Greetings from day two of the Winter Meetings

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I walked into the Hilton Anatole at 6:30 AM. I feel like I just left. Probably because I kind of did. The festivities go late at the Winter Meetings. Why I’m the only one who was both late and arrived early is an open question probably best reserved for my psychologist. As it is, I’m the only person in the media room right now. It’s actually kind of peaceful.

Less so last night.  The crowd in the lobby is a people-watcher’s fantasy. At one point my field of vision contained:

  • Tony Perez laughing it up with some friends;
  • Billy Beane leaving the restaurant sort of yelling “booyah!” at a couple of people milling around outside;
  • A half dozen eager young job-seekers, resume-containing portfolios in-hand, scanning the room for someone to whom they can deliver their elevator pitch;
  • Some guys from the trade show who make and sell these weird masks walking around in said masks. Someone within earshot looked at one of the guys and asked who his mask was supposed to be. The guy said Babe Ruth. Pro Tip: if people in town for the baseball convention can’t identify your Babe Ruth mask, you may want to redesign it; and
  • A national writer I know who shall remain nameless almost run over Frank Robinson. Disaster was averted, however. Which is good, because I’m guessing MLB has a special skull-cracking force to specifically deal with that kind of thing.

But for all of the gawking and talking and drinking, this is still a baseball thing, and the topic of conversation for most people remained the Florida Marlins. How serious is this Pujols business? Most people think it’s not, but we’ve all learned not to rule anything out. What’s up with Hanley Ramirez? No word yet on who will get behind his Michael Young-style MVP campaign if he asks for a trade because of a position shift.  Because that’s going to happen with him too, right?

Anyway, on a day with no really big breaking news, there was a sense of anticipation among most people I talked to. Something big is going to happen today, many believe. Someone will overpay C.J. Wilson, some suspect. Others think that the Albert Pujols tease can only last so long and that he’ll either commit back to the Cardinals soon (most think this) or break for that crazy show they are building in Miami (chaos-lovers are praying for this).

For our part: we’re just jacking back in to the Matrix, passing along everything we see and hear. Oh, and my betters at NBC think it’s a good idea to let me go on TV tonight. Hey: it’s their network and they know better than I do. More on that later, though.

Don’t go anyplace.

Tim Raines, Jeff Bagwell, Ivan Rodriguez to be inducted into the Hall of Fame on Sunday

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This Sunday three players will be honored in Cooperstown as Tim Raines, Jeff Bagwell and Ivan Rodriguez become the 313th, 314th and 315th members inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Executives Bud Selig and John Schuerholz will be inducted as well, making it 316 and 317.

Raines was quite possibly the NL’s best player in a five-year span from 1983-87.  WAR thinks so, placing him ahead of Mike Schmidt, Tony Gwynn and Dale Murphy, all of whom got more plaudits at the time. Raines hit .318/.406/.467 during that period and averaged 114 runs scored and 71 steals per year. During those five years, only Rickey Henderson scored more runs (572-568) and only Wade Boggs had a better OBP (.443 to .406). That Raines had to wait until his last year of eligibility was in large part due to him being a very similar player to Henderson. Which is kind of an unfair comparison — Henderson is one of the best players of all time — but that’s how the voters operate sometimes.

Bagwell likewise had to wait a bit longer than he should’ve, mostly due to thus far evidence-free beliefs that he used PEDs. On the merits, Bagwell was one of the best first basemen of all time, with a career line of .297/.408/.540, 449 homers and 1,529 RBI. Between 1994 and 2001, he averaged — averaged! — a line of .306/.428/.589, 37 homers and 120 RBI while playing in perhaps the worst hitters park in history in the Astrodome.

People whispered about Rodriguez and PEDs just as much as they did Bagwell, but he got in on the first ballot, suggesting that the BBWAA is getting over its hangups. He is also clearly deserving of induction. Rodriguez, the 1999 AL MVP, was named to 14 All-Star teams and he won 13 Gold Gloves. He finished his career with a .296/.334/.464 line, 311 homers and 1,332 RBI. His 2,427 games caught is a major league record. He was, without question, the best defensive catcher of his era and many believe he was the best of all time. If he’s not, he’s in the top two or three.

As for the executives: we’re long on record as believing that Bud Selig’s induction is a disgrace. It was nonetheless a foregone conclusion, as the Hall of Fame has tended to view induction as part of retiring commissioners’ severance package. If there was any remaining doubt about him getting in, the fact that the committee which elected Selig was, more or less, hand-picked by people loyal to Selig and/or Major League Baseball put it to rest.  John Schuerholz is clearly deserving as he was one of the top executives of the past half century, starting out with the Orioles and then building winners in both Kansas City and Atlanta, sustaining those organizations’ success for far longer periods than most teams experience it.

Beyond those two, ESPN’s Claire Smith will be on the stage to accept the 2017 J. G. Taylor Spink Award, given to baseball writers. She is the first woman to be given baseball writing’s highest honor.  Athletics broadcaster will be honored as the Ford C. Frick Award winner for broadcasting. Smith passed away in 2005.

The ceremony will be held on a big lawn a mile south of the Hall of Fame. If you’re in the neighborhood, admission is free and lawn chairs and blankets and things are welcome. If you’re not in the neighborhood, the festivities will be broadcast live on MLB Network and will be shown via webcast at http://www.baseballhall.org.

Aaron Judge broke a tooth celebrating the Yankees walkoff win

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Brett Gardner hit a walkoff homer last night, giving the Yankees a dramatic 11-inning win. A grand celebration ensued. And then a trip to the dentist presumably ensured for Aaron Judge.

Seems that Judge broke a tooth during the scrum, as Gardner’s helmet — which was bouncing around, not on Gardner’s head — bounced up and smacked Judge in the mouth. Judge quickly went to the clubhouse and wasn’t available for comment afterward. If he was, he likely would’ve said “Thith wath a great win. Gardner juth looked for hith pitch and put a good thwing on it.”

Judge is expected to make the start tonight for the Yankees.