Jeff Bagwell

Maybe the zaniest Hall of Fame ballot yet

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Here are MLB.com’s Barry Bloom’s nine picks for Cooperstown:

I voted for Barry Larkin, Edgar Martinez, Fred McGriff, Mark McGwire, Jack Morris, Rafael Palmeiro, Tim Raines, Lee Smith and Alan Trammell.

Notice any conspicuous absences? It’s quite frankly insane that someone could pick nine players off this year’s ballot, including two tainted by steroids, yet leave off the best player of all, Jeff Bagwell.

At least Bloom does provide his “reasoning”:

And just a note on Jeff Bagwell: Rumors about possible steroid use don’t bother me. I just think he’s a very good player, but not of Hall of Fame caliber. His numbers are very similar to Steve Garvey — Bags .297 batting average to .294 for the Garv, 2,314 hits to 2,599, 449 homers to 272, 1,529 RBIs to 1,308 . But Garvey had two NL Championship Series MVPs, an NL MVP, an All-Star MVP, the longest consecutive game playing streak in NL history (1,207), one of the highest fielding percentages as a first baseman (.996) and an errorless season (1984). Garvey also played on five NL pennant winners and a World Series winner in ’81 with the Dodgers. Bagwell did almost none of this with the Astros. And Garvey didn’t get a sniff from the writers for the HOF.

Yeah, 449 homers to 272, one can hardly spot the difference there.

There have been 75 first basemen in major league history with at least 6,000 plate appearances. Among that group, Bagwell ranks ninth in homers, eighth in RBI, sixth with a .408 on-base percentage and ninth with a .540 slugging percentage. Garvey ranks 33rd in homers, 19th in RBI, 69th with a .329 OBP and 45th with a .446 slugging percentage.

I get that some writers want to leave Bagwell off the ballot because they feel he cheated. I don’t think it’s fair, but I do understand on the sentiment.

This, on the other hand, is simply crazy. To write off the steroids and then say that Bagwell doesn’t belong while McGriff and Martinez do is an exercise in some really awful logic.

Royals pay tribute to late Yordano Ventura during spring training opener

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - AUGUST 12: Yordano Ventura #30 of the Kansas City Royals delivers a pitch against the Minnesota Twins during the first inning of the game on August 12, 2016 at Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
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The Royals honored former pitcher Yordano Ventura prior to their first Cactus League game against the Rangers on Saturday. Ventura was killed in a car accident in his native Dominican Republic in late January.

Rangers’ third baseman Adrian Beltre and center fielder Carlos Gomez paid their respects to the pitcher with a floral arrangement that was laid on the mound. Both teams stood along the foul lines during a pregame video tribute that highlighted Ventura’s tenure with Kansas City. Following the game, Gomez spoke to the media about his relationship with Ventura, describing their frequent conversations during the season and commending the pitcher for having “the same passion that I had early in my career” (via WFAA.com’s Levi Weaver).

A plaque dedicated to the 25-year-old was also presented to club manager Ned Yost as a more permanent commemoration of Ventura’s contributions to the sport. Blair Kerkhoff of the Kansas City Star reports that the plaque will be mounted in the club’s spring training facilities alongside tributes to members of the Royals’ 2014 and 2015 playoff teams.

The full text of the plaque is below, via MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan:

A brother and a teammate, Yordano Ventura, passed away on the morning of January 22 in his native Dominican Republic, at the age of 25. He signed with the Royals as a 17-year-old, eventually making the big league team in 2013 as a 22-year-old. On most days, he could be found laughing and joking with his baseball family in the clubhouse. However, on days when he pitched, that smile was replaced by a quiet confidence and an intense fire, which he brought to the mound for every start. He had many highlights in his abbreviated career, not the least of which was throwing eight shutout innings in Game #6 of the 2014 World Series to force a Game #7 vs. San Francisco.

Gerrit Cole named Pirates’ Opening Day starter

BRADENTON, FL - FEBRUARY 19: Gerrit Cole #45 of the Pittsburgh Pirates poses for a photograph during MLB spring training photo day on February 19, 2017 at Pirate City in Bradenton, Florida. (Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images)
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Right-hander Gerrit Cole is set to take the mound for the Pirates on Opening Day, according to a team announcement on Saturday. It’s a spot that was most recently occupied by former Pirate Francisco Liriano, who made three consecutive Opening Day starts for the club before getting dealt to the Blue Jays last August.

The 26-year-old produced career-worst numbers during his fourth run with the Pirates in 2016, due in large part to bouts of inflammation in his right elbow. He finished the year with a 3.88 ERA, 2.8 BB/9 and 7.6 SO/9 over 116 innings before getting shut down in September to avoid further injury to his elbow. When healthy, however, Cole has been lights-out for the Pirates. Prior to his injury-laden campaign last year, he touted a career 3.07 ERA, 2.2 BB/9, 8.5 SO/9 and cumulative 10.2 fWAR from 2013 through 2015.

Cole will go toe-to-toe with the Red Sox during Boston’s home opener on Monday, April 3. Right-hander Jameson Taillon is scheduled to make the second start of the year, while fellow righty Ivan Nova will cover the Pirates’ home opener against the Braves on April 7. The Pirates’ third and fifth starters have yet to be announced.