Barry Larkin

What can we learn from the Hall of Fame voting this year?

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I’m not one of those people who go crazy at the actual vote totals. You’re either in or you’re out, and if someone got 53.4% of the vote as opposed to 66.2% I’m not going to blow a gasket.

That said, there are a lot of things we can learn from the vote totals. So, in the interests of observation and science, let’s see what this year’s ballot really means:

  • For all of the ink spilled in his name, Jack Morris got only a slight bump in Hall balloting from last year, going up to 53.5%  from 52.3% in 2010.  While it’s true that most players who get 50% of the vote eventually get in, one would think that Morris would get a bigger bump.  If he doesn’t make huge strides next year, he may be blotted out by the Maddux-Glavine-Pedro-Johnson conga line that will come in a few years. Oh, and he’s going to fall off the ballot in three years regardless, so he had better enlist a good campaign team;
  • Barry Larkin seems to be on a strong course toward election. 62.1% in his first year of eligibility is strong. Next year’s class is weak.  I think he gets the call in 2012.
  • How does Robbie Alomar go from 73% to 90% in one year?  The only real explanation is that there was a huge penalty placed on him for not being what some consider a traditional first-ballot guy.  Which just goes to show that, no matter what the actual Hall voting rules say — and they specifically say that there is no special designation for “first ballot” guys — voters will read their own rules into the process.
  • Edgar Martinez got only 32.9% of the vote. I guess that tells us what the electorate thinks of the DH.
  • Mark McGwire — who for years was implored by voters to “come clean,” came clean in 2010.  He was rewarded with a reduction in his vote totals, going from 23.7% in 2010 to 19.8% this year.
  • Jeff Bagwell — who has been lambasted for, well, nothing — only received 41.7% of the vote despite being — arguably — the best first baseman in National League history.  Not a terrible vote for a first-timer, as many who have gone on to election began with vote totals in the 40% range, but far below where he should have been. Really, he is a first-ballot Hall of Famer.
  • Other PED-associated players were killed: Rafael Palmeiro only got 11%. Kevin Brown fell clear off the ballot with 2.1%.  I don’t think that either of them would be slam dunk guys anyway, but their vote totals — and the totals for Bagwell and McGwire — suggest that other players tied — or in Bagwell’s case, erroneously-tied — to steroids are going to face a bloodbath.  Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens get on the ballot in two years.  They’re going to get creamed and that’s going to make all of the little Jeff Bagwell and Bert Blyleven arguments seem like pleasantries exchanged over tea and cucumber sandwiches.
  • B.J. Surhoff got two votes. Wow.  Benito Santiago and Brett Boone got one. Double wow.

There’s a lot more that can be mined from that data.  The vote totals are here.

Yu Darvish will report to spring training on time, hopes to begin mound work in March

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Rangers ace Yu Darvish missed the entire 2015 season after undergoing Tommy John reconstructive elbow surgery last March 17. Most starting pitchers take 13-15 months to fully recover from that procedure, and the Rangers aren’t counting on Darvish until sometime this May.

His rehab so far has gone on without issue.

Darvish offered some very positive updates Tuesday to Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram …

Darvish, 29, boasts a 3.27 ERA and 1.196 WHIP in 83 career major league starts. He can also claim a whopping 680 strikeouts in 545 1/3 career major league innings.

Texas has him under contract for $10 million in 2016 and $11 million in 2017.

Masahiro Tanaka throws off mound for first time since October elbow surgery

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According to the Associated Press — via Chad Jennings of The Journal News — Yankees right-hander Masahiro Tanaka threw off a bullpen mound Tuesday for the first time since undergoing a cleanup procedure on his right elbow last October.

The throwing session took place in New York, and Yankees pitching coach Larry Rothschild later told the media in Tampa that all of the reports he heard were good.

Tanaka might be behind some of the Yankees’ other pitchers when spring training officially begins, but he should be ready for the start of the 2016 regular season.

The 27-year-old native of Japan posted a 3.51 ERA, 0.99 WHIP, and 139/27 K/BB ratio across 154 innings last season for New York. He owns a 3.16 ERA (123 ERA+) in 290 1/3 innings since becoming a major leaguer in 2014.

Tanaka is still pitching with a partially-torn ligament in his right elbow that could eventually require Tommy John reconstructive surgery. His surgery last October was of the arthroscopic variety and simply removed bone spurs.

Bud Selig to teach a class at Arizona State law school

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Before Bud Selig ultimately retired, he had a couple of false start retirement announcements only to have the owners beg him to sign on for one more term. In one of those false starts he talked about how the University of Wisconsin had set up an office for him in the history department and that he’d be doing some research and teaching a class now and again. And he has, in fact, taught some one-off seminars at Wisconsin’s law school and the like.

Now something a little more permanent along those lines is in the works for The Greatest Commissioner in Baseball History. The Arizona Republic reports that Selig will join the Sports Law and Business program at Arizona State University’s law school where he will teach and advise as well as start up a speakers series in which he will bring in high-powered guests. No word on how many speakers will talk about big, important historical sports law cases like, say collusion in baseball, which was orchestrated by an ownership class in the mid-to-late 80s, of which Bud Selig was far and away the most influential member. That could get sort of awkward, I suppose.

Either way, it’s a good way to keep busy. I mean, that’s what it has to be as he’s not hurting for cash, what with the obscene $6 million severance package the owners gave him to, I dunno, not give interviews about bad stuff that happened back in the day like Fay Vincent does all the time. Stuff like collusion. Maybe he gets the $6 million for some other purpose. Who can say, really? It’s never made any sort of sense otherwise.

Anyway, good luck in Tempe, Bud. Maybe I’ll stop by your office at ASU when I’m there next month — I always stay in Tempe — and we can chew the fat or climb that butte with the big A on it or something. First round at Four Peaks afterward is on me.

White Sox sign first baseman Travis Ishikawa

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First baseman Travis Ishikawa has agreed to a minor-league contract with the White Sox that includes an invitation to spring training.

Ishikawa was previously reported to have a minor-league deal with the Mariners last month, but the signing was never finalized. Now he joins the White Sox, who have Jose Abreu and Adam LaRoche ahead of him on the first base/designated hitter depth chart.

Ishikawa had some big moments for the Giants in the 2014 playoffs, but he’s a 32-year-old journeyman with a lifetime .255 batting average and .712 OPS in 488 games as a big leaguer.

It’s possible the White Sox could keep him around as a bench bat and backup first baseman/left fielder, but Ishikawa seems more likely to begin the season at Triple-A.