I guess we’re going to do this again. We’re going to say that Jeff Bagwell, by the fame, by the accomplishments and by the numbers, is worthy of the Hall of Fame. But we’re then going to not vote for him because … I’m not sure why. The first of the season is Jeff Jacobs of the Hartford Courant:
Based on numbers alone, Bagwell deserves to be in the Hall of Fame. That part is easy. He hit .297 with 449 homers, eight 100-RBI seasons and had a .948 OPS as well as a Gold Glove and an MVP Award. Yet because of the sins of his baseball generation, fair or not, Bagwell finds himself in an uncomfortable position.
It’s only uncomfortable because you and others like him put him there, Mr. Jacobs.
If there’s a positive test of PED use, fine. If there is a convincing report that the man used PEDs, fine. But in Bagwell’s case we have neither right now. All we have are people who believe something based on their gut and guilt by the loosest association. And who will likely have no problem voting for Jim Thome, Frank Thomas and other big-slugging first basemen of the era when their time comes.
And I really can’t believe that no one has a giant problem with this.
On Sunday, we heard from former Ray and current Giants third baseman Evan Longoria. The Rays recently traded pitcher Jake Odorizzi to the Twins for a prospect and designated All-Star outfielder Corey Dickerson for assignment, which didn’t make a whole lot of sense outside of a cost-cutting perspective. Longoria said, “I just kind of feel sorry for the Rays fan base.”
Today, we’re hearing from a current Ray: center fielder Kevin Kiermaier, who is set to enter his fifth full season with the club. Via Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times, Kiermaier said, “I am 100 percent frustrated and very upset with the moves. No beating around the bush. It’s one of those things that makes you scratch your head, you don’t know the reasoning why. And then you see the team’s explanation and still it’s just like, okay, well, so be it.”
Longoria — formerly the face of the franchise — was traded to the Giants in December and the Rays continued to subtract with their recent moves involving Odorizzi and Dickerson. Odorizzi has a career 3.83 ERA in what has been a solid, if unspectacular, career. Dickerson put up an All-Star season, posting an .815 OPS with 27 home runs in 150 games. Moving either player was not done to fix a positional log jam. In fact, with Odorizzi out of the picture, the Rays are planning to use a four-man starting rotation for the first six-plus weeks of the season, Topkin reported on Sunday. Dickerson’s ouster simply opens the door for Mallex Smith, who posted a .684 OPS last year, to start every day in the outfield.
The Rays got markedly worse after going 80-82 last season. They saved a few million bucks jettisoning Odorizzi and Dickerson. And Rays ownership still wants the public to foot most of the bill for their new stadium.
When it was just one small market team pinching pennies, it was fine. But now that more than half of the league has adopted penny-pinching principles popularized by Moneyball and Sabermetrics (with the Rays among the chief offenders), the game of baseball has become markedly less fan- and player-friendly. This offseason has been less about players signing contracts and changing teams in trades — which helps build excitement and intrigue for the coming year — and more about front offices doing math problems concerning the $197 million competitive balance tax threshold and other self-imposed monetary restraints. Fun. Kiermaier is right to be upset and he’s very likely not alone in feeling that way.