Jim Thome

Don’t use MVP voting to throw cold water on Jim Thome’s Hall of Fame case

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Personally speaking I think Jim Thome is a Hall of Famer. I haven’t really analyzed his case yet and won’t for a while, but I think he is.  The general sentiment among writers over the past few days seems to reflect that too. Even guys who have historically been opposed to so-called “stat-compilers” and who are thus less-impressed with milestone numbers as opposed to how fearsome or clutch a player seemed to be are on the Thome train. Guys like Jon Heyman, for example.

But Joel Sherman isn’t quite so sure.  His column today, while not sharply discounting Thome’s Hall of Fame case, certainly places it in second-tier status.  Sherman believes that Thome is more of a Don Sutton figure who, if he is elected, will do so because he hung around a long time and was likable.  Sherman does not believe, however, that Thome was ever an elite player, the sort of which people considered to be among the best in the game.  Among the evidence he cites:

Fred McGriff, for example, finished with 493 homers and is roundly viewed as a clean player, yet in his two eligible years has not exceeded 21.6 percent of the Hall vote.

McGriff, also a lefty, slugging first baseman, was named to five All-Star teams and his highest finish in the MVP tally was fourth. Want to guess Thome’s results? It is five All-Star teams and a high of fourth in the MVP voting. In fact, McGriff finished in the top 10 of MVP voting six times compared to four for Thome.

Does anyone besides me have a major problem with using MVP voting results as a Hall of Fame criteria? That having the same guys who vote on those awards — baseball writers — cite those vote totals as evidence for their Hall of Fame decisions?  Kind of circular, no?

This is especially true when you realize that Thome — just like Fred McGriff — was severely underrated when it came to postseason awards voting.  To cite the example many have cited in the past few days, in 2002, the baseball writers voted Thome 7th in the MVP voting despite the fact that he led the league in OPS and was second in WAR.  Indeed for several years Thome’s contributions were discounted as if he were some sort of bizarro Dave Kingman figure, doing little besides hitting home runs but at least doing it with a smile.

Thome was much more than that.  So too was McGriff for that matter.  That the writers didn’t appreciate that at the time should not count a lick to the writers who will need to assess Thome’s case in five or six years.

Jason Kipnis could join Team Israel for 2017 World Baseball Classic

CLEVELAND, OH - NOVEMBER 02:  Jason Kipnis #22 of the Cleveland Indians throws during batting practice prior to Game Seven of the 2016 World Series against the Chicago Cubs at Progressive Field on November 2, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
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With the 2017 World Baseball Classic around the corner, Team Israel has reportedly reached out to Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis, per MLB Network’s Jon Morosi. Tournament rules stipulate that a player’s roster eligibility can be achieved in one of several ways: they were born in the country in question or hold citizenship/permanent legal residence there (or are simply capable of qualifying for citizenship), or one of their parents was born in the country or holds citizenship/permanent legal residence there.

For Kipnis, it’s the latter. Kipnis’ father, Mark Kipnis, is Jewish. That gives Kipnis the status he needs to suit up for Team Israel, despite the fact that he is a practicing Roman Catholic. He has yet to confirm or deny his participation in the competition.

Fifteen players have confirmed for Team Israel so far, including Mets’ infielder/outfielder Ty Kelly and free agents Sam Fuld, Nate Freiman, Jason Marquis and Jeremy Bleich. Per MLB.com’s Chad Thornburg, eight minor leaguers will also appear for the team. Like Kipnis, at least three other major leaguers are eligible for Team Israel’s roster but have yet to accept or decline involvement in the WBC: Dodgers center fielder Joc Pederson, Mariners infielder/outfielder Danny Valencia and free agent left-hander Craig Breslow.

Rangers to sign James Loney to minor league deal

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - AUGUST 21: James Loney #28 of the New York Mets tosses to first base against the San Francisco Giants during the second inning at AT&T Park on August 21, 2016 in San Francisco, California.  The New York Mets defeated the San Francisco Giants 2-0. (Photo by Jason O. Watson/Getty Images)
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Free agent first baseman James Loney has reportedly signed a minor league deal with the Rangers, per FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman. The deal includes an invite to spring training and a $1 million salary if he makes the major league roster in 2017.

Loney picked up a one-year stint and starting role with the Mets in 2016, slashing .265/.307/.397 with nine home runs in 336 PA. While his numbers were down a hair from the .280/.322/.357 batting line he produced with the Rays in 2015, he provided the Mets with a necessary, if underwhelming upgrade over an injured Lucas Duda through most of the season.

The 32-year-old infielder is expected to have some competition at first base, with at least five other candidates in the mix: Jurickson Profar, Ronald Guzman, Ryan Rua, Joey Gallo and Josh Hamilton. Rumor has it that the team is planning on platooning Rua and Profar in 2017, barring any impressive breakouts or injuries during spring training, though Loney could still provide the club with some veteran depth and a decent left-handed bat off the bench.