Roberto

Roberto Alomar, Bert Blyleven elected to the Hall of Fame

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The votes are in, and two have been chosen for immortality: Roberto Alomar and Bert Blyleven are Hall of Famers.

Alomar received an even 90%.  Blyleven got 79.7%. Just short: Barry Larkin with 62.1% and Jack Morris with 53.5%. Other notables include Lee Smith (45.3%); Jeff Bagwell (41.7%); Tim Raines (37.5%) Edgar Martinez (32.9%), Mark McGwire (19.8%) and Rafael Palmeiro (11%). The player with the lowest vote total who garnered enough votes to return to the ballot next year is Juan Gonzalez, with 5.2%.  Everyone below 5% will be removed.  There is much to be chewed over in the actual vote totals — and I do so here — but for now, let’s focus on the inductees.

A 12-time All-Star and a 10-time Gold Glove winner, Roberto Alomar was the premiere second baseman of his era. He came up with San Diego in 1988, where he played well — not necessarily great — in his age 20 through 22 seasons. His promise was apparent, however.  Alomar truly burst onto the scene when he was made part of one of the more notable trades in baseball history: along with Joe Carter he was sent to the Toronto Blue Jays for Fred McGriff and Tony Fernandez. In Toronto his offense ticked-up and he began his string of six-straight gold-glove seasons.  More importantly he was arguably the most important player on the Blue Jays’ back-to-back World Series championship teams in 1992 and 1993.

A free agent following the 1995 season, Alomar joined the Orioles. There his offensive contributions continued to rise — along with the league’s as a whole — and so did his profile, both for better and for worse. The better part: he was truly a national star by the mid-90s. The worse: the September 27, 1996 incident in which he spit in umpire John Hirschbeck’s face during an on-field argument. An ugly scene, the incident has continued to follow Alomar over the years despite Hirschbeck’s public forgiveness. It likely prevented Alomar from being inducted last year, his first year of eligibility.

Alomar had three more years as an elite player following his stint in Baltimore, and they came in Cleveland where he formed one of the greatest double play combinations in modern history with Omar Vizquel between 1999 and 2001. As almost always seemed to be the case, Alomar’s teams won a bunch of ballgames, with Alomar himself playing a key offensive and defensive role.

Alomar fell off a cliff following a trade to the New York Mets prior to the 2002 season, however, and he spent his final three seasons bouncing around the league. That precipitous decline notwithstanding, Alomar finished his career with a line of .300/.371/.443, and compiled 2,724 hits, 210 home runs and 1,134 RBI.  That, combined with his stellar defense, makes him one of the best second baseman of all time, and one of the most well-rounded players in baseball history.

Bert Blyleven was a study in sustained excellence.  While never viewed as truly great during his career — in part because he pitched a time when more elite pitchers roamed the Earth than any other — Blyleven’s Hall of Fame resume is nonetheless undeniable.

Given all the ink that has been spilled over his candidacy, his career accomplishments need little introduction. It’s worth noting a final time, however, that since 1900, Blyleven ranks 5th in career strikeouts, 8th in shutouts, and 17th in wins. There are only seven other pitchers who rank in the top 20 in those three categories, and they are all Hall of Famers. While many have knocked him for his propensity to give up home runs, five of the seven guys who gave up more homers than Blyleven are Hall of Famers themselves: Robin Roberts, Fergie Jenkins, Phil Neikro, Don Sutton and Warren Spahn.  He may not have “felt” like a Hall of Famer to some, but he is a deserving one by any measure.

Part of the “feel” argument used against Blyleven for so many years was the result of him not playing for many truly high-profile teams. The Twins, Rangers, Indians and Angels never grabbed the headlines during Blyleven’s tenure, and the late-70s Pirates had bigger stars holding the attention of the press. Blyleven’s national reputation was probably cemented by a couple of random Sports Illustrated articles written early in his career, in which he was portrayed as a talented pitcher who was somehow incomplete. But he grew as a pitcher after that, and he made each of his teams better even if they didn’t always support him like other elite pitchers tend to get supported. Indeed, Blyleven’s run support was among the worst ever for a pitcher of his caliber. Of Blyleven’s 250 losses, nearly 30% were by one run. In all, he lost 115 games by two runs or less. If a starting pitcher’s job is to give his team a chance to win, Blyleven more than held up his end of the bargain.

It was a long time coming for Bert Blyleven. And, as was noted yesterday, this day may never have come for him had it not been for the efforts of a few Internet zealots pushing his case.  Thank goodness for the zealots, though, because they were right to push it.

Congratulations to Roberto Alomar and Bert Blyleven. Always elite, now enshrined among the elite.

Dee Gordon reinstated from PED suspension

Miami Marlins' Dee Gordon celebrates after hitting a double against the Detroit Tigers in the ninth inning of a baseball game Tuesday, April 5, 2016, in Miami. Derek Dietrich scored on the double. The Tigers won 8-7. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz)
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The Miami Marlins have reinstated second baseman Dee Gordon from his suspension.

Gordon, of course, has missed the last 80 games while serving his drug suspension. He’s coming off a minor league rehab assignment and will be the everyday second baseman for the contending Marlins. He was hitting .266/.289/.340 with three doubles, two triples, five RBI, 13 runs scored, and six stolen bases in 97 plate appearances when he was popped. He was replaced by Derek Dietrich, who hit a nice .275/.366/.398 with 22 extra-base hits, 30 RBI, and 26 runs scored in 314 PA in Gordon’s absence, so don’t expect a tremendous upgrade at second down the stretch, even if they get a nice upgrade in the utility and depth department.

To make room for Gordon, the Marlins designated utilityman and sometimes hero Don Kelly for assignment. Sad jams.

Chris Sale called “a competitor” for stuff that gets most guys called “head cases”

SAN DIEGO, CA - JULY 12:  Chris Sale #49 of the Chicago White Sox reacts during the 87th Annual MLB All-Star Game at PETCO Park on July 12, 2016 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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Chris Sale has had an eventful week.

On Saturday he was scratched from his start and subsequently suspended for five games for cutting up the 1976 throwback uniforms the team was scheduled to wear, making them unusable. That cost the team over $12,000 and cost the Sox their best pitcher hours before game time.

On Monday Sale gave an interview to Scott Merkin in which he apologized to fans and teammates and explained his rationale for the uniform shredding. Even if his act was over the top, there was a core of understandable motivation at least: Sale said he voiced his displeasure with the untucked jersey months ago and asked to not pitch on a night they’d have to wear them because he believed it would mess with his mechanics and/or mental state. The Sox didn’t heed his request and Sale took issue, as many probably would, with what he felt was the business of throwback jerseys taking precedence over on-the-field stuff.

Of course, there are still some pretty big problems here. Mostly having to do with the facts that (a) the Sox have people on staff who could’ve optimized his jersey any way he needed it to be optimized if he had asked; (b) ballplayers have been wearing throwbacks for a long time now and, even if they don’t like them, they tend to endure them; and (c) he’s a ballplayer who needs to suck things up sometimes like every single ballplayer ever has done. There are a ton of things ballplayers are expected to do which are insisted upon by the business folks. It’s part of the gig.

A little more seriously than that is the fact that Sale pretty publicly threw his manager, Robin Ventura, under the bus :

“Robin is the one who has to fight for us in that department,” Sale said. “If the players don’t feel comfortable 100 percent about what we are doing to win the game, and we have an easy fix — it was as easy as hanging up another jersey and everyone was fine. For them to put business first over winning, that’s when I lost it.”

An undercurrent to all of this is Sale being fairly obvious in voicing his desire to be traded.

Today Bob Nightengale of USA Today has a story about Sale’s week. It’s sourced largely by Sale’s friend Adam Eaton who defends Sale as a passionate competitor who just wants to win and how all of this stuff of the past week was about his desire to do so. The headline of the story buys in to all of that:

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We heard much the same along these lines when Sale blasted Sox brass following the Drake LaRoche stuff during spring training, going on an expletive-filled rant in a meeting behind closed doors but then bringing the same noise, albeit cleaned up, in front of reporters after it all became public.

Chris Sale is who he is, of course, and I’m not going to too harshly judge who he is. He’s an amazing pitcher and, as most athletes will tell you, the mental part of the game is almost as important or, maybe, even more important than the physical part. Asking Sale to be who he isn’t would probably be counterproductive in the long term.

But I am fascinated with the way in which someone who has behaved like Sale has behaved is described. He’s a “competitor” whose objectively disruptive and literally destructive behavior is explained away as merely a function of his desire to win. His friends on the team, like Eaton, are sought out for damage control and spin and his detractors, which there are likely some, aren’t quoted, even anonymously. He has publicly called out his manager as not wanting to win as much as he wants to please his bosses and he has likewise called out his manager’s bosses and has welcomed a trade, yet we aren’t seeing stories about how that’s a bad thing for the Sox’ clubhouse.

I don’t much care for that sort of stuff, actually, as I suspect most clubhouse controversy stories are somewhat overblown and overly dramatized. But those stories have been go-to tropes of sports writers for decades, and I am trying to imagine this sort of story about players who aren’t Chris Sale. Players who don’t have as friendly a relationship with the media as he has or who don’t have clubhouse allies who do. I feel like, most of the time, a story about a guy who who has done the odd things Sale has done both this week and last March would play a hell of a lot differently.

How does this all play of it’s Yordano Ventura? Or Yasiel Puig? Or Jose Fernandez? How does this play if it took place in the NBA and it was Kevin Durant who shredded up a bunch of short-shorts on 80s throwback night? How does it play if it’s Cam Newton?

I bet it plays differently.