Jim Thome

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


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.

Kyle Schwarber is in The Best Shape of His Life

CHICAGO, IL - AUGUST 16:  Injured player Kyle Schwarber #12 of the Chicago Cubs is seen in the dugout before a game against the Milwaukee Brewers at Wrigley Field on August 16, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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Kyle Schwarber made a quicker-than-expected recovery from ACL surgery and then, after an Arizona Fall League rehab assignment, was shuttled up to Cleveland for the World Series. But that’s not all he has done.

Schwarber is now the latest ever Best Shape of His Life All-Star. Or so says Kris Bryant, talking to Patrick Mooney of CSNChicago.com:

“We’ve seen first-hand the work that he’s putting in and how hard he’s been going . . . Honestly, I saw him out — maybe a couple weeks after his surgery — and he’s moving around, walking. And I’m like: ‘Dang, this guy’s not human. How? I saw your leg bend in half, and you’re walking around. This is unbelievable . . .(It’s) watching him dripping with sweat every single day. Every single day, this guy is drenched. I feel like he’s in the best shape of his life (now). There was no doubt in my mind that he could do it. It was just a matter of if they let him.”

May as well just forfeit now, Indians. No way you can deal with an October BSOHL guy.


The Red Sox may not hire a general manager after all

Boston Red Sox President of Baseball Operations Dave Dombrowski talks with reporters during a baseball news conference at Fenway Park in Boston, Tuesday, Oct. 13, 2015. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
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When Mike Hazen left the Red Sox to go run the Diamondbacks, the Red Sox set out to look for a new general manager to replace him. Now, according to Pete Abraham, they may not replace him after all. Instead, president Dave Dombrowski may just leave the seat vacant and run the Sox all by himself.

Which, to be clear, is something Dombrowski is more than capable of doing, as he has been a general manager for decades now. A lot of this stuff is a function of job title-inflation, with guys in Dombrowski’s position being given elevated titles despite the fact that they are, more or less, still running the baseball operations department like they did when they were merely general managers. GM, meanwhile, has become a less authoritative position in many organizations, making it a somewhat less visible and perhaps less desirable job than it used to be.

Not that it’s totally about optics. The job of running a ball club is a lot more complicated than it used to be, and having one guy who can run big picture stuff and close deals like Dombrowski with another one being in charge of the more day-to-day tasks of the top baseball executive may be ideal. It also may help reign in some of the excesses of the top guy. Dombrowski, after all, may have been a master of a the big deal while running the Tigers, but in a lot of ways the win-now philosophy cost the club a lot of money and a lot of lower level talent. Another voice with a decent degree of power may be useful in that mix. As may a clear line of succession should Dombrowski decide to move on in a year or two.

Interesting times.