56 runs scored in 581 plate appearances. Though he has lost a step or two with age, Molina is still well-regarded for his defense. The Cardinals also value his ability to handle the pitching staff.