Barry Larkin elected to the Hall of Fame

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We’ve seen this coming for a while, but now it’s official: Barry Larkin — and no one else — has been elected to the Hall of Fame.

As you know, 75% of the vote is required for induction.  Larkin was named on 86% of the ballots. Following him were: Jack Morris, with 66.7% of the vote, Jeff Bagwell, who got 56 percent of the vote, which is a nice increase from last year’s 41.7% and Lee Smith with 50.6%.  Then come Tim Raines (48.7%), Alan Trammell (36.8%) and Edgar Martinez (36.5%). Bernie Williams — with 9.6% — was the only newcomer to survive to be voted upon next year.

Larkin had to wait a year after he first became eligible, but his Hall of Fame bonafides are unquestionable. An all-around threat, Larkin hit .295 for his career and over .300 nine times. He had some power back before shortstops were considered anything close to the power threats they became later in Larkin’s career. He took walks. He stole nearly 400 bases with a great success percentage. He won an MVP award, a World Series and was a 12-time All-Star.

While the standards for the Hall seem to have grown ever-higher in recent years, Larkin is deserving by any standard. He was the best shortstop in the National League for several years and was often the best in all of baseball.  If you were to create the prototypical shortstop, he’d look a hell of a lot like Barry Larkin. Or at least he would if you wanted your prototypical shortstop to be awesome.

We’ll have much more on Larkin and the other vote-getters as the day goes on.  For now, however, congratulations to Barry Larkin: Hall of Famer.

Seattle Mariners to make a “full-court press” for Shohei Ohtani

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Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto said in a team-sponsored podcast the other day that the M’s will make a “full-court press” for Shohei Ohtani. To that end, Dipoto said that the M’s would be willing to let the two-way star to pitch and to hit, which is something Ohtani is interested in doing in the United States. Not all clubs are likely to let him do this, with most likely seeing him as a starting pitcher only.

Ohtani, who is expected to be posted by his Japanese team, the Nippon Ham Fighters, possibly as early as today, can sign with anyone he wants. He is, however, subject to the international bonus pool caps, so the bids on him will be somewhat limited. The Texas Rangers and New York Yankees have the most money available: $3.535 million for the Rangers and $3.5 million for the Yankees. The Twins ($3.245 million), Pirates ($2.266 million), Marlins ($1.74 million) and Mariners ($1.57 million) are the only other teams with more than $1 million left. Twelve teams — including the Dodgers, Cubs, Cardinals and Astros — are limited to a maximum of $300,000, having met or exceeded their caps for this signing period already.

Ohtani, however, is said to be less motivated by money than he is by finding the right situation. While a lot of guys say that, the fact that Ohtani is coming over to the U.S. now, when his financial prospects are limited, as opposed to waiting for two years when he is not subject to the bonus caps and could sign for nine figures, suggests that he is telling the truth. As such, a team like the Mariners that is willing to allow him to hit and pitch could make up for the couple of million less they have in bonus money to spend.

As for how that might work logistically, Dipoto said that the team would be willing to play DH Nelson Cruz a few days in the outfield to accommodate Ohtani, allowing him to DH on the days he’s not pitching. That might be . . . interesting to see, but given how badly the Mariners could use a good starting pitcher, they have an incentive to be creative.

Ohtani, 23, suffered some injuries in 2017, limiting him to just five starts and 65 games as a hitter. In 2016, however, he hit .289/.356/.547 with 22 homers in 342 at-bats and went 11-3 with a 3.24 ERA, and a K/BB ratio of 146/51 in 133.1 innings as a starter.

Five clubs have more money to spend on Ohtani than the Mariners do. None of those teams are on the west coast, which some Asian players have said in the past they preferred due to faster travel back home. The Mariners, owned for a long time by a Japanese company which still retains a minority interest in the club, and long the home for high-profile Japanese players such as Ichiro and Hisashi Iwakuma, likely have a better media and marketing reach in Japan than most other teams as well, which might be a factor in his decision making process. Is all that enough to sway Ohtani?

We’ll find out over the next couple of weeks.