The Roger Maris discussion heats up

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George Vecsey wrote a column on Sunday — and follows up with a blog post today — about Roger Maris, his legacy and his Hall of Fame chances.  In both places Vecsey says that he would not vote for Maris for the Hall of Fame if he had the franchise (he doesn’t, because the New York Times does not allow its writers to vote). The blog post, however, features many reader comments in support of Maris for the Hall.

As I said last month, I’m sort of keeping track of this stuff because Maris will be up for consideration by the Veteran’s Committee this December.  I think the general shape of this coverage in the Times — “we really need to appreciate Maris’ accomplishments more in light of what happened in the 1990s and 2000s, but I’m not sure he’s a Hall of Famer — will be the dominant one.

I agree with Vecsey. My view is that Maris is decidedly not a Hall of Famer, because two really good seasons is not enough, even when one of them featured a significant record. His career is worthy of celebration, of course, but it’s not like it’s been lacking celebration, especially in recent years as folks have used his accomplishment to draw distinctions between the Steroid Era sluggers and those who came before.

Which is fine if illumination and understanding of these things go is all you’re interested in doing.  But if you take the next step and decide that he’s now Hall of Fame worthy because of that comparison, it seems to me you’re making a political argument (“take that, PED guys!”) as opposed to a genuine assessment of Maris’ Hall-worthiness.  That assessment was done for years and years prior to the Steroid Era and Maris was found lacking.  What has changed?

J.D. Martinez tells teams he prefers an outfield role

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Free agent outfielder/slugger J.D. Martinez is reportedly seeking an outfield gig, says Michael Silverman of the Boston Herald. According to Silverman’s sources, Martinez’s suitors have been informed that the veteran slugger would give preference to teams that can offer a corner outfield spot, rather than a DH-only role.

That could spell trouble for the Red Sox, who appear to be Martinez’s biggest suitors so far this offseason. Outfielders Mookie Betts and Andrew Benintendi are firmly established at the corners, and prior reports from club president Dave Dombrowski suggest that center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. is not going anywhere anytime soon (thereby eliminating the possibility of reshuffling the outfield). The DH spot is still wide open for Martinez, who doesn’t seem to be totally closed off to the idea, but any full-time or part-time role on the field is likely off the table at this point.

Of course, the Red Sox aren’t the only ones pursuing Martinez’s services this winter. The 30-year-old slugger has been linked to both the Diamondbacks and Giants in weeks past, and while they have the roster flexibility to accommodate his preferences, they’ll need to clear another massive hurdle: the seven-year, $250 million contract he’s said to be seeking. Both clubs will need to get creative to make such a deal work. The Diamondbacks are rumored to be shopping right-hander Zack Greinke in an attempt to free up some room on their payroll for Martinez, while the Giants appear more inclined to scour the trade market for outfield help than shell out cash for another hefty contract in free agency.