On Monday, we learned of a 12-page brochure supporting Juan Gonzalez’s Hall of Fame candidacy that’s currently making the rounds.
As it turns out, the pitch for fellow two-time MVP Dale Murphy is a bit lighter. Longtime Braves GM John Schuerholz sent out a letter to voters appealing for Murphy that started with a personal note and followed with two pages of facts supporting his case.
Murphy, who picked up 12.6 percent of the vote last year, is on his next-to-last year on the ballot. There’s no chance at all that he’ll be elected by the BBWAA before his 15 years are up in the next cycle, but there is a case for Murphy as a peak candidate. Mike Schmidt was the only National Leaguer more valuable than Murphy in a six-year span from 1982-87. Murphy led the NL in homers twice, RBI twice, slugging twice and OPS once. During his six-year peak, he played in 162 games four times and 160 and 159 games in the other seasons.
Unfortunately, Murphy pretty much fell off a cliff at age 32. His OPS+ stood at 132 through age 31. After that, he came in at 96 in six seasons. Unable to stay healthy, he retired at age 37 still two homers short of 400.
With a more graceful decline, Murphy likely would be a Hall of Famer. There’s certainly a good argument that he was a better player at his peak than recent electees Andre Dawson and Jim Rice. Plus, Murphy was perhaps the sport’s ultimate good guy of his era and more than a few younger sportswriters grew up watching his Braves teams on TBS. There are certainly plenty of people who would love to vote for him if only his numbers were a little better.
Mets’ left-hander Steven Matz will miss his Grapefruit League appearance on Monday after experiencing soreness in his left elbow, according to a report by Mike Puma of the New York Post. Matz reportedly first felt discomfort in his elbow on Wednesday after pitching four innings against the Marlins, but a medical evaluation revealed no structural damage.
Still, it’s unsettling news for the 25-year-old, who is coming off of an injury-riddled 2016 season. Matz pitched to a 3.40 ERA, 2.1 BB/9 and 8.8 SO/9 during his sophomore campaign with the Mets, but his success was hampered by a bevy of shoulder and elbow issues that culminated in season-ending surgery to remove bone spurs from his left elbow.
Comments from Mets’ GM Sandy Alderson indicated that while the club doesn’t believe anything is significantly wrong with Matz’s elbow this time around, the setback could have an impact on his chances of cracking the Opening Day roster. Until he’s cleared to return to the mound, the club is expected to take a longer look at rotation candidates Robert Gsellman, Zack Wheeler and Seth Lugo.
Dodgers’ left fielder Andrew Toles crushed his first spring training home run on Saturday afternoon. With the bases loaded and a two-run deficit hanging over their heads in the fourth inning, Toles stepped up to the plate against Oakland right-hander Jesse Hahn and unloaded a grand slam on the second pitch he saw.
Third baseman Justin Turner was quick to follow up with a solo jack of his own, bringing the score to a comfortable 7-4 lead by the end of the fourth. Another three-run outburst in the fifth and an eighth-inning RBI single by Austin Barnes raised the final score to 11-6… which, coincidentally, was the same score the Reds used to defeat the Athletics’ second split-squad lineup on Saturday (albeit with a few more RBI walks than grand slams).
Toles, 24, is approaching his sophomore season with the Dodgers in 2017. He slashed .314/.365/.505 with three home runs and an .870 OPS in his first major league season in 2016 and is expected to platoon with the right-handed Franklin Gutierrez in left field this year.