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.

Shapiro, Murray defend Dellin Betances after arbitration feud

SAN DIEGO, CA - JULY 12:  Dellin Betances #68 of the New York Yankees and the American League pitches against the National League 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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The dust hasn’t quite settled after right-hander Dellin Betances‘ arbitration hearing with the Yankees on Saturday. The case was decided in the team’s favor, awarding Betances with a $3 million salary for the 2017 season instead of the $5 million he initially requested. Yankees’ president Randy Levine held a press conference to voice his outrage over the figure presented by Betances and his agency, saying it had “no bearings in reality” since Betances does not have the elite closer status required for a salary bump of that magnitude.

Needless to say, the comments caused some consternation within Betances’ camp. The reliever publicly addressed the outburst, telling the press that he was prepared to put his differences with the team aside until he heard what Levine had to say. Via MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch:

Players union executive Rick Shapiro and Betances’ agent, Jim Murray, also spoke out in the right-hander’s favor. Shapiro presented Betances’ case during the hearing on Saturday and called Levine’s comments “an absolute disgrace to the arbitration process and to all of Major League Baseball.” In a report from FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal, Shapiro added: “The only thing that has been unprecedented in the last 36 hours is that a club official, after winning a case, called a news conference to effectively gloat about his victory – that’s unprecedented.”

Murray spoke exclusively to Rosenthal, accusing the president of effectively bullying the 28-year-old during the arbitration process and claiming that Levine had both mispronounced Betances’ name throughout the hearing and blamed the reliever for “declining ticket sales and their lack of playoff history.” Like Betances, Murray said that the agency was ready to accept the arbiter’s decision and move on before Levine’s decision to air his grievances to the media. “The only person overreaching in this entire situation is Randy,” Murray told Rosenthal. “He might as well be an astronaut because nobody on earth would agree with what he is saying. Even the others in the room would disagree with him.”

Royals will experiment with Alex Gordon in all three outfield spots this year

CLEVELAND, OH -  MAY 7: Alex Gordon #4 of the Kansas City Royals reacts to a fan while on first base during the sixth inning against the Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field on May 7, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
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Royals’ manager Ned Yost is shaking things up in 2017, starting with left fielder Alex Gordon. Yost told MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan that “every scenario is open,” and expects to utilize Gordon in right and center field this spring while he figures out where to position Jorge Soler and Brandon Moss.

Gordon, 33, hasn’t manned right field since a three-game experiment with the Royals back in 2010 and has yet to play center field during any regular season to date. The focus, however, isn’t on Gordon’s capabilities. Among the three outfielders, he carries the best defensive profile and appears to be the most versatile of the bunch.

According to Flanagan, Soler and Moss are average on defense and will continue working closely with Royals’ coach Rusty Kuntz as the season approaches. One arrangement could see Gordon in center field, flanked by Soler in right field and Moss in left, though Yost foresees Soler taking some reps at DH if his defensive chops aren’t up to snuff.

While Moss is prepared to see starts at either outfield corner, Yost appears to be set on keeping Soler in right field, at least for the time being. The club is hoping for a bounce-back season from the 24-year-old outfielder, who was acquired from the Cubs in December after batting a lackluster .238/.333/.436 and sustaining a slew of minor injuries throughout the 2016 season.